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There’s music playing in the background; something low and  bass heavy, the kind Jeongguk resolutely avoids just because of how much it grates against his consciousness. The beer in his hand shakes with the force of it, and if he concentrates, he can feel the beat in his chest, humming through his veins to skitter along his bones.

 

Carefully, Jeongguk sets his beer down. He looks around, taking in the mass of writhing bodies, the haze of smoke coming from upstairs, the low hum of conversation that isn’t quite discernible.

 

It’s a relief, realizing that he’s been left to his own devices for the time being.  Jeongguk lets out a loose breath and tugs his beanie low over his eyes before he walks towards the door, keeping his head down.

 

“Gukkie!”

 

Jeongguk stiffens. In the back of his head, he knew he’d been asking for a little too much, but still, he can feel the disappointment washing over him again.

 

“Hey, hyung,” he mumbles, internally flinching  when he feels the hand settle over his shoulder, a familiar touch. “I was just -”

 

“Leaving,” Jimin finishes for him, damp hair hanging in his eyes, a choker settled in the curve of his throat. There’s  a bright grin spread over his features and his eyes are cut into folds of mirth, arms folded across his chest. “C’mere, Gukkie, lets go dance.”

 

“But-” Jeongguk falls quiet at the glare Jimin throws him. “Okay, hyung.”

 

Dancing with Jimin, Jeongguk learns, is a bit like dancing with the sun. Everyone watches them, jealous and yearning but still captivated, and it’s strange, to have so many eyes on him when he’s like this. Jeongguk isn’t good in crowds, isn’t good in terms of socializing, and if it were up to him, he would be in bed with his laptop, rewatching Kimi No Nawa for the hundredth time.

 

But sometimes, sometimes, Jimin manages to convince him.

 

“It’ll be fun,” he had said, beaming at Jeongguk with his signature grin, eyes curved into pretty half moons. “C’mon, Gukkie, you can’t live like this forever. Please? We can go home whenever you want, and I’ll even buy you lamb skewers if you -”

 

“Lamb skewers ,” Jeongguk mutters  bitterly. “ It’s always the fucking lamb skewers.”

 

Jimin cocks his head to the side, sweaty and disheveled, but in a graceful sort of fashion that only he can ever be. “What was that?”

 

“Nothing,” Jeongguk shakes his head, brows furrowed. The music is just as loud as before, just as obnoxious and  annoying, and Jeongguk doesn’t want to do this anymore but they’ve barely been here an hour, and he’s not about to ask Jimin to come home with him. “I’m just - I’m not feeling too well, hyung, give me a few seconds.”

 

Without waiting for a reply, Jeongguk ducks out from the middle of the room, letting loose a sigh of relief when he finally reaches the kitchen. It was so crowded in there, so overwhelming and loud, that the bubble of constant anxiety under his skin had reared its ugly head again, beckoning with a sardonic grin.

 

He can feel it now, too. Can feel it just by the tips of its nimble fingers, catching at the strings of his heart and cackling when the air from his lungs disappears, leaving behind anxious panic.

 

Hissing through his teeth, Jeongguk checks his wrist for the rubber band he always has there. He flicks it against the skin of his wrist, focusing on the sting instead of the heavy thump of his heart, a habit he’s developed since he started college. He has constant cuts because of it; a wrist kissed red, broken skin moving haphazardly across  prominent bones, but it helps.

 

The breath he takes in next is deep. His head is swimming, fingers plucking with increasingly panicked force, and it’s a little bit difficult, in this second, to keep himself from falling apart. The rubber band isn’t much of a distraction. It snaps at his skin, a resounding shtick that echoes in his ears, and it’s with a faint thought that Jeongguk realizes he needs to get out before he breaks.

 

He hasn’t been here before, but he lets his feet carry him up the stairs and out of the  kitchen, into an empty corridor where a still sort of quiet resides; low and fuzzy and just barely brushing against his conscious, but it’s still too much.

 

(Not enough)

 

Jeongguk isn’t quite sure how he manages to do what he does next. He’s at his wits end like this, with anxiety clawing at his brain, with it nitpicking through the letters of his thoughts, but still, finding his way into a room that isn’t his  wasn’t in his best interest.

 

It’s dim. There’s a lamp in the far corner, washing the walls in  warm light, and an open window just beside it, a windy breeze whistling through the curtains.

 

Jeongguk sags against the wall in relief when he hears how blissfully quiet it is.

 

He curls into himself under the sill of the window, focusing on his breaths, the shallow rise and fall of his chest, the sting in his wrist, but even then, he can feel the emotions brewing under his skin.

 

They hit him with a vengeance.

 

When Jeongguk has anxiety attacks, he usually expects them. It’s been years since his first one, and now, he’s learned his lesson; he doesn’t eat before exam days, because if he does, it will inevitably come back up an hour later; he keeps to his comfort zones, keeps to himself , branches out only if he has to, because otherwise, he’ll end up like this.

 

And this -

 

This is a nightmare.

 

He doesn’t know when he started shaking. He doesn’t know when he tucked into himself, knees against his chest and arms wrapped around them. He doesn’t know when he realized that he couldn’t breathe, when the walls between his head and his thoughts started pushing together, when he started rocking back and forth in time to the rapid beat of his heart.

 

There’s a noise coming from somewhere. High and whiny and a little choked, it echoes in the small room, bounces off the dark blue walls until Jeongguk realizes, distantly and without much fanfare, that it’s him.

 

He’s crying.

 

“Hello?”

 

Jeongguk, in this second, in this aching, terrible second, doesn’t register anything. In the far back of his head, he passes it off as his imagination, as a panicked hallucination of sorts, but when a hand settles over his shoulders, a pair of pretty, narrow cut eyes staring into his, he realizes it isn’t.

 

Instead, Yoongi, Min Yoongi , with his bleached  hair and his inked skin and his glimmering piercings, is staring at him.

 

Jeongguk’s breath catches in his throat.

 

“Hey, are you -”

 

Yoongi stops himself when he catches sight of Jeongguk’s  face. His lips push out into a small 0 of surprise, brown eyes wide, the words in his throat stuttering out in a string of expletives. “Shit, shit, hey, don’t cry - I didn’t - are you okay? Fuck, I’m not-”

 

I’m fine ,” is what Jeongguk tries to say. Instead, what comes out is something of a sob, ripped from his throat, loud and uneven and a little pathetic. “I -I -”

 

Shit, ” Yoongi presses a hand against his forehead before dropping to his knees, fingers folding over the shoulder of Jeongguk’s jacket with quiet hesitance. “Did anyone hurt you? Can you tell me who it was? What it was?”

 

“N - N -” it’s a hiccup. The words in Jeongguk’s throat get caught there, among the pins and needles of too little breath, but still it seems, in that second, Yoongi understands .  

 

“Oh ,” he breathes.

 

For a fleeting second, he doesn’t do anything. His features settle into an expression of softened worry, pretty eyes bleeding questions, the smooth line of his jaw cut sharp.

 

Then, just as  if he’d been doing it all along,  Yoongi is hugging him.

 

Jeongguk isn’t quite sure how it happens. Distantly, he feels Yoongi’s arms wind their way around his shoulders, his face buried into the crook of Jeongguk’s neck, words dancing across his skin in waves of warmth. “It’s okay,” he mutters quietly, rubbing up and down Jeongguk’s arms. He doesn’t let go, not even when he feels Jeongguk stiffen, not even when Jeongguk squirms and hiccups and gasps. “You’re going to be okay. Breathe, kid. Breathe.”

 

So Jeongguk does. Instead of his wrist, instead of his breath and his worries and his insecurities, he focuses on the feel of Yoongi wrapped around him, his low voice, the satoori staining his syllables. “Breathe,” he repeats, tightening his grip to rock Jeongguk back and forth. “Breathe. I know it sucks. I know it feels like you’re drowning, but - but you’re not. I promise. It’s going be okay.”

 

Jeongguk listens. His chest feels tight, his throat tighter still, but the echo of Yoongi’s words sound in his ears, a firm, quiet sort of voice. He takes in a deep breath, air settling in his lungs the way it should’ve been doing all along, and when Yoongi catches his gaze, he nods in encouragement. “Again,” he says, calm and unwavering. “Do it again.”

 

With a nod, Jeongguk lets his eyes flutter shut, tipping his head back to rest against the window sill. He breathes, counting to ten in his head and then back again, until his heartbeat is steady , until he can hear his thoughts, until a pair of dark, pretty eyes come into focus.

 

It’s quiet.

 

For a few minutes, Yoongi doesn’t say anything. He’s still clinging to Jeongguk, limbs threaded around his shoulders, jaw set but features unsure. Jeongguk lets out a heavy breath, hands curling into loose fists.

 

If he listens closely, he can hear Yoongi’s heart beating just as fast as his.

 

“Sorry,” Yoongi mutters suddenly. He’s watching Jeongguk with his bottom lip caught between his teeth, features tight. “I - I probably should have asked before I did that, but I didn’t, and um. Sorry. You don’t know me --”

 

“I know you,” Jeongguk interrupts. His voice is soft, still a little hoarse and uneven, raspy. He clears his throat and tries again. “I know you.” he repeats.

 

Yoongi pauses. He stares at Jeongguk, sleepy eyes narrowed. “You do?”

 

Jeongguk nods. “Min Yoongi,” he recites dutifully, hands clasped together in his lap. Yoongi’s shifted away from him, still kneeling on the floor, but a little farther than before. “You major in music production?”

 

“Um,” Yoongi shakes his head a little, as if to clear it. He doesn’t look at Jeongguk, eyes trained on the carpeted floor. There’s a faint blush rising on his cheeks. “Yeah, that - that’s me.”

 

Pleased, Jeongguk gives him a shy grin. “See? I know you.”

 

This time, Yoongi laughs. It’s a low sound, feathered out and endearingly raspy in the way that Jeongguk can tell, even after just a few minutes, that it’s rare. “Okay,” he agrees, lips turned up at the corners. “But, still. I should have asked.”

 

Jeongguk, instead of answering, shifts a little closer.  He wraps his arms around his knees and settles his chin there, a stray strand of hair falling into his eyes.  “No,” he shakes his head, tired and a little unsure, but for the most part, firm. “I’m - It was really good, what you did. That’s the fastest I’ve ever calmed down before, so - thank you.”

 

Yoongi stares at him, surprise etched into his features. The tips of his ears burn red, silver piercings winking prettily in the dim light, and when he grins, a small, shy thing, Jeongguk can tell he’s pleased. He doesn’t say anything, ducking his head and pushing his hands through his hair, the ring wrapped around his index finger glinting silver.

 

A few seconds later, after a comfortable quiet  has settled between them, Jeongguk clears his throat again. Yoongi startles, looking up and blinking when Jeongguk sticks out his hand, eyes crinkled into half moons. “Hi,” he says, giggling a little at Yoongi’s confusion. “I’m Jeon Jeongguk and I major in vocal training. I’m a sophomore this year.”

 

Yoongi is still staring at him, and this time, the laugh that leaves Jeongguk is a genuine one. “I figured it wasn’t fair,” Jeongguk grins, his hand still hovering in the air, fingers loosely curled. “That I know you, but you don’t know me. So.”

 

For a minute, Yoongi doesn’t say anything. His gaze wanders over Jeongguk, lingering on the cut of his jaw, the width of his shoulders, his boyish grin and his crinkled eyes.

 

He smiles.

 

“Hi,” Yoongi takes Jeongguk’s hand in his, fingers threading together. He’s still grinning, but this time it’s different; a little gummier, a little wider. Jeongguk’s breath catches in his throat. “It’s nice to meet you, Jeongguk. Call me hyung.”

 

 

Yoongi is pretty.

 

The first time Jeongguk sees him is after a lecture, walking underneath the trees at a languid pace. He has his hands stuffed into his pockets, blonde hair falling delicately into his eyes, the silver stud in his nose catching under the sun to glitter. There’s a black jacket settled over his shoulders, and it  collects at his knees to give way to a pair of torn jeans,  his timberlands scuffing along the concrete with every step he takes.

 

His features are delicate - narrow eyes and pouty lips bitten red, the soft slope of his nose endearing. He has a lithe frame, curled into himself underneath the bulky jacket the way he is, but it’s what Jeongguk sees next that has him taking in a harsh breath.

 

Ink is stitched into Yoongi’s skin; it’s stark against his arms, his throat, even a wisp of what looks like a flower tattooed where the neck of his shirt dips into a v. But instead of looking excessive, Yoongi’s ink gives off an impression of care - even then, without knowing him, Jeongguk could tell each design, each blot and prick and stain, had a meaning behind it.

 

Somewhere deep  in his heart, Jeongguk aches to find out what they could be.

 

But he’s shy; he’s shy and uncertain and terribly hesitant, and in the end, that’s what it all comes down to - not if yoongi is pretty, not if it’s what he wants, but that Jeongguk doesn’t know what to do, or how to do it.

 

Instead, Jeongguk watches and listens and learns and then, after months have passed and Yoongi finds him in the middle of an anxiety attack at a frat party, he falls.

 

 

“Hyung!” Jeongguk giggles into his hand, arms wrapped around his knees. They’re still at the party, sitting in the room upstairs, the spaces between them full of laughter and want and not much else.

 

Yoongi grins. It’s pretty, the way his eyes curve upwards to crinkle into laugh lines, just the barest hint of his gums peeking through from between his lips. He tilts his head to the side and nudges his foot into Jeongguk’s, tucked into himself a little bit aways.

 

“Don’t laugh , it was terrifying. I was literally just sitting there, trying really fucking hard not to hiccup, and at first I think it’s okay, right? That Professor Kim, freakin’ baldy, head-ass Professor Kim must’ve not heard me-

 

“But if it was in the middle of an exam-”

 

“- Hush, I was sleepy and tired.” Yoongi’s grin widens, the moonlight spilling across his face highlighting the gentle slope of his nose, the sharp line of his jaw. “So Kim keeps walking around the room and -”

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

Jeongguk turns, eyes widening a little when he catches sight of Jimin leaning into the open doorway. His clothes are sticking to his skin, hair falling thickly into his eyes, and it’s clear from his expression that he’s relieved.

 

“Oh, thank fuck,” he breathes, sagging where he stands. “Do you know how long I’ve been looking for you? It’s been hours , I called you at least five times, I even cornered Taemin and -”

 

“Jimin,” Jeongguk says quietly, cheeks pink with embarrassment. “I was just - I was with Yoongi hyung up here.”

 

“Yoongi hyung?” Jimin’s gaze cuts to Yoongi, whos been sitting curled into himself since Jimin interrupted them.

 

“Me,” Yoongi confirms, sending a small smile Jimin’s way. He stands, brushing his clothes off before helping Jeongguk to his feet, expression a little more guarded than before. He sounds stiff. “I’ll see you later, Jeongguk,  yeah? I had fun.”

 

Jeongguk nods, the touch of Yoongi’s hand against his a phantom warmth. “Yeah,” he agrees quietly, letting himself smile at Yoongi the way he’s wanted to from the beginning, shy and timid but sure. “Me too.”

 

Yoongi waves before he walks out, narrow eyes soft. He brushes past Jimin with a nod, shoulders slouched low, but before  he can round the corner, he turns back one last time.

 

His features are twisted into an expression of hesitance, arms folded tight across his chest, but he straightens to his full height, the set of his mouth determined. “Jeongguk,” his voice is firm; quiet and low and endearingly raspy, but still firm. “You know the Sweet Shoppe just behind the fine arts building?”

 

At Jeongguk’s confused nod, Yoongi takes in a deep breath. “Okay. Um -I’ll be there from twelve to four tomorrow, would you - can I take you out?”

 

He stands there with his hands tucked into his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels. A facemask Jeongguk hadn't noticed before is pulled up to his chin, covering half his face, but even through it Jeongguk can tell he’s nervous, the worry in Yoongi’s eyes giving him away.

 

Jeongguk grins. “Sure,” he acqueises, distantly aware of Jimin watching them from where he’s still standing against the doorway, lips pursed in surprise. “But only if you pay, hyung.”

 

Yoongi stares at him, the tips of his ears burning red, before he lets out a laugh, loose and low and relieved. “Okay,” he agrees easily, sending Jeongguk a smile again, but this time it’s wider; gummier. “It’s a date.”

 

And then he’s off, the tips of his fingers curled in a half-hearted goodbye, as if he doesn’t quite want to go but has somewhere to be. Jeongguk watches as he disappears around the corner, the sound of his footsteps thudding down the stairs until all that’s left is the echo of his laugh.

 

“So,” Jimin says eventually. His gaze is  heavy, lips parted in an unasked question. “What was that about?”

 

“That,” Jeongguk says quietly, leaning against the wall with a giddy expression, a thrum of excitement fluttering through his bones. “Was Min Yoongi.”

 

Min Yoongi, as Jeongguk tells Jimin on their walk home, is an enigma. He’s somewhat famous among the music majors, a prodigy caught in the very throes of his own passion, a mess of angry words, rapid-fire beats, too little sleep and a thirst for success.

 

“He’s…” Jeongguk searches for the words, his arm linked with Jimin’s as they amble down the street. It’s windy outside, but it’s a pleasant sort of chill, the kind that skims their skin in gentle breezes. “A genius.”

 

Jimin laughs a little, low and endeared and utterly fond. “Sure,” he agrees, ignoring Jeongguk’s pout in favor of teasing him, smile impish. “Or you just have a crush.”

 

Jeongguk shoves him. Jimin bats his hands away, still laughing, but this time it’s louder. “Did I say anything wrong?” he asks, amused. “You talk about him like he hung the stars in the sky, Jeongguk, don’t look at me like that.”

 

“Shut up.” Jeongguk tells him, but it’s half hearted at best, a little pathetic at worst. “He’s just -”

 

Warm, is Jeongguk wants to say. He’s warm and kind and sweet. He has pretty eyes and a raspy laugh and his piercings catch on the light when he talks. He’s smart and he listens to me even when I don’t have much to say. I like him.

 

“Nice,” is what Jeongguk settles on. He shrugs his shoulders and tugs on his beanie, feeling small and for a  reason he doesn’t want to admit, upset. “He’s just really nice, hyung.”

 

“Gukkie,” Jimin edges closer, catching Jeongguk’s hand in his. His touch is familiar, fingers short and chubby and warm, voice gentle. “Don’t do that.”

 

Jeongguk shrugs. “ ‘m not doing anything.”

 

“You are.” Jimin grabs him by the shoulders, a tired sort of expression lingering in his features. His lips are twisted into an frown, eyebrows knitted together in what could be either frustration or concern, but what Jeongguk can tell is both. “Stop feeling like - like you’re unlovable. Like you have this problem that keeps you from dating, like you’re some kind of freak-

 

“But I am,” Jeongguk says quietly. He’s had this discussion with Jimin countless of times before end every time, it gets a little more difficult to remember why he even lets himself fall at all; why he lets himself get hurt in the first place.

 

Jimin looks helpless. “You’re not.” He runs his hands through his hair, pushing back his fringe before it flops over his forehead, frustrated. “Just because you’re asexual-”

 

Jeongguk flinches, but Jimin carries on, words echoing in the still night. “Just because you’re asexual doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date. Not everyone treats it like a deal breaker, Jeongguk, and that’s because it’s not . For fucks sake, there are plenty of people who wouldn’t care, who don’t care. You just need to find one. “

 

It’s quiet.

 

Jimin stands under the streetlight just outside of their apartment, jaw set and arms crossed. He looks a little bit upset, eyes dark with emotion, expression so very earnest and genuine, but Jeongguk -

 

Jeongguk is so tired.

 

“Are you done?” asks Jeongguk uncomfortably. The air outside is chillier now, clingy and relentless, and Jimin looks ruffled in the breeze, as if he’s unraveling at the seams.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Good.” Jeongguk says. He turns on his heel to walk up the stairs, shoulders slouched under the heavy material of his jacket. The thump of Jimin’s footsteps behind him is faint but sure, and Jeongguk doesn’t have to look to know that he’s frustrated.

 

It’s a testament to their friendship that they aren’t fighting.

 

When they reach their apartment, Jeongguk taps in the passcode and waits until Jimin has shut the door before settling onto the couch, a pillow hugged to his chest. Jimin putters around, grabbing cups and filling them in preparation for the hangover he will inevitably have tomorrow, and as Jeongguk watches him, he feels something warm and aching turn over in the pit of his stomach, a little bit like regret.

 

His next few words are quiet. “Hyung.” Jeongguk keeps his face buried in the couch pillow, legs tangled in the afghan that’s normally thrown over the arm of the sofa. Remorse bubbles low in his gut. “I like him.”

 

The sounds of Jimin padding over are soft. The tap of their sink shuts off, the clink of glass in the dishwater settles, and even though Jeongguk keeps his face buried in his pillow, he can feel Jimin’s shadow fall over him. “I figured.”

 

Jimin sounds amused, if not still a little bit miffed. Jeongguk nods slowly, clutching the pillow tighter, fingers curled over the threaded edges. His throat feels tight. “Um. Yeah.”

 

The couch dips when Jimin curls up next to him, unceremoniously yanking the pillow out of Jeongguk’s hands and into his own, peering at him through critical eyes. “So? What are you going to do about it?”

 

Jeongguk takes in a deep breath. He pretends he doesn’t see Jimin’s lips curving upwards in a smile, ignoring the hand that dances forward until it’s twining into his own, Jimin’s touch a familiar comfort. “I’m going to get up and go to the Sweet Shoppe, but at 12:30 instead of 12 so I don’t come off as desperate. I’m going to look cute as fuck. I’m going to get a boyfriend.”

 

Jimin grins. It’s his mischievous one, but there’s a hint of pride in it, as if he feels personally responsible for the choices Jeongguk makes, as if he’s raised Jeongguk himself. It’s cute. “There we go, bub. I knew you had it in you.”

 

Jeongguk reaches behind him and throws another pillow at Jimin, pretending he doesn’t feel as apprehensive as he is, instead letting hope settle into his heart as it so rarely does in situations like this.

 

Because Yoongi is kind and sweet and he has cat-like eyes and a pretty mouth, and Jeongguk is asexual and in like and he wants.

 

 

In the past, all of Jeongguk’s broken relationships can be narrowed down to one factor - sex.

 

“We’re in college,” Taehyung had said. He looked at Jeongguk with hopeless eyes, fringe brushed off of his forehead, slouched over in a loose red sweater that had belonged to Jeongguk not even two months ago, when they first started dating. “I like you. I - I love you, but Jeongguk, I can’t keep doing this.”

 

“I wasn’t asking you to,” Jeongguk  replied quietly. He kept his gaze down, his hands in his pockets, ready to leave and be done with it, but Taehyung wouldn’t let him until he had finished his piece, it seemed.

 

“I know you weren’t,” Taehyung said. “But I did it because I felt like I needed too, and that’s not your fault - Jeonggukkie, hey, it’s not your fault -”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk sniffled, keeping his hand pressed over his eyes, palm wet with tears he didn’t want Taehyung to see. He’d been humiliated enough for one day as it was “It’s not. But you’re not staying, right? You never planned on staying, Taehyung, so just - don’t make excuses. Pity doesn’t suit you.”

 

Taehyung had nothing to say to that. He rubbed a hand tiredly over his face, caramel hair and sunkissed skin and red sweaters gone, just like that.

 

Jeongguk hasn’t seen him since.

 

Before that, there were others; Yugyeom,  Seungcheol, Minho - they had all ended it the same way, with the same expressions, with the same sad, empty words thrown into the air to fade into the remains of what was, and what would no longer be.  

 

In the end, it’s just Jeongguk.

 

Just Jeongguk and his broken heart and too much love, left alone with nowhere to put it all.

 

 

“Hey,” Jimin stands in the doorway of his bathroom, amused. “You look good, Jeongguk, you can stop that now.”

 

Jeongguk stares in the mirror distractedly, brushing his hands through his hair before throwing a beanie over the hour-long blow-dry and gel style he’d just perfected. Behind him, Jimin groans.

 

“What was the point,” he demands, throwing his hands up in the air, cheeks puffed out like an angry chipmunk. “If you were just going to wear a hat?”

 

“It’s not a hat,” Jeongguk replies, fixing the edges until his fringe can be seen peeking out, a few dark strands falling into his eyes. The silver hoops in his ears glint and he considers wearing his gauges, the small black ones that aren’t nearly as nice, but decides against it. He feels prettier in these.

 

“Then what is it?”

 

“It’s a beanie,” Jeongguk doesn’t turn around, carefully applying kohl to his waterline as a finishing touch. He’s already feathered out the shadow at the very corners of his eyes, concealer dotted in his problem areas, Victoria’s Secret perfume sprayed and settled along his clothes. “It’s stylish .”

 

Jimin lets out a playful scoff, but he doesn’t say anything else, choosing instead to lean against the doorway to watch. He knows it’s more about the process for Jeongguk than it is the end result; looking pretty is always a plus, but there’s something calming about fixing the blemishes and filling in the cracks, because even if he’s falling apart on the inside, Jeongguk can look put together on the outside - it’s routine and it helps and at the very end, he feels better about himself than he did before.

 

“Okay,” Jeongguk places the pencil down, zipping his makeup bag shut before he studies himself in the mirror again, appraising himself critically. He doesn’t notice Jimin coming up behind him, but he does startle when a pair of familiar arms wind around his middle, a comforting touch.

 

“You look great,” Jimin says sincerely. “If Yoongi doesn’t want to date you after you tell him, then he’s not worth it, Gukkie, okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk nods, turning around and dropping his head onto Jimin’s shoulder, a familiar feeling of anxiety bubbling low in his stomach. “But it - it would be nice, if he does. Want to date me, I mean.”

 

Jimin hugs him tighter. “I know, kookoo,” he murmurs, the special nickname from back when they were kids leaking out. “But on the off chance that he doesn’t - on the off chance that he’s an asshole, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. It’s a him problem.”

 

Jeongguk lifts his head to give Jimin a smile, a bundle of shy bunny teeth and pretty piercings and red beanies. “Thanks, hyung.”

 

Jimin has to stand on his tiptoes to ruffle his hair, but he does it fondly,  with his eyes folded into slits of mirth before he pushes Jeongguk gently out the door. “Good luck, Gukkie. You’ll be just fine.”

 

Jeongguk nods his thanks. He leaves with a soft goodbye, hands tucked into his pockets, heart heavy as he walks towards what could be a new beginning.

 

 

Yoongi is already sitting there when Jeongguk reaches.

 

He’s tucked into a corner, a pair of thick, black framed glasses balanced delicately on his nose. His fingers flit across the keyboard of his laptop, a gentle tap-tap that doesn’t let up even when Jeongguk settles into the seat across from him, headphones fit over his ears.

 

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even glance at him, clicking away at his laptop with the kind of energy only a sleep-deprived college student has. Strangely enough, Jeongguk feels endeared.  He watches him, admiring the way light catches on the soft slope of Yoongi’s nose, spilling across the curve of his lips and the cut of his jaw. He’s paints a hazy scene, settled the way he is, with sunlight slanting over him, faded at the edges but clear in the center, a lovely contradiction of sorts.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t want to look away.

 

But just a few seconds later, their quiet corner of calm is interrupted. A shadow falls over their table, and Jeongguk startles to find a waitress standing beside them, a notepad in her hand and a smile fit across her face. “Would you like to order anything?”

 

Yoongi jerks, moving one headphone so that the other is still covering his ear. His eyes widen when he catches sight of Jeongguk, a hint of pink blooming in the tips of his ears, a flush that steadily spreads to his cheeks. He looks a little lost sitting there, lips parted in an unsaid apology, but Jeongguk waves him off with a shy grin  before turning to the waitress.

 

He orders what he usually does, a hot chocolate with extra whip cream and a shot of peppermint, the feeling of Yoongi’s gaze lingering on his skin heavy. When the waitress leaves, Jeongguk turns back around sheepishly, but before he can apologize, Yoongi does it for him.

 

“Sorry,” he blurts.

 

They stare at each other for a few seconds, the flush in Yoongi’s cheeks colouring darker before he says it again, quieter this time. “Sorry,” he repeats, taking his headphones off completely, features resigned. “I have a bad habit of, um, zoning out, and to be fair, I didn’t - I didn’t think you were actually going to come.”

 

Curiously, Jeongguk cocks his head to the side. “Why?”

 

Yoongi purses his lips quietly. He stares at Jeongguk before slouching where he sits, the sleeves of his black turtleneck folded up, inked skin printed dark under the sun. “You really don’t know?” he asks, quiet.

 

“No,” Jeongguk answers honestly. He fiddles with his beanie again, a nervous habit, and doesn’t notice Yoongi following the movement, the fond quirk of his lips. Uncertainty floods his head, and Jeongguk’s stomach churns at the sudden thought that Yoongi’s invite had been empty. “But, um, I can leave if you want to work -”

 

This time its Yoongi who interrupts. “Hey,” he sits up straight and takes his glasses off, dark, pretty eyes coming into focus. “Hey, no, that’s not what I want, I just meant that - that you’re really cute.”

 

Jeongguk blinks. Yoongi seems to realize what he said and he flushes deeper still, but he doesn’t move to take it back, squaring his shoulders instead.  “You’re really cute,” he repeats softly. “And I’m - not.”

 

Yoongi doesn’t look at him but he has his hand palm up on the table, fingers loosely curled, and in Jeongguk’s eyes, it’s an invitation.  Carefully, Jeongguk reaches forward and lets his fingers thread together with Yoongi’s, offering a gentle squeeze when Yoongi turns to him, surprised.

 

It occurs to him then, that he’s not the only one with insecurities - Yoongi has his doubts too, has his worries, and he’s been nothing but kind to Jeongguk for the short while they’ve known each other.

 

Jeongguk likes him.

 

“You are.” he squeezes again, Yoongi’s hand warm in his, fingertips spanning against his knuckles. He feels a little bit shy. “You, um - your smile. The other day, at the party, it was really - really gummy, hyung. Your eyes did this thing where they kind of -” Jeongguk ignores the loss of warmth when he takes his hand out Yoongi’s, instead gently curling Yoongi’s index finger until it’s touching his palm . “-kind of like this.”

 

For a fleeting second, Yoongi doesn’t do anything. He stares at his hand, at Jeongguk’s fingers wrapped around his, at the tangle of bracelets that clink together whenever Jeongguk moves his arm.

 

And then he laughs.

 

It’s just as pretty as it was the first time. Yoongi’s lips curl upwards, revealing a hint of his gums, and his eyes fold into crescents of mirth, button nose scrunching as he throws his head back to let out a low laugh. Jeongguk feels warm just watching him, something quiet and pleased and a little hopeful unfurling in his chest.  

 

When Yoongi’s laughter fades, he turns to Jeongguk, one eyebrow raised in amusement. He moves, shifting closer, and the medley of flowers stitched into his arm catch under the sunlight, the lines traced elegantly in black. “Are you telling me I have small eyes, Jeongguk?’

 

Jeongguk has to physically tear his gaze away. He aches to see the rest of Yoongi’s tattoos, to discover the plethora of secrets he’s sure to have hidden beneath his turtleneck, to touch and feel and find. “Well,” Jeongguk begins, offering Yoongi a half smile from where he’s sitting, words letting themselves out of his mouth without permission. “The more we laugh, the less we see.”

 

It takes a few seconds for Jeongguk to register what he said. He stiffens at the sudden quiet, mentally berating himself until he feels Yoongi’s fingers curl around his, lips parted in silent laughter. Yoongi shakes, shoulders slouched down, half his face buried in the shoulder of his jacket to keep from being too loud.

 

(Jeongguk wants. )

 

“Oh my god,” Yoongi says, laughter lingering in the low tones of his voice, half exasperated and half fond. “Oh my god, I cannot believe you just said that, I-”

H doubles over again, a mess of bleached hair and silver piercings and pretty tattoos. His fingers are still threaded with Jeongguk’s, one of his rings a steady reminder that Jeongguk is here , with a small, delicate-looking boy he’s been crushing on for a few months.

 

It feels like a dream.

 

Their conversation flows easily after that. They sit there, tucked into the corner of a small cafe, the scent of coffee and chocolate comforting. Yoongi keeps his hand in Jeongguk’s, listens to what he has to say, asking questions here and there every so often. His piercings glimmer whenever he tilts his head to the side, his tattoos dark under the sun, and Jeongguk is endeared and in like and happy.

 

He doesn’t realize how much time has passed until Yoongi tells him. “Shit,” he mutters, voice raspier than usual because of how much he’d been talking, unfinished Americano sitting across from him. “Jeongguk, its been 3 hours.”

 

“What?” Jeongguk is sipping at his third hot chocolate of the day, none of which he’d paid for. He surfaces from his cup with a whip cream mustache, pausing a little when Yoongi reaches across the table to wipe his top lip, the pad of his thumb a fleeting touch. He does it naturally, leaning back in his chair without a second thought, and Jeongguk feels warmth in the very tips of his fingers. “It, um - it’s really been that long?”

 

Yoongi stands, rubbing  his shoulders and stretching. The sleeves of his turtleneck fall forward to hide his tattoos, and when he cracks his neck, the last dredges of sunlight catch on his nose stud, sending an array of colours over his features.

 

He helps Jeongguk up with a sweet grin curving his lips. A facemask Jeongguk hadn’t noticed before hangs around his neck, and when Jeongguk stands, he reaches over to hook his fingers into the material, a rilakkuma face emblazoned where Yoongi’s mouth would otherwise be.

 

“I didn’t know hyung liked cute things,” Jeongguk teases, beaming at Yoongi with a bright grin. He doesn’t notice Yoongi pausing, instead turning around to clean up the mess he’d left on their table.

 

“Well,” Yoongi says when he turns back around, a hint of red already blooming in his cheeks. “Why do you think I asked you out?”

 

Jeongguk blinks. Yoongi is watching him for a reaction, but he doesn’t seem too worried, hands tucked into his pockets and lips turned up in a small grin. “Um. What?”

 

“I like you,” Yoongi says simply. His grin turns wider, gummier, narrow eyes soft and dark and endeared. “I want to take you out again, if - if you’ll let me.”

 

The proper response in this situation would be to tell Yoongi - calmly, quietly, like an adult - that yes, Jeongguk would let him. But Jeongguk isn’t proper, has never really been proper, and as he understands approximately two seconds later, will never be proper.

 

“I’m asexual.” Jeongguk blurts.

 

For a few long, quiet seconds, Yoongi doesn’t do anything. But then, almost as if he’s amused, he raises an eyebrow. “That’s not synonymous with aromantic, is it?”

 

Jeongguk looks at him suspiciously. “No,” he ventures, fiddling with his own piercings, another one of his nervous habits. Idly, he wonders if Yoongi’s managed to pick up on any of them. “Not for me, at least.”

 

Yoongi nods. His fingers curl over the strap of his backpack, pretty and nimble, nails painted an opaque black, cut even and short. “Okay. So tomorrow at six, then? There’s a new Mexican-Japanese fusion place just a few blocks from where I live, if you want to-”

 

“You-” Jeongguk interrupts, tucking into himself the way he does whenever he has something to say, but doesn’t quite know how to get it out. Yoongi is staring at him curiously now, lips parted in unsaid words. “You’re okay with that? Because if you’re not, then - then don’t do this.”

 

“Hey,” Yoongi says quietly. He steps forward and takes Jeongguk gently by the arm before walking him out of the coffee shop and into the warmth of a summer evening, the trees outside dancing in the light breeze. Under the cotton candy sky, he looks softer; hazy and faded out, like a pretty polaroid. “Can you take a deep breath for me, Jeongguk? Please?”

 

Jeongguk nods. Yoongi can tell he’s panicking, and its odd, he realizes, that Yoongi had the sense to take him into an open space, a place where its easier to breathe without wanting to collapse. His other friends wouldn’t have known to do that.

 

Yoongi is still touching him, fingers wrapped endearingly around Jeongguk’s elbow. He nods when Jeongguk takes in a deep breath, asking him to do it again, and then again until Jeongguk isn’t panicking quite so much anymore, the knots in his chest having unraveled into threads.

 

They stand there for awhile, the sun low in the sky, the only sounds audible those of the cars rushing past them. It’s a quiet evening, the kind where everything is still and nothing seems concrete, a bit like a dream that’s bound to be forgotten.

 

“Okay,” Yoongi says eventually. His voice is low and purposefully so, glasses perched on the very tip of his nose. He looks small and soft and awfully delicate like this, with most of his tattoos hidden, the worry in his eyes evident. “Can I say something?”

 

Jeongguk nods.

 

Yoongi takes his hand, threading their fingers together the way they had been back in the coffee shop. “I like you,” he says again, kind and unbearably firm. “I want - I want to take you out. Fuck, I want to date you. I didn’t know you were asexual, but I don’t care that you are; it’s not something I’m particularly focused on, Jeongguk, yeah?”

 

Tentatively, Jeongguk squeezes Yoongi’s hand. It’s bigger than his, warmer and more calloused, the feel of his palm against Jeongguk’s a steady comfort. “Really?”

 

Yoongi shakes his head. “Really.”

 

“Because-” Jeongguk begins, peering at Yoongi through anxious eyes, bottom lip caught nervously between his teeth. “Because people have said that before, and , and they don’t mean it, hyung. No one ever really means it.”

 

In the back of his head, Jeongguk is aware of how pathetic he must sound. But the worry sitting in his stomach is louder, and when Jeongguk sniffles, wiping miserably at his face, he hears Yoongi’s sharp intake of breath.

 

“Hey,” Yoongi steps closer, carefully catching Jeongguk’s wrists  in his hands. He has a gentle touch, the tips of his fingers barely more than a light pressure against Jeongguk’s skin, sweetly fleeting. “Baby, no, hey, don’t do that.”

 

Jeongguk sniffles again. Yoongi has to reach to touch him, has to lean forward to until he can thumb away the tears staining Jeongguk’s cheeks, dark eyes soft and full of warmth. “Listen,” he murmurs, keeping his hands pressed to Jeongguk’s face. “I can’t vouch for others, but I can definitely vouch for myself, alright? I mean it, Jeongguk, it doesn’t matter for me.”

 

Jeongguk, teary and still sniffling, wraps Yoongi in the tightest hug he can. Yoongi is small against him, thin and delicate, but he pets Jeongguk’s hair, brushing his fingers through the strands the way he would a child in need of comfort.

 

Eventually, Jeongguk pulls away. He’s sure he looks a mess, sure that his eyes are red and his face swollen, but Yoongi is watching him with kind eyes. “You okay?”

 

“Yeah.” Jeongguk nods and shuffles closer again, still shy but wanting to be near. “You, um, - you said six? For tomorrow?”

 

Yoongi blinks at him, surprised. “Yeah,” he grins then, wide and gummy, pretty lips curving upwards. “I can pick you up, if you want.”

 

Jeongguk nods. “Yes, please.” he says, and then he’s taking Yoongi’s hand in his, keeping his grip loose on the off chance that Yoongi wants to pull away. He doesn’t. Tentatively, Jeongguk nudges him. “Can you walk me home?”

 

Yoongi’s grip in his hand tightens, his fingers twining around Jeongguk’s easily, as if he’s been waiting for him to ask. “I would love to.” he says sincerely, turning his catlike eyes on Jeongguk again, pretty and soft and kind. “Lead the way."