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strawberries & cigarettes

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as with most other things in his life, jeongguk misses the bus by accident. he sleeps through his alarm on a bright monday morning and wakes half an hour later than he should, half an hour later than he needs to. jeongguk is very particular about these things—he knows exactly how long it takes him to shower in the morning, how long it takes to do his hair, how long it takes to make breakfast. he knows exactly how long it takes to get from his apartment to the bus stop, and from the bus stop by his apartment to the bus stop by the bookshop he’s been working at for the past three months. he knows these things, and knows that if just one of those tasks takes even a few minutes longer than it should, the whole system will fall apart.

or—if he sleeps through his alarm.

“shit,” he hisses when he wakes up and realizes it’s much too light outside to be 7:45. he rolls over, grabbing his glasses and shoving them on his face before he grabs his phone and sees the time glaring back at him: 8:14. his bus comes at 8:36, exactly, and it takes thirteen minutes, exactly, for jeongguk to walk there from his apartment. that means he has about nine minutes to get ready. as he throws the covers off of him and scrambles out of bed, tearing through his closet to find something to wear, he works through it in his head—he can’t make a real breakfast with that time, but he also won’t have time to stop somewhere to get food before his shift starts. he always has a good, nutritious breakfast, though, and just having an apple isn’t going to cut it.

“shit, shit, shit,” he continues to mutter as he finally pulls on his clothes—an oversized, baby pink sweatshirt and cuffed jeans, and maybe it’s a step down from the clothes he likes to wear to work to show that he’s a grown up adult who has grown up adult clothes, but he’s panicked. he needs something soft, warm—something to keep him from feeling frazzled all day, just from waking up late. he checks the time again: 8:16. seven minutes before he has to leave the house.

jeongguk makes a grunting noise when his arm gets stuck in his sleeve, hopping around his room before he passes the mirror and sees the absolutely devastating state of his hair; hurriedly, he pushes his arm through his sleeve and tries to do something about it, smoothing his hair down on his sides. it’s a little swoopy in the front, pieces of his fringe falling into his eyes, but—it’ll have to do. he switches his glasses for contacts, hoping it makes him look at least somewhat put together despite what everything else suggests.

he bustles around the rest of his room, hastily grabbing the supplies he needs for the day and then racing out of his room and into the kitchen. his roommates have already left for the day—namjoon is in his first year of a master’s degree and seokjin is trying to get cast in literally any tv show, so they’re both gone all of the time. now, he curses that fact as he fumbles around for some breakfast, grabbing an apple when he sees there’s just about nothing in the fridge, anyway. he’s going to be hungry all morning, already groaning at the thought, but when he checks the time again, he sees it’s 8:26. he’s already four minutes behind schedule, and there’s no time.

completely out of sorts, jeongguk slings his backpack over his shoulder and heads out of the house. at least he’s always been a fast runner, so he locks the door and takes off down the street. each step has his heart pounding harder, harder—he’s scared of missing the bus, sure, but what he’s really scared of is being late to work. he’s only been at the bookshop for three months and he doesn’t want them thinking that he’s not a good employee, that tardiness is going to become a habit. jeongguk, above all, is a people pleaser, and he likes to follow the rules. he always shows up early to work, something that his boss gratefully comments on, and the idea of her being disappointed in him for showing up late has him picking up speed.

and anyway. he needs this job. he likes reading and likes helping people, but more than that, he needs the money, since he’s trying to save up for singing lessons, because that’s what he really wants to do. his high school choir teacher used to say that he had the voice of an angel, and the face of one too, so if anyone could become famous, it was him. jeongguk’s not sure he has the stage presence for it, but he likes singing. he wants to be a singer.

which means he can’t be late to work.

except—except.

by the time jeongguk manages to get to the bus stop, having stopped several times just to breathe and once to check on a potentially injured bird across the street, the time is already 8:34. which means that the bus should still be coming, but—jeongguk stands, catching his breath, and watches as other cars drive past him. and the bus doesn’t come. he stands and waits for three minutes, four, five—even ten minutes, all without the bus coming. which means it must have come early for once, and jeongguk missed it anyway, even with him rushing through his entire morning routine and running all the way here.

with this realization, jeongguk lets out a very long sigh. he can’t miss work. he can’t miss work. and he doesn’t know what to do, panic filling him up from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. he can’t disappoint people, doesn’t need to be reprimanded or he’ll fucking cry because he hates it. he hates it.

he needs to find a way to get to work, and both namjoon and seokjin are gone, too far away to come and get him. and it’s only been three months here, which means jeongguk hasn’t really made any friends—he’s shy, an introvert, doesn’t like going to social gatherings especially in places a nineteen-year-old might be expected to go: clubs, bars, parties. jeongguk likes spending his friday nights curled up in his bed watching studio ghibli films while cuddling with his favourite stuffed animals. now he curses himself for being like this, for not having any friends.

for not having any friends except—hoseok. hoseok, a regular at the bookshop because it’s right across the street from the starbucks he works at while he’s saving up for school, too. hoseok, who asked jeongguk for help finding a book for his roommate the first time he came into the store and then ended up staying for almost two hours, waiting for jeongguk to go on break so they could talk. hoseok, who, despite seeing that jeongguk is shy and might not be the best with making conversation, pushed his way into jeongguk’s life anyway.

they’ve only known enough for a month, and they haven’t hung out outside of the bookshop or starbucks or both. which means… maybe jeongguk shouldn’t reach out to him. maybe hoseok has other things to do, maybe hoseok won’t care enough despite how friendly and outgoing and bright he is. but. hoseok has a car. hoseok has a car and jeongguk needs to get to work and the longer he stands there at the bus stop, the more panicked he feels.

it’s this panic that has him pulling out his phone and searching for hoseok’s number, overcoming the anxiety of talking on the phone in the first place. it seems to take forever for hoseok to pick up, but when he does, it’s with a bright, “jeonggukkie!”

“hi, hoseokie-hyung,” says jeongguk shyly, already feeling guilty despite not even having made his request. what if hoseok has more important things to do? but when he pulls his phone away from his ear, he sees that his shift is supposed to start in half an hour, and it takes at least twenty minutes to get from here to there, so. so.

“missed me so much that you couldn’t wait to see me at work, huh?” asks hoseok, and jeongguk flushes.

“no,” he admits. “i—i mean, i do miss you. i mean—not like that. fuck, i mean—”

“jeongguk-ah,” says hoseok, chuckling a little. “it’s okay, i was just teasing. what’s up?”

jeongguk swallows tightly, trying to tamp down all of the emotion within him. he feels small, suddenly. “i’m sorry for bothering you,” he begins. “but um—i kind of missed my bus? and i don’t have a car or a bike or anything and my shift starts in half an hour and i really, really need to get there because they’ll fire me if i’m late or miss it and i feel really bad and i don’t have a way to get there so i was just wondering maybe, and—and obviously you can say no, it’s fine—”

“you need a ride to work?” hoseok cuts him off, thankfully.

“yeah,” breathes jeongguk. “i’m really sorry; you don’t have to, though.”

“don’t apologize,” says hoseok. “i’d love to drive you, guk-ah, but i’m actually just about to start my own shift and i don’t think i can swing that.”

jeongguk’s stomach drops. “oh,” he says. “oh, oh, that’s okay, hyung. it’s okay, don’t worry, i’ll—”

“but,” says hoseok before jeongguk can continue rambling. “my roommate is home today and i can ask him to pick you up?”

the thing about jeongguk—not only is he shy and overwhelmed easily by things like crowds or parties, but he’s really not good with strangers. it’s different when he’s at work, because he’s meant to help strangers, and for the most part, his boss lets him work on shelving things until someone asks him for help. it’s different when he’s pushed into a social situation with someone he doesn’t know. he’s different when he has to get into a car with someone he doesn’t know, let them drive him across town.

he pales at the thought. hoseok hasn’t spoken much about his roommate, merely mentioned that he has one and mentioned a bit about him when jeongguk was trying to find a book for him, but jeongguk doesn’t think hoseok would live with anyone who wasn’t nice and would try to kill him on the way to work. but, still. still.

“um,” says jeongguk when he realizes he hasn’t answered. “are you sure? i don’t want to—to be a burden on anyone; if he doesn’t want to drive me, that’s okay.”

“you need to get to work, right?” asks hoseok. “and i have a means of getting you there. trust me, yoongi-hyung is a great person and he owes me like, fourteen thousand favours anyway, so he’ll be more than happy to drive you. just send me your location and he’ll be there soon, okay?”

so—like most things in his life, jeongguk meets min yoongi by accident.

jeongguk spends the entire fourteen minutes and eighteen seconds it takes for yoongi to show up wringing his hands, pacing back and forth on the street, and panicking. this time, it’s both panicking about being late to his shift and panicking about meeting someone new and being expected to get in a car with him. but yoongi is probably a nice person. he’s probably as nice as hoseok, just as friendly and bright and easy to get along with. he’s probably not a serial killer.

and besides, even if jeongguk is too scared and shy to say anything, it’s not like they have to be friends. yoongi is just giving him a ride to work. they never have to see each other ever again after this, which is hopefully how this goes—jeongguk doesn’t want to keep seeing someone who had to rescue him like this. it’s far too embarrassing.

that’s what he decides in those fourteen minutes and eighteen seconds—he’ll just get in yoongi’s beat up old car and give him the address to the bookshop and never, ever, ever think about min yoongi again.

and then he actually meets min yoongi, and all of that goes to shit.

yoongi doesn’t, like jeongguk expected, show up in a beat up old car. in fact, he doesn’t show up in a car at all. when min yoongi shows up, it’s like this:

jeongguk hears the loud rumble of a motorcycle before he sees it, but he turns his head down the street anyway, catching sight of someone tearing down the mostly-empty street. the motorcycle is sleek and black, its rider hunched over the handles with a bright red helmet on. jeongguk makes a face, taking a step away from the curb as he waits for the person to pass; he’s never been a fan of those—too loud and far too dangerous.

but then the person on the motorcycle starts slowing down and comes to a stop right beside jeongguk, the motorcycle roaring idly for a second before the rider turns it off and knocks out the kickstand. they swing a leg over the side of the bike, stepping onto the curb and pulling off the helmet to reveal—the most ridiculously attractive man that jeongguk has ever seen in his entire fucking life.

it’s striking, maybe—the cut off his jaw or the line of his throat. it all seems to happen in slow motion, like the romantic comedies that jeongguk is so fond of—the man takes off his helmet and shakes his head a little, running a hand through his fucking dyed grey hair as he hoists the helmet under his arm and turns to look at jeongguk. his eyes are dark, strangely cat-like (and jeongguk has to swallow the thought about how much he fucking likes cats) and outlined in just a hint of eyeliner, nose perfectly round, lips pink as the sweater jeongguk is wearing.

jeongguk’s mouth immediately goes dry before he even bothers to look at what the man is wearing. he doesn’t get a chance, though, before the man’s lips curl into a little grin and he says, “you’re jeongguk, right?”

and oh. oh, jesus fucking christ.

jeongguk doesn’t realize that he’s just standing there clutching the hem of his sweater and staring until the man lets out this husky laugh, shaking some of his hair out of his eyes and approaching with his free hand held out between them. “i’m yoongi,” he says. “hoseok’s roommate? he asked if i would be willing to drive you to work so here i am.” jeongguk stares at yoongi’s outstretched hand—nails covered in chipped black polish, which are attached to a very long and veiny hand, which is coming out of a fucking leather jacket, which is thrown over a black shirt, which is tucked into a pair of very tight and ripped black jeans, which come to rest above a pair of black combat boots, and that’s just—not fair. at all.

somehow, jeongguk manages to make the part of his brain not connected to his dick work enough to raise his hand, grasping onto yoongi’s a little too tightly. he swallows thickly, praying to god that his face isn’t as red as it feels when he looks yoongi in the eye again and lets out a quiet, “hi.”

yoongi’s lips curl into a stupidly attractive smile, like he’s delighted just to hear jeongguk’s voice, and that’s—weird. that’s weird because yoongi drives a motorcycle and wears nothing but black and has grey hair and by all means looks like the boy that his parents warned him about before he moved to seoul—earrings studding his ears, arms likely covered in tattoos, bad habits just waiting to come out and bite, but. yoongi is smiling at him. yoongi is smiling at him and giving his hand a gentle shake and saying, “i hope you’re not opposed to taking my bike? it’s the only thing i have, but um… i have an extra helmet and i promise not to go faster than the speed limit.”

jeongguk stops himself from saying something stupid, like i’d let you do literally anything if you keep smiling like that, and just gives a small nod. “okay,” he says, dropping yoongi’s hand and blushing, because of course he blushes. yoongi grins wider. jeongguk thinks—fuck. he’s very bad at lying, so when hoseok comes over to the bookshop later and inevitably asks about this, jeongguk will have to say that he’s gone and fallen in love at first sight with the first attractive boy to smile at him, who just so happens to be, as he’s sure seokjin and namjoon would put it: a bad boy.

it was probably inevitable. jeongguk’s heart is very, very gentle, and very, very easily taken with things he can’t have.

“okay,” repeats yoongi, and then holds out his helmet. “you can have this helmet so you don’t have to wear the my little pony one. that’s hobi’s.”

jeongguk lets out a giggle, taking the helmet. “i don’t mind,” he says, but yoongi is already returning to the bike and grabbing the other helmet—my little pony, just like he’d said—and fitting it over his head. “it doesn’t really go with your…” he pauses, unsure what he’s trying to say. doesn’t really go with yoongi’s everything, it seems—he gives off such an air of confidence and coolness, seems like he has a lot of rock posters up in his room and probably knows a thing or two about breaking the law. after a second, jeongguk settles on finishing the sentence with: “outfit.”

“what, you don’t think i can rock a leather jacket and my little pony at the same time?” asks yoongi, lips curling into a smirk, which is—almost worse than the smile.

and jeongguk blushes, of course, taken back by the teasing. “n-no,” he stutters. “i mean—yes. i mean—” he stops, blushing harder when yoongi starts chuckling at him, and shoves the helmet over his own head in hopes of masking it somehow. “you can wear whatever you want,” he finally says quietly. the worst part, maybe, is that yoongi doesn’t care—he will wear a leather jacket and my little pony at the same time, clearly not worried about strange looks or what people, least of jeongguk, might think.

“here, let me help you with that,” says yoongi, and jeongguk freezes on the spot as he approaches. this close, when yoongi comes to a stop inches away from him and starts fiddling with the chin strap, jeongguk realizes several things: first, yoongi is shorter than him. not by much, but he is. something curls in jeongguk’s stomach at the thought. second, that yoongi is even prettier up close—from here, with yoongi’s gaze thankfully elsewhere, he can make out the make up on yoongi’s eyelids, the slight upturn of his lips. there’s something strangely delicate about his features, despite the sharpness of everything else. and third—that he smells really, really good, like pine and just a hint of something smokey.

jeongguk likes it. which is saying something, considering jeongguk is sensitive to smells.

anyway. he doesn’t have time to focus on yoongi’s fingers brushing against the underside of his chin or how close he’s standing or anything, too overwhelmed with everything else. and then yoongi is stepping back, grinning at him and saying, “good to go. let’s get you to work, okay?”

jeongguk had almost forgotten that he was supposed to go to work. he’s probably late by now—but suddenly, that prospect doesn’t seem so bad. he nods anyway, rattling off the address before he follows yoongi to the motorcycle. the truth is that he does have a problem with these things—he’s never ridden one, but he doesn’t have to have ridden one to know its dangers. jeongguk much prefers to be in a vehicle with doors, or better yet, something that has hand rails and seatbelts. but he doesn’t want to seem like a baby, and yoongi has been very kind to go out of his way in order to drive jeongguk to work, so. when yoongi swings his leg over the bike and sits down, scooting up to leave room for jeongguk behind him, jeongguk just takes a very deep breath and follows.

he sits behind yoongi, trying not to panic at the idea of speeding through the city on this thing. the only good thing is that he can’t see much if he just stares at yoongi’s back, which is nice and broad and a very good shield.

“hold onto me, okay?” says yoongi. “don’t worry, jeongguk. i’ll keep you safe.”

it’s a good thing, of course, that yoongi can’t actually see him, because jeongguk’s face immediately bursts into flames. he scoots forward, though, until they’re pressed together and gingerly wraps his arms around yoongi’s middle, hugging him just enough to feel safe. he takes a deep breath, and then yoongi starts the motorcycle; it roars to life underneath them and jeongguk practically squeaks, hold instantly tightening around yoongi despite the fact that they haven’t even moved. yoongi must think it’s funny, too, because he laughs again, pats jeongguk’s hand, and then starts driving.

it takes exactly sixteen minutes and forty-five seconds to get to the bookshop. jeongguk knows because he counts each second with his stomach in knots, terrified that something awful is going to happen. he finds that he trusts yoongi implicitly, not worried that he’s going to murder jeongguk or crash, but they’re still on a motorcycle. he keeps his arms tightly wrapped around yoongi and face pressed to yoongi’s back through the helmet with his eyes squeezed shut, even when they’re sitting at stoplights and yoongi tells him that he doesn’t have to hold on so tightly when they’re not even moving.

it’s very stressful. but after sixteen minutes and forty-five seconds, they pull up outside of the bookshop. at first, jeongguk doesn’t realize it, since his eyes are closed, but then yoongi is laughing again and gently grabbing jeongguk’s hands to pry them away. “you can open your eyes now,” he says. “we’re here.”

when jeongguk cracks one eye open, he sees that yoongi is right. then he’s quick to retract his arms, all but throwing himself off of the death trap and landing on wobbly legs. yoongi is still laughing behind him, and jeongguk turns around before jutting his chin out. “please take this off,” he says. “i never want to get back on a motorcycle again in my life.”

with their faces this close again and yoongi working at the chin strap, he asks, “not even if you miss the bus and need someone to rescue you again?”

jeongguk flushes, pouting as yoongi finishes with the chin strap and he takes the helmet off. rather than responding to that comment, he just toys with the straps of his backpack and says, “um—thank you. for rescuing me. i really appreciate it.” he doesn’t even know what time it is, so he might be late, but. at least he’s here.

“it was my pleasure,” says yoongi as he takes off his own helmet, tucking one under each arm. “have a good day at work, okay? and—really, if you do ever need another ride to work or anywhere else, i’m always happy to help.”

the idea of getting back on that motorcycle is extremely unappealing. the idea of seeing yoongi again, however… well. maybe jeongguk can just learn how to deal with feeling like he’s constantly at risk of dying while flying down the highway without anything to protect him.

“okay,” he says, taking a step back. yoongi gives him a half wave before returning to the bike, putting away the my little pony helmet before he sits down on the seat, and—he’s leaving. of course he’s leaving; that’s how this is supposed to work. jeongguk is supposed to miss his bus and panic-call a friend who sends someone to pick him up, and yoongi is supposed to drive him to work and then go back home. except—jeongguk kind of fucked it up by ending up absolutely smitten.

because yoongi is very nice to look at, but he’s also just very nice in general. he’s sweet, despite what his appearance would suggest about him. jeongguk likes him. jeongguk really, really likes him.

he chews on his bottom lip for a moment as he surveys yoongi preparing to leave. and jeongguk isn’t—a forward person by any means. he’s rather a wallflower, passive in letting things happen to him. but there’s something about the ride or the look in yoongi’s eye when he’d been teasing jeongguk or how fast his heart is beating that has him putting all that aside and calling out a, “wait!” before darting forward. yoongi looks up at him, surprise in his eyes as jeongguk gets to the curb and leans down, pressing his lips to yoongi’s cheek in a soft kiss.

and then he’s straightening back up, muttering a, “thanks again. um—bye,” before he turns around and flees, cheeks coloured red all the way to the door of the bookshop. he doesn’t look back, not once—and so doesn’t see yoongi hurriedly shoving his helmet over his head like he’s hiding something, like he has something to flee from, too.

later, when hoseok does come over to the bookshop and does ask about it, jeongguk has to hide behind the books he’s trying to shelve because he’s blushing so fiercely. and hoseok giggles at him, teasing, and jeongguk tries to explain that it was just nice, stuttering the whole way. after making a fool of himself through the whole conversation, jeongguk tries to shoo hoseok out of the shop.

at the door, hoseok turns around and beams at him with something akin to mischief in his eyes. says, “you know, if you ever want to come over for dinner…” and jeongguk almost shrieks at him, physically pushing him out of the store and closing the door in the wake of hoseok’s delighted laughter.

but still, even later, after he’s gotten home safe and sound on the bus that he didn’t miss this time—he texts hoseok. says, will you have vegetarian options at this hypothetical dinner? ten minutes later, hoseok replies with something about the only meat that jeongguk will want to eat. he stops reading halfway through, not in the mood to be mentally scarred, but—but. he thinks about seeing yoongi again and has to dive under his covers, feet kicking. there are much worse ways the day could have gone.

a week later, jeongguk goes for dinner at hoseok and yoongi’s apartment. eight days later, to be exact, and jeongguk counts each day with a growing impatience and nervousness. on the night of the dinner, he changes his outfit five times, making such a ruckus that seokjin peeks his head into jeongguk’s room and asks if he’s going on a date, and jeongguk throws his shoe at him, and that’s that.

he takes the bus, because he takes the bus everywhere, despite hoseok’s suggestive texts asking if he’s sure he doesn’t need a ride—but jeongguk wants to make a good impression, a better one than the first. he’s sure he must have looked half a mess, but now he makes sure that his hair is actually laying flat and that his sweater isn’t creased as he approaches the right apartment with a little gift of wine—because that’s what adults do, right?

anyway. anyway. he can’t stop the nerves that bundle up inside of him as he comes to rest in front of the door and raises his fist to knock—and then thinks better of it. yoongi is on the other side of that door. jeongguk thinks about his devastating eyes and his cupid’s bow and the way his hair fell just into his eyes, and jeongguk can feel all sorts of panic again, although a much different kind of panic from being late to work. but it’s panic nonetheless.

he considers just leaving and then calling hoseok and telling him that he’s unexpectedly come down with the flu, and isn’t that sad, and he hopes that both he and yoongi have wonderful lives as he’ll never be seeing either of them again, hopefully. that’s easier, isn’t it, then having to face someone he finds horrendously attractive and has already made a fool of himself in front of and knows, without a doubt, that nothing will ever happen, because they’re just too different. yoongi is—cool. yoongi wears leather and rides a motorcycle. jeongguk, on the other hand, cried thinking about dogs earlier today, so.

so he’s about to leave when the door opens anyway, jeongguk’s hand still poised to knock, and—and there he is.

jeongguk freezes, eyes widening as he stares at yoongi standing in the doorway. his brain sort of just—short circuits, because. because somehow, eight days of distance has managed to make min yoongi even more attractive, like jeongguk had convinced himself that he was romanticizing it all only to be slapped in the face now with yoongi standing there with one hand on the door and the other on his hip, casual.

(and jeongguk was right, he thinks—yoongi’s wearing a t-shirt and his arms are covered in tattoos and he has this thought, strangely, that he kind of just wants to touch them, wants to trace the lines and patterns, wants to memorize them until he can draw them with his eyes closed.)

“hello,” says yoongi, grinning.

“um,” says jeongguk. he realizes that his hand is still raised and quickly puts it down, already flushing when he says, “were you—did you… see me?”

“i got worried that you’d fallen asleep on your feet or something,” says yoongi with an even wider grin, and jeongguk’s eyes flicker to the door; there’s a peep hole, of course. he’s been standing there for five minutes already, debating, and yoongi was just watching him struggle. how mortifying. he might as well just turn around and flee.

when he doesn’t say anything else, yoongi takes a little step back. “wanna come in?” he asks, and jeongguk realizes that he’s wearing a choker. why the fuck is he wearing a choker? how did hoseok allow that knowing damn well that jeongguk has a thing for very nice throats that are very nicely accentuated with very nice throat accessories such as nice fucking chokers?

“jeongguk?” asks yoongi, and jeongguk’s eyes snap upward, to his face.

“yes,” he says quickly. “no. sorry, what was the question?”

that makes yoongi laugh—something swells in jeongguk’s chest—before he takes another step back and opens the door wider, gesturing for jeongguk to come inside. “hoseok’s just finishing dinner. don’t worry about taking your shoes off.” ah yes, hoseok—hoseok who definitely knew that jeongguk was supposed to be showing up about now and probably sent yoongi to be on door duty. because he likes torturing jeongguk, and that’s not fair. nothing about this is fair, but despite his fight or flight response kicking in—or, in jeongguk’s case, flight or flight—he knows that going home would be a mistake.

so he steps inside, ducking his head so he doesn’t have to see yoongi’s grin, and mutters a thanks. and feels very grateful for the wine he’s brought, which probably won’t be much of a gift after all, because he suddenly feels the need to drink it all himself.

remarkably, the dinner goes well—jeongguk tries to keep his head down and not stare at yoongi’s pretty, pretty face every time he says something, but it’s hard. the wine goes very quickly, mostly into jeongguk’s mouth, but hoseok and yoongi have their own liquor cabinet that they break into as they get further into the evening. hoseok is, thankfully, a nice mediator—he likes to talk and can talk a lot, happily asking jeongguk questions and telling all sorts of ridiculous stories about yoongi that have jeongguk giggling. like how they met (they went to high school together, and despite running in different crowds, managed to bond over their mutual love for obscure underground rappers) and what it’s like living together (hoseok started the oven on fire last week, yoongi put said fire out with hoseok’s favourite sweater completely by accident—apparently; it’s still a hot topic of debate between them). there are a lot of stories, most of which jeongguk listens to with an increasing adoration for both of them. he likes their relationship, likes how they talk to each other; there’s something about seeing yoongi with hoseok that makes jeongguk a little jealous, but.

but. when he talks about himself, answering some of the basic questions that yoongi asks and delving deeper with hoseok’s prompting, he has to keep his eyes trained on his plate or the wall or somewhere that isn’t yoongi’s face, because yoongi keeps looking at him like—like. something. like something. but it’s fine.

“he’s a very hard worker,” hoseok is saying over dessert, pointing his fork at jeongguk. “every time i go over to the bookshop, he’s deep in those shelves, trying his hardest to avoid all the customers.”

hyung!” protests jeongguk, cheeks colouring as he glances at yoongi to see him laughing. “that’s not true. i’m not avoiding them, i just… have other things to do. important things.”

“i get it,” says yoongi. “i’m not a huge fan of people either.”

“you can say that again,” says hoseok. “if it wasn’t for me, i don’t think you’d have any friends.”

“it’s not my fault that my bed is much more agreeable than ninety-five percent of the people out there,” says yoongi. “my bed can’t disappoint me.”

“he’s hopeless, guk-ah,” sighs hoseok, leaning back in his seat. “absolutely hopeless. i need you to help me save him from himself. you’ll have to be his second friend in this whole fucking city.”

jeongguk catches his bottom lip between his teeth, chancing a glance at yoongi. it’s not—like he thinks they won’t be friends. the whole point of coming over for dinner was to be properly introduced to yoongi, which he has now been, thanks to hoseok. but that doesn’t mean they’ll be friends, doesn’t mean they’ll work together the way jeongguk works with namjoon and seokjin, or like yoongi works with hoseok. they’re not always so lucky. but yoongi is grinning at him, stuffing a piece of dessert in his mouth, and jeongguk thinks—maybe. maybe.

“well,” says jeongguk after a moment, picking at the sleeves of his sweater to distract himself. “i’ll see what i can do about that. i guess it would be nice to have another friend who can drive me around.” across from him, yoongi chuckles, and jeongguk realizes they already have a bit of an inside joke between them.

“so you’re just going to use me?” asks yoongi. “doesn’t sound like a very fair friendship to me.”

“i’m sure jeongguk has something to offer you in return,” hoseok says, and jeongguk looks over to throw him a warning look. the truth is that jeongguk probably doesn’t have much to offer yoongi—not anything that is equal to free rides around the city. jeongguk just has… himself. and he’s inclined to think that’s not really enough. “he’s very good at massages.”

jeongguk flushes. “i only give you massages because you’re always complaining very loudly about how much your shoulders hurt all the time,” he mutters.

“he does that with you, too?” asks yoongi. “god, i swear his first language is complaining. but he always does it in a way that’s just asking for something from you even if he won’t say it. so then he makes you offer rather than him asking.”

“yeah, all the time!” grins jeongguk. “a few days ago, he came into the store and immediately told me that it had been so long since anyone told him that they liked his hair, and i was like, do you want me to say that i like your hair, and he was like, oh, i would never fish for compliments like that.”

excuse me,” says hoseok as both jeongguk and yoongi start laughing. “this isn’t roast hoseok hour. i’m supposed to be embarrassing you.

“i’m very hard to embarrass, hoseok-ah,” says yoongi. “as you already know. i have a very thick shell.” it looks like that, anyway—everything about yoongi screams guarded and impenetrable. even just from spending these few hours with him, jeongguk can tell that appearances aren’t anything, but he’s still not sure that yoongi and hoseok could go toe to toe with embarrassing stories. yoongi’s just very—nonchalant about everything.

“yeah, good luck with that, jeongguk-ah,” says hoseok, leaning over the table toward him, and jeongguk blinks over at him. it almost sounds like he’s just handing yoongi over. which—is weird. sounds too much like hoseok is giving them his blessing for something that hasn’t even happened yet.

their laughter dies down, jeongguk feeling just buzzed enough from the alcohol to not be as nervous as he was when he showed up. he still can’t quite look yoongi in the eye, preferring to keep his gaze trained somewhere around yoongi’s chin if they have to look at each other—although that’s not as helpful as he wants, because then he can see yoongi’s lips, and yoongi’s lips are. very nice. especially when he talks, especially when he licks them, especially when he grins, and—yeah. yeah.

“i’m gonna start dishes,” announces hoseok, getting up from the table. yoongi begins to rise, intending to help out, but hoseok gestures for him to sit. “i’ve got it. jeongguk here is our honoured guest and someone has to keep him company so he doesn’t start stealing things.”

“hey,” pouts jeongguk. “i wouldn’t steal anything.”

“i’ve seen you eying the record collection,” says hoseok with a tut of his tongue, and jeongguk can’t really argue with that. so hoseok gathers their plates and brings them into the kitchen, leaving both yoongi and jeongguk sitting at the dining table, and. suddenly jeongguk realizes that his lack of nerves had less to do with the alcohol and more to do with hoseok; it’s easy to be in any situation with hoseok, because hoseok is comforting and familiar. he seems to know how to deal with anything, and he’s been the mediator all evening between jeongguk and yoongi. he led the conversation, led the dinner, and jeongguk could rely on him to cut the tension if either he or yoongi didn’t know what to say.

but now. now it’s just he and yoongi, and suddenly, his stomach is in knots again. he doesn’t know how to exist with yoongi—not when he can’t stop thinking about how pretty yoongi is and how nice he is and how much he wants to lick his tattoos, and what the fuck, that’s not what he thought earlier. jeongguk realizes that perhaps the alcohol is now having detrimental effects.

thankfully, yoongi seems to be in control of his motor functions, because hoseok has only been gone for a few seconds before he leans a little over the table and asks, “do you wanna take a look?”

jeongguk’s eyes snap upward, widening like a deer caught in the headlights. did he accidentally say the thing about licking yoongi’s tattoos out loud? “at… what?” asks jeongguk.

“the record collection,” says yoongi, and—oh. oh yeah.

“sure,” says jeongguk, and lets yoongi lead the way into the little living room; it’s dotted with shelves, most of which are filled with books and records and trinkets that he imagines each have their own stories. he likes the apartment—feels like it’s lived in, feels like it’s someone’s home. he can see bits of both yoongi and hoseok, coming together in the record collection, which makes sense—music was what connected them in the first place.

jeongguk does his best to pay attention as yoongi pulls out different records and shows them to jeongguk, telling stories about his favourites or where he got them from, but—but jeongguk can’t concentrate when they’re standing this close to each other, arms brushing once in a while when yoongi moves. he can’t concentrate when yoongi is talking like that, voice low and rough, slipping more and more into his own dialect when he gets excited about what he’s talking about. he can’t concentrate when yoongi is just—there.

so jeongguk kind of just… stops trying to pay attention, watching yoongi’s face as he talks. he’s so pretty. so, so fucking pretty, and nice, and it’s weird, because jeongguk probably shouldn’t like him. jeongguk wears pastels and refuses to watch horror movies and has never broken a rule in his entire life. jeongguk should probably want to stay far, far away from yoongi, but—here he is. here he is, and his heart is tripping over itself to get that much closer.

“so what do you think?” yoongi finally asks, turning to look at jeongguk, and jeongguk is jerked out of his thoughts when he realizes he hasn’t retained anything that yoongi has been talking about.

so he says, “oh, um. this is all really cool,” as his flushes just a little. he’s quick to turn his gaze to the shelves, not wanting to make it seem like he’d been caught staring. he reaches out carefully, brushing his fingers over the records. “it’s cool that you’re so passionate about music.”

“hoseok tells me that you want to be a singer,” says yoongi, and jeongguk nods a little.

“i like singing,” says jeongguk with a small shrug. “i don’t know if i’m good enough to make it big, but… that’s why i’m saving up for lessons. it’s the only thing i can really see myself doing in the future, so i thought i’d try it out.”

“that’s really cool, jeongguk,” says yoongi, and when jeongguk glances at him, he looks so sincere and honest that it makes something flip inside of him. “i’m sure you’re great, though. don’t doubt yourself. that’s not going to help you get very far.”

“okay,” whispers jeongguk. “i’ll try.”

yoongi’s grin widens. “i used to want to get into music when i was in high school, actually,” he says. “that’s why i was into those obscure underground rappers—i wanted to be one.”

“really?” asks jeongguk.

“oh, yeah, i was super cool,” laughs yoongi. “but… i dunno. after a while, i realized it wasn’t where my passions really were. i like music and i like rapping, but i ultimately wanted to keep it as just a hobby.”

it’s only then that jeongguk realizes he doesn’t actually know what yoongi does. so he asks, “what did you decide to do, then? where are your passions?”

“human resources,” says yoongi, and jeongguk—stares at him. yoongi laughs. “surprising, no? you probably expect someone like me to work at a bar or in a mechanic shop or something. but that’s what i went to school for—human resources. i find it really interesting.”

that’s the thing about yoongi, he thinks—he’s not at all what jeongguk might have expected him to be, and he’s constantly challenging the preconceived notions that jeongguk has just from what yoongi looks like. he might dress one way but act another, making up this sort of enigma forming in jeongguk’s mind. he’s sure he could spend his whole life trying to understand min yoongi and never get there in the end. (but—even now, he thinks he might like to try.)

“so that’s your job now?” asks jeongguk.

“ah, not yet,” admits yoongi, turning away from the shelf. he wanders the room for a second before he collapses on the sofa. “i’ve been applying for jobs but haven’t gotten one yet. i would like to work in a hospital or the government, if possible, but, um—for now, i’m actually working at build-a-bear.”

jeongguk immediately clamps down on the inside of his cheek, trying to keep himself from giggling. he can’t help it—the mental image of this grey-haired, tattoo-covered man helping children make stuffed animals to love and cherish forever is too funny. actually, it’s cute. apparently he’s not so good at hiding his amusement, though, because yoongi himself lets out a chuckle, shaking his head. “laugh all you want,” he says. “it’s pretty funny. you wouldn’t expect me to work there any more than you’d expect me to be in human resources.”

“you’re very strange, min yoongi,” says jeongguk, tilting his head. “you’re not at all like what i expected.”

“and what did you expect?” asks yoongi. he leans forward, elbows on his knees, and surveys jeongguk from across the room. as much as jeongguk wants to go over there, he feels like it’s better to be here, where he can convince himself it’s best to keep a safe distance. he’s not tipsy enough to make a stupid decision, but he doesn’t want to take his chances. he likes yoongi—likes yoongi so much that it makes his toes curl, and he doesn’t want to ruin that somehow, whatever this is: new and growing and delicate.

so jeongguk turns away from yoongi, looking at the shelves instead. he runs his fingers over the records, the books, the framed pictures. he’s about to answer when he spots something familiar—on one of the shelves, nestled between a little cactus and a framed photo of hoseok and yoongi, is a collection of books that jeongguk distinctly remembers selling hoseok the first time they met. he remembers, suddenly, that hoseok bought them for his roommate—his roommate, who is yoongi.

“did you… read all of these?” he asks suddenly, turning around and pointing at the books: all seven of jane austen’s books. it had been very expensive, if he remembers correctly.

yoongi looks at him for a second before he says, “i’m halfway through mansfield park, although i’ve read all of them several times before, so… yes, technically. jane austen is one of my favourite authors.”

jeongguk stares at him. and then he turns around to stare at the books again.that’s what i mean,” he admits. “you ride a motorcycle and have grey hair and tattoos. i guess i assumed you’d be… a bartender, like you said, or a security guard at a club or something… dangerous. you look like you should be dangerous. you look like you shouldn’t have jane austen as one of your favourite authors.” he doesn’t look at yoongi as he says it, afraid of his reaction. instead, he just keeps going. “you look like you should smoke and get into fights all the time and not give a shit about anyone but yourself. you know, like—heath ledger in 10 things i hate about you, or kylo ren or whatever.”

after a moment, yoongi asks, “you think i’m kylo ren?”

“i don’t know,” huffs jeongguk, peeking over his shoulder. “i don’t watch star trek.”

“star wars.”

“whatever,” mutters jeongguk, turning back to the shelf. that’s not the point he was trying to make, although now—he’s not sure what point he was trying to make in the first place. maybe he’s just trying to convince himself that it’s okay to like yoongi, okay to like him more than he did at first once he’s finding out that yoongi is so much more than just the motorcycle and the pretty eyes, although jeongguk really likes those things, too—the things that yoongi represents. there’s something dangerous about him, even if he works at build-a-bear. something that makes jeongguk feel like he’s breaking a rule by even looking at him, and jeongguk doesn’t like breaking rules, but.

but. he’d break a lot of rules for min yoongi.

“well,” says yoongi, finally, after the silence has dragged on long enough. jeongguk turns around to look at him, sees him lounging against the sofa with a smirk on his lips. “i do ride a motorcycle and have grey hair and tattoos. and i do have a degree in human resources and work at build-a-bear and love jane austen. and i do care about people other than myself. but i also smoke.” jeongguk’s eyebrows rise. “and i’ve gotten in fights before, and i have gotten arrested before.”

jeongguk stares at him. “for what?”

“nothing the other guy didn’t deserve.”

and jeongguk thinks—maybe he was a little too quick to judge either way. maybe yoongi can be the bad boy and sweet at the same time. maybe jeongguk is just very confused and more than a little aroused right now, even though everything in him is telling him that he shouldn’t be.

“o-oh,” he says after a moment, clearing his throat. yoongi continues to smirk at him.

“don’t worry, though,” says yoongi. “i’m not planning on robbing any banks or anything. you don’t have to worry about me being a bad influence on you, jeongguk.”

“i wasn’t worried about that,” says jeongguk quickly. “i just find it… interesting.”

“what about you?”

“what about me?”

yoongi tilts his head. “are you hiding things that are going to ruin my expectations of you, too?”

it’s strange—up until that moment, jeongguk hadn’t thought about yoongi having expectations of him. he’d been too busy thinking about who yoongi was to realize that yoongi was probably thinking the same thing about him, making assumptions based on his appearance and demeanour. and he can only imagine what yoongi has come to think.

jeongguk clasps his hands in front of him, rocking a little on his heels as he says, “depends what your expectations are.”

for the first time, when yoongi looks at him, jeongguk feels a thrill of something shoot up his spine—it’s not fear, but something close to it. something about how yoongi could devour him whole, could ruin him, and jeongguk would just let him. that’s what this is: yoongi has so much power over him already, just because jeongguk likes him. just because jeongguk wants to talk to him, wants to spend time with him, wants to prove all of his inhibitions wrong. and yoongi gets up from the sofa, wandering back over to jeongguk with that dark, careful look in his eyes—feels like he can see right through jeongguk, can see right down into the bottom of his heart.

despite being taller, jeongguk feels small when yoongi approaches him, gets close enough that they’re practically breathing the same air. jeongguk swallows tightly as yoongi crowds him against the shelf, closer and closer, that smirk still etched on his lips. and then yoongi reaches out and takes his hand, turning it over and tracing over the lines of his palms. the action has jeongguk sucking in a breath, stomach flipping at the touch, staring at the top of yoongi’s head where he’s looking down.

“let’s see,” says yoongi quietly. “you wear soft, bright colours. you’re shy, don’t like talking to people unless you have to. your hair is super fluffy and your eyes are about the size of the fucking moon.” jeongguk blushes—just in time for yoongi to look up and then grin. “and that—you blush a lot. every time i say anything to you, just about, so you must be easily flustered. you like singing, you don’t like dangerous things. you’re nice, jeon jeongguk. you’re a baby.”

jeongguk tries not to blush at that, but he can’t help it—can’t help that being called a baby gets him as flustered as everything else, even though he snatches his hand away from yoongi and pouts instead when he says, “i’m not a baby. i’m a nineteen-year-old man who can take care of himself.”

yoongi just grins at him, showing all of his teeth like a predator—and jeongguk’s stomach is still in knots, unsure how to deal with having yoongi this close, looking like he wants to take a bite right out of jeongguk. “sure,” he says, leaning a little closer before he whispers, “baby.

of course, hoseok chooses that exact moment to enter the room—the moment in which jeongguk is practically pressed up against the shelf, red from head to toe at the pet name. there’s something about it coming out of yoongi’s mouth that has too strong of an effect on him, toes curling in his shoes as he tries to keep himself from doing or something stupid—from whimpering like he wants to. and yoongi knows, of course, what he’s doing, too eager to play this little game that only he knows the rules of. jeongguk is entirely at his mercy.

and he shouldn’t like it—he shouldn’t like feeling small like this, shouldn’t want yoongi to say it again and again and again, but. but. when hoseok announces his presence with a, “what did i miss?” and yoongi immediately steps away from him, turning to look at his roommate with a much more docile grin, jeongguk can only let out the breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding, will himself not to pop a boner in the middle of a very friendly dinner, and remind himself that he and yoongi are opposites in a lot of ways—the bad boy and the baby boy, hard and soft, rebellious and goody two shoes. they shouldn’t work. they shouldn’t want to.

but yoongi looks at him again, just briefly, when hoseok says something about missing the record collection tour, and jeongguk thinks—shit. shit shit shit. there’s no way he’s coming back from this.

later, yoongi drives him home. it’s a decision that hoseok makes, and one that jeongguk vehemently protests, but it’s late by the time he thinks to head home and the buses run much slower by then. hoseok argues that he’s not going to send jeongguk out this late at night when there are perfectly good vehicles sitting outside, and when jeongguk finally relents, he’s about to ask if hoseok can drive when yoongi pipes up instead with an, “and here i thought you said you weren’t going to need someone to rescue you again.”

“it’s not rescuing if i didn’t miss the bus,” says jeongguk, already pulling on his coat at the door. “but if you’re so determined to be my knight in shining armour…” and yoongi grins at him, wide like a shark, and so jeongguk ends up on a motorcycle for the second time in a week, despite all of his reservations.

it’s not any less scary this time, and he holds onto yoongi just as tightly. it’s a longer ride than from his apartment to the bookshop, and he tries to spend the eighteen minutes and thirty-one seconds not being terrified. instead, he spends it thinking about yoongi. thinking about the way he’d laughed over dinner when jeongguk told a joke, or the way he’d looked at hoseok when they were talking about their time as teenagers, back in daegu. he thinks about how yoongi had admitted that he works at build-a-bear, but also how he’d gotten arrested once, and how he’d said both as though they didn’t have to be in opposition.

he thinks, too, of how yoongi had crowded him against the shelf, admitted all of those things that he already knows about jeongguk. how he called him baby.

jeongguk shivers at the thought, pressed up against yoongi’s back, and pretends it’s because he’s cold.

yoongi drops him off just outside of his apartment, letting the motorcycle run idle as jeongguk clambers off of it and waits for yoongi to take the helmet off. he could do it himself, probably, but—he likes yoongi’s hands on his chin, likes their faces this close once yoongi has taken off his own helmet and is kind of looking at him, kind of not. his hair is matted against his forehead, makes him look a little less put together until he runs a hand through it and jeongguk has to look away.

when jeongguk takes off his helmet, handing it to yoongi, he finds himself stalling. finds himself realizing that the evening went by too quickly, finds himself wanting to get back on that bike and go wherever yoongi wants to. something has shifted here, or been planted, has begun to grow—yoongi is just as ridiculously pretty as the first time jeongguk saw him, maybe prettier now that jeongguk knows more about him. but he’s not so panicked when he looks at yoongi anymore, just—feels the knots in his stomach from something more like want.

that’s what it is: want. he wants, doesn’t know what to do with it.

but yoongi is going to leave again, because that’s how this works. so jeongguk blurts out the first thing he thinks of, the only thing to keep him here a little longer—“coffee,” he says as yoongi gets back on the bike, and then turns to look at him.

“pardon?”

“i drink black coffee,” says jeongguk, and then realizes that it might sound like he’s asking yoongi for something—even though he is, maybe, even though he wants to. “your expectations—you probably expect that i like things with lots of sugar. sweet things. but i drink black coffee.”

yoongi’s lips curl into a little grin, like he’s impressed. “alright,” he says. “you win this one, jeongguk. i didn’t expect you to drink black coffee.”

“so we’re even,” says jeongguk. “you work at build-a-bear and i drink black coffee.”

“you’re still a baby.”

jeongguk juts his chin out. “goodbye,” he says, already taking a few steps back toward the apartment building. yoongi continues to sit and watch him, glowing under the streetlight and the moonlight. jeongguk is overwhelmed and terrified and wants. wants wants wants.

“aren’t you forgetting something?” asks yoongi finally, making jeongguk pause.

“um… thank you,” says jeongguk. yoongi tilts his head, and jeongguk thinks—oh. blushes just a little, and then hesitates, wonders—wonders if he should. but he wants. of course he wants, because he always wants when it comes to yoongi. after a second, then, he begins walking forward instead, trying not to focus on the smug look on yoongi’s face when he realizes that he’s getting what he wants, too. and jeongguk gets to yoongi, pausing a little before he reaches out and grasps one of his hands into yoongi’s leather jacket, and then tugs forward until he can lean down and press his lips to yoongi’s cheek.

then he’s backing away just as quickly as he came, hoping that the cover of night will hide his flustered appearance, although he swears yoongi’s cheeks are pink, too. he tries to keep his lips in a straight line, too, although fails entirely as he walks backwards and away from yoongi, keeping an eye on him the entire time.

when jeongguk gets to the door, yoongi finally calls out. says, “goodnight jeon jeongguk, black coffee connoisseur.”

jeongguk presses his lips together to keep himself from smiling. calls back, “goodnight min yoongi, build-a-bear employee.” he leaves it at that, trying to silence everything else that bubbles up inside of him—i like you i like you i like you a lot. just watches yoongi for another moment, and then turns around and hurries into the apartment.

his back hits the door as he closes it behind him, pressing himself against it for a long moment as he just—breathes. and tries to wrap his mind around all of it, tries to stop feeling so overwhelmed and assaulted with all of these feelings. reasonably, he shouldn’t like yoongi that much. he’s had about two conversations with him, has known him for a week. but he can’t help it. jeongguk can never help it.

he wants to run, wants to dive into bed and hide under the covers and scream into his pillow, but he doesn’t even get through the kitchen before there’s a shout of, “excuse me, dearest darling jeon jeongguk!” and he comes to a skidding stop, socks sliding against the tiled floor as he turns and sees namjoon and seokjin sitting at the kitchen table, two mugs between them. the kitchen table, which—is next to a very large window that looks out onto the street. the street which yoongi just dropped jeongguk off on.

jeongguk’s eyes widen.

“um,” he begins.

“you said it wasn’t a date,” says seokjin, lifting his mug to his lips and taking a very loud and dramatic sip.

jeongguk says, “it wasn’t a date.”

“namjoon-ah,” says seokjin. “what did we just witness with our own two eyes?”

“seokjin-hyung,” says namjoon, although he’s looking right at jeongguk, who has never felt more like he’s being interrogated in his entire life. “with our own two eyes—wait, wouldn’t it be four eyes…”

“that’s not the point.”

“right, anyway,” says namjoon. “what we saw was our little jeonggukkie getting a ride home from a very interesting man on a motorcycle and then kissing him on the cheek.”

“oh my god,” whispers jeongguk, already slapping both of his hands over his eyes. he does not need to hear or see or generally be present for this. see, as much as he loves his roommates, they share a single braincell between the two of them and aren’t afraid to show it, and they’re always teasing him. they know he can take it, of course, know his boundaries, but they’ve never had to tease him about a boy before. which means he just knows they’re going to have so much fun with this.

“it was very interesting, wouldn’t you say, namjoon-ah?” asks seokjin, and jeongguk spins around, peeking through his fingers as he makes a beeline for his bedroom.

“very interesting, seokjin-hyung,” says namjoon.

“hey, don’t run away from us, young man!”

“you’re not my dad!” jeongguk calls back.

“did he treat you nicely?” yells seokjin as jeongguk darts into his room, slamming the door behind him. “did he treat you nicely?

“it wasn’t a date!” jeongguk yells.

he waits a few seconds, hoping that they’ve given up, and then he hears namjoon’s voice, quieter—“it was totally a date.”

and it wasn’t. (but maybe jeongguk wouldn’t mind if it had been.)

the next morning, jeongguk wakes to a text from an unknown number. knows who it is, anyway, just from the message: i can’t stand black coffee. jeongguk lets himself sink even further into his bed, grinning at the screen for a second before he texts back, are you being mean about my preferences?

yoongi texts, expectations. people might think i like black coffee and you like sugary coffee but it’s the other way around.

jeongguk texts, and also you work at build-a-bear.

and yoongi texts, also i work at build-a-bear. (got your number from hoseok, i hope it isn’t weird.)

it’s not weird. in fact, it’s okay—it’s very, very okay. he has to day off of his work, which mean he spends hours wandering around the apartment and staring at his phone, waiting for yoongi to text him back, to tease him again, to ask him questions. jeongguk had plans—things he had to do, errands he had to run. but he spends the entire day waiting for yoongi and feels like it’s going to be a common theme now—knowing that yoongi is the more forward of the two of them, less shy. more willing to take the risks, to take the leaps for them, and jeongguk is more than willing to let him.

by the time he’s wasted the entire day on his phone, giggling when yoongi sends him outdated memes and an extremely unfair selfie to set as his contact photo, even namjoon and seokjin have noticed—when they get home, anyway. he doesn’t let them tease, disappearing into his room instead.

when do you work next? yoongi asks.

tomorrow, replies jeongguk. nine thirty. don’t worry, i won’t miss the bus again.

i wasn’t worried, says yoongi, then—okay, maybe i was a little worried. and jeongguk thinks about yoongi thinking about him, worrying about him, hoping that he won’t need rescuing again—or maybe hoping he does, maybe wanting an excuse to show up at jeongguk’s apartment again.

he doesn’t need the excuse, though—the next morning, jeongguk wakes up on time. goes through the motions of his morning routine, each taking just as long and just as short as they should. he wears his adult clothes, puts his contacts in. it’s as he’s doing his hair that there’s a short knock at his door, and then namjoon’s head peeking in.

“i don’t mean to alarm you,” he says, and jeongguk puts down his comb, “but that motorcycle guy from the other day is sitting outside the apartment.”

jeongguk blinks at him. and then—half-panicked, because this isn’t part of the routine, and he doesn’t have time to go outside and help yoongi with whatever he needs, and he’s going to be late somehow if he does, and that’ll be twice in a week and a half, and then they will fire him—he pads his way across the apartment and out of the door, stepping out onto the stoop of the apartment as he looks out at the street and sees that, indeed, the motorcycle guy from the other day is sitting on the curb.

“yoongi?” asks jeongguk, confusion colouring his face as yoongi gets off of his bike, heading up the sidewalk with both his helmet and the my little pony helmet under his arms.

“yoongi-hyung,” yoongi corrects him, coming to a stop on the step below him and holding out the helmet. “hello, jeon jeongguk, who is… wearing socks with ducks on them.” jeongguk looks down at his socked feet, then back to yoongi. “ready to go?”

jeongguk stares. “am i—pardon?”

“are you ready to go?” repeats yoongi.

“where are we going?”

“to the bookshop.” yoongi’s got this look on his face, like he’s confused about jeongguk’s confusion, but—fucking hell, he still looks ridiculously nice. he’s wearing a choker again, jeongguk notes. for a moment, he fixates on it and then shakes himself out of it when he remembers that yoongi isn’t supposed to be here.

“why are we going to the bookshop?” asks jeongguk.

yoongi lets out this strange, aborted laugh. “you said you have a shift at nine-thirty,” he says. “or was that cancelled?”

finally, jeongguk begins to put the pieces together—a little belatedly, maybe, but he’s been known to be slow on the uptake sometimes. “are you…” he finally says, peering past yoongi’s shoulder at his bike for a second. “are you here to drive me to work?”

“yes,” says yoongi, like that should have been obvious. should it have been obvious?

“um,” says jeongguk, feeling warmth bloom in the pit of his stomach, rising up up up until it comes out of his mouth in a weirdly fond, “why?”

“because i want to,” says yoongi, “and i figure it’s easier than you taking the bus. you won’t have to worry about missing your ride this way.”

“that was one time,” blushes jeongguk. “you really don’t have to drive me to work, yoongi-hyung. i can take the bus just fine.”

“i’m already here,” says yoongi with a shrug, like he just happened to be driving by at the right time and figured it would be nice if he offered to drive jeongguk to work again. and—jeongguk realizes, after a second, that that’s exactly what yoongi is trying to pass this off as. he’s trying to make it seem like this is completely coincidental, like he totally didn’t plan this out last night when he asked jeongguk when his next shift was.

and that, too, has warmth blooming in jeongguk’s stomach—the idea that maybe yoongi likes him, too, maybe yoongi wants to spend more time with him, too. maybe he’s not alone in all of this.

rather than call yoongi out on it—because jeongguk isn’t that forward, because he’s shy, because maybe he wants to keep this delicate and light and careful—he just looks down at his socked feet and wiggles his toes. “well, i’m not quite ready to go yet,” he says. “you came a little early, so i haven’t eaten breakfast yet.” he looks back at yoongi, teeth catching on his bottom lip before he takes a little step back, up onto the doorstep. “you can wait inside, though, if you want.” his stomach curls into knots at the thought, at having yoongi in this part of his life, too; it’s only fair since he’s been to yoongi’s apartment already, but. but.

he forgets about namjoon until he turns around and leads yoongi inside, beginning to explain that he should be ready in twenty minutes at the most, and then—namjoon is standing in the kitchen, awkwardly leaning against the table with one hand, and then standing up straight when jeongguk and yoongi enter the room, and then going back to leaning against the table, like he can’t decide how he wants to stand.

namjoon’s eyes flicker over jeongguk’s shoulder and then back, and he raises an eyebrow. jeongguk throws him a wide-eyed warning look, one that clearly says, don’t say anything.

“namjoon-hyung, this is yoongi. yoongi-hyung, this is namjoon,” says jeongguk before namjoon can try to introduce himself, probably with something like i’m his seoul dad, don’t think about doing anything funny. “he’s one of my roommates, doing a master’s degree, probably has somewhere to be. right, namjoon-hyung?” jeongguk gives him another pointed look, and namjoon reaches for the mug on the table.

“nope,” he says. “i don’t have class until the afternoon.” he’s grinning, shit-eating. jeongguk resists the urge to do something he’ll likely regret, and turns around to grin at yoongi instead.

“okay, well,” he says. “i’m just… going to finish doing my hair. please don’t believe anything namjoon-hyung says about me.” it’s a terrible idea to leave them alone—partially because jeongguk doesn’t trust namjoon not to say something embarrassing, but also because he’s worried that they’ll like each other, and jeongguk wants to keep yoongi all to himself, at least for now, at least until their friendship isn’t so new and terrifying. but he retreats to his bedroom, hopeful that he can leave them alone for five minutes. from the kitchen, he hears yoongi say, “you’re doing a master’s degree? i considered doing one myself,” and then he shuts the door.

so—yoongi drives him to work.

so—yoongi keeps driving him to work.

what jeongguk thinks will be a one-time occurrence continues time and time again, yoongi asking when jeongguk’s next shift is and casually showing up at his apartment to drive him. sometimes he claims that he’s just in the neighbourhood, but jeongguk knows better. and he doesn’t say anything, because the truth is that he likes it—likes when there’s a knock at the door, a new distinct pattern every morning, and he opens the door to see yoongi leaning against the doorframe, clad in a leather jacket and ripped jeans and a smirk that could put jeongguk in the ground on a good day. he likes it when yoongi comes in and sits at his kitchen table or explores the living room, occasionally asking jeongguk questions about pictures or books or his roommates.

he likes when yoongi is—there. he doesn’t like riding a motorcycle, but it’s much easier to deal with when he’s riding a motorcycle with min yoongi, having an excuse to press up against his back and hang on tightly. most of all, he likes saying goodbye, because yoongi will take jeongguk’s helmet off and turn his face just a little, and jeongguk will lean forward, giving him a kiss on the cheek, and yoongi will look at him like jeongguk is christmas come early, and jeongguk will say goodbye and run into the bookshop, hoping that no one sees how flushed he is.

it’s their thing: yoongi drives him to work and jeongguk kisses him on the cheek as a thank-you and then they go their separate ways. after two weeks, the butterflies haven’t died down at all when he hears yoongi knock on the door—and the teasing comments from seokjin or namjoon or both, depending on who’s home at the time, haven’t gotten any less embarrassing—but it’s not so new. jeongguk doesn’t feel like he’s going to pass out every time it happens anymore, and he thinks—it’s good, it’s growing. but he’s not afraid to help it grow a little more.

so, after those two weeks, when yoongi drops him off outside of the bookshop and takes his helmet off and turns his face, waiting for the kiss, jeongguk—hesitates. licks his lips, watches the way yoongi’s face falls just a little, and then looks back at the shop. “d’you—” he begins, toes curling in his shoes as he worries at the hem of his shirt, making himself smaller in his nervousness. “do you have somewhere to be?”

yoongi’s eyebrows furrow, but he shakes his head.

“do you—maybe…” jeongguk begins, focusing on the hollow of yoongi’s throat rather than his face, rather than his careful, pretty eyes. “um. do you want to come in? i can show you around and try to sell you books you don’t need.”

“don’t you have real work to do?” asks yoongi, teasing—always teasing.

“no one comes to a bookshop at nine in the morning, hyung,” protests jeongguk, even though they do, but—he doesn’t want yoongi to go just yet, feeling like he’s not sure how else to spend time with yoongi. and he could just ask, probably, if yoongi wants to go for coffee sometime or hang out outside of driving him to work, but. this is him trying. jeongguk is doing his best.

thankfully, yoongi seems to realize that—seems to realize that jeongguk trying to be friends with someone takes its time, but has its worth. so he says, “sure. i’d love hear you nerd out about books and pretend to be interested.”

hyung.

“i’m kidding,” says yoongi. “as long as you still kiss me goodbye after.” and jeongguk huffs, turning around and walking into the shop so yoongi doesn’t have to see just how much he likes that idea.

that’s how they end up here—with yoongi trailing after jeongguk with his arms full of books, holding them so that jeongguk can shelve them when they get to the right part of the store. and jeongguk rambling about his favourite books, the floodgates opening with the right questions; he doesn’t talk a lot, not normally, but he can’t help it here, now. yoongi doesn’t seem to mind.

“i just think, you know, that it’s really cool how these stories have been retold throughout history,” says jeongguk, grabbing a small stack of shakespeare plays from yoongi’s hands to begin shelving. “i’m sure you’ve heard about how there are basically, like, only seven stories in the entire world—a quest, rags to riches, tragedy, rebirth, all that stuff. but i like this tolstoy quote; he said, all great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. and if you think about it, that’s so true, how you can fit all of your favourite books and plays and whatever into that.” he shoves romeo and juliet into the shelf, grinning as he points at it. “like—this one. this one is probably a stranger comes to town, because that’s how they meet in the beginning, right, and then they fall in love and all of that shit happens, but it happens because a stranger comes to town.” he grabs king lear—“this one is a man goes on a journey, though, since he’s exiled from his own home, right, and has to figure out how to deal with it. isn’t it interesting, hyung?”

he turns around, finally, grinning at yoongi, and—yoongi is staring back at him, with a look on his face that jeongguk can only describe as fond. can only described as a special sort of enamoured, like how jeongguk was looking at yoongi when he was talking about music and not paying attention at all.

jeongguk—turns back to the bookshelf, trying to stop himself from grinning.

belatedly, yoongi says, “yeah.”

“yeah,” repeats jeongguk, putting another book into the shelf. “do you like shakespeare, hyung?”

“i didn’t like studying him in high school,” says yoongi. “but i think that might have been the teacher’s fault, not shakespeare’s.”

“shakespeare is my favourite,” says jeongguk. “i think my gay awakening was leonardo dicaprio in the 1996 version of romeo and juliet.

“i’ve never seen it,” says yoongi, and jeongguk turns to look at him so quickly he almost gives himself whiplash.

what?

“i’ve… never seen it?” repeats yoongi, looking a little sheepish now. “i don’t know, i don’t watch a lot of romance movies.”

“what, they’re not cool enough for you? you probably watch fight club and 300.

“hey, there’s nothing wrong with those movies.”

“so i’m right,” says jeongguk, rolling his eyes as he grabs another book to shelve. “there’s nothing wrong with romantic movies, either, you know.”

yoongi snorts. “i didn’t say there was anything wrong with them. and i’ll have you know i’m a big fan of disney movies and action movies. i’m a very versatile person.”

“oh, he’s sensitive, too,” says jeongguk, and can’t help grinning a little as yoongi gives him a gentle shove now that his hands are free. he supposes he has to stop assuming things about yoongi, should let himself learn instead. “we’ll just have to watch it, then,” he adds after a moment, keeping his eyes trained on the books. “i have two different copies of it because namjoon-hyung and seokjin-hyung both got it for me separately as house-warming gifts.”

“sounds like something they’d do,” muses yoongi.

“is that a yes?” asks jeongguk, peeking over at him. he tries to imagine watching romeo and juliet with yoongi, knowing he’s always distraught for hours afterwards, but—maybe that’s part of it. maybe it would be nice to have something other than his own pillow to comfort him after.

yoongi grins at him, turns to the shelf too and runs a finger over the spines of the books. “only if you watch fight club with me,” he says. “it’s only fair.”

jeongguk wrinkles his nose, but—but. just like with the motorcycle, he realizes that there are some things he’s willing to stomach if it means being close to yoongi. it’s all about compromise.

before he can reply, though, there’s a call of, “jeongguk!” from across the store, and jeongguk pales before he turns around to see his boss at the register, watching him. she’d been very nice about letting yoongi loiter, at least once jeongguk stuttered through an explanation that he’s a friend and jeongguk just wanted to show him around.

“little less talking, a little more working?” she suggests, and jeongguk feels embarrassment bubble up inside of him as he nods his head, quickly turning around and staring hard at the books. he’s never liked being reprimanded, too easily embarrassed and sensitive for that kind of thing, but—it’s not that big of a deal, he tells himself. it’s not that big of a deal.

also yoongi is standing right there, and jeongguk doesn’t want him to think that he’s a child who doesn’t know how to be reprimanded once in a while. he blinks a few times, trying to keep himself from doing something stupid like crying, and then yoongi says, “guk-ah?” and jeongguk’s gaze snaps to him, bottom lip wobbling just a little.

“hey,” says yoongi. “you’re doing good. how about you meet me at starbucks during your break? i’ll go bother hoseok for a while and get him in trouble instead.” and jeongguk likes that about him—likes that yoongi seems to just know, seems to get it, and doesn’t draw attention to it. he knows when to tease, knows when to be kind and gentle. jeongguk takes a deep breath and then nods, already going back to working with the books so his boss doesn’t have another excuse to get angry at him.

and then yoongi shuffles closer, practically pressed to his side, and jeongguk—freezes. against his ear, yoongi says, “didn’t you promise me something?” jeongguk’s stomach swoops, forgetting that yoongi can do that—that as nice and gentle as he is, he knows exactly how to push jeongguk’s buttons, knows just how to twist him just right. knows how to play.

jeongguk leans back a little, turning his face to look at yoongi—like this, they’re only inches away from each other, and yoongi is smirking, and jeongguk isn’t sure what to do about that. he clears his throat, though, gently reaching up and grasping yoongi’s chin so he can turn his head sideways, leaning forward to give him their customary cheek kiss.

he can feel yoongi’s cheek move under his lips, can feel him grin. “goodbye, min yoongi, who has questionable taste in movies,” he mutters as he pulls away.

yoongi grins at him, and then breaks all the fucking rules when he leans forward and pecks the tip of jeongguk’s nose, says, “bye, baby,” and then turns around and leaves, like it’s just—okay. like it doesn’t make jeongguk’s heart clench inside of him, turning back to stare at the books and… not do anything for a solid three minutes, unsure how he’s supposed to function normally after something like that.

he does meet yoongi later, when he gets his lunch break and can sneak over to starbucks. jeongguk does not look for hoseok behind the counter, instead searching for a familiar head of grey hair; he spots yoongi near the back of the coffee shop, two cups already on the table, and jeongguk takes a deep breath before he joins him.

“you’ve already had two cups of coffee?” asks jeongguk when he sits down. “that’s not good for you, you know.”

“hello, jeon jeongguk, worry wart. that one’s for you,” says yoongi, gesturing to the cup closest to jeongguk. “i already told you i can’t stand black coffee.”

it is black coffee—easy enough to order, and jeongguk grins into the cup as he takes a sip. yoongi lets him try his, too, some sugary mocha or macchiato or something that honestly should be banned from the country, and jeongguk makes a face when he tastes it, and yoongi laughs at him, loud and happy and—jeongguk likes that feeling, likes knowing that he can make yoongi laugh.

he wants to keep making him laugh. feels less afraid as they sit there and talk, and laugh. and he’s slow—jeongguk is always slow, at least with people, at least with friends. but he wants to rush into this, wants yoongi to know that he’s comfortable, that he likes whatever is happening here.

as usual, he finds himself transfixed. as yoongi tells him about his plans for the next week, jeongguk stares at yoongi’s bare arms—at the tattoos that curl over his skin, disappearing under his sleeves. he’s thought about it before, thought about it a lot—touching them, or asking, but he’s always been shy.

it’s yoongi who says, “do you wanna look at them?” and jeongguk blinks in surprise, blushing when he realizes he’s been caught staring. he sits back in his seat, quickly bringing his coffee to his lips. “you can, if you want. i don’t mind. they’re there for a reason.” with that, he holds out both of his arms, leaning his forearms on the table between them with his palms facing up, like he’s just asking jeongguk to touch. and he is—and jeongguk wants to. jeongguk always wants to touch.

gingerly, he sets down the coffee and reaches out for yoongi’s arms, using just his index finger to begin tracing the lines on yoongi’s wrist. this close, he can finally begin to make out what the designs are—he sees some geometrical patterns that curl into flowers near yoongi’s elbow, and there’s the bottom half of a face peeking out from where his t-shirt sleeve covers the rest of his design. on his other arm is something more colourful, something that jeongguk wants to learn, wants to know. wants to understand.

“i like getting tattoos that mean something to me,” says yoongi quietly, as jeongguk traces the lines with his fingers. it’s all connected, somehow, eyes wide as he takes it in—and takes in how yoongi’s skin pebbles under his touch, arm hair standing up on end like it’s cold. or something.

“you don’t have to explain them to me,” says jeongguk. “they’re just yours.”

“but i like sharing them with people i care about,” says yoongi, and jeongguk keeps his eyes trained on yoongi’s arms rather than looking up, rather than seeing the expression that likely matches that kind of sentiment. “i started getting them right out of high school, as soon as i was old enough. at first, i got some really stupid ones, but they’ve mostly been covered up—some of my friends and i used to make stupid bets and whoever lost had to shave their head or get a tattoo on their ass or something like that. back in my wilder days.”

jeongguk forgot, somehow, that yoongi might have had those wilder days—he still looks like he’s in the midst of them, but he supposes they had to start somewhere, and had to fizzle out, too. as jeongguk moves his finger over one of the flowers, he asks, “what are these for?”

“my family,” says yoongi. “probably really cheesy, but—i like it. i have flowers for each member of my immediate family—my dad, my mom, and my brother, plus my grandparents. all of them having meanings, like… the sweet pea.” he turns his arm, twisting it so that jeongguk can see the sweet peas inked on the outside of yoongi’s forearm, just below his elbow. “they were my grandmother’s favourite flower, but they’re also symbolic of departure after having a good time. i got them after she passed away a few years ago.”

“oh,” says jeongguk. “i’m really sorry, hyung.”

“it’s okay,” he laughs. “there’s a reason i got them—the departure after a good time, you know? she had a good life and i loved her a lot, so it made sense. some of the others… don’t have as deep meaning as that. like—this one.” he offers jeongguk his other arm, pointing to the stag head. “that’s just because i think stags are cool.”

jeongguk giggles. “it still counts if it means something to you.” he traces his fingers over the stag, seeing where bits of yoongi’s skin are raised, where some of the ink has begun to fade just slightly. there’s so much here, so much to unravel and learn—and jeongguk knows he can’t learn all of it right now, over a cup of coffee in starbucks, but. maybe there will be many other cups of coffee.

he’s just trailing his fingers down yoongi’s arm again, coming to a rest at his hands and tracing the lines of his palms, yoongi’s breathing getting just a little deeper, when—“well, would you look who it is!”

jeongguk physically startles, hands snapping back to himself as he looks up and sees a beaming hoseok standing beside the table, hands on his hips as he boasts his starbucks apron. it’s not like hoseok caught them doing anything intimate or embarrassing, but jeongguk flushes anyway, and when he glances at yoongi, he sees that the older boy is rearranging his fringe, practically hiding his face behind his arm.

“hello, hoseok-hyung,” says jeongguk after a moment.

“are you enjoying your coffee?” asks hoseok, still beaming wide—and a little crazed, almost, like he’s going to accuse them of pda. which it wasn’t, because jeongguk was just touching yoongi’s arms, but. somehow, it feels like more. feels like it means more.

“yes,” says yoongi after a second, looking up at hoseok. “i didn’t know that starbucks has begun to offer tableside service. aren’t you supposed to be making frappes for teenage girls right now?”

“i’m on break,” says hoseok, “so i thought i would come visit my two favourite lovebirds.”

jeongguk, having chosen the wrong time to take a sip of his (mostly cold) coffee, almost chokes. he puts the mug down, coughing a few times and using that has an excuse for the redness of his face. “speaking of breaks,” he says, “i should probably get back to the bookshop. i still have to eat lunch.”

“aw, you’re going to go so soon?” asks hoseok. “i wanted to talk to you, too. yoongi-hyung, stop hogging jeonggukkie.”

“i’m not—hogging him,” mutters yoongi, staring at the table.

“it’s just very interesting,” says hoseok, sounding far too much like seokjin and namjoon, and—god, jeongguk hopes those three never end up in the same room. ever. ever. he’d throw himself out of a window before he let that happen. “but if jeongguk has to go, i guess he has to go. maybe the next time you want to start doing some sensual exploring of each other’s bodies, you could do it not in my coffeeshop, though?”

“goodbye, hyungs,” says jeongguk, immediately getting up from the table and not even bothering to look at either of them before he makes a beeline for the door. he hopes to god that yoongi isn’t going to call him back for a kiss on the cheek, but apparently he’s aware what a bad idea that would be in front of hoseok—or isn’t even thinking of it, because he’s embarrassed, too. anyway. anyway. he sees when yoongi leaves starbucks, getting back on his bike and letting it roar to life. jeongguk happens (happens) to be by the window, and when yoongi looks up at the bookshop, jeongguk gives him a little wave. coincidentally, he sees hoseok through the window of starbucks across the street, and that’s just his luck, ducking his head with embarrassment when hoseok waves back.

“hyung,” jeongguk sighs, flopping against his bed once yoongi picks up. “when’s your next shift?”

“hello, jeon jeongguk, stealer of my questions,” says yoongi.

“hyung,” repeats jeongguk. “when’s your next shift?”

there’s a moment of silence, like yoongi really isn’t going to answer—then there’s a quiet rustle on the other end. jeongguk imagines him on his bed, too, staring up at the ceiling, although he doubts yoongi has glow in the dark stars stuck up in his room. “tuesday afternoon,” yoongi finally says.

“perfect,” grins jeongguk. “i don’t work on tuesday. take me to build-a-bear with you.”

a longer moment of silence, and jeongguk curls into a little ball, rolling onto his side and wondering, wondering—it’s strange, maybe, that he’s the shy one, yet he’s the one making all of the advances. but there’s something about yoongi that makes him brave, and besides, sometimes he thinks yoongi treats him like he’s too delicate, like if yoongi touches him in the wrong place, he’ll shatter. jeongguk wants to look at him and say: i am not afraid of you. but he’s worried that yoongi will look back and say: but i’m afraid of myself.

finally—“you can’t help me with work, jeongguk-ah.”

“i don’t want to help you with work,” says jeongguk. “i want you to help me make a bear. isn’t that what a build-a-bear employee does?” there’s a grin on his lips when he hears yoongi groan on the other end, probably not wanting jeongguk to see him doing that; it would ruin his bad boy image. jeongguk has been to a build-a-bear before; he knows the employees have to wear uniforms. he tries to imagine yoongi wearing not even one article of black clothing and has to giggle.

“jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi, exasperated and loud and right there in jeongguk’s ear, where he always wants him.

“you came to work with me,” says jeongguk, “and i made a fool of myself talking about books and got in trouble for it, so it’s only fair that i get to go to work with you and see you in action. it’ll be fun.”

and here’s the thing—he knows for a fact that yoongi won’t do anything that he doesn’t want to do. he’s not a people pleaser the way jeongguk is, won’t bend over backwards for anyone—but jeongguk isn’t anyone. and maybe this is new, and maybe yoongi has only been driving him to work for three weeks, but. jeongguk wants to test the boundaries, wants to see just how far yoongi will let him go before he starts pushing back.

“please, hyung?” jeongguk asks, making his voice as small as possible, pouting into the phone. “i really want to go to build-a-bear and i don’t trust anyone else to make sure i have the best experience.”

“jeongguk—”

“i’ll give you a kiss after,” jeongguk hurriedly says, breathes it out, glad that yoongi can’t see the blush that creeps onto his cheeks. “i’ll give you two.

yoongi picks him up on tuesday afternoon, then, with a, “hello jeon jeongguk, little shit,” and jeongguk beams at him, hopping on the back of his motorcycle with a, “hello min yoongi, who has to wear khakis and an apron to work,” and yoongi pinches his thigh, and jeongguk giggles at him, and it’s good.

he makes yoongi act like a real employee, like jeongguk isn’t just a friend who is forcing him into this; makes yoongi smile like he’s supposed to and greet jeongguk like a regular customer, and it’s hilarious really, to see yoongi like this—still with the grey hair and dangly earrings and tattoos covering his arms, but also a friendly grin and slightly higher-pitched voice in an attempt to sound as friendly as his face generally doesn’t look. yoongi is mortified. jeongguk, on the other hand, is delighted.

“which one do you think i should get?” he asks yoongi as he stands in front of all of the animals, pouting.

“how about a bear,” yoongi deadpans, and jeongguk frowns at him.

“too unoriginal,” he sighs. ”there are so many other options, so i want to go with a special one.”

yoongi digs in a few of the buckets, rummaging through some of the deflated animals before he pulls out a bunny. “here,” he says, holding it up beside jeongguk’s head. “the likeness is uncanny. “

“i’m not a bunny,” jeongguk pouts.

“yes, you are,” says yoongi. “just a little one.”

jeongguk huffs, grabbing the bunny and putting it back in the bucket. “whatever,” he says. “i don’t want to make one that looks like me, anyway. what would be the point? i’m supposed to make one that’s like, a friend, or something. a cuddle buddy.”

yoongi snorts, but jeongguk resolutely ignores that, rummaging through the different animals instead. “just because i’m not a little kid doesn’t mean i can’t cuddle with stuffed animals,” he says, and then adds in a mumble, “besides, it’s not like i have a human to cuddle.” it’s not meant to be pointed, because he and yoongi have only been friends for a month, but. but. it gives him an idea anyway.

he finds the cat near the bottom of the bucket, coincidentally covered in grey fur. jeongguk pulls it out, staring at its little ears and little tail, and then looks over at yoongi. and then he nods, holding it out. “i want this one,” he says. “stuff it, yoongi-hyung.”

jeongguk watches closely as yoongi does his job, stuffing the cat until it’s filled and then looking up at jeongguk like he’d rather die than have to go through the motions. “you have to give it a heart,” says yoongi, nodding to the little bucket of plush hearts next to them.

“it’s a he,” jeongguk says, and then grabs one of the hearts. yoongi watches him for a second, and then (with slightly red cheeks) has to do his job of making jeongguk shake the heart around, make a wish on it, and then give it a kiss. as jeongguk hands it over, there’s a glint in his eyes.

“what did you wish for?” asks yoongi as he slips the heart inside the cat.

“i can’t tell you,” says jeongguk, “or it won’t come true. oh—wait, do you have those things that let you record your voice to put inside?” reaching over, yoongi grabs a little device from a shelf beside him and hands it over to jeongguk. jeongguk hands it right back. “say something, hyung.”

yoongi narrows his eyes. “why do you want me to say something?”

“hyung.”

yoongi stares at him for another few seconds before he heaves a sigh, likely knowing that he’s not going to win any sort of staring contest with jeongguk, who can be very stubborn when he wants to be. instead, yoongi just lifts the recorder to his mouth, pressing it before he says, “hello jeon jeongguk, pain in my ass.”

yoongi-hyung,” jeongguk scolds. “that’s what you want me to hear every time i squeeze my beautiful, cuddly cat?”

to answer the question, yoongi shoves the little recorder into the cat and velcro’s it together, handing the stuffed animal over to jeongguk. he takes it, after just a second, and then turns around and heads for the massive wall of clothing. there’s so much to choose from, but he only has one thing in mind as his eyes scour the wall, searching for the perfect outfit. once he finds it, he beams, reaching up and grabbing the outfit before bringing the cat to the changing station. in the middle of putting the cat’s pants on, he looks over his shoulder at where yoongi is still at the stuffing station.

“hey, hyung,” calls jeongguk. “when you wanted to do music… did you have a rapper name?”

yoongi looks up and stares at him, almost suspiciously. “yeah,” he says. “why?”

“what was it?”

there’s some hesitation—and jeongguk thinks he’s going to say something ridiculous, because he wouldn’t put it past teenage yoongi to give himself an embarrassing name—and then he says, “agust d.”

“what does that even mean?” asks jeongguk.

“why do you want to know?” asks yoongi.

jeongguk turns back to his cat in lieu of answering, slipping the jacket onto it before he stands it up and pets the top of its head. it looks perfect, and he gives it a little squeeze—yoongi’s voice comes, muffled by the stuffing: hello jeon jeongguk, pain in my ass. it might not be what he’d wanted, but it’s perfect anyway, and he turns around before holding the cat out toward yoongi.

it’s dressed in the biker clothing that the store thankfully sells—leather pants and a leather jacket. its fur is grey. it has yoongi’s voice, for all intents and purposes. he sees yoongi stare at it for a solid five seconds before jeongguk says, “his name is august.” it makes sense, at least to jeongguk—the cat is yoongi. if jeongguk is going to cuddle with something every night, he wants it to be yoongi. and this is about as close as he’s going to get to the real thing, so—so. he wraps his arms around the little cat, dropping a kiss to the top of its head. across the room, yoongi lets out a sound that jeongguk would describe as pained.

“if you would—just—” yoongi begins, getting up from his seat and approaching jeongguk. and jeongguk can’t help but grin at him, realizing that for the first time, he has the upperhand here; yoongi is flustered, stuttering with pink cheeks. it’s a strange feeling, but jeongguk realizes he likes it.

“yes, hyung?” asks jeongguk, cuddling the cat a little closer.

“i forgot. to do something,” says yoongi, snatching the cat out of jeongguk’s arms and turning around, disappearing through the employees only door. jeongguk kind of just—stands there, staring after him, until yoongi comes back out a few minutes later. he looks slightly less flushed, like he’s just had to give himself a pep talk, and doesn’t say anything as he puts the cat back in jeongguk’s arms and mutters, “you have to pay for it. i’m not giving you that for free.”

after he pays—yoongi not really looking him in the eye the whole time, and, as namjoon and seokjin would say, isn’t that just very interesting—and yoongi informs him that he won’t be able to drive him home considering he’s at work, jeongguk leans over the counter and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “goodbye min yoongi,” he says, “who is definitely a cat in disguise.” yoongi threatens to kick him out. jeongguk goes willingly, giggling a little—until he gets outside of the store and squeezes the cat again, and instead of the message that yoongi originally recorded, there’s something new.

still yoongi’s voice, of course, but a little warmer, a little more rushed, like yoongi was embarrassed to say it: “hello little one. you look extra cute today.” and jeongguk blushes something fierce, looking over his shoulder and through the window of the shop to see yoongi crouched beside a little girl who is trying to choose an animal, grin on his face. jeongguk thinks—oh no, as the seed of warmth in his chest bursts into full bloom.

the second time jeongguk is invited to yoongi’s apartment, it isn’t at hoseok’s request. he and yoongi have been hanging out regularly now, at the bookshop or starbucks or elsewhere, too, branching out, and one night, when yoongi asks the customary question of when jeongguk’s next shift is, he asks a foll0w-up question afte jeongguk tells him that he has the whole weekend off: “do you wanna come over tomorrow night?”

jeongguk stares at the stuffed cat in his lap, picking at the seam of his jeans. “what would we be doing at your apartment?”

“i figured it’s time to introduce you to my law-breaking ways. you ever picked a lock before?’

“i’m—” begins jeongguk, taken back. “i-i don’t—”

“i’m kidding, guk-ah, don’t panic,” says yoongi, husky laugh crackling in jeongguk’s ear. “i was thinking we could watch a movie or two. you still want to introduce me to that romeo and julia movie, right?”

“juliet, hyung, and i’m pretty sure you know that,” says jeongguk. “but, um—yeah. yeah, i’d really like that.”

“we’re watching one of my movies, too,” says yoongi. “hopefully you’re a fan of blood.”

jeongguk isn’t, but he doesn’t say that, because he knows yoongi isn’t a fan of romantic movies. compromise. he packs a few of his favourite stuffed animals for comfort, anyway, and yoongi eyes his backpack when he comes to pick him up the next evening, asking, “what’s in the bag?” and jeongguk doesn’t answer, just plops down on the bike before securing his arms around yoongi’s middle.

somehow, jeongguk is surprised when they get to yoongi’s apartment and hoseok opens the door for them. it’s like jeongguk’s heart trips over something inside of him, an unforeseen obstacle that he should have considered, because—hoseok lives with yoongi. of course hoseok is going to be home because he lives here, and it’s saturday evening.

still. he has to swallow disappointment as he follows yoongi into the house, as hoseok asks, “what’s in the bag?” and jeongguk feels a weird spark of irritation.

jeongguk nicely asks hoseok to set up the movie, since he doesn’t know how their entertainment system works, and he trails after yoongi into the kitchen where he’s pulling out snacks, and he leans against the counter, arms crossing over his chest as he stares down at the floor, and. and. it’s ridiculous. yoongi and hoseok have known each other for years, and they live together, and—

“something wrong?” asks yoongi, making jeongguk look up at him across the kitchen. jeongguk hadn’t meant to look upset, but, well. “is it the popcorn? do you not like popcorn? sorry, i should have asked—”

“no,” says jeongguk quickly. “it’s just—ugh. whatever, it’s stupid.”

“guk-ah,” says yoongi, and his voice is soft, and it sounds like he cares—but of course he cares. of course he cares about jeongguk, because he can care about more than one person at a time. but jeongguk is childish and stubborn and doesn’t want that kind of softness as yoongi makes his way across the kitchen, and jeongguk crowds against the counter, keeping his bottom lip out in a pout and his eyes trained on his feet as he sees yoongi’s feet join his, close enough to touch. yoongi leans forward, hands on either side of jeongguk on the counter, caging him in.

somehow, it makes jeongguk feel better—when it’s just yoongi and nothing more, taking up everything.

“talk to me,” says yoongi lowly, just over the sounds of the popcorn popping in the microwave. he can hear hoseok talking to himself in the living room. when jeongguk doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even look up, yoongi fits a finger under his chin and tilts his face upwards, making him look. “baby.”

“i just thought…” begins jeongguk, knowing he’s going to sound silly when he says it. “i just thought it was gonna be you and me.”

there’s a moment of silence where jeongguk thinks that yoongi might laugh at him, or tell him that he’s being stupid. but yoongi just looks at him, lips tugging into a little frown. this close, jeongguk finds himself focusing on them, noticing a tiny hole just under yoongi’s lip where he might have had a lip piercing at one point.

“i’m sorry,” says yoongi finally. “i didn’t even think that you might have taken it that way. do you want me to make hobi leave?”

“no,” says jeongguk immediately. “no, don’t, that’s—that’s mean. it’s not his fault that i did something stupid.”

“it’s not stupid, jeongguk,” says yoongi, thumb rubbing under his chin. “it’s my fault that i wasn’t clear. we can watch something else, if you want—keep romeo and juliet just for you and me. for next time, when hobi isn’t here.”

jeongguk can’t help the way his lips curl into a tiny, pleased grin, knowing that yoongi cares about him like that—cares enough to accommodate him, enough to change plans just to make him happy. knowing that yoongi wants to do this again, even if it might be a little thing—watching a movie together. they’re friends, so of course they’d something like this. but it’s another step, closer and closer, and jeongguk’s heart swells.

behind them, the microwave beeps.

“okay,” whispers jeongguk. “i’d like that.”

“did you happen to bring a different movie?”

he giggles. “no, but i don’t mind watching one of yours as long as it’s not too scary and no one dies and you don’t make fun of me cuddling with august at the parts i don’t like.”

“you’re going to come into my house and cuddle with a stuffed cat when i’m right here?”

jeongguk’s cheeks flush pink, chewing on the inside of his cheek at the idea of cuddling with yoongi—at the idea of yoongi cuddling him because he wants to, because he asked first. this whole time, when jeongguk can’t control his feelings because they’re just too big, he’s been thinking that maybe it’s all him. maybe yoongi is just entertaining him for now until he gets bored, maybe he only cares insofar as he finds jeongguk fun to be around, and that might change.

and maybe that is how it is—maybe jeongguk doesn’t care. he has blind faith, can’t stop his heart from doing these silly things, and even if yoongi does want to cast him out once he gets bored, jeongguk doesn’t care. he’ll take what he can get.

they end up watching finding nemo, at hoseok’s request, and it’s not scary and no one dies and there’s no reason to, but—but. jeongguk sits beside yoongi, thighs pressed together for the first half an hour, and he can’t pay attention to the movie because he’s too busy focused on that, focused on the heat of yoongi’s leg and the little thrill that runs through him every time yoongi shifts, but ends up shifting even closer. he keeps august cuddled to his chest so he isn’t tempted to do something silly with his hands, and is glad that he’s seen this movie plenty of times so he isn’t lost when he eventually tries to start paying attention.

halfway through, yoongi excuses himself to get more popcorn. and jeongguk feels strangely cold when he’s gone, even though there’s a blanket thrown over his legs, and he still can’t focus on the movie because he’s waiting for yoongi to come back. when he does, he sits down beside jeongguk—this time, a little further away, maybe intentionally. maybe not. jeongguk can’t imagine that all of this is occupying yoongi’s thoughts as much as it is his, can’t imagine that yoongi is anywhere near as affected.

but still. when the jellyfish show up, jeongguk uses it as an excuse to scoot over toward yoongi, squeaking a little when marlin ends up getting stung. he hooks his arm through yoongi’s, pressing himself against his side, making himself small. it’s not really scary, but he doesn’t mind looking childish for being afraid of it, at least when yoongi turns his head to look at him with a little grin. on the other end of the couch, hoseok is giving commentary, because he doesn’t know how to shut up during movies.

jeongguk’s not paying attention to that, though. he’s just paying attention to how yoongi moves his arm, slipping it out of jeongguk’s hold, and he—panics a little, thinks that maybe yoongi doesn’t want him that close, but before he can move away, yoongi instead wraps his arm around jeongguk’s shoulder, tugging him even closer.

flushing, jeongguk snuggles into yoongi’s side, ducking his head. against his hair, yoongi mutters, “you know they find him, right?”

“yes,” breathes jeongguk, embarrassed. “doesn’t make it any less worrisome when they’re still looking.”

“cute,” mumbles yoongi, and jeongguk flushes even deeper, turning his face into yoongi’s shoulder. it’s not the scary part anymore, but he doesn’t mind—doesn’t think he needs the excuse, not when yoongi starts trailing his fingers over the back of jeongguk’s neck, curling up into his hair. not when yoongi eventually starts carding his fingers through jeongguk’s hair properly, and jeongguk stops paying attention to the movie entirely, too warm and warm and warm.

jeongguk falls asleep like that, pressed against yoongi’s side with yoongi’s fingers in his hair and the sounds of sea turtles coming from the television. jeongguk feels—safe, feels home. yoongi feels like home.

(after, when yoongi gently shakes him awake and asks if he’s going to stay over, because it’s late—and jeongguk turns red red red and hurriedly declines, even though hoseok says he doesn’t mind—and yoongi drives him home, jeongguk kisses him on the cheek and says, “goodnight min yoongi, who has a very comfortable shoulder,” and yoongi says, “goodnight jeon jeongguk, sleepyhead.” jeongguk spends a few minutes standing on the sidewalk as he watches yoongi drive away and it feels like they’ve crossed another border, another barrier. jeongguk can’t stop feeling yoongi’s fingers in his hair, gently scratching at his scalp, gently lulling him into something deeper.

he holds august a little closer when he gets in bed. squeezes him only to hear a new message, one that yoongi must have recorded when jeongguk was sleeping: “hello, guk-ah. did you know that when you’re sleeping, you pucker your lips when something touches them? it’s cute, just like the rest of you.”

it’s not fair. it’s really, really not fair.)

“motorcycle guy is here,” calls seokjin as jeongguk is fixing his hair, and his heart definitely does not jump all the way into his throat.

“his name is yoongi,” says jeongguk as he hurriedly finishes his hair and wanders into the kitchen, peering out the window at where yoongi is getting off of his bike. “you can just call him that.”

“he has yet to gain my trust,” says seokjin. “until he proves himself a worthy suitor, he’ll be known as motorcycle guy.”

“what am i, your daughter in the eighteenth century?” asks jeongguk, frowning. “also, he’s not a suitor. we’re friends.”

“i don’t have a single friend who would drive me to work every single fucking day even though said work is a forty minute drive from their house.”

“that’s because you don’t have any friends to begin with, hyung,” namjoon calls from the living room.

seokjin makes an affronted noise. “you’re my friend, namjoon-ah.”

“debatable.”

“you got me that nice watch for my birthday last year!”

“yeah, because you threatened to kick me out of the apartment if i didn’t.”

“i feel like this is getting away from us,” says jeongguk, although letting seokjin and namjoon bicker is a much better turn of events than seokjin trying to claim that he can’t marry jeongguk off to yoongi just yet. it doesn’t sound like either of them hear him, anyway, so he takes the opportunity to slip on his shoes and open the door, only to find yoongi standing right there, leaning against the doorframe.

“hello jeon jeongguk,” drawls yoongi, “whose hair is extra fluffy this morning.” he reaches out, clearly intending to touch jeongguk’s hair, but jeongguk leans back, eyebrows furrowing as he focuses on something that is very distinctly wrong about all of this.

“are you smoking?” jeongguk asks, frowning as he stares at the little white stick hanging out of yoongi’s mouth. of course—he remembers yoongi telling him when they first met that he smoked, that it fit right into the bad boy expectations that jeongguk had of him. but yoongi has never smoked around him before, and although there’s always the vague smell of smoke clinging to all of his clothes, it’s overpowered by whatever cologne yoongi wears.

but. somehow, it’s a slap in the face to see yoongi with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, reminding jeongguk that yoongi is like that, like what he’s been steadily ignoring. yoongi has been sweet and kind and wholesome since they met, but—yoongi said he smokes, says he’s been arrested before. somehow, jeongguk forgot.

yoongi’s hand freezes between them, like he’s unsure if he should still try to touch jeongguk’s hair. but jeongguk is still leaning away from him, deep frown curving his lips. so yoongi drops his hand, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and regarding it; it’s not even lit. “i told you i smoke,” he says with a furrow of his brows.

why?” asks jeongguk. “it’s not cool and you smell bad and it’ll ruin your lungs. and your teeth. and your fingernails.”

yoongi rolls his eyes. “alright, nerd,” he says. “so far, i haven’t developed any lung diseases.”

“that’s because you’re twenty-three,” snaps jeongguk, crossing his arms over his chest. “you have thirty more years to go before the signs start showing up and by then, it’ll be too late. how can you actually smoke in this day and age?”

yoongi stares at him, clearly surprised by the little outburst; jeongguk knows that he’s never gotten upset with yoongi before, not really. but it had been so easy to pretend that yoongi was everything that he wanted, that he had no flaws, and now—the cigarette. yoongi regards it for a second, and then frowns right back at jeongguk. “i’m sorry that i ended up getting addicted when i was a teenager,” he says. “it’s not easy to just stop.

“it doesn’t look like you want to stop,” says jeongguk. “but i’m not getting on that bike with you if you’re smoking. in fact, i don’t even want to be anywhere near you if you’re smoking.”

“i’m not—” yoongi begins, letting out a frustrated sound. “it’s not even lit!”

“you were going to light it, though, weren’t you?”

yoongi frowns at him, eyes darkening, and—and for the first time since they met, jeongguk feels something like fear shoot down his spine. not the exciting kind of fear, though, not the kind that tells him he’d let yoongi do anything if he wanted. it’s the kind of fear that leaves him actually afraid of yoongi, at least when he looks like that—eyes dark, lips in a frown, all of his features sharp and ragged. this is the min yoongi that jeongguk has never seen before, but the one that fits his image—the one that has been there all along, and one that jeongguk hasn’t seen because yoongi has kept it carefully hidden away from him.

for a second, jeongguk thinks that yoongi is going to do something stupid—like storm away or get properly angry at him. but then he just says, “don’t be ridiculous, jeongguk-ah. i have to drive you to work.”

“i can take the bus,” says jeongguk, refusing to budge an inch. he’s compliant, soft, easily flustered—but jeongguk is stubborn and he refuses to give in on things that he’s adamant about. it’s something that yoongi is just going to have to learn to deal with in their friendship.

it’s interesting, maybe, that jeongguk is the one who needs yoongi in this situation—he can take the bus, but it’s easier and more convenient to let yoongi drive him. yoongi isn’t really getting anything out of this, not like what jeongguk is getting out of it. yet it’s jeongguk who is giving yoongi the ultimatum, realizing that maybe he has more power in this relationship than he thought he did. and maybe yoongi is willing to bend if jeongguk isn’t, because jeongguk isn’t.

finally, yoongi concedes, just a little, just enough to soften his voice when he says, “what do you want me to do?”

jeongguk, grinning triumphantly, holds his index finger up to tell yoongi to wait. and then he disappears back into the apartment. seokjin and namjoon have long since stopped arguing, it seems, and when jeongguk enters the kitchen, they’re both sitting at the table and staring at him, like they’ve been listening. they continue to stare at him when he finds the right cupboard, rummaging around in it until he pulls out what he wants and then turns to look at them.

“what?” he asks.

“like i said,” says seokjin, “that boy is not just a friend.”

“so you don’t have any friends who would stop smoking because you don’t like it?” asks jeongguk with a roll of his eyes, breezing past the both of them as he makes his way back to the door.

“i already said that’s because he doesn’t have any friends to begin with,” says namjoon, and jeongguk grins a little more when the two of them start arguing again behind him.

at the door, where yoongi is still waiting for him, jeongguk grabs the cigarette out of yoongi’s hand and drops it on the doorstep, crushing it with his shoe. and then he pulls the wrapper off of the lollipop he’d grabbed from the kitchen, shoving it into yoongi’s mouth instead.

“there,” he says with a little shrug, closing the door and stepping past yoongi as he heads for the bike. “now you can drive me to work.”

the problem with having nosy friends, jeongguk realizes, is that it’s impossible to keep them from finding out things. things, in this case being—the fact that yoongi has an equally nosy friend. he’d thought, when he first met yoongi, that he would give anything for seokjin, namjoon, and hoseok to never be in the same room ever, and yet—and yet. the idea of going out to a bar isn’t an enticing one for jeongguk, unless yoongi is added into the mix.

going out to a bar with yoongi and hoseok and seokjin and namjoon, though—

“he’s really not as interesting as you think he is,” says jeongguk desperately, trailing around the apartment behind namjoon as his roommate cleans. cleans, because yoongi and hoseok are coming over, and namjoon is all about making good first impressions.

“yoongi-ssi told me that hoseok is a very interesting person,” namjoon says.

“yeah, but he has to say that, because hoseok-hyung is his roommate.”

“so when you tell people very nice things about me, you don’t actually mean them?”

hyung,” pouts jeongguk, feet dragging. namjoon gathers some clothes that have found their way into the living room, and then turns around when he gets to the end of the room, making jeongguk bump into his chest.

“jeongguk-ah,” says namjoon. “what’s so wrong with us meeting hoseok? we’ve already met yoongi-ssi, and i’d think that’s the person you want to hide from us since you obviously like him a lot and don’t want us to embarrass you.”

“yeah, but hoseok-hyung is just like that, too,” grumbles jeongguk. “i can deal with you and seokjin-hyung embarrassing me, but all three of you? i’d honestly rather die.”

“no dying!” seokjin calls, choosing that moment to leave his room and enter the living room. jeongguk peeks around namjoon to see him wearing an absolutely blinding outfit, complete with a jacket made entirely out of sequins and sparkles. “you can’t die before you see my wily and drunken ways in action.”

“oh god,” mutters jeongguk, leaning forward until he can push his head into namjoon’s chest. “this is why i’ve never gone out with him.”

namjoon pats jeongguk’s head, and then leaves him standing there, clearly not empathetic enough about any of this to call the whole thing off. they’d demanded it in the first place—all five of them meeting up and going out for once. the problem is that he just knows that seokjin, hoseok, and namjoon will get along. they’ll probably get along a little too well, whether or not they’re going to embarrass jeongguk and yoongi while they’re at it. it’s dangerous either way. but jeongguk’s going to hope they hit it off enough to leave jeongguk and yoongi alone and then he can just pretend it’s only he and yoongi.

“not to alarm you, jeongguk-ah,” says namjoon a few seconds later, when jeongguk is still standing in the middle of the living room with his head hung, “but they’re here.”

“what?” jeongguk gasps, head snapping up. “but i don’t look good yet!”

“i doubt he cares,” says namjoon, but jeongguk ignores that as he darts to the window, peering out at the street to see hoseok and yoongi getting out of hoseok’s car. it’s almost unnerving to see yoongi without his bike and helmet, and jeongguk is about to dash into his room to do something about his clothes when he stops, noticing something much more unnerving about yoongi’s appearance.

hoseok and yoongi turn toward the apartment, laughing at something before they begin walking up the street, and jeongguk stares for another second before he forgets all about what he looks like, instead bolting for the door.

“min yoongi!” he yells when he opens it, forgoing shoes in favour of dashing out of the apartment and down the steps, racing down the sidewalk toward the pair. he sees yoongi freeze when he spots jeongguk running toward him, and hoseok lets out a shrieking laugh, and jeongguk gets to them, fitting his hands on either side of yoongi’s face before wrenching his head downward—“what did you do your hair?!”

“um,” says yoongi, awkwardly hunched over in front of jeongguk. “i dyed it?”

“yeah, i can see that,” says jeongguk, moving yoongi’s head first one way and then the other, pulling it down more so he can see the back of yoongi’s head, and then pushing it up so he can look at yoongi’s face. “but—what? why?”

yoongi frowns, reaching up between jeongguk’s arms so he can tug at his freshly dyed fringe. “you don’t like it?” he asks, sounding all sorts of deflated, like he’d been hoping that jeongguk would like it—like he dyed it so jeongguk would like it, and jeongguk’s heart seizes in his chest as he thinks about it. thinks about yoongi traipsing the aisles of the drug store and trying to decide what colour jeongguk would like, nervously asking hoseok what he thought, coming all the way over here without telling jeongguk so it would be a surprise.

and the truth is—the truth is. yoongi’s hair is mint. it’s bright, a little blue and a little green, so different from the grey he was sporting the last time jeongguk saw him, just the other day. the truth is that the more jeongguk looks at it, the more he’s unsure what to say because his mouth is going dry, and he remembers so vividly the first time he saw yoongi, and this—feels like that.

this is that.

“you—um,” begins jeongguk, knocking yoongi’s hand away from his hair so he can gingerly tug at the strands himself. “i like it. a lot.”

“really?” asks yoongi.

“i’d like you with any hair colour,” says jeongguk quietly. “i’d like you with no hair at all. i mean—please don’t go bald. but it’s really pretty. my pretty hyung.”

there’s a beat, and then—“well,” says hoseok, who is still standing beside them. “i’m gonna go inside.”

“oh,” says jeongguk after a second, shifting to look at him. “sorry, i’m—”

“no, it’s fine,” says hoseok, already walking up to the apartment. “commit crimes, be gay, drink vodka.”

“isn’t that a meme?” asks yoongi.

“i thought you didn’t know what memes were,” says jeongguk.

“do you actually like it?” jeongguk turns back to yoongi, knowing that hoseok is about to walk into his apartment and meet namjoon and seokjin for the first time without anyone to supervise them, but. jeongguk is much more interested in yoongi and yoongi’s new mint hair and yoongi being insecure that jeongguk doesn’t like it, and it’s weird. it’s weird because yoongi shouldn’t care and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about what he wears or looks like or does, but—he cares what jeongguk thinks.

so jeongguk grins, leaving yoongi’s hair alone in favour of making himself small enough to fit into yoongi’s chest, sliding his arms around yoongi’s middle and holding him tightly. “i actually like it,” he says. “it looks good on you. i liked you with grey hair and it’ll always have a special place in my heart because you had grey hair when i met you, but i really like the mint hair and it suits you and now it’ll have a special place in my heart because it’s your hair colour now and i’m sure we’ll do lots of fun things when you have mint hair.”

he feels yoongi fit his arms around him in return, laying his cheek on top of jeongguk’s head. “you’re very nice to me, you know,” he says.

“you deserve nice,” says jeongguk. “can i touch it?”

“my hair?” asks yoongi. “‘course.”

“excuse me!” calls someone from overhead; jeongguk turns his head enough to see seokjin’s head poking out of the kitchen window, waving an arm at them. “stop being gay!”

“hoseok-hyung said we should be gay,” jeongguk calls back, tightening his hold on yoongi as he tries his hardest not to be embarrassed; he’s gotten used to his roommates’ teasing, and if he wants to spend any amount of time with yoongi tonight, he’s going to have to get used to the comments and looks that they’re going to give him.

“hoseok said he’s going to eat those marshmallow things you bought that look like baby chicks.”

jeongguk gasps. “hoseok-hyung, no!” he yells before letting go of yoongi and running back for the apartment, somehow not surprised that hoseok has already made himself at home enough to start rummaging through the cupboards to find something to eat. or maybe it’s that seokjin is always trying to offer guests everyone else’s possessions, like he can buy their love by pawning off jeongguk’s and namjoon’s things.

half an hour later—because yoongi and hoseok showed up mostly so they could go out right away, but jeongguk was right in thinking that hoseok would hit it off too well with seokjin and namjoon and now they’re too busy platonically canoodling in the living room to leave—jeongguk and yoongi are sitting on jeongguk’s bed, yoongi conveniently sitting between jeongguk’s legs so he can get a better look at yoongi’s hair.

“how many different hair colours have you had, anyway?” asks jeongguk as he carefully runs his fingers through yoongi’s hair, watching it flop back down when he lifts his hands away. it’s exceptionally soft.

“a lot,” says yoongi, distracted as he paints his nails; normally jeongguk would panic about having nail polish anywhere near his bedspread, but he trusts yoongi, and besides, if they move, he won’t be able to touch yoongi’s hair and cuddle him at the same time. he’s just going to pretend this is for convenience. “i started dyeing my hair when i was like, fifteen.”

“how do you have any hair left after this long?” muses jeongguk, running his hands through yoongi’s hair is gather it on top of his head, giggling at the little apple top that sprouts out of his grasp. “i was joking when i said i didn’t want you to purposely go bald, but you might go bald anyway.”

“first of all, i’m not that old,” says yoongi, “and second of all, i’ve gone pretty long stretches with just brown or black hair so it’s not like i’m bleaching my hair all of the time. but i’ve had… mint, obviously, and grey, and blonde, and dark red, and pink.”

jeongguk gasps, letting go of yoongi’s hair and watching it flop back into place. “you’ve had pink hair? do you have pictures?”

“somewhere, probably,” he says, and then lifts one of his hands over his head, spreading his fingers wide as he commands, “blow.” jeongguk leans forward, blowing gently on yoongi’s nails to help dry them—he’s painting them black, of course, because jeongguk has never seen him wear another colour, not even a really, really dark colour. he’s very committed to his image, although now that he’s got super bright hair, it might ruin it. then again, most nice boys don’t walk around with mint-coloured hair, either.

once yoongi has dropped his hand again, jeongguk goes back to playing with his hair. “do you think hoseok-hyung, seokjin-hyung, and namjoon-hyung have started anything on fire yet?” he asks; he’d been a little apprehensive about leaving them to their own devices, but he was much more interested in pulling yoongi into his room and locking the door.

“it’s probably best if we just stay in here,” sighs yoongi. “i don’t trust any of them.”

“that’s why i didn’t want to do this in the first place,” says jeongguk. “putting all three of them together is giving them too much power.”

“aw, but you get to see me,” says yoongi, tilting his head back until he can look up at jeongguk. suddenly, their faces are a little close for comfort, and jeongguk finds himself blushing even though he doesn’t move back. he’s tempted, suddenly, to dip down and kiss yoongi, and—that thought shocks him, somehow. it would be a bit like spiderman, wouldn’t it? “or… not?”

jeongguk realizes he hasn’t responded and quickly clears his throat, tugging on yoongi’s fringe to distract himself. “i guess you kind of make it worth it,” he says. “but only kind of.”

“you’re not fooling me, jeon jeongguk,” says yoongi. “i know you like spending time with me.”

“it’s the price i have to pay for getting a ride to work every morning,” says jeongguk. “you’re actually super annoying.”

yoongi gasps, although he’s laughing when he twists around in jeongguk’s arms and lunges for him, and jeongguk shrieks as he throws himself back on the bed, trying to wiggle out from under yoongi. “not the bedsheets!” he yells. “you’re gonna get nail polish—”

“i’ll buy you new ones,” laughs yoongi as jeongguk manages to get out from under him, sliding off of the bed. luckily, yoongi didn’t get nail polish on the bed, although he doesn’t doubt that yoongi would really buy him a new bedspread and new pillows and probably a whole new wardrobe if he got even a speck of polish on anything in the room.

when yoongi rolls over, his voice suddenly fills the room—“hello little one, don’t forget to brush your teeth twice a day for healthy gums!” jeongguk blushes, despite the fact that it’s yoongi who recorded the message in august, and yoongi rolls over before pulling the stuffed cat out from under him. “oh hey, i just realized august is the wrong colour now,” he says. “you need one that has mint fur.”

“guess you’ll just have to take me back to build-a-bear,” says jeongguk, wandering over to his desk now, where yoongi put his jacket and wallet. “with your khakis and your apron.”

“watch it before i make him say something mean,” says yoongi from behind him. jeongguk snorts, trailing his fingers over the shoulder of the jacket on his chair. he’s always wanted to wear it, although he’s never dared ask; yoongi wears it just about every day, which means it must be his favourite, and jeongguk doesn’t want to be rude, but. he hears rustling on the bed behind him, yoongi muttering something about painting his other hand, and jeongguk takes his chances—slips the jacket off of the chair and onto himself, slipping his arms through the sleeves.

he can tell that it’s a little big—yoongi has wider shoulders than him—but he tugs the lapels a little, making sure that it’s snug on him, and then looks down at himself. he doesn’t have a mirror, but he likes how it feels—warm and comforting, and, well. it’s yoongi’s. he likes anything if it’s yoongi’s. it smells like him. makes him feel like yoongi is holding him, a little.

jeongguk turns around. “how do i look, hyung?” he asks, holding his arms out before letting them fall to his side. on the bed, yoongi looks up from where he’s painting his nails, and just—stops. his eyes widen as he stares at jeongguk, a look of almost pure terror passing over his face.

after a few seconds of silence, jeongguk tilts his head. “good?” he asks, trying to prompt yoongi into some response. “not good? i can’t—tell when your face is like that. are you having a seizure?” he looks down at the jacket again, pouting a little when he considers that he might not look good in it. it’s leather, after all, and black, and most of jeongguk’s clothes are brightly coloured and soft and oversized.

yoongi says, “i—fucking. what? yeah. uh,” and then clears his throat awkwardly. when jeongguk looks back at him with wide eyes and a pout, yoongi jerks a little, rapidly throwing one of his legs over the other. the action knocks the open bottle of nail polish over, though, black polish immediately spilling out, and jeongguk shrieks, darting forward to grab the bottle before it can spill all of its contents onto the bed.

“oh my god,” exclaims yoongi, scooting backwards on the bed as the black polish begins to spread, but he doesn’t get up, still awkwardly crossing his legs like he’s trying to hide something, and jeongguk lets out this pained noise, standing at the foot of the bed. “guk-ah—i’m so sorry, oh my god.”

“my bed,” whines jeongguk, looking down at the massive black stain. “hyung, you said you wouldn’t spill.”

“i know,” says yoongi. “i know, guk, i’m sorry. hyung didn’t mean to.”

jeongguk pouts at the stain. there’s nothing he can do about it now, though, because there’s no way he’s getting that out. and yoongi did already promise he’d buy jeongguk a new bedspread if anything went wrong, so they’ll just have to put that promise to the test. so jeongguk huffs a little, eyes moving back to yoongi sitting at the head of the bed. “now you have to buy me all of my drinks tonight,” he says. “it’s only fair.”

“yeah,” says yoongi a little breathlessly, clearing his throat again when his eyes trail over jeongguk’s torso. jeongguk almost forgot he was still wearing yoongi’s jacket. “yeah, sure. whatever you want.”

“also,” says jeongguk, licking his lips. he holds out the almost-empty bottle of nail polish. “i want you to paint my nails, too.”

yoongi blinks at him. then—“okay,” he says. “are you sure you want black, though?”

“do you have any other colour?”

“i mean—no.”

“then we’ll be matching.”

there’s a knock at the door, before jeongguk can move, and then it opens to reveal all three of their friends peering in on them. hoseok stares at him, likely noting the fact that he’s wearing yoongi’s jacket.

it’s namjoon who asks, “are you okay in here? we heard yelling.”

“yoongi-hyung spilled nail polish on my bed,” pouts jeongguk.

“oh,” says namjoon. “that’s better than what any of us had in mind.”

yoongi clears his throat again. “and… what did you have in mind?”

“nothing,” says hoseok hurriedly, already tugging seokjin backwards and away from the door, but jeongguk still hears him when he starts speaking—

“i told him not to open the door,” begins seokjin, and jeongguk is already cringing before he continues—“you know, just in case you were having passionate sex in there, but then hoseok here informed me that jeongguk can’t even touch yoongi without turning into a blushing mess, so they’re probably far from sticking anything in each other.”

jeongguk regrets all of this. very, very much.

“sorry,” whispers namjoon, throwing jeongguk an apologetic look as though they’re not used to those kinds of things coming out of seokjin’s mouth. they are, but—they’re not used to those kinds of things coming out of seokjin’s mouth when yoongi is around to hear them. “i’m gonna… close the door.” and then he does.

jeongguk stares at the closed door, at the poster of shinee he’d put there, and prays to choi minho that he’s struck with a very quick and efficient disease that can kill him within the next three seconds. unfortunately—things don’t work like that.

across the room, yoongi clears his throat. “dead puppies,” he whispers.

“what?” asks jeongguk.

through the door, he can hear seokjin beginning a very loud and off-key rendition of can you feel the love tonight, and hoseok laughing at him. jeongguk wonders how hard it would be to climb out of the window, and then thinks better of it.

“you wanted me to do your nails?” asks yoongi, and jeongguk takes a deep breath before he nods, trying to put seokjin’s words behind him.

they do end up going out, despite hoseok, seokjin, and namjoon putting it off in favour of telling embarrassing stories about yoongi and jeongguk to each other. jeongguk hears them laughing through his bedroom door and refuses to come out, at least until yoongi fixes his hair for him and drags him out of the room. jeongguk still doesn’t want to go to a bar, and he drags his feet a little, knowing he’s being childish, but then hoseok, seokjin, and namjoon are all piling out of the door, still laughing about some inside joke they already have with each other, heading for hoseok’s car.

and jeongguk watches as yoongi puts on his shoes, arms crossed over his chest. when yoongi stands up again, he regards jeongguk for a moment, raising an eyebrow as he presumably waits for jeongguk to grin.

“what are you pouting about?” he asks after a moment, reaching out to poke jeongguk’s bottom lip.

“i don’t like drinking,” says jeongguk, “or people or crowds or crowded bars.”

“we could ditch,” suggests yoongi without hesitation, and that has jeongguk grinning reluctantly, knowing that yoongi will always try to make him feel better, will always compromise for him. it was yoongi’s idea to go out to a bar when they’d been trying to decide what to do with the evening, but he’d readily give up his own ideas so that he can accommodate jeongguk.

which means jeongguk doesn’t want him to, because he wants to make yoongi happy, too. “it’s fine,” he says with a shake of his head. “too late to change plans. and someone has to make sure those three don’t end up getting arrested tonight.”

yoongi turns and peers out of the door at where namjoon, seokjin, and hoseok have already clambered into hoseok’s car and are blasting very loud music with all of the windows rolled down. it sounds like they’re headbanging to gee by girl’s generation. when yoongi turns back to look at him, there’s an apologetic look on his face. but he always seems to know how to make it better as he holds out his hand between them. he doesn’t ask jeongguk to hold it, just offering it, just in case—and jeongguk finds himself blushing a little anyway, reaching out and taking yoongi’s hand.

it’s yoongi who threads their fingers together, tugging him out of the apartment and waiting for jeongguk to lock the door behind them before he leads him to the car. his hand is warm where it’s pressed to jeongguk’s, and jeongguk lets himself grin, shoulders hiking up to his ears in his shyness. it’s only then that jeongguk realizes he’s still wearing yoongi’s jacket, but—yoongi doesn’t ask for it back. and jeongguk doesn’t want to give it back, anyway.

to no one’s surprise, the bar is crowded and loud and jeongguk keeps himself glued to yoongi’s side as they find an empty booth; he slips into it and decides he’ll just stay there all night, drinking orange juice or something. seokjin orders a round of drinks to start, clearly excited with going out, since it’s not often that he does with how busy he is; and even though jeongguk isn’t a big fan of these places, he’s glad that his hyungs get to let loose for a little while. besides, yoongi squeezes into the booth beside him and doesn’t let go of his hand, not even once, clearly not going anywhere. it makes jeongguk feel warm.

by the fourth round, jeongguk is both very glad and very upset that he’s never seen namjoon or seokjin drunk, watching them with a wild fascination as they shout at each other, and hoseok, over the music.

“i’m just saying,” exclaims seokjin. “who wouldn’t want to have this face all over the movie screens? i’m a fucking ten!”

“an eleven,” shouts hoseok, slamming his fist on the table. “how can the world miss out on such beauty and talent?”

“exactly!”

“you know, i want to get into the film industry,” says hoseok, hiccupping. “dunno what yet, but. but. i will find a way to make your career happen! even if i have to drag you from the pits of hell with my own two hands!”

“oh my god, i knew there was a reason we were destined to meet,” says seokjin, reaching over the table and putting his hand over hoseok’s. “i think you might be my soulmate, jung hoseok.”

jeongguk giggles, sliding down a little in his seat because it’s embarrassing even if it’s funny. this is the kind of thing that he imagined would happen when they met, but he’s not fond of being right.

“please don’t make out right now,” says namjoon, more of a groan than anything, where he’s sitting with his head on the table. “i might throw up.”

“you might throw up anyway,” muses yoongi, still holding jeongguk’s hand under the table. he’s had some to drink, too, although can apparently hold his alcohol better than the other three combined. “please don’t, though, considering you’re sitting beside me.”

“if i do, will you still marry jeongguk?”

jeongguk chokes on his own spit. “no one’s marrying anyone, hyung,” he says, blushing in the low lighting of the bar. yoongi turns to look at him, a glimmer in his eye, and jeongguk looks away, focusing on hoseok and seokjin’s joined hands on the table instead. “maybe they’re getting married,” he mumbles, trying to get the attention off of himself. “it looks like they’re ready to elope.”

“i think we should dance,” says seokjin. “hoseok-ah. will you do me the honour of being my dance partner?”

“always, hyung,” says hoseok, practically throwing himself out of the booth and dragging seokjin with him. jeongguk can’t help but grin as he watches them, even if he’s worried that they’re going to break their legs on the dance floor. he can see a beautiful friendship budding, unfortunately—now hoseok will want to come over all the time. and he loves hoseok, really, so he doesn’t mind fusing their friend groups, but it’s still dangerous.

after they’re gone, almost bumping into a waitress carrying a tray of drinks, jeongguk lets out another giggle and turns his face into yoongi’s arm. “this was such a bad idea,” he says.

“i’m beginning to see why you were apprehensive about letting them meet,” says yoongi. “we may have made a grave mistake.”

“this is the best night of my life,” mumbles namjoon, sounding like he’s on the verge of falling asleep. jeongguk peeks around yoongi’s arm at him, really hoping that he’s not going to throw up, but. he’s sure that namjoon can hold his own.

in the meantime, he feels yoongi turn his face, dropping a kiss to the top of jeongguk’s head. “doing okay, baby?” he asks, and jeongguk’s stomach bursts into butterflies, fluttering all the way up and up; he hasn’t had a drop of alcohol but still feels a little drunk, maybe off of the affection or the attention or the fact that yoongi hasn’t left his side once in the past few hours, even before they got here.

“yeah,” jeongguk mumbles, rubbing his thumb over the back of yoongi’s hand. “i guess this place isn’t so bad when we’re stuck in a corner.”

“we could still ditch.”

“we can’t now,” says jeongguk, looking at namjoon again. “they’d probably fall into a ditch without us. i’m supposed to be the designated driver.”

“do you even have your driver’s licence?” asks yoongi, and jeongguk just giggles. he doesn’t, technically, but seokjin taught him how to drive—which is also probably not a good thing, because seokjin doesn’t really know how to drive either. somehow, he coerced someone into giving him a licence, though, and he trusts seokjin more than namjoon in that department.

there’s a loud screech from the dance floor and jeongguk stretches his neck in order to look over and see—hoseok and seokjin attempting to do some sort of tango, although both of them have two left feet and it’s not going very well. at least they’re having fun, though. on the table, namjoon lets out a little snore.

“i’m thirsty,” says jeongguk after a second, looking up at yoongi imploringly. he’s certainly not going to get out of the booth, and he knows that yoongi will if he bats his eyelashes a few times.

yoongi turns to look at him. “do you think they have banana milk here?”

hyung. i’ll at least have a diet coke.”

“that’s not any healthier for you than regular coke.”

“i can pretend.”

yoongi snorts at him, but he drops a kiss to jeongguk’s forehead anyway—and jeongguk blushes, doesn’t know when casually kissing like that became the norm for their relationship. it feels like they’re slowly slipping into something deeper and deeper every time they see each other, not just friends anymore but something in between, something in the grey area that jeongguk is too fond to ask about. he’s afraid of scaring yoongi off if he addresses it, if he asks why yoongi wants to hold his hand and kiss his forehead and call him baby all of the time.

he likes it too much, is the thing—he likes the attention that yoongi gives him, the bit of danger in that. yoongi still isn’t the person he should like, not with his bad habits and tattoos and criminal record. if jeongguk ever told his parents about yoongi, he’s sure they would find a way to bring him back to busan just to protect him. but he likes it too much—likes that yoongi is all too eager to clamber over a sleeping namjoon to get to the bar and order him a diet coke, even though it might make him look silly. he doesn’t mind looking silly for jeongguk, or letting him wear his jacket even though that jacket is precious and jeongguk already has a sweater on and yoongi is only in a t-shirt now, even though there’s a breeze in the bar. he doesn’t mind it at all. and jeongguk doesn’t mind it, either.

he thinks about it for a moment, when he watches yoongi disappear into the crowd—he likes yoongi so much. and yoongi likes him, or—maybe does. in all honesty, jeongguk isn’t worried about it. yoongi gets him out of his room, makes him laugh, makes him feel like he belongs, like he’s finally found something good. and there’s nothing more than he could ask for, not in this serendipitous, happenstance thing he’s found.

namjoon snores again, making jeongguk giggle; he’s not sure if he should leave him, not ever having dealt with a drunk person before, but he looks fine. his attention drifts to the dance floor again, where hoseok and seokjin are now performing some sort of girl group dance that they both happen to know, or maybe hoseok has taught it to seokjin in the past five minutes. he’s not worried. maybe this is turning out better than he thought it would, better than—

“hey there.” jeongguk startles a little at a low voice near his ear, and he turns around to see a stranger leaning over the back of the booth, grinning at him. he blinks, staring up at the man as though he’s been caught in headlights, not entirely sure what to do.

“um,” he begins, shrinking a little at the sudden attention. “hi?”

“i couldn’t help but notice you,” says the man, lips curling into a charming grin, and jeongguk feels his cheeks begin to heat up, discomfort blooming in the pit of his stomach. he’s not stupid, despite being a little more innocent than other people his age—he already knows what this is. “you’re pretty cute, did you know that?”

“th-thank you,” jeongguk stutters, dropping his eyes because he can’t look at the stranger, not when he’s being complimented.

the man chuckles, clearly pleased with the shyness—and is that what yoongi looked about him, too, at first? and is this any different? “i don’t know if you’re with anyone tonight, but would you let me buy you a drink? a cutie like you deserves to be spoiled that much, at least.”

jeongguk swallows tightly, the discomfort spreading. the truth is that he’s never been good with attention, or with someone making advances on him; there haven’t been a lot of those, because he spends a lot of time alone and doesn’t go to places where advances are warranted—like bars. he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how to politely ask the man to leave, because—what if he gets upset? he’s being nice, of course, asking if he can buy jeongguk a drink. that’s a very nice thing to do, and even if jeongguk doesn’t want it, maybe he should say yes, maybe he should just be nice back, maybe it can’t be so bad if this man is offering him something, and jeongguk is anxious, doesn’t know, doesn’t know—

he throws a desperate eye toward the dance floor, hoping that seokjin and hoseok might be coming back now, but they’re too busy twerking. his eyes move to the bar, then, still crowded, needing yoongi yoongi yoongi—

“what do you say?” asks the man beside him, and jeongguk is going to. fucking. cry. “you gonna let me buy you a drink, sweetheart?”

jeongguk can take care of himself. of course he can take care of himself, but when the crowd parts just enough and he sees yoongi heading back to the table with two drinks in his hands, jeongguk has never felt more relieved. he doesn’t—need protection, but he wants it. he wants it because he doesn’t know what to do and he knows that yoongi will know, because yoongi always knows, because yoongi is covered in tattoos and has mint hair and got arrested once, which means he’ll know how to deal with it.

the look that jeongguk gives him is one full of discomfort and desperation, eyes widening as they make eye contact across the bar and he tries to convey the fact that someone is bothering him and he doesn’t know how to deal with it. the truth is that the man isn’t bothering him, isn’t harassing him, but—yoongi must see the panicked look on his face and take it as the worst case scenario.

the next thing jeongguk knows, yoongi is back at the table, setting down the drinks and moving around the side of the booth so that he’s standing beside the man, directly in front of jeongguk like he’s shielding him, hand already reaching out to curl over the back of jeongguk’s neck.

“is this man bothering you, baby?” he asks lowly, keeping his eyes locked on the stranger; even from here, jeongguk can see something dark in them, can see the stranger back up just a little.

“no, hyung,” says jeongguk quickly. “it’s okay, he just—wanted to buy me a drink.”

“is that so,” deadpans yoongi.

“doesn’t he deserve to have drinks bought for him?” asks the stranger, clearly not one to be scared off easily, and jeongguk swallows tightly when yoongi’s hand tightens around the back of his neck.

“did he ask for a drink from you?” asks yoongi, voice dropping an octave lower than normal.

“hyung, it’s fine,” says jeongguk weakly, reaching up to tug at his arm. “just leave it.”

“no. if he’s bothering you, then he needs to leave,” says yoongi.

“i’m not bothering him,” says the stranger, “and he didn’t say anything about a boyfriend, either.”

“he’s not my boyfriend,” whispers jeongguk at the same time that yoongi says, “he doesn’t want a drink from you.”

“he couldn’t tell me that himself?” asks the stranger, getting angry now, and jeongguk feels—even more uncomfortable even though yoongi is here, even though yoongi is touching him. the two of them are at a stand off, only a foot apart, and jeongguk can see the hard look on yoongi’s face. his grip is almost painful on jeongguk’s neck.

“hyung,” he whispers again.

“how about you fuck off?” growls yoongi.

hyung,” repeats jeongguk.

“if you’re not his boyfriend, then you don’t own him,” says the stranger. “nothing wrong with me buying him a drink, is there? sounds like you’re a being a little possessive of him. i doubt he appreciates that.”

“don’t fucking speak for him.”

“you’re the one telling me he doesn’t want me to buy him a drink when he’s shown nothing of the sort.”

hyung,” jeongguk tries again, practically on the verge of tears at watching it unfold, at knowing it’s his fault for not being able to tell the stranger that he doesn’t want a drink, and he doesn’t want—this. he’s frightened of the way yoongi is getting so riled up at something like this, voice getting louder and louder, like he might start throwing punches, might get them kicked out. “i’m okay, just let it go.”

“you heard him,” says the stranger. “let it go.”

“i’ll fucking let something—” yoongi begins, and then namjoon wakes up with a shout, bolting upright in the seat. it startles jeongguk, who turns to look at him and remembers, suddenly, that there are other people in the bar. he reaches out for namjoon instantly, despite the other man being half-asleep, and tries to scoot closer to him, feeling a little afraid of yoongi. but yoongi notices—yoongi notices him pulling away, finally looks at him and actually sees the expression on jeongguk’s face. and jeongguk looks up at him, unsure how else to make him stop.

“just let it go,” he whispers, latching onto namjoon’s arm. he takes a deep breath, looking at the stranger again before he adds, “i don’t want a drink. but, um—thank you.”

“wasn’t so hard, now, was it?” asks the stranger with a laugh, and jeongguk reaches out for yoongi’s arm before yoongi can turn around and do something rash, like punch him in the face. from the way yoongi’s jaw is clenched, he’d guess that that’s exactly what yoongi wants to do, anyway, and jeongguk doesn’t—can’t—

“fucking prick,” mutters yoongi once the stranger has disappeared into the crowd again, and namjoon mumbles something, and jeongguk turns to see hoseok and seokjin finally returning to the table, sweaty and laughing and definitely still too drunk, oblivious to everything else that has been happening. jeongguk swallows again, letting go of yoongi’s arm.

“you don’t have to do that,” he says quietly, looking up at yoongi. “he wasn’t bothering me.”

“he was trying to buy you a drink even though you clearly didn’t want one,” says yoongi.

“i just—didn’t know how to say no. i thought it would be mean.”

“jeongguk-ah—” begins yoongi, sounding almost exasperated, but he doesn’t get anything else out before hoseok and seokjin begin loudly calling for more drinks, and jeongguk is all too eager to pay attention to them instead, not wanting to dwell on the murderous look on yoongi’s face when he’d been dealing with the stranger. he forgot, of course—he forgot that yoongi isn’t nice to everyone, not the way he’s nice to jeongguk. forgot that yoongi has no qualms about hurting other people, about smoking and getting drunk if he wants to, and that’s—scary, somehow. scary that jeongguk can forget. scary that he can be blinded by his own feelings enough to ignore something that has always been part of yoongi in the first place.

when yoongi slips back into the booth, jeongguk keeps his arm looped through namjoon’s, even when yoongi nudges him, even when he trails his fingers over the side of jeongguk’s thigh, clearly asking for something—something that jeongguk suddenly doesn’t want to give. even later, when jeongguk finally announces that it’s probably best if they go home, because seokjin and hoseok have drunk far too much and namjoon keeps trying to explain to every waiter that passes what his master’s thesis is, yoongi presses against his side, mutters a, “sorry, guk-ah—sorry, hyung’s sorry,” and jeongguk realizes he’s drunk, too, and he doesn’t like the twisted feeling in his gut.

he drives seokjin and namjoon home, and then brings hoseok and yoongi to their apartment. he realizes they didn’t really think it through, not when yoongi tugs on his sleeve, asks if he wants to stay, says it like he’s pleading and not entirely sure, and jeongguk thinks of how he’d looked at the stranger and just shakes his head, says he’ll take the bus even though it’s two in the morning. he’s fine, he says.

when he gets home, he stares at the nail polish stain on his bed and it feels like a reminder of the fucking mess yoongi has made of his life—in a good way, usually. not tonight, though.

jeongguk sleeps on the couch.

the next morning, there’s a knock on the door right on time; jeongguk had assumed that yoongi would dip out of driving him to work, considering he’d gotten a little drunker than either of them had intended last night, and jeongguk had already told him that he would be fine taking the bus for once. but there’s a thrill, something delighted inside of him when he realizes that yoongi is still there—despite what he’d felt last night, that bit of fear and distance, jeongguk knows that he can’t spend any time apart from yoongi. he’s addicted, maybe. probably.

both namjoon and seokjin are still asleep, unsurprisingly. jeongguk is quiet as he grabs his backpack and heads for the door, opening it with a greeting for yoongi already on his tongue, only for him to open the door and see that—it’s not yoongi.

it’s hoseok.

“what are you doing here?” asks jeongguk, eyebrows furrowing. “aren’t you hungover as fuck?” hoseok looks it—he’s wearing sweatpants and a sweater, hair a mess and face a little rough.

“yoongi-hyung can’t make it,” says hoseok, and then turns around and starts walking to his car, parked just outside the apartment. “i figured i should take over for him today.”

“i… can take the bus, hyung,” says jeongguk, closing the door behind him anyway as he hurries after hoseok. “i figured that yoongi-hyung wasn’t going to be picking me up today anyway, since we went out last night.”

“i thought…” begins hoseok, pausing when he gets to the side of the car and turning to look at jeongguk. “sorry, i thought he would have planned anyway, but…”

“but what?” asks jeongguk. “it’s fine if he’s hungover.”

“it’s not that,” says hoseok, rubbing a hand over his face. “it’s—not that.”

jeongguk’s eyebrows furrow. hoseok is acting strangely, even for being hungover. it doesn’t make sense that he would come pick up jeongguk if yoongi had told him that he wasn’t going, because he would have said that jeongguk could make it on his own. which means… yoongi must not have told him that he wouldn’t make it. which means he’s been indisposed for a reason other than being hungover.

“what’s going on?” asks jeongguk, and hoseok just shakes his head, moving around the side of the car and opening the driver’s door.

“just get in,” he says. “it’s not my place to say.”

so jeongguk does, feeling strange about all of it as hoseok drives him to the bookshop and drops him off, mumbling something about going back to bed as jeongguk closes the door behind him and watches hoseok drive away.

he spends the entire morning worried that something bad happened to yoongi, because hoseok hasn’t led him to believe anything else—but he hasn’t gotten any worrying texts from yoongi, which might not actually be a sign that nothing has happened. his boss has to remind him to do his work twice, because he’s too distracted, staring out the window as though yoongi will just show up to explain what happened.

but—that’s exactly what does happen.

jeongguk is about to go on his lunch break when the little bell above the door sounds and he turns to grin at the new customer, only to see mint hair and leather. he freezes in the middle of the aisle, noting that yoongi looks about how bad as hoseok did in the morning, and then yoongi lifts a hand to rub at his nose and jeongguk sees that his knuckles are bruised.

“yoongi-hyung,” he gasps, darting across the shop and grabbing yoongi’s arm so he can drag him back out. as he passes his boss, he lets out a, “sorry, gonna—break,” and then pushes the door open, bringing yoongi out with him before turning around and staring at him. he grabs yoongi’s hands, bringing them up to eye level so he can inspect them. sure enough, just as he’d seen in the shop, the knuckles on both of his hands are bruised, one of them even cut. it looks painful.

“what happened to you?” jeongguk asks, staring at yoongi’s knuckles and thinking the worst—he got into an accident, he hurt himself, he’s not okay. jeongguk looks up, then, at yoongi’s face, and notes, with a roll of his stomach, that yoongi is wearing foundation. which he never does, especially not like that; it’s practically caked around his cheekbones, and jeongguk stares and stares until—he gets it.

jeongguk gingerly raises a hand, intending to touch yoongi’s cheekbone, but yoongi jerks his head backwards, and that’s all he needs to know.

“i’m sorry for not showing up this morning,” says yoongi, and he’s not looking at jeongguk, he’s not looking. “and i’m sorry i didn’t text you to let you know that i wasn’t coming. it was irresponsible.”

“did you get in a fight?” jeongguk asks quietly.

“doesn’t matter,” mutters yoongi, pulling his hands out of jeongguk’s and shoving them into his pockets. “i just wanted to apologize. i’ll be there tomorrow.”

“yoongi-hyung,” says jeongguk, and he can’t help the alarms going off in his head, the panic surfacing again—but a different kind from last night. this time, he isn’t afraid of yoongi, but afraid for him, remembering what he had remembered last night: yoongi isn’t sweet. he isn’t nice, at least not to people that aren’t jeongguk or hoseok or even namjoon and seokjin. there’s a reason that he dresses the way he does. i have gotten arrested before, he’d said.

yoongi looks at him, eyes dark. “i said it doesn’t matter,” he says. “don’t worry about me, guk-ah.”

“are you okay?” asks jeongguk. “did someone jump you? are you—hyung. you’re scaring me.” he thinks of the stranger who had tried to buy jeongguk a drink last night, and how yoongi had swooped in like a knight in shining armour and then very quickly turned into a nightmare instead, how he’d looked at that man, how jeongguk had had to beg him to let it go.

maybe yoongi hadn’t. or maybe yoongi had just been too drunk and riled up when jeongguk dropped him off at his apartment, and maybe he went out looking for a way to let it out. maybe he happened to stumble into something that was going to hit back.

“i’m fine, jeongguk,” yoongi says again, a little softer this time, like he’s really trying to show it. “it happens sometimes.”

“you getting in fights?” asks jeongguk. “you—getting protective of people and almost hurting them because of it? you drinking and making stupid decisions?” he can tell it makes yoongi uncomfortable to hear it, to hear someone talk about it like he’s not just going to accept it, because jeongguk doesn’t want to. “you scared me last night, hyung. i don’t like how you acted around that guy when i told you to let it go. i don’t like when you—do that.

“do what?”

“i don’t know,” huffs jeongguk. “you don’t have to look at everyone like they’re going to fuck you over or hurt you. the world isn’t your punching bag, hyung. and i know you have… your things. but you don’t have go through life with your fists up.” the truth is that this is the first time jeongguk has seen him like this, but he doesn’t want see yoongi like this again. jeongguk is nice, is soft; maybe he needs protection. but he’s gotten this far in life without being hurt, so maybe yoongi can take a page out of his book.

“i’m sorry,” says yoongi finally. “i didn’t know i upset you like that. i just—didn’t want that guy to bother you.”

“i know,” says jeongguk. “and i do appreciate that. but i’m okay, right? i’m fine. he didn’t do anything to me.” it’s flattering, somewhat, for yoongi to be protective of him. but jeongguk is still nineteen years old and, despite being soft, can fend for himself for the most part. or at least knows when he can and when he can’t.

for the first time since they met, yoongi looks a little sheepish. “i didn’t go back and beat him up, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he says. “i just want you to know that. it wasn’t him.”

“i don’t want to know who it was,” says jeongguk. “i don’t care about them. i care about you, and i don’t want you to get hurt. are you really okay?”

yoongi laughs quietly, husky. he takes his hands out of his pockets, wiggling his fingers at jeongguk. “not broken,” he says, “and it’s hardly the worst injury i’ve had. it’ll heal.”

jeongguk lets out a sigh. “you worry me sometimes, hyung,” he says, and then steps forward and into yoongi’s space, wrapping his arms around yoongi’s neck and pulling him in for a hug. “you really worry me sometimes.”

“that’s what you get for becoming friends with someone like me.”

“i only became friends with you for your bike. i thought we went over this already.”

“you’re a brat,” says yoongi, but it’s said with amusement, and jeongguk thinks—they’ll be fine. maybe yoongi will try not to fight people to get his frustration out, but jeongguk also can’t expect yoongi to change for him. this isn’t one of those stories and it’s certainly not a movie. when he pulls back, though, he hesitates and then leans forward again, pressing a very soft and gentle kiss to yoongi’s cheek, not wanting to hurt him.

“make sure you ice your knuckles,” he says when he steps away. “and don’t hurt yourself anymore.”

“i won’t,” says yoongi.

jeongguk regards him silently, figuring that this is the exact thing to complete yoongi’s image—mint hair, leather jacket, ripped jeans. and now: bruised cheek, bruised knuckles. his parents would have a fit.

“i have to go back to work,” says jeongguk. “goodbye min yoongi, who thinks he’s part of fight club.”

yoongi cracks the smallest of grins. “goodbye jeon jeongguk,” he replies, “whose kisses hopefully have healing powers.” jeongguk’s own grin only lasts until yoongi gets to his bike, puts his helmet on, and leaves. it’s too late, though, he knows, to turn around and back out of this—there’s no way he could tell his heart to stop feeling what it does for yoongi. there’s only one way to go, and that’s onward.

the thing about jeongguk wanting to be a singer is that—he’s shy about it. he joined his high school choir only because the choir teacher hounded him for months, begging for him to lend his voice for just a song or two. he’s always loved singing, always loved dancing around his room and belting out different tunes, but it’s different when he’s not singing for himself. it’s different when he’s singing in front of people, and it’s different when those people might not like his voice. it’s a confidence thing, probably. his parents have always been very supportive of it, gently encouraging him to follow his dream of singing for more than just himself, even though it took a few years for him to realize that is what he wants.

which it is. it is, which is why he’s working at the bookshop, because he wants to make sure that he has the strongest voice possible when he auditions for companies. maybe it’s a little late; he knows people who auditioned at thirteen or fourteen, and he’s already nineteen. but jeongguk always had a late start on things, and besides, there’s something about patience in there.

he likes to sing, thinks he’s pretty good at it. but he’s still shy about it, still unsure about letting people hear him sing. before he came to seoul, his mother told him that he would have to get over that if he wanted to make singing a career, because the point of being a singer or an idol is actually singing for people—in front of thousands at a time, maybe. jeongguk’s not sure he’s good enough for that, but he knows she has a point.

it took him almost two and a half months to work up the courage to sing in front of namjoon and seokjin, despite being honest about it the first time they met that he wanted to be a singer. for a week straight, seokjin begged him to sing every time they saw each other, and jeongguk shyly refused, saying he wasn’t ready yet. but he did eventually—and once those flood gates were opened, all of his apprehension about letting his roommates hear him disappeared.

he sings all the time in the apartment, then—when he’s cooking, when he’s listening to music in his room. he and seokjin have a strange unspoken competition in which they’ll take every opportunity in conversation to burst into song if someone happens to say a lyric. namjoon isn’t fond of it, but jeongguk thinks he secretly enjoys hearing the two of them scream-singing at each other.

jeongguk likes singing—and he loves singing in the shower. sometimes, if he sings loud enough, he can hear seokjin joining in because his room is beside the bathroom. and usually he sings very loudly and off-key to ruin jeongguk’s singing—but today, it’s just jeongguk and the shower and a justin bieber song, one that he’s been obsessed with lately. it’s not his fault that the bathroom has the best acoustics, and it might be early in the morning, but he knows that both namjoon and seokjin are awake and won’t mind.

so jeongguk sings. he sings very, very loudly, putting as much pizazz into the one-man show as possible. he’s in a good mood, because it’s going to be a good day; yoongi’s taking him to work, and then after work, picking him back up so they can go for dinner at some new restaurant that opened up near yoongi’s apartment. it only took jeongguk dropping hints for a week straight for yoongi to get the memo, but they’re working on it.

his singing dissolves into humming as he steps out of the shower, quickly drying himself off and towelling at his hair before he secures the towel around his waist and sneaks out of the bathroom. he’s trying to decide what outfit he should wear—it’s been a while since he’s gone with overalls, but it kind of makes him look like a little kid, and he’s not sure his boss would appreciate that kind of attire when he’s shelving things in the erotica section—when he wanders past the kitchen on the way to his room, and then—

stops.

because yoongi is sitting in his kitchen, sipping at a mug of coffee. and jeongguk is standing right behind him, half-naked and dripping wet, and he’s just spent the past fifteen minutes singing his little heart out.

“ah, jeongguk-ah!” says namjoon, poking his head out from behind the fridge door. “there you are. yoongi-hyung came early, so i let him in.”

jeongguk stares at namjoon, a look of dread and alarm on his face as he hears a mug hit the table, and then the rustle of fabric against the chair, meaning yoongi is turning around, meaning yoongi is going to look at him, and jeongguk’s eyes snap back to the table in time to see yoongi’s head turn to look at him and then—freeze.

it’s not embarrassing, really, because jeongguk doesn’t have a nice body. it’s embarrassing because he does, because even though he wears oversized clothes and looks like he’d probably lose in a fist fight against a kitten, that’s hardly the truth. jeongguk likes working out. jeongguk has biceps and pecs and abs. jeongguk has abs.

and yoongi is staring at them.

“um,” says jeongguk, not entirely sure what to do or say. most of him just wants to melt into the floor and die. namjoon shuts the fridge door, wandering between the two of them with a jug of milk in his hand, apparently oblivious to the fact that both yoongi and jeongguk have just short circuited and need a reboot. after a second, jeongguk slowly crosses his arms over himself, attempting to hide a little. “hello, yoongi-hyung.”

yoongi doesn’t say anything, just continues to stare somewhere below jeongguk’s face, and jeongguk feels himself beginning to heat up, getting far too embarrassed about this. he could probably run away, but his feet feel rooted to the spot, and he’ll just—die of shame. that’s fine. he’s had a good life.

the silence stretches on. finally, jeongguk clears his throat. “i’m gonna… go put a shirt on,” he says, noting that yoongi’s eyes don’t flicker up to his once. not even when he begins to step backwards, retreating back into the hallway. “okay. bye,” he adds, and then turns around and disappears into his room.

he goes with the overalls, because he feels like wearing as many layers as possible might somehow help him get over the horrific incident of yoongi seeing him half-naked. and despite wanting to text yoongi from his room and tell him that he’s going to be taking the bus this morning, he can hear yoongi and namjoon talking in the kitchen. and he doesn’t want to have to explain to namjoon that yoongi seeing him shirtless is a much bigger deal than namjoon or seokjin seeing him shirtless, so he musters up all of his courage and goes back to the kitchen.

jeongguk clears his throat again, sitting down at the seat next to yoongi, so that he doesn’t have to look at his face.

“hi,” he says, “again.”

when he peeks at yoongi, he sees that yoongi’s cheeks are pink. he stares at his mug. “hello, jeongguk,” he replies.

“yoongi-hyung and i were just talking about how nice your voice is, jeongguk-ah,” says namjoon, still fucking oblivious—or, and jeongguk realizes this is the more likely possibility, he knows exactly what he’s doing and likes to revel in jeongguk’s misery—“what were you saying, yoongi-hyung?”

yoongi makes this awkward coughing sound, shrugging one of his shoulders. “yeah, i mean,” he begins, “it’s really good, jeongguk-ah. i can see why you want to be singer.”

“he was gushing about it,” says namjoon. “don’t be fooled. he said, and i quote, i would literally kill a man to get my hands on an album of jeongguk’s singing.

“you… heard me singing?” asks jeongguk, shrinking into his seat as the embarrassment flares up again. not only has yoongi seen him half-naked, but he’s also heard him singing—completely by accident. and of course he would love to share his voice with yoongi, would love to sing for him, but he didn’t want yoongi to hear like this—in the shower. he’d been trying to work up the courage, because singing for yoongi is something special. sharing anything with yoongi is special.

yoongi rubs at the back of his neck. “yeah,” he says. “namjoon let me in, like he said, and you were—singing, so. it was kind of hard not to hear it.”

“i really liked the sing you were singing,” says namjoon. “you could do a cover of it and post it on youtube or something. i bet people would love it.”

“thanks,” mumbles jeongguk. strangely, it’s relieving to be focusing on his singing and not the fact that he walked into the kitchen half-naked just ten minutes ago. objectively, that’s much more embarrassing than yoongi hearing him singing in the shower, so he’ll take it. he’ll take it because yoongi said he likes jeongguk’s singing, and that’s much easier to handle than yoongi saying something about his body. that’s a conversation he’d much rather not have now. or ever.

yoongi sips at his drink again. jeongguk stares at the table. namjoon says, “oh shit. i have to leave. have a good day at work, jeongguk-ah!” and then gets up from the table, hurrying to put his breakfast dishes away before he disappears further into the apartment.

after a long bout of silence, jeongguk lifts his head to look at yoongi again. he swallows tightly, keeping his voice small and quiet when he asks, “did you really think it was good? my singing, i mean.”

yoongi looks at him, finally. his cheeks are still a little pink, but he’s grinning. “yeah,” he says. “yeah, guk-ah, your voice is amazing. and i’m sure you weren’t even trying that hard since you were singing in the shower, but that just goes to show how much talent you have. i think you’ll be an amazing singer when you decide to audition for a company.”

the butterflies in jeongguk’s stomach flutter flutter flutter, shoulders hiking up around his ears at the praise; as much as he likes getting compliments, he’s never been good at receiving them. doesn’t know what to do with them, doesn’t know how to keep this feeling of warmth forever—at knowing that yoongi likes his voice, thinks that he’ll be successful. he settles on a shy, “thanks, hyung.”

“you should sing for me sometime,” says yoongi. “properly sing. but only if you want to and only when you’re ready. i know this was, uh—” he coughs. “an accident. so it’s fine if you never want to sing for me again, but i’d really like if you would.”

the thing is, jeongguk does want to sing for yoongi. but he has to make sure he chooses the perfect song and the perfect place and practices for hours on end so that it’s the perfect performance. yoongi doesn’t deserve anything less than that. still—“okay,” he nods. “i’d like that, too. i wanted to sing for you anyway, but, um… i was just nervous.”

“you have a really beautiful voice, jeongguk,” says yoongi, earnest now. “i know it’s scary to share that with people, but you don’t have to be nervous. there’s no way that i wouldn’t like it, especially. you know me. i like everything about you.”

jeongguk’s cheeks flush, quickly looking back to the table. he thinks about it—thinks about how they’ve been friends for almost three months now, how they’ve been steadily growing closer and closer, and yoongi still makes him nervous. yoongi still manages to fluster him, but. that’s good. that’s good, because he can fluster yoongi, too, even if he usually isn’t trying.

which has to mean something. right?

“how close are you to being able to take lessons, anyway?” asks yoongi, thankfully steering the conversation away from feelings. “i feel like you should be doing more than just singing in the shower. maybe namjoon has a point about youtube.”

“i’m not making a youtube channel, hyung,” says jeongguk, wrinkling his nose. “that’s too awkward. i could probably swing cheap lessons right now, but i want to make sure that i get the best ones, so i was hoping that… maybe after six months or a year i’d be able to start.”

“a year?” asks yoongi. “jeongguk-ah, that’s way too long. don’t you want to sing now?”

jeongguk shrugs, picking at the sleeve of his shirt. “yeah,” he admits, “but i’m fine just singing in my room. it’s still singing.”

“you should join a singing group,” yoongi says. “i’m sure there are tonnes around here. you know, just a group of people that get together and sing sometimes, like a choir. it wouldn’t even have to be competitive or one of those groups that sings at events. just… singing. with other people who like singing and can help you.”

the idea of singing with other people almost makes jeongguk queasy; he’d liked singing in his high school choir, but he had easily been the best member, so he didn’t have to worry about getting jealous of someone else’s voice or solos. and besides, all of those people were people he knew—some of them were his classmates. here, he’s in a big city full of strangers. and jeongguk doesn’t do well with strangers.

“i don’t know, hyung,” he pouts, refusing to look at yoongi. “what if i’m not good enough for it? or they don’t want me or i panic and get scared?”

“you don’t have to,” says yoongi, reaching over and grabbing jeongguk’s hand. it gives him something to focus on—the way yoongi holds onto his fingers, tugging a little. “it was just a suggestion. obviously you can do what you want, but i think you should be sharing your voice before a year is over. you should think about it.”

jeongguk looks up, looks at yoongi’s face—he has so much faith in jeongguk, always has. and maybe he’s the forward one and confident and doesn’t care what other people think of him, so it’s easy for him to say something like that. but maybe it’s less about yoongi not knowing what it’s like to be jeongguk and more about yoongi knowing jeongguk and knowing that sometimes he needs a good nudge in the right direction. if it was up to jeongguk, he’d spend every day in his bedroom because everything else is scary. but his entire friendship with yoongi has been about gently tugging him out of his comfort zone, gently showing him that things can be okay like this.

that’s what yoongi is doing here, he realizes. he’s taking care of jeongguk.

so jeongguk gives him a tiny grin, growing when yoongi grins back at him. “i’ll think about it,” he says. “and—you’ll help me research groups if i decide i want to? and come to the first practice with me to make sure that no one tries to murder me in the back alley?”

“of course,” says yoongi. “i’ll flash them my tattoos and they’ll go running. although…” he pauses, eyes flickering down to jeongguk’s chest, his arms, then back up again. “you sure you couldn’t handle them yourself? i didn’t know you were packing so many muscles under all those oversized sweaters of yours.”

“oh my god,” says jeongguk, snatching his hand out of yoongi’s and immediately getting up, hurrying out of the kitchen and toward his room.

“what?” calls yoongi, laughing; apparently he’s managed to recover from whatever his weird staring thing was when he first saw jeongguk shirtless. “you didn’t tell me that you work out so much! how do you have the face of a baby but the body of a greek god?”

“shut up, yoongi-hyung!”

“those are dangerous goods, jeongguk-ah. do you have a warrant for those guns?”

jeongguk slams his door shut.

jeongguk thinks about it. a little, at first, shyly asking namjoon and seokjin if they think it’s a good idea, and with their enthusiasm and encouragement, he starts looking for groups to join. it seems that yoongi is more enthusiastic than he is, constantly sending links and ads of things that he’s found. as scary as it is—putting himself out there, letting other people hear him—it’s easier when he has yoongi. it’s easier when yoongi is careful and is loud so that jeongguk can be quiet, does most of the work so that jeongguk can’t get overwhelmed and discouraged when he doesn’t find what he wants.

eventually, they find a group that jeongguk likes. just a hobby group, full of a range of ages and genders, meeting once a week in a church basement so they can sing together and do nothing more. it’s small, doesn’t require much commitment other than showing up and singing. it’s something that jeongguk can handle, something that he thinks will be good for him.

he sings for yoongi as the first step before singing in front of a group of strangers. practices the song for days and days before, trying to work himself up to it. what he finds is that it might actually be easier to sing for strangers, because at least he doesn’t know them; what they think of his voice matters less than what yoongi thinks, and he’s not sure he can sing when yoongi looks at him like that, the one he always does: like jeongguk holds all of the stars in his eyes and then some.

in the end, he sings to yoongi over the phone, throws a blanket over his head as he calls yoongi and hears yoongi pick up with, “hello jeon jeongguk, the next rain.”

“hyung, stop,” breathes jeongguk, hugging august to his chest. he’s already nervous as it is, having chickened out of doing it face to face. he can practically hear yoongi’s grin through the phone, can imagine it—wants to kiss it.

what are you doing?” asks yoongi, and jeongguk takes a deep breath, squeezing his eyes shut. thinks of how yoongi makes him feel—like a cherry blossom, growing and growing, delicate and pretty and so, so precious. yoongi makes him feel precious, like he’s just been waiting with bated breath, watching for the moment jeongguk finally blooms.

jeongguk wants to bloom. so he begins to sing.

he’d chosen it carefully, the song. in the end, he’d gone with only then by roy kim, partially because he means it, partially because he thinks he sounds good singing it. mostly because a few weeks ago, yoongi sent him a four paragraph text about the song, about how much he loves it. how much it makes him feel.

jeongguk wants to make him feel. wants to make him feel like that, wants to be the only one to make him feel. it feels special, then, as he sings—quietly and unsure at first, then louder and more confident as he goes along. yoongi doesn’t make a sound on the other end, not the entire time, and that’s good, jeongguk thinks; he almost forgets that yoongi is there. but all of it is true—the way to love jeongguk isn’t hard. the way to love yoongi isn’t hard.

he’s just trying to figure it out.

when he finishes, holding the last note long enough until his voice fades out into the silence of his room. jeongguk sucks in another breath, stomach turning as he waits for yoongi to say something; he squeezes august too hard, hears yoongi’s muffled voice from the recorder saying, “hello little one. you have the most beautiful voice i’ve ever heard.”

after a second, he hears yoongi’s voice in his ear, through the phone—“well. he’s right.”

jeongguk hides his face in his knees, clutching the phone hard enough to shake. “hyung,” he begins.

“you are so special, jeongguk,” says yoongi. “did you know that? i feel very, very lucky to know you. i feel very lucky that you choose to show me parts of your heart like that.”

“i trust you with it,” whispers jeongguk. “my heart, i mean.”

“i’ll keep it safe, then,” says yoongi. “i promise.”

they don’t say much after that, just staying on the line with each other. jeongguk listens to the sound of yoongi’s breathing, thinks he could get used to it. wishes, suddenly, that he’d been brave enough to sing to yoongi in person, because even with yoongi this close, it’s not close enough. he feels the distance between them too greatly, feels something squeezing his heart that wasn’t there before and he thinks, oh. oh.

this is something new.

he tucks it under his ribcage, keeping the seed of it there, where it’ll be safe. where it can grow.

eventually, jeongguk whispers, “goodnight min yoongi, who owns my heart.”

yoongi whispers back, “goodnight jeon jeongguk, who owns mine.”

two days later, jeongguk goes to the first meeting of the singing group crescendo, invited there after he’d emailed the director. yoongi goes with him, holding his hand down the street and into the basement of the church. jeongguk sings for the group—only then by roy kim, because yoongi told him to. they let him into the group. jeongguk doesn’t take his eyes off yoongi once.

to celebrate, yoongi takes him to a concert—some little known singer yoongi has been keeping an eye on for the past few years, playing in a bar on a friday night. it’s not much, maybe, but jeongguk feels warm and cared for and special, feels like a cherry blossom again when yoongi shows up at the apartment with flowers as part of the congratulations, eyes lined with make-up and a collar around his neck because jeongguk mentioned the other day that he likes when yoongi wears them.

jeongguk wears his best and fanciest outfit, does his hair with a little part on the side, and ignores the sidelong glances that namjoon gives him and seokjin saying, “have fun on your date,” as he happily skips out of the apartment with yoongi.

it’s not a date. it’s not a date, but yoongi gives him flowers anyway, and calls him pretty, and his fingers linger when he does up the chinstrap on jeongguk’s helmet. it’s not a date, but yoongi buys him as many diet cokes as he wants at the bar, and pulls jeongguk into his lap when the bar gets too crowded for both of them to claim a seat, and hooks his chin on jeongguk’s shoulder to hum in his ear along with the singer crooning on stage with her guitar. it’s not a date, but yoongi fits his hand on jeongguk’s waist, holds him tight, noses into the hair against jeongguk’s neck once he has two, three beers. says, “hyung’s thought about this a lot.” and jeongguk asks, “thought about what?” and yoongi says, “your waist is so tiny, gukkie. didn’t think about that until i saw it.”

it’s not a date, but jeongguk kind of wishes it is, because he likes it—likes yoongi’s hands on his waist and yoongi’s breath against his ear and yoongi’s attention on him, even in a crowded room. especially in a crowded room. yoongi touches him and whispers in his ear and buys him things, but—

it’s not a date. it can’t be a date, because that’s not what their relationship is. jeongguk has spent the past three months taking it slow, letting himself feel only so much for yoongi at one time. he takes his time, dipping his foot into the well of things that yoongi has made him feel since day one. but he’s shy, and often scared, and worried. he knows what he feels.

but he doesn’t know what yoongi feels. because yoongi is nice and sweet and knows him, but—so are namjoon and seokjin and hoseok. maybe they don’t touch him like yoongi, and maybe they don’t tease him like yoongi, and maybe they don’t talk to him like yoongi, but—but. how is jeongguk supposed to know? how is he supposed to know anything other than his own heart, which beats too fast when yoongi mumbles the lyrics of the song they’re listening into his ear, and the song is a love song, and it sounds like he means it?

he feels a strange sort of panic begin to well up inside of him, drowning the little blossom under his ribcage, the one all of his hope calls home. it only grows when he hears someone at the table next to theirs say something like aren’t they a cute couple? and jeongguk glances over to see the person looking at him. at yoongi. at the two of them.

but—jeongguk lets himself pretend, just for now, doesn’t want to ruin whatever this is. even if he’s unsure and confused and a little frightened, he likes yoongi too much to say anything—because if he says something, yoongi might decide he’s had enough. yoongi might leave, and he’d rather have yoongi with the uncertainty than not have yoongi at all.

when yoongi drives him home, jeongguk holds onto him a little tighter. whispers the lyrics of one of those songs, one of those songs that yoongi sang to him, or maybe just sang; maybe jeongguk is thinking too much about it, maybe he’s getting into his head too much. maybe he’s just sensitive, has never had to deal with these feelings before because he’s never been so brave as to let anyone close enough for it. yoongi is the first—the first everything.

on the curb outside of his apartment, jeongguk lingers. holds his breath as yoongi undoes the chin strap and pulls the helmet off of his head, running his fingers through jeongguk’s hair to fix it. something feels—different. it might be jeongguk. it might be how chilly it is, and he didn’t bring a coat. yoongi is preoccupied with his hair, tugging on the strands of his fringe, and they’re so, so close. jeongguk can almost see his breath between them.

he reaches out for yoongi, hooks his fingers into the pockets of his jacket. yoongi finally looks at him, eyes shifting just enough, and jeongguk—wants. he wants. but he wants yoongi to want, too.

“hyung,” jeongguk breathes out, and yoongi leans forward and up just enough, just enough—and then drops his hand to jeongguk’s chin, turning his face sideways before pressing a kiss to jeongguk’s cheek.

that’s not how it’s supposed to happen, he thinks briefly, and he doesn’t know if he means he’s supposed to be the one kissing yoongi’s cheek or if he means yoongi is supposed to kiss him properly, on the lips, kiss him closer, closer. anyway.

“goodnight jeon jeongguk,” murmurs yoongi as he pulls away, “whose cheeks were made for being kissed.”

“goodnight min yoongi,” whispers jeongguk, and he—doesn’t know what to say. doesn’t know what to say that isn’t wrong, somehow, or presumptuous, or too much. he just lets them be this time, letting go of yoongi’s jacket and backing away, all the way up and up and up to his apartment, watching yoongi watch him the whole time. at the door, he takes another moment to just look. and then he waves his fingers at yoongi, unlocks the door, and disappears inside.

something about it feels strangely reminiscent of the first time, when yoongi dropped him off after he’d gone over to he and hoseok’s apartment for dinner. when he realized that maybe there was something more, or could be, and he leaned against this door and let out a breath that contained everything he’d been holding in all evening. it’s strangely reminiscent because, once he takes off his shoes and ventures into the apartment, he finds namjoon and seokjin sitting on the kitchen table, looking out the window.

but it’s different this time, too—last time, seokjin said, you said it wasn’t a date, and jeongguk said, it wasn’t a date. this time, seokjin says, “you said it wasn’t a date,” and jeongguk sits down on the floor next to him, pushes his forehead into seokjin’s thigh, and says, “i really, really like him. i like like him. i have a big, fat, disgusting crush on him.”

neither namjoon nor seokjin says anything.

hesitantly, miserably, jeongguk adds, “i want to be his boyfriend.”

there’s a hand in his hair, just gentle, almost enough to make him cry. he doesn’t know why. above him, seokjin says, “oh, jeongguk.”

“what if he doesn’t?” asks jeongguk. “what if he doesn’t want me?”

“i don’t think that’s the problem,” says namjoon, and jeongguk lifts his head enough to look at him, almost obscured by the table. namjoon didn’t say it’s not a problem. he said it’s not the problem, which means there is one, which means—

“we’ve been meaning to talk to you,” continues namjoon, and seokjin’s hand tightens in his hair. “about—yoongi.”

“oh,” says jeongguk.

“we like him,” says seokjin, and jeongguk knows it’s not a good place to start, “but we’ve been talking a bit, and—jeongguk-ah. we know you like him. we know you like spending time with him and we know he treats you well, but we’re… worried.”

jeongguk turns his head to look up at seokjin—seokjin who is five years older than him, five years wiser. who has been in relationships before and knows how to navigate these confusing, uncertain feelings. who looks out for jeongguk because jeongguk doesn’t have anyone else to look out for him, not here.

“about what?” he asks quietly. he sees seokjin and namjoon exchange a glance over his head. doesn’t like where it’s going.

“hoseok has told us some things about yoongi,” says namjoon. “about what he was like when they were in high school and after they graduated and… you know. even now. things he’s done, some of his habits. has yoongi told you anything?”

he did, during their first conversation. jeongguk has been very good at ignoring it. “he’s gotten arrested before,” says jeongguk, “and he smokes and sometimes he fights people. he gets angry when he’s drunk. it’s not—he doesn’t do that. he’s not a bad person.”

“i didn’t say he was,” says namjoon. “hoseok said he was a really rebellious kid. used to get in trouble all the time, and he still does now. he just—doesn’t let you know.”

jeongguk stares at the underside of the table. there’s some writing under it, maybe from whoever owned it before, or from the company that made it. maybe it was scrap wood. he stares at it as he thinks, as he tries to understand what they’re saying to him. but—he can’t get it. can’t understand when he can still feel yoongi’s lips on his cheek, can feel his hands on jeongguk’s waist.

so he asks, “what are you trying to say?”

and seokjin sighs, says, “we’re not sure he’s good for you, jeongguk-ah. to have someone who does those things… who might influence you in the wrong way. you’re—”

“not a kid, hyung,” says jeongguk. “i’m not a kid. i’m not going to start getting in trouble just because i’m with yoongi-hyung. i haven’t changed since we became friends, have i?”

“we’re just worried, jeongguk-ah,” says namjoon. “we just want to make sure that the decisions you make are the best for you, and we do like yoongi. we’re not saying he’s a bad person, but he’s… he’s not like you. he’s not like me or seokjin-hyung, for that matter. we’re just trying to look out for you.”

the truth is—jeongguk can understand that. he lived with seokjin and namjoon for three months before meeting yoongi, but he clung to them so much in that time because they were the only people he knew in this whole city. they took him in, took care of him. he likes to think he’s grown in the months since, found his footing and flourished. but he’s still nineteen. he’s still innocent and naïve in some ways.

and he’s not like yoongi. but that’s the point.

“i appreciate you looking out for me,” says jeongguk after a moment, “and… i appreciate your concerns.”

“we want you to be happy,” says seokjin. “you know that, right? we love you, jeongguk. we want you to reach all of your dreams and goals, and to get what you want. but we also want to make sure that what you want is going to be good for you.”

“we want to make sure who you’re with is someone who can take care of you the way you deserve to be taken care of,” says namjoon. “we just don’t know if that person is yoongi.”

yoongi does take care of him, jeongguk thinks—doesn’t he? but now… now he thinks. now he thinks and all of the panic and uncertainty of where he stands with yoongi comes rushing up again. he really doesn’t know how yoongi feels about him, even though he’s tried to understand. yoongi could be stringing him along, could think of all of this as a game. maybe he can’t take care of jeongguk. maybe he doesn’t care as much as jeongguk wants and needs him to.

maybe seokjin and namjoon have a point.

he sits there with his head against seokjin’s thigh for a long time, none of them saying anything. there’s nothing more to say, probably; they’ve said their piece, bringing their concerns to jeongguk, and he does appreciate them looking out for him. but it doesn’t sit well in his stomach, doesn’t make him feel good. he knows that he likes yoongi, knows that he wants something more, but now he’s not sure what to do with it. not sure if he should do something with it.

eventually, namjoon goes to bed. seokjin follows shortly after, once he’s given jeongguk a few more comforting and affectionate hair pets. then it’s just jeongguk sitting on the floor, staring at the tiles and trying to think and not being able to, not being able to be rational because the only thing in his head is yoongi’s smile and yoongi’s voice and yoongi, yoongi, yoongi.

he does get up, though, eventually. retreats into his bedroom, shuts the door. checks his phone to see a text message from yoongi—sweet dreams, little one. dream of me and i’ll dream of you and then maybe i won’t miss you so much.

jeongguk crawls under the covers, turns his face into his pillow, and tries very hard not to cry.

jeongguk knows that he should probably talk to yoongi. if not about his feelings, because that’s terrifying, then at least yoongi’s feelings—about something. they need to talk about something, because it’s clear that they’ve crossed some sort of line and are very rapidly gaining speed. jeongguk can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but he knows it has.

but jeongguk isn’t so good at talking. and it’s scary to think about, leaving him too nervous every time he imagines trying to sit yoongi down and admit that maybe he wants something more. so… he doesn’t say anything. yoongi comes to pick him up for work and jeongguk lets him hold his hand, lets him tease, lets him kiss jeongguk’s cheek as a goodbye, their roles now somehow reversed.

he lets it happen, because he’s afraid that if he draws attention to it, it’ll stop. and this is easier, and jeongguk doesn’t mind being confused and uncertain, not when that’s the price he has to pay to be this close to yoongi. to have what he wants—almost.

he decides, after a week, that maybe if he says it in a song, it’ll be easier. now that he’s part of a singing group, he feels less self-conscious about his singing, knows that yoongi likes his voice. it would be very like him to tell yoongi how he feels in a song, anyway. after one of crescendo’s practices, then, he hangs back, figuring that asking for advice from the director on the best song to use for the situation is his best bet.

she’s a nice woman—reminds jeongguk of his mom, a bit, and he likes that, likes having some tie to home here. she’s been enthusiastic about him joining the group, grateful for the use of his voice, and has even given him a solo part in the song they were practicing today. she likes him, so he trusts her.

he asks for her advice, shyly admitting that he wants to confess his feelings to someone in a song—and she’s nice about it, because she’s nice about everything, giving her advice and wishing him luck. he leaves the basement with a hop in his step, feeling light and good. he’ll work on the song. he’ll tell yoongi, when he’s brave enough. he’ll—

“hey, new kid.” jeongguk comes to a halt just outside of the basement, turning to peer into the darkness before he sees three figures standing near the street. he recognizes them, of course—three of the members of the singing group, the only other three young men. they’re around his age, probably. they’re friends, maybe.

they’re looking at jeongguk like they want to hurt him, definitely.

suddenly, jeongguk wishes that he had asked yoongi to pick him up after practice, even though he knows that yoongi has somewhere else to be. but he thinks of that night in the bar, thinks of the man trying to buy jeongguk a drink. it’s the same discomfort that settles in jeongguk’s stomach as the three young men hop onto the sidewalk, approaching him. but yoongi isn’t here, not this time.

and jeongguk has to be brave.

“um,” he begins, shoving his hands in the pockets of his coat. “hi?”

“what the fuck is your problem?” one of them asks, and jeongguk flinches. “you’re sucking up to the director already? after, what, two weeks?”

“that’s not what i was doing,” says jeongguk hurriedly.

“sure looks like it,” says another. “looks like you’re trying to be a goody two shoes so that you can get the spotlight and steal our solos. is that what you want, huh? you think you can come into our group and fuck everything up and be the hotshot just because your mommy told you that you had the nicest voice in town?”

jeongguk takes a step back, fear pulsing through him; he doesn’t think that they’ll beat him up, not over something as trivial as a solo. this isn’t fucking glee. but it’s clear that they’re not happy with him, not happy that he’s joined the group and is already gaining attention from the director.

“that’s not my fault,” he says quietly. “i’m just—i’m just here to sing. i’m not trying to steal anything from anyone.”

one of them laughs. “you’re not even that good of a singer,” he says. “this isn’t high school anymore. you said you wanted to be an idol, right? good luck with that.”

jeongguk’s hands clench into fists inside of his coat, biting down hard on his tongue to keep himself from crying. it’s not—it doesn’t matter. they don’t matter. he doesn’t even remember what their names are, so it shouldn’t matter if they think he’s not a good singer.

but he wants to cry anyway.

“don’t think that you’re going to make it big in this group or anywhere else,” says one of them. “you might as well just quit, honestly.” jeongguk stares at the ground, hard. he wishes yoongi was here. he wishes yoongi was here, not because yoongi would deal with the other boys, but because yoongi would know how to make it better.

then, suddenly, he remembers what namjoon and seokjin told him—we want to make sure who you’re with is someone who can take care of you the way you deserve to be taken care of. we just don’t know if that person is yoongi.

what if yoongi can’t take care of him? what if he wouldn’t be able to do something about this?

and that just—makes it worse.

with tears filling his eyes, jeongguk starts walking, shouldering past the three other boys as he starts heading down the street. behind him, they begin to laugh. “see you next practice, then!” one of them jeers, and another adds, “i mean, hopefully not. but we’ll see what kind of balls that kid has,” and then jeongguk can’t hold it in anymore, fishing for his phone to call for help.

when his rescuer shows up, jeongguk doesn’t even bother to hide the redness of his eyes, wiping at his cheeks one last time before he gets in the car.

“did something happen?” asks seokjin. jeongguk thinks of how his fingers had itched to call yoongi, but he hadn’t let himself. just in case.

“s’fine,” he says, sinking into the seat and staring out the window. “i just want to go home.”

seokjin doesn’t ask again. and jeongguk doesn’t tell. he thinks, briefly, of the song he’d asked the director about, the one he’d wanted to sing for yoongi, but every time he thinks of singing, his stomach rolls. so he puts it to the back of his mind. he doesn’t tell namjoon or seokjin what the boys said. he certainly doesn’t tell yoongi what they said.

he goes to work, he goes home. he tries to ignore the queasy feeling as so much in his life begins to surmount to something, a disruption tearing through the peace of his life. he tries to ignore it—most of it, anyway. but the days pass, and before he knows it, a week as gone by. a week, which means—there’s another crescendo practice that he’s meant to attend.

meant to, except he thinks about the boys cornering him last week, telling him that he might as well quit because he’s not even a good singer. saying, see you next week, as though they expect him to show up just so they can harass him, bully one. he feels like a child, not being able to stand up for himself at the ripe age of nineteen, being bullied like he’s in middle school.

he should be fine. but jeongguk gets more and more upset the more he thinks about it, trying to get through the day. the closer he gets to the time for practice, the worse he feels, unable to get out of his own head as he remembers what the boys said, how it made him feel—he’s not a good singer. he’s not and they’re mean to him and he doesn’t want to go.

so—he doesn’t. jeongguk shuts himself in his room, burrows under the covers, tries to shut out the thoughts and reminders and anxiety over not showing up to practice even though he hates the very thought, doesn’t want to disappoint the director. but he can’t. he can’t.

at six sharp, though, there’s a knock at the front door.

jeongguk burrows under the covers a little more, the aching and pounding thoughts in his head growing worse, worse. it’s yoongi, because yoongi always drives him to practice and he always shows up at six sharp. and jeongguk didn’t say anything about the other boys harassing him, and he certainly didn’t tell yoongi that he wasn’t going to practice, so yoongi is here. and jeongguk isn’t answering the door, pulling his sheets a little higher over his head as though if he just hides, everything will go away—the boys in the singing group, the bad thoughts, yoongi. maybe yoongi will go away.

but—jeongguk should know by now. min yoongi isn’t scared away so easily.

the knock comes again, a little harder this time. namjoon and seokjin are both out, which is both a blessing and a curse. they’d tell yoongi to go away if jeongguk said so, but they’re not here to do it. so—after another minute, jeongguk hears his phone vibrate on his night stand, notifying him that he’s gotten a text. jeongguk stays under the covers, knowing what it says—i’m here!!! from yoongi, plus fourteen emojis because he’s recently become obsessed. he probably thinks jeongguk is listening to music, or taking a shower, or just didn’t hear.

jeongguk squeezes his eyes shut, tighter, tighter. maybe yoongi will go away. yoongi has to go away.

when jeongguk doesn’t reply to the text, though, there’s yet another knock at the door, and yoongi’s muffled voice—“jeongguk-ah? are you in there?” then, jeongguk’s phone vibrates again. it keeps vibrating, which means yoongi is calling him, and jeongguk burrows deeper and deeper like it’ll help, like he doesn’t know that yoongi is beginning to panic, just a little.

jeongguk always picks up his phone.

“jeongguk?” yoongi calls again, a little louder. “are you okay? if you don’t answer me, i’m gonna break down the door.”

it’s this that has jeongguk finally paying attention. namjoon and seokjin won’t be happy if yoongi breaks the fucking door because jeongguk can’t pick up his phone, and the idea of disappointing them on top of everything pushes jeongguk over the edge. he throws the covers off of him, letting out a loud and somewhat desperate, “don’t!” the knocking stops, along with the vibrating of his phone.

“jeongguk-ah?”

jeongguk stares up at his ceiling, at the glow in the dark stars. when jeongguk moved in, he mentioned that he’d never lived away from home and his dad, an artist, had painted the night sky on the ceiling of his room, and he was going to miss it. two days later, he got home to find a box of glow in the dark stars on his bed and a note from namjoon saying, i know it’s not the same, but i hope it’s enough.

another knock. “jeongguk-ah, seriously, are you okay?”

no, he thinks.

we just don’t know if that person is yoongi, he thinks.

he rolls over until he can grab his phone, unlocking it and clicking on the missed call from yoongi. it’s easier this way, he’s found—to face yoongi through the phone, some sort of barrier that can keep him from having to admit the truth entirely. his face can’t betray him this way.

yoongi picks up on the first ring.

“oh my god, jeongguk,” he breathes, and jeongguk throws the covers back over his head, hates the panic and worry in yoongi’s voice over something as simple as not opening the fucking door. “what’s going on? why won’t you open the door? are you—”

“i’m fine, hyung,” says jeongguk quietly. he’s tempted to say he’s sick, which is half of the truth. he’s tempted to say he’s too tired, which is also half of the truth. but yoongi has always deserved the whole truth.

“are you sure?”

“yeah,” says jeongguk. “sorry. didn’t mean to scare you.”

he can tell, even through the phone, that yoongi is struggling with what to say next—whether or not he should continue to bombard jeongguk with questions, to smother him. he’s never heard yoongi sound so concerned about him, because jeongguk has never really given him a reason to be concerned. somehow, it makes jeongguk feel worse—the idea that he’s making his hyung worry over something that jeongguk should be able to handle himself, over some childish squabble that shouldn’t be affecting him this much.

eventually, yoongi asks, “are you going to come out? we’ll be late to your practice if you don’t.”

jeongguk’s stomach tightens again, curling into a little ball in the middle of his bed. “no,” he says after a moment. “i’m not going.”

“why not?” asks yoongi. “is something wrong? are you sick?”

“no,” says jeongguk. “no, i’m just—not going. you can go home, it’s okay.”

it doesn’t work, of course. yoongi is too attentive, always has been. he cares too much. “you don’t sound okay,” he says. “can you please open the door for hyung? we don’t have to go to practice, but i just want to see you. wanna talk to you face to face.”

petulantly, jeongguk thinks that he doesn’t want to talk face to face. but yoongi is asking very nicely, and maybe jeongguk owes him that much. “i’m fine, yoongi-hyung,” he tries one last time, a little more desperate than the last.

“jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi. “baby. please open the door.” something about it makes him want to cry—the tone of yoongi’s voice, the persistence of it. no one has ever tried so hard with him, been so patient. no one has ever stuck around for this long, and that’s—something. it makes his heart hurt.

so jeongguk uncurls himself, slowly tugs the covers off of his head. he fishes around for his glasses, slipping them onto his face before he shuffles out of bed with his duvet wrapped around his shoulders. he knows he looks half a mess, but he doesn’t care, not when he’s sad. yoongi must hear the movement, must hear him opening his bedroom door, because he gives a quiet, “thank you,” into the phone, and then jeongguk hangs up, tossing his phone onto his floor before he heads for the front door.

when he opens the door, it’s with some apprehension, some uncertainty. but yoongi is standing there on the doorstep, phone still pressed to his ear and a look of pure concern on his face. he opens the door slowly, peeking around it at yoongi and refusing to open it the whole way like he’ll be able to convince yoongi to leave even though he’s practically inviting him inside.

for a moment, they just stare at each other. somehow, it isn’t until then—when he’s actually looking at yoongi, when they’re this close—that jeongguk realizes he really doesn’t want to be alone.

“hi,” says yoongi.

“i’m okay,” says jeongguk. “see? i’m fine. you can go home.”

yoongi begins to reach out and then catches himself, hand suspended awkwardly between them. he says, “i didn’t know you wore glasses.”

it’s a weird thing to start with, but jeongguk just clears his throat, hiding behind the door a little more. “yeah,” he says. “i do. i have contacts, though, so i don’t really wear glasses often.” hesitantly, he adds, “not unless i’m sad.”

he sees yoongi deflate, visibly. “why are you sad?”

“doesn’t matter,” jeongguk whispers. “i think i’d just like to be sad alone, though. so if you don’t mind, i’ll be going back to bed. thank you for the concern.” he says it hurriedly, trying to convince himself that it’s the truth; he doesn’t deserve to have yoongi’s concern. he doesn’t deserve it when he’s been second-guessing yoongi since his conversation with namjoon and seokjin, not when he should be a big kid and figure out how to get over this by himself.

“jeongguk-ah,” begins yoongi, clearly going to protest, and jeongguk just—shuts the door.

he feels bad about it. not bad enough to open the door again, though, so he just wanders back into the bedroom and collapses on his bed, trying to stop the heavy feeling on his chest, trying not to cry about how stupid it is. it’s a lot harder than he wants.

an hour later, there’s a knock on the door again.

jeongguk doesn’t even bother to ask who it is, because he knows. he throws the covers back again and shouts, “go away!”

“jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi. “open the door.”

“i said, go away! let me be sad in peace!”

“jeongguk—”

‘i’m not—”

“i got you waffles.”

“—in the—what?” jeongguk sits upright, staring through his open door toward the front door. his eyebrows furrow.

after a second, yoongi’s voice comes again: “i got you waffles. um—from that place you like?”

jeongguk continues to stare out of his door. and then, slowly, he gets out of bed. he leaves the covers this time, gingerly padding down the hallway until he gets to the front door. again, he carefully opens it just a few inches, peering through the crack at yoongi. sure enough—he’s standing on the doorstep, holding out a take away container.

“you got me waffles?” he asks quietly.

“bananas and strawberries and nutella and whipped cream and caramel sauce and extra icing sugar,” says yoongi.

jeongguk stares at the container. “from… beansbins?”

“um,” says yoongi. “yeah.”

“but that place is like, halfway across town.”

yoongi rubs at the back of his neck, a little awkward. “yeah,” he says with a short laugh. “i know.”

he continues to stare, eyebrows furrowing just slightly as he tries to understand it. but… yoongi saw he was sad. yoongi saw he was sad and decided to drive across the city to go to jeongguk’s favourite waffle place, to get jeongguk’s favourite waffles, so he could make jeongguk feel better. and now he’s just—standing there with jeongguk’s waffles and almost sheepishly offering them, like he doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

slowly, jeongguk opens the door the rest of the way. he can’t stop his bottom lip from trembling just a little as he reaches out over the divide and grasps yoongi’s wrist, gently tugging him inside, and then tugs him a little more until jeongguk can wrap his arms around yoongi’s neck, hugging him tightly. he buries his face in yoongi’s neck, waiting until he feels yoongi’s arms wrap around his back.

“thanks, hyung,” he whispers.

“don’t want you to be sad, gukkie,” yoongi whispers back.

“i’m not sad when i’m with you,” says jeongguk. “you make me really happy. also waffles make me really happy.”

yoongi snorts into his neck, giving him a squeeze. “i know,” he says. “that’s why i got them. they’re probably cold by now, though, sorry about that.”

“i don’t mind. hot waffles are overrated, anyway.”

“you’re just saying that so i don’t feel bad.”

“yeah, i am.”

yoongi giggles quietly, turning his face and pressing a kiss to jeongguk’s cheek, wherever he can reach. jeongguk doesn’t want to let go, but the door is still open and he’s getting a little cold and he does want the waffles. he does let go, reluctantly, but not entirely—keeps one of his hands on yoongi’s wrist, not wanting him to go far, and yoongi doesn’t seem keen on leaving him alone, either, so.

there’s an elephant in the room, the one about why he’s sad in the first place. yoongi doesn’t ask, though, like he knows that jeongguk has to work up the courage to talk about it himself. instead, yoongi uses his free hand to brush at jeongguk’s hair, says, “wanna watch romeo and juliet?” and jeongguk doesn’t say anything about how they’ve already watched it twice and yoongi complained the whole through both times, because he doesn’t like it. he just nods, lips curling upward just slightly, and lets yoongi take care of him.

because that’s what he’s doing—he’s taking care of jeongguk. he leads jeongguk to the living room, sitting him down on the sofa, and disappears for a few minutes. when he comes back, it’s with jeongguk’s duvet, which he carefully plops on top of jeongguk, and august, which he carefully puts into jeongguk’s arms, and one of jeongguk’s copies of romeo and juliet, which he carefully sets up on the television. he finds a fork, grabs a carton of banana milk from the fridge, and squishes in beside jeongguk as he turns on the movie.

and jeongguk feels—loved. feels wanted, feels at home. yoongi doesn’t say anything, just doing what jeongguk needs because he knows what jeongguk needs. he knows that jeongguk needs attention and comfort and physical affection. knows he needs to be quiet, at least for now, at least until he feels ready to talk. yoongi just shuffles them around until jeongguk is leaning against his chest a little, still able to eat his waffles and watch his movie, and starts playing with jeongguk’s hair.

it’s nice. it’s good. this is one of jeongguk’s favourite movies, and he’s eating his favourite comfort food, and he’s with his favourite person, but—it’s also overwhelming. it’s overwhelming because this is what he needs, what he hasn’t let himself have for fear of being wrong about what it means, for fear of only wanting it more. it’s overwhelming because it’s taken ten minutes for him to realize that seokjin and namjoon are very, very wrong, that yoongi can take care of him, and wants to, and is. and is without asking for anything in return, because he wants to, because he cares.

romeo and juliet have barely met, then, and jeongguk has only gotten through half a waffle, and yoongi is pressing his lips to the top of jeongguk’s head, when jeongguk starts crying. it’s sudden, as quickly as he blinks, and he can’t stop it—but it’s everything he’s been holding in for a week and maybe longer, so overwhelmed with emotions from all sides that he just lets go. he’s still upset, but it’s something more. he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

so he just lets himself cry, silently at first and then louder as he sniffs, breaking through the almost-silence of the room, and he brings a hand to his eyes, pressing the heel of his palm into one of them, and he feels yoongi shift, hears him say, “jeongguk-ah?” and jeongguk just shakes his head, hating how fucking soft yoongi’s voice is, and—he’s crying in earnest, then, practically sobbing when he can’t hold it in anymore.

“jeongguk, baby,” says yoongi, and jeongguk lets out this ugly sobbing sound, letting yoongi grab the container of waffles from him, setting them on the floor before he manhandles jeongguk more into his lap, turning him around so that they’re facing each other. he wraps jeongguk up in his arms, holding him close as jeongguk presses his face into yoongi’s chest. doesn’t stop the tears, can’t. but maybe that’s not the point.

yoongi lets him cry for a while, just holding him and rocking him back and forth gently. and jeongguk does cry, not entirely sure why, but it’s likely a culmination of things. he doesn’t know what to do with all of this gentleness, all of this softness.

eventually, when his cries have turned softer and less harsh, yoongi plants a kiss on top of his head. “you usually don’t start crying until the end,” he says after a second, and jeongguk almost laughs.

“it’s not the movie,” he mumbles, sniffing.

yoongi does laugh at that. “oh,” he says. “sorry for assuming.”

he knows he’s trying to make jeongguk feel better, trying to make the situation a little lighter. but he also knows that yoongi can’t be kept in the dark about it any longer, not when there’s clearly more than he wants to do. he wants to help more than just holding jeongguk and hope that his presence is enough, but he can’t do anything concrete unless jeongguk lets him in.

so jeongguk pulls away, just enough to wipe at his eyes and make a face at the wet patch he’s let on yoongi’s shirt. he doesn’t go too far, though, realizing that he’s more or less straddling yoongi like this, almost pressed chest to chest. quietly, yoongi asks, “can i touch you?” and jeongguk nods, watching as yoongi reaches out for him. he cups jeongguk’s face with one of his hands, wiping at the tears on jeongguk’s cheek, and he holds jeongguk like he’s precious. like he’s still precious.

there’s no running from it—his feelings, the truth. but jeongguk lets himself hide, just for a little longer.

so he says, “they said i’m not a good singer.”

he feels yoongi’s hand freeze on his face, keeps his eyes trained somewhere around yoongi’s neck. “some of the others,” he adds quietly. “last week, i stayed behind to talk to the director about something and—and they were waiting outside when i finished, and they t-told me that i wasn’t a good singer and i should just quit and i was stupid for thinking i could take the spotlight from them.” thinking about it now brings fresh tears to his eyes, and he tries to stop them from falling, but he can’t—he closes his eyes, sniffing again as he feels yoongi catch the tears with his fingers, wiping them away. “that’s why i didn’t want to go tonight.”

“guk-ah,” begins yoongi.

“it’s fine,” sniffs jeongguk. “i know i’m being a baby.”

“you’re not being a baby,” says yoongi. “they shouldn’t have said those things to you, and i’m sorry they did. that’s not acceptable at all.”

“maybe they’re right, though,” says jeongguk. “i just showed up and the director likes me so she’s giving me solos, a-and they’ve been there for so much longer and they should get solos, too.”

“they’re not right. you’re an amazing singer, jeongguk, and you deserve to have your voice heard. and if those assholes can’t share the spotlight with someone in a recreational singing group, then they need to work on their priorities.”

jeongguk opens his eyes. sees the fierce sort of way that yoongi is looking at him, with all of that protectiveness. yoongi was ready to throw hands with someone who wasn’t even bothering jeongguk, so he can’t imagine how far yoongi would go in this situation. but—he’s not going anywhere. he’s staying right here, with his hands on jeongguk, paying attention. caring for him.

“okay,” he whispers. “i still feel—like shit, though.”

“don’t listen to them,” says yoongi. “they’re wrong. and you don’t need them if they’re going to talk or think about you like that. you deserve to be around people who are going to appreciate you for who you are and support you and encourage you. they don’t matter, jeongguk.”

he sniffs again, leaning into yoongi’s hand. “okay,” he whispers.

“you know who does matter?” yoongi asks. “you. you matter so much. you are beautiful and funny and caring and so, so smart. and a great singer, too. you deserve to be loved by the right people. don’t even waste a single second thinking about people who don’t love you the right way.” jeongguk’s breath hitches in his throat for a second, thinking that maybe—maybe yoongi is going to say more, maybe it’s going to say jeongguk deserves to be loved by him, but.

yoongi wipes at his cheeks a few more times, and then leans forward until he can press a kiss to jeongguk’s forward. somehow, it’s softer. somehow, it means more.

“okay?” he asks.

“okay,” says jeongguk.

“i’m so sorry that happened to you,” says yoongi, “but don’t think about it, okay? you never have to go back to that singing group if you don’t want to. we’ll find another one, one that has better people in it who are going to appreciate you. or if you don’t want to join another one, you don’t have to. whatever you want to do.”

jeongguk thinks—he wants to stay right here, in yoongi’s arms, feeling all of this overwhelming love. he wants to stay right here, wants to make this last forever; even though he’s still sad, it’s… almost a good sort of sad. a sort of sad that has brought about something better, brought about all of this love and attention and care. it’s proven everything wrong—yoongi might be intimidating sometimes and have tattoos and beat people up when he gets drunk, but.

here, he’s soft. here, he’s kind. here, he is taking very good care of jeongguk, and isn’t that all he needs to know? he’d been scared of admitting the truth about his feelings for yoongi because he wasn’t sure what yoongi feels for him, and maybe he still isn’t sure. but he has an idea. he has an idea, and he knows that even if yoongi doesn’t like him as much as jeongguk likes yoongi, at least he knows that namjoon and seokjin are wrong—yoongi can take care of him. yoongi is taking care of him, and has been since the very first day they met. maybe it didn’t always look like this, with gentle words and careful hands, but he has been. it was simply coming to this, working up to this: jeongguk needing him and yoongi not even thinking twice before being everything jeongguk needs.

that’s all jeongguk has really wanted—someone who will take care of him like this, someone who won’t even hesitate. maybe he should have known all along that it was going to be yoongi.

“okay, hyung,” he says. “thank you. i really—i’m really grateful.”

yoongi grins at him, all soft and careful in the darkness of the room. “i’m always here for you, guk-ah,” he says. “you know that, right? you can tell hyung anything and he’ll take care of you. i don’t want to see you sad or upset or anything, not when i can do something about it.”

“i’m not sad, hyung,” says jeongguk. “not anymore.”

“good,” says yoongi, dipping forward to give him another kiss on the forehead, and jeongguk thinks—he has to say it. he has to say it now, and then yoongi adds, “wanna keep watching the movie now? i think the third time might be the charm and i might actually end up liking it.” and jeongguk thinks—yoongi isn’t doing this in hopes of something more happening. if he does have feelings, he’s not doing this because he thinks jeongguk will reciprocate. he’s doing it because it’s just how he wants to take care of jeongguk, just because it’s what he does.

and despite all of the turbulent feelings coiled up inside of him, jeongguk thinks this might be okay for now—to just sit with it, to just be with it. and with yoongi.

so he nods, shuffling off of yoongi’s lap but staying close, pressed up against his side before he asks, “can i have my waffles back, too?” and yoongi laughs, but he does as jeongguk asks, anyway.

jeongguk still doesn’t pay attention to the movie. he just snuggles in closer to yoongi, letting himself be happy for once. there will be time to worry about his feelings later, and time to say things that need to be said. at least he doesn’t have to panic about what namjoon and seokjin think anymore, because he knows they’re wrong. he’s not scared of it anymore, he realizes. he doesn’t have a reason to be.

a week later—a week of yoongi being a little gentler than usual, a little softer, a week of yoongi holding his hand and kissing his forehead and making jeongguk want to cry in the good way—jeongguk finds himself in starbucks, sitting across from hoseok while they’re both on break. he’s been thinking about it all week, about what he wants to do; it’s been a turbulent few weeks of back and forth, too many conflicting emotions and upsetting situations. but jeongguk knows, now, is certain of how he feels and what he wants to do about it.

but he wants to be certain about yoongi, too.

“she like, barfed up her entire insides,” hoseok is saying, slumped in his chair. “it was the most disgusting thing i’ve ever seen in my life, jeongguk-ah, i swear. and of course i was the only one available to clean it up, so i was in there trying not to toss my own cookies for an hour.”

jeongguk sips at his iced coffee. “sounds awful, hyung,” he says, to which hoseok sighs.

“it really, really was,” he says. “but enough about me. yoongi-hyung told me you’re quitting that singing group?”

he freezes, eyes widening slightly as he thinks about yoongi telling hoseok about that night in his apartment—although he doubts yoongi would have said everything. maybe just the important bits, like why yoongi didn’t come home for several hours. he’s sure hoseok would have a few things to say about the cuddling and waffles nonsense, if he knew about it.

so jeongguk just clears his throat, setting his coffee down. “yeah,” he says. “i don’t think it’s the right one for me, but i might keep looking.”

“you should,” says hoseok. “just because the first one doesn’t work out doesn’t mean another won’t. you just have to keep looking until you find the perfect one for you.” somehow, it makes him think of finding the perfect person for him. makes him a little nervous, but gives him a little push, since they’re practically already on the topic.

“you know, um,” he begins, looking down at his hands. “yoongi-hyung was really nice about it. i didn’t have a really great night a week ago, and he took care of me.” jeongguk glances upward briefly, and then regrets it when he sees the way hoseok is looking back at him, almost knowing. he drops his eyes again, taking a deep breath as he figures he just—has to come out and say it. it was hard enough saying it to namjoon and seokjin, but he has to tell yoongi sometime, so this is like a middle step.

“anyway,” he says. “i realized that, um—i mean.” jeongguk wrinkles his nose. “i’m, like—i really—ugh, fuck.”

“you’re super gay for yoongi-hyung?” hoseok helpfully supplies, and jeongguk blushes furiously.

no,” he says. “i mean—yes. but don’t say it like that.”

“you don’t have to be nervous about telling me,” says hoseok. “it’s pretty fucking obvious that you like him. and that he likes you, too.”

jeongguk’s head snaps up, staring. and it’s—been a long time. he supposes he should be able to put the pieces together himself, from the way yoongi looks at him to the way he touches him to the way he took care of him just a week ago. but hearing it from someone else’s mouth makes it different, somehow.

“really?” he asks.

“oh my god, jeongguk, how dense are you?” asks hoseok. “obviously he likes you. i don’t even know how to begin explaining that.”

“you don’t—” jeongguk begins, already embarrassed enough as it is, but hoseok doesn’t hear him.

“first of all, he’s literally always talking about you,” says hoseok, rolling his eyes. “every fucking day, it’s jeongguk-ah this, and jeongguk-ah that, and do you think he’ll like my hair and i don’t know what to record in august without sounding like i’d literally die for him and he was half naked, hoseok, i literally almost popped a boner in his kitchen.

“wait, what?”

“it’s annoying as fuck,” says hoseok. “but like, cute. annoyingly cute, actually, which is why it’s so annoying. but other than that, he’s just—whipped, obviously? i dunno. he told me about the waffle thing, which is like… goddamn. he’s never done anything like that for me and we’ve been best friends for damn year ten years. not to mention the fact that he literally changed his entire work schedule just to be able to drive you to work every day.”

“um,” says jeongguk. “he said he doesn’t work in the morning.”

“yeah, not anymore. he did work in the morning before he met you, because he’s actually a morning person and likes having his evenings free, but he talked to his boss about taking afternoon shifts like, the day after you met. that’s like, the modern day equivalent of buying an engagement ring the day after you meet.”

jeongguk’s cheeks darken just a little. “oh,” he says quietly. “i didn’t know that.”

“of course not,” says hoseok. “yoongi isn’t vocal about that kind of stuff, because he doesn’t do it to be recognized. he does it because he cares about people. and he obviously cares about you. he’d literally rope the fucking sun for you, jeongguk-ah, honestly. i don’t know how you don’t see it.”

“i-i just—” he begins. “i guess i could have figured it out, but i was just…”

“too busy gay panicking over your own feelings?”

“yeah,” says jeongguk. “something like that. he keeps wearing chokers and it’s not very good for my health.”

“understandable,” says hoseok. “i’d jump him in a choker and our relationship is strictly platonic.”

it’s weird—as embarrassing as it is to hear all of this so plainly and to realize that he’s been blind for several months, it also feels like a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders. yoongi does like him. yoongi probably wants to be with him. and even if it doesn’t, there’s something much less scary about admitting the truth when jeongguk knows there’s a chance, having heard it from the mouth of yoongi’s own best friend and roommate. hoseok wouldn’t make that up.

and still, he finds himself thinking of namjoon and seokjin.

he fidgets in his seat for a moment, raising his eyes to hoseok again before he asks, “did you… tell namjoon-hyung and seokjin-hyung that yoongi-hyung wasn’t a good influence on me?”

hoseok stares at him. “what?”

“they—talked to me a few weeks ago,” he says, shifting again. “they said that you had told them some stuff about what yoongi was like in high school, and how he has bad habits and stuff, and they said that… i mean, they basically said they didn’t think yoongi-hyung would be good for me.”

“those fuckers,” hoseok sighs. “i didn’t tell them that to make them scare you away. we were just—talking about yoongi-hyung, yeah, and i was telling them some stories. but it wasn’t meant for them to take all of it that way.”

“how were they meant to take it, then?”

“listen, jeongguk-ah,” says hoseok. “the truth is that yoongi-hyung did some crazy shit in high school. he got in trouble a lot. and he does have some bad habits—the smoking, and drinking too much sometimes, and getting in fights when he gets upset about something. but you know those things, and he’s careful not to let them bleed into the rest of his relationships. and he’s not perfect—but neither are the rest of us. yoongi-hyung isn’t a bad guy. he can cause trouble sometimes, but all of us are capable of that.”

“that’s what i thought,” says jeongguk. “i don’t like that he smokes and gets in fights, but i’m not trying to change him. and i have bad habits, too, things that he probably doesn’t like that i do either.”

“there’s nothing wrong with being concerned about some of the things he does,” says hoseok. “it’s good that you’re concerned, because it means that you care about him and his well-being. and trust me, i’ve tried to get him to work on some of those things, and he’s gotten a lot better since we were teenagers. but you can love someone and not agree with all of their actions at the same time. you can be with someone and still want them to work on their flaws.”

that was what he was missing, he thinks—the realization that it’s okay to acknowledge the fact that sometimes yoongi does bad things, and still like him. he doesn’t have to change yoongi, and he can’t expect that yoongi will change. it’s not about that. it’s about knowing where they fall short and not turning away from it, but rather picking each other up and trying to help them get that much further the next time they try.

“so…” says jeongguk. “you don’t think he’s a bad influence on me?”

“jeongguk-ah,” says hoseok. “i’ve never seen yoongi so happy and giddy and well-behaved in my entire life. if anything, you’re the influence on him.”

something warm settles in jeongguk’s chest. he grins at the table, unable to look up, not wanting to see. but he knows, and that’s enough. for the first time in a long time, he feels certain and ready and unafraid. he feels like this is the one right thing in his life, and that’s just—yoongi. of course it’s yoongi.

the spends the rest of his day—and he just happens to have a long shift, of course—thinking of what to say and how to say it. he’s been practicing the song he chose for yoongi all week, and he still thinks it’s a good idea, so he’ll go with that. but he’ll go with real words, too, words that are his own, because that’s what yoongi deserves. he hums to himself in the stacks, then, muttering to himself all of the things he thinks he’d like to say to yoongi. he feels his nerves grow as the days goes on, but he’s glad to have the time. glad to be able to figure it out, to run it through. he just wants it to be good.

he’s going to confess to yoongi. he’s finally going to be honest, and hope that it goes well, and even if it doesn’t—he’s not worried, because it’s yoongi, and yoongi always makes him feel safe, and warm, and wanted. nothing is ever going to go wrong with yoongi.

by the time he gets home, having taken the bus, it’s almost seven. he spends the bus ride repeating his thoughts to himself, hurrying off the bus and down the street toward his apartment. he’ll call yoongi, ask if they can go out or ask if yoongi can come over, maybe, somewhere that they can talk in private.

he’s so busy trying to work out the details, practically skipping down the street and turning toward his apartment, still humming the song, that he almost doesn’t see what’s right in front of him until it’s too late. but then—just as he’s thinking of yoongi, yoongi is right there. jeongguk comes to a halt halfway up the walk to the apartment, spotting the familiar mint of yoongi’s hair and the familiar black of yoongi’s clothes.

yoongi is sitting on the steps outside of his apartment. and—a spike of nerves shoots through jeongguk, realizing that he has much less time to prepare, but that’s okay, that’s okay, because he wants to say, feeling a new giddiness rising up in him because it’s yoongi, and yoongi is here, and—

yoongi looks up. and jeongguk stops.

he stares for an unnaturally long time, it seems, unable to move any closer or speak or think, because—yoongi’s face is covered in blood. it’s coming from his nose, from a cut on his lip, from a gash above one of his eyebrows. there’s bruising forming on his skin, on his cheekbone. his knuckles, where his hands are resting on his knees, a lit cigarette held in his fingers, are split and bleeding and raw. yoongi is sitting on jeongguk’s front step and he’s bleeding and broken.

jeongguk feels tears spring to his eyes, suddenly, panic and worry overwhelming him as his feet finally move, hurrying the last few steps to yoongi until he can crouch down, hands fluttering uselessly because he doesn’t know what to do, he doesn’t know how to help

“yoongi-hyung?” he asks quietly, fearing that speaking louder will somehow give him permission to cry, and yoongi looks at him—through the blood on his face and the bruise around one of his eyes—and brings the cigarette to his lips, taking a drag before he blows the smoke out in a steady stream and grins.

“hi, guk-ah,” he says.

jeongguk, unlike every other time he’s seen yoongi with a cigarette, doesn’t berate him. instead, he asks, “are you okay?” he knows what it is, of course—yoongi wouldn’t have split knuckles if he hadn’t fought back, but. maybe someone tried to mug him. maybe he was just trying to protect himself. his conversation with hoseok from only hours ago comes to him, about yoongi’s bad habits, about being able to love him without loving the habits, and jeongguk realizes he doesn’t care. because yoongi is hurt, and whether or not he started it doesn’t make a fucking difference to how jeongguk wants to take care of him.

yoongi, despite the grin, gives his head a little shake. it looks painful, looks awful, and jeongguk just nods, more to himself than anything. sniffs, quickly wiping at his eyes, and then stands up, reaching out before thinking better of it. “sorry,” he says, “sorry, um—come in. we have a first-aid kit.”

he doesn’t want to hurt yoongi. doesn’t want to hurt him more, but he wants to touch, wants to do something—still, he’s afraid. so he just waits for yoongi stand on his own and drop the cigarette before gently reaching for his elbow, leading him up the steps and to the door. he unlocks it, leading yoongi inside. neither namjoon nor seokjin are home, which is a good thing, probably. and maybe a bad thing, because jeongguk has never had to do this before. he doesn’t know how to make it better, doesn’t know how to be of use when there are still tears in his eyes and yoongi is walking a little funny.

but. he might not know the first thing about medical care, but he does know how to love, how to care. he instructs yoongi to sit on the sofa, then, as he grabs the first aid kid and a wet cloth, quickly joining him and scooting close.

they don’t say anything, not as jeongguk begins to very gently wipe away the blood from yoongi’s face. and yoongi winces once in a while, when jeongguk dabs at an injured spot—he pulls away when yoongi does, not wanting to hurt, but yoongi just looks at him, waiting for him to continue. it’s meticulous work, being gentle and soft. but jeongguk is good at that. that’s who jeongguk is—so he gently wipes the blood from yoongi’s face, from the cut on his eyebrow and the cut on his lip and from under his nose.

yoongi stares at him the whole time, a little unnerving. there’s something heavy in his gaze, something that jeongguk doesn’t want to think about, so he doesn’t. he just moves on to yoongi’s hands, carefully taking the first into his own grasp and gently dabbing at his split knuckles. it’s worse than the first time jeongguk saw them, back after the night at the bar. something tells him it means more this time.

once he’s cleaned yoongi’s wounds, jeongguk digs in the first aid kit. he doesn’t know what to do with any of the supplies, settling on grabbing some band-aids and tearing one open before he just—stops. he stares down at yoongi’s split knuckles, and thinks about the damage they’ve done. thinks about what the other guy must have looked like, thinks about what the other guy’s knuckles look like to have done that much damage to yoongi, too.

jeongguk looks up, trying to keep himself from crying when he sees yoongi’s face—even without all the blood, he looks terrible.

“what happened?” he asks. there’s a good chance yoongi won’t tell him, but. he needs to know.

after a pregnant pause, yoongi just says, “it’s wednesday.”

jeongguk stares at him. “i know,” he says.

“no, jeongguk,” says yoongi. “it’s wednesday.

he continues to stare, eyebrows furrowing as he tries to understand what yoongi is telling him. and then—he gets it. it’s wednesday. it’s wednesday, and wednesdays are the days he used to go to singing practice, at least until the boys from the group bullied him. it’s wednesday, and wednesdays are the days that crescendo meets, and met before jeongguk came along, and continue to meet even though jeongguk is gone.

it’s wednesday. and yoongi is sitting in his apartment with split knuckles and a bloody face.

jeongguk swallows. “hyung,” he whispers. “did you—did you go there?”

“they shouldn’t have said those things to you, guk-ah.”

“you…” jeongguk sniffs, dropping his gaze. “you didn’t have to—hurt them.”

“i didn’t go there to hurt them,” says yoongi. “i just went there to talk. but they seemed to think that it would be easy if it was three against one, and i had to prove them wrong.”

“it doesn’t look like it worked out very well.” he stares at yoongi’s knuckles again. thinks about yoongi going there to deal with the problem because jeongguk wasn’t going to, because he knows that jeongguk wouldn’t do that. thinks about yoongi wanting to protect him, wanting to take care of him. thinks about yoongi trying to talk to them, trying to be better because he knows that jeongguk doesn’t like the idea of yoongi hurting other people or getting hurt—and ending up like this anyway. and not apologizing for it.

and he thinks, too, of the first time—of yoongi getting upset with the stranger who tried to buy him a drink and showing up at the bookshop with bruised knuckles the next day. thinks of yoongi trying so fucking hard to take care of him however he can—whether it’s driving across the city to buy him waffles because he’s sad, or getting in fist fights with people who made jeongguk cry.

jeongguk looks up again. this close, he can see where yoongi’s skin is torn, where he’s been hurt. he can see what he did, what he took just because he wanted to protect jeongguk. and he can see the way yoongi is looking right back at him.

“why would you do that?” jeongguk asks. “why do you keep doing things like that?”

and yoongi exhales, almost with relief, like he’s been waiting for jeongguk to ask—“don’t you know?” he asks. “jeongguk, don’t you know?”

“know what?” asks jeongguk, trembles, feels small as yoongi shifts closer, just enough

“jeongguk-ah,” whispers yoongi, lifting his hand. he brushes it against jeongguk’s cheek, so gentle that it almost hurts—traces jeongguk’s cheekbone, the side of his nose. yoongi’s thumb catches on his bottom lip, just barely, just there, and jeongguk inhales. holds it, holds it.

but yoongi doesn’t have to say it, because jeongguk does know. he does know, and he feels it, and he wants it; he holds his breath, waits as yoongi touches him, looks at him, and jeongguk thinks: he’s waited. he’s waited and wanted and yoongi makes him brave. yoongi opens his mouth again, says, “i—” and jeongguk doesn’t wait, just reaches out and fists his hand into yoongi’s shirt, leans forward, and kisses him.

it’s too hard at first, too fast—yoongi lets out this gasped, “ow,” and jeongguk jerks back, saying, “sorry. sorry, hyung—” and yoongi laughs, just a little, pulling him back in with the hand on his cheek.

says, “s’okay, gukkie, just—my lip’s all fucked up. gotta be gentle,” and jeongguk thinks, oh. he can do that. and he is gentle as he leans in again, takes all of his chances and softly presses his lips to yoongi’s.

this time—it’s perfect. jeongguk kisses him, the smallest amount of pressure because he doesn’t want to hurt yoongi, but he wants him to know—wants him to know with all of the words that he can’t say. jeongguk was going to sing, was going to find a way to put words to everything in his heart, but somehow, this is better. this is enough, as he tugs yoongi a little closer by his shirt, and as yoongi presses back, tilts his head just enough and kisses jeongguk.

he tastes like blood, a little, something metallic that jeongguk shouldn’t like, but does. tastes like he thought yoongi would always taste, from the very first moment they met—and he hadn’t thought about kissing yoongi then, but it was always going to come to this anyway. jeongguk makes a noise in the back of his throat, wishes he could want more, but he shouldn’t. not when yoongi is like this, injured and not okay; he stops himself from being greedy. thinks that, if yoongi likes him, too, then they’ll have plenty of time for more later.

instead, he pulls away, just enough to lean his forehead against yoongi’s. he breathes heavily despite the kiss being soft and sacred, and he closes his eyes, and he can feel yoongi’s breath on his lips. he holds on.

yoongi kisses him again—just as soft as the first time, just a gentle press of their lips before he pulls back, and jeongguk wants more, wants all of it, but. but. he says, “i know. but i still want you to say it.”

“say what?” asks yoongi, but there’s amusement in his voice—something giddy, because they both know. jeongguk can’t open his eyes, feeling the blush high in his cheeks, and he doesn’t need to make it worse. even now, yoongi manages to fluster him. especially now, yoongi manages to fluster him.

he tugs a little on yoongi’s shirt, whines, “hyung.

and he can tell yoongi is grinning without even having to look, almost surprised when he leans in again, kisses jeongguk’s top lip, then his bottom, then the mole under his bottom—“what, jeongguk-ah? want me to say i have a big, fat crush on you?” he kisses him again, again, pushing a little harder as jeongguk leans back, until he starts falling, until he does—giggling as yoongi disregards all of his injuries, all of his apprehensions and follows him, crawling over him until he can dip down and kiss jeongguk’s nose.

“you like me, hyung,” giggles jeongguk. “you like like me.”

“i do like like you,” says yoongi, and when jeongguk finally opens his eyes, all he sees is: yoongi hovering over him. his lip is still split, beginning to bleed again from the kisses. there’s a bruise darkening around his eye. his roots have begun to grow in, too dark for the brightness of his hair. he’s wearing a fucking leather jacket, because he always is. everything about him should be angry, and hard, and difficult—but he’s looking at jeongguk with so much fondness, so much softness that jeongguk almost can’t bear to look back. he doesn’t deserve that, not really.

but he’ll take it anyway.

“i like like you, too,” whispers jeongguk shyly—somehow, despite already having kissed yoongi, despite already having said it in every other way but through words. yoongi leans down again, brushing his lips over jeongguk’s.

“i’m glad we’re on the same page, then,” he says. “i have like liked you for a very long time.”

“you didn’t have to beat anyone up to prove it,” says jeongguk.

“nothing else i did was working,” says yoongi, and jeongguk giggles, because—when he thinks about it, maybe he was thinking too much about it. not that it matters now, when there’s nothing else to hide.

“sorry,” jeongguk whispers, lifting a hand to trace yoongi’s cheekbone. “sorry, hyung.”

“you’re cute,” says yoongi, and jeongguk—blushes, like an idiot, like yoongi doesn’t say something like that every day and will, probably, now that he knows. now that they both know. yoongi laughs at it, pressing a kiss to jeongguk’s right cheek, and then his left, mumbling, “you’re also cute when you do that,” and it just makes it worse.

“you don’t get to talk,” protests jeongguk. “i heard you almost popped a boner that time you saw me half-naked.”

yoongi jerks up at that, staring down at him, and jeongguk can’t help but giggle. “fucking jung hoseok.”

“please don’t fuck jung hoseok,” says jeongguk.

“why, would you be jealous?”

“you just told me you had a big, fat crush on me!”

“it’s not like we’re dating

jeongguk gives his chest a (gentle) shove, exasperated even as yoongi laughs, sitting up and tugging jeongguk with him. and jeongguk pouts, realizing that they accidentally dumped the first aid kit on the floor, and he stares down at it somewhat petulantly before he feels yoongi press up against his arm, face dangerously close to his.

“jeon jeongguk,” says yoongi.

“what,” says jeongguk.

“do you want us to be dating?”

jeongguk pouts a little harder, and then turns his face to look at yoongi. he goes cross-eyed from trying to see, and then feels himself blushing again when he mutters, “obviously.” then, a little louder—“only if you stop beating people up and getting into fights, though, because i don’t think my heart or nerves could handle it. you can just prove that you like me by taking me on dates and holding my hand and kissing me in front of our friends so they get grossed out by pda.”

yoongi reaches up and taps jeongguk’s chin once, twice. says, “i think i can manage that.”

“good,” says jeongguk. “also you have to keep driving me to work.”

“okay.”

“and you have to let me wear your jacket whenever i want.”

“okay.”

and you have to get my waffles whenever i’m sad and watch romeo and juliet whenever i want and call me baby all the time.”

“okay.”

“okay.”

yoongi’s grinning at him, all wide and fond. jeongguk’s heart aches, just a little.

“do you have any conditions?” he asks.

yoongi shakes his head. “i just wanna be with you,” he says.

“you’re so gross,” whispers jeongguk.

“jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi, and jeongguk thinks of the first time yoongi ever said his name, and how much he liked it in yoongi’s mouth, and how he wants it to stay there, and how he’d gladly hand over his heart for safekeeping—“will you please be my boyfriend?”

jeongguk’s heart does a hiccup in his chest, as though he hasn’t been expecting it. as though he hasn’t been wanting it for longer than he’s able to put words to. he’d wanted to sing, to give some sort of grand gesture, but this is better. this is them—just yoongi and jeongguk and their bleeding hearts, and something that started with jeongguk sleeping through his goddamn alarm.

he leans forward, kisses yoongi’s nose. says, “i would very much like to be your boyfriend, yoongi-hyung,” and yoongi smiles at him, all gums and teeth and a little bit of blood, and jeongguk doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything more beautiful.

later, when yoongi goes home—because yoongi has to go home, because as much as jeongguk doesn’t want to let him go, he’s not sure sharing a bed on their first night as a couple is a good idea, and yoongi is a gentleman—jeongguk stands out on the curb beside yoongi’s bike. this is familiar, despite the newness of everything else; it’s always just going to be yoongi and his bike, driving away and promising to come back tomorrow to pick jeongguk up for work. maybe nothing really has to change, other than the fact that before yoongi puts his helmet on, jeongguk kisses him on the lips instead of on the cheek, and his heart hiccups again, and he finds that he likes it much, much better.

when yoongi backs away, swinging a leg over his bike and preparing to leave, jeongguk thinks he’d rather not let him go. but it’ll make seeing him again tomorrow even better, so—it’s okay. jeongguk needs some time to scream into his pillow, anyway.

“goodnight jeon jeongguk,” says yoongi, grinning at him, and jeongguk feels himself burst into full bloom—“my adorable, wonderful, devastatingly gorgeous boyfriend.”

jeongguk—blushes, of course, both hands flying up to cover his ears in his shyness. “goodnight min yoongi,” he says anyway, shoulders hiking up, and—

“say it,” says yoongi.

“yoongi-hyung,” whines jeongguk, already backing away.

“jeongguk, say it.

“my boyfriend!” he practically yells, feeling far too flustered and overwhelmed as yoongi just sits there and giggles at him. “goodnight min yoongi, my tiny, scary, but still devastatingly beautiful boyfriend.”

“i’m not tiny

“i already said goodnight!” shouts jeongguk as he turns and runs back to the apartment.

“jeon jeongguk! i’m not tiny!

“bye, hyung!” he shouts, giggling as he throws the door open and jumps inside, shutting the door behind him. he leans against it, breathing for a moment, and then—after a moment, turns around, opening the door a few inches so he can stick his head out. “hyung!” he calls, watching as yoongi’s head snaps toward him, expression a little breathless.

“what?” yoongi calls back.

he realizes, then, that he doesn’t really have anything to say. just wants to look at yoongi, just doesn’t want to see him go just yet. he hesitates, seeing the way that yoongi looks back at him, waits with his entire body, because he knows that whatever jeongguk is going to say is more important than anything else he could be doing.

and that’s enough.

jeongguk blows him a kiss. yoongi catches it, tucks it into his pocket, for safe-keeping, at least until tomorrow morning, when jeongguk can kiss him properly again. jeongguk giggles when yoongi winks at him, gives him a little wave, and then shuts the door again. for a second, he just—breathes. and then he gives a little squeal, turning around and running all the way to his bedroom before throwing himself on his bed, stuffing his face in his pillow, and doing all that screaming he’s been holding in for hours.

jeongguk blooms.