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Take My Whole Life (Too)

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Working the night shift at a 24-hour convenience store means that Taehyung sees a lot of eyebrow-raising things.

 

During his first week, Taehyung is witness to two very horny teenagers groping each other by one of the refrigerators. Taehyung would have gladly ignored them in favor of not having to awkwardly interrupt and tell them please, for the love of god, don’t do this here, but there are working security cameras in this store branch and he really, really needs this job. So he politely taps the otherwise occupied guy on the shoulder and offers a condom that’s on the house if they please stop humping over the water fridge.

 

It does the trick, but it doesn’t stop the eventual stream of weird people doing weird things at weird hours.

 

Sometimes, he gets the occasionally reckless drunk bastard wandering into the store. Taehyung, who’s more of the fleeing in a state of mild panic type, hides in the stockroom and just hopes the guy doesn’t steal anything before he finally stumbles out. Thankfully, they never do.

 

Taehyung isn’t paid enough as it is, and he can’t afford to have his paycheck docked because he’s too scared to tell a drunk and potentially violent guy to leave.

 

Most nights, however, are just painfully quiet.

 

Taehyung busies himself by neatly arranging the shelves, making sure every item is aligned like a straight line, every label openly displayed like it will somehow draw in more customers at this late of an hour.

 

He isn’t used to silence. He’s more accustomed to hearing Jimin’s high-pitched fits of giggles or the blasts of gunfire and eventual string of colorful swear words when Jeongguk plays his video games. But freelance photography doesn’t pay much or even at all, at least not yet when he’s still so young and hasn’t made a name for himself, so he takes the next job that happens to fall on his lap.

 

Sometimes, Taehyung plays music just to quell the loneliness that always seems to creep up on him.

 

He fills the empty silence with his favorite music, the sounds of Fred Astaire, Fats Waller, and Gene Kelly often keeping him company until he sees the sun rise. He lets his mind wander, pretending he’s the lead in a black-and-white film, a whiskey in hand and surveying the dance floor of some grandiose ballroom filled with wealthy men in stern black suits and glamorous women draped in glittering gowns. Cigar smoke fills the room like a gentle fog, obscuring the crowd’s faces but they all look beautiful to Taehyung just the same.

 

Taehyung imagines that he’s an army recruit in one of those period films, poised to leave for the war the very next day, and he’s dressed in his crisp uniform, hair neatly slicked to the side and his posture tall and straight as he leans on the bar counter. Somewhere behind him, the familiar lull of an otherworldly orchestra composition filters through the air, fills Taehyung’s ears with a soothing ballad that always makes him want to sweep someone off their feet. So he scans the room, searching for a face he’s drawn to—

 

Then the bell hovering above the store entrance tinkles, and Taehyung snaps back to reality.

 

A slightly hunched figure walks in, heavy boots barely making a sound on the pristine floors as he immediately goes straight to the instant noodles section. Taehyung can’t see his face from his spot behind the counter, obscured by a stack of potato chips, but he hears the faint thrums of hip-hop music through the headphones clapped over the stranger’s ears. He can make out a mop of mint green hair, the roots slightly fading into its natural black, but that’s about it.

 

It doesn’t take long when the figure walks up to the counter, and Taehyung gets a good look at the other boy standing in front of him.

 

He’s dressed head to toe in black, from the bulky jacket that seems to swallow his small frame entirely to the bandana tied around his head, pushing his hair back. There’s nothing too remarkable about him, except maybe for his mint hair—but then the boy looks up at him with sharp, narrow eyes, so dark that Taehyung thinks he’s staring at an endless void. It’s a stark contrast to the fluttery lashes that frame his gaze, so long that some snowflakes cling at the ends, tempering the cold and stoic expression with softness.

 

That makes Taehyung do a double-take.

 

Thankfully, the other boy doesn’t seem to notice because he’s too preoccupied with the music that’s playing from Taehyung’s beat-up speakers, overlapping and clashing horribly from the rap beats blaring from his own headphones.

 

The boy pulls his abnormally large headphones down around his neck, and he looks bemused. “Interesting choice of music.”

 

“It’s called ‘Moonlight Serenade,’” Taehyung helpfully supplies, mustering his best No-I-Wasn’t-Just-Trying-to-Count-the-Snowflakes-in-Your-Lashes face. Totally casual. “Glenn Miller.”

 

It’s not the kind of music anyone would expect to be playing in a random Korean convenience store a few hours before sunrise. Or at any time, for that matter. He’s heard the dismissive “old people music” comment one too many times.

 

But Taehyung doesn’t care. He loves how the song is dreamy and romantic all at once, how he can just listen and float away, losing himself to his daydreams all over again. He doesn’t let his imagination run too wild, but he pictures himself finding this stranger somewhere on the imaginary dance floor, half-hidden in a dimly lit corner of the lavish ballroom but he could just make out those sharp, dark eyes through the hazy smoke.

 

“Ah,” The stranger says in a tone that says he wishes he understands the reference, but doesn’t. He doesn’t look judgmental or confused the way most people do. Just genuinely curious, and Taehyung appreciates that.

 

A beat passes, and the boy is clearing his throat, pushing the single-sized cup of instant ramyeon towards Taehyung’s trembling hand.

 

Oh. Right.

 

Taehyung rings up the ramyeon and when he offers a plastic bag, the stranger shakes his head. He cares about the environment. That’s definitely a plus.

 

Taehyung doesn’t get to ask him about his thoughts on plastic consumption, because the stranger is already halfway out the door, just as quietly as he first came in.

 

The little bell dings, and Taehyung is alone with his music again.

 

He thinks of snowflakes all night.

 

***

 

Truth be told, Taehyung doesn’t expect to see him again.

 

It’s not like the convenience store is located somewhere with a lot of foot traffic, so the chances of getting a regular customer—much less seeing the stranger’s messy mint hair again—are slim to none.

 

Even still, Taehyung spends an inordinate amount of time whining into a throw pillow about his complete lack of acceptable social skills. That is, until Jeongguk actually tosses something at his head while Jimin pats him sympathetically on the arm.

 

So tonight, he decides to distract himself. He also pointedly ignores the fact that it’s been exactly two weeks and three days since he’s seen the boy with pretty hair and sharp eyes—not that he’s been counting. He’s just bored.

 

Taehyung turns up the volume of his speakers, letting the crooning voice of Frank Sinatra placate his disappointment.

 

Jazz and swing remind Taehyung of Sundays spent with his grandparents at their farm in Daegu. He’d wake up to the music playing blearily from the ancient cassette player in the kitchen, its worn-out speakers doing very little to give the genre proper justice. The trumpet blares crack and the saxophones sound thin and strained, but it doesn’t matter. Taehyung would always hums along, until he eventually learns every word and note by heart, now able to mouth the lines around bowls of juicy strawberries he picks from outside.

 

Other times, Taehyung would sing an Ella Fitzgerald duet with his grandma as they tidy up, and she would always end each song with a fond smile and encouraging pat on his shoulder.

 

“Everyone should hear you sing,” she would always say kindly, and Taehyung would only smile and shake his head. As optimistic as Taehyung is, he knows that the music world—the glitzy world of fame and being able to serenade crowds every night—is far beyond his reach. He could never be part of all that, knows that its tempting allure is shrouded in things far bigger than someone could even begin comprehend.

 

Taehyung would have been perfectly content with his life that way, listening to cassette after cassette of Pat Boone and The Platters while he tends to the farm. But Taehyung quickly learns that life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, things upend when you least expect it, and you’re often left to pick up the pieces in a city you’ve never stepped foot into.

 

Taehyung would be lying if he said he doesn’t think about Daegu a lot. But he’s made friends—real, wonderful, incredible friends who help him find a job and let him move into their already cramped apartment—and they make him feel less alone in a place as big and terrifying as Seoul. He knows his music is the only thing that connects him to home now, so he clings to every note like a lifeline, loses himself in the melodies when everything is far too much or hardly ever enough.

 

So he plays it loudest when he’s at work, taking comfort in the songs he knows like the back of his hand, songs that still tie him back home.

 

Taehyung is in the middle of mopping when the bell tinkles, so he quickly makes his way to the counter. He glances at the analog clock on the wall—3:23 a.m.—and turns around, only to look into a recognizable jet black eyes. They’re framed with clumps of snowflakes again, and Taehyung swallows a lump that inexplicably forms in his throat.

 

The stranger is cradling the same single-sized cup of instant ramyeon like it’s precious cargo. He looks much smaller than he did the first time he walked in here, and Taehyung resists the urge to squeeze the life out of him. That would be an entirely new level of weird, even for him.

 

The stranger’s headphones are hanging around his neck again, the unmistakable thrums of some hip-hop song playing alongside Taehyung’s own music.

 

“‘Strangers in the Night,’” the other boy says in a surprising tone of recognition that he didn’t have the last time they met. Taehyung notices that his voice is low and gravelly, with a familiar twang distantly hidden somewhere behind the carefully trained Seoul accent.

 

It’s a strangely fitting song for this moment, and Taehyung’s heart jumps—too joyously for his own good—at the thought and this time, the stranger must have noticed the tiny reaction because the corners of his lips curl up ever so slightly. They’re a shade of pale pink from the bitter cold outside, and Taehyung is far too transfixed.

 

“You know Sinatra?” Taehyung asks eagerly, matching the small smile with his own.

 

“Not everything, but his voice is pretty recognizable,” he answers with a shrug as he pushes money on the counter.

 

Taehyung offers him a receipt, which he doesn’t take. The piece of paper lies between them, completely ignored as the song’s bridge serenades their mutual silence. The pregnant pause is nearly deafening to Taehyung, who suddenly loses the ability to make conversation the moment he looks into this boy’s dark, cat-like eyes—which is crazy considering he can immediately make friends with anyone at the drop of a hat.

 

Well, maybe not everyone.

 

The stranger saves Taehyung from his inner distress and quietly says, “I like ‘Somethin’ Stupid’ myself.” He doesn’t add anything else. Instead, he gives a small nod, takes his ramyeon and leaves without another word.

 

Taehyung spends the rest of his shift playing the song on repeat.

 

***

 

It’s not that Taehyung is a bad judge of character.

 

He just tends to take people at face value, choosing to see the good sides of them instead of being initially wary and careful. He’s always been naturally open and welcoming like that.

 

It’s just a lot harder when someone is aloof by default, and Taehyung can’t decide whether it’s a good thing or not.

 

So he draws his own conclusions about the boy who always buys the same cup of noodles at three in the morning.

 

Theory One: He probably lives nearby. For one, nobody ever regularly walks into a convenience store before the crack of dawn if they lived several stations away. That’s an easy conclusion to draw, and if Taehyung spends a good hour of his shift googling nearby residential areas, it doesn’t mean he’s a fucking stalker. He just has to know for important research purposes.

 

Theory Two: He’s a musician of some sort, or at the very least, works in that industry to some degree. He always has deafening music playing through his headphones. It’s definitely not just noise—Taehyung isn’t some pretentious snob by any means—and he enjoys his fair share of newly released songs as much as the next person. He comes to associate muffled yet smooth beats with the stranger, like it’s his own version of the bell that tinkles whenever the store door opens. But something about the stranger makes Taehyung think that he’s more than a guy who just likes music.

 

Maybe it’s because the songs that drift from his headphones are often rough and unrecognizable in a way that suggests they’re probably demos. Or he has what Taehyung likes to call musician hands, with long and delicate fingers that look like they’d fit perfectly well over piano keys. Or hovering above a recording booth’s knobs and dials.

 

Taehyung spends a lot of time thinking of those hands—and if he drifts off to wonder what else they can do, well, at least he doesn’t know anyone who can read his mind. It’s perfectly fine and normal to wonder how talented some maybe-musician’s hands could be in other ways.

 

It’s been awhile, okay?

 

Theory Three: He has a terrible diet. This one, Taehyung is a hundred percent sure of, because surely, no one who regularly buys the same goddamn cup of instant noodles at three in the morning has healthy and balanced meals at reasonable hours.

 

One time, the stranger’s oversized sweater rides up at the sleeves, exposing his tiny and bony wrists, and Taehyung swears he must have been possessed by his grandma at that moment because he has this urge to just… dote on him. Make sure he’s fed and taken care of.

 

It’s ridiculous. Taehyung’s floaty, sweat-inducing feelings over some guy he’s exchanged less than five sentences with are just ridiculous. But the boy is a mesmerizing mystery wrapped up in bundles of dark, oversized clothes, and Taehyung just wants to figure him out, piece all the little clues together until they make sense.

 

Theory Four… well, to be perfectly honest, Taehyung hasn’t actually gotten to know much about him at this point to come up with a fourth theory. There are little things he notices, like how the boy never wears a scarf or beanie no matter how impossibly cold it is outside. And really, that doesn’t tell Taehyung much—except that the stranger is probably immune to the freezing cold, which is a lie because even Taehyung has to turn up the heater on some nights.

 

Taehyung has taken to arranging the ramyeon shelf to make sure the particular brand and flavor is always the first to be seen. He’s half-tempted to hide the cups behind the large packs of chips, if it means the boy will spend more than the usual handful of minutes in the store, but the need to take care of him far outweighs any selfish intentions Taehyung may have.

 

The boy doesn’t stop by every night, but he drops in at least twice a week on the most random of days, though always at the same hour between three and four in the morning like clockwork.

 

Except tonight.

 

It’s a few minutes past two when the bell dings and there’s no muffled hip-hop beat that interrupts Taehyung’s playlist. The usual shuffle of feet sounds a bit off, skipping every few seconds and they go straight to the cash register instead of the shelf at the back of the store. When Taehyung looks up, he inadvertently lets out a little gasp.

 

The boy is standing—no, leaning on the sturdy counter for support—and his knuckles are scraped and bloody. His mouth, usually a pleasant shade of pink, are stained red, with a stark pool of blood already drying at the swell of his bottom lip.

 

His features are impassive and unreadable, but there’s a hard edge to his gaze that signals raw anger simmering just beneath the surface and it makes Taehyung nervous. Makes him squirm uncomfortably in his sneakers.

 

Theory Four: He gets into fist fights? The thought sinks deep into Taehyung’s stomach like a heavy stone because he doesn’t know how to grapple with a concept like that, and this boy may be a mystery to him but it doesn’t quite fit and yet, maybe it does. Taehyung doesn’t waste any time trying to wrap his head around it, too caught in up in scooping up some ice from the freezer and wrapping it with a towel.

 

He’s too worried and too wound up to really keep his usual respectful distance, so he reaches out to press the makeshift ice pack onto the boy’s split lip. The other boy winces at the contact, and Taehyung only realizes now that he’s actually touching the boy’s face, his fingers gently curled around the sharp angle of his jaw, and his skin feels so, so cold to the touch.

 

It isn’t an adverse reaction to being touched, though. Instead of pulling away like Taehyung half-expects him to, he leans into the warmth of Taehyung’s hands, eyes fluttering shut and a small sigh escapes his swollen lips. His wound must sting at the freezing ice but he doesn’t show it, responding more to Taehyung’s fingers cradling his jawline as though he’s taking comfort in his cautious touch.

 

It’s all too close and far too different from any sort of feeble interaction they’ve ever had the past few weeks. They don’t even know each other’s names, but the way the boy settles himself into the palm of Taehyung’s hand says so much and nothing at all. It makes Taehyung feel weak in the knees.

 

“I hope the other guy looks worse,” Taehyung finally says, slowly and quietly because he doesn’t want to ruin the moment with his usual brand of awkwardness.

 

The boy’s lids slowly open, a few tiny snowflakes falling on his cheeks, and Taehyung is struck by just how soft and pretty he looks. It contrasts sharply with the hardened look returning in his eyes, as though he’s replaying the events of the night back in his head and he just wants to punch someone again. It should be terrifying, and it is, but Taehyung is—for the lack of a better word—fascinated. Fascinated by how this stranger is a walking canvas of contradictions, all dainty and delicate with his soft features but brimming with raw energy that threatens to spill at any moment.

 

“He is,” he answers, and his voice is rougher and raspier than usual. “We were at a bar and some guy wouldn’t leave my friend alone even if his boyfriend was right there. Didn’t want to take no for answer, you know? So I-I just…”

 

His other hand gestures feebly in the air, mimicking some kind of punch that Taehyung is sure looked more threatening at the time.

 

“You’re a good friend,” Taehyung says honestly. He might not know all the nitty gritty details of this stranger’s eventful night, but if he’s out there punching men with no concept of boundaries and respect, then he’s a fucking amazing friend. His little crush might have just grown by a hundredfold, and Taehyung doesn’t entirely mind.

 

Maybe he is a good judge of character.

 

Sometimes.

 

He’s right about this one.

 

The other boy only grunts in response, and Taehyung accidentally presses the ice pack harder than he should because his stomach is doing backflips and it’s distracting. The other boy lets out a hiss, but thankfully, doesn’t pull away. He leans into Taehyung’s touch even more, and his skin is so delicately smooth under Taehyung’s fingers that he just gravitates to him.

 

It’s maddening. There’s an itch under Taehyung’s skin that won’t go away, and there’s an unmistakable charge in the room that definitely wasn’t there minutes ago because the boy is gazing at him with a painfully indecipherable look in his eyes, and it makes Taehyung want to punch himself.

 

Some bits of ice have melted, pooling in the heat of their skin and beads of water trickle down the boy’s chin and Taehyung watches every drop fall, utterly transfixed by the rivulets caressing his skin. He’s almost jealous of them.

 

“My name is Kim Taehyung.” If his voice sounds shaky and out of breath, it’s too late to go back and fix it now. “I-I, uh, figured I should tell you. Since I see you a lot here, and t-this situation sort of, probably, warrants you knowing my name by now—”

 

Taehyung is rambling again. He always does this when he’s nervous, or when an absurdly pretty boy is standing across him, allowing him to curl his trembling fingers around his cheek like it’s nothing new. Like they just naturally gravitate to each other’s touch and it feels right.

 

Feels instinctive.

 

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I know this is weird—” The other boy makes the slightest move to pull away, but Taehyung impulsively holds him firmer in place, wraps his hand tighter around the boy’s face and curving around his nape, the soft strands of hair there tickling his skin.

 

It’s the subtlest of gestures, but it’s certainly a lot for two strangers with only a string of sentences between them. It makes panic rise up Taehyung’s throat, but it quickly dies away when the other boy doesn’t pull back, murmuring softly and arching his neck every so slightly that he settles even closer into Taehyung’s fingers, reveling in the warmth radiating from the other boy’s skin.

 

It all feels like a fevered dream at this point, like he’s about to wake up at any moment but he refuses to...not when there’s a boy who makes his breath hitch without even trying, who is so close that Taehyung could just lean in and—

 

It’s the other boy who breaks the silence. “I’m Min Yoongi.”

 

“Yoongi-ssi?”

 

“Yoongi hyung. I think we’re well past the formalities at this point,” he offers a small quirk of a smile from behind the towel, and Taehyung’s heart surges. God, Yoongi is so fucking pretty that it’s unfair to Taehyung’s rapidly failing motor functions. “You’re, uh, basically holding really cold water to my face now, by the way.”

 

Taehyung startles, realizing that there’s nothing left in the towel but small shards of ice and the rest of it forming puddles onto the counter. How long have they been standing like this? Taehyung has lost all track of time at this point, but that tends to happen when he’s utterly distracted like this.

 

“Sorry, I’ll go get another—”

 

“N-no, it’s fine,” Yoongi must have noticed how Taehyung’s shoulders deflate because he quickly adds, “Don’t worry about it. I-uh, need to go. My friends… they might be looking for me.”

 

Oh, right. Taehyung has forgotten that there other people outside of this convenience store, outside of the two of them.

 

Somewhere behind them, Taehyung’s speakers are still playing music, Diana Ross and the Supremes soundtracking the strange little moment that’s already the highlight of Taehyung’s entire year. His stomach twists when the chorus hits, serenading a tune he knows all too well... I’m gonna make you love me.

 

“Do you want that ramyeon? For the road?”

 

Yoongi cracks another smile, still small but definitely warmer this time. It fills Taehyung’s lungs like a whoosh of air after being underwater for too long.

 

“Maybe next time.” And with that, he disappears.

 

Next time, Taehyung repeats to himself. He slumps into his seat, forgetting about the wet towel dripping water all over the counter and possibly the floor because who even cares. There’s going to be a next time. He reaches out to turn up the volume of the speakers.

 

I’m gonna make you love me. Yes, I will.

 

It’s almost like a promise.

 

***

 

Days turn into weeks, and before Taehyung even realizes it, they turn into months.

 

Stolen moments blur into longer conversations, as Yoongi walks in practically every night like a routine and settles into the chair that Taehyung has taken to placing in front of the counter every time his shift starts.

 

He still buys the same cup of ramyeon, but Taehyung insists that if Yoongi is going to be here every night, he might as well eat something else. He microwaves ready-made dinners instead, tries to make sure there’s a variety of it even if the store doesn’t carry many options. It’s not exactly the healthy, unprocessed meal Taehyung initially had in mind but reheated bibimbap is certainly better than another cup of spicy noodles.

 

Yoongi insists on paying for everything, as long as Taehyung eats with him so there they are, exchanging story after story over store-bought meals.

 

Theories soon turn into facts, and Taehyung relishes every single one, files them alphabetically in a hidden corner of his brain as he learns more and more about Yoongi.

 

Fact One: He doesn’t live nearby. He lives in a neighborhood two stations away, and it’s about a 15-minute commute on a good day. Yoongi lives in a cramped apartment with his roommate of eight years, a guy named Namjoon, who immediately sounds like the smartest guy Taehyung knows even from a distance. Namjoon’s boyfriend, an older guy named Jin, has just moved in, which should be inconvenient but Jin always cooks for them, so at least Yoongi is being properly fed elsewhere.

 

Fact Two: He works in one of the buildings down the street, which explains the regular visits. Taehyung is all too pleased with himself when he learns that Yoongi works in the industry. He, Namjoon, and some guy named Hoseok all run a modest music production studio called Cypher. It’s not huge by any means, but they get a steady stream of work and it keeps Yoongi busy most nights, which also explains the ungodly hours. He explains that he’s a perfectionist when it comes to his job, absolutely refusing to leave the studio until every note and line is right where it should be.

 

The nights when he used to come for ramyeon are times when his friends threaten him with physical force until he eats, and Taehyung feels a rush of pleasure knowing that Yoongi now comes to the store willingly.

 

Fact Three: He’s also from Daegu, although he grew up more inland while Taehyung was raised farther out in the countryside. Yoongi accidentally lets the twang slip one night, and Taehyung is all too delighted when he hears it, immediately shedding his carefully practiced Gyeonggi satoori for something closer to home.

 

It’s freeing in a way, and Yoongi thankfully embraces it as much as Taehyung does.

 

Fact Four: He is actually a musician. Taehyung learns that Yoongi is huge in the underground rap scene, that he performs under a stage name called Agust D, and after googling that little fact, he learns that Agust D is an elusive guy who never announces when he’s performing but when he does, it’s a really big fucking deal to the dozens and dozens of fanpages dedicated to him.

 

Taehyung openly marvels at this, which Yoongi furiously blushes at while swatting away every awed compliment that spills out of Taehyung’s mouth. It’s adorable to see him all shy like this, and he’d love nothing more than to see the dusting of pink on his cheeks again, but he takes pity on Yoongi and resolves to listening to his Soundcloud page instead.

 

As far as Taehyung is concerned, Yoongi is beyond talented; he’s a goddamn genius, with the innate ability to spit clever rhymes that sound like poetry that makes you feel seen with every ferociously delivered line.

 

Sometimes, Taehyung still finds it difficult to reconcile the two versions of Yoongi that he knows: the one that oozes charisma and bravado even in grainy YouTube videos of his performances, and the one who sits across him on most nights, all shy smiles and reserved affection.

 

Fact Five: Yoongi lives and breathes music. It’s a long-established fact, but now that Taehyung knows him better, he can clearly see that music is everything to him. He understands music on another level—technical and otherwise—in a way that Taehyung may never quite understand, but he eagerly takes it in anyway.

 

Yoongi opens up about the first album he ever bought, Tupac’s All Eyez on Me, and how it was the only record he could afford after saving up for it for weeks, and he listened to the entire thing on loop every single night until he saved enough to buy another album. He talks about the artists that inspire him, the ones he’s always looked up to, and the ones he’s painstakingly nurturing with his work in Cypher.

 

Yoongi’s eyes are as black as ever, but they light up every time he talks like this, all shiny and animated as though the topic literally fuels him. He grins happily as he talks, and Taehyung swears that his heart stopped beating for a few seconds when he first saw Yoongi flash a wide, gummy smile. Now Taehyung tries to find a creative variety of ways to get him to smile that way more often.

 

It remarkably works more often than Taehyung expects, especially when the topic drifts to the music they love.

 

Though Yoongi admits to know little of the genres Taehyung tends to favor, he never complains when it plays in the background. He asks Taehyung about every song and why it’s special, and he listens to every single one with openly genuine interest.

 

When Yoongi hears Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” for the first time, he demands to listen to it on repeat until he learns every line, and Taehyung’s heart surges with fondness as he watches him mouth the lyrics.

 

He sings along too, much louder than Yoongi does, with a grin that he can't stop from spreading across his face, and his heart surges whenever they make eye contact and Yoongi actually flushes, heat spreading to his collar.

 

He also learns that Yoongi an affinity for the ‘60s, and he’ll gladly argue that “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is the best track ever recorded by The Beatles—Taehyung would counter that it’s actually “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and they debate affectionately about this for a good handful of minutes—and Taehyung goes as far as making a playlist dedicated to the genre, playing it only when he knows Yoongi is stopping by.

 

They bond over The Beach Boys and hum along to Motown songs while they talk about everything and nothing until Yoongi breaks out of his Taehyung-induced stupor to check his watch, and he’s hurriedly rushing out with a quick wave goodbye.

 

It’s been a few months, and Taehyung doesn’t feel alone at work anymore.

 

***

 

Fact Six: Yoongi can down a bottle of soju like it’s no one’s business.

 

Taehyung isn’t much of a drinker. Or to be more accurate, he doesn’t hold his alcohol very well.

 

Truth be told, he’s still mildly traumatized by the last time he had gone out for drinks with his friends. It was to celebrate Jimin landing his first job months ago—their idea—and they had gone dancing in some high-end club in Gangnam—their idea—and had plenty of overpriced fruity alcohol—their idea—then Taehyung unceremoniously threw up at the sidewalk well before midnight—his stomach’s idea.

 

He also passed out shortly after that, only to wake up on the floor of their apartment, clinging to a trash bin, so Taehyung hasn’t touched a single bottle since.

 

Yoongi strides into the store one night, but instead of going his usual route to the ramyeon section, he heads to the fridge and pulls out two bottles of soju. When he settles the bottles on the counter, there’s a sparkle in his eyes that Taehyung’s never seen, and that alone is enough to convince him to take a particularly large swig to match Yoongi’s own.

 

He instantly regrets it.

 

Taehyung’s throat burns at the liquid sliding down like hot fire down his throat, and he immediately sputters in the most undignified way that Yoongi actually stands in mild panic. He quickly rushes to the other side of the counter, patting Taehyung’s back while he coughs out all of his self-esteem for what seems like the longest minute of his life.

 

It should be somewhat embarrassing, but he feels the comforting warmth of Yoongi’s hand seeping through his work uniform, and a pleasant shiver runs through his spine. That’s somewhat nice and distracting.

 

“Are you okay? Shit, I should have probably bought cups or something…” Yoongi’s voice sounds wholeheartedly apologetic from behind him, and Taehyung shakes his head.

 

“No, no, it’s fine,” Taehyung says, waving his arm in the air in the hopes of looking like he didn’t just cough out a lung. Are there tears of pain in his eyes right now? What a mess of a person. “It’s, uh, been awhile.”

 

Yoongi steps back, and he thankfully looks more concerned than amused at Taehyung’s state of embarrassment. “Are you sure?”

 

“Positive,” Taehyung says, flashing a weak smile. “Go ahead and sit, hyung. Really.”

 

Yoongi reluctantly returns to his chair across the counter, eyeing him cautiously. Taehyung bravely forces a wider smile, one that he hopes passes as something confident and like he didn’t just choke on what’s left of his dignity.

 

It seems to work because Yoongi’s shoulders are visibly relaxing into that familiar slump of his, and he’s already taking another drink. Taehyung does the same, but with the smallest, most careful of sips. It still burns like hell, but he thinks he manages.

 

“That was unbelievable. You remind me of the first time I snuck out to drink with my friends back home,” Yoongi finally says teasingly.

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes and punches his shoulder, because that’s where they are with their friendship now. Silly and playful back-and-forth banter that comes easily. Taehyung honestly never expects that they’d get there, but they somehow have, and it’s officially the 184th reason why he looks forward to his work shifts now. The other 183 reasons may or may not have something to do with Yoongi, too.

 

Still, his mind lingers on the last thing Yoongi said. Home.

 

“Do you ever miss Daegu?” Taehyung suddenly asks curiously.

 

“I usually don’t,” Yoongi admits, but his gaze looks more wistful than his casual tone lets on. “I was more than happy to get out of there when I got the chance. I’ve always liked big cities and Daegu felt so stifling for me, but…” he trails off for a moment. “...I miss the stars, you know?”

 

Taehyung nods. He understands that, having spent most of his childhood on their farm’s vastly open land, curling himself onto patches of grass and staring at the twinkling sky for hours until his grandma called him home for bed. He’s gotten more than a few scoldings when he didn’t listen.

 

“You don’t get a lot of stars in Seoul,” he agrees rather sadly.

 

There’s a flash of eagerness in Yoongi’s eyes all of a sudden, like he’s just gotten the best, most exciting idea, and he’s already standing. “What time does your shift end?”

 

It’s a few minutes past three, which means— “Um, three hours?”

 

There’s a certain smile that tugs at the corner of Yoongi’s lips now, the kind that Taehyung has only ever seen through dark and grainy YouTube videos of his underground shows.

 

It’s even more magnetic in person.

 

“Go somewhere with me,” Yoongi says, and he already sounds breathless, like he just ran a marathon in his mind.

 

“I can’t leave the store…” Taehyung begins to protest, but Yoongi waves impatiently at him. His eyes are positively dancing and he’s eagerly bouncing on his heels, too, and it’s all so stupidly endearing to see him like this.

 

If it’s all just a clever ploy to get Taehyung to leave the store unattended, it’s working.

 

“Just lock the doors or something,” he says dismissively. Yoongi wraps his cold fingers around Taehyung’s wrist and tugs. “Put on a jacket and come on.”

 

Truth be told, Taehyung isn’t the kind of person who needs a lot of convincing. He’s always been full of energy, always itching to explore and try new things, filled with curiosity and enthusiasm for everything around him.

 

And the way Yoongi is smiling at him—in this reckless, excitable way—well, who is Taehyung to say no to anything he wants?

 

He grabs a jacket and he’s still halfway through slipping his arms through the sleeves when Yoongi is already grabbing him outside.

 

Taehyung barely has time to switch the lights off and lock the door when he’s being dragged by the arm, the cold wind whipping harshly on his face as he runs with Yoongi.

 

He’s laughing, or maybe Yoongi is—or they both are—and Taehyung feels the adrenaline coursing through his veins, the crackle of energy and sheer thrill that he hasn’t felt in so long, and he can’t help but smile from ear to ear. His cheeks hurt—perhaps from the strain of grinning so much, or probably the winter cold—but Yoongi’s firm grip feels so warm through his jacket that the weather hardly even matters.

 

“Hyung, where are we going?” He asks breathlessly after a few minutes.

 

“You’ll see,” is all he gets, and he just nods wordlessly, letting Yoongi weave him through small alleys between buildings, the sound of their footsteps and mutual giggling resounding through the otherwise silent streets.

 

Yoongi glances back, and Taehyung is momentarily struck by how beautiful he looks under the moonlight, his gummy smile leaving a pleasant warmth in the pit of Taehyung’s stomach. His face is half-hidden in the shadows, the streetlights casting a warm yellow light on his pale features, and he’s so indescribably pretty like this.

 

The prettiest thing he’s ever seen.

 

Taehyung is smitten.

 

There’s no other word for the swooping feeling in his gut, the aching twist in his chest that's been plaguing him for weeks.

 

Taehyung thinks that he would pay anything—everything—to take a photo of Yoongi right now, if only to physically preserve the memory, as though his mind isn’t enough to fully capture what he sees.

 

Yoongi is intoxicating like this, and Taehyung is a thousand percent sure it isn’t the alcohol talking.

 

They finally stop running, pausing by the side of a nondescript building that looks abandoned. The tip of Yoongi’s tongue is peeking at the corner of his lips as he surveys the fire escape.

 

“Give me a boost, will you? The ladder is kind of high up tonight—”

 

Taehyung doesn’t protest, quickly bending down so Yoongi can step on his outstretched palms.

 

The ladder makes an unbelievably loud sound that reverberates throughout the empty street at first tug, and Taehyung looks around in panic, wondering if this is illegal—surely, this counts as trespassing or something—but Yoongi doesn’t look the least bit worried. His brows are knitted in concentration as he pulls the rusty ladder down.

 

“Is—is this safe?” Taehyung says, eyeing the ladder with trepidation but Yoongi only grins at him again, and he can’t resist that smile again, so who even cares if they fall to their death?

 

Yoongi snorts. “I’m still alive, aren’t I?”

 

"Fair enough."

 

"It'll be worth it," Yoongi promises.

 

The ladder doesn’t seem sturdy enough to hold two people at once, but Yoongi bravely leads the way, already clambering up its creaking steps with surprising ease. It’ll be a good way to die, Taehyung thinks, if the last thing he sees is Yoongi’s electrifying smile.

 

Or the perfect curve of his ass through his tight jeans.

 

Taehyung reddens at the thought, swallowing the lump that has formed around his throat, and he forces himself to look anywhere but up.

 

It takes a several admittedly terrifying minutes until they climb to the top. Taehyung doesn’t like heights, but he forgets the stab of fear in his chest when Yoongi reaches his hand out to pull him to safety.

 

Panting, Taehyung eases himself to stand and he looks around. What he sees makes him lose his breath even more.

 

The view is incredible. He can see what he thinks is the entire skyline of Seoul from here, the glittering skyscrapers stark against a dark night sky. There are twinkling hues of red, blue, yellow, and green, gleaming brightly like jewels, but there’s none of the blaring sounds of traffic and masses of bodies that overwhelm Taehyung on a normal day.

 

Seoul seems so different from this distance, and he suddenly understands the allure of a big city, like it’s real, breathing thing that has somehow come alive, gently twinkling like constellations on a particularly clear night in Daegu.

 

Yoongi’s raspy voice breaks Taehyung from his trance. “It’s not stars,” he says. “But it comes pretty close, don’t you think?”

 

“It’s, wow, yeah,” is all Taehyung manages to say.

 

“Come on, I’ll show you my spot.”

 

Yoongi takes his arm—familiar warmth spreading beneath the layers of clothes again—and leads him to a little cove hidden somewhere on the rooftop.

 

There’s a pile of blankets haphazardly laid out on the concrete and nothing else, but Yoongi settles into it like he’s home, and Taehyung does the same, folding his limbs beside him and taking in the breathtaking view in comfortable silence.

 

“How did you find this place?” He finally asks.

 

“I come here to write songs sometimes,” Yoongi explains, though it doesn’t really answer the question. Still, it’s enough, and Taehyung doesn’t press further. He just gazes at the dancing lights in awe, audibly gasping like he hasn’t already been staring for the past few minutes.

 

“Sometimes, when things get too much, I just come here and it feels like whatever is on mind doesn’t really matter, you know? It just makes you feel—”

 

“Smaller.” Taehyung finishes his sentence with a nod.

 

Not insignificant. Just more grounded, like he’s being pulled down to earth and away from thoughts that seem to eat him alive. Like he’ll somehow be okay, and that—

 

“Life goes on,” Yoongi says, as though he can read Taehyung’s mind. “It gets shitty, but life goes on. Seeing Seoul like this, and thinking of all these people under those lights who are living different lives from me… it just makes me want to keep moving forward.”

 

“Even when it’s hard,” Taehyung says, his voice almost a whisper.

 

“Especially when it’s hard,” Yoongi repeats with a nod. When Taehyung tears his gaze away from the skyline and to Yoongi, there’s a heavy look in his dark eyes that he can’t quite describe, but it weighs him down, too. Holds him right there.

 

“Why did you bring me here?” Taehyung asks hesitantly, because this place feels too sacred, like Yoongi has just let him in on a secret that he doesn’t deserve—but the other boy looks at him with such an earnest expression that it makes him tremble in place.

 

A beat passes, and the air is heavy, thick with a tension that wasn’t there before. Suddenly, the space of blankets between them feels too much, and Taehyung aches to reach out and close the distance.

 

“You can keep coming here if you want.” He’s skirting around the question again, and his voice is so quiet compared to the thudding beat of Taehyung’s heart against his chest.

 

“I don’t think I’ll remember how to get here again,” Taehyung says slowly and carefully, like he’s treading around words that are about to slip from his throat. “You—you’ll have to keep taking me.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Any time I want?”

 

“Okay.”

 

Taehyung can’t look away from Yoongi even if he tried, his eyes caressing what his fingers are too afraid to touch. The soft curve of his rosy cheeks, the long lashes that brush against them whenever he blinks, his lips bitten a stark and swollen pink, naturally shaped into a tiny pout, and…

 

A deep breath. Taehyung is pretty sure that isn’t him because he can feel his lungs constricting for air.

 

“Tae… I’m… I’m not imagining this, am I?” Yoongi’s voice is trembling, and Taehyung’s heart won’t stop hammering in his chest because the other boy has definitely moved closer. He can see the snowflakes clinging to the tips of his lashes now, and he can’t breathe— “It’s… it’s not just me, right? Y-you can tell me if it is, I won’t…”

 

Maybe it’s the alcohol pulsing in his veins, or maybe it’s the way Yoongi’s voice has gone so small and timid, and the way his eyes rake over his face, like he’s everything all at once but he just wants so much of what Yoongi’s dazed gaze is wordlessly promising that he can’t pull away, even if he tried.

 

Taehyung closes the distance between them, brushing his lips lightly against Yoongi’s, and the other boy lets out a tiny, surprised gasp.

 

“It’s not,” Taehyung breathes, because it’s all he can do. He feels lightheaded, to the point that if he were standing, he would have probably collapsed. “I promise it’s not.”

 

It only takes a few seconds—enough for Yoongi to openly stare at Taehyung’s mouth for a few seconds—and he tugs at his shirt, pulling him closer so he’s pressed against his chest, the warmth spreading through his weak limbs. He inches forward, hovering and waiting until Yoongi’s eyes fall shut, tilting his head just the tiniest bit so Taehyung can tentatively curl his hand around his head.

 

Taehyung closes his eyes and leans forward, kissing Yoongi so gently that he feels the air escape his lips, beckoning for more. Yoongi’s lips are slightly chapped from the cold, but they’re so utterly soft, and Taehyung tastes the lingering sharpness of soju mixed with something pleasantly sweet but far more intoxicating.

 

Fact Seven: When Yoongi is kissed, his breath catches in his throat and his lips part to make a tiny non-sound that makes Taehyung want to chase it, swallow it with his mouth so he knows it’s real, that he made it happen. He wants to see if this is a thing, if he can keep eliciting that sound from his throat, and without really thinking, just going with his gut and what he really and truly wants, he captures the soft swell of Yoongi’s bottom lip between his teeth, and the groan is louder.

 

Taehyung is just about to pull away because he knows where this is leading if he doesn’t stop, but his brain has somehow short-circuited into nothing but chants of Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi. Yoongi’s soft mint-green hair, Yoongi’s sharp, feline-like eyes, Yoongi’s angular jawline that slots perfectly into the spaces between Taehyung’s fingers, Yoongi’s sweet, little mewls wordlessly begging for far more than these chaste series of little nips on his lips, tempting him, urging him....

 

It’s like the world has stopped spinning, and nothing else exists but Yoongi, and how his mouth fits perfectly against his, and Taehyung doesn’t care if his entire universe orbits around this boy for the rest of his life because as far he’s concerned, it always has.

 

Right from the moment he walked into the store.

 

Right when he had curiously asked about Taehyung’s music, and he hadn’t looked at him with those strange, judgmental looks that people always do.


Right when Yoongi had somehow curled himself into the gaping spaces of Taehyung’s life, filling them up when he didn’t even notice, decorating it with music and colorful stories from home, and that intense, shiver-inducing gaze that could melt an entire iceberg in the Arctic.

 

Taehyung wants to kiss him for the rest of his life.

 

***

 

“So, when are we meeting your new boyfriend?” Jeongguk suddenly asks one day.

 

It’s a Saturday, and Taehyung has the day off, which means he’s spending it at home with Jimin pressed against his side and Jeongguk on the other. He rarely sees them these days, mostly because Jimin’s a successful dance teacher whose schedule clashes horribly with Taehyung’s, and Jeongguk is on his last year of college, often buried neck-deep in exams and a thesis that won’t write itself.

 

Jimin, who’s clearly exhausted from his last class and is nearly drooling on Taehyung’s ratty shirt, immediately jerks awake as if his body is wired to be alert whenever there’s gossip to hear. His head whirls around so fast that Taehyung’s worried about the whiplash, eyes already round as saucers.

 

“Boyfriend? Since when?” Jimin asks, his voice hiking up a notch higher the way it always does when he demands for something, which is often.

 

“He’s not my—boyfriend,” Taehyung says stiffly, though he can’t stop the heat that’s already rising up his neck and to his cheeks. “He’s n-not, anything, really.”

 

“You mean to tell me he’s been visiting the store virtually every night to talk with you for like, what, four months, and you still haven’t formally asked him out?” Jeongguk says incredulously. “That’s sad, hyung, even for you.”

 

“It’s not like that!” Taehyung says hotly, because okay, maybe he hasn’t formally asked Yoongi out yet, but they’ve kissed—he’s pretty sure that night wasn’t just an intensely vivid dream—and he hasn’t told his friends that part yet, because he wants to keep it to himself. Run it in his head about a dozen more times to be a hundred percent sure it’s real. His voice fades, smaller and more hesitant. “It’s… it’s not that simple.”

 

“Oh, but it is,” Jimin says wisely. Fuck Park Jimin, honestly. Not everyone can be as effortlessly charming as him, who only needs to flash a cute little smile or do one of those amazing dance routines of his to get someone to automatically fall in love with him. It worked on fucking Jeongguk, who’s the very textbook definition of Shy and Painfully Awkward, and that just speaks volumes about the kind of dangerous magnetism Jimin wields.

 

“No, it’s not! It’s—” Taehyung falters a bit, because he doesn’t quite know how to describe what he has with Yoongi. He doesn’t even know what to call what he has with Yoongi, if there is anything to describe in the first place. They both love music, they chat endlessly over microwaved convenience store meals, and Taehyung really, really likes Yoongi’s pretty face, likes how soft and utterly handsome he looks without even trying. And okay, maybe they kissed at the rooftop and the thought alone still keeps Taehyung up at night but it’s not like they’ve officially talked about it or anything.

 

The truth is, Taehyung hasn’t seen Yoongi in three days, and his stomach is constantly in knots because what if it had been too much? What if Yoongi woke up the next morning and decided that maybe they were moving too fast, and he needed to take a step back?

 

What if he just stops coming to the store entirely?

 

The thought alone is enough to crush what little hope is in Taehyung’s heart.

 

He sighs loudly. “Not everyone has it figured out like the two of you, okay?”

 

Jimin softens instantly, reaching out to card his fingers through Taehyung’s hair soothingly. “Taehyungie, you don’t have to make things so complicated, you know.”

 

He’s right. Annoyingly so. It’s not like there’s any history between them, there’s no baggage weighing down on a potential relationship, no drama that could possibly burst out at any given moment to ruin a good thing. It’s just him and Yoongi, with nothing but old music and that rooftop cove to keep them happy and content, and yet…

 

Good things lead to great, wonderful things, until they don’t. That’s a scientific fact. He didn’t have very good grades in science back in the day, but he’s pretty sure it was discussed once.

 

What goes up must come down. Or something.

 

Taehyung only makes a weak sound into Jimin’s shoulder in response. He can hear the eye rolls that Jeongguk is probably giving him right now, and sure enough, he can feel a pair of strong, muscular arms pulling him out of the safety of Jimin’s warmth. Curse Jeongguk and his gym membership, honestly.

 

“Hyung, listen. No one willingly sits through your elderly music and shitty microwave food every night unless they like you, okay?”

 

“That’s true, Taehyungie,” Jimin says earnestly, “Do you know how much I had to suffer through Justin Bieber’s earlier discography when Gukie and I—ow!” Jimin grimaces at the dull thwack that he earns on his arm.

 

“How dare you? You said you liked it!”

 

“Babe, I was trying to get in your pants, and it worked.”

 

“Well, see if you get in them now, you little—”

 

Jimin and Jeongguk are in the cute stage of their relationship where they bicker like an old married couple, but keep Taehyung up during the nights he actually sleeps over. It should be disgusting, but Taehyung really and truly loves them with all his heart, so he lets it slide, only vaguely dumbfounded by their mutual stamina after suffering through a thudding headboard on his wall for hours.

 

“As I was saying—” Jimin continues, giving his boyfriend a pointed glare before turning back to a very forlorn Taehyung. “It doesn’t have to be so complicated, okay? Just ask him out.”

 

“How?” Taehyung is reduced to whining at this point, and Jeongguk is right. It’s all so very sad.

 

It’s not that Taehyung has no dating experience. He’s had his fair share of casual flings on nights when it gets too lonely, and he’s even had a boyfriend once or twice in his life but none of them has ever measured up to someone like Yoongi—cool and intimidating in ways that make his heartbeat race, but still so warm and inviting that he effortlessly draws Taehyung in and holds him in place.

 

Like he’s meant to be there.

 

“You are so dramatic, as usual. Just invite him for coffee after your shift,” Jeongguk says with a casual shrug, in a tone that suggests it’s the most obvious solution in the world. “Then see where it goes.”

 

“I don’t even like coffee,” Taehyung responds petulantly, as though it’s a valid excuse to shoot down the perfectly plausible idea.

 

Somewhere, he can feel the weight of Jimin’s knowing stare on him, and he shrinks into his sweater in a pitiful pile of sadness.

 

Jimin could read him like a book. He always has, it’s how their friendship formed in the first place, without any sense of walls or boundaries from the moment they first met. Just pure openness and an easy closeness that came as natural as Jimin’s first beaming smile. Taehyung has always taken comfort in it, but today it makes him fidget uncomfortably in his seat.

 

“It’s okay to be scared, Taehyungie. It means that it matters.”

 

It matters a hell of a lot.

 

It matters more than anything.

 

***

 

Whipped.

 

That’s what Jeongguk would probably call him if he were to see Taehyung right now, and he’s glad his friends aren’t around to see him try and woo Yoongi.

 

Here’s the thing with Taehyung. He’s charming when he wants to be. He knows how to flirt, bat his lashes, flash a blinding smile, run his fingers through his hair, and all those little things that catch strangers’ attentions in an instant. He’s very talented at that sort of thing.

 

But those are just for fun. Taehyung is excellent at having fun.

 

He’s not particularly excellent when feelings are involved. That’s when he starts to overthink, either doing next to nothing or going overboard with the affection that it scares people away. He doesn’t know how to find the right balance between the two polarizing options because Taehyung just cares so, so much. He is everything and nothing all at once, and he knows how that would confuse people or worse, just drive them away entirely.

 

Then there’s the matter of Yoongi also being involved.

 

Yoongi with his carefully restrained eyes, his unabashed love for anything he’s passionate about, his comforting satoori that makes Taehyung feel like he’s home in a city he doesn’t know, his rare but beaming smile that feels like a prize every time Taehyung draws it out of him.

 

He can’t stop himself from thinking of Yoongi’s dark eyes, the gentle slope of his button nose, the sharp angle of his jaw, and how graceful and purposeful his hands would feel all over him—it’s a lot of things that all add up to one big, complicated mess punctuated by shared kisses on a special, secret rooftop.

 

Taehyung overthinks how he’s going to ask Yoongi out because nothing can ever top a secret rooftop view.

 

It’s not that he’s being competitive about this, even though Taehyung is actually competitive as hell by nature. It’s just that coffee, or anything similar to and normal like that, doesn’t seem enough for someone like Yoongi, who honestly deserves the entire world as far as Taehyung is concerned.

 

Taehyung has a very important list of ideas saved in his phone. Some are downright ridiculous, while others are just too simple, and he finds himself scrolling through his list a few times a day, rereading every option and reducing himself into a pile of nerves because none of it sounds perfect enough.

 

Today, he finally settles on one idea, and it’s not the most grandiose of gestures, but it will get his foot through the door. Probably. If Yoongi doesn’t slam it in his face first.

 

So there he is, leaving his apartment even though it’s his only day off so he can scour through store after store to find the perfect gift that says, “Please, for the love of humanity, go out with me, but also this is totally casual and no, I didn’t spend the past week debating with myself on what to get you like a lovesick idiot with poor decision-making skills.”

 

Whipped, the voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Jeongguk repeats, taunting Taehyung’s resolve. You are so fucking whipped, Kim Taehyung.

 

“I know!” He blurts out a little too loudly, and a few scandalized old ladies actually turn to glare at him. Taehyung’s ears redden and he quickly shuffles away from the store display, diving behind a particularly tall rack of jackets. He half-wonders if hiding in the deep recesses of a department store constitutes as one of the lowest points of his life.

 

When Taehyung finally works up the courage to pick up what he wants and walk to the counter, he’s half-tempted to run away and take it all back.

 

It’s far too expensive, the price tag already leaving a dent in his bank account even though he hasn’t paid for it yet, but he thinks of Yoongi’s smile and how his eyes disappear into crescent moons whenever he does, and he swallows the doubt that’s threatening to take over his senses.

 

“Do you want it wrapped?”

 

Taehyung blinks at the pleasant-looking cashier, who is gazing at him patiently like she’s dealt with horribly indecisive customers all her life.

 

“Um. No, uh, it’s okay. I’ll just...  it’s fine.”

 

Now all Taehyung has to do is text him.

 

No big fucking deal.

 

***

 

When Taehyung asks to meet Yoongi on the rooftop after hours of internal debate and torture, he almost throws his phone against the wall the moment he presses send.

 

But Yoongi texts back just as quickly, with nothing but a short and curt, “Bring your laptop” as a reply.

 

So Taehyung does, lugging that old and heavy thing in his backpack as he ignores the painfully loud drumming in his chest while he climbs up the ladder. He knows it isn’t because of his innate fear of his heights because he isn’t even thinking about how high up he is right now.

 

All he could think about is Yoongi, and it terrifies him more than anything in his life. More than when he learned he’d have to move to Seoul and restart his life in a city of strangers.

 

He finds Yoongi already curled into the blankets, staring at the distance like he’s lost in thought. When Taehyung awkwardly clears his throat, Yoongi looks up and there’s a flash of fear in his eyes that he recognizes. Sees himself in.

 

“I’m glad you’re here,” Yoongi says quietly, as though he was the one who asked to meet up. “You didn’t get lost.”

 

“Muscle memory,” is all Taehyung says, and the corners of Yoongi’s mouth quirks up ever so slightly. It fades just as quickly, replaced with something he can’t place, as he wordlessly watches Taehyung settle himself into the space he’s left beside him.

 

There’s tension in the air again, certainly not the kind that invites good things like kissing the way it had the last time Taehyung was here. It’s the kind that he can’t entirely place, where every tiny movement feels so, so careful.

 

Like one of them would break at any moment.

 

When Taehyung looks at Yoongi, he feels the familiar pang in his chest, but it’s heightened. Stronger. Scarier.

 

He thinks of kissing him again, and wondering if he would still taste just as sweet and tempting as the first time.

 

Wondering if he will always taste that way.

 

He thinks of Yoongi, and how he had captured Taehyung’s attention and claimed it from the moment he heard the faint beats of hip-hop from his headphones.

 

He thinks of the past four months, of sharing music and stories over the same cup of ramyeon, of learning and memorizing fact after fact about the boy who mysteriously feels like unchartered territory and home all at once.

 

He thinks of...

 

“Snowflakes,” Taehyung suddenly says, the word escaping from his lips before he could stop himself. When Yoongi knits his brows together in confusion, he quickly adds, “You always have snowflakes in your lashes.”

 

“Uh, I’m sorry—?”

 

He’s already fucking this up. Way to be smooth, Taehyung.

 

“No, no, wait, hang on…” Taehyung unzips his backpack and pulls out a carefully folded black scarf. It’s the softest fabric he’s ever touched beneath his fingers, and it cost him probably half of his paycheck, and it’s nowhere near as soft as Yoongi feels, but it comes close. It comes insanely close.

 

When he wraps the scarf around a surprised Yoongi’s neck, he nervously fumbles with tying it and he hopes to god Yoongi can’t tell just how much he’s trembling right now.

 

“When you first came into the store, you seemed so cold. N-not in the distant sort of way—okay, you kind of were, but that doesn’t matter, you aren’t like that anymore—um, I-I mean, you looked cold…” Taehyung is stuttering over the tumble of words that don’t make sense the more he talks. “...and you had snowflakes. On your lashes. And… and I want you to wear this. So you won’t be so cold.”

 

It’s a mess. He’s a mess.

 

But the way Yoongi stares at him, like he just lit up the entire Seoul skyline himself, makes the mess worth it.

 

Snowflakes are still clinging to Yoongi’s lashes, and a scarf will solve absolutely nothing about those, but his cheeks are stained a beautiful shade of pink, and he already radiates warmth like a comforting furnace.

 

It’s definitely not because of the scarf.

 

“Is your laptop on?” Yoongi asks, and his voice is hoarse like he’s been internally screaming for hours. Relatable.

 

“It is, but it’s slow, I haven’t gotten around to replacing it—” Taehyung is babbling again, anything to fill the silence and to temper his heart from swelling to ten times its size, because Yoongi is quiet, but he still gazes at him with this utterly fond look on his face.

 

When his laptop finally starts up, it casts a glaring light on Yoongi’s face, and Taehyung can see how the other boy is incessantly—nervously —chewing on his bottom lip, fidgeting in tiny, minute ways that he wouldn’t have observed otherwise in the darkness, and his blush has somehow deepened, blossoming in the slivers of pale skin exposed beneath the loosely tied scarf around his neck, and Taehyung wants to map it all out with his fingers.

 

But he doesn’t. He keeps his hands firmly to himself, focused on his laptop as he prays it loads faster through sheer will.

 

They wait as the screen loads and the silence is nearly unbearable, and Taehyung feels too large for his skin, like it can’t hold him together.

 

“I’m sorry if I disappeared for awhile,” Yoongi suddenly says. “I’ve been… busy.”

 

“Avoiding me?” Taehyung asks in what he hopes sounds like a teasing tone that will somehow quell the heavy tension that’s enveloping the two of them.

 

“N-no!” Yoongi says a little too quickly, the flush in his cheeks darkening. It’s adorable. “I’m…” he trails off, frantically running his fingers through his hair. “You know how you made those ‘60s playlists? The ones that you play whenever I visit?”

 

Taehyung only nods to keep Yoongi talking.

 

“I—I tried to make you one.”

 

Oh.

 

Taehyung lets out a little gasp of surprise when Yoongi reaches into his pocket to pull out a thumb drive and plugs it into his laptop.

 

It only slows down the ancient machine even more.

 

So Taehyung waits with bated breath. Only because he can’t find the words, doesn’t know how to respond because it’s already a lot to handle, to take in.

 

Yoongi fills the silence for him. “At first, I didn’t know what to put. I don’t… have any new music, at least ones that are ready yet, and I-I didn’t know what to say. How to say it.”

 

That sounds like a straight-up lie because it’s Yoongi, who always has a way of words with his lyrics, who always knows how to put one word in front of the other in an order that makes sense, in a way that perfectly captures what he’s feeling and seeing, but Taehyung hears the quiver in his voice, understands what it means.

 

“So I spent the last few days… listening. To your music. Finding something that fit, you know?” He keeps talking. Babbling like it will somehow explain the words he can’t form. “I looked everywhere. Listened to everything. Looked up lyrics...translations.”

 

Taehyung’s heart is now fifty times its size, swelling and surging until it expands into his ribcage, squeezing the life out of his lungs, spilling and overflowing into his limbs.

 

“Y-you didn’t have to…” He starts.

 

“No, n-no. Tae. I had to. I really had to. I couldn’t… take it anymore.” Yoongi looks at him with such a fervent gaze that it makes Taehyung breathless. It swallows his entire being. “You… you’re everything. And I just… I just want you to know that.”

 

Oh .

 

Oh god.

 

“I’m… I’m not imagining this right? It’s not just me?” Yoongi echoes his words all over again, and it’s like hearing it for the first time.

 

“No, no… you’re not… I promise you’re not,” Taehyung breathes, and the effort to talk, to form words that are still coherent takes so much out of him, makes him collapse under their shared weight of trepidation.

 

“O-okay,” Yoongi breathes back. “Okay.”

 

Taehyung looks at Yoongi—properly this time—and this, this is the most beautiful he’s ever seen him. He’s sure of it. He’s like a dream come true, like everything Taehyung never knew he ever wanted.

 

The window finally opens, and there’s one file—one song—in the drive. It isn’t even labeled properly.

 

This hardly constitutes a playlist, but everything the past few months—all the words they couldn’t say, the feelings they couldn’t process, the things they could do but were too scared to try—all boils down to one track. One track that should say it all, piece everything together so they finally make sense.

 

It’s funny how music first brought them together, and now here it is, defining them. Defining what could be.

 

It could be anything, a song from anyone. Taehyung’s mind races through an extensive catalog of artists in his head, counting off name after name, quickly running through the lyrics he knows by heart, but somehow nothing fits. Nothing really properly describes what he’s feeling the way his favorite songs so often do, but Yoongi has always been that way.

 

Indescribable.

 

“I’m going to press play,” Taehyung warns softly.

 

“I know.” Yoongi sounds so small. So terrified.

 

The first handful of guitar strums begin to play, and Taehyung knows immediately what song it is. His eyes widen and he sharply draws a breath, turning to Yoongi so fast that his neck actually cracks at the sudden force, and—

 

Yoongi is singing quietly under his breath, his voice barely a whisper over the audio of the laptop, but he hears every word pronounced in the familiar satoori that reminds him of Daegu, but now feels like home.

 

Wise men say

Only fools rush in

But I can’t help

 

Taehyung can’t believe it.

 

His life isn’t real. It can’t be. This is a thing out of dramas that play on television, a thing straight of his dreams, and yet, here it is. Playing in real life. Yoongi is real. He can see him, and he can touch him, and...

 

Taehyung clutches at Yoongi’s hands without thinking and they feel like ice—he resolves to buy him gloves with his next paycheck—and asks, “Do you mean it?”

 

“Of course I fucking mean it, Taehyung, I didn’t just spend three fucking days looking for a song and not mean it—” Yoongi says, his nose wrinkling in impatience, and it’s cute. It’s so fucking cute that it makes Taehyung want to explode and maybe take another mental photo of him. Or a very real one. He still can’t decide.

 

“Y-you have to say it, hyung. Please. Please say it, so I know. So I’m sure,” he begs.

 

Take my hand

Take my whole life too

 

“I’m in love with you, idiot,” Yoongi says exasperatedly, a wild look in his eyes. “Wasn’t the song clear enough? I read and memorized every translation and they all said the same thing…”

 

“It’s enough. I promise it’s enough.”

 

When Taehyung surges forward to kiss him, he whispers a faint, “I'm in love with you, Min Yoongi” against his lips, and he’s sure Yoongi hears it because he’s smiling into the kiss and he repeats every syllable so Yoongi knows.

 

So Yoongi knows it’s real. That it’s not just him.

 

It's never been just him.

 

I love you. I love you. I love you.