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“bowling for soup, russell bowles, nathan bowles... why are there so many fucking bowles,” mutters jeongguk as he flips through the massive records on the little shelf he’s standing in front of. despite his own love for music, he tends to stick to top forty records, meaning he rarely ever has to head into these vintage shops. david bowie isn’t exactly a vintage artist, but the vinyl records he’s looking for are, so—here he is. feeling entirely out of his place with his beanie and ripped jeans and skateboard tucked under his arm. last week, taehyung told him that as a twenty-two year old, he should probably try out other modes of transportation, but then he rode away on a hoverboard, so jeongguk isn’t sure he’ll be taking that advice.

anyway—soft jazz is filtering through the speakers in the record store. there’s an old woman in one corner, trying and failing to reach the highest shelf of records. jeongguk’s looking for a david bowie vinyl for namjoon’s birthday, because namjoon has been talking about david bowie a lot recently, and also talking a lot about the old record player that his parents gifted to him when he started his masters degree a few weeks ago. it seems to be a good idea, if only he could find what he’s looking for.

jeongguk stops searching for a moment, lifting his head in search of an employee instead. the shop is almost empty, though—there’s a mysterious sort of air about it, like he’s stepped into the past. it helps that the sky is overcast, that jeongguk had to skate down back alleys and cobbled streets to find this place to begin with. as usual, he doesn’t really know how to ask for help.

“bowie, bowie,” jeongguk whispers, returning to the shelf. there’s a considerable gap between nathan bowles and kris bowers. jeongguk sings the alphabet in his head anyway, just in case he’s gotten it wrong, but there all of the bowie records should be—and he imagines there should be a lot—there’s nothing. he makes a noise in the back of his throat that might be mistaken for a strangled cat, more like his own agony over researching this place and getting it wrong in the first place.

the woman in the corner of the shop finally reaches the shelf, pulls down what she wants. jeongguk chews at his lower lip.

then—the bell above the door chimes softly, and jeongguk turns his head back to his own shelf, not wanting to seem as though he’s entirely lost and out of his depth. if he’s brave, he could ask someone else about it—or ask if they know where the employees hide when they’re needed most. it doesn’t matter, though, because while he’s focusing on the massive gap where david bowie should be, he hears a voice yell, “holly, no!” and then turns sideways in time for a little brown dog to throw itself at him.

jeongguk’s first reaction is to—shriek, a little, surprised at the sight of the dog jumping up and pawing at his leg, wagging its little tail furiously. he stumbles backward a step, and the dog follows, pawing at him as though it expects jeongguk to pick it up. which—he might not be opposed to. jeongguk likes dogs. but then the dog’s owner, presumably, is joining them, reaching down and scooping up the dog into his arms.

“oh my god, i’m so sorry,” says the man, trying to get a handle on the dog that is squirming in his grasp, trying to get to jeongguk. and jeongguk knew he was a nice person, had a friendly face, but—he didn’t know a complete stranger’s dog could fall in love at first sight with him. as jeongguk stands, somewhat shellshocked, the man turns his attention to the dog. “that was very bad of you, holly,” he says, voice high-pitched, like he’s talking to a baby. “you can’t run away on me like that, okay? and you can’t attack strangers. they might be allergic.”

“i’m not,” says jeongguk, finding his bearings. the man’s head snaps up, gaze meeting his—jeongguk thinks, briefly, that something about him seems familiar. it’s the sharp cut of his eyes, the slight upturn of his lips despite the scolding he’s just given his dog. “and, um—it’s okay. she’s cute.”

“he,” corrects the man. “holly is a boy. and a very naughty one at that.”

jeongguk finally grins, just a little. holly has finally calmed down some, not trying to wiggle out of his owner’s grasp, and jeongguk pauses before asking, “can i pet him? he seems to like me, so i feel like it’s only right.”

“you shouldn’t reward him for bad behaviour,” says the man. the dog looks up at him, and then licks his chin, and the man—laughs, an airy sound that seems to get caught in his throat. inexplicably, jeongguk thinks, there it is. “but yeah, you can pet him.”

jeongguk does, reaching out between them and running his fingers over the fur at the top of the dog’s head. he can see holly’s tail wagging under his owner’s arm, all too happy to get what he probably wanted in the first place. “he’s an attention whore,” the man adds. “that’s probably why he attacked you. god, sorry about that.”

“it’s really fine,” says jeongguk with a shake of his head. “i guess i just look very welcoming.” as if on cue, holly gives a little bark, something pleased and content. he nuzzles into jeongguk’s hand, and the other man murmurs, “you do.” jeongguk’s cheeks flush just a little.

he opens his mouth to say something else—maybe to ask if holly’s owner is as friendly and affectionate as holly himself, but then a shop employee finally decides to turn up. “excuse me, sirs,” jeongguk hears, and he turns to see a young woman approaching them. “i’m very sorry, but there are no pets allowed in our store. i’m going to have to ask you to leave.” it’s not his dog, but jeongguks first reaction is to feel a little disappointed that he has to leave. and he wouldn’t have to, not when he’s here for a reason and holly doesn’t even belong to him, but when the man apologizes—first to the employee, then to jeongguk for the third time—and turns to leave, jeongguk sees holly pop his head over the top of his owner’s shoulder and give this little whine high in his throat.

his legs are working before his brain, following the two of them out with no record in his hand but something much warmer in his heart. the shop door falls shut behind the both of them, and the man finally turns to look around, blinking in surprise when he sees jeongguk.

“oh,” he says.

“i think holly wanted me to come with you,” says jeongguk, cheeks colouring now that he realizes how strange that might be, but—the dog is cute. maybe the owner is, too. he’s got a beanie shoved over what appears to be mint-coloured hair and big glasses that jeongguk is willing to bet are totally fake and only for the aesthetic, and he’s drowning in a massive black coat.

jeongguk flushes under the smirk that curls on the other’s lips when he says, “is that right?”

“i wasn’t finding what i wanted there, anyway,” jeongguk admits hurriedly. “seemed like a good excuse to leave.”

holly leans over in his owner’s grasp, nosing at jeongguk’s arm like he wants to be pet again. this time, jeongguk does it without asking permission, and he grins down at the little dog and wonders why this seems so comfortable; he’s never good with strangers, least of all attractive strangers, no matter how cute their dogs are. jeongguk is someone who would rather suffer in silence than have to talk to a stranger, and that’s what taehyung says is the reason he hasn’t been successful in relationships. which is—another problem entirely. but there’s something about this man that makes jeongguk feel entirely relaxed, doesn’t worry him. it feels like he could say anything without worrying about the wrong thing coming out.

for some reason, it’s this that makes him realize they haven’t actually introduced themselves.

“i’m jeongguk, by the way. jeon jeongguk,” he says, scratching at holly’s ears.

“min yoongi,” says the man—jeongguk likes the way he says it, syllables easy on his tongue. likes everything about yoongi already, despite only knowing him for a few minutes. and yet—it feels so much longer. he has a strange sense of déjà vu as he stands there outside of the record store with yoongi, petting his dog.

after a moment, he ventures to ask, “have we met before?”

yoongi chuckles, low and low. “i think i’d remember someone with that hair,” he says, and jeongguk’s hand moves to his head as though his hair has miraculously changed colours since the morning. but—he knows it’s the same cherry colour he dyed it a few months ago. i feel like i need a fresh start, he’d told namjoon.

“i’d probably remember someone with your hair, too,” he admits, gesturing to yoongi’s own mint locks. they probably look quite the pair, almost but not quite christmas ornaments. “but i don’t know. i just—had this feeling. sorry, that’s probably weird.”

“no,” says yoongi. “i get it, i think.” he grins at jeongguk, and it’s like the entire sky opens up, and that’s—jeongguk has never felt like that. not like there’s so much more here. yoongi is hardly the first attractive man he’s ever seen, but there’s something more. he can’t quite put his finger on it. “did you know that there are a lot of theories for the feeling of déjà vu?” continues yoongi. “lots of them are ridiculous, like—parallel universes or reincarnation. but i like this one about cryptomnesia, which is when you forget something you’ve learned or experienced but it’s still imprinted in your subconscious, so a similar experience will cause you to remember the knowledge and leads to a sense of familiarity. since the association is there but not the actual memory.”

jeongguk tilts his head. “so you’re saying we have met before?”

“i’m saying,” begins yoongi, and then purses his lips, “it’s definitely not because there’s a glitch in reality and this has happened before. but magic could be real.”

“i’ve heard it could be like dreams,” says jeongguk. “when you dream something and forget about it, and then experience something similar, so technically it has happened, even though it’s only in your head.”

“have you had dreams about me before, jeongguk?”

the question—catches him off-guard. it’s so forward, said in a low voice as yoongi grins at him, and jeongguk swallows. he likes to think he’d remember a dream about yoongi, even though it would make no sense to dream about him—he’s never seen yoongi before, and he also heard that dreams can only be constructed out of things that his subconscious or conscious mind has seen or experienced.

still—something in him causes him to say, “ask me again in a few weeks.” then—“if you eat cheese, it’s supposed to make your dreams more vivid. i’m very fond of cheese.”

it startles a laugh out of yoongi, who smiles with all of his fucking gums and teeth and jeongguk thinks, oh no. he’s so distracted by the sight that it takes him a few seconds to feel holly gently headbutting his hand, realizing that he stopped petting the dog. he drops his gaze, glad to have something to focus on that isn’t the totally and utterly devastating sight of min yoongi smiling like it could slice jeongguk’s heart in half.

yoongi quiets. jeongguk continues to stare at holly, trying to hold in his own stupid grin.

this could be it. should be it, probably, after jeongguk has almost made a fool of himself in front of a pretty boy. he’ll go home and cry on the phone to namjoon for no real reason other than because he doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s a little lonely, always, can’t remember why. he’ll think about yoongi’s pretty smile and his pretty hair and his pretty dog and wonder wander think that maybe it could have been more if jeongguk would have been courageous, but he’s not. there’s a familiar comfort here with yoongi, something that he feels only with people like namjoon and taehyung—the people who forced themselves past the spike-studded barriers of jeongguk’s heart, who forced themselves into his life and his apartment when he was content to be alone.

he’s known taehyung since he was sixteen, namjoon since he was eighteen. it took years for him to work up the courage to call either of them when he was too afraid to walk home from school or work at night, because he didn’t want to bother them despite the both of them reminding him over and over that they’d gladly put down their work, leave the warmth of their own beds to keep him safe.

and yet—he’s known yoongi for five minutes. feels like he would tell yoongi all of his worst tragedies if he asked, feels like he would hand over his bleeding heart if he asked. maybe even if he didn’t.

it’s—a lot to hope for. a lot to realize, suddenly, that jeongguk doesn’t want it to end.

how do you talk to boys, hyung, jeongguk had once asked. taehyung replied, generally you start by opening your mouth. namjoon said, courage, dear heart.

then, quietly: “what was it that you were looking for in there?” jeongguk lifts his head too quickly, almost feels a little dizzy when he sees that yoongi’s cheeks are dusted rose gold. when he realizes that maybe he doesn’t have to be the only courageous one. “i know a lot of music stores in this area. maybe i could help you find what you’re looking for?”

jeongguk shoves his hand into his coat pocket just to keep it from trembling, the other with a white-knuckled grip on his skateboard. he’s trying to figure out how to agree without making it sound like he’d die for yoongi on the spot, and then yoongi adds, even more quietly, “i mean. i don’t think holly wants you to go quite yet.”

jeongguk grins and grins, secret and safe. he can still hear the jazz music. “i wouldn’t want to disappoint min holly,” he replies, and yoongi looks at him like he’s found something he lost a long time ago, and that’s how it begins.

later, jeongguk comes home with two vinyl records for namjoon and a cd for himself, one that yoongi insisted he buy after he’d found out that jeongguk had never actually listened to tupac’s music, even though he had never really been a fan of hip-hop or rap. but—he wasn’t going to say no. he spends a moment lying face down on his bed, face pressed into the pillows as he thinks about the way yoongi had laughed at his jokes and gently touched his arm to steer jeongguk as they walked without interrupting their conversation, and how his eyes had lit up when jeongguk asked what kind of music he liked, and how he’d shyly asked for jeongguk’s phone when jeongguk was paying at the till, and when they’d parted ways, jeongguk found the new contact saved under min holly (and human).

he thinks of how he’ll call namjoon later, and he’ll cry anyway, but he won’t be about wasted opportunities. it could be—once he gathers himself enough, he sits up in bed and stares at his phone. and tries tries tries to be brave. and tells himself that he doesn’t want to miss this, and finds that it’s surprisingly easy to overcome the trembling of his fingers and toes to say something.

jeongguk
is this min holly?

it takes six and a half minutes of staring at his phone for the reply to come.

min holly (and human)
woof
(translation: yes, it is he)

jeongguk
oh good i was worried your human would be around

min holly (and human)
bork bork
(translation: i don’t even know if that idiot can read)

jeongguk giggles into his hand, feels a bit like a child. somehow, it’s easier this way—to pretend that he is talking to holly instead of yoongi. gives him the sort of courage that he thinks yoongi must have had earlier.

jeongguk
tell him that i really enjoyed talking to him today
and i’d like to thank him again for helping me with the records
don’t tell him this part, but i thought he looked really cute with those glasses

min holly (and human)
bork bork bork
(translation: i think he looks stupid with them, but to each their own.
he says you’re welcome and he also very much enjoyed meeting you)

jeongguk
tell him he’s still wrong about the best iu album though

min holly (and human)
bark
(translation: he just sighed very loudly
if i could understand music i’d probably agree with him though
sorry)

his fingers hover over the keys, lips bitten red as he hesitates. as he thinks. before he has a chance, his phone vibrates again.

min holly (and human)
also he’d like to know if you would like to go for coffee sometime this week?
if you have time i mean
*he means

jeongguk
tell him i’d really love that
i’m free tuesday or thursday afternoon?

min holly (and human)
thursday it is
see you then, guk-ah

(he doesn’t cry that much when he calls namjoon, not at first, at least, when he hesitantly whispers, i think i met a boy, hyung. it’s only once jeongguk has described all the ways yoongi makes his heart want to beat and how soft holly’s fur had been and the exact shade of mint of yoongi’s hair that namjoon says he’s very proud of jeongguk, and then he can’t quite keep it in. and that’s brave, too.)

《《《

jeongguk tells himself that he’s brave when he wakes up on thursday and can’t concentrate on any of his morning classes because he’s nervous. he tells himself that he’s brave when he changes his outfit four times with very little variation between each different shirt or pair of jeans that he pulls on. he tells himself that he’s brave when he finally leaves his apartment almost ten minutes late, and almost gets hit by a car as he skates to the coffee shop where he and yoongi agreed to meet. maybe it’s the slight panic and the physical exertion that has him forgetting to be nervous when he actually sees yoongi and slumps into the seat across from him and says, “i’m so sorry i’m late, hyung.”

to which yoongi, grinning, says, “hardly. the clocks are wrong.”

jeongguk offers to buy the first round of coffee for that, despite yoongi’s protests. he’s at the front counter before yoongi can say much more than but i’m the hyung, and he rattles off his own order to the barista before realizing that he didn’t ask how yoongi takes his coffee.

but—there are two people waiting behind him and yoongi is all the way across the shop and the barista is waiting, is watching him expectantly, and jeongguk. told himself he would be brave, and brave isn’t getting upset about not knowing what to order or holding up the line. he turns back to the sea of choices written overhead and tries to imagine what yoongi might like—although he’s only known the other for a few days, and the little they’ve texted back and forth hasn’t revealed much about coffee preferences.

then he sees it: iced americano. and it just—feels right. there’s no way to know for sure what kind of coffee yoongi drinks, but this makes sense, fits into the growing profile his mind is building on min yoongi. min yoongi likes iced americanos, he thinks, like he’s always just known.

much like during their first meeting, jeongguk doesn’t feel nervous about it when the barista hands him their coffees and he joins yoongi at their table, sliding the americano over. yoongi does, however, blink down at it in surprise, and jeongguk hides behind his own mocha (salted caramel, because he really can’t stand the actual taste of coffee on its own and likes sweet things too much) as yoongi asks, “how did you know i drink iced americanos?”

jeongguk shrugs a little, avoiding the other’s gaze. “i just felt like you did.”

“your déjà vu thing again?”

jeongguk peeks up at him, worrying at his lip. “it’s weird, isn’t it?”

“let me guess… you’re drinking something really sweet,” says yoongi, grinning again as he props his chin up with his hand. “lots of sugar, lots of whipped cream on top. practically am abomination to the coffee community.”

“how—”

“you look like the type,” and jeongguk frowns even when yoongi starts laughing. “what? you do. you have to drink coffee like a real man, jeongguk-ah.”

“yours is iced!” he protests. “and don’t talk to me about the masculinity of café drinks.”

“at least mine isn’t just chocolate.

jeongguk huffs, reaching out and snatching the drink from yoongi before the other can protest, and takes a long sip of it. just to prove yoongi wrong, maybe, that he can drink something like that—but the moment the taste settles on his tongue, he makes a face, quickly swallowing the drink and sticking out his tongue in disgust.

“oh god,” he says, as yoongi laughs again. (again again, he thinks, he wouldn’t mind making a fool of himself if he got to hear that again again again.) “it tastes horrible.

“you can stick with your glorified hot chocolate, then,” smirks yoongi, grabbing the cup back and drinking it himself, and jeongguk can’t help but giggle along, and he hates how at home he feels here, with yoongi teasing him and the uncertainty of something more between them. it’s not so terrifying, after all, when it’s with the right person—with someone who makes him feel brave just by being with him.

they spend hours just talking. and jeongguk has never been very good at talking, but yoongi asks all of the right questions and listens to his answers, doesn’t judge him when he says that he has no idea what he’s doing with his life but maybe trying to figure it out, maybe trying to be brave about it. yoongi tells him all sorts of things that jeongguk files away in his head, carefully labelling them and storing them where he thinks they belong: yoongi went to school for business but wants to be a teacher. yoongi adopted holly when he was a teenager and has never loved anything more. yoongi’s lips are perpetually turned up just slightly, and jeongguk can’t stop staring at them when yoongi speaks or drinks his coffee or just—exists. there’s something very, very endearing about him.

something very familiar. something like home. eventually, jeongguk finally checks the time and admits that he has to leave to meet a friend—because thursdays are the days where taehyung invades his apartment and makes sure jeongguk has cleaned, has enough food in his apartment, isn’t lonely, and then stays for the entire evening under the pretence of not getting to hang out otherwise, but jeongguk knows it’s mostly because he has all of the die hard movies in hard copy and taehyung thinks that makes the movie experience better than watching them on netflix.

the truth is, for the first time in his entire life, he doesn’t want to leave. and he hopes yoongi doesn’t want to, either, but sometimes jeongguk gets in over his head—throws himself into things he likes too early, scares everyone away when he’s finally brave enough to open his mouth. he wants to be careful. a careful sort of courage.

“i’ll text you,” says yoongi when they’re putting on their coats, heading out of the café. “we should do this again. or—dinner, maybe? a movie? or somewhere i can bring holly, since… i’m sure he misses you already.”

jeongguk flushes. “i’d like that,” he agrees, and doesn’t feel the chill of the september air even once as he admires the way it’s all falling into place so easily. almost too easily.

“don’t get hit by a car on the way home,” yoongi tells him.

“don’t die of hypothermia because of your iced coffee,” jeongguk replies.

it’s yoongi who reaches out—gingerly, gently. snags his fingers on the sleeve of jeongguk’s coat, just gently, and jeongguk finds himself holding his breath even though it doesn’t have to mean anything. but it does: yoongi takes a tiny step forward and then rocks up on his toes, pressing a soft kiss to jeongguk’s cheek and then pulling away just as quickly.

“bye, guk,” he says, and then turns and is walking down the street before jeongguk can get a look at his face. doesn’t matter, anyway, when jeongguk’s has turned as red as his hair, and feels warm warm warm all the way home.

after that, it kind of just—happens. yoongi texts him, like he says he will, and they go out to dinner. they go out to movies. they go out to dog parks with holly and sit on benches and drink coffee and tease each other about their tastes. jeongguk finds that yoongi fits into his life very well, like he was meant to—their schedules don’t clash. they have a lot of the same interests, in the end. jeongguk likes yoongi very, very much, and for the first time, he’s confident that the feeling is mutual.

their relationship just seems right. like he knows, without having to wonder or worry, that it’ll work out, or what yoongi will like as a surprise gift. intuition, says namjoon, when jeongguk tells him all of this. it feels like i’ve known him for a very, very long time, says jeongguk. maybe you have, says taehyung, and namjoon tells him to shut up.

but—it makes sense.

“where are we going?” asks jeongguk at the end of september, after yoongi has kidnapped him from his apartment and driven them halfway across town.

“it’s a surprise,” says yoongi.

the surprise turns out to be—a bowling alley, one of those glow in the dark ones with greasy nachos and prizes for who can do the most ridiculous things while bowling. jeongguk stares up at the building with his mouth open before he murmurs, “i love bowling.” he’d never told yoongi, mostly because it had never come up, and he hasn’t had many chances to keep up with the hobby recently.

“you do?” asks yoongi, beaming as he slips his hand into jeongguk’s and pulls him toward the door. “i had a good feeling about that. seems like something you’d like.”

“like the mocha?”

“i’m pretty sure you like all sports. especially ones where you can show off your perfect form.

in october, jeongguk walks past a vendor in the mall and has to stop himself when he sees the little kumamon plushies the man is selling. he stares at them for a minute, and then buys one without anything to base the assumption off of. it feels like the coffee, feels like what he imagines yoongi felt about the bowling alley, and the perfume last week, and the book recommendations. he just knows.

he’s right, in the end—“how did you know i like kumamon?” asks yoongi when he calls jeongguk that night, having opened the bag jeongguk hastily shoved into his arms after their date. “were you snooping in my closet the last time you were here?”

“no,” giggles jeongguk. “i had a feeling.”

they have feelings about a lot of things. and it’s—a sign, jeongguk tells himself. a sign that this is right, that they’re on the right track to something good. something better. he’s never been so in tune with someone before. it’s not the cheesy sort of intuition—it’s not being able to finish each other’s sentences or mirror each other like they say couples do when they’ve been together for a long time. it’s just knowing. it’s just not ever having to second-guess himself, which is a luxury in jeongguk’s world.

it’s always being brave without having to talk himself into it first.

it’s everyone around them seeing it, too, maybe. the first time namjoon and taehyung meet yoongi, they both watch the two of them like jeongguk and yoongi have grown second heads, whisper to each other behind their hands. jeongguk almost calls them out for being rude, but namjoon tells him later that they were just marvelling at how well they fit together, even after a short time. taehyung tells yoongi that he likes the mint hair, likes how bright he and jeongguk look together, and then laughs like he’s just made a joke that only he understands.

namjoon tells him to be careful, too. tells him that he doesn’t want to see jeongguk get hurt, but there’s nothing to be afraid of—not this time.

yoongi complains that holly likes jeongguk more than him, and jeongguk would argue if it wasn’t true. for the first few weeks, holly clings to him like jeongguk is his long lost toy, following jeongguk around when he’s over at yoongi’s apartment and constantly wanting to play. jeongguk doesn’t mind—he likes holly, too. and he likes when yoongi sulks about it, if only because it gives him an excuse to cuddle up later and press his apologies into yoongi’s lips, and promise that he’ll pay more attention to yoongi next time, even if he never does.

it feels like he’s finally gotten something good, something that he’s not going to let go of so easily. feels like there was a min yoongi shaped hole in his heart this whole fucking time, and he can finally breathe a sigh of relief at being whole again.

《《《

“i had a dream about you last night,” says yoongi as jeongguk gets into his car, pulling the door shut behind him and leaning over to press a kiss of greeting into yoongi’s cheek before he settles. yoongi waits until jeongguk puts on his seatbelt, and then pulls away from the curb.

neither of them says anything for a block, and then jeongguk asks, “what was it about?”

“nothing major,” begins yoongi. his hand is resting on the gear shift and jeongguk doesn’t think twice about reaching over and laying his hand on top of it, shifting their fingers together. he sees yoongi grin, just a little. “we were on a date, i think, one of those roller skating places? like in an eighties movie or something. i didn’t know they still had those, but—anyway. we were just going around and around and it was fun. we laughed a lot.”

jeongguk is grinning, too, leaning over the gear shift a little just to be closer. “that sounds like fun,” he says. “did anything happen?”

“i fell over a lot,” says yoongi. “which goes to show that dream me is exactly like real me when it comes to ice skates or roller skates. i woke up with the phantom pain of one too many falls on my tail bone.”

“do you need me to kiss it better?”

“brat,” huffs yoongi, and jeongguk leans over the console to kiss yoongi’s cheek again, even though yoongi complains that it’s distracting and could get them into a car crash. thee would be worse ways to go. “it was really vivid, though. i could practically smell the food they were selling and everything. and the interesting bit was—we had different hair colours.”

jeongguk leans back in his own seat, raising an eyebrow. “i can’t imagine you without mint hair. i think it’s perfect.”

“mine was pink,” says yoongi. “a bit like yours, but more… salmon? my hair was that colour a few years ago, actually, so maybe that’s where my brain got it from. yours was brown.”

“boring,” sighs jeongguk. “you know, this is the first time i’ve ever dyed my hair anything other than brown or black. i thought i would be adventurous, but it’s fucking annoying to take care of.”

“maybe we should take a hint from my dream,” says yoongi. “dye yours brown, dye mine pink again. we can even go roller skating and make it a reality.”

“that would be real déjà vu.”

roller skating does sound like fun, though. he’s gone a few times, he’s sure, although it’s been a while. it’s not so fun to go alone, and namjoon would never get on skates lest he want to break a wrist. taehyung would be too chaotic in there, purposely trying to knock people over for a show. but yoongi—yoongi would be different, probably. he’d fall over, too, but jeongguk would kiss his bumps and bruises, feed him fries dipped in nacho cheese because that’s how jeongguk likes them.

he sees yoongi glance at him out of the corner of his eye, like he’s thinking the same thing. they’ve had feelings about their relationship, and taking cues from a dream isn’t the strangest thing that’s happened, probably. by the time yoongi pulls up in front of his apartment, it seems they’re both on the same page.

“we should do it,” says yoongi. “this weekend. i’ll research roller skating places and we’ll do it.”

jeongguk kisses him on the lips for that, giggly and giddy at the idea. it’ll be perfect, much like everything else in their relationship. he’s not worried about it.

《《《

jeongguk is used to yoongi staring at him—sometimes yoongi just looks and doesn’t really stop looking, like he’s trying to memorize each part of jeongguk’s face, like he’s afraid that he’s going to forget it. usually, jeongguk doesn’t mind so much, despite the constant attention. if he’s reading or playing video games or texting other friends, he can distract himself enough to not feel his boyfriend’s heavy gaze.

but—yoongi keeps getting closer and is still staring at him, and jeongguk can’t concentrate on writing his paper like that.

“what is it, hyung?” he finally asks, turning his face sideways to see yoongi is practically pressed up against him. he’s not staring at jeongguk’s face, though.

“is that my sweater?” asks yoongi. he curls his fingers into the black fabric, pushing jeongguk’s shoulders forward enough to look at the back, probably, which has some intricate flower and skeleton design.

jeongguk frowns. “um, i don’t think so,” he says. “i just found it in the back of my closet. like, shoved super deep. i don’t know why i put it there, but this sweater is great, so i thought i’d wear it.” yoongi continues to manhandle him, pushing him forward even more until jeongguk is hunched over his knees, and then tugs at the back of the sweater. after yoongi has gotten a good look at it and then checked the tag, jeongguk says, “we could just have the same sweater, hyung.”

“no, i—remember buying this sweater. i had it custom ordered from this girl i met in school who wanted to be a designer,” says yoongi, voice confused. jeongguk is confused, because he’d just found the damn sweater in his closet and that wouldn’t make sense if it was yoongi’s.

“did you… accidentally put it in my closet?” asks jeongguk.

“i lost it like, a year ago,” mumbles yoongi.

which—makes even less sense than anything yoongi has said thus far. but yoongi is still prodding at him, looking at different parts of the sweater, and it’s extremely distracting and unhelpful because jeongguk is trying to do homework so he can finally graduate. he finally shrugs yoongi off, giving him a playful shove back toward his own side of the sofa, and leans back. “i think you’re confused,” says jeongguk. “and i’m sorry if i somehow stole your sweater. i can give it back to you if you want.”

he chances a glance at yoongi’s face to see the other’s eyebrows furrowed, mouth set in a pout. “it’s fine,” he finally mutters, and jeongguk stares at him until yoongi finally shakes his head, seeming to put the idea to rest. jeongguk shrugs and opens his laptop again, having forgotten what he was writing about in the first place.

《《《

it’s jeongguk who has a dream about them next—and he’s liked dreaming. never had very realistic dreams, though. he once dreamt about giant marshmallows rolling down the streets because he’d gone into a coma after unfriending everyone on facebook. he once dreamt that he met elton john in a grocery store and they went on a joy ride around the city while wearing matching sparkly cowboy boots.

so—when he dreams about yoongi, it’s like a breath of fresh air. like he knows that his heart misses yoongi too much when they’re not together, even if they’re together a lot. he’s falling falling falling in love, and he knows because his dream tells him so. in his dream, he and yoongi are walking arm in arm through a winter wonderland—some park he recognizes as the one near yoongi’s apartment that they like to take holly to. it’s snowing softly, fat snowflakes coming to rest on their faces, and in his dream, jeongguk giggles when yoongi tips his head up to the sky and opens his mouth and tries to catch them on his tongue.

in his dream, he blurts out, “hyung, i love you.” and he knows, as people tend to in dreams, that it’s the first time he’s said it—the first time either of them have said it. yoongi closes his mouth and drops his chin and looks at him, looks, and—that look is familiar for jeongguk, for the one in the dream and the one dreaming. it’s the look yoongi gives him when jeongguk burns the dinner he’s trying to cook for yoongi, and when he cradles holly like a baby and imitates the way yoongi talks to him. it strikes him, suddenly, that it’s the look of a man in love.

jeongguk wakes before he hears yoongi say it back, but he knows. he just knows, and as he surfaces into consciousness and stares up at the dark ceiling of his room, he knows, too, that he loves yoongi. just like that. less déjà vu, more—a simple understanding. in his dream, he was brave enough to say it. and jeongguk can take a cue from that, too.

《《《

the first time jeongguk meets jung hoseok, it’s an accident.

jeongguk has heard plenty about hoseok—knows that he’s yoongi’s best friend and has been since they were pimply-faced teenagers and met through a summer camp that yoongi doesn’t like to talk about. probably because it was something nerdy and yoongi likes to maintain the image that he’s cool, but jeongguk has seen the periodic table phone cases shoved deep in his desk drawers. he knows, too, that hoseok has been away in america for the past few months, because he’s doing an internship with a music production company there.

yoongi talks about hoseok like hoseok hung the first star in the sky, and jeongguk doesn’t find himself getting jealous, even if he normally would. it’s just—that feeling, knowing that yoongi loves him. knowing that yoongi talks about all of his friends like that, because he loves all of them with every piece of himself, not just with his heart. the way yoongi talks about hoseok makes jeongguk fall a little bit in love with him, too.

but—hoseok is coming home for christmas. jeongguk’s going to go with yoongi to pick him up from the airport, to be introduced properly. or—that’s the plan, at least, until hoseok comes home early, just to surprise his family and yoongi, too.

what happens is: jeongguk is curled up on yoongi’s sofa, wrapped up in the fluffiest blanket he could find as he watches some comedy show on netflix with holly tucked into his side. he’s been feeling sick lately, and yoongi has insisted that he stay over so that yoongi can take care of him—making soup and shoving drugs into his mouth and cuddling him something fierce even though jeongguk complains that he’s going to get yoongi sick, too.

yoongi is at work, and jeongguk isn’t at school, because he’s sick. and then there’s the jingling of the doorknob, keys inserted into the lock, and jeongguk just stares in the general direction of the front door as he waits for it to open so he can tell yoongi for the third time that day that he doesn’t need to skip work to take care of jeongguk, because jeongguk knows how to work the microwave in order to heat up leftovers.

but—it’s not yoongi. when the door opens and closes, there’s no usual calling out from yoongi to announce his arrival. jeongguk can’t see the door from the living room, but he pauses what he’s watching anyway and watches holly shoot off the sofa, barking as he makes for the door. jeongguk hears an unfamiliar voice greeting the dog, high-pitched the way yoongi speaks to holly, and jeongguk calls out, “hyung?”

the voice ceases from the door, only holly’s excited barking reaching him, and he frowns before he hears footsteps, and then an unfamiliar man steps into the entrance of the living room, holding holly. jeongguk—knows it’s hoseok because he’s seen pictures. he has black hair now, which is different from all of the pictures that yoongi has shown jeongguk, but the rest of his face is familiar, down to the spark in his eyes when he catches sight of jeongguk curled up on the couch.

it’s—not the way that he wanted to meet his boyfriend’s best friend, but. it’ll have to do.

hoseok stares at him. and stares and stares and stares and jeongguk begins to feel a little uncomfortable until he realizes that maybe hoseok doesn’t know who he is. he just assumed yoongi said something about him, but maybe not—maybe he wanted to keep it a secret, maybe they haven’t really had a chance to speak about love lives recently. it’s only been a month and a half, so it’s fair.

“um,” begins jeongguk, clearing his throat when he hears how unused and scratchy it is. “i’m jeongguk. yoongi’s boyfriend. he’s—at work. sorry.” he doesn’t know why he’s apologizing, just suddenly feels small under hoseok’s gaze. the other hasn’t even blinked since he stepped into the room, and jeongguk coughs softly. “you’re… hoseok, right?”

“yeah,” hoseok finally mumbles, and then does this thing where he turns around like he’s checking to see if there’s someone behind him. he turns back to jeongguk and plasters a smile on his face—that’s familiar, too. jeongguk has seen so many pictures of hoseok smiling like that, heart-shaped and full of love. hoseok finally takes steps into the room, putting holly down on the floor and holding out his hand to shake. “jung hoseok. yoongi didn’t—tell me that he had a…”

“it’s okay,” says jeongguk. “i probably shouldn’t shake your hand; i’m sick. and um—yoongi’s kind of secretive, isn’t he? it’s okay. we only started dating about a month and a half ago, so maybe it didn’t come up.”

hoseok is still staring at him, even if it’s with that smile. but it’s scrutinizing, like he’s trying to wrap his head around something. jeongguk begins to wonder if there’s something on his face, but then hoseok shakes his head like he’s trying to shake himself out of it and sits down on the edge of the sofa.

“sorry for intruding like this,” he says. “i got a few weeks off when i didn’t think i would, so i decided to come home and surprise everyone. i, uh—just assumed that i was going to stay here with hyung, but i guess if you’re here…”

“we don’t live together,” says jeongguk hurriedly. “i’m just staying here while i’m sick because yoongi-hyung is a worry wart.”

“you can say that again.”

jeongguk laughs quietly; despite the way hoseok has been looking at him, an awkward sort of tension in the air, he likes hoseok already. knows that he will like him more, at least as time goes on and they actually get to know each other. but he’s reminded of how awfully he does around strangers, at least when he realizes he doesn’t know what to say next. he’s sick, so his head isn’t in the right place anyway, but—but. the easy comfort and familiarity he felt when he first met yoongi isn’t there with hoseok, and he turns his gaze back to the television, a frozen image staring back at him.

it’s hoseok who says, “so you and hyung, huh?” and that’s at least something jeongguk can talk about.

“yeah,” he breathes, blushing a little. “holly lovingly attacked me in a music store and that’s how we met, and we just… hit it off. the rest is history, i guess. i’m, um—sure that yoongi-hyung will want to formally introduce us later, but you can stay if you want. i’m just watching john mulaney if you want to watch with me.”

hoseok eyes him again, just carefully. and then he shrugs, says, “might as well. think hyung will get angry if i eat all of his food before he gets back as a pre-emptive welcome back present?” and jeongguk laughs and thinks—yeah. yeah, he likes hoseok. sees why yoongi likes him so much, too.

they both settle down on the sofa once hoseok has taken off his coat and shoes and put his bags in the guest bedroom, and jeongguk shares his blanket when hoseok complains about being cold. they end up talking more than watching the comedy show, but jeongguk doesn’t mind—hoseok asks how his school year is going, and jeongguk asks what america is really like. they share inside jokes about yoongi and laugh and laugh, and by the time yoongi comes home, he thinks he can call them friends.

it’s only later, when yoongi has ordered take out for them and he’s watching yoongi and hoseok fall back into place with each other, that jeongguk realizes he didn’t actually tell hoseok that he was in university.

《《《

jeongguk has always been a little self-conscious about his body. it’s not that he doesn’t have a good body—he works out enough to make sure that he maintains peak physical condition that that usually comes with defined muscles—but he’s never been a fan of showing it to people.

it’s just that. he and yoongi’s relationship starts getting a little more heated, wandering into uncharted territory. all at once, sitting in yoongi’s lap and kissing him isn’t enough, and he likes yoongi’s hands on him too much to not want more. he breaches the topic hesitantly, even though he tells himself to be brave, be brave—he hasn’t had to be brave with yoongi for a long time, not since the beginning.

but he’s brave now, when he shyly asks yoongi if they can go farther this time when they’re lazily making out in jeongguk’s bed, and the look yoongi gives him—puts to rest all of the worries and nerves in his heart, all of the things that are telling him that yoongi won’t want to see him like that. that yoongi won’t like him.

it doesn’t help that maybe jeongguk has had three wet dreams about yoongi this week alone, each more vivid and real than the next—yoongi’s hands on him, yoongi’s mouth on him, yoongi yoongi yoongi. he just wants to know if his dream got the sounds right, got the taste right. he’s impatient for it, all at once.

yoongi takes his shirt off first, because jeongguk tells him to with a flush on his face. and taking off his shirt shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it’s what comes next that has his toes curling. it’s the thought of touching like that, chest to chest, skin to skin. yoongi’s skin is delicate and just a little pale, and jeongguk finds himself staring at his boyfriend’s shoulders and chest and the softness of his tummy, reaching out to gently touch it.

it’s reverent. he tries, at least, heart quickening its beats when yoongi grabs his wrists and pries them away before dipping forward and kissing jeongguk, lips as soft as the rest of his body looks and feels and is.

“your turn,” he mumbles against jeongguk’s lips, and jeongguk flushes down to his very toenails before he makes a noise of protest and pulls back a little.

says, “no, wait,” and yoongi must know that he’s stalling but he lets it happen—lets everything happen, knows jeongguk too well. knows he needs to be careful and slow sometimes, and that’s okay, too. when jeongguk pulls back, he avoids yoongi’s gaze entirely and chooses to focus on his bare chest again, fingers tracing down his breastbone, over his ribs, until—

“hyung,” he whispers. “i didn’t know you had a tattoo.” his fingers skim over the dark ink of it, splayed over yoongi’s ribs, the left side of his torso. but it’s not the idea of tattoos that has him gasping a moment later, but the tattoo itself. he stares and stares as yoongi says something, maybe some sort of explanation, but then he loses all nerves of showing off his own body as he pulls back from yoongi and hastily shoves his own shirt up to his shoulders.

“jeongguk,” sputters yoongi, staring at him, and jeongguk stares back. it’s not quite the soft and romantic undressing, now that he’s just sticking his bare chest out at yoongi, but he points to his own ribs—right side. he watches yoongi’s gaze move from his face to his own bare skin (and notes, with a vague hint of satisfaction, that yoongi’s eyes seem to get stuck on his stomach for a moment, where he’s been working on his abs for a while). he watches and sees the moment yoongi realizes.

“what the fuck,” whispers yoongi, his own fingers reaching out. they’re cold where they touch jeongguk’s ribs, and jeongguk jolts only slightly.

“hyung,” says jeongguk. “hyung. we have accidental matching tattoos.”

he doesn’t have to look to see his own—a tiny cartoon spaceship on his ribs, pointed outward. but he does have to look at the tattoo on yoongi’s ribs again: a tiny cartoon planet, with a ring like saturn’s around it. they’re both simple, just black lines, tiny. it probably doesn’t mean anything—just coincidence, just another sign that they’re meant to be.

but yoongi still mutters, “what are the chances,” and jeongguk finds himself laughing, suddenly. “i was so worried that you were going to think it was weird that i had this tattoo, and then it turns out you have one just like it.”

yoongi is still staring at the tattoo, face inches from jeongguk’s skin, fingers tracing it over and over. “when did you get it?” asks yoongi.

“i don’t really remember,” admits jeongguk. “probably a year ago? i want to say it was a dare or a bet or something.”

“yeah, me too,” breathes yoongi. “that’s so weird.”

the thing is—jeongguk doesn’t really care. so they have accidental matching tattoos, but it just makes him realize that maybe this has been planned from the start by the universe. it’s fate. and jeongguk is willing to take any sign that he’s doing something right, whether it’s pulling date ideas from dreams or getting those feelings that let him know what yoongi might like. and it just makes him look yoongi more, makes his heart swell with it, and yoongi is still looking at him, but not in the right way anymore. jeongguk isn’t afraid of taking his stupid shirt off, and he’s not sure why he was so worried in the first place when this is just yoongi.

“okay,” he says. “okay, hyung, stop—touching it.” he knocks yoongi’s hand away from him. “i’d rather you be touching me in other places.”

yoongi pulls back, and his face is pinched in confusion until jeongguk laughs, leans forward, kisses him again. “i’d like to find out if you have any other hidden tattoos on more inconspicuous areas of your body.” and yoongi laughs at that, too, and then finally kisses him back, and jeongguk isn’t afraid of this at all, suddenly. not anymore.

《《《

at the end of november, jeongguk has a nightmare. later, he’ll blame it on the stress of nearing the end of the school semester and final projects and final exams. he’ll blame it on not having seen yoongi for days and days because of school and yoongi’s work and conflicting schedules. he’ll blame it on the anxiety that likes to creep up at times like these, anyway.

maybe there’s no real reason for it. but jeongguk falls asleep and falls into a nightmare about he and yoongi. much like all of his other dreams about yoongi, it’s so real that he can almost touch it. vivid, alive in his mind, his heart pouring itself into this glass of his mind, and then—yoongi is yelling at him. yoongi is screaming at him, face contorted with anger, and jeongguk hears himself yelling back, whether in defense or anger. he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know, but it’s all bubbling up inside of him as he sees the way yoongi looks at him, in the dream—not the way he does in real life now, not the way he did in dreams before.

it’s like looking at a stranger.

yoongi is yelling at him. he throws something at the wall and it cracks, the sound shattering through jeongguk’s mind, and he doesn’t—know, doesn’t know what they’re fighting about, but he feels like he does. feels like it’s about secrets, about hiding, and the fear and anger and pain of it strikes through him like lightning as he watches yoongi yell something one last time and then turns and—leaves. in his dream, jeongguk runs after him, the fear burning ever brighter, and then the door slams before he can reach it.

jeongguk wakes up. it’s like—breaking through the surface of the ocean with a great gasp of air, gulping it into his lungs as he sits upright in bed and sees his surroundings. it’s quiet, just for a moment. and then jeongguk remembers the nightmare and immediately begins to sob. he’s overwhelmed with everything he felt in the dream, like a phantom limb that he can’t get rid of: the fear of yoongi leaving, and the pain of the fight, and the sadness of the aftermath of the problem of everything everything and jeongguk is trying to breathe through the tears, hands already scrambling for his phone before his mind processes it.

he doesn’t check the time before he calls, but he cries into the phone anyway, needing yoongi to pick up. he does—because yoongi always does, a groggy, “gukkie?” meeting him halfway before the first sob echoes back down the phone.

“h-hyung,” cries jeongguk, and he knows that one word can snap yoongi out of everything.

“jeongguk?” asks yoongi, sounding much more awake. “jeongguk, oh my god, are you okay? what’s wrong? where are you?”

hyung,” jeongguk says again, a little more pathetically. he can’t stop crying. “i-i had a nightmare.” belatedly, he realizes it might be a little childish. he’s not a boy who crawls into his parents’ bed when he has a bad dream, but it feels so real now. feels like yoongi really did leave him, really did yell at him and jeongguk really did keep all of those horrible, awful secrets even though it makes no sense.

“guk-ah, baby,” yoongi is saying. “jeongguk, just breathe for me, okay? take a deep breath. it’s not real. whatever the nightmare was about, it’s not real.”

jeongguk tries to listen and follow the instructions, but he can’t—he hiccups into the phone, clutching it to his ear as he continues to cry. “you l-left,” he says. “you left.

“i’m right here,” yoongi whispers. “baby, hyung’s right here.” except—he’s not. except he’s just a voice on the phone and it makes jeongguk sob again, the sound getting caught in his throat as he tries and fails and fails and fails to shake off the fear and the sorrow of it. it’s not real, he tells himself. it’s not real, but it fucking feels like it, and he can’t get the words out, can’t ask for what he wants.

yoongi gets it anyway.

“i’m coming over,” says yoongi. “just keep breathing, okay? i’m getting out of bed right now and i’ll be there in ten minutes. okay, guk-ah? can you stay on the phone for hyung?”

jeongguk takes a shaky breath and tries to calm himself enough, tries to trick his heart into thinking that yoongi is already here, or being content with the promise that he will be. what comes out is another little whining sound along with another cascade of tears, but he manages to voice his agreement anyway, and he listens to the background noises of yoongi pulling on his clothes, leaving his apartment, getting in his car. listens to yoongi’s quiet reassurances and attempts to distract him, even though it doesn’t quite do enough.

by the time yoongi gets to jeongguk’s apartment, he’s managed to calm himself down enough to stop the heaving sobs and borderline hyperventilation. the overwhelming feeling of loss still hasn’t gone away and he can’t stop himself from crying more quietly, but it’s enough, he tells himself. he hugs the massive stuffed bunny yoongi bought for him in lieu of having yoongi here and keeps yoongi on speaker phone until the, “i’m here,” comes.

yoongi lets himself in with the key jeongguk gave him and jeongguk ends the call and just sits there, quietly crying into the damp fur of the bunny as his bedroom door finally opens and yoongi is there. and the sight of him—the sight of him coming back juxtaposed with nightmare’s image of yoongi leaving is enough to set jeongguk off again, another sob raking its way up his throat as he sits miserably in the middle of his bed and just lifts one of his arms, and yoongi is across the room in only a moment.

for a long time, jeongguk doesn’t say anything. doesn’t trust himself to, just lets yoongi hold him against his chest and run a hand through his hand and shush him quietly, whisper love into his ear. he clutches onto yoongi like a lifeline, and only begins to realize now what yoongi means to him. yoongi is—his home. yoongi is his safe place. it’s only been three months, but yoongi is every reason jeongguk ever needs to be brave.

the idea of losing him—the idea of yoongi leaving is so horrifying that it can set him off like this, even if the rational part of his brain knows that there’s no reason yoongi would do that. knows it was all just a nightmare. but yoongi holds him anyway and jeongguk finally, finally calms down.

yoongi must think he’s fallen asleep—and jeongguk is on the verge of it, anyway, cuddled in yoongi’s arms and worn out, eyes too sore to keep open—because he presses a kiss to jeongguk’s head and begins to extract himself from jeongguk’s vice grip. but jeongguk feels it and makes an unhappy noise, grip tightening on the other.

“don’t go,” mumbles jeongguk, can’t imagine not having yoongi as close as possible, and yoongi gives a little chuckle.

“i have to pee,” he says.

“take me with you.”

so—yoongi does. jeongguk sits on the space of counter beside the sink, slumped against the mirror with his eyes closed. it’s strangely domestic, although he didn’t intend for it to be, and once yoongi has washed and dried his hands, he’s tugging on jeongguk’s wrist, gently helping him back onto the floor and leading him back to bed.

once they’re both in the warmth of jeongguk’s blankets, he finds himself whispering, “it was really scary, hyung.”

yoongi kisses the back of his neck. “i’m not going anywhere, jeongguk. i want you to know that. never, never, never.”

“you were yelling at me,” says jeongguk, feels tears stinging at the back of his eyes again at the memory. “i—i don’t really remember what it was about, just that you were so mad. i think i kept a secret from you and you found out.” yoongi tightens his hold on jeongguk, arms tight around his waist. a reminder that he’s here he’s here it’s not a dream not a nightmare. “and then you left.”

“it wasn’t real,” yoongi tells him.

“i don’t have any secrets.”

“that’s good,” says yoongi, “but i wouldn’t leave you even if you did. i love you, jeongguk-ah. i love you, i love you, i love you, i lo—”

“okay,” whispers jeongguk, giggles when yoongi kisses his neck again, peppers them closer to his jaw. “i get it.”

“you’re supposed to say it back.”

“i love you, too,” says jeongguk. “you’re really not going anywhere?”

“nope. you’re stuck with me, jeon jeongguk.”

when he focuses on it—there’s still a hint of that fear and pain. but the seed of love that yoongi plants in the very center of his chest chases it out, needs room to grow and bloom. it was just a nightmare. and yoongi is here and yoongi is holding him and yoongi loves him, of course he loves him. yoongi is brave for both of them. and that’s okay, at least for tonight.

《《《

in all of his twenty-two years of life, jeongguk has never been good with surprises. he’s good at keeping secrets, surprising other people—it’s when it comes to someone surprising him that he doesn’t do so well. namjoon says he’s not patient enough for it, which might be the truth; he likes to know things as they happen, can’t take anticipation. he spoils himself for every book or tv show or movie he watches, because he simply can’t wait for the ending.

so—it shouldn’t be surprising that jeongguk has spent the past week tearing through yoongi’s apartment looking for his christmas gift. it’s only the beginning of december, but yoongi is unlike jeongguk in buying gifts—whereas jeongguk is always rapidly running around the city on christmas eve, looking for the gifts he planned for but somehow forgot to buy, yoongi is prepared well in advance. his mistake was not in having jeongguk’s christmas gift so early, but in telling jeongguk about it. the moment jeongguk knew it was hidden somewhere in the apartment, there was no possible way he wasn’t going to look for it.

and looking for it he has been. to no avail—despite begging yoongi to give him a hint, even offering bribes in return (some of which he’ll never admit to, but he gets desperate when it comes to christmas), and even trying to trick his boyfriend into admitting where the hiding spot is, yoongi has been stone cold. teasing, too, because he knows that not knowing where or what the gift is has been tearing jeongguk apart.

“have you been changing the hiding place every day?” jeongguk finally asks, when he swears he’s gone through the apartment from top to bottom three separate times already. “that would be really clever, actually. hyung, i didn’t know you were that smart.”

“fuck you,” replies yoongi where he’s slumped over his third cup of coffee for the morning.

“we can do just that if you tell me where the gift is,” tries jeongguk, and yoongi gives him a look which tells him it’s a firm no. a few days ago, he attempted to withhold sex in order to make yoongi spill the beans, but it turns out yoongi is much better at controlling his libido than jeongguk and that had crumbled very easily.

still. jeongguk’s last day of classes was yesterday and his final exams don’t start for a few more days, which means he has a lot of free time. he should be studying—and will be, of course, because he’s a good student. but yoongi will be going to work in approximately ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds, and then jeongguk will have the whole apartment to himself for a blissful eight hours. he brought a headlamp for the excursion.

he sends yoongi off with a kiss and a pat to the bum, and yoongi gives a little grunt because he’s somehow still half asleep even having consumed his weight in caffeine. jeongguk watches out of the window as yoongi gets into his car, and then waves through the curtains until his boyfriend disappears down the street. then jeongguk turns to the empty apartment, narrows his eyes, and mutters, “marco polo, bitch.”

jeongguk, as always, is wildly unsuccessful. and he knows it’s an invasion of privacy to go through yoongi’s things, so he tries to stick to hiding places that won’t incriminate yoongi by any means: closets, drawers, the high parts on shelves that jeongguk isn’t sure yoongi could even reach to begin with. everywhere he looks is empty.

then, when he’s searching the closet of the guest room, he finds something he didn’t notice before. it’s—another tiny door in the corner of the closet, almost like a hidden compartment, like someone just cut out a section of the wall and then put it back in but didn’t bother to reattach the piece.

there’s a very good chance that yoongi knows about this hiding place. and jeongguk feels all sorts of triumphant as he crawls into the closet and grabs one of the metal hangers to wedge between the little door and the rest of the wall, prying it out without doing any damage to the rest of the wall. the little section, only a foot tall and a foot wide, pops right out onto the floor.

and jeongguk was right—there’s a shoebox in the compartment that has been dug into the wall. “amazing,” he mutters as he reaches in and pulls out the box, dusty with disuse. “literally amazing.” he dusts off the top of it, paying less attention to the brand than what’s inside, and happily settles on the floor with the box in his lap.

before opening it, he sends a text to yoongi.

jeongguk
i found it!!!!!!!!!!
u tried
and u failed min yoongi

he puts his phone down, taking a moment to crack his knuckles and take a few guesses at what’s inside. the easiest answer is shoes, but he doesn’t think yoongi would go for that. it might be a collection of things, or a sweater. or something homemade. the excitement becomes too much, then, and he happily opens the box to find the answer.

what’s inside—isn’t shoes. it isn’t a sweater or homemade, as far as he can tell. it is a collection of things, but not anything that looks like a gift.

what’s inside the box is a lot of different things. at first glance, it looks a bunch of pictures and papers, little mementos like keychains and ticket stubs and other knick knacks that have no meaning to him. it looks like a keepsake box, and maybe this is yoongi’s—something from his childhood, something to keep all of his memories contained. it’s adorable, jeongguk thinks. and then he takes a closer look.

jeongguk picks up what’s on top: a folded note. he recognizes yoongi’s handwriting, reads, good luck on your exam!!! kick some philosophy ass!!!! under it is a very terrible drawing of two stick figures, one of them labelled emmanuel kant and the other, physically kicking the first, labelled you.

he snorts, and puts the note to the side. probably something he left for hoseok once, because jeongguk knows they used to live together.

he picks up the next few items: a ticket stub to an epik high concert from almost two years ago. a train ticket to busan from a year and a half ago. a ring, shiny and silver. he finds another note, again written by yoongi: something about lamb skewers, something about a movie. coming home late. a heart next to his name.

jeongguk finds—the curiosity doesn’t wear off, but the initial spark of finding something interesting does. the more he digs into the mementos, into the little notes that yoongi once left for someone, the more he thinks—maybe this was a bad idea. there’s a thread of romance to all of them that has his gut churning, because yoongi never mentioned anything about an ex. and if yoongi has kept all of these mementos, that means that relationship still means something to him, and he hasn’t mentioned anything, and does that mean jeongguk has to be worried?

he begins to tear through the box with more haste, now—there’s a mixtape, one of those old school ones on a cassette tape labelled happy one year! there are more notes, little drawings that he knows had to have been done by someone else because yoongi can’t draw to save his life. a few bottle caps, for some reason. prizes they might have gotten from a cereal box, or a claw machine in an arcade.

but there’s no name—no indication of who this other person is, the person who loved yoongi and was loved by him, who captured his heart enough to have him create this and keep it in a place where he thought it would never be found.

and then—and then.

jeongguk finds the pictures.

halfway through the box, there’s a stack of pictures bound together by an elastic band. jeongguk is almost furious in grabbing them, snapping the band off and turning the first over, and then—he stops. he stares at the picture, at the faces smiling back at him. first, he’s: shocked. then confused. then… he tries to wrap his head around what he’s seeing, what it means.

the picture is of yoongi: pink hair, like he said he’d had years ago. his cheeks are flushed, the lighting low enough that it might be from that, or might be because it looks like he’s on someone’s couch at a party, like someone just shoved the camera in his face and told him to smile and that was the only thing he could do properly. it’s the drunken sort of thing that jeongguk has seen before. it’s not yoongi that makes him stop, though—it’s the other person in the picture.

sitting on yoongi’s lap, one arm wrapped around his neck and legs thrown over onto the other side of the sofa, just as flushed but with his mouth open like he was caught in the middle of yelling something, is—jeongguk.

jeongguk, with his brown hair. jeongguk, with more baby fat on his cheeks. jeongguk, sitting on yoongi’s lap on someone’s couch at a party that he never attended. with shaking fingers, he turns the picture over to find writing on the back: april 2016. hobi’s graduation party!!!

he turns the picture over again. sees the moment frozen in time, and their smiles, and the way he’s holding onto yoongi, but—that was two and a half years ago. he didn’t know yoongi in 2016. he didn’t know hoseok in 2016.

slowly, he puts the picture down. he looks at the next one: it’s just jeongguk this time, sat at a restaurant with a massive lamb skewer in his hand, giving the camera a beaming smile and a peace sign. on the back: guk-ah’s 20th birthday. have to treat the baby to lamb skewers or he’ll cry.

and the next: yoongi and jeongguk squished into the same frame, jeongguk’s lips pressed to yoongi’s cheek, dated january of 2018. a year ago.

yoongi at the salon, hair slicked with blonde hair dye, sleeping—and jeongguk in the mirror, taking the photo. two years ago.

yoongi under a massive epik high sign on the outside of a theatre, matching the ticket stubs jeongguk found in the box. two years ago.

jeongguk in the snow, yoongi kissing him, both of them curled up on someone’s couch and sleeping, a selfie with holly squished between them—all of them, all of them from a year ago, or two. long before jeongguk and yoongi ever met, doing things that jeongguk has never done, caught in the midst of memories that jeongguk doesn’t have.

and that—doesn’t make sense. that doesn’t make sense, and how could yoongi have pictures of the two of them like this when the this never happened? his hands are shaking as he rifles through the rest of the pictures, all happy and filled with love and filled with impossible, impossible things. jeongguk can’t breathe.

by the time he thinks to grab his phone, he sees that he’s gotten a handful of texts from yoongi.

min holly (and the love of my life)
wait what
jeongguk you didn’t find the gift
i haven’t bought it yet!!!! oh my god i was joking
what the fuck did you find??? lmao

what the fuck did jeongguk find?

he calls yoongi. once, twice, three times—knows that yoongi has a desk job and can’t just pick up his phone, but he calls and calls and calls and it rings and rings and goes to voicemail again and again. he doesn’t bother to leave a message before he’s calling again, realizes he’s shaking as he keeps a firm grip on the phone and grabs things from the box at random, as though he can put the pieces together if he sees just one more picture. one more note: he finds some with his own writing, notes written to yoongi. drawings he’s done, things they’ve collected, but they couldn’t have.

they couldn’t have.

jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi when he finally picks up, and there’s a hint of irritation in his voice. “i’m in the middle of a meeting.”

“hyung,” whispers jeongguk, and he realizes how confused and terrified he is only when he hears his phone, hears how small it is—“hyung, have we met before?”

“guk—what?” asks yoongi.

“hyung. have we met before?”

“i don’t know what you’re asking,” says yoongi. “do you need me for something? i can’t really talk—”

“i found pictures of us,” says jeongguk, and he stares down at the last one he grabbed: it’s a picture of them kissing. jeongguk is sure that they’ve taken a dozen pictures of them kissing in the past three months, but yoongi’s hair is platinum blonde. jeongguk’s is black. jeongguk’s wearing a sweater he distinctly remembers his mother making him throw out around christmas last year. it’s dated from the end of 2017, which was a whole fucking year ago, and jeongguk only met yoongi three months ago and only kissed him for the first time two and a half months ago and neither of them have had those hair colours since the beginning of april. “from two years ago.”

“what?” asks yoongi. “what does that mean? jeongguk-ah—”

“there’s a picture of us kissing from december 2017 and your hair is blonde and mine is black. there’s pictures of us at that epik high concert from two years ago, the one you said you didn’t get to go to because no one would go with you. we wrote notes to each other about things that didn’t even happen.” jeongguk doesn’t realize there are tears in his eyes until then, not—because he’s sad, but because he doesn’t understand and he wants to and yoongi isn’t helping. “hyung, i don’t—i don’t know—”

“jeongguk, are you okay?”

no. no, hyung, i don’t understand—i don’t know what this is. something is really, really wrong. i’m scared.

he doesn’t mean it to be, but those are the magic words. yoongi doesn’t immediately try to tell him to stop calling again, doesn’t say that he’s busy. jeongguk is clutching onto the picture so hard that it’s beginning to crease under his fingers, and then yoongi says, “do you want me to come home?”

he does—it takes longer than jeongguk needs or wants or likes, and he stays in the closet and stares at the pictures and notes. he hasn’t even gone through half of the box because he’s terrified to, terrified to discover something else that doesn’t make sense, at least without yoongi. yoongi always knows what to do.

but when he gets home and finds jeongguk in the closet and joins him, and when jeongguk silently hands over all of the evidence he’s found in the box, yoongi doesn’t say anything. he just stares at the pictures of them, the impossible evidence. he stares at the notes. he stares at the items in the box, the mementos that they’ve amassed. jeongguk watches yoongi watching all of it, and then yoongi says, “what the fuck is all of this?”

“i don’t know,” whispers jeongguk. “i was just—trying to find the gift, and i found this little hole in the wall and this was in there. and it had all of this. hyung, these are—this is us. from two years ago. how is that possible?”

yoongi doesn’t say anything, just reaches into the box and begins to pull out new items. there are more pictures, all dated anywhere from almost three years ago to only nine months ago. there are more mementos, things that have no sentimental value to jeongguk now although clearly meant something to whoever compiled the box. yoongi pulls out what looks like christmas cards, and reads them aloud.

yoongi-hyung,” he reads. “merry christmas. i know i promised that i would get you something really cool, but you also know that i suck at buying gifts on time so i couldn’t get you the super cool and super expensive speakers that you’ve been asking for. also, i’m a broke college student so i don’t think i could have gotten them anyway. please take this new keyboard as a consolation gift. also, i’ll give you about ten blowjobs. love—” he stops. pauses. whispers: “love, jeonggukkie.”

“i didn’t write that,” whispers jeongguk.

“i remember getting that keyboard,” says yoongi. “i got it for christmas two years ago.”

jeongguk stares at him. “who did you get it from?”

and yoongi says, “i don’t remember.”

yoongi continues to dig through the box. he pulls out new items, new pictures. he occasionally reads out notes or letters that he finds, either from yoongi to jeongguk or from jeongguk to yoongi. all filled with love. all from years ago. but jeongguk sits back against the wall of the closet and thinks.

and what he thinks is—when he met yoongi, he had such a strange sense of déjà vu that it almost knocked him right off of his feet. he didn’t remember meeting yoongi before, but he felt like he already knew yoongi’s heart. he’s never felt uncomfortable with him, like he’d known yoongi for much longer than the few minutes when they first met.

he thinks—jeongguk found yoongi’s sweater deep in his closet, and didn’t remember where he got it from.

he thinks—somehow hoseok knew that he was in school, without having mentioned it. they have matching tattoos. they’ve been having extremely vivid dreams about each other for months.

then yoongi murmurs, “jeongguk,” and he blinks out of his thoughts, turning his eyes to whatever yoongi is holding. he has a small stack of papers in each hand, staring down at them with something akin to terror on his face.

“what?” asks jeongguk, crawling over under he can sit beside yoongi. “hyung, what is that?”

wordlessly, yoongi hands him one of the stacks of paper.

on the top, there’s a massive logo with the name lacuna, inc. it looks like—a form of some sort.

name: jeon jeongguk. age: 21. sex: male. reason for appointment: relationship and counterpart erasure. mutual decision and joint appointment with counterpart. date: april 14, 2018.

he doesn’t understand half of it, just sees that it’s his name and some sort of doctor’s form. he flips through the pages, through all of the terms and conditions of something he doesn’t bother to read, until the last page. there’s the signature of some doctor. his signature. a witness’s signature: yoongi’s.

erasure successful.

“what is this?” asks jeongguk quietly, turning back to the first page. name: jeon jeongguk. reason for appointment: relationship and counterpart erasure.

“it’s a forced amnesia clinic,” whispers yoongi. “lacuna, inc. haven’t you heard of them? jeongguk, they—they erase your memories, if you want them to.”

he frowns. “i didn’t know that was a thing.”

“it’s not widely accepted,” mutters yoongi. “more underground stuff, although it’s all safe and stuff. but that’s—jeongguk. jeongguk. don’t you get it?” jeongguk looks over at yoongi and sees the tears that have pooled in his boyfriend’s eyes. he’s holding up one of the pages of the papers in his hands, an identical form with his own name on it. jeongguk actually reads what’s on the page.

do you understand that this procedure will erase any and all memories of your choosing? if you choose to erase memories of a person, do you understand that you will not remember them or recognize them? if you choose to erase memories of an event or relationship, do you understand that you will not remember anything about those events or relationships, including people you met during that time?

there’s a section under all of it—all of the do you understand, do you understand. it’s half of a page, and the question: why are you choosing to undertake this procedure?

yoongi has written: we’re not good for each other anymore. i don’t think we love each other anymore, or if we do, it’s not enough. it hurts too much. i just want to stop hurting. and even if it was good while it lasted, i know that the only way it’s going to stop hurting is if i forget jeongguk.

jeongguk stares. and stares and stares and feels his eyes fill with tears before everything finally, finally falls into place in his head.

“we forgot about each other,” whispers yoongi. “jeongguk, we—we chose to forget about each other. all of this has happened before.”

“what do you mean, hyung?” and he—knows what yoongi means. he knows what yoongi means, but he has to ask anyway, lifting his eyes to meet yoongi’s gaze. yoongi, who is—crying. yoongi, who looks so upset and devastated and lost that jeongguk doesn’t know what to do with all of it.

“look at all of this,” says yoongi. “it isn’t impossible, jeongguk. we were together and we took all of these pictures and did all of these things and wrote all of these notes to each other. we just don’t remember it. because—something went wrong. and we decided that forgetting about each other, even all of the good stuff, would be better than having to go on with the memories of both the good and bad.”

“oh my god,” jeongguk suddenly whispers. “oh my god, hyung. when we met—” when they met, it wasn’t because they were introduced. wasn’t because they ran into each other’s paths. it was because—“holly recognized me. they couldn’t get rid of holly’s memories.”

“you have my sweater,” whispers yoongi. “your friends know me—they… they knew about us. that’s why they were so weird when we first met.” he looks back down to the paper, wipes at his wet cheeks.

“what about the dreams?” asks jeongguk. “all of the stuff that—felt real.”

“maybe those were memories,” says yoongi. “maybe they didn’t really get rid of them, just… suppressed them enough that we wouldn’t even recognize each other.”

“it didn’t work very well. i still knew what kind of coffee you like. you knew that i like bowling. we—” jeongguk stops. sniffs. they based so much of their relationship on these feelings they were getting about each other, taking cues from stupid dreams about what to do in their relationship. they thought it was fate.

but it was just—history.

jeongguk stares at the box. and still doesn’t understand, but knows that it has to make sense—it’s the only way. and all of the proof is right there before them. this was never supposed to happen. they were never supposed to know.

gingerly, yoongi digs into the box again. this time, he pulls out a disk labelled lacuna interview. he stares at it, and jeongguk stares at him.

“that’s it, isn’t it?” asks jeongguk. “the truth.”

wordlessly, yoongi holds out his hand between them—an offer. an offer for the both of them to look and see, to find out the truth of their relationship. to find out how this has all happened before, to find out what went wrong, maybe. the truth is that jeongguk isn’t sure he wants to know, but he takes yoongi’s hand anyway, because he’s still scared and he knows the only thing that’s going to make him brave is yoongi. and if yoongi wants to be brave about this, then jeongguk can be too.

that should work,” says a voice off screen—a woman that isn’t shown, sitting behind or off to the side. what jeongguk does see on screen is—himself. the same jeongguk he saw in all of those pictures, the same jeongguk he used to be, although he doesn’t remember this at all: his hair is black, like it was earlier this year before he dyed his hair cherry pink. he’s sitting in a chair, a few feet away from yoongi, sitting in another chair. this is a yoongi he’s never met, but—has, he supposes. doesn’t remember.

it’s strange to watch himself move, breathe, act. knowing that it must have happened but he doesn’t remember it. and, more than that, knowing that he’s moving, breathing, and acting alongside yoongi—the same yoongi that he’s sitting beside now, still hand in hand. the yoongi he’s loved for the past three months, and has loved before. has lost before.

for the recordthis is dr. kim of lacuna, inc. we’re conducting the preliminary interview for memory erasure,” the woman off-camera says. “today’s date is… april 7, 2018. if all goes well, your appointment will go ahead as planned one week from today. as you both know, this is just an interview that all patients go through in order to answer basic questions about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. we want to make sure that we get rid of what you want us to get rid of, and for that, we have to know what we’re looking for. does that sound good?

on screen, both jeongguk and yoongi nod. on this side of it, jeongguk finds he isn’t really breathing. yoongi squeezes his hand.

“please state your names and ages for the record.”

“jeon jeongguk, twenty-one,” says jeongguk.

“min yoongi. i’m twenty-six,” says yoongi.

can you tell me why you’ve chosen memory erasure?

jeongguk sees himself glance at yoongi on the screen. he can practically feel the tension from here, the awkwardness. it’s hard to swallow, to go from seeing pictures of the two of them as happy as they are now, to seeing them as they are on screen: cold, clearly not comfortable with being around each other like this. not wanting to talk about it, but knowing they have to.

“do you want to—” jeongguk begins.

“yeah,” says yoongi without looking over at him. even with the mediocre quality of the video, he can tell that yoongi looks tired. looks worn down. it hurts. “jeongguk and i dated for just over two years. and then we broke up. and now we want to forget about each other and about the relationship, because it’s easier that way.”

jeongguk hears yoongi inhale sharply beside him, knows they’re thinking the same thing: two years. they dated for two years, and then just… forgot about it.

“was it a mutual decision?” the doctor asks.

“the break-up or the amnesia?” snorts yoongi.

jeongguk mumbles, “we both agreed that this was the best course of action.”

there’s a small, awkward pause. then the doctor says, “alright, i understand. since you want to forget the relationship and each other, i think it’s best that we start at the beginning. how did you two meet?”

this is what jeongguk learns: he met yoongi—for the first time—in november 2015. it was namjoon who introduced them, having known jeongguk for years and having recently met yoongi in one of his classes. it was at a starbucks. yoongi teased jeongguk about getting a mocha, and jeongguk told him that iced americanos don’t count as real coffee. they became friends, the sort that never planned to meet but always ended up doing so anyway—on campus, or off, at someone’s apartment. it was yoongi who asked jeongguk out first. they went out for dinner, and then climbed onto the roof of yoongi’s apartment building and watched the stars as they listened to music, one earbud each.

it was easy, says jeongguk. everything was easy with him.

and this jeongguk—this jeongguk gets that, too. he finds that so much of their first relationship mirrors the second, like an echo: they went on the same dates, had the same interests. someone mentions the roller skating date, the one that yoongi dreamt about (remembered) when he had pink hair and jeongguk had brown, and yoongi fell down so much that he bruised his tailbone. someone mentions the epik high concert, the one in the photos. hoseok’s graduation. how much holly loves jeongguk, and still does, because jeongguk was right—they couldn’t get rid of his memories, too.

this is what jeongguk learns: he and yoongi dated—for the first time—from january 2016 to march 2018. they celebrated two christmases together, and five birthdays. they were very, very happy together. the way yoongi talks about him in the interview almost makes jeongguk’s skin crawl, because it’s the same way yoongi talks about him now. but the way yoongi looks at him is completely different. he thinks of his nightmare, of yoongi screaming at him and then walking away. he has a terrible feeling about it, suddenly.

slowly, as yoongi and jeongguk awkwardly and hesitantly detail every bit of their relationship to the doctor, jeongguk begins to wrap his head around the fact that this is real: that he and yoongi met once before, and fell in love once before. and something went wrong, and they were so hurt by it that they decided to force amnesia on themselves to get rid of the pain.

they weren’t supposed to meet again, weren’t supposed to fall in love again. maybe the clinic has precautions about that, to try to keep them from repeating history—they couldn’t erase the memories of their friends, the ones who knew them as a couple. he imagines namjoon and taehyung trying to keep him away from the places yoongi likes to hang out. imagines hoseok hesitantly leaving for america, trying to convince himself that yoongi wouldn’t fuck up in the time that he was gone.

maybe there’s something to be said about the fact that they found their way back to each other anyway, completely incidentally. completely accidentally. completely—naturally.

thank you, i think that should be enough about that phase of your relationship,” says the doctor. “are the both of you aware that you’ll have to hand over any and all mementos of your relationship, to ensure that there’s nothing that can trigger a memory of the other and undo the erasure?” on screen, they nod. jeongguk thinks of the sweater he found in his closet, proof that he broke the rules. he thinks of the box that yoongi kept. maybe neither of them were really ready to let go when they did.

now, i’d like to ask about the end of your relationship,” the woman continues. “can you take me through what happened?

we were happy,” says jeongguk instantly, not even giving yoongi a chance to answer first, like he wants to make sure the doctor gets it right. “we really were. you have to understand that. there was nothing wrong with our relationship at that pointwe didn’t fight about things, didn’t have a lot of differences. if we did, we got over them and worked to make sure that they didn’t get in the way of our relationship.

that didn’t stop us from breaking up, though,” yoongi says. “s’like fate or something, i guess.

this yoongi squeezes his hand again. it’s the most painful part—finding out what went wrong, and why it went wrong. jeongguk can’t understand, not when they have all the proof they need that they were happy.

so what happened?”

this time, neither of them rushes to speak. then, jeongguk says, “we had a fight. a really bad one.

what was it about? what was the actual reason that you two broke up in the end?

on screen, yoongi opens his mouth, and jeongguk holds his breath because this is it, this is it, this is it—and then everything freezes. physically: the image on the screen pauses, caught with yoongi’s mouth open the moment before he answers the question. for a moment, jeongguk thinks something must be wrong with the disc, but then he looks over at his yoongi and sees that he’s holding the remote, finger poised on the pause button.

“what are you doing?” asks jeongguk. “why did you stop it?”

yoongi is still staring at the screen. “i don’t want to know,” he says. “jeongguk-ah, i don’t want to know why we broke up.”

“but that’s… that’s the whole point, hyung. if we want to know the truth, we have to know why we broke up and decided to forget about each other.”

“does it matter?” asks yoongi, looking at him now. there’s an almost wild look in his eyes—desperate and afraid and so, so sad. “does it matter why we broke up? we did break up. and it was so bad that we forgot about each other. we forgot about over two years of good things because of this one bad thing. i don’t want to know.”

jeongguk stares at him. his fingers itch to grab the remote, to press play and to know—whose fault was it? and was it like in jeongguk’s nightmare, the one that might just be a memory like all the rest of their dreams: something about secrets, and yoongi screaming at him and slamming the door on his way out?

“you’re scared that it’ll ruin us, aren’t you?” asks jeongguk quietly. “you’re scared that knowing what made us break up the first time will make us break up this time, too.”

“no, jeongguk,” he says. “i’m not scared. because—we’re not them. that was us before, when we wouldn’t make this work for whatever reason. i don’t want to know because it doesn’t matter why this didn’t work the first time. i—jeongguk-ah, i don’t care that we dated before. i care that we’re dating now and that i love you and i don’t want to compare this to that.

it’s only then that jeongguk realizes—he is scared. he’s scared that their past relationship is somehow dictating this one, whether consciously or not. he’s scared that they won’t be able to make this relationship work because there’s tangible proof right in front of them that it didn’t work the first time.

all at once, jeongguk’s eyes fill with tears. and he’s staring at yoongi and seeing both the man he loves now and the man he loved once, even though he doesn’t remember any of it. and they’re fooling themselves, maybe. he thought it was easy, thought it was fate that everything was working out so well, but it was just the two of them sinking right back into whatever fucked them up the first time.

“what if it happens again, hyung?” asks jeongguk. “what if we’re just repeating history?”

“jeongguk-ah,” begins yoongi, reaching out for him, but jeongguk flinches away, unable to stop seeing the way the yoongi on screen looked at him, like they were strangers again. “that’s not—that’s not how it works. jeongguk, we’re not going to fuck up again. this is our second chance; don’t you see that? we weren’t supposed to meet again, but we did anyway, and we fell in love anyway. this is our chance to make it work out because it didn’t the first time.”

“we couldn’t make it work the first time,” says jeongguk, already getting off of the couch and standing feet away from yoongi. he blinks back his tears, to no avail—“they were happy too. they were just like us, for two years. and then they broke up anyway. and we’re still them. that’s us from april, hyung.”

“so we’ll be better this time,” says yoongi, sliding off of the couch as well, hesitantly approaching him. “we know that we fucked up the first time, so we can try harder not to. and we can work through whatever we have problems with and make sure we don’t become that again. jeongguk, i don’t—” he wipes at his eyes. “jeongguk, i don’t remember losing you the first time, but i’m not going to let it happen again.”

jeongguk shakes his head, takes a step back. “i’m sorry, hyung,” he says. “i don’t—i don’t know what to do. i don’t know what this means.

“it doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“but it does,” says jeongguk. “it does mean something. i just—i need time to think.” and then he turns and hurries out of yoongi’s apartment, desperate to find something that is familiar, something he knows and knows he hasn’t been lied to about. something he remembers, and remembers properly.

it’s just—he loves yoongi. of course he loves yoongi, of course he wants to be with him and make it work. but it’s too terrifying to know that they were together once, and it didn’t work out. he’s afraid of repeating history, afraid of stringing the both of them along only to have it fall apart again. and he can understand, in a way, why he would want to forget yoongi in the first place, even if it meant forgetting all of the good parts of two years of his life: having yoongi close but not close enough is worse than not having him at all. he wouldn’t remember that there were good times to remember. and he will this time, but it’s too much. it’s too much. all at once, jeongguk doesn’t know how to be brave anymore. and he doesn’t know if he wants to be, not when it comes to this.

《《《

jeongguk sits on it for days—two, three. he tries to do his studying, tries to distract himself from the storm brewing inside of his heart as he does so. he calls namjoon and taehyung, and doesn’t admit the truth to them—just enough that they know to wrap him up and keep him warm, to pet his hair and whisper reassurances into his ears. it’s not the same as having yoongi here, but—it has to be a good substitute. he’s not sure if he should have yoongi here again after all of this.

he tries to think his way through it, tries to weigh the pros and cons. yoongi has a point, he knows—now that they know something went wrong the first time, they can work harder to make sure that it doesn’t happen this time. but jeongguk is still terrified that simply knowing that something went wrong the first time will doom them this time, that they’ll always be waiting for something bad to happen rather than working toward being happy. he’s terrified that this is fate, but that they’re fated to end the same way they did the same first.

he’s terrified, above all, that they’ll forget each other again, completely unprompted: that somehow, the procedure from april has a trip wire, and the moment they remember too much, their memories will be erased again. a safety net, to make sure that what they forgot can never be remembered again.

he’s terrified that yoongi will look at him the way the yoongi from april looked at the jeongguk from april: like he can’t remember why they loved each other in the first place. that yoongi will become the man who screamed at him in that nightmare, for whatever reason both of them refuse to find out. maybe that’s the biggest barrier: the idea of yoongi not loving him anymore. he doesn’t want yoongi to remember why he stopped loving jeongguk.

after three days, curiosity gets the better of him. he’s been routinely ignoring yoongi’s texts and calls until they finally petered off with an i understand you need time. i’m sorry, jeongguk. i’ll be here if you want to come back. and maybe talking to yoongi would actually help, but jeongguk knows he needs to make this decision on his own. needs to forget about the déjà vu, the easy familiarity, the comfort. needs to think as himself for once, not relying on feelings or dreams to guide him in his relationship with yoongi.

so, after three days, when he knows yoongi is at work, jeongguk lets himself back into yoongi’s apartment. he almost cries as holly rushes to meet him at the door, at the dog’s affection and excitement—the same affection and excitement he had back in september, when he caught sight of jeongguk in the music store window and ran in to meet him again. because holly knew him, because holly missed him, this part of yoongi’s life that disappeared one day and never came back.

jeongguk picks up holly, letting that comfort welcome him as he returns to the closet he found the box in. everything is still there, even three days later: the box on the floor, half of its contents spilled out. he sees the notes again, sees the pictures. all of this evidence. jeongguk can look at them with new eyes, now that he understands what they mean.

so he goes through the box again. he takes his time looking at the notes, looking at the pictures, at the mementos. he still doesn’t understand what half of them mean, but he knows he has so many from his current relationship with yoongi, so he can appreciate them. he takes them as they are. he looks at every piece of his love with yoongi, the first love, and he sees: all of that fucking promise. and maybe they ruined it. but it was still there, just as it’s there now. and that is terrifying.

but for the first time, jeongguk sees that, even if their current relationship has so many echoes of the first, there’s no way they could be the same, not in the way that scares him about fate and repeating history. they’re similar because it’s still yoongi and jeongguk—the yoongi and jeongguk who have the same pasts as they did before, the same hobbies and interests. teasing each other about coffee might have less to do with repeating history and more to do with the fact that, even after three years, neither of them can let go of their prejudices toward the other’s preference.

there’s so much here that jeongguk doesn’t understand, because the relationships aren’t the same. it’s the same love, but different ways of getting there, different ways of saying it and keeping it alive. he’s never going to escape the fact that this happened once before, but it’s different. it’s always going to be just a little different, and maybe that means it can be a little better.

this time, when jeongguk is digging through the box, he finds something new. buried under the pictures and mementos, under the paperwork from the memory erasure, he finds a little envelope. there’s no name on it, no address, but he picks it up anyway, taking out the piece of paper inside.

it’s a letter. one that, just from looking at it, he knows was never sent, was meant to be written as nothing more than an outpouring of feelings, for someone’s own peace of mind. it’s in yoongi’s writing. and jeongguk feels like he’s found something very vulnerable, something that might just be a raw piece of yoongi’s soul.

jeongguk-ah, it says. you’ll never read this, but i think i need to write anyway. tomorrow is the appointment. when you first brought up the idea of going through with it, i thought it was the stupidest idea in the entire world. no matter what happened between us and no matter how hurt we both were by it, i couldn’t understand why you would want to forget about it. but i could see how much you wanted it, and how much you needed it. i know i’m the one who left and the one who wanted this to end, but i think that’s why i can understand why you want to do this so badly.

the truth is, i don’t want to do it. i don’t want to forget you, because you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. the past almost three years have been the best of my life, and even if thinking about what happened hurts me, i don’t want to forget it, because the pain reminds me that it was real and it was good. but you want to do it. and jeongguk-ah, the only thing i want is for you to be happy.

so if forgetting about me makes you happy, and if me forgetting about you makes you happy, then it makes me happy, too. i will do this for you, because i love you. i love you and i will never stop loving you, even when i don’t remember you. no matter what they do to our memories, my heart can’t forget your heart. you’re half of my soul now, guk-ah. they can never take that away from me.

i hope there’s another universe out there, just like this one, where we can be together. where we get that second chance and where we find a way to make it work. i’ll be better, jeongguk. i’ll be so much better. i’ll make you happy.

love, yoongi.

this time, jeongguk waits until yoongi gets home from work. he sits on the floor of the closet and reads the letter over and over and over and waits and wants and makes his decision.

by the time yoongi gets home, he almost has it memorized. and this yoongi doesn’t remember writing it, can’t remember writing it—but he wrote it anyway. and all of jeongguk’s fears about yoongi changing his mind, about history repeating itself—suddenly, they all seem so small in the face of this: the knowledge that it was jeongguk who wanted to forget. and it was yoongi who loved him enough to give him that one thing, even if it meant yoongi himself would forget, too. and the knowledge that yoongi has always been sure of a second chance, has always had faith in him, even when he couldn’t remember him.

it’s terrifying. but every relationship is, regardless of if it’s happened before or not; they were always going to be at risk of falling apart. having fallen apart once before could never increase their chances of ruining it again the second time, and jeongguk does his best to see it how yoongi does: the fact that this might be a gift, a chance to do better than last time. a chance to stop themselves from making the same mistakes, because they know where they went wrong.

jeongguk is sitting at the kitchen table when yoongi opens the door, and he startles a little when he sees jeongguk. and then—yoongi puts down his things and must understand something, must understand the gravity of it. he makes his way to the table and sits across from jeongguk softly, gently. how he always deals with jeongguk, especially in the vulnerable moments.

he doesn’t say anything. jeongguk just looks at him: looks at this man that he has fallen in love with twice over, because there’s no way that he wouldn’t. when he found out the truth, jeongguk was scared that it would damn them, didn’t know if he wanted to try again in fear of failing again. but this time, he sees it differently. this time, he sees that the universe couldn’t keep them apart. he sees that amnesia couldn’t keep them apart, sees that all of their efforts to erase their love went to shit because yoongi was right: their hearts know each other. their souls know each other, and nothing can take that away.

what they wanted, when they forgot about each other, was to forget the pain of it. and they did. jeongguk doesn’t remember what went wrong, and he won’t. now, he just has the good. just has yoongi, which was what he wanted in the first place. it could go wrong again, but jeongguk… is going to be brave. not for the first time, and not for the last. it’s a choice every day, he realizes: to be brave, to work for this. to love. and by fucking god, he wants to love.

so he says, “okay.”

so he says, “hyung—let’s do it.”

it’s yoongi who says, “something could go horribly wrong.”

“i know,” says jeongguk. “something can always go horribly wrong. i love you, anyway.”

yoongi—hesitates. and then a soft smile curls on his lips, and he gets up from the table and joins jeongguk on his side. leans down, takes jeongguk’s face in his hands. “are you sure?” he asks. “i don’t want to force you into this if you’re too afraid.”

“of course i’m afraid,” says jeongguk, “but that doesn’t mean it has to stop me from being happy. i don’t know if it’s fate or history repeating itself or what, but—i love you, min yoongi. fuck the universe. fuck amnesia.”

yoongi giggles, and jeongguk leans up, grinning as he brushes his nose against yoongi’s. “fuck amnesia,” yoongi agrees quietly, and then finally kisses jeongguk.

later—after they’ve cleaned up the box and its contents, and after they’ve decided to burn the fucking thing to have a clean start, when they’re cuddling on yoongi’s sofa with holly squished between them and watching a movie jeongguk knows for a fact that past them couldn’t have watched because it only came out a few months ago—jeongguk says, “i think there’s something we can learn from the first time, though.”

yoongi hums, turning his head and pressing a kiss to jeongguk’s temple. “and what’s that?”

“you really need to get a new fucking coffee order,” he says, and yoongi scoffs, offended, and digs his fingers into jeongguk’s side. and jeongguk shrieks, trying to retaliate, and holly starts barking at them, displeased with the movement, and they all end up as a pile on the floor, laughing and laughing and laughing.

and jeongguk thinks—he’s had this before, some part of it. but what the jeongguk from april couldn’t do was hold onto it, couldn’t be brave enough to try. the jeongguk from april was a fucking coward, and this jeongguk—is going to show him what it looks like to love, and to fight for love. what it looks like to remember.