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Like a Rolling Stone

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“I have to quit the band.”

Yoongi looks up, the cord for his keyboard dangling limply from his hand, halfway to the plug. Jimin’s fists are in his pockets, his face downturned. The pink of his cheeks matches the faded dye in his hair. Yoongi can’t imagine what his expression might be, because despite everything Jimin is still mostly a mystery to him.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything at first, waiting in the hopes that Jimin will clarify for him. When he doesn’t, Yoongi drops the plug and stands up.

“You’re quitting?” Yoongi knows he hasn’t misheard, but maybe hopes that repeating Jimin’s words out loud will shame him into rethinking whatever he’s trying to do.

“I’m sorry,” Jimin says. “I just don’t really have the time anymore.”

“Why not?”

It’s clear that Jimin is uncomfortable, from his squared shoulders to his closed off expression. Yoongi doesn’t care as much as he should, he even feels a sort of dark satisfaction to see Jimin looking guilty and uncertain, alone and on the spot. Taehyung and Namjoon have both taken steps back, as if removing themselves from the conversation with a suspicious deliberation.

“I want to focus on dance,” Jimin says, in a soft voice that Yoongi thinks is supposed to be remorseful.

Yoongi turns back to setting up his keyboard, as if to show that the situation doesn’t deserve his attention, as if his heart isn’t dropping. “You’ve always made time for both before.”

“I want to really focus on dance,” Jimin says, clasping his hands together like a schoolboy, the image of him so painfully earnest that Yoongi can’t stand to look at him. “Besides, this - it’s just not as fun for me anymore.” Though he punctuates the sentence with his tone, he doesn’t seem to have really finished what he was saying. Yoongi looks up in time to catch the briefest of glances pass between Jimin and Taehyung. The almost imperceptible shake of Taehyung’s head, as if to say, It’s not worth it . The silent familiarity between them is infuriating to Yoongi, as grating to his nerves as fingernails on a chalkboard.

“It’s not just about being fun ,” Yoongi says, defiant. “It’s about making music.”

“And I’m not as serious about music as you guys are,” Jimin says, meeting Yoongi’s eyes finally. Yoongi looks away from him just as quickly, as if eye contact is a sort of surrender he’s not willing to make. It’s like they’re playing a game, dodging each other and trying not to let the other get the upper hand. At least it feels that way to Yoongi.

In his avoidance of Jimin, Yoongi’s eyes find Taehyung and Namjoon, who still haven’t spoken and are mirrors of each other, both picking at the hems of their shirts and looking at the wall, as if there is something more interesting there besides an old Nirvana poster kept in place with thumbtacks. Namjoon and Taehyung share habits like clothes, a side effect of knowing each other for so long, of being best friends since childhood. To know one was a little like knowing them both.

“You guys haven’t said anything,” Yoongi says. “You knew about this already, didn’t you?”

Taehyung and Namjoon look at each other before they look at Yoongi, which means they don’t really need to say anything at all.

“He sort of mentioned it last week,” Taehyung says.

“Taehyung told me off hand,” Namjoon says. “It’s not like we planned it.”

Yoongi thinks that their quickened movements and jagged speech tell a different story. Without Hoseok there to be on his side, Yoongi feels like he’s being mutinied.

“You waited a week to tell me,” Yoongi says, turning his back and going behind his keyboard, plucking at a few keys without really thinking about it. Deep, bass notes ring out. Taehyung picks at a scab on his elbow.

“Because we knew how you’d react!” Namjoon says, waving his hands as if to illustrate some kind of point.

“Does Hobi know about this too?” Yoongi asks, somewhat upset at himself for even having the thought.

“No, of course he doesn’t. We were gonna tell you both tonight - we didn’t know he wasn’t planning to show up.”

“Look, Yoongi,” Jimin says. “I waited until all of our scheduled shows were done. It’s not like I’m putting you out, or anything. You have time to find someone else who works better for this.”

This was working just fine,” Yoongi snaps, aware that he sounds immature, but that’s how the whole situation feels.

“For you it is,” Jimin counters.

“You know all our songs already,” Yoongi says. “I wrote a lot of them for you.”

The words hang heavily in the room, and Yoongi only realizes after saying them what it sounds like. “For your voice,” he clarifies.

No one seems keen on speaking after that. Jimin stands straight, resolute. The three of them - Jimin, Taehyung and Namjoon - are huddled close together, and Yoongi is partitioned behind his keyboard as if it were a barricade. He feels Hoseok’s absence acutely. Fortunately for him, the stairs are beside him and he takes them two at a time, throwing a brief, “I need a smoke,” behind him as he goes.

“Yoongi, c’mon,” he hears Namjoon’s voice below him, but it’s just a half hearted plead. Yoongi is sure they’ll stay down there to talk amongst themselves once he’s gone, and they do, no creak of the wooden stairs behind him.

The basement stairs lead to a landing in the corner of the kitchen and that’s where Jin is, where he almost always is. It’s fitting that the kitchen is the largest room in his house, equipped with an abundance of counter space and cupboards for all of the utensils that Yoongi has never seen before, but that Jin seems to need on a regular basis. The stove is working overtime - something is boiling, something is frying, and the air is thick with the smell of garlic and spices that Yoongi can’t name.

“Hey,” Jin says as Yoongi emerges from the basement, flecks of some red sauce splashed across his white tshirt like rust. “You weren’t down there long.”

“I need a smoke,” Yoongi says, repeating the excuse that’s becoming truer by the second.

“Oh, well - ”

Yoongi isn’t mad at Jin, his perpetually kind face and dark eyes that smile even when his mouth doesn’t, his hair a bit larger at the moment from the steam of his boiling water. Still, Yoongi’s moods don’t always discriminate, and he lets Jin’s sentence disappear behind him as he goes onto the porch. The screen door clatters closed behind him, ushering in silent relief.

Yoongi pulls the lighter from his pocket first, then the pack of cigarettes, shaking one loose into his palm. He doesn’t smoke much, really. Yoongi isn’t prone to addictions, and saying he has a cigarette only “once in a while” is true enough for him. The “once in a while” becomes more frequent if he’s stressed or annoyed, though, and he’s feeling a substantial amount of both.

Yoongi presses his elbows into the half-decayed wood of the porch railing. The first drag is warm, slowing his mind down. His focus shifts to the scratchy feeling in his throat, then out to the city in front of him. The air is heavy with humidity, thick with the summer.

Jin doesn’t live in the best neighborhood, he lives in the one he can afford. Still, he has a house with a porch and a basement and the room not only for his own hobbies, but for those of his friends. And Yoongi envies him for that. It’s not uncommon to hear some kind of commotion when stepping out onto Jin’s street, be it police sirens or rowdy neighbors, but tonight is quiet, and Yoongi is grateful.

Yoongi appreciates that Jin’s house is on a hill, situated just far enough above and away from the city that that skyline always looks like a picture. The city flickers before Yoongi’s eyes, the skyscrapers lit up along the height of their formidable bodies, reflecting off of the shuddering waves of the bay that surrounds them. It all looks pristine from this vantage point, far removed from the grime and grit that lines the cracks when you get up close.

The door opens as Yoongi’s cigarette is burning down almost to the filter. He turns expecting to see Namjoon, dreading that he might see Jimin. Instead it’s Jin, wiping his hands on the front of his jeans, stepping onto the porch. The wooden slats creak beneath them as Jin crosses to stand next to Yoongi. Yoongi nods at him in acknowledgement but doesn’t speak, knowing he doesn’t have to. People don’t normally wait for him to speak, and Yoongi isn’t sure if that’s because they know they’d be waiting for a long time, or because they assume he has nothing to say.

“Everything alright?” Jin asks.

“I guess so.” Yoongi’s still holding the cigarette and it’s getting warmer as it burns close to his fingers, but he isn’t sure what to do with it, Jin standing close beside him. He continues holding it.

“You just came up out of there kind of quickly. Did you even have time to set up?”

“Don’t need to,” Yoongi said. “We’re not practicing tonight.”

“Why not?” Jin turns, resting one arm on the porch and facing Yoongi fully. His gaze makes Yoongi’s skin prickle.

“Hobi’s not here, and now we don’t have a vocalist either. Seems like a lost cause.” Jin’s answering gaze is quizzical and Yoongi feels an ironic comfort that he wasn’t the only one there kept out of the loop.

“Jimin’s quitting the band,” Yoongi says, and looks away from Jin’s face because he doesn’t want to see his expression. Jin’s only a friend of Namjoon who lets them practice in his basement, and Yoongi isn’t keen on the fact that he’s sharing more than pleasantries with him.

The cigarette burns low enough that the heat on Yoongi’s fingers has become sharp, painful. He finally stubbs it out on the railing, then blows the ash off, letting it float away to join the fireflies blinking in the street in front of the house.

“Oh,” Jin says. He manages to catch Yoongi’s eye, despite the effort Yoongi puts in to avoid him. “I’m sorry.”

Yoongi shrugs, but he thinks it comes off unconvincing. “Namjoon’s uncle is a producer, we were supposed to record a few tracks soon - I don’t know.”

“None of the rest of you could pick up the vocals?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “Namjoon, Hobi and I sing like shit. Taehyung has a good voice, but he says he can’t drum and sing at the same time.”

“I’m sorry,” Jin says again. “I know this band means a lot to you.”

The wording annoys Yoongi. “I thought it meant a lot to all of us.”

Jin drums his fingers on the railing, as if to get Yoongi’s attention, which is already on him. “I could ask my brother, Jungkook, if he might want to do it. He’s a voice major.”

“He’s in college?”
“Yeah, a freshman.”

“A kid,” Yoongi says doubtfully.

“A voice major ,” Jin repeats, with a small frown and gentle insistence. “He’s talked about joining a band before. His voice recitals aren’t always the kind of music he likes.”

“I don’t know,” Yoongi says.

“Jimin is in school too,” Jin points out. “Namjoon is in graduate school.”

“I know that,” Yoongi says.

“Then why is this different?” Jin asks. He doesn’t sound angry, his head is tilted to the side, his mouth is a soft line. It seems important to him.

The front door is opening again before Yoongi can think of a satisfying answer. Namjoon, Taehyung and Jimin step out, fresh from whatever sort of discussion they had, the same worry reflected on all of their faces. Yoongi turns away from their grimaces.

Jin is the first to speak. “Yoongi was telling me about your change in lineup,” he says. He’s met only by an uncomfortable silence, but doesn’t seem to feel it. “And I told him I think I have a solution. My brother Jungkook, remember?” Yoongi isn’t sure who in particular he’s talking to.

“Yeah,” Namjoon says, his voice lifting up at the end of the word, a hint of enthusiasm. “He’s pretty good, isn’t he?”
“He’s been taking voice lessons since he was a kid,” Jin says, the pride easily detectable in his tone without looking at him. “It’s his major.”

“Apparently so,” Yoongi says quietly. If Jin hears him he pretends not to.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Jimin says quickly.

“Of course you do,” Yoongi says, turning around again to look at him straight on. “It lets you off the hook, doesn’t it?”

“Hey, Yoongi,” Taehyung breaks in. “You don’t have to be an ass.”

Yoongi looks at him. Taehyung , he thinks. He couldn’t look intimidating if he tried, and he’s trying. His eyebrows are knit together above his handsome face, dark eyes slightly narrowed under his overgrown brown hair, arms crossed over his chest. The tattoo on his collarbone is half revealed by his loose tshirt, and seems to glow in the porch light. He looks like he’s acting angry for a role, and Yoongi thinks if he hadn’t dropped out of college and the theater program he was in, he might be better at it. Yoongi can’t hate him, or even dislike him, despite trying.

“Sorry,” Yoongi says.

“I know you’re upset right now,” Namjoon says, running a hand through his hair, colored pink from the same batch of dye as Jimin’s, the result of some recent Friday night that Yoongi had skipped out on to work on music. Taehyung had come away from the experience with a new color of his own - dark green in the tips of his bangs that the others had been too smart to mess with. It looked good on Taehyung, though, as everything did. “I think this is a good idea too, Yoongi.”

The porch is silent for a while, the only sound the chirping of crickets in the overgrown patch of grass that Jin has for a front yard. Yoongi comes to realize that they’re probably waiting on him, and turns to face them. The porch light is dim, a bulbs burned out so that only one remains to illuminate their faces. Still, Yoongi can see the expressions of expectation. He feels defeated, backed into a corner.

“At least let me ask him,” Jin says. “And give him a chance if he wants one.”

Yoongi nods, and feels small in the wave of relief that washes over them afterwards, tangible in the humid night air.

 

Hoseok is asleep on the couch when Yoongi gets home, panting slightly from dragging his keyboard up the three flights of stairs to their apartment. One of Hoseok’s arms hangs over the side of the cushions, knuckles brushing the carpet. Yoongi regards the scene of peacefulness before him. Jung Hoseok, or Hobi - his best friend. Maybe his only friend.

The TV is on, the remote is resting on Hobi’s chest, and half a joint is placed on top of the metal box where he keeps his stash. Yoongi sits on the end of the couch by Hobi’s feet gingerly, shaking one of his knees to wake him.

Hobi wakes up slowly, stretching one arm above his head and catching the remote as it starts to slide off of his chest. He blinks rapidly to bring Yoongi into focus, and looks from him to the clock on their wall in confusion. Their apartment is small, and sparsely furnished with the basics of a couch, bookshelf, coffee table and stand for their TV. They have their own bedrooms though Hobi, a social creature, normally occupies the couch when he’s home.

“I thought you had a date tonight,” Yoongi says, when Hobi looks like he’s about to speak.

“It ran short. I don’t think she was that into me,” Hobi says, an apologetic smile on his lips. “I know what you’re going to say, but I am serious about the band and I won’t skip again - ”

“Doesn’t matter,” Yoongi cuts across his drowsy rambling. “We didn’t practice anyway. Jimin quit.”

Hobi stares at him, rubbing his eyes as he continues to wake up. “He quit?”

“Yep. Would have been nice for him to let me know over text or something, before I bothered to carry my keyboard all the way over there, on the fucking bus.”

“Would have been nice for someone to let me know at all,” Hobi says. “Guess I am really just the bassist, huh?”

When Yoongi doesn’t react Hobi runs a hand through his dark hair, putting it back into position, fixing it from his sleep. “You’re really upset about this, aren’t you?”

Yoongi shakes his head in disbelief, and leans back into the embrace of the old couch, which has gone squishy with time and use. “It came out of nowhere.”

“Did he give a reason?”

“Wants to focus on dance.”

Hobi nods thoughtfully. “He is an amazing dancer.” He catches Yoongi’s eye, guilty. “Still not cool of him, though.”

Yoongi sighs, pushing his palms into his eyes until multicolored lights materialize to spin across his vision like a kaleidoscope. “He says it’s because of dance, but I know there’s more to it than that,” he says, voicing the thought out loud for the first time.

“What do you mean?” Hobi asks, though Yoongi thinks he knows exactly what he means.

“He’s been different since we broke up,” Yoongi says, spitting it out as if it’s a bitter taste in his mouth.

“That seems normal.”

“It doesn’t have to impact the band,” Yoongi says.

“It’s probably worse that he’s dating Taehyung now,” Hobi says.

There’s an ache in Yoongi’s temple. “It’s worse,” he says, “Because he dumped me a week after he met Taehyung, and started seeing him a week later.”

“Not his best move,” Hobi says softly.

“Still, I’m not the one who’s made a big deal out of this, you know? He could at least stick to one commitment he’s made, he could at least stick to the band.”

Hobi looks at him for a long moment, his smile a bit melancholy as if he’s watching a sad movie, instead of looking at Yoongi. “This could be a good thing,” he says. “It’s not like the rest of us can’t feel the tension, too.”

Yoongi shrugs, unconvinced. With Hobi, the frustration that was more carefully contained at practice threatens to push through Yoongi’s exhaustion. There’s a murky feeling in his chest. He doesn’t mind if Hobi notices that he’s off - he’s the one person Yoongi isn’t afraid of showing a little more authenticity to, because the amount that Hobi himself shows dims any embarrassment Yoongi would otherwise feel. Yoongi thinks maybe that’s why he’s stuck with Hobi for so long, through college and the formation and disbandment of two other bands, to moving to the city together a year ago and forming their current lineup from a group of Hobi’s high school friends. It’s easy to spend around Hobi, and he can’t really say that about anyone else.

“We can find another vocalist,” Hobi says, his voice gentle. He puts a hand on Yoongi’s knee. “In the meantime, we can still practice. Namjoon’s guitar could be a little tighter.”

“Jin wants his little brother to join us,” Yoongi says, thinking there’s no reason to keep that development quiet.

Hobi sits back. “You mean Jungkook?”

“I’m guessing you know him.”

Hobi shrugs. “I’ve met him, yeah. It’s hard to be friends with Jin without hearing about Jungkook all the time.”

Yoongi racks his brain a little, searching through past conversations with Jin, of which there haven’t been an abundance. He remembers hearing the name a few times, maybe even looking at a high school graduation photo. “I guess.”

“Once, I was talking about my trip to the dentist, and even then Jin found a way to bring up Jungkook.”

“You’ve known Jin longer than I have,” Yoongi points out.

Hobi finally turns off the TV, which has been droning on in the background mostly ignored by both of them. “It could be a good idea,” he says. “Having Jungkook in the band.”

“That’s what Namjoon said.”

“And what do you think?” Hobi asks.

“I think it sounds like he’s a kid. And he’s probably busy with school.”

“But let me guess - everyone else is willing to let him try out?”

Yoongi nods reluctantly.

“It’s our band too,” Hobi says, keeping his voice low. “It won’t hurt you to give it a try.”

Yoongi sighs. “Don’t have much choice.”

A light rain begins to fall outside, pattering against the window. Yoongi feels fortunate that at least he got home with his keyboard before it got wet. It’s late, now, but not terribly so, and normally Yoongi would take the opportunity of a night off of practice to work on new stuff. Instead, he mostly feels tired, and a little guilty from his conversation with Hobi. It’s not like he’s trying to be difficult, but he gets the feeling that everyone thinks he is. He glances back to Hobi, who is looking at his phone, unusually subdued.

“Were you feeling kind of sorry for yourself here?” Yoongi gestures toward the joint on the coffee table.

Hobi smiles, the most natural expression for his face, the way it seems like it should always be. “Only about as much as you are.”

Yoongi rubs his hand over his face, and knows that Hobi isn’t wrong.

“Did Jin send anything back to eat?” Hobi asks, hopeful. Yoongi shakes his head. “Do you want to order a pizza then?” Hobi sticks the unfinished joint back in the box and heads toward the kitchen.

“A pizza sounds good,” Yoongi says.