"I hate you."
Jimin meets Yoongi's eyes in the rear view mirror. "No you don't, hyung," he says calmly.
Yoongi scowls. He crosses his arms. Uncrosses them. Throws himself back against the seat.
"I don't hate you," he grudgingly admits, "but you're an asshole, Park Jimin."
Jimin smirks in that infuriating way he has. "You pay me to be an asshole, hyung."
Fuck. It's true. Yoongi crosses his arms over his chest again. "Fuck you," he mutters. "I'm going to find a new manager who respects what I have to say."
Jimin rolls his eyes. "Okay," he says.
They both know Yoongi won't find a new manager. Jimin is a punk and an asshole, but he's been with Yoongi since almost the beginning. He's pretty much Yoongi's best friend.
"I think this is going to be a really good thing for you, hyung," Jimin continues.
His eyes are on the road, but it's noon on a Wednesday and there's not a lot of traffic an hour outside of Seoul at this time of day. The early spring sky is huge and blue with no hint of clouds. It would be a great day for a drive. Except.
"You did say you wanted to get away. I know you were just mouthing off, but I really think this will be good for you." Jimin shifts into the left lane to pass a slow-moving truck with a bed full of potatoes. "You'll get to rest and recharge and come back with tons of new ideas. Besides, it'll buy us some time for all the nonsense to blow over."
Nonsense is one way to put it. Almost ten years since he debuted, and the last month has been one of the worst of Yoongi's entire career. The company pushed his album release back again. They're not happy with the tracks he's turned in, although they didn't come out and say so. No, he got some bullshit corporate-speak instead: the new songs are 'too introspective' and 'stylistically divergent from his past catalog' and 'don't synergize well with the public perception of his image'.
What the fuck does that even mean? Why don't they just come out and say they want him to be the same angsty moron he was at twenty three? He can't stand the way those suits talk. Thank god Jimin had been in the meeting to intervene. Yoongi probably would have punched the one VP - the one with the really beaky nose, the one who practically sweats marketing jargon - if he'd been on his own.
Things had been bad enough after that, and Yoongi had already felt pretty fucking terrible. He knows he's never going to do anything else as is as successful as his first album was. He doesn't need to be reminded of it constantly. Then that damn article had gotten published and everything had really gone to shit.
'BTS Suga Expresses Resentment at Former Member Jin's Success'
'BTS Suga Airs Big Hit's Dirty Laundry'
'BTS Suga Dishes on the Preferential Treatment that led to Nation's Actor Jin's Meteoric Rise'
BTS Suga is a fucking moron. Is he some rookie to go spilling all those old resentments and hurts a reporter - even a reporter he was friendly with? He'd been drunk and tired and not thinking, speaking carelessly and in what he had thought was confidence, and it had come back to bite him.
Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut. "I didn't really mean I wanted to get away," he says irritably. "I didn't mean to miss the meeting, Jimin. I have obligations in Seoul. I'm not ... Damnit, will you at least tell me where the fuck you're taking me?"
Jimin smiles that broad, cheerful smile of his, the one that fools people into thinking he's a sweet, charming young man. It's all a lie, Yoongi knows.
"Don't worry, hyung. I took care of your schedule. You said you wanted to get away," he said. "I thought it might be nice for you to spend some time in familiar surroundings. You haven't been home in years."
Home? What the fuck?
"You're taking me to Daegu?"
Jimin does not take him to Daegu.
They stop for lunch at a little roadside restaurant. Yoongi isn't hungry and picks at his food while Jimin chats happily with the old couple who run the place. He cleans his plate and compliments them on their cooking and apologizes for Yoongi's stony silence, which just makes Yoongi even more sulky and annoyed. While Jimin pays, he stalks across the street to the gas station and buys snacks and a pack of cigarettes. He'd been trying to quit again, but he can't fucking take this day without something to relieve his stress. He sits on the curb and smokes angrily while Jimin waits for him in the car. Jimin doesn't honk or call for him or do anything, but Yoongi can feel his disapproval radiating from across the road. It's a special skill of Jimin's. Annoyed, Yoongi stubs the butt out under his shoe before it's halfway done.
He eats half a bag of shrimp crackers for lunch and falls asleep in the back seat. When he wakes up, they're trundling down a badly paved road in the middle of the country. Jimin has the windows rolled down and is singing along to some girl group hit at the top of his voice.
"Jesus," Yoongi mutters. "Where the fuck are we?"
"Oh, you're awake," Jimin says. "Good morning, sleeping beauty."
Yoongi gives him the finger, and then wraps his arms around himself. "It's freezing. Aren't you freezing?" His arms are all covered in goosebumps. He squeezes himself.
Jimin rolls up the windows. "Wanted some fresh air," he says.
They hit a pothole hard. The suspension creaks. Yoongi's teeth rattle in his skull.
"Watch where you're going, Jimin. This isn't an all terrain vehicle."
"That's good," Jimin says, "since we're not off road."
"Just about," Yoongi says, sulkily. "Pull over. I need to piss."
Jimin sighs. "You're like a little child. Just hold on. I think we're almost there."
Yoongi's heart sinks into his stomach. Almost ... where?
Outside the tinted windows of his Audi, the bucolic countryside rolls past. Green sprouts poke up through the dark soil of newly plowed fields. Trees are frothy with new spring growth. The sun is bright. Even the goddamn birds are singing. They pass a few tumbledown farmhouses and a man driving a tractor. The road winds through a tiny village: a town hall, a few stores, a restaurant or two, shabby homes. Another few kilometers on, Jimin turns off the 'main' road (a term Yoongi uses very generously) and onto an even more poorly paved road that winds through a scenic valley between two ridges.
Oh god. They're in the fucking middle of nowhere. Maybe Jimin has finally had enough. Maybe he's going to kick Yoongi out of the car and leave him to fend for himself in the wild. Maybe he's cracked under the psychological stress of working for Yoongi all these years and he's gonna …
But, no. The car pulls to a stop in front of a stone house, nicer than many of those they've passed but not that much nicer. It's still small and shabby. A sign is affixed to the front gate: Harmony Retreat, painted in bold purple letters.
"Oh no," Yoongi says. "What the fuck? Jimin, what is this place? You're not ... you're not gonna leave me here, are you?"
Jimin opens the car door and slips on his sunglasses. "Come on, hyung. It's just for a couple of weeks. I think you'll like it."
No. No fucking way. There's no way Yoongi is staying in this dump for a few weeks. What is he going to do? Twiddle his thumbs? He needs his equipment. He needs his studio. He needs to ...
Jimin opens the rear door. "I know you don't want me to drag you out," he says.
"Like you could," Yoongi mutters, but they both know that Jimin could actually. He's shockingly strong for such a little guy. He swallows. "Jimin, come on. This is a joke, right? I can't fucking stay here. I ..."
"Yoongi hyung," Jimin says, sounding tired. "I don't think you realize how precarious your position is right now. I met with Bang CEO for three hours yesterday. He is not happy. Really not happy."
Yoongi frowns. "So what? It was just one meeting, Jimin."
Jimin sighs. "Hyung, look at it from their point of view. The album is late. You're starting beef with Kim Seokjin in interviews. You show up hours late and stinking drunk for a critical meeting with the development team ..."
Yoongi hangs his head. Goddamnit. Why hadn't he hired some fawning sycophant to be his assistant? Jimin knows exactly how call him on his bullshit.
Jimin pats him on the shoulder. "It'll be okay, hyung," he says. "Trust me. Just ... I think some time out of the spotlight will do you good."
"Oh god," Yoongi says, burying his face in his hands.
Jimin sighs again. Maximum exasperation. He must practice that in his spare time. "At least get out and take a look around. For me."
Getting out of the car is probably a mistake, but slowly Yoongi peels himself off of the back seat. It's too bright outside, and the wind is too windy, and the air is too cold. He sneezes and shoves his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket.
"Where the fuck did you even find this place?"
He reaches into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. Jimin snatches them away.
"A friend of mine came and stayed here last year. Said it was really nice and relaxing and out of the way," Jimin says, crumbling the cigarettes and sticking them in his bag. When did he get so vindictive? What happened to that sweet, shy boy from Busan Yoongi met all those years ago? "He gave me the number and I called and talked to the owner a few days ago. It sounds like a great place, hyung. They cook all your meals - everything is organic and locally sourced - and a yoga instructor comes twice a week. You can help on the farm, go hiking, visit local temples." He sighs, a little wistful. "I wish I could stay, honestly."
"Why don't you?" Yoongi asks. "You stay here, I'll drive back to Seoul, everyone's happy."
Jimin rolls his eyes. He grabs the duffle bag he packed for Yoongi from the trunk. "Come on," he says. "Let's go meet Taehyung."
They walk through the overgrown yard. The gate into the courtyard is propped open with a rubber rain boot. A beautiful white dog drowses on the porch. When she hears them, she lifts her head, ears alert. Apparently they represent no threat because she rests her head on her paws again with a huff and lets them pass.
The house is not exactly ancient, but old it's enough. It's shabby, but not totally uncared for. The interior walls are freshly painted, and the roof tiles are new and uncracked. There's another house out back that looks much newer: grey stone and modern lines, big windows in the second floor. Yoongi knows places like this. He remembers places like this from his childhood, from visiting his mother's family in the country, and he can tell that someone's invested some money here. Maybe it's some socialite's pet project. Maybe it's some chaebol heir with too much time and money, some asshole who -
"Ah, you must be Jimin-ssi!"
A young man is standing at the top of the steps. He is on the tall side - taller than Yoongi anyway - and slim. He's also strikingly handsome. The owner's son, maybe? He's got one of those perfect rich boy faces that Yoongi has always disliked - as perfect and blank as a doll. Barefoot and wearing flowery blue pajama pants rolled up to mid-calf, the pretty boy leaps down the steps.
Jimin pushes his sunglasses back. "Taehyung-ssi?"
Taehyung strides across the yard to shake Jimin's hand. "It's great to meet you!" he says, as warmly as though he's greeting a long lost friend.
Jimin smiles, but it is his fixed, professional smile. "Likewise," he says, in his manager voice. "It was so nice to talk to you on the phone the other day."
Taehyung turns smiling toward Yoongi. "And you must be Yoongi! It's a pleasure."
He holds out his hand for Yoongi to shake. Yoongi stares at it for a moment and then grabs it and shakes gingerly. "Yeah," he says. He shifts his weight from one foot to another. Fuck. "Do you have a bathroom I could use? I've have to piss."
At least the place has indoor plumbing. Yoongi relieves himself, washes his hands, and stares at his reflection in the mirror. The bathroom is old and small and lit by a single bulb with no shade. Yoongi looks pale, even for him. There are dark circles under his eyes, and he needs a shave.
What the fuck is wrong with him? His idol days aren't so far behind him that he's forgotten how to fake courtesy. Do you have a bathroom? Really? Now this Taehyung guy is going to think he's an incontinent idiot.
Yoongi can't hide in the bathroom forever, unfortunately. He stumbles his way through the dark and poorly lit hall and back outside, where Taehyung has apparently broken through Jimin's reserve. They're laughing like old pals.
"..and then he said that he wouldn't come out unless we broke the door down," Taehyung says, grinning. "I got Jungkookie to borrow the cherry picker from Mr. Kwon down the road and we were up there in a half an hour, climbing through the window."
This, apparently, is so hysterical that Jimin almost dissolves into laughter. He flops onto Yoongi's shoulder giggling.
"Ah, Yoongi-ssi, do you feel better?" Taehyung asks as Jimin regains his composure.
Yoongi nods. "Yeah. Thanks."
Taehyung nods. "It's not good to hold it in," he says sagely. "Bad for the kidneys."
Yoongi narrows his eyes. Is this guy making fun of him?
"Ah, hyung," Jimin says, recovering himself. He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. "This is Kim Taehyung. He's the owner of this place. He's the one I talked with on the phone the other day about you staying here for a little while."
Yoongi frowns. "Oh yeah?" he says. "Nice to meet you. I was expecting some place a little less … rustic."
Jimin pinches him hard on the side, but Taehyung's smile doesn't falter.
"I know," he says, shaking his head. "I keep meaning to clean this courtyard out, but there's alway something more important to do. But don't worry - the guest quarters are in the new building. It's just me, Jungkook and Porkpie here."
Porkpie is apparently the dog, who lifts her head at the sound of the name.
"Porkpie?" Yoongi asks, frowning. What kind of name is that for a dog?
Taehyung nods happily. "She's my buddy," he says. He claps his hands together. "Yoongi-ssi, I'm really glad you're going to be joining us here. Right now we have just one other guest so you'll have the entire second floor of the guest house to yourself. Why don't I take you both on a little tour?"
Jimin agrees quickly to that suggestion. Asshole. He's not the one who's got to stay in this dump. Yoongi follows along behind, hands in his pockets, trailed by the dog, who stares at Yoongi mournfully with uncanny blue eyes.
They tour through the old house - "It's been here for at least a hundred years, I guess. Probably longer!" - which is mostly empty and fairly clean. In the back they've built an addition, across the yard from the guest house, which houses the kitchen and a more modern bathroom than the one Yoongi had used earlier.
"We all eat together here," Taehyung says, standing in front of a rather nice looking stove. "One of the aunties in town makes the side dishes for us every week. Everything is organic, and most meals are vegetarian."
"Vegetarian?" Yoongi frowns. No way is he going to be stuck in this hellhole for weeks without meat.
Taehyung nods happily. "Eating vegetarian is more sustainable."
Yoongi rolls his eyes. More sustainable?
Before Yoongi can think of anything properly scathing to say, Jimin gives him a dirty look and interjects, "I think that sounds really nice. Healthy."
Yoongi scowls back at him but he can't think of anything properly biting to say. He's really off his game today.
The tour heads back outside, where they get a distant glimpse of a pond, a chicken coop, and a garden. They cross over to the guest house and step inside. There are two doors off the hallway on the first floor, both closed. Quietly, they head up the stairs, through a door at the top landing, and into a bright, open apartment with lots of windows and good natural light.
"Wow, hyung," Jimin says. "This is really nice. I'm jealous."
Yoongi has to admit it's better than he'd expected. Everything is new and clean: honey-colored hardwood floors, white walls, a big bed with white linens. There's a little sitting area with a chair and a loveseat, and a few black and white photographs on the walls. Even the bathroom is nice: all cool grey slate tile, with a big clawfoot tub and a glass-walled shower.
"Looks like something out of one of those dumb lifestyle magazines," Yoongi mutters. "But I guess it's not bad."
It's quiet, at least, and there's a beautiful view out over the unplanted fields to the mountains beyond. If nothing else, he should be able to get some writing done.
"Jimin-ah, you packed my laptop, right?"
Jimin cringes. He's so forgetful sometimes. Yoongi really can't ...
"Yoongi-ssi, didn't Jimin tell you? We're a slow living resort. Our goal is to help you relax and reconnect with the beautiful rhythms of everyday life, so we don't allow any electronics in our guest suits. In fact, if you want to give me your cell phone I'll just ..." Taehyung, smiling blithely, reaches for his phone.
Yoongi recoils. "Oh fuck no."
This is it. Yoongi is in actual hell.
".. a fucking joke. I don't know what the fuck you were thinking but this isn't going to happen, Jimin. No way. There's no fucking way I'm staying here for weeks with that hippie and no goddamn phone." Yoongi pauses mid rant to take a breath. "Who the fuck made you the boss of me anyway? If I remember correctly, I'm the talent. You're my assistant. You don't have the fucking right to ship me off to fucking bumpkinville like I'm some kind of delinquent."
Yoongi doesn't get this angry very often. Not angry like this, where his pulse pounds in his throat and he sees red and he can barely get the words out. Good thing, because he can tell looking at Jimin's face he's crossed a line. They're standing outside the gate of Taehyung's Hippie Dippie Dream Resort or whatever the fuck it's called. Yoongi's cell phone is in Jimin's hand. A duffel bag with a few changes of clothes is in another. Jimin still seems to think Yoongi's going to stay here, which is totally fucking not going to happen. No chance in hell.
Jimin is quiet for a moment. His face has that flat, fixed expression it gets when he's really mad and holding it in. Yoongi feels bad. Fuck, he's such an asshole. He knows Jimin is just trying to help, but this isn't the way to go about it. Take away Yoongi's computer? You might as well cut off his big toe.
He thinks that's the one you need to walk. Right?
Jimin breathes out through his nose. "I may only be the hired help, Yoongi-ssi, but I don't think you have much of a choice. The company was ready to cancel your contract, hyung. I spent hours talking to Bang CEO Monday convincing him not to do it."
The words hit Yoongi like a punch. "Cancel ... my contract?"
Jimin sighs. "Yes, hyung," he says. "I don't think they would have gone through with it, but they were willing to threaten. They're really not happy you said that stuff about Seokjin hyung."
Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut. "I didn't mean it," he says pitifully. "I was ... I was drunk. I didn't think we were on the record. I ..."
"It doesn't matter how it happened," Jimin says tiredly. "What matters is that you did say it, and it got printed, and now everyone is in damage control mode trying to kill all the articles about how two former BTS members secretly hate each other."
Yoongi can't say anything. What's there to say? He fucked up, once again. He hangs his head.
"Just ... just give it a try, hyung," Jimin says, sounding a little desperate. "It's just a few weeks. You don't have to do any of the activities or anything. You can just sleep." He smiles, soft and friendly. "How many times have you told me you wish you could just get away and sleep for a entire week?"
Yoongi frowns. "The bed did look pretty comfortable," he grudgingly admits.
"Exactly," Jimin says, too excitedly. He's really trying to sell this. "I wouldn't have picked some place you wouldn't like. You know I know your tastes. I think you'll really like it here. You can just take some time and relax and y'know. Come up with some great songs."
He beams, and goddamn it, Park Jimin's smile is infectious.
Yoongi sighs deeply. "Fine," he says. "And I'm never going to the gym with you again after this."
"Thank you, hyung," Jimin says. "I think this will be a really good thing. And besides, you only went to the gym to check out the trainers' asses."
"Hey," Yoongi cuts him off, blushing. "That's not true. And anyway, what's wrong with an aesthetic appreciation of the human form?"
Jimin rolls his eyes and hands Yoongi his duffel bag. Hangdog, practically numb, Yoongi trudges after him back into the courtyard where Taehyung is waiting. Jimin hands Yoongi's phone over to Taehyung's custody, gives Yoongi a quick hug, shakes Taehyung's hand, and scritches Porkpie behind the ear.
He's too much sometimes. It's exhausting. Maybe a break will do Yoongi some good.
Then Jimin is waving from the open window of Yoongi's Audi and pulling out down the dirt road, a cloud of yellow dust trailing in his wake.
Yoongi closes his eyes. Fuck. As the car recedes in the distance, Yoongi's stomach sinks. What the fuck has he just agreed to?
Taehyung is beaming at him creepily. Yoongi glances at him, narrow-eyed.
"I'm so glad you decided to stay, Yoongi-ssi," he says. "Porkpie and I are going to prune the pear trees this afternoon, if you want to join us."
Prune the pear trees?
"Uh," Yoongi says. "I think I'd actually like to take a nap."
Taehyung's smile doesn't even falter. "Of course," he says. "You know where your room is. You're welcome to anything in the kitchen. Please make yourself at home."
"Thanks," Yoongi says, flatly. He can't help but eye his poor, abandoned cell phone, still held fast in Taehyung's grasp. There's got to be a way he can get it back.
Baring that, there's always sleep. Exactly how much of a week can a person spend sleeping, anyway?
Yoongi wakes up and it is dark. Very dark. For a strange, disorienting moment he has no idea where he is. His apartment never gets this dark unless he closes the blackout curtains. But then he feels the soft sheets and smells the air - fresh and cold in a way it never is at home - and remembers.
He's at the fucking farm.
Groggy, he sits up. He doesn't have any idea what time it is and he goes to reach for his phone - and remembers that it's still locked away in Taehyung's fucking secret vault. Goddamnit. He flops back against the pillows and closes his eyes, but he doesn't think he can go back to sleep right away. Instead he ponderously rolls over and turns on the lamp on the bedside table. At least this place has fucking electricity. He's surprised they're not using oil lamps.
He blinks as the room floods with light. It's so quiet here that it's weird. He can't hear anything except the wind outside. The old alarm clock on the bedside table reveals it's almost eight o'clock. He's been asleep for hours.
Yoongi's stomach gurgles. He hasn't eaten much today. The snacks he'd bought at the gas station (just that morning, but it seems like a different lifetime now) are sitting where he left them in the back seat of his car because he's a fucking idiot. He wants a cigarette and a cheeseburger and a beer, and odds aren't good that he can find any of those at this place.
He does need to eat though, and maybe some water. Taehyung said that the kitchen was open to him, right? It's late enough that maybe he can just slip down, grab something, and come back up without having to interact with anyone. It's the country. Everyone probably goes to bed at fucking sundown anyway.
He shrugs on his jacket and heads downstairs. He slips on his shoes to cross the yard. There's a light on in the kitchen, but the night is dark. The crunch of his feet against the gravel underfoot is loud. An owl calls somewhere near. It's so dark Yoongi can't even see twenty meters away. It's like the world just vanishes into darkness - poof! Nothing.
He doesn't like this.
It's a relief to get to the kitchen, so much so that he's not even annoyed when he opens the door to find Taehyung sitting at the long farm table.
"Yoongi-ssi," he says, sounding way happier than he should. "How was your nap?"
Porkpie, curled up at his feet, lifts her head and regards Yoongi coldly.
"Fine," Yoongi says, quietly. He lingers on the threshold, unsure.
"You must be hungry," Taehyung says. "There's some rice in the cooker and leftover stew in the fridge."
Yoongi is about to refuse, but his traitorous stomach gurgles unhappily right at that moment.
Taehyung laughs, goofy and bright, like he's glad to be proven right.
"Thanks," Yoongi says, embarrassed.
The fridge is full of all kinds of healthy looking stuff - veggies and brown and blue speckled eggs and a block of soft tofu and side dishes in glass containers. It looks nice, like the well stocked and carefully curated refrigerator in an ad or something. Jimin makes sure he's got microwaveable rice at home and store-bought kimchi and maybe some frozen stuff he can reheat but that's about the extent of Yoongi's larder.
He takes out the container of leftover stew and sits down on the other side of the table from Taehyung, about halfway down. He takes a hesitant first bite - he doesn't recognize this dish, whatever it is - but it's actually pretty good. He keeps pausing and glancing up awkwardly, expecting Taehyung to make small talk, but Taehyung doesn't. He keeps his eyes fixed on the book he's reading, turning the pages slowly.
Only when Yoongi is nearly done with his food does Taehyung stand up and ask, "Would you like a cup of tea? I'm going to make some."
Yoongi can't remember the last time he sat and had a cup of tea. Maybe visiting his grandparents, years and years ago now. "Uh, sure," he says.
"Solomon's seal," Taehyung explains while he fills the kettle and sets it on the stove to boil. "One of the aunties in town harvests it. I make sure to buy some every year." He takes out two tea cups - matte glaze, no handle, very simple - and two tea bags from a canister in one of the cupboards.
"Nice," Yoongi says. "Uh. So. Have you lived here a long time?"
Ugh. Awkward, Min Yoongi. Aren't celebrities supposed to be good at this smalltalk bullshit?
"My whole life," Taehyung says. "Basically. This was my grandparents' place. They left it to me after they passed."
"Ah," Yoongi says. "I thought the accent was just for effect or something. To make you seem more authentic."
Taehyung laughs. "Sorry, Yoongi-ssi. I'm a country boy born and bred."
"Eh," Yoongi says, dropping into his own accent. "It's not that hard to hide it." It feels kind funny talking in satoori now, like his tongue doesn't quite know where to fit in his mouth.
"Oh," Taehyung says, surprised. "You're from Daegu too? Or maybe you're just an accent specialist? Are you a voice actor? Jimin said you were some kind of recording artist. I think being a voice actor would be so interesting. Can you do a Jeolla-do accent too?"
"I'm not a voice actor," Yoongi says, rolling his eyes. " I lived in Daegu until I was sixteen."
"Oh," Taehyung says.
The kettle whistles. He gets up and fills the mugs with hot water, and then hands one to Yoongi. The mild sweet aroma of the Solomon's seal tea reminds him of his grandmother.
"You don't know who I am?" Yoongi asks, hands cradled around the warm cup.
Taehyung breathes on his own tea to cool it. "Nope," he says. "Should I?"
Yoongi shrugs. Bangtan was famous enough in their own way, but not really famous.
Not compared to what Seokjin has now.
"Not really," he says. "Er ... sorry about your grandparents." He takes a sip of tea. It burns his tongue and his lip, and he splutters.
"Thanks," Taehyung says. "It's okay. They lived really long, good lives."
"Lucky," Yoongi says.
"Yeah," Taehyung says. "They were." He takes a sip of his tea. He does not say anything else.
Yoongi sips his tea. The night is huge and very quiet. Taehyung reads his book. His hair is long and falls in front of his face. Yoongi would be annoyed. His own hair is already longer than he likes it. He should have gotten a haircut. The dog gets up, circles the table, and lies back down at Taehyung's feet with a grumbled exhalation. The refrigerator hums smoothly. Yoongi wonders if Jimin made it back to Seoul already. Probably. It's not a very long drive - even if right now he feels a million miles away.
He finishes his tea. He gets up and rinses his mug at the sink, and leaves it to dry on the drainboard.
"Goodnight," he says to Taehyung.
Taehyung looks up and blinks. "Goodnight, Yoongi-ssi. Breakfast is at six."
"That's obscene," Yoongi says. Six in the morning? Most nights he's just going to bed at that time.
Taehyung laughs softly. "Farm life starts early," he says. "Good night."
Yoongi hesitates for a moment, but he can't think of anything else to say. He crosses the yard again, opens the door to the guest house, and climbs the stairs. He takes the toothbrush Jimin packed from his bag and brushes his teeth in the cool, glossy bathroom. He splashes water on his face. He takes off his jeans and sits for a moment at the foot of the bed. He's not tired, exactly, but there is nothing at all he can think to do, so he gets into bed and pulls the covers up over his head and goes to sleep.
The rooster does not sleep in.
Yoongi wakes from a strange dream in a strange bed. Somewhere nearby, very close, a rooster is crowing loudly.
Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut. Slowly, he sits up. Outside, the sky just beginning to lighten behind the mountains. It's early as fuck.
"Holy shit," he mutters.
He fell asleep without shutting the window last night, and it's cold now. He wraps himself in the blanket like kimbap in seaweed. His nose is still cold. The rooster won't shut the fuck up. He wriggles sadly. He closes his eyes but there's no goddamn way he's going to be able to go back to sleep now.
"I'm gonna kill Park Jimin the next time I see him," Yoongi exclaims dramatically to the empty room.
He rolls out of bed still wrapped in the blanket. The wood floors are cold even though he can feel the heat is on. He drags the blanket to the threshold of the bathroom and then drops it. He turns on the shower as hot as it can go. He pulls off his tee shirt and steps out of his boxers and scowls at his pale, scrawny naked self in the mirror. A few years back he'd gotten into pretty decent shape, but honestly he hates exercise and his good habits have always been short lived. It's a relief when the steam fogs the mirror.
The water is almost too hot but it feels good. He stands under the spray for a long time with his eyes closed. He's so fucking tired. Maybe if he stays in here long enough the roosters will have shut up and he can go back to sleep. The warm, damp air feels like a balm, and the dim room is close and still. Yoongi tries to summon up the energy to wash his hair, but that seems like a lot of effort. Finally, when his skin is all pink from the heat, he scrubs himself cursorily down and soaps up his hair. The shampoo gets in his eye when he rinses, and he stumbles and curses until it washes out.
He finally wills himself out of the shower. He turns off the water and steps into the cold air and wraps a towel around himself. They're nice towels. Big and fluffy. He should get Jimin to find out what brand they are and order some. Still, even swaddled in a towel, it's cold. Shivering, he goes back into the bedroom to rifle through his bag. Jimin packed plain clothes, mostly. Practical things: jeans and tee shirts and sweatpants. Nothing sponsored. Nothing too fancy. Yoongi's real clothes. Things he bought for himself.
He pulls on a clean pair of underwear and a pair of sweatpants. Ordinarily he would make a little more effort to look presentable, but who cares? He has no one to impress here. A tee shirt and hoodie complete the look. The coordis would be appalled.
He brushes his hair and puts on his socks and hangs up his towel. Outside, the sky is lighter, but still not fully light. What the hell is he doing awake this early? He closes his eyes and falls back on the bed. The tag on his tee shirt scratches his neck. He sits up and tries to fix it and then flops back down.
This is pointless. Fuck.
Yoongi isn't much of a breakfast person, but Taehyung has to have coffee at least. Right?
He pads downstairs. The first door off the downstairs hallway is open, he notices. The room beyond is neutral and neat, much like his own apartment. Yoongi sits on the bottom step to put on his shoes. Outside, the grass is glimmering with dew. The sky is peach and mauve behind the mountains in the east. Birds are singing. Yoongi takes a deep breath. The air is different here. Cleaner. Sweeter. He wonders if anyone in Seoul has tried importing it. Mountain air, fresh from Daegu!
He'll have to ask Jimin about that too.
The light is on in the kitchen again. Taehyung is standing at the stove wearing a blue gingham apron with ruffly trim. Porkpie is at his feet, and an old woman is sitting at the table. She has the fine, wispy hair and crepe-y skin of the elderly, but she is bright eyed and spry and wearing a pink velour tracksuit.
She eyes him as he walks in. "So you're the young man who arrived last night," she says. "I was expecting to meet you at dinner."
There's something vaguely accusatory in her tone that freaks Yoongi out. "Uh," he says. "Sorry. I ... took a nap?"
This appears to be a satisfactory answer. "Sleep is very important," she says, nodding. "My name is Cha Jeongja, young man, but you can just call me grandmother."
"Yes, Grandmother," he says, bowing his head. "My name is Min Yoongi."
She nods. "And what are you doing here, Yoongi?"
Yoongi swallows. He just wants a cup of coffee. He hadn't realized he was going to get fucking interrogated. "Uh," he says. "I've just had a rough time at work lately, and I thought it might be good to take a break for a little while. Relax and recharge."
"Well, you picked the right place," Jeongja says. "My son drives me here once a month so that I can spend a week. I'm eighty years old and as fit as a fiddles and it's all thanks to Taehyung-ah."
"Ah, Grandmother, I don't think that's ...."
"No, Taehyung," she says. "It's true. You're doing such a marvelous job. I don't think there's any place in the world as relaxing."
Taehyung smiles a funny, boxy smile as she pats him on the shoulder. He puts three bowls of rice on the table, each topped with a crispy fried egg, and then sits down himself. The food looks fine, but Yoongi really needs some caffeine. He looks around in vain for a coffee pot.
Yoongi waits a moment while Jeongja and Taehyung both eating their breakfasts with relish. Surely ... there must be coffee? But none seems to be forthcoming.
"Isn't there any coffee?" he asks plaintively.
Taehyung jumps up. "Oh!" He scurries back over to the stove, nearly tripping on Porkpie. "I'm sorry, Yoongi-ssi. Grandmother and I just drink tea, so I didn't think to put any on. Just give me a second ..."
Taehyung gets a percolator out of one of the cabinets and shuffles through a drawer before he finds a sad, aged bag of ground coffee. He performs some mysterious operations with these implements, and fifteen minutes later the percolator is ... well, percolating.
Yoongi's idea of making a cup of coffee is sending Jimin to the coffee shop on the corner. Yoongi murmurs his thanks, but he secretly feels annoyed. Why hadn't Taehyung asked if he'd wanted coffee? Isn't he supposed to be the host? Now Yoongi feels like an imposition.
At least he has caffeine. He takes an eager sip.
It's awful - burnt and stale. He wants an iced americano. He drinks Taehyung's shitty coffee anyway.
All the while Jeongja and Taehyung keep up a energetic conversation about all the work that Taehyung has planned on the farm.
"Ah, a new chicken coop?" Jeongja asks, eagerly. "Do you still have that handsome fellow with the funny tail? I thought I heard him this morning."
"Artichoke? Yes, he's still here," Taehyung says. "He's just as vain and proud as ever."
Artichoke? What the fuck kind of name is that for a chicken? Yoongi scowls down at his breakfast. "And loud," he mutters. "Really fucking loud. I felt like I was sleeping in a chicken coop."
Taehyung beams at him. "They are loud, aren't they?" He looks delighted. "There are ear plugs in the bedside table. I don't think they really help much, but it might make a difference."
Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut. Couldn't he have mentioned that last night? But he's too tired and under-caffeinated to press the issue. "Thanks," he mumbles.
Taehyung and Jeongja finish eating and Taehyung clears the dishes. Yoongi leaves his breakfast half eaten. Jeonja does the dishes. Yoongi stares into the dregs of his terrible cup of coffee.
It's only seven thirty in the morning. What the hell is he doing to do all day?
"Do you want to tag along and help Porkpie and me with the chicken coop?" Taehyung asks, calmly.
Yoongi swallows. It's cold out, and really bright. He wants more coffee, and a cigarette maybe, and to go back to sleep, but he isn't going to get any of those things. He might as well play along. Maybe if he's a good boy he can convince Jimin he's ready to come home sooner rather than later.
"Yeah," he says. "Sure. Fine."
Twenty minutes later he's trudging across the yard at Taehyung's side. Jimin packed him a pair of Timbs, but Taehyung had taken one look at them and suggested, maybe, that Yoongi might want to borrow a pair of work boots.
Chickens are, apparently, quite messy.
Now Yoongi is wearing a pair of Taehyung's beat up old boots. They're half a size too big even with two pairs of socks. He feels stupid, like a little kid playing dress up. He sticks his hands in his pockets. Porkpie trots along happily at Taehyung's side. They head past the big, unplanted garden and down a hill. Yoongi smells the chickens before he sees them. It's a strange, ammoniac stink. The old coop is at the bottom of a hill, and he can see why Taehyung wants to rebuild it. It looks ramshackle and sad, and the door is falling off the hinges. Some twenty meters away, a pile of bright new lumber sits on the lawn.
Taehyung stands with his hands on his hips and breathes in deeply, back bent a little.
"What a beautiful day," he days. "You came at the perfect time, Yoongi-ssi. Three weeks ago there was still snow on the ground."
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "Lucky me."
Taehyung seems to miss the sarcasm. Yoongi will have to try harder.
He tromps over to the pile of lumber and circles it almost ritualistically. Hands still on his hips, he shakes his head in a contemplative way.
"Uh," Yoongi says. "So what do we do first?"
It turns out that Taehyung doesn't actually know how to build a chicken coop.
"Jungkook is the handy one," he says to Yoongi. "He's at home right now visiting family. I thought I could get a start before he got back."
Yoongi shakes his head. "Didn't he leave any plans?"
Taehyung nods. He digs around for a moment in the pockets of his oversized parka and then pulls out a much folded sheet of lined paper. Someone - the mysterious Jungkook presumably - has scrawled the rough dimensions and outline of a chicken coop: a square pen and a cozy hutch sided with cedar shingles.
Yoongi narrows his eyes. Jungkook's plan is kind of lacking, but it's just a chicken coop. How hard could it be?
"Obviously the first thing we need to do is dig holes for these posts," Yoongi says, pointing at the piece of paper. "You have shovels, right?"
A half an hour later, Yoongi peers down at the shallow depression he and Taehyung have dug. It can't be more than six inches deep.
"Shit," he says, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. The sun is higher now, and the morning mist has burned off, and the day is warming up. "Maybe the ground is still frozen."
Taehyung frowns. He's tied a bandana around his head, which makes him look like a pirate from some amateur theatrical production. "I don't know," he says. "I don't think it's frozen, Yoongi-ssi."
He kneels down and pinches some earth between his thumb and index finger, and rubs them together.
"Nope," he says. "Not frozen." He laughs softly. "I guess we just suck at this."
Yoongi frowns. What the fuck? He folds his arms over his chest. "I'm not a fucking carpenter," he mutters.
Taehyung looks up, alarmed. "I know," he says quickly. "Sorry, Yoongi-ssi. I thank you for your help."
There had been a quick moment of ease, but it's gone now, and Taehyung's words and manner are formal and distant again.
Yoongi feels inexplicably like an asshole. He is an asshole, but it's too early and he's too tired and cold to mean it right now. He sighs. "When is this Jungkook coming back?"
Taehyung blinks "Oh," he says. "End of the week, I think."
Yoongi toes the dirt with his shoes. "Well," he says. "Maybe when he gets back he can tell us what the hell we're doing wrong."
Taehyung's smile is full of relief. "Yes," he says. "Jungkook is really handy. He's going to scold me for even trying this on my own."
"Sound like a punk," Yoongi mutters.
"He is," Taehyung says happily. "He's great." He picks up his shovel from where it's fallen on the ground. "Do you want to help me collect the eggs, Yoongi-ssi?"
Chickens, as it turns out, are evil creatures who don't even deserve a nice new coop. No sooner have he and Taehyung crept into their old coop than one of the razor-beaked little terrors is coming straight at his ankles. He shrieks and jumps back. Taehyung bursts into laughter. The chicken, startled by his bray, backs off, but keeps its beady, evil little eyes fixed on Yoongi. He knows it's going to make a run at him as soon as his back is turned.
The little chicken ... house ... thing is so small that even Yoongi has to duck his head to step in. Taehyung has to stoop. It is dark and close and smelly inside. Taehyung peers down at the nests like he's trying to divine the future. He motions Yoongi closer.
"Here," he says. "Go ahead."
The eggs are delicate shades of cream and blue and some are speckled. They don't look like the eggs Yoongi gets in the grocery store.
He hesitates. "Just ... grab them?"
"Yeah," Taehyung says.
Yoongi glances around to see if any of the hens are eyeing him, but Taehyung has distracted them with a scattered handful of feed. Artichoke, the big rooster with the bent tail, struts among them proprietarily. Gingerly, Yoongi reaches in to the nest box and grabs one of the eggs.
"It's warm," he says, surprised.
Taehyung laughs again. He's so free with his laughter. It's kind of strange. "Of course," he says. "They're freshly laid."
Right. This egg was inside a chicken. Yoongi's stomach starts to turn.
"Gross," he mutters, which just makes Taehyung laugh all the harder.
They collect all the eggs, and then Taehyung lets Yoongi give the chickens a nother handful of feed. He figures he better do all he can to get on the good side of such dangerous little creatures with such sharp beaks and talons. They dive and dart at the scattered food pellets with bloodthirsty ferocity.
When they're done, Taehyung locks up the coop and they walk back to the kitchen. Yoongi is tired again, and hungry. It feels late in the day, but it couldn't be later than noon. The sun is still climbing, and the dew is just drying off the grass. He would normally just be getting up.
They wash their hand in the kitchen sink. Then, with a red wax pencil, Taehyung writes the date on each egg. Yoongi sits down at the kitchen table and rests his head on his folded arms. When Taehyung is done marking the eggs he puts them away in the pantry and then washes his hands again.
"I was thinking this afternoon we could plant some of the stuff I've been starting in the greenhouse," Taehyung says, drying his hands on a dish towel. "I've got some turnip starters too. Maybe we can even get some of the garlic I put in last fall ..."
"I think I'm going to go take a nap," Yoongi says. Whatever excitement - whatever warmth - he'd felt is gone now, and he's tired. He wants his own bed in his own apartment. He wants Jimin to bring him a coffee and to listen while he complains about the company's onerous demands. He played along this morning, but he doesn't like this place and he doesn't want to be here.
Taehyung's face falls. His mouth droops at the corners in an almost cartoonish expression.
"Oh," he says. "Okay. Of course. Can I fix you some lunch, first?"
Yoongi shakes his head. "I'm fine," he says, even though he is kind of hungry.
He gets up without saying anything else and crosses the yard back to the guest house and climbs up to his room. He strips out of his clothes and showers again until the hot water starts to run out. He puts on clean pajamas and lies down on top of the covers and stares at the ceiling for a long time. The day is bright and sunny and the room is too light, and maybe he's not even really tired anyway. He can't tell. He gets up and goes to the window. Taehyung is in the garden now, kneeling, poking and prodding at the dirt. Yoongi scowls. He flops back onto the bed and lies there and listens to the birdsong and the wind and Taehyung who, in a deep and surprisingly strong voice, sings some strange, old-fashioned song to his dog.
The damn birds wake him up again the next morning, but Yoongi has already resigned himself to his fate. He groans and rolls over and slides out of the bed. The floor is cold underfoot. He pulls himself to his feet and slumps into the bathroom. He's never taken this many showers in his life, but what else is there to do here?
When he sits down for breakfast across from Jeongja, Taehyung hands him a cup of coffee with a smile.
"Good morning," he says.
"Morning," Yoongi says. This coffee smells a lot better than yesterday's attempt, so he can't really bring himself to be as grumpy as he'd like.
"How'd you sleep?" Taehyung asks.
"Pretty good," Yoongi admits. "I don't sleep really well at home."
"Ah," Taehyung said. "Making up for lost time, then." He pours a cup of tea for Jeongja. "I know the feeling. I used to sleepwalk and talk in my sleep. I'd wake up more exhausted than I went to bed."
Jeongja shakes her head. She's wearing a white cape sweater thing today pinned at the shoulder with a giant jeweled brooch in the shape of a butterfly. "You young people spend too much time with your phones and computers and gizmos. No wonder you don't sleep well. When I was a girl we just went to bed when we ran out of things to do. Nowadays my little grandson has to have his phone taken away or else he'll just keep playing those games of his."
"Ah, Grandmother," Taehyung says, "But you know we don't allow any of that here."
"I know you don't," she says, as satisfied as if it had been her idea.
Sleep is nice, but Yoongi would trade eight solid hours for his phone in a heartbeat.
Breakfast today is a vegetable omelette, rice with red beans, tofu, and kimchi. Yoongi is hungry from skipping lunch and dinner the night before and eats all of his. He drinks three cups of coffee and feels much better afterwards. He helps Taehyung clear the table while Jeongja does the dishes. He'd been planning to retreat to his room and read and sleep, but Taehyung says he's going to catch eels and invites him to come along.
Yoongi has never gone fishing before, and he thinks it sounds pretty boring, but it'll be something to knock off his bucket list, at least, so he agrees.
They climb into Taehyung's rickety old pick-up truck, Yoongi and Porkpie and Taehyung all packed together on the bench seat, and drive twenty minutes or so down the bumpy dirt road until they turn off into a little patch of forest not at all distinguished (that Yoongi can tell) from any of the other patches of forest they've passed. Then they tramp another fifteen minutes through the woods carrying rods and gear and come out onto the banks of a cold, fast-moving little forest stream.
"This is it?" Yoongi asks, looking around.
Taehyung nods. "My grandfather's secret spot," he says. "He used to take me out here every year when I was a kid, when I'd come and visit."
"Thought you grew up here," Yoongi says, frowning.
"Practically," Taehyung says, while doing something delicate and fussy with his line. "I spent vacations here. My parents live a little closer to the city."
"Ah," Yoongi says, but he doesn't say any more, because he doesn't really care and also because Taehyung is holding a fat, red earthworm out to him. Yoongi's stomach twists and he lurches away. "You do it," he says.
Laughing, Taehyung baits his rod too.
It's about as goddamn boring as Yoongi expected. They sit there on their upended buckets, waiting for the fish to bite. It's another sunny day and the light is bright and spangled, falling broken through the lattice of the trees. Taehyung talks about the farm, about the adventures he'd had as a kid with his younger siblings, about the food his grandmother used to make, about learning how to plant and fish and drive from his grandparents.
It sounds nice, Yoongi guesses. Too nice, almost. Idyllic and fake, like something staged for a magazine shoot.
Taehyung snags the first eel. His line bobs and he jerks it back hard and reels in, and at the end of his line is a slippery, sleek black thing wriggling violently in the air. He wets his hand and presses it into the sandy bank of the river before grabbing the struggling thing behind its head and freeing it from the hook. He drops it into their third bucket, which is filled with some water, where it continues its trashing, beating a loud, percussive rhythm against its plastic prison.
Porkpie peers down at it with some interest, but huffs and backs away when the slippery creature splashes her.
Taehyung catches a second and a third before Yoongi gets his first bite. He's distracted when it finally happens, watching a leftover autumn leave drift through the eddies and whorls in the water.
"Yoongi-ssi!" Taehyung says, excited. "You've got one!"
Yoongi looks up, startled, and sees that his rod is bent in a deep curve.
"Oh shit," he says. He scrambles to grab the reel, and starts turning the little handle thing. It's harder than he thought. "Fuck, this sucker is strong."
Finally, a black, shiny eel breaks the surface of the water. Yoongi pulls his rod back, but he can't seem to get a firm grip on the thing. It slides out of his hand every time he reaches for it. Taehyung finally takes pity on him and grasps it firmly in his own hands (long-fingered and very elegant for a farmer, Yoongi thinks).
"Thanks," Yoongi says, sitting back on his bucket while Taehyung frees his fish. "Jesus."
"You did good, Yoongi-ssi," Taehyung says. "Nice job."
"Eh," Yoongi says. "You did most of the work." He frowns. "And you can just call me hyung, okay? Yoongi-ssi sounds weird. Like I'm at some kind of a meeting with my company."
"Sure thing, hyung," Taehyung says, and he smiles in his accommodating and pleasant way.
Yoongi had meant it as a gesture - some token kindness to show that he knows this bullshit isn't Taehyung's fault - but instead he somehow feels like Taehyung is the one doing him a favor. What the hell.
They stay for another few hours, until the sun is sinking pale towards the west. Taehyung pulls out some kimbap for lunch. Porkpie wades in the stream and then naps on the muddy bank. When they have ten or so squirming eels in the bucket, Taehyung stands up and stretches, arching his back a little.
"I think that's a pretty good haul," he says.
Yoongi nods, although he doesn't really have any idea how many eels constitute a good haul.
"What are you going to do with them?" he asks.
"Drop a few off with one of the women in town," he says. "She really loves them and she gave me three jars of her kimchi this year."
"Oh," Yoongi says. "Nice."
"I figure we can eat the others for dinner," Taehyung says, reeling in his line. "If you're planning to eat tonight, that is."
Yoongi frowns. "I didn't mean to fall asleep last night," he says, a little defensively. "That damn rooster keeps waking me up at the crack of dawn."
"I know," Taehyung says. "Sorry. I was just teasing."
"Oh," Yoongi says, mollified. "Well, I'm definitely going to eat dinner tonight if we're going to be dining on the fruits of my labor."
Taehyung laughs. The eels slosh and splash in their bucket.
The drive home is bumpy and quiet. Taehyung turns the radio on; some local station plays traditional music interrupted by gouts of static. Porkpie is wet and stinks a little. Yoongi leans his head against the cool window and watches the green hills, the dark fields, the grey, weathered crags. It's beautiful here. He's not dumb. It's beautiful country and Taehyung seems happy enough with his life, but Yoongi can't shake the feeling that he's missing out on things. Back in Seoul, Seokjin and Namjoon and Hoseok are busy working, getting even further ahead, while Yoongi catches eels. It's not a competition. It never was; still, he wants to do well.
He falls asleep waiting for Taehyung to drop off the promised eels to his kindly neighbor. When Yoongi opens his eyes again, the truck is parked outside of the farmhouse. He's alone.
He blinks. His mouth is stale and sticky. He opens the door and gets out. One foot is asleep and he has to hop around awkwardly for a minute until the feeling comes back.
Taehyung is in the back yard, cleaning the eels.
Yoongi crouches down a few meters away and watches, hopefully out of the range of splattering guts.
Taehyung works quickly, twisting and cutting and pulling. It's terrible, brutal work, and he does it well.
"How'd you get so good at all of this stuff?" Yoongi asks, frowning. "Cooking and farming and skinning fucking eels. Is this what you wanted to be as a kid? A rugged outdoorsman?"
Taehyung sits back on his heels and opens his mouth wide. He laughs, kind of. It's awkward. He wipes his forehead with his shirt sleeve.
"No," he says. "I wanted to be a photographer."
"Oh," Yoongi says. He frowns. "So you're just naturally talented at the cooking-planting-hunting-gathering stuff, then?"
Taehyung smiles again. "Something like that." He exhales. "Listen, Hyung, if you want to go wash up, dinner's going to be around seven, okay?"
Yoongi hadn't been intending to go wash up, but he feels, somehow, like he's being dismissed. Like he's fucked up.
What the hell.
He showers again and dries his hair and sits at the little desk in his room. There's a pad of unlined paper, heavy and off white, and a pen. Yoongi holds the pen in his hand. It's been forever since he's tried to write lyrics long hand. As a kid, he'd filled notebook after notebook - every damn thought that floated through his brain was worthy of being recorded. Now, though, he keeps his lyrics neatly organized in text files on his laptop. Even holding a pen feels strange.
He makes a few attempts - scrawled lines about high blue skies and the loneliness and futility of the world - but it's garbage. His first album had been so sad. Even now, he can't think about it without thinking about how sad he'd been then. He doesn't know if he remembers how to write anything that sad any more. He's older now, and life has worn him down, and nothing seems quite as vivid as it did in those days.
But the company wants what the company wants.
He wonders if Jimin has managed to talk him back into the CEO's good graces yet. Jimin has such a talent for things like that. Honestly, he should have quit being Yoongi's manager long ago. He has the experience now to work in artist development, to do more with his career, but he's stuck around anyway, because he says he owes it to Yoongi.
Because Yoongi's his friend.
Idiot. Fucking idiot Park Jimin.
Instead of lyrics Yoongi starts a letter.
Seokjin Hyung -
You know I didn't mean what I said, right? I was only drunk, and teasing you. You worked hard for everything. I'm just an asshole -
No. He scribbles the lines out and balls the piece of paper up and throws it away.
Maybe he'll just call Seokjin when he's back in the city. Or, better yet, maybe he'll have Jimin arrange a dinner for the two of them, and he'll make his apology in person.
It is dark now. The room is all silver and shadows and the sky is star-speckled lavender. Yoongi frowns down at the blank pages, at his wasted afternoon.
It's almost seven. He can try again with the lyrics tomorrow. He pulls on his jacket and heads downstairs.
Taehyung has started a fire in the yard, a big one, and the air is harsh and fragrant with wood smoke. A charcoal grill is heating up nearby, and Jeongja is sitting in a deck chair with a mug of something hot and steaming, well bundled in a large wool shawl and hat.
"What's all this for?" Yoongi asks.
Taehyung, crouching down to make some minute adjustment to the structure of the fire, looks up and smiles. The orange light of the flames casts his features in sharp relief. He's really fucking handsome. Yoongi's never known how to deal with handsome people. They're overwhelming.
"Just thought it might be nice," Taehyung says. "It felt like a night to send our offerings to the gods."
Yoongi frowns. Is this some kind of crackpot religious thing? Is that what's going on here? Is that why Taehyung is so damn even-keeled but off beat all the time? Is Yoongi going to wake up to find them all wearing robes and masks and chanting?
"Gods?" Yoongi asks.
Taehyung shrugs. "It's something the yoga teacher does. You'll meet her soon. I just thought it sounded like a cool reason for a fire."
"Oh," Yoongi says, a little deflated. He still hasn't given up on getting out of here early, and Taehyung being the leader of a creepy pseudoreligious cult would definitely be a qualifying life event.
In just a few moments Taehyung announces that the grill is ready. They all troop into the kitchen, where Taehyung takes the eel - cleaned and marinating - from the fridge. Jeongja prepares the accompaniments and Yoongi carries them out to the picnic table for her. Soon the rich sweet scent of grilling eel joins the ashy wood smoke aroma. Yoongi's stomach growls.
Taehyung, manning the grill, grins at him. "Fishing is hungry work, huh?"
"Yeah," Yoongi admits, a little embarrassed.
They eat the eel hot, as fast as Taehyung can cook it. Jeongja gets the first taste - a prize piece. She wraps the sweet, sticky fish in a lettuce leave and dabs it with ginger and hot sauce and eats it in one bite. Mouth full, she gives Taehyung a thumbs up.
It's good. Yoongi isn't especially fond of eel or anything, but his hunger and the fact that he caught this with his own hands (and, okay, a little of Taehyung's help) gives it extra savor. Taehyung laughs and cooks and eats his own share, and flips little scraps to Porkpie, who is expert at catching them in the air. Jeongja tells them stories about all the pets she's ever owned.
The dog she kept as a girl had hated her father, and she'd raised a rabbit for six months in a box in her room. Her children (grown now and with families themselves) had kept a whole menagerie of animals: cats and dogs and fish and hamster.
Yoongi can barely keep a plant alive. Jesus.
At nine o'clock, after the food is done and the dishes are cleaned, Jeongja announces that she is going to bed, and admonishes them not to stay up too late.
"Sleep," she declares, "is the foundation of a long and healthy life, boys."
Taehyung grins. "I know, Grandmother. We'll go to bed soon. Goodnight."
She shakes her head, like she knows better, and then strides across the yard.
Then Yoongi and Taehyung and the dog are alone in the vast night. Outside the little bubble of warmth and light from the fire there is nothing - just blackness and darkness and the stars far, far above. Yoongi wonders what everyone back in Seoul is doing. They're too busy to be stargazing, and besides the light pollution is so bad there you can't see the stars anyway.
"Do you want some soju?" Taehyung asks.
"Soju?" Yoongi asks suspiciously. "I would have expected you to be a teetotaler. That fits with all the rest of your hippie dippy new age healthy living bullshit."
Taehyung shrugs. "I like to have a drink once in awhile," he says. "It's such a nice night. I don't feel like going to sleep yet."
Yoongi thinks it's a rather cold night, honestly, and too dark, but he wouldn't mind a drink. "Yeah," he says. "Okay. Sure."
Taehyung gets a few bottles and soda and two cups from the kitchen. He pours them both a drink, politely serving Yoongi first.
"Cheers," he says. "To your first successful fishing trip."
The clink of the glasses is loud in the quiet night. Yoongi relishes the burn as he takes a big sip.
Taehyung smacks his lips together. "How are you liking it here so far? I know you weren't the most eager guest we've ever had …"
Yoongi frowns. "It's nothing personal. I'm a busy guy. I can't really afford to take a week off, despite what Jimin says."
Taehyung frowns, runs his thumb around the rim of his glass, over and over. "Is he your boss? Or …"
Yoongi snorts. "He's not my fucking boss."
"I didn't mean to offend," Taehyung says calmly.
"It's fine," Yoongi says, finishing his soju in one long swallow. Taehyung takes his glass and fills it again. When he hands it back, their fingers brush. Taehyung's skin is cool and smooth, and his hands are like his face: fine and beautifully drawn.
It is a strange moment, and it passes quickly, and Yoongi takes another sip of his drink. The fire burns vigorously, full of jumping light and snaps and small explosions. Porkpie gets to her feet, circles once, and settles back down with a whine.
"You really don't have any idea who I am?" Yoongi asks.
"I said I don't," Taehyung says, amused. "Should I?"
Yoongi shrugs. "Not really, I guess," he says. "I was in a group - an idol group. BTS. Ever heard of them?"
Taehyung narrows his eyes contemplatively. "I think so," he says. "You did that song with the accents."
Yoongi laughs. "Right," he says, shaking his head. Daegu boy would remember that one.
"Cool," Taehyung says.
Yoongi nods. It had been cool for a while. Then he got fucked over.
"Jimin is my assistant," he says. "I'm actually his boss."
"Oh," Taehyung says. "Huh. Yeah. That makes sense." He sips his drink. The eel bones were marinated and fried by Jeongja as a special treat. Yoongi can't bring himself to eat them but Taehyung is enjoying them now as a snack with his alcohol. They crunch fiercely.
"I pissed off my company again," Yoongi says. He doesn't know why he's even telling Taehyung this, except that he's someone to talk to. "I was supposed to release an album and they didn't like the songs I'd written. I missed some important meetings, and I said some shit about one of my former bandmates that they company didn't like." He sighs. The litany of his sins. "Jimin bailed me out. Made up some story about me taking a break to find my voice, and shipped me down here until the media storm dies down."
"Wow," Taehyung says, sounding amused. "You must have said something really awful."
Yoongi frowns. "Not really," he says, stubbornly. "I'd been joking, I guess. You know Kim Seokjin?"
Taehyung narrows his eyes. "The actor? National Hansome? That guy?"
Great. Seokjin is so famous now that he's even penetrated Taehyung's bubble of intentional cultural oblivion.
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "He was in BTS, not that anyone remembers that now. And I … I don't fucking begrudge him a thing, but the company really pushed him as an actor after that first drama, and our group promotions suffered, and … whatever. It's all ancient history now. It wasn't fucking fair but I shouldn't have blabbed about it to the press."
"Probably not," Taehyung agrees.
Yoongi reaches for the soju bottle himself, pours himself another glass. He's starting to feel a little muzzy. Everything is softer and nicer when he's a bit drunk, especially here, so close he can soak in the heat thrown off by the fire.
" 'm an idiot," he mumbles. "I had this one hit song, see? Now the company just wants me to write that song over and over. What I am? A fucking copy machine?"
Taehyung giggles. "Don't think so," he says.
"Yeah," Yoongi says, satisfied. "Of course not."
The breeze shifts and the smoke comes around into Yoongi's face. He takes a hot, dry breath, and then coughs and coughs. When his fit subsides everything is quiet.
"What songs do you want to write?" Taehyung asks. "Since you don't want to write the same songs over and over."
What songs does he want to write?
Yoongi frowns. "Don't know," he admits. "If I knew maybe I could write them."
Taehyung nods. "That's probably the first thing to figure out," he says.
Yoongi can't tell if it's wise or totally fucking obvious.
"Yeah," he says, thickly.
Taehyung whistles Porkpie over. The dog presses her big, soft head against Taehyung's side, and Taehyung scratches behind her ear.
"If you want," he says, startling Yoongi, "there's a piano in the house you can use. It's probably out of tune, but you're welcome to try it out."
Yoongi frowns for the self serving motive, but how the hell would Taehyung benefit from letting Yoongi play hid piano? Ten years in the industry has turned him into a mean, suspicious bastard.
"Thanks," he says, roughly.
"Of course," Taehyung says, like such kindness is commonplace. Like it costs him nothing at all.
Yoongi's hangover is armor against the roosters. He wakes up the next morning with an aching head and a sour mouth. He rolls over in bed, twisted up in the sheets, and presses the heel of his palm into his eye. It doesn't help the throbbing.
He doesn't remember coming to bed last night. He and Taehyung had gone through bottle after bottle of soju, talking about nothing much and enjoying the heat of the fire. Yoongi had told him more about the early days: the impatient years of waiting to debut, the frustrating of their early failures, how even the success had never cut through Yoongi's depression. He'd riffed, for a while, on Seokjin's big break: the drama that unexpectedly become a national sensation, and how after that the company seemed to want to promote them as Kim Seokjin and Those Other Guys. How Seokjin had hated it too. How they'd all been powerless to do anything about it.
"I'm a moron," he mutters. "World class fucking idiot Min Yoongi."
What was he thinking? Spilling his guts to this Daegu farm boy? He needs to get back to Seoul, where - although there is no one there to whom he could similarly confess - at least he has a routine and enough distractions to make him not need such confession.
He untangles himself from the ensnaring bedding and gets up. His stomach lurches unhappily. It's almost nine o'clock, but any triumph he feels at sleeping so late is ruined by how shitty he feels.
He takes a long shower, leaning against the tiled wall. His headache diminishes, a little. He drags himself out of the shower and pours himself into sweatpants and a hoodie. He's hollow-bellied hungry now. Hopefully there'll still be something to eat.
When he gets to the kitchen there's no sign of Jeongja or Taehyung. A strange young man with dark hair is sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and eating an egg on toast. He looks up when Yoongi walks in, and his eyes widen in almost comical surprise.
"You're Min Yoongi," he says. "You're Suga."
"Yeah," Yoongi agrees. He wishes he were someone else, someone smart enough not to drink to excess.
The percolator is on the stove. Yoongi pours himself a cup of coffee. He puts two slices of toast in the toaster oven.
The stranger with the egg is still staring at him all agog. Yoongi's used to that kind of expression. He has his share of fans. He's not at all prepared to deal with it while he's hungover and annoyed at life.
"Can I help you?" he asks.
"I really loved your first album," the kid says. "It's one of my favorites, Yoongi-ssi."
"Thanks," Yoongi mutters. The kid has a strong Busan accent, and something clicks into place. "You're Jungkook?"
The kid nods, looking slightly overwhelmed at having his idol address him by name.
Yoongi takes a ship of coffee. "Glad you're back, kid," he says. "Taehyung and I couldn't make heads or tails of your chicken coop plans."
Jungkook grins. "I told him not to start without me." He bites his lip. "Wow. Suga is staying at the farm. Taehyung said we were having an artist come and stay, but I never thought it would be you."
Taehyung bustles in then. He beams at them both. "Oh good, hyung, you're up."
He looks chipper and well rested and not even the slightest bit hungover. His skin is fucking glowing.
"You never told me Suga was staying here," Jungkook hisses.
Taehyung laughs. "Oh, Yoongi hyung, you have a fan!" He sounds delighted and pats Jungkook on the cheek.
Jungkook pouts. "Just because your most recent cultural touchstones are thirty years old doesn't mean all of us live in the past," he says. "You know you can stream music on your phone now, right? You don't only have to listen all those old records your grandma left you."
This is entirely too much joviality for so early in the morning. Yoongi's head throbs gently. He closes his eyes and opens them, and it's still a bright sunny morning and he's still drinking shitty coffee in the kitchen of this farm house in the middle of fucking nowhere.
Taehyung pours himself a glass of water and takes a sip. Jungkook stuffs the rest of his toast into his mouth and gets up quickly. He dumps his plate into the sink and starts to step outside, but Taehyung catches him by the collar and brings him up short.
"Oh no," he says. "You're not getting out of it just because it's your first day back."
Jungkook closes his eyes and sighs. "Hyungggg, come on. You know I hate it."
"It's good for you," Taehyung says. "It's an opportunity to relax and clear your mind."
"Hyung," Jungkook whines, "my mind is totally clear. I don't want to do to yoga."
"Be a good sport, Jungkook-ah," Taehyung says. "Besides -" He throws an arm around Yoongi's shoulder. The gesture is unexpected. "Yoongi hyung is going to go too!"
Yoongi looks up. "Huh?"
Yoga is torture. Yoongi comes to that conclusion as Jihee, the kind, soothing teacher, presses gently on his lower back. His legs are spread wide and he's supposed to fold forward far enough to put his forehead on the floor, but Yoongi isn't made of such flexible stuff. He's tilted forward no more than fifteen degrees and his hamstrings are already screaming.
Jihee - sweet-smelling and graceful in all her movements - presses a little more firmly.
"You're really tight, aren't you?" she says, kindly.
No fucking shit, Yoongi wants to say, but he just grunts in pain and tries to remember to breathe.
Forty five minutes later Yoongi has done butterfly pose and pigeon pose and all different kinds of dogs. He's done the whole goddamn menagerie and his legs are trembling. It's worse than when he was learning to dance - at least then he'd had Namjoon and Seokjin to make him look good. Good-ish. Taehyung is flexible and practiced; the teacher only gives him minor adjustments. Jungkook, for all of his complaining, is obviously not new to this either, and Jeongja in spite of her age puts Yoongi to shame.
Finally, they reach the end of the practice. As a reward for stretching and pulling and pushing his body into these unnatural shapes, Yoongi gets to lie flat on his back on the ground with his eyes closed. The kind teacher dabs some kind of scented oil on her hands and goes to each of them in turn to massage their temples. Yoongi flinches involuntarily when he feels her hands on him, but her touch is gentle and the motion is soothing and even the smell isn't bad. Something woody, like cedar trees.
It's hard though, lying here like this. Yoongi's never been good about relaxing. His two modes are asleep or a hundred miles an hour. He works himself to exhaustion, and then he passes out. That's how he's gotten as far as he has. Just ... lying still and quiet and alone in his own head is freaky. He doesn't like it. He starts to think about all the things he could be doing - should be doing - songs he needs to write and a club he wants to go to and a text Namjoon sent him that he never got around to replying to before his phone was confiscated. Shit. Shit. He'd forgotten about that. He's meant to reply to Namjoon but then the fiasco with the company had happened and Jimin had carted him off here and he'd never done it, and now Namjoon is going to be pissed - even more pissed, probably, because he's probably already disappointed in Yoongi because of what he said about Seokjin and this is just the icing on the cake. There's nothing worse than Namjoon's self possessed judgmental disappointment.
Shit. Shit. He needs to go home. He needs to go back to Seoul and back to his real life and start taking care of things. He needs -
"If you've let your thoughts sweep you away from your breath, from this moment, I want you to come back. Take a deep breath. Exhale out your mouth." The teacher's voice is just a murmur.
Yoongi inhales deeply, so deeply his ribs ache, and then exhales noisily through his mouth.
Yoongi does it again. And again. The thoughts float out of his brain. Blobby jellyfish floating in the current. He sees spots behind his closed eyes.
"Start to come back to your body," the teacher says, calmly. "Wriggle your toes and feet."
Yoongi wriggles. His toes are cold. His fingers feel tingly and weird.
"Now, roll onto your side."
Yoongi rolls over onto his side, fetal position. He curls up and then sits up. He feels gangly and awkward with his eyes closed. The teacher says something he doesn't really follow. His legs tingle, numb, but he feels kind of good. Strangely calm. He can feel all those shitty feelings floating around in the back of his brain, but they're at a distance, for now, that he is not used to.
He opens his eyes.
Taehyung is beaming at him. "How did you like it?"
Yoongi grimaces, and rolls his shoulders. "I feel like someone ran me over," he says, working out the ache in his shoulder. "But I feel kind of good."
"Right?" Taehyung says.
"Weird," Yoongi says. "I feel all empty, like someone let all the air out of me."
"It's great, isn't it?" Taehyung asks.
"Yeah," Yoongi says.
It really kind of is.
They spend the afternoon setting the posts for the chicken coop. With Jungkook's help, things go faster. They struggle with the post hole diggers, working down through the layers of cold, rocky earth. After they have the four posts dug (working two at a time while one person - most often Yoongi - sits and supervises) they take a break. Taehyung has tea in a thermos and kimbap and some very small, very sweet strawberries. The food is simple but Yoongi is starving. He practically devours the kimbap, and barely protests when Taehyung offers him the extra piece.
Jungkook seems to have gotten over his awe. Maybe seeing Yoongi make a total and utter idiot out of himself in yoga ruined any feeble aura of celebrity he cultivated. Instead of being awed, he's pestering Yoongi with questions: about BTS, about other celebrities, about his solo album, about music, about Yoongi's life. Ordinarily this kind of things irritates the shit out of him. He hates prying, intrusive fans, hates nosy journalists, hates the fucking media outlets that send photographers to park outside his building.
But this doesn't bother him, somehow. Jungkook's questions are curious, but not too nosy, and he doesn't push. His enthusiasm is cute, kinda. He's a recent college graduate but he says that he once harbored his own childish dreams of becoming a singer; Yoongi can see in his eyes that those dreams haven't totally died yet, Bachelors of Science in Agriculture or not. Yoongi doesn't want to ruin Jungkook's old dream. He just tells it like it is: lots of bullshit, lots of compromise, and once in a while pure fucking joy.
Taehyung doesn't say much, just watches this conversation with a calm and considering expression. He never mentions any of his own dreams, and then they've eaten all the food and drank all the tea and it's time to get back to work, and the conversation is over.
They mix the concrete. It's hard work. The dust gets all in Yoongi's eyes and nose and he ends up sneezing uncontrollably. Just when he thinks he's regained control of himself he sneezes twice more in quick succession and Jungkook and Taehyung burst into laughter. He blows his nose on a handkerchief Taehyung provided and scowls at them.
Taehyung and Yoongi hold the posts while Jungkook shovels in the concrete. The wheelbarrow tips over at one point, spilling concrete on the ground, but Yoongi grabs it and hauls it upright. Taehyung gets a splinter and tries to suck it out. There is a temporary first-aid break. They realize one of the holes they dug is slightly out of alignment, but chief engineer Jungkook makes the decision to proceed. Battered, bruised, exhausted, they finally finish setting the last post.
Yoongi drops to the ground, exhausted. It's nearly five o'clock. He can't remember the last time he felt this kind of physical exhaustion. It's almost a nice feeling. His shoulders ache, and his arms ache, and he can feel it in his stomach too. Long unused muscles complaining at their sudden reenlistment into duty. He's ready a for a shower now - he definitely can't find fault with Taehyung's hot water, or the spacious and well acquitted guest bathroom.
"Let's go, hyung," Taehyung says, holding out a hand.
Yoongi squints up at him. The setting sun is behind him and the pink light catches his cheekbone, his eyelashes, his hair. Pretty.
"Go where?" Yoongi asks suspiciously.
"We gotta feed the chickens," Taehyung says, ticking off items on his hands. "Collect the eggs, water the seeds I have starting in the greenhouse, bring in some wood in case you want to have another fire."
Yoongi closes his eyes. "The chickens hate me," he says.
Taehyung laughs, loud and charming. "Don't be silly, hyung," he says. "You just haven't gotten to know them well enough yet. I'll let you feed them today, and you'll be on their good side in no time."
Yoongi groans but he lets Taehyung pull him to his feet.
After a deep and uninterrupted sleep Yoongi wakes feeling ... okay. Alert, considering the hour. He stares at the pre-dawn sky, lavender and inky behind the dark hills, and breathes in a lungful of sweet, damp air.
He showers and stumbles across the yard to the kitchen, where he drops into his place at the table, across from Jungkook. They eat quickly, in a subdued mood, but not a bad one. Just weary a little from the prior day's exertions. They're back out in the yard by eight o'clock.
They work hard all day, not talking much. Taehyung brings his radio today. The reception isn't good and the station he has tuned plays old songs, songs from when Yoongi's parents were kids. Taehyung knows all the old classics and sings along in his loud, strong voice. Jungkook sings too, and it's embarrassing that they're both better singers than Yoongi, who supposedly makes a living from this music thing.
But, mostly they're working too hard for him to worry about that. They build the frame of the hutch. Yoongi is sweating and red-faced. The weather has taken a warmer turn and he's hot in his hoodie. He takes it off, baring his pale, scrawny arms.
They break for lunch, sitting on the grass eating leftovers and drinking tea. Taehyung has his hair tied back with a scrap of fabric, something floral and bright. It looks pretty goofy and makes his ears stick out, but Yoongi kind of likes it. Too soon, the food is gone and it's back to work.
After lunch they put up the walls and assemble the nest boxes. Jungkook mans the saw. Taehyung apparently can't be trusted with it and Yoongi doesn't want to risk his limbs. He and Taehyung hammer the little boxes together and fit them into the frame. Yoongi is fairly handy; he used to be responsible for fixing all the shit that Namjoon broke in the dorm. But it's been a long time since he's really had to wield tools of any kind, and while trying to fit together a box he misses and smashes his thumb. It doesn't bleed much, but the nail breaks and shortly his thumb swells and turns an angry purple color. Taehyung takes Yoongi's hand in his own and gentle manipulates it. (His fingers are calloused and cold. Yoongi shudders a little at his touch.)
The thumb isn't broken. He'll live. They get back to work.
They finish up for the day by laying the roof boards. The shadows are long by this point, and Yoongi has his hoodie on again. The noon-time warmth has given way to evening chill. They do the rest of the chores, and wash up. Yoongi scrubs his hands and his arms in tiny bathroom of the old house. His thumb throbs and dirty water runs down the drain. His cheeks are a little red from the sun. He's hungry and he's exhausted, but strangely in spite of all of that he feels good.
They eat dinner. Yoongi's head is nodding before he's done with his food. He offers to do the dishes but Taehyung, laughing, tells him not to worry. They'll take care of it. Yoongi, muzzy and tired, crosses the yard to the guest house. Jeongja has gone home, picked up by her son the day before, so it's just him now. The building feels big and empty after the warm cozy closeness of the kitchen. He trudges upstairs and brushes his teeth and takes off his shirt and jeans, and crawls into bed in just his boxers. His tense, sore body relaxes after a moment, and his eyes close and then in an instant he is asleep.
He wakes up to a cool, silvery morning. Rain is loud against the roof, against the windows, and the air smells even richer and sweeter. Yoongi lies in his warm bed for a while, just listening and thinking. He's only been here five days. Five days? It seems like an eternity. He must have a million KKT messages, a million texts, a million unanswered phone calls. Somehow, though, the urgency of those things has receded a bit. He would like to talk to Jimin though, just to see how things are going.
It's only Taehyung in the kitchen when he gets down for breakfast. He's wearing a flowery robe and pajama pants and furry loafers. It's quite the fashion statement. He smiles when Yoongi walks in, shaking the drops of water from his hair.
"Good morning," he says, beaming.
"Good morning," Yoongi says, walking to the stove to pour himself a pot of coffee. After that first day, Taehyung has made sure to have some ready for him. It would be touching if, you know, Yoongi weren't a paying guest.
"Our carpentry plans are on hold for today," Taehyung says, sadly.
"Where's Jungkook?" Yoongi asks.
"Went into town," Taehyung says. "He wants to get the garden planted next week, so he went in to go pick up some supplies."
"Ah," Yoongi says. He sits down at the table with his coffee and some toast. Porkpie comes over and lays her head on his thigh. He scratches her soft ear, and sneaks her a little piece of toast while Taehyung isn't watching.
Taehyung is a reading a book. Yoongi isn't sure if it's the same one from that first morning, or if it's a new one, but he seems absorbed. His fingers linger on the edges of the pages, preparing to turn them the second he reaches the end of the last line.
Yoongi sips his coffee and eats his toast. He gets a second cup of coffee when he's done with his first. The rain beats against the windows. He finishes his second cup of coffee, washes his mug, and puts it on the drain board.
Taehyung looks up then, stretches, and says, "Would you like to see the piano?"
Yoongi hasn't seen much of the old house, just the bathroom down the hall. The floors are hardwood and the walls are covered in some very ugly wallpaper from the seventies. Most of the doors are shut. Yoongi follows Taehyung down a hall, past a number of those shut doors, and around a corner. They step into a large room with several windows. A sliding door opens onto a porch. A couch and an armchair sit against one wall. Books are piled everywhere: on shelves and in precarious stacks on the floor and on several little side tables. On the far wall, there is a large and impressive grandfather clock that ticks sonorously, and there is a piano.
It's not anything special, the piano. A consumer model. Light wood. A sturdy, square thing, more functional than beautiful. Still.
Yoongi pulls the bench out and sits down. He rests his fingers on the cool smooth keys. This piano was well loved, once. He can see the spots where the ivory has worn beneath years of fingertips.
"Your grandfather played?" he asks Taehyung, looking back over his shoulder.
Taehyung shakes his head. "Grandmother."
Yoongi plays a few bars of something - just nonsense, something tinkling, something that makes him think of the rain. It's not in perfect tune but it's not so badly out that he can't ignore it.
He folds his hands in his lap. It feels weird playing now, with Taehyung watching.
"You're sure you're okay with me playing?" He asks.
"Sure," Taehyung says. "You can use her anytime you want." He smiles.
"Thanks," Yoongi says. His voice sounds strange and small. He gets up, walks around the rest of the room, trying not to meet Taehyung's eyes. There are photographs on the wall, similar to the one's hanging on the wall of his guest room. One shows an elderly couple sitting on the porch out front. The old man, with whom Taehyung shares a certain physical affinity, sits in a rocker with his eyes closed. The old woman has a book open in her lap. Neither look at the camera, but somehow the picture is overflowing with their total contentment, their total sense of belonging on that porch.
It's a good picture.
"Who took this?" Yoongi asks. "The ones in my room, it's the same photographer, right?"
Taehyung laughs. "Yes," he says. He clears his throat. "I took them."
Yoongi whistles softly. "You're really good," he says.
"Thanks," Taehyung says, beaming.
"Do you still take pictures?" Yoongi asks, moving to another picture. This one is a landscape: morning mists rise out of the valleys behind the farm like silver ghosts. The moon is visible in the morning sky.
Taehyung nods. "I do," he says. "Not as often as I used to, but sometimes. In one of the front rooms I set up a little dark room and …"
"Damn," Yoongi says. "Did you go to school for this?"
Taehyung shrugs. "I took a few classesl," he says. "Read some books about it."
"You're really, really good," Yoongi says. "You should try to sell some of these or something. Make a calendar. 'Visions of the Seasons in Daegu'. Something like that. My mom loves that shit."
Taehyung laughs. "I'll think about it, hyung. Really, though, feel free to play as much as you'd like. It would … it would make me happy to hear someone playing her again."
He smiles, and Yoongi smiles, and their eyes meet, and it's weird and electric and Yoongi's breath catches in his throat and then Taehyung is making his excuses and is gone.
Yoongi sits down heavily on the piano bench.
"Fuck," he says. "Don't fuck this up, Min Yoongi." He squeezes his eyes shut, and then opens them, and then turns around and begins to play.
It has been so long and it feels so good that Yoongi loses track of time. He starts off with things he knows - classical pieces he learned as a child and favorite songs he taught himself and a few original compositions he still has memorized - and then he starts playing. This is what he loves most. Sitting at a piano it's like the faulty connections between his brain and his body snap into place. Suddenly all the garbage floating around in his brain - ideas and feelings and dreams and nonsense - transform into potential.
He plays for a long, long time, until he can sense someone watching him, and he stops and turns, and Taehyung is standing there, smiling, holding out a cellphone.
"Hey," Yoongi says, feeling almost a little drunk.
"Hi," Taehyung says. "That sounded great, hyung."
"Thanks," Yoongi says, grinning.
"Jimin is on the phone," Taehyung says. "I thought you might want to speak with him."
"Oh," Yoongi says, standing. He almost trips over the bench. The dazed feeling isn't gone yet. He takes the phone - not his - from Taehyung.
Taehyung smiles and then turns away, as if to give him a semblance of privacy.
Jimin sounds exactly the same. "Jimin-ah, hi."
There's a pause. "Are you drunk, hyung?"
Yoongi snorts. "No," he says. "No. Not at all."
"Good," Jimin says, exhaling. "How are you?"
Yoongi swallows. "Good, I think. Yeah. Pretty good."
Jimin makes a satisfied noise. "Good," he says.
"How are things with the company?" Yoongi asks. The question has been sitting at the back of his throat all week, waiting to be asked.
"Okay," Jimin says. "I convinced them that a break was the best thing for you. I told them you were going to come back with tons of new material."
Yoongi hesitates. "And … the thing with Seokjin hyung?"
"He released a statement saying that he knows you were just joking, and that he knows that his activities affected BTS and he will be forever grateful to you, Namjoon hyung, and Hoseok hyung for enduring him."
"Damn," Yoongi says. "He's too good."
Jimin laughs. "I bet he had a PR person help him."
"Nah," Yoongi says. Seokjin's always been good at this kind of things. One of the many ways he earned all the success he's found.
Jimin is quiet for a moment and then says, "It's sounds like you're enjoying himself there, hyung."
Yoongi frowns. Enjoying himself? Is he? Yoongi doesn't even remember what it feels like to enjoy himself. It's not as bas as he thought it would be, that's for sure. Taehyung's a good guy, and Yoongi hasn't gotten tired of the whole farm chore thing quite yet. He's sleeping well, and eating a lot better than he normally does. And sitting down at this cheap, badly tuned piano - that had been a fucking delight, unexpected and wonderful.
Maybe he is enjoying himself. Huh.
"I guess I am," he says, sounding puzzled. He frowns. "Jimin, could you bring me some more clothes, though? Some shorts and stuff. Sneakers."
"Of course," Jimin says, sounding relieved. "I can probably come down this weekend."
Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut. "Jimin - I'm sorry. I mean. Uh. Thank you for --."
"Eh," Jimin interrupts. "Don't get all mushy on me."
"Punk," Yoongi says, fondly.
"I miss you too, hyung," Jimin says. "I'll see you soon."
The call ends. Yoongi hands the phone back to Taehyung, who is watching with a smile on his face.
"Sounds like you're sticking around for a while," he says.
It might be Yoongi's imagination, but he sounds pleased.
"I guess, yeah," Yoongi says. "I started something today I think I want to finish."
Taehyung smiles. "I can't wait to hear it."
It rains the next day too, a warm sweet spring rain. During breakfast, Jungkook complains about the weather and frets about the planting he wants to be doing. As it turns out, he is a recent graduate of Busan University with a degree in sustainable agriculture, hired by Taehyung to manage the actual farming parts of the farm. He makes notes in a little notebook while consulting a calendar. His restlessness seems contagious: even Porkpie prowls the kitchen, dissatisfied and alert.
Taehyung taps his foot and stares out the window. His bangs are tied up in a little ponytail on top of his head. It looks goofy, but he makes it work. Handsome bastard.
Yoongi drinks his first cup of coffee and his second. At home he drinks coffee all day, but he gets more sleep here and two cups seems to do the trick. He offers to wash the dishes and as he stands at the sink scrubbing he thinks about the melody he was toying with yesterday. Maybe he'll go back to the piano today. Bring a notebook, and start trying to shape that chain of notes into something like a real song. Something light and spare and calm.
He is distracted by these thoughts when Taehyung comes up behind him and puts a hand on his shoulder. He starts. It's easy to forget that Taehyung has two or three inches on him, but now he can feel it, with Taehyung so close.
"Thinking of something good?" he asks.
Yoongi shrugs. "Just the song I was working on yesterday," he says.
Taehyung nods. "You might just want to spend today inside," he says, "But I started thinking last night and I'm going to take a walk to the lake today and take some pictures, if you want to join me ..."
Yoongi frowns. "In the rain?"
Taehyung nods. "It's warm out," he says, "so we'll be fine."
The thought of spending all day in the bright, still room with the old piano is enticing but surprisingly so is the thought of spending it with Taehyung.
"Okay," Yoongi says. Then, feigning sternness, "I better not get a cold."
Taehyung laughs. "I'll make you yuja tea if you get sick."
After the breakfast dishes are done they put on the yellow rain slickers and rubber boots. Taehyung has a green rain hat with a big, floppy brim. Yoongi just pulls his hood up. It isn't cold outside, though, and the rain is falling steadily but not hard. The mud squelches underfoot. Porkpie, who is accompanying them, is speckled and spotted with dirt almost right away.
Taehyung leads the way out past the old chicken coop and the shed. Beyond the unplanted garden, there's a path that splits off from the road and heads into the wood. Last year's leaves crunch underfoot, and the tree trunks are dark and slick with the rain. High overhead, the first tender new leaves tip the branches. Squirrels chitter and once in a while a bird sings, but the whole forest is still and silent. They don't speak either, and after they pass out of sight of the house it feels to Yoongi like they've fallen off the edge of the map into some secret place.
Every so often, Taehyung makes them stop so that he can take a few pictures. His camera is old; it doesn't look like the fabulously expensive equipment the fansite masters use. Taehyung seems to know it and love it well though. He holds it gently, and carefully tucks it back under his rain slicker when he's ready to move on.
A spill of boulders blocks their path. Taehyung scrambles up first and then reaches down to give Yoongi a hand. His palm is warm and damp and his grip is sure as he helps Yoongi clamber up. The rocks are slick underfoot and the rainboots don't have good tread. The forest is thinner here. The trees are grand and tall, spread well apart. The ground is carpeted with yellow flowers, growing so dense you can barely see the green beneath.
"Damn," Yoongi says. He's frozen in place. He's never been some kind of nature boy, always been drawn to the bustle and glamor of the city lights, but right now he feels weird and small and happy at the same time. Just a little nothing, standing at the edge of a forest that has been here for how many thousands of years before and will be here for how many thousands of years after.
"Great, isn't it?" Taehyung asks. "I try to come out every year while they're blooming. My grandmother used to call them fairy bells, so I thought that if I came here and was quiet enough and still enough I could catch one."
"Did you?" Yoongi asks, and immediately blushes at the stupidity of the question. Did he ever catch a fucking fairy? Come on, Min Yoongi.
But Taehyung just shakes his head sadly. "No," he says. Then he grins wide under the brim of his goofy hat. "Maybe today will be the day."
Past the open forest with the fairy flowers, they head downhill, where the growth is thicker and the trees more diverse. Azaleas and yellow sansuyu stand out as shocking bursts of color against the dark, damp, dim forest. The ground gets wetter, and Yoongi's feet stick in inches of mud. The forest grows thicker still, and then through the screen of trees Yoongi can see the blue gleam of standing water. Taehyung takes them around the fallen trunk of a giant old tree, and then pushes aside some branches and they are standing on the soft, crumbling banks of a little mountain lake, clear and jewel-blue. The surface ripples with the raindrops. Ribbons of mist rise off the water. Everything else is still but the rain. Everything is quiet.
The shutter of Taehyung's camera clicks. Yoongi glances over and frowns. Taehyung isn't shooting the water. The camera is pointed at him.
"Smile," he days.
Yoongi wrinkles his nose.
Taehyung takes the picture anyway.
"Let me see," Yoongi says.
"Can't," Taehyung says, amused. "It's a film camera."
"Oh," Yoongi says, embarrassed. "Right. Probably for the best. I look terrible in pictures."
Taehyung gives him a funny look. "Aren't you a professional at it, though? You probably have your picture taken all the time."
"Doesn't mean I'm photogenic," Yoongi says. It's just the truth. He's never liked the way his face seems so round or his nose seems so broad in pictures. He remembers when they first debuted and were given the unfortunate nickname of Jin and the Three Dwarves.
"I'm skeptical," Taehyung says. "I better take another picture so we have more evidence to make a final determination."
He takes another few snaps of Yoongi, who does his best to make the most horrifying possible faces.
When the childish fun of this game has been spent, Yoongi sits on a fallen tree and watches the rain hit the water while Taehyung takes more serious pictures. It's nearing midday now, but the clouds are so low and dark that it seems to be dusk or dawn, one of those strange in-between times. There are some reeds growing along the low swampy banks of the lake. Some of these rustle, throwing off a shower of silver droplets, and then a duck paddles curiously out into the deeper water. It dives underwater, ass bobbing in the air, and then surfaces with something gleaming and silver in its mouth.
Yoongi is witness to the entire fucking circle of life out here.
Taehyung sits down on the log beside Yoongi, nudges Yoongi with his shoulder.
"It's pretty cool, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Yoongi admits. "How'd you find this place?"
Taehyung shrugs. "I've spent years wandering in these woods," he says.
"Isn't there a survey map or something?" Yoongi frowns. "Aren't you afraid of getting lost?"
Taehyung shakes his head. "I'd have to be going somewhere to get lost," he says, smiling.
Yoongi frowns, but Taehyung just smiles more widely. "Come on," he says. "I want to show you the view across the valley before we head back."
Yoongi's fingers move freely over the keys when he sits down at the piano later that evening. He took a long shower after they got back from the walk, and he is warm and a little sleepy now. The rain drums against the window persistently. Taehyung is cleaning up from dinner and Jungkook has disappeared into his room. Yoongi closes his eyes and plays. He plays the melody that's been sticking in his brain, an airy sequence of notes that trickles down a minor scale. It's not a song yet, but he thinks it might become one if he lets it.
It's like his body was made for this. He's always felt awkward: too short and not really handsome enough to be an idol. He has bad posture and a bum shoulder, too. But at the piano he sits up straight and throws his shoulders back and keeps his chin lifted and feels like he could command the attention of the world, even when nobody's watching.
He moves naturally to another song, an older song, one his mother loved. He learned all these songs as a kid, because it made her so happy to hear him play them. Guilt makes him frown. How long since he's been to see his parents? He's so close right now, and he didn't even call to let them know. The normal consolations - that he's so busy and that he takes great care of his parents, that he bought them a large and comfortable house in a good neighborhood - don't do much against the guilt that wells up. But he plays on.
His eyes sting. When he comes to the end of the song his fingers falter. He doesn't know where to go from here. He swallows down the lump in his throat.
Behind him, someone applauds.
"I love that song," Taehyung says.
Yoongi roughly wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his sweatshirt.
"Yeah," he says, turning around. "It's my mom's favorite. She bought the LP when she was a kid. Still had it when I was growing up. We used to listen to it together."
Taehyung, leaning against the doorframe, asks, "Do you like records?"
Yoongi nods. Sure he does. As much as anyone else.
Taehyung nods. "Come with me," he says.
They head into a part of the house that Yoongi hasn't seen before. He realizes quickly that this is Taehyung's room. It's very large. He must have taken down some of the walls, and most of one wall is covered with tall shelves that reach the ceiling, and almost all of those shelves are filled - absolutely filled to bursting - with records, thousands of them.
"Holy shit," Yoongi says. "Where'd you get all of these?"
Taehyung laughs. "Most of them were my grandparents'," he says. "But I've added to the collection. I go estate sales. People are always getting rid of vinyl. Everyone can just stream whatever they want nowadays anyway, right?"
Yoongi nods. Certainly he knows that his own album sales are entirely dependent on his dedicated fans. He doesn't think anyone else is picking up a W40,000 deluxe repackage of his first album.
"Namjoon would be so jealous if he saw this," Yoongi mutters.
"Oh yeah?" Taehyung wrinkles his nose.
"He's a music snob," Yoongi explains.
"And you're not?" Taehyung asks, lifting an eyebrow.
Yoongi shrugs, sheepish. "Got me," he says. "Guess I'm one too." He starts towards the shelves, and the hesitates. "Is it okay if I ..."
"Go ahead," Taehyung says.
It's a vast and unwieldy collection. Most of the sleeves are in less than pristine condition: corners are warn and the covers are faded and aged. There's no apparent order he can discern. Jo Yongpil's second album sits next to a deluxe box set of Frank Sinatra's greatest hits. He sees some of the great classics of Korean popular music and plenty of things he's never heard of before. This is the work of a lifetime: a lifetime of collecting and listening and pure pleasure in music.
"This is amazing," Yoongi says. "Have you ... have you listened to all of these?"
Taehyung shakes his head. "Not all of them," he says, "but a lot." He hesitates for a moment, biting his lower lip. "Do you want to listen to a few now? I didn't mean to tear you away from your work, but ..."
He trails off.
"Play me your favorite," Yoongi says. He's curious to see what Taehyung will pick.
Time slows to a halt. They listen to all kinds of things. Taehyung's tastes are as varied as his collection suggests. He starts off with that old Cho Yong Pil record - not one of the real famous ones, but songs that Yoongi knows. Taehyung croons along in his unpracticed but rich voice. After the LP ends, they raid the kitchen for snacks and some soju. Taehyung has some big throw pillows, and they lounge on the floor with the record player between them and it makes Yoongi think of nothing so much as being a teenager. The soju goes down sharp. Taehyung lights some candles. The orange light flickers. Outside, the rain pours, but the cold and dark seem very far away.
Taehyung talks more than he has so far. He talks about the summers he spent here as a kid, running around with his brother and sister, barefoot in the mud. He talks about later, when he moved here to live with his grandparents. He talks about his parents, who live in Daegu still.
"I don't see them as much as I should," he says. "They don't like to come out here, and I'm too busy to go in and see them."
Yoongi nods. "I don't either," he says. "Go and see my parents, I mean. They come up and see me in Seoul sometimes but I haven't been back home in years, honestly."
"Do you miss them?" Taehyung asks. `
Yoongi shrugs. "I do," he says. "We never really got along, though. I think it's easier this way."
Taehyung takes a sip of soju, and licks his red lips. "It's hard," he says, "Not being able to be near the people you're supposed to be near."
Yoongi thinks he must be drunk, because that almost makes sense.
The night progresses. The stack of records on the floor grows. Yoongi tells the story of his first underground rap performance: fifteen years old and acting like he was tough as nails, but his knees had nearly given out when he stepped on stage. He'd planned to go and spit fire, and he'd done that after an initial moment of terrible fear. The verse had flowed like water from his lips, and he felt the intoxicating thrill of performance for the first time.
Then he'd gotten off stage and his friends had said that something must have been wrong with his mic, because they'd barely been able to hear him at all.
They'd said he'd looked cool though. That counted for something, right?
"I bet you did look cool," Taehyung says, smiling. "BTS Suga, dynamic speed rapper."
Yoongi raises an eyebrow. "Where'd you get that from?"
Taehyung scrunches his nose. "Jungkook showed me some videos. He's always getting on my case about only listening to grandmother music, as he puts it, so he played me some of your stuff." His face softens. "You're really good, hyung," he says shyly, and his earnestness seem to pierce something in Yoongi's chest.
"Thanks," Yoongi says, feeling thick tongued and weird. "Thanks, Taehyung-ah." He takes a sip of soju. "BTS was like ... Namjoon was really the heart and soul, you know?" He sighs. "We could have been great. I wish so bad that things hadn't worked out the way they did."
Taehyung leans forward. He's laying on his belly, his long legs spread out behind him, and his chin propped in his hands. "What happened?"
Yoongi shakes his head. "You know," he says.
But Taehyung laughs, "No, I don't know. I don't follow celebrities or anything like that. When I was in the army, the guys in the squad used to give me so much shit because I didn't know any of the trending girl groups."
Yoongi swallows. He's told this story so many times and it's still sucks. It's never not going to suck. "So. BTS. We were all just kids when we debuted, right? Seokjin hyung was twenty, and he was the oldest. I was nineteen. Our company was a fucking shoe string operation. No money for anything. We lived in a shitty one room apartment. There were mice. The heat never worked. We never had enough food to eat. We all wanted to debut though, more badly than anything else in the world, and so finally we did." He takes a drink to wet his throat. "And we did okay. Not great. Not million sellers. Not fucking EXO level, you know?"
Taehyung nods, but it is a courtesy nod. Maybe he doesn't know.
"Anyway, we did okay for two years, and then Seokjin - he's really handsome, you've probably seen his mug on ads even out here in the boonies - got cast in this drama. He'd always wanted to be an actor anyway. He just did the idol thing to get his foot in the door. So he got cast in this historical drama, and I guess ... I guess he really was always meant to be an actor."
"He did well, huh?" Taehyung asks softly.
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "I don't want to sound like a total asshole. I was glad for him. We were all glad for him. But he got all this attention and there were more offers for bigger roles and solo variety appearances and it just ..." He squeezes his eyes shut. "I don't hold it against him, but how could we promote when our vocalist was never fucking around?"
"Probably not too easy to do that," Taehyung says gently.
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "So anyway, eventually we went on hiatus. Seokjin got some leading roles. Soon he wasn't Jin from BTS any more. He was just Kim Seokjin, National Handsome. Namjoon and Hoseok were producing together, putting out mix tapes and shit. And I kind of ..."
"What?" Taehyung frowns.
"I kind of lost it," Yoongi says, staring at his feet - weird and oddly too long for his body. "I've never exactly been a ray of sunshine, but I'd never been depressed like that before. I just ... didn't want to do anything, now that the thing I'd worked so hard for was dead."
Taehyung grimaces. "That's grim, hyung."
"I know," Yoongi says. He doesn't like to think too much about those times, because if he tries he can still remember that dark dead dense nothing feeling. He doesn't want to remember that. "Jimin - he's a fucking angel - made sure I didn't die of dehydration or anything, and eventually he persuaded me to go make an appointment with a shrink. I started seeing a therapist and got on medication, and started to write again. I wrote the songs on my first solo album that year. They were just, you know, whatever. Songs about what I was dealing with. But I guess they resonated because it did well. The title track did well on the charts. I won on music shows a few times."
"I bet it was great," Taehyung says. "I have to get Jungkook to play it for me."
Yoongi shrugs. "It was okay," Yoongi says. "It was pretty damn good, actually. But the company wants me to be that guy, you know? The depressed former idol who bares his soul. And I'm still not a ray of sunshine, but I don't want to go back to that place. I don't want to be that guy any more."
"The song I heard you playing earlier," Taehyung says. "That didn't sound very gloomy."
Yoongi nods, fussing with a hole in the toe of his sock.
"It was great," Taehyung says, enthusiastic. "I thought it was great, hyung."
Yoongi sighs. "Not even a song yet," he mutters. "Just an idea. We'll see. Maybe they'll like it too. I mean, there's no fucking accounting for taste. Look at the 80s! Who really thought all that synthesizer was a good idea?"
Taehyung gasps, appalled. "What is this blasphemy? The 80s were the golden age of pop music!"
Yoongi snorts. "Are you kidding me? No fucking way."
The conversation devolves. Taehyung breaks out his prized Australian Thriller 12" - "The only one I ever hunted down on eBay, hyung! It was a thrilling battle. I bid against vinylguy69 and came out victorious!" - and not only sings along to every word, but knows the fucking dance, and does it well enough that even Hoseok would find little to fault.
"Okay fine," Yoongi admits. "Not all 80s music was bad. But it wasn't a high point for Korean popular music. I hate that fucking ballad shit."
Taehyung laughs. "Don't lie," he says. He jumps up and runs to the shelves to retrieve a few more albums. He must have some kind of photographic memory or something because he knows exactly where everything is.
He plays some Byun Jinseob and that Lee Gwangjo song Yoongi's mother loved so much, and then of course Shin Junghyun, which admittedly forces Yoongi to recant his blasphemous claim that the 80s were the absolute nadir of popular music. In the darkness there were admittedly some bright spots.
The most incredible thing is that Taehyung knows this music. Knows all of it and loves it. Conversations like this are rare. They happen in the studio sometimes, throwing around ideas with the team and some kind of magic makes things start to flow, so that you're talking about Joy Division and the best ever idol song and whether Is This It? might actually be the platonic ideal of a rock album and somehow it all fits together and make sense, weaves into some coherent whole that is more than the sum of its parts.
But Yoongi had never expected to find that here. He'd seen Taehyung and his pretty face and his shabby house and he'd hated him theoretically, but that hate never had a chance to find footing because Taehyung is smart and genuinely interesting and has only been kind to Yoongi, who barely deserves it. And there's something kind of wonderful about watching him now, wearing a paisley print pajama shirt and sweatpants and singing his heart out to 'Come Back to Busan Port'. He's over-emoting and ridiculous and, Yoongi thinks, rather beautiful.
He closes his eyes. His heart has done a terrible thing. He just came here for some peace. Hell, he didn't want to come at all. He didn't want to come at all but his heart has betrayed him and now ...
He needs something else to drink. His glass is empty. Damn. Lazily, he rolls onto his back and reaches for the soju bottle. Short arms are such a fucking curse. He squirms a bit more, but he can't reach and movement seems to be beyond him at the moment. He's a little drunk, maybe. A little more drunk than he realized. He must be, to feel the way he does: too hot and full of that strange thrill and enchantment he didn't think he'd ever feel again. He has a goddamn crush. What is he? Fifteen?
Something cool brushes his finger. Taehyung, smiling down at him, long floppy hair framing his face, pushes the bottle into his hand.
"I shouldn't be encouraging this behavior," he says. "It goes against the ethic we try to cultivate here."
Yoongi rolls his eyes. Taehyung has had just as much to drink as he has, if not more.
"I can sleep it off in the morning," Yoongi mumbles.
Taehyung laughs. "Jungkook wants us to help him plant the garden tomorrow, remember?"
Damn. Yoongi hadn't remembered. The forecast calls for good weather tomorrow, though, and Jungkook had extracted a promise from them both during dinner.
"Nothing like a little sweat and tears to get rid of a hangover," Taehyung says cheerfully.
"Are you even drunk right now?" Yoongi narrows his eyes. Taehyung doesn't seem it, but he's hard to read at the best of times.
"Really drunk," Taehyung admits conspiratorially, leaning close.
It makes Yoongi feel a bit better. He hauls himself into a sitting position and takes a drink. He realizes then that he can't hear anything but the rain. "Put something else on," he says, because the silence is louder than he can handle.
Taehyung gets up with sloppy, drunken grace. He rifles through the albums and then pulls one from the shelf. The woman smiling at Yoongi from the sleeve has intense eye makeup and amazingly voluminous hair.
He shakes his head. The damn eighties.
Taehyung handles the records like they are precious. Careful, with his long, slim fingers, he slides the disc from its sleeve. Careful, he sets it by its edges down on plate. That care makes Yoongi think how careful - how attentive, how sweet, how gracious - he might be in other situations.
He drops back down to the floor, spread eagle, long limbs splayed. His hand brushes Yoongi's thigh.
"It's really late," Taehyung says, his eyes half closed. "Jungkook is going to be so annoyed."
"Mmm," Yoongi agrees.
He pays attention to the song for the first time. It's an old one, one Yoongi knows he's heard before. Grandiose lyrics about the beautiful countryside and the white clouds and the blue sky paint a picture of pastoral beauty. No wonder Taehyung likes it. The music is ridiculous: synthesizers swell and bass thuds and electronic bells twinkle.
"Why," Yoongi asks slowly, trying to force the idea that's tumbling around in his mind into words, "do all these damn songs sound like they were written to fuck to?"
There's a moment of silence, and then Taehyung bursts into laughter.
"I'm serious," Yoongi says, defending his pet idea. "Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to set a nice little folk song to the background music of some creepy seventies porno?"
Taehyung can't contain himself. He laughs so hard he snorts. He rolls closer, so that his head is resting by Yoongi's knee. He looks up at Yoongi with sweet, eager eyes. "I haven't watched much seventies porno," he says, and his voice drops an octave. "But I've been thinking about kissing you all night, hyung."
His eyes are softer than Yoongi would expect, tentative, as if he's not sure. As if he thinks Yoongi routinely gets propositioned by stunningly handsome, intensely fascinating young men with great taste in music and successful agro-tourism businesses.
"Wasn't sure if it was just me being a creep," Yoongi mumbles.
Taehyung frowns. "You're not a creep."
Yoongi lets his hand trail down the column of Taehyung's neck, thumb tracing his jawline, until his hand is pressed flat to Taehyung's chest. He can feel Taehyung's pulse in the hollow between his collarbones. "I am," Yoongi says.
"It's not just you, then," Taehyung says, in that deep voice that seems to go right to Yoongi's dick.
"Fuck," Yoongi says. "C'mere."
And he pulls Taehyung up and it's all boneless and weird because they're both too drunk really, but then Taehyung is half spilling into his lap, and his hand comes up behind Taehyung's neck, and Taehyung's hand comes to his waist, and they are kissing, slow and deep and finally, Yoongi thinks. Fucking finally.
Waking up hungover is never fun. Yoongi has a lot of experience, and no matter how good a time was had the night before, it rarely compensates for the misery of waking up with a pounding skull and a stale mouth and a queasy stomach. This isn't the worst he's had, as far as hangovers go, but when he finally pries his eyes open (they're all gunky and glued together - gross) he's not really feeling his best.
It doesn't help that it takes him a moment to realize where he is: on a big, low bed with dark blankets. The sheets don't smell right. The mattress is too firm. Then he remembers.
Taehyung. This is Taehyung's bed.
Yoongi closes his eyes again, wondering if maybe this is a bad dream. It hadn't felt like a dream last night, though. It had felt utterly real: Taehyung's sharp, sour breath and the stubble on his chin and his hands - rougher hands than Yoongi is used to, with callouses on his fingers, on his palm. His body: tan and long and soft. Perfect.
He opens his eyes. He's still in Taehyung's bed, and he is alone.
Fuck. He's fucked it up again, somehow. He feels that dark queasy feeling start to well up in his stomach. He's never been good at this kind of thing, but he's not even sure what he's done wrong this time. He squeezes his eyes shut. His head is reverberating. The blankets fall down around his waist. He shirtless, and the air is chill against his bare back, his bare arms, his bare stomach.
"Oh, you're up!"
Yoongi looks up. Taehyung is sitting on the floor, just a few feet away, beaming. His hair is messed up and his ridiculous pajama shirt is falling off his shoulder. He's reorganizing the records, Yoongi realizes. He's not mad. Yoongi didn't screw up. He's just reorganizing the records.
"Good morning," Yoongi says, feeling awkward. Is this ... What are they going to ...
Taehyung gets up, a little clumsy. He is just wearing his underwear beneath the shirt and his legs are long and bare and beautiful. Knobby ankles. Lean thighs dusted with soft, dark hair. Taehyung kind of collapses forward onto the bed - not graceful at all, but he catches himself and smiles up at Yoongi with so much tenderness and pleasure that Yoongi almost doesn't feel weird. Almost.
"Hey," Taehyung says. "Good morning."
He leans forward and kisses Yoongi then, languorous and easy. He narrows his eyes and rubs a finger over Yoongi's neck. Yoongi winces at the sudden little ache.
"Whoops," Taehyung says. "Guess I got a little carried away."
"Oh my god. Did you give me a fucking hickey?"
Taehyung bursts into laughter and falls back onto the bed. His face turns kind of red. It's not a great look, but a wave of intense affection washes over Yoongi anyway.
Still. A hickey? What are they? Fifteen?
He feels that way: giddy and excited and nervous and thrilled.
He gets out of bed - whoops, still naked, but that doesn't matter much anymore, does it? - and goes over to the mirror hanging over Taehyung's dresser, and yes, there's a goddamn hickey right where his neck and shoulder meet. It's red and angry still.
Taehyung comes up and stands behind him and rests his hands on Yoongi's bare shoulders. "It looks good on you," he says, and he runs his hands slowly down Yoongi's sides, lets them linger on Yoongi's bare waist, presses closer so that Yoongi can feel Taehyung's breath on his neck, can feel Taehyung's dick against his ass.
"I thought we were supposed to go help Jungkook," Yoongi says, grumpily. He feels it too: that first rekindling of want out of last night's ashes. But he also has a headache and he's pretty hungry. He's not sure the first consideration outweighs the other two.
"It's almost ten," Taehyung says, dismissively. "He's been at work for hours already."
Yoongi presses back more firmly into Taehyung's hands. Taehyung's fingers press into his hips.
"We could bring him lunch to apologize," Taehyung says, voice rough. "We have plenty of time before that to ..."
Well. It's sound logic. Who is Yoongi to protest?
The afternoon sun seems too bright when they finally trek out to the garden where Jungkook is working.
It's a bit later than they'd planned, but the night before had been no fluke. The second time had been just as good as the first. Yoongi's been with enough guys to know what he likes, and Taehyung is just exactly what he likes: beautiful and sensual and easy to be with, in bed and out of it. More shockingly, Taehyung seems to like him too, seems even to like all the things that Yoongi doesn't like about himself: bony shoulders and soft belly and scrawny legs.
Anyway. Now they're showered and fresh. Yoongi drank his two cups of coffee while Taehyung made some lunch for them all. They packed everything up into a lunchbox and are carrying it out to Jungkook, who looks sweaty and annoyed, leaning on a shovel and scowling in their direction.
"So you're alive," he says coldly, reaching for the thermos of iced tea Taehyung hands him. He takes a long drink and then wipes his mouth. "I don't blame you, hyung," he says. "You'd have to be drunk to listen to all that weird old music Taehyung hyung likes. He tried to get me to ..." He trails off as his gaze falls on Yoongi. Not Yoongi's face, but his shoulder, where just a little - maybe a third - of the hickey is visible beneath the collar of his tee shirt.
(Yoongi had wanted to hide it, wear a fucking scarf or something, but Taehyung had said again that he liked knowing he'd put that mark on Yoongi's skin. Yoongi had foregone the scarf.)
"Oh," Jungkook says, rolling his eyes. "Oh god. Of course."
Yoongi feels his face go red.
"Don't be snarky just because you're repressed," Taehyung says cheerfully. "Jungkook is holding out for IU," he whispers loudly to Yoongi.
"Don't tell him that," Jungkook says, aghast. "No, I'm not. I'm just waiting to meet the right person, is all."
"Jieunnie is a sweetheart," Yoongi says distractedly. He produced a song for her last album. "I bet I could get you an autograph if you want."
Jungkook's eyes go perfectly wide. "Really, hyung?"
Yoongi shrugs. He forgets how much this stuff means to fans, sometimes.
"See?" Taehyung says, apparently feeling vindicated. He loops an easy arm around Yoongi's waist. "Besides, how do you know I haven't found the right person?"
Taehyung squeezes Yoongi quickly, and then lets him go and goes over to inspect what Jungkook has done. Jungkook, still looking a little dazed at the thought of an personal autograph from IU, follows and they have some complicated conversation about planting cycles that Yoongi really can't follow.
He's not sure he could follow any conversation right now, not with his heart thrumming in his chest.
The right person? Taehyung had just been teasing. This isn't ... They're not. He's barely known the guy a week. So what if it had feels good, feels better than anything has felt in a long time? It's nothing serious. He's on vacation. It's just a fling.
It's not like things are suddenly different. After they eat lunch they stay out in the yard helping Jungkook plant young cabbage and broccoli and radish. Yoongi feels like shit, but it's hard to concentrate on that when his heart feels so full and light. Jungkook gets his revenge by dropping an earthworm down Taehyung's shirt, which makes Taehyung shriek and then throw himself to the ground, squirming. He rolls around in the mud, struggling, trying to get it out, until he's filthy and soaking wet. He staggers to his feet then and wraps Jungkook in a bearhug, bringing them to the ground.
They tussle, and Yoongi rolls his eyes. Crazy kids. He's watching them, amused and smug, when something hits him hard in the chest. Mud drips down his white shirt.
Dignity outraged, Yoongi is about to retaliate by grinding a handful of mud into Taehyung's hair when Jungkook screams for them to stop.
"Stop," he says, panting and anguished. "Just stop. We're going to squash the seedlings!"
Yoongi looks at Taehyung, who has mud everywhere, and they both burst out laughing, but Jungkook is right, of course.
Yoongi goes back to the guest house. He strips out of his muddy clothes on the foyer - he'll have to do a load of wash later - and turns the water on in the shower to run hot. He looks at himself in the mirror: the red bruise on his shoulder, mud splattered on his neck, worked into the creases in his fingers, under his nails, bags under his eyes. Still, he doesn't look bad, he thinks. His customary deathly pallor has warmed a little, and the tense lines at the sides of his mouth have relaxed. He still doesn't get what Taehyung seems in him, but he's never known the answer to that question.
He stands under the hot water for a long time, and emerges pink and wrinkled and feeling surprisingly better. He dresses and puts his dirty clothes in the hamper and carries them into the kitchen. Taehyung is there, clean and red-cheeked from the shower. He looks up when Yoongi walks in, and for just a moment his expression is blank, distracted. Then he recognizes who it is and his face just lights up and Yoongi feels that strange thing in his heart start to tremble again.
After that lost day, they get down to work. They wake early the next morning and eat a quick breakfast and then go out into the fields. Yoongi's arms ache and his thighs burn from crouching down. The back of his neck burns red. He's so tired at lunch that he lies down on the ground and puts his hat over his face and naps while Jungkook and Taehyung talk about everything else that needs to be done. Farming is fucking hard work, it turns out, and Yoongi isn't used to this kind of thing. By dinner time he's exhausted, but he still finds time after dinner to work on his song for a little while. Taehyung stays with him, sitting in the armchair by the grandfather clock and reading while Yoongi plays.
They go to bed early, together, in Taehyung's room. They're exhausted and Yoongi is sore, but they kiss and they talk and they are close, and Yoongi tries not to think about how good he feels with Taehyung, how novel it is that Taehyung likes him so much, how Taehyung makes him laugh and keeps him off balance and surprises him with his kindness and beauty.
You don't think those kinds of thing about a fling. Yoongi doesn't. Not usually.
Yoongi can't seem to help himself though.
Three days pass that way, and Yoongi has been at the farm a week - only a week, somehow, although it feels much longer - when he wakes up on Sunday morning and remembers that it is the morning that Jimin is supposed to come.
He's not nervous. It's just Jimin. It's just ... he is nervous, somehow, and maybe even a little fucking ashamed. Jimin's a good guy, and his best friend, and Yoongi can't even really stand thinking about how much shit he's had to put up with over the last few years, as Yoongi got less hopeful and more bitter and turned his anger and sharp words into a shield.
Yoongi's an asshole. He's always known it, but it seems thrown into much sharper relief now. Here.
He's outside with Taehyung in the garden when the black Audi rumbles up the dirt road. Jimin parks at the front of the house, and Taehyung and Yoongi head around to meet him. Jimin gets out of the car and it's strange for a moment how he looks exactly the same - dark glasses and a too-big sweatshirt and floppy hair he's always pushing out of his face.
But it's only been a week. Why would he look any different? It feels so much longer, but it's only been a week
"Hey hyung!" Jimin says, pushing his sunglasses back up into his hair. "Wow. Look at you." He grins at Yoongi, amused.
Yoongi scowls. "What?" He folds his arms over his chest.
"You're all -" Jimin waves his hands. "Farm-y." He squints. "I think you even got a tan. Wow."
"I did not get a tan," Yoongi protests.
"No," Taehyung says cheerfully. "You just turned as red as a lobster. I bet you're going to start peeling soon."
Jimin laughs and Yoongi huffs in annoyance, but they all know he isn't really annoyed.
Jimin gets Yoongi's suitcase from the trunk. They wheel it up to the guesthouse, and Yoongi lugs it up the stairs and lets Jimin carry his guitar - Yoongi isn't so much a weakling that he can't handle his own suitcase. (Never mind all the times that Jimin has handled his luggage at the airport. Never mind that usually - when Taehyung isn't around - Yoongi is more than willing to let Jimin handle his luggage.) He leaves the suitcase there and they all head back down into the kitchen for coffee and lunch.
It's good. Jimin's very good with people. Much better than Yoongi is, honestly. He's the one who should have been the fucking idol. Jungkook regards him with some initial suspicion but once they realize that they're both from Busan they're reminiscing over places that Yoongi has never seen. Taehyung is in good spirits, but strangely reserved. He's been very free with his physical affection this week, but now he's hesitant. He sits next to Yoongi while they eat but there's a prim ten centimeters of space between them. But still. It's good. Jimin tells a story, redacted for anonymity, about something he saw at a music show last week. With Yoongi on hiatus, he's helping with some of the company's other groups. He'd been at the SBS building last week for Inkigayo with the new girl group, sweet kids not even a year into their debut yet, and he'd seen someone - A-ssi, say - throwing a fit at their own manager in the waiting room. The idol star had asked for a certain kind of sparkling water. The manager had gotten the right brand but the wrong flavor, and the outraged star had thrown the bottle to the ground and then stormed away to the dressing room.
"Does that kind of thing happen often?" Taehyung asks, amazed.
Jimin shrugs. "Pretty often, I guess. There are just as many terrible people who become celebrities as there are who become anything else."
"Probably more," Yoongi says darkly.
Jungkook, his fannish ardor not totally extinguished, says, "But you - BTS I mean - you always seemed so nice."
Yoongi leans back in his seat, folds his arms over his chests, settles back into the body language of Suga. "I was never nice," he drawls. "I just got what I wanted."
Jimin snorts. "If you ever threw a bottle of soda at me, hyung, I would punch you in the nose."
"I'll keep that in mind," he says, cool as ice, "in case I'm ever in the mood for a bloody nose."
Jimin rolls his eyes and Taehyung snorts and elbows Yoongi and Jungkook's dignity only looks a little offended.
It's such a nice day that they go outside for a while. They show Jimin the garden, and the new chicken coop. Yoongi introduces Jimin to Artichoke. Their rivalry has concluded with an uneasy truce, and the rooster eyes Yoongi as he steps into the coop and spreads a handful of corn. All the hens come clucking over eagerly, but Artichoke keeps his distance.
"He's better at waking me up then you are," he tells Jimin.
"I should shake his hand," Jimin says. He crouches down to look more closely at the rooster, whose beady eyes gleam with a malevolent light. "Are you looking for a new job?"
They all come back to the farmhouse windswept and red-cheeked. Although the sun is warm, the wind is blowing and there is still a bite in the air. Jungkook goes to do some chores, and Taehyung goes to get dinner ready - they'll eat early before Jimin has to leave. Jimin and Yoongi go up to Yoongi's room. They cross the gravel courtyard silently, and walk up the stairs silently, and only when they are in the room with the door shut does Jimin turn and say, "Really, hyung, you look good."
Jimin narrows his eyes. "You look ... happy," he says suspiciously.
Yoongi shrugs. "I am, I think," he says. "I don't know. How the fuck do you even know if you're happy?"
Jimin sighs. "Hyung, don't start overthinking things. It's good. It's a good thing if you're happy." He bites his lip. "I thought you were going to be begging me to bring you home, but ... you're happy."
Yoongi nods. "Happy-ish."
Jimin sits down on the bed. He looks a little tired, Yoongi realizes, a little grey, and that sting of guilt comes back.
"How are things with the company?" Yoongi mumbles.
Jimin shrugs. "They're okay." Then he sighs. "They're waiting for me to tell them how you're doing, hyung."
"I'm doing fine," Yoongi says, stubborn and suddenly annoyed. "I've been writing. I've got almost a whole song done."
Jimin raises his eyebrows. "Really?"
Yoongi nods. "Taehyung has a piano."
"That's great," Jimin says.
Yoongi feels weird and tense all of a sudden, because it is good. The song is good and the fact that he's writing is good and it's been so long since he's felt good about his work that the feeling is a shock. "Yeah," he says. He kneels down and opens up his suitcase to start unpacking. Jimin packed all the things he asked for.
Jimin bites his lip. "I brought your laptop," he says, hesitantly. "It's in the car."
Yoongi stares down at his lap, at the black sweater in his hands. "Oh," he says.
"The company wants to hear some of what you're writing. It doesn't have to be professional quality cuts. Just. You know. Proof."
Right. After so many missed deadlines, after so many disappointments, of course they'd want proof. Of course they wouldn't just take Yoongi at his word.
"I can talk to Taehyung," Jimin says softly. "I need to do that anyway, before I go. Make sure he's okay with it. Figure out some of the logistics."
A cloud passes over the sun outside. Everything is grey and washed out. Yoong feels all upside-down for a moment. What is he committing to? He's going to stay and write an album here? He's going to ...
"Yoongi hyung," Jimin says, quietly.
Yoongi looks up and Jimin is looking at him with a concerned and tender expression.
"What?" he asks, prickly and annoyed.
Jimin sighs. "You and Taehyung?"
Oh. Jimin knows him so well, better than almost anyone. Of course he'd notice.
Yoongi shrugs. "Yeah," he says. "I guess."
Jimin frowns. "Is that a good idea?"
Yoongi shrugs again. "I don't fucking know, Jimin. It's not like I planned this. It just kind of happened." He feels mulish and stubborn now. "Taehyung is a really good guy," he says, shorty.
"I know," Jimin says. "I'm not ... this isn't me as your manager, hyung. This is me as your friend." He frowns. "Just ... think about what's going to happen when you go back to Seoul, okay?"
"I get it, Jimin," Yoongi says peevishly.
"I know you're not ... I know you wouldn't hurt him intentionally, hyung, but he's not used to dealing with, you know, your schedule and all the craziness. Taehyung seems like a good guy, so just keep that in mind, or something, okay?"
"Okay," Yoongi says. Jimin's lack of faith is warranted, but no less irritating for it. "I got it. I'm not an asshole all the time, Jimin."
"I know," Jimin says softly. He stands up. "I'm gonna go talk to him about the laptop."
He watches Yoongi for a moment, but angry and even a little hurt, Yoongi just focuses on the clothes in his suitcase: taking them out and sloppily folding them and haphazardly stacking them. After a moment, Jimin leaves without saying anything. Yoongi waits until he hears his footsteps on the gravel outside, and then stops his ruse with the clothes.
He's such an idiot. He knows Jimin is right, and he knows Jimin has seen him screw up before. He knows Jimin's cautions are warranted.
Doesn't change the fact that he feels surly and scolded. Get over it, Yoongi, he tells himself. You're not a kid.
Dinner is fine. Nice, even. Yoongi pulls himself together and Jimin knows not to take most of what Yoongi says to heart; he would have quit a long time ago if he didn't learnt that lesson. Taehyung's made ttarogukbap -- the local specialty -- and it's delicious. Jungkook is in high spirits, too, asking Jimin all kinds of questions about his work as a manager, about his time as a trainee, about life in Seoul.
But soon enough they're done eating and Jimin needs to leave for home. Taehyung and Yoongi walk him out to the car. The evening is cool and the sky is aqua on the horizon. Taehyung and Porkpie hang back to give Jimin and Yoongi some space.
Jangling his keys, Jimin says. "I talked to Taehyung. He's fine with you having the laptop. He'll give your phone back too. Just ... you know. Don't revert to your normal, antisocial self."
"Who's antisocial?" Yoongi mutters. "I won't. Thanks for bringing me this stuff."
Jimin smiles - his flat, fixed professional smile. "Get a couple of songs ready," he says. "That's all the thanks I need."
"Not gonna give me a moment's rest, huh?" Yoongi says.
"Never, hyung," Jimin says, grinning lopsided.
He says goodbye to Taehyung then, and says he'll call soon, and then he gets in the car and turns it on and the exhaust billows out in a plume. Then he's waving and pulling away. In the charcoal dusk the two red taillights are the only color at all, until the car rounds the curve in the road and is gone.
Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut and opens them. He feels all weird and mixed up inside, but he feels relieved too. He turns around. Taehyung is watching him from a few feet away. A huge scarf is wrapped around his neck up to his chin, giving him a strangely furtive air, but as Yoongi turns he smiles.
Yoongi nods, suppresses the way his heart thrills. "Yeah," he says.
"Good," Taehyung says and impetuous takes Yoongi's hand and they walk like that back up to the house.
So he has a plan: write an album, and send Jimin updates.
It sounds easy enough.
It is easy, as the spring days grow longer and everything grows more deliriously green and lovely, and there is a lot to do.
Yoongi works harder than he's ever worked in his life. He and Taehyung and Jungkook are up before dawn and out in the fields at first light. There are hoop houses out beyond the gardens where strawberries grow in raised mulch beds; they go through and carefully prune the plants, and take cuttings, and transplant, and fertilize, and remulch, and ...
It's really fucking amazing, Yoongi thinks, how much work goes into growing some damn strawberries. He remembers sitting in the conference room at the company building, waiting for meeting with the CEO or some other bigwig to start, and looking scornfully at the bowl of fruit salad sitting in the middle of the table: strawberries and blueberries and cantaloupe and melon. Couldn't they get some halfway decent catering?
If he'd only known. At night Taehyung rubs some kind of stinging, soothing ointment on his shoulders and laughs as Yoongi groans.
They work hard every day, and do yoga twice a week, and eat well, and Yoongi isn't suddenly some new person, he's still not fucking sunshine and rainbows, but his bad moods feel lighter now - overcast skies instead of thunderheads. He feels better physically too. He doesn't know if he's lost weight or gained it but he feels stronger and more at ease. Most of it's probably quitting smoking and drinking a lot less and actually getting enough sleep. It's a good feeling, whatever the cause.
Jeongja comes back to the farm for another stay. She shows up early one Friday morning all wrapped in a big shawl. Her son carries her bags to her room and makes a little small talk with Taehyung, glancing constantly at his phone. He takes off down the dirt road in a squeal of tires, eager to get back to whatever works keeps in so busy, keeps him wearing such fancy suits.
She come in to the kitchen when Taehyung is making lunch, and sits down at her place at the table across from Yoongi.
"So you're still here," she says, giving Yoongi a long look up and down.
"Yes, grandmother," he says.
"Didn't think you had it in you," she says. "I thought you'd run back to your fancy high rise apartment the first chance you got."
Taehyung laughs. "He's a Daegu boy at heart, grandmother," he says.
Lunch is a festive affair. Jungkook comes in from working on the irrigation in the green house and washes up while Yoongi helps Taehyung set the table. The dubujjigae is spicy and good enough to merit Jeongja's approval. Yoongi doesn't say much, but it feels nice to just sit and listen to the well-worn patter that Taehyung and Jeongja and Jungkook have established.
When they're all done eating and the conversation has reached a satisfied lull, Yoongi gets up to do the dishes. He picks up his own bowl, and steps his chair to reach for Taehyung, and as he does Taehyung, almost unconsciously, reaches up and rests a hand on Yoongi's waist, gently, settling.
It's a quiet and intimate gesture - not the kind of thing that Taehyung would do to Jungkook, certainly - and it does not escape Jeongja's notice.
"Oh ho," she says in a booming voice. "So that's why you stayed."
Yoongi wills himself not to flush but Taehyung just laughs. "Sorry, grandmother. We'll try not to be so obvious."
She hushes him. "Don't be silly, Taehyung-ah," she says. "When you get to be my age you realize that love is a very precious and rare thing, not something to be hidden away."
Yoongi glances at Taehyung, who is looking at him, and they smile at each other and it feels weird and intimate in a way that Yoongi isn't used to sharing with anyone.
"Well you really ought to kiss him now, young man," Jeongja says, and then Yoongi's cheeks do turn red but he leans down and presses a theatrical smacker of a kiss to Taehyung's cheek.
It feels like a strange kind of grace, to get to be as open as this. Yoongi's dated before, a bit. It's not impossible to meet guys - not much harder than dating anyone is, as an idol - but it's always been a tense and secret thing. Here, there's nobody to hide from. It's the off season, and there are no guests yet other than Jeongja, so he and Taehyung can be as gross and lovey-dovey as they'd like. Which, honestly, is not very much so in Yoongi's case, but Taehyung is more physically affectionate: he likes to hold Yoongi's hand and touch his arm and kiss him, unexpectedly and for no reason other than that Yoongi is there.
Yoongi would never admit it, but it feels good to be doted on like that.
In the mornings they work, and they work hard, but in the afternoons Yoongi sets aside time to write. He has his laptop now and his phone, but he finds himself strangely reluctant to go online and read all of his damn emails, check his KKT messages. Maybe he'll get Jimin to do it. He can just delete anything not urgent. In the afternoon, when Taehyung is taking care of things around the house, Yoongi finds himself at the piano. The song he started that first night is taking shape: a sweet song about the rain and the early spring before the trees flower, and waiting for a lover who is late coming home. He plays it for Taehyung, who gets the chorus stuck in his head and sings it for the next two days, over and over, changing the tone and the melody, so that Yoongi is almost sick of hearing it.
(But not sick of hearing it at all, really, because Taehyung's voice is so warm and deep and comfortable-sounding, and there's another thrill that comes from hearing him sing Yoongi's words.)
He has a few other ideas he's playing with, enough so that after a few weeks he makes some low quality recordings on his laptop and sends them off to Jimin, as evidence of his diligent industry.
Whatever. If it keeps the record company off his back, he's willing to play along.
It's not all work. There's no real distinction between weekday and weekend. Taehyung has no schedule to keep but his own. They take day trips in the creaking old truck: to visit a shrine that Taehyung's grandmother loved, to visit a nearby farm where Taehyung buys six soft, yellow ducklings, to a national park where they hike a long way up a rambling trail of loosely packed soil and stone to reach the top of a ridge. Yoongi is hot and tired but even he has to admit that the commanding, panoramic view of countryside is almost worth the effort.
And there are so many other good times, every day. Times like Yoongi never fucking dreamed he'd have. Long days where it is raining and they cannot have their early start so instead they stay in bed listening to the rain or one of Taehyung's old records. He lies curled into Taehyung, his head on Taehyung's smooth chest, his fingers tracing the dark line of hair that bisects Taehyung's soft belly. Taehyung's hands work through his hair, gentle. Yoongi can hear his heart beat.
They talk about stupid shit: some dumb joke Jungkook makes or a story that Yoongi tells or what they want to make for lunch. Conversation is dangerous terrain, because anything can be a reminder of how, in spite of this closeness, there are relatively few areas of overlap in their interests and experiences. Yoongi will mention some favorite restaurant or a club he performed at once or the neighborhood where Namjoon moved after they all left the dorms, and Taehyung poke him in the arm, a gentle reminder that he's been up to Seoul only a handful of times and he doesn't know these places and things that are landmarks in Yoongi's mental terrain, not any more than Yoongi knows the name of the woman in the village who brings Taehyung herbs and homemade doenjang.
April passes to May. The weather is fine and the plants are growing. Yoongi and Jungkook weed the garden while Taehyung feed his ducklings, who paddle around in an old plastic kiddie pool. More guests come to the farm. Taehyung sits at the kitchen table and manages the bookings on his ancient laptop. He's gotten a lot of inquiries, and business is picking up; Jungkook may need to hire someone to help out on the farm, if Taehyung's time is taken up running the guest house.
Sometime in May, Taehyung is sitting at the kitchen table looking at the big appointment book where he tracks the farm's guests, stressed because he's got more inquiries than he's got rooms. It seems like a good problem to have but Taehyung can be accommodating to fault. He hates to turn people away.
He sighs and runs his fingers through his hair, and then frowns at Yoongi.
"Hyung," he says. "Don't you think it's kind of silly for you to take up one of the guest rooms?"
He has a point. Yoongi hasn't slept in that wide bed with the white linens in days.
"You're not really a guest," Taehyung says. "I mean …"
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "I know." He shifts, uncomfortable. Fucking feelings making everything weird. Is this too soon? How do you know? He was never good at this stuff. "If you don't mind. I'll still pay -"
"Don't be stupid," Taehyung says. "You're already doing more than enough. I think Jungkook is going to promote you to first assistant farm hand."
Yoongi snorts. "What does that make you?"
"Housekeeper?" Taehyung says, contemplatively.
Yoongi rolls his eyes. "Proprietor," he suggests.
"Oh nice!" Taehyung says. "I like that. Very Dickensian."
Yoongi squints at him because damn, sometimes Taehyung seems like the giddy raw country boy he is, but sometimes he'll come out with something like that and Yoongi will just marvel at the weird and unexpected depths of his knowledge.
So Yoongi packs his clothes back into his suitcase and lugs everything down the stairs and across the gravel courtyard to Taehyung's big room with its shelves of records and the comfortable, unmade bed. It's easy, like everything has been easy, but Yoongi feels weird about it too. Taehyung is, sometimes, too willing to bend to Yoongi's will. Yoongi wishes sometimes that the distracted faraway look in his eyes would resolve into something more concrete, more forceful, more angry.
But those times are few and far between, and mostly things are good. Truly, it makes sense for Yoongi to stay in Taehyung's room. There's no point in him taking up one of the guest rooms when he's sleeping with Taehyung every night.
One day towards the end of May Jungkook asks Yoongi if he'll come into town with him to help pick up some supplies to fix the irrigation system in the greenhouses. It seems unnecessary but Yoongi agrees. He wears big sunglasses on the off chance that the ahjussi who runs the hardware store is a BTS fanboy.
He's not. Yoongi just ends up looking like an idiot.
They buy PVC piping and washers and a bunch of other things Yoongi doesn't know the name for. Jungkook is on good terms with the man at the store and spends quite a while talking to him about the goings on in the area: whose crops are doing well and who sold some of their land to a development company and whose son moved to the city. Yoongi finds this conversation devastatingly boring and pretends to be absorbed in a display of candy near the register.
He buys some before they leave. Maybe Taehyung will like it.
They're just outside of town, kicking up dirt on the road back to the farm, when Jungkook says, "So."
"Yeah?" Yoongi asks.
Jungkook narrows his eyes. "You're not like I thought you'd be, hyung."
Yoongi ducks his head. "Sorry," he says.
He's always felt that: he's kind of a disappointment to the fans, who expect someone much taller and more impressive. Suga, not Yoongi.
"No," Jungkook says, slowly. "I mean, I guess your music made me think you'd be angrier, somehow."
"I'm angry," Yoongi says defensively. "I'm as angry as fucking anyone."
Jungkook rolls his eyes. "Sure," he says, agreeably.
"I wrote that album a long time ago," Yoongi mutters. "I'm not … I wasn't … The company decides they want to promote you one way or another and suddenly that's all you fucking are."
Jungkook hums agreeably. They jolt down a few hundred meters of road. All of Yoongi's teeth rattle in his head.
"Taehyung really likes you," Jungkook says.
"Good," Yoongi says, but he feels a little shy. "I really like him, too."
"I know he seems all …" Jungkook pauses. "He's not as happy as he seems, you know. It was really rough for a few years, when he was trying to get the farm up and running."
Yoongi frowns. "Thought he inherited it from his grandparents."
Jungkook snorts. "Is that what he told you?"
Yoongi nods, silent. Taehyung told him the story of inheriting the farm. Why would he have questioned it?
"His father inherited it," Jungkook says, eyes head, not looking at Taehyung at all. "His old man wanted to sell it, and Taehyung kinda … I think his grandmother's death was hard enough, but the thought of selling the farm kind of messed him up."
Jungkook is quiet for a moment and then he continues. "He was in school, you know. In Busan. Studying photography. That's how I met him. He'd enlisted after his sophomore year, and I think he planned to come back when he got done with his service but then his grandfather died and his grandmother died right after and instead of coming back to school he got some money together somehow and bought his dad out and moved to this fucking farm in the middle of nowhere."
"Damn," Yoongi says.
"Yeah," Jungkook says.
"Did he …" Yoongi pauses, reconsiders. "He's not very close with his family, is he?"
Jungkook nods. "His brother and sister, yeah. He loves them more than anything. He talks to his parents, but I think they still think he's wasting his time with he farm."
"He's really good at it though," Yoongi says quietly. "Being a host and all."
Jungkook nods. "Yeah," he says. "I was just gonna help him out for a summer, but after I came up and saw what he was doing I started to think that maybe he had a good thing going and decided to stay."
"He's never told me any of this," Yoongi says, feeling strangely hurt.
Jungkook shrugs. "He's good at that goofy, 4D act of his," he says, "but it is an act."
Yoongi scowls out at the countryside: verdant fields and tumbledown farmhouses. He wishes that Taehyung had told him this. He wishes he'd heard it from Taehyung and not secondhand.
"I like you, hyung," Jungkook says, after a while.
"Gee," Yoongi says. "Thanks."
"I mean," Jungkook says. "I liked you to begin with. You're Suga. But you seem like a good guy."
"Thanks," Yoongi says, more sincerely this time.
"Just …" Jungkook pauses. "Just remember that Taehyung isn't as … I don't know, carefree as he seems, okay?"
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "I got it." He swallows. "Thanks."
Jungkook nods but doesn't say anything. They finish the rest of the drive in silence. Yoongi watches Taehyung more carefully after that, and maybe he sees it: chinks in the armor where something still and sad shows through. He tries to be kinder, as kind as he can be, and ask Taehyung more questions about himself.
In the first week of June Jimin calls with good news.
"The company loves the new song," he says. "Hello, hyung."
"Eh," Yoongi scowls, shading his eyes. He's been weeding the garden, and there is soil under his fingernails. "You're backwards, Park Jimin."
Jimin snorts. "Yeah," he says. "Maybe. Hyung, they really like the songs."
"Good," Yoongi says, and he feels some tension he didn't realize he was holding release.
"I told them you're writing more." Jimin is expert at weighing his words with expectation.
"I am," Yoongi says, annoyed. "I have three or four more to send you."
"Send them then," Jimin says, laughing. "They want to hear everything."
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "Okay."
There are a few other things Jimin needs to ask Yoongi about - business questions, money questions, hard questions that seem strange and especially uncomfortable in the bright sunshine, standing ankle deep in mud in Taehyung's garden. The call ends then and Yoongi bends back down and tugs hard at the persistent weed that has been resisting his best efforts.
Spring hands off smoothly to summer. The weather gets warmer. Yoongi is tan now, and in better shape than he's been in a long time. Damn healthy country living. He feels good though, and he sleeps well in Taehyung's soft bed, in the soft and welcoming circle of Taehyung's arms. They have a good time together, a great time. The sex is good, honestly the best that Yoongi's had, and even when things get weird that physical chemistry pulls them together, holds them close.
Other guests come and stay, and they maintain a plausible fiction that Yoongi is some distant relation of Taehyung's. It works well enough until a young woman comes who recognizes Yoongi and asks to take a selfie with him. The girl swears she won't post the selfie online, but a week later it ends up online anyway, included in one of those irritating Pann posts titled 'The Current Whereabouts of BTS Members' or some kind of bullshit like that.
Fans, who are more diligent and smarter than any other collective group of people Yoongi has ever known, figure out where he's staying within the day, and Taehyung is deluged with calls then. Most of them are just wasting his time - high school students calling and giggling as they struggle to get out some kind of coherent greeting. But there are more legitimate inquiries too, and it even prompts some kind of article on Naver about a recent trend in eco-tourism, for which the author calls and asks Taehyung for his comments. (He declines to mention Yoongi, saying he has a duty to protect his guests' privacy, but he provides the author with several appropriate quotes that are included in the final article.)
Yoongi apologizes to Taehyung.
"Should have figured she'd post it online," he mutters. It's midweek and there are no guests, and they are sitting in Taehyung's room listening to some old jazz record Taehyung's been really into lately.
"Maybe she didn't," Taehyung says. He's always looking on the bright side. "Maybe she sent it to her friend to prove she met you, and maybe the friend sent it to another friend, and maybe that person posted it online."
Yoongi rolls his eyes. Taehyung doesn't get how fans work, how it feels sometimes that you're nothing more than a commodity to them, and a photo with a star is like striking the motherload.
"Yeah," he says, skeptically. "I don't think so but sure, maybe."
"You're in a bad mood," Taehyung says, poking Yoongi's belly. He is lying on his back with his head in Yoongi's lap. Taehyung does that - sprawls everywhere like a big cat, comfortable and easy. It kind of freaked Yoongi out at first, but he likes it now.
"I just feel like an asshole," Yoongi says. "Now you have to put up with all this shit."
Taehyung snorts. "Yeah," he says, "It's such a burden being booked solid through the end of November. How am I ever going to handle my business doing so well?"
Yoongi frowns. "You weren't planning for this right now though," he says, which sounds lame but he can't quite find the words he's looking for. He knows Taehyung loves the farm and he knows Taehyung takes the work he does seriously, but it all seems kind of like a game, doesn't it? Living here in this half-falling-down old house, spending days fishing and walking in flowering woods and collecting eggs still warm in the nest. That's not real life. Not really. It's too good to be quite true.
It's just a game they've all agreed to play for now. Right?
He doesn't pursue his point when Taehyung gets up to turn the record over.
June is hot and bright. The garden is thriving and the earliest planted crops are ready for harvest. Yoongi learns how to dig up radishes and how to mulch lettuces. With more guests around Taehyung spends more of his time cooking and cleaning. Yoongi helps, but mostly he finds himself at the piano, playing and writing and thinking.
He has more songs now. He's recorded half decent versions of six of them, and he's sent them to Jimin. The response is good, Jimin says. The record company is getting eager. This isn't the album they wanted from him originally: Yoongi's depressive break with the world part 2. Apparently, though, they think this will sell. Country life is in vogue right now, and they can market it as the story of his trip into the countryside to rediscover his passion for music.
It's a bullshit narrative, but at least it's a new bullshit narrative. The change feels a little refreshing.
The building heat of the summer seems to set Yoongi's brain buzzing in an unhappy way. He starts thinking about the record that he's writing, and what it will mean. Eventually, he'll have to go back to Seoul and record. Promote. Do all that bullshit he hates so much. Jimin is just doing his job, but Yoongi would rather not know that the company is thinking of having him do a comeback special. He would rather not know that the company wants to get someone well known to feature on his title track. He would rather not think about what that's all going to mean to him. To him and Taehyung together.
But the worries burrow in and he can't get them out. Things with Taehyung are still good. They're fine. Great even. It's just that he's started thinking more about what they're actually doing. Taehyung is a kid running a farm outside of Daegu and Yoongi is a has-been idol with a bad reputation. This has been a magical fucking break from the world, but what comes next?
He doesn't want to answer that question, so he doesn't, and he stops taking Jimin's calls when they start ending with questions about when do you think you'll be back, hyung? The company wants to get you into the studio, hyung. Let's set a date, hyung.
It's easier just to let things float along. It's easier to enjoy the soft luxurious smoothness of Taehyung's skin. It's so easy to agree one morning, when Taehyung proposes that they pack a picnic lunch and all go to the river and go swimming. Taehyung packs things for a barbecue and Jungkook gets a watermelon. There are no guests staying right now, thankfully, so they lock the front door and pack up the truck and squeeze all three of them into the front seat. Yoongi, as the smallest, has to sit in the middle, which is a fucking assault to his dignity, as he complains loudly for most of the ride.
Porkpie is content to ride in the back seat, and looks much more comfortable back there, with her tongue flapping in the breeze, than Yoongi is in his own cramped perch.
They go to a spot that Taehyung visited as a kid, and park the truck and walk down the valley to the river. There's one other family, a few hundred yards further down the bank, so it feels rather cozy and private. Jungkook nestles his watermelon in a cool pool of water where it bobs like a giant green bubble. Yoongi hesitantly strips off his shirt (he's got a bad farmer's tan and his pasty chest is probably going to blind someone, and then what?) and stands ankle deep in the cold rushing river. Taehyung sets up the grill on a flat spot of grass a little way back from the bank and start heating up the charcoal.
It's a beautiful warm afternoon. Yoongi wades for a little while, covered well in sunscreen. Taehyung is wearing a wide brimmed straw hat. He seems quiet today, although this trip was his idea, and he keeps himself busy preparing food. Jungkook, who has the irritating body of someone who spends a lot of time in the gym, tries to catch some of the sleek silver trout that live in the deeper parts of the stream with his bare hand. The fish are too fast though and Jungkook mostly ends up splashing noisily and aping moves from old Bruce Lee movies.
The sizzling smell of barbecue fills the air soon, and they sit on a blanket that Taehyung brought and eat lunch. Yoongi is tired and full afterward, and the sun is so warm. There are a stand of poplar trees a little bit down the river, and the air is full of their fuzzy white fluff, floating gently on the breeze.
Jungkook goes back in the water after lunch, but Yoongi just closes his eyes and lays his head in Taehyung's lap. Taehyung rests his fingertips on Yoongi's temple, but his gaze is distracted.
"Hey," Yoongi says. "What are you thinking about?"
Taehyung shrugs. "Nothing," he says, "but .."
"What?" Yoongi glances over at Jungkook, who is trying to catch fish again. "Are you thinking we should go dunk Jungkook?"
Taehyung laughs softly. "Well yeah," he says. "We should do that." He sighs though. "I was thinking about the last time I was here. With my grandparents."
"Oh yeah?" Yoongi asks, softly. He's been hesitant to press Taehyung too much about his grandparents. He's wanted to, because he can tell they still occupy the better part of Taehyung's heart, but it feels weird and too forward.
They've only known each other a few months.
"When my grandma got sick," Taehyung said. "I had just gotten out of the army and I was supposed to go back to school but I came here and stayed with her instead. We would come out here and sit by the river."
"I'm sorry," Yoongi says, quietly.
"Yeah," Taehyung says. He shrugs. "Life sucks sometimes, I guess."
Yoongi reaches for his hands and squeezes it. "She'd be really proud of you," he says, but it feels lame and inadequate.
"Yeah," Taehyung says, squeezing Yoongi's hand back. And okay, Yoongi can get the hint. Taehyung doesn't want to talk about it. "Come on. Let's go dunk Jungkook."
That day stands out in Yoongi's mind as one of the good ones, golden and bright in spite of the strange ribbon of melancholy woven through it. There are others: the days Jungkook brings home three baby rabbits and they improvise a hutch for the tender soft little things. The day Taehyung and Yoongi go to the Daegu Beer and Chicken festival, which is big and happy and bustling. They meet Yoongi's parents there, which is somehow not nearly as terrible as it should have been. They all eat too much. Yoongi's parents are charmed by Taehyung, and his mother tells him that it is such a relief to see him looking so well and so happy. Yoongi had missed them more than he had known.
Smaller things, too. As the weather gets hotter they walk to the lake in the woods in the stultifying afternoons. All the birdsong is smothered by the heat. They strip off their clothes and swim naked in the cold, clear water. Thunderstorms in the evening. Taehyung's body. Taehyung's eyes, which always seem preoccupied with some concern that Yoongi can't quite understand. The piano, and the music he is slowly making.
But by midsummer something is building, like the thunderclouds build in the west before breaking over the valley.
He has four unanswered emails from Jimin, who sounds increasingly annoyed.
The company wants to know what his plans are. How long until this album is done and he comes home? They aren't going to wait forever.
Yoongi doesn't know, but he thinks about it now, all the time. What's going to happen? He can't promote an album from the farm. He needs to go back to Seoul, to go home. He needs to record in a studio, and promote on music programs, and do all the stupid bullshit that comes with being an idol. He hates it but he recognizes its necessity. This isn't his first rodeo.
But when he tries to bring it up to Taehyung, late at night in bed, Taehyung silences him with kisses and reassurances that he'll go when the time is right.
"But when the fuck is that?" Yoongi says to his reflection as he brushes his teeth.
He doesn't know. He doesn't want to be the one to have to decide when it's time for him to go.
That question weighs heavily on his mind when in the last week of July there is a terrible heat wave. Yoongi doesn't do well in the heat. It makes him tired and irritable. More irritable than he already is. The old house has no air conditioning, and for the first time in months he misses his cool spare room in the guest house. That's occupied now, though. They all are, and Yoongi lays next to Taehyung on the futon feeling strangled by the sweaty sheets. The fans whir noisily but they barely shift the humid air.
He can't sleep. He's got dark circles under his eyes and a headache. There are two young married couples - friends on a trip - staying in the guest house right now, and Yoongi doesn't feel like dealing with their peppy good nature and interested, inoffensive questions. He takes a cold shower and just grunts when Taehyung says that he's going in to make breakfast.
"Aren't you hungry?" Taehyung asks, frowning.
Yoongi scowls. "Not hungry enough to deal with the cheer squad right now."
Taehyung rolls his eyes. "They're not that bad," he says. "You need to eat breakfast."
Yoongi just scowls more deeply. "I survived twenty odd fucking years not eating breakfast," he says. "I'll be fine, Mom."
Taehyung's eyes darken, and he swallows, but he doesn't say anything, just nods and goes to the kitchen.
Yoongi wishes for once that Taehyung would just call him on his bullshit.
Taehyung's too damn nice though. Yoongi doesn't deserve anyone this nice.
So he's in a bad mood to start with, and the lyrics he wrote last night seem trite and stupid in the more discerning light of day. Who the fuck wants to hear him rap about growing cabbage? Is he making music for the grandmothers of South Korea now? Has he fallen that far?
It's all bullshit.
Yoongi has days like this, sometimes. He knows them for what they are. Some days his brain just isn't quite up for the task of being a functional human being. It's been a while since he had one this bad, though, and it's harder to figure out what to do here, where he can't just lock himself in his apartment and ignore the world.
He takes a walk instead out to the chicken coop to make sure the hens have water. They are panting and tired too. Porkpie watches him from the front porch, where she's settled in the not-very-much-cooler shade. Yoongi fills the kiddie pool that Jungkook dragged in the coop earlier in the day and turns the sprinkler. Artichoke looks wilted. The hens cluck, annoyed, but the water seems to bring them some relief. Jungkook sees what he's doing on his way back from checking on the rabbits, and they head to the kitchen to cut up some watermelon for the chickens.
Dinner is festive, supposedly, in spite of the heat. The married couples are all in high spirits. They're a little bit older than Yoongi is: guys in their early thirties, and women a bit younger, and they have that well-knit gloss he's never been able to manage. One of the men works as a trader at a bank; his wife is a lawyer. The other woman is a doctor, and her husband is a manager at a large conglomerate. They are all beautiful. The men are tall. They're like a fucking walking advertisement, and Yoongi hates them on principle even though in actuality they all seem like very nice people and the one woman says she's a big fan of his.
He's too tired and hot to be swayed by flattery.
Still, he can be civil. The entertainment industry taught him nothing if not how to feign civility. He laughs and entertains them with some anecdotes about Seokjin (staring in another drama now, a big deal apparently - Yoongi's been in this little cultural black hole all summer so he doesn't know). They eat spicy naengmyeon for dinner and everyone compliments Taehyung on the food. The happy married couples help with the dishes after.
Everything is fine, but Yoongi just feels more and more and more annoyed as the night grinds on.
Yoongi and Taehyung are left sitting at the kitchen table when the happy couples retire to their rooms. Jungkook went to bed a while ago. It's just the two of them.
"They're nice," Taehyung says, distractedly. He seems tired, too
Yoongi shrugs. "Eh," he says. "Phonies."
Taehyung narrows his eyes. "Why phonies? They seemed nice to me."
Yoongi scoffs. "I know plenty of people like them back in Seoul," he says. "They're nice because they're rich assholes who have never had to deal with anything in their lives other than worrying about which other rich asshole to marry."
Taehyung stares at him, his fine features blank and expressionless. "You're in a bad mood," he says.
"No shit," Yoongi says. He pushes his seat back from the table. "You're just ... of course you're going to think they're nice, Taehyung. They're your customers. You don't ... you don't have to deal with people like that."
Taehyung laughs, but it comes out awkward. "Hyung, I've dealt with plenty of assholes in my day." He stands up. "Guests are assholes all the time. You were pretty prickly the first couple of days, if I remember correctly."
It's meant to be a joke, and it is a joke, and Yoongi laughs, but it makes something twist in his stomach to hear Taehyung say that. It's not a lie, but he wishes Taehyung hadn't said it all the same.
"It just takes me a while to warm up to people," he mutters.
"I know," Taehyung says, putting his hand on Yoongi's shoulder. "It's okay. Come on. Let's go to bed."
But the twisting feeling doesn't leave Yoongi's stomach, not as he brushes his teeth, not as they undress, not as he lies down next to Taehyung on the futon with the nest of mussed blankets. It's too hot to do anything other than try to sleep - too hot even to touch. Taehyung is asleep soon - he mumbles in his sleep, incoherent nonsense words - but Yoongi just lies there awake, sweating and uncomfortable. Every place the sheets touch his body is a pinprick of discomfort. He is wearing only underwear but even his skin seems suffocating.
But then maybe that's the way it's always been. He's got all these big ideas and big ambitions but he's trapped in this dumb fucking body, in this dumb mind with all its flaws. And once in a while there's something good, something brilliant and great that lights up his whole sky and makes him think, hey, this is worth it. BTS had been like that, at first, and then later that first album, which had dragged him out of his darkest place. And Taehyung is like that too. Brighter even than all the other stuff combined. But Yoongi knows that all those good things fizzle out in the end, and this thing he has with Taehyung - how can it last? They don't even be have that much in common. Sure, it works out here, on the farm, where they can bond over chickens and fucking radishes, but what about once they're back in the real world? What are they going to talk about? Taehyung makes his heart light up and the sex is really good, but isn't there some old fucking adage about how you're supposed to be best friends first?
They have so very little in common.
He rolls over onto his stomach, but that's worse. The pillow is smothering him. Why didn't Taehyung put air conditioning in this part of the house? This is fucking torture.
He rolls back over.
Beside him, Taehyung stirs. It's very dark. Taehyung's hand settles on Yoongi's arm.
"You okay?" Taehyung asks in the dark.
"No," Yoongi grumbles. "It's too fucking hot."
"I know," Taehyung says, consolingly, as if he's talking to a child.
"Why didn't you put air conditioning in here?"
Taehyung is silent for a moment. "Ran out of money," he says. "I'm going to redo this part of the house some day."
Yoongi can't see his face. Is he embarrassed? He doesn't have to be, but Yoongi also doesn't care.
"This is fucking hell," Yoongi mutters.
Taehyung doesn't say anything. Yoongi can feel him go tense though.
"It's too fucking hot," Yoongi says. "Never thought I'd miss my fucking thermostat so badly."
Taehyung is silent still. It pisses Yoongi the fuck off. He doesn't even know why. He's just so tired and unsure of what to do.
"I'll lend you the money," he says. "You can fix this dump up. Put in central air. You don't have to live like this, Taehyung."
He doesn't mean it. As soon as he says it he doesn't mean it, but it's too late.
"It might not be up to you standards," Taehyung says. His voice is sharp and cold. "But It's not a dump."
"You don't even have air conditioning," Yoongi says. "I'm going to fucking die in my sleep. Why didn't you just tear everything down and rebuild? This is ..."
"This is my home," Taehyung says.
The dark silence reverberates. Every nerve in Yoongi's body is on fire. He should just let this go but he can't. Of course he can't. He's an idiot and he doesn't know why Taehyung is so in love with this place. Yeah, sure, fine. He gets it, but it's time to grow up. Time to move on. Nothing good lasts.
"So you're just gonna play at being a farmer forever?" Yoongi mutters. "You could sell this place. Move to Seoul with me. You could work in a hotel there, if you really wanted to. I know people. I could get you a job with ..."
Taehyung snorts. "I don't need your help, hyung," he says. "I'm never going to move to Seoul."
The words hit Yoongi right in the solar plexus, and he goes cold despite the heat. He knew it. He knew it but he had to fucking ask anyway.
"I'm not going to fucking stay in the middle of nowhere forever," he says. "I can't waste my life here with ..."
"Then go," Taehyung says. "You don't have to stay here and rough it with us country folk if you don't want to. You can leave whenever you want."
The brittle angry silence burns. Yoongi's pulse is pounding in his temples, in his ears. His mouth is dry.
"Fine," he says.
"Fine," Taehyung says.
Yoongi feels like he might throw up. He swallows. The apology is so close, but he can't choke it out. He didn't say anything untrue. It was just all wrong anyway. He's supposed to be good with words but he can't fucking do anything without fucking it up.
Taehyung falls back asleep, eventually.
Yoongi does not.
In the morning, he calls and asks Jimin to come pick him up.
There are two tense days before Jimin can make the drive down from Seoul. Tense, but fine, too, because the next morning Taehyung has thrown some wall back up that Yoongi hadn't even realized he took down. He is cordial and distant, never seeming to stay in the same room as Yoongi for long. Yoongi's blood is still hot and he's ready to rehash their fight: it's not too late to tell Jimin to cancel his drive down, if the rematch turns out differently.
But Taehyung won't have any of it.
Yoongi goes to bed alone in Taehyung's room that night. He does not know where Taehyung sleeps.
He packs the next day. It is rainy, and new guests are coming, so Taehyung is cleaning one of the rooms in the other house. Yoongi sits at the piano and trails his fingers listlessly over the keys. He feels sick and annoyed and can't even appreciate that the rain brings relief from the oppressive heat.
He catches Taehyung alone for the minute in the hall. He's carrying a basket full of towels warm from the dryer, and looking a little harried.
"Hey," Yoongi says, frowning.
Taehyung stares at him, hard and blank. "Yes?"
"I just … I'm sorry, okay?" Yoongi stares at his feet. "I didn't mean … You know you do … This place is magic. I'm just an asshole."
Taehyung makes a rough noise in the back of his throat. Disapproval. Annoyance. Maybe it's easier if Yoongi stays true to character and keeps up the charade of celebrity bad behavior. "I know," he says. "I'm sorry too, hyung. I don't know why I thought …" He sighs. "It was nice, while it lasted, though."
Oh, Yoongi thinks. "Yeah," he says. "It was."
Taehyung smiles, sweet and distant, and continues on to the kitchen with his towels.
That's it, then. Yoongi doesn't know why he thought Taehyung might fight for it. For them.
Taehyung is happy here. Yoongi's the one who's never managed to figure his shit out.
The drive back to Seoul is long and uncomfortable. Jimin can tell right away that something is wrong. He gives Yoongi a questioning look but doesn't say much as he helps carry Yoogi's stuff to the car. He's unerringly polite to Taehyung and Jungkook, making small talk and asking how business is doing.
The suitcase is in the trunk then, and Yoongi's shit is all loaded up, and Jimin is shaking Taehyung's hand and it's time to go. Yoongi feels sick to his stomach. His vision is swimming. It's hot and he's wearing sunglasses and he's glad for that.
Jungkook scowls at him a moment - but then the scowl relaxes and he pulls Yoongi into a too tight hug, thumping him on the back.
"You better send me those albums you promised me," he says.
Laughing, recovering his breath, Yoongi says, "Yeah, sure, kid." But it sounds friendly now, like a joke they both get.
Then there's just Taehyung, and Yoongi's heart races and he thinks for a minute that they're going to do something totally weird like shake hands. But then Taehyung is hugging him, not as tight as Jungkook did but closer all the same. Yoongi closes his eyes, glad again for the glasses. He's not crying.
"Thanks," he says, close to Taehyung's ear.
"Be happy, Min Yoongi," Taehyung says, and he steps away, and somehow Yoongi makes it to the car and gets inside and shuts the door.
They drive for quite a while before Jimin looks back at him and asks, "What happened?"
Yoongi shakes his head. "I don't know," he says.
"You okay?" Jimin asks, expression concerned in the rearview mirror.
Yoongi shrugs. "Kinda. No. I don't fucking know."
Jimin nods and turns on the radio. Yoongi takes that as permission to curl up in the backseat of his expensive sedan and cry.
Seoul is smoggy and gray. Jimin drops him off and leaves the car, and runs to the store while Yoongi takes his bag up on the elevator. His apartment is cleaner than he left it and smells like dust. He wheels the suitcase into the bedroom and unzips it. There are some packages on the table, some unopened envelopes, things Jimin must have thought were too personal for him to take care of. Yoongi closes his eyes and tries to will himself to feel better, but he doesn't. He feels fucking sad as shit.
Being able to admit that is something, anyway.
Jimin comes back with a couple of bags of ready-to-eat food. He stocks Yoongi's fridge and then stands frowning in the middle of the living room.
"You're sure you're okay?" he asks. "What happened?"
"Doesn't matter," Yoongi says. "I was an idiot to think I could ever have anything like that."
Jimin's frown deepens. "Hyung," he says plaintively.
"Eh," Yoongi says. "Don't worry. I'll be fine, Jimin. So when do I have to go face the music at the company?"
Jimin sighs, but pulls out his phone. "They want to meet with you Monday," he says. "Is that too soon? Can you do that?"
Yoongi nods. "Yeah," he says. "Tell them I'll be there with bells on."
He allows himself a few days of misery. After Jimin leaves he curls up on the sofa and binge-watches stupid variety shows until he falls asleep. He orders a pizza and he's a little surprised when it comes and it finds it kind of ... gross.
Taehyung managed to fuck up his taste buds and his heart. Great.
He throws it out half eaten and goes to bed early, and sleeps for a long, long time.
He wakes up early the next morning and hopes this doesn't become a habit. It's a Saturday and he feels pretty okay, all things considered. His heart still feels raw and his bed feels empty, but he feels fine physically at least.
"Goddamnit," he mutters, rolling over in bed.
There are no fucking chickens to feed here but he's too awake to go back to sleep. He gets dressed and goes for a walk to his favorite coffee shop. It's a warm morning and it's going to be a hot day, but it's okay right now. He gets an iced americano and sits on the patio of the shop and watches people on their way to work, to school. He did miss this part of it: the thriving massive energy of the city, the many many millions of dreams here, the way that you can feel that energy and thrive off it even alone.
But he misses the smell of the wet grass in the morning, and Taehyung's smile, and even the goddamn rooster.
On the way home he passes a yoga studio. He goes in and buys a monthly pass.
The next day he goes to get his hair cut. It's stupidly long right now, falling in his face. The stylist hasn't seen him in a while, and she looks surprised when he shows up by himself.
"Oh," she says. "Yoongi, what are you doing here? I thought you were still ..."
He rolls his eyes. "My exile is over," he explains.
He's been coming to this salon for years. They know all the gossip, and they surely heard how shit went down.
"You boys," she says, a little weary. Then she ruffles his hair in the way she know he hates and asks what he wants to do to it.
The next morning he's up and dressed when Jimin comes to the door.
Jimin looks at him and literally does a double take.
"What?" Yoongi asks, patting his hair self consciously.
"Nothing," Jimin says. "Just not used to seeing you so -"
So maybe Yoongi had gotten up early and showered and done his hair and even put on a nice pair of slacks and a white button up shirt and a jacket. He's an adult. He can dress nicely for a business meeting if he wants to. Everything else in his life seems destined to go to shit. He might as well take his career seriously.
"I'm turning over a new leaf," Yoongi says.
"Geeze," Jimin says. "You're barely going to need me around at this rate, hyung."
"Someone's got to drive me around," Yoongi grumbles. "You're not going anywhere."
Jimin rolls his eyes. "Right," he says. "You ready?"
Yoongi's not, but it's not like he has any choice.
It doesn't go as badly as he fears. He apologizes to the CEO and offers to do whatever is needed to make amends, but it isn't as bad as all that. The CEO is smiling and conciliatory too. He understands, he says, how frustrated Yoongi must have been by the conflict between the company's direction and his creative vision. Jimin had forwarded the new tracks and the marketing director thinks this is a new and exciting direction for Yoongi. There are so many opportunities for collaboration and synergy and ....
Blah blah blah. It's a lot of corporate suit speech. Yoongi nods at the right places in the conversation and they come to an agreement. He'll get into the studio right away and he'll have a rough cut of the album ready by the end of the summer, for an autumn release.
It's ambitious, but he thinks the hard work might distract him from his sore heart.
So he gets to work. He spends every day in the studio. It's hard. It's hard as fucking hell. In the background of one of the songs he managed to capture Taehyung cracking up at something, and one day when he's feeling tired and sad he listens to it over and over again, for hours, until he can't even make sense of the lyrics or the melody anymore, until everything is just noise obscuring Taehyung's laugh.
He finishes the song about the goddamn rooster first, and he almost sends it to Taehyung, but they haven't texted, haven't talked, haven't communicated at all since he left, so he doesn't.
He sends it to Namjoon instead.
They've always been each other's harshest critics, and Yoongi is fully prepared for Namjoon to call him out on his fucking folk-rap bullshit but instead Namjoon just replies back with a simple I like it, hyung.
Annoyed, Yoongi replies, And?
Take me out to dinner and I'll tell you more.
Namjoon can be too clever for his own good at times.
So he meets up with Namjoon at this little restaurant they used to go to years ago when it seemed like even their dreams of debuting were too grand to be real. It's a quiet place, just a hole in the wall, and they attract no attention accept for the kind, attentive woman who runs the place and who somehow remembers them from all those years ago.
Namjoon looks good - well rested and fresh. He and Hoseok put out another unit album last year and it did well. He is in demand these days as a producer and a writer. A track he produced for a rookie girl group is something of a minor hit, and he's been reaping the bounty of that success.
They sit down and order and Namjoon smiles at him, placid and serene. He's wearing glasses and a sweater over a button down shirt and he could be a college student - could be anyone really. Yoongi remembers when Namjoon was full of fire and desperate to prove himself. Shaved two stripes in his eyebrow and worried about swag. Those days are long gone, thank god.
"Well," Yoongi says, crossing his arms over his chest.
"It's really good, hyung," Namjoon says, laughing. "It's really ..."
"What?" Yoongi narrows his eyes. He can tell when Namjoon is hedging his bets.
"It's really pretty, is what I was going to say," Namjoon says.
"Oh," Yoongi says, puzzled but mollified too.
"You sound happy," Namjoon says. "You've always been good, but I've never heard you sound so happy before."
That shatters some of the ice that's frozen around Yoongi's heart.
"Yeah," he mutters. "I was, I guess."
"Was?" Namjoon looks puzzled.
Yoongi swallows. "There was a guy ..."
So he tells Namjoon the story - as much of it as there is - and Namjoon listens attentively and then knits his brow together and asks why Yoongi doesn't just apologize.
Yoongi throws up some fatalistic defenses but honestly ... he's not sure.
"Yeah," Namjoon says. "Just apologize and tell him you miss him." He bites his lower lip. "I don't know, hyung. From what you're saying, it sounds like you guys had a good thing. It's not going to be easy … but it never was, right?"
No, Yoongi thinks, it never was. Not for him.
So he socks that away inside and then pesters Namjoon for news about himself, about Hoseok, about Seokjin - all the old crew. They eat and drink and talk and it's a really good evening. Namjoon has some good ideas for a few of the tracks. They make plans to meet up again in the studio, and then Namjoon leaves and Yoongi walks to the subway through the hot, glittering night.
He finishes a few more tracks, and sends them to the label, and they continue to make positive noises. Jimin is busy now, sorting out his schedule. There are appointments at the salon and with the production team - he's going to shoot a music video. The new concept the label keeps throwing around is 'whimsy and longing' - Yoongi doesn't know exactly what they mean by that but he does know that his heart longs for Taehyung, so maybe it works. They choose a lead single - it's that first song he wrote, the day Taehyung showed him the piano. The song about the rain. There are plans for a photoshoot. Yoongi decides he will release this album not as Suga of BTS but for the first time under his own name.
In August, after Seokjin's drama finishes to high ratings and general acclaim, they get together one night at Yoongi's invitation. Jimin drops him off at a restaurant in an expensive part of town, a restaurant Seokjin picked.
"You going to be okay?" Jimin asks, mouth curled into a little frown.
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "I know I'm a fuck up, but I think I can handle dinner."
Jimin rolls his eyes. "I know you can, hyung," he says. "I'm just worried about you. That's my job, remember?"
"Keep telling yourself that, softy," Yoongi says, and he smiles, and Jimin smiles too. And Yoongi takes a deep breath and says, "Hey Jiminnie, thanks."
Jimin smiles and shrugs like his friendship all these years has just been a given. He gives a little wave and takes off.
Yoongi squares his shoulders and heads inside to find Seokjin already waiting for him.
He's got the celebrity gloss turned up high these days: wearing sunglasses and a suit jacket, he's sitting at a table in the back of this expensive restaurant looking supremely bored. Maybe that's something they teach you in actor school.
But then Seokjin sees him and takes off his glasses and smiles that goofy grin that ruins his looks (so he says). "Yoongi-ah! Wow, look at you! I like the hair!"
Yoongi's heart eases up as he takes his seat across the table. "Thanks," he says. "Congratulations, hyung. You're the talk of the town."
Seokjin's cheeks go a little red. "Eh," he says. "People are just so mesmerized by my good looks they don't realize I can't act."
There is a not insubstantial amount of criticism along those lines leveled at Seokjin. Yoongi is glad he can joke about it.
"Well there's one problem I'm never going to have to worry about," Yoongi says. "My unique looks only add to my street cred."
Seokjin snorts, undignified and loud, and Yoongi remembers the year after debut, when everything had been terrible and they'd been roommates and stayed up late talking and talking and talking. He'd been so glad, secretly, that Seokjin had been there, a year older and more than capable of shouldering the burden of being the oldest hyung. He'd been so glad to have someone to share his dreams and worries with.
"Hey," Yoongi says, frowning, fidgeting with the napkin his lap. "Hyung, I'm really sorry. You know I didn't ... I wasn't ever angry at you. I was pissed at the company I guess, but it wasn't even really their fault. I just ... everything just fell into place for you and I'm a jealous bastard. Can you forgive me?"
"There's nothing to forgive," Seokjin says. He sits back and squares his shoulders. "It wasn't fair, really. Not to you or Hoseok or Namjoon. I wanted to act, but I didn't realize what that was going to mean for the group." He swallows. "I wish I'd said something to the company but ..."
He doesn't need to finish the sentence. Yoongi knows how it is - you're a kid and you've got no clue and the company holds all the cards and all you can do is cling desperately to any shreds of fame that comes your way and pull yourself up, hand over hand, until your arms give out and you let go.
Maybe Yoongi is ready to let go.
"Yeah," Yoongi says. "Anyway, I'm sorry. I won't go drunkenly dissing you to unscrupulous journalists again."
Seokjin grins. "Good," he says. "I was going to make up a rumor that the real reason BTS broke up is because you wanted to go pursue your real dream of being a professional cat groomer."
Yoongi snorts. "Come on," he says. "You know I'm a dog person."
"I didn't say it was a very plausible rumor," Seokjin says.
The food comes then and while they eat it seems almost like they're back in the old days, before all this bullshit happened, when they were a part of a team, united against the world. It's not like that now, but that doesn't mean that Seokjin doesn't still have his back, Yoongi thinks. After the plates are cleared he takes out his phone and his headphones and plays Seokjin one of his new tracks - the song about the damn rooster.
Seokjin listens eyes closed, grinning, and when it's done he says, "Yoongi-ah, I had no idea you were such a romantic at heart. When can I meet this rooster?"
Yoongi snorts. "He's not local, I'm afraid."
Seokjin's eyes go wide with feigned outrage. "Well I better get an invite to the wedding, Min Yoongi!"
Yoongi's heart feels a lot lighter after that night.
By the end of August, the album is done. It's a strange thing - uneven at times and full of so many fragments of the months he spent at the farm. On one track he samples one of Taehyung's favorite jazz records. Another is a thinly disguised 80s ballad, complete with swooning electric strings. Jieun records the vocals for that track - a favor after the work he did with her last year - and he is reminded of the promise he made Jungkook. She a true professional and more than willing to sign something made out to 'Jeon Jungkook, my biggest fan'.
That inspires Yoongi to pack up a bunch of old BTS merch that he has lying around the studio into a big box, with Jieun's album on top, and send it off to Jungkook.
It feels weird, sending something to Jungkook and not Taehyung, but what would he send to Taehyung? He doesn't care about idol music, not even Yoongi's.
A week later Jungkook texts him.
I think I'm supposed to take Taehyung's side, but you're my hero, hyung!
Yoongi's heart clenches. Sides? What sides? Taehyung and I are on the best of terms.
Yoongi can picture Jungkook's amused little eye roll.
Please. I wasn't born yesterday.
Then, after a long pause.
He misses you.
Yoongi misses Taehyung too.
He and Jungkook stay in touch. Jungkook says business is booming at the farm. They had a bumper crop of strawberries and the guest house is booked full through next year. They're thinking of bringing on another employee full time, maybe someone to cook and help with the cleaning so that Taehyung can focus on the business side of things.
Jungkook sends him one of the pictures that Taehyung took of Yoongi. It's from that first day they walked in the woods, to the blue lake wreathed in mist. Yoongi is wearing a yellow raincoat and frowning at the camera, but it is a frown that does very little to disguise his fondness.
It's the best picture Yoongi has ever seen of himself.
He asks Jungkook to mail him a physical copy, with Taehyung's permission.
They record the music video the second week in September. It's a cool day. They wake up early and drive a few hours outside of Seoul to the site the production team has found. Yoongi came up with the idea for this MV. He is dressed all in grey running through a winter forest. Another figure, shadowy and ambiguous, runs through a flowering wood. They cut the shots so it looks like they're running towards each other, but they are never in the same frame. It's a tiring shoot, running through the little patch of wood where the production team has turned back the calendar pages to make it March again. Yoongi trips and bruises his shin. Jimin has a cold and sneezes all day. The actress (it has to be an actress, of course) playing the shadowy figure is a good sport though, and they end on schedule.
The last scene has both Yoongi and the shadowy figure coming up short at the edge of a lake. They both lean down, and through the clear water see the other person looking up at them, trapped as though on opposite sides of a pane of glass.
Maybe the symbolism is heavy handed. He doesn't fucking know. He sees the final cut a few weeks later with Jimin, and it's good.
"Awesome," Jimin says. "I love it, hyung."
Yoongi feels something that might be pride.
The album is going to come out at the end of September. He is in the practice room the week before when Jimin comes in with a whole box of the physical edition.
"Look what I have!" he says, excited.
He opens the box, and Yoongi's own face is staring up at him, dozens of little frowning Yoongis in rain gear.
He'd insisted they use it as the cover.
It's not much, Yoongi thinks.
It's not an apology. It's not even a text message. But it's something, for now. A monument to how much he owes Taehyung, until he's brave enough to do more.
He hopes Taehyung recognizes the gesture for what it is.
Autumn, after the summer heat and rain. The season when persimmons hang like lanterns from the stark branches.
Taehyung can see the persimmon tree in the yard from where he sits at the kitchen table. The fruit glow in the dim, rainy evening. He doesn't like persimmon. Hates the taste. But they are so beautiful …
The appointment book is open in front of him, spread wide on the table. He is taking bookings for the spring, when the fields will green over and the air will be fresh and clean again. In the spring, guests will come and stay again, but the last guest for this year checked out yesterday and now they're taking some time off. They did well this season - better than Taehyung could have dared hope, from a purely financial perspective - but he's tired and sad and he wants some time off. Jungkook deserves time off too, to go home and see his family. He is happy here, Taehyung thinks, but it's not his home.
There is still work to be done - fields to plow over and a last few cold weather crops to harvest, but when the harvest is in and the grounds goes to sleep Jungkook will go home and then it will just be Taehyung and Porkpie again, alone. Like it was at the start.
Taehyung is not as glad for this break as he should be.
Oh, there are things to do. Always things to do. He wants to do some work in the bathroom - painting, maybe putting in a new vanity and sink. There are meetings he needs to have with the accountant in Daegu, and emails from the woman who is designing him a new website that have gone unanswered. He has rolls of undeveloped film he can process, and there are sure to be some estate sales he can check out. Maybe he'll go help kind Mrs. Lee down in the village when she makes her kimchi this year. She is getting older, and her children have moved away.
Maybe his own brother and sister will come visit. He's sure they will, for a few days at least. Maybe he'll even see his parents. They're not on bad terms, really. It's just …
The door opens, and Jungkook comes in, pushing back the hood of his raincoat. It's storming out, and that makes the dark evening seem darker and more close. Jungkook is holding something in his arms - a big, flat package.
"This came for you," he says, handing it to Taehyung.
Taehyung knows the shape and size of it.
But he hasn't ordered any records lately. Has he?
Taehyung gets scissors from the drawer and cuts the tape and pulls the record out of the plastic mailer. He frowns down at it for a moment, and. Oh. Oh!
It's Yoongi staring back at him. It's the picture he took that day at the pond, that first day. His skin goes all hot and cold, seeing Yoongi there, scrunched nose and pursed lips and glad, eager eyes. He has the original of this picture in his room. He keeps it because … oh, well because it's a good picture in spite of everything.
"Jeon Jungkook, you did this, didn't you?" Taehyung asks, not looking up.
"Yeah," Jungkook says. "I sent a copy to Yoongi hyung. I figured you wouldn't mind."
Taehyung shakes his head. "I don't," he says. And he doesn't, really. He's just sad. He knew better, and he went and kissed Yoongi anyway, and then he'd been dumb enough to be surprised when things took their natural course.
It's okay. He's sad, but there's some sweetness to it now.
They had a good time. They really did.
There's a note in the envelope. Taehyung takes it out and reads:
This is a very rare first edition. Numbered and autographed. First of a pressing of only a hundred.
Sure enough, the album sleeve is hand numbered and signed in Yoongi's cramped hand.
I hope you decide it deserves a place in your collection. Thank you.
After dinner that night, Taehyung sits on the floor in his room and plays Yoongi's album. It's just like Yoongi: complex and difficult to get into at first, but much sweeter than it seems, full of unexpected beautiful melodies and turns of phrase. He's heard the single already of course. Jungkook made him listen, and then he even heard it on the radio. The song is doing quite well on the charts, Jungkook says.
Taehyung is proud and glad.
He misses Yoongi very, very badly. Every song makes him miss Yoongi more, but he listens to the end, and then puts it on again.
The next morning he is doing laundry when he hears a car pull up outside. Nobody is expected, and he wonders if maybe it's some sightseer dropping in unexpectedly. He pulls on his boots and puts on a stern face and prepares to go tell them that the farm is closed for the season, and please call or email to request a booking next year, but the car gives him pause. It's familiar - a sleek black thing that looks fast and expensive.
The door opens.
It's Yoongi's car, and Yoongi is getting out. He looks the same, mostly. A little paler, and his hair is shorter and dyed blonde. He squints into the bright pale autumn sunlight, and shoves his hands in his pockets.
"Hey," he says.
"Hi," Taehyung says.
"You have any rooms available?" He asks. His voice sounds muffled, like he has a cold.
Taehyung shakes his head. "Sorry," he says. "We're closed for the season. You'll have to email for a booking in the new year."
Yoongi rubs his nose with the back of his hand. "Thought you didn't go in for that new fangled email stuff."
Taehyung grins. "We had a notorious guest this summer, and it got too busy to handle all the reservations by phone. I'm even getting a website set up."
Yoongi whistles. "Impressive," he says. "Welcome to the twenty-first century, Kim Taehyung."
They stare at each other across ten meters of grey autumn lawn. "What are you doing here?"
Yoongi stares at his feet, scuffs the toe of one boot in the dirt.
"Did you like it?"
"Hmm?" Taehyung isn't sure what he means.
"The album," Yoongi asks. "Did you like it?"
Taehyung nods. "It's great, hyung," he says softly. "I love it."
Yoongi nods in a curt, satisfied way.
The wind picks up. The dry leaves rustle. Jungkook starts the tractor out in the fields. The engine whines in the distance.
"Pretty dumb to break up with someone over air conditioning," Yoongi says.
Yoongi swallows. His Adam's apple bobs. "I'm … I'm really sorry, Taehyung. I'm an idiot, although I guess you know that."
Taehyung nods again.
Yoongi closes his eyes. "I really miss you."
"I miss you too," Taehyung says. His throat hurts. Oh, don't cry, Kim Taehyung. Not yet.
"Do you want to maybe … uh, try again?" Yoongi sighs. "I mean, I understand if …"
"Really?" Taehyung frowns. "You really want to, hyung?"
He'd hoped. Oh god, he'd hoped, but he hadn't really thought Yoongi would come back.
Yoongi snorts. "I wrote you a fucking album," he says. "I wrote you a song about your goddamn rooster. Of course I want to be with you."
"Oh," Taehyung says, trying hard not to smile. "But … hyung, how's it going to work out any differently this time?"
Yoongi shakes his head. "I don't know," he says. "It's gonna be fucking hard, Taehyung, but I just … I'd rather work hard at this - for you - than anything else." He swallows. "I've been thinking maybe you might want a silent partner for the business. Someone willing to sink some money into this place. You could fix up the old house and put in a real dark room. Maybe a recording studio too."
Taehyung smiles. "I like it," he says. "An artists' retreat."
It's just a silly dream for now, but Taehyung has heard sillier dreams than this one of Yoongi's.
He swallows. "Porkpie was really jealous that you wrote a song about Artichoke, you know."
Yoongi rolls his eyes. "I can write her a song too."
Taehyung nods, satisfied. There's a weird moment then where he's not sure what's going to happen, but then Yoongi steps forward and as naturally as winter turns into spring he opens his arms and Yoongi presses his face into Taehyung's shoulder and Taehyung swallows and holds him as tight as he can. They stay like that for a moment or two, quiet and still, and then Taehyung takes Yoongi's hand and they walk back to the house.