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and all these demons i'm letting go (cause i can see what is beautiful)

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Jeon Jeongguk steps out of the dark auditorium into the sunlight of fading summer and immediately has to start assuring himself that you’re okay, you’re fine, it’s all going to be okay, just relax.

The thing is, there are people. There are people everywhere. Spilling out of the doors of the auditorium, oozing onto the sloping lawn, bodies packed together like one huge mass, moving like a single organism, inward, towards him. It is a lot of people, and Jeongguk isn’t very good with people.

Not only is Jeongguk not good with people, he’s really, especially not good with strangers. And that’s all he has here. Here, he is just the little kid from Busan that thought it was a good idea to come to Seoul all alone, his belongings shoved into the back of his uncle’s truck, and try to jumpstart his life.

And, in order to jumpstart his life, he knows he has to make friends. Talk to people. Only, there are so many of them, and where would he even start? How would he even pick who to talk to? What would he even say to them? They probably wouldn’t even want to be friends with him, anyway. Everyone here looks so cool, and he can hear their accents, crisp, clear Seoul, and why would he even bother, it’s not like they will want to talk to him.

He shuffles out of the auditorium, just a pebble bobbing in this sea of people, staring at his scuffed shoes. Okay, his subconscious makes a deal with him, let's do this: you don't have to talk to anyone now, but when they split you up by major, you talk to someone.

Okay, he agrees. I'll talk to someone in my major.

---

Jeongguk's official major for the duration of freshman orientation is dance, but that's just because they have to sort you by major, and of his two majors, “dance” comes before “vocal performance” in the alphabet.

Which is how he finds himself crammed into a too-hot studio (tragically designed with west-facing windows along the length of the room) on a sweltering August afternoon with a number of other freshmen. They are all seated cross-legged on the floor, the sun beating down on their backs. At the front of the room stands a kid that looks younger than Jeongguk, for sure, and younger than the majority of the people in the room. He looks like he probably hasn’t even stopped aging yet, baby fat still clinging to his cheeks, but judging by his position of authority, he’s probably older than them.

This leader (he’s probably a leader, Jeongguk thinks) waits until the last of the freshmen have been filed in and been seated inside the sauna disguised as a dance studio before speaking. “Hi, everyone!” His face immediately dissolves into a huge smile, so huge that his eyes completely disappear with the force of it. “I’m Park Jimin, sophomore in the dance program. Our university is the best for dance, I’m sure you guys know.” He sits down on a stool. “So, I’m sure you all have questions about the program, so I’ll answer those first, and then we’ll get to know each other a little.” He’s still smiling, hasn’t stopped since he first opened his mouth. Jeongguk is...intrigued, to say the least. Jimin looks all happy and sunshiney and...nice. Jeongguk could maybe have a friend like that.

---

As it turns out, Jimin is the TA for his intro to contemporary dance class, and Jimin has an affinity for cute things, of which he immediately decides Jeongguk is one. Jeongguk does not have to make any effort at all to befriend Jimin. Jimin immediately takes Jeongguk under his wing (metaphorically, of course; even if Jimin had a wing, it’s not like he could lift it high enough for Jeongguk to fit under) and shows him off to everyone he knows.

It starts with Jimin noticing his Busan accent when they split up into smaller groups that first day of freshman orientation and saying, “You’re from Busan? I’m from Busan too!” Jeongguk wonders at first if it’s just a one-time thing, but Jimin seems to have a radar for people who are alone and in need of friendship. Jeongguk is definitely one of those. So Jimin clings to him like a piece of velcro over the next several weeks, talking to him before and after class, inviting him to come to every party he’s caught wind of (which is most parties, since Jimin is friends with everyone). Jeongguk (at Jimin’s insistence) spends a large amount of time with Jimin and his soulmate Taehyung.

Jimin and Taehyung are a strange case of soulmates. They met their freshman year, when fate or some matchmaking housing supervisor assigned them as roommates. Taehyung had tested after the first week of them living together (he had said he just knew, he had a feeling Jimin was his soulmate) and he was right. When he tested, they were both aging again, and the dates on the testers matched: the date they had moved into their dorm.

So they had informed the housing office, who had quickly moved them into their current mansion. Soulmates get special treatment, since it’s not guaranteed or even that common to meet your soulmate in university. Which is why Jeongguk is at Jimin and Taehyung’s house a lot; it’s a thousand times bigger and nicer than his tiny dorm room. And it’s through Taehyung and Jimin that he meets their friend and fellow dance major, Hoseok.

Hoseok is, impossible as it seems, even happier than Jimin. He’s the TA for the hip-hop dance class Jeongguk will be taking next semester, and within five minutes of meeting Jeongguk offers to practice with him in his spare time. Jeongguk likes him right away. Hoseok is endlessly kind, and gentle, and he makes Jeongguk feel like he is part of a family here, far away from all the people he has ever known.

Thanks to them, Jeongguk’s first semester is a lot less terrible than he had thought it might be. He isn’t alone and helpless—he doesn’t spend all his time with Overwatch and his own thoughts as his only companions. The one time he gets sick, Jimin and Hoseok fuss over him for days, refusing to let him leave Jimin and Taehyung’s apartment, stacking so many blankets on him he begins to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They are great friends, better friends than he thought he’d be able to make this quickly.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it gets a little tiring. Jimin and Taehyung know everyone. They throw more parties than there are weekends, and there are always people at their house (it’s huge, freaking soulmate housing, and so it fits all the people they can think of to invite over and then some.) It’s not that Jeongguk doesn’t like them, and Hoseok; he loves them, no doubt about it. It’s just...so many people. And his friends are all people-people, the more the better, always talking and laughing. They don’t quite understand why Jeongguk sometimes avoids their house when it’s full of strangers, why he sometimes pulls on headphones instead of talking to them because so many words are exhausting. He’s better, better than he was, for the most part, but there are some times when Hoseok finds him in the cafeteria and brings all nine of his dancer friends to sit around Jeongguk, and they all close in around him, pelting him with questions, and it's a little suffocating.

So, it's not that he isn't happy. It just wears him out, a little too much, sometimes.

---

It's never really bad, though, until one day, towards the beginning of his second semester, when it very suddenly is.

It starts out as the tiniest thing, insignificant, inconsequential, but it suddenly becomes way, way too much. It's just an assignment, from his business class, to call someone trying to sell their business on Craigslist and ask them questions to determine if it would be a good business to buy or not. Despite it only having been a couple weeks, Jeongguk is good at his business class. It is something that comes naturally to him. But this assignment is way too much in spite of all that.

It's less to do with the discussing-different-aspects-of-a-business part and a lot more to do with the talking-to-a-total-stranger part. A lot more to do with the phone part. Jeongguk hates phones; he feels like every time he talks to someone on the phone his awkwardness drowns everything else out, and the only thing you can hear is how uncomfortable he is.  

And so this “pretend to be a competent adult trying to purchase a business over the phone from a stranger” thing is really not going to work.

He thinks about how much it is not going to work all the way from the class to his dorm. It gets more and more frightening the longer he thinks about it, more and more impossible, and he can feel his body threatening to shut down at the thought of it, each heartbeat pounding like a bass drum, each breath rattling through his chest like a pair of maracas. His whole being has become the drum set for his fears, and they beat away with all their might on his organs until the only thing he can feel is that rhythm, chanting you’re no good you’re no good you’re no good in a way that reverberates through all his bones.

He sits on the edge of his bed, perched on the very corner of the mattress like he might fall at any second, and he feels the tears start to pool. They always do, when it gets bad like this; almost like his body is so panicked that the only thing it can think to do is to start eliminating salt water via his eyes. He makes himself breathe, using the numbers he was taught ages ago. In, seven. Hold, four. Out, eight. He repeats those numbers, forcing everything else out of his mind.

When he allows himself to access his basic mental capacity, he is lying on his back, his breathing almost regulated again, only the residual tear leaking out the corner of his eye down his cheek.

His first thought that isn’t panic is that he needs someone. Not someone to talk him through the things he’s afraid of—he doesn’t dare give his fears any space in his brain because if they get even an inch they will start spreading until they take it all. He needs someone to be there , just to assure him that he isn’t alone. Jimin would do it, he thinks. Jimin wouldn’t make him talk. Jimin would talk enough for both of them, and Jimin would let Jeongguk rest his head in Jimin’s lap, and Jimin would stroke his hair. He’s done it before, when Jeongguk was just tired, or stressed, and Jeongguk thinks he would do it again now, when Jeongguk is a complete wreck disguised as a human.

So Jeongguk stands up, takes a deep breath, smooths his shirt down with both hands. Jeongguk looks at himself in the mirror, washes off the tear tracks, runs a hand through his hair. Jeongguk pulls on his coat, warm, safe, and zips it up almost all the way to his chin. Jeongguk opens the door, steps outside, closes the door behind him, inserts the key into the lock, twists it until he hears the deadbolt click. Jeongguk walks to Jimin and Taehyung’s house. It starts to snow as he walks, just a few tiny frozen flakes, pricking against his skin.

He hears the voices before he even gets to the door. There are too many voices, the sound too magnified. And then Jeongguk remembers. Jimin has all his friends from dance over. Jeongguk was invited, too—Jeongguk is always invited—but the sound is so loud, and Jeongguk doesn’t know these people, not really, not beyond a simple introduction. Maybe you should just go in, suggests some part of his brain. The rest of him reels at the suggestion, his heartbeat starting the bass drum again, and he knows this is just as bad as the phone call assignment, having to talk to all these people he doesn’t know, people who don’t know him, and he looks like he’s recently been raised from the crypt, and what if they notice? What if they ask him what’s wrong? How is he supposed to explain the fact that he has no idea how to get to know someone, how to feel comfortable with someone?

The ache, the need for someone’s help just gets worse, throbbing in his chest as he backs away from the door. Jimin and Taehyung and Hoseok are his only friends, and they’re all in there, and there is a garrison of strangers keeping him from them.

He just starts walking, in what he would have verified was the direction to his dorm if he weren’t focusing the majority of his energy on making sure his lungs allow oxygen in, making sure his heartbeat doesn’t make him go deaf. He keeps walking. One foot. The other foot. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. It’s okay. You’re okay. You’re fine. It’s fine. Calm down.

He stares at his feet, watching them move, one, then the other, each step making a crunching sound and an imprint in the snow. It sounds the same, every time. The imprint looks the same. He looks straight down, listening to the crunch crunch crunch of his footsteps. Watching the snow shape around his boots. Timing each breath so the inhale and exhale land perfectly between each crunch. Inhale. Crunch. Exhale. Crunch.

Then he collides with something. Something warm, solid, and right in front of him. His head shoots up to meet a pair of shocked eyes. “Oh, shit,” mumbles Jeongguk, and it’s like his body was waiting for something to tip him out of equilibrium, because just like that, his eyes overflow, tears leaking out all over the place, again. “I’m so sorry, I—”

“Hey, kid,” says a voice. A stranger’s voice. The stranger Jeongguk just almost knocked into the snow. Shit. He’s so dead.

“It’s my fault, I wasn’t—I wasn’t looking, I—” All the words, every word he has ever thought of, is trying to get out of his mouth, and he’s still crying, probably, he doesn’t even know, and this person, this normal person, was just walking down the sidewalk, and since Jeongguk can barely manage to keep himself breathing, he almost ran him over, shit, shit—

“Hey, kid,” says the voice again. It’s a nice voice, a little low, a little raspy. It doesn’t sound as angry as Jeongguk was expecting. “You all right?”

Yes. The chorus chimes in his head. For heaven’s sakes, please just say yes, and apologize, and leave, and tunnel directly into the snow, and maybe you can dig your way to Siberia, and never speak to another person again as long as you live.

Jeongguk, however, does not speak, just stands there and feels his lip quivering and looks at this stranger. He is shorter than Jeongguk by a couple inches. He has long black hair hanging into his eyes. He’s wearing a hat with a pom-pom on the top. He looks...concerned, Jeongguk notices, his eyes wide, his teeth biting down on his lip. He asked you a question, he reminds himself. Answer him. Jeongguk nods.

“You don't look like it,” says the stranger calmly. “How long have you been out in this weather?”

Jeongguk realizes belatedly that the snow has gotten heavier, and they're standing here on the sidewalk in front of who-knows-where in what is essentially a blizzard. “I...I don’t know,” he says. His voice sounds so wobbly, he can barely recognize it.

The stranger is suddenly touching his hand, which would freak him out if he were not already in a state of full-blown panic. “Damn, kid, you’re freezing. Come on, let’s get you inside.”

Nope nope nope nope nope screech the sirens in Jeongguk’s brain. Stranger danger, you don’t even know him, you almost knocked him over in a blizzard and he’s not even mad, that seems really sketchy, shouldn’t he be mad, but Jeongguk doesn’t have the capability to access his physical strength at the moment, and so when the stranger tugs on his hand, he follows along, his muscles sagging.

“I’m Yoongi, by the way,” says—Yoongi, apparently. “So you don’t freak out about going home with some stranger. You know my name now, so don’t worry about it.”

Yoongi lives close by, which is good, Jeongguk realizes, because he can’t feel his fingers or his toes, really, but they start tingling when they walk in the door of Yoongi’s house. Jeongguk stops and stares at the interior of the apartment; everything is dark, blinds drawn, walls painted a saturated gray, deep brown cabinets in the kitchen. For some reason, the dark colors make the place feel warm, inviting. Or maybe that’s just the actual warmth coming from not being outside in a blizzard. “You can hang up your coat over there,” says Yoongi, gesturing to a set of hooks by the door. “Do you like tea?”

“Um,” says Jeongguk. He finishes hanging up his coat. One thing at a time. “Yes?”

“Peppermint okay?”

“Um, sure?”

“Okay. You can sit down wherever, I'll bring it to you in a minute.”

“Um,” says Jeongguk again. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

Jeongguk can only see Yoongi's back from where he is, and he watches his shoulder shrug, up and down. “You looked like you needed someone to be nice to you.” Yoongi doesn’t turn toward him, just says the words as if he’s speaking to the kitchen counter.

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, doesn’t know what to say. He’s tired. He walks towards the couch, and his knees buckle, and he half-sits, half-falls onto it. It’s comfortable—he sinks straight into the cushions, his head lolling to one side.

He doesn’t fall asleep; more like he falls unconscious, or dissociated. He’s not sure how long he sits there, brain turned off except for the most basic of functions. He listens to his breath and his heartbeat, keeping his eyes closed, keeping his muscles still. “Hey.”

The voice is very quiet and gentle. It’s accompanied by a hand lightly shaking his shoulder. “Hey, kid, I’m sorry to wake you up, but the tea is ready, and you should really drink it—I don’t want you dying of hypothermia on my couch.”

Jeongguk takes the proffered mug, watching the steam spiral up past the rim and disappear into the air. “Thank you,” he says quietly, his voice as effervescent as the steam.

“No problem,” says Yoongi, sitting down on the couch. Jeongguk notices with gratitude that he’s left a healthy distance between them. He doesn’t speak for several minutes, and neither does Jeongguk, of course, and maybe it would be more uncomfortable if Jeongguk were in better shape, but as it is, this is quite nice.

“You look better,” says Yoongi after Jeongguk has almost finished the cup of tea. “Do you feel better?”

The tea is warming him from the inside out, where he didn’t even realize he was cold, and it feels so, so nice. Jeongguk nods. He does feel better.

Yoongi swallows, and then opens his mouth, and Jeongguk’s heart skips into an accelerated beat, trying to brace himself for the inevitable slew of questions. Why were you out in a blizzard for so long? Why were you staring at your feet? Why did you start crying when you bumped into me?

To his surprise, Yoongi chuckles. The sound is quiet and gentle, much like everything else Yoongi has been doing since they met. “Relax, kid, I’m not going to interrogate you. I just wanted to ask your name.”

Oh. “I’m Jeongguk.”

Yoongi smiles, and it’s the first time Jeongguk has seen him smile: it’s at least as much gums as teeth, and it fits him, somehow. “Good. Jeongguk. It’s nice to meet you.”

---

Yoongi talks to him after that, and it's almost like he knows what's inside Jeongguk’s brain, because he only asks harmless questions. He asks his major, and his year in school, and where he's from, and he acts like Jeongguk is actually interesting, like Jeongguk is the sort of person worth getting to know.

Yoongi himself is very interesting, Jeongguk thinks. He's two years ahead of Jeongguk in school, and he's majoring in music production. He shows Jeongguk some of his tracks, and they just...talk. About music, about vocal styles they like, about rap (apparently Yoongi raps, though he doesn’t let Jeongguk listen to that.) It takes Jeongguk a while to realize how much better he feels, like one of the better versions of himself, no more fear drumming through his veins.

He doesn’t realize how much time has passed until he glances at his phone, which has fallen out of his pocket and slipped partway between the cushions on the couch. It’s been at least...five hours since his class ended, and—well, it’s not like he was really keeping track of time, but he’s probably been here for three hours, now, at the least. “Shit,” he mumbles, feeling discomfort spike into his bloodstream with a shot of adrenaline, “I didn’t know it had been so long, I’m sorry, wow that’s so rude of me, to just—”

“It’s fine,” says Yoongi with a tone of finality. “I’m the one who dragged you up here, and it’s still a blizzard out there, and you shouldn’t go out in that weather. You’ll get sick for sure. Just stay here until it calms down.”

Jeongguk feels like that can’t possibly be an option, feels like staying here would be presumptuous, feels like a burden. “It’s really fine,” says Yoongi again, giving him a stern look. “Look, kid, I wouldn’t let you stay here if I didn’t want to.”

“But,” Jeongguk starts to protest, “you don't even know me, I'm just some random stranger who almost shoved you into a snowbank, and now I’m—”

“Sure, I know you,” says Yoongi. “We’ve been talking for the past couple hours. I know both of your majors and where you’re from and a fair bit about your taste in music. I think we’re definitely acquaintances by now, at least.”

“But, I’m probably keeping you from something, like, I’m sure there’s stuff you have to do, you’re a student too.”

“Actually, now that you mention it,” Yoongi’s face stretches into a smile as he speaks, and it warms Jeongguk from the inside out, soothing out all the anxious beats in his veins, “there is something you could probably help me with.”

---

Jeongguk doesn’t know what he expected Yoongi to ask him for help with—basic algebra, maybe? washing the dishes?—but it wasn’t helping him write a melody for a song he’s been working on.

“I don’t write music,” he says, backing slowly away from the computer. “Yoongi-ssi, I really don’t think you want me to do this.”

“Hyung,” says Yoongi.

“...What?”

“Hyung. Call me hyung.”

“Oh. Okay.” Jeongguk swallows. “Yoongi-hyung. I don’t know anything about writing music.”

“You’re a vocal performance major, right?”

“Yeah,” says Jeongguk.

“Then you know things about how vocal music should sound, what makes it good, all that. Which is exactly what I need. You’re perfect. Sit down.” Yoongi gestures to the chair beside him, which Jeongguk side-eyes for fifteen seconds before taking a seat.

“Here.” Yoongi shoves a pair of headphones into his hands. “I don’t have good speakers, and I want you to hear what this is actually supposed to sound like.”

Jeongguk pulls the headphones over his ears; they are big, nice ones, and heavy. They clamp out all the other noise until the silence almost seems to have a sound of its own. Yoongi starts playing the track, and it is different from what Jeongguk had been expecting: it’s softer, more raw. He likes it immediately. Yoongi is listening too, with a different pair of headphones, and Jeongguk is just starting to get absorbed in the song when Yoongi pauses it. “There,” he says, pointing to the screen. “That’s where it needs a good melody.” Yoongi’s words are muffled, barely audible through the headphones. Jeongguk pulls one side back behind his ear. “Wait, what was that?”

Jeongguk doesn’t realize he’s humming quietly, lightly, until Yoongi asks the question. “Um...I don’t know? I just—”

“Do it again,” says Yoongi. “I’ll play the track again, and listen to you.”

Yoongi does exactly that, and Jeongguk hums, softly, along with the underlying sound. “That’s good,” says Yoongi as he stops the track again. “I like it.”

Then Jeongguk hears Yoongi hum the same sound, again, back to him, except it scrapes against the rasp of his voice, and the notes are right, but the feel...well, isn’t. Jeongguk doesn’t mean to, he even tries not to, but the laughter comes out anyway.

Yoongi looks up at him in surprise, and Jeongguk realizes he’s ruined it. Seriously, this guy takes you in off the street, doesn’t judge you at all, feeds you, lets you help him with his music, and now you’re laughing at him? Are you kidding me? Jeon Jeongguk, you absolute disaster. But then Yoongi laughs too, the sound just as gravelly as his speaking voice. “This is why I rap. I’ll leave the singing to you, and other people that can actually sing.”

Yoongi rarely does what Jeongguk thinks he will do, doesn’t fit in with any of Jeongguk’s expectations, and Jeongguk thinks he might really, really like that.

---

Yoongi walks Jeongguk back home when the snow slows down. It’s dark, and late, but the weather is bearable, and Jeongguk has regained the capacity to know where he is and navigate his way back home. He and Yoongi exchange numbers before Jeongguk goes inside, and it’s not until the door is closed and he is alone again that he realizes how strange this is.

First: who the hell meets a kindred spirit in the middle of a freaking panic attack?

Second: who the hell takes in a weird crying kid off the street and then turns out to be a kindred spirit of said crying kid?

Third: since when does Jeongguk use the phrase ‘kindred spirit’?

Normally, this would be the point when Jeongguk starts to doubt everything. Maybe I just looked cool for a minute and deceived him. I bet he was secretly weirded out by me. I’m sure he won’t contact me again.

But he doesn’t doubt anything this time. He hadn’t looked cool. Being lost in the middle of a blizzard and almost knocking people over into the snow is the complete antithesis of cool. Stuttering and crying: extremely uncool. Anxiety in general: pretty dang uncool.

Yoongi hadn’t been secretly weirded out by him either. It was on Yoongi’s terms that Jeongguk came to his house, that Jeongguk stayed as long as he did, that Yoongi walked him home. There was no pressure on him at all, social or otherwise, that would have forced him to spend time with Jeongguk.

And he feels confident that he’ll see Yoongi again. Soon, probably. Yoongi had expressed an interest in having Jeongguk help him more with the song they had been working on. Jeongguk had tentatively agreed.

So, he’s not worried. Jeongguk likes Yoongi. He thinks they might get to be really good friends.

So, he’s not even surprised when he gets a message several minutes later.

 

yoongi-hyung: before you start worrying that i’m frozen to death in some snowbank, i made it back home safe. thanks for your help today.

jeongguk: glad you’re not dead. and i should be the one thanking you, hyung.

yoongi-hyung: let me know when you have time to work on that song. i’m free most afternoons.

jeongguk: will do. thanks again.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t think he’s looked forward to something so much in a long time.

---

Through an actual miracle, Jeongguk gets the assignment done. Except, it’s not actually him that does it, technically. Once the thought of it stops spiraling him into a panicked whirlwind, he actually thinks about what to do and realizes he has the perfect solution.

Taehyung, fortunately enough, is a Music, Dance, and Theater major. Which means he likes acting. So: Jeongguk gives him the phone and a script, and sits next to him taking notes on the conversation on speakerphone as Taehyung pretends to be inquiring into this business.

Taehyung knows next to nothing about business, but Jeongguk’s script is pretty detailed, and he gave him a thirty minute crash course before they called. Taehyung had been a little confused when Jeongguk had presented the request, but after Jeongguk shuddered and said “ugh, I hate talking on the phone, hyung,” Tae had shrugged and agreed to do it.

“Oh, thank you so much,” Jeongguk says when Tae hangs up, looking through his notes with satisfaction. “You saved me, honestly.”

“I don’t know why you don’t like talking on the phone,” says Taehyung. He doesn’t sound judgmental, just a little confused. “I think it’s fun.”

“I’m glad,” says Jeongguk. “If I ever start a business, I’ll hire you to handle all the phone calls.”

Taehyung smiles. “Sounds good. If Broadway doesn’t want me, I’ll work for you.”

Jeongguk’s phone beeps at him, and he smiles when he sees a message from Yoongi. He glances up from the screen to see Taehyung’s eyes narrowed. “Who are you texting to make you smile like that?”

“Um,” says Jeongguk, trying to figure out how to explain Yoongi to...anyone else. “My friend.”

“What friend?” says Jimin, who somehow heard Jeongguk from like four rooms away and has now teleported to the side of the couch, where he is currently staring Jeongguk down. “You have a friend we don’t know about? Why haven’t you introduced us?”

“I just met him the other day, I haven’t really…” Haven’t really what? his brain asks. He has been texting Yoongi. A lot. About anything and everything. They’re supposed to meet up later today to work on the song, at Yoongi’s studio. Jeongguk has been hesitant to introduce him to his friends, though. Probably because, right now, Yoongi is his. His friend. Maybe it’s selfish of him, but he doesn’t exactly want to have to share Yoongi with his sunshine-extrovert friends.

“How did you meet him?”

Oh. Jeongguk should have expected this question, should have prepared some story that didn’t involve unintentional violence and crying in the snow and panic attacks. He shuffles around in his own brain, ransacking every inch for ideas. “I got lost the other day, when it was snowing. Yoongi saved me from freezing to death.”

“You really must have hit it off,” says Jimin, looking at him curiously.

Jeongguk smiles slightly. “Yeah. We did, I guess.”

“So, when can we meet him?” asks Taehyung, sitting upright on the couch. “I want to meet the person that makes our Jeonggukkie smile like that.”

“Is he a freshman too?” asks Jimin.

Jeongguk shakes his head, and gives a small introduction to Yoongi, enough to satisfy the soulmates.

“He sounds cool,” says Jimin, smiling in that way that makes his eyes disappear. “How did you manage to find someone like that?”

Fate? thinks Jeongguk. Really, really good luck?

The thing is, he doesn’t know either. Why he met Yoongi, why Yoongi didn’t just walk past him and not look back, why Yoongi invited him in, why Yoongi gave him tea, why Yoongi is still talking to him even now, days later.

But he’s so, so glad.

---

Jeongguk shows up at Yoongi’s studio a few minutes before 4, and he catches himself pacing in front of the door, not wanting to be too early, but not wanting to be late either, and mostly just itching to see Yoongi again. He raises his fist to knock right when the door flies out of the way, and he has to stop himself mid-motion to prevent himself from knocking Yoongi in the head. “Out to physically assault me again, I see,” says Yoongi, but there isn’t any anger in his voice, just fondness, and he’s smiling. “Come in.”

“I think I’ve figured out a good harmony for the chorus,” says Jeongguk, taking a seat on a stool next to Yoongi’s computer. “I’ve been working on it ever since you sent me the recording we took on your phone the other day. It’s really good, the song, I mean; it’s been stuck in my head almost all week.”

Yoongi is just staring at him, not saying a word. Jeongguk doesn’t know why until Yoongi speaks. “You’re awfully talkative today.”

Oh. Right. He inhales. “Yeah. I mean, you probably figured, what with how I was—you know—” The words are awkward and uncomfortable on his tongue.

Yoongi nods. “It’s fine. It wasn’t a good day. Happens to the best of us.” He offers a small smile. “It’s nice. To see you like this. Feeling better.”

If it were anyone else, Jeongguk would expect questions, but Yoongi doesn’t ask anything, doesn’t ask what was wrong with him that day, doesn’t ask if he gets like that often. Instead Yoongi looks at him in a way that says I’m here. When you want to tell me, I’ll listen. Jeongguk doesn’t want to tell him, not yet, he’s not ready for that, it’s too soon, he’s not yet sure how Yoongi will react, but Jeongguk thinks he will tell him, eventually. “Let’s hear what you came up with, then,” says Yoongi.

They work for the better part of an hour, Jeongguk singing his melody over and over again, Yoongi tweaking the timing, tweaking a note here or there, repeating it back in his low voice. “That's it!” he says excitedly after the hundredth time Jeongguk has sung what seems to be the same thing. “Will you sing it?”

Jeongguk looks at him in surprise. “What?”

“Not on the actual track. The professor's assigned us vocal students to record with. But will you sing the vocal part on the guide?”

“Yeah. Sure. You really want me to do it?”

“It's either you or me , kid, and I think you're definitely the better option.”

Jeongguk smiles, imagining a vocalist trying to sing along with Yoongi's singing voice on a guide track. “I'll do it.” He glances at the recording booth. “Do I just…”

Yoongi laughs. “I'll get you set up.” He shows Jeongguk where to stand, how to place his headphones, gives him a brief rundown on how everything works. “I take it you've never recorded before,” he says into Jeongguk's headphones as he takes a seat outside the booth.

“Not in a real studio, not like this.”

Yoongi snorts. “This isn’t a real studio either. But you’ll do fine, don’t worry.” Jeongguk raises his eyebrows, to which Yoongi nods decisively.

Yoongi starts playing the backing track, and nods toward Jeongguk when it gets close to where he’s supposed to come in. He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and starts singing. The melody comes to him easily, and he hears the way his voice slips between the beats and the piano like water. Just like that the song ends, and Jeongguk opens his eyes to see Yoongi staring at him, his mouth dropped a little bit open.

“Was it bad?” he asks, suddenly worried.

“Was it—was it bad? You think—” Yoongi says everything at once, the words spluttering their way out. “What the hell, kid, why didn’t you tell me you could sing like that?”

“W-what?” stutters Jeongguk. “But I've been singing this for an hour.”

“Yeah,” says Yoongi, waving a hand dismissively, “but you were singing all soft and quiet. That, ” he points at Jeongguk in the booth, twirling his finger around in a little circle, “that was something else.”

Jeongguk is surprised by Yoongi’s reaction, and it somehow elicits a strange courage from him. He can feel his face slip into a smirk as he opens his mouth to speak. “I’m a vocal performance major, hyung. Why are you surprised that I can sing?”

Yoongi’s shocked expression immediately transforms into a glare. “I take it back. You’re a brat. Your singing sounds like a dying crocodile.”

Jeongguk grins. “Sure. I’ll remember you said that the next time you want me to sing for you.”

“Seriously, though,” says Yoongi, leaning back in his chair, “I wish I didn’t have to use the vocalist the professor assigned. I wish you could sing it.”

Jeongguk’s eyebrows shoot up. “Really?”

Yoongi nods, as if it’s nothing at all, the simplest thing. “Well,” says Jeongguk, smiling in a way that almost feels foreign to him now, in the way where none of it is forced, where he’s smiling only because every part of him wants to. “You’ll just have to write more songs for me to sing.”

Yoongi smiles, and Jeongguk thinks he has not felt so effortlessly happy like this in months, like the happiness doesn’t have to wage war against everything bad and scary and battle its way into his heart, but rather it just exists in spite of the darkness, a flame that shows the nightmares to be nothing more than shadows.

---

He and Yoongi have hung out several times, and in spite of his track record of “cannot make a single friend of his own devices,” he and Yoongi are definitely friends. Good friends. He ends up at Yoongi’s house more often than not, or they meet up in the library. He’s helped Yoongi with his music a couple more times. Which is where he's headed again, today.

“Hey, Guk,” says Yoongi, greeting him at the door. Jeongguk's not sure where the nickname came from, or even when Yoongi started calling him that, but he likes it.

“So,” says Yoongi once the door is closed. “My friend Namjoon from my comp class is working with me on this song, and I wondered if you would be okay with him stopping by today to help us?”

What, did you think you were his only friend? his conscience chides. Yoongi-hyung is normal , unlike you, and he probably has lots of friends.

Once this thought is cleared up, he takes a moment to gauge his current mental and emotional state. “He’s really chill,” says Yoongi, as if he can hear the stew of Jeongguk’s thoughts. “I think you’d like him. But if you don’t want to, that’s fine.”

“No, it’s cool,” says Jeongguk. He can handle a new person. If Yoongi trusts this person, he can trust him too. “He can come.”

Yoongi grins. “Good.” He turns to his phone, presumably sending a message to Namjoon inviting him over.

You don’t need to be nervous, Jeongguk reminds himself as he and Yoongi start working on lyrics. This is Yoongi’s friend, I’m sure he’s really nice, you’ll be fine.

It doesn’t take very long for Namjoon to show up, and when Jeongguk sees him in the doorway he starts wondering if he’s made a terrible mistake. Namjoon is tall, first off, and looks all put together and really, really cool, and Jeongguk, being the polar opposite of cool, stands no chance at getting a person like that to even give him the time of day.

“Hey, Joon, you made it!” says Yoongi, turning to his friend. “This is Jeongguk. Guk, this is my friend Namjoon who’s in most of my music production classes.”

Jeongguk almost doesn’t look at Namjoon, but he forces himself to do it, because you’re supposed to look at people when you first meet them, according to some weird societal rule. He nearly dies of shock, though, because Namjoon’s stoic, cool expression suddenly disappears in favor of a huge smile and enormous dimples, and he looks like a different person, all soft and friendly. “You’re Jeongguk!” he says, and Jeongguk has no clue why anyone would sound that excited about meeting him. “Hyung’s been talking about you for weeks.”

Jeongguk turns to Yoongi, who is looking very pointedly at the floor. “Namjoon, please don’t.”

“He has, though. He says you’re probably the best singer in the school.”

Jeongguk snorts. “I’m just a freshman. Hyung clearly hasn’t heard any of the upperclassmen sing.”

Yoongi mumbles something, and Namjoon’s face lights up. “What was that, hyung?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “Can we just get to work, and you can both stop antagonizing me?”

Namjoon laughs, and Jeongguk is still a little shocked by how not-intimidating he looks when he's smiling. “So, Jeongguk, you're a double major, right? Dance and vocal performance?”

Jeongguk feels a little glow of satisfaction at the knowledge that Yoongi does talk about him to his other friends, at least to the point of knowing his majors. He nods. “You're also a music comp major, right?”

Namjoon nods as well. “Hyung says you’re pretty good at composition yourself.”

“Well, he also said I was the best singer in the school, so you should probably take what he says with a grain of salt,” says Jeongguk, grinning as he sees Yoongi bristle next to him.

“Geez, kid, can’t you learn to take a compliment?”

Jeongguk laughs. So does Yoongi, although he tries to mask it as a cough. Namjoon looks between them, his dimples fully visible alongside his grin. “I should never have introduced you two,” says Yoongi with a sigh. “Well, I’m going to play what we have so far on this track, and hopefully one or both of you will listen?”

---

Jeongguk likes Namjoon. He doesn’t know why it surprises him (he does; it surprises him because most people terrify him.) But he has fun with Yoongi and Namjoon, and they go get dinner together after they’re finished recording, and the conversation isn’t stressful or scary or anything Jeongguk feared it might be. In fact, by the end, he feels comfortable enough to extend Jimin’s invitation to what he calls “A Yoongi Party” which is intended to consist of Jeongguk, Jimin, Taehyung, Hoseok, Yoongi, and whatever other friends Yoongi wants to invite. “Don’t worry, Gukkie,” Jimin had said, reaching up to ruffle Jeongguk’s hair. “It won’t be too many people. We want you to have fun.”

“Um, so,” he starts, only feeling a slight prickle of nervousness in his spine, “I don’t know if you guys are busy next weekend? Because my friends kind of want to meet you, and are trying to find a time when we can all get together?”

The nervous tingle goes away when Yoongi smiles, all gums and crinkling eyes. “You’ve told your friends about me?”

Jeongguk looks pointedly from Yoongi to Namjoon and back. “So have you, hyung.”

“Sure, kid, I’m free. Joon too?”

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, and any other friends you want to bring.”

“Seokjin-hyung will come too, right?” Yoongi asks Namjoon.

“You think I could keep hyung away from a party?”

“Fair point,” says Yoongi, laughing. He turns back to Jeongguk. “Saturday? Me and Joon and Joon’s roommate Seokjin will be there. Text me the address.”

Jeongguk nods again, and smiles, and thinks things might actually get better, and he might be able to keep making friends, and finding good people, and maybe he won’t have to be so afraid anymore.

---

Jimin almost screams in Jeongguk’s ear when he reports that Yoongi and his friends will be coming to their party. “Yay! You actually invited them! I didn’t think you would!”

Jeongguk hadn’t been sure he would either, to be perfectly honest, so he just smiles, and backs away from Jimin to avoid a ruptured eardrum.

“Taetae!” calls Jimin, still managing to direct his voice way too close to Jeongguk's auditory canal. “We get to meet Yoongi!”

“Hyung,” corrects Jeongguk immediately.

“Right,” says Jimin, his grin not fading in the slightest. “Yoongi-hyung.”

“And, hyungs,” says Jeongguk, turning on the couch so he can see Taehyung and Hoseok, “you have to promise not to be weird.”

“Weird?” says Taehyung at the same time Jimin says “Us?”

“No, no, Jeonggukkie, don’t worry about that,” assures Hoseok. “We won’t be weird.”

---

Jeongguk should remember to never trust his friends again.

To be fair, it’s not the weirdest they’ve ever been. But for those two, (Taehyung had a rehearsal that even Jimin personally talking to the director couldn’t get him out of) “the weirdest they’ve ever been” could easily land them in a mental hospital, so the fact that they’re not being as bad as they could be is hardly comforting.

The fortunate thing is that Jeongguk seems to be the only one suffering from it, really. Yoongi is quiet—Yoongi is usually quiet, a thing that Jeongguk appreciates immensely—but he doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable. Namjoon and Seokjin appear quite entertained, too.

The thing is, Jimin and Hoseok have decided that “meeting Jeongguk’s new friends” should be synonymous with “show off every girl group dance you have ever learned.” Which is how the two of them have ended up in the middle of the living room, coffee table pushed to the side, dancing way too energetically to Red Velvet’s “Ice Cream Cake.” Seokjin has given himself the job of stage lighting (aka he is holding about four flashlights in each hand, straps looped around his fingers, each with a different color of cellophane taped over the head, and shining them in no particular order on Jimin and Hoseok.)

Jeongguk can’t say he’s surprised, of course, he knows his friends well enough to not be blindsided by this sort of bizarre behavior. The surprising thing is that, well, he doesn’t feel miserable. Usually this sort of display makes him want to run to his bed and hide under the covers for long enough that people forget he even exists. But here with Yoongi and his friends (Jeongguk thinks Namjoon might count as Jeongguk’s friend too, since a couple days ago Namjoon had spotted him in the cafeteria and sat down to talk to him for almost an hour, ending the conversation with an invitation to call him “hyung”) he feels comfortable, at ease, which is a rare thing for him even in much less mortifying situations.

He’s just thinking about this, and how he doesn’t even mind being around five other people, even when two of them are dancing like fools, when Hoseok suddenly grabs his hand and pulls him upright. “Come on, Gukkie, let’s do ‘Russian Roulette’.”

Jeongguk stares at him, tugging feebly at Hoseok’s hand around his wrist. “I—no, hyung, I don’t—”

“But Guk, you’re so good at it!” chimes Jimin.

Jeongguk is about to say something to the contrary, make some excuse. But he glances at Yoongi, and then at Namjoon and over to Seokjin, and they are smiling, looking at him with a sort of pleasant expectation, and the idea of joining his hyungs in their dance isn’t even scary, so he flashes them a smile, and gives all his attention to the music.

It’s not a thing he broadcasts, but Jeongguk is quite good at girl group dances. When there’s a particularly good comeback, he sometimes clears out space in his room and practices for hours on end until he gets the choreography down. So does Hoseok, he was quick to learn, but he does it with almost every comeback, not just the good ones. And Jimin is good enough at dancing to be able to pick up any choreography in a reasonably short amount of time. So yes, maybe they have rehearsed this a few times, after class in the dance studio. And maybe it goes flawlessly in the living room, the three of them moving together in perfect coordination. Jeongguk loses himself to the beat, letting his muscle memory carry him, feeling it all through his bones, what it feels like to dance, why he’s decided to major in this, why he loves it so much.

He doesn’t reorient himself in his actual surroundings until the song ends. When he looks over, Namjoon is grinning at them, and Yoongi is staring, the corner of one lip tilted upwards in an almost-smile, his eyes fixed on Jeongguk.

“So that’s the dance major side of you,” says Yoongi quietly in his ear as Jeongguk takes a seat next to him. “You’re good.”

Jeongguk smiles. “I don’t know why you keep expecting me to be bad at the things I’m majoring in,” he mutters back.

Yoongi laughs, louder than usual, throwing his head back. A thrill goes through Jeongguk’s chest at the sound. A thought comes into his head that simultaneously warms and chills him. It’s just one word, but it encompasses everything.

Soulmate?

His brain asks it like a question, like it’s wondering, like he’s considering whether Yoongi might be—

He dismisses it immediately. It’s way too soon to be thinking about something like that. Sure, he likes Yoongi, they’re friends, he’s not unattractive, but he shouldn’t even be considering that only a few weeks in.

Stop, he chides himself. You really will lose his friendship if you jump to conclusions like that.

He listens to himself, and pushes the thought aside. Because it’s too soon.

Not necessarily because he thinks he’s wrong.

---

Jeongguk shovels a particularly large bite of jjajangmyeon into his mouth, one elbow propped up on Yoongi’s table. This is the third meal this week that Yoongi’s bought him; when Jeongguk tries to ask him why he keeps buying them both food, Yoongi mumbles something about “I was hungry and it’d be rude to just eat in front of you.” He has also coincidentally happened to pick up some of Jeongguk’s favorite dishes each of the three times.

Fortunately, Jeongguk has never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, at least not when the gift horse comes in the form of free food. Which is why he is stuffing his face at Yoongi’s table, watching his hyung studying for a math test.

“I should have bought dinner for someone who was actually good at math,” says Yoongi, tapping the end of his pencil against his lip.

“I can try to help,” is what Jeongguk tries to say, but he's not sure it’s intelligible through the noodles.

Yoongi just looks at him for a second, and Jeongguk can see how he’s actively trying not to smile. “You can’t even do basic multiplication, kid. Pretty sure calculus would be the death of you.”

“Why are you even taking calculus anyway?” asks Jeongguk after swallowing.

Yoongi shrugs. “My advisor thought it would be a good idea. Wanted me to have a background in sound engineering. Thought it would make me ‘more versatile’ or some shit.”

Jeongguk laughs. “You’re not bad at it, though.”

“How do you know that?”

Jeongguk stirs the noodles with his chopsticks, trying to make sure the sauce is spread evenly. “Namjoon-hyung told me you have perfect grades.”

“What, are you and Namjoon meeting up now to talk about me behind my back?”

“I like Namjoon-hyung,” says Jeongguk, taking another bite.

“Why did I ever introduce you?” Yoongi says, mostly to his textbook.

“He’s nice,” continues Jeongguk. “And really smart. Not smart like you, hyung, where you’re embarrassed for people to find out, like it’ll ruin your bad-boy image.” Yoongi shoots him a glare, which Jeongguk deflects masterfully with a grin. “He knows everything about everything. He has probably every literary classic memorized. It’s way cool.”

“He’s also a walking disaster,” says Yoongi offhandedly.

Jeongguk laughs. “Seokjin-hyung told me he broke a cake pan in half once.”

Yoongi stares at him. “You’re friends with Seokjin-hyung now, too?”

Jeongguk nods, not sure why this would be a surprise to Yoongi. “You little brat. You’re going to enchant all my friends and steal them away, aren’t you?”

Jeongguk snorts. “I don’t think I’m particularly enchanting, hyung.”

Yoongi just looks at him, not saying anything, and turns back to his textbook. “Just don’t spill all my deep, dark secrets,” he says eventually.

“I would never,” says Jeongguk. “I like you better than them, anyway.”

Yoongi smiles, the big smile he does, where you can see his gums, and Jeongguk’s heart gets all warm, like the water from a hot spring spilling over, filling his chest cavity.  

I like you better than everyone, Jeongguk thinks, but he doesn’t say that.

Not yet.

---

Jeongguk is happy.

He’s been doing so much better now, hasn’t had a breakdown since that one day, and it’s been almost two months now. Now he has Jimin and Hoseok and Taehyung, but he also has Namjoon and Seokjin and Yoongi-hyung, for the days when things are too loud and exhausting.

It’s not like they did anything to cure him or fix him, or even that they know exactly what needs to be fixed. It’s more that they like him, and he likes them, and he’s not afraid to be himself around them, and that makes him less afraid.

That’s why he’s a little bit caught off-guard when this next wave knocks him completely out of the boat.

There’s not even anything wrong, that’s what he keeps trying to remind himself of, he’s not lonely, he’s not sad, no one’s said anything or even done anything to make him feel bad. It’s just...he’s working on a group project, and everyone is sitting around a table at the library, throwing out ideas, and he suddenly has this feeling of alarm, and every awkward thing he’s ever done gets replayed back in his face, and it’s a tidal wave of you’re terrible with other people, you’re always so uncomfortable to be around, these people only let you join their group out of pity, you don’t even have any good ideas and the boat Jeongguk had been sitting in comfortably is suddenly tipped on its side, about to dump him out into the ocean. He manages to keep it in place, suspended in midair, until the meeting ends, tapping his fingers on the sides of the chair in the same rhythm, something familiar, repetitive, consistent, nothing new, nothing unexpected, just same, same, same.

The meeting finishes and he focuses on home, the muscle memory in his feet taking him where his brain cannot. He somehow manages to get the key in the door and unlock it and then he sits on the floor, pulling the blanket off his bed, over his face, so it smells familiar, so he doesn’t have to look at anything except the dark. It’s fine, you’re fine, calm down, it’s okay, shhh, he says to himself, his voice a quiet whisper, mostly air with a tiny bit of sound. He makes himself breathe, that same pattern again, that seven, four, eight, seven, four, eight.

He doesn’t move until he can make himself stop shaking, and even then, he makes sure the motion is slow, nothing too abrupt, nothing he won’t be able to handle. He slowly gets to his feet and forces himself over to the mini fridge, kneels down beside it, slowly pries it open, reaches inside.

There’s no water.

He leans over to look inside, to find only a container of kimchi and two apples. No water bottles.

He needs water. Badly. He can feel his insides shriveling up, crying for the cold liquid.

But there isn’t any.

Jeongguk knows what that means. If he doesn’t have any more water bottles, he has to go buy them. From the convenience store down the street. Which is attended by a person. Who he would have to look at, maybe even talk to, without panicking.

Yeah, no. His brain laughs at him, humorless. No way would you be able to handle that right now.

Okay, he counters, trying to make a deal with himself. I could ask someone to bring me water? Someone I know?

He grabs his phone, his hands shaking, and sees messages and missed calls. Like, 5 of them. From Yoongi.

He glances at one of the messages and then he remembers that they were supposed to meet up...what, an hour ago, now? And he just flaked without any warning and Yoongi probably hates him now and how could he just completely forget something like that? He doesn't deserve Yoongi-hyung’s friendship, he never did, and he'll certainly lose it now, now that he's—

There's a knock at the door, and Jeongguk immediately retreats, tries to make as little sound as possible, tries to pretend he isn't there, hides behind his bed. Then he hears the voice, and Yoongi-hyung is calling his name, and he sounds worried, and Jeongguk somehow opens the door in spite of everything.

“Oh, thank heavens, Guk, I thought you were dead or something, I—”

Jeongguk is just staring at him, and he knows he looks like death, again, and he waits for Yoongi's anger, for him to tell Jeongguk how terrible he is, for the criticism he deserves, but what happens instead is that Yoongi pulls him into a hug, holding him tight. So tight that Jeongguk can feel his frantic heartbeat battering loudly against his ribcage, so tight he feels like Yoongi is singlehandedly holding him together.

“Are you okay?” asks Yoongi, backing up a little bit, brushing a strand of hair out of Jeongguk's face.

Jeongguk wants to say yes, tries to say yes, but what comes out is a strangled sort of sound that communicates a very clear “no.”

Yoongi pulls him right back in, running a hand down his back in a repetitive motion that is more soothing than Yoongi could ever know. “Sorry, hyung, I'm so sorry,” Jeongguk manages to squeak out.

“You don’t have to apologize,” says Yoongi, and he laughs softly, a chuckle that Jeongguk can feel vibrating through his chest. “Let’s get you feeling better.” He leans back, keeping his hand on Jeongguk’s arm, holding him in place. “Have you eaten anything? Water?”

He pulls a water bottle from his backpack and Jeongguk stares at it, not having realized until this moment that Yoongi is an actual angel from heaven sent to save him. “Holy shit, hyung, you’re a lifesaver.” He takes the bottle from Yoongi’s hands and uncaps it, feeling the relief flood through his being as he downs almost the entire bottle in one go.

Yoongi is standing back a few steps, watching Jeongguk with an indecipherable look on his face. “Come here,” he says after a moment, his voice soft and even more raspy than usual.

Yoongi lays down on his bed, and pulls Jeongguk with him, arranging them so Jeongguk’s head is on Yoongi’s chest. Yoongi pulls one arm over Jeongguk’s shoulder, the other hand shifting slowly through his hair.

They don’t speak for a while, which is good, because Jeongguk can feel his heart rate slow down beat by beat, can hear his breathing even out, become effortless, the way it’s supposed to be.

“You don’t have to,” says Yoongi, after a long time, “but...if you want to, you can tell me what happened.”

Jeongguk inhales, and thinks about it.

“It’s stupid,” he says eventually, his voice coming out in an alarming scratch.

“No,” says Yoongi, and Jeongguk tilts his head back to look back at his friend. “It’s not stupid. If something happened to make you that upset, it’s not stupid.”

A flurry of memories fly around in Jeongguk’s brain, of his mother’s voice, his brother’s, telling him “You’re being ridiculous.” “You’re overreacting.” “Stop being so weird.” “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

“You really think that?” he asks before he can turn on the filter in his brain and remind himself not to ask weird questions.

“You’re a good person, Jeonggukkie. You’re not stupid for having feelings.”

Jeongguk swallows, turning on his back so his gaze is toward the ceiling. “I just...I’m not good with people, you know? And sometimes it makes me really nervous, and I freak out like this.”

Yoongi hums, fingers tracing lines on Jeongguk’s scalp. “Did someone say something to you?”

Jeongguk exhales sharply, a short huff of emotionless laughter. “No, nothing like that. It’s all in my head, it’s always like that, and I know it’s all me, but I can’t stop it.”

“I’m sorry,” says Yoongi. “I’m sorry you have to feel like that.”

“‘S not your fault,” says Jeongguk, yawning.

“I’m still sorry. You’re a good kid, you know. You’re really nice, and you’re good at everything, and you work harder than anyone I know, seriously. I wish I could help you feel better, when you get like this.”

“You do,” says Jeongguk. “You are. I don’t get worried around you, hyung.”

It’s not until then that Jeongguk remembers what he did, how he left Yoongi, how they were supposed to be working on that assignment, and he ditched with no warning or explanation. “Aren’t you mad at me?”

“What?” Yoongi sounds legitimately confused, and Jeongguk doesn’t know why.

“I didn’t show up to the studio, hyung, I didn’t even tell you I wasn’t coming, I completely forgot, I—”

“It’s fine, Guk. I wouldn’t be mad about something like that, it’s not your fault. I was just worried. I’m glad I found you and that you’re feeling better.”

Jeongguk swallows, trying to fight back the tears that are aggressively trying to force their way out of his eyes. “Thanks, hyung,” he whispers, hoping that it’s loud enough for Yoongi to hear.

Yoongi just shifts, pulling Jeongguk closer to him. “You can always tell me, Guk, whenever this happens. I want to help.”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “I wouldn’t do that, hyung, I don’t want to be a burden.”

“You’re not a burden, Jeon Jeongguk. I want to help you. Let me help.”

“You sure?” Jeongguk asks, his voice shaky.

“Mmm. I want to be your best friend. Kick Jiminnie out. And that means I have to know about this kind of thing when it happens.”

“You’re already my best friend, hyung,” says Jeongguk with a snort of laughter.

“Really?” Yoongi’s voice sounds awed, like he can’t believe it.

“‘Course you are. I’ve liked you better than Jimin for a long time.” Jeongguk pauses. “Don’t tell him that, though, he’ll probably try to kill you or something.”

Yoongi laughs. “He would. I won’t say a word.”

“Okay,” says Jeongguk, turning so his nose is mostly buried in Yoongi’s shirt, and when he breathes in everything smells like Yoongi, all his senses filled with Yoongi. He smells good and feels good and even the sound of his breathing sounds good.

That word pops back into his head again, that same question.

Soulmate?

Maybe, Jeongguk thinks. Maybe.

---

It’s weird, Jeongguk thinks, how after that, everything changes, but also, nothing changes. He doesn’t see Yoongi any more or less than he did before (although it would be hard to see Yoongi more , since they’re together more often than not,) they don’t talk about different things than they talked about before, they don’t do anything new or unusual.

Jeongguk thinks the change must just be in Yoongi, in the way he looks at Jeongguk, like he knows him a little better now. It’s so simple, but it shifts everything just that little bit.

The semester goes on, and things stay like that for several weeks, and Jeongguk spends his free time with all his friends, and things are good, things are nice, like this. He has somehow managed to find the kindest, best people and somehow convinced them to befriend him, and he’s happy with them.

Lately, he’s been wondering about Yoongi, about why he dragged him out of a snowstorm and sat him on his couch and made him tea. He can’t find a reason, not one that satisfies his brain. And he could ask Yoongi, he thinks; it wouldn’t be awkward or uncomfortable to ask him.

But he doesn’t, and he’s not sure why. Maybe he wants to figure it out on his own, and get the answer from Yoongi as confirmation rather than an answer. So he ponders it for a long time, tries to make sense of it, turning it over and over in his mind.

He doesn’t expect to figure it out the way he does.

 

namjoon-hyung: hey guk, have you seen yoongi-hyung today?

jeongguk: no, i haven’t. why do you ask?

namjoon-hyung: we’re recording strings from the music dept today and hyung hasn’t shown up. isn’t answering his phone either.

jeongguk: hold on, let me try calling him.

 

Yoongi doesn’t answer, the phone going to the generic recording of The person you have called is not available, please leave a message after the beep.

 

jeongguk: i can’t get a hold of him either. i’m close to his apt, maybe i’ll just run by to see if he’s there.

 

This is weird, Jeongguk thinks, and the idea of Yoongi just not showing up (and to a recording session, of all things) makes him a little nervous. He’s never done something like that; Yoongi doesn’t do things like that; he’s a normal person who is usually very much on top of his life.

Jeongguk gets to Yoongi’s house quickly and knocks on the door, not sure if he’s expecting a response or not. He is certainly not expecting the door to swing open the second his fist touches it, not even completely latched.

Oh, he thinks. That’s really weird.

All the lights are off in the house, but he walks in anyway, looking around each room to see if Yoongi’s dead body is lying somewhere, if he’s been murdered or robbed. Nothing looks out of place though, no signs of a fight, no upturned furniture or anything.

Jeongguk keeps walking back, all the way back to Yoongi’s room, and he opens the door carefully, cautiously.

It takes him a minute to find Yoongi, and, honestly, he hears him before he sees him.

All the blankets are shoved up into a big pile on the bed, and judging by the sniffling noises emanating from said pile, Yoongi is buried in there with them, crying.

“Hyung?” says Jeongguk softly, everything slowly starting to dawn on him.

“Guk?” says Yoongi’s voice, strained and scratchy. “What are you—how did you get in?”

Jeongguk sits down next to him on the bed, waving a hand around in the pile of blankets, hoping to locate Yoongi amongst them. “The door was open, hyung—where are you, I can’t find you under all these.”

Yoongi’s head pokes out next to Jeongguk’s knee. Jeongguk grabs onto his shoulder, lying down until he is next to Yoongi, pulling his hyung in close to him. “Hyung, what’s wrong?” Jeongguk asks, his voice gentle, wrapping his arms around Yoongi’s back.

Yoongi exhales, pressing his forehead against Jeongguk’s collarbone. “I don’t know. Nothing and everything. Just general existential misery.”

Oh, thinks Jeongguk, the meaning of Yoongi’s words sinking into his skin. Yoongi...Yoongi also...like me… “Do you feel like this a lot?”

Yoongi shrugs, his shoulders jerking up and falling back down. “Sometimes. Not so much lately.”

Jeongguk suddenly remembers Namjoon, and what led him over here in the first place. He sits up abruptly, making Yoongi groan. “Sorry, hyung, let me just—”

He sends a quick message to Namjoon, saying that something came up and Yoongi won’t be able to make it, that he can go ahead and record if he wants. He smiles, returning his phone to its pocket in his backpack. He lies back down on the bed, returning himself and Yoongi to their original position.

“Is this helping?” asks Jeongguk, his voice small. There is something strangely invigorating about this whole situation, about being on this side of the issue, about being the one to comfort rather than the one needing to be comforted.

“Mhmm,” says Yoongi into his shirt.

“Good.” Jeongguk exhales, watching the way the air slightly ruffles Yoongi’s hair. “I’m sorry you’re sad, hyung.” His brain is racing, and he tries to think of something to do, to help, something he would want if he was feeling the way Yoongi is feeling. “Can I tell you something that happened today in class?”

Yoongi hums approval, and Jeongguk starts talking, telling how some kid on crutches had left class almost an hour early, and the professor had turned to the rest of them after he left, saying “I guess he needed a headstart to get to his next class,” and then proceeded to fit in way too many puns about broken bones during the rest of the period.

Jeongguk can hear Yoongi laugh, feel him shaking with the sound that isn’t quite coming out like it normally would. And so Jeongguk keeps talking, telling Yoongi other bizarre things, reciting the best memes he’s seen lately on twitter, and he doesn’t stop until Yoongi slams a hand over his mouth. “Shut up, Guk, you’re so embarrassing. Who memorizes every meme they see?”

“Are you feeling better?” asks Jeongguk right away, prying Yoongi’s fingers back.

“Yes. Yes. So stop using your photographic memory to catch me up on every meme from the last week.”

“Did something happen?” asks Jeongguk hesitantly. “You said you haven’t really felt sad like that lately. Did something happen to trigger it?”

Yoongi swallows, leaning back so he can see Jeongguk’s face. “I failed a test. Not just, like, a midterm, but some stupid test they make you pass to graduate in the music program. No one fails that test, Guk, like one person every two years, all my classmates passed it, even the ones who are barely scraping a passing grade in the major classes.” Yoongi bites his lip. “How stupid am I, if I can’t even pass the thing everyone freaking passes?

Jeongguk looks at him, his best friend, the person who has never once judged him for being a human train wreck, who has talked him out of two separate panic attacks, someone who is so smart and so good at what he does and so kind, who loves music, who wants to live the rest of his life making the kind of music that will help people. “You’re not stupid, hyung,” is the first thing he says. “It’s just a test. They’ll still let you graduate, right? You might have to do a little extra work, but you’ll be able to do it, no problem, I’m sure, hyung.”

“Why am I even in this major,” Yoongi mumbles, turning his face in to the bedsheets.

“Hyung, you're amazing. You write the best songs, and you don't stop working on them until they sound and feel perfect. No one cares about this test. Namjoon-hyung told me, all the professors love your music.”

“Oh, shit, ” says Yoongi, catapulting upright. “Namjoon. I was supposed to—shit, Guk, what time is it?”

“It's okay,” says Jeongguk, sitting up beside him, running a hand down Yoongi's back, “I already texted him, told him something urgent had come up.”

“You—oh. Thanks.”

Jeongguk smiles. “No problem. I want to help you too, hyung, whenever you feel like this.”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything for a while, just looks at Jeongguk. “Hyung?” Jeongguk asks after several moments. “Why did you help me, that day? When we first met?”

He only asks about it now because he’s pretty sure he knows the answer. He knows because the second he came into the room and saw Yoongi hidden underneath the blankets, he recognized himself. In that moment, he was grateful for it, for his panic and anxiety, because he knew what to do, how to soothe it.

Jeongguk has always thought about the things that are wrong with him as isolating, something that prevents him from knowing people, prevents him from making friends, prevents him from doing things that are risky or frightening. He never thought of it as something that could connect him to other people, a tool to understand and help those around him.

“I saw you like that, and I knew how it felt, and I figured if I wouldn’t want to be left alone like that, you wouldn’t either?”

He never thought it could be a good thing. But because of his flaws, the things that cripple him, he met Yoongi, and he knows how to deal with Yoongi’s bad days. All good. So much good has come out of it.

He didn’t think that was possible.

Jeongguk grins. “I didn’t know, hyung. That you knew what it was like.”

Yoongi raises his eyebrows. “Well, it’s not exactly something to brag about, is it?”

“I’m glad,” says Jeongguk, and then immediately backtracks. “No! Wait, no, that’s not— wow, that sounds terrible, I’m so sorry.” Yoongi is laughing, and it makes Jeongguk smile even wider. “I’m not glad you...what I mean is, I’m glad I know how to help you? Like, I always think about it like I’m the only one that deals with stuff like this, but that’s not true at all, is it, there are so many people with the same problems, and—you too, and because I’ve been through it, I can make it a little better? And I’m glad I can?”

Yoongi is smiling at him, and it makes Jeongguk’s heart feel like it’s floating. “Does that even make any sense? Sorry, I’m rambling, aren’t I?”

Yoongi shakes his head, pressing his lips in a line. It’s like he’s trying to get rid of his smile, but Jeongguk can still see it there, tilting up at the corners of his mouth. “No. I know what you mean.”

---

Jeongguk doesn’t leave Yoongi’s house until the next morning, and in spite of the fact that he got next to no sleep, he feels better than he has in ages. They had stayed up talking until late ( extremely late, so late that neither of them had dared look at the clock) about the things Jeongguk had never talked about with anyone else before. He learned that Yoongi has struggled with depression for years, since the time he started high school, and he listened to Yoongi go through all the things he’s tried to make it better, things that have worked, things that have failed miserably. And Jeongguk had done the same, told Yoongi all the things he has never told anyone about his anxiety, about what triggers it, what helps, what makes it worse.

It feels good. So good, even now, hours later, to know that someone knows all the ugly parts of him and doesn’t like him any less for it. To know that everyone has terrors and nightmares and things to run from, that even Yoongi, who had always seemed so normal, has his own demons to fight off.

That voice in the back of his head rings out, almost not even a question anymore, like he knows, and he thinks he does.

Soulmate.

He decides, right then and there, that he’ll wait until the end of the semester, and then he’s going to test.

---

yoongi-hyung: hey guk

yoongi-hyung: so_far_away.mp3

yoongi-hyung: i’m thinking of doing this for my final project for music prod

yoongi-hyung: i want you to sing the vocal part in the chorus

yoongi-hyung: if you want to, of course

yoongi-hyung: listen to it and let me know what you think

 

Jeongguk has heard Yoongi rap before, on some of his and Namjoon’s projects, but this is different. It’s honest, and raw, and so Yoongi that it chills his blood before he’s even finished the first verse.

And then he gets to the chorus, and the vocals are pretty, soaring, and then Yoongi starts rapping again, and Jeongguk feels it, that little flicker of hope that lit in him the moment he saw Yoongi crying on the bed and realized he knew how to help, like a prayer, like a ray of sunlight right after a storm.

 

jeongguk: yes, i want to, please let me sing it

yoongi-hyung: what the hell kid, it hasn’t even been long enough for you to listen to it yet

jeongguk: i’m listening to it now

jeongguk: and i already know i want to sing it

jeongguk: when are you recording

yoongi-hyung: at least listen to the full song first. what if you change your mind?

 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, but does as Yoongi requests and finishes listening to the entire track before responding.

 

jeongguk: done. and i still want to sing it.

jeongguk: i don't know why on earth you thought i was going to change my mind.

jeongguk: it's really good hyung

jeongguk: i mean it

jeongguk: you almost made me cry

yoongi-hyung: don’t exaggerate just to fuel my ego

jeongguk: i would never

jeongguk: your ego doesn’t need any more fuel anyway

yoongi-hyung: can you record next week?

jeongguk: yes. i’ll start practicing now

jeongguk: so you don’t kick me out of the studio for forgetting the lyrics or something

yoongi-hyung: when did i?

jeonguk: i’m not saying you did. just that you would.

yoongi-hyung: i wouldn't take a risk like that, i know i need you to sing this track if I want to keep my gpa up

jeongguk: glad to know i’m only a means to an end

yoongi-hyung: i have no idea why i'm still friends with you

 

Jeongguk laughs, but it's more happiness than amusement, more gratitude for the fact that he gets to know Yoongi and be his friend. He leans back against his pillow, putting the other earphone in, and turns on the song from the beginning. He plays it over and over again, until the words have found their way into his bloodstream, becoming a small but very real part of him.

---

Jeongguk does not forget any of the lyrics when they record, two weeks before finals. Namjoon is there too, working with Yoongi to get the sound balanced just right, and Jeongguk can tell he sees how important this song is to Yoongi, because he's extra careful, extra nitpicky, noticing every little error that could make the track something less than what it should be. It takes a while before they get vocals that everyone’s satisfied with, but it’s worth the time and effort. Jeongguk tries to pour as much emotion into the lyrics as he possibly can, thinking of Yoongi and everything difficult he’s been through, everything he hopes to achieve; thinking of himself, and how sometimes on the darkest of days, when his dreams feel distant and unreachable, there is still a hope that they will not always stay so far from him.

Jeongguk is pleased by the way he sings it, by the end, and so, apparently, is Yoongi, who is looking at him with obvious pride, and something else he can’t quite place.

Soulmate, sings Jeongguk’s brain. Soulmate, soulmate, soulmate.

Almost, he tells himself. Just until the end of finals, then you’ll know.

Namjoon has to leave for another class, but Jeongguk stays with Yoongi in the studio for another two hours or so, adding various harmonies, and they don’t talk about it explicitly, but Jeongguk can hear the words in the way Yoongi’s looking at him: this is for us, for you and me, for everyone else like us, because we know what it’s like to be in darkness, and we need to remember to look for the light.

And when Jeongguk looks back at him, he hopes he can hear the words: Then, let’s help each other see it.

---

It’s 2 am, two days before finals, when Jeongguk wakes up to his phone ringing.

No one ever calls Jeongguk; only his mother, on occasion, and never at 2 am. He reaches out a hand to hang up the call and is about to slide the reject bar across the screen when he sees the caller ID. yoongi-hyung.

He scrambles to sit up, accepting the call, pressing the phone to his ear. “Hyung?”

“Hey, Guk-ah—oh”—there’s some muffled swearing—“I woke you up, didn’t I? Sorry, I didn’t realize it was so late, I—”

“It’s fine,” says Jeongguk immediately. “Are you okay?”

“Well,” says Yoongi, his voice going quiet, “I’ve been better.”

“I’m glad you called, then. I told you to let me help you. I don’t care what time it is, I just want to help.”

“Oh,” says Yoongi, going silent for almost a full minute.

“Do you want to talk about it?” asks Jeongguk. “Or, we can talk about something else, get your mind off whatever’s bothering you?”

“It’s not really anything,” says Yoongi. “I always get really depressed when I let myself stay up too late alone.”

“Well, you’re not alone now,” says Jeongguk. “At least, not—do you want me to come over?”

“No,” says Yoongi quickly. “It’s like 2 am, Guk, I don’t want you wandering around campus this late, you could get mugged or something.”

“You’re sure? I could probably fight off a mugger.”

Yoongi laughs, and it’s always rewarding to hear Yoongi laugh, but especially when he’s sad. Jeongguk grins. “No, this is fine,” Yoongi says, his tone getting serious. “I mean it. Don’t come over.”

Jeongguk doesn’t know how long they talk—an hour, two?—but Yoongi tells him about the doubts in his head, the monsters that are trying so hard to claim him, and Jeongguk somehow knows what to say to defeat them each, one by one. He thinks he knows because they are the same sort of things that would silence his own monsters. By the end of their conversation, Yoongi sounds at peace. The monsters aren’t gone, of course; they are never completely gone; but they are restrained, tied back in the corners of his mind, denied their free reign.

“Thank you, Guk-ah,” says Yoongi. Jeongguk can hear him yawn, hear him shifting under the blankets on his bed.

“Anytime, hyung.” Jeongguk means it, too. Jeongguk never feels as good as when he talks to Yoongi, as when Yoongi trusts him with things like this, as when his own problems are pushed aside in favor of healing someone else. It’s a weird paradox, a solution that shouldn’t work, like the more Jeongguk can help Yoongi, the more he believes he can help himself, and his fears keep getting less and less frightening. Jeongguk loves it, loves being something more than he used to be. Jeongguk thinks he might love Yoongi, too, but that can wait until finals are over.

“Go to sleep,” says Yoongi, and it sounds like he’s taking his own advice, because he sounds just barely awake.

“You too, hyung. Goodnight.”

Jeongguk hangs up the phone, and smiles. His heart is floating.

---

Yoongi sends him the finished version of “So Far Away” right before his last final. He listens to it in the exam hall with his earphones in, closing his eyes and taking in the sound. It's perfect, of course, and it almost doesn't even sound like his voice blending with with Yoongi's rough one, the whole song dripping with feeling. By the end of it he's grinning, almost not nervous at all for his test.

The exam goes well; all of Jeongguk's exams have gone pretty well, and he's not sure if that's because or in spite of the fact he spent all his studying time in the library with Yoongi or Namjoon or both.

He stands up, waiting for the majority of the crowd to dissipate before he tries to leave the room, and lets himself think about Yoongi, lets himself acknowledge that little voice in the back of his head.

He's going to test tomorrow, he thinks, even though he still has his dance showcase left, because he wants to know. It's weird that this, of all things, isn't making him really nervous. It's probably because he already knows; at least, he's pretty sure he does. Every time they talk, or look at each other, or anything, really, he can hear that quiet little voice in the back of his head, saying he's your soulmate, you know that, right?

And he hasn't ever talked about it with Yoongi, but sometimes he catches the way Yoongi looks at him, and he thinks they're on the same page.

For a second he wonders if he's projected his subconscious onto reality, because as he exits the auditorium, he sees none other than Yoongi, bouncing on his toes, craning his neck as if looking for something.

“Hyung?” he calls out, assuming that Yoongi is probably looking for him.

Yoongi's eyes settle on Jeongguk and he freezes for a second, his gaze almost seeming to sparkle, before he runs full speed towards him. Yoongi hugs him (maybe it's more like a tackle) with such force that they both nearly topple to the ground.

Once Jeongguk has regained his balance and Yoongi has stepped back, he waits for some sort of explanation. Yoongi does start talking, but it’s faster than anything Jeongguk has ever heard, and he’s struggling to even figure out a single word. Yoongi is also holding something in his hand, waving it up and down, in front of Jeongguk’s face, and then up and down at his side, like he can’t possibly keep still. “Guk, can you believe—I was freaking out so bad, you have no idea, and I was in the cafeteria with Namjoon, and he said I had to just do it, and I almost punched him, Guk, it was freaking me out, and I wanted to be right, but, like, if I wasn’t, that would be the worst, but he made me do it—I had it in my backpack, and so I just did it right there, and—”

“Sorry,” says Jeongguk, and Yoongi looks at him with his eyes wide, as if he has no idea why Jeongguk would have interrupted him, “but what are you talking about?”

Yoongi blinks. “You—” His hand that’s waving the mystery object slows, and he holds it out for Jeongguk to see. An aging tester. A soulmate tester, holy shit. “You’re my soulmate.”

Jeongguk’s mouth drops open and for a moment, he can’t hear anything but his heartbeat, loud, pounding and drumming in his ears. And then that voice chimes in, see, I told you, soulmate.

Yoongi is reaching into his backpack, which he had set beside him on the ground, and Jeongguk is just staring at him, at Yoongi, at his Yoongi, his soulmate, and he thinks this might be the best day of his life, if not the best day in the history of the universe. Yoongi grabs a small box containing another tester, and hands it to Jeongguk. “You should test too, you know, just in case.” Yoongi shows him the old tester, the one he had used. “But see, it’s the right date.”

Jeongguk has never moved so fast as he does in that moment, ripping the tester out of the box, pulling off the tip protector, and jabbing the needle into his finger. He glances up at Yoongi, who is grinning at him like he has never wanted anything else in his life.

The tester beeps, and it’s that date again, January 14th, and Jeongguk just stares at Yoongi, feeling his face morph into a smile. He’s not sure which of them moves first, but he’s suddenly in Yoongi’s arms again, and he thinks he might stay there forever, because his entire being is humming in satisfaction, everything singing soulmate, soulmate, soulmate, in perfect harmony.

“I know you’re happy,” says Yoongi into his neck, “but, like, could you say something?”

Jeongguk realizes that he hasn’t said a word since Yoongi told him he was his soulmate, and immediately starts to laugh. “Hyung,” he says, “I was going to test tomorrow. Did you know?”

Yoongi pulls back and stares at him, his eyebrows raised. He's trying to look surprised, or puzzled, Jeongguk thinks, but he can't stop smiling, so some of the effect is lost. “You were?”

Jeongguk is beaming at him, the smile so wide he can feel it stretching his face. “Yeah. I was. I was pretty sure it was you. I’ve been pretty sure for a while.”

Yoongi lets out a small sigh of relief. “Good. That’s really good. I’m glad we were both thinking it, I mean, I never said anything directly, but I thought…”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk can’t stop smiling, and neither can Yoongi, apparently. There are all sort of words tumbling around in his brain, all sorts of things he wants to say, but he doesn’t say any of them, thinking the silence might do a better job communicating than he would.

Yoongi slings his backpack over one shoulder and takes Jeongguk’s hand in his. They fit perfectly together, and Jeongguk feels like he’s ingested the sun, bright rays of warmth spreading from the inside out.

The thing is, before Yoongi, Jeongguk had been a little bit scared of meeting his soulmate. It wouldn’t be fair to my soulmate, to be stuck with someone like me. I would bring them down, burden them. No one would want a mess like me for a soulmate.

“Guk,” says Yoongi, his eyes locking on Jeongguk’s as they walk out of the building, “I like you so much, you have no idea.”

It doesn’t scare him at all.

Yoongi has seen him at his brightest and at his most hideous, and Yoongi makes him brighter. Jeongguk knows all the sides of Yoongi, too, the brilliant and the ugly, and he knows that they won’t drag each other down, like he’s always been so frightened of; they’ll do the exact opposite.

Jeongguk grins, and he has never been less afraid. “I like you too, hyung. So much.”

---

“Oh, no,” says Jeongguk, setting his phone down and leaning forward across the picnic table next to the lamb skewer stand to cover his face with his hands.

“What?” asks Yoongi.

“Jimin.”

Yoongi looks as if he’s torn between running for his life and laughing hysterically. “I was supposed to go to his house after my final,” Jeongguk bemoans, “and he’s going to ask where I was, and hyung, I’m not going to be able to hide it.”

Yoongi does laugh now, his head flung backwards. Jeongguk sighs, long and exaggerated. “I swear, it’s like I have ‘FOUND MY SOULMATE TODAY’ stamped across my forehead in all caps. Even the lamb skewers ahjumma could tell, I know.” He looks straight at Yoongi. “You’ll come with me, won’t you, hyung?” Jeongguk tries to open his eyes as wide and puppy-like as he can, pouting at Yoongi.

Yoongi closes his eyes, making a face that scrunches up his nose. Quite adorably, Jeongguk thinks. “Fine.”

Jeongguk beams at him. “It’ll be better with you there.”

“‘Course it will, I’m a delight.”

Jeongguk narrows his eyes, looking at his soulmate across the table. “You want to come, don’t you?” When Yoongi makes a fake-offended expression, Jeongguk knows he’s right. “You don’t want to be away from me, do you?”

Yoongi presses his lips into a thin line, pausing for a moment before he speaks. “No, I don’t, really.” His eyes flash fire. “I just found out you’re my freaking soulmate, so sue me if I don’t want to leave you.”

Jeongguk tries not to laugh, because Yoongi looks so serious, but that actually just makes it even more funny, and soon he’s doubled over on the picnic bench. “Why did you have to say it like that, hyung, you sound ridiculous .

Yoongi is staring at him, blinking once. “Why is that funny, I was just—”

“I mean, me too, hyung, I don’t want to leave you either, but you looked all angry, like you were about to launch into a diss track or something, I mean, seriously…

Yoongi looks up at the sky as if imploring heaven's help. “Why is my soulmate such a brat, what did I do to deserve this...”

“But seriously, hyung,” says Jeongguk, sitting up straight, all traces of laughter vanished. “We have to go to Jimin’s. He and Tae-hyung are going to do the full interrogation thing, probably; it’ll take half the night.”

Yoongi groans, slumping forward onto the table. “Why are your friends like that, Guk-ah?” He props his head up in one hand, elbow digging into the wood. “I should probably thank Namjoon, shouldn’t I?”

Jeongguk nods. “Let’s send him a picture, hyung.”

Yoongi looks like he’s going to argue, but then he looks at Jeongguk and just stops for a moment, as if he’s frozen, Jeongguk thinks, or like he doesn’t want to look away. Jeongguk takes this as a yes, sliding onto the bench until his thigh is pressed along the length of Yoongi’s. He holds his phone up in front of them to take the picture. Yoongi is scowling. “Oh, come on, hyung, you look like having me as a soulmate is a death sentence.”

Yoongi starts to laugh, and that’s when Jeongguk takes the picture, and then another one, and then, like he can’t help himself, he leans in and touches his lips to Yoongi’s cheek, pressing the shutter right as he does.

“If you send that to Namjoon, I swear, Jeon Jeongguk—

When Jeongguk looks at his soulmate’s face, it’s flushed vivid red, and he’s smiling like nothing will make him stop.

Jeongguk would tease him if he weren’t sure he himself looked exactly the same.

---

Jimin and Taehyung do not, in fact, interrogate them.

Jimin screams a little bit. Hoseok (who is also over) screams more than Jimin. Taehyung beams at them in a strange sort of fatherly pride. Yoongi does not let go of Jeongguk’s hand for even a second. “I thought so,” says Jimin, grinning. “I thought there was something between you two.”

“We talked about it,” says Taehyung in confirmation. “We were wondering if you were going to test.”

“Who tested first?” asks Hoseok, looking back and forth between them. “We may or may not have placed bets.”

“Not telling,” says Jeongguk. “I refuse to indulge your gambling habits.”

“It was Yoongi-hyung,” says Jimin, way too confidently. “Seokjin-hyung told me.”

“Namjoon, you little shit,” mumbles Yoongi under his breath. Jeongguk snorts. “So, now that the cat’s out of the bag, which of you meddling brats won the bet?” Yoongi asks, his eyebrows raised.

Jimin and Taehyung look elated, while Hoseok looks accusatorily at Jeongguk. “For the record, hyung,” Jeongguk tells Hoseok, reaching forward to pat him consolingly on the shoulder, “I was going to test tomorrow. Hyung did it while I was in an exam, and I was going to wait until I finished finals.”

“So, really,” says Yoongi, tightening his grip on Jeongguk’s hand, “It’s the fault of the exam schedulers. I only tested first because I finished my exams first.”

“Tae, look how adorable, he’s standing up for Gukkie,” says Jimin way too fondly, hanging off his soulmate’s arm. “They’re so cute, oh, my heart.

Jeongguk stares very purposefully at the floor, and he can hear Yoongi cough uncomfortably at his side.

“You guys should go,” says Hoseok abruptly.

“Right,” adds Taehyung, too quickly, almost like this is something they’d rehearsed. “No need to hang around with us, an awkward old soulmate couple and our self-proclaimed third-wheel.”

Jeongguk stares at them in shock.

“Go,” says Jimin, giving them both a shove towards the door. “Go be alone and gross somewhere, without us.”

“We don’t—” Jeongguk stops when he realizes that he does want to be alone with Yoongi, especially right now, and that if the feelings rolling around in his chest are any indication, he’s also probably going to be pretty gross. “Okay. Thanks, hyungs.” He flashes them a grin, and then pulls a somewhat startled Yoongi along behind him and out the door.

“What the hell was that?” Yoongi mutters.

“Probably the smartest thing they’ve done in the past decade,” says Jeongguk, feeling happy and comfortable and—almost—fearless. “Let’s go to yours?”

Yoongi just stares at him, and then he nods. “Yeah. That sounds...really nice.”

---

They talk for a while, Jeongguk helping Yoongi put away his dishes, standing there in the kitchen. They talk about their finals and school, and their families for a little while, and it's not different from any other time they've talked.

The thing is, there's an itching in Jeongguk's chest, a volcano of things he wants to tell Yoongi, and Yoongi keeps doing that thing when he’s thinking where he quirks his lip up on one side, and it makes Jeongguk want to kiss him so badly he’s gripping onto the kitchen counter to keep from launching himself across the room and covering Yoongi’s mouth with his own.

It’s not the first time Jeongguk has wanted to kiss him, but it’s the first time it’s been a real option, since they are now officially soulmates and those sorts of things are now permissible. So now that he can, Jeongguk really wants to. But he’s hesitant.

It’s just that Jimin and Taehyung and his other friends are all super touchy, always draping themselves all over everyone, but Yoongi’s never really been like that, except when one of them is in a slump of failed mental health. So, Jeongguk wants to touch him and kiss him and everything else, but he doesn’t want to move too fast, especially because he knows Yoongi, and knows how easily he might overwhelm him.

Yoongi slides toward him along the back of the counter, until his shoulder bumps into Jeongguk’s. “Hey, Guk,” he starts, not quite looking at Jeongguk. “Did you know I decided, a few years ago, to never test?”

Jeongguk stares at him. “What?”

“I didn’t want to find my soulmate. I thought I’d ruin them, whoever they were. Thought I’d make them miserable.”

“You don’t—” Jeongguk starts.

Yoongi laughs, quiet. “I know. But that’s what I thought. It took me a while to figure it out though, that maybe I wasn’t going to excel at being like other people, but I could do a good enough job of being me. That I could work hard at doing what made me happy.” Yoongi looks at him then, his expression soft. “I decided I’d test if I found someone who made me feel like that was something to be proud of.”

Oh. Jeongguk's brain short-circuits, and then rewires, everything all crooked and probably in the wrong spot. “No, you—that’s backwards, hyung, that's how you make me feel.” Jeongguk exhales. “I used to be terrified of meeting my soulmate, but it's you, and—it doesn't scare me at all, I'm excited , I get to love you, I probably love you already…”

Jeongguk trails off, the look of surprise on Yoongi's face causing him to stop and realize what words have just left his mouth. He freezes, stepping away from Yoongi, wishing he could go back in time and take it back, or alter Yoongi's memory, or—

“I do,” says Yoongi, so gently Jeongguk almost doesn't catch it. “I love you. Already.”

“I—you what?

“That's what I was getting to, Jeongguk-ah.” He laughs again. “I feel so good, when I'm around you; I'm sure you know, since I always want to be around you. You make me feel...like I'm no more broken than anyone else, if that makes sense? You make me feel like the things I care about are worthwhile, and I feel like I can do the things that scare me, because even if it goes wrong, you'll still be there to help me. I love you, Guk-ah.” Yoongi is smiling at him, so pretty and so full of love Jeongguk thinks he might combust.

Apparently the effort to avoid combustion is what shows on his face, because Yoongi's eyes widen, get a little somber. “It's okay if you're not sure yet,” he says quickly. “There's no rush, we're soulmates, I'm not going anywhere.”

“No,” says Jeongguk, and it's not fair that Yoongi knows exactly what to say, spouting verses of straight poetry, while Jeongguk is scrambling like this, “no, hyung, that's not—I love you too, duh, I have for a while. Sorry this is all—I'm not good with words like you—I think I started to fall in love with you that very first day, and I feel like myself around you, the best version of myself, and that never happens, you don't understand, I—shit, I feel like this makes no sense, hyung, sorry, how did you make it sound so nice?”

Yoongi is laughing now, again, but louder than before, like there's not anyhing he's trying to hold back. “You love me, Guk?”

“Yes. Of course I do. How could I not? You're so smart, and you care so much about everyone, and your music, hyung, and you've never given me a weird look, not even once, no matter how weird I act, and you took me home with you and gave me tea after I almost made a snowbank your grave, of course I love you.” The words are rushing off of his tongue, so eager to get out, so eager to be heard. Jeongguk thinks he could go on for another twenty minutes. Thinks he would never run out of things to love about Yoongi.

“Guk,” Yoongi steps closer to him, no longer shoulder to shoulder, but face to face, and Jeongguk's heart kicks up its pace a few notches. “Jeongguk-ah.” He's so close now, Jeongguk can see all the subtle colors mixed into his eyes, all the shades of light and dark swirled together. “I'm so glad it's you, you know that?”

“I know, hyung.” Jeongguk sees Yoongi's eyes flicker down to his lips. “Me too.” He inhales, and Yoongi is leaning in, and this is something they both want, Yoongi loves him, and so he brings one hand up, cupping Yoongi’s jaw, his fingertips pressing in behind Yoongi’s ear, and then he closes the distance between them.

The kiss is soft, feather-light, almost nothing, and Jeongguk pulls away slowly, meeting Yoongi’s gaze. His soulmate is smiling, all the way to his eyes, and Jeongguk feels the happiness spread through his own body like it’s contagious. Yoongi hooks a hand around his neck, says, “Come back,” and pulls him in again.

Jeongguk doesn’t know how long they kiss like that, his back against the kitchen counter, one arm on Yoongi’s waist, lips straying from Yoongi’s to press kisses to his cheek and forehead, his eyelids, his nose. It’s Yoongi who pulls back first, one hand sliding down to intertwine with Jeongguk’s. “Holy shit,” he says, his raspy voice cracking and scratching with the words. “This is really happening, isn’t it, holy shit, Jeongguk-ah, you’re really my soulmate, aren’t you?”

Jeongguk laughs. “Yep, that’s me. Lucky hyung, scoring a catch like me.”

“No kidding,” says Yoongi, a tone of sincerity to his voice that sends a chill down Jeongguk’s spine. “I don’t even think lucky covers it.”

“Me too,” says Jeongguk. “Luck doesn’t make people this happy.”

---

The thing is, it’s not like magic. Being soulmates, even with Yoongi, isn’t like magic. It doesn’t go perfectly; they fight, they hurt each other. Just the soulmate thing isn’t enough to guarantee happiness.

But they are happy. Because; they don’t fight alone, not anymore. Because; they ask forgiveness whenever they make mistakes. Because; they learn from the things they do wrong, from the things that injure. Because; they are there, on the good days, on the bad days, always making each other’s lives a little brighter, always reminding each other to look for the light.

Yoongi is curled up against Jeongguk’s side on the couch, and he’s supposed to be finishing up a track for one of the other grad students, but he’s fallen asleep, and Jeongguk knows he hasn’t slept well for the past few days, so he leaves him like that, nose pressed into Jeongguk’s shoulder, breathing deeply, almost snoring.

Soulmate, hums Jeongguk’s brain, content, as he looks at Yoongi. Your soulmate.

Yeah, Jeongguk thinks, smiling. And a lot more than that.