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"If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please only a few. To please many is bad.”

Friedrich Schiller  

 

 

Kim Taehyung is standing outside Yoongi’s house.  Yoongi’s still trying to work his head around that. 

It’s been awhile since they’ve seen each other.  Like almost four years.  They grew up together, but after Yoongi moved to Seoul they didn’t get a chance to see each other much.  Once, when Yoongi went home a little more than a year later, but then Taehyung moved farther out into the country, to his grandparent’s farm, so even when Yoongi went home Taehyung wasn’t there.  And then, at almost nineteen, Taehyung called Yoongi up and said,

I’m going to Japan. 

And then Taehyung lived in Tokyo and then Nagano and then on Shikoku Island and then in some tiny town in Hokkaido that Yoongi could never quite pronounce right, no matter how hard he tried.  Taehyung had lived abroad for exactly long enough that it felt like Taehyung had always lived abroad, would always live abroad.  It felt like that until this afternoon when Yoongi’s phone rang, unknown number calling, and he picked up— he has to pick up, half the time it’s things for work, but this time—

This time it wasn’t. 

This time it was Taehyung.  

I’m moving back to Korea, um, to Seoul for, like, gallery opportunities I guess I would say and— I know this is weird because we haven’t seen each other in real life for, like, a million years but is there a chance— you can say no— that I could maybe stay with you for a few days while I find an apartment?

“Yeah, course Tae.  I’m a little bit outside of Seoul though, that okay?” 

Yeah, yeah that’s— that's fine.  Are you sure?

“Tae, I would say no if the answer was no.”

Okay, yeah.  Thank you.

“When are you moving back?”

Um.

“Kim Taehyung.”

Possibly I’m at Incheon Airport— now.  Possibly.  So, I know that today’s too soon so, like, whenever, next week or something is fin—

“It’s fine.  I’ll send you my address, yeah, just in case you've lost it?”

Yoongi hadn’t really considered saying no when Taehyung asked.  Taehyung and he had been close when they were younger, tried to stay close even when Yoongi was far away and then Taehyung was farther.  They’d kept in touch how they could, they had the internet and Instagram, and Taehyung sometimes sent Yoongi these handwritten missives and Yoongi responded with his own. 

They might not be close the way they were when they were kids, but they’re not so far apart, Yoongi doesn’t think.  When you get down to it, when you get down to bones and marrow and what makes their hearts beat, Yoongi’s always thought he and Taehyung were more similar than not, just the trappings of it that were different.   

So Yoongi said yes and Taehyung is here, now, when night is already snug like a blanket over Yoongi’s rickety little house just enough outside of Seoul that Yoongi has space to breathe. 

There’s a taxi pulling away behind him.  His duffel bag is so big it looks like a steamer trunk.  There’s a suitcase next to him.  There’s a cardboard box full of books and canvases at his feet.  In his arms there is a small bundle of fluff that is either a tiny dog or an elaborate faux fur muffler.     

Yoongi can’t really see Taehyung’s face.  It’s dark and Taehyung’s caught in shadows, his features blurring together gently.  Yoongi can see the breaths that escape his lips, the way they linger in the cold air like spells.  Yoongi can feel Taehyung’s eyes.  They flick over Yoongi quick and then again slower and then one more time, dragging like a lip pulled through teeth. 

Yoongi feels tingly. 

“Yoongi-hyung?”  Taehyung whispers, taking a step forward into the warm light spilling out from Yoongi’s front door.  He sounds like he’s unsure, like he thinks maybe he’s not supposed to be here, like he thinks maybe Yoongi’s forgotten him or didn’t understand that Taehyung meant he was coming here now.

Taehyung’s voice is devastating. 

Taehyung is devastating. 

Taehyung’s maybe always been devastating to Yoongi, always in different ways, seven years old and the kindest person Yoongi had ever met, eleven years old and the silliest, fifteen years old and this way of looking at the world that knocked Yoongi back on his feet, eighteen years old and able to find beauty in things Yoongi hadn’t even thought to see, twenty-two years old and—

Taehyung is some new word that Yoongi doesn’t know.  It’s like all the soft love Taehyung holds in his heart has decided to try and manifest itself, seeping out through his skin.   

Holly peers cautiously around Yoongi’s leg and Taehyung’s eyes flick down and then back up to Yoongi’s face.

“Hyung?” He asks as he shifts uncertainly from foot to foot like he feels uncomfortable in his skin.  But Taehyung is not a person who feels uncomfortable in his skin, never has been, so this gentle rocking motion makes Yoongi feel strange, almost seasick.  Yoongi needs to pull himself together, say something, but it’s late and he hasn’t slept for too many hours and the air is so cold it hurts and everything seems sort of suspended, like the whole world is hanging in a drop of nectar, waiting.

“When did you get so tall, Kim Taehyung?” Yoongi asks, at a loss for what to say.

A split second and then a smile that Yoongi knows, one that makes Yoongi sure it’s Taehyung for real in the flesh and not some sort of fever dream, some sort of hunger confusing Yoongi’s heart and his brain and his eyes and making him imagine phone calls and phantoms spinning into his life.   A smile all mirth and bright and joy, one that can never be captured quite right in a photograph.  Boxy and bold and wild and—

Taehyung.   

“When did you dye your hair, Min Yoongi?”  Taehyung responds. 

“You’re one to talk, look at your hair.”  Stepping forward and reaching out to touch Taehyung’s long pale-pink hyacinth hair, then dropping his hand to scratch at the little dog’s ears as it snuffles into wakefulness, blinks up at Yoongi.  “Who’s this?”

“Who’s that?”  Taehyung says, nodding toward Holly who has curled up suspiciously behind Yoongi’s feet, nose pressed protectively into his ankle. 

“Holly.”  Yoongi says.  “You know Holly.” 

“I’ve never been properly introduced.”  Taehyung sniffs, inclining his head slightly like Holly might bow back.  Holly snuffles.  “Yeontan.” Taehyung says, holding his dog out toward Yoongi and then cuddling him back to his chest.  “Ah.”  He says, brow creasing, as he bites his lip.  “I did tell you I had a dog, right?”

“You did not.”  Yoongi says.

“Ah.”  Taehyung whispers again. “Um, Yoongi-hyung?”

“You have a dog, is it okay if he comes with you?”  Yoongi guesses.

Taehyung nods.

“Yeah, it’ll be fine.  Holly’s shy but a sweet dog.”

“Like his owner.”  Taehyung murmurs.

“I’m rescinding my offer.”  Yoongi tells Taehyung.  “You’re no longer welcome here.”   

“No no,” Taehyung giggles, “no, you’re terrifying, here, let’s hold hands,” shifting Yeontan to one arm, holding out a hand, fingers spread.  “You always made us hold hands when we fought when we were little, remember?”

Yoongi tries to make his face say suspicious distaste.  He does not succeed he thinks, because Taehyung laughs, this little thing that almost sounds like a sob. 

“We’re not fighting.” Yoongi says primly as he slides their fingers together.  Taehyung’s hand is cold.  It’s soft.  There’s paint on it, a streak of dark green up by his wrist like Taehyung was painting on the ride here.  Maybe he was.  “How did you get a dog through quarantine that fast?  Did you smuggle this dog into Korea?  Am I harboring two fugitives?”  Yoongi feels like he can’t stop talking now that he’s started.  He snaps his mouth shut. 

“I’ve been at Incheon for a day, I was sleeping in one of those little capsule things.  Tanie’s already microchipped and the vet gave him a workup before we left so he just had to stay at quarantine for, like, 48 hours.  I was going to stay at a hostel while I looked for an apartment or just— go back to Daegu, but I couldn’t— didn’t—" Taehyung draws in a strange shuddery breath. 

Which is part of a question that Yoongi wants to ask. 

“Did something happen?”  Yoongi says.  “In Japan I mean— did something happen?”

Taehyung takes a shuffling step forward and rests his head against Yoongi’s shoulder, doesn’t let go of Yoongi’s hand. 

Yeontan squirms between them and then settles, half against Yoongi’s heart.

“No.”  Taehyung says.

Yoongi doesn’t press.  He can tell it would be unwanted.  Maybe nothing happened but it felt like something.  Yoongi knows what that’s like.  He knows how hard that can be to resolve into words that make sense.  If Taehyung wants to try to do that later he will, but not right now, not tired and drawn and outside in the cold and forced to because Yoongi keeps asking. 

Yoongi draws his free hand up and down Taehyung’s spine.

“Okay,” he tells Taehyung, “okay, Taehyung-ah.”

“I like your hair.”  Taehyung whispers into Yoongi’s sweater and his words are so warm and his nose is so cold where it’s pressed into the side of Yoongi’s neck.  “I liked the blond,” Taehyung says, “but— black hair always looks so good on you.” 

Taehyung smells like lavender and soap.  Yoongi takes a deep breath. 

“I like your hair.” Yoongi tells Taehyung.  “It’s the color of pink hyacinths.” 

“Are they good flowers?” 

“Depends who you ask.” 

“Asking you.” 

“I think they’re sad,” Yoongi rests his hand gently on the small of Taehyung’s back, just enough pressure that Taehyung will be able to feel it through his coat.  “Hyacinth was Apollo’s lover and he died, murder or accident depending on who you ask.  The flowers sprung from where his blood pooled.”

“I don’t want to be sad.” Taehyung says quietly.  Yoongi feels Yeontan wriggle, shifting in Taehyung’s arms. 

“You’re not.”  

Taehyung shivers against him.

“Come inside?” Yoongi offers.  “It’s cold.  It’s supposed to snow.  We shouldn’t stand outside.”

“I hope it snows.” Taehyung murmurs as he rights himself, sets Yeontan inside next to Holly.  Yoongi and Taehyung wait as the dogs sniff and eye each other until they both seem to have accepted the other a bit.  Then they go to get Taehyung’s bags, drag them inside.

Taehyung stretches big in the hallway, the line of his body long, his fingers hitting the top of the doorframe easily.

“Show off.”  Yoongi says. 

Taehyung grins at him. 

“C’mon,” Yoongi scoops the duffel bag up best he can despite Taehyung’s protests, “Tae, I got it, stop, you carry that one. Okay, I’ll give you the proper tour of downstairs tomorrow but—” they head up the stairs, dogs winding around their feet, “that’s the bathroom right there when you need it.  I put towels in there for you, mine are the darker ones.  This is my bedroom and then—" entering the little room with the big window, “—this is the guest bedroom.  I tried to, like, set it up for you a little since no one’s actually stayed here before but—” placing the bag at the bottom of the bed, rubbing his hands against his sweatpants, suddenly conscious of how old and rickety the place he calls home is, “—I made the bed and stuff and there are extra blankets in the bottom drawer. Let me know if you're still cold though, okay?"

It’s odd and instantaneous. 

Yoongi turns around right as Taehyung crosses the threshold, his eyes sparking as they roam the room, up to the ceiling and the exposed wooden beams that are part of why Yoongi likes this house, down to the violets that Yoongi put in a small vase on the nightstand, over to the fairy lights that Yoongi strung up and would not say, on pain of death, that he went out this afternoon and got just for Taehyung and—

It's odd and instantaneous. 

The room stops being a guest bedroom like some sort of magic spell broken and just—

“I really like it.” 

(soft gentle eyes, Yeontan hopping up on the bed and then back down, running excited circles around Yoongi’s feet)

— becomes—

“Thank you, Yoongi-hyung.”

—Taehyung’s room. 

 

 

****

 

 

Taehyung knocks on Yoongi’s door the second night and barely waits for Yoongi’s approximation of an answer before jumping on top of him.

All the air goes out of both of their bodies in a rush.

“Can’help you with something?”  Yoongi slurs, trying to catch his breath, a terrible place between half asleep and wide awake with adrenaline.

Taehyung crawls under Yoongi’s duvet and cuddles into his side. 

“You’re so warm,” Taehyung’s whole body like a lit firecracker against Yoongi, “I got cold and figured your bed would be warmer.”  His lips catch on the shell of Yoongi’s ear.

Yoongi can’t stop the shiver. 

Yoongi and Taehyung go downtown the next day.  Yoongi can still feel the imprint of Taehyung all up and down his side, the phantom heat of Taehyung’s sleep warmed body, the golden honey of his tanned skin reflecting sunlight into Yoongi’s marrow.  They buy the thickest duvet the store has to offer.  Taehyung buys an extra set of sheets too, the same kind Yoongi uses, so smooth they feel like water.   He makes Yoongi pick the color. 

Taehyung brings his new duvet into Yoongi’s room that night and says, hyung, you gotta try this as he curls up next to Yoongi. 

Yoongi wakes up with Taehyung’s arm and leg thrown around him, warm and heavy with sleep.  Taehyung is half on Yoongi’s pillow and half on his own, so close Yoongi can see his chapped lips and the way his eyelids flutter.  He’s pretty in his imperfections, pretty in his gentleness, prettier still in the way how, when you look at him, you can see all the way into his heart and see how kind Taehyung is. 

Taehyung is pretty and also hard to wake up.  He clings to Yoongi, digs his heels in and whines when Yoongi tries to untangle himself from Taehyung’s grip.   When Yoongi finally manages it, crawls out from under the duvet and puts his feet on the floor, he feels cold.  He reaches for his warmest hoodie, goes to make coffee, let the dogs out.

Taehyung goes to Daegu to see his family over a long long weekend and comes back looking like he’s thinking something over.  

After he gets back a day passes, then another, then a week.

Yoongi’s not really been noticing the time passing, not been counting how long Taehyung has been here or taking note of the progress of his search for an apartment.  Taehyung’s looked at a few places, Yoongi knows this for sure because Taehyung talked about them, but he’s also been adjusting back to life in the city, meeting with people he hasn’t seen in a while, trying to find his footing.  It’s also winter and a terrible time to consider moving, the short days and bitter air making it seem overwhelming and unkind.  Yoongi’s not fussed by Taehyung's gentle presence in his house.  He's not fussed that Taehyung's few days have turned into a few weeks. 

Taehyung seems to notice the days passing though because he looks at Yoongi very seriously one morning, somewhere around the end of the third week.

Yoongi has dragged himself out of bed feeling a bit sunsick-sad and is staring at the ceiling from a prone position on the couch, measuring the space between a beam and the next in dust specks and sparks, watching the snow fall soft outside the window and wondering if it might just cover everything up in blissful heavy silent white when—  

“Hyung.”

— a hair tie pushed into Yoongi’s hands, Taehyung pushing at Yoongi’s shoulders until he’s sitting up, facing front.  Yoongi crisscrosses his legs at the edge of the couch.  Taehyung sinks down to the floor in front of him, leans back against Yoongi’s ankles and crisscrosses his own legs in front of him, sat nearly identical to the way Yoongi is sitting.

“Can you help me pull my hair up please,” Taehyung says, “I’m going to paint, is it okay if I paint down here?" 

Taehyung could pull his own hair up, but Yoongi doesn’t say that. 

“Yes.” Yoongi says and combs Taehyung’s bangs back from his forehead.  There’s something soothing in the simple feeling of Taehyung’s hair against his fingers, the way Taehyung sighs a little, the stillness of the moment.  Yoongi runs his fingers through Taehyung’s hair once more and then starts to gather Taehyung's bangs up properly, so they won’t fall into his eyes.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, tilting his head back so that he can see Yoongi, his hair spilling out of Yoongi’s hands, “I know you like to live alone, huh?  Need your space.  I’m sorry I’ve been here so long, I’ll—"

“No,” Yoongi finds himself saying before he even realizes he’s going to.  He tilts Taehyung’s head back down with firm fingers on his jaw, then his ears, then his temples, “no, Tae, I don’t mind,” and finds he doesn’t.

Yoongi does need his space.  He moved out here so that he wouldn’t get caught in all those crowds, all those people pressing in all the time.  It was so hard for him to breathe in the city proper.  It wasn’t good for him. 

Yoongi needs his space, but Taehyung gives him that. 

Doesn’t crowd up into him all the time.  Doesn’t bother him when he’s working.  Is content to sit and paint or roam and take pictures or look at the thick books of art he brought with him in his boxes of essentials or write in the little journal he always has at hand. 

And Yoongi needs his space, but he needs people too.

When Yoongi goes out to work in the small greenhouse that came with the property, one of the reasons he chose this house, Taehyung collapses on Yoongi’s tiny back porch with the dogs, lets them run around him, jump into the snow and then onto his stomach.  He sings softly, like a radio in another room, just loud enough that Yoongi can hear him. 

Taehyung comes into the greenhouse sometimes and sits with Yoongi while Yoongi tries to figure out how to make things grow.  He makes sure the dogs don’t eat the flowers and sings a little louder, his voice low like a log about to break at the bottom of a fire.

“You’re a green witch,” he tells Yoongi, touching a flower in bloom, “look at all these flowers in the middle of winter.”

“This is a greenhouse, Taehyung-ah,” Yoongi argues, “I’ve done nothing, it does what it’s supposed to do.” 

“No,” Taehyung says, a little frown on the edge of his mouth, tugging at the center of his lower lip, “no, hyung.  Things don’t grow like this just because of a greenhouse.”

“Grow like how?”  Yoongi rubs a leaf between his fingers, checks for spots.

“Like they’ve been loved.”  Taehyung says. 

Yoongi turns to look at him but can’t see his eyes.  Taehyung’s tipped back onto his elbows, staring up at the sky like he’s trying to find constellations even though it’s midday. 

“Hyung,” Taehyung says a little dreamily, “can you tell me something I don’t know?”   

Yoongi doesn’t know what Taehyung doesn't know.

“This flower is called a petunia.” 

Taehyung tilts his head up and gives Yoongi a dead-eyed look.

“I’m aware.”  He says.

“They stand for a lot of things,” Yoongi tells Taehyung, “you have to be careful when you give them to people because, in flower language, they mean anger.  And resentment.”

Taehyung stills.

“I don’t like that.” 

“I feel bad for them,” Yoongi says, picks a flower, holds it out in the space between him and Taehyung.  “I feel bad because they can also mean your presence soothes me, but no one ever remembers that.” 

Taehyung takes the flower, twirls the stem between his fingers.  He looks down at it for a long time.  Yoongi does too, looks at how delicate the petals are, tangled lines of lilac and ice, the colors like a mess of veins.  

Taehyung looks up and smiles at Yoongi.

“I didn’t know that.”  He says.  “Thank you.”

While they walk back to the house Taehyung holds the flower close to his chest.

“Can you play Clair de Lune?”  Taehyung asks.

“Yes,” Yoongi tells him.

“Will you play it for me?”

“Yes.”

That night, Taehyung paints while Yoongi plays.

He does that a lot, paints while Yoongi plays.  Takes pictures while Yoongi plays.  Taehyung paints a lot.  Takes pictures a lot.  Asks Yoongi if he can turn one of the bathrooms into a makeshift darkroom sometimes late at night, sometimes smack in the middle of the afternoon.  He takes buses downtown and comes back with fruit even though it’s the dead of winter.  He sets up an elaborate computer gaming system that makes Yoongi laugh.  He occasionally barges into Yoongi’s bed to watch anime late at night.  He asks why the wifi is so good repeatedly, telling Yoongi that the house looks like it’s a thousand years old, there’s no reason there should be wifi in it at all, much less good wifi. 

“How would I live without wifi?”  Yoongi asks him.

“Slowly,” Taehyung says, shirt falling off his shoulder as he strikes some sort of yoga pose that Yoongi does not know.  Taehyung stays like that for a minute, his eyes fluttering shut, balanced like he’s on the edge of some precipice Yoongi cannot see.  “Alone.”  He adds, flicking his eyes back open, head tilted just slightly.  The way he says it, it sounds like he means lonely.  The way he says it, it sounds like he’s asking Yoongi if he’s lonely. 

“I do live alone.”  Yoongi tells him.  “You’re a guest, remember?”

Taehyung sticks out his tongue.

But it doesn’t seem so much like Yoongi lives alone anymore. 

Taehyung folds into Yoongi’s life easily.  It’s maybe a little bruising, but Yoongi doesn’t mind because it’s the good kind of bruised.  The after the tears from a breakup have dried and it hurts but you’re okay type bruise.  The rejection a few weeks later when you believe in yourself again but it still stings a little when you press on it type bruise.  It’s that sort of thing, Taehyung’s smile and laughter lighting up all the corners of Yoongi’s house.  Not that Yoongi was lonely or alone or desperate without Taehyung, but that— it’s nice.  He notices the difference, having Taehyung around versus not having Taehyung around and finds that he likes having Taehyung around.  They bleed into each other around the edges well.  

Three weeks becomes a month becomes two becomes almost three and they haven’t talked about it but Yoongi doesn’t live alone anymore. Taehyung pays Yoongi proper rent, seemingly deciding the amount at random, giving him folded bills in a little envelope slipped under Yoongi’s door.  Last month it was a Kumamon envelope.  This month it is Gudetama.

“Next month will shock you,” Taehyung says.

“Landlords hate him,” Yoongi replies and tries to hand the money back.

“One neat trick,” Taehyung shoves the money into Yoongi’s pocket and runs. 

They did this last month too.  Those bills are still sitting folded on the kitchen table.  They shove them back and forth at each other in the morning, more out of habit now than anything. 

Yoongi sighs.  Adds the new ones to the stack.

“Do you want to move in?”  Yoongi asks Taehyung a few days later, late one night when they have both been up too long and are too tired and everything is spilling out of them easy easy like they’re drunk.  Taehyung stills next to him. “Like, I mean, properly move in.  Since right now you just keep giving me what I can only assume is blood money in Japanese envelopes.”  Taehyung looks at him.  “You don’t have to.”  Yoongi whispers, suddenly abashed, suddenly thrown back into himself, suddenly sinking under cracked winter ice, unable to breathe.

“Are you going to write me up a proper lease?”  Taehyung asks.  “Are you going to make me pay pet rent for Tanie?  Are you a nice landlord or will I regret it?”

“Please forget I asked you,” Yoongi says.

Taehyung touches Yoongi’s wrist with one careful finger then two and folds himself up next to where Yoongi is curled small and says—

“Yoongi-hyung.”

He says it the same way he used to when they were younger, before Yoongi left and then Taehyung left.  Like it means something else. 

“I want to live here.” Taehyung whispers.  His eyes brim like he might cry.  It makes it look like he has frost caught in his long lashes.  Yoongi has to resist the urge to lift up and touch, to see if Taehyung’s tears are cold like they look.  “With you.”  Taehyung adds.  Yoongi digs his fingers into the seam of his jeans.  “I want to live here with you.”  Taehyung says.  “Please.”

Taehyung’s tears are hot when Yoongi reaches out. 

Taehyung buys three wooden framed prints and hangs them up in his room.  He says they are, in order, Schiele’s Autumn Sun and Trees, van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Klimt’s The Kiss.  This one is the biggest.  He hangs it where he can see it easily when he is lying down to sleep in bed.  He keeps up the fairy lights.  He sends for his things.  He decorates their kitchen with herbs.  He continues to badger Yoongi into cooking for them and then does all the dishes.  He feeds Yoongi starfruit and berries and strawberries at strange times.  It’s actually really nice.  Yoongi doesn’t even like sweet things that much, but Taehyung cuts strawberries and puts them in cream and sugar and gives them to Yoongi somehow always exactly right when Yoongi is getting a headache and needs to eat. 

It feels sweet, the way Taehyung smiles at Yoongi when he says thank you. 

Taehyung smiles a lot.  Taehyung smiles how he used to when they were younger.   In some ways, Taehyung’s not at all different from when they were younger.  In other ways he is.   

When they were little, Taehyung was always covered in dirt, always running running running, strawberry juice and late summer berries, leaves in his hair, mischievous glint in his eyes, taking care of the little kids who ran behind him, stopping for the ones who were slower, weaving it into the game so seamlessly that the others didn't notice.  Yoongi did, a few years older, sitting on sidewalk corners watching, getting roped into the games by Taehyung's eager hands, eager eyes, eager laughter.  Dandelions tucked behind Yoongi's ear, strawberries and cream shoved in between Yoongi's lips, Taehyung's laughter all ringing ringing ringing through the air like bells, 

hyung, tag, you're it, you have to catch me, catch me, hyung

(catch me catch me catch me)

Taehyung's older now and Yoongi is too.  They don't play tag or run around Daegu and soak up the sun.  They don't hunt for fairy rings in the forest.  They don't sit at their parents’ feet at campfires, Taehyung pressed up close to Yoongi's side, while they whisper.  Or they do, Yoongi supposes, but different.  Taehyung drags him into the woods while he takes pictures.  They press up close in the greenhouse and talk.

Taehyung's older now and Yoongi is too.  They don't go barefoot anymore.  They have to worry about things like looking presentable and meeting expectations.  Or they’re supposed to worry about these things, but they keep forgetting.  Taehyung ties Yoongi’s hair up with a gudetama barrette while he’s working at his computer.  Taehyung wears silk pajamas and denim jackets to the grocery store.  Taehyung swims in his clothes and somehow looks like he’s floating.  Yoongi swims in his clothes but he thinks he looks like he’s drowning. 

Taehyung's older now and Yoongi is too.  They worry about if Taehyung's photographs will sell and if Yoongi's tracks will sell and if they will have enough money to keep the greenhouse at proper temperatures if there’s a late season ice storm and if maybe they should have listened to everyone who told them to go to school properly.  To stop trying to make art.  To stop trying to find beauty. 

They both make decent enough money actually.  Yoongi sells tracks fairly frequently, gets paid to review albums and write criticisms and accolades.  Taehyung paints pictures and takes photos that sell for more than he expects them to every time.  It’s something about the fact that they’re selling the things they’re making though.  Yoongi thinks that’s why it all feel so uneasy.  

Sometimes it feels like leasing out my soul, Yoongi tells Taehyung accidentally, drinking soju and hanging off the couch, Taehyung’s open face making it too easy to be honest and say things Yoongi usually tries to keep folded neatly inside.  Sometimes I feel like I’m renting out my soul when I sell my music to the highest bidder. 

Don’t feel like that, Taehyung tells him and looks at the canvas he has been working on all day.  I want to take a knife to it, he tells Yoongi. 

They fold Yoongi’s music sheets and cut them into paper snowflakes.  They throw paint at Taehyung’s painting. 

I think it actually looks better now, Taehyung murmurs. 

Fuck, Yoongi says. 

Don’t swear, Taehyung chides, do we have tape?  We should hang our snowflakes up. 

Taehyung's older now and Yoongi is too.  

They're responsible.   

They're adults.  

Taehyung's older now and Yoongi is too and they—

(don't.

won't.

can't?

Yoongi doesn't know.)

—breathe into it.

It’s like being strangled sometimes.  

They look at each other across their tiny rickety kitchen table and Taehyung says, almost conversationally, 

I don’t think I can breathe, hyung

Yoongi looks at all the water rising from the ground, tripping up up up, right up to their necks, and says, cold lake in his mouth, Holly pressed against his chest,

you know what? me either

It helps, actually.  Saying the words out loud.  Hearing them acknowledged by someone else.  Trying to breathe together.   

 

  

****

 

 

Yoongi is good at some things and not so great at others.  He’s good at taking care of people, not so good at taking care of himself.  He’s getting better at that one though.  Has been getting better at that one.  He’s learned how to get better at that one.   He’s learning how to get better at that one.  

He goes to the old bookstore on the outskirts of the city and he and Namjoon sit there and pore over the books like dragons to gold.  Namjoon pulls books down from shelves wildly, this one and this one and this o— no, not this one— this one, here it is. hyung, it changed my life and some of them change Yoongi’s life and some of them do not at all and he and Namjoon argue it out. 

Taehyung giggles and joins in. 

Taehyung and Namjoon understand each other, read the same books and then different ones but find the same sorts of things in them from opposite angles.  Yoongi likes watching them talk because sometimes they don’t seem quite like they should get along as well as they do, and yet they get along brilliantly even when they’re agreeing at opposites. 

Taehyung thinks people are good because he believes it.

Namjoon thinks people are basically good because he wants to believe it.

Yoongi doesn’t say, but he thinks people are basically good because he has to believe it. 

They walk back home from the bus stop, Taehyung skipping steps in front of Yoongi and then waiting for him to catch up before doing it again-again.  He slows, trails behind Yoongi as he thinks and then hop-skip-jumps right to Yoongi’s side. 

“Is it childish?”  

“What?”  Yoongi asks, glancing at Taehyung and the way he looks warm despite one of those strange April chills, the world not quite strong enough to fully shake off winter yet. 

“To want to believe that people are basically good.  To believe that.  To think that.”

“No.”  Yoongi says. 

“No?”  Taehyung queries.  “Are you sure?”

Yoongi thinks about every bad person he’s met and all the bad things he’s read about and the surety that sometimes sinks into his bones, 

at the root of it, at the root of us, in our marrow, we are not good

and then he looks at Taehyung and thinks—

no

because Taehyung may be the best of them, but the best of them is what they’re supposed to be.  What they can be.  What they have the potential to be.  Taehyung is a good thing, a good thing in this world.   Yoongi finds himself thinking things like that more and more lately.  He’s not sure he should be thinking things like that, sugar sweet type things, ripe peaches and juice running down your wrist type things, stay in my bed and don’t leave type things, but he is. 

Taehyung’s looking at him. 

“No.”  Yoongi says more firmly.  “I think people might be good too.  Basically good.”

“Do you?”  Taehyung asks.

“I have to think that.”  Yoongi says and thinks of every bad thing he feels like he’s ever done. 

“Even if it is childish,” Taehyung says after a moment, “I don’t think I mind.  Maybe sometimes it’s okay to see things like a child does.  Childhood is when the most important thing is just— being.”

“Maybe.”  Yoongi says.  “Yeah.”

Taehyung tries to teach him how to paint that evening, Yoongi holding the brush awkwardly in his hand, feeling like the paint should slip out like how ink does.  He feels confused how to make the images in his head into pictures.  He sees things in sound waves maybe, in piano keys, in memories, and not however Taehyung sees them.  Yoongi doesn’t feel that he’s particularly good at painting and he says as much.

“Not yet,” Taehyung tells him, “everything takes practice.”

“Life,” Yoongi tells Taehyung, as stoically as he can, “doesn’t give us a practice round.”

“That’s beautiful, hyung.”  Taehyung says, mimicking his serious tone.  “Wow, did you come up with that yourself?”

“It’s what we need the most practice at,” Yoongi says, staring off into the distance, making his voice as lofty as possible, “and the only thing we don’t get to practice— how to be human.”

“How to be human.”  Taehyung repeats, dragging a finger through his watercolors.  “How to be a good human.”

It doesn’t seem funny, when he says it. 

Yoongi shifts. 

“Hyung, here, like this.”  Taehyung says almost with a start.  His fingers on Yoongi’s wrist are soft.  He adjusts Yoongi’s grip and then lets go.  Quick, Yoongi thinks, too quick.  Taehyung's fingers are off his skin too quick. Too quick like spring.  Spring is soft and tugs on Yoongi’s wrist gently, but it’s always shorter than Yoongi wants it to be.  He thinks it every year, gets scared of it ending before it even starts to end.  He likes in-between seasons best, is all.  When everything is about to happen.  When everything is starting.

When he feels like he can begin.

 

 

****

 

 

Taehyung dances around on oil paint covered newspapers and presses gold leaf flecks to Yoongi's cheeks and the tip of his nose and makes friends with nearly everyone and sometimes cries, but only when he thinks Yoongi isn’t there or late at night, like he doesn’t want Yoongi to hear.  Yoongi honors that and doesn’t force it.  He wants to force it sometimes, wants to reach out to Taehyung and ask why but he knows what it’s like to want to cry quiet sometimes, to want to cry alone sometimes, so he doesn’t.  

Taehyung takes pictures of things, all sorts of things, and traces the lines of Yoongi’s hands— 

this is how you grow, this is how you learn to let your feet touch the ground, this this this

—even if he doesn’t realize he’s doing it.  Taehyung’s interesting like that.  Clever like that.  Intelligent like that.  Kind like that.  Taehyung loves like that.  Loves everything like that.  Loves Yoongi like that.  Just for being. 

“Paint with me?”  Taehyung asks. 

Yoongi’s still not particularly good at painting but he likes it.  Or maybe he likes the way Taehyung laughs as they sit together.  Likes the soft smell of sweetened licorice tea in the air.  Likes the windows open to let in the warm spring breeze and the flowers that are growing growing growing, vines and buds spilling into their home like overeager children.  He likes the music Taehyung puts on, music that spills out of the speakers like it's dancing.

The song they’re listening to swells and swells and swells and then the lead singer stops, and the music stops and the whole thing breaks into choral vocals like a wave cresting.  Taehyung, sitting on the floor next to Yoongi, has been whispering along softly the whole time but now he stops as well, throws his arms out and tilts his head back like the music is holding him up.  The second round through the main singer joins back in, a resonating sort of voice, and Taehyung joins in with him.  Sings properly.  Loudly.  Like it’s coming from the pit of his stomach. 

It something between hurts and helps Yoongi.  He watches Taehyung’s mouth move, his fingers tremble where they’re outstretched.  Yoongi wants to reach out and touch them, touch Taehyung, give Taehyung something to hold onto.  

When Taehyung tips his head back down and opens his eyes Yoongi says the only thing that comes to mind.

“You’re good at Japanese.  Really good.” 

Taehyung laughs.

“Everyone back home would be shocked, right?” 

Yoongi doesn’t understand.

“Everyone always said I could barely speak Korean, Taetae language, remember?”  His voice is so cheerful.  It makes Yoongi’s heart hurt.  “And here I am learning another language, no one would have thought I was smart eno—”

“Stop.”  Yoongi’s surprised by how his voice sounds.  “Fuck everyone who has ever said something like that to you.”  He sounds so angry.  “I have never ever thought that you were not intelligent.” He tries to control his voice.  “Fuck them.”  He says, voice now too soft.  “Fuck.”  He says. 

Taehyung looks at him for a long moment.  “Hyung.”  He whispers.  “Hyung, I didn’t mean that I thought you think that.  I didn’t mean it like that.  It’s okay." 

“No.”  Yoongi feels upset.  His stomach feels achy.  “I don’t want to paint anymore,” Yoongi says, presses the brush into Taehyung’s palm. 

Yoongi weaves Taehyung and their dogs flower crowns from the African violets that litter the house, writes soft angry raps, falls asleep on the couch curled up, watching the shape of Taehyung move.

When he wakes his notebook is neatly closed on the low table and Taehyung’s paints are neatly tidied and a blanket is neatly tucked over Yoongi’s entire body, right down to his toes.

Everything smells like coffee.

“I put cinnamon in it,” Taehyung tells Yoongi, sinking down by the couch, holding out a mug, “to cut the bitterness.”

“My coffee isn’t bitter.”  Yoongi tells Taehyung.

“Not anymore.” 

Taehyung’s hands are so warm. 

 

 

****

 

 

Taehyung crouches by Yoongi in Yoongi’s tiny greenhouse.

“Did you build this?”  Taehyung asks him.

“No,” Yoongi almost wants to laugh, “Tae, no, how would I know how to build a greenhouse?”

“I don’t know.”  Taehyung says.  “You’re good at things like that though, it seems reasonable to me that you could do this too.” 

“No.”  Yoongi shakes his head, tries to ignore the way his stomach flips happily at Taehyung’s words, “no, I just fixed it up a little, but it was here—whoever lived here before me they— it was here.”

Taehyung sort of hums in response and tilts his head back to look at the sky for a moment.  

“I meant to ask you that ages ago.”  He tells Yoongi.  “But then I wasn’t even sure it mattered because it’s yours now anyway.  You’ve made it yours.” 

Taehyung listens as Yoongi tells him what each flower is and what it does and when it helps and when it hurts and what it reminds Yoongi of.  Taehyung rests his head on Yoongi’s shoulder and sings to the plants and makes Yoongi sing too, your voice is nice, hyung. 

Taehyung asks which flowers are edible and then decorates their ramen with them, little purple petals instead of eggs and pickled bamboo.  Yoongi cuts seaweed into lily pads and Taehyung puts flowers on them and then laughs, so delighted, scoots his chair all the way around the table and draws his feet up so he can knock knees with Yoongi.

“Which one am I?”  Taehyung asks one night when they are out in the greenhouse, blanket on the ground, staring up at the stars.  “Hyung,” reaching a hand out and tapping on a trailing vine, “hyung, which one am I?  Which one reminds you of me?” looking straight at Yoongi now, eyes tired and unguarded. 

Yoongi sits up, folds his legs under him, and considers.

Yoongi cannot say honeysuckle because it smells like sweet young love and it’s too obvious and he cannot say sweet peas because they smell like waking up tangled together love and it’s too obvious and he cannot say lilac because it smells like strong well-grown love and it’s too obvious and so Yoongi, at a loss, reaches out and touches hydrangeas and when Taehyung says why? Yoongi does not say—

because the pink ones look like beating hearts and they mean deep felt emotion and I feel like that when I look at you and the blue ones, they mean sorry and I’m sorry that I can’t help you when you’re sad and the purple ones mean I want to understand you and I do, Tae, I want to.

He doesn’t say any of that.

All Yoongi says is

nothing

which is maybe obvious in its own way.

Taehyung drops his head onto Yoongi’s shoulder. 

“Maybe not these ones,” Yoongi tells Taehyung, “maybe not these ones after all, I think I was wrong.  They’re a selfish flower, so many flowers and so few seeds, and that’s not right at all.  That’s not you at all.  I just— they’re in such full bloom.”  Which is much too close to what he’s not sure he’s ready to say, not sure he has quite enough of a grip on yet to be able to say.

He holds his breath.

Taehyung just says,

“I see.”

and then,

“Sometimes it’s okay to be a little selfish, hyung.  Like hoping that you get to be happy. Or saving something special just for yourself.  Sometimes that’s okay, I think.”

“Okay,” Yoongi whispers.  They sit in quiet for a moment and then Yoongi reaches out and touches a sprig of lavender.  “Maybe this one.”

Taehyung hums.  “Lavender?” 

because you smell like lavender and soap. because I think it smells like graceful love. because lavender helps me sleep and soothes small hurts.

“Tell me something I don’t know about lavender.”  Taehyung says. 

“It’s one of my favorites.”  Yoongi says senselessly.

Taehyung presses his nose into Yoongi’s shoulder. 

“I see.”  He whispers.  

When they go inside Yoongi plays endlessly lilting minuets on the piano and Taehyung paints in big sweeping movements like something inside him is struggling to get out.

That night Taehyung crawls into Yoongi’s bed for the first time in a while.  He fits himself around Yoongi.  He holds on.  Yoongi sinks into his touch and touches back, tentative at first and then with purpose.  He pulls Taehyung close and holds him while he falls asleep. 

 

 

****

 

 

Sometimes they take trains together.

They take trains and then local trains and then old steam engines that have been plucked out of Ghibli movies and set, for some reason, in the corners of Korea.  They take those, they take them out as far as they can.  

They get off on stops where they don't know where they are. 

They roam through farms, camera clutched in one of Taehyung’s hands, the other one holding tight to Yoongi’s wrist, tugging him along.

Taehyung’s always been good at that.  

Even when he was far away or Yoongi was far away.  Always so good at helping Yoongi breathe.  Helping him go outside and find music in rustling brooks and wailing winds and lilting overheard conversations.  Helping him find melodies in the taste of fresh sugar snap peas or persimmon tea or dark rich coffee. 

Taehyung takes Yoongi by the wrist and tugs him forward and they stumble into all the good good good together.   

On this warm lit up like a firefly summer day, Taehyung chases Yoongi into a brook.  A surprised loud and happy sound escapes Yoongi despite the fact that he’s wet and shaking.  Taehyung wraps himself all around Yoongi in apology.  It’s too hot to be wrapped up around each other but Yoongi leans into it and lets himself melt, buttery honey warm in Taehyung’s arms.  

And usually they go home, but on this warm lit up like a firefly summer night, Taehyung has made them bring the dogs and used money from a sold painting and a potential series of photographs to rent them a tiny room in a tiny inn.  They take overly warm baths and then Taehyung pours them ice cold soju and they drink and eat fresh fish, dogs curled by their feet, Taehyung with lips softly pursed as they talk. 

Taehyung pushes a piece of squid toward Yoongi.

“Look,” he says, “look at this— they cut it to look like a leaf, it’s so pretty.” 

His smile is so pretty.

Yoongi’s chest feels funny. 

“Look at this.”  Taehyung says later, rolling over until he’s on Yoongi’s blankets.  He holds up his phone and puts an earbud in Yoongi’s ear and they watch a music video together.  It’s a man in a dark room.  It’s Tokyo.  It’s human bodies in the shape of a cityscape.  It makes Yoongi feel not lonely exactly but isolated somehow.  He watches the singer skate his hands across someone’s ribs, their leg, up and down again, tracing the people into the air, tracing the city into their bodies, tracing their bodies into a city.  Everyone’s skin looks like marble.  Everything looks cold.  Yoongi feels tired.  He closes his eyes tight, opens them again.  The screen is black, the video over.

“I don’t know why,” he tells Taehyung, “but that made me sad.”

“He wasn’t well when he wrote it.”  Taehyung says.  His reflection in his phone is sort of strange.  Yoongi can almost see him but can’t see him at all.

“Are you well?”  Yoongi asks Taehyung. 

“Are you?”  Taehyung responds.

Yoongi’s heart feels funny. 

“Sometimes.”  Yoongi tells him.  “Are you?”

“I don’t know yet.”  Taehyung says and turns away, tumbles back to his blankets.

It’s hard to fall asleep.  It’s always hard to fall asleep.  Yoongi watches the patch of moonlight on the floor between him and Taehyung.  He watches clouds cover it and then move away.  He closes his eyes.  He opens them.  

Taehyung rolls over and crashes into him like a wave, pulling his light blanket with him.  He cuddles into Yoongi’s side and then pulls Yoongi to his chest, throws an arm and leg around Yoongi and holds him.

“Right now, yes.”  Taehyung whispers, as though they were talking minutes ago instead of hours. 

They lie together for a long quiet moment.  Yoongi skims a hand up Taehyung’s body.

“Why did you come home, Tae?”  Yoongi whispers.

Taehyung doesn’t answer but he also doesn’t still against Yoongi like he doesn’t want to answer.  He just does nothing, wrapped around Yoongi, breathing deep, his chest expanding against Yoongi’s cheek.  For a moment Yoongi almost thinks he’s asleep, but then Taehyung speaks.

“I was going to tell you that I didn’t, that I’m not from Seoul, that this isn’t home,” Taehyung says.  His voice sounds like he has a cold, “but that’s not entirely true because I don’t know if I fit in Daegu like I used to either.”  He pauses, runs a hand up to the nape of Yoongi’s neck and presses a little, like he wants to keep Yoongi there against his chest.  Yoongi presses his nose into Taehyung’s breastbone and breathes him in, soap and lavender.  “And then,” Taehyung continues, “I almost said something like you sort of make Seoul feel like home anyway and meant it.  Isn’t that silly?”

Instead of answering Yoongi closes his eyes as tight as he can.  He slides his hand to Taehyung’s side, finds the bottom of his ribcage, rubs gently with his thumb.  When he finds it in himself, he pulls back a little so that he can speak clearly.

“Did something happen?”  Yoongi asks.  “In Japan, did something happen?”

“No.”  Taehyung says.  “No, it really wasn’t— nothing happened.  Nothing happened but it was everything, kind of.  I just.  I was sitting in a park and it was raining, and I was looking at this lily pad in the lake getting all batted around by the storm.  And I sat there and looked at it and thought to myself you need to choose where you want to be.  I felt like I was just— drifting.  Like I had been drifting.  Letting things act on me instead of making decisions.  I just felt out of place.  Slightly the wrong size or shape or something.”

Yoongi thinks he understands. 

“Is it better now?”  He asks even though he thinks it’s maybe not.  Feelings like that don’t change with latitude and longitude, not in Yoongi’s experience.  “Now that you’re home?  Almost-home?  Something like home?”

“Sometimes.”  Taehyung says. 

They’re quiet for a while.

“Taehyung-ah,” Yoongi says eventually, not sure what he wants to follow it up with— you feel the right size?  thank you for trusting me with that? I know what you mean as best I can since we’re different people?—nothing is quite right but he wants to speak.    

Taehyung makes a muffled sound, a more than half asleep sound.

“Sleep.” He says thickly. 

“Was trying to.”  Yoongi tells him, pinches his side.  “Until you interrupted me.”

“Sleeeeeep.” Taehyung groans.

“You sound like a zombie.”  Yoongi informs him.

Taehyung wiggles down and very gently bites Yoongi’s shoulder.  His mouth is wet and warm even though Yoongi’s sleep shirt. 

Yoongi shivers.

“Now you’re a zombie too.”  Taehyung whispers.  “Sleep.” 

Yoongi’s stomach feels funny.

“Sleep.” Taehyung repeats, and drags his mouth back up to Yoongi’s hair.  Barely there kisses.  He rests his chin on the top of Yoongi’s head.  “Let’s sleep now, Yoongi-hyung.”

 

 

****

 

 

In late summer, Yoongi has a day where he feels particularly sunsick and can't find it in him to go outside.  These days happen sometimes.  Yoongi thinks maybe they’ll always happen.  It takes effort to force himself out of bed.  Everything is very bright. 

Taehyung cracks windows and tugs Yoongi up and they roam barefoot through their tiny house, up and down the rickety steps, around the kitchen with Yeontan and Holly barking and twining around their feet.

Taehyung throws clean white sheets over them as they sit, dead center, in Yoongi's bed.  Yoongi hugs his pillow tighter to his chest and tips over, presses his face right into the curve of Taehyung's knee and the silk of his pajama pants and lets the sheet settle over him, warm and cotton and sunflower fresh.  

Taehyung tells him it’s okay, hyung, it’s okay, it’s just me, leaning over and pressing close, his face as near as he can get it to Yoongi’s ear, lips so warm they feel cold.  Yoongi’s heart feels like late winter ice, delicate and transparent and just about to break. 

Taehyung does that, makes Yoongi's heart feel like late winter ice, but Yoongi means it in the best possible way.  It’s strange, because Yoongi thinks maybe it should feel bad, being made to feel like something about to break, but it just makes Yoongi feel precious.  Feel like he is being seen through gentle eyes.  When Taehyung smiles at him or touches him, it’s like how he looks at paintings by Klimt or those vibrant photographs by McGinley— like it’s something that’s important to him.  It's like Yoongi’s something that’s important to him. 

I love you, Taehyung says,

and the ice cracks and all the deep deep deep comes out and Yoongi cries until he can’t cry anymore. 

After, Taehyung sits Yoongi up and pretends like Yoongi hasn’t been crying.  Yoongi feels grateful for that.  Taehyung presses cool hands to Yoongi’s hot cheeks and says, 

there you are 

like he was worried Yoongi had disappeared when their eyes weren't meeting.

Taehyung makes them popsicles out of pomegranate juice.  They sit and are quiet while they wait for them to freeze.  They eat them late that night in the backyard, digging their toes into the grass and the soil underneath, letting the starlight touch their skin.  The stars are a good kind of bright, not so bright they hurt. 

Taehyung presses up against Yoongi’s side and doesn’t say much of anything at all. 

It’s nice. 

Yoongi feels safe. 

He digs his toes into the dirt and holds Taehyung's hand and eats his popsicle and looks at the stars.

Later, in bed, Yoongi will think that Taehyung makes him think of fresh soil, the good kind, the kind you're covered with at the end of a proper day, when you've been out in the garden for hours and hours, the sun kissing your skin gently and then ushering you back inside, sending you to bed like a mother would.  Taehyung reminds Yoongi of that, of coming inside and smelling like life, like things that have started to grow.

Taehyung helps things grow. 

 

 

****

 

 

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, from upside down on the couch.

It’s hot today.  Too hot.  Taehyung’s not wearing a shirt and his skin is glistening like a caramel apple in sunlight and Yoongi is finding it very distressing.  He averts his eyes again, considers going to his room, hiding under his duvet, passing out from heat stroke. 

“Yoongi-hyung.”  Taehyung repeats.

“Yes, Tae?”  Yoongi unpeels himself from where he is lying, heads to the kitchen.  “Do you want barley tea?”

“My kingdom for barley tea.”  Taehyung says.

“Great.”  Yoongi says.  “Do you have a property deed?”

Taehyung makes a small sound of anguish from the couch.    

When Yoongi returns he puts the cold glass of tea on Taehyung stomach, moving it away quick when Taehyung yelps, jerks.  Yoongi grins and then looks away from how pretty Taehyung is when he rights himself, holds out his hands for his tea.

“Hyung, please tell me something I don’t know.” 

A request that Yoongi has gotten used to.

“In World War II the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish army had a bear enlisted in their ranks.  He started as a private.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says slowly, lifting his eyes from his glass, “I’m sorry, what did you just say to me?”

Yoongi allows himself a moment to feel slightly victorious before he continues. 

“His name was Wojtek.  He was promoted to corporal for acts of bravery during a battle.”

“He what.”  Taehyung says flatly. 

“He was promoted to corporal.”  Yoongi repeats.

“What— what battle?”  Taehyung asks, brow furrowed.

“I don’t know Tae, I’m not, like, super well-informed about Polish military history.”

Taehyung puts his glass of tea on the table in front of him, slides off the couch, and crawls over, becomes disturbingly part of Yoongi’s personal space, his hands on Yoongi’s knees, then his thighs.  Taehyung’s hands are warm and soft and Yoongi wants Taehyung to slide them up up up, so he does the reasonable thing and twists away, tries to shake Taehyung off. 

“I’m sorry.”  Taehyung says, holding on tight.  Yoongi stills.  “Can you just— repeat yourself?”

His eyes are very wide.

“There was a bear,” Yoongi says slowly, “enlisted in the Polish army—”

“Enlisted,” Taehyung repeats, nodding.

“—during World War II.”  Yoongi continues.  “He was promoted to corporal during his career.”

“Promoted.”  Taehyung echoes.

“His name was Wojtek, Corporal Wojtek.  He was in battles, he drank condensed milk from a vodka bottle, there’s a statue for him.”

“Condensed milk.”  Taehyung whispers, eyes seeing something far away.  “Vodka bottles.”

“Yes.”  Yoongi says.

“This is absolutely untrue.”  Taehyung says with a nod.  “Absolutely.”

“Google it.”  Yoongi says and twists himself out of Taehyung’s grip, lays back down next to the fan, and waits.

“Oh my god.”  Taehyung says eventually.  “Hyung, oh my god, there was a small bear—oh no he got big, oh my god, are they wrestling with him?  Hyung, hyung, look at this one, oh my god, he was so cute.  Oh my god.”

“I told you.”  Yoongi sniffs.

“Oh my god.”  Taehyung says.  “His name was Wojtek.”

“I said that already.”  Yoongi murmurs. 

Taehyung collapses, presses his warm side all up against Yoongi’s.  

“They should make an anime out of this.”  Taehyung says.  He sounds so dreamy that Yoongi starts to laugh, tries to bite back the sound.  “I’m serious.”  Taehyung says.  “Oh my god, the guy who did Yurio from Yuri on Ice could be the bear’s voice.”

“Oh my god.”  Yoongi says, trying to bite down his laughter.  “Tae,” he manages, “they’re not going to make an anime about this.  I don’t even know who they are but— they’re not going to.”

“We could make an anime.”  Taehyung says, turns to Yoongi with wide and determined eyes. 

Trying to stop himself from laughing is a lost cause at this point so Yoongi just gives in.

“Hyung stop laughing.”  Taehyung says.  “I could draw a storyboard.  I could get Jeonggukie to animate it until we pick up investors.  You can voice the bear.  Stop laughing.”

Yoongi’s not sure he’ll ever be able to stop laughing, like some sort of personal hell, all of his emotions will forever be visible and obvious and right on the top layer of his skin, unwieldy and uncontrollable. 

Taehyung holds his serious face for a few more seconds and then starts to laugh.  The joy in it sets Yoongi off again and it’s too hot to be laughing this hard and it’s not that funny and Yoongi’s laughing laughing like he hasn’t in ages, for reasons he doesn’t even understand.

Taehyung rolls onto his side and pokes his nose into Yoongi’s shoulder. 

“I like the way your laughs sounds,” Taehyung says, “I wish I could keep it.”

you can, Yoongi wants to say. 

It’s too hot to touch but he lifts his hand up anyway, trails his fingers up and down Taehyung’s bare arm.  Taehyung presses a not kiss to his shoulder.

“Why do you know about Corporal Wojtek?”  Taehyung asks.

“He’s a distant relative of mine.”  Yoongi tells him.

Taehyung’s laugh sounds sweet as honey and feels like cotton against Yoongi’s skin.  If Yoongi could paint he would use all warm colors, golds and reds and gentle yellows, to try to explain it.

 

 

****

 

 

“You love that kid a lot, huh?”  Hoseok says, peering around Namjoon’s shoulder, all of them watching out the door as Taehyung throws himself into Jimin and Jeongguk’s arms.  It’s early fall but the weather thinks it’s late fall.  Taehyung hasn’t seemed to notice though.  Yoongi shivers in sympathy.

Taehyung shrieks,

“Busan released you!”

“We literally were just visiting.”  Jimin’s laughter sounds like piano chords.

“Missed you.” Jeongguk says. 

“Everyone loves Taehyung.”  Yoongi tells Hoseok.

“That they do.”  Hoseok says.

Namjoon kicks his feet against the counter and both he and Hoseok look at Yoongi for a moment before they redirect their gazes outside. 

“Seokjin-hyung should get here soon.”  Hoseok says, after a beat. 

Taehyung laughs from outside and Yoongi glances up, can’t help the small smile that plays at his lips.  He watches Jimin and Taehyung link hands, swing them wildly, watches Jeongguk tilt back with laughter.  Taehyung catches Yoongi’s eyes and smiles wide, gestures at Jimin and Jeongguk, mouths they’re back!

Yoongi smiles, nods.

Hoseok and Namjoon are looking at him, when he turns back. 

“Everyone loves Taehyung.”  Yoongi repeats. 

“Yep.”  Hoseok says.  “He sure does love you a lot too, huh?”

“Taehyung loves everyone.”  Yoongi says.

“I mean, it’s not that what you’re saying isn’t accurate, Yoongi-hyung.”  Namjoon says.

“Shut it.”  Yoongi says. 

Namjoon laughs and shakes his head.  Hoseok shrugs, smiles fondly, looks down at his phone when it buzzes, and they drop it.  They let Yoongi drop it. They’re good friends.  They don’t say what all of them are thinking—

You love him different though, Yoongi.  You’re in love with him. 

—because they know Yoongi already knows that.  Because they know words like that are hard to say. 

I love you

There are more ways that goes wrong than right, Yoongi thinks.  More ways it goes sideways than there should be. 

Yoongi holds the words under his tongue and considers them. 

Love is such a strangely weighted word.

He thinks on them.  Tries to make them into actions.    

Love is such a strange weight.

 

 

****

 

 

They’ve been staring at Taehyung’s blank canvas for so long that Yoongi’s eyes hurt with all the white. 

“Hmm.”  Taehyung says.  He trails a finger over Yoongi’s knuckles, watches the skin move under his fingertip, and then turns back to the blank canvas.  “Hmmm.”  He says, his head resting on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“You should paint the backyard.”  Yoongi says.  There was an early snowstorm last night.  Everything is white.  “Won’t even have to use much paint.” 

Taehyung laughs. 

Yoongi wonders, when Taehyung laughs his tiny little skipping laugh, that tiny little thing that's all back-lit in warm gold and soft silk, what would happen if Yoongi kissed the corner of Taehyung's mouth, just exactly right there where Taehyung’s laugh gets caught. 

He thinks about that sometimes.  About other things.  About locking their fingers.  Pressing a kiss to Taehyung’s temple and then letting his lips linger, pressing a kiss to the shell of Taehyung’s ear, the curve of his cheekbone, the soft swell of his bottom lip.   

He wonders if Taehyung knows how Yoongi feels or if Yoongi’s covered it up so well that Taehyung can’t tell.   

Sometimes Taehyung looks at him like he’s waiting for something.

Sometimes Taehyung looks at him and Yoongi has to look away quick, before Taehyung sees what he’s thinking.  Figures him out.  

Taehyung used to be able to do that to Yoongi when they were little— look at him and see right through to his heart, no matter what sort of scowl Yoongi affixed to his face.   Taehyung probably still can.  They’re not kids anymore, and they were apart for so long it felt like forever but—

Taehyung probably still can. 

Taehyung still can. 

Taehyung shifts, puts his legs on Yoongi’s lap.

“I know what I’m going to do with it.”  Taehyung says suddenly.  He turns, reaches out, cups Yoongi’s face in his hands. 

Yoongi resists the knee-jerk reaction to shrink back, to curl into himself.  He tries to lean into the touch.  He thinks he must succeed because Taehyung smiles one of his little smiles, the tiny ones that hold something mighty.  Taehyung’s thumbs stroke Yoongi’s cheekbones.  Yoongi looks him in the eye and lets him see what he will see.   

“Make it grow.”  Taehyung whispers.   

“You’re good at that,” Yoongi tells him and wraps his fingers around the bones of Taehyung’s wrists, “making things grow.”

“So are you.”  Taehyung says.

He presses their foreheads together before he lets go.

Yoongi feels breakable.

 

 

****

 

 

When Taehyung can't do it anymore, when he curls up into a tiny ball like a forlorn kitten, staring unseeing at big blank swaths of white, all long messy hair and creamy golden skin,  

then

then

then 

Yoongi cuts them strawberries and puts them in cream so that Taehyung has something sweet to eat.  He cuts flowers and puts them around the house, just in case Taehyung wants to see colors.  He is quiet until he can tell Taehyung doesn’t want to be quiet anymore.  He asks Taehyung what tattoo he would get if he was going to get one and they scroll through endless instagrams, pressed together on the couch, trying to find an artist they would trust.  He teaches Taehyung how to play piano even though Taehyung already knows for the most part.  Yoongi teaches him just like he did when Taehyung was little and would pull himself onto the bench by Yoongi and say, 

hyung teach me, me too, I want to play like hyung 

Yoongi fits his hands over Taehyung's and they play scales.  Minor scales.  Up and down, up and down.

Taehyung says, 

“Hyung,”

and then his voice stops like he doesn’t know where he was going with that.  He looks at Yoongi like it hurts.

Yoongi pulls Taehyung into Taehyung's room and cuddles him into the sheets and turns on his fairy lights and turns on Grave of the Fireflies and they cry because it is sad.  He lets Taehyung cuddle into his chest and fall asleep or pretend to sleep or just be exhausted as night settles over the house.

“Hyung, let me take your picture.”  Taehyung says the next morning, up before Yoongi, lying spread-eagled on the floor.

Yoongi, still half caught in dreams, looks down at him and nods. 

Taehyung takes endless pictures.  Yoongi doesn’t know what he’s trying to find.  He lets him search if it will help.  He takes pictures of Yoongi in the rising sunlight, Yoongi on the window seat, pressed up against the glass that’s nighttime chilled and morning-sun warmed, Holly and Yeontan in his lap, a cup of coffee Taehyung made him in his hands.  

Taehyung puts on a song that makes Yoongi feel sad. 

Yoongi watches Taehyung mouth the words to himself.

“What’s he saying?”  Yoongi asks, glancing down as Yeontan shifts.  He realizes, as he looks down, that the sweater he’s wearing is Taehyung’s.  He adjusts the hem with one hand, hears the camera click when both of his hands are cupping his coffee again. 

The song is starting to swell.  The chorus is going to start again, Yoongi thinks. 

He looks up and Taehyung is looking at him, camera somewhere near his heart.  Taehyung is looking at Yoongi like he wants to understand something but Yoongi doesn't know what.  Yoongi drops his eyes, puts the mug down, pulls his sleeves over his hands, his bitten thumbs.

“He’s saying it’s hard to live like that.”  Taehyung answers.  “Because it’s hard to live, that’s why we prayed.”

Yoongi snaps his gaze up, but Taehyung lifts the camera at the exact same second and Yoongi can’t see his eyes.

“Can I use the upstairs bathroom to make a darkroom?”  Taehyung asks.  He doesn’t put his camera down.  Yoongi looks into the lens like he can see through it, like he can see Taehyung.

“Okay.”  He whispers.

He doesn’t see Taehyung for most of the rest of the day.

Late that night, before they sleep, Taehyung stops Yoongi in the hall and shows Yoongi the pictures he has developed.  The one of Yoongi looking dead at the camera is terrible.  The look in Yoongi’s eyes is terrible.  

because it’s hard to live

Yoongi looks at it for a long time.

that’s why we prayed

“Night hyung.”  Taehyung says.  His door closes with the softest click.

Yoongi goes to bed but doesn’t sleep.  He stares at the ceiling.  He stares at the ceiling until his eyes have adjusted to the darkness completely and then he reaches for his phone.

kim taehyung, Yoongi texts, kim taehyung, I love you.

Taehyung’s phone buzzes through the wall, there is the sound of movement, of blankets and sheets, and then a quiet pause.  Taehyung’s door clicks, the hallway creaks.  Yoongi’s door cracks open and Taehyung shuffles into the room without speaking, burrows under Yoongi’s comforter from the bottom up, fits himself, very small, into Yoongi’s arms.

“Tae.”  Yoongi whispers.

Yoongi can’t tell if the tears Taehyung is crying are good ones or bad ones.  Taehyung cries so hard and so long it scares Yoongi.  He holds him close, close close close, and whispers, words easier in the dark—

“I love you, Tae.”

Taehyung makes a very strange sound, like something heavy being dropped low to the ground.

"I love you."  Yoongi says again. He wants Taehyung to know, to know this, however Taehyung takes it to mean.  It's true all sorts of ways. 

The room is silent for so long.  Yoongi is afraid to move.

“I love you too.”  Taehyung whispers, lifting his face up from Yoongi's chest.  His features are mostly hidden in moonlight and shadows.  “Yoongi-hyung, I love you too.”

In the morning Yoongi makes them coffee.

“I put cinnamon in it,” he tells Taehyung, “to cut the bitterness.”

Taehyung’s face is red and puffy.  He’s cuddled under Yoongi’s duvet like he’s not thinking of leaving.  The dye is fading from his hair and his roots are black. 

“Your coffee isn’t bitter.”  He whispers, bites at his lip.

“Not anymore.”  Yoongi says and waits until Taehyung lifts the covers and lets Yoongi back into his warmth.

 

  

****

 

 

They’re both going back to Daegu for a bit, since it’s Christmas.  They’re going home.  Sort of home.  Once upon a time home.  They take the train together.  Yoongi falls asleep on Taehyung’s shoulder and wakes to Taehyung playing with his fingers, graceful hands tracing the shape of Yoongi into the air. 

At the station Taehyung gives Yoongi a hug and then runs to catch his bus.  His words linger even after he’s gone.

See you back home, hyung.

Yoongi makes the trek to his parent’s house.  Even though it’s not home anymore it’s nice, being here.  It didn’t use to be nice, use to make him feel strange, maybe like the way Taehyung had said— like he was the wrong size.  He still feels that a little, but he understands it better now.  He’s allowed to grow up.  He’s allowed to change.  He’s allowed to change how he interacts with this space, with what it means to him.  

His mother seems smaller than he remembers when he hugs her, but her eyes are bright and she seems healthy.  His father gives him a hug and then ruffles his hair, like he used to do when Yoongi was little, really little.  Yoongi laughs and finds it’s not in spite of himself.  He shakes his hair back out and follows them into the kitchen.

Yoongi’s childhood bedroom feels cold.  His twin bed feels strangely empty.  Holly seems forlorn.  They curl together under the blankets. 

He sinks into being home.  Lets his parents take care of him.  Shoots the shit with his brother.  Travels around to aunt’s and uncle’s houses.  Lets Daegu seep into his voice, until it’s back under his tongue and in his marrow.  

He calls Taehyung on December 29th.

“Yoongi-hyung.”  Taehyung says.

“Hi, Taehyung-ah.  Happy almost-birthday.”

“Thank you.”  Taehyung says.  “Thank you, thank you.  Everyone’s coming over tomorrow, it’s going to be a mess.”  He sounds delighted.  “Everyone, hyung.  Cousins I didn’t even realize I have are coming over.”

“A proper bash.”  Yoongi says.

“A hootenanny.”  Taehyung says.  “Namjoon-hyung taught me that word.”

“There’s no way Joon taught you that word.” 

“Correct.  I heard it in a movie.”

Yoongi gets back to Seoul three days into the new year.  He cleans their whole house from top to bottom.  Taehyung comes back two days later.  He smells like fresh snow and lavender.  He folds himself into Yoongi’s arms and holds on for a bit.

“Happy birthday.”  Yoongi says later, when Taehyung is out of the shower and something like his approximation of unpacked. 

“That is the smallest bottle of champagne I have ever seen.”  Taehyung says.

“You don’t like to drink.”  Yoongi whines.  “This way we won’t have a sad open bottle of champagne, we’ll have exactly just enough.”

“I was not complaining.”  Taehyung says.  “I’m delighted.  It’s the smallest bottle of champagne I’ve ever seen.  Thank you, Yoongi-hyung.”

Yoongi pops the champagne and gestures toward the table. 

“I made that.  Joon ate part of the trial run cake and he’s still alive so, even though I might not be great at baking, this probably won’t kill you.”

“Wow.”  Taehyung says.  “Bold claim.”

Yoongi flicks his cheek lightly, hands him his glass of champagne. 

“C’mon sit, eat, shut up.”

Taehyung giggles and sits downs, draws his legs up, coos at Yeontan and Holly where they circle the legs of his chair.

“Yoongi-hyung made it just for me.”  He tells them.  “I’m not sharing.”

Yoongi frowns and draws his legs up onto his own chair.

“Shut it.”  He mumbles.    

“It’s good.”  Taehyung tells Yoongi around a mouthful.  “Thank you, hyung.”

When Taehyung gets up from the table later he stretches big in the doorway to the kitchen.  His fingertips easily brush the top of the frame.

“Show off.”  Yoongi says.

Taehyung grins. 

“Are you coming to bed?” 

Yoongi doesn’t know what that means.

“I’m going to shower before I sleep.”  He tells Taehyung.

Damp and shower-warmed, Yoongi wavers outside Taehyung's door before he lifts his hand to knock.   

Taehyung doesn’t seem surprised, not when Yoongi knocks on his door, not when Yoongi quicksteps across the room, not when Yoongi curls up under the duvet, not when Yoongi sighs and puts his face on Taehyung’s chest.

“Hi hyung.”  He says and that’s all.

The moonlight reflects off everything, casts the room in a silvery watery color.  Taehyung has thin curtains that barely block out any light.  He would probably sleep with the windows open all year round if he could. 

Taehyung runs his fingers over the back of Yoongi’s hand where it’s resting on his sternum.

“Tell me something I don’t know?” He murmurs into the starlight.

“I looked it up,” Yoongi says, more suddenly than he means to, “the painting— that one, I looked it up.  In German, the name isn’t The Kiss.  It’s Liebespaar."

Taehyung hums, his fingers curl around Yoongi’s protectively.

“It means the lovers,” Yoongi tells Taehyung.

“It does,” Taehyung agrees.  His voice is so calm.  “I knew that though, hyung.”

“Klimt painted it during his golden period.  The height of his golden period, maybe.  Lots of gold leaf.”

“Yes.”  Taehyung agrees.

“1908, maybe.  1907, maybe.”  Yoongi says.

“I already know these things.”  Taehyung whispers, noses at Yoongi’s hair.  It’s such a small little thing but the simple intimacy of it feels ruinous. 

Yoongi takes a deep breath.

“I looked it up because you like it.  I looked it up because it’s your favorite."  That's close to what Yoongi wants to say.  "I looked it up because it's important to you."

Taehyung stills. 

“Thank you,” Taehyung breathes after a moment, "for doing that for me."

Yoongi lifts up a little so he can see Taehyung properly. 

Taehyung catches his gaze and just— 

holds it.  Like it’s something precious. 

Yoongi lifts up all the way up so that he can press a kiss to the corner of Taehyung’s mouth, just there, where his laugh gets caught sometimes.

“What was that for?”  Taehyung asks when Yoongi leans back.  His mouth is a little round ‘o’ of surprise but he doesn’t look upset. 

“Just— because.”  Yoongi flounders, sure it will be okay and terrified it won't all at once.  “Happy birthday, I guess.  I missed you, I guess.”

Taehyung smiles so wide it hurts.  Or it doesn’t hurt.  That’s not the word Yoongi wants.  It sticks.  It warms. 

“I missed you too.”  Taehyung says.

Yoongi burrows his face back into Taehyung’s chest and listens to the steady beat of Taehyung's heart, a little fast, a little like Yoongi’s is beating, sort of haywire. 

“Hyung?”  Taehyung asks. 

“Yeah?”  Yoongi whispers.

Taehyung wiggles under Yoongi until Yoongi lets him squirm down so their faces are even.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” 

Yoongi rolls onto his back, reaching up to run a hand through Taehyung’s hair when Taehyung curls onto his side automatically, rests his forehead on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“You’ve been home almost a year.”  Yoongi whispers.  “You’ve lived here almost a year, even though you told me you were only staying for a few days.” 

Taehyung shifts and looks up at Yoongi.

“I know that.”  He says uncertainly.  “Do you want me to leave?” 

“No,” Yoongi says, “I don’t want that, Tae.  Not at all.”  It’s so close to what he wants to say.  “I want you to stay here.”  Closer. “I’m glad you stayed.  Stayed with me.  I want you to stay here with me.”

It happens so quick.

Taehyung blinks up at him and then surges up and cups Yoongi’s face.  He kisses Yoongi’s cheeks and then his forehead and then once, devastatingly, his mouth.  Long enough it’s a real kiss.  Long enough Yoongi knows that underneath the spearmint toothpaste they use Taehyung tastes like something gentle.  

Taehyung settles back onto Yoongi’s chest with a hum. 

Tae, Yoongi wants to say, Tae, you can’t just do that.  You can’t just do that to me—

Yoongi’s mouth is frozen in that one second, Taehyung’s lips against his.  He runs his fingers through Taehyung’s hair once, twice, three times.

“Tae,” he manages, “Taehyung-ah

“Huh?”  Taehyung asks, lifting up a little so he can see Yoongi properly.  It’s like when their eyes meet he realizes what he did.  Yoongi knows he looks surprised, but he can't help it.  Taehyung winces, turns a snow-white pale under the tan of his skin, visible even in the moonlight.  “Oh shit,” he says, looking a bit frantic, “oh, hyung, so—sorry, I—hyung,” he twists out of Yoongi’s arms, sits bolt upright, blinking wide eyes at Yoongi.  “I didn’t mean to.”  He breathes.

“Didn’t mean to.”  Yoongi repeats, sitting up slowly, leaning against the headboard.

Taehyung nods wildly.  “Didn’t mean to.”  He whispers.  He looks like he might cry.  “Sorry, don’t be ma—"

“Can I tell you something you don’t know?”  Yoongi asks, cuts Taehyung off.

“I—” Taehyung blinks once, then twice.

“I’m not mad.”  Yoongi speaks quietly.  “Tae, I’m not upset that you kissed me.”  His eyes flick to Taehyung’s mouth unbidden, then to to the line of his jaw, the gentle curve of his cheekbone, back up to Taehyung’s eyes.  Yoongi chews on his lower lip.

“No?”  Taehyung asks.

“No.”  Yoongi whispers.  “Did you know that?”

“No.” Taehyung whispers back, moves closer and then, when Yoongi doesn’t move away, moves a little bit closer again.  “Maybe.”  He presses the duvet around Yoongi’s legs like he’s worried Yoongi will get cold.  "But it's better that you told me."

"Hm," Yoongi says.

Taehyung looks at him inquisitively.  

“Did you know,” Yoongi asks, his heart beating somewhere in his throat like a panicked baby bird, it's going to be okay, he tells himself, “did you know that Jinie-hyung asked me how long we’d been dating?  He was so angry I hadn’t told him.”  Yoongi chokes out.  “I literally thought he was going to end our friendship right there on the spot.  He was so disappointed in me, said I was ‘keeping important parts of my life from him’." 

“Oh dear.”  Taehyung says and smiles, soft and happy.  He moves a tiny bit closer to Yoongi.  

“I know.”  Yoongi says.  "Tell me something that I don't know, Tae."

“Jimin told me he was fairly certain we were married.”  Taehyung breathes.  “How do you feel about the fact that I kissed you? I don't know. Tell me what I don't know, hyung.”

Yoongi pulls his legs up so he’s sitting cross-legged, so Taehyung can shift a little bit closer.

“Happy,” Yoongi whispers, and then quick, before Taehyung can react, "what else did Jimin say?” 

“Well,” Taehyung says, spark in his eyes, mouth curving into a pretty pretty smile, “well, when I said we weren’t married he said so living in sin, are you? and then he asked me how the sin was and I said that, sadly, we were currently lacking in the sin part, me and you.”

“Taehyung.”  Yoongi chides.  

“I told him I’d let him know how it was if I ever got up the nerve to introduce some sin into our lives.” 

“Do not tell him.”  Yoongi says.

“Are you saying yes to sin?”  Taehyung asks.

“Please stop phrasing it like that.”  Yoongi reaches for Taehyung’s hand.

“Hyung,” Taehyung whispers, twining their fingers together, “hyung,  I would really like to sin with you.  Would be so into it.”

"I hate this."  Yoongi breathes.  “You’re insufferable.” 

“I thought you were telling me things I don’t know.”  Taehyung’s eyes dance in the low light.

Yoongi lifts a hand, touches Taehyung’s cheekbone.  Taehyung makes a little sound on the edge of hearing. 

“You’re not insufferable.”  Yoongi tells him.  “I don’t think you’re insufferable.”

“I know you don’t.”  Taehyung whispers.

“I want to kiss you.”  Yoongi tell him.  “Again, properly, many times, often."  He snaps his mouth shut.

“Yeah?” Taehyung asks quietly.  “That works out well, I want that too.”

Yoongi’s tilting toward Taehyung like gravity.  He’s tilting toward him like an inevitability.  He feels off balance and it feels good.  He wants to fall.  Taehyung’s with him.  He thinks they’ll land soft.

“Hyung?”  

“Yeah?” 

“No, just—” Taehyung smiles, “just that.  That’s all.  Are you going to kiss me now?” 

Yoongi leans in and kisses him somewhere between carefully and gently.

“Hyung,” Taehyung whispers when their lips part, “hyung—” his hands lifting up to the neckline of Yoongi's sleep shirt.  His fingers slide up, rest lightly against Yoongi’s pulse point.  He brings their mouths together again. 

Yoongi kisses him somewhere between I love you and I’ve loved you forever.  

Taehyung’s lips are soft and he’s kissing almost shyly, like he’s still not sure he’s allowed.  Yoongi presses up, slides a hand into Taehyung’s hair, nips at his lower lip and Taehyung makes a little sound, opens up to Yoongi like a flower, presses him back against the headboard. 

Yoongi kisses him somewhere between you help me grow and I’m starting to think maybe I help you grow too. 

“Again,” Taehyung says, when their mouths part, pulling Yoongi up, closer, almost into his lap, one arm fitting around Yoongi’s waist.   

Taehyung kisses him somewhere between hyung I feel the same and hyung I’ve loved you for so long.

“Again.”  Taehyung says, falls onto his back and doesn't let go, pulls Yoongi with him. 

Yoongi crawls onto him, over him, covers him like cotton sheets, takes his mouth like he can keep it. Taehyung tastes like honeysuckle and fresh mint.  Taehyung tastes like bright gold and sunlight.  Taehyung tastes like deep forest air.  Taehyung tastes like laughter.  Taehyung tastes like strawberries and cream and lavender syrup.  

“Tae,” Yoongi whispers, keeps their mouths close, “there’s one more thing.” 

“I think I know it already.”  Taehyung whispers back.

“Maybe.”  Yoongi says.  “Maybe, but can I say it anyway?”

“Yeah.”  Taehyung lifts up, presses a chaste kiss to his mouth.  “Yeah, yes please.”

“I love you.”  Yoongi says.  The word is such a strange weight but he can hold it now.

“I love you too.”  Taehyung’s fingers roam over Yoongi’s skin like his fingertips can see Yoongi, can take him in, can drink him down and keep him in a way his eyes can’t. 

“Sorry it took hyung so long to say it.”  Yoongi whispers. 

“No,” Taehyung says, “no, this was perfect timing.”  Taehyung’s hands settle on Yoongi’s waist and slide up under his shirt to gently touch the line of the bottom of his ribcage.  “I like this timing.  I like right now.”

Yoongi kisses the reddest softest part of Taehyung’s bottom lip, then his top one, then the tip of his nose then the exact center of Taehyung’s mouth. 

Taehyung makes an impatient sound, shifts under Yoongi so that Yoongi tilts forward a little more, so that they press together a little more.

“Can I kiss you?”  Taehyung asks, like they haven’t been kissing, like their mouths aren’t almost touching.

“Yeah.”  Yoongi breathes.

Taehyung kisses him.  Kisses him and kisses him and kisses him and Yoongi’s heart lights up.  Warm summer night lit up, firefly lit up, a cosmos in full bloom lit up, gold leaf and sunlight.  Yoongi’s whole heart unfolds like a lily blooming while Taehyung kisses him, until he feels like he’s open and turned up toward the warm sun.

“Did you know," Taehyung says, pressing a kiss to Yoongi’s lips, chaste and warm, "did you know, hyung, that you think you love quiet but you don’t?  Your love is so loud, if you know how to listen for it.”  He tilts Yoongi's head back, lifts up and presses warm lips to the line of Yoongi's neck, to the underside of his jaw.

“I don’t think I knew that,” Yoongi whispers, trying to find his breath.

“I did,” Taehyung says, punctuates the words with a gentle press of his mouth, “I always did."

“Tae,” Yoongi whispers, trying to pull their mouths together, "Tae, let me kiss you."

Taehyung does.  Taehyung kisses like a hot August day.  Taehyung kisses like he means it.

“Taehyung-ah,” Yoongi mumbles, letting their lips brush lazily, "feels good."

Taehyung's lips part, a familiar grin that Yoongi feels rather than sees.

“What?”  Yoongi asks suspiciously, pulling back a little, soothing his thumbs over Taehyung’s cheekbones.  “What are you smiling like that for?”

“No just—” Taehyung surges up and kisses him soft and sweet and then a little less sweet, just for a second, long enough to make Yoongi almost want to whimper, one of Taehyung’s hands tangled in his hair, the other strong and firm on Yoongi’s waist.  “Just— I’m not sure I should make out with my landlord?  Is this legal?  Was this allowed under the lease?" 

“Oh my god.”  Yoongi says.

“I think it’s illegal.”  Taehyung continues, rolling them over, pressing a kiss to Yoongi's neck.  “I think I can sue you.  Does this count as sexual favors for a discount on my rent?”  Taehyung nips at the sensitive spot right by Yoongi’s pulse point, soothes it with his tongue, his hand sliding up and down Yoongi's body, squeezing Yoongi's thigh, fitting Yoongi's leg around his waist.

“Who said I’m giving you a discount?”  Yoongi manages, hands tight in Taehyung’s hair as Taehyung nips gently by his collarbones.  “D— do that again.”

“I feel offended.”  Taehyung mumbles into his skin.  “Why do I feel offended?  Why are you making that sound if you’re not going to give me a discount, this sound makes me think I’m worth a rent discount.”  Taehyung lifts up and kisses Yoongi deep.  “Hey, answer me.”

“Kim Taehyung,” Yoongi says, kisses a line across Taehyung’s cheeks, “Kim Taehyung, I take it all back.  All of it except the insufferable part.”

“Not true.”  Taehyung laughs, “not true.”  He brushes their lips together, smiles when Yoongi lifts up to chase the touch, and then exhales sort of stuttered and melts down when Yoongi catches him, kisses him with purpose. 

“Yeah,” Yoongi says into Taehyung’s mouth, into his smile, “yeah, you’re right.  That wasn’t true at all.” 

“Tell me something I don’t know.”  Taehyung murmurs and fits their mouths back together again.

 

In the morning, Yoongi tilts his head up and watches the light play on the curve of Taehyung’s jaw.  He kisses Taehyung’s caramel apple skin until Taehyung shifts under him.  He noses at Taehyung’s neck until Taehyung grabs him and twists and pins Yoongi to the mattress. 

“No getting up.”  He whispers.  “More sleeping.  More touching.”

“It’s snowing.”  Yoongi tells Taehyung.

“No,” Taehyung says, cuddles into him, “it’s summer.  I feel like it’s summer.”  He presses a kiss to Yoongi’s collarbones, than another than another, scrapes with his teeth, leaves little blooms on Yoongi’s skin. 

“Taehyung-ah,” Yoongi says, combing fingers through Taehyung’s hair.

"Hmm?" Taehyung moves his mouth down, one hand sliding to Yoongi's hip, holding Yoongi still underneath him.

“About your rent—” Yoongi gasps, tugging at Taehyung's hair, trying to pull Taehyung's mouth up to his.

"About my rent."  Taehyung mumbles and smiles into their next kiss. 

His smiles tastes like something Yoongi always knew.