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The island ended up being an accident.

Yoongi had started driving with no real plans to stop, the emptiness in his head becoming too oppressive in the vastness of the city, and it wasn’t until he reached the long bridge and the road started getting thinner and thinner and the street lights fewer and fewer that he realized he was on an island, surrounded by ocean no matter which window he looked out of.

Seoul shone brightly in his rearview mirror, a chimera in and of itself. His car was running out of gas and the small seaside town he was entering seemed to be closed down for the night. Yoongi could hear the waves through his rolled down windows.

He drove until he found a bed and breakfast with an open sign plastered to the front window and sat in his parked car for longer than deemed necessary, staring at this darkened speed gauge. He’ll stay for one night—tonight—and leave. He’ll have a good breakfast, maybe wander on the beach for an hour or two, and leave.

One night, he tells himself, ignoring the packed bookbag in his backseat.

***

Yoongi wakes up to his cheek squished into a floppy pillow that smells reminiscent of his grandmother's house and his phone buzzing against his right ass cheek.

He waits it out and is not shocked when it starts back up again not even a full second after the buzzing stopped. It must’ve been going for a while, then. With his forefinger and thumb, he retrieves the phone from his back pocket and doesn’t even bother glancing at the screen as he slides his thumb to accept the call and hits the speaker button.

It’s silent for a beat. Yoongi figures Taehyung is waiting for the next ring, and when it doesn’t come, his voice filters through, deep and tinged with worry. “Yoongi? You there?”

“Mm,” Yoongi grumbles, rolling flat onto his back and setting his phone on his stomach. The room looks like one straight out of someone's house, with slightly mismatched furniture and a worn blanket across his legs. Did he break into someone's home? Taehyung speaks up again before the thought can fully develop.

“Jesus, Yoongi. Where the hell are you? I’ve been calling for—“ He cuts off, and Yoongi can all but see him pulling the phone away from his face to check the time. “—thirty-five minutes. I’m at your apartment.”

“Inside?”

“Yes. I thought people hiding their spare keys under doormats was a movie-only thing.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes. The fact that Taehyung is inside his apartment should bother him. It should bother him a lot. He’s only known the kid for five months, but Yoongi finds that he doesn’t really care that Taehyung is probably sitting on his worn down corduroy couch, judging the rug with so many holes in it that it’s more like scraps of fabric thrown carelessly on the floor. Yoongi wonders if Hoseok, his friend of four years, has tried to get in contact with him. Most likely not.

“I—“ Yoongi almost lies, but then thinks Taehyung is too smart for that. “I’m on an island.”

“An island?” His voice gets faint for a moment before returning full force. “Why? Which one?”

“I needed time. I—The song—it wasn’t coming together. I just started driving.” Yoongi tugs at his belt loops for something to do. “I don’t know which one. It’s not commercialized. I didn’t see any signs last night.”

He listens to Taehyung’s breathing. “Are you staying?”

“No.” Yoongi’s response is immediate. “I’ll be back tonight. I want to walk around the town a bit. It’s seaside, small. You’d like it.”

Taehyung’s smile is broad enough to translate over the line. “You’re sickeningly sentimental in the morning.”

Yoongi ignores him. “Why’re you at my apartment?”

“We had breakfast plans today. I’d ask if you remembered, but clearly, you didn’t. I’m just going to use up the rest of your coffee and all the eggs in your fridge.”

With a sigh, Yoongi tosses his arm over his eyes. “Go ahead. Sorry.”

“Mm.” There’s rustling on the other side of the line. They sit in silence for a moment or two before Taehyung speaks again. “It’ll be alright, Yoongi. Call me if you need anything. I’ll see you soon.”

Soon. Not tomorrow, soon. Yoongi murmurs his goodbye and waits for Taehyung to hang up. He sinks further into the bed, his shoulders aching against the mattress, and stares at the popcorned ceiling. The sunlight coming in through the curtained window is soft and muted but warm against his calves, and if he strains hard enough, he thinks he can hear the waves rolling.

He checks the time on his phone. Six-thirty A.M., meaning the sun has just risen, and Taehyung really did have the nerve to wake him up so early. Yoongi pulls himself up to a seating position, back resting against the decorative pillows, and looks more clearly around the room. There’s two matching cherry wood nightstands on either side of the bed, an ornate chest at the foot of the bed, and a closed dresser directly across from him.

Yoongi sighs and drags a hand over his face, taking his black cap off and ruffling his matted hair. He stands and pulls the curtains back from the window and, sure enough, over the low roofs and crisscrossed streets, Yoongi can see the ocean. There seems to be one main street, a thick gray vein with many roads branching off of it. There’s trees and greenery everywhere, towering over and caging the streets in, sunlight illuminating the leaves and breeze ruffling the flowers. The houses are all close together and painted various colors and in various states of abandonment. Some streets are lined by cars, others by children riding bicycles. Yoongi guesses that the bed and breakfast is at the very entrance of the town, because he can see all the way to the ocean.

He lets the curtain fall closed and spots his bookbag sitting on the other side of the still made bed. He can’t remember what time he got in last night, but it had to have been late, considering he flopped face first on the bed in his jeans and fell asleep. Yoongi digs around for his toothbrush and shoulders the door to the attached bathroom open. There’s one sink with a wide counter, a toilet, and a standing shower, a pull-open mirror and drawers and cabinets. The lighting is horribly yellow and washes Yoongi out completely and he stares at the water droplets collecting in the sink as he scrubs his teeth clean with bubblegum flavored toothpaste he found in the drawer.

Yoongi stays in his day old clothes and shoulders his bag, slipping his phone back into his pocket and readjusting the pillows and blankets before he steps out, gently closing the door behind him. The hallway is long with multiple doors on either side, ending with a window and a cushioned window seat. In the other direction, there’s a set of long, creaky stairs, and Yoongi takes those all the way down to a wide foyer with dark wood floors and a thin, circular rug.

The decorations are homey and light, warm sun pouring in through the wide windows and high ceilings. It smells like green apple. The air conditioning is a little too high for Yoongi’s liking, and after minutes of just standing motionlessly in the entryway, he turns and walks through the wide doorway of what he hopes is the kitchen.

It’s a living room slash office slash check-in counter slash something. There are couches and armchairs and recliners and a long wooden counter with a cubby and numbered keys, a few of the slots empty. It’s abandoned, the computer turned off, everything packed away, and there’s a T.V. hanging above a wide fireplace playing something on mute. Yoongi wonders where he’s supposed to check out, wonders if he already paid last night.

There’s a white swinging door in the far left corner and Yoongi pushes through it. The kitchen is huge and bright, all white furnishings with a wide island and multiple stools and a bench style table at the far end. There’s some music faintly playing and a man standing at the stove, pushing something around in a skillet. Yoongi clears his throat but the sound is lost over the music.

“Hello?”

The man’s broad shoulders jump and he whips his head around quickly, eyes wide. He’s handsome; dark hair, tan skin, full lips. He’s tall and wide and has a red apron wrapped around his waist and is cooking what appears to be scrambled eggs. Yoongi hopes this is the owner and not just an overly familiar guest.

“Oh. You’re up early. With the way you came in last night, I would’ve figured you’d be dead until noon.”

His accent is unfamiliar to Yoongi but sweet and comforting, and he smiles slightly at what Yoongi is sure is a confused expression. “Did you need something?”

“Oh.” Yoongi flushes slightly. “Just to check out.”

“Already?” Yoongi can see the man’s eyes flicker to the book bag on his shoulders. “Stay for breakfast at least. It’s almost ready.”

There’s something about this man already that has Yoongi struggling to say no. It’s a dangerous thing; they’ve spoken a max of fifteen words to each other and he’s already pulling Yoongi in. Breakfast, touring the town, and then back to Seoul. That’s the plan, Yoongi tells himself, as he pulls a stool out from under the bar and settles down.

“So, where are you coming from?” The man asks, his voice carrying over the sizzle of the pan and the soft melody of the song playing. His back is turned to Yoongi.

“Seoul,” Yoongi answers and watches the man glance over his shoulder with raised eyebrows.

“You drove all the way from Seoul? That’s like, what, seven hours?”

“Six if you’re fast.” Yoongi shrugs, directing his gaze towards his nail beds. He waits for the man to ask why he’s here, or any other generic question Yoongi can’t really find an answer to, but it never comes. He just chuckles faintly and continues cooking.

They eat in relative silence. He asks a few questions, Yoongi answers. The man recommends him restaurants (all local, almost all seafood) and the best beach spots and the best place to rent surfboards or body boards or anything else Yoongi may want (he wonders why, because he knows full well he doesn’t look like a damn surfer).

As Yoongi is rinsing his dish off, the man suddenly turns to him, face alight as if he’d just thought of something. “I can’t believe I forgot to introduce myself. My names Kim Seokjin. You can call me Jin if you want. My parents own this place. I help out occasionally.”

Yoongi nods. “I’m Yoongi. How old are you?” He asks out of pure curiosity because for the entirety of the duration of their conversation, Yoongi has been unable to tell.

“Twenty-five.”

Only a year older than him, then. Yoongi just nods again and towels his plate off. Once they’ve finished Yoongi trails after Jin back into the main room, stepping up to the counter as Jin steps behind it, pulling his wallet out.

“Ah, don’t worry about that.” Jin types a few things into the computer and nods his head at the wallet in Yoongi’s palm. “Guests who stay less than twelve hours are complimentary. You’ve only been here for,” he glances at the clock behind his head, “nine and a half.”

Yoongi raises his eyebrows. The house is large, one of the largest Yoongi’s ever been in, and nice, and Jin’s family must have some load of money if they can allow people to eat and sleep here for free. But he’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so he just drops a few wons in the modest tip jar and pockets his wallet again. Jin types on the computer for a bit, loudly pressing the spacebar quite a few times, and then he looks back up at Yoongi with a gentle smile.

“Well. That’s it. Enjoy your time here, Yoongi.”

Yoongi smiles back easily. “Where is here, exactly? I don’t think I asked.”

Jin leans his elbows down on the counter. “I’d tell you the name, but you wouldn’t know it. Nobody ever does. I’d rather keep the illusion of mystery.”

Yoongi reflexively rolls his eyes and instantly worries he crossed some unspoken boundary, but when they make eye contact again laughter is dancing in Jin’s eyes. “Thank you for breakfast. And the room. Yeah.”

Jin just nods, and Yoongi can feel the heavy weight of eyes on his back the entire trip to the front door.

***

Yoongi drives around the criss crossed bumpy roads for a while. It’s the kind of town straight out of a movie; all high, wooden buildings, long open markets with miles and miles worth of produce carts and seafood carts and anything else one could think of. He keeps his windows down and lets the salty air sting his eyes. It’s small and homey, hospitable, and if a town could ever possibly feel kind Yoongi thinks this one would.

There’s a long strip of grassy sand dunes, higher than he’s ever seen before, and the seagull’s squawks are loud and too close for comfort. Sand seems to coat the bottom of everyone's feet and all the walking surfaces and there are more surf shops than he can keep track of. No tourist destinations, no souvenirs, just island people, living their daily lives, somehow not getting choked by all the salt and sand.

After stopping in what seems to be the towns singular gas station and filling his car, Yoongi pulls off to the side of the street where the road widens to offer a few meager parking spaces and sits for a bit, staring off to his right at the tall beach grass swaying in the breeze. He’s only ever been to the beach once in his life, when he was a teenager, but back then the sand was littered with cigarette butts and plastic and the water smelt more like a sewer system than salt. Even then, he knows he’s dressed horribly, but he figures he probably doesn’t even own beach appropriate clothes and steps out of the car.

The sun is impossibly bright and burns Yoongi’s uncovered eyes. The only protection he’s got is his cap, and even that’s mainly for appearance purposes. He doesn’t even have sunscreen, and despite it still being so early in the morning, Yoongi knows he’ll fry if he stays out too long.

There’s a small stairway that leads over the dunes and out onto the beach, which is relatively empty. Far out he can see a few black dots—surfers, he presumes—and a cluster of people right along the shore, all dressed similarly in wetsuits, though only a few are holding surfboards. Yoongi turns and walks away from them, passing a few people fishing in the ankle deep water, a few towels laid out in the sand, until he comes upon an empty stretch and sits down farther away from the water, taking his sandals off and burrowing his feet deep beneath the soft sand.

The ocean is overwhelming if he looks for too long. The water here is a color he’s never seen, a deep blue that stretches and stretches and laps against the sand, crystalline and foamy. The waves are loud but the birds flying overhead are louder and the sun beats down against his shoulders. The salt is even more overwhelming right at the shoreline—Yoongi feels like it’s coating his throat with each inhale.

He stares at where blue sky meets blue sea, the difference almost imperceptible, if there even is one. For all he knows this little island, this hidden seaside town, could be an endless expansion of the sky itself, reaching down to dip into the sea and not wanting to pull away. Yoongi reaches around into his backpack and pulls out his latest leatherback journal, a brown one no bigger than the palm of his hand, grabbing the stirrings of inspiration he felt in his chest by the lapels and not letting go.

He scribbles for at least an hour, just freehanded music notes and lyrics and melodies until his fingers start to cramp and he hears approaching voices. Yoongi uncurls his back and closes the journal and looks up to where two figures are walking out of the ocean, long surfboards clutched underneath their armpits, wetsuits dripping salt water onto the sand. Yoongi must’ve missed them when he picked this spot.

He packs his journal back up and goes to stand when something grabs his attention in his peripheral. Both of the surfers are young, definitely around Yoongi’s age, and one has bright, vivid, magenta hair.

It’s wet and curling at the ends but dry and windswept on top, slightly wavy, and sets off the tanned neck below perfectly. They’ve got their back turned to Yoongi and their wetsuit pooling at their waist, which is notably narrow, defined shoulder blades shifting as they pull the sleeves off their forearms. Yoongi watches and tries not to feel creepy about it as they prop their board up against their thigh and mess with something at the front of their wetsuit, the other person beside them laughing so loud the noise carries across the sand to where Yoongi is sitting, far enough away to where he can’t really make out any features other than general attractiveness.

Yoongi doesn’t even know why he’s staring. It’s not like colored hair is an unusual feat for him; Hoseok’s had about every color in the rainbow, and Yoongi himself has had a few deviations from the standard black, but something about the richness of the color and the way it contrasts the deeply tanned skin had transfixed him for a moment. Then, the extent of the creepiness of what he’s doing hits him, and he knows he’d look like a grade-A stalker if either of the people turned around, so Yoongi grabs his bag and hightails it off the beach.

***

He ends up eating more fresh seafood in one afternoon than he ever has in his entire life. The salt stays on his tongue for hours afterward, and he was planning on grabbing dinner once he got on the road, but the sun sets and the time for him to leave rolls around and Yoongi finds himself exhausted from spending the entire day in the sun, walking and eating and getting burnt.

He’s walking along the open end of one of the flea markets, facing the beach, when he thinks he sees a flash of magenta out of the corner of his eye. He doesn’t know why he feels so panicked, or why he feels such an intense wave of relief when he turns his head and finds it was a scarf hanging off a hook blowing in the wind. It’s not like the person had caught him staring and decided to track him down and find out what Yoongi’s problem was, but he can’t stop thinking about the particular shade of their hair.

Yoongi doesn’t want to go back to Jin’s bed and breakfast—he feels embarrassed after making such a hurry to leave, and he told Taehyung he’d be back by tonight, but by the rate at which things are going he wouldn’t even make it back to Seoul until two A.M. He figures another night wouldn’t hurt; he doesn’t have any high pressure, time sensitive job to get back to, no plants or animals in his apartment, and he’s paid ahead seven months worth of rent for moments exactly like this one. Yoongi’s always been prone to long, unexpected vacations.

Taehyung answers on the third ring. “You’re staying.”

It’s not phrased as a question, but Yoongi knows he’s asking. “Yeah. One more night. It’s nice here, I just stayed out later than expected.”

Taehyung’s somewhere loud—Yoongi thinks it must be the subway, this time of night. “Why not stay for a week or two? I noticed you packed quite a bit.”

“Did you go through my stuff?” Yoongi doesn’t know why he’s asking. Taehyung wouldn’t have noticed Yoongi packed a lot unless Taehyung had gone through his drawers. He purposely avoids the first part of Taehyung’s response and hopes the other doesn’t notice.

“Seriously, I think it’d be good for you to stay for a bit. We both know you’ve been at a roadblock lately. Maybe the ocean will inspire you. The rolling waves, the salty a—”

“Christ, shut up. I wasn’t making plans on staying.”

“What’s stopping you?”

Yoongi doesn’t reply. Taehyung would say something clever, like, it’s because you don’t have a response, but Yoongi knows it’s because he spots a familiar head of dark hair on the beach below the boardwalk he’s leaning against. Jin is wearing a wetsuit, similar to the ones he saw on the beach earlier but a dark blue instead of black, and the surfboard he’s holding is long and neon green.

It makes sense that he surfs. Everyone here seems to, and now Yoongi understand why Jin had been telling him all the best surf shops around town; everyone must be here to surf, or come here to surf. The water sure is wavy enough.

He considers calling Jin’s name, Taehyung waiting patiently on the end of the line, but he doesn’t have to, because Jin turns and sees Yoongi and smiles so widely it nearly splits his face.

“I’ll talk to you in the morning, Tae.” Yoongi waves back and ignores Taehyung’s dramatized sigh. “Have a good night.”

He’s sliding his phone into his pocket just as Jin walks to stand beneath Yoongi in the sand. “You’re still here.”

“You surf.”

Jin tilts his head. “Do I?”

“I’d sure hope so.”

The way Jin laughs is infectious and sounds oddly similar to windshield wipers. It brings a smile to Yoongi’s face. “I do surf. Usually in the morning with Jimin and Jeongguk, but I had work today. As you can tell.”

Jimin and Jeongguk. Yoongi figures that must be the group Jin surfs in, because nobody here surfs alone. Yoongi also wonders if he saw them this morning, and if they’re any good. “You any good?”

Jin frowns. “I would show you but it’s too flat out there right now.” He looks over his shoulder briefly at the water, then back towards Yoongi. “Come back out tomorrow morning. You’ll find out for yourself.”

Yoongi decides he likes Jin. He’s personable, talks to Yoongi like he’s a friend and not a horribly obvious foreigner who is five shades lighter than anyone here. He’s interesting, and fun to joke with, and Yoongi really does want to see him surf.

“Okay.”

Jin, for the quickest of seconds, looks shocked at Yoongi’s assent. He morphs into an expression of glee.

“So you’re staying another night?”

“I—“ Yoongi narrows his eyes. He hadn’t even realized he’d basically been giving himself over to another night here. “One more.”

“Need a place to say?” Jin rests his elbow against his surfboard and places his other hand on his hip, assuming the position of someone who just swindled an innocent bystander into sacrificing an entire night over to him. “I know somewhere.”

Yoongi desperately wishes he had something to throw.

***

Horrifyingly enough, Yoongi wakes up on his own volition at six-thirty the next day.

Perhaps it’s because his body is so worn out from the tiring day he had before. Or, it could be because he’s staying in a town where even the hours you spend sleeping are hours wasted. Whatever the reason, he wakes up expecting to hear his phone ringing or some other loud disturbance that would explain it. When he hears nothing but the waves and the birds, he rolls onto his side and buries the entire left side of his face into his pillow.

He and Jin had grabbed food last night before crashing at the house, where Yoongi discovered Jin lived, the entire third floor renovated into his own apartment. Jin had just handed him the key
to the room he stayed in previously and Yoongi, at the very least, had the decency to strip to his boxer shorts and brush his teeth before passing out.

When he makes himself presentable and ventures downstairs, it’s silent. There’s no sizzle of a skillet, no soft music playing from an outdated radio. The only sounds Yoongi can hear are the creaking of the wood from his footsteps and the air conditioning as it runs. He then remembers what Jin had said; he’d be out early this morning, surfing, therefore not in the house, therefore leaving Yoongi to his own devices for breakfast.

He ends up eating a bowl of sugar cereal that makes him feel a bit nauseous but satiates his empty stomach nonetheless. It’s seven by the time he’s leaving, completely bypassing his car which is parked in the first spot right outside the houses front door. He learned, last night, that the walk from here to the beach is only ten minutes, and it’s a nice enough morning and Yoongi really doesn’t want to use up all his gas; he’ll need it for the trip back tonight.

The town is quiet this early in the morning. The only people up are fishermen or surfers, with the occasional outlier, such as Yoongi himself. He’s a bit horrified to discover that he likes it; being up so early, before anyone else, when the sun is bright but not too hot and the waves are the loudest thing he can hear. If he were anyone else, he might consider moving here, which is a presumptuous thought after two days, even for Yoongi.

Yoongi makes sure to roll the bottoms of his jeans up before crossing the boardwalk over onto the beach this time. He holds his sandals in one hand with his backpack slung high across his shoulders as he climbs the stairs. It’s noticeably emptier today; Yoongi can only spot two groups of surfers, both out so far into the water they’re bobbing dots in Yoongi’s line of vision.

He settles down far away from shore again and doesn’t wait to grab his journal. Leaning back against his backpack, Yoongi writes and draws and stares at the sky and tries not to think about the fact that the sun is burning his cheeks right now. Or, the fact that he’s been unable to come up with so much as a viable lyric the past five months, but two days here have provided him with three pages worth of scribble. He needs to call Taehyung. He needs to call Hoseok. He needs to call somebody to let them know that he’s still here and hasn’t stopped kicking so can they slow down and allow him to catch up, please.

If he were a more reflective person, Yoongi may say that it’s the city. The hustle and bustle of Seoul is too much, even for him, and he often feels so suffocated that each inhale just pushes him further and further back. He doesn’t even have time to breathe. But he’s not; Yoongi’s always taken things as they were and preferred not to look too deeply into himself in fear of what he would find. It’s the only way he’s survived as long as he has.

Much to his horror, Yoongi is woken up by the sound of voices that seem to be standing right above him. He hadn’t even known he fell asleep—hadn’t meant too, really. Someone could’ve easily robbed him of all his quaint belongings he managed to cram into his backpack, or he could’ve gotten a sunburn so severe he’s already developing skin cancer, or—

Yoongi opens his eyes and sees magenta.

Well, he sees red. The sun nearly burns the corneas right out of his eyes. Then he blinks multiple times in rapid succession and looks at the gathering of bodies to his left and he sees magenta. Bright and striking magenta, accented by bronze skin, set off by a soaked black wetsuit. Yoongi sits up so quickly his journal falls from his chest and lands in the sand next to him.

Jin, the one standing closest to Yoongi with his back turned, must hear something. He quickly turns and his eyes light up and Yoongi begins regretting ever agreeing to this, because then all three of their eyes are on him, and he’s squinting so hard he can barely make out any facial features other than, again, their general attractiveness.

“Yoongi! Did we wake you?”

Yoongi brushes his hands off on his knees and picks his journal out of the sand. Really, it’d be just his luck that the surfing pair he spied on yesterday had to be Jin’s surfing buddies. He stands quickly.

“Yeah.”

Jin claps a wet hand on his shoulder. He’s the only one who looks soaked head to toe, hair pushed off his forehead and dripping onto his temples. Yoongi keeps his gaze fixated on Jin’s left nostril to avoid the bobbing head of magenta to his left. “I wasn’t sure if you’d actually come or not.”

Yoongi finds it odd, how he’s known Jin for a staggering two days but their friendship and familiarity are already comparable to that of Yoongi and Taehyungs. Jin must be the kind of person who could make friends with a fucking rock; he has a way of molding his own personality to match whoever he’s with. Some may see that as fake, may complain that they want the real Jin, and not whatever version he’s produced to fit whoever he’s with. But Yoongi knows better.

“I said I would, didn’t I?”

“You did.” Jin keeps his hand on Yoongi’s shoulder and turns back to his friends. Yoongi makes eye contact with the shortest one first; he’s got black hair, parted at the forehead and soft-looking. His lips are plump and when he smiles it encompasses his whole face. He’s handsome in a way that’s different from Jin; prettier. “This is Jimin and Jeongguk. I’ve told them about you already.”

Jimin. That must leave Jeongguk to be the pink one. Yoongi smiles at Jimin. “You surf too?”

“We all do.” Jimin’s accent is similar to Jin’s, and Yoongi wonders what his must sound like to them. “Me and Jin just started the last couple of years. Jeongguk has been his entire life.”

Yoongi has no choice but to look at Jeongguk, then, because he isn’t rude. He’d been holding it off for as long as possible on the off chance that Jeongguk would recognize him as the guy who has a staring problem, or maybe he’d just be able to tell that Yoongi hasn’t been able to get the exact shade of his hair out of his mind. It’s probably written in his face.

Jeongguk’s hair is even more rich up close and directly under the sun. It’s a bit wavy and messy atop his head, but through the fringe Yoongi can see dark eyebrows, one raised pointedly. Jeongguk has got wide eyes, a prominent nose, and bunny teeth, and he’s so stunning it makes Yoongi’s fingers ache. Something about him draws you in, makes you want to get to know him, to talk to him. He’s got an aura of innocence and kindness that burns Yoongi’s lungs on each inhale like smoke, and a freckle under his bottom lip. He’s handsome, but in a way different from either Jin or Jimin; beautiful.

Yoongi wants to say something clever or witty, something to pique Jeongguk’s interest, but all he can manage is: “Your entire life? A baby on a surfboard doesn’t seem very safe.”

There’s a beat or two of stunned silence, and then Jeongguk throws his head back and Yoongi wishes he never said anything at all. Jeongguk’s laugh is loud and high-pitched and tinkling, and his neck shakes with it. The sun glints just so off his sweat, lighting up the entire exposed spanse of his skin, and Yoongi has to bring himself to look away or else he never will. Jin and Jimin’s laughs are lost in the ringing.

“I agree. I think I learned how to surf before I knew how to walk.” His accent resembles everyone else's here. It’s warm and friendly, the way their mouths curve with it, and it makes it sound like they’re asking you in for a warm cup of tea and some cookies no matter what it is they’re actually saying. It makes Yoongi uncomfortable, thinking about how brusque and gruff his own voice must sound.

“Your parents must’ve been confident in your abilities.”

“Well, I’m only as good as I am because of them.”

It’s such a casually confident statement that it makes Yoongi’s lips curl into a smile. The one Jeongguk offers in return is gut-wrenching.

Jin had already been in the water but Jeongguk and Jimin were bone dry, and Yoongi lies back against his backpack in the sand and alternates between watching them wax their boards and writing. He’s too far away to hear any actual tidbits of conversation aside from the occasional laugh, but it’s clear that the three of them are close. Watching them for too long makes him feel like he’s intruding, so he doesn’t.

They surf for a while. Yoongi can’t see much once they paddle out into the water, but they’re all good, and they catch some pretty impressive waves, and Yoongi fills up four pages.

***

“Magenta hair?”

“Yes.”

“Wait. Pink-magenta, or like, red-magenta?”

“I—what? Isn’t magenta a mixture of both?”

“Well, sure, but sometimes it’s more than—“

“That’s besides the point. His hair is fucking magenta, Hoseok.”

“And why is that an issue?”

Yoongi slaps a palm across his forehead. He and Hoseok have been friends for years now—Yoongi thought that came with some premeditated ability to read each other's minds and know things without having to say them. He doesn’t respond and lets Hoseok figure it out himself.

After a minute of shared breathing, Hoseok gasps. “You can’t stop thinking about this guys hair.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes. Hoseok has always had a way of making things sound a lot creepier than they actually are. Or maybe Yoongi really is just that creepy, but—he doesn’t want to get into the science of it.

“Anyways. I just wanted to call and, you know, let you know I was alive. Since you were so worried and everything.”

Hoseok’s laugh makes Yoongi’s chest warm. “Taehyung told me you were taking a much needed vacation.”

Yoongi hms. “You talk to Taehyung?”

The prolonged period that it takes for Hoseok to respond is more telling than anything could’ve been. “Yeah. I guess. How long are you staying?”

“I—“ Yoongi almost says he’ll be leaving today, but sitting at the long bench table in the kitchen of Jin’s home (as he’s come to call it, even though it’s official name is Surfside BnB, something Yoongi had laughed profusely at when he first saw the sign in the broad daylight) he realizes he doesn’t really want to leave.

And Yoongi considers himself to be a relatively simple person. No matter how brooding he may seem, it’s quite easy for him to make decisions when it comes down to it, so he just responds, “I’m not sure yet. Longer.”

If Hoseok was shocked by the answer he certainly does a good job of hiding it. “Where are you staying?”

“This bed and breakfast. I know the kid of the owners--he’s cool. Been letting me stay for free, don’t really know why.”

“He probably feels bad for you.”

“You think you’re funny?”

“Hilarious. Listen, I miss you—we’ve gotta really catch up sometime, but I have to go. Namjoon is starting to give me the side eye from over the cubicles. You know how he gets. Keep me updated on your magenta boy.”

Yoongi laughs, watching the way the sunlight falls in strips across the draft wood table and illuminates the flying dust particles. “Yeah, yeah. Go. Also, he’s not my anything. We’ve spoken five words to each other.”

“So far. Bye, Yoongi. See you soon.”

“See you.”

Yoongi stews in the following silence for a bit. The house is empty; whatever other guests there were had left, the only empty key slot at the check-in desk being Yoongi’s. He’s gathered that this isn’t the kind of town to attract tourists—Jin’s parents must be rich enough to keep it up and running despite the slow service.

It’s midday. After watching the trio surf for a bit, Yoongi had claimed sleepiness and hightailed it back to the house, feeling thoroughly distraught. He tracked sand in through his sandals and paced in the foyer for a good five minutes before settling in at the table and calling Hoseok. He can’t name why he feels so out of place—he feels like he wants to crawl out of his skin and sink to the bottom of the ocean, like a rock.

Yoongi sighs out of his nose, slumping down with his elbows planted on the table. He texts Taehyung.

yoongi
Staying for a bit longer

He responds nearly instantaneously. The buzzing in his hand makes Yoongi jump, and he’s beginning to think he really does need a nap.

taehyung
great!!!!!!!!!!
enjoy ur vaca

Yoongi doesn’t know why he feels the need to keep Taehyung updated. Maybe he’s worried that Taehyung will spend too much time worrying about him, or maybe he’s worried that he’ll spend too much time worrying about Taehyung. Regardless, he locks his phone with a small smile and tracks sand all the way up the stairs and into his room, falling face first into the bed.

***

Yoongi wakes up to someone in his room.

They’re rummaging through the chest at the foot of his bed. Yoongi can’t see them, they’re bent too far down, but the noise wakes him up first—loud and clanging and completely disrespectful. He doesn’t even consider that he’s getting robbed, because all of his belongings are in the untouched backpack to his right. He assumes it’s Jin and doesn’t think twice as he stretches down and kicks the lid closed onto his head.

The resounding squeak certainly is not Jin. Yoongi sits up, more awake than before, and watches as the figure shoves the heavy wooden lid off their head and sits back on their heels. Jeongguk’s magenta hair is crimson in the glaring sunlight filling the bedroom.

Yoongi’s eyes widen. “What are you doing here?”

Jeongguk looks sheepish. “Jin sent me up to get you. We’re going to go eat and he wanted to invite you, but I saw you were asleep so I—I snooped. Jin rarely lets me in any of these rooms anymore. He’s so shady.”

Yoongi can’t really process what he’s saying, because Jeongguk in a wetsuit and Jeongguk in—what Yoongi presumes are his casual clothes—is two starkly different things. He’s wearing a loose, billowy button-down, an off-white color that’s translucent enough to where Yoongi can see his dark nipples. He rubs at his eyes and is thankful it passes off as sleepiness.

“What time is it?”

“Six.”

Yoongi groans and flops back onto the bed starfish style. He’s shocked that he’s not more unsettled about the fact that Jeongguk was in his room while he was sleeping for whoever knows how long, even though they just met that very morning. Jeongguk has a way about him that oozes comfort and genuinity, and it settles whatever uneasiness Yoongi would’ve felt.

“How long have you been here?”

“Long enough to see you drooling all over your pillows.”

Yoongi swiftly rolls his eyes and wishes his legs were long enough to kick Jeongguk in the chest. Jeongguk must sense his frustration, because he laughs, and Yoongi’s fingers twitch. “How long did you sleep for?”

“God, about six hours.”

“Mm. Sounds like you won’t be sleeping tonight. Good, Jin has plans. Make yourself pretty. We’ll be waiting downstairs.” And then Jeongguk is breezing out of the room, leaving behind the scent of lemon grass and sea salt. Yoongi blinks at the space where he used to stand and wonders if he ever even agreed to going out.

True to his word, Jeongguk, Jimin, and Jin are seated on one of the couches when Yoongi finally walks downstairs. Jimin is on his phone and Jeongguk and Jin are watching something on the T.V., and Yoongi gets struck with the sudden sense that he’s being invited to dinner with a group of people he barely knows, and he’s excited.

It’s weird, to say the least, the way he’s so easily been absorbed into their group. Despite how foreign it may be to Yoongi, it feels natural—this morning, he had sat with Jimin on the beach after he’d come back onshore and they talked for a bit, and he’s known Jin since he got here. Jeongguk is the wild card—they’ve spoken twice now, and Yoongi hasn’t quite been able to pin him down yet. He can tell that Jeongguk is nice, and Yoongi learned that he’s the youngest (twenty-two, Jimin had said) of the group. There’s not much to compile and it sets Yoongi on edge.

“I’m starting to think you’ve come here just to sleep.”

Jin is looking at Yoongi with a raised eyebrow, and Yoongi rolls his eyes again. “Not like I get many opportunities in the city.”

“You’re from Seoul?” Jeongguk pipes up, leaning up from where he was slouched against the couch. He leans forward so he’s visible over Jin’s figure and his eyes are widened in awe. Yoongi gets struck with the sudden thought that he needs to watch what he says—Jeongguk is clearly fascinated by the city.

“No, but I’ve lived there for six years. I’m from Daegu.” Yoongi leans against the doorframe and crosses his arms.

“Ahh,” Jeongguk lets his jaw fall slack as he slumps back against the couch cushions with his arms limp at his sides. “That’s so cool.”

“Have you ever been?”

“Once, when I was fourteen. I loved it there. I’ve always wanted to live in the city.”

Yoongi doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he says nothing. He can see the appeal of the city from the outside of it—that used to be him. It’s like that just about anywhere you go; Yoongi can understand Jeongguk wanting to live off this island. After all, he’s lived here his entire life. Yoongi wonders if this island with its beaches and blue waves and salty air is all Jeongguk knows.

(Even though it seems like he contains multitudes, entire galaxies within him that shine out through his wide eyes and his smile and slip out from within him with each pealing laugh. You don’t have to know Jeongguk to pick up on that.)

They all walk to wherever Jin is taking them. The trio handles the cracked streets and sidewalks with a familiarity that is stunningly noticeable compared to Yoongi’s mindless following. They start off on the thicker main street that the bed and breakfast is off of, ducking their heads to avoid the particularly low hanging branches and smiling at the children playing in the street or flying by on bicycles. It’s warm, sunlight filtered by the thick palm leaves, and they cut through alleyways and backyards and don’t even seem to really look where they’re going before they go. They don’t all fit onto one sidewalk, spilling out into the streets because they refuse to let one person walk behind, away from the rest of the group.

The restaurant is exclusively fresh, locally caught seafood, and the only seating is on a splintery wooden platform that extends out over the sea and is held up by creaky stilts. There’s sand everywhere. They are seated at a circular table, the only available one left, and Yoongi wonders if Jin called in for a reservation. Yoongi wonders if towns like these even have to deal with things like that.

Any possible awkwardness Yoongi could’ve been worried about is dissolved within the first ten minutes. He’s roped into their easy conversation, full of a few probing questions and jokes and the always inevitable, “So, what do you do?”

It comes from Jimin. It’s well-intentioned, he knows it is; to normal people that question isn’t more of a slap across the face than an actual question. Yoongi takes a drawn out sip of his water and thinks about how to answer.

“I write. Music, I mean. And I’ve produced a few songs. And rap, occasionally. Basically, I do music.” Is what he settles on, eloquently.

There’s a loud bang, and all the sweating glasses on the table shake precariously. Jimin instantly looks in Jeongguk’s direction, so Yoongi does too. Jeongguk is sitting there hunched over just slightly, rubbing at his kneecap with pinkened cheeks, and Jin sighs.

“Here we go.”

Yoongi switches his gaze to Jin. “What?”

“Oh, look! Our waiters coming. Does everyone know what they want?” Jeongguk cuts in before Jin gets a chance to speak. Over the rim of his sweating glass, Jin is saying something to Yoongi with his eyes and miniscule eyebrow movements. Yoongi can’t figure out what it is, so he looks away.

They end up at a dive bar (a literal dive bar, Jin jokes, when they see the large plaster surfboard hanging above the door, and the rest of the group proceeds to tell him how that absolutely makes no sense) and Yoongi, not for the first times, realizes that he hasn’t properly drank in a year or so, let alone with people he barely knows, and he’s unsettled by the fact that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable about that.

He doesn’t look too deeply into it. Yoongi can make quick friends if he tries, though they usually don’t turn into actual friends, and it’s not like he plans on staying for longer than a week. He hadn’t wanted company when he left Seoul, but now he’s thankful for it. Drinking alone is the lowest level of music writer slash producer in a five-month long slump that Yoongi absolutely refuses to reach.

Yoongi starts off with a whiskey. They’re all pressed together into a booth, two on each side. Jeongguk ends up right across from Yoongi, smushed into the wall thanks to Jin’s broad shoulders and his inability to keep his limbs to himself once he’s got a drink in his system. They talk just as easily as they had in the restaurant, and Yoongi wonders at how drastic of a turn his night has taken when Jeongguk slices through his thoughts.

“Is that whiskey?”

Yoongi glances down at the glass in front of him that he’d been nursing for the past ten minutes. He looks back up to Jeongguk, nodding with a raised eyebrow. “Ever tried it?”

Jin and Jimin are deeply absorbed into a conversation amongst themselves. Every few minutes, Jimin’s elbow rears out and stabs Yoongi’s shoulder, and Jeongguk has resigned himself to leaning forward as far as he comfortably can across the table to escape Jin’s flailing arms. It’s left them in a bubble, of sorts.

“No. I only really like mixed drinks. Or, like, shots. I haven’t had much drinking experience. It’s extremely dangerous to surf under the influence.”

Yoongi hms under his breath. “Does your entire life revolve around what surfing will and won’t permit?”

He was expecting Jeongguk to respond with a snarky quip, or maybe smile slyly at him, so the way Jeongguk’s eyes flicker down to the elm table and the corners of his lips just barely quirk up throws Yoongi out of orbit entirely. “I guess it does.”

Yoongi wants to talk about it. He does, because he thinks he recognizes the way Jeongguk completely retreats into his head afterwards, but he feels like he’s dancing on the very thin line between overstepping his boundaries and making it seem like he doesn’t care, so instead he offers: “Want to try it?”

 

Jeongguk meets his eyes again and straightens up, elbows still pressed into the wood. “Sure.”

Yoongi scoots the glass across the table with his index finger and watches with rapt interest as Jeongguk lifts it. He sniffs it first—he looks startlingly like a bunny, the way his nose twitches and his lips are slightly parted, just enough to where Yoongi can see his front teeth—and then places his lips where Yoongi’s just were minutes ago without second thought and proceeds to take far too large of a sip for someone who has never had it before.

His eyebrows raise on their own accord. It hits Jeongguk instantly; Yoongi can pinpoint the second his eyes widen that fraction and his lips curl downwards and his throat bobs as he swallows.

Ugh,” Jeongguk presses his fingers lightly against his adam's apple, as though to relieve the burn Yoongi knows is there. “That’s—acid. Battery acid. Nail polish remover. What the hell, Yoongi?”

“If I had known you were going to chug it I wouldn’t have let you had any.”

“I didn’t know it would burn my literal esophagus out.”

“Your literal esophagus? What, do you have a metaphorical one?”

Jeongguk kicks Yoongi in the shin under the table. Yoongi laughs, and takes another sip of his drink, placing his lips where Jeongguk had just placed his over Yoongi’s lips moments ago. Jeongguk watches him for a prolonged moment, swirling his cocktail straw around in his own drink, and then he dips his head to take a sip. His hair, illuminated by the low hanging light fixture above their booth, is dark and blood red.

“So, earlier, you said that you—uh—write music? And produce?”

Yoongi waits for him to continue, but he never does. When it takes a bit too long for him to answer Jeongguk looks up from his drink with frantic eyes. “I mean, if you even want to talk about it. No worr—”

“Yeah, I do.” Yoongi stops his rant before it can turn into something neither of them can control. “Are you asking me something?”

Jeongguk blushes again, this time brighter and all the way up and across his cheekbones. It nearly matches the strands of hair at his temples. “Anything I would’ve heard?”

“That depends on what you listen to.”

“A little bit of everything. Honest.” Jeongguk smiles at him in a way that makes Yoongi feel as though he’s hinting at an inside joke that only the two of them know. “I know that’s the typical answer. But my record collection fills an entire bookcase and then some.”

Yoongi’s mouth falls open just slightly, but Jeongguk notices, and smiles something prideful. He’s never been able to work up a steady collection of records. “Who’re your favorites?”

Jeongguk makes a little gah noise of disbelief. “That’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. I don’t have any.”

“There’s always a favorite.”

“Not in my house.” Jeongguk smiles. Before Yoongi can wonder if Jeongguk actually does live in a house, he continues. “What kind of music do you make?”

“Rap, mostly.” Yoongi swirls the whiskey around in his glass, ice cubes clinking against the sides. Jeongguk follows the movement of his hands.

“Oh.” Jeongguk says. “Oh.” Jeongguk repeats, quieter, mainly to himself. Yoongi feels something within him shrivel up and die—he’s gotten that reaction from plenty of people who look down upon their high noses at rap and everything surrounding it. He hadn’t expected it from Jeongguk.

Something must show on his face, because Jeongguk’s spine straightens so abruptly that his hair flops a bit on his forehead and his hands reach forward but stop halfway in the air, like he wanted to grab Yoongi’s but thought better of it. Yoongi thinks about how obvious it is that Jeongguk is naturally inclined to physical reassurance, and how he restrains that when it comes to Yoongi. “No! I don’t mean it like that! I’m just shocked. I really like rap.”

Yoongi feels a large, uncontrollable smile playing on his lips. Jeongguk stutters a bit more, but then the energy slowly drains out of him, bit by bit, and he’s left with his hands raised in front of him and his mouth parted, his shoulders rising and falling. He’s blinking so terribly slowly and just staring at Yoongi, just staring, and Yoongi is suffocating.

“God. They’re flirting, or something.” Jimin’s voice trickles back in like water through a tiny crack in the glass of Yoongi’s skull. He has to consciously turn his head and look at him. Jimin is resting his cheek in the palm of his hand, head turned to face Yoongi and Jeongguk, and his cheeks are flushed and he’s smiling so big his eyes are closed. Out of the corner of his eye, Yoongi can see Jeongguk drop his hands into his lap and stare resolutely at his drink, as though it could be absorbed directly into his bloodstream through sheer will alone.

Yoongi doesn’t know how to respond, but Jin speaks before he has to. “Leave them alone. I told you they’d get along.”

“You talked about me?” Yoongi asks. Jin looks annoyed that he even asked.

“Yes. We gossiped about you all night. The entire town thinks you’re a vampire with how brightly you shine in the sun.”

Jimin snorts loudly and it erupts into laughter, and then Jin is laughing, and it’s a cacophony of windshield wipers and ringing bells and Yoongi can’t hear any of it when he looks in Jeongguk’s direction again and finds him already staring.

***

It’s past midnight when they pour out into the streets. Yoongi’s had one glass of whiskey and a few draft beers, and it’s been so long that he finds himself properly buzzed. He’s conscious but he’s warm and a bit tingly and laughs easier at anything and everything.

Jeongguk only had a few more of those mixed drinks of his but he seems to hold it well—he’s clinging to Jin’s entire arm, but despite the unusual clingyness, he’s been relatively normal, if not rather quiet. Jin and Jimin are properly drunk, but thankfully there’s no cars driving at this time of night so Yoongi doesn’t even have to worry as they flop down in the center of the street and laugh at the stars.

Yoongi and Jeongguk end up trailing behind the two drunk men. There’s a foot or two of space between them; Yoongi doesn’t know why he noticed (except he does, and it has everything to do with the way Jeongguk was holding onto Jin like a koala not even ten minutes ago. Does he not like Yoongi? Does Yoongi smell bad? Does—)

As expected, Jeongguk looks ethereally gorgeous in the bright moonlight. It streaks white across his hair and illuminates the stars he has in his own eyes, and it makes Yoongi feel seasick, the way they’re standing somewhat far apart but Yoongi can still feel the warmth radiating from his arm, as though he’s carrying his own personal sun within himself.

Every few odd steps, the bottom of Jeongguk’s shoe will catch against the pavement and scrape, as though he hadn’t picked his foot up in time. Yoongi wonders if the alcohol had really gotten to him and he was just better at controlling it than Yoongi originally suspected.

It’s during a long stretch of silence, the only sound being the cicadas that seem to come from all around them, when they hear the car. It’s going fast, and heading straight for them from farther up the long road, and Yoongi and Jeongguk are standing behind Jin and Jimin who are standing directly in the line of sight of the car and Yoongi feels his heart bottom out because the car is going fast and they won’t get there fast enough and Jimin is running off to the sidewalk, calling Jin’s name frantically, but Jin is too drunk and his silhouette is illuminated by the unstopping headlights and Yoongi doesn’t really think.

The car is speeding, and it’s not stopping, and Yoongi will blame it on the alcohol later on. He sprints forward and hears a second set of heavy footsteps behind his own and he pitches Jin to the side, just narrowly avoiding getting the both of them hit by the car as it flies by. Yoongi has half a mind to frantically look back and check on Jeongguk but the force of the passing car blows his hair and the alcohol is sloshing around in his system and then he’s teetering, his hand still fisted in Jin’s shirt, and Yoongi’s world tilts.

Jeongguk’s hands grasp his upper biceps so tightly it nearly hurts. Yoongi’s balled fists fall into his sturdy chest, and he feels even thicker than he looks, broad and lean. They’re facing each other, and Yoongi only then notices the inch or two that Jeongguk has on him. It’s not much, but enough to where Yoongi has to look up to meet Jeongguk’s eyes, even though he wishes he hadn’t.

Jeongguk’s pupils are blown wide. For a second, Yoongi wonders if he’s injured, but then he feels the minute tremble through his arms and realizes Jeongguk is frightened.

Yoongi instantly calms down. “Hey—Hey. Hi. He’s okay. It’s okay.”

Jin is okay. He can hear him and Jimin just behind where he’s standing, talking ratherly loudly and breathlessly. They find the entire situation more funny than anything. Yoongi turns his head and sees the brake lights far off in the distance and almost wants to chase after the car and rip the tires off.

He doesn’t know why he feels so angry, or worried, or panicked, or why he didn’t think as he nearly killed himself saving Jin, someone he barely knows. It’s a constant reminder in the back of his head—he barely knows them. He barely knows any of them, yet he’s already so attached he can’t stop thinking about it. He’s annoying himself.

“Yoongi.” Jeongguk whispers so quietly that Yoongi nearly hadn’t heard it. He turns his head quickly, and Jeongguk’s face is unchanged, eyes painfully wide and lips barely parted. “Yoongi,” He whispers again, except his voice breaks halfway through, and Yoongi’s mind crumples like a paper ball.

It’s natural, the way Jeongguk curls into Yoongi’s chest, his arms wrapping around Yoongi’s shoulders. He’s trembling all over but not crying, and Yoongi knows it must be the alcohol in his system that’s got him so worked up. It’s not long before another pair of arms are wrapping around Yoongi from the back, encasing Jeongguk, and then another, and they’re all standing in between two parked cars group hugging under a high palm tree, swaying to the beat of the cicadas. Yoongi exhales deeply.

“Yoongi. Oh, Yoongi,” Jin murmurs from behind Jeongguk’s head. He sounds far off, like from a dream, voice partly muffed by Jeongguk’s hair. “You saved me.”

***

They all get much closer after the car incident.

All of them hang out for at least an hour or two each day. He and Jeongguk hang out themselves, sometimes talking for hours upon hours about anything under the sun, sometimes just sitting in silence and enjoying eachothers company. Yoongi saves each of their numbers in his phone, and he tries not to feel an ounce of guilt as he deletes the fifth email from his piece of shit record label who are entirely to blame for why Yoongi does so much of his music freelance and under a stage name.

Taehyung hasn’t once asked when Yoongi is coming back. Hoseok stopped asking after the fifth day. He does get a text from Namjoon, though, and it completely rattles both Taehyung and Hoseok when he sends it to the group chat they had created, which is mostly random conversations between Hoseok and Taehyung that they could easily have between themselves and partly random updates on Yoongi’s life on the island.

His body seems to naturally sync up to the time of the tides here. He wakes up earlier than eleven each morning which is an achievement in and of itself, and he often eats breakfast by himself but lunch and/or dinner with the trio. Jeongguk gets tanner and tanner and his hair gets lighter and lighter. Yoongi’s fingers ache so badly he wants to break them off.

Jin’s lost all reservations he ever had around Yoongi. He bursts into his room at any given moment, claiming it’s his property and he has rights to it. He still refuses to let Yoongi pay—one night, when the curiosity gets too much, Yoongi asks how his parents can afford it. Jin simply tells him that they could buy out this entire island if they wanted, and Yoongi never asks again.

Jimin adopts the same harmlessly flirtatious and touchy manner he has with the others with Yoongi. Jeongguk is touchy, but in a different way; he’s more subtle about it, slight brushes of the shoulder or hands on the small of your back as he’s passing just to let you know he’s there (as if anyone could ever not notice him). Jimin slouches off everyone, particularly enjoys hanging off Jin’s shoulders and wrapping his arms around Jeongguk’s narrow waist. He takes an odd liking to Yoongi’s neck.

Yoongi is horrified when he can’t sleep one night and instead spends his time ruminating on his thoughts, staring at the pale yellow ceiling, and he realizes he doesn’t want to leave, ever.

 

***

 

Other nights, when Yoongi can’t sleep, he goes to the beach.

He’s gotten used to the shortcuts he can take that will get him there faster. It’s deafeningly loud at night, the sound of the cicadas, and he takes his time strolling down the middle of the streets in the direction of the white sand.

One night, he finds someone else there.

They’re sitting on a blanket, close enough to the shore that their stretched feet get doused in water each time a wave rolls up. Yoongi is too far away to see anything other than their head of faded magenta hair, blowing up in tufts due to the strong breeze that comes directly off the ocean at night and blows salt straight into your airways.

He feels nervous, mainly because this is his third time coming out here past midnight but his first time seeing anyone else here, and partly because it’s Jeongguk. Jeongguk’s always made Yoongi a bit nervous, even though he has no reason to be.

Yoongi debates on approaching him. Jeongguk obviously came out here to be alone, or clear his thoughts, same as Yoongi. But he can tell how painfully awkward it would be if Yoongi settled where he was standing and Jeongguk, by chance, caught him sitting far away and then asked why he didn’t approach, so he decides to stop overthinking it and does.

Jeongguk turns when Yoongi is about four feet away from him. The wind blows his hair sideways and off his face and it takes Yoongi’s breath along with it. Jeongguk’s face transforms into that of an almost aborted smile, like he’s genuinely happy to see Yoongi there but he can’t exactly bring himself to smile in that moment. Yoongi doesn’t know how to feel.

“Come here often?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “You’re so lame.”

Yoongi slaps the back of his head as he settles down onto the blanket next to Jeongguk. “And you’re such a brat.”

Jeongguk whines and drags his fingers through the hair where Yoongi had just slapped. “Lame and abusive. That’s impressive.”

Jeongguk’s tone is slightly off. Yoongi can’t place his finger on it. There’s a surfboard sitting on the other side of Jeongguk that Yoongi hadn’t seen before. It’s a dark purple one, longer than the usual one he used, and Yoongi’s only seen it two other times. So far he’s counted up five different boards that Jeongguk has.

Yoongi halfway considers asking if he’s planning on surfing, but that’s a bit redundant, and Jeongguk’s looking so intently out across the water that Yoongi doesn’t even want to disturb him. He’s wearing a pair of swimming trunks and a black t-shirt that hangs off his shoulders and with every breeze that blows past his collarbones are exposed. Yoongi can feel the chills running through him.

He decides to let Jeongguk break the silence, if he wants. Yoongi and he often can sit in silence and just enjoy eachothers company; he was a bit shocked to discover that Jeongguk is more like him than he originally thought, if not a bit more prone to conversation.

It comes roughly seven minutes later. Yoongi had been counting; not out of anticipation, but out of boredom. Jeongguk’s voice is a clear stab through the rolling waves when he asks, “You ever swim at night?”

“In a pool.”

“I think it’s my favorite time to be in the water. The waves are always a lot stronger.” Out of the corner of his eyes, Jeongguk’s hand runs along the surface of the board. “I wanna surf.”

“Then do it.” Yoongi says, wondering if Jeongguk was asking permission, or inviting him, or just letting him know. He can’t tell, but after Yoongi speaks, Jeongguk stands.

Yoongi chooses not to watch as Jeongguk strips his shirt off, but he sees it fall at Jeongguk’s feet. The surfboard is picked up next, and then Jeongguk is marching determinedly into the water, leaving Yoongi to stare at his lean back and the way his shoulder blades shift under his skin each time he hikes the board up higher under his arm.

Jeongguk surfing is nothing like Yoongi has ever seen before. He paddles out into the water, strong and sure arms cutting through the black. He’s far enough out to catch the taller waves but close enough that Yoongi can still make out his features. He sits on his board, thighs straddling each side, hands flat in front of him. Yoongi can see his calves treading beneath the water and he swallows a lump in his throat, staring at the back of Jeongguk’s head.

Yoongi wants to scream out what possesses you, at this time of night? Yoongi wants to know the inner workings of Jeongguk’s mind, what sets him off, what keeps him up late, what drives him to come to the beach well past midnight and surf. He wants to know it all.

Jeongguk spends a good amount of time sitting and waiting, lets the waves bob him up and down just before they crest. His spine is straight and Yoongi can see the measured rise and fall of his shoulders, and he knows the headspace Jeongguk enters when he surfs; focused and precise, everything measured by the amount of salt water one can get in their nose before it’s considered a successful outing, heightened only by the fact that Jeongguk is wearing only a pair of swimming trunks.

Surfing, Yoongi muses, fits Jeongguk. It’s wild and erratic and unpredictable but so, so measured, perfected in the way you tune your breathing to the heartbeat of the ocean, the split second you have to turn and pick up the pace like hell before a large wave takes you under, the strain in your calves as you ride it and ride it and ride it until you fall and do it all over again. It requires focus and an expert ability to predict something as unpredictable as the water. You have to know what a good wave will be before you catch it, you have to stand just so to get the most out of it before you tumble into the water—it’s a jumbled mix of contradictions and beautiful things and exacts that describe Jeongguk better than any words ever could.

From here, Yoongi can see the scar that runs diagonally across Jeongguk’s right shoulder blade. It’s jagged and thin and Yoongi’s only received the condensed version of the story behind it; a particularly nasty wave had caught Jeongguk when he wasn’t wearing a wetsuit and he fell right into a reef. Yoongi knows there’s more behind it, because Jeongguk’s voice changes whenever it gets brought up, and Yoongi has never seen him surf without a wetsuit before tonight.

He doesn’t feel nervous for Jeongguk, because Jeongguk doesn’t seem nervous for himself.

Yoongi watches as Jeongguk notices a wave that interests him. He turns just ahead of the rising water, paddling confidently, his biceps straining. Just as it crests he scoots his arms up and stands, crouched, riding the wave down smoothly until it settles. His stomach is clenched and his chest is sheen and the wind blows his hair off his forehead. Sometimes, he reaches a hand down and lets it streak white in the water. Sometimes, he stands differently, tilting just so, his board weaving over the water. He keeps going for long stretches of time, and the minutes turn into hours and Yoongi is just sitting there, watching the way Jeongguk’s arms tremble from exhaustion a bit more each time he pulls himself up onto his board.

Jeongguk manages to surprise Yoongi more and more each time he sees him. He’s hard working, diligent; clear in the calluses on his hands and feet, the lean muscles blanketing his body. He’s quick and genuine and makes Yoongi laugh, his face lighting up each time it happens, like he’s won something. He’s so close to his friends it’s painful—Yoongi’s heart aches something unusual everytime he sees Jin cuddle Jeongguk in to his chest without a word spoken between them, arms wrapped around his body just so, like he knows exactly how to comfort Jeongguk, or everytime he sees Jimin ruffle his hair so fondly that Yoongi feels like he could reach out and grab the love that's palpable between them, keep a piece of it for himself.

(If Jeongguk ever talked about his parents, Yoongi figures it would be with the same amount of love and adoration that colors his eyes whenever he talks about Jin, or Jimin, or surfing, or, Yoongi’s noticed, music.)

“Jeongguk!” Yoongi calls, cupping his hands around his mouth to be heard once the tremble in Jeongguk’s tired arms gets too noticeable. Jeongguk turns to him instantly, back twisted, straddling his board. His hair is sopping wet and dripping into his eyes and his mouth is closed, the line of his lips unusual. He doesn’t respond, just turns his board and paddles back towards shore.

He drips salt water on Yoongi as he sits but neither of them care all that much. “You’re overworking yourself.”

Jeongguk opens his mouth but closes it after a moment, deciding against whatever he was going to say, and Yoongi desperately wants to reach in his head and grab the abandoned thought.

“I saw you, you know,” Jeongguk says after a moment. When he notices Yoongi has no idea what he’s talking about, he clarifies, “That first day.”

You mean, the day I was watching you? Yoongi almost says. Jeongguk doesn’t seem bothered as he continues. “You were writing in one of those journals of yours. You didn’t notice me, but I could pick you out like a sore thumb,” Jeongguk smiles amusedly, and Yoongi watches his profile for a moment before turning back to the water. “I saw you when you were leaving, too. The way you carry yourself—it caught my attention. That, and your paper white skin.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes. Something is simmering, low in his gut. “Your point?”

Jeongguk laughs a bit before shrugging. Yoongi can feel the movement against his own shoulder. “I don’t know. You interested me. Still do.”

When Yoongi turns to him again, Jeongguk’s wiping his sandy hands onto his own shirt. Yoongi pulls it away from him with a frown. “You’re getting it dirty.”

Jeongguk lets him. When his words are followed by silence, Yoongi glances up from where he was brushing sand off of Jeongguk’s shirt to find Jeongguk watching him with something unidentifiable in his eyes. “See? Things like that. Nobody here gives a shit about sand, it’s everywhere, but you’re cleaning it off my shirt.”

Yoongi stills his motions and straightens his spine a fraction. Jeongguk’s lips curl into a smile. “I don’t mind. It’s interesting—you’re just interesting, Yoongi. That’s all there is to it.”

Shit. Jeongguk said shit, the first curse Yoongi has heard from him. His brain latches onto that fact to have something to grip while a maelstrom rages on in his head over the rest of what Jeongguk said. Yoongi laughs—more of a scoff than anything, or a quick exhalation of air—and wipes the rest of the sand off Jeongguk’s shirt to give himself something rational to do.

“Why are you here, Jeongguk?” Yoongi asks after a beat.

“Well, I live here.”

Yoongi shakes his head. While he is interested as to why Jeongguk is here, why he never left and pursued surfing more professionally, he meant more specifically. “No. The beach, right now. Why are you here?”

Jeongguk inhales once. “I—How do I put this? I’ll set up a visual for you, but you can’t laugh,” He turns to Yoongi with a serious expression, and Yoongi just nods silently. “Okay, good. So—there’s these cottonballs, right? They’re all in my chest, all over my ribs—they’ve always been there, for as long as I can remember. I learned how to work around them, you know? I had to, or else they would suffocate me. But sometimes, when I’m sad, or I’m thinking, or I’m not even doing anything at all, they just—they get bigger. They get so big, and press against me from the inside, and they hurt. They hurt so much that I can’t breathe sometimes. I can’t sleep, and everything gets all fuzzy, and it’s scary. It scares me a lot, Yoongi, so I have to come here and let the water set them back to normal.”

Yoongi—he gets it, to a terrifying degree. His teeth sink so sharply into the inside of his cheek that he tastes blood. Jeongguk’s got his hands buried deep in the sand again. “Surfing. It helps?”

Jeongguk nods a bit frantically. “So much. But not all the time.”

“How often do you come here at night?”

At this, Jeongguk curls in on himself a bit. It’s barely noticeable but Yoongi is watching him rather intently; he sees when Jeongguk’s fingers still from where they were sifting the sand. He looks embarrassed. “Ah. This is the first time in about a month, actually. Nothing happened or anything, I just get overwhelmed sometimes. The quietness—I don’t know.”

That answers the question Yoongi had of whether or not Jeongguk lives alone, then. Jeongguk won’t meet his gaze, and the back of his neck is a bit pink. Yoongi furrows his eyebrows as he looks away and wonders if he struck a nerve of some sort, even though Jeongguk doesn’t seem upset. Just embarrassed.

After sitting in silence for a handful of seconds, Jeongguk clears his throat. “Sorry, that was probably more about me than you wanted to hear this late at night. What about you? Why are you down here?”

It wasn’t enough, is what Yoongi wants to say. Would say, if he were someone different—braver, less scared. Instead, he says, “You don’t have to apologize, I asked you. I just couldn’t sleep and I was sick of staring at that piss yellow ceiling.”

Jeongguk’s laugh stumbles out of him, like he hadn’t been expecting Yoongi to say something funny. Jeongguk would know—he’s laid flat on his back plenty of times on Yoongi’s bed while Yoongi tried to write at the desk. Jeongguk’s presence has always been too distracting for him to get anything of any worth done, though.

“It really is an unappealing color. I’ve tried to tell Jin to change it so many times.”

Yoongi laughs. Jeongguk’s head snaps toward him. “And how does that work out for you?”

Jeongguk smiles slowly, his face changing with it. It’s a beautiful process. “Not so well.”

They sit on the beach until the sky transitions from midnight blue to pearly dawn, a pale cotton-candy blue and pink. Yoongi looks over to ask Jeongguk if he wants to grab breakfast and that’s where he finds him, asleep on his back, his hair mixed in with the sand. It flops out from around his face like a pink halo and he looks lax and peaceful, and Yoongi wants to reach out and touch but he doesn’t want to wake him and he doesn’t want to feel like more of a creep than he already does just by watching him sleep.

Yoongi sits there until the sun comes fully out from behind the clouds and beats down on him. He sits until he sees and hears Jeongguk stirring next to him, his knees knocking into Yoongi’s thighs. Yoongi feels a hand brush across his lower back and then withdraw and Jeongguk is mumbling something that Yoongi has to turn and lean down to hear.

“What?” He whispers—Jeongguk doesn’t appear fully awake.

“What time’sit?”

Yoongi has to dig his phone out of his back pocket to check. “Nine.”

“Eugh.” Jeongguk makes a noise in the back of his throat and pulls himself upright. “When did I fall asleep?”

“I don’t know. I think it was around four.”

“You sat there the whole time?” Jeongguk’s voice raises a bit on the question and Yoongi wants to turn and look at him but he’s terrified of what he’ll see.

“Yeah,” He says.

They sit for a few more seconds before Jeongguk is standing and shaking the sand out of his hair like a dog—endearing—and pulling his shirt on and Yoongi up with it.

“Your stuff—“

“Will be here when I get back. C’mon, I’m starving.”

Yoongi should’ve felt the tremors. They were all around him, the ground that he stands on trembling and moving and threatening to break and swallow him whole with each passing minute. He should’ve taken note of the build up, the way he was completely unable to stop or control it. It wrapped around his heart like vines and squeezed and squeezed until it was barely beating.

***

Jimin lives in a squat duplex house right on the beach. In fact, it’s so close to the beach that his backyard is more sand than patchy grass. He has two hammocks, a large umbrella, his own personal boardwalk that leads him directly to the beach, and a small thatch-roofed shack that houses all his surfing equipment.

According to him, his neighbors are an old lesbian couple that have lived on this island since it was erected from beneath the ocean and will be here long after he’s gone. Yoongi begins laughing, but then he takes notice of the seriousness on Jimin’s face, and he shuts his mouth and just looks at the bright teal door and the unusually high number of hummingbird feeders in their half of the front yard.

Jimin’s house is nice and well kempt; Yoongi doesn’t know why he’s shocked. The furniture is all light and casual and very cliche of a beach home; wicker seats and a leather couch. There’s no rugs anywhere, instead it’s all polished wood and tile floors. It’s two bedroom, one and a half bath, and Yoongi asks how Jimin can afford this before he thinks better of it.

Jimin, who has his back turned to Yoongi and is fixing himself a glass of water, laughs slightly. Yoongi only knows by the way his shoulders shake. “I’ve worked since I was thirteen,” is all he says in response.

The pair had decided to go back to Jimin’s house after grabbing lunch. Jin and Jeongguk were both busy, and Jimin and Yoongi have both had enough of Jin’s home, and Yoongi was undeniably excited to see Jimin’s house for whatever reason. It’s nice; it smells of vanilla and jasmine and he keeps a majority of the windows open. All the curtains flutter in the breeze.

“You’re working up quite the tan,” Jimin says, seating himself on the couch next to Yoongi. Yoongi looks down at his forearms, which are, admittedly, more of a pale beige than stark white, and shoots a deadpan look in Jimin’s direction.

Jimin laughs loudly. The walls don’t seem wide enough to contain the sound; it bounces all around and carries out through the window. “Cut yourself some slack. I lived in Seoul for four years, I get it.”

Yoongi always forgets. Jimin had moved to more actively pursue his dancing career; there’s a backstory there that Yoongi knows he’ll never fully get. Jimin moved back to the island just two years ago.

Yoongi sighs. “I could live here for the rest of my life and never be as tan as you.”

“It’s alright. I think the paleness suits you, a bit. Really sets off your black hair and completes the vampire look. You know, the other day, someone asked me about—”

Yoongi feels no remorse as he punches him in the shoulder.

They watch T.V. for a bit. As it turns out, the cable packages out here aren’t all that bountiful; Yoongi watches some low budget decade old soap opera while Jimin rambles on and on about the difference between a Malibu and a Gun board and the benefits they each have.

Eventually, they lapse into silence. The T.V. has long since been turned off and the room is gradually heating up from the sunlight coming in through the opened windows. Yoongi is content to sit and listen to the waves, having always found comfort in Jimin’s warm presence.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin says out of nowhere. His voice jolts Yoongi awake from the slumber he was easing into. “He sings. Did you know that?”

Yoongi gets the impression that Jeongguk’s singing is not where Jimin was planning on heading with this conversation, but he follows along. “He’s mentioned it in passing once or twice. Why?”

“Have you heard him?”

“No.” Yoongi glances over at Jimin, who is fiddling with the rim of his now empty water glass. His black hair glints from the low hanging sun. “Is he good?”

“God,” Jimin gushes. “He’s incredible. Used to drive me and Jin crazy all the time. He sang while we stretched, while we waxed our boards, while we paddled out into the water. He doesn’t anymore, no thanks to his parents for that one, but—ask him to sing for you, sometime. I think he wants to but doesn’t know how to say it.”

Yoongi thinks back on all the times Jeongguk has seemed so interested in his musical career, all the times Jeongguk has hummed along to songs that come on the radio in Jin’s kitchen. It’s clear that he’s passionate about it; Yoongi wonders what his parents have to do with it. The last part of Jimin’s statement floats and floats until it lands like a lead ball in the pit of Yoongi’s stomach and sets aflame, warming him up from the inside out.

“Okay,” Yoongi nods. His voice is a bit scratchy so he retries. “Okay.”

Jimin nods once and looks down at the palms of his hands. “If you do ask. If he does. Don’t hurt him. Jeongguk has a very—” He cuts off and struggles to find the word. “—precious soul. He has a very, very precious soul. Please, just, don’t hurt it. Don’t hurt him.”

It’s clear that although it’s phrased otherwise, Jimin isn’t talking about Jeongguk singing for Yoongi. Something settles over his shoulders. Yoongi has no idea how much Jimin knows, or what he even knows, considering Yoongi himself barely knows. The ground Yoongi stands on shakes a bit more violently and he nods.

“You’re right, Jimin. I won’t.” Yoongi swallows, and the sand coating the back of his throat scratches it raw.

***

“Wow. Very homey. Very, very homey. You said this guy isn’t making you pay?” Taehyung’s voice over video call is still as deep as Yoongi remembers.

“Jin. And, no, he isn’t. He’s loaded. At least, his parents are.” Yoongi flips his camera back around so it’s facing him. Taehyung pulls the phone away from where he had brought it closer to his face. The reflection of his phone screen gleams off the lens of his glasses.

“Mm. Is he hot?”

“Yeah. Super. How would Hoseok feel about you asking me that?”

It catches Taehyung by surprise, which, was Yoongi’s intention. Since he’s been gone (and maybe even before) Taehyung and Hoseok have grown increasingly closer, their conversations in the group chat full of inside jokes and weird modes of communication that Yoongi has never seen before. They started video calling every few days, or whenever they could both find the time, after Taehyung had not stopped complaining about how much he missed Yoongi’s “ugly mug”, and a few times Hoseok has made a surprise cameo that always left Taehyung red in the face and hurrying to end the call.

Yoongi smiles, mainly to himself, because Taehyung is busy rambling on about something Yoongi can’t be assed to pay attention to. Just when he tunes in and catches the syllables of Hoseok’s name rolling off Taehyung’s tongue, Yoongi’s door opens.

Jin walks in like the room is his own. His hair looks a bit wind blown and he’s wearing an outrageously large windbreaker, his skin sheen with sweat. Yoongi can tell he just got back from his nightly run, because Jin is one of those weird people who actually enjoys running at night, in the pitch black, when bugs the size of sand dollars fly in all directions.

“Oh, sorry to interrupt.” He says, once he sees the phone Yoongi is holding out in front of him. Yoongi just waves it off.

“Don’t be. It’s just Taehyung.”

The Taehyung?” Jin asks, at the same exact time as Taehyung exclaims, “Just Taehyung? Who’s that? Who’s there? To whom are you demoting me as ‘just Taehyung’?”

Yoongi doesn’t answer either of them—he doesn’t get a chance, because Jin is plucking the phone straight out of Yoongi’s hand.

“Yoongi,” Jin says, accusatory, looking at Yoongi over the top of his phone. “You didn’t tell me Taehyung was hot.”

“Oh, he told me you were hot. You are Jin, right? He’s said nearly the same thing about Jeongguk, though. Jimin, too. He’s told me you’re all hot, in different terms.”

Yoongi refuses to let himself blush, or show any sign of embarrassment. Jin knows he’s attractive; the smile he sends Yoongi is devilish. And he also trusts Jin to not say anything to Jeongguk and Jimin, so, he stays motionless and clamps down on the threatening heat in his cheeks.

When it’s obvious that Jin and Taehyung’s developing conversation is only going to develop further and Yoongi doesn’t want to be around to hear it, he travels downstairs. The house always feels particularly like a home during nighttime; the lamps are all turned on, casting the rooms in a warm glow. The T.V. is playing softly; Yoongi can hear it through the walls of the kitchen as he rummages for something to eat.

In all the time Yoongi has been here, there’s only been five other guests in the entire house. It’s usually just him and Jin, accompanied by Jimin and Jeongguk’s daily visits. Right now, there’s a graying businessman staying in the room at the end of the hall. Yoongi’s only seen him once, in a full, pressed suit & tie. He assumes that is who is watching T.V. in the living room so he bypasses it completely and heads toward the stairs, package of crackers in hand, when he hears his name being called.

When Yoongi wanders into the living room, he nearly drops the crackers at what he sees. Jimin and Jeongguk are pressed shoulder to shoulder with their feet up on the coffee table. Jimin is absorbed in whatever it is they’re watching—Jeongguk had called his name. Someday, Yoongi tells himself, he’ll stop being so shocked by Jeongguk’s general presence.

Yoongi hadn’t even known they were here; they must’ve come in with Jin. “How’d you know it was me?”

“He recognized your footsteps, or something equally as weird and creepy.” Jimin answers, not looking away from the show. Jeongguk pinches him in the bicep and Jimin responds with a loud yelp, rubbing at the spot and frowning at Jeongguk, who smiles innocently at Yoongi. The cracker package crinkles loudly in his hands.

“Where’s Jin?”

“Talking to Taehyung, on my phone.”

“The Taehyung?” Jimin asks, interest piqued a bit. Yoongi hadn’t realized how much he talked about Taehyung.

“Do you know another one?”

Jeongguk snickers behind Jimin. The sound travels right through Yoongi’s chest, down to his toes, and Jimin rolls his eyes. He’s about to say something else when footsteps clamber down the stairs and Jin appears, holding Yoongi’s phone out to him with an odd glint in his eyes and an easy smile on his face.

“He seems nice.” Jin says offhandedly, walking past Yoongi and through the living room into the kitchen. Yoongi watches him go, and when he turns back to Jimin and Jeongguk, they’re looking at him with raised eyebrows.

“What?” He asks, defensively.

“Jin never calls anyone nice.” Jeongguk says, his tone dubious. It’s Yoongi’s turn to roll his eyes as he traces Jin’s path into the kitchen.

He finds him digging through the cupboard above the stove for a mug. Yoongi leans his hip against the counter and sets the crackers down. “What was that about?”

Jin pulls out a bright yellow mug and closes the cupboard, holding the handle with his fingers as he looks at Yoongi. “I’m assuming that you know what you’re doing.”

Yoongi blinks. “What?” He asks, again.

“If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I won’t say.” Jin busies himself with dropping a tea bag into the mug and getting a kettle boiling. “I meant what I said. Taehyung really does seem nice. Cares a lot about you, too,”

Yoongi flounders for a response. He feels overwhelmed, for some reason, like he knows what Jin is talking about but doesn’t want to face it. Something ticks in his brain and he feels jittery, so he just nods and hurries out of the kitchen and back into the living room. Jimin and Jeongguk are unmoved.

“Do you want to go on a drive?” Yoongi asks the room at large.

“Nah,” Jimin’s response is immediate. He slumps further down into the couch. “Car rides at night make me nauseous. And I’m about to fall asleep.”

Yoongi turns to Jeongguk. It’s not like he wants anyone to ride with, he’s perfectly content with riding by himself, he would just feel rude leaving without asking and—

“Sure,” Jeongguk shrugs. He stands and Jimin follows the action with lazy eyes. Yoongi inhales and exhales softly, looking at Jimin once more before following Jeongguk out the door. Jimin waves him off with a lopsided smile.

***

Yoongi hadn’t had any real destination in mind, but as soon as he settled in the driver's seat and heard the click of Jeongguk’s seat belt, he knew.

The radio played some soothing, old-timey song as they drove, the volume turned down so low that it could barely be heard over the engine of the car. They were silent driving out of the town, the streetlights overhead illuminating the side of Jeongguk’s face that Yoongi could see out of the corner of his eyes every few feet. Driving has always calmed Yoongi down, and he feels the relaxation settle over him like a warm blanket.

“I love driving at night,” Jeongguk comments suddenly, his voice hushed and soft, head leaning against the window. Yoongi glances at him and focuses back on the road. “My parents used to drive me around the neighbourhood at night when I was a kid to get me to fall asleep.”

His parents. Jeongguk almost never mentions them; Yoongi values whatever tidbits of information he gets. He smiles to himself. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Makes me sleepy.”

When Yoongi glances at Jeongguk again, Jeongguk looks anything but sleepy. He’s turned his head against the window so he can look at Yoongi fully, his eyes awake and shimmering. Yoongi turns back to the road again.

They arrive at the bridge quicker than Yoongi had been expecting. It’s a nice bridge; miles long with large metal archways that connect the island to the city. It’s abandoned at this time of night, and Yoongi pulls off to the side of the road and watches as Jeongguk’s eyes widen in awe.

“The bridge? Why’d you want to come here?”

“I didn’t.” Yoongi says, and steps out of the car.

There’s a paved sidewalk that runs along the entirety of the bridge, right up against the fenced ledge that overlooks the dark ocean. The breeze up here is strong and he can feel the bridge swaying ever so slightly in time with it. When he places his hands along the railing, it’s cold.

Jeongguk stands beside him. He leans his forearms against the railing, looking straight down, the wind shaking his earrings. Yoongi wants to look at him but for whatever reason he can’t, so he stares at the glittering city instead, the tall buildings and twinkling lights and the large, gray cloud that seems to encase it all.

“Do you ever feel like a wave?” Jeongguk asks him after a few minutes of silence. His voice is the same as it was in the car; soft and hushed, as if he’s afraid that speaking any louder would disturb Yoongi.

Yoongi doesn’t really know what he means by the question so he just looks at Jeongguk, willing him on to elaborate. “This is going to sound cheesy, but, sometimes I feel like I’m a wave. There’s this huge build-up and so much anticipation and work and then—right before the crest—it just falls. I work for so many things but I can never really say I’m good at any of them because I just fizzle out, like a wave that curls back in on itself.”

No, Yoongi wants to say. No. You are the wave itself; the build-up and the anticipation and the rise and the crest and the ride-out all the way back to shore and the exhilaration and the contentment and doing it all over again—

“Other than surfing, I guess.” Jeongguk laughs once, more of a breathy exhale that seems to kick out of him. “I think that’s why I hang onto it so much. It’s the one thing I can say I’m truly good at.” The tone of his voice is weird, and it takes Yoongi a moment to realize Jeongguk’s never told anyone this.

Yoongi thinks about Jeongguk singing, thinks about Jimin’s voice, he’s incredible, and he wants to say something about that but it’s not the right time. Yoongi knows it isn’t. If there’s anything he’s come to learn about Jeongguk it’s that sometimes he needs to just stew in his bad feelings for a bit; he doesn’t always rant to be reassured or offered advice, he just wants to get all the badness out of him before it takes root.

He knows Jeongguk is great at many things. He’s seen it himself. But he doesn’t say anything, he just leans closer and presses their shoulders together and keeps the goodness within, hoping it will bloom.

“Sometimes, I worry that I’ve given so much of myself over to my music that there’ll be nothing left.” He decides to say instead. He can sense Jeongguk looking at him but he doesn’t look back, staring at his fingers where they’re curled around the railing.

“You have so much, Yoongi,” Is all Jeongguk says in return. Yoongi can’t help but think about how true it is for Jeongguk, too; it’s obvious in the way he interacts with all the people here, all the people he’s grown up with, all the people who have known him since he was a baby. The way he’s always so heartachingly kind and engages them in conversation even though the rest of the group is hanging around in the doorway ready to leave. The way that even though he’s grown out of mowing their lawns for them or doing simple home repairs, he still offers every single time. Jeongguk has so much within himself that he can’t even see it all and it makes Yoongi’s chest burn.

“Take me home?” Jeongguk asks silently, once the shivers raking his body become noticeable even to Yoongi. Yoongi nods and steps away from the railing.

The drive back to Jeongguk’s house is quicker and even more silent than the drive to the bridge had been. A different song is playing, one with a slower, sweeter tune, a swooning kind of melody that syncs up perfectly with the sound of the crashing waves coming in through Jeongguk’s rolled down window. He’s got his eyes closed to the wind and his hair is blowing up in tufts, and save for the few directions he had to give Yoongi, he’s silent the entire ride.

Jeongguk lives one street away from the beach. His house is low and long and he’s got an assortment of green plants and a white wicker table set on his front porch. His driveway is short so Yoongi parks on the street instead, and they sit and stare at the dashboard, waiting for the other to say something first.

“Do you want to come in?” Jeongguk asks on an exhale.

“Sure,” Yoongi responds.

Jeongguk hides his key underneath the cushion on the chair closest to the door. Yoongi doesn’t know why he finds that endearing, so he admires all the long-leaved and hanging green plants Jeongguk has all over his porch. When he finally gets the door open he ushers Yoongi in with an averted glance, flicking the light on. Jeongguk’s house is warm, and homey, similar to Jeongguk himself. His furniture is mismatched but goes well together, his walls covered with tapestries and posters. He’s got a large rug in his living room and multiple surfboards leaning up against the wall. It smells like lemongrass and sea salt and a hint of something warmer underneath it all.

“Sorry, it’s a bit cluttered. It always is.” Jeongguk sounds sheepish as he toes his shoes off. It’s all open planned, the entryway flowing into the living room flowing into the kitchen. There’s a small hallway with two doors to the right. Jeongguk bypasses them and walks into the kitchen, expecting Yoongi to follow.

“It’s fine. I don’t mind clutter.” Yoongi says truthfully as Jeongguk pours two glasses of water. Yoongi wonders if Jeongguk is acting a bit weird, or if he’s just projecting. When Jeongguk turns and hands Yoongi his glass of water, proceeding to chug his own and place the glass in the sink, Yoongi just watches and doesn’t comment.

“My parents,” Jeongguk says again, unexpectedly, and Yoongi doesn’t know what could’ve possibly put him in such a mood where he mentions his parents twice, unprompted, in one night. “They paid for the place, if you were wondering.”

Yoongi was wondering, but he wasn’t going to say anything. Instead he nods and takes a sip of his water. “It’s a nice place.”

“It works,” Jeongguk says, watching him. Yoongi sets down his glass and tries not to feel overly conscious of himself. “Want to see my records?”

Yoongi perks up at that. “Yes.”

Jeongguk’s bedroom is similar to his living room, in that it’s cluttered but not, homey and warm. His bed and large and sits on the box springs on the floor with white sheets and a white comforter, disheveled atop the mattress. True to his word, he has multiple bookshelves; some full of records, some full of books, some full of various knick knacks and cool shells and surfing supplies. His record player is ancient and massive and sits atop a table of it’s own.

Yoongi instantly goes to the records, drawn like a moth to a flame. In the back of his mind he registers Jeongguk sitting on his bed, leaning back on his palms to watch Yoongi, but Yoongi is too absorbed in fingering through the records to notice. He has just about everything—big name artists and artists Yoongi has never even heard of and records that Yoongi has seen on eBay for crazy amounts of money.

He looks through them all for what must be ten minutes before he turns and leans against the bookshelf. “Jesus.”

He can hear Jeongguk’s smile when he speaks. “Impressive, right? That’s taken me years to build up.”

And that’s another thing Jeongguk is good at. Sticking to his interests and building them up. To Yoongi, someone who switched between every possible music genre on the planet, that’s highly impressive, and Yoongi gets struck with such a sudden and unavoidable urge to say something that he can’t even control what comes next.

“When we first met, that thing you said about your parents—” Jeongguk’s smile falters but doesn’t drop completely, and Yoongi pushes on, “—it’s not true. You said you’re only as good as you are because of them and that’s—that’s not true, Jeongguk. You’re good because you work for it, because you work for the things you want and you don’t stop until you’re satisfied. You’re as good as you are because of yourself, not anyone else. You’re pretty amazing in that aspect. In every aspect, really.” Yoongi swallows. He really hadn’t meant to say that much; he hadn’t meant to say any of it, and Jeongguk is just looking at him with wide eyes. “And, well, you’re you. I think it’d be universally incorrect for you to ever be bad at anything.”

Yoongi feels mortifyingly embarrassed. He had just wanted to simply reassure Jeongguk that he was good, but only because he wanted to be, not wax poetic about how Jeongguk is probably one of the most hard-working, talented, and amazing people Yoongi has ever met. He feels a bit nauseous, and Jeongguk is still staring at him, eyes so wide and bright, lips slightly parted, and, oh no.

Oh no, Yoongi thinks. I’m going to kiss him.

“Right.” Yoongi pushes off the bookshelf and crosses in front of Jeongguk’s bed to his door. “I should leave. It’s late, Jin is probably wondering where I am.”

They both know it’s a lie. Jin never wonders. Jeongguk just closes his mouth and licks his lips once and nods. Yoongi swings open his bedroom door probably a bit too forcefully and has both feet in the hallway when Jeongguk speaks up.

“Yoongi,” He says. Yoongi, despite his inner protests, turns around. “Thank you.”

The tremors are so strong they shake Yoongi’s legs the entire drive back to Jin’s house.

***

(You realize you love him, then. Or maybe it was the night on the beach—or the night you both got tipsy and his hair seemed so warm and vibrant and you wanted to remember that exact shade of pink forever—or the time you both hung out alone for the first time and you learned what it felt like to make him laugh because of something you said, accomplishment pulling your lips up into a face splitting smile—or the time he fell asleep on your bed and you turned around to ask him how a lyric sounded and he just snored softly in response—or the time he coaxed you into the ocean with him, wearing nothing but your boxers, and he laughed so loudly it was all you could hear, even after the wave had already pulled you under—or all the times before, during, and after—)

***

Yoongi supposes it was inevitable.

When Jeongguk finally, finally asks, they’re sitting in Yoongi’s room with the window propped all the way open and music playing softly from Yoongi’s bluetooth speaker. Empty shrimp shells and cocktail sauce sit in a takeout box in between them on Yoongi’s bed, and the entire room smells salty and fishy but Yoongi finds he doesn’t exactly mind.

Jeongguk is lounging, legs halfway off the bed, shirt ridden up to expose the strip of skin above his waistband. Yoongi doesn’t know where Jin or Jimin are; probably working, or surfing. Yoongi doesn’t think to ask. The song changes and Jeongguk abruptly sits up, shaking the bed a bit. Yoongi glances over from where he’s leaned against the headboard and can’t even prepare himself before Jeongguk is speaking.

“Can I teach you how to surf?”

Even though Jeongguk says it in a way that would make one think he just came up with the idea, Yoongi knows he’s been waiting to ask for ages. Yoongi has been dreading it for equally as long.

“Why?” He asks in response. Better to delay answering, if at all possible.

“I dunno,” Jeongguk shrugs. He scoots back and sits up against the headboard alongside Yoongi. “I want to.”

“I won’t be good,” Yoongi warns. He can’t believe he’s already lost this argument before it even began.

“Have you ever tried?” Jeongguk asks.

“Well, no.” Yoongi hasn’t, technically, but he already knows he has the balance and coordination of a newborn deer. Jeongguk beams at him.

“Then you don’t know that! Come on, the waves aren’t too bad this time of day,” Jeongguk stands and pulls Yoongi up by his wrist, even though Yoongi is perfectly capable of getting up himself. He doesn’t resist.

They end up walking to Jimin’s house. It’s hot out, despite it being quite a few hours past noon, and Yoongi makes sure to walk under every patch of shade he can. It’s a busy evening and Jeongguk smiles at everyone they pass. When Yoongi had finally passed one month of being here, two months ago, everyone had stopped asking who he was, where he was from, and when he was leaving. They’ve somewhat adopted him as their own; when they smile and wave at Jeongguk, they smile and wave at Yoongi.

(Taehyung still whines about how he misses him, and Hoseok’s gotten increasingly vocal about how it’s weird without him there. Namjoon has been keeping his apartment in order. He doesn’t know how to respond to them anymore.)

After rummaging through the shack in Jimin’s backyard, they find a surfboard and a wetsuit that look appropriate to Yoongi’s size. Jeongguk lets himself in Jimin’s back door with his spare key and they both change—the wetsuit pulls tightly across Yoongi’s broader shoulders, but it fits like a glove besides that. He’s a bit disappointed that it does.

Jeongguk spends half an hour briefing Yoongi on the basics of surfing. He shows him the best way to wax the board, demonstrates the most foolproof standing position, swipes his arms through the air so Yoongi can see how you’re supposed to paddle out into the water. He’s a good teacher; enthusiastic, too fast paced at times but Yoongi has learned how to keep up.

Throughout his time here, Yoongi has been in the ocean more than he ever has in his entire life. It’s still not an impressive amount of times but it has been enough to lessen his fear towards it. He still doesn’t care for how the sand feels beneath his feet when he can’t see it, but Jeongguk has him sitting on his board and paddling so quickly that Yoongi can’t even complain about it.

He straddles his board and bobs in the water as Jeongguk catches the first few waves. It’s even more overwhelming, seeing the way Jeongguk’s brows furrow in concentration and the muscles in his thighs strain against the skin tight material of the wetsuit from only a few feet away.

The time comes too unfortunately soon for Yoongi. Jeongguk turns to him with a smile and nods at the wave brewing behind them and Yoongi already knows how this is going to turn out but he enjoys humoring Jeongguk so he paddles out just before the wave and tries not to think about how heavy Jeongguk’s eyes feel.

It’s as disastrous as Yoongi was expecting.

He manages to get his ass off the board and crouch for a staggering three seconds before he’s flying back down into the water, the wave tossing him around a bit, and he would be panicked if he didn’t know Jeongguk was just feet away. He gets water up his nose and he feels a bit dizzy when the wave finally rolls out, but it’s nothing too awful.

True enough, when Yoongi resurfaces for air, one arm hooked over the surfboard, Jeongguk is nearly on top of him and looking at Yoongi with a panicked expression, hand extended as if to lift him out of the water.

Yoongi takes a moment to brush his hair out of his eyes before he’s laughing, head thrown back, shoulders shaking with it. He laughs harder than he has in a while, partly because of his own inability to surf and mainly because of the sheer worry on Jeongguk’s face. He laughs, his genuine laugh, the one that’s a bit dry and crackly but loud, and somewhere through it all he can hear Jeongguk laughing too.

When he finally stops long enough to catch his breath, Jeongguk is smiling at him, almost like he’s unaware of it. His eyes don’t leave Yoongi’s face and he’s smiling with his mouth open and he’s panting as if he’s the one who just fell out of a wave, but he looks good, his hair wet and pushed back and dripping down onto his face in fat droplets. Yoongi’s fingers tighten on the board, and the situation isn’t as funny as it was moments ago.

“Are you okay?” Jeongguk asks. Yoongi swallows and tastes saltwater. Not trusting his voice to speak, he just nods and hoists himself back up on the board, somehow managing to not tip it over. “That was a pretty rough fall. You were under for a while, so, we’ll call it quits for today. It’s getting late anyways.”

Yoongi hadn’t noticed but now that Jeongguk said something, he can see the pink sky, the sun sitting low on the horizon. It tints the water a shade of orange and warms Jeongguk’s skin and hair, making him glow. Yoongi just nods again and doesn’t even comment on Jeongguk saying for today, the looming threat of future attempts unimportant to him in that moment.

They paddle back to shore. Yoongi’s arms are already tired—he’s even more amazed at Jeongguk’s ability to do this for hours on end multiple times a week. Yoongi hates the feeling of the sand on his wet body so he jogs up the shore, surfboard bumping against his side, and he hears Jeongguk giggling behind him. When they cross Jimin’s boardwalk and Yoongi nearly causes the entire row of surfboards to fall in his shack, he hears Jeongguk giggling behind him. When he tries to shove the key in Jimin’s back door and drops it, he hears Jeongguk giggling behind him.

“Here,” Jeongguk bends and grabs the key, pushing Yoongi aside gently with his shoulders. “I got it.”

Yoongi feels somewhat drunk when they finally get the door open and track sand and water in everywhere. He’s laughing at himself, he’s laughing at Jeongguk laughing at him, and his hair is dripping water into his mouth and all he can taste is salt. They’re laughing at the mess they’re causing in Jimin’s living room and the way they can’t find his glasses to get water, they’re laughing at Yoongi’s fall and the way Jeongguk had been so worried.

And then, when they’re both leaning against opposite counters in the kitchen, wetsuits dripping water everywhere, Jeongguk leans forward. Yoongi can hear the exact moment his laugh trickles off into an exhale when Jeongguk pushes his wet hair out of his eyes and his hand lingers for a bit longer than deemed necessary, twitching against Yoongi’s forehead before he’s pulling away.

Yoongi blinks, and it feels like his eyelids weigh a thousand pounds. He can’t tell where at his face Jeongguk is looking—his eyes seem far away—and thankfully Yoongi spots a paper towel roll out of the corner of his eye. He quickly grabs and turns it, ripping a few off and scrubbing at the wet spot he had made where he was leaned. “We should start cleaning.”

“Yeah. Jimin will probably be home any minute now,” Jeongguk responds instantaneously. They clean in silence for ten minutes and manage to slip out of Jimin’s house without harm—Jimin wouldn’t mind either way, but something makes Yoongi feel like he has to get out of there and get home fast.

***

The first time Jeongguk’s job holds him back from a weekly dinner, everyone in the group is shocked.

Yoongi only discovered Jeongguk’s job a month ago. It’s lax; he works five days a week with interchangeable hours, sometimes even from home, but Yoongi doesn’t know much else about it. Something to do with surfing; he knows that much because sometimes Jeongguk comes straight to Jin’s house after a shift and his hair is wet and he smells like the beach.

He, Jin and Jimin end up eating at Jin’s house. Jimin cooks, and he’s surprisingly good, if not a bit heavy handed with pepper, and they eat and talk and Jin and Yoongi clean up afterwards. It’s comfortable, though they would all agree that it feels weird without Jeongguk. When everything’s cleaned and put away they settle in the living room, Yoongi and Jin taking the couch and Jimin curling up in the recliner.

“So, Yoongi,” Jin starts. They were watching some low budget slasher movie, but Jin had turned the volume down and Yoongi saw him and Jimin share some unspoken statement through a shared look, so he had been able to prepare himself for this. “How much longer do you think you’re staying?”

Whatever Yoongi was expecting, it hadn’t been that. They’ve all danced around the subject of Yoongi’s temporary residence on the island—for Jin to dive right into it felt like ripping a bandaid off. He struggles to find a solid answer for a few moments. “I don’t know. I didn’t plan any of this out. I never expected to be gone this long.”

Jin nods. Jimin is frowning at him, but not in a way that suggests he’s upset with him. “Do you want to stay?”

Yoongi inhale. This is easy; this he knows. “I do.”

“You know you can’t, though,” Jimin says, and when Yoongi looks at him, his face changes abruptly and he straightens up in his chair. “Not like that! Of course we want you to stay, but—your apartment. Your job. Your friends, it’s already been so long. You can’t just leave. You’ll have to go back, even if it’s to put your apartment up for sale and quit your job, you’ll have to.”

Jin nods along to Jimin’s words. Yoongi wonders if they had planned this conversation beforehand, almost how parents plan on having the ‘talk’ with their children. He catches the laugh just before it bubbles out of his throat and thinks about how Jimin is making valid points, all ones Yoongi hadn’t even considered. “Yeah. You’re right. I just—I don’t know. My job there—”

“You said yourself that’s it’s less of a job and more of a chore. You’ve made more money publishing your music freelance than you have under a record label, right?” Jin asks. Yoongi’s eyes widen—he hadn’t known Jin remembered that much from that talk they had, months ago. He just nods, too surprised to say anything. “What have you thought about doing, then?”

“I haven’t thought about it. I’ve tried not to think about the city at all, while I’ve been here.” Yoongi slips down the couch and rubs at his eyes with the heels of his hands. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, now that he’s so attached to this place and the people in it. “I don’t know what to do.”

They’re all quiet for a moment, thinking. When Jin speaks again, his voice is soft but serious, and Yoongi knows he’s put a lot of thought into it. “I don’t want to overwhelm you, or pressure you to make a decision, but if you decide you want to stay—that room is yours. It always has been, but, officially. There will always be a place for you here.”

Jimin nods. When Yoongi glances at him, he’s smiling gently, smally, and his eyes are fond. Jin’s are too—overwhelmingly so, and Yoongi realizes—he loves them. He loves them, even though it’s only been about four and a half months and he thinks he’s been more of a burden than anything else, he loves them.

He just hadn’t known that they loved him, too.

“I—” Yoongi goes to speak but his voice cracks embarrassingly and he has to take a moment to clear his throat before he’s back on steady ground. He wants to tell them, but he doesn’t think he can, not yet. “Thank you. Seriously, thank you—thank you more than I can even say.”

When Yoongi had first decided he was going to be staying here for longer than a few days, he worried. He worried that he would go crazy without work. He worried that he would get cabin fever, cooped up on this small island when he’s used to the vastness of the city. He worried that Jin would get sick of him hogging up a room and he’d have no choice but to go back. Most of all, he worried that it would be more of a waste of his time than anything, he worried that it wouldn’t clear his mind and give him the inspiration to write again like he had originally hoped.

Now, sitting on Jin’s couch, his and Jimin’s gazes so weighted with fondness and seriousness that Yoongi feels it pressing down on his chest, he doesn’t know why he ever worried at all. He’s never been one for cheesiness, but when it comes down to it, Yoongi supposes this island did more for him than he ever thought it would—he’s written more than he ever has in his life, and he’s felt more at ease with himself than ever before, and he’s met some of the best people he ever will here. He wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s found himself—that’s still a work in progress—but he’s found out more about himself than he ever expected to, and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be ready to give that up, to give this up.

Shockingly, Yoongi is glad Jeongguk isn’t here. It’d certainly be too overwhelming to have Jeongguk looking at him with the same expression Jin and Jimin are.

“You helped us. More than you know, I think you helped all of us, in our own ways.” Jimin is saying. Yoongi pulls himself back to the present. “I’ve never seen Jeongguk so genuinely happy. Not after what happened with his parents. He’s been muted, since then. Happy, still, but it felt fake, like it was only surface deep. You gave him the ability to be happy again, Yoongi. Truly happy. You helped him open that door.”

Again, Yoongi gets struck with the thought that Jin and Jimin know more than they let on. It makes Yoongi’s stomach curl, because they never quite out and say what they know, but Yoongi knows they know. Yoongi also knows that they know Jeongguk more than likely doesn’t reciprocate whatever feeling it is Yoongi has for him that’s beyond friendship, but that’s okay—Yoongi is learning to accept it. Someone that burns as brightly as Jeongguk does isn’t meant for someone who so greedily absorbs the light and warmth, like Yoongi.

“He’d die if he heard that, but, it’s true.” Jin confirms. Yoongi can’t process that—he can feel his cheeks burning, and he stares holes into his thighs. “Us too, though. You’ve brightened up this entire place. Living on an island like this for so long can get dull and repetitive. It’ll drive you crazy. Even if you leave for a little while, it’s a lot. We don’t get many fresh faces and if we do they don’t stay for long but you, Yoongi, you’re different. You make it easier to stay here.”

Yoongi feels overwhelmed again; the good type, where he’s so full of good feelings that they threaten to overtake him. He doesn’t know where all of this came from, if they had decided on telling him all of this tonight or if it just happened, but he’s grateful. Extremely so.

All Yoongi can bring himself to say is, “You guys have helped me too. All of you.”

He wants to say so much more but he can’t, his tongue won’t work, and Jin and Jimin just smile and laugh at him and it’s not long before Yoongi is smiling and laughing himself. Oddly, he feels like a weight has been lifted off his chest—maybe he needed the reassurance that his presence here wasn’t completely a nuisance. Maybe he just needed to be given an option, an option he’s felt like he never had before.

When Jimin leaves and Yoongi is in his room getting ready for bed, Jin stops by and they spend an embarrassingly long time in the hallway hugging, Yoongi realizes he doesn’t know how he’ll ever bring himself to leave.

***

Jeongguk lets his roots grow in, dark against the pale pink, and the days go from hot to marginally less hot, longer periods of cloudiness and cool breezes, and Yoongi discovers that they’re coming up on the rainy season.

He also discovers that Jimin has one more year of school. Jin had graduated a year ago from one of the two community colleges the island has with a business management degree, and Jimin is going under dancing, and Jeongguk had gone for two years under vocal performance but then something happened—with his parents, of course—and he dropped out. He doesn’t know how it’s never come up in conversation before, but then the start of the semester rolls around and Jeongguk withdraws within himself and they begin seeing less and less of Jimin.

Yoongi begins thinking of Seoul more and more. Around this time he’d be submitting his newest tape, waiting for his label to edit the shit out of it and send it back with a suggestion of fixing a few things. He, Taehyung and Hoseok talk more frequently and Yoongi misses them more each day. He spends a lot more time by himself, walking around, writing on the beach for entire days on end.

He spends more time with Jin as well. More than he already did with them living in the same building. He watches Jin surf quite a bit, cooks them both meals some nights, falls asleep on the couch with him in the recliner when they stay up too late watching movies. Yoongi begins to learn what life is actually like here, year round, not just during the summer.

Things slow down considerably. Yoongi sleeps for longer, mainly to fill up the time, and tries not to notice how thoughts of going back to the city consume his thoughts.

A windy Wednesday night finds him, Jin and Jimin all crowded in Jeongguk’s apartment, takeout boxes crowding his coffee table. They’re in the middle of an in-depth, heated conversation about the differences and pros and cons between Star Wars and Star Trek when Jimin stands with a pop in his shoulders, sighing dramatically.

“While this conversation has been extremely profound and enlightening, I think I’m gonna go. I have an 8 A.M. tomorrow and I’d rather not feel dead on my feet.”

Jeongguk boos and kicks Jimin in the butt. “You’re so boring. It was just getting good. Jin’s forehead vein was making an appearance.”

Jimin rolls his eyes and roughly ruffles Jeongguk’s hair, eliciting a petulant whine. “Keep talking and see what happens.”

Jeongguk sticks his tongue out at Jimin, who mimics cutting it off with scissors. Yoongi huffs out a laugh and Jeongguk shoots him a betrayed look and they all tell Jimin goodbye from the couch.

With just him, Jin and Jeongguk left, they have a bit more room to spread out. Jeongguk scoots from where he was smushed up against Yoongi, and Yoongi exhales for what feels like the first time all night. Yoongi, for lack of anything better to do, sits up and collects as many takeout boxes and empty glasses as he can and heads to the kitchen.

He’s in the midst of washing the last glass when Jeongguk wanders in, leaning against the doorframe and watching Yoongi work. When he finally finishes rinsing and lays it on the drying mat, he turns to find Jeongguk smiling easily at him. “Sure. Just sit there and look pretty while I do all the work.”

“You’re in my house,” Jeongguk points out. Yoongi shoots him a deadpan look and struggles to upkeep it when Jeongguk dissolves into laughter. “I think Jin is leaving soon, too. He’s asleep on the couch. Do you want to stay?”

It’s unusual. Jeongguk usually never actually asks him to stay, and vice versa, it just happens. Yoongi bites the inside of his bottom lip and nods. Jeongguk lingers in the doorway for a bit before nodding once and turning right on his heel and walking back into the living room.

Yoongi stands at the sink for a few more seconds. He feels ridiculously nervous for no actual reason; they’ll probably just pick one of Jeongguk’s records at random and listen to it until it fizzles out and Jeongguk is falling asleep and Yoongi will slip out, unnoticed, like he always does. Nothing out of the ordinary.

When Yoongi walks back into the living room, Jeongguk and Jin are hugging. Which—it’s not exactly unusual, but considering that the two of them prefer using their fists against each other than hugging, it still stops Yoongi in his tracks, and when Jin spots Yoongi over Jeongguk’s shoulder, he thumps his back and pulls away.

Jin pats Yoongi on the shoulder as he’s passing, smiling and whispering a good night, and Yoongi can’t help but feel like Jeongguk is being passed over to him, or something. The entire situation is off and as soon as the door closes and they’re alone, Jeongguk nods towards his bedroom and walks down the hallway. Yoongi just follows.

When he closes the door behind him, Jeongguk is already getting an unrecognizable record started. He keeps the volume low and it’s one of those unfamiliar artists that Jeongguk adores and nobody else seems to know, but it’s nice, mellow and calming. They settle on Jeongguk’s bed and listen to the music for a few minutes, as they sometimes do, and Yoongi can sense something tense in the air, can tell Jeongguk keeps opening his mouth to speak but hesitating.

Finally, after three songs, Jeongguk speaks. “My parents,” He begins. Yoongi instantly looks away from him and instead focuses on the hem of his t-shirt. “They got me hooked on surfing. As I’m sure you probably know.”

“Jeongguk,” Yoongi interrupts, when Jeongguk’s voice trembles on the last syllable. Jeongguk’s eyes snap to his almost erratically. “You don’t have to tell me this.”

“I know.” Jeongguk smiles but it’s shaky, and Yoongi knows this is important for him, and hard to say, so he gives it his full attention. “But I want to.”

Yoongi nods. Jeongguk nods back before continuing. “Ever since I could remember, it was surfing. Always surfing. Apparently they did when they were younger—that’s how they met—and when I was old enough to stand on my own and they realized I wasn’t terribly awful at it, they got me hooked. Don’t think I only love it because of them. I grew to love it on my own. It’s a part of me now, and I do love it.”

Yoongi wants to let Jeongguk know that he gets that—there’s nothing worse than people thinking you don’t love something you’re truly passionate about—but Jeongguk is looking at the ceiling. He continues. “When I was sixteen, I discovered singing. I’ve always loved music, you know. I wasn’t kidding when I said that collection took me years to build up. It fascinates me—I just never considered doing anything with it. But there was this school play—musical, really—and I auditioned for the main part. I’d never sang before. I wasn’t even good, but I got it. I got the main part and everyday for the next five months I sang, it was all I did. I loved it.”

Yoongi doesn’t like where this is going, but he doesn’t interrupt. Jeongguk keeps taking breaks and looking around his room as if searching for an out but he doesn’t stop, and Yoongi doesn’t let him.

“My parents were mad that I wasn’t spending my free time surfing. They were prepping me for a competition that was just days after the showcase—apparently, they didn’t think that sixteen years of practice was enough. But they let me do it. Opening night was perfect. I got a standing ovation, and the director wanted me to join the choir, but I knew I’d never be allowed. Then, the competition. I—God, Yoongi. I barely placed. I did so bad. My parents were furious.”

When he hears the way Jeongguk’s voice cracks, Yoongi doesn’t even think as he grabs his hand, laying flat just alongside Yoongi’s. Jeongguk doesn’t even seem to notice. “So. No more singing. I pleaded with them and I told them how much I loved it but they—they didn’t let me. So I surfed. I sang in my free time but never any more, and certainly not around them. They love me and they just wanted the best for me but I was angry. I was so, so angry. When I was nineteen, I got accepted into college here. They paid for me in full, and got me the house, but I didn’t tell them when I declared my major as vocal performance. I couldn’t.”

Yoongi thinks about all the things this explains. He keeps wishing and wishing for Jeongguk to be done talking, for it to be the end, for it to not progress from here. But Jeongguk continues speaking. “There was another competition. About one month before my twenty-first birthday. The day of, I got into a screaming match with my parents. At this point they had already moved off the island, and the competition wasn’t here, either, so it wasn’t home. I fell off my board during practice. I wasn’t wearing a wetsuit and—that’s where I got the scar on my shoulder. There was so much blood in the water and it was in front of everyone—all my competition and the judges and, well. You can imagine how that went. I was out of school for weeks. I had forgotten to call my teachers and let them know. It’s a small college, somewhat old-schooled, and I didn’t even think that they’d consider calling my parents to tell them all the classes I had missed.”

Jeongguk’s grip on his hand suddenly tightens, and Yoongi inhales deeply and looks at him. “Vocal performance. Music theory. History of Music. You know, just about every single music related class the school had I took. They were furious. I’d never seen them so angry at me before. They said that it was the reason I injured myself and they withdrew all my tuition funds and just—dropped all contact with me. It was the last straw. But, not before telling me that I should just stick to surfing because it’s what I’m good at. I should give up music, and if I know what’s best for myself, I will. I haven’t heard from them in two years.”

Yoongi doesn’t realize Jeongguk is crying until he hears the sniffles, and he sits up from the headboard so he’s facing Jeongguk more clearly. His hand is shaking. “Jeongguk,”

“I’m sorry for crying,” Jeongguk says on a laugh, frantically wiping his tears away. “I just wanted to tell you. I figured it would answer a lot you’re probably confused about. I wanted you to know.”

“Thank you,” Yoongi says. He wants to wipe Jeongguk’s tears away but his hands won’t leave his lap, clenched in anger. “For telling me. Thank you. I’m so, so sorry.”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “You don’t have to be sorry. I’ve accepted it.”

“No,” Yoongi shakes his head in turn, more forceful. “No, Jeongguk. That’s bullshit. It’s ridiculous.”

Jeongguk stills, suddenly, and if Yoongi were of a more clear state of mind he would’ve taken note. He can’t place why he’s so angry—maybe Jeongguk’s story resonates too deeply with Yoongi himself, all the times he was told not to quit his day job for something he was halfway good at but entirely passionate about. Most of all, he hates that Jeongguk had to experience that, at the hand of his parents no less.

“It’s absolute bullshit. You could go so far, Jeongguk, with singing. So far. I haven’t even heard you but—” Yoongi should stop. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knows he should, but he’s never been the most rational person while angry. “Don’t they know you could go farther in the music industry than you ever could with surfing?”

Jeongguk visibly flinches. Yoongi doesn’t understand why at first, but then Jeongguk is pulling away from him and Yoongi watches his face close down, part by part, until he’s staring blank faced back at Yoongi. The only traces of emotion are his glassy eyes. “What?”

“I—” Yoongi scrambles to repair. “There’s more opportunities.”

“I love surfing, Yoongi,” Jeongguk whispers lowly. “It’s my life. I’ve made a good enough career out of it. Unless you think I’m not good enough?”

“Jeo—” Yoongi begins, his heart slowing down beat by beat. Jeongguk doesn’t hear him. “I guess nothing is good enough when it comes to music and you. Isn’t that why you left the city? Your success and production was just too overwhelming to bear?”

It’s Yoongi’s turn to flinch. This conversation has taken such a drastic turn that it’s making Yoongi’s head spin; he’s never seen Jeongguk switch up and close off so fast. Yoongi knows how important surfing is to Jeongguk, he can see how much it means to him, but he can’t say it. Jeongguk is looking at Yoongi like he doesn’t recognize him.

Yoongi wants to stop speaking, but he can’t. “I think you’re scared, Jeongguk. I think you’re scared to leave this island, because maybe you’ll realize you’ve revolved your entire life around surfing when you could’ve had so much more. You just don’t want to find out.”

Jeongguk stands off his bed so quickly that it jostles Yoongi, who stands too. Yoongi’s fingers feel numb. “I think you should leave.”

“What?” Yoongi feels breathless, like he’s just run a marathon, or he’s just been dropped in the middle of the ocean with lead weights tied to his ankles.

“I said, I think you should leave. Leave.” Jeongguk repeats, his eyes getting glossier by the second. Yoongi stands rooted in place for a few frozen moments, watching Jeongguk, feeling the numbness spread up his arms and into his chest, filling up the empty spaces in his ribs and coating his heart.

He all but runs out of Jeongguk’s house. He’s walking so hard and fast the impact is reverberating throughout his entire body from his heels. He hadn’t even bothered to close the front door in his haste; he practically sprints until Jeongguk’s house is out of sight. He doesn’t slow down until he’s at Jin’s house and thankfully the lights are off and Jin is probably already in bed so he can’t hear as Yoongi walks so, so quietly into the front door and leans against it and tries to slow his rabid heart down.

They hadn’t even yelled. It wasn’t even a fight, but something most definitely broke between them. They dug into each other and Yoongi is to blame—Jeongguk had told him something important, something not to be handled recklessly, and Yoongi had spoken out of turn and messed the entire situation up. Yoongi can’t help but feel so terribly panicked because he had such a good thing going here and it was just a matter of time before he fucked it up.

It doesn’t take him long to pack. Yoongi realizes he’s just been waiting on a push to send him back to Seoul; he hates that this was it, but it was bound to come sooner or later. Whatever he had here wasn’t meant to last.

He feels terrible, leaving without a word to Jin and Jimin, so he leaves all the money he has in his wallet on his pillow and he can’t get out of the front door fast enough. Yoongi doesn’t really feel anything at all—his heart stopped racing the second he folded his first shirt and put it in his backpack. His mind is empty, undisturbed only when he doesn’t think about anything for too long.

The gas is enough to get him to Seoul without trouble. The engine starting sounds deafeningly loud in the silent night, and Yoongi feels like he could be sick, replaying what he said to Jeongguk in his mind. What Jeongguk said to him. He’s seen Jeongguk sad and he’s seen Jeongguk angry but he’s never seen Jeongguk hurt—he’s never seen Jeongguk look at him with such betrayal and indifference. Yoongi knows he can’t stay here another day.

Yoongi drives with steady hands and doesn’t stop once. He’s always been good at compartmentalization and suppression; if he doesn't’ look at it for too long, it’s not there. He gives himself a month to produce all these songs he’s written and catch up with Taehyung and Hoseok and the entire incident will be out of his mind. He’ll always miss the island—it changed his life for the better—but he’s always been good at letting things go.

(Even when they need holding on to, even when they could’ve easily been fought for, even when they didn’t want to be let go, even when you don’t want to let them go—)

He can’t stomach the thought of being in his apartment, so he drives straight to Taehyung’s. Hoseok is definitely already asleep at this hour and he doesn’t want to disturb him and he knows Taehyung will be awake and Yoongi doesn’t want to be alone. Not tonight.

The only available parking spot is all the way across the building from where Taehyung’s room is, but Yoongi doesn’t mind. His sole backpack seems pathetic in the backseat and Yoongi uses the cool night are to calm down his flaming cheeks. He’s angry with himself, with Jeongguk, with the entire situation, and he takes the stairs by two and knocks so hard on Taehyung’s door that it stings his knuckles.

There’s a shuffling on the other side, and Yoongi can hear how quickly Taehyung swings the latch back and opens the door. He’s a breath of fresh air; his hair is longer, a mullet now, and he’s got his glasses on and a pair of silky pajamas are hanging off his shoulders and his mouth is hanging open but his eyes are the same, infuriatingly comforting and soft, and Yoongi just crumbles a bit on the inside.

“I messed up.” His voice cracks from hours of disuse and emotions and Taehyung just—melts. His shoulders drop and his head tilts and his mouth shuts and he pulls Yoongi in by the wrist. When Yoongi falls against his chest, he doesn’t know what to do with his arms—he’s never been big on hugs, but Taehyung wraps his arms all the way around Yoongi’s shoulders so Yoongi settles around his waist

“Yoongi,” Taehyung’s voice is so much smoother and deeper in person. “Oh, Yoongi.”

Yoongi shakes his head. His hair rubs against Taehyung’s front, and he barely notices Taehyung walking them backwards, into the apartment. “I messed up so bad, Taehyung.”

“I’m sure it’s fixable.” Taehyung murmurs into the crown of his head. “It always is, even if you can’t see it right away.”

Yoongi doesn’t respond, because while Taehyung might be right, Yoongi doesn’t want to believe it. He’d rather believe that he fucked up so badly it’s unfixable so he’ll have a valid excuse to stay away from the island with no desires to go back.

They don’t speak much that night. Yoongi can tell that Taehyung is a little shell shocked to see him again, and they’re both tired, and Yoongi sleeps in his boxers curled up in Taehyung’s bed, their backs pressed spine to spine.

He wakes before Taehyung and slips into his clothes and leaves. He considers cooking something, or starting a pot of coffee, but all the noise would more than likely wake Taehyung up and start a conversation he most definitely does not want to have right now. He drives back to his own apartment with sleep blurring his eyes and his tongue thick in his mouth.

The city is so dull in comparison to what he’s grown accustomed to. The traffic, even this early in the morning, is enough to give him a headache, and he wants nothing more than the familiarity of his own bed so he can sleep for two days before contacting anyone else.

He catches one of his neighbors on the way out. Their conversation is short; consisting of them being shocked to see Yoongi is still alive and Yoongi mumbling out some half-asleep response he can’t remember. His apartment is unchanged from the day he left it and he gets a headrush from the deja-vu that courses throughout his body. He barely makes it to his bedroom before collapsing and falling into a deep, deep sleep.

He sleeps for eighteen hours. Not two days but close enough. He wakes up to voices in his apartment and the smell of something savory floating through his air ducts. Yoongi presses his fists into his eyes and pulls his bedroom door open to see—Taehyung and Hoseok, cooking at Yoongi’s stove.

He feels as though he could cry.

They don’t talk much, again. Hoseok stares at him the entire time he eats and Yoongi is positive that at some point, Taehyung had kicked him underneath the table. Yoongi eats quickly and helps wash the dishes and mumbles something about wanting to produce today, so Taehyung and Hoseok are quick to leave—not before hugging him so tightly it makes his arms ache and shooting each other furtive looks when they think Yoongi can’t see.

Taking the journals out of his backpack is like poking at a fresh wound. He changes into sweatpants and an oversized hoodie and settles at his large desk with the large keyboard and multiple desktops, various speakers and other technological musical instruments that required years of saving up.

He thumbs through the salt-soaked pages to find his favorites and manages to begin four decent sounding tracks before the sun sets. He orders takeout and eats it laying down on the couch, watching the sky get darker and darker through the window in his living room. Yoongi feels positively hollow.

Namjoon has the audacity to nearly bust his door down when it’s nearing ten P.M. Yoongi almost considers feigning sleep, or absence, but Namjoon really would break his door down and that’s not something he feels like dealing with given his current state so he begrudgingly lets him in.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back?” He asks, after about a ten minute long greeting and hugging session. Yoongi frowns.

“I only got back last night—it wasn’t exactly planned.”

Namjoon thinks on that. Yoongi can tell there’s a lot he wants to say, all profound and hard hitting things, but he just nods and they put on Yoongi’s favorite drama and, eventually, fall asleep on Yoongi’s couch.

When Yoongi wakes up Namjoon is gone, but the spot where his head was laying is still warm. There’s a togo cup of coffee in front of him and a chicken-scratch post-it note attached to his fridge that he tells himself to read later. The coffee is as he’s always liked it; one shot of skim milk, no sugar, and the shower he takes to wake himself up is ice cold and overall miserable.

Yoongi finishes two of his four songs. They’re good, undeniably so, maybe some of Yoongi’s favorites, and he already knows they’re going to be the type he releases under Suga rather than Min Yoongi. He tries to ignore all the things they make him think about, which is incredibly hard, considering the songs only exist because of them.

The days start going by so fast Yoongi feels like he’s getting lost in them. He gets texts from Jin and Jimin, both hoping that he’s okay and other things that Yoongi can’t process as he rereads them five times and then presses delete. He uses up all the lyrics he wrote over his course of time on the island and, in the end, is left with eight solid songs that he produces within a span of one month, or, four weeks. It’s the fastest he’s ever accomplished anything. He wishes he could bring himself to feel more excited about it.

Four weeks flies by. Yoongi spends time with Taehyung, Hoseok, and Namjoon, and they learn how to talk and avoid the painfully obvious elephant in the room. He learns that Taehyung and Hoseok still aren’t dating—through Namjoon—but the flirting is so obvious that it’s nauseating. He learns that Namjoon got promoted at his job and they spend an entire night celebrating, even though it’s incredibly delayed. Yoongi wants to tell them about Jin and Jimin and Jeongguk but he can’t, so he shows them pictures instead.

Yoongi thinks he’s on the upbeat. He’s gotten so used to the crushingly empty feeling in his chest that it hardly even bothers him anymore. Six weeks of working himself into the ground and not talking about anything of importance come and go. Yoongi almost, almost thinks he could get used to it.

***

It’s his seven weeks being back in Seoul, on the dot, when Taehyung, Hoseok, and Namjoon corner him in his own apartment.

Yoongi has one beer in his system. He’s a bit more loose limbed than normal, and in hindsight, it was perfect planning on their part. Yoongi can’t even be mad about it.

“How long do you plan on doing this, Yoongi?” Taehyung abruptly asks. The mood of the room shifts so quickly that goosebumps prickle on Yoongi’s skin.

He considers feigning ignorance but, again, he thinks Taehyung would be too smart for that.

“The foreseeable future.” Yoongi responds. Taehyung lowers his already menacing eyebrows at him, and Yoongi looks away like a scorned child.

“There is no way you could’ve messed up this badly.” Hoseok says, and if Yoongi had an ounce of energy left in his body, he would laugh. “You were so happy there, Yoongi. Whatever happened can’t be worth sacrificing that.”

Yoongi inhales and drops his chin slightly, gaze directed at Namjoon’s feet. “I hurt him.” He says, small, in hopes that they won’t hear. “That’s bad enough.”

He doesn’t have to look up to know that the three of them are sharing a heavy look. He can sense it in the air, and he wonders why everyone always seems to know more about matters concerning himself than he does.

“What happened, Yoongi?” Taehyung asks.

Yoongi can’t tell them the full story, but they deserve to know. “He told me something important. Something serious. I said the wrong thing—it all came out wrong. We dug into each other and he asked me to leave. So I did.”

Hoseok sighs. He taps the tip of his fingernail against his beer can and jostles his knee up and down. It’s been so long that Yoongi can’t figure out what it means.

“You just left? You didn’t wait to talk about it?” Taehyung probes. Yoongi hates him, a bit, for knowing all the best spots to dig into.

“No. I just left.”

Silence encompasses the room before Namjoon finally speaks. “You need to go back, Yoongi. You know that. You were never meant to stay in this city.”

Yoongi looks up. “But I miss you guys. I miss this.”

“And we’ll always be here. We miss you, too, but—we’d rather have you happy.” Hoseok says. His knee is still bouncing but he’s stopped tapping his fingernail and Yoongi looks at Taehyung, who is watching him with steady eyes.

Taehyung just nods, imperceptibly, and Yoongi exhales with a gush and closes his eyes. “Are you sure? Is this—would this be the right decision?”

“It’s impossible to know that for sure. But I really, really think it is.” Namjoon says. His voice is so level and calm that Yoongi feels his own heartbeat slowing down to match the tune of it. “And if it turns out not to be, we’ll be here. Always.”

They clean up before they leave. Again, there’s an exceedingly long goodbye session, but Yoongi finds he doesn’t mind as much this time. He tells himself to sleep on it for a night or so before making any rash decisions; he wants to dive into this with the right mindset. He wants to actually repair things, and not just slap a bandaid over them and call it a day.

Two days later, it takes Yoongi thirty minutes to pack an actual suitcase. He visits each of Taehyung, Hoseok, and Namjoon’s apartments individually, and they all are teary-eyed when they see him off and Yoongi tries not to combust with all the thankfulness and love he has inflating within him. He feels anxious and jittery, and he tries not to think about where he’s going as he’s actually driving there.

Truth be told, Yoongi is terrified. Often times when he messes up he never actually apologizes, because it’s never needed; all his relationships are that where they can move past it with a joke and laughs shared. But Yoongi knows this is going to need more than that.

The drive down is just as beautiful as Yoongi remembers it being. His left knee bounces the entire time and he keeps the radio entirely off and the windows down and lets the increasingly salty air calm him down.

***

The island, this time, is purely intentional.

Yoongi doesn’t know why he expected it to be drastically different after seven weeks, but he’s shocked to find it all relatively the same. Even the trees hanging over the roads are the same as ever. Yoongi almost wants to drive around but he’s terrified of seeing someone he recognizes on the street so he goes straight to the bed and breakfast and stares at his steering wheel for six minutes before he musters up the courage to step up to the front door.

He stares at the chipping pale blue paint for what feels like hours before he grips the door knob and twists. He was expecting it to be empty—Jin was usually out and about around this time, four P.M., so he nearly has a stroke when the front door fully opens and he sees a head of black hair sitting at the couch, watching T.V.

Jin turns to see who’s at the door and Yoongi can pinpoint the exact moment shock takes over his features. He stands up so quickly and is in the entryway before Yoongi can even blink, and he’s hesitating, like he isn’t sure if it’s actually Yoongi standing before him.

“Yoongi?” Jin asks, confirming his suspicions. His voice is wavering and high pitched and the house still smells of green apple and something a bit more salty. Yoongi can’t believe how relieved he feels.

“I’m sorry.” Yoongi says. Jin hugs him so bone-crushingly tight that Yoongi can’t breathe for a full ten seconds.

“Jesus Christ. We thought you were dead. I woke up and Jeongguk was in my bed and you were missing and—if it weren’t for Taehyung—”

There’s so much to process in that sentence, Yoongi’s mind has to choose one thing and stick on it. “Taehyung? What?”

“I got his number, that time we talked. He told me you were alive, at the very least, and not much else. I think he was angry with me but—“

“God, Jin. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for all of it.”

“Thank you.” Jin says. They finally pull out of eachothers space and Yoongi’s brain catches up to the rest of what Jin had said and—Jeongguk.

“How much do you know?” Yoongi asks. Better to get this over with fast.

“Not much,” Jin admits. They’re still standing in the entryway, the sand gritty under Yoongi’s shoes. “Jeongguk—that morning, he was in my bed. It was obvious he had been crying. I woke up before him and went to make breakfast but he was gone by the time it was finished. He kind of disappeared for a bit after that. All I ever got was that you two fought, and he wanted you to leave, so you did.”

It’s overwhelming, to hear so much about Jeongguk after weeks of trying to forget about him. Yoongi’s heart aches with what he hears and he wants to sit down and tell Jin everything but it’s not his place, not when Jeongguk was hurt just as much as he was.

“That’s—yeah.” Yoongi nods. His throat is dry. “That’s essentially it. I messed up really, really bad. I hurt him.”

Jin frowns. He’s still staring at Yoongi like he’s unsure of whether or not Yoongi will disappear at any moment. “He hurt you too, though.”

Yoongi can’t argue with that, because it’s true, even though he hurt Jeongguk first. Jin eventually calls Jimin over and Jimin nearly has a stroke when he sees Yoongi sitting awkwardly on the couch—Yoongi apologizes profusely, to them both, because now that he’s started he can’t seem to get enough. After what must be the tenth apology, Jimin slaps him on the thigh and tells him to shut up, and Yoongi knows they’re alright again.

They all agree to not tell Jeongguk. Not until Yoongi is ready. He still needs some time to adjust to being back on the island itself, back with Jin and Jimin, back in the house. His brain would probably explode on the spot if he tried to see Jeongguk. Yoongi still feels a gaping hole in the pit of his stomach, but it’s slowly getting filled, weighing him down more and more each hour.

After hours of talking Jimin decides he’s going to spend the night at Jin’s, and Yoongi carts his suitcase up the stairs and into his room and nearly cries when he sees his crumpled dollar bills still lying on the pillow.

***

Yoongi makes it all of a week without any Jeongguk related incidents. He doesn’t leave the house much, only if he wants more food or some fresh air, or, once he went to the beach and left as soon as he saw a group of dark haired surfers. He isn’t scared to admit that he’s absolutely terrified of accidentally running into him.

Jin and Jimin have made good on their promise of keeping it a secret. Yoongi learns that Jeongguk has taken up more shifts at his job, and Jin and Jimin barely see him anymore. Yoongi hates that he is partly to blame for that.

On Tuesday morning, Yoongi wakes up just as the sun is rising. He takes a long shower and gets dressed and sits at his desk, just staring out of the window. After about an hour, he gets tired of sitting around and thinking, and just as he is about to leave his room he hears footsteps coming up the stairs and he knows—Jin is still in his room.

Normally, he wouldn’t care to see other guests. He wouldn’t be paranoid to hear footsteps outside of his room. But something about these—something tells Yoongi to stop. He does just that, leaning his back against his door and holding his breath. Yoongi doesn’t know if he’s projecting from sheer terror alone or if the footsteps really do stop just outside of his door.

Before anything can happen, Yoongi hears Jin clamber down the stairs, breathlessly greeting someone. They greet back and, really, Yoongi is about to pass out.

“Hey,” Jeongguk says. Yoongi wasn’t expecting his voice to rattle him so much, but it does. He presses his fingernails into the palms of his hands and thinks about the fact that if he were to turn around and open this door, Jeongguk would be right there.

“Sorry,” He continues, not sounding sorry at all, “I thought I heard something.”

When Jin laughs, it’s nervous and high-pitched. He doesn’t waste any time in ushering Jeongguk down the stairs and back out of the house towards whatever plans they had, and Yoongi waits for fifteen minutes before he deems it safe to leave. He’s certain he is projecting when he thinks the hallway smells like lemongrass.

Yoongi walks downstairs slowly, as if Jeongguk will be hiding just around the corner, waiting to catch him off guard. He tours the entire house before he feels comfortable enough to sit down and eat, and he wonders if Jeongguk would’ve tried to open his door if Jin hadn’t come down, and why.

Jimin comes over an hour or two later. They hang out the entire day; Jimin has a day off and he’s more than happy to spend it catching up with Yoongi. They talk about all sorts of things from Jimin’s dancing to Yoongi’s music to, shockingly, Jeongguk.

“You should’ve seen him, Yoongi.” Jimin shakes his head solemnly. “He looked so—like a door had been closed. He didn’t talk to me or Jin for a week.”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says, again, even though he doesn’t know what he’s apologizing for. Maybe he’s hoping that if he says it enough times, Jeongguk will feel it in the air. Jimin shakes his head.

“He made that decision all on his own.” He fiddles with the rim of his glass. “Jeongguk’s always been like that. He changes when he gets hurt, does a lot of licking his own wounds.”

“I need to apologize to him.” Yoongi decides to say rather than the millions of other thoughts running through his head. This one is the most truthful. Jimin nods in agreement.

“Yeah, you do.”

***

Yoongi hadn’t planned it. To be fair, Yoongi hadn’t planned any of this, but in the mess of unplanned events that has become his life, this is surely the outlier.

He remembers the walk to Jeongguk’s house like the back of his hand, even when he’s running it. He had been lying around with Jin, not doing much of anything, when the idea just struck him. Instead of sitting around and waiting for something miraculous to happen, Yoongi would make it happen himself.

Jin had just smiled and nodded at Yoongi like he didn’t believe him when Yoongi said he was going to Jeongguk’s house. Maybe that only spurred him on further. Maybe that’s why he’s running so hard his feet are aching, bones trembling, chest heaving. In the back of his mind Yoongi thinks he probably should’ve taken some time to sit down and think this out, but he knows that if he doesn’t do this now, he never will.

There’s a high probability Jeongguk won’t even be home, won’t even let him in, won’t even want to talk. Yoongi tells himself that he is prepared for whatever will come his way.

So when he finally reaches Jeongguk’s door and knocks so roughly he nearly tears the skin on his knuckles and Jeongguk—Jeongguk actually opens the door and Yoongi sees him, actually sees him, he can’t believe he wasn’t prepared for this in the slightest.

Jeongguk’s hair is black. Still the same length, parted slightly at the forehead and wavy, but black. So dark that it makes his eyes look deeper and his eyebrows sharper and his skin smoother. He looks good; it knocks the last remaining breaths out of Yoongi’s lungs. Jeongguk’s face quickly morphs between various emotions, the most notable being shock, disbelief, worry, and then finally setting on panic. His mouth is open and his eyes are so wide and Yoongi can’t believe he could ever hurt Jeongguk, not when he’s looking at him like this, not when he’s causing his heart to beat so hard in his chest it feels like it’s going to explode.

“Yoongi,” Jeongguk says; not a question, just Yoongi. Yoongi doesn’t think he’s ever liked the sound of his name more. Jeongguk is looking at him with an indecipherable expression and Yoongi can’t breathe.

He doesn’t want to be presumptuous, but; “Can I come in?”

Yoongi is still panting, and his hair is a windy mess, and he’s sure that his cheeks are flushed and his clothes are rumpled. Jeongguk takes all of this in and nods and steps to the side to allow Yoongi in.

In the two months that they’ve seen eachother, Jeongguk, aside from the hair, hasn’t changed a bit. Yoongi doesn’t know why he keeps expecting to see some miraculous changes, even though two months isn’t that much time apart. He follows Jeongguk around the house and into the living room, where something is paused on the T.V.

“Do you want something to drink?” Jeongguk asks before he sits down on the chair to Yoongi’s left. Yoongi shakes his head and settles on the edge of the couch.

“Your hair looks good.” He says after a few beats. He doesn’t turn to look at Jeongguk but he hopes that the compliment comes out warmer than it seems.

“Ah, thank you,” In his peripheral he can see Jeongguk run a hand through said hair, ruffling it a bit. “The pink was getting old.”

Yoongi nods three times. He feels painfully aware of his movements, of his precarious seating position, of every breath he takes and how deafeningly loud it sounds in the quietness of Jeongguk’s home. The waves can still be heard.

“When did you get back?” Jeongguk asks. His voice is so measured and cautious and Yoongi hates it.

“A week ago, actually,” Yoongi admits, after debating over lying or not. He can see Jeongguk reflexively turn to look at him.

“A week?” He repeats, a bit disbelieving. When Yoongi nods he blows out a puff of breath and slumps back down. “Nobody told me.”

“I asked them not to.” Yoongi says truthfully. Jeongguk stills, and then murmurs something along the lines of ‘oh, okay’, and Yoongi can’t handle it anymore. “Jesus Christ. I’m sorry, Jeongguk.”

It must’ve come out more forceful than he was planning, because Jeongguk jolts a bit, and when Yoongi finally looks at him he’s staring back with wide eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry about everything. You told me something important and I handled it horribly and I’m sorry—you deserved better, you deserve better. I’m sorry for hurting you and I’m sorry about what I said and I know how important surfing is to you and how much you love this island and I—”

“Yoongi,” Jeongguk says. When Yoongi doesn’t hear him and continues rambling, he scoots forward and leans over the arm of the couch and grabs Yoongi by the cheeks and effectively shuts him up. “Yoongi,” He says, again.

Yoongi’s sentence trails off and gets carried away, and he exhales softly, looking at Jeongguk with so much trepidation that it makes his pupils shake. “It’s okay, Yoongi. I forgive you. And I’m sorry, too. I didn’t mean what I said. I’m sorry. I beat myself up over it for so long because I told you to leave and I just wanted you to come back but I didn’t know how to say it. I’m sorry.”

He pulls his palms away from Yoongi’s cheeks and scoots back further into his seat. Yoongi tries to get air back into his lungs and nods distractedly. “It’s—It’s okay. We both messed up.”

“I was—I thought you’d never come back.” Jeongguk whispers. He’s looking away from Yoongi.

“I thought I’d never come back, too,” Yoongi says a bit sheepishly. “I didn’t want to leave things here so unresolved. But if you want me to leave again, now that we’ve gotten that out, I get it—“

“No,” Jeongguk cuts him off. He’s frowning deeply at Yoongi, as though he’s offended Yoongi said that. “I don’t. Unless you want to?”

Yoongi smiles a little, so small that it nearly goes unnoticed, but he sees Jeongguk’s eyes flicker down towards his lips and back up to his eyes. “No. I don’t.”

Yoongi has no idea where to go from here. The past two months have been working up to this; he wasn’t expecting it to go so smoothly, so cleanly, and now that it’s all somewhat resolved he feels a bit adrift. He and Jeongguk sit in silence and keep their thoughts to themselves for a long time. Yoongi knows he should leave—this will take time to repair itself, even if things will never be what they were before.

Jeongguk looks like there’s more he wants to say. Yoongi feels overpowered; he doesn’t know how much of Jeongguk he can handle right now, not with his inky hair and his hopeful gaze, so he stands and excuses himself. Jeongguk walks him all the way to the door and out onto the front porch and stares at Yoongi’s retreating back until it is out of sight.

***

All things considered, Yoongi can’t shake the weird feeling that it was too simple of a resolution. He’s never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth but he never thought these things were supposed to be so easy. After he had made it back to the house and found Jin pacing in the living room, claiming that he didn’t think Yoongi was serious and he was so ill-prepared, he had called Jimin over. Yoongi told them that they apologized and he thinks they made up and tries not to think too deeply about why they seem so disappointed when Yoongi says that’s all that happened.

Things slowly but surely return to a semblance of how they used to be. They hang out, all four of them. One night Jeongguk, Jin and Jimin go out and when Yoongi is lying awake in his bed well past midnight and he hears Jin come in through the front door and up the stairs, hopefulness stirs in his heart.

Yoongi was worried that over the two month suppression period, his feelings for Jeongguk would’ve vanished. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

He talks to Taehyung, Hoseok and Namjoon more regularly. He keeps them updated, lets them know how with each passing day here he feels more and more fulfilled, more weighted down, so that he won’t blow away with the breeze. They wish him luck and tell him they miss him and Yoongi has so much love in his heart he doesn’t know what to do with it all.

(You spend so much time relearning the way the light plays off his dark hair, the way it shimmers when it’s wet and glints when it’s under the sun, the way it makes his skin look deeper, more velvety, the way it looks softer than ever before and all you want to do is reach out and touch but you’re too scared of getting burned so you hold your hands to your chest in hopes that they won’t escape on their own accord, and you love, you love so much it nearly kills you—)

***

Seeing Jeongguk surf again is like coming up for air after days, weeks, months spent underwater. Yoongi’s lungs inflate and he feels—right, normal, like things are set straight again after Jeongguk twists on his board and turns to face Yoongi with a smile and a wave.

As it turns out, late November on the island is only cooler by a few earth shattering degrees. Jeongguk wears full body wetsuits when he swims and shivers all the way up until he changes and towel dries his hair, and Yoongi has to slip on hoodies with increasing frequency each time he steps outside, and Jin’s meals turn from cool and refreshing to warm and hearty. Yoongi learns that it doesn’t snow here but the wind kicks up and it gets cold at night and the waves get harsher and taller and it’s a weird three month period where not much of anything happens until February.

Winters here are much easier to brave. Yoongi also learns that Jeongguk fares miserably in the cold, always dressed in an outrageous amount of layers even if it’s still sunny out. They all spend their evenings curled up in Jin’s couches eating soup and Yoongi doesn’t know how he ever managed to give this up.

It’s kind of terrifying how quickly they fall back into place, as though nothing had ever happened. Yoongi has noticed that Jeongguk is a bit more cautious around him now, like he was when they first met, subtle hesitations that only he notices. He tells himself that it’s okay, and it is.

Before Yoongi can even catch his breath, December is rolling around, and with that comes Christmas, and Yoongi feels the dread settle so low in his stomach that it pulls him further and further down until he sinks into the ground, the tremors swallowing him up.

He goes gift-shopping with Jimin and is rudely reminded of how terrible he is at picking gifts out. Within ten minutes Jimin has amassed an entire basketful of gifts and all Yoongi has is a new wooden spatula for Jin, who doesn’t even need a new wooden spatula.

He won’t tell anyone that he’s already finished Jeongguk’s gift. He finished months ago, sitting cooped up in his apartment, mashing together the lyrics he had written crammed in the margins of his journals.

Christmas eve sees them all sitting on the floor in Seokjin’s living room, playing some ancient board game he had found in some dusty cupboard drinking a horribly ratioed eggnog that’s more alcohol than anything else. Their combined laughter is so loud and full it fills the entire room and all the empty spaces in Yoongi’s body.

When it comes time to leave, Yoongi insists on walking Jeongguk home, under the premise that Jeongguk is drunk and Yoongi really just wants to see that he gets home safe and nobody has anything to protest, other than knowing smiles. They walk under the moonlight and the breeze is so chilly--neither of them had worn jackets, so Yoongi just scoots closer until their shoulders are pressing and hopes that it’s enough.

He lets them into Jeongguk’s house, the cold key pressed into the center of his palm, and as soon as they step over the doorway Jeongguk slumps against his side and Yoongi has to drag him back to his bedroom. He deposits Jeongguk onto the bed and slips his shoes off and when he goes to get him a glass of water, Yoongi has to rummage through his cluttered cabinets until he manages to find a bottle of pain relievers.

When he makes his way back to Jeongguk’s bedroom, Jeongguk is fast asleep. He’s spread starfish style and he’s snoring and Yoongi smiles the entire time as he leaves the water and the medicine on Jeongguk’s bedside table and takes the C.D. out from his back pocket. He debates on where to leave it and decides it would be best right on top of Jeongguk’s record player.

His own handwriting, sloppy due to the marker, stares back up at him. ‘So Far Away’ isn’t the best title Yoongi has managed to come up with but—it’s fitting. Yoongi feels something within him settle and he turns to make sure Jeongguk is okay once more before leaving. The entire walk back to Jin’s house is spent with his heart soaring in the air above him and the breeze weaving through his outstretched fingers.

***

They decided a Christmas dinner would be more easy to manage than a breakfast or a lunch. Yoongi doesn’t hear from either Jimin or Jeongguk the entire day as he helps Jin prepare, but he feels weirdly content, in a way he never has before.

He talks on the phone with Taehyung, Hoseok and Namjoon for two full hours. They took it upon themselves to celebrate in Yoongi’s apartment, and he’s in such good spirits that he can’t even be upset about it.

Jimin and Jeongguk show up at six, just as the sky is starting to darken and the wind is picking up. Jeongguk doesn’t say a word about the C.D.; Yoongi is fine with that. He knows, in some deeper place within himself, that Jeongguk will like it. They eat until their stomachs hurt and drink enough just to feel warm and when it comes times for gifts, Jimin hands over the fancy pen set and the leatherback journal with such care that Yoongi feels like shit for even giving him the new roll of athletic wrap and icy-hot packs.

Jimin accepts them graciously. Jin also accepts his spatula graciously, and he gives Yoongi a key to the house in return and Yoongi feels his heart swell to bursting. When it comes time for Jeongguk he blushes and looks down at his lap and mutters, “I forgot it at home.”

Yoongi smiles at that, for reasons unknown. They drink a bit more and watch movies until they can barely keep their eyes open and Jimin decides to spend the night at Jin’s—they call it a night when Yoongi is still wired. Jeongguk mentions something about going back home to grab something and Yoongi figures he’ll have enough time to walk to the beach and back by the time Jeongguk returns, so he does.

There’s something otherworldly about the beach at night. The sand looks white in comparison to the blackness of the ocean, the way it stretches on endlessly, inseparable from the black sky. Yoongi walks and lets the rolling tide soak his feet and it’s not long before he hears someone running behind him, kicking up sand, harsh pants piercing through the nighttime air. When he turns, Jeongguk is just beginning to slow down, black hair flopping and something gripped tightly in his fist.

“Yoongi.” He says, out of breath, as if he would need that to grab Jeongguk’s attention. “I listened. To the song.”

It’s Yoongi’s turn to be short of breath. He stops abruptly and turns fully to face Jeongguk, blinking slowly. Jeongguk doesn’t give Yoongi a chance to speak before he’s barrelling on. “It was amazing. I’ve never heard anything like it. It—god. It made me cry, Yoongi. It made me realize so many things. There’s so much I want to say but I feel like I’m running out of time so I’ll just—here.”

Jeongguk thrusts his fist out, curls open his fingers, and Yoongi didn’t know it was possible for him to fall any further. Sitting in the crook of his palm is a scrap piece of paper, Jeongguk’s identifiable looping handwriting on the front. Yoongi steps forward and picks it out of his hand and he thinks he recognized the number but he doesn’t know for sure, not as he grabs his phone out of his back pocket and dials it in with shaky fingers.

While it rings, Yoongi stares at Jeongguk. He traces and retraces his features and the curve of his nose and the placement of the freckles under his lip and on his cheek and his ear and the way he’s watching Yoongi with so much hope that it warms the air between them.

“Ah, Min Yoongi,” A female voice finally answers over the line. “Are you calling to confirm your appointment with Mr. Bang? We already have you down for—“

Yoongi—he thinks about all the times he gushed about wanting to quit his job to Jeongguk, how hard it was to have to release all of his music freelance and under a stage name, how he just wanted a shot at an actual music career and how much he’d love to work under Bang P.D. and Jeongguk—Jeongguk had remembered it all.

Yoongi just whispers a hurried ‘yes’ and hangs up the phone, his hands shaking so badly he can barely fit it into his back pocket. The scrap of paper crumbles within his fingers and he can hear Jeongguk gulp and inhale, just as he’s about to speak, like he needs to brace himself. “I’m sorry if it’s presumptuous, I just—I wasn’t sure until I listened to your song and I knew. You can do so many things, Yoongi, so many more things than you even know. I want you to have that choice. I want you to have whatever you want.”

“Jeongguk,” Yoongi whispers, more of a plead, but it gets carried away by the wind. They’re standing mere feet apart and Jeongguk’s shirt is being blown violently, nearly slipping off his shoulders, and he just inhales deeply before continuing. “Those cotton balls—the ones in my chest. Yoongi, you turn them into a damn garden. An entire garden that—it suffocates me, in the best possible way. It blooms around you and because of you and, god, I love you, Yoongi. I love you so much. I don’t know what to do with it all.”

Yoongi blinks. He thinks he misheard Jeongguk, but Jeongguk is looking at him with such honesty pouring from his gaze that Yoongi doesn’t even bother stopping himself from stepping forward and kissing his lips closed.

Kissing Jeongguk, simply put, is like surfing. It’s exhilarating and a bit messy but so, so sure, so right, the way Yoongi licks into Jeongguk’s mouth and Jeongguk lets him, easily, the way Jeongguk’s hands fist tightly in Yoongi’s shirt at his sides, the way Jeongguk certainly melts the second Yoongi’s hands curl around his narrow waist.

He kisses so roughly that Yoongi’s lips feel numb when they pull away, not moving out of eachothers space. Yoongi’s shirt is pulled tight against his back from the way Jeongguk is grasping onto it and Yoongi can feel the minute shivers raking Jeongguk’s body from where his hands are curled around his middle. They breathe for a moment, and Yoongi’s mind is whirling and it’s just Jeongguk, it’s all Jeongguk, and he nearly blacks out the moment Jeongguk speaks.

“Take me home?”

***

(You press him into the sheets that night, awed at how sensitive and responsive he is to your touch, the way he arches up into you and gives himself over to you completely and you hardly know what to do with something so treasured and precious in your hands, and he moves like a body of water, fluid and sure, and neither of you can breathe but you’re kissing until you’re choking and when you’re lying pressed right up together, not an inch of skin untouched, you tell him you love him, you love him more than you can handle, and the way he whines and presses back up for another kiss leaves your head reeling and your body has never felt so hot, completely engulfed by flames, and you fall asleep with his face pressed into your neck and you love so hardly but so surely that you don’t even worry about how much of yourself there will be left afterwards—)

***

The sunlight falling in through Jeongguk’s exposed windows wakes him up first. It’s warm against his bare shoulder, but Jeongguk, where he’s pressed up against Yoongi’s entire side, is even warmer.

It’s too early for Yoongi to process much besides the way Jeongguk’s hair sticks up and brushes Yoongi’s cheek, the way the room is lit up so softly and turns Jeongguk’s skin into malleable gold. Jeongguk is fast asleep against his chest, his breath hot where it puffs out against Yoongi’s sternum, and Yoongi hugs him closer and ranks his fingers through Jeongguk’s black hair and loves.

When Jeongguk wakes up, they’ll smile at each other and cook breakfast wearing nothing more than their boxers. Yoongi will walk with him, hand in hand, to the beach, and they’ll show up at Jin’s house together and try not to be too embarrassed when Jin and Jimin both instantly recognize it on their faces.

Yoongi will attend the meeting with Bang P.D. It’ll go great, like nothing in his life ever has before, and he’ll quit his current job and celebrate with Taehyung, Hoseok and Namjoon and he’ll fuck Jeongguk so passionately that they both feel it for days afterwards. He’ll get to call Jeongguk his boyfriend and revel in how natural it feels, he’ll get to hold Jeongguk’s hand and kiss him whenever he wants—he’ll get Jeongguk.

Weeks will pass, and then months, and it’s less of a decision made and more of a decision confirmed when Yoongi tells Taehyung that yes, he and Hoseok can have the apartment. They’ll make plans to visit in the fall and Yoongi feels like he’s offering Jeongguk over to his family, but it will go smoothly—he doesn’t know it yet, but it will.

His life will fall into place, more so than it already has. He’ll move in with Jeongguk after two years, a new house that they both save up for and choose for themselves, right on the beach and within walking distance of Jin and Jimin. Yoongi will start making his own music under his own name and he’ll never publish So Far Away but he’ll be content with the fact that he’ll never make anything else like it. Years will fly by and it won’t always be easy but they’ll get through it—they always will—and when Yoongi finally grabs the ring hidden in the little pouch from out of his underwear drawer, he’ll never feel more confident in a decision in his life.

But for now, Jeongguk stirs slightly against him, murmuring something that sounds close to a good morning, and Yoongi turns his head and presses his lips to Jeongguk’s temple and whispers,

“Sing for me?”