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White Fire (우리는 하얗게 불타 올랐어)

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Every summer, my family goes down to our estate on Jeju Island for the hottest months of the year. It’s a tradition that can be traced back to my grandfather’s time. Some of my earliest memories take place in the vast lands of the property. I met my best friend, Jungkook on the island as well. He stays next door every vacation, about several hundred yards east of our place. Jungkook is from Busan, whereas I’m from Daegu, but we stay in contact when we go back to our respective homes. After all, the two cities are only a couple hours’ drive away.

This year is going to be different from previous years. Jungkook’s dad has finally remarried, and now my close friend has a new step mother, sister and brother. We were briefly introduced at the wedding, but even so, twenty-three-year-old Jung Hoseok was someone you just noticed, even admist a crowd of dozens of people.

I’ll admit to staring when he gracefully dominated the dance floor, even though his slight build didn’t take up much physical space at all. The way he moved his body, the control, the smirk – I for sure wasn’t the only one keeping a close eye on the red-haired man that day.

His sister was equally as beautiful, with a refined grace to her, but I’ll admit my attention was drawn to her male companion. It’s something that I’ve been thinking quite a lot about lately, about the fact that a certain sex seems to catch my eye rather than the other. I haven’t dared explore it any further than just appreciating eye candy whenever I happen to see them, because South Korea is homophobic as fuck.

Jungkook is supposed to arrive today, if my father is to be trusted. It’s been a terribly boring week so far as I’m the only person under thirty within a five-hundred-yard radius. My parents take my phone and laptop away every year, claims it’s for family bonding, and so I’ve had to resort to paper and pen for the creation of my musical works.

As I sit on a windowsill in my room and watch the driveway for the tell-tale bicycle or Rolls-Royce, I remark that this will probably be my time coming to the estate for at least a couple of years. I’ve gotten hired at a studio in Seoul and I’m going to be too busy to spare time to come down here until I’ve secured my spot as a producer there.

This will be my last year as a child with no worries about taxes or money or other adult concerns. I’m eighteen now. Looking around at the room where I spent my childhood and remarking upon how much things have changed from the times when I was seven, eight, brings a rueful smile to my face. Those days of spending most of my waking hours wandering the grounds with Jungkook and stealing fruit from my mother’s orchard together are over.

A familiar car rolls onto the driveway and I hurriedly jump off my windowsill and run downstairs to the sight of the housekeeper, Miyeon, opening the door for Jungkook and his family. As soon as the chestnut haired boy sees me, he smiles and calls out, “Hyung! You dyed your hair again!”

“I guess,” I grin as I ruffle my silver hair. From behind Jungkook, his father emerges with some of their luggage and I cock my head to the side in confusion. “Are you going to live here with us Mr. Jeon?” I ask jokingly, not even expecting the gruff nod in return.

My face slowly changes from a smile into a look of shock as Mr. Jeon explains that they had arrived at their house only to find out that rats had infested the place while they were away. “I’m quite sorry about this, Yoongi, but we have nowhere to go and your parents have kindly agreed to open their guest rooms to us,” he smiles awkwardly as he gestures for his son to help him with the luggage. I watch dumbly as a familiar grin pokes its head into the house.

“Hello!” Jung Hoseok’s smile is as blinding as I remember. How can someone’s teeth be as perfect as his? How can someone’s smile be as heart wrenching as his?

“You – you dyed your hair?” is what my awkward ass says instead of a greeting. Indeed, the red locks at the wedding have been replaced with a natural black, making him look that much hotter. I thought he was hot with red hair but now…

“Yup! Looks like I’m not the only one that changed up their style recently,” he replies as he lugs more carriers into the house, and that’s when I realize that I should be helping, not just watching like a nitwit. When I reach out to help, however, hyung just shakes his head and says, “I’ve got this, kiddo. If you really want to help, you could carry some stuff from the car inside, that would be great.”

I try not to dwell on the fact that he called me ‘kiddo’ for too long, but it does make me frown seeing as he’s only five years older than me, not two decades. Is that really how hyung sees me? He moves aside as I make my way out the door and over to the car where three more bags and two human beings are waiting. I greet the two and we agree to each carry one more bag into the house.

 

(o)

 

I enter my father’s study to find both my parents there. “How come you didn’t warn me?” I start, but I’m not really mad, just unsettled at the huge change.

My mother grimaces as she begins. “Well, the call came not even minutes before they arrived. We’re sorry for not consulting with you, but we knew that you wouldn’t have a problem with it since you and Jungkook are so close.” I shrug at that and she takes that as a cue to continue, “The bedroom arrangement isn’t going to change all that much. You just have to move into your grandfather’s old room, and Hoseok hyung will stay in your room.”

My eyes widen at that and as I start to sputter and protest, my father waves me off with one hand, “Give Hoseok hyung your room just for a couple of weeks while the exterminator does their job. It’s bigger than your new one. Don’t worry about moving things over, I’ve already told Miyeon-ssi to take care of it. Just your clothes and papers will suffice for now.”

I sigh in disbelief as I realize what this means. “I have to share the washroom with hyung! I don’t even know him yet and you want me to share a toilet with him? There isn’t even a door for privacy!”

“We’ve arranged for a curtain to be installed later today. Until then, just use the washroom downstairs,” my mother explains as my disbelief increases. “We understand that this arrangement is a very big change that you were unprepared for, and in order to make up for it we made your favourite dish for lunch?” Her inflection reveals that she’s unsure whether I’m willing to accept her peace offering. There’s an uneasy grin on her face.

“Fine,” I sigh. I glare at both my parents as they both give me identical smiles. “I expect extra servings of crab only for me, and you have to arrange for me to be served first.” A smug grin spreads on my face as I reveal that I never was angry in the first place. My parents’ grins turn into real ones and my mother pulls me in for a hug.

“My handsome boy, so understanding, hmm?” she whispers into my hair and I nod in agreement.

 

(o)

 

I return to my room to find Hoseok hyung already unpacking his things on the bed. He looks up at me when I enter, and he gives me an uneasy smile. “So Yoongi, huh?” I nod. “How old are you?” hyung leans back against the headboard.

“Eighteen,” I murmur as I stare at the clothes laid out on the bed. There’s a lot of Supreme and other Hypebeast shit, and I can spot several bucket shaped hats, but are those covered in fur? “The fuck are those?” I mutter as I point at the offending pieces of headwear. Bell-shaped headass.

“Mhm?” hyung hums contentedly. He looks at where my finger is directing and laughs. “Those are my babies. Wanna try them on?” after looking at the expression I make, he laughs and continues to unpack.

Suddenly a loud ringing noise echoes in the air, and hyung looks at me expectantly, but instead of answering, I take the opportunity to stare at his features. Jung Hoseok has a ski slope nose that’s as sharp as Mount Everest, and his smooth, bare face is tan with a warm flush to it. There’s a mole on his upper lip that you can’t notice unless you’re looking carefully at the details, and as it catches my eye I continue to stare at the endearing mark.

The brown mole contrasts so well with hyung’s pink lips and it’s so fucking beautiful and it matches his personality so well – don’t ask me how I decided that. When he smiles his mouth forms a heart and looking at it makes my heart stutter and I just want to squish his cheeks and –

“Yoongi?” Hoseok hyung is looking into my eyes as he reaches out to touch me, and that snaps me out of my stupor. How fucking embarrassing.

My face burns as I realize that I got caught staring at hyung point-blank. “T-that’s for lunch. We’re having marinated crab for lunch, and our cook is the best around here. I-it’s really good?” I can’t look at his face anymore and that fucking smirk of his; how the fuck can someone go around looking that handsome without trying?

“I actually ate on the flight so I’ll pass. Maybe next time,” hyung flops onto the bed, knocking over some shirts. “I’m ready to take a nap, actually. I’m hella tired.”

I try to hide my disappointment as I reply, “Okay, hyung. I’ll let everyone else know.”

“Later,” he mutters before turning away. 

He doesn’t wake up until dinner.

 

(o)

 

As per my parents’ promise a curtain is installed in the evening, after hyung wakes up, and we both take turns with our showers. I’ve discovered that Jung Hoseok has a nice singing voice and is a pretty decent rapper as well.

 

(o)

 

Jungkook and I are swimming in the stream when noona joins us. Over the past couple of days Dawon noona and I have gotten pretty close if I do say so myself. She has the same nose as Hoseok hyung, and her smile is just as beautiful. Turns out noona is also interested in fashion, and that leads me to guess that maybe it runs in the family. She’s so warmhearted and funny, and the conversations that we’ve had so far are comfortable and satisfying.

We start a game of Marco Polo, the three of us, and the game is going well when hyung arrives wearing a pair of swimming trunks and nothing else.

It’s kind of interesting how much hyung’s naked torso affects me. I would run an experiment if I could. The slight, defined abs and the light happy trail makes me look away but itch to see more at the same time. I’ve seen plenty other abs in my lifetime, six packs that are way more defined that Jung Hoseok’s, but my stupid heart flutters when hyung’s tan perfection glistens in the warm sunlight as he splashes me with a shit ton of water.

Jungkook’s already caught me blushing when hyung’s limbs accidentally grazed mine, and he keeps giving me these weird looks and smirking. The asshole keeps pushing me towards hyung and my hushed threats of castrating his tiny dick aren’t going through his thick skull at all.

The object of my not-so-secret desires is as oblivious as a walnut and continues to make skin-to-skin contact with me, to my horrified dismay, and I want to confess just so I don’t have to look at Jungkook’s poorly hidden smirks whenever he catches me blushing. I can’t tell if hyung is oblivious or just straight as fuck. I think even noona has noticed at this point; she keeps giving me sad smiles whenever I’m going through a new episode of flushing furiously. She’s literally this close to giving me a pat on my fucking back.

At this point we’ve switched over to water polo since we have an even number, and of course Jungkook, being the fucktard that he is, begged and begged to be on the same team as his new noona, and now by default hyung and I are together. I swear the dipshit gave me a wink before wading over to his side of the stream.

As soon as the game starts it’s obvious who’s taking it seriously and who’s not, as Jungkook is naturally very competitive and the new additions to the family are also very motivated. That leaves me, Min Yoongi, resident rock, to float in the cold water all by myself as the other three go at it with an almost flat rubber ball they’d dug up from the garage somewhere. Sometimes a particularly big splash from the players leaves me spluttering, and I’m willing to bet that in not even ten minutes this is going to turn into a water fight.

It's nice, looking at the way the three interact. Jungkook's grown a lot this past year, and as he's started working out, his previously gangly form is now much fuller, almost bigger than Hoseok hyung. Noona is smiling a lot, and seeing her happy puts a grin on my face. She's really good at aiming, and with the brute strength of Jungkook, Hoseok hyung is having a hard time keeping up.

"Yah! Yoongi-yah! Come help hyung beat these munchkins up!" hyung yells at me when noona scores another point. There she goes to high five the youngest. I just shrug nonchalantly in return. I'm not interested in wasteful calorie burning. I'd rather save my energy to operate my brain and get more work done on the song I'm currently writing.

"Yoongi hyung is a human snail, he's never interested in any sports unless it's basketball," Jungkook comments. Hoseok hyung's eyes visibly widen at that and it makes me frown.

"What, surprised that I'm capable of playing basketball? Of throwing a ball? Or was it my height that threw you off, maybe?" I glare as hyung raises his hands in the air as a sign of surrender. "Good," i mutter as I go return to my previous endeavour.

"I was just surprised, that's all. You didn't need to twist my reaction like that," hyung mutters under his breath. I kick water in his direction at that, and he yelps before letting out a laugh. "Sorry, sorry. I get where you're coming from." I give him a small grin and in return hyung sends an amplified, sunnier smile in my way, making me momentarily dazed and unable to do anything but just stare at his face until he turns away and continues with the game.

When a particularly hard throw from Jungkook has the ball landing on my shoulder, I stand up, clutching my abused appendage, and the perpetrator yells out an apology. Hoseok hyung makes his way over to me with a worried look on his handsome face, and as he gets closer and closer I unconsciously start to take steps backward. When he finally reaches me, I gulp and give him a small grin. I hope it passes as a grin.

“Yoongi-yah, are you hurt?” there’s genuine worry in his eyes and I don’t know how to react to his naked torso being so close to me.

“Um yeah, I’m fine,” I murmur, unable to look in his eyes and instead focusing on his lip mole.

“No he’s not! I throw really hard!” Jungkook pipes up from behind hyung and I give him a wide stare as I try to signal him to stop. “Yoongi hyung just wants to pretend he’s strong! Hyung you have to give him lots of care and attention!” I hiss at the youngest, and he sticks his tongue out at me. So much for a sidekick.

“Is that so?” Hoseok hyung raises an eyebrow and he comes even closer and I shake my head desperately as I move backwards. “Just – just stop moving for a sec, will you?” hyung reaches out and grabs my ‘injured’ shoulder with his hands and his hands are so fucking soft and warmth spreads throughout my body from where he’s touching me and this bare contact is making my heart contract uncomfortably – am I having a heart attack?

Jung Hoseok starts to knead my shoulder with both hands and I immediately step back, away from his heat, and raise my hands to ward him away from me. “What the fuck?” Never mind the fact that it felt good, just having Hoseok hyung’s hands on me is enough for me to start sweating anxiously. He’s touching me – he’s fucking touching me for the purpose of touching me and not just by accident, and I think I’m going to have a fucking aneurysm from how good this touching of his feels.

When hyung just makes a move to reach for my shoulder again I drop into the water instead of having to suffer from the contact again.

When I emerge, hyung is looking at me with a weird look in his eyes – is that weirded-outed-ness? “What’s wrong with some skin-to-skin?” Jungkook, the bastard, yells out, and the look in hyung’s eyes disappears and he moves to get out of the water. “Wait, hyung, where are you going?” the youngest asks.

Hoseok hyung just wrings the water from his trunks and grunts, “I’ve got stuff to do in town.” Before any of us can protest, he is hopping onto his bicycle and riding away with a hasty “Later,” thrown over his shoulder.

I watch his retreating figure until Jungkook splashes water at me and accuses, “Now look at what you did! You made things awkward!” I whip around to retaliate, but noona is already there, splashing him with a scolding.

“That was your fault for taking things too far,” noona speaks, and I realize that my friend here is not Jungkook, but the oldest of us.

 

(o)

 

That night I hesitate in the washroom that separates our two rooms, clutching a piece of paper in my hands that reads, “Sorry for overreacting, hyung. Truce?” I sit on the toilet in the darkness as I debate with myself just how I could deliver the note. Should I leave it on hyung’s bed? On the desk? Taped to the door?

I’ve already spent minutes debating useless details, and I know deep down that I’m just stalling. I’ve never been that good at expressing my feelings to other people, and while I know that there’s no dark secret written on this piece of paper, it scares me nevertheless.

I really don’t want things to stay awkward between Hoseok hyung and I the whole time they’re staying over – I really want to get to know hyung better, but the way he always calls out, “Later,” and disappears just bothers me. It’s like we both know that this ‘later’ is never going to come anyways. Hyung is just saying that to satisfy the manners that society expects from people. It bothers me how nonchalantly he says it; he doesn’t put in effort in to make sure that ‘later’ happens.

“Do you want to go to town today with me, maybe I could show you around?”

“Later.”

“Do you want to go get ice cream?”

“Later.”

The days that Hoseok hyung agrees to hang out with me are rare days indeed.

It bothered me so much that in the evening when Hoseok hyung didn’t return from wherever he had gone and Junkook and Noona were finished their meals, I complained to my parents about hyung’s laters when they kept waxing poetry about how polite and handsome he was and how great of a son he was. The way my parents had reacted to my outburst had made me realize that I was the rude one. I was taking a simple word and putting too much weight behind it. Plenty of people say “Later,” as a farewell.

Just watch, this is how he’ll say goodbye to us when the time comes, with his “Later.”

“What the fuck are you doing on the toilet in the dark?”

I whip my head up as Hoseok hyung turns the light on and stands at the entrance, looking bigger than ever. Maybe he sees the look in my eyes, maybe it’s my expression, but when he sees my face all he does is walk over, without a word, to where I’m sitting on the toilet – with the lid closed, of course – and kneels in front of me. There’s a tension in the air as there’s something in between us, this, this, huge thing, this important thing that can’t ever be acted upon, and it just breaks my heart because it’s my fault. It’s my fault for liking him, for, for putting him in this position where he’s not even aware why there’s this tension inbetween us.

It’s my fault for acting so weird around him whenever he’s around – who was I kidding when I fooled myself into thinking that Hoseok hyung hadn’t noticed? Of course he did, and that’s why he left today, because he wanted to get away from my weirdness.

“What’s wrong, Yoongi-yah?” his voice is so gentle, and I just want to tell him how sorry I am for talking bad about him behind his back, for being a coward, for being a – a –

A freak.

That’s what they’ll call me when they find out. A freak for liking dick when I have one attached to my own body. A freak for feeling weak in the knees whenever Hoseok hyung is close enough, when hyung smiles, when hyung is just hyung.

“What’s that in your hands?” Hoseok hyung’s voice is so gentle, so careful and if this were any other person I’d get mad at them for treating me, Min Yoongi, resident heartless asshole, like some kind of fragile doll. I glance down at the note that I wrote and I grip it even tighter before I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding, and loosen my grip.

It would be kind of funny to show to my classmates back at school how I’m currently acting. The great Min Yoongi stuttering and just overall being an emotional mess? Unheard of. Generalizations and reputations really don’t mean shit when it comes to what a person’s real self is. While it is true that most of the time I’m quiet and generally give off the aura of I-don’t-give-a-shit, it’s mostly because of my leather jacket, the first object that I ever bought with my own money. My reputation could also be credited to the fact that I really don’t give a shit about school.

My friends always make fun of me because of that – Min Yoongi, the Ice King is actually just an introverted, emotionally constipated but somehow caring music nerd that cusses people out because he really just wants to be left alone? Unimaginable but somehow true.

“It’s – I’m – it’s my, my apology, I guess. I um – here just take it,” I shove the crumpled paper into his chest before letting my head fall against my own. I can’t look at hyung’s face as he reads it, so I resort to staring at my pale ass hands. It’s obvious when he’s done reading because, well, it doesn’t take long, but hyung sighs and takes my both hands into his. The difference between our skin tones are laughable, but I can only focus on the sensation of his skin against mine, the feeling of having my hands embraced by hyung’s.

We sit there as the crappy incandescent lightbulb lights our hunched forms and when I eventually can’t stand the silence anymore, I look up into Hoseok hyung’s face to see a small but genuine grin. The slight curve of his lips gives me hope that maybe he’s not mad anymore, and so I gather my wits and pull my hand away to stick it out for a handshake and mutter, “Truce?”

Hyung’s grin grows and for a second, I’m breathless because of the radiance of his smile up close, the way his lips form a heart which perfectly describes the look in my eyes whenever I am graced by the presence of that gorgeous smile. He takes my hand in his and whispers, “Truce.” I sigh in relief at that and a my lips curve slightly, overcoming my previous nervous expression. “But for real, I really need to take a dump and you’re kind of on the toilet.”

And the mood is broken.

I accidentally start coughing and glare at hyung. “Way to ruin the vibe, hyung.” All he does is grimace and point to the toilet. I get the idea and stand up. “Don’t start releasing until I’m out!”

At that, Jung Hoseok starts pushing me out of the washroom with frantic mutters of “Gotta poop, can’t hold it in any longer,” and “Fuck, fuck, fuck it’s coming out holy shit –” That’s when I run out of my own volition, giggling all the while. I’m not into scat, thank you very much.

That night, when we share the washroom as we brush our teeth, I get this relieved feeling that we might be able to become good friends. It doesn’t satisfy my heart, as misled as it is, but it’s enough for me to be able to see Hoseok hyung happy. Said man grinning at me with toothpaste in his mouth whenever our eyes met in our mirror might have helped convince me of that, but nevertheless, I always smile back. I think I really like this hyung.