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Choi Hyunjung is a powerful woman. She holds herself with a wicked magnetism, the kind that draws people in and forces them to move out of her way in equal measure. It's a skill she's carefully cultivated in her 30 years of professional work, the same way she meticulously groomed her appearance, the way she walked, the color of her hair to appear youthful, feminine, strong. There is not a man who can do what she can do. There is not a man who can control her.

She certainly won't give her son that opportunity. No way in hell.

There are rumors among the upper echelon of a strange man in a strange shop who can make wishes come true if you pay the right price. For a woman like Hyunjung, there's no price she can't match.

It's taken months for her sources to find the right shop with the right man, and another month to deal with those sources so secrecy is assured, and this morning she's put on her best suit and her darkest lipstick and called her chauffeur, and now she's nearly dealt with the biggest problem of her career.

Her heels click over uneven cobblestones. She never comes to this part of the city, out here where all the houses are disheveled and the shutters are covered in worn, chipped paint and the the setting sun glints on broken pieces of glass. There's a cat with mange skittering under a nearby dumpster as she passes, and she looks down at it before turning her gaze onto the ramshackle store she came here to find.

Calling it a store might be an overstatement. It's a pile of wood and foggy glass with small flowers growing out of the cracks. Smoke rises from the brick chimney, and there's a small bowl of water sitting out on the porch beside an old hanging bench. The stairs are uneven and a post is branded with the name of local lovers like an old tree in the forgotten woods.

Hyunjung has sold worse property, but she usually makes an effort so it doesn't look so dilapidated. She sniffs, running manicured fingers over the knobs in the wood of the railing. If this isn't what she's looking for, this entire trip will be a total waste, on top of a unwanted tour of the harsher parts of town. Women like Hyunjung don't come to places like this unless it's to get something they want, and she knocks on the door with purpose. She won't take no for an answer. There's no such thing as a problem that can't be solved. Today is not the day that's going to change.

"Come in," a tinkling voice calls from inside, and Hyunjung turns the rusted doorknob.

It's warm inside, like a greenhouse, and rather looks like one. There are plants growing up straight out of the floor, trees laden with odd silver apples. Herbs and dried flowers hang from the ceiling. Hyunjung reaches up, gently touching a strange hanging light, turbulent and blue, trapped in a cluster of lightbulbs. The entire room is a mixture of natural and unnatural. Plants grow out of the floorboards but along the wall it looks like a haphazard garage sale, piled with old televisions, broken vases, jewelry dripping from wrought iron stands. A beautiful cloak is draped over an old brocade chair. Delicately, Hyunjung touches the hem, admiring the soft feeling of velvet, tracing golden embroidery.

"How much is this?" she asks aloud, idle, drawn in by the impression of fire and roses. It's lovely. It'd be lovely on her.

"It's cursed, ma'am," a voice says, the same one that called her inside. "It's price would be your youth."

There's a man sitting on an old lounge chair, red and elegant, misplaced in the disheveled room. His voice is kind, but there's something absent in his face. Concern, maybe, interest. Hyunjung isn't used to being looked through. He holds a stick of incense in his hand, the picture of grace, blowing on the cherry red tip before placing it in the bowl beside him. He's covered in robes of silk, but only just. The skin of his thighs contrasts with the red of the chair and the green of the shop, the expanse of his chest and shoulder showing where the sleeve falls. Hyunjung feels overdressed. This man treats the place like his bedroom rather than a shop.

"Better suited for enemies." The stranger rests his arm on the back of the lounge chair, laying his head down and smiling at her lazily. It's oddly intimate. Hyunjung feels warm.

He's beautiful, soft and sharp at the same time, sensual in a way that has Hyunjung off-kilter, but she's spent plenty of time dealing with beautiful men.

"I'm Choi Hyunjung," she says, lifting her chin and smiling, charming. There's too much between them for her to take his hand, a table full of books and a box made of warped glass with something blurred trapped inside. Her name is often enough of an introduction. It's rare that someone doesn't recognize it.

The man doesn't seem impressed. His finger swirls in a small bowl of water on the table. He's more interested in the ripples on its surface than he is in her. "I suppose you're here for a wish?"

"I was told that this shop specializes in solving..." She purses her lips. "...messy problems."

He grins, catlike. "I specialize in a lot of things."

Hyunjung hates people like this. Conversations where neither person is straightforward last forever, run in circles, and she grows bored too quickly. "I have someone I'd like to get rid of."

The storekeeper checks his cuticles. "What'd they do to you?"

She smiles. "Does it matter?"

With a yawn, he straightens. He adjusts the sleeve of his robe, rolls his neck on his shoulders, and stands. His feet are bare, and as he walks towards the back of the shop she can see that the soles of his feet are brown with dirt and callous. A strange juxtaposition, this grounded step and the graceful bearing. "I suppose not." He stretches up on his tip-toes, his fingers reaching for something on the top shelf.

"I just want him gone." It's a complicated issue with a simple solution. She's tried the easy approach, only to be gently pushed aside. At this point, he's foolish, but she isn't surprised. "Can you do that?"

From the shelf he pulls down a small vial, thumb smoothing over the curled label to read handwritten script. "Depends on what kind of gone you want him to be."

"He's a stupid, foolish boy, and he's in over his head." She taps her nails against her thigh, irritated. "He doesn't need to be dead. He just needs to be kept away and kept quiet."

The storekeeper smiles. "Don't worry, ma'am." Soft and wicked. "I can do that."

 


 

Seokjin is currently being held hostage in his own home.

"I'm not letting you in," he tells the front door, and it answers with a plaintive meow. "I'm serious. If I let you into apartment and you shit then I'm going to be evicted and homeless and I don't care if you're cute, it's not fucking worth it."

Another meow.

Seokjin huffs, pressing his forehead against the door. He cracks it open, just a hair, and the stray cat is sitting there, patiently staring at him. After a moment, the cat paws at the crack in the door, far too small to enter through, and sneezes like the barrier has offended him personally. "I give you food one fucking time..." In a moment of weakness. This is what he gets for his kindness.

The cat is, admittedly, very cute. All black, but Seokjin's never been superstitious, and unusually smart. Seokjin has only lived in this apartment complex for a couple of months and the cat knew he was the weakest link almost immediately. Weaker than the old lady next door, or maybe just more willing to buy a few cans of tuna when he goes grocery shopping.

And that's saying something, considering that Seokjin is poor and his rent is far more than the shitty apartment deserves. He's pretty sure the university housing he had a couple of years ago was nicer than this, and the cost was cheaper, but this was the best he could find on short notice in the city, and he isn't in a position to pick and choose. When his old roommate left town to go live with his family, he'd tried leasing his extra room with no luck. He'd been forced to move, and real estate is hard enough to find, forget a reasonable price.

One of the only things on his fucking lease is that he can't have any pets. None. Not even the very cute cat that is currently trying to occupy his apartment.

"I feed you one time." Seokjin fiddles with the keys on his lanyard and checks the time on his phone. He's going to be late. With a groan, he opens the door another crack, scowling when the cat takes a step forward. "No. No. I'm stronger than you."

He shimmies out the door, ignoring the stray pawing at his work shoes. "You're the fucking worst."

The cat hisses at him, but it's nuzzling his shin, and he's not used to cats being so confusing.

"Listen." Carefully, Seokjin locks the door behind him, making sure his bag of spare clothes doesn't get caught in the latch. He squats down, holding his hand out for the cat to sniff, but the stray just slams his face into Seokjin's palm without preamble. "I have to go to work, okay? And when I come back you can make me trip just like you always do and meow at me until I fall asleep in the comfort of my own home."

The cat purrs.

Sighing, Seokjin scratches him behind the ears. "Pretty," he says softly, and the stray melts under his hands.

It's in pretty good shape considering it scavenges to live. No mange, no injuries, and bizarrely well socialized. Seokjin kind of wonders if he might be a neighbor's cat, but no one he's talked to knows whose it would be, all just say the thing showed up one day. And he's too skinny. Really, Seokjin is doing the lord's work, even if the cat holds him hostage nine times out of ten.

"Bye, kitty." He gives the stray one final pat on the head and stands up with a huff, cracking his back and shoving his keys in his pocket. "Time to die."

 


 

There are worse things than working in food service, but considering that Seokjin is knee deep in student debt for a degree he's not using it does sting a little.

The black work shirt is a little too tight for his liking, but the way it pulls over his shoulders gets him extra tips so he's never asked for a size up. It's a long shift today, twelve hours, and it's about six hours in when he's pacing in the backroom trying to find his second wind.

He had agreed to cover this shift for someone else about a week ago, a small girl named Yerim who needed the night off for a class-requirement, and Seokjin doesn't feel bitter even if his bones are aching. That's a good enough reason, and the tips during the evening rush are a good incentive. Tomorrow is his day off. He can sleep off his exhaustion and the extra money won't hurt.

Seokjin works as a waiter at a local diner, the kind that's right on the edge of popular. It's good enough that people keep coming back, not marketed like a huge chain but well traveled and it's enough to support Seokjin's needs for now, even if he wouldn't describe himself as living comfortably.

There are nice regulars that make the long hours worth it. Janette always tips him 30%, and Ken flirts with him and makes the hours pass by a little faster. It's not a horrible place to work. He likes his coworkers, his boss, his customers, and even if he's not content life could be a lot worse.

"There's another table in your section," Joohyun tells him, opening the door to the backroom with her hip, arms laden with dirty dishes. "A date, looks like." She frowns, pulling the pen out of her bun to scribble something on the clipboard hanging from the wall. "Not regulars. You want them, or do you want a 15?"

"I can take them," Seokjin says, taking the tray from her hands and swooping in to kiss her cheek. "I'll take these to dish."

She squints at him, but the line of her mouth is fond enough that he isn't worried about her ire. "Fine."

Seokjin takes the tray back to Henry in the washroom, thanking him softly before sticking some more rolls of silverware in his apron and walking back out to the dining room.

"36," Joohyun tells him when he passes her at the podium.

"Thank you," he chirps, ruffling his hair so he looks more charming and turning the corner towards table 36.

It's strange, because even if he isn't content, he's okay. He's been okay. It's a horrible time for the reminder that he used to be great, that he used to feel like he was going somewhere, with someone, and that he had plans.

It's strange, seeing his ex at table 36 with his date, someone who isn't Seokjin, but he's already committed, and he's already unhappy, and he'll be fucked if he lets Hyosang know he's still upset over this.

He settles in front of the table, and a small part of him is happy at the way Hyosang's eyes widen, but there's nothing on his face that might show his discomfort. "Hello, guys. What can I get you?" Seokjin asks, setting two sets of silverware on the table.

"Can I just have a water with lemon?" the girl sitting across from Hyosang asks. She's sweet looking, all rosy cheeks and perfectly curled hair, and for her benefit Seokjin isn't planning on ruining their night.

Still, Hyosang only broke up with him four months ago, and something sour sits gross and heavy in his stomach.

"One water with lemon." Seokjin smiles at her, and smiles at Hyosang, customer-service face on, not a hint of coldness, and he likes the way Hyosang's eyes darken in response. "And for you?"

"You know what I want."

Seokjin's smile brightens. "How would I know that?"

"Sangie." The girl pats Hyosang's hand where it's clutching his menu, a hair too tight. She looks at Hyosang. "He'll have a sweet tea, if you have it."

"We sure do." Seokjin holds his tray down by his side. "Anything else?"

Hyosang is staring into the side of his face with terrifying focus, but Seokjin mastered ignoring him a long time ago. Still, the girl isn't stupid. Seokjin can admire that about her, can admire the way her smile barely falls when she looks at her date, the way she leans forward with her elbows on the table. "We were looking at the appetizers. I could really use some onion rings."

"Oh, they're good," Seokjin assures her with a laugh. "Made fresh, in house."

"I think that sounds perfect. Don't you?" she asks Hyosang.

Hyosang purses his mouth. "Perfect," he agrees. He squeezes his date's hand, but even though Seokjin is more focused on writing their order down — clearly an excuse, considering remembering wouldn't be an issue — he can't ignore the way the other man's focus is on him.

"I'll give you guys some more time to look over the menu," Seokjin says cheerfully.

She thanks him, and Hyosang thanks him, and Seokjin is so determined to get out of the entire thing unscathed that he doesn't realize how hard his heart is pounding until he's pouring her water and watching his hand shake.

 


 

"Seriously? He just took his date to where you work? What a fucker."

It's been a long day, but it's okay, and Seokjin only has one more set of stairs to climb before it's completely and totally over. "I didn't really work there until after we had already broken up." Not exactly true. Seokjin had picked it up as a second job a couple months before that, but he'd kept his financial struggles under wraps and there was no way Hyosang would have known.

"But he's still a fucker," Heeyeon says lazily over the phone.

"Agreed," Seokjin says with a laugh. He'd kept up with their table as well as he ever would, and the girl — Jieun — had continued being kind the entire meal and ignored how reserved Hyosang was any time Seokjin waited on them. There was some comfort in knowing that he still had that kind of effect on his ex, but in reality the entire situation was gross and uncomfortable, despite all of their best efforts.

It was an emotionally exhausting end to his day. Joohyun had traded out times with him, agreeing to close in his place and shaving an hour off of his shift. He took out the trash and changed out of his work clothes and took the bus with a sigh of relief, but something always feels unsettled when it comes to his last relationship. Like it should have been something it never was.

"I don't know. I just got a weird feeling from the whole thing." Seokjin huffs as he climbs the stairs. He had to ditch his gym membership recently, and of course the elevator broke and has suspiciously not been fixed for two months, so this is the only real exercise he gets beyond being on his feet all day. He does his best to stay in shape on his own, but it seems like nothing he does can help him survive the five flights of stairs without losing his breath.

"How was the girl?" Heeyeon asks. It's been a while since he's seen her in person. Their friendship has managed to overpower the High School Buddy Divide, and ever since he left town for school they've managed to maintain it long distance. He misses her. She's one of the first people he calls. "Was she nice?"

"Yeah, she was nice." Last flight, thank god. Seokjin's work bag doesn't have anything except for his dirtied clothes, shoes, and a book and it feels like a weight on one side of his body. He's not nerdy enough for a backpack but also he's too young for his spine to be this fucked. "Cute. Tipped well."

Heeyeon scoffs darkly. "He doesn't deserve her."

Seokjin doesn't think Hyosang is a bad person, although he's not fond of him and they made each other the worst version of themselves by the end of it. Maybe Hyosang does deserve his pretty girlfriend. He appreciates it anyway. "Thanks. I can always count on you."

"I bet you're prettier."

"That's a given." Seokjin grins, hiding his smile from his nosy old neighbor with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. "It really could have been a lot worse."

Heeyeon hums. "It was the first time you've seen him since the breakup, right?"

"Yeah." He sighs. They hadn't ended on great terms, but most of Seokjin's emotional upheaval had happened once Hyosang was out of sight but not out of mind. He was always more comfortable working through those things by himself, but the wound feels a bit open and jagged like it never got time to heal, even if Seokjin feels like he's moved on. "He looked good."

"I'm sure you looked better." Heeyeon laughs. "Again, a given." She sighs. "If only we weren't both gay. We'd have the most beautiful babies."

"Y'all ever need sperm, just let me know."

"Our genetically superior children would take over the world." Heeyeon hums happily. "It's lucky for the world I don't want children."

Seokjin would like children, just one or two. Maybe. One day. Or he can just look after his sister's children and be the really hot uncle who's always slightly wine-drunk and has a classy job. Once he gets out of the diner, of course.

Then again, if Seokjin had wanted to be a Wine Mom he wouldn't have majored in film studies. He would have gotten a sugar daddy and called it a day.

His hallway is a familiar dingy gray, and the musty smell brings him a bit of relief knowing that tonight is almost over. His door comes up on the left, and he digs in his pocket for his keys.

Nothing.

They're probably just still in his work pants from when he changed. He does it all the time. Not really — it's not in his nature to misplace things — but often enough that it's possible. Except they're not there either.

They're not in his bag at all.

"Yeonie, can you hold on a sec?" he asks, voice carefully neutral as his soiled work clothes spill out of his bag onto the floor by his apartment door. "I can't find my keys."

"Like, casually can't find them, or?" she asks, an odd tone to her words because she knows how Seokjin is. Even if he is not freaking out on the outside, his insides are curling with something very close to panic. "Where did you have them last?"

"They were in the pocket of my work pants, but I can't find them." He huffs. "They were at work. I know I had them when I got off the bus." He'd felt them this morning when he dug through his pockets for change. He can't remember feeling them when he got off the bus tonight.

"Okay, I'm gonna let you go. Call that girl from work you said covered you. Joohee?"

"Joohyun." Plans. Plans are good. "I'll call the bus company first."

Heeyeon makes a soothing noise over the phone. "You're not locked out, okay? You can always call your landlord."

The idea makes him shiver. "Yeah," he says coolly, knowing how that will turn out. Not with him in bed at a reasonable hour, certainly. Not with an easy end to this. "I'll do that if I can't find them. Thanks!"

"Text me when you're inside." Heeyeon clicks her tongue. "Call me more often, okay? No one bitches like you do."

"I have to defend my throne," Seokjin says with a laugh, dropping his work shirt on the ground without preamble and scraping his fingers through the dry crumbs at the bottom of his bag in search of his lanyard. "I'll call you tomorrow. Love you."

She sighs happily. "That's what I like to hear from beautiful men." Heeyeon laughs. "I love you, too. Sleep away the pain, buddy. Sleep away the pain."

The panic really settles in once he hears her hang up and he still doesn't feel anything except his work shoes and a phone charger.

"Mreow?"

Seokjin looks down at his shitty welcome mat. "Kitty." He huffs. "Hello. Waited for me?"

The black cat is staring up at him, eyes wide, with Seokjin's work shirt hanging off of one ear. Seokjin must not have been paying attention and dropped it on him. It's a cute picture, enough to make him laugh. He squats down, gently lifts the shirt off of the poor thing's head, and the cat immediately lifts up to put his paws on Seokjin's knee. Play with me, he's saying. Love me. Give me attention.

"You drive a hard bargain, hmmm." Seokjin sinks down to the floor, sitting on the dirty ground without a care for his ass and leaning against his door. The cat seems to be finally appeased, clambering into Seokjin's lap. "You don't get enough love? Is that it? Sounds fake." He laughs, even as he dumps out the rest of his bag. "Do I just have superstitious neighbors?"

"Meow," the cat answers, almost grumpily. No, I don't get enough love. Scratch my fucking ears. Seokjin likes to think him and this cat have a connection, so he does as he's told.

Loathe as he is to admit he's freaking out, the purring does calm him down. He leans his head back against the door and closes his eyes. "No keys in sight, buddy." He runs a hand down the cat's back, the weird spikes of its spine stretching languidly beneath his palm. "What disaster plan do I try first?"

The stray sneezes and plops his head down on Seokjin's wrist.

Seokjin calls the bus company, first. They're still running for the night, and they answer on the second try, a lazy woman's voice picking up on the other end. What bus line did he take? What station? What time did he get picked up? They know what bus number is his — Seokjin is so happy he could cry — but they won't be able to scour the bus for his keys until the bus heads in for the night. The driver hasn't reported anything, but sometimes they don't, you know? Have a nice night.

She hangs up.

At least that's been put into action.

The cat nips at Seokjin's skin and he realizes he's been pulling on fur too tightly. With a calculated breath, he smooths the crinkled fur back down. "Sorry, kitty." He scrolls through his contacts, puffing out his cheeks. "I'm mildly fucked, ya feel me?"

Slowly, the cat blinks at him, and it's enough of an answer that Seokjin feels a little better.

"Thanks, cat, you're the shit." With a grim smile, Seokjin calls Joohyun and hopes she's finished closing and paying attention to her phone.

She doesn't answer.

"Fuck." Seokjin isn't even ashamed of the way his voice cracks. It's the ending of a long day and it just feels...enormously shitty. There wasn't even anything jaw-droppingly horrible, but it feels like something in Seokjin's chest is about to snap. He hates that feeling. He'd rather vomit on himself than cry out here on his fucking doorstep for no reason.

Lazily, the stray flicks his his tail over Seokjin's wrist and nips at his sleeve.

"I can't pay attention to you right now, I'm trying to remember to breathe," Seokjin snips at it.

The cat looks less than impressed. "Mreow," he says dispassionately, plopping both paws over where Seokjin's phone is resting on his thigh. His heart skips a beat when he sees the incoming call from Joohyun.

"Fuck." Carefully, he edges the phone out from under the cat and answers. "Joohyun, thank god."

"Hey, can't talk long." She still has her work voice on. She's probably out by the dumpsters, waiting to be let go for the night. "What's up?"

"Did you find my keys there tonight?"

"Hmmm." She pauses. "No one turned anything in. I'll see if Boss hasn't locked up the lost and found box yet, hold on." There's wind and the sounds of footsteps on old pavement.

Absently, Seokjin pets the fucking cat and waits. He hates waiting. Just half an hour ago he'd been daydreaming about a bath and a good night's rest and now he's sitting on his doorstep surrounded by stained laundry.

He hears Joohyun's voice, distant, underwater, and the responding voice of his boss, a nice old foreign man whom only could be understood 70% of the time but was universally loved. "He's giving me the keys to his office, hold on," Joohyun tells Seokjin after a moment and some shuffling. "I drove today, so I can come bring them if I find them."

"That's okay." Joohyun already helped him by trading out times. She lives on the other side of town. It's not worth the inconvenience. "If you find them I can just take the bus back."

"You really need to get your car back," she says with a huff. "Hold on. Fuck this shelf." Seokjin imagines her setting the phone on the table in Boss' room and climbing up on the chair to reach the lost and found box up above the computer. The last time he caught her doing that she'd flipped him off and ignored his snickering for two hours.

He hears her rifling through the box. "I don't see any keys," she says softly, probably knowing how Seokjin's heart sinks. "I'll do another scan of the dining room and have Henry look over the kitchen again."

"It's fine!" Seokjin adjusts the cat slightly in his lap, bringing his knees up to his chest. "I'll just call my landlord."

"Okay." Joohyun sounds unsure. "Well. You can always spend the night here if you need to."

She lives three miles away from a bus station, out on the outskirts of town. It's one of the reasons she'd been so excited to get her new car to the city. "Thanks," Seokjin says. "I'll let you know."

He just — he really doesn't want to call his landlord.

Their last encounter had been...less than ideal. Ended with Seokjin sitting by himself staring at the wall, a newly working washing machine droning in the background and a weird, barely-there kind of disquiet, like his body was covered in a thin layer of grime. It's rare that people get under his skin like that, in that strange, dirty way that lingers. Usually, he's a lot better at protecting himself.

There's just something about Moon Byungchul that makes Seokjin want to shower.

"You want to take bets, kitty?" he asks idly as the stray plays lazily with the string of his hoodie. "What are the odds that he's not going to be an asshole about letting me into my apartment?"

"Meow," the cats answers.

"Yeah, I agree." They're quite slim. There's a surefire way to get Byungchul to do what Seokjin wants him to do, but he's never really been desperate enough to do it. He certainly isn't that desperate now, even if he's tired and pissed and more emotionally vulnerable than he'd like to be.

Seokjin taps his phone absently on his thigh. "I can always call Tae and he'd let me stay over." Except that Taehyung is probably out on a Friday night and while he would definitely end all his plans to help Seokjin out, Seokjin would rather not be the cause of a ruined evening. One miserable person is quite enough. "I'll just...hmmm." He sighs. "I'll just call the landlord. It'll be fine." This is literally Byungchul's job.

It's better just to do it, rip it off like a Band-Aid, so Seokjin dials the long-memorized number and tries not to cringe the longer it rings. It's just him and the cat — who appears to have better things to do than pay attention to Seokjin's emotional state, like lick the fuck out of his free hand — but he still feels a step or two away from snapping like a twig.

Today hasn't even been that bad. No worse than other days. This is stupid. Seokjin hates it.

"Hello?" Byungchul answers.

Seokjin ignores the way his stomach drops and forces himself to smile. More for himself. "Hey, Moon Byungchul, it's Seokjin. Apartment 511."

The landlord laughs. "I know your apartment number." Of course I know your apartment number. There's nothing bad about it, but Seokjin isn't already looking forward to when he can hang up the phone. "Is this a social call?"

Seokjin carefully sidesteps. "I'm locked out of my apartment, I'm afraid." He tugs at the neck of his hoodie. "I was hoping you could come let me in."

Byungchul hums. "It's pretty late, you know. For old men like me."

He's not even old. He's barely any older than Seokjin is, maybe only 5 years, but that seems to be the issue. Seokjin isn't the only one in the apartment complex around his age, but sometimes it feels like it. He's never been wary of attention, but...it's always just with Seokjin. He only ever gives Seokjin shit. As much as Seokjin wants to scream that he doesn't owe anyone anything, that's always how he ends up feeling. "I know, Byungchul." He sucks on his teeth. "I'd really like to go to bed soon."

"It's not that late," Byungchul says with a laugh. "For someone like you, you should be out on the town, living life to the fullest. Getting handsome men to buy you drinks."

"Ah, if only." Seokjin laughs and hopes it doesn't sound too awkward.

The cat has stopped purring in Seokjin's lap. Maybe it's because Seokjin's wound up like a clock.

"I've actually been at work all day," Seokjin continues, determined to leave no openings. "It's been kind of hectic. All I really want is a bath and some Netflix."

"The baths in those apartments aren't nearly big enough," Byungchul muses. "You're so tall. Is there enough space?"

"There's plenty of space, I promise." Seokjin clenches one fist and beats it lightly against his thigh. "I'm not picky."

"The bathroom in my apartment down here is much bigger," the landlord notes. "You're free to use it whenever you like."

"Ah...not tonight, I'm sorry." He's not going to thank Byungchul for the offer, like he hasn't thanked Byungchul for the countless drinks he's bought him, or for the way Byungchul gets Seokjin's work orders done immediately but then stands in the doorway and stares while the mechanics work.

There are things that Seokjin could do to get his way with Moon Byungchul, but he'll never be desperate enough. He'd honestly rather die.

"I'm not actually sure I have your apartment key here with me," Byungchul says after a moment, and here is the real moment Seokjin has been dreading. "I think it's in the main office in town."

That makes no sense, but it's a lie so Seokjin isn't surprised. "You're the landlord," he says with a gentle laugh. "You have a master key to all the apartments."

"I'm looking everywhere for it," Byungchul says, sounding like he actually cares. "I've been on vacation recently" — as he's been telling everyone, because no one else who lives in these shitty apartments could afford going on vacation — "I hope I didn't lose it while I was traveling...?"

"Oh." Seokjin debates whether he's willing to call Byungchul out on his bullshit right now. "Can you call the locksmith?"

"They're probably closed." The landlord hums, seemingly concerned. "You can always stay here for the night if you need to."

"That's okay." Seokjin's heart sinks. He punches his thigh a little too hard. It's going to bruise, probably. "I'll find somewhere to go."

"You can always come down and help me look, if you want?"

"No, it's fine." He bites his lip. "I've already called Taehyung." Byungchul hates Taehyung. It's Seokjin's only weapon some days. "He's got a spare bed."

"Alright." Barely a hint of sourness in his voice. "Let me know if you need anything, okay?"

Bad vibes, brittle brain, no reason behind either, but Seokjin wants to curl up on his welcome mat and fall asleep without making anymore phone calls. He doesn't really want to deal with anything right now. He's wiped out. "Will do." Cheerful. "Thanks. Let me know if you find that key."

They both know Byungchul won't be calling him until Seokjin calls him first.

"You know who are the worst?" Seokjin says asks the stray, the small, old black thing curled up in his lap. "Men."

The cat yawns, sneezes. Cute. He stretches up, pushing his paws against Seokjin's chest, and Seokjin scratches his ears even if grime is getting up his finger nails from dirty fur.

"You're the only real one." Seokjin laughs bitterly at himself. "You would never hurt me, right, you wily bastard?"

"Mreow," the stray answers confidently.

"Through thick and thin, until I stop giving you tuna." Seokjin hums, drained, but he leans forward and presses a small kiss to the cat's nose, because at least there's someone around tonight who isn't absolutely full of shit.

Several things happen at once, and absolutely none of those things make sense.

Seokjin feels something weird, a cold chill in the hallway, and his shoulders tense like his body is preparing for an incoming shock, the kind of tense that you feel right before you car hits someone else's. He blinks. Something is suddenly very heavy on his legs, an odd, warm weight. For a moment, he's disoriented. Limbs. Pale skin. He's dizzy.

There is a naked man in his lap.

Seokjin shrieks, like the busty blonde in a teen horror movie, pressing his hands against the man's chest and knocking him over onto the ground. It doesn't do either of them any good, because now Seokjin sees so much more than he'd felt prepared to see, and the man can't seem to control literally any his limbs and is just sprawled out on the stained carpet in front of Seokjin and God and everyone.

For what it's worth, the man also looks shocked, like he hadn't expected to be naked in anyone's lap tonight either, but it doesn't make Seokjin feel any better.

"I'm calling the police," Seokjin says, pulling his knees more tightly into his chest and gripping his phone like a lifeline. Despite his scream earlier, he means business now, and this fucker is going to jail for sexual harassment or public indecency or something.

"Um, could you please?" the man asks slowly from the floor, and that definitely throws Seokjin for a loop. The stranger props himself up on one elbow, and rubs his forehead like he has a headache. He sneezes, and Seokjin feels that weird zip he'd felt just a moment ago. "I'm...what?"

"Are you high?" Seokjin asks hesitantly.

The man squeezes his eyes shut and opens them again, like maybe he'll see something different. At this point, the fact that he's naked isn't even the first thing on Seokjin's mind. The first thing on Seokjin's mind is just what the fuck and he feels very valid in that.

"You're..." the stranger starts slowly. "...Seokjin?"

Seokjin couldn't be more freaked out. "Who are you and why are you here?"

The man eyes the laundry piled around them on the floor. "Could I borrow those?"

"Um..." Seokjin looks at the dirty clothes and decides that covering up a stray penis is worth the oddity of the situation. "Sure. Whatever?"

He picks up the shirt first, tugging it over his head, and it swallows him. He's much smaller than Seokjin is, not delicate or fine-boned but compact and kind of knobby, lots of edges. His eyes are sharp, but he looks dopey and disoriented. The t-shirt is big enough to cover up to his upper thigh, and despite the stain on the sleeve he looks cozy instead of grubby. "Is this...?"

"Illegal?" Seokjin asks, heart beating out of his chest. "Probably." He swallows. "Seriously. Who even are you? I'll really call the police, okay? What the fuck?"

"Is this West Pointe?"

Seokjin huffs. "Yes." It's the name of the apartment complex at least.

"And you're Seokjin?" The man seems to be talking more to himself than anyone else.

"Who's asking?"

"Min Yoongi," the stranger says, ruffling his hair. He's badly in need of a shower. His hair is stringy with grease.

"How do you know my name?" Where did you come from? Seokjin feels like he's the one who's high at this point. Maybe he really did fall asleep on his porch and this is just a dream, but his head hurts too bad for this not to be real.

"I'm..." Yoongi frowns. "Uh....what year is it? 2017?"

Seokjin scoffs, incredulous. "It's 2018. It's been 2018 for a fucking long time."

"Oh." Small. Surprisingly small. He looks so lost, so confused, and a part of Seokjin feels bad for him because the longer this conversation goes on the more upset he gets, but quite frankly Seokjin is so confused he doesn't have any room for sympathy. "You just called your landlord," Yoongi says, wheels turning, eyes closed, and Seokjin wants to vomit. "You're locked out of your apartment."

It's a weird kind of panic, one that freezes. Seokjin's clutching his phone so hard he thinks it might snap but he isn't calling the police and he isn't sure why. "How do you know that?"

Yoongi looks at him, at the hallway, at the dirty clothes. "I think I've been a cat for a year."

The first thing that Seokjin thinks, after his brain stops spasming, is that he shouldn't have bought all that fucking tuna. But the second thing, after silently gaping while Yoongi puts on his nasty jeans, is — "How the fuck would you not know?"

Yoongi still kind of looks like he's high. Not that Seokjin is one to talk, but all of Yoongi's movements are slow and his eyes are glossed over, like it's taking too long for his synapses to fire. "Not know what?" he asks, after staring at Seokjin and trying to make the words go.

"Not know if you've been a fucking cat for a year?" It's easily the oddest sentence that's ever come out of Seokjin's mouth, saving the stupid conversations he has with Taehyung and the horrible puns he tells his groaning family.

For a second, Yoongi's eyes just widen while he tries his hardest to process words. "Well, sorry, I'm still trying to process this information?" he snips, but it's slow and sloppy where Seokjin feels like the words should be sharp. "Feels like...dreaming." He rubs his eyes. His face squishes into something much softer. "So much...tuna."

Seokjin just stares at him. "Okay." Okay. Okayokayokay. "You're a cat."

"I mean...?" Yoongi touches his chest, his chin, inspecting. "No?"

"You were a cat," Seokjin amends, but he's glaring at Yoongi because he needs things to be simple and clear cut right now. "You think."

"I...think."

"What's the last thing you remember?" Seokjin's face colors. "Before your supposed transformation?" He doesn't want to think about how close he'd been to a breakdown not ten minutes ago, and all the other awkward things this bastard has seen. Seokjin is never going to trust an animal again for as long as he lives. It's not fucking fair. He's tottering on the edge of another breakdown, wholly unrelated, but Seokjin has always been good at compartmentalizing, and right now he's focused on only one problem at a time.

"Well." Yoongi frowns, scratching his head. Seokjin can't handle the odd back and forth. Sharp and soft and sharp and soft. But there's a bit more light behind his eyes now, the more focused he gets on answering Seokjin's questions. "Business meeting?"

"Okay, good." Seokjin crosses his arms. "You have a job?"

The thoughtful frown becomes more of a grimace. "Yeah."

"And a house?"

"Yeah."

"Okay." Seokjin makes a shooing motion with his hands. "Go there."

Yoongi stares at him incredulously. "Seriously?"

"Listen." Seokjin is dangerously close to his threshold. Tonight has gone from completely average to fucking wild in a heartbeat and Seokjin doesn't want to deal with it right now. He just wants to get inside. And as far as he's concerned, taking in strays is still against his lease. "I can't handle you being a fucking cat right now, I just want a bubble bath and maybe a hard drink."

"You can't even get into your house right now?" There's something suspiciously like anger in Yoongi's eyes that finally cuts through the haze, and Seokjin was right. He is rather sharp.

"In case you haven't noticed, I've been trying to fix that."

"To no avail," Yoongi replies flatly before his face twists into disgust. "You're really just going to let me loose into the streets?"

"You have a name and a job and a house," Seokjin replies evenly, but he can tell that his eyebrow is dangerously close to twitching. "You're in as good a place as anyone and probably also haven't been working for like twelve hours."

Yoongi clenches his fist. Seokjin is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that it might be intimidating some other time, but right now he just looks like a an overgrown child. His anger turns cold. "Look, I'm sure you've had an awful day but I've been a cat for a year."

Seokjin shrugs, comically over-exaggerated. "Maybe you deserved it?"

Yoongi aims a well-placed kick to Seokjin's shin. "You're the worst! You were nicer when I was a cat!" The oversized pants are threatening to fall off his hips but he still is glaring something fierce.

"I'd be nice to you too if this wasn't fucking insane!"

"Mmmm, Seokjin?"

There's a small voice off to the side, and in the time it takes Seokjin to register that his old neighbor is poking her head worriedly out of her apartment Yoongi has already jumped behind him like a startled — well, like a startled cat.

"Miss Soonhee," Seokjin says with a sigh, feeling all the built up tension drain forcibly out of his shoulders. He can get angry all he wants but Miss Soonhee is a nice old lady and certainly doesn't need to see that. "Sorry for the noise."

There are curlers in her hair, and it looks like she's just gotten her hair done because it's a brassy red. Both of her hands are cured around the doorjamb, and she's staring at Yoongi in alarm. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes, ma'am, everything is fine!"

"I can call the police."

"Please don't," Yoongi murmurs into Seokjin's shoulder, where Seokjin's sure she can't hear him.

He holds up his hands placatingly. "No ma'am, everything really is fine, there's no need. I'm just, ah, I'm locked out and a bit frustrated."

She hums again, but she's still eyeing Yoongi like he might do something suspicious at any moment. "Have you called Byungchul?"

Seokjin laughs, easy. "Unfortunately," and Soonhee titters like it's an inside joke.

"Just ask, honey, I'll set my grandson on him," she threatens, just like she's threatened a million times before. Her grandson is a tall, lanky thing that might be able to make Byungchul nervous until he trips over a table and breaks a lamp — Namjoon had been very helpful during Seokjin's move in but almost more detrimental considering what a safety hazard he was. He's not sure what the boy would do to a shitty landlord. "He's got a graduate degree, you know?" She beams. "Two years early."

Yes, Seokjin does know. It's her favorite thing to talk about. Frankly, he thinks it's kind of cute. "No, really?" he says, cheeky.

"Stop it." She swats at him with a well-manicured hand and pats her curlers. "It's past my bedtime, but would you like to come inside? I'll make tea."

Yoongi has slowly released his death grip on Seokjin's arm, but he's still almost peeking out from behind him like a child, so Seokjin steps slightly to the side, because the longer Yoongi hides the more suspicious he'll become. "That's really nice of you, ma'am," Yoongi says after a moment, almost shy.

Seokjin chews on the inside of cheek, thinking. "It is rather later, isn't it?"

Soonhee smiles kindly. "Quite late, dear."

He can see why Yoongi might be upset at the prospect of finding his way home at this time of night, even if he seems familiar with the apartment complex. If he was renting in the area, his home is long gone, and all of his stuff, and he's probably lost his job, and who knows about his family — fuck, if Seokjin calls the police, is there going to be a missing person's case? Are they going to think he fucking did it? He rubs his forehead.

"Why don't you go in?" he says to Yoongi, and Yoongi's mouth pops opens like he's not quite sure what to say. "Miss Soonhee, this is my friend Yoongi, and he's in a bit of a tight spot." The old lady tsks. Heart opened. "Would you look after him while I go down to talk to Byungchul?"

"What?" Yoongi blinks. "You're going to talk to that asshole?"

Gently, Seokjin slips a hand onto Yoongi's lower back — he's so small — and pushes him forward. "We have to get in somehow," he replies evenly. We. A small apology at his breakdown. "It probably won't take long."

Soonhee and Yoongi send him almost identical looks of reproach.

"It won't," he insists.

"Fuck that." Yoongi hikes up his pants. "I'm coming with you."

Soonhee goes back into her house. "I'm calling my grandson."

"That's unnecessary." Seokjin wants to laugh. "It's not a big deal."

Yoongi purses his lips, because they both know that not ten minutes ago it had been a very big deal, big enough to prompt an almost-breakdown. "I'd rather come." He looks at Soonhee, who's back at the door holding an ancient cell phone. "Not that tea doesn't sound, uh, really lovely."

"Namjoon?" she asks into the receiver, waving Yoongi off. "You're talking too fast I can't understand you...no—no, I need you to kick my landlord's ass."

"Let's just go," Yoongi tells Seokjin, hiking up his pants one more time. "Before she calls in backup."

It's not that Byungchul intimidates Seokjin. It's just that Seokjin hates interacting with his landlord literally at all.

"Aren't you going to knock?" Yoongi asks, a couple steps behind, an odd, unhappy curl in the corners of his mouth. He looks ridiculous and Seokjin takes solace in that.

"Fuck off," Seokjin snips, as primly as he can manage. It's just late, Seokjin doesn't want to be a bother, that's all.

Plus, coming down here after Byungchul specifically invited him down feels like he's losing something. He hates to think what this stupid man will think he's owed afterwards, even if all Seokjin's asking of him is to do his fucking job.

Calm. Seokjin needs to be calm.

He knocks on the door thrice — one, two, three — and calls out a perfectly level, "Byungchul?"

"Yeah?" comes a distant voice on the other side of the door, and Seokjin takes an imperceptible breath, bracing himself. The door opens. "Seokjin?" Byungchul looks surprised. He should be. Seokjin's never taken him up on his offers before, and oh, there have been many. But his surprise evens out quickly enough, and he smiles, almost charming. He's handsome, Seokjin can admit that. There's no reason Byungchul should be so underhanded to get a man, but maybe Seokjin is just a special case. "What can I do for you?"

"I was hoping I would be able to help look for the master key?" Seokjin smiles too, almost perfect. "God, I'm exhausted."

Byungchul laughs. "I did say you could just stay here." The opposite of what Seokjin wants to do, but then, they've never quite seen eye-to-eye on the matter. "It's so late. We can always just check in the morning."

Seokjin almost doesn't hate the sound of that, except Byungchul only has one bed and would be determined to have Seokjin in it. "I'd prefer to have my own bed, if it's all the same."

For a second, Byungchul looks like he might have something cheeky to say in response, but then someone is pushing Seokjin aside and Yoongi is standing beside him in the doorway. "Can we hurry this up?"

"God," Seokjin says, a slip. "You're so rude." Because he's already committed.

But Yoongi must know what he's doing on some level, even if he looks silly drowning in Seokjin's clothes. Byungchul has been easing forward into Seokjin's space, but as soon as a dark and grim-eyed Yoongi pops up around Seokjin's elbows it's a different story. "Ah, Min Yoongi!" It's an entirely different voice, less simpering and smooth.

Seokjin is more than shocked. The last thing he'd expected from this was recognition. "You know each other."

"Unfortunately," Yoongi grouses. Honestly, Seokjin is surprised. Yoongi has been short with him, certainly, even a bit terse, but he's downright brooding now, a grump.

"Byungchul is being nice enough to help us," Seokjin reminds him, because his landlord has taken his sweet time with things when tenants piss him off. "Play nice."

Yoongi snorts. "I don't have to." He takes a step forward, moving into Byungchul's space the way Byungchul had been moving into Seokjin's. "You lost your master key? Really?"

Who the fuck does this guy think he is, pushing Seokjin out of the way and pissing off the only person who could possibly help him right now? Magical man or not, Seokjin is going to rip him to pieces.

But Byungchul doesn't turn to ice the way he usually done when he's angry. Instead he backs up, letting Yoongi enter the apartment. "Ah, I'm just—forgetful."

"Good quality for a landlord," Yoongi says flatly, running his fingers idly over the mantle like he expects to find dust. He looks haughty, despite being a total disaster. It suits the sharpness of his face and his words, but Seokjin can't seem to make the angry man upstairs and this one line up. "I supposed I can call upstairs and have them make you a new one again—"

"No," Byungchul assures him too quickly. "No need. I'm sure it's around here somewhere."

Seokjin is openly ogling Yoongi now, who's frowning at everything, unimpressed. He watches the smaller man disdainfully look over the paperwork littering the small work table. When he looks up he sees Seokjin's face. Normally, Seokjin is good at hiding his feelings, but whatever emotion is showing on his face makes Yoongi's mouth curl upwards like he's trying desperately not to smile.

Oh, fucking hell, Seokjin is going to kick his ass.

"It's probably by my work area," Byungchul says, gesturing towards the table of papers and the bookshelf. "Or maybe in my room."

"I'll look under the couch," Seokjin offers, because he's not going into Byungchul's room willingly and Yoongi is already idly flipping through the desk, lowering his eyes as he opens the drawers.

Byungchul watches Seokjin as he gets down on his knees, and Seokjin casually positions himself so no ass-ogling is possible.

"Would you like a drink?" Byungchul asks in Seokjin's direction.

"I'll take a beer, if you have it," Yoongi replies, flat.

"Ah, of course." Byungchul inclines his head and walks to the kitchen.

As soon as he's out of earshot, Yoongi's shoulders slump into something more exhausted than proud. "I expected it to look more like a dungeon," he notes.

"You haven't seen his bedroom." Seokjin squints at Yoongi. He isn't checking under the couch because everyone knows the key isn't under the couch. "Who the fuck are you?"

"Someone with a rich mother," Yoongi supplies, still rifling through the drawers. He grimaces and pulls out a half-used bottle of lube. "This is suspect."

Seokjin can't keep himself from making a face. "I bet his stroke game is weak."

"I have it on good authority that his dick is mediocre." Yoongi has a solid delivery, an excellent deadpan, but it might also be because the life has been sucked out of his body. Or because it's true. "He's going to come back in five minutes miraculously having found that thing."

"How do you know?"

"Because he's an asshole and also he knows I can get him fired."

Seokjin just hums. That information is new but has certainly been implied. He's certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. "He'd better hurry the fuck up. I'm only pretty when I'm well-rested." He pauses. "Actually, that's untrue."

Yoongi grunts, tossing the lube back in the drawer and shutting it with a snap. "Charming."

Before Seokjin can properly comprehend having an entire, normal conversation with someone who he's been serving tuna out of a bowl for about six months, Byungchul comes back in with three cheap beers. "This is all I have on short notice," he says, apologetic, tossing one Yoongi's way.

"It's okay, man," Yoongi replies, snatching it out of the air with a surprising amount of grace. "I went to college; shitty beer is old hat."

Byungchul tosses one to Seokjin, and he catches it instead of letting it shatter on the floor, but he quietly places it on the coffee table beside him and continues pretending to search for a key he knows he's not going to find.

Yoongi opens the beer and takes a sip with barely a grimace, swirling it around in the bottle and leaning down to search in the same drawer all three of them know the lube is in. Just to make sure that Byungchul knows they know. Just for fun. His eyes flicker up to the landlord and he takes another sip. "Shall we check your room, then?"

Seokjin holds back a snicker. If there's lube in his desk who knows what they'll find in his room.

"Don't worry yourself." Byungchul smiles. "I'll check everything out. You can just rest. I'm sure you're exhausted from your studies." His eyes sharpen. "It's a surprising return, isn't it?"

Studies? Seokjin keeps his thoughts off his face, but Yoongi openly looks confused for a moment before he manages to transition into disgust. "If you're implying I was anything less than successful, I'd remember who signs whose paycheck." He grins, mouth pressed coyly to the lip of his bottle. "And which of us went to college."

"Are we checking the bedroom?" Seokjin asks. Both of the others look at him in surprise, like they'd forgotten he was there at all, but Seokjin isn't here to see whose dick is bigger, he just wants to go to bed.

"Please wait for me," Byungchul answers, setting his beer down on top of the bookshelf. "It won't take me long."

Yoongi snorts. "No, I imagine it won't."

At that moment, Seokjin thinks they can all agree — the sooner they can get out of each other's presence, the better.

It doesn't take Byungchul very long to find the master key with Yoongi keeping a watchful eye, and once Seokjin makes it clear he won't be spending any more time here than necessary. It mysteriously materializes out of thin air, and Seokjin's smile when he takes the keys is genuine even if he'd like to sock his landlord in the face.

"You can stay," Seokjin tells Yoongi plainly, once they're walking back to Seokjin's floor. Yoongi seems like the type to appreciate frankness, but he's already following Seokjin into the elevator, so Seokjin thinks it probably wasn't necessary. "It's the least I can do since you dealt with that bullshit."

Yoongi doesn't say much, just shoves his hands in his pockets and leans against the back wall.

Seokjin pushes the button and the doors slide shut. It's weird, the way it traps the silence so that he feels the need to fill it. "I'm surprised you knew him."

"Not like I was a cat forever," is the short reply. It seems like the same silence Seokjin wants to fill is where Yoongi wants to live. He soaks it in. The lines of his mouth are hard and his eyes are tired.

"You worked together?" Seokjin asks, one last attempt.

"Sort of." Yoongi purses his lips, almost pouting. "He's a shithead."

Seokjin laughs and gives him the gift of not replying.

The doors open with a ding and the dirty carpet of the hallway isn't welcome but it's certainly familiar. The silence has more room to spread out here, and it's almost comfortable as Seokjin inserts the master key and opens the door. "I can't believe Byungchul just gave it to you."

He had, without complaint, as soon as Yoongi stuck out his palm. "I think I'll keep it a bit safer for the night than you will."

Nothing is quite so mystifying as the way Byungchul had just complied, not even the fact that Yoongi had been a cat earlier this evening.

"I'll walk it down in the morning when I leave," Yoongi says unprompted. Seokjin turns to look at him and sees Yoongi picking up the discarded belongings littering his front step and shoving them into Seokjin's poor, forgotten bag. "He won't give me shit."

Seokjin smiles, wry. "Thanks." But it's genuine. "You have a way to get home?"

Yoongi walks into the apartment, hesitant, and gently places the bag on Seokjin's kitchen table. "Taxi," he offers.

"You have money?"

"Somewhere," Yoongi says, and Seokjin's sure — based purely on how he's cowed the landlord — that it's true, but it's not very helpful at the moment.

"My friend has a car and no life," Seokjin offers. "I'll call in a favor."

Yoongi stares. His face is almost too expressive to be read, like a thousand things are happening at once so he's just kind of blank instead. It's weird, that this Yoongi and the cool, powerful Yoongi and the sharp, fiery Yoongi are the same. It's even weirder when Seokjin remembers the reason he's here and also that he's seen his dick in the flesh. "It's late."

"I told you you could stay," Seokjin replies simply. "In the morning."

"Okay." Yoongi scratches his stomach under the t-shirt. He's pale and kind of smelly and a mess. He needs a haircut. He looks like one of the college boys Seokjin might have dated a year ago and still followed on Facebook. "In the morning."

 


 

Seokjin texts his friend that night as he slips under the covers and Yoongi sleeps on the couch without asking for something better. Neither of them last long enough to complain about anything. Seokjin wakes up before he remembers falling asleep.

When he does wake up, for a moment he's blissfully unaware. The apartment is quiet and his sheets are clean and there's a comfortable exhaustion in his bones, which leads him to remember last night, which leads him to remember the stranger on his couch. It's a weird kind of anxiety, trickling in from his fingertips and waking him up on pins and needles. Soft and sharp and slow. There's a magical man in his house whom he barely knows.

There are worse things, surely, but it's too early for Seokjin to think of many.

He stumbles into a pair of sweatpants and makes his way to the bathroom. He doesn't hear a peep from the living room, even as he sleep-drunkenly searches for his face wash and toothpaste. He gets his hand wet and shakes it through his hair.

The first order of business is coffee. He's long since forgotten how to properly sleep in — something Yoongi seems to have no problems with, but they can both probably agree the poor man's been through enough — and on days off he makes up for it by drinking coffee until he's on the right side of the line between awake and jittery. He's got to stay up until at least midnight to be considered a cool bitch. Anything less is just unacceptable.

Seokjin digs the half-empty bag of coffee grounds from the cabinet as quietly as possible and sets himself to his task. He'd forgotten to program it last night, in the whirlwind of everything, but at least he's not in any rush, and coffee making is a skill he's long perfected. It's a comfortable kind of mindless.

He isn't sure how heavy of a sleeper Yoongi is. He takes his time, slowly closing drawers he might otherwise have slammed, but he doesn't hear a peep from the living room, and when he peers over the raised back of the kitchen counter Yoongi is sprawled out and dead to the world.

There's not much to do once he's set the coffee to brew. Shower, maybe, but he did that last night. Get dressed, but there's no real point. His morning plans begin and end with getting Yoongi home and maybe picking up a croissant or something so he feels like he made the most of it.

His phone chirps, and Seokjin checks the time. Their ride will be here in about an hour.

How much time is normal to give someone? Does Yoongi usually eat breakfast? Will he expect something? Probably not, but Seokjin's mother raised him to be a good host. Unfortunately. He likes to cook at least. Maybe he'll make pancakes. He thinks he has a box mix around here somewhere. Making something from scratch would probably be too long.

Seokjin makes his way through this entire thought process before he realizes he's kind of staring at Yoongi while he sleeps. He's got the spare blanket wrapped haphazardly around his legs and is curled up into a ball, his hands held between his knees. His lower lip juts out like he's pouting. It's an oddly childish pose for a man Seokjin assumes has already taken up the mantle of adulthood, but Seokjin himself has a collection of Mario memorabilia that he brags about incessantly, so he would never judge.

Yoongi has a weirdly scrunched up face when he sleeps, not quite peaceful, like he's trying to force his face and the pillow to become one. It's cute, maybe, in its own peculiar way.

Seokjin grabs a box of pancake mix out of the cabinet and decides he'd rather do something than stare at his temporary boarder for an hour.

At some point between Seokjin's accidentally violent whisking and the sizzle of cold batter hitting the pan, Yoongi makes a small, whimpering noise from the couch. Seokjin doesn't bother turning around to check. There's some shuffling, a minor thud, and then the pitter-pat of bare feet against carpet.

Yoongi comes over to the window between the kitchen and the living room, grimacing. "Early," he says, almost a whine. He puts his hands on the lip of the barrier, and Seokjin eyes them pointedly.

"Don't contaminate my product. I've got state regulations to adhere to," he warns, picking up the rest of the batter and moving it next to the stove.

"I'm a willing customer, which means I'm always right." Yoongi's eyes are scrunched up and he's staring at the kitchen light, half-accusing, like he's waiting for his eyes to get adjusted. "Coffee?"

Seokjin shoots a quick look at the coffee pot and flips a pancake in the pan. "Soon." There's at least enough for them both to have two cups. "Will you be ready to go in about a half hour?"

"Just gotta collect all my shit," Yoongi replies, tiredly resting his cheek against the counter. Seokjin thinks it's a joke, because all Yoongi has right now are Seokjin's pants and a pair of designer dark circles. His hair is askew. He doesn't look like he gives a fuck.

When the coffee is done, Yoongi drinks it like a man who's been stuck in the desert for months. Seokjin can't imagine many people leave out the odd Americano for the stray cats. He's waiting for Yoongi to explode, but Yoongi just pours himself another cup and drizzles syrup on his third plate of pancakes and Seokjin is just.

What. This might sound silly coming from him, a glutton, but like, where does it go.

Or maybe he was just really hungry? Seokjin thinks of the few times he fed the stray cat those packets of tuna he'd eaten just as voraciously. How easy was it to get food when you were a cat? Were there many kind people in the city that would give out scraps? Did Yoongi have to fight against other cats for survival?

Seokjin gets the image of Yoongi fighting a giant, human-sized tabby with boxing gloves on and decides he hasn't quite processed things enough to be properly sympathetic.

His phone chirps again, and Yoongi laughs into his mug at the Mario sound effect. "Ride's here?"

Seokjin clicks through his messages. "Yeah." Early, as always. "Just put the dishes in the sink. I'll get them when I get home."

Yoongi puts them in the dishwasher anyway after rinsing them off, and the two of them trudge into the elevator, Yoongi wearing one of Seokjin's hoodies from high school. It fits him okay. Seokjin had liked tighter clothing then. Yoongi keeps pulling the sleeves down to clench in his fists, and Seokjin wonders if bigger clothing might have been a comfort.

As soon as they walk out of the apartment complex — once Yoongi slips the master key into Byungchul's mailbox with a look of disdain — their ride is easy to find. "The fuck is that?"

"That," Seokjin grins, "is Taehyung."

Taehyung rolls down his window — physically cranks it down, because his old truck is beat up and old and Seokjin is pretty sure he found it at the scrapyard and conned someone into giving it to him — and sticks out his head. "Friends. Brothers." He waves. "Welcome."

Yoongi looks shellshocked.

Soonshim pokes her nose out of the window, forces herself between Taehyung's back and the driver's seat, yipping. Seokjin walks forward and lets her lick his hand in greeting. "Yeontannie?"

"A disaster dog." Taehyung tugs on the ends of his hair. It's grown out, turning into something of a curly mullet. Seokjin threatens to cut it every time they see each other, but Taehyung's never been one to care. "He shat in my slippers."

"They're hideous," Seokjin says reasonably.

"But I love them." And he can't argue with that. "So he's being housesat by that shitty neighbor kid as punishment."

Seokjin clicks his tongue. "You're too cruel."

Taehyung looks off into the distance, the picture of soap opera beauty. "I really loved those slippers."

Yoongi laughs.

Not a snort or an appreciative grunt, but a laugh. When Seokjin turns around — not to tease, they're not there yet — Yoongi looks ten years younger. His face loses all its edge. When he smiles, really smiles, all his teeth show, gummy.

"Don't encourage him," Seokjin tells him.

Yoongi is still grinning. "Damn. Coffee really perks you up, you know? Magical thing, coffee." He moves his mug in little circles. It's a weird, graceless kind of dance.

"Quick, Jinnie, tell a joke." Taehyung pushes Soonshim bodily into the passenger's seat and reaches around to unlock the back of the car. Neither Yoongi nor Seokjin are surprised at being relegated to the back. "If he laughs, it really is magic."

"Not all of us are perky!" Seokjin grunts, opening the backdoor and hauling himself inside. Yoongi follows, almost tripping of the rolled up hem of Seokjin's sweats. "Some people have to get by on just their looks."

"Wit lives a full life and beauty withers," Taehyung says, almost sagely, and he laughs when Seokjin mimes flipping his hair over his shoulder.

"Asian don't raisin."

Yoongi takes a long, slow sip of his coffee.

Driving with Taehyung is an experience. Taehyung as a person is also an experience. He's a country boy, sort of, and an art hoe, sort of, and a baby, sort of, and maybe a genius. But if one gets past the clunky truck and the mullet and the trot music and the fuzzy dice, Taehyung is also very charming.

Yoongi doesn't really seem to care. He compliments the skirt Taehyung is wearing over his jeans and tells him the address to plug into his phone and that's that.

Seokjin recognizes the neighborhood as soon as Yoongi says it — it's the most expensive neighborhood in the city, where the rich and beautiful sit out by their hand-poured pools and drink champagne made from flutes made of ice. Or something. Seokjin has never been rich, he doesn't really know how it works.

"Dude," Taehyung says, oddly perky. "Do you know the president?"

Yoongi blinks. "Um, no." He looks at Seokjin, amused, but Seokjin has long since found that explaining Taehyung is useless. People either get it, don't get it, or don't mind.

"Damn." Taehyung drives them up to the gates.

It's a close neighborhood, and Seokjin holds his tongue as they make it up to the security guard if only because Yoongi has expressed any worries so far. Seokjin is more interested in seeing exactly what's going to happen than in worrying about how Yoongi plans on making the gears move.

The security guard comes up to the window, and Seokjin can already tell by the look on his face that they're going to have to make a very convincing argument. Taehyung is a lot to handle. He's beautiful and odd and alarming and sweet, but he doesn't look like he's dripping in money, especially not as he motions for the security guard to wait while he cranks down his window. "Good morning!" he chirps, and Soonshim wiggles her way into Taehyung's lap and yips.

"Can I see your ID, sir?" the man asks, adjusting his belt. He's a big man. Seokjin has never seen such a stereotypical gatekeeper.

"My license?" Taehyung frowns. "Okay, but why?"

The guard is losing his already short patience. "Your housing ID, sir."

Soonshim licks Taehyung's cheek. "Oh," Taehyung replies, idle. "I'm just dropping someone off."

Seokjin looks at Yoongi. "Please help." They're not getting anywhere.

"Ah." Yoongi looks at Taehyung almost fondly, very awkwardly, and then he unbuckles his seatbelt. "Hold on."

So Seokjin does. He holds on while Yoongi climbs across the back seat and hovers over Seokjin's lap to reach the driver's side window. His fingers flutter for a moment, looking for a button to press for the window to go down. He has pretty fingers. Seokjin imagines a little Yoongi dressed in his Sunday best forced to learn the piano.

He's pressed awkwardly against the seat. It'd be easier if Yoongi just actually...sat in his lap, but Seokjin doesn't think they know each other well enough for him even just to joke about it. "You have to—"

"Right," Yoongi replies, finding the crank and grunting as he rolls it down halfway and sticks his head out of the window. "Excuse me."

The change doesn't happen immediately, and quite frankly Seokjin isn't surprised. Yoongi looks almost as much of a ruffian as Taehyung does, his hair overgrown and his clothes slightly too big and his entire vibe a little scruffy, a lot tired. But Seokjin sees the exact moment that the guard recognizes Yoongi. His face goes a bit red and his jaw drops slightly.

"Ah, Sir, I'm sorry." It's a flustered rush of words and hands.

"I've been gone so long," Yoongi says, his head stuck out the window. He looks ridiculous. "I lost my ID."

"Oh, you don't need an ID, sir, come on in." The guard flips the switch and gates open. "Welcome home."

Yoongi settles back into his seat, quietly clicks his seatbelt even though they're stuck at a rapid 15 miles an hour by all the speed bumps. "Home, hmm?"

Seokjin bites the inside of his cheek. "Where did you..." He shoots an awkward look at Taehyung. "Where have you been staying?"

"Here and there." Yoongi grimaces out the window. "I got stuck in a, uh, in a pound once. Not actually sure how I got out of that one."

"I got Soonshim at a pound," Taehyung comments. Soonshim looks at him when she hears her name and he coos at her. "Look at what a good girl she is, hmmm? Best girl. Yeah." She yips and Taehyung smiles like the sun.

Seokjin laughs. "I think Yoongi is more of a cat person."

Yoongi flips Seokjin off with both hands, flatly amused.

The neighborhood itself is huge. Taehyung is looking at everything with wide eyes, and Yoongi points out the most beautiful houses and tells ridiculous stories — "Pretty sure she's a drug dealer, but she makes the best casseroles," and "He's a politician but once he got drunk and peed on my flowers." Some of the houses are modern, covered in glass, and others parts of the neighborhood look like old Southern homes, and Seokjin wonders how much it must cost to have a house like this commissioned.

Yoongi directs them through the winding residential roads, and it seems his house is almost in the back. "It was one of the first houses," he tells them, not quite proud. "A gift. Sort of."

Seokjin is expecting to be impressed when they finally pull into the driveway, but it seems like the house is largely in disrepair. The architecture is more traditional than modern, with a large porch and a swing and what would have been a nice garden if it were better maintained. The grass is slightly too long. The shutters have been recently repainted. There is a beautiful tapered roof, and the entire thing is stone. Seokjin would like to see it when Yoongi has had time to make it beautiful again.

But then, Yoongi is rich. He probably doesn't do his own gardening.

Most alarming, other than the obvious display of wealth, is the other car in the driveway.

Taehyung casually pulls up beside it, unaware that both Yoongi and Seokjin are in a mild panic. Seokjin had just gotten the impression Yoongi lived alone, and the wild look in Yoongi's eyes implies the car is unexpected.

"Do you, uh," Seokjin starts, think someone bought it? But Yoongi is out of the car before he has the chance to really ask.

"Damn, speedy fella," Taehyung says, scratching Soonshim. "Do you think he'd mind if she ruins his flowers?"

"Go ahead," Seokjin tells him absently, hopping out of the car. The flowers already need a lot of love. Soonshim can have her fun as far as Seokjin is concerned.

Yoongi has already pushed the door open, dug the spare key out from the flower pot if the dirt all over the porch is anything to go by, and Seokjin hesitantly follows. Things have been so weird he can't even begin to theorize who might be in the house, but maybe that's the best mentality. If it's a squatter they probably wouldn't have such a nice car. If they were a robber then they wouldn't be out here proudly in the daylight. Seokjin just kind of hopes they haven't broken into some poor soul's newly acquired home.

Although it doesn't look like anyone is living here. All the furniture is covered in cloth. The tables are all bare. There are hooks on the walls for picture that have long since been taken down. There's a weird, stagnant emptiness. He can't imagine Yoongi living here.

"Hello?" he calls out.

There's a crash from somewhere further in the house, the sounds of things breaking, and Seokjin's crisis mode kicks in. He runs towards the sound, tries to navigate the too big house. There are boxes everywhere. He almost trips over two.

"Y...Yoongi?" he hears, ahead and to the left, and his heart slows down.

He rounds the corner, prepared to see almost anything.

There's silence here too, but it's not stagnant at all; it's alive. It's moving around the room, like the inhale before a sigh. Seokjin sees the cause of the noise almost immediately. There's an open cardboard box on the floor, overturned, its contents scattered across the floor — books and small knickknacks and pens and notepads. Yoongi stands awkwardly just inside the doorway, and Seokjin can't see his face, but he can definitely see the face of the man who dropped the box in the first place.

There's a young man in the room, hands still held out like the box never fell. He's handsome, young, his eyes wide, and he looks upset. Almost driven to tears. Seokjin doesn't know him but his heart breaks a little.

Seokjin puts a hand on Yoongi's shoulder. "What did you say to the poor boy?" he asks easily, and Yoongi snaps out of his stupor.

"I—nothing?" Yoongi says, still in a daze. But the silence has snapped.

The boy wails. "I thought you—Yoongi." He stumbles around the box and flops his arms around Yoongi's shoulders, a giant, sad octopus. Almost crying. Almost.

Yoongi looks as shocked as Seokjin feels, but only for a moment. His face melts into something much softer, so fond, and Seokjin's heart speeds up again. He holds the other man tightly around the waist and smiles into his shoulder. "I'm home, kid."

"You fucker," the boy says, breathless, holding on tighter. "You absolute asshole — I thought she'd killed you!"

Yoongi flinches.

"Sorry, I just..." The boy steps away and pats his cheeks, trying to get ahold of himself. He's as tall as Seokjin, looming over Yoongi, but it's clear he respects him. "Where have you been?"

"It's..." Yoongi looks sad. "It's a long story, Jungkook."

Jungkook's jaw clenches. "I'll...I'll sue her."

Seokjin looks between the two. "I'm sorry, sue who?"

"No one," Yoongi grunts over his shoulder before looking as Jungkook. "You don't even know she did anything."

Jungkook clenches his fists. "Oh, I know she did," he says darkly. "I just...I just don't know what."

"What do you mean?"

"She's been telling everyone you went overseas to study. Yoongi, she's been swearing up and down! She showed me a fucking Christmas card you sent her!" Jungkook looks murderous. "But the picture was from last year. It was on your phone. You never posted it anywhere. You really think she didn't do anything?"

Yoongi deflates. "You really think it was her?" he asks quietly.

And Jungkook doesn't know what's happened — Seokjin isn't even positive what happened, and he saw it with his own eyes — but he looks devastated. "What did she do to you, Yoongi?" he asks.

"It doesn't matter." Yoongi swallows, brushes his too-long hair out of his face. "If it...if it was her, I'll take care of it." He looks around at all the boxes. "Where's...where's all my stuff?"

"I was..." Jungkook looks around, and Seokjin can see the hints of someone living here. There are stains in the carpet, a small collection of novelty mugs on one shelf along the wall and a half burned candle on what might have been a work desk. "She mentioned...I don't know." Jungkook holds himself around the middle. "I thought she might...get rid of it. It's been so long."

"No one thought it was weird that she would gut the house while Yoongi was overseas?" Seokjin asks. He's hardly following.

Jungkook rolls his eyes, expression dark. "She can do whatever she wants. That's the problem."

"He doesn't need to know about it," Yoongi interrupts, and that hurts a little, because for some reason Seokjin feels like they're in this together. But, honestly, perhaps this little cat man is more trouble than he's worth. "I said I'd deal with it."

Jungkook looks at him hesitantly. "You never really...could...when it came to her."

Yoongi grits his teeth.

Taehyung has always had a wonderful sense of timing. "Hey, guys, what's up?" He magically appears behind Seokjin, Soonshim cradled in his arms belly-up like an oversized baby. There's dirt on his skirt and Seokjin is willing to bet money Soonshim had an excellent time in the flower beds.

It shatters whatever tension has been building, and Yoongi shakes himself, sniffing, getting something together. "This is Jungkook," he tells Seokjin and Taehyung, and Taehyung is very interested in the handsome, well-dressed young man because he's predictable and a mess. "Jungkook, this is Seokjin and Taehyung. They've been nice enough to help me out."

Taehyung does a little dance with Soonshim in his arms. "Pleasure," he says. "I'd handshake but she'll fuck up the carpet."

Jungkook isn't entirely sure how to process Taehyung as a person, but he's polite. "It's nice to meet you. Thank you for your help."

He grins, big and boxy. "No problem. I like driving."

"His mom never lets him," Seokjin adds, which is true. His mother is terrified of being in the same car as Taehyung. "This is a rare treat."

"Bertha needs to feel the sun sometimes," Taehyung whines.

Seokjin looks at Jungkook. "Bertha is the truck."

"Oh." Jungkook smiles. He looks even younger. Seokjin wonders how old he is, how he knows Yoongi. "I'm happy for her."

"I'll help clean," Taehyung offers, seeing the fallen box, and instead of letting Seokjin help like a normal person he just passes Seokjin the dog and then squats down to gather up the fallen items.

"I'm going to go..." Yoongi holds up his hands, the sleeves of Seokjin's hoodie flopping over his hands.

"I haven't touched the closet much," Jungkook says, distracted and mystified by Taehyung's presence in general.

"Let's go," Seokjin says to Yoongi, and Soonshim yips in agreement.

"I..." Yoongi huffs, smiling a little. "Okay. Let's go."

For Seokjin, wandering through the house is a weird experience. He had one rich friend when he was in middle school, the kind of boy who always had clothes worth what Seokjin's parents made in a month and spent his allowance to take them all to the movies. Seokjin had only gone over to his house twice, and had been entranced by the idea of having a pool in your backyard.

When I get old and rich, Seokjin remembers thinking mid-cannonball, I'm going to have a pool in my backyard.

Now Seokjin is old and not rich, and he knows that having a pool in his backyard is a low bar. If he needed any other proof, Yoongi's house is it. He wouldn't have thought Yoongi's home would be opulent, and it isn't, but there's an air of wealth everywhere. The decorations are tasteful but picture frames aren't from Target. The television isn't huge but it's a new model. The carpet is luxurious, there are copious amounts of hardwood floors. Seokjin's sock feet slide over smooth red oak.

As weird as this is for Seokjin, it looks like Yoongi is similarly displaced. He keeps running his hands over surfaces like he's checking for dust. He reorients picture frames. He pointedly avoids looking in one of the side rooms, but when they pass Seokjin sees that it's full of boxes Jungkook has spent time packing up.

"A lot's changed," Yoongi says evenly, even though Seokjin hasn't asked. "But it still seems like not enough? Does that make sense?"

"You were a cat for a year," Seokjin answers lightly. "You've changed enough for the both of you."

It might not be the right thing to say but Yoongi seems to appreciate the levity. He smiles, even if it's a little rueful.

"Guess so." He leads Seokjin upstairs.

Yoongi's room looks more eclectic than the first floor. Seokjin has always liked going into people's rooms. It's the one place that you can't avoid personalizing. There's no way to remove yourself from the walls or the bedspread or the bookshelves or the closet.

There are knickknacks everywhere. There are scented candles scattered everywhere, some almost used up, and Seokjin would think they were purely for aesthetic except that none of them are the same color or size or brand. A lighter is sitting on the edge by the bed spread, almost falling off. The bedspread is plain black and rumpled. Seokjin wonders if this is how Yoongi left it, if the Yoongi of a year ago realized when he haphazardly made his bed that it would stay that way for so long.

"Not a fan," Yoongi mutters, analyzing the room, and Seokjin laughs.

"It's your own room," Seokjin reminds him. "And you're back. You can fix it however you want."

Yoongi hums, unconvinced, and makes for the closest. It's a walk-in because, as said before, Yoongi is a rich bastard. If Seokjin squints he can see where the closet connects to the bathroom. It looks very swanky.

"Stay here," Yoongi says, motioning over his shoulder. He hikes up the too big sweats. "I'll, er, change." He grimaces, running a hand through his greasy hair. "And shower, maybe."

"Think of me fondly," Seokjin throws back lazily as the door clicks shut.

He busies himself being nosy. He tries to pick out the most expensive thing in the room and utterly fails. He goes through and smells all the candles. There's a weird orange one that Seokjin likes the best.

When his phone buzzes in pocket, he's so focused on counting the small collection of plushies that he almost doesn't hear it.

 

Joohyunie

R u still looking for ur keys??

Seokjin almost trips over himself trying to answer. It takes him two tries to unlock his phone.

DID YOU FIND THEM

Pls say "thank u joohyun I owe u my life"
I had to look through all the gross shit on back dock


My keys are the watermelon
Just so that's clear

Pls stop

I'll stop by and get them!

Don't bother
Dropped them off in your mailbox

ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ Saint Joohyun has a nice ring to it

I'm not Catholic but I agree
See u tomorrow

 

"My keys have been found," Seokjin tells the room, buzzing with something like victory. Now he can avoid Byungchul just a little longer.

"Nice." Yoongi is distracted.

"You're taking a long time."

"Be quiet."

"A pity." Seokjin clicks his tongue. "I'm underappreciated."

Yoongi very pointedly turns on the shower.

He entertains himself looking at the shelf by Yoongi's bed. There's a row of vinyls, organized by color instead of alphabet. Both facts are a surprise. The collection is sizable. Seokjin wonders if Yoongi actually listens to them or if he just enjoys the aesthetic. He pulls one out at random and doesn't recognize the name.

"Don't—ah..."

Seokjin startles, looking around towards the closet. Yoongi has his head poking through the cracked door. His shoulder is bare. Hair damp. He's probably contorted to hide his body behind the door. Seokjin resists the urge to remind him that he's already seen Yoongi's dick.

"Be careful with those." Yoongi's face is red.

"I've never been more gentle in my life." Seokjin strokes the cover like he's petting a baby. "Gentle is my middle name."

"Koreans don't have middle names," Yoongi grouses, but he's seemingly appeased as he slips back into the closet.

Carefully, Seokjin slides the vinyl back where he found it, in the middle of the oranges. It's a miracle that Yoongi can find anything like this. The names aren't printed on the sides and they're tightly packed in the limited space. Unless Yoongi has all of the album covers memorized, it's a useless organizational tool.

But, Yoongi's surprised him before, maybe he does?

There are regular CDs on the two shelves below, and there are more scattered around, amongst a few books on production and the history of different genres, and Seokjin wonders how Yoongi can love music this much and have time for anything else.

"Do you play an instrument?" Seokjin asks aloud.

"Piano," Yoongi grunts from the other room, and Seokjin remembers the image of a young and grumpy boy forced to learn by doting parents. He smothers a laugh. "There's a Grande downstairs somewhere, if they haven't..." He sighs.

I thought she might....get rid of it. An anxious Jungkook surrounded by half packed boxes. Seokjin wonders if the piano was a casualty. Clearly Yoongi wonders as well.

Seokjin doesn't bother asking who she is. He's going to get Yoongi back on his feet — or, back on two feet, at least — and then wash his hands of this. There's more happening here than Seokjin is interested in entangling himself in.

Still. "Did you like it?" he finds himself asking. "The piano."

"It's important to me." There's the sound of rustling fabric, and Yoongi must be almost done by now. "The...she was the first thing I bought for this place."

"That's cute." Seokjin lets his fingers linger on top of the CDs. "You'll have to play for me sometime."

Something zips. "If that's what you want." Yoongi pushes the door open.

Seokjin isn't sure what he was expecting. Yoongi seems like a minimalist, like he dresses like a college student during finals week on the daily. At the very least, Seokjin was expecting something casual, but Yoongi isn't really wearing anything like that. He's wearing a suit.

"Uh." Good. Words. Good words. "That's a little dressy, isn't it?"

Yoongi adjusts the suit jacket on his shoulders. The entire outfit is perfectly tailored, tight against his surprisingly broad shoulders, and a nice steel blue. No break, Oxfords that might be real leather. Open top button on his white button down.

He looks uncomfortable and Seokjin is suddenly a little dry in the mouth.

"I was just, ah, wondering." Yoongi runs a hand through his hair. He's handsome, Seokjin thinks somewhere far away. "Would Taehyung be willing to do me one more favor?"

 


 

"I can't believe you're taking me to meet the parents already," Seokjin whines. "And I'm not even in my best suit."

Yoongi stares expressionlessly at Seokjin's feet in his lap, and then at Seokjin, who is sprawled out in the back of Taehyung's truck with a giant Soonshim trying to be a lap dog on his chest. "You're wearing sweatpants."

"Wait!" Taehyung turns his head and looks at them in the backseat. "You guys are dating?"

There's a general wail of panic, but it's surprisingly from neither Seokjin nor Yoongi. It's from Jungkook in the passenger's seat, who is so alarmed that Taehyung is not looking at the road that he physically grabs the wheel.

"Who taught you how to drive?" Jungkook demands, white-knuckling the steering wheel, and Yoongi is covering his grin with a fist like a nerd.

"Neither of us died so we considered it a success," Taehyung answers, taking the wheel back and reaching down to take a sip from his Starbucks Refresher. Trot is playing on the radio and Soonshim's tail is thump thump thumping against Seokjin's chest.

"Yoongi and I are getting married, actually," Seokjin says, running hands through the dog's pretty fur. "We met behind a dumpster and now I'm helping him get a work visa."

Yoongi snorts, grabbing Seokjin's ankle like a lifeline. "We'll see if the wedding is going through once you meet my mother."

Seokjin hums. "I hope she likes my sweatpants."

"Don't worry." The grin on Yoongi's face is bitter. "She won't."

The further they drive, the more out of place Taehyung's clunker of a truck looks. Impossibly even more out of place than it had in Yoongi's cushy neighborhood. These buildings are bigger, colder, sterile, and there are no carefully maintained gardens or dogs barking in yards.

"This is what raw capitalism looks like," Seokjin notes, staring out the window.

"It's bigger than I remember it being," Yoongi replies idly. He looks bored, resting his chin on the palm of his hand, but his fingers are tapping incessant rhythms against the bare skin of Seokjin's ankle, and it would be too intimate a gesture if Seokjin thought Yoongi was aware he was doing it at all.

"Is Yoongi your sugar daddy?" Taehyung asks Seokjin. "Also, where do I park?"

"I'm not old enough to be a sugar daddy," Yoongi tells him, leaning forward and pointing for Taehyung to turn around the square. "Seokjin is probably older than I am."

"Yeah but I'm prettier." Seokjin yawns and Soonshim licks his mouth. "Daddy, pay my rent."

Yoongi reaches over and picks the dog up off of Seokjin's chest. "Not in front of the children."

Jungkook is red in the face, staring back at them from the front of the car, and he doesn't quite look horrified, but he does look very confused. "How long have you known each other?"

"A while," Yoongi says, but he looks guilty.

They met yesterday, but Jungkook doesn't need to know. "Feels like a lifetime," Seokjin adds sweetly.

"And..." Jungkook bites his lip. "You never called?"

The levity is cut in half, maybe decimated, and Seokjin watching Yoongi methodically run long fingers through Soonshim's fur. "I'm really sorry, Googie," he says eventually, softly. "Please believe that I would have if I could."

As funny as it is that Yoongi was a cat 24 hours ago and then he was a naked man on Seokjin's doorstep and now he is, inexplicably, one of the richest people Seokjin has ever known, it's real and brutal, how devastated this man is when he says it.

"Does anyone have $15.00 for parking?" Taehyung asks, rolling down his window.

"No—no, the other garage." Yoongi unbuckles his seatbelt and leans forward. "Another block."

Taehyung whines but does as he's told, and Jungkook chuffs a laugh. "That's even more expensive."

"That's what I'm here for," he says, digging out his wallet. Seokjin sees that it's real leather, stamped with a name brand Seokjin recognizes but can't name. He pulls out an ID, a dark maroon with a silly picture. It's Jungkook, years younger and almost chubby, and Seokjin wonders how long Yoongi and Jungkook have known each other.

Similarly to how things went with the security guard at Yoongi's gate, as soon as Jungkook pokes his head out the window — before he's even shown the ID — the guard stops scowling at the ruffian that is Taehyung and learns how to be polite in a matter of moments. "Of course, Mr. Jeon," the lady says, tipping him her hat.

Yoongi doesn't even bother showing his face this time. Just continues petting a spoiled Soonshim, half-mindless. There's dog hair all over his suit. He doesn't seem to mind.

"Fifth floor," Jungkook tells the elevator operator.

"They have an elevator operator," Taehyung mouths at Seokjin. It's a huge, old fashioned elevator, with the lever, but it's obviously fashioned after that era rather than authentic, because nothing is quite rusty or temperamental enough.

The boy in question is young, dressed in a uniform too big for him, and he looks handsome if not mildly uncomfortable. His nametag says Mark, and he is the first person to greet Taehyung and Seokjin warmly.

"I'm, ah, afraid there aren't any dogs allowed in the building, sir," he says.

Soonshim is held up to Taehyung's shoulder like a large, furry baby. "She's really nice," Taehyung says. "Best dog ever."

"She's an emotional support animal," Seokjin says blankly.

Mark looks at him flatly.

Jungkook pulls out his ID again, and Mark doesn't look like he recognizes the name but he knows what the ID means. "I'm sure it will be fine," Jungkook tells him.

Hesitantly, Mark nods and pushes the button on the elevator. There's a twist to his mouth that says he doesn't believe them, and Seokjin doesn't blame him.

Mark doesn't react to Yoongi in his suit at all. Seokjin wonders if that's because Mark is new or if Yoongi has an inflated idea of how important he is here. Because he seems to think he's very important, even if he hates it.

Then again, if Jungkook is important, and Jungkook answers to Yoongi...

"What exactly does your mom do?" he asks Yoongi.

Yoongi is tugging at his cufflinks. "She...ah..."

"Level 5, sirs." Mark motions outwards as the doors open, revealing a surprisingly bright and homey hallway.

"Thank you for doing a good job, Mark," Yoongi says, and Jungkook tips him. "I'll be sure to tell the right people how polite you were."

Mark smiles. "Thank you, sir."

The doors close.

Jungkook frowns. "Why don't—"

"Why don't you take Taehyung and Seokjin on a tour?" Yoongi says, cutting off what Jungkook might have said. Jungkook looks like he might disagree, but Taehyung looks excited, and no one has the heart to tell him no. "I'll follow shortly."

"Um, no?" Seokjin laughs. "I put on my best sweatpants for this? Who do you think I am?"

Jungkook grimaces. "Trust me. You really don't want to meet his mother."

"I'm sure my mother is worse," Seokjin says in response, shrugging. His mother has never tried to kill him but she does nag quite a lot.

"Whatever." Yoongi sighs, running a hand through his hair. Seokjin brushes some white hair off of his shoulder and the other man barely seems to notice, and this is why Seokjin wants to meet this woman so badly — because Yoongi really, really doesn't want to. "If I'm not back in an hour, call the police."

Jungkook laughs. "You're joking but—"

"Might make that two hours." Yoongi checks his watch. "She never likes finishing things cleanly. And Seokjin as a person will piss her off."

Seokjin grins wolfishly. "Can't wait." He tuts at his outfit. "Should have worn my Crocs."

"You couldn't have anyway," Taehyung says. "They're at my house. I borrowed them for that wedding."

Yoongi doesn't ask.

"Let's go," he says, and jokingly offers Seokjin his elbow even if he looks completely miserable.

"Cheer up, Daddy," Seokjin coos. "You've got a ten on your arm."

Yoongi laughs, against all odds, and they're off down the hallway.

The interior designer has a love of vintage art and aesthetic, and there are old paintings hanging on the walls beside paintings of huge modern buildings and photos of the head staff and their bios. Seokjin's eyes linger on those, looking for any names or faces he might recognize. There's one, the name of the man he met when first signing the lease on his apartment, with a name Seokjin can neither remember nor pronounce.

Yoongi's name is not there.

"Are you sure you used to work here?"

"Hmm?" Yoongi's mouth is pursed, likely from nerves, but he looks more like a pouty child in his father's suit than someone rich and powerful. "Pretty sure."

He knows his way around at least. "You want coffee?" he offers, passing what must be a break room. There are only two people in it at the moment. Seokjin sees the hint of a pantsuit and a chignon, an older man bringing a novelty mug to his lips, and as they pass his eyes widen. First at Seokjin, who is both beautiful and a wreck in his homebody chic, and then at Yoongi's back. Seokjin pretends not to stare back, but there's certainly recognition there. He just isn't sure whether it's good or bad.

"I'm good." He'll guzzle some later. "You're rich. Buy me gourmet later."

Yoongi quirks out a smile. "Whatever you want, baby."

Seokjin still wants a really long bath.

There are cubicles here, once they reach the main area, and everyone is on the phone or the computer or doing paperwork, and everyone is dressed nicely and professionally, and it looks very, very boring. Even with the happy pictures of vacation locations on every inch of the walls, there's a heavy blanket of misery over everything.

"Do people enjoy working here?" Seokjin asks Yoongi in a whisper, likes he's afraid to make waves.

"Not me," Yoongi says wryly. "Some people, maybe. But not me."

Seokjin grins. "Would you rather be a cat?"

Yoongi hums. "Some days." He walks straight up to the door against the far side wall, and he opens it like a gentleman, even if he looks like he's sucking on a lemon.

It's much quieter in here, and it's only then that Seokjin realizes how loud the clicking of computer keys and the drudgery of a 9-5 job can be.

There are plenty of closed offices in this quarter, but Yoongi heads straight to the larger area in the back. There's a pretty receptionist with dirty blonde hair and a heart-shaped face answering the phone.

Yoongi waits there patiently.

"Yessir, of course...I'm afraid Mrs. Choi is unavailable at the moment...no, Sir, but she cannot see you before your appointed meeting on Friday, she's all booked." She clicks away at her computer with manicured nails. She looks positively bored, even if her voice is sweet. "Would you like me to take a message?"

After a moment, she finishes her typing and looks up at Yoongi and Seokjin, likely to tell them it will only be a minute, but her eyes widen when they fall on Yoongi like she's seen a ghost.

"Excuse me, Mr. Vertas, I'm afraid I have to go," she says quickly into the receiver, her eyes not leaving Yoongi's face. "I'll make sure she takes your message, no worries. I'll see you on Friday, thank you."

She hangs up the phone and there's silence.

"Suran," Yoongi says finally. "She's not unavailable for her son, surely?"

Seokjin chokes on his tongue.

Slowly Suran stands up from her swivel chair and makes her way around the mahogany desk, hands held out in front of her like she wants to touch but is afraid he might disappear. "Yoongi?" She's frowning. "Is..."

Gently, Yoongi takes her hand with a smile, awkward as it is, and she releases so much tension it seems like she might melt. She throws her arms around his neck. "Goddamnit," she says into his neck. "You fucker, you're..."

"Funny." Yoongi laughs, hugging her tightly. "Jungkook called me the same thing."

Suran shoves him away and drives a fist into his shoulder. "Where have you been?" Her face is red and splotchy under her professional makeup. Her eyes fall on Seokjin in all his destitution. "Did you...elope?" She pouts.

Seokjin throws up his hands. "Why is that everyone's first guess?"

She wipes her nose and laughs, a bit watery. "He always said he would."

"Better than an arranged marriage," Yoongi says evenly.

Seokjin blinks. "Is that even a real thing anymore?"

Suran purses her lips. "For some." She looks at Yoongi. "The Moon's weren't very pleased when you refused."

It's perhaps the coldest Yoongi has ever looked. "That was a year ago. Water under the bridge."

"Besides." Seokjin strokes Yoongi's face like he used to pet the stray cat on his doorstep. "We're very happy."

Suran laughs again, tucking a stray hair behind her ear and adjusts the neck of her blouse. "I'm sure." She grins. "Yoongi's always liked them pretty."

"Aish," Yoongi shoves Seokjin's hand away. "Don't say that."

Seokjin flaps his hand at her. "I'm blushing, this is too much. Let's get married."

"Social climber," Yoongi mutters.

Suran looks at him so fondly. "I..." She swallows something down and reaches, brushing more dog hair off of the front of Yoongi's suit jacket. "I really never thought I'd see you again." She huffs, embarrassed. "I...she won't be happy to see you."

The nefarious she. Is this the she Jungkook seems so sure is behind Yoongi's year-long disappearance? His mother? It's almost too cruel.

Did she do it? Is anyone capable of doing that to their own child? Jungkook and Suran both seem to think so.

"She always is talking about you wasting your life off at uni but...I handle her accounts." Suran shakes out her hair, hands fluttering. "Like I wouldn't notice her transferring all of your money out of your account, or how no university is being paid, or her trying to sell your piano...you would never—"

"Is she in?" Yoongi asks.

Suran clenches her teeth. "For you?" She sighs. "Always."

Quietly, Suran walks back around the dest and picks up her phone. Her heels click on the hardwood. "Ma'am," she says. "Your two o'clock is here."

She waits, and Seokjin hears the murmur of a reply through the receiver before Suran gives a twisted smile. "Of course, ma'am." Primly smoothing down her skirt, Suran sits down in her swivel chair. "Go on in."

"Does she have a two o'clock?" Seokjin asks her, even as Yoongi is leading him around her desk towards the office door.

"Nope." Suran smiles bitterly, click clacking at her keyboard again.

Seokjin has always appreciated women who are good at their jobs.

"Don't let her win," Suran says expressionlessly, and Yoongi smiles at her fondly, even if she can't see him.

"Never."

The nameplate Choi Hyungung glints as Yoongi pushes open the door.

Seokjin's first impression of this woman is that she's filthy rich and has probably never seen someone wearing ratty sweatpants unironically. Her black hair is tied back in a brutal French twist, and she's older than them both but it's impossible to tell how much. Her makeup is perfect. She's timeless and cold. Her blouse is buttoned up to her neck.

She looks like her son, sharp, without the softness.

Hyunjung looks at Seokjin first, the corners of her mouth clearly displeased, but her expression freezes when she sees Yoongi, dressed like he belongs here. She takes a deep breath. "Yoongi." She folds her hands on her desk. She smiles at him. Cold. "Welcome home."

Yoongi's face is red with rage.

"I'm his new husband," Seokjin says. "He always spoke so well of you."

Hyunjung licks her lips and sizes Seokjin up, head to sandaled-toe. "He could have done better," she says. The only thing showing her thoughts is the tendon of her neck, tense. "And I'm sure he did no such thing."

"Well." Seokjin smiles winsomely. "Guess the cat's out of the bag."

To her credit, she doesn't react. "Would either of you like some tea?"

"For you to poison it?" Yoongi spits, and quite frankly Seokjin finds the vitriol surprising, despite everything.

Seokjin whistles awkwardly. "Well, I'd love some."

Hyunjung smiles at him, leaning over and pressing a button on her intercom. "Suran, sweety, would you make up three cups of tea for me?"

"Right away, ma'am," comes Suran's tinny voice through the machine, and there's a rustling behind them, and the first thing Seokjin thinks of is Hyunjung could murder them right now and no one would be around to hear.

"You've changed a lot in the past year, Mother," Yoongi notes. "I'm sure things were much easier with me out of the way."

She smiles at him, easily, and Seokjin can see how this woman is at the top of...whatever this company does. "It was," she agrees. "I'll admit, I'm surprised to see you again."

"Would you rather I was dead?" Yoongi asks.

Hyunjung sits back in her chair. "That's..." She gives Yoongi an assessing look. "That's a difficult question."

Seokjin snorts to himself. "Oh boy."

Suran brings in three cups of tea not long after, and if Seokjin were more posh he might be able to recognize the smell or taste, but instead he just pours some milk into and hides his nerves behind the stirring of a spoon.

Yoongi's tea is untouched on the table before him. Seokjin doesn't miss the comforting hand on his shoulder as the receptionist leaves the room, and neither does Yoongi's mother.

"You were always much better at befriending the staff," she notes. "Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise you fit among them so well."

"You know, what I want to know," Seokjin says, sipping his tea, "is how you turned him into a cat in the first place."

Hyunjung chews carefully on the inside of her cheek, and Yoongi shoots him a look, and perhaps being straightforward is the best way to start the ball rolling. "And you are?"

"Kim Seokjin." He takes another sip. "I'm broke, beautiful, and these are the best sweatpants I own." He grins. "You're welcome."

"Charming," Hyunjung says in a way that clearly says she doesn't find him charming at all, and it's the first time she's done something that reminds him of Yoongi in any way.

"I want my spot on the board back," Yoongi says flatly. "I want the money back in my account that you stole, and more than anything, I want your head on a platter."

"Be more original, dear," she says, idly stirring her tea. "You're just like every other man who thought he could get whatever he wanted from me."

"I'm not every other man," Yoongi spits. "I'm your son."

Hyunjung has never slipped, not once, and she sips her tea, unbothered. "Are you?"

Yoongi is an emotional firecracker. Seokjin can accept the casual coldness of Hyunjung, the pure steel of business and the mask she wears to keep her thoughts her own, but none of those things Yoongi inherited. After knowing him for less than 48 hours Seokjin has already seen plenty of sides, and he can't say this one is his favorite. Yoongi's hands are shaking, his face is contorted into something horrible, and maybe Seokjin would think less of him if his anger wasn't warranted. Still, showing it won't help them. It certainly won't help Yoongi.

So Seokjin can't say he's surprised when Yoongi stands up from his chair and knocks the cup of tea off the table, sending it careening into the nearby wall and splintering on the floor. He isn't surprised when Yoongi slams his hands on the desk, and he isn't surprised when Hyunjung reacts barely at all. "I'm back, and I'm going to fucking ruin you."

He is, however, surprised at the ears that sprout out of Yoongi's hair.

Hyunjung is surprised too. It's the first genuine emotion she's expressed since they walked in, her holding her tea an inch away from her mouth and staring, frozen, at the top of Yoongi's head. "I...?"

Slowly, Seokjin puts his cup on the desk and a hand on Yoongi's shoulder. "I...think..." Process. "I..."

"You're still a fucking cat," she says flatly.

Yoongi blanches.

"The curse isn't broken." She laughs, almost in disbelief. "You're a fucking cat."

And then she really laughs, not cruel, but like she's won. And it's cruel anyway, because it's at Yoongi's expense.

"I'm...?" Yoongi looks confused.

Seokjin reaches up and runs a hand over one of the ears, black and silky, amongst the tangled mess of Yoongi's hair, like he's trying to convince himself that it's real. Yoongi can feel it. He shivers. He's confused. They're all confused.

"I'll admit," Hyunjung says. "This isn't how I thought today would go."

Yoongi holds no power over anything if he sprouts cat ears at random. They twitch, even more truthful than the white knuckles of Yoongi's fist. He's upset. "This is your fault."

"To be fair, I did ask the witch to kill you," she says, so easily and dismissively that Seokjin shivers himself. "You should be thankful you're merely a freak."

"I just want what's mine." Yoongi's fists clench and unclench. "I want what's right."

"Nothing of mine has ever been, and at this rate, will ever be yours." Hyunjung wipes the corners of her mouth, fixing the smudges of her lipstick. "A cat as a real estate mogul?" She laughs. "Good luck."

She's right. Seokjin kind of hates her for it but she's right.

More than right.

"There's a rumor that you had your son offed, you know?" he says slowly. Not that he would know. He isn't a part of this world and the people who matter to him don't matter here at all. He would never hear about Choi Hyunjung murdering her kid. But Jungkook and Suran both assumed so, and he can only imagine what other people might say.

"Clearly I haven't." She smiles at Yoongi, almost lovingly. "He's right here."

"You said he was at...where? Abroad?" Seokjin is pulling something out of his ass, because he hates losing, and because Yoongi deserves to win even a little. "And somehow, I don't think that's true."

"Tell the world I turned my son into a cat." Hyunjung looks honestly amused. "Please. I'd love that."

"We don't have to." Seokjin swallows a large mouthful of tea so he can gather his words. "But if Yoongi wasn't abroad, and we say he wasn't, wasn't sending you cards and that you weren't sending him that rich kid allowance, that he just dropped off the face of the planet and you didn't care?" He clicks his tongue. "I mean that just sounds ridiculous."

Yoongi stares at him as he sips his tea.

"Talk all you want." Hyunjung leans forward in her seat, and maybe it's a small battle won. "You don't have any proof."

"It's just a rumor," he assures her, like he cares. "Hyunjung—can I call you Hyunjung?"

"No."

Seokjin shrugs and sets his cup down on the desk, not using a coaster, because he's petty. "Hyunjung, no one would ever believe you turned Yoongi into a cat, please." He wipes delicately at his mouth with a chuckle. "And I mean...I'm sure there's not way to prove you were lying about him being abroad."

Hyunjung doesn't say anything. Neither does Yoongi. They're waiting.

Seokjin is talking out of his ass, but it's saved him enough times that he's starting to roll. "Which is good, because I would hate to imagine what the police would think if you took major pains to pretend like he was."

Yoongi snorts.

"I'm not too worried about the police, honey," she says dryly. "Although I appreciate your bravery in saying so."

"Money is above the law." Seokjin hums in agreement. He looks around the room, at the wealth hidden in the books and the carpet and the curtains and the mahogany. "I mean, social media doesn't really care about the law recently, but—" He waves his hand. "It's not like social media can do anything to the rich and powerful."

Ah.

Seokjin looks at Yoongi, almost lovingly, the same way Hyunjung was looking at him not ten minutes again. "But, it really is a shame. Look at that face. So pretty." Yoongi turns red and Seokjin smiles at Hyunjung. "Don't you think it could go viral?"

Yoongi grins at him.

"You're right that Yoongi can't own a company with cat ears." Seokjin pauses. "I mean, at least not this one."

Yoongi covers the ears on top of his head with a scowl, and they flicker around nervously. When his fingers brush against fur his face goes a little more ashen, like he can't quite process it, but that's a problem they'll try to rectify later.

"But some money, a piano. I mean—is that really so much to ask?"

Hyunjung sighs, something still flat and even, and leans back in her seat again. "Of course, my son has returned to me. I was holding his things for safe keeping," — Yoongi laughs outright — "but clearly that won't be necessary anymore."

Seokjin smacks his lips. "I'm glad we agree." He's sweating through his t-shirt. He's vaguely afraid to raise his arms.

"I'll take care of it."

"No, I'll take care of it, actually." Seokjin certainly doesn't have the abilities to take care of it, but this woman is dangerous with any leeway and Seokjin wants to take everything from her that he can.

Hyunjung doesn't look impressed. "So you're an accountant now, instead of a delinquent?"

"Still a delinquent," he says evenly, "but I've been doing my own taxes for years. I'm sure it'll be fine."

Neither Hyunjung nor Yoongi believe him, but that's pretty low on his list of priorities.

"Anyway." He stands up, dragging Yoongi with him. "We'll be going."

"Okay, okay," Yoongi grouses, still flattening his ears (his extra ears, holy fuck) down with his hands. "Stop manhandling me."

"Thanks for the tea." Seokjin waves his fingers at Yoongi's mother and tries to push him through the door before anything else can explode.

"Yoongi?"

Fuck.

Hyunjung cocks her head to the side, gives Yoongi a once over, really looks, maybe for the first time since she saw him. "I don't hate you." She sighs. There's not love in her eyes. Seokjin isn't sure she knows how that looks. But she looks tired, and perhaps that's as vulnerable as she'll let herself be. "I need you to know that."

Yoongi tenses under Seokjin's hand, and no one moves, not even Seokjin, although he feels full of enough nervous energy he could power his own plane.

"Don't worry, Mother." Yoongi pushes the door of her office open. "I'll hate you enough for the both of us."

 


 

It's easier getting Yoongi through the hallways and into a bathroom than Seokjin thought, mostly because his sweatpants make him look poor and thus invisible and also Yoongi is so freaked out over the ears and his mother that he spends the entire journey looking smaller and smaller.

"What the fuck?" Seokjin demands, as soon as he shuts the door and locks it. It's a family bathroom, a single, and it smells like mold and Poopourri. "What the fuck? First of all!" He holds up an accusatory finger. "Your mother is fucking terrifying, and second of all, where did the fucking ears come from?"

Yoongi's face is weird and squishy, and after a second where Seokjin thinks Yoongi might respond, he says, "I think I have a tail."

Something warm wraps around Seokjin's wrist and he tries not to scream.

"I hate this." Seokjin wants to die. "I hate everything about this."

"How do I get rid of them?" Yoongi asks, like Seokjin would know. "I can't go the rest of my life as a fucking furry."

"Don't let Tae hear you say that, he'll be sad." Seokjin rubs away the growing headache behind his forehead. "I don't...where did they come from?"

"I just...got angry?" Yoongi shakes his head. "I'm still angry. She fucking—"

"Maybe that's why." Seokjin doesn't need Yoongi going off on a tangent right now. He needs a solution. "Because when you get emotional or pissed off."

Yoongi looks at him in horror. "I'm going to be a cat forever."

"Well." Seokjin swallows. There's a knock on the bathroom door. "Occupied!" he calls behind, fake cheerful. No one is that happy when they're in the bathroom for this long. "It smells like shit in here, you might want to find another one."

"You're disgusting."

"I'm problem-solving." Seokjin bites his lip. "How did we...how did you turn back from a cat the first time?"

It goes oddly quiet.

"You kissed me," Yoongi says stiffly.

"Okay." Seokjin shrugs and puts a hand on the back of Yoongi's neck with purpose. "So I'll just kiss you again."

The air feels thick. Seokjin's nose twitches. He sneezes.

"Meow?"

Yoongi is actually a cat.

Seokjin stares at the tiny black thing sitting among the heaps of Yoongi's designer suits. "Damn." He huffs. "This Mercury retrograde, huh?"

 


 

Seokjin has to go ask Suran to call Jungkook because as soon as he goes out into the larger cubicle space he realizes he's completely lost. To her credit, Suran only looks slightly alarmed at the fact that he's holding an entire suit very delicately, and doesn't even notice there is a cat in his pocket that is very nearly going to end up pantsing him in front of everyone.

Jungkook and Taehyung appear not long after and save him, but Jungkook asks more alarmed questions, so Seokjin can't say he's thankful.

"Where is Yoongi?"

"Well, it's actually a funny story." Seokjin shifts the clothes from one arm to the other. "He..."

Taehyung coos. "Is that a cat in your pocket?"

Yoongi has just his head poking out of Seokjin's pocket, delicately meowing at Soonshim. Soonshim is wiggling in Taehyung's arms, trying to get a good sniff. Taehyung leans down a bit, gets them a bit closer, and after a tense moment Yoongi purrs and Soonshim licks him decidedly on the head.

"She usually hates cats," Taehyung says delightedly, readjusting his skirt and standing back up. "What their name?"

"I...found him," Seokjin says. "In...the trashcan."

"You found him in a trashcan," Jungkook repeats. "On the fifth floor of a business complex."

"He's a fighter." Seokjin isn't sure what that means. "Anyway, Yoongi needed a hard drink so he Übered out of here."

It's obvious that Jungkook doesn't believe him, but Taehyung is used to odd things and nothing sounds amiss. "Ugh, I want a Sex on a Beach."

"White girl," Seokjin says teasingly.

"Let's go drink," Taehyung whines, tugging on Jungkook's arm. "We can do body shots."

Jungkook looks like he has absolutely no idea what to do, and quite frankly that's one of the best case scenarios when Seokjin introduces people to Taehyung for the first time. His face is pink, and he's looking anywhere but Taehyung. "I...um. We can?"

"I brought my dancing shoes." Taehyung does a little shimmy into the elevator. "They're in the trunk somewhere."

Seokjin owes Taehyung so much.

 


 

"You owe me so much."

Taehyung grins as he shifts the truck into park in front of Seokjin's apartment building, and Seokjin hasn't stopped feverishly petting Yoongi for the entire forty five minutes it took to get here. "I don't know what you're talking about," Seokjin says in reply, trying not to focus on how cutely the cat is purring. Yoongi is nuzzling his head into Seokjin's palm. He's oddly affectionate in a way he isn't as a human.

"Have fun with your dumpster cat," Taehyung calls, twiddling his fingers as Seokjin clunkily gets out of the car.

"Sure." Yoongi's suit coat is hanging over Seokjin's shoulder and his pants are kind of crumpled over his arm, but Yoongi the cat doesn't care. He just shoves his face into the crook of Seokjin's elbow and falls asleep like an asshole.

Seokjin feels decidedly off-balance, watching Taehyung drive away. The suit is all wrinkled and covered in fur, and within 24 hours he's acquired a big problem and a magical cat. He's standing on the side of the road on his day off feeling more exhausted than he did last night after his long shift. He feels grubby and empty.

Yoongi is warm in his arms, clean and sleepy, and Seokjin won't say he isn't cute, but he's still got the issue of his apartment not letting him have animals.

"I'm going to cover you, okay?" Seokjin tells Yoongi. He's not sure how much Yoongi understands when he's a cat, but...Well. Yoongi had remembered things about Seokin once he turned human, so maybe there's hope. "And you're going to be a good boy."

He's not sure whether Yoongi understands or just doesn't give a fuck, but the cat doesn't do much when Seokjin covers him in the discarded suit parts and makes his way inside. He walks casually past Byungchul's apartment, gives him no special attention, but a part of him still hopes he's chafing from Yoongi's visit last night.

Joohyun had left his keys for him. They're sitting there, shiny, waiting for him, and it's one of the only times he's been thankful to god in his life. It makes the slow trudge up to his apartment bearable.

Yoongi hops out of Seokjin's arms as soon as he closes the door behind him, slowly making his way around the apartment, sniffing this and that. Seokjin isn't sure why, because Yoongi the Human was here just last night. "I'm going to start charging you rent," Seokjin tells him.

Yoongi give a delicate, disdainful mreow that Seokjin can only assume means fuck off and continues sniffing Seokjin's chairs.

"We have to turn you back into a human," Seokjin says.

Yoongi stares at him. Blinks.

"Has anyone told you that you're a horrible conversationalist as a cat?"

He flicks his tail and goes about finding a nice place to fall asleep.

"Bitch, I'm serious." This is what Seokjin's life has come to: following a pissy cat around his apartment and trying to make him see reason. "Your mother will actually send a hitman and I will be dead. Like, dead dead."

Yoongi is nosing his way into Seokjin's bedroom, scratching at the crack between the door and the doorjamb.

Seokjin flips him off. "Just let me kiss you, fucker."

The cat freezes.

"I'm gonna fucking do it."

As soon as Seokjin reaches down to grab him, Yoongi bolts for the kitchen. Bolts, like a flash of lighting, and Seokjin almost trips over his own feet as the cat streaks through them like his tail is on fire. "You bitch, you liked it the first time."

Yoongi hisses and Seokjin has never been so offended in his life.

"I take you into my own home and am disrespected this way?" He puts his hands on his hips. "I'm not...giving you anymore fucking tuna."

If Yoongi could talk he'd probably say something coarse. As it is, somehow he's made his way on top of Seokjin's cabinets, and Seokjin could get up there if he wanted to, but Yoongi would have plenty of time to run away and he'd probably be a little shit and only do it once Seokjin had struggled for at least five minutes.

So Seokjin settles for flipping Yoongi off again, this time with both fingers for added effect, and goes to run himself a bath.

 


 

It's late when Seokjin heaves himself up out of the tub. The water's cold and his fingertips are wrinkled and his brain feels pleasantly like mush. He wanders out into the kitchen, gym shorts and a soft hoodie pulled on for decency. He pats his face dry with a towel and rummages through the kitchen.

Despite himself, he still gives Yoongi tuna. Easier to feed a cat than a human, anyway, or that's what Seokjin tells himself.

His day off was taken up by more drama than he expected, but he still lets himself appropriately veg on the couch, binge Netflix, watch half of a movie before he gets bored and goes to something else. He makes two bags of popcorn and pretends he doesn't see the cat steal some everyone once in a while.

Seokjin sneaks a picture of Yoongi watching the movie with him, a small pile of popcorn on the cushion in front of him. "I should use you to go viral," he says, and Yoongi eats another piece and flicks his tail. "Be cute for me or I'll kiss you."

Yoongi swats the popcorn bowl off the couch onto the floor.

Seokjin chases Yoongi for a full seven and a half minutes before going to get the vacuum.

"I should really throw you out on the streets," Seokjin tells him later, toothbrush hanging out the side of his mouth. "You're the worst roommate I've ever had."

Yoongi is forcibly occupying the side of the bed that Seokjin usually sleeps on and seems disinclined to move. He's made a nest of the covers, forced his tiny body half underneath, and he's staring almost smugly at Seokjin as he gets ready for bed.

"Worst cat ever. Worst person ever." Seokjin tugs off his hoodie and throws it on top of Yoongi, and maybe it's cute the way Yoongi meows and wiggles his head through the collar, but Seokjin won't admit it. "Petship with Yoongi cancelled. Now Soonshim is my best pet."

Yoongi is purring, the fucker.

But Seokjin is tired, and Yoongi doesn't take up that much space, and maybe having a cat is kind of nice. He used to let their dog sleep in his bed, when he still lived at home. He's never minded sleeping alone, but there's something soothing about the sounds of an animal, and the warmth not too far away.

He falls asleep petting Yoongi's head. It's only kind of weird.

 


 

Seokjin rarely dreams. He doesn't sleep deeply enough to dream. Tonight he dreams black hair and warm skin and holding on tight.

 


 

Alarms are always a rude awakening, but ruder still is finding a body in your bed.

Not a dead one but definitely a naked one.

"Fuck," Seokjin slurs, half-awake. His phone is playing the Cha Cha Slide aggressively — Hey! It's 8am! Time to wake up and slide to the left. Yoongi is a human again, a grumpy one, still asleep, his free arm swatting at the general area of Seokjin's bedside table.

"Stop," Yoongi orders, mumbling, like that'll do anything helpful.

With a sigh, Seokjin heaves himself up to sit. Yoongi's other hand, the one not trying to destroy his desk lamp, is wrapped around his waist, fingers clinging to the thin fabric of Seokjin's t-shirt. Gently, Seokjin reaches over the other man and plucks his phone up from where it's charging.

When the music stops, Yoongi hums and nuzzles into the pillow. He curls up tight, fetal almost, his head near Seokjin's hip. He looks like a baby. Squishy. His face is puffy from sleep. His mouth is pursed.

Seokjin runs a hand over his face and decides that getting ready for work is more important than the naked man in his bed. He'll deal with it later.

Or not, because Yoongi is still asleep when it comes time for Seokjin to leave for the bus. Seokjin has been shooting looks towards his bedroom door for an hour now, looking for signs of life, but there's not a peep even when he drops several mugs into the sink all at once.

He settles for making a full pot of coffee and leaving Yoongi a note. Help yourself, what's mine is yours, yada yada. Seokjin isn't sure what the proper etiquette is for the magical man sleeping in your house, but his mother raised him to be a good host.

The only time he really hesitates is signing off. Does he leave his number in case Yoongi needs anything?

Seokjin leaves the wifi code instead.

It's weird, going back to work after such an odd couple of days. He thanks Joohyun for dropping off his keys as soon as he sees her, and he greets all his coworkers the same way as always. The restaurant looks the same. The smelly, very nice old man who always comes here for lunch is the same.The stain on the carpet and that one painting that never quite hangs straight is the same.

Seokjin himself is also the same.

The biggest difference is that he believes in magic today and he didn't yesterday. If anything is alarming, it's because everything feels normal. Seokjin is well versed in the art of pretending everything is normal, but he won't admit he isn't a little unhappy things haven't changed more drastically.

He's still a waiter at a diner, he still makes the same orders for the same customers and says the same things, and when he's done for the night he goes through the same routine.

The only difference is that, just before Joohyun leaves at the end of her own shift, Seokjin asks, "What's the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?"

Joohyun stares at him blankly before looking back down at her bag. She's carefully folding her work uniform, bagging her work shoes, tucking her hair behind her ear. "What kind of weird?"

"Like..."

She frowns at him. "Like...crazy ex-boyfriend weird or paranormal weird?"

Seokjin laughs. "Just the first thing that comes to mind."

Joohyun hums, fingers twining her hair into a thick braid. "When I was younger, my cousin went missing for three days."

"That's...kind of fucked." Seokjin isn't sure what he was expecting, but he hadn't thought his question through very much either, and he's not sure what he's looking for in her answer. "Were they okay?"

"She was fine," Joohyun says dismissively, throwing the braid over her shoulder. "She said that she went to play with the old lady in the woods and had only been gone for the morning."

"How old was she?"

"Seven." Joohyun digs her cellphone out of her bag. "It scared her parents to hell and back, but I always thought it was cool."

Seokjin's fifteen is coming to an end and he's wasted it on frivolous questions. He shovels his leftover pasta into his mouth. "Did she ever go back?"

Joohyun laughs at him. "The old lady in the woods didn't exist, Seokjin. So no, she didn't go back."

"If the old lady didn't exist, than how did a seven year old girl survive in the woods on her own?" Seokjin counters, wiping Alfredo off of his chin.

"I don't know." Joohyun waves over her shoulder at him, walking out into the real world. "Magic, I guess."

When Seokjin returns that night, Yoongi is gone.

Seokjin isn't sure what he thought would happen. That Yoongi might wake up and pitter around the house for a bit? Might wait for Seokjin to come home? Seokjin wouldn't wait for himself to come home. Not after what Yoongi's been through.

On the refrigerator, right where Seokjin left the wifi code, there's another note. It's chicken scratch, or close to it.

Rent, it says, or Seokjin thinks it says, with an arrow pointing to a couple bills held on by a Winnie the Pooh magnetic clip. Yoongi didn't leave his number, either.

Weird, that this adventure ends with a Winnie the Pooh clip when it started with magic.

 


 

"Dude." Taehyung's voice is too loud in the quiet of his studio. "You never told me your sugar daddy was famous."

Seokjin is too busy doodling to pay Taehyung much attention. He's got weird scribbles mixed in with Taehyung's colorful paper dolls. The only real sounds so far have been the weird noises of Taehyung's mobile game and the steady hum of his sewing machine whenever he actually sits down and gets to work on his showcase project. Seokjin is supposed to be here as a model for the men's jackets, but Taehyung got distracted by women's fashion and then he got distracted by, well, everything else. "What sugar daddy?"

"The one with the crazy mom." Taehyung frowns. "How many do you have?"

Seokjin carefully puts the finishing touches on Cartoon Taehyung's mullet. "One for each day of the week." He looks up. "You mean Yoongi?"

"Probably."

"I mean, I don't know about famous, but he's rich, so." Seokjin shrugs. "Isn't that basically the same thing?"

"No, I mean, like. Famous." Taehyung scrolls a little on his phone and shows Seokjin the article he's been reading, and there it is. Yoongi's face, blown up so big that Seokjin can't even see the headline.

Seokjin snatches the phone from Taehyung's fingers and scrolls up. Heir of Real Estate Empire Returns Home. "That's a boring ass article."

"I only clicked on it because I like looking at the houses and imagining what it's like to own a yard." Taehyung colors in the skirt of one of his design sketches, despite the fact that it's already half-made not five feet away on the sewing machine. "But I got bored."

Prodigal son Min Yoongi — heir to Choi Hyunjung's multi-million dollar corporation — has recently returned from studying overseas. It's well known that he's always had a different vision for than company than Choi, but since his sudden return he's made no mention of returning to his previous position of power on the Board of Trustees. Perhaps his time abroad led him to new horizons?

"His interest in business seems to have waned, but I'm happy for him anyway," says Choi. "His heart's in the right place, and he's good at what he does. He's trying to find himself, I think, but he'll be successful in anything he chooses once he settles down."

"Bullshit," Seokjin says flatly, handing Taehyung back the phone.

"Yoongi talks later on." Taehyung pops some Cheetos in his mouth. He's using chopsticks to keep the hot red off his fingers, but there's still orange dust all over the table. "That he's pursuing other avenues."

Seokjin huffs. "I'm just saying, I don't like her."

Taehyung laughs. "She's a powerful woman. She didn't get there by being liked, you know?" Another Cheeto, and he's talking with his mouth full. "Only Saints are successful for being liked and most of them die."

"I feel like that's an oversimplification." Seokjin purses his lips. "Well, in any case, Yoongi is no longer my sugar daddy, so it's not my problem."

Taehyung hums sympathetically, tapping a teal colored pencil to his orange-red mouth. "That's rough, man. Better luck next time."

"It's fine," Seokjin says. And honestly, it is. He hasn't really thought about it in the couple of weeks since Yoongi's miraculous transformation, and he didn't really know Yoongi well enough to miss him. But still, he seemed like a good person with a tough hand dealt. Seokjin's allowed to wish him the best. "I have six more."

 


 

It's not Taehyung's fault that Seokjin starts thinking about Yoongi again, but like. It's Taehyung's fault.

They haven't contacted each other. It isn't weird that they haven't, not when they only spent a whopping 36 hours together, if that, and then disappeared out of each other's life forever. It hasn't even been a month. Maybe two weeks and some change, and Seokjin has mostly forgotten about it because there's nothing in his life to remind him.

Except that Seokjin lives in Yoongi's mother's apartment complex, and the "rent" Yoongi left is still clipped to the refrigerator, and the blanket Yoongi had used is still folded right where he left it because Seokjin has been too busy to put it back in the closet.

"What if I got a cat?"

Heeyeon snickers on the other end of the line. The camera is too close to her face, probably held up by the screen of her computer while she online shops. "Is this a midlife crisis?"

"A midlife crisis would be me quitting my job and ruining my marriage."

She tuts. "Maybe you should just dye your hair instead."

Seokjin laughs, rhythmically chopping vegetables for a stir-fry. He doesn't have the mental capacity for much more right now. His ego is still bruised from forgetting his tea earlier in the day. The mug has been sitting on the counter since then, over steeped, a symbol of his transgressions.

He's not sure why he's so distracted today. He's tired from work, closing almost every night, and he hasn't been sleeping well. He's slowly reaching the point where all of his stressors are building up, ready to strike, but he's still too invested in pretending they don't exist.

So he just says, "Pink would look nice, don't you think?"

"We should give you a bowl cut and dye it so you look like Toad."

Seokjin covers his smile with the back of his wrist. His sleeves are rolled up to the elbow and his fingers smell like raw beef. "You should come visit me in the city." Honestly, he misses her.

Heeyeon smiles, wrinkling her nose, and tucks her hair behind her ear. It's recently been chopped short. Seokjin remembers telling her she looked like a lesbian. "I'd love to." She sighs. "Work is just crazy."

"Why is being an adult the worst?" Seokjin asks, tossing some meat into the pan on the stove. "My summer job at Jimmy John's was never this demanding."

"But now I can fuck and I don't have to worry about my parents finding out, so like? It's a win." She goes back to scrolling on her computer. "Red or blue?"

"What else is in your cart right now?"

Heeyeon huffs. "Red it is."

"Send me pictures." Seokjin grins. "And buy something hot just for me."

"Mmm, lingerie, I hear you. I hear you." Heeyeon shoots him a thumbs up. "G-string?"

"Of course." Seokjin points his knife at her. "If she breathes, she's a thot."

"Bought." Heeyeon laughs. "I miss you. I'll come to the city if you promise to come home soon."

Seokjin hums, smiling, but he doesn't commit one way or the other. He never does. And they both know that means he probably isn't going to come home any time soon. There's just too much to settle here.

"Bitch." Heeyeon huffs. She pushes herself up a little further against her headboard, adjusts the camera so it's not just shooting her under-chin. "You haven't been home since you started dating the punk."

She's right. Hyosang hadn't really liked small town life, but neither had Seokjin, and leaving was already such a hassle. "It's not his fault," Seokjin tells her, truthfully. "He never forced me to stop. We just liked it here better."

"I don't understand how you can say that to my face when I'm right here." Heeyeon rolls her eyes. "Your mom misses you but most importantly I miss you, and I bought lingerie for you, so you'd better come here and see it."

Seokjin rolls his eyes. "Like I've never seen your ass."

"Not like this," Heeyeon says sagely.

There's a knock on Seokjin's door, and Seokjin puts the skillets on low to go check. There are only three options, really. 1) Taehyung is hungry and came by to mooch, 2) Soonhee thinks this is her apartment again, or 3) there's a package delivery. "Hold on," he tells Heeyeon, wiping his hands on his apron and going through the living room.

It's option three, which was technically the least likely. Seokjin doesn't remember buying anything, but sometimes when he's stressed he buys shit from infomercials in his sleep, so it's probably just a lazy Susan or the world's greatest cheese grater.

He signs the postman's clipboard and looks at the address, kicking the door shut on his way back to the stove.

"What'd you get?" Heeyeon has procured ice cream in the short amount of time it took Seokjin to get the door, and she's more focused on both the ice cream and her shopping than Seokjin or his package.

"I don't recognize the return?" he muses, setting the box down on the kitchen counter, pulling out a butterknife. He's definitely the recipient, but the sender isn't anyone he knows.

Inside is a phone. Seokjin almost shits himself — it's a nice phone, if not an older model, and he's happy to accept this mystery box, thank you — before he realizes it's used. Everything in the box is used: the phone, the three large books, the tablet, the worn leather notebook, the car keys.

"Did I have a relative die?" Seokjin asks.

Heeyeon frowns around her spoon. "Why are you asking me?"

"Is this a will? What is this?" He wiggles the box a little. There's a note, but it's fallen all the way to the bottom. He digs it out. It's on thick cardstock, nice paper, handwritten beautifully. There's a name he recognizes. Suran.

 

Hello, Mr. Kim.
I've been told that you'll be handling Min Yoongi's affairs. Despite my misgivings, there's little harm in sending you this — just don't break anything. It's expensive.

 

Seokjin snorts. "It's stuff for Yoongi." He picks up the phone with his free hand.

"Who?"

"New friend," Seokjin tells her easily. It's close enough to the truth. "His mom had a bunch of his shit. Guess they sent it here instead."

Heeyeon squints at him. "That's weird, bro."

"It's a weird family." Also true. He looks back at the note.

 

I would have sent this to Min Yoongi directly, but he's decided not to tell his mother where he's staying, so I don't have the proper address. Please make sure he receives this. It's very important.
- Suran

 

Seokjin hums, checking the back of the card. "We have run into a fundamental flaw."

Heeyeon sets her now empty bowl on her side table. "That being?"

He grimaces. "I don't actually know where Yoongi is."

"Worst friend." She laughs. "Why did his mom send you shit?"

"Technically it was her secretary, but yeah." Seokjin returns to making dinner. Some of the vegetables are a little burnt, but Seokjin isn't bothered. He's eaten worse. "They're having a bit of a...spat. I might have offered to handle some things." He bites his lip. "It was a good idea at the time."

"Right." Heeyeon picks up her phone. "Well, have fun with that. I have to go get my laundry."

"Take me with you."

"After last time?" She scowls. "Never again."

"I'm not even there to almost burn the building down, so it's a moot point." Seokjin grins anyway. "Have fun. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Maybe," she replies loftily. "If I feel like it."

He's still laughing when she hangs up on him.

 


 

If Seokjin were a better man, maybe he'd try harder, but it's a lot easier just letting the box sit on his dining room table than it would be sleuthing around the city trying to find one guy who doesn't even have a cell phone.

"I already told you we don't have his address," Suran tells him when he calls the office. "And you have a better chance than I do at finding him."

"You guys are actually friends."

"I also work for his mother." Suran's voice is a clear dismissal. "Talk to you later, Mr. Kim."

"Don't 'Mr. Kim' me," he gripes, but she's already ended the call.

So Seokjin put an ad on Craigslist — Call me if you've ever been turned into a cat by your mother and are missing a cellphone pls thx — and called it a day.

Unbelievably, nothing turns up.

He'd feel bad about it, but Yoongi doesn't really reach out to him either. It's kind of like they've both just washed their hands of each other except that it feels kind of weird. Seokjin keeps trying but it's like he's scrubbing so hard his skin is dried out and there's still something under his nails.

Whatever.

Let Yoongi collect dust. It was just one adventure. Seokjin has too much other stuff going on to worry about it.

 


 

It's over a week after the box arrived on his doorstep and Seokjin is using it as a decorative table piece. His brilliant Craigslist ad is useless and rent is almost due and Seokjin's been picking up extra shifts at work, so when he goes to take a shower and the showerhead pops off and almost brains him, the last thing he wants to do is go downstairs and deal with Byungchul.

He's all soapy and wet. That's just asking for disaster.

But he's a grown ass man (and Soonhee is picking up her grandson from the airport and he can't commandeer her shower) so he puts a towel over his head and steps out of the bathroom. He pulls a t-shirt and shorts over slightly damp skin and grimaces all the way down to the first floor.

"Byungchul," Seokjin whines, banging tiredly on the door with his fist. He sounds like a child. "Fix it."

The man who opens the door is not Byungchul.

"Uh." Seokjin stands in the hallway, dripping, awkwardly clutching the broken, leaking showerhead to his chest. "Byungchul?"

The man gives him a lopsided smile. "No?" He looks nothing like Byungchul. He's smaller, lithe, and Seokjin kind of feels like a towering, lumbering mess, except he's beautiful and charming and can definitely handle this. The man's hair is long, held back in a bun, and his smile is bright.

Slowly, Seokjin looks at the number on the apartment door. It's definitely the right one. "Sorry." He shakes the confusion off his face. "I'm a resident. I'm just looking for the landlord."

"That's me." The man holds out his hand. "I'm Jung Hoseok. It's nice to meet you!" He blows a baby hair out of his face. There are boxes behind him, half unpacked.

Seokjin shakes his hand. "Kim Seokjin." He holds out the showerhead. "Help?"

"Come on in." Hoseok laughs and scratches his head. He motions for Seokjin to follow him inside, and Seokjin warily follows his lead. The last time he was here was a month ago with Yoongi. He wonders if there's still lube in the desk.

Hoseok kicks a box out of the way and pushes a lamp off the couch so Seokjin can sit. "Sorry for the mess." He scratches the back of his neck. "I just moved in. I'm usually more organized, but there's so much to do."

"Just moved in?" Delicately, Seokjin takes a spot on the sofa. It's the same one as before, but now it's covered in packing peanuts and half-folded sweatpants. "What happened to Byungchul?"

With a purse of his lips, Hoseok goes over to the desk in the corner and digs through the files there. "He was...well. He found a better fit elsewhere." He frowns, flipping through the papers. "Sorry, let me find the right one." He laughs apologetically. "It was a quick switch. I wasn't able to do all my homework."

"Or inform the residents, I guess." Honestly, Seokjin's mind is boggled. Byungchul has been the landlord here for years, no matter how many complaints he received. He can't imagine what would have made them change their minds. He thinks of Yoongi's mother. There's no way she would care. "How quick?"

"Hmm." Hoseok's long fingers scan down a page before flipping to the next one. "I was at my old assignment about....about a month ago?" He sticks out his tongue. "Packing and moving was a hassle, I'll say that much. I like the city though."

"A month," Seokjin repeats dully. "That's a fast turn around."

"Well." Hoseok shrugs, pulling out the right number. "An old friend called in a favor." He pulls out a report paper. "Can you give me your apartment number? And then I'll call the handyman."

Seokjin blanks on his own number for almost an entire five seconds before he rattles it off, and he watches Hoseok file the report in silence.

"They won't get here until tomorrow morning," Hoseok says. "I had a guy back at my old place that would come 'cause he liked me, but I haven't been here long enough to charm the locals." He leans on the back of the couch opposite where Seokjin is sitting. "You can use my shower tonight, if you want." He grins. "Looks like you were in the middle."

"I almost died." Seokjin shakes the showerhead at Hoseok accusingly. "You'll be hearing from my lawyer. And also my lawyer's lawyer."

Hoseok gives him a firm pat on the shoulder. "Looking forward to it."

 


 

Two hours and a beer later, Seokjin is significantly cleaner and happy for the good company. Hoseok is a nice guy, welcoming, and Seokjin reminds himself to make something as a housewarming gift later this week.

Pleasantly fuzzy on his way out the door, Seokjin turns around. "Hey, Hoseok?"

Hoseok drank a bit more and is much further than pleasantly fuzzy, but he smiles hazily from where he's sprawled out among the packing peanuts. "Hmmm?"

"Who was that old friend you mentioned?"

"Oh." Hoseok runs a tired hand down his face. "Min Yoongi."

 


 

"Taehyungie—"

"Before you ask, it definitely wasn't me."

"I'm not asking," Seokjin says flatly into the phone. "Honestly? I refuse to ask. Ever."

"We're on the same page, that's so nice—Tannie, down."

"Taehyung, focus." Seokjin snaps by the mouthpiece.

There's a huge amount of shuffling from Taehyung's end, and Seokjin can only assume the dog is trying to lick Taehyung to death. "How can I focus when the best boy in the whole world is trying to give me kisses? Isn't that right? Hmm? You're the best boy."

"Thanks."

"Welcome." Taehyung laughs. Seokjin can hear Yeontan's yipping in the background. "Okay, what is it?"

Seokjin is sitting at his dining room table, rifling through the box. There's an old Rolex in here. The watch face has stopped ticking, but it's still more valuable than anything in Seokjin's apartment. "I need Jungkook's number."

Taehyung coughs awkwardly. "Why would I have that?"

"Because I know a thirsty bitch when I see one." Seokjin leans back in his chair, turning the Rolex over in his hand. It's probably not even the most expensive thing Yoongi owns. There's no way. "The Kim Taehyung I know would have had a dick appointment before that office tour even ended."

"Well, I don't know if I would call it a dick appointment..." Seokjin knows that Taehyung is smiling, even over the phone. His voice has gone all soft. "He's so nervous. It's really cute."

"Feelings are gross," Seokjin says.

"Let me believe in love." Taehyung clicks his tongue. "But fine. I'll give it to you. What do you need it for?"

"Jungkook is going to be my new sugar daddy."

"That's a blatant lie," Taehyung says evenly. "Because he's an actual baby."

"I'll be his sugar daddy." Seokjin smiles, tucking the Rolex back in the box. "I'll pay him ramen in exchange for sexual favors."

"That's—" Taehyung cuts himself off. "Actually, he probably would."

It's nice, Seokjin thinks as the text from Taehyung pings on his phone, when things go your way.

 


 

Contacting Yoongi is easier than it should be, once Seokjin makes a hard decision to follow it through. Even if he doesn't actually talk to Yoongi — he only has Jungkook's number, after all — Jungkook seems happy to hear from him.

"Taehyung talks about you all the time," he says over the receiver. "And only, like, half of it is bad."

"Honestly? I'm shocked." Seokjin smiles. He's curled up on his couch, wrapped up in a blanket and watching old dramas. He missed five episodes because he started playing Animal Crossing on his phone, but the girl is still trying to decide between the asshole lead and the charming and kind secondary, so he feels like he's up-to-date enough. "I refused to feed him the other day. I thought he would have spilled all my dirty secrets."

"He told me about that threesome at the farmer's market." Jungkook's voice is unexpectedly wicked.

Seokjin blanches. "Does—"

Does Yoongi know? should not be his first thought but it is. He laugh awkwardly. "It was worth it," he says instead. And it was. They were very rugged men of the soil and Seokjin is an unapologetic hoe.

When it pleases him.

"Anyway, yeah! I know where Yoongi's staying." Jungkook still sounds like he's laughing, but even if Seokjin highly suspects he's actually a brat he seems cute enough that Seokjin is only half offended. "I can come over and pick up—oh, hold on." There's another voice murmuring on the other end of the line. "It's Seokjin." Jungkook's voice is muffled, like maybe he's put his hand over the receiver. "Do you want to talk to hi—okay, okay, sheesh." Jungkook gives Seokjin his full focus again. "Someone will come...yeah, someone will come over and get it! Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow wor—"

"Tomorrow doesn't work," Jungkook says hesitantly. "What about...one....four...?"

Seokjin chokes down a laugh. "The fourteenth?"

"The fourteenth?" Jungkook repeats. "Yes. Yes. The fourteenth. Does that work?"

It's the eleventh today, a Thursday, and Seokjin just works in the morning for the Sunday brunch rush. "If it's in the afternoon/evening, I'm good."

Jungkook speaks to the other person on his end, muffled but not enough. "Stop—stop fucking kicking me. How much coffee did you even—" He clears his throat. "I will personally make sure that someone is there in the evening on the fourteenth to pick up Yoongi's very important package that you are nice enough to return and not sell to a pawn shop."

There's whining.

Seokjin hums, weirdly content. Yoongi must be crashing on Jungkook's couch. "I'll keep the Rolex as a delivery fee."

"You're going to keep Yoongi's Rolex?" Jungkook repeats innocently. "Sounds fair—hey!"

There's a clattering, like maybe the phone is knocked out of Jungkook's hand, and the line cuts off.

Seokjin snorts and unpauses his drama.

 

Yoongi's Crybaby Son

SO SORRY
Sunday before dinner. Put it in your calendar

It's a date ;)

Haha I'm sure he'll be so ha ;ladfnnnnnnnnnnnn
Ignore me. I'm a stupid fuck.
It's a date.

 

Seokjin watches an entire season of this drama but when he slides into bed that night he finds he can't even remember the main character's name.

 


 

Work on Sunday goes surprisingly quickly. He's in a good mood, even if his feet hurt and he's working a double. Boss gives him a gruff compliment when he's checking in his seventh party, and even if it's kind of awkward Seokjin thanks him genuinely.

"You're humming," Yerim says when she walks up to the computer to get the check. "It's weird."

"Sometimes people are happy, Yerim," Seokjin teases her, pinching her cheek. He hadn't even realized he was singing a little under his breath, but he isn't embarrassed so he just sings louder.

"Joohyun," Yerim calls, her face twisted in disgust. "Seokjin is either high or he got laid and I don't like it."

Joohyun doesn't even look up from where she's manning the bar. "Seokjin, be more miserable for me."

Seokjin rips his receipt off the printer. "Anything for you," he says breezily, blowing them a kiss as he goes back to his table.

The bus comes on time. He gets a good spot and doesn't have to dig in his bag to find his bus pass. Hoseok has his apartment door open when Seokjin enters the apartment building, and his smile and wave just drives home that Seokjin isn't going to have to worry about his shitty landlord. It's a good day. He doesn't quite feel like he's floating on air, but he's happy.

He throws his keys on the kitchen table next to the box of Yoongi's things and starts pulling out things for dinner.

Seokjin wouldn't say he's the best cook in the world — or, actually, he would, but mostly for comic effect — but it's always been something he liked. As a kid, a love for food and an irritated mother led to him helping her in the kitchen, and when he grew up it because something they did together just because they could. Nowadays, it's something nice and familiar and relaxing, even if he wants to throw a pan out the window when things don't go his way.

A little familiar is never amiss, these days.

By the time he hears the knock, the entire apartment smells warm and Seokjin's changed into jeans and a giant monstrosity of a hoodie for his own comfort. He rolls the sleeves up and wipes off the steam collecting on his glasses as he walks to answer the door.

Seokjin isn't really sure how he remembers Yoongi. It hasn't been that long; a few weeks? Maybe? Is Yoongi the weird naked guy on his porch or the professional man who led him through the offices or the sad son that yelled at his cold mother?

This Yoongi looks like a zombie.

He's wearing nice clothes. Seokjin guesses that makes sense, since he's rich and not a cat anymore. He's freshly showered and dressed neatly, the hem of his black button down tucked into slacks probably about the same price as Seokjin's water bill, but he's wearing beat up tennis shoes, his dress shoes hanging from his fingers.

Aside from the shoes, he looks much more put-together than Seokjin does — except there are deep-circles under his eyes like bruises and his entire face is lax like he doesn't have the energy to keep it flat anymore. He looks exhausted.

"Your fancy bed isn't as nice as my couch or the dumpster, eh?" is the first thing Seokjin says, holding the door open and pushing his glasses up his nose for effect.

Yoongi blinks at him, slowly, and Seokjin hears the dial-up tones in the back of his mind. "What."

Seokjin takes pity. "You look exhausted." He steps aside, opening the door wide enough that Yoongi can let himself in.

With a groan, Yoongi walks in and collapses onto the couch, rubbing his eyes to stave off a presumable headache. "I am exhausted," he whines. He's very careful about keeping his shoes off the couch and Seokjin appreciates it but he's pretty sure Taehyung has had sex on that couch so it's a moot point.

"Need a cat nap?" Seokjin asks innocently.

Yoongi throws him a nasty side eye. "I'm leaving."

"I already told Jungkook I'm keeping the Rolex," Seokjin says with a shrug. "Be gone with you."

"I hate everything about this." Yoongi sits back up with a groan. "You'd think that disappearing for a year would really put things into perspective," he grouses, "but despite that I still have to do taxes so what's the point?"

Seokjin goes to the stove and continues cooking, but he smiles at Yoongi over his shoulder anyway. "Did I not tell you I'd take care of everything for you? I'm unappreciated."

"Yes." Yoongi yawns. "What are you making? It smells good."

"I wasn't sure what you liked," Seokjin tells him, hiding a grin, "so I just made fish."

The noise Yoongi makes sn ungodly and Seokjin is so proud. "You and Jungkook are the worst," he whines again. It's kind of cute and not at all respectable. "It was a traumatic experience and you're just mocking me."

"No more, no more." There will definitely be more. Seokjin knows himself too well. "No more tuna jokes."

"The funny thing is...don't believe you." Yoongi rolls his head, one hand on his neck, and he sighs in relief when it pops. "It's just kind of stressful, you know?"

Seokjin flips the filet in the pan. It's almost done, probably. It's been a while since he got to make dinner for someone, even though Yoongi didn't ask and also probably has access to five star restaurants or something else ridiculous. But it's a nice change in pace, and maybe Seokjin went a little fancier with his sauces than he might have otherwise. "I blacked out on New Year's once. Woke up two cities away. I imagine it's similar."

"Fuck you." Yoongi wanders over the box on the table. "Is this it?"

"Yep." Seokjin wipes his hands on his pants. His glasses are falling down his nose again. "The mysterious parcel."

Yoongi hums, reaching out to pull the box closer and rifle through. He picks up a notebook and flips through it. "I'm honestly...surprised she kept these." He shows Seokjin a random page and the entire thing is full of scribbled, cramped handwriting. There's a napkin wedged in between one of the pages, coffee stained and covered in words. "They're not worth anything to anyone other than me."

"Maybe she felt sentimental?" Seokjin tries, but it's hard to believe. He only had one experience with the woman and he can't fathom it, and Yoongi's spent his whole life with her.

"She wanted me dead." Yoongi huffs, eyes far away. "We're so fucked."

It's a little too tense for Seokjin's tastes, but he can't exactly say Yoongi is wrong either. They are pretty fucked. "Maybe you should apply for Maury?"

Yoongi laughs, and once he does Seokjin realizes that's what he wanted anyway. "Let me tell the nation I was turned into a cat, I'm sure it'll be my mother they'll be focused on."

To be fair, they're still not really sure how he turned into a cat. Seokjin never imagined magic being one of the many things that money can buy, but it's good information to file away for later when he's filthy rich.

"'I don't hate you. I need to you know that.'" It's a flimsy falsetto, and Seokjin is confused until he remembers those were Hyunjung's parting words only a week ago. He'd forgotten. The look on Yoongi's face says he clearly hasn't. Gently, he puts the book back down in the box. "What does it say that she literally tried to off me and somehow I still believe her?"

Seokjin grabs two plates from the cupboard. "That's she's a psychopath?"

Yoongi laughs again. It's only a little bitter. "Nutshelled."

After that, it's a surprisingly easy silence. They don't know each other well, but it's strange to think that Seokjin is probably one of the only people in the entire world that knows exactly where Yoongi went this past year. It's also a bit sobering, because Seokjin doesn't feel like he really understands it either, and that means that no one does, and he can only imagine what Yoongi must be feeling. Has he processed it yet? Is that another reason why he's feeling stressed?

Well. Like he said. They don't know each other that well. It's not Seokjin's place to ask.

So he just says, "You can share my mom," and goes about cooking his fish.

His mother is lovely. It's the best he can offer.

And after that the only sound is the sizzling of fish in the pan and Yoongi pushing his way through the box. Suran had packed it neatly but Seokjin is a nosy bitch so the entire thing is in shambles, but Yoongi doesn't really seem to care.

Seokjin hums to himself. There are worse things than quiet company.

Until Yoongi says a flustered, "Fuck you," and Seokjin turns to see him holding a pair of fuzzy cat ears.

"To be fair," Seokjin says, "I forgot I did that."

With a grin he takes lowers the heat on the burner and walks over, taking the headband dangling from Yoongi's fingers and placing it gently on Yoongi's head. Yoongi just stands there and lets Seokjin do it, but he looks grumpy and unimpressed, and Seokjin is so glad he found this thing at the dollar store last week.

There's an enormous crash on the other side of Seokjin's living room wall.

Yoongi just makes a small, alarmed noise, staring at the wall with concern. It's the wall Seokjin shares with Soonhee, so Seokjin isn't nearly as worried about it as maybe he should be.

"Her grandson is over," he explains, like that would mean anything to Yoongi who doesn't know what an absolute mess Namjoon is. "She was really excited to go on an Ikea spree this morning. That's probably him trying to put together a bookshelf."

Seokjin guesses there's about 30 seconds left before Namjoon comes over and asks for help, so he walks over to the front door while Yoongi mouths Ikea like he's never heard of it before.

This is a skill Seokjin has long mastered. He waits until he hears Soonhee's apartment door open and close, counts to three, and then opens his own door just as Namjoon is raising his fist to knock. "Hello, stranger," he says, leaning against the door frame.

Namjoon is a tall man, 50% intimidating, 30% awkwardly endearing, and — today — 20% overalls. There's paint on his shoes. Seokjin wonders if Soonhee is doing some redecorating and roped him into it even though last time he left painted footprints in the kitchen. "How do you do that?" Namjoon asks with a huff.

"Dark magic." Seokjin grins. "How can I help you?"

Namjoon just hands up the broken handle of a...Seokjin isn't sure. "Do you have a hammer?" he asks tiredly.

Seokjin is too busy laughing to hear Yoongi pattering out from the kitchen area.

"Hey, Seokjin, is the fish supposed to be—"

There's a moment just before Seokjin turns around, wiping tears out of his eyes, where he sees and processes the look of horror on Namjoon's face. By the time he turns to see Yoongi, still in his cat ears, Namjoon's white as a sheet.

Seokjin realizes that the cat ears/zombie eyes combo is unusual, but it's not terrifying in the least.

What is terrifying is the cold, demonic glint in Yoongi's eyes as he stares at Namjoon in the hallway. "You," Yoongi starts—

Namjoon shoves the broken hammer into Seokjin's hands, turns on his heels, and bolts out of sight.

Seokjin blinks at the splintered wood in his hands. "I...?"

Yoongi pushes past him and races down the hallway after Namjoon. Seokjin stares after them. He can hear the thundering footsteps, he can hear Namjoon curse when he can't get the door to the stairs open the first time, and he hears Yoongi yelling incoherently as he follows.

Seokjin throws the handle away, turns off his burner, and decides he's going to take the elevator.

Soonhee pokes her head out of her apartment while Seokjin's waiting for the doors to open, but he waves her off and she just goes back to whatever she was doing. They don't bother asking questions anymore.

"Hey, Hoseok?" Seokjin asks when he gets to the first floor. "Have you seen Yoongi?"

"He just chased Soonhee's boy out of the building." Hoseok's sitting as his desk, door still open, and doesn't even bother looking up at Seokjin. "We still up for that movie night on Thursday?"

"Bitch, yes." He waves goodbye and walks out onto the street.

A quick scan shows him the two men running down the east side, through the parking lot nearby, so Seokjin hikes up his pants and pushes his fucking glasses up one more time and takes off after them.

The novelty of watching a man in slacks and cat ears chasing a giant wearing overalls is both hilarious and incredible, and they do draw a bit of a crowd, but Seokjin has the benefit of knowing the area better so he's not in any particular rush.

He also has the benefit of seeing Yoongi slide over the hood of a very nice car, which is very hot and also leaves a streak of dirt on his ass that Seokjin finds enjoyable. With the ears it's a nice touch.

Seokjin is arguably in better shape than either Yoongi or Namjoon, but he's also very confused about what's happening and Yoongi is actually surprisingly speedy. He runs like a felon. Seokjin wonders if he ever went to jail like the other spoiled, rich children.

If Yoongi actually murders Namjoon, there's really no other option. Soonhee would be devastated. Seokjin's on her side. Also this fucker is making him run after he was in for the night. Unacceptable.

When Seokjin catches up with them, it's only because Yoongi has tackled Namjoon to the ground, one knee on his stomach and his hands fisted in Namjoon's shirt. The cat ears have sprouted again, almost lost amongst the mess of his hair, forcing the cat headband askew. The air is buzzy with that feeling of something more. Despite how ridiculous this is, something awfully like worry bubbles up — Seokjin doesn't know Yoongi that well, and he looks...well.

He looks dangerous.

Namjoon is scrambling on the ground, his palms scraping on asphalt, and the whites of his eyes are huge. One hand is clamped around Yoongi's wrist, but it's not doing anything to deter him. "Please, man, I don't know wha—"

"You're the guy from the shelter," Yoongi says, growls, and Seokjin is so lost. So, so lost. "I remember you. And I know you know exactly who I am."

"Yoongi!" Seokjin calls, slowing down to a light jog, voice forced lighter. "Please don't kill Soonhee's grandson. She'll kill me and that's just a huge loss."

Yoongi just shoves Namjoon a little harder into the pavement. "You knew who I was in the shelter — you knew I wasn't a fucking cat." His voice is steady but it's...

"Yoongi." Seokjin is more gentle this time. He's out of breath, and sweating in his hoodie, and he puts his hand on Yoongi's shoulder for the extra support, but Yoongi flinches. He turns to face Seokjin and he's almost manic.

Seokjin notices that his hands are shaking where they're wrapped in Namjoon's shirt.

So he does the first thing that comes to mind. His hand goes from Yoongi's shoulder to his head, runs down the ears that are Yoongi's and also aren't Yoongi's, and it's only mildly weird how Yoongi's shoulders slump in response. "Let him go, hmm?"

For a second Yoongi just holds on tighter. When he finally lets Namjoon go, he pushes him one last time. Namjoon falls back against the ground all on his own, chest heaving. "I really wasn't ready for this today," Namjoon says, laughing. It's bitter in a way Seokjin's never heard before.

"I'm so sorry for the inconvenience," Yoongi snips, still leaning over him, and gently Seokjin runs his fingers through Yoongi's hair. He watches Yoongi's bones melt to something softer, and Yoongi's head is pressing back into his touch. His face is pinched with irritation, sharp anger, but he's acting more like that stray cat now than Seokjin has seen yet.

He doesn't make a tuna joke, and for that Yoongi should be thankful.

"Namjoonie," Seokjin calls instead, and both of the boys look up at him warily. He smiles his most winsome smile. "How do you feel about fish tonight?"

 


 

It's not the most awkward dinner party Seokjin has ever had, but that's a low bar.

Yoongi walks over to Seokjin's fridge as soon as they get through the door and grabs Seokjin's cheap white wine and pours himself an overfull glass. He drinks half his share before refilling it and putting the bottle on the table for the others. Seokjin can respect that.

Namjoon keeps giving Yoongi looks, and the only real way to get him to stay is to promise him use of Seokjin's hammer if they survive the meal.

"So," Seokjin starts, because clearly he's the only adult here. "I hear you know about magic."

Namjoon make a strange gurgling sound in the back of his throat and Yoongi makes an unnecessarily strong cut through his fish. "I wouldn't...say that."

Yoongi takes another big gulp of wine. "What would you say?"

"That I..." Namjoon scratches his nose. Puts down his fork with a deep sigh. "I'm sorry for what happened."

Seokjin delicately eats his food and watches them both carefully. "Just to be clear," he starts, "how do you...exactly know each other?"

Namjoon closes his eyes, just for a moment. "We don't, really."

"I slept in his house, once," Yoongi adds.

"Do you have any more wine?" Namjoon asks. They've almost finished the bottle.

"We do if you tip the bartender," Seokjin says, running his fingers coyly around the rim of his glass. He understands that this is an awkward situation but he's poor and needs to support his wine mom lifestyle.

Namjoon is chewing on the inside of his cheek, long fingers playing with the button of his overalls. His chin is jut forward. Seokjin knows him well enough to recognize when he's calculating something. "I...didn't turn you into a cat, if that's what you're asking."

Yoongi is less than impressed. "But you're involved."

"I am."

"This is the best dinner party ever," Seokjin tells them both.

"I know the person your mother went to," Namjoon says slowly. His hands have stopped messing with the button and are now twisting the napkin by his plate to shreds, even if his face is neutral. "He...is complicated."

Yoongi tilts his head to the side, mouth pursed. "Oh, I'm sure he is."

"Play nice, dear," Seokjin says tiredly, scooping more vegetables onto his plate. It's been a long day. "If you kill him you won't know what happened, will you?"

Namjoon quirks his mouth in Seokjin's direction but Yoongi is having none of it, not even in the name of keeping things civil.

"What kind of person would ever agree to a job like that?" he demands, slamming his knife and fork down on the table, and Seokjin is glad he used his actual silverware because that would have surely broken the plastic utensils he keeps in the cupboard. "Is he...a mercenary? Some kind of—"

"No." Namjoon bites his lip. "He isn't. He isn't anything like you could imagine."

"Brilliant." Seokjin takes a large sip of wine.

"He's..." Namjoon's hands are fluttering, clenching and unclenching while he thinks of the right words, and Seokjin doesn't know Namjoon very well but he thinks this might be the first time the other man has even struggled this way. "He's more than a human."

"Brilliant." Seokjin pours himself another glass.

Yoongi is staring at Namjoon, eyes critical. "What do you mean, more than human?"

"I mean, it makes sense?" Seokjin starts. "I don't know many humans who can turn people into cats."

"I don't know anyone who can turn people into cats, human or otherwise." Yoongi is looking at him like he's crazy. "This is the most ridiculous thing that's happened to me and everyone is just..." He crumples his napkin in his fist with a huff and a small shake of his head. "A whole...year."

"She asked him to kill you, you know?" Namjoon says, and it's not the right thing.

"I know." Bitter. "Am I supposed to be thankful?"

Namjoon runs a hand over his forehead. "A...look. A year for him isn't...it's a minute for you and I. Maybe an hour?" Seokjin isn't sure why Namjoon is still trying to make excuses for this person when it's clear Yoongi will never buy it, but he doesn't pretend to understand anything about what's happening. "And I don't think he meant for it to last that long, even. It just did."

It just did is a sorry excuse for the universe fucking you over. As much is written all over Yoongi's face. "Sure."

"How did you meet this person?" Seokjin asks, purely curious. Yoongi will run this into the ground, maybe. Seokjin recognizes the stubborn set of his mouth. "Did you find them, like Yoongi's mother found them?"

"That isn't supposed to happen." Namjoon is all jittery mannerisms now, nervous energy radiating as he runs his hands through his hair. "No one finds him unless they're supposed to find him. I don't know why she...I just stumbled upon it, like everyone else."

Yoongi sighs. "If you try to convince me this was meant to happen I'll actually scream."

Namjoon just closes his eyes. "Look, I'm...really the wrong person to ask."

"Well, it's not like we can ask your friend," Seokjin points out with a laugh that's lighter than he feels. His food is cold on his plate by now and he thinks it might be the first time that's ever happened.

"His boss," Yoongi corrects coldly. "He's this...more-than-human's dog."

"Don't call me that," Namjoon says, vaguely dangerous, even in his overalls, even with his hair askew from his fidgets. "You have no idea what we are."

"I know that he had you watch me for an entire fuck...what was it?" Yoongi laughs. "Four months? Five?"

"Six," Namjoon says flatly. "Despite what you might believe, it wasn't malicious. He really did want you to be okay." Beat. "Does."

There's silence for a while, the sounds of processing and nothing else, and Yoongi looks at Namjoon the way he might look at shit at the bottom of his shoe. "If he really cared he would have just told her no."

Seokjin tugs at the ends of his sleeves. "Yoongi, I don't know." Quiet.

"Your mother was determined enough to do research on the dark web for months before she found him," Namjoon says, unusually cold. "And it wasn't her first attempt, either."

She would have found someone else. They all know that's the truth.

Yoongi takes a deep, tense breath and sits back in his chair. "Still."

"I got you out of the pound," Namjoon says, and something about that makes Seokjin unbearably sad. He smothers it down with lukewarm food. "I fed you when you were starving. I made sure you were okay. We tried, Yoongi." Gently, Namjoon starts smoothing down the disheveled mess of his hair. He stands, meal barely touched. Seokjin doesn't have the energy to be offended. "Rarely does he ever...stick around his projects for long."

Yoongi laughs, mean. "I'm honored." He picks up his almost-empty wine glass and gives Namjoon a toast. "My company is as good as gone, I have no money, I'm sleeping on my friend's friend's floor because my mother owns my house and won't even let me on the fucking property anymore. But wow. Thanks for being so thoughtful."

Seokjin can't muster the words Yoongi needs right now. "I'll walk you out, Namjoon." He pushes his chair back and wipes his hands on his pants. They're unusually sweaty. He hadn't really noticed until now. "I think—"

"That'd be for the best," Namjoon agrees, and he lets himself be led to the door. As soon as Seokjin's door is shut between them and Yoongi, the other man hangs his head, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Sorry," Seokjin says, unsure if he really means it or not. "I figured that would happen, but..."

"I'm sure he needed it." Namjoon shoves his hands in his pockets. "I don't pretend to know why...my friend does the things he does, I just know that's he's powerful and rarely does he do things on a whim."

"I don't know if I trust anyone that much," Seokjin tells him, smiling, small. "I mean...magic."

Namjoon laughs. "I know." He shakes his head. "Ridiculous. This is all...he's ridiculous." Fond.

Seokjin smiles, but he isn't sure he can stomach or understand this fondness. He isn't sure if Namjoon understands how much Yoongi's life is in shambles because of this, or how much it seems like he had to lose. Seokjin doesn't really understand that either. "If I turned him back into a human does that mean I'm magic, too?" he jokes instead.

Namjoon doesn't laugh. He just blinks. "You what?"

"I kissed his wittle head," Seokjin says cutely. "And then he was naked in my lap. It was traumatic for us both."

Namjoon just stares at him. "Really."

Seokjin pushes him teasingly on the shoulder. "Come on man, lighten up. It's not like it was true love's kiss. I'm joking."

Nothing. Not even a smile.

Seokjin coughs awkwardly into his shoulder. "It wasn't true love's kiss, right?"

"Well—"

"You know what, I hate you, too," Seokjin decides, covering his ears with his hands. "Never speak to me again."

Namjoon pulls on Seokjin's wrist. "Come on, I just need—"

Seokjin does not want this true love crap pulled in any way, and it's suddenly very important that Namjoon know that he's wrong. "It's not like it really worked, anyway. He's still a cat."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Namjoon says sarcastically. "Clearly that was a cat bitching at me for the last twenty minutes. My bad."

"Did you miss the fucking ears?" Seokjin hisses. "Those aren't YSL, he grew those himself." He pulls the strings of his hoodie until he's almost choking because he kind of wants to die. "He turned into a cat in the bathroom and I had to carry him out in my pocket."

Namjoon stops tugging incessantly at Seokjin's arm. "Hmm."

"Yeah, hmm." He huffs. "Can your weird, magical friend help us with that instead of being shady for the rich and powerful?"

"Namjoonie?" They're being too loud in the hallway, and Soonhee is almost deaf but not that deaf, and she sticks her head out of her apartment and waves him over. "Stop playing with your friends. You told me you would be back after dinner to make this dining table."

"Uh, yeah. One second, Grammy." Namjoon looks at Seokjin sheepishly. "I'll...look into...that thing."

Seokjin pats him on the shoulder. "I'm sure you will." He unlocks his door behind him. "Just text me. I don't think Yoongi is really interested in either of your help right now."

"I—"

"Have fun with Soonhee for me," he says over his shoulder, slipping through his apartment door and shutting it before anything else can go horribly awry.

He walks into the small dining area with set shoulders. Yoongi is right where they left him, slumped in a chair trying to get himself in order. Seokjin leaves him to it, picking up the mostly-eaten plate in front of him. He'll Saran wrap it and Yoongi can have it later.

"You're staying here," he says, taking the plate into the kitchen. "Not your friend's friend's floor." It's not a question. "I can't believe Jungkook isn't taking care of you." God, Seokjin sounds like his mother.

"No room," Yoongi says quietly, attempting to become one with the chair.

"Well." Neither does Jungkook's friend. A floor isn't a place to stay. "At least I have a fucking couch."

Yoongi turns his head, staring at Seokjin as he busies himself cleaning the counter with intense focus. He doesn't say anything until Seokjin has wrapped the plate and put it in the fridge, almost too aggressively.

"Okay."

And, somehow, that's that.

Living with Yoongi is easier than Seokjin thought it would be. It's not exactly the first time he's had a roommate — or the worst — but Yoongi has the air of someone very particular and Seokjin expects at least some judgement on his plebian lifestyle.

In reality, their setup is mostly Yoongi complaining about back pain and Seokjin trying to remind him to 1) sleep and 2) eat.

Yoongi works like a man in the desert might run towards water, with an odd kind of obsessive focus. Seokjin's dining room table ends up crowded with tax papers and binders full of information and more zeroes than Seokjin's ever seen. There's a catalogue of all of Yoongi's belongings, carefully photographed and labels in what Seokjin understands is Yoongi's own handwriting.

"The area I live in is prone to flooding in the spring," Yoongi said once, unprompted. Seokjin hadn't even realized the other man had heard him enter the kitchen. He'd been trying to get a morning cup of coffee. He wasn't sure Yoongi had even gone to sleep the night before. "In case anything needed to be replaced."

"Cool," Seokjin had replied, and then made Yoongi a cup of coffee because the bags under his eyes were terrifying.

It's hard enough just coaxing Yoongi out of the house, and Seokjin isn't even around to attempt it most days, leaving for work in the morning and getting back in the evenings or late at night. Usually he finds Yoongi right where he left him.

"Do you ever shower?" Seokjin asks one day.

"Never," Yoongi replies solemnly, chewing on the tip of his pencil. "And I sleep naked on your couch."

He's not the worst roommate Seokjin has ever had.

There's good and bad. Yoongi never cleans up his fucking papers, but he takes the garbage out whenever it's even slightly empty. He insists on doing the dishes after Seokjin cooks, and stubbornly asks where things go even if Seokjin says he can put everything away himself. It only takes him four days to learn where all of the normal pots and pans are kept, and by the fifth day Seokjin comes back from work and Yoongi has made a bare-bones meal in time for Seokjin to come home to.

"Thanks," Seokjin had cooed, ruffling Yoongi's hair at the table, and Yoongi had just grumbled and gone back to poring over his invoices.

Yoongi's stubborn, but he's clean and he's hardworking and he cares enough that Seokjin grows fond of having him around.

He vacillates between wildly energetic and quiet, almost surly, and there doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason to his moods beyond how he wakes up in the morning, but Yoongi is aware enough of the bad days that he's more likely to cook on these days, or clean, or quietly care, so that Seokjin knows it's nothing he's done. Seokjin understands Yoongi enough after three days to know it's nothing Seokjin does, but the fact Yoongi doesn't want him to worry means more than either of them say.

It's ten days before Seokjin decides that Yoongi needs someone to boss him around. "Come on," he says, picking Yoongi up from the table by his armpits. He looks more like a disgruntled cat than he has since Seokjin spooked him in the bathroom and suddenly there was a wet cat howling in the shower. "I don't like watching TV alone."

"Unfortunate," Yoongi says, but he lets himself be dragged, still holding a binder and a pen.

Seokjin snatches them both out of his hands after depositing him on the couch. "Indulge me?"

Yoongi blinks up at him, mouth pouty. He looks young. Lost, for a moment, before he blinks it away. "What are you watching?"

"Something inane," Seokjin says, flopping onto the sofa beside him. Yoongi's been sleeping there long enough that they don't bother moving the blankets during the day, and he pulls the makeshift comforter over both their laps. "I chose something I know you'll hate."

"How on brand of you," Yoongi snips back, but he's smiling kind of tiredly, and by the time Seokjin finds the drama and starts the first episode Yoongi's melted into the couch, exhausted.

Seokjin has the sneaking suspicion that Yoongi is a bit of a cuddle bug. Throughout the first two episodes Yoongi seems to be inching his way into Seokjin's space as if under the pull of a magnet, and they're leaning comfortably against each other by the first time the female lead stresses out about which guy she's in love with.

Yoongi's cheek looks cute enough squished on his shoulder that Seokjin doesn't bother waking him up when the fourth episode finishes and it's time for bed.

Yoongi isn't there in the morning when Seokjin leaves for work, but when he comes home Yoongi has the drama pulled up where they left it and an enormous pizza open on the coffee table.

Cuddling occurs within the first forty minutes this time, and Seokjin is happy for the easy kind of affection that he hasn't felt since the last time he spent the night at Heeyeon's over the holidays. Or, since...well. He wouldn't say he's touch starved, but Yoongi is warm and soft and pleasant and quiet, never sharp at this time of night, and...

Okay. Maybe he's touch starved.

The third time Yoongi falls asleep on his shoulder, Seokjin lets himself fall asleep, too.

 


 

Yoongi doesn't like talking about his life before he was a cat, or while he was a cat, and Seokjin is a nosy person so he asks anyway.

"It wasn't very interesting," Yoongi always replies. "I was rich and a workaholic and my mom controlled my entire life."

"But you like your work," Seokjin always shoots back, because even if Yoongi kind of suits this wayward lifestyle of Seokjin's he's always reading business magazines and keeping his eye on stocks and real estate in the area and pseudo-religiously stalking what his mother is doing with the company.

Usually that's as far as it goes, but there's a time or two when Seokjin wrangles more out of him. Once it's a simple my mom and I disagree and another time it's a mother oversaw this apartment complex, that's why it's shit.

Seokjin agrees that it's shit, but that's the way things are. It's a shit apartment. That's just a part of life. But Yoongi seems to take it as a personal offense. "I tried so fucking hard," he says one night out of the blue, half-way through a second glass of wine. "She's all about minimizing costs, buying cheap and selling these shit rentals and houses but she doesn't even care."

"Care about what?"

"The people, you know?" Yoongi had shut his eyes and leaned his head back, throat exposed. "Like, okay, I'm not a saint, but she doesn't care about improving anything? We make so much money on the new houses, we've got more...like things are fine as they are so she buys in poor areas and makes nasty ass properties when she could actually be like..." His mouth smacks a few times. "Whatever. It's whatever. I never learned to keep my mouth shut."

Seokjin just poured Yoongi another drink because he looked like he needed it.

 


 

It only takes a few more days before Seokjin thinks Yoongi likes him enough to allow himself to be dragged out of the house.

"Come on," Seokjin whines cutely, tugging on Yoongi's arm. "I need to run errands."

"I hate errands."

"And I want to get ice cream."

"I hate ice cream," Yoongi mutters, a little less passionately, and Seokjin keeps whining until Yoongi begrudgingly pulls his shoes on and dons his jacket.

Seokjin really does have errands to run, even if this is a thinly veiled ploy to get Yoongi out of the house. He might leave while Seokjin is out, but he doubts it. He asks when the last time Yoongi saw Jungkook was, and Yoongi replies that Jungkook is busy with work, which seems to be a sore point, so Seokjin doesn't ask again.

In all honesty, Seokjin just thinks Yoongi is restless.

He doesn't know much about life as a cat, and he can't imagine it is something that Human Yoongi would wish to return to, but before his magical shenanigans Yoongi seems to be in a good place at work. Important. Busy.

Now he's watching cheesy dramas on Seokjin's ratty couch.

Actually, now he's holding all of Seokjin's grocery bags while Seokjin wanders around trying to find the creamery that his coworker told him about, but that isn't much better.

"Stay here," Seokjin says absently, and Yoongi collapses on a park bench. "I don't have service."

Yoongi blows some hair out of his face. "If you try to stand up on this park bench to get a better signal I'm leaving forever."

"Aw, lil meow meow is grumpy," Seokjin cooes. "You know what's going to help that?"

"Leaving forever."

"Ice cream." He bops Yoongi's nose. "And better signal. I'm going over there where those kids are playing Pokémon Go to fight with Google Maps."

It's a short walk over to where the kids are trying to pick off a Valor gym, and Seokjin has better luck finding that fucking ice cream parlor. It's around the corner two blocks down, mocking him, and Seokjin howls with delight. He scares both the pigeons and the children, but he returns to Yoongi triumphant.

Or he would, if he didn't see Yoongi standing up in front of a man in a trench coat.

Yoongi doesn't look enough like a child that Seokjin is actually worried, but trench coats are never good news. The bastard even has a briefcase. Bad news all around.

Seokjin's phone is awkwardly held up to his chest, and he's worried about interrupting, but the line of Yoongi's shoulders is less than ideal, and there's a sneer hidden under the other man's polite expression that makes something curl ugly in Seokjin's stomach.

"—r mother said. I'm happy for you," he's saying, clapping Yoongi on the shoulder, and when Yoongi turns his head to stare at it Seokjin sees the uncomfortable set of his jaw. "I don't think the company was a great fit for you, anyway. I'm happy you're pursuing other avenues."

It's almost a split second too late when Seokjin remembers that Yoongi has an...unusual reaction to stress. He leaps forward gracelessly, pulling Yoongi's hood up over his head just as he feels that odd static in the air, and the growl building in Yoongi's throat turns into a sputter as he tries to keep his balance. Seokjin clings to his back, both to help him stay up and also to make it less awkward that he almost tackled Yoongi to the ground. He hooks his arms around Yoongi's shoulders cutely. "Who is this?" he asks, smiling. "An old friend?"

Yoongi lifts one hand to cover Seokjin's, trying to calm the rapid beating of his heart at the surprise, and pats the top of his head with the other, feeling the odd points of his ears. He huffs. "Mr. Byun works in my mother's offices," he says flatly.

"Call me Jaebeom," Mr. Byun tells Seokjin, not bothering to extend a hand. "I was just telling Yoongi how excited I was when Hyunjung told me he was broadening his horizons." The curl of his mouth implies it's for the best.

Yoongi squeezes Seokjin's hand.

"How long did you work for Yoongi?" Seokjin asks sweetly, setting his chin on top of Yoongi's head.

"I wouldn't say I worked for him," Jaebeom says.

"Really?" Seokjin blinks. "But Yoongi owns almost half the company?"

Yoongi coughs awkwardly.

"Even if he...uh..." Seokjin quirks his mouth, "expands his horizons...doesn't he own half of you, too?"

"Jin," Yoongi says quietly, patting Seokjin's arm. "He was just asking about my life, don't remind him of unfavorable things."

Like the fact that he'll never be where Yoongi is.

"Well, surely he knows you'll take the reins someday." Seokjin loves playing vapid. He smiles his prettiest at Jeobeom. "But you've been so nice today, I'm sure he'll remember you."

"Well." Jaebeom smiles tightly. "I do plan on staying with the company for a long time, Mr. Min allowing." He bows. "I won't keep you."

"I'm sure you won't." Yoongi isn't good at hiding when he's irritated, cat ears or no.

"Tell Hyunjung Seokjin says hello!" Seokjin chirps, and Jaebeom bows one more time before going on his way.

Seokjin feels the way his shoulders slump when the man is out of sight. "I..." Yoongi rubs a hand down his face. "Wow."

"Wow," Seokjin agrees. He stops hanging on Yoongi quite so heavily, but he leaves his hands on Yoongi's shoulders because he knows Yoongi likes the comfort in touching.

Yoongi is still looking in the direction Jaebeom left, but his eyes are far away. "Have you ever hated someone you're supposed to love?"

Something tightens. "No," Seokjin answers honestly.

Yoongi takes a deep breath and pushes his hood down off his head, shaking a hand through his hair to make sure there are no more surprises. "Right."

It's weird. Seokjin feels like a person who can figure out what someone needs, but he's never sure what to give Yoongi unless it's his shoulder and a place to stay. He rubs his hands up and down Yoongi's arms, like he's trying to warm away the chill of the moment, and then he tugs on his hand, pulling him away from the bench and grabbing some of the grocery bags. "Let's go home."

After a second, Yoongi grabs the last bag and shuffles forward. "Nah." He rolls his head on his neck and then he's smiling. "Let's go get ice cream."

 


 

There are worse things, Seokjin thinks, than taking in strays.

 


 

Old ladies love Yoongi. It's one of Seokjin's favorite things, because Yoongi never knows what to do about it.

He's polite in a gruff way, oddly filial for someone who's family is such a shit-show, although Seokjin knows very little beyond hey, my mother turned me into a cat to prevent me from taking over a company and now I'm homeless. Still, it's like Yoongi attracts old women like a magnet. He's always holding the door open for one or walking another across the street, trying not to look miserable while she pinches his cheek and tells him about her golden years.

"Oh, I used to be quite a catch," this one is saying, mostly to Yoongi, although Seokjin is also there enjoying the show. They're helping her load her groceries into the car, which would be fine except she might be a recluse purchasing enough to last her a month, and it's taking a very long time.

"I'm sure you're still a catch, ma'am," Yoongi says flatly, not-unkindly but not smiling either, and it's more endearing than if he were going out of his way to be charming.

And she laughs appreciatively. "Oh, nothing like I used to be. You stop that." Her cheeks are cherry red and she swats at Yoongi's shoulder. "Just me and an empty house these days."

"Grandchildren?" Seokjin asks, heaving an enormous ficus into the back hatch of her car. He has no idea how she gets in and out of this vehicle it's so high off the ground.

"They visit," she admits. "Not as often as I'd like, but they live in the mountains, you know. Too far to come over for lunch every now and then."

Yoongi does smile, then, his eyes scrunching up and his teeth all showing. "I'll come visit. Name the time and place. I'm there. I'll bring the tea."

The old lady — her name is Jaehwa — she actually pinches Yoongi's cheek then. "You aren't as good as my grandchildren," she teases, "but I'll never say no to some company."

It's a nice exchange, even if Seokjin's back is aching by the end, and at the end Jaehwa pulls herself into her enormous car and looks at Seokjin seriously. "Keep him," she tells him, while Yoongi is going to put up the cart. "A quality husband, boyfriend, partner...whatever you children call each other these days."

Seokjin is still a little flustered when Yoongi gets back.

"Do you think you'll ever get married?" Seokjin asks once they've clambered back into Yoongi's car, one of the few things he's managed to get his hands on in the battle with his mother. Taehyung is devastated he doesn't need to chauffeur Seokjin around all the time, but Seokjin doesn't miss having to pay him by doing his laundry or making his meals. Soonshim is cute though. Seokjin misses her. They should stop by sometime.

Yoongi laughs. "You trying to set me up with Jaehwa?"

"No." Seokjin laughs as he pulls out of the parking lot. Yoongi prefers it when Seokjin drives, for whatever reason. He suspects it's because Yoongi is lazy. "She's way out of your league."

Yoongi just hums in agreement, reclining his seat and sticking his feet up on the dash. Seokjin almost chastises him before he remembers that it's Yoongi's car in the first place. "I almost got married once."

Seokjin wants to say wow, same but he's not sure whatever him and Hyosang were doing counted. "Have you got a jilted lover?"

"Hardly." Yoongi's mouth twists. "Arranged marriage."

"Gross." Seokjin grimaces. Yoongi doesn't really seem like the arranged marriage type. He's very particular, despite not being difficult to get along with. It seems like it would take someone special to make Yoongi happy.

"Mom's orders, you know." Yoongi shrugs. "Her final attempt to get me out of her hair."

That makes sense. Seokjin doesn't point out that the actual final attempt was his actual death because that seems like beating a dead bush. "How'd you get out of that one?"

Yoongi makes a weird face, like a cartoon. "I told her no and then announced at a Christmas party that I was gay."

Seokjin can't help himself. He scoffs out a laugh. "Oh, she must have been livid." He claps his hand on his leg in delight. "I wish I had been there. Oh my god."

"My fiancée handled it really well." Yoongi twists a grocery bag around and around in his hands, a little bitter, but the expression on his face says that it's a fond memory at the very least. "She's still single and handling half of her father's company, so I don't think her future was really hinging on the union the way my mother said that it was."

"You're mother is full of shit," Seokjin says succinctly.

"Well." Yoongi taps his mouth and looks out the window. They're almost home. "I'm a little full of shit, too."

Seokjin flicks Yoongi's thigh. "It looks better on you, though."

 


 

"Do you work today?"

Yoongi is in the process of trying to match socks when Seokjin comes stumbling out of the shower, running a towel over his hair. He's running late. Like, so fucking late. Nothing good ever happens when he runs this late.

"Yeah. All day. Fuck." Seokjin scrambles over to the couch where their laundry is spread out (mostly Seokjin's — Yoongi's mostly been wearing his clothes. Designer doesn't seem necessary when the only people who see him are Seokjin and Hoseok and maybe Soonhee). He'd thought he had a work shirt clean in his drawer, but now he's half-naked ten minutes before his bus leaves trying to shuffle through a mountain of t-shirts and hoodies.

Yoongi clears his throat. "Here." He holds out what Seokjin is looking for, the collar hanging off the tip of his finger, and Seokjin snatches it with relish, pulling it over his head with a harried thank you.

The feeling of the fabric against his neck, damp from his hair, isn't pleasant, but Seokjin is honestly too rushed to care much. His bag is sitting ready on the coffee table and he grabs one strap, frantically tucking his shirt into his pants. "God. Okay. I'll see you later." Leans in.

He isn't really thinking until he looks at Yoongi's face, sees the cat ears, and realizes he just kissed him on the cheek.

"Habit," Seokjin says, robotic.

"Right." Yoongi blinks, hands mechanically folding the laundry. His ears twitch. It's. Cute.

Seokjin rubs the side of Yoongi's face, like if he removes his spit he can save the moment. "This didn't happen."

"You're going to miss your bus." Yoongi is smiling a little crookedly. "Stop touching my face."

"I love you, honey," Seokjin chirps, patting Yoongi's cheek just to be annoying. "Light of my life."

Seokjin misses his bus. Yoongi just laughs when he texts him about it.

 


 

Seokjin is mildly late for work, and he bursts in complaining about the asshole he had to share a row with, and he trips on the mat just in time for Joohyun to see it and laugh at him.

The good thing is that Seokjin doesn't give a fuck what Joohyun thinks, so it's not that bad of a morning.

It's a long shift, though, and Seokjin forgot coffee in the rush of the morning. Nayeon laughs at him until Jisoo forces her to let him at the pot she'd made that morning, and Boss is only mildly grumpy that Seokjin consumes enough for four customers combined. He's near jittery by mid-afternoon, but it's enough to get him through the dinner rush and his hands only shake a little bit.

The headache is just a nice bonus.

He has to pull a little more than his weight because Hansol, the new kid, gets swamped with a rowdy party of 15, so Seokjin agrees to be a good Samaritan and help cover the other tables in his section. His tips tonight are looking nice already, so he doesn't mind splitting some with Hansol. Hansol will help him out in the future. He's a good kid.

Still it's a long shift.

"What are you guys whispering about?" he asks, late at night. They're having a special at the bar, so there are lots of people still lingering even after the sun has set and their usual crowd has dissipated. Seokjin's favorite bunch is the old people who come in for breakfast, but he can appreciate a college student trying to get drunk cheap. He supports them.

Yerim, Hansol, and Jeonghan are clustered together around the front podium, heads together like they're causing trouble, and Seokjin is honestly offended he hadn't been included. It's almost the end of his shift, to be fair. He hopes tonight is a night that Yoongi cooks or orders in. He's dead on his feet, and his shoulders are tense enough he thinks his entire back might fall onto the floor in a giant, meaty slab.

All three of them turn to face Seokjin at the same time, expression completely normal, and Seokjin starts getting nervous. "We were just gossiping," Hansol says.

"And no one invited me?" Seokjin counters.

Jeonghan drapes himself over the podium, chin resting on his hands. "You're stiff and boring. Let the young things play by ourselves."

"I resent literally every part of that statement." Seokjin's bag is digging into his shoulder. He's only got half an hour left before he can clock out, all his current tables taken care of and no new ones in sight, so he slips the bag under the podium for ease. He's not going to bother changing tonight. The bus can deal with his food smell. "Come on."

Hansol's a little shit, but he hasn't been here long enough to really say fuck all to respecting his elders, so Seokjin knows he's the weakest link. When Hansol's eyes slip over Seokjin's shoulder, Seokjin follows.

He stares, just for a moment, before turning back and looking Jeonghan in the eye. "I'm not serving them."

Jeonghan just waves his hands. "We know. You don't have to. Don't worry about it."

Honestly, there are worse things than seeing Hyosang and Jieun here tonight, and Seokjin's been in worse moods and still managed to keep his wits, but it's just something he rather wouldn't have to do. His relationship with Hyosang isn't one he thinks about often, but there's a wound stitched closed somewhere that always bleeds a little when he does.

It's been five months now, and that's enough time to heal, but three years thrown out the window still rankles.

But.

Seokjin purses his lips. "What do you mean, you know?"

Jeonghan blinks at him, the picture of innocence.

God bless, Nayeon, who detected drama and appeared out of thin air. "Oh, shit, he's back?" she asks blithely, blowing stray hair out of her face. She's got a batch of freshly rolled napkins to put under the podium, but Jeonghan is standing there giving her the evil eye until she sees Seokjin. "Shit, man. He didn't sit in your section this time, did he?"

"This time?" Seokjin asks.

Yerim chews on the inside of her cheek and flicks Nayeon on the shoulder, not that Nayeon seems to care at all. "He comes sometimes."

"All the fucking time." Nayeon pushes Jeonghan out of the way with her hip and slides the silverware into its place. "Either alone or with that girl. She's way out of his league," she finishes dreamily.

"Tips well," Hansol adds.

"Always asks if you're working." Yerim twirls the end of her pony tail around her finger, picking at the dead ends.

"Literally how?" Seokjin laughs. "I work all the damn time."

"This is a multi-level operation," Jeonghan tells him, wiping down menus so he looks like he's doing anything other than avoiding work. "We're very systematic at seating him as far from you as possible."

"Or like, having you cover other sections when there's no choice." Nayeon laughs. "He has bad timing, though. Usually it's not very difficult."

Seokjin remembers as much. Hyosang has bad luck in general, always losing things, socks, keys. Always forgetting important details. At the time it was endearing. Now Seokjin is just grateful. His mind is struggling, just slightly, to process that Hyosang would show up at his work on purpose with his girlfriend and ask for him specifically.

He turns back around to look, wondering, and sees Hyosang staring at him over Jieun's shoulder. Seokjin smiles, charming, and then turns towards Jeonghan, sucking on his teeth. "I'm going to take a half hour shit and then leave."

Yerim pats him on the back. "Sounds like a great plan."

It is a great plan, and Seokjin spends approximately 2 minutes going to the bathroom and then 26 minutes playing shitty mobile phone games before braving the outside world and grabbing his bag from beneath the podium. It's a nice night, and all he has to do is make his way from the restaurant to the bus station, and then everything is fine and he can watch shitty television and maybe rant to Yoongi just for yucks.

Except that he's not even around around the corner when he hears feet on the pavement.

"Seokjin," Hyosang calls behind him, and Seokjin turns with a sigh. "Wait up."

"Did you leave Jieun behind to chase me through the streets?" Seokjin smiles at him, tense. "Chivalry really is dead."

Hyosang grimaces. "I'm sorry. I just...needed to talk to you."

Seokjin twists his mouth, holds himself around the middle. "Hmmm." He doesn't say anything else. Their breakup wasn't very amicable, but they'd both left things open for apologies and neither side had made any. Besides, Hyosang had said plenty the last time they really talked.

"I wanted to apologize for springing Jieun on you," Hyosang says, genuine. "I didn't know you worked here. I don't want you to think it was intentional."

"Of course not," Seokjin replies, keeping his voice amicable. He doesn't point out that apparently Hyosang has shown up plenty of times since then, Jieun in tow, and even now has cornered Seokjin into talking without thinking about either Seokjin or his girlfriend. Even if his intentions are good.

Hyosang is waiting for something. Seokjin doesn't know what to give him.

"You're not an easy person to get over," Hyosang adds.

"You look like you're doing just fine." Seokjin sighs. "You don't need to apologize for that."

"No, I just..." He runs a hand over his face. He looks tired. "Nothing about this was easy." There's something he desperately wants to say. Seokjin can see it sitting in his throat. He's not sure he wants to hear it.

Seokjin pulls a little on the straps of his bag. "That's okay."

Hyosang looks at him, prodding. "I...We're engaged." He swallows. "Jieun and I."

This seems like a cruel kind of conversation to force on someone, but Seokjin chokes something ugly down. "Congratulations." Further than they had gotten in three years. Seokjin wonders how long it took them. It's too cold outside to be having a long conversation right now. The restaurant is still within view, and if Seokjin cared enough maybe he would recommend they go back inside, but the cold is a good excuse to keep this short.

Whatever Seokjin is supposed to be doing right now, he isn't doing it. Hyosang is shaking his head at him in disbelief. "Doesn't that make you feel anything?" he demands, like he's the one who might cry. His eyes are red. "Do you care at all?"

Hyosang's parting words come up from the deep, and if this is the conversation he wants to have right now then Seokjin wants no part in it. "I said congratulations," Seokjin replies. "What do you want me to do? Kick and scream?" Seokjin won't. No matter how much he wants to. He's not going to give Hyosang the satisfaction, and he's long since lost the trust.

"I just want you to do something" Hyosang tells him, with weight. "That's all I've ever wanted."

"Sangie." Seokjin huffs. "I dated you for three years. I did everything for three years with you." He won't say it doesn't hurt that Hyosang is jumping into a marriage with this girl he barely knows, but in the end it was Seokjin who wanted to hold off the wedding until they were settled. At this point, he's glad. Obviously whatever they had wasn't forever. "I feel like that should be enough." He isn't sure how much more he can give than he gave. He's still wondering where exactly things went wrong.

Hyosang rolls his eyes, frustrated. "It isn't, though. I never even knew what you were thinking, or how you felt, or anything?"

"You knew me better than anyone else!" Seokjin argues, because it was true, and probably still is. "Me putting up with your shitty work hours and taking care of you when you were sick and kissing you and loving you for three years wasn't enough? That's fine. I just don't understand how it's my fault."

"Because I'm getting married to a beautiful woman four months after we broke up and you don't even care!"

"Five." Seokjin takes a deep breath. "Five months."

It's quiet outside. Seokjin hadn't noticed it until now, with Hyosang staring at him and his heart racing. He's angry. He lets it read through the line of his shoulder and swallows everything else down.

"Hey!" It's a female voice, vaguely familiar, and when Seokjin looks past Hyosang he's sees it's Jieun, walk-running towards them from the restaurant, bag falling off her shoulder. "Hyosangie." She hooks her hand through his elbow, a little breathless. "You're lucky you paid before you left or I'd be angry."

"Sorry, baby," Hyosang murmurs. "Seokjin is just hard to catch."

Seokjin melts his tension and smiles at her. She really is sweet. If she's a better fit for Hyosang...

Seokjin isn't sweet. Not always. There's no surprise in that. Maybe he and Hyosang were never going to work.

Still, looking at her, him, the both of them makes him a little sour. He smiles anyway. "Hello, Jieun." He gestures towards her hand, the diamond glittering nicely on her finger. "I hear congratulations are in order."

"Ah." She smiles up at Hyosang, and she's clearly in love. It reads everywhere. Seokjin kind of wishes he could be that way, too. She holds out her hand, showing Seokjin the ring, and he oohs and ahhs appropriately. "It's kind of a fast engagement, but—"

Seokjin laughs. "I bet."

Hyosang mutters something inter her hair, but she's still beaming.

"I know seven months isn't very long," she says, "but it just feels right, you know?"

Jieun is the only warm thing between them, now, and Seokjin's blood runs cold. Something awful and brittle flashes over his face. He can tell because he feels something slip, sees Jieun looks at him in alarm. "Seven months?" he says, throat tight. "That's...ah, that's longer than I expected." He clears his throat into his shoulder.

"Thank you." Jieun isn't stupid, but she's smart enough not to ask.

Seven months.

He hopes that Hyosang feels like a piece of shit.

None of this is easy. Seokjin wants to vomit. He was happier half an hour ago playing solitaire in the bathroom.

"Jieun," Hyosang says quietly. "Why don't you go warm up the car?"

Jieun isn't stupid. She goes anyway.

Hyosang really doesn't deserve her.

Seokjin waits, but it's not for Hyosang. It's for himself. "I'm going to miss my bus," he says, turning to go.

"I wanted..." Hyosang still sounds so small. For some reason that pisses Seokjin off more than anything. "I wanted to tell you."

Seokjin doubts that. He doubts it with a brutal kind of surety. "I can't believe..." Seokjin laughs bitterly. His voice cracks. He hates that. "I can't believe you think I didn't love you enough." It's funny, in a warped way.

Things are more warped between them than Seokjin remembers them being.

He doesn't miss his bus this time, if only because he leaves Hyosang standing in the parking lot.

Yoongi is waiting for him at home, sprawled out over the couch, watching a college basketball game with a giant bowl of popcorn on his lap. "Hey," he calls over his shoulder when he hears the door open. "I didn't know when you were getting home so I just ordered a pizza. It's in the fridge."

Seokjin throws his keys on the table, and that's when Yoongi looks over at him, finally. He's sure his face is puffy and red, but the last thing he wants to do is talk about it. "Okay. Thanks."

"Are you okay?" Yoongi looks lost.

"Peachy." Curt. Seokjin huffs at himself. He'd had the whole bus ride to get ahold of himself, but he's been swirling around in his own head for too long. He needs to go to sleep. He thinks he might skip dinner. He never skips dinner.

Yoongi pads over in his sock feet. "Do you...want to—"

"I'm fine," Seokjin says pointedly, smiling at him, but it's tense and weird and he feels strung out. "I just need...sleep. I should just go to sleep." He takes a deep breath. It comes out too shuddery for his liking.

Yoongi is running through a list of things he can do in his head, Seokjin can read it in his eyes. "You can talk to me," he settles on, voice soft, "if you need to."

Seokjin stares into the kitchen light until his eyes burn. "I'm so great."

Yoongi laughs at him. It's fine. He still looks helpless. "I..." He scratches his neck. "You wanna be alone or...?"

Seokjin busies himself with doing the few dishes left in the sink. A coffee cup. A plate. A fork. Not enough to properly distract him. "I don't want anything," he says gently. "You're fine." He looks over at Yoongi and smiles at the abject concern on his face. "You don't have to look like someone just died. It's fine." He'll be fine in the morning. Seokjin knows that for a fact.

"Do you—" Yoongi cuts himself off with an odd noise. "Right."

He isn't one to rant about his problems, but it's been a long time since someone has seemed genuinely concerned about Seokjin's wellbeing other than Soonhee and Heeyeon. Seokjin is just holding onto everything with a white knuckled grip and it doesn't matter if it's bad for him, because if anything slips through it'll hurt worse than letting it fester.

Seokjin rubs his eyes. It's late at night now. Does he even want to shower? He doesn't really want to be a person until the morning but he's not sure he'll sleep. He sighs. "Hyosang just stopped by at work, that's all."

And Yoongi, blessed Yoongi, says the perfect thing. "Who?"

Seokjin laughs. "Exactly." He puts the silverware in the drawer with more force than necessary. "Good riddance."

"I'm not a professional or anything," Yoongi says, "but I feel like you want to talk about it."

"Are your kitty senses tingling?" Seokjin asks. "Can you smell catnip on the wind?"

Yoongi looks at him flatly. "I hate everything about you." It might have more of an effect if he doesn't look like a giant sack in Seokjin's sweatshirt and there wasn't pizza sauce on the corner of his mouth.

"Get in line," Seokjin tells him cheerfully.

Yoongi leaves him alone, eventually, and Seokjin continues cleaning the kitchen in a haze until he feels like he's moved forward enough to settle in his bones. He doesn't feel this way often. He hates it. He takes great pains to avoid feeling like this ever.

He wishes he'd never given Hyosang the power to shake him.

Seokjin appreciates the way Yoongi stays quiet, but it makes him feel a little more alone and a little more off-balance. He brushes his teeth and leaves the water running afterwards. He plays the radio but his head aches. He keeps switching it on and off like maybe it'll soothe something until it doesn't anymore.

The morning needs to hurry up so Seokjin can stop thinking about it.

There's scratching at his bedroom door.

Seokjin's first thought is that they have mice, which would really just be the cherry on the top, but there is a tentative meow and he swallows his tongue.

When he opens the door, there's a small black cat sitting there, staring up at him.

"Meow," Yoongi says plaintively.

With a laugh, more in disbelief than humor, Seokjin stoops down and picks up the cat — Yoongi, that's so fucking weird — and holds him in his arms. Yoongi is bony and soft in all the ways a cat should be, and he nuzzles his face in the crook of Seokjin's arm.

"You're so..." Seokjin's throat is thick. "You're so fucking dumb." He sinks down on the bed.

"Meow." Yoongi nips gently at Seokjin's fingers.

Seokjin's chest hurts. It really fucking hurts. "Three years," Seokjin tells no one. "I thought..." He's crying. So embarrassing. He wants to die. "I thought we were going to get married."

This is the part he hates; when everything tips over the edge of slightly too much and then the walls Seokjin's carefully built can't hold anything anymore. He feels like a flood. He'd rather go back an hour or two and never leave the bathroom.

He holds Yoongi too tightly. "I thought we would have a family together." He laughs, shaking his head. "I'm also a fucking idiot. Fuck." He hangs his head, and when Yoongi squirms to press his paw against Seokjin's cheek he just laughs a little harder. This is ridiculous. "He didn't think I loved him? I don't...I don't understand. I gave up grad school for him." They couldn't pay for both at the same time. He remembers being so fucking happy when Hyosang got his acceptance letter. "He was so...that fucker. Seven months."

Seokjin pauses, sniffling. He's a mess. He sets Yoongi down on the bed and flops backwards. "I really...I didn't even think." He takes a heavy breath. "He just broke up with me out of nowhere and now he's like oh, I just didn't know what you felt? Like, what the fuck?"

"Meow."

"Right." Seokjin laughs again, more genuine. "Like, he's already engaged and I didn't even realize he was cheating on me for two months and he's acting like it's my fault? Like maybe I didn't love him right? Or like..." He throws an arm over his face. "Maybe that's just how I love people and it's not enough?"

Yoongi bites Seokjin's ear.

"Fuck you, too," Seokjin tells him miserably, pulling the cat into his chest.

He sleeps more lightly than he thought he would.

 


 

It's the second time Seokjin wakes up wrapped around Yoongi, and he still isn't wearing pants even though Seokjin fell asleep in his jeans.

"Sorry," Yoongi mutters, staring at the ceiling. Seokjin wonders how long he's been awake.

"Don't be," Seokjin says. His eyes are crusty.

Neither of them move, and Seokjin falls back to sleep.

 


 

That Bitch Heeyeon

Hyosang showed up at work

lol u kick his ass?

Nah man too busy distracted by his lovely fiancée

wait what

Of seven months

THAT BITCH
HYOSANG I MEAN

Yeah lmao the girl seems really nice

more than he deserves -.-

Yeah

brb on my way to u as we speak

It's fine! Lmao just thought we could rant like the old days but suddenly I'm kind of tired?
Damn how do people do this emotions are exhausting?

chocolate and vodka
which i have an emergency supply of in my trunk so don't worry

One of my friends is helping me so I'm like. fine.
But also like
That Bitch

wait r u talking about feelings w someone else
i'm shocked disgusted and suspicious???????

Keep your chocolate and never talk to me again k thanks

 


 

"Is life different when you're a cat?"

"I like fish a lot more than normal." Yoongi takes a long drink of his soda.

They've gone out to eat tonight. Seokjin's been trying to get Yoongi to take him to a fancy restaurant now that he's got his money back, but one look at the menu had them both turning up their noses, so Yoongi took him to an Indian restaurant he used to go to all the time. Seokjin is currently working his way through a family sized portion of rice.

"I mean, like..." Seokjin taps his lips with his spoon. "Do you think the same? How similar are Human Yoongi and Cat Yoongi?"

It's only been a couple days since the night that Hyosang came to the diner, and although Seokjin doubts he'll show up again Joohyun and Boss both told him that he was banned indefinitely ("Until he stops being a fuckhead," Jeonghan had offered). This is something Seokjin has been thinking since then. Cat Yoongi is much less skittish than Human Yoongi.

Yoongi takes a careful bite of biryani and taps the spoon against his cup. "Cat Yoongi is like Human Yoongi but very, very drunk."

It's not a response Seokjin is expecting. "Oh please, elaborate."

"The things I care about as a cat are just...different," Yoongi says slowly, after painstakingly wiping his hands on his napkin. His cheeks are red. It's cute. "Things that are difficult as a human are easier, and vice versa."

"Is it okay if I scratch your ears when you're a human?" Seokjin teases, and enjoys the flush that travels from Yoongi's cheeks to his neck. "Let you nuzzle up?"

"Fuck you," Yoongi spits, half-heartedly, kicking Seokjin under the table.

 


 

Seokjin kind of gets it, though. There's a lot about Yoongi that's lazy and careless, like the way he walks and the way he eats and way he talks, but underneath everything is a weird tension that never quite gets to the point of snapping.

He thinks about the way Yoongi is so much more affectionate as a cat, and the way that Yoongi melts when they're curled up watching television, and the way he's an octopus the few times they've shared a bed, and then Seokjin is thinking about all of the times he's held Yoongi and wonders if that's weird.

Still, maybe some things are just easier as a cat.

Seokjin isn't sure how much control Yoongi has over his transformation. There are plenty of times where it's clear Yoongi doesn't have any control whatsoever — like the time his tail pops out when the barista messes up his order and is rude about it, or the time Seokjin scares him in the grocery store and he poofs into a cat in the middle of the frozen meals section. But recently Yoongi has taken to prancing up to Seokjin as a cat during late, lazy nights, stealing some of Seokjin's popcorn and curling up in the low-light on the window sill or against Seokjin's thigh.

Yoongi is kind of boneless during those moments, at ease in a way he isn't often as a human, and he's also annoying, because he wants Seokjin's attention always just like a normal cat. He eats Seokjin's food when he isn't looking and he throws the remote off the couch when Seokjin is watching something he doesn't like and also he flicks his tail in Seokjin's face just to be the absolute worst.

Still not the worst roommate Seokjin has ever had.

And Seokjin isn't stupid, either. Seokjin isn't brutal enough to make Yoongi pay rent when he's literally been displaced and is in a legal battle with his mom, but there are other ways that Yoongi is taking care of him that he can't seem to dissuade. Hoseok's instatement as the new landlord was just the beginning. The apartment complex in general is being upgraded, slowly but surely. The elevator that hasn't worked since Seokjin got here is fixed all of a sudden, and the gym gets new equipment, and one day on his way to work Seokjin sees that the sidewalk is being repaired.

There are smaller things, too, like the way groceries just appear in Seokjin's pantry, or the way he complains about the washing machine being a fucking mess only to come home to a brand new one. Yoongi swears up and down that maintenance replaced it, but Seokjin knows that's not how cheap rental apartments work so he's not sure who Yoongi is trying to fool.

Seokjin thanks him by petting behind his ears and not making it weird when Cat Yoongi falls asleep on the other side of the bed. Human Yoongi isn't the worst thing to wake up to, anyway.

 


 

Heeyeon has always been a spontaneous creature, popping up wherever she feels like without the social limitations of asking permission. She's like a strange, lesbian cryptid, even in high school, living on a whim and the drinks sad men buy her at bars. Seokjin is so proud of her.

It's why he's not surprised when he's casually arguing with Yoongi over the pros and cons of a Mario-based form of government and gets a text saying hey r u off today i just flew into town please give me a place to live

"Are your friends like this?" he asks with a snort, showing Yoongi the text message. They're both sitting on the couch, fighting over the only blanket Seokjin seems to own, and he presses his cold feet into Yoongi's shins just to be an asshole.

"Jungkook," Yoongi says gruffly. "He always wanted to use the workout room."

Seokjin squints at him.

"He was the only one that used the workout room," Yoongi admits.

"Sounds right." Seokjin grins, tapping away at his phone. "Do you mind if she comes over?" Yoongi isn't exactly a hermit, but he does a lot better at being social when he's in a suit than when he's at home. All he does in the apartment is grunt, sleep, whine, and take out the trash.

Still, Seokjin isn't actually expecting him to hesitate. "I mean..." Yoongi bites his lip. "What are you going to tell her?"

"About you?" Seokjin shrugs. "That I picked up a stray." He ruffles Yoongi's hair.

Yoongi looks at him flatly. "Do you want me and your soulmate sharing a couch?"

Seokjin snorts. "You'd be so lucky." He taps his lips with the top of his phone, thinking. "I mean, I was just assuming you and I would share?"

Yoongi stares at him and Seokjin feels like he said something wrong. "Not you and her?"

"I mean..." Seokjin wets his lips, unsure of why his throat is dry when his palms are suddenly so sweaty. "I guess we could but..." They haven't shared a bed since high school and he's shared a bed with Yoongi...more often than not.

"You just assumed," Yoongi finishes for him.

"Yeah."

Yoongi hums. "She can come over. It's your apartment, anyway."

Seokjin looks at Yoongi, oddly off-balance. "I can tell her no," he says genuinely, "or help her find a hotel?"

"Dude, it's fine." Yoongi laughs. "Go pick her up or whatever. I'll be here when you get back."

 


 

"Sorry for the late notice," Heeyeon is telling Seokjin as they get off the bus. It'd been a better bet going to get her. She doesn't know exactly where Seokjin lives and she hasn't been to the city since Seokjin was dating Hyosang, who had a car — her face reading the bus map said enough. "I just — sometimes you just need to get out of town, you know?"

Seokjin does know. It's the same thing that made him leave home as soon as he'd graduated grade school, but for him it's a momentary kind of itch. He thinks it'd be nice to have roots. A house and a dog and job.

He thinks for Heeyeon it might be the opposite. He's honestly surprised she's still in their hometown. He wonders when she's going to grow bold enough to leave for good.

Instead of prompting a conversation on existential dread he just says, "No worries, I don't have any friends and thus also no plans."

"Except for this friend you pour out your heart to when Mommy Heeyeon isn't here to hold you," Heeyeon sniffs.

"Mommy," Seokjin snorts. "Don't make promises you can't keep."

She sighs. "I couldn't get my strap-on through security."

"Also I've got a penis."

"So would I, if I had my strap-on."

Seokjin is laughing more freely than he has in a while by the time they walk through the front doors of his apartment building. He introduces Heeyeon to Hoseok, who now makes a conscious effort to keep his door open during the day, and he proudly shows off the recently fixed elevator to take her up to his floor.

He's not entirely sure how Yoongi and Heeyeon are going to get along, but he would consider Heeyeon fairly similar to himself, and he and Yoongi get along just fine, so he honestly isn't too worried about it. Still, he's very deliberate when he opens the door, purely to give Yoongi time to mentally prepare himself to interact with another human being.

Yoongi doesn't seem to be home, which means that he's a dirty liar and Seokjin is never forgiving him.

Heeyeon is none the wiser, dropping her bag on the dining room table. "Is the couch mine?"

"No." Seokjin walks into the kitchen, trying to decide whether he wants to cook or order in tonight. He takes out his phone, asking Yoongi if he's going to be home for dinner. "We have a coffin for you in the closet."

"I'm honored." She yawns, flopping down on the couch. Yoongi has delicately folded the blanket, put new covers on the pillows, and it's clear that he expects Heeyeon to sleep there. Seokjin wonders if that means he's agreeing to sharing with him or not. Yoongi is stubborn and all over the place. He might have just decided to disappear for the entire weekend.

Or at least Seokjin thinks, before Heeyeon goes into the bathroom to clean up and screeches.

Seokjin is scrolling on his phone, having just ordered enough pizza for three and then some, waiting for a reply from Yoongi. "You okay?" he asks noncommittally. He's known her long enough to know when it's a scream of terror versus a scream of joy.

Heeyeon comes out of the bathroom in a towel holding Yoongi and Seokjin knows he's fucked.

And by holding Yoongi he means she's very clearly holding Yoongi as a cat like he's Simba and she's going to be showing him off to the entirety of Pride Rock. "When you said you picked up a stray," Heeyeon says, "I didn't know you meant literally."

Seokjin gives Yoongi the stink eye. The cat is bored, yawning at him, and he doesn't seem to mind Heeyeon throwing him around at all, probably because he doesn't have to deal with her as a human.

"Yeah," Seokjin answers eventually, watching Heeyeon cradle the cat against her chest. "I lured him out from the dumpster with an expired can of tuna and now he sleeps under my bed like the gremlin he is."

Yoongi hisses in Seokjin's direction as Heeyeon continues cooing at him like a baby. "What's his name?"

"Petty-dwarf."

She plops Yoongi on Seokjin's lap while she showers, and Yoongi bites Seokjin's thumb for the horrible name but Seokjin doesn't even care. He picks Yoongi up like a baby because he knows Yoongi hates that. "You're the fucking worst," he coos. "Yes, you are."

It's good to know that Yoongi would rather pretend to be an actual animal than interact with a strange human. Seokjin notes down to surprise Yoongi if he ever wants him to meet any of his friends.

Yoongi stays there until Heeyeon is done, even if Seokjin pretends to be mad at him, and he only opens a lazy eye when she comes out in her pajamas and flops on the couch beside them. "Netflix?"

"Amazon Prime," Seokjin answers, just to spite the fucking cat. Yoongi's been watching Jack Ryan and he's going to be pissed Seokjin is watching it now when he can't yell angrily at the screen.

"Nice." Heeyeon settles her head against Seokjin's shoulder, hair getting the sleeve of his shirt wet, and runs a hand through Yoongi's fur.

All in all, it's a good night.

"I like the city life," Heeyeon says eventually, and Seokjin just laughs at her.

"This isn't city living," he tells her. "This is exactly what you do every night at home."

She smiles wickedly. "That's why I like it."

"I'll take you out clubbing tomorrow night," Seokjin tells her, only half-joking. "I'll let you borrow my lingerie and we can get you a hot hookup."

Yoongi chokes on a hairball.

Heeyeon gently picks him up from Seokjin's lap and puts him in hers. "My tits won't look as nice as yours," she says with a heavy sigh.

"That's what contour is for."

She laughs, hands still combing through Yoongi's fur while the poor thing looks like he's about to bolt at any second. "So."

That's never good. Seokjin smiles at her pointedly. "So?"

Heeyeon tucks her hair behind her ear. She chopped it all off the day after graduation, but she's growing it out now. All she talks about recently is dyeing it purple. "Tell me about this friend."

For a second, Seokjin has no idea what she's talking about, and he looks down at Yoongi in her lap and things click together. "What about him?"

She squints at him. "Have you sucked his dick?" she asks, like how dare Seokjin act like she'd ask anything else.

Yoongi yeowls.

"I have not because I am a lady," Seokjin says, hand pressed to his heart like a Southern Belle, but no amount of joking stops the way his cheeks heat up a bit.

Heeyeon narrows her eyes more and Yoongi looks like he would rather be anywhere else. "Do you want to?"

"We're just friends," Seokjin tells her firmly. "If I sucked all my friends' dicks then my relationship with the old lady next door would be horrifyingly different."

"Dude." Heeyeon smirks, stabbing a perfectly manicured finger into Seokjin's arm. "This friend helped you through an emotional breakdown over an ex to the point you sent me a throwaway text — which yes, I am offended about — meanwhile I don't think anyone has seen you cry except for your mother since the seventh grade."

"My mother has never seen me so vulnerable," Seokjin scoffs. "Even when I came out of the womb I had complete and total self-control. I have never had a feeling, ever and it's rude of you to insinuate otherwise."

Yoongi and Heeyeon wear matching, unimpressed expressions, and Seokjin decides he needs better friends.

 


 

Heeyeon falls asleep on the couch in the middle of the Jack Ryan finale, something Yoongi finds particularly offensive, and he sits on the coffee table, watching Seokjin carefully tucking her into bed. She doesn't stir, not even once, and it's nice to know that some things never change.

"She's taking your bed tonight," Seokjin says to Yoongi, who hasn't moved save for a twitching tail. "So what's it going to be?"

Seokjin only feels mildly triumphant when Yoongi hops off the table and trots towards his bedroom.

 


 

It's always nice having Heeyeon around, even if it's just for a whirlwind of a weekend. They do go out clubbing, but Seokjin is old and tired and Heeyeon is only in it for the free drinks. They both dress up and look hot and only dance with each other, and it's a good night all the way through, even though Yoongi — as Petty-dwarf — judges them as they stumble through the door past their bedtimes.

"Next time," Seokjin tells Yoongi in the safety of their bedroom, still drunk, "stop being a furry troll long enough to get drunk and dance with us."

Yoongi just licks his paw and ignores him until Seokjin takes off his shirt and throws it over his head.

It's nice, too, to have an excuse to wake up with someone in his bed in the morning. There's a small hour, between six and seven when the sun is coming up and Yoongi's a human and dead to the world, where Seokjin can admit to himself that he misses this. It's an easy kind of physical affection, grounding, and Yoongi is responsive even when asleep, clinging like a koala and pursing his lips in his sleep. His face gets puffy in the morning. The sharp edges don't appear until after coffee.

When Heeyeon leaves, Seokjin quietly packs away the blanket and puts the pillow back on his own bed and when Yoongi sees him neither of them mention it. Seokjin doesn't ask but Yoongi doesn't protest, either, and Seokjin thinks this is one thing that he can take if he wants to.

Yoongi is a lot easier to deal with as a cat in a lot of ways, but Seokjin is happy when Heeyeon leaves and he has the pleasure of Yoongi's stupid company again. Still, after being a cat for almost three days in a row Yoongi is a bit more prickly than usual, and a lot more demanding than he might be otherwise. Seokjin's theory is that the three days spoiled him, from all the attention Heeyeon lavished on him. Seokjin gave him plenty of attention, too, if he's being honest with himself. He's hard to deny, when he's curled up and kneading at Seokjin's thigh, even when Seokjin knows the cat will get bored after a few minutes and go off to find a sunny spot in the living room.

Oddly enough, he does the same thing as a human.

Seokjin is sitting on the couch, laptop on his legs, trying to sift through grad applications. He'd put his education on hold but he's been thinking about going back. His essay writing skills are rusty, and some of the schools nearby are looking for things he's not qualified to give them, but he writes down the names anyway and looks into how to get the qualifications, in case this turns into a longer endeavor. He's almost certain it will. He doesn't have much to offer a university at the moment, at least not in terms of what they're looking for — primarily meaning money.

Yoongi has been in a stormy mood since this morning, whining about Seokjin getting out of bed so early and waking him up, sulky when Seokjin gets back from the gym, moody when he eats his leftover pizza. Seokjin has mostly been ignoring him, deciding to focus on chores and errands and anything else. Sometimes Yoongi just gets like this. If he's a big boy he'll just ask for whatever he wants.

He's sitting next to where Seokjin is curled up on the sofa, a hot mug of tea in his hands, cold demon feet pressed up against Seokjin's shins, and he's glaring at Seokjin's profile. Seokjin might be worried, except that Yoongi has a tendency to glare at the nearest object when he's thinking very hard about something, so he doubts it's personal.

Or so he thinks, until Yoongi starts gently kicking the side of Seokjin's computer.

The first time it happens Seokjin isn't sure if he saw correctly, so focused on the screen that when it starts sliding down he just holds it steady in a panic. Yoongi is just blinking at him slowly, mouth pursed, and when Yoongi does nothing except take a drink of his tea Seokjin wonders if he imagined it.

But Yoongi does it again, this time putting his whole foot over the keyboard where Seokjin's hands are supposed to go, pouting completely when Seokjin looks at him incredulously.

"What?" Seokjin demands, shoving Yoongi's foot off the laptop and deleting the mymthngr fvdc his heel had typed into the search bar.

Yoongi just makes a weird sound in the back of his throat. "I'm bored."

"I'm busy," Seokjin says, maybe a tiny more acerbic than intended, but he's got things to do and he's got a shift later tonight he isn't looking forward to. He needs to get a good start on this before then or he'll just be distracted all night.

Yoongi doesn't reply, so Seokjin goes back to his computer.

He pointedly doesn't look at Yoongi when he hears the other man shuffling around, arranging himself so he's almost draped over Seokjin's side. This isn't exactly unlike him; on days when they're both lazy and bored sometimes Seokjin will pull Yoongi and he goes readily enough, melted and pliant. Honestly, though, usually he's a cat. And what's more, this is way more forward than he usually is, rarely the initiator. Seokjin wouldn't mind except he's actually trying to work on something and Yoongi puts his entire arm over the keyboard this time.

"Yoongi," he scolds, even as Yoongi keeps making that weird noise. "Seriously?"

"You've been doing that all day," Yoongi tells him, not quite whining.

Seokjin almost throws Yoongi's arm to the side. "So?" He's testy. He's moody because Yoongi's been moody and seriously? Now is when he decides to be forward? "What do you even want?"

Yoongi buries his face in Seokjin's shoulder. "Seokjin," he mumbles into the fabric, and Seokjin might think the flush on his cheeks as he says it is cute but he's not going to admit it.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Seokjin sighs, more tired than angry. "What?"

Maybe Seokjin is on a tight thread today, but when Yoongi says something so quietly into Seokjin's sleeve that he can't even hear it, he snaps.

So Seokjin is closing his laptop and pushing it to the side. "What?" he asks again, but it didn't work the other times, so Seokjin grips Yoongi by the arm and tries to pull his face out of his shirt. He isn't expecting Yoongi to go so willingly, and he just keeps pulling, and somehow Yoongi ends up in Seokjin's lap, face cherry-red.

There's a weird moment where Seokjin feels like he's pulled a little too far, like he's standing on nothing and has nowhere left to go. Weird. But. Seokjin has held Yoongi in his lap as a cat. Surely this is similar enough. Or something. Surely. He swallows, eyebrows still knit. "What do you want?"

"I..." Yoongi looks mildly constipated, tugging at the hem of his own shirt, like they've both realized this is a mistake at the same time. "Uh..." Human Yoongi is much less of a cat than Cat Yoongi and it's weird to be this close. Seokjin focuses on the things that are the same. They're both cute and annoying and stupid, and hate being told what to do, but one likes being held and the other...

Well. The other is Human Yoongi and Human Yoongi likes being held, too. It's not a surprised. It's not new. Seokjin doesn't know why he feels so thrown.

He reaches up and squeezes Yoongi's cheeks with one hand. His other one is sitting lightly on Yoongi's thigh. He isn't sure how it got there. "You're a big fucking boy, Yoongi. If you want something you can ask for it."

Yoongi visibly swallows. "Pay attention to me," he grumbles, with angry eyebrows. It's cute.

"Fine," Seokjin says, still slightly miffed, but he lets the hand on Yoongi's chin drop down to his neck and then to his shoulder, his thumb rubbing small circles, and Yoongi melts even if the line of his mouth is still tense. "Why didn't you just ask?"

"I did," Yoongi says flatly, huffing.

Seokjin's free hand is absently rubbing up and down Yoongi's thigh, and it feels oddly like they've skipped a step or two. He laughs. "You taking my computer hostage is not asking."

Yoongi blows out his cheeks, grunting like he doesn't want to admit Seokjin is right, and Seokjin laughs when he notices that Yoongi's cat ears have sprouted out of the mess of his hair. "Were you really that embarrassed to ask?"

"Hmmm?"

Without thinking, Seokjin reaches up, running a hand over the soft fur. He's already in the middle of the motion when he realizes he should think this is weird, but the message never gets to his fingers, and then Yoongi shivers. Shivers.

"Oh," Yoongi says after a second. "That." Pause. "Yeah."

Seokjin pets his ears again, and he laughs a little at the way Yoongi lets his eyes close, boneless, and slumps forward against Seokjin's shoulder. "I think the real issue here is that you need a nap."

Yoongi hums, his ears twitching under Seokjin's hand, and Seokjin goes to rub his back like the big baby he is. This is the most vulnerable Human Yoongi has been in front of Seokjin, all liquid. "Cat nap."

"We can't both make bad jokes," Seokjin scolds, but any heat he was feeling earlier is gone now. Yoongi is warm and soft and sleepy and honestly, it's nice. Yoongi's tail is making lazy circles in the air, wrapping gently around Seokjin's wrist, and when Seokjin's hand trails down Yoongi's spine his hand goes far enough to where skin meets fur.

The sound Yoongi makes, right in Seokjin's ear, is enough to catch Seokjin's breath.

He follows the line of Yoongi's tail, all the way and then back up again, and there's the noise, small and warm, and he feels Yoongi's open mouth lightly against the skin of his shoulder. "Is that...?"

Yoongi pulls away, and Seokjin thinks he's made a mistake — is shocked by how much that terrifies him, that he went wrong and the moment is over — but Yoongi is just readjusting, bringing one leg over so he's straddling Seokjin on the couch, and when he plops back down he sinks right back into Seokjin's chest. "Comfier," he slurs, sighing against Seokjin's neck. It's almost like he's drunk.

Seokjin kind of wonders if they're both drunk. If he's been transported to another universe where Yoongi and Seokjin hold each other this way. Yoongi doesn't seem to be worried — about this, about anything. He's too busy melting.

Seokjin's hands are on both of Yoongi's thighs now. He's wearing sweatpants and Seokjin wishes he could feel skin. He slides his hands up, over Yoongi's ass, waits to see if there are any complaints. There's aren't any, just a little squirming, and he gets his hands of Yoongi's hips, fingers just under the hem of Yoongi's shirt.

He never thinks of Yoongi as that small of a person, except maybe in the mornings, but his waist seems so small, and even sprawled out on top of Seokjin he's small in a way that makes Seokjin want to hold on a little tighter. Like maybe that will keep him steady.

"I didn't think cats were this affectionate," Seokjin teases.

"Fuck you," Yoongi says, sleepy, breath hot on Seokjin's neck.

It's more than Seokjin thought it would be. Somehow.

Yoongi's tail is still curled delicately around Seokjin's wrist, and Seokjin runs his hand there again, scratches a bit and the skin just above, and he feels Yoongi's thighs clench on either side of his hips.

"Seokjinnie," Yoongi says, gruff. He leans back again, sitting back towards Seokjin's knees, one arm threaded over his shoulder, and his pupils are blown. There's pink running down his neck. Seokjin is gently touches the flush on Yoongi's collarbones before he can thinking better of it, and when he looks up again Yoongi's eyes are sharper, less sleepy. Calculating.

They stay that way for a second, a breath or two, before Yoongi grips Seokjin by the chin the same way Seokjin had gripped him earlier. "Why are you the fucking worst?" Yoongi says, not unkindly, but getting up off the couch.

"You like it," Seokjin jokes again, but the words are thick in his throat.

Yoongi is headed back down the hallway towards the bedroom, and he waves lazily over his shoulder. "I'm going to go take a nap."

The door's been shut for ten minutes and Seokjin has finally caught his breath by the time he realizes how strange that was.

 


 

It's rare that Yoongi is up before Seokjin is. He's sitting up against the headboard, one of Seokjin's giant t-shirts hanging off one shoulder, typing away at his phone when Seokjin's alarm goes off.

"Sorry," he says. His face is puffy. He looks like a baby. "Jungkook is in crisis."

Seokjin is still half asleep, reaching over for Yoongi's phone, and Yoongi shows him without protest.

 

Googie

BECAUSE IM IN A PANIC
AM I SUPPOSED TO SUCK HIS DICK WHAT DOES HE WANT

I mean do you want to
Succ

a little
he keeps walking around in these tight ass shorts like mmmm

Um gross

every time he comes over i auto-nut
like pavlov's dog except thirsty and with thighs instead of the little bell
woof woof

 

Seokjin stares at the messages incredulously, and when he looks back at Yoongi he sees the other man is in physical pain. "How am I supposed to instruct my son to suck a dick?" he asks.

"Let me handle this," Seokjin says, rolling up his imaginary sleeves. "Is this about—"

"Taehyung, yeah." Yoongi shakes his head. "I think. He keeps saying he has this 'friend' and being vague but he also sends me pictures of Soonshim like I don't know exactly whose dog that is."

"Aw, a baby gay," Seokjin coos. "Precious."

 

Listen, friend, let Daddy Jin impart some knowledge

1) why do you have yoongi's phone
2) you're not my real dad

Sit upon your father's lap and suckle wisdom from his breast

 

"That's disgusting," Yoongi tells him, but Seokjin just waves him away.

"Daddy's working."

 

Taehyung is a Thot
A ridiculous, trot-singing, flower baby thot.
He wants you to suck his dick.

what's a taehyung
i've never sucked a dick in my life what's a dick idk her?

 

"I know what needs to be done," Seokjin says grimly, tossing Yoongi's phone on the comforter and reaching for his own on the bedside table.

"Be gentle. He's vulnerable," Yoongi tells him, but he's smiling, just the corners of his mouth, and he watches fondly as Seokjin scrolls through his camera roll.

Yoongi's Crybaby Son




 

Seokjin rests his phone against his chest with a satisfied sigh, and Yoongi looks confused for a moment before his own phone starts pinging incessantly.

He digs through the sheets to find it, and he laughs incredulously at what he sees. "You broke him," he tells Seokjin.

"I do excellent work," Seokjin replies with a shrug. He waves Yoongi away. "Go help your son with his gay crisis. I'm going to the gym this morning anyway."

He slips in and out of a sleepy haze as Yoongi busies himself getting ready. His clothes are scattered around Seokjin's room, not really having a set place but mixed in anyway, and Seokjin doesn't bother telling him the sweatshirt he's pulled on is Seokjin's and not his. He just waves goodbye as Yoongi makes his way out the door.

The gym helps relieve some stray jitters he can't quite explain, and he spends his shower afterwards making a list of things they need around the house. Coffee (Yoongi finished the last of it yesterday) and fruit (they don't eat it quickly enough so most of what Seokjin has is spoiled) and maybe toothpaste (Seokjin ran out and has been using Yoongi's). He hums to himself as he cleans out his locker, shakes the towel through his hair.

You like really broke my son Yoongi had texted him at some point, and Seokjin just grins and sends a kissy face. All in a day's work.

He heads to the store, him and his gym bag and the other twenty people on the bus this morning, and he feels lax and content in a way he hasn't. Not for a while.

So when he sees Yoongi's mother by the produce it doesn't even put a damper on his day. "Hyunjung," he says politely, sidling up beside her and rifling through the tomatoes.

She looks as put together as ever, her hair tied up tightly, more business than casual, makeup designed to help her look younger. She's eye-catching, in a cold kind of way. Yoongi's like that too, sometimes. They have the same nose.

For a moment, Hyunjung looks at him like she can't quite place his face, but then her expression settles into something professional and neutral. "My son-in-law," she says, amused. "What a pleasure."

Seokjin picks out two tomatoes and plops them into his bag. He needs one more for the pasta tonight. He's got the free time, and Yoongi keeps trying to get him to go to the stupid Italian place down the road they both know is shitty. "Notice you haven't tried to kill him recently," Seokjin notes pleasantly. "Thanks for that."

Hyunjung quirks her mouth, and that's Yoongi's too. "It's hardly necessary anymore, I guess." She presses her mouth together tightly. Her cart looks like Seokjin's, if Seokjin had another $300 in his bank account and could afford to shop that way. Something softens in her face. "Maybe this is best for the both of us."

Seokjin doesn't think he'll ever understand her. "He hates you, you know."

She opens her mouth, about to reply, but instead she just smiles, no teeth. "He's just the last on a long list of men who'd rather they'd never met me," she tells him, patting his arm like she's a nice neighbor and not the woman who'd turned his life upside-down. Yoongi's life upside-down.

"Not like he had a choice." Seokjin would scowl at her if he thought she'd earned the right to know what he really thinks. "You're his mom."

"One day," Hyunjung tells him, bagging a few peppers and turning back to her cart, "you'll have to choose between the world you've built for yourself and the people trying to take it away from you. And then we'll see what kind of decision you'll make."

Oddly enough, Seokjin lets her have the last word. He had better things to do than think of things he doesn't want to understand.

When Yoongi comes home, dark circles under his eyes and a lazy grin on his face, he says, "Is that spaghetti?"

And Seokjin smiles and says, "You can't have any," and laughs when Yoongi whines.

And it's a good night.

 


 

The world is a big place. It's easier not to think about, even if the reason Yoongi's in his life is fucked, and Seokjin's also kind of fucked. The world keeps spinning, magic or no, whether Seokjin has found it in himself to accept it or not. That's probably how things are supposed to be.

Still, he doesn't really appreciate the reminder.

"He'll see you."

"The fuck," Yoongi says gruffly, rubbing his eyes. It's not early, but Seokjin had worked closing shift and Yoongi had wanted pancakes so they'd spent the larger part of the night at IHOP. Neither of them are really ready for the day to start.

Namjoon is too awake in comparison.

"My friend," Namjoon says, hands trying to convey how big of a deal this is, but Seokjin isn't wearing real pants and Yoongi is only halfway through his second cup of coffee and neither of of them are really prepared to have any sort of conversation. "He said I could take you to see him."

Yoongi blinks. "Your...magic friend?"

Namjoon smiles, nods.

"The one who started this whole fucking mess?" Yoongi continues.

"He's the best," Namjoon tells them, dreamy.

"Your friend can wait until I shower," Yoongi says, raising his mug in a toast.

"Do you think he can fix the whole—" Seokjin wiggles his fingers in Yoongi's direction.

Yoongi turns around and points at Seokjin threateningly. "Say that to my face."

"I wanted to know if he could fix you," Seokjin chirps, taking a sip of his tea. "The cat ears are really just the beginning, you know?" He yawns. "Maybe he could make you taller."

Yoongi flips Seokjin off and goes to get another cup of coffee.

 


 

It ends up just being Yoongi who goes with Namjoon. Seokjin is slipping on his shoes to follow Yoongi, both of them wrapped up in sweatshirts and pajama pants because they don't have anything to prove, and Namjoon makes a strange noise.

"Not you," he says, frowning apologetically at Seokjin where he's frozen, shoe half on.

"What do you mean?" Seokjin has an uneasy feeling in his stomach.

Namjoon scratches his neck. "He just said he'd meet Yoongi," he explains, and all three of them look mildly uncomfortable. "He said it's not time for you, yet, or something."

"This is the first time I've ever not been invited to a party," Seokjin snips, half-laughing as he toes off his shoes and throws them in the pile by the door. He digs his sock feet into the carpet and shoves his hands into his pockets. "I can't believe I'm not cool enough for Namjoon's hermit witch boyfriend."

The look on Namjoon's face is worth it. "He's not—"

Yoongi cuts him off by pulling him out of the apartment by the hood of his jacket. "Let's go," he says, dragging Namjoon down the hallway. "I'm tired of being a fucking cat."

"Come home safe now, you hear?" Seokjin titters, waving them into the elevator. "Make good choices."

Both of them flip Seokjin off as the doors close as they slip out of view.

"It's so nice," Soonhee says, popping her head out the door and smiling in the direction of her grandson. "He needs more friends. He's always running around for that job of his." She clicks her tongue. "I don't even think he gets paid all that well but he won't let me call the boss and that's his own damn fault."

"You'd whip him into shape for sure," Seokjin agrees, leaning against the door jamb. There's something a little off-kilter, not quite a bad feeling but not a good feeling either.

 


 

There's the buzz of magic in the air, if Seokjin took a moment to feel it.

 


 

It's late in the evening when Yoongi comes back. Seokjin has been full of nervous energy all day, going out for a walk and coming back to clean the entire apartment and almost making another pot of coffee before deciding that's probably a bad idea. He almost calls in to work and asks if they need any help, but he's got a full work week coming up and he doesn't think it's a good idea.

He just wants to move around. Standing still is the last thing he needs.

He's cooking enough rice for a family of five when Yoongi finally walks through the door, sweatshirt hooked over his arm before he throws it tiredly onto the table and collapses onto the sofa. He screams into a throw pillow, legs splayed up in the air like a bug long dead.

"That good?" Seokjin asks idly, mixing sauce in a pot meant for stew. His smaller pots were all missing and also he's making entirely too much food, it's fine. He'll bring some leftovers into work. Everything is fine.

Yoongi's head pops up over the back of the couch so Seokjin can see his dead eyes. "It was...so much." He flops back down. "Don't make me go back."

Seokjin laughs, a little fond. "Did he make you any taller?"

"No!" Yoongi whines, sitting up and pointing aggressively at his head. He looks like a toddler. "And I'm still a fucking cat!"

Seokjin grins, setting down his pot and walking into the living room. He sits on the back of the couch and sure enough, there are those fucking ears. Those cute fucking ears. "At least they suit you," he says, poking Yoongi in the forehead with his index finger. "I'd be kind of sad if they left forever."

Yoongi doesn't look impressed. "How am I supposed to brutally take over my mother's company and right the wrongs of my forefathers with cat ears?"

"Cutely?" Seokjin offers, putting his hand on Yoongi's head for a short moment before standing up. He taps Yoongi's chin. Cheer up, Bucko, like the awkward old man next door. "Just accept yourself."

He's teasing, of course. Yoongi's life would be much less complicated if he had to worry a little less about turning into an animal anytime someone pisses him off, but he isn't lying when he says the ears are cute. The longer they appear the grumpier Yoongi gets, and there's something satisfying about making Yoongi pout.

"Was it helpful at all?" Seokjin asks, stretching his arms high over his head until his back pops before making his way back into the kitchen. "I'd hate to think you left me all alone for nothing."

Seokjin is only a little bitter, because he's been here for the entire shenanigan and some fucker in a pointy hat doesn't want to invite him over and now he's cooking rice like a house wife, but in reality he's disappointed that the trip wasn't helpful.

When Yoongi overthrows his mother or whatever evil he's planning on vanquishing once he's all-human less-cat, is he going to move back into his big house with the grande piano and all the half packed boxes and the fancy shower?

Seokjin hasn't been lonely in a long time but something about that makes him sad. There's something sweet and warm about having Yoongi around, as long as Seokjin doesn't think about it too closely, soft and sharp and good and scary and too close to something.

But Yoongi seems hesitant to talk about his daily adventure, and Seokjin — for whatever horrifying reason — is hesitant to ask, so they go about their evening as usual. They eat enough rice for five adults and watch old B movies that they both love and argue over which one is more endearing. They share a blanket and Yoongi's feet are pressed into Seokjin's leg, Seokjin's hand cupped over his ankle (how did it get there?) and it makes him think of the other day, with Yoongi in his lap.

"Hey." Yoongi throws a piece of popcorn at Seokjin's face and nails him on the nose. "What're you so red for?"

Seokjin picks the popcorn up from where it's fallen into his lap and pops it into his mouth. "No reason," he says, slightly mulish, squeezing Yoongi's ankle gently, and even if Yoongi is staring suspiciously into the side of his face for the next five minutes it doesn't matter because neither of them are going to press the matter.

Or discuss why Seokjin's face is, in fact, still red.

He moves his thumb in slow circles over the bare skin of Yoongi's leg and laughs at a horrible joke from Nacho Libre and tries not to hold on too tightly.

Scary.

It's late when they go to sleep, later than usual, Yoongi yawning and maintaining pointed eye contact until Seokjin agrees to turn the movie off. The silence is a little jarring, if only because that buzzy feeling has sunk in his skin and now he's full of misplaced jitters that don't fit the white noise of Yoongi shuffling into the kitchen to clean up their mugs. Sock feet and dishes clinking and Seokjin trying hard to think of things that are easy.

Still, Seokjin is well versed in the art of pretending things are normal, so he ruffles his hair and brushes his teeth and changes into an old t-shirt and plugs his phone in to charge and barely thinks about the fact that Yoongi still hasn't come to the room.

"Bitch," Seokjin calls, slurring a bit because he's old and it's past his bedtime. "You better not leave me alone when you made me turn off the television so you could go to bed. There are rules."

"Fuck you," Yoongi drawls from the kitchen, far away, and with a final clatter he makes his way into the bedroom, the sleeves of his hoodie rolled up to his forearms. "I was meditating."

"When I meditate I spin in circles for hours on end until the dizziness sends me to Nirvana," Seokjin says, but the yawn in the middle ruins his delivery.

Yoongi flicks him on the forehead and Seokjin pliantly falls back against the pillows. "Go to sleep."

"Mean," Seokjin mumbles, pulling the covers up to his chin.

It's kind of nice, listening to Yoongi get ready for bed. Lots of familiar sounds, and Yoongi has a weird tendency to sing under his breath while finishing his nightly routines. He has a nice voice but he isn't a singer, and he never takes himself seriously enough to care about pitch, but his voice is soothing enough.

"Those aren't the words," Seokjin says. He hasn't done anything today to feel so tired, and his body is still tingly, but his brain doesn't want to thread thoughts together.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Yoongi tells him around his toothbrush. Spitting into the sink. Gross.

By the time Yoongi slips under the covers and forces his demon feet against Seokjin's legs like the fucker he is, Seokjin is comfortable, half-sleep, far-away. He's sprawled out, his fingers pressing odd rhythms into the mattress trying to release whatever's built up inside him. He isn't facing Yoongi, but he feels warmth behind and shifts towards it.

It's not unusual. Pseudo-cuddling, a Yoongi standard. As is actual cuddling.

But Yoongi doesn't come any closer. Seokjin feels the stare on the back of his head. Whatever.

Yoongi switches off the light and the day is finally over.

If only Seokjin could actually sleep and not just shake out his bones.

"What was it like?" he asks finally. "The guy? Was he old?"

Yoongi hums under his breath. "No. He looks really young."

"Pretty?"

"Mhmm."

"Prettier than me?" Seokjin jokes.

Yoongi doesn't say anything.

"If you're agreeing that he's prettier than I am you take that back right now," Seokjin teases, looking over his shoulder at where Yoongi's probably completely ignoring him. But when he looks back Yoongi is alarmingly awake. His eyes are glinting a little yellow. Seokjin's smile sputters low into something else. "What?"

Yoongi swallows. His throat must be dry. Seokjin can hear it in the silence. "No."

Seokjin blinks. "No, what?"

Yoongi can't make eye contact, gaze flicking towards the pillow before connecting again. "He isn't prettier than you."

"Ah." Seokjin smiles, fond. "Don't let Namjoon hear you say that."

With an amused huff, Yoongi runs a hand down his tired face. "It was really..." He can't find the words. "Something. Really something."

Seokjin takes the plunge and turns around, fully facing Yoongi, mostly because his neck is hurting but also because he thinks it's what Yoongi wants him to do. "You don't have to tell me if it was awkward. Did him and Namjoon make out in front of you?"

Yoongi makes a face at him through the cracks in his fingers. "No. But Namjoon is gross with the heart-eyes. No more."

"Don't worry, baby," Seokjin tells him languidly, patting his outstretched hand. "Never again." He yawns.

Seriously, why is Yoongi so awake and why is everything so fucking buzzy?

It's quiet, and as the seconds tick by Seokjin realizes that he's been growing more and more tense, coiled up and ready to spring, and that Yoongi is closer than he was a second ago.

"...Seokjin," Yoongi mutters, visibly hesitant, visibly miserable in that odd, endearing way of his.

Seokjin is waiting for the balance to shift one way or the other but.

But.

"Your ears are out," he says instead, giggling, reaching out to touch.

Yoongi scowls. "I hate you."

"No, you don't," Seokjin teases. "You—ah." Clears his throat. "You love me." Hard to get out. Seokjin is clearly out of practice with this whole acting normal thing.

Yoongi looks like Seokjin feels, like he's constipated and doesn't know what to do about it. "Uh..." Yoongi's toes are making an awkward dance on the front of Seokjin's shins, and it's nice to know that they both can't quite hold still. His ears are twitching so much.

"Is there—" Seokjin starts, around the same time Yoongi finds a strangled "Is this—" in the back of his throat and they both lurch to a halt.

"Go on," Seokjin prompts.

"Is this..." Yoongi swallows again. "Is this something?"

Seokjin pauses in a visceral way, like his heart stops pumping and everything is frozen. He laughs. "Like the witch is something or...?"

"No." Yoongi hides his face in the pillows. "Like..."

It's quiet.

"Nevermind," Yoongi says, like it's a decision he's suddenly made. He looks like a toddler about to throw a tantrum, sweet with sleepiness, and melts into the sheets like a limp noodle.

Seokjin huffs out a laugh. "Anything for you." Lazy. He turns around, back to the other side, reaching over to set his alarm for the morning. Maybe running in the morning will get rid of the electricity he can't force to settle.

Yoongi's hand is on his hip, a silent question.

Mindlessly, Seokjin sets his phone down and grabs Yoongi's hand, pulling it around his waist, and feels Yoongi awkwardly shuffle forward until they're slotted together like a kid's puzzle, big and cumbersome and obvious, and they sleep like that, softly.

 


 

Seokjin wakes up slowly, regaining feeling in his toes and then remembering he's a human being with sight and realizing that the blinds are open and his retinas are burning. He rolls over with a groan, flinging out an arm, but the other side of the bed is empty.

It's still warm, though, and there's a dip in the mattress. When Seokjin cracks his eyes open, sticky with sleep, Yoongi is already away, sitting on the edge of the bed just out of arm's reach, tired and pliant and a little morning-grumpy. He looks over his shoulder when Seokjin tries to make human words and just groans instead.

"Good morning," Yoongi says, amused. His hair is all over the place and he's still wearing the shirt he slept in, but his face is scrubbed cherry-red clean and he's awake enough that he isn't a puddle of a human the way he usually is.

"What time is it?" Seokjin tries and fails to say, but Yoongi checks the time on his phone anyway.

"Six," he says, and they both make noises of distaste.

"Alarm." Didn't go off. Too early. "Too early."

Yoongi snorts. "Go back to sleep."

Seokjin reaches out blindly and grabs Yoongi's pillow for something to hold. He groans into the linens. They smell more like Yoongi than Seokjin at this point, even though this is Seokjin's bed and Seokjin's room and Seokjin's apartment, and he mumbles something about loyalty that no one can really hear. "'m up," he says, even as he's falling back to sleep.

The last thing he remembers is a harsh poke to the forehead. "Your move, man," Yoongi says gently, and then Seokjin's alarm is ringing and it's seven and Yoongi is gone.

 


 

Running does a lot to take Seokjin's mind off things. He is fairly in shape, enjoys exercising — something Taehyung notes as a "reason it would never work between us" — but running always burns a little and he always sweats a ton and he feels gross and accomplished and there's a million other things to focus on than...whatever he focuses on during other times.

It's mindless and meditative. He remembers a therapist saying he needed a way to unwind, a million years ago before he decided he didn't like therapy, and wonders if this is a good coping mechanism or if it's just a good way to ignore things. Both.

Seokjin runs the same route every day. He runs past the pastry shop to test his will, through the park — stopping only if there are particularly cute dogs — and cuts through the garden to make it back out onto the main road towards his neighborhood. It's a pretty run, a good length, and he knows it like the back of his hand.

Maybe getting lost is just a sign that he's way too far in his own head.

It's in the garden where things start going sideways. At first there's just a bush that Seokjin doesn't recognize, and for some reason he doesn't think about it too much, but then the trees turn into hanging ivy and the concrete turns to cobblestones and he's forced to halt his pace lest he break an ankle.

Seokjin stares ahead. Things look mostly like they're supposed to but...three steps to the left. The trees are a little bigger, a little more dense, and there are no old men sitting on benches taking their smoke breaks, and the sounds of children on the playground have melted into something like an easy white noise that puts Seokjin on edge if only because it's not supposed to be there.

When he looks over his shoulder, all he sees are cobblestones.

His skin buzzes.

Going back seems just as scary as moving forward. The sweat is drying on Seokjin's skin, and the air is somehow both warmer and colder than it was just a moment ago. He's got goosebumps. The hair on his neck is tingling and when he takes a step forward he's afraid he might falter.

It's beautiful, at least. The garden usually is, but there's something a little unworldly and untouched about this area, like it's alive and static and Seokjin will never see it again. He passes his palm over the hanging leaves of a willow. He hears wind chimes as the tendrils swing back into place.

He feels horrifyingly, wonderfully alone.

"This bitch," Seokjin says under his breath, breathing deep, with a small shake of his head. Magic is strange and lonely. At least it's beautiful.

He isn't surprised when he breaks through the undergrowth, onto what should be the main road back to his apartment complex, and sees the small shop instead. It's nestled amongst a handful of other small buildings, ranging from dilapidated to rustic on a good day, but it looks like the garden path blends in with the lawn. The ivy creeps up the sides and tumbles out of the flower boxes. The pink roses twine up the porch railings, sharp and pretty. Incense burns in a flat plate by a rocking chair, colored smoke billowing upwards.

Seokjin climbs the stairs and opens the door without knocking. The bell tinkles above his head. There's the sound of shifting boxes far off through the chaos.

"Thank you," someone is saying, a little girl's voice, sweet, and when Seokjin makes his way through the maze of wares he seems her, wrapped up in ribbons, clutching one of Namjoon's big hands to her chest. "Thank you for finding her."

Namjoon smiles. He's crouched down, smaller now than he really is, and he's holding a china doll gently in his free hand. "I'll let him know how happy you are."

The little girl takes the doll like it's precious, running a small hand through her delicate curls. "Gramma will be happy, too."

"You'll never lose her again," Namjoon assures her, touching the doll's silk dress.

She hums, beaming, and she reaches up to pull a ribbon from her hair. She kisses Namjoon's cheek and presses it into his hand. "Have a good day, Mister." She runs out of the store, past Seokjin, without acknowledging anything else.

"Namjoon," Seokjin calls, a greeting he's not sure he needs.

Namjoon is still smiling as he straightens up. "Jimin!" he says over his shoulder, walking behind the counter and dropped the ribbon reverently into a drawer, locking it shut. "He's here."

A door opens somewhere — Seokjin sees the warm yellow-orange light against the opposite wall. He isn't sure what he expects, maybe someone old and decrepit or young and beautiful or wizened and charming. The reality is in the small man who pokes his head out from around a large shelf. His hair is ruffled, the huge sweater he's wearing is cream-colored and hanging off one shoulder. His mouth is painted glossy pink. He looks like a baby but his eyes are old and his chin is stubborn, even as he pushes the sleeves of his sweater up to his elbows so they don't fall over his hands.

"Finally," the man — Jimin — says, smiling so that Seokjin can't be irritated. "It's always boring, waiting for people like you."

There's not a lot Seokjin can say to that, mostly because he has no idea what's going on beyond this is Namjoon's witch and he's looks like someone Seokjin could snap in half if his eyes weren't quite so sharp.

"Jihee was very thankful," Namjoon tells Jimin gently, and Seokjin sees what Yoongi meant about the heart eyes. They're another level of soft, almost cloying, and Jimin purposefully lets their arms brush as they pass each. "The payment is in the box."

Absently, Jimin cups Namjoon's cheek in his hand, a moment and little more, and then Namjoon is in the back room and Seokjin is grasping at straws.

"You have a problem," Jimin prompts. He isn't looking at Seokjin, more focused on organizing whatever is on the other side of the raised lip of the counter, but when his eyes flash up he looks almost smug. "Don't you?"

Seokjin tries not to frown and purses his lips instead. "Well, I'm lost."

Jimin grins. "But it's nice here, isn't it?" He runs a hand through his dark hair, and his eyes flash blue in the hanging light from the jars and bulbs on the ceiling. "I worked very hard, you know."

"Quite nice," Seokjin agrees politely. "Although I think I'd prefer to be home."

Jimin hums in understanding, pouring something green into something else he's holding on the table. "Yoongi isn't back yet, though." He looks at Seokjin, finally, full-on, and he isn't smug. He's something entirely different. "Won't it be lonely?"

Seokjin keeps his face still. Stares. Swallows down words he isn't sure he wants to say.

The witch tuts, sprinkling some kind of powder into a bottle and stopping it with a cork. "Stop trying so hard." Jimin laughs. It sounds like a bell. He wraps the top on with twine and scribbles something lazily onto the label. "What have you got to lose?"

Very little. Seokjin has very little, these days. Just one big thing and very little else.

Jimin sets the bottle on the counter, a swirling purple mess, and pushes it in Seokjin's direction. "For your joints," he explains when Seokjin just continues to stare.

"I...?" Seokjin's hands are so sweaty. He wipes them on his shorts and shivers as the damp fabric touches his bare skin.

"Your ankles," Jimin prompts. "Aren't they swollen?"

They always are, after a run. So are his knees. His joints are weaker than he'd like. His trainer wanted him to take up swimming, something low impact, but Seokjin likes the way running hurts.

Hesitantly, Seokjin takes the bottle and puts it in his pocket. "Thanks," he offers, after a long moment, and Jimin gives him a customer-service smile and goes about cleaning the assortment of wares in the main room with an old rag.

It's all very strange. Seokjin doesn't like it.

"Are you the one who turned Yoongi into a cat?" he asks, since it seems that Jimin won't bring it up on his own.

Seokjin wonders if it's because he feels guilty, but that thought is pushed aside when Jimin just says, "Yes," as evenly he's said anything else.

Seokjin's expression turns to stone. "And you don't feel bad about it at all?"

"Why would I?" Jimin asks, blinking. "He's happier now than he was before."

There's little evidence of that. Yoongi is in a legal battle with his mother, trying to change things for the better even when all of his pull and power has been ripped away. Seokjin doesn't see how he could be happier now.

"He's happier with you than he was by himself in that big house under his mother's thumb," Jimin says, like he can read Seokjin's mind. It's a chilling thought. "Ask him."

"He was a cat for a year," Seokjin says, stiff.

Jimin blinks. "Oh." Grins. "What's a year? Some of us have lived for hundreds."

Seokjin gapes at him incredulously. "He was stuck like that for so long? How can you justify that?"

"If I hadn't done that, his mother would have found someone to actually kill him." Jimin shrugs. "And now he's happy and not-dead." The tips of his fingers click on the tops of old books, counting spines. "Aren't there worse things?"

Seokjin can't think of any.

"Besides." Jimin quirks his mouth to the side. "Is that really what you're here to ask?"

The jar is heavy in Seokjin's pocket. He doesn't think he's here for anything. There's dread deep in his stomach. He hates the therapist. It's the same feeling. "Why is Yoongi still a cat?"

Jimin tips a book off the shelf, reading the title, and sets it back before picking out the one beside it. "Because you only fulfilled half of the requirements."

Seokjin watches carefully as Jimin pulls a post-it out of his pocket and writes a note to stick on the cover. Processing. "Requirements?"

"Well, two thirds, I guess." Jimin bites his lip. His tooth is crooked. "Yoongi's paid his price already." He holds up the book with a smile. Poor Richard's Grimoire it reads in swirling gold ink. For Helena on Tuesday at 2 says Jimin's cramped note, a heart at the bottom to sign it off. "True love's kiss and then Yoongi's payment."

"True love, huh?" Seokjin scoffs. "Isn't that supposed to be this all-powerful thing? We still have to pay?" Bullshit. All of this. Bullshit and dread.

Jimin just shrugs, setting the book out for Namjoon. "If you were already in love, maybe not." His head cocks to the side. "The future is never as strong as the past. You know how it is."

"Sure," Seokjin acquiesces, because there's nothing left to do. "And Yoongi's payment?"

"What do you think it is?"

"His lifestyle?"

Jimin smiles sadly. "His pride."

A breeze blows in through a window. It smells like fall, cinnamon and new...something.

"Yoongi has always seen himself as someone other than who he is." There's a feather strewn on the nearby table. Jimin picks it up at twirls it in his fingers. "Got a bit stuck. Maybe this is even a mercy." He points at Seokjin with the feather. "It is for you, certainly."

Seokjin isn't sure whether he likes Jimin or not, but he knows he doesn't like this conversation. Not at all. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"You never bounced back well," Jimin tells him, setting the feather on the book cover. "Not without him."

"I bounced back fine," Seokjin says, spits, because his control is fraying. That's the last thing he wants. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Jimin just looks at him, soft, and doesn't say anything.

"I did." It sounds weak, but it's true. Seokjin is literally fine. He's not even sure what this conversation is about.

"Sure," and Jimin might even believe it. "But aren't you happier?"

Maybe.

"Maybe," Seokjin says, like an echo.

Jimin smiles. "You could be happier."

"If Yoongi's paid then why is he still cursed?" Seokjin asks. The buzzing is itchy now, and Seokjin tries not to touch anything, afraid of the shock.

Jimin gathers his thoughts for a moment, preening the plants on the shelf and brushing dust off a lampshade made somehow of glass. "You could be happier."

Seokjin wants to groan. "Don't tell me I have to pay, too?" he whines. "I wasn't even involved."

"Weren't you?" Jimin says, laughing like Seokjin said something truly hilarious. "Hyunjung paid, Yoongi paid. You're the only one involved who's left." He simmers into something more gentle. "No one else could have kissed him awake. That was decided a long time ago. You've always had a price to pay."

"That's fucked up," Seokjin says, but the words get stuck in his throat.

"Think of it..." Jimin's eyes are far away. "Something learned, not something lost."

"What?" Seokjin demands. "What do I possibly need to do for this all to be...to be fixed? What's left? Do I need to feed him more fish? What?"

Jimin reaches out and cups his cheek. Not unlike how he touched Namjoon, but stern instead of soft, the material of his sweater brushing against Seokjin's skin. "What are you so afraid of?"

It's not what Seokjin is expecting. "What?"

"You try so hard." Jimin looks sad. "What are you afraid of?"

Something shakes.

"Are you afraid of Yoongi?"

Seokjin pushes the hand away. "What does this have to do with being happy?" he asks, tries to demand, tries to be forceful, but that something is still shaking at he hates it. Hates being reminded of it.

"Is that it?" Jimin laughs. "You're afraid of being happy?"

"Can I just...can I just go home now?" He hates it here suddenly. "Please?"

Jimin takes a step back, and it's only then that Seokjin realizes how close they've been. He's feeling claustrophobic, buzzy, itchy, rattled.

He wants to go home and he wants Yoongi to be there and he wants this to be over and he wants Jimin to kiss his fucking ass because this isn't Seokjin's fault. It's Jimin's.

"You can leave whenever you want to." Jimin turns on his heels, breezing towards the back of the shop where he entered. "Just make sure you know the right way."

 


 

By the time Seokjin makes it home, he feels like all of the energy he's pent up has sunk into the ground and he's left boneless and weary. He considers using the weird whatever Jimin had given him on his ankles, but he doesn't, just to be spiteful.

He might give in later, but at this point it's hard to separate one ache from another.

"Seokjin?" a small voice calls from further into the apartment.

"I'm home!" Seokjin goes into the kitchen and stares at the pot of coffee that Yoongi already made.

There's the sound of sock feet on hardwood and Yoongi pokes his head in. He stares at Seokjin, watching suspiciously as Seokjin pours himself a cup of coffee. "You smell gross," he says finally.

"Thanks," Seokjin replies, pouring in a good amount of sugar.

More staring.

Seokjin looks back, morbidly amused. Yoongi is just a statue. They're both waiting for the first move. "Yes, Yoongi?" he prompts, lifting the mug up to take a drink. Not enough creamer. Whatever.

"You okay?" Yoongi asks eventually. It's a bit gruff, like a part of him doesn't want to ask. Because it's awkward and Seokjin always says yes.

"Yes," Seokjin says.

Yoongi just nods, sidling up beside him and grabbing his own mug from the cupboard. He's been collecting dishes in the past few months he's lived here, mugs and plates and dish rags and a skillet much nicer than anything Seokjin owns. It's all mixed in with Seokjin's own pots and pans, and neither of them thinks much of it anymore.

It's not until Yoongi is methodically mixing in his creamer — too sweet, at least for Seokjin — that he says anything else. "Not gonna push," he says carefully, like he's chewing through his words. "Because I'm not good that way, with anything, but you can tell me sometimes." He licks the coffee off his spoon. "I won't mind."

It sounds horrible.

"Maybe eventually I won't have to turn into a cat."

Seokjin laughs and sets down his mug. "Eventually."

There's a weird, considering look that crosses Yoongi's face, and then it's gone, and Seokjin doesn't know if he's glad or if he wants to pull at the threads again until Yoongi asks him a question he can't avoid.

Maybe both.

"Are you happy?" he asks instead. A gentle tug.

Yoongi blinks at him, devoid of expression, before lifting the mug up to his mouth. Giving himself more time to think of the answer. "Yeah," he says finally, smacking his lips. "I think so."

Seokjin taps his thumb incessantly against the counter, tap tap tapping out the jitter lingering from days ago. The buzzing from Jimin's shop. The...whatever from this morning. It's your move, man.

"Am I happy?" Softly.

Yoongi hums. "A question," he says, with weight. "Are you?"

Seokjin looks at Yoongi, for once vulnerable and uncertain, and it feels horrible. It is horrible. "I could be happier," he admits.

There's a weird sort of thrill to it, though.

He laughs, humorless, and rubs his eyes. He's starting to get a headache. Not surprising, all things considered. He wishes Jimin had given him something for that instead. "God." Another laugh. "There's something wrong with me."

"Wow, same." Yoongi grins, all gummy. "You're only as messed up as like, most people."

God. "You really aren't good this way, huh?" Seokjin laughs again, falling in love. Or something. It's something.

"You're laughing." Yoongi shrugs. "Happier?"

"Yeah." Seokjin dumps most of his coffee down the sink. He never really wanted it anyway. His stomach is tied up in knots. "Me and the cat-man, taking on the world."

Yoongi clears his throat. "Yep."

"Too bad I'm the worst."

"Yeah." A shit eating grin, and Yoongi throws back the rest of his coffee like a shot. "Mostly I think you're just scared, though."

Seokjin watches Yoongi, somewhere between at a complete loss and bursting at the seams, as the other man walks through the kitchen and hops over the couch, dropping his mug on the side table and picking up the remote to the television. "I'm a nice guy," he says, "so I'll even let you pick." He holds his arm up, remote out for Seokjin, an offering.

Later, much later, Seokjin tries to pinpoint the exact moment he makes the decision. He's spent so many days with Yoongi now, so many nights, all those stupid evenings yelling at the television, and somehow the thing that gets him is Yoongi trying to comfort him and doing a piss-poor job at it.

Or, not really, because Seokjin is so endeared that he totters from complete loss and falls entirely into bursting, and he hates himself because even if it's piss-poor it works and they're both absolute idiots.

He walks over with purpose, more than he's had since he wandered into the shop, and — gently — he plucks the remote out of Yoongi's waiting hand and pulls him back to his feet.

Yoongi goes along with it, only grumbling a minimal amount about being disrupted before he could really settle into the sofa crease. It's not until he is forcibly turned around and sees the expression on Seokjin's face that he starts to really wonder what's going on. "You constipated or something?"

"This way, this way." Seokjin tugs him sideways. The couch is still between them and it's awkward, but it's more awkward crab-walking their way to the side until there's nothing between, and it's even more awkward when they're finally standing where Seokjin wants them and neither of them says anything.

"...You couldn't have done whatever this is before I sat down?"

Seokjin hits him forcibly on the shoulder. "Don't tease me. I'm vulnerable."

Yoongi gives him a fond, exasperated look. "You're trying," he coos, patting Seokjin's arm, and it's nothing supposed to be comforting. It is.

"Give me, like a second." Seokjin bounces from foot to foot, shaking out his wrists like a basketball player about to start the game. "Feelings are horrible and I hate them."

"Oh." Yoongi looks shocked. Questioning. And then he smirks, even if it's thin. "So you are constipated."

"Fuck you." Seokjin takes several deep breaths. "Ready?"

Yoongi laughs incredulously. "Sure."

Seokjin claps Yoongi on the shoulders, and Yoongi just stares at him with his eyebrows up like he's ready for anything. "I—you...fuck."

"You can start over."

"Thanks." Seokjin laughs. "You are...the most amazing person I've ever met?"

Yoongi swallows. Seokjin can hear it. "Good start."

"Shut up. I need to like, work up some momentum." Seokjin frowns, eyebrows knit. "You're the most amazing person I've ever met and I just met an actual witch and that terrifies me?" Pause. "I mean...both the witch and the fact that I think you're amazing."

Yoongi's face is ash white, and Seokjin thinks that's kind of a weird reaction, but when he moves to step away Yoongi clamps his hand down on Seokjin's wrist and holds him there in a vice.

So Seokjin keeps talking, because he's good at that, sometimes. "You're so...fucking stupid."

"Fuck off," Yoongi replies automatically.

"You're like, nice and funny and you care so much and you're so fucking stupid. And you take care of people even if you won't admit it. And also you're a fucking cat. I hate that." Seokjin is ridiculous. This is freaking him out so much, full to bursting, and it's stupid, because Yoongi's transitioned from white to red and looks like this is something he wants to hear, and Seokjin is a coward because this honestly hurts.

He moves the hand from his wrist to his chest so that Yoongi can feel the way his heart is pounding, vicious, even if his face is as collected as he can make it. That's the only way he can really think to tell Yoongi what he already knows, that this is hard and scary and stupid, and Yoongi's fingers knot in his shirt for a second or two.

And then he takes both of Seokjin's hands and presses them against his own chest, to feel the beating, and it's rapid, scary and stupid, and that eases something in Seokjin's stomach the way nothing else really has.

He runs his thumb over the back of Yoongi's hand, gentle. "And I...am probably in love with you." Scary. "Definitely. Most likely. Am...in love..." Seokjin swallows. Yoongi smiles. "Currently."

And Yoongi — that absolute fucker — laughs.

Seokjin doesn't even have the energy to be offended, because he's half-way through scoffing when Yoongi surges forward, arms flying around Seokjin's neck, and kisses him.

It's sweet. Not messy and passionate like a one night stand, not emotional like a goodbye kiss. It's sweet and soft, like a Yoongi and Seokjin kiss, and they're melting. Seokjin rests his hands on Yoongi's hips the ways he hasn't let himself want to, and Yoongi is broader than he looks, so sturdy, and he's pressed against Seokjin something powerful.

Even when he pulls away, he stays close enough to rest his forehead on Seokjin's shoulder, catching his breath, and Seokjin would tease him for it except he's too busy grinning ear-to-ear. Embarrassing.

"You're the worst," Yoongi says, patting Seokjin's arm. "Absolute worst."

"Yeah." Seokjin hugs him a little closer.

Yoongi looks up at him. "Ears?"

It's a weird thing to ask in the moment, but Yoongi looks so serious that Seokjin only laughs a little bit before he sets both hands on top of Yoongi's head where the cat ears would be. "All clear," he says, and he ruffles Yoongi's hair.

And Yoongi's face splits into a smile. "Does that mean it's over?"

"Because I was emotionally vulnerable?" Seokjin purses his lips. "If I'd know that's what I had to do I would have...never done it."

Yoongi huffs. "I know." Wry. "I...love you anyway."

Seokjin wants to burst into flames. "Should we make sure the curse is broken?" Yoongi groans because he knows Seokjin well enough to know where this is going, but Seokjin just locks his arms so Yoongi can escape and continues. "What's something that really gets your heart rate up?"

"You," Yoongi says grudgingly into the material of Seokjin's sweaty t-shirt. "Fuck you."

"Gotta make sure there's absolutely no cat in you." Seokjin waggles his eyebrows. "Guess I have to kiss you again."

Seokjin leans in and there are no cat ears, not even when Seokjin presses his lips to the corner of Yoongi's mouth with a smile. Not even when Yoongi kisses back.

Not even when Yoongi ducks to the side and blows a messy raspberry on Seokjin's cheek, and not even when he runs away, Seokjin on his heels, laughing like Seokjin hasn't heard him before.

Not even when Seokjin catches him and hugs him too tight and threads their fingers together.

"Thank you," Yoongi says.

For what? "Thank you," Seokjin says back.

Yoongi frowns. "For what?"

Seokjin kisses him. "I don't know."

They fall together.

 


 

"You've got everything?"

"Yes, Mom," Yoongi grouses, adjusting his tie with a pout.

Seokjin still isn't used to seeing him in a suit, even if it's been a more familiar sight in the past few weeks since Seokjin stumbled into the shop in the woods. More suits, nicer shoes, more hair product, and a lot more grumpy Yoongi.

"This is my least favorite part," he had said, while his fingers stumbled over relearning how to tie a tie. "Getting dolled up."

"It's my favorite part," Seokjin had answered, and taken the moment to kiss the tip of Yoongi's nose.

Seokjin is quickly learning that Yoongi's blush is his favorite color.

Taehyung and Jungkook are waiting for them at the top of the elevator. Soonshim is there wearing a very nice doggy sweater, and there's a post-it note tapped to the fleece saying Emotional Support Animal in Taehyung's hand-writing. "You guys are so old and slow," Jungkook chirps, tapping away at his iPad, likely letting Suran know that Yoongi has arrived.

"Be nice to them," Taehyung says, giving Jungkook a friendly pat on the butt. He's wearing a flowy shirt, littered with ruffles, a beret, and round colored glasses, but he's also got a briefcase — an empty one — just to remain within the business side of business casual. "They're buying dinner."

Seokjin wasn't aware of this, but he's not surprised.

Yoongi's too nervous to snip back, wiping sweaty palms down the pinstripes of his suit. "Is she here?"

"Everyone's here," Jungkook says, coming between the two older men and pushing them down the hall, like he's somehow the one in charge. "Everyone is bald, powerful, and boring." He sticks out his tongue in disgust, which seems mildly unprofessional.

Taehyung trots behind, pulling Soonshim along by her leash, and moves to open the door to the boardroom. "Be impressive," he whispers in Yoongi ear with a grin, and Yoongi can't help but grin back.

Jungkook and Taehyung open the doors.

"Hello, boys," Yoongi says, waltzing into the board meeting like he hasn't been missing. It's easy for him, or it looks easy, and Seokjin slips inside without a sound, unassuming.

Seokjin sees Hyunjung at the head of the table, makes eye contact. He smiles and waves. Polite.

Her jaw has dropped, but by the time she picks it up Seokjin thinks he sees something close to acceptance. Alright, you asshole, she's saying. You beat me.

Yoongi sets his briefcase down on the table and pulls out his laptop. "Let's talk this renovation project, shall we?"

One of the men blinks. Actually, all the men are blinking, very confused, but only one says anything. "What renovation project?"

Yoongi presses the small remote he's got in his pocket and a presentation pops up on the projector screen. "Well, I'm glad you asked."

Seokjin has never loved a man more.