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A Dog and His Boys

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There’s no law against keeping odd hours.

Yoongi is sure of it.

It’s entirely his right to go to sleep just as the sun is rising and normal people are waking up and getting ready to drag themselves to whatever soul-sucking office job provides them with just enough money to eek by for another week.

There are rules, though, against letting your annoying little puffball dog bark its head off every fucking day.

“Jesus Christ,” Yoongi mutters, opening his eyes. His blackout curtains are drawn, and his lights are out, and he’d been so, so close to beautiful sleep when the barking started again.

He rolls out of bed and nearly trips over his desk chair. He catches himself on the wall and stumbles towards the door. This is it. This is the day. He’s finally going to tell that damn Guy Across the Hall that this is fucking unacceptable. He’s finally going to give him a piece of his fucking mind. He’s…

Yoongi puts one eye to the peephole.

Across the Hall is just stepping of his apartment. He leans forward to say something to that evil little dog of his, and then gently shuts his door. He takes a moment to straighten his coat. The morning sun streaming through the window next to the elevator catches the honey highlights in his hair.

It’s newly dyed. Last week it had been coppery red.

Not that Yoongi pays attention to stupid details or anything.

Across the Hall settles his expensive leather bag on his shoulder, and for just a moment, standing straight with his shoulders back, he looks like something from a fashion magazine: tall and exhaustingly handsome and wearing clothes that cost more than Yoongi makes in a month.

Yoongi hates guys like that. Always has. Across the Hall is just the kind of rich, handsome, inconsiderate asshole who would let his dog yap away when hard working, weary neighbors are trying to sleep.

Asshole.

The elevator dings and Across the Hall steps on.

Damnit. Yoongi missed his chance again. The dog barks and barks again, shrill and grating even through two walls.

“Shut up,” Yoongi mutters. “He’s not coming back. He can’t hear you.”

He squeezes his eyes shut. His head is pounding. Too much coffee last night. He stumbles over to the white board next to the fridge and scrawls a reminder to himself to stop at the property management office to enter another noise complaint.

Not that it does any good.

Exhausted, so tired he can barely move, he slouches back over to his bed and collapses. Moving as little as possible, he fishes around in the mess on his nightstand until he pulls out two ear plugs. He jams them in his ears. It’s not comfortable, but the near silence is a blessing. He exhales and drops his head onto his pillow and finally, after a long weary time of staring at the blank expanse of the ceiling, he falls asleep.

*****

Yoongi wakes up again a little later in the afternoon. He is too hot, sweltering in his hoodie and flannel pajama pants. He lies in bed for a little while, unwilling or unable to force himself upright. He needs to shower. He needs to piss.

It takes a while before he’s up to any of that.

Finally the call of nature urges him from his bed. He pisses and then washes his hands and then washes his face with cold water. He’ll shower later. He takes off his hoodie and pajama pants and pulls on a clean-ish pair of sweatpants and a different hoodie from the pile of clothes heaped in front of his closet door. So maybe it’s been awhile since he’s done laundry. So what? It’s not like he’s going anywhere. It’s not like he has anyone to impress. He’ll get around to it.

One of these days.

He steps over another, smaller pile of clothes and stares forlornly at his kitchenette. A coffee maker sits on the counter, but he’s pretty sure he’s out of coffee. The fridge is no less heartening. He’s got an old container of kimchi his mom sent up, a sad head of lettuce, and a carton of eggs. He could fry an egg for lunch, but he had an egg for dinner last night. And for lunch yesterday. And the day before.

He’s going to have to go to the store. He’s been putting it off, just like he’s been putting off the laundry. The thing is, Yoong has been writing songs for an album -- his album -- for a while now, and he’s finally close to a breakthrough. He can feel it. Inspiration is just around the corner, and he doesn’t want to get distracted. If it means that some of the routines of everyday life have been a little neglected, well … that is a price he’s willing to pay.

But today, he needs to go out. Yoongi checks to make sure that he’s got his phone and his wallet, and opens his front door. He hesitates. The hall is dark, cool, and empty. The door across the hall is shut, and the terrible little dog is silent.

He walks down the silent hall to the elevator and presses the button. He taps his foot. One … two … three …. four …. five … Isn’t it supposed to be faster than this? Finally, with a pleasant chime, the door slides open.

Thankfully, nobody else is inside.

It’s not that Yoongi doesn’t like people. He just has better things to do than make pointless small talk.

He steps in and jams the Door Closed button.

The elevator opens onto a clean, sunny lobby. Yoongi sees the property manager sitting behind his desk. He's always sitting there, reading his newspaper, listening to old songs on his cheap radio.

"Ah, Yoongi-ssi," he says, blinking slowly. He has heavy-lidded, sleepy eyes.

"How are you, uncle?" Yoongi says.

The old man nods. "Back is acting up," he says. He coughs gummily. "And I can't shake this cough. My wife says it's allergies." He snorts, like the idea of allergies is somehow personally offensive to him.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Yoongi says, without much feeling. He takes a breath. "Listen, uncle, that dog in the apartment across the hall was barking again this morning."

The old man narrows his sleepy eyes. "Dogs bark, Yoongi-ssi," he says, in the manner of dispensing a pearl of precious wisdom.

"I can't sleep," Yoongi says, scowling. "There are noise ordinances... Pets are supposed to be properly trained. I'm working on a very important project right now. That person across the hall has no consideration. "

The old man fixes him with his yellow fish eyes. "So you want to file another complaint?"

"Yes," Yoongi says, squaring his shoulders. "I want to file an official complaint against apartment 1439."

The old man nods. From one of the drawers in his desk, he withdraws a yellowed piece of paper. The form has been photocopied so many times it's blurred and hard to read, but Yoongi knows what to do. This isn't the first complaint he's filed.

He fills in all the required fields: his name, his apartment, the nature of his complaint. He should just ask for one of these things and make copies with all the answers already filled out.

He's not sure it does him any good. The old man doesn't seem like he's taking urgent action, and the dog is still barking. It makes him feel a little better though, and that's got to count for something.

He signs the bottom of the form and presents it to the property manager with a flourish. "There," he says.

"Your complaint will be reviewed," the old man says, barely glancing at the form. He puts it away in another drawer in his desk.

Yoongi frowns. "You're going to forward it to the management company, right?"

"Of course," the old man says. "I always do, Yoongi-ssi."

"Thanks," Yoongi says begrudgingly.

"It's my job," the old man says, turning back to his newspaper. He glances back at Yoongi then for just a moment. "You should get out for a walk, Yoongi-ssi. It's a beautiful day outside. Might make you feel a little less ..."

"What?"

"Tense, is all," the old man say, holding up one hand as if to demonstrate that he means no offense.

Humph. Yoongi isn't fucking tense. He's just an exacting person. He just expects other people to show him the same kind of consideration he shows them. He never leaves garbage in the hall, and he keeps his music turned down. He's a great neighbor, and he doesn't want to listen to that stupid little dog every morning when he's trying to sleep.

It's not an unreasonable request.

At least he doesn’t think so.

*****

He buys his groceries. Basic stuff. Rice, instant ramen, some cheap prepackaged stuff. His mother would kill him if she knew he were eating this way, but whenever his parents make noise about coming up to Seoul to visit, he puts them off. He's a busy guy. Working hard. No time for visits right now, Ma. He'll go down to Daegu and see her soon, anyway.

Eventually.

It's a nice day and he takes the long way back from the grocery store. Trees are in bloom, and the world is fresh and green again. The sun is warm and feels good on his face. He almost considers stopping and getting a coffee, sitting outside at the cafe and watching the world pass by. He used to do that kind of thing a lot, with Hoseok and Namjoon, before they all graduated and went their own ways. Before Yoongi started going out less, and staying in to work on his album more.

But he has to get home and put his groceries away.

Maybe tomorrow he'll come get a coffee.

He takes the empty elevator back up to his floor. The hall is quiet and dark, and his apartment is dark when he opens the door. He forgot the open the blackout curtains. He does so now, but the light reveals what mess his apartment is.

He puts away the groceries and then kicks the clothes on his floor into a few tidier piles. He even sorts some of the clothes and fills his hamper. He can do a load of laundry in the morning.

He eats some lunch and then thinks of taking a shower, but he's got an idea for a song he’s been working on. He gets these brain waves every so often, but too often what he hears in his head fails to translate into anything worthwhile. It’s frustrating, and it’s his own damn fault. If only he were a little better, a bit more talented. If only he devoted himself a bit more to his art…

But the only thing to do is to keep working, so he plants himself at his computer instead and opens up Pro Tools. By the time he looks up again, the sky outside his window is dark. Not properly dark. No spangled field of stars in Seoul.

As dark as it gets though. It's almost midnight.

He doesn't know where the day goes. He's gotten a lot done, but somehow it feels like a waste.

He pushes back from his desk. He should eat some dinner. He should take a shower. He should go to fucking sleep.

He's so close to being done with this song, though. He just needs a little more time.

He snaps his headphones back on, and closes his tired eyes.

Back to work.

*****

Yoongi wakes the next morning tangled in his sweaty sheets. The curtains are open; bright sunlight fills the apartment. He feels groggy and too-hot. He doesn’t remember going to bed last night. His computer is still on, and he’s wearing the same clothes he wore last night.

He sits up. His head swims for a moment and then settles. He reaches for the bottle of water on his bedside table. It’s tepid but he’s thirsty and takes a long drink. His phone tells him it’s nine twenty seven. Huh. He can’t remember the last time he was waking up at this hour.

He blinks a few times to clear the sleep goo from his eyes. His bedroom is starting to resolve into the familiar tableau: rumpled bedding, floor littered with dirty laundry.

He really needs to do some wash.

Before the motivation can leave him, he starts shoving clothes into his hamper. The pile near the closet almost fills it, but he fits in half of the pile by the bed. Well. That will have to be good enough. He’ll take it downstairs and put it in the washer, and then go get a coffee. Yeah. That seems like a good plan. Look at you go, Min Yoongi.

The dog across the hall yaps suddenly, and the noise jangles Yoongi’s nerves.

“Shut up,” he mutters. “Don’t you ever shut up?”

He squeezes his eyes shut. Across the Hall might be an inconsiderate asshole, but he’s not going to ruin Yoongi’s day.

Yoongi shoves phone and wallet in his pocket. He toes into his shoes — Namjoon always used to say he’d ruin good sneakers doing that, and sure enough he has. He grabs the hamper and opens the front door and —

Freezes.

There’s a thing in the hall. Ankle high and resembling nothing so much as a feather duster with a pair of bright, dark eyes. It looks up at him. A little pink tongue lolls out of its mouth. It barks once, and then twice.

Oh shit.

Yoongi glares down at it. “What are you doing out here?”

The dog looks at him with blank interest.

He scowls back at it.

“Great,” he mutters to himself. “Now you’re going to be terrorizing the halls, too, huh?”

Warily, he crosses the hall and pounds on Across the Hall’s door.

“Hey! Your dog is out here!”

There is no response.

“Hey! Hello? Asshole? Your dog is out in the hall. Your dog got out.”

The little thing gets to its feet and patters in a circle around Yoongi, excited by the commotion.

He pounds on Across the Hall’s door one more time, but he doesn’t much hope. Sure enough, there’s no response.

The dog looks up at him, eager, alert. His little tail wags frantically.

“You’re not my problem,” Yoongi mutters. He gets his hamper of clothing from where he left it by his own door.

Across the Hall probably just ran out. He’s probably going to be back any second, and his little furball will be all safe and sound. Yeah.

Yoongi drags his hamper down the hallway.

Behind him, little claws click clack on the linoleum.

Yoongi turns and glares.

The dog sits.

“Stay,” Yoongi mutters, but as soon as he turns his head, he hears the clatter of paws on floor again.

He turns. The dog is closer.

“I’m doing laundry,” he explains. “You can’t come with me. Wait here for your asshole owner.”

The dog wags its tail more frantically yet.

Yoongi is an asshole, but he’s not some kind of monster. He sighs.

“Come here,” he says, crouching down. “Here, fuzzy.”

The dog prances up to him. It’s so small and light on its feet it practically seems to be floating. He holds out a tentative hand. A tiny wet nose touches his finger. He beckons again, reaches out and …

The dog dances out of his reach.

He tries again to much the same result.

Sighing, he gets to his feet.

“Fine,” he says, glancing down at the little devil. “I bet you like sausage, huh?”

He enters the code and opens his door. The little dog waits on the threshold, hesitant. There are some sausages in the back of the fridge, from a care package his worried mother had sent. They’re a little out of date, but it’s probably fine. Dogs eat everything, right?

He opens the package and cuts a slice off of one of the sausages. He crouches down near the door and holds it out. The dog jitters forward, eager, little mouth open. His tiny pink tongue is wet and soft against Yoongi’s palm. He looks up, expectant.

“You like that, huh?” Yoongi asks.

He shuts the front door, and cuts up the rest of the sausage, and puts it in a saucer on the kitchen floor. The little dog eats greedily, ignoring Yoongi totally.

What the fuck. What is this thing doing in his apartment?

It’s not like he could just leave it in the hall though, right? What if it had gotten on the elevator and then outside? What if it’d gotten hurt?

He squeezes his eyes shut.

Jesus.

“Just … just stay here,” he mutters. “I’m going to put my laundry in.”

He watches a moment longer, but the dog is intent on his food.

Fine. He’ll be fine for ten minutes.

Yoongi retrieves his hamper from the haul and takes the elevator down to the basement. All the machines are empty at this time of day. He fills two, adds some detergent, and feeds in a few coins. He’s got forty five minutes until the cycles are done. He still wants that coffee, but …

Back upstairs, his first thought is that the dog has vanished. The sausage is gone, and there’s no sign of his awful little guest.

“Shit,” Yoongi mutters. “Shit. Is this some kind of escape artist dog or something?” He clears his throat and in the same voice his mom uses to talk to babies he says, “Hey, fuzzy. Here, boy. I’ll give you more sausage. You want more sausage don’t you?”

The clothes heap near the bed starts to wag its tail.

The dog is nested deep in the pile of Yoongi’s dirty clothes, but at the offer of food a furry brown and black head emerges. The dark markings over the dog’s eyes look like two thick eyebrows. It’s kind of cute.

“Shit,” Yoongi mutters. “Just went and made yourself at home, huh?”

The dog pops out of the clothes pile and trots over to sit at Yoongi’s feet. It puts one little paw on the foot, entreating.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Yoongi tells him. “I’m just waiting for your irresponsible owner to get home.”

Oh shit. What if he’s missed Across the Hall? What if Across the Hall came back while he was downstairs putting his laundry in? Yoongi wants this damn thing out of his apartment as soon as possible.

“Hang on,” he says. “Let me go see if your dad is home.”

The puffball wags his tail pitifully, but stays put in the middle of Yoongi’s rug.

Yoongi gives him one last glance, and then steps out the door and across the hall. He knocks three times but there’s no answer.

Damnit.

“Sorry,” he tells the dog when he gets back inside his own apartment. “You’re stuck with me for a while longer.

He turns the deadbolt so the door doesn’t close all the way. Across the Hall is as loud as his dog: always singing and whistling to himself as he comes home. With the door ajar, Yoongi will be able to hear him coming. He’s preparing a few choice words to say to him about responsible dog ownership and courteous neighborship and overall not-being-an-asshole-ship.

He doesn’t know what to do with the dog. He never had pets growing up. His mom was allergic. Normally he’d be working or something but when he sits down at his computer desk, he can feel the dog staring at him. Its black button eyes bore into the back of his skull.

“What?” He mutters.

The dog yips. Yoongi gets up and sits down on the floor beside it. It wags its little wisp of a tail and tries to bite the toe of Yoongi’s sock.

“Hey!” He chides, curling in his toes. “Watch it.”

He leans way over to the side and fishes around under the bed and eventually comes up with a dusty and unloved single sock with a hole in the toe.

“Here,” he says to the dog.

He throws the sock a pitiful four feet. It flops to the floor and the dog pounces on it and shakes it violently. Once its prey is subdued, the dog picks it up and carries it over to Yoongi, eager for more. Yoongi sighs but he takes the dusty, slobber-covered thing gingerly and throws it again. The dog is utterly delighted and pounces again.

They repeat this exercise ten or twenty times, until Yoongi’s arm is starting to ache. Damn. Is he really in such bad shape? He’s never been an athlete, but he used to be able to more than hold is own against Namjoon and Hoseok in a game of pickup basketball. It’s been a while since those days, though. Hell, it’s been a while since he’s even called Namjoon. He needs to do that. He really has no excuse.

He gets the dog a bowl of water, and then goes down and moves his laundry.

Still no sign of Across the Hall.

They play a little more fetch, and then it’s time for Yoongi to get his clothes from the dryer.

The door across the hall remains stubbornly shut.

When he comes back from getting his clothes, the dog is sniffing suspiciously at his dirty clothes.

“Oh no you don’t,” Yoongi says. He looks around. Shit. No leash. There’s a belt hanging off the end of his bed. It’s not really long enough … but ah. There’s another. He buckles the two together, and then fixes the end of one of them around the dog’s collar. It’s not really long enough, but it’s gonna have to work. If this thing pisses on his clothes there is going to be hell to pay.

Fuck. What if Across the Hall comes back while Yoongi is walking his little terror?

He scribbles a note on the stupid Kumamon pad that Hoseok got him for Christmas and tapes it to Across the Hall’s door.

I have your dog — Apartment 1440

He frowns at it critically. Sounds kind of creepy.

Oh well. If that asshole hadn’t let his poor dog get out into the hall Yoongi wouldn’t have to leave him creepy notes. Serves him right.

They walk slowly down to the end of the block, taking care to inspect each and every shrub, stone, and building corner. The dog, he learns, is definitely a he. He pauses at the intersection and glances down at the little guy. The dog wags his tail. His pink tongue lolls.

“Okay,” Yoongi says tiredly. “One more block.”

Waiting for the light to change, a tall and rather well dressed woman in stiletto heels leans down to coo.

“He’s just so precious,” she asks, pushing up her sunglasses. “Is he yours?”

“No,” he says, slowly. Right. People make polite conversation. That’s what they do. “Uh. I’m watching him for a friend.”

Her eyes light up. “Oh,” she says. “That’s so kind of you. What’s his name?”

Shit. “Uhhh.” Yoongi’s tongue feels too thick. “Fuzzy.”

“Cute!” She exclaims. She scritches under his chin, and his little eyes half close. “Oh, you like that, don’t you?”

The light changes. The woman gets to her feet and beams in Yoongi’s direction. “Tell your friend his dog is just precious,” she says, before running to cross the street.

“Uh,” Yoongi says.

That’s the most he’s said to a stranger in … a while. Months.

They cross the street and head down to the end of the next block and then turn around. Fuzzy attracts more admirers.

“You’re pretty popular, huh?” Yoongi asks him, as they head back into the lobby of his building.

Fuzzy’s head is held high. Seems like he knows it. Dog’s got as much attitude as his owner, apparently.

They take the elevator up to the fourteenth floor, but there’s no frantic Across the Hall waiting at Yoongi’s door. Yoongi leaves the note up, and brings Fuzzy back inside. He cuts up another sausage for him and gives him more water. He feels weird and antsy, so he decides to fold his clothes. He doesn’t get as far as putting them away, but he folds them all and stacks them on the dresser. He puts the rest of the dirty clothes in the hamper, and then makes his bed.

He feels weird working, so he gets his laptop and sits on his bed and watches this movie he remembers Namjoon mentioning to him a while ago, an American film with robots and monsters. He’s just getting settled in when Fuzzy yips in an decidedly annoyed tone. Yoongi glances. The little monster is at the side of the bed staring up at him. Yoongi sighs and leans way over to scoop him up. He deposits him on the covers and restarts the movie. Fuzzy circles around a few times, and then sits right in the crook of Yoongi’s arm. He’s warm and surprisingly solid for such a little guy.

Yoongi narrows his eyes. Fuzzy grins a doggy grin.

“Fine,” Yoongi mutters, and he shifts to make a little more room. The movie is interesting, but Yoongi is always tired, and it’s not long before he’s fallen asleep.

Sometime later, Yoongi is woken by a knock on the door.

“Hello? Hello! It’s Taehyung!”

Yoongi doesn’t know any Taehyung. He blinks. The movie is over. He missed almost all of it. Damn.

Fuzzy, nestled at his side, stirs.

He must know a Taehyung, because he hops down off the bed and starts barking his head off.

“Yeontan? Yeontan!! Is that you?”

Yoongi slides off the bed and steps around Fuzzy to get to the door. He peers through the peephole. It’s Across the Hall. Shit. He grabs the dog by the collar and opens the door.

“Oh my god,” Across the Hall — Taehyung, apparently — says. “Yeontannie, are you okay?”

Taehyung drops to his knees. Yeontan hops and dances with delight, jumping up to lick his owner’s face.

Yoongi steps backwards.

“Uh,” he says, a little defensively. “I found him in the hall this morning when I went to take my laundry down.”

Taehyung looks up. His eyes are big and dark and full of apparently sincere emotion.

“I’m going to kill Park Jimin,” he says dramatically. He stands then, and brushes his hair out of his face, and Yoongi is reminded forcefully that Taehyung is tall and well dressed and beautiful and …

“I’m so sorry,” Taehyung says. “My friend is staying with me. Yeontan must have gotten out when he left this morning.” He shakes his head. “I told him to be careful.”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says, lamely. “Uh. It was no problem. I just didn’t want him to get outside or anything so I brought him in here.”

Taehyung reaches out and grabs Yoongi’s hand. His hands are large and warm. His palms are very soft. “How can I ever thank you? I don’t know what I would have done if anything had happened to Yeontan.”

Yoongi’s face goes hot. “It was … I mean. It wasn’t a big deal.”

Taehyung squeezes his hand. “We both owe you so much. Is there … Can I take you out to dinner to say thanks?”

Yoongi snatches his hand back. His palms are getting sweaty. Taehyung doesn’t seem to notice his overpowering aura of awkwardness.

“I work at night,” Yoongi blurts out.

Taehyung looks blankly at him for a moment. Then he brightens. “Oh! So that’s why I never see you.” He smiles, a funny box smile that is oddly charming. “Jimin and I joked that you must be a vampire or something. I know all the other neighbors on this floor, but I’ve never even seen you before today.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, frowning. “I work nights.”

Already said that. Damn.

Taehyung frowns. “You don’t work nights as a vampire, do you?”

Yoongi snorts. “No,” he says. “Uh. No. I’m a producer. Music. And I’m writing an album.”

Taehyung’s eyes go all round. “Oh wow,” he says. “That’s so cool! Uh… Sorry, what’s your name?”

Oh right. “Min Yoongi.”

“Yoongi-ssi! It’s so nice to meet you.” He holds out his hands again. They shake. Again. Damn. This guy is almost as awkward as Yoongi is, although he seems only marginally aware of it. “I’m Kim Taehyung.”

“Nice to meet you,” Yoongi mutters.

At their feet, Yeontan yips.

“Ah, calm down, buddy,” Taehyung says. “We’re going home in a second.”

He smiles at Yoongi once more. “If you change your mind,” he says, “Yeontannie and I would love to treat you to dinner. Just let me know. You know where to find me.”

Yoongi blurts out, “If you want to thank me you can keep him quiet.”

It comes out hard and harsh and mean, so much worse than Yoongi intends.

Taehyung’s brows knit together. His eyes narrow. His fine features are a mask of suspicion.

“Are you … Are you the one who’s been filing all those complaints?”

Yoongi’s cheeks go more red. “I … It’s really hard to sleep when he’s barking,” he says lamely.

Taehyung frowns. “He’s not that loud,” he says. That gloss of kindness is gone from his voice.

“It makes it hard for me to work” Yoongi says.

Taehyung is looking at him with dark, injured eyes. Yeontan is looking at him too. Yoongi feels like the biggest asshole in the entire universe.

“I’ll try harder to keep him quiet,” Taehyung says. “I’m sorry, Yoongi-ssi.”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says. “It’s fine. Just. You know. I sleep in the mornings.”

Taehyung smiles again, but this time the smile doesn’t reach his eyes.

Good job, Yoongi. You already fucked up. Nice going.

“Well,” Taehyung says. “Thanks again. We’ll let you get back to your work, I guess.”

Taehyung scoops Yeontan up in his arms. The little dog kisses his cheek. Yoongi shuts the door behind them.

Just a moment later, the door across the hall slams shut.

Yoongi sighs.

He’s such an asshole. He’s such a mess.

He turns to face his empty apartment. The little dish still holds a few slices of sausage. The little water bowl is still on the floor. He empties them both and washes them, and stacks them beside the sink.

The apartment looks strangely empty now, and cold. Yoongi can still feel the warm, heavy weight of Yeontan, sleeping curled into his side. Only fifteen minutes ago -- maybe less -- and the comfort still lingers.

Oh well. It’s all over now. Yeontan is back where he belongs, and Yoongi is disabused of any notions he might ever have had about Across the Hall -- Taehyung. There’s no way he’s ever going to talk to Yoongi again, not after this.

All over.

Yoongi breathes in. It’s fine. He pours himself a glass of water and then takes a seat at his desk. Time to get to work.

*****

The next afternoon, he’s sitting at his keyboard working through a melody that’s been floating around on the periphery of his brain when there’s a knock at the door.

Yoongi frowns. He glances at his phone. He didn’t order any food -- it’s only three o’clock.

Nobody else ever really knocks on his door.

He is shocked when he peers through the peephole and sees Taehyung and Yeontan standing in the hall.

Fuck. What now? Is Taehyung going to tell him off for complaining to the building? Did Yeontan get diarrhea from those expired sausages? Is the little furball somehow traumatized by his brief sojourn in Yoongi’s apartment?

This is why he doesn’t bother with people. They’re more trouble than they’re worth.

He as much as admitted to Taehyung that he’s a creepy shut-in who barely ever leaves the house; there’s no point in pretending he’s not home. He takes a deep breath, and opens the door, bracing himself for the worst.

“Ah, Yoongi-ssi!” Taehyung’s tone is bright.

Yeontan starts yipping and jumping. His tiny little paws are barest pressure on Yoongi’s shin.

“Hi,” Yoongi says. “What’s wrong? Did I --”

Taehyung laughs, a little too loudly. “Nothing’s wrong,” he says. “Nothing’s wrong. Um. It’s just that Yeontan won’t walk.”

Yoongi frowns. “He walked for me yesterday.”

Taehyung laughs again. “Ahh,” he says. “It’s not that he won’t walk, exactly. He just keeps stopping in front of your door.”

In spite of himself, Yoongi is flattered. “Hmmph,” he says. “I guess I’ve always had a way with animals.” A lie. “Why don’t you just pick him up?”

Taehyung sighs. He’s wearing a long scarf wound around his neck, pink and yellow and navy stripes. “I tried,” he said. “But the little guy keeps struggling and whining. I feel bad forcing him …” He squares his shoulders. “I know it’s a big imposition, Yoongi-ssi, but would you be willing to come for a walk with us? For Yeontan?”

Yeontan, sitting at Taehyung’s feet, wags his preposterous little puff of a tail. His pink tongue is hanging out of his mouth again. He looks more like a stuffed animal than a dog, honestly.

Still. It would be pretty cruel of Yoongi to refuse.

“Okay,” he says. “Sure. Give me a second to put on some shoes.”

He pulls a clean-ish hoodie out from the pile of clean and folded clothes (he’ll get around to putting them away eventually) and sits on the floor to lace up his sneakers. He grabs his wallet and phone … and then freezes.

Is he really going to do this? Is he really going to go play escort to some spoiled little cottonball of a dog and his stupid, distractingly handsome owner?

Apparently so.

“Okay,” he says, stepping into the hall and shutting his door behind him. “Let’s go.”

“Hear that, Yeontan?” Taehyung says in a goofy voice. “Yoongi-ssi is going to come with us! Are you ready to go for your walk now? Are you? Are you?”

It’s pretty ridiculous, but the dog jumps and leaps excitedly.

Thankfully the baby talk is over by the time they get to the elevator.

As he presses the button, Taehyung catches Yoongi’s eye and smiles again.

“I really appreciate this,” he says. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. He’s never been like this before. Whenever Jimin stays over, Yeontan is a terror. He’s probably eaten ten or fifteen pairs of Jimin’s socks.”

“Your dog’s got just good taste, I guess,” Yoongi says.

It’s just a throwaway comment, but Taehyung cracks up.

He really is kind of awkward, once you get past the silk scarf and expensive trench coat and perfect features and all.

For some reason, that makes Yoongi feel better.

Outside, it’s one of those bright spring days where the sun is warm but the breeze is cold. Yoongi shoves his hands in his pockets. Yeontan sniffs discerningly at the potted flowers in front of their building.

“Have you lived here long?” Taehyung asks.

Yoongi nods. “A couple of years,” he says. “I was living with a friend for a while after college but it was… Anyway, I needed more space for my equipment, so I found this place. Two years ago in September.”

Taehyung nods. “Wow,” he says. “I moved in two years ago in September, too. We’re move-in buddies!”

“Uh,” Yoongi says. “Yeah.” Move-in buddies? What is that?

“We should have a party,” Taehyung says. “Apartment-versary!”

“Ooooh-kay,” Yoongi says.

Taehyung beams. “Awesome.”

In front of the bakery down the street, Yeontan does his business. Taehyung crouches down and cleans up after him and ties the little baggie with a neat knot. It seems weirdly private, so Yoongi turns away.

“I normally take him another block or two,” Taehyung says after he deposits Yeontan’s business in the garbage can at the corner. “Is that okay? I know you probably have a lot to do and it’s …”

“It’s fine,” Yoongi says quickly. He does have a lot to do, but it’s not like this is taking that long. He’ll go another few blocks with them, and then they’ll all turn around and go home. That’s fine.

“Okay,” Taehyung says, still smiling. “Great. Thank you.”

The light changes. They cross the street.

“So how did you --” Yoongi asks.

At the same moment, Taehyung says, “Have you ever tried the --”

“Sorry,” Yoongi mutters. Awkward. He’s so damn awkward. “You go first.”

“Have you ever tried that coffee place down the street? I’d like to treat you to a cup of coffee today, to say thanks.” Taehyung beams, like this is some gesture of impossibly magnanimity.

Yoongi likes coffee — loves a good cup of coffee, honestly. That’s the only reason he agrees.

They get a table on the patio. It’s too nice a day to stay inside, Taehyung says. He goes in to get the drinks while Yoongi stays outside with Yeontan. Yeontan sniffs the legs of the tables and chairs with interest for a few moments until he settles down at Yoongi’s feet, tail wagging frantically.

Yoongi peers down at him. “What?”

Yeontan’s tail wags all the harder.

Yoongi rolls his eyes and reaches down to scoop him up. His stubby little legs flail until Yoongi settles Yeontan in his lap. The dog circles and shifts, little paws digging into Yoongi’s thighs. He puts his front feet on Yoongi’s chest and his little wet nose brushes Yoongi’s chin.

Yoongi makes a face, and then presses his own nose against Yeontan’s.

Yeontan kisses him, little wet warm tongue scrubbing against Yoongi’s chin and cheeks.

“I missed you too,” Yoongi admits.

Yeontan kisses him again.

“Wow!” Taehyung says. He sets Yoongi’s americano and his own latte down on the table. The spoons rattle in the saucers. “He really likes you, doesn’t he?” Addressing the dog, he says, “You really like Yoongi-ssi, don’t you, Yeontannie?”

Yeontan gives Yoongi one last kiss on the chin and then hops down off his lap. Yoongi tries to hide his blush by wiping his face clean with one of the napkins Taehyung brought. “Gross,” he mutters, even though honestly he’d liked it.

“You really must have a way with animals,” Taehyung says, taking his seat. “Yeontan doesn’t usually bond with people so quickly. He’s a bit shy.”

He says this confidentially, as if worried Yeontan might overhear and be offended.

More to change the subject than out of real curiosity, Yoongi asks, “How long have you had him?”

“Eleven months, three weeks, five days,” Taehyung says, with immediate and alarming specificity.

Seeing Yoongi’s face, he laughs. “I’m just kidding,” he says. “About a year. He turned one in January.”

“Oh,” Yoongi says, “He’s still a baby.”

Taehyung smiles. “Yeah,” he says. “He’s calmed down a little bit, but he’s still a puppy.”

Yeontan sits politely near Taehyung’s feet, one little front paw crossed over the other. Yoongi takes a sip of his coffee. It’s good. He’ll have to remember that. He’s never been here, even though it’s just a few blocks from his apartment. Taehyung takes a sip of his drink too. The sky is bright blue overhead and the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day, but suddenly Yoongi sees that gaping conversational abyss yawning in front of him. What are they supposed to talk about now? This always happens. He gets through the pleasantries and then the conversation goes extinct.

But Taehyung is not daunted, apparently. “So,” he says. “You make music. Anything I would have heard?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “Probably not. I’ve done some work for dramas, but nothing popular. I think I might be composing the background music for a commercial for some like … cosmetics company or something, but it’s not a certain thing yet.”

“That’s really cool,” Taehyung says, even though it’s anything but. “I love music. I used to play clarinet.”

“Oh,” Yoongi says. Clarinet. That’s cool. He’s never really learned any woodwinds, but he’d like to try.

That’s what he should say, but the words fall down into that gaping chasm. Fuck. He waits too long. Taehyung is still smiling, but his smile fades a bit, maybe.

“Are you from Seoul?” Taehyung asks.

Yoongi shakes his head, grateful for the rope Taehyung is throwing him. “No,” he says. “I’m from Daegu.”

Taehyung’s eyes go wide. “No way,” he says. “I am too! Well, outside of Daegu.”

Huh. Yoongi wouldn’t have guessed that. “You really don’t have any accent at all,” he says.

Taehyung shakes his head. “I was really worried about sounding like a country boy when I moved up here,” he says. “I worked hard to get rid of it.” Then, switching to satori, he says, “I can turn it back on though.”

Yoongi grins. “Wow,” he says, letting his own accent come through. “You do sound like a Daegu boy.”

Taehyung grins too. “I lived with my grandparents,” he says. “They had a farm a few hours south of the city. Honestly, I figured I’d end up stuck there forever.”

“What happened?” Yoongi asks.

Taehyung shrugs. “I came up here with a friend to audition for an entertainment company.” He scrunches up his face. “It’s kind of embarrassing. I failed the audition, but someone offered me a job as a fit model for a online shopping mall. I did that for a while, and then my friend Jimin — he’s a dancer — got me a job as a stylist with the company he works for.”

“Wow,” Yoongi says. Of course Taehyung — tall and handsome and perfect — would be a model. Yoongi has never felt shorter or scrawnier or more like a misshapen lump of goo. “Uh. Do you like it?”

Taehyung cocks his head, lips pulled tight. He’s really expressive, Yoongi thinks. It’s weird.

“The stylist thing,” Yoongi says. “I mean, honestly, I always hear about stylists, but what exactly do you do anyway? Can’t celebrities get dressed by themselves?”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Oh wow,” he says. “There’s so much you don’t know, Yoongi-ssi.” He takes a deep breath and then explains. “I’m part of a team of three that works with two idol groups right now. We have to go pick up clothes from the designers and stores that sponsor our groups, and drop them off. We go shopping and we make alterations. We have to have current measurements for all the kids, and know their preferences. One of our guys doesn’t like to wear short sleeves, and another one thinks wide pants make him look too stocky.” He puffs up his chest a bit. “Clothes are really important, Yoongi-ssi. It’s my job to make sure our kids look good.”

“Wow,” Yoongi says again. “I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than five minutes thinking about what to wear.”

Taehyung laughs. “I can tell.”

Yoongi must not catch his face in time because Taehyung blanches and then says, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I just …” He exhales, making his bangs flutter. “Um. You can tell your jeans are old because the knees are starting to wear, and they’re a little too big for you, but you don’t seem to care about that because you just rolled them up instead of getting them hemmed or anything. Your hoodie is old too. The cuffs are frayed.” He sound almost apologetic. “It’s not like there’s anything wrong with that. I wear pajamas most of the time when I’m at home. I just notice this stuff, I guess.”

“Oh,” Yoongi says. Part of him still smarts at the insult, but part of him — the bigger part — is more impressed at how much Taehyung noticed. “You’re like a regular fucking Sherlock Holmes, huh?”

Taehyung laughs. “Not really. People always tell me I’m off in my own world, actually, but with clothes, I pay attention.”

Yoongi thinks Taehyung’s world sounds like kind of a nice place.

Their conversation is interrupted when a woman with a prissy white Maltese walks past the cafe. Yeontan, who has ignored all other dogs so far, seems to take some offense at the Maltese and starts barking loudly. The other customers give them dirty looks. Yeontan strains at the leash.

“Ready to go?” Taehyung asks, smiling at him.

Yoongi looks down and is surprised to see he’s done with his coffee.

“Yeah,” he says.

It’s nearly four o’clock when they get back to the building. Taehyung spends most of the walk back telling him a little bit more about his work — the odd hours he keeps, and the long days, and about having to sew a certain starlet into a dress backstage at an award show because she insisted on ordering her gown a size too small. Yoongi doesn’t care about clothes, but it sounds exciting, the way Taehyung talks about it. He likes, at least, how clearly Taehyung’s passion for his work comes through in the stories he tells.

Does he sound like that when he talks about music? When was the last time he talked about music to anyone that wasn’t thinking of hiring him?

A long time. Not since college, probably, or right after, before he moved out of the apartment he and Namjoon and Hoseok had shared.

They take the elevator up and walk down the hall and then they are outside their respective doors.

“Yoongi-ssi, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this,” Taehyung says. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s not a problem,” Yoongi says. “If you ever need a walk buddy again, you know where I live.”

“I do,” Taehyung says, sounding pleased. “Say goodbye, Yeontan.”

The little dog yips once, and then Taehyung’s door is shutting behind him and Yoongi is standing alone in the hall.

He watches Taehyung’s door for a moment but …

He sighs. He’s an idiot. He opens his own door and goes into his own empty apartment and locks the door behind him.

That had been … nice. Yeah. Really nice.

Well, at least now when they pass each other in the hall Yoongi will feel okay saying hello. That’s nice. Neighborly.

He closes his eyes for just a moment. He should get to work on the jingle for that commercial, but suddenly he is distracted. Instead he opens his blinds and lies down on his bed and watches the afternoon light fade until it is evening, thinking about the way Taehyung’s smile had looked even brighter than the warm sunshine.

*****

So that’s it, Yoongi thinks. He doesn’t see Taehyung the next day, or the day after that either, and he figures, okay, fine.Yeontan has gotten over his weird hang-up. No more dog walking assistance needed. He’s okay with that.

But on Saturday he’s just getting out of the shower when he hears a knock on the door. He pulls his jeans on and buttons them up. The person knocks again. Damnit. He doesn’t know who it could be. He throws his towel around his neck and calls, “Coming. I’m coming!”

He pulls the door open just as Taehyung — who is standing on the other side — prepares to knock again.

Yeontan barks loudly.

Taehyung cocks his head in that funny way he has. “Did I interrupt something?” He asks, amused.

Yoongi looks down at himself. Fuck. Right. Shirt. He forgot that.

“Uh,” Yoongi says. “Sorry. I just got out of the shower but I’m expecting a package and …”

He feels very self conscious all of a sudden. Narrow chest and knobby shoulders and soft belly, all on display. He crosses his arms awkwardly over his chest.

Taehyung laughs, high and delighted. “I was going to see if you wanted to come for a walk with Yeontan and I, but if you’re waiting for a package ...”

“No,” Yoongi says quickly. “Uh. I can just leave a note on the door.” He blinks. “Do you want to come in for a second while I finish getting dressed?”

Taehyung and Yeontan wait in the living room while Yoongi retreats to the bathroom. He stares at himself in the mirror for a moment. His cheeks are red, and his chest, a bit. Damn. He splashes some cold water on his face to make the flush go down and then pulls on a tee shirt and quickly brushes his hair. It’s warmer today, so he puts on a flannel shirt, and then tugs on one sock at a time, hopping around on one leg, which makes Yeontan bark and Taehyung laugh.

“This is where you do the music thing, huh?” Taehyung asks, looking with some interest at Yoongi’s desk, at his keyboard.

Yoongi nods. “Yeah,” he says.

“Cool,” Taehyung says. “You’ll have to play me something sometime.”

“Jingles and background music don’t make for very good independent listening,” Yoongi mutters.

Taehyung tsks. “I bought the Secret Garden OST because I liked That Man so much.”

Yoongi stares at him, shoes half tied. “Seriously?”

Taehyung shrugs, a little embarrassed. “Yeah,” he says. “Is that weird? Jimin said it was weird. He said I should have just downloaded it.”

Yoongi snorts. “Well,” he says. “I applaud your legal support of the arts,Taehyung-ssi. Some poor sucker like me probably got ten won from your efforts.”

Taehyung’s eyes go wide. “Ten won? That little?”

Yoongi shrugs. “Actually, it’s way less than that for royalties.”

Yoongi gets a check for a few thousand won every quarter from his publisher. It’s so insulting he usually doesn’t deposit it.

“Wow,” Taehyung says. “I never knew. You must really love composing to stick with it.”

“The commissions I earn are better.” Yoongi stares down at his half tied shoe. “But yeah,” he says. “I do.”

He finishes tying his shoe and gets to his feet. “Come on,” he says. “The jingles can wait. Yeontan looks like he’s about to burst.”

Taehyung laughs as he follows Yoongi out the door.

*****

That is the first of many postcard perfect afternoons they spend walking Yeontan that spring. They don’t go out every day, of course. Taehyung’s schedule keeps him busy, and the weather is sometimes bad. But two or three times a week, probably, through those first fine spring days, they walk together.

Their walks start short: a few blocks down to the coffee shop, where they stop and take a break, and then head back home. But as the weather grows warmer and the sky deepens from its winter-y pale to a rich, royal blue, they go further afield.

There’s a park in the neighborhood. Yoongi never visited before. What use does he have for parks? But it’s nice to walk there with Taehyung and Yeontan. There’s a dog park Yeontan likes to visit. Taehyung can let Yeontan off the leash. Despite being approximately the size of a piece of fluff, he barks and runs with the big dogs, only occasionally getting trod underfoot. He’s such a funny little guy, with his dark eyebrows and alert, fussy manner. It’s amazing how many people stop to talk to Taehyung about him. ‘What a cute dog you have!’ ‘Your dog is so adorable!’ ‘Oh, I love your dog. If you ever breed him you have to let me know. I’d love to raise a puppy.’

After that woman walks away, Taehyung leans over to Yoongi and whispers, “Poor woman. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Yeontan has been…” He mimes a snipping notion with two fingers.

Yoongi winces. “Poor little guy.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “No way,” he says. “I can barely handle the one dog. Can you imagine if I had five or six little Yeontannies running around?”

Yoongi can’t imagine, honestly.

Yeontan, who is barking at a leaf, doesn’t seem to much mind the loss.

So even though it’s not a regular thing, Yoongi starts to look forward to their walks, very much. It’s nice to have a reason to get out of the house, and he and Yeontan quickly become close friends. When Yoongi opens the door, ready for their walk, Yeontan doesn’t stop barking until Yoongi scoops him up and lets him kiss his face.

“He likes you better than me,” Taehyung says mournfully.

“Nah,” Yoongi says. “You’re his dad. I’m like the fun uncle who lets him do anything he wants. Isn’t that right, Yeontan-ah?”

Yeontan blinks at him lazily, which Yoongi takes to mean ‘Yes’.

Perhaps more surprising than the ease with which Yoongi befriends Yeontan, though, is the ease with which he befriends Taehyung.

For a long time Yoongi thought of himself as someone difficult and hard to please, with high standard and little patience. He could scowl and glower with the best of them. He liked to be alone, found crowds exhausting, and wasn’t interested in the inane details of most people’s lives.

That was the story he’d told himself to explain why he hadn’t left college with a profusion of friends, to explain why all of his fumbling attempts at romance had ended in embarrassment or failure. He’d told it to himself so often that he’d come to believe it.

But with Taehyung, none of those things Yoongi told himself seem to be true. He likes spending time with Taehyung, and doesn’t really care much what they do. It’s nice to sit outside at a coffee shop in the warm sunshine and listen to Taehyung talk about how one of the boys in the idol group he works with ruined a six hundred thousand won white mohair sweater by spilling a bubble tea down the front of it. Sure, Yoongi had heaped scorn upon the kid, railing about the careless youth of today, but he’d just been following Taehyung’s lead.

Yoongi likes listening to all of Taehyung’s work stories, even when they get a little repetitive. He likes Taehyung’s voice, and likes watching him talk. He doesn’t mind when Taehyung wants to go to the park on Saturday afternoon, when it is at its most crowded, even though they have to do four laps before they find a free bench. He finds himself thinking about Taehyung sometimes, too, when he’s working or doing the dishes or whatever, wondering if Taehyung would like the song he’s working on, wondering if Taehyung likes Mexican food, wondering whether Taehyung has ever been skiing.

It doesn’t feel weird or forced or annoying. It just feels like they’re friends.

Huh. Weird. Taehyung is his friend. He’s not a total social outcast, but it’s been a while since he’s had a new one of those.

He’s not so sure that Taehyung thinks Yoongi is his friend though, not until one day when Yoongi opens his door to find Taehyung there alone. Yeontan is nowhere in sight.

Yoongi frowns, and peers down the hallway. “Did Yeontan get out again?”

Taehyung’s eyes go wide. “What? No. Oh my god. Did he? Did you see him?”

“No,” Yoongi says urgently. “Shit. No. I mean. I just. Where is he?”

Taehyung smiles. “Oh,” he says, “He’s at home. I’m just coming back from work and I wanted to stop over before I forgot.”

He roots around in the big leather bag he’s always carrying for a moment, and then produces a package messily wrapped in tissue paper.

“Here,” he says, beaming. “This is for you, hyung!”

Yoongi frowns, taking the package. “What is this? You didn’t have to get me anything.” He lets the tissue paper flutter to the floor and holds up a very soft sweater that is the color of a stormy sky.

Taehyung scrunches his mouth into a little pout. “It made me think of you,” he says, containing his smile. “Try it on.”

Yoongi feels all funny, like there’s something scurrying around in his stomach. He pulls off his hoodie, and pulls on the sweater. His head get stuck for a moment before it pops through.

Taehyung reaches out to smooth out a wrinkle. “There,” he says.

Yoongi looks down at himself. The sweater fits him perfectly.

“This is way too nice, Taehyung. I can’t accept this.”

Taehyung waves a hand. “It’s fine,” he says. “It was something we bought at cost, but the boys never ended up wearing it. It’s too small for me, and …” He shrugs. “It just made me think of you.”

Yoongi rubs the soft wool between his thumb and index finger. “Thanks,” he says.

Taehyung beams. “It was my pleasure,” he says. “It looks really good on you, hyung.”

Yoongi carefully takes the sweater off and folds it up. He puts his hoodie back on. Taehyung watches him the whole time, attentive and pleased.

“I’m gonna go get changed,” Taehyung says, “But after that I’m going to take Yeontan out for a walk. Um. If you’re not busy right now, I mean, and you want to come.”

Yoongi smiles. “Let me put on my shoes,” he says.

So, yeah. He figures Taehyung might consider him a friend, too.

March slips into April, and without really meaning to, Yoongi starts to arrange his day around Yeontan and Taehyung. He gets to bed earlier so that he’ll be up when Taehyung takes Yeontan out in the morning. He doesn’t join them on their morning walks every day, but he does fairly often. He wonders if Taehyung realizes what a superhuman effort Yoongi is making to be upright and almost conscious before 8 am.

After they get back from the morning walk, Taehyung leaves for work. Yoongi offers to watch Yeontan during the day, so that he’s not alone. Taehyung doesn’t want to impose on him, but Yoongi insists it’s no big deal.

If he’s honest with himself, he likes having Yeontan around. The little guy is pretty well behaved, all things being equal. He’s perfectly content to make a little nest in Yoongi’s dirty laundry and settle down there while Yoongi works on the next great commercial masterpiece.

Besides, when he watches Yeontan, he gets to spend his entire day with a faint sense of anticipation: if Taehyung drops the dog off, he must also come pick him up. Yoongi will ask Taehyung in, of course, and inevitably they get distracted talking about something — how Taehyung’s day at work went, or the piece Yoongi is working on, or something adorable Yeontan did that Yoongi just happened to film. Sometimes, if Taehyung stays long enough, he’ll suggest they order food, or go out and get something to eat. They’ll have dinner together and only then will Taehyung take Yeontan and go home — across the hall but as good as a million miles away.

It’s not like Yoongi is a total moron. He knows what this is. He has a crush. A pretty severe one. It makes him feel like some kind of awkward kid, especially because he knows that Taehyung is never going to reciprocate his feelings. Not Taehyung, who is so handsome and funny and clever. Yoongi has to be content to just be friends —- good friends. The kind of friends who watch each other’s dogs. The kind of friends who give each other expensive gifts of designer clothing (the sweater was just the first of many such offerings). The kind of friends who eat dinner together three or four times a week.

Yeah. Good friends.

One clear bright day towards the end of April, Yoongi is sitting at his desk working when there’s a knock at the door. He pauses — it’s too early for Taehyung to be home from work yet. He just left a few hours ago. He saves what he’s working on and gets up to answer the door. Maybe he ordered something that slipped his mind? Maybe … Yoongi opens the door.

“Huh,” Namjoon says, peering down at him.

Stupid tall bastard.

“Wow,” Hoseok says from behind him.

“What?” Yoongi frowns. It’s not that he’s not glad to see them — he is, very much — but there’s something in Namjoon’s face that makes him suspicious.

Namjoon shrugs. “I figured we’d have to come dig you out from under a pile of dirty laundry and ramen wrappers, but …”

“What?” Yoongi asks again, frustrated.

Namjoon smiles. “Nothing. You look good. What’s going on, hyung?”

They come in and take off their coats and throw them on the chair by the door.

“Wow, hyung,” Hoseok says. “I think this is the cleanest I’ve ever seen this place.”

It’s true that Yoongi’s been making a bit more of an effort lately. He tries to keep the laundry under control, and he makes his bed in the morning. It’s not like he really cares but he doesn’t want Taehyung to think he’s a slob.

He just shrugs, though. He can’t tell Hoseok that.

They sit around the kitchen table. Yoongi offers to make coffee or tea, but Namjoon and Hoseok refuse.

“What’s up, hyung?” Namjoon asks, curious and amused.

Yoongi shrugs. “Nothing, really.”

Hoseok narrows his eyes. “Nothing? Min Yoongi, your apartment is sparkling clean and there are flowers on your counter. Your hair is done and — is that a new shirt?”

It is. Taehyung had given it to him. Taehyung brought the flowers too — a big bunch of green and pink and mauve hellebores — saying something about how the color had made him think of Yoongi.

Yoongi wrinkles his nose and thinks of coming up with some excuse — turning over a new leaf for the new year — but Hoseok and Namjoon are pretty much his best friends, and they’ve stuck with him even when he’s been a total mess. If he can’t tell them, who can he tell?

So he tells them the whole story — finding Yeontan in the hall, watching him that first day, then the awkward first encounter with Taehyung, and his certainty that Taehyung hated him and that they’d never speak again. His shock when Taehyung had shown up the next day, and the strange, comfortable routine they’ve fallen into since.

When he’s done, he stares down at his hands folded in his lap.

Namjoon whistles. “Wow, hyung.”

“Quit saying that,” Yoongi bristles. “Is it that shocking that I’d make a friend other than you two clowns?”

Hoseok laughs. “Not totally,” he says. “I think I’m more shocked at how bad you have it for this guy. Yoongi hyung, you’re totally whipped.”

Yoongi hangs his head. “Am not.”

Namjoon chuckles. “I’ve never seen you like this, hyung. It’s cute.”

Yoongi pouts. “It’s not cute.” He hangs his head. “He’s not … I’m not… It’s pathetic.”

“No it’s not,” Hoseok says consolingly. “I think it’s kind of sweet.”

Namjoon looks thoughtful. “Hyung, how do you know he doesn’t like you back? Have you said anything to him?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “I haven’t yet worked up an appetite for quite that much self mortification. I mean, it’s going to happen eventually, so maybe I should just get it over with. Taehyung’s a good guy. I’m sure he’ll let me down gently.”

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Hyung, I don’t think ..”

But whatever he intends to say is silenced by a knock at the door.

Hoseok and Namjoon both look way more delighted than they have any right to.

Yoongi closes his eyes. He could pretend to be out — but Taehyung knows he doesn’t go anywhere during he day. He takes a deep breath, and gets to his feet. The five steps from his kitchen table to the front door have never seemed so far.

He steels himself and opens the door. Taehyung is standing there, wearing a jean jacket over a purple silk shirt, and beaming.

“Hyung,” he says, “I got off early. Do you want to take Yeontan to the park now or…” He trails off as he notices Hoseok and Namjoon for the first time. “Oh,” he says, eyes going wide. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you had guests.”

"Uh," Yoongi says. His brain to mouth connection seems to have suddenly short-circuited. "It's okay. They were -- "

Hoseok doesn’t give him a chance to finish. “Hi!” He stands up and holds out his hand to shake Taehyung’s. “I’m Hoseok, and that’s Namjoon. We’re old friends of Yoongi’s from college.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Taehyung says. “Hyung is such a man of mystery. I didn’t think he was ever going to introduce me to his friends.”

“Hey!” Yoongi frowns. “It’s not like I’ve met any of your friends, either.”

Taehyung smiles. “That’s not true,” he says. “You met Jimin the other day, remember?”

Oh. Right. Yoongi had met Jimin a few days back. He and Taehyung had been coming back from a walk when Jimin had been coming out. He’d eyed Yoongi skeptically for a few minutes, but whatever he’d seen must have passed muster because since then every time they’ve passed in the hall Jimin has greeted him with an enthusiastic, “Hi, Yoongi hyung!!”

“Oh yeah,” Yoongi says, a little downcast.

Taehyung makes a funny face. He reaches out and touches Yoongi’s shoulder softly. “If it’s a bad time I can come back later.”

“No,” Yoongi says. “No, it’s fine!”

“We were just leaving,” Namjoon says, shooting up out of his chair. “Right Hoseok?”

Hoseok looks like someone told him he just won the lottery. “Oh yes,” he says. “Taehyung, it’s been so nice to meet you. Hyung, I can see why you’ve been so hard to get ahold of lately.”

Yoongi glares at him, but Hoseok is impervious to such gestures. He just laughs.

Namjoon and Hoseok put on their coats.

“Hyung,” Namjoon says. “I miss you. We need to go out. You should come too, Taehyung-ssi.”

Taehyung’s eyes go wide and he points at himself. “Me?”

Hoseok nods, smiling generously. “Sure,” he says. “I’ll text Yoongi hyung the details, okay?”

Taehyung smiles. “Great,” he says. “Thank you. That’s so kind!”

After Namjoon and Hoseok have gone, Taehyung apologizes. “I’m so sorry, hyung. I didn’t think you’d have anyone here so…”

“Don’t apologize, Taehyung,” Yoongi says. It’s not like Taehyung’s wrong or anything. “Do you want to go get Yeontan? I was thinking maybe we could take him down to the river today?”

Taehyung beams. “Sure! I’ll be back in a second.”

While Taehyung is getting Yeontan, Yoongi gets a text from Hoseok: he’s so into u~~~

Yoongi frowns. No.

Namjoon replies next. Hyung, he touched your shoulder.

Yoongi feels his cheeks get hot. So what? Taehyung is a touchy-feely kind of guy. He’s always putting his arm over Yoongi’s shoulder or grabbing Yoongi’s hand or putting a big, warm hand on Yoongi’s thigh. It doesn’t mean anything.

Right?

So what? He’s just tactile.

lol sure. is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Yoongi can almost hear Hoseok’s glee through the text.

I don’t know, hyung. Looked pretty flirty to me.

Ugh. Yoongi rolls his eyes. He expected more sense out of Namjoon.

dont worry I got u hyung. ask him to come out and hang w us. i’ll take care of everything

Yoongi sighs. We’ll see. Brb. Gotta go walk the dog.

go yoongi hyung! u walk that dog!!

ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

Idiots. He missed them. Yoongi puts his phone away. Out in the hall, Yeontan and Taehyung are waiting. Taehyung smiles when he sees Yoongi. “Ready?” He asks.

Yoongi nods. “Let’s go.”

*****

“Sorry,” Yoongi says again. “Hoseok is kind of pushy but you could have told him no. I’m sure you had something better to do tonight.”

It’s the tenth or eleventh time he’s apologized.

“Of course I wasn’t going to tell him no,” Taehyung says. “It was so nice of him to invite me. I’m excited!” He looks even better than usual tonight. His hair is newly dyed ash grey, and he’s wearing a black blazer that glimmers softly. There’s a little dark makeup around his eye, and his lips are very red. It’s a little silly, Yoongi thinks, for one person to look that good.

He’s wearing a white tee shirt and a leather jacket. The jacket was a gift from Taehyung. Yoongi had tried to refuse it, but Taehyung had insisted. One of the idols had worn it one time, for some special stage, and now it would just languish in the storage closets at the company building if Yoongi didn’t take it. Honestly. Yoongi would be doing him a favor. It would be a shame if a beautiful jacket like that didn’t get worn.

Yoongi isn’t so sure, but he accepts it anyway. It’s worth it, at least, to see the big smile on Taehyung’s face when Yoongi steps out into the hall wearing it.

“You look great!” He’d said, and he’d taken a few minutes to straight the lapels and fix some other minor details that only he would ever notice.

Yoongi doesn’t really care, honestly, but he likes the feeling of Taehyung’s hands on him.

What can he say? He’s only human.

“I’m excited,” Taehyung says as they step out of the foyer of their building into the dark, wide night.

It’s May, and the days are warm, but there’s still just a hint of chill in the air. Tonight is the night they’re going to meet Namjoon and Hoseok. Yoongi had tried to put it off, but Hoseok was not to be dissuaded. He’d dithered a bit about asking Taehyung — surely he had better things to do? — but when he finally did ask Taehyung if he wanted to come out to a few bars with Yoongi and his friends, he’d been unreasonably excited.

“Really?” His eyes had gone wide. “Are you sure?”

Yoongi shrugged. “I mean, if you want to.”

“Of course,” Taehyung had said. “Hyung, I can’t wait!”

They get a cab in front of the building and Yoongi gives the driver the address Hoseok sent him. It’s some hip place south of the river he’s not familiar with. Namjoon always seems to know what the next hot bars will be before anyone else. Yoongi is sure this place will be full of very young, very pretty people. They’ll probably serve only artisanal soju in hand thrown pottery or something.

“What’s wrong?” Taehyung asks, putting a hand on Yoongi’s leg.

Yoongi startles. “Huh?”

Taehyung tilts his head. “You seems distracted. Is everything okay?”

Yoongi nods. “I’m fine,” he says. “Just… I don’t know. It’s been a while since I’ve gone out. I love Hoseok and Namjoon but this is gonna be like when we were in college. They’d drag me out to some club or something and I’d end up sitting in the corner like some grandma or something.”

Taehyung laughs. “Well, I’ll sit in the corner with you tonight, grandma.”

He squeezes Yoongi’s thigh once and then quickly puts his hand back in his lap.

Yoongi glances over at him and can’t help but smile. When Taehyung looks over and smiles, too, Yoongi gets shy and stares out the window.

They’re at the club too soon. It’s exactly what Yoongi thought it would be: the sleek black glass facade glitters with embedded lights. The sign is tiny and obscure and Yoongi isn’t sure at first they’ve come to the right place. He stares in consternation at the doorway, which is guarded by a large man in a black suit who seems intent on turning away all comers.

Taehyung bumps his shoulder into Yoongi’s. “What’s up?”

Yoongi shrugs.

“You want to go in?” Taehyung smiles at him calmly.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says. “Let’s do it.”

Somehow, the man at the door deems them worthy of passage. They step inside a large, dark room with poured cement floors. The bar takes up most of the center of the room. No hand thrown ceramics, but they are advertising organic makgeolli on the specials board. Yoongi peers around. Where are Hoseok and Namjoon? It would be just like them to invite him out and then not show. Hoseok probably thinks —

“Hyung!”

Oh, there they are.

Yoongi pushes through the crowd until he reaches the high top that Hoseok and Namjoon have claimed. They’re conspicuously sitting next to each other, leaving two empty seats on the other side of the table.

“Hyung,” Namjoon says. “I’m so glad you could make it! And Taehyung-ssi, it’s so nice to see you again.”

There’s a flurry of greetings and shuffling. Yoongi feels a bit overwhelmed. He climbs onto his seat and tries to shuffle the bar stool forward so he’s not half a meter away from the table, but the damn thing is heavy.

Taehyung puts his hand on the back of Yoongi’s seat and shoves him forward, and then taps him on the back? Ass? At the juncture of the two?

Yoongi wrinkles his nose and momentarily has a wild thrill of fear — Is this some kind of hidden camera prank, elaborately staged months in advance?

But no, Taehyung is smiling happily. “One time Jimin tried to do that,” he says, “And he knocked the stool off balance and fell over.” He frowns, remembering. “Dragged me down with him, the jerk. He’s awfully clumsy, for a dancer.”

“Ah,” Hoseok says, eagerly. “Is your friend a dancer?”

While they pursue this conversational detour, Yoongi wets one of the cocktail napkins with a little water from his glass and presses it to his cheeks, willing them to cool. Namjoon catches him doing it, and raises his eyebrows, questioning. Yoongi scowls at him and crumples the napkin.

Like Kim Namjoon has never been embarrassed. Yoongi remembers the terrible, awkward mess he turned into around the TA for that Russian Lit class he’d taken freshman year. He couldn’t get a word out in class, and nearly failed, saving himself only with the strength of his ‘masterful’ final paper.

Namjoon grins. Yoongi glares, which only makes Namjoon grin wider.

Damnit. It’s hard to pull off the cold asshole routine with someone who knows you sleep with three Kumamon plushies on your bed.

Hoseok and Taehyung have apparently exhausted the topic of dancing. (The extent of Taehyung’s knowledge on the subject seems to be ‘something that Jimin does well’.)

“And what do you do, Taehyung-ssi?” Hoseok asks, smiling.

He’s so good at this kind of thing. Yoongi can’t figure out why he’s still single; he makes the world’s best first impression, and never runs out of charming things to say.

Taehyung’s eyes light up. “Oh,” he says. “I’m a stylist!”

“Woah, really?” Namjoon looks intrigued. “Do you work with anyone famous?”

Taehyung shrugs — not in a self effacing way, but he’s not under any delusions about the popularity of his kids. He talks about wanting to work with a bigger agency, but Yoongi knows he’s really devoted to the kids.

“Not really,” he says, but when he mentions the names of his groups, Namjoon and Hoseok have both heard of them.

“Wow,” Hoseok says. “So do you find all those great pieces?”

His own sense of fashion is if anything even more ostentatious than Taehyung’s.

The conversation progresses. It makes Yoongi feel good but weird how easily Taehyung gets along with Namjoon and Hoseok. Proud, but also weirdly shy and jealous, like he’s losing something precious. He kicks the leg of his bar stool and sips his beer and watches the young pretty people that fill the bar. Used to be this was his kind of place, before he graduated college and got it into his head that it was time to get serious and start making ART.

He doesn’t know about ART anymore, but he decides he needs to start coming out with Hoseok and Namjoon more often, no matter what happens with Taehyung.

Taehyung. God.

Yoongi watches him out of the corner of his eye, laughing too loudly at some joke that Hoseok made. He’s so fucking beautiful it seems like a crime. Yoongi wonders how he looks, sitting at this table of handsome guys. He knows he’s not an ogre, exactly, but he’s always hated his soft features and his round face. Namjoon might not be classically handsome, either, but he’s tall and slim with good proportions.

Yoongi feels short and lumpy and dumb.

He sighs and reaches for his beer glass, but it’s empty.

“I’m going to go get another round,” he says.

Nobody notices. They’re too busy talking about fucking sneakers.

Yoongi hops off his stool and pushes up to the bar. It’s packed tonight, and thirsty patrons are three deep. He waits with his arms crossed while the bartender helps a young woman in a short sequined dress, and pair of dudes wearing white dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up. Finally, Yoongi is nearly belly up to the bar. He raises his hand to get the bartender’s attention when someone elbows him hard right in the chest.

He grunts and stumbles half a step back.

His assailant is really tall and handsome in a friendly way, with big ears that stick out. He’s dressed expensively, and has a big fancy watch on his wrist. “Sorry” he mutters, and then he glances at Yoongi and something in his expression changes. His little frown turns into a smile. “I’m so sorry,” he says, turning toward Yoongi. “Are you okay?”

Yoongi nods, rubbing his chest where the giant elbowed him. “Yeah,” he says.

“It’s so crowded in here,” the tall guy says. “I don’t know why I come out on nights like this. I guess because Baek makes me.” He laughs to himself, and then looks up with bright eyes, like he’s waiting for Yoongi to say something.

Ugh. What the fuck. Yoongi doesn’t know what to say to this guy. He just wants to get his damn beer and then go back to the table and continue feeling slightly neglected.

“Uh,” he says. “Yeah. My friends made me come out too.”

The tall guy’s faces lights up. “Isn’t that —“

Yoongi is startled by a pair of hands settling firmly on his waist.

“There you are, hyung!” Taehyung is right behind him. “I thought you abandoned me.”

“Oh,” Yoongi says. “Hey. No. Just going to get more beers.”

Taehyung steps to the side, somehow pulling off some slick move that leaves one hand still resting on Yoongi’s waist. It’s weird.

The tall guy stares at Yoongi and then at Taehyung, who holds his gaze and steps a proprietary half an inch closer to Yoongi.

Tall guy sighs, maybe. Something like a sigh. Then he says, “Sorry again,” and disappears into the crowd.

“What was that?” Yoongi mutters, brushing himself off.

Taehyung shrugs, clasping his hands behind his back. “Did you order yet?”

Right. Yeah. The drinks.

They finally get a bartender to pay attention and Yoongi orders another round. While they wait for their drinks, Yoongi mutters, “Sorry I bailed on you. I love Namjoon and Hoseok but they can be a bit much.”

Taehyung laughs. “Yeah,” he says. “I can tell. I really like them though.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, feeling useless all of a sudden. “I mean, they’re great.”

Taehyung’s mouth widens out into a flat, irritated line. “I like them because they’re your friends,” he says, “and because they just spent the last ten minutes telling me how awesome you are.” He snorts. “Like I needed them to tell me that.”

Oh.

“Well,” Yoongi mutters. “It’s a known fact. Min Yoongi. Awesome. It’s the first thing on my resume, actually.”

Taehyung grins and is about to say something, but the bartender comes then with their drinks and Yoongi is saved from having to come up with any more clever banter.

They go back to the table and set down the drinks. Taehyung helps Yoongi scoot his chair in again, but this time his hand does not leave the small of Yoongi’s back. It’s distracting for a little while, but then Yoongi gets used to it and it just feels like it should somehow, if that makes sense. Namjoon tells a story about a professor he’s TAing for, who fell asleep in lecture the other day and had woken himself up snoring. Everyone lets Yoongi complain for a while about the damn cosmetics commercial, which is turning into a fiasco. They liked the first song that Yoongi did so much that they want him to do a whole set of them to be played in store.

“What the fuck do I know about an ‘enchanting evening’?” He shakes his head and takes a sip of beer.

Taehyung shrugs. “I don’t know, hyung,” he says. “I think you’re doing pretty good.”

Namjoon and Hoseok exchange a significant look.

Yoongi’s cheeks go hot.

As if by prearranged signal, Hoseok’s phone rings. He makes a show of talking to someone on the other end for a few moments, and then hangs up.

“I’m so sorry,” he says. “That was my sister. Namjoon, do you think you can drive me over to her place? She says the sink is leaking again and she’s worried it’s going to leak into the apartment downstairs.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says. “Sure.”

He already has his keys in his hands.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “You guys are assholes,” he says. “Not even subtle at all.”

Wide-eyed pictures of innocence, Hoseok looks aghast. “What are you talking about, hyung? Are you saying I should ignore my sister in her hour of need?”

Namjoon can’t stop laughing.

Taehyung is just watching with a bemused smile on his face, resting his chin in his hand.

They finish their drinks in a rush and pull on their coats. Namjoon won’t meet Yoongi’s eyes. Asshole isn’t very slick, is he?

“Taehyung, it was so great to see you,” Hoseok says, pulling Taehyung into an impromptu hug. “We’ll have to do this again.”

“Definitely,” Taehyung says.

“Hyung,” Namjoon says, “don’t be a stranger, okay. I don’t want Hoseok to make me stage another intervention.”

Yoongi scowls. “Get out of here,” he says, but he can’t stop from smiling a little bit.

They wave enthusiastically and then disappear into the crowd. Yoongi stares down at his glass for a moment. Taehyung’s hand is still on his back, rubbing gentle circles.

“This is a —“

“I’m so sorr —“

“You go first,” Taehyung says, smiling.

“I’m so sorry,” Yoongi says. “They’re just trying to be helpful, but they have about as much subtlety as a pair of wrecking balls.”

Taehyung shrugs in a loose, easy way. “It’s funny,” he says. “I like them a lot.”

“Good,” Yoongi says. Then, “What were you going to say? Before?”

Taehyung narrows his eyes and studies Yoongi careful before he says. “This is a date, right?”

Yoongi frowns. “Yeah,” he says. “I think so.”

“Good,” Taehyung says. “I was really hoping so.”

“Me too,” Yoongi says. “I would lie and say that I’m usually more smooth than this, but uh, I think you know that’s not true.”

Taehyung nods happily. “It’s okay,” he says. “I like your un-smoothness.”

He’s crazy, but Yoongi has never been so relieved.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says seriously. “This has been great, but do you want to get out of here and go get some pizza? I know a good place.”

“Yes,” Yoongi says. “God, yes. Let’s go.”

Taehyung grins, and helps him down from his stool, and they weave through the crowd and push out into the night, hand in hand.

*****

Spring turns into summer.

Dating Taehyung isn’t that much different than being friends with Taehyung, except it involves more cuddling and kissing and fucking, all of which are fine with Yoongi. Sometimes they spend the night in Taehyung’s apartment, but Jimin is there a few nights a week, so on those days they stay in Yoongi’s. It’s pretty damn convenient, dating someone who lives across the hall.

They go on lots of long walks. Yoongi gets a sunburn one Saturday when they go on a picnic in the park and he falls asleep. Taehyung teases him until he gets mad, and then carefully spreads aloe over his lobster red shoulders and neck and back. Yoongi writes the damn jingles for the cosmetics company. It’s not the most enriching work, but he’s proud of what he’s done, and it pays the bills. Taehyung’s kids have a come back and he works days at a stretch, stitching and sewing and running all over the city looking for purple studded belts. Yoongi and Yeontan wait up for him no matter how late he comes home.

Yoongi’s Work of Genius is no closer to fruition, but somehow it doesn’t seem as pressing anymore.

Hoseok takes personal credit for getting them together, even when Taehyung admits that he’d been almost at the point of asking Yoongi out anyway.

“I just thought you weren’t into me,” he admits shyly.

Yoongi stares in wide-eyed amazement. “How could you think that?”

Taehyung frowns. “Hyung, I flirted with you so much and you would always get all weird and stand-offish. I thought you were just putting up with me for Yeontan’s sake.”

“Well, you were right,” Yoong says, scooping Yeontan into his arms and holding him up for a kiss. The dog squirms angrily for a moment before relenting and kissing Yoongi’s nose.

Taehyung pouts. “You just love me for my dog,” he says, sulking.

“No,” Yoongi says. “I love you and your dog. Isn’t that right, Yeontan-ah?”

Taehyung stares at him for a moment, blinking owlishly. “Really? You really mean that?”

“Geeze,” Yoongi says, hiding his face in the very very soft fur under Yeontan’s chin. “Make me spell it out, why don’t you.”

Taehyung says nothing but buries his face in Yoongi’s neck and throws his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders so that Yeontan is squashed between them. The dog wriggles until he’s free, and then nestles down contentedly on Yoongi’s lap.

In July they rent a house near the beach and invite all their friends: Hoseok and Namjoon and Jimin and his friend Jungkook. It’s a dog friendly house so Yeontan can come too. Jimin and Namjoon take surfing lessons. Taehyung buys Yoongi a big floppy hat and reminds him to reapply his sunscreen every two hours. In the evening they barbeque on the porch. Yoongi sits on a folding chair in the corner with a beer in his hand while Jimin and Hoseok and Jungkook try to get the grill lit. Namjoon is sorting through a bucket of shells he gathered. Taehyung is in the yard with Yeontan, throwing a ball. Fetch is not Yeontan’s strong suit. He chases the ball when Taehyung throws it, but will only sniff at it diffidently before losing interest. Taehyung has to fetch it himself before he tries again.

Yoongi gets up and walks down the steps into the yard. The next time Taehyung throws the ball, Yoongi picks it up and hands it back to him. It’s slippery with dog spit and dirt. Yoongi wipes his hands on his pants. Taehyung smiles at him. Yeontan, thinking correctly that fetch is over, toddles over to sit on Yoongi’s feet.

“I’m really glad we did this,” Taehyung says.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says. “It’s nice.”

He puts his arm around Taehyung’s waist and they stay there like that for a minute and Yoongi hopes that Taehyung can tell just how inadequate his words are. What he feels is so much bigger.

That summer is the happiest that Yoongi can ever remember. It’s not anything he expected for himself, honestly. He thought stupidly that to make good art he had to lock himself away heart and soul, but he writes more music that summer than he has in years. He writes new songs, and plays them for Taehyung, who loves everything Yoongi writes with an uncritical joy that makes Yoongi feel like he’s melting inside. It’s not good all the time -- Taehyung can get moody, and Yoongi withdraws when he should be candid, and they fight over stupid things -- but a night alone in his apartment is enough to remind Yoongi of all the reasons why he should apologize. Taehyung is too kind and too funny and too good to lose.

*****

Yoongi is dozing in Taehyung’s bed one morning in early August with Yeontan sleeping on his chest when he hears Taehyung call his name. Taehyung is supposed to be on his way to work; Yoongi frowns and sits up, carefully shifting Yeontan onto the bed. Yeontan grumbles and circles before settling back down into sleep.

Taehyung appears in the doorway, frowning. He looks extra good today: hair styled up away from his face, wearing white jeans that show off his long legs and a peachy sweater that makes his tan skin glow and clings to his broad shoulders.

“You look good,” Yoongi says sleepily. “Maybe you should come back to bed.”

Taehyung huffs impatiently. “Hyung, pay attention. Have you checked your mail recently? Did the property management company send you your lease renewal form?”

Yoongi frowns. “I haven’t gotten it in a couple of days. Why?”

Taehyung’s face crumples. “Hyung, they’re not renewing my lease.”

Yoongi sits all the way up. “What? Why? Those assholes. I’ll go down there and give them a --”

“Hyung!” Taehyung says, frowning. “My lease isn’t being renewed because of ‘excessive noise complaints and / or other policy violations’.”

Yoongi’s stomach sinks. “Taehyung,” he says softly.

Taehyung closes his eyes for a second. “It’s okay,” he says. “It’s okay, hyung. We’ll talk about this when I get home. I’ve got to get going. I’m already late.”

He sighs and puts the letter down on his dresser.

Yoongi buries his face in the pillow. It smells like Taehyung’s shampoo. He hears the door slam shut.

Yeontan presses his face up against Yoongi’s, snuffling. His nose is wet and tickles Yoongi’s cheek, but it makes him feel a lot better.

How had he ever complained about Yeontan? What had been wrong with him? Idiot, Min Yoongi. Idiot.

He stays in bed for a while longer and then gets up and cleans Taehyung’s apartment out of guilt. He replaces the light bulb in the bathroom that Taehyung has been ignoring and cleans out the food disposal. He takes Yeontan out for his morning walk and picks up some food to make for dinner. On his way back inside, he checks his mailbox. He doesn’t get much mail, but it’s almost full. He needs to remember to check more office. He rifles through the stack of envelopes: bill, bill, royalty check, junk, bill ..

He pauses. A envelope from the property management company, dated the same day as Taehyung’s.

Yoongi sighs. Goddamnit.

He’s cooking dinner when Taehyung gets home that night. The apartment is clean and the table is set. Taehyung looks tired, dark circles under his eyes. He drops his bag by the door and comes into the kitchen.

“Hey,” Yoongi says. “How was work?”

Taehyung hooks his chin over Yoongi’s shoulder. “Japchae?”

“Your favorite,” Yoongi says.

“You’re my favorite,” Taehyung says. “Work was shitty. The jeans for today’s performance were all the wrong size.”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says.

“It was my fault,” Taehyung says, dropping into one of the chairs at the kitchen table. “I should have double checked the --”

“No,” Yoongi says. “I’m sorry about the noise complaints. I’m sorry about all of it.”

Taehyung exhales. “It’s fine,” he says. “I mean, Jimin and I have been talking about getting a two bedroom anyway. I’m not --”

“There’s a letter on the counter,” Yoongi says, nodding over to where he left it.

Taehyung gets up and takes the folded piece of paper out of the envelope.

“‘Dear Min Yoongi’,” He reads. “‘We’re sorry to inform you that your lease for unit 1440 will not be renewed. The frequency and nature of your complaints about other residents lead us to believe that you would be happiest finding other accommodations.’”

Taehyung slaps his hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh.

Yoongi pouts. “It’s not funny,” he mutters.

“Wow,” Taehyung says. “We’re both pretty pathetic, huh?”

Yoongi sighs. “At least you’re not getting kicked out for being an asshole.”

“You’re not an asshole,” Taehyung says. “You’re just … picky.”

Yoongi huffs. “Gee, thanks.”

He slides the green onions he’s been chopping into the pan. Taehyung folds his letter back up and puts it in the envelope. He comes over to steal a piece of the kimchi Yoongi is chopping. “I’m sorry, hyung,” Taehyung says. He sighs. “I was really hoping to stay here another year. Moving is such a pain. I guess I’ll have to --”

“Taehyung-ah,” Yoongi says, staring intently at the pan of sizzling noodles. “I was thinking.”

“Hmm?” Taehyung says, nabbing another piece of kimchi.

Yoongi swats him away. “I was thinking,” he says. “Since you’re going to be looking for an apartment, and I’m going to be looking for an apartment, don’t you think it would just be easier if we looked for one apartment?”

Taehyung pauses with the kimchi half in his mouth. “What?”

Yoongi scowls. “Well, it just makes sense,” he says. “I’m over here half the time anyway, and when I’m not you’re at my place. We can save on rent and --”

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, “I’d love to move in with you.” He wraps his arms around Yoongi’s waist and squeezes, just a little too tight.

Yoongi gags a little -- Taehyung is stronger than he knows.

“I was thinking,” Yoongi says, “Uh, also. Maybe when we look for another place we can try to find a one bedroom, and if it’s big enough, maybe we could get Yeontan a little brother or sister.”

Taehyung beams at him. “I love you, Min Yoongi,” he says, and he hugs Yoongi again, a little less crushingly tight.

Yoongi nods. Damn it. He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. The stupid onions are making them water.

Onions. Yeah. That’s it.

 

*****

They move into their new apartment the first weekend in September. It's a rooftop apartment in a hilly neighborhood with a good view of downtown. They'd visited dozens of apartments. Yoongi had wanted to go for the bright glossy place in a new construction building near a park, but Taehyung had pouted and said that he'd always dreamed of living in a rooftop apartment.

Yoongi had given in. There are advantages, anyway. Yoongi's heard horror stories about rooftop apartments that are barely better than lean-tos, but this place is big and bright, with lots of windows and natural light. The appliances are new, the bathroom is clean, and the air conditioning does a decent job keeping the place cool. It's very private, too. That's always an advantage.

There are still boxes everywhere. All their friends had chipped in to help them move, and Taehyung and Yoongi had treated them to chicken and beer afterwards to say thank you. It had been nice, sitting on the roof with a spread blanket, eating greasy, spicy fried chicken from paper plates. Yeontan had been the center of attention as he investigated the confines of his new realm.

(The roof is fenced in with a solid iron fence that is waist high on Yoongi. Taehyung had refused to look at any place where the rooftop wasn't enclosed with a sturdy fence. The gaps between the fence rails here are too narrow for even Yeontan to slip through, and the gate latches securely.)

Everyone had gone home early, exhausted from the effort of hauling boxes up three flights of stairs. Yoongi and Taehyung had made some half-hearted efforts at putting away their clothes, but Yoongi had been exhausted. He'd unpacked the bedding and set up a bed on the floor, and curled up there with Yeontan while Taehyung worked for a little while longer, sorting through a pile of variously colored and patterned shirts and hanging them in some precise order that Yoongi can't comprehend. Yoongi was drowsy and nearly asleep when Taehyung finally give up. He went to brush his teeth and wash his face and then came back into the bedroom in his ridiculous Burberry patterned pajamas and got under the covers.

His feet were cold and Yoongi grumbled a bit, but he didn't even mind, really, not when Taehyung wrapped his arms around Yoongi's waist and hugged him close. He's so clingy. It's so weird that Yoongi doesn't mind.

Taehyung's eyes fluttered shut and he was asleep. Yoongi pressed a kiss to his forehead -- or thought he did, floating in that sweet soupy warm place between waking and dreams.

Now it is the next morning and they are running late.

"Text Seokjin and tell him we'll be there soon," Taehyung says from the tiny bathroom, where he is hastily shaving. They couldn't find the box with all the bathroom stuff; Yoongi had gotten annoyed and told Taehyung just to skip shaving, and then Taehyung had gone sulky and silent.

"I just want to look my best," Taehyung grumbles. "I care about making a good first impression, hyung."

"And I don't?" Yoongi scowls down at his cup of instant coffee. "Jesus, Taehyung, it's a goddamn dog."

Stress and exhaustion. That's all it is. They butt heads sometimes, just like everyone. Yoongi finishes his sour coffee and takes Yeontan out while Taehyung finishes dressing. His first instinct is to hide behind the stony silence, burrowing deeper behind his feigned cold nonchalance, but the sun is warm and Yeontan gets a leaf stuck on his nose. He barks at it. Yoongi takes a video.

"Look at what your dumb dog did," he says, barging into the bathroom behind Taehyung, who is doing his hair.

He plays the video. Taehyung's smile is a small thing at first, but it grows.

"Our dumb dog," Taehyung mumbles.

Yoongi's heart swells. "Yeah," he says. "You look really nice, Taehyung. Seokjin is going to be impressed."

Taehyung smiles. Yoongi would apologize a million times, just to see that smile.

They're running late. The train is delayed. Yoongi taps his foot nervously. It's not that he's worried, but Taehyung is right. They do need to make a good impression. Finally the trains get moving. Taehyung rests his hand on Yoongi's thigh, soothing. They have to switch trains two times, and then finally they're getting out in a quiet suburban neighborhood far out from the city center.

"This is the right place?" Yoongi looks around. The streets are empty now, except for a few parents out pushing tiny kids in strollers, a few old folks coming back from the grocery store.

Taehyung peers at his phone. "Yeah. I think so."

They walk three blocks down a tree-lined street and find the designated address. Yoongi rings the bell, and they wait a moment before a handsome, smiling man opens the door.

"Ah!" he says, brightly. "You must be Yoongi and Taehyung! I'm Kim Seokjin. Welcome to Good Fur-tune Pet Rescue."

They follow Seokjin through the yard to the house. A white fuzzy pup with a black nose dozes on the porch. Seokjin gives them a brief thumbnail sketch of the rescue as they walk.

"I've been in operation for five years," he says. "I had a friend who had to move and couldn't take her dog, so I took him in and fostered him until I could find a new owner. Now we have a network of over twenty five foster homes and work with a number of local shelters."

"That's so great," Taehyung says.

"Every dog deserves a safe and loving home," Seokjin says. He smiles fondly down at the dog padding along at his side. "They give us more than we give them, anyway."

Yoongi thinks of Yeontan -- his little wet nose and his tiny paws and way he insists on sleeping right between Yoongi and Taehyung, even though there's barely room. The way he brought them together. The way he was so willing to love Yoongi even though Yoongi was just a grumpy jerk.

"Yeah," he says. "They really do."

Seokjin beams at him. "Come on," he says. "Let's go meet your little lady."

Seokjin brings them into a bright cheerful living room and then ducks down the hall. When he comes back, he's got a tiny little squirming bundle of brown fur in his arms. He sets her down gently in front of Yoongi and Taehyung. Yoongi holds out a hand. She startles, but then comes closer, curious. She sniffs cautiously. She remembers him from their first meeting. Her little brown nub of a tail wags. Tentatively at first but then more eagerly she steps forward and lets them pet her soft ears, her wet cold nose, her back and thighs. Her little tongue lolls out.

Yoongi is charmed.

"Have you thought of a name for her yet?" Seokjin asks.

"Yeah," Yoongi says. "We're going to call her Holly."

"I like it," Seokjin says.

"Hyung got to pick this time," Taehyung says. "Since I already had Yeontan when we met."

"Let me get a picture of you three," Seokjin says. "Then we can do the paperwork and get you on your way."

Taehyung scoops Holly into his arms and Yoongi scoots closer and puts his arm over Taehyung's shoulder.

Seokjin snaps a picture and then shows it to Taehyung and Yoongi.

"You guys are so cute," Seokjin says. "What an adorable little family."

Yoongi rolls his eyes and Taehyung catches him and elbows him, but deep down he thinks that they do look like a family. Almost.

When they get home, they can take another picture with Yeontan too. Maybe if it turns out nice, he'll get it printed and framed or something. It's kind of hokey, but Taehyung might like that, he thinks.

****

That night, lying in their little nest of blankets on the floor, Yoongi is close to sleep. They got Holly home without incident but it had taken her and Yeontan a little while to get used to each other. (They'd met once before, but only for a few minutes, and not on Yeontan's home turf.) There'd been a little butt-sniffing and a little barking, but they seem to have made peace. Yeontan is nestled between Yoongi and Taehyung, mostly on Taehyung's arm, and Holly is sleeping on Yoongi's belly, where she's a comfortable weight. The window is open and a warm breeze blows in.

"I think they're going to get along fine," Taehyung mumbles. He's sleepy too.

Yoongi nods as carefully as he can. He doesn't want to disturb Holly.

"I hope they're not too loud," Taehyung says, glancing wryly over at Yoongi. "Don't want to disturb the neighbors."

Yoongi sighs. He still feels like total shit about that, even though he thinks things have worked out for the best.

"Sorry I'm such a weird asshole," Yoongi mutters, closing his eyes.

"You aren't," Taehyung says. "Hyung, you aren't."

Yoongi shrugs. Holly, on his belly, whuffles quietly and blinks at him in reproach. "I kind of am."

"No," Taehyung says. He wriggles his hand out from under Yeontan, who squeezes closer to Taehyung's side. Taehyung grabs Yoongi's hand, weaves their fingers together, and squeezes. "You really aren't."

Yoongi closes his eyes. He was and he knows it. He must have saved the country in a past life or something for Taehyung to have given him a chance.

"You were just," Taehyung says. His thumb rubs a soft circle against Yoongi's hand.

"What?"

"Lonely," Taehyung says.

"Yeah," Yoongi says.

Yeah. He was. Lonely, and a little sad, and convinced that’s how things had to be for him to do something great.

"Waiting," Taehyung says then.

"Huh?"

Taehyung rolls over so he's looking at Yoongi. He smiles. His goofy hair falls in his face. "You were lonely and it was hard, but you were in the right place, waiting for Yeontan to find you."

"Waiting for you to find me," Yoongi says.

"We found each other," Taehyung says firmly, squeezing Yoongi's hand once more. "Thanks to Yeontan."

Yoongi nods. "Yeah," he says. "He's a good boy."

Taehyung smiles and shuffles a little closer, so he can wrap his arms around Yoongi like Yoongi is some kind of life-sized body pillow. Yeontan, squashed between them, squeaks and then squirms out. He sticks his little furry butt in Yoong's face for a moment, but then he settles down on Yoongi's chest with a satisfied and proprietary air, like it’s exactly where he belongs.