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Siren of the Interstate

Chapter Text

Yoongi dreams of a boy.

He’s driving on yet another stretch of empty back-roads and thistle, nothing ahead of him but for flatness and the depthless blue of the sky. The car’s swaying a bit, scattering breakdown gravel in a spray of diamonds. The radio’s playing a smooth rap. Farther ahead, Yoongi knows there’s a spot with a bunch of silver Airstream trailers and a gas-station rest stop with an unusually well-kept garden. If he pulls in there, he can probably eat something, catch a nap, air out this fucking oven of a car.

He’s not slept in ages. It’s catching up to him a bit.

The cacti on the side of the road have their arms up like soldiers in a military line. Fine red desert dust blows into the road, surreal as the Martian landscape. His eyes feel so, so heavy, and he dreams gently of lilies and storms and dark, hungry beasts. There’s a weird tree looming closer and closer, trunk thick and foliage bristled.

Yoongi blinks at it. And then he sees the boy.

“Hey,” he says, from the passenger seat, frowning. “No sleeping while driving, hyung. Are you crazy? Pull over.”

He reaches out to pinch Yoongi’s wrists. Sunlight pools behind him, catches in his dark hair like gemstones. Yoongi’s eyes hurt from the brightness.

“Wake up,” the boy says, and snaps his fingers.

Yoongi wakes. The car’s swerving towards a tree, towards the guardrail, tires spinning. He yanks at the wheel in panic, gasping.

When the car stops—tires burning, breaks squealing, the calm of the road disturbed by the bird spooked out of their trees—Yoongi looks to the shotgun seat and finds it empty.

He snorts. Of course it’s empty.

He checks his phone. A couple missed calls from Jimin, one from his boss, and a message from Namjoon. It reads: no news yet.

Of course there isn’t news.

Yoongi doesn’t think there will ever be news.

He rests his head on the steering wheel. He scrolls through texts on his phone until he reaches a thread from two months ago. It goes on forever: selfies and texts, GIFs and emojis, one song rec after another. His eyes linger for a while on the very last text: you have a good night too, hyung. Drive safe! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Yoongi’s counted the stupid hearts a million times.

Five—there’s five.

Sometimes he catches himself thinking what else is in fives. Senses. Elements. Toes and fingers. Baseball players. BigBang members.

He’s got a whole list. He sent it to Namjoon once, and Namjoon added to it: the rings in Olympic games, the Famous Five, the points of a star, the pillars of Islam. Then he got curious. Why are you counting this, hyung? Is it for a song?

Yoongi doesn’t tell Namjoon that it started with five hearts on a text message. Namjoon can think of this as one of Yoongi’s driving games, designed to keep him from boredom during the long hours on the road.

Innocuous. Innocent. Just a silly little game.

Namjoon doesn’t have to know. Namjoon doesn’t need to know that it started from this.

From the very last text Taehyung had ever sent him.

*

ELEVEN MONTHS AGO

1.

“—and a lot of travel, Yoongi, are you up for it?”

“You know I’m up for anything, hyung,” Yoongi says, watching Jimin’s feet move from the counter to the coffee machine and back again. “I’m here to support you and your magic coffee.”

Seokjin gives a little cheer. “Maybe it won’t be that boring,” he suggests. “Maybe you can make up songs during the long hours.”

Jimin slides a muffin towards him. “I made this for you,” he says. “Seems dark as the night outside, but has a gooey, effervescent center.”

“Yah, what the fuck is effervescent?” Yoongi asks, and cuts it through the middle. Sure enough, out spills a strange mixture of cream, white chocolate, and a froth of edible glitter. Yoongi feels vaguely like how he had in high school biology when he dissected a cockroach.

“I call it the Milky Way!” Jimin says, proudly. “I’ve got another one to show you—that one’s called Mobius Loop. You inspired that one, too.”

Hoseok asks, with eyes full of glee, “Jimin-ah, what about the chunky chocolate one?”

“Oh! Rock Reincarnation. Now you can guess why that one came to be—”

Yoongi scowls. “One more word from this pixie and you’ll have to look for another long-distance delivery boy, Seokjin hyung.”

Jimin flicks a bit of the Milky Way’s gooey center at him. “I’m not a pixie.”

Thumbelina,” Yoongi says, fixing him with a savage gaze. “Tom Thumb.

Jimin narrows his eyes dangerously. “Gee, hyung, I’ve always wanted to ask you this: do you sparkle in the sunlight?”

Seokjin sighs. “You did not just use a Twilight reference in my shop, Park Jimin.”

They start bickering about Robert Pattinson’s sparkly Twilight ass. Yoongi slumps back on the counter, nursing his still hot coffee, swiping off a bit of the Milky Way goo onto a finger to taste how sweet it is. His friends are weird, but at least they make the best coffee and the weirdest, most Instagram-worthy muffins. That isn’t just a pithy quote: this coffee shop has already garnered something of a social media cult status, having never achieved that temporary virality but instead settling for a steady, sustainable curiosity from hundreds of thousands of muffin-enthusiasts. Jimin’s the Chief Muffin Engineer. Hoseok’s the Brews Manager. Seokjin’s the CEO and CFO and whatever-the-fuck-else-O angel investors needed him to be. He’s even begun to pivot his business a little these days, moving onto instant coffee cups (authentic recipes!) and single serve brewing machines. There is a fully-funded Kickstarter and a beta program and everything.

And now, they’ve given Yoongi’s fresh-out-of-work ass something to do.

Driving out to a bunch of scattered small towns to fulfill coffee-machine orders doesn’t sound like a dream job, but Yoongi thinks he’ll be okay. He likes the road—the neon-drenched cool of it in the night, the summer-mirage haze in the day. He likes quiet—just him and his thoughts and maybe the radio. He thinks he won’t mind taking a few smaller by-roads, catching some strange sights, eating at odd out-of-place diners. He thinks he won’t mind seeing the stars, stopping to map out constellations.

There’s a certain romance to a man and a car and the never-ending road. Yoongi doesn’t look it, but Namjoon says sometimes that he’s nothing but a romantic. (A pragmatic one, Yoongi hears his best friend’s voice now, but there’s some poetry in your heart, hyung.) Yoongi scoffs at him—as he scoffs at most everyone else—but secretly thinks Namjoon’s quite perceptive and mostly right.

It’s not poetry in his heart though. It’s a whole, aching forest.

Sometimes it’s dappled with sun and full of brightness, every tree heavy with the dreams he dares to dream. Other times it’s suffocating, fox-teeth sharp and teeming with hunger. It drags him into its murky depths, tells him he’ll never be good enough, holds him until he forgets to breathe.

He tries to untangle it in his songs. He mostly fails.

“Hyung,” Hoseok says, startling him out of his thoughts. “I’ve got a list of our beta testers and their addresses. Can you start tomorrow?”

2.

The road bleeds out of awareness if you’ve been on it long enough.

It’s weird: Yoongi finishes up at a town and gets in his car. Yoongi drives. He listens to radio shows that flicker in and out: sometimes the host is yelling over pop-music, other times it’s a radio evangelist shrieking about the Rapture. Once there was a conspiracy theorist, whispering about the Reptile Lords watching him through invisible surveillance drones. The road spills out past Yoongi’s windshield like a black ribbon, undulating slowly with the terrain. It’s like hypnotism. He finishes up at a town, and then he’s in the other, and the in-between is a blur.

Sometimes he sees strange billboards advertising strange products (best-in-class velvety coffins, a restaurant serving something called a taco-pizza-pretzel, a video-game called Ghost that App Store apparently says WILL HAUNT YOU). Sometimes the customers themselves are weird (an old man with a handlebar mustache, a pink-haired woman with a tricycle, a pair of twins who completes all of each other’s sentences and speaks to Yoongi in what he guesses is their special racist approximation of Chinese.) Sometimes he comes across odd roadside attractions: a tree hung with hundreds of shoes, a bike encased in a giant sculptural soap-bubble, a two-storied sex shop in the midst of nowhere.

He sort of likes it. He whispers song lyrics to himself as he drives. Strings of words and phrases stick in his mind, circling the drain until he scribbles them down in a notepad he keeps in the storage compartment. Jimin calls sometimes, just to keep him company. Namjoon calls to complain about Yoongi never being around anymore.

“I’m selling your piano,” he says, in one of these calls. “I can’t look at it, hyung, it reminds me of you. We lived together for nine years, and now—”

“I’m not dead, Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi says, chuckling as he overtakes a large semi. “I’m just working. Didn’t you sulk for two whole months because I was curled up in the apartment without a job? Why are you still sulking? Are you ever going to be happy? Is this some deep psychoanalytic thing you need to bring up with your therapist?”

Namjoon makes an irritated noise. “Oh, shut up, I don’t have a therapist. Are you at least sleeping well?” he asks, worry clear even through the crackly car radio. “In actual motel beds? Tell me you’re not just sleeping in the car on the side of the road, hyung.”

Yoongi tries to deflect. “What do you take me for?”

Tell me, hyung,” Namjoon insists. “I know you. I know you’ll try to save the money, to—”

“Some days I can’t find motels, Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi says, trying to diffuse the situation. “Other days I do, and I swear I sleep in nice, big, moth-eaten beds. Some of them vibrate.”

“Uh…”

“Do you not want me to sleep on the nice, big, vibrating beds, Namjoon-ah?”

“You know what,” Namjoon mutters, “You’re really the worst, hyung. I’m putting the piano up on E-bay and selling it to the lowest bidder.”

Later, Jimin calls to ask if Yoongi’s actually sleeping on the vibrating beds, or if that had just been a ploy to get Namjoon off his back.

“Send me a picture,” Jimin says, sternly. “And don’t try to embarrass me into leaving you alone. You know I’m shameless.”

Yoongi intends fully to send him nudes for all of ten minutes before realizing that he really is more likely to embarrass himself than Jimin. Jimin may even make new muffins inspired by the pictures. Yoongi will have to deal with him calling them various terrible names—Twink Pink comes to mind. (Yoongi promptly wants to toss out his brain.)

On the cost-benefit analysis spectrum for this scenario, Jimin invariably comes out with all the benefits for this game.

Which is how Yoongi ends up that night outside The Last Stop gas station.

White light bleeds into concrete and the shiny pumps stand like actors in brilliant spotlights. It’s late and there’s only one other car parked near the convenience store. The store facade has illuminated ads for Sprite and Pepsi, lettering that say Burgers, Bagels, Sushi, Ramen. The food menu is weird and probably a terrible idea, but a hand-written board tacked to the door also says We Have Extra Beds! They may not vibrate, and is possibly even more moth-eaten than usual motel beds, but at least Jimin would get his pic.

 Yoongi parks the car and walks up to the store. It’s pretty typical as gas-station convenience stores go: chips and candy and cigarettes by the clerk’s desk, beer and drinks to the sides, a slushy dispenser at the back. The gas-station clerk is arguing with a man in dirty coveralls, so Yoongi walks all the way to the back, checking out packets of trail mix and day-old birthday cakes and a whole wall of hygiene products. He’s sampling a hand-cream when there’s a crash from the counter.

“Get out,” the gas-station clerk says, his voice spitting furious. “Get out, and don’t come back.”

Past the looming dude in the nasty coveralls, Yoongi can only make out slender, shaking hands. They’re wrapped around the hilt of a knife, fingers long and tan. Yoongi can’t make out his face but his build is on the boyish side: skinny and tall, with broader shoulders. There’s a prancing cat on the kid’s T-shirt vomiting bright rainbows.

Coveralls Dude takes a step closer. There’s no way this kid’s going to be able to hold him back, Yoongi thinks. Sure enough, Coveralls Dude gets a hand on his collar, dragging him close even as the boy still brandishes the knife.

“Fuck you!” the gas-station clerk says— probably not the smartest option considering Coveralls Dude is built like a linebacker.

“You piece of shit,” the man sneers. “I’ll show you. I’ll show you.”

With every word, he shakes the boy a little harder. A bunch of candies and chips flies off the shelf in front of the counter.

Yoongi doesn’t think. “Hey!” he shouts, grabbing a large wine bottle as he stalks towards the counter. “Get away from him!”

Coveralls Dude turns. Yoongi tries to put on the scariest expression he has in his arsenal- stance wide and bottle held like a weapon- his gaze meeting the Coverall Dude’s gaze head-on. His heart’s trying to beat out of his chest. His fingers shake on the wine bottle. Then Yoongi flicks his gaze deliberately to the CCTV camera at the corner of the store. Coverall Dude’s gaze follows his. He grows a little pale.

He lets go of the gas station clerk. “Little bitch,” he spits. “I’ll be back for you.”

The bell above the door tinkles when he leaves. Yoongi puts down the wine bottle and looks at the display of hot sauce and condiments, suddenly embarrassed at the silence that falls. He doesn’t really want to look at the clerk’s face. Instead, he picks up a box of crackers and asks, eyes trained on the bright box, “Are you okay?”

There’s a bit of shuffling and a rattling, inhaled breath. “Y-yeah. You didn’t have to do that. Thanks.”

Yoongi picks up the box and a random cheese sauce, hesitates on the wine and then grabs that too. His heart’s still going too fast. He ignores it and walks to the counter.

The boy is clearly Asian, all big eyes and pretty mouth. He could be in magazines, with all that soft, tan skin and cut-your-fingers-on cheekbones. Except he’s here, slightly teary-eyed and trying to cover it up with a hesitant grin, hair sticking up a bit and fingerprints on his throat. His name tag says Taehyung, so huh. Korean, then. He looks right at Yoongi for a few, slow seconds, brows furrowed and strangely intense. He wets his bottom lip gently with his tongue, quick and nervous. Then he reaches for Yoongi’s purchases.

“I—I’ll just bill you.”

“Actually,” Yoongi says, letting his eyes snag on the neon 24-Hours sign on the window behind Taehyung’s head, “I wanted to know if you have any of those extra beds available?”

“Oh,” Taehyung says, still sounding rattled. “Um. Yeah, we do.”

“Cool. How much will that be?”

“This is twenty,” Taehyung says, pointing to the stuff. “The bed’s free.”

“Free for everyone?”

“Nope. Free for the Good Samaritans saving me from racist pieces of shit.”

“You get a lot of those?”

“Which one? The saviors or the pieces of shit?”

Yoongi looks at him. Taehyung’s grin is a bit brighter now, wide and square. He also has really weird bits of green in his bangs, like he decided to dye his hair and then flaked out. It looks stupid, but also stupid good on him. It’s annoying.

“I’ll pay for the bed.”

“No, no, you won’t. Please don’t argue with me. I can go on forever, I get very aggravatingly enthusiastic the more I argue, and we’re both too tired for my shit today. Just take the damn freebie.” His voice is surprisingly very deep for that face. When Yoongi says nothing, Taehyung plucks out a key from the register, locks it, and then moves to lock the door. “I’ll show you where the beds are.”

Taehyung leads him out of a back door. The night is quiet but for the symphony of cicadas. There’s a moon like a craggy fingernail. The backside of the gas-station smells like summer heat and burned pavement, wildflowers and grilled meat. Yoongi spots a kebab truck parked a ways away, glimmering with fairy lights. A crucifix hangs on its window, gothic and enormous.

“Used to be a motel out here, but it closed down,” Taehyung says. “Beds and rooms are still untouched—owners just left them all behind. So we’re kinda running an illegal operation here, you know? But the cops know, no one gives a fuck, and we practically charge nothing but upkeep money. You okay to jump?”

 “Jump?” Yoongi parrots, confused.

There’s a little fence. Yoongi looks at it, at the dark abandoned motel beyond it, and wonders if he’s going to wake up in a bathtub of ice tomorrow missing a kidney.

“I swear I’m not a serial killer,” Taehyung says, wryly. “And I have a great work ethic, so the beds really aren’t too bad.”

He’s not wrong. They walk past an empty swimming pool with a mattress smack-dab in the middle of it (”I put it there to see the stars,” Taehyung says, and somehow, even having known him only for the last five minutes, this sounds entirely like a Taehyung thing to Yoongi), to the L-shaped strip of motel rooms, and into the very first one. It’s clean, impersonal: the bedsheets look washed and pressed, there’s a little sanitized drinking glass on the side-table, and even a sealed bottle of water. Nothing vibrates as far as Yoongi can see, but he’s not complaining.

“There you go,” Taehyung says. “Thanks for saving me earlier, uh—”

“Yoongi. Min Yoongi.”

“Right. Thanks! I’m Taehyung—but you probably got that from this unnecessarily very large badge.” It is larger than normal. Taehyung catches him looking and grins again. “My manager makes me wear it. Says my name is weird. Typical, right? But what do you do? You look like you had a pretty long drive.”

“I deliver fancy coffee machines to rich people living in small, out of the way, fancy little towns.”

“Huh,” Taehyung says. “So you’re on the road a lot?”

Yoongi frowns. “Recently, yeah.”

“I can’t drink coffee. Too bitter. I like tea, though. If you can’t sleep, just come to the gas station. I’ve got a kettle.”

“Is that free, too?”

“Nope. You’ll have to pay,” Taehyung says. “But I’ll take an interesting road-trip story instead of hard cash.”

“Good offer.”

“Cool,” says Taehyung, with a finger salute. “Good night, Min Yoongi.”

It isn’t though.

First there’s the sound of a woman yelling and breaking glass. Taehyung yells back. Then there’s doors slamming. Then it’s all quiet—the uneasy silence of a place with neither hope nor despair, just stasis. The day’s aches weigh on Yoongi. He tries to sleep, and the neon through the window is too distracting. There’s a dead insect stuck between the panes of the glass. Yoongi dozes and dreams of roots growing through his chest, rain spilling down in the shape of letters.

He wakes in the still darkness, blood pounding in his head in a staccato rhythm. He dresses and goes back to the gas station.

Taehyung looks up when he walks in. He’s sucking on a lollipop, reading a book, a soft radio crackling classical piano music in the background.

“Is this what you listen to?”

“Only in the witching hour,” Taehyung says, and winks. “Do you want that tea?”

There’s a small store-room with a counter and a kettle. Taehyung sits cross-legged on the counter, and Yoongi sits with his back against the door, arms around his knees. It’s a strangely tiny, intimate space, and Taehyung tells him about the kebab truck lady.

“I kissed a boy once in front of her,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Wasn’t even a big deal—just some kid passing by who thought I looked cute. She’s convinced I’m the devil now.”

“Is that crucifix on the window for you?”

“Oh, yeah. Sometimes I pretend it burns my skin.”

Taehyung shows him. He’s a good actor, if purposely exaggerated in his facial expressions. When he falls off the counter, twitching, Yoongi chokes a bit on his tea.

Yoongi tells him about Hoseok and Jimin and Seokjin—how they all met at various weird places but somehow came together, tangled into a cosmic weave, orbiting each other loosely like rogue planets with no specific gravity.

“Those three are practically a single cellular organism by now,” Yoongi says, and Taehyung laughs, wild and tender. “I’m like the weird tentacle they don’t know what to do with.”

“Tentacles have lots of uses,” Taehyung says, a tad reverentially.

Yoongi raises his eyebrows. “You’ve been on some weird places on the Internet, my friend.”

Taehyung’s eyes go comically wide. “No, no! I mean—in marine life? Octopuses and squid and jellyfish have tentacles. They have stinging cells. That’s actually where the phylum name comes from—you know, Cnidarians. Stinging creatures. Also it’s kinda muscular, so they can use it to grasp stuff, and its very receptive to temperature, or taste, or even vision, and—what?”

“Nothing,” Yoongi says, bemused. “Go on.”

But now Taehyung flushes, biting his lip in embarrassment. “Sorry,” he says. “I read a lot of magazines in my spare time. I know a lot of random shit. I can also talk about the GDP of Sudan, if you want.”

Yoongi really can’t think of a more irrelevant thing to talk about. Not irrelevant in terms of Sudan being irrelevant but irrelevant to the present situation. Whatever this situation is. This situation of him and this weird, tall, leggy boy, talking tentacles in the dead of the night. He fidgets with his fingers a while, wondering why Taehyung is so easy to talk to. Yoongi wants to tell him about the pet goldfish Namjoon once had, who is now buried in a McDonalds box in some unknown, unmarked plot of land. Yoongi wants to tell him about going fishing for eels once. Eels don’t have tentacles, but they’re pretty cool, right?

But Taehyung is quiet, sipping his tea, eyes wide and rounded over the rim of his cup. He seems to be regretting his life choices in acquiring rampant knowledge of tentacles.

Yoongi takes pity on him. “So how’d you end up working here?”

“Uncle owns the place,” Taehyung says. “I live in his house. He’s off somewhere running a ponzi scheme or something. I used to live with my grandparents, back in Daegu, but then they passed. My parents have a crowded house and I wasn’t getting anywhere or doing anything worthwhile, so I came out here. It’s a big immigrant adventure.”

“Daegu? Small world, then,” Yoongi says, slipping into his native tongue, native accent.

Taehyung’s eyes bulge, and then he cracks a wide, square grin. “Wow,” he says. “Really?”

When Yoongi nods, he pumps his fist in the air and looks like a five-year-old. It’s kind of adorable, which is not a Min Yoongi word, but fuck it. It’s late, he’s tired, Taehyung’s adorable—like a puppy or something. Yoongi wants to touch his hair. He bets Taehyung’s hair is very soft. (Yoongi is an idiot who should keep his hands to himself.)

“Don’t I owe you an interesting story?”

“What? Oh—for the tea. Yeah!”

So Yoongi tells him about this weird town he’s been to. A Christmas tree in the middle of summer, all lit up in the town center. A banjo-band played in the diner every night. Seokjin’s customer in that town was a man who tried to read tarot for Yoongi, and kept picking up the Death card. Death means change, they kept saying— but in an ominous, Tim Burton-esque voice. Taehyung giggles at his imitation. He interrupts Yoongi’s story to launch into his own story about a weirdo grandma who once came into the gas-station with a fortune-telling parrot.

“So she offers me a reading, right, and asks it to pick up a card from like this set of playing cards, and the parrot just goes, butthead. And then it keeps saying butt, butt, butt in this really screechy voice. It was awesome.”

Yoongi asks if he’s sure he wasn’t hallucinating. That propels Taehyung into a story about a drunken night, post which Yoongi chuckles and talks about Namjoon’s adventures with “sophisticated drinks.” Taehyung falls over when Yoongi imitates Namjoon serenading the moon, all big words and hack poetry. His laughter is like a clear, deep bell, and he claps his hands in happy abandon.

It’s that sort of night—cooling tea and conversation, muffled laughter, something like a knot untangling from Yoongi’s chest. He’s always dreamed of bottling up the feeling of these nights: the quiet exhilaration of easy talk, the lightness in his chest, the bubbling warmth of another soul very close by. He and Namjoon sometimes have these sort of nights, when they just sit and talk. Somehow it’s even better when it happens with near-strangers. There’s the aspect of discovery, for one. He and Taehyung are very different, have conflicting opinions, are both equally passionate. It’s interesting. It’s probably Yoongi’s absolute favorite thing, this sort of talk—even better than sleep.

Taehyung talks about everything from astrophysics to Attack on Titan. Yoongi tells him about his music. Taehyung says he plays the saxophone, and then makes some noises that reminds Yoongi of a drowning ship. Yoongi’s wiping his tears from his eyes when Taehyung says, quite seriously, “You should really go to sleep, Yoongi-ssi.”

Somewhere along the thread of tales and sub-tales, they’ve descended into the familiar warmth of their native tongues. Taehyung’s voice is even deeper with his Daegu twang. There’s just something about the way he speaks—often mixing up his words, letting his thoughts run away in the middle of sentences—that pulls Yoongi’s gaze to the curve of his lips. He has a sudden, completely ridiculous thought that if he could, he would eat up all those words like precious fruit.

And then Taehyung makes a really fucking weird face and startles Yoongi clear out of his thoughts. “You have to drive tomorrow! Sleep is important! You can’t go crashing into a giant agave or something! Do you know a lot of people crash into giant agaves?”

Yoongi does not know that. Taehyung walks him back to his room, spouting stats about agaves and moths and fatal crashes. When he turns to leave, it’s with a small, rueful little smile.

“My shift ends at six,” he says. “Be careful on the roads tomorrow, Yoongi-ssi.”

“You can be informal with me,” Yoongi says, gruffly. He’s fluffing up his pillows, holding them halfway in front of his face, oddly nervous at saying goodbye. “And thanks. I will.”

“Maybe you’ll come again soon, hyung? Whenever you drive this way.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, gaze lingering too long on his own feet. He kicks himself mentally. What is he, a blushing schoolgirl? “Maybe?”

“You’ll have to pay for the bed next time, though.”

“Unless I save you from more assholes.”

Taehyung gives him a sheepish grin. “Bye,” he says. Doesn’t sound like he wants to. Yoongi fluffs up the pillow a bit more, hides his face. When he looks up again, Taehyung’s disappeared.

He sleeps in late. At ten in the morning, when he gets to the gas-station, there’s another boy manning the register. This one’s Asian too. He’s got his feet up on the counter and his face half hidden beneath a hoodie, and he’s halfway through a cup of instant noodles. There’s some really loud game on his phone, which he’s thumbing at viciously.

“Um, hi,” Yoongi says. “I’m vacating.”

“Hi Vacating, I’m Jungkook.”

Yoongi picks up some candy, throws some money on the counter. “Those games will rot your brain, kid.”

Jungkook looks at him and segues easily into Korean. “Oh, so you’re the weird ahjussi Taehyung spoke about,” he says, bills Yoongi up, and then squints. “He said you were cute.”

“Yeah?”

“He has night blindness. I keep telling him but he doesn’t believe me.”

Fucking brat. Yoongi gives Jungkook the most withering glare he can manage, and the kid actually looks uncomfortable for a few seconds. Then he flashes a wide, sardonic grin, flips Yoongi off, and goes back to his game.

Outside, the air’s warmed into a sticky, congealed mush. Yoongi feels like he’s wading through sugar syrup. He has miles to go today, people to see and give coffee machine demos to, and he tries to be annoyed about this. He tries to grump about the way the car smells like boiling naugahyde, or the radio playing candy pop music, but stupid Jungkook’s stupid voice has stuck in his head like an earworm.

He said you were cute.

Yoongi slaps himself to get the grin off his face. He’s a fucking idiot. There’s something actually wrong with him. He needs to call Namjoon and get him to speak about all the latest atrocities in the world, all the latest non-democratic unfairness that’s gotten him worked up. He needs to call Seokjin and ask his opinions on people who use cheat codes in video games. Anything to get this ridiculous, nonsensical bloom of happiness off his chest.

Instead, he just drives.

3.

There’s an odd chill that settles in June, a fringe of cool where there should be mugginess.

Yoongi drives with his windows down. There are some roads and some towns that he recognizes now, some sights that he files away in his mind for future amusement. There’s one town that has a museum full of creepy dolls, and another that has an abandoned street everyone knows is haunted. In Pennsylvania, there is a town that has been deserted, and smoke rises through the ground like hell is a heartbeat away. Yoongi gets invited to lemonade with a church that has cookouts every Sunday, and to lunch at a gurudwara with a giant communal kitchen.

He begins to feel unmoored, transient. He’s unsure if it’s a good feeling. He discusses it with Namjoon first, then Jimin. It’s that odd, special something: when you move so much that no part of you belongs to any one place anymore, when there is no home at the end of the day, when it’s just him and this car and this road like a tangled river snaking through the spine of the country.

It’s another month before Yoongi finds himself at the gas-station again. This time he’s a little early, and there’s a couple of people at the kebab truck. The neon of the station smooths over Yoongi like a blanket as he pushes through the door. He spots Taehyung arranging beer and soft drinks in the refrigerator. He’s got on a black sweater over dark jeans, hair falling in his eyes, and thick librarian-frame glasses. Yoongi pauses to wonder if Taehyung remembers him. Yoongi remembers him. Remembers his laugh, the freckle on his nose, all his silly acting and falling about. But then he feels pathetic: he has nothing working for him except the slow rap lyrics he’s been writing in between drives. Taehyung is starry and bright and has probably met a million Yoongis in the last month alone—

But Taehyung turns around right then, and his eyes widen. “Hullo!” he says, cracking a wide smile. “It’s been a while, Yoongi hyung. Would you like a bed tonight, too?”

The rest of the night is easy. He sits with Taehyung for a while in the gas-station, drinking tea and catching up. Yoongi tells him about the museum. Taehyung tells him about how he stayed up an entire night and day on a bet just to beat Jungkook’s high-score in some game. Taehyung plays him some jazz song he’s obsessed with, and then they sit on the floor, playing a card-game until Yoongi realizes that Taehyung is the definition of chaotic neutral: he doesn’t care what rules are, nor does he want to. He cheats and hides cards and nearly swallows one this one time. Yoongi tackles him to the ground at that and he laughs, wails that he’s sorry, curls into himself like a worm screaming that Yoongi’s touch tickles.

In the morning, when Yoongi wakes up to his alarm blaring, there’s a little thermos of tea and a box of crackers waiting at his door. Drive safe, Taehyung’s written, Come again.

He does. In a week’s time, somehow, Yoongi’s ended up at Taehyung’s gas-station again. This time he buys kebabs from the truck lady, who squints at him like she’s trying to see through his skin to the rainbow gay of his blood. He scowls back.

“Wow,” Taehyung says, happily, when Yoongi presents him with the greasy bag. “It always smells good but she doesn’t sell to me because she’s a raging homophobe. Thanks, hyung.”

Tonight’s busier than normal, but Taehyung’s still entertaining. He listens attentively when Yoongi tells him about the latest weird thing: a forested highway with a series of billboards that were only mirrors. They shattered light like diamond, and Yoongi’s sure it’s a traffic hazard. Taehyung thinks, perhaps, that it was put up by some nefarious corporation.

“Everything is a conspiracy with you, isn’t it?”

“Yes. My Reptile Overlords keep me informed.”

“So is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg really an AI robot?”

“I’ll tell you,” Taehyung says, and then makes a mafia smolder face. “But then I’ll have to kill you.”

“You’re cheesy as fuck.”

It’s easy. How is it that it’s so easy? Yoongi knows he’s not an easy person, at all. Everyone’s told him that. He doesn’t enjoy communicating, doesn’t enjoy sharing, would rather stay in the dark in his own room writing and thinking. Jimin says he’s a snail, hiding under his shell, having to be coaxed out gently and with much care. Yoongi scoffs at him but he knows it’s true: Yoongi’s never been a people person. Taehyung is such a painfully obvious people person, Yoongi thinks his heart might actually implode if he went without blabbering the details of the last great cybersecurity breach to whoever he gets his hands on.

Which, tonight, is Yoongi.

“—and then they might go after escort services and sex workers,” Taehyung says, as they sit side by side on the walls of the empty swimming pool. “That’ll suck.”

“Isn’t the whole point of the new law to protect them?”

“Allegedly,” Taehyung says, “But it’s coming from the point of view of all sex work is bad. Which is just nonsense. There are good people in that business, like in any business.”

“And hard cash,” Yoongi says, quietly. “If you want it. Some real hard cash.”

Taehyung looks sideways at him, eyes slightly narrowed and mouth parted, tongue flicking the corner of his lips. “I can be all yours tonight, baby, but you gotta give me a blank check in the morning.”

He says it in this way. Sultry and just slightly accented, a light smirk on his face, one hand coming up to brush his hair from his eyes. It takes Yoongi several seconds to identify that he’s joking—several seconds he spends looking at Taehyung’s mouth, the column of his throat pale in the thin moonlight, the soft line of his collarbones. And then Yoongi gets it, and he’s fucking going to die from embarrassment, and Taehyung’s obviously not stupid. He’s caught Yoongi checking him out. He swallows visibly, and if that isn’t a sight.

Then Yoongi’s trying to look away, and Taehyung’s staring into the broken tiles of the swimming pool as if he sees the Chinese zodiac laid out in it. He slides off the walls of the pool to stand on the tiles. “Come on, hyung. I wanna see the stars.”

He goes to flop on the mattress. Yoongi follows, even though it suddenly feels like his skin is on fire. It’s a stiff first five minutes, with him wanting to look at Taehyung but not sure if he’s allowed. He looks at the stars instead, at the sky in a circle fringed at the edges by the tops of trees. There’s a whole lot of them, out here in this nowhere-land, even if light pollution obscures some.

“I wish I was born like two hundred years from now,” Taehyung says. “When space travel is a thing, and you can go right out the stratosphere—zoom, just like that.”

“I think it’s a special kind of stupid to launch yourself into vacuum,” Yoongi mumbles. “Everything in space wants to kill you. Why not just stay on earth, where there’s music and food and beds?

“No, hyung, imagine! Imagine seeing the earth from outer space. Imagine seeing Mars. I’m so jealous of astronauts.”

“You have to poop into bags in space. And eat canned food.”

“I like canned food. I sell canned food,” Taehyung retorts, and then scrunches up his face a bit. “And dogs poop into bags at times. I like dogs.”

“That’s not—whatever.”

Yoongi blinks at the sky. Lying like this on his back, watching the stars, it’s easy to pretend he’s not on land. Just floating, somewhere, only the warmth of Taehyung’s body next to him anchoring him to reality at all. It’s actually a little scary.

“Won’t space be lonely?” he asks.

Taehyung shrugs—Yoongi can feel him move beside him, just a finger-breadth away. “It’s lonely down here too.”

They fall quiet. Yoongi didn’t know Taehyung does quiet, but he does. And it’s comfortable, neither of them worrying to break the silence, Taehyung occasionally pointing out constellations and naming stars that Yoongi’s never heard of.

“I used to use that Google app,” Taehyung says. “Now I can tell them apart without it. They’re my friends.”

The stars are his friends. It’s such a Taehyung thing to say. Yoongi doesn’t bother hiding his smile.

Their hands brush. Taehyung’s warm like a furnace, and Yoongi knows he himself has always ran cold. In this errant June chill, it feels good.

Again, it’s a few moments before Yoongi realizes what’s happening. His fingers are creeping on Taehyung’s, as if his hand’s developed a mind of its own, and Taehyung’s breath is hitching in his throat. Yoongi pulls away so fast he nearly winces at his tactlessness.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, sounding small and frightened, as if he did something wrong—and okay. Okay. Time to abort.

“I’ve got to get an early start tomorrow,” Yoongi says roughly, scampering to his feet. “I’ll find the room on my own. Thanks.”

Yoongi chalks it up to the fact that he’s been on the road awhile. His friends are always around virtually—across three texting apps and FaceTime and Skype—but nothing really compensates for another human being. He hasn’t been this close to anyone in a while—hookup or not—and these things affect judgment.

He probably just needs to get laid.

4.

In another two weeks, Yoongi’s circled back to The Puffing Muffin (stupid name). Hoseok screams and piles on top of him before he even fully gets through the door. It’s a teary reunion—Jimin’s made him some mint-green baby cupcakes (tastes like missing, says Jimin), Seokjin’s asking him a hundred questions a minute, and Hoseok is just sighing and touching Yoongi’s head. In a while, somehow even Namjoon’s put aside whatever research book his head had been buried in and joined them, making faces at the slightly sour lemon cream of the cupcake.

“So,” Seokjin asks, “did you meet any interesting people?”

Yoongi did. He met so many interesting people in interesting places that their faces run like a highlight reel in his head—only it’s too fast. He can’t pick out a single person. Somehow, he keeps landing back on Taehyung.

“I met this weird guy in a gas-station,” Yoongi says. “He’s from Daegu.”

“Wow, small world.”

Namjoon licks cream off his thumb. “You know,” he says, “A highway gas-station is like the ultimate symbol of transience. You’re there for a little while and then you’re not. If you take all the gas stations in this country, and if you travel the national average number of miles per day, you could probably go years without visiting the same gas-station twice.”

“Unless you’re me, a transient, passing through the same small yet widening circle of random towns,” Yoongi says. “Then you try and go back to the gas-station with the cute Daegu kid.”

For a minute there’s silence. They all stare at him, as if he’s just announced his candidacy for President or something, and then Jimin asks, very quietly, “Who is he and when can I meet him?”

Yoongi feels his mouth go dry. What is wrong with him? Why did he say that?

“Parents first!” Seokjin protests, swatting the back of Jimin’s head.

Yoongi looks at Namjoon for help, because Namjoon’s the only other person in the room who understands embarrassment. But Namjoon is presently imitating a rock, powerless in the presence of the other three, and just gives Yoongi a helpless look.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “This is why I—and I quote—don’t ever respond in more than monosyllables.”

Hoseok gives him a shrewd look. “But that’s probably the first time I’ve ever heard you say the word cute, hyung.”

He said it first, Yoongi wants to protest, but that’s just stupid. Taehyung didn’t say it to him. He said it to that prickly little bastard, Jeon Jungkook, who Yoongi had met again on his third visit and verbally sparred with for five minutes. He doesn’t even remember what he and Jungkook talked about. Maybe the weather. Yoongi doesn’t know how it’s possible to get pissed over the weather, but Jungkook managed it. There were a lot of rude gestures. He thinks he might have said your face is a thunderstorm to Jungkook once.

“I’m offended,” Jimin says, frowning. “Hoseok hyung is right, you’ve never called us cute.”

That’s because you aren’t,” Yoongi shrugs.

“Fuck you! I’m very cute. My muffin fans draw fanart of me as a chibi, that’s how cute I am. There’s a whole Instagram channel.”

Yoongi frowns at him. “Sometimes you’re kind of scary.”

“Okay, scary is better than cute. Scary is sexy.”

Yoongi gags. Jimin just preens, running a hand through his hair.

“Whoever he is, he can’t be cuter than me,” Seokjin comments. “Do you have a photo?”

“No, hyung, please.”

“Facebook? Snapchat? Insta?”

“I don’t  have his number,” Yoongi grumbles. “I don’t even have his surname.”

Hoseok groans. “Hyung, you suck. Should we stage an intervention? Just tell us when. We’ll be there with muffins and the best fucking coffee and we’ll set up a pop-up store or something—”

“Hold your horses, he doesn’t like coffee.”

Yoongi smirks at their identical expressions of horror. Namjoon’s the only one who doesn’t look scandalized, fixing his stare on his cooling chai latte. “Amen,” he mutters, so quietly that only Yoongi can hear.

They let it go after that. Probably thinks nothing of it. They’re right, too, Yoongi thinks. He’s seen a hundred roadside attractions on his trips, and some of those he goes back to. There’s a pull they exert, a sort of gravity, these in-between places. He understands them. Understands that there is a loneliness to them, an aloneness that is only too relatable. It’s like these places have hearts, beating a slow, percussive rhythm that matches just right with his.

Yoongi understands, maybe, that there is a bit of all that in Taehyung too.

He’s just another one of Yoongi’s roadside attractions.

That’s all this is. That’s all this has got to be.

5.

The next time Yoongi winds up at the gas-station, Jungkook and Taehyung are wrestling at the entrance.

Yoongi knows something is wrong. Taehyung’s face is hard, brows pulled together, jaw clenched so hard it must be numb. With his height and the way he holds his shoulders, he looks intimidating. Yoongi’s never seen him like this, didn’t think it was possible for Taehyung to look like this.

“—go home,” Jungkook is shouting, when Yoongi gets out of his car. “Taehyung—seriously—”

“This is fucking stupid,” Taehyung growls, trying to push past him—but Jungkook is broader, stronger, and he blocks him easily. “It’s my shift, let me in.

“You’re drunk, those bastards are looking for trouble—let me handle this for one night, okay?”

Taehyung doesn’t want him to handle it. He tries to push past again, and Jungkook stands his ground, half exasperated and half—does he look scared?

“ Kim Taehyung, if you try to push me one more time,” he growls, and then his gaze snags on Yoongi. “Oh, look, it’s your cute hyung. Great fucking timing.”

Jungkook spits it out, eyes furious. For once, though, he’s not irritated at Yoongi. He just sort of shoves Taehyung at him, the younger boy stumbling dizzily, and Yoongi grabs him by the elbows. Closer, he can see how out of it Taehyung is, pink in his cheeks and his gaze unfocused, fingers scrabbling for purchase on Yoongi’s jacket.

“Please just keep him,” Jungkook mutters, as if Taehyung is a misbehaving puppy. “I can’t deal with this.”

“What happened?”

Jungkook waves a hand. “There’s this abandoned church down the road. I’ve got a setup in the attic there, if you wanna crash.”

Yoongi frowns. “Look, kid, I have no idea what—”

“Can I pay you to look after him? For tonight—”

Taehyung whips around and nearly falls, his face furious. “You stop this, Jeon Jungkook, I can take care of myself.”

He trips over his own feet. Yoongi grabs him before he can hit the ground. His elbow nearly jams right into Yoongi’s stomach.

Jungkook sneers, looking Taehyung up and down. “Evidently not.”

Yoongi fixes Jungkook with a hard stare. “Fine. I’ll take him.”

“Thanks,  I meant it about the—”

“Fuck your money.”

For a second, something like relief crosses Jungkook’s face. It softens him, makes him so much younger that Yoongi feels a clench in his chest. “Thank you,” Jungkook says, quiet and sincere, and then disappears into the gas-station.

Yoongi drags Taehyung to the car. He’s fucking heavy, and he leans hard on Yoongi, apparently too jelly-legged to hold his own weight. It’s a bit of a struggle getting him into the shotgun seat because Taehyung doesn’t really want to go, and also because his fingers are clenched so tight into Yoongi’s jacket that his knuckles show white. Yoongi nearly topples over him. They’re so close for a moment that Yoongi feels the heat of Taehyung’s body like a blanket, and he has time to wonder how the sweet scent of his shampoo still manages to overpower the reek of alcohol.

 “Hyung,” Taehyung says, softly, his breath a warm fan against Yoongi’s neck. “You’re really pretty.”

“And you’re really drunk,” Yoongi responds, ignoring the flush that creeps up his throat. “What the hell were you doing?”

Taehyung’s face scrunches up a bit like he might cry. Yoongi hopes not. Yoongi doesn’t know what to do with pretty, crying boys. The thought turns his stomach.

“They trashed my apartment,” Taehyung whispers. “So I sorta fucked up their car. Then I found some bottles in their cooler. And you know what I did?”

Yoongi sighs. “What?”

“I drank them.”

He finds this very funny. He’s giggling into his palm now, eyes wide with mirth. Yoongi looks towards the gas-station, where Jungkook is now arguing loudly with an enormous guy.

“Taehyung. Who trashed your stuff?”

Taehyung cups his fingers to Yoongi’s cheek. “He’s still pissed at you for threatening him that one time.”

“Who, the Coverall Dude?”

Taehyung giggles. “That’s such a perfect name for him. He only ever wears that dirty thing. Him and his goons.”

“His goons? Who is this guy?”

“An asshole. Who thinks I’m an asshole. I have to go—he’s in the station now, probably looking for me—”

He tries to get up and Yoongi shoves him down, hand to his chest. He’s all dusky pink from intoxication, big eyes liquid and looking up at Yoongi entreatingly.

Yoongi takes a shaky breath. “We’re going for a drive.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “No, no, hyung, you don’t understand—”

“If you go back in there, I’m going to leave and never come back here again.”

He doesn’t know why he says it. Doesn’t even know why Taehyung looks at him in sudden, wild surprise, mouth hanging open and blinking in confusion. “Y-you won’t?”

“No. So pick your poison.”

Yoongi waits, watching as Taehyung slowly frowns, crosses his arms, and looks dreadfully betrayed. Should he not have said that? He should probably not have said that. What if Taehyung just sneers at him, says good riddance, and runs off back to the gas-station? It isn’t like Yoongi means anything to him in particular.

But then Taehyung is tugging at the seat-belt, folding his legs into the foot well, pouting as he stares out the windshield.  “Fine,” he says, pitifully, wriggling a bit. “Drive then.”

Yoongi snorts quietly, shaking his head, and can’t help the small smile that creeps up on him.

Taehyung stays quiet for all of two minutes, head tipped against the window and a faint smile pulling up his lips. Yoongi has no idea what’s going on in that head of his. Then he says he wants to show Yoongi some flowers, and Yoongi scoffs. No way he’s driving anywhere to see some fucking flowers. He thinks Taehyung lets it go, after a couple of minutes of whining. But then he notices Taehyung’s fingers go creeping towards the door, right to the handle—and fuck, he’s a hazard.

Yoongi brings the car to a sudden stop. “What the hell are you doing?”

“It’s hot in here,” Taehyung says, petulantly. “I want to get out.”

“No. Jesus. Sit still. Don’t touch the door.”

Taehyung frowns for a few seconds, looking out the window as he fidgets with the collar of his shirt. Then he turns to look to the back of the car. “What’re these boxes?”

“They’re my coffee machines.”

Taehyung wrinkles his nose. “Ew. Coffee.”

 “Says the man who just drank—what is it, a whole bottle of whiskey?”

“Wasn’t that much,” Taehyung says, and now he’s looking at Yoongi, somewhat intensely. It’s discomfiting considering how woozy he looked a few minutes ago. His voice is rough when he speaks. “Hyung—you missed the turn. Church’s that way.”

Yoongi turns his head to see where he’s pointing. When he turns back around, Taehyung’s dizzyingly close, gaze glossy and dark, cheeks painted with a gentle stripe of moonlight. Something electric and impermissible passes between them, and Yoongi’s heart is suddenly a fucking acrobat, tumbling in his chest, straining against his ribs. Taehyung’s eyes flicker to his mouth, and Yoongi feels the weight of his gaze: a staticky, buzzing coil of heat that shoots up his spine.

It’s a lot—he’s not used to feeling like this—and he’s just about to say something stupid, to diffuse the situation, when Taehyung leans in to kiss him.

It’s a soft thing, delicate as the sugar-roses Jimin makes for the bakery.

A small thing—just the slow press of their lips together, and Taehyung’s fingers skittering along the line of Yoongi’s jaw.

And Yoongi likes that it’s small and soft, hesitant, Taehyung’s fingers almost questioning in how gently they move to cup the nape of his neck. Yoongi likes that when Taehyung pulls away, he doesn’t try to hide the flush of embarrassment. He just sits there, looking up at Yoongi through the dark curtain of his bangs, swiping his tongue over his lips in that habitual way he has. There’s still that soft, pretty boy in him—in the smallest upturn of his mouth, in the way his hands are clenched tight to keep them still—but there’s also something else there.

Something dark and hungry and razor-sharp.

Yoongi likes the soft a lot, he thinks, but he likes this too.

“Sneak attack,” Taehyung whispers, wriggling his fingers. “Woooo.”

“You’re staring.”

Taehyung looks a little terrified, but layers on bravado. “Maybe I like staring at you.”

Yoongi cocks an eyebrow. “You’re drunk.”

“Not that drunk.”

“Yeah? What’s the GDP of Sudan?”

“What do I get if I answer right?” Taehyung asks, and now there’s a stampede in Yoongi’s veins, all this rush of blood unworking him, and he’s caught on a hook reeling him closer than he thought possible. “A kiss! A kiss if I answer right, hyung, okay?”

Yoongi scoffs like this is the most senseless thing he’s ever heard when it’s the opposite. It’s a thing he wanted to hear. It’s a great thing. It’s almost worshippable, this thing.

“No,” he says, scowling. Means yes. Hopes Taehyung gets that.

“Come on, hyung,” Taehyung whines, grabbing at his jacket. “Play along.”

Yoongi keeps his voice level. “Taehyung, you—”

“Don’t tell me you don’t want to,” Taehyung says. “It’s just a kiss. I think you’re hot. You—think maybe I’m not too bad, too?”

He’s a little god, Yoongi think. With his big, soft eyes and tan skin and perfect face. He’s a tall, skinny, cuddleable little god. Yoongi sort of wants more than a kiss. Sort of wants all of Kim Taehyung, every inch of his skin. See, road-trips across flat, featureless country roads? Great time to just let the imagination run wild. And Yoongi’s imagination is out there running whole derbies, bringing home gold trophies.

Taehyung pouts a little at Yoongi’s silence, like he’s suddenly rewinding through all their interactions, trying to see if he’s misread the situation. He hasn’t. Yoongi  squirrels his pride away and throws him a lifeline. A heavy, suffering sigh. A lazy, considering look. A roll of his eyes as he mutters, “Fine. One kiss.”

Taehyung grins happily. It makes him look innocent, like a middle-school boy waiting for a peck from his crush, but then he licks his lips and trains his gaze is on Yoongi’s mouth again. It’s weighted, dark, syrup-thick with want.  Yoongi knows this sort of gaze. The thought gets heat pooling at the bottom of his stomach.

“Ninety five billion,” Taehyung says, nervously, teeth snagging gently on his bottom lip. “Sudan’s GDP. It’s ninety five billion. Isn’t it?”

“I don’t fucking care,” Yoongi says, voice cracking, and pulls him into a kiss.

It’s not soft this time. Taehyung’s fingers knot in his hair, and his teeth graze at Yoongi’s lips. Yoongi draws a harsh breath, curls his fingers tighter into Taehyung’s shirt, feels the heat of him bleed through the thin material.  Taehyung sucks hard at his lower lip, licks at the seam, and Yoongi’s honestly momentarily distracted by where to put his hands because this isn’t near enough. He yanks Taehyung closer and there’s a scrabble of too long limbs and not enough space and the fucking steering wheel is in the way—but then, somehow, he has all of  Kim Taehyung on his lap, heavy and hot, and he thinks he might stop breathing.

Might be worth it.

Taehyung’s hands are tight in his hair. It stings, but it’s the good kind of pain, the kind that makes Yoongi pull the boy closer still, gasping a little as Taehyung’s tongue slides into his mouth. He doesn’t know how it happens but Yoongi’s hands have had enough of the thin, sweat-damp cotton of Taehyung’s shirt, and now they’re on skin, splaying over the intimations of his ribs. Taehyung makes a sound at that, a little choked gasp, and deepens the kiss. 

Touching Taehyung’s bare skin is like voluntarily plunging a hand into the heart of a star. “You’re so hot,” Yoongi mutters, and Taehyung pulls back to look down at him, all smug, filthy smirk and burning gaze, “Not like that, you ass. It’s like you’re running a fever.”

“Oh, I’ve always—” Taehyung starts, cutting off when Yoongi starts mouthing at his collarbone. He tenses up, neck arching, and Yoongi’s only too pleased with that, sucking a line of kisses up the underside of his jaw, drawing out soft, breathy little whimpers from him. Yoongi’s hands roam the soft expanse of his skin, and somehow this has all evolved very quickly into Yoongi wanting to put his mouth everywhere his hands have touched, leave a constellation of marks on his starry boy. He can’t in this space, not without the wheel digging into Taehyung’s bones. Not that Taehyung seems to mind the general discomfort at all, with the way he’s arched back against it, the dark flush of his lips extremely distracting. 

Taehyung catches him looking, pulls gently at his hair, and Yoongi gives in, allowing him to crash their lips together in a fucking disaster of a kiss, all teeth and tongue. Taehyung giggles quietly into his mouth.

But then he quiets quickly when Yoongi sucks on his tongue, a low rumble spilling from his chest, hips rocking gently down and—oh.

Taehyung slides his lips along the line of Yoongi’s jaw to his earlobe, then nibbles softly at it. “The church,” he says, full of dark intent, “really is that way, hyung.”