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Tell Me Again

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There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen

 

~~~

 

Yoongi falls in love with people’s voices.

It’s the first thing he notices about others. Not their clothes or eyes or smiles. Their voice. It’s been this way, he’s been this way, ever since he was little. His third-year teacher in elementary was the first he can remember. Her voice was smooth, almost silky, like she was always on the verge of singing.  In Jr. High it was Mingyu on the basketball team, whose voice broke before everyone else’s and was a little gravelly at the edges for the next two years. Jiyeon, who was a year ahead of him in high school, had laughter that reminded him of the river.  And then there’s all the people in between—his next-door neighbor back in Daegu with staccato intonation, the bus driver on blue route with the chiming greeting, the ticket operator at the movie theater two blocks from his apartment who hums between her words.

Yoongi knows it’s strange to be so attracted to a sound, but it’s not as strange as Hoseok, who falls for mouths, or Jungkook, who goes for hands. It’s just the way he is. The way they are.

Maybe Yoongi’s attracted to voices because they’re so unique. Maybe because he can read emotions in them better than he can on a face. Maybe it’s just a weird kink that he’ll never know the origin of and his friends will continue to tease him for.

Or maybe Yoongi chose voices because he’s never had one of his own.

 

~~~

 

“Hello, youth of the world. Or at least the youth of Konkuk National University. RM here. It’s Tuesday, a whopping forty-three degrees outside, and no, I was not the one who broke all the cereal dispensers in the cafeteria this time. That title now falls upon some other unfortunate soul. I wish you well.”

Yoongi exhales sharply through his nose, a snort more than anything, and Namjoon sends a deeply dimpled smile his way over the mic.

“Suga-hyung here is laughing at me,” he intones playfully, “but I don’t think he understands the embarrassment that plagued me my first semester of freshmen year.” Namjoon glances down to the chat box where Yoongi can write notes to him during broadcast. “‘You have atrocious control over your fine motor skills and will forever be cursed as a walking safety hazard”.  Awww, thanks hyung. What would I do without a support system like you in my life?”

A middle finger salute is what he gets, and Namjoon laughs too close to the mic, sends little puffs of breath through Yoongi’s headphones. He scoots back without Yoongi having to remind him that they’re not doing ASMR here, just far enough away to rest his chin in a palm as he delves into a story that happened to him today, something off script, something about the psych class he TA’s for, something about how a coconut both produces milk and has hair and is therefore a mammal, at least according to one student. One student that bled into five students that tipped the class into a heated debate about whether human beings truly have the ability to classify natural phenomena. 

Yoongi just… lets him talk. Because Namjoon can get away with this kind of shit. Because when Namjoon speaks like this, his voice loses the usual roughness and goes insatiably smooth; his crushed velvet voice, Yoongi likes to call it, but never to his face. That’d give him too much sway in their relationship, not that he doesn’t have it already. Not that he doesn’t know he has the perfect voice for radio. Not that everyone doesn’t know it. That’s probably why their department head keeps him even when he slips and drops some kind of foreign profanity or ends up on a tangent about gender dynamics in Disney films or talks for too long about his dog or, in this case, phylogeny.

 “Midterms are fast approaching,” Namjoon says, drawing Yoongi back in just in time for him to load up the first track for the night, “so here are some chill study vibes coming your way. Got a particular artist you’d like to hear? Go ahead and text it in, but you’ll have to bribe Suga-hyung for any chance of it getting played.”

The playlist for tonight is pre-selected, just like they all are, and their listeners know it. He gets requests in spite of that, though, and he does keep tabs on what the masses want, even if he never plays directly what they ask for.

(Although, Jungkook did bribe him with street food one show, and Yoongi played a song from the Top 40 and Namjoon still hasn’t let him breathe because of it.)

A string of comments rush through their messenger app, shoving the coconut related ones up and off the screen. While Namjoon jots a couple details on tonight’s (loose) script that he must want to mention later, Yoongi absently scrolls through the requests because he’s not a terrible person, he just thinks most people have terrible taste in music. Point proven when half the songs are already running on public radio and another third are K-pop. They’ve had this slot for months now and it’s like people never learn.  

“Jungkook’s asking for Bieber again. You going to cave?”

Kid owes me more than just lamb skewers, Yoongi types out to him. Little shit owes me the whole sheep.

Namjoon titters, goes back to writing (although Yoongi thinks he’s doodling now because he can see tiny little flowers, possibly a dinosaur, in the margins of his paper from here), and Yoongi returns to his browsing.

Most people just send in a title and an artist and the occasional begging emoji and call it good, but there’s always the few that give a little reasoning, a little story. Yoongi sips his lukewarm coffee, eyes catching on the longer messages.

 

[Maemae842] My boyfriend broke up with me, have anything for a broken heart?

[1996beans] I bombed a test today. Need something 2 rage 2. Kanye??

 [Vante] It’s just me and the moon tonight. Is there a song that exists to make me feel less like I’m the last person on earth?

 

Yoongi stares at his screen, hand still on the keyboard, cup pressed against his mouth, and reads that last message again and again and again and again until all the air seeps from his lungs and he, too, kind of feels like the last waking person on earth.

Yoongi takes a shuddering breath, opens up the music program where the playlist for tonight is running, makes an adjustment, and then forwards a message on to Namjoon.

The current song fades out, and Namjoon watches Yoongi over the mic as he speaks, his gaze soft with understanding. “To the listener alone with the moon tonight, this one’s for you.”

The intro kicks in, something dreamy and crooning and hopeful and warm, and Yoongi watches his screen for the full four and half minutes until a message pops up in the corner, short and simple and enough for Yoongi’s heart to start beating again.

 

[Vante] thank you

 

Namjoon starts to speak about dreams, the theme from last week that people sent stories in for them to discuss, and Yoongi signals that he’s going to slip out for a few minutes. Namjoon nods without breaking from the letter he’s reading, and Yoongi grabs his coat and shrugs it on as he makes for the roof.

Outside he shoves his hands in his pockets, rocks back on his heels, looks up at the sky where a full moon hovers heavy against the clouds, and takes in a breath so deep his lungs can’t quite hold it all in.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s not like Namjoon. He’s not darling and charismatic. He doesn’t have a sultry baritone. Doesn’t have the charming, knee-deep dimples of the wholesome boy next door. He doesn’t work well with most people, doesn’t like to put himself out there, doesn’t like to ask questions, doesn’t like to get too involved with matters not involving life and death or global warming or fighting someone on why Nevermind is the most groundbreaking album of the nineties. Yoongi is, above all else, a shadow of a human being; only in partial co-existence with the rest of the world.

Meant to be seen, not heard.

But Yoongi’s not meant to be seen or heard. He’s just here, unsure of everything from his major to his relationship with his parents to what he’s going to eat for dinner that night (if he even makes it home on time to actually have what could be considered dinner). If he should keep trying to feed the stray cat that lives around the art building because Hoseok’s allergic and the cat really doesn’t care for him or the five subsequent canned foods he’s tried to give it.

Yoongi watches the large, lumbering excuse of a feline blink at him lazily, turn tail to the dish, and trot down the sidewalk and into the brush without a glance black.

If it’s that fat (and picky) then it honestly probably belongs to someone, but Yoongi still finds himself coming back to care for it. Or try to. Hoseok says he’s soft. A marshmallow heart, the kind that get toasted on a real fire so the outside is burnt and crispy but the inside is still gooey.

 

~~~

 

I’m just saying, Jungkook signs, and even his movements are huffy with exasperation, that if she didn’t like Marvel, she should have said so from the get-go instead of waiting to tell me after we watched all three Iron Man movies. In a row. Just saying.

That’s why she broke up with you? Hoseok signs back, brows raised and with a bitten-back smile, and his eyes flick to Yoongi with obvious amusement.

Jungkook notices and doesn’t appreciate the masked gibe. She mentioned some other stuff, but that was the kicker. Apparently, I wasn’t paying enough attention to what she wanted.

You sure we’re still talking about movies?

Have no freaking clue anymore. Jungkook throws in an exaggerated shrug for emphasis, palms raised towards the ceiling.  It was all super vague. Why can’t people just say what they mean?

Hoseok makes a motion of agreement and they high-five each other.

It’s whatever, Jungkook signs again as he sinks back into the chair, and he certainly doesn’t look like a guy who just got his heart broken. I didn’t like her that much anyway.

Attaboy.

Plus, her nailbeds were always dirty. Grossed me out.

Don’t judge people’s hands.

I will if I have to look at them all day. And you’re acting like you didn’t go a week wearing the same t-shirt. Without washing it.

The laundromat on campus is expensive!

It’s like a dollar!

A dollar I don’t have!

Yoongi slams his hand down on the table, successfully interrupting the flurry of exaggerated hand motions. Jungkook and Hoseok went from a Level 2 to a Level 6 in less than twenty seconds, and Yoongi’s not in the mood for this much enthusiasm before he’s completely finished his afternoon coffee.

Both of you calm down, he signs, and he just got out of back-to-back piano studios and can barely get his fingers to move. I can’t think when you’re yelling at each other.

He started it. They both point to each other at the same time, faces equally vibrant with indignation, and Yoongi almost smiles. But if he does, they’ll hold it over his head all week, so instead he bites the soft spot of his cheek and rolls his eyes as he moves to slip his headphones back on. Just remember who bought your fucking coffee.

Speaking of… Jungkook holds out his cup and fucking dammit, why do his eyes have to look like that? Too big, too bright. No one has the right to look so fucking soft all the time. It’s like he knows he brings out the protective instincts of every human being in a twenty-three-foot radius. The table of middle-aged women by the front door look like they’re planning a kidnapping. 

Hyung, can you get me another cup? He mouths because his hands are full.

Are you a fucking beggar? Do you have no shame?

None, Jungkook mouths. None at all. I lost it a long time ago.

We both know you’re gonna buy it for him, so take mine while you’re at it, Hoseok gleams, holding out his own mug and giving it a little shake.

Motherfuckers.

They only smile brighter. Yoongi grimaces but still finds himself standing to grab their cups. He can feel their silent cheers behind him and drops the dishes off at the bin beside the trashcan, then heads for the register. He slows just enough to make sure it’s Jimin working, spots his bright pink head hovering beside the espresso machine, then saddles on up and leans heavily into the wooden counter with a sigh.

“Hey, hyung,” Jimin laughs, leaning down to match his pose. “Get roped into buying more coffee?”

It’s like they think I have money coming out my ass, Yoongi signs, and Jimin laughs as he pushes away to head for the steamers.

“You get a discount, so don’t complain so much. And you’re too soft on them,” Jimin calls out from behind the machine. “I’ll bring ‘em out. You can head back.”

Yoongi taps the counter twice as a thank you, then saunters back to his seat, ignoring a few of the stares he gets on the way.

He knows that their little group can be attention grabbing. Hoseok’s all hands all the time. Well, they all are, but him even more so, his movements larger than normal to capture all the enthusiasm his body never quite runs out of. Jungkook’s quiet until he gets comfortable, and that’s when he’ll start whacking people if he’s not paying attention.

Hoseok’s laughing at something Jungkook’s telling him, but Yoongi’s too far away to see his hand movements. All he knows is that half the café is staring at Hoseok’s beaming face as his laughter bounds across the room, utterly uncontrolled and genuine.

Jungkook’s giggling now, head bent over the table so he can press his cheek to the wood and grip at his stomach, tiny squeaking noises escaping here and there. They’re completely losing it, and Yoongi feels so warm he has to make a trip back to the sugar counter to fake grab a napkin because he doesn’t want anyone to see his face right now.

Yoongi thinks they’re both adorable. Both amazing. Two of his favorite people in the world.

But others don’t think that way. Others aren’t so kind.

Yoongi makes eye-contact with a couple whispering to each other, too quiet for anyone to hear except that Yoongi watches their mouths, catches the insults spilling from their tongues, and as Yoongi walks past them he kicks their table leg and flips them both off when they turn their startled eyes to him.

Chagrined, they duck their heads, and Yoongi saunters back to his table and Hoseok immediately fills him in on the latest story Namjoon just texted him about from the psych class he’s a TA for.

They literally spent half the lecture discussing if fish are wet if they live in water, Hoseok signs almost too fast, and Jungkook slaps the table as more choked laughter spills from his mouth, eyes squished and crinkling, and Hoseok delves into detail about fish fiasco that most likely will end in some deep debate about self-actualization and the individual’s idiosyncratic way of fulfilling inner achievement that Namjoon will, more than likely, try to tell him about when he drops by later. Again.

Yoongi doesn’t find any of it all that funny, but he hides his smile behind a notebook because the others are so into it. Their joy’s a little contagious, a lot actually, and if they find out Yoongi’s got a soft spot for them (read: his entire body), they’ll start trying to mooch barbecue off him, too. Not that they don’t do it already. Not that he doesn’t let them.

Yoongi flips them off, then catches Jimin smirking from behind the cake display case. WHIPPED, he mouths, enunciating it heavily just to be annoying, so Yoongi flips him off, too.

It’s not his fault. It’s not their fault. Someone has to protect them, and if it’s not Yoongi, then who else is left?

 

~~~

 

Yoongi goes to the concert hall on the north end of campus on Sundays. He rents it out for two hours on the mornings when it isn’t booked for an event, and he sits at the bench of the Steinway and just… waits.

There are studios in the music building available to students. Music rooms with equipment, including keyboards, that he uses for class. Classes with assignments. Classes with assignments that tell him what to do, what to play, what to make. But it’s not the same as being at a real piano. Being in a space so large and unfathomably claustrophobic at the same time. Being in a space where he’s expected to play… play what, exactly? What does an original piece entail? Yoongi can’t remember anymore.

Yoongi would play, but he can’t.

Namjoon calls it writer’s block. His professors call it nerves.

Yoongi just thinks all the music is slowly draining from his body, seeping from an opening somewhere in his heart. A ventricular septal defect. That’s what Jimin’s flashcards said when he helped him study for his test last week. All the bad blood mixes with the good blood, slows down the body, eventually kills you.

Yoongi runs through his scales just to break the silence weighing against his chest. He lets the notes linger for a moment before closing the lid, straightening the seat, and responding to Seokjin that he’d love to grab lunch so long as he’s no longer on that grapefruit diet. 

 

Jinnie Hyung [11:02am]

i went off that last week. missed rice 2 much. and ramen. and everything. all the foods

 

Yoongichi [11:04am]

Good to hear you’ve come to your senses.

 

Jinnie Hyung [11:05am]

looks like im only paying for my own meal today

 

 

Yoongi grins at that and tells Seokjin to meet him at the bus stop by the theater, then stands in the center of the stage and looks out across the empty audience and reminds himself that he has time, he has time, there’s still time left. He’ll find something to say. His graduation depends on it.

 

~~~

 

More than just his graduation depends on it.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi doesn’t frequent the undergrad library often. His freshmen year, back during GE classes where he had to take a course for intro piano and another for rhetoric, he stopped in to scan sheet music and occasionally print a report for class. Nowadays Yoongi can get everything he needs off the online database, and he only braves the glass building and it’s strung-out inhabitants when the printer in the music building is out of ink or he’s sent an SOS from Hoseok to drag Namjoon from the sunless void of the reference section because it’s been too long since he’s surfaced for food or water or social interaction and has officially slipped into cryptid status.

“I swear, I just need fifteen minutes, hyung.”

Yoongi looks at him, really looks at him. Namjoon’s hair is past the point of the usual stylishly disheveled hot literature professor vibe he tends to strive for and he’s wearing two different sandals and Yoongi’s pretty sure he had that shirt on the last time they met in the studio, almost three days ago.

His eyes are bright, but not too bright, and Yoongi reaches to adjust his glasses because they’re about to slip off his nose. Yoongi just nods because Namjoon is a mess, Hoseok made a good call on that, but he’s still with them.

Yoongi holds up two hands, fingers spread wide, and Namjoon looks down at them. Ten minutes.

“Got it,” he nods, already shuffling backwards, and Yoongi watches in growing horror as he almost takes out a student with a library cart. The girl swerves just in time, not even rattled, like she’s had to do this before. Probably has. Namjoon’s just as much a part of this library as the books by this point. “Just let me grab one more book.”

One book will actually mean three at minimum. Namjoon’s gone, though, lumbering off towards a section Yoongi’s not sure what houses. The grad libraries are a bit more filtered by subject, one for law and another for medicine and another for arts, but this one houses everything, and according to Namjoon, has a more seclusive desk arrangement and less fluorescent lighting.

Yoongi doesn’t feel like walking around, so he flips through some of the books left scattered across the table Namjoon’s been working at for god knows how long. There’s one for Nicomachean ethics and another covering political unrest in the north and another is a book of American short stories. Yoongi doesn’t know what Namjoon’s working on anymore. None of them do, not even Hoseok. They try to understand, but Namjoon’s in a dimension of his own creation and the best they can do is make sure he doesn’t get too lost in his head and eats a vegetable at least twice a week.

Yoongi recognizes a few of the short story titles from passing conversation, and he lets his fingers follow the scratchy handwriting Namjoon’s left on post-it notes tucked into the margins of one passage in particular.

“Can I check you out?”

Yoongi startles, presses the palm of his hand against the surface of the desk and another against his sternum and looks up to find a student worker hovering on the other side of the table.

It’s a boy. A boy in a silk pajama set. A boy in a silk pajama set with a nametag too small to read who blinks owlishly a couple times, and suddenly he inhales sharply and he changes face like when Seokjin does his exercises for a new role, less like the flip of a switch, though, and more like he’s melting into a different person before Yoongi’s eyes.

“Oh my god, I totally didn’t mean that as a pick-up line.” Yoongi realizes he’s glaring on accident, that he’s probably been glaring for a while. Hoseok says his resting bitch face is bad enough to scare off small children and the occasional dog, but before he can soften his eyes, the boy just keeps chattering. “I just meant the books. I mean, checking the books out. With you. For you. Your books. Not you. Because you can’t be checked out. I mean you can. But that’s not—”

A boy in a silk pajama set with a nametag too small to read who’s colorfully cursing in the thickest Daegu drawl Yoongi’s heard since he left home and it’s absolutely, without a doubt, the most beautiful sound Yoongi’s ever heard in his life.

The boy’s talking a mile a minute, and even if Yoongi wanted to say something, even if Yoongi was capable of saying something, his mind has completely blanked on the Korean language and that he is in fact an actual person existing in this moment. 

“Yoongi, will you help—Oh, Tae!”

The word vomit cease and desists, and both of them turn to find Namjoon shuffling up to the table with definitely not just one book. At least six are cradled in his gangly, goose-man arms and he’s purposefully avoiding Yoongi’s hard stare.

“Tae-yah, mind helping me check out?” Namjoon grins at the student worker, one cheek dimpling deep, and the boy must have been praying for a messiah because he just bobbles in agreement and gathers up all the books his own stick arms can hold and shuffles off towards the check-out desk with the loping grace of someone who’s used to being more coordinated with their body but suddenly forgot how to use their legs.

Namjoon grabs a couple more books that the boy wasn’t able to manage and catches Yoongi eye, sends him a quirked brow asking, what the hell did you do to him?

Yoongi shrugs, still a little stunned on his feet, and tries to cool his expression into something more collected, something indifferent and nonplussed and not like he wants to drown in the voice of the kid librarian in fancy pajamas who is apparently on a nickname relationship status with one of his best friends.

Yoongi has so many questions and he’s trying very hard to pretend that he does not have so many questions.

Namjoon’s still watching him suspiciously but slides away when he realizes Yoongi’s pretty useless for conversation in that moment.

By the time Namjoon returns with his bursting bookbag, Yoongi’s given himself a mental chastising, listened to some 2Pac, and chugged half his ice coffee to cool down. The October air helps a little, sobers him up just enough to keep a straight face, but when Namjoon asks why Yoongi looked like the guy from before, Tae, offered to give him a no homo bro-job, Yoongi threatens to play Cher’s “Believe” for the entirety of Namjoon’s show later that evening.

Namjoon laughs and then it’s quiet, the kind of sudden finality that makes Yoongi swivel with an edged eyebrow to question why Namjoon has stopped to block the sidewalk and maybe check to make sure he hasn’t broken a toe on an outcropping of concrete. Again.

Namjoon seems fine. Too fine. Just grins, big and dopey, and says, “God, you’re so whipped for a pretty voice, hyung.”

Yoongi blinks, sneers, then steals his americano because Yoongi bought it and Namjoon doesn’t deserve it, anyway. Namjoon doesn’t try fight him off because he’s laughing so hard.

 

~~~

 

“So, wonderful Konkuk youth; while you have been listening to the regular scheduled mix for the night, I have been subjected to eight rounds of Cher’s “Believe” and four rounds of “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas. For any of you who ever discover our dear Suga-hyung’s identity, I wish you all the best in that unfortunate meeting, as he carries a nasty grudge for someone with such a small body.”

“Make that five rounds of “My Humps”.”

 

~~~

 

SeokSeok [10:52pm]

Hyung wtf???? Joons been singing nothing but “u love my lady lumps’ 4 the past 2 hours

u realize how loud he has 2 be singing for me 2 hear him right??

 

Yoongles [10:57pm]

My bad.

 

SeokSeok [11:04pm]

Now its CHER???

WTF HYUNG  ಠ╭╮ಠ

 

~~~

 

Yoongi drops his bag on a table by the window. His usual one in the back is occupied by a couple getting a little too close over a plate of scones, but it’s Wednesday morning and Hoseok and Jungkook are in class, and he doesn’t need the same kind of privacy they like to have when they’re all together. Yoongi doesn’t really care where he sits when he’s alone; he doesn’t usually have to worry about people approaching him.

(The before mentioned RBF that can scare off dogs comes in handy most days.)

Hoseok gets on to him, though. Says that, as someone who signs, facial expression is an important part of communication and everything Yoongi says usually comes off as sarcastic because his hands say one thing and his face says another.

Yoongi just shrugged and shoved an entire chicken wing into his mouth.

“How can I help yo-oh!”

Yoongi’s breath hitches. He steps away from the register, almost trips into the woman waiting behind him and manages to catch himself before knocking over an end display of handmade mugs and an artful arrangement of organic coffee bean packages. But he can’t apologize to her, and he can’t apologize to the boy from the library who somehow magically started working here in what, the past four days? And he definitely can’t order a drink because this isn’t Jimin and he doesn’t have a pen or paper or his phone and where the flying fuck is Park Jimin?

Not-Jimin-Barista’s blinding, boxy smile is now something smaller, something more hesitant, and Yoongi does the only thing he can in the situation.

He turns around, gathers his things off his table, and leaves the building.

 

 

 

Jungkook mentioned it once and only once, one drunk and lonely Thursday night during finals last year, how hard it is when you can actually remember the sound of your voice, of birds in the morning and cicadas in the summer and midnight traffic and your best friend’s laugh; when you can remember what it was like to be normal. 

Yoongi never thought about it much until now, as he powerwalks away from the café, trying to put as many blocks between him and the shop as possible. Between him and the boy with the beautiful voice. Because Yoongi doesn’t really have anything to miss. Because he doesn’t have the right to be sad after everything that’s happened. Because there’s nothing wrong with him in the first place. Some people can’t whistle and some people can’t swim and some people can’t speak or hear or see or walk and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with them. Nothing wrong with him.

“Where’s the fire?” Namjoon asks after Yoongi throws the door to radio station open, and Yoongi ignores him and presses his back to the cool metal and slides down until he’s curled up on the floor and breathe, breathe, and his heart isn’t beating and hell, his organs need to do their fucking jobs.

“Seriously, you okay?” Namjoon asks again, voice heavier this time, and Yoongi smacks his forehead against his knees again and again and again and again and raises his arms over his head in exasperation.

And then he keels over to curl up on the floor.

Namjoon doesn’t look so worried anymore. This is usual Yoongi behavior, after all. Instead he hums, throws a piece of dried squid across the room for Yoongi to snack on like he’s some kind of feral cat, then spins around to go back to his screen.

Yoongi chews on the squid.

There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s a catch. At least, Namjoon says he’s a catch and Yoongi kind of trusts Namjoon with is life. Emotionally, at least. Maybe not physically. But Yoongi is, according to his friends, a great person to (generally) be around. And Yoongi likes people, likes to listen to them and watch them; but that’s not always enough. Usually never enough.

People want more, and they tend to be disappointed when Yoongi doesn’t have more to give.

Yoongi thinks of the boy from before because he can’t help it. Tae, his mind supplies even though he didn’t ask for it, because the guy’s voice was just that good. Because the way he smiles is like the fucking heavens opened up, like Michelangelo himself dropped the Korean equivalent of a modern-day David right behind the counter of Seokjin’s parent’s café and expected everyone to just be okay with the fuckery of it all.

Even if the guy wasn’t so stunning, so absurdly beautiful; even if he somehow miraculously thought Yoongi was someone worth his time—he’d definitely want more than Yoongi can give. They always do.

Yoongi chews on the squid, but he still doesn’t get off the floor until their show is about to start and Namjoon threatens to play the entirety of the Earth, Wind, and Fire album for the whole two-hour block. Which he would do. Because he’s done it before. And surprisingly people kind of liked it. Something Namjoon still holds over Yoongi’s head.

“Want to talk about it?” Namjoon asks as he adjusts his headphones, leaving one ear free, and Yoongi shakes his head and settles in cross-legged on his own chair.

Half-way through the show Hoseok slips in during a song, hair tucked under a ballcap and his loose tee sticking to his back, like he couldn’t be bothered to change after practice. Which he couldn’t and doesn’t ever and Yoongi always complains about him stinking up the sofa because he’ll lie down on it without showering first. 

Namjoon makes a swipe for his forehead, most likely going after some sweat Hoseok missed on his own, and Hoseok presses a sloppy kiss against the top of his head and drops a coffee on his desk an adequate distance from the keyboard and any stray elbows.

Hoseok strolls over and kisses Yoongi the same way, a bit wetter and a lot louder, just to get a rise from him. Yoongi just sits and takes it because his heart is a little heavy tonight, enough to keep him pinned in place.

Hoseok sets an americano in front of him, signs quickly, Joon said you were mopey.

A blank stare and Hoseok grins cheekily, signs again, Mopier than usual.

Yoongi taps against the cup, knocking some of the gathering water droplets into each other. Lifts his hands. It’s nothing.

You sure?

Yes. Go back to practice.

We’re done for today, Hoseok tells him, but moves away regardless. See you at home.

Yoongi salutes, watches Hoseok kiss Namjoon again, this time on the cheek, this time with less saliva and a little bit more adoration.

“Hobi’s too good for us,” Namjoon sighs wistfully, watching Hoseok leave with that resigned, old-man air of his, like he’s bird-watching or looking at the river scenery or something and not checking out his boyfriend’s ass.

Yoongi raises his glass in a toast to that, (not the ass part, even though Hoseok does have a nice one), and he and Namjoon air clink before drinking.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi clicks his tongue, egging the cat out, but the thing just sniffs at him, at the bowl of salmon, and somehow, as an animal that has the human equivalence of obesity, agilely leaps onto a dumpster and then a dividing wall and trots out of sight.

Yoongi lays on the sidewalk until someone stops to check on him, rightfully assuming that he’s been mugged, and Yoongi waves the guy off but doesn’t move from his spot in the grass for another half hour because his heart. His heart, contrary to the common misperception of his department, is… Well, he has one for starters, and some days it sits so big in his chest it feels like his ribs are splintering with the weight of holding it in place.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s back at the café and this time he has the safety of numbers.

I’m just saying, Jungkook signs as Hoseok holds the door open for them, and Jungkook turns so that they can follow his hands, if he had a problem with me hanging out with other people, that’s not my fault. 

 What the hell? Hoseok grimaces as they maneuver past a table of moms on a group date with their unruly children. He was seriously upset about you having too many guy friends?

Yeah! Jungkook almost takes out a girl passing by, and he bows so low his head almost knocks against his knees. When he raises back up, he’s in full-story mode again and completely misses the dazed expression of the girl who looks like she just had an out-of-body experience. Jungkook definitely has that effect on people. He even said ‘It’s either me, or them. Choose.’ Like what the hell? Of course I’m not going to pick him.

What a dick, Hoseok signs, and there’s an offended gasp from behind them. Yoongi turns to see one of the mothers shielding her toddler’s eyes; like the kid even knows what a middle finger means.

Hoseok still bows in apology, smile so blinding the mother looks a little shell-shocked for a moment. It’s enough time for them to scurry down the row to their table in the corner, the one with the plush velvet sofa and long table, and Yoongi plops into the overstuffed monstrosity and almost passes out.

A foot prods some life back into him. Rough day? Hoseok mouths and Yoongi just waves his hand around in vague motions, much like how he’s feeling.

Professors don’t seem to realize that students take other classes besides theirs. Seriously, I have enough homework this week to last me until new year’s.

You know what’ll make it better? Jungkook asks, eyes lighting up as he pulls out his laptop and a stack of books. Hoseok catches on and leans into the table. 

Coffee, they mouth at the same time, and their smiles are blinding when they turn to Yoongi.

Yoongi side-eyes them. You both finally buying?

Jungkook curls his lip a little in a pout, but Hoseok just reaches over to pat Yoongi’s knee. You’re so funny, hyung. I want a raspberry vanilla latte today.

Usual for me, Jungkook motions, attention already drifting to his paper that he, once again, has procrastinated on. Until the end of the semester, Yoongi expects to see Jungkook on the floor of his living room more often than he already is.

Yoongi scowls at them but still makes for the counter. He knows he lets them walk all over him. If he had just put his foot down years ago, this wouldn’t be happening, and he’d probably be able to afford a better apartment by now or some new sound equipment. One of his speakers is blown and he could use a replacement, but he also enjoys, you know, eating during the week.

Yoongi slows as he approaches the counter, searches for a familiar head of pink, and when he doesn’t find it, starts an internal meltdown session because fucking shit, he’s not prepared for this again.

A few seconds pass and Jimin swings into view from behind the steamer, and Yoongi makes a beeline for the register.

Jimin squeaks when Yoongi’s hand slams down on the wood.

“What the hell, hyung?” Jimin hisses, eyes laughably wide, but Yoongi’s hands are already flying.

What the hell? WHAT THE HELL? Where the fuck do you think you went without telling anyone, Park Jimin? Do you know the embarrassment I went through because you decided to cop out of your shift, you complete dickhole?

Jimin looks dazed. Yoongi wonders if he actually caught any of that. “Did you just call me an asshole?”

No. Dickhole. Dick, Yoongi makes an exaggerated motion that Jimin looks absolutely mortified by, hole. Dickhole.

“Hyung, you can’t do that in public.”

Dick, Yoongi smirks, lazily dragging his hand through the air before plunging it into the other, hole.

Jimin drags a hand across his face and glances over his shoulder to where the group of mothers (as well as several other tables) are watching them with various expressions of distaste, insult, and some in just utter confusion.

Now we’re even, Yoongi mouths after tapping the counter to get Jimin’s attention and lifts his hands to sign again. Mine and Jungkook’s usual, and Hope wants a vanilla latte with raspberry.

“You’re such a jerk, hyung,” Jimin whines, but he’s already writing on the cups and moving away from the counter. “I don’t know why I’m friends with you.”

Yoongi knocks the counter twice as a thank you and doesn’t think much of anything until five minutes later when a body lopes up beside his sofa. Yoongi looks over, is about to thank Jimin and maybe even apologize because he’d hate if the guy got fired for Yoongi’s public indecency even though Seokjin’s a pusho--

This is not Jimin.

It’s the boy from last time. Or the man. He’s got one of those ageless faces. Ageless and ethereal and oh holy hell he just called an actual fucking living person ethereal.

The guy is staring at him, too, mouth agape, like he’s recognized Yoongi and that’s not possible because they’ve had a combined three total minutes of interaction and he can’t remember Yoongi. Yoongi’s not that memorable.

 “For Yoongi-ssi?” The guy finally says, holding out his tray a little, and if Yoongi thought the guy’s voice was great before, hearing his name is so absolutely perfect he feels goosebumps rise up and down his arms.

If Yoongi could speak, he’d be speechless.

Yoongi zeros in on his nametag, larger and closer up this time, and spots in bulky letters the name “TaeTae” with a purple heart sticker beside it.

“Or not?” The boy, TaeTae (Namjoon just called him Tae, just Tae should be fine) is still smiling, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes and he makes as if to take a step back. “Sorry, my bad. Jiminie said ‘the surely looking guy in the corner who looks like he’s hates the world’ and ohmygod, not that you look like some kind of serial killer or anything, I mean, you did look a little angry but I mean, I would be to if I had to listen to that group of PTA moms chatter away about the most organic brands of oatmeal for an hour, which I guess I kind of have to and oh shit, I really shouldn’t be mouthing the other customers or crap, I just cursed on the job I’m not supposed to curse on the job fuck, I’m really sorry—shit.”

Yoongi, quite honestly, would listen to this guy talk about organic brands of oatmeal for hours. No complaints.

Tae covers his face for a moment with one hand and balances the tray with the other, and after a few deep breaths, drops his arm back to his side to give Yoongi the most practiced and polite grin he’s ever gotten from a customer service worker.

“Yoongi-ssi?”

Yoongi feels his head wobble in what he hopes is a nod.

“I have a vanilla latte with raspberry, an iced americano with two pumps of hazelnut, and one house blend with a shot of espresso?”

Yoongi does another half nod, bobble motion and Tae sets the cups down on what little space remains of their table that isn’t covered in laptops or textbooks. His movements finally gather the attention of Jungkook, who blinks up at the stranger and immediately looks away again, obviously trying to play his shyness off as indifference.

Hoseok, on the other hand, is staring at the guy like he’s some kind of fucking glow worm.

“Have a good day,” Tae bows low, and Yoongi wonders if he’s imagining the way he skips back to the counter, like he can’t get away from their table fast enough.

When Yoongi drags his gaze back to the others, Hoseok mouths, What the ever-loving fuck was that?

What? What happened? Jungkook signs, then makes grabby hands for his cup. Hoseok pushes it closer to him. What’d I miss?

Hyung totally just got hit on by a guy with the most amazing mouth I’ve ever seen.

Jungkook inhales sharply mid-sip and starts choking.

What? He motions, arm swinging wide like his face can’t convey enough of his disbelief. What’d he do? Did he ask you out? Hope-hyung, are you cheating on Namjoon-hyung?

Only cheating on his mouth, Hoseok signs without looking away from Yoongi. His eyes are still bulgy and weird, like he wants answers but doesn’t know the questions to ask to get them.

He wasn’t hitting on me, Yoongi signs before grabbing his coffee. He was just rambling or something.

He seemed cute, Jungkook finally responds after a thoughtful moment. Weird, but cute. Nice hands.

Then you ask him out.

Not my type, and Yoongi doesn’t miss how his eyes flicker to the front counter where Jimin is taking an order with that brilliant smile of his that Yoongi’s not sure how he keeps on all the time. Doesn’t he get tired of smiling all day? Doesn’t he run out of them?

Yoongi doesn’t comment on the glance. Jungkook needs to file his shit himself.

He was totally trying to flirt, Hoseok jumps in, back to half reading his books and half watching Yoongi with a smug expression. I could only hear parts, but he was real flustered.

Maybe he’s just jumpy by nature.

Or maybe he thinks you’re super hot and wants to get a little somethin’ somethin’, you know?  This is followed by a few suggestive brow wriggles and hand motions that would get them in more trouble if the PTA moms were still here.

Yoongi scowls at him. Fuck off, he mouths.

Hoseok just shrugs and signs, You need to accept that you are in fact super hot, hyung, and not some sort of soggy piece of toast. Hoseok taps the table. Right, Jungkook?

What? Jungkook mouths, looking away from his book, signs, I missed that.

Isn’t hyung super hot?

Jungkook chokes again and blushes all the way to his ears. Despite his embarrassment, he takes one long drag of Yoongi’s face like he’s seeing him for the first time, like Hoseok is actually asking a serious question, and Jungkook just nods a little to himself and then mouths, Yeah. He is.

Yoongi rolls his eyes and signs, You both are ridiculous and I’m never buying you coffee again.

You always say that, hyung, Hoseok gleans, settling into his seat to read.

This time I mean it.

Sure you do.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi really doesn’t buy them coffee. For a week.

After that they both apologize and promise not to bring up the bumbling barista with great hands and the peculiar smile ever again.

 

~~~

 

“Hello, hello, youth of Konkuk University. We have a lovely sprinkling of snow on the grounds, pumpkin spice lattes are officially on the menu at the campus coffee shop, and I just want it to be public knowledge that I am the one who broke the colored printer in the undergrad library, and I’m deeply apologetic for any inconvenience this may cause my fellow students.”

No one in the messages is really surprised by this (already common knowledge), but Yoongi still shares a few of the more colorful comments with Namjoon. They took bets on how many times he’d get cussed out. Namjoon stayed low and Yoongi smirks over his computer screen when two paragraphs of angry art student comes through, pushing Yoongi back into the lead.

“Fine. Coffee on me. Sorry for having more faith in humanity,” Namjoon bemoans during a song break, and Yoongi grins as he flits through the messages, searching for the best comments but none that are actually mean. Namjoon’s a little too tender for that.

He stops on one, but it’s not an upset student. Just a familiar screenname. A familiar message.

 

[Vante] I met a boy. A stunning boy. Can you have your heart broken by someone you’ve never spoken to?

 

Yoongi rubs his palms against his thighs and thinks, yes, yes, yes you can, you can, you absolutely can.

Namjoon stops chattering when Yoongi tells him he’s changed the playlist again. This time he doesn’t forward the message, though, just lets Namjoon think what he wants when the track, an intimate acoustic ballad, and by a Korean artist no less, begins to play.

He gets a text almost immediately.

 

Guk [8:17pm]

someone break up with u hyung?

 

Old Man [8:17pm]

It’s a request.

 

Guk [8:18pm]

ur playing alot of requests lately

lots of sad ROMANTIC requests

≖_≖

 

Old Man [8:18pm]

Since when do you use emoticons??

 

Guk [8:18pm]

Jimin

 

Old Man [8:19pm]

Uh-huh. Wanna talk about the sad romance there?

 

Guk [8:19pm]

ఠ_ఠ

???

 

Old Man [8:19pm]

Nevermind

 

Guk [8:20pm]

 

Old Man [8:20pm]

 

The song finishes. The original track that was next on the list begins, an edgy synth-pop mix that clashes with the wistful mood in the studio. Vante doesn’t respond like last time. Namjoon doesn’t question why Yoongi’s turning into a total sap. Yoongi finishes his coffee. Signals that he’ll be back.

He has three songs to kill before Namjoon needs him, so he heads to the roof again. He hates the cold, feels it more deeply than most (feels everything more deeply than most), but he needed the sky even if it’s a moonless night.

Except he’s not alone this time. There’s someone star-fished in the center of the space, taking up as much room as they can reach, their form dark in the muted glow of the emergency light.

Yoongi steps back with a hand still on the doorknob but stops when he here’s the humming. It’s not paced enough to be a real melody, but it shimmers on the air, making the roof seem just as intimate as it is large, and Yoongi takes an extra heartbeat to listen and finally recognizes lyrics. It’s the same haunting tune from the song he just played.

Yoongi listens a minute longer because he can. Because it’s what he’s good at. Because the voice is gentle. Because he feels… he feels… he feels.

 

 

 

Yoongi, that night, for the first time in seventy-seven days, writes a song.

It’s short, not a full song by any means, and it takes him an hour. He plays it only once all the way through when he’s finished, then he tucks it away in a folder on his external hard drive, tucks it away in his heart, just this small little thing, and lays in bed staring up at the patch of glow-in-the-dark stars in the corner above the window that Hoseok pressed against his ceiling when they first moved in that Yoongi threatened to take down but never did because his heart, his heart…

His heart.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi hasn’t seen Not-Jimin-Barista/Daegu-Librarian-Boy/TaeTae in two weeks (and he’s had to extract Namjoon from the library twice), which is why, as he stumbles up to the counter, already late for his meet up with Jungkook, he curses himself for being lulled into a false sense of security because it’s not Jimin at the register and where the fuck did Jimin go, his cherry blossom ass was just here.

“Oh, it’s you,” Tae says, and Yoongi might have been mildly offended if the guy’s grin wasn’t so fucking continental enormous.

Tae, however, must take something from Yoongi’s non-smiling expression because his face shuts like a door.

“I’m sorry, that didn’t—that totally didn’t come out right I swear I’m not like, completely troubled by your presence or anything it’s just you, shit. Shit, I’m sorry, fuck.”

The guy looks so totally lost, and instead of correcting him or, god forbid comforting him, Yoongi sticks his wallet back into his coat pocket and leaves without ordering.

When Jungkook asks why he’s late and without coffee, Yoongi promises to buy dinner next time.

Jungkook watches him oddly for a moment more but takes the offer nonetheless.

 

~~~

 

You have a good life, Yoongi thinks to the cat. Jumbo, is what he’s taken to calling her. Tonight the fat thing lumbers around the bowl Yoongi’s left out. Tuna this time. No proper cat can resist tuna.

Jumbo sniffs the food and makes the most animatedly disgusted face Yoongi has ever seen on an animal.

Are you a fucking cannibal? Do you just eat other cats? How the fuck are you so fat? He signs wildly, and Jumbo blinks lazily at him, one eye and then the other, and then yawns.

You have a good life, Yoongi signs this time, squatting down on his heels. Eat, sleep, some mild adventure, more sleeping, definitely more eating. You don’t have to worry about your parents getting old or paying rent or writing a song that doesn’t want to exist.

Jumbo yawns again and the broken bit of her tail whacks Yoongi across the nose.

Fucking punk, Yoongi tells her but still holds out his hand. Jumbo sniffs it and then makes her way back to wherever it is she calls home.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s at a party. Yoongi never goes to parties, even those personally thrown for him, but he’s at this one because the semester is over (as of five and a half hours ago) and everyone passed their classes (Hoseok’s still trying to convince Jimin that an 82 in Human Experience in Acute & Chronic Illnesses is considered a success and no one loves him less because of his grades) and they’re celebrating Seokjin’s birthday now because they were too swamped the actual week of his birth to do it (Namjoon didn’t leave the library for four days and the reference librarian called security after he started shouting at a ficus in French. Yoongi didn’t know Namjoon knew French. Namjoon didn’t know that he knew French.).

So here he is. At a party. Cheap whisky in hand. Eyes following Jungkook because even though everyone here was invited by Seokjin and Namjoon (who tend to have a great sense of character and can sense ableists and homophobes and other various cretons of the earth from three blocks away), Yoongi’s been burned enough not to trust a roomful of sleep-deprived drunks. Physically, vocally, emotionally.

Jungkook has Jimin, of course. Jungkook was quiet with strangers (strangers, acquaintances, classmates, professors, anyone he hasn’t had a meal with, anyone who wasn’t a dog actually) before the accident, so it’s not like he’s missing out on sustaining any stimulating conversation. But Jimin helps translate when he does have a thought or a joke or a story and Yoongi’s thankful for that because as much as he wishes he could help… He just can’t.

“Hi, hyung.”

Yoongi stiffens, lowers his glass where he was sipping the last of his drink, and casually glances to his left to find a boy tucked against the center seat. Only tonight he’s not wearing pajamas or the baby blue apron of the café. Tonight it’s dark, wide-legged pants and a collared shirt with so many buttons undone it’s not quite a shirt anymore, more like a suggestion of one. And loafers, but only half on his feet, curled in on the back for ease of removal. The same way Yoongi wears his.

Except it’s December. Twenty and dropping. Yoongi has on boots and two pairs of wool socks. Not loafers.

Yoongi blinks and finishes off his drink, then turns away before he stares any longer at the guy’s collarbones.

Yoongi doesn’t know why Tae is here. Here in Namjoon and Seokjin’s apartment. Here on the sofa, a Raphaelite painting come to life, for some unbeknownst reason calling him hyung with the familiarity of someone he’s known all his life.

“I don’t actually know if you’re my hyung,” the boy, Tae, starts, and Yoongi side-eyes him again only to find him watching the TV in the corner of the room where a spontaneous Mario Kart competition is taking place. Seokjin is, of course, crushing the what-can’t-even-be-considered competition. “But you look like a hyung, you know? Real serious and professional and tired. Namjoon hyung looks like that a lot, too, and he’s working on his grad degree so I figured you’re also in the grad program but everyone looks serious and tired this far into the semester so I’m really just guessing because I don’t actually know anything about you but that’s okay because I’m told I have too active of an imagination so I can fill in the gaps.”

Yoongi eyes the glass tucked between Tae’s thighs. Tae looks down as well, as if sensing the question.

“Oh, this is just apple juice. I’m not much of a drinker. Alcohol makes my tastebuds sad. Jiminie says it’s an acquired taste but he also one-shotted a glass of wine the first night we met so I consider his opinion an outlier that shouldn’t be counted.”

Yoongi drags his gaze up to Taehyung’s face (avoiding the collarbones this time), and finds Taehyung looking at him hopefully, his eyes clear, unabashed and open. Definitely not alcohol drunk, but buzzed off something a little more intangible, maybe.

He’s got spider-leg long lashes. A mole on the tip of his nose that would be unnecessary on anyone else but on him it’s just right.

“Anyway, your name is James. You’re a literature major specializing in dead languages with a minor in marine biology because you love the ocean and are worried about climate change’s threat on coastal and estuarine ecosystems. You have yet found a way to marry the two topics, but I have confidence in you. You have a gerberian shepsky because you like the name of the breed. Her name is Agnodice, based on the first female doctor to practice medicine in Athens and was really fucking good at it and you should read up on her if you haven’t heard of her. She’s really cool. Most women in history are. You unironically read poetry in your spare time and have a preference for Ginsberg, you actively have conversations with the moon every night, you keep a succulent on your windowsill because it’s the only plant you can keep alive, and you have an irrational fear of garbage disposals.”  

Taehyung takes a sip of his juice and smacks his lips a few times, like he’s parsing the taste of an aged wine. Yoongi watches his bony knuckles and long fingers bend around the glass, hands with history they are, hands with a story. Yoongi watches as he tips his head back against the sofa. Watches as his golden hair gleams under the soft lamp light.

“Oh! You’re probably wondering why I picked the name James,” Tae says suddenly, a little frantic as he sits up straight, tilts his head, smiles at Yoongi in a way that floods him with warmth. “It’s based off of James Whistler. The artist? His paintings remind me of you. He believed that color harmonies and mood were more important than subject matter in art. A lot of his work has this dreamy, atmospheric feeling to it. Nostalgic and delicate and beautiful. My favorite is ‘Nocturne in Black and Gold’. Here, let me show you.”

A stranger just said that Yoongi looks like a literature major with a global warming agenda.

A stranger just said that Yoongi’d pick a dog simply because it was called something cute and then name it after a leading female figure in history.

A stranger just said Yoongi’s favorite poet was a prominent gay activist and that his best friend is the moon and that he has a black thumb but still tries because he cares and that he fears the mundane.

The scent of cinnamon ribbons through the air between them as Taehyung leans in close, jostling their shoulders, and holds his phone over Yoongi’s knee to share his screen.

A stranger just said that Yoongi reminds him of a memory.

That he’s delicate.

That he’s beautiful.

And now he’s showing Yoongi a painting filled with shadowy hues and wandering figures and splashes of brilliant color, an intangible dream of emotion that makes Yoongi ache with tenderness, and he’s bewildered with it all because it’s too much, too soon, too fast.

His cheeks are warm. Yoongi can’t remember the last time he blushed. The last time he felt this warm. Human fondue. Like he’s going to melt into the seat cushions, into his shoes.

Yoongi places his hands on his thighs and takes a small breath, and when he looks over, Tae is wearing this loose, crooked smile and is still looking at the painting with a quiet reverence that Yoongi’s only seen on people in the hushed halls of museums and concert halls.

“Oh shit,” Tae whispers, and Yoongi realizes he was looking at his mouth this time. It’s a little square on the edges. “Oh shit.”

Tae looks terrified, his face twisting and contorting into something mortified and splotchy with embarrassment, wide-eyed and mouth agape.

“I’m so sorry,” he rushes, and then he chugs his apple juice, sets the empty glass on the floor beside his feet, and stands up and walks away.

Yoongi watches the pillow he was sitting on slowly re-inflate, and by the time the cushion has returned to proper plumpness, Yoongi finally lifts his gaze to look around at the bustling room. It’s too crowded for a two-bedroom apartment, like how elevators have weight limits, only an alarm isn’t going to sound because there are twelve too many people pressed into the kitchen. The alcohol is kicking in, everyone a little touchier and more talkative since he last took notice. Seokjin’s all about aesthetics so the only light available is the floor lamp beside Yoongi’s elbow and the Christmas lights still strung around the perimeter of the living room. And kitchen. And the entrance to the bathroom. Namjoon loves Christmas lights.

 Yoongi looks back to the cushion. Because the boy is gone. Pulled a Yoongi. Walked out, almost, without a word. Except he had many words. Many, many, many words.

Yoongi doesn’t have any, inside or out.

“Hyung?”

Jimin’s sitting in Tae’s spot, watching him carefully, a smile on his face that doesn’t curve his eyes enough. Yoongi blinks at him. His head’s a mess. His chest is worse.

“Hyung,” Jimin repeats a little louder this time, reaching for his knee to tap twice. Yoongi breathes in too deep then holds it for too long. “You okay?”

Yoongi nods. Jimin nods. Yoongi nods again.

“Are you drunk?”

Yoongi shakes his head.

“Do you want to go home?”

Yoongi nods.

“Alright. We can do that. Jungkookie wants to head out, too. You up for a pancake pitstop?”

Yoongi’s not up for pancakes, but he nods anyway. Jimin grabs their coats from Namjoon’s bedroom, Yoongi claps Seokjin on the back in goodbye, avoids Hoseok and Namjoon who are getting a little too intimate with the sugar cookie icing in the kitchen. He finds Jungkook saying goodnight to a couple of guys who must be from class, and Jungkook takes one look at his face and wraps both arms around his shoulders and all but whines into his neck. Yoongi huffs but doesn’t push him off because the weight is nice and Jungkook always smells like cotton fabric softener and sea island breeze candles.

They stop at a 24-hour café a couple blocks away known for their waffles and classic jukebox tucked away in a corner that only plays for whoever it deems worthy. Yoongi hasn’t managed to get it to work yet, but Jungkook shuffles back after lining up a queue of classic American big-band music, wearing a cheeky smirk when he spots Yoongi glaring because Yoongi's never kept his jealousy hidden about the matter.

Jimin orders a short stack with strawberries and whip cream while Jungkook goes for salted caramel and hashbrowns. Yoongi sticks with coffee and mooches off the eggs and bacon that come with Jimin’s meal.

Did something happen? Jungkook finally signs to him as he chews, and Yoongi uses a tip on his fork to create a swirl in the pool of syrup on the side of Jimin’s plate.

Just tired, Yoongi tells him, tells them both when Jimin looks up to see them signing and tries to join in. Just tired.

“Want us to spend the night?” Jimin asks. “Hobi-hyung will probably stay at Joonie-hyung’s tonight. Only if you want the company.”

Yoongi wants the company but he doesn’t want to ask for it. But if Jungkook and Jimin happen to start a movie when they get to Yoongi’s apartment, Yoongi doesn’t stop them. And if they happen to steal some of Yoongi’s clothes to change into, he doesn’t stop them. And if they happen to crawl into bed with him in the late hour of the night, one leg each draped across his hips, he doesn’t stop them.

It amazes him sometimes, how words sometimes just aren’t important, and how other times they mean absolutely everything.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Yoongi doesn’t consider himself many things. He's not particularly endowed in the muscle department. He is light on his feet from six years of basketball, though, and going off of Lim Joohyun’s black eye in eighth grade, he’s got a pretty effective upper right hook.

His mom thinks he’s handsome, but all moms think their sons are handsome. That’s their job. Moral support. Lying in the face of adversity. More miraculously, Seokjin mentioned he had a nice face one night. In passing. And he was a little tipsy. But Seokjin doesn’t dole out compliments easily, not even drunk. Not when it comes to looks. He’ll be the first to say when you should return some newly purchased pants.

(Namjoon’s usually the criticized during these situations, but lately he’s been growing into his body, more aware of what suits his lanky frame and that pink striped rugby shirts should not be found in his, nor anyone’s, wardrobe.)

So Yoongi’s not strong, out of his friend group he’s not remarkably attractive. He’s an average cook and an adequate dancer and if you ask him to do basic math on the spot, he’ll most likely walk out the room. But Yoongi is quick-witted, the first to read a situation, the first to reach a conclusion. He notices everything others seem to pass on. He listens.

Which is why Yoongi would like to blame his sudden discrepancy on:

  1. He hasn’t gotten more than four hours of sleep a night since last June.
  2. He’s currently functioning solely on three cups of coffee, a blueberry granola bar, and a vitamin gummy.
  3. He hasn’t seen another human since… Possibly Hoseok on… Wednesday. Maybe. That might have been a fever dream.
  4. The apartment is really dark.
  5. Really
  6. Like really.

 

~~~

 

They both wrote the intro, they both know the fade out, but Yoongi still holds up three fingers in a silent countdown and gives Namjoon a jabbed point when he flips the mic on.

“Happy New Year, Konkuk youth!” Namjoon says brightly, a little on the loud side, enough that Yoongi cringes and slips a headphone off one ear. Namjoon holds his hands up in apology. “RM here. We are back to our regularly scheduled program, another year older, and I hope everyone had a restful break and ate at least one meal that didn’t come from a convenience store. If you didn’t, my mom sent back enough kimchi pancakes to sustain the entirety of the literature and science departments. I’d be happy to share.”

This is not an exaggeration. Not only did Mrs. Kim cook enough for a third of the prefecture, she sent all the leftovers to their apartment because she thinks Hoseok’s losing too much weight with dance and that Yoongi is just twig of a human being, ready to be carried away on the slightest of breezes.

That’s why you get cold so easily, she tells him every time he happens to be near Namjoon during their weekly phone calls. Eat more. Sleep more. You both are hopeless. Did you get the kimchi I sent?

“Suga-hyung wants me to inform you all that my mother is a much better cook than I am. As in she actually cooks, all food is edible, and no pots were harmed in the process. Thanks, hyung. Once again, I appreciate the support.”

Yoongi blows a vague kiss in his direction and Namjoon catches it dramatically and cradles it to his cheek.

“No, trueslow22, Suga-hyung and I are not in a romantic relationship.” Namjoon laughs when Yoongi chokes on spit and has to guzzle his water. “Thanks for thinking that we sound cute together, though. You should see the height difference. We’re flipping adorable.”

Can’t argue with that. But everyone looks cute when paired with Namjoon. Probably the dimples. Probably the crinkle eyes.

“Sorry, robozutter, but I am in a very happy relationship of three years with the love of my life. However…” Yoongi presses his lips together and shakes his head. Namjoon’s smiling hugely and looking at him with happy eyes. “Suga-hyung is available, though, if you go for sarcastic, pretty music majors who like to build Ikea furniture in their spare time.”

Yoongi flips him off and lets him know that the next time he breaks one of Seokjin’s belongings (the current list includes, but is not limited to: their dining room table, dining room chairs, two pots, a lamp, three figurines, headphones, and a pair sunglasses) Yoongi’s going to sit back and eat some chips and watch him get tossed to the hypothetical sharks (because real sharks are endangered and misunderstood and need to be protected).

Namjoon gives him a sheepish smile, chuckling as he moves on to actual topic of interest for the night, but there’s a nervous gleam in his eye that means he thinks Yoongi is serious. And he is. Like 82%. Yoongi’s gonna let him sweat this out.

Compared to their busier seasons, the number of messages is pretty low tonight. It’s the first week back to school and most people are catching up with friends, hitting downtown before the coursework starts piling up and keeps them confined to library carrels and dorm room desks where they want the distraction of a killer playlist and Namjoon’s velvety baritone.  

There aren’t many requests. It’s mainly welcome back messages, a few people asking about Namjoon’s significant other, a few more trying to wheedle Yoongi into a date now that they know he’s on the market. It’s all innocent jest, though. A handful of people around campus know who Namjoon is despite the DJ cover. He’s personable that way, a notable figure in the culture here.

But Yoongi’s obviously never a said a word during their program since its inception last spring. No one knows what he sounds like, who he is. He doubts anyone in the music department would ever guess the ever-elusive Min Yoongi spends his Tuesday nights running sound for the university radio station, bickering back and forth with the resident campus heart throb.

(According to last fall’s online poll put out by an underclassmen that gathered 1,287 votes, Namjoon is the most fuckable TA at the school. A certificate showed up at his apartment, gold foil and everything. Seokjin keeps it hung on the fridge like a proud parent.)

If people knew who Yoongi actually was, they wouldn’t even consider joking about dating him, let alone showing actual interest. He’ll probably remain certificateless for the rest of his life.

A familiar username catches his attention towards the bottom, one of the more recent comments, and Yoongi sips his coffee and tries to not be concerned by the restless fluttering in his stomach.

 

[Vante] Have you ever been in a bathroom at a party and the music is just loud enough to be heard through the door but not loud enough to actually understand the lyrics and you look into the mirror and don’t quite recognize yourself and you feel completely alone because no one probably notices that you’re even gone?

[Vante] That’s how I feel all the time lately.

 

Something startling in Yoongi’s chest wants to fly out. He has to look away from the screen for a moment, listens as Namjoon gives advice about a letter someone wrote in, something about how it doesn’t matter how often you’re there for others if you’re not a friend to yourself first.

 

[Administrator: Suga] I understand that feeling. You’re suddenly aware of how you need to breathe or blink, how your tongue rests in your mouth, that you probably annoyed someone earlier, that you disappointed another. That no matter what you do, no matter what sky you’re under, the world is too vast and you are too small. I get that.

 

Flickering silence. Yoongi looks up over the desks to see Namjoon watching him with a slight frown, eyes roving his face, as if he’s trying to figure something out. Yoongi realizes he’s reading the messages. Their messages.

Yoongi smiles and it’s a small thing, but Namjoon’s appeased and returns to the show, voice deep and tender, a comfort in its own way.

 

[Vante] I feel really small today.

[Vante] A customer at work told me to shut up and that I was annoying. A professor told me my theory wasn’t academically sound enough or something which is just the adult way of saying stupid

[Vante] Sometimes I just get really excited and want to share with people you know?

 

Yoongi knows all too well what it feels like to want to reveal yourself to the world only to get thrown away each time.  

 

[Administrator: Suga] I know, yeah. 

[Administrator: Suga] It’s okay to love something a little too much, though. Wanting to share and spread that love. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

I think it’s beautiful, Yoongi doesn’t write, caring about something so deeply the words just spill out, tumbling over the others, an unstoppable force.

Yoongi doesn’t think about the night of the party.

Doesn’t think of Tae and his eyelashes.

Doesn’t think about all his words. All of his wonderful, bumbling words tangling together around them, leaving them both breathless.

Vante doesn’t respond after that which is okay. Because Yoongi has a show to run. Because Namjoon is still sending him curious, hesitant glances. Because Yoongi also tends to love things a little too much, a little too deeply, and he hates that small part of his heart that doesn’t know when to stop giving.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi actually loves that part, he just wishes it wasn’t set on killing him.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi is remarkably, almost (read: very) uncomfortably, aware of Tae now. It’s no longer just fleeting interactions in the library or the coffee shop, but a flash of his loping form from across the arts quad, the echo of his voice in the dining hall from some unseen place, a glimpse of his smile through the windows of the dance studio. He’s everywhere Yoongi is and Yoongi wonders if Tae has always been here, just out of sight, and Yoongi just hasn’t been looking. Hasn’t been listening.

A quiet “hyung” off to his left, and Yoongi looks over and Jungkook’s lingering at his side, holding out a muffin. Banana-nut. A good one from the café and not the campus coffee shop.  

Yoongi splits it with him as they walk to the music building in a silence that extends further than just unspoken words.

A small breeze kicks up, playing through his hair, making him shiver. It’s cold, even for a winter in Seoul. Jungkook’s arm brushes his shoulder and lingers there before pulling away.

Yoongi’s kept it to himself, but Jungkook’s voice is one of his favorites. Clear and lilting when he sings, squeaky at the edges when he laughs. Always genuine. Always warm. Always something a little more intimate than it should be for the moment.

Yoongi’s kept it to himself because it’s not fair to tell him that. Not anymore.

Yoongi brushes Jungkook’s arm this time, a little overcome, and Jungkook loops their pinkies together. They don’t pull apart until they split ways at the stairs, and Jungkook smiles brightly at him and all the lights in in the foyer reflect in his eyes.

I’m sorry, Yoongi wants to say. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry you had everything taken away.

In his Score Reading class, Yoongi sits in the back at his keyboard, hands on the keys but not actually playing. A familiar position, him and the piano. His professor notices but doesn’t comment, just smiles at him in that soft way of hers that still contrasts sharply with her pressed pantsuits as she makes her rounds. She understands. Yoongi made sure, with the help of Namjoon, that she understood, that they all understood, after last winter when he almost flunked out because he felt so hollow inside he might has well have been a bird.

Airy bones make for great flight, not so much for studying.

Or sleeping.

Or eating. 

He’s better now. Most days. But then there are days like today when Yoongi sits at a piano with sheet music spread before him and he can’t read a single note.

A hand on his shoulder, and Yoongi slips off his headphones and Dr. Lim leans in close, says, “Play what you need to play, Yoongi. Don’t worry about the assignment today.”

They’re supposed to be transcribing a minuet of Mozart, parsing the instruments from one another. It’s simple but delicate work, something Yoongi could usually breeze through. She knows this. He knows this.

But today he’s coiled tight, fingers stiff, and he tugs his headphones back on and works through just the pianist accompaniment of the piece, then shifts over to a sleepy Nocturne from Chopin and then a dramatic Sonata from Beethoven and into an aggressive Allegro from Liszt, just getting more upset the longer he plays because everything is too systematic, too controlled, and Yoongi lets his fingers fly because he’s frustrated and he doesn’t want to be angry because he doesn’t have the right to be angry but he is and he doesn’t know why and he doesn’t know how not to be. He doesn’t know how else to show it but through this, through all the noise.

He stops abruptly, mid-song, breathing too fast, too ragged. When he opens his eyes Eunae is turned around in her seat towards him, wide-eyed and mouth agape. Yoongi blinks at her, still coming back to himself, and looks over to find Chunghee staring him down as well. The few others towards the front are also watching him with restless eyes. Dr. Lim seems ecstatic.

Yoongi realizes three things in the span of three seconds:

  1. His headphones have slipped off his ears.
  2. His cord is disconnected from the keyboard.
  3. He’s been viciously playing aloud for the class to hear for the past seven minutes.

 

Yoongi’s face burns. He gathers his sheet music and his backpack and flees from the room, Dr. Lim calling out for him as he goes. Yoongi’s running as soon as he meets the hall. He almost loses it on the staircase, does lose it on the front lawn where he curls into a bawl in the icy grass under a barren tree and digs his fingers into the earth until he feels the soil cake under his nails.

Yoongi calls Namjoon, lets it ring and ring and ring because Namjoon doesn’t have a voicemail. He gives up, calls Seokjin. It does go to voicemail. Yoongi panics. He was already panicking but now his throat is shriveling up and it takes all his focus to dial in one more number.

“Hyung?”

It’s stupid, stupid, stupid but Yoongi just needs to hear one of their voices.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Jimin repeats, voice deeper through the phone, off-kilter because he’s worried; but it’s still his voice, still high and full. “Hyung, are you okay? Can you text me?”

Yoongi shakes his head. His hands are trembling. He squeezes his eyes shut and listens to Jimin speak to someone on the other line. Music in the background fades out. The speaker crackles with movement.

“Hyung,” Jimin tries again, and Yoongi takes a shaky breath. “Hyung, I’m leaving the dance studio with Hobi-hyung. We’re walking outside now. Are you at the studio?”

Yoongi pulls up his messages, sends him a shaky, ouutsise.

“Ouutsise? Outside? Outside the music building?”

Yea

“Okay, hyung. Okay. We’ll be there soon. Don’t move.”

Not possible, he wants to say.

I can’t feel my legs, he wants to say.

I can’t feel my heart, he wants to say.

He wants to say, wants to say, wants to say.

The sound of crunching snow and heavy footsteps draws his attention, and Yoongi looks up at the same moment Hoseok spots him from across the lawn. He and Jimin both run to get to him, and Jimin drops to his knees and reaches to cup Yoongi’s cheeks and wipe away the tears that gathered there.

“Oh, hyung,” he whispers, voice so sweet and eyes so sad. “My precious hyung, you’re okay.”

Yoongi sniffs and falls forward to rest his forehead on Jimin’s bare shoulder. He’s only in sweatpants and a loose tank top, but his skin is still warm and damp from practice, from what must have been the sprint over here.

A hand on his back, rubbing up his spine, and Yoongi sniffles again and wipes his nose and leans away to watch Hoseok gather up his fallen sheet music and flick away the snow melting into the paper so he can place it neatly in Yoongi’s backpack. He too is only in shorts and a baggy tee, and Yoongi regrets calling them out here.

Hoseok taps his chin and frowns. Stop that. You’re not a burden, he signs.

Yoongi blinks wearily up at him and sighs because he is. Namjoon might be depressed and Jimin might have anxiety and Hoseok and Jungkook might be deaf but it’s Yoongi who’s the trifecta of fucked up. It’s Yoongi who can’t get his shit together.

“Hyung.”

Yoongi takes Jimin’s hand and lets himself be pulled from the snow. His legs are numb, fingers are following. They both walk him home. Jimin has a shift at work and Hoseok has another class, but they wait until Namjoon’s done teaching and arrives on his doorstep with tofu soup and lamb skewers and plans to binge watch a nature documentary about whale song that just happens to have an epic score.

Jimin kisses the crown of Yoongi’s head as he leaves and Hoseok mimics the action on both of them on his way out.

“Wanna talk about it?” Namjoon asks once the door closes, hand resting on the remote, waiting to press play.

Yoongi considers it, but what is he supposed to say to make them understand?

My parents are getting old and I’m not doing enough.

Some days I feel so heavy I can’t get out of bed?

I can’t sleep because I can still hear Jungkook’s screams?

My music has always been my voice and even that feels like it’s slipping away?

Yoongi just shakes his head and hunkers down with his bowl because even without saying it aloud, Namjoon always seems to understand.

“Alright, hyung. But I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

The soup is warm and fills his stomach and a little portion of his heart. The feeling returns to his limbs. He falls asleep halfway through the film on Namjoon’s shoulder, listening to his heartbeat mix with the melancholic sounds of a big blue orca without a pod.

I too am a lonely whale drifting in an open sea, Yoongi thinks just before he slips away.

 

~~~

 

No one thought to call Seokjin to let him know that Yoongi wasn’t dying. (Because that’s the only reason Yoongi would ever try to call someone to get their attention. It’s an SOS, 119 worthy situation when he does, and it’s only happened a handful of times over the years.)

“I’m glad you’re okay, really I am, but when I can’t reach you or anyone and Namjoonie doesn’t come home for a night and it turns out you all are just canoodling in the warmth of your living room while I’m up awake fretting and stress-baking like a concerned housewife with a husband on the frontlines, there has to be some consequences.”

Those consequences include paying full price for all menu items for a month.

Jimin doesn’t mind because he has an employee discount. Hoseok whines so much Seokjin drops it down to two weeks just to get him to shut up.

Shameless, Yoongi signs at him, a quirk to his lips, and Hoseok’s eyes scrunch up over his mug of hot chocolate and he just shrugs like, what can you do?

 

~~~

 

“You’re coming to the party, right?”

The last time Yoongi was at a party, he almost fell in love with the way a stranger spoke about a painting.

Fuck no, he’s not going to another party.

Jimin mistakes his silence on the subject for confusion instead.

Which he is also confused over the nature of the latest intended get-together. It’s still January. They’ve got a couple weeks before Hoseok’s birthday. It’s too early to find out the results of internships and scholarships and such. Obviously too early for graduation or recitals.

“The one for Taehyung,” Jimin supplies when Yoongi still hasn’t made an effort to lift his hands. “My new roommate?”

Yoongi frowns and signs, When did you get a new roommate? Who was your old roommate? Why does this new development require a party?

Jimin narrows his eyes a bit but doesn’t look surprised by Yoongi’s lacking knowledge of his private affairs despite how often Jimin likes to share them. He drinks his tea instead and the furrow between his brows smooths over after a few sips. “Youngjin. He moved in with his girlfriend after finals. Taehyung transferred in last semester and we hit it off. He doesn’t have a lot of friends and I thought a party would be nice. You’re coming, right? It’s Saturday at my place. We’re doing dinner and a movie.”

Dinner and a movie means it’ll probably just be the handful of them. Something more intimate than the last hoorah. Something that won’t allow outsiders. Something that won’t lead to a stunning boy with a stunning voice sitting beside him on a somewhat shoddy sofa again.

I feel really small today.

Yoongi doesn’t know why he’s remembering that now, but he nods because it’ll make Jimin happy and a Happy Jimin leads to, well, a happy everyone. Talk about the sun incarnate. Jimin’s smile always makes his heart flush.

Plus, Yoongi knows what it’s like to be in a place that feels like it doesn’t want you.

Yoongi’s not sure what he can offer this new kid, but at least the guy will have another familiar face in the cafeteria the days Yoongi decides to brave the masses.

“I promise you’ll love him,” Jimin says, his voice warm around his smile, so big that Yoongi can’t help but trust him.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s late. He knows it, Jimin clearly knows it from the seven messages he’s left in the span of sixteen minutes, all various levels of disappointed. Disappointed Jimin is almost worse than a Disappointed Seokjin. Disappointed Jimin is like accidentally kicking a small dog and it looks up at you in utter betrayal. Disappointed Seokjin is when you’ve let your mom down and she hugs you and says it’s okay even when it obviously isn’t.

 

Jiminie [8:02pm]

u promised you’d be on time

PROMISED

(◕︿◕)

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:05pm]

I’m on my way. Sorry. Got caught up with work.

 

Jiminie [8:06pm]

u always get caught up in work

ALWAYS

(* ̄з ̄)

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:06pm]

I have champagne. And wine. And strawberry juice.

You said he likes juice, right?

 

Jiminie [8:06pm]

…..

I am placated (¬、¬)

get your little butt over here  

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:07pm]

Ten minutes.

 

Jiminie [8:07pm]

we just put the movie in. Jin-hyung saved u some bbq

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:09pm]

Thanks Park Jiminie

 

Jiminie [8:09pm]

yeah yeah love u too (´ε` )♡

 

 

Unlike Seokjin and Namjoon’s place, Yoongi doesn’t know the passcode to Jimin’s apartment. It’s one thing to walk in on two of your close friends having dinner in their underwear and another entirely to walk in on your other friend’s stranger-roommate-whose-name-you-never-bothered-to-learn-and-after-four-months-didn’t-want-to-bother-with-asking getting a blowjob from his girlfriend while perched on the kitchen counter.

Yoongi stopped coming over after that.

You’re late, Hoseok signs quickly and then drapes himself across Yoongi’s body in what could be considered a hug. It’s been a long week. Yoongi thinks they might have brushed their teeth together two days ago. He can’t remember the last time they actually sat down to catch up.

Yoongi’s taken to avoiding the café. Picking Hoseok up from dance. Hunting Namjoon down in the library. So far no one’s caught on yet, assuming he’s waiting until their ban is removed to resume buying coffee and that he’s just being kept up in the studio with coursework when really he doesn’t want to take the risk of running into Tae because he’s a coward and not afraid to admit it. At least not to himself.

I brought alcohol, Yoongi signs, lifting the hand with the bag hanging off his wrist.

One of those bottles is now Jimin’s you know.

That’s why I got two.

Hoseok chuckles and takes the sack from him and makes towards the living room.

“Champagne!” Jimin cheers a moment later, which is quickly followed by “wine!” from Seokjin.

Yoongi slips off his shoes and lays his coat along a bench behind the door because the wall hooks are taken. Yoongi stares at a mustard colored peacoat for a moment. Jimin would never wear that.

“Juice!” someone else shouts, and Yoongi rolls his eyes because the new kid is going to fit right in. Jimin doesn’t have anything to worry about.

Jimin’s all about the theater environment when it comes to movie watching. He’s also a slob. Yoongi keeps one hand on the wall as he works his way through the dark and still manages to trip over a pair of shoes, possibly a broom, then rams his foot into a random box. There’s some kind of dance number going on when he slips into the moving room. On screen, of course, but Yoongi wouldn’t put it past Jimin and Seokjin to start an impromptu musical given the chance.

“Hyung,” Jimin hisses from the direction of the sofa. The swirl of primary lights is disorienting, and Yoongi shuffles over and Jimin finds his hand and pulls him down partially into an open seat on the sofa while the rest of him lands on someone’s lap. They inhale sharply and Yoongi pats their chest as an apology. Pecs. Pecs means Jungkook.

Jimin giggles and presses his mouth close to Yoongi’s ear. “Thanks for coming, hyung.”

Yoongi taps Jimin’s thigh twice because it’s too dark to sign, then adjusts himself so he’s properly seated and not straddling Jungkook’s leg.

The scene changes. Yoongi recognizes Emma Stone, her character slipping away from a party into the quiet of a bathroom. Yoongi thinks it’s ironic that they’re watching a musical with two deaf guys in the room, but Hoseok’s been bobbing along with the dance moves, enough to jostle Namjoon beside him and bring out a laugh here and there. At least the movie is in English and they’re all in the same boat with subtitles.

The dance ends. The scenes slip by. Yoongi closes his eyes at the meltingly lovely piano tune that drifts about the room. He’s seen the movie before, with Seokjin in theaters, and he’s not a huge fan when it comes to Broadway-esque soundtracks—but this one is nostalgic and sweeps you off your feet and Yoongi admires that, that just a simple melody can make you want to stop and listen and dream.

For a minute, Yoongi just lets himself feel how tired he is. Overwhelmed and sluggish. A burnt-out stub of a human being. But then he hears Jimin’s bubbling laughter and notices the warmth in the room, how it smells like cinnamon. That it’s calm. That his chest is thawing 0ut. For the first time in weeks the anxious buzzing in his mind has filtered into stillness. Not quiet enough to smother, but just low enough that he could probably take a nap.

Yoongi really wants a nap.

He wakes up partway through another dance number, extremely disoriented and with half his face numb because it was pressed into Jungkook’s shoulder the whole time. There’s drool drying on his bottom lip and Yoongi swats at it clumsily.

There’s a quiet giggle beside him, one with a husky undertone, and Yoongi’s a little confused because he doesn’t recognize the sound.

His gaze flits around the room, finally adjusted to the brightness off the screen once more. Namjoon and Hoseok on the loveseat. Seokjin at their feet. Jimin curled into a corner of the sofa. Jungkook leaning back against his knees.

Jungkook, who he thought was the new roommate.

Jungkook, who is not the one whose lap he fell in, who is not the one he’s been pressed against for a good forty minutes now, who is not the one he just left a puddle of saliva on.

Yoongi looks up quickly, inhales sharply, just loud enough in the quiet of the room for that familiarly unfamiliar face to glance over at him.

A double-take is what he gets, and Tae’s eyes have gone wider than eyes should be able to go.

Yoongi stands abruptly and tries to cover it up by calmly walking to the side hall where he holes himself up in the bathroom. He dabs cold water on the back of his neck. Fake flushes after a minute or so. Washes his hands. Dries them. Washes them again. Dabs more water on his neck, his wrists, behind his ears. Anything to cool down. Knees? Elbows? Seokjin always puts some cologne there because of heat glands or something.

Yoongi can’t stay in here forever. He has an assignment due Monday. The radio playlist for next week isn’t done. Jimin would never keep him fed. He’s killed every goldfish he’s ever owned. Yoongi’s been the chaplain at every funeral.

But Yoongi can’t go back into that living room. He can’t sit beside Tae again. Tae. TaeTae. Taehyung. God, how could he have missed all the signs? Why did he not make this rather crucial connection? How long have they been skirting around each other?

YOONGI FUCKING DROOLED ON HIM.

DROOLED.

For a minute Yoongi just stares at his reflection, tries to pretend that he’s anywhere but here, in this moment. That this is not happening. That he’s another person. Another person who brushed their hair this morning, who has their roots dyed, who doesn’t have dark circles or this random pimple beside their eyebrow and didn’t wear their ugly glasses today because they didn’t think they’d be seeing anyone important.

Taehyung is not important. Yoongi refuses to let him be.

The movie is still going when Yoongi slips outside and he makes a detour to the kitchen. Dinner. That should take up at least ten minutes if he goes slow. And if he eats in the kitchen, that’s another fifteen.

Yoongi’s setting a bowl in the microwave when someone clears their throat behind him. Yoongi closes his eyes, breathes through his nose. He knows it’s Taehyung because that’s how these things work. That’s how they work apparently, with these coincidental moments that always feel like time is tip-toeing around them, like the world has slowed down to accommodate their meeting.

Yoongi turns casually, trying to appear okay and nonchalant and not like he wants to throw up in the sink.

It is Taehyung. He’s wearing wide-legged pants again, blue this time, and a baggy red sweater that swallows him a little. There’s a wet patch on his left shoulder that Yoongi wants to hide his face in the fridge all over again and maybe slam the door closed while he's there.

All in all, Taehyung looks cute and small and kind of like he’s also considering throwing up in the sink.

Yoongi frowns and reaches for his phone to ask if he’s okay, but Taehyung just bites his lip and says, “I’m sorry.”

Sorry? What’s he’s sorry for?

He blushes hard, and when Yoongi continues to stare at him, he just blushes some more. The same shade as his sweater.

“About me. And everything,” Taehyung speaks up. His eyes are everywhere except on Yoongi’s and it sounds like he’s trying to speak without breathing. “Every time we meet I… Well I didn’t mean to be annoying or anything, it’s just that I’m always surprised to see you and I’m never ready because you’re, you know, you, so I kind of freak out whenever I have to talk to you.”

Oh.

Oh.

Yoongi’s vision tunnels inwards, the edges black, and something small snaps in his chest and he takes a shuddering breath because of course. How could he have been so blind on top of everything else that’s fucked up about him? Of course the guy’s been tripping over himself because he’s mute. Of course he’s been a nervous wreck because how do you speak to someone who can’t speak back?

Yoongi lets his eyes wander the sharp planes of Taehyung’s face. His wide brown eyes, those long lashes.

Taehyung looks down at the ground and Yoongi watches his face warm.

He’s angry, but under all the anger rolling in his stomach, Yoongi more than anything is upset with himself because maybe he let Hoseok’s words from all those weeks ago wriggle in too far. Maybe he really thought that this beautiful boy who talks with his hands and compares people to art could have liked him.

Yoongi leaves his food behind. Leaves Taehyung behind.

“Hyung?”

He exits the kitchen and bypasses the living room and hears Seokjin call after him. Yoongi ignores him, tries to find his shoes in the dark and gives up and flips on the lights.

“Yoongi-yah.”

Yoongi shrugs off the hand on his elbow, slips his boots on. Reaches for his coat.

“Yoongi, is everything okay? Yoongi, look at me please.”

Yoongi sighs and it shudders through him. Seokjin glances at his face and pulls him in to hold tight.

I’m fine, Yoongi signs after pulling away, and Seokjin’s the newest to their group when it comes to signing but he knows enough. Long day. Tired.

“Stay then,” Seokjin says, eyes soft. “I’ll heat up your dinner. You can take a nap in Jiminie’s room. Please stay.”

Yoongi shakes his head. There’s movement from the doorway and Jungkook appears around the corner and takes one look at him and rushes forward.

“Hyung,” he says quietly, only when he’s close enough for Yoongi hear. “Are you okay?”

Yoongi nods. Jungkook frowns harder. Repeats the question. Yoongi clenches his fists at his sides and looks over their shoulders to where the others have appeared and this is a nightmare. He just wants to bolt out the door and down the hallway and find a spot where no one can see him. Where he can be small and sad about this and then just get over it like he always does.

Only Jungkook follows his line of sight and watches as Taehyung shifts from foot to foot, then back to Yoongi who feels like he’s going to cry, who must look like he’s about to cry because Jungkook turns away from him, eyes wild with rage, and says, “What’d you do?”

“Jungkookie,” Seokjin whispers out of surprise, and Yoongi places a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder and tries to draw him in but Jungkook doesn’t budge, still glaring at Taehyung.

“What did you do?” He repeats, voice crisp and piercing in the small space, and Jimin steps forward, eyes wide, and lifts his hands to sign and Jungkook just shakes his head. “What’d you say to him?”

Taehyung opens his mouth and the smallest sound of distress slips out. He looks to Yoongi, but Yoongi doesn’t have the words either.

“Jungkook,” Jimin says, hands moving at the same time. “Calm down. Taehyung didn’t do anything.”

Jungkook’s hands move after that, but Yoongi can’t see from this angle what he’s saying to the others. He can see Jimin’s response, though. Furrowed brows, anger brimming at the corner of his mouth, like he wants to raise his voice.

Taehyung’s not like that. This is a misunderstanding. He turns to Yoongi next, hands moving as he goes. “Hyung, did Taehyung-ah say something to you?”

Yoongi shakes his head because he wants this to end. He wants to go home.

Jungkook’s staring at him, still wound up and braced for a fight. Yoongi signs, I’m fine. Nothing happened. It’s just a bad day.

And none of them can argue with him on that. They have to let it go.

Jungkook hugs him once more and then pushes past all of them, bumping Taehyung’s shoulder as he goes. Namjoon follows after, scolding him for his manners, and Seokjin pats Yoongi’s head and goes to try to dissuade the situation.

Jimin takes Taehyung by the arm. Taehyung who is still biting his lip like he’s going to cry.

I could have loved you, Yoongi wants to say. I almost loved you.

Shame and embarrassment and a little bit of heartbreak crushes his lungs, cutting off his breath. The two of them walk away, heading for a bedroom, and Hoseok looks at Yoongi, really looks at him and signs, Taehyung said something, didn’t he?

Yoongi nods and Hoseok’s eyes sharpen.

Let it go, Hobi. Hoseok clenches his jaw. It wasn’t bad. He’s a good kid. Just a little ignorant.

I can talk to Jimin.

Please don’t. Not now.

Hoseok nods, torn, catching his bottom lip between his teeth. That’s so weird. He’s been just fine with me and Jungkook.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe he just doesn’t like me.

Everyone likes you, hyung.

I don’t like me, he wants to say. Instead he shrugs, and Hoseok hugs him as well and Yoongi doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve their kindness.

Text me when you get home, Hoseok signs. I’ll probably leave here soon with Namjoon.

Sorry for ruining the night.

Hoseok’s frown deepens, his face pinching into angles, and Yoongi wants to apologize if only to get him to stop making that little downturned frown. If Jimin picked a bigot as a roommate that’s not your fault.

Maybe it is a misunderstanding, Yoongi shrugs again, and Hoseok stares at him and sighs deeply.

Jimin will figure that out. Don’t worry about it tonight.

Yoongi knows that’s not what he wanted to say, that there’s something more Hoseok is carrying around and wants to ask but knows he shouldn’t breach tonight. Instead he claps Yoongi on the back, sees him to the door (all five and half feet), and reminds him once more to text when he’s settled in.

For once Yoongi doesn’t make a detour, for once he doesn’t play music on his trip home. He just listens to the sounds of the city at night, the quiet murmurings of the people he passes, the comforting lull of traffic moseying by. On the bus he taps a melody against the metal side bar, keeps the song going on his thigh as he walks the next block to his apartment.

He texts Hoseok as soon as he’s inside the elevator, and then Yoongi makes it all the way to his room, face washed and teeth brushed, before he realizes his fingers are still moving. Still playing.

Yoongi doesn’t write the song down this time. Just lets it play and play and play in his heart.

Maybe if he keeps it trapped there it’ll just disappear.

 

~~~

 

Turns out Taehyung is the newest barista at Seokjin’s parent’s café.

Turns out Taehyung was one of Namjoon’s students last semester.

Turns out Taehyung is in Jungkook’s photography class this semester.

Turns out Taehyung loves the color yellow.

Turns out Taehyung wears these round, wire-rimmed glasses that always sit a little crooked on his nose.

Turns out Taehyung hates wearing shoes.

That he can raise one eyebrow at time. Wiggle his ears.

That he can tie a cherry stem with his tongue.

That he can recite the entirety of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” monologue while in character.

Turns out Taehyung really has been here all along.

Turns out Yoongi’s not as good at listening as he thought.

 

~~~

 

Turns out Yoongi might have liked Taehyung more than he realized.

 

~~~

 

“Yoongi-ssi, can I have a word.”

Yoongi hangs back and lets a couple students pass him by. Dr. Lim is waiting at her desk, leaning into one side to face him. She holds out a notebook for him to take so that he doesn’t have to dig in his backpack for his whiteboard.

“I just wanted to check in on you,” she continues as he takes the pad from her. “You seemed distraught after our last class period.”

Fortunately, graduate classes only take place once a week.

Fortunately, Yoongi’s had six days to recover and mold himself into a more presentable version of himself.

Unfortunately, Yoongi thought the simple “welcome back” he received at the start of the lesson was all that would be said to him in regards to his rather dramatic escape last week.

 “Yoongi-ssi.” Yoongi glances up, realizes that he’s gripping the notebook to his chest like he’s about to bolt from the room with it. Dr. Lim’s gaze is gentle, careful, like she expects him to do just that. Again.

“You are my most talented student,” she says instead, and Yoongi swallows thickly at the unexpected praise. “You have an overwhelming amount of potential. But potential means nothing if it’s never acted on.”

Ah, there it is. The scolding. The disappointment. The moment she finally tells him that he needs to suck it up, get over whatever it is that’s making him this ticking timebomb of nerves.

“How’s the opus coming?”

Yoongi thinks of his blank notebook and considers telling her that he needs more time. That he’ll have to extend. That he can’t do it. That the music is gone. That he has nothing left to say.

Instead he taps a melody against his sternum.

Instead he scribbles, I wrote a song.

Dr. Lim’s eyes brighten, a corner of her mouth twists up. “That’s wonderful, Yoongi-ssi.” And she means it. Yoongi can see it on her face that this is the best news she’s gotten all month. At least from him.

It’s only one song, he presses on, embarrassed, because it’s true. It’s only one song. Not even a full one. Just the possibility of one.

“For now, maybe, but beautiful things don’t happen overnight.” Yoongi blinks at that, caught off guard, and Dr. Lim pats his shoulder and turns to settle back into her work. “I believe in you, Yoongi. I can tell you have a lot to say, even if you don’t know what it is just quite yet. Don’t worry. You have time.”

I have time, Yoongi thinks to himself, and he just nods and bows and escapes the room with his head spinning off his shoulders because he only has the skeleton of a song and he needs so much more, but if his leading professor isn’t nervous, then why should he be?

Because it’s only one song, his mind supplies as he pushes down the hallway, through the front doors, legs wobbly as he lands on the sidewalk. Because the only song you’ve been able to write on your own in a year has been the result of an overwhelming interaction with an impossible boy whom you never plan on seeing again.

What if Yoongi’s never able to write a song again because of Taehyung?

“Hyung?”

What if Yoongi’s never able to write a song again without Taehyung?

Namjoon’s standing in front of him, coffee in hand, and Yoongi looks past his concerned eyes and sees that the afternoon sky he left the building with is fading fast into dusk.

“Hyung.” Namjoon looks at him for a long moment, deep eyes running over his face, searching for whatever it is that Yoongi can’t say.

He must find it, find something, because his gaze goes soft with understanding and Yoongi wonders how Namjoon does it. How he reads people. How he just seems to know.

“Let’s go for a walk, hyung,” he says, taking Yoongi’s bag from him so he has one strapped to both of his sides.

Yoongi doesn’t say no because Namjoon wouldn’t let him, anyway. Yoongi doesn’t say no because there’s sunlight streaming in through the cracks of the bare branches of the trees they walk under at an angle that speckles the sidewalk with flecks of gold.

Yoongi doesn’t say no because he knows there’s something wrong with him and Namjoon knows something wrong with him and everyone knows something is wrong with him but no one can seem to figure out just what exactly it is. 

 

~~~

 

When Yoongi was young, they called him a prodigy.

Domestic competitions, international awards, accolades from famed pianists, offers from more than one conservatory. Yoongi could have gone abroad. Yoongi could have been one of the youngest musicians to play for the KBS Symphony Orchestra. Yoongi, quite literally, had the world at his feet. 

His parents, his teachers, the entirety of the Korean Arts Council—no one knew when it happened. Especially not Yoongi. It was a gradual thing. Quiet. One day Yoongi couldn’t imagine doing anything with his life but piano, and the next it was like he had this blackhole of a thing in his chest. Like his insides were empty, and all that remained was a lonely, beating heart, not quite strong enough to do anything but keep him alive.

“Hyung, you need to see someone.”

In simplest terms, the music died, and Yoongi’s been trying for years to bring it back to life.

Yoongi taps a staccato rhythm against his shoe. Looks up at the fringe of shadowed trees. Looks over to Namjoon who is watching him gently. Yoongi doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t have to.

Dead things stay dead, though. Everyone knows that.

 

~~~

 

Another night, another show. Yoongi likes to think he can run from his problems, but sometimes those problems work with you, and sometimes you have to be an adult about it.

(Yoongi remembers three years ago when he tried to avoid Hoseok for two weeks and started losing patches of hair from the stress.)

Namjoon hasn’t brought it up again, the day he found Yoongi outside swaying on his feet with a thousand-yard stare—but Yoongi knows he told Hoseok, who told Jimin, who told Jungkook. Yoongi’s not sure who tells Jin things. Yoongi thinks Jin naturally has a sixth sense for that kind of stuff. (Stuff meaning knowing everything about everyone all the time and if it’s bad enough that he needs to bring them bibimbap to cheer them up.)

(Yoongi’s gotten the bibimbap twice already this month.)

Namjoon doesn’t treat him any differently, though. They still bicker over tracks, still laugh over the comments trickling in. They still discuss the best advice to give their listeners, still surprise each other with coffee, still threaten each other when Yoongi turns the heating on too high and Namjoon too low.

They’re almost to the end of the broadcast. Namjoon’s voice is especially deep tonight, a little rough around the edges from the cold he’s recovering from. Seven people have already swooned in the comments. Namjoon winks at him every time Yoongi passes one on, then proceeds to hack his lungs into a tissue. There’s a growing pile at his elbow.

Yoongi’s better. At least he’s trying. It’s been two weeks since his talk with his professor, three since the night in Jimin’s apartment. Yoongi hasn’t seen Taehyung once. Hasn’t heard him. Yoongi doesn’t know if it really was all just a misunderstanding, but Jimin hasn’t brought it up and the others seem to sense it’s a bit of a sore area which only means that Yoongi’s been showing too much of his heart and that’s a dangerous thing.

There’s only ten minutes left of the program. They’ve got one song left and then closing remarks. Yoongi’s fishing through the last of the comments, making notes for next week’s playlist when he catches the username.

 

[Vante] Have you ever hurt someone important to you? But you don’t know how you hurt them and you just know that you did?

 

Yoongi stares at the marker blinking on his screen. He’s not obligated to answer. He never has been. But Yoongi feels a connection to this listener. Feels like, if he didn’t want to be so invested, he should have backed off weeks ago.

 

 

[Administrator: Suga] Yeah. My mom. My best friend.

[Vante] I don’t know what I’m supposed to do anymore. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here. I just keep messing up.  

 

Yoongi stills, looks over his monitor to where Namjoon’s head is bobbing in time with the music. Unaware.

 

[Administrator: Suga] It’s hard to show people everything. Most aren’t brave enough to do it.

[Vante] You think I’m brave?

 

 

I think you have a beautiful heart, Yoongi wants to say. I think that you’ve made mistakes but mistakes aren’t forever. I think that some people think that they know you even when they don’t, and if you’re not careful, then maybe you start to believe them.  I think you deserve the love you keep trying to give everyone else. 

 

Yoongi stares at the marker blinking on his screen, types out exactly what he was thinking, then hits enter before he can overthink.

Time passes. The final song hits its bridge. Yoongi closes out of the messenger program twice, only to reopen it each time.

“Hyung.”

Yoongi glances over the top of his computer and Namjoon is waiting for him.

“Hyung,” he says again. “I think you have a beautiful heart. I think you’ve made mistakes but mistakes aren’t forever. I think you’ve started to believe what others think about you, even though they might be wrong. I think you deserve the kind of love you keep trying to give everyone else.”

His voice is full of emotion that Yoongi can’t decipher, and as the song fades out, Yoongi’s throat knots up because Namjoon is so warm and so genuine and so, so wrong about him.

“That was it for tonight, Konkuk Youth,” Namjoon belays into his mic, and Yoongi holds a hand up to his throat and squeezes. “Thanks for spending your evening with us. We hope you have a restful week, that you make someone smile, and that you do one thing a day that scares you a little. See you next time.”

Namjoon doesn’t say anything else after that. He cleans up his papers in silence and Yoongi does the same.

He sees that Vante never responded back to him, and Yoongi hesitates almost long enough to talk himself into just leaving. He doesn’t know the kid. He doesn’t owe them anything.

 

[Administrator: Suga] If you hurt someone on accident, it doesn’t change the fact that you hurt them. You just apologize, and if they choose not to forgive you, then you move on.

[Administrator: Suga] Don’t make someone else’s pain your own. It gets hard to carry most days.

 

 

“Let’s get a drink, hyung,” Namjoon says, claps him on the shoulder, guides him into his coat and then out the door into the chilled night. Namjoon stops when Yoongi hesitates at the bottom of the steps again to stare up at the sky, the moon just a brief brushstroke behind the clouds hovering overhead.

“I love you a lot, hyung.”

Yoongi grunts and Namjoon knocks their shoulders, Yeah yeah.

“Don’t look so pained,” Namjoon says, a slow smile spreading across his face, bringing out a dimple. “I’m a delight.”

You’re tolerable. I like Hoseok more.

“Hobi exhausts you. You like me more because I watch those animal documentaries with you and don’t complain.”

Yoongi bites his tongue, purses his lips. He starts to walk and Namjoon shortens his stride to match him. You don’t complain because you like them, too. Who’s the one who picked out the cuttlefish episode last week?

“That was you.”

Yoongi blanches. Well you’re the one who picked the sharks and then the whales and then the North American bears.

Namjoon doesn’t make eye contact. “Fine. Maybe I like them.”

Definitely like them, Yoongi signs, knocking their elbows. Don’t try to downplay your nerdiness onto me. Now let hyung buy you a drink.

Namjoon steps in closer, smiling, then drapes a heavy noodle arm across his shoulders to pull him in close. “I love you, hyung.”

He’s trying to keep his voice light, but his chords go all husky and weird and Yoongi bites the tip of his tongue and taps the top of Namjoon’s hand as if to say, I love you, too.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi finally spots Taehyung three weeks after Big Bigot Fiasco #11, as Jungkook declared it to be called.

(They’ve had multiple Big Bigot Fiascos over the years, and Hoseok and Jungkook voted that the incident definitely be included in the count.)

It’s an accident, when it happens. A coincidence, of course, because that’s the way they work. He’s not at the café or the library or the cafeteria or anywhere near the art quad or the dance studio or the back alley that juts through the science buildings to the bus stop that Yoongi hasn’t used as a shortcut in eleven days because he thought he spotted a mop of gold and a loping gait.

No, he’s on the roof of the music building when it happens. It’s snowing even though it was a high of forty-seven today, big fat flakes that stick to Yoongi’s shoulder and hair and melt on the tip of nose where it juts out from under the hood of his jacket.

He doesn’t realize it’s Taehyung at first. No, first he realizes it’s just the same starfished form from before. Similar build, similar sprawling, lanky limbs. Not many people pick the exact center of a rooftop and lay the way this person is laying, like they’re waiting for the sky to drop into their arms.

If anything, this person could be anyone. If anything, Yoongi should simply retreat back into the stairwell and find another place to breathe.

Instead he lingers once more, just like last time because yeah, this person could be anyone—but it’s not. Because Yoongi recognizes the voice, assured and unassuming and rough at the corners as it hums along to the song Yoongi just left playing in the studio.

Taehyung, Yoongi mouths, surprising himself, thankful that he can’t make a sound because he didn’t mean to call out like that. But he did and Taehyung obviously can’t here him and Yoongi (should) obviously continue to avoid him but that voice, his voice…

Taehyung’s singing a lullaby to the moon and suddenly it makes sense. Something makes sense.

The hopeless feeling that’s been crushing Yoongi’s throat for the past three weeks flutters, becomes something else.

“You okay?”

Namjoon asks just moments before the song ends, and Yoongi just nods because his bones aren’t attached to his muscles and he’s going gooey, melting right into the floor.

Why? he finally mouths, and Namjoon quirks his head and studies him with very serious eyes before breaking out into a grin that strikes Yoongi straight through the heart.

“Because you’re smiling like an idiot,” Namjoon answers playfully. He slips one headphone back on and bursts into a story from his class yesterday.

Yoongi wants to deny what Namjoon sees, but he can feel it himself. The eager, blooming smile that, no matter how many times he tries to smother it, only lingers for the rest of the night.

 

 

Jungkook surprises him after the show and walks him home, but not before they stop for dinner at a ramen street stall. Jungkook gives him his hardboiled egg and talks about some class assignments. Talks about this American artist he found on Spotify a while back who just dropped a new album and whose voice he knows Yoongi would adore because it sounds like listening to the ocean waves at night. (Yoongi’s never heard the ocean at night, but the way Jungkook describes it makes him want to take a summer trip). Jungkook talks about the snowfall and this puppy at the pound with a missing eye and how he wants to start video-editing but the class isn’t offered until next spring and he’s already taking too many electives for someone a year behind in their major courses. 

Jungkook has to ask him twice if he’s listening. If Yoongi can understand him.

This is how their relationship works:

Yoongi is the only one that Jungkook still speaks to. Aloud. As in words out in the open air for the world to hear. For Yoongi to hear. Yoongi is the only one he trusts with that kind of power and Yoongi has to trudge around with this unwieldy hurt crushing his throat because he cannot understand why it’s him of all people. Why Jungkook had to pick him.

“Hyung,” Jungkook says, voice quiet beside his ear, brow creased with worry. Worry over his words, worry over Yoongi’s lack of them tonight. Jungkook shouldn’t be worried about him. Jungkook should hate him. Everyone should hate him but they don’t and Yoongi wishes that they would.

You’re perfect, Yoongi signs to him slowly, then reaches to swipe at a slice of green onion sticking to Jungkook’s bottom lip. Intonation, pronunciation, you name it it’s perfect.

Jungkook’s gaze lingers on his fingers, frowning, then flickers up to his mouth. He takes a deep breath. His shoulders lift, fall. Yoongi waits for him to speak again, but instead Jungkook just closes his eyes, and when he opens them again, Yoongi’s been shut out.

Yoongi watches him for a moment longer, trying to read his silence the way Namjoon reads his own; but Jungkook just works on drinking the soup from his second bowl of noodles and Yoongi doesn’t know how to press forward without breaking him again.

 

 

Yoongi pulls out his songbook when he gets home. It takes a few minutes to find where it was tossed under a pile of papers for class. He digs it out and straightens up his desk, sets up his computer to plug into his keyboard and just… plays. It’s a simple start, just a few chords here and there, a minor melody that doesn’t have enough of a spine to be a song. But Yoongi keeps at it, letting his hand move without thinking, up and down and up, fluttering against the same keys again and again and again.

He stops to listen to the recording and hears the flickering disconnect of weariness, the heavy weight of unspoken words. It is, in simplest terms, completely fucking depressing to listen to.

So Yoongi swivels back to the keyboard and tries again.

And again

And again.

He hears his door slowly squeak open at some point in the night but doesn’t turn around to acknowledge it. It shuts not long after without Hoseok trying to get his attention, so Yoongi closes his eyes and softly grips at his throat and then tries again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

The door creaks open, but this time Hoseok clears his throat and Yoongi blinks hard, once, twice, slides his hands away from his laptop and find his wrists aching and a few of his fingers asleep. He cracks them against each other and turns and finds that there’s morning light coming in through the window and Hoseok’s hair is dripping down his cheeks and onto the top of his bare shoulders and Yoongi has class in forty-five minutes.

Hoseok hums lowly to get his attention. You stay up all night?

Yoongi nods because he must have, there’s no denying it. The pain in his ass and hands is enough evidence of that. Hoseok’s face pinches up in concern, but there’s this quiet glimmer in his eyes when he signs, Make something good?

Yoongi turns back to his computer and stares at the sound bars for a long moment before tugging his headphone cords free and pressing his mouse back to the beginning.

Quite honestly, Yoongi doesn’t remember shit from the last eight hours. What he played or how he played it, if he made any edits, if he just sat here for god knows how long without actually moving.

What comes out of the speakers is this lived-in kind of sound, sweetly romantic at the edges, tender and intimate from within. A vulnerable piano solo embraced by an edgy string arrangement.

It is, without a doubt, a love song.

Yoongi doesn’t remember writing it, but listening to the unpolished piece only brings one image to mind, though.

Taehyung.

Taehyung pressed against his side, showing him a painting that seemed to glow from within.

Taehyung laughing in the café, telling jokes to every customer that looked to be having a bad day.

Taehyung sprawled across the darkness of a roof, singing to a starless sky.

Yoongi presses the tips of fingers against his mouth where he tried to say his name aloud again, and Yoongi starts when he remembers that Hoseok is in the room, has been in the room, listening to the song with him, watching Yoongi with that unfiltered gaze of his that sometimes is even more serious than Namjoon’s.

He’s still watching Yoongi now, thoughtful but a little confused, and Yoongi keeps his hand pressed to his mouth to hide and Hoseok bites the inside of his cheek and signs, It’s beautiful, hyung.

Yoongi wants to take that ocean trip now just so he can walk into the water and never come back out.

Hoseok leaves after that. Tells him to shower and stretch and eat some fruit and not to skip class, like he’s some sort of doting parent. (Which he is.) Yoongi does all he asks, and he’s almost to campus with a half-eaten banana when he notices that the sky is this impossible shade of blue for winter, so crisp and clean that Yoongi slows to stare for a moment as people bustle around him because it’s a sight worth stopping for.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi clicks his tongue. Snaps his fingers. Flicks the string of his hoodie a few times. Pushes the little pack of food he’s brought today towards her a smidgen. Tonight is beef. Everyone likes beef.

Jumbo just stares him down from three feet away like this is a competition and she’d rather eat her own foot before giving into him.

It’s the RBF.

Yoongi tries smiling at her but she only yawns.

“She only eats kidney flavor, and it has to a mix of dry and wet… food. Hi.”

Yoongi considers walking away, but he’s crouched closed to the sidewalk and the amount of energy it would take to make a break for it just isn’t worth it to him in this moment.

Plus, Yoongi’s got this gut-feeling that if he waits this out, Jumbo’s gonna give in.

That, and Taehyung’s giving him a half-lidded, sleepy smile and Yoongi thinks his feet just melted. Makes for a hard getaway.

It’s been a month since they’ve last met.

Also, answers. He’s finally getting answers.

Yoongi lifts a hand in greeting and watches as Taehyung’s whole body unwinds into something that resembles more of a human and less of a statue. He shuffles forward a step, then another, like Yoongi is the skittish animal in this situation, and crouches down while reaching for his backpack.

“Cats like fat, protein, novel textures and strong odors,” he lists, as if reading from a veterinary pamphlet. “Plus, Hatshepsut is a queen and very picky. We also spoil her.”

Taehyung has a can of catfood in hand and a small baggy in the other. He pops the tin and bends the thin, metal lid into a makeshift utensil to mix in the dry food. He smiles when he catches Yoongi watching him, but it’s a little stiff at the edges, and he bites his lip as if embarrassed.

“Oh, the history department won rock, paper, scissors and got to name her,” he says, most definitely embarrassed and a little of something else, a little something sad and much too tender for the hour. “I think it fits, though.”

Hatshepsut toddles up to the can and scarfs half the contents in one bite. Yoongi watches Taehyung’s hand splay across her back, giving a little scratch here and there as she eats. His own hands start to tingle and he tucks them into the creases behind his knees for warmth and to keep the light buzzing at bay before it spreads through his body and sends him into cardiac arrest.

“I want to apologize for the other night,” Taehyung starts, voice low and intense, eyes downcast. A cheek bite this time. Yoongi squints. “I don’t know what I said or did to hurt you, but I’m sorry it happened.”

Have you ever hurt someone important to you? But you don’t know how you hurt them and you just know that you did?

Hatshepsut sneezes. Taehyung tugs on her ear lightly then tugs on his own, rubbing the lobe lightly, playing with a dangling chain there. He swallows thickly and tightens his scarf to hide his throat and Yoongi’s stomach is churning.

Hatshepsut finishes her meal. Starts to lick her paws. Taehyung cleans up the trash. Hums a tune under his breath, something too soft to piece together.

Yoongi’s tapping a harmony to it.

“Look.” Yoongi is already looking. At Taehyung’s knobby hands and sloping jaw and those stupid, stupid eyelashes. Nobody should feel this overwhelmed by eyelashes. “I get that you don’t like me and that’s—that’s okay, but we have the same friend group, and I don’t consider myself a terrible person, so could you at least try to pretend I exist for a second? I’m really trying here, hyung. Yoongi-ssi. Sunbaenim.”

Taehyung’s mouth is pinched together. Yoongi holds his breath and waits for him to say something, anything else, that will clue him into why Taehyung sees himself as a dust mote through Yoongi’s eyes when he’s so much more.

But Taehyung’s face only clouds over, the softness bleeds from his mouth. Yoongi studies his eyes, one double and one mono, feels all the words tumbling around inside and—

Yoongi grins, curls his hand into a fist, then pulls back and bumps it against his lips. Taehyung stares on with this lonesome frown and Yoongi drops his hand and mouths, I’m mute.

“I’m…” Taehyung shuffles forward and Hatshepsut bumbles out of his away. Yoongi mouths it again. “Sorry, I don’t—oh. OH.”

Taehyung drops his face into his palms, releases a shrill shriek, then topples back into the sidewalk.

“What the hell I’m such an idiot I’M SUCH AN IDIOT, HYUNG.”

Taehyung flings himself back into a sitting position, crisscrossed this time, face bright and exasperated. “All this time? You’ve been deaf all this time and I just keep rambling on and on like some kind of idiot—”

Yoongi taps Taehyung’s boot twice to get his attention, points to his own throat and shakes his head, points to his ears and nods.

“Not… deaf,” Taehyung enunciates slowly, more so for his own good than for Yoongi’s. “You can hear.. but… you can’t speak?”

Yoongi nods and Taehyung, once again, keels over to curl up in the snow. Hatshepsut eyes him haughtily, then looks over to Yoongi like, can you believe this fool?

“It’s terrible but for a second I was happy you were deaf because that means you probably didn’t hear anything I said to you at the party or like, ever, and all my problems would be fixed but you did and now I’m just making a bigger fool of myself and god, I’m such a mess. You make me such a mess, hyung.”

What a fool, indeed. What a beautiful, beautiful fool.

Taehyung bounces up and reaches for his backpack again. He pulls out a notebook, flips to a clean page, hands it and a purple pen over to Yoongi.

“Sorry, I don’t know sign language or else I would, you know, sign.” Yoongi takes the items from him even though his phone is in his coat pocket. “Can you tell me like, everything about yourself? All the things I got wrong? I’ve kind of just been living off an idea of you and now that I know you don’t think I’m the bane of your existence I’d love to talk to you for real.”

His smile is so huge now, so large Yoongi’s surprised he can get any words past it.

“Or I am the bane of your existence and this just got real awkward,” Taehyung nods, the tops of his cheekbones reddening as he speaks. “Okay. Great. I can work with that. I can leave?”

Yoongi drops a hand on Taehyung’s knee, drops his gaze down to the paper because he can’t handle that wide smile just yet.

Hatshepsut has long abandoned them. A group of students exit the arts building and they call out to Taehyung in greeting, but he doesn’t verbally respond, only lifts a hand to wave. Yoongi writes quickly and neatly, glancing up only once and then back down just as fast because Taehyung was looking at him with earnest eyes.

Yoongi holds out the paper and draws back his hand, cold from where he left it on Taehyung’s leg. Taehyung takes the sheet with both hands like it’s precious and Yoongi sees his eyes flit over the page once, twice, three times. Occasionally he trails a finger over a word, mutters something quiet under his breath, too quiet for even Yoongi to hear.

 

My name is Min Yoongi. I’m a second-year grad student in music composition, but I am pretty concerned about climate change’s threat on coastal and estuarine ecosystems. I have a toy poodle named Holly, but I do appreciate Agnodice’s badass contribution to the medical field. I’m not a big reader, but I value Ginsberg’s role in challenging society and embracing youth subcultures. The moon is a good friend. She says hi. I bought a cactus because they’re even harder to kill than succulents. I named it James. He sits next to the toaster. I’ve never lived anywhere with a working garbage disposal, so my most irrational fear would probably be of my shoelace getting stuck in an escalator.

 

Finally, Taehyung takes in a deep breath. His face scrunches up prettily and Yoongi tries to hold on to the moment, bright and fleeting in his hands.

 “Okay,” Taehyung nods, tucking the paper against his chest. “Okay, good to know.”

He’s so stunning. So tender.

Yoongi holds out his hand and Taehyung reluctantly places the paper back in his palm. Yoongi scribbles this time, fast and flustered, and he shoves the paper into Taehyung’s still outstretched palm and then stands and walks away and tries not to think about the power he just placed in someone else’s grasp.

 

Have you ever seen a Rothko? They’re simple and brilliant and luminous. Larger than life. Stir you up inside. They say what you need to hear. They’re kind of like you.

 

Taehyung catches him half a block away, screams his name so loud Yoongi hears a few windows open from the freshmen dorm across the street.

“Next time!” Taehyung bleats from the other side of the crosswalk, caught at a red light that he could probably ignore because it’s late and there isn’t a car sight but Yoongi’s glad he doesn’t because he needs the distance. “Next time… Next time don’t run away, okay?”

That could be referring to a lot of things, a lot of moments and places, but Yoongi knows what he’s referring to and ducks his head. It’s barely a nod, but Taehyung beams and clutches the paper, Yoongi’s paper, Yoongi’s words, to his chest. Nods. Turns and walks away from him with the slightest skip to his step.

Yoongi now realizes Taehyung walks like that not because he’s nervous, but because he’s happy.

 

 

Hoseok’s lounging in the living room, wrapped in quilt with a facemask on and some hospital drama playing too loud on the TV while he pops corn chips into his mouth with the delicacy of chipmunk. He must catch Yoongi’s movement from the side because he briefly glances his direction to wave, turns back to his show, then does a double take.

Hyung? He signs, eyes narrowed behind the panda mask. Suspicious.

Yoongi realizes his fingers are tingling.

The toes of his sock are wet.

One of his ears is numb where his hat didn’t quite cover it.

That he’s smiling, wide and giddy, flushed all the way to his ankles.

Yoongi’s fingers fly to his lips, rubbing at them harshly as if he can wipe away the grin. The damage is done, though, and Hoseok stares him down as he slips off his boots and cuts over to the bathroom to run a hot shower.

In the mirror Yoongi sees what Hoseok did; a boy with shining eyes and warm cheeks and this dreamy, lost smile.

Yoongi blushes at his reflection and scrunches his nose until he sees something more familiar, a little more indifferent and a little less in love.

Oh shit.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh fucking shit.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

I’m just saying, Jungkook signs as they gather around their table, and Hoseok nods and nods and nods and then swivels furiously when Jungkook is turned away to send Yoongi this scorching look because he knows where this is going and knows that Yoongi knows where this is going, and Yoongi just sends a look back telling him to suck it up and listen like a proper friend and not get involved, that if all he wanted was a fuck buddy, he should have said that from the get go and not taken me out on a fancy date. Like, did he think if he bought me a meal he’d get an automatic pass into my pants?

Isn’t that how it usually works? Hoseok signs jokingly, and Jungkook reaches as if to smack him and Hoseok sidesteps out of the way just in time. Kidding. Sorry, kid. That’s fucked up.

Jungkook sprawls himself across the table. When he lifts his face, there’s a red mark forming on his temple from where it was pressed in too hard against the wood.

Jungkook stares at Yoongi for a longer than ordinary moment as Yoongi collapses into a sofa, and it’s strange enough for Yoongi to raise an eyebrow in question.

Jungkook hesitates, then signs wearily, like he’s using the last of his strength to speak, Hyung, go beat up all the bad people in the world for me.

What makes everyone think I’m some kind of fighter? Yoongi signs, exasperated, and Jungkook says something about his face looking like death itself and Hoseok agrees and Yoongi kindly reminds them of the week when they went coffee-less. He’s not afraid to do it again.

Hoseok immediately shifts his story and offers to rub his feet and Jungkook makes as if to give him a shoulder massage. Yoongi’s fighting them both off when a long set of legs in pinstriped slacks slips into view.

Yoongi lifts his head off the cushion, shoves Hoseok away from where he was resting uncomfortably close to his crotch (not the closest they’ve been, actually), and finds Taehyung hovering at the side of his armchair with a tray of drinks.

It’s only been three days. It’s only been three days since that fateful night on the sidewalk, since whatever it is that happened between them, well, happened. Very much so happened. And this is very much so happening, as well, and Yoongi promised he wouldn’t run but that’s all he wants to do because Taehyung is beaming down at him with that stupid, dopey grin and those stupid, batting eyelashes and his stupid, just, everything.

God, he’s so beautiful it fucking hurts to be in the same room.

“Hi, hyung,” Taehyung says lowly, voice tender compared to his smile, which is stretched wide across his face.

Yoongi, for a solid six seconds, forgets that he has limbs.

When he finally recalls all motor function, he lifts one hand in a small greeting and Taehyung practically bounces on the heels of his boots.

They’re very nice boots. Black leather with a bit of a heel. Kind of sexy. Really sexy.

Yoongi glances down at his converse, scuffed at the toe and peeling at the back. Not so sexy.

Yoongi feels a hand on the small of his back and Hoseok writes, you okay?

Yoongi hasn’t told him, hasn’t told anyone, what happened that night. Maybe he should have. Maybe he should stop holding on to all these Too Big feelings on his own. Try to share them more. They’re getting a little heavy.

“I brought you coffee. I’ve been keeping track of your usuals.” Taehyung addresses the group as a whole, and Yoongi’s back to watching his face so he sees it when Taehyung’s smile stutters, his cheeks redden, and Yoongi looks over his own shoulder to see that both Hoseok and Jungkook are straight-backed and poised to strike.

Shame tries to burrow out of his chest, and Yoongi watches Taehyung’s soul slowly curl in on itself the longer the moment weighs on.

Yeah, he probably should have let his close friends know that Taehyung is no longer Public Enemy #1 and that they both need to stop cursing his existence.

Calm down, Yoongi signs to them, swiveling so they can see his hands, read his eyes. Taehyung and I worked it out. Big misunderstanding. He’s cool.

Hoseok blanches and Jungkook has this indiscernible expression as he looks up to Taehyung, back to Yoongi, another dragged-out look at Taehyung.

You sure? Hoseok signs, face wary and pinched. You’re not just saying that because he’s Jimin’s BFF and you hate confrontation?

Yeah. We talked a few nights ago.

Hoseok’s eyebrows disappear and a coy smirk slips out. He relaxes into his seat and looks to Taehyung while he signs to Yoongi, you mean the night you slipped in after your walk of shame looking like someone just handed you a daesung?

Yoongi flushes, is about to snap at him when there’s a clatter across the table that draws him back to where Jungkook is picking up a couple books that fell to the ground. When he rises his ears are pink, but he’s clenching his jaw tight and Yoongi wonders why that is. Why he looks so small and torn open.

Yoongi waves to get his attention and Jungkook reluctantly tilts his way. Quit that. He’s nice. We like Taehyung. Be kind.

“I, uhm, I can come back,” Taehyung announces, and when Yoongi turns around the others follow his lead. Taehyung’s still smiling but his eyes are sad at the edges. Shit. “Sorry, I forgot there might be some bad blood still.”

Yoongi scrambles to pull out his whiteboard and writes, You haven’t done anything wrong. I forgot to tell them that it was all a misunderstanding. Please don’t be sad.

Taehyung reads the board and his mouth parts open a little, his eyes finding Yoongi’s. “Okay, hyung.”

Yoongi nods, then writes, Please give me coffee now. I’m dying. Then makes grabby hands for the large mug he knows is his.

A throaty chuckle that makes Yoongi feel itchy around the collar of his hoodie, and Taehyung places two drinks down in the free space between laptops and textbooks, looking much more buoyant than he did all of five minutes ago, and hands over Yoongi’s coffee personally.

When Taehyung leans away from them, Yoongi scribbles quickly, Sorry again. They’re protective.

Taehyung takes a deep breath, then exhales long and slow. The tension slips off his face as he breathes, revealing something shy and soft and new, completely unlike all the Taehyungs Yoongi has met before and still somehow entirely the same. “I understand, hyung. Sorry for overreacting.”

You weren’t the one overreacting.

Taehyung honest to heavens giggles, bites his lip, says more tentatively, “Uhm, we are, right? Okay?”

Yoongi nods. Mouths a silent, Yeah. Ignores how Taehyung’s gaze doesn’t move from his lips.

Yoongi’s tongue darts out to wet the bottom one and watches Taehyung’s throat as he swallows.

A tapping from behind him, and Yoongi turns again and Hoseok is staring him down, hands ready to move, and Yoongi mouths at him to wait and goes back to Taehyung. He scribbles out on his whiteboard, Thanks for the drinks.

“Anytime,” Taehyung grins, then his brows furrow and he adds, “Actually, not anytime. Seokjin-hyung’s really nice but he’d probably start docking my pay if I give you too many freebies and as much as I love you, hyung, Jiminie will smother me with a pillowcase if I don’t cover my cost of the groceries.”

There’s not complete silence. That would be absurd. Yoongi can still hear the steamer working in the background, the bell of the door jingling with the arrival of a group of college-aged girls, the couple three tables over laughing at a video on their phone, the quiet murmurings of the rest of the café filtering together into an unintelligible buzz of background noise.

It’s not quiet, but Yoongi feels his lungs and heart and blood stop moving. Thoughts, still. All he can do is stare up at Taehyung, wide-eyed, as realization slowly draws Taehyung’s face into an image of such mortification that it’s impossible to look away. Like passing an accident on the road, the world moving at a third of the speed it should.

“Oh shit,” Taehyung whispers, so soft that Yoongi has to read his lips to understand. He stares at Yoongi like maybe this isn’t quite happening but it is. It still is. “Shit. I didn’t mean—I mean I did mean it, but not like. Not like that. Oh my god I can’t believe I just did that. Said that. To you. Why am I still talking?”

Please keep talking, Yoongi mouths without meaning to, flushes, and Taehyung watches his mouth again and Yoongi knows he didn’t understand but it feels like he did and this is terrible.

The space around them is swelling, cutting off their air, and Yoongi tries to inhale deeply and feels like he’s about to spiral when—

“Taehyung!” Jimin calls from the counter, snapping them both back to the rest of the world moving about them. Jimin’s gesturing with his head towards the group of girls who are patiently waiting in line to order. “A little help, please.”

Taehyung doesn’t even say bye to them. He just ducks his head in a tiny bow and springs away from their table, moving so quick he bumps into two empty chairs and then apologizes to each of them with a little pat.

Yoongi smooths down the front of his shirt and pushes back the impulse to flee and discover some uninhabited land in the countryside and live out the rest of his life as a hermit in the cave of a mountain. Instead he turns, ready for the assault, and Hoseok takes one look at him and signs, What the fuck just happened?

What? Yoongi mouths, finally taking a sip of his drink. Perfectly made. A touch heavier than Jimin usually brews it, like Taehyung knows he prefers a darker taste.

Don’t what me. That. That thing right there that just happened. The flirting. What the fuck?

We weren’t flirting.

Joon and I don’t even look at each other like that and we’re practically married, Hoseok signs, exasperated, then gestures across the table for a second opinion. Jungkook, weren’t they flirting?

Jungkook’s staring at Yoongi like he’s seeing him for the first time, the softest hint of sadness and uncertainty softening his features. Yoongi’s heart trips at that expression, doesn’t know where it’s coming from, doesn’t know what he did to make Jungkook look at him like he’s some kind of stranger.

Were you flirting, hyung?

Jungkook asks so seriously that Yoongi honestly thinks it over, really wonders if that’s what they were doing. If that’s what they were doing the other night, as well. Every night.

Yeah. Yeah, they probably were.

Yoongi shakes his head, and it’s the right decision because Jungkook inhales like it’s the first breath he’s taken in minutes.

He’s nice, Yoongi signs instead. It’s fine now. We’re friends. Or getting there.

So we definitely don’t hate him anymore?

Definitely not.

You sure you guys didn’t fuck?

Jungkook sputters around his drink indignantly, a high flush to his cheeks, and Yoongi tosses him a napkin. He didn’t realize I was mute and I didn’t realize he didn’t know I was mute. Misunderstanding ensued. We worked it out.

Were dicks involved?

Hoseok raises his hands in surrender when Yoongi glares, signs instead, Well I’m glad that’s in the past. Now we can go back to movie nights.

Movie Nights are the least of Yoongi’s concerns, but Hoseok’s trying to lighten the air around the table so Yoongi just nods and pulls out his laptop and takes another drink.

Jungkook is staring unblinkingly at one of his art history textbooks, has been for about three minutes, and Yoongi wiggles his hand to get his attention and Jungkook looks up at him, still unseeing.

Why do you keep going out with all these terrible people? Yoongi signs after setting down his mug, and Jungkook blinks at him, questioning, and Yoongi repeats the question because he wants to bring the topic of conversation away from himself and because they never actually give Jungkook constructive criticism about his less than impressive string of dates and because he’s honestly curious why Jungkook seems so set on seeing everyone in the world besides the person he actually likes who is very adorable and very available and very much so not an asshole.

Jungkook stares at him for a long moment, eyebrows turned down, those dark eyes concerned and unsure. He lifts his hands, then drops them again back into his lap.

I don’t know anymore, Jungkook finally mouths, almost to himself, then opens his textbook and doesn’t speak to them for the rest of the evening.

 

~~~

 

“Good to see you and Taehyung worked out your shit.”

Yoongi raises his eyebrows and Jimin ignores the expectant stare, just slides onto the bar stool across from him and starts in on his artistically crafted panini.

(Yoongi doesn’t understand why so much work goes into making food look good when it’s just going to get digested anyway, but he doesn’t mention that around Seokjin anymore, not since the Poached Pear Incident of 2016.)

Hello to you too, Yoongi signs, and Jimin stares at him with a mouthful of chicken, cheese, and five-herb bread and then flips him off.

Okaaaay. So that’s how this conversation is going to go.

Yoongi shuts his laptop, giving Jimin his full attention, but Jimin just takes another horrendously large bite of his sandwich. Yoongi keeps telling him that this is why he gets acid reflux so bad at nights. That this is how people choke and die.

You could have told me he didn’t know I was mute, Yoongi finally signs, and Jimin watches his hands and almost spits out a mouthful of iced tea.

“What?” Jimin gasps, wiping at his chin. “He didn’t know you were mute?”

Yoongi eyes him warily. What the fuck did you talk about that night in your bedroom?

Jimin hacks out a cough, then daintily blots his mouth . “We didn’t really talk. He just cried for like twenty minutes and then started babbling about the moon and garbage disposals and how much it costs to move to Tibet so he can shave his head and live in the mountains and take a vow of silence.” Yoongi pauses with the rim of his mug pressed against his mouth and Jimin nods. “Yeah. It was pretty bad.”

But you guys are okay?

“Yeah, we’re great. I figured it was a misunderstanding from the get-go so I didn’t get emotionally invested on one side like some people.”

A stare-off ensues, and Yoongi delicately sips his coffee as Jimin shoves the last of his sandwich (read: half his freaking sandwich) into his mouth. His mouth isn’t even that big. It’s like a Mary Poppin’s bag. Where does it all go?

Hoseok and Jungkook are just protective, Yoongi finally says when Jimin turns to his direction again.

“Yeah, well Tae doesn’t deserve getting shit on over it.”

He would if he was actually a bigot.

“But he’s not,” Jimin says with more intention, swallowing the last of his meal, calmly meeting Yoongi’s eye. “And he never was, and now he has to earn everyone’s trust again because you both didn’t talk about your problems like normal people.” Yoongi quirks a brow up and Jimin rolls his eyes. “Shut up, you know what I mean.”

Yoongi can’t counter that, so they just sit in not-quite companionable silence as Jimin chugs an entire bottle of water. The guy has a half hour lunch break. What’s he going to do with the other twenty-four minutes?

“But what about the two of you?” Jimin asks as Yoongi trails a pinkie finger along the rim of his mug. “Are you guys okay?”

Yoongi frowns, thrown by the question. We worked out our shit, remember?

Jimin watches him intently, searching for something that Yoongi doesn’t know how to give. “The big stuff, yeah. But there’s something else going on there.” Yoongi feels a burn spread up the back of his neck, lifts his hands to retaliate and Jimin snorts. “Don’t try to hide from me, Min Yoongi-hyung. I know what you’re like when you’re infatuated, and Tae came home the other night completely smitten and started singing some English jazz song like a fucking Disney princess. I was waiting for pigeons to fly in through the window.”

Burning has spread to his cheeks, ears, and most likely toes. Yoongi’s whole body has been set aflame. He gives himself three minutes to live.

Once again Yoongi starts to defend himself, and Jimin just shakes his head before brushing his fringe back off his forehead.

“Can you stop with the brooding for a moment?” He says, and Yoongi doesn’t mean to pout but he must because Jimin’s trying to so hard to be serious but he’s also got that eye-smile thing going where he looks all plush and squishable. Jimin tries to smooth his expression into something less like the human embodiment of a vanilla cupcake and untangles his bangs again. “There was something going on between you two before movie night and there sure as hell is something going on right now. I love you, hyung, but Tae isn’t as aloof as he acts. Don’t play with him.”

Jimin’s gaze is solemn, and Yoongi doesn’t hesitate to lift his hands and sign, I’m not playing with him.

Jimin waits for a moment, processing, and when he speaks it’s so decisive. Jimin, for all the easy smiles and squeaky giggles, is fiercely protective. (Seokjin calls him the “lawful good” of the group, of which Hoseok then complained, and Seokjin gently patted his hand and said he was “chaotic neutral at best”.)  “I’m not saying you are. I’m just saying that you don’t like feelings and Taehyung loves feelings. So find a balance or you’re both gonna get hurt and I don’t want to have to pick sides in that situation. I love you both too much for that.”

Flaming heat again. One minute of life left.

Yoongi one-shots the rest of his coffee and Jimin practically squeaks with mirth.

“See how easy it was to say that?” Jimin coos, reaching out to squish Yoongi’s cheeks. Yoongi shrinks back, like Jimin’s touch is going to speed up his melting process. “I love you, hyung.” He repeats, voice sweet and bubbly, then says louder for the rest of the room to hear. “I LOVE YOU MIN YOONGI, MY PRIDE AND JOY, MY FAVORITE HYUNG WHO BUYS ME ICE CREAM AND SWEATERS BECAUSE HE’S JUST MUSH INSIDE. See? Super easy to do.”

Yoongi doesn’t lift his face from where it collided with the surface of the table as he signs, That was really unnecessary.

“That was completely necessary. Shall I do it again?” Yoongi shrinks further in on himself as Jimin’s high voice spreads loud and fast. “MIN YOONGI IS THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE, THE APPLE OF MY EYE, THE SOFTEST OF HUMAN BEINGS TO EXIST AND I ADORE HIM.” Soft tittering bounces around here and there from other customers, and Yoongi feels a hand in his hair and just sighs deeply as he gives into Jimin’s touch. “Look at that. Feelings. Friendship. No one died. Fantastic how that works, right?”

Yoongi flips him off and Jimin just laughs, tinkling at the edges, and continues to pet his head for the rest of his break.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s still a frequent flyer at the concert hall. Hoseok’s stopped asking where it is he goes with such fervent dedication on Sunday mornings (only after six weeks of vague, non-committal gestures on Yoongi’s part that couldn’t be interpreted any which way). Instead Hoseok starts setting a pot to brew for two when he comes home from his morning jogs.

Yoongi’s not sure why he doesn’t just tell Hoseok that he goes to play the piano. Maybe because he doesn’t actually play. Maybe because Hoseok, despite how well-meaning he is, will never understand where it comes from. Where Yoongi’s coming from.

Most days Yoongi likes that none of them grew up together. That none of them knew the Yoongi Before, when there wasn’t a black hole in his heart eating him from the inside out and being person certainly wasn’t as difficult as it is now.

But sometimes, Yoongi thinks that if they knew him then, then they might not be so sad for him now. Or maybe it would be worse. Maybe it would always be terrible. Maybe Yoongi is just meant to be this way, like a shadow has settled over his body, like his life is caught in a thick fog.

What if I don’t want to be this way? What if I want to be better?

It takes roughly an hour and most of his mind, but Yoongi places his hands on the keys of the baby grand, presses down decisively, and listens as the minor chord echoes throughout the hall.

And because the world did not end and his heart did not stop, Yoongi plays another chord, then another, some overlapping and some standalone, some blending seamlessly and others jarring against the other, but he plays.

And plays.

And plays.

It’s neither here nor there, the song. If it can even be called that, the strangled mess of confusion that just came from the instrument. But it felt good, and it felt right, and Yoongi sits with his hands on the keys and his foot still pressing down on the pedal even though the notes have long since melded with the air as his chest aches and aches and aches.

He leaves after that because he’s late for lunch, and Jungkook’s eyeing him curiously when Yoongi shuffles up to his side at the foot of the library stairs.

What’s wrong? Yoongi signs to him, and Jungkook does that thing he does these days, when he makes as if to speak but then just opens and closes moth, pinches his lips together so his nose scrunches up. Not The Scronch, as Hoseok so affectionately dubbed Jungkook’s sweet and delighted smile. Something more tentative. Something a little bleeding at the edges.

Jungkook takes Yoongi’s hand to tangle their pinkies, and Yoongi allows himself to be dragged down the sidewalk like that, tethered to Jungkook as Jungkook moves ahead of him as if on a mission, occasionally kicking at a stray pebble or leaf along the sidewalk and picking up pieces of trash here and there to throw into nearby cans.

“You give advice on the radio show, right?”

They’re stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change, and Yoongi turns to find Jungkook hugging his other arm to his chest. When he senses Yoongi’s gaze, his eyes flicker over, but Jungkook can’t quite hold his stare and he shifts from foot to foot anxiously.

Yoongi tugs on Jungkook’s pinky to get his attention, mouths a simple, Sometimes.

Jungkook tugs back, twists so that his thumb can rub circles into the top of Yoongi’s hand against the thin skin of his knuckles. “What do I do if I—If I like someone?”

Oh holy hell the day has come. Where’s Hoseok when you need him? He’s a pro with relationships. Honest and upfront and kind and sweet. Perfect boyfriend material. Really knows his shit because he knows people and Yoongi does not know people he’s going to ruin Jungkook forever.

Yoongi draws back his hand to sign, What’s your endgame?, all while shoving down hysteric bile rising in his throat. Do you mean how do you ask someone out?

The light changes but Jungkook doesn’t make as if to move forward, so they stand there as the small crowd jostles and weaves around them.

“Maybe,” Jungkook finally answers, then says so quietly Yoongi has to read his lips, “I think they would say no.”

Who would possibly say no to you?

Jungkook, with unblinking dark eyes and the smallest smile Yoongi’s ever seen, says, “You’d be surprised.”

Yoongi feels his insides wrinkle. His twitching fingers tap out beats of eight on his thighs and Yoongi can feel a clump of sadness rise in his throat because here’s the thing:

Yoongi remembers the first voice he ever fell in love with, but he also remembers the first person. A girl, Lee Sohee, his freshman year of college; young enough in his life that relationships still weren’t as intentional or lasting as they should be but still old enough to leave a bit of an aftertaste, for Yoongi to occasionally think back to those four months and wonder,

Why did she ever say yes?

How did we ever make it that long?

Should I have tried harder?

Was it my fault?

Because Sohee was a year ahead of him. Beautiful, but not in a stunning way, like each of her features wasn’t outstanding on their own but when placed together something lovely came about from it. She had a wonderful voice, sweet but husky at the edges, and the brightness in her eyes when she played the violin was something that Yoongi found familiar, something he wanted to have in his life.

Until Yoongi caught her with a senior from their department getting a little too close for anyone’s comfort in an empty studio of the music building.

Yoongi’s been in four relationships in his life. One before Sohee and two after. All of them were with people who could speak and hear. Three ended in cheating. Two ended with, not an apology for breaking Yoongi’s trust and on one occasion his heart, but for agreeing to date him at all.

When he and Hoseok started to get to know each other, Hoseok told him he should never date someone outside the community. We’re from different worlds, Hoseok had signed in acceptance one night in their shoebox of a dorm room, not at all upset that their already limited dating pool just got twelve times smaller. It’s easier this way, he said. They don’t understand and they never will. 

But then Hoseok met Namjoon and things changed, people (in this case Hoseok) changed. For the better. And Yoongi likes to think that when he and Jimin were together there was some kind of positive influence there, but really it just proved to Yoongi that maybe it’s not the mute thing that’s getting in the way of him being with someone. Maybe it’s just a Yoongi thing.

So how is he supposed to give Jungkook the whole “reach for the sky, pursue your dreams, the worst they can do is say no” spiel when Yoongi can’t even convince someone that he’s worth being with?

What about all those dates you’ve been on? Yoongi asks instead, and Jungkook bites hard on his lower lip, like he’s trying to come up with answer.

 “All those people asked me out,” he finally says, and Yoongi can tell he wants to hide away but he can’t because he has to read Yoongi’s hands. “I’ve never asked someone out. I’ve never had a second date. And I just say yes to those people because—”

Yoongi waits for Jungkook to say more, but Jungkook just lifts his head to squint at the sun and sighs in this great big lonesome way.

Yoongi pushes his shoulder until Jungkook drops his head to look at him. You like someone? Yoongi asks, even though he already knows the answer because it’s obvious, the way that Jungkook seeks Jimin out, the way they’ve been circling each other for months now. You’re asking the wrong person, Kook. But you’re not me. So I say that if you like this person, really like them and want to be with them, then just ask them out. If they say no, at least you can stop thinking what if.

Easier said than done, Jungkook signs, then adds hesitantly, “What if they’re a friend?”

Yoongi tucks a wild hair behind Jungkook’s ear, tugs on his ear a little, tries to make his own smile feel a little less hesitant and more like a promise. You’ve got a great group of friends, Kook. Whoever it is, they’re going to stick by your side no matter what.

Jungkook’s jaw tightens and he looks down at his hands. Yoongi waits patiently to see if he has something more to say.

He doesn’t. Jungkook’s eyebrows are scrunched together and he just takes Yoongi’s hand again and they walk with slow steps the rest of the way to the café in the uncomfortable silence that seems to be their constant shadow these days.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi has to reminds himself sometimes that he loves Hoseok. In fact, he absolutely adores Hoseok. He’d go to a Taylor Swift concert if it meant keeping Hoseok happy.

 

SeokSeok [5:52pm]

i’m so sorry hyung joon is rlly sick and he need someone here 4 him or hell die u know that

 

This is ultimately a factual statement, but Jung Hoseok can also rot in hell.

 

Yoongles [5:53pm]

I can’t believe you.

 

SeokSeok [5:55pm]

hyung!! im sorry!!

_:(´□`」 ∠):_

 

Hoseok bailing on him wouldn’t be a huge deal if Namjoon had been able to make it tonight. Or Jimin. Or at least Seokjin.

This feels like mutiny. Very non-accidental backing outs. If Yoongi hadn’t see Namjoon’s snotty, near-death face in a videocall and didn’t know for a fact that both Seokjin and Jimin were called into work because half the café staff caught the same bug that’s left Namjoon and most of the city inebriated, the Yoongi would say that this is a ploy. There’s something going on here.

 

Jungkookie [5:57pm]

 sorry hyung I just got out of class and have to go to a sudden group study session (T_T)

 

Old Man [5:57pm]

It’s fine. Make sure to eat dinner.

 

Yoongi eyes his phone suspiciously. Sure, he’s got kind of a wishy-washy friend group, but this is just ridiculous. Five out five down for the count, all within a half hour of each other. And no one ever misses Group Date Night. It’s a Thing. Usually someone else has to pull Yoongi out from the nest he’s created in the music studio, bathe him, stick him in presentable clothing items that didn’t come out of a thrift bin, then personally walk him to wherever it is they’re eating just to make sure he doesn’t bail halfway through.

But here Yoongi is beside the fountain, hair somewhat brushed and wearing the really nice turtleneck Seokjin got him for his birthday this year, looking like he got stood up by a date. Or five dates. The old lady at the dukbokki stand across the way is eying him pitifully and Yoongi’s terrified she’s going to try to give him free food as consolation, although he wouldn’t turn her away, either.

“Hyung! Yoongi-hyung!”

Yoongi ignores the voice because that’s what you do in this kind of situation. Complete dismissal because how absurd would it actually be if Kim Taehyung was jogging towards him? A fever dream. This has to be some hallucinogenic offspring of all the coffee he consumed this week instead of actual meals. 

Yoongi pulls out his phone again and manages to calmly type out to Hoseok,

 

Yoongles [6:00pm]

Why is Kim Taehyung running towards me right now?

 

SeokSeok [6:00pm]

ASDLFKJADF

IFROGT JIMN INVTED HIM

 

 

Yoongi looks up again, sees Taehyung bouncing on his heels as he waits for the light at a crosswalk to change, and then waves so enthusiastically when Yoongi meets his eye that he almost concusses the man standing beside him.

 

Yoongles [6:01pm]

No

No, pelase don’t do this to me

 

SeokSeok [6:01pm]

AWEOIJGA

HAVE FUN HYNG

DONT BE A DICK

 

“Hey, hyung,” Taehyung greets him breathlessly, cheeks the softest of pinks as he slows to a stop before Yoongi. Yoongi tries not to stare, tries not to drag his eyes from the sexy boots from the café and up Taehyung’s long, lean, lovely body; but he does it anyway because he can’t help it. Because Taehyung is wearing a lumpy yellow sweater and a fucking beret. No normal person looks good in a beret but Taehyung just has to pull it off because he’s beautiful that way.

“Hyung?” Taehyung glances around, tapping his feet to keep away some of the chill. Fucking boots. Fucking pointed, heeled leather boots. “Where is everyone?”

Yoongi pulls out his phone and types stiffly, Everyone had to cancel.

Taehyung leans over the screen, close enough that Yoongi can smell cinnamon and pine off of him, and Taehyung’s mouth pulls down at the edges. “Everyone, everyone?” Yoongi nods, breathes through his mouth, and Taehyung bites his cheek, his eyes flickering around the courtyard before nervously settling on Yoongi once more. “We, uh, we can still get dinner if you’d like?”

The ddukboki lady sells at least three cups of rice cakes in the time it takes Yoongi to remember that he needs to blink. Taehyung looks absolutely flustered by the time Yoongi returns to his body. “I mean,” Taehyung presses on, biting his lip, “we’re already out here. And you look so nice and I’m going to shut up now. Like right now.”

Yoongi squints up against the light of the streetlamps and contemplates going home.

Instead he sighs deeply and nods. Because he promised he’d stop running away. Because Taehyung also looks so, so nice and Yoongi wants to take him to dinner.

Holy shit holy shit holy shit—

“Was that a ‘yes, you need to shut up’ nod or a ‘yes, let’s grab dinner’ nod?” Taehyung questions in a tiny voice, and Yoongi burrows under his scarf and holds up two fingers. Taehyung beams at the sight of them. “Awesome. Yes. Good. Food is good. This is great. I have just the place in mind.”

So that’s how they end up leaving the fancy barbecue place Seokjin usually picks out for them, worming away from the main road, down a maze of side alleys that share no commonality. Yoongi thought he knew the city, but he’s clueless as Taehyung takes lefts and rights seemingly at random.

They’ve been walking for a few minutes when Taehyung finally clears his throat and says, “You do look really nice hyung. I like your sweater.”

Yoongi pulls his hands from his pockets to sign, Gift from Jin-hyung. I feel like a fucking penguin, and it’s quiet for a few moments before Yoongi glances over to see what Taehyung’s waiting on and finds Taehyung watching him curiously, a little embarrassed.

Fuck, that’s right. Taehyung doesn’t know sign language.

Fuck. Taehyung doesn’t know any sign language.

Usually this isn’t a problem. Most people don’t sign. Hence cellphones, his whiteboard, and sometimes very awkwardly intentional eye-contact. But Yoongi doesn’t usually extensively hang out with those people anymore or, you know, have an individual dinner arrangement with them. This is going to be a disaster. It’s always ended in disaster. Holy shit what was he thinking why did he agree to this?

“Um, hyung?”

Yoongi pulls out his phone and types as quickly as he can with gloves on, Gift from Jin-hyung. Feel like a penguin.

Taehyung steps in closer to read and Yoongi tenses as their arms brush.

 A little snort, and then Taehyung says, “Seokjin-hyung has nice taste when it’s not for himself and penguins are fantastic. Definitely my sixth favorite animal.”

Only sixth?, Yoongi types.

“That’s pretty high up there for there being, like, millions of types of animals in the world.”

Touché.

“What’s your sixth favorite animal?”

Yoongi stares at Taehyung and Taehyung blinks back at him. Bats, actually. His lashes are spider leg long and just might blow Yoongi away sometime through the night.

Sixth? Taehyung nods in all seriousness. Elephant?

Oh-h, that’s a good one,” Taehyung nods, all giddy arms and this fantastic smile. “Did you elephants have the most developed hippocampus out of all animals? They’re super empathetic and very affectionate with one another. When one dies in the herd, they all stop to grieve. There are even cases of elephants coming across other dead elephants and mourning them, as well, like paying their respects and stuff.”

Yoongi considers having Hoseok text him a fake emergency. Maybe lie about Namjoon being in the hospital. (Which isn’t all the unbelievable, seeing as he’s been in the ER twice this year already.)

He considers telling Taehyung that he has a major project due at midnight he completely blanked on and has to leave right now. Like immediately. (Also not a lie, except he already submitted his assignment.)

He honestly considers just turning around and walking away. (Possible, but extremely rude. Yoongi might be mildly misanthropic, but rude? Not a chance.)

As if reading his thoughts, Taehyung’s smile slowly slips from his face. It’s still there, large and a little messy at the corners, but his eyes are so sad and Yoongi knows Taehyung is assuming the worst of his silence, is about to apologize again, and that realization is so shattering that Yoongi has to redo his message twice because he’s typing so fast none of the words are actually making it on screen.

Elephants just moved up on my list. Definitely a solid third place now. Currently competing with jellyfish and whales. Will you tell me more?

Taehyung leans in close again. His eyes widen and he shivers slightly, eyes flicking to Yoongi and away just as quick. He blushes hard. Tugs his bottom lip between his teeth. Delves into a dissertation quality analysis on the prejudice in the scientific field against the idea that animals are capable of responding in complex ways to death.

Not only is the subject actually fascinating to hear about, not only is Taehyung’s voice grumbly and warm when it reaches into Yoongi’s chest, but Taehyung himself is so animated with the way he speaks, gesturing with his hands as his mouth twists peculiarly around certain words.  

Yoongi has to look away from him. Has to clench his palm, which wants to touch him, and presses it tightly into his pocket.

“Oh! There it is.”

Yoongi starts and looks up to where Taehyung is pointing. It’s a humble looking building, tucked just off a back alley between an Italian restaurant and a stationary store. Vines crawl up the concrete slab wall and white Christmas lights are strung haphazardly from the front awning. The door is bright red. “Jiminie said you like barbecue and Daegu kimchi,” Taehyung says, as if in explanation, as they approach the noodle shop. “I’m from Daegu too, you know. Well, you probably did know. Jiminie says my dialect gets a bit thick at times.”

Yoongi tugs out his phone, which he had slipped away as Taehyung spoke, and writes, Jimin should speak for himself.

“Ah, I know right?” Taehyung grins as he holds the door open for Yoongi. It jingles from a small wind chime on their way in. “Busan’s worse than Daegu.”

Way worse.

“The absolute worst,” Taehyung laughs, the sound coming from somewhere deep. “Daegu boys for life, right? Sorry, a lifetime commitment is a bit of a, well, commitment. Daegu boys for the night, how’s that sound?”

I’d be with you for life, Yoongi doesn’t say, just holds up his hand, curled into a fist, and Taehyung brightens and bumps their fists together.

For such a seemingly forgettable space, the restaurant is brimming to the edges with dinner-goers. The middle-aged woman who guides them to a tw0-seater table in the back pinches Taehyung’s cheek, though, and Taehyung grins and doesn’t shy away from the touch.

“I come here a lot,” he explains, once again reading Yoongi’s face. “Reminds me of home.”

When they’ve stripped off any unnecessary layers and ordered more food than two people can probably consume, a bout of silence takes over their corner. Yoongi’s used to reading silences, and this one is a bit heavy, on the verge of being too warm, too intimate for him to handle for it only being the third time he and Taehyung have actually carried a conversation.

Yoongi’s trying not to notice the way Taehyung’s hair is just long enough to shadow his face. Tries not to notice as his sweater stretches across his shoulders. Tries not to notice his long, smooth fingers as they play with the edge of the drink menu. Artist hands. Musician hands. Delicate and purposeful with their movement.

Yoongi has the urge to slide his fingers across Taehyung’s knuckles, his wrist, the golden skin of his forearm that’s exposed from pushing his sleeves up.

Yoongi doesn’t think he’s ever noticed anyone the way he notices Taehyung.

Taehyung’s eyes are dark and wide when Yoongi looks up to his face. He’s watching Yoongi intently, with unexpected seriousness. Doesn’t try to smile. Doesn’t try to speak. Just looks at him. And Yoongi is so lost because he’s good at reading people but Taehyung just confounds him when he’s like this. What goes on in that gorgeous head of his?

Yoongi swipes his tongue along his bottom lip, just as he did in the café, and watches as Taehyung’s gaze tracks the movement; watches as Taehyung tugs his own bottom lip between his front teeth. Taehyung’s lashes drop, darkening his eyes, and suddenly he isn’t the soft, bright boy Yoongi entered the building with. Suddenly he’s brooding and sultry and intimidating, yet again this different person Yoongi’s never seen before but still somehow entirely himself.

Yoongi still wants to kiss his jaw, still wants to hold his hand.

It might be years of habit, but Yoongi looks to Taehyung’s mouth again, watches his lips part with intention, like he’s about to say something important.

At that moment their food arrives, jostling them both out of the moment they were creating. The meal is good. Really good. Like good enough Yoongi has made a mental mapping point to come and visit this place again because it’s cheap and warm and their kimchi really does taste like home.

As he eats, Yoongi listens to the chatter around them, from the lazy drawl of a man two seats away to the high laughter of a woman in a bright red jumpsuit at the bar. The windchime rises above it all, filling any stalled sections. Everyone moves at the same volume, but the pitches and tonal changes create this blanket of melting noise around him, and Yoongi bobs his head along to the conversation, to the unconventional music.

Yoongi realizes only after he’s nearly finished his bowl that he’s been tapping a beat across the tabletop, a light and tepid melody that doesn’t quite stir up his heart, just keeps it afloat, soft and enchanting.

Yoongi realizes only after he’s nearly finished his bowl that he and Taehyung haven’t spoken since they sat down.

Yoongi tenses, this narrow sort of panic settling into his chest, and he turns and finds Taehyung leaning forward with his chin resting on his palm, eyes closed. Still. Calm.

Yoongi’s jittery hand taps the table twice to get his attention, and Taehyung cracks one eye open and sends him a dopey, close-mouthed smile.

I’m sorry, Yoongi mouths, and Taehyung opens both eyes as Yoongi grabs his phone and types, I’m so sorry. You’ve just been sitting there. You’re probably bored out of your mind.

Taehyung frowns at the message. “I’m not bored, hyung. This is the best meal I’ve had with someone in months. Maybe ever.”

Yoongi’s hand is trembling. He tucks it into his lap before Taehyung can see, mouths, What?

There’s a furrow in the dip between Taehyung’s brows, and he’s wearing a smile but his eyes are serious as he speaks. “I can’t remember the last time I just sat and enjoyed a meal and paid attention to, like, the world around me. I tend to get really caught up in my mind, so this was really nice. The quiet. Just being here with you.”

Longing unfurls within Yoongi’s chest, so deep and startling that his breath hitches. Taehyung must catch the sound because his smile grows wider, and Yoongi tries not to squirm in his seat.

They leave soon after that, Yoongi still reeling that Taehyung didn’t try to say a word to him once in forty minutes—just sat there and ate his noodles and listened to people the same way Yoongi was, the same way Yoongi does, and didn’t question it.

Not many people would do that. Namjoon might. Namjoon has. But that’s Namjoon, the epitome of getting lost in one’s own mind. Seokjin and Jimin are always talking, telling a story about their day or plans regardless of whether Yoongi responds or not.

Taehyung steps in close when Yoongi holds out his phone to read.

Okay. Ask.

“Ask what?” Taehyung questions, sidestepping a couple passing them on the street and jostling Yoongi with the action. When the walkway opens up again, Taehyung doesn’t move from his side. Their arms keep brushing.

You must have questions, Yoongi types, and Taehyung reads the message and his face goes serious again, thoughtful, and he doesn’t look at Yoongi when he says,

“Do you think dinosaurs actually had feathers?”

Yoongi stumbles over a rise in the concrete and Taehyung steadies him on the elbow.

“Does fate exist? If so, do we have free will? Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition? How likely do you think it will be that humans will last another thousand years without killing ourselves off? Sorry, too much? Should I make them more personal?”

Yoongi has stopped walking, and Taehyung moves out of the way of a group passing through and leans against a retainer wall, hands in his pockets and looking like he just slipped out of a catalogue. Beret. Eyelashes. Pointy boots. “Favorite dipping sauce?” He asks with the same intentionality, like he’s still sprouting bits of philosophical thinking. “Do you chew on your pens? Can you swim well?  Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of a bees? Do you believe in ghosts? What’s one song that you’d never skip?”

Silence passes, the buzzing kind that feels like ants in Yoongi’s bones. Taehyung smiles at a dog that passes them, then turns the same smile on Yoongi.

“I don’t want you to feel like, you know, you have to give me your life story or something,” he says without an inkling of hesitation. “I figure there are certain things you’ll share with me when you want to. Unless you want me to ask about it. Want me to ask about it?”

Yoongi shakes his head, partially because he doesn’t want to talk about it and also because he’s still stunned, off-balance, still feels like his insides are crawling around in a manic mess of musical chairs. There went his spleen. Can he live without a spleen?

Taehyung nods, still wearing that wonderful grin of his. Very toothy. So, so pretty. He reaches for Yoongi, tugs on the ends of his scarf, pulling until they’re aligned. “Cool. So. Pulp orange juice. Yay or nay?”

Yoongi grimaces and Taehyung pats his chest. “Good man. Good answer. Now we can definitely be friends.”

He’s so close and his hand is so big, so warm. He is so big, so warm.

I want to hold you, Yoongi thinks. I want to be held by you.

Is that all it took to win you over? Yoongi types out shakily, and Taehyung reads the note upside down and gleams.

“Nah, I still need to hear your answer on objective and subjective morality. Whether we’re born inherently good or evil. You know, the basic get-to-know-me questions.”

You must have gotten along well with Namjoon last year.  Taehyung lets out a bark of a laugh at that. Let me guess. You started the “Is a fish wet if it’s in water?” debacle.

“No,” Taehyung giggles, and he slips his beret off to comb his hand through the front of his bangs. A piece ends up sticking up, flittering about as he pulls his hat back on. “But I definitely fueled the fire a ‘lil. Got us out of a pop quiz.”

Yoongi stares. Yoongi stares and this time he doesn’t care if Taehyung catches him.

“What? Something on my face?” Taehyung rubs at his cheek with a palm. “I’m a messy eater.”

Yoongi can’t help it, can’t keep it all inside, and he lifts his hands and smiles as he signs, You’re absolutely incredible.

Taehyung stares hard at his face, eyes going wide, then at his hands. His forehead wrinkles in concentration. He’s quit wiping his face. “That didn’t look like bad hand movements,” he says skeptically.

You’re beautiful, Yoongi signs again, and Taehyung narrows his eyes, trying to understand. I love the sound of your voice. You’re kind. You care about people. You’re not afraid to be yourself. I love that.

“Hyung, this isn’t fair.”

Life isn’t fair, Yoongi taps out on his phone and holds it out for Taehyung to read. Taehyung rolls his eyes and it makes Yoongi smile, which makes Taehyung smile, and now they’re just two grinning fools on a cold sidewalk in Seoul and how did they get here? What happened in Yoongi’s life to lead him to this impossible moment?

There’s still that bit of hair flipping in the breeze, and Yoongi reaches up to tuck it back into place, lingering for a moment too long because Taehyung’s hair is silky soft. Yoongi wants to card his fingers through it. Wants to trace his thumb across the bridge of his nose, the length of his jaw. Wants to go up on his toes and kiss the mole on Taehyung’s cheekbone. The mole on the tip of his nose. The mole hidden under his eyelashes.

The mole under his bottom lip.

Taehyung inhales sharply and Yoongi draws his hand back and tries not to meet his eyes, tries not to make the weird thing that just happened even weirder and feeling like he’s miserably failing. 

So are you a psych major? Yoongi writes to him when they’ve walked another block, and Taehyung looks pleased that Yoongi is asking.

“I’m a triple,” he answers. “Art education, early-childhood development, and psychology. I want to use art to help little kids with problems.”

Yoongi slows to a stop again because that’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous and amazing and impossible. Namjoon was a double and he had to extend a semester and he spent a collective three weeks of his undergrad sleeping in the library, and Taehyung is over here pursuing three majors? Two of which are a highly-selective programs and all of which are extremely time consuming?

 Taehyung twirls on his heel when he notices Yoongi isn’t moving. His smile doesn’t falter as he tilts his head in question.

How many jobs are you working?

Taehyung leans in to read the screen. “Jobs? I’m part-time at the café and at the undergrad library. The library helps offset my room and board, and what I make at the café covers the tuition my scholarships don’t.”

Taehyung is pursuing three intensive majors.

Taehyung works almost forty hours a week to pay for school.

Taehyung has scholarships to one of the most competitive universities in the city. Yoongi knows because he worked his ass off to keep his own during his undergrad.

Taehyung bites his cheek and rocks back on his feet, reading Yoongi’s face intently.

“It’s just me and my grandparents,” he explains automatically, swaying with the breeze. “We don’t have a lot of money, so I have to put in a little more effort than some.”

Taehyung’s not embarrassed to say this, but Yoongi hates that he feels the need to share his situation, like someone in the past has tried to make him feel ashamed over it.

Yoongi gestures for Taehyung to hold out his hand, and Taehyung glances down at his palm quickly and then back to Yoongi, who is pulling a felt tip pen from his pocket. Taehyung gently places his hand palm up into Yoongi’s, and Yoongi flips it over and makes a little writing motion, a question if this is okay.

Taehyung nods.

Yoongi takes a deep breath, writes, I think you’re absolutely incredible, in tidy little letters. Definitely a Rothko.

Yoongi walks away after that, scarf pulled high to cover his cheeks when Taehyung draws his hand back in to read.

A moment later Yoongi feels pressure on his arm, against his wrist, and he looks down and finds that Taehyung is holding his hand.

Taehyung squeezes once without looking at him and starts to pull away, and Yoongi bites his lip and laces their fingers together, securing them closer, and he doesn’t miss the small sound of surprise Taehyung makes because of it.

Yoongi can’t sign like this, not that Taehyung would understand him if he tried to anyway. But that’s not the point. The point is that Yoongi likes to have his hands free because he feels trapped without the use of them, but with Taehyung things are just simple. Things are quiet. The best of kind of quiet. A kind that Yoongi hasn’t felt in years, not since he first started learning the piano, before all the competitions and the ladder-climbing and the Expectations.

Yoongi steps in closer so they’re pressed together, leg to hip to arm to shoulder, and when Taehyung asks if he can walk Yoongi home, Yoongi doesn’t say no. (Because this is the twenty-first century and men can walk other men home and because he likes that Taehyung offered and likes being taken care of and because he doesn’t quite want this night to end just yet.)

They don’t say anything else the rest of the way. They walk in that companionable, blanketing silence, hand in hand, and it’s such a perfect sigh of a moment that when Taehyung leaves him outside his building, Yoongi has to hide in the stairwell for a few minutes with a trembling hand over his heart because it feels like he’s falling to pieces.

 

 

Hoseok is still out when Yoongi slips in, and Yoongi drops to the floor of the living room because his legs won’t carry him all the way to the couch. He slips out his phone and stares at it for a long moment, then pulls up his chat with Hoseok.

 

Yoongles [8:09pm]

Is Namjoon alive?

 

SeokSeok [8:11pm]

barely

AND UR TXTING FIRST WAT HAPPND

 

Yoongles [8:11pm]

The fuck nothing had to happen for me to text you first.

 

SeokSeok [8:11pm]

mmhmmmmmm

 

Yoongles [8:11pm]

Nothing happened.

 

SeokSeok [8:12pm]

MMMHHMMMMMMM

dont worry babe ill be home tonight and u can tellme all bout ur date

 

Wasn’t a date, Yoongi mouths to himself. Stares up at the speckled, popcorned ceiling where some paint is chipping. Rolls onto his side. His back. His stomach. Wishes that he had a voice just so he could let it loose into the carpet.

Instead he keeps himself occupied, and by the time Hoseok returns around midnight with busy, shameless hands, Yoongi has done the dishes, vacuumed the floor and the sofa and the curtains, showered, made some chamomile tea, and written a song so sickeningly sweet that Yoongi could only listen to it once before blushing and tucking it deeply away in the drawer of his desk, into the little soft part of his heart where all his words seem to go these days.

 

~~~

 

The next morning, after a late and drawn out rehash with Hoseok about his not-date with Taehyung—

You seriously didn’t talk once throughout dinner? Not once? What kind of date is that, hyung?

Not a date. Because it was only dinner.

Then why are we on the floor with face masks on?

Because you wanted to do face masks.

—Yoongi wakes up with the sun, sees a fresh coating of snow on his windowsill, and immediately picks up his phone to text Taehyung.

Except that he doesn’t have Taehyung’s number.

And he and Taehyung aren’t close enough yet to be casually texting.

And because it’s just some fucking snow what the hell, what the hell?

A knock on his door, and Yoongi pokes his head out of the comforter burrito he’s rolled himself in and Hoseok watches him for a long moment with a toothbrush caught mid-swipe before shaking his head, mouthing something that distinctly looked like dumbass, and then walking away.

Yoongi returns to his cocoon with a sigh, blissfully warm, and he’s about to nod off again when his phone, still tucked between his hands, buzzes him back into focus.

 

Unknown Number [7:18am]

DID YOU SEE THE SNOW???

 

Yoongi reads the message once, twice. Checks the number. Tries to search it and discovers nothing useful but that doesn’t matter because he already knows who it’s from but refuses to believe it because it’s ridiculous. Everything about this, them, is ridiculous.

 

Unknown Number [7:22am]

Its Taehyung btw. Jimin gave me your number

I hope that’s okay

 

Yoongi, as casually and coolly as you can chuck a phone across a room, chucks his phone across the room.

It clatters against the wall, collides with the edge of his desk, then slides with intent across the floor and through his still open door into the hallway where Hoseok, on his way back through from the bathroom, pauses and then picks it up to read.

A long, painful moment passes, but soon Hoseok slowly pivots into view, revealing a maniacal grin, and Yoongi barely has time to burrow into his blanket fortress before Hoseok is cackling like a possessed goblin and launching himself across the room. He lands on Yoongi, a shin against hip and an elbow pressing into his sternum as Hoseok shrieks and howls and rocks them back and forth as he often does when his body doesn’t know what to do with all the energy within.

Eventually the attack fades into the occasional giggle and head pat and prodding finger until Yoongi’s had enough and blindly throws an arm out. He makes contact and Hoseok falls to the side with a squeal, wiggles some more, and after wishing Yoongi luck and letting him know that he and Taehyung would have the most beautiful and artistic hypothetical babies (Let’s hope they get Taehyung’s height, hyung.), Hoseok shuffles away to finish getting ready for class and Yoongi, still stricken stupid by the situation, watches as the snow piles up on the windowsill some more.

When an adequate amount of time has passed, Yoongi takes out his phone to respond to Taehyung and finds instead,

 

Min Yoongi [7:27am]

Oh its more than ok

😜 💦

 

 

It’s been stated before, but Jung Hoseok can rot in hell.

 

Unknown Number [7:34am]

Uhmmmm

sorry. Think I have the wrong number

 

Min Yoongi [7:41am]

That was Hoseok. Sorry.

 

Unknown Number [7:42am]

oh! okay yes. that makes more sense.

good morning hyung!

 

Min Yoongi [7:42am]

Good morning.

 

Unknown Number [7:42am]

sorry if i woke you up

i just saw the snow and thought of you!!

 

Yoongi feels his fingers clench at the urge to throw his phone again. Instead he rests it on his chest, takes a few deep breaths that don’t do much good to quell his racing heart or lungs or mind, and then answers,

 

Me [7:43am]

I was awake, no worries.

 

Unknown Number [7:43am]

okay!

good to hear

i have to go to class now!

 

Me [7:43am]

Bye

 

Yoongi stands, his heart pounding in his ears, and makes his rounds around the apartment because apparently that’s what he does these days: paces and dusts and reorganizes their mug collection by color like some kind of wreck of a human being whose body doesn’t know how to process Feelings.

Seokjin gets it. Namjoon probably empathizes in his own way because he just knows things, knows people, but Seokjin’s really the only one in their group who understands that emotions are hard and putting names to them are even harder and god forbid they ever actually try to express them for real because who knows how that’ll end. They talked it about it once (while drunk, of course) and it’s probably the only reason why they’re actually friends now. Seokjin, flamboyant and confident and allergic to serious situations, and Yoongi, reserved and unsure and so desperate to put words to things but never able to place them in the right order.

When he returns from loading the washer, Yoongi swipes his phone off the dresser where it was charging when he sees the top light blinking with a notification.

 

Jiminie [7:45am]

are you txting tae right now?

 

An odd thing to ask, but not the strangest question he’s received from Park Jimin.

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:10am]

I was. Why?

 

Jiminie [8:11am]

he was like completly devastated

whatd u say to him??

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:11am]

Not much? Just good morning and goodbye

 

Jiminie [8:11am]

HYUNG

YOU WHY ARE U SO BAD AT THIS  ಠ▃ಠ

 

Yoongi falls in to bed, tucks a hand between his thighs and rolls so that the sunlight from the window can’t blind him. Types with one hand and a frown,

Yoongi Hyung [8:12am]

Bad at what?

 

Jiminie [8:12am]

dont worry ill fix this

AGAIN

(¬_¬)

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:12am]

Fix what??

 

Radio silence. Yoongi gets up to pilfer around again, hears the buzzer sound on the washer and moves the laundry over to dry. Comes back to a string of messages of Jimin again.

 

Jiminie [8:27am]

i told tae that ur not mad at him

thats just the way u text everyone

ur welcome ( ̄ε ̄)

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:36am]

Park Jimin what is going on?

 

Jiminie [8:36am]

tae thought he was bothering you

cuz ur responses are so eghhh

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:37am]

Eghhh?

 

Jiminie [8:37am]

not cute

real ~serious~

u rlly shouldnt punctuate everything

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:37am]

He was upset about that?

 

Jiminie [8:37am]

he thought he was annoying u

 

Yoongi sits up quickly and immediately types out to Taehyung,

 

Me [8:38am]

Sorry if I came across as rude earlier.

 

He stills. Thinks about what Jimin just said, thinks of that sad smile Taehyung wears sometimes around people. Types again,

 

Me [8:38am]

And I thought of you, too.

With the snow, I mean.

 

But he can’t possibly end things there holy shit why did he just send that?

 

Me [8:39am]

Have fun in class.

 

Shit. Punctuation. Shit.

 

Me [8:39am]

:)

 

SHIT.

Yoongi lifts his arm to throw again (because what’s the point in life proof cases if you don’t give them a run for their money?), but his phone vibrates in hand and Yoongi knows it’s Taehyung. It’s always Taehyung.

 

 

Kim Taehyung [8:43am]

(●´□`)♡

 

SHIT SHIT SHIT.

 

~~~

 

That day Yoongi texts the group a photo of Namjoon spread eagle in the snow after slipping on a patch of ice.

It’s a common occurrence (sending each other snippets of the day/making fun of Namjoon’s lacking equilibrium); but Yoongi adds Taehyung to the group chat because it feels like something he should do and he’s surprised Jimin hasn’t already done it (since Jimin’s sole mission in life is to smoothly integrate Kim Taehyung into every facet of their existence).

He gets the usual back, not that he was expecting much of anything. A string of laughing emojis from Hoseok and Jimin, an aggrieved selfie from Namjoon from when he checks his phone after they’ve parted ways. Jungkook asks if Namjoon is okay, and Namjoon lets Jungkook know that he just got a point and Jimin has been deducted.

(Jungkook and Jimin have a runny tally of who will be knighted Namjoon’s Favorite. It’s a tight race. Winner receives a hand-written poem outlining the specifics of why they were selected as the Favorite. So far Jungkook’s primal need to receive recognition from the origin of his Gay Awakening is beating out Jimin’s Praise Kink.)

(Namjoon made them well aware that he would happily write anyone a poem if they asked for it.)

(Seokjin called him a piss blanket and then shoved three crab balls into his mouth.)

Taehyung sends a video back of Seokjin using a broom as a mic stand while “Drunk In Love” blares over the café speakers. (The performance includes an impressive E5 note and an immaculate attempt at a slut drop, at which you can then hear Jimin’s squeaky laughter somewhere off camera.)

During lunch, Namjoon sends a picture of the foam panda that Jimin makes in his latte, and then a follow up image comes in from Jimin of Namjoon standing over a broken mug, shadowed by the light from the windows, head tilted towards the ceiling in defeat. (Taehyung tells Jimin that it’s an excellent photo, reminiscent of the late and incredible Henri Cartier-Bresson. Jungkook then shot back that it’s definitely more of a Doisneau due to the poetic and candid nature of the image. Taehyung then said that, if anything else than Cartier-Bresson, the photo would be closer to Dorthea Lange, due to the dramatic angle and lighting that doesn’t overpower the subject. Jungkook then said that the composition wasn’t dynamic or jarring enough to be a Lange.)

Good to see they’re getting along? Hoseok signs to him as they walk to class, laughing as their phones continue to ping and buzz as the responses start to grow to paragraph length.

(Namjoon puts an end to the argument by stating that they’re both right because the photo is that of a humanist origin, therefore covering both Doisneau and Bresson under the same umbrella, but actually falling more heavily onto Willy Ronis, whose motto in art was to  capture “ordinary people with ordinary lives” and who kept his subject matter simple and close to his heart, while the others in the Paris school fell more into photojournalism at some point in their careers.)

Fuck, I love that man, Hoseok swoons, and then proceeds to text the group chat how sexy Namjoon’s brain is, followed by a string of dubious emojis.

Seokjin sends the salad meme and then bans him from the chat for twenty-four hours.

 

~~~

 

[Vante] You probably don’t remember me but I wanted to thank you for your advice earlier this year. About apologizing. There was a miscommunication with that person. I think we’re friends now!

 

“Your fanboy is back.”

Yoongi doesn’t need to look at Namjoon to hear his smirk. But he looks anyway.

Namjoon’s face is pinched from holding back his smile and Yoongi wants to take a photo to use as blackmail. Instead he burrows in behind his computer and flicks a middle finger in the air because he knows Namjoon is still watching him. Namjoon laughs, and it’s big and round and fills the room.

 

[Administrator: Suga] I remember you. Glad to hear.

[Vante] It’s funny how things could be different if we hadn’t sorted things out.

 

“You gonna tell him who you are sometime, or are you just going to keep this creepy Cinderella thing going?” Namjoon asks.

It’s not creepy, Yoongi texts him, still hunched behind his screen because he refuses to bless Namjoon with his presence. And that’s not the plot of Cinderella. And I just like hearing his thoughts.

“Taehyung-ah’s an open book,” Namjoon states airily, like Yoongi isn’t well-aware that Taehyung is about as vulnerable as they come. “You could just ask him his thoughts.”

Not the same.

 

[Vante] Do you ever think about the what-ifs?

[Administrator: Suga] I don’t know anyone who doesn’t.

[Vante] I think about them a lot. I’m trying not to. I think I’m better now. I want to focus on the now, not so much what could have been.

[Vante] I’m tired of being sad.

 

A moment of pulsing silence and then, “Kid’s pretty self-aware. Sure you can’t just talk to him in person?”

Yoongi rolls to the side and finds Namjoon leaning back in his seat with his feet propped on the desk. He shifts them so they’re not blocking his face, sends Yoongi this intentional Look. Like Yoongi is being ridiculous. Like Yoongi should take a hint. Like Yoongi is acting like a coward but Namjoon is too sweet to say it so blatantly to his face.

 

[Administrator: Suga] I’m tired of being sad, too.

[Administrator: Suga] Maybe we can work on it together.

 

 

 

That evening when he’s leaving the radio station, Yoongi finds Taehyung perched on top of the stair ledge of the music building holding Hatshepsut, who is wearing a knitted yellow stocking cap.

“Hyung,” Taehyung greets him, looking a little flustered, like he hadn’t expected to see Yoongi here. And maybe he hadn’t, but Yoongi softly wishes that maybe Taehyung was waiting here just in case they might meet again.

“One of the fiber majors knitted it for her,” Taehyung explains without Yoongi having to ask, just as he always seems to do. “Surprisingly she likes it.”

Taehyung gently pins her in place so that Yoongi can pat her back a few times without risk of losing his fingers.

I like the yellow. It’s cute, Yoongi writes to him thoughtlessly, because that’s not a statement that should need any extra consideration; except that Taehyung has gone still and Yoongi lifts his head to check on him, finds Taehyung with his chin ducked in towards his chest.

His very yellow chest.

Because he’s wearing the lumpy yellow sweater again.

The lumpy yellow sweater that makes him look like a frumpy ball of sunshine.

Every molecule inside of Yoongi cringes, and he bites his lip, brainstorming how to fix this—this—

What is this? What are they doing?

Wanna grab dinner?

Taehyung peeks at Yoongi’s screen and his eyes go impossibly wide. “It’s almost ten? I ate three hours ago?”

Is that a no?

Taehyung shakes his head so earnestly his beanie dislodges and slips up his head. Yoongi lifts a hand to pull it back down over Taehyung’s left ear, then carefully combs a few strands of hair back into place.

Taehyung, so minutely Yoongi almost second guesses it, leans into his touch, then sends Yoongi what appears to be his most charming smile. The one that makes his eyes curl up prettily. The one that Yoongi cannot resist.

It’s absolutely blinding, so when Taehyung says resolutely, “Let’s get dinner, hyung,” Yoongi bites his lip hard and nods, like Taehyung is the one who suggested it to begin with.

They stick to street stalls this time, flitting between fishcake and dumplings and butter baked scallops. All the while Taehyung talks about his day, what he learned in ethics and the paper mâché sun mask he finally got around to painting and his adolescent psych teacher that loves him and his psych law teacher who always tries to make him feel stupid. When Taehyung talks like this, freely and about the things he’s passionate about, his entire being just glows. It’s enamoring. It’s alarming. It’s like walking beside a star.

Yoongi wants to touch him so bad he keeps lifting his thumb to his mouth to bite just so he does something with his hands.

“Sorry,” Taehyung suddenly breaks a while later, after they’ve eaten and peeked into a small gallery and made two rounds along the perimeter of a dimly lit park Yoongi’s never frequented before. “I’m talking too much again. Sorry.”

Yoongi feels pinprickly warmth spread up his spine as Taehyung slips off his beanie to run his fingers through the front of his hair; but it doesn’t feel nice, it doesn’t feel good, and when Taehyung kicks a foot against a stray stone on the sidewalk, Yoongi reaches to hold him in place, pulling him to a stop.

Taehyung frowns but waits patiently as Yoongi types out, Stop apologizing. I love listening to you talk. Tell me more?

Taehyung reads the screen again and again and again. Yoongi knows because he watches Taehyung’s eyes jump from each word, back and forth and back.

And then Taehyung closes his eyes, sighs deeply, “You can’t do that to me, hyung,” in this strangely twisted voice.

Yoongi raises his eyebrows. Did he say something wrong?

Dead leaves rustle across the concrete. Somewhere out of sight along the park path a dog barks, another answers. There’s the constant hum of traffic in the distance, back towards the main road where they came from. There’s sound, there’s always sound for him, but this is the kind of silence that Yoongi finds he doesn’t know how to pick apart.

I don’t know how to read you, Yoongi tells Taehyung in his mind. Please tell me what to say.

When the quiet has grown too large, Yoongi tugs on Taehyung’s sleeve.

Taehyung breathes in deep and finally looks at Yoongi, his eyes beautiful and dark, and Yoongi, momentarily stunned by that look, suddenly thinks this is it, this is it, this is it.

Instead Taehyung presses a hand hard against his forehead and mouths, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

Startled, Yoongi laughs. Well, his own version of laughing. Open mouth, scrunched eyes, little breathy sounds escaping hear and there. Hoseok calls it his goblin laugh, less cackle and more air, though. Namjoon said it sounds like he’s coughing up something he got caught in his throat. Both are equally repulsive comparisons, but when Yoongi calms down and runs a hand over the back of his neck, tugging at the almost too long strands there, he opens his eyes and finds Taehyung watching him, gaze wandering Yoongi’s face, as if looking at him for the first time.

Yoongi remembers Taehyung feeling so far away, once. Someone unreachable. Someone only meant for him to look at it, never to touch.

He’ll want more than you can give. They always do.

But here Taehyung is, so sweet and kind and full of love for everyone he meets and everything he sees. Always vulnerable, always open, always with his heart on his sleeve, in his mouth, laid bare.  A mess. A beautiful, wonderful mess that leaves Yoongi in a state of constant awe.

I’m a mess too, Yoongi thinks, reaching to skim the top of Taehyung’s cheekbone where a stray eyelash rests. I’m a mess too, so why can’t I be bright and shining and hopeful and beautiful?

Yoongi blows on the tip of his finger and Taehyung smiles then, wide and dreamy.

He’ll want more than you can give.

Then why is he still here?

They head home after that. Taehyung walks him the whole way again, this time without the story-telling and only the sounds of the city as company. They don’t hold hands, but Yoongi steps closer to Taehyung because it’s an impulse at this point, to be near him, to be close.

You sound like some kind of Elizabethan romance novel, Hoseok signs in exasperation to him from the doorway of Yoongi’s bedroom, and Yoongi clutches a pillow to his chest and frowns.

Did I ask for your opinion? He signs grudgingly.

Hoseok, with absolute certainty, signs, Yes. Yes you did. That is why I’m here. Putting up with your angsty, longing ass while my bath water goes cold and delaying my sexting session with Joon.

Yoongi stares for a few seconds. Hoseok stares back. Yoongi signs without blinking, It’s not Elizabethan, it’s Victorian. Jane Austen and shit.

Hoseok, also with a purposeful stare, signs, You hang out too much with Joon.

You’re his boyfriend, Yoongi promptly responds.

I draw lines, Hoseok signs like Yoongi should know better. British literature is one of them. You should do the same.

You’re terrible.

Hoseok pouts and signs defensively, You know how hot I thought it was when he ended the photography fiasco? And I let him talk about nautical archeology and space adventure and gender identity whenever he wants.

What’s Namjoon’s emphasis again?

I honestly don’t know anymore.

 

~~~

 

“Good morning, Konkuk University youth. Pumpkin spice has officially disappeared off the campus café menu, and you know what that means: warm weather will soon save us from this barren hellscape, and Valentine’s Day is a thing that very much so exists between couples, so please share what I should do for my partner who does not like surprises, candy, wine or romantic evening walks by the river because to them it is, and I quote, ‘tits freezing outside you moron’, unquote. Your help is greatly appreciated.”

Yoongi sputters around the mouth of his water bottle, then gestures for Namjoon to watch his mouth because he may be cute (especially after dyeing his hair the softest shade of lavender last week), but their supervisor already issued a warning to them this year for language when Namjoon got into a particularly heated discussion (with himself) about Marxism and minimum wage and the (rightful) fall of post-war capitalism.

When there’s a song safely rolling in the background, Yoongi pulls out his phone to text Namjoon, Just go shopping or something. Hobi loves shopping. Be his sugar daddy. It’s his birthday the next week, anyway.

“We’re on a budget,” Namjoon intones dolefully across the room, and Yoongi knows he’s purposefully avoiding the sugar daddy statement. “And I’m a romantic, but a romantic on a budget. You know Hoseok’s tastes.”

Can’t believe he bought those fucking shoes.

“I would have burned them by now if they weren’t the same cost of sponsoring a child in Ecuador for a year.”

Yoongi grins at that and hears Namjoon chuckling from behind his computer.

Wanna tell me how you really feel?

“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” Namjoon exclaims stiffly, hand pressed over his heart. “I love one Jung Hoseok with all my heart, mind and soul and have never had a problem with him in my life.” Yoongi wads up a paper from the already used script and tosses it at Namjoon. It thwunks against his shoulder, and Namjoon pretends to be mortally wounded and accidentally falls out of his seat without trying.

He lays there for a few moments (probably contemplating his existence and how it led him to this moment and why his body seems hellbent on offing him before he’s done something with life beside school), and then he crawls back into his seat. “Nah, it’s really okay,” he waves offhandedly, like the chair thing didn’t happen. (Yoongi got it on video. He’ll share it in the wee hours of the morning when Namjoon thinks he’s safe). “I think we’re going to see a movie at one of those dine-in theaters with the fancy reclining chairs. And I already bought his birthday present. What about you?”

Yoongi checks the playlist. They’ve still got another chorus and the outro, then the song after. What about me?

“Valentine’s Day,” Namjoon says, rubbing his elbow. “I realize you’re not on board with the whole commercial holiday thing, but have you thought about what you’re going to do?”

To Valentine’s Day?

On Valentine’s Day. With Taehyung-ah.”

Yoongi’s pen digs in so deep on his notebook he tears a hole in the top corner. He rolls to the side so that he has a full view of Namjoon, so that Namjoon can see the absolute befuddlement that has currently left Yoongi in metaphorical speechlessness.

Namjoon just frowns at him, says “Hoseok said you went on a date the other night.”

It wasn’t a date, Yoongi signs quickly.

The frown grows. “Not a date as in you’re doing that thing where you pretend you don’t have feelings, or not a date as in it really wasn’t a date and was just a meal between two friends and Hoseok got too invested again?”

That one.

“Huh.” Yoongi nods. Namjoon nods, does that Deep Soft Stare where he tries to read someone’s soul and usually succeeds because then he asks, “Did you want it to be a date?”

Yoongi rolls back to hide behind his monitor.

You and Hoseok are soulmates. Definitely cut from the same star.

“Wow, that’s sweet hyung,” Namjoon gushes. “I know you meant it as an insult, but it was really poetic.”

Why am I friends with you again?

“Because you love me.”

That’s definitely not it.

“Because I kept you alive during your undergrad career by feeding you protein shakes and small words of encouragement left on Kunamon post-it notes?”

Yoongi peeks around his computer just to flip Namjoon off, and Namjoon winks at him and he’s too fucking cute for his own good. All Yoongi’s friends are adorable. Makes it really difficult to hate them.

Still can’t believe that was you, Yoongi signs, scowls, rolls out of view when Namjoon’s dimples peek out with his smile.

 “You’ll never get rid of me, hyung,” Namjoon tells him as the song begins to fade. “I’m too invested in your livelihood.”

At least someone is, Yoongi signs jokingly, and Namjoon kind of laughs and kind of frowns and then shuffles over to give Yoongi one of the top Most Awkward Hugs of My Life because Yoongi is still seated and Namjoon has to lean over and just drapes his body against Yoongi’s head and shoulders. There isn’t even holding, just the entire weight of Namjoon’s being squishing Yoongi into his chair.

But still, Yoongi doesn’t push him away, just taps his fingers against Namjoon’s hip like it holds an answer he doesn’t know how to say.

 

~~~

 

“Yoongi-yah, how’s the music coming along?”

Dr. Lim is pleasant per usual, still with those soft eyes and the no-nonsense business suit. She’s leaning against her desk again, arms loose at her sides, the image of ease. Like she didn’t just ask Yoongi a Very Important Question.

It’s coming, Yoongi writes out to her on his whiteboard. I think so, that is.

“Want me to listen?” She asks after reading over his words. “Give some pointers? You’re the only graduate this year who hasn’t checked in for feedback.”

She states it casually, like it’s not a big deal but Yoongi knows it’s a big deal. His first check in point should have been at the end of the winter term; but December came and went in a flurry of unexpected happenings, and here they are two months later. Opus-less.

I don’t know if it’s ready for that yet, he tells her.

I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet, he doesn’t say.

Dr. Lim hums a little under her breath, trilling a melody with her nails against the edge of a binder. Yoongi counts the tempo, gets so lost in the movement that he flinches when Dr. Lim finally says, “Remember, the worst thing you can do with your art is treat it like a child.” Yoongi flicks back to her, the questions bubbling up, and Dr. Lim smiles kindly and says, “It’s a living thing, yes, but you need to be able to cut it up and shift things around and maybe throw it out altogether.”

Yoongi picks at the skin around his fingernails, writes, Should I be less attached?

“No. Definitely not,” she states fiercely, shaking her head. “The best work comes from the heart. But be ready to let it change if it needs to. Be ready to let it grow.”

Yoongi feels his breathing go shaky, and he nods and bows and ducks into the hall even though their conversation might not have been over because he feels unsteady on his feet.

Let it grow, let it change, let something new in.

Let someone new in.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi goes back to the concert hall.

It’s not a Sunday morning. He hasn’t requested the space. There’s a handyman fixing a seat in the far back corner of the auditorium when he walks in, but other than that the room is so clear and quiet Yoongi can hear his heart beating in his left ear.

He sits at the Steinway, pulls out the scratched-up notes he penned down the other day, after his not-date with Taehyung, and he tentatively taps out a few keys and glances up to where the man from before is still hunched over his work, oblivious to Yoongi’s plight.

Yoongi pushes away the fear of someone walking in to hear him, shoves down the insecurity rushing through him in quick hot flashes, so sharp it makes his fingers tremble.

Instead he remembers that night. How, for once, Yoongi’s mind was completely silent and it didn’t feel like a bad thing, didn’t feel like there was something there to fill.

Yoongi presses down on a few chords, hesitantly at first, then with more surety as he continues to think about Taehyung and his limitless imagination and knowledge, the unselfconscious way he presents himself to the world, the way he seems to feel things with his entire body.

I used to be like that once, Yoongi thinks as the sound around him builds and builds and builds as he not only forgets he’s not alone in the room, but also begins to stop caring because Taehyung is beautiful. Taehyung is so beautiful he deserves to have songs and plays and books and movies and every practical form of art written about him, for him, and even then it still wouldn’t be enough. Taehyung is so good and deserves so much, but more importantly—

Yoongi stills when he hears someone calling his name, and he tilts his body towards the front entrance and finds Namjoon standing there with Jimin, and even with an entire auditorium separating them, Yoongi can feel their buzzing smiles from here.

Yoongi breathes in deeply, feels his posture relax, his fists uncurling from when he clenched up at the sight of them. Because Taehyung is beautiful, inside and out. Yoongi’s very aware of this fact.

But Yoongi also knows this:

That Namjoon’s soul is so sweet and warm and he lives as much of this life as he can despite how much it’s hurt him.

That Jimin is a swell of emotion, his smile stupefying, his love for others unreserved and uncontained.

Sweetness aches somewhere behind Yoongi’s ribs, and as the two of them make their way down the carpeted steps towards the stage, towards him, Yoongi tap tap taps against his thighs and then wonders what he has to be afraid of, because it’s certainly not of them.

So Yoongi begins to play again. Not the song scribbled down before him, not the light, saccharine tinkling from before. It’s shy at first, and then it’s suddenly something wilder, fearless; something a little less like a love song and a little more like a song about love.

Oh how Yoongi missed the feeling of music in his bones, and when he comes to a halt a lifetime later and pivots to look at Namjoon and Jimin seated in the front row below him, the smiles hidden behind their hands tell him that they missed it, too.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi has been accident-free in all his piano classes since the Unmentionable Day last semester, but the damage was irreversible.

The first month after it happened, he got a few classmates coming up to ask him for pointers, of which he willingly gave because music is a form of art and art is meant to be shared.

(Remember: Misanthropic? Most definitely. An asshole? Only purposefully and on dire occasions.)

News then spread around that Demon Min Yoongi isn’t as malicious as the department anticipated. In fact, if you bring him iced coffee and a scone, he might even make eye-contact and Not Frown in your general direction and tell you how to fix the B section you’ve been crying over for three weeks.

Six years. Yoongi’s been building his rep for six years and somehow it crumbled in the span of a midterms week.

“You really didn’t have that much of a rep”, Seokjin tells him on the walk to the café. “Everyone knows you’re soft. Like a stray cat. You want to pet it but know you shouldn’t because it probably has rabies but it’s still a cat, you know?”

No, Yoongi frowns, burrowing his hands in his coat pockets because that’s where they belong in the dead of winter. Thank god for Seokjin’s astounding lip-reading skills. None of that made sense?

Seokjin, who runs the temperature of a Norwegian sauna year-round and wears coats simply as fashion statements and not as protection against the elements, says to him kindly, “Even if you had a rep, which you never did my sweet bean, you immediately lost it as soon as you started hanging with Taehyung-ah.”

What does that mean?

“Taehyung-ah’s a little bumble bee boy,” Seokjin explains. “He’s Pure. Capital P. You hang out with him you also become a bumble bee boy by default.”

Yoongi, with as much sincerity as he can place into three syllables, mouths, What the fuck?

“People see you with Taehyung and know that if Taehyung-ah Chose you, then you’re safe. Feral cat isn’t all that feral. Safe to pet.”

So Taehyung killed my street cred?

The more Yoongi’s brows furrow, the brighter Seokjin’s gaze grows. “Oh darling Yoongichi,” he coos, reaching to place a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, “you never had any. Namjoon-ah is your best friend. Sweet, sweet Namjoonie. God’s chosen Best Boy. The human equivalent of being swaddled in blankets during a light rain shower in the soft, misty morning of spring. He says goodnight to all his succulents before he goes to bed. That Namjoon. Don’t even get me started on Jimin.”

Jimin and I hate each other.

“Shut up, Yoongi, you’ve been married for thirty-seven years.”

Seokjin gives a solid pat to his arm and then delves into his plans to seduce one of the regulars who comes into the café every Tuesday and Thursday morning to order a mixed berry muffin and vanilla latte and definitely makes three figures a year.

(How do you know he makes three figures?)

(“The shoes, Yoongi-yah. It’s all in the shoes.”)

The one who looks like Hyun-Bin? Yoongi mouths as Seokjin holds the door to the café open for him.

“No, I went out with him,” Seokjin says with a frown and a non-committal hand gesture. “He was twenty minutes late, had the personality of a half-chewed pencil, and had the audacity to try and order me a salad. Prick. I ordered three lobsters and then slipped out when he was in the bathroom. This is the Ji Changwook wannabe.”

The one with the dimples?

“That’s the one,” Seokjin grins, sending Yoongi double finger guns. “Love me a man with dimples.”

“Hey, hyungs.”

Seokjin and Yoongi swivel to see Namjoon tucked into an armchair, taking up two tables with his laptop and notes and a couple textbooks with a terrifying amount of color-coded post-it notes sticking out from the tops. He gives them a half-lidded, sleepy smile, the left side of his mouth crinkling up a little higher so that a dimple shows up deeply.

“Namjoonie,” Seokjin exclaims, charging forward to drape himself across Namjoon’s lap in a move that Yoongi deems as suspicious because Seokjin only initiates physical contact when he’s trying to hide something. “Hello, my gorgeous grape boy. Wanna back me up on my thesis?”

Namjoon frowns, arms slightly raised at his sides, like he’s afraid to touch Seokjin’s body. Most people are. There’s a lot going on there. “You have a thesis?”

Seokjin clears his throat, enunciates clearly while throwing an arm around Namjoon’s neck, “Min Yoongi never had a menacing reputation among his peers, and since he started courting Sunshine Line Number Three, one Kim Taehyung, he has turned even more so into a honey dumpling, too soft for this world. In this essay I will—AAHGHGHHH.”

(Here’s how the scene plays out: Yoongi plucking an ice cube out of Namjoon’s iced coffee with a spoon, and as Seokjin suspiciously eyes Namjoon’s lips, drops the ice cube down Seokjin’s shirt. Mass flailing ensues. Namjoon has to hold Seokjin before he topples to the floor and kicks over a table.)

“HOLY FU-dgery goodness wow, love me some fudge, ain’t that right boys,” Seokjin grins while clinging to Namjoon’s thigh as a mother and her two kids exit the shop with a box of cupcakes, and Seokjin keeps up the beatific smile until the door shuts behind them and then promptly crawls out of Namjoon’s lap to dunk his bare hand into Namjoon’s coffee.

Namjoon is a wonderful mixture of bewildered and disgusted, and Yoongi drops his bag and races for the front counter as Seokjin shrieks from behind something about backstabbing and the fall of the Roman Republic. “In my own house!” Yoongi hears as he skids and ducks under the closed section of the counter. “The treachery! The betrayal!”

Yoongi, in shortest terms, runs into a wall.

Except the wall kind of wheezes, rocks in place a little, and then wraps its arms around Yoongi’s waist to hold him in place as they teeter precariously for the longest half second of Yoongi’s life.

“Hyung?”

Yoongi freezes at the voice, at the scent of cinnamon, and by the time he comes to his senses, Seokjin’s already on him, one hand pulling on the back of his shirt to dump a handful of fresh ice there.

Blame it on muscle spasm or not, but Yoongi pushes out all the air from his chest and rocks up against Taehyung, flailing and twisting just enough to knock an elbow into Taehyung’s face.

There’s blood.

There’s a lot of blood.

“I’m okay!” Taehyung exclaims as Yoongi forces them to the ground, hands full as he pushes back Taehyung’s bangs to check his face, using the edge of his sleeve to press against Taehyung’s nose. Seokjin’s babbling overhead and someone else shouting something about towels and ice and “where the flying fuck is the first aid-kit? Namjoon-hyung, where’s the first-aid kit!” and then “In the upper left cupboard, Jimin-ah!”.

Yunki hunb,” Taehyung whines behind Yoongi’s hand, then grips both of Yoongi’s wrists to tug his arms down. “Hyung, I’m fine. Calm down.”

Fine, fine, fine. Taehyung is fine.

Yoongi leans back on his heels to give Taehyung some space, signs hastily, Broken nose? Broken tooth? I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.

Taehyung is pitched forward, has one hand pinching the bridge of his nose as the other reaches for the towel that one of the girls from the back has produced. He watches Yoongi’s hands, though, as Yoongi starts to sign more and more furiously, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, are you okay? I hurt you, I’m so sorry, is it broken?

 Taehyung squints at him, his face all sweet and confused, and then he tosses the bloodied towel down and tugs Yoongi into a hug so that his hands are trapped between their chests, immobile.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, hyung,” Taehyung whispers near the shell of his ear, squeezing tight, and for the first time Yoongi’s muscles grow tense under his touch. From his chest to his feet, everything is twisted. “I’m okay. Promise.”

This isn’t a big deal. It is, but it isn’t. People get nosebleeds. Yoongi’s overreacting. Yoongi’s being dramatic. Yoongi needs to flee, but Taehyung has him pinned in place and this is bad, this is bad, this is bad.

Yoongi’s chest heaves like he’s crying, and Taehyung must feel it because he pulls away just enough to check Yoongi’s face, must find something there that’s startling because he falls away immediately to give Yoongi space.

“I-I’m sorry, I should have asked,” Taehyung stutters out. His nose is still dripping and his chin is stained the color of a tomato and it suddenly strikes Yoongi then, the scent of blood.

Yoongi looks down to where his sleeves are damp and cold against his wrists, skin dyed pink, feels himself losing it, losing it, losing it.

A hand on his shoulder, under his armpit, heaving him up. Namjoon, pulling him in, wrapping Yoongi up his arms, so firm and solid he can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t think.

“Come back, hyung,” Namjoon speaks lowly, rocking them back and forth and back and forth, humming a little under his breath as he swipes his palm over Yoongi’s shoulder blades. “You’re here, not there. Come back home.”

Yoongi knows this. That it is a Wednesday afternoon in February. That he is in the café, safe and surrounded by his best friends and yet—

“Come back, hyung,” Namjoon’s voice echoes, and Yoongi feels trapped and ashamed and foggy and he wants all the words to stop rattling around in his head and suddenly—

He’s there, on a street corner a block from school on a hazy, hot day in August. The sky an incongruously shade of blue.

Yoongi stares at it for a moment, this cloudless expanse of color stretched above him, then turns when he hears laughter to the side. Jungkook. Jungkook, face crinkled up as he giggles at whatever Jimin just told him on the phone. Jungkook, pretty and bright and unknowing.

“Hyung,” Jungkook says eagerly, eyes lighting up. “Hyung, do you want to go to—”

A hand catches Yoongi’s arm, pulling him back, and Yoongi’s thrown to the ground and the heels of his hands burn from skidding across the sidewalk and then—

“Hyu—back…Yoon—.”

The sounds are the worst. Crunching metal, shattering glass, the unmistakable thud from a body. Someone screaming. Someone screaming. Someone screaming—

 “—mory. This is—ry. Yoongi. Yoongi, this is—”

Jungkook screaming.

Then silence. Gargled frequency. Colors swirling past, like an old video tape, the kind he grew up with back home, being rewound double speed.

Yoongi heaves in a breath, opens his eyes, looks up and sees the immaculate blue sky.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Jungkook screaming again.

And again.

And again.

“—a memory. You’re at home, hyung, this is a memory.”

Yoongi shudders, heaves, digs a hand into the back of Namjoon’s sweater and claws like he’s trying to crawl out of his own mind.

 “There you go, hyung. There you are,” Namjoon whispers, still rocking, petting the back of his hair. “Come on, come on, come back. Just a memory, just a memory.”

A memory and a nightmare can be the same thing, though.

When Yoongi fully returns to them, his eyes are warm and brimming over, still crying. Yoongi swallows hard, embarrassed now, bogged down by the reality that he just had a breakdown in public, in front of Taehyung, and over something as stupid as a little blood.

You hurt him, his mind whispers as Namjoon lets him go. You hurt everyone you care about.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Namjoon snaps, his tone fierce, eyes unblinking. “You’re okay. You’re here with us. You’re okay.”

Yoongi nods, a small thing, his lower lip still trembling. Someone hugs him from behind, the lines of their bodies matching up, and Jimin whispers against his ear, “We love you, we love you, we love you.”

Yoongi pats his hands where they’ve wrapped around his stomach, and they stand together for what feels like a long time, in the back of the kitchen where Namjoon must have shuffled them sometime during the episode.

He was doing so well. He was doing so well and then this happened and why? Why now, why him?

Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut tight and just breathes in the scent of baking bread and roasted coffee and Jimin’s sandalwood shampoo. Three things he loves. Three things he has, right here, in this moment.

Yoongi’s not sure how long Jimin holds him but Namjoon finally says, “Let’s watch a movie,” and holds out a big hand for Yoongi to take. “We never finished the end of Planet Earth II.”

They leave through the backdoor and Yoongi doesn’t feel guilty about it because seeing Taehyung right now would just send him reeling. Instead they go back to Seokjin and Namjoon’s apartment, and Namjoon makes them mint tea and lies with Yoongi under tangled up sheets as Netflix plays on the computer between their legs.

(They end up watching The Great British Baking Show because Yoongi couldn’t handle the caribou calves being hunted by wolves.)

Yoongi falls asleep somewhere between puff pastry sausage rolls and the fruit and custard tarts. When he wakes it’s to the sound of Seokjin singing Ariana Grande in the shower, morning light creeping in from the cracks in the blinds so everything is a little fuzzy at the corners, and Namjoon’s arm wrapped around him like a blanket, like at some point during the night he had this unconscious urge to protect Yoongi from the darkness.

 

~~~

 

“They’re called flashbacks. They’re common in PTSD victims.”

“A form of intrusive thoughts. An intense memory from the trauma.” 

“Can be activated by a trigger. A sound, a phrase, a smell.”

“There are relaxation techniques we teach, to reduce the intensity and the frequency of the flashbacks over time.”

“You’re retraining your brain, Yoongi-ssi.  It’s hard work. It takes time.”

 

~~~

 

Yoongi knows it takes time. But here’s the thing, the thing they don’t mention from the start:

The memories never go away. Yoongi, no matter how hard he fights, no matter how many sessions he has or psychologists he visits, will never be able to completely forget that day.

 

~~~

 

Here’s the thing that Yoongi doesn’t tell anyone:

He doesn’t think he deserves to forget. Maybe that’s why he’s stopped trying.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Yoongi climbs out of bed that Thursday like a normal person, no rolling or crawling or flopping. He’s groggy, and disoriented, and he can’t feel the left side of his face because he’s been sleeping on it for two days. All that is terrible, he feels terrible, but what pulls him from his room isn’t the uncomfortable ache of disuse in his limbs or the dull rumble in his stomach from skipping meals— it’s Hoseok’s voice, jarring and shrieky and absolutely out of tune as he sings along to what might be a song off the soundtrack of a movie he saw with Jimin last week.

Yoongi fixes a stare at his door and doesn’t try to tune out the noise. He listens to the unintelligible tangle of notes building up his head, inside his chest, and Yoongi looks down to his toes curled into the floorboards and wonders what the fuck he’s been doing the past forty hours.

So he peels himself off the mattress, stands on wobbly legs, and scuttles across the hall into the bathroom where he submerges himself under a foamy mess of dissolved lavender bath bombs. The water cools quickly, but Yoongi lies there until his skin feels tight and the sludge of depression has visibly been cleansed from his body.

Hoseok is dancing in the kitchen when he leaves the safety of the bath. There’s no music, just the sound of his light feet padding and sweeping across the tile as he preps lunch. When he spots Yoongi he stills. Flails. Knocks their juicer off the counter and dives out of sight behind the counter to catch it.

Yoongi scurries over and finds Hoseok with the machine clutched in both hands and his face pressed into the floor.

For a short moment Yoongi watches him, heart pounding in his ears, and like a bulb flickering back to life, Hoseok’s hiccupy giggles start to tumble into the room.

Yoongi catches onto it and he curls against the counter, laughing so hard his sides are splitting and all the misery that’s been burrowing between his ribs the past few days, the past few weeks, spills out and disappears on the morning air.

 

~~~

 

Jungkook finds him in a studio that evening. After catching up on the work he missed in class yesterday, Yoongi’s now attempting to piece together the bits and bobs of almost songs he’s been saving over the past several weeks. He’s stuck on a particularly troubling bridge. The progression is too jarring where he currently has it placed, but he can’t seem to find the transition to make it fit anywhere else.

“Hyung.”

Yoongi finishes tapping out a few notes and swivels dramatically, a great big gusty sigh bursting out of him when he catches Jungkook’s eye.

Jungkook giggles and steps over the sheets of paper littering the floor. When he’s close enough, he reaches for Yoongi’s hand. Yoongi melts into it without thinking, allows Jungkook to swing their arms a little as he speaks.

“Are you busy Saturday?”

Yoongi watches as Jungkook’s hand seems to tremble, and he shakes his head no, waits while Jungkook gathers his thoughts. It seems like his mind is tripping over something.

“Would you like to go to a photography exhibit with me?” He finally says, and Yoongi squeezes once and draws his hand back to sign,

A gallery? Since when do you like going to social events?

Jungkook scrunches his nose up. “It’s for school. Do you want to go? It’s okay if you don’t.”

Yoongi shakes his head, signs, No, it sounds fun. What time?

“Five?” Yoongi nods and Jungkook’s hands are still shaking. “I’ll pick you up at five. And maybe we can go to dinner after?”

Trying to mooch a meal, Yoongi smirks, watching in delight as a slight flush spreads up Jungkook’s neck.

“I’ll pay this time.”

Don’t worry about it. I like taking care of you.

Yoongi sees the surprise cross his face, but the corner of Jungkook’s mouth begins to curl up. His voice catches when he says, “Dress nice, okay?”

You don’t have to tell me that. Haven’t you worn that hoodie three times this week?

“I wash it,” Jungkook grumbles, almost too soft to hear, and Yoongi barks out the breath of a laugh that makes Jungkook’s shoulders rise with his smile.

Jungkook leaves after threatening to send Jimin his way if he finds out Yoongi holed himself up in here until midnight again. He follows through on it when a quick and brutal stream of taps berates his door four hours later and Jimin barges in with an aggressive hug, an extra scarf, and a sour expression to drag him home.

“You can’t keep ghosting us,” he says at the foot of the stairs to Yoongi’s building, and Yoongi glances down at his scuffed up boots, face warm with shame and embarrassment and maybe a bit of affection. “I love you too much to let you ferment alone in your bedroom.”

Yoongi scoffs at that, a throaty breath, and Jimin rolls his eyes and slugs a fist against his shoulder and tugs him into another fierce hug that Yoongi curls in to.

Yoongi places his palm against the flat of Jimin’s back. Writes with a steady finger, I love you. I’m sorry.

Jimin just hiccups and squeezes him tighter.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s never been great at speaking to people.

Obviously he’s got some things going against him (social anxiety, fear of abandonment, he’s fucking mute); but Yoongi wonders if, even if he had been able to speak to people growing up, even if he could just pick up a phone to order takeout or didn’t have to write his answers down on a whiteboard in class, if it would really make any difference.

Hoseok doesn’t have a problem communicating. The worst that happens to him is that his hands fly too fast for Namjoon and Seokjin to follow sometimes. Hoseok, perky and bright and kind and in love with the world, doesn’t see a problem with his deafness. Acts like he’s never had a problem with it even though Yoongi was there with him through freshman year when his classmates were set on proving that people can be cruel for no other reason than because they can.

Yoongi watches Hoseok now, as he flits across the room, eyes closed and feet light as he sways and pops in time with the music that’s pulsing through the walls, the bass line so thick it could cause an earthquake on the other side of the world. Jimin moves with him at a slightly tilted speed, smooth where Hoseok is sharp, and Yoongi tucks his knees under his chin and watches them idly as they dance.

Everyone is doing so well, so why isn’t he? Why can’t he just open up and move on? Why can’t he just talk to people?

The music swarms him. Yoongi can feel the vibrations through the concrete under his legs, spreading through his body and making his spine tingle. His teeth tear at the skin on the inside of his thumb, and Namjoon reaches to pull his hand down, twine their fingers together.

Yoongi’s chest quakes, and he strangles the feeling that he needs to flee, needs to pull away— because this is Namjoon. Namjoon, who has been taking care of him since before they even knew each other’s names. Namjoon, who would never hurt him, who would never try to speak over him. Namjoon, who is using his thumbs to rub small circles against the tender parts of Yoongi’s wrists, the spots that ache when he’s played for too long.

How do I tell him? , Yoongi finally asks, and Namjoon, eyes kind and hands gentle, says sweetly, “Hyung, just tell him.”

So Yoongi texts Taehyung, asking when his next free block is. He could ask Jimin, Jimin most definitely knows everyone’s schedule; but if he asks Jimin then Yoongi has the opportunity to back out, and this isn’t something he can keep avoiding. Not without destroying a few relationships.

Yoongi also wants to give Taehyung a chance. Chances. A chance to prepare himself. Have questions ready. Sort out his feelings.

A chance to turn him away.

 

Tae [8:32pm]

Hi hyung. I work at the library tomorrow 2-6. Meet end of my shift?

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:35pm]

Okay.

 

Tae [8:36pm]

Take me out to dinner?

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:36pm]

Okay

 

Yoongi shows up early enough that by the time Taehyung appears at the top of the library steps, his nose is a little frigid and his heart has had enough downtime to build itself back up into a panicked rhythm. Taehyung himself doesn’t help at all. He’s soft today. Loose trousers and big sneakers and a coat that swallows him whole. A red beret, the brightest item on him for once, because his smile is small and tentative when he comes to rest beside Yoongi.

“Hi, hyung.”

It’s been days since Yoongi last heard his voice. This time when Yoongi employed the “Avoid Tae At All Costs” mission, he actually followed through. He hasn’t left the apartment since his breakdown. Not until today.

No one’s been angry at him even though he’s been difficult, which makes it all the worse. Because if they’re not upset, then that means they’re sad for him, which is infinitely worse.

Yoongi nods in greeting but can’t bring his gaze up from Taehyung’s clunky tennis shoes. He wonders if this is Taehyung’s version of harried. Yoongi’s never seen him in anything but runway boots and leather loafers.

“Wanna head out?”

Yoongi nods again, another small thing, and Taehyung hums under his breath and heads for the front gate. Yoongi trails after, just a little behind him, expecting Taehyung to make small talk and therefore thrown when ten minutes passes in silence. It’s not their easy kind, either, and by the time they make it to the ramen restaurant, Yoongi feels like a brick has wedged itself into his throat. He’s choking on his own breath.

The auntie from before seats them in the same corner. Last time they were here, Yoongi was so warm inside he thought he’d melt into his chair. Tonight, as they remove their coats, Yoongi’s tempted to crawl under the table and establish some real estate down there.

They don’t speak. Not as they look over the menu, or when they order, or between the time it takes for the waiter to bring them out their meals. Taehyung’s settled into his seat and is casually blowing on a steaming spoonful of broth, picking at the side-dishes here and there. Yoongi is hunched over his lap, his airway so clogged that tears are starting to prick the corner of his eyes.

“Hyung.”

Yoongi closes his eyes and heaves in a breath.

“Yoongi-hyung, can I hold your hand?”

Yoongi startles, glances up, and finds Taehyung with his arm stretched across their small table with his palm facing up. Yoongi stares at it for long enough that Taehyung begins to draw away, the start of an apology pricking is mouth, and Yoongi’s hand shoots out so quick to hold on to him that Taehyung drops his chopsticks into his bowl with a tiny exclamation.

His ears are searing, but Yoongi holds onto Taehyung’s hand for most of the night. When the waiter comes by to refill their drinks, Taehyung drops his arm to pull their twined fingers out of sight, and Yoongi breathes through his nose as Taehyung holds their hands against his thigh where they remain as they finish eating.

They break apart to pay. Put their coats on. Drift back into the chilled February air. Taehyung once again takes off on his own accord, and Yoongi shuffles quietly beside him for a block, then two, then three.

Yoongi wonders how long they’re going to keep this up before Taehyung’s pausing in front of another storefront. It’s inconspicuous at first glance, with just a small wooden sign and a single strand of white Christmas lights lining the front window. Yoongi’d probably pass by it on a normal day. Yoongi probably has passed by it, but Taehyung instead is opening the door for him to go inside, and Yoongi steps under his arm to pass through and breathes in the heavy scent of coffee beans and hazelnut.

There’s a woman in a dark green apron manning the front counter. A few couples are dotted around the small front room. Taehyung doesn’t take them up to order, though, or to join the others. Instead he weaves around the sofas and tables and heads for an open doorway in the back. Yoongi scrambles after, curious, and finds himself in a book shop of sorts, the walls filled from head to toe with old and new volumes alike.

Taehyung’s waiting for him on a plush velvet sofa in one of the corners. He’s removed his coat but not his hat and pats the cushions for Yoongi to join him. Yoongi could take a seat at the other end, but instead he sinks down right beside Taehyung. So that their thighs brush. So Yoongi can tap his foot against Taehyung’s and Taehyung can tap back.

They sit there for a long time on that sofa, knee-to-knee-to-shoulder-to-shoulder. Yoongi picks at a loose thread in the seam of the cushion. Picks at the gnarled nail beds on his left hand.

The silence is screaming between them.

Yoongi digs his nails into his palms. Squeezes hard. Taehyung’s hand, on his wrist, tap-tap-tapping to get him to let go before he breaks skin.

The breath shudders out of him, and Yoongi tugs out his phone and types hastily, That’s enough.

Taehyung leans in to read. He says softly, “Enough of what, hyung?”

Whatever it is you’re doing. You don’t have to—Yoongi stops writing, phone tucked loosely into his palms, and Taehyung must take that as an invitation to read again. He frowns at the unfinished thought.

“Don’t have to what, hyung?” Yoongi curls in a bit further and Taehyung says more gently, “Hyung, please tell me.”

You don’t have to be so careful with me, he writes and bites the inside of his cheek. Please don’t be so careful with me.

Taehyung’s quiet for a long time after he’s done reading. His jaw is tight as he looks down at his lap, and Yoongi watches him closely because his face always gives away his thoughts. Taehyung is always so open with him, and Yoongi can read him now, can easily see the apprehension and wariness wrinkling his brow as he stares hard at his hands.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says, slowly, as if he’s still processing the words, “if the way I’ve been acting made you think I was trying to be careful with you. I don’t think that. That you can’t, y’know, handle yourself. I’m sorry.”

Taehyung takes a deep breath, his entire body shifting with it. His dark eyes flick to Yoongi.

“But I have been trying to be careful,” Taehyung says, unafraid to look him in the eye. “Not with you. Just... There are things I’d like to know, about you, but I don’t want to push you into them. And I know I can be a bit much, so whenever I get scared of being…” Taehyung exhales through his nose and Yoongi’s painfully reminded that Taehyung, as much as he loves to talk, truly struggles to speak at times. “Sometimes I think me being me does more harm than good, so I just decide to be quiet instead.”

Anger flares up, blinding him. Who hurt you? Yoongi wants to ask. Who told you that you were too much? That you weren’t enough? Who told you to be quiet? Fuck them. None of them matter, none of them matter.

Stillness settles over them, and Yoongi turns forward and buries his head in his palms, rubbing his eyes hard, trying to still his heart.

The cushions shift, and Yoongi lets out a heavy sigh when Taehyung’s hand finds the back of his neck, tugging at the short strands of hair there.

Yoongi tilts his head to look over and Taehyung’s waiting, looking hopefully at him, gaze vulnerable and open.

Yoongi pulls up his phone and writes.

And writes.

And writes.

I’ve been mute my whole life. Got sick when I was little. Never quite recovered. I’ve always been this way, and recently I’ve really been wondering if things would be better if I wasn’t. I don’t think they would, and that’s hard. Being mute is hard, but I’m used to it. Min Yoongi; likes fine wines and the ocean, can’t speak, has trouble with crowds. It’s a just a thing. It’s just a part of me.

The anxious buzzing in Yoongi’s chest dies the moment Taehyung finishes reading and turns to him, watching him intently, eyes soft and serious as he says, “Tell me more, hyung. Please?”

So Yoongi does.

I met Hoseok my second year of college. We were roommates, eventually grew to be friends. I think he started dating Namjoon the winter of his second year, around the time that I started dating Jimin. Obviously only one of those couples lasted. Seokjin slipped in somewhere around there. Honestly can’t remember how we met him. One day he was just hanging out at our apartment. And then Jungkook—

Yoongi stops typing. Taehyung, without hesitation, lays a hand on his thigh. Squeezes once.

Jungkook’s a childhood friend of Jimin’s. Met him at the start of my grad program. Bratty kid. Kind as can be. Fit in like there was a spot waiting for him. We got close quick. We all got close quick.

Yoongi’s fingers twist and twitch. His head is begging him to stop, stop now, don’t tell him anymore, things will change, he will change, he’ll look at you the way they all do, leave him leave him leave him now. Leave him before he leaves you.

Yoongi’s toeing the edge. His teeth sink into his lower lip and Taehyung waits.

And waits.

And waits.

He’s not going anywhere.

It was spring, not last year, but the year before, Yoongi types out and feels Taehyung sink into his side. Jungkook and I were heading to lunch. We were about to cross the street and, I don’t remember how it happened, but a car missed the red light. I didn’t see it. Jungkook pushed me out of the way, took most of the impact. Traumatic brain injury is what they said. Busted his ear drums. He was completely deaf when he woke up. Doctors said there was nothing they could do. That he was lucky to be alive.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, no hesitation between the moment he finished reading and now.  “Yoongi, hyung. Please tell me you don’t think the accident was your fault.”

Yoongi shrugs, shifting away from him. Maybe not. But I was the one who didn’t watch the road. I was the one who should have been hit.

“Hyung—”

I see it happen, Yoongi mouths and tilts his head back. Taehyung leans into him, a reminder, and Yoongi taps into his phone, I see it all the time. Live through it again and again. The memory’s always lurking there, waiting for me to forget so it can pop up again. Guess I deserve it. Jungkook was a singer. Always wanted to be a singer.

Yoongi doesn’t tell Taehyung that they almost lost him, not once, but twice. That, when Jungkook was cleared to leave the hospital, they had a chart set up of shifts, weeks written out for who would spend the night with him. That it took months to get him to realize there was a life outside of music.

“Hyung. Hyung, look at me.”

Yoongi blinks, coming back to himself. Jolts when he finds Taehyung crouched before him, hands on Yoongi’s knees, gaze fierce when he says, “When I was eleven my mom left. Left me, I mean, at my grandparents. Didn’t tell anyone. Just… left. Never came back. My dad left too, before I was born, because being a parent wasn’t something on his to-do list. Like I said, I’m a bit much at times.”

Yoongi’s red hot, skin prickling up his spine as he twists his fingers in his lap. Taehyung reaches out to take one hand, then the other, and Yoongi’s startled by how okay it is. He doesn’t feel trapped.

“You have this look on your face,” Taehyung says, a smile hidden there, like there’s something funny happening right now. “Like you’re angry.”

I am angry, Yoongi mouths, and Taehyung seems to understand because he says,

“Because I’m blaming myself for something out of my control?”

Yoongi shakes his head. It’s not the same.

Taehyung fingers press against his wrists, a comforting weight. He sits back on his heels, thinking for a bit, and then he looks up through his dark lashes that are still unnecessarily long. “Someone I really admire told me that I shouldn’t make someone else’s pain my own. That it gets hard to carry. I carried other people’s pain for a long time, hyung. It almost killed me. Aren’t you tired of being so sad all the time? Because I was.”

Yoongi tenses, thinking back to all those weeks ago when he typed out that message.

Don’t make someone else’s pain your own. It gets hard to carry most days.

Yoongi shakes his wrists, asking to be let go, and Taehyung releases his hands only to put them back on Yoongi’s thighs.  Yoongi tries not to think about how big they are, how they seem to cover his whole leg.

I’m tired of being sad, Yoongi writes in his phone. Lingers. Taps out with a choked breath, Maybe we can work on it together.

Taehyung doesn’t make any movement to show he recognizes Yoongi’s words. Just smiles kindly and stands with a groan and takes Yoongi’s hand again to pull him up.

They walk like that together to the bus stop, and Yoongi makes as if to say goodbye but Taehyung doesn’t turn. Doesn’t break away. Continues to hold his hand regardless of the stares aimed their way from a couple loners waiting nearby.

The bus comes. Taehyung holds Yoongi’s hand.

They sit together in the back, away from prying eyes, and Taehyung holds Yoongi’s hand.

Four stops later, they trail out the doors. Taehyung is still holding Yoongi’s hand.

Yoongi’s palm is sweating despite the winter chill, but Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind. Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind much of anything, really, and Yoongi wonders how he can be so blasé about the world. How someone so sensitive doesn’t get so absolutely overwhelmed all the time.

Yoongi’s always on the brink of sensory overload. Always at the cusp of feeling a little too much to be comfortable. People think he’s cold, but what else are you supposed to do when there’s so much happening inside?

“Hyung?”

Yoongi realizes he’s stopped walking. Has let go of Taehyung’s hand. Is currently gazing up at a starless sky like it holds all the answers he seeks.

I don’t know how to be okay, Yoongi signs without looking to Taehyung. Please tell me how you’re always so okay.

Taehyung covers the distance between them. This time, when he reaches for Yoongi’s hand, there’s the slightest hesitation. Like he’s not sure if it’s okay for him to touch anymore.

Yoongi threads their fingers together and gives a little tug to pull Taehyung in just a bit closer. Taehyung giggles as the begin to walk again, then says in a low voice,  “I’m going to start taking classes for KSL.”

Yoongi scoffs and then types out with one hand, Sure you are .

Taehyung makes an affronted noise. “You don’t think I will?”

They’re a block from Yoongi’s apartment and Yoongi doesn’t really want to have this conversation but feels like they kind of need to.

I can’t even count how many people have said they were going to learn sign language for me , Yoongi writes. Because it’s true. And he’s not upset about it, not anymore.

“And they didn’t?” Taehyung’s eyes are narrowing again and Yoongi purses his lips because he didn’t want to make Taehyung upset again.

Yoongi draws back his hand so he has both to type with. It’s not a big deal , he writes.  I can understand you just fine.

“Yeah, but that’s not…It’s like…” Taehyung slips off his beanie, musses his hair, then pulls the hat back on so it covers his ears. He speaks slowly, less like he’s trying to get Yoongi to understand and more like he wants to make sure he’s saying exactly what he wants to say. “Signing is your way of talking. It’s your language. Why wouldn’t I want to learn the language of a person I care about?”

Yoongi’s stumbles, and Taehyung presses in against his side.

“Hyung, I think you’re missing something here. I like…” Taehyung clears his throat. “I like talking to you. I like being around you. Whatever I can do to be closer to you, I’m going to do it. Whatever I can do to make our friendship stronger, I’m going to do it. Okay?”

Yoongi gives a small nod and Taehyung nudges his shoulder as they come to a stop outside of Yoongi’s building. “Cool. Good talk. Now, home sweet home.”

Thanks for walking me.

Taehyung shrugs, nonplussed. “Thanks for letting me walk you. Can I hug you, hyung?”

Yoongi breathes sharply through his nose, rolls his eyes, holds his arms out wide and wheezes when Taehyung wraps him up in a giggly embrace.

It’s cute and possibly a little flirty; but then Taehyung’s hands find his waist, and he starts to rock them back and forth and back, and Yoongi feels this great big ball of sludge settle in against his windpipe as Taehyung just continues to hold him, as Yoongi just allows himself to be held.

His eyes sting, and Yoongi reaches up to curl a fist into the back of Taehyung’s jacket, and for the first time in a long time, Yoongi cries and doesn’t feel ashamed about it.

 

~~~

 

Sleeping is easy. Yoongi’s in a constant state of wanting to burrow under his comforter until spring arrives. When Yoongi crawls into his majestic marshmallow of a bed, he usually contemplates blowing off the day to remain there until the scorching rays of sun that slip between his blinds fade away and it’s, once again, time to go back to bed.

Yoongi always wants to be sleeping, so why now, at the pinnacle midnight hour, is he itching to move?

Yoongi pulls his earbuds out. He’s worked his way through two playlists and is now attempting some ocean white noise, but the breaking waves do nothing to draw him under.

His brain starts pitching ideas: Warm shower. Hot tea. Pace the living room. Take some melatonin. Don’t take the temazepam. Read, but not from his phone. Write, again not on his phone. Go see if Hoseok is awake to talk. Don’t wake up Hoseok, he’ll start to worry if you need to start taking the temazepam again. Try rainforest sounds.

Yoongi chews on his nails, picks up his phone, and with his intestines slowly tangling up, he taps out a message.

 

Yoongi Hyung [12:08am]

Are you awake?

 

Before he can chicken out, he presses send and has to stop himself from flinging his phone across the room. Instead he flips onto his stomach and buries his face into his pillows, wishing he could be like those people in the movies who can just scream to let their feelings out so that they’ll stop festering inside.

A minute goes by like that. His phone gives a little blip and Yoongi tosses over again to pull it out from under the sheets.

 

Tae [12:10am]

Yup! On my way home. What’s up?

 

Yoongi’s fingers dance around the keypad. What’s done is done, so he hammers out the message and pushes send and crawls under his blankets to suffocate.

 

Yoongi Hyung [12:11am]

Can you call me?

 

Taehyung’s name lights up his screen almost immediately.

“Hyung?” Taehyung’s voice is even deeper on the phone. Holy fuck. “Is everything okay? Wait, obviously you can’t answer that, ohmygod…”

Yoongi drags the screen over and opens up his messages.

 

Yoongi Hyung [12:12am]

Talk to me about your day?

 

There’s a pause on the line and Taehyung’s voice comes back echoed. “Are you texting me, hyung? Oh, that’s nifty. Okay. Wait, let me put headphones in.” Scrambling on his end of the line, and suddenly Taehyung’s voice is close and warm in his ear again. “You want me to tell you about my day? Why?”

 

Yoongi Hyung [12:12am]

Just because

 

“Nothing’s ‘just because’ with you, hyung.”

Yoongi doesn’t want to say that it’s been eighteen hours since he’s heard Taehyung’s voice and he misses it. Misses him .

So he doesn’t say anything, and when seconds drag into minutes, Taehyung hums a little and it’s breathy against ear, sends chills up his arms.

“There’s this little boy at a daycare we visit for class, Jinyoung, who totally has ADD but probably hasn’t been diagnosed. Apparently he’s had a really rough year in the classroom and none of the co-teachers have been making an effort to like, get to know him or help him out. They just treat him like a nuisance and threaten to send him to the director all the time to scare him into behaving and it fucking pisses me off. But today, Jinyoung started crying cuz one of the teachers scolded him in front of the class for not sitting still, but I took him outside and talked to him in the hall for like an hour and just listened to him, y’know, and I found out all these incredible things about him like how he wants to be an artist and has a kick-ass rock collection and an imaginary friend named Sun who is a walrus with one tusk and it was just so amazing, hyung, because he really opened up to me and trusts me now and all I had to do was treat him like a fucking human being with feelings and just—” Taehyung inhales, long and slow, and says in a quieter voice, “I really love my job, you know? Like it’s hard, but I love it.”

I like you, Yoongi mouths, closes his eyes, says it again and again and again to himself, to the ceiling and the carpet and his desk and the fake ficus in the corner of the room that Namjoon brought him to remind him to go outside sometimes.

“Hyung?”

I’m here, Yoongi types, curled in on his side, and Taehyung makes a soft sound of acknowledgement and starts talking about his trip to the grocery store and this concert he and Jimin want to go see in a few months and his grandma back in Daegu and something about giraffes or whales. His words become dreamlike, almost hypnotic, and Yoongi didn’t even realize he might have been tired all this time until he wakes to the morning sun with a crick in his neck and a phone that only has two percent battery.

Yoongi coughs, clears his throat, kind of feels like something died in his mouth because he didn’t brush his teeth last night. As he shuffles to the bathroom, he checks the string of messages he received sometime in the late hours.

All of them are from Taehyung.

hyung, did you fall asleep? The first one reads, and Yoongi stubs his toe on the doorframe and hisses.

 

Tae [12:48am]

you totally fell asleep I can hear u snoring

i can’t believe you called me and then fell asleep

but you can call me again if u want

 

Tae [1:12am]

sweet dreams hyung

I missed talking to you too

 

 

Yoongi pauses with one hand on the medicine cabinet, and he reads the last message again and again until his screen dies.

There’s a knock on the door, and Yoongi releases his bottom lip that he’s been chewing on to keep from smiling and finds Hoseok leaning against the frame.

You’re sooooo whipped, he signs then flees, fully expecting Yoongi to throw the nearest thing within reach at him that wouldn’t cause excessive bodily harm. Which he does. It’s a bar of soap.

Hoseok shrieks as the bar flings past his ear, and he shuffles out of the way so quick his shoulder catches on the doorframe and he stumbles face-first into the hall. Yoongi pales and rushes out after him, but his foot finds the soap and Yoongi feels the breath flee his body as he legs disappear from underneath him.

Hoseok’s laughing spectacularly, and the two of them lie on the floor for a while after that, nursing bruised bones and clinging to one another until they can take full breaths again.

If me breaking my face is what it takes to make you laugh, I’d do it a thousand times over, Hoseok signs to him, hands raised in the air for him to see, eyes soft as he tilts his head to find Yoongi’s gaze.

Yoongi swallows thickly and nods, understanding settling over him, and Hoseok groans and pats Yoongi’s calf and hobbles off to the kitchen to start the day.

 

~~~

 

Namjoon breaches the subject again because it’s kind of his job.

(Seokjin is the one Yoongi goes to when he wants to avoid life and Hoseok is the one who makes him laugh and Jimin is the one who pretends he doesn’t care but actually probably cares the most and Namjoon is the one who gives it to him straight.)

“Hyung,” Namjoon announces in The Tone, the one Namjoon takes about matters he’s been mulling over for a long time that Yoongi probably doesn’t want to hear about even though it’s most likely going to be healthy for him. “I really think you should tell him who you are.”

Bingo.

Not happening, Yoongi signs, deadpan.

Namjoon heaves in a sigh. “Well, I think he’ll be upset when he finds out. Which he will. Because they always find out.”

He’s not going to find out.

Namjoon looks at him funny, and he sighs again and rolls out his shoulders and doesn’t look at Yoongi when he says, “Jimin’s bringing him by the studio in fifteen minutes with coffee. I think he’s going to find out.”

Yoongi sucks in a lungful of air so fast it chokes him, and Namjoon just shakes his head and mutters to himself as Yoongi scrambles for his phone.

 

Yoongs [8:06pm]

You’re not coming by the studio with Taehyung are you?

 

Jiminie [8:06pm]

???

it was supposd to be a surprise!!!

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:07pm]

No. Go home. I don’t want you here.

 

Jiminie [8:07pm]

well that’s mean

and the Great Min Yoongi turning dowb free coffee??

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:09pm]

I’m serious Jimin. Don’t bring Taehyung here.

 

Jiminie [8:09pm]

ohhhhh so /that’s/ what this is about

def coming now

tae’s real excited too

u dont wanna make tae sad do you???

 

Yoongi Hyung [8:09pm]

Does Taehyung know that I’m going to be here?

 

Jiminie [8:09pm]

u mean does he know your secret identiy??

nope

that’s the surprise

 

Yoongi crumples in his seat and gestures wildly to get Namjoon’s attention. Call Jimin, he signs. Explain the situation. He thinks I’m just being coy.

Namjoon blinks at him. “You are just being coy.”

Yoongi stares at him, a little feral, and Namjoon shrinks under the stare. “Fine. Fine! Quit looking at me like that.”

More grumbling, and Namjoon manages to dig out his phone from under his stacks of papers. He pouts at Yoongi and Yoongi’s eyes slit. Namjoon scrunches his nose and looks away.

“Hey, Jiminie,” he says, a little too loud so that Yoongi can hear. “Is Tae around? No? Okay cool, well hyung wanted me to call you and explain that he’s been flirting with Taehyung over the radio station messenger app for months and now he knows who Taehyung is but Taehyung doesn’t know who he is. Speaker phone? Okay.”

Namjoon holds the phone away from his ear.

“Hyung!” Jimin whisper-shrieks. “What the hell!”

“He’s rolling his eyes,” Namjoon dolefully intones. “Continue.”

“I knew Tae was smitten with the radio program but I didn’t realize it was because he’s been sexting Yoongi-hyung.”

Yoongi sinks into his chair. His spine is a sponge. He can’t support his own body weight. This is so exhausting. Having friends is so exhausting.

“Hyung says it’s not sexting,” Namjoon says. “I also say it wasn’t sexting. Please don’t mention sexting and Yoongi-hyung in the same statement to me ever again.”

“Whatever,” Jimin chirps, and Yoongi slumps forward with a sigh. “The point is, Yoongi-hyung, that Taehyung is basically cheating on you with yourself.”

Namjoon snickers and Yoongi lifts his hands to sign a remark. “He says it’s not like that. That Taehyung was just always sad in the comments and Yoongi wanted to make him feel better. Shit, that’s soft of you, hyung.”

“Double shit,” Jimin says on the line. “Didn’t know you had a heart, hyung. Didn’t know it was made of three-ply toilet paper.”

“He’s glaring.”

“Well, he can continue to glare, but we’re still coming. Tae’s clocking off. We’ll be there in fifteen. Want me to tell him about you-know-who before we head over?”

“No,” Namjoon answers, but he double checks to make sure Yoongi’s okay with that. Yoongi gives a dismissive hand flap. “I want to see this play out.”

“Same. See you soon!”

Yoongi twists his hands together before knocking against the desk to get Namjoon’s attention. Namjoon, this isn’t funny.

“It’s kind of funny,” Namjoon grins. “Stop stressing, hyung. You’ve only known it’s him for like, two of your conversations now. It’s not a big deal.”

You just said he’ll be upset. They’re always upset.

Namjoon starts to pitter around his desk, straightening papers and gathering his seventy-two paper cups he gets everytime he buys watered down coffee from the vending machine. “Okay, I take it back. Taehyung will probably think it’s destiny and really cute.”

Please don’t tell him I know it’s him, Yoongi signs.

“Hyung, he’s not—”

It’s not about me. It’s about him. Namjoon stills. Yoongi’s teeth grate against the skin on the inside of his mouth and resists the urge to bite down. Taehyung has anonymously shared personal things with me, with us. I shouldn’t know some of the things I know. So unless he brings it up that he’s been sending in messages, I’m going to pretend that I don’t know it’s him. Okay?

Namjoon’s spine seems to give out. Yoongi watches him shrink in on himself. “Yeah, hyung. I get it. Okay.”

Thanks.

“Want to fix your hair before they get here? You kind of look like a troll.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes but ducks his head anyway, and Namjoon chuckles under his breath as he combs his fingers through Yoongi’s fringe.

 

 

 

There isn’t enough time for Yoongi work himself up into a fit over this. Plus, he has a job to do, and unlike Namjoon, he actually likes being on the good side of his department head.

So when Jimin comes gallivanting through the studio door with a perky “hiya, hyungs!”, Yoongi just continues to burrow, unseen as he can possibly get, behind his computer monitor.

“Jimin,” Namjoon intones flatly. “We could have been in the middle of a segment.”

“But you weren’t,” Jimin chirps back, and Yoongi peeks around the screen to see Jimin tugging Taehyung in by his elbow sleeve. “And your listeners love me anyway.”

Jimin stares at Namjoon, smiling. Namjoon sighs, pitches his voice higher and says, “Oh no, Jimin-ah, everyone loves you.” Jimin giggles and Namjoon raises the back of his hand to his brow. “Oh, wondrous Park Jimin. The brightest, most beautiful creature on this begotten earth.”

“Joonie-hyung,” Jimin squeals, heading over to drape himself over Namjoon’s chair and, in turn, Namjoon. “Joonie-hyung, stop i-i-t .”

“How do I love thee?” Namjoon gasps, raising one arm as Jimin beats his shoulder. “Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and hei—”

“Yoongi-hyung?”

Yoongi stills. Because at some point in the melodramatics, Yoongi rolled out from behind his desk to laugh at the scene before him, and Taehyung, who is hovering beside the door, has his brow pinched in such a myriad of emotions that, even if Yoongi was better at reading him, Yoongi doesn’t think he’d want to.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Taehyung repeats, finally settling on a mix of pleasantly surprised and mildly slighted. Yoongi hopes the latter is for Jimin lying to him but understands they’re all guilty here. “What are you doing here?”

“He’s my emotional support,” Namjoon answers, still fully embraced by Jimin, who is watching them with cautious eyes. “Like one of those dogs that can sense when you’re sad.”

Yoongi scrunches his nose at that, but Taehyung just lets out a little, “Oh. Okay.”

“You don’t look convinced,” Namjoon says.

“Well, hyung wouldn’t be first on my list for emotional support.”

Yoongi, not at all upset with this claim because it is undeniably true, pretends to be upset and flips Taehyung off. Taehyung recoils, so stunned by the action that Yoongi’s afraid he might have crossed a line he didn’t know was there.

But then Taehyung barks out a laugh, face curling up with his smile, and Yoongi is flooded with warmth at the sight of it. It’s only been a couple days since they talked on the phone and Yoongi still can’t stop himself from tripping over that sound.

Namjoon clears his throat. “He’s actually the DJ.”

Taehyung’s grin falls so fast it might actually hurt. He stares at Namjoon. Mildly slighted has flipped to full-blown alarm. “I thought you were the DJ?”

“Hyung’s in charge of most of the music,” Namjoon says, casually pulling Jimin off of himself. “I do all the talking.”

Taehyung nods and nods and nods. “Oh, that makes sense. So, uhm. Who, uh, answers messages? That listeners send in?”

“Hyung does most of the time.”

Taehyung’s head just keeps bobbling. “Does most of the time mean, like, every time?”

“No?” Namjoon answers, and Jimin crosses around the desks to sit in Yoongi’s lap. “That’s why it’s most and not every?”

“Right, right. Right.” Taehyung stops moving. Might possibly not be breathing with the way his voice comes out tight. “Yeah, course. Get any, uh, unusual messages?”

Jimin’s rubbing the back of Yoongi’s neck, like he thinks Yoongi needs the comfort. Yoongi actually just needs to get as far away from this room as possible, but a little massage doesn’t hurt.

“Hyung gets asked out a lot,” Namjoon smirks, “ if that’s what you’re referring to.”

“It wasn’t, but that’s great to know. Very nice.” Taehyung swivels stiffly towards him. “Congrats, hyung, on your dating possibilities.”

“Don’t worry,” Namjoon gleams, giddy from his spot. He winks at Yoongi because Taehyung is turned away. “He’s already got someone.”

Taehyung’s mouth is so pinched it looks like he may never smile again. “Oh. Oh, okay. What a lucky person. I mean, you know. Yay them.”

Jimin makes a strangled noise and tosses his head back. “Namjoon-hyung, you’re terrible. Tae, don’t worry, he’s actually waiting for— OW ! The hell, hyung!?”

Jimin rubs at his side where Yoongi pinched the bit of skin there. He pulls his right arm from around Jimin’s waist and signs where Namjoon can see as well, Stop ignoring me. Stop talking. Both of you.

He obviously likes you, Jimin signs back with a heavy pout. What are you waiting for?

We’re not… That’s not…

Yoongi drops his hands into his lap, unsure of how to press forward, and there must be something in his expression that sobers Namjoon and Jimin up because they both drop the cheeky grins.

Please just let us handle this ourselves, Yoongi tells them.

“Okay, hyung,” Jimin says softly, giving Yoongi a small hug. “Okay. Sorry.”

“Should I go?” Taehyung asks after the silence flitters on. He’s gesturing for the door. “Because I can go, if you guys need to like, talk or something. In private.”

Jimin shakes his head. “We’re fine. Sorry for cutting you out of that. That was rude.”

Taehyung shrugs, but Yoongi knows he’s feeling hurt. So he pushes Jimin out of his lap and gestures for Taehyung to join him instead.

“Do I get to sit in your lap, too?” He asks as he pads over, lips curling.

Yoongi’s ears are burning but he signs and enthusiastic fuck no that makes everyone laugh. Jimin returns to Namjoon’s lap even though there’s a perfectly good chair in the corner he could drag up, and Yoongi has Taehyung take a seat in the guest chair beside him and shows him how the programs they use work.

After the next talk segment and with a few songs queued, Namjoon and Jimin chatting intensely over something that happened in the latest episode of the drama they’re keeping up with, Taehyung tugs on the hem of Yoongi’s sleeve and tilts his head towards the door.

Yoongi nods, grabs his phone, and the two of them unspokenly head for the roof.

Taehyung doesn’t wait. As soon as the door shuts behind him, he turns to Yoongi, planet sized brown eyes looking downtrodden. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Tell you what? Yoongi mouths, then remembers who they are and reaches for his phone instead.

Taehyung doesn’t need the crutch, though. The statement must have been obvious because he speaks before Yoongi can write. “That you work here. That you run the messaging board.”

The statement remains unsaid: That you knew who I was all this time.

Yoongi takes in a great big breath and wills his hands to stop trembling. Because I eventually want you to tell me, Min Yoongi, not some stranger on the radio, everything about you. But only in your own time, and only if you want to.

Taehyung moves in close to read, head ducked low so that his breath warms the bridge of Yoongi’s nose.

He’s quiet for a bit, just like he was at the little book shop. Yoongi lets him think. Let’s him process. Can’t stop himself from leaning forward so that Taehyung’s nose brushes against his forehead.

Taehyung’s breath stutters, but without hesitation, he presses his lips against the very top of Yoongi’s head, not quite a kiss but close enough for Yoongi’s heart to trip over itself.

“I want to, hyung,” he breathes, voice catching at the end. “I want to tell you everything.”

I want to hear everything you have to say, Yoongi mouths against his scarf, writes again a few minutes later for Taehyung to read as they return to the warmth of the stairwell.

Taehyung grins at him, small and shy, something only for him, and Yoongi reaches up to run a thumb under Taehyung’s eye where a mole dots his lash line.

He doesn’t try to make an excuse for it this time.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s passing through the living room when he catches Hoseok staring at him with his eyes stretched wide open, a crumpled bag of dried squid loose in his grip.

Oh my god, you actually did it? he signs, jaw trailing low with the intensity of his grin.

Yoongi blanches. Did what?

Hoseok tosses down the squid and jumps the coffee table to get to him. You’re going on a date.

Fuck no, Yoongi mouths, brow furrowing. Not a date.

Hoseok makes a low humming noise and gives Yoongi’s collar a tug. Hyung. You’re in slacks that, by the way, make your ass look fantastic. You blow dried your hair. It’s Valentine’s Day.

What?

You look very much so not like a goblin living under a bridge and are going out, willingly, on your least favorite day of the year. Hoseok’s fingers jitter against Yoongi’s ribs in time to him mouthing the words, You. Have. A. Date.

Yoongi moves away but Hoseok follows, trilling loudly and smacking his shoulders like he needs some kind of pump up jam. Which he very well might. Yoongi totally blanked that today was Valentine’s. The shit ton of couples littering the streets is going to be nauseating. Why did Jungkook have to go to the gallery showing today?

It’s not a date, Yoongi snaps as Hoseok trails after him to the bathroom. We’re going to a gallery and then dinner.

Silence behind him, and Yoongi finishes touching up his hair and is dabbing a bit of cologne on his wrists when he catches Hoseok staring at him through the mirror, face unamused as he signs, That’s the definition of a date. Did you ask or did he?

He asked, Yoongi mouths with a frown that only grows when Hoseok whips out his phone from his horrendous yellow shorts that Yoongi keeps trying to throw away. Who are you texting? And what are you freaking out over, we do this all the time?

Hoseok blinks at him. Jimin. And since when?

Like three years? Where have you been?

Hoseok blinks harder. Mouths What? with a bit too much bewilderment, even for him.

You’re being weird, Yoongi signs. More so than usual.

No. Who are you going out with tonight?

Jungkook.

What? Hoseok mouths, so shocked that a little of the word actually escapes with a squeak.

Jungkook asked me to go to a gallery with him and we’re grabbing dinner after, Yoongi explains, brushing past him to make a stop by his bedroom to grab his coat. It’s the nice, wool one that Seokjin says makes him look three inches taller and like a respectable member of society. Why doesn’t Yoongi try to wear this coat with Taehyung? Why does he always look like a baby beluga whale when they meet?

Hoseok’s hand shoots out, blocking the doorway, and Yoongi eyes him as he ducks under it to pass.

Wait, Jimin’s freaking out.

Why is Jimin freaking out? Yoongi signs. What did you tell him?

That you’re going on a date, Hoseok mouths without looking at him.

It’s not a date!, Yoongi flails, but Hoseok just edges an amused brow up. It’s Jungkook! Why would I go on a date with Jungkook?

Hoseok follows him out to the kitchen. Yoongi’s ready and Jungkook should be here any moment, but time isn’t moving fast enough and Hoseok’s out for blood.

Well seeing as we both thought you were going out with Taehyung tonight, I think we have the right to be upset.

Yoongi drops his arms and mouths, The fuck?

Hoseok hums under his breath and Yoongi feels he’s trudging through mud. The room is rocking. Why are the walls moving?   Jimin wants to know if Taehyung asked you out for tonight.

Yoongi, the edges of his vision dark, plops onto the sofa without trying to catch himself. No , he mouths, and Hoseok sits on the arm and frowns.

Jimin’s upset.

Why?

I can’t tell you. Breach of trust.

Fuck this, Yoongi snarls, and Hoseok crawls out of smacking range. Tell Jimin to shove a—

The door beeps and Yoongi scrambles to sit up when Jungkook rounds the corner of the entry. Hoseok flinches and turns, shoulders loosening when he spots who it is. A little noise of excitement escapes when he flings himself across the living room to latch onto Jungkook’s torso.

Jungkook rubs Hoseok’s arm and waddles forward, stopping when he catches sight of Yoongi who is currently trying to look busy dusting non-existent hair off his person.

Hi, hyung, Jungkook mouths, hands still occupied. His eyes are wide and alive as they trail down to Yoongi’s toes then jump back to his face. You look nice.

You told me to dress well, Yoongi signs, tugging on his lapel. You look handsome, Kook.

Jungkook, still in a human straight-jacket but with freshly fluffed hair and his shirt tucked in, flushes all the way to his ears. Don’t tease me.

But I love teasing you, Yoongi smirks, and Jungkook lifts his face to the ceiling so that Yoongi can’t read the words he mouths.

Hoseok finally pries himself off Jungkook’s arm and goes back to his perch on the sofa, phone in hand, gaze sharp as it flits between the two of them. Yoongi raises a brow in question and Hoseok’s eyes narrow as he shakes his head.

Did I interrupt something?, Jungkook signs, watching them both, picking up on the confusion lingering between them.

No, Hoseok’s just being an idiot. Nothing unusual.

Rude , Hoseok signs to them. Have him back by midnight, Jungkookie. Keep your hands to yourself.

Hoseok says it with a smile, and they joke like this with each other often; but something about this moment in particular makes a knot ball up at the base of Yoongi’s throat. Hoseok’s eyes are tight, fingers jittering along his thigh. And that head shake earlier, like there’s something he wanted to say but didn’t know how to say it. Or didn’t want to say it now.

The pins and needles feeling settles as he and Jungkook escape onto the sidewalk. Evening light is settling over the city, casting the street in warm tones and shadows that have Jungkook stopping to pull out his phone to video a few moments worth of footage. It’s chilly still, but a mild cold for this time of the year, and Yoongi waits, thoughtfully watching as Jungkook works. Yoongi’s honestly surprised he doesn’t have his actual camera on him, and when he asks as much, Jungkook just shrugs and clears his throat and says, “it’s a special night.”

Yoongi doesn’t know what that means. Assumes that for whatever reason this is a special night, that should be all the more reason for Jungkook to have his camera.

But Yoongi doesn’t question it, just like he hasn’t questioned a lot of Jungkook’s actions over the past several months. Instead they idly chat on the subway ride downtown, catching up on a week’s worth of happenings. Jungkook eventually asks him about his thesis, his music, and Yoongi opens and closes his mouth and doesn’t know what to say. Not because he hasn’t been working, but because it still feels off, to talk with Jungkook about music. Not when Yoongi can’t share beats with him anymore. Not when Yoongi can no longer send him a song and tell him, Heard this and thought of you.

The gallery is busy, but it’s not unbearable. It’s the kind of crowd Yoongi enjoys; a group of people all passionate about the same thing, gathering in the same space to explore and enjoy it.

But it is cramped, and Jungkook keeps a hand on his shoulder as they work through the first couple rooms.

Yoongi isn’t impressed by what he sees. Sparse black and white photographs, framed letters, and an occasional video installation dot the minimal walls. Yoongi notices that some of the pieces look decades old, obviously taken on film, while others have the tell-tale sign of a digital camera.

Yoongi’s not sure what he should be looking at, looking for, but as Jungkook’s hand falls to his lower back, as he comments lowly in Yoongi’s ear as they move from frame to frame, Yoongi starts to see it, this strangely candid life pieced before them.

Yoongi’s about to ask Jungkook a question when he spots it, the fleck of gold, and Yoongi takes one step back and peers around the shoulder of a woman and sees him, Taehyung, standing in front of a photograph of a field, empty save for one lone watermelon resting at the center.

He’s gorgeous, as always. Coat checked at the front door so his loose floral shirt can sweep across his shoulders for all to see. He’s in fitted slacks today, his runway boots. A beret, this time black. He looks at home here, surrounded by nostalgia and art, and Yoongi doesn’t realize he’s staring until Jungkook calls his name and Taehyung, as if hearing, turns to glance his way.

Surprise is there on his face, but then he smiles, big and giddy, and a warmth spreads all the way to Yoongi’s fingers. Taehyung, without looking away, covers the distance between them in a few easy strides.

“Hyung,” he breathes out, and then his eyes flicker to the side and his grin falters. “Oh. Hi, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook ducks his head in greeting and Yoongi looks between them both, confused by the tension building.

Jungkook’s touch on his elbow brings him back. I’m going to go to the restroom , he signs, and Yoongi nods and watches him go, brow furrowing.

“He hates me,” Taehyung announces easily, shrugging when Yoongi turns to him with a frown. “It’s true. We have class together and he ignores me.”

Didn’t you hang out together last week? Yoongi types into his phone, and Taehyung steps in close to read. He smells heavily of cinnamon again, but this time something else, something a little darker that has Yoongi stepping forward so they’re touching.

“With Jiminnie and Jin-hyung as a barrier.”

Yoongi presses his tongue into his cheek because that’s kind of true, in a way. He’s never actually seen Jungkook and Taehyung together without someone there to mediate.

It’s probably just a communication thing, Yoongi writes to him, hating the idea that two of his friends might not be getting along. He gets embarrassed when meeting new people he can’t understand.

“He can’t understand me?” Taehyung asks.

You don’t sign, and your dialect makes it hard to read your lips.

“Oh.” Taehyung raises his fingertips to his lips and sits on that for a moment, then says without looking at Yoongi. “That’s good to know, but I think there might be more to it than that.”

Yoongi wants to know what that means, is actually pulling his phone up to type when Taehyung breezes past the subject easily and asks, “So what are you doing here, hyung?”

Yoongi can spot an attention diverter when he hears it, but he lets it pass. Jungkook asked me to come. He said this is a school thing. Is that why you’re here?

“Yeah, but I would have come anyway.” Taehyung is smiling, something soft and hidden there that makes him look young. “I try to go to all the exhibitions I can, but this is one I’ve been looking forward to.”

Yoongi must make a face that reveals too much of his confusion over the gallery because Taehyung barks out a laugh; husky, but loud enough for a couple people to glance their way.

“Not enjoying yourself, hyung?” He teases.

I guess I just don’t understand it.

Taehyung looks at him from beneath his lashes, still with that gentle grin. “Nah,” he says lowly, “I don’t believe that. What do you see?”

So Yoongi turns and looks again. Sees a glimmering lake and the hazy form of a girl in the woods. A lone lemon, resting on a table. The silhouette of a crop of mountains. The watermelon, resting by itself in that field.

A story, Yoongi writes, because he sees it now, after looking twice. But it’s fragmented. Lonely.

“The artist is trying to tell the history of her family from the memories of the stories she heard growing up,” Taehyung explains, voice quiet and smooth as he guides Yoongi along, a hand low on his waist. “The uncertainty that lies within them. The relationship between the past and the present. This balance between what’s fact and what’s imagination. She’s capturing a fragment of her life, and her parent’s lives, and her grandparents’ lives and trying to put it all together into this new, beautiful, candid tale.”

Yoongi glances up but Taehyung isn’t looking to him. He has his eyes fixed on the watermelon, eyes sparkling under the gallery lights spotlighting them from overhead. His hair is getting a little shaggy and there are dark circles under his eyes, the only visible sign that his hours are starting to weigh on him; but his whole face is alive with this small joy, and Yoongi feels himself going on his toes because there’s that mole again. The one under his lip. The one Yoongi wants to press his mouth to—

Taehyung turns, mouth open as if to say something; but then he must see Yoongi leaning in, must spot something in Yoongi’s face that Yoongi forgot to hide again because his smile drops and his cheeks flush and this small look of wonderment is growing in his gaze.

“Hyung,” Taehyung whispers. “Yoongi-hyung, I—”

“Yoongi-hyung,” someone calls from behind them. Jungkook, eyes wider than usual, mouth pinched, says in a clipped tone, “We have our dinner reservation soon. We need to leave.”

Yoongi’s so blown over by Jungkook’s frantic appearance, by him speaking aloud in a room full of strangers that he steps away from Taehyung and towards Jungkook so just a breadth of space is between them.

Are you okay? Yoongi mouths to him, and Jungkook nods but his breathing is shallow. Jungkook, do we need to go home?

Why do you always assume the worst? Jungkook mouths back, the hint of a smile curling at his lips, but there’s still a tightness around his eyes that doesn’t settle well on Yoongi’s chest.

Tae, Yoongi signs, turning so his hands can be seen. Sorry, but we have plans.

Taehyung blinks at him, and it takes a moment longer than it should for Yoongi to remember oh right, he doesn’t understand.

Oh, right.

He doesn’t understand.

Jungkook and I have dinner plans, but it was nice to see you, Yoongi writes out for him. Have a good night.

“Yeah, I’m actually supposed to meet Jimin, soon,” Taehyung says, a frown in his voice but not on his face. Yoongi stares up at him, searching but finding nothing off there, like he’s being kept at bay. “Nice to see you both.”

They split ways after that. Jungkook takes Yoongi’s hand and leads him back outside into the cold night air. They both take a deep, cleansing inhale at the same time. Turn to each other. Break out into soft laughter. It’s a shimmery night, a few stars visible overhead without clouds to obscure them and reflect the city lights.

They eat Italian but follow it up with hotteok, and Yoongi is in the middle of a particularly compelling story about how he almost managed to pet Hatshepsut the other morning without any food-aided assistance when Jungkook’s hand falls into his vision.

It’s a quick thing, Jungkook’s thumb brushing a bit of filling off Yoongi’s bottom lip. It’s probably something that’s happened between them before, more than once, such a casual thing he can’t quite recall a specific moment; but somehow, for some reason, this time it startles Yoongi into silence, his hands going still.

Yoongi slows to a stop and Jungkook follows. They’re in a quieter part of the neighborhood, naturally gravitating to a place more peaceful. The stores around them are closed for the evening, window fronts dark, neon flicked off so only the light from the streetlamps warms the way.

Jungkook still has his hand raised. Fingers lingering on Yoongi’s cheek. Jungkook’s thumb, just moments before wiping his lip, is now grazing his cheek bone. The edge of his brow. The line of his jaw. He looks a little lost and little scared, refusing to meet Yoongi’s eyes but not making an effort to look away, either.

Yoongi sticks his tongue out to get Jungkook’s attention, wherever it may be, and Jungkook’s gaze drops to his mouth.

What’s going on, Jungkook? Yoongi mouths. You can tell me.

I like… Jungkook starts silently, hand moving up to brush Yoongi’s bangs away from his forehead. “I like… I like spending time with you, hyung.”

I like spending time with you, too.

“And I like… I like seeing you happy. And talking to you,” Jungkook presses on. “I like…”

Yoongi’s phone beeps and Jungkook flinches, staring down between them. It beeps again, and Yoongi’s going to ignore it because Jungkook is finally talking to him again; but the beeping of messages keeps filtering in, fast and incessant.

“It might be important,” Jungkook whispers, stepping away, and Yoongi almost follows after because no no no, this is important. Jungkook is important.

But Jungkook’s broken away from him, and Yoongi sighs and tugs out his phone and frowns as he filters through a dozen crazed messages from Jimin.

Jimin, Yoongi signs with one hand.

“Is he okay?”

Yoongi gets through the jumbled mess of the first messages, just a bunch of unintelligible capslock and emojis, and feels his neck heat at the last couple to come in.

Fucking, Yoongi mouths, tipping his head back to gulp down a breath.

“Hyung?”

Will you please text Jimin and tell him we’re not on a date , Yoongi signs after tucking his phone into his back pocket. On silent this time.

“What?”

He and Hoseok… It’s not important. But just let Jimin know this isn’t a date.

Jungkook looks at him, eyes drifting over his face. He says quietly, “Why do I need to tell Jimin that this isn’t a date?”

Yoongi doesn’t want to say that Jimin’s freaking out. That Jimin’s upset. That Jimin thinks they might be secretly dating and that’s terrible, that can’t be happening because Jungkook has been in love with Jimin for almost a year now and Yoongi’s pretty certain that Jimin likes him back and that’s why Jungkook needs to text him. To clear up this whole situation. To possibly go confess because it’s been long enough, hasn’t it? Why do they keep dragging this out?

Yoongi hears Jungkook suck in air. When he speaks, his voice is weak, barely discernible over the sounds of the city. “Does this have something to do with Taehyung?”

Yoongi tenses at the sound of his voice. What?

“Are you dating Taehyung?” Jungkook presses, voice cracking a little. He looks down at the ground, then back up, just far enough to read Yoongi’s hands but not meet his eyes.

I’m not, Yoongi signs. The space around them is swelling. Where is this coming from, Kook?

Why are you telling me to go to Jimin? Jungkook signs, like he can’t trust his voice, and Yoongi shuffles forward, then back. Rests in the middle, unsure of what to do.

I’m not saying to go there, just to message him.

But why?

Because he’s upset?

Jungkook tugs his bottom lip between his teeth. Why is he upset? What’s so upsetting about the idea of of us being on a date?

That’s not… The air is so heavy between them it’s a miracle they can still breathe. Jungkook, what’s going on?

Right now? Jungkook shrugs, full-bodied and tired. I honestly have no idea.

No, in general, Yoongi signs, his normally clipped motions spread to wide with worry. The past six months. The dating around and the silence. You always talk to me about things.

Jungkook, staring off into the distance where skyline lights the sky, signs, This is different.

How is it different? Yoongi signs, huffs, like the words are trying to slip out. He feels his throat constrict with the effort behind it and winces. We tell each other everything, Kook.

Jungkook’s eyes find his face again. The intensity in his eyes has vanished. The animonisty dissolved between them. All that’s left is Jungkook, hunched and sad looking, standing on this empty sidewalk and looking at Yoongi like he might as well be a stranger.

Do we? He signs tentatively, and when Yoongi hitches in a breath, it’s too thick to choke down.

They stand there, staring at each other in the quiet darkness, and Yoongi can tell that Jungkook is just as frustrated and bewildered as he is.

Jungkook slumps in further on himself, shaky hands shoved deep into his pockets. “I’m going to go home, hyung. Thanks for coming out with me.”

I’ll walk with you, Yoongi starts, but Jungkook just shakes his head.

“No, I just—” Jungkook’s voice, his smile, his entire being is wobbly. “I need to clear my head. I’ll text you when I get in. Text me, okay?”

He leaves after that. Yoongi watches as he half walks, half jogs down the street and turns at the nearest corner even though Yoongi knows it doesn’t lead to the subway.

Pressure builds at the back of Yoongi’s neck, and he fends it off on his way home, just a couple angry tears slipping out before he can blink them away. It’s late, but not the latest he’s returned to the apartment, and Yoongi kicks off his boots and then turns around to straighten them for Hoseok. The lamp in the living room is on, so is the TV. Yoongi finds Hoseok lying sideways in the armchair watching an American drama with a facemask on that makes him look like a tiger.

Yoongi waves his hand and Hoseok hums under his breath but doesn’t look away from the screen. So Yoongi slips past, shucking his coat off as he goes, then his shirt and his slacks and the weird dress socks that Hoseok lent him. He piles on sweats in their place, his fuzzy slippers, and this time when he returns to the living room, Hoseok is sitting right-way up and shoving a handful of honey butter chips in his mouth.

Didn’t realize it was a facemask night, Yoongi signs.

Hoseok stares at him for a long moment and then sighs with his whole body. Joon’s sad.

Yoongi’s heart stops. Do we need to go over there? He signs, already moving to rise from the sofa. We can rent that one American horse movie, the one with the nice animation. And we can grab some cake or something.

No, Hoseok shakes his head, curling in on his side. Jin-hyung’s cooking for him. And he’s sad because Jimin’s angry at him.

Yoongi blinks. Odd. How strange. Jimin’s fiercely loyal and Yoongi firmly believes he would be the first to call them from jail needing bail for punching an asshole in the face, but Jimin’s never been upset with Namjoon in his life. None of them have. Yoongi doesn’t even think it’s truly possible to be angry at Namjoon. That’s like hating baby harp seals or yelling at a baby for crying when it can’t help it. Why is  Jimin angry with Namjoon? No one can be upset with Joon. He’s Joon.

Hoseok does the body sigh again. Apparently you’ve been sexting Taehyung for months?

Yoongi clings to the arm of the sofa. What the fuck, Hoseok, be serious here.

I am! Hoseok signs, throwing his arm wide and sending a remote clattering ot the floor. Jimin said that you were flirting with Taehyung over the campus radio station for months, then you found out who he was, then he and Jimin came to visit you at the station where Taehyung discovered your secret identity, then Joon fucked up and said that you’re already interested in someone, so now Taehyung thinks that you’re off the market which is why he didn’t ask you out on a date for today—

Taehyung was going to ask me out on a date? Yoongi mouths, shoulders hunching with the weight of his head sagging forward.

Hoseok, visibly upset at being interrupted during his tirade, rolls his eyes. Hypothetically, yes. Also, you guys have gone on like twelve dates.

Three, Yoongi corrects. Wait. No, those weren’t dates. Just dinners. What does hypothetically mean?

Means that Taehyung didn’t explicitly state he was going to ask you on a date. Jimin’s reading between the lines… Hoseok scrunches his eyes and his cheeks pinch with his frown. Did you want him to ask you on a date?

Yoongi’s exhausted by that question. By tonight. Taehyung should be the last of his worries right now. His friend group, his family, is falling apart again and people just keep asking him if he’s dating. I don’t know.

Hoseok’s brow furrows, wrinkling his nose. He stares at Yoongi for a long while with that look he wears sometimes that makes Yoongi want to slink into the linen closet and cultivate mushrooms there. Like Hoseok is disappointed in him. No, worse. Like Hoseok wants to try to fix this but feels powerless to do so.

Well, it doesn’t matter, he eventually signs, just before Yoongi almost keels over the cushions with the weight of his gaze, because Taehyung showed up to dinner with Jimin looking like a kicked puppy, and he told Jimin that you were on a date with Jungkook.

But Jimin knew I was out with Jungkook. Yoongi falls forward and drops his face into his hands and digs his palms against his eyes until he sees stars.

Hoseok is waiting for him when he lifts his head again. Yes, but then Taehyung saying that he saw you guys on a date made Jimin question if we’re all just lying to him and you and JK actually are secretly dating. Which, you’re not, right?

No. This is ridiculous. Why is this happening?

The second smothering silence of Yoongi’s evening blankets them. Yoongi stays shriveled in his seat, body too tired to move but his mind a whirring mess of balled up hysteria threatening to spill over.

Depression is easier to manage. Depression just makes him stay in bed for three days and refuse to shower. Anxiety makes him want to duck his head in a sinkful of water just to muffle some of his surroundings so that his head will stop throbbing.

Hoseok clears his throat, a small, squeaky sound. Yoongi opens his eyes and Hoseok signs without looking at his face, Why don’t you talk to me about Taehyung?

Yoongi’s not sure why they’re back on this subject, but Hoseok’s fingers twitch and dance over his thigh and Yoongi watches, sadness balling in his throat, as Hoseok’s leg begins to bounce.

Because there’s not… Yoongi signs, hands stiff as he moves. I’m not quite sure what to talk about.

Why don’t you talk to me about music?

I don’t talk to anyone about music, Yoongi tells him.

You’re a music major, Hoseok responds, movements clipped. Maybe you should.

Yoongi feels his brows arch and Hoseok sighs again, finally looking up to his eyes. Sorry. I’m not upset with you. Just sad, maybe. I feel like we used to talk about everything.

Yoongi’s nails dig into his palm and he remembers standing just an hour before that sidewalk with Jungkook.

—We tell each other everything, Kook.

Do we?—

If it makes you feel better, Yoongi signs, cotton-mouth settling in, making him lick his lips. I don’t talk to anyone about anything.

Hoseok laughs and it sounds a little broken. It doesn’t. Makes me feel worse, actually.

They both take a deep breath at the same time and notice it. Yoongi smiles and Hoseok falls back against the chair with a stilted chuckle.

They sit and watch a few scenes of the drama, some kind of open heart surgery taking place, and Hoseok drums his fingers against his stomach and doesn’t wait to see if Yoongi is looking when he signs, Maybe you should talk to someone. Doesn’t have to be your therapist. Doesn’t have to be me. But maybe just… someone. Hoseok nods again, more to himself than anything. I think we all just… need to be more open with each other. Honest. No more hiding. I’m really tired of hiding.

It kind of strikes him then, the realization that maybe Hoseok isn’t fine. That maybe just because he’s good with being deaf doesn’t mean he’s good with Namjoon or his parents or school or the dance team or anything else, really. Maybe he’s not good with Yoongi. Maybe Yoongi needs to try a little harder, even if the idea of opening up makes him want to crawl into the Han.

Yoongi waves his hand and Hoseok glances over. Jungkook and I fought, Yoongi tells him, chest tight but facing him head on.

Hoseok frowns and scuttles back up in his seat. You did? About what?

Yoongi shrugs, but then he shakes his head and signs, He was trying to tell me something and I guess… I guess I just wasn’t listening.

Hoseok hums at that, one low note from deep in his throat. He stands and walks over to the sofa, then flings himself down so most of his body is draped over Yoongi.

You guys will work it out, Hoseok signs as he holds his arms out for Yoongi to see. He rests his chin on top of Yoongi’s head and sighs again. We’ll all work it out.

 

~~~

 

A concert? Yoongi mouths, and he didn’t mean to come across so surprised but Dr. Lim  just laughs, not taking any offense by it.

“The spring benefit,” she tells him, pulling a flyer out of one of the folders lined up on her podium. “Our accompanist is out with tendonitis and a few of the faculty brought up your name as a fill-in. Myself included.”

Yoongi takes the sheet of paper, white with the multi-color silhouette of a violin resting in the center. The conductor’s name (another professor in the department, the other option Yoongi could have chosen to be his advisor), ticket prices, location and a date are listed in the bottom corner. The even if just barely a month out.

“I understand that it’s been several years since you’ve performed, Yoongi, but if you’re interested, I’m confident that you’d do well.” Yoongi looks up and Dr. Lim smiles at him, all warmth, none of the stark professionalism that a passerby would assume from her light grey pant suit. “You might even discover something.”

To discover something means it has to have been hidden. Has to have been lost.

“Let me know by next class period, okay?”

 

 

 

“A concert?” Jimin chirps, once again choosing to use Yoongi as a chair even though there are a half-dozen around them that could be put to good use.

Their pianist is out with an injury, Yoongi signs, making sure that Namjoon can see his hands as well from across the table. My name was brought up.

“That’s incredible, hyung,” Namjoon beams, his dimples flickering with the width of his smile. “Did you say yes?”

Told her I’d think about it.

Jimin takes a deep drink of his smoothie. It smells faintly of mint and pineapple and is sickly puce color. “A recital. Wow. What kind of music?”

Yoongi opens his mouth and Jimin sticks the straw in it. Yoongi signs as he sips. It’s a benefit, so it's supposed to fun. Some remixes on well-known movie scores.

“Sounds fun,” Namjoon says.

“I think you should do it,” Jimin says.

“Make sure to invite us,” Seokjin says from behind, setting their food down on the table. “I have a tux that could use a good night out.”

Jimin tugs the straw back from Yoongi and takes another long drink. Yoongi glances at them individually, smacking his lips, the faint taste of lemon lingering there — Jimin with an arm wrapped around his neck and messaging someone on his phone; Namjoon with a couple books splayed out in front of him that he’s been sticking so many colored post-it notes in it looks more like an art project than research; Seokjin, leaning against Namjoon’s chair, cheekily calling out Minseo behind the counter (Oh, that’s cool. I thought about going on an all-almond diet once, but that’s just nuts.) and Minseo staring him down for three solid seconds before ducking behind the espresso machine to laugh.

None of them are paying him any direct attention, but all are turned so that they they can see his hands at all times.

Yoongi drops his head, trying to hide his blush, and Jimin must feel the heat because he coos against Yoongi’s temple. Touches the soft spot behind his ear and whispers for only him to hear. “Proud of you, hyung.”

Yoongi tilts his head away but taps Jimin’s thigh three times and feels Jimin smile against his skin.

 

~~~

 

Of all the emotionally competent people Yoongi has in his life,  he decides to go to Seokjin to talk about his feelings.

“What’s poppin’, Yoongles?” Seokjin greets. It’s five minutes to close and he’s cashing out for the day. Jimin and Taehyung aren’t on tonight. It’s Sooyoung instead, who’s in beast mode as she jumps from table to table to wipe them down and stack the chairs.

Yoongi, currently feeling like an unfortunate jellyfish that’s been washed ashore, sinks into the counter and presses his forehead into the wood beside the register.

A pause and then, “M-m-mm. Yeah. Let’s go get some noodles.”

Yoongi helps sweep and mop as Seokjin finishes up in the back and Sooyoung wipes down the display cases. They walk her to the nearest bus stop despite her complaints, and then they walk another couple blocks in the late winter night to a ramen stand that gives out free fish cake as a side.

Yoongi’s on his second bowl and Seokjin on his fourth when Yoongi finally puts down his chopsticks and rests his cheek against the table, much like he did at the café.

Seokjin glances over at him and nods. “Yeah. I’m getting a little full, too.”

Yoongi closes his eyes and grins. Mouths, I’m in love with Taehyung.

Another pause and then, “Either you just confessed your undying love for Tae, or you—” Seokjin cuts himself off. “Actually, I’m pretty caught off guard right now. Can’t think of a pun. Alright. That’s new development on both our parts.”

I want to date him. Be with him. Hold his hand. Yoongi opens his eyes and Seokjin is looking down at him, slightly horrified but trying very hard not to show it. Listen to him talk about anything and everything.

“That sound superb,” Seokjin squeaks. “The problem?”

Yoongi shrugs.

Seokjin’s face scrunches and he heaves in a breath, one-shots the rest of his ramen broth, then raises his hand for another bowl. When the auntie flits over with a refill, Seokjin thanks her sincerely and then eats his hard boiled egg whole.

“Okay,” he claps after swallowing thickly. He swivels on his stool so he’s facing Yoongi. “I’m just preparing you in advance, but I’m about to go into Hyung Mode. Don’t be so shocked by my overwhelming charisma that you fall in love with me too. I have enough admirers to fend off.”

Yoongi keeps his head resting on the table but grins, and Seokjin’s gaze goes strangely serious as he clears his throat. “Yoongi. You’re your own worst enemy. You get so caught up in your head it’s like you forget that you have this huge family around you who wants to see you succeed. It’s like you don’t want to see yourself succeed. Why is that?”

Sitting up now. Yoongi still feels a little spineless, but Seokjin is suddenly treating this like an important conversation (which it very well is), and Yoongi’s not sure if he wanted that.

“Do you think you’re not good enough?” Seokjin presses on when Yoongi doesn’t answer. “Fear of rejection? That maybe you’re not going to live up to your own standards so why even try?”

I don’t want to have a serious talk anymore, Yoongi mouths.

“Too bad,” Seokjin says, stuffing a fish cake into his mouth. “You started it. I haven’t been this sober about a conversation in forty-six years.”

Yoongi pointedly turns away to take a biteful of noodles, even though he’s not all that hungry anymore.

“Talk to me, Yoongi.”

Yoongi feels the breath catch inside of him, this hideous sludge building in his chest and crawling up his throat until he’s suddenly dropping his chopsticks and furiously signing to Seokjin, But I can’t. I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t talk to Taehyung or you or my teachers or my family. I can’t do— Yoongi’s chest shudders as he inhales. I can’t do anything.

“Why?” Yoongi blinks and Seokjin is leaning forward, eyes focused on him. “Why can’t you talk to us?”

Yoongi stares at him. Because I’m fucking mute, Seokjin.

“I can hear you.”

For just a moment Seokjin looks uncomfortable in his body, and then he lifts his hands and signs carefully, I can year you, Yoongi. I’m listening to you right now. I am talking to you, Seokjin emphasizes heavily, right now. Is that not enough?

Yoongi stares at Seokjin’s hands. The bent ends of his fingers. A little clumsy as they move, much like the rest of his body, but gentle in a familiar way.

“You’re afraid of miscommunication,” Seokjin says aloud, dropping his arms. “You’re afraid of people not understanding you. That’s why you don’t try. That’s why you shy away. But you haven’t seemed to notice that you’ve got some people in your life who you’ve let in pretty deep and guess what? We’re still here.” His voice softens. “We’re going to be here. We want to be here. Even when you’re distant. Even when you mess up. We want to be here.”

Yoongi, a bit too whelmed to move, just ducks his head and mouths, Okay.

Seokjin slaps a hand against his thigh. “Fantastic. Anything else you’re harboring before we go back to pretending we don’t have emotions or real world problems?”

Yoongi kicks his boot against the rail of his stool. I’m struggling in class.

“With grades?”

With my thesis. An opus. Album of songs.

Seokjin hums. Yoongi hasn’t told him what he’s been working on. Yoongi hasn’t told anyone, though. “What’s the problem?”

Yoongi gives him a pointed stare and Seokjin winks at him.

“Not able to say what you’re trying to say?”

Feeling a little stretched thin, Yoongi nods. He wishes he could just kill this conversation. Stuff everything that’s been shared back into his chest because it’s a little empty inside now.

No, maybe not empty. Sure, there’s some space in there, but Yoongi doesn’t feel like he does after an attack, hollow and torn open. Nowhere to go. Instead he’s weighted, like maybe there’s room to let something else, something better in, now that some of the bad things are out.

“Namjoon would probably give a belligerent eye-roll if he heard me say this,” Seokjin speaks up, twirling an empty shot glass between his fingers, “but have you tried just getting everything out and not worrying about if it’s perfect on the first go?” Yoongi edges up a brow and Seokjin grins. Yoongi relaxes at the sight of it and feels a strange warmth start to spread down his neck. “Not everything you do has to be some award-winning whatever from the start.  Mistakes are normal. Experimenting is normal. If you’re not getting the right sound or feeling or whatever, isn’t that normal, too? Just try something different. Approach it from another angle.”

But I want it to be perfect, Yoongi mouths, and Seokjin whispers something unintelligible under his breath and tilts his head so Yoongi can’t read him. When he turns back, he’s wearing that coy smirk of his.

“Well, there is only one perfect man on this earth and it most certainly is me, so unfortunately, you’re gonna have to just suck it up, Yoongi-chi. Mess up a bit. Have fun with it. I feel like making music should be fun? You and Joon are always so serious about it.”

The warmth settles in just behind his ribs, and Yoongi watches Seokjin for a long moment. So long that Seokjin starts to wilt under his stare, ears flushing so red it spreads down to his neck.

He clears his throat. “Anything else? Your half hour session is almost up. Better make it good.”

Jungkook, Yoongi mouths without thinking.

“Jungkookie?” Seokjin repeats.

And Yoongi could talk about Jungkook. The accident. How it still feels like yesterday. That he hasn’t moved forward at all. Could mention what it is he sees during his flashbacks. The guilt, the guilt, the guilt. Could even bring up a few days ago—that weird feeling he had in the gallery. Their argument on the street.

Instead he mouths, He’s been acting weird. Dating around. Something’s up.

Seokjin sits there for a minute, pursing his lips, tapping his middle fingers along the sides of his bowl. Eventually he says, starting off slow, “You ever think that maybe Jungkook isn’t dating those people because he wants their attention, but maybe because he wants someone else’s?”

Yoongi frowns, leaning his chin into his hand. Jungkook can have anyone he wants. He’s lovely.

“He is,” Seokjin agrees, still looking forward. “But I don’t want him that way. Hoseok doesn’t want him that way. You. You don’t want him that way, do you?”

Yoongi thinks about it, the possibility of dating Jungkook, but all that comes to mind is that warm April day. All that comes to mind is this beautiful boy whom he wants to give the world, want to be happy; but anything besides that?

A flash of gold, that lilting voice. Taehyung, running his fingers along Yoongi’s spine as they sway in the snow.

No , Yoongi shakes his head, reaching up to clutch at his heart. No, I don’t.

“So no, he can’t have anyone he wants,” Seokjin states, finally relaxing into his chair, “and there’s a high possibility that the person he wants? They probably think like us. They probably don’t want him that way.”

That’s rough.

“Yeah,” Seokjin exhales long and slow, taking another shot. “Yeah, it is.”

Seokjin looks at him then, dark eyes shiny and sad. Understanding uncomfortably settles Yoongi.

Session’s still open, Yoongi mouths. Want to talk about something?

Seokjin, for just a second, seems to consider it. Opening up about whatever it is that just made him take five shots. Acknowledging what it is that’s had him pulling away so harshly lately.

But his eyes just roam Yoongi’s face. The corners of his mouth curl upward in a wry grin. He shakes his head. “Maybe next year.”

Yoongi taps the table to get him to look back over. Seokjin gaze drifts and Yoongi signs, I love you a lot, hyung .

“You're pretty okay yourself.” Seokjin pats his hand and says softly to his noodles, “I love you a lot, too, Yoongi.”

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s never had the experience of walking into a room and not being able to hear a sound. It’s disorienting, when he pauses in the doorway as, one by one, each section of the orchestra stills in their warm-ups when they spot him hovering at the threshold to the theatre. It’s a domino effect of surprise, and what lacking sound there is in music is made up for in soft murmurings as he crosses the auditorium to approach the stage.

The Steinway is there and waiting for him, now tucked behind the violins. It catches him off guard when he realizes it’s been a few Sundays since he’s visited, and Yoongi tries to slip into a better headspace as ducks his head in greeting at the people he passes and settles into his seat. He warms up his fingers, shakes out his wrists. Starts going through his scales, flipping between long-shorts and short-longs, switching into some improv when that doesn’t make his mind stray enough.

The whispers don’t die, but the music is bustling again, a hodge-podge mess of instruments all following their own rhythm. There’s a small glob of hysteria settling against his windpipe, so Yoongi flips his key signature and closes his eyes, letting the monotony of drills unglue him.

He’s here. He’s here and he committed and he can’t back out now despite how it feels like his heart is ten times too big in his chest and is crushing all his other organs, cutting off his breath.

I’m tired of hiding, Hoseok had said. No more hiding.

No more hiding, no more hiding, no more locking himself away.

Yoongi must finally drift at some point because it doesn’t register when someone flutters up to his bench, not until they clear their throat during a lull in his playing.

Yoongi flinches and the girl, another grad student, Kim Hayeon from his comp class, Yoongi recognizes, lets a laugh tumble from her mouth.

“Sorry, Yoongi-ssi, didn’t mean to scare you.” She bites her bottom lip, then says with unrestrained enthusiasm in her chirpy, bird-like voice, “I’m so happy you agreed to play with us, Yoongi-ssi.”

Yoongi, hand poised where he was pulling his whiteboard out, pauses to look back to her.

“I heard you play our freshmen year,” she continues, eyes strangely bright. Like Jimin. Warm, but a little mischievous. “I’m clarinet, by the way. I always hoped you’d join orchestra, but I can totally see why you wouldn’t.”

Yoongi’s mouth tugs down automatically and she must see it because her eyes go wide. “Holy shit, sorry, that was so presumptuous of me.”

It’s fine, Yoongi writes out to her. I get that a lot. People tend to avoid me.

“Get what?” She repeats, glancing back up to him. Something in his face must spark recognition in hers because she laughs at him, but it’s completely transparent and kind. “Yoongi-ssi, we don’t avoid you because you’re mute , we avoid you because you’re talented as fuck.”

Yoongi’s lips part in a small, oh .

“Yeah, I mean, you are intimidating,” she shrugs, nonplussed. “And in our first couple classes together I thought you were real moody; but if someone asks you for help, you help. If a professor asks a question, you answer. You put in more studio hours than any of us. The undergrad kids think you’re an idol.”

Oh, Yoongi mouths again.

“Plus,” she winks laviously, “you dated Park Jimin who is like, a flower in human form.”

He’s actually vicious, Yoongi writes without hesitation, and Sooyoung glances at the pad and bursts out a laugh.

“God. I knew I liked you for a reason. Maybe we can finish out our final year as friends?”

Yoongi, still absolutely thrown by the progression of this conversation, finds himself nodding.

“Awesome,” Hayeon claps, then spins on her heel and gestures for him to follow. “Let me introduce you to the kids. They’re gonna flip the fuck out.”

 

 

 

“Intimidating?” Namjoon perks, bemused as he looks over the top of his glasses at Yoongi. “I mean. When you’re really into a song you can get a little unapproachable, but you’ve never been mean or distant about it.”

I thought the entire department hated me, Yoongi signs, letting his head tip back so it rests against the wood back chair. Thought I was mean and misanthropic.

“I don’t know that last word.” Yoongi writes it out for him. “Ah, yeah. Not even close.”

Yoongi’s brow deepens farther as he stares up at the vaulted ceilings, tapping along to one of the scores he’s learning from the show. A suite from Interstellar. They have him on a pipe organ. A pipe organ. Yoongi’s never played the organ in his life, but Professor Yang just asked if he could give it a go during the next rehearsal for kicks and Yoongi, for whatever reason, said yes.

“Hyung,” Namjoon says, his voice easy like his smile when Yoongi finally pries his eyes away from overhead to look at him. “I knew you were humble, but seriously? The reason why no one talks to you isn’t because you’re rude or scary; it’s because you had half the credentials of the undergrad class combined by the time you were twelve.”

Embarrassment makes Yoongi squint, and Namjoon just shakes his head and picks his pen back up to write.

Yoongi doesn’t have essays like him, which he will be forever grateful for. Even the knowledge that Taehyung is somewhere in here, floating around in his big yellow sweatshirt helping lost freshmen, isn’t an appealing enough thought to keep him in here for hours on end. Too quiet. Too cold.

Yoongi taps the table and namjoon glances up.

You don’t think, Yoongi starts, drops his hands. Picks them up again. You don’t think she was lying, right? That the reason no one talks to me is because it’s too much trouble?

Namjoon frowns, his cheeks dimpling out in the wrong way, but he doesn’t even think it over when he says, “Hyung. I’m not going to lie to you and say that there aren’t people in this world who ignore you or look down on you because of your disability. But I can say that your professors and your classmates admire the fuck out of you. Not just because you’re an incredible musician, but because you’re kind and passionate and someone to look up to and aspire to be.”

Yoongi’s mouth opens. Closes. He looks back to the ceiling.

“Yeah,” Namjoon clicks. “Hayeon wasn’t lying. And it speaks lowly of her character for you to think that.”

You’re right.

“You’ve got to trust people, Yoongi. Let people in.”

Yoongi slumps down further. I’m trying.

“I know. I see it. Everyone sees it.” Namjoon clears his throat. “We’re proud of you. I’m proud of you.”

Yoongi scowls and sticks out his tongue, and Namjoon’s tree of a leg shoots out to kick him under the table. Yoongi doesn’t retaliate and Namjoon harumphs, then starts reading quietly aloud about Nicomachean ethics that Yoongi can’t fathom one bit but nods and taps his fingers at what he thinks are the right places.

“Hyungs,” a voice says from overhead, and Yoongi opens his eyes and Taehyung peers down at him, his smile making his eyes curl prettily. “I’m about to go on break and run to the café. Want anything?”

Now that Yoongi has acknowledged the true extent of his rather ill-timed feelings for Taehyung, it’s become even harder to ignore just how gorgeous he is. Even in his lumpy sunshine sweater and his hair tied back in a small pony and a sleep booger at the corner of his eye he’s beautiful. Like someone he wants to come home to.

Yoongi reaches up and Taehyung, without question, leans down so that Yoongi can brush a thumb under his eye and get the clump off.

“Thanks, hyung,” Taehyung murmurs. “Do you want some coffee?”

Yoongi nods and Taehyung’s smile is so infectious that Yoongi returns it without thinking. When he looks back over to Namjoon to see if he wants something, Namjoon has on the same expression he wore when a professor dropped him a letter grade on a final essay because he wrote too much.

(“I went over by five pages. So what. How can I possibly assess the contribution of reason and emotion in moral judgment through the social intuitionist mode in less than fourteen pages?”)

Yoongi shudders at the memory of that conversation.

Yoongi shudders at the look Namjoon is sending him.

“Can you get me one of Seokjin-hyung’s maple bread things?” Namjoon asks, and Taehyung nods and slides a hand over Yoongi’s shoulder as he skips off towards the breakroom.

What the fuck, Namjoon signs frantically, and the only time Namjoon’s hands aren’t clumsy is when he’s cussing.

Fuck off, Yoongi sends back, but Namjoon just digs his foot into Yoongi’s and whispers,

“You look like you ate a fucking star, what the hell is going on between you two, now?” He blinks and gasps, “Hobi was right, you are secretly dating.”

We’re friends, Yoongi signs, eyes narrowed and lip curled. Friends.

“I don’t look at you like that.”

Then maybe you’re not a very good friend.

“Or maybe I don’t want to wine and dine you?” Namjoon says. “The kid’s a fucking lightbulb around you, too.”

“I’ll be back soon,” Taehyung says, suddenly coming up from behind, and as if sensing the conversation, flashes a luminous, luminous smile at Yoongi. Bigger than the moon.

Yoongi sighs, a soft and foreign sound slipping out, and Namjoon’s eyes widen. Yoongi’s eyes widen. Taehyung just laughs and presses a palm to the back of Yoongi’s neck before he slips away to head for the entrance.

As soon as he’s out of range Namjoon whistles lowly. “God, you’re so whipped, hyung.”

He says it the same way Hoseok did. Playful, but not so much cheeky as it is happy. Happy for him. Hopeful maybe.

Yoongi’s cheeks sting and he ducks his head to pull up his recording program, ignoring Namjoon’s soft laughter and the lingering warmth on his skin.

 

~~~

 

“Hyung, I have to tell you something.”

Yoongi can’t decide if Taehyung’s smile is real or fake, which is alarming for various reasons.

Yoongi closes his laptop and nods, signally for Taehyung to continue speaking.

“I got accepted into an internship for the summer,” Taehyung says, hands twisting in his lap, at odds with the words that just left his mouth.

That’s amazing, Tae, Yoongi writes, flipping his phone around for Taehyung to read. And it is. Internships in the city are hard to come by but they’re necessary for what Taehyung wants to pursue. This is incredible and Yoongi’s just confused why Taehyung is sitting before him like this, hunched and unsure, his voice tepid.

“Yeah, it is,” Taehyung says, more to his lap than to Yoongi. Look up at me , Yoongi wants to tell him. Please look at me. “I didn’t think I’d get it. It was more to kind of get my name in the pool, y’know? But I got it.”

The last part is said under his breath, like Taehyung is still rolling the fact around in his mind. Yoongi wishes he could take Taehyung’s hand where he has them tightly wound on his thighs. Wonders, for a moment, why he can’t.

Yoongi reaches across the table, palm up, and Taehyung sucks in a breath and braids their fingers together.

“It’s a teaching program at a this center for kids with special needs,” Taehyung tells him in a low voice, “They do some incredible forms of therapy with them, including art and music.”

Yoongi squeezes his hand, encouraging him on.

“It’s for three months,” Taehyung says, swallowing thickly, finally looking up to him. “It’s in New York.”

Yoongi draws his hand back and sees it, the moment Taehyung’s face crumples, like something inside of him just fell apart.

Yoongi grabs a clean napkin and a pen from his backpack and writes by hand because this is important. Taehyung has to know this is important.

 

Kim Taehyung. You are going to go to New York, and you are going to learn and see so much, and you are going to help so many children, and you are going to spread so much love, and I am so proud of you.

 

Taehyung reads over his words a few times, hands trembling, and says faintly, “Okay, hyung.”

Yoongi takes out another napkin to write on and hand sit over.

 

And I will be back here, probably in this very seat, waiting for you to come home.

 

“Okay, hyung,” Taehyung smiles softly.

 

And if you want, you have all our phone numbers, and you can talk to us if you get a little lonely.

 

“Okay, hyung,” Taehyung nods, looking up to him, opening up his fingers for Yoongi to take. He does.

 

You can talk to me, Yoongi writes without looking away from him, without letting him go, if you get a little lonely.

“Okay, hyung,” Taehyung says, and Yoongi wants to kiss him and wonders, for a moment, why he can’t.

 

~~~

 

“Yoongi-ssi, how are we doing this week?”

Dr. Choi is nice. She keeps her hair in a short bob and her fingernails neatly trimmed. She doesn’t have a Seoul dialect, instead something a little earthier. Something that reminds him of home. Her syllables flow together sometimes, long in places they should be short. Like a lullaby. Often Yoongi finds himself drifting during their chats.

Not today, though. This morning Yoongi is oddly alert. Oddly, because it isn’t the kind of awareness that stems from being in a room full of whispering people or when he has too much music in his head and not enough time to get it out before he forgets. More like he’s grounded. Has the succulent on her desk always been there? That shelf of books? That back window? How has Yoongi never noticed the window overlooking the park before?

“Yoongi-ssi, are you with me?” She asks, hands following along with her words. Yoongi told her she doesn’t have to sign to him, for him, but she insists.

Yoongi pulls his gaze from the back wall and breathes.

He feels okay.

He feels okay. And because he feels okay, because he has this strange sense of feeling very much so like a person on this earth, he tells her. Everything. The doubt and the fear and the guilt. All of it she’s heard before, but Yoongi feels like it’s different this time. Like he’s a little more removed. Like one of his flashbacks, but instead of being in first person, he’s more of a bystander watching things play out. Sympathetic and scared, but not so attached.

And then Yoongi keeps talking to her, hands cramping with how much they’re moving, but Dr. Choi doesn’t try to slow him down or stop him. So he tells her about school. Tells her about how his dad has been sick. His fight with a friend. Tells her about this fat cat that he thinks might actually be an incarnated god, but don’t write that down , because that will make me sound crazy.

She laughs at that, and Yoongi wonders if she’s ever laughed before in front of him.

And then Yoongi not only feels okay, he feels good. So he tells her about Taehyung. About a beautiful boy who sees the world in such an enormous, delicate way. A boy who just loves to love, and how Yoongi thinks he might love him.

He’s leaving, Yoongi signs, heart thumping crazily from how much he just moved. How much he just revealed. He’s leaving for a long time, though.

“But he’s coming back?” She asks, hands moving in time with her voice.

Yeah.

“You don’t have to be next to someone to talk to them,” she says, her voice taking on that southern lilt, like she thinks he needs to hear it. “Just be there for him the ways you know how. There’s no wrong way to love someone, afterall.”

Yoongi leaves her office feeling unraveled. He’s shaking, but he doesn’t cry, even though he probably could. Instead he just takes a deep breath , sucking in all the cold air he can, and texts Jungkook a song he heard the other day with lyrics that brought his laughter to mind.

 

~~~

 

 

Towards the end of his adolescent career, when he was doing back-to-back competitions and auditions and interviews, Yoongi just… stopped. Everything. Listening. Feeling. Seeing. He thought people would notice that when he played he couldn’t actually hear any of the notes. That he was going from muscle memory. 

But no one did. He kept winning awards and kept receiving invitations and, eventually, Yoongi just… stopped. Everything.

That’s why he doesn’t think he’ll remember this night. Rehearsals have been going well, are something he’s even found himself looking forward to. The whispering has tapered off. Professor Lim gripes at him at least once or twice for not following along with the others (always too fast, Yoongi-ssi, slow down a bit, stay with us), but it’s usually accompanied by a wink. Hayeon invites him out with some of the other grad students for drinks one night and Yoongi doesn’t turn her down.

So it doesn’t quite strike him, not until he’s walking out on stage with four dozen other people in blacktie attire and his closest friends in the audience, that he’s about to perform for an audience for the first time in a decade. 

Professor Lim’s hands lift, and for the next sixty minutes, Yoongi feels mechanical and wound-tight. He hits every note perfectly but it feels as if he’s trying to sight-read across a freeway. Even when the audience claps along to the Pirates melody, laughing when the brass section dawns pirate hats, Yoongi can’t bring himself to lift his head, too focused on the movement of his fingers. Too whelmed with mulling over the reason why he’s here. Not just in this room, but in this program. Why did they let him in? What did they see him? What does anyone see in him? Then? Now? Why is he still here?

Yoongi’s heart twists and he almost misses the conclusion to the suite. It’s not major, no one probably heard it, but when he finally forces his gaze up, he spots Professor Lim watching him, one brow raised. Not angry, just concerned. 

Shame rolls through Yoongi’s stomach, rising up his throat, and he considers leaving the stage even though they still have one more suite. The most important one, Yoongi remembers, finally forcing himself to stand and cross over to the organ tucked just a little further back into the section.

He can’t do this. Yoongi thought he was doing well but it was just a delusion. A few good moments don’t make this better. Make him better. What was he thinking? 

Yoongi lifts his hand, signalling for Lim to wait, and Yoongi can’t play like this. He can’t keep playing like this. There’s a reason he stopped. There’s a reason he said he’d never return and Yoongi’s starting to remember what that was as this numbness spreads through up his arms, seizing his chest.

Why do you want to play so bad? His mom asked him in elementary. Why the piano?

Yoongi pinches his eyes shut. He can’t remember his first moments at a piano, far too young for those memories to have stayed; but he can recall sitting alone at the upright in the hall outside his father’s office, tinkering to his own melody instead of someone else’s. 

Yoongi remembers the first song he wrote. Remembers how he felt, building this imaginary world. Gentle, like a sunshower, none of the bitterness or anger or fear that seems to lace his words these days. What happened to him? Where did that memory go? 

What do you want to say? Professor Yang had asked him at the start of his program. What do you want to share with others?

As if waking from a dream, Yoongi’s eyes flutter open, and the first face he sees across the chairs, in the front row of the balcony, is Jungkook. 

The others are there, surely they are, but Yoongi just opens his mouth to, what? What could Yoongi possibly tell him? What does he want to say?

Jungkook leans forward, and just before the house lights fall, Yoongi sees him lift his hand. Signs, in one swift movement, I love you.

The baton falls in the corner of his eye. Yoongi drops his hands to the keys, momentarily forgetting he’s on the organ, and begins to work his way through this haunting, undulating rhythm. The small notes, dancing and shimmering under his fingers. This tension building around him as the strings start to soar before being fed into the winds, the brass urgently piercing through the sound as the notes under Yoongi’s hand tumble into the hall, growing and growing and growing until the percussion rumbles in, the crescendo trembling around them, Yoongi’s heart beating so crazy in the back of his throat he just wants to yell and then—

Silence. 

Yoongi remembers this moment. Not from rehearsal. Not from past performances. But from a sidewalk on an afternoon in April with an impossibly blue sky hanging overhead. 

That second, just before the car hit, when the world fell eerily quiet.

Cheers erupt around him as Yoongi gasps, staring down at his hands, but the loop doesn’t come. Yoongi looks overhead and sees the rafters. Turns to his right to see Hayeon standing to bow with the rest of the woodwinds. There’s sweat beading on his forehead, dampening his collar. The muscles in his right wrist are cramping. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears. Can hear Namjoon and Hoseok screeching from somewhere above...

The heaviness doesn’t come.

The hopelessness doesn’t come.

The flashback… It doesn’t come.

Yoongi stands so abruptly his bench clatters backwards. Heads turn his way as Yoongi scrambles to the stage wings, slipping behind one curtain and then another, pressing past the stage  crew, stumbling out into the back hall where some of the audience members are starting to trickle into and then—

“Hyung,” Jimin breathes into his neck, pulling him in close. “Holy shit, hyung, I’ve never heard you play like that.”

Yoongi takes a deep inhale of Jimin’s orange scented shampoo and promptly starts bawling.

“Jimin, let him go,” Namjoon calls out, breathless as he jogs down the corridor. “He’s panicking, let him go.”

Yoongi shakes his head, digging his fingers into the back of Jimin’s dress shirt to get him to stay. 

No , he mouths, pressing himself into Jimin’s shoulder. No, no, no.

“Hyung,” Namjoon whispers, closer now. “Hyung, are you here?”

Yoongi nods and nods and nods because he hasn’t felt this aware of himself in months and it’s terrifying but it feels right . He feels right. And then there’s s a hand on the back of his head, on his arm, shifting and tugging him until he’s tucked under someone’s chin. 

“Hyung,” Jungkook murmurs against his temple, rocking them side to side, hand rubbing up and down his spine. “Hyung, I love you, I’m sorry.”

I’m so sorry,  Yoongi wants to say. 

Please don’t leave, he wants to say. 

You are so loved, he wants to say, wants to say, wants to say.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

They eat dinner after the show. Barbecue, at one of the kitschy, family-run places that Namjoon’s been frequenting since he was a kid. They score a table near the back and cram in so close they knock elbows with each other as they eat, but no one seems to mind. It’s nice, Yoongi thinks, being together like this at once, so close he not only feel the heat from the grill, but the warmth from Jimin and Taehyung at his sides.

Yoongi doesn’t miss how Taehyung gives him the best pieces of meat he can grab before Seokjin and Jungkook can get to them. He doesn’t miss how Taehyung’s head will lag towards him, as if wanting to draw nearer or ask a question but unsure of how to do so. Yoongi definitely doesn’t miss how, through most of the evening, Taehyung maneuvers one hand to eat; the other remains resting on Yoongi’s thigh. Large, light. A gentle reminder that I’m here, I’m here. As if Yoongi could ever forget. As if Taehyung isn’t the first person that Yoongi searches for when he enters a room.

(Yoongi thinks he scared Taehyung tonight. Yoongi thinks he scared all of them, just a little, but especially Taehyung.)

They split ways a dozen servings and a handful of soju bottles later. Namjoon’s got Hoseok on his back. Seokjin lingers near them, a hand floating at his side, as if he’s waiting for someone to drop. Jimin’s half-way to the moon, but he’s always been a good drunk, and Yoongi just smiles as he croons an American pop song Jungkook’s direction while blearily signing along to the lyrics. It’s impressive that some of it is even legible, and Jungkook laughs and catches Jimin when he stumbles over an outcrop of the sidewalk. 

Yoongi watches them, feeling smeary at the corners, hands shoved deep in his pockets. A weight falls on his shoulders, then a puff of breath, then Taehyung murmuring quietly beside his ear, “Hi, hyung.”

Yoongi’s not drunk, but he’s not sober either. His arms are heavy. So are his legs. Inside it’s wafty, though. It’s a disconcerting combination, to be both grounded and star-bound at once.

Taehyung makes a small noise of surprise when Yoongi rocks back and falls into his chest. His hands come up to Yoongi’s waist and hesitate there, as if Taehyung is bolstering himself, maybe asking permission. 

Yoongi presses in closer. Feels Taehyung shudder. Tucks his chin to hide his smile when Taehyung finally folds Yoongi up in his arms and squeezes. 

“Hey, hyung?” Taehyung says, this time against Yoongi’s neck. Yoongi bumps their heads together, a signal that he’s listening. “You were really incredible tonight.”

Yoongi’s gotten more compliments in his life than he knows what to do with. Tonight especially there have been an obscene amount. But something in the way Taehyung says it, or maybe because it is Taehyung saying it, has Yoongi’s chest fizzing and crackling with unspoken emotion.

Yoongi pulls a hand from his pocket, trails it along Taehyung’s skin until he finds the back of Taehyung’s palm. Taps twice.

Taehyung hums. “You’re welcome.”

There’s a shout, a screech, a bout of laughter. Yoongi looks over to see that Jungkook has attempted (and succeeded) in getting Jimin on his back and they are now in a heated sparring session of dry-land chicken. Seokjin is cursing (rather colorfully) about how they’re all embarrassments and that he’s not taking anyone to the hospital again just as Jimin kicks Namjoon in the butt and Hoseok goes tumbling into Seokjin’s outstretched arms.

They seem okay. Hoseok’s a giggly mess on Seokjin’s chest, the two of them sprawled on the concrete as Namjoon smiles sweetly over them, the picture of unbothered boyfriend. Jimin appears to have fallen asleep on Jungkook’s shoulder, or at least given up at keeping his eyes open, a smile stretched wide across his face.

They split ways after that. There’s no way Yoongi’s getting Hoseok home, so Namjoon pulls him on his back again to take back to his and Seokjin’s place. Jimin seems set on staying attached to Jungkook for as long as possible, so Jungkook says he’ll take him back to the apartment. 

“TaeTae, you comin’?” Jimin warbles out, glancing their direction.

“I’m gonna walk hyung home,” Taehyung says without even glancing Yoongi’s way. Yoongi’s cheeks warm. “Meet ya back at home soon.”

Jungkook’s frowning, like he wants to say something, but Jimin's tugging his ear, signing something quick and sloppy that Yoongi can't distinguish in the dark. It doesn’t ease Jungkook's expression, but it does have him turning to head in the same direction the others took, power-walking to catch up. Yoongi can hear Jimin’s jostled giggles from here.

“Shall we, hyung?”

Yoongi shrugs and spins, taking off at the sound of Taehyung’s low laughter. They walk mostly in silence, Taehyung occasionally breaking in to acknowledge a stray cat or a street performer. Yoongi nods along, feeling lighter the longer the night drifts on, and by the time they make it to his apartment entrance, it finally dawns just how tired he is. Physically, yeah. Physically he’s always tired. But this feels a bit deeper than just a much needed nap.

Yoongi presses a hand to his sternum and stands there, rubbing, staring at his feet.

There’s this ache, right at the base of his throat, spilling down behind his ribs. Sadness, maybe. Or maybe something similar to it. Regret. Or longing. 

Tonight was good. Tonight was really good. Yoongi hasn’t played like that in months. Yoongi has felt that way about playing in years. Like it was more than just an assignment or an expectation. It wasn’t drudging and it wasn’t frightening, not in a bad way at least. Dr. Choi would say it was cathartic. Jimin would compare it to a blood transfusion; all the infected blood getting pulled out so that healthy blood can take its place and the body can begin the process of healing.

Yoongi just thinks that he’s tired, and that he’s been tired for a very long time, and maybe now he can finally rest a bit.

“Hyung?”

Taehyung’s on the step below him, looking up with that topsy turvy smile. Face filled with warmth. He’s in one of his silky shirts again. Pressed slacks. A forest green pea-coat. No hat, tonight. Tonight he wears his hair curled to the side and it’s outstanding what a pair of eyebrows can do to a person’s face. Taehyung’s eyebrows have lives of their own. 

“Hyung?” Taehyung repeats, this time without a trace of the smile. This time with his hand outstretched, hesitating, just before he cups Yoongi’s face and trails his thumb beneath Yoongi’s eye. Like Yoongi does to him whenever he finds a stray lash.

Taehyung keeps stroking his cheek, though, then reaches up to hold the other, and Yoongi doesn’t even realize that Taehyung is wiping away his tears before this wild, ragged sob is ripped from his chest. 

“Oh, hyung,” Taehyung murmurs, and Yoongi just shakes his head and lets Taehyung tug him in close to hold.

It’s not the first time Yoongi’s cried in Taehyung’s arms. A few years ago this would be an unheard of situation; a few months ago this would have been alarming. Tonight, though, it’s just warm. Tonight, Yoongi is tired in every meaning of the word, in the arms of a boy who makes him ache with tenderness. Who, if Yoongi told he loved him, might just say it back.


In the morning, Yoongi wakes before the sun. He’s taken to leaving the curtains open, so on the mornings when the noises of Hoseok getting ready don’t stir him, the light will. 

But Yoongi doesn’t wake because of sunlight. Instead it’s to a weight on his chest, dampness on his throat. Yoongi blinks and tries to shove the covers off where they’ve tangled around his body and just gets a startled groan in response.

Taehyung’s sputtering from where Yoongi nailed him in the sternum, eyes pinched shut and curled in like a roly poly against Yoongi’s side, and Yoongi realizes belatedly that it wasn’t the duvet that was trapping him, but Taehyung’s limbs. He blinks and picks at his shirt. The wet collar of his sweater sticks to his skin.

Drool. Taehyung was drooling on him.

“S’ry, hyun’,” Taehyung drawls, and Yoongi looks over and finds Taehyung staring up at him from under those stupid, thick lashes. A sleepy smile filled with flirt is centered right at him.

Yoongi’s eyes slit. He reaches out, and with one finger, traces the impressions left on Taehyung’s face from the sheets. Along his jaw, over the mole under his lip, the one on the tip of his nose. His lash line, the right one, where another beauty mark likes to hide. Up and up, a gossamer touch that has Taehyung fluttering, right until—

“OW!”

Taehyung curls in on himself and Yoongi, still poised mid-flick, laughs so hard that Taehyung threatens to give him CPR if he doesn’t start breathing soon.

 

~~~

 

Taehyung leaves not two weeks later. Yoongi, with Jimin in tow, take a cab with him to the airport. The others already bid their goodbyes in the days leading up, and while Taehyung said he didn’t need anyone to see him off, he’s kept a steady hold on Jimin’s hand the whole ride. 

He’s not taking much. Just a carry-on and a large suitcase. Jimin’s worried he’s packed too light (even though Yoongi knows for a fact that it was Jimin who packed everything up the night prior); but Taehyung says anything he needs he can just buy over there with the allowance the program is giving him. 

“I’ll bring back souvenirs,” Taehyung grins, stooping down to knock his forehead into Jimin’s. 

Jimin makes a giggly, chirpy sound and presses a wet smack against Taehyung’s temple before Taehyung can dodge away. Not that he would. Yoongi’s learned that Taehyung is a fan of kisses, in all their forms. Seokjin likes to grab the top of Taehyung’s crown and kiss the spot where his hair parts. Hoseok always aims for a cheek. Jimin will just kiss whatever body part is closest: hands, elbows, ankles, ears.

“Gonna miss you Chim,” Taehyung says, quiet enough that only their little trio can pick up the words.

Jimin hums and burrows in close. Taehyung rocks them side to side, aggressive enough that Jimin loses his footing. His high laughter gains the attention of a few passersbys, but Jimin’s not the same person from five years ago, when he would rather walk a couple feet apart from Yoongi than risk someone calling them out as a couple. This older Jimin, though, is loud in the best of ways, and sometimes Yoongi thinks he might love him even more now than he did back then.

Jimin pulls away, non-discreetly wiping his eyes with the back of his sleeves. He moves aside and then turns around in this obvious way, as if giving them what little privacy he can in a crowded terminal on a near-summer Saturday.

Yoongi’s not sure what Jimin knows about them, but this might be because Yoongi’s not even sure what he knows. What he and Taehyung are. 

He’s had Taehyung over for dinner a few times since the night of the concert. Hoseok’s always there, though, and on one occasion Jungkook as well. They’ve visited two museums, have had countless library coffees, and on a particularly bright Sunday morning, Yoongi invited Taehyung to the music hall to listen to him practice. Nothing self-written, just homework for class; but Taehyung listened through it all as he worked on a psych paper with this melted smile that Yoongi found was difficult to keep his eyes trained on for too long.

(Yoongi has many of those moments with Taehyung. Where he has to look at him from the side because sometimes it almost hurts to look at him face-on.)

They haven’t talked, though. Haven’t touched. So Yoongi’s not sure what they are, he just knows that Taehyung is beautiful, and that Taehyung makes him feel steady and sure, and that Taehyung is going to be gone for three months and long-distance isn’t something Yoongi wants to battle just yet so now is definitely not the time to confess his feelings, whatever they may be.

But all that is Yoongi working under the assumption that Taehyung would say yes.

“Hyung?”

Yoongi is almost certain that Taehyung would say yes. Certain enough that he’d bet his drum controller and his MIDI keyboard on it. So certain that, when Taehyung holds his arms wide for a hug, Yoongi rocks up on his toes and presses his mouth to the fullest part of Taehyung’s smiling cheek.

Yoongi falls back to earth, hands tucked into his pockets, bottom lip caught between his teeth. Taehyung is looking at him, all dazed and confused, and Yoongi raises both brows. 

“Oh,” Taehyung murmurs cheerfully, blinking as if coming back to himself. His grin is enormous. “Oh.”

Oh, Yoongi mouths, nodding, fighting off a smile as he falls forward again. Taehyung scoops him in, holds him tight, rocks him much gentler than he did with Jimin. 

The intercom announces boarding for Taehyung’s flight, then. They break away, Taehyung still looking bubbly and delighted. He hugs Jimin once more, fast and hard. Looks at Yoongi for a long, drawn out moment before loping forward, quick as can be, to push aside his bangs and kiss him in the center of his forehead.

Taehyung flees after that, leaving behind only the scent of cinnamon, Jimin curled in on himself in hysterics, and Yoongi with one hand pressed against his burning skin while the other remains resting over his drubbing heart.

 

~~~

 

It’s strange to think that there was a long moment when Yoongi didn’t know Taehyung was there. 

Sure, he was always there; behind the counter of the cafe, serpentining around the shelves of the library, cheerfully greeting cats between the alleys of the arts buildings. Taehyung was there long before Yoongi was aware, and Yoongi is only truly realizing this now that Taehyung is gone. The emptiness of his absence aches.

There’s a drawn out meow from his side, and Yoongi glances over to see that Hatsepshut has plopped herself on the step beside Yoongi’s feet. She’s staring off in the distance, one leg bent under her fat belly. She sits like a person. Yoongi always thought this was funny. 

She meows again, a forlorn sound.

Yeah , Yoongi mouths, a slight sigh slipping out. I miss him, too.

Yoongi doesn’t try to pet Hatsepshut and she doesn’t try to run. That’s how Hoseok finds him a half-hour later: perched on the steps with an overweight cat who is attentively listening to him recount the entirety of Inception.

Hoseok blanches. Are you arguing with a cat about the ending to that dumb movie?

Just because you only watch biographical sports films doesn’t mean it’s dumb, Yoongi claps black. Hatshepsut meows. See? Hattie agrees.

Hyung, Hoseok signs, eyeing the two of them warily. Do I need to host an intervention? It’s only been four days.

He hasn’t texted.

He’s getting settled.

Yoongi frowns. I want to hold his hand.

You can hold my hand, Hoseok signs. How about that?

Yoongi huffs and shrugs and immediately reaches for Hoseok’s hand who tugs him up with a laugh and a squeezy side-hug and the promise that they can watch whatever Yoongi wants during dinner that night.

 

~~~

 

He gets the call at 2:32 in the afternoon on a Sunday.

Yoongi stares at the skype message that’s appeared in the top corner of his screen, the bubbling beeping reinforcing that Kim Taehyung is indeed trying to video message him.

Yoongi watches Taehyung’s selfie (he’s got both hands cupped to his cheeks, lips pursed, his bright yellow beret tilted so far to the side it’s about to slip off) for a few seconds. Maybe more than a few seconds because the video notification quiets, disappears, starts up just a few moments later. 

Hoseok nudges his foot and Yoongi startles, glancing up to where he and Namjoon are staring at him curiously.

“You okay there, hyung?”

Yoongi flips his screen around in response, and both Hoseok and Namjoon squint, searching for an answer, simultaneously noticing Taehyung’s video request. 

Why’s he calling me? Yoongi signs frantically. The beeping ceases and they all watch in unison to see if it starts up again.

It does.

Hoseok clicks the answer button.

NO! Yoongi flails, but Taehyung’s already popping up in-screen as the resolution adjusts. 

Yoongi shrinks back to hide, watching from the side as Taehyung lifts a hand in greeting. “Hi! This is a warm welcome.”

“Hi, Tae!” Namjoon grins as Hoseok waves both hands in a little dance. “How’s it going?”

“Great!” Taehyung grins back, adjusting his headband so his fringe is out of his eyes. “Finally got settled in. Had my first full week of classes. Everyone here is so smart.”

“Well that’s why you’re there too,” Namjoon translates for Hoseok, then says in his own words, “You’re brilliant, Taehyung-ah. Don’t forget that.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Taehyung grins, all teeth and squinty eyes. “Is Yoongi-hyung around?”

“Yup,” Namjoon answers just as Hoseok turns the laptop before Yoongi can drop to the floor. “Right here. We’ll leave you to it.”

Hoseok and Namjoon both scuttle off to the front counter as a pretense for giving him and Taehyung privacy, but Yoongi knows they’re just going to go gather Jimin and do recon from the privacy of the espresso machine. 

“Hi, hyung.”

Yoongi takes a deep breath and gives a little wave. Taehyung beams back at him in high-definition. Curse modern day laptops and their fancy webcams. 

It’s been a week since Taehyung left. He’s texted the group-chat twice: once to notify them he landed safely, and again to let them know that he made it to the dorm he’ll be staying in for the duration of his program. Since then it’s been quiet, which makes sense, what with him adjusting to the time-difference and a new culture and getting settled in. Yoongi didn’t expect much. Tried, not to expect much. But they’ve gone from complete silence to Yoongi having to look at Taehyung’s exposed forehead and it’s a bit much. His tongue feels all twisted. His chest feels worse.

“Sorry for not asking if the video call is okay,” Taehyung starts, and Yoongi rests his hands on the keys to type out a message, let him know that it’s fine, that he understands, “but there’s something that I really wanted to ask you.”

Yoongi pauses, gaze flitting back to Taehyung.

Taehyung, who has his hands raised.

Taehyung, who slowly signs, How are you?, in KSL.

Yoongi freezes and Taehyung bites his lip, repeats the question, and Yoongi curls his fingers open, closed, open, a little unsure of how to use them. 

I’m good, Yoongi signs back tentatively, slower than he would with Hoseok or Jimin, and Taehyung watches his hands and smiles. Yoongi hesitates, then asks, You?

Tired, Taehyung signs. Learning a lot. Met a cat in park! You would love.

Love, love, love.

Yoongi slams his laptop shut. Stands. Looks over to where he knows the others are watching and his expression must be terrifying because Hoseok is jogging towards him, arms outstretched, is pulling Yoongi into a tight hug and Yoongi doesn’t know where it comes from but he sucks in a ragged breath and just starts crying. 

“Hyung? Hyung, what happened?” Jimin asks, sliding up to his side, worry making his lisp come out thick. “That was Taehyungie, right? Is everything okay?”

Yoongi nods, shakes his head. His cellphone is ringing and Namjoon leans over to pick it up. “Taehyung is calling you. Want me to answer?”

Yoongi nods, shakes his head.

“Hyung, I need you to be a bit clearer with me.”

“I’ll answer it.” Jimin takes the phone, swipes the screen. “Tae? Hey, it’s me. What happened? We had a plan.”

A plan? A plan for what?

“I know, I saw. What’d you say? A cat?” Jimin turns towards Yoongi incredulously. “Hyung, are you crying over a cat?”

Yoongi shudders, presses the heel of his palms against his eyes. Nods. Shakes his head again.

Signing, he mouths, and it’s quiet as they watch his trembling hands. Taehyung learned sign.

“Yeah,” Jimin says, the corner of his mouth quirking into a smile. “We’ve been practicing for months. He said he wanted to learn for everyone. Wait, hold on a sec. Yeah?”

Jimin nods and  holds out the phone, and Yoongi sniffs and presses it against his ear. Jimin leans in close to the speaker and says, “Okay, he’s listening Tae,” then rocks back to give them space.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, voice so warm and thick that Yoongi closes his eyes, sniffles. “Hyung, I learned for you. It’ll be nice for everyone of course, but I’m learning sign for you. I want you to know that.” A long breath, a soft, “It’s always been you.”

Yoongi shudders. Nods. Holds out the phone for someone, anyone to take. Jimin slips back in close to grab it. “Tae? Yeah, one sec. Hyung, are you good for Tae to video call you again?” Yoongi nods, his eyes now closed, trying to gather his strength. “Taehyungie, he’s good. Try again in a minute. Alright, love you. Bye.”

Silence settles around them, and Yoongi opens his eyes to three concerned gazes resting on him as if waiting for him to burst again.

I’m okay, he signs, and they all melt at once. 

“We’re going to move to another table,” Namjoon says, already gathering his and Hoseok’s things in his long arms. “But let us know if you need anything.”

Hoseok nods and hugs him quick, Jimin stepping in after. And then it’s just Yoongi alone at the table, breathing deep the way he does in his sessions sometimes, when his body feels small but his emotions are all so large.

He lifts the screen. Plugs in his headphones and sticks one bud in an ear. Waits half a minute. Promptly answers when the notification begins to trickle again.

Taehyung blinks back at him, looking unsure and a little frazzled. The front of his hair is sticking up the way the Namjoon’s does when he runs his hands through it too many times.

You hang up again? Taehyung signs.

Yoongi shudders and shakes his head. Signs, No. Never again. Tell me about your day. Tell me everything.

Taehyung beams at him, pleased, and between a mixture of sign language, speaking, and the occasional app message, Taehyung tells him all about the project and his classes, of course, but also about the cat he discovered in the park that is possibly even fatter than Hatshepsut and all the thrift stores he’s been scouring for scarves and food trucks with so many varying menus it always feels like he’s taking a trip half-way around the world at lunch. 

Still haven’t found real Korean food, he signs with a wink. But I’m looking.

Yoongi talks to him back, tells him about Namjoon’s obscure musings from the radio show and how Jin convinced his landlord to let him have a dog that’s over the weight limit and that he wrote a song, another song, but this one is sad and he doesn’t know if he should keep working on it. If he wants to.

Sad feelings matter too, Taehyung signs to him, and Yoongi watches his hands move gracefully with each movement. They’ve grown more steady the longer they’ve spoken. Sad feelings make … Taehyung trails off, searching for words, and Yoongi gestures for him to speak.

“Sad days remind us that we’re human,” Taehyung says, voice thick with sleep. It’s almost 1am over there, and he’s stayed on for so long. Yoongi should let him go, but he’s missed this so much. “That we’re not perfect. That it’s okay not to be perfect.”

When Yoongi doesn’t react first, Taehyung’s sure smile fades to something more hesitant.

Can you read lips? Yoongi mouths, and Taehyung squints on screen. Can you read lips, he signs, and Taehyung shakes his head, signs back, No, still working on it.  

I like you so much, Yoongi mouths to him, never looking away. You are so beautiful.

Taehyung quirks his head to the side to rest on his arms. He smiles happily even though it’s bleary at the corners. “That’s not fair, hyung.”

Life isn’t fair, Yoongi signs, and Taehyung laughs quietly. He just looks at Yoongi for a long time after that, eyes roving his face, like he’s searching for something. Yoongi’s not sure what to give him, so he just stays still until Taehyung says in a sleep-worn voice, “Hyung, I need to go to bed.”

Okay, Yoongi signs, then adds. Thank you.

“Mmm. Love you, hyung.”

Yoongi clutches his hands to his chest. Taehyung stills, eyes going wide, and before he can pull a Yoongi and log-off without a word, Yoongi signs back quick and precise, I love you, too.

Taehyung pauses, half-way sitting up. Stares at Yoongi’s hands. Stares at Yoongi.

Signs back carefully, I love you?

I love you, Yoongi signs slowly, mouths equally careful, trying to keep a straight face. But Taehyung looks so happy, so absolutely moon-eyed it's difficult to manage. 

“Good night, hyung,” Taehyung whispers, quiet enough that the mic barely picks it up and Yoongi has to read his lips. “Talk to you soon?”

Yoongi nods, waves, and they both click out at the same time.

Yoongi stares at his wallpaper for a few seconds. It’s one Taehyung took. A black and white evening sky. The view from the radio station roof. 

“Did you just confess to Taehyung via video call?” Jimin slides into the seat across from him, leaning so far over the table he’s practically laying across it. He looks like a man half-possessed. “Please tell me you did not just confess while Tae is six thousand miles away.”

Yoongi shakes his head, nods, shakes it again. Jimin lets out a shrill scream that has Namjoon busting up across the room and one of the baristas threatening to kick them out regardless of whether they know the owner or not.

 

~~~

 

They don’t talk everyday. Neither of them have the time or energy for that and they both have other more demanding commitments. But they each send off a photo at the end of their days. A meal they ate. A flower in a park. A dog. A cat. A squirrel. The drawing of one of Taehyung’s kids that looks like a hairless raccoon and is honestly a bit frightening. 

Have you ever seen a hairless raccoon? Yoongi asks Namjoon one night, mid-song at the station. Namjoon shakes his head and they look it up together, then promptly close the tab and promise to never search for such a cursed image again.

 

~~~

 

A month in Yoongi starts to send Taehyung song clips. Just fifteen seconds here or a half-minute there. Fully built out bridges and tiny piano melodies. Taehyung doesn’t know a lot about music, not the technicalities behind it the way Namjoon and Jungkook do; but every song he listens to he describes back to Yoongi in colors and feelings and images. 

Yoongi takes a leap one night and sends him the song from all those months ago. The one he wrote under the patchwork of glow-in-the-dark stars of his bedroom the first night he heard Taehyung singing on the roof before he even knew who Taehyung was. He doesn’t clean it up. Just sends it off and forgets to check until that night, when he’s eating dinner with Hoseok, and a message from Taehyung comes in while they’re in the living room watching a drama.

Do you remember the night of that party, Taehyung has written, and Yoongi sets down his bowl and leans in close to read, when I was telling you about that one painting? The one at night with fireworks? The one that reminded me of you?

Nostalgic, Taehyung had called it. Nostalgic and delicate and beautiful.

(Yoongi has a picture of the painting saved on his phone, along with all the others Taehyung has mentioned to him in passing. Of course he remembers it. How could he forget a painting like that.) 

This it it hyung, Taehyung writes before Yoongi has a chance to respond. This is it.

Hoseok looks hesitant when he asks if Yoongi’s okay; but Yoongi just nods, tells Hoseok that he needs to finish a song, and picks up his noodles to take to his room.

 

~~~

 

“This is it, Yoongi-ah,” Dr. Lim says after listening to the song for the second time through. It’s their one-on-one session. The windows to the practice room are open to let in the early morning air, warmer, now that summer has snuck up on them, and Yoongi can hear the chatter of students from the courtyard and distance sounds of the city waking up.

Dr. Lim laces her fingers together against her lap and tells him again, “This is it. It’s wonderful.”

It’s only one song, Yoongi writes to her, and she shakes her head and says in that all-knowing voice, “It only takes one song.”

She looks at him for a while after that, in the same intentional way that Namjoon looks at him sometimes. Like she’s searching. Reading. Turning over her thoughts and words before she releases them into the world. 

“It sounds like a love song,” she finally settles on, her eyes looking through him, and Yoongi smiles and shakes his head.

No, he writes. But it is a song about love.



By the time he leaves the studio that night, the sun has descended into a melted sherbet sky. Yoongi stops and sits on a park-bench to watch for a long while. He texts Taehyung. A minute after that calls him. It’s early morning in New York, and neither of them have anything to say, but it’s nice, to close his eyes and listen to Taehyung breathe for the next handful of minutes before it’s time for Taehyung to get up to get ready for class.

“Love you, hyung,” Taehyung grouses out between yawns, and Yoongi mouths back I love you, I love you, I miss you.

He sends back a single yellow heart.

 

~~~

 

“You seem happy,” Jin states one moonless evening while they eat cold noodles on the porch of a small shop a few blocks from the cafe. 

Yoongi cocks his head to the side and finishes slurping before mouthing, You seem surprised.

“Not that I thought you’d fall apart once Taehyung left, but I kind of expected…” Seokjin makes vague, non-committal hand gestures. “Less smiling?”

Want me to smile less?

“Of course not,” Seokjin scoffs. “I love your lil’ gummy gremlin grin. You’re the light of my life, Yoongichi.”

Yoongi’s face drops as he studies Seokjin, curled up small across the bench from him. His fingers are tapping out disjointed beats of six against his soju bottle. It’s his second one within the hour. 

Yoongi raps his knuckles against the tabletop. Jin hums without quite looking at him, his eyes set on something past Yoongi’s shoulder, and Yoongi taps the table again to get his attention. Do you want to talk about anything?

Yoongi isn’t as twitchy about the idea of conversation as he was all those months ago, but Seokjin looks about ready to crawl out of his skin as he uncrosses his legs just to wrap his arms around his stomach, cradling himself, like he needs to be held but doesn’t know how to ask. Which he doesn’t. He never has. He keeps chewing on the inside of his cheek instead. 

“I went on a date,” he finally says, and Yoongi’s not sure why he says it that way, like he’s revealing he has a terminal illness and he needs Yoongi’s help to find a lawyer to write the will.

With the hotel guy? Yoongi asks.

“No. I mean yes. I went out with him last week. This was a different guy,” Seokjin says. “A producer.”

Yoongi’s still not following. Did he give you a part in a film?

“He wishes.”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything more. Yoongi doesn’t move. He just waits there, knees pulled up to his chest, waiting for Seokjin to stop looking as if he may just dissolve in his seat right here in this noodle shop.

“I’ve gone on twenty-two dates this year, Yoongi,” Seokjin says slow. “All with different people.”

That’s okay, Yoongi mouths. It’s just a number.

“A staggering number for mid-June, I must say.”

Yoongi twists his fingers in his lap. A screaming silence falls upon them, and Yoongi can’t remember the last time he felt this unsure around Seokjin. Seokjin looks half-near hysteria. Seokjin’s spiraling, and Yoongi doesn’t know how to stop the fall.

“How’d you do it?”

Seokjin has his the heels of his hands smashed into his hands, but he peeks up to catch Yoongi mouthing, Do what?

“Meet someone like Taehyung-ah?”

Yoongi frowns. He doesn’t argue about what Seokjin is insinuating. Instead he just signs, Fate. Luck. I think some credit has to go to you for hiring him.  

“I’m… I am experiencing a feeling, Yoongi.”

Okay.

“Two feelings, actually.”

Yoongi waits a breath longer, and Seokjin lowers his head and says, “For two people. And I don’t know how to make them stop.”

Yoongi thinks of those couple months ago, when they sat at a stall in a similar restaurant. When Yoongi spread out all his worries, one of which was Jungkook, and Seokjin had spoken so clearly, like it was coming deep from a place Yoongi wouldn’t be able to reach. 

“So I keep going on dates,” Seokjin says, voice rising from his chest, “because I need the feelings to stop, but then half-way through each date, I realize I’ve picked out another blubbering asshole, on purpose, because maybe I don’t want the feelings to stop. Because maybe liking these two really wonderful, beautiful people and not having them like me back is still better than being with someone else.”

Yoongi pinches his lips together, and when he knocks on the table twice and Seokjin still hasn’t raised his head, Yoongi lifts up to lean over and stroke the back of his neck. Seokjin startles under his touch, but then settles as Yoongi runs his fingers through the tangle of long hair there.

Minutes pass. Yoongi’s lower back starts to ache. Twice he turns away the waitress hovering nearby with Seokjin’s order of alcohol. By the time sweat starts to build on his brow, Seokjin is sighing, and Yoongi falls back into his seat as Seokjin shakes out his arms and shoulders, like he’s trying to brush off the past half hour. 

Too bad.

Yoongi catches his gaze and mouths, Have you talked to these people?

Seokjin snorts and wipes his nose. He scowls down at his hand. “Can’t. Not happening. All risk and no reward. Never go gambling, Yoongi, you’ll lose your shirt.”

Hyung.

Seokjin crosses his arms again. “I can’t, I can’t. I won’t. I won’t do that to them. To us.”

Yoongi breathes deep, and with his heart heavy behind his ribs, mouths, Are we talking about Hoseok and Namjoon, hyung?

Seokjin sucks in a breath. He opens his mouth but the words must fall away because he just closes it instead. He repeats the action again and again, like he can’t quite find the will to lie. Finally, after the waitress from before has brought them refills, he says, “I didn’t say anything, you did.”

Yoongi nods. How long?

“A year now,” Seokjin takes  a shot. “Maybe longer.”

Yoongi nods again and Seokjin drinks again and again and again. His hair clings to his forehead. The back of Yoongi’s thighs and neck are damp. Summer’s going to hit them hard this year. 

“Both of them. Fucking…” Seokjin slams down his glass, startling a couple feeding each other nearby. When Seokjin is serious, you listen to him. So Yoongi listens now, as Seokjin dips his head back into his palms. “If it was only one then that would be easier because there’s absolutely no chance of that happening. I would never get in between them. They’re so good for each other. I would never ruin that. But it’s both, Yoongi,” Seokjin almost seethes, this manic gleam in his eyes as he rubs his hands over his face and slumps forward. “And if it’s both then that means if I could get the two of them to just say yes, to me—Shit.”

Yoongi taps the table and Seokjin shakes his head. His shoulders shudder. “No! I fucking hate crying and you know that! Shit!”

A tear rolls down his cheek and then the flood happens. Seokjin’s body heaves, and Yoongi’s on his feet, afraid that he might have to get a trashcan because at this rate Seokjin’s going to make himself hurl; but Seokjin just releases a tiny shriek and then withers, bent over his thighs, forehead pressed to his knees, and cries.

Yoongi walks around the table and squishes into the seat next to him. Holds his phone out where Seokjin can read it.

 You need to talk to them.

“No,” Seokjin warbles. “No, Yoongi. No.”

Yoongi types out, This is eating you up—

No.” Seokjin keeps his head lowered, but his voice is shrill. “I won’t lose them. I won’t mess this family up.”

Even if they said no, Yoongi writes and shoves the phone back under Seokjin’s face, do you really think they’d start treating you any different?

“Don’t use logic on me, Yoongi.” Seokjin takes a few gulps to steady himself. “I am not a creature of this earth. Mortal rules do not apply to me.”

They wouldn’t, Yoongi presses. You know they wouldn’t. You’ll still be our big brother.

“How dare you pull the big brother card.”

Yoongi rests a hand on his back, rubs along Seokjin’s spine as he writes. Talk to them, Jin. You need to talk to them. Trust me on this. 

“Do they secretly love me or something? Do you have some insider scoop?”

No. Seokjin goes lax under his touch, and Yoongi continues to work his way up to the base of shoulders, all the way down to his hips, following the gentle curve there. But I can tell you that this small pain is going to grow into a big pain which is going to become an unbearable pain, and I don’t want you to have to live with that. It hurts, to carry that around. It hurts, hyung.

Seokjin sniffs. Tilts his head to look up at Yoongi from under his bangs. His eyes are dark and shiny and rimmed with red. Yoongi drags a hand over his cheek, wiping away some of the snot and tear-tracks there.

Talk to them, he mouths, and Seokjin rolls his eyes. Yoongi’s mouth tugs a little.

“I’ll try,” Seokjin says, voice still thick with emotion. “For you, I’ll try.”

Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself. You deserve it. You deserve to be happy, hyung.

Wow. Therapy’s really paying off, isn’t it?”

Yoongi smacks his shoulder and bites back a grin. Yeah, he mouths. It is. 


When Yoongi gets back to the apartment, Hoseok is still up. A reality show is playing on mute in the background as Hoseok types furiously into his phone from his balled up position in the armchair.

Yoongi frowns and steps into the room, waving his hand, dragging Hoseok’s attention away from his screen as he moves closer to be seen.

Hey. You’re here. Hoseok goes back to typing. Sends something off with a flourish. Looks back to Yoongi with calculating eyes. You were with Jin-hyung, right?

Yoongi’s brow lifts. Yeah? Why?

Joon’s been texting me. Said Jin-hyung got home and looked like he’d been dragged by a bus but wouldn’t talk about it.

Yoongi’s brain stalls. He bobs his head. That sounds about right. We had a long chat.

That made him cry?

Yup.

Well shit. Hoseok’s face looks so attentive and determined it might actually be painful. He takes a deep breath. His shoulders lift, fall. Shit, he mouths again, as if to himself.

To an outsider, being around Hoseok is like jumping feet first into the face of the sun. Willingly. But Yoongi knows better, and there’s something kind of reassuring about the way that Hoseok takes things so seriously. Takes people so seriously. 

Is he okay? Hoseok signs. Safe?

Yoongi nods, several times, and Hoseok sighs and tugs on his bangs that he’s swept into a small pony over his forehead. His face is twisted with bewilderment, and Yoongi feels a familiar tug on his stomach at the look.

He waves his hand to get Hoseok’s attention. Signs, Are you okay?

Hoseok’s mouth flattens. Yeah. I’m great. Why?

You can talk to me, Yoongi signs slow, trying to emphasize his words. About anything. You know that, right?

Hoseok frowns and rocks forward onto his knees so that he can kiss Yoongi’s temple. When he falls back to his seat, he mouths, Yeah, I know, hyung.

Okay.

Is this about Jin-hyung? Hoseok asks, his eyes and mouth pinching together again into that expression that hurts to look at. Are you sure he’s okay?

Yoongi looks down at his hands, twisting them around as if he’s sorting through his words, trying to pick out the best ones to share. He’s just been going through a lot, he finally signs, and I think he’s been going through it alone.

Hoseok’s frown deepens. He almost looks offended. Well he has you and me and Joon and the others. Maybe we just need to show it more. 

Yoongi looks at Hoseok. His soft, downturned eyes. His oversized tee. The worry there that makes his face crumple so that his dimples keep flickering. It’s hard to picture this Hoseok as the same Hoseok who threatened to throw away Yoongi’s shoes their first week living in the apartment together because Yoongi wouldn’t keep them on the rack, or the Hoseok who was born to be under a spotlight, all sharp angles and smooth lines and this sexy, lazy, enviable grace.

I love you, Yoongi mouths, signs at the same time.

Hoseok visibly recoils, a tiny noise of surprise slipping out. Wow. Taehyung’s a really good influence on you, you know that?

Yoongi forces himself to scowl so that he doesn’t grin. Don’t ruin this.

Hoseok laughs, bright and bleating, and stands up to throw his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders. “Love ya,” he whispers right below Yoongi’s ear, soft as can be, lips pressed to the edge of his jaw. 

It’s not a kiss, although Hoseok loves kisses; it’s just the two of them coming back to each other, being near, trying to say all the things that neither of them can ever quite find the right words for.

 

~~~

 

🌑 [11:16pm]

Hoseok says you’re a good influence on me.

 

[11:20pm]

i def am. but that’s funny

 

🌑 [11:21pm]

Why?

 

[11:21pm]

Jimin said the same thing about u to me

 

~~~

 

Yoongi’s not sure if the three of them end up speaking with each other, but three days later when they’re at the broadcasting station for a show, Namjoon misses his cue twice and bites a pen so hard it smears ink across his face. 

He spits most of it out. Yoongi has him gargle and brush his teeth and gets him cleaned up (they always have baby wipes on hand, although usually it’s for spilled drinks) all within the two minutes and forty-three seconds remaining of the current track, and the show continues on with none of their listeners the wiser to the fact that their favorite TA and resident DJ currently looks like zombie risen from the earth.

Hoseok isn’t much better off. He gets back late that night, still in his damp clothes even though his practice should have ended hours ago. Yoongi asks if he’s eaten, if he wants to do facemasks, and Hoseok just hums and locks himself in the bathroom. 

The shower runs, but Yoongi can still hear Hoseok’s tinny cries over the sound of the water, so he turns the television up louder and doesn’t say anything when Hoseok comes out red-faced and bleary-eyed and heads right for his room without a sound.

 

~~~

 

“Did something happen?” Jungkook whispers low a couple days later when the group of them are at the cafe. They’ve been here an hour, all immersed in their own projects. Jungkook doesn’t have any classes and has been casually sketching dogs that pass by the window beside their table, but Hoseok and Yoongi’s grad programs run through the summer, and they’ve had a constant slew of readings and questionnaires to finish between their actual meetings and practices. 

(Yoongi’s in a particularly grueling back-and-forth with Dr. Lim right now. He’s finished three songs and has four more to go, and she says that if he wants to graduate on time this fall, he has to keep this momentum going.)

(Yoongi’s not sure how to explain that he has hundreds of songs written already, but there’s a reason why this particular handful is running him into the dirt.)

Jungkook prods his side, but Yoongi’s not sure what to say next. Denying the claim would be great, but anyone who understands their group a fraction of the way Jungkook does would know there’s something off-kilter. One wrong breath and everything is just going to collapse in on itself. A punctured lung, Jimin mentioned the other day while Yoongi helped him with his flashcards. Air pressure that prevents the lung tissue from expanding until everything just shuts down. Until you choke. Until you die.

Yoongi looks over the table at Hoseok. Hoseok, who has been curled over a textbook for the better part of forty minutes. Hoseok, who has no spoken, attempted eye-contact, or laughed at Seokjin once since they walked in. It’s practically blasphemy. 

Over at the counter Seojkin stands, wiping down a machine, and he catches Yoongi watching and gives him this sad, gentle look and that’s what really does Yoongi in. That Seokjin isn’t in a frenzy or riled up or angry. He’s just sad. And whatever happened or didn’t happen between him and Hoseok and Namjoon, that’s all Yoongi’s fault.

Jungkook doesn’t need to know the details, though. Jungkook has enough to mull over right now. So Yoongi grabs his stylus and scribbles out beside a doodle of a corgi, It’s fine. They’re working through it.

Jungkook isn’t appeased, and Yoongi knows he’s being horrible, leaving Jungkook in the dark; but if Hoseok won’t talk to Yoongi about this, then they certainly don’t need to drag another body into into the carnage waiting to spill over.

Jungkook taps his wrist. He’s written a question. How’s Taehyung?

Good, Yoongi writes back, confused. Do you miss him?

Jungkook’s nose scrunches, and he’s about to clap back something when the door jingles and Namjoon walks in, stumbles, really, and his laugh catches on his tongue the moment he looks up and meets Seokjin’s eye behind the register.

Seokjin tenses, gripping the towel in his hands tight. He says something to Jimin, and just as Namjoon approaches the counter with a hand raised in greeting, Seokjin’s ducking away to head towards the kitchen. Jimin blinks, watching him go, then shuffles over to take Namjoon’s order instead.

Jungkook’s pressing in close, vying for Yoongi’s attention, but Yoongi can only watch in slow-building horror as Jimin finishes the drink quick, just an iced americano, and Namjoon turns towards their table to find Hoseok watching him. 

There’s a long moment of uncomfortable silence where neither of them moves, and Yoongi feels it like a kick to the knees when Namjoon takes a tentative step towards them and Hoseok, small as can be, shakes his head and turns away.

Namjoon, without a word to any of them, clutches the strap of his bag and exits the cafe.

Yoongi’s scrambling out of his seat, practically vaulting Jungkook to get off the sofa, and Hoseok makes a squawking sound and Jimin’s calling his name and Yoongi doesn’t do anything but run, right out the door, dancing around a group of girls taking a selfie by the flowers outside. He flings forward in a burst of energy, and before Namjoon has even made it to the next crosswalk, Yoongi has his elbow in hand.

Namjoon shouts and miraculously keeps a hold of his drink. His fist drops, when he sees that it’s Yoongi and not some kind of dauntless, day-time mugger tugging him to the side out of the way of foot-traffic. Yoongi wonders if he’d actually throw a punch. Namjoon’s got them all beat in height, but it was Hoseok who laid out that senior his sophomore year, the one who kept calling Yoongi slurs behind his back.

“Hyung, can you let go of my arm? I’m not going to run away.”

Yoongi’s hand slips down to Namjoon’s wrist. He loosely grasps there. Squeezes. When he pulls away completely, Namjoon just stands there, shoulders slumped, like he’s waiting for Yoongi to deliver the final blow that will scatter all his broken pieces across the sidewalk and into a nearby storm drain.

What’s going on? Yoongi finally signs.

Namjoon’s voice is low when he says, “God, I wish I knew.”

Yoongi swallows, absorbing this, spreading his fingers wide across his thighs and then digging in until he can feel each individual prick of his nails.

This is your fault, his mind whispers. Your fault, your fault. You’ve ruined the people you love again.

Namjoon misreads his silence. He sighs again, big and loud and lonely. “Jin-hyung’s been having a difficult time. About what, I’m not quite sure, because Jin-hyung’s just like that. He keeps those kinds of thoughts to himself. Hoseok was also worried, so me, being a person of reasonable understanding who adores open forms of communication, thought it would be an excellent idea to talk about those feelings together, right up until the moment that Hoseok confessed he’s had feelings for Jin-hyung for almost a year now, and Jin-hyung said, and I quote, ‘I don’t want to be with you like that’. So, yes, hyung, if you could please tell me why all of the most important people in my life are abandoning me again, I’d love to hear the answer, because I have no idea what the fuck is happening and no one will speak to me.”

Namjoon’s voice is as flat as when he started, but his eyes are wide, almost wild, when he looks down at Yoongi. He looks angry enough to cry. Belatedly, Yoongi realizes, it looks as if he already has.

Your fault, his head hisses. It’s all your fault. You’ve ruined them. You ruin everyone.

“What—Hyung, stop it, I don’t want to go back there. Hyung!”

Yoongi just squares his hands on Namjoon’s shoulders and shoves, and he keeps shoving until they’re both barrelling through the cafe entrance, so swift the door racks against the wall and the bell threatens to fall with the force of its rattling.

“Yoongi, what’re you—”

Yoongi pushes and pushes and pushes until Namjoon’s standing in the kitchen in the back of the store where a shaken Seokjin is currently standing over a batch of poppy-seed muffins, staring at them both like he just got kneed in the gut.

Yoongi leaves them there and returns to the front. The customers from before have trickled out, the last of the lunch rush, and the only bodies that remain are that of Jimin, who is currently waiting off to the side with slitted eyes and a wooden spoon in hand, like he might be asked to fight someone, and Jungkook and Hoseok, both of whom are sitting in the same positions Yoongi left them in.

They watch in silence as Yoongi approaches Hoseok, now standing, looking guilty and bewildered and pale in the face.

Yoongi points at Hoseok, then over his shoulder.

No, Hoseok mouths, shaking his head, and Yoongi takes a step forward. Jabs again. No. I fucked up. I’m not—No. 

Hoseok, Yoongi mouths. Go talk to them.

Hoseok shakes his head. His face is red now from the effort of holding back tears. You weren’t there, you don’t know anything—

I know plenty, Yoongi signs, cutting him off, and he has this fuzzed over feeling in his brain. Like someone is moving his hands for him. More than you probably. Now go back there and talk this out before you lose two people you love. 

Hoseok just keeps shaking his head. His body makes this sob noise, and he must be able to feel it because he shoves a fist over his mouth. 

It’ll be okay. Hobi, it’ll be okay.

He hates me, Hoseok signs, his breathing coming out thick. They both hate me.

They don’t. None of us do. 

Namjoon’s going to break up with me.

Yoongi steps forward to take his face in his hands. When Hoseok looks at him, the tears spill over. Hoseok blinks rapidly, trying to hold them back. He’s not, Yoongi mouths. He’s just confused. I think so is Jin-hyung. Please, Hoseok. Go back there. Talk. Listen.

Hoseok presses down on his lips. Hiccups. Yoongi pulls him into a quick hug, then guides him by the hand to the kitchen door. He taps Hoseok’s wrist three times in quick succession, and Hoseok throws his shoulders back and pushes through the door without a glance behind him.

Yoongi leaves before he can overhear the conversation taking place, but Jimin grips his arm as he’s passing by to hold him back. “That was really intense,” he says, gaze darting around. “Everything okay?”

Yoongi pulls his hand back to sign, It will be.

Jimin looks hesitant, and then he looks worried, and then he has Yoongi’s face between his hands and is whispering low, “Yoongi, are you having an episode?”

That’s ridiculous. Of course he’s not. Sure, the air feels so heavy it might just swallow him whole and there’s this black sludge roiling around, eating away at his insides, but he’s not having a flashback or anything. He’s just tired. Too tired to keep up with everything that just happened. Too tired for anything, really. Yoongi just wants to lay down.

When Yoongi blinks, he’s sitting on the frumpy red sofa in the back of the shop, the one tucked in so far it’s difficult to reach so most people avoid it. Yoongi blinks, and he looks over and Jungkook is watching him, his dark eyes concerned and desperate as they rove Yoongi’s face.

Yoongi blinks. Wiggles his fingers, then his toes. He blinks, and Jungkook’s eyebrows even out. The divot there melts away. 

“Hyung,” Jungkook says aloud, and Yoongi reaches up to cup his ears, suctioning them the way he does when he gets out of the bath and everything sounds wrinkled. That’s how Jungkook sounds right now. Like Yoongi might be listening to him underwater. 

“Hyung,” Jungkook calls again, and Yoongi nods. He thinks he nods. His mouth won’t move. His lips are numb. 

Dissolving. Crumpling. Yoongi’s hands twist in his lap and he squeezes until the taut skin on his knuckles feels as if it’s going to split.

Time passes. Yoongi’s aware that time passes. The song overhead, although warbly, shifts in tone once. Twice. Three times. There’s movement at the counter, these blurred over shapes jostling amongst each other. Yoongi’s chest rises and falls despite not having any more internal organs. He thinks the sludge got to them all. 

The next time Yoongi blinks, there’s this low rumbling in his ear. Dark. Gravelly at the corners. A weight on the back of his neck. Warm. Yoongi’s body unfurls and it’s a wonder his bones don’t creak with the effort. 

The rumbling smooths over into something less clumpy. Whale song. 

(The last time he was at Namjoon’s, they put on this vinyl album of humpback whale songs from the seventies that Namjoon found in an old thrift store, and they just laid in the center of the living room in silence until Seokjin got home, took one look at them, and quietly joined them on the floor for a few minutes. It was nice. It was pretty perfect, actually.)

Namjoon.

Yoongi looks over and the pressure on his neck shifts. A mouth brushes along his cheek, right up the edge of his jaw into his hairline, and Yoongi blinks again and Namjoon is pulling away from him.

It smells like hazelnut creamer and lemon cake and pine trees and sweat. The song playing overhead is one Yoongi added to the playlist last week. Slightly eerie and shimmery at the corners, not quite acoustic but not fully built out either. Yoongi’s legs are damp where they’ve been pinched together, and he loosens his abdominal muscles and then his back and suddenly Yoongi’s spine is made of sponge and he slumps to the side, right into Namjoon’s chest.

“Yoongi-hyung.”

Yoongi’s hands are ten times too big, but he manages to tap Namjoon’s bare thigh once.

“Hyung, can you sign for me? Tap once for yes, twice for no.” Yoongi taps twice. “Hyung, are you okay with me touching you?” One tap this time. Yoongi likes the touch. Namjoon’s hand on his neck is the only thing keeping him from drifting away again. 

There are voices nearby, and Yoongi realizes he’s closed his eyes again. He opens them to find Jungkook at his side, hands to himself, while Seokjin and Hoseok have pulled up chairs to sit nearby. They stop chattering when Yoongi finds their faces. 

Namjoon is talking, but not to them. To someone on a phone. 

“Got it,” he says, then to Yoongi, “Hyung, can you hear me?” One tap. “I’m on the phone with Taehyung. I gave him your symptoms. He says you might be dissociating. Have you ever had a dissociative episode before?” 

Huh. That doesn’t sound right. 

Yoongi taps twice.

“He says no,” Namjoon relays, and Yoongi suddenly feels very sticky. He peels himself off Namjoon’s chest, and Namjoon’s hand drags down the back of his spine. It doesn’t feel nice anymore, so he shifts further away. Except Jungkook is there, waiting, watching him like he’s about to break. That’s not nice. None of this is nice. 

“Yoongi-hyung,” Namjoon calls out, and Yoongi fwips around. He still has the phone pressed to his ear. “Do you want to go outside?”

Outside. Outside is open. Outside is hot. Outside will make him stickier. 

Yoongi shakes his head.

Namjoon tells his phone, “He said no. Uhm, okay. Yoongi-hyung.” Yoongi looks away from the back wall. Why was he staring at the back wall? There’s nothing there but a few botanical prints. When did he stand up? Is he standing? He can’t find his legs. “Can you tell me how many yellow items in the room you see?”

Yellow? Yellow. Yoongi shifts around. Yellow. A fringed pillow. A jar of flowers, but not the flowers themselves. The juices in the display case, but they might be more orange. The linen dress of a woman at the counter. Jimin’s hair, pale blond, now that he’s quit using his pink shampoo. A stool. A second stool. Not the third. The third is blue. A velvet armchair near the front entrance. Lemons in a bowl. Does he count them all?

Sixteen, Yoongi signs after deciding the lemons can be grouped together, and there’s a collective sigh from around their hodge-podge circle when Yoongi spins full around to face them. Sixteen yellow items.

“Tae, I think he’s back,” Namjoon says into his receiver. “Do you want to talk to him? Okay. Okay, I’ll tell him. Yeah, good night.” 

Namjoon hangs up after that and Yoongi stands there feeling like a crumpled sack as everyone stares at him.

“Tae said to call him later, no rush, just whenever you feel better.” Namjoon sucks on his cheek. He wants to say more, Yoongi knows he does, but he doesn’t want to draw any more attention to what just happened than he needs to.

Yoongi’s heart flushes. It’s okay, he signs. You can talk here. I’m okay.

And he is. Or he will be. It’s not like it matters. Their little group has seen him through worse, more embarrassing moments. Zoning out a bit is nothing compared to those first few months.

“He said you should probably move up your next therapy appointment,” Namjoon says, his voice still a lullaby in Yoongi’s brain. “He’s not a professional, but he said something probably triggered you just now and it might be good to get ahead of it while it’s fresh.”

Okay, Yoongi mouths, looking back over his shoulder to the bowl of lemons. Okay.


So Yoongi moves his appointment up a week, and he recounts as much of the event as he can, and Dr. Choi listens to him with with this unguarded expression the whole time, and then she neatly says, with her mouth and her hands, “You had a dissociative episode triggered by an external factor, Yoongi.”

They talked about this in the beginning. How Yoongi would like everything to be simply stated. No extended metaphors, no colorful expressions. (He gets enough of those from Namjoon.) Here, he just wants everything to be clean and easy. The exact opposite of his head.

Yoongi’s mouth parts. He nods. Okay.

“You said your friend is the one who mentioned that might have been the case?”

Yes, Yoongi signs. The special one. He’s a psych major.

Dr. Choi smiles at the word “special”. Special, as in beautiful. Special, as in sparkling and gleaming and warm. Special, as in Yoongi still isn’t sure what they are and he might never be able to find a word to describe it when he does.

“He did an excellent job as a student, noticing your symptoms. Namjoon-ssi, as well.” Yoongi nods along. “You say he’s the one who always helps the most during flashbacks, right?”

Yes, he signs.

Dr. Choi looks at him, her eyes clear. She cut her hair again recently. Straight angles, right at her chin. It contrasts sharply with the round features of her face but Yoongi likes that, the contradiction. 

“Dissociation is actually common in trauma victims,” she says, signs. “You go through it partially when you have your flashbacks. Sometimes our bodies and our heads feel like they need to protect us from something, so they disconnect us as a measure to get us away from whatever is making us feel unsafe or out of control.” 

Yoongi nods appreciatively. His back hurts, and he realizes that his shoulders are bunched up, like he’s waiting flow a blow to come, but when he tries to lower them his blood spikes, this flare of fear in his throat that makes him curl in again. 

If Dr. Choi notices that he’s fidgeting, is one breath away from rolling into a ball in her armchair, she doesn’t comment. “Episodes are different to everyone,” she says, her voice taking on a lilting tone. “But most commonly people feel like they’re in a dream, almost. You’re aware of your surroundings but unable to interact with them. Time passes but you don’t remember what happened during it. Overstimulation and understimulation may occur. Does any of this sound right?”

Yoongi, to his thighs, signs, Yes.

A heartbeat of silence, then, “This is normal for people who have gone through what you have, Yoongi. I know you hate to hear me say that, but this isn’t a setback. Can you tell me what happened just before the episode occurred?”

So Yoongi tells her. About the evening with Jin. His breakdown. How Yoongi encouraged him to address his feelings before they became too unbearable to handle. How something happened, Yoongi doesn’t know what, but there was a fight. It was all messed up. But he got them together. He got them to talk. He thinks they worked it out, but he’s not certain.

“So you gave advice and you feel like it backfired, so then you inserted yourself into the situation to try to mend it?”  

Yoongi’s face scrunches. It did backfire. They were all— He cuts off his hands. Tugs them in close to his chest.

“All what, Yoongi?”

Acid. Acid, spreading spreading, clumping away inside, eating away at him. They were all broken, Yoongi signs, looking at a chip in the wooden floor beneath his feet. They were all broken and it was all my fault. I broke them. Again. I just keep breaking them.

“Yoongi.”

Can we talk about something else, Yoongi signs. He doesn’t cry, but that might be because there’s this glob wedged in his windpipe that’s making it hard to breathe. I would like to talk about something else.

Dr. Choi looks at him, really looks at him, and then says gently, “Okay, Yoongi. Okay. Why don’t we talk about Taehyung?”

 

 

~~~

 

🌑 [9:08pm]

Talked to my therapist. She said it was dissociation. 

Said it’s common with people with PTSD.

 

[9:09pm]

Want me to call? 

 

🌑 [11:21pm]

I don’t know.

I feel like I take a step forward and then something just shoves me back on my ass.

 

[INCOMING CALL FROM ⭐]

 

[CALL ACCEPTED]

 

~~~

 

Jungkook gets a summer job at a rec center. He’s legally not a licensed lifeguard anymore (too much liability), but he splits his hours between the weight rooms and the front desk. They’re all surprised when he tells them, everyone but Jimin it seems, who later reveals to Yoongi that he’s been encouraging Jungkook to get back to some of the hobbies he left behind after the accident. Next on his list are the monthly karaoke nights at the cafe, and Yoongi nearly hugs him then and there on the street corner.

Things with Jungkook have been wobbly at best and non-existent at worst. Seokjin says he just needs space, but when Yoongi asks space from what, Seokjin just looks at him for a long moment and then offers to cook him ramen. 

His episode seems to have shaken something stagnant up, though, because Jungkook spends the night at their apartment twice that week. He comes back from his shift always smelling of chlorine (his own workout requires a mix of lifting and cardio, and Jungkook’s been favoring the pool over the treadmill), and Yoongi will wrinkle his nose and ask why he’s not cleaning up or sleeping at the dorms and Jungkook will just press their cheeks together and then skip off with a cackle and use up all the hot water. 

The third night Jungkok shows,  Jimin invites himself over under the pretense that his place is too quiet even though he’s subleasing for the summer to a friend of his in the nursing department who has a preference for playing alternative rock while he studies. 

(The three of them sleep in Yoongi’s bed together, even though Hoseok has a queen, and Yoongi wakes in the morning to Jimin gnawing on his shoulder in his sleep and a mouthful of Jungkook’s hair.)

On the fourth, Namjoon and Seokjin just walk in unannounced, bearing gifts of fried chicken and cheap beer. It’s an unexpected visit, going off Hoseok’s twisted triangle face, but Yoongi watches from the living room as their bodies fold around each other easily; Namjoon unboxing and unloading the bags, Seokjin calling out for orders and plating as they come in, Hoseok following up behind them, wiping down counters and crumpling up trash.

(Hoseok still hasn’t spoken to Yoongi about what happened, or maybe what is happening between the three of them; but if Hoseok feeding Seokjin pieces of his drumstick and then leaning over to wipe sweet and sour sauce off Namjoon’s chin is any indicator of where they’re at, Yoongi thinks they’ll be okay.)

Namjoon goes to Hoseok’s room that night. Jimin takes the floor and Seokjin the sofa. When Yoongi comes back to his own room after getting washed up, Jungkook has already curled up under the duvet without asking. Not that Yoongi would have said no, but they’re trying to train Jungkook to use his words (in all their forms), instead of just taking what he wants, or not taking anything at all. 

Yoongi doesn’t comment though. He just toes off his slippers and crawls in on top of the comforter because it’s July now, and simply being in the same room as someone is enough to get him sweating.

“Hyung?”

Yoongi swats his hands around until he finds the bare skin of Jungkook’s arm. His inner elbow, most likely. He taps once.

“Are you okay?” Jungkook whispers. It comes out a little slurred, like it usually does, when Jungkook is trying to control is pronunciation and his volume. Like he has to sacrifice one for the other.

Another single tap. Jungkook sighs. Yoongi drags his finger down, writes into the warmth of Jungkook’s inner arm, You okay?

“Yeah.”

But Jungkook’s not okay, and he hasn’t been okay for a long time, and Yoongi is so tired of running away from that but he’s terrified of what will happen if he steps in again. Yoongi can’t repeat last Tuesday. His heart might not make it this time.

Jungkook shifts. He smells like Hoseok’s body wash and Yoongi’s shampoo. Citrus mixed with cedarwood and something muskier, something boy-ish. Something that might just be Jungkook.

Seokjin is Seokjin. He might be walking a similar path to Jungkook, but they’re separate people. Their emotional thresholds are near opposites. Their manners of self-expression only overlap on occasion, and that’s when they’re with each other, building off the other’s actions. 

Seokjin is Seokjin, and Jungkook is Jungkook, and right now Jungkook needs to talk to someone.

Yoongi rolls over Jungkook to grab his phone off the dresser, and then he tumbles back with a huff as Jungkook shifts with his movements. It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the glare, and Yoongi lowers his brightness and turns on his blue light filter and types out a quick, Talk to me Kook.

Jungkook squints when Yoongi flips his screen around. His eyes spark as he scrunches up his nose, but those are the only bits of his expression Yoongi can make out in the shadows of the room. They could flip a light on, but the dark feels safer. More promising.

Jungkook takes the phone from him and types out, I think I’m sad. Yoongi nods for him to continue. And maybe angry. It’s like I spent all this time thinking I had to stop doing all these things I loved, and now that I realize I can do them, other people are trying to stop me. It’s frustrating.

Jungkook’s jaw is clenched and his eyes are somber. He sucks in a breath and lets it out just as quick.

I want to sing again, he types quick, and Yoongi curls in closer to him to read over his arm as he writes.  I want to swim. I want to watch movies without subtitles. I want people to stop touching me to get my attention. I’m so anxious ALL THE TIME.

This is followed by a stream of emojis, only some of them resembling anger. Yoongi bites his tongue when he spots a clown and a little grey haired grandma.

Jimin’s been helping. Jimin is … Jungkook’s fingers still. Yoongi touches his wrist lightly, then reaches to push away the stray hair around Jungkook’s face. It’s getting long. Long enough that he’ll tie it back sometimes when he draws.  

I don’t know, Jungkook finally settles on. I don’t know, hyung. He gets it but he doesn’t. Not really. Jungkook’s eyes flutter under Yoongi’s touch. And I tried to confess. To the person I like. It didn’t go very well. I don’t think they even knew I was asking. I think the simple idea of dating me was just too difficult for them to understand.

When Yoongi turns to look at him, Jungkook’s face is just inches away. Planet sized brown eyes and this clouded over expression. Jungkook feels flushed, when Yoongi’s fingers drag down the back of his neck, and Jungkook shifts and intakes a tiny breath when Yoongi tugs on his hair, trying to untangle some of the curls.

“I think they like someone else”, Jungkook whispers a few minutes later, when Yoongi thought he had fallen asleep. Instead he opens his eyes, says softly, “I don’t think I stand a chance.”

Yoongi pulls his hand back to pick up his phone where it fell on the bed. He types out a message, flips it to show Jungkook.

Do you love them? If you love them, you should let them know. Clearly, this time, so they understand.

What if I mess things up? Jungkook writes back, then frowns and says aloud, “Why are you laughing?”

Yoongi squelches his smile. That’s what Jin said to me, he writes.

And didn’t he mess things up? Jungkook types, his eyes tight at the corners. With the hyungs? He stayed with Jimin for a couple nights. I thought he was going to move out of his and Joon-hyung’s place. 

Huh. A secret Yoongi didn’t know. 

Yoongi presses his chin to his chest. He taps the pads of his fingers along the edge of his phone. He can feel Jungkook watching him.

Well, they worked it out, Yoongi finally writes out.

After you dragged them all together.

Well I was the one who fucked them up to start with. 

A worried look takes over Jungkook’s face. It makes Yoongi’s stomach churn, but before he can speak, Jungkook says in a low, intense voice, “What if I fuck up?”

With the person? Yoongi writes.

With everything, Jungkook types back. But yeah. With the person.

Do you love them?

Jungkook’s fingers dance over the back of Yoongi’s hand, a gossamer touch. He slowly traces soft patterns there. He whispers, “yeah.”

Do they love you? Yoongi asks, and writes more before Jungkook can respond. Not romantically. But just. You. Who you are now, in all your forms. Do they want to see you happy and healthy and learning and succeeding?

It takes several heartbeats for Jungkook to answer. “Yeah. They do.”

Even if they say no, Yoongi writes as Jungkook continues to trace his skin, they’re still going to love you. You don’t have anything to worry about. Jungkook hums, soft and scared, and Yoongi wriggles forward so that their brows are pressed together. Jungkook shivers.  It’ll hurt for a little bit, it always does, but then you move forward and you find something better. Something you didn’t even know you needed until it’s standing there in front of you.

Jungkook’s forehead is sticky, his breath too warm where it blows against Yoongi’s cheeks, but Yoongi stays close as he writes out, You said you were angry that people have been trying to govern your life. Don’t let this one person control you, either.

“Okay, hyung,” Jungkook says, and then he leans down and presses his mouth to Yoongi’s temple, almost kissing him, but not quite. “Good night.”

They stay wound up together even though it’s near sweltering, and in the morning Yoongi wakes to Jungkook’s arms around his waist and Jimin’s head on his chest and Seokjin, curled up on a mat at the foot of the bed and it’s all a little disorienting, all just a little too right.

 

~~~

 

It’s strange, how it happens. How this tender warmth spreads through Yoongi’s chest and arms and toes, prickling along the back of his spine, like all the nerves in his body are saying look there, look there, look over there.

Taehyung is standing in the middle of the room, backpack slung across one shoulder, suitcase resting at his feet. Taehyung is standing in the middle of the room, and he is so absolutely, unremarkably the same Taehyung he’s always been (from their video call three days ago and their last dinner date thirteen weeks ago and the first time they spoke eleven months ago) but still. Still he’s completely different. 

He hasn’t caught sight of Yoongi yet, tucked into a back portion of the cafe, and Yoongi takes in his kind, open face. His skin is dark, his hair even darker. It falls in loose waves down his neck, a spill of black ink that Yoongi has this fluttering urge to run his hands through. Yoongi just wants to hold his hand, to feel that he’s real. Because Taehyung wasn’t coming home for another week but he’s here, in Seokjin’s cafe, now looking at Yoongi,  right in the face.

There’s this heartbeat where neither of them seems to know what to do. Taehyung’s shoulders lift, fall, and then he breaks out into this ridiculous, hideously beautiful smile and Yoongi’s on his feet. He rips off his headphones and scrambles over Hoseok’s lap, tripping over a bag or a book or the leg of the table as all the love that’s been swelling, spreading, stretching him apart these past few months thrashes to the surface.

They collide in the center of the shop. Taehyung’s husky laughter fills the air. He spins Yoongi once, twice, then sets him on the floor, and Taehyung rests his chin on Yoongi’s shoulder, nestling into the crook there, and begins to rock them back and forth and back. 

“Hi, hyung,” he whispers near Yoongi’s ear, and Yoongi lifts his hand and taps the back of Taehyung’s neck three times.

How are you?

I missed you.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Taehyung leans back to look at him, his smile just as sweet as when he left, and he opens up his fingers. Yoongi twines their hands together immediately. 

“Ahem. As wonderful as this moment is, Number One Best Friend  would like to hug his soulmate please and thank you.”

Yoongi flinches, falling hard back into the moment, but Taehyung doesn’t quite let him go as he twists to look over towards where Jimin is standing with his  hand on a cocked hip, a devious grin betraying just how much he’s enjoying this. 

Taehyung doesn’t seem to have plans to let Yoongi go, so Jimin heaves a sigh and cuts in-between them, clinging to Taehyung’s side and twining their legs together so he’s forced to step back and release Yoongi unless they all want to eat the floor. 

The cafe door rattles, and Yoongi looks up just in time to see Jungkook’s back drifting past the window, out of sight.

Yoongi turns to Hoseok, searching, and as if sensing his stare, Hoseok swivels away from the door to Yoongi. He frowns, the lines of his face going flat, and shakes his head. Not like he doesn’t know the answer, but like he doesn’t want to tell Yoongi what it is. 


There’s a celebration dinner already planned. Apparently Taehyung let slip to everyone but Yoongi that he’d be getting in today, so the group is gathered that night for barbecue at the same place they went after the spring concert. 

They’re louder than that night due to the sheer amount of stories to be shared. Taehyung’s classes and his kids and the baby squirrel he harbored in his dorm room for six days until its paw healed. Jimin talks about his temporary roommate and his unusual eating habits (“He would put jelly on everything, guys. He put jelly in his ramen.” ), Hoseok about this dance instructor position he’s interviewing for at a small entertainment company. Namjoon is in the middle of a re-telling about one of the stories they received at the station that was too inappropriate to share but left him and Yoongi winded on the floor when Seokjin reaches out to rub his thumb just below Namjoon’s bottom lip where a swipe of sauce lingers.

Seokjin brings his finger back to his mouth to suck, and Namjoon just stares at him, this high-flush to his cheeks that isn’t from the alcohol, before clearing his throat and going back to where he trailed off.

Taehyung leans into Yoongi’s side. “Are they a thing now?”

Yoongi shrugs, grinning around the rim of his glass, and Taehyung swats his thigh. “I’ll get the details from Jiminnie, then.”

Yoongi doesn’t tell him that Jimin probably knows about as much as Yoongi does, as they all do. But nobody says anything. They’re just letting this ride out on its own. 

Jungkook stays quiet most of the evening, pressed in close to the far wall with Jimin at his side. He watches hands but doesn’t try to add to the conversation, and he’ll try at a smile, every time Yoongi leans over to drop some beef on his plate, but it never quite makes his eyes crinkle. 

They split ways much the same way as before. Namjoon’s the drunk one tonight, and it takes both Seokjin and Hoseok tucked under his arms to hold him up and get his feet moving. He’s saying something in English, ranting by the sounds of it, and Seokjin will intermittently interject with an accented “oh yes” or “that’s right”, and it’ll make Hoseok cackle and just spur Namjoon on further.

 Jimin’s oddly sober as he takes Jungkook by the hand to lead him away, calling out good nights over his shoulder and sending Taehyung this suspicious brow raise as they go.

“Home?” Taehyung says, holding out his elbow, and Yoongi rolls his eyes and loops their arms together. 

Silence settles over them, a comforting blanket, and Yoongi doesn’t hesitate this time when they’re outside his apartment. He just continues to move, Taehyung at his side as they shuffle up the four flights of steps to Yoongi’s door. 

Last time Taehyung was here they drank hot tea, Taehyung slipped on a set of Yoongi’s pajamas, and then they talked until the early hours of the morning, for as long as Yoongi could manage before nodding off. 

That was Taehyung four months ago, though. That was before the airport and the video calls and the songs. So many songs. Yoongi has five done, now. Taehyung has heard every one. 

That was then, this is now. This is sun-burnished Taehyung, taller and fuller than when he left with still too many eyelashes. This is summer-stricken Taehyung and Yoongi’s only ever known winter and it’s odd, how his smile is the same but the way it reaches his eyes is now different.

“Hyung,” Taehyung murmurs, and Yoongi realizes that he’s been stroking the mole beneath Taehyung’s eye with the pad of his thumb. He warms but doesn’t break away; just drops his hand until he tugs on the mark hidden under Taehyung’s bottom lip.

Kiss me, Yoongi mouths, and Taehyung’s nose scrunches in confusion.

Yoongi presses his fingers together, raises them to the corner of his mouth, then presses them against his cheek.

Kiss, Yoongi mouths again, repeating the action, unsure of where this boldness is coming from but know that it feels natural. He signs evenly, Kiss me, Taehyung.

Taehyung’s expression turns to amazement, but he doesn’t hesitate to kiss the tip of Yoongi’s nose, the tender skin of both eyelids, the tiny mole on Yoongi’s right cheek. And then Taehyung holds his face in both hands and they stay there together for a moment, eye-to-eye, just looking at each other for a long time before Taehyung leans in to kiss him for real.

It’s the kind of kissing they sink into fast. Yoongi lifts on his tiptoes so he can press in closer, harder, his hands drawn immediately into the hair at Taehyung’s neck to tug him in farther. He pulls, hard, and Taehyung’s mouth parts in a whimper that sends Yoongi rocking forward until the lengths of their bodies are pressed together at every point.

Taehyung’s hands are under his thighs, lifting, and Yoongi barely has time to prep before his feet leave the ground. He gasps, breaking away to cling to the front of Taehyung’s shirt as he’s carried across the apartment, only to get dumped on his own bed. Taehyung pushes his bangs away from his eyes and promptly starts laughing when he sees Yoongi’s expression.

“Hyung,” he chokes out, crawling over Yoongi to kiss his cheek, the giggles still rising out of him. “Hyung, your face.”

Yoongi huffs. Signs, Maybe if you didn’t MANHANDLE people.

“You like it,” Taehyung grins, kissing him again, his smile slipping through at times so that Yoongi keeps hitting his teeth. It’s endearingly sexy.

“Wait.” Taehyung rocks back. He’s breathing hard, straddling Yoongi’s thighs, and three of his buttons have popped open. It’s a sight. Yoongi’s thoughts keep bursting like bubbles. “I can’t just assume if you like something. Sorry, that was wrong of me.”

Yoongi blinks up at him, dazed. Mouths, What?

“Manhandling. Is that something you’re actually into?”

Oh. The negotiation talk. Are they having the negotiation talk? Now? After Taehyung’s only been back in the country for seven hours? They haven’t even been on a proper date yet.

Yoongi lays back until he hits the pillows. He signs, I like it. I like a lot of things. But tonight I just want to kiss you. Hold you. Is that okay?

Taehyung shifts forward, hands landing on either side of Yoongi’s head, and Yoongi slides his hands under Taehyung’s loose shirt so he can splay his palms across the warm skin of Taehyung’s lower back.

“Yeah, that sounds perfect,” Taehyung whispers, and when he kisses Yoongi again, it’s nothing like the first time when they were moving on impulse. This is intentional. This is determined. This is Kim Taehyung guiding Yoongi’s mouth open and taking Yoongi’s breath away and laughing as he does it. This is Kim Taehyung tugging Yoongi’s shirt off and then sitting there, weight pressing down, as he trails the tips of his fingers along every line of Yoongi’s chest.

This is Kim Taehyung, signing out steadily, You’re so beautiful, I adore you, with such open affection in his eyes that Yoongi gasps for a single shaky breath and then urges Taehyung back down so he can press a kiss to every beauty mark his mouth can reach. 

 

~~~

 

“You know the uh, the spectrum?” Taehyung starts the next morning, after they’ve cleaned up and settled back into bed, cereal long eaten, Yoongi with a mug of coffee and Taehyung with a glass of orange juice. 

Yoongi sets the drink to the side and rubs at his eyes before signing, You mean like the sexual one?

“No. I mean. Yeah, I guess I’m on that one, too, but I mean like—” Taehyung makes a series of vague, gesticulations. He flushes, when Yoongi just blinks at him. “Like the autistic spectrum.”

Oh. Okay.

Yoongi reaches to hit the spacebar of his laptop where it’s propped on his lap, pausing the show they were only semi-watching anyway. He signs, I know a bit, yes.

“Well, I’m on it.”

Taehyung won’t look him in the eye. Taehyung, who is as shameless as they get and so comfortable in his skin it’s almost absurd sometimes, won’t meet Yoongi’s gaze. 

Yoongi closes the laptop completely and pushes it away. He curls his feet under, so he can shift to face Taehyung, then reaches to trace a wavy tendril near his neck with one finger. Taehyung swallows thickly.

“I’m low, of course,” Taehyung says, using his pinkie to pluck at a pill in the duvet. “Or I guess high-functioning? I don’t really like that term but that’s what it is. Yeah. I just, I figure since we’re getting a bit serious then you should know so you can, y’know, decide if you want to break up?”

Taehyung says it quietly, reasonably, like it isn’t the first time he’s done so.

Yoongi’s heart gives out. He sucks in a breath so quick it has Taehyung glancing his way. His expression, previously a smooth slate, pinches at the corners. “Or we’re not serious and I totally just fucked this up. Okay. Okay, wow, I got ahead of myself there didn’t I?”

Taehyung, Yoongi signs, snapping to get Taehyung’s attention when he doesn’t notice at first. First, yes we’re dating. It’d be pretty weird at this point if we weren’t. And what the fuck? Why do you think I would break up with you over something like this?

Taehyung takes so long to answer Yoongi’s worried he wasn’t clear enough, that he needs to get out his phone. But Taehyung just drags his fingers along his brow, pressing hard enough to leave red marks, and then says quietly, “Because other people have before and I wanted you to have a choice.”

 Yoongi rubs at his temple. He’s angry, but he’s not angry at Taehyung. I appreciate you respecting me like that, but seriously? What kind of assholes have you been going out with? 

“They didn’t leave because of the autstic thing, not… not like that. Just—” Taehyung curses under his breath. “Just, I’m a lot, okay? I know that. I don’t have much of a filter and I get fixated on things and I’m just a lot  to handle. I know that. So this is your chance to leave. Better early than later.”

Yoongi takes this information like a knee to the gut. His breath shudders as he pulls himself up, lengthening his spine, and signs, Tae. If I ever leave you it’ll be because we have conflicting views on politics or family dynamics or you like pineapple on pizza or some shit. 

“I—I don’t know some of those words,” Taehyung mumbles. “Sorry.”

Don’t be, Yoongi signs, and then reaches over to the dresser to grab his phone. He ignores the slew of messages there and opens up his note app. Types out what he just said for Taehyung to read.

Taehyung inhales deeply. His eyes flick over the message twice before he says in a tinny voice, “You’re not going to leave.”

Tae, Yoongi types out. I’m not leaving you over this. You being autistic doesn’t matter to me like that. I love that you told me, though, so that I can understand you better. 

“You’re not leaving,” Taehyung repeats again, this time to Yoongi’s face. His eyes are wide open. Misty, at the edges, like any moment they might blur over with tears.

Tae, Yoongi mouths, then signs evenly as possible, if anyone should be leaving, it should be you for having to put up with my ass.

“I love your ass,” Taehyung sniffles. He wipes his nose with the back of his wrist. “I love you.”

Love you, too, Yoongi mouths, and Taehyung hiccups, gasps, covers his face with his hands and promptly starts bawling. 

Please tell me how you’re always so okay,  Yoongi asked the stars all those weeks ago, on that winter night during the walk back to his apartment with Taehyung in tow. A lifetime has passed since then, and Yoongi understands now that Taehyung’s never been quite okay. Maybe that’s why he’s not so worried now, as he folds Taehyung up his arms and just lets him cry. Cathartic, he tells himself. A blood transfusion, just with feelings and memories and concerns.

The sobs soften to the occasional sniffle, and then Taehyung relaxes in his hold completely, asleep. Yoongi has to get ready for class, though, so he gently lowers Taehyung’s head onto a pillow, careful not to jostle him, and leaves him there with a note scrawled on the back of a scrap sheet of paper from his desk that’s big enough Taehyung will notice it when he wakes.

 

Went to class. Stay as long as you want. Food in the fridge. 

I’m happy you’re home. I’m happy you’re here. 

Can’t wait for you to tell me everything.

 

 

~~~

 

Days pass. Taehyung returns to his job at the cafe, but his shifts at the library don’t begin until school resumes in a couple weeks. Seokjin and Namjoon and Hoseok are official, although they won’t say it aloud and there’s a running group bet on who’s going to drop the details and when.

(Yoongi firmly believes that Namjoon will be the first to spill because he can’t hold onto a secret even if his grades were at stake, but Jungkook comments that Hoseok is just a god-awful liar and if he were asked directly, he’d probably break under pressure.)

“I’m gonna bet on Jin-hyung,” Jimin says, slapping down a napkin voucher with twenty-thousand written on it and his signature.

Hyung is an emotional fortress, Jungkook argues but takes the money anyway. He has a folder in his backpack for these types of deals. They’ve gotten more official over the years. (Apparently Yoongi and Seokjin have tried to cheat their way out of a loss one too many times.)

“He’s chaotic,” Jimin claps back, returning to wiping down the counter. It’s that weird liminal time between rushes again, and because of the rain today, the cafe is empty. Jimin’s cleaned the counter three times already. “If hyung knew everyone was betting against him, he’d go into graphic detail about their love life just to spite us no matter how much embarrassment it would bring himself.”

Jungkook and Yoongi look at eachother, suddenly unsure. This observation can’t be ignored. 

Taehyung flies past them then, obviously running late, and Jimin lifts the counter before he can try to slip underneath and knock his head again. 

“Oh, what are we gambling on?” He asks, catching sight of the napkins.

“Who in the OT-Three is going to reveal the juicy details of how they got together and who the middle spoon is,” Jimin says with a gleaming smile. 

Taehyung’s brow pinches. He backpedals to lean over and press a wet kiss to Yoongi’s cheek. Could be lip-balm, could be spit. Yoongi just wipes it off with his sleeve. “What? Namjoon-hyung, of course.”

“Is going to reveal the deets?” Jimin asks. “Or is the spoon?”

“Both,” Taehyung says. His voice carries as he slips into the kitchen to put his stuff away in the small office there. “It’s a size thing. Makes more sense to put the largest one in the center so the other two can cling to him.”

“But hyung gets so sweaty,” Jimin calls back. Taehyung returns with an apron on. He ties the band loosely in the back, then does the same with his hair. “I don’t think he wants to be clung to.”

“But Hobi-hyung and Jin-hyung are fickle. They’d need an escape route. Namjoon’s like a big dog. Kinda dumb, really sweet, doen’t tknow how to ask for affection but he still wants it, y’know? He’d take the middle just to make the others happy.”

Yoongi grins as he translates the whole conversation for Jungkook, and while Jungkook’s been pretending to keep a stoic face the moment Taehyung slipped in, his facade cracks as soon as Taehyung calls Namjoon dumb. He scoffs. Sputters. They look over just in time to catch Namjoon trying to secretly stuff the fluff back into a pillow he’s torn open, except Hoseok’s there, obviously aware of what’s happening, and Seokjin is watching from the washroom doorway with crossed arms and this besotten expression, like he can’t fathom how he got here and if he should be upset or not.

Jungkook barks out a laugh. Namjoon freezes at the sound and swivels slowly, like prey caught in the wild. His expression makes Hoseok bust up, and soon Seokjin is curled over an armchair, practically squeaking, and Jimin and Taehyung have joined in on the hysterics because Seokjin’s laugh tends to have that effect on people.

Yoongi smiles, his chest rising as he laughs along with them, and there’s this pressure on his throat, this tickle, and suddenly a tiny sound slips out, nothing really, except it was something. A huge Something. Because Yoongi hasn’t made a noise like that for as long as he can remember.

“Hyung.” Jimin’s hands are on his arm, tugging him around on the stool. He’s practically buzzing. “Hyung, did you just giggle?”

Yoongi’s mouth falls open, closes. Yoongi’s gone into shock before, and it feels eerily similar to this moment. Like he’s losing control of his limbs. Like he needs to sit down but he’s already sitting.

“Hyung,” Jimin repeats, and Jimin is smiling so it must be okay. He must be okay. Taehyung is watching them, wide-eyed, but no one is dying. That’s a plus. “Hyung, I think you just laughed. Out loud.”

Yoongi sniffs at that, but when he places his fingers against the side of his throat and pushes past the slight twinge of pain, the tiniest of grunts works it way past his lips.

Jimin shrieks. Taehyung drops a glass. Yoongi just takes a deep breath and promptly texts his mom.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When Yoongi was two, he got sick. Sick enough to be admitted into the hospital. Sick enough that the doctors said the only way he would make it to his third birthday is if he had surgery. So Yoongi had a partial bit of his voice box removed, and another chunk of his left vocal cord taken out, and Yoongi lived even if it meant his parents never heard him laugh again.

Yoongi’s had countless check-ups since that initial visit. Sore throat? Trip to the doctor. Pressure on his lungs? Trip to the doctor. Trouble swallowing? Off to see the doctor.  But Yoongi never thought he’d be sitting in the same office in Busan with the man from two decades ago who handed sign language info pamphlets to his family and sent them off with warm wishes of luck.

“When Yoongi was seven,” Dr. Kim says, “we recommended not performing a follow-up surgery due to how weak the remaining vocal cord still was. Do you remember this discussion, Mrs. Min?”

Yoongi’s mom is a sweet woman. She’s lovely and round and Yoongi definitely got his quote/unquote “button nose” from her; but if there’s one person in the family that Yoongi would trust to take someone out in a street brawl in the seediest way possible, it’s gotta be his mom.

“Yes. Quite well,” she says, hands folded neatly in her lap, the picture of ease. (No one would suspect that thirty hours ago she was about ready to storm a hospital.) “It was one of the first questions we asked when we were presented with options to move forward.”

Yoongi was too little to remember what happened when he got sick, so he sits to the side, arms folded, unsure of what his role is here after recounting what happened in the cafe.

Dr. Kim isn’t put off by either of their demeanors. He’s been their ENT specialist since the beginning. He’s practically an uncle by this point. So he just grins, and holds out his hands, and carefully explains, “Well, your vocal cords are made of cells, just like the rest of your body. They regenerate with time. When the body is injured, it does its best to heal itself. That is what Yoongi’s left cord has been doing all these years. It’s been healing itself.”

“So is it healed now,” Yoongi’s mom translates for Yoongi, and Dr. Kim shakes his head.

“Not quite. Not enough for speech to be an option at this stage.” 

The tidal wave of thoughts that have been smashing against Yoongi’s skull go still. Regret follows in its place. Yoongi shouldn’t have let Namjoon get so excited. Yoongi shouldn’t have let Jimin look up all those medical articles. 

Yoongi, after all this time, should have known better than to have hoped.

“But Yoongi may fit the requirements for another surgery, though,” Dr. Kim says, and Yoongi’s head shoots up. “It’s called reinnervation. We would take a healthy nerve from Yoongi’s neck and use it to replace parts of both the paralyzed and the non-paralyzed cords. I believe that this, combined with a bulk injection and several months of therapy, we could be looking at a near full recovery.”

Full recovery meaning what exactly? Yoongi signs, fingers trembling.

“It’s hard to say so prematurely,” Dr. Kim replies, but his eyes are bright. “But I estimate eighty to ninety percent of your phonation would return.”

Meaning I could talk? Yoongi asks, his mother translating along. Aloud? Like a normal person?

“Yes.”

You’re telling me, Yoongi continues, neck warming, feeling like someone just crammed him into a cupboard, that after twenty years of living my life like, like this, he gestures to his scrunched up form in the hospital chair, it can just be fixed with a new nerve and some therapy? 

Dr. Kim’s expression smooths into something more worn at the edges, as if he realizes this isn’t just a moment of celebration for them. Which it’s not but it should be and Yoongi doesn’t know why all he’s seeing is this vicious red. “Ten years ago this surgery was unheard of,” he explains in a tone that Yoongi doesn’t appreciate. Makes him feel small in the worst of ways. “I only recommend it to you now because it’s become more commonplace in the medical field. Plus, your cord has been regenerating cells beautifully. Now is the prime window of opportunity for the highest successful outcome.”

Yoongi closes his eyes. Takes a deep breath, then exhales long and slow. He’s shaking. 

“Thank you, Dr. Kim,” Yoongi’s mom interjects. “I think we need some time to talk as a family.”

“Of course. I’m going to go grab some informational packets for you. I’ll leave them at the front desk with Miss Choi for when you check out. Please feel free to call or come by with any questions you may have.”

Yoongi hears the door click shut after that, and he reaches blindly for the chair next to him. His mom instantly takes his hand within her own, and Yoongi presses his forehead to his knees and uses every muscle in his body to keep from falling apart.

 

~~~

 

In the last competition Yoongi performed in (the one where he played Liebestraum’s No. 3 in A-flat major with such raw craftsmanship and intimacy that he got an offer from three international conservatories within the week), Yoongi had taken his place at this bench in a concert hall not unlike the hundred other benches in concert halls he’s sat on, surrounded by a thousand souls not unlike the thousands of others he’s played in front of before, and he hadn’t heard a single note come out of the piano.

Not.

One.

Note.

It was like watching a car crash, an analogy Yoongi truly didn’t understand until six years later when he was actually in one. But that’s what it was like. Your body shuts down. The sound bleeds away. Your heart, which you’re never quite aware of until something is wrong with it, goes still. For just a few moments, Yoongi felt like he was in a dream. Like his body wasn’t his own. As if his life wasn’t his own.

He feels that way now, as he steps onto the train at the Daegu station for the two-hour ride back to Seoul with a packet of information burning in his backpack while his head lobs from side to side as if someone didn’t twist it back on tight enough and any second it might topple off his shoulders.

His mom said to sleep on it. They’ll talk later in the week. To focus on school. We have time, Yoongi-yah, she said. We have time.

Everyone keeps saying that, but Yoongi doesn’t feel like he has time. He feels like he’s trapped in a windowless room filling with water. Like he’s standing on a street corner on a clear summer day, watching a car burst through a red light. 

It’s like he can see the disaster approaching but there’s no way for him to stop it.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi gets into town, crawls onto the bus heading for his neighborhood feeling like he’s been sucker-punched in the spleen, and starts to plan how the hell he’s going to explain to the others the past fifty hours. If he even wants to open the door to that conversation right now. He can’t lie. Not about this. And he shouldn’t want to but he does. Yoongi doesn’t want to talk to anyone because he hasn’t taken a full breath in two days and he wants to do nothing more than just crawl into a bathtub and dissolve. 

The bus door swings open and Yoongi gathers his bag, slips down to the sidewalk, and promptly realizes that he’s still twelve blocks from his apartment and the wooden sign of Seokjin’s café is across the intersection, swinging in the breeze.

Huh.

It’s Tuesday. Tuesday evening, actually. Taehyung works Tuesday evenings, and as Yoongi sidles up to the counter, still feeling like the floor is so uneven he has to watch one foot move in front of the other or else he’ll trip, he spots the dark mop of Taehyung’s head bustling behind the machines. 

The dark hair is still startling. The blond was beautiful, but the black has people stopping. Searching. Stumbling. Yoongi sees it happen every day. Knows Taehyung notices and chooses to ignore it. Yoongi wonders what it’s like to have a face made for film. To have a smile that draws in the whole room. To have a voice that sounds like magic.

What if you had a voice like magic, his mind whispers. What if you had a voice?

Taehyung turns and catches Yoongi watching him. His eyes light up and he smiles a smile that Yoongi is coming to know as the one meant for him and him alone; a little smeary at the corners, a bit less practiced. Yoongi tries to smile back and feels it fall short several yards. Taehyung’s face shifts instantly into protective concern.

“What? What happened?” Taehyung presses after he’s handed off an order, already moving under the counter so he can slip out front. He’s by Yoongi’s side almost instantly. “Hyung, what’s wrong?”

Yoongi takes a deep breath, doesn’t feel any of the air actually reach his lungs, and promptly slams a fist down on the counter so hard it jostles the straw jar and sends a stack of lids skidding.

Taehyung nimbly works them back into a stable pile, all while tugging Yoongi in close to hug fast and fierce. Taehyung lets him go just a second later so that he can see Yoongi’s face, read his eyes. “Hyung, talk to me.” Yoongi shoots him a look, and Taehyung lifts his hands up defensively. “Figure of speech. You know that.”

Yoongi picks at a hangnail around his thumb while his thoughts keep skipping like a scratched CD.

It’s Taehyung, you can tell him anything. It’s Taehyung, what does he possibly know?

He loves you, he doesn’t understand, he loves you, but he doesn’t understand.

Yoongi looks up into Taehyung’s open face, those searching and thoughtful eyes. Taehyung would understand. Maybe? Probably not. He doesn’t know. Taehyung doesn’t know anything and Yoongi doesn’t know how to tell him. Yoongi doesn’t know how to tell anyone anything. That’s the whole problem, right? What good is a working throat when Yoongi’s brain keeps flatlining?

“Hyung!”

Yoongi shoves his shoulder against the front door and sidesteps a woman trying to slip in. He doesn’t pause to hold it open for her, just barrels forward through a group of students at what could be considered an Olympic power-walking speed, and he makes it all the way to the end of the block when someone shoves him from behind.

Yoongi sticks his arms out, ready to catch himself as he stumbles, but a hand wraps around his upper arm and pulls him in fast, handles him deliberately so that he spins and backs into the wall of a stationary store at the same time.

Taehyung’s standing in front of him, breathing wildly, hair a mess around his forehead and ears. He looks angry, and then he looks betrayed, and then he’s so utterly crushed that Yoongi can’t help but lean forward to cup his cheeks and smooth the creases where his lips have pinched into such a tight frown it looks like it might hurt, like he might never smile again.

“You don’t get to do that.”

Taehyung leans into his touch, but his eyes are still confused and furious. “You don’t get to do that,” he repeats slowly, as if he’s processing the words himself, trying to make them both understand. “You’re my boyfriend. You’re my… Hyung, we’re in this together and you can’t… You promised you wouldn’t run away anymore. At least not from me.”

Yoongi nods, steps in close, rests his forehead against the bony part of Taehyung’s shoulder. Feels Taehyung’s chin drop on top of his head, pinning him down.

“You can’t do that,” he whispers, rubbing Yoongi’s back. “I know you’re upset but you have to talk to me. We have to talk about things, hyung.”

Yoongi traces the word “sorry” into his lower back and Taehyung shivers. 

“Was that an apology?” Yoongi nods and Taehyung exhales thickly. “Apology accepted. Now I have to go back to work, but I called Jiminie to come hang out with you. You can talk to him, or not, or you can talk to me later, or not. But eventually you gotta talk to someone, okay?”

Yoongi nods again and feels Taehyung press a spattering of kisses against the crown of his head. “Let’s go, hyung.” 

You don’t understand, Yoongi wants to say. You don’t understand, you don’t get it, how do I tell you, how do I tell anyone, someone please tell me what to do, someone please tell me what to say.

 

~~~

 

“Surgery?” Jimin says, signs, curled up tight at one end of the sofa. He has his bare feet tucked under Hoseok’s thighs and a glass of green juice forgotten off to the side so he can use his hands. His eyes are wider than eyes should possibly be able to go.

Yeah. Surgery, Yoongi signs, looking at him reluctantly. To give me back my voice.

Hoseok’s frown deepens. He doesn’t uncross his arms as Jimin asks, “They can do that?

Yoongi scowls. Now they can, apparently.

 Yoongi had barely made it through the apartment door before Jimin was bounding up the stairs after him, still in scrubs from his clinical, this wild glean in his eyes that he tends to get when he’s ready to hear a story. Yoongi definitely didn’t disappoint. A half hour, a pack of beer, and three orders of japchae later, Yoongi’s recounted the doctor’s visit to him and Hoseok with steady hands and a mouthful of tar.

It’s easy to say what happened. Those are facts. And the Big Fucking Fact here is that Yoongi’s been given a solution to all his problems and he cannot, for the life of anyone involved, figure out why it feels like his face is melting off.

Yoongi’s head throbs. He unfurls from the armchair he’s taken residency in and tries to breathe again, and quickly finds the air is still getting lodged in his windpipe. 

What do I do? He signs. I don’t know what to do.

“Well, what do you want to do?” Jimin asks, still signing.

It’s my voice. They’re handing me this chance to… to… Yoongi runs both his hands through his hair. Pulls hard. Jimin’s eyes go soft and sad and Yoongi doesn’t want that right now. He can’t handle pity right now.

Hoseok sighs then, and his shoulders fold in as he glances between Jimin and Yoongi. He looks disappointed. To what, hyung? What is this a chance for? To be heard? To be normal?

Yoongi lifts his hands but the words fall away. He’s never had Hoseok look at him like this before. Quiet and twisted and intense. The confusion must show because Hoseok sighs and slumps backwards. Presses his fingers against his eyes and rubs. Signs, I qualify for a cochlear implant. Have for years now. I’ve chosen not to do it.

Jimin turns to Yoongi immediately. His face says, Did you know about this? Yoongi shakes his head. Someone just pulled his spine from his body. Exhaustion is taking over.

I chose not to because being a part of this community has made who I am, Hoseok presses, still watching them evenly. It’s made me a better person, I think. It’s… It’s hard, sometimes, I get that. But I’ve helped and inspired more people being HOH than I could have ever done if I was fully phonic. 

Hoseok has always been the sunny one. The lovely one. Since they were first forced together as roommates all those years ago, Hoseok has never been anything less than joyful about his circumstances while Yoongi continually moves through life as a slug, wallowing from room to room, feeling small and unseen and forgettable.

Yoongi looks Hoseok in the eye and Hoseok looks back. His leg is bouncing but his stare is stable. Sorry, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get the surgery, Hoseok signs, catching his cheek between his teeth to bite, or that we’re going to look at you differently if you do. I just want you to try to look at this from different angles. To know that you’re loved the way you are right now, and none of us see you as something that has to be fixed. Okay?

Hoseok’s smile could set the room on fire and Jimin is looking at Yoongi with such unwavering kindness and it’s terrible. Yoongi is only surrounded by people who know how to give and it just makes Yoongi feel all the more like a black hole that can only consume.

So if you say yes, Hoseok continues, drawing Yoongi back in with that megawatt grin, do it for yourself, not for someone else. Not to fit in. Not to please others. Not because you feel like you have to. We’re going to support you no matter what. 

After that, Jimin tugs him onto the sofa for a squished hug. Hoseok’s hand finds the back of his spine to trail his fingers along. They put on a movie and Jimin runs out to grab some hotteok and Yoongi doesn’t mention the sludge. Doesn’t bring up

 

~~~

 

Days and nights fade in to each other. School resumes. Taehyung’s mornings are now filled with classes and his aftertoons shifts at the library. His evenings go towards the cafe. His nights, to Yoongi. 

When Yoongi was with Jimin, every second felt restless. There was this wretched, ridiculous need to be near him always. They gave each other a lot of firsts and Yoongi doesn’t regret that; but Yoongi’s glad he left behind the unwanted beat of possession that ate away at their relationship until Jimin left him that December morning and told Yoongi not to follow.

(Yoongi followed. It was two days later, after they had both calmed down, but Yoongi followed. He’s not sure where they both would be if he hadn’t.)

Time with Taehyung is different. Maybe because Yoongi’s grown in the last handful of years. Maybe because Taehyung balances him in a way that Jimin never quite could. But the moments with Taehyung feel breathless and warm and full of possibility. Being with Taehyung feels safe, like right now, just past one on a Wednesday morning, Yoongi on his stomach with his head on his arms, listening to the low rumble of Taehyung’s voice as he reads aloud from a textbook. It’s like whalesong to Yoongi’s brain and he keeps dozing off, only to jolt awake when Taehyung clears his voice or flips a page.

“Just go to sleep,” Taehyung murmurs, a laugh hidden beneath his smile. Yoongi waves him off and Taehyung begins to read again.

Yoongi hasn’t told him. Yoongi told Seokjin a couple days after while walking the grounds of a tiny park a block down from the cafe. Seokjin didn’t show anything but sincere support for whichever path Yoongi chooses to take, and Yoongi couldn’t find it in him to force a conversation meant for midnight and a couple bottles of soju into a ten A.M. stroll.

Yoongi told Namjoon at the radio station the following Thursday. Namjoon acted like he wasn’t surprised, but his eyes kind of sparked. He wanted to ask. He wanted to press. Instead he patted down his thighs and said, “That’s amazing, hyung. I’m here if you want to talk about it.” 

And then he stared very intentionally at Yoongi, and Yoongi didn’t try to talk about it.

That was nearly two weeks ago. Now Yoongi is in Taehyung’s bedroom, spread across his soft blue duvet while Taehyung studies for a quiz he has in the morning and Yoongi avoids thinking about the last song he has to write for his album.

Three months. He has three months to wrap everything up with a tidy bow, present it to his thesis board, and then figure out why the fuck he decided to pursue more schooling in a field that kept him in a constant state of drawn-out panic for nearly three years before his brain finally gave out on him.

Yoongi rolls onto his back, his head lagging to the side so that he can look around.

Taehyung’s room is tidy. The apartment as a whole constantly looks like Jimin’s closet threw up on it, but Taehyung’s space is kept neat. There are knick-knacks and photos and art posters and more pillows than a person really needs on a bed (which is rich, coming from one Min Yoongi, proud owner of three body pillows); but each item has its own place, and Taehyung made it clear that he would like each item to remain in its place. It’s the same reason why Taehyung wears all his clothes large enough to fit another person under them and will only take his food in bite-sized pieces and why sometimes Yoongi will catch him stacking things: paperclips, pencils, the lids at the cafe. Taehyung says it helps his brain stay quiet. 

(And since Taehyung is learning a whole new language for him, Yoongi thinks it’s simple to make sure that his bag is hung on the back of the desk chair so it isn’t resting on the floor, and that his nails are kept short so that when he drums his fingers they don’t make a clicking sound, and that he doesn’t use scented lip-balm.)

Taehyung, Yoongi mouths. Taehyung doesn’t look up. He’s propped up on one elbow, shirt stretched taut across his shoulders. He keeps one finger pressed to the page of his book, trailing along as he reads, his unruly hair pushed back with a yellow bear headband that he must use when he washes his face. It has two tufty ears on top. 

Taehyung’s eyebrows are turned down, making his dark eyes seem more determined than usual.

Taehyung, Yoongi repeats, again and again, wondering what it would be like if more than just breath were to escape. He closes his eyes. Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung.

Yoongi hears Taehyung move. The bed dips. Yoongi cracks one eye open and Taehyung has boxed him in. Is looking at him expectantly. “You called?”

Read my lips? Yoongi mouths, his heart unsettled behind his ribs.

Getting better, Taehyung mouths back as he traces the nape of Yoongi’s neck with his long fingers. Need something?

Yoongi keeps getting caught in the earnest hold of Taehyung’s eyes, and not for the first time that evening, Yoongi finds himself trying to put feelings into words only for them to sputter out before they can make it to the tips of his fingers.

Just you, Yoongi tells him, grinning when Taehyung barks out a laugh. Taehyung crawls forward so that he’s straddling Yoongi’s hips, and when Taehyung kisses him, he’s still chuckling. When Taehyung kisses him, it feels strangely serious. When Taehyung finally kisses him, it’s as if there are words hidden under his tongue that Yoongi can almost taste, but he’s too afraid of what they may sound like to try.

 

~~~

 

“Dear, I know I told you we had time, but don’t sit for too long on this, okay?”

Okay, mom.

“We can schedule the surgery. Get it on the books. If you change your mind—”

I have to go to class, mom. I’ll let you know soon.

“Alright. I love you.”

Bye, mom.

 

~~~

 

Jungkook has officially changed his major from music to film production. 

Yoongi knew it was going to happen. Jungkook’s schedule has steadily been taken over by photography and animation courses. He’s missed brunch a handful of times over the past few weeks to meet with an advisor Yoongi doesn’t recognize. He rarely stops by the studios anymore while Yoongi is working, and when he does manage to make it by, they talk movies more and more and albums less and less.

Yoongi knew this was going to happen, how could it not? But when Jimin mentions it in passing one morning and Yoongi asks him to repeat himself, Jimin squints and looks at him strangely and then realizes— Oh, Jungkook didn’t tell you?

Jungkook didn’t tell Yoongi.

Yoongi shrugs it off. He takes his coffee and starts off towards campus, feeling jittery and awake and alarmed. 

Jungkook didn’t tell him.

Jungkook changed his major last semester, nearly seven months ago, and he didn’t tell Yoongi. Didn’t talk to him about the process. Didn’t talk about where it was coming from. Didn’t bring to Yoongi his doubts or fears or concerns. Jungkook never mentioned it. Not once. Not to him. 

Sun streams through the canopy of leaves overhead, and Yoongi stops and watches the light dance across the sidewalk. Listens to the cacophony of sparrows in a tree nearby. A woman jogs past with a retriever at her side. A man a moment later with a neatly trimmed Pomeranian. 

Jungkook didn’t tell Yoongi about switching majors, and he didn’t tell Yoongi about getting the job at the gym, and he didn’t tell Yoongi about his dad having surgery, and he didn’t tell Yoongi about the cat he and Jimin adopted. Yoongi found out all those things from other people, and Yoongi sits down on a bench, even though he’s running behind, and starts to wonder when Jungkook decided to stop telling him things. 

 

~~~

 

(Yoongi thinks it’s when he decided to stop telling Jungkook things.)

 

~~~

 

(But how do you tell someone whose voice you took away that you’re the one who will get it back instead?)

 

~~~

 

“Yoongi, I’d like to discuss something you said in our session a few weeks ago. About how you think you break people.”

Yoongi tips his head back against the chair. It’s been storming for three days, and the window it took months for Yoongi to notice is filled with the slate grey of an angry sky. The weather was so heinous last night they couldn’t get a radio signal out for the show and had to cut things short.

“Yoongi?”

There’s nothing to discuss, Yoongi signs, and Dr. Kim tilts her head. Looks at him for a very long moment. Yoongi tils back ot he window.

“You’ve been quiet lately,” Dr. Kim says, and Yoongi rolls his eyes and watches as wind picks up outside. It rattles its way through the trees of the park across the street. 

(Namjoon told him that trees, regardless of their thickness or height, all break at the same wind speed. He then went on to talk about the established laws of tree allometry, for two hours, but that’s mainly because Seokjin kept asking questions every time he passed by their table, only to leave a few seconds later for Yoongi to handle the fallout of giving Kim Namjoon a highly individualized prompt.)

“Yoongi.”

I’m mute, Yoongi says when Dr. Kim makes no motion to continue without getting a response. She tilts her head again, opposite direction this time. Her eyes rove his face.

“And that means what exactly to you?” She asks, pen in hand. “What does being mute mean to you, Yoongi?”

Thunder crackles. Yoongi pulls a knee up to his chest to hug. I have nothing to say.

“You have nothing to say about the question?” Dr. Kim presses and Yoongi looks away. “Or because you’re mute, it means that what you say isn’t as important as someone who says it aloud? Doesn’t make it valid? Doesn’t make it real?” Yoongi’s teeth grate against the soft skin of his cheek. “Doesn’t make you real?”

Toes curling the edge. Bones creaking like the branches outside. 

“Have you been dissociating again, Yoongi?”

Forty-two meters per second. 

“Yoongi, did something happen that I should know about it?”

That’s the strength needed to crack a tree. 

“I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”

Yoongi clenches his teeth and resists the urge to tell her that he doesn’t want her help. Instead he picks at the skin around his fingernails and keeps his arms around his leg and watches the clouds roil in the distance. 

Dr. Kim writes something in the folder but says nothing more.

 

~~~

 

SeokSeok [8:47pm]

You haven’t been home in two days. Text me in the next hour or I’m calling Jimin.

 

Yoongles [9:13pm]

I’ve been gone longer. Stop fussing

 

SeokSeok [9:14pm]

Don’t do this to us again Yoongi. Please.

 

[INCOMING CALL FROM Jiminie]

[MISSED CALL FROM Jiminie]

 

[INCOMING CALL FROM Joon]

[MISSED CALL FROM Joon]

 

[INCOMING CALL FROM Jinnie Hyung]

[MISSED CALL FROM Jinnie Hyung]

 

Jinnie Hyung [11:20pm]

just tell me that ur okay and i’ll get everyone to leave you alone

 

Yoongichi [11:27pm]

I’m okay.

 

Jinnie Hyung [11:28pm]

trusting you

love you

 

~~~

Yoongi stops visiting the cafe. He tells everyone it’s because he’s down to the wire with his thesis (which he is) and that no, he’s not upset with any of them (which he’s not) and that yes, he’s still taking his meds (he ran out two weeks ago) and he most definitely has talked to his parents about the surgery (he has his mom’s notifications muted).

The only person who isn’t pressing is Taehyung, and Yoongi thinks that’s because Taehyung hasn’t been told anything and doesn’t even know there might be something to press. 

They’re out on a date (the first in a few weeks because of Taehyung’s schedule and Yoongi’s inability to remain bathed for longer than three days at a time) when Taehyung finds out there’s probably something he should be pressing. 

“What about that one?”

Someone bumps Yoongi’s shoulder, hard, and Yoongi looks over with a scowl and the drunken neanderthal beside him doesn’t even acknowledge that he just forced himself into a spot that doesn’t exist. Yoongi steps away from him and the guy follows, continuing to take up space that doesn’t belong to him.

He’s talking to someone behind him, another guy around his and Yoongi’s age, also tipsy going off that glass-eyed grin he’s sporting. “Dude,” the new guy sings, “that’s fucking gay .”

Yoongi snorts. Shoves one hand deeper into his pocket as the machine finishes processing his request. 

When they go to the theater, Yoongi handles tickets because the machines are self-operated while Taehyung gets the snacks. It’s more efficient that way. Usually. Except when Yoongi ends up waiting at the gate with two drunk homophobes.

“What? He’s got a great ass,” the first guy drawls. He’s got an unpleasant voice. Nasally. Makes your skin crawl. Makes you want to clear your throat. Yoongi grabs the paper stubs that just printed and immediately moves away from him.

“Bet twenty-thousand you wouldn’t follow through,” second guy laughs, and Yoongi hesitates because he thinks that sounds strange. Unnerving. A red flag if he ever heard one. So he stops, and he turns around just in time to see this loping man come up behind a figure waiting off to the side of the concession line. 

A figure in a bright yellow beret.

Yoongi’s stomach free-falls, and he watches in slow-motion as this drunkard laughs and grabs Taehyung from behind. Whispers something in his ear.

Yoongi’s never seen Taehyung with the expression he’s wearing right now. Violent. Terrible. Completely and utterly mortified.

The man beside him laughs and it’s an ugly, rotten sound.

So Yoongi punches him. 

And then Yoongi crosses the lobby in a few easy strides, swings his arm around, and punches the other guy, too. The one who made Taehyung scared. The one who made Taehyung doubt his safety. 

Apologize, Yoongi wants to say to the man crawling beneath him. Don’t ever touch him again. Don’t ever look at him again. Don’t ever speak to him again. Apologize.

But he can’t. He can’t do anything but drag his fist across the guy’s jaw once more so he does, again and again and again until someone’s throwing him to the ground, pinning him into place, and Yoongi gasps and struggles and is about to dig his heel into a kneecap when Taehyung cups his cheeks and presses their foreheads together so hard it physically aches.

“Hyung. Hyung, Yoongi , baby, stop it. Please. Please, stop.”

Yoongi stills, breathes, but he can’t keep his hands from clenching, unclenching and his gaze darts over to where the man from before is pulling himself to his feet and stumbling to the front entrance, of sight, his friend nowhere to be seen.

People are staring. People are staring and whispering and someone has a phone out, videoing the scene, and the carpet feels grainy and Taehyung is crying, his tears drip down onto Yoongi’s cheeks, and Yoongi wonders why it is he only ever breaks the people he loves. 

“I’m okay,” Taehyung whispers. His breath warms Yoongi’s nose. “I’m okay. You’re okay.”

Yoongi’s not okay. He’s so far from okay. It’s been so long since he’s been okay. 

Taehyung pulls him to his feet. Yoongi cradles his bloodied hand to his chest as he’s led from the lobby, out into the open expanse of the mall. People are staring, but Taehyung doesn’t stop until they’ve made it to a public restroom, away from the threat of drunk men and theater managers and strangers with cameras who prefer to stand around and gawk then try to help.

I’m fine, Yoongi signs when Taehyung tries to guide him to the sinks. Stop it. It’s not a big deal.

Yoongi tries to walk away and Taehyung grips his arm, pulls him back in. “No,” Taehyung says, holding on to him tighter. “Wash your hand. Now. And we’re going to talk about this, hyung. You’re not going to run away and I’m not going to laugh this off and we’re going to talk.”

Here? In the bathroom?

Fine , Taehyung signs, his face exasperated. Your place or mine? Yoongi pushes past him to the sink. “Or neither?” Taehyung says when Yoongi won’t meet his eye. “Because of whatever reason you’ve been avoiding Jimin and Hoseok-hyung?”

I’m not—

Taehyung cuts him off. “You are.  You know you are. We all know you are. You think I haven’t noticed?”

Yoongi shakes his head. Reaches over to grab a few paper towels to press against his skinned knuckles. Mouths to the mirror, You wouldn’t understand.

“Then help me to! You don’t—” Taehyung’s voice turns strained. His eyes drift over Yoongi’s face as if he’s trying to remember something. It looks like he comes up short. “You’re not listening to me, hyung. You’re always so good at listening to me but you’re not right now and you haven’t been and this—this isn’t just about you, okay? You don’t get to make all the decisions—”

I’m not trying to!  Yoongi signs, throwing his arms out. Taehyung backs away to avoid getting hit. I just don’t want to talk about this right now!

“Or you just don’t want to talk about this, whatever it is, with me?” Taehyung says. “Is that it?”

That’s not — Except it is. It is, it is, it is. Yoongi doesn’t want to talk about this with Taehyung because things with Taehyung are different, are supposed to be different. Are supposed to be good . It’s not you, Tae

Taehyung laughs, mocking. The sound shocks Yoongi into stillness. “It’s not you, it’s me? Really? What do you think this is hyung? Some kind of fling? Some kind of game?”

Just let me I can explain

Now you want to explain?” Taehyung’s eyes blur over with angry tears and Yoongi’s heart does that thing where it feels like someone is trying to rip it from his chest. “You assume all these things about me and-and you don’t even stop to—”

Guilt pushes through Yoongi’s chest. I just need to talk—

“Then talk!” Taehyung’s arms are flapping at his sides. Yoongi’s never seen him so distressed before.  “What is stopping you? What-What’s been stopping you all this time, hyung?”

Yoongi heaves in a breath, and the noise that comes back out is animalistic and wounded, so pained that Taehyung freezes, turns to him. “Hyung?” Yoongi makes the sound again and Taehyung moves towards him immediately. Shushes him softly. Wipes away tears Yoongi hadn’t realized were falling.

“Shit, hyung, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Taehyung murmurs, running his hands through Yoongi’s hair and down to the nape of his neck as Yoongi heaves. “I wasn’t— I’m not angry, hyung. Not for real. I’m sorry for yelling. I should have given you a chance to speak. I’m sorry. Are you okay? Please talk to me.”

Yoongi can’t. He can’t talk and his hands are shaking too much to sign, to write or type, so he just presses them against Taehyung’s chest and sobs. 

Taehyung holds him. Taehyung is trembling but still he holds Yoongi, rocking them side to side, apologizing to anyone who enters the bathroom. Yoongi thinks most of them leave.

“Thank you for defending me,” Taehyung whispers a long while later, once Yoongi’s tears have stifled. They still cling to each other. “But hyung, I don’t like violence. And your hands… Your hands are your voice. Don’t you ever risk your voice for me, hyung. Never again.”

Yoongi doesn’t move. He continues to rest against Taehyung. Quiet. Tired. God, Yoongi is so tired.

“If you really, really need to fight someone next time,” Taehyung continues, rubbing Yoongi’s back, “try using your feet. Or maybe pepper spray. I’m gonna buy you some pepper spray, hyung.”

Yoongi sniffs. Taehyung kisses the top of his head. “Wanna tell me what’s on your mind? Why you went all sudden death on that guy? Didn’t think you were the type.”

Yoongi pulls out his phone to type, but he keeps his head pressed to Taehyung’s shoulder where he can stay hidden. I’m not. It just happened. I’ve never hit someone before. It was kind of scary.

“It was really scary,” Taehyung says after he’s read the screen. “Maybe you should start going to the gym Jungkook works at. They have boxing lessons.”

How do you know that?

“Because I go to the gym that Jungkook works at to take boxing lessons.”

Yoongi snorts at that. Have someone you want to hit?

“Yup. My co in my disability foundation course who keeps loudly announcing that the only reason why I have such a high score is because I have an ‘unfair advantage’ in understanding our kids.”

Yoongi pulls away to look up into Taehyung’s waiting face. Taehyung gives him a soft smile. Want me to pepper-spray him?  Yoongi signs. Or I can try using my feet.

A real grin this time. Enough to see teeth. “I’ll stick to outscoring him on the final.”

Yoongi pats his cheeks. Atta boy, he mouths, and Taehyung looks happy, and then he looks sad, and then he clears his throat. Hesitates. Lifts his hands instead.

If you get into a fight again over me again, he signs tentatively, we’re through. Okay? We’re not… I’m not going to let you hurt yourself over me. And I really don’t like violence .

Okay, Yoongi nods.

Taehyung presses down on his lips. He’s searching again. “Please don’t make me leave you, okay, hyung? Please don’t make me do that.”

Okay, Yoongi mouths, and Taehyung rubs at his temples. Takes a few deep breaths. When he opens his eyes again, Yoongi signs, I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening to you, either. And you’re right, I haven’t been honest.

“I want you to talk to me, I want you to tell me everything. But if I can’t be that person for you—” Taehyung fizzles out when Yoongi starts shaking his head.

You are that person. You are my person, Yoongi emphasizes, and Taehyung’s cheeks warm. I just don’t have the words yet. I’m sorry.

“We’ll get there.” Taehyung takes his hand to kiss his knuckles, already blooming with bruises. “We have time.”

 

~~~

 

Jimin sits down in the chair across from Yoongi, shoves half a flatbread into his mouth, then says around a mouthful of chicken pesto, “Tae told me you knocked a guy’s tooth out at the movies yesterday.”

Yoongi sets down his pen. Jimin takes another monstrous bite. There wasn’t that much blood And do you and Taehyung talk about everything?

“Of course. Tae and I are soulmates. And you and I are exes. And you and him are dating.”

Yoongi stares him down and Jimin just gives an exaggerated shrug, his eyes curling up with his smile. Did Taehyung also mention the guy groped him?

“He did. But you’re more of a silent intimidator, Yoongi.” Jimin tilts his head, his freshly dyed cotton candy hair falling to the side. Purple looks good on him. Everything looks good on him. “So, what happened, hyung?”

Yoongi pinches his eyes shut. Jimin knows he needs his hands to work, yet still he’s here, trying to push a conversation he knows better than to even approach. Guess I just lost it.

Jimin’s nose wrinkles. “You never lost it with me.”

Well, not everything is about you, Jimin.

Shame fills his chest and Jimin pauses chewing, stricken. Yoongi hears him swallow thickly, then take a shaky breath to steady himself.

“That was cruel,” Jimin says, looking right into Yoongi’s face, “and I’m going to forgive you because I know it came from a place of pain.”

Yoongi mouths a quiet apology, throat tight, and Jimin finishes his sandwich and his fruit cup and half his carrot juice before he says evenly, “Hobi says you’re off your meds. Fill them, today, or I’m having Joon call your therapist and you know that she will admit you.”

Yoongi shudders out a sigh and presses his face into the crook of his arm. A moment later Jimin’s hand is in his hair, petting softly. They stay like that until Jimin’s break ends and Seokjin’s begins. But Seokjin doesn’t play with his hair. He gives Yoongi two chocolate croissants that he said were burnt in the oven, instead, and a “you know how I hate letting food go to waste, Yoongichi”. 

But all Yoongi sees is a perfect, even layer of golden brown crust and the calm gaze of someone who’s daring him to call them out on a lie. 

So Yoongi eats the croissants. 

And the egg tart. 

And the black tea.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi goes to a party. 

Yoongi hates going to parties, but he goes to this one because:

 

  1. It’s Jungkook and Namjoon’s joint birthday month.
  2. Seven out of seven of them were able to get an evening off despite it being midterm season (even if both Jimin and Namjoon had to be personally extracted from the reference sections of their respective libraries).
  3. Seokjin’s cream cheese oreo cake is so rich it can send you into a catatonic state and he only makes it for one occasion a year.
  4. Yoongi didn’t get his prescription filled in time so Jimin tattled on him to Namjoon and now Namjoon is using it as leverage to get Yoongi to start integrating himself into society again.

 

Community support, Namjoon had said on their way up the steps after an evening at the radio station. Your therapist says one of the worst things you can do during the healing process is isolate yourself, so if you don’t go to this thing, then I’m not going either, and I can’t not go to my own party in my own apartment, hyung.

So Yoongi is at a party. A small one, nowhere near the size of the end of semester Christmas party, but it still feels two sizes too big but that might be because Yoongi’s kept the company of a MIDI board and a styrofoam cup of vending machine coffee the past two weeks. 

Community support, Namjoon had said. Community support , Dr. Choi had said. But what do they know. Their rib cages aren’t collapsing under the weight of their sadness. 

Namjoon knows, Namjoon understands the heaviness. He’s been here, he’s been here. Talk to Namjoon, talk to Namjoon—

“Hey, hyung.” 

The sofa dips. Yoongi looks over. Let’s Taehyung kiss him lightly on the mouth. When Yoongi doesn’t react at first, Taehyung’s light-filled smile fades to doubt. “Hyung? You okay?”

Taehyung’s eyes are looking through him. Yoongi nods. Signs slow, Not feeling too great. Because Taehyung will know he’s lying, and Taehyung will press, and Yoongi won’t last if he’s pressed right now. He’s toeing the edge of a cliff.

“Bad brain day?” Taehyung asks anyway, and Yoongi shrugs and looks away. “Okay, hyung. I’m here if you want to talk. Do you want some cake? I hear Jin-hyung spends, like, five hours making it. It has twelve layers.”

Yoongi eats the cake. He plays the drinking games. It’s Jimin’s second week of clinical rotations in the psychiatry department, and he and Taehyung pick up a conversation they must have started back at home that Namjoon easily slips into even though Yoongi is eighty percent certain that Namjoon has never taken a medicine-related course in his university career.

Yoongi can’t keep up with the jargon, but he nods along and uses his fork to create whirling, cream cheese clouds on his plate. Taehyung circles an arm around his waist and the heat of his skin feels good, soothing, but just as quick it turns into a vice and Yoongi has to fake a trip to the bathroom before his bones try to crawl out of his skin. He feels the dull ache of their stares follow him out of the room.

Don’t spiral, don’t spiral, don’t spiral. Don’t ruin this for them. Just be normal. 

His reflection doesn’t look normal. His reflection looks like that of a person who’s dangerously close to being unhinged and who is in desperate need of a dye-job. Jimin says he should bleach it again. Maybe go with a color. Hoseok voted pink. Jungkook said green. Seokjin started a betting pool and pitched in red, which Hoseok then argued didn’t count because after a couple washes it’d turn pink anyway and then they’d have a conflict of interest. Seokjin then winked at him, and Hoseok sputtered and left the room. 

Get it together, Yoongi tells his reflection. Right now

Yoongi wipes down his neck with a cool cloth and slaps his cheeks and doesn’t get it together whatsoever, so he goes to the kitchen because it will waste more time, and because being in other people’s kitchens is strangely soothing. Yoongi pours some champagne. Swirls it around the glass. Finds he can’t stomach the idea of trying to down it so he dumps it back into the bottle. Jimin will drink anything. He gets water instead, then has some trouble swallowing it but tells himself it’ll make him feel better. Namjoon’s always going on about how most of the population is dehydrated without even knowing it, which is why most people feel crummy for no reason. Their organs aren’t getting enough fluids.

So Yoongi drinks his water, and he still feels crummy, but at least his organs won’t be dried out.

“Hyung?”

Yoongi looks up from his glass. Jungkook is hesitating in the entrance to the kitchen. 

“Hyung,” Jungkook says again. He glances around, then signs, I need to talk to you about something.

Jungkook looks flustered. He’s also giving Yoongi this sad, frightened look, so at odds with the way he’s been twinkling around everyone all evening. Yoongi thought he was tipsy, but he seems awfully sober right now, standing in front of Yoongi, clutching the hem of his shirt between his fingers.

Yoongi wants to listen, but Yoongi also feels ragged on the inside. He doubts he has any advice left to give right now. Their radio listeners have even started asking Namjoon if Suga still works at the station, seeing as he’s pretty much abandoned the message board. 

(I know the guy is quiet, someone sent in, but just want to make sure he’s still there to make sure you don’t choke on those fish chips again.)

It takes too much energy to respond to people these days, and if Yoongi can’t answer six-word sentences from complete strangers, he definitely can’t handle his first real conversation with Jungkook in weeks taking place here, right now, while Yoongi debates throwing up in the sink. Huh. Did Yoongi drink that much? He couldn’t have drank that much. He won the last two games. But everything is buzzing. The lights, the speakers, the tips of Yoongi’s fingers. His turtleneck is choking him. 

“Yoongi-hyung?”

Can this wait? Yoongi signs after putting down his glass. Jungkook looks hurt and Yoongi is being horrible but he can’t do this now. He can’t stumble right now. Walking the edge, walking the edge. One wrong step and he’s gone. Why does his skin feel like it’s falling off?  I’m sorry, I can’t—

“No. Hyung, I need—” Jungkook shakes his head in its place between his palms and shudders. He looks to Yoongi and signs,  I need you to listen to me right now, please.

Kook—

“I love you.”

Jungkook’s looking at him straight on, guilty and bewildered. Yoongi frowns. There’s a pulse of pain across his temple. Seokjin’s laughing. Seokjin’s laughing somewhere and Yoongi loves when Seokjin’s laughs but right now Seokjin needs to shut up, everyone just needs to be quiet

Yoongi finds his hands and signs, I love you, too. But I can’t—

“No. No, hyung.” Jungkook’s voice breaks and he must feel it because he clears his throat. Takes to signing again, I am in love with you, hyung. Romantically. I am in love with you. Do you understand?

Yoongi opens and closes his palms. His vision is tilting. Someone just tipped the earth on its axis an extra degree. 

(Namjoon explained it once in passing on a walk to the radio station after dinner. They do that sometimes.Or at least, they did. Theorize about the impossible that sometimes doesn’t feel all that improbable. So Namjoon looked up what would happen if the earth was thrown off its rotation, and they discovered that there’d be a tremendous tectonic upheaval. The biosphere would be transfigured. Hurricanes and earthquakes would ravage the planet for decades. Large portions of the crust would liquify, turn molten. Everything would die.)

(Yoongi feels like everything in his world, at this very moment, is dying.)

Jungkook takes a step towards him and Yoongi backs away, his shoulder blades hitting the cabinets. Jungkook flinches and stays in his spot, rocking up on his toes and back down. “I’ve been—I love you , hyung,” he says, then signs just as steady, I’ve loved you for years and I need you to—I just need you to hear that, okay? Do you hear me?

Jungkook, you— Yoongi slides his hands into his hair and squeezes, like he can get ahold of his brain, twist and turn it over and figure out some other outcome to this conversation because this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening. He shakes his head again, and again, and again. The room is spinning. Condensing. 

A panic attack. 

Sensory overload. 

Yoongi needs to lie down. 

He needs this discussion to die. 

He needs to talk to Jungkook. He needs to fix this, he needs to fix them.

Kook, you don’t love me.

Jungkook frowns. You don’t get to decide that. 

Heaviness is building behind Yoongi’s eyes. He shakes his head again. Wipes the snot from his nose. Why didn’t you tell me this before? 

I tried, Jungkook signs, biting down hard on his bottom lip. I tried, hyung, you just never got it. Or you talked yourself out of it, or you tried to pawn me off to Jimin. I tried, hyung. I’ve been trying. 

All this time, all this time, all this time. It’s been him all this time? Yoongi hangs his head, pressing his chin to his chest. Jungkook has spoken to him about this so many times and it’s been Yoongi? That can’t be. It can’t. Yoongi’s not that dense, he would have noticed. He notices everything. This is Jungkook, he would have noticed. This is Jungkook.

The breath shudders out of him, and Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut and sees an immaculate blue sky.

No, no, no—

“If I had told you sooner, before Taehyung,” Jungkook’s voice rushes in and Yoongi shakes his head, drags his nails across his sternum, claws at his throat, “do you think you could have loved me?”

It’s 10pm on a Tuesday in September and he's standing in Seokjin’s kitchen and there’s no trigger here. There’s no trigger and it’s been months and he was supposed to be getting better, he was supposed to be good, so why is he seeing that sky? Why can’t he fix this?

I don’t— Yoongi’s hands feel like barbells in the air, he can barely get them above his chest to sign. I can’t answer that, I don’t know—

“If I hadn’t been in the accident,” Jungkook says, and Yoongi takes a few gulps to steady himself and feels a rush of car exhaust go down. The kitchen smells like burnt rubber and gasoline and the powdery dust left behind by airbags. “Could you have fallen in love with me?” Yoongi bends over, forehead to palms to knees. “You don’t— You see me, right? You never talk about what you see, but I know it’s me. Do I make you feel guilty, hyung?”

Jungkook’s voice is crooked. His words are slurring together but Yoongi can piece them apart. “It’s been two years, hyung. Two years. I’m okay. I’m—I’m trying to be okay so why can’t you just let it go, why can’t you just see me right now, hyung please just look at me, why can’t you look—”

BECAUSE IT WAS MY FAULT! Yoongi pounds his fist against the top cabinet and watches as red smears across the white gloss of the board. Yoongi mashes the heels of his palms against his eyes until he sees colored spots. Until that blue sky is encroaching in again and he has to look up into the horrified face of Jungkook hovering over him. I’m the one who should have been hit! Yoongi signs, knuckles throbbing, choking down a breath. I’m the reason you’re like this! I’m the one who broke you!

Jungkook’s face, torn with misery, twists into fury.

“I’m not broken!” Jungkook shrieks. 800kph winds of dirt and debris and despair. The earth, shattering. That’s what Jungkook’s voice sounds like. It’s the most terrible sound Yoongi’s ever heard in his life. “Is that the way you see me? Just something you have to fix ?”

No, Yoongi mouths, spinning around, shame and regret rolling through him so quick he might just hurl. No, no, no—

“Were we not friends before all this?” Jungkook continues, his voice rising. Yoongi covers his ears, spins and spins, pinches his eyes closed. Blue, blue, blue, the lights, his sweater, the floor rocking underfoot— “Did you just stick around all this time because you pity me?”

No, no, no—

“Jungkook, what the hell is—”

“Hyung, please, I just need you to tell me—”

The sound of crunching metal and shattered glass. Yoongi looks down and he’s standing in a pool of blood. Someone is screaming. Someone is screaming. 

Yoongi is screaming.

Yoongi is screaming as loud as he can, and not a sound makes it past his mouth. Not one person in the crowd turns in his direction as he lays in the street near the mangled metal of what once was a car. Yoongi screams and sobs and wails and no one tries to help him and that’s okay. Because Yoongi deserves it. Because he is small, and he is unseen, and he doesn’t deserve to be heard. 

 

~~~

 

Yoongi wakes up in Seokjin’s bed with Taehyung’s arms around him. It’s still dark out, the room cast in the blue shadow of a city at night, but Yoongi knows it’s Seokjin’s room because Seokjin likes to use jersey cotton sheets while Namjoon prefers flannel, and he knows it’s Taehyung resting behind him because Taehyung always smells of cinnamon.

Out in the living room, Hoseok is waiting up on the sofa under the glow of the Christmas lights Seokjin still refuses to take down. He’s reading one of the books Namjoon left out. This one looks more like a novel than a check-out from the library. It doesn’t have any tabs in it. The spine is cracked and worn with use.

Hoseok looks cracked and worn with use.

Yoongi takes a seat beside him and Hoseok dog-ears the page he’s on and topples to the side so he can rest his head in Yoongi’s lap. They sit together for a long while, saying nothing, and Yoongi must fall asleep because he opens his eyes to the late light of morning and Seokjin making noise in the kitchen. Hoseok is still asleep in his lap. Namjoon is watching them from across the room in the armchair, a mug of what smells like coffee in hand.

Namjoon’s shoulders lift. Fall. “Yoongi,” he says. That’s all he says. And then he waits.

Namjoon is the one who went to Yoongi’s first therapy session with him. Namjoon is the one who got him the job with the radio station. Namjoon is the one who would leave protein shakes on his desk before the start of the Storytelling in Music class he TA’d for his first year of grad school. Namjoon is the one who knows how to talk him down off a ledge better than anyone. 

This is Namjoon’s allure: that he is steady and kind and so, so good. It’s not his boy-next door charm or the weight of his voice or the number of plaques he has tucked away in a box under his bed that he refuses to hang. What makes Namjoon the most incredible person in Yoongi’s life is that he is fearless with his love. 

How’s Jungkook? Yoongi signs, careful not to jostle Hoseok.

Home with Jimin, Namjoon signs back. He’s fine. Scared, but fine. We were all scared.

Namjoon waits. He doesn’t drink from his mug. Seokjin has gone quiet in the kitchen.

Yoongi takes in a deep breath. I had a flashback.

Namjoon nods.

It was really bad.

Namjoon nods again. He’s done asking. Yoongi can see that. Namjoon is done asking Yoongi to talk to him. This is him telling Yoongi to. Either talk to me, his gaze is saying, or we go to the hospital right now. Your choice.

I ruin the people around me, Yoongi signs, not bothering to look at Namjoon’s expression. He knows what he’ll find there. I don’t think I deserve to get better. I don’t think I deserve to have this surgery.

“Oh, hyung,” Namjoon sighs.

You all say it wasn’t my fault, Yoongi signs, but it doesn’t change how I feel. I feel like it was my fault. My head keeps telling me it was my fault so much that I keep reliving the day over and over again. I keep seeing Jungkook die again and again and I just keep screaming over and over and no one can hear me. 

Namjoon doesn’t say anything. Namjoon just keeps looking at him. Everyone just. Keeps. Looking at him.

What if I get the surgery and nothing changes? Yoongi asks. Hoseok stirs in his lap and Yoongi brushes the hair from his forehead, slowly, until his breathing evens out once more. What if people still don’t listen? What if they still don’t understand? What if I get this surgery and I continue to ruin and break everything and everyone I care about, only then I don’t have an excuse to hide behind anymore? What if it’s just me, Min Yoongi, who’s a fuck-up?

It’s quiet in the apartment, except nothing is ever truly silent. Hoseok’s rising breaths. The sounds of the city waking outside. The groan of wind working its way against the windows. A creaking floorboard from the kitchen where Seokjin must be hovering, afraid to move. 

“Hyung.” Yoongi looks away from the line of succulents along the edge of the patio door. “Do you remember the spring I lived with you and Hobi?”

Yoongi must make an expression like How could I possibly forget? because Namjoon’s face dimples with his smile.

“One night we were squished in together on the floor of your dorm room,” Namjoon says, still wearing that warm expression, still looking at Yoongi kindly, “and I told you that I felt empty inside, and you turned to me and said ‘Kim Namjoon, I’m going to fill you with so much love you’re not going to know what to do with it’. Do you remember that?”

Yoongi remembers it, but from a distance. A stranger looking in. It sounds like something he would have said then. Why wouldn’t Yoongi say it again now?

“Well, you filled me with love, hyung,” Namjoon continues. “You gave me so much love it spilled over. That’s why I started the radio program. So we could share some of that love with others. And we did, hyung. You did,” Namjoon tells him fiercely, his eyes alight, his voice breaking. “You have helped so many people. You—You do not ruin people, Min Yoongi. You make them better . You have made us better.”

Yoongi can feel his heart pounding, big and heavy in his chest, impossible to ignore. 

“I know what it feels like to want to disappear,” Namjoon says, his voice gentle, his expression wide open. Unafraid. Unashamed. “I know what it feels like to want to run away. I know what it feels like to be abandoned and forgotten. I know that I will never understand what you’re going through because we’ve both been handed a different set of circumstances; but I also know that you are one of my closest friends, one of the most important people in my life, and that right now you are not okay.”

A tear rolls down down Yoongi’s cheek, then another. Yoongi doesn’t clean his face off. 

“I called your therapist,” Namjoon says. Yoongi squeezes his eyes shut and more tears slip through. “We’re going to meet with her this afternoon. I’m going with you. Because you can’t do this alone, hyung. You can’t. No one can. And you don’t have to.”

Yoongi’s breath shudders in, then out. He nods. Someone touches the back of his hand lightly and Yoongi looks down to find Hoseok blinking up at him, his own eyes misty and bloodshot. 

They look at each other for a long time, saying nothing. Saying everything. 

“Jin-hyung?” Namjoon calls out. 

Yoongi looks up in time to see Seokjin poke around the doorframe to the kitchen, shy at first, and then more steady when he sees that he’s wanted. “Yeah?”

“Need any help with breakfast?” Namjoon asks, then one-shots his mug as if it’s tequila and not a hazlenut latte. 

Seokjin purses his lips like he wants to be disgusted but is physically unable to. It’s part of Namjoon’s charm. “I’d rather get help from a dilapidated squirrel than have your hands in this kitchen, Kim Namjoon.”

Namjoon’s smile is blinding. “I don’t think that word can apply to living organisms, hyung.”

“Don’t question my authority.”

“You have authority over all linguistics?”

“Watch yourself,” Seokjin points with a sharp finger. “I control your meals.”

“You won’t let me starve.”

“But I will force you to eat over-salted rice and spam for a week.”

“Like you’d ever purposefully oversalt food,” Namjoon beams, on his feet now. He approaches Seokjin with open arms. “It goes against your nature.”

Seokjin’s hands rise to his chest like a barrier, his eyes flitting to Yoongi. Or at least, his direction. Yoongi looks down and Hoseok is watching the two of them bicker with this humongous, delighted smile. Hoseok nods, as if giving permission, and Seokjin’s body sags right into Namjoon’s hold. 

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says, peeking over the top of Namjoon’s shoulder. His eyes are melty. “Go back to bed for an hour. I’ll get you and TaeTae when breakfast is ready.”

Yoongi’s face is still wet, when he crawls back into bed; but when he goes to wipe his cheeks with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, Taehyung’s hands are already there to do the job.

“Hi, hyung,” Taehyung whispers, and Yoongi looks into his kind face, so filled with love, love for Yoongi, and feels the tears begin to fall again.

Taehyung lets him cry. He tucks Yoongi in against his shoulder and just lets him be sad and confused and angry.

“You know how many times I’ve wished you could speak?” Taehyung asks a lifetime later. Breakfast should be done by now, but Seokjin’s always had this sense for when to push people, when to leave them be.

Yoongi sniffs and Taehyung doesn’t hesitate to wipe away his snot. Yoongi grimaces. Taehyung laughs. “Never,” he says, his posture relaxed, his face untroubled as he looks at Yoongi. “Not once. I don’t know what you-You think you have to say things aloud for them to matter, that you have to put words to your thoughts for people to care, but I didn’t fall in love with your voice, hyung.” A smile creeps onto Taehyung’s face as he runs his fingers along Yoongi’s jaw. “I fell in love with your honesty and your compassion and your thoughtfulness. I fell in love with the way you make me feel when you play the piano. I fell in love with how much you care about your friends and your parents and stray cats on the street. Those things matter to me. How you treat people matters to me. I’ve never once had to hear you in order to see you, Yoongi.”

Taehyung’s words knock the wind right out of him. Hit him where it hurts. Because a part of Yoongi doesn’t think he’s warranted having someone love him the way Taehyung does. The way any of them do. 

Yoongi finds his phone on the bedside table behind him. Writes, Things were easier when we weren’t dating.

Taehyung reads it. His eyes dim, but he doesn’t let Yoongi go. “Do you want to take a break?”

No, Yoongi shakes his head, shifting forward to kiss Taehyung quick and hard. Not from you, he writes, after Taehyung has kissed him back. I think I just need to get out of the city for a bit. Get some perspective.

“Okay, hyung. Okay.”

Will you be here when I come back?

Bewilderment clouds Taehyung’s face. “I’m not gonna leave you, hyung. Not over this.”

What would you leave me over?

Taehyung looks at him, thinking. “If you were cruel,” he finally says, then slowly traces a tendril of hair near Yoongi’s temple. “If you didn’t listen to me. Or respect me. If you were a conservative. If you didn’t want a dog someday.”

Yoongi snorts. Taehyung’s grin is enormous. Wow, that’s quite the list.

“I’ve learned that I deserve more than what people have given me in the past.”

Taehyung’s stare is steadfast, but his hand trembles where it rests against Yoongi’s waist. 

That’s really incredible, Tae , Yoongi mouths, hoping there’s enough light in the room for Taehyung to read him. That’s really brave.

Taehyung must be able to because he leans in to rest his cheek against Yoongi’s. Says, quietly, in his ear, “You also deserve more than what people have given you in the past.”

Yoongi bats his eyes fast to blink back tears. All the love Yoongi has for Taehyung is trying to crawl out of his throat and it hurts.

I don’t feel like I deserve anything, Yoongi mouths to him, and Taehyung’s eyes grow sad.

“You deserve love and joy and all the most wonderful things in life, hyung. All of them. Including that surgery.”

Yoongi’s stomach drops. 

“No one told me,” Taehyung says quickly, like he’s afraid Yoongi might be upset over the idea that someone went behind his back. Which he might have been. Probably would be. Except now he’s learning that not all secrets are meant to be kept hidden. That sometimes the best way to help someone is to do what they need and not what they want. “I pieced things together. I’m smart, y’know.”

I know, Yoongi grins. You’re the smartest person I know.

Yoongi sees the surprise cross Taehyung’s face. “But you know Namjoon-hyung.”

I said what I said.

“You think I’m smarter than Namjoon-hyung?” Taehyung says, throwing Yoongi this jaw-dropping grin. “That’s quite a turn-on.”

Talking about Joon turns you on? Yoongi mouths as he crawls forward. Taehyung rolls onto his back so that Yoongi can straddle his lap.

“It’s the dimples,” Taehyung swoons, tilting his head, smiling squinitly. “Jin-hyung is so lucky. He’s got two sets of them now.”

You gonna leave me over my lack of dimples? Yoongi asks, running his hands over Taehyung’s bare arms, up to his shoulders, across his neck, grinning when Taehyung shivers beneath him.

Taehyung shrugs, his impossible lashes making his eyes darker than usual as he gives Yoongi this non-committal look. “I mean…”

Yoongi tickles his side and Taehyung shrieks, and not five seconds later they hear Seokjin screaming, “IF YOU HAVE SEX ON MY BED I WILL NEVER LOVE YOU AGAIN.”

Yoongi collapses onto Taehyung’s chest in hysterics, and they hold each other long after the laughter has quieted and the moment has softened.

Thank you, Yoongi mouths, his chin on Taehyung’s sternum so he can look up into Taehyung’s face. For putting up with me. I know I’m difficult.

Taehyung kisses the pads of his fingers, then presses them against Yoongi’s forehead. “You’re the one who waits for me to finish counting ceiling tiles before we leave restaurants. I should be thanking you.”

Yoongi scoffs at that and Taehyung repeats the action from earlier, kissing his fingers and pressing them to different parts of Yoongi’s face. His nose, his temples, his eyelids. Yoongi warms under the touch but doesn’t tell him to stop.

I don’t know what to do, Yoongi mouths, when Taehyung starts placing little kisses along his top lip. There’s so much to do. So much to feel.

“One step at a time,” Taehyung tells him. “And we’re gonna be with you the whole way.”

 

~~~

 

“You know what the worst thing about PTSD is, Yoongi? It steals the hope and joy and light from you. Makes it impossible to see or remember all the good in the world. I want to help you see that good again, Yoongi. I want to help you see that light. Your friends want to help you, too. Will you let us?”

 

~~~

 

Yoongi goes home. He keeps his hands busy. He spends two days helping out around the house: cleaning and painting and patching up chipped furniture and weeding the small back garden his mom started up a few years ago when he and his brother left home for good. Yoongi reads a book. Well, half a book. He preps dinner. And lunch. And if he’s up early enough, then breakfast, as well. 

He plays Liebstraume’s No. 3 in A-flat Major on the old, stand up piano outside his dad’s office and feels every single note go straight to his heart.

He doesn’t sign to anyone. Doesn’t write. Doesn’t say a thing.

On the third day, he goes to his mom. He tells her everything, and she has him sit at their cramped dining table with a cup of peppermint tea and says, “Have you ever thought to look at your muteness like a gift, Yoongi?”

No. He hasn’t. Because gifts don’t make you want to die some days.

“Yoongi-yah,” she says, taking his hands, stroking his wrists. “You view the world in such an incredibly complex way because of your disability. You have so many thoughts and emotions to share with others, and instead of using words, you learned how to shape music into what you wanted to say.”

It’s not the same, he mouths, looking away.

“So you have never felt joy from hearing a concerto? Or pain? Anger? You’ve never felt those things while playing?”

Yoongi chews on his lip, debating the next move. His mom seems to be doing the same. “Is there someone important in your life, Yoongi-yah?”

Yoongi flushes and looks up into his mom’s waiting face. The corner of her mouth tips up. There is.

“Picture them in your mind,” she says, drawing back her hands. “If you were to describe them to me, what would you say?”

That they’re kind, Yoongi signs without thinking, his heart tripping. That they love art and children and the moon. That they make me happy.  

Yoongi’s mom nods. She leans in confidently, like she’s about to share a secret, and Yoongi mirrors her. “When people ask me about my sons, do you know what I say about you?” Yoongi’s heart trips. “I say that you are brilliant, and passionate about many things, and that you make me proud. Mute doesn’t come to mind first, and I don’t think it should be the first thing you think of, either.”

She smiles at him, and Yoongi has to bite his lip to keep it from quivering.

“Yoongi, sweetheart,” she says as Yoongi ducks his head. “If you want the surgery, we’ll support you. Don’t think that you’re turning your back on anyone or anything because you want to have that connection with people.” Yoongi’s chest feels prickly, like when you sit for too long and your leg falls asleep. Is it possible for the heart to fall asleep? “Your disability isn’t your entire identity. It has made you strong, and it has taught you empathy; but you’re not going to lose those things just because you gain another.”

Yoongi nods and nods and nods. He feels shaky, and cramped, and surely if he tried to stand he would only collapse. But his mom takes his hand in both her own and squeezes tight, and Yoongi sucks in a breath and mouths, His name is Taehyung. I want you to meet him.

“Bring him home over winter break,” his mom says, sniffling, and the small sob noise that Yoongi makes almost sounds like a laugh.

 

~~~

 

Yoongi goes home. He finds Taehyung waiting up for him on the sofa with a textbook, what looks to be the finale of Descendants of the Sun playing on the television with only the subtitles on, and the sweetest smile in existence when he catches Yoongi lurking from the entryway.

Yoongi nods, answering a question Taehyung has yet to ask, and Taehyung shuffles up and over to pull him into a breathless hug.

“Hyung,” Taehyung whispers, pushing their foreheads together, still tacky from where he must have applied some of Hoseok’s fancy moisturizer. His skin smells of oranges. He takes Yoongi’s face in his hands. “You are going to get this surgery because it’s something you want and there’s nothing wrong with wanting things.”

Okay, Yoongi mouths, shutting his eyes, feeling Taehyung’s breath against his cheeks. His heartbeat, from where they are pressed chest to chest, fills the spaces that Yoongi’s leaves behind.

“And it’s going to be a long recovery process,” Taehyung says, rocking them, a slow dance with no music. Yoongi circles his arms around Taehyung’s waist. “And you’re going to get frustrated and upset, but that’s okay because you’ve got so many people here who love you and want to see you happy.”

Okay, Yoongi repeats. His eyes brim with tears. 

“And I will be here the whole time.” Taehyung kiss his cheek mole. The tip of his nose. “Because I love you. Because I want to see you happy. Okay, hyung?”

Yoongi nods. Breathes. Taps the back of Taehyung’s neck three times again and again and again.

 

~~~

 

“Good evening, Konkuk youth. RM here. Before we get into today’s program, there’s a story that was sent in by a special friend of ours that I want to share with you all. I think some of you might need to hear it:

 

“I woke up this morning, and the world smelled of cut grass and burnt toast and the promise of rain. I woke up this morning to a dull ache in my upper shoulder, from an injury that never quite healed. I woke up this morning in a tangle of limbs, with a voice whispering low near my ear ‘hyung, let’s go to the beach’.  And I responded, ‘that’s dumb’. And then I packed a bag. And then I went to the beach. 

“For most of the day I laid in the shade while my friends danced around me, splashing each other with water and digging in the sand. The hours melted together under the last breath of summer and I laid there, melting with it, this undercurrent of sadness threatening to sweep me away. 

“Over the past several months, a shadow has settled over my body to the point that I have become a ghost in my own life. No one hears me, no one feels me, and if I stay still for long enough, it feels as if at any moment, I may just disappear. One blink, and I will be gone.

“I woke up this morning, and I went to the beach, and right when I felt as if I was taking my last breath before the water rushed in to fill my lungs, there were hands, yanking on my wrists. My ankles. Shimmering up my sides. And then the water did rush in, and I struggled and flailed and crawled out of the ocean as laughter echoed around me. And as I laid there in the sun-warmed sand, gasping for breath, I realized something: I woke up this morning.

“I woke up this morning, and the world smelled of cut grass and failed breakfast and rain. I woke up this morning with my shoulder throbbing and my forehead damp, cradled between two beating hearts, overwhelmed by sadness and guilt and fear.

“I woke up this morning, and I went to the beach, and I laid in the sand with my chest facing the sky, and I watched until the last scrap of sunbeam flickered out across the horizon. My cheeks were wet, but my heart… My heart, my heart, my heart.

“I woke up this morning, and I plan on doing it again. I hope tomorrow you do, too.”

 

~~~

 

The day that Yoongi submits his opus, Jungkook finds him sitting outside the music building with Hatsepshut curled up two steps away. The history department got her a green beanie this year. Yoongi thinks it compliments her russet fur nicely. (Taehyung’s been talking about getting a sweater made for her, as well, because it’s snowed everyday for two weeks now. Yoongi doesn’t mention that Hattie is probably fat enough to last a full hibernation period). 

She still won’t let Yoongi touch her. Or feed her. Some days, if he even looks at her the wrong way (or at all), she trots out of sight into the brush. So Yoongi has taken to keeping his hands to himself but not his thoughts. Those he still shares with her. She doesn’t seem to mind them.

“Hey, hyung,” Yoongi hears, and he looks up and there’s a muffin floating in front of his face. Blueberry. The good kind from the cafe. 

Yoongi takes the muffin and Jungkook takes the spot beside him. Yoongi watches as Hattie stretches, back arching, and plods right over to crawl into Jungkook’s lap. Jungkook just grins and adjusts her cap. He doesn’t try to pet her. He just lets her rest.

“How did your panel go?”

Yoongi looks up from Hattie and Jungkook is looking right back. Good, Yoongi signs, then shakes his head. Great, actually. It was perfect.

“Are you a doctor yet?” Jungkook teases, and Yoongi cracks a grin and nudges their shoulders. Jungkook leans into the touch and Yoongi doesn’t lean away.

Two more years before that happens.

“You gonna do it?”

Dr. Choi asked him the same thing barely an hour ago. Encouraged it, really. You would make an excellent professor, Yoongi, she had said in the hallway outside the conference room, right after a panel of judges told him his work could move someone’s soul. It certainly moved theirs. Any university would be lucky to have you.

Yoongi thanked her. Shook her hand. Wrote neatly on his board, I stopped playing because I couldn’t hear the music anymore. I think I want to help other kids going through the same thing.

Yoongi’s not sure what that looks like quite yet, if it means he should finish more schooling. But he has time to figure it out.

“Hyung?”

Jungkook is watching him, head tilted, his curls falling to the side. He’s waiting. All this time he’s been waiting. 

Yoongi takes the biggest breath of his life. Feels the pressure lift from his chest the moment he signs, Can I tell you something? 

Wonderment spreads across Jungkook’s face, and the smile he gives Yoongi—lopsided, sincere, filled with glowing warmth—it says more than words ever could.

“Tell me everything, hyung.”