The crimson sun is merely beginning to peak out from behind the clouds, painting the indigo canvas of the sky in hues of yellow and burnt orange.
Chubby fingers encircle a single pinky, little boot clad feet trotting along the dirt path, outlined by green shrubberies and trees, next to feet sized thrice as large as his own.
Yoongi squeals and hops, grip tightening around the finger, as he catches a glimpse of the sparkling reflection of the lake. It's as serene as the first two times he'd been there. Yoongi likes the calm and the quiet, likes listening to the distant sounds of the crickets, the barely there whoosh of the wind, the crunch of dried leaves under their feet, not even the loud clatter of tools on the dirt by the lake is going to ruin that.
Yoongi shrieks as the lid is peeled off of a bucket full of worms, tender vocal cords straining from the effort and he hides behind the safety of clothed legs that belong to his grandfather.
He decides to sit it out for the first hour until his curiosity gets the better of him.
“Halbi,” Little Yoongi begins tentatively, “what do you use the worms for?” He asks as his grandfather tosses a fish into a large bucket that already has a decent collection of fresh fishes piled up in them.
“This is called the bait, Yoongi-ah,” the older man tells him in the process of hooking on a worm. “That's how the fishes get caught. They think it's food and when they eat it, they get stuck on the hook.”
Yoongi frowns then, looking as though he isn't satisfied with the answer and goes on to sulk even and when his grandfather questions him as to why, Yoongi informs him that that's cheating. His grandfather laughs and ruffles his hair. Yoongi doesn't understand why.
But it doesn't take much for Yoongi to be reeled into the activity, much like those helpless fishes that his grandfather expertly caught.
Fishes were always his favorite to eat and to learn now that he could get them anytime he wanted is fascinating to him. It also doesn't help that Yoongi loves the nature, loves pulling grass and loves the feeling of mud slipping through the spaces between his grubby fingers. So it is only natural that he'd develop an affinity towards it.
Yoongi is only five years old when the sparks of passion for fishing ignited within him.
Yoongi is eight years old when the sparks mould into a burning flame.
Visiting the lake with his grandfather couple times a week becomes a constant in his life then. His foothold. His purpose. His first love.
His classmates would tease him and make fun of him when Yoongi would tell them that his favorite hobby was fishing and that he spends most of his spare time doing just that unlike other boys his age who'd go out to play.
He thinks he's the saddest when the other kids would pinch their noses whenever they'd pass by Yoongi and call him things like “Min Hongeo” (after the fermented fish dish that has the worst odor).
It was all worth it though, when he finally gets to see the bobber plunging into the water surface, wooden rod tight in his ready grip.
His grandfather teaches him everything. From the bait that goes on to the hook, to humility, patience, reverence and the ways to rejoice success and accept failures. Sometimes it's alright to not gain much produce and sometimes you end up with so much more than you'd know what to do with. It's all an experience – his grandfather tells him– each one unique and precious.
By the ripe age of ten, Yoongi becomes a self-proclaimed expert fisherman.
In the two years that he'd fully given himself over to his passion, he'd learned everything there is to know about fishing. He'd perfected every technique to the point where he was now better than his own teacher.
Yoongi realises then, that what started as an interest fueled by his grandfather's favorite hobby became a place of solace in his life. He finds out that it's rewarding too, when his parents praise him for how good of a job he's doing. What's more is that Yoongi starts earning at such a young age by selling his produce. The responsibility and approval motivating him further to drown himself in pursuing what he loves.
Words travel fast. His grandfather had called it his natural talent, him a fishing prodigy even. To a mundane, it might sound quite tacky, undesired even. But to Yoongi… To Yoongi it's the best thing anyone has ever said to him.
It didn't matter that kids his age scrunch their noses and walk away from him because of the ever-lingering scent of fish on his body. He wears it like a badge of honour and puffs his chest out in pride. Nothing can stop him now. So what if no one wants to be friends with a stubby, stinky boy with jet-black matted hair and skin a shade too pale? His parents adore him, his grandfather loves him unconditionally and he is doing what he loves the most and even earning from it. He is a big, responsible, self-sufficient boy now. It’s more than what any of those snobby little kids have going for them, right?
Things take a turn for the worse when the foul words are replaced with fists.
Yoongi is only a boy with palms a little too rough for his age and heart a little too big to be filled. Darkness consumes his voids.
A 12 year old Yoongi sees what he presumes is the first flicker of light in this never-ending tunnel. It’s the first time he sees him.
It goes something like this…
Yoongi is excited to try out his new fishing supplies that his aunt had gifted to him on his birthday. As always, it had been a simple family gathering with his aunt and uncle and their two year old, Junwoo. Although rare,Yoongi always had a good time when they visited. Not to mention, his aunt’s fascination with Yoongi’s skills and never hesitating to contribute to it by bringing him expensive rods and lines and reels and lures all the way from Gwacheon.
He is by the lake with his grandpa as usual. They'd decided to fish for themselves this time and so the elder man skins and preps the crappies for their impromptu barbeque while Yoongi is assigned the duty of catching the fish.
He waits patiently, watching the birds take flight in flocks from the trees and hearing the faint crackle of the lit fire. It isn't long before he sees the bobber sink into the water before he feels the tug. Yoongi is quick to jump into action, lifting the rod up high till the line pulls taut. It has taken the bait for sure, Yoongi knows and he proceeds to reel it in with the utmost determination.
It's a success, of course. When he catches sight of the catfish trashing against the surface of the water, he breaks out into the biggest, gummiest grin. It's their first large one of the day. His veins sing in elation. It didn't matter that Yoongi had long since lost count of the number of fishes he'd caught over the years but even still, the joy and satisfaction he feels at every single strike is entirely like no other.
He grabs the large fish by the mouth and pries it out of the hook before showing it off to his grandfather with the proudest of smiles. He expects his grandfather to express his approval and indulge him with a few words of praise.
But what he doesn't expect is the boisterous laughter somewhere from behind him, that is followed by loud hooting and clapping and whistling.
Yoongi whips around, startled. And what stands before his eyes, or more like who , is even more unexpected…
Standing at a distance, amidst the shrubberies, is a boy who couldn’t have been any older than him, hands still clapping and mouth beaming wide. Yoongi gapes at the intruder dumbfounded as the fish twitches in his grasp, not knowing how to comprehend the situation.
He is no stranger to applause so that’s not what’s got him in a twist right now. All his life, he was only ever used to rejection from kids around him. Just a boy who wouldn’t amount to much. Not an exemplary student, a loner, boring, indolent, too short, too ugly, too soft, too grubby. He’d never been anything but an object of scorn in the eyes of his peers, not worth the time of their day if it wasn’t to spew insults at him.
So imagine his surprise when another child doesn’t absolutely despise him at the first sight.
The boy is gangly, all limbs and bones. Dark hair swept by the wind in a disarray. The peculiar smile being the most striking feature on him. And even from afar, Yoongi notices that his cheeks look really, really squishy.
“Nice,” the boy comments, sincerity evident in his voice, which by the way doesn’t sound all that grating like it usually does with the others.
“ Tae! ” a second voice calls, Yoongi decides he doesn’t like that one as much. Throwing one last thumbs up Yoongi’s way, so called Tae turns around and sprints towards the direction of where the voice came from, leaving Yoongi still gawking after him. The catfish hangs limp and lifeless from his thumb.
If you ask Yoongi, he would always say children are cruel. That they’re all the same. Can you blame him though? It’s all he’s ever known. How harsh those little hands and mouth can be. So he simply doesn’t get why this one boy who goes by the name ‘Tae’ is just… different. Why would he be so persistent to keep paying Yoongi these little visits while he fishes after that first time?
It’s just so bizarre.
Are children even capable of realising the delight of an activity so passive and calming? Aren’t all of them more inclined to chase each other around on the streets till the sun goes down and their mothers grow vexed?
The third time ‘Tae’ had shown up at the lake, Yoongi tried to get to the bottom of this. He had yelled out to the boy, questioning him as to what he wanted and demanded to know why kept coming and cheering him on. The other had simply shrugged, not bothering to give him a proper response but seemingly unphased at Yoongi’s outburst. The cheesy smile on his face never once letting up.
That's how things go now, with an occasional addition to the pair. Sometimes, Tae would have his friends tag along, though most seem to be there against their will. Not that Yoongi cares but he can't help but notice that this boy must be some sort of a leader for his ragtag group of friends, which he observes usually consists of three boys and one girl.
But most times Tae would be there alone. Sitting on the rocks and watching him. Quiet only until Yoongi lands a catch. Then it all breaks loose and the sound of the boy's laughter and cheerful exclamation is louder than anything Yoongi has heard. The kid must have vocal cords for days since Yoongi hears those sounds even in his dreams for nights to follow.
Yoongi remains steadfast, however, in ignoring his presence to the best of his abilities while his grandfather sometimes strikes up a conversation with him.
He is skeptical, if he's being honest. He is just not used to this kind of attention. Especially coming from someone so young. What if they had ulterior motives? He doesn't know what but he sure doesn't like the ambiguity.
“He likes you,” His grandfather tells him one evening as they are trudging back home, hugging a basketful. “That kid thinks you're very talented.”
Yoongi's not going to lie. He does feel a swell of pride in his chest as he discovers this news. He is curious. Skin tingling with the desire to know more.
What's his name? How old is he? Why is he interested in something all my classmates make fun of me for? Does he know how to fish? Why does he not hate me like the others?
But Yoongi stays quiet, feigning indifference like he's learned to do with most things.
However, he trusts his grandpa; knows he's telling the truth. So the wall around his heart slowly but surely inches downwards.
Somebody finally likes him…
Soon, Yoongi finds himself looking forward to the boy's presence. At times, he doesn't even know why he gets a bit grumpy when he doesn't show up for a few long days. And the times that he does show up, Yoongi would work that much harder to show off all the techniques he'd learnt and would rapidly capture fishes after fishes, leaving the other boy in apparent awe.
Tae would squeal, jump, clap, whistle, hoot and even give him a few complimentary remarks and each time, Yoongi can't help but smile ever so slightly but of course, he'll make sure the other doesn't see.
Yoongi is the happiest he's been in a long while. He has always loved fishing. Always sort it out as a means of comfort but something about the boy's appearance in his life makes it better by tenfolds.
He is in an especially good mood today. His classmates had left him alone at school. He'd received a test result and found out that he had done well. And now, the lake seemed to be so much more livelier than usual.
Also, Tae is here. He sits cross-legged on the dirt, licking away furiously at an ice-cream bar that's rapidly melting all over his hands. They had never spoken before and Yoongi sort of wants to change that.
Yoongi holds a long bass in his hands and strides up to the other, who is now meticulously cleaning up the bar stick with his tongue. He tries to school in his expression into something neutral although the sight before him is truly comical.
He clears his throat, getting the boy's attention. Looking away, Yoongi holds the fish out to him. The other boy scrambles to his feet.
“What?” He asks.
“For you,” Yoongi grumbles. He doesn't sound too pleased but that isn't the case in actuality. It should solely be attributed to his lack of social skills.
Yoongi looks back at him just in time to see the kid's eyes light up brighter than the water reflecting the sinking sun, a little bit in surprise and a little in euphoria. And he thanks the God because what wouldn't he have done to get to witness that mesmerising sight alone?
He's smiling now, revealing two rows of perfect teeth, albeit one missing and Yoongi suppresses a sigh. His heart, in lack of better words, is melting just like the ice cream did minutes ago in the boy's hands.
“Thank you.” It's said timidly, a sound Yoongi didn't think was possible coming from him.
Yoongi nods. Then, “What's your name?”
Now, that's where the 'Tae’ belongs to.
“I think you're really cool.”
“Do you really?”
“Yes! Obviously, Yoongi.” Taehyung giggles.
“That's hyung for you.”
“So you like fishing? You know how to?” Once the questions start coming, he can't seem to stop them.
“No no!” Taehyung says, shaking both his head and hands simultaneously. “I never liked it. And I absolutely don't know it.”
“Then why do you come here?” Yoongi thinks that's a little absurd.
“Because I like watching you do it. I don't know why. You just make it look interesting.” His words are blunt and honest. Yoongi can't say he hadn't expected that but it still throws him off. The way he can so unabashedly say something like that.
Yoongi and Taehyung aren't friends. Technically. But Taehyung is the closest thing to a friend Yoongi has ever had. They don't talk or play like friends are supposed to. The only time they meet is at the lake when he comes to see Yoongi fishing on some days and even then, the time they're together is mostly spent in relative silence.
They don't know much about each other like friends do but Yoongi is okay with that. It's more than he could've ever even dreamed of. He is more than content with Taehyung's company alone.
In due course of time, this becomes a constant.
Yoongi offers to teach him a few basics but not everyone is blessed with the capabilities such as himself. Taehyung is clumsy; very much so. Fumbling and dropping and breaking until they all but give up and Taehyung slinks back to just watch him.
Once in a while, Taehyung would stalk up to Yoongi confidently, declaring that he would have another try, only for both of them to end up clutching their stomachs in laughter when Taehyung somehow manages to tangle himself in the line.
Yoongi has never laughed like that with someone.
If an outsider looked at them at that moment, two boys huddled together and laughing, it wouldn't seem to be of any significance. But for Yoongi, this is everything. This is unreal. This is almost too good to be true. But Yoongi wishes it is.
Wishes don't exist.
He realises this one evening when Yoongi walks back home dejected, one bluegill fish and two crappies is all there is in the basket he holds. He is tired. He just wants to sleep. But the universe has other plans for him– one that is the cruelest yet.
The first thing he registers is the sound of wailing. His blood runs cold and he feels his heart physically drop in his chest.
Yoongi could recognise it even if he were deaf.
It's his mother's.
He walks into the house and those few steps it took to get past the threshold seemed to be extremely difficult.
Inside, he sees his mother crouched on the floor, hands gripping her chest where her heart must be and torturous sobs wreck her body. Beside her there's his father, arms around her and trying his best to console.
Time slows down and things pass by in a blur.
Yoongi was told that his grandfather went to take a quick nap and never woke up.
It's a feeling unlike anything he's felt before: Grief.
He wouldn't wish that feeling upon his worst enemies. Not even those bullies deserve to feel that pain. In fact, he hopes they hit him more because he would take anything over the pain he feels now.
He has never felt more alone, lost and stranded in his whole life; even when he would sit under the tree far away from the rest to have his lunch, even when they'd left him behind on a school trip to Otgol Village and his father had come to find him and take the terrified boy back home.
There wasn't a single soul on the godforsaken Earth that knew him the way his grandfather did. No one that meant to him what the old man did.
Yoongi would cry and scream into his pillow, wishing for anything and anyone to just bring him back.
But wishes don't exist.
His parents keep an eye out for him always but they give him space. Give him time to heal, not that he thinks he could ever.
He doesn't know how long it's been since he'd gone fishing. It hurt too much. Fishing was always their thing. It isn't fair and it doesn't feel right.
But it is where his soul resides and so he goes back.
The first time he went there after his grandfather's demise, he had bawled his eyes out.
He works harder still, to make up for how much his old man would contribute. But his heart continues to shrivel and wither and rot.
And he knows part of the reason for that is because he hasn't seen him in what feels like years.
Days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months and Taehyung still doesn't show up. His light in the darkest tunnel. His only beacon of hope.
Taehyung just… disappeared.
Yoongi doesn't know where he lives or where he studies or where he plays. He doesn't know his family or friends. He doesn't know how to find him. He never really knew him at all and now he has lost him too.
And it's all his fault.
Maybe if he had gone out to the lake sooner, maybe if he wasn't so lazy like the others say, maybe if he'd worked hard to get better grades, maybe if he had put more effort into washing his clothes and body to expel the smell, then maybe. Just maybe, the world wouldn't punish him this much.
Yoongi meets Hoseok when he is 14. This time, he can truly call someone his 'friend’.
Hoseok had trudged up to their house with his mother, all confidence and bright smiles and introduced himself as their next door neighbors.
Yoongi instantly notices that his brightness could rival even Taehyung's. He briefly wonders if his bones encase the darkest of darknesses for him to attract the brightest of people.
It doesn't take long for them to grow close, what with Hoseok clinging to Yoongi's side 24/7. And the guy's personality is simply so contagious that Yoongi can't help but smile when he smiles. And he's generally a very easy person to get along with. His parents adore Hoseok and Hoseok's parents coo at Yoongi when he brings them freshly caught fishes. High school isn't so much of a hell with Hoseok around.
Soon, wherever Yoongi goes, Hoseok would surely follow.
That is until, like all good things in his life come to an end. This momentary happiness comes to an end too.
It's almost funny at this point. It's like giving a baby it's favorite toy to play with and then repeatedly snatching it away when least expected just to watch it wailing in distress.
Life is sadistic.
“Yoongi…” He starts and hesitates and Yoongi knows what’s coming next isn't anything pleasant.
“Say it.” Yoongi urges.
“I got a sports scholarship…” Hoseok gulps. “At SNU.”
“That’s… Hoseok, that's amazing.” Yoongi forces every ounce of his being to be as sincere as possible. “I'm so proud of you.” He hopes his smile doesn’t look more like a grimace. “Really.”
And when they part ways for the night, Yoongi cries himself to sleep.
If history keeps repeating itself, then you are bound to it. You'll start to believe that there's no way you could break free from the cycle.
Yoongi has never been one for the complicated and that notion is as simple as it gets. So, Yoongi will believe just that.
Because it's easier that way. That feeling is more than an acquaintance to him. That feeling settles back into its place, right where it's supposed to be and resonates deep within him.
Yoongi knows loneliness like he knows the creases of his palm. Knows it like he knows the moles on his body. And it sticks…
Loneliness sticks to him like the smell of the sea and its creatures; more so a part of himself as the latter.