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here comes the sun

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“yes!” seokjin bellows, spreading his arms and tipping his face up as he stands by the car they parked on the campsite while a significantly less inspired yoongi struggles to pull his bags out of the trunk in the background. his tone and overall aura bear uncanny resemblance to a classic comic book supervillain. “i’m back, birches.” he glances back at yoongi over his shoulder, deadpan but with that subtle chaotic glint in his eyes that means he’s after a specific reaction. “get it? i’m not legally allowed to say bitches here and the sheer number of birch trees in this place is offensive.”

“are you sure that’s right?” yoongi stares him dead in the eye. “are you sure you’re not legally allowed to say bitches?”

“yeah. i study law, yoongi. why would you argue with me on this.”

yoongi only slams the trunk shut, and takes a moment—just a moment—to glance around the place which is the exact same it was last year and the year before that and the year before that. the broad-leaved trees lining the campsite, the blue-hued mountains in the distance, the teary-eyed parents dropping their embarrassed kids off.

like seokjin, yoongi is glad to be back here—yoongi is lots of things when it comes to this place, contradictory things that essentially boil down to the kind of fond love-hate you have for places filled with memories—but currently he has no energy to display any of that because he just spent five hours driving up to this mountainside camp with seokjin conveniently dead in the backseat for the majority of the ride. (the fact that seokjin offered to drive and yoongi told him to sleep because the last time he did that was sometime last month before his exam marathon is beside the point.)

“i said birches, ma’am,” seokjin calls, and yoongi turns back to him to see a woman rapidly ushering her child away from them. “birches! like birch trees—i think she just thinks i’m yelling bitches at her over and over again.”

“oh, my god,” says yoongi, who’s dying of an acute heat stroke against the back of the car in his giant black hoodie and jeans because he won’t be caught dead in the city without every inch of his limbs covered.

“namjoon’s going to fire me so fast if someone complains about me using anti-feminist language,” seokjin shakes his head, picking up yoongi’s other bag along with his own rucksack without yoongi asking him to, and yoongi squeezes his elbow in a thanks as they start venturing into the camp.

“i don’t think namjoon makes those decisions around here,” yoongi muses. “do you see him?”

“over there,” seokjin points with his pair of sunglasses, “talking to that hot dad.”

“jesus,” yoongi mumbles, “sometimes i honestly can’t tell if you became a camp counselor solely to hit on dads.”

“how dare you,” seokjin says mildly. “i don’t hit on dads. dads hit on me.”

namjoon finishes talking to the hot dad, and goes back to scanning his Professional Clipboard with a focused frown on his face. yoongi notes that he looks stressed out already, and it’s no wonder. his duties as the staff manager include making sure everything’s operating smoothly and wrangling not only the campers but the counselors. still, when seokjin hollers his name and catches his attention, his face lights up with the dimpled grin infamous for how it both reassures frantic parents their kids aren’t going to get mauled to death by a wild boar and makes them fall in love with him. 

“worry not, we’re here, camp can finally start,” seokjin says as he clasps namjoon’s hand and they pull each other into a brief hug. namjoon shakes his head, a smile grazing his lips. 

“if anything, your presence makes me more worried, everyone else arrived an hour ago, and camp’s going to start with or without you.”

“everyone’s here?” yoongi asks, half of it into namjoon’s shoulder as he too hugs namjoon hello.

“yup. everyone made it this year. you can have a reunion later, though.” namjoon gestures broadly at their gear. “drop off your stuff—we’re going to have two supervisors per cabin this year. anyone you’d particularly like to room with?”

“i don’t care,” yoongi says, “just—”

“cool,” namjoon says, “you two are in cabin number three. you’ve got age group eight to ten.”

yoongi shoots a sharp glance at seokjin, and groans.

“i had one request. anyone but jin-hyung. i live with him. i have to put up with him 24/7. this is my one chance to catch a break, namjoon.”

“i can’t put him with any of the youngest three,” namjoon arches an eyebrow, “i made that mistake the first year, and i learned from it.”

“he’s right,” seokjin says calmly, turning to yoongi. “someone might die. jungkook, most likely.”

“put him with hoseok, then,” yoongi complains.

“hoseok’s with taehyung in cabin number two,” namjoon says, and shrugs. “asking for your preferences was just a formality. everyone’s already paired up. that’s what you get for being late.”

“this has nothing to do with the sleeping arrangement, but i want to make a suggestion,” seokjin says as yoongi stares at namjoon, betrayed. “i want to pitch a new activity to include in the schedule. canoeing and horseback riding are fun, but are they useful skills? no. most of these kids will never see a canoe or a horse again in their life.”

“i don’t think that’s statistically accurate,” namjoon cuts in. seokjin pays him no mind.

“i want to teach the kids something they can actually take with them and use in everyday life.”

“uh-huh?” namjoon says warily.

“hear me out,” seokjin prompts, and slowly spreads his hands for emphasis as he says: “crime.”

“no,” namjoon says, and then, somewhat distraught, “you study law.

“which is how i know all the loopholes, namjoon,” seokjin says exasperatedly.

“just go,” namjoon pleads, and points to the direction of the cabins at the edge of the woods, “go drop off your stuff and go… do your duties. as scheduled.”

yoongi keeps his eyes open for the other guys on their way; thinks he glimpses red hair once, thinks it’s jimin, but realizes he’s thinking of last year and he’s pretty sure jimin’s hair isn’t red anymore.

he wonders how they’ve changed. and if he’s changed, in their eyes.

a kid barrels right into yoongi at the door, bumping his face against yoongi’s stomach, not in the gentlest manner.

“oops.” yoongi steadies the kid with a hand on top of his unruly head. “you okay? slow down. no running inside the cabin, yeah?”

the boy steps back, reaches up to hold his nose. “ow.” he blinks up at yoongi, and looks like he might tear up.

yoongi steps aside and gestures with a tilt of his head for seokjin to go on in, then lowers his duffel bag down on the small porch, and squats down.

“here, let me see.” he holds out a hand, and waits for the boy to slowly waddle closer, then cautiously remove his hand. yoongi tilts his head this way and that way as he inspects the damage. “no bleeding. you’re fine. good thing it was me you ran into. if it was jin-hyung, over there, you might’ve broken your nose on his steel abs.” the kid lets out a chuckle, the tears slowly getting replaced by curiosity. he’s missing a bottom tooth. yoongi smiles. “what’s your name?”

“hajoon,” he says quietly. hajoon is small and scrawny and probably one of the youngest here. his oversized t-shirt has a flaky spider-man print on it and looks like it may belong to an older sibling.

“hi, hajoon. my name is yoongi. we’re gonna be roomies for the next two months. did you choose a bunk already?”

hajoon nods slightly, twists his hands in the hem of his shirt. “the—the one in the corner. the bottom one.”

“good choice. did your parents leave already?” yoongi stands up and hoists his bag onto his shoulder as hajoon nods his head. “did you come here with friends?” hesitantly shakes his head. “you don’t know anyone here?” shakes his head more vehemently. “that’s okay. now you do.” yoongi points to himself. “and you’ll know the others real soon when we play games. can i ask you for a favor? i have no idea which bed to choose.”

hajoon seems to insist yoongi take the one next to his. yoongi heaves the bag onto the bed, shakes out his hair, attempts to shake out his exhaustion, too, and finally pulls the torture device of a hoodie over his head.

“is he like superman?” asks a tiny voice at his waist level. yoongi glances down at hajoon, who’s watching seokjin on the other side of the room, getting up to god knows what with a bunch of kids crowding his bunk. “you said… he has steel—steel abs.”

“hmm.” yoongi says. “he’s… super something, certainly.”

 

/

 

“rise and shine.”

something clatters against the tabletop next to yoongi’s head, startling him out of the light sleep. he peels himself off the table at the counselor lounge, squints blearily at the chipped ceramic mug of coffee, placed before him like a gift from god.

“good lord,” god says mildly, and it’s interesting of him to be using his own name like that. god is also a 24-year-old man named kim namjoon who shares a likeness to a utility pole (tall, necessary for anything to work, birds land on him sometimes), currently standing across the table looking unimpressed. “it’s only the second day and you look like a wildcat we caught from the woods but have to specifically instruct people not to feed because he’ll bite.”

“give me a break.” yoongi’s hands wrap around the mug and pull it to his chest like it’s something precious and the moment he does it he can actually hear namjoon’s thoughts. he’s thinking yoongi looks like gollum. “my kids are a bunch of night owls. and like half of them were homesick. i was up at 3AM reading dostoyevski to this one kid. am i, like, badly out of touch with today’s youth or is that real advanced literature for a nine-year-old?”

namjoon pulls up a chair, and joins yoongi in the lonely counselor lounge.

“aww,” he says, inexplicably. when yoongi looks at him, he grins. “you’re already calling them your kids.”

“crime and punishment,” yoongi mutters, staring into the abyss of his coffee. “that book has murder in it. should i be reading it to a nine-year-old?”

“if he has it with him here, it means he’s already read it.” yoongi glances up at him. namjoon merely shrugs, leaning his jaw on his balled up hand. “it’s a comfort thing.” yoongi hums noncommittally. a lot of the kids have one—the spider-man shirt is hajoon’s, it seems. yoongi was right; it belongs to his older brother, and before yoongi was up reading dostoyevski to jiwoo, he was up telling hajoon that he too has a big brother he misses sometimes. yoongi has noticed, in the past years, that his voice tends to put kids to sleep. that might read as an insult in other circles. here, it’s a valuable asset. “did you see the other guys yet?”

yoongi nods slowly.

“most of them.” briefly, as he was taking his drowsy kids to the dining hall for breakfast. the one with red hair turned out to be hoseok, this time around. the minute yoongi told him it looks good on him, jimin started demanding to know why yoongi didn’t compliment his red hair last year. so no. they haven’t changed awfully much. “can’t seem to be able to catch jungkook, though. i went to cabin five. he wasn’t there.” he shakes his head. “he’s the only one i haven’t seen in two years. it’s like he’s trying to make it three.”

“yeah, it’s the same as always,” namjoon snorts, “it’s catch jungkook. he's going to be directing a bunch of things again. basically he’s got something going on at all times."

that doesn’t surprise yoongi. jungkook was absent last year, which, while very weird and not unlike some cosmic imbalance, was understandable since he was doing a semester abroad—but the years before that, it was always as if jungkook was trying to break some kind of a personal record and juggle as many things as humanly possible. like he’ll die without a challenge. seems like he hasn’t changed, either. if it was anyone else, yoongi might worry about them burning their candle at both ends; but jungkook has never given him a reason to worry. he thrives on it.

“you’ll see him at today’s staff meeting, at least,” namjoon continues. sinks back in the chair, and sighs. it sounds like it’s coming from a place beneath the bones. “fuck, i’m so excited to be here again. to get together with everyone again. properly. last year was great, but it wasn’t the same without jungkook, you know? it’s like…” he trails off, looking for words.

“like coming home to your dysfunctional summer family of ungoverned camp counselors and other people’s kids,” yoongi supplies. namjoon just smiles, and yoongi smiles back, because he knows.

you know those friendships where you meet once a year and barely text during your time apart but when you come together to battle wilderness and bad wifi and grade schoolers for two months you feel instantly as close as family possibly because you’ve gone through some real shit out here like a hornet invasion and all the toilets clogging at once and the annual kim namjoon rescue operation and frankly you’d probably die for these people? yeah, it’s like that.

summer family is a good term for it, because summer doesn’t last forever. when the two months are over, they gather around, say, see you next year, say, same time, same place, guys, and they hug goodbye and go back to their lives. scatter around south korea or the world.

yoongi struggles to keep tabs on them—aside from namjoon, with whom he goes to college, and seokjin, who’s his roommate—even when he wants to. he exchanges the occasional text with them, comments on their pictures on social media when he remembers that’s a thing, but honestly—there’s something scary about the prospect of meeting up with everyone outside of the camp, outside of this snowglobe world. would it be the same, would they even like each other when there’s no obligation to. would they like yoongi. not camp counselor yoongi. not archery instructor yoongi. just yoongi.

some things aren’t meant to be taken out of their place, and maybe this isn’t one of those things but there’s also a chance it is and yoongi doesn’t want to fuck up this spell they have going, because, quite frankly, this place means a lot to him. these people mean a lot to him in the strangest ways.

“well,” yoongi sighs, raising his corpse from the dead. “i’m off. gotta prepare for the first archery lesson of the summer.”

“good luck,” namjoon says, “no flaming arrows.”

“that happened once and everyone agreed it was super cool and no one even got hurt.” namjoon gives him a pointed look, and yoongi rolls his eyes, corrects: “the kids didn’t get hurt. and jimin tripped when he was calling the fire department, which hardly counts.” namjoon still looks slightly constipated, and yoongi stops at the end of the table to give him a look. “do you really need me to explicitly tell you i’m not going to set a fucking arrow on fire in front of small children during their first experience with archery.”

“yes,” namjoon says, “it would make me feel significantly better.”

after assuring namjoon the flaming arrow incident will not repeat itself, yoongi makes his way to the equipment shed, and starts hauling the gear to the nearby archery field. the foam circle targets already loom at the edge of the field, like something ancient and megalith. yoongi really feels like they’ve been here since the dawn of time.

he disposes everything else onto the tables set up under sunshades; hangs onto a recurve, meticulously strings it, picks an arrow from the quiver. with an inaudible sigh, shuffles on his feet so that he’s sideways to the targets, hangs the bow towards the ground, and nocks the arrow. peers out at the field, blowing his outgrown bangs out of his face as he evaluates the distance. an entire field’s width is too much for the kids. he’d have to put tape markings on the ground.

feels the weight of the bow in his left hand, draws with his right, no arm guard or anything. this is almost a ceremonious thing by now. it’s like greeting an old friend by shooting knives at them. you know, one of those things. pulls the string back until it touches his nose and lips, and aims with both eyes open. blinks slow, breathes slow.

when he was a kid, he liked how archers look doing this. composed and confident, all clean lines and sharp angles, tall like towers. as yoongi was none of those things, he found it immensely attractive.

and maybe pretending to be composed and confident and sharp-edged on the archery field eventually led to people mistakenly assuming that’s how he is always. but the thing is that anyone can appear confident when they are holding a lethal weapon. when hoseok first met him three years ago, he said, wow, you’re not what i expected at all. yoongi figured he meant: you’re sort of a mess. but when he asked, hoseok said: so much softer.

then jimin said: and a bit of a mess.

(but aren’t we all.)

now he mostly likes archery because of how he has to calm himself. slow down his busy mind and narrow everything down to the straight line between the arrow and the target. likes how the tiniest of movements does so much: it’s not about sending the arrow forward, it’s about letting it go. all you need is a good aim and the ability to let things slip through your fingers and yoongi has both of those which makes him an excellent marksman but bad at holding onto the people he cares about.

well. summer is a weird time. and yoongi’s arrow lands slightly northeast of where he wanted it but stays within the ten circle anyway.

he strings the rest of the bows, and when he’s going over the equipment to see if it needs maintenance, hears:

“hey.”

the voice is somewhat familiar but yoongi’s brain hasn’t quite caught up and placed it by the time he turns. as he’s slightly hunched over, finds himself at eye level with—chest. a t-shirt that’s blindingly white in the sunlight and the defined pectorals filling it out, clavicles peeking out of the neckline. and that’s definitely an inappropriate thing to be fixating on but what the fuck else is he supposed to do when it’s there in his face.

nevertheless, he’s acutely aware he’s just blatantly staring at this guy’s chest, and hurries to fix his line of sight, eyes flitting up tan skin and landing on a face that is extremely familiar. familiar but indisputably different from when yoongi last saw it—in subtle ways, ways that he can’t pinpoint right now, that he thinks could be explained simply with: growing up.

the voice and the face and the name align and it feels like of course. yoongi stands up straight, blinks, and says:

“jungkook.”

a smile pulls at jungkook’s mouth, lips pressed together like he’s holding back.

“thought you forgot about me, for a second,” he murmurs.

“holy fuck,” yoongi says elaborately. jungkook’s smile grows until it’s like he physically can’t contain it; breaks into a grin, and that’s stayed the same, his front teeth still too big for his mouth when he pretty much grew into everything else, and it’s somehow so intensely endearing yoongi can’t really comprehend it. he’s not sure which one of them initiates the hug, but the next second he’s got his palms flat against jungkook’s sun-warm back, jungkook’s arms fitting around him in such a manner he can’t help but hazily wonder, did they always…

jungkook smells faintly like sweet peas and something yoongi is inexplicably, impossibly missing only now that it’s here.

“hey, hyung,” jungkook says in a tiny voice into his ear, “how are you? it’s been a minute.”

“it has, hasn’t it.” it’s been two years, which is not hard to believe, because holy fuck— they pull apart, jungkook still smiling, and yoongi feels very weird—slightly dizzy, sort of like he does when he’s sleep deprived and three mugs of coffee in, his heart beating fast and shallow. he takes one more step back for good measure, swallows, finds it difficult to look at jungkook without his face doing something weird, some incomprehensible dumb smile. his hands suddenly antsy, rubs at the skin behind his ear. “you got, um. tall.”

that’s not really it. jungkook was already taller than yoongi two years ago. and it’s not a drastic change by any means. it’s just that everything about him is… more. yoongi refuses to think of other words for it.

like with the others, yoongi texts with him, but jungkook’s instagram is a wild dichotomy of aesthetic photos of places and other people, and blurry action shots with captions like cryptid sighting in kijang mothman asked me for a dollar dont give him a dollar he doesnt need it he is mothman —and yoongi doesn’t think he’s seen his actual face in two years.

“or maybe you got shorter,” jungkook hums, tilting his head. a comma-shaped tuft of dark hair falls into his eyes. “could be.”

“tch,” yoongi huffs quietly, “i haven’t changed at all. i’m fully aware of that.”

“your hair changed,” jungkook laughs softly, “i’ve never seen it black before. i like it.”

jesus. jesus god. why is it so hard being near him. yoongi feels like he’s going to burst into flames.

is this why namjoon made him promise there would be no flaming arrows. did he know it would feel like this.

yoongi laughed in his face but it was a formidable danger.

“thank you,” yoongi murmurs. wets his lips, shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “how was japan?” he’s remotely aware jungkook asked how have you been first and he answered with you got tall. “that was a pretty big deal, right? i looked up the university when you told me and the film school has a pretty impressive notable alumni section on wikipedia.”

“ah, you looked it up?” jungkook laughs sheepishly. “i mean, it was only a semester… but, yeah, i guess it wasn’t a small deal. it was good. japan was good, but i… kind of missed this. is that weird?”

“you went to a prestigious film school and missed herding a bunch of grade schoolers in the woods,” yoongi gestures around, “it’s a little bit weird.”

jungkook laughs, and yoongi smiles gummy, can’t help it. jungkook wraps his arms around his chest.

“i really did miss this. i’m really happy to be here. to see you again. you guys,” he clarifies hurriedly, rubbing at the back of his neck, even though yoongi knew he meant all of them. he watches jungkook’s teeth tug at his bottom lip and quickly drops his gaze to the area of his chest and arms. which is also a bad call so he just ends up looking at his own feet. “how was camp, last year?”

yoongi purses his lips as he contemplates what to tell him.

“jimin’s hair was fire engine red,” he says, “and the annual kim namjoon rescue operation was a blast. jimin had to climb a tree.”

“i heard about that,” jungkook snickers. yoongi struggles internally for a moment, and then adds with embarrassing honesty:

“it wasn’t the same without you.” jungkook has no doubt already heard it from the other guys, at least the ones who are the type to say these things out loud. has heard it worded better, more elaborately and poetically. still, when yoongi chances a glance at him, he looks really happy. his eyes look like they’re shining and there’s a pleased little smile on his lips. yoongi’s insides twist inexplicably, urging him to move on. “are you going to be teaching art and soccer again?”

“yes,” jungkook nods, “and i’m also gonna teach martial arts this year. ah. just some basic self-defense techniques. namjoon-hyung suggested it.”

“oh,” yoongi says, and doesn’t really know what else to say. “i didn’t know you… do that.”

“yeah, well.” jungkook rubs at his wrists and looks a bit shy. it reminds yoongi of when they first met, just a little bit, just far-off. for some reason, it’s making him very distraught. “it’s never come up, i guess. i haven’t been active in a long time, but i do have a black belt in taekwondo and could definitely take you right now.”

“i’m armed,” yoongi says the first thing in his head.

“long-range.” jungkook eyes the equipment on the table. “it won’t help you when i disarm you and shoulder throw you to the ground.” he grins. “you should come by when i’m teaching a class. would be helpful to have someone to demonstrate on.”

yoongi just sort of stares at him because he just shut down the part of his brain that processes this shit and he has no idea what jungkook just said.

“uh-huh,” he says, “sounds like a—yeah. we’ll see.”

“do you need help with anything? i’ve got some free time.”

so yoongi tosses him the roll of blue tape and jungkook ends up helping him put little x’s on the ground closer to the targets. yoongi hunkers down and unsticks pieces of tape from jungkook’s fingers and he keeps thinking, it’s jungkook, it’s just jungkook. it’s been two years but it’s still just jungkook and this isn’t any different from meeting the other guys. except that it 100% is and yoongi wasn’t this… strangely, acutely hyperaware of them, himself, the space between them.

“will you teach me archery this year, hyung?” jungkook asks as yoongi comes up.

he used to watch yoongi do target practice from the edge of the field and hype him up and call him his cool tiny hyung, and yoongi used to pretend not to like it. in all honesty it made him feel good and jungkook made him want to show off a bit. the whole flaming arrow thing didn’t happen because he wanted to impress jungkook but jungkook was there and thought it was the most awesome thing ever and yoongi really liked to be admired like that by people in general but it was always a little bit different when it came to jungkook. it felt so important to look good in his eyes.

it’s familiar, the question, but something is different, about jungkook, maybe, or maybe the way he’s watching yoongi with his eyes like the deep ends of swimming pools and a wisp of a smile grazing his lips, or maybe there’s something different about yoongi. jungkook takes the thin excess piece of tape on the side of his finger, reaches out, and sticks it on yoongi’s cheek. so swift and light and soft his fingers barely touched him at all. yoongi blinks up at him, and the curve of jungkook’s mouth bends a little bit more.

“blue looks good on you, hyung.”

when yoongi breathes in, it feels like he’s breathing in fire. his hand comes up mostly on its own, and he runs his fingers over his cheek until they catch on the tape. he peels it off and sticks it to the middle of jungkook’s chest instead.

“maybe if you’d stay still for longer than a second,” he says, fixated on the little blue dot, “i would.”

pretty. that’s a word yoongi can maybe potentially tentatively think of. because it’s not a revelation. jungkook has always been pretty and yoongi has always acknowledged it. on sunny days like this one where it looks like the light is in love with him. and on rainy days where he gets sulky because of cancelled activities and during thunderstorms where he looks so electric and alive you almost expect to get zapped when you touch him.

jungkook was eighteen when they met and technically not a kid anymore but yoongi called him one anyway. now he’s twenty-one and yoongi finds it’s not as easy anymore.

“have a good class, hyung,” jungkook tells him as he’s leaving, children’s shrieking voices carrying from the distance meaning seokjin is ushering a group of rowdy campers to the Field of Pointy Things and it’s yoongi’s turn to keep them alive. jungkook takes a step backwards, and—he looks so tall. looks like he’s filling up some spaces he didn’t before, and yoongi still can’t really explain it. “i’ll see you around? hyung—” he inhales, and looks at yoongi sort of devastatingly softly. “it’s nice to see you.”

“yeah,” yoongi agrees quietly, “yeah, kook.”

 

/

 

for someone who finds the idea of living without hot baths or stable internet connection disgusting, yoongi sure picked a hell of a summer job.

to be fair, it was supposed to be a one-time thing. he needed money desperately that summer, and they were specifically looking for a counselor who could double as an archery instructor. namjoon and seokjin were trying out for counselor positions too, and yoongi’s thoughts when hitting the send button on the application were something like wouldn’t it be messed up if we all ended up working at the same place. that joke’s gotten badly out of hand since then.

it was supposed to be a one-time thing and now yoongi calls them his summer family and sometimes things just happen that way. it became clear early on that they make a pretty exceptional team, to the point where the camp director called it fate—that’s a bit over-zealous but yoongi can’t deny they compensate each other like it was always meant to be the seven of them.

namjoon adores the outdoors but tragically his total lack of inner compass and tendency to wander off when he sees a cool frog do not mix well. yoongi dislikes the outdoors because he’s not a fan of a million bugs in his face and being forced to listen to his own thoughts for an extended period of time but ironically he’s a good orienteer and actually has a survival instinct. taehyung is a natural with kids but gets carried away sometimes and forgets to be strict; jimin is the grounding voice of reason he needs. seokjin and jungkook should not be allowed within two miles of each other under any circumstances but hoseok is fucking terrifying on the rare occasion that you manage to piss him off and keeps them in check as the head counselor.

when jungkook wasn’t here, they hired a temporary counselor to fill his position. and he fit in alright, he was a capable counselor and they were welcoming, but strangely, none of them can remember anything about him. remember that temporary counselor at camp last summer, yoongi asked namjoon and seokjin when they were sitting around drinking at yoongi and seokjin’s place around new year’s. who, namjoon said, and seokjin said, what counselor? yoongi said, that other counselor who wasn’t jungkook, and namjoon said, oh, yeah, the way you say to a teacher who’s just explained a problem to you for the second time and you still don’t get it, and seokjin said, seriously, what counselor?

yoongi’s sure he was a nice guy. and possibly a ghost. whatever. jungkook’s back now. some type of balance is restored.

the staff meeting takes place in the counselor lounge, and starts off with a few welcoming words from the kitchen and maintenance staff, the tone varying from innocent optimism to vaguely threatening depending on whether they’ve worked with these counselors before. then the supporting staff trails out, and namjoon takes over.

yoongi surveys the room from the threadbare armchair in the back as namjoon goes through schedule details and safety precautions they’re all familiar with by now. taehyung is sat on the floor between his legs and resting his exhausted head on yoongi’s knee. he’s got wildflowers woven into his hair and yoongi guesses that has to do with why he’s so tired.

hoseok is standing behind namjoon in the front of the room, leaning back against the fridge and sipping on his tea as he waits for his turn to tell them he’ll personally murder them if they cause him unnecessary stress during this period.

it wouldn’t be summer camp without jimin casually flirting with namjoon and draping his torso over the nearest flat surface in raucous laughter whenever namjoon says anything remotely funny. jimin is friendly with everyone and texts them the most but his dynamic with namjoon has always been slightly different and yoongi doesn’t think any of them really know what’s going on there. just that it’s been going on for three years. like some strange extended courtship process that never seems to lead anywhere. when he asked namjoon, once, he just said, it’s just, you know, it’s jimin, then inexplicably took yoongi’s coffee out of his hands, and just walked out. walked back in not five seconds later to return the ceramic cup to the coffee shop before they had a chance to chase him down the street, and refused to make any further comments.

seokjin and jungkook are crammed into a single bean bag after fighting over it for the first ten minutes. seokjin keeps nudging at his ribs and jungkook keeps giggling and for some reason yoongi is extremely distracted by this.

no one else seems to be having any trouble interacting with jungkook or acting normal around him and yoongi wonders what the fuck is wrong with him. did he just… forget about jungkook more than the others? did he forget how… much he is and that’s why he feels like he got ran over by fifteen consecutive trucks? he gently tugs at taehyung’s flowery hair and leans down to whisper:

“hey… do you think… anyone’s changed since we saw them? like, considerably?”

“yeah, jungkook’s really hot,” taehyung says, and yoongi spends the next eight seconds staring blankly at the floor, feeling like he just opened a bag labelled dead dove: do not eat and was surprised to find a dead dove . taehyung just nuzzles against his leg to get more comfortable. “like, he was hot before, but now it’s just like, scientists are predicting his hotness to hit astronomical levels in the next couple of years.”

“huh,” yoongi mumbles nervously, “i mean—i guess—”

“i don’t think it’s just about looks,” taehyung continues his jungkook hotness analysis, “like, he’s definitely been hitting the gym lately, and he’s grown up, obviously, we all have. but i think it’s also about confidence and the way he carries himself. like he knows who he is. or knows who he is going to be and is becoming that person. and that person happens to be very hot among other things.”

yoongi doesn’t say anything, but he’s thinking that taehyung’s probably onto something. and yet. everyone else is totally chill about it. the fact that yoongi, decidedly, is not, cannot mean anything good.

it’s just fleeting attraction.

it’s not going to become anything.

you’ll get over it and everything will go back to normal.

stop being so fucking gay. it’s going to fuck things up.

to distract himself from jungkook’s terrible high-pitched giggle seeping in through every pore in his body and flooding him with restless things, he busies his hands, picks up a flower taehyung shed on his thigh and weaves it back into his hair while taehyung hums appreciatively.

 

/

 

the first week goes by as first weeks do. after introductory classes, the kids sign up for activities they want to partake in weekly. a decent number of kids sign up for archery, as well as horseback riding with taehyung, dance workshops with hoseok and jimin, wakeboarding and canoeing with seokjin, and art and soccer with jungkook. and it’s not a competition, but if it was, and it kind of is—jungkook would win with the overwhelming number of sign-ups for self-defense. it only makes sense, yoongi supposes. the kids are going to take the opportunity to punch something when it presents itself.

they slip into routine with relative ease. no matter how many years yoongi works here, waking up at 7:30 six times a week will always hurt, and after a full day of activities and obligations and being one of the few Grown Ups here, he passes out almost as fast as the kids.

he has sold his soul and seokjin and hoseok’s souls to the espresso machine in the counselor lounge, and when it goes out of order for two days, it can only mean there was a problem with the transaction and one of them doesn’t actually have a soul to sell. yoongi knows exactly which one. seokjin once got into an argument with an entire science club over the issue of chickens. he kept claiming they don’t exist. like he just woke up that morning and decided to convince a group of people he doesn’t believe in chickens. they got so pissed at him he’s still banned from the club room.

despite being literally dependent on the machine that makes the highly concentrated bittersweet liquid that’s gradually replacing the blood in his veins, it’s going pretty well so far. case in point: it’s the third week and no one’s majorly injured, dead, or missing, and the kids are rarely homesick anymore. hajoon’s a shy kid and follows yoongi around like a shadow whenever he can and so yoongi was very proud when he made friends with the kid from cabin two they have to constantly tell not to put rocks in his mouth. the annual kim namjoon rescue operation is still on hold, and the snake they found chilling on the steps of the bathhouse turned out not to be venomous and jungkook tenderly carried it away into the woods before hoseok and seokjin could see it.

jungkook.

the problem with jungkook, yoongi has determined, is that he is everywhere.

“i can’t stop noticing him.” he slumps bonelessly against the table during coffee break and watches namjoon lose his pen for the fifth time in under ten minutes. it’s behind his ear, this time. yoongi doesn’t intervene because it’s sort of fascinating. like watching a scientific experiment. “how do i stop being aware of him.”

namjoon stops his search and goes slightly slack-jawed.

“you… you’re asking how to stop being aware of jungkook?”

“wouldn’t we all like to know,” hoseok comments, unsolicited, as he plops down next to namjoon, fresh out of dance class, his hair pushed back with a yellow headband and a light sheen of sweat shining on his skin.

“take a shower,” namjoon makes a face. hoseok only smiles sweetly and snatches the pen from behind his ear, holding it out to him wordlessly like they’ve done this a thousand times. crazy how they’ve known each other for three years yet they’ve been married for ten.

“did kook do something?” hoseok inquires. “is he annoying you somehow?”

yoongi groans quietly.

“no. that's not it.” he brings a thumb to his mouth and nibbles on a hangnail. “he’s not doing anything. that’s just the—he’s not doing anything, yet whenever he’s in my field of vision… he’s there loudly. it’s like when there’s a smudge on your glasses and it won’t come off. it’s like i’m permanently tuned into the jungkook frequency and can’t change channels.”

hoseok and namjoon share a glance that tries to be inconspicuous but isn’t. yoongi glares at the table edge and continues to chew on his fingernail.

yoongi’s getting over it at a slightly slower rate than anticipated. which is to say: he isn’t, at all, and actually keeps getting more deeply under it every time he sees jungkook around the camp.

he saw him painting with the kids outside. they were doing that jackson pollock type of thing where they just splash paint all over the canvas laid down on the ground— it doesn’t have to portray something specific to make you feel something, jungkook said, someone once said that color is the keyboard, the soul is the piano, the artist is the hand that plays— jungkook had generous amounts of it on his clothes, his arms, even his face, and for the longest time, whenever yoongi blinked, he saw jungkook like he was then, bleeding primary colors, looking like the name of the summer camp personified.

he saw him at the lake when yoongi was early to relieve him from lifeguard duty; he was supervising a handful of campers from the edge of the pier, water up to his shins and bare arms propped against the ledge between his thighs, and yoongi couldn’t stop noticing the way the sun looked on him, and how it had always been a bit unfair, helios favoring him like that. when he noticed yoongi on the shore, he grinned ominously, gestured with a flick of his wrist for the swimmers to gather around. yoongi knew what was about to happen when he pointed at yoongi whilst conspiring with the kids, and he allowed it to happen for the sake of entertainment and to make the kids happy. maybe, maybe— to make jungkook happy and hear him laugh bright and resounding as yoongi had six water guns aimed at him. he played along, scuttled down to the shoreline to splash the kids, in reality bribing them to his side with snacks from the camp store.

and the way it felt having jungkook’s eyes on him when he walked the pier, sticky t-shirt glued to his skin and dripping water from the tips of his hair—jungkook wasn’t laughing anymore, was just watching him, the look on his face difficult to place, the corner of his mouth slowly curving up the closer he came. it was unexpected, both the undivided attention and how he wanted more of it. he tried to convince himself he was just pleased that the little plan worked. the kids grabbed jungkook’s ankles when he wasn’t paying attention, yoongi grabbed his arms, he got dunked into the lake and the kids got a lesson in teamwork and revenge.

yoongi fled quickly under the excuse of escaping repercussions. he mentioned having a survival instinct. it was telling him to get the fuck out before jungkook hoists his wet body onto the pier.

he’d thought running into him in the showers in the morning would be nothing short of mortifying, but ironically, that was the least weird things had been in a while. they were both half-awake and yoongi could fairly easily astral project out of his body staring at the tiled wall and not care about anything else. jungkook sang in his sleep-laden morning voice behind the flimsy screen, and yoongi didn’t join but grunted out a song request every now and then, laughed in quiet tired consonants when jungkook complied. for a moment, it was almost like nothing had changed in the two years.

“yoongi,” hoseok says in that gentle, firm tone he uses with the kids, “do you like jungkook?”

yoongi parts his lips, his hands on the table going absolutely still before curling against the surface.

“it’s not like that,” he says, but there’s something a bit frantic inside him. “it’s just—fuck, i don’t know, i hadn’t seen him in a while and it’s just—it’s going to pass.”

they look at him like he’s never said anything credible in his life.

“oh, hyung,” namjoon sighs. then he gets up. “i’ll get you a bandaid.”

yoongi’s about to tell him he doesn’t need a bandaid because he’s fine and he’s not going to get his heart hurt because his heart is staying where it’s supposed to be safe inside his ribcage, but then he realizes namjoon’s actually not being metaphorical and he made the corner of his thumb bleed.

“it’s just passing,” he says weakly to hoseok, wiggling his wounded thumb around, “it’s, like, one of those things that only exist here. a summer thing. a camp thing.”

hoseok watches him incredulously.

“what the hell is a ‘camp thing’,” he says, slowly shaking his head, “you’re into each other for two months, and then you magically stop? like your feelings have a damn property of camp euphoria label on them and you’re not allowed to take them home with you? i’m pretty sure that’s not how feelings work.”

“it’s not like that,” yoongi insists again, “it’s not feelings. i like and appreciate him as a friend and the fact that he’s objectively attractive is fucking with my inner compass a bit but that’s all it is. and there’s no we. we’re not into each other. this is a one-sided problem and i’m dealing with it.”

by the look on his face, yoongi thinks this is the closest hoseok has come to committing a first degree murder so far. but because he’s hoseok, all he does is yank a napkin from the dispenser on the table, grab yoongi’s hand, and wrap his thumb up in such an angry manner yoongi actually has feelings for him for like two seconds.

 

/

 

yoongi didn’t know jungkook was holding self-defense classes outdoors until namjoon sends him to do useless inventory in the equipment sheds. he almost drops his damn keys when an absolutely blood-curdling scream cuts through the air. it doesn’t sound so much like someone’s in trouble, but more like someone’s going to war.

as they encourage neither getting in trouble nor going to war at this camp, he changes course slightly and walks up to the shed corner, peeks around it just as jungkook says: “don’t hesitate to scream as loud as you can. sometimes that alone can scare bad people away. and it gets you amped up.” chulmoo lets out another roar as he grabs jungkook’s arm and twists it, tipping him off-balance and breaking out of his hold. “good!” jungkook encourages, grinning wide and open, “that was great. you might be stronger than i am.” the kids are all lined up before him in the shade of the broad oak trees, bouncing on their heels as they wait for their turn to fight someone twice their size.

yoongi finds himself leaning a shoulder against the wall and just observing for a minute. he used to joke that the reason jungkook is good with kids is because he is still one himself and knows how they operate—but that would be undervaluing just how much effort he actually puts into teaching them in a way that they’ll understand. it’s no wonder kids like him. he is funny and kind and objectively cool until you see him half-asleep in the morning mixing up his hands, one of which is holding his toothbrush and the other one his toothpaste, and shoving the entire tube of toothpaste into his mouth.

yoongi wraps his arms around himself. hoseok’s words echo around in his head like a broken record, but hoseok is wrong. this is a tiny crush that will be over by the end of the summer. people have crushes. people have crushes on their friends and they go away. yoongi had a crush on fucking seokjin when he first moved in, which made living with him very challenging—and it’s remarkable how dead yoongi’s desire to engage in a relationship of the romantic and sexual nature with him is now.

sure, this is—different from seokjin in that he’s already known jungkook for several years—but it’s still just one of those crushes you have on your friends from time to time because they are great people and nice to you and not bad to look at and good with kids and when they smile big their nose scrunches and their front teeth poke out and they kind of look like a bunny—what—where was this train of thought going—

something tugs at his shirt hem.

“woah,” yoongi marvels, looking down at hajoon’s scruffy little head, “dude, you’re like a shadow. silent and stealthy, like a spy.” hajoon looks pleased, flashing his holey grin. “are you having fun?” he nods like a bobblehead figure. yoongi risks a quick glance at jungkook. “you like the instructor?”

“yeah,” hajoon says in his shy little voice. “he—he knows how to fight but—he told us he doesn’t use his skills to fight. only to defend.”

“superheroes don’t pick fights, do they,” yoongi muses, guessing that’s why hajoon liked it when jungkook said that. he’s been assigning superhero personas to the counselors. yoongi is hawkeye for obvious reasons. seokjin is still superman and jimin is black widow which makes him wonder what kind of assassin thigh strangling moves he’s teaching the kids in dance class. “they just defend themselves and others.”

hajoon nods vigorously. yoongi’s about to ask which superhero jungkook is, but doesn’t get a chance.

“hajoon, where—ah.” yoongi meets eyes with jungkook, watches the surprise on his face morph into a bright happy smile. yoongi folds in on himself a little bit, feels as though he’s being directly exposed to a very powerful source of light. “yoongi-hyung! did you come to help me demonstrate takedowns?”

there’s often something a little bit teasing, a little bit cocky about him lately. it’s not good for yoongi.

“takedown!” chulmoo cries. a couple of others join him in chanting.

“show us how to throw people,” someone else whines, “i wanna throw people like this, bam.

“i want to break a chair over someone’s head,” another kid contributes.

“that’s wwe, and we don’t do that here,” jungkook says patiently, “and we’re not going to learn to throw people, sorry, daehyun. throws may look flashy and cool but they are actually really impractical and hard to learn.”

“but you can show us, right?” chulmoo pleads. “show us, please please please—”

the campers are rapidly dissolving into an uncontrolled pool around him, and it doesn’t seem like they are about to let up until jungkook shows them cool moves. yoongi does admire their dedication to a shared goal. jungkook looks around, vaguely amused and a little bit sheepish, until finally tilting his head, going,

ahhhh. fine, you win. i’ll show you a throw. but only if yoongi-hyung wants to help.”

the kids waste no time spinning around and bombarding yoongi with the same level of enthusiasm, bouncing up and down and begging him to help; but yoongi can’t seem to look away from jungkook, who’s holding his gaze with tentative hopefulness on his face.

this is one of those instances where you can only think, the things i do.

“alright,” yoongi says, feigning calmness as he pushes off the wall, “i’ll make you look cool in front of these kids, sure.”

he glances back over his shoulder at hajoon, lifts his thumb as if to ask, i’ll be okay, right? hajoon, with all the candidness of an eight-year-old, makes a face and shakes his head.

“oh, come on, hajoon,” yoongi mutters to himself as he faces forward again.

he walks up to jungkook, lets him gently take his wrist and guide him to stand in front of him. this is fine. it’s cool. yoongi’s heart is beating fast but he tells himself it’s because he’s about to be bodily wrestled to the ground. actually, yeah. that’s exactly why. he’s about to be bodily wrestled to the ground by jungkook.

“i’m going to show you a hip throw,” jungkook tells the children, “it’s one of the most common throws. we’re not going to try this at home, okay? it can be dangerous if done incorrectly. we’re also not going to tell namjoon about this. got it?” he scans the semi-circle with his index finger. got it, an impatient dissonant choir replies.

this is going to be another flaming arrow incident, isn’t it.

yoongi wonders if jungkook maybe wants to show off to him a little bit.

jungkook turns to him, licks his lips. his fingertips feather up yoongi’s forearms, to his elbows, linger there for a moment, and withdraw. yoongi might be projecting. but he’s pretty sure jungkook looks at least a little bit nervous.

“okay, what’s going to happen is… in a minute, i’m going to ask you to throw a punch at me. just a basic straight jab. it’s going to happen fast after that. i’ll be as gentle as i can, but it’s going to hurt a little bit. you might get a bruise, but nothing worse than that. is that… okay?”

oh my god, yoongi thinks. what he says is:

“you only wanted a free pass to kick my butt, didn’t you.”

jungkook grins slow like a storm brewing.

“maybe. and i love to hear you say ‘butt’. it’s cute.”

“ass,” someone says distantly, inciting a gust of laughter around the group.

“minseok,” jungkook warns. clearly minseok has a bright future in comedy.

“i promise i won’t sue you,” yoongi says, sort of dying to get this over with. “so. yeah. it’s okay. do your thing.”

jungkook looks him in the eye, and nods. he breathes in and out. then he gives yoongi that godforsaken smile, and yoongi really feels like it’s a disarming tactic in its own right.

“hit me,” jungkook says.

jungkook said it would happen fast, but it’s even faster than yoongi expected. which is a relief because it means he only has to spend a split second with jungkook pressed up against him.

it goes like this: before he’s even done throwing the punch, jungkook has grabbed his forearm, pivoted into him, planted his hip into yoongi’s abdomen, and then the ground disappears from under his feet. the next thing he knows, he’s on his back in the grass, the air is not in his lungs, and jungkook is a backlit figure between yoongi and the sky, leaning over him pink-cheeked and wide-eyed. yoongi feels like he’s in one of those scenes in a drama where the hero or heroine meets their love interest for the first time after being saved by them. jungkook’s line would be thank god you’re alive and yoongi’s subsequent line would be are you an angel?

but this is cold harsh reality, jungkook’s the one who body slammed him in front of an audience of ecstatic children, and the first thing yoongi says is:

“fuck.”

“are you okay?” jungkook asks, offering yoongi his hand. “are you hurt? i tried to do it as safely as possible—”

“i’m fine,” yoongi assures, but as soon as jungkook starts pulling him off the ground, lets out a whine, and sags back down, lying there with his arms spread limply on either side as the kids gather around his corpse. “i’m fine but i’m just gonna lie down for a bit. really. good throw. well done. you can continue the class around me.” he motions vaguely with his hand, and squints up at the campers. “don’t tell namjoon i said fuck . twice.”

 

/

 

“the kids told me you said fuck,” namjoon says by way of greeting as he ambushes yoongi at the espresso machine.

“little snitches,” yoongi says soullessly, staring at the life elixir pouring into his cup.

“i also heard something about you getting tossed around like a sack of potatoes,” namjoon continues. yoongi buries his face in his hands.

“are we talking about yoongi’s sex life?” seokjin inquires as he swoops into the room, yanks the fridge open, and fishes out a grab-and-go protein shake. nudges the door shut with his butt and leans back against it in one swift motion, then looks at yoongi and namjoon. “as his roommate of four years and counting, i can confirm that ‘tossed around like a sack of potatoes’ is a fairly accurate description of the min yoongi mating process.”

“i helped him demonstrate a throw for educational purposes in a safe, controlled environment,” yoongi says, “that’s all. it was not a flaming arrow situation.”

“i’m not here to reprimand you,” namjoon says, setting his mug onto the counter. “except maybe for saying fuck in front of the kids. that’s it, i’m reprimanding you for saying fuck.”

“noted,” yoongi says dully.

“mostly i just can’t believe you let him do that to you,” namjoon muses, “like, the fact that he was like, let me throw you around for a bit, and you were like, okay. incredible.”

“that’s not what happened,” yoongi says weakly. it’s pretty much what happened.

“wow,” seokjin hums, “you’d let him do pretty much anything to you, wouldn’t you.”

yoongi glares at him sharply.

“don’t you have a wakeboarding class to teach?”

“i’m teaching them independency,” seokjin informs, raising the protein shake to his lips. “i gave them the board and the keys to the boat and told them to go at it.”

seokjin,” namjoon yelps, horrified. seokjin grins.

“i’m obviously kidding. we already finished. they are lying around in their cabins on their phones and nintendo switches like good little 21st century kiddos.” he sighs expressively. “i’m not irresponsible, namjoon.”

namjoon rolls his eyes. “i know you’re not.”

“great. can i get a raise?”

namjoon looks at him, baffled. “for not letting a bunch of kids loose on a motorboat?”

“yes,” seokjin nods. “that’s employee of the month material, right there.”

“that’s even less than the barest minimum. and i don’t even have a say in your paychecks. do you know who’s paying you?”

yoongi takes cover in their bickering and slips away with his espresso shot before they can come back to the definitely illegal and extremely forbidden topic of yoongi letting jungkook do anything to him. attempts to escape inconspicuously out of the lounge but runs into an obstacle in the doorway. by running into an obstacle he means literally ramming into jungkook and narrowly avoiding spilling seething hot espresso on both of them.

“ah, hyung,” jungkook says, and behind him, yoongi can hear namjoon and seokjin shutting up to observe the interaction and suddenly yoongi is extremely pressured to act normal.

“howdy,” he says, and then closes his eyes for a few seconds, accepting death.

when he opens them, jungkook is looking at him attentively but not strangely.

“how are you? i mean—does it still hurt? did you bruise?”

“i’m okay,” yoongi mumbles, cradling the coffee close to his chest, “just a couple of bruises. doesn’t hurt.”

“i heard you were a bit rough with yoongi earlier, kook,” seokjin’s godforsaken voice pipes in behind yoongi. jungkook blinks doe eyes past yoongi’s shoulder, and yoongi couldn’t tell you what it is exactly that changes about them when jungkook and seokjin interact, but something does. it’s like they trigger each other’s fight or flight instinct. it’s rarely flight with either of them.

“i tried to be gentle,” jungkook protests, his mouth in that defensive pout yoongi currently finds very upsetting. he finds this whole exchange upsetting. “you try throwing a person to the ground softly.”

“good, fine, let’s go,” seokjin yelps, and yoongi is grateful for how easily they get sidetracked but also wants to bail out before an actual brawl takes place here. before he can, jungkook turns to him again.

“i’m… sorry,” he says, instantly soft again, “about the bruises.”

yoongi breathes in.

“don’t be. i told you it was okay. i gave you explicit permission to give me bruises.” he clutches the cup, feels two pairs of eyes on his back. adds, warmth spreading on his face disastrously like a drop of paint in water, “for educational purposes. i’ll see you around?”

he ducks past jungkook and walks away as quickly as one can while balancing a cup of burning hot espresso.

 

/

 

when he comes back to cabin three in the evening, there is a bottle of cooling gel on his bed. yoongi picks it up, letting the towel in his hair collapse around his neck, and squints at the label as he rotates around and flops down onto the edge, toothbrush clutched in his other hand.

“it was spider-man,” comes a small voice from the bunk across from yoongi. he looks up at hajoon, who’s perched like a baby owl in the caverns of his blanket. “he came by and—and left that. he said it’s for bruises. he said it makes them better.”

“huh,” yoongi murmurs absently, turning the bottle in his hand. “what makes jungkook spider-man?”

“he said—” hajoon hugs the blanket around him. “that when we hurt someone, we have to take responsa… responsib… bility. even when we didn’t—didn’t mean to.”

“with great power comes great responsibility,” yoongi snorts quietly, shoulders jerking. “i get it.”

“then he said… my yoongi-hyung senses are tingling! and he rolled out of the window.”

“makes sense,” yoongi says.

he sits there staring down at the bottle of cooling gel for a long time. trying to pinpoint why it’s making him overwhelmingly upset.

 

/

 

he doesn’t say it’s for the cooling gel, but it’s sort of for the cooling gel.

as soon as their slices of free time align, yoongi tells jungkook to meet him on the archery field. jungkook’s been asking yoongi to teach him since the first year, and there’s no real reason yoongi never did, other than the timing didn’t work out.

jungkook’s whole face lit up with a thousand lights and yoongi couldn’t tell if he was making a good or a bad call. he used to be able to tell. but seeing jungkook so excited and happy made him simultaneously feel like all was right in the world and he could happily die, and like he was, in fact, actually dying. like all the light jungkook was made of was making a garden grow inside yoongi. sweet peas or wild roses or even just really tall grass. doesn’t really matter. a plant in a place where you don’t want it is just a weed.

he ties his bangs up into this tiny bun taehyung showed him how to do once when they were squatting behind the same recycling bin during camp-wide kick the can and saw yoongi had trouble keeping them out of the way. jungkook stares at him for so long and so unmoving yoongi starts getting seriously self-conscious about his forehead. he grapples for an arm guard and tosses it in jungkook’s direction.

“you’re right-handed?” he murmurs. when jungkook nods, doe eyes wide, he taps at his own bare left forearm. “goes on your left. it’s to keep the string from slicing up your arm.” he picks up the recurve he uses himself—it’s not like the camp has a lot to choose from—and eyes jungkook’s fingers tugging at the guard. “hajoon says you’re spider-man. that’s his favorite superhero. i see you trying to take my place as his favorite counselor.”

“spider-man, huh,” jungkook grins a little bit down at the guard. “i can live with that. i don’t think i could take your place if i tried, though.” he looks up. “are you going to shoot, too?”

“i don’t think i need to demonstrate. you’ve watched me do this so many times.” the side of his mouth tugging up, hands jungkook the recurve. it’s not necessarily meant to tease. it’s just, remember all those times we hung out here—remember what you used to call me, remember how i used to say i felt about it—remember how i really felt about it, did you know how i really felt about it you knew, didn’t you, i think i used to smile, i think i used to not be able to stop myself from smiling. “let’s try from half-field first.”

it’s not very sunny today. it’s sort of blue-grey and the clouds have been accumulating forebodingly. yoongi feels like the weather. a bit unpredictable and turbulent.

he almost, honest to god, asked someone to join them. anyone. just so that it wouldn’t be him and jungkook alone on this empty field in what yoongi prays to god won’t shape up to be a patrick swayze ghost type of situation. it probably won’t. he can’t imagine how jungkook would benefit from yoongi standing pressed up against him chest-to-back showing him how to handle a bow. but he’s had that thought and a myriad of other thoughts and that’s the problem.

“are you scared i might be instantly better than you are?” jungkook inquires as he follows yoongi to one of the blue x’s, and yoongi knows this grin very well. it aims to provoke.

“already challenging me to a match before you’ve even shot a bow and arrow for the first time?” he nudges an arrow into jungkook’s hand. “getting cocky, there, jeon. just focus on nocking the arrow.”

jungkook does so with ease.

“i’ve watched you a lot,” he says very quietly by way of explanation. it’s just yeah, i remember. but yoongi’s heart inexplicably clenches.

“okay,” he mumbles, and shifts a little bit closer. “three of your fingers on the string, like this.”

his fingers gently entangling with jungkook’s, shows him how to position them. his brain conjures up all the times namjoon and seokjin have teased him about having a thing for hand-holding. it’s not an actual thing—but he does like to show affection that way. it’s not intimate to some people but it’s very intimate to yoongi. hands are such delicate instruments, and you can tell, yoongi believes, a lot about a person from their hands. jungkook’s have scrapes on the last two knuckles, blue paint on the side of his index finger. they are soft, fairly big but slender, very pretty. and they have certainly grasped how to hold onto the string by now, so yoongi lets his hand drop, brings it up to knead at the back of his neck, embarrassed.

”so you know how this—” jungkook yanks the bow up at lightning speed, and yoongi flinches back. “woah, slow down. jesus. you’re handling a deadly weapon.”

“how do i aim?” jungkook mutters. “you do it with both eyes open, right?”

“yeah, whatever suits you,” yoongi sighs, “first—fix your stance.”

“what’s wrong with my stance.” jungkook looks at him. yoongi holds his gaze, pressing his lips into a line. trying to decide what to do, his hands twitch, not quite knowing what to do with them. well, he knows—he knows where he wants to touch to make jungkook’s body yield, and he would, if it was anyone else. but jungkook makes him feel like the weather so he only says:

“you’re too tense. relax.”

jungkook gives him a hard stare.

“this is the most relaxed i’ve ever been,” he says, “holding a lethal weapon and you with—” he snaps his mouth shut mid-sentence. averts his gaze and frowns at the field. “your forehead, glaring at me. throwing me off.”

yoongi opens his mouth. closes it.

“my forehead bothers you?”

“oh my god,” jungkook says. he sounds like he’s running out of breath. “can we just—just tell me how to relax. please. forget i mentioned the forehead. let’s move on from the forehead.”

“fine,” yoongi quirks an eyebrow. “not sure if i should be offended, though.” he knocks his shoe against jungkook’s. “first of all—feet a shoulder width apart.”

“—shouldn’t,” jungkook mumbles, prompting yoongi to glance up at him.

“what?”

“you shouldn’t be offended,” jungkook says only a little bit louder, eyes skimming the ground, and yoongi stares at the flutter of his downturned lashes. “i like your hair like that. like it when i can see—all of your face. looks nice.”

oh.

“oh,” yoongi says weakly. jungkook with his bottom lip clamped between his teeth, makes a small soft sound, and turns to yoongi.

“so—tell me how to stand good. or whatever.”

yoongi makes an unidentifiable noise, some sort of a half-laugh half-grunt.

“bossy,” he murmurs as he shifts closer. quietly advices: “don’t arch your back.”

slips a hand around jungkook’s waist, splays his palm against his lower back, lets it rest there gently. feels his muscles shift, and has no thoughts, absolutely none at all as he brings his other hand to jungkook’s abdomen, applies mild pressure to help him flatten his back, and—one thought slips his mind, because jesus , he is dainty, his waist is tiny—yoongi knew this, sort of, he’s seen him shirtless, but, god, he could probably wrap his hands around it and almost have his fingers connect—

he hears jungkook’s breath hitch, at which point he realizes—fuck, he didn’t even ask, just went ahead and started touching him, maybe jungkook’s uncomfortable—

he pulls his hands away as if burned, eyes snapping up to his face.

“is this—”

“it’s okay,” jungkook breathes. the tip of his pink tongue darts out and wets his lips and yoongi stares, entranced for exactly one point five terrifying seconds before tearing his eyes away. “you can touch me.”

oh, my god.

somehow this is worse than being body slammed by him. at least that was a quick, merciful death.

“okay,” yoongi mumbles, mostly to himself, and he can feel his face burning. there’s no way jungkook doesn’t see it. they are so close. and yoongi is very close to grabbing the arrow and committing an act of violence on himself. instead, he touches his fingertips to jungkook’s shoulders, tells him: “relax your shoulders. don’t hike them up. breathe slow and deep.”

feels jungkook breathe under his touch, thumbs rested just carefully against his collarbones—steels himself as he corrects jungkook’s posture, telling him it’s all about his center of gravity and the alignment of his hips and shoulders and arms, leaving only brief ghosts of touches here and there, like he’s scared of what might happen if he were to hold on for too long, really hold on.

“i think i got it,” jungkook says, quiet and low and a little bit distant as if wrapped up in layers, kind of like he sounds in the mornings.

“and,” yoongi says very softly, reaching up, “eyes on the target.”

jungkook blinks as yoongi places a finger on his jaw; then a pretty red blooms across his cheeks like spring in fast-forward. ah, he breathes, lets out an embarrassed laugh, and lets yoongi guide his face to the side. this time, the touch lingers as yoongi forgets himself studying his profile; it’s easy to, with jungkook not looking; easy, so easy to be entirely captivated by the warm blush glowing on his skin, the arch of his long lashes, the pretty slopes of his nose and lips; the defined line of his jaw, the tendons on his neck, the way his throat moves when he swallows.

he’s so fucking beautiful, he is.

yoongi feels absolutely ruined. he lets a breath fall past his lips, steps back, feels a bit unsteady on his feet.

“draw with your back muscles... not with your bicep,” he says, heart drumming in his ribcage, a restive hand rubbing at his elbow, eyes skimming over jungkook’s bent arm and the flexed muscles and fleeing quickly back to his face. “look down the bow and aim. people are usually surprised how low they actually have to aim. it’s because your eye is higher than the arrow. when you release, simply open your fingers… and don’t hold your breath.”

jungkook’s first arrow whooshes narrowly past the top of the board into the net between the field and the woods. he lowers the bow, turns to yoongi.

“i was distracted.”

a small smile tugs at the corner of yoongi’s mouth.

“i’m sure.” jungkook sinks his teeth into his bottom lip and heaves a frustrated sigh, and instantly looks three years younger again. yoongi’s heart aches. he hurries to tell him, “it’s okay to miss. that’s how you figure out your trajectories. you keep adjusting until you hit the target.”

“give me another one,” jungkook says, determined, and yoongi knows in that moment that they are not leaving this field until jungkook’s mastered hitting gold with his eyes closed.

“alright, william tell,” yoongi raises his eyebrows as he hands him the quiver, “go off. put this on your hip.”

“can you—” jungkook lets the sentence hang in the air half-finished, looks at yoongi expectantly, and lifts the bow a little bit. yoongi stares at it until he understands what jungkook means.

“ah,” he says calmly for someone who just got filled with the feeling of absolute dread, “sure.”

he steps close, reaches around jungkook to attach the quiver around his waist, deciding this only has to take a few seconds. of course he ends up fumbling with the clasp and getting increasingly agitated the longer he spends in the proximity of jungkook’s ridiculous tiny waist.

“i really… was distracted,” jungkook says so quietly yoongi only hears because he’s painfully close. yoongi successfully buckles the quiver, and glances up at him. jungkook parts his lips, but it looks like his words are stuck in his mouth. finally he looks away. “i think i’ll do better if, um. if you… give me some space.”

yoongi blinks. for a minute, just stands there with his heartbeat loud in his ears, deconstructing the meaning of jungkook’s words.

“oh,” he says. “yeah, i’ll—yeah.” after a beat, adds, “is it the forehead?”

jungkook’s mouth twists into a troubled smile. he gives yoongi a timid glance from the corner of his eye.

“yeah. the forehead. throwing me off.”

yoongi ends up squatting a little farther away, jaw cupped in his palms, offering occasional feedback but mostly just watching. jungkook picks up things so fast it’s almost scary sometimes. archery is no exception. yoongi is more impressed by how quickly his shots become somewhat consistent than when he finally hits gold. he merely grins when jungkook’s eyes go wide, his mouth goes “oh”, and he turns to yoongi, excitedly pointing at the target and the handful of arrows sticking out of it.

“well done,” yoongi laughs, “give me another one.” keeps smiling even as jungkook moves onto the next shot. it’s easy to hide it into his palm.

god.

jungkook looks so good it’s like an arrow specifically designed to take yoongi out. composed and confident and tall like a tower.

he thinks he missed jungkook. during winters and when he was away. even when he didn’t know he was missing him, there was a sense of nostalgia somewhere in the back of his chest and he always felt a little bit haunted. like knowing he’d lost something but not knowing what, not knowing if it was ever really his in the first place.

it’s weird. he smelled sweet peas and he thought, there it is. i was looking for you.

 

/

 

eventually, inevitably, the sky cracks open and the first drops of water hit yoongi’s bare arms, forcing them to call it a day.

“c’mon, let’s go,” he all but whines, wanting to outride the storm, and jungkook reluctantly yields.

“i didn’t even have time to challenge you,” jungkook complains, pouting a little as they tug arrows out of the board. yoongi’s shoulders jerk in an inaudible laugh.

“next time,” he promises, because he doesn’t know how not to give jungkook things. the rain is a cool shower and not entirely unwelcome on his skin. he looks at jungkook, adds: “you did really well.”

jungkook beams.

it’s pouring by the time they carry the equipment back to the shed. jungkook hands him the bow and wanders off, and yoongi unstrings it and hangs it back onto the wall, muttering a curse when he drips water all over the place.

“think there’s gonna be lightning?” jungkook asks, and yoongi turns to him—he’s standing with his back to yoongi, watching the rain come down from the doorway. his white t-shirt soaked through, clinging to his shoulders and back. yoongi’s eyes snag on the toned muscles where the see-through fabric hugs his terrible waist firmly. he looks like he was sculpted out of marble by bernini.

yoongi turns away. frantically tugs the hair tie out of his hair, slips it around his wrist. shoves fingers into his wet hair, shakes it out as he shuffles over to jungkook, who makes room at the doorway wordlessly.

“probably not,” yoongi murmurs, “it’s a rainstorm. one of many. summer storms never last long.”

there’s a hand in his hair. not his own. he breathes in sharp and angles his face towards jungkook. jungkook, inexplicably running his fingers through yoongi’s hair, following the movement with his eyes like it’s something fascinating. playing with yoongi’s hair in this tiny doorway and yoongi thinks he might combust. he knows—jungkook is tactile, he touches things that look soft, or smooth, or just interesting, sometimes things he shouldn’t touch.

yoongi lets him, doesn’t know how not to, doesn’t want him to stop. his fingers are careful and deliberate and yoongi faces the yard, wraps arms around himself as a shiver he’s unable to keep down runs down his neck. jungkook's hand goes still, and yoongi sinks teeth into his bottom lip, terrified and embarrassed and hyperaware.

“are you cold?” jungkook asks, and instead of removing his hand, lets it slide down the back of his head, down, until it rests at the base of his neck, where the vertebra sticks out. just gently but it feels as though the entire world zeroes in on this point of contact.

“the rain,” yoongi manages, “is kinda cold.”

it’s quiet, for a while, as quiet as it can be with the sound of the rain and yoongi’s persistent heartbeat. then jungkook says:

“‘m not sure if i’m any warm at all.” his thumb is ever so slowly rubbing a pattern on yoongi’s neck. yoongi sinks his fingertips into the flesh of his arms. says:

“you’re warm.”

you’re always warm.

that’s how jungkook wraps an arm around him and pulls him close. it’s not a huge distance since the doorway is small, but yoongi stumbles over his feet, clumsy and stiff. he’s tucked a little bit too fittingly into jungkook’s side, his arms still folded and clinging to each other over his chest, and jungkook is running a hand up and down his upper arm and mumbling, don’t be cold, cool tiny hyung.

yoongi feels like crying. he keeps swallowing down a choking feeling and thinking about something namjoon said once. about the rain being like an old friend who comes knocking on your windows to check on you and cries for you so you don’t have to. there is no need to be stranded here because they are already soaked, but yoongi doesn’t want jungkook to let go.

“it’s been almost a month, hyung,” jungkook says at one point, and then doesn’t say any more. yoongi has no idea what the implicature behind that is, and so he only says:

“doesn’t feel like it.”

“doesn’t,” jungkook agrees so softly it’s just a breath against the top of his head. “your hair smells like rain, hyung.”

“everything smells like the rain,” yoongi says.

the storm is over soon just as he predicted. indistinct voices carry from the distance, and it’s like the world was briefly on pause, now rolling again. they detach from one another before anyone can find them in the shed. yoongi locks up behind them and doesn’t look at jungkook awfully much.

they walk to the cabins in their drenched cold clothes. when they part ways at the painted wooden signpost indicating cabin numbers, jungkook’s fingers catch on the inside of his elbow.

“thank you for teaching me, hyung,” he says, “i had a really good time.”

“no problem,” yoongi says quietly. jungkook’s fingertips feel like a goodbye, feel like easing out of the way they just touched for a long time. “go get warm.”

the air is filled with the scent of petrichor. yoongi watches jungkook’s back and thinks, it’s just a summer storm.

it’s a summer storm.

they never last.

 

/

 

“this rain has lasted forever,” hoseok murmurs, both hands cupping his bowl of raisin bran, eyes fixed out of the window getting splattered with moderate rain. yoongi, across from him in the dining hall, looks back down at his coffee and tries not to feel personally offended by the weather.

he can’t help but feel like the literal forces of nature are coming together to prove some kind of a point to him. like god is saying fuck you specifically, min yoongi.

“it’s just rain,” he mumbles to himself, “it doesn’t mean anything.”

when he lifts his gaze, hoseok is looking at him funnily.

“yeah, sure,” he says although he has no idea what yoongi is talking about. “it does mean, though, that we have to reschedule a bunch of shhhhh…” he glances quickly at the table of grade schoolers next to them. “sharks.”

“yeah, we’ll just reschedule the sharks,” yoongi deadpans, “maybe we can replace them with, like, angry hornets or the actual machete killer from friday the 13th.”

“there’s gonna be sharks?” minseok perks up. seungmin elbows him in the ribs.

“there’s not gonna be sharks, idiot. he was going to say shit.”

“um, no, i was not,” hoseok points a spoon at them, “and no calling each other idiots.”

seungmin levels him with an unimpressed stare.

“we’re nine, we’re not stupid.”

yoongi laughs throatily while hoseok gapes.

“man,” he says, peering at him over the rim of his mug, “if you’re cursing in front of the kids, you must be rattled.”

almost cursing. no, it’s fine. it’s nothing. the forecast is now showing a full week of rain. we didn’t exactly plan for that, but we’ll adjust.”

“we will,” yoongi agrees, waiting for hoseok to meet his eyes and then giving a reassuring nod. as laidback as hoseok appears, he actually needs a detailed plan of action, a list of his daily goals and responsibilities he can tick off as he moves along. that’s probably why namjoon told them from the bottom of his heart that he loves and respects all of them, but were hoseok not here, he fully believes they would be dead within a week. it’s probably also why they all instantly thought that’s fair.

since there is lots of readjusting to do, yoongi pushes aside the fact that the constant bad weather is god’s middle finger at him and a way of saying stop looking away, and… looks further away, focusing on finding solutions to the problems at hand.

problem: they have to reschedule and cancel a week’s worth of activities and make a new plan from scratch.

solution: they hold a staff meeting/brainstorming session where the more creative people come up with creative indoor activities. yoongi insists they could just sort of lie down for a week, but apparently that’s “not even a suggestion worth considering”. seokjin suggests they make the camp into an extreme survival experience where they do archery and wakeboarding in the storm and just kind of see where the wind takes the arrows and who’s not too much of a coward to go out into the waves moving at 120 horsepower. apparently that’s “horrifying” and “grounds for a lawsuit” and seokjin is made to join yoongi in the corner namjoon dubs people not allowed to contribute.

problem: everyone’s getting a bit irritable and gloomy, from campers to counselors.

solution: hoseok and jimin organize a dance battle in the dining hall to lift the collective mood, tables and chairs pushed to the sides of the room. they generously promise the winner of most ridiculous dance whatever they want from the camp store up to 20,000 won. seokjin promises a go at the wheel of his toyota, and gets banned from contributing for the second time that week. yoongi coaxes hajoon and his rock-eating friend woojin to join his team, and they win second place, losing only to namjoon, who accidentally walks into the scene and, disoriented by the rearrangement of the furniture, trips over a bench, falls for eight straight seconds, takes a tower of chairs with him, and is unanimously voted best dance routine. he buys everyone ice cream with his prize money because he’s nice like that.

later that day yoongi walks into the counselor lounge and then quickly back out because jimin was patching up some of his scratches, straddling the seat with namjoon mirroring him, and the situation felt really intimate not only because of how close they were but also how gently they were looking at each other and how jimin pressed his lips to namjoon’s bandaged fingertip.

“don’t go in there,” yoongi tells taehyung, stopping him on the porch with an arm across his chest. he tilts his head towards the rain-spattered window with a direct view into the lounge. taehyung’s facial journey begins from confusion, makes a pit stop at understanding, and ends at distress.

“i left my kiwis in there,” he says miserably, and drifts over to the window, where he just sort of stands staring inside and mourning his kiwis until he frightens jimin, who jumps and curses so articulately yoongi doesn’t need to hear him to hear him.

problem: yoongi steps into a puddle and gets his socks wet.

solution: “that’s not a real problem, yoongi,” seokjin howls as he wrestles with the hood of his disposable poncho raincoat which is flapping every which way in the stormy wind and looking like it’s attacking him. “stop complaining and help me cover up this damn fire pit!”

“but it’s annoying!” yoongi shrieks back, and then struggles to keep the fire pit cover from flying away as seokjin lets go of his end to dramatically pick up his own foot and tug at his boot.

“do you want mine?” he’s yelling while wobbling around unsteadily on one foot in the wet sand. “do you want me to give you my socks? will that make you happy? i’ll give you my goddamn socks—”

“maybe it will,” yoongi yelps, and topples over into the fire pit on top of the bunched up cover.

“i swear to fucking god,” namjoon’s distant screech carries over the storm, “you’re supposed to be the grownups here! stop being ridiculous! just cover the pit!”

problem: jungkook gets antsy when it rains for a long time. he finds it hard to focus, and his leg bounces up and down rapidly like he can’t quite contain the energy pent up from not being able to lift logs in the woods every day or whatever it is he does while the rest of them are too exhausted to move a muscle.

solution: apparently, this:

“hyung.” yoongi looks up from his phone at the head of his bed. jungkook’s poking his head in at the door. his hair is glistening with a coat of raindrops, like ground diamonds or stardust.

“heard of knocking?” yoongi says mildly. “i could’ve been naked.”

jungkook’s face goes through at least five different things in the span of three seconds, before he settles for: “why would you be naked at 5PM.”

“you don’t know my life.” yoongi sets his phone into his lap. “what’s up?”

jungkook has stepped past the threshold, but won’t come further in, his hand on the doorknob keeping it ajar. his tongue glides across his bottom lip. there have been wild things in his eyes for the last couple of days. it’s making yoongi restless as well.

“hyung,” he says again, “change into workout clothes. i’m gonna teach you self-defense.”

yoongi’s jaw drops a little.

“what?” he says. “no. you’re not.” then, “what?”

jungkook sighs a little, and shifts on his feet. “you taught me archery. i want to return the favor.”

yoongi stares at him until the silence is stretching on for a little too long.

“you don’t have to,” yoongi begins, “you really—it’s raining. i’m not rolling around in wet grass.”

“not out there. in the dance studio.”

“i don’t even have workout clothes,” yoongi tries, desperate.

“oh my god, hyung,” jungkook rolls his eyes slightly, “i meant put on some sweats or something. it gets pretty physical.”

exactly, yoongi wants say. before he can say anything, however, jungkook’s face shifts; softens, his teeth catching on his bottom lip.

“let me teach you,” he asks quietly, “i—need something to do.”

yoongi really, really wishes he knew how to say no to him.

“okay,” he says, quiet and stiff, “okay. i’ll meet you there.”

jungkook’s face brightens, almost like the weather clearing up. he looks like he’s going to say something more; in the end, just nods, slips out of the door like he’s afraid anything he says might make yoongi change his mind.

okay, yoongi thinks, and then actively doesn’t think anything more.

the rain is a mist in the air, a sheer of tiny droplets that feels like someone gently spraying water on him with a spray bottle as one would do to a houseplant.

the dance studio is only called that because hoseok and jimin have their dance classes here. it’s a tiny, old gymnasium, mirror on one wall and stall bars on another. yoongi kicks off his shoes at the entrance; jungkook is kicking a foam mat across the floor, bare feet, joggers, t-shirt a snug fit across his shoulders. yoongi wipes his hands on his thighs as he walks in; feels like he’s sweating, knows it’s the rain.

jungkook’s eyes stick to him like magnets.

“ready?”

yoongi wonders if he’s imagining it, or if something—everything about the way he moves is a little bit dangerous in a way where it looks like there’s a hundred volt current coursing through his veins. people have died being shocked with less.

“teach me to defend myself, then,” yoongi says and stops in front of him. jungkook licks his lips. something about his gaze makes yoongi want to look away. there’s a storm in there and yoongi’s not sure if he can face it head on.

“punches,” jungkook says, and lifts his hands, palms towards yoongi. “show me what you got.”

“i know how to punch,” yoongi quirks an eyebrow under the bangs falling into his eyes.

“prove it,” jungkook grins. he’s provoking. yoongi, while not easily provoked, does feel a spark, someone attempting to light a fire with a striker and a flint. he breathes in, out. then he makes a fist, draws his elbow back, almost as if he were drawing a bowstring, and aims at the middle of jungkook’s palm. it lands with a sharp smack. jungkook makes a small noise, and for a second yoongi worries he hurt him—but jungkook only readjusts his palm, and says: “like you mean it.”

yoongi exhales in something like a laugh. pulls back, tongues at the inside of his cheek, glances up at jungkook.

“i’ll hurt you,” he says.

“you won’t,” jungkook shakes his head. “trust me. put your whole body into it.”

yoongi still has reservations, but jungkook keeps telling him from your hips and i can take it, and so he gradually adds more of his strength to it, taps into the power in his core muscles until jungkook makes an approving noise from his throat, until the fire is dancing wild and fierce in his eyes and a grin is teasing at the corners of his mouth.

he does pick up a target pad, finally, and gives him advice like aim two inches beyond so you're always punching through and keep your stance closed. yoongi’s not sure how long he keeps raining one-twos on him. jungkook's warming him up, he realizes, waking him up and getting his blood pumping.

“you’ve got good aim,” jungkook murmurs as they both shake out their hands, and yoongi does a lap to the far wall as if to cool down from being in the proximity of all that bristling restrained energy.

“that surprises you?”

jungkook laughs, once, and it lingers in the confined space like a haunting, the faint echo filling the air until yoongi feels like he’s swimming in jungkook’s voice.

“no, it doesn’t.” jungkook is stretching his arms as yoongi walks back to him; swings them to his sides, rolls his shoulders. “let’s do kicks. c’mon, let’s go.”

jungkook shows him the front kick and the roundhouse kick and then the butterfly kick, which yoongi is not going to attempt but likes watching jungkook do it. jungkook could well be a dancer; he’s fluid and graceful and stays in the air for so long it feels like a disruption in the flow of time. yoongi sort of can’t believe he didn’t know this about him until this summer, but he also, sort of, can. there has to be so much… that he doesn’t know. they text, but it’s not the same, and yoongi has no idea what he’s like when he’s not here. how his usual day looks. who his friends are. he realizes, sharp and clear like ice water, that he wants to know jungkook wholly.

“hyung,” jungkook huffs, mildly frustrated, “you can’t block my punches if you’re not even looking.”

“ah.” yoongi raises his arms again. “i’ve got it.” jungkook with his hands in loose fists, narrows his eyes at yoongi suspiciously. “i’ve got it,” he says again with more conviction. “c’mon. give it to me.”

yoongi’s good at provoking, too.

jungkook hits hard. not so hard he doesn’t think yoongi can’t block him, but hard enough to sting where their forearms snap together. he keeps moving in, pressuring yoongi to move back, and yoongi knows it’s a challenge, everything about him is saying can you keep up—and yoongi is damn well keeping up. if it’s an outlet for his energy he needs, yoongi is going to give him one.

when the next blow comes, he blocks with the back of his forearm, and then he counterattacks, jabs him to the middle of his chest with the heel of his palm with enough force to send him staggering back a couple of steps. yoongi sees the surprise on his face—feels a spike of satisfaction at that, and uses it to his advantage, instantly reversing their roles and throwing a punch at jungkook.

even as he was caught off guard, jungkook blocks easily. as their arms fall out of the way, yoongi sees he’s grinning, sharp and terrible and incendiary. yoongi blames what happens next at least partially on that; if he hadn’t been slightly distracted and off-kilter, jungkook wouldn’t have grabbed his arm from flight and repeated the exact same thing he did in front of the kids before.

it’s rougher, this time, because it’s a real sparring situation and they are fired up and jungkook is holding back less. an ah escapes his lungs as his back hits the mat. also different from last time, jungkook comes down with him, his knee dropping beside yoongi’s hip and his palms planting on either side of his head. yoongi gasps for breath, and stares up at him—his parted red mouth, a single drop of sweat traveling down to his cheekbone and clinging onto it—

“too slow, hyung,” jungkook murmurs, his voice breathy and coming from some place deeper than usually, and yoongi’s body responds to it in an instinctive manner he can’t control, arching just slightly off the mat, his fingers closing around jungkook’s wrists, not sure what the fuck he’s trying to do, if he’s trying to push him off or keep him where he is—jungkook’s eyes, devastatingly, shift down on yoongi’s face, to his mouth, and further down still, to his neck and heaving chest, before flying back up—only quickly, but yoongi saw it. saw it and also sees how his face darkens with a flush. for a second, yoongi fears he may actually pass out.

jungkooks fingernails scrape against the mat as he curls his fingers.

“i’ll show you what to do,” he says, not much louder than a whisper, “if someone has you on the ground like this.”

“uh-huh,” yoongi says, a little bit rough. he swallows, and lets his fingers slip off jungkook’s wrists, slow, until his knuckles knock against the mat beside jungkook’s hands. “okay.”

jungkook’s eyes follow the movement of yoongi’s left hand, then drift over him silent and kind of unfocused, kind of like he forgot yoongi can see him watching; yoongi bites down on his bottom lip so hard it hurts, heartbeat racing in his ears, a heavy, tightly-wound thing in his stomach. jungkook meets his eyes, a short breath rushing past his lips.

“you’ll want to use your legs if you can.” he reaches down, ghosts his fingertips over yoongi’s thigh. “if you can get your knee between your bodies... your other foot against my hip. you can push me off while simultaneously sliding out from under me. remember that self-defense is scrappy. it’s unrefined. there are no rules. it’s scratching and biting and the sharpest parts of your body to the most vulnerable parts of theirs.”

“i’m not kicking you in the dick,” yoongi says. jungkook laughs, bright and familiar, and the tension inside yoongi eases, just a little.

“and i’m really thankful for that. kick me off.”

after yoongi’s successfully pushed him off and sat up, all the bones in his body intact, jungkook tips over onto his back, one of his knees bent, and gestures with his wrist.

“get on top of me.”

yoongi just stares.

“i.” jungkook just lies there, waiting for yoongi, shoving his bangs out of his face and letting his arm flop to his side, chest rising and falling, his t-shirt riding up the slightest to reveal a stripe of tan skin and a glimpse of a v line—yoongi’s eyes rocket back up to his face, his pulse thrumming in cosmic numbers. “um.”

“get on top of me, hyung,” jungkook repeats, and no, it doesn’t sound any better the second time. “i can’t show you unless you’re on top of me.”

jesus.

yoongi dies a million deaths during the time it takes for him to get on his knees and crawl to jungkook. he hovers by him uncertainly, until jungkook taps his fingers against the mat beside him, says,

“straddle my hips.”

“i, um, i don’t,” yoongi starts, but it quickly becomes clear he’s not going to be able to form a coherent sentence of any substance so he just swings a knee over jungkook’s hips, slightly defeated, hesitantly lowering his hands to the mat above his shoulders, and just looks down at him. jungkook’s fingertips press lightly into his knees.

“i’ll show you what to do in case you can’t use your legs, if they have your hips pinned down and are strangling you,” jungkook murmurs, “so put your weight on my hips.”

“just—sit down on your—”

“yeah, yes, sit down on my hips.” jungkook gives a smile, just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tug at the corners of his mouth. “you don’t weigh anything. don’t worry. just put your full weight on me.”

yoongi, well. he sits down on jungkook’s crotch.

it’s terrible. in a word. it’s—jungkook is teaching him what to do in a case where someone’s trying to physically assault him, and yoongi’s having thoughts that have nothing to do with assault.

this is the worst time—and the worst place—to be having thoughts.

for a moment, nothing happens. they stare at each other, and yoongi is beginning to wonder if jungkook, like, forgot what they were doing—then he blinks his eyes, once, twice, takes a deep breath.

“your hands… put them to my throat.”

this is a hypothetical scenario where someone is physically assaulting him, yoongi reminds himself, this is a scenario where—fucking—fuck—

he ghosts his hands over jungkook’s chest, carefully rests the heels of his palms against the hard bones of his clavicles, hovers his fingertips at the base of his throat. his thumbs brush his adam’s apple, and he feels him swallow. he’s barely touching, knowing it wouldn’t hurt jungkook if he were to add a little more pressure, or any at all, but still—doesn’t want to ever be anything but gentle—(loving— )

outside, the rain is picking up, hacking at the windowpanes and surrounding them. thunder rumbles in a distance. (jungkook looks so electric and alive during thunderstorms you almost expect to get zapped when you touch him.)

jungkook is flushed beneath him, bow-shaped mouth open just enough for the tips of his teeth to poke out; his eyes are intently on yoongi and yoongi stares back helplessly. yoongi thinks of assault. yoongi thinks of dead fucking puppies.

“so,” he says nervously, “what—”

jungkook flips them.

yoongi doesn’t have time to blink. he thinks what happens is: jungkook plants his feet firmly on the floor, lifts his hips sharp and fast while simultaneously hooking his hands over yoongi’s wrists and yanking them away, and as yoongi is unsupported and off-balance, rolls them over and pins yoongi to the floor.

one of his hands is pinned to his chest, the other one to the mat by his head. jungkook is hovering above him between his legs, his thighs pressed up against the backs of yoongi’s. yoongi swears he can see lightning flash in his eyes— one. two. three. thunder crashes less than a kilometer away, so violently it sounds as if the sky’s being torn open.

“then you hit them where it hurts,” jungkook says, low and soft and thunderous, his thumbs running slowly up and down on the inside of yoongi’s wrists in a manner that’s the opposite of violent, “and then you run like hell.”

“then i run like hell,” yoongi repeats nonsensically, eyes glued to the red curve of his smile. jungkook looks good. jungkook looked good under him and jungkook looks good on top of him. jungkook looks good on sunny days where it looks like the light is in love with him and on rainy days where he gets sulky and during thunderstorms where he is this, where he looks like he could eat yoongi alive—

and there’s a moment—

thunder roars again so close yoongi feels it rattling his bones, jungkook’s grip on his wrists tightens just a little, just for half a second, and there’s a moment where yoongi thinks of kissing him.

more like—he finds himself wishing jungkook would lean down, fit himself against yoongi until there’s no space between them, and kiss him. just do it, you’re looking at me like you want to—

even if it was only an outlet for his energy that he needed, yoongi could and would be that outlet. his body is wired from all this touching, and it hasn’t been enough, it hasn’t been—the kind of touching yoongi wants ( needs? ) these brief staccato jabs and brushes, and yoongi wonders distantly if he’s touch-starved, if that’s why he feels—parched in all this rain, feels hungry, feels the fucking garden of weeds inside him screaming for water, for touch, for jungkook to lean down and kiss me while it’s still thundering, we can say it was the storm, just—

“kiss me,” yoongi’s mouth says, and at the same time, someone says: “jungkook?

yoongi’s heart literally stops beating. he does mean literally. he must be legally dead for like, five seconds. he’s frozen, jungkook’s frozen, and yoongi didn’t mean to say that out loud, or maybe he did, but he wasn’t going to —and he has no idea, can’t tell from jungkook’s face, if he heard it over the sounds of the storm and someone else now saying,

“kook, are you there? pick up your damn radio.”

the slightly distorted voice is jimin’s and it’s coming from the camp-issued handheld radio in jungkook’s hoodie on the floor. they all have one but they only use them for emergencies. like when the apocalypse is happening outside and they can’t simply jog across the camp to one another.

jungkook blinks like he’s waking up to daylight; opens his mouth, and yoongi can’t take the proximity anymore. it’s embarrassing if jungkook heard him, and it’s embarrassing if he didn’t. he grabs jungkook’s wrists, jungkook’s grip easily giving in, plants his knee and his foot on his torso, and pushes him off like jungkook showed him earlier. jungkook flops down on his butt, palm against the floor behind him and the other one on his bent knee, and takes a few breaths, while yoongi sits up near the wall. suddenly there’s all this distance between them. yoongi’s chest feels terrible. like it’s barely held together with poorly wrapped scotch tape and about to unravel, all of his organs about to fall out of place.

i swear to god, kook, if you’re dead in a field somewhere, having gotten yourself struck by lightning, i’ll kill you again myself, and i’ll make it so much less cool than death by a lightning bolt —”

“you should get that,” yoongi says.

“yeah,” jungkook says, and looks like he’s just now realizing jimin’s talking to him. he gets up in some sort of a parkour move that should look show-offy but just looks natural and like he doesn’t even think about it.

yoongi gets up significantly less gracefully as jungkook fishes out the radio by the opposite wall and presses the push-to-talk button. it’s like his body is only now catching up and starting to ache. he slowly stretches his arms and sides, just to do something, and looks at the storm outside, listening in with half an ear.

“i’m here, not dead, i’m with yoongi-hyung at the dance studio. what’s up?”

jesus, kook, what took you so long? what were you doing? nevermind, it would take too long with this half-duplex system. i just, sort of, need you both to come back to the cabins? the storm’s pretty bad, and some of the kids are pretty scared of the thunder—i could use another pair of hands over here, and jin-hyung could too, probably.”

“yeah, sure, of course, we’ll be there.”

try not to die out there. i’d hate for you to die when it’s not by my hand.

“touched. thanks.”

yoongi turns to jungkook already looking at him. he tries not to feel unbearably uncomfortable. desperately clings onto the small hope that jungkook didn’t hear him and tries to act like he didn’t just ask him to kiss him while he was pinning yoongi to the floor.

“you heard that?” jungkook asks, rubbing at the back of his neck, then glancing up when the lights flicker. they are probably minutes away from a total blackout.

“yeah. we better go.”

jungkook rolls up the mat and yoongi holds the equipment closet open for him. they take their things and put on their shoes and yoongi asks him,

“do you feel better?”

jungkook glances at him a little bit hazy-eyed, like he was just in his thoughts.

“better?”

“did you manage to let off steam?”

jungkook blinks a couple of quick times.

“yeah,” he says quietly, and wets his lips with a flick of his tongue, “yeah, i feel better. i hope i… taught you something. i didn’t—i didn’t go too hard on you, right?”

“you didn’t,” yoongi murmurs, gaze skimming between his eyes and his shoulders like he can’t look at him for too long. “it was good. thanks for teaching me.”

jungkook nods, still a little absent. they step out, survey the storm from under the canopy. the rain’s coming down with vengeance, a small moat developing at the foot of the stairs. jungkook turns to him, asks,

“what did you say? back there, when the radio went off.”

yoongi stares at the yard, arms wrapped tight around himself.

“i said ‘get off’. my thighs were starting to hurt.”

his mouth didn’t move anything like get off. jungkook has to know this.

he doesn’t call yoongi out for lying. he takes the hoodie bunched up in his hand, holds it to yoongi’s chest, and says, “take my hoodie.”

“i—” yoongi stares down at it. “i don’t need it, it’s just a few hundred meters—”

“then wear it for a few hundred meters.” jungkook moves to stand in front of him. yoongi doesn’t move, doesn’t look up as he very carefully reaches around yoongi’s shoulders to drape the hoodie on him. keeps his eyes fixed on the hollow between jungkook’s collarbones as if taking his eyes off it would kill him. lastly, jungkook pulls the hood over his hair, his hands lingering on either side of yoongi’s face, not quite touching. “told you blue looks good on you,” jungkook says softly, and yoongi feels pretty inconsolable.

 

/

 

there’s no time to deal with his own emotions. the lights blink out soon after he makes it back to the cabin, and the whole camp is plunged into darkness. the darkness, here, is truly dark, truly the lack of light the way it could never be in the city.

some of the kids are excited to take this opportunity to push some beds together and gather around under blankets to tell ghost stories. yoongi and seokjin are busy distracting the kids who are less than effervescent, making them laugh with games seokjin comes up with on the spot. he’s great at that, making people laugh, making them feel at ease. yoongi watches him make a fool out of himself in flashlight spotlights so that some grade schoolers would forget to be scared, and he thinks, yeah, alright, he is kind of like superman.

the worst storm is over in about an hour, and they get their power back, but the sky is still grumbling as though unable to give up an argument when it’s time for the kids to sleep. he notices hajoon sitting up in his bunk, eyes wide and alert like a little tarsier in the dark.

“hey,” yoongi says, hushed, crouching down with a hand on the vacant top bunk. “you okay?”

hajoon takes a shivering breath.

“scared,” he whispers.

“mind if i come in?” when hajoon shakes his head, yoongi crawls in, pulls himself up against the headboard, knees to his chest, and sticks his feet under the covers. hajoon is a tiny ball at his side. “you’re scared of the thunder?”

he nods. yoongi tips his head back against the wall, and closes his eyes for a moment.

“you know… you know how thor makes it thunder, right?”

“yeah,” hajoon peeps.

“and thor’s not a bad guy, right? he wouldn’t call the thunder to hurt anyone. he’s probably just a bit annoyed right now. maybe he’s fighting with his brother.”

“loki?” hajoon’s looking up at him with huge eyes.

“yeah, loki. they are fighting somewhere very, very far away.” yoongi points up at the bottom of the top bunk. “hear that? it’s getting quieter. i think thor is winning.”

yoongi sits with hajoon and talks about thor with him until hajoon is asleep with his hand tangled in the side of yoongi’s shirt. yoongi carefully pries his tiny fist open, and slowly slides off the bed, lowering hajoon’s hand on the bed as if he were moving a bomb.

he stands around in the dark for a while. it’s all quiet. everyone’s fast asleep. there’s currently not even rain. the beds by the wall are faintly illuminated by ghostly moonlight. there’s a lump by yoongi’s bed, and he knows it to be jungkook’s hoodie draped over a chair to dry.

it mostly smells like rain now but when jungkook wrapped it around him, it smelled overwhelmingly like jungkook. like sweet peas but not just, not purely; how jungkook smells like sweet peas, soft and muted and mixed in with that thing that makes it jungkook. he’s still not sure if it’s body wash, perfume, or if he just naturally smells like that.

he tiptoes all the way across the room. seokjin’s sleeping on his back, his mouth hanging attractively open in recreation of so many of the photos yoongi has taken of him in the past years. he stirs when yoongi’s weight tips the mattress, and when yoongi goes to lift the blanket, he blinks his eyes open, and takes an uncoordinated swing at yoongi, missing his face by half a meter and landing a half-assed punch on his pillow.

“what? why? what happens? who’s in my house?” he mumbles incoherently.

“it’s just me, don’t yell, it’s me,” yoongi whispers as he gets in. he unceremoniously flops down beside seokjin, and immediately curls up against his chest. seokjin has a good chest for curling up against. wide and solid. he doesn’t do this a lot at home but he has, a few times, when he’s felt like this. well. sort of like this.

“oh, wow. wow wow. there’s a man in my bed, how scandalous,” seokjin drawls, and automatically drapes an arm around his waist under the blanket. “some of the parents would not approve of this.”

“shut up and hold me for a second,” yoongi whispers, and it comes out sounding like he’s close to tears. tucks himself closer, hands between their chests, fingertips pressing in on the skin warm through the t-shirt.

“mm. you got it, my little gremlin who lives under my bed,” seokjin murmurs into his hair, fitting his arm around him and keeping him close to his chest. “did you know i don’t refer to you as my roommate? when i want out of a social situation i tell people i have to go feed my gremlin or he’ll—” seokjin laughs, and yoongi only knows because his chest shakes against yoongi’s. “or he’ll chew my power cords.”

yoongi laughs, too, soundlessly, completely involuntarily, not because what he said was particularly funny but because you can’t not laugh when seokjin’s laughing. seokjin pauses, and then he laughs again, making a high-pitched wheezing noise as he tries to keep quiet. yoongi mushes his face against his chest in a desperate attempt to keep it down.

“stop,” he gasps, his sides aching from restrained laughter, and seokjin finally calms after several failed attempts and a breathing exercise.

yoongi joked about wanting a break from seokjin. but right now he’s so glad they got assigned together.

seokjin doesn’t ask specific questions. the only thing he asks is: “wanna talk about it?”

“no,” yoongi whispers. “this is enough. let’s just sleep.”

 

/

 

of course there’s not a wisp of a cloud in the sky the next day.

yoongi still knows, logically, that he is not cosmically significant enough for whoever’s in charge of the universe to give a fuck about his personal struggles, but there’s a part of him that’s deeply convinced the storm left because it got what it wanted. feels like something somewhere is saying, that wasn’t so hard, was it.

yoongi is actively refraining from flipping off the sun when there are grade schoolers watching. he sits back on the pier, palms on the sun-worn boards behind him, and squints at namjoon beside him, one eye closed. namjoon, technically, has no lifeguard duties since he’s not a counselor, but he volunteers to fill in for them whenever he has time because he likes to hang out at the lake and says that his promotion following their second year has distanced him from the kids, which, yoongi finds difficult to believe at a summer camp this small, but whatever. if namjoon wants to give yoongi less work so that he’ll have more work, yoongi’s not about to say no.

right now he doesn’t want a break, though, so he sits here with namjoon, who’s cross-legged, bare-toed, writing in something of a diary balanced on his knee, and looking like an accident waiting to happen, honestly.

“so,” yoongi says, “you and jimin.”

“uh.” namjoon says.

“there is a you and jimin, isn’t there?” yoongi prompts gently.

“there is me,” namjoon gestures at his general being with his pen at the end of which various colorful decorations shaped like sea creatures dangle. “and then there’s jimin.”

he flings the pen into the lake. they watch its brief but glorious arc which ends in an anticlimactic tiny plop a few meters from them linear to the shoreline. yoongi doesn’t think it was intentional.

“i liked that pen,” namjoon says wistfully.

“i’ll get it!” chulmoo shrieks, fitting his goggles over his eyes.

“careful!” yoongi shouts just as he plunges under the surface. it’s just barely deep enough for the kids to dive, but yoongi keeps a close eye on the bubbles and ripples where his feet kick, and says to namjoon, “continue please, i believe you were making some dumb incorrect point about how you’re just you and jimin’s some radiant godly being who’s too good for you?”

namjoon is quiet for a moment, and yoongi can practically hear his jaw working.

“yeah,” he allows, and yoongi hears his shoulders droop, too, “that’s pretty much what i was going to say.”

he turns to namjoon, brows pulled together.

“joon—” a wet pen clatters onto the pier between them. the dolphins and whales and turtles look a bit muddy and sad but at least they’re all there.

“my pen,” namjoon says, delighted. “wow, thank you so much. that was a good find.”

“and i found this.” chulmoo grabs onto the edge of the pier, and pushes his clenched fist up towards yoongi, who bends down between his folded legs, cups his palms under chulmoo’s small hand. “for you.”

he unfurls his fingers and disposes a tiny object into yoongi’s palm—a ring, one of those plastic ones you get from toy capsule vending machines. it has blue glitter and gold stars inside its clear shell. doesn’t look like it belongs to anyone here. at least yoongi’s never seen rings on any of the kids.

“for me?” yoongi murmurs. “thank you. but are you sure you want to give it to me? you could give it to someone special.”

chulmoo only shakes his head.

“for you,” he confirms, and then he swims away. it’s probably unsanitary, but yoongi slides the ring on his pinky finger. it’s actually very pretty. namjoon sighs.

“see? i used to get stuff from the kids when i was a counselor. now i only tell them what to do. you guys are like the cool college cousins and i’m the parent who has to ruin everything.”

“we ruin things, too,” yoongi says, arching an eyebrow at him. “this—” he flashes the ring, catches the sun on the glitter. “—is 100% because of the time jungkook slam dunked me in front of everyone. i’m, like, a local legend.” namjoon snorts, and yoongi sets his hand back into his lap. “the kids still like you.” it seems like a good enough bridge to their original topic, so he adds: “jimin likes you, too.”

namjoon is quiet for a while. yoongi counts the heads in the water and on the shore. yup, all campers accounted for.

“i’m not so sure,” namjoon says. yoongi glances at him disbelievingly.

“he’s been flirting with you for three years.”

“it’s a joke,” namjoon says.

“what?” yoongi can only say, his entire face contorting in incredulity. namjoon licks his lips, troubled gaze skimming the shoreline.

“do you remember the job interview? the group interview, specifically. when they were trying to determine whether we’d work as a team.”

“barely,” yoongi admits.

“you and seokjin were running late as usual—”

“that was seokjin’s fault,” yoongi says.

“i thought you didn’t remember it well,” namjoon remarks.

“i remember it was seokjin’s fault,” yoongi says, “go on.”

“i was waiting for you in the café next block because i didn’t want to go in alone, revising for my english lit exam to pass time, so my brain is currently, like, caught in this half-state between languages. and—jimin comes to my table. well, i don’t know he’s jimin yet. this… magnificently gorgeous glasses and backwards snapback and varsity hoodie wearing guy comes to my table, gives me the kindest smile ever, and asks me directions to the same building i’m going to—i panic, and i start speaking to him in english. then he panics, and tries to tell me he’s sorry he didn’t know i don’t speak korean—we have this entire panic-stricken conversation in english.”

“holy fu… cker.” yoongi pauses. “that wasn’t better.”

“then,” namjoon continues, agitated, “i see him at that dang table at the interview. i have to sit there and very obviously speak korean, and he’s like, glaring at me. and i’m like, okay, that’s it, i’m not gonna get the job, it’s not gonna work out if one of the people here freaking hates my guts—but i managed to explain to him, that, like, i wasn’t trying to funk with him, and i just got super flustered—and he believed me, thankfully. we laughed about it. he joked that he’s going to try and fluster me into speaking english again—and that’s it. that’s the story there.”

“i miss cursing,” yoongi says.

“you do it literally all the time,” namjoon says, “don’t think i missed that f bomb just now.”

“wait, so... you think it’s still just a joke? three years later?” yoongi stares at him, baffled. “you think he’s been flirting with you for three years only to go ‘just kidding’?”

namjoon clutches his notebook to his chest.

“i mean—he’s jimin, and i’m—”

“and you’re you, yes, i know who you guys are.” yoongi’s actually like, getting worked up. he’s offended and appalled that namjoon would think he’s somehow not worth being seriously pursued. he huffs and turns the ring on his finger over and over like it’s a stress toy. “listen. nothing about you suggests a radiant godly being wouldn’t want to flirt with you. in fact, if the gods descended from, like, mount olympus and came down to earth, i strongly believe you would be one of the first people on the planet they would look at and say, damn, i wish to consensually wed him and cherish him and make highly intelligent and extremely beautiful babies with him if that is what he also wants.

“the gods rarely said that in greek mythology,” namjoon says.

“i know,” yoongi says, “these gods know about consent. because i’m not letting them near you otherwise.” he sighs as he skims the shallow water. “but what i’m saying is that jimin is just as godly as the rest of us. which is to say he’s just a person too. and he is most certainly into you. if someone flirts with you for three years as a joke, the sheer dedication that goes into that makes it the very opposite of a joke. and that... in the lounge, during the storm? whatever it was that you were doing before jimin started throwing kiwis at taehyung? that wasn’t a joke. that kind of intimacy… is not a punchline. it’s not performed. it’s born out of a sincere moment between two people who just want to be close like that.” he pauses, and thoroughly embarrassed, snaps: “or something like that.”

“ah… wow, hyung,” namjoon breathes, “i almost want to hug you and kiss you and all that.”

“i’ll throw your diary into the lake,” yoongi grumbles.

“you wouldn’t,” namjoon hums. yoongi glares at the lake for a moment. then he turns to namjoon sharply.

“where my hug.”

namjoon smiles the way he does when he’s either pleased or proud, close-mouthed, dimpled, his chin protruding a little. then he comes in with his arms spread wide, mostly collapsing on yoongi and enveloping him in a kind of strange sideways hug, his cheek pressed to the middle of his shoulder blades, with yoongi still grumbling, yeah, whatever. yoongi would never say it out loud. but he likes being hugged by people bigger than him. likes the way it encompasses him.

“i think this year’s kim namjoon rescue operation is a bit different,” namjoon murmurs, kind of just slouching against yoongi. yoongi extends one of his legs over the edge of the pier, dips his toes into cool water. “think you guys have to rescue me from the weight of my own feelings.”

“you don’t need rescuing.” yoongi gives a brief smile when namjoon pulls himself away. “you just need to tell him how you feel.”

“easy as that, huh,” namjoon says. yoongi snorts.

“yeah. easy. not terrifying at all.”

“speaking of telling people how you feel,” namjoon says. yoongi goes slightly stiff as namjoon toes at the side of his thigh. “you and jungkook.”

“no,” yoongi says.

“there is a you and jungkook,” namjoon says, “don’t lie.”

“woojin’s eating sand again,” yoongi sighs, and gets up.

 

/

 

about a week after the storm, the kids embark on the annual overnight camping trip into the woods along the hiking trail. yoongi is not sure who’s leading it this year besides the couple of instructors who swoop in just for this, and seokjin, who got ready with their kids early in the morning, and after joking about fitting yoongi into his gargantuan rucksack, then actually trying to fit yoongi into his gargantuan rucksack with yoongi clinging teeth and nails to his bedsheets like a cat trying to avoid a bath, ushered the campers out of the door.

he bid yoongi farewell by blowing a dramatic kiss. yoongi was horrified to find he’s been teaching the kids to do the same. an entire array of mini-seokjins blew him goodbye kisses, which was the most confusing mixture of adorable and terrifying yoongi has ever experienced in his life and made seokjin laugh a resounding HA-HA and high-five each kid proudly like a soccer coach as they trailed out of the door. yoongi blew a series of disoriented drowsy kisses back and fell asleep for another two hours.

he thinks the others are probably jungkook and taehyung. it’s kind of been their thing. but then he shuffles into the dining hall for a rare late breakfast around eleven and sees both of them at one of the tables.

yoongi pours himself a bowl of cereal, then drags his feet over to them.

“who the hell’s got the kids in the woods,” he grunts as he flops down across from them, voice still rough from sleep, and shoves his fingers through his messy hair a few times in an attempt to tame it. taehyung arches a sculpted eyebrow at him, and wordlessly crooks his finger in a come hither motion; yoongi tips into the table, bowing his head so that taehyung can tie his bangs up with the extra hair tie around his wrist.

“jin, namjoon and jimin hyungs,” jungkook answers his question. he’s watching yoongi as he comes back up, lips pursed in a pout that makes you automatically think of kisses. yoongi turns his gaze down at his cereal.

when he’s not busy enough, and especially at night: he keeps returning to the dance studio and replaying the scene in his head. from getting pinned to the floor to the thunder crashing to jungkook’s grip tightening to the words flowing out of his mouth.

rewind and replay.

the floor, the thunder, jungkook’s grip, kiss me. and he tries to remember what jungkook’s face looked like but he can’t. he’s projecting too much to trust his brain and the harder he tries the blurrier it gets like the film wearing out. but he keeps wondering if jungkook read his lips.

jungkook is not acting any different. yoongi doesn’t think. jungkook’s been the resident cryptid, pretty much, lately. you think you catch a glimpse of him sometimes, but you can’t prove it, and then someone else claims to have sighted him in a wildly different part of the camp at the exact same time. yoongi went to cabin five on two separate occasions to return his hoodie, but since he was never there, he just kept it for now. he doesn’t really want to give it back, to be honest. not in a creepy way or a theft way. it’s just a nice hoodie. big and soft. there was a used tissue in the pocket, which was kind of gross. so points reduced for that.

“yeah,” taehyung says, “namjoon wanted to spend time with the kids and jimin started huffing about how he has to go now, too, because seokjin’s not going to climb a tree if namjoon gets so lost he manages to literally remove himself from the face of the earth. i was like, i can do that, and so can jungkook, and he was like, i can’t believe i have to go, and i was like, you literally don’t have to, and he was like, i guess i have no choice, and i was like, you really do have a choice—”

“i think i get it,” yoongi cuts in. he swirls his spoon around in his bowl and quirks an eyebrow at them. “did he tell you about how they’ve been jokingly flirting for three years?”

“oh, yeah,” taehyung snorts. “if you ask me, that thing was never a joke in the first place. they’ve just been cat and mousing this entire time. i think something’s going to happen on that trail. what do you think? place your bets now.”

“they’re not going to do anything,” yoongi frowns in disapproval, “there are kids present.”

“no one said anything about anything dirty,” taehyung remarks, “get your sex-deprived mind out of the gutter.”

yoongi merely rolls his eyes.

“i think namjoon-hyung’s going to almost die, jimin-hyung’s going to realize this could all be gone in a blink, and he’s going to grab him and kiss him really hard on the mouth,” says jungkook, face tipped up, a slightly far-away look in his eyes. “and he’s not going to care who sees. namjoon’s going to pick jimin up as they kiss. also it’s going to be raining. and the sun is going to be setting behind them.”

when jungkook finishes, it’s very quiet. he looks back down, and blinks.

“got pretty detailed there, huh,” taehyung muses, a grin curling his mouth. jungkook blushes fiercely. “i take it you’ve thought about kissing someone like that once or twice? the notebook-style?”

“just, you know.” jungkook buries his gaze into his breakfast. “from a cinematic point of view. that would look nice.”

the fact that jungkook wants to kiss someone like in the notebook shouldn’t come as a surprise and doesn’t. but yoongi feels like he needs to lie down. it’s horrifyingly cute. it’s—nice. it’s a nice thing about jungkook. how he views the world so romantically. he has this quality that’s so—pure. not naive, just... uncorrupted. yoongi leans his face heavily into his palm and focuses on fishing bits of dried fruit out of his cereal while taehyung continues to tease jungkook, who’s protesting halfheartedly. he hopes they’ll move on quickly because the longer they linger on the topic of kisses, the more agitated he gets.

“you know what, i’ll give you 50 thousand won if all of that happens,” taehyung says, “i’ll overlook the rain part because it’s not supposed to rain today.”

they shake on it. not normally, of course. yoongi glances up in time to catch the tail end of one of their elaborate handshakes, and breathes a short laugh out of his nose. taehyung turns to him, and asks,

“so what are you gonna do with your night off? we were just trying to make plans before you came in.”

“oh,” yoongi says, “oh, right. night off.”

“you’re going to hole up in your cabin and play dead until namjoon comes to kick you back to work, aren’t you,” taehyung quirks his eyebrows.

“that’s a strong contender,” yoongi shrugs. “what else have you got?”

“what do you think about going down the mountain? living it up, hitting all the cool joints. the candle store. the clock museum. that vegan place that got the first ever negative stars on yelp. there’s not a lot of options around here. how’s that sound? awesome, right?”

“riveting. i think i’ll take the playing dead,” yoongi says.

“unsurprising. kook?” taehyung points his fork at jungkook. subsequently, yoongi realizes he’s eating cheerios with a fork. “you wanna go out?”

“i think i also just wanna take it easy,” jungkook says, eyes fixed down on his glass of orange juice and his fingers circling the rim.

“that’s a first,” taehyung raises his eyebrows. “fine. i’ll ask hobi what he wants to do.“

“what are you doing,” yoongi whispers, appalled as he watches taehyung harpoon soggy cheerios out of his bowl. you think you know someone and then you see them eat cereal with a fork and you realize you have no idea who any of these people are.

 

/

 

he should probably be ecstatic to have all this space and peace and quiet after over a month of being packed in with grade schoolers and a seokjin. he should be looking forward to alone time, to spending the next thirty hours recharging in his bed surrounded by food and water and soft things and taking advantage of the fact that the cabins are wifi hotspots.

but as soon as he sits down on the edge of his bed in the empty cabin, he just feels intensely, overwhelmingly lonely. he’s not so sure it has anything to do with how many people are or aren’t filling this room. oh, come on, he thinks. he’s going to force himself to lie down and do nothing even if it kills him.

he watches netflix on his bed for an hour and could not tell you a single thing about the plot if you asked. they were robbing an art gallery. he thinks. one of the dudes was pretty hot.

he lets his phone flip onto its back next to his pillow. wonders what jungkook, taehyung, and hoseok are doing right now. he wonders if he should go give jungkook his hoodie back and then maybe hang out with them. he wonders if jungkook read his lips.

he wonders if he will ever stop wondering about that. he wonders if he will still not say anything when it’s the last campfire and they all hug and say goodbye and he lets jungkook go like he does every year. and it will be one of those things he carries around with him as a ghost in his heart for the rest of his life and when he’s on his deathbed, he’ll call jungkook to ask him if he read his lips in the dance studio at camp euphoria during the thunderstorm back when they were young and jungkook will either say no, i really didn’t know what you said, and yoongi will say, i asked you to kiss me, i wanted you to kiss me so badly, i wanted to touch you and be touched by you, i felt like i needed you, it was so crazy, isn’t it crazy how i felt that way about you, because he’ll be on his deathbed and it won’t matter at that point. or jungkook will say, yes, i knew you said kiss me. i gave you a chance to tell me again and actually you could’ve told me whenever during all these years but you never did so i guess we’ll never know what might’ve happened. or he’ll say, most realistically, what are you talking about? it’s been like sixty years.

he wonders wonders wonders.

he gives up.

he does what he does when his mind is too loud and nothing else is helping. he goes down to the archery field, equipped with his recurve and a quiver. the foam circle targets are still standing up after a storm wiped over them. those sons of bitches will be the last things left on this earth before its ultimate destruction as the sun blows up.

yoongi nocks the arrow, draws the bowstring almost as if he were throwing a punch, and aims with both eyes open. he breathes deep and slow, and he stops wondering. he hits two nines and four tens before he hears,

“yoongi-hyung.”

his hand halts on the quiver on his hip, and he whips his head around to look at jungkook.

“i think the general rule is to not startle people holding deadly weapons,” he says, pulling an arrow out but just letting it dangle between his fingers, and turning to jungkook. instantly, he’s wondering again. he wonders how he would respond if jungkook were to corner him about it. if he’d deny saying it, if he’d blame it on the storm, the weird tension, touch-starvation. if he’d say, i want you but i only plan to want you until the summer ends… good god. hoseok might be right. yoongi sounds like such an asshole. he’s really thrilled to be having this epiphany here on the archery field mid-conversation while jungkook looks a little sheepish and uneasy kneading at his shoulder muscles under his neckline. yoongi clears his throat a little bit. “how long have you been there?”

“just a moment. i didn’t wanna disturb you. i went to your cabin, and when you weren’t there… i guessed you’d probably be here.”

“you did?” yoongi mumbles.

“mm. i wanted to tell you we were talking about having a bonfire on the beach tonight. after hobi and taehyung come back from town. you’ll come, right?”

“yeah,” yoongi says quietly, “yeah, sounds nice.”

jungkook gives a smile, and looks like he wants to say something else, but is battling whether or not to say it; he smooths a hand down the side of his neck, licks his lips.

“i know you come here to be alone, but—i thought—i—” jungkook doesn’t stutter often, not anymore, not since the first year; now it usually comes out when he’s excited or flustered, and yoongi needs him not to be self-conscious about it because his heart can’t take it, and it makes him want to launch into some clichéd emotional ramble about how you’re so perfect the way you are, your imperfections and all, the things you don’t like and all, i like them because they’re you—and that’s, just… devastating how much he means all of that.

“do you want to shoot?” yoongi swoops in and guesses the rest of his sentence. jungkook’s eyelashes flutter quickly like butterfly wings. a subtle smile pulls at his lips.

“can i challenge you now?”

“are you sure?” yoongi quirks an eyebrow. “didn’t you see me land gold like, five times in a row just now?”

“four.” jungkook’s eyes twinkle, and he casts a meaningful glance at the target. “scared?”

he tips his chin up, full of ridiculous, gratuitous bravado, and yoongi can’t help but laugh. jungkook looks happy, smile widening until his teeth peek out between his lips in the most upsettingly lovely progression of events. yoongi bites his bottom lip, and grabs the lanyard dangling out of his back pocket. pulls out his keys and tosses them at jungkook, who catches them instinctively.

“go grab an arm guard,” yoongi says. jungkook frowns at him, mildly displeased.

“i don’t need an arm guard. you’re not using one.”

“‘cause i know what i’m doing,” yoongi deadpans, the side of his mouth quirking as jungkook narrows his eyes. “i’m not letting you shoot without one. it’s for your protection.”

“fine, safety first,” jungkook sighs melodramatically, and goes to turn away. suddenly yoongi thinks of something else; thinks of how nervous jungkook was to ask him because he thought yoongi would rather be alone, and thinks, that’s not right—

“hey.” jungkook stops to look back over his shoulder, blinking owlishly. yoongi loses his composure in, like, 0.2 seconds, and just feels flustered and embarrassed and uncool. “um. i do want to be alone… sometimes,” he adds hurriedly before there’s a misunderstanding due to his poor use of pauses. “but if you ever need company… don’t hesitate to ask me.”

jungkook looks at him for a moment. then a tiny smile tugs at his mouth, and he says: “you too, hyung.”

yoongi stands around stupidly for a while after jungkook goes. he realizes belatedly that he didn’t mean only here. he meant, wherever in the world we are, you have my number, you can call me, i’m there for you, i want to be there for you. in a way, it goes without saying, and goes for all of them, but—

it’s always been a little bit different when it comes to jungkook. hasn’t it. hasn’t it.

he’s pulled the arrows out of the board by the time jungkook returns, twiddling with the arm guard around his left forearm.

“how do you wanna do this?” yoongi asks, waiting for him at half-field and then handing him the recurve. “we shoot six arrows, add up the points, give the other a turn?”

“sounds good.” yoongi steps back to watch jungkook nock the arrow, carefully adjust his feet like he’s doing his best to recall everything yoongi taught him last time, then stand up straight and bring the bow up, and—something in yoongi stumbles, trips, then lies face-down in a ditch somewhere for a full five seconds, because jungkook is striking, in a word; looks so fucking good with a bow and arrow, looks like an incarnation of artemis; his lines clean and his jawline sharp and the sun fading his hair into a soft chestnut brown and playing on the curves of his muscles so gently.

he knows they are all just people here. none of them are godlier than the rest. but he knows how namjoon feels.

he knows—god, he knows how it is to look at someone and think the world of them.

“am i doing this right? hyung?”

“looks good,” yoongi murmurs, folding his arms over his chest and dropping his gaze down to his shoes in the grass, feeling weird for staring for so long. “you look good.”

“what was it that you called me,” jungkook mutters, “william tell?”

“yeah,” yoongi rasps a laugh, glancing up at his concentrated face, “know who he is? you know the apple shot?”

“he shot an apple off someone’s head, right?”

“yeah,” yoongi nods. “his son’s, according to the legend. and he also assassinated a tyrant and inspired the people to fight for their political and individual freedom. but it’s mostly the apple thing that people know him for.”

“i’m gonna william tell this shit up,” jungkook mumbles, and hits the outermost white ring worth one point.

“at least you hit the target,” yoongi comments, “that’s really good considering it’s your second time.”

“i’m just warming up,” jungkook says, not discouraged in the least, and looks at yoongi matter-of-factly. “i’m figuring out my trajectories.”

“that’s right,” yoongi grins, his chest so full of fond things it aches . it’s terrible. it’s beginning to border unbearable.   

jungkook doesn’t do bad. his aim varies wildly as is usual for beginners but he’s still far more consistent than any second-timer yoongi’s ever seen. he scores eighteen points in the first ground, then hands the bow over to yoongi, and they move farther back the field. when yoongi’s first arrow hits the seven ring, jungkook makes an offended sound and accuses him of holding back. i wasn’t, i swear, i can’t hit gold every single time, yoongi snorts.

“we should set stakes, since it’s a challenge,” jungkook has the audacity to say after he’s lost the first round eighteen to fifty-three and his first arrow of round two has, miraculously, hit the target right of the one they are aiming at.

“sure,” yoongi snorts, shaking his head mildly, “if you think that’s a thing we should do.”

“i am great at evaluating risks, i think i got this.”

yoongi laughs, quiet and soft. “it’s up to you.”

“how about just… a favor. the winner of most rounds gets to ask the other to do anything. any one thing.”

“i’m gonna have you do some dumb shit,” yoongi muses, bringing a water bottle to his lips, “are you sure you wanna do this?”

“please. dumb shit is my middle name.”

yoongi actually chokes on his water as he laughs, surprised and candid—he topples over to cough at the ground, wiping the back of his hand over his wet face.

“fuck,” he gasps. “i hope not.”

“yeah,” jungkook hums, his lips pressed together like he’s trying hard to restrain a grin. “my parents were really mean.”

“you made water come out of my nose. oh, god. it burns.”

“that’s a part of my tactic,” jungkook announces, “i’m gonna make you laugh so hard it’s impossible for you to aim. that’s how i’m gonna win.”

jungkook loses, epically, of course, even if he does make yoongi laugh, makes him lots of things, honestly, that fuck with his concentration. jungkook doesn’t mind at all; it wouldn’t be right to say he’s not trying to win, that he’s not giving it his 100%, because in all the time yoongi has known jeon jungkook, he has never seen him give things anything less than his absolute best. but more than trying to beat yoongi, he’s trying to beat himself, yoongi supposes, which is how he approaches most things.

he watches yoongi closely, takes note of little things he does; at one point, yoongi notices he’s picked up the way the pinky finger of yoongi’s drawing hand always sticks out, goes up rather than down, and for some reason, it makes yoongi want to cry. jungkook gets excited on his behalf, so purely, openly in awe, still, after all the years of seeing yoongi do this, that yoongi has to take a moment in the middle of his turn to just breathe.

and they laugh, so much that yoongi starts to wonder if he’s ever laughed like this, if he laughs enough, in the city, in his life outside of this.

he feels light, high on endorphins, feels like he might float away like a helium balloon if jungkook doesn’t catch him. loves the sound of jungkook’s laugh, laughs, plural, that delighted high-pitched giggle that climbs up like an arpeggio and that loud, unrestrained cackle where he squeezes his eyes into crinkles and throws his head back. yoongi loves, he loves a lot, he’s filled with it, it’s bubbling out of him in every single direction all at once, and he didn’t know it was possible for people to feel this way. like they’re made of love.

afterwards, they pull the arrows out of the board and wrap up, and they sit in the grass, peeling tangerines jungkook raided from the kitchen. it’s late afternoon, or early evening, and the sun is preparing to go down, the light turned molten gold. jungkook is lying on his stomach, uncaring of the grass stains he would get on his white shirt. yoongi, cross-legged beside him, watches him sink his thumbnail into the rind, a bit of the juice trickling out.

“do you know what you’re gonna ask me to do?” jungkook says, glancing up at yoongi from behind his comma-shaped hair. it looks gilded, just like everything else in the setting sun.

yoongi hums, pursing his lips, and watches jungkook tear off a tangerine slice. he leans his weight on one elbow, angles himself towards yoongi, and reaches out, the fruit pinched between his index finger and thumb, holds it in the air between them; and yoongi doesn’t think about it, just leans down, tilts his head to catch it with his mouth. his lips brush against jungkook’s fingers just barely, feather-like, and as he pulls back, sees the way jungkook’s eyes follow his mouth as if transfixed, just for a moment before they drop back to his hands, and he feeds himself a tangerine slice.

yoongi’s toes curl under his thighs, fingers tangling with each other on top of his crossed ankles, as though he’s trying to physically hold something in.

“i’ll think about it some more,” he says.

jungkook’s fingers pull the fruit apart but he doesn’t eat it. he shifts, and for a strange moment, yoongi thinks he’s leaving, thinks he’s leaving yoongi here, slipping out of reach like it’s the end of summer already and yoongi was too late.

but he only rolls over onto his back, stretches his arm up, tangerine-sweet fingertips reaching towards the sky, trying to fit the sun into his palm. yoongi watches the marigold light filtering onto his face through his fingers.

“hyung,” he says, and for a while, doesn’t say anything more. yoongi wants to reach into his head and pull out his thoughts, wants to know what is going through his mind right now, wants to know why he looks sad almost. jungkook’s fingers curl, trap the sun, and he lets his arm fall, collapse over his eyes. “tell me about william tell, hyung. why did he shoot an apple off his son’s head? why would he do that?”

there is something strange about his tone, something yoongi can’t put his finger on—doesn’t know what else to do, so he hugs his knees to his chest, rests his chin on top, tells him:

“he was made to. they were to be executed, he and his son.”

“executed,” jungkook repeats distantly.

“yes,” yoongi says softly. “because he defied the tyrant ruler and refused to bow to him. they were arrested and they were to be executed. the tyrant—his name was gessler—said he’d spare their lives if he managed to shoot an apple off his son’s head with his crossbow in a single attempt.”

jungkook’s fruit punch pink mouth, slightly open, closes as he swallows.

“that’s so cruel,” he whispers.

“it is,” yoongi agrees. “he made the shot. but afterwards they noticed he had taken two bolts from his quiver instead of just one. when they asked why…”

“why,” jungkook whispers, and it sounds exactly like the breeze that blows over them. shuffles yoongi’s hair on his forehead and tugs at jungkook’s shirt sleeve.

“he said that had he missed and killed his son, he would’ve killed gessler with the second bolt.”

jungkook is so quiet and still that for a moment it almost looks like he fell asleep. but then his mouth parts, releases a puff of breath. slowly, his arm slips off his face. he doesn’t look at yoongi, looks at the sky, eyelids fighting against the light.

“can you imagine what that must’ve been like,” he mumbles, raising the same arm again; not to block the sun, but to aim at it, the last three fingers folded, thumb and index finger outstretched, one eye screwed shut and the other one barely open. “having to do that to someone you love. can you imagine. how terrified he must’ve been.”

“i can’t,” yoongi says. “what are you aiming at?”

jungkook holds his pose for a few more beats. yoongi watches his throat bob as he swallows. then he rolls his head in the grass, turns his face to yoongi, directs the finger gun at him. draws his elbow back until his lips touch the sharp edge of his thumb. blinks dozily, could be smiling, going by his eyes.

pow

yoongi clutches a hand to his chest, deadpan, and falls backwards, his view panning over jungkook and buildings and treetops until it’s just sky sky sky. fingers uncurling on his chest, his other hand flopping down beside his head, watches the golden-edged clouds and thinks of the word irony.

hears jungkook get up, hears him move around in the grass. jungkook crawls close and lies there next to him, murmuring, i’m sorry i shot you, hyung, i’m sorry, have a tangerine, and pressing a slice to yoongi’s lips.

 

/

 

the others blatantly laugh at him when he shows up to the shore bundled up in a fluffy yellow blanket.

“you do know you’re going to be sitting around a fire, hyung,” hoseok says as yoongi toes off his sandals at the edge of the sand and waddles barefoot to where the others are already sitting around the crackling fire, hoseok and taehyung on one side of the pit; jungkook across from them, so yoongi joins him on the charred pine bench, scoffing as he hugs the blanket tightly around him.

“you fools. i’m protecting myself from the heat. i’m delicate. i’ll melt. like a sugar cube.”

“yoongi is using protection,” taehyung comments, and fake laughs listlessly. “ha-ha, sex joke.”

“sexual safety is not a joke, taehyung,” hoseok replies as listless, “i should hope everyone here is using protection.”

the general energy here is a bit tired. before they spotted yoongi coming down the footpath, everyone was just sort of staring at the fire in some kind of a trance. yoongi’s about to ask about their day, but—

there’s movement in his peripheral, jungkook inching closer just a bit. a hand in the blanket where it cascades onto the bench next to his thigh. jungkook just fiddles with it gently, drawn to the soft thing. yoongi stares at the movement of his fingers until he starts to zone out and it becomes an unfocused blur, at which point he looks up.

taehyung has tipped into hoseok, hoseok’s arm wrapped around his shoulders. they look sleepy and comfortable.

“so,” taehyung says, “whatcha guys wanna talk about? sex? drugs? crime?”

“ah, the only three conversation topics,” yoongi says flatly.

“i’m just saying. we can’t talk about that stuff with the kids around. this is our chance to talk like other people our age.”

“is that what i’m supposed to be talking about?” jungkook asks blankly. “i just kinda wanna talk about overwatch.”

“okay, jungkook’s not having sex,” taehyung says, and jungkook makes a mildly offended sound. “what about the rest of you?”

“the fuck kind of a conversation starter is that,” yoongi scowls. “you can’t just ask people if they are having sex.”

“oh, shit, sorry, i forgot to translate it for yoongi,” taehyung says, “anyone made slow tender love lately?”

“oh, my god,” yoongi sighs.

“i’m sort of semi-seriously seeing this dancer couple at my college,” hoseok concedes, his head rested on top of taehyung’s. “i don’t know if you guys knew.”

“wait,” jungkook says. “couple? you’re seeing both of them?”

“yeah. it’s not a cheating thing. we’re all aware and very much approve of what’s happening.”

“so it’s a polyamory thing?” taehyung asks. hoseok yawns wide into his hair.

“yeah. exactly. i think it was supposed to be, like, a one-time sex thing. but then it sort of kept happening and then suddenly we were just hanging out without it leading to sex. we’re not, like, official. but i think we’re gonna have a talk about it when i get back.”

they all hum in a faint choir in understanding and approval.

“congrats,” yoongi says cordially, and beside him, jungkook echoes the same thing a little more quietly. the way hoseok smiles makes him automatically smile back.

“is anyone else here seeing anyone?” taehyung inquires. yoongi shakes his head absently, gaze directed at the flames. it’s been a few years since he had a steady boyfriend. the handful of flings he had after that didn’t go anywhere. sometimes he didn’t know what he was looking for.

“i,” jungkook starts, and yoongi stops breathing for a second; he can’t help the way his body goes stiff, his eyes widen just a bit, something vicious sinking its teeth into his insides and clenching its jaw—he doesn’t really have clear thoughts, just: oh. but then jungkook continues: “i had a boyfriend. um. last year.”

yoongi breathes in the scent of campfire and night air. that—honestly, that surprised him, his own reaction, scared him a little, even, how sudden and all-consuming it was, and the thought that zips through his mind is, holy shit, how much do i want him, how completely do i want him—

he shoves that aside as hard as he can because this is not about him.

“what happened?” taehyung asks softly, and yoongi chances a careful glance at jungkook, who’s skimming the fire, a slight uneasiness about him. his fingers are worrying yoongi’s blanket like he’s trying to make it dissolve, and yoongi realizes this is the first time jungkook’s talked about anything like this and that he didn’t really even know for sure if jungkook liked guys. he supposes he always sort of assumed —hoped… maybe, in the past weeks, even if he was consciously trying not to.

the fact that jungkook’s telling them now must mean a lot, must mean he wants to and feels comfortable enough. it might be his way of coming out to them. yoongi uncovers a hand from the depths of the blanket, and only gently, touches his fingertips to jungkook’s knuckles. instantly, jungkook’s fingers unfurl. he whips his head around, looks at yoongi with huge eyes; blinks a couple of times in quick succession, and looks away. yoongi thinks he sees a flush on his face, but it’s difficult to tell in the low light.

“uh.” jungkook stares at the fire for a moment as if recalling what he was talking about, and softly smacks his lips. “it didn’t last that long, really. just a few months. but it was my first… real relationship, you know? we started dating in the beginning of the year… and then he dumped me when i went to japan.”

“what, who is this idiot who’s dumping jeon jungkook,” hoseok says pretty much the thing yoongi is thinking. “he didn’t wanna do long distance?”

jungkook shakes his head slowly.

“no, he didn’t. and that’s… fair, it probably wouldn’t have lasted anyway, it was so new. what wasn’t so fair was that he tried to get me not to go. he told me he’d break up with me if i went, that it was our relationship or japan. so i went to japan.”

“hell yeah you did,” taehyung hollers from hoseok’s side, and yoongi frowns slightly, intensely disliking how this ex sounds. “the male arrogance keeps baffling me. how does one get it into their head that their pathetic dick is worth more than your education. god, what a loser.”

“what a douchebag,” hoseok seconds, “sorry, kook. you deserved better than that.”

“yeah,” jungkook says quietly, chewing on his bottom lip, “yeah, i wasn’t… too broken up about it. but i wasn’t entirely without blame, either. i probably… wasn’t with him for the right reasons. it’s not that i didn’t like him. i did like him, it just wasn’t… yeah. the last week before i left, we just fought constantly, and it… wasn’t great.”

“i hope you didn’t feel like a bad person for leaving,” yoongi says, and his own voice comes out lower than he expected, “i hope he didn’t make you feel like that.”

jungkook turns to look at him, shadows dancing on his face, the fire reflected on his eyes; quietly, his gaze trails down, and that’s when yoongi realizes that this whole time, he’s been holding onto jungkook’s hand really tightly. heart jolting in his chest, he immediately loosens his grip; but as he goes to withdraw his hand, jungkook’s fingers curl around his. jungkook holds on, doesn’t let go, and yoongi’s thumb uncertainly twitches before settling into the space between the knuckles of his middle and ring fingers.

“well, he did try. and i did feel a little bit bad,” jungkook murmurs, still looking down, long eyelashes sweeping against his cheeks. “but not for leaving. not because it ended. but maybe for getting into it in the first place. felt a bit heartless. like i’d been leading him along.”

“you’re a lot of things, jeon jungkook,” hoseok says, “but heartless is not one of them.”

“fuck that guy,” yoongi says, his mouth running away from his filter which is chasing after him desperately begging him to think about whether the things he’s thinking are too blunt to say out loud. jungkook locks eyes with him, and yoongi takes a moment to try and figure out how to word things, because he knows exactly how he feels about this but it’s too laden with emotion to just lay on the table like a fucking mess. “even if you hadn’t felt as deeply, or whatever—that happens in relationships, and i find it hard to believe you purposely led him along with the intention to hurt him—he… tried to control you and pressure you to pass up an opportunity and that—can escalate so fast, that’s all the warning bells, and—it’s okay to feel the things you do, obviously, you feel them because you’re not heartless and because you remember it wasn’t all bad—but i don’t have all those memories and i have no sympathy for this guy. i’m glad you left and he can go to hell.”

well, that was like, halfway there.

jungkook catches his bottom lip between his teeth, and for a moment, looks—teary-eyed, and yoongi thinks, shit, fuck, i fucked up, and prepares to voluntarily walk backwards into hell to go join jungkook’s ex if he made jungkook cry—but then his eyes puff up in a smile, and he averts his gaze into his lap.

“yeah… yeah, i’m glad i left, too. i did have a good time in japan. don’t worry. like i said… i was over it quickly. it was over a year ago, but i just… i wanted to tell you guys.” he adjusts his hand, and yoongi thinks he’s pulling away; but all he does is turn his hand palm-up under yoongi’s, and thread their fingers together loosely. it’s so casual yet so insanely sweet, and yoongi’s heart’s going ape shit in a decidedly embarrassing manner. he stares down at their hands, and is distantly aware of taehyung saying, thank you for telling us, kookie , and hoseok humming like a sleepy melody. yoongi doesn’t say anything. doesn’t look at jungkook, but tightens his fingers just a bit.

after that, the conversation turns to hoseok and taehyung’s quest to find out why that vegan place has negative stars on yelp (the answer, apparently, is spiders, and yoongi is interested in hearing more but at this point hoseok looks like he’s going through at least fifteen war flashbacks at once so they move on) then to namjoon, jimin, seokjin, and the campers on the trail, and then gradually winds down until it mostly consists of the crackling and popping of the fire and them occasionally cracking up at things that are only funny because they are tired, and even then aren’t really funny and they are just laughing at each other’s laughs. jungkook gravitates closer and closer and finally rests his head on yoongi’s shoulder.

yoongi wants to touch him more, wants to wrap his arm around him like hoseok did so easily with taehyung, wants to open the blanket and tuck jungkook under his arm and wrap them both up. but they are still holding hands and he doesn’t want to stop doing that. it’s so fucking nice. how jungkook doesn’t let go and how he fits himself against yoongi like he wants to be close. like yoongi wants to be close.

jungkook said he wasn’t with his ex for the right reasons, and yoongi wonders, just quietly, what his reasons were, then; he wonders, if they knew each other outside of this, really knew each other, if he was a part of jungkook’s life always and not just here, could he have helped him through a bad time and been there for him; wonders, also, how he would’ve felt seeing jungkook date someone else; wonders, still, if jungkook read his lips.

when taehyung looks like he’s 90% asleep against hoseok, he starts laughing again, which makes hoseok laugh, even before taehyung says, “yoongi’s blanket looks like honey. honey-glazed hyung.”

it’s not funny in the least and that’s why yoongi especially hates it when the series of soft, breathy laughs close to his ear wrestles a close-mouthed smile onto his face.

“honeyd hyung,” jungkook whispers.

“stop it,” yoongi whines at everyone in general, but really doesn’t mind at all, finds it nice to be called that.

“sweet honey hyung,” jungkook murmurs, curling his fingers into the back of yoongi’s hand, and now that’s pretty upsetting.

when taehyung inevitably falls asleep on hoseok, and only snores louder when hoseok makes gentle-ish attempts to wake him up, jungkook offers to carry him to the cabin. his weight leaving yoongi’s side has him feeling unbalanced, too light on one side, and his fingers slipping out of the spaces between yoongi’s has him feeling like his hand is too empty, like his fingers are too far apart. he twists his hands into the blanket and watches jungkook circle around the dwindling fire.

“how should i carry him, any requests?” jungkook glances at him and hoseok.

“like simba, dangle him from the armpits in front of you,” hoseok says.

“just drag him,” yoongi says.

in the end, they watch jungkook drape taehyung across his shoulders like a shawl and take off with him.

“get you a man who can carry you to safety in case of fire,” hoseok mumbles. yoongi only makes a noncommittal sound. hoseok picks up taehyung’s sandals, but doesn’t get up yet. he levels yoongi with an ominous look over the low-burning fire and the red-glowing embers. “how’s your ‘camp thing’, hyung?”

“thriving,” yoongi replies dryly. hoseok gives a wonky smile.

“it’s easier to call it a joke than admit you mean it,” he says, “it’s easier to tell yourself it’s a summer crush than admit you want to try and hold on.”

well. he’s not pulling his punches. yoongi clutches the blanket and buries his toes into the cooling sand.

“even if i wanted—i don’t—”

“i swear to god, if you’re about to say you don’t know if he likes you back,” hoseok cuts him off, giving him the thoroughly unimpressed stare yoongi feels like he’s been on the receiving end of a lot this summer.

“i don’t know if he likes me,” yoongi insists, wrapping the blanket around him almost obsessively like he’s trying to cocoon himself.

“you held hands for like an hour just now,” hoseok gestures with his hand so sharply he almost flings taehyung’s shoes into the fire.

“you were cuddling with taehyung the entire time and that was entirely friendly,” yoongi argues.

“hyung,” hoseok says with worn patience, ”i hate to break it to you, but you and jungkook were a bit special from day one.”

“we—” yoongi blinks.

“and then you continued to be special every year after that. did you know—tae and i were almost a thing the first year?” yoongi can only shake his head and sort of wonder if it’s usual for summer camp counselors to just be falling for each other all over the place. “nothing ever happened, but it was like, mutual infatuation—and then we were apart, and when we came back the next year, it just wasn’t there anymore. and that’s okay. crushes die. they turn into different kind of affection and friendship that’s far stronger. but you continued to look at him like he was the damn stars in the sky. and he continued to look at you like… space aliens.”

yoongi’s mouth falls a little bit open.

“space aliens,” he repeats.

“or, like, the moon back when people didn’t know what it was and they looked up at it like ‘what the fuck is that’ ?

“he looks at me like ‘what the fuck is that’?” yoongi really doesn’t know what to say.

no ,” hoseok says, and yoongi can’t tell if he’s irritated at yoongi or himself. “he looks at you like something extraordinary, is what i’m trying to say. like everything you do is wonderful and interesting. forget about the metaphors, i’m not namjoon.” he looks at yoongi, suddenly very intense and serious and yoongi feels a bit shaken. “the thing between you never died, but it didn’t bloom, either, because you both think you don’t have a chance outside of here. because this is a pond and the world outside is an ocean and you don’t think he’d still choose you in the ocean.” he pauses. “now that’s a metaphor, bam.”

“i can’t know,” yoongi whispers, “if he’d choose me in the ocean.”

“what you can do,” hoseok says kindly, “is give it a chance. these things are a plunge into the water. it’s all or nothing. none of that one foot out the door shit. you hold on or you don’t.”

oh, hell. yoongi really hates hoseok. he’d probably also give him his car and his house if he had either of those.

hoseok gets up. brushes sand off his shorts and smiles, gentle and genuine.

“goodnight, hyung. don’t stay up all night.”

“goodnight,” yoongi says quietly, and then he’s alone by the fire.

 

Chapter Text

the lake on a clear night is arguably the most beautiful thing about this place. yoongi remembers arriving here with namjoon, for the very first time some three years ago, and spending an entire night out on the pier, in awe, not even talking much, just existing in the middle of something so breathtaking. remembers namjoon saying, i don’t think you’re going to get me to leave this place.

on a clear night, the tranquil surface of the lake is a perfect mirror, the broad-leaved trees and the mountain range cast on it upside down, and the stars, the plethora of them, so sharply reflected on the water it looks like there is sky above you and sky below you, like you’re caught in some beautiful infinite loop. namjoon said it makes him feel alone but not lonely. yoongi just thinks it’s something you can’t see in the city and so he should appreciate it while he can.

that’s why he’s sitting cross-legged at the end of the pier, the blanket discarded in a pile of honey behind him and the fire dying on the shore. two months feels like an eternity in mid-june. then it’s the beginning of august and you realize there’s more summer behind you than before you and soon these people would scatter like billiard balls.

from among the distant crackling of the fire, he distinguishes the sound of soft footsteps, the pad of bare feet on the pier and the quiet creaking of the boards. he waits with his back turned, doesn’t look until he hears the soft sound of clothes brushing together and a small, muffled thump.

he turns to jungkook, who’s already looking at him; his front also towards the lake, hugging one knee to his chest, hands looped around an ankle.

“fancy seeing you here,” jungkook says.

“likewise,” yoongi says, mouth quirking the tiniest bit. “i didn’t know if you were coming back. thought you went to sleep.”

“i’m not tired,” jungkook murmurs, “and i figured you’d stay and watch the fire until it goes out.”

he leaves the rest unsaid, but there’s a wanted to be with you behind those words. it makes yoongi feel like his ribcage houses hummingbirds, a whirlwind of fluttering wings inside his chest.

he feels like this is the moment where he tells jungkook things, where he tells him, i asked you to kiss me during the thunderstorm and i would ask you again, and you’ve been making a home in the place beneath my ribs, and i’m scared of the summer ending i’m scared it will just go like it always does i’m scared i’ll let you slip through my fingers again i’m scared we try only to find out we don’t fit into each other’s lives right.

he has no idea how to start saying any of that. so he breathes in, says,

“sorry if i was too blunt earlier. when you were talking about your ex-boyfriend. i don’t know him and i don’t really know what happened and i was, like, condemning him to hell. i stand by what i said. he sounds like an asshole. but still. i didn’t mean to be, like, out of line.”

jungkook laughs, unexpected but not unwanted, and it sounds loud in the stillness of things.

“you managed to, like, apologize, then completely take it back, then sort of turn it around again, all in one turn.” yoongi breathes out a laugh. jungkook’s smile quietens down, becomes achingly soft, and his eyes trail from yoongi to the water below him. “it was good. hearing you say that. it… felt nice. having you react like that… for me.”

yoongi’s chest is about to crack open from the hummingbirds. it would crack open and dozens of hummingbirds would take off into the sky, more than you’d think can fit inside a person’s ribcage, like a magician’s trick. he feels like if he opens his mouth, he will cough up feathers. jungkook lets his knees collapse on either side of him to match yoongi’s cross-legged position, leans elbows on his thighs, toying with his fingers. yoongi watches his profile, argent in the celestial light reflecting off the water. doesn’t look away even as jungkook turns and catches him staring.

they just look at each other for a moment, and yoongi feels like he might say something. like something might travel from his chest up his throat and fall out of his mouth on its own. but jungkook speaks first, says:

“have you come up with a favor yet?”

yoongi lets air filter out through his teeth slowly.

“i’m still thinking about it.”

“don’t think too long, hyung,” jungkook says, sing-songs, and somehow it sounds like an inherently sad melody. “there isn’t that much time left.”

“no,” yoongi agrees, “there isn’t.”

yoongi can tell that’s what they are both thinking about when they face forward again. there’s a melancholic note in the air, a gentle end-of-summer dread. and—yeah, yoongi doesn’t want this to end yet, he sort of wants to stay right here with jungkook, on this pier in front of this illusion of infinity, wants to be suspended in time until he can figure out what to say and how to hold onto things—but he’s not all melancholic and sad. he’s also just kind of happy. to be here right now, to share this with this person who makes him feel so much, makes him feel like he’s made of love.

“i wanna go swimming,” jungkook breaks the silence suddenly. yoongi looks over to him.

“no one’s stopping you,” he says, shrugging a shoulder.

jungkook eyes the lake like he’s calculating something. then he moves, gets up. yoongi tips his head back to watch him. are you actually gonna, yoongi’s about to ask him, but the question dies in his throat as jungkook starts pulling his shirt off.

yoongi watches him grab the hem, lift it up his torso, peel it over his head, drop it on the pier behind him. stares, transfixed, at the way the moonlight looks on his bare skin, eyes trailing down the muscles of his arm, to the dip of his lower back, his flat stomach, his impossible waist; then jungkook’s thumbs hook over the waistband of his sweats, and he bends down, starts pushing them down his thighs, and yoongi chokes on his own spit.

he turns away at lightning speed, coughing against the back of his hand, trying to make it as unnoticeable as possible, which is still very noticeable.

“you’re just gonna—you’re just gonna get undressed right here?”

“where, then,” jungkook says.

“i don’t know,” yoongi manages, his face burning as he picks a spot in the middle of the lake and stares at it intensely. “i thought you’d—go change into your swimwear or something—”

“skinny dipping is a part of the summer camp experience, hyung,” jungkook says easily.

“skinny dipping,” yoongi whispers at the lake, his tone haunted. he was working up to telling jungkook things, how the fuck is he supposed to do that if jungkook is naked in a lake—

“you’re welcome to join me.”

“yeah, right,” yoongi grunts, and refuses to take his eyes off of his new favorite spot in the lake until he hears a splash, then lake water raining on the pier and barely reaching yoongi’s knee. that’s when he risks a tentative look; there’s no jungkook, for a moment, only the disturbed water where he plunged in—then his head surfacing farther down the lake, and he swims fast, yoongi will give him that. his back to yoongi, a hand breaching the surface to comb his flattened hair out of his face.

yoongi spares a glance at the disorganized pile of clothes beside him just to confirm that, yeah, when jungkook said skinny dipping, he meant skinny dipping. yoongi is extremely agitated. when he turns back to the lake, jungkook is swimming closer, slow and unhurried, taking his time to float in the stars and the path of moonlight. yoongi digs his nails into his ankles and thinks about sirens who guide men to shipwreck with their singing.

“from here, you can’t really see the stars that well, which is a bit disappointing,” jungkook hums, treading water maybe five meters away, then directing his gaze up at yoongi. “does it look like i’m swimming in stars?”

“it does,” yoongi says, so quietly he’s surprised jungkook hears him at all. jungkook keeps looking at him as he swims closer.

“it’s not cold, hyung,” he calls a few meters away, grins, mirthful and a little mischievous.

“good to know,” yoongi says with no inflexion. jungkook comes closer, closer until he can reach out and touch a hand to the pier directly in front of yoongi, who’s sat half a meter from the edge. his pulse skitters like field mice when jungkook folds his forearms on the pier and pulls his upper body out of the water. holds himself up with arm strength and tips his head back to look up at yoongi, and yoongi really feels like he is about to be lured into his death by this beautiful moonlit water creature who wants to drag him into the depths and tear his heart out.

jungkook looks beautiful, looks untouchable even though he’s close enough to touch, his hair pushed back, skin wet and glistening silvery, eyes big and reflecting starlight. there’s a strange kind of smile on his face, just the briefest brush of one across his features, kind of like someone just forgot it there. yoongi doesn’t really know where to look, with jungkook staring at him so unabashedly and so very naked. he ends up sort of shyly looking at jungkook and every once in a while glancing down at his lap like he can’t take eye contact for too long.

“you’re unbelievable,” yoongi tells him quietly, and means to say it in disbelief but the way it comes out sounds more like i’ve been falling in love with you for quite some time.

“what can i do to make you come in?” jungkook says, and yoongi exhales softly out of his mouth.

“maybe you should sing,” he says. jungkook tilts his head and actually looks like a curious mermaid.

“sing?”

“like sirens do to lure sailors into the water so they can eat their hearts.”

jungkook breaks into a grin, wide and open, and yoongi blinks hummingbird fast, smiles timidly back.

“that’s brutal, hyung,” jungkook hums, “is that what you think of me?” he lets his arms slide off the pier, lets himself fall back into the water. he kicks away from yoongi, and floats in place, collarbones above the surface, his chest fading out of view in the water too dark and murky to see. “i promise i won’t eat your heart, hyung.”

“that’s exactly what someone who wants to eat my heart would say.”

jungkook rotates around at a slow pace, like pirouettes in water, a contemplative look on his face.

“will that work on you? will you get in if i sing?”

“depends on the song choice,” yoongi deadpans.

and he wasn’t serious, not really—jungkook knows that, but the next time he spins and comes back around, sings, anyway:

“looking you over, and you don't know my name yet—”

yoongi doesn’t immediately know this song; it’s slow and nice and smooth, sounds like r&b, at least the way jungkook’s singing it; the way jungkook’s singing it, it sounds like the landscape looks, like stars and moonlight and gentle mist rolling in over the trees on the far shore, like a dream.

(“i got this need for you, forming in my beating heart,” jungkook sings with his eyes softly closed, “i knew the meaning right away, we only yesterday were worlds apart.”)

yoongi’s heard jungkook sing in the showers in his morning voice, sing in karaoke night in a funny voice to make the kids laugh, sing under his breath during zombie laser tag to calm himself down, but he hasn’t heard him sing like this.

(“i think i may love you,” jungkook sings so softly it wrenches yoongi’s heart, “if you give me some time, maybe you'll love me too.”)

yoongi thought he would go with something in the ballpark of part of your world or maybe all star by smashmouth but instead it sounds like this song means something to him; maybe it’s just a song and he thought of it because the hook mentions warm water. in any case it’s making yoongi feel pretty intensely. making him feel like maybe he can tell jungkook things. no, needs to.

(“i'll come closer to you if you come over,” jungkook sings, floating in circles among the stars, “i know we'll go farther, farther with you, with you i'm in warm water swimming down.")

when jungkook starts i think i may love you for the second time, yoongi thinks, oh, my god, thinks, fuck it, thinks, jesus motherfucker shit, in that order, and stands up. jungkook’s voice trails off. yoongi wishes he would keep singing because maybe then he wouldn’t feel like everyone in the world is somehow watching him take off his shirt.

“oh,” he hears, very faintly, and when he emerges from the fabric tunnel and swings the shirt down to his side, jungkook is staring, eyes huge, eyes like tiny moons. they’re fixed on the general area of the upper half of yoongi’s body, and yoongi doesn’t quite feel self-conscious, is used to having next to no privacy here and showering with the guys, and while he’s obviously not built like jungkook and has got minimal muscle definition and a vampire-like complexion, he’s pretty okay with his body most days. what he does feel is closer to the way it felt having jungkook’s eyes on him when he walked the pier in his wet clothes near the beginning of the camp—

“you’re coming in?” jungkook sounds way too surprised for someone who repeatedly asked him to.

“are you going to, like, watch me take my clothes off?” yoongi mumbles, fingers skimming at his waistband, the shirt dropped at his feet. watches from the corner of his eye, under his lashes, as jungkook flushes down to his neck, sucks in a lungful of air, and promptly disappears underwater.

yoongi is too nervous to laugh. heart thudding wildly, shoves his sweatpants down his legs. in a frantic split-second decision, shucks off his briefs too while jungkook is still underwater, and just hurls himself into the lake before he can overthink and change his mind.

it’s a plunge into the water.

it’s a shock of cold as he sinks, and his first thought is jungkook fucking lied; but once he pulls himself to surface, gasping for air and floundering only a little bit, the shock’s already wearing off and it’s actually tolerable.

jungkook has surfaced almost all the way across the lake, jesus. he’s making his way back to yoongi in a languid but powerful front crawl, arms raising from the water in high arcs, looking like they were made for something like this. yoongi moves closer to the ladder descending into the water just to have something to hold on to, and shoves fingers into his hair, shakes it out, weirdly more self-conscious about his hair looking stupid than the fact that he’s naked.

“i haven’t been in a natural body of water in like seven years, oh my god,” yoongi tells jungkook once he’s close enough, slowing down to a halt a bit over a meter away.

“how is that possible, you work at a summer camp,” jungkook laughs. there are still traces of a flush on the edges on his face, and he keeps looking at yoongi in that way he can’t pinpoint, like—there is something special about yoongi he’s not in on, something that makes him worth looking at. space aliens, yoongi thinks back to hoseok’s horrid metaphors, the moon back when people didn’t know what it was—jungkook is not looking at him like what the fuck is that. but more like—”you look just like a wet kitten.”

yoongi scrunches up his face, and jungkook snickers.

“it’s adorable,” he says, and they stare at each other for a beat; then jungkook looks away, and yoongi is staring at his ear instead. it’s red even in the dim light. “i can’t believe my singing worked. maybe i should commit to this siren thing and just follow through and eat your heart.”

“please no,” yoongi says, deadpan, “you won’t enjoy it. it has no nutritional value. it’s basically just a rock.”

“that’s the least believable thing in the world.” jungkook looks at him from the corner of his eye, a tiny secret smile pulling at his mouth. “your heart is like the opposite of a rock.”

“what the fuck is the opposite of a rock,” yoongi shakes his head.

“i don’t know,” jungkook licks his lips, presses them into a line like he’s fighting a smile. “classical music, maybe.” yoongi huffs out a short laugh. jungkook’s eyes twinkle. he moves a little closer. “i know that’s not right, you don’t need to tell me how classical musicians were basically the rock stars of their day. the point is—” he smacks his lips soundlessly, looks at yoongi with vague amusement but also something so very gentle on his face. “your heart is not a rock. your heart is like moonlight sonata. it is, hyung.” good god, yoongi thinks. before he can respond, jungkook makes a full 180 back to insufferable, and asks: “do your feet touch the ground?”

“no,” yoongi narrows his eyes, “and if you tell me yours do—”

“my toes are touching the bottom right now,” jungkook says smugly.

“fuck you,” yoongi says, and turns away as if to climb up the ladder.

“no, wait, don’t go,” jungkook says with restrained laughter in his voice. “we can go closer to the shore until your feet reach the bottom. if you can swim that far. get it, because we’d have to go way up the shore—”

“unbelievable,” yoongi says like he meant to say it the first time, with proper disbelief. he lets go of the ladder, not like he was ever going to get out with jungkook watching right next to him, anyway, and paddles around the pier and towards the shore despite himself.

“you dog paddle,” jungkook gasps behind him. “oh my god. i can’t believe this. i can’t believe you would do this to me. that’s so fucking—do you know how cute that is.”

“‘s not cute,” yoongi mumbles, his face positively warm. he tries his feet against the bottom, and reaches perfectly well, the water up to a few inches below his clavicles when he plants his soles on the muddy ground. he turns to jungkook, who’s trailing after him. “it’s not cute. i literally don’t know how to swim any other way.”

“oh my god,” jungkook says again, and sounds actually pained. “hyung—”

“it’s just dog paddle,” yoongi whispers, teeth sinking into his bottom lip, and watches jungkook set his feet on the ground, slowly wade through the water. there’s something slightly uncertain and nervous about him and yoongi gets the feeling it’s not just dog paddle.

watches, quietly, as the waterline goes down his chest the closer he comes until it’s at his nipples and he’s right in front of yoongi. yoongi imagines reaching out and pulling him in and kissing him. wonders if he would taste like lake water. wonders if he knows yoongi is thinking about kissing him. (wonders if he read his lips.)

yoongi feels exposed in a way that has nothing to do with his lack of clothes and everything to do with the way jungkook’s looking at him.

jungkook has to know. there’s no way he doesn’t. he has to know yoongi wants him in like a million different ways. he hasn’t exactly been subtle. and jungkook—

jungkook is way too beautiful in the moonlight as well as the sunlight and during rain and thunderstorms and yoongi is still not entirely convinced someone like him would want yoongi. but. he might. he could.

“hyung—” jungkook starts.

“i—” yoongi interrupts, doesn’t know where he’s going with it. his heart thuds in the eighth notes of moonlight sonata. when jungkook blinks, a tiny drop of water detaches from his eyelashes and travels down his cheek like a tear.

“hyung,” he says again, “can you tell me what you said in the dance studio when the radio went off?”

he says it softly and hesitantly and his eyes moving on yoongi’s face, searching—

“you know,” yoongi barely hears himself saying, “you know what i said. don’t you?”

“yes,” jungkook says like a confession, “but i need you to say it again, if you—if you meant it, if you still mean it.”

yoongi’s heart thuds like it’s about to plunge out of his chest into the water and sink into the mud—it’s a plunge—

“would you have?” he says, barely louder than a whisper. takes a step back, eyes never leaving jungkook’s. jungkook stares back, eyes wide, filled with stars like he collected them out of the water when he dove.

“i would’ve.”

yoongi sinks his teeth into his bottom lip, moves back another step.

“would you, still?” it falls out like a sigh, and he doesn’t so much tilt his head as he lets it fall to the side like someone cut a string supporting it.

“i would.”

“will you still,” yoongi whispers softly, “when this is over?”

“i will,” jungkook says instantly, and takes a step forward, “i will, if you let me—hyung—”

yoongi’s back hits edge of the pier, wood digging into his shoulder blades.

when there’s nowhere left to go, gives up, gives in, looks right at it, at the thing growing inside his chest.

oh, look at that.

it’s a garden.

you did this.

it’s flowers.

you did this.

it’s camellias or hellebores or winter honeysuckle. it’s flowers that bloom through winter. you did this. you made me feel like i’m made of love. you made me feel like i can do anything. you did this, it’s your garden, i need you to take care of it, i need you to

“kiss me.”

there’s no thunder this time, no distorted voices on radios. jungkook’s lips part as he inhales disjointedly. he moves hesitantly closer, and his brow twitches, furrows like he’s in pain.

“are you asking me to,” he whispers, “right now, are you asking me to, i need you to tell me, please, yoongi—”

“i’m asking you to kiss me,” yoongi breathes, hurried, desperate, and he’s barely finished when jungkook surges forward, twin splashes resounding in the quiet as he lifts his hands out of the water, touches his fingertips to yoongi’s jaw so, so gently; he dips down, and a tiny, involuntary sound falls out of yoongi’s throat—but jungkook stops, hovers with their noses brushing and his breath warm on yoongi’s lips, as if to make sure yoongi’s sure.

yoongi, extremely, monumentally sure, pushes up into it, his heels lifting slightly off the ground as he tips his face further up and nuzzles at jungkook’s, until—until their lips brush, just barely, and for a while, that’s all it is; shy, feather-light touches as they tentatively feel each other, figure out how to touch in this new way—each time, their lips barely catch on each other, but it’s so much, it’s lightning down yoongi’s veins, it’s his heart barely staying in his chest. if he was thinking past jungkook and the touch of their mouths, he would think of the hummingbirds darting out of an open gate, fluttering past jungkook on either side of him in a flurry.

but he’s not thinking of that. he’s thinking of jungkook’s hands sliding on his face, cupping his jaw, guiding yoongi closer to finally press their mouths together, firm and soft. he kisses yoongi so, so softly, tenderly, their lips barely moving against each other, finding out how they fit. yoongi’s eyelashes flutter against his cheeks, his toes curl in the mud, and he tentatively brings his hands up into the space between their bodies, touches his fingertips to jungkook’s chest, feels it faintly resonate with the powerful thuds of his heart, thinks, this is real—jungkook hums softly, and yoongi feathers his hands up to his neck, where they make a home in the hollow space above his clavicles, fingers curling gently around his neck.

he makes a soft sound when jungkook carefully pries his lips apart with his own, and takes his time kissing the exterior of his mouth before experimentally gliding the tip of his tongue across yoongi’s bottom lip. it tickles, shoots sparks down his body, and he pushes against him harder, opens his mouth wider, meets his tongue halfway, inviting him in. jungkook does taste like lake water, but also something sweet, sweet fruit, sweet tangerines, or—

they kiss slow like melted honey, slow but thorough and overwhelming, the way jungkook licks at the edges and seams of his mouth, and yoongi is dizzy with it, he’s drowning, he could actually be drowning and he wouldn’t notice.

jungkook keeps pulling back to just sort of nudge at yoongi’s lips with his own and breathe against him before deepening the kiss again, and yoongi keeps making small soft noises without meaning to; it makes jungkook kiss him harder, more insistently, his hands shifting on yoongi’s face, holding him firmly, thumbs tracing his cheekbones.

“yoongi,” he’s whispering, “yoongi, ah—you’re so—”

“oh, oh,” yoongi mumbles, hands sliding on jungkook’s shoulders, sliding down his arms, feeling the hard curves of his biceps—wanting to feel more, wanting to feel him everywhere, realizing, again, how badly he needs him to touch him; his hands follow jungkook’s arms underwater, cup around the points of his elbows, and up his forearms, up to his wrists and all the way to the backs of his hands. fingers tangling with jungkook’s, gently guides them down, down his neck and his chest—

“hyung?” jungkook pulls away to whisper, tipping his forehead against yoongi’s and breathing hard and hot against his mouth. yoongi makes an unintelligible sound, and pushes his face into the nook of his neck, holding jungkook’s hands to his chest.

“touch me,” he asks quietly, a little bit strained, and swallows around a tightness in his throat, “not like that, just—need to feel you, need—”

jungkook’s already smoothing his hands down his chest, fingers brushing over his nipples, not lingering, and yoongi exhales, letting go and tracing back to his shoulders. underwater, jungkook’s fingers slide over the bumps of his ribs, slowly up and down his sides.

“like this?” he whispers softly in yoongi’s ear, his hands curling around yoongi’s waist in the space between his ribcage and hip. “touch you like this, hyung?”

“mm.” yoongi rings his arms around jungkook’s shoulders, as well as he can reach while maintaining a crucial distance between their bodies, eyelashes butterfly kissing his neck—and they could, they could press all up against each other, he wants that, too, it wouldn’t even have to be sexual, he just wants to be close, to be held close, chest to chest, skin on skin. he wouldn’t be opposed to jungkook picking him up and pressing him up against the pier and then bringing their hips together again and again, either.

but jungkook traces the edges of his hip bones with his thumbs and that’s the lowest he goes, and there would be a time for everything else, probably, hopefully.

he feels jungkook’s lips on his jaw, and lifts his head, tilts it to the side to allow him to kiss his neck, close-mouthed and so sweet it hurts, makes his toes dig into the mud. when he sighs, jungkook mouths at his pulse point, teases his teeth against the skin and sucks lightly.

“no marks,” yoongi mumbles in a moment of semi-clarity, “don’t wanna have to tell the kids i got stung by a weird bug.”

jungkook’s laugh resonates on his neck. he drags his lips down, presses an open-mouthed kiss on yoongi’s collarbone, his palms running flat against his back. yoongi sinks his fingertips into his shoulders, then lets them slide down his firm chest.

“touch you,” he murmurs, “can i touch you? like you’re touching me? wanna feel you, wanna put my hands on you.”

“yes,” jungkook chokes, “yes, yoongi, god—”

thinks he feels jungkook shiver as he feathers his fingertips down his body, feels the lines of his abs—would like to see him properly as he touches him, would like to lay him out on something soft, preferably a bed, and see him, see every expression on his face and every response of his body, but again, it’s not the time—

“god, kook,” he mumbles, hands wrapped around his waist, finally testing his hypothesis that he could almost have his fingers connect. “god, you’re so—”

“hyung,” jungkook breathes, twines his fingers in his hair, and fits their mouths together. yoongi moans from the ardency of it, digs his nails into jungkook’s waist. jungkook pushes him up against the pier with his hands and kisses him something heavenly, or maybe the polar opposite of that with how deep and sultry he licks into yoongi’s mouth—still like honey, if the honey was on fire. yoongi’s fingers skitter up to his face where they press against his jaw, feel the way it works, so nice, so—

“ah, yoongi,” jungkook says, and breaks away, quite suddenly. yoongi chases after him instinctively, and blinks his eyes open; has to blink a few more times to take jungkook into focus. jungkook, staring at him, lidded eyes, mouth red and swollen, hanging open as he pants.

“what,” yoongi mumbles hazily, hands pawing at his shoulders, “what, why—”

“we should probably,” jungkook begins, and closes his mouth. yoongi stares up at him, his brain slowly regaining function. jungkook’s eyelashes flutter rapidly, and the flush on his face darkens. “ah. um. we should probably… slow down if we… want to get out soon.” he gives a tiny, frustrated sigh, and looks at yoongi, pained. “i am not entirely flaccid.”

yoongi blinks up at him. then a laugh bursts out of his throat—he laughs in quiet cut-off sounds, his shoulders shaking, clinging to jungkook for support.

“yeah,” he grazes his teeth against his bottom lip, looks up at jungkook through his lashes. “yeah, me neither.”

“—cool.” jungkook looks flustered and embarrassed but he’s also smiling. “that’s—good. i’m, um. i’m glad.”

“it’s very cool,” yoongi grins, places his fingertips against jungkook’s chest, gives a light push. “it also won’t go away if you stay close.”

“ah. yeah.” jungkook takes a couple of steps back. he makes to turn away, but stops, looks at yoongi, looks slightly troubled. “this… this might be, uh, redundant, but…” he rubs at the side of his neck. “this means that… you like me, right? you… want me, and want to be with me?”

“it’s not redundant.” yoongi hugs himself at the waterline. he knows he’s at least as pink as jungkook’s cheeks. “there isn’t really such a thing as too much communication.” he chews on his bottom lip. “we’ll talk about everything, yeah? but, um. yeah. yes. i like you. like you a lot, kook.”

when he can make himself look up from the ripples on the water, jungkook is smiling at him—so purely happy that yoongi’s heart leaps, and he thinks, oh. oh.

think i a little bit more than like you.

“i like you a lot too, hyung,” jungkook hums, and yoongi smiles back, close-mouthed and timid but just as happy. jungkook is about to turn away again, but halts, again—”hyung—”

“shoo,” yoongi says softly, and mildly splashes water on him. jungkook just laughs, quiet, and cuts through the water.

 

/

 

it’s a strange ten to fifteen minutes, or maybe something closer to twenty to thirty minutes if he’s honest. they hang out in the lake with a considerable distance between them and the knowledge that they are both somewhat hard and they did that to each other. it’s not—embarrassing, not really, it’s surprisingly comfortable considering they are essentially waiting for their boners to die down. meeting eyes makes them laugh, yoongi hanging onto the ladder again, turning his gummy smile down at the water.

jungkook gets a determined look on his face when yoongi tells him about the ring chulmoo found and gifted to him the other day—and then he just, dives off.

“oh, my god, you don’t have to, like, compete for my affection with a nine-year-old,” yoongi mumbles when jungkook shoves a fistful of something like slimy pondweed at him. “or—or anyone for that matter—”

“it’s all i could find, it is very dark down there, please take it,” jungkook says very seriously, and yoongi takes the limp lake plants from him, so ridiculously, helplessly fond he thinks he might burst, or his cheeks might split from smiling so wide for so long.

“thank you,” he murmurs, glancing up at jungkook under his lashes, and jungkook blinks, looks at yoongi like he is something extraordinary. he grabs the edges of the ladder on either side of yoongi, caging him in, and pulls himself close. very slowly, closes the distance, touches his lips to yoongi’s, chaste and tentative. yoongi closes his eyes, kisses him back as softly, clutching the slimy fucking plants to his heart.

“i can’t believe this,” jungkook whispers against his mouth, sounds genuinely awed, and yoongi is caught between quoting naruto and saying believe it, and bursting into tears. he compromises, and kisses jungkook harder, before planting a palm against his chest, and pushing him into the lake.

“don’t look,” he says as he turns to the steps, grinning at him over his shoulder, “i’m getting out.”

jungkook gives him the ok sign and promptly submerges. ridiculous. and wonderful.

yoongi pats himself somewhat dry with the honey blanket, and quickly gets dressed with it draped across his shoulders. he holds it open in front of him as jungkook rises from the water.

“‘m not looking,” he mumbles, face turned away, gaze skimming the edge of the pier until the blanket is pulled from his hands, and he feels jungkook pivot. when he faces forward, jungkook is standing right in front of him, wrapped softly in the blanket held together at his chest and falling off his shoulders, water clinging to the tips of his hair like crystals.

“i wouldn’t mind if you did,” he says, a faint smile curving his mouth.

oh, yoongi mouths, feels warm all over. it’s a good warmth. they kiss again on the pier, with yoongi on his tiptoes. then again with yoongi on his soles and jungkook adjusting to his height.

the fire is completely dead. the camp feels that way too as jungkook leads the way through the darkest dark part between the shore and the camp buildings, the thick canopy of the birches and oaks preventing starlight from passing through. yoongi’s ability to see at night resembles that of the echolocation of bats in that it is largely reliant on sound. he doesn’t see shit and emits a continuous shrill sound until someone comes to get him. so he just hangs onto jungkook’s fingers and trails after him, the wet blanket draped over a shoulder and soaking through his shirt.

as if it hasn’t been enough and more, yoongi pulls at jungkook’s hand at the wooden signpost, and asks, hushed because the silence makes him feel like it should be handled with care:

“stay with me tonight?”

maybe he’s greedy, maybe he’s insatiable, but he wants to touch more, in a way they were too shy to with their clothes off. he doesn’t think they’ll talk tonight. not comprehensively at least. there’s a good kind of exhaustion gnawing at him, the kind that makes you feel like you lived today, and he’ll be happy to just be close to jungkook and sleep.

jungkook runs back to his cabin to dry off properly and change into clean clothes while yoongi does the same, puts on pajama bottoms and a mismatched print tee. then he just kind of sits at the head of his bed wiggling his bare toes and trying to browse his phone as he waits for jungkook; finds that he’s unable to concentrate on anything and ends up just staring at his background picture which is his dog. it kind of sinks in—there’s a very real chance jungkook will meet holly.

if he wants. if he will still want.

it feels like two universes meeting and merging together. it doesn’t feel quite real.

looks up at the sound of the door opening. jungkook slips in, without knocking as always, but yoongi doesn’t even think to playfully scold him this time. closes the door behind him, and for a moment or two, just stands there across the room, looking clean and fresh and good as always in his baby blue above-knee shorts and white tee that’s swallowing him. and there’s a strange kind of tension in the air—it’s not bad strange, necessarily, but it’s different. like they know each other a bit differently now, and are still getting used to it.

and they are not about to have sex, but yoongi is slightly nervous, just at the thought of sleeping with him, literally sleeping with him. he distantly realizes that he’s more nervous and giddy and excited about literally sleeping with jungkook than he’s been about having actual sex with some people in the past, and that… probably means something.

“gonna join me?” yoongi asks, and that’s when jungkook finally moves, circles to the side of the bed yoongi left empty for him, teeth tugging at his bottom lip, the tiniest smile curling the corner of his mouth like he can’t quite get rid of it.

yoongi swallows, leaves the light on. gets under the covers with jungkook, and for a moment, they are far apart, facing each other but almost all the way on the opposite sides of the bed—they look at each other in the soft light, and yoongi’s fingers curl in the sheets. god, goddammit. he feels like he’s sharing a bed with a boy he likes for the first time ever, feels as awkward and clueless and inexperienced as he was at thirteen—

but then jungkook’s smile grows, wild and untamed like he can’t help it, like he’s happy, and he is all rosy and bright and lovely, and yoongi thinks, it’s jungkook. it’s just jungkook.

ironically, he thinks this may be how he meant that sentiment from the start.

it’s jungkook.

the jungkook who makes you laugh who makes you feel good who makes you feel safe.

the jungkook who mixes up his toothbrush and toothpaste in the morning who sings in the shower who named the snake they found after a teenage mutant ninja turtles character.

the jungkook with whom you just had inconvenient mutual boners in a lake. yeah, that jungkook.

yoongi smiles back, a breathy laugh escaping his throat. jungkook reaches over, bridges the distance, touches his fingertips to yoongi’s wrist. their warmth spreads everywhere, everywhere in the matter of seconds, and it’s easy after that.

yoongi wraps fingers around his arm above his elbow, pulls him in; jungkook comes easy, rolls on top of him, pins him to the mattress with his body, chest to chest and hips to hips, leg between yoongi’s, forearms bracketing his head; heavy and solid and warm against yoongi, who’s swallowing down petals, camellias or hellebores or winter honeysuckle, blinking rapidly up at his pretty face hovering so close above him.

his hands looping around jungkook’s back, fingertips pressing in on the wings of his shoulder blades; jungkook’s elbows sunk in the mattress above yoongi’s shoulders, his fingers touching to the edges of his face so gently, and he, god, he brushes the hair out of yoongi’s eyes like he is the most precious fragile thing he’s ever touched—yoongi feels like he’s going to cry, for real, there’s a devastation happening in his chest, a burning prickly thing in his throat and behind his eyes. jungkook looks at him like he's something to love, nudges at yoongi’s nose with his own, whispers,

“kiss you? can i kiss, hyung?”

“yes,” yoongi tries to say but it barely makes a sound; jungkook hears, anyway, and closes the little distance, fitting his mouth to yoongi’s as firmly and seamlessly as they are touching everywhere else. his fingers tangled in yoongi’s hair, cradling his head gently as he pries yoongi’s lips apart with his tongue. they kiss slow and deep and sleepy, and yoongi’s hands skim down his back, dip under his shirt hem, just grazing the bare skin on his lower back.

jungkook pulls back every now and then to press chaste kisses to his mouth before licking in again, just like he did in the lake, and yoongi realizes, this is how he kisses, slow and deep and meticulous with these soft little intervals, like he wants to pace it, take his time and devote himself to this, to the person he’s kissing—it’s not surprising that jeon jungkook kisses the way he does everything else: like it’s the only thing that matters right then. and as a person with firsthand experience of kissing jeon jungkook, yoongi can only say, that, well. it makes you feel special. it makes you feel like the world. it makes your toes curl and it makes you fall slightly in love, then and there. (actually he can only say the occasional soft ah… ah that jungkook keeps drawing out of him and that’s never happened to him before from just kissing.)

he pushes his hands up jungkook’s shirt, glides his palms over smooth, warm skin and hard muscles, unhurried, purposeless, just to feel him, to hold him, and it’s not going to go anywhere, it doesn’t have to, it’s not about that. not even when jungkook ghosts his thumb over yoongi’s bottom lip, presses the tip just barely in at the corner of his mouth with his lips still brushing yoongi’s, murmurs, almost dazed, your mouth, hyung, so pretty, and you taste like sugary coffee, did you know that, you taste so sweet.

sweet honey hyung.

pushes jungkook onto his back at some point, when sunlight may be pushing in through the windows already, and kisses him like that, with jungkook’s hands running up his shirt, making him feel like melted honey all over, making him feel like he doesn’t ever want to leave this bed, leave this place, leave jungkook.

 

/

 

he wakes up to either natural light seeping in through his eyelids or the sound of a door closing. he expects noise, children’s voices, patter of several pairs of feet, even expects seokjin saying something like, you guys grab his blanket and you guys spray him with water guns; but it’s blissfully quiet. the pair of feet he hears is singular and light-treading. there’s some soft rustling on his left, by the bedside table, and he remembers, oh.

jungkook.

he opens his eyes. he’s facing an empty side of the bed.

“mm.” he sweeps an arm over the wrinkled sheets. “kook. where.”

“here,” jungkook says softly. the mattress tips. someone crawls in from the foot, crawls up yoongi’s legs. jungkook doesn’t climb up all the way, flops down on him and nuzzles his face against yoongi’s tummy, hands curling around his sides. his hair is tousled, sun-faded, and yoongi, barely awake, threads his fingers through it.

“hey,” he says, low and laced with sleep. “where’d you go?”

jungkook says something yoongi cannot make out, and points without lifting his head. yoongi turns to the bedside table to find himself looking at—

“wha’s that.” though he has limited control over his morning voice, he immediately hates how it comes out flat and lackadaisical because it’s flowers, jungkook got him—

“meadow rues,” jungkook says in a small voice, muffled into yoongi’s shirt. “wanted to replace the pondweed with, like, proper flowers. wanted to do that before you wake up. thought it would be—romantic or whatever. but it’s kinda embarrassing.”

“oh,” yoongi whispers. then, again, looking at the flowers, “oh.”

jungkook took the time to tie the stems together with blue twine, to arrange them so prettily. they are rested on their side on the table, brightly white, lacy flowers that resemble little bursts of light, like fireworks, or stars from far away.

“oh,” yoongi says for the third time, this time a strange strangled whisper. he swallows, blinks away a trace of wetness—good fucking god, he’s really about to cry over some flowers—but it’s not fair, jungkook can’t just do nice things for him first thing in the morning—and he’s still refusing to lift his face like he’s embarrassed, hugging yoongi’s middle tightly, the tips of his ears red, lovely, lovely. yoongi’s heart feels fragile. he takes a sharp disjointed breath, blinks some more. softly: “kook.”

slowly, jungkook lifts his face. looks up at him, doe eyes, teeth nipping his bottom lip where it stains pinker than the rest of his mouth. yoongi thumbs at his cheekbone. clears his throat, briefly tips his head back on the pillow to ward off an ocean.

“‘s not embarrassing.” the fact that he’s crying about it is pretty embarrassing. “it’s nice. ‘s really nice. thank you. they’re beautiful.”

he smiles a little bit. jungkook blinks, and then he crawls up his body, fits himself against yoongi like he does so well, dips his head down, noses at his jawline, fingertips playing at his neckline, barely glancing at skin.

“honestly,” he says, “they made me think of you.”

yoongi considers this for a while, hands enclosing jungkook’s tiny waist, eyes skimming the ceiling.

“they look like light,” he says finally.

“they do,” jungkook says.

his lips brush against yoongi’s jawbone just barely. “hyung, should we—” abruptly, his head snaps up. he hovers above yoongi, staring down at him as if he saw a ghost—he actually looks at yoongi like what the fuck is that this time, and yoongi almost begins to laugh, but then he hears what jungkook is hearing.

how are they back, how fucking late is it, zips through yoongi’s mind, and then the porch rattles from an avalanche of tiny feet. jungkook rolls off of him just in time as the door flies open and the kids come swarming in, loudly complaining about being tired or hungry or wanting to go swimming. yoongi sits up fast, shoving a hand into his hair which is 100% in bed state.

“hey guys,” he says, “uh. how was your trip?”

gets varying answers, including fun and my feet hurt and a whole bunch of dabbing.

“what are you doing here?” jiwoo asks, bouncing up to jungkook, who’s slid to the edge of yoongi’s bed. yoongi watches his shoulders, swallowed by the huge tee, the back of his pretty neck, the one fourth of his face that he can see from this angle; thinks, randomly, about him picking meadow rues at the misty edge of the forest in the morning. him tying them up with blue string and thinking of yoongi.

“i’m thinking of moving into this cabin,” jungkook says, grins, and yoongi can see his eyes crinkling from here, “i’m gonna take your bed.”

nooooo,” jiwoo cries, pummeling his tiny fists into jungkook’s open palms. “you have to fight me for it.”

“aaw,” seokjin says loudly from the doorway, where he’s leaning a forearm against the frame, his rucksack slung over a shoulder, mouth twitching as he attempts to restrain a smile. “isn’t this domestic.”

yoongi just tchs softly, avoiding eye contact. jungkook stops play fighting with jiwoo, capturing his fists inside his own, and glances up at seokjin, then at yoongi. blinks owlishly, catches his bottom lip between his teeth.

“um. yeah. i should go. do my job and all that.”

“kook—” yoongi starts, and is instantly acutely aware of the sizeable audience around them. even if the kids aren’t exactly paying attention. he kicks the blanket off his feet, and gets up. rubs at the side of his neck, tilts his head towards the door, and jungkook understands, follows after him, roughing up jiwoo’s hair on the way.

seokjin only subtly smirks at them as they pass him in the doorway, which is suspiciously sufferable of him. he swiftly slips inside, clapping his hands together and going, okay, clean up, the bouncer won’t let you into the dining hall if you have leaves in your hair. they are left alone on the porch, the noise subsiding a little bit as the door hits the frame but doesn’t close.

“we’ll—” yoongi leans back against the wall, and jungkook turns to look at him. yoongi breathes in. “we’ll just talk later. when we have time.”

jungkook looks slightly conflicted, his brow creasing faintly, and yoongi gets it, he does. there’s probably a lot they need to talk about. what they are now, what they will be, what is going to happen when the summer ends. yoongi needs reassurance, badly, actually, needs jungkook to tell him they are doing this, they are taking this home. needs jungkook to tell him the summer is ending but they are only starting.

“hyung—” jungkook begins, shifting closer. yoongi drops his gaze down to where his fingers find jungkook’s shirt, twiddle with it aimlessly.

“there’s time,” he says. a few moments pass like that, yoongi staring at his fingers in the white of jungkook’s shirt at his lower stomach. then, softly, jungkook presses his lips to yoongi’s forehead.

oh. yoongi appears to be the perfect height for jungkook to forehead kiss. that’s good to know.

it’s only brief, lasts for a few seconds. and again, maybe yoongi’s been deprived of this sort of thing, soft intimate touches, a certain kind of closeness; maybe he hasn’t met many people who are this gentle; maybe it’s simply because it’s jungkook. in any case, he feels his heart skip a beat and then rush to catch up, feels filled to the brim with something and doesn’t know what to do with it.

“thank you for the flowers,” he whispers, “i said that already. but it was a really nice thing to do.”

“if it makes you happy, i’ll give you flowers every morning,” jungkook says, and sounds so… pure, like he really means it, like he really would.

“ah,” yoongi murmurs, closing his eyelids just for a moment. jungkook presses another fleeting kiss to his cheekbone, a tiny peck, and it feels like a smile.

“i’ll see you later, hyung.”

yoongi opens his eyes to see him fly down the stairs, down the walkway and then abruptly off-road as he leaps over some rose bushes in the most inconvenient shortcut of all time like his inner gps just went turn left here and jungkook went okay despite the very obvious lack of anywhere to turn. yoongi shakes his head, at least five different kinds of amazed.

“where did you get the flowers?” hajoon wants to know as he returns inside. he’s kicking his feet at the edge of his bunk, and he’s got probably a million twigs and a couple of tiny woodland creatures smuggled in the depths of his messy hair that makes yoongi’s look presentable in comparison.

“i seem to be not so secretly admired by spider-man,” yoongi tells him as he digs a set of clothes out of his bag. glances at him as he shakes out a wrinkled t-shirt. “lucky, huh?”

“my mom said only girls can get flowers from boys,” minsoo says, grimacing up at yoongi, who sits down on the bed and rakes fingers through his hair a couple of times over.

“well,” seokjin says in a friendly tone from his bunk, “you can tell your mom that her beliefs reinforce heteronormative gender roles and hypermasculinity and have no place in a world that’s striving towards a more inclusive and loving society.”

“hyung,” yoongi says.

“am i wrong,” seokjin gives him a look. yoongi sighs a little, and turns to minsoo.

“anyone can give and receive flowers,” he says, raising his eyebrows. “it’s a nice way of showing someone you care about them. you can actually say a whole bunch of things with flowers. it’s a language of its own. yellow flowers usually mean friendship, for instance.”

“can you tell people to piss off with flowers?” sungho calls.

“i’m sure you can,” yoongi nods. “that’s not the type of thing we’re supposed to encourage here, though, so, like... when you look it up, don’t tell namjoon i put you up to it.”

“what do those flowers mean?” hajoon asks, and yoongi tugs at his bottom lip with his teeth.

“i’d have to look it up,” he murmurs, “but i think… these flowers were picked because they are pretty. they mean… that the one who picked them… wanted to make someone happy. wanted to tell them… that they think they are also… pretty. or something like that. weren’t you going to take everyone to eat?” he glances briefly in seokjin’s direction, his ears on fire.

“i’m interested in hearing more about what these flowers mean, though,” seokjin says, amused, and is thankfully immediately overthrown by a mutiny of kids loudly demanding for food. “okay, okay. food it is. line up, guys. remember to give flowers to your friends and enemies because flowers are neat. that’s one of the most important lessons we hope you’ll take away from this experience, along with consume media critically and it’s always okay to punch a homophobe.”

“are we really teaching them those things though,” yoongi mumbles. “like are you sure that’s our agenda.”

“well, we should be,” seokjin touches a hand to his chest as he stands by the door ushering the kids out. “i am, at least.”

after pulling on his clothes, yoongi sits for a while longer, gnawing on the edge of his thumbnail, absently eyeing the small bouquet and wondering what the life expectancy of wildflowers is once cut. thinks he should put them in a glass of water.

there’s a hand in his hair, not his own. yoongi hadn’t noticed seokjin was still in the room.

“happy for you,” seokjin murmurs, and yoongi is sincerely touched and a little bit unnerved by his rare display of human emotion, at least until he goes on to say: “so happy that you finally got over me. maybe not completely, maybe there’s still a yearning somewhere deep inside you, a part of you wondering what if. and it will most likely always be that way. but you’re moving on and i’m so proud of you for that.”

“jesus god,” yoongi says, pained, “it’s been four years, please let it go. i don’t remind you of your worst mistakes, do i.”

“ouch,” seokjin comments. “it’s okay. we both know it was the best time of your life.”

“sure it was, hyung,” yoongi snorts quietly. seokjin combs a hand through his hair once more, pushing it out of his forehead.

“also. as soon as we get back to seoul, i’m giving you a haircut. this is just atrocious.”

 

/

 

“—so unless anyone has anything to add… that concludes the last staff meeting of the year.” namjoon knocks his wad of extra copies of the schedule against the kitchen counter, and gives a glance around the room. “i know the last week’s rolling in, and everyone’s a bit melancholic… but we can’t let that affect the collective mood. there’s going to be a time for being sad. you can see that’s scheduled for saturday.” he points at the schedule. “10PM-1AM. being sad together.”

seokjin raises his hand. “do i have to come.”

“yes,” namjoon says, “this is a mandatory team-building exercise.”

“okay, with all that out of the way.” taehyung springs up from his seat, promptly walks to the small whiteboard on the wall right of the counter, and ruthlessly wipes off the meeting agenda with a vague sound of protest from namjoon. “let’s move on to the real topic of this meeting.”

“what real topic,” namjoon says, and sounds like he’s already regretting asking as the words come out of his mouth. taehyung directs the eraser pad at him.

“excellent question.”

he turns to the board, picks a red marker, and swiftly swipes it across the surface in the shape of a giant M, then stands aside with his arms folded as a puzzled silence falls over them.

“men,” jimin nods, “thank god, it’s about time we address that problem.”

“murder,” seokjin suggests. then he points at jimin at the other table. “and that’s both a guess and a possible solution to the issue you raised.”

“it’s a heart,” taehyung frowns, and aggressively retraces the outline a few more times, before turning to the room. “i’m talking about all the romance that’s been happening here. you.” he points the marker at namjoon, who’s hovering by the counter looking mildly distressed, and then shifts it to jimin, drawing an invisible red line in the air between them. “what happened on the trail? i need details. i’ve got money riding on this.”

“uh, rude?” seokjin says. “i was there too, yet i don’t see you paying attention to me? does my eyewitness account count for nothing?”

“that’s because you have the least credibility in this room,” taehyung says. “i can’t trust a single thing that comes out of your mouth.”

“excuse me, i study law,” seokjin says mildly.

“and we’re all very concerned because of that,” yoongi says. it makes taehyung direct his attention to him, and by extension to jungkook, who’s got his arms loosely looped around yoongi’s middle as yoongi sits on his lap in the armchair, leaning back against his chest in a manner that seems casual now but was more of a flustered rabbit-hearted mess at the beginning of the meeting when jungkook refused to get out of his chair and told yoongi to just sit on his lap without expecting him to actually do it.

jungkook’s hands were hesitant on his hips at first, and yoongi was regretting everything very much for the way his ears were burning; deciding that they could be cool about this, leaned back, mumbled so that only jungkook would hear, we already made out naked in a lake. jungkook’s hot breath hit the back of his neck in short puffs as he laughed, and gently wrapped his arms around yoongi.

it’s been occasionally hard to focus. with jungkook murmuring things like you smell nice, hyung, into his shoulder.

“to you guys i just want to say congratulations,” taehyung says, “i saw jungkook’s walk of shame back to his own cabin in the morning. if that was a thing, which it’s not. stop looking at me like that, i’m sex positive,” he says to hoseok, who levels him with an unimpressed stare from the table next to him. “except that if you boinked in a bunk bed at summer camp, maybe you should be a little bit ashamed.”

jungkook makes something of a dying whale noise behind yoongi, mushing his face against the back of his neck.

“if you must know, and you really don’t, so consider this a demonstration of my good lenient nature,” yoongi says, folding his arms above jungkook’s, “nothing happened. nothing besides literal sleeping.”

“and if you must know,” jimin pipes up, “i realized it’s time to stop fucking around and just go for it after joonie tried to hand-feed nuts to a pack of wild squirrels, and i thought, this wonderful idiot could die at any moment. how detailed do you want me to be? after fighting off the squirrels i just sort of grabbed him and smooched him then and there. it was pretty romantic. the sun was setting. he picked me up. seokjin was there.”

taehyung’s jaw drops gradually. he stares at jimin. then at namjoon. then at jimin again. then he groans half a curse and bends over to lean his palms on his knees.

“jungkook told you to say that,” he realizes, while jungkook snickers behind yoongi. “oh, my god. for a second i thought i just lost my lizard car money.”

“your what now,” yoongi says.

“new bet,” seokjin suggests, “is taehyung thinking about buying a van with the most horrendous reptile-themed paint job he saw someone named chad selling on craigslist or getting his lizard an actual license? this is a tough one.”

“neither,” hoseok says flatly, “he’s talking about a roomba. he’s going to let kandinsky ride around on it.”

“he’s so excited about it,” taehyung sighs, straightening his back, his brow knitted in worry, “i can’t let him down. he still has trust issues from when he got catfished on tinder.”

“your lizard has a tinder?” namjoon asks, not judgmentally, just genuinely amazed.

“i thought it was a good way to find fellow exotic pet owners, okay? maybe even find love for both of us at once?” taehyung spreads his hands. “but the people on there aren’t interested in kandinsky at all? they keep telling me how handsome and fuckable i am and i’m like, please pay attention to my lizard. or they are like, what that lizard do, winky face, and when i send them a picture of kandinsky in a pile of unrolled toilet paper, they unmatch me. usually these people don’t even have an exotic pet. if they say they have a snake i just automatically unmatch them these days because nine out of ten times it’s just their dick and a baby earthworm would be more accurate. the only actual pet owner i met had a parrot who was a straight up asshole. she and kandinsky despised each other. also i’m pretty sure my lizard is gay.”

“wow,” namjoon says after a brief silence. “that was a lot.”

“i can’t tell,” yoongi pipes in, “if this meeting is over or not.”

“it is,” namjoon says, and without missing a beat, seokjin adds: “not.” he leans his elbows on the table and folds forward. “i want to hear more about taehyung’s gay lizard. how did you know? i think my dog might be gay and i want to do my best to support him. also, that reminds me.” he turns to look at namjoon. “is it okay to tell the kids to punch homophobes?”

namjoon presses his lips together and stares him in the eye for a long time.

“i take it you told the kids to punch homophobes.”

“yes,” seokjin nods, “but at no point did i tell them to go out there and actively seek out homophobes to punch or encourage violence towards people who actually have rights.”

namjoon shrugs. “yeah, that’s cool.”

“i have a question,” hoseok raises his hand. “it’s for joon and jimin.”

“this is not a Q&A,” namjoon says, watching astonished as taehyung passes the eraser pad over to hoseok, who takes it and holds it to his mouth like a microphone.

“yeah, thanks. so, my question is, what really happened on the trail, then?”

“oh, what didn’t happen on the trail,” jimin says, and immediately answers his own question: “anything inappropriate, the events were strictly g-rated in the presence of the kids. maybe pg-13 in the tent. and the squirrel thing did happen. i really almost punched a squirrel in its adorable fluffy face.”

“it wasn’t ‘a pack’ of squirrels,” namjoon says, mildly agonized, “and i wouldn’t say i was ‘attacked’. it was two, maybe three squirrels, and they were a bit rowdy at most.” pause. “maybe eight squirrels, and they could’ve used their claws a little more considerately.” pause, all of them still waiting, and finally namjoon lets out a wretched sigh, looks over the room with pure regret in his eyes. his voice cracks a little as he says: “it was over twenty squirrels, and they were merciless. they wanted those nuts and they didn’t care who they had to kill for it. why? i was only trying to be their friend.”

jimin vacates his seat to go console a distressed namjoon, caringly petting his shoulder and propping his chin on the other one, just barely reaching when namjoon stands straight. namjoon instantly deflates with a sad exhale.

they look good together. always did, even before yoongi knew what the hell was going on.

“yeah, it was a whirlwind of squirrels, a squirrelwind,” seokjin says, and starts laughing in the middle of the last word. a couple of groans sound around the room, and taehyung snatches the eraser pad out of hoseok’s hand to hurl it at seokjin.

the whole thing is gradually falling apart at the seams, and jungkook laughs like a music box, like pins plucking gentle clear notes out of the prongs of a steel comb, like something you really would want to put in a box and wind up over and over again.

yoongi feels good. happy. feels that he loves these people. it’s different from how jungkook makes him feel like there’s so much love inside of him he can’t keep it in; it’s not as wild and uncontrollable, it’s more like a melody he already knows. yes, this utter sound of chaos, ironically, is the safest place he knows.

 

/

 

the last week goes by as last weeks do. it… goes. and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. yoongi is reverse homesick. usually, at this point, he’s torn between missing being a part of society and wanting to stay here longer. now the thought of going back into the city just makes him anxious.

things tend to get a little weird around the last week. it’s like the collective melancholia is manifesting in all these strange ways.  

on monday, they find the beanbag that went missing from the lounge some five weeks into the camp, floating in the lake in the reeds a dozen meters down the shoreline.

“alright, who did this,” namjoon says, turning to face the rest of them craning their necks on the shore behind him.

“i mean, i’m just gonna say what everyone’s thinking,” jimin shrugs, “jin-hyung and jungkook were always fighting over it.”

“yeah, and did you see how grief-stricken we were when that small joy was unexpectedly taken from us?” seokjin huffs, immediately in fight mode, which basically means his eyes go wide and his shoulders start doing the shimmy on each word. “we had to start fighting over the decorative wooden bear. it doesn’t even do anything. we have no use for it. yet the person who doesn’t get to hold the bear like a fucking idiot feels like a loser. we’re the last people who would get rid of the beanbag.”

“isn’t it suspicious how eagerly jimin-hyung’s pointing fingers with no prompting whatsoever,” jungkook crosses his arms.

“i mean, i did ask,” namjoon says.

“ha! that means you both did it,” jungkook points at him.

“what?” namjoon screws up his face. “how?”

“yeah, i bet it was namjoon,” seokjin says, “he’s trying to get us to turn on each other. well, i know what you’re planning, and it is working.”

namjoon spreads his hands uselessly, but seems to arrive to the conclusion that it’s not worth it, and lets them flop to his sides.

“yoongi’s been awfully quiet,” jimin points out. yoongi turns around to give him an incredulous look.

“so have forty percent of the people here. only four of us are yelling.”

actually he knows it was hoseok, in a fit of rage. yoongi was coming back from the bathroom and accidentally saw him marching towards the lake with purpose and the beanbag hoisted over his shoulder while visibly fuming with the sort of unique fury seokjin and jungkook’s bickering makes him feel. yoongi just sort of watched from the shadows with his eyes wide and didn’t say anything because that could’ve been a dead body he was getting rid of. if they have to sacrifice the beanbag to spare jungkook and seokjin, then so be it.

“okay, forget about who did it,” namjoon sighs, “let’s just figure out what to do about it.”

“uh,” seokjin frowns, “nothing? we solved the beanbag mystery. well, sort of solved it. we know where it is now. and it looks perfectly happy. look at it.”

they look at it.

“yeah, it seems pretty content with its, like, ophelian sort of fate,” taehyung muses.

“we can’t leave it there, it’s not eco-friendly,” namjoon insists.

“we can’t get to it,” hoseok says, gesturing with a hand. “it’s like, lodged in the swampy part and i don’t even want to know what lives down there.”

“jungkook’s already going,” jimin says.

jungkook is wading through the shallows, water up to his knees and sweatpants rolled to his thighs.

“if i die, tell yoongi-hyung i love h—” he almost loses his balance as he turns to look at them over his shoulder; sways dangerously, fingers grazing the surface, but steadies himself, flashes a mirthful grin at them. “—hentai.”

“i’m breaking up with you,” yoongi deadpans.

“thanks, kook,” namjoon calls, but there’s evident concern in his voice. “be careful, okay? hoseok’s kind of right, that area’s unpredictable—”

“oh!” jungkook sways again halfway to the beanbag, and halts, his back to them. “something touched my leg.”

“i fucking hate this,” hoseok hisses. yoongi glances back at him to see him lean warily back against taehyung’s chest like he’s ready to bounce any second, abhorrence etched onto his face.

jungkook is not moving forward. he seems to be scouring the area around him, turning in half circles and raking his eyes through the water. gripping onto the legs of his sweatpants, waddles around so that his front is to the exuberant bank, and just stares down at his feet.

“oh,” he says again, mouth staying in the shape of a ring, and stabs his hand into the water.

“no,” hoseok just says, backing up into taehyung. “no, no—”

jungkook pulls something out of the lake to the sound of both hoseok and seokjin going no no no with varying numbers of exclamation marks attached.

“jesus fuck,” yoongi whispers as jungkook dangles a swamp eel longer than his forearm in front of him, and turns to look at them.

“no! no!” seokjin screams. “what is wrong with you!”

jungkook points at the eel, then shoves his fist in their direction. a wave of ambiguous startled noises rides over them. seokjin puts his fists up.

“i’m just gonna.” hoseok doesn’t even attempt to finish. he just turns around, walks very calmly halfway across the beach, then slowly gets down on the ground and sort of just lies there as if he went to sleep.

“go see if hoseok’s okay,” namjoon sighs, and both jimin and taehyung scuttle up to him and squat around him, poking and patting at him. seokjin goes too, but only to sit in the sand next to him with a vacant look on his face. yoongi bites at his lips and wraps his arms around himself, turns back to jungkook, who’s released the eel and continued onwards to the beanbag.

“that’s my boyfriend,” he says, nodding. without looking, namjoon holds his hand out for a high-five. and yoongi supposes it genuinely is worth high-fiving.

on monday, jungkook leaves goldenrods in the glass of morning rues on yoongi’s bedside table.

 

/

 

on tuesday, taehyung calls them into the lounge for an emergency meeting, and for the longest while, none of them can figure out what it’s about or what the scribbles filling the whiteboard are. taehyung has a slightly crazed look in his eyes and he keeps saying the words sustainable farming.

finally yoongi realizes it’s a detailed thirty-point plan to turn the place into a profitable organic farm where they can stay as farmers and grow their own food and they’d never have to go back into the city. yoongi is interested, honestly.

“this is what you’ve been doing with your time?” namjoon asks incredulously. “what about the kids?”

“oh, yes, they’ve been very helpful,” taehyung says. tries to snap the cap back on the dry erase marker but misses, ends up stabbing himself in the palm and yeeting the cap across the room. he doesn’t seem to notice. just sticks the pen into his mug of coffee on the table instead of the thing of markers next to it. “their ideas, of course, are completely useless and unlucrative. it makes no sense to invest in hot air balloons. that’s just more loss than gain. but i appreciate the participation.”

“i think you should take a rest, tae,” jimin starts, a worried frown setting on his features.

“i haven’t slept in twenty-eight hours,” taehyung says, and laughs. then he abruptly stops. stares blankly at the floor as if he just remembered he left the stove on. then he turns, walks up to the table, wordlessly climbs on, curls onto his side, and doesn’t move after that.

“i can’t believe taehyung’s dead,” jungkook says.

“i’ll get a blanket and a pillow for him,” hoseok sighs, swooping out of the room.

“this is actually pretty impressive,” namjoon comments as he scans the whiteboard. “this is like, all the keys to organic farming.”

“oh wow,” seokjin breathes, “wow, i can’t believe we’re doing this, guys. yet it feels right.”

“we’re not doing this.” namjoon gives him a look. “i’d love to be farmers with you guys—”

“then it’s settled,” seokjin says, reaching into his back pocket for his phone. “let me just make a few phone calls.”

he thumbs at his phone as he wanders towards the exit; brings it to his ear, and the line is actually ringing, the muffled long beeps carrying to where the rest of them watch his retreating back.

“who are you calling?” namjoon almost trips over a chair as he hurries after seokjin in panic. “seokjin, who are you calling—”

on tuesday, they do not become farm owners, but jungkook gives yoongi yarrows, and the little glass is getting full of flowers.

 

/

 

on wednesday, they go to the paintball arena a two-hour bus ride away, and for a while, everyone forgets it’s the last week. the kids are pumped and the counselors are even more pumped.

while the kids are going to be having a fun, friendly game of capture the flag on the outdoors field, the counselors are going to be playing something they call capture the flag 2: this time, the flag captures you back in the indoors hay bale maze, with namjoon serving as their weaponized, mobile flag.

usually, unless yoongi gets shot within the first ten minutes of the game, he hangs out in some nice cosy nook for a while and then shoots himself in the leg to go get iced coffee from the front lobby. that is to say he doesn’t take this seriously.

this year, though—

jungkook looks lethally good across the circle in all black save for the blue team vest, also worn by taehyung and a dozen campers; his mask perched on the top of his head, his weight on one foot, his gun linear to the line of his leg. the instructor is giving them the rundown, which yoongi is half tuning out because he’s familiar with the rules.

jungkook takes this game very seriously. jungkook takes everything seriously until he gets so good at it he doesn’t have to try. it’s purely the look he gives yoongi across the circle—the unholy, provocative smirk he has owned during this summer—that makes yoongi decide to play. because at the root of things, jungkook is asking for a challenge. and yoongi doesn’t know how not to give him things.

“remember, guys, this is a friendly game, and we’re here to have fun,” calls namjoon, taking the center stage, but is drowned out by the yellow team fervently chanting:

“kim seokjin! kim seokjin! you’ll all lose! we will win!”

namjoon takes such a deep breath that for a moment it looks like he isn’t going to stop until his chest inflates like a balloon and he floats away in search of more peaceful lands inhabited entirely by tiny round animals you can fit into the palms of your hands.

“it doesn’t matter who wins,” he starts again, “it only matters that—”

“kim seokjin! kim seokjin! who will lose? park jimin!”

hey,” jimin yelps, offended, right next to yoongi’s ear. in the middle of the circle, namjoon visibly gives up.

“nothing personal, jimin,” seokjin smirks, “your name is the only one that rhymes.”

“did you teach the kids to chant your name like some kind of a power-drunk emperor with a god complex?” namjoon turns to ask the yellow team incredulously.

“no, that’s our team name,” seokjin says mildly, which, yoongi is pretty sure, only furthers namjoon’s point.

“i was opposed to this,” hoseok says flatly beside him.

“you know we’re going to be playing separately from the kids?” namjoon gestures around broadly.

“they can still bring honor to the name kim seokjin,” seokjin says, “it’s called unity, namjoon. do we stop being friends as soon as you walk out the door? depends on why you walked out the door. if you told me, i’m just gonna run to the store, you want anything? yeah, we’re still friends. if i was begging you not to go, on my knees, tears in my eyes, screaming, namjoon, please! don’t go! please! pleaseee! and you just walked out… man, we might not be friends anymore.”

“i think your point’s getting away from you,” namjoon says.

“the point is obviously that we don’t lose our group identity when we’re apart, namjoon.”

“we need a team name,” jimin says fiercely, turning to his team.

“i thought we were team red,” yoongi says impassively.

“team red as the flag will be once we lather it in seokjin’s blood and take our rightful place as the true and only kings of the paintball field,” jimin raises his fist.

“that is absolutely unacceptable and horrifyingly disgusting,” namjoon points at jimin. “we don’t support monarchy here.”

“you do know he just implied he’s going to lather you in blood,” yoongi says, baffled.

and that is the entire lead-up to this record screech—yup, that’s me. you must be wondering how i got myself into this situation moment which is: yoongi diving behind a stack of hay bales, hissing motherfucker under his breath, scrambling backwards in the loose hay until his back hits the barricade. checks his sleeve for yellow paint, and finding none, tips his head back against the coarse hay to catch his breath, gun hanging between his bent knees, and considers how hard it actually is to stay in the game. even though he’s fast on his feet and has a long history of aiming and shooting at things—these people are fucking ruthless when it comes to paintball.

they are using every tactic imaginable to take each other out. yoongi doesn’t think anyone is moderating this game. seokjin and jimin would’ve gotten themselves removed from the venue some thirty minutes ago if there was any kind of god or law. but there is only war and denounced friendships and soon yoongi’s on the move again because a flash of white in his peripheral tells him namjoon’s close and he’s trying to avoid him until he finds jungkook.

he hasn’t seen him since the rundown. but he’s heard whispers. rumor has it the blue team is picking people off one by one in the east wing.

it wasn’t so much a whisper as it was hoseok striding past him towards the exit, covered in blue paint, front and back, loudly announcing, i’m done, i’m out, i’ll be at the arby’s.

yoongi knows it’s a trap, an ambush, because of how he looked like he’d rolled around in blue paint. he’s still headed that way because it’s not like there’s anything else to do. with hoseok out, there’s only seokjin who’s being targeted by jimin, namjoon whom he’s avoiding, and the blue team ambushing people in the east wing.

unfortunately he’s on namjoon’s radar, and is forced to fire half-assed warning shots at him; then seokjin spots him in the distance, engages him in a shootout. yoongi ducks behind barricades, trying to draw the fight towards the east wing to bring company to jungkook and taehyung’s door, but seokjin and namjoon zero in on one another, and soon yoongi finds himself alone and also out of ammo. tries firing the way he came from a couple of times, but it’s no use, and he swings the gun to his side. he supposes there’s only one thing left to do, and that is to get shot.

but when a shot whooshes past his shoulder and explodes in a splatter of blue across the floor at such an odd angle it has to be coming from above the barricades, he points his gun anyway as he spins around.

jungkook seems to drop out of the damn ceiling. yoongi really wishes hajoon could’ve seen that. it was very spider-man.

jungkook stands up slow, back straight, and they hold each other at gunpoint. the masks they’re wearing resemble the front of a motorcycle helmet and cover the entire face, but it’s not difficult to tell jungkook’s grinning when he says:

“i was waiting for you, hyung.”

“if you missed me, you could’ve come meet me,” yoongi says, “kind of rude to make me come all the way here.”

“but you did come, didn’t you?”

“are you guys going to stand around and flirt for the rest of the day?” comes taehyung’s voice from behind yoongi. he glances back over his shoulder to see him leaning back against the face of a barricade like a leather jacket wearing greaser from the 50’s, also holding yoongi at gunpoint. an ambush, surely enough. “‘cause like, tell me if you are so i can go do something else.”

“it’s okay, i’ve got this,” jungkook calls, and yoongi turns back to him. “he’s out of ammo.”

“you seem sure about that,” yoongi says, tilts his head. “you sure you wanna take that gamble? you could just surrender.”

“you’d like that, wouldn’t you.” yoongi hears the godforsaken smirk. also hears taehyung groan faintly in the distance. “nah, i don’t think you’re going to see me surrender in this lifetime. so go ahead. shoot me.”

“fine, whatever,” taehyung says, and yoongi hears him move in the loose hay. “i’ll be out there, somewhere, far away probably.”

“i’m giving you one last chance, ‘cause i’m nice,” yoongi says. his arm is starting to tire. “surrender or i’ll shoot you inside the minimum distance.”

“go ahead,” jungkook says, and infuriatingly, tips his gun towards the ceiling. “shoot me.”

yoongi narrows his eyes, grazes his teeth over his bottom lip, and jungkook doesn’t see any of it. he’s surprised to feel a spike of genuine irritation at having to admit defeat. he never cared. even now his bones are aching and he’s pretty sure his knee is bleeding and he really misses coffee. yet he’d rather have his kneecaps pulled out than give jungkook an easy victory. actually, no, he’d rather not have his kneecaps pulled out. that’s way too much. but it’s still weird. it’s weird how jungkook gets under his skin like that. like he’s made a home for himself there.

with a heavy sigh, he takes his gun off of jungkook, lets it drop towards the floor. barely anything changes in jungkook’s body language, but yoongi can sense the shit-eating grin. he shakes his head slightly as jungkook aims the gun at him again.

“looks like it’s me who has to offer you a chance to surrender,” jungkook muses. “so how about it, hyung?”

yoongi considers, for a moment, and possessed by something—what is it, stubbornness? recklessness? defiance? maybe he just doesn’t want to make this easy for jungkook because jungkook wouldn’t want that?—he takes a step forward, says,

“no.” jungkook tilts his head, his gun arm lowering just a little bit as he considers this turn of events. yoongi keeps moving slowly closer. “not gonna surrender, kook. you’ll have to shoot me.”

“hyung…” jungkook says slowly, like a warning, maybe, and moves back as yoongi moves in. he wiggles the gun slightly from side to side in his hand. “it’s gonna hurt, hyung.”

well, yoongi has experience with shooting himself in the leg, so he knows close range hurts. not unbearably, but it bruises, it can even break skin and bleed. yet he keeps backing jungkook up, heart thudding with an adrenaline rush.

“i know,” he says, “that’s okay. it happens. shoot me.”

“c’mon, hyung,” jungkook murmurs, lets yoongi corner him against a barricade. “don’t wanna have to shoot you. just surrender. pretty please.”

yoongi comes closer, closer until his chest makes contact with the barrel of the rifle and jungkook still hasn’t fired and yoongi realizes, oh.

of course.

it’s trust.

the thing possessing him. he knows jungkook won’t shoot. wouldn’t get mad if he did, but—knew from the start he won’t.

“go ahead,” he says, heart thudding against the muzzle of the barrel not from a fight or flight reaction but this thrill of knowing jungkook wouldn’t do that to him, this thrill of being handled with care, of—of being loved. the absolutely fucking euphoric thrill of being loved. still, pushes it, grabs the barrel, holds it to his chest. “shoot me, c’mon. you have my permission. i can take it.”

“that’s not fair,” jungkook says, entirely dark, breathy like stormy wind.  

the fact that jungkook wouldn’t shoot anyone point blank in the chest, wouldn’t shoot most people at close range, doesn’t take away from it at all. doesn’t remove the fact yoongi is loved by him.

“calling your bluff,” yoongi whispers, fingers slipping off the rifle. “you won’t hurt me.”

the gun drops, smacks against the stack of hay bales.

“don’t wanna hurt you,” jungkook mumbles, “only wanna kiss you. can i—can we—”

yoongi wrenches the mask off his face, fuck the mask-on rule, lets it clatter to the floor. jungkook follows suit instantly, and yoongi doesn’t get a real chance to take in the entire heavenly choir moment that is jungkook removing his mask, or how much yoongi couldn’t do his face justice despite picturing it in the place of the expressionless black mask this entire time—only glimpses flushed skin, hair sticking up at odd angles and stray strands glued to his forehead, stark brows and red mouth, and then jungkook hooks a hand around the back of his neck and tugs him in.

yoongi goes easy, presses him flush against the barricade, hands fisted in the lapels of his hoodie, kisses him like it’s the last time he’ll ever get to do that.

they get shot like that, which is pretty romantic. actually only yoongi gets shot, and jungkook’s hand just happens to be there in the way of the paint splatter on the small of his back when someone fires at his spine with frightening accuracy.

“hyung,” jungkook gasps when yoongi collapses on him dramatically. “yoongi! noooooo!” he sags there limply with his eyelids closed and takes this opportunity to die in jungkook’s arms, which are very good arms to die in because they do the following: hold his entire weight up, lower him on the floor with utmost care, cradle him gently against a chest that is similarly an ideal chest to die against. jungkook bellows: “you killed him! you monster!”

“oh, come on, guys, put on your masks,” yoongi hears namjoon’s distant voice, “that is extremely uns—no, don’t shoot at me! you’re out of the game, kook!”

they walk out of the paintball arena jungkook’s paint-splattered hand in yoongi’s. the green paint clumped in yoongi’s hair and adorning his earlobe and jaw is also from jungkook’s hand. they walk to the arby’s a couple of blocks down the street, to their friends who stick out like anime protagonists at one of the tables. they look terrible, hoseok excessively covered in blue paint, jimin with streaks of yellow down his arm, seokjin an entire color scheme with red, green, and blue on him, and yoongi has no doubt in his heart he deserved that. they also look happy. balled up burger wrappers and sleepy grins and soft drinks dangling from fingertips. receiving looks but not giving a shit.

“is this the losers’ table?” yoongi asks, letting go of jungkook’s hand to scoot onto the seat when seokjin makes room.

“yup, welcome,” hoseok says, and pushes a plate of french fries at them. “you’re gonna love it here.”

on wednesday, jungkook jogs up to him and tugs him by the sleeve as they’re filing into the bus, presses a delicate blue geranium into his palm.

“blue,” he grins, “like the shot i didn’t take.”

 

/

 

on thursday, nothing that strange happens, but yoongi and jungkook get to finally… talk, yoongi supposes, get to sit on yoongi’s bed, cross-legged, knees not quite brushing, mirroring each other like they’re playing a party game at a sleepover. the kids are having a movie night at the dining hall, where they are projecting finding dory onto the wall.

jungkook smiles at the glass of meadow rues, goldenrods, yarrows, and geraniums. yoongi feels warmth tingle at his cheeks, and looks down at his fingers in his lap.

“where do we start,” he mumbles. jungkook reaches out to gently take his hands. pulls them into the space between them, traces the veins and the tendons with the soft pads of his fingers, says:

“here.”

(they start from here:

i know we never called it anything like gave it a name but i’ve already called you my boyfriend a couple of times i hope that’s okay

so have i yes that’s okay that’s more than okay)

(and here:

how long

i think i’ve liked you since i first saw you on the archery field you looked so cool yes i think i already liked you back then

i think i’ve liked you for a long time too always wanted to have you watching on the archery field and it was so strange when you weren’t here so strange how i was always looking around trying to find you)

(and here:

it’s why i felt like i was leading my ex along i was trying to tell myself there’s no way some summertime crush could affect me like that i was with him to get over something that never even happened to me i always felt a bit

haunted

exactly)

(they also start from here:

we’re going to leave here

yes

you’re going to seoul i’m going to busan

yes

it’s not that far i know it’s not that far it’s like what three hours by train there are things that are a lot farther hyung people go to the moon hyung

people do

people go to the moon and they leave someone behind people are apart all the time in fact people are probably apart more than they are together about 80% of a human life is spent missing someone yes that’s a real statistic don’t look it up what i’m saying is

it’s not that far

it’s not that far

we’ll see how our schedules match and we’ll make plans and we’ll meet in the fall and it’s going to be okay

it’s going to be okay

yes

why are there so many pillows on your bed hyung

is that relevant to this conversation

are you stealing pillows from the kids hyung)

(not transcribed: the foreboding unease like acid eating at his lungs, the gnawing fear that never dies, only sleeps for short periods and then wakes up cranky and rampageous, the what if i fuck up what if i’m not good enough what if it’s one of those Periods and i fail to pick up his calls what if i make him feel sad or unhappy or unloved what if i’m just too fucking good at letting things slip through my fingers.)

(also not transcribed: the tiny soft kisses jungkook keeps dropping on his eyelids, his cheekbones, the corners of his mouth, not enough to distract them completely but enough to ease some pressure. the wandering hands, tentatively exploring the batch of bare skin on his hip where the shirt rides up; slip under his shirt, run over his ribs like the gentlest car crash, tickles, makes yoongi want his hands elsewhere, everywhere. it all tastes like the end of something. tastes like touch me while you still can make sure you stay make sure you stay right there on my skin it’s going to be a long winter make sure your warmth stays.)

(in the first half of august, in cabin three at camp euphoria, on the bed claimed by yoongi, in the hoard of stolen pillows, stolen kisses, they start.)

on thursday, jungkook says, wait, i still haven’t given you your daily flower, disappears for three minutes, and comes back carrying an enormous meter-long ironweed. yoongi really doesn’t know what to do with it.

 

/

 

on friday, yoongi employs taehyung to help him blow up balloons before the last archery class. they sit on the edge of the field and taehyung mostly does the blowing and then hands them over to yoongi who ties the necks. he started feeling dizzy around his seventh balloon, whereas taehyung and his woodwind instrument trained lung capacity are on their twenty-fourth and going strong. taehyung’s even maintaining a steady stream of conversation, telling yoongi about his last day at the stables yesterday and how he said goodbye to the horses.

“as good as it gets is not gonna be with us next year,” he says sadly as he chooses a pink balloon.

“oh, no, not as good as it gets.” yoongi stops tying the knot to frown up at taehyung, who sighs wistfully.

“yeah. he’s old, and he’s been really sick, and it’s, like, it’s best for him.” taehyung sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, eyes fixed down, bambi lashes sweeping towards the grass. yoongi reaches over to set a hand on his knee. taehyung meets his eyes, and flashes a sad smile. “he had a full life. he was born, i assume. he was a race horse. never won. he was always friendly to me. stubborn as shit, though. you couldn’t get him to trot if there was a tornado blowing roofs off of buildings. he was like, nah, i already did that. now i walk. he knew his rights. i have so much respect for him.”

yoongi squeezes his knee.

“should we like, release balloons up into the sky to honor him?” he suggests.

“you don’t have helium, do you?”

“no, they’re going to like, shoot off erratically while making a sound that will possibly resemble a fart.”

“perfect,” taehyung says, “let’s do it.”

“to as good as it gets,” yoongi says before they release the balloons in their hands. they rocket off into the field in uncontrollable loops with sad trumpet sounds until they shrivel and die. it’s quite beautiful. it’s like a presentation on the circle of life. “he really was as good as it got.”

taehyung sighs again.

“everything ends,” he says. “this place is not forever at all.”

“like most things,” yoongi says.

“except for like, the empty void all around us and namjoon’s rage if we don’t leave this place cleaner than it was when we came here.” taehyung unfolds his legs and gets up. “better get those balloons back.”

yoongi hangs the balloons on the targets, and then begins with the first group of campers. he makes the last day fun. not that the other days haven’t been. he would never approach this as a school-like obligation. this is summer. they are kids. yoongi would rather be put down than contribute to the societal pressure that’s already on kids this young.

it’s a bit weird, always. he supervises from the back as the kids shoot at balloons and play cops and robbers with padded arrows and he’s simultaneously thinking, thank god it’s over i’m never going to be a teacher, and this is so rewarding like a fifty-year-old father of twelve. it is nice. to see how they’ve improved through the summer and how much fun they are having now. he’s still especially proud of hajoon. he’s not going to claim he sees himself in him because he doesn’t think people say that in real life. but a nine-year-old yoongi picked up archery because he wanted to be more like the archers who looked like they were facing the world head on. and an eight-year-old hajoon compares yoongi to a superhero and tells him he wants to shoot like him, with his back straight and his eyes open.

it’s nice that yoongi can inspire someone to face the world head on. or at least teach them about fake it till you make it.

he procrastinates cleaning up after the last group has given themselves a round of applause for doing a good job this summer and dispersed into the camp. picks up the recurve and empties a quiver into the board arrow by arrow. not thinking about anything aside from the straight line between the arrow and the target.

draw, aim, let it slip through your fingers.

let it slip through your fingers.

let it slip through your fingers.

yoongi fingers fail to follow a simple command. they open jerkily, catch on the string, and the arrow doesn’t land anywhere near the board. collides with the net behind the target, dangles off it for a few seconds before dropping into the grass pathetically. yoongi lowers the bow.

“goddammit,” he whispers.

on friday, jungkook sinks to his knees in the grass next to yoongi on the archery field, and pokes him in the cheek with a tall reed like a kiss.

“you running out of flowers?” yoongi quirks an eyebrow.

“never. i’ll improvise.” yoongi takes the reed from him and spins it in his fingers, the hefty spiked head weighing it down. jungkook sits with his legs folded on one side of his body, like a mermaid; leans his weight on one arm and watches yoongi’s fingers. he looks so unbearably pretty. lithe and almost delicate. the s-line of his body all soft curves and valleys. “i hear those plants are also called cattails.”

yoongi looks at the plant in his hands.

“reminded you of me?” he guesses.

“i’m glad you’re self-aware, hyung,” jungkook murmurs, and a moment later, there’s a weight on yoongi’s shoulder as he hooks his chin on it. “sir, are you aware you’re a cat?”

yoongi slaps him in the nose with the cattail.

 

/

 

on saturday, they do all the typical last evening stuff. bonfire on the shore, namjoon gives a closing speech that’s mostly excerpts from his diary. it goes way too hard for a speech about summer and friends targeted at grade schoolers. this year namjoon makes himself cry and when namjoon cries, hoseok cries, and when hoseok cries they all cry. by the end of the speech, seokjin is extremely frustrated and angrily stomps over to the shoreline to just stand there with his back to them, hands on his hips while the rest of them attempt to discreetly clear their throats and proceed with the schedule.

the kids share their favorite and least favorite things about the summer, and they pass out the friendship bracelets they made earlier today in a classic camp tradition.

“now find your enemy and put this bracelet on them to make amends,” seokjin advices, and yanks jungkook closer to wrestle the bracelet on his wrist.

“or your best friend,” namjoon says in a slightly resigned tone, “or anyone you want to give it to. you can also keep it for yourself, because hey, we should all be friends with ourselves.”

yoongi exchanges bracelets with jimin because they are standing next to each other. yoongi sees they’ve both put equal amounts of work into them. they’re essentially passing pieces of yarn to each other. yoongi and jimin have always been on the same wavelength that way.

“we should get along now that i intend to date your best friend,” jimin grins up at him as he ties the two strands of yarn held together by a single heart-shaped plastic bead around yoongi’s left wrist.

“congrats, by the way,” yoongi quirks an eyebrow. jimin smiles close-mouthed.

“likewise.” he holds out his wrist for yoongi to ring his bracelet around it. “do you know when you and kook will see each other?”

yoongi looks down at his fingers tying the very similar execution except that his two beads are small and round instead of heart-shaped. he was going to put three but someone took the box before he was finished so he just said fuck it, it’s ready. it represents friendship. the silvery one is yoongi and the weird yellow one is jimin. you can tell they were going for gold but ended up with something that looks strangely like gilded mustard.

“we don’t know yet,” he only says.

“i’m sure it won’t be long,” jimin says. he’s trying to be consoling. “you can just, like, jump on the train when you miss each other. even if you only have a day. or half a day. it’s still worth it.”

yoongi nods quietly. makes sure to give a smile to show he appreciates it even though it probably won’t be quite that easy. nothing is ever quite that easy. they have lives in their respective cities. time and money limiting them like some homophobic bullshit. yoongi has grad school and archery tutor lessons, and he also writes pieces for a tiny local internet-based magazine and picks up weekend shifts at a bar to cover his share of rent and all his bills. jungkook works as a barista and a dog-walker alongside college.

there are going to be days he misses jungkook like crazy and a workload keeps him away from train stations. there are going to be times it feels like all they are doing is leaving each other over and over again.

there are going to be times he’s sad jungkook is hundreds of kilometers away. but there are also going to be times he’s happy jungkook is in his life at all and he gets to call him his. and it’s worth it, in the end.

“what about you and joon?”

“actually,” jimin says, wets his lips, “i’m moving to seoul in the fall, so… it shouldn’t be hard to see each other. at least until… well, at least for a while.”

“oh.” yoongi blinks. “oh. that’s really great.”

“yeah.” jimin smiles like he’s trying to hold back but is repeatedly failing. “i decided i want to keep teaching dance to kids, and i’m getting to do that in seoul. we’re not gonna live together, but we’ll be close. i mean. it would be crazy, right? to live together right away?” he frowns to himself. yoongi keeps fucking up the bow he’s trying to make. “like, there’s a reason you don’t do that right at the beginning. right?”

“i don’t know. maybe it’s not that outlandish,” yoongi shrugs, “you basically already live together in the summer.”

seokjin and jungkook are still fighting over the bracelets in the background. yoongi’s ears easily pick up seokjin grunting, take my token of friendship you bastard, and namjoon subsequently yelping, basquiat! was an american neo-expressionist painter.

“sorry,” jimin says, “it feels like i’m—gushing about how easy it’s going to be for us, while you—”

“it’s okay. really.” yoongi lets go of his wrist. “i’m happy for you.”

he’s so glad he really means that. that he’s happy and only that even though he and jungkook won’t be seeing each other as often.

it’s not time to be sad yet. that’s scheduled for 10PM.

right now it’s time to roast marshmallows. so they get on that. yoongi sits on the bench impaling marshmallows on a stick while hajoon holds the bag for him.

“that’s a nice bracelet,” yoongi tells him after hajoon sticks out his skinny arm to show him. “let me guess who made it. woojin?”

“yeah.” hajoon swings his sneakered feet next to him, hugging the massive bag of marshmallows in his lap. you can barely see anything but his wild hair behind it. “‘n i gave—gave him mine.”

“are you gonna stay friends after you go back home?”

“mm-hm. he lives far though. he lives in wonju.”

“everyone’s having a little trouble with distance, huh,” yoongi mumbles, and glances down at hajoon. “that’s not a hurdle you can’t cross. you guys have phones, right? you can text. or write letters, even.”

he should write jungkook letters. that’s a good idea, right? it feels like a good idea right now. the kind of romantic gesture jungkook would appreciate. he tends to find writing down his feelings is easier than saying them out loud, anyway. wow, he’s actually getting sort of pumped about letters.

hajoon’s poking him in the side.

“is that done?” he points at the stick stuffed full of marshmallows. “also i don’t know anyone who writes letters. except maybe my grandma.”

“well, your grandma must be super cool. because writing letters is what cool people do.”

“it’s what old people do.”

“why roast marshmallows when you can just roast me, huh.” yoongi holds the stick out, amused. “you’ve gotten bold since we met. you wanna do this? i’ll help.”

seokjin busts out his guitar at some point and then follows namjoon around playing wii music until namjoon attempts to rip the guitar from his hands to toss it into the fire. after that he settles down in the sand and plays properly, like yoongi’s used to seeing him at their apartment, toes tapping to the mellow beat, in his own world almost, uncaring of how many people are actually listening to him. yoongi kind of hates how easily he commands the general mood—but he’s not complaining because for once seokjin is using his powers for good. it’s nice, his playing layered with the sound of the campfire. feels like one of those forever moments. those moments you already think you’re going to remember forever while you’re still in them. and then you won’t.

you’ll remember there was a campfire and songs played on guitar. you won’t remember which songs. you won’t recall the melodies or the exact way you felt right then. you may feel a similar way once or twice, maybe when you’re driving alone at night and a song you almost recognize comes on the radio, or maybe when you’re just sitting and drinking with friends, and a happiness you almost recognize tickles at the inside of your ribcage; maybe then you think of the night with the campfire and the guitar and the lake and you think it was something like this. was i happier? was it easier? you definitely won’t remember the sand in your shoes working a blister on your foot or the way you had worries just like you’ll have then or any of the realistically unpleasant parts. it’s called nostalgia. that’s what this moment feels like. like it’s going to live forever as a pale gilded imitation, all of its bad bits and complexities worn away.

yoongi would rather remember all of it. to not unreasonably miss something that didn’t exist. he would miss it either way. the sand in his shoes and all. the way looking at jungkook across the fire felt bittersweet and made him want to say terrible things and all. like come to seoul with me. let me follow you to busan.

don’t leave me yet.

just not yet.

the time is crawling towards 10PM.

hajoon falls asleep sitting up, and so yoongi collects him into his arms to relocate him into his bunk. he weighs nothing, and doesn’t wake up, just wraps his tiny arms sleepily around yoongi’s neck. taehyung awws. yoongi pays him no mind and accidentally catches jungkook watching as he turns to the footpath. there’s a tiny forgetful smile on his face like it snuck its way there without him noticing. then he’s getting swarmed by kids who tug at his shirt and demand to be carried by him. yoongi knows the look on his face means he’s calculating how many kids he can carry at once.

yoongi moves hajoon to the quiet cabin three, biting the inside of his cheek to fight the instinctive urge to loudly echolocate in the dark.

“c’mon, superboy,” he mumbles as he places hajoon into the bunk, removes his velcro sneakers, tucks him in, and all the while he barely stirs. seokjin comes in with the rest of the kids, sungho on his back, clinging to his wide shoulders half-asleep. seokjin raises a finger to his lips to shush everyone. jungkook’s bracelet dangles on his wrist, four different colors woven into an intricate pattern.

one by one, they trail back to the shore. yoongi brings extra layers again. a hoodie, his own, not jungkook’s. he doesn’t want it to smell like smoke. jungkook hasn’t asked to have it back, and yoongi’s been trying to decide whether asking if he could keep it would be weird. it would probably be nice to have something of his in seoul. or it might make everything that much harder.

jungkook’s already there, at the end of the charred pine bench. taehyung’s occupying the other end, but there’s a space between them. jungkook’s hand rests on the seat beside him, palm up as if waiting to be filled. it wouldn’t be difficult to tell whose bracelet he’s wearing even if you hadn’t witnessed him get it. it consists of nothing but letter beads which go all the way around the band and spell jinjinjinjinjinjinjin.

yoongi steps over the bench, sits down in the empty spot, slips his fingers into the spaces between jungkook’s, careful, like asking, for me, right? jungkook’s fingers close around his hand immediately like a venus flytrap but without the implication of being trapped and consumed.

“i carried five kids at once,” jungkook whispers to him, eyes big and very sincerely proud of this achievement.

yoongi parts his lips but only to breathe in as he clings to jungkook’s hand. jungkook makes him have to do that sometimes. just take a second and breathe. the garden taking up space in his chest is a good thing, he has come to terms with this. it’s good to be so full of gentle beautiful things. but it’s so abundant it gets difficult to breathe, with vines climbing up his throat, with it still growing, showing no signs of stopping, and yoongi has to wonder: where is it even going to go, how do people do this, where do they store all of this that they are feeling.

“well done,” yoongi whispers back, and doesn’t take his eyes off of jungkook even when he faces forward.

he thinks about gardens. the ones he’s had before. because by this logic, he’s had them before. he’s been in love. or something like that. has felt deeply. one of them turned out to be poisonous and he had to rip each of the plants out, make sure to remove the roots, and for a while he thought nothing would ever grow there again. the one his last boyfriend gave him was pretty for a while, but eventually stopped growing. it was a much kinder death, a mutually agreed upon letting go of something that no longer felt right, it was living things returning to the soil they came from. it was love, sleeping, until jungkook came along and it mistook him for the sun.

he doesn’t remember ever feeling like this. and he probably hasn’t. each garden is unique. each of them was meaningful in their own way. even the poisonous one taught him something. might’ve made him better at loving people.

you don’t recognize you’re falling in love until you’re well on your way. it hits you differently each time. this summer it came in banging on pots and pans, yanked the curtains open; hello, love, it’s been a while. get up. it’s already past noon.

(i’ve never met anyone like him. this is what you say about everyone you fall in love with. but he’s never felt this devastated and this hopeful all at once. his chest endlessly rebuilding and reinventing itself to make room for more flowers. more, more. no one’s ever made his toes curl from just a kiss. there’s a whole list of things jungkook does to him no one’s ever done. typical. he always has to be the first.)

“i need to tell you guys something,” namjoon says. he’s sitting between jimin and seokjin across the fire, elbows on his thighs, toying with the bracelet taehyung gave him. yoongi glances around; everyone’s finally here.

“you’re eloping to the bahamas?” hoseok suggests.

“you’re dying.” taehyung says, and it sounds oddly like he’s just telling namjoon that. like he isn’t even guessing, he’s just stating a fact.

“you’re going to the bahamas to die,” jungkook offers.

“no,” namjoon makes a face. then he sighs a little bit, and pulls his spine upright. “i may not be coming back next year.”

the fire crackles. and that’s the only sound there is for a while. shoots sparks like ill-timed confetti.

yoongi is not a fan of breaking tense silences. usually he lets someone else do it. it’s too much spotlight on him too fast. but there’s too much ambiguity in the air, people picking it apart and trying to determine whether the may means he’s still uncertain. it doesn’t and he isn’t. yoongi didn’t know namjoon was going to say this, but he instantly knows what he means once he does say it. it—makes sense, above all things. that this was going to be the last one.

“you mean you’re not coming back,” he says, and all eyes turn to him. he keeps his on namjoon. “this is your last summer.”

“yeah.” namjoon gives a smile. or at least his mouth briefly curves into the shape of what one would call a smile. “this is it.”

“you’re not really dying, are you,” jungkook asks in a small voice next to yoongi. the flytrap of his hand has opened, like he’s forgetting to multitask. namjoon looks at him gently.

“no, i’m not dying. i just think… i’ve been wanting to go abroad to teach kids english and korean, and i think it’s time for me to do that. there’s a program i’ll probably apply to. and if i get in, i’ll fly out next summer.” he pauses, and everyone else pauses with him. “this is not a summer job you’re going to have forever, you know. eventually, everything moves on. we move on. we leave things behind. i talked about this with jin-hyung—” he glances at seokjin, who merely nods, staring at the fire absently; and that’s what makes it sink in, yoongi supposes. seokjin’s not making a joke out of it. seokjin looks like he might cry. this is never going to happen again. “—he’s not coming back either. he’s graduating, and moving on, and this never had anything to do with his studies in the first place. we don’t really even know why he’s here. he studies law.”

seokjin still doesn’t say anything, but at least the corner of his mouth attempts to tug upwards, and he quietly shakes his head. namjoon looks over the rest of them, touches a hand to jimin’s knee.

“jimin’s also known for a minute. i’m sorry for not telling anyone else. i didn’t want to ruin your last week. i’m sure… they’ll hire the rest of you again next year, should you want that, even if our team fragments.”

“nah,” hoseok says after a beat. the indifferent nature of his wording and his gentle tone do not quite match. “it would probably feel like trying to recreate something that can’t be recreated.”

“like a disappointing sequel that never should’ve been made,” taehyung supplies. he pauses. “like obviously if i need money and can’t get another job you bet your ass i’ll be here walking kids around on ponies like i’m having the time of my fucking life. like it’s going to be sad but i gotta pay my bills, you know.”

they all nod and murmur in agreement.

“i think this is a good place to end it,” hoseok muses. “it feels like a conclusion. we were all here—” he gives a glance at jungkook. “you guys got your shit together—” he nods in namjoon and jimin’s direction, then in yoongi and jungkook’s. “and so did you. this summer felt different from the start. like the loose ends were tying themselves.”

jungkook’s hand curls into yoongi’s again. yoongi stares down at it, holds on tight, thinks, the last one, last one. he thought it would be sadder.

he thinks they came pretty close to just barely missing each other completely. like those near death experiences where a bus almost grazes you and you don’t realize until later that you almost died. if the kiss me hadn’t slipped away from him would they even be here. he may not have said anything. jungkook wouldn’t know and would probably date someone else and they’d be getting over something that never happened to them.

across the fire, jimin’s saying:

“it’s not like we can’t ever come back here, guys. we can come back whenever, when there’s no camp.”

“we should do that thing where we vow to come back here to defeat evil again should it ever resurface,” taehyung says excitedly.

“that’s the ending of it,” namjoon says with a wonky smile.

“personally i’m not fighting creepy sewer clowns,” hoseok says, “like if that’s what you guys wanna do, go ahead. but count me out. i don’t care if it’s the only chance to see everyone. it’s not worth it. sorry but fuck that.”

“i’ll fight a sewer clown,” jungkook mumbles absently. taehyung folds in half to shoot a finger gun at him.

“me too,” jimin pipes up.

“we know,” taehyung says, “you’ll fight most things.”

“are we just like, dividing into people who would fight pennywise from it and people who wouldn’t?” yoongi gestures aimlessly with his free hand. “like is that what we’re doing? that’s where this was going?”

“apparently.” namjoon says.

“i’m out, by the way,” yoongi says mildly. “i saw the movie. i saw that creepy ass motherfucker in the storm drain. i saw that taking the form of your worst fear shit. i don’t know how he’s going to embody the fear of miscommunicating my feelings and losing everyone i care about but i have common sense in my brain and i know i’m not ready to face that.”

“sure, i’m down to clown,” seokjin announces, disentangling his fingers and straightening his back, and all this while yoongi thought he was pulling himself together but apparently he was mulling over this question.

“that means a completely different thing and nobody asked,” namjoon says. “listen, what i wanted to say was—”

“wait, hold on, yoongi just disclosed his worst fear to us,” hoseok interrupts. “i think we should make a round out of solidarity. i can start. it’s either the fear of letting my friends down or clowns. also things with too many legs. things with no legs. lizards and snails are on thin ice. thin ice. as in, the fear of falling through ice on a frozen lake. most bugs. definitely that one fucked up moth with, like, tentacles. the concept of australia. loneliness.”

“do we have time for this, hoseok,” namjoon says.

“we really do not,” hoseok says. “i keep thinking of new things as i go and i don’t think i’ll be done anytime soon. okay, everyone can share their worst fears on the group chat. what were you going to say?”

“i’m all for sharing our fears and being vulnerable,” namjoon sighs, “i think it’s therapeutic and brings us closer as a group. but to get us back on track… i think it’s a good idea. if you guys want, we could make a promise, right now, to come back here... in, say, five years. and we stick to that promise. no matter where we are five years from now. even if… we hadn’t seen each other in five years. even then, everyone comes back.”

“we are going to see each other,” taehyung insists. “right? i’m going to see you guys. right?”

“of course,” namjoon nods quietly, “i think… we’ve been reluctant to talk about meeting up because we don’t want to be those kind of summer friends who make half-baked plans and never follow through. it’s not easy. we’re seven, and we’re spread out all over the country. or the world, sometimes. but we won’t be summer friends anymore. it feels safer to say, now. that we’ll meet outside of the camp. i’m certain we will.”

“can you feel it?” jimin grins, tipping sideways into namjoon, letting his head rest on his shoulder.

“i can feel it,” namjoon laughs, rakes a hand through the red-brown fire glow of jimin’s hair. “i have a good feeling about this.”

“okay, gather around, everyone,” seokjin says loudly, unfolding all his limbs and standing up. “let’s shake on it. or do the huddle thing where we put our hands together, whatever that’s called.”

no one knows what that’s called. but they do it anyway. they gather around in a tight-knit circle further down the shore, and one by one, add their hands to the pile in the center.

“five years from now,” seokjin moderates solemnly, “on this day—or some other day, details are yet to be discussed—but roughly five years from now, we’ll meet on this shore. no excuses. your wife or husband or surrogate mother is having their baby? better hope they’ll birth another one because you’re missing that one. you’ve had a falling out with a member of this group? you don’t have to like each other, you just have to stand here and stare at this lake which has probably dried up by then due to climate change. you’re dead? also not a valid excuse, we’ll get your casket or ashes down here.”

“i’m regretting this already,” namjoon says.

“and that’s our slogan,” seokjin points to him with his free hand. “on three, everyone. one, two, three.”

“i’m regretting this already,” they echo in a choir as their hands go down and then up, dispersing above their heads.  

“say a few closing words, namjoon,” hoseok prompts, resting his elbows on seokjin and taehyung on either side of him. namjoon considers for a moment.

“i’m not going to give another speech,” he says then. “that’s been done. but if i were to give a speech, i would talk about places. i would talk about when i think a place stops being just a place and becomes something closer to a home. i feel like it’s quite simple, in the end. home is wherever your heart lives. wherever makes your heart live. wherever it feels safe and unburdened and free, whether it’s somewhere you’ve stayed for decades or somewhere you’ve stayed for just a few moments. whether it’s a place with walls or it’s the open sky and a particular piece of the world underneath it. if i were to give a speech, i would say that i’m glad i got to stay here. i’m glad i got to stay here with you. i’m not leaving this behind completely, because you guys embody this place for me. you embody an eternal summer and the home this place has been. but since i’m not going to say all that,” he grins, slightly haunting in the shifting shadows, “would one of you mind summarizing?”

from his heart, yoongi says:

“it’s been a time.”

namjoon nods fully.

“it’s been a fucking time,” he agrees.

on saturday, sunday if you want to nitpick, yoongi and jungkook take the long way to the cabins, walk along the edge of the woods where meadow rues grow. they walk unhurried, the soles of their feet swishing against the blades of grass with each step, their elbows and the backs of their hands occasionally brushing but not touching otherwise. they haven’t said much, which can seem like a waste, given that they are running out of time—but yoongi prefers this. it’s better, right now, to just be together quietly. the night feels like a weight on his chest, feels too heavy to get words out the way he wants. and yoongi would rather be quiet than say things the wrong way.

it’s the kind of night where you can hear moonlight sonata as the wind plays around in the treetops. they don’t ask each other whether they’re coming back next year. it’s not like they have to make that decision right now, and it’s surprisingly irrelevant. regardless of whether or not they plan to come back, something is still ending.

they walk all the way to the cars parked near the green arch of the oak trees which marks the entrance. yoongi automatically thinks of getting in, making out in the backseat like teenagers—grinding on each other over their clothes, putting their hands on each other in ways they haven’t yet—but he doubts jungkook even has his keys with him, and jungkook seems to have other business around here.

“wait here,” he says, and yoongi hoists himself onto the hood of jungkook’s grey nissan as he spins around and jogs out of the gateway to the mountain road.

“this is how you get killed in horror movies,” yoongi calls, and jungkook only shoots a quick grin over his shoulder before disappearing behind one of the many curves of the serpentine road.

jungkook doesn’t keep him waiting for long. returns a few minutes later, seemingly empty-handed, but as he nears yoongi, reaches behind his back. comes to a stop an inch from his knees, and presents him with tiny white and pink flowers he had tucked into his waistband.

a gummy smile plasters itself on yoongi’s face, and he ducks his face out of habit. it’s the seventh flower, and it’s still… the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for him.

“i was rewatching goblin the other night,” jungkook says, grins endearingly when yoongi looks up. “they said that buckwheat means… that it means lovers.” the soft pink on his cheekbones matches the pink of the flowers. “i was pretty sure there’s buckwheat growing around here. i looked for a couple of days, and i found it. they were growing like, inside a nest of stinging nettles, so my ankles burn pretty badly right now. but i really wanted to give you one and it was worth it.” he bites his bottom lip, looks at yoongi under his lashes. “ask me why. ask me why it was worth it because i’m not gonna say it otherwise. it’s too embarrassing.”

“why was it worth it,” yoongi whispers.

“because of the way you smile when i give you flowers,” jungkook says softly, tilting his head. “it’s cheesy. and it’s embarrassing. but it’s true. your smile is probably the most beautiful thing i’ve ever seen. and i mean that, like, i’ve thought about it. i was listing beautiful things in my head. the lake at night is nice but after a while it’s like, i’ve already seen it. but whenever you smile it feels new, and my heart jumps every single time—” he touches his fingertips to his chest. “and making you happy makes me happy in a way i haven’t felt before. i think—i’m telling you this because we’re leaving tomorrow. i just want you to know.”

“jesus,” falls out of yoongi’s mouth. he opens his legs and grabs a fistful of jungkook’s shirt, pulls him closer until jungkook’s knees touch the bumper, simultaneously sliding down to the edge of the hood. “jesus, jungkook.”

the action has urgency etched onto it, but once he knocks their foreheads together, doesn’t immediately kiss him, just—stays close like that for a while, clutching at jungkook’s shirt, the flower which means lovers cradled gently between their bodies. jungkook’s hands on his thighs, climbing up like vines, curling around his waist.

jungkook is a midsummer night’s dream. a faerie from an enchanted forest. he’s the boy you meet on summer break, fall in sugar plum sweet kind of love with, and then never see again because he was too good to be true. he’s the gilded way you remember things, and you haven’t even had a chance to look back and remember him yet.

(sometimes when they have a moment, yoongi lets his hand rest on jungkook’s chest just to hold his heart in his palm, to feel it thud as fast as his own. it’s reassuring to know he is not the only one who gets excited and nervous and giddy like everything is still happening for the first time. to know jungkook feels the same or at least similar things for yoongi. isn’t that crazy. isn’t that lucky.)

on saturday, sunday if you must nitpick, jungkook gives yoongi a buckwheat for which he treaded through a nest of stinging nettles because it means lovers and he wanted to make yoongi happy.

they walk back slow, fingers entwined, and yoongi thinks about how jungkook is so naturally good at making people feel loved. like it’s just what he does. yoongi wants to do the same. hopes he is doing the same. hopes he won’t ever stop.

“i know we’ll come back here,” jungkook says, “but i’m still going to miss this place. i always miss this place.”

 

/

 

on sunday, they go home.

more accurately: they wake up at hell o’clock and have breakfast which yoongi remembers nothing about but the kids kindly inform him he fell asleep for like three seconds in the middle of shoveling cereal into his mouth and emptied the contents of his spoon into his lap so that must’ve happened. they help the kids pack, and yoongi does remember running around camp in a state of mild panic looking for an inhaler only to have it turn up in the pocket of the kid’s hoodie.

then he’s stationed at the archery field for an eternity as the kids have a chance to show their parents what they’ve learned in the past two months. mostly he stands there and says things like, archery is completely safe when done in a supervised environment, and i would love to hear more about when you did archery in college mr. kwon but there is a line and we have to move on, and no, can’t say i heard about that particular freak accident but archery is completely safe when done in a supervised environment. he is under strict orders to avoid 1. sarcasm 2. political debates 3. referring to school as a failing institution and grades as irrelevant.

this is easily his least favorite part about camp. it’s not all unpleasant—interactions with parents are mostly alright, and they are mostly nice, polite people. yoongi’s not lying when he tells hajoon’s parents it’s nice to meet them; they seem like good people, which makes makes him really happy. they smile a lot, comment on the fact that hajoon seems to really like yoongi, and when hajoon tells them he wants to keep doing archery, mr. lee asks yoongi about where to start and where to get information, and that means a lot. that they are taking this seriously. yoongi refers them to a couple of websites and is in a good mood for a while afterwards.  

but when the parents aren’t pleasant, they are strangely hostile and condescending, and look at him in a way that says, and you’re qualified to teach this?

“i was told there would be someone with experience instructing the children,” says mr. song, minseok’s father and also the hot dad seokjin had his eyes on at the beginning of camp. “seeing as this is a pretty dangerous sport, no? are you even eighteen?”

“i’m twenty-five,” yoongi says flatly, “and i have a sixteen-year background in archery. i agree. it can be pretty dangerous. thank god they don’t have someone with no experience instructing the children.”

he bites on his tongue to keep from saying, why the fuck would you even begin to question me now, it’s over, it’s done, i instructed your kid and as you can see he is unharmed and on top of that has a pretty good basic knowledge of archery so one could say i did my damn job.

“how are we doing, here?” namjoon seems to apparate onto the field to tactically intervene. his smile looks real and polite enough but his eyes are sharp and even borderline intimidating and most importantly fixed on mr. song rather than yoongi despite the fact that yoongi could arguably have been less sarcastic, and suddenly yoongi is intensely relieved to have this team on his side. these six people.

of course it hits him in the middle of the fucking archery field in front of all these kids and their parents. suddenly he’s super fucking sad. namjoon’s saying something about how everyone here is extremely qualified and they wouldn’t put the children in danger, and yoongi’s standing there, probably looking like he’s experiencing an acute existential crisis, and he can’t believe he won’t get to work with these people again.

namjoon’s hand is on his shoulder.

“do you wanna take a break?” he murmurs. yoongi blinks up at him. then he nods, grateful.

it’s time to close up the archery station, anyway. that’s what namjoon came to tell him. the families migrate to other instructors who yoongi hopes are neither inconsolably sad nor having their credentials questioned. he cleans up the field on autopilot, unstrings the bows, locks the equipment into the shed, and it doesn’t occur to him until he’s done that he quite possibly just did that for the last time. he wonders if he should go back and say some kind of goodbye to the cheap ass recurve that’s held it together for all these years and has been phenomenally, outstandingly average and by all accounts, good enough. he decides it literally does not matter. what’s he gonna do. stare at the bow on the wall and say words to it.

he makes his way to the counselor lounge where he gravitates to the espresso machine. he downs a shot like he’s at a college party escaping eleven deadlines and the weight of reality, and makes another mug of coffee before even noticing seokjin is also in the lounge. in his defense, he’s not doing anything to make himself known and he’s sitting on the floor where the beanbag used to be. he’s staring emptily at nothing in particular and he’s got the decorative wooden bear perched between his bent knees. yoongi looks at him, and only thinks, understandable.

yoongi shuffles over to him. wordlessly, slides down the wall next to him. the coffee mug cradled in his lap, tips sideways until his head collides with seokjin’s shoulder.

“hyung,” he mumbles. there is the slightest movement underneath him, and seokjin makes a vague noise of acknowledgement. yoongi breathes in, out, in. “hot dad is a dickhead, hyung.”

seokjin lets out a sound that resembles a laugh.

“yeah. he’s got that thing going where he doesn’t think anyone under the age of forty knows anything. and he, in turn, knows everything. he’s not hot anymore. i’m so glad i didn’t flirt with him much.”

“so you flirted with him a little?” yoongi pulls a face. “hyung.”

“only if you count telling him i once spent 200 thousand won on candles and then broke down crying when my card got declined buying instant ramen at a gas station as flirting.”

“why would you tell people that,” yoongi whispers, staring vacantly at the horrid bear.

“it came up naturally.”

“how does—” yoongi starts but catches himself, realizing he’s about to follow seokjin down into one of his rabbit holes and it’s only going to get more nonsensical. he sighs. “like it comes from a place of concern for their child. the condescension. i get it. but—”

“or it might come from a place of being an asshole with a superiority complex.” yoongi’s head bounces as seokjin shrugs his shoulders. “i’m just saying. he seems the type to be rude to waiters.”

“what i said to him might be considered as talking back,” yoongi murmurs, “but namjoon immediately had my back when most managers probably wouldn’t have, and i realized… i’m never gonna work with a team like this again. this is some once in a lifetime shit. that’s so sad. that’s so fucking sad, hyung. my best work experience was at summer camp in college. it’s gonna be a downhill from here. i’m doomed.”

“yeah, you’re fucked,” seokjin agrees. yoongi glides his tongue over his lips, brow twisting into a frown.

“it’s so sad, hyung,” he repeats more quietly. “i’m so sad.”

“yeah,” seokjin says so softly yoongi barely hears him despite being so close he’s literally on him. “yeah, i know.”

he’s sad, too. he doesn’t need to say it. they sit quietly, for a moment, yoongi’s coffee going cold in his lap. seokjin clears his throat minutely.

“i’m thinking of stealing this bear,” he says. “and since you know about it, you’re now an accomplice.”

around 2PM, parents start checking their kids out of the camp, putting them in cars, and driving away. camp is officially over. yoongi stands in the yard with a list of names, helping with the checkout, high-fiving or hugging campers goodbye. he sees jungkook for the first time since the morning, doing the same half a dozen meters away.

they meet eyes. jungkook smiles. yoongi’s chest hurts something terrible. jungkook turns to the family in front of him, but yoongi keeps looking at him until hajoon tugs at his shirt.

“hey, superboy,” yoongi says, smiles down at his little face tipped up, and fuck, he feels emotional all of a sudden—even before hajoon hands him a slightly wrinkled but neatly folded sheet of paper.

“for me?” hajoon nods vigorously. it’s a drawing: it’s the counselors and namjoon in felt-tip markers, their superhero names scribbled in wobbly letters under each figure. yoongi is holding a bow, and, it seems, jungkook’s hand. it probably just looks like that. either that, or hajoon is scarily observant. yoongi lowers the drawing, unspeakably touched. “this is really good, hajoon.”

“he wanted to draw you something at the art station,” mrs. lee says as she and her husband catch up to hajoon. she attempts to set a hand on hajoon’s head, with hajoon dodging like it’s the plague. “this was his first time away from home for this long without his brother, and we were kind of worried… but he seems to have had a great time. and you were clearly important to him here. so… thank you for this summer.”

“oh,” yoongi gives a breathy laugh, rubs at the back of his neck, embarrassed. “no need to thank me, really. i had a great time, too, with hajoon, with everyone. he’s a good kid.” hajoon also looks deathly embarrassed, half hiding behind his mother, so at least that makes two of them. yoongi folds the drawing and squats down to level with him, crooks his finger to coax him closer like he’s about to say something secret. hajoon flashes a grin that’s now missing two teeth as of yesterday, and inches towards him. “are you gonna tell your brother you met spider-man? i bet he’d be so jealous.”

“yeah,” hajoon says, and adds, very seriously, “but i’m not gonna tell who it was. you’re not supposed to—to reveal their secret identity.”

yoongi nods.

“that’s very considerate.”

“we have to get going, hajoon,” mrs. lee urges gently, “give yoongi-hyung a hug goodbye.”

for a second it looks as though hajoon’s too shy to, and yoongi’s about to suggest a high-five, but then he scurries forward, nearly knocks yoongi over as he collides with his chest like a small wave crashing to the rocks.

“bye bye, superboy,” yoongi mumbles, closing his arms carefully around the tiny frame. “go save your home planet. take care, okay?”

it’s that feeling where you know you’re never going to see someone again so you just hope they’ll have the best life they could possibly have.

soon afterwards—the camp is quiet. like, crickets chirping quiet.

everyone’s gone.

yoongi looks around, and sees other counselors scattered around, appearing as clueless and befuddled, like abandoned buoys at sea, as if they haven’t done this multiple times before. in a way, they haven’t. this is the first and only last last day.

“well,” namjoon says, turning slowly in the center of the yard. “go pack your things if you haven’t. make sure the cabins are clean. counselor lounge in thirty. then… everyone’s free to go.”

he goes on ahead. walks past yoongi, and no one says anything. they just listen to his feet swish in the grass.

 

/

 

yoongi stores the drawing between the cover and the first page of his notebook. then he flips to a new spread, and one by one, presses the flowers between the pages, all seven of them. cuts the ironweed and the reed shorter in order to fit them. strings the book shut with an elastic hair tie stolen from taehyung, and tucks it securely under his clothes in his duffel bag.

a square of sunlight rushes over him as seokjin opens the door.

“your thirty minutes of respite are up,” he says, “let’s go.”

 

/

 

yoongi watches namjoon do a headcount twice and the subsequent confusion on his face as he keeps falling one person short.

”who’s missing,” he says, “who—”

yoongi sort of quirks his eyebrow and jerks his head almost imperceptibly in the general direction of the entrance, jaw in his palm, his other hand under the table where it’s holding jungkook’s, who’s an uninspired slump against his side, head on his shoulder, hair tickling at his neck. jungkook’s hair: smells like grass, smells like shampoo, smells like sweet peas. jungkook’s hand: soft everywhere except for the coarse line of the scarred up scratch along his thumb. jungkook: still here, and yoongi is memorizing the smell of his hair and the texture of his skin without meaning to.

namjoon turns to the entrance from yoongi’s cue.

“yeah, i’m good here, thanks,” seokjin says from the doorway.

“would you mind joining the others?”

“actually, i would mind, namjoon.” seokjin folds his arms. “i know how this is going to play out. you’re going to say some terrible things and get into people’s heartstrings and make everyone cry. again. i’ll have you know, i experienced an emotion twice last night, and my doctor doesn’t recommend any more than that in the period of 48 hours.”

namjoon heaves one of his last longsuffering sighs of the summer.

“i won’t, okay? i won’t say much. i’ll keep it short.”

reluctantly, seokjin ventures into the lounge. jabs a finger at namjoon’s chest in passing, and hisses:

“if you make me cry, i will never forgive you. never.

“i know,” namjoon says, unfazed. with all of them sitting down, scans the room, once, twice, eyes catching on every single one of them. yoongi is looking not quite at him. he’s adamantly staring at the spot just above his left shoulder. his posture seems nonchalant but his hand in jungkook’s is like a bear trap. “as you know, this was the last summer at this camp for me, and for this team.”

the corner of his mouth quirks for a split second as he meets eyes with seokjin, who’s glaring at him warningly. he glances down. possibly rewrites an impromptu speech on the fly. looks back up, and just says:

“thank you.”

somehow it’s the worst thing he could’ve said. yoongi’s eyes water, just like that, and it feels good to cry. like finally letting go of something you’ve struggled to keep in for so long. every last bit of tension in his body eases. vanishes. his hand loses its iron grip. he feels light. feels like he could float.

jungkook sniffs loudly next to him. he’s wiping the back of his hand over his face, and yoongi reaches for the napkin dispenser out of muscle memory, hands him a couple of pieces.

“thank you,” jungkook murmurs. yoongi’s seen him cry before. not this fully, though. and in the midst of being overwhelmed with the need to make him happy and figure out how to physically beat up the concept of endings, yoongi thinks his eyes look like the lake at night. look just like the dark glimmering surface and the hidden depths underneath and the stars reflected on the water and jungkook is beautiful even when he cries.

yoongi lets go of his hand to skate up his spine to the back of his neck, gently work the pads of his fingers against the skin, and it’s not much but maybe it wouldn’t be outlandish to hope he could be comforting.

“i’m going to kick your fucking ass,” seokjin says, choked up.

“i am so thankful though,” namjoon insists fervently through tears, “i’m so glad i met you all and that i got to work with you—these past summers have been the best of my life, thank you so much for everything—”

fuck you,” seokjin wails.

“fuck you,” namjoon yelps, frantically wiping his tears away with his hands.

yoongi will most likely never again have a job where this happens in a meeting and everyone’s fine with it.

“group hug,” he initiates, “last group hug. c’mon.”

for the very last time, they huddle around in the counselor lounge. yoongi’s got his arms around jungkook and namjoon, whose arms branch effortlessly over his shoulders. (quickly: name a better place to be.)

“see you in five years, guys,” taehyung says quietly at yoongi’s ten o’clock. “and way before that. see you in five years here.”

“same time, same place,” hoseok says across from him, and yoongi’s glad the thing he’s taking away from the last group hug is his heart-shaped grin.

 

/

 

yoongi sets his bags down at his feet and waits for seokjin to pop the trunk. takes a moment—just a moment. to glance around the place which will be the exact same next year, and the year after that, and in all likelihood, the year after that. the broad-leaved trees lining the campsite, the blue-hued mountains in the distance, the melancholic camp counselors packing their cars. it’s going to be five years until he sees it again. he already made the decision not to come back until then.

he bites the inside of his cheek. namjoon and jimin are saying goodbye by jimin’s tiny teal two-door that he manages to get up the mountain road each year thanks to, yoongi imagines, the sole willpower and undistilled rage packed within his compact body that powers his car. it doesn’t look like a sad goodbye. namjoon is dabbing at his eyes but yoongi can see a pronounced dimple on his cheek. jimin is laughing, all puffy cheeks and eyes squeezed into thin lines. they are probably excited. melancholy but making plans. yoongi would probably be recruited to help jimin with his move in a couple of weeks. they lean towards each other like a gravitational pull and yoongi feels like he’s invading their privacy simply by looking.

hoseok, efficient as always, has already packed his red rental hyundai.

“i’m gonna take off,” he says, leaning his forearms on the roof in the space between the driver’s seat and the open door. “it’s gonna take me a forever to get down that cursed mountain road, anyway. have a great fall, guys. i’m not gonna propose a tentative time we could possibly meet up because i don’t wanna jinx it. let’s do that later.”

they each call out their goodbyes. taehyung, parked next to him, scurries forward to enwrap him in one last hug. it seems to linger on for a slightly unconventional beat, and yoongi is convinced that there is a universe out there where they happened. it never would’ve worked in this one, though. taehyung would never have given up his lizard for hoseok and hoseok never would’ve asked him to.

jimin senses there’s a hug happening nearby without him, and rushes over to join them, nearly knocking them all off-balance.

“okay, okay, really gotta go,” hoseok breathes a strained laugh. “see you guys. love you guys.”

taehyung follows in his soccer mom minivan soon after hoseok’s rolled out of the archway possibly in the slowest crawl yoongi’s ever seen a human achieve. before he does that, yoongi overhears this exchange between jungkook and taehyung:

“say hi to kandinsky for me.”

“i named him after you, you know.”

“his… name… is kandinsky jungkook?”

no. that’s horrifying. you think there’s a creature whom i lovingly call jungkook crawling around my home? not after you, but because of you, i guess. there’s that one quote you always say to the kids… the one about the soul being a piano and the artist being the hand that plays. kandinsky, right?”

“yeah?”

“well, i first heard it from you, and i liked it, so i named my lizard after him. now every time i call his name in reproach after he’s unrolled a thing of toilet paper, i have a moment of serenity as i think of camp euphoria before i vocally shame him and tell him how disappointed i am in him.”

yoongi doesn’t think he’s ever seen jungkook so utterly touched. he directs his airy smile at the bags he’s lifting into the trunk.

seeing taehyung’s tail lights disappear into the curve makes it register, sort of. register wholly, in some deepest deep part of his heart, some secret nook shielded by ivy and poison dart frogs, the part that lived here.

they are leaving. some of them have already left.

time to leave.

in the matter of milliseconds, yoongi is consumed by one single thought: not yet you can’t leave like this what the fuck are you thinking.

he jams his bag sort of haphazardly between seokjin and namjoon’s, who will be riding back to seoul with them, turns, and takes to a sprint.

“where are you going?” seokjin calls after him. “you forget something?”

yoongi doesn’t stop until he’s at the edge of the archery field. nothing on the campsite is far, it’s not so huge an area, but there’s still a faint blood taste in his mouth, his heart pattering against his ribs as he folds in half to lean his hands on his knees.

“fuck,” he mumbles to himself, and lifts his head to face the field which looks so vast and desolate, the eternal foam circle targets, the tall grass on the shoulder of the field swaying in a trance-like dance to the light wind. “goodbye i guess. i don’t know. what do you want me to say.” he stands up straight, flicks his tongue in his mouth. “we had a good run?” he tests. “you were… adequate?” considers for a moment, tilting his head. “so long motherfucker?”

“thought you’d be here,” jungkook says from behind him. yoongi sinks his teeth into his bottom lip.

“pretty sure you saw me.”

“i did,” jungkook admits. he comes to stand next to yoongi, his short-sleeved arm brushing yoongi’s sweater-covered one. he’d stopped crying by the time they left the lounge. but there’s a trace of redness in the corners of his eyes and on the tip of his nose, making it look lovely and kissable. there’s a strange sort of look on his face, like a halfhearted attempt to fight off a troubled smile. “everyone saw you. did you know you make a sound when you run?”

“screaming is how i exert physical force,” yoongi says, “like i have to let it out of my body to be able to move.”

“i’ve noticed,” jungkook laughs quietly. “do you want to be alone?”

“no.” yoongi inches a little closer, presses up against his side. “it’s just an empty field. i thought i needed some sort of a closure, but it’s just weird talking to it. i think i’m done with goodbyes.”

“it was almost like a home to you, though. your summer home.”

yoongi wraps arms around himself. silently, rotates into jungkook, so that they’re chest to chest, the lower half of his face hidden into his shoulder, his eyes spying on the grass behind him.

“i have other homes,” he says. jungkook arms carefully surround him, fingers feathering across his shoulder blades. (according to kim namjoon, home is anywhere your heart feels safe and unburdened and free.) yoongi closes his eyes momentarily. “let’s stay for a bit, though.”

“jin-hyung might drive off without you,” jungkook says softly.

“in that case i guess i’d have no choice but to come to busan with you,” yoongi murmurs against the fabric of his t-shirt, slowly blinking his eyes open. all the green blurs together, swims, looks like they’re ankle-deep in monet’s water lily pond, for a second.

“what a shame that’d be.”

“what a shame.” pauses, for a moment, just soaking in the touch of jungkook’s hands and the subtle smell of summer and sweet peas. “hey… you still owe me a favor.”

“i do,” jungkook agrees. “do you have something in mind?”

yoongi licks his lips. tips his forehead against his shoulder, hiding his face.

“next time we meet,” he says, “kiss me like in the notebook.”

jungkook goes still in surprise. yoongi bites his bottom lip to keep from either laughing or screeching really loudly in embarrassment. jungkook’s hands move slow and heavy across his back.

“the notebook?” yoongi thinks he can hear a smile. “want me to pick you up? want me to pick you up in the rain and carry you over to my rustic lake house which i built with my bare hands?”

yoongi breathes a laugh.

“well, yeah. but it’s not really about that.”

“hm?”

yoongi lets his arms slip from around himself, and tentatively touches his hands to jungkook’s narrow waist, fingertips barely poking out of the oversized sleeves. lets them reside there as jungkook waits curiously.

“you want to kiss someone like that, don’t you?” he asks gently. “i don’t know if you have, before, but—want you to do that, with me. if you want.”

jungkook’s chest rises and falls with a deep breath.

“yeah,” he whispers almost inaudibly, “yeah, i want to. with you. i haven’t, before, with anyone.” he pauses. “i could do that right now, you know.”

yoongi shakes his head, which is essentially rubbing his forehead against jungkook’s shoulder.

“next time we meet.” his eyelids fall shut, his brow knits. stresses: “next time. so remember that, yeah?”

“i’ll remember,” jungkook promises.

“i’ll come to you when it’s raining.” yoongi tells him, swallows around a tangle of vines in his throat. “so you can kiss me romantically.”

“i hope it rains soon,” jungkook whispers. it sounds just a little bit off, a little bit choked, a little bit like it’s all his voice can carry right then. that’s the straw that breaks his back, so to speak.

“yeah,” is all yoongi manages, and then he loops his arms around jungkook and buries his face deep into the nook of his neck.

“hyung,” jungkook breathes, “yoongi—”

hugs him so tightly. one of his hands climbing into yoongi’s hair, holding his head there, holding him so well (—where your heart feels safe—) and yoongi is not crying, not quite, but he’s not breathing, either; takes a long, ragged breath against jungkook’s warm neck.

it feels so fucking pointless. to be so sad now. when they did that already, just minutes ago in the lounge, you can scroll back up and read that again, and it’s not like he doesn’t know they are going to see each other. not tomorrow. not next week. but maybe soon. (according to jeon jungkook, people are apart more than they are together, 80% of a human life is spent missing someone, and busan is not that far.)

but here’s the thing. here’s the infuriating, inescapable thing about love and distance. there’s no reasoning with this garden in his chest which only registers its source of light being taken away. it’s so terribly irrational. it wants to climb into the backseat of jungkook’s car and ride to the sea with him. it wants to make this into a dramatic romance movie ending where he spontaneously ditches everything for the sake of true love and they speed off into the sunset. wouldn’t that be sexy. wouldn’t the audience love that.

busan is not the moon. neither is seoul.

but the act of leaving hurts. it’s that simple.

jungkook doesn’t say anything more. just holds him, silent and steady, and yoongi allows himself to be held. like they could stand here forever. like the seasons would change around them, the landscape would change, the field would outgrow and they would grow roots here and stay like trees. the forests would be cut down because that’s what happens to forests these days and the site would be industrialized and then abandoned and then scoured by masses in terrifying road warrior cars in a mad max-esque end-of-days type of scenario because yoongi fully believes that’s how they’ll go out and they would stay until the sun blew up.

maybe some other time.

yoongi’s phone buzzes in his back pocket and he knows it’s seokjin, probably itching to outride the nightfall. he sucks in a breath, and jungkook loosens his hold enough for yoongi to pull back and lift his head.

“i have weird habits,” he blurts, staring a confused jungkook in the eye. his fingers cling to the spaces between jungkook’s ribs. “habits you haven’t seen. i’m quieter than i am here, with the kids. sometimes i’m louder than i am here. i suck at time management. i’m asleep at weird times. i have periods where i—i just—i don’t talk to anyone. like i’m stuck in my head for a bit and not letting anyone through. they don’t happen so often anymore but they still might. and it’s never going to be anything you did. it’s never your fault, and it doesn’t mean i like you any less—”

“are you giving me a disclaimer?” jungkook blinks. “are you telling me what i’m getting myself into? that’s really not necessary, hyung.”

“it is.”

“you’re essentially telling me you’re a person.”

yoongi huffs a weirdly frustrated sigh out of his nose.

“it’s—it’s not going to be like it is here,” he insists, “and there’s—a lot you don’t know about me yet, and i about you, and i just—don’t want you to—”

“i love you,” jungkook says, and whatever yoongi was going to say is gone forever.

they stare at each other. jungkook blinks, his bow lips parted, and flushes in record time like his brain only now caught up with his tongue.

“kook,” yoongi whispers, eyes open wide, and it might be a question, he doesn’t really know. jungkook is grapefruit pink, but there’s a tiny flame of determination in his eyes.

“i love you,” he says again. “that’s… what i feel for you. i love you.”

his hands ghost at yoongi’s neck, fingers softly brushing at the backs of his ears and the bone of his jaw, shy and tender and intimate. tips closer, until his lips meet yoongi’s forehead covered in messy dark curls, murmurs, “i love you here. and i will love you in busan.” yoongi, close-eyed, holds his heart in his palm. oh, thinks, fast—so fast for me— “i will love you when you’re quiet. just tell me how you need me then. if you need space. if you need me to just stay on the phone with you and sing random songs stuck in my head. if you need me to remind you that you’re loved.”

“oh my god,” yoongi mostly just mouths; behind his eyelids, tears gather, wet his lashline. fingers pressing in on jungkook’s sternum, draws his brows together. “oh, my god. you can’t just say that.”

“i would love you even if you… drank a deciliter of listerine every morning,” jungkook continues, “or hoarded those stubby ikea pencils. or whatever weird habit you were talking about.”

yoongi rasps a mangled version of a laugh. carefully, slits his eyes open. finds himself looking at jungkook, looking at him—so intensely, so gently, like he’s memorizing the details of his face the way yoongi was memorizing the smell of his hair in the lounge, and it feels as if someone wrapped both fists around his heart and twisted. jungkook gives a smile that lasts for a split second and then melts off.

“i don’t need warnings,” he says quietly, “just let me love you, hyung.”

it’s then that the tears spill, just fall from his damn eyes like heavy rain. he draws a disjointed breath, drags his sleeve over his eyes, releases half a sob.

“yoongi—” jungkook says in a tiny, pained voice. his arms encircle yoongi, pull him in.

“‘s okay,” yoongi mumbles against his chest (good for dying against, good for crying against), “i’m happy.” adds, after a beat: “and sad. i’m happy-sad. it’s okay.”

he pulls away, attempts to dry his face the best he can. peers up at jungkook from behind his sleeve and his clumpy lashes.

“kiss me?” he asks. “even though i’m crying and it’s kinda gross.”

he’s barely finished when jungkook’s fingers wrap around his wrist, gently guide it out of the way. jungkook kisses the pink tip of his nose first solely to make him smile. then he cups yoongi’s jaw, and touches his mouth to yoongi’s. kisses the salt from it, kisses the soft surface of it well before dipping his tongue past his lips.

kisses him like they have time.

or like time is going to wait for them, and the world is going to stop until yoongi’s been well-kissed.

or like he knows it’s going to be a while and is trying to make it last him through a gloomy fall weather.

kisses him fuzzy and warm, with his little intervals, melted honey down his throat one last time, his toes curling one last time. yoongi kisses him back, slow and wanting, his hands an enticing contrast against the tan of jungkook’s neck, his hands like buckwheat: sugary white and pink knuckles.

time might wait but seokjin won’t. his resounding voice carries over fields and woods as he calls out to them.

not to be insensitive but i’m leaving in five, whether or not you’re physically present in this car!

“hyung,” jungkook breathes as yoongi rocks back down from his tiptoes. “people go to the moon, hyung.”

“people do,” yoongi agrees, and finds jungkook’s hand with his own. their hands which mean lovers.

time to leave.

and that’s okay.

time to place the snowglobe world on the same shelf with your favorite childhood cartoon and the treehouse you used to have on your backyard. no—time to hurl the snowglobe to the ground so that it breaks and spills its secrets, why was i so happy here, time to take the good things that were once inside of it and find a new home for them. time to be apart more than they’ll be together.

jungkook loves him. jungkook will love him in busan. it’s enough. it’s enough.

when yoongi eventually writes his autobiography he’ll make sure to mention the last thing he explicitly said to this field was so long motherfucker. he’ll make sure to mention they walked out of here together. he probably won’t mention that he stumbled on a rock and had to go back for his sandal and then flung said sandal at jungkook who wouldn’t stop laughing at him. he’s glad he did it though. because it made them laugh.

jimin is also leaving. waves at them vivaciously from the side of his tiny teal terror, then blows a series of kisses at namjoon. seokjin screeches, namjoon! nooooo! and leaps in the way in dramatic slow-motion. pretends to be ravaged by a rain of bullets before ultimately doubling over, only to gloriously spring back up with a grandiose hand kiss in jimin’s way.

he howls in laughter as namjoon shoves at him, while jimin looks like he’s about to crawl over the width of his hood to pounce at him. yoongi never finds out if he actually does that because then they are at the midpoint of their cars and that feels like the place where the lines of their paths on the map start diverging.

they don’t say goodbye.

jungkook says, “don’t miss me too much, hyung.”

yoongi says, “back at you.”

jungkook says, “i’ll see you when it rains,” and he presses his lips to the back of yoongi’s hand.

when yoongi lets go of his hand, he imagines he’s holding a bow. the action is the same. the tiniest movement does so much. the simple opening of his fingers lets jungkook go, and they don’t catch, they don’t need to. jungkook goes in a straight line.

“i’m sorry,” seokjin says as yoongi returns to the car. right foot. left foot. open the door. “for rushing you, i really am. it’s just that we’re facing a five-hour drive—six, because namjoon’s gonna have to pee every thirty minutes.”

“well excuse me for staying well-hydrated,” namjoon says, “it’s called drinking water, you should try it sometime.”

“it’s called hyponatremia,” seokjin says, “and after the two courtesy gas station breaks it’s 5000 won per stop or you pee in a bottle.”

“it’s okay,” yoongi says, definitely not to the peeing arrangement, sinks into the backseat, and thinks about the fact that astronauts get homesick, too.

astronauts get recordings of earth sounds sent to them just to make them feel less alone. astronauts are having a virtual reality developed for them to trick their brains into thinking they are with their loved ones.

jimin drives off, his tenacious teal machine thundering into the curve at an alarming speed and looking hilariously and terrifyingly like it might tip over on the rocky road.

namjoon fights the seatbelt out of the crevice between the door and the seat, and in the process knocks the glove compartment open with his knee. for a brief moment, they all silently stare at the decorative wooden bear which rolled into his lap.

“seokjin.” namjoon says.

“i’m not accepting new questions at the moment,” seokjin says, twisting the ignition key. the engine coughs a few times and comes to life with a rumbling purr. “try again in like twelve years.”

fuck,” yoongi groans so loudly the two men in the front jump. then he kicks the door open. “fuck, i didn’t say it back.”

“are you fucking serious, yoongi,” seokjin yelps as yoongi clambers out of the car and dashes off for the second time, the door hanging wide open behind him, his brain zeroing in on this one task. he would move mountains, right then, if it stopped jungkook from leaving before yoongi can tell him.

jungkook is just starting to slowly back up when yoongi slams his palms down onto the hood. jungkook jerks to a stop, and yoongi watches his mouth fall gradually open behind the windshield. he collects himself and calmly circles around the car like he didn’t just dramatically throw himself across the hood and like he isn’t nervous for no reason.

jungkook rolls the window all the way down, his face all round shapes. yoongi crouches down to hook his hands over the edge of it.

“hyung? what—”

“i’m stealing your hoodie,” yoongi says. jungkook blinks. yoongi clutches the door white-knuckled. “and i love you too. that was obviously the more significant thing. i don’t know why i led with the hoodie. i realized i never said it back and it’s important that you know. that i love you too. and i’m also stealing the hoodie. i meant to ask you but i forgot and now it’s in my bag in the trunk and it’s just too much trouble to get it out. okay. um. i really have to go before i piss jin-hyung off for real. drive safe. text me when you’re home.”

“wait,” jungkook squeaks, catching his hand before yoongi can run away. he doesn’t continue for a few beats; they stare at each other, and then jungkook blinks, a soft peachy dust settling on his cheeks. “okay… okay.” his mouth splits into a wonderful grin. yoongi loves him. he does. knows he will love him more. it’s still growing. he’s still falling. “you can keep the hoodie. wanted you to have it, anyway.” he looks like he wants to be kissed, so yoongi slips closer, reaches in, and does just that. jungkook meets him halfway. it’s chaste and sweet and yoongi is melted honey pouring in jungkook’s window to ride shotgun. at least in some other universe. jungkook murmurs, “i like the idea that i’m kinda helping warm you up even if i’m not there.”

yoongi says:

“you always help.”

when jungkook drives away, he punches his fist out of the window like judd nelson does at the end of the breakfast club to the tune of don’t you forget about me.

freeze-frame that. it’s a movie ending.

the credits are rolling in the universe where this was the successful final instalment in the four-part summertime smash hit saga, and the sequel to the underwhelming third instalment camp euphoria 3: the one with the other counselor who’s not jungkook.

in this one, though, nothing freezes. in this one, they still need to leave. seokjin shifts the gear, and the car nudges forward. yoongi immediately lies down in the backseat. stares up at the pale grey padding of the ceiling instead of looking back at the camp as they leave it behind. just lets it happen.

“bye, birches,” seokjin mumbles.

“bye, birches,” namjoon echoes, but in that innocuous way where he genuinely just wants to say goodbye to the birch trees. then he goes on to rattle off every single tree and plant native to this place because he was the kind of kid who couldn’t stand the idea of his stuffed animals thinking he favors some of them over the rest.

the car sways from the bumps in the road. yoongi watches distorted shadows sliding overhead, feeling like loose luggage in the cargo. feeling like a haphazardly packed suitcase, the contents all rolling around freely and getting ruined when those tiny bottles of aloe-scented shampoo you took from the hotel explode all over the place. listens to the hum of the engine and the grating of the gravel under the tires. someone’s flipping through the channels on the radio searching for road music.

fingers touch to his fabric-sheathed forearm. namjoon’s twisting at the waist to lean between the front seats, gentle, sympathetic eyes.

“how are you feeling?”

yoongi closes his eyes. says:

“like i’m going to the moon.”

(there will be days where he misses jungkook like crazy and wishes he wasn’t hundreds of kilometers away. the summer will be seeping out of his bones and he will be sitting in the kitchen lights that always start flickering after a while, with jungkook’s blue hoodie pulled over his knees and steadily losing its sweet pea scent, with his coffee going cold in his hands and jungkook’s voice on the speakerphone in some desolate hours of the morning singing more songs yoongi hasn’t heard before. sending him earth sounds to outer space.)

“hey, listen to this,” seokjin says, “this one’s for you, yoongi.”

he cranks up the volume. a happy progression of piano chords and an upbeat snare drum fill the car, loud enough to drown out the engine and the gravel. the shadows skittering past them look like tiny animals fleeing in the opposite direction, look like a murder of crows. yoongi worries his bottom lip between his teeth. his brow twists. he tosses a forearm over his eyes.

namjoon laughs at something on the passenger’s seat. the two of them exchange words that get lost in the music before they reach yoongi. then namjoon’s voice joins the female artist’s, and he sings along, not letting the fact that he’s clearly unfamiliar with the arrangement stop him.

here comes the sun, i say, little darlin’. here comes the sun.

it seems like years since you’ve been here.