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Reaching Warmly

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Yoongi loved rain. He loved it the way he loved his childhood home, the way he loved softly padded headphones and warm sweaters, the way he loved coffee on cold evenings and the smell of steamed white rice. He loved it quietly, fondly, consistently—the way he could admit that he loved most things.

With thoughts of rain came the ideas of solitude, peace, and quiet. Yoongi slept better to the sound of rain. He liked walking the emptier streets and the smell of wet earth. He liked opening his curtains to a dim, clouded world, as he and direct sunlight had never been on the best of terms.

But, as he opened the door to leave the campus library and was met with a steady downpour, he found himself wishing that it hadn’t rained today. Hell, the completely exhausted part of him was wishing that rain didn’t even exist .

He was two blocks away from the music building and he had only one last responsibility until his college semester was blissfully over. However, he also had no umbrella and a handful of sheet music that couldn’t get wet.

To help pay for the last year of his tuition, Yoongi had accepted a position as a Teaching Assistant for a first semester Introductory Composition class. His parents helped him pay for college as best they could, and Yoongi had been able to get by because he worked his ass off in the summer.

However, he couldn’t have turned down a TA position that would lessen his tuition and expected his parents to pay for him to be lazy without feeling guilty.

Besides, he could ace Introductory Composition in his sleep and Professor Lee was a nice, personable Beta with a no-nonsense attitude when it came to music. He had enjoyed taking her classes in the past.

Yoongi liked how serious she was, how she hadn't gotten upset when he fell asleep in her classes because she knew he read the material and worked hard. He liked how she set high bars and expected students to meet them. Sometimes, Yoongi had needed the push.

She had a great love and passion for classical music that Yoongi didn’t share, but he thought that was maybe why she had asked him to be her TA in the first place.  He knew that she also didn’t share his love of rap or hip hop, and so, with the two of them combined, they covered a love for most genres of music.

Passion cannot be faked, she told her classes constantly, and most likely had that in mind when she gave portions of the rap and hip hop units to Yoongi to teach. He hadn’t been expecting to actually teach classes, but he had apparently took to it well, if Professor Lee was to be believed.

It had been amusing to watch the wide-eyed freshmen treat him like a god when they came to his office hours, and even more amusing to watch them systematically avoid him on other parts of campus. There were even a few instances where he’d seen his students turning around in their tracks or hiding around corners.

Yoongi hadn’t taken it personally. He knew he usually looked grumpy and he was known for hissing at people when they woke him from naps.

It also helped that Jin and Namjoon had found it hilarious. The three of them had formed a small pack at the beginning of Yoongi’s third year, and they looked out for each other, mentally and physically.

Over the last few days, Namjoon and Jin had been watching Yoongi endlessly work on his final projects and study for exams with a growing concern. Yoongi knew he forgot to take care of himself sometimes, and he was looking forward to sleeping off his exhaustion and his pack’s worry.

He would probably be already sleeping now if he hadn’t been given this final task to do.

Professor Lee had sent him an email half an hour ago. He'd gotten it just as he left his final exam of the semester, which had annoyingly run late.

Yoongi, 

I've finished grading the Introductory Composition students' final projects. If you have the chance and have completed your own finals, can you pick them up from me in the library so I can continue grading other classes? I want to leave the projects with the secretary in the music building. That way, if they want to, the students can pick them up before the semester break.

I can bring the projects over as well. However, if I stop grading and leave the library now, I fear I won't find it within myself to go back in.

Let me know if you are available in the next few hours.

P. Lee Yewon

Yoongi had replied telling her that he would be there in about ten minutes. He thought he could just do this last duty as a TA and then go home for some much needed sleep. He’d only slept a total of four hours, maybe less, in the last three days and he could feel it in how heavy his eyelids were. Even the excessive amount of coffee he’d drank this morning hadn’t helped.

Yoongi had found Professor Lee on the top floor of the library at one of the large group tables nodding off, surrounded by other grading and looking a little haggard. He couldn’t really judge, as he was sure his eyes had similar bags and his hair was just as messy. And, if he had worn a shirt with buttons today, he probably would have put them in the wrong holes too.

Standing at the exit to the library, he was so exhausted that he was shaking, or maybe he was so caffeinated he was shaking. Either way, he didn’t have any desire to bring these final projects back into the library, run to the nearest convenience store to buy an umbrella, and then come back to get them again. For starters, he was fucking lazy. In addition, he didn’t run.

He glared out at the rain, wondering if he should just wait for it to stop. He could go up to the top floor of the library and take a nap. It wouldn’t be the first time that a librarian had found him sleeping on one of the student tables, but he doubted Professor Lee would be as amused.

Yoongi didn’t want to risk his surprisingly shining record as a TA (and his future personal reference letter) by being caught sleeping on the job. If he didn’t get these to the academic office in the music building by 5pm, it would close and he’d have to hand them in tomorrow. Then he’d have to tell Professor Lee that she’d wasted her time getting them graded this early, at noon on Friday, when Yoongi knew for certain that her grading wasn’t due until next Thursday.

He sighed and felt his posture slump inwards, his mouth drawing out into a small pout. He’d have to go get an umbrella and come back. There wasn’t a way around it. The Omega instincts in him wanted to whine at the inconvenience, and Yoongi had to fight the temptation.

He had just resigned himself to giving the final projects back to Professor Lee and running to a buy an umbrella when someone said, “Here. Take this.”

Yoongi reached out a hand without thinking as a black umbrella handle came into view. He wanted one so badly, and he couldn’t help but grab onto it.

But his exhausted brain took a while to catch up to his body, and Yoongi blinked down at the black umbrella in his hand in confusion even though he knew how it got there. It had just seemed to happen so quickly. Or maybe it hadn’t. He could now see it happening again in slow motion.

He really needed to sleep.

Eventually Yoongi looked up to see that the umbrella had been given to him by Jeon Jungkook—one of the students whose final projects he was holding in his other hand. The boy was watching Yoongi stand there with wide eyes, like he was also surprised that Yoongi was now holding his umbrella.

Yoongi hadn’t interacted with Jungkook much. He’d never come to Yoongi’s office hours, and he never spoke up in the few classes that Yoongi had taught. He hadn’t even heard much about him, as many of the other students in the class tended to give Jungkook a wide berth. But his homework had always been turned in, and well done and thoughtful. Yoongi could tell that the boy loved music.

Professor Lee definitely had nice things to say about him. Jungkook had turned in what he’d labeled as a pop ballad for one of his later projects and convinced Professor Lee to allow him to add vocals. Yoongi had handed back the assignment in class and instead of writing Mainstream on the assignment—as she did with most pop songs, not necessarily as a criticism but as something for the artist to keep in mind—she’d written I don’t know what this is, but it’s not a pop ballad.

Yoongi had at first thought it was a criticism, but Jungkook had gotten one of the highest grades in the class. To say Yoongi had been curious would be an understatement.

When he’d asked about it, Professor Lee had told him that the song was indeed about love and could be considered pop, but that labeling it as a pop ballad did it an injustice. Yoongi hadn’t known what to make of that, and still had no idea what the song had been like other than its name, Euphoria.

Yoongi also had no idea what to make of this. It wasn’t like Jungkook was holding a second umbrella that he could use for himself.

Jungkook’s wide-eyed expression was morphing into a frown of concern as he looked Yoongi up and down. And, when Yoongi held out the umbrella for Jungkook to take back, the other boy stepped away.

As much as he would love to take Jungkook’s umbrella, Yoongi was pretty sure it would be seen as an abuse of power. He had been told firmly when he started his position as a TA that he wasn’t allowed to show signs of favoritism or accept any gifts from students—not even a stick of gum.

“No, thanks. I don’t need one,” Yoongi said, reluctantly holding the umbrella out farther towards Jungkook.

“Yes, you do,” Jungkook said, nodding in the direction of the pouring rain. At this point, if Jungkook hadn’t been one of Yoongi’s students, Yoongi would have used the umbrella with no qualms. Because screw him, he offered.

“I literally can’t take this,” Yoongi said, frowning.  “I’m your TA.”

“Not anymore,” Jungkook said, pulling up his hood and looking out into the rain with the determination of someone who was ready to bolt.

“Jungkook—” Yoongi began, but the other boy was already running out into the downpour.

“Just throw it away if you don’t want it!” Jungkook yelled over his shoulder, his words muffled by rain and distance. Damn the kid could run fast.

He was gone before Yoongi could think of a reply, leaving Yoongi with his umbrella and the lingering scent of fellow Omega. As Yoongi breathed in again, he could tell it was actually multiple Omega scents.

The scents were so mixed that Yoongi couldn’t tell where one ended and another began. He could just make out the sweet scents of bread baking, of freshly cut grass, of warm vanilla and maple, and of something citrusy that maybe he could name if he wasn’t so tired.

He wanted to be warm and nestled in bed so badly. He wanted to be lulled to sleep by the rain. He wanted to be done with this semester.

And he definitely didn't want to throw away the umbrella.

He was actually so grateful to have it that he could cry. He doubted anyone would even look twice. People walked around with tears in their eyes during finals week all the time. Such was life. Such was college.

He shrugged and opened Jungkook’s umbrella. The other boy was right anyway. Yoongi was literally holding his graded final assignment. The time where favoritism could affect Yoongi’s influence on Jungkook’s grade in the class had passed.

He stepped out into the rain and was met again with the Omega scents that Jungkook had left behind again. The combination of the scents was odd, but Yoongi actually quite liked it. It reminded him of a bakery. It made him think of the little hole-in-the-wall bakery that Jin worked at, which sold freshly-made baked goods.

As Yoongi walked to the music building, he wondered which of the scents belonged to Jungkook. He hadn’t known the other boy was an Omega. Jungkook usually wore scent blockers, so Yoongi hadn’t smelt anything on him before today.

He dropped off the final projects to a much too energetic desk clerk in the music building and didn’t even remember walking home. His feet knew where to take him. He had shared the same apartment with Jin and Namjoon for a year and a half.

Yoongi had lived in a single room his first year of college, but decided to bite the bullet and get a roommate for his second year to save money. Jin had been the luckiest find on the planet. A Beta roommate who liked to cook and pressured Yoongi to stay organized, fed, and functional? Yoongi didn’t even know how badly he needed Jin until he had him.

And with Jin came the frequent presence of Namjoon, Jin’s childhood friend that Yoongi had already tentatively been friends with. As an Omega, he was generally wary of Alphas. Both of his parents and his older brother were Alphas, so he knew better than most how they could be temperamental and territorial when stressed—and to call college stressful was an understatement.

Yoongi hated that, whenever an Alpha was angry, there was a part of him that wanted to bare his neck and do what he could to please them. But Namjoon had proven himself level-headed and so, so thoughtful about his Alpha status that Yoongi still felt bad for mistrusting him in the beginning.

Namjoon had skipped a grade and started college early, so he and Yoongi were actually in the same graduating class. They had taken a lot of classes together, and it was nice to have someone around who was also interested in producing music.

Slowly, Yoongi had warmed up to Namjoon and, by the end of Yoongi and Namjoon’s second year, Yoongi had found himself agreeing to move into a new apartment with Jin and Namjoon for the next school year.

They were better friends than he had ever dreamed for himself. And when they asked him to form a pack with them at the beginning of his third year because they were all struggling without one, he'd said yes. It had been one of the best decisions of his life.

It made the Omega in Yoongi pleased to have packmates watching out for him, and Yoongi knew it soothed Namjoon’s Alpha side to have people to protect and care for. Betas always thrive better in packs as well, which gave them an outlet for their peace-keeping instincts. Jin had started to laugh more, telling twice as many of his god-awful jokes than he had before. The three of them worked well together in a pack, they fell into place like a softly played major chord.

Yoongi was aware of keying in the door code for his apartment building, of walking up the flight of stairs to the second floor, of keying in the door code to his apartment, and had just processed that Jin had met him at the door when the Beta spoke.

“Where have you been?” Jin asked, his arms crossed and his voice stern. “Your final finished over an hour ago and you promised to come straight home to sleep.”

“TA,” Yoongi said, shaking the rain off Jungkook’s umbrella into the hallway before closing the door. “Final projects.”

“You’re shaking, Yoongi,” Jin said, frowning in disapproval as he watched Yoongi fumble with the laces on his shoes. Yoongi only noticed the wooden spatula in Jin’s hand when the Beta brandished it in Yoongi’s direction like he was going to beat Yoongi with it. “If you didn’t eat this morning, I swear I’m going to-”

“I ate... ate stuff,” Yoongi mumbled and Jin’s posture relaxed slightly. The familiar smell of their apartment was making him even sleepier. Jin’s scent smelled like roses and cotton, and Namjoon’s scent of burning pine hung the air too. He must have just been in the room. Yoongi found the combination of his packmates’ scents endlessly soothing, like curling up in front of a warm fire.

“Tired,” he said.

“Wow, what a surprise,” Jin said sarcastically, herding Yoongi towards the hall that led to the room he shared with Jin. “I can’t believe you’ve been awake for so long that you’ve lost the ability to speak in complete sentences.”

Yoongi shut his eyes and let Jin fully lead him down the hall, his Omega instincts content to let someone they trusted so much take care of him. Yoongi usually didn’t play into these instincts, but he couldn’t be bothered to try to stay awake enough to take care of himself any longer.

Something poked his arm, probably the spatula, and Jin said, “Take your jacket off.” Yoongi shrugged off the jacket and was promptly pushed into bed.

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi said as Jin pushed Yoongi's shoulder until the Omega was lying on his back. He knew Jin was angry with him for not taking care of himself. He whined when Jin didn’t respond, his instincts not liking that Jin was upset with him.

“Shh,” Jin said, and Yoongi felt his duvet being placed on top of him. Jin's voice was softer as he smoothed down the duvet, his touch gentle. “It’s okay, Yoongi. Just sleep now.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said, and he nuzzled his face into his pillow. He suddenly had the urge to have another and fumbled around his bed for one until Jin placed a pillow into his hands, then he hugged it to himself.

It smelled like Jin, and a little like Namjoon. It smelled like home and everything that had proven to be good in his world. A purr rose up in his throat as he inhaled the smell and he let it rumble softly in his chest, a little delirious now and so close to sleep he didn’t feel like he was even still awake. The rain was pattering against the window, accompanied by the intermittent sound of distant thunder. It was Yoongi's favorite lullaby.

Jin chuckled. “You usually only purr like this when you’re drunk.”

“Love this smell,” Yoongi said in explanation, and the last thing Yoongi processed before sleep was the sound Jin’s soft sigh.

***

Like almost every college student, Yoongi loved the break between semesters. With summer break came his summer job, where Yoongi practically ran a small record store because his boss was an adrenaline junkie who liked to spend his summers traveling.

The three week break between semesters, however, was responsibility free. It was also the only time Yoongi ever got to be as introverted as he always wanted to be. And this was his last one.

He would graduate after the next semester and he’d have to get a job that wasn’t only for summers. He’d have to get something full time with health insurance and benefits and paid time off and all that other shit that he didn’t plan on worrying about for a few more months.

He’d spent his last two semester breaks much like he was spending this one—with his only ventures outside of his apartment being his daily coffee at Namjoon’s work.

Namjoon worked at a coffee shop that doubled as a used book store called the Coffee Nook. It suited Namjoon perfectly, as he was allowed to take books off the shelves and read when he didn’t have any customers in line for the cash register.

Yoongi’s coffee usually turned into coffees, and he liked to bring his laptop with him and work on his music in a fresh space. Sometimes he came in the afternoon and lost track of time, not leaving until Namjoon approached his table with a fond smile after he got off work.

Yoongi was only a week into his break, waiting for Namjoon to make his coffee, when his plans of being lazy and introverted for three weeks were slightly dashed.

He got bored waiting and had just picked up Namjoon's book to read the back cover when Namjoon spoke to him from behind the espresso machine.

“I forgot to tell you that Creed sent me a message,” Namjoon said, craning his neck so he could see Yoongi on the other side of the counter.

Creed was a middle-aged Alpha who owned a club called The Loophole that let ameteur artists perform every Wednesday night. Yoongi and Namjoon had performed their music there before, frequently enough that Creed had come to know them by name.

“Oh?” Yoongi said, still distracted by the description on the back cover of Namjoon’s book. “Namjoon, I can’t believe you’re reading about whales again.

Namjoon came back into view with Yoongi’s coffee in hand and with a look of wide-eyed excitement.

“Because they’re fascinating, hyung. I don’t think we’ll ever understand them. Whale song is a system of communication that is so complex and beautiful and musical. It can repeat like a chorus and they can sing together from miles away,” Namjoon said, setting Yoongi’s coffee on the counter.

Yoongi was about to tell Namjoon that he had told Yoongi all of this before, in detail, on at least five occasions. But his own expression or Namjoon’s memory must have beat him to it because Namjoon shook his head and said, “Sorry. But, anyway , the owner of The Loophole sent me a message and he wants us to perform tonight.”

“Tonight?” Yoongi asked, frowning as Namjoon snapped the plastic lid onto his coffee. “Why? What time?”

“Apparently two acts canceled and he wants us to fill the lost time. He said he can give us twenty minutes,” Namjoon said.

Yoongi raised his eyebrows. Creed was known for packing in so many acts that most barely got five minutes on stage.

“He’s giving us twenty minutes?” Yoongi asked.

“I think more acts canceled than he wants to admit,” Namjoon said. “It’s so close to Christmas I bet people are just going home or making other plans, and it’s not like he pays us.”

“I usually like to have more notice,” Yoongi said as Namjoon slid his coffee across the counter. Yoongi liked performing, but he didn’t like the crowds. He usually had to prepare himself to be in crowded, loud places. There was a reason he was a Music Production major and not a Music Performance major.

“I know, hyung,” Namjoon said, leaning against the counter. “But with twenty minutes, we can both perform more than one song. We haven’t been able to do that before.”

Yoongi hesitated. He had stopped performing as much after he’d built up a following for his music on his SoundCloud. Lately, he had just been taking small jobs playing the piano as a fill-in for restaurants or hotels to get some extra money.

Now that he thought about it, he actually hadn’t performed at The Loophole in months. It probably wasn’t too smart to wait much longer if he still wanted Creed to give him slots in the future. Namjoon was watching him nervously, and Yoongi realized that Namjoon probably really wanted to perform. Having so much time on stage at The Loophole would bring attention to their music.

“Alright,” Yoongi said. “Yeah. Let’s do it.”

“Yeah?” Namjoon said, his eyes brightening. “Great! I’ll text Creed and let Jin know.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said. He picked up his coffee and pointed at his corner. “I’m going to go sit down. Let me know what time we’re performing.”

“Will do,” Namjoon said with a nod.

Yoongi sat down and took a sip of his coffee. It was his usual, a caramel latte, and he never got tired of it. Halfway through his cup of coffee, Yoongi’s phone buzzed with a message.

Namjoon: Creed wants us for twenty minutes at 10:30. Jin is coming to watch.

Yoongi sent Namjoon a thumbs-up in reply.

As he set his phone back down, Yoongi realized that he was a little excited to perform again. He knew he was good at it. Every time he performed, a part of him felt at home on the stage. And the part of him that was hesitant about the atmosphere at the club was outweighed by the part of him that wanted to do this for Namjoon, for their music.

He open his SoundCloud on his laptop and tried to pick out the songs he wanted to perform. He sometimes felt like he could rap his lyrics in his sleep, but he liked to listen to his songs at least a few times before he performed them. It was a habit he had picked up from Namjoon, who did it because fortune favors the prepared mind, hyung. I might break a microphone stand again, but I don’t want to forget one line.

***

From the outside, The Loophole looked like a dump. The sign hung crooked, the neon lights flickered, the grey concrete walls were covered in graffiti, and the bouncers always wore sunglasses that Jin made fun of. But inside, it was nice. The floors were smooth light-grey hardwood and the walls were covered in a shiny black paint that glittered in the flashing lights.

It had two different sides to it and Yoongi liked that, how it usually surprised people, how it had two souls.

As soon as they got inside the club, Jin went off to get a beer, shouting that he’d meet them up front.

Yoongi followed closely behind Namjoon through the crowd towards the stage. The room already smelt like smoke and beer, and Creed must have opened a window because the air seemed colder than usual.

An Alpha that smelt like cloves stumbled into him, apologized, and then leered when he caught Yoongi’s scent. Yoongi hated when Alphas acted like no one was attractive unless they smelt like an Omega. He hated how it sometimes intruded into his thoughts and made him wonder if his scent was the only appealing thing about him.

“You here to watch the live shows?” the Alpha asked, leaning too close for Yoongi’s liking, but Yoongi could admit that most people would think he was keeping a respectable distance. Yoongi just valued personal space more than the average person.

“No,” Yoongi said shortly and kept walking after Namjoon. The Alpha didn’t follow him, but Yoongi still had to shake off the interaction. He was usually rude on purpose to anyone who even half looked like they were flirting, but it made the Omega in him that wanted to please and submit feel guilty.

It was a busier night than usual because the college kids were all on break. There were two girls performing a pop song on stage—a cover of something that Yoongi vaguely recognized. He felt like they had sped it up a little, and they had half of the room dancing.

When they got to the stage, Namjoon had a shouted conversation with Creed and handed him the USB with their set list on it. Creed had put on muscle since Yoongi had last seen him, and it made him look more intimidating than he usually did. He already had towered over most people, but now it looked like he could bench press them too. He seemed to be growing out his beard again, was wearing washed-out jean shorts even though it was the middle of winter, and when he turned around Yoongi could see that the back of his baseball cap said Fuck Off.

Yoongi felt a hand on his elbow and turned to see that Jin had already bought himself a beer and caught up with them.

“What time is it?” Yoongi asked, tapping the back of his wrist in case Jin couldn’t hear him.

“I think it’s almost 10:20!” Jin said.

Namjoon came over to them and and shouted, “We’re next!”

“Nice!” Jin said, doing a body roll that had Namjoon laughing. “I’m ready to scream and pretend to be your groupie!”

Jin had Namjoon doing body rolls with him by the time the two girls were done performing, and Yoongi was pretending he didn’t know them. Namjoon climbed the stage with a smile on his face to give a brief introduction and tell the crowd where they could find their music, as Yoongi prefered to just perform and not have to say anything else.

Yoongi leaned his hip against the wall next to the stage while Namjoon performed, holding his hands up to cup his mouth and cheer whenever Namjoon looked his way. Jin had pushed his way in front of the center stage and was holding up his beer as he danced. The brown glass bottle glinted in the lights overhead. Yoongi loved how Jin always did what he wanted with no trace of embarrassment.

Namjoon was on fire, and did one of his raps so fiercely that Yoongi almost believed he was pissed about something. By the time Namjoon was finished, enough of the crowd was paying attention that he got a loud round of cheers and applause. He mentioned where to find their music again on SoundCloud and handed Yoongi the microphone as he climbed down the steps of the stage.

Yoongi nodded politely to the crowd as he took the stage. He saw a few heads tilted in curiosity. He knew he didn’t really look the part of a rapper today, especially in contrast with the leather jacket and cap Namjoon had worn. Yoongi had just put on his ripped jeans and a black hoodie, and he really needed a haircut.

He shook his hair out of his eyes as he waited for his first beat to drop, angry at himself for the sudden lack of confidence. Who cared what he looked like? Anyone who did care could take a hint from Creed and fuck off.

When the music started, Yoongi fell so easily into the performance that he forgot almost everything else. He got a loud round of cheers after the first verse, where he rapped so fast that sometimes he stumbled on the words, and encouraged the crowd to start jumping in the chorus.

He must have moved around the stage more than he realized and was panting by the time the first song was done. He made eye contact with the shocked-looking Alpha who had spoken to him earlier in the crowd, and quickly broke it. Namjoon had made his way to Jin in front of center stage, and they were both doing body rolls again.

He laughed when the next song started and he could hear Jin hollering something he couldn’t make out over the noise of the crowd. He’d picked First Love for his second song, both because he knew it was Jin’s favorite and because he liked how it was more positive than his other stuff.

It started slow, and Yoongi used the time to walk the stage and do what he could to interact with the crowd. Yoongi always felt emotional singing this song. He was still disappointed that he had stopped playing piano for so many years, and still grateful for the way it had accepted him back.

He saw this song, First Love, as a promise. Never again, he thought to himself, getting down on one knee to serenade Namjoon and Jin. Never again would he forget that piano had made him who he was, that his love of music had started with a long stretch of black and white keys.

Jin was screaming something, Namjoon was laughing, and Yoongi appreciated them both so much. He easily stole Jin’s beer and stood back up to finish the slow ending to the song. In one of the lulls, he took a swig of Jin’s beer, smirking at the thought of the Beta’s affronted expression.

It was then that he saw him.

Jeon Jungkook was in the back of the room, sitting on a bar stool at one of the high tables and watching Yoongi with a blank expression of shock that had his mouth hanging open. His mouth snapped closed when he noticed Yoongi looking his way.

He wasn’t old enough to be in here, but Yoongi didn’t care about that. He did care that Jungkook was young, and seemed to be alone. The Loophole wasn’t exactly a dangerous place to be, but no club was the best place for a young Omega to be alone.

Yoongi pulled his attention away from Jungkook and forced himself to focus on the performance. By the end of the song, Yoongi saw with relief that two boys who seemed to be Jungkook’s age had joined him at his table. The shorter of the two had pink hair, and was poking Jungkook on the cheek and laughing while Jungkook tried to swat his hand away without looking. The other boy at Jungkook’s table was tall, with light brown hair and a sweat band across his forehead, and he was laughing too.

Yoongi could see the familiarity between them, felt comforted in the way the taller boy took a drink from Jungkook’s water without asking. He’d be fine, Yoongi decided, pushing down his nervousness.

Jungkook’s gaze was focused entirely on Yoongi as he raised a hand in thanks for the cheers and applause at the end of his performance. There was something heady in his eyes that Yoongi could feel all the way from across the room, and the physicality of being so intensely looked at had heat rising to his face.

Yoongi handed the microphone to Creed with nod as he left the stage and wondered, suddenly, if he should give the kid back his umbrella. He wasn’t sure if he even knew where it was.

He waited for Jin and Namjoon to fight their way towards him through the crowd. Namjoon got there first and said, “You made it look easy up there!”

Yoongi smiled, warmed at the compliment, and shouted, “So did you! You looked fucking pissed.”

Namjoon laughed as Jin reached them and stole back his beer.

***

“You guys should perform more often,” Jin said, slumped in the back seat of a taxi next to Yoongi on their way back home. “It’s the only time we ever have fun.”

“Come on, that’s not true,” Namjoon said from the passenger seat.

Yoongi leaned his head against the window. He’d convinced them to leave The Loophole after Jin had finished his beer—mostly because it had gotten too crowded for him and partly because he wanted to avoid Jungkook. Something about the other Omega made him feel unsure.

“Namjoon, yesterday you told me that we couldn’t watch a movie because 9pm was too late to start one,” Jin deadpanned.

“Because I knew you had the morning shift at the bakery and needed to get up at 6am, hyung! Not because I can’t have fun,” Namjoon said. Yoongi knew both Namjoon and Jin were shaking their heads now without looking.

Jin had started working at different bakeries once he’d graduated from college, and his dream was to one day open one of his own.

“Semantics,” Jin said. “We’re boring and old. The most exciting thing Yoongi did the past week was decide to scramble his eggs on Saturday morning.”

“Fuck you,” Yoongi said. “I’m on break.”

Jin kept talking like Yoongi hadn’t spoken. “And I was excited! I walked in and thought Wow! Scrambled eggs! Like it was some wild, unexpected morning. I even texted you about it, and you came out of your room to see it for yourself.”

“I know,” Namjoon said. “To be fair, Yoongi almost never eats scrambled eggs.”

Yoongi remembered Namjoon stumbling into their kitchen a few mornings ago, amused and only half dressed. He had loitered around the kitchen with Jin, talking in hushed whispers and chuckling. Yoongi had wondered what that had been about. At the time, he hadn’t been awake long enough or had enough coffee in him to ask.

“I’m just saying, if scrambled eggs are exciting, then we don’t have enough fun,” Jin said.

Namjoon seemed to have no argument for this and Jin nodded in satisfaction.

“Yoongi,” Jin said, bumping him with his elbow. “I have a very important question for you.”

Yoongi didn’t want to move, but he turned his head towards Jin, straining his neck a little to see his face.

With a seriousness that already had Yoongi suspicious, Jin cleared his throat. Then he asked, “What day do eggs hate the most?”

Namjoon snorted from the passenger seat and Yoongi let out a sigh of exasperation.

Fry-day,” Jin said, then burst into laughter. His high and squeaky laugh filled the car, and the taxi driver joined in, though it was unclear if the short, stocky man was laughing at Jin’s joke or at Jin’s laugh. However, it was clear that Yoongi wanted to bang his head against the window.

“Wait, wait,” Jin said, pulling himself together long enough to ask. “Who tells the best egg jokes?”

“Shut up,” Yoongi said, pulling his legs up to his chest and wrapping his arms around them.

“I love how my jokes make you crave the fetal position,” Jin said, reaching forward to ruffle Yoongi’s hair in a move that Yoongi wouldn’t allow in daylight.

“Your jokes make me crave death,” Yoongi said, leaning his head back against the window.

“Namjoon,” Jin said, giving up on Yoongi. “Who tells the best egg jokes?”

“Umm,” Namjoon said, turning around in his seat to look at Jin. “You?”

“Obviously,” Jin said. “But no. It’s comedi-hens .”

Jin leaned against the car door as he laughed this time, slapping a hand on his leg. The taxi driver also found this especially funny and even Namjoon laughed this time.

“Ah, eggs puns,” Jin said, after taking a deep breath. “Aren’t they most egg-citing?”

This caused another round of laughter from Jin. Namjoon snorted again, bumping his head back against the seat.

Yoongi hugged his knees harder and set his face into a frown, but he fought a smile the whole way home.

***

The bell on the door to The Coffee Nook jingled as Yoongi stepped inside about a week later. He smiled at the rush of warm air, taking in the smell of old paper and ground coffee beans.

Yoongi felt his posture relaxing as he warmed up, and he took off his gloves and put them into his laptop bag. It was an unexpectedly cold day. He rubbed his fingers together, trying to push the warmth back into his hands.

Namjoon wasn’t working today, but that had never stopped Yoongi from coming here in the past. He’d gotten to know all of the baristas that worked here, though the only other barista he would consider a friend was Hoseok. The bright, energetic Beta always managed to make him smile, which was something Yoongi had always valued in a person.

Hoseok reminded him of his mother. They were both bright, kind, and energetic. His mother woke up happy in a way Yoongi would never understand. He had taken after his father in that aspect.

Yoongi could see Hoseok sorting through a box of books on the counter by the register. Yoongi got in line behind an old man who appeared to be selling them.

“Would you like your payment in cash or by gift card?” Hoseok asked, smiling up at the old man as he waited for a response. The old man smelt like cinnamon and dandelions, and the Omega and Beta scent surrounding him was so mixed that Yoongi couldn’t even begin to guess his dynamic.

“What can I get with a gift card?” The old man asked.

“If you get a gift card,” Hoseok said, pointing to the holiday-themed gift cards on the counter, “the store pays you an extra ten percent and you can use it to buy coffee and books here. We have a snowman gift card right now that’s adorable.”

Hoseok picked up one of the snowman gift cards and laughed as he pointed at the cartoon snowman on the shiny plastic, which appeared to be sneezing into wrapping paper.

“Oh? I’ll do that then,” the old man said. He patted a few of his pockets and then took out his wallet.

The cinnamon in the man’s scent was making Yoongi crave the Coffee Nook’s cinnamon latte. Maybe he’d switch up his usual today.

Yoongi watched Hoseok ring up the old man with a small frown. Every time he saw Hoseok interact with new people, he wondered what it was like to be able to smile at people so easily—like it didn’t cost anything, like joy was so plentiful it was something that could be handed out to strangers in excess.

“Yoongi-hyung!” Hoseok said excitedly when he saw him, bouncing in place. “I haven’t seen you in forever!”

“You saw me on Sunday,” Yoongi said, but he grinned at Hoseok in spite of himself.

Forever, ” Hoseok repeated. “So much has happened between then, it might as well have been a year ago.”

“What happened?” Yoongi asked.

Hoseok leaned forward over the counter, like he was going to whisper a secret, so Yoongi leaned forward too.

“An Omega asked me to court him. He gave me a courting bracelet to use and everything,” Hoseok said quietly, the corners of his mouth tilted upward in a pleased smile.

“What did you say?” Yoongi asked. It wasn’t unheard of for Omegas to ask others to court them, but it didn’t happen often. It was traditional for Alphas and Betas to ask Omegas, giving them a courting bracelet to wear as a symbol of their unavailability.

“I said yes,” Hoseok said, eyes wide. “I was shocked, but I was already considering asking him out myself. I figured we’d go on a few dates and then I’d ask to court him, but he beat me to it.”

“He wanted to go straight to courting?” Yoongi asked. Yoongi couldn’t imagine courting someone he didn’t know well.

“We’re friends,” Hoseok said, his cheeks coloring a little bit. “His packmates are both dance majors, and they noticed that I don’t have a pack here, so...”

Yoongi felt a pang at that. Now that he had a pack with Jin and Namjoon, he didn’t like to imagine living without them. He hadn’t known that Hoseok didn’t have one.

“When they do pack bonding,” Hoseok said, “they invite me.” His mouth was turned up in a small smile, and he looked like he still couldn’t believe it. Pack bonding was an activity that was almost exclusively done between members of the same pack.

Namjoon insisted that they do pack bonding at least once a week, which usually just consisted of them huddling together on the floor and watching a movie. Being the Omega of the pack, Yoongi usually got the most attention during pack bonding—a hand in his hair, an arm around his waist, the occasional light scenting—but that was just Jin and Namjoon’s instincts making them ensure Yoongi felt safe in comfortable.

At the end of the day, Yoongi always felt like it was Jin that actually benefited from pack bonding the most. Sometimes he even crawled into Yoongi’s bed in the middle of the night and asked to be held. He had grown up in a really close pack, and Yoongi knew he missed it.

“Do you think they are going to invite you into their pack?” Yoongi asked.

“Honestly?” Hoseok said. “I really, really hope so. And they don’t have a Beta so it will be an easy transition, I think.”

People of the same dynamics usually were the ones who clashed in packs. Their instincts asked them to attribute the same things, and sometimes they didn’t like the feeling that someone else was doing it better than they were. It affected Alphas the most, especially when it came to territory and protection, but Betas and Omegas were known to clash as well.

“What’s his name?” Yoongi asked.

Hoseok sighed, leaning onto one elbow with a fond smile. “My courtmate? His name is Taehyung. He’s an Art and Photography double major. He’s beautiful, mind and body, and he smells like pancakes.”

Yoongi couldn’t help but laugh.

“He does!” Hoseok said. “He smells like maple and vanilla. I smell like oranges and honey. Put us together, and you have a whole breakfast.”

“Well,” Yoongi said. “I hope everything works out with you and pancake boy.”

“Me too,” Hoseok said, standing back up straight. “Will you have your usual again today, hyung? A caramel latte? You’re holding up the line.”

Yoongi looked back behind him quickly, guilt already rising at the idea of keeping someone else waiting, but no one was there. Yoongi covered his relief in a frown as he turned back around.

“Give me a cinnamon latte and go screw yourself,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok laughed as he disappeared behind the espresso machine.

Yoongi had been sitting at his table in the corner for about an hour when Hoseok came over, whining about being bored. After a few minutes of begging from Hoseok, coupled by a promise to give Yoongi a free cup of coffee, Yoongi found himself seated at the beat-up piano in the front of the shop playing holiday music.

He always hated the first minute of playing the piano for a crowd, even for the small crowd of six currently seated in the Coffee Nook. He hated how he could feel their eyes on him, could feel the attention grip onto his skin like a vice. After the first minute, however, he usually forgot people were watching.

He played through all the holiday songs he knew. Hoseok was seated backwards next to him on the piano bench, occasionally making requests and getting up to take people’s orders or help them find books.

Once he ran out of holiday songs, Yoongi paused.

“You can stop if you want,” Hoseok said. “I’m grateful you played even one song.”

Yoongi looked over at Hoseok, at the calm, happy shine in his eyes. Yoongi could pretend all he wanted, but his Omega instincts loved making people happy. He could indulge them today, if only to make Hoseok smile a little longer.

“One more,” Yoongi said. He turned back to the piano and started one of his favorite songs to play—River Flows in You.

Hoseok inhaled loudly when he heard the first few notes. “I love this song,” he said softly.

“Me too,” Yoongi said, and then he shut his eyes. This song was harder than the others he had played, and it took more of his concentration. Halfway through, the bell on the door jingled and Yoongi was vaguely aware of Hoseok getting up and shushing someone.

Yoongi finished the song’s last few slow notes, and then lifted his hands from the keys, releasing a long breath. This song always made him ache for something he couldn’t name, left him feeling soft.

When he opened his eyes, he turned to see Hoseok was standing with his arms around the waist of a tall boy in a pair of tight black and white checkered pants, a puffy red winter coat, and matching red beanie.

Hoseok’s chin was tucked over the boy’s shoulder, the boy had his hands folded over Hoseok's on his stomach, and they both were smiling at him in a way that made Yoongi fidget.

“That was amazing, hyung,” Hoseok said.

“It wasn’t,” Yoongi denied immediately. Jin would chastise him for not taking a compliment, but it was simply his reflex. He was good, but he wasn’t amazing.

“It was,” the boy in Hoseok arms said. “I wish I’d heard the whole thing.”

Yoongi pursed his lips and then said, “Thank you.” It was stiff, but he hoped it sounded sincere.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Hoseok said. “This is Taehyung. He hangs my sun and stars.”

Taehyung blushed deeply and looked away in a sudden shyness that endeared Yoongi to him immediately. Taehyung was more beautiful than Yoongi had been expecting. Not that Hoseok was ugly by any means. Taehyung was just... he looked like he could easily wake up one day and decide to become a model.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Yoongi said to Taehyung. Then he made eye contact with Hoseok. “You’re so cheesy.”

“I know. And this,” Hoseok said, nodding in the direction of the door, “is Jungkook and Jimin. They’re Tae’s packmates and they dance with me.”

Yoongi turned around on the piano bench and froze when he made eye contact with Jeon Jungkook. He was staring at Yoongi with wide eyes, and looked just as surprised to see him. There was another boy next to him—the short boy with pink hair that Yoongi had seen with Jungkook at The Loophole. Taehyung must be the other boy that Yoongi had seen at his table.

Jimin had the hood of his jacket up, the bangs of his pink hair parted across his forehead, and he was so bundled up in his cashmere scarf that only half of his face was visible. Jimin held up a hand to Yoongi in greeting, and only the tips of his fingers poked out of his sleeves.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Yoongi said to Jimin, avoiding the stare Jungkook was giving him.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Yoongi-si,” Jimin said. His voice was high and soft. Yoongi couldn’t help but think that he was Namjoon’s type—Namjoon always fell for the cute, adorable, almost-too-friendly type.

Taehyung was whispering something to Hoseok, who giggled. Jimin glanced at Jungkook, and then elbowed him hard in the side.

Jungkook flinched and then blurted out, “We’ve met.”

“We have,” Yoongi said, forcing himself to look at Jungkook. “I thought you were a Music Production major.”

“I’m not,” Jungkook said. He looked terrified, and Yoongi tried to look as non-threatening as possible.

“He’s a double major,” Taehyung said, looking amused. “Dance and film. He just likes to take random classes.”

Namjoon did the same thing. He was a Music Production major, but he took classes all over the school—philosophy, linguistics, poetry, literature, physics, statistics. Namjoon had taken a little bit of everything. Yoongi had no idea how he’d managed to still be set to graduate on time.

“Multi-talented then,” Yoongi said to Jungkook, who blushed.

“If you think so,” Jungkook said, and then he winced, turning away to look out the window.

Taehyung and Jimin looked so ready to start laughing that Yoongi felt like he was missing the joke. He felt awkward as he stood up from the piano. Then felt even more awkward as he pushed the piano bench back in with his shin, and the wooden legs grated against the tiled floor.

“I’m done playing,” he told Hoseok. “Don’t forget my coffee.”

“I’d never,” Hoseok said, winking.

Yoongi nodded to Taehyung and then to Jimin and Jungkook.

“It was nice to meet you all,” he said. The Omega scents he’d smelt on Jungkook before hung around all of them—warm bread, vanilla, grass, maple, and lemon. He knew now that the the maple and vanilla scents belonged to Taehyung, so the remainder must belong to Jungkook and Jimin.

He flicked Hoseok on the forehead. “Thanks for taking care of this one.”

He watched Hoseok clap a hand to his forehead, and then he fled back to his corner table to the sound of Hoseok saying, “Ow, hyung! That hurt!”

Yoongi watched from his table as Hoseok ushered the three boys towards the register and started making them drinks. Then he forced himself to look away so he wouldn’t be caught staring.

He was working on a new song, an instrumental piano piece this time, which was something he had never done before. He had been looking over his schedule for his final semester last night and realized that he wouldn’t be seeing Professor Lee every day anymore.

He’d miss her.

He thought, if he could manage it, he could write her a piano piece—something that would play towards her love of classical music. He wanted to give a gift to thank her for the faith she had always given him, for the honor of being chosen to be her TA and to help teach one of her classes.

He had recorded the start of a few ideas on his piano last night, and now he was picking them apart to see which was best.

He was in the middle of listening to one of them when a coffee cup was placed next to his computer. He looked up to thank Hoseok, and tensed when he saw that it was not Hoseok, but Jungkook.

Yoongi took off his headphones, letting them hang around his neck.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Hoseok-hyung told me to bring it over,” Jungkook said, looking back to where Hoseok, Jimin, and Taehyung were all watching them from by the register. They all looked away quickly like they hadn’t been. Jimin and Taehyung now held coffee cups too, and there was another cup on the counter that seemed to be Jungkook’s.

“Thank you,” Yoongi repeated, not sure what else to say.

Jungkook nodded a few times and then asked, “Can I sit?”

“Sure,” Yoongi said, gesturing to the seat across from him.

Jungkook sat down, slinging a backpack off his shoulder that Yoongi hadn’t noticed and putting it in the seat next to him. He put his phone and wallet on the corner of the table, then he looked at Yoongi and quickly away again.

Yoongi could still hear piano music coming out of his headphones and he paused the song on his computer. Jungkook kept opening and closing his mouth like he had something to say, but kept thinking better of it.

He took a sip of his coffee as he waited for Jungkook to speak. It was a caramel latte, his usual, which was exactly what he would have told Hoseok he wanted. The Beta knew him too well, at least when it came to how he liked his coffee.

“Would you...” Jungkook trailed off, his face scrunching into a frown as he stared down at the coffee in Yoongi’s hands. His eyes flicked briefly to Yoongi’s again, who hoped his face showed polite interest and not the remaining shock he felt that someone had actually sat down at his table while he was still sitting at it.

Jungkook’s gaze went from Yoongi’s face to the headphones around his neck to his laptop humming on the table.

Then Jungkook inhaled deeply and asked, “Would you be willing to teach me how to play the piano?”

Looking back, Yoongi would never be sure what he had expected Jeon Jungkook to say—sitting across from him that first time in the back corner of the Coffee Nook on a cold late-December day in Seoul—but it wasn’t this.

Avoiding eye contact, head slightly bowed, Jungkook seemed to be unwilling to move a muscle as he waited for Yoongi’s response. It was a simple request, but Yoongi’s breath still caught slightly in his throat in surprise.

“You want me to teach you to play the piano,” Yoongi repeated, just to be sure he’d heard correctly.

“Yes,” Jungkook said, still not looking at him.

“Why?” Yoongi asked.

“Because I’ve always wanted to learn,” Jungkook said. He was tracing a long scratch on the table with his forefinger. Yoongi watched him trace it all the up to Yoongi’s computer, and then back down towards himself.

“Is this about your umbrella? Like a trade or something? Because I’m planning on giving it back to you,” Yoongi said. If Jungkook had hinted that his umbrella came with strings attached, Yoongi would have thrown it at his back like a javelin while he’d run away in the rain.

Jungkook looked him square in the face for the first time. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “You don’t owe me anything for that.”

“I know,” Yoongi said, maybe a little too firmly, because Jungkook leaned forward.

“Really, Yoongi-si,” Jungkook said. “This isn’t about that at all, and you don’t have to give the umbrella back to me. It’s yours. I just have always wanted to learn piano. I’ll pay you if you’ll teach me.”

Yoongi tried to settle down, feeling guilty now that he’d jumped to conclusions.

“Sorry,” Yoongi said.

“Don’t be sorry,” Jungkook said, shaking his head quickly. “I can understand why you thought that. I should have been more clear.”

“It’s not your fault,” Yoongi said, running a hand over his face. Jungkook looked panicked enough that Yoongi felt like he had kicked a puppy. “I tend to assume the worst.”

Before Jungkook could argue about whose fault it was, Yoongi added, “Thank you for that umbrella, by the way. You really saved my ass. And I’m glad you don’t want it back. I was so tired that day that I don’t think I could even figure out which umbrella in my apartment is yours.”

Jungkook smiled and said, “That’s easy. It’s the one with an Iron Man sticker on the pole.”

“An Iron Man sticker?” Yoongi asked, confused.

Jungkook winced and blushed, then looked away for a few moments before he said, “It’s a habit from when I was younger. My mom used to make me put stickers on all my school things so I could always tell which ones were mine.”

“Why Iron Man?” Yoongi asked. Jungkook was still blushing and he scrunched up his nose at Yoongi’s question.

“Because I really love Iron Man,” Jungkook said seriously, in a way that made Yoongi think he’d been asked this question one too many times.

Yoongi smiled and Jungkook grinned back at him, his eyes showing his relief. Maybe people teased him for his Iron Man stickers, and the thought made Yoongi want to hiss.

Now that Jungkook had pointed it out, Yoongi started noticing them. He could see an Iron Man sticker on the back of Jungkook’s phone where it laid face down on the table, and on his wallet next to it. There was also one on a pin placed off-center on Jungkook’s backpack, an Iron Man covering whatever the pin’s face originally showed.

They all reminded Yoongi that Jungkook was young. He was in his first year of college, barely six-months out of living with his parents. Yoongi remembers what he was like at that age—so quiet but so hungry for new experiences. Those first two semesters, he had never felt like he was taking in all Seoul had to offer.

And then he remembers Jungkook’s composition project, the not-a-pop-ballad named Euphoria, and thinks, maybe, he could get his hands back on it. If Professor Lee had liked it, Yoongi wanted to hear it too.

“Okay,” Yoongi said. And in his mind’s eye he can practically see Jin nodding in pleased encouragement like he did when he thought Yoongi was being uncharacteristically friendly, can see Namjoon smiling over a book and saying Scientists have shown that generosity makes you a happier person, hyung.

“Okay?” Jungkook repeated. His mouth hung open in a half smile after he said it, like he was frozen between disbelief and happiness.

“Yes. Okay, I’ll teach you,” Yoongi said, nodding to himself. “Twice a week, if we can work it in, and if I can tell that you’re not practicing, we stop. I’m not going to waste my time.”

“I’ll practice,” Jungkook said quickly. “I wouldn’t dream of wasting your time.”

He said it so earnestly that Yoongi fidgeted and felt his facing heating up.

“And you don’t have to pay me,” Yoongi said.

“I do,” Jungkook insisted.

Yoongi shook his head, uncomfortable at the idea of asking Jungkook for money, and looked down at his coffee, which sparked an idea.

“Just come to our lessons with coffee and I’ll consider us even,” Yoongi said.

Jungkook's eyes widened again briefly, but then he nodded, beaming now, and said, “Of course. I won’t disappoint you, Yoongi-si. Thank you for agreeing to teach me.”

“If I’m going to be teaching you piano,” Yoongi said, “you can call me hyung.” He was the one avoiding eye contact now, feeling a little off-footed at the happiness radiating off the boy in front of him. He was glad he’d said yes, seeing its result.

“I won’t disappoint you, Yoongi-hyung,” Jungkook said, looking determined, his cheeks colored. Yoongi felt his heart beating faster.

“Just... just let me give you my stupid-ass phone number so we can work out the lesson times later and leave me in peace,” Yoongi said.

“Of course,” Jungkook said, leaping to his feet so quickly that his chair would have toppled over onto the floor if he hadn’t had reflexes fast enough to catch it. He opened his phone and looked up at Yoongi expectantly.

Yoongi rattled off his phone number and made a shooing motion that Jungkook seemed to take to heart, because he picked up his things and left without saying goodbye. Yoongi would have thought he’d upset him if not for the huge grin on Jungkook’s face as he gave Yoongi a nod before walking away.

Yoongi put his headphones back on and concentrated on his music, pretending he couldn’t hear bouts of laughter from the other side of shop.

He felt eyes on him again about an hour later and looked up to see Jungkook hovering in the entrance, the warm air steaming out into the cold night behind him. The sun had gone down completely without Yoongi noticing.

Yoongi couldn’t help but think that, surrounded by the steaming air of the Coffee Nook and shrouded by the dark night, Jeon Jungkook looked the kind of beautiful Yoongi wouldn’t mind seeing again and again.

Jungkook waved goodbye to him and Yoongi nodded, flustered as he gave him a small wave in return. Once Jungkook left, Yoongi made eye contact with Hoseok, who was leaning against the counter behind the register, looking smug.

Yoongi wondered what he’d just gotten himself into.

Chapter Text

About half an hour after Jungkook left the Coffee Nook, Yoongi was finally able to narrow his piano piece for Professor Lee down to two choices. He was debating whether he should combine the two, making one of them part of the verses and the other part of the chorus, when his phone chimed with a text. He looked down to see that Jin had sent a message to the pack’s group chat.

Jin: I’m making fried rice for dinner. Come home and help me

A few seconds later, Jin sent another message.

Jin: Only Yoongi. Not you, Namjoon

Jin: You’re still not allowed in the kitchen with the stove on

Namjoon: When are you going to forget the soup thing and let it go?

Jin: NEVER. I’m never going to forget. What do we call it?

Yoongi smiled and started packing up his things. It had been ten months since Namjoon was allowed to cook anything on the stove. He didn’t think Namjoon actually minded, since he couldn’t cook in the first place. It seemed like he and Jin actually enjoyed bickering, because they repeated the same arguments at least once a month.

Namjoon: The Great February Soup Disaster

Jin: And what did you do?

Namjoon: I burnt soup and broke your favorite pot

Jin: And?

Yoongi put his cup in the recycling and went to the register to say goodbye to Hoseok. Hoseok was focused on a book, but he looked up when Yoongi approached the register.

He smiled and said, “Leaving so soon?”

“Time for dinner,” Yoongi said. The strap of his laptop bag was twisted, and he adjusted it so it laid more comfortably across his shoulder.

“I hear you’re giving our Jungkookie piano lessons,” Hoseok said. He leaned across the counter and wiggled his eyebrows.

“Hesitantly,” Yoongi said, and Hoseok laughed.

“It’s nice of you. He was excited,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi nodded. He was glad Jungkook was excited, but he didn’t like the smirk Hoseok was giving him—like the lessons meant something more than they did. Yoongi’s phone was still dinging with messages from Jin and Namjoon, and Hoseok laughed again.

“Are you late?” Hoseok asked, gesturing towards the dinging coming from Yoongi’s coat pocket with his book. He was reading a children’s chapter book. Something with a dark green dragon on the cover.

“No,” Yoongi said, shaking his head. “It’s just the pack group chat. It gets busy sometimes.”

“Oh,” Hoseok said, and his face fell enough that Yoongi was reminded that Hoseok didn’t have a pack, and he immediately felt guilty.

But Hoseok’s face brightened again and he said, “I hope you have a nice dinner!”

“Thanks,” Yoongi said, waving goodbye. His phone dinged twice more and, feeling awkward about it now, he walked out of the shop quicker than he usually would.

He pulled out his phone again as he started on his way home and read the messages he’d missed.

Namjoon: And I set a kitchen towel on fire

Jin: And you set off two of our fire alarms, so the whole building went off and all of our neighbors judged us

Namjoon: I actually thought they were all really nice about it

Jin: Yes, they were all very nice and understanding while they JUDGED US

Jin: The only other time the whole building went off was because of that sweet old couple on the top floor and I’m pretty sure they are both half blind

Jin: What’s your excuse?

Namjoon: I’ve told you ten times that I’m not sure how any of it happened!

Jin: That’s not an excuse

Namjoon: It wasn’t meant as one :(

Jin: You’ve had a cooking disaster named after you, Namjoon. When you have a cooking miracle named after you, you can use the stove again

Namjoon: So never?

Jin: Never

Yoongi laughed to himself as he waited at a crosswalk. He pulled off his gloves to text.

Yoongi: on my way home

Yoongi: ten minutes

Yoongi: stop blowing up my phone

The crosswalk turned green, and Yoongi’s phone dinged twice as he crossed it. He sighed in the act of putting his gloves back on, and pulled out his phone again when he got to the other side.

He felt his eyebrows go up in surprise when he saw it wasn’t from Namjoon or Jin.

Unknown Number: Hello, hyung! It’s Jungkook.

Unknown Number: I was just wondering if you wanted to start our piano lessons before or after classes start again? Anything is fine with me!

Yoongi hadn't been expecting Jungkook to text him this soon—barely an hour after getting his phone number. The kid must really want piano lessons.

Yoongi added Jungkook as one of his contacts and hesitated. He really felt like keeping the rest of his semester break all to himself.

Yoongi: after break

Jungkook texted back within a few seconds.

Jungkook: Of course!

Jungkook: We can do it next week, maybe.

Jungkook: Or the week after! I’m not in a rush. Please do not feel like we have to start sooner than you want to!

Yoongi felt guilty then. He tried to think of his schedule off the top of his head. He only had one class on Mondays, and it was in the late afternoon.

Yoongi: hows monday morning

Jungkook: My Mondays are completely empty until two!

Yoongi: then meet me in front of your old introductory composition classroom at noon on monday

Jungkook: I will! With coffee! Thanks again!

Yoongi was itching to tease Jungkook about his overuse of exclamation points, but he didn’t feel like they were familiar enough with each other yet. He worried about coming off like a jerk. He knew his sense of humor was dry at the best of times, and could seem mean-spirited if someone didn’t know him well enough. It took a while for some poeple to realize that Yoongi only teased when he was fond.

Yoongi: sure

Yoongi: see you monday

As he finished his walk home, Yoongi wondered what Jungkook expected from him. He felt nervous about the idea of teaching someone he barely knew piano lessons. He’d never actually tried to teach someone piano before. Maybe that was something he should have told Jungkook when he’d asked.

What if he was awful at it? What if he sat down in front of a piano with Jungkook and had no idea where to start or what to say? What if Jungkook acted terrified of Yoongi again and said he understood the things Yoongi explained to him when he really didn’t?

He was pretty sure Jungkook could read music—he would need to have at least a base understanding of beats, notes, keys, and chords to be able to compose anything for Professor Lee’s class. However, putting notes into music production software and playing them on an actual piano were two different things.

He paused at the entrance to his apartment building. What if Jungkook had never even touched a piano? What if they needed to start at the beginning? At middle C?

He put into the keycode to his apartment building and reminded himself that it was only Friday now, so Yoongi had a whole nine days before he had to really worry about it.

***

Halfway through dinner, Yoongi was listening to Namjoon talk about picking up a double shift when the image of Hoseok with his chin tucked over Taehyung’s shoulder flashed through his mind.

“Did you know that Hoseok is courting?” Yoongi asked Namjoon as the Alpha finished talking and took a bite of fried rice.

Namjoon nodded, holding up a finger as he finished chewing. They were seated around the small circular table in their kitchen. It had just enough space for the three of them to eat comfortably without getting in each other’s way.

“Hoseok’s courting?” Jin said. “Aww. Who?”

“An Omega,” Namjoon said, then he cleared his throat and took a drink of water.

“A boy named Taehyung,” Yoongi added, not liking that Namjoon was using a dynamic to completely label someone when it shouldn’t be what mattered.

“Sorry,” Namjoon said to Yoongi as he put down his water. “I was getting to that. I just had something in my throat.”

“Have you met him?” Jin asked.

Namjoon shook his head while Yoongi nodded.

Namjoon looked at Yoongi sharply. “You met Taehyung? When?”

“What was he like?” Jin asked, eyes sparkling. He loved to gossip. He always said Yoongi and Namjoon didn’t do enough of it, and every time they did Yoongi could tell he’d been feeling depraved.

“I met him today at the Coffee Nook. He seemed nice enough,” Yoongi said. “But I didn’t really talk to him much.”

Yoongi paused and thought about mentioning Jungkook and the piano lessons, but the moment passed before he could think of a good way to phrase it.

“It’s sweet he was visiting Hoseok at work, but that’s not an acceptable amount of information, Yoongi,” Jin said. He pointed his chopsticks at Namjoon across the table. “I expect a full report when you get to meet Taehyung.”

Namjoon leaned back in his chair, his mouth tilting up, and said, “I already know a bit about him.”

Jin waved his hand in a go on gesture. Yoongi shook his head and decided to add on whatever else he knew about Taehyung when Namjoon was finished.

“He goes to our college and he’s in his second year,” Namjoon said, tilting his head the way he did when he was trying to remember something. “He’s double majoring in Photography and Art. And he and Hoseok met because Taehyung’s packmates are both Dance majors.”

“An artist,” Jin said. “I like it.”

Namjoon nodded.

“He smells like vanilla and maple,” Yoongi added. “Hoseok told me he smelt like pancakes.”

Namjoon snorted and said, “He told me that, too.”

“And Taehyung was the one who asked Hoseok to court him,” Yoongi said. “He bought the courting bracelets and everything.”

Jin clapped his hands together and said, “I love when lower dynamics take the first leap and buy the courting bracelets!’

In the past, different cultures all had different symbols of courting: a mark, a garment, a necklace, a ring, a hairstyle. But now, most places around the world used courting bracelets as a symbol of unavailability. Historically, only Omegas used to wear them but, as times changed and all dynamics were expected to remain faithful to their courting partners, Betas and Alphas currently courting were expected to wear them too.

“What did the bracelet look like?” Jin asked.

Yoongi shrugged. “I didn’t ask to see it.”

Come on,” Jin said to Yoongi, putting out both his hands in exasperation. “His courtmate is an Art and Photography major. A literal artist. I bet the bracelet is super cute.”

“I saw it,” Namjoon said, and Jin’s face morphed into excitement. “Hoseok said it’s homemade.”

“Homemade?” Jin said, bouncing a little in his seat. “Did you take a picture?”

“No, Jin,” Namjoon said, wincing. “I didn’t take a picture of someone else’s courting bracelet.”

“It’s only rude if you ask the wrong way,” Jin said, waving a hand.

“I’m almost certain I would ask the wrong way,” Namjoon said, looking uncomfortable at the thought. “You can just ask to see it next time you see Hoseok.”

Jin pouted and said, “But I barely see him now that I’ve graduated. At least tell me what it looks like.”

Namjoon tapped his finger on the table, tilting his head again in thought. Yoongi could see Jin getting excited again as he watched Namjoon.

“It’s made of three shades of brown leather, but you can’t really tell they’re different colors unless you look closely,” Namjoon said. “They’re braided together.”

Jin’s eyes started to get a faraway look, like he was trying to imagine it.

“I think Hoseok also said something about a twist clasp?” Namjoon said. “He thought Taehyung made it with one because he knew Hoseok was a dancer, so it couldn’t easily fall off. He thinks Taehyung’s packmates helped him come up with it.”

“That’s really sweet,” Jin said, but Yoongi frowned as he remembered something.

“Did you know Hoseok doesn’t have a pack?” Yoongi asked. It wasn’t unusual for people not to smell heavily of their packmates, as anyone interested in courting usually made sure their own scent was very prevalent—driven by the instinct to attract a mate.

Yoongi didn’t bother, but he didn’t spend enough time in physical contact with Namjoon and Jin that their scents overwhelmed his own anyway. Jin was the same way, but Namjoon liked to make sure he smelt like an Alpha with no room for a mistake—partly because he dated the most out of the three of them and partly because he didn’t have a lot of practice handling his instincts with other Alphas before college.

People treated Alphas they didn't know well differently in subtle ways to avoid antagonizing them. They asked permission before entering their private spaces, they tried not to phrase anything like a command, they kept a distance so they didn’t appear as a threat, among other things. Not doing these things didn’t put anyone in danger, unless the Alpha was an asshole, but no one enjoyed hostile dominance pheromones.

Namjoon grew up in a family with only Betas and Omegas, and his best friend had always been Jin, a Beta. Jin had certainly never treated Namjoon like an Alpha, and his parents had educated him about his dynamic thoroughly, so he’d thought he’d be fine. However, Namjoon still struggled not to release hostile dominance pheromones when his instincts perceived another Alpha as disrespectful or a threat.

It took a few years for anyone to master control, and Namjoon was clumsy with most things, so Yoongi thought it would take him a while longer. Until he mastered his instincts, however, he had to make his dynamic obvious to other Alphas to avoid blunders. Whenever Namjoon left the apartment, he made sure his own Alpha scent of burning pine hung thick in the air around him.

Sometimes Namjoon didn’t smell like Jin or Yoongi at all, because he took showers with scent-cleansing body wash and then scented his clothing before he put it on—which is what Yoongi had thought Hoseok had been doing. It still surprised him that someone so energetic and full of joy could be without a pack.

“Hoseok doesn’t have a pack?” Jin repeated, looking just as surprised as Yoongi.

“No, he doesn’t,” Namjoon said. “He keeps insisting he doesn’t need one.”

“Well, now he’s hoping to be in Taehyung’s,” Yoongi said.

“Really?” Namjoon asked, a smile growing on his face. “He said that?”

Yoongi nodded and Namjoon sighed in relief, smiling so wide his teeth were showing.

“Finally,” Namjoon said. “Hoseok has dated a lot, and only courted once before this, but he’s never expressed interest in the pack of the people he was seeing. And, you know, scientists say that interest in joining your courtmate’s pack increases the likelihood that you’ll become mates by 25 percent.”

Jin was frowning and Yoongi could smell his rose and cotton scent slowly turning sour. Jin was sensitive about people without packs, especially now that he had one himself again.

“I didn’t know he has no packmates,” Jin said, looking sad. “Is he okay?”

“He’s fine,” Namjoon said. He reached forward, rubbing a hand up Jin’s arm to his neck. He held the side of the Beta’s neck softly over one of his scent glands, an Alpha gesture meant to soothe lower dynamics. Yoongi didn’t like it, didn’t like anything near his neck, but it always worked on Jin, who was already relaxing.

“Really,” Namjoon said. “He rarely smells distressed, and he’s never displayed signs of touch starvation.”

Hoseok was so tactile in the first place, even with strangers, that Yoongi didn’t think it was ever something Hoseok would have to worry about.

Jin nodded, his scent returning back to normal. Then his mouth twitched and he jerked his chin in Yoongi's direction.

“Remember Yoongi during your second year?” Jin asked. Namjoon nodded and grinned as he let his hand fall back to the table.

“I was not touch starved,” Yoongi said in a groan, throwing his head back to look at the ceiling in exasperation. Not this again.

“You displayed all the classic signs,” Jin said. He started counting them on his fingers. “You slept a lot, you always looked tired, you avoided standing or sitting close to us, you flinched when we touched you, you-”

“Alright,” Yoongi said, cutting Jin off. “But I keep telling you that it didn’t bother me.”

He didn’t like thinking about living isolated like that now but, at the time, he had been neutral about it.

“And I keep telling you,” Namjoon said, “that it doesn’t depress or negatively affect the mood of about 3 percent of the population. You just fell in that 3 percent. It doesn’t mean the physical symptoms of touch starvation weren’t there.”

Namjoon and Jin both looked happy now that they were bickering with him, and Yoongi couldn’t help but grin too.

Jin gave him one last smile before he started picking up the plates on the table.

“All this talk of no packs and touch starvation calls for a pack bonding night,” Jin said.

“I agree,” Namjoon said, standing as well. He started carefully picking up the glasses. Namjoon had a tendency to shatter things, and it always made Jin sigh deeply and shake his head. Sometimes, when Namjoon broke something that Jin especially liked, Yoongi swore he could see the Beta’s eye twitching.

Yoongi suspected Jin dreamed of also banning Namjoon from touching anything made of glass or ceramic, but he had decided to leave it at banning Namjoon from the stove.

Yoongi got up to help clean as well but Jin waved him off.

“Can you go get the living room ready for us?” Jin asked.

Yoongi hesitated. Jin must be feeling more down than he was letting on.

When an Omega was asked to prepare a space for pack bonding, it almost always became a nest. When asked to prepare the living room before, no matter how hard Yoongi tried consciously not to build one, a nest had always been the end result.

He had been so embarrassed the first time that he’d almost dismantled it before the other two could find it. But Jin had walked in before Yoongi could make himself take the nest apart.

Upon seeing Yoongi’s distress and smelling the embarrassment in his scent in the air, Jin had pretended the nest wasn’t there, and snuck off to probably tell Namjoon to do the same. To this day, they all pretended like they weren’t getting into a nest on the rare occasions Yoongi prepared the living room—usually because Jin was sad and had asked him to. Even Yoongi could admit that pack bonding always made him feel better when they did it in a nest.

Jin turned around from the sink when Yoongi didn’t move.

“Only if you want to, Yoongi,” he said, his voice gentle. Jin was releasing calming pheromones that had Namjoon looking at Yoongi with a critical eye.

“I’m fine,” he said. He felt ridiculous that Jin felt the need to release calming pheromones because of Yoongi’s reluctance to nest. He didn’t want to worry him, and Jin wouldn’t ask for one if he didn’t feel like he needed it.

“I’ll do it,” Yoongi said, fidgeting. He could see part of the living room floor through the doorway to the kitchen. “Nesting is just embarrassing.”

He wondered if either of them would ever be able to understand how personal it felt to let them even see it, much less let them inside it. It was supposed to be better when there was more than one Omega working together to build one, but they had always been a pack of three.

Building one alone wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, but it always felt like he was putting a piece of his soul into it, and then other people laid inside it.

“Oh?” Jin said, turning fully around. “We’re finally addressing this now, are we? Am I allowed to say the word ‘nest’ in my house again?”

“No,” Yoongi said quickly. “What’s a nest? Never heard of one.”

Namjoon snorted as Yoongi fled the kitchen. He had stopped fighting his nesting urges over a year ago, so he needed to go find pillows and blankets.

Yoongi went into the room he shared with Jin first. He had two bins under his bed with the blankets that he used to build a nest for his heats. He brought those out to the living room one at a time, figuring he could start with them.

Yoongi pushed the thin table in front of the couch up against the wall to clear floor space. There was a thick sleeping mat that they kept under the couch for pack bonding, and Yoongi pulled it out. He unfolded it and laid it carefully on the floor, smoothing the off-white cotton cover out with his hands, up and down, to make sure it hadn’t gotten dusty.

When Namjoon and Jin prepared the living room for pack bonding, they just added a pile of pillows to the head of the sleeping mat, grabbed a few blankets, and called it a day.

Yoongi glanced towards the kitchen to make sure he wasn’t being watched as he popped open the lids to his bins. It was embarrassing enough to let Namjoon and Jin see the end result. He did not want them to watch him actually build it.

He always felt like he had no idea what to do or where to start a nest that he was supposed to build intentionally. The nest he made for his heat was made in his bed over the course of a full day of preheat, and was always a slowly growing collection of blankets, pillows, and his packmates’ clothing. Yoongi never remembered deciding to take anything into his bed, but he put them put in convenient places regardless.

A pack bonding nest was different, usually. Yoongi had never added clothing to a pack nest, never scented everything the way he did when he had his heats, but all Omegas had different nesting habits.

Yoongi picked up the first blanket and threw it unceremoniously onto the sleeping mat, knowing that this was a pretty reliable way to get things started. Sure enough, something registered within him that the blanket was in the entirely wrong place and his body moved on its own.

Before he knew it, he had already emptied one of the bins, he had pillows in his hands that he didn’t remember going to get, he had taken all the couch cushions off the couch to help make the walls of the nest, and he had taken the clean bath and hand towels out of the closet in the bathroom. Then he was aware of tucking things in, smoothing things out, switching a pillow here or there.

Yoongi felt himself slowly relaxing as he added more blankets to the nest, the two that they kept in the living room, laying them out loosely on the sides of the nest to use in case anyone got cold.

Then, like a switch being clicked off, Yoongi suddenly felt like he was done. He stopped building and sat back to take in the nest. It was bigger than usual. He fidgeted and felt his face getting warmer with embarrassment.

He had never taken the cushions off the couch before, but he begrudgingly admired the affect. The cushions made the walls of the nest higher and made it so the nest couldn’t be entered from the sides or the back without disturbing it—a classic way to piss off an Omega. It had to be entered from the front.

He crawled forward and laid in the center of the nest. His mind felt slow and quiet, like the last chords of a song that stretched out too long. He hugged one of the fuzzy blankets to his chest, fought the urge to nuzzle into it, and waited.

He could hear water running off and on, dishes clinking together, then a shatter and the sound of a broom on the tiled floor. He could hear soft conversation and spurts of Jin’s high-pitched laugh.

The light from the kitchen streamed across the floor, brighter than the single lamp Yoongi had turned on in the living room. He admired the way it made the floor shine, how it only touched a corner of the nest.

Then the sounds cut off from the kitchen, and he burrowed himself under some of the blankets when he heard his name tentatively called out. He didn’t want to look at their faces when they came into the living room.

There was the sound of footsteps across the floor, and Yoongi could hear their breath in the sudden silence. He couldn’t help the tension building in his body. They were looking at his nest, one he had built alone, that left his nesting habits bare, and his instincts felt the soft invasion.

“Yoongi?” Jin said. “ Can we come in?”

They always asked this. Even when they knew that Yoongi had built a nest for the pack, they always asked permission to enter. It was so sweet that Yoongi almost whined.

Yoongi swallowed and said, “Yes.”

He felt the slight shifting of their weight as they came forward, felt fingers searching for him under the blankets. Then strong hands wrapped around his waist and a hand went into his hair, carding slowly through the strands.

He could smell the scents of Namjoon’s burning pine and of Jin’s rose and cotton mixing with his own. His body was still tense, and he tried to let the familiar combination of their scents soothe him. They were both releasing calming pheromones, and no one said anything until he relaxed and got used to them in the nest. He had no idea how they knew when he was ready for speaking, but they always seemed to know.

“What did you do at the bakery today, Jin?” Namjoon asked quietly from behind Yoongi. He pulled Yoongi more firmly into his chest, and Yoongi already felt pliant enough to let him do it.

Yoongi opened his eyes to see Jin in front on him. They had turned off the light in the kitchen, and the lamp next to the couch cast the room in a dim yellow glow.

Jin’s hand was still moving through Yoongi’s hair, and he smiled softly at Yoongi before he answered Namjoon.

“One of the girls who was supposed to work the register today called in sick,” Jin said, watching Yoongi’s face as his scooted closer. “So I worked behind the counter for half of the morning. Luckily it wasn’t too busy and I didn’t burn anything.”

Jin didn’t say so, but the strain in his voice made Yoongi think that the day must have been stressful. Jin usually stayed in the back and did the baking, as the bakery he worked at prided themselves in always having some freshly-made goods for sale. Jin didn’t dislike working the register, which he had to do sometimes, but Yoongi knew he hated needing to jump between the two.

Yoongi reached forward without thinking, taking a fistful of the material of Jin’s shirt before Yoongi realized he had moved. His Omega instincts were always heightened during pack bonding.

He froze before his instincts could make him tug Jin forward by his shirt. Jin smiled at him and placed the hand that was not in Yoongi’s hair gently on top of Yoongi’s grip, holding it in place. Jin adjusted so he was laying more on his side, and one of his knees grazed Yoongi’s. Jin looked so serene now that Yoongi wished that he felt comfortable building a nest every day.

The back of Namjoon’s throat rumbled in a contented growl when Jin moved closer and his hold around Yoongi’s waist tightened. Namjoon was breathing deeply and Yoongi knew he was monitoring Yoongi’s scent. Namjoon read enough that he had to know that building a pack nest was more difficult for an Omega to do alone, but Yoongi was glad he had never said anything.

Jin’s eyes still hadn’t left Yoongi’s face, monitoring his expression, and his hand was still moving through Yoongi’s hair. Yoongi felt the feeling of being cared for building inside him, and he had to close his eyes again in a small attempt to block it out.

He knew it was just their instincts, but he always felt a little overwhelmed by the attention he received during pack bonding. He curled up more and buried his face in the blanket he was hugging to his chest.

“Doesn’t the bakery have someone on call to fill in?” Namjoon asked Jin.

“No,” Jin said. “It’s not like the last one I was at. It’s privately owned, remember?”

They were both whispering now, and Yoongi felt his eyes getting heavier. His grip loosened on Jin’s shirt, but the Beta’s hand held Yoongi’s in place.

“Doesn’t the owner work on call then?” Namjoon asked.

“She does,” Jin said. “But she’s out of town right now. Her mate was supposed to come in if we needed it, and he didn’t answer his phone. He called us at one in the afternoon when he woke up, but I told him the shift was almost over and we didn’t need him anymore.”

Namjoon sighed and Yoongi could feel his breath on his shoulder. Yoongi was warm and Jin’s hand in his hair was starting to feel so nice. Yoongi knew he must be releasing the scent of contented Omega, because Namjoon and Jin had both stopped releasing calming pheromones.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Jin said. “I’m just glad that it didn’t happen on a weekend.”

Namjoon hummed in acknowledgement. He started rubbing his chin back and forth across the line of Yoongi’s shoulder in a subtle scenting that had Yoongi swallowing down a purr. Namjoon’s scent got stronger and Yoongi felt himself relaxing more into the blankets beneath him. He nuzzled into the nest a little before he could stop himself. He just felt so safe.

“What did you do today?” Jin whispered to Namjoon.

Yoongi fell asleep before he could hear Namjoon’s reply.

***

The semester break went by too quickly, as it always seemed to. It went by in visits to the Coffee Nook, in holing up in his room to work on his music, in pack dinners, in one long walk in the park comforting Namjoon after he’d gotten into an Alpha confrontation on his way home from work.

Yoongi got to spend more time with his pack and he got to work a lot on his music, which was nice. He wished every week of his life was like his semester breaks.

But, before Yoongi knew it, he was waking up to his alarm on the first day of his last semester. He grumbled as he reached for his phone and switched it off. He could have slept two more hours if he hadn’t told Jungkook that he’d give him piano lessons, and he tried not to feel bitter about it.

He sat up, blinking around in the dim light coming through the curtain. He didn’t move for a few minutes, his brain catching up to his body. Jin’s bed was empty, so he must be awake already. Yoongi knew he didn’t have the morning shift at the bakery today.

Yoongi swung his legs out of bed, wincing when his feet touched the cool wooden floor. He walked over to the window by his desk and pulled open the curtain to reveal grey skies.

Yoongi smiled at the thought of a rainy day. He cracked the window open, just to hear the light patter of the rain hitting the pavement and the roofs next to theirs. He stood there until the cool air made him shiver and he had to shut the window again.

He didn’t want to turn on the light, so he fumbled around for his clothes in the dark. Jin had dragged him to a barber shop to get his hair cut a few days ago, so at least Yoongi’s bangs weren’t halfway blocking his vision anymore.

He pulled on a hoodie and jeans. Then he found a pair of warm socks, which he thought might be Jin’s, and put them on as well.

Once he was dressed, he felt around for his laptop bag and his phone. He was pretty sure his winter jacket was in the living room somewhere, so he didn’t bother looking for it.

Then his phone dinged with a text.

Jungkook: Are we still meeting today at noon?

It was just past eleven and he felt a jolt when he realized that he had his first piano lesson with Jungkook in under an hour.

Yoongi: yes

Jungkook: Anything I need to bring except coffee?

Yoongi: no. im bringing some stuff

He’d printed out some of the basic piano scales last night and was bringing his book with Hanon exercises for Jungkook to keep, as Yoongi didn’t need the book to play them anymore. He thought that either one should be enough for the first lesson, but he still wasn’t sure what to expect. He had a loose plan, but he was mostly just going to wing it.

Jungkook: Thanks, hyung! I’ll see you soon!

As Yoongi walked towards the kitchen, he saw Jin was sitting on the living room couch, wrapped in a blanket with a warm cup of tea. He looked cozy, and Yoongi envied that he didn’t need to leave the apartment for a few more hours.

Jin stood up after Yoongi passed and leaned against the kitchen doorway, watching Yoongi trudge around the kitchen in silence. He knew Yoongi didn’t like to talk after he’d just woken up.

Yoongi started the coffee maker first—because he had his priorities straight. As it brewed, he made some instant rice in the microwave and fried some eggs. Then he took out a package of their seasoned laver and sat down to eat. Jin sat down across from him, still quiet, and even stood to pour Yoongi’s coffee when the machine went off.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, both in gratitude and to show Jin he was ready to talk. He thought the Beta might have something to say with the way he had followed Yoongi into the kitchen.

“Of course,” Jin said, leaning an elbow on the table. He watched Yoongi eat with a small smile.

When he didn’t say anything else, Yoongi asked, “What is it?”

Jin shrugged and looked down at his tea, but Yoongi knew that Jin had understood what he’d been asking.

“I just felt a little lonely today and wanted to make sure you didn’t,” Jin said, still looking down.

Yoongi felt a pang in his chest as he took a bite of his breakfast. He would never get used to Jin’s bluntness, how the other boy had been raised to share what he was feeling with his pack, or how he bowed to the Beta instincts that told him to take extra care of Yoongi.

Yoongi’s own family pack had not been like that, being small and full of all Alphas except himself. No one had talked about how they felt. Ever. And they’d never treated Yoongi differently for being an Omega. Not once could he remember them showering him with extra care and attention.

His family had treated every member the same, but he could admit that it had left him out of tune with his Omega instincts. Until he researched Omegas on his own, he had understood Alphas better than he had understood himself.

He thought now that his parents simply had no clue how to raise an Omega child, and so just raised Yoongi as they had raised his older brother—to be resilient and independent and strong. Yoongi loved them for it.

But he was now, in this pack with Jin and Namjoon, happier than he had ever been. He knew Jin was happy too, but that, on some days, the Beta just really missed having a bigger pack. Yoongi couldn’t fault him. Everyone had bad days.

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi said to Jin, because he was. He knew almost any other Omega would be better at making Jin feel better. Any other Omega would cuddle and gossip and giggle away Jin’s loneliness, and Yoongi had never been good at any of those things.

“It’s not your fault,” Jin said. He was circling the rim of his mug with is finger, and his eyes glazed over like he was thinking of something else entirely.

Yoongi felt like it was his fault, like he failed Jin in small ways every day. Even Namjoon, an Alpha, was better at being tactile than Yoongi, but Jin insisted that he didn’t want Yoongi to feel like he had to change.

Yoongi looked at the time and sighed. He had to go or he would be late. He looked back at Jin, conflicted about leaving the Beta alone if he was feeling lonely.

Jin was still staring off into space, so Yoongi took out his phone to text Namjoon. He didn’t know Namjoon’s class schedule yet. The Alpha had told him yesterday, but Yoongi knew he wouldn’t be able to memorize it until a few weeks later. At the beginning of the semester, Yoongi could barely remember his own class schedule.

Yoongi: are you home? jin is sad.

Namjoon: No, I just finished a class and I have another in twenty minutes. Is he okay?

Yoongi: he’s lonely, but i have to leave or ill be late

Namjoon: Tell him to go to The Coffee Nook. Hoseok is working until two and he can ask to see his courting bracelet. He won’t shut up about it.

Yoongi: good idea. will do

Jin’s face fell when Yoongi told him that he had to leave, but his expression brightened at the mention of being able to see Hoseok.

“I’ll go before work,” Jin said, grinning over the top of his mug.

Yoongi still felt guilty about leaving, but Jin’s spirits had lifted enough that he practically shooed Yoongi out of the door when he saw him hesitating.

“Just go,” Jin said. He grabbed a random umbrella from their stash in the closet next to the door and shoved it into Yoongi’s hands. “I’ll be fine.”

Once Yoongi got to the bottom of their apartment staircase, he opened the umbrella that Jin had handed him. He was about to step out into the cold afternoon rain when he saw the Iron Man sticker and did a double take. This was the umbrella Jungkook had given him.

“Fuck,” he said, looking back up the stairs. He couldn’t go and trade umbrellas without Jin demanding an explanation, and then everything would have to come out.

Yoongi still hadn’t told Jin or Namjoon about the piano lessons—mostly because he had no words to explain why he agreed to give them to Jungkook in the first place. They knew him too well to believe any reason that he didn’t believe himself.

Yoongi’s phone dinged with a message and he took his phone out of his pocket.

Namjoon: Everything go well with Jin?

Yoongi: i think so. he seemed better when i left

Namjoon: Good. I hope gossiping with Hoseok will cheer him up even more

Namjoon: I was reading about snails this morning and thought of you

Yoongi: thanks

Namjoon: Not because they are slimy and slow!

Yoongi: okay

Namjoon: Because they can sleep for three years

Namjoon: If anyone could sleep for three years, it’d be you

Namjoon: I thought it was cute!

Yoongi: at least you are not talking about whales

Namjoon: Don’t tempt me, hyung

Yoongi smiled to himself as he put his phone back into his pocket, but then his smile fell as he looked back the Iron Man sticker on the umbrella. Jungkook had told him that he didn’t have to give the umbrella back, but that didn’t mean that Yoongi wanted to use it in front of him.

Yoongi shook his head as he stepped outside. He would just have to make sure that Jungkook didn’t see him using it, and it’d be fine.

***

The walk in the rain put Yoongi in a good mood. He loved how the smell of a rainy day overpowered everything else, how it seemed to wash the pollution in the Seoul air away and make it new. He loved how umbrellas forced people to walk greater distances apart, how no one paid him any attention.

His good mood made it so he only felt a flicker of nervousness as he rounded the corner that led to the room that had been the Introductory Composition classroom. Jungkook was leaning against the door, holding two coffee cups, but stood up straight when he noticed Yoongi coming towards him.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Jungkook said, bowing slightly. “Good morning.”

Yoongi nodded. The other Omega was wearing scent blockers again—he smelt like nothing. Yoongi hated that some Omegas felt like they had to do this to avoid unwanted attention.

“Or I suppose it’s afternoon now,” Jungkook added on quickly. “So it should be good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon,” Yoongi said.

Jungkook looked nervous. He kept looking at Yoongi and then away again, and when he held out a coffee cup for Yoongi to take, his hand shook.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, grabbing the cup from Jungkook. It had the Coffee Nook logo on it, and Yoongi took sip. It was a caramel latte, his usual.

He grinned, happy to have his favorite coffee, and this seemed to relax Jungkook. Usually it was Alphas that enjoyed when lower dynamics consumed or used something the Alpha had given them—as it soothed their instincts that told them to provide—but it was known to calm other dynamics as well. Jin loved feeding people.

“Hoseok-hyung told me that’s the coffee you like to get on most days,” Jungkook said.

“It is,” Yoongi said. Jungkook looked down at Yoongi’s umbrella and Yoongi tried not to freeze or react in a way that would reveal that it was the one Jungkook had given him.

Neither of them spoke as a few students walked past them. Jungkook seemed to have decided not to look at him. Yoongi knew it was time to get moving, or they’d be standing there all day.

“This way,” Yoongi said. He turned around and walked away without checking that Jungkook was following. Yoongi led him to the hall of practice rooms for the students that played instruments. The rooms with pianos in them were at the very end of the hall and Yoongi went into his favorite—the last one.

It had the oldest piano, the lights flickered, and someone had written Suck my dick on the pale blue wall next to the piano in permanent marker, but Yoongi always practiced here. The old, brown piano in this room reminded him the most of the one he’d grown up with at home.

Yoongi set his coffee on top of the piano, threw his bag onto the floor next it, and leaned his umbrella against the wall. Then he took off his jacket and told Jungkook, who was hesitating in the doorway, “It gets hot in here, so you’ll want to take off your coat.”

Jungkook nodded more times than was necessary. He stepped tentatively into the room, like Yoongi might try to attack him if he moved too quickly, and set his coffee on top of the piano too before taking off his coat.

This left him in just a white T-shirt and jeans. Yoongi hadn’t realized that Jungkook exercised outside of dance, but he obviously did. Hoseok danced too, and he definitely didn’t have that much muscle in his arms. Jungkook looked like he could bench-press Hoseok, and Yoongi wondered how long it took Jungkook to get his arms to look like that. Some Omegas had a harder time getting muscle definition, especially if they weren't on heat suppressants.

Yoongi forced his eyes and thoughts away from Jungkook’s arms. Now was not the time. Yoongi still had no idea why he'd agreed to do this, and Jungkook's hesitance made him look like he had no idea why he'd asked for lessons either.

Trying not to show how awkward he felt, Yoongi shut the door to the practice room and sat down at the piano bench. He leaned down to take out the sheet music and Hanon book from his bag.

Jungkook was still standing, just watching him. Yoongi gestured to the piano bench beside him and said, “Sit down.”

Jungkook sat as far away from Yoongi as he could on the small bench, his posture stiff and straight, leaning slightly away. Yoongi ignored it. He thought just getting down to business would stop things from getting more tense. Yoongi put the sheet music with C major scale, the simplest piano scale because it had no sharps or flats, on the music rack.

“Do you know your scales?” he asked.

“Not really,” Jungkook said, his eyes widening. “Is that bad?”

“It’s fine. I’m just trying to figure out what you know already,” Yoongi said. He pointed to the sheet music. “Can you read this?”

Jungkook studied the notes for a few moments, and then nodded.

“Can you read sharps and flats?” Yoongi asked.

Another nod.

“Do you know the difference between treble clef and bass clef on the piano?” Yoongi asked.

At this, Jungkook’s eyes widened again and he shook his head.

“I only know that treble clef has higher notes,” Jungkook said.

Yoongi nodded and gathered his thoughts to explain.

“The top five lines are treble clef, which you play on your right hand,” Yoongi said. “The bottom five lines are bass clef, which you play on your left hand.”

Yoongi pointed to the first note on the top lines.

“What do you think this is?” he asked.

“C,” Jungkook said. He played a C on the piano.

“Good. And this?” Yoongi pointed to the first note on the bottom lines.

“A,” Jungkook said. He played an A on the piano.

“It’s actually also C,” Yoongi said. “It’s just where C is on bass clef. The two clefs are read differently.”

Yoongi was glad Jungkook could at least read treble clef and that they wouldn’t have to start from the very beginning.

“Why?” Jungkook asked.

“Because they are both part of a bigger group of notes called the grand staff. Instruments with a wide range of notes, like piano, use the grand staff,” Yoongi said.

“Oh. I see,” Jungkook said, but he still looked confused. Yoongi wondered if he shouldn’t have started here.

“If there were eleven lines on sheet music, all on top of eachother, the music would be much harder to read,” Yoongi said. “So they took the middle line out of the grand staff to make it easier and to help organize the notes into high and low—into two clefs. In the case of the piano, this also organizes the notes into what you play on your left hand and right hand.”

He hoped he wasn’t making things even more confusing.

“So there is an imaginary line between these?” Jungkook asked, pointing between the treble and bass clefs.

Yoongi nodded.

“What’s it called?” Jungkook said.

“The line they took out?” Yoongi said. “I’m actually not sure if it has a name. But the note is called middle C.”

“So...” Jungkook squinted at the bass clef for a few moments and then pointed to the top line. “So this is A?”

“Yes,” Yoongi said, relief flooding him. “Exactly.”

Jungkook looked pleased.

“You pick things up quickly,” Yoongi said, taking a sip from his coffee.

“Only when it’s explained to me like this,” Jungkook said, gesturing between himself and Yoongi. “I’m bad at teaching myself.”

“It’s not that easy for anyone to learn on their own,” Yoongi assured him.

Yoongi played the C major scale for Jungkook on both hands, showing him how to move his fingers, then set him to practicing. Jungkook went slow, but did well for someone who had never played a piano scale before.

Yoongi sat back and watched, occasionally correcting the way Jungkook was moving his fingers. Jungkook seemed more relaxed now that he was practicing, but Yoongi couldn’t shake the tension in his stomach. It was almost like his Omega instincts were ready to bolt, but Jungkook was familiar enough and another Omega, so his instincts shouldn’t have a problem being alone with him.

He tried to shake the feeling and gave Jungkook another scale to practice once he stopped making mistakes on C major. When he checked the time, they’d already been here almost half an hour.

“You smell nervous,” Jungkook said, pausing between run-throughs of the scale and looking at Yoongi.

“Shut up,” Yoongi said, fidgeting. “You don't smell like anything. But if you did, I’d bet my left kidney that you’d smell nervous too.”

The corner of Jungkook’s mouth tilted up and he turned back towards the piano.

“I was just wondering if it was something I was doing,” Jungkook said, slowly starting to play again.

“It’s not,” Yoongi said.

“Because I could stop doing it,” Jungkook said, his tone serious.

“You’re not doing anything,” Yoongi said. “Just keep practicing.”

Once Jungkook was playing the scale well enough, Yoongi gave him the next one. They weren’t speaking except when Yoongi corrected the placement of his fingers on the piano. Yoongi couldn't help but notice how Jungkook's body heat seemed to radiate from his skin, even though they weren't touching at all. Yoongi's whole right side was warmer than his left.

Then, as Yoongi switched out the third scale for the fourth, Jungkook spoke again.

“Does it bother you that you can’t smell my scent?” he asked.

“No,” Yoongi said. At least, he was pretty sure that wasn't what was making his instincts nervous.

“Because I can come without scent blockers, next time. I just don’t like how people treat me if I don’t wear them,” Jungkook said. “But I can put them on after our lesson.”

“It doesn’t bother me,” Yoongi said. He actually had no idea what was bothering him, but he definitely didn’t want Jungkook to feel like he had to do things he didn’t like doing.

Jungkook was studying him, and Yoongi wasn’t sure what he was seeing. He didn’t think the other Omega believed him. To get Jungkook’s eyes off him, Yoongi pointed at the piano music.

“Practice,” he said firmly.

As Jungkook slowly started the next scale, Yoongi wondered what his own scent smelt like to Jungkook. Most people described the same scents differently.

His parents always told him he smelt like eating fresh blueberries with a cool, minty ocean breeze. Jin had jokingly told Yoongi once that he smelt like steam rising from blueberry peppermint tea, with a bit of salt added in to warn people that they wouldn’t be getting a sip. When Yoongi had asked Namjoon, he said Yoongi’s scent had layers of two dimensions—sweet and salty, warm blueberry and cool mint, fresh air and moving water.

Yoongi wished he could smell it himself. He knew when his scent was on things and when he’d scented something properly, but he never thought it smelt like anything. Only Betas could smell their own scents, and sometimes it made him wish he was one. But he tried not to let his mind stray that way, tried not to wish for things that would never happen. He fought his instincts a lot—just like the other dynamics did—but he never wanted to hate being an Omega. He wanted to be happy with the life he had.

Yoongi drank the last sip of his coffee. He had been trying to make it last, and he pouted at bit at the empty cup. Jungkook almost immediately slid his coffee cup across the piano towards Yoongi and then kept on playing.

Yoongi wanted it, he wasn’t going to lie, but he still slid it back. Jungkook hadn’t even taken a sip of it.

Jungkook paused playing to look at him and said, “That one is yours too. I already had mine. Hoseok-hyung said you usually drink two.”

“What? You’re kidding,” Yoongi said.

Jungkook just shook his head and slid the coffee back across the piano. Yoongi stared at it as Jungkook kept playing. Jungkook went through the scale two times before Yoongi reached forward to grab it.

Yoongi took a sip. It was another caramel latte and it was still a bit warm. Despite being pleased to have more coffee, Yoongi shook his head and said, “Thank you, Jungkook. But you can’t buy me two coffees for every lesson.”

“Why not?” Jungkook asked. He seemed to be fighting a smile as he glanced at the cup in Yoongi’s hands.

“Because it’s too much,” Yoongi said.

“Too much?” Jungkook said. He stopped playing again and took his phone out of his pocket to check the time. “You don’t think two coffees are worth an hour of your time?”

Yoongi hesitated and Jungkook made eye contact with him before he spoke again.

“I’d buy you five. Hell, I’d buy you ten, ” Jungkook said. His voice sounded agitated now, but his body showed no sign of it. Yoongi’s instincts were telling him to soothe the agitation regardless, and he had to force himself not to starting releasing calming pheromones.

He couldn’t help but think it was sweet that Jungkook seemed upset that Yoongi was underselling himself.

“It’s not too much because I don’t deserve it,” Yoongi said carefully. “It’s too much because we’re in college and you’re in your first year.”

Yoongi knew most college students struggled affording cafe coffee for themselves, much less another person. Yoongi only got away with buying so much coffee because Namjoon gave him his discount.

“So?” Jungkook said, frowning.

“So I don’t feel comfortable taking more than one coffee a lesson from you,” Yoongi said. “I appreciate it, but I only want one.”

Jungkook studied him again. His eyes roamed around Yoongi’s face, then flicked to the umbrella leaning against the wall. Yoongi wondered if Jungkook knew somehow that it was his, but the Iron Man sticker wasn’t visible when the umbrella was closed.

Then Jungkook scrunched his face a little, and Yoongi couldn’t help but think it was cute.

Do not blush, Yoongi told his body. Do not blush. Do not blush.

“If that’s what you want,” Jungkook said, looking resigned. “I’ll only buy you one coffee next time.”

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, then he checked his watch. They really had already been here an hour and it seemed like a good time to stop. He gave Jungkook the rest of the sheet music and told him to practice all the scales before they met again.

“I will,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi believed him.

“Not a lot of people use this room,” Yoongi said. “So this is your best bet if you want to practice in the same place every time. You can reserve it online, if you want, but it only gets busy in these rooms at the end of the semesters.”

“I probably will use it,” Jungkook said. “Thank you.”

Yoongi nodded and then put the book with Hanon exercises back into his bag.

When Jungkook looked at the book curiously, Yoongi shrugged and said, “I didn’t know how much experience you had. This is for later.”

“For next time?” Jungkook asked.

“Maybe,” Yoongi said, zipping his bag back up. “It depends on how much you practice.”

Jungkook’s posture straightened. He eyes were shining like he liked a challenge, and having it directed at him made Yoongi feel too warm. The practice room was already warm enough.

“And don’t just practice the scales,” Yoongi said, gathering his things faster. “Memorize them and learn the names so you know which notes are in which scale.”

“I will,” Jungkook said, watching as Yoongi stood up and grabbed his umbrella. Yoongi’s instincts were still making him nervous, and he hated that he didn’t know why.

“I’ll see you around. Don’t overwork yourself,” Yoongi said, and he tried not to make it appear like he was fleeing the room.

He shut the door behind him in case Jungkook wanted to keep practicing. He took a sip of his coffee as he walked away. Despite his instincts acting up, Yoongi thought that had gone about as well as it could have.

Yoongi looked behind him when he got to the end of the hallway, but Jungkook still hadn’t followed. He felt his body relax, and the tension in his instincts finally settled into calm.

As he kept walking and took another sip of his caramel latte, Yoongi fought a rising smile. He might actually have enjoyed that more than he thought he would.

Chapter Text

As the next few days passed, Yoongi could tell that this last semester would be hell. He had to build up his song portfolio, he had to start thinking about what he’d write his senior research paper on, and all of his classes seemed like they would be homework-heavy.

Yoongi tried to settle into the new semester, and he waited for a text from Jungkook. The other Omega had texted him within two hours to schedule their first lesson, and he was getting more surprised the longer the silence lasted. Every random text he got, a part of him thought it would be from Jungkook, and he felt a rising worry every time it wasn’t.

Yoongi thought their lesson had gone well. But what if Jungkook had hated it?

Yoongi saw Jungkook across the music building on Wednesday, but Jungkook had simply bowed to him slightly and kept walking. Yoongi watched him push open the exit doors without following, not sure what to make of it.

However, his worries had been soothed when he’d gone into his favorite practice room on Thursday to play for a while—playing on the electric keyboard in his apartment just wasn’t the same—and he could smell the bakery-like scent of Jungkook’s pack lingering in the air of the room. He realized the boy must just be practicing, and Yoongi was surprised he was doing it enough that he was leaving the scent of his pack behind.

It made Yoongi realise he’d given Jungkook a lot of things to work on. Learning how to play all the scales and then memorizing their names and notes wasn’t going to get done in a few days. It soothed the growing worry inside him, and he was annoyed that he had let it affect him in the first place.

Friday evening found Yoongi at his corner table in the Coffee Nook, finishing an essay for his Music History class. Despite having drank an entire cup of coffee, he was tired. He could feel it in his eyes and in the way he kept losing his train of thought.

He always found the first week of a new semester exhausting. He didn’t like having new classes, new people, new scents, new professors, or incessantly being asked ‘what did you do over break?’

He was trying to finish all of his homework tonight to give himself the whole weekend to be lazy, so it was a relief to finally finish formatting his resources and submit his paper online. The rest of his professors hadn’t given them much to do over the weekend, but his Music History professor wanted them each to submit an essay about their favorite musical period.

Music History was the only class that Yoongi shared with Namjoon, and he was enjoying it so far. It was always amusing to watch Namjoon raise his hand and turn any lesson into a philosophy debate. Yoongi had been annoyed to have an essay due in first week, and he’d felt a sick sense of satisfaction at the constipated look on the professor’s face as Namjoon convinced the elderly Omega to allow him to write his essay about how music existed before man.

Dividing music into man-made time periods pushes something that is so beautifully relative and subjective into a cage, Namjoon had said while the professor made placating gestures. Music existed before us and it will exist after us. My favorite time period was when the greatest composers on Earth were the whales. Can’t that be an option?

Thinking about it now, Yoongi almost started laughing. When he’d told Jin about it, the Beta had shook his head and said Leave it to Namjoon to argue his way into writing an essay about whale song.

Yoongi hit the submit button for his paper and grinned to himself in silent relief. He loved the feeling of having a whole weekend ahead of him with no homework left to do. He had just decided to write his own essay about the Classical period, as he was trying to write Professor Lee a classically-inspired piano piece anyway.

Yoongi had only gone through one week of school without being Professor Lee’s TA, and he was already ready to go into her office and ask if she needed someone to help out with another class.

He missed talking with her about music and about the students in her classes. He missed the way she would play music she thought he would hate in her office, on purpose. He missed the arguments they had about whether sugar belonged in coffee—Professor Lee insisted that only black coffee was worth drinking. He missed the way she always kept flowers and goldfish in her office, because Life begets life, Yoongi. If you want to feel alive in your soul and transcribe that life into music, you need to surround yourself with the living.

She told that to her classes all the time. Life begets life. She had told him that everytime he complained about being asked to feed the goldfish. She'd also once told this to him when he was living alone and showing what he knew now were some very concerning signs of touch starvation. When Jin and Namjoon had asked Yoongi to be in a pack with them, he had thought of her words when he said yes.

He didn’t feel like he owed his pack to her, but she had unknowingly encouraged him to finally commit fully to the idea of a pack with Jin and Namjoon. So he felt like he owed her something—especially after the honor of being asked to be her TA.

Yoongi opened the file with the current recordings of her song on them, then sighed and rested his forehead against his folded arms on the table. He had no idea where to go from here—had no idea if he even had anything left to edit. Maybe he should get a second opinion.

The piano piece was coming along slowly, and Yoongi thought it sounded alright but maybe he should ask Namjoon to listen to it for him—like he did with most of the hip-hop or rap pieces he produced. But this song was so different from the stuff he usually did, from the stuff Namjoon usually did, that Yoongi wasn't sure if Namjoon's second opinion would be a help or a confusing hinderance.

Yoongi closed his eyes. He had been listening to instrumental piano music while he wrote his essay in hopes of getting some inspiration. After this, he decided not to try to write an instrumental piece again.

He liked writing songs he could put words to. Having to rely completely on the notes of the song for the melody and the meaning was proving difficult for him. How do you say thank you without words? How can a collection of notes express that you will miss a person? Maybe he had found his true weakness. Maybe he relied too much on lyrics.

He adjusted slightly in his seat to get more comfortable. It felt nice to put his hands against the cool wood of the table. The air in the Coffee Nook was always so warm and still. It settled like a blanket around him—a blanket that smelt like old books and ground coffee beans. Namjoon had worked a shift this afternoon, so the air smelt a little bit like him as well, but Yoongi knew he could only pick it out because he was more sensitive to the scents of his packmates.

Namjoon and Jin were currently having dinner without him, as he had told them that he wanted to finish his essay. Yoongi’s dinner had consisted of the assortment of granola bars that he carried around in his laptop bag, though that wasn’t what he’d be telling Jin. The Beta always insisted that he and Namjoon eat ‘real meals’, and Yoongi didn’t think that four granola bars counted.

Yoongi fell into listening to the music. If classical music had anything going for it, it was soothing. It calmed him like the sound of rain, like the feeling of fingers running through his hair, like the scent of his pack safe and happy.

About five piano songs later, Yoongi jerked up in surprise when his phone vibrated to life next to his ear. He frowned down at the screen when he saw it was Jungkook calling. He had been expecting a text and he hesitated, nervous at the idea of talking to Jungkook on the phone. Yoongi barely ever talked to Jin and Namjoon on the phone.

He looked up when he heard something clatter to the floor.

Jungkook was across the coffee shop, leaning far across a table to reach for a phone that Taehyung was holding above his head. Confused, Yoongi pulled his headphones down around his neck to hear that they were arguing in hushed tones that he couldn’t make out. Jungkook must have stood up quickly, because the chair he had been sitting on had fallen onto the floor behind him.

Jimin was sitting next to Jungkook and he laughed as he leaned down and pulled Jungkook’s chair upright. Jungkook had a knee on the table now, stretching the tight material of his jeans, and Taehyung was leaning so far back to prevent Jungkook from reaching the phone that it looked like he was about to fall over backwards.

Taehyung made eye contact with Yoongi mid-laugh and immediately sobered, looking away from Yoongi as he held out the phone to Jungkook. Yoongi answered the call as Jungkook finally snatched the phone out of Taehyung’s hand. Jungkook bared his teeth at Taehyung, who shrunk a little in his chair but stuck out his tongue teasingly.

Jimin had seen Yoongi watching, too, and he pulled on Jungkook’s sleeve and gestured in Yoongi’s direction, saying something softly. Jungkook sighed and hung his head without looking over.

Jungkook put the phone to his ear, and the tight, nervous posture Yoongi was used to seeing on him returned. Yoongi put his phone to his own ear as well.

“Hello?” Yoongi said.

“Hi, hyung. I’m so sorry. We could see you were sleeping and I told them not to bother you,” Jungkook said. He was glaring at Jimin and Taehyung, who were both slowly looking more and more sheepish.

“It’s fine,” Yoongi said. “I wasn’t sleeping.”

When Jungkook did nothing but shake his head, Yoongi asked, “Was there a reason for calling me?”

Yoongi felt a little ridiculous about talking on the phone with Jungkook while they were in the same room. He felt like he had to look at Jungkook while he did it. And he couldn’t help but remember that the last time he had sat at this table, looking at Jungkook, Yoongi had thought he looked beautiful.

He didn’t want to allow his brain the time to consider whether or not he actually thought that was true.

“I was going to just text you about our next lesson,” Jungkook said. “I think I’m ready.”

“Are you sure? It’s a lot to memorize,” Yoongi said. “I understand if you need more time.”

“I’m sure,” Jungkook said, his shoulders straightening. “I quizzed myself today and made sure.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said. “When were you thinking?”

“Any time that’s best for you,” Jungkook said seriously. He finally chanced a look at Yoongi, and Yoongi made sure to give him a small smile of reassurance. He wasn’t sure what he was reassuring the other Omega of, but it seemed to do the trick.

The tension rolled out of Jungkook’s posture as he smiled back, his shoulders relaxing.

“How about now?” Yoongi asked, checking his watch. It was 9pm, but Yoongi was usually up until 3 or 4 on the weekends anyway.

“Now?” Jungkook asked, his eyes widening. “It’s not too late?”

“I’m usually up late,” Yoongi said.

Jungkook looked at the piano in the front corner of the shop.

“You want to do a lesson here?” Jungkook asked, biting his lip as he studied the piano.

Yoongi’s stomach clenched at the thought as Jungkook turned back towards him. He barely could bring himself to play here, in front of strangers. He definitely didn’t think he could teach anything worth learning while other people watched. He shook his head and something must have shown in his expression, because Jungkook immediately spoke.

“I don’t want to do it here either, hyung,” Jungkook said, his tone suddenly twice as gentle. It soothed Yoongi more than it should. “I just would have, if you wanted to.”

Yoongi nodded and looked down at his laptop, embarrassed at the warm feeling Jungkook’s words brought to his stomach. It swirled there, taunting him, and he could feel heat rising in his face.

“Let’s go to the music building,” Jungkook said when Yoongi didn’t reply. Yoongi looked back up at him and he added, “If that’s what you want.”

Jungkook’s expression was soft as he looked at him, a small smile tilting the corners of his mouth. It made something shoot up Yoongi’s spine, and the hand Yoongi had clasped around his phone felt damp in a light sweat.

The way Jungkook’s gaze felt almost physical made Yoongi think of the heavy gaze Jungkook had given him while he performed at the Loophole, but there was something much softer about the way Jungkook was looking at him now.

“Okay. Let’s go,” Yoongi said, and he hung up the phone before Jungkook could say something that would make him feel more embarrassed. He started to pack up his things, dimly aware of Jungkook doing the same in his peripheral vision from across the coffee shop. He could hear Jungkook talking with Taehyung and Jimin, then a loud “Right now?” and some shushing.

Yoongi was zipping his laptop bag shut when Jungkook went up to the coffee counter and his phone lit up with a text.

Jungkook: It’s late. Do you want decaf?

Yoongi felt another jolt in his stomach when he realized that Jungkook was buying him coffee in exchange for the lesson. He had forgotten.

Yoongi: no

Yoongi: i never want decaf

Jungkook: Good to know :)

Yoongi put his laptop bag over his shoulder as Jungkook ordered. Taehyung and Jimin were both watching him. They both dressed better casually than Yoongi ever did.

Taehyung was wearing a button up with an abstract pattern, unbuttoned past his collar bones, with his hair styled up and a sweatband around his forehead. And Jimin was wearing a soft dark blue sweater that was cut with a wide neck, with earings and rings that glittered in the light when he moved.

They both looked like they had just walked out of a clothing catalog and Yoongi, in his customary hoodie and jeans, felt under-dressed. He still smiled a little at Jimin and Taehyung, who both beamed back at him, and something about their expressions made him think that they wanted him to come over.

He didn’t want to go over. And neither Hoseok or Namjoon were working, so he didn’t want to go stand with Jungkook and awkwardly wait for his coffee either. He put his phone in his pocket and walked across the shop without looking in either direction. The door jingled when he opened it, but no one called after him as he slipped outside.

Yoongi leaned against the wall next to the entrance and waited for Jungkook to come out. There was a chill in the air, but it was nothing compared to the cold spell that they had gotten last week.

Yoongi watched his breath rise under the streetlights and looked up to watch it disappear, wishing he could see the stars. He watched his breath rise again and wondered what the sky above Seoul would look like if all the lights went out.

“Yoongi-hyung!”

Yoongi jumped at the sudden shout and hissed before he saw it was Hoseok, who put his hands up and took a few steps back. Yoongi cut his hiss off sharply and put a hand to his chest, trying to calm his instincts, which were still balking at the sudden fright.

“Sorry,” Yoongi said. He took a deep breath and hoped he hadn’t been shocked enough that he was releasing fear pheromones. It’d have people walking by stopping to check if he was alright.

“It’s fine,” Hoseok said with a small laugh. “It was my fault. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Yoongi nodded as he watched two middle-aged women walk past them, but neither of them to turn to look at them. Yoongi relaxed. If he was releasing any fear pheromones, they were weak.

Hoseok looked up and down the street and asked, “Is someone else meeting you? Namjoon? Seokjin-hyung?”

Yoongi shook his head. “Jungkook’s inside,” he said, using his thumb to point backwards over his shoulder. “I’m giving him a lesson today.”

Hoseok’s smile morphs into an expression Yoongi has never seen on his face before, a smirk that made him look mischievous. Yoongi felt himself shrinking away from him a bit.

“I’ve been meaning to ask about that,” Hoseok said, leaning against the wall next to him.

“About what?” Yoongi asked, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“About Jungkook?” Hoseok said, wiggling his eyebrows. “About why you are giving him piano lessons when you won’t even visit my house?”

Yoongi frowned and said, “I’ll visit your house, if you invite me.”

Hoseok laughed and said, “Hyung, I’ve invited you about ten times to come over with Namjoon and you’ve never taken me up on it.”

“Oh,” Yoongi said. He looked down at his feet as he realized Hoseok was right. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey, no,” Hoseok said, reaching out to put a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. “I understand. I know you prefer staying at home. When I come to your place, you always spend time with me. Please don’t feel bad. That’s not what I meant.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said, looking up again. Hoseok’s face went from his sudden seriousness to a happy smile in seconds. Yoongi was glad the Beta hadn’t taken it personally. Yoongi just didn’t enjoy unfamiliar places.

Every place in the world is unfamiliar until you’ve been there, Jin would say. Jin could usually convince him to go anywhere with him, but Yoongi wasn’t as close with Hoseok. He had always felt more like Namjoon’s friend than his own, but Yoongi knew that was slowly becoming less and less true.

“What I meant was,” Hoseok said, “Why did you agree to teach Jungkook? It surprised me.”

Yoongi sighed and leaned back against the wall. Hoseok's orange and honey scent hovered in the air around them, tinged now with the Taehyung's scent of vanilla and maple.

Yoongi didn’t know what to tell him. He still didn’t know himself.

Why was he giving Jungkook piano lessons?

Because Jungkook was young and reminded him of his younger self? Because he wanted to hear Euphoria? Because he had given Yoongi the umbrella? None of those felt right.

So Yoongi told him the truth.

“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head a little. “I was surprised, too.”

Hoseok’s smile got impossibly wider, and his eyes shone like he knew something Yoongi didn’t.

Then the door to the Coffee Nook jingled and Jungkook stepped out, holding two cups of coffee.

“Jungkookie!” Hoseok said, happily waving with both hands in greeting.

Jungkook blushed, but he gave Hoseok a nod and a small smile before he turned to Yoongi.

“It’s cold tonight. Why did you wait out here, hyung?” Jungkook asked. He held out one of the coffees to Yoongi—the larger one, Yoongi noticed as he took it. Hoseok seemed amused by this and was watching the exchange with mild surprise, so Yoongi decided to let it go rather than bring it up.

“I just wanted some fresh air,” Yoongi said with a shrug. Hoseok looked like he didn’t believe him and Yoongi raised his eyebrows at him. What was he supposed to say? Your packmates were staring at me and so I fled even though I know they’re nice?

Now that he thought about it, he might be a little cold. He pulled up his hood and wrapped both his hands around the coffee cup. Jungkook’s eyes hadn’t left him, and he now looked extremely conflicted.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

“No,” Yoongi said. He took a sip of coffee. “I’m fine.”

Jungkook hummed in acknowledgement, but it sounded strained. Hoseok was looking between them, his eyes lingering longer on Yoongi, like he was trying to figure something out.

Jungkook gestured toward the door and said to Hoseok, “They’re waiting for you, hyung.”

Yoongi grinned as Hoseok did a little clap as he moved sideways so that he could see inside through the glass door.

“Ah, look at them! They’re so cute,” he said, bouncing a little on his feet. He looked like a child at a candy store. “Why is Jimin pouting?”

“Because I’m leaving him to be the third wheel,” Jungkook said, grinning. “He’s been pouting about it for the last ten minutes.”

“I’m going to go squeeze the pout right out of his face,” Hoseok said, raising a hand and clenching it into a fist as he threw open the door.

Yoongi shook his head as he watched Hoseok disappear inside, bemused. Even through the door he could hear the laughter from Taehyung and disgruntled whining from Jimin that followed.

“We all get along really well,” Jungkook said. He was watching Yoongi when he turned to look at him, and it seemed like he was nervous about something. Yoongi was starting to think that nervousness was Jungkook’s default emotion.

“Yeah, it seems like it,” Yoongi agreed easily. Jungkook grinned, but Yoongi felt like he was still being studied.

A car turned the corner, and its headlights were so bright that Yoongi held up a hand to shield his eyes as it passed until Jungkook stepped up and blocked the headlights completely.

As Yoongi let his hand fall, Jungkook blinked at Yoongi in surprise, like he didn’t remember moving. Yoongi swallowed his thanks as he felt heat rising up his face. The Omega in him was liking Jungkook’s attentiveness.

“Let’s go,” Yoongi said. He pushed himself off the wall and started toward the music building. His shook his head a little when his instincts balked as he created more distance between himself and Jungkook. He needed to stop letting Jungkook get to him.

Jungkook fell into step beside him. Campus was only a few blocks away, and neither of them said anything until they stopped to wait for a crosswalk signal.

“When I came out of the shop,” Jungkook said, his eyes flicking to Yoongi and then away again, “you smelt afraid.”

Yoongi fidgeted. It wasn’t a question, but he knew Jungkook was asking for an explanation. The other Omega’s posture was stiff again, tense.

“That was nothing,” Yoongi said. “Hoseok just startled me when he came up to the shop.”

At this, Jungkook relaxed and asked, “You startle easily?” His head was tilted in curiosity.

“Sometimes,” Yoongi admitted as the crosswalk turned green.

Jungkook seemed surprised at this as they crossed the street and continued towards the music building.

They were almost there when Jungkook spoke again.

“I’ve been wanting to ask you. Are there any instruments that play the grand staff?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi frowned and said, “Yes, I told you. Piano uses it, and so do the other keyboard instruments. And I know the harp uses it... I’m not sure on which others.”

But Jungkook was shaking his head.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean bass clef and treble clef. I meant the grand staff, the whole thing. Written on all eleven lines.”

They separated to pass on either side of an old man slowly walking his dog, and Yoongi waited until they were walking next to either again to speak.

“No,” Yoongi said, shaking his head. “No, it’s always divided in half because no one wants to read eleven lines on a music score.”

“Oh,” Jungkook said. He inspected the lid of his coffee cup. “That’s what Taehyung said, but I hoped it wasn’t true.”

Yoongi had no idea that Taehyung knew anything about music. He’d have to ask him about it if they ever had a real conversation.

“Why were you hoping it wasn’t true?” Yoongi asked.

They reached the music building and Jungkook held open the door for him. Yoongi hesitated a second before nodding in thanks and entering the building first.

“It just seemed sad,” Jungkook said as he followed Yoongi inside.

“In what way?” Yoongi asked, turning to look at him.

He wasn’t expecting the wide-eyed sincerity he was met with.

“Well, it’s just that the grand staff never gets to be whole,” Jungkook said hesitantly. “And middle C never gets its own line in the music score.”

Yoongi slowed his steps in surprise and Jungkook started leading the way. Yoongi had never once thought about it like that. He didn’t find it sad himself—he was sure the grand staff had gotten over it—but he found Jungkook’s sincerity about it endearing.

“It just seemed sad to me. I wanted there to be an instrument that used all eleven lines,” Jungkook said. He looked back at Yoongi as he started down the practice room hallway and bit his lip. He looked like he was worried Yoongi would laugh at him, but Yoongi didn’t find it funny at all.

***

By the end of their second piano lesson, to say Yoongi was impressed would be an understatement. Jungkook had done everything he’d asked him to do, and he’d done it well. He knew all the major scales by heart, and could play them at a good speed with very few mistakes.

Yoongi luckily still had the book with the Hanon piano exercises in his bag, and he pulled it out so Jungkook could start them. When Yoongi put the book on the music holder, Jungkook straightened up into a posture of pride that would put an Alpha to shame, and Yoongi grinned to himself as he remembered implying that Jungkook would move on to Hanon if he practiced well.

Yoongi played him the first Hanon exercise, then encouraged Jungkook to try it one hand at a time before he tried to play both hands together. They went through a few more exercises like this, and stopped when it had been almost an hour.

After the lesson, Yoongi told him to keep practicing his scales, and to learn the first five Hanon exercises.

“You don’t have to memorize any of the exercises from Hanon,” Yoongi said as he put his jacket back on. “But practice opening to a random page further in the book and sight reading. It will help you learn new pieces faster as you go on.”

Jungkook nodded seriously, then swung his legs out from under the piano and stood. Jungkook had slowly moved closer to him on the piano bench during the lesson, and ended up so close that Yoongi could feel the warmth of him leaving his side, even though they hadn’t been touching.

“Do you want me to walk you home?” Jungkook asked as he reached for his coat. Yoongi shook his head when Jungkook looked his way. Seoul was well lit and well traveled, and the area around campus was considered pretty safe.

Jungkook hummed in acknowledgement and swung his backpack over his shoulder. Yoongi watched him adjust his jacket, noticing only now that there was a miniature Iron Man mask stitched into the jacket over right side of Jungkook’s chest.

Yoongi grinned at the sight of it. It endeared him how Jungkook really seemed to put an Iron Man symbol on everything he owned. When Jungkook had taken out the folder he was keeping the piano sheet music in, Yoongi had seen that he had put an Iron Man sticker on that, too.

Yoongi moved his legs to the other side of the piano bench to stand just as Jungkook stopped adjusting his jacket and sharply turned to look down at him. Yoongi froze at the direct eye contact.

The unnamed tension in his instincts he’d felt during their first lesson had risen as soon as he’d shut the door to the practice room behind them. Neither one of them had mentioned it again, but Yoongi still hadn’t really relaxed. He had felt bad at every concerned look Jungkook had sent his way.

Jungkook hadn’t done anything to make the Omega in Yoongi feel on edge, but he couldn’t seem to shake it. And now, something about how they were positioned, with Jungkook standing directly in front of him and looking down, had Yoongi’s instincts balking.

He was struck by an equal combination of the need to back away from the situation and the need to tilt his head back and bare his neck. He gritted his teeth as he fought both urges. There was no room behind him to back away, and no way in hell was he baring his neck just because Jungkook was standing above him.

Yoongi felt his chin go up an inch and immediately forced his head back down. No, he told himself, now also fighting a whine as his Omega instincts curled up in discontent at being denied.

He didn’t have to fight his instincts for long though. Jungkook’s posture almost immediately seized and he took a step back himself, quickly throwing out a hand to open the practice room door.

“Shit,” Jungkook said under his breath as he stepped into the hallway. Yoongi felt himself relax at the distance, at the open escape route, and Jungkook winced.

“I didn’t mean to do that,” Jungkook said.

Yoongi shook his head as he reached down to grab his bag. Jungkook couldn’t have known. Yoongi had never reacted to another Omega liked that before. To be honest, he hadn’t really ever reacted to anyone like that before.

“You didn’t do anything,” Yoongi said, rolling his head a little as he stood up. His neck muscles felt stiff from forcing himself not to bare his neck.

“I was posturing,” Jungkook said, shaking his head and backing up against the wall behind him as Yoongi moved to exit the room.

Yoongi hesitated in the doorway at this. People liked to pretend that Omegas couldn’t properly posture, but they just did it much less often. Some Omegas, however, were just more dominant by nature.

“I usually don’t...” Jungkook began, but then he shook his head and firmly said, “I’m sorry.”

“It was an accident,” Yoongi said with a shrug. He was a little shaken, sure, but he tried to hide it as he took in the stricken look on Jungkook’s face. “Just bad timing.”

“It was rude,” Jungkook said, in a tone that sounded like he’d never be convinced otherwise. The resoluteness of his voice was contrasted by his posture almost comically, as he was still backed against the wall like Yoongi was a hungry prowling tiger. “I have no excuses.”

Yoongi struggled with what to say next. Posturing was rude in some situations, especially when done by Alphas to lower dynamics and even more so in one-on-one interactions, but Yoongi thought that this was a bit of an overreaction. He hadn’t even noticed any posturing.

Yoongi wondered if he would ever stop feeling off-footed by this boy’s sincerity.

“Well... I accept your apology,” Yoongi said, hoping he sounded sincere as well.

“You shouldn’t,” Jungkook said, shaking his head. His deep frown and drawn-in eyebrows made him looked disappointed, and even though Yoongi knew it wasn’t directed at him, the way his instincts twisted in his stomach made him feel like it was.

“I’ll do as I like,” Yoongi said with a flicker of annoyance. “I can understand that instincts can be overwhelming sometimes, because I struggle with them too, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell me how to feel.”

Jungkook looked horrified. “Of course. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”

“It’s fine,” Yoongi said, his annoyance dying as soon as it had come. “Really. Don’t worry about it. I was raised by Alphas. I can handle some posturing.”

It felt like a lie coming out of his mouth. His parents postured often at each other, but only postured at Yoongi and his brother during an argument. It had sometimes made Yoongi want to bare his neck, but he’d never grappled with the need like he had today. He didn’t want to think about why.

Jungkook pursed his lips and then asked, “Your parents are both Alphas?”

Yoongi nodded and said, “My brother is an Alpha, too.”

“My parents are both Omegas,” Jungkook said.

Jungkook was looking at him like something suddenly made sense, but Yoongi didn’t share in whatever epiphany Jungkook was experiencing. He had no idea why Jungkook felt the need to posture in the first place, but at least Jungkook wasn’t apologizing anymore. Yoongi wanted to be done talking about it.

“Let’s go,” Yoongi said. He gestured down the hallway, and then started walking away by himself when Jungkook didn’t move. He grinned a bit when he heard Jungkook scramble to catch up with him.

Someone turned the corner to the practice room hallway just as Yoongi reached it, and he almost collided with them.

He heard a sharp gasp and looked up to see Professor Lee with a hand over her heart.

Yoongi smiled at her and bowed in greeting.

“You scared me,” she said, her mouth morphing into a smile. “Hello, Yoongi.”

Her voice sounded fond, like she had been missing him too. Her eyes slid past him and she added, “And Jungkook. It’s nice to see you.”

She had her black hair tied tightly back into a ponytail, and she was wearing a puffy white winter jacket that went past her knees. She looked like a walking marshmallow. Yoongi breathed in her warm floral scent with a sense of nostalgia, and he was reminded that he would never smell it every day again.

“Hello, Professor,” Jungkook said.

Her eyes flickered between them in a silent question, then settled on Yoongi. It was jarring, sometimes, how well Professor Lee could communicate without words. Her intent hung in the air as she raised her eyebrows at Yoongi, like her question of Why are you two here together? was something Yoongi could reach out and grab.

“I’m giving Jungkook piano lessons this semester,” Yoongi explained.

“I see,” she said with a small smile. “I assume it’s going well?”

“I think so. At least so far,” Yoongi said, turning back towards Jungkook, who was nodding profusely.

Professor Lee laughed at this and put a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“I missed having you in my office this week,” she said. “Playing classical music while I do my work just isn’t the same without you in there trying not to look like you don't like it.”

Yoongi smiled and said, “I miss it too, actually.”

Professor Lee nodded and patted his shoulder a few times before gesturing to Jungkook. “I hope you won’t skip over the classics as you continue forward in your lessons,” she said.

Jungkook hesitantly stepped forward until the three of them were standing in circle.

“Well, we’ve only done the major scales so far,” Yoongi said. “And we just started Hanon.”

“Hmm,” she said, tilting her head in thought. “You should incorporate some real songs in there too, so he doesn’t get too bored with it.”

Yoongi nodded, glad for the advice, but Jungkook shook his head.

“I’m not bored,” he said. “I like Hanon.”

“Ah, of course. My mistake,” Professor Lee said, her eyes flicking between them again with amusement. Her gaze landed on Yoongi and she tilted her head again, her eyes thoughtful.

“You’re here late,” Yoongi said, checking his watch. It was almost half past ten.

“I suppose,” she said, slipping past them and continuing down the hallway. She raised a hand in farewell, waving her fingers. “But the pianos were calling my name, same as you.”

Yoongi and Jungkook watched her go into one of the practice rooms and then stick her head back out and say, “Goodnight, boys.”

“Goodnight,” Yoongi said, and then the door the practice room clicked softly shut behind her. He wondered if the abruptness of her goodbye was strange to Jungkook, but Yoongi was used to it. Conversations with her were always short and to the point, cut off before anyone had time to get bored.

Yoongi wished that she had stayed and spoken to him a little longer this time, but he knew that he could just visit her in her office if he really wanted to see her. Maybe he’d pay her a visit on Monday.

Yoongi could feel Jungkook’s gaze on the side of his face like a physical touch, and it made him realize that he was standing with his head hanging down—staring at the floor where Professor Lee had been standing.

Yoongi looked up at Jungkook, and his face was set into a frown. Concern seemed to be radiating off him—like the heat that had seeped into Yoongi’s skin when Jungkook had sat so near to him at the piano.

Yoongi gave Jungkook a small smile, then led the way out of the music building with Jungkook following behind him.

“Do you miss being her TA?” Jungkook asked quietly as they exited the building.

“I do,” Yoongi said after a moment of thought. “She was good to me.”

“I’m glad,” Jungkook said, stopping short at the crosswalk that led to the Coffee Nook and Yoongi’s apartment building.

Jungkook pointed left. “I live this way,” he said.

“And I live this way,” Yoongi said, pointing straight down the street. “I’ll see you next time?”

“Yeah,” Jungkook said with a nod. “And I’m sorry again, about posturing before. My instincts got the better of me.”

“It happens to everyone,” Yoongi said with a shrug.

“It usually doesn’t happen to me,” Jungkook said, shaking his head. “I’ve always had very good control.”

Yoongi fidgeted. He had no idea how to respond to that.

“Alright,” he said awkwardly. And he almost sighed with relief when his crosswalk light turned green.

“Have a good night,” he said over his shoulder as he crossed the street.

“You too,” Jungkook said, then he called out, “Get home safe!”

Yoongi raised a hand in acknowledgement, but he didn’t look back. He swore he could feel Jungkook’s eyes on him all the way down the street.

***

The next night, Yoongi was lying sprawled across his bed, listening to the song he was making for Professor Lee on repeat. He was almost done with it. Some parts didn’t feel right, but Yoongi knew they just needed a few changes. He just needed to find out what those changes were.

He had just closed his eyes and was considering taking a nap when he heard the sound of someone opening the door to his room.

He opened his eyes to see Jin grinning at him from the doorway.

“We’re pack bonding at seven tonight, remember?” Jin said. Yoongi checked his watch to see that it was already past seven. He had forgotten about the text that Namjoon had sent him about it this morning.

“Come help me convince Namjoon that we shouldn’t watch a documentary,” Jin said, walking towards Yoongi’s bed.

Yoongi pouted. He had just found the perfect position to lie in.

“But I’m comfy,” Yoongi said. “I was going to nap.”

“Come be comfy and nap in the living room,” Jin said, grabbing Yoongi’s hand. With a lot of grumbling, Yoongi swallowed a whine and allowed Jin to pull him up.

He shut off his music and followed Jin into the living room. The sleeping mat they used for pack bonding was already unfolded on the floor with some pillows and blankets. Yoongi crawled into the middle of it with a sigh and Jin went into the kitchen.

The TV was on, showing the opening screen of their DVD player, and their cabinet full of DVDs was hanging open. There was a stack of DVDs sitting on the TV stand, and Yoongi could imagine the playful argument Jin and Namjoon had had about what to watch without needing to witness it.

Yoongi could hear Jin and Namjoon talking in the kitchen as he grabbed one of the pillows and hugged it to his chest. It smelt like Jin and Namjoon, and Yoongi buried his face into it to inhale the rose and cotton, the burning pine. Now that they were getting ready for pack bonding, Yoongi realized that it had been more than a week since their last one.

The first week of the semester had kept Yoongi and Namjoon busy, both of them getting into the swing of their new schedules, and one of Jin’s coworkers had gone into heat in the middle of the week and Jin had offered to help fill in. Yoongi realized it would be a relief to be close to the two of them, could feel a small itch of longing for the feeling of complete safety pack bonding brought crawling under his skin.

It was moments like these, when they hadn’t bonded for a longer period of time, that Yoongi had to admit that pack bonding benefited him as well. Even though he usually fell asleep, his instincts never really slept, and they relished in being close to pack. He knew he probably should indulge them more often.

Yoongi could hear the sound of the microwave starting and the popping of popcorn. He knew Jin and Namjoon would soon come into the room, each with a bowl of popcorn and a bottle of water, and then resume their argument about which movie to watch.

He knew Jin would win, put on a comedy, and then they’d both lie on either side of Yoongi, chewing popcorn and bickering until the first scene started. At the first line of dialogue, they’d fall into quiet. Namjoon would finish his popcorn first, then set the empty bowl aside and pull Yoongi in close to him. A few minutes later, Jin would set his bowl aside as well and start threading his fingers through Yoongi’s hair while Yoongi complained about his hair smelling like butter and salt.

They’d done it a hundred times. And even the first time, when they’d all been stiff and unsure, it had been nice.

Yoongi fell asleep before Jin and Namjoon came back into the living room. He stirred briefly when Namjoon slipped an arm under him to pull him closer, then again when Jin laughed particularly loudly.

Then he woke up to the feeling of being moved and whined before he could stop himself. He felt warm and safe where he was. The pillow he was holding to his chest had created a small pocket of warmth against his body and the air smelt so nicely of pack. Why was someone moving him?

“Shh. Go back to sleep,” a voice Yoongi registered as Namjoon’s said gently from behind him. Yoongi was dimly aware that he was being adjusted, that Namjoon’s arm was slipping out from under him and that the Alpha was standing up. “I’m just going to the bathroom.”

But Yoongi’s instincts felt Namjoon’s absence as he walked further away, and he readjusted himself to try to get comfortable enough to sleep again, fighting another whine. Then there was a hand in his hair and the sound of Jin’s light chuckling.

“Stop frowning. He’ll be right back,” Jin said, lightly tracing a finger over the furrowed skin between Yoongi’s eyebrows.

Yoongi hadn’t realized he’d been frowning, and forced his face into an expression he hoped was neutral.

“Now you just look constipated,” Jin said, his voice light with humor, poking gently at one of Yoongi’s cheeks.

“Shut up,” Yoongi said, releasing his hold on the pillow long enough to attempt to bat Jin’s hand away. Jin pulled his hand back, but then he just continued poking at Yoongi’s cheek once Yoongi returned to hugging the pillow.

Annoyed, Yoongi opened his eyes long enough to see where Jin’s hand was, then bit at his finger. Jin shrieked in surprised laughter as Yoongi’s teeth grazed his skin. The sudden loud sound jarred Yoongi a little and he tensed, but Jin soon had his hand over his own mouth, muffling his laughter against his fingers, his eyes bright and crinkled at the corners, and Yoongi relaxed again.

Yoongi glared at Jin in warning, then closed his eyes. The TV was silent, so the movie was either paused or finished. He could hear their toilet flushing as Jin’s laughter died down, then the sound of running water as Jin started to thread his fingers through Yoongi’s hair.

As Namjoon opened the bathroom door, the monotone sound of the toilet refilling traveled down the hallway with his footsteps. Yoongi felt lighter as soon as Namjoon reached the sleeping mat, his instincts finally content again as the Alpha rejoined them.

“Is he awake?” Namjoon asked Jin as he laid down next to Yoongi.

“Yeah,” Jin said, ruffling Yoongi’s hair. “He pouted the whole time you were gone and then tried to bite me.”

Namjoon snorted and pulled Yoongi back against him.

“What’d you do?” Namjoon asked. He rubbed his neck a little against the back of Yoongi’s shoulder, and the smell of burning pine slowly got stronger.

“Why did I have to do anything? He’s vicious,” Jin said, somehow dodging a half-hearted kick that Yoongi sent in his direction without needing to take his hand out of Yoongi’s hair.

“Completely feral, I’m sure,” Namjoon said, continuing to lightly scent Yoongi’s shoulder. Yoongi’s instincts were basking in it, and it was finally making him sleepy again, so he allowed it. There was a low rumbling rising in Namjoon’s chest that Yoongi could feel against the skin of his back, and Yoongi swallowed the purr that threatened to rise up in response.

“A complete animal,” Jin said. “Cuddles pillows to death every day for no good reason.”

“Shut up,” Yoongi said, his voice slurring in his sleepiness. He swatted out a hand and gently hit Jin’s arm. But then he kind of proved Jin’s point by hugging the pillow in his arms tighter against his chest, and felt like he deserved the light laughter from Jin that followed. Even Namjoon chuckled a bit. Yoongi sighed deeply, his eyes heavy.

“Okay. Fine,” Jin said, letting out one last chuckle. “I’m done.”

Yoongi felt Jin adjusting, then the sound of whatever movie they were watching started again. There was a deep slow song playing in the part they were at, interrupted the sounds of a forest or jungle, but Yoongi didn’t stay awake long enough to find out.

Sometime later, he woke to the feeling of someone gently shaking him awake.

“Yoongi, we’re done,” he could hear Jin saying. “Come sleep in your bed.”

“No,” Yoongi said, burrowing further into the pillow he was still hugging to his chest. He slept through almost the entire pack bonding session, but he could still feel the contentment in his bones. The music of the ending credits was being played at a softer volume than usual, and knew his packmates must have turned down the volume for him.

He had asked Jin and Namjoon once if it bothered them that he usually slept during pack bonding, if he should try to be a more active participant, but they’d both assured him that they didn’t mind. Namjoon had even told him that he liked it, that his Alpha instincts saw Yoongi’s willingness to sleep in front of them as a sign of trust.

He felt a hand tug on the pillow, and he could hear Jin and Namjoon laughing softly as he gripped it tighter and hissed softly.

“You’re ridiculous,” Jin said in exasperation. “I know you’ll complain tomorrow if we leave you to sleep on the floor.”

“Don’t make me carry you again,” Namjoon said, an amused tilt to his voice.

Jin laughed as Yoongi finally released the pillow and sat up with a groan of protest. The last time Namjoon had carried him had been a disaster.

About a year ago, he’d gone out to eat barbecue with a few other Music Production majors. Namjoon couldn’t come because he had work, so Yoongi had tried to drink his lack of desire to talk to anyone away. It had worked. He dimly remembered laughing and having a good time, but he’d been exhausted by the time dinner ended.

Namjoon had found him drunk and sleeping on the couch when he came home from work and carried him to bed. When Namjoon had set him down, Yoongi had whined until Namjoon laid down with him and Yoongi had lain there, clutching Namjoon and purring, until he fell back asleep and Namjoon could slip away.

Yoongi had realized that night that he had no control over his instincts when he was drunk, and he had rarely gotten drunk since.

Yoongi had been mortified, especially when Namjoon tried to explain to him that It’s only natural, hyung. Omegas and Alphas in the same pack are usually more tactile than you and I are.

Yoongi still considered it one of the most embarrassing things he had ever done and Jin, who had woken up to Yoongi’s whines and witnessed it from across the bedroom, had tried and failed not to laugh about it for weeks every time Yoongi and Namjoon were in the same room.

“Come on,” Jin said, his voice straining as he pulled Yoongi to his feet. “Bedtime.”

Namjoon bent down as soon as Yoongi stood up and started picking up the pillows and blankets on the sleeping mat. Yoongi stretched and checked the time to see that it was almost midnight.

“It’s late,” he said, turning to Jin. The Beta usually went to bed sometime around half past ten because he sometimes did the early morning shift at the bakery.

“We may have watched two movies,” Jin said, shrugging. “Neither of us work tomorrow morning.”

“Did Namjoon get to watch his documentary?” Yoongi asked.

“I did,” Namjoon said smugly as he tossed the pillows and blankets onto the couch.

“Only because you cheated at rock, paper, scissors,” Jin said.

“I didn’t cheat,” Namjoon said, his voice tilted in amused frustration. They must have already argued this out. “And I let you try again.”

“And then you cheated again,” Jin said, jabbing a finger at Namjoon, who was shaking his head in disbelief. “And now I know way too much about elephants.”

Jin bent down to fold up the sleeping mat, and Yoongi helped him push it back under the couch.

“It was interesting and informative,” Namjoon said. He gave Jin a hard look. “And don’t pretend you didn’t cry when those elephants stopped at the bones of their dead child, hyung,” Namjoon said.

“Did you know elephants can’t jump, Yoongi?” Jin asked, ignoring Namjoon.

“I didn’t,” Yoongi said. He grinned as Namjoon made a wide-armed gesture that seemed to mean See? I told you it was interesting and informative.

“Well, now you do,” Jin deadpanned to Yoongi. “Suffer with me.”

“You’re such a jerk sometimes,” Namjoon said, holding back a laugh.

“I’m such a gift,” Jin said, straightening his posture and putting his hands on his hips, as though challenging Namjoon to deny it. “And not just sometimes.”

Namjoon snorted as he walked down the hallway towards his room, but didn’t argue, and Jin nodded in satisfaction.

***

Despite having done pack bonding on Saturday night, Yoongi could tell that Jin was feeling down again on Wednesday. He walked around the apartment with just a little less zeal and sass than usual, and it had Yoongi a little worried.

Then Jin had come into their room to say goodbye to Yoongi as he left for work for the afternoon, and it was very obvious that he didn’t want to go.

Jin liked his work, Yoongi knew, so he was confused at the Beta’s reluctance to close the door and actually leave until Jin spoke.

“I need some pack bonding time again, I think. Soon,” Jin said, looking a bit sheepish. Yoongi hated that Jin felt hesitant to ask for what he needed. It made Yoongi feel responsible—because of how reluctant Yoongi had been about the cuddling and touching and soft conversation in the beginning.

“Of course,” Yoongi said immediately, hoping his tone of voice showed that he had no problem with that.

“When I don’t get to see you two a lot, I think I need more bonding time,” Jin said. Yoongi and Namjoon were both in their final semester, and it had them both more busy than usual.

Jin was looking at the floor, and it worried him. Jin was usually much more confident when speaking about how he felt and what he needed.

“Whatever you need,” Yoongi said, and Jin finally gave him a small smile. “Really. I don’t mind. Let’s do it tonight.”

“Namjoon works late tonight,” Jin said, shaking his head, but his smile grew even more. “And I work early tomorrow, so we’d have to do it tomorrow night.”

“Sounds good,” Yoongi said. “Tomorrow night it is.” Jin left the apartment looking like he was in a better mood, even blowing Yoongi a mock kiss as he shut their bedroom door behind him.

Still, having Jin feeling down again worried Yoongi, had him thinking that maybe he could just suck it up and build a nest, even if Jin wasn’t asking for one yet.

When one of his packmates was distressed, it grated on Yoongi’s instincts and weighed on his mind. He could never shake the feeling that he was failing whenever he couldn’t help. And, Omega instincts aside, Yoongi hated seeing Jin unhappy.

Yoongi knew a nest was logical. A nest would work better and longer than a normal pack bonding session, especially if Yoongi built one for pack bonding and then didn’t dismantle it afterwards for a few days and they continued to use it. He’d never done that before, even though he knew it was supposed to be nice for a pack to have access to.

But the thought of leaving his nest in the living room, unsupervised and out in the open, even though he knew only Namjoon and Jin would see it, felt wrong. It twisted something inside him. It always felt like he put so much of himself into his nests, and he didn’t want to walk away and just leave a piece of himself lying on the living room floor. Though maybe he could, for Jin.

Yoongi sat up and shook his head, rubbing at his eyes in frustration. There had to be a better way—some kind of compromise where no one had to sacrifice their comfort or happiness. He’d do research, but if it was something he could research Namjoon would have already stumbled across it.

Besides, most pack dynamic research was done on larger packs. Packs as small as three that considered themselves fully formed and official were uncommon. In fact, now that Yoongi thought about it, he had personally met only one other official pack of three since theirs had formed—Jungkook’s.

Yoongi froze as he remembered this. He needed advice on how to help Jin, and Jungkook actually seemed like the logical person to ask. Jungkook was another Omega in a pack of three. There had to be periods of time where a member of his pack felt lonely, and Jungkook did something to help—or something was done to help Jungkook. Most people didn’t ignore their instincts to the level that Yoongi did.

Yoongi reached for his phone and hesitated. He wondered if this was strange, suddenly reaching out to someone for pack advice. He didn’t want to ask Jungkook anything too personal, but the only other people he could think to ask were his parents.

Yoongi loved his parents. However, they knew nothing about what Yoongi could to do help Jin as an Omega comforting another member of his pack. If Yoongi were an Alpha, then they’d be an endless resource, but this would be way out of their league. And, if he was honest, raising an Omega son had been out of their league as well—even though they had done as best they could.

Jin would actually be the best person to go to for advice, the one Yoongi would be going to now if Jin didn’t only ask for things when he really needed them. And if he asked for anything even the slightest bit out of Yoongi’s comfort zone, Yoongi knew Jin would feel guilty if Yoongi gave it to him.

So that left Jungkook.

Yoongi opened his text conversation with Jungkook and winced as he thought about what to say. He didn’t want to do this. Then he shook his head and straightened his posture. For Jin , Yoongi told himself, hoping to strengthen his resolve. This is nothing, if it’s for Jin.

Yoongi wondered when he became the type of person who needed to give himself a pep talk before he sent a text message, if he had always been this person. Jungkook wasn’t scary. If anything, he seemed to be constantly terrified of Yoongi. Jungkook also seemed to care a lot about other people’s comfort, so he’d probably jump at the chance to give any advice he could. Yoongi felt better after reminding himself of this, that Jungkook would want to help.

Yoongi still typed out the message to Jungkook and then deleted it a few times before settling on what to say.

Yoongi: hey. if you don’t mind, i need some advice. small pack stuff

Yoongi set his phone aside with a sigh. There was no going back now. He had to take a shower before he left for class and he started gathering some clean clothes, but he heard his phone ding with a reply before he could leave the room for the bathroom.

Jungkook: Of course. I hope everything is alright?

Yoongi stared at the wall as he thought through his reply. He wanted to do this without breaching Jin’s privacy, without seeming like he knew nothing about his own dynamic or his pack.

Yoongi: everything is fine. one of my packmates is just struggling and pack bonding doesn’t seem like it’s helping enough

Jungkook: Struggling with what? Anger? Stress?

Yoongi: loneliness. especially when we are all busy

Yoongi fought the urge to make excuses for himself and Namjoon, to make it clear that he and the Alpha tried every day to make sure that Jin knew he wasn’t alone. He didn’t think that Jungkook needed to be told that Yoongi wasn’t exactly a gossipy, cuddly, tactile Omega either. It had to be pretty clear and, even if it wasn’t, Yoongi wasn’t here to give Jungkook his whole life story.

Jungkook: That happens to one of my packmates as well, even when we’re not busy. We usually just sleep together.

Another text came through before Yoongi could even finish reading the first.

Jungkook: Not sexually!

Yoongi let out a small laugh. He hadn’t taken it that way at all.

Jungkook: The three of us usually just all pile into one bed and scent, then we sleep. Maybe you remember me smelling a lot like Tae and Jimin a few times? It actually works quite well for helping to soothe any emotion, especially if all three of us are there for a full night in the same space.

Yoongi did remember that, on the day Jungkook had given him the umbrella, Yoongi had smelt the scents of his packmates on him. Jungkook’s scent blockers had prevented Yoongi from smelling his pack on him any other day, but Yoongi had smelt the scent of Jungkook’s pack lingering in the piano room once where he and Jungkook had done their piano lessons.

Jungkook: At least, that’s what works well for us.

Yoongi: thanks. needed some more ideas

Jungkook: Of course! Anytime! I hope it works out!

Grinning as he noticed that Jungkook was once again overusing exclamation points, Yoongi left his phone on his bed and headed into the bathroom to shower.

Standing under a stream of warm water, Yoongi wondered if scenting and sleeping together would be something that would work well for his pack. Now that he thought back, it wasn’t something they had done a lot—mainly because Yoongi wasn’t used to it and Namjoon struggled with his instincts enough that he needed to smell like an Alpha to avoid Alpha confrontations.

Jin crawled into Yoongi’s bed sometimes and slept there, but they hadn’t scented. The Beta had asked Yoongi to hold him closer a few times, when the loneliness had really seemed to get to him. However, if Jin had wanted to scent during those times, he'd never said anything.

Yoongi started putting shampoo and his hair, feeling like he should have known what Jin needed during those times, feeling like he should know more about how all this pack stuff worked, about where he lacked and what holes he should be filling as the sole member of his pack with Omega instincts.

He didn’t allow himself to spiral down that hole of blame though, reminding himself that it would help no one. He should just be glad to have a solution that may work. He’d watch Jin carefully and be more mindful in the future.

The water of the shower was getting a little too hot, the steam in the air heavy in Yoongi’s lungs as he breathed in, and he washed the shampoo out of his hair before turning around to turn down the temperature.

Then Yoongi stood under the warm water, eyes closed as it cascaded down his face.

Namjoon lightly scented Yoongi during almost every pack bonding session and it hadn’t ever really bothered him. But scenting done at the scent gland in the neck? Yoongi had been a child the last time he’d done that. He found, however, that he didn’t hate the idea of doing it now—his instincts wanted it enough and he trusted Namjoon and Jin.

It was something he could try. Scenting was certainly a better alternative to leaving his nest out in the open, unattended. And the sleeping? Yoongi definitely wouldn’t have a problem with that.

The only problem was that Namjoon liked showering at night. If he, Jin, and Namjoon all scented and then slept in the same bed, their scents would probably combine enough that their dynamics wouldn’t be discernible to other people. And so Namjoon would need to shower in the morning instead to make his own scent more prominent again. But Yoongi didn’t think that the Alpha would mind.

If it would help Jin, Yoongi knew Namjoon would do anything.

***

By the time Yoongi got into bed around midnight, early enough to make Jin proud, he’d come up with a plan. When they did pack bonding the next night, Yoongi would ask Jin and Namjoon to sleep in the living room with him. They’d say yes, he knew, especially since Yoongi never asked for anything.

He thought they may be concerned about why he was suddenly asking, but he could deal with that when it came to it. And then, if he just started scenting one of them, he knew they wouldn’t mind.

Okay. It was a shitty plan.

But he felt desperate to have a plan, any plan. He couldn’t stop thinking about Jin all day. He’d even written Jin’s name in the middle of his Music History notes without any recollection of doing it, and he’d had to search online for who invented the Harpsichord after class, annoyed and amused, because it sure as hell hadn’t been Jin.

Yoongi stared at the dark ceiling of their bedroom, then turned his gaze to where Jin was lying in bed, already asleep.

He always felt like he held the biggest responsibility for Jin’s loneliness. Traditionally, Alphas protected and provided for the pack, Betas managed risk and kept the peace, and Omegas gave the pack care and comfort. And while tradition, in Yoongi’s opinion, could go fuck itself, he felt like he should be contributing something.

His plan was derailed, however, when he heard Jin stir on the other side of the room. Jin was usually a very still sleeper, so Yoongi listened harder, wondering if the Beta was awake. Then he heard a slight sniffling and quickly sat up. Jin was definitely awake.

Fuck the plan.

“Are you crying?” Yoongi asked Jin, then winced. He knew he had a tendency to be a little too straightforward, but he was surprised. Jin had been laughing and teasing Yoongi about falling asleep on the kitchen table after his last class all throughout dinner and into the evening. Then he’d given Namjoon shit when he got home from work for wearing mismatching socks, and the two had argued for over half an hour about whether or not it was a fashion statement.

Yoongi thought the Beta had felt well enough to last until pack bonding the next evening, and Yoongi was furious with himself for not being about to see through it. And he hated that Jin felt like he needed to lay there, crying, and not seek comfort.

There was a moment where Yoongi could only hear his own breath, and then Jin said, “No, I’m fine.”

But now Yoongi could smell Jin’s scent turning sour in the room, and he knew for certain that was a lie. Yoongi’s instincts balked at the way the rose and cotton seemed to smell sad, like Jin’s scent was trying to seep his loneliness out through his scent glands and into the air in an attempt to expel it.

“Bullshit,” Yoongi said.

“It’s not bullshit, Yoongi,” Jin said, and Yoongi could see the outline of him in the dark as he sat up as well. “I’m just feeling a little emotional.”

“You’re crying, ” Yoongi said.

“Fine,” Jin snapped, throwing his hands up in the air. “I’m crying. I’m crying the fucking Han River! I’m over here being dramatic. What else is new?”

Yoongi gaped for a few seconds, as Jin almost never swore, but then he threw his covers off.

“Fuck this,” Yoongi said, standing up. “Fuck this.”

“I’m sorry,” Jin said, holding out both hands in Yoongi’s direction, as though to grab him, like he thought Yoongi was about to storm out of the room.

Jin’s hands fell to his lap when Yoongi stormed over to his bed instead.

Yoongi pulled Jin’s covers off of him as well, ignoring the Beta’s protest and batting his hands away as he reached for them again. Then he tugged on the sleeve of Jin’s shirt and said, “Get up.”

Yoongi wondered what it said about him that he was finding it much more easy to initiate helping Jin now that he had anger to fuel it. Yoongi’s instincts were practically screaming in the proximity of Jin’s soured scent. They’d all be sleeping together tonight. He couldn’t allow himself to plan otherwise, not if Jin was this sad.

“What?” Jin said, then gasped in surprise as Yoongi grabbed his arm and bodily dragged him off the bed. Jin had no choice but to follow or risk falling to the floor.

“Come on,” Yoongi said, not letting go of Jin’s arm as he moved to open their bedroom door and pulled the Beta from the room. Jin stumbled a bit on the threshold, still a little off-footed, but Yoongi didn’t slow down. “We’re going to Namjoon’s room.”

Namjoon was the only one who had a full-sized bed, so his room was the best choice.

“What?” Jin said, half whispering, half shouting, clutching at the grip Yoongi had on his arm. “No! It’s fine. I’m fine. I don’t need Namjoon.”

“Stop lying to me!” Yoongi said, maybe too loudly, because Jin seemed stunned into silence. Yoongi knew he was soft spoken—he had really never been one to shout, even when he was young. He had once yelled at his older brother in high school for almost deleting one of his music folders, and Yoongi swore that the Alpha had almost cried.

Jin followed Yoongi to Namjoon’s room with no further protests and Yoongi opened Namjoon’s door, making a conscious effort not to slam it into the wall in his agitation.

“Yoongi,” Jin whispered as the two of them stared into Namjoon’s dark room. “We both smell distressed. It’s going to freak him out and he’ll go all Alpha on us.”

Yoongi knew what Jin meant, knew about the obsessive care and attentiveness he was about to instigate, the way Namjoon’s Alpha instincts wouldn’t let him rest until everyone was content again. Yoongi also knew that Jin was warning him not because he didn’t want to experience it, but because he thought that it would make Yoongi uncomfortable.

Yoongi had always strayed away from physical comfort and scenting outside of pack bonding, which always felt like a different world—like new lines and rules were drawn there and more things were allowed. Yoongi knew that Jin sought comfort from Namjoon often, that they scented each other sometimes.

However, Namjoon had always been careful around Yoongi. Alphas and Omegas had strong reactions to each other to begin with, and Yoongi’s family hadn’t really been the scenting, touchy type.

Yoongi could remember scenting when he was very young, but, at least in his family, it had been considered something you grew out of. Family dinners had been considered their pack bonding time, occasional hugs and light scenting reserved for only times of true distress. It had worked well for them, and Yoongi knew it was a lifestyle that worked well for other packs as well.

Jin’s family, however, had been the opposite. Yoongi always pictured Jin’s pack as doing pack bonding that lasted all day, every day, where they all held tightly onto each other in a cuddle pile, continuously scenting, talking about their feelings, and gossiping, only stopping for snacks. He pictured innumerable people, all in one space, touching and talking and nobody minding at all.

Yoongi knew it wasn’t as dramatic as that—Jin had once told him that his family pack, which only consisted of seventeen people, usually did pack bonding by preparing huge meals together and then eating them sitting around board games on the living room floor. But Yoongi couldn’t help but hear ‘big close pack’ and picture his worst nightmare.

Maybe calling it a nightmare was a little harsh. Yoongi probably just needed to get more used to scenting. But he'd never had a reason to before.

Jungkook had said that scenting and sleeping together worked best with the full pack, all night with all three of them. Yoongi could try this. He could. At least, he could try for Jin.

Yoongi hesitated only a moment at Jin’s warning, wondering what he was about to get himself into once Namjoon woke. He hadn’t realized that he smelt distressed as well, but considering the anger, desperation, and nervousness that was swirling in the pit of his stomach, Yoongi wasn’t surprised that some of it was coming out through his scent.

Namjoon would almost definitely, as Jin put it, 'go all Alpha' on them, and Yoongi, as the Omega, would probably get the brunt of it first. But that was fine, as long as Jin got it second.

Yoongi pulled Jin further into the room and said, “Good.”

They didn’t manage to get all the way to Namjoon’s bed before the Alpha sat up so quickly it made Yoongi flinch backwards into Jin’s chest.

“What’s wrong?” Namjoon asked, slipping out of bed before either of them could respond.

Namjoon’s hands were on Yoongi’s face within moments, tilting it up and trying to gauge his expression, and Yoongi was slammed with Alpha comfort pheromones so strong that all he could say was, “Not me... Jin.”

Namjoon was in front of Jin as quickly as he had been in front of Yoongi, and Yoongi was left trying to collect himself in his wake. His instincts were ready to curl up and be comforted from the pheromones in the air, but he pushed through it.

Namjoon already had a hand over the scent glands on Jin’s neck in the soothing motion Yoongi had seen many times, and Jin was shaking his head like he was denying being the one who needed attention. But then Jin slowly relaxed in Namjoon’s grasp, stilling and his eyes slipping closed.

“Jin was crying,” Yoongi said, almost choking on the words in the pheromones Namjoon was still releasing, and Namjoon’s gaze snapped back to Yoongi. Jin shook his head in disbelief in Yoongi’s direction, opening his eyes and mouthing a word that looked like Traitor.

Yoongi shrugged. Namjoon had just woken up to a distressed pack and was almost all instinct right now, and Yoongi was going to take advantage of it. He didn’t think Namjoon would refuse any suggestion Yoongi had that might help.

“Pack bonding isn’t working for Jin, so I think we should all sleep here,” Yoongi said, making his way towards Namjoon’s bed. He gritted his teeth as he paused, not allowing himself to back out. “And that we should scent him.”

He knew he had to be the one to suggest the scenting, or Namjoon and Jin would never do it. They both constantly went out of their way to make sure Yoongi felt comfortable. Yoongi felt that, this time, it was his turn to take the extra step.

“What?” Jin said, gaping at Yoongi. Namjoon was staring too, his face looking more clear now—less sleepy, but still confused. Yoongi looked away from them. He didn’t want to repeat himself. They’d heard him.

“Okay,” Namjoon said gently, pushing Jin lightly towards the bed. “We can try that, hyung, if you think it will work.”

Yoongi sat down on Namjoon’s dark blue bed sheets and Namjoon released Jin, wincing like it physically pained him to be separated from him. Jin sat down next to Yoongi, still staring.

“I can scent you?” Jin asked, and Yoongi realized that the Beta really did need a confirmation before he would do anything.

Yoongi nodded. Namjoon was hovering at the end of the bed, his hands stiff and unmoving at his sides. It seemed he was forcing himself to let Yoongi do what he wanted, pushing down the instincts that had to be telling him that he should be actively comforting Jin.

“Really? Right now? You’re sure?” Jin asked, leaning back like he was resisting moving forward, his voice pitched up in disbelief.

Yoongi steeled himself, then nodded again, and Jin practically fell into his arms.

Yoongi expected Jin to start scenting him right away, but he simply held Yoongi at first, his forehead resting on Yoongi’s shoulder, breathing in deeply. Yoongi tentatively held him back, then slowly bared his neck for Jin to scent.

Yoongi shuddered involuntarily as Jin started nuzzling his face against his neck, but he also felt his body going slack. It was weird to feel Jin’s face moving against the skin of his neck, but it felt better than he expected, like he was the one being comforted instead of Jin. There was warmth spreading through him, an awareness of his scent spreading through the air.

Jin maneuvered them until they were both lying in Namjoon’s bed, pushing Yoongi back and pulling him towards the middle of the bed, and Yoongi let him. Jin felt so close, like he was burrowing under Yoongi’s skin, and Yoongi gasped with it. Part of him was thinking too close, while his instincts were chanting more.

When Namjoon hesitantly laid down on the other side of Jin, the Beta turned away from Yoongi and started to scent him instead. Yoongi blinked at the ceiling a few times, lowering his chin back down.

That hadn’t been too bad. He was a little tense, still feeling nervous about doing something that made him so vulnerable, about the new dynamic he had just allowed into their pack relationship, but he felt otherwise content. Namjoon’s sheets were soft against his skin, and the comfort pheromones that the Alpha was still releasing were lulling Yoongi into a deeper calm.

Yoongi sensed that being scented by Namjoon, an Alpha, might be a little different, might feel intense in another way. Namjoon was scenting Jin back now, and the air was thick with both of their scents. Yoongi watched Jin stretch his chin farther back and sigh, feeling like it wasn’t something he should be seeing, but he knew he should scent Jin next.

A scenting always worked best when done both ways, and Jin hadn’t scented Yoongi as long as Yoongi thought he would, probably stopping early because he knew that Yoongi hadn’t done it in a long time. Yoongi felt bad that Jin felt the need to take care of him even now, when it was his turn to be taken care of.

Namjoon rumbled into Jin’s neck, then rolled onto his side, wrapping his arms about Jin’s waist and holding him against his chest the way he usually did to Yoongi during pack bonding. Yoongi froze briefly when they both looked at him, but moved forward when Jin reached for him. He could do this.

As Yoongi got within proximity to Jin’s neck, he paused. Being the one who had to do the scenting just seemed too active, embarrassing in a way part of Yoongi didn’t like—especially with Namjoon lying there as an audience.

Jin was bearing his neck, but his eyes assessed Yoongi carefully. Yoongi could feel Namjoon watching him too, and he knew both of them were prepared to put a stop to this if Yoongi seemed uncomfortable at all.

So Yoongi forced down the part of him that was still resisting, and reached for his instincts. After all, they had always known best how to embarrass him, and they were still agitated at the idea that Jin had been sad, desperate to be allowed to help.

The way his instincts then took control reminded Yoongi of the fuzzy haze he went into while he was nesting. Time blended and skipped, and it seemed like all of Yoongi’s usual hesitance was blended out into smooth action, slow and methodical.

He knew that he moved forward to rub against the skin of Jin’s neck, that he would have logically had to, but he couldn’t remember doing it. When Yoongi registered the next moment, both of his hands were clutching the fabric of Jin’s sleeping shirt and he was scenting Jin slowly.

Yoongi was also releasing comfort pheromones, and he wasn’t sure when he had started. Just a few seconds ago? When Jin had started to cry? When they’d gone to Namjoon’s room? But it didn’t matter, because the sourness was almost completely out of Jin’s scent.

Jin already smelt like Namjoon’s burning pine scent, and Yoongi could feel that his own scent was blending with it. It twisted something inside him, knowing that he was scenting Jin, that he was comforting him, that he was in some way claiming Jin as his, that Jin would reek of him tomorrow. It was visceral. Animalistic. Yoongi’s Omega instincts were practically singing. Jin was his to care for, his to comfort and make happy, and now he could smell the proof.

Jin was hugging him. Yoongi didn’t remember that happening.

Jin’s breaths were coming out in shuddering gasps, and Yoongi hadn’t registered when that had started.

He had absolutely no idea what Namjoon was doing.

But he didn’t think much on any of it.

Jin smelt content. Finally, blessedly, happy. The cotton and rose was coming from him light and carefree—briefly reminding Yoongi of one of those stupid air freshener commercials were everyone lived in a world where nobody cried and the sun always shone with a little extra light.

Yoongi had no idea how much time had passed when he registered that if he went on any longer, he’d lose all his capacity to register anything at all. He pulled away, but, his instincts not quite ready to stop, he wrapped his arms around Jin and lightly scented his shirt instead.

Then Yoongi felt a purr rise up in him, and his instincts still had too much control—he was still practically trying to imprint his face into the material of Jin’s shirt. He was tired, comfortable, and content that everything seemed to have gone well. And so the purr came out before Yoongi could hold it back.

Omegas purred when they were content, and only when they were with people they explicitly trusted and loved. An Omega’s purr, outside of influences like sleep deprivation or drugs or alcohol, had long been considered among the highest compliments anyone was capable of receiving.

Jin tensed in shock, but Yoongi couldn’t stop purring without choking on it, without being forced to pull himself out of the reverie he was experiencing, and so he just let it go on. He tried not to care that he’d be embarrassed about it tomorrow. Besides, it felt too nice to stop, the purr sending warm and happy trills through Yoongi’s body and mind.

“Yoongi,” Jin whispered as he relaxed again, his voice almost breaking and tinged with awe. “We love you, too.”

This made Yoongi a little uncomfortable, to hear it said so blatantly, and Yoongi finally stopped scenting Jin’s shirt and just buried his face against the Beta’s chest instead. He felt better when he couldn’t be looked at.

He held Jin tighter, feeling the warmth of Namjoon seep into his arms and hands from where the Alpha still lay against Jin’s back. Yoongi inhaled Jin and Namjoon’s scents deeply, and he felt heavy with sleep.

Then Namjoon’s hand rested lightly on the back of Yoongi’s head, hesitantly moving through his hair, and Yoongi purred louder. He’d never admit it out loud, but he loved when people ran fingers through his hair. It always slowed his mind, soothed him like nothing else.

It reminded him of early mornings as a child, sitting in his mother’s lap watching morning cartoons while the sun rose. His mother would laugh and fix his bed-head, then destroy her work by threading both hands through his hair, again and again and again.

His mother would giggle at all the parts Yoongi was supposed to be laughing at, and encourage Yoongi to say all the prompts the cartoons asked children to repeat. The beige walls and the white keys of their old piano would be tinged purple from the sunlight coming through the curtains, half-drawn, and dust would hang in the air, illuminated by streams of pure light.

Yoongi’s eyelids would eventually start to drift close, and he knew he’d wake from his nap to the smell of his mother making breakfast—of frying eggs and steamed white rice and coffee. He knew he’d wake to his the sound of his father in the shower, and to the sight of his older brother grinning at him from the opposite end of the couch, video game controller in his hands.

He’d always try to stay awake, as those soft moments with his mother were his favorite—ethereal and precious to him, even then when he didn’t understand that they were special things not everyone got to have. But, eventually, everytime, he’d nod off.

And sleep would gently carry him away.

***

Yoongi woke the next morning to the sound of an alarm that wasn’t his, and he almost fell right back asleep when it was turned off, but then he could feel hands gently tugging at the grip he still had around Jin’s waist.

“Yoongi,” Jin said softly. “I have to go to work.”

Yoongi pulled away in a jerk as he recalled the night before. The last thing he remembered doing was purring, and it seemed like he had held Jin all through the night. He released Jin and rolled onto his back as the Beta crawled over him to get out of Namjoon’s bed.

Yoongi had slept in Namjoon’s bed. He hadn’t really thought it through last night, hadn’t considered the fact that if he fell asleep in Namjoon’s bed with Jin and Namjoon, then he’d also have to wake up in it and talk to them in the morning. He definitely hadn’t thought that he’d scent Jin for who knows how long and then fucking purr himself to sleep.

Yoongi stared up at the crack in the plaster of Namjoon’s ceiling—the one that hadn’t been there when they’d moved in but that Namjoon insisted he hadn’t been the cause of—and tried not to freak out.

Yoongi glanced at Namjoon, who was looking at him in wary concern, and he sat up to avoid the gaze. Jin hadn’t left the room, probably also worried about him, and Yoongi put a hand over his face to avoid being inspected.

He felt weirdly content—probably from sleeping together and from the scenting they’d done—enough so that the contentedness was fighting his rising discomfort like a shield. Yoongi had never purred for Jin and Namjoon before, at least not that organically or for that long.

Now that he thought about it, he had no idea how long he’d purred for either, if he fell asleep doing it. Minutes? Hours? He moved his hand from his face to the skin of his neck. Did his throat feel a little scratchy?

Yoongi's heart started beating faster in his chest, his face growing warm in his embarrassment. Yoongi wanted to whine.

Then suddenly Jin’s face was directly in his line of sight, and he rested a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“Yoongi, shh,” Jin said, even though Yoongi hadn’t made a sound. “Don’t overthink it, hmm?”

Yoongi nodded without thinking, forcing his hand to fall from his throat. Yoongi's heart beat slowed and Jin smiled.

“Thank you, by the way,” Jin said. “I feel...”

Jin tilted his head and looked down at Namjoon’s dark blue sheets as he tried to think of a word to describe how he felt, then he shrugged.

“I feel light,” he said, his eyes bright as they settled on Yoongi again. “That was some damn good medicine.”

Jin rested his forehead briefly on Yoongi’s, then pulled back and assessed his expression. Jin must not have been bothered by what he saw, because he nodded and then turned to leave through Namjoon’s open door, which none of them had bothered to close last night.

When Jin disappeared down the hallway, Namjoon got out of bed too. He grinned at Yoongi, but he edged around the room, not turning his back on him and sending him quick glances whenever he had to look away to collect the things he needed to go take a shower. It reminded Yoongi of Jungkook, the way the other Omega always acted like Yoongi was a caged tiger he just got trapped with.

“Jin said it all. I don’t know what else to say,” Namjoon said, hesitating with his arms full of clean clothes. Yoongi noticed that he had once again picked out mismatching socks, probably just to prove a point about the playful argument he and Jin had had about them the day before.

When Yoongi said nothing, Namjoon shifted his weight from one foot to the other and cleared his throat. Then he started spewing out words in rapid succession.

“Did you know that humans aren’t the only creatures that cuddle while they sleep?” Namjoon asked, talking too fast for Yoongi to reply. “Well, they usually do it for warmth, but dogs, bats, squirrels, and lots of others creatures are known to huddle up.”

“Namjoon-” Yoongi began, exasperated, but Namjoon continued.

“A group of meerkats is called a mob, and they sleep in a pile in burrows that they’ve made within complex tunnel systems,” Namjoon said, his expression more open now. “They can sleep in mobs of meerkats up to 40.”

“Interesting,” Yoongi said, not sure what he was supposed to do with this information.

“A group of meerkats can also be called a gang, but I prefer mob because of the alliteration,” Namjoon said. Then he added, “And sometimes otters sleep holding hands.”

Yoongi stared at Namjoon as he trailed off, waiting in resignation.

“My point is that it was a good idea, hyung,” Namjoon said. “Other animals do it, too,”

“Thanks,” Yoongi said stiffly, hoping Namjoon was finished and that he would leave. He was still in Namjoon’s bed, and he felt too awkward to get out of it while Namjoon was still in the room.

Namjoon nodded and backed up a few steps, then hesitated.

“Just go shower,” Yoongi said, waving a hand at Namjoon in a shooing motion.

Namjoon nodded, looking relieved, and backed out of the room, completely ignoring when he banged his elbow hard enough against the doorframe that it had to hurt. Yoongi listened to the bathroom door shut, then collapsed back onto the bed in relief.

The first time they’d done pack bonding, it’d been awkward after—same with the first time Yoongi had built a nest for pack bonding, and the first time Yoongi had gone into preheat while they lived together, when he’d started stealing clothes and spare blankets for his heat nest and didn’t want to discuss it.

They’d gotten past those moments of awkwardness. They’d get past this. This would just be the first time they’d slept together, the first time they’d properly scented in the same space, the first time Yoongi had really purred. Hopefully, the next time wouldn’t need to be any time soon.

Eventually, Yoongi forced himself out of Namjoon’s bed before the Alpha could come back from his shower and spit more animal facts him. Jin was in the kitchen making breakfast, and he kindly pretended that Yoongi wasn’t there when he went hurrying past.

As Yoongi crawled back into his own bed, he realized how strongly he smelt like Jin and Namjoon. He hadn’t scented Namjoon, but Yoongi had slept in his bed and it had left Namjoon’s scent all over his skin in a thin layer.

He felt relieved that Namjoon had obviously also felt a bit awkward about what had happened. And he was thankful that Namjoon had started listing animals that cuddled rather than animals that purred, which Yoongi could totally see him doing in an attempt to make Yoongi feel less embarrassed.

Then Yoongi grinned in spite of himself as he realized that Jungkook’s solution had worked. He had finally been able to help Jin. It felt like it had taken him too long, but now was better than never.

Yoongi reached for his phone as he thought about it, feeling like he should express his gratitude to Jungkook in some way, even if it was just an update and another thank you. Yoongi settled against his pillows as he unlocked his phone, trying to get comfortable.

Yoongi: your small pack advice worked. thanks again. i know that stuff is private

Jungkook: I’m glad it worked! And glad to help!

Jungkook: I was surprised you asked me.

Yoongi: why? packs of three are rare and im friends with no other omegas

Yoongi winced after he sent that. He hadn’t meant to call Jungkook his friend. He wasn’t even sure if they were friends. Yoongi tended to make friends on accident, only realizing the friendship for what it was months after it had begun.

Jungkook: I could have put you in touch with Jimin or Tae, if you wanted. I can give you their numbers.

Yoongi frowned. Did Jungkook think that his packmates were better at providing comfort and would have more to share? Yoongi wasn’t sure that he wanted to ask them anything. Asking Jungkook had been difficult enough.

Yoongi: why?

Jungkook: They could probably give you better advice than me. They’re Omegas, like you.

Yoongi felt a tension rising in his stomach and he sat up in bed, frowning. What? No. He had to be understanding something wrong.

Yoongi: and you’re not?

Jungkook: Not what?

Yoongi: not an omega

Jungkook: No, I’m not an Omega.

Yoongi stared at his phone, trying to comprehend what this meant, trying to stop whatever emotion was rising up from reaching him. He didn’t... He wasn’t...

No? Jungkook had said no. Jungkook wasn’t an Omega.

Jungkook: I’m an Alpha.

Jungkook: I thought you knew.

An Alpha. Yoongi stared at his phone screen as three little dots indicated that Jungkook was typing, stopping, then typing again. He was probably writing and deleting messages, like Yoongi had done when he’d asked Jungkook for advice yesterday.

Jungkook: I’m sorry.

Jungkook typed and then stopped, typed and stopped again.

Jungkook was an Alpha.

Jungkook typed.

Jungkook: Hyung?

Jungkook was an Alpha.

Yoongi was an idiot.

Jungkook: Can I call you?

Chapter Text

Jungkook wanted to call him.

Jungkook was an Alpha.

Yoongi stared at his phone screen in utter disbelief. Now that he knew, it seemed like he should have guessed that Jungkook wasn’t an Omega a long time ago. Even at just a minute after finding out, multiple signs were coming to him that could have clued him in to the fact that Jungkook was an Alpha.

The way Jungkook had given him the umbrella on the steps of the library, the way he had tried to buy Yoongi two coffees for every piano lesson, the way he had stepped in front of car headlights when they shone in Yoongi eyes—all of those had shown an Alpha’s usual instinct to protect and provide as clear as day.

And, really thinking back now, Yoongi realized that there had been even more clues. The way Jungkook had been attentive to what Yoongi wanted and seemed extra cautious about making him uncomfortable.

Not to mention the posturing, and the way Yoongi’s instincts had reacted whenever they had been in the closed space of the piano practice room. At least Yoongi could now place the tension and unnamed nervousness he had felt every time they were alone.

His Omega instincts had sensed something. Scent blockers weren’t perfect and, while Jungkook’s hidden Alpha scent had never registered in Yoongi’s mind, his instincts had obviously known and tried to warn him. Omegas were naturally wary of being alone with Alphas they didn’t know well—their instincts aware of how susceptible Omegas were to Alpha pheromones.

Yoongi’s throat was dry when he swallowed and something warm had come alive in Yoongi’s stomach, settling there in tiny swirls of nervousness. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t seen this coming.

And then Yoongi was struck with what might have actually been happening.

The whole time, Jungkook may have been politely pre-courting him.

It wasn’t something people of other dynamics did often anymore, but some Alphas did it instinctually.

Yoongi looked around his room, as though it held some kind of signal about whether or not this was true. Yoongi had never been pre-courted before, and he wasn’t sure if what he and Jungkook were doing actually counted.

Pre-courting entailed an exchange of gifts, which were expected to become less subtle over time. The gifts could be many things, though they had traditionally been things people could wear. Pre-courting was also conducted without an official declaration or promise of exclusivity, and with an understanding that nothing physical would be happening. If a courting offer was later made, the person being pre-courted accepted by giving a gift in return.

Pre-courting was an outdated practice, as most people in younger generations just went on dates before they courted, but it was still done. If Jungkook had shown up with a clear gift, Yoongi would have definitely been suspicious—though he most likely would have thought that Jungkook was trying to pre-court him as an Omega.

It was also becoming more common with each generation for pre-courting gifts to look more like what they were doing—for the lines to blur on what a gift could entail. As a result, pre-courting was becoming almost covert, where an interested party gave small gifts to play it out and see if their instinctual side was also interested.

In today’s society, pre-courting gifts could be literally anything, but they were usually something that could be physically used or consumed.

Like an umbrella.

Or coffee.

Jungkook had been trying to be polite, Yoongi realized, when he had told Yoongi that he would pay him for piano lessons. Money wasn’t considered a pre-courting gift, even traditionally, because the actual money was just passed off to another when it was spent. Pre-courting gifts were supposed to be something that wholly belonged to the recipient.

Yoongi shook his head and ran a hand over his face as he remembered that he had been the one who suggested that Jungkook pay him with coffee. He’d never imagined himself pre-courting before, hadn’t ever been truly interested in it, but it seemed like he should have been more careful about what he was asking people to give him.

Yoongi knew that he may eventually be interested in someone, but he had thought that he would have a least noticed he was being pre-courted and not actively participated in it on accident.

Yoongi used one hand to smooth out a crease in his duvet and thought back, wondering if his instincts had known what was going on. Because he couldn’t deny that his instincts liked Jungkook. Especially since, about week ago, Yoongi had been sitting in the piano practice room fighting the strongest urge to bare his neck he had ever felt in his life.

However, Yoongi reminded himself that Jungkook could have been as oblivious to the situation as he was.

It usually didn’t happen on accident, where a gift was given between two people who both only intended to be friends, where one of them showed they had something to provide, and their instincts become interested in each other. But it was possible.

Yoongi flinched as his phone started to ring in his hand, and he looked down to see that it was Jungkook. Yoongi didn’t want to talk to him, as he had no idea what to say, but he also didn’t want to run from this.

It was possible that Jungkook had no idea what he was doing. He was still young, and his latent Alpha-courting instincts would have only risen when he’d had his first rut—mostly likely only a few years ago.

Yoongi’s ringtone ended, then started again and, even through all his shock, Yoongi was endeared that Jungkook was waiting this long for him to answer.

Yoongi knew if he left it like this, he’d feel guilty for leaving Jungkook in the dark, and then feel worse than he already did.

Yoongi’s instincts were interested in someone.

Something inside him saw Jungkook as a potential mate.

Yoongi cleared his throat and answered Jungkook’s call right before his ringtone ended a second time, trying not to be a coward.

“Hello,” Yoongi said, trying to sound as casual as possible.

“Hyung,” Jungkook said, talking fast. “Yoongi-hyung, I’m sorry. I don’t know if you read my texts, but I’m an Alpha and I’m sorry.”

“It’s not something you need to be sorry for,” Yoongi said and, as he said it, he realized he thought it was true. Jungkook couldn’t help what he was born as, couldn’t help that Yoongi hadn’t bothered to confirm that Jungkook was an Omega and then ignored sign after sign showing otherwise.

“I swear I wasn’t hiding it on purpose,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi could hear his breaths, how they were sharp on the inhale and slow on the exhale. “I wear scent blockers because I hate when people act afraid of me.”

Yoongi knew a few Alphas did that, to prevent their pheromones from subconsciously making people treat them differently. But many Alphas needed those pheromones there so that other Alphas wouldn’t be constantly be antagonizing them on accident—like how Namjoon needed them. To wear scent blockers all the time, Jungkook would need a lot of control.

When Yoongi was silent, Jungkook continued, a panicked edge to his voice, his words even faster than before, “I didn’t wear them for the whole first month of college, to avoid exactly this from happening. I still usually make it clear to people right away that I’m an Alpha, but you were my TA during that first month and my dynamic would have been on the class list-”

Yoongi face-palmed as he realized that Jungkook was right. For more than four months, Yoongi had been staring at that class list, and would have seen the bolded ‘A’ symbol for an Alpha next to Jungkook’s name over and over again. Yoongi just hadn’t paid much mind to what dynamic any of the students had been, his curiosity about them not extending past their work ethic and compositions, which seemed to have been a mistake.

“-and you’re friends with Hoseok,” Jungkook said, and he was almost tripping over his words now in his rush to get them out, “so I really thought you knew, that he would have told you if you hadn’t known. You also never mentioned dynamics, so I thought that you either didn’t care or didn’t want to talk about it. I-”

Jungkook cut himself off abruptly, like he was slamming the breaks on a speed train. Yoongi felt like he was on it, that his heart was beating fast enough.

Then Jungkook took a deep slow breath and said, at a more normal speed, “These all sounds like excuses. What I meant to say is that I’m sorry. I should have told you clearly that I was an Alpha when I asked for piano lessons, with no room for mistake.”

“It’s...” Yoongi began, but then he paused. What was it?

Yoongi always said dynamics didn’t matter, in the end, when it came to people. And here was his test. It was like the universe was calling his bluff, asking him How about now? Doesn’t this matter now?

Yoongi could still hear Jungkook breathing. His breaths sounded more calm now, slow and even on the inhale and the exhale. It seemed like he was waiting for Yoongi to speak.

Yoongi fidgeted as he thought through his reply.

“It’s... It’s fine,” Yoongi said. “I believe you. I’m just surprised.”

“I should have told you,” Jungkook repeated.

“It’s not like I went up and directly told you that I was an Omega either,” Yoongi said, standing up. He felt too antsy to sit any longer.

“That’s different,” Jungkook said. “You don’t wear scent blockers, hyung. I feel awful. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not like you...” Yoongi trailed off, not wanting to get into what could have happened, had Jungkook been an unkind Alpha. So, instead, Yoongi just repeated, “It’s fine.”

“It doesn’t feel fine,” Jungkook said. “It’s feels like I’ve been tricking you. I’m sorry. If you’d known that I was an Alpha, you might not have agreed to anything.”

The phrasing of this caught Yoongi’s suspicions. Tricking him? Yoongi himself wasn’t sure if he would have agreed to give Jungkook lessons, knowing he was an Alpha, or if he would have agreed to receive coffee in return. He might have recognized it as potential pre-courting, if an Alpha had been involved.

At the very least, he knew he would have firmly told Jungkook that he wasn’t interested in him before allowing it.

Yoongi gritted his teeth, then asked, “Did you pre-court me on purpose?”

Yoongi wanted to pull the question back as soon as he asked it, but it had to be asked. He needed to know if that was what was happening, or it would drive him crazy.

As Jungkook paused, Yoongi stared around his room. It was slowly becoming brighter as the sun rose higher in the sky. Did the room seem smaller now in daylight? Had all their things always taken up so much space?

“It wasn’t on purpose at first,” Jungkook said quietly, almost like he was telling a secret. “Giving you the umbrella... that was all instinct. I just remember thinking you looked like you really needed one, and then I had already handed you mine."

Yoongi nodded to himself. He remembered how Jungkook had looked that day, how shocked Jungkook had seemed to see Yoongi standing there with his umbrella.

But his stomach twisted when his mind caught onto the phrasing, that Jungkook hadn’t pre-courted him on purpose at first. Meaning that Jungkook started pre-courting him on purpose later, that he was still doing it now.

Yoongi felt heat rising to his face and, when he put a hand to his cheek, he could feel his blush in his palm.

“I actually didn’t realize that I was pre-courting you until Jimin and Tae pointed it out to me,” Jungkook said. “And then I just...didn’t stop.”

Yoongi felt his breath coming faster, and he tried to make sure it wasn’t audible over the phone. He was being pre-courted by an Alpha. Holy shit. And it had been... it hadn’t been bad.

“I see,” Yoongi said, and his voice came out hoarse. Yoongi felt oddly aware of himself, of how his feet felt against the hardwood and how his hand felt on the smooth plastic case of his phone.

“That makes it sound like I’m just doing this because of my instincts, I’m sorry,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi briefly wondered how many times Jungkook had apologized. “I’m going to be very clear with you now, okay?”

Yoongi had a feeling that he didn’t want Jungkook to be clear with him, and he almost told him not to, but he lost his chance as Jungkook continued after a brief pause and another deep breath.

“I like you,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi inhaled sharply before he could stop himself. “I’ve been interested in you from the start.”

Yoongi slowly sat back down and hung his head. Fuck.

He didn’t know how to react. Jungkook was interested in him, and not just instinctually, and Yoongi hadn’t even noticed. How had he not noticed? Was he so intent on not pre-courting or courting that he had blinded himself in his stubbornness?

“Hyung? Is that... not good?” Jungkook asked after Yoongi spent too long staring at the wooden floor of his room. His voice sounded small, worried.

“What? No, of course there’s nothing wrong with that,” Yoongi said. If he said anything else, he’d feel like an idiot and a hypocrite.

“You feel how you feel,” Yoongi said. He fidgeted and crossed his ankles, but something about it make him feel more nervous and he uncrossed them again to have both feet firm on the ground. “I just don’t know how I feel. I don’t think I want to court anyone.”

Yoongi hoped it sounded like the gentle rejection it was.

“That’s fine,” Jungkook said immediately.

“I know it’s fine,” Yoongi said, then winced at his own bluntness. But Jungkook let out a small laugh and Yoongi relaxed again.

“Will you keep teaching me piano?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi took a deep breath. Teaching Jungkook hadn’t actually been that bad, and Yoongi would definitely be seeing him around anyway, if Taehyung and Hoseok continued courting.

“Yeah, sure,” Yoongi said.

“Thank you,” Jungkook breathed out, sounding relieved, like he had thought Yoongi would give him an adamant No.

It felt like a good place to end the conversation, so Yoongi said, “I’ll see you during our next lesson.”

“Wait,” Jungkook said before he could hung up. “Just one more thing.”

Yoongi waited as Jungkook took one last deep breath.

“I’d like to continue pre-courting you, if you’ll let me,” Jungkook said.

Yoongi felt his hand tense around his phone, and the hard plastic edge of it dug into the flesh of his fingers and his palm.

“I like giving you things,” Jungkook said. “I’d like to give you more, and I’ll stop if you say the word.”

“Jungkook-” Yoongi began, having no idea what he was going to say next, but Jungkook cut him off.

“I know I postured last time but I promise it won’t happen again,” Jungkook said firmly. “It was just that you suddenly smelt like you didn’t feel nervous to be alone with me, for the first time, and it caught me off guard. I’m sorry. I hope you feel like you can trust me.”

Yoongi wanted to tell him that it wasn’t the posturing that bothered him. He wanted to tell him that he wouldn’t know how to react to any more gifts, that he did trust Jungkook but didn’t trust how his own instincts would respond to him, that he didn’t want to embarrass himself. He wanted to tell him that he didn’t want to be pre-courted any more than he wanted to be courted.

But when he opened his mouth, the words got caught in his throat, and he couldn’t do it. His instincts were literally screaming at him not to reject the Alpha, balking at the idea of turning Jungkook down.

So, rather than fight it out with his instincts while Jungkook waited silently for a response, Yoongi just slightly panicked and said, “Alright. That’s fine. Bye.”

He hung up before Jungkook could respond, and then tensed up with the realization of what he had just done, that an Alpha was now pre-courting him with his permission.

His instincts were curling in satisfaction, but Yoongi leapt to his feet and tossed his phone onto his bed like it had burned him. He took a few steps away from his bed, like distance from his phone created a distance from his life choices.

Why had he done that? He couldn’t believe his own idiocy. He dragged a hand through his hair in agitation, wondering if he should call Jungkook right now and take it all back. He wished he could go back to ten minutes ago, when he hadn't known Jungkook was an Alpha or interested in him. Ten minutes ago, he had just been embarrassed about purring and everything had seemed so much simpler.

As he stared at his bed, he heard Namjoon’s shower turn off, heard the sound of the Alpha going back down the hallway to his own room, and then let the hand in his hair fall back to his side.

He only calmed when he remembered that Jungkook had said he would stop whenever Yoongi wanted, and he clung to that idea. It was just pre-courting. Yoongi had at least told Jungkook that he didn’t want to be courted officially.

Nothing would happen, and Yoongi would put a stop to it as soon as his instincts settled down. He’d reject Jungkook gently and kindly, and it’d all be fine.

My instincts are interested, but I’m not, Yoongi told himself, nodding slowly. I’m not interested. It’s fine.

He turned towards the bedroom door and went into the bathroom in a half-daze, still reeling a little in shock. Jungkook was an Alpha. He was pre-courting Yoongi. And Yoongi had just told him that he could keep doing it.

The bathroom was still steamy from Namjoon’s shower, and Yoongi’s toothbrush and toothpaste were damp with it as he picked them up.

As he started brushing his teeth, he told himself again, out loud this time and muffled around his toothbrush, “I’m not interested.”

Part of Yoongi was glad that he couldn’t see his own reflection in the fogged-up mirror as he opened his mouth wider to brush his molars. He didn’t want to try to deduce if it looked like he was telling the truth, didn’t want to see if his reflection looked convinced.

***

There was no way that Yoongi could fall back asleep, so he avoided his bedroom and dragged himself out to the kitchen to eat breakfast with Namjoon and Jin. He knew if he stayed in his room, he’d just keep staring at his phone in indecision.

As he walked into the kitchen, he saw that Jin and Namjoon were sitting around the table—Jin with an omelet and Namjoon with a bowl of cereal. Jin was side-eying Namjoon’s mismatched socks in undisguised disgust, and Namjoon was looking at his cereal like he didn’t know how it got there.

Namjoon froze mid-bite when he noticed Yoongi in the doorway, and watched Yoongi walk to the coffee machine with his spoon only half in his mouth. Yoongi poured himself a cup of coffee in silence and, when he turned back around, Namjoon had his lips pressed together and Jin was frowning.

Yoongi knew that he didn’t get up early often, but he didn’t think there was any reason for them both to look so serious.

“Are you alright?” Jin asked as Yoong sat down. Namjoon’s hair was still drenched, and it was dripping water onto his shirt. Yoongi was almost certain that Jin had already given him shit for not properly drying it.

“I’m fine,” Yoongi said, sitting crossed-legged on the kitchen chair, curled over his coffee so that he could feel the steam of it on his face. Namjoon was watching him intently, eyes flicking from Yoongi’s face to his posture to his coffee.

“You’re awake at 7am,” Jin said, setting his fork down. “And you don’t smell fine.”

Shit. Yoongi hadn’t realized how early it was, and he hadn’t thought about what his scent must be like right now. He had just spent ten minutes talking to Jungkook on the phone, shocked and agitated. He was now being pre-courted out of nowhere and he’d be a liar if he said the idea wasn’t mildly distressing him.

He avoided looking at Jin or Namjoon, grimacing. He didn’t know what to say. He should have told them about Jungkook from the start, because now it felt like too big of a secret to just randomly lay on them at breakfast.

“Well,” Jin said, crossing his arms, frowning at Yoongi. “What was it?”

“What?” Yoongi asked.

“What was it that we did last night that we shouldn’t do again?” Jin asked. At this, Namjoon set his spoon back down into his bowl, and sat back in his chair, frowning.

Yoongi opened his mouth, but didn’t have anything to say. There wasn’t anything that their pack had done last night that Yoongi adamantly didn’t want to do again. He’d been embarrassed, but not distressed.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Yoongi,” Jin said, his arms crossing tighter across his chest. “What was it? The scenting? The cuddling? The purring? All of it?”

Yoongi shook his head and said, “It was nothing. It was all fine.”

“Don’t lie to me,” Jin said, shaking his head. “You always seem to forget, but we can smell you.”

Yoongi glanced at Namjoon, who was looking at him in concern. Yoongi made brief eye contact with Jin and then looked away again. He didn’t want to lie and say last night had made him uncomfortable in some way, because it had worked to comfort Jin like nothing else had.

Maybe if he changed the subject, then Jin and Namjoon would take the hint and let it go.

“Why doesn’t Namjoon have an omelet too?” Yoongi asked, because Jin usually cooked for anyone who was awake when he made his own meals.

A small smile snuck onto Namjoon’s face. He seemed to be willing to give Yoongi an out, though he was still studying Yoongi carefully.

“Jin says only people who can match their own socks deserve omelets,” Namjoon said, gesturing down at his cereal bowl. They both then looked at Jin, waiting for him to join in with an inevitable tirade about mismatched socks.

Jin, however, didn’t seem as willing to let Yoongi off the hook. His chair grated across the linoleum as he stood up, and leaned forward with both of his hands on the table. Yoongi looked up to meet his gaze, hoping his scent would settle back into contentedness and he could explain this all away.

“If you think, for one second,” Jin said, lifting a hand to point at Yoongi, “that my happiness is worth your discomfort than let me set the record straight.”

Yoongi shook his head quickly at Jin and said, “What? No, I-”

“You will not torture yourself in your attempts to make me feel less lonely,” Jin said. He looked an equal combination of furious and like he was about to cry. “That’s on me, and you already sacrifice enough for this pack.”

“Sacrifice?” Yoongi said, shocked at the choice of words. He looked at Namjoon, expecting him to also be confused, but he was nodding in agreement.

“Yes, sacrifice, Yoongi,” Jin said, sounding exasperated. “You think I don’t know that you’d rather not build nests for the pack? Namjoon told me how hard it is for an Omega to do alone, and yet you make one every single time I ask for one.”

Yoongi sharply looked at Namjoon again, who shrugged and raised his hands in a gesture that seemed to mean What else was I supposed to do?

Building nests for Jin was difficult and sometimes felt like an invasion, sure, but was it a sacrifice? Yoongi shook his head at Jin. It had always just felt like common decency to Yoongi. Besides, he had never built a pack nest with another Omega before. He didn’t know the difference.

“That’s-” Yoongi began, but Jin cut him off again.

“And you think we don’t know you’d rather have a room to yourself?” Jin said, gesturing between himself and Namjoon. “But you share with me, without complaint, because Namjoon needs to room alone so he’ll smell like an Alpha.”

Namjoon looked away from him in guilt, and Yoongi hated it. He could salvage this, he thought, one piece at a time.

“I don’t mind rooming with you,” Yoongi said to Jin, but Jin ignored him.

“And what about us?” Jin said, again gesturing between himself and Namjoon. “Where’s our sacrifice? What do we give you in return that we don’t want to give?”

Yoongi floundered for something to say, and Jin watched him gape at him, his face set into seriousness and looking like he’d wait all day.

“You always make sure I’m comfortable,” Yoongi said. There were so many things Jin and Namjoon avoided doing that they knew Yoongi wouldn’t like. Every day, all day, it felt like they were being careful with him.

Jin jabbed a finger at him and said, “That’s not enough. You do the same for us. Think of something else.”

Yoongi hated how Jin was painting him out to be some kind of sacrificial martyr when he wasn’t. He hated that they were suddenly arguing. They never argued.

Yoongi gripped his coffee mug tighter. This conversation was getting away from him. He needed to get back to the root of the problem.

“I said that last night was fine,” Yoongi said, “and I meant it.”

Jin shook his head.

“It was embarrassing, but I...” Yoongi trailed off. He couldn’t say I thought it felt nice, even now, without cringing. “It wasn’t bad.”

“Then why do you smell distressed?” Jin asked, his eyes narrowing.

“It isn’t about that,” Yoongi said, shaking his head.

“I don’t believe you,” Jin snapped, glaring down at him.

Yoongi was sick of being looked down at, so he stood up too, glaring back at Jin. Namjoon was looking warily between them. Namjoon and Jin argued all the time, but only in jest. A real argument within their pack was unprecedented territory.

“I’m not a lair,” Yoongi spat. He might not always offer up the truth on a silver platter, he might not bare his soul to the world, but he didn’t lie.

Jin knew that. Jin was supposed to know that.

“Then why?” Jin asked, taking his hands off the table and putting them on his hips, standing up straighter. “What else could have happened between waking up and now? What’s it about, if it’s not about last night?”

Yoongi slammed his coffee on the table, ignoring the burn when some of it splashed on his hands, ignoring the instinct to apologize when both Jin and Namjoon flinched back in shock.

“It’s about Jeon Jungkook,” Yoongi said through gritted teeth.

This, at least, seemed to surprise Jin out of his anger and into confusion. His hands fell from his hips and his brows furrowed, his head tilting as he studied Yoongi from a new angle.

Yoongi hadn’t wanted to just spring everything on Jin and Namjoon now, but he would, if Jin thought that Yoongi had tortured himself last night just to make him happy.

Fucking hell. He should have told them about Jungkook a long time ago anyway.

“Who?” Jin asked, looking completely lost.

“Jungkook?” Namjoon asked, frowning. “The boy who dances with Hoseok? Taehyung’s pack Alpha?”

Yoongi turned to Namjoon, and nodded stiffly. He hadn’t expected Namjoon to recognize his name.

Yoongi also hadn’t made the connection that Jungkook was a pack Alpha, at such a young age, during his first year of college. It couldn’t be easy. But Yoongi pushed the thought away. He needed to focus.

Namjoon handed Yoongi a napkin, and Yoongi had no idea what to do with it until he realized that he still had coffee all over his hands. Yoongi took it with a nod of thanks and wiped his hands clean as he spoke.

“He was one of my students when I was Professor Lee’s TA,” Yoongi said, “and I’ve been giving him piano lessons.”

“For how long?” Namjoon asked, his posture straightening, his instincts most likely not liking the idea that one of his packmates had been spending time with an unknown Alpha.

“A few weeks,” Yoongi said with a shrug.

“Okay,” Jin said, finally sitting back down. He looked relieved that Yoongi’s distress wasn’t about him, but still very confused. “Let me get this straight.”

Jin gestured at Yoongi with one hand. “You’re giving Jung... Jungkook?”

Jin looked up at Yoongi for confirmation of the name and Yoongi nodded.

“You’re giving Jungkook piano lessons, and it’s distressing you in some way,” Jin said, looking at Yoongi again for confirmation.

Yoongi didn’t nod. He wasn’t sure if that was true.

“Why don’t you just stop?” Jin asked. Namjoon wasn’t looking between the two of them anymore. He was staring at Yoongi, his gaze unmoving.

Yoongi sighed as he realized he would truly have to explain, that they both knew him too well to believe any half-truths.

He sat back down, stared at his coffee mug on the table, and said, “It’s not the piano lessons that bother me.”

Jin and Namjoon were both silent as they waited for him to elaborate. The coffee cup Yoongi was using was their big grey one, the biggest one they had. It used to be Namjoon’s, but he didn’t use it anymore because he knew it was Yoongi’s favorite.

Yoongi used the napkin still in his hands to wipe the table clean, and then set it aside. Yoongi’s coffee was swirling gently in a circle, and there were two small bubbles at the surface. Yoongi watched them until one of them popped.

He was lucky this was coming out now, he realized, when the kitchen smelt so strongly of the combination of their pack, still hanging heavy off of Jin and Yoongi. He could already feel the scent of pack soothing him, then wondered if he had maybe instinctively came out here for comfort.

As Yoongi sighed again, he could smell Namjoon start to release comfort pheromones, and shook his head. He didn’t need them. He was fine.

“I didn’t know he was an Alpha until this morning,” Yoongi admitted to his coffee. He heard a small intake of breath, but didn’t look up to see who it had come from. He knew that he should use his momentum to keep speaking while he had it.

“He wears scent blockers because he doesn’t like people being wary of him, as an Alpha,” Yoongi said. “He usually tells people about his dynamic right away, but he thought I knew because I was his TA and I’m friends with Hoseok. I smelt Omega on him and never bothered to confirm.”

Yoongi picked his coffee mug back up and then continued.

“I only found out now because, thinking he was another Omega in a pack of three, I asked him for advice, about you,” Yoongi glanced briefly up at Jin, whose eyebrows raised in surprise, then he looked back at his coffee. “Then it just all came out.”

“I see,” Jin said, his expression soft now. “I’m sorry for getting angry with you.”

Yoongi accepted the apology with a nod.

“Thank you for telling us,” Jin added, and it was a like a weight was lifted off of Yoongi’s shoulders when Jin gave him a small smile.

Jin and Namjoon both started awkwardly eating again. It seemed like none of them, not even Jin, knew what to do in the wake of an argument.

But Yoongi wasn’t sure how to tell them he wasn’t finished. He had to finish. He already felt better now that he wasn’t holding the secret of Jungkook to himself, and maybe he’d feel better if he told them about the pre-courting too—if he had someone to share in the unbelievability of it all.

He also wanted to tell them about the pre-courting before Hoseok got the chance.

Yoongi hadn’t told Jungkook to keep it a secret, and it didn’t feel like it was fair to. He didn’t want Jungkook to think that Yoongi didn’t want other people to know, and he didn’t want Namjoon or Jin to find out from someone else.

He steeled himself, then blurted out, “He also asked to pre-court me, and I told him that he could.”

Jin choked on his omelet, turning away to cough violently into his hand.

And Namjoon, who had a bite of cereal halfway to his mouth, dropped his spoon back into his bowl so fast that milk splashed across the table. Namjoon eyes snapped to Yoongi’s, his mouth parted in disbelief.

Yoongi stared back at Namjoon and shook his head, hoping it showed that he also had absolutely no idea why he’d agreed to be pre-courted.

For a while, the only sound in the kitchen was Jin coughing. Then Yoongi watched as Jin stood up, rinsed his hands in the sink, and grabbed himself a glass of water.

Jin took a long sip of it, sat back down, then he looked back at Yoongi and said, “You what?”

“I’m being pre-courted,” Yoongi said weakly.

“Willingly?” Jin said, his voice tilting up in disbelief. Jin glanced at Namjoon, who seemed to be frozen in place, and the corner of his mouth twitched up

“Not unwillingly,” Yoongi said slowly. He didn’t want to get into how his instincts were interested in Jungkook. That, at least, he was keeping to himself.

Jin studied his expression, looking like he was about to start laughing.

“And that’s why you were distressed?” Jin asked. “Because he asked to pre-court you and you said yes?”

Yoongi nodded. He knew it sounded silly, but he also knew that Jin and Namjoon knew him well enough to understand. Jin’s mouth was twitching like he still wanted to laugh, and Yoongi loved him for not doing it. He didn’t want anyone to laugh at him, not about this, and especially not when it was all so fresh in his mind.

“Yoongi, what the hell?” Jin said, shaking his head. “I had no idea you were interested in anyone.”

Yoongi tensed at the phrasing as Jin leaned forward, a smile breaking onto the Beta’s face as he asked, “Can we meet him?”

No,” Yoongi said, clutching his coffee to his chest. “I’m not interested in him.”

“Aw, come on,” Jin said, jumping up and down a little in his seat. “He’s pre-courting you! You have to be a little interested in him.”

“I’m not,” Yoongi said stubbornly, knowing he sounded foolish.

Jin looked at Namjoon for help and said, “Namjoon, help me out here. Don’t you want to meet him?”

“We met before, actually, a few months ago,” Namjoon said, and Yoongi looked at him in surprise. He hadn’t known that.

“How?” Jin asked, and his expression was pinched like he thought this was completely unfair.

“It was in October, during first semester, when practically all of the Dance majors came to see Hoseok at work,” Namjoon said to Jin, then he turned back to Yoongi. “He wore scent blockers then too, but I could smell the Alpha on him.”

Namjoon’s voice was still stiff, his words coming out forced like he was holding something back—like he was forcing down a negative reaction.

“He’d probably just been dancing and sweated some of the blockers off,” Jin said to Namjoon. He put a soothing hand on Namjoon’s shoulder. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon said, rolling his shoulders. “It’s just my instincts don’t like that this has happened without my knowledge. I’m trying to ignore them. This is good.”

Yoongi wasn’t sure if this was good, but knew better than to agitate Namjoon more by saying so.

Then Namjoon tilted his head at Yoongi and asked, “How did you end up giving him lessons?”

“He asked,” Yoong said, and it was back to his original problem, why he’d waited so long to tell them. He still wasn’t quite sure why he’d said yes.

“You’ve never given lessons before,” Namjoon prompted.

“No one’s ever asked before,” Yoongi said, hoping Namjoon would drop it. Namjoon’s eyes narrowed, but then he shrugged.

“Well, he seemed nice enough,” Namjoon said with a nod, “and Hoseok has a lot of good things to say about him.”

Yoongi knew what Namjoon was doing. He was giving him a subtle approval without implying that Yoongi needed his permission to do anything. Yoongi’s instincts didn’t need the encouragement, but they basked in it, glad to have the approval of their pack Alpha.

Jin was practically beaming at him, and Yoongi felt heat rising in his face.

At this, Jin sighed dramatically, crossing both his arms on the table and leaning his forehead against them. Then he stomped a foot on the floor and said, “I can’t believe Namjoon got to meet him and not me. Why does this always happen?”

“Here. One second,” Namjoon said, pulling out his phone. Yoongi watched Namjoon push a few buttons with resignation. This was, again, all tail-spinning out of control.

Namjoon held out his phone to Jin and said, “Here’s a picture of him and Hoseok.”

Yoongi tried to sit up straighter and see the photo, but he couldn’t get a glance at it.

“Oh my god,” Jin said, staring down at Namjoon’s phone. “He looks like a baby.”

“He’s not a baby,” Yoongi snapped.

Jin turned Namjoon’s phone towards Yoongi as though to prove him wrong. The picture showed Jungkook and Hoseok lying down on grass, both of them pouting their lips out in a way that bared their teeth in mock anger.

It wasn’t cute. Yoongi refused to think it was cute.

“He’s in his first year,” Namjoon added.

“A baby,” Jin repeated.

Namjoon looked amused and he grinned fondly at Jin, then said, “When I first met him, he just hovered behind the other dancers and didn’t say anything other than his order. Then he bowed to me like six times.”

“A shy, polite baby,” Jin said, looking back down at the picture. “Fresh from the womb.”

Namjoon laughed. Yoongi ignored him.

“I need to meet him,” Jin told Yoongi.

“No,” Yoongi said, standing back up, deciding he’d take his coffee back to their room. He had a feeling that Jin wasn’t going to drop this.

“If I don’t meet him, I’ll die of curiosity,” Jin said, reaching forward, but Yoongi was able to dodge his grasp.

“Not happening. I’ll come to your funeral,” Yoongi said, slipping around the corner and down the hallway.

“No need!” Jin shouted from the kitchen. “I’ll haunt you! And then I’ll meet Jungkook and haunt him instead! Don’t think I won’t!”

Yoongi shook his head as he closed their bedroom door, but it actually did sound like exactly something Jin would do.

***

Yoongi went to class that day hoping not to run into Jungkook and, luckily, he didn’t. It probably helped that he only went into the music building when he had to and avoided the Coffee Nook, instead choosing to hole himself up in the campus library.

He had spent a lot of time at the top floor of the library during his first year of college—before he had began living with Jin and became friends with Namjoon, subsequently discovering the Coffee Nook. He liked it up there.

The higher up in the library you went, the quieter other students expected you to be. The first floor was a clustered chaos of group project meetings and loud chatter. On the top floor, however, people studied in absolute silence and avoided eye-contact.

And there was a table in the corner of the top floor, surrounded by bookshelves and out of sight, where Yoongi had used to like to work. Sometimes he still came up here to nap between classes, just because he couldn’t be bothered to go all the way back to the apartment.

Yoongi had been expecting Jin to start badgering him about meeting Jungkook again by noon, but Jin had left him in peace throughout the day, and Yoongi was grateful. He knew the Beta still had to be teeming with curiosity. However, he did get a text from the Jungkook as he walked home, and he tried to ignore the way his heart started to beat faster as he opened it.

Jungkook: Hyung, I talked to my parents about what happened, and we all think that I shouldn’t wear my scent blockers anymore.

Yoongi read the message twice, trying to decide how he felt about it. If he had reacted strongly to Jungkook without scent blockers and almost bared his neck after a second of posturing that he didn’t even notice, how would he react to a Jungkook with an Alpha scent that he could smell?

Yoongi had slowed to the point that he was barely walking anymore, and flinched as a bicycle bell rang out behind him, stepping aside to let the biker pass. He got another text from Jungkook as he continued walking.

Jungkook: It was different in my hometown, where everyone knew who I was and that I was an Alpha, but I really don’t want a misunderstanding like this to happen again with anyone else.

Jungkook: So, starting now, I’m not going to wear them. I just thought I’d let you know.

Yoongi still had no idea how to react or respond, and hadn’t thought of anything by the time he had gotten back to his apartment. He paused in the stairwell in front of his apartment door, his thumbs hovering over the keys of his phone.

For now, he’d just acknowledge that he’d read the texts. He thought Jungkook had probably been nervous about sending them, and he wanted the Alpha to know he appreciated it. If he had met Jungkook without scent-blockers with no warning, he definitely would have embarrassed himself.

To be honest, he probably still was going to embarrass himself.

Yoongi: thanks for the update

Jungkook responded immediately, or maybe he had been in the process of sending another text already.

Jungkook: I hope that’s okay with you.

Yoongi: its fine. dont worry about it

Jungkook: Okay, if you’re sure.

Yoongi: im sure

He wasn’t sure. He had no idea how he or his instincts would react to Jungkook without scent blockers, but Yoongi didn’t consider himself at all in the business of telling other people how to live their lives. If this was what Jungkook wanted, then Yoongi wouldn’t stop him.

Jungkook: Okay. I’m ready for my next lesson, by the way. Are you free anytime soon?

Yoongi was free now, but felt his breath sutter, and he suddenly felt a little weak standing there in front of his door. He wasn’t ready. He needed time to prepare himself to meet this new Jungkook—this Jungkook who was an Alpha that was pre-courting him, and who would now smell like an Alpha.

Tomorrow, Yoongi decided. He didn’t want to keep thinking about this all weekend, didn’t want to be stuck in this state of nervous uncertainty. He wanted to sleep in after his early morning, but he could give Jungkook a lesson between or after his classes.

Yoongi: i’m free tomorrow afternoon between 2 and 4, and then again any time after 6:30

Jungkook: Tomorrow at 2 sound okay? Want to meet in your favorite piano room?

Yoongi: that sounds fine. see you then

Yoongi waited a full minute in front of his apartment door for Jungkook to send him another text. He didn’t want to text Jungkook in front of Jin, who was probably home and would be immediately suspicious. Yoongi barely ever texted anyone outside of their pack group chat.

Yoongi put in the keycode and opened the apartment door, expecting Jin to start asking him to meet Jungkook before he could take his shoes off. Namjoon was working tonight, so Yoongi would have no one to help him fend off the begging he’d need to endure.

But he was met with complete silence. The kitchen light was on, but none of the usual sounds that told of Jin’s presence filled the apartment. No TV show playing in the living room, no radio on in the bedroom, no sounds coming from the kitchen, no washer or dryer running. Nothing.

“Hello?” Yoongi called out. “Jin? Are you home?”

Yoongi took a few hesitant steps into the apartment, then almost leapt a foot in the air when he saw the silhouette of Jin sitting alone on the living room couch in the dark.

“Holy shit,” Yoongi said, putting a hand on his chest as he fumbled for the living room light. “You scared the hell out of me.”

Yoongi switched the light on, and he immediately saw that something was off. Jin still had his jacket on, and the look he was giving Yoongi was expressionless, his eyes blank.

“Is something wrong?” Yoongi asked, moving forward and setting his laptop bag down on the table next to the couch.

Jin shook his head, watching Yoongi cautiously sit down next to him.

“You still have your jacket on,” Yoongi said. He hesitated when Jin didn’t move, then reached forward and unbuttoned Jin’s jacket, pushing it back and off his shoulders, pulling it down his arms. There was a line of moisture lining Jin’s forehead, and his scent was more prominent than usual from sweating, but he seemed physically fine.

“What happened?” Yoongi asked, standing up to hang Jin’s jacket in the closet next to the door. Jin meticulously hung his coats here as soon as he came inside, and it worried Yoongi that he hadn’t. After a moment of hesitation, Yoongi took off his own jacket and hung it up too, then sat back down next to Jin.

Yoongi couldn’t smell any distress in Jin’s scent. He inhaled more deeply, but the smell of rose and cotton that hung in the air around Jin seemed normal—happy even.

Only when Yoongi nudged him on the upper arm did Jin straighten up and speak.

“I got a promotion this morning,” Jin said quietly. He turned to look at Yoongi, but it was more like he was looking through him, like he was actually seeing something else.

Yoongi breathed out a breath in relief, but then frowned.

“I thought you were already a manager?” Yoongi asked, keeping his own voice quiet too. He leaned forward and tried to get a better look at Jin’s face.

“I am,” Jin said. “My boss told me that she was hiring a manager six months ago because she was looking for someone willing to do work, someone who loved to bake. But it was just a trial period.”

Jin opened his hands and looked down at them, and Yoongi could see a bit of flour still on his sleeve.

“Trial period?” Yoongi prompted when Jin didn’t continue.

“Yoongi,” Jin said, his eyes focusing on him for the first time, and Yoongi was alarmed to see that they looked a little wet. “She wants to move to a different neighborhood of Seoul, to Gangnam, and open a new bakery there.”

Jin’s gaze slipped off him again, like he couldn’t stay in the present moment for too long.

“And this bakery,” Jin said, his voice still weirdly hollow, “the bakery I work at now, she wants me to have it.”

“What?” Yoongi said, not sure if he was understanding correctly.

“She said she knows that I’m young, but the bakery is mine, if I want it,” Jin said, slowly shaking his head. “And I can either save up money from the proceeds to buy it from her, at the price she bought it at, or I can eventually sell it and we’ll split the payment.”

Yoongi reeled back in surprise when Jin leapt to his feet, but he smiled. Jin had wanted to own a bakery since Yoongi had met him, had worked at one since he graduated from high school. Jin had once told him that, if he got lucky, he hoped to own one by the time he was thirty.

And it seemed like luck had come for him, seven years early.

“Congratulations,” Yoongi said.

Jin looked at him again and said, “Is this day real? The past twenty-four hours? Did they happen?”

Yoongi nodded, laughing at the bemusement on Jin’s face. He looked like he just got hit over the head, like he’d just been told that something impossible was true. He looked like there was a new color in the world, and he was the only one who could see it.

“I wish I go back and live this day again,” Jin said, putting a hand to his chest, “from the moment you asked me if I was crying.”

Yoongi felt heat rise to his face, a little honored to be included in a day that literally held Jin’s dream come true.

“I wish I could do it again,” Jin said, coming up to where Yoongi was sitting on the couch, “and live it knowing it would be special.”

Jin knelt at the floor at Yoongi’s feet and grinned at the expression of shock on Yoongi’s face.

“Yoongi?” he said, opening his arms. “Hug me?”

And Yoongi was glad to say he hesitated just one moment, the amount of time it takes someone kick open a door, before he leaned forward into Jin’s arms, hugging him tightly. Jin still smelt like Yoongi, like Namjoon, like pack, and it was so nice to breathe in as Jin laughed into his hair. He didn’t even care that Jin was still a little sweaty from having his jacket on so long.

Then Jin stood, arms still around Yoongi, and dragged him off the couch. He hugged him standing for a few moments, then laughed again and used his grip to lift Yoongi and spin them both in a circle.

Yoongi squawked in outrage at being lifted and struggled out of Jin’s arms once the Beta set him down.

Jin laughed in his face as Yoongi brushed at his clothes.

“You fucker,” Yoongi said, reaching up to even out his hair too. “See if you get a hug again any time soon.”

At this, Jin reached wildly for him and Yoongi took a few quick steps back. Jin tried again, almost grabbing Yoongi before he could get farther away, but then banged his shin loudly on the coffee table when Yoongi ducked. Yoongi used the opportunity to get safely on the other side of the couch.

Ow,” Jin said, bending down and clutching at his leg. “Damn.”

Yoongi assessed him from a safe distance, hoping he wasn’t too hurt.

“Not even this can spoil my day,” Jin said, standing up and giving his leg a little shake. “Not one percent.”

He grinned when he saw Yoongi watching him warily from the other side of the couch, ready to be pursued, and said, “Yoongi. I’m going to have a bakery.”

“I know,” Yoongi said, moving the opposite direction as Jin tried to close the distance between them. “You told me.”

Jin started walking the other way, and Yoongi switched directions too so that the couch remained between them.

They both continued walking until they were effectively circling the couch. Yoongi watched as Jin seemed to consider vaulting over the couch, and he prepared himself to run for the hallway, but then Jin laughed and seemed to decide not to.

Jin quickly faked the other direction again and, when Yoongi didn’t fall for it, he stopped moving and pouted at him.

“I really don’t get another hug?” Jin asked.

“No,” Yoongi said, crossing his arms. “Keep your sweaty ass away from me.”

“I’m sorry I picked you up,” Jin said, his arms spread out again. “I had a small power trip, but I’m done now.”

Yoongi fidgeted at the apology, trying not to let it affect him.

“One more?” Jin asked. “And no spinning, I promise.”

Jin moved towards him, grinning in triumph when Yoongi didn’t move away. Jin hugged him around his crossed arms, waiting until Yoongi hesitantly hugged him back before squeezing tight. Yoongi tensed, ready to be lifted again, but it didn’t come.

“Thank you,” Jin said, deeply inhaling like he too was taking comfort in the scent of their pack that still covered both of them like a second skin. Yoongi briefly wished that he could smell his own scent too, like Jin and every other Beta could, just to be able to smell the three of them all together.

Yoongi grumbled in acknowledgement as he slowly relaxed again.

Then Jin laughed softly, the sound right next to Yoongi’s ear, and said, “I get a little power trip every time I hug you, you know.”

Yoongi squeezed his eyes shut, annoyed but contented in the scent of his pack surrounding him again. His instincts loved the contact with Jin, who still smelt strongly of Yoongi from the scenting they had done.

“I’ve gained the trust of the neighborhood’s grumpiest stray cat,” Jin said, humor in his tone, “and every time you let me touch you, I revel in my power.”

“Fuck off,” Yoongi said, but he didn’t pull away. Happiness was now radiating off Jin in his scent, and it was so strong that Yoongi could almost taste it on his tongue.

Yoongi didn’t think he’d ever been that happy.

And so he hugged Jin, just a little longer, like it was transferable, like Jin could push his happiness into Yoongi through his skin. He knew Jin would share it with him, if he could, and Yoongi would take it.

He wanted it.

***

By the time Namjoon came home, Jin had been riding his high for so long that all he could get out was garbled yelling as he jumped up and down, clutching a very surprised Namjoon’s arm in the entryway. Yoongi had to eventually explain what had happened instead.

At the good news, Namjoon had whooped so loud that Yoongi leapt sideways away from him and into the wall in his fright, and Jin laughed until he could barely stand as Namjoon frantically apologized. Yoongi rubbed at his now sore shoulder, but told Namjoon it was alright.

Yoongi understood his excitement. Jin and Namjoon had known each other since they were children, had witnessed the evolution each other’s dreams and hopes. To see Jin’s dream come true had to be even better for Namjoon than it was for Yoongi.

“You know,” Namjoon said to Jin, still standing in the entryway because he’d only had the opportunity to take off one of his shoes, “the number of young people starting their own businesses gets less every year. I’m very proud to know one of them.”

Namjoon then put a hand on Jin’s shoulder and beamed at him, his dimples as deep as Yoongi had ever seen them. Jin looked like he was about to burst into tears, but he settled for a hug that knocked Namjoon back into the front door.

Jin wanted to go out and celebrate the next night, since it would be a Friday, and Yoongi and Namjoon both agreed immediately. Yoongi wasn’t quite looking forward to it, as Jin would most likely get drunk and dance and talk to enough strangers that Yoongi would get exhausted just by watching him do it.

However, Yoongi thought that this was worth celebrating in whatever way Jin wanted. In fact, Yoongi couldn’t think of a better reason to celebrate than a dream becoming reality.

***

Jin’s good news was almost enough to distract Yoongi from his upcoming lesson with Jungkook as he went to class on Friday. Almost.

However, he still found himself sitting with a rising nervousness in his Music Theory IV class as the clock ticked slowly towards two—the time that he and Jungkook had agreed to meet for their lesson.

Yoongi wasn’t ready as his class ended, but he also didn’t want to wait another minute. He hated being nervous.

Yoongi was about ten minutes early as he arrived at the practice room, and he settled down on the piano bench to wait. He could feel his heart beating fast in his chest as he watched the open doorway. His hands were sweaty too, and he clutched them into fists in his lap.

He tensed when he heard footsteps in the hallway, then relaxed again when whoever they belonged to opened a door to a different practice room and went inside. After another minute, Yoongi could hear the sound of a trumpet being played and recognized it as The Flight of the Bumblebee.

It was slowed down, the phrases repeated as the trumpetist practiced, but Yoongi almost laughed as he realized he was waiting for Jungkook while he listened to someone play classic chase-scene music. He tried not to take it as a sign, forced himself not to come to the conclusion that the universe was telling him to get up and leave before he could be found.

Yoongi scooted back and sat crossed-legged on the piano bench, which for some reason made him feel better. He looked down at his laptop bag leaning against the wall and fought the urge to pick it up and hug it to his chest like a shield.

Yoongi checked the time on his watch, saw it was still five minutes away from two, and sighed. He wished Jungkook would just get here already. Waiting was killing him.

He heard another set of footsteps enter the hallway, walking fast, and felt his chest tightening, his posture straightening. As the footsteps continued to get closer, Yoongi took deeper breaths even though he knew he wouldn’t catch Jungkook’s scent before he saw him.

He wished he was less nervous. He had no doubt that Jungkook would be able to smell it.

Just as Yoongi had decided that the footsteps had to belong to Jungkook and felt his breath quicken, Jungkook stepped into view of the doorway, a cup of coffee in hand.

Jungkook was wearing jeans, Timberlands, a black cargo jacket, and the bright red beanie that Yoongi remembered seeing once on Taehyung. His hand was trembling a bit, clutched around the coffee that Yoongi knew was for him, just like it had been before their first lesson.

Jungkook’s eyes were wide and nervous as he made eye contact with him, and Yoongi wondered what his own expression looked like. Once again, Jungkook looked like he was worried that Yoongi was moments away from attacking him.

Any second now, Yoongi knew Jungkook’s Alpha scent would hit him for the first time. Any second, he would know what it smelt like, and what he felt like when he smelt it.

Yoongi started breathing through his mouth.

He wasn’t a coward. He just needed a bit longer. This whole lesson could be divided into baby steps, he decided. He’d looked at Jungkook, and now he needed to speak to him. He swallowed and cleared his throat.

“Hey,” Yoongi said, and then he was at a loss for what to say next. But that was fine. One word was better than nothing. A baby step.

“Hi,” Jungkook said, taking a hesitant step into the room. He held out the coffee in his hand to Yoongi, straightening his arm and leaning forward like he was worried about stepping too close, not once looking away from Yoongi’s face.

Yoongi took the cup from Jungkook with both hands, and their fingers brushed as he did it. He felt something zing through his hands, up his arms, down his spine. He felt heat rise to his face and he looked down at the coffee as Jungkook continued to watch him.

This cup of coffee was a pre-courting gift. He’d taken it, knowing that. He was going to drink it, knowing what it was.

“You smell nervous,” Jungkook said, still maintaining his distance.

Yoongi nodded.

What did Jungkook expect? Yeah, Yoongi was nervous. And he’d known he would smell nervous, and Jungkook had probably known that he would smell nervous, but he didn’t want to talk about it.

Jungkook was interested in him and was pre-courting him. Couldn’t Jungkook infer, just from Yoongi’s personality, that those were two things that would make Yoongi nervous without it needing to be addressed?

Nervous was an understatement. Yoongi was so out of his element here that nervous seemed like too small a word. Any word would be too small. Yoongi didn’t know how to describe the emotion he was feeling.

Yoongi inspected the lid of the coffee cup, focusing in on the familiar CAUTION! CONTENTS HOT! that framed the upper edge. It was warm in his hands, but Yoongi didn’t need the extra heat. He felt warm enough already.

He didn’t want to look up, so he decided not to. And he could feel his instincts taking root in his stomach, tugging at him to take a sip of the coffee.

He didn’t want to drink the coffee with Jungkook just standing there, saying nothing and watching him, but his instincts seemed to think he should. This was a cup of coffee, and he realized he hadn’t really accepted it until he drank it.

Fuck. Okay. Baby steps. Yoongi could do this too. He drank coffee every day. He drank coffee more than any other beverage.

Yoongi was still breathing through his mouth, and his breath fogged the top of the lid as he brought it to his lips, tilted it back. It was a caramel latte, his usual, and the familiarity of the taste contrasted the abnormality of the moment so sharply, it was almost jarring.

Once he swallowed the hot coffee, relishing the slight burn of it, and brought the cup back down, his instincts calmed and soothed the tension his stomach, contented.

Then it struck Yoongi that he had accepted a pre-courting gift from an Alpha, on purpose, and he couldn’t ever take it back.

He could ask Jungkook to stop pre-courting him and he knew the Alpha would, but he will have always done this—this thing he’d never seen himself doing.

Not wanting to think about it any longer, he spun around on the piano bench without looking at Jungkook. He didn’t want to see the Alpha’s reaction.

“Did you bring the Hanon book?” Yoongi asked, setting the cup of coffee down on top of the piano.

“I did,” Jungkook said quietly. Yoongi could hear the sound of him taking off his backpack, then the zip of his jacket being undone, then the sound of that being taken off too.

Then silence.

“Can I...” Jungkook began, hesitant. “Can I close the door?”

Yoongi sighed and closed his eyes. Omegas were usually cautious about being alone in closed spaces with unknown Alphas. Yoongi knew that Jungkook was asking as a common courtesy and, now that he thought about it, Yoongi had always been the one to close the door.

“Go ahead,” Yoongi said, opening his eyes again and looking down as he heard the door gently click closed.

The fallboard that covered the piano keys was shut, and Yoongi wondered who had done it. He never closed it, and he didn’t think Jungkook did either. Yoongi’s childhood piano had ivory keytops on its piano keys, which yellowed over time if they were not exposed to sunlight regularly, so that piano was always kept open.

This piano’s keytops were made of plastic, which actually sometimes degraded when exposed to excess amounts of sunlight, but it didn’t matter. The practice rooms were located in a central hallway of the music building, and had no windows.

Yoongi actually hated closing fallboards. Pianos were meant to be open, to be seen and loved and played. Yoongi opened the fallboard, exposing the plastic keys to the bright fluorescent lights, which flickered briefly, as though pleased.

“You can sit down,” Yoongi said to Jungkook, who hadn’t seemed to have moved since he shut the door.

“Okay,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi could see him enter his peripheral. The piano bench creaked a little as he sat down, and Yoongi could feel the heat of him against the whole right side of his body.

Jungkook put the Hanon book on the music rack, and then both he and Yoongi reached forward to open it. Before their fingers could touch, Jungkook sharply retracted his hand.

Yoongi hesitated, then opened the book to the first page he had told Jungkook to practice and put his hands in his lap. He knew what was going on here.

It was another outdated practice, but it had traditionally been seen as polite for Alphas to not initiate contact with Omegas they were pre-courting. Yoongi thought back, wondering now if Jungkook had ever actually touched him, if it had not always been Yoongi touching Jungkook. He didn’t know. He shouldn’t care.

His instincts, at least, seemed to appreciate Jungkook’s efforts, and were curling in contentment again.

Yoongi sat back, waiting for Jungkook to move, to reach forward and play.

“You won’t look at me,” Jungkook said instead.

Yoongi forced his gaze away from the Hanon book and to Jungkook’s face, and saw that he was frowning in concern.

“I can leave, if you want,” Jungkook offered, his eyes softening a little as they met Yoongi’s.

Jungkook probably thought that Yoongi was overwhelmed by Jungkook’s scent. But the joke was on him, because Yoongi was still breathing through his mouth. Yoongi almost laughed. Everything about this situation was ridiculous.

“It’s not-” Yoongi said, shaking his head. “You don’t need to leave. I’m just trying to feign some normalcy.”

He apparently wasn’t doing a good job, but Jungkook wasn’t doing a very good job either, at whatever the hell he was trying to do. Unless he was trying to join Yoongi in being awkward as fuck about the pre-courting. If that was it, then Jungkook was excelling in leaps and bounds.

Yoongi fidgeted, forcing himself not to look away from Jungkook’s earnest expression of concern, and gestured toward the piano.

“Can you please just stop staring at me?” Yoongi said, his voice a bit higher than it usually was. “And play something?”

Yoongi felt guilty when Jungkook quickly looked away from him, and his stomach twisted when Jungkook deflated a little, his shoulders shrinking in. Fuck. He hadn’t meant to make the Alpha feel bad.

Yoongi regrouped for a second, still glad that he was no longer being studied. He took a deep breath and tried to relax. He needed to chose his words more carefully.

“I know you just want to make sure that I’m comfortable,” Yoongi said, trying to sound extra gentle. “But if you make me uncomfortable, you’ll know.”

“How?” Jungkook asked, quickly glancing at him and away again.

“Because if you do something to make me uncomfortable, I’ll ask you to stop,” Yoongi said.

It was simple. It was how Yoongi operated. If Jungkook wanted to... to do whatever it was they were doing, then he needed to understand that. Yoongi was hesitant about most things, but he stood up for himself.

Jungkook stared at the opened Hanon book instead of Yoongi and shook his head before he said, “I’d rather not make you uncomfortable in the first place.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Yoongi said, still forcing his voice to sound more gentle than it usually did. Jungkook still looked a little deflated, but his posture slowly straightened up again.

Jungkook nodded and said, “I’m sorry.”

“I appreciate it, but you don’t need to be sorry,” Yoongi said, gesturing to himself. “I’m not sorry.”

At this, a small smile appeared on Jungkook’s face.

“What you need to do is play the piano,” Yoongi said, pointing a finger at the exposed piano keys. “And if I act strange or my scent is off, I’d prefer that you just keep playing and ignore it. You don’t need to tell me. I swear I already know. ”

Jungkook nodded quickly, too many times, but Yoongi could work with that.

“Okay, great. Let’s begin,” Yoongi said, sitting back like he expected Jungkook to begin playing immediately.

Jungkook nodded again, smiling wider now, and reached forward for the piano keys.

Jungkook played the first Hanon exercise well enough that Yoongi was, again, impressed. He was a quick learner. Without that, and without Jungkook’s diligence, Yoongi didn’t think their lessons would be going very well at all.

Jungkook played through all the exercises that Yoongi had given him to practice easily, and when Yoongi pointed to the next one, he thought that Jungkook must have practiced that one too.

It was endearing. Yoongi admired people who took extra steps towards the things they wanted.

Yoongi picked up the coffee Jungkook had given him again for the first time, not wanting to waste it, and took another sip. It tasted better when it didn’t define a moment, without any weight added onto it.

He ignored the way Jungkook’s posture got straighter the longer he kept drinking it.

“And now sight reading,” Yoongi said, opening the Hanon book up to a random page.

Jungkook squinted at the music, probably checking the key signature first, and then slowly began to play.

He fumbled through the first line, then started again with only one hand, without Yoongi needing to advise that he do so. Yoongi admired that too, how Jungkook was the type of learner who only needed to be told something once.

Jungkook finally seemed focused enough on something else that Yoongi thought that, maybe, it would be okay to inhale his scent. Smelling the Alpha for the first time was something he wanted to do unstudied, and now seemed like his chance.

Yoongi took another sip of his coffee, searched for his courage, and then slowly inhaled through his nose.

Yoongi first registered the Alpha in Jungkook’s scent, and something in his gut twisted as it also registered as unknown. But he calmed almost as quickly as he had tensed, his instincts probably making the connection that this was Jungkook’s scent, and that they were interested in him. There were traces of nervousness in Jungkook's scent, too, but they were faded—like the Alpha had been very nervous before but wasn't anymore. Yoongi wished he could say the same.

Jungkook smelt... Yoongi shook his head a little. No. He breathed in again, but the scent was the same.

Jungkook smelt like rain.

Shocked, Yoongi breathed in again and decided that he smelt more like the way a field of soil did after a storm, like wet earth and clean air and the promise of new life. There was also a metallic tang in his scent, bright and sharp like the taste of well-worn metal.

Yoongi felt his grip tighten around his coffee cup and he fought a whine. Jungkook smelt like rain.  

And Yoongi loved rain.

Yoongi hadn’t planned for this, not even a little. Yoongi hadn’t planned to smell Jungkook’s scent and like it. Because Yoongi did like it. A lot. He was still breathing in deeply through his nose because he couldn’t seem to get enough of it.

Yoongi felt surprisingly calm, and something about the calmness was reminding him of Jin and Namjoon in some way. His posture stiffened as the name of it came to him.

It was the feeling of safety.

Jungkook had stopped playing without Yoongi noticing and was looking at him nervously. Yoongi didn’t know if there had been some spike in his own scent, or if he hadn’t been fooling Jungkook after all—if the Alpha had known the whole time that Yoongi had been avoiding inhaling through his nose.

Yoongi tried to compose himself. He wanted to bang his head against the wall. Fuck the universe for doing this. For handing him this Alpha who smelt like rain, who was pre-courting him, who had been nothing but considerate and made him feel safe without trying. Fuck it all.

Feeling a rising sense of agitation, Yoongi looked sharply at Jungkook in challenge, who quickly looked away from him like he only now remembered that Yoongi had asked him not to stare at him.

“Sorry,” Jungkook said, looking back down at the piano. “Should I keep playing?”

“Just...” Yoongi fidgeted and loosened his grip on the coffee cup before it bent and spilled all over his lap. Then he continued, “Just give me a second.”

Jungkook hummed in acknowledgement and put a hand on the keyboard, playing a few random notes. Then he played the same notes again, adding a few more. Yoongi knew that Jungkook was putting some of his focus into something else on purpose, and Yoongi was grateful.

Yoongi watched him and tried to decide where this fell in the grand scheme of things, if he would really be able to reject this boy. Yoongi didn’t want regrets. He didn’t want to look back on this and wonder what if? for the rest of his life. But he also didn’t want to court. He didn’t have the room for it—in his emotions or in his life.

Yoongi tried to shake off his uncertainty, reminding himself that he definitely didn’t need to decide now. He had time.

But Jungkook liked him. Yoongi had been so caught up in the idea of pre-courting that he hadn’t paid that thought much attention. Jungkook had said he liked him from the start, whatever that meant, and Yoongi didn’t mind.

Jungkook liked him, instincts aside, and he was being so straightforward and careful about everything that Yoongi didn’t mind at all. Now that he thought about it, that was almost more shocking to him than Jungkook being an Alpha.

Yoongi listened to the random notes that Jungkook was playing for the first time, and was amused to hear that a part of it sounded a little similar to a piece of the chorus that he had chosen for Professor Lee’s piano piece. It jumped a few notes lower faster than Yoongi’s did, but it had the same back and forth, the same push and pull.

And then Jungkook changed it up again and it sounded like what Yoongi had been trying to write for weeks. It wasn’t perfect, but the rhythm of it, the jumps, the way Jungkook paused too long on the high note—it all struck Yoongi with sudden inspiration. Yoongi froze and watched him play it again, paying close attention, reaching blindly for his phone in his jacket.

“Play that one more time,” Yoongi said, opening up his camera app and starting a video.

Jungkook glanced at him quickly and then obliged. Yoongi stopped the recording once Jungkook was done and asked, “Did you hear that somewhere?”

Jungkook shook his head.

“Can I use it?” Yoongi asked, putting his phone back in his pocket. “In one of my songs?”

“Of course,” Jungkook said, his eyes widening.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry. I need to get to my computer right now before I forget why I think this sounds good. Can you practice the next four Hanon songs? I’ll bring some real songs next time.”

Jungkook nodded quickly.

“Any requests?” Yoongi asked, slipping off the bench and putting on his jacket. He was in a rush. He’d lost inspiration for a song before and he didn’t want this one to slip from his grasp, but he also didn’t want to be rude.

“Something I can sing to?” Jungkook said hesitantly, like it might be too much to ask. Yoongi remembered that Jungkook had asked Professor Lee to add vocals onto one of his compositions, and Yoongi wondered what he sounded like when he sang.

“I can work with that,” Yoongi said, picking up his bag and heading for the door. He didn’t know what music scores he would get for Jungkook now, but he could figure it out later.

“Wait,” Jungkook said as Yoongi opened the door, quickly jerking into motion. He stood and picked up his own bag, then hesitated.

Yoongi stood in the doorway, trying not to be impatient.

“Yes?” Yoongi prompted when Jungkook didn’t move or speak. Jungkook looked quickly up at him, then back down again.

“I have something for you,” Jungkook said, unzipping his bag. He stared into it for a few seconds, then winced. “I’m not sure if you want it, since I’ve never seen you wear one. But...”

Jungkook reached into his bag and pulled out a scarf. At first glance, it looked black, but as Yoongi stared at it he realized that it also had traces of dark green.

“A scarf?” Yoongi said, surprised. It was true he didn’t wear them often, but it was just because he usually forgot to put one on before he stepped outside, and by then he was too lazy to go back into his apartment and get one.

“A gift,” Jungkook clarified, looking suddenly shy, and Yoongi felt a flash of heat going through him. Of course. This was a pre-courting gift. Yoongi felt heat rising to his face, a little embarrassed that he hadn’t immediately made the connection. He really needed to start paying more attention.

“Oh,” Yoongi said, forcing himself not to take a step back as Jungkook reached forward to hand the scarf to him. He had given Jungkook permission to do this, he reminded himself. It was fine.

Yoongi took the scarf with his free hand, the one that wasn’t still holding Jungkook’s coffee, and tried to ignore the way his instincts curled up in his stomach in glee as he accepted it.

It was soft, and it felt like it would be warm. It was honestly better than any scarf Yoongi owned, and he was tempted not to fight the small desire to wear it immediately that was coming from his instincts.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, and it came out raspy. Embarrassed, he cleared his throat and looked away from Jungkook, down the hallway.

“It’s my pleasure,” Jungkook said, setting his bag back down on the floor.

Yoongi glanced at his face, and saw that he looked relieved. It must have been hard for him to give Yoongi this. He’d probably been worried that Yoongi wouldn’t take it.

Yoongi wasn’t going to tell him that he hadn’t even considered not taking it, but he could give him some reassurance.

“I like it,” Yoongi said, looking away again, down at the scarf. It was just so soft. He rubbed it between his fingers and when he inhaled, he smelt rain.

“I’ll wear it,” he heard himself say, and then Yoongi almost choked on air.

He hadn’t meant to say that.

At Jungkook’s sharp intake of breath, Yoongi felt a flash of nerves again and they kept burning hot in his gut.

Because Yoongi didn’t say things he didn’t mean. He didn’t do things he didn’t want to do.

However, the way he continued to respond to Jungkook’s interest in him and the pre-courting wasn’t matching up to his intentions. Yoongi knew what that meant, and Yoongi’s nerves tightened into a fist as he came to a realization.

If Yoongi couldn’t reject Jungkook and kept doing stupid shit like telling Jungkook that he would wear his pre-courting gifts, then this would lead somewhere, and Yoongi was completely fucked.

Yoongi pushed the thought away. He didn’t want to think about it right now. He had time.

But Yoongi also didn’t want to be here anymore. He didn’t have the emotional energy to confront any more revelations, so he took a few steps back from Jungkook and felt better with the distance, even if his instincts didn’t like it.

Yoongi also still really wanted to work this new piano melody into his classically inspired composition for Professor Lee before the inspiration left, and it seemed like as good of a reason as any to leave.

“I’m gonna go work on that melody you played. See you around?” Yoongi said. He didn’t quite look at Jungkook, choosing instead to stare at the wall to left of the piano practice room. The Alpha hadn’t said anything after Yoongi had told him that he would wear the scarf, and Yoongi didn’t want to look at his face and try to deduce a reaction.

But he did see Jungkook nod in his peripheral, and Yoongi took that as a sign that he could leave without being rude. He turned and started down the hallway.

Jungkook didn’t call out after him, and Yoongi didn’t look back.

Yoongi quickly turned left at the end of the hallway and headed for his Music History classroom. He settled in his seat an hour early and opened up the song files he had been working on for Professor Lee’s piano piece. Then he opened the video of Jungkook playing the piano and started making changes.

By the time Namjoon showed up for class, stumbling in with a few seconds to spare, Yoongi had shut his laptop with a grin. The song was finished. This final edit had been what it needed. He could feel the life of it now, and it breathed back at him when he listened to it.

He also finally had a title for it, Life Begets Life , inspired by all those times that Professor Lee had told him those same words. He had, after all, only finally finished this song by surrounding himself with the living.

So what if the living happened to be Jungkook? It didn’t have to mean anything.

Namjoon sat down and eyed the scarf that Yoongi had stupidly just placed on top of his laptop bag with a frown.

Namjoon's posture went from slouched to rim-rod straight in the time it took Yoongi to wince at his oversight. It seemed like Namjoon had made the connection between the scarf and Jungkook. But then Namjoon seemed to shake himself and the Alpha relaxed again with a little smirk.

“Is that new?” Namjoon asked him.

“Kind of,” Yoongi said, sinking down in his chair. He wished their professor would come into the classroom. The elderly Omega always shuffled through the door and wasted no time, starting his lectures immediately, before he even set one thing down or took off his coat.

“Kind of?” Namjoon repeated, sounding amused. “It smells like an Alpha.”

Yoongi blanched. He hadn’t realized that the scarf smelt like Jungkook. He had actually just been actively pretending it didn’t exist the whole time he had worked on Professor Lee’s piano piece.

“Is it from Jungkook?” Namjoon asked, eyeing the scarf again. “It looks nice.”

“It’s not important,” Yoongi said, reaching down and stuffing the scarf into his laptop bag, but he knew that the heat rising in his face was giving him away.

Namjoon snorted and then said, “You know, I’m still very surprised.”

Yoongi knew that he was referring to the pre-courting.

“That makes two of us,” Yoongi said, settling back down into his seat.

“Three of us,” Namjoon corrected. “Jin keeps telling me how shocked he is.”

Yoongi didn’t like the smirk that Namjoon was giving him.

“We’re happy for you,” Namjoon said, his smirk softening into a small smile.

“There’s nothing to be happy about,” Yoongi said, crossing his arms.

Namjoon laughed and Yoongi scowled.

“Shut up,” Yoongi said. “Can’t you just go back to talking about whales or something?”

At this, Namjoon perked up and Yoongi immediately regretted the suggestion.

“Have I told you that the blue whale is not only the largest animal alive, but the largest animal that ever lived?” Namjoon asked, gesturing widely and drawing the attention of their classmates. “And I found out the other day that they can weigh as much as twenty-four elephants.”

Yoongi sighed in resignation, but the tall Alpha girl next to Namjoon leaned forward in interest.

“Really?” she asked. “Twenty-four elephants?”

Namjoon was flustered at being addressed, but he hid it well.

“Really,” Namjoon said, nodding and turning briefly to look at her. “And they spend their whole lives floating. Can you imagine?”

“No,” the girl said. “That seems so heavy. Wow.”

“Yes,” Namjoon said smugly, turning back towards Yoongi. “Did you hear that, hyung? Wow. Please respond similarly in the future.”

Yoongi threw his head back and groaned.

“I changed my mind,” Yoongi said. “Please also spare me from the whale facts.”

Their professor came in at that moment, but even the quick start of his lecture couldn’t cover up Namjoon’s muffled laughter.

Chapter Text

When Yoongi and Namjoon got back their apartment after class, Jin was already in the kitchen getting dinner ready. Yoongi inhaled the smell of cooking meat with a grin. Jin only cooked meat when he was in a good mood, and it made Yoongi relieved to know that Jin still wasn’t feeling lonely.

Sleeping as a pack in the same place seemed to be working to keep Jin happy longer than anything else had before, and even something in Yoongi’s stomach stirred warmly at the memory of the scenting.

Yoongi and Namjoon shared a smile, and Yoongi set his laptop bag on the table in front of the couch and joined Jin in the kitchen to help finish dinner.

Jin was making a pork stew, and he put Yoongi to work chopping the vegetables.

“I can help chop,” Namjoon eventually offered from his seat at the kitchen table.

“Not tonight,” Jin said, shaking his head, not looking away from where he was frying pork on the stove. “I don’t want to spend my night with you in the emergency room when I should be dancing.”

Yoongi grinned from where he was slicing up carrots. Namjoon looked between the two of them with a frown.

“I’m not that bad!” Namjoon said.

Jin sighed and said, “Namjoon, the last time you offered to help chop up the vegetables, you tried to cut an onion with the blunt end of a knife.”

Yoongi laughed quietly. He actually hadn’t heard about that yet.

“It was finals week!” Namjoon said, shaking his head. “I’ll do better this time.”

“You’ll do better next time,” Jin said, spooning the smaller, fully cooked pieces of fried pork into the pot he had boiling on the stove, before returning the pan to the heat to continue cooking the larger ones.  “On a day when we have no plans and have the time to deal with whatever disaster follows, you can help all you like.”

Jin leaned back briefly to see the knob of the stove as he turned down the heat for the burner below the pork, then he added, “As long as you don’t touch the stove.”

“I know,” Namjoon said with a snort, shaking his head, “I’ve caused a cooking disaster, and I can only touch the stove again when I’ve caused a cooking miracle.”

Jin was nodding along as Namjoon spoke.

“In other words, never,” Namjoon said.

“Exactly,” Jin said with another resolute nod, like Namjoon had just stated an inarguable fact.

Both Jin and Namjoon were grinning broadly now, and Yoongi could almost feel the mood of the room lifting higher than it had already been.

Yoongi used the knife to swipe carrots into the pot, then started on the green onions. He enjoyed the sound of the knife cutting through them, and for a while the only sounds in the kitchen were the frying pork and the chop chop chop of Yoongi’s knife meeting the wooden cutting board.

But Namjoon was looking put-out again a few minutes later, leaning forward onto his folded arms on the table as he watched Jin and Yoongi work. After glancing at him while he pulled spices out of the cupboard, Jin sighed again.

“Why don’t you make the rice?” Jin offered with an air of resignation.

“Okay,” Namjoon said eagerly, standing up quickly like he thought Jin would change his mind.

Yoongi grimaced down at the garlic he was now mincing, and he and Jin shared a knowing glance.

Namjoon made shitty rice. It was always too dry and tended to taste a little burnt. However, they both knew that Namjoon hated feeling useless while they made all the food, as it agitated his Alpha instincts that told him that he should be the one providing.

“Did you know that there are more than 40,000 different kinds of rice?” Namjoon asked as he took their white rice down out of the cupboard. “It’s so strange that we eat the same kind every time.”

“That actually is interesting, Namjoon,” Jin said gently, “but please concentrate on what you are doing or you are going to make a mess.”

Despite Jin’s warning, Namjoon ended up spilling rice all over the counter when he opened the bag too forcefully, and then proceeded to somehow bump the measuring cup he was using for the water against his own arm, spilling water all over the counter as well. But no one got injured and nothing got broken, so Yoongi supposed it could be counted as a win as he flicked a few pieces of dry rice out of his chopped pile of garlic.

Jin shooed Namjoon away when he tried to clean up the mess with only his hands, and Namjoon sat back down in a chair at the kitchen table, looking sheepish.

Yoongi finished with the vegetables and then used a rag to wipe up the water and rice, swiping the dry rice off the counter and into the garbage.

“Sorry,” Namjoon said, shrinking in his chair as he watched Yoongi clean. “I have no idea how that happened.”

“It’s fine,” Yoongi said with a grin. It seemed like Namjoon just sometimes forgot that he had arms and hands, and that things would move if he touched them. Yoongi was used to it.

“At least you didn’t burn anything like you did during the Great February Soup Disaster, when you set off all the fire alarms,” Jin said. Namjoon winced at the reminder as Jin stirred the soup, which was starting to smell really good now that he had added the spices.

Jin sighed as he put a lid on the pot of soup and leaned against the counter to wait.

“I still miss the pot you broke that day,” Jin said wistfully. “I liked the square shape. I used to use it when I was feeling whimsical.”

Namjoon shrank a little farther in his chair.

***

After they all finished eating their dinner of stew and slightly-burnt rice, Jin and Namjoon pulled a few bottles of soju out of the fridge to pregame, and Jin announced that they should go to the Loophole to celebrate once they were done with the soju. Yoongi knew that Jin had chosen the Loophole because it was the only club that Yoongi knew well, and he appreciated that they would be going to a familiar place.

Yoongi mixed two shots of soju with a glass of grape soda and just watched, amused, as Namjoon and Jin jokingly argued their way through at least ten different topics before Jin decided it was late enough to leave.

Then Yoongi watched in growing apprehension as Jin and Namjoon quickly finished drinking the last bottle of soju in series of shots. Yoongi rarely had to deal with either of them while they were drunk, and they always felt like different people. They both got a little less considerate, less careful about making other people uncomfortable. But, even drunk, they were still more considerate than other people. Yoongi actually sometimes found it refreshing.

“Let’s get changed and head to the club,” Jin said, standing up. His face was flushed with alcohol, and he frowned down at Yoongi and Namjoon when neither of them stood with him.

“I’m just going to go out in this,” Namjoon said, gesturing down to his dark-wash jeans and white button-up. Jin eyed what he was wearing critically and nodded, but then he turned to Yoongi with a small frown.

“And you? Are you going to wear your hoodie to go dancing, Yoongi?” Jin asked in a tone that made it very apparent that he thought the answer should be no.

“It’s comfy,” Yoongi said, crossing his arms. “And I’m not going to dance, anyway.”

Jin’s eyes narrowed and then he held out a fist. Yoongi stared at it, not sure how to respond.

“Rock, paper, scissors,” Jin said, waving his fist up and down. “And if I win, I get to dress you.”

Yoongi scoffed. He didn’t even want to imagine the ridiculous outfit that Jin would up come with.

When Yoongi shook his head, Jin added, “But I can only use things that are yours.”

Yoongi hesitated. He didn’t think he owned anything that he didn’t like to wear. He tried to think through his clothing, wondering if he had anything that he was unwilling to put on.

“And if I win?” Yoongi asked.

“Then you get to wear a hoodie to the club and I won’t say a thing,” Jin said, his fist still hovering over the table.

Yoongi shrugged and agreed to play. If he won, he figured it would be amusing to watch Jin eye his hoodie all night and have to hold his tongue.

Yoongi lost. He stared down at the paper sign he had played as Jin held up his scissors to the ceiling and cheered in triumph. Then Yoongi begrudgingly followed Jin to their bedroom while Namjoon snickered over his empty drink glass.

Yoongi was already regretting their bet when Jin pulled out a pair of Yoongi’s skinny jeans from the bottom of his lowest dresser drawer. They had huge holes in the knees and one on the thigh, which had been ripped even wider once while he had been performing, but he put them on without protest.

It’s not like the jeans were obscene. It had just been a long time since Yoongi had worn pants this tight, and they showed a considerable amount of his right thigh compared to the amount of thigh that Yoongi usually showed—which was none.

Then Jin tossed him a black v-neck shirt and made him tuck it in and put on a belt. Yoongi was used to wearing shirts and sweaters that went up past his collarbones, and the v-neck on this shirt was a little exaggerated, so it felt a little odd to wear. Yoongi put a hand over the exposed skin under his collarbones, and his palm was cold against his chest. He felt goosebumps break out across his arms.

“I don’t think you’ve shown this much skin since mid-summer,” Jin said, stepping back. He put his hands on his hips and looked Yoongi up and down. Then Jin made a spinning motion with his finger, like he actually expected Yoongi to twirl like a fashion model, and he laughed when Yoongi refused by giving him the finger.

“Happy now?” Yoongi asked, putting his hands on his hips.

Jin nodded, then smirked and said, “You look damn good. I do my work well.”

“Whatever,” Yoongi said, and Jin laughed again as Yoongi fled the room before Jin could try to get him into anything else.

“Wear your Converse!” Jin yelled after him.

Namjoon looked Yoongi up and down with raised eyebrows when he came into view.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Yoongi said to Namjoon, who was smirking now, eyeing the exposed skin on Yoongi’s chest and thigh. Yoongi put on his winter coat and waited by the door with his arms crossed.

He actually didn’t mind the outfit, as it usually got quite hot in the Loophole anyway.

“It’s going to get cold outside,” Namjoon said to Jin when he emerged from their room and opened the closet by the front door to get his jacket. Yoongi frowned at Namjoon. They were all going to wear their winter coats for that reason. It was odd that he would mention it.

“Yoongi might need a scarf,” Namjoon said with fake innocence.

Yoongi tried not to react to Jin’s questioning gaze as the Beta took a few steps back to put on his jacket. He knew where this was going and he turned to glare at Namjoon in warning, but Namjoon wasn’t looking at him. Yoongi noted the way Namjoon was swaying a little, the way the flush from the alcohol had made its way down Namjoon’s neck, and realized that Namjoon was probably too drunk to heed a silent warning anyway.

“I’ll be fine,” Yoongi said, reaching down to zip up his coat, but Jin was frowning at him.

Jin had on a pair of pale light-blue jeans that looked painted on and black silk shirt that Yoongi knew would slowly get unbuttoned throughout the night. Yoongi wanted to argue that if he needed a scarf, then Jin needed one too, but he wanted the subject dropped more.

“I suppose I could go get him a scarf,” Jin said, tilting his head to the side, appraising Yoongi’s outfit again.

“I don’t need one,” Yoongi snapped. He elbowed Namjoon. Hard. The Alpha winced, but then took a step away from him with a grin.

“He did get a new scarf today,” Namjoon said to Jin, and he seemed to be barely containing laughter at Yoongi’s growing exasperation.

Yoongi ran a hand over his face and groaned.

“Yoongi went shopping?” Jin asked, sounding confused. “And bought something?”

“No,” Namjoon said. “I suppose it’s better to say that he was given a scarf.”

Yoongi tried to elbow Namjoon again, but the Alpha was able to lean sideways fast enough to avoid it.

“Why?” Jin asked, still confused as Namjoon stumbled to keep his balance.

Yoongi’s stomach was slowly dropping, and something was buzzing under his skin. Jin would, without a doubt, have an overreaction to the scarf that Jungkook had given him as a pre-courting gift.

Then Jin gasped, and Yoongi knew that the Beta had put it together.

“Yoongi was given a pre-courting gift today ?” Jin asked.

Namjoon nodded, and Jin jumped up and down, clapping his hands. Yoongi grimaced and felt his face getting warmer.

“Did you see it?” Jin asked Namjoon with both hands over his own heart. “Did it look nice? Was it cute?”

Namjoon nodded again and opened his mouth, but Yoongi decided to cut him off before he could respond.

“It’s not important,” Yoongi said, but he could feel more heat rising in his face.

“It is important!” Jin said, throwing up both his hands. “It’s the first gift!”

Yoongi shrugged and decidedly didn’t tell him that the scarf wasn’t the first pre-courting gift that Jungkook had given him—that there was a black umbrella with an Iron Man sticker on it that had been gifted before the scarf, lying somewhere in the closet where Jin hung his coat every day—or that Jungkook had been giving Yoongi coffee.

Jin looked around the room like Yoongi had lazily thrown the scarf somewhere and Jin was worried that he hadn’t noticed.

“Where is it?” Jin asked. Yoongi noticed that Jin was wisely asking not asking him, but Namjoon, who was much more likely to give him a response. And Namjoon nodded in the direction of Yoongi’s laptop bag before Yoongi could stop him.

Yoongi cursed under his breath at his luck that Namjoon and Jin had decided to drink tonight. There was no way that Namjoon would have jokingly revealed the pre-courting gift to Jin if he had been sober.

Yoongi sighed in resignation as he watched Jin let out a giddy laugh and unzip Yoongi’s laptop bag. He realized he would actually probably get cold, as the weather was still hovering around freezing at night, and the scarf Jungkook had given him had looked like it would keep him warm. His instincts were already curling up at the thought of wearing it.

Jin glanced at Yoongi, like he was giving Yoongi a chance to stop him, and then reached into the bag and took out the scarf.

“Ohhhh,” Jin said, turning the scarf over in his hands. “It’s really nice.

Yoongi thought so too, but, seeing Jin’s hands on the soft material, Yoongi felt his instincts balk and something in his throat seized. It was his, and it just now registered in him that other people shouldn’t be touching it.

Yoongi then realized that he was hissing, and he cut off the hiss before it could really start. However, it had lasted long enough that Jin and Namjoon were both looking at him in shock.

“Sorry,” Jin and Yoongi said at the same time.

Jin grinned, but then shook himself a little and sobered with a more serious look.

“Really. I’m sorry,” Jin said, stepping forward to hold the scarf out to Yoongi, who tried not to take it from Jin’s hands too quickly. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I didn’t realize...”

Jin trailed off and looked like he was fighting a grin.

Yoongi cleared his throat and looked away, feeling more heat rise to his face. He was definitely blushing now, as his instincts had just given him away. Omegas only acted territorial about a pre-courting gift when their instincts were very interested in the person who gave it to them. It usually meant that, instinctually, the Omega saw the person as a possible future mate.

This wasn’t news to Yoongi, but he knew that Jin and Namjoon had to be surprised that Yoongi’s instincts liked Jungkook. In the beginning of their friendship, Yoongi’s instincts had been very wary of the two of them, causing Yoongi to shy away whenever they got too near. Because you were touched starved, Yoongi could hear Jin saying in his head, and he had to stop himself from denying it out loud.

Yoongi chanced a glance at Namjoon, who had his lips pursed, his posture tight with tension. It was one thing for a pack Alpha to know that an Omega in their pack was being pre-courted by an interested party, which included no promises and wasn’t exclusive.

However, it was another thing entirely for a pack Alpha to know that the Omega in their pack reciprocated the interest, which usually led to courting. The fact that Jungkook was also a pack Alpha probably didn’t help the protective, territorial instincts that Namjoon was likely forcing down right now.

Pack alphas very rarely left their packs when they mated, which meant that, if they mated, Yoongi would need to join Jungkook’s pack rather than the other way around. And while Yoongi knew that Namjoon didn’t view Yoongi as an object that could be stolen, he also knew that Namjoon’s instincts felt possessive over him in a way that Namjoon couldn’t control.  

Namjoon’s posture relaxed, then he said, his tone serious, “I didn’t realize that your instincts saw him as a potential mate.”

Yoongi wanted to deny it, but then Namjoon looked pointedly down to where Yoongi was clutching Jungkook’s scarf to his chest like he thought someone would try to take it from him. Yoongi loosened his hold on it immediately when he felt how tight his grip was, but then sighed in defeat and hung his head.

“Yoongi,” Jin said gently, taking a few steps forward. “You know it’s a really good sign, right? To be protective of it? It’s okay that you don’t want us to touch it.”

Yoongi shook his head, then winced when he wasn’t sure what he was denying.

“I’m surprised,” Jin said when Yoongi made eye contact again, and his eyes seemed alarmingly clear for someone who had just drank an entire bottle of soju. It was making Yoongi wish that Jin was more drunk.

“But I’m glad,” Jin continued, “This boy... He must be good to you.”

The heat in Yoongi’s face got warmer at this when he realized that he couldn’t deny it without lying, and then warmer still when he found that he really had no desire no deny it at all. Jungkook was trying very hard to be considerate, and Yoongi appreciated it. He wasn’t about to tell someone else otherwise.

Yoongi shook his head again, trying to will his blush away, and said, “I’d rather not discuss it.”

Namjoon was still studying him, but he didn’t seem agitated anymore. If anything, he looked like he did when he was reading a really interesting book, like he was discovering something new.

Yoongi briefly wondered, if he could see his own face right now, if he was capable of looking at this from an outside perspective, what he would be discovering. He could use the guidance, as he felt completely lost in all this.

Jin pursed his lips, his eyes on Yoongi as well, but then nodded.

“Alright. Let’s talk another time,” Jin said, then he gestured to the scarf. “Do you want to wear it?”

Wearing the scarf would be embarrassing, but now that Yoongi was holding it, he didn’t want to put it back down.

Yoongi shrugged and said to Jin, “That was the deal, wasn’t it? This is mine, and you get to dress me in anything I own.”

Yoongi’s grip tightened on the scarf again, something about saying this is mine resonated through him, like a bell had just been rung in his gut, and his instincts took root in his stomach. He fought the sudden urge to bury his face in the scarf and scent it, unsure how to feel about the way his stomach burned hot at the idea.

But Jin shook his head and said, “Yoongi, come on. You know that I wouldn’t make you wear a pre-courting gift just because I won a game of rock, paper, scissors. That’s not my decision.”

Yoongi hesitated. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to wear it, but his instincts were balking at the idea of putting it down, and Yoongi was sick of fighting them. So he nodded, then turned towards the door without putting the scarf away and slipped into his Converse.

Jin and Namjoon followed without comment, but Yoongi didn’t like the grins they were both giving him as they went down the stairs and Yoongi wrapped the scarf around his neck. The material settled soft again his skin, and the light smell of wet earth and metal made his instincts settle into contentment.

“Shut up,” Yoongi said as Jin and Namjoon shared a glance. Jin laughed as Yoongi turned the handle on the door that led outside and used his foot to push it fully open.

At the blast of freezing air that met them, Jin said, “Damn, it’s cold.”

Yoongi nodded in agreement. Then Jin turned to Namjoon and continued, “Shame it’s on the one day that Yoongi won’t lend me his scarf.”

Jin laughed when Yoongi gave him a hard look.

“Not another word,” Yoongi said and Jin put up his hands in mock surrender.

Namjoon snorted, but his face quickly evened out into neutral when Yoongi turned to glare in his direction, too.

Yoongi shivered and tilted his chin down at a gust of wind, burrowing his lower face into the scarf. He had been right. It was warm. And it smelt nice.

When Jin noticed, he muffled laughter into the back of his hand, and Namjoon was pointedly not looking at him, which made Yoongi think that he was trying to hide a grin.

Yoongi pretended that they both didn’t exist while he held out a hand to hail a cab.

***

When they arrived at the Loophole, Yoongi checked the sign in front of the door as the bouncer waved them in and Jin laughed at the burly man’s reflective sunglasses. Creed liked to play a different genre of music every night, and he saw that tonight was an EDM night.

Yoongi knew Jin enjoyed dancing to EDM, so he started preparing himself to stay out late.

It was still early, not even ten o’clock, so the Loophole was only moderately busy as they stepped into the main area of the club. It smelt like beer and smoke, and there was a light haze of fog hovering in the air from people vaping.

Jin and Namjoon went to the bar to get drinks, veering towards where Creed was leaning over the bar to speak with a pair of young women. Yoongi quickly turned right and snagged one of the only empty high-tables left in the back of the room. He choose the chair that gave him a full view of the room, and resolutely decided on sitting there for the rest of the night.

He quickly got too warm, so Yoongi took his jacket off and hung it over the back of his chair, then carefully draped the scarf Jungkook had given him over it so it wouldn’t fall. Yoongi saw people spill beer here every time he came, and he had seen people throw up onto the floor on at least three occasions.

Creed tried to keep the Loophole clean, but there was only so much he could do. It was a club.

Yoongi didn’t want the scarf touching the floor and getting dirty, and he tried not to read into that as he settled in to wait for Jin and Namjoon. There was a small crowd between Yoongi and the bar, but he knew that his packmates would know where to find him.

The music was so loud that Yoongi couldn’t make out the conversation happening at the table next to him, so loud that he could feel the bass beat of the music in his chest, but Yoongi didn’t really mind. He knew the strange scents of Betas and Alphas that he didn’t know would eventually wear on him and agitate his instincts, but he could handle it.

Surprisingly, he sometimes actually enjoyed watching people dance in the Loophole. He liked the way the black walls glittered when the lights flashed. He liked how, in the right light and at the right moment, the glitter in the walls looked like stars—how it seemed like people were dancing in galaxies, with the black infinity of the universe stretching out far behind them.

He liked how time seemed to move slower here, but the people seemed to move faster. He liked how Creed would give him a nod of acknowledgement whenever they made eye contact from where Creed stood behind the bar. He liked how he could be on the outside, just watching, but still feel like he was a part of this place. He didn’t feel like he belonged exactly, but he didn’t feel like he didn’t belong either, and that had always been enough for him at the Loophole.

Namjoon and Jin joined him briefly at the table to take off their jackets and give Yoongi a beer, but then, at the insistence of Jin, Namjoon followed him onto the dance floor.

Yoongi sipped on his beer, nodded his head to the beat, and watched them dance, grinning to himself when Jin eventually harassed Namjoon into having what looked like a dance battle. A few songs later, Namjoon attempted to do a wild spin that had Jin laughing, and Yoongi laughed too.

Namjoon made eye contact with Yoongi and raised his beer in a distant cheers. Yoongi raised his beer a little in return, and they both drank.

Then Jin pulled Namjoon in closer and they danced in a half grind, leaning forward to shout in each other’s ears. To anyone who didn’t know them, Yoongi knew it would look like they were dating or courting. Yoongi himself had briefly thought that Jin and Namjoon were interested in each other romantically upon first seeing them interact.

However, Jin had been quick to tell him that neither of them had ever felt that way. They had met in elementary school when one of Namjoon’s cousins had courted one of Jin’s cousins, and their friendship had survived long past their cousins’ short relationship.

We were introduced as potential family, Jin had told him once, And that’s what we became.

Jin and Namjoon were so comfortable with each other, so close, that Yoongi used to be certain that he had nothing to offer either of them that they couldn’t give each other. But they’d become the best friends Yoongi had ever had without him even realizing it was happening, and he was still very honored that they’d so warmly welcomed him into their dynamic, that they’d each moved aside to make some space for him between them.

Yoongi eventually lost track of how many times Jin and Namjoon returned to the bar to get more beer. They spent a few minutes each time leaning over the counter to have short shouted conversations with Creed, who seemed to have gotten a new tattoo. Jin kept pointing at Creed’s upper arm, and Yoongi saw Creed wince once when Jin touched it.

Jin came back with another beer for Yoongi before Yoongi had finished his first and, after failing at convincing him onto the dance floor, Jin pouted his way back to Namjoon, who laughed at whatever Jin said when he reached him. The club was getting crowded enough that Yoongi kept losing sight them, but they always soon reappeared.

Eventually, Namjoon threw himself down on the chair next to Yoongi with a sigh. The club was packed now, and Yoongi could only see flashes of Jin through the mass of bodies. Everyone dancing was sweating, and it was filling Yoongi’s senses with so many unknown scents that his instincts were starting to get confused.

It was a relief when Namjoon’s scent of burning pine settled into the air around him. Yoongi watched a bead of sweat break from Namjoon’s hairline and trail down his face as the Alpha chugged the water he had just bought at the bar.

“I’m exhausted!” Namjoon shouted, panting. He rolled his shoulders and then slumped back against the chair. “I forgot how much Jin could dance!”

“It’s exhausting to watch, too!” Yoongi said, leaning forward so Namjoon could hear him, glancing over to where Jin had now convinced a complete stranger to do body rolls with him.

Namjoon checked on Jin too, then shook his head with a grin.

“He completely finished me!” Namjoon shouted, still panting, and another bead of sweat trailed down his face. The Alpha wiped it away with the back of his hand. “Wouldn’t let me go until I had admitted defeat!”

Yoongi laughed.

“How does he have so much energy?” Namjoon said, gesturing toward Jin with his beer. “It’s frightening!”

Yoongi laughed again, and watched Jin dance his way a little closer to them, switching dance partners like he was browsing through clothing at a store. Jin eventually ended up by the stage, and Yoongi was reminded of when he’d last performed here, of how Jungkook had watched him from one of these high tables.

He thought back, assessing the angles, wondering if Jungkook had been sitting at the table Yoongi was at now, maybe even in the very chair Yoongi was now in. It was possible, but he couldn’t be sure if it was his table or the one next to it.

He also remembered how Jungkook had looked at him on stage, how it had felt physical on his body, how Jungkook’s gaze had been dark in a way that Yoongi hadn’t seen before or since. He wondered what that look had meant, and he felt a rising blush when he realized it might have been desire, but his musing was cut short when he saw a flash of a familiar face.

Yoongi’s breath caught in his throat when he looked closer and made out Jungkook’s profile in the crowd on the dance floor, and he tore his gaze away before they could make eye contact. No. Maybe it hadn’t actually been him. Maybe Yoongi had just thought it was Jungkook because he was thinking about him.

Or maybe Yoongi had summoned him—like a rain dance or candlelight ritual. A spell gone too well.

Then his stomach dropped when Namjoon said, “It looks like Hoseok is here!”

Yoongi searched the crowd for Hoseok with a sinking feeling. If Hoseok was here, then he probably had actually seen Jungkook.

Yoongi found Hoseok in the crowd just as Hoseok and Taehyung found Jin. He watched as Hoseok shouted something into Jin’s ear, then as Jin jumped a few times and hugged Taehyung, who was laughing as the two of them stumbled back.

Jin pulled back yelling, and Taehyung laughed again, then looked around waved someone over until Yoongi saw Jimin appear through a gap in the crowd. Taehyung pulled Jimin in front of him as Hoseok leaned forward to introduce him to Jin.

Jin hugged Jimin too, who nodded with a small smile at something Jin shouted in his ear.

“Is that Taehyung and Jimin?” Namjoon asked Yoongi, who nodded, not taking his eyes off the scene. Jin made eye-contact with Yoongi in wide-eyed glee. Yoongi felt his face warm and he fidgeted in his seat. Because he knew that Jin had to be wondering if Jungkook was here too.

“Which one has the pink hair?” Namjoon asked, his voice sounding strained.

“Jimin,” Yoongi shouted back, glancing at Namjoon, who was staring across the room with a small grin, but there was something heavy in his gaze that Yoongi recognized. He’d known that Namjoon would be interested in Jimin, but he didn’t even have the time to feel good about being right about it—as he then caught another flash of Jungkook’s profile across the room by the bar. There was no denying that it was him.

“Fuck,” Yoongi said. Because Yoongi had his scarf. He’d told Jungkook that he would wear it, but he’d had no real intentions of Jungkook seeing him do it. And he’d been hoping to keep Jungkook away from Jin as long as possible.

Namjoon was laughing as Jin pointed at the courting bracelet visible on Taehyung’s arm and shouted something that made Taehyung smile and nod. Then Hoseok said something that had Taehyung and Jimin’s eyes widening, and Jimin bowed to Jin, Taehyung quickly following suit. As they straightened up, Jin hugged them both again with another laugh.

Jin was a touchy person to begin with, and Yoongi didn’t think that drunk Jin had any idea that the words ‘personal space’ even existed. Taehyung and Jimin didn’t seem to mind though, as they were both still grinning broadly.

Yoongi stopped watching, pushing away the thoughts that said this was how Omegas were supposed to be, that they were supposed to hug everyone in the room, stranger or friend, and not mind at all.

“Fuck,” he said again, this time to Namjoon, who winced and shrugged a shoulder in sympathy.

“It had to happen eventually!” Namjoon shouted.

Yoongi shook his head as Namjoon turned back towards where Jin was standing with Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jimin.

“They’re all looking over here!” Namjoon said, holding up a hand to wave.

“Damn,” Yoongi said. He looked back over just long enough to hold up a hand in greeting and avoid making eye-contact with anyone.

“I think they’re coming this way!” Namjoon said, looking warily at Yoongi, who groaned and scanned the crowd again. If they came over their table, odds were that Jungkook would too.

Yoongi shook his head, staring back at Namjoon and fighting a rising sense of panic. He clenched his hands into fists, unsure what to do with the new anxious energy.

“It’ll be fine!’ Namjoon said, looking amused.

“Jungkook is here!” Yoongi shouted back. Namjoon briefly tensed, then raised his eyebrows in question at Yoongi’s agitation and Yoongi had to elaborate. “I have his fucking scarf with me !”

Namjoon, only now seeming to remember this, laughed at Yoongi’s pained expression like an asshole.

“Fuck you!” Yoongi shouted, just as the group of four reached their table. Yoongi drank more of his beer to avoid looking at any of them as he heard Hoseok laugh, wishing he was drunker than he was.

“Namjoon!” Jin shouted, throwing an arm around Namjoon’s shoulder, “This is Taehyung and Jimin!”

Jimin and Taehyung both bowed to Namjoon, who returned it quickly. He almost knocked over his beer in the process, but Jin caught it before it could fully tip and set it gently back on the table.

Jimin and Taehyung both looked at Namjoon with interest, but Yoongi noticed that they were both trying to hide their greater interest in Yoongi himself.

Yoongi wondered what Jungkook had told them about him. He wondered how much they knew, how much they didn’t know, if they were learning something more as they both snuck glances at his face.

“And you know Yoongi!” Jin shouted, his words a little slurry, gesturing to Yoongi, and Jimin and Taehyung both gave him a bow, too. “I promise that he’s not as scary as he looks!”

Jimin and Taehyung both smiled at Yoongi, and Yoongi tried to return it.

“It’s good to see you, hyung,” Hoseok said, giving Yoongi a little wave. Hoseok was beaming at him, and Yoongi felt a natural grin coming to his face in spite of himself. Hoseok looked like he was in his element, still swaying slightly to the beat of the song, completely unphased when someone bumped into him as they passed by.

Even here, Hoseok was a portrait of joy and extroversion—and Yoongi felt like he was getting some of it the longer they shared a smile.

Jin threw an arm around Namjoon, then picked up Namjoon’s beer and chugged some of it. He was already a little drunk, so Yoongi found this concerning. He made eye contact with Namjoon, who then nodded picked up the water bottle on their table. Upon realizing it was empty, Namjoon handed it to Jin anyway, and Jin made a huge production of pretending to drink air.

Yoongi sighed in exasperation, wondering how drunk Namjoon was. It was usually hard to tell unless Namjoon was walking or within arms reach of something fragile.

But Jimin, Taehyung, and Hoseok all laughed as Jin slammed the empty water onto the table, panting like he had just chugged the whole thing in one go.

Then Jimin said, eyes on Yoongi, “It’s nice to meet you again!”

Yoongi nodded and raised his beer to Jimin, but he felt restless. He was expecting Jungkook to show up at any second, right when Jin was at his peak of being wasted. Yoongi knew his posture was verging on too straight, and his neck was starting to feel stiff.

Hoseok had slipped behind Taehyung and was hugging his waist like Yoongi had seen him do once in the Coffee Nook, and he winked at Yoongi with his chin over Taehyung’s shoulder when they made eye contact again.

“You look nice!” Jimin said, gesturing a hand in Yoongi’s direction.

“You do! You look hot!” Taehyung added, eyeing Yoongi up and down, ignoring when Jimin swatted at his arm. Yoongi looked down at his clothes, surprised at the compliment, and really looked at them for the first time. He supposed they did look nice. They were simple, a little revealing while still being modest.

He looked back up at Taehyung and smiled in thanks. The other Omega’s eyes were shining in amusement, like he found it funny that Yoongi was only studying his outfit now.

“Only because he lost a bet!” Jin shouted to Taehyung, who turned to Jin and smiled so widely that Yoongi could see all of his teeth.

Hoseok laughed, loud and high, and said, “Really?”

As Yoongi took in the redness in Hoseok’s cheeks and the way he kept tightening and then loosening his grip around Taehyung’s waist, he thought that Hoseok might be drunk, too.

Jimin was still looking at him, his eyes bright and curious, and Yoongi found it surprisingly easy to return his gaze.

“Really!” Jin said, gesturing towards Yoongi’s outfit again. “I got to dress him!”

“You did a good job!” Taehyung said to Jin, who nodded confidently in agreement in a way that made Taehyung laugh.

Jimin turned and briefly scanned the club, probably looking for Jungkook, and Taehyung was tilting his head to the side as Hoseok said something in his ear, grinning down at the floor.

Jin tried to lean his elbow on the table and almost missed, stumbling to keep his balance. Namjoon laughed and slapped his leg, finding this especially funny, but then suddenly stood.

“I’m going to get him a real water!” Namjoon shouted, banging his chair into the wall behind him as he moved past Jin, still chuckling to himself as he stumbled away in the wrong direction.

So Namjoon was definitely also drunk then. Yoongi wanted to bang his head against the table.

Jimin and Taehyung both watched Namjoon disappear into the dancers, looking bemused. Hoseok was unfazed, but he worked with Namjoon so Yoongi supposed that the Beta was very used to Namjoon’s clumsiness.

Then the song changed, and Jin cheered and clapped his hands, making Yoongi flinch at little at the sudden movement.

“I like this song! I’m going to go dance!” Jin shouted. Then he grabbed onto Hoseok’s arm and said, “Come with me!”

Jin pulled Hoseok after him without waiting for the other Beta’s reply, too drunk to realize that Hoseok had let out a shriek of surprise as he was forced to let go of Taehyung and stumble after him. Taehyung followed behind them, laughing and easily weaving through the crowd of dancers.

Yoongi expected Jimin to follow them too, but he stayed and stepped closer to Yoongi.

“Are you going to dance?” Jimin asked.

Jimin was wearing a black shirt that was transparent at the sleeves and at the line of his waist, and Yoongi caught the sharp V made by Jimin’s hip bones when he glanced down as Jimin stepped forward again.  

Jimin was standing closer than Yoongi was used to, but Yoongi found that he strangely didn’t mind. Yoongi had never spoken to him before, but something about Jimin, about the gentleness of his expression and the openness of his body language, seemed unwaveringly unthreatening and kind.

He seemed soft, like he had no hard edges that Yoongi needed to be worried about. Yoongi briefly wondered if Jimin’s hair felt as soft and fluffy as it looked.

Maybe Yoongi was drunk, too.

Yoongi shook his head and gestured towards the dance floor with his beer. “Too many people!’

Jimin nodded in understanding, looking briefly back into the crowd. When he turned back towards Yoongi, his gaze slid past him to the scarf on the back of Yoongi’s chair.

Yoongi tensed even more as Jimin’s eyes widened in recognition.

“Is that-?” Jimin began, reaching out a hand toward the scarf.

And Yoongi was going to let him touch it. He really was.

But then his instincts balked and he had a hand on Jimin’s wrist before his fingers could graze the fabric, squeezing gently to stop the other Omega from reaching farther forward.

“Sorry,” Yoongi said, meeting Jimin’s widened eyes, “but I would prefer if you didn’t touch it.”

“Oh,” Jimin said, retracting his hand. He was speaking so softly that Yoongi couldn’t hear him over the music, but he could read the words on Jimin’s lips. “You...”

Yoongi fidgeted as Jimin paused, embarrassed but glad that he at least hadn’t hissed at Jimin.

“What?” Yoongi prompted. He fought the urge from his instincts to shift in his seat so that Jimin couldn’t even see the scarf at all anymore.

“I just didn’t think you liked him!” Jimin said, and his surprise was still evident in his expression, his mouth slightly parted.

Yoongi opened his mouth to deny that he liked Jungkook, but he didn’t want to say anything that he didn’t mean. And, at that moment, he had no idea how he felt about Jungkook at all.

Jimin was studying him closer now, and the other Omega’s eyes were flicking from the scarf to Yoongi and back again. As Yoongi continued to meet his gaze, something in Jimin’s eyes softened.

“I’m relieved!” Jimin said with an easy smile.

Yoongi wished he was relieved about it himself. He wished there wasn’t a part of him that was hesitant and a little terrified.

Then Jimin put a hand on Yoongi’s on the table, and gently turned Yoongi’s hand over so that he was holding the inside of Yoongi’s wrist. Surprised at being touched, Yoongi found himself gripping Jimin’s wrist back on instinct. Jimin paused, his smile widening, and then his hand went further up Yoongi’s arm until the skin of their inner wrists were against each other.

As a warm feeling spread up through Yoongi from his wrist, he blinked in surprise, only now catching up with his instincts. Jimin had gripped his wrist in a formal invitation of friendship and trust, Omega to Omega, and Yoongi had accepted by gripping back.

They were now scent-bonding.

The main scent glands in the body were located at the base of the neck, but there were also very small scent glands in the inner wrist, big enough that people who wore scent blockers also had to put them on their wrists if they wanted them to be completely effective.

If you rubbed your inner wrist on something, your scent would slightly linger there, though not as potently as if you had actually scented it. If you put your inner wrist against someone else’s and held it there, your two scents would combine, seeping through skin—a scenting that created a small bond that could soothe any instinctive distrust in a way that couldn’t be replicated at the neck, not even with a mating bond.

Scent-bonding was something that people only did with others of the same dynamic. It made your instincts less wary of each other, more trusting, which could be easily abused on accident if one person was a higher dynamic. It was usually only done between very close friends or packmates.

Yoongi had never done it before, had never thought he would, but he could feel the way his instincts were warming towards Jimin, feel the way something about him now whispered friend.

Yoongi broke the hold first, gently pulling back his hand, and Jimin let him go immediately. Yoongi was used to his instincts being hesitant with people at first, at least until they had proven themselves trustworthy, so it was odd to look at Jimin and trust him without doubts.

He’d heard of people who scent-bonded for hours, as it wore off almost as quickly as it was made, but increased in intensity. His scent-bond with Jimin was already fading slowly, and Yoongi couldn’t imagine how it would feel when done for a long time.

Yoongi stared at the other Omega, who was grinning at him and biting his lip, and he couldn’t bring himself to react negatively. It wasn’t a bad feeling, just disconcerting.

He almost laughed. Damn these kids. He hoped Jimin wouldn’t join Jungkook in his tendency to constantly catch Yoongi off guard.

Jimin seemed shy about the scent-bonding. He toed the ground with one of his shiny black shoes and looked away towards the bar. Then his eyes widened.

“And that’s my cue!” Jimin shouted, stepping back. “I’ll see you later, Yoongi-si!”

Yoongi frowned, looking over to where Jimin’s gaze had been, and he could see Jungkook approaching his table. Yoongi turned back quickly to tell Jimin to stay, but Jimin had somehow melted into the crowd in a manner of seconds, leaving Yoongi with no buffer as Jungkook reached his table.

“Hi!” Jungkook said, and Yoongi nodded in greeting. Jungkook had nothing but a water again, and Yoongi briefly wondered if the Alpha ever drank alcohol. He made eye contact, and something in Jungkook’s gaze had heat flashing up Yoongi’s spine.

Feeling his face warm, Yoongi looked down to avoid the feeling of being studied. The grey flooring was flickering constantly with the shadows of people dancing in the flashing lights of the Loophole, and Yoongi briefly admired the affect.

The Alpha was still wearing the Timberlands that Yoongi had seen him in before, and noticed this time that they looked worn-in, like Jungkook wore them a lot.

Yoongi swore that he could feel Jungkook’s gaze on the skin of his neck and collarbones, then felt it travel to the exposed skin of his thigh. Yoongi took a deep breath, and he slowly trailed his gaze up, past the Alpha’s jeans.

Jungkook was wearing a plain white shirt, and Yoongi was once again met with the realization that Jungkook very obviously worked out as Yoongi’s eyes trailed further up past the muscles of his arms.

He wondered when Jungkook found the time to work out, if he had to get up early or stay up late to get the definition he had. Being an Alpha helped people gain muscle, but not even Alphas got muscle definition without trying.

By the time Yoongi’s eyes made his way back to Jungkook’s face again, the air around him already smelt like rain and well-worn metal. It was different from the way Namjoon’s familiar smell of burning pine had been a relief from the mess of scents that filled the club. Jungkook’s scent took up more of his focus, and was a comfort to him in a way that Yoongi didn’t want to analyze.

Jungkook wasn’t looking at him, but at the scarf on the back of Yoongi’s chair. He looked surprised to see it there, but his mouth curled up into a small pleased smile as his eyes met Yoongi’s again.

Yoongi tried not to wince as Jungkook opened his mouth to speak and, when Jungkook leaned forward so Yoongi could hear him, Yoongi tried not to shiver when he felt Jungkook’s breath hitting his cheek.

“I didn’t expect to see you here on a Friday!” Jungkook shouted.

Yoongi was relieved that it seemed like Jungkook wasn’t going to mention the scarf, and some of the tension in his stomach uncoiled.

Yoongi nodded in agreement. He also hadn’t expected to be here. He preferred to come on Wednesday evenings, when the crowds were smaller and he could perform or listen to live artists.

“My packmate got a promotion! We’re celebrating!” Yoongi shouted.

Jungkook grinned, but Yoongi saw his eyes flick briefly to the empty chairs at Yoongi’s table, like he was wondering where Jin and Namjoon were.

“Well, it’s more like my packmates are celebrating,” Yoongi amended. “And I’m just begrudgingly watching.”

Jungkook let out a surprised laugh, and gestured to the empty chair at Yoongi’s table in silent question. Yoongi nodded, and Jungkook slowly sat down. Yoongi noticed that the Alpha was lightly sweating, and Yoongi wondered how long Jungkook and his pack had been in the Loophole without Yoongi noticing.

Jungkook put his elbow on the table and leaned his chin on his open palm, his eyes studying Yoongi for a few moments, and then looking away when Yoongi fidgeted at the attention. The Alpha’s eyes scanned through the crowd, and Yoongi expected Jungkook to speak again, but relaxed as the silence between them dragged on.

Yoongi liked people who didn’t feel the need to talk all the time. It was something he really appreciated in Namjoon, who could sit in the same room as Yoongi and not speak to him for hours. Yoongi found himself getting more comfortable the longer that Jungkook was silent, and his instincts grew more and more content at the continued proximity.

Jungkook’s elbow was so close to Yoongi’s that Yoongi could feel the heat of it, but he knew Jungkook wouldn’t touch him. He realized that he actually really liked that, at least when it came to physical contact, he didn’t have to worry about being caught off guard.

He was surprised that he not only didn’t mind the outdated pre-courting practices that Jungkook was adhering to, but found them comforting. Maybe their ancestors had been onto something.

With the mix of scents muted by Jungkook’s scent next to him, Yoongi actually found himself in a better mood as he watched Jin dance with Hoseok and Taehyung, slightly baffled at how the Beta could dance with a couple and not feel awkward about it.

Yoongi saw a flash of Jimin’s pink hair a few people over, and saw that he was dancing with a boy Yoongi didn’t recognize. The other boy kept dancing closer, and Jimin kept putting up a hand to push him back away. Jimin was laughing, but Yoongi frowned at the invasion of the Omega’s personal space.

Stealing a glance at Jungkook, Yoongi saw that he also seemed to be watching Jimin carefully. The Alpha didn’t look too worried, so Yoongi didn’t say anything.

But then the boy Jimin was dancing with grabbed Jimin’s arm and dragged him forward, shouting something in the Omega’s ear that had Jimin shoving him away and shaking his head. Jimin jerked his arm out of the boy’s grip, stepping back, but the boy followed.

Jimin was glaring, and he shouted something that had the people dancing next to him glancing over in concern. Yoongi was getting concerned, too. Jimin seemed so kind and open, and maybe it was the lingering traces of their brief scent-bond, but Yoongi hated that someone was bothering him more than he usually did when he saw someone getting harassed.

Yoongi looked at Jungkook again, but the Alpha still seemed calm, though he was scowling deeply. Yoongi had never seen a hint of anger on Jungkook’s face before, and he looked surprisingly intimidating in comparison the wide-eyed, nervous Jungkook Yoongi was used to interacting with.

“If he wants help, he’ll let me know,” Jungkook said just loud enough for Yoongi to hear, and Yoongi realized that he had been the one staring this time.

Yoongi nodded and forced his gaze away from Jungkook. He knew it had to be difficult for Jungkook to remain sitting here, watching an Omega of his pack in a confrontation, but he appreciated that Jungkook was allowing Jimin the chance to handle it himself.

The boy Jimin had been dancing with shouted something else and reached forward again, but Jimin shoved his hand away, stepping back. It looked like he was hissing, but the other boy still followed.

The Omega looked furious and he reached out, not forward toward the boy but sideways, stretching out a hand in the direction of the table that Yoongi was sitting at with Jungkook.

Jungkook was halfway across the room before Yoongi had even registered that he had moved, and Jungkook clasped Jimin’s outstretched hand a few seconds later. Yoongi couldn’t see Jungkook’s face, but he said or did something that had the boy harassing Jimin cowering back.

Jimin shook his head and tugged Jungkook in the direction of Yoongi’s table, leaning up to say something in the Alpha’s ear, and Jungkook went easily, his face set into a deep frown.

Jimin looked a little embarrassed as he and Jungkook reached the table, and Yoongi gave him a small smile. He didn’t think that the Omega needed to be embarrassed at all.

“Fuck him,” Yoongi said, gesturing with his beer towards where Jimin had been dancing with the other boy. “You alright?”

“Yeah, I’m alright,” Jimin said, nodding, glancing behind him like he was making sure that the boy hadn’t followed them.

Jungkook set both his hands on his hips, squeezing his eyes shut and taking deep breaths. It looked like he was trying to calm himself down, and it made Yoongi wonder if the boy who had been harassing Jimin had been an Alpha, too.

Jimin was panting and sweating like he had been dancing his heart out, and Jimin grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled it back and forth to try to cool down. Yoongi got a good wave of Jimin’s scent for the first time, and he found he quite liked it.

It was usually nice to smell a fellow Omega, unthreatening and familiar, but Jimin’s scent was pleasing. He smelt like baking bread, fresh lemon zest, and warm grass. It was the kind of scent that made Yoongi think of early spring.

Jungkook sat back down without a word, looking tense, and Jimin assessed him briefly before turning away again, looking out into the crowd.

“Where’s Tae?” Jimin asked.

“He’s over there!” Yoongi said, leaning forward to point past Jimin’s shoulder to where Taehyung was still dancing with Hoseok and Jin.

Jimin bit his lip as he watched Taehyung, Hoseok, and Jin dance. Taehyung was lightly grinding against Hoseok, who looked like he was giggling into the Omega’s ear with his hands lightly on his waist. Jimin grinned as Jin attempted to do a slut drop, and then grinned wider when Taehyung threw back his head and laughed as Jin seemed to try to be convincing him to do the same.

But then Jimin’s expression sobered again and he glanced at Jungkook. Something passed between their gazes, a moment of silent communication that Yoongi couldn’t follow.

Then Jungkook asked Jimin, “Do you want to go?”

Jimin nodded, biting his lip and looking guilty, and Jungkook took out his phone immediately. Yoongi thought it made sense that Jimin would want to leave, that the Omega’s instincts would be telling him to get to an area where he felt safe, away from any sense of danger.

Yoongi pushed down how his own instincts were hesitant about Jungkook leaving and took a sip of his beer as he watched Jungkook send a text. He was impressed with how Jungkook had handled that, how the Alpha wasn’t showing any further agitation now. Jungkook was almost acting like Jimin hadn’t been harassed at all, but his eyes kept flicking up to Jimin, like he was concerned, and he kept scanning the area around the table like he was looking for a threat.

Jungkook set his phone on the table once he sent his message and turned to Yoongi.

“We’re probably going to leave!” Jungkook said.

“I’m sorry!” Jimin said, and Yoongi shook his head.

Before Yoongi could tell Jimin that he didn’t need to be sorry, he flinched back as Jimin was almost tackled to the floor by Taehyung from behind. Jimin stumbled and laughed once he caught his balance.

“What happened?” Taehyung asked, waving his lit-up phone screen in front of Jimin, briefly casting the Omega’s face in blue-white light.

“Later!” Jimin said, shaking his head.

Taehyung shrugged and then nuzzled his face into Jimin’s hair, saying something into Jimin’s ear that had the Omega nodding, then turning around to hug his packmate.

Hoseok joined them at their table, too, ruffling Jimin’s hair. Jimin turned his head to pout his lower lip out at Hoseok, and Taehyung giggled and immediately started fixing Jimin’s mussed-up hair.

Looking at them, Yoongi reminded of what Jungkook had said to him outside of the Coffee Nook. We all get along really well. It seemed like it was true.

Jungkook, Jimin, Taehyung, and Hoseok had left their things in one of the lockers by the front door, and Hoseok left to go get them. Jimin and Taehyung were still hugging each other when he got back, and this must not be unusual because Hoseok didn’t seem phased at all as he passed them their winter jackets.

As Jimin and Taehyung put on their jackets, Yoongi caught sight of Jin and Namjoon over Hoseok’s shoulder. They were both standing a few paces away, clutching bottles of water and watching them.

Jin’s sharp eyes were on Jungkook as the Alpha stood and put on his coat, and he looked ready to run over, but Yoongi was touched that he didn’t. Even drunk, Jin seemed to be waiting for Yoongi’s permission before introducing himself.

Yoongi hesitated as Jin made eye contact with him, but then nodded, putting up a hand to gesture him and Namjoon over. Jungkook was about to leave anyway.

Jungkook’s eyes widened once Jin and Namjoon reached them, his posture straightening. He glanced at Yoongi nervously, and Yoongi had no idea what his expression looked like, but it seemed to make the Alpha even more nervous.

“Jungkook, right?” Namjoon asked, holding out a hand for Jungkook to shake.

Jungkook nodded and seemed to take Namjoon’s hand only on reflex, as it fell like a dead weight once Namjoon shook and released it.

“I’m Namjoon,” Namjoon said, “and this is Jin. We’re Yoongi’s pack.”

Jungkook nodded again, glancing briefly at Jin, but seemed at a loss for words. Jin looked amused at Jungkook’s deer-in-the-headlights stare.

“Are you leaving?” Jin asked Hoseok, who nodded, and Jungkook relaxed when all the attention was taken off him.

“Jimin got harassed!” Hoseok said.

Namjoon’s gaze snapped away from Jungkook to Jimin in concern. Jimin looked suddenly shy, then hid his face against Taehyung’s chest, making his muffled, “I’m fine!” unconvincing.

“Besides, it’s snack time!” Taehyung said, petting Jimin’s hair and looking down fondly. Jimin started rubbing his face back and forth against Taehyung’s shirt in an obvious scenting that Yoongi couldn’t ever imagine doing in public.

“We’ll go, too!” Jin shouted, reaching for his own jacket where it was hanging on the back of the chair across from Yoongi. Yoongi raised his eyebrows in surprise and alarm—he’d thought Jin would dance for at least another hour.

“Besides,” Jin said, gesturing towards Jungkook with his water bottle, “I want to talk to this one somewhere where I don’t have to shout!”

Jungkook’s eyes widened at being addressed and Namjoon tensed briefly, but then nodded in agreement. Jin looked like he was holding back laughter as Jungkook looked nervously at Yoongi again for help, but Yoongi had no idea how to save either of them.

Yoongi shook his head as everyone around him continued getting ready to leave. Yoongi slowly stood, not looking at anyone as he put on his jacket and the scarf Jungkook had given him. His movements felt slow, and he wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or the dread.

Yoongi had no idea what Jin was going to say to Jungkook, but Yoongi couldn’t think of anything Jin could say or ask that wouldn’t be embarrassing as he pushed in his chair. He ignored how Jimin was now looking at him and Jungkook in sympathy.

Jin led the way out of the club and, despite his dread, Yoongi was glad to step out into the cold fresh air. Yoongi could feel Jungkook’s eyes on him, on the scarf around his neck, and he was glad the cold evening excused the blush rising in his face.

“So,” Jin said once they all stepped out of the door, “someone mentioned snacks?”

***

And that’s how Yoongi ended up sitting across from a terrified-looking Jeon Jungkook at 2am on a Saturday morning at a twenty-four hour burger joint.

The group of seven had split a long table with Yoongi, Jin, and Namjoon on one side and Jungkook, Jimin, Taehyung, and Hoseok on the other. The table had ten chairs, but Yoongi thought it felt too full with just the seven of them.

Yoongi could tell that Jin was enjoying himself as they waited for their food, and Yoongi wanted to kick him. Jungkook still hadn’t spoken, and he kept giving Yoongi, Jin, and Namjoon wide-eyed looks, like he couldn’t believe that any of them were there.

Taehyung was talking about something that had happened in his photography class earlier that day, something about someone misunderstanding an assignment, and Namjoon and Jin were listening with polite interest. Yoongi couldn’t make himself pay attention, and he had no idea why Hoseok and Jin were laughing at the end of the story.

When their food arrived, Yoongi stared down at his burger, wondering why he had ordered it when he wasn’t hungry.

“Alright,” Hoseok said loudly after a few minutes of eating in silence, making everyone look at him. “What’s going on? I’m missing something.”

“What do you mean?” Jin asked, picking up and taking a bite off the end of a fry.

“Why is everyone so quiet?” Hoseok asked.

Betas didn’t do well with underlying tension, as it agitated their instincts to keep the peace. And most people’s instincts were magnified by alcohol, so the tension had probably been grating on Hoseok all night.

Yoongi looked at Jungkook curiously. From Jimin’s reaction to the scarf, it had been obvious that Jungkook had told him. But Taehyung also looked confused, so maybe Taehyung and Hoseok had no idea that Jungkook and Yoongi were pre-courting.

Jimin winced and glanced at Jungkook, who looked at Yoongi in question, his eyes flicking to Jin and Namjoon. Yoongi realized that Jungkook didn’t want to reveal anything to Yoongi’s pack that Yoongi didn’t want them to know, and he sighed.

“None of it’s a secret,” Yoongi said softly, and Jungkook nodded, too many times and too quickly. He appreciated that Jungkook had only seemed to have told Jimin, but it was unnecessary.

“What’s not a secret?” Hoseok asked, glancing around the table. Taehyung was pouting at Jimin, who was biting his lip again.

Yoongi fidgeted in search of how to phrase a reply, his face warming. He didn’t want to discuss it.

Then Namjoon cleared his throat and said, “Jungkook is officially pre-courting Yoongi.”

This statement was met with more silence, during which Yoongi pointedly stared at the table.

“What do you mean officially?” Hoseok asked. “It’s a little late, isn’t it?”

“With Yoongi’s knowledge and consent,” Namjoon clarified.

Yoongi heard Taehyung turn to Jimin and whine, “You knew about this?” and then some shushing.

“What do you mean late?” Jin asked.

“I mean, Jungkook has been pre-courting him for weeks,” Hoseok said. Yoongi adjusted in his chair. His face was warm enough that he was definitely blushing now.

“Weeks?” Jin repeated.

“Yeah. Since finals last semester. The umbrella? The coffee?” Hoseok said, like he was just nudging at Jin and Namjoon’s memory.

Yoongi grimaced at this. He’d forgotten he hadn’t told Jin and Namjoon about the umbrella or the coffee.

“Coffee? What umbrella?Jin asked. “I only know about the scarf.”

“What scarf?” Hoseok asked.

Yoongi buried his face in his hands, because he was currently wearing the scarf.

Yoongi knew he hadn’t exactly been forthright about everything, and he didn’t really care if Jin and Hoseok caught each other up about the pre-courting when he wasn’t there. However, he didn’t want to sit here and listen to it, especially with Jungkook across the table from him.

He could feel Jungkook’s eyes on him, like physical touch on the back of his hands, and he wanted to whine. He wanted to get up and leave, and only deal with these idiots when they were all sober enough to be considerate.

“I think that’s enough,” Jungkook suddenly said, his voice firmer than Yoongi would have expected. “You’re making him uncomfortable.”

“Oh... I’m sorry,” Hoseok said after a pause, sounding sad, and Yoongi could feel Jin rub his arm.

“Yoongi-” Jin began, but Yoongi used one hand to wave off the apologies.

While not necessarily enjoying the attention, Yoongi was relieved that conversation at least hadn’t gone any further.

“Besides,” Jungkook said, “I thought we came here so that you could talk to me.”

Yoongi looked up at Jungkook, surprised that he would put himself so directly into a line of questioning. Jungkook was looking determinedly at Jin, who was appraising him with a serious look.

“You’re right,” Jin said to Jungkook, but then he turned to look at Yoongi, his eyes silently asking for permission. Yoongi hesitated, but then nodded in resignation. Jin would get his time to question Jungkook eventually, and Yoongi thought it would actually be easier on Jungkook if Yoongi was there to censor it with his presence.  

Jin leaned down to get a better look into Yoongi’s eyes, but then nodded at what he saw there.

“Okay, it’s fine with Yoongi,” Jin said, clapping his hands together and turning back to Jungkook. Then he pointed a finger at him. “But is this alright with you? Remember that I’m still mostly drunk.”

Jungkook looked surprised at being asked this, but his face settled into a small smile as he nodded.

“Are you drunk?” Jin asked Jungkook, a small smile growing on his face, too. “We shouldn’t do this now if you’re drunk.”

Jungkook blinked in surprise, but then smiled again. It seemed like he appreciated Jin’s consideration.

“No,” Jungkook said, shaking his head. “I don’t drink when we go out.”

“That’s smart,” Jin said, nodding. “It’s safer when someone stays sober.”

Jin gestured to Yoongi and said, “Yoongi is our sober friend.”

At Jungkook’s frown of confusion, because all of them had seen Yoongi drinking beer, Jin corrected himself. “Mostly-sober friend.”

Jungkook nodded in understanding at the clarification and Jin folded his hands in front of himself with a grin.

Namjoon was settled back like he planned on just listening, and Jimin and Taehyung were watching Jin and Jungkook with matching small smiles, like they both expected to be entertained.

But Hoseok was looking at Yoongi, sulking a bit. He brightened only when Yoongi gave him a grin of reassurance. Yoongi didn’t want him to feel guilty for getting caught up in gossiping with Jin. He understood that they had all been drinking.

“Well, getting to my questions...” Jin tilted his head to the side as he considered Jungkook, who straightened up. “Let’s just start with the basics. How old are you?”

“I turned eighteen in September,” Jungkook said softly.

Yoongi felt his own eyes widen at that. He had thought that Jungkook was nineteen, or at least turning nineteen soon. If Jungkook had turned eighteen in September, then that meant that Yoongi would be five years older than him when he turned twenty-three in March.

Yoongi didn’t know how he felt about that, but he had never been one to put much stock into age. He thought that maturity was measured in actions, not in the pages of a calendar.

Jin also didn’t seem too phased at this, but he did take a moment to blink in surprise.

“So you started college early?” Jin asked.

“I skipped a grade in elementary school,” Jungkook said with a shrug, but then he suddenly turned to nervously look at Yoongi, like he expected Yoongi to react negatively to his age, like it was just now occurring to him that it might be an issue.

Yoongi shrugged back, hopefully relaying that he didn’t really care. Five was only one number away from four, after all. Even if Yoongi did care about age, he doubted that he would ask Jungkook to stop pre-courting him just because of one year. Jungkook relaxed again with a small smile.

Jin nodded a few times and said, “Namjoon skipped a year, too.”

Jungkook looked curiously at Namjoon, but then looked quickly back at Jin when he laughed.

“So he really is a baby fresh from the womb,” Jin said to Yoongi.

Jungkook blushed, and Yoongi thought he might be blushing, too. Jimin giggled at this and asked Yoongi, “You called him a baby?”

No, ” Yoongi said, maybe too adamantly, because the corner of Hoseok’s mouth twitched. “Jin called him a baby, which he’s not.

Yoongi turned to glare at Jin, who was grinning at him.

“Did you have more questions?” Jungkook asked Jin, who quickly nodded and turned back to Jungkook. Yoongi felt tension leaving him as the subject was dropped. Jungkook studied him as Jin thought about his next question, which made Yoongi think that the Alpha was still worried about Yoongi being uncomfortable.

“Where did you grow up?” Jin asked.

Jungkook looked back at Jin and said, “I grew up in Busan.”

“Any siblings?” Jin asked.

“No, but our parents are best friends,” Jungkook said, gesturing between himself and Jimin, “and we grew up in the same pack.”

Jin nodded, his eyes flicking to Namjoon. He and Namjoon hadn’t grown up in the same pack, but Yoongi could see the parallels that Jin was drawing between his relationship with Namjoon and Jungkook’s relationship with Jimin.

“How far apart are you in age?” Jin asked.

“Two years,” Jungkook said. “Jimin and Taehyung are both in their second year.”

“We met in college,” Jimin added, gesturing between himself and Taehyung.

“We actually have a similar story,” Jin said, gesturing between himself, Namjoon, and Yoongi.

“Namjoon and I weren’t pack, but we were childhood friends and I’m also two years older,” Jin said. “And we met Yoongi in college.”

“Why did you skip a grade?” Jimin asked Namjoon.

Namjoon cleared his throat, blinking at Jimin, looking shocked that the Omega was speaking to him.

“He’s annoyingly smart,” Jin said. “He skipped a grade in middle school and still tested in the top one percent when he took his college entrance exams.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened again at this, and Jimin and Taehyung looked surprised, too. Hoseok was staring at Namjoon with raised eyebrows, like this was news to him as well. Jimin recovered first and said, “That’s impressive.”

Namjoon cleared his throat again and shrugged, his face reddening.

“Jungkook skipped a grade because I hated going to my middle school alone,” Jimin said, looking down shyly. “He decided all on his own, then worked really hard and graduated elementary school early so I didn’t have to go alone another year.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet,” Jin cooed, looking like he wanted to reach across the table and hug Jimin. Jimin nodded and hid his face against Jungkook’s arm.

“Your family pack must be close,” Namjoon said, “like killer whales.”

Yoongi sighed deeply and Jin turned away from Namjoon, shaking his head.

Jimin peeked at Namjoon, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Taehyung muffled laughter into his palm, like he wasn’t sure if it was a poorly told joke or not. Yoongi wished it was.

“Killer whales?” Jungkook repeated, frowning.

“Yeah,” Namjoon said, looking earnestly around like he was waiting for someone to nod in agreement, “Killer whales form bonds so strong that they rarely separate from each other for more than a few hours.”

“That’s...” Jimin began, but then paused, looking unsure how to continue. “That’s nice.”

“This is actually a good lesson for all of you,” Jin said after a long silence, gesturing to Jungkook, Jimin, and Taehyung. “Everything is about whales when you talk with Namjoon.”

“Not everything,” Namjoon said, crossing his arms, and Hoseok laughed loudly at his denial. Namjoon frowned at him.

“How can you deny it?” Hoseok asked, turning to giggle into Taehyung’s hair, who grabbed one of Hoseok’s hands and pulled it into his lap, grinning. Yoongi smiled at them, glad that Hoseok seemed to have found someone as equally tactile and full of life.

Everything,” Jin repeated in mock seriousness. “Against my will, I know so so much about whales, way more than I ever wanted to know. I could probably tell you more about whales than a marine biologist.

Jimin giggled and Yoongi laughed to himself, nodding in silent agreement. Yoongi made eye contact with Jungkook, who was smiling softly at him. Yoongi swallowed nervously at the attention, feeling heat rise to his face as he was reminded why they were all here in the first place.

Then Jungkook’s gaze settled on the scarf still around Yoongi’s neck and lingered there. Yoongi brought up a hand to it without thinking, clenching it into the fabric, and he felt his breath quicken when Jungkook made eye contact with him again, his gaze a little darker.

Yoongi felt pinned to his seat as they stared at each other, felt his mouth part open and closed it again when Jungkook’s gaze moved there instead.

Then Jimin asked Jin, “Do you go to our college, too?” and Jungkook’s gaze snapped away again to focus on Jin.

Yoongi took a deep breath, and glanced around the table. No one seemed to have caught that moment except Taehyung, who looked back at Yoongi with his eyebrows raised, then let out his breath in a silent whistle. Blushing, Yoongi looked away and forced himself to let go of the scarf.

“No,” Jin said, shaking his head. “I went to culinary school, and graduated about a year ago.”

“Where do you work?” Jimin asked.

“I actually own a bakery now,” Jin said, and Yoongi couldn’t help but grin as the Beta sat up a little straighter.

“It’s what we were celebrating,” Yoongi added, briefly making eye contact with Jungkook again, ignoring the way heat burned through his stomach as he did so.

“Congratulations. We’ll have to visit,” Jimin said, putting his hands together in soundless little claps.

“Please do,” Jin said, smiling back at Jimin, “but I’ll most likely be changing things soon. I want to come up with a concept and a new name. Maybe redecorate.”

“Ooh, let me know if you need help,” Taehyung said from where he was now leaning his head against Hoseok’s shoulder, looking sleepy. “I like decorating.”

“I will, thank you,” Jin said, looking surprised at the offer. “You’re an Art major, right?”

Taehyung nodded and said, “Art and Photography.” He gave Jin finger guns that made Namjoon snort, and sighed, his eyes drifting closed, then open again. “Kookie is a double major, too.”

“Kookie?” Jin repeated, turning to look at Jungkook.

Jungkook pursed his lips like he wanted to deny the nickname, but nodded.

Jin laughed a little, then asked, “What’s your other major?”

“I’m majoring in Dance and Film,” Jungkook said.

“So you like watching films? Making films?” Jin asked Jungkook.

“Both,” Jungkook said, “but I like making them more and more as I get older.”

Jin nodded a few times and then asked, “Do you have any other hobbies?”

Jungkook shrugged and said, “Video games? And I like to draw.”

Yoongi briefly wondered what Jungkook liked to draw—if he drew nature or people or well-placed bowls of fruit.

“Which video games?” Jin asked, leaning forward. Jin hadn’t played many video games while he was in school, but Yoongi knew that he was picking them up again now that he was less busy.

“All of them,” Jungkook said immediately, looking earnest, which made Jin laugh. Yoongi felt a smile creeping onto his own face.

“What’s your favorite video game?” Jin asked.

“It changes. Right now I really like Overwatch,” Jungkook said, gesturing to his packmates. “We play it together sometimes.”

Taehyung nodded, his eyes closed now. He looked seconds away from falling asleep. Jimin nodded too and said, “But I’m not very good.”

“I’m not really sure what Overwatch is,” Namjoon said softly, “so you have me beat.”

Jimin shrunk back a little, smiling shyly, and Taehyung reached out blindly, his hand poking Jimin in the chin, then he patted his way blindly up Jimin’s face before settling his hand into his hair.

“Don’t say you’re bad, Jiminie,” Taehyung said, his eyes still closed, gently stroking Jimin’s hair as Hoseok nodded in agreement. “Kookie and I just play too much.”

Nicknames like the ones Jungkook’s pack were using usually made Yoongi cringe, but he found himself feeling oddly fond as Jimin nodded, biting his lip and turning back towards Jungkook’s arm like he was considering hiding his face again.

Yoongi was surprised that Jimin could be so shy, and yet still so open and honest. He had asked to scent-bond Yoongi without hesitation, but now seemed shy about his skill in a video game. The contrast was endearing.

“I love the Mario universe,” Jin said to Jungkook. “Have you played any of those?”

“Yes, I’ve played most of those,” Jungkook said, nodding. “I really like Mario Kart.”

“Me, too,” Taehyung said, raising the hand he still had clasped with Hoseok’s so he wouldn’t have to take his hand out of Jimin’s hair. Hoseok grinned and leaned the side of his face against the top of Taehyung’s head.

“Who is your favorite character to play?” Jin asked.

“In Mario Kart?” Jungkook asked, and Jin nodded.

“I like to play Princess Peach,” Jin said.

“I like Yoshi,” Taehyung said, eyes still closed. Then he patted Jimin on the head a few times. “And Jiminie likes Baby Mario.”

Jimin nodded and said, “He’s cute.”

“He’s adorable,” Jin agreed, then he turned to Jungkook expectantly.

“I switch it up, but I think I play Toad the most,” Jungkook said, and Taehyung was slowly nodding along.

Jin nodded seriously, then leaned farther across the table and said, “I now have my most important question for you, yet.”

Jungkook’s eyes went wide, his posture straightening again, and Yoongi tensed, nervous about what Jin would ask, but then the Beta said, “Why couldn’t Toad fit an indoor swimming pool in his house?”

Yoongi groaned, leaning his head back in annoyance.

“What?” Jungkook asked, looking bewildered.

“Why couldn’t Toad fit an indoor swimming pool in his house?” Jin repeated.

“I don’t know. Why?” Jimin asked, smiling as he played along.

“Because he didn’t have mush-room,” Jin said, and, at seeing Jungkook’s still bewildered expression, he started to laugh. Jimin joined in, covering his mouth with one hand, while Yoongi shook his head in disbelief and Namjoon snorted.

“You find that funny?” Yoongi asked Jimin, who nodded, his eyes crinkled at the corners.

“Sorry,” Jin said to Jungkook, wiping his eyes. “I know my Mario jokes are Fawful.”

Then Jin laughed again, high and squeaky, and turning to look at Namjoon, who smiled obligingly. It didn’t seem like Jimin got this joke, but he still laughed in surprise at Jin’s squeaky laugh along with Hoseok, Taehyung joining in with a tired chuckle.

Yoongi shook his head when Jungkook looked at him, seeming amused at Yoongi’s exasperation. Yoongi distinctly remembered being told this joke before, and Jin telling him that Fawful was one of the antagonists in the Mario universe.

Jungkook grinned at Jin and said, “I’m impressed you know who Fawful is. Not many people our age have played Mario & Luigi.”

Jin nodded, still laughing, and said, “His food references always made me hungry.”

“Everything makes you hungry,” Namjoon said, still smiling, and Jin nodded.

“Sometimes I think that I could never love food more than I already do,” Jin said, looking briefly around the table, “But then I remember how much Namjoon loves whales and I realize that I have a long way to go.”

Yoongi held back a laugh as Hoseok nodded solemnly, and Jimin turned to giggle into Jungkook’s arm as Namjoon rolled his eyes.

Jin turned to Yoongi as Hoseok started asking about Jungkook about Fawful and Mario & Luigi.

“Your breath smells like beer,” Yoongi said, leaning away and wincing at the heady sour smell.

“Just wanted to let you know,” Jin whispered, and it seemed like he was breathing extra into Yoongi’s face on purpose, so Yoongi turned farther away, “that you have my complete approval to rob that cradle.”

“Shut up,” Yoongi hissed through his teeth, glancing around to make sure that no one else had heard Jin and pushing the Beta’s shoulder half-heartedly, “You’re awful.”

Eighteen, Yoongi,” Jin whispered. “Seventeen when you met him. He’s a little infant baby pack-Alpha.”

“He’s an adult,” Yoongi insisted back, which made Jin laugh in his ear and Yoongi winced, shrugging up his shoulder at the loud noise.

“Taehyung seems good for Hoseok,” Jin said, and Yoongi was relieved he was moving on from Jungkook’s age. “And Jimin is so cute that Namjoon is going to die.”

Yoongi nodded in agreement and they both turned back towards the table, where Jungkook was in the middle of handing his phone to Hoseok.

“That’s Fawful,” Jungkook said. “He’s only in a few Mario universe games. He's not very popular.”

Jimin leaned over to look too, and Taehyung briefly opened his eyes to see the screen.

“He looks like a mad scientist,” Taehyung said, still petting Jimin’s hair. Jimin was rolling his neck a little like, blinking his eyes slowly like he was starting to feel sleepy too. Yoongi could see that Namjoon’s expression was frozen into careful neutral as he watched Jimin smile down at Jungkook’s phone.

Jungkook nodded and said, “He’s actually supposed to be insane.”

“Maybe he’s just misunderstood,” Jimin said, tilting his head. “He’s cute.”

Jungkook let out a short laugh and shook his head. “He’s a villain in the story,” he said.

“Why can’t he be a cute, misunderstood villain?” Jimin asked, pouting at Jungkook.

Jungkook opened his mouth to argue, but then sighed with a smile and nodded in concession.

“I like them,” Jin whispered to Yoongi, still chuckling. Yoongi nodded again and they both watched as Hoseok went to hand Jungkook back his phone, then pulled it back quickly before Jungkook could grab it, laughing when the Alpha mockingly bared his teeth as he did it again.

Namjoon stiffened even at the fake threat, and Jungkook seemed to notice because he closed his mouth immediately, looking worriedly at the other Alpha. Namjoon shook his head and winced at Jungkook’s concern, and Jungkook seemed to relax.

Jungkook studied Namjoon for a few moments, then seemed to be considering lunging for his phone as Hoseok held it just out of his reach. But then his eyes fell on the sleepy Jimin and Taehyung between him and Hoseok, and he settled back down in his seat, holding out his hand patiently.

Jin laughed in Yoongi’s ear again and said, “Let’s keep them.”

***

Jin complained about his hangover all Saturday afternoon.

“The problem is that I didn’t puke,” Jin said to Yoongi when he got up and found Jin sprawled across the coach. “I digested everything. It’s better when you puke.”

Namjoon wasn’t much better off, and he went to work in the afternoon with a heavy frown after chugging some water and taking two painkillers.

But by the time Namjoon got home from work, it seemed like they were both feeling better, as they dragged Yoongi out of his room for an impromptu pack-bonding session.

Yoongi was surprised that he was actually still awake half-way into the movie they had chosen. He wasn’t sure if it was really because he had already taken a nap in the late afternoon, or if it was because he always genuinely enjoyed watching Howl’s Moving Castle.

Eventually, Jin leaned closer to him and asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, then he admitted, “I already napped today.”

Jin laughed at this, reaching up to run his hand through Yoongi’s hair fondly. Namjoon chuckled and rubbed his chin slightly over the top of Yoongi’s head in a subtle scenting, his hold briefly tightening around Yoongi’s stomach and pulling him firmer against his chest for a few moments.

Yoongi’s instincts loved the attention, and he could feel warmth spreading through his body.

“I’ve been wanting to ask you...” Jin said, scooting a little closer. Yoongi pulled his attention away from the movie and focused on Jin.

“Ask me what?” Yoongi asked.

Jin grabbed one of Yoongi’s hands, pulling it towards himself and holding it briefly between both of his own. Then he threaded their fingers together, using his thumb to stroke the back of Yoongi’s hand.

“About Jungkook,” Jin said.

Yoongi tensed, then relaxed again as Namjoon loosened his grip around Yoongi, like he thought that Yoongi wanted to move out of his hold. Jin looked nervous, too, and Yoongi didn’t want either of them to feel like they couldn’t ask him things.

“Can I?” Jin asked. “No teasing.”

Yoongi studied his face, unsure, but Jin’s eyes were soft and serious in a way that Yoongi knew he could trust.

Namjoon started releasing comfort pheromones and, while Yoongi didn’t think he really needed them, they were making him feel calmer.

Yoongi nodded slowly, slightly hesitant to give Jin permission because he was unsure what the Beta wanted to ask.

Jin gave him a small smile, then said in a whisper, “It’s just that, objectively, pre-courting is barely a commitment.”

Yoongi nodded at this. Back when people pre-courted more often than not, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to pre-court or be pre-courted by more than one person. It was considered a promise-free test of instinctual and personal compatibility before a courting offer was or wasn’t made.

“But I know that it is something you wouldn’t take lightly,” Jin whispered to Yoongi, like they were all sharing a secret. “And Hoseok said it has been going on for weeks?”

Yoongi nodded again.

“Hoseok also mentioned coffee and an umbrella?” Namjoon whispered from behind him, and Yoongi could feel the soft timbre of his voice against his back.

“He gave me an umbrella on the last day of finals,” Yoongi said softly. “I had all of this sheet music that I needed to take to the music building, but it was pouring.”

“I remember that,” Namjoon whispered. “I had to run across campus.”

“Do you still have the umbrella?” Jin asked.

Yoongi nodded and said, “It’s in the closet.”

“Really?” Jin asked softly, his eyes widening in surprise. “I didn’t notice.”

Yoongi actually liked how they were whispering. It felt better to talk about it this way, like the whispering was giving a weight of seriousness to the conversation that Yoongi wanted. He didn’t want to be teased about this. He already spent too much of his days trying and failing not to think about it.

“It’s just a black umbrella,” Yoongi whispered. “It has an Iron Man sticker on the pole. You even handed it to me one day.”

Jin frowned and then whispered, “I don’t remember that.”

Yoongi shrugged.

“And the coffee?” Namjoon asked softly.

“He’s been giving me coffee in exchange for the piano lessons,” Yoongi said.

“Really?” Jin asked, probably surprised that Yoongi had agreed to accept something that could be considered a pre-courting gift. Yoongi didn’t tell him that the coffee had actually been his own idea.

Yoongi nodded and whispered, “I didn’t realize it could be seen as pre-courting until I found out that he was an Alpha.”

“I’ve been curious about that, too. How did you find out?” Jin asked, tilting his head.

“He realized that I didn’t know,” Yoongi whispered, shrugging, “and told me.”

Yoongi knew that was a little bit of an oversimplification, but he didn’t really want to get into it. He didn’t want to explain how useless he had felt when it came to helping Jin and or how he had asked Jungkook for advice as a last resort, thinking he was a fellow Omega in a pack of three. Jin seemed to understand this, and quickly moved on after studying Yoongi or a few moments.

“And then he asked to pre-court you?” Jin asked

Yoongi nodded.

“Do you think he is doing it with intent?” Jin asked, his free hand starting to trail up and down Yoongi’s arm.

Yoongi swallowed, took a deep breath, and then nodded again. When someone pre-courted with intent, it meant that it wasn’t all instinctual and that they had some personal romantic interest.

“He told me that, too,” Yoongi whispered, and he could almost hear Jungkook’s voice in his head. I’ve been interested in you from the start. A part of Yoongi was still curious about what that meant, but a bigger part of him didn’t really want to know.

Jin was quiet for a few moments, nodding slowly, his gaze full of an empty, far-off look as he considered this.

“After meeting him, I can see why you’re giving him the piano lessons,” Jin whispered, and Yoongi could feel Namjoon nodding against the top of his head. “He seems driven and gentle. And any Alpha in a pack with Omegas like Jimin and Taehyung has to be kind and careful.”

Yoongi nodded in confirmation of this without thinking, and Jin smiled softly at him as Yoongi felt more heat rush to his face before continuing.

“But I still don’t understand why you said he could pre-court you, or why you are still pre-courting now?” Jin said in a question. “You practically snarl at anyone who even thinks about flirting with you, kind or unkind.”

This was true. Yoongi had always turned down anything he perceived as flirting, not want to give anyone of the chance of getting the wrong idea.

But Jungkook hadn’t ever really flirted with him, at least not that he could remember. Everything he had done in the beginning had been subtle, like a soft bass line in a piece of music you never really focus on until someone else points out that it’s there.

Even now, when Jungkook had been given permission to pre-court him, Yoongi hadn’t really noticed any flirting outside of the gifts and heavy gazes.

“My instincts really like him,” Yoongi said when he could think of no other explanation. “They didn’t want to reject him, and they still don’t want to now.”

Yoongi didn’t tell them that he was terrified, both of allowing this to lead somewhere and of the potential regret of preventing this from leading somewhere. He probably didn’t need to tell them anyway, as the sympathetic way Jin was looking at him made him think that the Beta already knew.

“Besides,” Yoongi added, when Jin did nothing but continue to rub the back of Yoongi’s hand with his thumb. “He’s been upfront about everything and very considerate. ”

“Considerate how?” Namjoon softly asked.

“He hasn’t been touching me,” Yoongi whispered in clarification, and Jin’s eyes widened in surprise again at the mention of another outdated courting ritual. “And he doesn’t close doors without asking me first... He also works very hard on the things I ask him to practice, and he is always making sure that he isn’t making me uncomfortable, and-”

Yoongi cut himself off, embarrassed when he realized that he was rambling, feeling heat rise to his face. The soft, open atmosphere of their pack-bonding session and the comfort pheromones that Namjoon was still releasing were making him too relaxed, he realized, more open than he usually was.

Jin moved even farther forward, tangling their legs together and holding Yoongi’s hand against his chest. They just looked at each other, Jin smiling softly, Namjoon still releasing comfort pheromones, until Yoongi felt the heat leave his face, felt his embarrassment fading away.

The scents of their pack were hanging in the air around them, and Yoongi let the scents of rose and cotton and burning pine lull him into calm.

Only when Yoongi completely relaxed did Jin whisper, “And you?”

“What about me?” Yoongi asked, his voice barely audible over the movie still playing the background.

“Do you have any intent?” Jin asked. “Do you like him?”

Yoongi’s breath stuttered out on his exhale, forcing himself to continue to meet Jin’s curious gaze.

He thought about the weight of Jungkook’s gaze on him, about the safe feeling he got around him, about how Jungkook’s scarf had felt around his neck, about how much the Alpha seemed to care for his pack.

He thought about the way Jungkook had stood that one night in the doorway of the Coffee Nook with the black night behind him, and about how Yoongi had thought he was beautiful, and wanted to see it again.

He thought about the way the Alpha smelt like rain, and how comforting it was each time he smelt it.

Yoongi didn’t want to lie to Jin and Namjoon, and he knew he had been avoiding confronting the truth of it himself. Maybe it was time to stop, to give in—just a little.

“I don’t know if I like him, but I think I’m starting to,” Yoongi said hesitantly, testing how true the words felt leaving his mouth. Too true, he thought, these words have been too true for a while now .

Jin’s eyebrows shot up his forehead and Yoongi could hear Namjoon breathe in sharply.

“I was really expecting you to say no,” Jin said, his mouth slightly opened in his surprise.

Yoongi swallowed, unsure how to respond.

Talking about this, revealing how he felt about this, was making Yoongi nervous. It wasn’t in a bad way, but he felt vulnerable enough that he was starting to tremble. Yoongi was sure that Jin could fee lit where their hands were still clasped, that Namjoon could feel it where he was holding Yoongi around the waist, but neither of them mentioned it.

“I’m done for now,” Jin said, using his free hand to card his fingers through Yoongi’s hair again, making Yoongi relax into the sleeping mat beneath him. “Thank you for telling us.”

Yoongi nodded, and Jin and Namjoon both turned their attention back to the movie, but Yoongi squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t know why he suddenly felt like crying, but it was probably because he had just surprised himself in his admission of possibly returning Jungkook’s feelings, and he had never really liked surprises.

***

Namjoon had the late shift in the Coffee Nook on Tuesday, and Yoongi went there after he was done with his classes to transcribe Professor Lee’s piano piece, “Life Begets Life”.

He’d given the piano piece a few days to breathe, and he’d still liked it when he came back to it Monday morning, so he’d printed out the music score to give to Professor Lee.

Yoongi wanted it to be hers to give to other people as she pleased. But he also wanted to give her a music score that was completely handwritten, as it felt more personal, and looked more like music scores would have looked in the classical period that Yoongi had been trying to draw inspiration from.

Yesterday, he had carefully written in the title, the dedication, the tempos, the key signatures, the bar lines, and the dynamics onto four pages of empty music score. Then, deciding to give credit where credit was due, Yoongi had written an asterisk under his name as the composer so that it said:

Life Begets Life

Composed by Min Yoongi for Professor Lee Yewon. Inspired by the living.

*with contributions from Jeon Jungkook

Then he had scanned the pages with his printer so that he had some room for error while he wrote the notes without completely needing to start again. He had four copies of each page in his bag, and he didn’t want to leave the Coffee Nook until Namjoon got off work or until he finished transcribing the notes of the piano piece.

He had sat down in his favorite corner, put on a random playlist, and probably hadn’t looked up for hours when someone sat down at his table. He flinched back in surprise, blinking as it took his vision a while to focus on something farther away after staring at the music scores for so long.

“Hi, Yoongi-si,” Taehyung said as Yoongi’s vision finally focused on him. At Yoongi’s silence—he was always more surprised when people sat with him at his table than he logically should be—Taehyung’s smile faded and he gestured behind him towards the rest of the shop.

“Sorry,” he said. “I can go sit somewhere else.”

“It’s fine,” Yoongi said as Taehyung made to stand, clearing his throat when his voice came out raspy and reaching for his coffee. “I just wasn’t expecting anyone to sit here.”

As Yoongi sipped his coffee, Taehyung slowly sat back down and said, “We don’t want to disturb you.”

Yoongi saw a flash of pink hair in his peripheral and could see Jimin standing by the counter, speaking softly with a blushing Namjoon while the Alpha made two cups of coffee. He waved when he made eye contact with Yoongi, and Yoongi smiled and nodded.

He didn’t see Jungkook anywhere, and wondered if the Alpha would be coming here soon as well. Yoongi wasn’t sure if he wanted him to or not, but he supposed that meant that there would be a silver lining either way.

Yoongi had Jungkook’s scarf with him again, which was turning out to be the only scarf he’d never forgotten to put on—but he didn’t think that five days was much of a record. He was a little embarrassed to keep wearing it, but it was a gift and his instincts were always calmer when he had it. Besides, Jungkook had already seen him wear it and it hadn’t been that bad.

“I could use the break,” Yoongi said, stretching, and Taehyung’s smile came back as Yoongi’s back and elbows cracked loudly.

“What’s all this?” Taehyung asked, gesturing down, “It looks like the table isn’t made of wood anymore.”

Yoongi only now realized how much space he was taking up. He had his laptop open in the middle of the table, but the rest of its surface was covered in pens, sheet music, and folders.

Yoongi had the two pieces of sheet music that he had finished transcribing in his bag, safe from harm, but he hadn’t bothered to put the printed versions of the music back away or dispose of the papers that had mistakes—he’d had to start the first page twice before he got a feel for making the music notes look the way he wanted them to.

“I’m just working on some music,” Yoongi said, reaching forward to start sorting the sheet music back into the folders so Taehyung could have some space at the table.

“For class?” Taehyung asked, briefly checking the screen of his phone before setting it on the table. Then he leaned forward and looked at some of the sheet music curiously.

“No,” Yoongi said, rolling out a cink in his neck, “I’m writing a piece as a gift to one of my professors. I was her TA last semester.”

“Oh. Jungkook mentioned you were a TA,” Taehyung said, tilting his head to look at a piece of music that was laying sideways. “How was that?”

“I liked it enough,” Yoongi said.

Taehyung looked surprised at something as he looked down at the sheet music, and then his expression relaxed again. Taehyung was scanning the music longer and with more engagement than Yoongi expected, so he asked, “Can you read music?”

“Only treble clef,” Taehyung said, sitting back in his chair. “I used to play the saxophone.”

“Used to?” Yoongi asked.

“I was quite good at it when I was in middle school,” Taehyung said, looking away in shyness as he complimented himself, “but I couldn’t keep it up in high school when my classes got more intense.”

“I stopped playing piano for a while, too,” Yoongi said, not liking the way Taehyung still wasn’t looking at him, like he thought that Yoongi would judge him.

At hearing this, Taehyung turned and smiled at him.

“I really came into my love for art during high school, too,” Taehyung said, “and the time I had for my saxophone fell away once I stopped taking lessons.”

Yoongi nodded in understanding as Taehyung leaned an elbow on the table and sighed, looking down at the music again.

“I thought playing an instrument was like riding a bike, you know? I thought it never really left you,” Taehyung said, shaking his head, “but my saxophone had abandoned me like a scorned lover by the time I tried to pick it up again.”

Yoongi smiled at the metaphor, then said, “I had a similar experience.”

“What did you do?” Taehyung asked, grinning. “Did you beg the piano to take you back? Buy it flowers and chocolates?”

Yoongi let out a small laugh of surprise, then said, “Yeah. More or less.”

“And it came back?” Taehyung asked, his eyes shining.

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, grinning at the pleased expression on Taehyung’s face.

When he breathed in, Yoongi liked how the smell of the maple and vanilla in Taehyung’s scent blended with the smell of coffee in the air around them. It reminded Yoongi of a well-made dessert, a delicacy.

Yoongi was surprised at how easy it was to speak with him. He thought it helped that Taehyung was an Omega, and he tried not to fight how it was making him feel more open and comfortable.

Yoongi brought his legs up in his chair so that he could sit cross-legged and said, “My first piano teacher always said that good music and good playing always breathed back at you, and one day I started to feel it again.”

“My saxophone teacher used to say that my music was alive,” Taehyung said, nodding, looking more serious than before, “but I never really felt it until I knew what my music sounded like when it was dead.”

Yoongi shook his head, not liking the phrasing, and said, “I don’t think music ever dies.”

Taehyung smiled again at this, bringing up a hand to hide it behind the backs of his fingers and he looked back down at the music all over the table.

“Maybe not for you,” Taehyung said.

Yoongi didn’t think music could die for anyone, but Taehyung seemed to see that Yoongi wanted to push his point, and added, “If music is alive, if it can breathe, then it can die, too.”

Yoongi didn’t like the logic of that, didn’t like thinking about it as a possibility. He felt like he needed Namjoon here for this, to rant about how music was relative and subjective, to argue the musicality of whale song, to match Taehyung’s metaphors with well-researched philosophy.

“I completely disagree,” Yoongi said firmly. He wanted to say that music was greater than life, but it felt too cheesy even in his head.

“Sorry,” Taehyung said, sitting back, “I’m probably only saying this because of the way I think about my art. Every time I finish a piece I’ve been working on for a long time, I hold a little funeral.”

Yoongi thought he was joking for a few moments until he noticed the seriousness of Taehyung expression, and he stopped himself right before he laughed.

It was at that moment that Jimin sat down next to Yoongi at the table, surprising them both, and bringing with him the scents of grass, warm bread, and lemon. Now that both of Jungkook’s packmates were next to him, Yoongi was started to smell Jungkook’s scent in the air, too. He liked it. The three of them smelt good together.

“I’m happy to see you again so soon, Yoongi-si!” Jimin said cheerfully.

Yoongi turned to Jimin, grinning at the sight of his wide smile, surprised that the other Omega had chosen to sit down next to him instead of Taehyung, and said, “You can call me hyung.”

“Both of you,” Yoongi added, looking at Taehyung, who grinned back at him.

Jimin handed Taehyung his coffee, took in his expression, and asked, “What happened? Is something wrong?”

“No,” Taehyung said. “We were just talking about my art funerals.”

“What? Why?” Jimin said, looking between him and Yoongi.

“Hyung thinks that music can never die,” Taehyung said, gesturing to Yoongi.

“Aww,” Jimin said, leaning his shoulder briefly against Yoongi. “I agree.”

Taehyung giggled and said, “I know you agree, Jiminie. You hate my art funerals.”

Jimin nodded and said, pouting, “Well, they make you sad.”

Taehyung grinned and cupped his hands into a heart, then opened his fingers in Jimin’s direction like he was throwing the heart at him. Jimin laughed and made a show of catching it out of the air, patting it gently, and putting it in his pocket.

“I’m a bit confused,” Yoongi said, looking between the two Omegas. He was having a hard time imagining what a funeral for art could entail.

“Why?” Jimin asked, then he answered his own question. “Oh, the art funerals.”

Jimin looked at Taehyung and raised his eyebrows, and the other Omega nodded.

“You write music, so you actually might understand a little,” Taehyung said to Yoongi. “You know how when you are working on something new, it kind of follows you around like a shadow, and you think about it all the time?”

Yoongi hesitantly nodded.

“I talk to my art a lot before I start on a piece,” Taehyung said. “I ask it for all its secrets. What does it want to show? What is it trying to do? Where does it want to be? If I take a walk with it at the Han River, will it like it, or would it prefer a mountain?”

“He really does,” Jimin added. “I was so confused the first time I walked in on him doing it, but it’s cute.”

Yoongi was starting to think that Jimin thought most things were cute, and he envied it a little. He wondered what it felt like to look at the world through a lense of fondness and beauty, if that was why Jimin smiled so much.

Taehyung made another heart at Jimin and then said, “Most of the time my pieces answer, and when I feel like I know them well enough, I start working on them. But when they’re finished, like, really really finished, they never speak again. They stop following me around and I can’t feel them at all.”

“I don’t know where they go,” Taehyung continued, looking forlornly down at the table again, “but it’s nowhere near here. And I always miss them, so I hold a funeral.”

“They’re a mess,” Jimin said, grinning and shaking his head.

“Jungkook likes them,” Taehyung said, sticking his tongue out a Jimin.  “He laughs the whole time.”

Yoongi forced himself not to react to the mention of Jungkook, but he was reminded that this was Jungkook’s pack. In a sense, what Yoongi was doing now was a step ahead of pre-courting. When two people courted, they visited each other’s packs often because, upon mating, one of them would most likely join the pack of the other.

As much as Yoongi didn’t dislike Jimin or Taehyung, as much as Yoongi didn’t expect to actually mate Jungkook, he couldn’t help but feel a little defensive at the thought. Yoongi wouldn’t ever be leaving Namjoon and Jin to join another pack, and he wasn’t the type of person to expect Jungkook to leave his own pack if he didn’t want to.

Yoongi felt his instincts pulling at his gut, balking as Yoongi considered this obstacle. He and Jungkook might be doomed to fail, it seemed, before they even started.

“Because they’re also hysterical,” Jimin was saying, gesturing to himself. “Are you forgetting that I laugh during the eulogies, too?”

“Eulogies?” Yoongi repeated in confusion, trying to focus back in on the conversation.

Before Taehyung could answer, Jimin turned to Yoongi and said, “Yes. Try to picture this. Taehyung goes out and buys a bottle of wine, then he sits on the couch and drinks from the bottle while he stares at his finished painting. And he looks really sad even though just hours before he was complaining that it wasn’t finished.”

“Guilty,” Taehyung added, raising up one of his hands, looking amused at Jimin depiction of him.

“And then, once he’s drunk enough, he gets up and gives a eulogy,” Jimin said. “But it’s really weird. He’ll say a bunch of random stuff. For example,” Jimin changed the tone of his voice an octave deeper to mimic Taehyung, who started giggling into the back of his hand, “This painting hated bodies of water more than it had a right to, but I loved how it still always wanted me to visit the ocean on Tuesdays.”

Taehyung burst out laughing and then said, “I remember that. The old empty street painting?”

Jimin nodded and then said, “Then he lies on the floor and cries, eventually spiraling into a rant about Vincent Van Gogh before falling asleep.”

“That sounds...” Yoongi said, but he trailed off. It sounded like a fucking train wreck, but he wasn’t about to come out and say it.

“It’s a mess, ” Jimin said, taking a sip of his coffee and wincing like it was still too hot.

Taehyung shrugged and said, “It’s therapeutic.”

Then he focused on Yoongi and asked, “When you finish a song, do you feel like that at all?”

“Not really,” Yoongi said. “I’m usually pretty relieved, but maybe it’s different with music. I get to listen to it again and again, perform it sometimes, put it on my SoundCloud and see what people have to say about it. My songs... linger. They don’t really leave.”

Taehyung sighed deeply and said, “You’re lucky.”

Yoongi felt lucky. He didn’t know what had caught Taehyung and convinced him that art and music could die, but Yoongi didn’t want to let it ever have him.

However, Yoongi didn’t want Taehyung to feel alone in his experience.

“I’m sure there’s other people who think about it like you do,” Yoongi said.

“I haven’t met any of them,” Taehyung said with a small pout. “None of my art friends think about it like I do, and even though Jungkook draws, he doesn’t get it either.”

“I don’t get what?” a voice asked, and Yoongi felt heat shoot up his spine as he turned and saw Jungkook standing at their table with a cup of coffee.

Yoongi felt his face heat up as he and Jungkook made eye contact and he was reminded that, just a few days ago, he had admitted that he might like this boy. How did people usually act when they liked someone? Was Yoongi supposed to act different in some way?

He felt suddenly nervous in the uncertainty, too aware of his body, and tried to push the feeling down—not wanting his scent to spike and cause anyone to worry.

“You don’t get why I do my art funerals,” Taehyung said to Jungkook, who was now eyeing the scarf that Yoongi had draped across the back of his chair with an air of pleased surprise. Yoongi felt more heat rising to his face.

Yoongi turned to Jimin as Jungkook sat down next to Taehyung, and the other Omega grinned and gave him a small wink. Jimin must have known that Jungkook was coming and taken the seat next to Yoongi in a calculated move. He wasn’t sure if it had been to benefit Jungkook or Yoongi himself, but Yoongi felt grateful either way.

“You’re talking about your art funerals?” Jungkook said, his face furrowing in confusion, his eyes flicking to Yoongi and back again.

Taehyung nodded and waved a hand dismissively, “We just finished,” he said, then pointed down at the table. “You didn’t tell me you helped Yoongi-hyung write a song.”

“What?” Jungkook asked and Yoongi eyes immediately snapped to the sheet music on the table, to where *with contributions from Jeon Jungkook was written on his piano piece as clear as day. When Yoongi looked back up, Jungkook had followed his gaze and was now looking at the music score, too.

“Contributions by me?” Jungkook asked, looking up at Yoongi with wide eyes. “But I didn’t...”

“I made a new version of that melody you played part of the song,” Yoongi admitted. “I felt like I had to acknowledge that it wasn’t all mine.”

Yoongi shrugged as the other three all stared at him. Jungkook’s scent was starting to fill the air, and Yoongi thought he might be more nervous if Jungkook’s scent of rain and metal didn’t make him feel so calm and safe on the first inhale.

Jungkook’s mouth kept opening and closing, and Yoongi couldn’t help but notice that Jungkook’s lips looked soft, that his nose was cute, that he had small hoop earrings that Yoongi hadn’t noticed before, that his hair looked purposely messy in a way that made Yoongi want to run his hands through it.

Yoongi wondered how good Jungkook’s scent would smell at the scent glands of his neck, how good it would smell on Yoongi, how-

“What melody?” Jimin asked, cutting Yoongi’s thoughts short.

Yoongi shook himself out of his revere, a little embarrassed even though he knew that no one knew what he had been thinking, but he refused to berate himself. He wouldn’t tell himself how to feel or what to think, only how to act. If only he knew how to act.

He looked around for his phone. He had to shuffle a few of the papers in front of him before finding it underneath one of them.

“Here,” he said, starting the video of Jungkook playing the piano melody Yoongi had used in Life Begets Life, relaxing again as all the attention was taken off of him and put on the video.

“It doesn’t sound that special,” Taehyung said with a shrug when the video finished, then he turned to Jungkook and added, “Sorry. No offense.”

Jungkook shook his head at the apology, staring at Yoongi. He was frowning a little, and Yoongi had the feeling he thought his name shouldn’t be there.

“I... um,” Yoongi logged into his computer and opening the file with the past edits of Life Begets Life. “I edited it and used it in the second half of the chorus.”

Yoongi opened the audio file of the chorus section, the version before he’d put Jungkook‘s melody into the piece, and played it for them.

“It used to sound like this,” Yoongi said, nervously watching Jungkook and his packmates listen to the old edit. “It didn’t feel right, like it was missing something.”

“And it was missing that ?” Taehyung asked bluntly, pointing down to Yoongi’s phone. Yoongi appreciated the honest way Taehyung was expressing his disbelief, and he thought he would actually enjoy it in any other situation.

“Something close to that,” Yoongi said, closing the audio file and opening up the new version. He played that one instead.

He skipped to the second half of the chorus and it let play through before pausing it.

“Do you hear how it lingers on the high note now? And then kind of jumps down?” Yoongi asked.

“Yes, I guess so,” Taehyung said, nodding. “It’s like how you sometimes hover in the air for a while before falling.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, agreeing even though he had no idea what Taehyung was talking about. He wasn’t going to censor the way someone interrupted music. “And then it goes back up slowly and rushes back down. It didn’t do that before.”

“You wrote that?” Jimin asked, pointing Yoongi’s computer with wide eyes. “By yourself?”

“Not by myself,” Yoongi said, pointing again to where he had added Jungkook’s name to the music score, to where it said it had been inspired by the living, and Jimin smiled.

“But I can take your name out, if you want me to,” Yoongi said to Jungkook, who looked back down at the music with a small frown.

Yoongi really didn’t want to take his name out, because that meant he would have to start transcribing the whole first page again from scratch.

“If you want it there, then it’s fine,” Jungkook said, not looking up. “But if you just feel obligated...”

“I wouldn’t have put it there if I didn’t want it there,” Yoongi said firmly.

Jungkook nodded a few times, his eyes on Yoongi’s face like he was searching for a lie. He wasn’t going to find one.

Yoongi met his eyes levely, trying to push down thoughts that he might like this boy as he took the way Jungkook’s expression went soft, his eyes clearing like he was understanding something. Yoongi hoped he was understanding that Yoongi didn’t do things he didn’t want to do.

“The song sounds really good,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi felt himself shrink back as the complement ignited something warm in his stomach. “Thank you for making me a part of it.”

Yoongi nodded, looking away and clearing his throat. By how hot his face felt, he was definitely blushing now. He resisted the urge to put a hand to his face and feel it.

“What were you doing with all these music sheets before we got here?” Jimin asked, and Yoongi breathed a sigh of relief at the change of topic.

“This song is a gift for one of my professors,” Yoongi said.

“Professor Lee?” Jungkook asked, and he smiled softly again when Yoongi nodded. Yoongi briefly remembered the conversation they’d once had about her, how Yoongi had admitted that he missed her.

“I’m going to give her a printed copy of the sheet music,” Yoongi said, “and probably a PDF and an audio file, too. But I wanted to give her a handwritten copy as well.”

“Why?” Jimin asked.

“She loves classical music,” Yoongi said, “and this piece is inspired by that time period, so it just felt fitting.”

“Aww,” Jimin said, putting both of his hands on his chest, “that’s so nice of you. I’m sure she’ll love it.”

“I know she’ll at least appreciate the effort,” Yoongi said, looking down. He thought she would like it, but he couldn’t be truly sure.

Jimin leaned against him again and said, “I bet she’ll love it.”

Yoongi huffed a laugh at the other Omega’s insistence, feeling heat rise to his face as he saw Jungkook nodding along.

Taehyung’s phone buzzed on the table. He picked it up, grinning, and then said, “Hoseok-hyung will be here in a few minutes. He says we should meet him outside.”

Jimin giggled and turned to Yoongi to explain, “We’re meeting him here to go play virtual baseball.”

“Jungkook is going to win,” Taehyung said, throwing an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders. Jungkook shrugged a shoulder when he made eye contact with Yoongi, like his victory wasn’t as decided as Taehyung had made it seem.

But Jimin nodded in agreement and said, “He’s going to win hands down. He has a really good feel for it.”

Jungkook blushed, looking down at the table.

“But,” Taehyung said, pointing a finger between him and Jimin and in another random direction that Yoongi assumed was supposed to represent Hoseok, “the battle for second place will be vicious. A complete bloodbath with only one survivor.”

“He’s kidding,” Jungkook said, like he was worried Yoongi would take Taehyung seriously.

“You can come, if you want,” Jimin offered, leaning into Yoongi again.

Yoongi wasn’t used to people that were so tactile, and he found it strange that he didn’t mind. He found himself actually leaning back into Jimin's contact as he shook his head.

“I actually really want to finish this tonight, if I can,” Yoongi said. He pointed to the third page he was almost done transcribing and said, “I only have one more to do after this.”

Yoongi hoped he wouldn’t upset anyone by rejecting the offer, but Taehyung, Jimin, and Jungkook all seemed to understand.

Jimin and Taehyung both nodded in easy acceptance and Jungkook said, “Of course. Good luck, hyung.”

“Thanks,” Yoongi said, smiling weakly as the other three gathered their things and began to stand. “See you guys around.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook said, a smile growing on his face again when his eye fell on the scarf once more, “See you.”

Yoongi smiled up at Jungkook, and their gazes lingered on one another in a way that made Yoongi feel like he was blushing again. Jungkook looked hesitant to leave, and Yoongi would be a liar if he said that he wanted Jungkook to go. He felt like they had barely gotten to talk.

“Bye, hyung!” Jimin said, waving enthusiastically, Taehyung joining in as they started to cross the coffee shop.

Yoongi forced his gaze away from Jungkook as he waved back, and the Alpha finally turned fully around to leave. The bell above the door rang as the three of them exited, and Yoongi slumped back in his seat when they were out of sight.

A few moments later, his phone lit up on the table with a soft ding.

Namjoon: Okay?

Yoongi looked up and saw Namjoon watching him from behind the counter. Yoongi had almost forgotten he was there and had witnessed that whole thing. He wondered what he and Jungkook had said to each other while Jungkook ordered and waited for his coffee, if Namjoon’s instincts had felt agitated.

Yoongi: yeah. they are all very nice

Namjoon: Seems like it. Jin likes them.

Yoongi nodded, looking up to share a grin with Namjoon. Then something nagged at him, still bothering him even though the subject had been changed.

Yoongi: do you think that music dies?

Namjoon frowned down at his phone.

Namjoon: No, of course not.

Yoongi: but isn’t it alive? and don’t living things die?

Namjoon smiled softly to himself and leaned back against the counter as he thought about his response. Then he started typing.

Namjoon: I believe that, even if there wasn’t a single living creature left to hear the natural music of the universe, music would be just as alive as it is today. As long as something exists, somewhere, then music will be there, too.

Yoongi felt better when he read that, validated. Then he thought of Taehyung, of the other Omega’s art funerals.

Yoongi: and art?

Namjoon: Yes. And art.

Yoongi nodded a few times and looked up, smiling at Namjoon in thanks and relief. Yoongi didn’t want to be part of a world where music and art could die.

When Yoongi looked back down at his music, searching for the printed music score that he had been using to transcribe the notes, he thought about Jungkook.

The Alpha probably hadn’t had the time to practice the piano a lot yet, so Yoongi assumed that he wouldn’t see him again for awhile.

But Yoongi wanted to see him. Soon.

Now.

And he knew that Jin would say that was a good sign. Yoongi knew it, and kind of believed it, but it still made something nervous flare up in his gut. He had never felt this way before, not really. He had no idea what it would feel like to finally start giving in to the instincts he was constantly fighting, probably without even realizing it.

Because, if he was eventually courted by Jungkook, an Alpha, then his instincts would most likely run the show. Hell, he had already partly bared his neck to Jungkook before he knew that he had any interest in him. He was already wearing Jungkook’s scarf every day, and he usually put it on before he knew he was doing it.

It scared him a little to think about, but not enough to make him feel like he needed to put everything to a stop. He wanted to go forward. He didn’t want to be the type of person who only ever took steps backwards.

Yoongi didn’t feel ready to court, but, if he did like Jungkook, then maybe it was time to consider it. He was starting to think that, if he was courted by Jungkook, then maybe it wouldn’t be that bad.

Or maybe it wouldn’t be bad at all.

Chapter Text

Despite his best efforts, Yoongi hadn’t finished transcribing Professor Lee’s piano piece by the time the Coffee Nook closed at 10pm. 

When Namjoon, who was working the closing shift, approached his table, Yoongi smelt the burning pine before he saw him. He looked up to see Namjoon’s sheepish expression, and Yoongi knew his time was up without even needing to check his watch. He gave Namjoon a quick nod of acknowledgement and began to pack his bag.

Namjoon watched with amusement, waiting patiently with his backpack hanging off one shoulder, as Yoongi shuffled through all his papers to make sure each one ended up in the appropriate folder. Yoongi didn't like taking his messes home with him, and he wanted to make sure all of the sheet music he had finished transcribing was in the same place.

After Yoongi closed his laptop bag, he and Namjoon shared a small smile as he put it over his shoulder. Then the two of them walked together through the shop, Namjoon veering away a few times to switch off the restroom lights and various electronics. Yoongi pushed open the front door and waited outside as Namjoon turned off the main lights and then took out his key ring to lock the door.

Yoongi watched Namjoon flip through the keys until he found the right one. Jin had marked it for him with a small square of blue tape after months of watching in fond frustration as Namjoon forgot which key it was and tried to lock the door with every key except the right one.

When the door locked with a click, Namjoon turned to Yoongi and breathed out a sigh of relief. Yoongi knew Namjoon liked his job, but he didn’t think there was a person in the world who wasn’t relieved to finish a shift of work. Yoongi gave him a grin of sympathy, and Namjoon shrugged as if to say it hadn’t been that bad.

Yoongic cherished this about Namjoon, how he shared Yoongi’s love of silence, how neither of them had spoken since he’d approached Yoongi’s table.

Yoongi still remembered the first time he had noticed how easily Namjoon could share moments of quiet with him. It had been during his second month of living with Jin, when Namjoon’s neighbor hosted a party and he had fled to their apartment.

Can you believe he’s throwing another party? Yoongi had heard through the bedroom wall as Jin opened their apartment door and Namjoon stormed into their old living room. There had been a hard edge to the Alpha’s voice that Yoongi had never heard before, that had made his Omega instincts nervous. I can do one night. But two nights in a row? There are limits. And he has the audacity to complain about my music in the morning, so I know he knows how thin our walls are.

Namjoon had a proper venting session with Jin. But it was late and, after getting Yoongi’s permission for Namjoon to stay the night, Jin had gotten ready for bed. When Jin settled under his covers, Yoongi subsequently fled to the kitchen. This had been during the time when he hadn’t truly warmed up to Jin or Namjoon, and something about working while Jin was sleeping across the room had felt like too much.

Namjoon had smiled at him in greeting from the living room couch as Yoongi set his laptop on the kitchen table, and they’d both fallen into homework. And then, despite Namjoon getting up multiple times to get coffee and water, despite Yoongi venturing into the living room to grab his sweater and then again to get a blanket, neither of them had spoken a word. 

It wasn’t until Yoongi had looked up and saw it was 4am that he realized this. He’d almost wanted to thank Namjoon for the silence, but he didn’t want to ruin it. He had never met another person who could sit in silence with him for so long before. He’d felt so content in that moment, so safe in Namjoon’s presence, that it had shocked him. 

It had been that night, grinning to himself as Namjoon started to nod off at 5am, that Yoongi first looked at his distant relationship with Namjoon and Jin and asked what if? What if, in the future, he could have many nights like this one? What if these were truly good people? What if he let these two pass him by... would he regret and envy and wonder about them forever?

Yoongi had never told them, but he saw that night as the dawn of their friendship. It had caused him to open himself up just a little bit more, and Jin had taken full advantage, Namjoon following easily along in his wake. Yoongi had come to value them more than he would have ever thought possible, to the point that he sometimes wondered if he would give up music entirely, just to have them. 

Yoongi thought about that then, as he watched Namjoon drop his keys and reach down to pick them up with a self-deprecating laugh. He thought about how he might give up music just to have Namjoon in his life, even if they could only stand next to each other and say nothing as they were doing now. 

Yoongi wondered when he’d gotten this sentimental, this attached to his pack, but he couldn't bring himself to mind. He trusted them. He knew that, like how music was always there when he turned around, Jin and Namjoon were safe things to be attached to.

Yoongi shivered in the cold air, adjusting Jungkook’s scarf so that he could wrap it around his neck a third time. It was another cold evening, and it was more windy than usual. Seoul always had a bit of calm wind, admittedly more of a breeze than wind, but the air never hung still. Yoongi liked how it mirrored the life of city, how neither the people nor the air took pause, how everything always had a place to be. 

However, today was one of those rare moments where the wind buffeted against the buildings, making a low whooshing noise as it went by. 

Yoongi hadn’t brought gloves with him, but he was wishing he had. He made do with shoving his hands in his pockets, but he knew his fingers would be stiff with cold by the time they got home. 

As they started to walk back towards the apartment, Namjoon gestured over his shoulder towards the Coffee Nook and asked, his voice slightly raised to speak over the wind, “What were you working on?”

Yoongi shrugged and said, “A piano piece.”

“A piano piece?” Namjoon repeated in surprise.

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, looking down at his feet. “It’s for Professor Lee. As a thank you.”

Namjoon nodded in understanding as they both paused at a crosswalk, waiting for the walk sign to turn green. Yoongi watched the cars drive by, wishing he’d had the time to finish transcribing. A taxi slowed down next to them, then sped up again when Namjoon shook his head to let the driver know they didn’t need a lift. 

“Can I...” Namjoon said, then he shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. The wind was making the hair poking out of his black beanie blow quickly back and forth, and Yoongi could feel his own hair moving against the skin of his forehead. 

“Can I listen to it?” Namjoon asked.

Yoongi felt a small pang of nervousness, as he did whenever he was about to hand his music over to someone he respected, but he nodded.

“Sure,” Yoongi said. He’d uploaded the final draft of the song onto his cloud, so he pulled out his phone and a pair of headphones. He handed the headphones to Namjoon, who briefly took his hat off his head to put them on as Yoongi opened up the MP3 file titled Life Begets Life. 

Yoongi played the song for Namjoon as the walk sign turned green, and they spent the rest of their walk to the apartment again in silence. To keep the cord of the headphones from falling out, Yoongi found himself needing to walk closer to Namjoon than usual, and swore he could smell Namjoon’s scent of burning pine even as the wind buffeted it away. 

The song finished and Namjoon moved his finger in a circular motion that Yoongi knew meant one more time. Yoongi played the song for Namjoon again, the Alpha’s expression giving nothing away as to what he thought about it. Namjoon’s second listen still hadn’t finished when they got to the apartment, so they walked up the stairs side by side. 

Yoongi found it odd to be next to Namjoon as they went up, found himself timing his feet with Namjoon’s so they took each step in synchrony, their combined footfalls echoing in the staircase.

Namjoon took out the headphones as they climbed the last flight of stairs, handing them back to Yoongi with a wide grin.

“It’s good,” Namjoon said.

Yoongi raised his eyebrows, unsure if the Alpha was being polite or honest. Namjoon sometimes had to be nudged into being a friendly critic, as his first impulse was always to say only positive things.

“Really,” Namjoon said when he took in Yoongi's doubt. “There’s no grand feat of technicality, nothing that would be too difficult to play, but it’s nice. Catchy. I liked it better the second time, which means I’ll like it even more the third time, and then more the fourth time.”

Yoongi nodded in understanding, accepting the compliment with a smile of relief. He was glad Namjoon liked it.

“Is that the finished copy?” Namjoon asked as he keyed in the door code to their apartment. 

“Well, I just spent three hours writing most of it by hand,” Yoongi said, “so it better be.”

Namjoon laughed as he opened the door.

“I thought so,” Namjoon said as Yoongi followed him inside the apartment. “It sounded finished.”

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, and he meant it. He was glad that Namjoon thought the song didn’t need anymore work, that it wasn’t missing anything. Hearing that it sounded finished was a greater compliment than he had been expecting to receive. 

They both went to put their things away in their rooms. And, a few minutes later, as Yoongi searched the fridge for something for them to eat, Namjoon leaned against the kitchen counter and said, “Maybe I should try my hand at instrumental music.”

Yoongi shook his head and said, “I hated it. I was lost without lyrics.”

Namjoon snorted and said, “I imagine that I would be as well.”

Yoongi shrugged, feeling suddenly bad for discouraging Namjoon from trying something, and said, “You might find it easier than me though. You already have Reflection, and that song’s entire chorus is instrumental.”

Namjoon nodded slowly to himself, and Yoongi gave up on searching through the fridge. He closed the door with a sigh, then turned to Namjoon and asked, “Ramen?”

“Is Jin awake?” Namjoon asked hesitantly, but he was already moving to kneel on the counter and reach up to where he and Yoongi hid packets of ramen on top of the cupboard. Not because Jin disapproved of ramen—he loved all food—but because he would eat every last packet if they left them out somewhere that he could find.

“No,” Yoongi said. “He’s already asleep.”

“Perfect,” Namjoon said, throwing two packets of Ramen down on the counter and opening the cupboard that held the pots.

“That doesn’t mean you can use the stove,” Yoongi said, taking a shiny metal pot out of Namjoon’s hands. 

“Oh, come on,” Namjoon said, but he sat down in a chair without any real protest as Yoongi filled the pot with water. “This is systematic deprivation. Organized bullying.”

Namjoon was in full-on banter mode, and Yoongi checked to see if Jin was awake after all and had just walked into the kitchen, but they were alone. Yoongi could banter, he supposed, just a little. He could at least play along.

“What are we depriving you of exactly?” Yoongi asked as he put the pot on the biggest burner they had—Yoongi had no patience when came to waiting for water to boil.

“Fire,” Namjoon said, gesturing toward the stove.

Yoongi held back a laugh. Fire seemed like something Namjoon should be deprived of, maybe at all costs, and Namjoon must have read that Yoongi thought so on his face because he added, “Cooking.”

“You can just use the microwave,” Yoongi said, turning on the stove and frowning down at the pot of water. The long wait began. 

Yoongi knew that people always said that a watched pot never boils, but they were wrong. A watched pot boiled. It just felt like it took a fucking long time. 

“I’m trying to pretend to be mad at you,” Namjoon said, half laughing, “but I can’t take you seriously when you glare at lukewarm water.”

“Shut up,” Yoongi snapped.

“I could do it,” Namjoon said, gesturing grandly to himself like he was on auction. “I could boil it for you. You wouldn’t even have to participate.”

“No,” Yoongi said. “Maybe if it was in the afternoon, but you’ll wake up the whole building if you set off the fire alarms now.”

“By burning water?” Namjoon asked, incredulous.

“If anyone could find a way, it’d be you,” Yoongi said, feeling his gaze harden as a single bubble floated to the surface of the water in the pot. It felt like it was taunting him. 

Namjoon took a breath to argue, but then he sighed.

“You’re right,” Namjoon said, slumping back in the chair. “I’m such a mess.”

Yoongi felt a little bad then, dragging his gaze away from the water to study Namjoon. His banter must not have measured up. Namjoon never slumped into defeat when arguing half-heartedly with Jin.

“We’re all a mess, Namjoon,” Yoongi said gently.

“Even Jin?” Namjoon asked.

“We’re all a mess but Jin,” Yoongi amended immediately, and Namjoon laughed.

Yoongi thought of Jungkook then, of how he still had no idea what he was doing when it came to the Alpha, and he wanted to say Especially me. We’re all a mess, especially me.

***

Yoongi stayed up late on Wednesday night once he finished his homework, hunched over the desk in his room at 3am. He tried to finish transcribing Life Begets Life as quietly as possible, not wanting to wake Jin, who was a very light sleeper. 

The lamp on his desk had three light settings, and Yoongi had it on the dimmest one—the one that gave his lamp an amber hue. Jin always insisted that Yoongi didn’t need to do this, but Yoongi always felt guilty when Jin woke briefly, scrunched his face at the bright white light, and rolled over to his other side to continue sleeping.

By 4am he had finished, stripped off his clothes down to his boxers, set his alarm a few hours early, and finally crawled into bed to sleep.

Yoongi woke to the sound of his alarm on Thursday and frowned, patting around his bed until he found his phone and hit snooze. When it woke him again five minutes later, he forced himself to sit up with a groan.

Now that he had finished transcribing Professor Lee’s piano piece, he wanted to give it to her before his classes today. It was out of his control now if she liked it or not, and he knew he shouldn’t be nervous—that she would like the song based on effort alone—but he could feel nerves swirling in his stomach. Yoongi wanted her to like it, for it to be the expression of gratitude that he felt she deserved.

Yoongi swung his feet out of bed, wincing when his warm feet touched the cold floor, and swallowed the dryness building in his throat. Jin’s bed was empty, and Yoongi remembered the Beta telling him yesterday that he had the morning shift today. He would have left hours ago. Namjoon had picked up an early shift as well, which meant Yoongi was here alone.

Yoongi got ready more slowly than he usually would, his muscles seeming stiff in his apprehension. He ate a small breakfast that he couldn’t even finish, drank four cups of coffee instead of his usual two, and promptly decided that his side of the room needed to be cleaned.

He was stuck between amused at himself for his procrastination and exasperated that he had apparently gotten up early just to waste time. After organizing, he felt the need to sweep the floor of his bedroom, even though he knew that Jin swept the whole apartment every weekend. 

Yoongi knocked one of Jin’s sweaters off the back of his desk chair with the end of the broom, and he threw it on his own bed as he finished, feeling better.

Then he confronted the fact that he needed to leave soon, or he would barely have time to speak to Professor Lee as he gave her the piano piece. But maybe that was for the best. He really didn’t want her to listen to it while he was there. Even the potential prospect of it was making him feel embarrassed.

Yoongi started to pack his things, finding one of Namjoon’s shirts on his desk and throwing that on his bed too in his sudden agitation, feeling nervous and rushed. He triple checked that he had everything he needed to give to Professor Lee, and hurried to his apartment door, putting on his jacket and Jungkook’s scarf as he went.

As he put on his shoes, Yoongi couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t a good idea, that he didn’t want to leave his apartment. Even his instincts seemed to be tugging at his gut, wishing for the warmth and softness of the bed Yoongi had just left behind, but he shook his head and opened the door. 

Yoongi had spent enough time on Life Begets Life. He wanted the finality of handing it off so that he could finally stop thinking about it. He briefly thought of Taehyung as he went down his apartment stairs, and wondered again what it felt like to feel grief, rather than relief, when finishing an artistic creation.

The farther away that Yoongi got from his apartment, the more nervous he felt. He tried to force down his nerves as he neared Professor Lee’s office. He didn’t want her to worry about him.

Once he got to her office, he stared at her door for what felt like ten minutes, contemplating his life choices and trying not to allow himself to put this off. The people walking by kept giving him odd looks and he knew he should knock. He felt a little silly that he hadn’t knocked already. 

Yoongi was working up the courage when the door opened and he flinched back in shock.

“Yoongi?” Professor Lee asked, looking surprised. “Is there something you need?”

"No," Yoongi said. His face felt warm, and he could feel heat rising up his body.

“Here for a visit, then,” Professor Lee said, smiling and waving him into her office. 

Yoongi hesitated. He could see her goldfish swimming in their bowl, a bright bouquet of yellow roses in a vase of water, and it didn't look iniviting for the first time. In fact, he only felt hesitant and oddly thirsty. 

He made eye contact with Professor Lee, trying to swallow the dryness in his throat, and was surprised to find that they were standing too close to each other for his liking. 

Yoongi shook his head, trying to shake off his sudden discomfort as Professor Lee gestured him into her office again, forcing himself not to take a step back. As much as he missed his time in Professor Lee’s office, a part of him was balking at the idea of going inside.

“I understand,” Professor Lee said after Yoongi continued to hesitate, letting her hand fall to her side.

Yoongi didn’t understand. He had never felt threatened by her before.

At Yoongi’s frown of confusion, Professor Lee added, “You usually don’t come to campus during your preheat.”

Yoongi froze, his eyes widening. 

Of course. 

The cleaning. The small breakfast. The four cups of coffee. As he thought back now, he realized he had even started putting Jin and Namjoon’s clothes onto his bed—the beginnings of a nest. It made no sense that their things had been at his desk in the first place. He must have subconsciously put them there the day before. 

He had spent the morning exercising the two most classic signs of preheat—nesting and hydration—and he had been so caught up in giving Professor Lee her piano piece that he hadn’t even noticed. 

He usually noticed the signs of his preheat as soon as they started, but his heat had been far from his mind. His thoughts had been completely occupied between Professor Lee’s gift and Jungkook.

Besides, his heat wasn’t due for another two weeks, though it wasn’t too rare for heats to come early or happen late. 

“I didn’t know,” Yoongi admitted, blushing. No wonder that people had kept giving him weird looks while he waited outside of Professor Lee’s door. “I should probably go home.”

“Will you be alright?” Professor Lee asked. While walking around alone during his preheat didn’t necessarily put him in more danger, as an Omega’s instincts were more apt to react negatively to advances during a preheat than they were during any other time, it did increase the possibility of embarrassing himself. 

Preheats made Yoongi extremely hostile towards people he didn’t know well. He’d learned that the hard way when he had almost attacked one of his mother’s Beta friends, who had dropped in unannounced during one of his preheats in high school to return a water cooler. Her friend had sent him a nice leather-bound notebook in apology, but the memory of it still embarrassed him. He could have avoided the whole situation if he had simply locked the front door.

“I’ll be fine,” Yoongi said, fidgeting, embarrassed that he hadn’t been aware enough of himself to realize that he was in preheat.

“Then I won’t keep you,” Professor Lee said, making to close the door, but Yoongi put out a hand.

“Wait,” he said, opening up his laptop bag. The bright side to this was that he now had a really good excuse to give his gift and flee immediately. “I made something for you.”

Yoongi handed her the folder he had put together. He’d taped a USB to the front of it, which held an audio file and electronic music score for the song, and labeled it ‘Life Begets Life.’

“Life Begets Life?” Professor Lee asked, grinning down at the folder. “What’s this?”

“I... um,” Yoongi looked down at the floor, then forced himself to look up again. “I wrote you a piano piece.”

Professor Lee’s eyebrows went up in the only expression of genuine surprise that Yoongi ever remembered seeing on her face. She didn’t open the folder, so Yoongi reached forward and opened it for her. The print copy was on one side and the transcribed copy was on the other.

“It’s classically inspired,” Yoongi said. Professor Lee still hadn’t looked down at the music, so Yoongi pulled out the four pages he had transcribed and shut the folder again before holding them out for her to take.

She grabbed them softly, her eyes finally moving away from his face.

“Life Begets Life,” she read aloud, her voice tinged with disbelief. “Composed by Min Yoongi for Professor Lee Yewon. Inspired by the living.”

Then her eyebrows went impossibly further up her face and she said, “With contributions from Jeon Jungkook?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, nodding. “He was improvising a melody during one of our piano lessons and I kind of just... stole it.”

Professor Lee nodded at this and looked back down, flipping through the pages of the music score.

“Did you write everything by hand?” she asked.

Yoongi nodded and said, “I did.”

She smiled at him and shook her head. 

“I don’t know what to say,” she said. “No one has ever dedicated a piece of music to me before.”

Yoongi blushed, looking away. He was glad that he could be the first one to do this. Professor Lee hopefully had years and years left to be a professor, and Yoongi doubted that he would be the last student to feel like they should do this.

“Thank you, Yoongi,” she said, her voice soft. “I’d hug you, but...”

She gestured at his body, and he knew she was referring to his preheat. He nodded. As much as he liked her, he doubted that the current state of his instincts would appreciate any contact from a Beta outside of his pack that they didn’t consider a potential mate.

Yoongi felt himself getting hotter. He usually enjoyed Professor Lee’s warm floral scent, but it was grating on him. It smelt wrong, and it had him taking a step away from her.

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi said, still stepping back. “I think I should go.”

Professor Lee nodded quickly, and said, “Go. I don’t want to keep you from getting home. Be safe. We’ll talk more in a few days.”

Yoongi nodded and hurried away. He wanted to get home as soon as possible.

But as heat built inside him, spread out from his stomach, he started to feel worried. Preheats and heats came in waves of surging instinct, and Yoongi had no idea how he would react if he had a preheat wave in the middle of the music building. Yoongi had never been in preheat in public before, and he was already at least two hours into his cycle. Who knew how long he had been in preheat while he was sleeping?

Fighting a building panic as he felt the heat in his body rising, he realized that he’d probably have a preheat wave before he could get home, and he took a sharp turn down the practice room hall. The practice rooms were secluded enough that he would be fine to ride out his first wave there. He hurried to the end of the hall, jerked opened the door to his favorite piano practice room, then briefly froze when he saw that the room was already occupied. 

He only caught a quick flash of Jungkook at the piano, of Jimin sitting backwards on the piano bench, looking startled at Yoongi’s sudden entrance, before he reacted as Jungkook started to turn around.

“No,” Yoongi said, and he slammed the door back shut, flinching at the sudden loud noise even though he had been the one to cause it.

Feeling agitated, he went to the room next door, following the instinct to be in an enclosed space as soon as possible. Upon checking it was empty, he slipped into the room and closed the door behind him, panting. He must’ve ran the practice room hallway, but he couldn’t remember now.

He had a moment of panic where he thought Jungkook would come in here, but he calmed when he realized that the Alpha would be able to smell his preheat. That embarrassed Yoongi, but everything he knew about Jungkook told him that the Alpha wouldn’t approach him while he was in preheat without Yoongi’s permission.

“Fuck,” he said as he was slammed with the feeling of relief and he felt heat continue to rise, the tell-tale burn in his stomach, his instincts incensed now that he felt safer. He put his laptop bag on the floor and slid down the wall opposite the door. He’d had enough heats, two a year since he was fifteen, to recognize that he had a preheat wave coming in fast.

Yoongi spent more time than the average Omega suppressing his instincts, which meant that his preheats and heats were also worse than the average Omega's. His instincts ran the show the whole time during his waves, especially during his heat, unwilling to relinquish the control that Yoongi barely otherwise allowed them. As a result, Yoongi was never completely aware about what he did during them.

Waves of preheat were easier and shorter than the waves of heat. They usually just entailed a strong urge to nest and hydrate coupled by a rush of mating pheromones, and Yoongi’s instincts would assess if anyone they deemed desirable was in the vicinity. It was during this time an Omega’s instincts accepted or rejected a chosen heat partner and, once someone was chosen, would become distressed if separated from them.

But Omegas were notoriously picky during their preheats, more prone to aggression and paranoia than during any other time, and Yoongi’s instincts had thankfully never found anyone they particularly liked other than Jungkook.

That made this more complicated, as Jungkook was in the room next door, but Yoongi felt confident that he could retain enough control during his first few preheat waves, which were usually more mild. Yoongi could feel sweat building on his lower back and on his hairline, so he unzipped his jacket. However, he didn't trust himself to take it off, worrying that his instincts would take over and he'd find himself without any clothing on at all.

He hugged his knees as he felt the preheat wave coming faster, knowing that, as the first wave, it would be short. It hit him, hot and burning, and he registered the need to find a mate before everything went fuzzy. 

When Yoongi’s preheat instincts registered the faint smell of Jungkook, Yoongi was seized with the need to move, to go to him, but he tensed, trying to force the impulse down. He hugged his knees harder than he ever had in his life to give his body something to do, his instincts raged against him, and his sense of reality blurred even more.

When the wave ended, he gasped. It felt like that wave hadn’t been long at all. Maybe only a few seconds. He tried not to focus on how thirsty he now felt, on how he was suddenly thinking about how nice it would be to bury himself in Jungkook’s scent. He crawled forward for his phone, knowing that he should have at least half an hour before another wave came.

If he’d already had one wave, it was best to have Namjoon or Jin come and get him. Yoongi knew he would get safely home, but he didn’t trust his reaction to strangers now that his preheat had truly started. It would be embarrassing to have Jin or Namjoon see him like this—as neither one of them had smelt or witnessed his preheat in person before—but Yoongi didn’t want to hurt anyone.

He called Jin and then Namjoon, but was sent to voicemail both times, so Yoongi sent them a text to explain what was happening.

Yoongi: just went into preheat in the music building. i probably shouldn’t go home alone. can one of you come get me?

After he pushed send, he made himself wait, using the time to email his professors and tell them that he would be missing the next two days of classes due to a mating cycle—an automatic excused absence. 

When ten minutes had passed and Jin and Namjoon didn’t respond, Yoongi called them again, his breath starting to come out in nervous pants. Neither one answered. Then he remembered that they were at work, and would have their phones silenced. They both were allowed to be on their phones during slow periods, but it was almost noon, and lunchtime was one of the busiest times of the day for both of their jobs.

Yoongi whined. He didn’t want to wait here until one of them could come and get him. He wanted to prepare for his heat. He wanted water. He wanted to nest. 

It also wasn’t a good idea for an Omega to spend too many preheat waves in a place where they didn’t intend to spend their heat. If Yoongi stayed in this room too long, his instincts may become attached to it and decide they wanted to have Yoongi’s heat here. If his instincts started to think of this place as their heat room, they’d refuse any attempts Yoongi made to leave. 

Yoongi shook his head. He had heard of Omegas needing to be sedated in order to be removed from places they couldn’t legally or ethically spend a heat, and Yoongi definitely couldn’t spend a heat on campus. At the moment, he couldn’t think of a place he wanted to spend a heat less.

He whined again, distressed at the prospect of needing to stay here too long, but then took a few deep breaths to calm himself. He wasn’t powerless. He’d walk home alone if he had his second wave before he could find help. He doubted that he would actually attack anyone unless they tried to touch him.

Jungkook could help, something inside him was saying, but Yoongi pushed it down immediately. He’d rather walk alone. A part of him saw Jungkook as a potential mate, and Yoongi's instincts would be all over Jungkook if he walked Yoongi home while he was like this—and Yoongi would die of embarrassment. In addition, if he had a preheat wave with Jungkook present, Yoongi had no doubts that his instincts would accept him as a heat partner and then be distressed when Jungkook left him alone. 

He searched his mind for anyone else he could call, wishing suddenly that he had an Omega friend. While an Omega’s instincts could accept or reject an Alpha as a heat partner starting from the first few preheat waves, Omegas didn’t accept or reject another Omega as their heat partner until the very last few waves—with Betas falling somewhere in the middle. Yoongi wouldn’t have to worry about his instincts getting attached to another Omega, at least not right now.

And then he thought of Jimin. 

Jungkook and Jimin had left him completely alone, though Yoongi hadn’t heard the piano next door being played again. They probably assumed that a member of Yoongi’s pack was coming to get him and were waiting until someone took Yoongi home. 

Yoongi knew Alphas well and, no matter how good Jungkook’s control was, he doubted that the Alpha would be able to walk away if he thought Yoongi was vulnerable to danger. 

He felt his face burn in a rush of embarrassment when he realized that Jungkook and Jimin had probably heard him whining in here. He pushed his forehead against his knees and reminded himself that this wasn’t something he could be judged for, that preheats were normal, and that Jungkook and Jimin had been nothing but kind.

Despite their interactions being short-lived, Yoongi found that he didn’t hate the idea of Jimin walking home with him. He didn’t like it, but it seemed like the least unpleasant option available to him at the moment. 

Jimin was another Omega, so Yoongi knew that he would understand the situation that Yoongi was in, but he still felt embarrassed about it. He completely avoided other people during his preheats, even Jin and Namjoon, and he never spoke about them.

But he didn’t want to wait here any longer than he had to, so he took out his phone and stared down at Jungkook’s number. Yoongi knew this was the part where he called Jungkook and asked to speak to Jimin, but he hesitated.

A part of him was holding out, waiting for his phone to come to life in his hand with a phone call from Jin or Namjoon. If the universe loved him, if he had any luck whatsoever, one of them would call now and spare him this. He knew that either one of them would drop everything and come to get him. 

The absence of his ringtone made the silence of the room feel deafening.

Yoongi checked the time. It had already been fifteen minutes since his first preheat wave. If he wanted to be in his apartment for his second wave, he needed to leave sooner rather than later. 

He swallowed another whine, now overly aware of Jungkook and Jimin on the other side of the wall. He wanted to go home.

He forced himself to push the call button and took a few deep breaths to calm himself as he waited for Jungkook to answer. The phone rang twice, and the third ring cut short.

“Hello?” 

Yoongi instantly recognized the high, soft voice as Jimin’s, and he felt his whole posture relax in relief. Jungkook hadn’t even answered the phone himself. He wanted to whine at the consideration, but held it back by holding his breath.

“Hello?” Jimin repeated, his voice tilting up.

“Hi, Jimin,” Yoongi said. “This is Yoongi.”

“Hi, hyung,” Jimin said, his voice soft. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Yoongi said. “Don’t worry. I’m in the practice room next to yours. But I’d really like to get home, and both of my packmates can’t check their phones right now.

Yoongi took another deep breath and said, “So I was wondering if you would walk with me? My preheat waves are... intense.”

“Of course,” Jimin said immediately. “Should I come over to you now?”

The way Jimin had agreed to help him without even considering it made Yoongi feel so grateful and relieved that he wanted to cry. He knew it might be the preheat pheromones making his emotions more intense, but he just wanted to go home. Now.

“Sure,” Yoongi said, leaning his forehead back against his knees. 

“Alright, I’m coming,” Jimin said. “What do you want Jungkook to do?”

A flash of heat went through Yoongi at the mention of Jungkook’s name. His instincts burned at the idea of the Alpha close by, of the Alpha joining him. The instinctive part of him wanted to be touched and scented and held. His instincts focused in on the idea of his heat, his imagination spiraling—thinking of hands on his skin, of emptiness filled, of the slick slide of something inside him longer than his fingers, of-

No. Yoongi gripped his hands into fists, forcing the thoughts from his head. He wasn’t anywhere near ready to have Jungkook as his heat partner. His instincts raged at him, and he fought a snarl. He could feel sweat on his forehead where it was touching his knees. 

“Hyung?” 

Should he asked Jungkook to stay where he was? To leave?

“I don’t know,” Yoongi said, hating how strained his voice sounded. “I don’t know what I want.”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin said, and Yoongi could hear the sound of movement on the other side of the call, Jungkook’s muffled voice, and then some shushing. “We’ll talk when I’m there. I’m coming now, okay?”

Yoongi nodded against his knees even though he knew that Jimin couldn’t see it and said, “Okay.”

The call ended and Yoongi set his phone down next to him, watching the door with bated breath, preparing himself for his place of safety to be breached. He heard the sound of the practice room door next to his opening, then closing. 

Then he heard a knock on the door and Jimin said, “Hyung? I’m going to come in fast, okay?”

“Okay,” Yoongi said, his voice weak. 

The door flew open, Jimin stepped inside, and then shut the door behind him before Yoongi had time to process it. He knew Jimin was being considerate, trying to expose Yoongi’s place of safety to the outside world as little as possible, and he smiled up at Jimin in thanks. 

Jimin grinned at him, his eyes sympathetic as he took in Yoongi’s fetal position on the floor, and then sat down next to him. Yoongi tensed at the proximity, but then relaxed when the discomfort he expected from his instincts didn’t come. In fact, his instincts found Jimin a welcome presence. He felt less nervous the longer he breathed in Jimin’s scent of baked bread, grass, and lemon.

“Have you had a wave yet?” Jimin asked. He was releasing comfort pheromones, and Yoongi tried to let them calm him down a little.

Yoongi nodded. He wanted to put his forehead against his knees again, but he felt like it would look pathetic, so he settled for leaning his head back against the wall.

“Hmm, I thought so,” Jimin said. 

When Yoongi turned to look at him in surprise, Jimin explained. “We could hear you growling. I told Jungkook you were probably just stopping yourself from coming to our room, and your instincts didn’t like it.”

“Shit,” Yoongi said, feeling another rush of embarrassment. “I didn’t know I was growling.”

“Jungkook freaked out,” Jimin said, huffing out a short laugh. “He stopped himself from opening our door, but he practically flattened himself against it to make sure he couldn’t hear anyone entering your room.”

Yoongi didn’t know how to respond to this, but his instincts swirled in his stomach, pleased at Jungkook’s attempt of protection.

Jimin sighed and leaned his head against the wall. “Alphas can be so dramatic,” he said, amusement in his tone. “He’s pacing the room.” 

Jimin giggled to himself, turning towards Yoongi.

“I spent five minutes trying not to laugh,” Jimin said, grinning. “He’s pacing fast, but he can only take two strides in each direction, so he’s going back and forth really quickly.”

Jimin turned away and laughed into his upper arm, and Yoongi grinned at the visual in spite of himself.

“What do you want him to do?” Jimin asked, tilting his head. “He might be able to force himself to leave, if you want. He’s good with control. And he trusts me.”

Yoongi shook his head. He knew that even if Jungkook could force himself to leave, his instincts would be furious and it would leave him agitated all day. Inaction would agitate the Alpha less.

“As long as he doesn’t come in here, I don’t care,” Yoongi said and Jimin nodded.

“How much longer until your next wave?” Jimin asked.

Yoongi checked his watch. “About fifteen minutes. Maybe less.”

Every Omega’s preheat was similar in length but completely different in number of waves, which usually depended on how much they repressed their instincts. Preheats lasted about 24 hours with waves starting a few hours in, and most Omegas averaged one wave every hour. Yoongi usually had twice as many waves as was considered normal.

“Every half an hour?” Jimin said, and Yoongi could tell he was trying to hide his surprise. 

Yoongi nodded and said, “I do a lot of repression.”

Jimin bit his lip as he looked at Yoongi, and Yoongi could hear him let out a little whine.

Yoongi grinned at his concern and said, “I’m fine.”

Jimin responded to this by pouting and Yoongi let out a short laugh.

“Really, Jimin,” Yoongi said, gesturing to himself with one hand. “This kind of preheat it’s... it’s all I’ve ever known. It doesn’t bother me.”

Jimin nodded a few times, but he was still pouting.

“I thought we had more time than that,” Jimin said. “Do you want to wait for the second wave before we leave?”

Yoongi sighed in resignation. It was a good idea. They’d be pushing it if they left now, and he didn’t want to risk having a preheat wave in public.

“Yeah,” Yoongi said. “We probably should.”

Jimin hummed in acknowledgement and settled in to wait. He looked around the room they were in, eyeing the nicer-looking piano in curiosity.

Before Jimin could ask, Yoongi explained. “I like old pianos.”

Jimin nodded and smiled, then he turned to Yoongi and said, “I like the room you and Jungkook use better.”

“Me too,” Yoongi said. It was weird to hear his favorite practice room referred to like that. Yoongi usually thought of it as the room he used.

“Do you know who wrote ‘Suck my dick’ on the wall in there?” Jimin asked.

Yoongi shook his head and said, “It was there when I was in my first year. Must have happened before my time.”

Jimin hummed and, after a few moments of comfortable silence, he turned to Yoongi and said, “You smell nice in preheat. Your scent gets extra minty.”

Yoongi cringed at the mention of his preheat scent, but nodded his thanks. His mother had also once told him that the mint came out in his scent more during his heat cycles.

“You usually smell nice,” Jimin said, “but the extra mint is cool down your throat when you breathe it in, and somehow still warm and sweet at the same time. It’s nice.” 

Yoongi grinned weakly. Jimin’s description reminded him of how Namjoon once said that Yoongi’s scent had layers of two dimensions, warm and cool being one of them. 

Thinking of Namjoon made Yoongi wish, again, that one of his pack members was here with him instead of Jimin. The other Omega was being very kind and considerate, but Yoongi wanted his pack. He wouldn’t feel right until he was surrounded by Jin and Namjoon’s scents. 

Jimin took out his phone a few minutes later when a small ding sounded throughout the room. Jimin opened his phone and then giggled at whatever he saw there.

“It’s Jungkook,” Jimin said. “He’s worried we haven’t left yet.”

Something burned through Yoongi again at the mention of Jungkook, and he clenched his hands into fists. He wasn’t too surprised at his own reaction. Preheats and heats are supposed to be so much better with a partner, and even better if that partner was an Alpha. His body wouldn’t feel the need to overproduce mating pheromones to attract a mate during his preheat and he could be sated during his heat, making the heat cycle easier on his body overall.

Yoongi wondered, just for a moment, how nice it would be to go and bury his face into Jungkook’s neck, to take in his scent and not have to worry about anything, to rest.

No, he told himself again. No. The thought of having a heat partner was so foreign to Yoongi that he barely knew how to process his instinct’s desire to have one.

Jimin tapped his phone against his hand and asked, “What should I say?”

“The truth,” Yoongi said, his eyes slipping closed. He could feel the beginnings of a preheat wave licking at his stomach, which meant he had about five minutes more before he could finally go home.

Jimin hummed and Yoongi could hear the sound of him typing on his phone. Jimin had his keyboard sound on, and Yoongi could hear the click of every letter. There was a minute of silence, followed by another ding and more typing. Then Jimin paused and asked, “Do you smell that?”

Yoongi inhaled, focusing on the scents in the air, and opened his eyes in surprise when he smelt territorial Alpha pheromones. 

“We probably should have lied. Sent him to get water for you or something,” Jimin said, shaking his head. “Knowing you are going to have a second wave here probably set him off and he’s defending the area.”

But something in Yoongi was settling at the scent. He’d known that this room was reasonably safe to be in, but now his instincts felt more safe as well, contented in the knowledge that this area was being protected. 

He didn’t feel completely safe, but he was glad to be able to finally relax, to loosen the hold had around his knees.

Jimin leaned toward him, frowning, and said, “You don’t smell agitated anymore.”

Yoongi nodded, his eyes slipping back closed. It seemed like announcing what people smelt like was a trait Jungkook and Jimin had picked up from their family pack, or maybe Yoongi's own family pack had just been that awkward about it. Yoongi supposed Jin and Namjoon mentioned his emotional scent sometimes as well.

Jimin nudged his shoulder and said, “Hyung, I think that’s bad. You shouldn’t want to be here.”

Yoongi opened his eyes and tried to process this, then tensed when he realized Jimin was right. He shouldn’t get attached to this room. He couldn’t have his heat here.

“We need to switch rooms,” Jimin said.

Before Yoongi could agree, Jimin was putting his phone to his ear, and Yoongi could hear the rings as Jimin waited for someone to answer.

“Hey, Jungkook,” Jimin said. “We’re going to switch rooms, but Yoongi wants some water. Can you go get him some?”

The practice room door next to theirs opened so fast that it slammed into the wall. As they heard footsteps quickly going down the hall, Jimin held his phone at arms length, turning to muffle his laughter in Yoongi’s shoulder.

Yoongi knew it was funny, objectively. Like Jimin had said, Alphas tended to be dramatic about heat cycles, especially when it was someone they were interested in and hadn’t mated with. Yoongi actually felt a little flattered, but he wasn’t sure if that was just his preheat talking. 

“Sorry,” Jimin said, putting his free hand over his mouth. Yoongi shrugged off the apology. If the situations were reversed, if Namjoon was the one overacting to another Omega’s preheat, Yoongi knew he’d be laughing too. 

Jimin composed himself, then said into the phone, “You there? Jungkook?”

Yoongi could hear the muffled sound of Jungkook’s voice over the phone. He resisted the urge to lean closer to Jimin to hear it clearly.

“Remember that we need to carry anything you buy,” Jimin said, his voice stern. “He just needs a normal bottle of water. Don’t come back with something ridiculous.”

More muffled talking. The corner of Jimin’s mouth twitched.

“Yes,” Jimin said. “Two normal bottles of water would be fine. Thanks.” 

Jimin ended the call and stood up. 

“Come on,” he said. “We still have time to move, right?”

Yoongi nodded, as they still had a few minutes, but he hesitated. He liked the newfound familiarity of the room they were in, the feeling of safety. What could one more wave hurt?

But Jimin wasn’t having it. With surprising strength, he grabbed both of Yoongi’s hands and hauled him to his feet. Jimin shouldered Yoongi’s laptop bag and Yoongi couldn’t fight a whine of protest as Jimin opened the practice room door, exposing his place of safety to the outside world.

“Sorry, hyung,” Jimin said, giving Yoongi a gentle push out the door. “But we can’t risk needing to drag you out of here later.”

Embarrassed, Yoongi focused on not whining again, pushing down the need as he stepped into the open space of the hallway. Jimin’s hand was gentle on his back, but firm as he pushed Yoongi toward the next practice room. Jimin checked if the room was empty, and then pulled Yoongi inside. 

Jimin shut the door, then set Yoongi’s laptop bag back on the floor. Yoongi frowned as he looked around the new room. It smelt like someone else, a Beta he didn’t know, and he didn’t like it. But he knew that was good. It meant he would want to get the hell out of here after his next wave.

Yoongi sighed and slid down the wall opposite the door, mirroring the position he had been in inside the last room. 

“Are you mad at me?” Jimin asked, looking down and tugging at the hemline of his shirt.

Yoongi felt a pang of guilt and said, “No.”

Jimin shyly looked up.

“This was a good idea,” Yoongi said. He didn’t like how his instincts were agitated again, but he knew Jimin had made the right choice. “Thank you.”

Jimin smiled weakly and moved to sit next to him again. Jimin was still releasing comfort pheromones, and Yoongi relaxed more as Jimin’s scent started to mask the scent of the foreign Beta.

Yoongi felt the heat stirring in his stomach, spreading outward, and he leaned his head back against the wall. 

“Soon?” Jimin asked, and Yoongi nodded.

“We could-” Jimin began, but then he cleared his throat and looked away. Then he seemed to steel himself, straightening his shoulders, and said, “If you want to feel safe, we could...”

Jimin reached forward, pulling at Yoongi’s closest arm until Yoongi relinquished his hold around his knees. Then Jimin gripped the skin around Yoongi’s wrist in an offer to scent-bond.

Yoongi stared at Jimin’s hand on his wrist, unsure.

“This will help?” Yoongi asked.

Jimin nodded and said, “Tae and I scent-bond through most of our preheats. It’s nice.”

Yoongi still hesitated. The last time he had scent-bonded with Jimin, he had found the innate feeling of trust disconcerting. But he could see how it could help now, when his instincts were longing for safety and familiarity. 

“We don’t have to,” Jimin said. “You won’t hurt my feelings.”

For some reason, this reassurance made Yoongi more comfortable with the idea. He gripped Jimin’s wrist back, accepting his offer, and closed his eyes as he and Jimin both moved their hands farther up each other’s arms until the scent glands on their wrists were pressed together.

Yoongi felt warmth spreading through his body, but he wasn’t sure how much of it was from the scent-bonding and how much of it was from his incoming preheat wave. He tensed as he felt it building, but he could also feel his trust of Jimin building, his instinct’s perception of their friendship strengthening. 

Yoongi felt his breath picking up as the wave drew closer, as the burn started in his stomach. He had seconds now. He gave up on his pride and leaned his forehead against his knees. Jimin’s grip tightened around his wrist, and Yoongi felt the other Omega’s free hand land on his shoulder in soft reassurance.

Yoongi clenched his eyes shut tighter as the wave hit him, his awareness blurred, he registered Jungkook’s scent, he heard himself start to whine, and then he was gone. But even through the unawareness, he could feel the solidness of Jimin’s presence, of companionship. 

When Yoongi blinked back into awareness, he was sitting with his back to Jimin’s chest, panting, scent-bond broken. The other Omega’s arms were locked firmly around his waist.

Yoongi cleared his throat and Jimin’s hold on him released immediately. 

“Sorry,” Jimin said. “You went for the door.”

Yoongi stood, shaking his head to clear it. Embarrassed, he felt more heat rising to his already warm face.

“I tried to leave?” Yoongi asked.

Jimin nodded from the floor and said, “Good thing we scent-bonded. You might have been hostile when I tried to stop you otherwise.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, looking away. It was weird to be embarrassed about something he couldn’t remember. “I’m sorry. This probably isn’t what you want to be doing today.”

“I don’t mind,” Jimin said, brightly. “It’s kind of cute.”

“Cute?” Yoongi repeated. Yoongi didn’t see how it was cute at all.

“I think so,” Jimin said. “It’s cute how both of your instincts want to be together.”

Yoongi stared down at him, not bothering to voice his disagreement, but their lingering scent-bond was just making him feel fond as Jimin continued smiling up at him.

They both tensed when the sound of footsteps entered the hallway. Jimin stood, moving to stand between Yoongi and the door, their scent-bond most likely making Jimin feel overprotective, and Yoongi grinned at his back.

The footsteps paused in front of their door and Yoongi could hear the sound of something being set down before they continued down the hallway. When they heard the sound of a door closing, Jimin picked up Yoongi’s laptop bag again.

“Ready to go?” Jimin asked, motioning at the door.

Yoongi nodded, swallowing down his nervousness as Jimin opened the door. Jimin paused, bending down to pick up two bottles of water, and then passed one to Yoongi.

“Thanks,” Yoongi said, opening it immediately. He’d been thirsty since he spoke to Professor Lee, and it had only gotten worse. He heard Jimin giggling as he didn’t stop drinking it. When Yoongi had finished the whole bottle, he already felt better and Jimin was grinning at him.

Yoongi screwed the cap back on the bottle and Jimin pointed to the floor. 

“You could leave it here,” Jimin said in a whisper. “He’ll like that you finished it. Might even calm him down when he leaves.”

Yoongi shrugged, setting the bottle back down in front of the room they’d just left. Jimin was probably right. It soothed Alphas when they were allowed to provide.

“Let’s go,” Jimin said, grabbing Yoongi’s hand and pulling him down the hallway. Yoongi, despite being unsure about the sudden hand-holding, followed him out of the music building without complaint. He was more focused on not looking at anyone they passed, on creating as much distance as possible between himself and other people.

When they stepped outside, Jimin asked, “Which way?”

“I live by the Coffee Nook,” Yoongi said.

Jimin nodded and pulled him toward the crosswalk that led there. Just as Yoongi was about to tell Jimin that the hand-holding was unnecessary, someone walked very close to Yoongi as they passed, a young female Alpha, and Yoongi flinched back, hissing.

Jimin used his grip on Yoongi’s hand to pull him farther away from her, frowning.

“I’m so sorry!” she said, looking stricken as she took in his scent, but Yoongi waved off her apology and pulled Jimin along with gritted teeth.

“What did she do?” Jimin asked, looking back over his shoulder.

“Nothing,” Yoongi said, but he couldn’t keep a hard edge out his voice.

“Did she touch you? I know her,” Jimin said, sounding upset.

“No,” Yoongi said with a sigh, feeling the hostile tension start to leave his body. “She didn’t do anything wrong. Preheats just make me aggressive. I’m sorry, I forgot to mention it.” 

“That’s fine,” Jimin said, looking relieved. “We had other things to worry about.”

He tightened his grip on Yoongi’s hand and added, “I won’t let you attack anyone.”

“It shouldn’t come to that,” Yoongi said, shying away from a stranger and into Jimin as they waited at the crosswalk. But it probably was a good idea that Jimin had an easy way to pull Yoongi away from a confrontation.

The rest of the walk went well until just before the Coffee Nook, when a middle-aged Beta man bumped into Yoongi on his way out of a restaurant and Yoongi hissed so loudly that he was spitting, blind with rage.

“Holy crap,” Jimin said, tugging Yoongi away from the man.

“Sorry,” the man said, his eyes wide.

“We’re sorry, too,” Jimin said, pulling a still-hissing Yoongi farther down the sidewalk.

“I’m not sorry,” Yoongi snarled, but he finally stopped hissing as he felt his agitation settle. 

It was true that, even with a more level head, Yoongi didn’t feel bad about being aggressive. A little embarrassed? Yes. But he didn’t think he needed to feel guilty. This was his instincts’ way of protecting him during his preheat, meant to prevent unwanted people from being near him during his heat when he would be vulnerable. 

Jimin pursed his lips as they continued down the sidewalk, and it took Yoongi a block to realize that Jimin was holding back laughter.

Yoongi sighed and said, “You can laugh if want, Jimin.”

Jimin started giggling into the back of his hand, and then he was full on laughing as he led Yoongi farther down the street. In spite of the situation, Yoongi felt himself grinning as well.

“You sounded vicious, hyung,” Jimin said, still laughing. “I’ve never heard an Omega sound so scary in my whole life! I thought you were going to rip him to pieces.”

Jimin slowed as they reached the Coffee Nook and Yoongi said, “I live a little further down the street.”

Jimin nodded as he continued walking and said, “You guys live in a good location.”

Yoongi agreed, but he was too distracted to respond as he turned and looked into the Coffee Nook, trying to catch sight of Namjoon. He didn’t even know if the Alpha was still working or not. He hadn’t called Yoongi, but Namjoon sometimes forgot to check his phone after work.

Yoongi ground to a halt when he saw Namjoon behind the cash register, holding his breath on a whine. Jimin stopped too, following Yoongi’s gaze. 

“There’s another person working. Should I get him?” Jimin asked, and Yoongi nodded, his logic failing him. 

He didn’t care that Namjoon was still on shift. He wanted pack. Jimin had done a very good job of helping him, probably better than Namjoon could have done, but it wasn’t the same. 

Yoongi was tense from being in preheat in public, his instincts nervous about his safety, and he wasn’t sure if simply going to his apartment would fix all of that. He knew that if he spent too much of his preheat distressed, then he’d have a faux heat—where his body quickly reversed all the preparation his preheat had done slowly, his instincts refusing to become vulnerable. And Yoongi has heard that, while shorter, faux heats hurt like hell. People often compared them to the pain of childbirth.

He knew he’d be embarrassed to be in preheat in front of Namjoon, and that Namjoon couldn’t stay with him for any waves, but it was better than a faux heat. To make sure that Yoongi would be content, he could ask Namjoon to scent things to put in his nest before he built too much of it and became possessive over it. Maybe Yoongi could ask him to scent the blankets he kept for heats in bins under his bed.

“Are you sure?” Jimin asked.

Suddenly, asking Namjoon to scent the blankets in the bins sounded like such a good idea that Yoongi felt like he needed it, like he couldn’t spend his heat without it.

Yoongi nodded again.

“Okay. Just a sec,” Jimin said, pulling Yoongi forward by their joined hands.

Yoongi expected Jimin to leave him out here and go inside, but he didn’t. He leaned forward and opened the door far enough that it dinged, and then beckoned at Namjoon when he looked up. Namjoon’s eyes widened as he looked at Jimin, then he frowned when his gaze drifted to Yoongi, taking in Yoongi and Jimin’s clasped hands. 

Yoongi reached into his pocket and held up his phone. Check your messages Yoongi mouthed.

Namjoon nodded and finished ringing up the customer he was helping, then reached into his back pocket to check his phone. After few seconds, Namjoon’s eyes widened and he quickly turned to his coworker.

Yoongi recognized him, a Beta boy a little younger than Namjoon named Jaeho. After a quick conversation, Jaeho nodded, his eyes flicking to Yoongi, and shooed Namjoon towards the door. 

Namjoon took off his apron, grabbed his things, and walked quickly toward the exit. Yoongi felt his face burning as Jaeho smiled at him in sympathy. In his opinion, the less people he knew who witnessed his preheat the better, but he knew explaining the situation to Jaeho was something that couldn’t have been avoided if Namjoon wanted to get off work early.

The door dinged again as Namjoon opened it and he stepped slowly outside. He studied Yoongi, reaching out and then letting his hand fall, then asked, “Are you okay?”

Yoongi nodded as the door to the Coffee Nook swung shut behind Namjoon, and Jimin’s hand finally slipped from his as he moved forward. Yoongi slammed into Namjoon’s arms, hugging him more forcefully than he had intended to.

Namjoon huffed out a surprised breath, then he hugged Yoongi back, his hands so gentle that Yoongi barely felt them. Yoongi took a few moments to just inhale Namjoon’s scent, to smell the burning pine and traces of Jin’s cotton and rose, and he finally felt safe, even there in the middle of the sidewalk.

“I’m sorry, hyung,” Namjoon said, his voice quiet.

Yoongi shook his head and said, “Not your fault.”

“We should go home,” Namjoon said.

Yoongi huffed and hugged Namjoon tighter in response. He didn’t want to let go yet.

“Want me to carry you?” Namjoon asked, his voice amused.

Annoyed, Yoongi shook his head again and said, “No. Fuck you.”

Namjoon laughed. “Just making sure it’s still you in there.”

Then he voice went quiet again, so quiet that Yoongi knew only he could hear. “Never met you in preheat before,” Namjoon said. “I wasn’t expecting you to hug me.”

Yoongi sighed against him, clenching his eyes shut, reminded that this was embarrassing, that he wanted to get home as soon as possible.

“Okay, now we can go,” Yoongi said, forcing himself to pull away from Namjoon, grimacing as his instincts rebelled at the distance. 

Yoongi turned to where Jimin was waiting at the edge of the sidewalk, grinning at them with Yoongi’s laptop bag still over his shoulder and a bottle of water in his hands. Yoongi wished the other Omega hadn’t witnessed that, and he could feel heat rising to his face.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said to Jimin, forcing himself to make eye contact, and Jimin beamed at him.

“Of course,” he said. “I trust you can take it from here? Or should I come with?”

Namjoon smiled gently at Jimin, his eyes going soft, but then he looked in question at Yoongi, who shook his head.

“You can come if you want to,” Yoongi told Jimin, “but I’ll be fine with Namjoon.”

“Your next wa-” Jimin began, but then he cleared his throat, his eyes flicking to Namjoon, his face reddening. “You have the time?”

Yoongi nodded. He wasn’t sure if Jimin was avoiding talking explicitly about preheat waves in front of Namjoon for Yoongi’s sake or because Jimin himself felt shy, but, as Jimin’s red face made Namjoon’s soon go red too, Yoongi was endeared nonetheless. 

He could make it home from here in five minutes if he had to, and it felt like his next preheat wave was maybe fifteen minutes out. 

Yoongi’s instincts trusted Namjoon enough that they would most likely accept him as a heat partner if he was with Yoongi during a wave, which Jimin probably knew and was worried about. If that happened, Yoongi would be embarrassed for life. And Jin would be holding back laughter for months if he had to forcibly separate Yoongi from Namjoon. However, Yoongi was almost certain that they could make it home before his next wave.

“I have the time,” Yoongi said with a small smile.

Jimin smiled between the two of them, and said, “Alright. I’ll probably head back then. I have class soon.” He took off Yoongi’s laptop bag and handed it to him, waiting for Yoongi to put it on before he handed him the water, too.

“Thank you,” Yoongi repeated, at a loss for what else to say, not sure what to express other than the gratitude he felt.

“It was no problem.” Jimin said, slowly stepping backwards down the sidewalk. “I’m going to go check on Jungkook, so don’t worry about him.”

Yoongi nodded, pushing thoughts about the Alpha away as soon as they came when heat spiked in his gut, but Namjoon tensed. 

Jimin gave Namjoon a curious look, waved at them both, then turned around.

Yoongi started walking toward the apartment, Namjoon falling in step with him, and Yoongi said, amused, “I know he’s cute, but you could have at least said one word to him.”

At this, Namjoon groaned and hung his head. Jin teased Namjoon constantly whenever the Alpha had a crush—because they were obvious and Namjoon always fell for the people who were the almost-too-cute type—and Yoongi knew he didn’t mind talking about it.

“I was going to,” Namjoon said, putting a hand to his chest. “I was going to thank him, but then I wasn’t sure if I should presume to thank him for something that wasn’t done for me. And then, as I was going to say goodbye, he mentioned Jungkook? What was with that?”

It was Yoongi’s turn to groan, embarrassment and heat flashing through him again, and he said, “Ugh. Don’t ask.”

“Why?” Namjoon asked.

“Don’t want to think about him right now,” Yoongi said, speeding up. The closer he got to their apartment, to the beginnings of his nest, the more anxious he got to be there. 

“Did something happen?” Namjoon asked, speeding up to accommodate Yoongi’s pace. When Yoongi glanced at him, he looked worried.

“Nothing bad,” Yoongi reassured him.

Namjoon frowned at this, looking confused, but Yoongi wasn’t about to tell him that he didn’t want to think about Jungkook right now because doing so made him get hotter, made Yoongi want him.

When they got in view of the apartment, Yoongi was breaking out into a run before he had time to process it and then bolted up the stairs in a full-out sprint. Yoongi tried to key in the door code of their apartment, but mispressed it in his hurry. He swore and slowly keyed it in a second time, forcing down his instinct's impatience. 

Namjoon caught up to him as Yoongi keyed in the last number and said, half-laughing as he panted, “I’ve never seen you run before.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a day of firsts,” Yoongi said, sighing with relief as he threw the door open and was hit with the combination of Jin and Namjoon’s scent. 

He took off his shoes and went straight for his room, having barely enough patience to set down his laptop bag and the bottled water Jungkook had bought him before he threw himself onto his bed. He could feel heat building in his stomach, and knew he was at the five minute mark for another wave. It was so nice to be in his bed, but it wasn’t enough. 

After a few moments, Namjoon asked in the open doorway, just shy of entering the room, “Can I do anything?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, pointing to the bins full of blankets under his bed. “You can take these out to the living room, scent the shit out of them, and then come give them back in exactly ten minutes.”

Yoongi needed to get content as soon as possible, and a nest of blankets that smelt like Namjoon would be a sure-fire way to do it. He had access to all of Jin’s clothing in here, too, so Yoongi knew he could make his nest smell like the Beta as well. Even the idea of it satisfied him, had him swallowing down a purr, which was a good sign. Maybe he didn’t need to be worried about a faux heat after all, but he wanted to play it safe.

Namjoon snorted, but came forward at Yoongi’s permission to enter and pulled both of the bins out from under Yoongi’s bed. It was odd watching Namjoon enter his heat room, but not unpleasant.

“Exactly ten minutes is very specific,” Namjoon mused.

“What do preheats entail Namjoon?” Yoongi asked, exasperated, and Namjoon blushed. 

“Oh. Right. Sorry,” Namjoon said.

A year ago, Yoongi would have never allowed anyone in his heat room during a preheat. He wondered when he and Namjoon had gotten closer, and he couldn’t pinpoint what had changed. But he knew that, compared to being in preheat in front of Professor Lee, Jungkook, Jimin and strangers on the street, Yoongi found being in preheat in front of Namjoon easy in comparison. He didn’t feel nearly as embarrassed as he thought he would. 

Namjoon picked up one of the bins and set it in the hallway. Then, as he grabbed the other one, he asked, “Why haven’t you asked me to scent these before?”

Yoongi turned fully to face Namjoon when he heard the smallness of his voice. Namjoon wasn’t looking at him, but down at the bin on the floor.

“Did I do something wrong for two years that I’m only doing right now? Because I don’t know what it is,” Namjoon said.

“No,” Yoongi said, sitting up. He didn’t like how Namjoon suddenly looked like he had lost all of his confidence. And this he knew the answer to. “You know how I usually just slowly steal a bunch of your clothes?”

Namjoon nodded, shuffling his feet. Yoongi briefly wondered if, in all his awkwardness around nesting, he’d made Namjoon feel awkward about it as well. Even now, Yoongi didn’t really want to talk about it, but he didn’t want the Alpha to think that he had been failing Yoongi somehow. 

“I would nest like that this time as well. But, if you scent these, it’s faster,” Yoongi said, pointing at the bin full of blankets. “I don’t want a faux heat.”

Namjoon eyes widened and he said, “I didn’t even think about that. Were you that distressed?”

“I don’t know,” Yoongi admitted, looking down. He had no idea what level of distress caused a faux heat, and he didn’t really want to find out. “But I was more distressed than I usually am.”

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon said again.

“Not your fault,” Yoongi repeated, lying back down. The heat started traveling past his stomach. “Now get out. Give me ten minutes.”

“Right,” Namjoon said, slowly picking up the second bin, blinking owlishly down at it. 

Yoongi assessed himself as he grew warmer. He had just a few minutes left. He got up, grabbed one of Jin’s pillows and returned to his bed. It should prevent him from pillaging the room for Jin’s scent during his wave. Yoongi had once ended a preheat wave and found himself in their closet, his arms full of Jin’s dirty laundry. Not something he wanted to repeat. 

He prefered to use clean clothes, which held people’s scents unless washed with scent-blocking laundry detergent. The only exception being used sweaters that were especially soft. Jin had a few of those, one of them already in Yoongi’s bed, but Yoongi could just get them later.

“Right,” Namjoon repeated, watching Yoongi with wide eyes. “This isn’t weird. Is this weird? I feel weird.”

Yoongi gritted his teeth as heat shot up his spine and said, “No, Namjoon. It’s only weird if you bumblefuck around in here long enough to witness my preheat wave and my instincts accept you as my heat partner. Get out.”

Yoongi didn’t know if that would actually happen, but he was in preheat and had allowed Namjoon into his heat room, had allowed Namjoon to touch him, so it was possible. 

Namjoon jerked back so violently that he slammed against Yoongi’s dresser, his knuckles white around Yoongi’s bin. The knobs of the dresser jamming against his back had to hurt like fuck, but Namjoon continued for the door without a sound or pause, shutting it behind him so fast the Yoongi felt the wind of it. 

Yoongi laughed into Jin's pillow until his preheat wave swallowed his awareness.

***

After his third preheat wave ended, Yoongi collected the things Jin would need from their bedroom—his phone charger, his laptop, two pairs of jeans, two shirts, two sweaters, some underwear and socks, and the remaining pillow from Jin’s bed that Yoongi was almost unwilling to part with. 

After Namjoon had returned the scented blankets and fled the room again with Jin’s things—still looking alarmed at the prospect of Yoongi accepting him as a heat partner—Yoongi was finally able to start building his nest. He’d have to venture out to stock up on water later, but he couldn’t fight the nesting urge any longer. 

He got out of his bed and stared down at it, then reached for one of the blankets that Namjoon had scented. He tossed it into the middle of his bed, knowing it would get him going. Sure enough, Yoongi’s instincts balked at the haphazard placement and he found himself jerking forward to fix it.

His mind went fuzzy as he continued to build his nest, his awareness skipping from one moment to the next. He was positioning all the blankets into the walls and base of his nest, then he had an armful of Jin’s sweaters that he was carefully tucking into gaps, then he was into the middle of his nest deliriously scenting the top layer of material until the nest smelt like his. 

He knew he was most likely releasing territorial pheromones now that he had scented his nest, warning other people away from his heat room. And, at the way his instincts twisted at the idea, he doubted that he’d even let Namjoon or Jin inside here now. Nests outside of a heat cycle were personal enough when built alone, and heat cycle nests were meant exclusively for Omegas and their heat partners.

Just after another wave, Yoongi’s phone started to ring and he reluctantly released his grip on Jin’s pillow to reach into his pocket. He checked the screen, hesitated when he saw Jin’s name, and then answered the call. He didn’t want his packmate to worry.

“Hello?” Yoongi said, relaxing back into his nest. The walls made by his blankets and Jin’s clothes were high enough that Yoongi couldn’t see over them when he laid down, and it made him feel so much safer than it reasonably should.

“Yoongi!” Jin said, his voiced panicked. “Where are you? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Yoongi said. “I’m at home.” His instincts didn’t like this distraction, wanted to focus on his heat cycle, on something they deemed important, and Yoongi felt their annoyance like an itch.

Jin let out a huge breath of relief and said, “Thank goodness. Did Namjoon come and get you?”

“No,” Yoongi said. “Jimin.”

“Jimin?” Jin repeated with surprise. 

“Ask Namjoon. I’ll explain after,” Yoongi said, and then he hung up, knowing Jin would understand that Yoongi didn’t want to talk during his heat cycle. He turned the volume off on his phone and tossed it away, not wanting to be further distrubed. 

But Jin was probably on his way home now, and that thought had Yoongi sitting up with a groan. He didn’t know if Namjoon was still home, but Yoongi would prefer to go get water with as few concerned witnesses as possible.

He forced himself out of bed, a small whine escaping the back of his throat as he left his nest. His instincts also wanted water, and Yoongi suspected that was the only reason he had the willpower to walk away from his nest and across the room. He hesitated again in front of his door, then opened the doorknob with gritted teeth. He rushed out into the hallway and shut the door again, exposing his heat room as little as possible.

He walked slowly down the hallway, tilting his head to listen for signs of Namjoon. He peeked around the corner, relaxing when he saw no one in the living room and that the kitchen light was still off. Namjoon had either left or was in his room. Either way, Yoongi was grateful to be alone. He walked as quietly as possible into the kitchen and opened the cabinet that held their water bottles. 

He filled up the water bottles as fast as he could, fighting a rising sense of urgency to go back to his heat room, to be back in his nest where everything was safe and smelt right. Yoongi usually bought a pack of bottled water for his heats, but this heat was early and he hadn’t prepared for it in time. 

He knew he would also need some snacks, so he started opening up cupboards until he found an almost-full box of granola bars, which would serve Yoongi’s limited appetite over the next two days.

He packed everything into one of the bags Jin took grocery shopping, then frowned down at the water bottles. It didn’t feel like enough and his instincts twisted in his gut in discontent. He sighed and turned back toward the kitchen. He trusted his instincts to know how much water he needed—he couldn’t imagine the amount of bodily fluid he released between sweat and slick during a heat.

He opened the fridge, scanning the shelves before he took out an almost empty 2-liter bottle of Coke. He dumped the remainder of it down the drain and rinsed out the bottle before refilling it with water.

As he put the huge plastic bottle into the grocery bag, he could tell his instincts were satisfied with the amount of water, so Yoongi hauled the bag off the counter. He winced as the straps of the bag dug into the skin of his hands, but didn’t allow himself to set it down as he left the kitchen and went back down the hallway.

He looked back over his shoulder before his opened the door to his heat room, almost rolling his eyes at his own paranoia, and then quickly went back inside. He set the bag of snacks and water next to his bed, then crawled back into his nest. He was tired, feeling almost fuzzy with contentment now that he was fully prepared.

Within a few minutes, his eyes were heavy with sleep and he felt himself reach forward for something. As he hugged a ball of soft material to his chest and smelt a waft of rain and well-worn metal, he realized that he had grabbed Jungkook’s scarf. It wasn’t a surprise that Yoongi had put the scarf into his nest, but he didn’t remember doing it.

Yoongi buried his face into the soft material, inhaling Jungkook’s lingering scent deeply. His instincts wanted him here, wanted him touching and scenting and protecting him. As even the mere trace of Jungkook’s scent lulled him into further calm, Yoongi began to purr, and he wondered again what it would be like to have Jungkook as a heat partner, if it would be nice.

***

Despite the rocky start, the remainder of Yoongi’s heat cycle went as it usually did. Most Omegas could sleep through their preheat waves, but Yoongi eventually woke to the feeling of his clothes itching against his skin and began ripping them off in a daze. He tossed them onto the floor in disgust, used one of the blankets Namjoon had scented to cover up his nudity, and fell back asleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Yoongi couldn’t sleep anymore. He opened his phone and scrolled through the news, then half-heartedly played some games between waves of burning preheat, which were getting longer and more intense. By the length of them, the last one being almost two minutes, Yoongi knew he had only a few hours before his heat started.

Anxious, he double checked that he still had all of his supplies, and saw he had already drank almost half of his water. He didn’t remember drinking most of it, but that was normal, and he settled back into his nest to wait.

His heat came at dawn. It came burning hot enough that the urgent pain of it, the pulsing empty desperate feeling, had Yoongi tensing up with a loud whine, rutting up into the air.

The first few hours of his heat were a blur of need and frustration. The slick slide of his own fingers brought little relief, the small moments after orgasms being Yoongi’s only time to rest and take a breath. However, his cock didn’t even have enough time to soften to half-hard before the blazing sense of need returned, raging heat back through his body, his mind blurring.

When Yoongi had his first moment of true awareness, he forced himself to eat one of the granola bars, wincing in distaste. He checked to make sure he had been drinking his water, and was amused to find that the now-empty bottled water that Jungkook had bought him had a place of honor on his desk rather than the floor.

Then he collapsed back against his sheets, exhausted, his cock finally soft between his legs. But he knew it wouldn’t last. He had half an hour at best before another heat wave.

He knew some Omegas looked forward to their heats, but Yoongi had no idea why people enjoyed these, couldn’t imagine a heat being all that great even with a partner. It was painful, uncomfortable, and everything got wet. He had slick all over his hands and ass and thighs, sweat plastering his hair to his forehead, and come sticking to his stomach. 

He used to clean himself off between heat waves, but he’d stopped bothering after his third or fourth heat, knowing that he’d be just as filthy the next time he had a moment to assess himself, that the cycle was inevitable.

Yoongi managed to fall asleep after tossing and turning, but soon woke again with a loud groan of pain, burning hot with heat and emptiness and desperation. He chased the need to be filled with his fingers, groaning again when they slipped inside him, his cock hard and pulsing against his stomach.

His heat wave passed in flashes of awareness. He was whining when his fingers couldn’t go deep enough, couldn’t get a good angle to put the firm pressure on his prostate he wanted. He was groaning in frustration when the stretch of his fingers felt a confusing combination of satisfying and lacking, and he was forced to quickly stroke his cock to reach orgasm. 

He collapsed back onto his bed, panting, his cock still hard against his stomach. He didn’t even bother to take his fingers out of himself because he knew the desperate need would soon return, that a single orgasm wasn’t enough to sate a heat wave. 

He didn’t even get a minute’s rest before he felt heat blaze through him again, felt his awareness slip into a blur of pleasure and frustration and not enough.

Yeah. He had no idea why anyone liked this.

***

Yoongi felt his heat break just before dawn the next day, a final orgasm extinguishing his last heat wave into a calm hum. He didn’t know how he knew it was over, but his instincts had never been wrong before.

He cleaned himself off and then curled up in his nest, turning a few of the blankets and clothes over so that material underneath him was dry. He fell asleep almost instantly, glad to finally sleep the exhaustion out of his body. 

He woke around noon, naked and cold, and forced himself to get up. He knew that he shouldn’t sleep all day, or his sleep schedule would get more fucked up than it usually was. He stretched, wincing at twinges of pain in his sore muscles and joints, and decided he wanted to be clean and warm before he did anything else.

After a long and hot shower, Yoongi ate the leftovers in the fridge, touched that Jin had clearly labeled multiple tupperware dishes as For Yoongi. Then he spent the next few hours washing the blankets and clothing he had used for his heat nest. He avoided all eye contact with Jin and Namjoon as he brought the loads of soiled laundry to their washing machine, adding in scent-blocking detergent before washing everything on the longest cycle they had. 

Once everything was clean and dry again, Yoongi sprayed the clothing and blankets with scenting-blocking spray in case they still smelt like his heat before putting them away where they belonged. Then he collapsed back onto his bed with a sigh, reminding himself that the sun wasn’t even down and he shouldn’t go back to sleep yet.

All of his sheets and pillows smelt clinical in the absence of his own scent, so Yoongi spent a few minutes scenting his things until he could tell his scent was there. He couldn’t actually smell it, but his instincts knew. 

He was dozing off when his phone dinged with a text message from where Yoongi had left it charging on his desk. He’d accidentally left his phone on silent in his nest throughout his whole heat, and it was a miracle that he hadn’t gotten any slick on it. 

Yoongi sat up and blinked his eyes open. Fuck. He’d almost went back to sleep. 

Yoongi reached for his phone and the tiredness left his eyes when he saw a message from Jungkook. He was relieved when thinking of the Alpha wasn’t accompanied by a flash of heat, but by just the warm flash of uncertainty he had become used to feeling, his instincts quiet other than making their interest known. 

Jungkook: I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I finished practicing yesterday and I’m ready for another piano lesson whenever it’s convenient for you. 

Yoongi tried to think through his schedule. He knew he’d want Sunday to catch up on all the classwork he had missed, but Monday should be fine. In fact, it would be good for him to have a reason to get up instead of sleeping in as late as possible. He’d be annoyed when his alarm went off Monday morning, but Yoongi liked being on a sleep schedule that a least lightly resembled Jin and Namjoon’s.

Yoongi: how about monday morning?

Jungkook: Monday morning is good for me. At noon? Like the first time?

Yoongi could practically hear Jin saying Noon is not the morning, Yoongi, and he laughed to himself. He felt like he’d officially corrupted Jungkook to his side.

Yoongi: noon it is

Monday at noon, like the first time. Yoongi felt stupid that the phrasing made him smile. Thinking about his first piano lesson with Jungkook filled him with a sense of nostalgia. That first time, Yoongi hadn’t even known that Jungkook was an Alpha, hadn't really known anything about him at all. And Yoongi had to admit that he was kind of looking forward to seeing Jungkook again, his instincts burning in his stomach at the idea.

Jungkook: Thank you, hyung! Sorry if I bothered you.

Yoongi: you didnt

Jungkook: Good :)

Yoongi set his phone back down on his desk, still smiling. He’d have to find some piano music that Jungkook could sing to before Monday, but it shouldn’t be that difficult.

His stomach rumbled with hunger, and he decided that he couldn’t stay in here any longer or he’d just go back to sleep again. 

He hesitated. Jin and Namjoon hadn’t spoken to him at all, both of them leaving Yoongi to recover from his heat and clean everything in peace. However, Yoongi knew they both had to have questions about what had happened on Thursday.

Knowing it would need to be discussed eventually and putting it off wouldn’t make it any less embarrassing, Yoongi rolled out of bed and headed for the kitchen. As Yoongi got to the end of the hall, he saw that Jin was sitting on the couch in the living room, slouched back with his eyes focused intently on the TV screen. He had a video game controller in his hands, and he was moving his thumbs so fast that Yoongi had no idea how he knew what buttons he was even pushing.

When he saw Yoongi at the end of the hallway, Jin smiled and paused his game.

“I thought we wouldn’t be seeing again you until tomorrow,” Jin said.

Yoongi nodded and said, “I had to make myself get up.”

Jin trailed after Yoongi as he went into the kitchen, chatting about his last few days at the bakery—he had officially accepted his boss’s offer to take over ownership of the bakery and they were discussing when the change would happen. 

Yoongi listened gratefully as he put more leftovers in the microwave, relieved to finally think about something other than his heat cycle. Namjoon meandered into the kitchen when Yoongi was half-way through his steaming bowl of soybean paste stew. 

Jin was in the middle of telling a story about a rude customer who had insisted that, since the bakery sold freshly-made goods, they should also be able to change their recipes per order, and Jin continued his story without pause as Namjoon sat down with them at the table.

Jin finished his story as Yoongi finished his stew, and Jin and Namjoon shared a glance. Yoongi braced himself for the conversation he knew was coming.

“Yoongi,” Jin said, straightening up in his chair and gesturing between himself and Namjoon, “we are both really sorry for not answering your calls on Thursday.”

Namjoon nodded in agreement, but Yoongi waved off the apology and said, “It’s fine. I knew why you weren’t answering.”

“It doesn’t feel fine,” Jin said, looking down at the table. “It was the first time you ever asked anything of us, and we couldn’t deliver.”

Yoongi blinked, taken off-guard. The first thing he had ever asked of them? That couldn’t be true. He tried to think of something he had asked Jin or Namjoon to help him with before. There had to be something, but Yoongi was the type to prefer to solve his own problems.

However, even if there wasn’t something he had asked of them before, couldn’t they see that they did things for him anyway? Didn’t they understand that doing things without needing to be asked was ten times more valuable?

Yoongi had no idea how to reply. This wasn’t how he had been expecting their conversation to go.

“Namjoon helped a lot,” Yoongi said, embarrassed to admit it out loud but hoping to reassure them. Namjoon gave him a small smile, and Yoongi returned it and turned to focus on Jin, glad that Namjoon seemed to feel better.

“Fine,” Jin said, pouting. “Namjoon delivered, but I still feel like I failed you. You never ask for anything and I feel like I missed my chance.”

Jin sighed loudly and slouched forward across the tabletop, his arms splaying out. Yoongi was relieved to see him being over-dramatic. He knew it meant that Jin wasn’t really beating himself up, but just sharing how he felt.

Yoongi loved this about Jin. He loved how he never had to guess where he stood with the Beta, how Jin combated his negative emotions with openness and honesty.

“I won’t tell you how to feel,” Yoongi said, “but I hope you know that I don’t see it that way. No one failed me.”

Jin nodded against the wood of the table.

“I’ll try to ask you to help me more,” Yoongi offered. 

Jin sighed and said, “That wasn’t my point.”

“I know,” Yoongi said, grinning when Jin sat back up and the tip of his nose was red from being pressed against the table. Jin gave him a small smile back.

Namjoon broke the silence by clapping his hands together, making Yoongi flinch.

“Sorry,” Namjoon said to him quickly, but then he continued on, pointing a Jin. “I know a time when Yoongi asked you for help, hyung. Remember when I spilt coffee all over Yoongi’s winter jacket and you had to wash it, but he asked to borrow yours to go buy take-out?”

Yoongi remembered that. It had been during his and Jin’s first few months of living together, and it had been one of his first true experiences with how clumsy Namjoon could be. Jin had been more embarrassed about it than Namjoon, and insisted on washing Yoongi’s jacket himself.

Jin rubbed a hand over his face and said, “Actually, no. I’d repressed that. Thank you, Namjoon.”

Namjoon grinned at the jab, and said, “You’re welcome.” 

Jin smiled at Namjoon, then leaned back against his chair and asked Yoongi, “So what actually happened on Thursday? I’m done making it all about me.”

Yoongi let out a short laugh and leaned back as well. This was the conversation he had been expecting to have. 

“I gave Professor Lee her piano piece on Thursday morning,” Yoongi said, “and I was distracted enough by it that I didn’t notice any of the signs of... and by the time I realised what was going on it was too late.”

Jin grinned as Yoongi avoided the word preheat, and Yoongi knew he was being silly. Old habits just died hard.

“I went to my favorite piano practice room, and Jungkook and Jimin were already inside it,” Yoongi said. “Then Jimin ended up walking me home in case I got aggressive, and I saw Namjoon when we walked past the Coffee Nook, and... I’m sure you know the rest.”

Jin nodded and then asked, frowning in confusion, “You went into a room with Jungkook while you were in preheat?”

Yoongi shook his head, tempted to laugh at the misunderstanding, but he held it back when he saw Namjoon tense. 

“No,” Yoongi said. “I went into the room next door. I only saw him for a moment. We didn’t even interact.”

“Ah. That makes much more sense,” Jin said as his folded his hands together on the table. They both waited for Namjoon to relax, and the Alpha waved off their concern when he saw them watching him.

“Actually, that reminds me,” Yoongi said to Jin. “If you still want to do something to help me...”

“I do,” said Jin, leaning forward.

“I’m giving Jungkook another piano lesson on Monday,” Yoongi said, happy to see that this didn’t seem to bother Namjoon’s instincts at all, “and I need to find some easy pieces that have lyrics.”

“Lyrics?” Namjoon repeated.

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, shrugging. “He wants something to sing to.”

“Aww. That’s adorable,” Jin said, grinning when Yoongi rolled his eyes.

“I have a lot to catch up on for school,” Yoongi said, “so, if you get the chance-”

“I’m on it,” Jin said, standing up immediately.

“I didn’t mean now,” Yoongi said, gesturing for Jin to sit back down, but the Beta was already leaving the room.

Yoongi sighed as Jin disappeared from sight and turned to Namjoon.

“I think I might regret that,” Yoongi said. He couldn't imagine what Jin would choose, but knew that it would probably reference something the Beta thought was funny.

“Maybe,” Namjoon said. “But you might get a laugh out of it.”

Yoongi only managed to stay up until dusk, when the exhaustion caught back up with him, and he woke up mid-morning on Sunday feeling a little less tired. It usually took about a week to completely recover from a heat cycle, so Yoongi knew he was looking at a slew of tired days.

Yoongi started catching up on his school work before he could get distracted with something else, and Jin came in around mid-day with a stack of paper.

“I got the music you asked for,” Jin said, his eyes shining.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said. Jin nodded and, when the Beta looked down at the sheet music in his hands and laughed a little to himself, Yoongi asked, hesitant, “What did you find?” 

“He’s a complete beginner, right?” Jin asked, pausing next to Yoongi’s desk with the papers held to his chest again so that Yoongi couldn’t see them.

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, “more or less.”

“Good,” Jin said, then he handed Yoongi the stack of paper. Yoongi saw they were all sheet music and flipped through them.

“Are these all nursery rhymes and lullabies?” Yoongi asked, exasperated.

“Yes. They’re perfect for baby pack-Alphas,” Jin said, his eyes shining with humor. “And they were the easiest songs I could find. If you actually give any of them to Jungkook, make sure to tell him they're from me.”

Yoongi huffed a laugh and set the sheet music down on his desk. Despite the songs being silly, Yoongi was glad to have something as back-up that he could give to Jungkook.

“Well, I’m definitely not telling him they’re from me,” Yoongi said.

***

On Monday, Yoongi got to his favorite piano practice room about half an hour before his lesson with Jungkook. He’d gone to bed early again on Sunday night, just after dinner, and he’d woken up to his alarm feeling a little less tired.

He was still exhausted, but he knew that was normal. He had a few more days before he would feel completely himself again. 

Yoongi set his laptop bag down on the floor next to the piano and tried to shake off his nerves. The last time he had been in this hallway, he had been in preheat and, if Jungkook hadn’t known that Yoongi’s instincts liked him before, then he knew now. Yoongi didn’t know if that changed anything.

Yoongi decided that waiting for Jungkook in silence would just make him more nervous, so he took off his jacket and sat on the piano bench, figuring he could use some practice as well. 

He reached up to take off Jungkook’s scarf too, but his hands clenched into the soft material as his instincts balked at the idea. Yoongi felt like they were still mad at him for not taking Jungkook as his heat partner, leaving them anxious to see the Alpha again.

Yoongi wondered if his instincts felt like they had been rejected by Jungkook when he hadn’t come to see him in preheat, because they had grown so attached to the scarf that it had a permanent place next to Yoongi’s pillow when he wasn’t wearing it. All throughout Sunday, Yoongi had found his hand straying to the soft material, rubbing it between his fingers and wondering what if?

Yoongi shook himself and set his hands on the piano keys, ready for a distraction. He thought for a moment, then began to play a River Flows in You. He played it through two times before switching over to Life Begets Life, which he had poured over enough that he already knew most of it by heart. He fumbled through a few lines, trying to remember the exact notes, but eventually got it right.

Playing piano took Yoongi’s mind off of Jungkook almost completely, and he soon fell into the rhythm of it. Life Begets Life was much easier to play than a River Flows in You, so Yoongi started over from the beginning again, this time playing faster.

He laughed to himself when it ruined the feel of the song, making it sound desperate and rushed, but he liked the challenge of playing it. He eventually slowed it back down, this time making it too slow, making it drag, and found it sounded almost like a lullaby.

He had the stack of nursery rhyme and lullaby piano sheet music that Jin had found for Jungkook in his laptop bag, thinking that Jungkook could just take those or help Yoongi to chose something himself. Yoongi had thought about what Jungkook would like to play for all of Sunday, but realized that he actually didn’t know what kind of music the Alpha actually liked.

After he found himself whining with his head against his desk, Yoongi had decided that trying to find a piece of music was more stressful than it was worth. His instincts hated that he didn’t know if Jungkook would like it or not, and they were still too heightened from his heat cycle for Yoongi to be able to ignore them.

Yoongi was halfway through the slower rendition of Life Begets Life when the practice room door opened behind him. He spun around to see Jungkook in the doorway with a cup of coffee from the Coffee Nook, feeling a little silly for being startled even though he had known the Alpha was coming.

“That sounded nice,” Jungkook said, gesturing the piano.

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, feeling his face warm at the compliment. Yoongi instincts were rolling in his stomach, gleeful at the first inhale of Jungkook’s scent, but then they settled down into calm, content in the Alpha’s presence.

“How are you?” Jungkook asked carefully as he set his backpack down on the floor. Yoongi knew that Jungkook was asking if his heat had been hard on him, and Yoongi was glad the Alpha hadn’t chosen to ask so directly. 

“I’m fine,” Yoongi said, but Jungkook still studied him. Yoongi tried not to shrink under the scrutiny.

“You look tired,” Jungkook said.

Yoongi didn’t bother denying it. He nodded. Being tired after a mating cycle was something to be expected.

Jungkook held out the cup of coffee to Yoongi, and Yoongi hesitated only a second before taking it. In contrast to the first time Yoongi had taken coffee from Jungkook, knowing it was a pre-courting gift, the second time was much easier. Yoongi didn’t know if it was because he was more comfortable with the idea of it or because his instincts were heightened right now, but it felt nice to take it. Yoongi actually wanted to have it.

Knowing Jungkook was waiting for it, Yoongi took a sip of the caramel latte to fully accept the gift. It warmed him as he swallowed, and Yoongi thought it was too much to just be from the temperature of the coffee. He liked how it made him feel like he had just crawled under a blanket. 

“We can do this another time,” Jungkook offered, but Yoongi shook his head. He’d never let a little exhaustion stop him before.

“I’m fine,” Yoongi repeated, then he held up Jungkook’s coffee. “Thank you. This will help.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Jungkook said, a small smile growing on his face as Yoongi took another sip of the coffee.

“Shall we get started?” Yoongi asked, embarrassed to be drinking the coffee while Jungkook watched.

Jungkook studied Yoongi for a few more moments, hesitating, still looking worried that Yoongi was too tired. Jungkook looked from Yoongi’s face to the scarf around his neck to the coffee in his hands, then the Alpha nodded. Jungkook took the Hanon book out of his backpack, then set it on the music rack. 

“Where do you want to start?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi took another sip of the coffee as Jungkook sat down next to him on the piano bench. Yoongi felt the heat of him settle into the air at his side, felt his own face get warmer as Jungkook’s scent of rain and metal got stronger.

“You can just play me what you practiced,” Yoongi said, “and we’ll go on from there.”

Jungkook nodded, his eyes flicking to Yoongi and then quickly away again as he opened the Hanon book. Yoongi knew that Jungkook was trying not to stare at him, probably still mindful that Yoongi had asked him not to the last time they’d had a lesson, and he appreciated it.

Yoongi felt less conspicuous drinking the caramel latte as Jungkook played through the Hanon exercises, and he was once again impressed with how thoroughly Jungkook seemed to practice. After Jungkook had played through all the songs he’d practiced, Yoongi flipped a few pages ahead and told him to sight read.

Jungkook studied the page for a few moments, then started the exercise with only his right hand. Yoongi felt a little useless. The amount of advice he had for Jungkook on how to play seemed to be getting less and less with each lesson. He wasn’t sure how to help more than he already had.

As Jungkook finished the exercise and then slowly started to play it again with his left hand, Yoongi’s eyelids started to feel heavy. He let his eyes slip closed, listening to Jungkook fumble on a part of song and then start over again. He inhaled, and Jungkook’s scent lulled him into further calm. He was tired, and safe, and he barely even noticed when his awareness started to blur.

“Um, hyung?” Jungkook said, breaking through the haze that had settled over Yoongi’s mind. “Not that I mind, but are you okay?”

Yoongi blinked his eyes open, realizing that Jungkook wasn’t playing anymore, that Yoongi had gripped the sleeve of Jungkook’s shirt and had put his forehead against the Alpha’s shoulder.

“Shit,” Yoongi said, jerking back and leaning away from Jungkook. He hadn’t meant to invade the Alpha’s personal space, especially after all the effort Jungkook put in trying not to invade Yoongi’s. 

As Jungkook looked at him, his lips pursed in thought, Yoongi felt his nerves spike, wondering if Jungkook would take Yoongi touching him so directly as an invitation. Yoongi wasn’t sure if he wanted to be touched, if he was ready for how he would react, but his instincts wanted. They wanted to lean forward into Jungkook arms, to smell the way Jungkook’s scent smelt at the skin of his neck, to crawl into the Alpha’s lap and live there for a while.

Yoongi leaned further away, shaking his head in denial. His instincts balked at being denied, but Yoongi returned their anger at him with anger of his own. Yoongi wasn’t ready, and he and Jungkook weren’t courting. Yoongi didn’t have permission to do things like that anyway, and the last thing he wanted to do was let his instincts take over and then do something that the Alpha was uncomfortable with. 

Yoongi closed his eyes shoved that idea at his instincts, the idea of them doing something that Jungkook didn’t like and breaking his trust, and they shrunk back to the pit of Yoongi’s stomach, swirling in discontent but no longer trying to make him move forward.

“You don’t have to be nervous,” Jungkook said, his voice almost a whisper. “I didn’t mind at all. You can touch me all you like, and I won’t take it to mean anything that it doesn’t.”

Yoongi clenched his eyes shut tighter and ran a hand over his face. Why was this boy so good ? Yoongi could almost cry with the consideration, and he fought the whine that wanted to escape his throat.

“Sorry,” Yoongi said, forcing himself to make eye contact with Jungkook as he apologized. “My instincts...” 

Jungkook nodded in understanding before Yoongi could find the words to explain. It was common knowledge that a person’s instincts stayed heightened for the week following a mating cycle.

“You don’t have to be sorry,” Jungkook said, his eyes gentle. “I’m not sorry.”

Yoongi sighed, and it almost morphed into a laugh as he gave Jungkook a small smile. “That's something I've said to you before. You're stealing my lines.”

“Well, I like the things you say,” Jungkook said, grinning back, looking relieved as the tension broke in Yoongi’s posture. “I’ve been stealing your words for months.”

Months? Yoongi was confused for a few seconds before he remembered that he had been Jungkook’s TA, that the Alpha would have listened to him teach a few classes and make announcements for a whole semester.

I’ve been interested in you from the start Jungkook had said. A part of Yoongi had suspected that Jungkook meant the ‘start’ as the day that he’d given Yoongi the umbrella on the steps of the library, but maybe Yoongi was projecting. Maybe that last day of finals was only the start for Yoongi, maybe Jungkook’s ‘start’ was something else—something months before. The idea of that warmed Yoongi, but also made him feel guilty for all the times he had walked past Jungkook without a second glance.

“Can we stop here?” Yoongi asked, looking away. This was too much for him. He felt like he needed to decide how he felt about his instinct’s new desire to crawl into Jungkook’s lap. And he needed to process the word months, even if it didn’t mean what Yoongi thought it meant.

“Of course,” Jungkook said without pause.

Yoongi nodded a few times and then turned to reach into his laptop bag.

“I couldn’t think of a song for you to play and sing,” Yoongi said, “but Jin went and found a few things.”

Yoongi handed Jungkook the stack of sheet music, grinning when the Alpha’s eyebrows went up as he saw that the title of the first song was Rock-a-Bye Baby

“Sorry,” Yoongi said, holding back a laugh as Jungkook flipped through the sheet music with his eyes squinted like he wasn’t sure what to think. “Jin thinks he’s funny. If you think of a song you’d like to learn, I can try to find some easy sheet music for it.”

Jungkook nodded, then smiled down at the sheet music, shaking his head ruefully. “Jimin and Tae are going to give me so much shit for these.”

“Tell them it was Jin,” Yoongi said. “I don’t want to be associated.”

Jungkook laughed, setting the sheet music on the music rack of the piano with the Hanon book.

“Should I just practice these?” Jungkook asked. “Or should I do more Hanon songs as well?”

Yoongi nodded and said, “Yeah, unless you don’t like doing the exercises, I think we’ll play Hanon all the way through.”

“I don’t mind Hanon,” Jungkook said. “I can tell I’m getting better.”

“You are,” Yoongi agreed. “You work hard.”

“Thank you,” Jungkook said, looking down, looking shy for the first time since he’d came into the room.

“These songs that Jin found have some chords in them, which we haven’t really done,” Yoongi said. “Let me know if they are difficult for you and I’ll find some sheet music that will help you practice chords.”

“I will,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi spun around on the piano bench, careful not to touch Jungkook again as he did so. The Alpha had said Yoongi could touch him all he liked, but Yoongi didn’t want to lose control and end up in the Alpha’s lap. He enjoyed his dignity.

As Yoongi put on his jacket, Jungkook said, “I have something for you.”

Yoongi froze as Jungkook reached for his backpack. Jungkook had said the same thing the last time he’d given Yoongi a pre-courting gift, and Yoongi felt heat flash up his spine.

Yoongi swallowed nervously as he watched Jungkook unzip his backpack and take out a hoodie. It was dark blue, almost purple, but the front pouch and the hood were a deep black. Jungkook set his backpack back down and stood, and Yoongi had to stop himself from backing into the wall when the Alpha looked his way.

Again, this was too much for him, but, as Yoongi looked at the hoodie, he wanted it. It looked soft, and warm, and Yoongi knew his instincts would love that it smelled like Jungkook. 

“It reminded me of you,” Jungkook said, holding the hoodie out for Yoongi to take. “You know, of the blueberry in your scent.” And Yoongi could see it now, how the dark shade of blue-purple mimicked the color of blueberries. 

Yoongi took the hoodie out of Jungkook’s hands and couldn’t stop himself from hugging it to his chest. He inhaled, almost keening at Jungkook’s scent of rain and metal clinging to soft material. He wanted to wear it now, wanted to-

Yoongi cut off the train of thought and took a few steps back as heat burned through is stomach, his instincts so pleased that Yoongi was worried that they would take him by surprise, that they would move forward and act. Yoongi wanted control of this. He wanted his interactions with Jungkook to be on purpose.

Jungkook’s face fell when Yoongi backed into the wall.

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi said immediately, guilt twisting in his stomach. Jungkook had given Yoongi no cause to be afraid of him, and Yoongi knew that was what this looked like. “I don’t trust myself right now.”

Jungkook pursed his lips and nodded, the frown fading slightly from his face.

Yoongi looked down at the hoddie, heat rising to his face in embarrassment, and said, “I like it. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Jungkook said. 

Yoongi tried to smile.

“But hyung,” Jungkook said, shaking his head. “I don’t want my feelings spared when it comes to this. If you feel unsafe, I’d really like to know why.”

“I don’t,” Yoongi said firmly. “I wouldn’t lie about my comfort. I feel...”

Yoongi held back a wince. He didn’t want to say it, but also didn’t want Jungkook to think that Yoongi feared him or that he was doing something wrong.

“I feel very safe,” Yoongi said, looking away. He didn’t want to see Jungkook’s reaction, but Yoongi could still feel his eyes on him, on his face and then on his hands, where they were tightly holding the sweater against his chest. It was true. Jungkook’s scent was hanging in the air, and it had made Yoongi feel safe since the first time he had smelt it.

“I believe you,” Jungkook eventually said. “I just wanted to make sure.”

Yoongi sighed and closed his eyes, relieved. Then he turned to look at Jungkook again, and was glad to see that the Alpha was giving Yoongi a small smile.

“Jimin says he thinks our instincts are compatible because we both do a lot of repression,” Jungkook said, shrugging. “He thinks that they sympathize with one another.”

Yoongi didn’t know if he thought this was true. No part of him felt bad for Jungkook’s Alpha instincts, but there was a lot the world still didn’t understand about them. Instincts ruled their own independent part of the brain. Namjoon had once told him that some scientists theorized that dynamic instincts were a whole second brain within their brains—that their instincts had their own personalities and memories and desires. 

“Either way, I’m glad they like me,” Jungkook said looking down. “But I want you to like me, and I’m glad you’re not letting them decide for you.”

“Thank you,” Yoongi said, but then he felt silly, like he should've said something more. Yoongi rolled his shoulders back, annoyed. He didn’t like second guessing himself.

Jungkook nodded with a small smile and Yoongi relaxed, glad the Alpha seemed to think his response was appropriate. 

“I’ll see you around,” Yoongi said, putting his laptop bag over his shoulder.

“Okay,” Jungkook said, not moving as Yoongi opened the door. “Have a good day, hyung.”

“You too,” Yoongi said, shutting the door behind himself.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he walked down the hallway away from Jungkook, but then he looked down at the sweater. He liked it a lot. Fuck. Yoongi thought he probably liked Jungkook, too. He at least knew that he’d never find someone like Jungkook again, and that something about the Alpha was starting to feel inevitable—like Yoongi was giving in a little more every day.

After his classes, Yoongi gave in to his instincts and put on the hoddie as soon as he got home. Jin grinned when he saw it and caught Jungkook’s scent on it, but didn’t say anything, which Yoongi was grateful for.

Namjoon tensed when Yoongi sat down next to him at the kitchen table for dinner, but just said, “Looks comfy,” and then moved the topic swiftly onto something else. 

“Did you know it takes a sloth two whole weeks to digest its food?” Namjoon asked them both. “I read a book about them at work today.”

“Yoongi digests his food just fine,” Jin said from where he was dishing up three plates of Alfredo pasta, then he laughed as Yoongi flicked him off from across the kitchen.

But Yoongi was happy to be compared to a sloth if that meant that Jin and Namjoon weren’t focusing in on Jungkook’s latest pre-courting gift, though Yoongi was sure that they would discuss it when he left the kitchen.

And, if Yoongi slept in Jungkook’s sweater that night, if he curled into himself and inhaled the Alpha's scent clinging to it, that was his business. 

***

By Thursday, the bone-deep exhaustion that came after a heat had finally faded. Yoongi went to class feeling much lighter, the burden of the mating cycle lifted. It was always nice to put a heat behind him, and he didn’t have to worry about another one until August, which felt like a lifetime away. 

By that time, Yoongi will have graduated from college, and he will hopefully have a full-time job somewhere in the music industry. Not to mention that, by August, his pack will have most likely moved into a new apartment. Their lease was up in June, and Jin didn’t want to renew it again.

“I want to live somewhere where I haven’t stayed up until 4am doing homework, you know?” Jin had said a few months ago, gesturing around the apartment. “When I walk in, this place practically whispers college. I’ll never feel like an adult if we keep living here. Also, I want an oven. I’m sick of cooking everything on the stove.”

Yoongi didn’t mind if they moved—maybe he’d even get his own room out of it. With the three of them all hopefully working full-time next year, they could afford to size-up a little. 

After his classes, Yoongi bought two bottles of iced-coffee from a campus vending machine and went into the library. He was usually well-prepared and was the type of student who liked to turn things in early, so he wanted to get back ahead of his classes now that he had caught up again.

He knew he could go to the Coffee Nook as well, but there used to be enough distractions there between Hoseok and Namjoon. Now that Jungkook, Taehyung, and Jimin frequented the place as well, Yoongi hadn’t had one peaceful visit. If he really wanted to get something done, Yoongi knew he needed to be here.

Yoongi went all the way to the top floor of the library and was glad to see that his favorite table the back corner was empty. He put his bag into an empty chair, turned his phone on silent, and sat down, leaning his head against the table and trying to decide if he should take a quick nap or not—just because he wasn’t exhausted anymore didn’t mean he wasn’t his usual level of tired. 

He shook his head against the temptation and forced himself to take out his laptop and class syllabi. After about four hours of solid work, Yoongi had gotten ahead on his class reading, found some resources for an essay that was due next week, and was feeling much better.

Both of his coffees already gone, Yoongi allowed himself to lean his head onto his folded arms against the table as he listened to the song he was supposed to be analyzing and deconstructing for one of his music production classes. 

He took out a pencil and started jotting down notes, tilting his head so he could see his notebook without needing to sit up. Then he smelt rain and he glanced up to see Jungkook standing in front of his table. Yoongi flinched backwards in surprise, his back hitting the backrest of his chair with a soft thump.

“Shit,” Yoongi said, just stopping himself from losing his grip on his pencil and sending it flying at a neighboring bookshelf.

Yoongi took off his headphones and Jungkook said, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s fine,” Yoongi said, swallowing the sudden dryness in his throat. Jungkook’s scent seemed to fill the air now that Yoongi smelt it. How long had Jungkook been standing there? 

Jungkook looked around the table, taking in all of Yoongi’s schoolwork covering the surface of it. Then his gaze lingered on the scarf across the back of Yoongi’s chair, and Yoongi felt only half as embarrassed to have it as he had before.

Jungkook gestured to the chair across from Yoongi and asked, “Can I sit?”

Yoongi nodded slowly. His instincts burned in his stomach as Jungkook stared at the chair, happy that the Alpha was in proximity. Now that they were less heightened, Yoongi couldn’t tell what they wanted, not without reaching for them, but Yoongi knew they wanted something with the way heat shot up his spine as Jungkook looked at him.

“Is this a bad time?” Jungkook asked. “Jimin said you might be busy.”

“Jimin?” Yoongi repeated, frowning in confusion. He hadn’t had any contact with Jimin since his preheat.

“I was looking for you,” Jungkook said, looking down and clenching his hands together, “and Jimin asked Namjoon where you might be, and he said that you go to the library when you have something you really want to finish.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, nodding. “I was actually just catching up on homework and trying to get back ahead a little.”

Jungkook gestured back over his shoulder and said, “I could come back later.”

“No, it’s fine,” Yoongi said, pointing at the empty chair Jungkook had asked to sit in. “You can join me. I’m almost finished.”

Jungkook nodded quickly, too many times, and hesitated before finally sitting down.

Yoongi took out his phone to see if anyone else had been looking for him and saw that he only had two messages.

The first one, from Jungkook, he’d gotten three hours ago.

Jungkook: Do you have time to meet up quickly, hyung? I want to ask you something.

And then there was another message from Namjoon that he’d gotten only thirty minutes ago.

Namjoon: If you’re in the library, I may have just jeopardized your position. Heads up. Jungkook’s trying to find you. 

Yoongi grinned up at Jungkook, who smiled weakly back at him but didn’t speak. 

“One second,” Yoongi said. He looked back down at his phone and sent a quick text to Namjoon before he forgot to reply.

Yoongi: he found me. position officially jeopardized. cant believe you betrayed me for jimin

“Sorry,” Yoongi said, turning the volume of his phone back on before setting it onto the table. “My phone was on silent.”

Jungkook shook his head and said, “It’s not a problem.” He still hadn’t taken off his backpack, and now had a white-knuckled grip around each of the straps.

Yoongi waited for Jungkook to say something else, to explain why he had been looking for him, but Jungkook remained frozen in place, his wide-eyed gaze fixed on Yoongi. He looked petrified.

“Are you okay?” Yoongi asked.

“Of course!” Jungkook said, his voice cracking, coming out loud enough that Yoongi had to gesture for him to quiet down. It wasn’t a rule, but this floor of the library was used by people who liked to study in silence. 

“Sorry,” Jungkook said, clearing his throat, his voice almost a whisper now. “I’m good.”

Jungkook was blushing, and Yoongi had no idea what was going on. The Alpha smelt nervous, and Yoongi's instincts swirled in his stomach, not liking the uncertainty either. Had he done something to make Jungkook nervous?

“What did you want to ask me?” Yoongi asked, pointing at his phone, hoping to distract Jungkook from whatever was making him tense. 

This apparently wasn’t the best choice of a question, because Jungkook’s grip around the straps of his backpack tightened and his face blushed a deep red.

“I - uh,” Jungkook began, shifting in his chair and looking away. “I wanted to ask if - and I know you said... but I just thought I should try.”

“Alright,” Yoongi said, slowly nodding even though he still had no idea what was going on. “Ask away.”

Jungkook blinked at him, then said, “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

Yoongi frowned, even more confused now, searching his brain for something this could be about.

“Are you trying to ask me something about my heat cycle?” Yoongi asked, feeling color rise to his own face at the words.

“What? No,” Jungkook said, shaking his head quickly. “No, that’s not my business.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said, shrugging. “I don’t want to talk about that, and I don’t like talking about nesting, but I can’t see any other topic making me uncomfortable.”

“Nesting?” Jungkook repeated, looking a little dazed, his gaze softening.

“You want to talk about nesting?” Yoongi asked, feeling a little anxiety rise up in his stomach. Didn't Jungkook have two Omega parents he could ask about nesting? And if he didn't want to ask them, didn’t Jungkook have two other Omegas in his pack, one of whom was part of his family pack and a long-time childhood friend, who he could ask instead of Yoongi?

“No, not nesting,” Jungkook said, waving his hands back and forth in denial at the expression on Yoongi’s face.

Yoongi relaxed and Jungkook shut his eyes before he visibly shook himself. Then the Alpha covered his face with one hand and groaned. “How did we get here? This has gotten so off topic.”

“Then get us on topic,” Yoongi said, trying to be gentle, but his patience was wearing. There was only so much he could infer from a mountain of vagueness. 

“Sorry,” Jungkook said. “You’re right.”

Jungkook reached into his jacket pocket and pulled something out, clenching his fist around it so that Yoongi couldn’t see it.

“I had something planned that I wanted to say,” Jungkook said, shaking his head, “but I can’t remember any of it now.”

Yoongi frowned again, still completely lost, but he was partly glad that he was getting an unpracticed version of whatever the fuck Jungkook was trying to ask. He didn’t consider planned words to be sincere.

“I can’t remember anything when I look at you,” Jungkook admitted, his eyes flitting away as Yoongi tensed at the confession. “It’s a miracle that I can play the piano in front of you. I have to practice extra hard, just because I know you’ll be sitting there.”

Yoongi felt his eyebrows going up his forehead. What? He found himself reflecting Jungkook’s earlier sentiment. How did they get here? How had all that confusion tail-spinned into this?

Jungkook took a deep breath, and turned to look at Yoongi again, taking in his shock with a small smile.

“Hyung,” he said, “I’ve been interested in you since I first saw you in the music building and realized that you smelt like the winter ocean. Then you stood up in front of my composition class without introducing yourself and told us that you wouldn’t cut us any slack when you graded our homework, that if we wanted to succeed in music, then we had to want it enough to put the effort in.”

Yoongi was leaning back away from Jungkook, his mouth partially open, unsure how to respond.

“And then you just left to go get our class syllabus from the printers,” Jungkook said, “and Professor Lee stared after you and said That was Min Yoongi. I hope you all can learn from his talent and put it to good use. And the way she said it, like you were a storm, like she couldn’t believe you were there, it made the whole room go completely silent.”

Yoongi could barely remember that day—he only remembered how nervous he had been—but shit, no wonder the majority of his Introductory Composition students had treated him like a god during his office hours and spent their free time avoiding him. 

“From that day on, I liked you,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi felt his eyes widen. “I like you more than I’ve ever liked anyone.”

Yoongi opened to mouth to respond, but didn’t know what to say, hadn’t even fully processed what he had just been told. Jungkook was still blushing a deep red, and Yoongi’s face felt warm enough to match it. Jungkook waited for Yoongi to say something, but then continued when Yoongi closed his mouth and remained silent.

“And so, my question,” Jungkook said, holding out his still-clenched hand across the table.

And then Yoongi knew where this was going. He knew what Jungkook had to be holding in his palm. 

A courting bracelet. 

Yoongi leapt to his feet, his chair scraping across the carpet of the library floor.

“Jungkook-” Yoongi began.

I know,” Jungkook said, still sitting calmly in his chair, looking up at Yoongi. “But I think I need to be properly rejected, if you don't want it. I’d like to ask.”

Jungkook didn’t know shit. He didn’t know anything if he thought Yoongi could just reject him, like it was easy, like Yoongi didn’t care for him at all. Yoongi felt his breath getting faster as Jungkook slowly stood, too.

Yoongi wasn’t ready for this. He hadn’t planned for this. He had spent the past two weeks trying to avoid any thoughts about where allowing Jungkook to pre-ecourt him could lead. He still hadn’t decided how he felt about anything to do with Jungkook, hadn’t allowed anything to truly process. But, even if he had, he didn’t think he ever would have been ready for a courting offer.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Jungkook said, opening his hand in Yoongi’s direction, his voice soft. “Can I court you?”

Yoongi stared at the courting bracelet in the middle of Jungkook’s trembling palm. It was simple—made of black leather with a small, thin circular black stone in the middle of the band. Yoongi stared at it, and felt his fists clench.

All his life, Yoongi had known what he wanted.

He’d known he would deeply love piano for the rest of his life ever since he became fascinated with the long stretch of black and white keys when he was five. He’d known he would pursue a music career since he was in middle school. He’d known he wanted to be a producer and would eventually end up in Seoul since he was fifteen. 

He had always been a person who knew what he wanted now, who knew what he wanted next, who knew what he wanted after that.

Before he had looked at Jungkook’s courting bracelet, he didn’t think he wanted it. But, looking at it now, he knew he did. 

He wanted it. It was like a closed door in his mind had slammed open, revealing a part of himself he didn’t know was there.

He wanted to court Jungkook. He wanted to be courted by an Alpha. He wanted it so badly, in a way he never expected from himself, and he thought only half of the desire was coming from the instincts teeming with joy in his stomach.

It was terrifying. 

He realized his hand was stretching out to take the courting bracelet too late, and ended up with it clutched in his own palm. He felt himself freeze in place as he made eye contact with Jungkook. He’d taken the courting bracelet—he’d technically accepted Jungkook’s offer of courtship. 

Heat shot up his spine, and Yoongi felt his face burning, felt like his instincts were doing cartwheels inside of his gut.

“Hyung?” 

Jungkook bent down a little to study Yoongi’s face, tilting his head, his expression a mixture of shocked and hopeful and confused.

“Is that a yes?” 

Forcing down panic, Yoongi shook his head, relieved to be given such an easy way out. He expected Jungkook’s face to fall, but the Alpha merely pursed his lips as he continued to study him.

“That’s alright,” Jungkook said, and Yoongi felt himself relax at the reassurance. The hand he had around the courting bracelet fell to his side. 

Yoongi closed his eyes. He knew he should explain himself. But how? How could he explain what he didn’t truly understand?

“Is that a no?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi didn't even want to imagine handing the courting bracelet back over now that he had it. He shook his head again and opened his eyes.

Jungkook nodded and then pursed his lips in thought, his eyes never leaving Yoongi’s face. Yoongi had no idea what his expression must look like.

“How about this, hyung” Jungkook said after a few moments. “You think about it. If you want to accept me, then you wear the bracelet. If not, then you can just give it back.”

Yoongi stared at Jungkook. He couldn’t get his mind to work. He felt completely blindsided.

“Okay,” Yoongi said. Maybe it would help to have time to think about it, but Yoongi wasn’t sure. Courting seemed like a thing no one could ever be sure of.

Jungkook’s eyes went wide at Yoongi’s agreement.

“Thank you for considering it,” Jungkook said, his voice tinged with shock. “I’ll wait as long as you need.”

Yoongi nodded and looked down at the mess he’d made on the table.

“I’m going to go,” Yoongi said.

“Alright,” Jungkook said. “I’ll stay here for a while.” 

Yoongi nodded again, relieved at the assurance that he wouldn’t be followed when he left. As he started to pack up his things, Jungkook sat back down and watched him without further comment.

Once Yoongi zipped up his laptop bag, he hesitated, wondering only then if he was being rude.

“Really, you can go. I don’t mind,” Jungkook said, gesturing in the direction of the stairwell. “I surprised you.”

Yoongi nodded and didn’t even bother trying not to look like he was fleeing. He slipped through the bookshelves and raced down the stairs. He ignored his instincts’ confusion as he got farther and farther away. He needed distance. He needed space to think. 

But Jungkook’s words followed him all the way out of the library, then across campus after Yoongi burst through the library doors with enough force that an Omega girl shrieked and hissed at him. He didn't even have the presence of mind to apologize.

You smelt like the winter ocean.

So many people had told him part of his scent smelt like the ocean that Yoongi had lost count, but no one had given it a season before. He wondered how, in Jungkook’s mind, the winter ocean smelt different than the ocean the rest of the year.

You were a storm.

Yoongi hadn’t known he was the type of person who could be flattered by being compared to a natural disaster, but he was. It felt true, too. 

He was a fucking walking disaster and he’d just accepted a courting bracelet from Jeon Jungkook. Fuck.

Yoongi bounced in place anxiously at a crosswalk that would led him away from campus, his eyes fixed on the red walk sign. He wanted to be moving. He knew he couldn’t run from this, that he’d eventually have to give Jungkook a true reply to his offer of courtship, but his body wanted to try.

The light turned green and Yoongi broke out into a jog. He needed distance. He needed more distance than he could ever get.

As he went down the block, his pace got slightly faster until, for the second time in one week—probably breaking his own personal record—Yoongi ran.

Chapter Text

The feeling of running was foreign to Yoongi. 

He was used to brief sprints from the time when he had played basketball, used to bursts of speed up and down a basketball court, but longer distances had never been his forte. And, if he was honest, the running he’d done during his basketball years had been more of a hearty jog than anything else.

But this —this desperate way he was running now, weaving through people and the bright streetlights on the nighttime sidewalk like he was dodging bullets, like something was chasing him— this was running. And he hated it.

He hated how he could feel sweat building at his hairline and on his lower back. He hated how people walking towards him on the sidewalk were looking at him in confusion—two young girls even stopping in their tracks to peer past him and over his shoulder with wide eyes, leaning in opposite directions, like they thought something was really after him and might come for them next.

And he hated how it felt, how it made his steps fall harder and how it jarred his brain in his skull. Even the air felt colder as he breathed it in, like he was inviting the frigid winter into his lungs with every sharp, quick gasp for oxygen.

But Yoongi ran anyway. He kept running when his muscles started burning with the effort, and kept running when the end of each cold inhale started to burn with a twinge of pain. He ran until all he could think about was how much he didn’t want to be running. 

All around him, people were talking, or laughing, or on their phones, headphones in, like it was just a normal Thursday night. And the selfish part of Yoongi wanted them to stop. 

He felt like the whole world should be standing still in the wake of what had just happened, that laughter and normalcy was out of place in Yoongi’s own sense of confusion and shock. 

He kept running until he reached a crosswalk light right before his apartment, jolting to a forced stop at the edge of the intersection. He put his hands on his knees, panting as he tried to catch his breath, and hung his head. 

And then his brain caught up with the rest of his body. What was he doing

Each breath in brought pain with it that lingered in his lungs, and he could feel sweat under his jacket, covering his skin in a damp layer that reminded him of his heat. 

And then he looked back up, saw a middle-aged man with a briefcase running to catch a bus just down the road, and felt even more silly. He needed to calm down. He wasn’t starring in a movie. He wasn’t running for his life and he wasn’t racing the clock. He wasn’t even trying to catch a bus.

He was running away. And worse yet, he was running away from something that couldn’t be outrun. 

He winced as he forced himself back up into a standing position, refusing to continue to be this dramatic. 

There was only one other person waiting with him—an old Alpha woman—and she looked at Yoongi with concern as he continued to breathe harshly, failing to catch his breath.

Yoongi closed his eyes to her concern. There was a stitch of pain building in his side, just under his right ribs, and he put his right hand there, rubbing at the skin over it even though he knew it wouldn’t ease the pain. His left hand was still clenched tightly around the courting bracelet that Jungkook had given him.

He shook his head at himself. Had he thought running would help? Because it hadn’t. He’d just added tiredness and pain to his confusion and distress. 

Jungkook had asked to court him. The thought of it shocked Yoongi all over again, like a jolt of electricity through his body. But it wasn’t the end of the world and he didn’t have to act like it, Yoongi decided, gritting his teeth, even if he felt like the ground had just been pulled out from under his feet. 

Besides, if anyone was truly to blame for his distress, it was Yoongi himself. He’d had the opportunity to say no to Jungkook’s offer, twice, and he hadn’t taken it. The consequences belonged to him, and were his to accept.

Jungkook had asked Yoongi to make a choice, and Yoongi knew he had to make it no matter how hard or long or fast he ran. 

Yoongi put a hand to his chest. His heart was beating hard, and Yoongi could feel it both against his ribs and against his hand. 

He’d run away. 

Yoongi didn’t want to be a person who ran away from things. 

He looked down at the courting bracelet and he could see it poking out from his clenched fist. He’d never expected something so small to make him feel this... this afraid. 

He was afraid. He couldn’t even properly look at the bracelet, couldn’t bring himself to open his tightly closed fingers. He felt like he knew a lot about courting, about how it worked, but knew nothing about what he was supposed to do once it actually started.

Courting, at its roots, was an exchange.

It was an exchange of many things. Some of them Yoongi felt he could handle— the exchange of trust and support and communication and acceptance—but others he wasn’t so sure about, as he’d rarely been interested in the exchange of them before.

Intimacy. Scent. Touch. Desire.

Power.

Yoongi clenched his eyes shut.

Part of courting was an exchange of power and Yoongi, as an Omega, would often end up on the giving side, instinctually giving power to Jungkook over his mind and body. He’d already almost bared his neck to him, was already seeking his approval, and the most dominant thing Jungkook had ever done was look at him. 

Who knew how much power and submission Yoongi would hand over to Jungkook if the Alpha ever showed a trace of his instincts to dominate him. And Yoongi wasn’t scared that he would hate submitting, he realized, scrunching his eyes shut tighter, his face morphing into a grimace. He was just worried.

He was worried he wouldn’t like it. And he was worried that, if he did like it, then he wouldn’t be able to reconcile it to himself, to his current independence and free will, if he started to make concessions. It worried him, but it didn’t make him afraid. 

His fear, he realized, laid in the power Yoongi would have to give Jungkook that wasn’t instinctual at all. He was scared of the emotional vulnerability. He didn’t want to start something he didn’t want to end, not when the decision to make it last wasn’t his alone. He didn’t want to fall any deeper than he already had if he would have to crawl his way back out again.

He didn’t want to love and lose. 

He didn’t understand how the prospect of handing your heart over someone didn’t terrify everyone. Maybe it did. And maybe it only terrified the few. Yoongi didn’t know. The only thing Yoongi did know was that, if he started courting Jungkook, he would have to be braver than he’d been today.

When Yoongi opened his eyes again, the signal was green and he forced himself to walk as he crossed the intersection and continued down the street.

Omegas resorted to a ‘flight’ rather than a ‘fight’ response more often than not, Alphas being the opposite, but Yoongi didn’t think either were good or healthy methods of problem solving. There was a middle ground, where you didn’t run, where you didn’t lash out, that Yoongi wanted to live that out in practice.

His apartment was only a block away, and each step closer felt heavy and slow after his stupid, long, over-dramatic sprint through Seoul.

The walk up his apartment stairs had his inhales hurting again, so he stopped on the landing and put his hands back on his knees, trying to calm his breath. He felt a bead of sweat fall from his temple and watched it splash onto the back of his hand.

He was a mess.

Jungkook had offered Yoongi a courting bracelet and Yoongi had taken it—still had it clutched in his palm, could still feel the leather and the stone against the skin of his fingers. Jungkook had asked to court him.

Yoongi wondered when it would stop feeling like a revelation.

His head was spinning, and he felt like the world would tilt and send him flying back down the stairs. Yoongi stood and moved forward to lean his forehead against his front door, feeling way too dramatic again as he tried to calm himself down.

Jungkook had-

No.

Yoongi shook his head. He needed to calm himself down. There was no way in hell he could walk into his apartment this shocked, most likely smelling distressed and afraid, and not get fussed over if Jin or Namjoon were home. He needed to think of something else. Maybe he should have gone somewhere else...

But he whined as he thought of leaving. He wanted to be home. He was stressed, and both he and his instincts wanted the comfort of being in a familiar space with familiar people. 

He tried to think of a distraction, and found one as he stared down at the welcome mat that Jin had bought for Namjoon’s last birthday. It had a large picture of a blue whale on it and said ‘Whalecome’Jin had found it online and showed Yoongi a blurry picture of it on his laptop screen before he bought it. He broke into a fit of laughter as Yoongi looked down at the picture with distaste, not really wanting it in front of their door.

“It’s fine if Namjoon likes it,” Yoongi had said.

“Oh, he’ll like it,” Jin said, wiping away tears of mirth. “He’ll like it way too much.”

When Namjoon had opened the gift, he’d stared at it for a few seconds, then instantly stood to go put it outside their apartment door. “I almost didn’t buy it,” Jin told Namjoon from the couch. “I love the pun, but it also seems like a dirty joke. You know, whale come? Do whales even come?”

“Actually, they do. Yes,” Namjoon had said as he gently put down the welcome mat into the hallway where Yoongi was standing now. He had brushed his hand over the top of it with care, like it wouldn’t live out its use being stepped on. “They actually have the smallest sperm of all mammals, but, interestingly, the largest blue whale testicle ever examined held more than 113 liters of semen.”

Jin’s laughter had cut short, and the Beta had cringed away from Namjoon with his face scrunched up in disgust as the Alpha shut their front door again.

“Namjoon,” Jin had said with a deep sigh, hanging his head down into his hands. “I get that it’s your birthday and I asked for that, but there is just some knowledge that I don’t want to have. You could have stopped at ‘yes’. That was a choice. I just want to point that out to you, for self-awareness purposes.”

Namjoon had laughed, then he’d given Jin an evil grin and said, “When erect, a blue whale’s penis is-”

Namjoon!” Jin had shouted in warning, but Namjoon continued, so Jin covered his ears and started to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to drown him out. Yoongi, unfortunately, hadn’t had the foresight.

Eventually, Jin and Namjoon were both shouting—Jin on a ‘Happy Birthday’ loop and Namjoon about whale penises—while Yoongi laughed from the couch, wincing at the loud volume.

Yoongi smiled a little to himself at the memory, but it only relieved his distress for a short moment.

He still had Jungkook’s courting bracelet clenched in his palm, and it felt heavier than it was, like it had extra gravity. A weight in his hand and on his mind.

He’d taken it. Jungkook had asked to court him and Yoongi hadn’t said no. And Yoongi knew himself, even if he hadn’t had time to process his choice. He didn’t say things he didn’t mean. He didn’t do things he didn’t want to do. He didn’t accept courting bracelets from people he didn’t want to court.

Which meant he’d probably say yes. 

He wondered how much he’d bet, right then, that he and Jungkook would be courting before this time next week. He already felt bad enough for making Jungkook wait this long for a true reply. He felt like making him wait a week would be taking advantage of his kindness.

This time, next week...

Yoongi felt his breath getting faster again, and he reminded himself that he shouldn’t be thinking about this right now, that he needed to calm down if he wanted to go inside his apartment.

His phone dinged with a text message and Yoongi pulled it out of his pocket without taking his forehead off of his apartment door. He liked leaning against it, felt like his posture of defeat was mirroring his emotions perfectly in a way that was a little cathartic, even if it was a little dramatic for his taste.

Yoongi almost choked on air when he saw the message was from Jungkook.

Jungkook: I’m sorry for surprising you with this. 

Yoongi sighed, his eyes slipping closed. Yoongi was sorry, too, for whatever self doubt or disappointment his non-answer had given Jungkook.

Then his phone dinged again, and he took a moment to prepare himself before he opened his eyes.

Jungkook: If the Iron Man on the courting bracelet bothers you, I can get another one. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. But I wanted to make it clear that, if we court, I understand that you would belong to no one but yourself.

Yoongi frowned down at the text message. What? He hadn’t seen an Iron Man on Jungkook’s courting bracelet. 

He glanced to where his hand was still clenched around it. He didn’t want to open his palm. He didn’t want to see the proof, didn't want to see the evidence of the choices he’d made and the situation he had put himself in. 

But he was too curious.

When Yoongi opened his fingers, they ached. He stretched them out, bending his fingers a few times, but his joints and muscles protested in overuse. His hand hadn’t felt like this since he was in elementary school—his hands clenched tight around the chains of the swing on his neighborhood playground, swinging long after other children got bored with it and ran off to do something else. When he finally dug his feet in, dragging himself to a stop with his heels in the dirt, his hands would feel like this from clenching the chains so tightly for so long.

Yoongi switched the courting bracelet over to his right hand, shaking out the soreness in his left as he inspected the bracelet in his palm.

He could tell, looking more closely at it now, that this courting bracelet was high-quality, made to last. The leather felt soft and supple, the black stone smooth and heavy. He ran his thumb over the top of the stone, and that’s when he felt that there were indentations in the back of it. 

Frowning, Yoongi turned it over and saw the Iron Man. It wasn’t red and gold, like he had been expecting. In fact, it had no color at all. The outline of an Iron Man mask was simply etched into the back of the stone, the lines of it deep and clear, but slightly jagged—like it had been done by hand, maybe even by Jungkook himself.

Yoongi traced over the lines of the Iron Man mask, a bit impressed at how subtle it was, liking how it was underneath the stone, etched into the part that would rest against Yoongi’s skin, away from view.

Yoongi was confused for a moment why Jungkook thought that he wouldn’t like it, and then he remembered what Jungkook had once told him about his Iron Man stickers. My mom used to make me put stickers on all my school things so I could always tell which ones were mine.

Jungkook, in a life-long habit, put an Iron Man on the things that belonged to him. Therefore, if Yoongi wore this courting bracelet, the etching implied that Yoongi would be somehow his, a possession of Jungkook.

Yoongi waited for the idea of an Iron Man on the courting bracelet to bother him, but the feeling didn't come. Maybe it was because Jungkook had gone out of his way to tell Yoongi that he wouldn’t think of him as a possession, but Yoongi didn’t hate it as he thought through its implications. In fact, there was a heat rising in his stomach that told him that he actually liked it. 

But then the thought of wearing it and liking it, of how inevitable it felt, brought the small sting of nervous tears to the backs of Yoongi’s eyes. He shook himself and closed his eyes, annoyed at his own overreaction.

This wasn’t a bad thing, he reminded himself. This was good.

Jin would definitely think so, and Yoongi wanted to believe it, too. He nodded to himself. This was good and he wanted it—or at least dreaded regretting it—more than it made him nervous.

A door opened on the floor above him, and Yoongi’s eyes flew open as he heard someone walking down the hall. He didn’t want to interact with a worried stranger, because he had no doubts that his scent reeked of shock and nervousness. He’d rather deal with Namjoon or Jin.

Yoongi pushed in the keycode to their apartment and slipped inside, quietly closing the door behind himself with a sigh of relief. The lights were on in the apartment, and there was music playing in the kitchen that told him that Jin was home.

Yoongi leaned back against the door and sighed, listening to one of his neighbors walk down the staircase that led to the third floor, past his apartment door, and then continue on down the stairs. 

He jolted into action when he remembered that Jin would probably notice that Yoongi smelt distressed if he stayed out here too long. He toed off his shoes and speed-walked past the kitchen without looking inside it. Maybe if he fled to their bedroom, he’d be able to calm himself down and Jin wouldn’t notice.

But Yoongi only had the time to set down his laptop bag, take off his jacket, and sit down on the edge of his bed before he heard a resounding crash from the kitchen and Jin’s voice yelling, “Yoongi?”

Yoongi winced as he realized that Jin had probably caught his scent and cringed back from the door as he heard Jin’s voice call out “Yoongi?” again, this time much closer to their room than before. 

Yoongi hung his head and put a hand over his face. Shit. What was he going to say? He didn’t want to lie to Jin and he still had Jungkook’s courting bracelet in his palm—the thought of parting with it making him want to whine—so he supposed he’d just have to tell the truth. 

Maybe talking to Jin would actually help.

He heard their bedroom door open and then Jin said, his voice soft, “Yoongi? What happened? Are you okay?”

Yoongi let his hand fall from his face and looked up at Jin. The Beta moved a little closer, bending down to get a better view of Yoongi’s face, looking worried.

“Jungkook-” Yoongi began, but then his voice died in his throat. He didn’t want to say it.

“Jungkook?” Jin repeated, his eyes darting around Yoongi’s body. “What happened with Jungkook?”

“Nothing bad,” Yoongi said, looking down at the floor, not liking the full force of Jin’s scrutiny. He felt silly for making the Beta worry.

“Then why do you smell so distressed?” Jin asked, a soft hand falling onto Yoongi’s shoulder as the Beta sat down next to him on his bed.

Yoongi shook his head, squeezing his eyes closed at Jin’s small touch of comfort. 

Instead of trying to say it, Yoongi opened his palm in Jin’s direction, knowing the Beta would be able to guess what had happened if he saw the courting bracelet.

Yoongi felt Jin tense and knew the Beta was containing his reaction, probably holding back shock and excitement. And Yoongi was grateful.

“You’re courting?” Jin asked softly after a few moments.

Yoongi shook his head.

“You rejected him?” Jin asked, not able to hide his surprise. “Then why do you have a bracelet?”

“I didn’t say yes,” Yoongi said, and then he sighed deeply. “But I didn’t say no, either.”

Jin’s hand tightened on Yoongi’s shoulder and he opened his eyes to look at Jin, hating how desperate he suddenly felt for comfort.

“I don’t know what to do,” Yoongi said, a whine rising in his throat that he fought down with a grimace.

“Oh, Yoongi,” Jin said, his voice sympathetic. Yoongi closed his palm again and then he was being pulled into a hug. 

Yoongi pushed his face against Jin’s shoulder, hugging his packmate back tightly. He inhaled Jin’s scent of rose and cotton, took in the comfort pheromones he hadn’t realized the Beta was releasing, and felt calmer.

“What can I do for you?” Jin asked, a hand moving up and down Yoongi’s back. “Do you want to be alone?”

At the thought of Jin leaving, a whine of distress tore out of Yoongi’s throat before he could stop it.

“Shhh, alright. Okay,” Jin said, sounding almost frantic, his told on Yoongi tightening. “I won’t leave.”

Embarrassment ran through Yoongi in a hot wave. But then Jin’s hand went into his hair, and he ran his hand through it until Yoongi felt calmer again.

“Are you okay?” Jin asked, his voice tinged with worry. Yoongi nodded against his shoulder.

“But what can I do?” Jin asked again once Yoongi relaxed against him, lulled by the feeling of Jin’s hand running through his hair. “Do you want to talk about it? Or do you just want my company?”

Yoongi wasn’t sure if he wanted to talk about it or not, but he knew he didn’t want Jin to leave. After thinking about it for a few moments, Yoongi realized he wanted to have a pack-bonding night. It had been almost two weeks since they’d had one. And his instincts were burning in a way that made him want to nest . He wanted the feeling of safety that came with his packmates and the comfort of nest walls surrounding him. 

But he’d never asked to do either of those things before.

“Can we-” Yoongi began, but then he shook his head.

“Yes, we can. Let’s do it,” Jin said without pause, making Yoongi huff a small laugh into his shoulder. “...what is it you want to do?”

Yoongi loved Jin. He couldn’t believe, in that moment, that he had this—this person who would worry about him, who would agree to do anything to comfort him before they even knew what it was.

“Have a pack-bonding night?” Yoongi said, hating the hesitation in his own voice. Maybe Jin had been right when he had said that Yoongi never asked for help, as even asking for a pack-bonding night felt foreign coming out of his mouth. 

Yoongi’s back stiffened, feeling awkward, and Jin put his hand on Yoongi’s spine like he could ease his tension with a gentle touch alone.

“Yes. Of course,” Jin said, taking his other hand out of Yoongi’s hair and making to stand. “I’ll get go it ready now.”

“No,” Yoongi said, tightening his hold around Jin, and the Beta froze, his weight settling back onto the bed.

Yoongi pulled away from Jin and stood himself. 

“I want to get it ready,” Yoongi admitted, looking down at his feet, trying not to let his voice fade to an indiscernible whisper.

After a long moment where Jin said nothing, Yoongi forced his gaze upward. Jin was blinking up at him, his eyes wide with shock.

“You want to...” Jin said, making a weird gesture, patting the air in front of him that Yoongi assumed was supposed to symbolize nesting.

Yoongi nodded, fidgeting, his shoulders curling inward, and Jin’s eyes softened. He looked worried again, but a small smile graced his mouth.

“I need the bins,” Yoongi said when Jin didn’t move, pointing to where the Beta’s legs were in front of the bins full of blankets underneath Yoongi’s bed.

Jin leapt to his feet, making Yoongi startle back.

“Sorry,” Jin said as he bent down to pull the bins out front Yoongi’s bed. 

“It’s fine,” Yoongi mumbled. He was forced put the courting bracelet into his back pocket so he could bend down to pick up one of the bins. His instincts didn’t like not holding it, not having it in direct contact with his skin, but Yoongi thought it was best they got used to it. It wasn’t practical for him to carry the courting bracelet around in his palm until he made his decision anyway.

After the two of them carried the bins out to the living room, Yoongi crouched down in front of them, hesitating with this hands resting on the lid of the bin nearest him.

Yoongi watched as Jin pushed the coffee table out of the way and pulled the sleeping mat out from under the couch, unfolding it so Yoongi wouldn't have to. 

Yongi glanced up at Jin as the Beta finished and dusted off his hands. He waited for Jin to leave. Because, while Yoongi had made the step of offering to build a nest for pack bonding, he still didn’t want anyone to watch him make it.

“I was starting dinner,” Jin said, gesturing back towards the kitchen. “But I can just make some sandwiches or something we can eat, uh... in here.”

Yoongi nodded, glad that Jin understood that, once he made a nest, he’d be hard-pressed to leave it without dismantling it. He also felt heat rising in his face at Jin’s avoidance of the word nest, reminded about how awkward he felt about this, how personal his nest would feel once he built it.

“Namjoon will be home in about an hour,” Jin said, checking the clock they had hanging on the wall, “so you don’t have to feel rushed at all.”

Yoongi nodded again, his hands tightening on the lid, his eyes on the floor.

Jin took a few steps away from Yoongi and then paused, turning back around

“I’m very sorry that you are distressed enough to want to build a nest,” Jin said.

Yoongi cringed at the word ‘nest’, his shoulders raising as Jin continued, “But can I just say that I fucking love it when you make one for our pack.”

Some of Yoongi’s awkwardness was dispelled by the rare shock of hearing Jin swear, and he turned to look up at the Beta in surprise.

Jin put a hand to his chest as he continued. “And my instincts are really appreciating that you actually offered to nest, for the first time. It makes me feel trusted and loved. Thank you.”

Yoongi cringed again and leaned his head against the bin in front of him. He was glad it made Jin feel good and he’d always loved Jin’s honesty, but the blatant sincerity and appreciation was making him feel awkward and shy.

Jin,” Yoongi whined in complaint.

“I’m sorry,” Jin said quickly. “I won’t say the word ‘nest’ for the rest of the night, I promise. I just wanted you to know.”

Yoongi nodded against the lid of the bin and listened to the sound of Jin walking away and into the kitchen. Then he sat up with a sigh and popped the lids on both of his bins, staring down into the blankets. He wanted to build this nest, and then he wanted to sleep in it. He wanted to crawl into it and not come out again until he had to.

He hoped that Jin and Namjoon wouldn’t mind turning their pack-bonding session into a pack sleepover, because the idea of it sounded so nice to Yoongi right now, he wanted to whine at it. 

At the thought, Yoongi quickly went back into his room to change into something more comfortable. He changed into a pair of soft pajama pants and put on a hoodie over his T-shirt. Then he took the courting bracelet out of the back pocket of his jeans and put it in the hoodie’s front pouch—his instincts nervous at the idea of leaving it unsupervised in his room. 

When he got back into the living room, he hesitated in front of the bins, then did what he always did to start nesting. He picked up a random blanket and tossed it unceremoniously onto the sleeping mat.

His instincts balked and he moved forward to fix it, to move it where it belonged, and he gratefully fell into the blurry instinctual haze that came with nesting. He was dimly aware of blankets passing in and out of his hands, of taking the cushions off the couch again, of grabbing the pillows and blankets they kept in the living room for pack bonding. 

His awareness blurred more the longer he built, and he could feel his stress caused by Jungkook’s courting offer melting away with each addition to his nest. Not gone, just less daunting than before.

And then his awareness slammed back into him, and he was done. 

Yoongi sat on his heels and looked around the nest. He’d used the couch cushions to make high walls again, and he’d somehow grabbed all the pillows from both Jin and Namjoon’s beds without remembering doing so. 

He whined softly in embarrassment at seeing his packmates’ pillows, but he was already liking how he could smell their scents in the nest so he fought down the urge to go put them back. He was honestly too tired for the valiant effort it would take to fight his instincts long enough to remove the pillows anyway.

Yoongi crawled forward into the nest, loving how the high walls made him feel so safe. He pulled up the hood on his hoodie and burrowed into the blankets, giving into the urge to scent them for a few seconds before forcing himself to stop. If he scented the nest too much, then he’d become territorial over it and might not allow Jin or Namjoon to enter, which had been the whole point of doing something this embarrassing in the first place. 

Yoongi burrowed further into the blankets until he was underneath them completely, hidden from the world. He reached one of his hands up, fumbling around until he felt a pillow and then pulled it towards himself. It was one of Namjoon’s pillows, Yoongi realized as he hugged it to his chest and inhaled, allowing the the Alpha’s scent of burning pine to lull him into a further sense of calm. 

His eyes felt heavy and he suddenly became aware that he was exhausted, both emotionally and physically—from being asked by Jungkook to court and then by the running. 

He felt his body relax into the blankets, the material soft against his hands and the exposed skin of his ankles. He felt his mind slow to a hum, and he focused on the slowness of his breaths, on the smell of Namjoon he got with each inhale, eventually falling into sleep, safe in the walls of his nest.

***

Yoongi woke to the soft sound of Namjoon’s voice.

“-had happened,” the Alpha was saying, “I could smell his distress from the bottom of the stairs.”

“Really?” Jin whispered.

“Yeah. I think he must have been out in the staircase for a while,” Namjoon said, his voice so quiet that Yoongi could barely hear it.

There was a heavy exhale of breath, followed by a sniff, and then Namjoon spoke again. “Jin, come on, we’re all okay. You said he seemed alright.”

“He did,” Jin said softly. “But he was distressed and I had no idea what to do.”

Yoongi was starting to feel like he shouldn’t be listening in on this conversation, like it wasn’t for him to hear.

“It seems like you did just fine,” Namjoon whispered. “Don’t-”

And then there was a loud clatter of something hitting the floor and the sound of someone scrambling to pick it up. Yoongi took it as an opportunity to stir, holding back a whine of complaint as he adjusted the blankets so that he could see out of them. 

Jin and Namjoon were both sitting cross-legged by the TV, and Namjoon was sheepishly setting a video game controller back onto one of the shelves that held all of Jin’s game discs. 

They had turned off all of the lights in the living room, so the only light illuminating Yoongi’s nest was from the stream of light across the floor from the kitchen, casting the whole living room in a dim yellow-white glow.

“Sorry,” Namjoon said when he saw Yoongi was awake.

At the eye contact, Yoongi shrank back into the blankets, remembering that he had made a nest and Jin and Namjoon could see it. His instincts were buzzing a little already at the invasion.

“Can we come in?” Namjoon asked.

And Yoongi realized that his packmates had been sitting on the floor by the TV, for who knows how long, waiting for Yoongi to wake up and give them permission to enter.

Yoongi swallowed a whine at their consideration and said a soft, “Yes.”

Yoongi wondered if it was because he had scented this nest a little bit, or if it was because he was already feeling emotionally raw, but the feeling of Jin and Namjoon entering his nest felt like more of an invasion than it usually did. It felt like Jin and Namjoon could see through all the pillows and blankets, though his clothes and skin—like they could see down to his soul and Yoongi was allowing them to touch it with each movement forward they made.

Yoongi breathed through the feeling, knowing it would pass, that the comfort of pack-bonding in a nest would be worth it. He buried his face into Namjoon’s pillow as the blankets around him moved and arms wrapped around him from behind.

He was pulled back into Namjoon’s chest—Yoongi knew it was the Alpha without needing to check—but it wasn’t enough. 

In general, Jin was better at providing verbal comfort than Namjoon. However, when Yoongi was afraid, it was his pack-Alpha that he instinctively craved. And Yoongi had been fighting fear since he realized that Jungkook was going to ask to court him in the library.

Yoongi released his hold on Namjoon’s pillow and spun around in the Alpha’s arms. Namjoon seemed to know what he wanted, because he guided Yoongi’s face to the nape of his neck without Yoongi even needing to open his eyes. And Yoongi kind of just collapsed into the deep scent of Namjoon, his whole body going pliant with relief. 

He’d felt safe in his nest, but now he finally felt like there was nothing to be safe from, like there was nothing to fear anywhere. 

He felt Jin’s hands on the hood of his sweater, pulling it down slowly, like he was waiting for Yoongi to tell him to stop, and then one of the Beta’s hands started threading through Yoongi’s hair. 

Each time Jin’s hand passed through his hair, Yoongi felt his eyelids get heavier.

He wondered then if Jin or Namjoon knew how soothing it was for him to have his hair played with. They must both know. Yoongi couldn’t remember a pack bonding session where someone’s hands didn’t end up threading through his hair. 

Had they done it the first time? He wasn’t sure.

Maybe one day he’d tell them why, tell them about his childhood memories of early mornings with his mother. But, seeing how the fact that they so obviously knew he liked it had him already swallowing down embarrassment, it wouldn’t be today.

Jin’s hand hadn’t passed through Yoongi’s hair five times before he fell back asleep.

***

When Yoongi woke again, there was a hand shaking his shoulder. Yoongi shook off the hand and groaned in complaint, annoyed. He was warm and safe, and Namjoon’s scent was so nice to take in with each inhale. Yoongi didn’t understand why he didn’t do this all the time.

He already felt lighter, like some of the weight had been lifted off his chest. The prospect of needing to decide whether or not to court Jungkook didn’t seem so terrifying anymore. He would just think it through and then do what he wanted, as always. 

The hand that had shaken him awake landed on his shoulder again, this time with only a soft squeeze.

“Yoongi,” Jin was saying. “We all need to eat.”

Yoongi held back a whine of protest, but then his stomach growled and he forced himself to pull his face out of Namjoon’s neck, pushing himself up into a sitting position. He fidgeted when Namjoon gave him a small smile and broke eye contact, feeling awkward—as he’d basically half-scented the Alpha for however long he had been asleep.

He took a plate from Jin as Namjoon sat up as well, then avoided looking at either of their faces as the three of them sat in a circle in his nest and slowly ate their sandwiches. Yoongi couldn’t help but keep an eye on their food, his instincts over-aware of the possibility of crumbs falling into his nest, but Jin and Namjoon were both being extra careful as they ate, holding their plates directly under their mouths to catch anything that fell. 

Jin and Namjoon were both still releasing calming pheromones—a testament to their worry, as Yoongi didn’t feel like his scent was releasing any stressors anymore. He must have really surprised Jin with his distress, or maybe they both were worried because he had never asked to build a nest before. 

Jin and Namjoon were obviously trying to have a silent conversation without Yoongi noticing, making small gestures and expressions, and then nodding or shaking their heads. Yoongi could probably follow it if he tried, but he left them to it. 

The two of them were so busy pretending that they weren’t trying to decide something that Yoongi finished his food first. Jin reached out to take his empty plate, setting it outside the nest, and then handed Yoongi a bottle of water. Yoongi thanked him quietly as he opened it. 

By the time Yoongi had finished his bottle of water, Jin and Namjoon had also finished their sandwiches were sipping on waters on their own. And then Yoongi realized that they weren’t going to say anything, weren’t going to ask if he didn’t want to talk about it, and Yoongi valued their quiet understanding in moments like these more than they would ever know.

But Yoongi didn’t want to say nothing and have them to worry too much about him. He stared down at his hands, pulling at the pocket of his hoodie, unsure how to breach the topic.

“I’ll be right back,” Namjoon said, gathering the the empty waters and plates to take to the kitchen. Yoongi fought a whine as Namjoon left the nest, and forced himself not to grab Namjoon’s pillow again to compensate for the Alpha’s absence.

Yoongi heard the sound of the kitchen sink turning on as Jin laid back down with a sigh, adjusting his head on a pillow a few times before putting his hand on the pillow next to him and asking Yoongi, “Can I move this?”

Yoongi nodded, hiding a grimace as Jin placed the second pillow under his head—one of his own—and turned onto his side to face Yoongi. His instincts not liking the outside disturbance of his nest, Yoongi reached forward to adjust the blankets that had been underneath the pillow Jin had moved, relaxing as fluffing them up a little made him feel better.

When Yoongi looked back at Jin, the Beta was watching him with a fond smile. Jin reached out a hand to Yoongi when they made eye contact and said, “Come here?”

Yoongi was moving forward before he had time to think, falling into Jin’s arms with a sigh, his forehead pressed against the Beta’s chest. Yoongi relaxed further as the Beta starting running his one of his hands through Yoongi’s hair again, the other resting on Yoongi’s mid-back.

“Are you feeling better?” Jin asked softly.

Yoongi nodded against Jin’s chest and said, “I just didn’t see it coming, not this soon. He surprised me.”

Jin hummed under his breath in understanding as the water running in the kitchen shut off. Then Yoongi was listening to the clinking sound of Namjoon putting away the plates in the cupboard, followed by the soft footsteps of the Alpha coming into the living room.

“Can I come back in?” Namjoon asked, and Yoongi huffed a laugh and nodded. He appreciated the consideration to his nest, but Namjoon only needed to ask once.

The nest shifted as Namjoon re-entered, but it didn’t nearly feel as invasive the second time around. Then Namjoon’s hands wrapped around him from behind, pulling Yoongi back against his chest like he always did during pack bonding. Jin easily released his hold on Yoongi, but moved forward with him, both his hands going into Yoongi’s hair this time.

Yoongi could feel their attention on him, and he curled into himself, pulling his hands into the sleeves of his hoodie and hiding his face against them. He wanted to sleep again, but he needed to tell his packmates what he wanted first, if he didn’t want to woken up again later.

“Want to sleep here,” Yoongi mumbled against his sleeves.

Namjoon snorted and said, “That shouldn’t be a problem. You already slept here for more than four hours.”

Yoongi hadn’t realized that he had slept that long. It meant that it was already sometime after midnight. He was a little touched that Jin and Namjoon had waited so long to eat. Or maybe they’d all had a nap—Yoongi didn’t know.

“I want to sleep here all night,” Yoongi amended, feeling a little shy at the suggestion.

Jin’s hands stuttered in his hair before continuing to move through it. 

“I have no problem with that,” Jin said, his voice tinged with enough excitement at the prospect that it made Namjoon snort again in amusement. 

There was a long moment of silence, filled only by the very soft sound of Jin moving his fingers through Yoongi’s hair. And Yoongi was pretty sure he was the only one of the three of them who could hear it, the sound of Jin’s fingers on his scalp traveling through his skin to only his ears.

On each inhale, Yoongi could smell Jin and Namjoon’s scents, and it was making the tiredness come back into his eyes. But he had something to say before he fell back asleep.

He didn’t want to leave Jin and Namjoon in the dark and he didn’t want them to worry any more than they already had. He also wanted to at least warn them about what he intended to do. 

Yoongi pushed his face harder against his sleeves, trying to gather his courage. Eventually, Yoongi took a deep breath in and said, “I think I’m going to say yes.”

Yoongi wanted for an exclamation of shock, for Jin or Namjoon to question him further, but neither one of them reacted strongly at all. Jin hummed in acknowledgement and Namjoon briefly tightened his hold around Yoongi’s waist.

For a moment, he was confused why they weren’t more surprised, but then he realized it was because they knew how he operated. They knew he wouldn’t have taken the courting bracelet if he didn’t want it, plain and simple. Perhaps they had even already discussed it while he had been sleeping.

“We’re happy for you,” Namjoon said quietly. And Yoongi remembered him saying it before, just a few weeks ago, sitting at their desks in their Music History class room. Yoongi had denied there was anything to be happy about then, but this time he nodded.

He waited for questions. He waited for them to ask about how if Yoongi was going to say yes, then why had he come home so distressed that Namjoon could smell it in the stairwell hours later? That Jin could smell the minute he'd gotten home? If he was going to say yes, then why had he felt the need to build a nest and call a pack-bonding night? 

But maybe, again, they both knew those answers. Maybe it didn’t need to be said.

However, Yoongi felt like he should say it, that pretending everything was fine wasn’t helping him.

“But it scares me,” Yoongi admitted into the quiet, and this time Namjoon and Jin both reacted, Jin’s hand briefly tightening in Yoongi’s hair and Namjoon tensing. But they both soon relaxed again, and Yoongi felt Namjoon’s chin briefly moving over Yoongi’s shoulder in a subtle scenting. 

“We know,” Jin said quietly after Yoongi didn’t continue, and Yoongi could feel him shifting forward, felt Jin’s knee against his thigh. “We don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to.” 

Yoongi nodded, realizing that he didn’t really want to talk about it. Not yet.

“But,” Jin said, his voice almost a whisper, “if something about courting Jungkook scares you, I do think you should talk to him about it.”

Yoongi frowned against his sleeves, not quite liking this idea.

Jin sighed and said, “I hate admitting it, but I think that, in this case, having a discussion with him could help you more than we can.”

Namjoon nodded against Yoongi’s back, and Yoongi realized that they were probably right. He’d need to think about it, but maybe he should have a discussion with Jungkook, if only just to ease his mind.

Maybe all Yoongi had really needed from Jin and Namjoon was this, their quiet support and understanding, their easy acceptance of his requests, their scents surrounding him, Jin’s hands in his hair, lulling him once more into the soft pull of sleep.

***

When Jin’s alarm rang to life on Friday, Yoongi groaned in annoyance. Namjoon and Jin both moved to get up, Jin for work and Namjoon for a morning class, but Namjoon shook his head when Yoongi sat up, too.

“You can go back to sleep, hyung. I set an alarm on your phone for 10:30,” Namjoon said.

“Thanks,” Yoongi mumbled, allowing himself to collapse back into his nest with a sigh of relief that made Jin laugh under his breath. He burrowed himself under the blankets and didn’t stir again until his own alarm rang almost four hours later.

Yoongi got up with a groan and dismantled his nest before he did anything else, hating the idea of leaving something this personal lying behind in the apartment without him. 

After he put away the last of the blankets and pushed his bins back under his bed, Yoongi checked his watch. It was only 10:45am, and his first class started just before noon, so he had plenty of time to finish getting ready.

He resisted the urge to put on the sweater Jungkook had given him, but he still moved the courting bracelet back into the pocket of his jeans after his instincts balked when he tried to leave his room without it, tugging harshly in his gut. 

It seemed he would be carrying the bracelet around with him. He didn’t really mind, but he hoped it wouldn’t become an inconvenience.

He made it to his first class with a few minutes to spare and threw himself down at an empty desk, glad for the welcome distraction of a full day of classes. However, despite his classes keeping him busy, Yoongi’s mind kept straying towards Jungkook. 

He wanted to take his packmates’ advice and have a discussion with the Alpha, but he had no idea what he was going to say.

As his classes went on, Yoongi slowly built up a mental checklist of his concerns. And he found that some of them truly did need to be addressed before he could be comfortable with making a decision to court Jungkook—a testament, yet again, to the fact that Jin should never be doubted.

***

Yoongi’s last class of the day was the Music History class he shared with Namjoon. The Alpha did an excellent job of pretending that nothing about this day was particularly special—not venturing anywhere near the topic of Jungkook even once. But Yoongi had felt his gaze on him a few times during class, and Yoongi knew that Namjoon was still a little worried about him. 

After class, Namjoon needed to stay behind to go use one of the recording studios, so Yoongi walked him to the studio and left to walk home alone. 

As he exited the music building, one of the girls walking ahead of him had pointed to the sky and said, “Oh, look!”

Yoongi looked up along with the girl's friends, scrunching his face at the chill of a snowflake landing on his cheek.

It was snowing.

It rarely snowed in Seoul, and even when it did, it was rarely cold enough for it not to melt upon meeting the ground. But Yoongi’s breath was rising up in clouds of steam on each of his exhales, and it felt cold enough today that the snow might stay, if only for a little while.

Yoongi looked around and saw that there was already a light dusting of white on the sidewalks and dead grass surrounding him. The falling snow was already making the noise of the city around him quieter, muffling everything like noise heard through a blanket.

Grinning, Yoongi veered right toward the patio tables set up in the small courtyard next to the music building. During the other seasons of the year, the tables would almost always be full of students. But, as Yoongi rounded the corner, there were all empty. 

The courtyard was out of view from most of the campus, and Yoongi loved how, in the winter, it could make him feel like he was on campus alone.

Yoongi brushed off the small amount of gathered snow on top of one of the tables and cranked open the patio umbrella. The metal of the crank was stiff in the cold, but opened easily when Yoongi applied more force.

Then Yoongi sat on the table with his feet on the bench and sighed, his eyes slipping closed, prepared to enjoy a quieter world. He’d luckily worn gloves today, and he had Jungkook’s scarf with him, so Yoongi thought he’d have at least half an hour before he got too cold to stay longer.

He considered taking out his phone and playing music, but decided against it. He wanted to listen to the extra quiet a snowfall always brought with it. It was already February, so this could be the last snowfall of the season, Yoongi’s last chance to appreciate it.

But, after a few minutes, Yoongi’s thoughts naturally drifted to Jungkook. Instead of spending his day trying not to think about him, like he had spent the past few weeks doing, Yoongi had been thinking about him all day. It had been odd, but Yoongi’s mind and instincts had accepted the change easily.

He’d decided halfway through his first class that he and Jungkook needed to have a conversation about what was making Yoongi afraid, but he’d needed the rest of the day to ponder what he actually thought would be helpful to discuss. 

Yoongi wanted to be honest, but he also wanted to be kind. He wanted to show that he trusted Jungkook, but he also wanted to express all his concerns. Everything seemed to conflict with itself, and Yoongi had spent too much of his classes going through ways he could phrase things in his mind.

But, sitting here now, he winced. Planned words weren’t sincere words—Yoongi had always thought this. He wanted to tell Jungkook what he felt, and if it bothered the Alpha, then Jungkook would just have to speak up, too.

Yoongi stared down at his hands for a few moments, then gathered his courage and pulled out his phone to send a message to Jungkook.

Yoongi: where are you? i want to speak with you

Jungkook: I’m at home. We can talk right now, if you want.

Yoongi grinned to himself, trying to allow Jungkook’s willingness to have a discussion to ease his rising nerves. 

Yoongi: i’d like to meet, if that’s okay

Jungkook: Yes. That’s okay with me. 

Jungkook: Is this about courting?

Yoongi felt his eyes widen at the blatant question, but he didn’t know why he was surprised. Jungkook had been very straightforward with him so far.

Yoongi: yes

Jungkook: Okay. I’ll answer anything. Where are you?

Yoongi: i’m in the courtyard outside the music building

Jungkook: On my way.

Yoongi leaned back into the patio umbrella’s pole while he waited, testing the sturdiness of it against his back before he settled his full weight against it. He wasn’t sure how long it would take Jungkook to get here, and he let his eyes slip closed, focusing once more on the hush of a quieter world, trying to fight his rising nerves.

He almost missed the footsteps as they approached, and his eyes opened just as Jungkook neared his table, a small smile on his face.

The Alpha was dressed for the weather, wrapped in a black scarf and wearing a black-knit hat that looked homemade. He had his hands stuffed into the pockets of a black winter jacket—one similar to Yoongi’s—and he had on his Timberlands again, much better footwear for snow than Yoongi’s converse.

“What are you doing here?” Jungkook asked, moving to sit backwards on the bench of the patio table next to Yoongi’s, a very respectable distance away, his hands not leaving his pockets.

“I like the snow,” Yoongi said with a shrug. He also liked how, by being outside, Jungkook wouldn’t be able to fully smell how nervous Yoongi was. But he still offered, “We can go inside, if you want.”

Jungkook shook his head, looking around, and said, “No, this is fine.” The snowfall had gotten heavier since Yoongi had closed his eyes, and everything around them was slowly getting tinged with more and more white.

Yoongi stared at the ground in front of him, adjusting himself so his legs were crossed underneath him on the table. The wood of the patio table was chill against Yoongi's legs through his jeans, and he fought a shiver at a little gust of wind.

Jungkook watched Yoongi search for words and then said, “If you are trying to think of a nice way to tell me you aren’t interested, you can just say it.”

Yoongi looked up at Jungkook in surprise, a little off-footed by the fact that Jungkook was assuming he was going to be rejected.

“I’m not...” Yoongi shook his head. “I’m not uninterested.”

Jungkook blinked. “What?”

Yoongi shrank back a little and said, “You heard me.”

Jungkook stared at him, his mouth slightly open, confusion written all over his face.

“So,” Jungkook said slowly, “then what did you want to say?”

Jungkook’s eyes looked brighter now, hopeful, and Yoongi tried to fight the blush he could feel rising in his face. 

“I have some concerns,” Yoongi admitted. “And a demand.”

Jungkook stared back at him with wide eyes.

“Are you saying what I think you are saying?” Jungkook asked. “You’re thinking about courting me?”

“Isn’t that what you asked me to do?” Yoongi said, trying to keep an accusation out of his voice. Jungkook’s continued surprise was making him feel embarrassed, and it wasn’t helping. Yoongi hadn’t even started yet.

“Yes, but...” Jungkook leaned back against the table behind him. “I thought you’d think about saying no, not think about saying yes.”

Yoongi frowned at him. “Why?”

“Because you told me you didn’t want to court,” Jungkook said, his voice serious.

Jungkook’s elbows were jutting out at his sides from where his hands were in his pockets, his feet were planted firmly in front of him in a wide stance, his chin was high, his shoulders rolled back. Something about his posture was making Yoongi feel a little weak. He had no idea how he’d ever mistaken this boy for an Omega.

At Yoongi’s silence, Jungkook added, “On Monday, when you touched me, I thought I might have a chance. And I just...”

Jungkook shook his head, too many times, and said, “It was driving me crazy. If I didn’t ask to court you, at least once, if I didn’t take a chance, then I thought I would regret it forever.”

Yoongi fought down his own shock then, grappling with himself to try to keep his expression neutral. 

Jungkook was watching him carefully, and Yoongi thought that admitting that he wasn’t uninterested had changed something between them, or maybe it was the courting bracelet in Yoongi’s pocket, but Jungkook’s gaze fell heavier on his skin.

“Your demand?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi cleared his throat and tried to focus on why he had called Jungkook out here in the first place. He wasn’t surprised that Jungkook had asked to hear his demand first, as Alphas hated having things demanded of them.

“I don’t want to leave my pack,” Yoongi said, trying to make his voice sound firm.

“I wouldn’t ask you to,” Jungkook said, his eyebrows furrowing.

“I know that you think that, right now,” Yoongi said. He’d thought about this a lot, trying not to stare at Namjoon throughout his entire Music History class, struck once again by how important his packmates had become to him.

Yoongi gestured to Jungkook and said, “But I know you don’t want to leave your pack either.”

Jungkook frowned, but nodded. 

“I won’t be without them,” Yoongi said. “I have... no one else. Not the way I have them.”

Jungkook’s expression softened again, but Yoongi didn’t let it sway him. He kept his voice firm, like he knew he had to if he really wanted to get this across. 

“You won’t ever ask me to leave them,” Yoongi said, shaking his head slightly. “Not once.”

Jungkook’s gaze darkened a little, though Yoongi wasn’t sure with what, and then Yoongi could see Jungkook’s jaw lock, watched as Jungkook seemed to fight something off, and Yoongi knew he had seen a glimpse of Jungkook’s instincts—maybe for the first time. 

Yoongi wasn’t surprised. He was directly antagonizing the Alpha’s instincts, phrasing something as a command in this way. In the wrong light, Yoongi could admit he was actually being a little rude.

Jungkook nodded, but it looked a little stiff.

“Promise me,” Yoongi said.

“I promise,” Jungkook said, his posture relaxing a little as Yoongi leaned back into the patio umbrella pole with relief. “But we don’t have to worry about that unless we... mate.” 

The word ‘mate’ made Jungkook shudder a little and close his eyes, and Yoongi didn’t know why. Didn’t know if it was because Jungkook didn't like the idea of mating or because his instincts liked the idea too much—the way Yoongi’s did as they burned hotly in his stomach.

“That brings me to one of my concerns,” Yoongi said, and Jungkook’s eyes snapped back open.

“If you don’t think this will last,” Yoongi said, “I don’t want to start.”

Jungkook was quiet, his eyes widening again, then he said, “I think it will last.” His voice was hesitant, like he wasn’t sure if this was a good enough answer.

“Why?” Yoongi asked him.

Jungkook frowned at this, then seemed to start to stand and stop himself just as fast.

“I think you’re underestimating how much I like you,” Jungkook said. “And how much my instincts like you.”

Jungkook took his hands out of his pockets and leaned forward, his gaze suddenly more intense. “Do you know how much of a relief it is to see you sit there and make demands of me for the things you want?”

Yoongi doubted he kept the shock out of his face this time. He’d thought Jungkook would have hated it.

Jungkook put a hand to his chest and said, “I’m selfish, sometimes, and I don’t notice. I’m competitive and I like to give people shit. I need someone who can stick it to me when I overstep, who can fight me for what they want.”

“I don’t want to fight with you,” Yoongi said, almost on autopilot in his shock. He’d been expecting to drive most of this conversation.

Jungkook let out a small laugh and said, “I don’t want to fight with you either. What I mean is that I’m glad you won’t let me walk all over you, and not tell me. I actually thought that I’d never court an Omega, for that reason.”

Yoongi felt his eyebrows raise, surprised to hear this. But he supposed it made sense that, if he worried about the effect of his submissive instincts, then Jungkook would also have worries about the effect of his dominant ones. 

Jungkook posture relaxed, his hand falling from his chest and onto his lap. The Alpha stared down at his hands, then looked back up at Yoongi, his gaze less intense than before, but nervous—like he thought he might have to apologize. 

Yoongi gave him a weak smile, trying to show the Alpha that he didn’t think he had anything to be sorry for.

“And your hands,” Jungkook said after a few moments, his voice twice as soft, his eyes flicking away like he felt shy. “I love looking at your hands.”

Yoongi couldn’t help but look down at his hands then, even though they were covered by his gloves. He’d never thought they were particularly special before.

“And I love your scent,” Jungkook said, inhaling like he could smell it now, and maybe he could. “You smell like... You smell like the wind that blows out from the winter ocean right before a storm, you smell like blueberries crushed by hand, and like the kind of peppermint that lasts, that lingers in your mouth all day.”

When Yoongi had asked Jungkook why he thought their courtship would last, he hadn’t realized that he was accidently asking Jungkook for a barrage of compliments. And each one was making his stomach grow hotter than he could handle.

“Alright, I get it,” Yoongi said, moving his hands in a placating gesture that made Jungkook smile.

“Your other concerns?” Jungkook asked, his expression falling in seriousness again.

Yoongi was glad for the easy change of topic.

“My other concern is, and I’m sorry, but it’s your age,” Yoongi said. Yoongi hadn’t thought it bothered him, but it worried him the more he thought about it.

“My age?” Jungkook repeated, his posture stiffening. “There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Yoongi nodded in concession to this, and held up a hand as Jungkook opened his mouth, wanting time to explain himself before the Alpha got upset.

“You’ll grow here,” Yoongi said, gesturing around at their college campus, “and the person you are now and the person you’ll be when you graduate will be so different. I changed more here than I ever had before. I’m worried that you’ll change, that you’ll... get over it and walk away.”

Jungkook shook his head quickly and opened his mouth to speak again, but Yoongi pushed on.

“I believe you think you won’t, and I actually don’t care that you’re younger than me, but I can’t help but think about how old you are. When I just turned eighteen? I was a fucking mess. It was my last year of high school and I had perfected the art of completely isolating myself. I didn’t even let people touch me. I would have never been ready for this. And it makes me worry about you, if you’re too young to start something serious, if you’ll get bored.”

Yoongi shook his head and said, “But I also know that we are different people, and that my worry may be unfounded, but it’s one of my concerns.”

Jungkook nodded stiffly, and, now that Yoongi was speaking, he didn’t want to stop. He might as well get it all out while he had momentum.

“This all happened so fast for me,” Yoongi admitted, gesturing to himself. “I’m worried that I don’t have enough room for you. I’ve never courted before and I don’t know how this works.”

Yoongi looked at Jungkook, still sitting on the patio table, his face set into a frown of concentration, like he didn’t want to miss a word that Yoongi said.

“I’m not built for this,” Yoongi said, gesturing between Jungkook and himself. “This is too big for me. I...”

Yoongi had expected to fall for someone slowly, piece by piece over a long period of time. He had expected to understand how he felt, to know the other person better than he knew Jungkook right now. He had expected a quiet love story.

Yoongi trailed off and stared down at his hands. 

“I want it to last,” Jungkook said quietly.

“What?” Yoongi said. It seemed like an odd reply. Yoongi had been expecting... Well, he wasn’t sure what he had been expecting.

“I’ve never courted before either,” Jungkook said, “so won’t insult you by pretending I know how it works or by promising anything about how I’ll age, but I really, really want it to last,” 

Jungkook leaned forward and added, “Because I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone like you ever again. I want to try.”

Yoongi felt a blush rising to his face and he hung his head. He’d said everything he’d wanted to say, and more, but he still felt a little afraid.

“You want some more time to decide, I’m guessing?” Jungkook asked him.

Yoongi nodded. He might burst into tears if they started courting now. He still needed more time to wrap his head around the whole thing.

Jungkook nodded is easy agreement and then looked back out and around the courtyard. It was still snowing and Yoongi had been right, it was sticking. The ground would probably be covered in white until the sun rose in the morning. 

There was a light dusting of white gathering on the top of Jungkook’s hat that made Yoongi’s mouth tick up in a small smile. He wondered if Jungkook's bare hands were getting cold.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you for a copy of Life Begets Life,” Jungkook said after a long moment of staring out into the snowy courtyard. “You said you had a PDF version of it? I think I’d like to try to play it, once I’m good enough.”

Yoongi was surprised at this request, but he nodded and said, “Yeah. I’ll print one out for you.” 

He didn’t mind giving a copy of the song to Jungkook. The Alpha was the only reason it had been finished in the first place. 

“Speaking of piano,” Jungkook said, “I think I’m ready for another lesson. Unless you want some more space while you make your decision?”

“No, I don’t mind,” Yoongi said, tilting his head as he thought through his schedule. “How about on Monday at noon?”

Jungkook grinned at him. “That’s a good time for me.”

“Me too,” said Yoongi. “I wouldn’t mind just meeting every Monday.”

“That sounds... really good,” Jungkook said, his eyes softening. “Let’s plan on every Monday at noon, then, like the first time.”

Yoongi nodded, fighting a smile at the phrasing, and Yoongi almost told him, right then and there, that he was planning on saying ‘Yes'. He could feel Jungkook’s courting bracelet practically burning a hole in his pocket. But he couldn’t fight the feeling of not yet building in his gut. 

He thought it might be because he had no gift to give Jungkook. To officially end pre-courting, the person being pre-courted had to give a gift—to symbolize the end of a one-way exchange and the beginning of mutual giving—and Jungkook had just given Yoongi an idea.

Jungkook wanted a PDF copy of Life Begets Life, but Yoongi could do him one better. Jungkook had asked him repeatedly about the grand staff, expressed sympathy for middle C missing a line in piano music score multiple times, and once wished aloud to Yoongi that there was an instrument that played the grand staff on all eleven lines. 

What if Yoongi made a music score for him in full grand staff? Better yet, what if Yoongi transcribed Life Begets Life into eleven lines of grand staff by hand—a gift for Jungkook to keep and later play? 

Yoongi had no other idea of what he could give Jungkook, and this one finally seemed like a good one. It was felt personal and hands-on in a way that both Yoongi and his instincts liked.

Yoongi watched as Jungkook stood, and he felt a little brave. Yoongi had admitted that he was interested in Jungkook, to the Alpha himself. It was weird to know that Jungkook knew Yoongi liked him, but Jungkook wasn’t acting much differently.

Yoongi could still feel a shift, somewhere, maybe instinctually, but Jungkook seemed just as considerate and careful as ever as he shoved his hands back into his pockets and have Yoongi a small smile, still keeping his distance.

“I’ll let you appreciate the snow in peace,” Jungkook said, slowly stepping backwards away from Yoongi’s table. 

Yoongi smiled back, giving Jungkook a little wave as he turned around to leave. But when he got to the edge of the courtyard, Jungkook stopped, standing still for a few moments and before he turned back around.

“Let me say one more thing?” Jungkook asked.

Yoongi hesitated, but then nodded. 

“I just wanted to thank you,” Jungkook said. “This time you are taking to consider me, the small chance you’re giving me, it’s more than I ever expected to have. Whatever you decide, I’m grateful for it.”

Yoongi didn’t know what to say. He didn’t think that he should say ‘You’re welcome’, as it felt like it would be too arrogant. 

But Jungkook didn’t seem to be waiting for a reply. With a final nod in Yoongi’s direction, the Alpha turned around and walked away without looking back again. 

***

Yoongi walked home in a small daze.

He didn’t have any issues with anything Jungkook had said. The Alpha always seemed to say the right things, but it didn’t seem like he had told Yoongi only what he wanted to hear. It seemed like he was sincere, like he really meant everything he had said.

He’d told Yoongi that he was serious about courting him, that he also wanted their relationship to last. He had promised that he would never ask Yoongi to leave his pack, and he was convinced now that Jungkook actually liked him.

Which all meant one thing.

Yoongi was going to court him. For real.

The finality of his decision came to him as he walked up the stairs leading to his apartment, and he had to stop in the middle of the staircase to gather himself. He put a hand against the wall and tried to breathe evenly.

He was going to court Jungkook, and Jungkook was going to court him. And it was going to be new and nerve-wracking and scary, but Yoongi wanted it. 

Jungkook had said If I didn’t ask to court you, at least once, if I didn’t take a chance, then I thought I would regret it forever, and Yoongi understood the feeling. If he rejected Jungkook now and let the Alpha pass him by, if he didn’t at least try and see if it worked out, then he was pretty sure he would never stop regretting it.

And Yoongi didn’t want regrets. He didn’t want to ask himself What if? until the day he died.

Namjoon and Jin were out for dinner when Yoongi got home, Yoongi having missed their messages inviting him to join, so he sat down on the couch and took out Jungkook’s courting bracelet. He stared at it until his vision blurred from focusing so hard, until his arms both got sore from holding it up in front of himself.

And then, with an almost ritual-like slowness, Yoongi undid the clasp, and put it on.

***

Yoongi kept nervously pulling down his sleeves all weekend to keep the courting bracelet hidden, even when he was alone. He took a trip to the Coffee Nook and held both his sleeves in the vice-like grip almost the whole time.

It made him too distracted to enjoy his conversation with Hoseok, who avoided the topic of Jungkook so widely that it made Yoongi grin at him in thanks. He wondered if the Beta knew anything. After Jungkook had told no one but Jimin that he had asked Yoongi to pre-court, he was starting to suspect that the Alpha was as private a person as Yoongi was. 

Yoongi barely sat at his table in the back corner of the Coffee Nook for half an hour before he got too nervous and had to leave, stopping by the front counter to give Hoseok a quick goodbye.

He didn’t want anyone to see that he was wearing the courting bracelet until he’d worked up the courage to tell Jungkook that he was going to accept his offer. And being out in public just seemed too risky.

He spent the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday locked away in his room, slowly transcribing Life Begets Life onto all eleven lines of the grand staff. Jin and Namjoon asked him a few times if he was still okay, but for the most part, they both gave him a wide berth. 

They’d seemed to have decided to allow Yoongi to think this all through on his own, but he knew that either one of them would be happy to talk it out with him, should he wish it, and that ended up being comfort enough. 

Transcribing something into full grand staff was proving to be difficult. Yoongi couldn’t find a picture of an empty grand staff piano score anywhere online, so he had to resort to making it himself with a ruler and a small permanent marker on a blank sheet of white paper.

Once he made the score, he quickly scanned it and made copies. He titled the first page and decided to keep the dedication simple—Yoongi wasn’t one to wax poetic anyhow—so that it read:

Life Begets Life in Grand Staff

composed and transcribed by Min Yoongi

For Jungkook

Transcring the notes was difficult as well. He was lucky that he'd just finished transcribing this same piano piece for Professor Lee only last week, as his hands and mind still knew what to do, knew how to draw the notes the way he wanted them to look.

However, after almost twenty years of thinking in treble clef and bass celf, of always dividing piano music into two parts, it was harder than he thought it would be to wrap his head around a full grand staff. He kept having to stop, to count the lines of the piano score to make sure he was writing notes on the right lines or spaces. And each time he wrote a note on the line he'd drawn in for middle C, it was strange not too see it hanging off in empty space. But he reminded himself that this is what Jungkook had wanted to see—middle C as part of a whole.

He finished transcribing the song late on Sunday night, just in time to have it as a gift for Jungkook when he met with Yoongi for a piano lesson the next day. Yoongi switched off his lamp crawled into his bed, both dreading and anticipating the next morning, too tired to bother taking off any of his clothes.

 ***

When Yoongi woke to the sound of Jin’s alarm on Monday, he was too nervous to try to fall back asleep. He still wasn’t sure what he was going to say to Jungkook, how he was going to tell the Alpha that Yoongi had decided to court him, if he would be able to tell him.

Yoongi had put the grand staff version of Life Begets Life in his laptop bag last night, and he was planning on walking around with it until he worked up the courage. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to tell Jungkook today, alone in the piano practice room, as the idea of beginning their courtship in such a small, private place made Yoongi nervous—even though he knew he didn’t need to be.

Yoongi took a long shower and then ate breakfast alone, as Jin had already left for work. After drinking his second cup of coffee, Yoongi decided he was too antsy to stay at home, so he gathered his things and headed to the campus library.

He had an essay due in a few days that he had only found the sources for, and he needed to start writing it soon anyway. So he sat down at his favorite table on the top floor of the library with three hours to go until his piano lesson with Jungkook, rolling up his sleeves with determination as he began to type the introduction paragraph.

About two hours in, Yoongi’s eyes began to droop and feel heavy. He leaned forward and rested his forehead against the table. Maybe he should have slept more after all. He decided to rest his eyes, just a little. He’d be more productive when he opened them again. If he kept them closed for a while, maybe his tiredness would fade away...

***

Yoongi woke to the smell of rain and metal. 

He blinked his eyes open, looking around and expecting to see Jungkook, but the Alpha wasn’t there. However, he saw a cup of coffee on his library table that hadn’t been there before. 

Yoongi checked the time on his watch, and felt a wave of guilt when he saw that he was currently forty-five minutes late for their piano lesson. 

“Shit,” he murmured as he took out his phone to see that he had a missed call from Jungkook. The time stamp showed that Jungkook had called ten minutes after their lesson was supposed to start, and then had sent Yoongi a text message about ten minutes later. 

Jungkook: Hi, hyung. I’m thinking that maybe you forgot about our lesson, which is fine, don’t worry. We can reschedule if you can’t make it here, but I have coffee for you and I’m not sure what to do with it? I tried to drink it, but my instincts didn’t like it. Where are you right now?

Yoongi sighed, his eyes falling to the coffee cup sitting on his library table. He put his hand out to touch the side of it, and felt that it had already lost most of its warmth. 

Then he froze.

His sleeves were rolled up, and he could see Jungkook’s courting bracelet around his own wrist as clear as day.

Yoongi inhaled sharply, and only then did he notice that Jungkook’s scent smelt agitated. Yoongi breathed in again and realized that his scent was strong, too strong for him to have came and left quickly. It smelt like he had been here a long time, or like he was still on this floor of the library somewhere.

Nervousness flooded Yoongi’s gut, hot and swirling, and he felt his breath getting faster. 

Jungkook knew. He knew that Yoongi had put on the bracelet. Fuck.

Yoongi stood and looked around, but all he could see were the bookshelves surrounding him. He took a few steps forward and peered into the library hall. He couldn’t see anything, but he felt his instincts trying to pull him further down the hall, not toward the exit but toward the very back of the library, where there was no seating.

Jungkook must be back there, Yoongi realized. The smell of the Alpha’s agitation was stronger now, and Yoongi could tell that it was mixed with confusion. It seemed like Jungkook had seen the courting bracelet and then distanced himself.

Yoongi fought his rising nervousness and clenched his fists. This wasn’t fair to Jungkook. Yoongi didn’t want to be this type of person, this person who strung someone further along in uncertainty when they had already made up their mind.

Yoongi closed his eyes and took a deep breath, gathering his courage. He’d wanted to wait a little longer, but it looked like it would have to be now.

He resisted the urge to pull his sleeves back down as he turned around and went to his laptop bag. His hands were shaking as he pulled out his gift for Jungkook—the four pages of sheet music with Life Begets Life transcribed on all eleven lines of the grand staff. He gritted his teeth and tried to will his hands to stop shaking as he turned and walked further into the top floor of the library.

The bookshelves back here were neat and tidy, almost no books missing from the long lines of volumes. A brief inspection of the titles showed Yoongi that these were all books in other languages. He walked past a row of Chinese books and each step he took felt heavy, made his instincts focus in more as he got closer to Jungkook. 

Then he walked past books in Japanese. Then English. Latin. Greek. Russian. German.

Yoongi paused right before the last bookshelf, his instincts telling him that Jungkook was around the corner to his left, and gathered himself, surrounded by books in French.

Even now, part of him wanted to turn around and flee, wanted to protect himself. A part of him didn’t want to officially start something that he didn’t want to end. But Yoongi was done running away, done with denying himself and his instincts, ready to experience courting with the one person he wanted and decided to trust enough to try for.

Yoongi took a deep breath, and moved forward.

***

When Yoongi turned the corner, Jungkook was sitting against the wall, his elbows on his raised knees, his head in his hands. A posture of defeat that had guilt twisting in Yoongi’s stomach.

“Jungkook,” Yoongi said softly, “I-”

But Yoongi’s voice died in his throat as Jungkook’s head snapped up and the Alpha made eye contact with him. Jungkook’s eyes looked a little wild as he leapt to his feet, but he didn’t move any closer.

“Hyung,” Jungkook whispered and his eyes flicked from Yoongi’s face to the courting bracelet to the folder in his hands and then back to the courting bracelet on his wrist. Yoongi tried not to shrink into himself as Jungkook stared at the leather band, his eyes getting wider.

“I thought...” Jungkook said, his eyes meeting Yoongi’s again. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to see it.”

Yoongi cleared his throat and said, “You weren’t, but-”

“Then you can take it back off,” Jungkook said, his posture straightening, the lines of his face tensing. He spoke slowly, like he was fighting to get the words out. “If you aren’t ready or you don’t want it, I don’t want to pressure you. I want to court only if you want to court. You can take it back off, and I’ll forget I saw it.”

An out. An open escape route. Jungkook had given this to Yoongi before, and Yoongi had taken it. 

But Yoongi shook his head. He didn’t know if he was ready, but Yoongi wanted. And he didn’t want to make Jungkook wait any longer, didn’t want to feel like he was taking advantage of the Alpha’s kindness and consideration. 

“I don’t want to... take it off,” Yoongi said, looking away, down and at the library floor, and he saw Jungkook’s whole body freeze in his peripheral vision. 

Yoongi forced himself to breathe calmly, taking a few more steps forward. His footfalls sounded loud on the library floor, a break in the stillness, since Jungkook didn’t seem to be even breathing.

Yoongi stopped in front of Jungkook, his eyes still on the floor. He stared at his converse across from Jungkook’s Timberlands, at the blue-black carpet of the library, and took a deep breath. He could feel heat in his face, a chill in his trembling hands, could feel his heart beating hard and fast in his chest and his instincts burning hot in his stomach.

“This is yours,” Yoongi said. Now that he was here, finally doing this, he couldn’t make himself meet Jungkook’s gaze, even as he held the folder out for Jungkook to take.

Yoongi concentrated on his breathing as he felt the folder leaving his hands, as he heard the folder being opened.

“Hyung,” Jungkook said under his breath, his voice almost reverent, “is this-?”

“It’s the song you asked for, but it’s in full grand staff,” Yoongi said, his hands coming together as he started to play with his fingers.

“Yes, I... I see that. Thank you,“ Jungkook said, his voice hushed in the quietness of the library, but perfectly clear to Yoongi’s ears. “I really like it.” 

Yoongi felt relief flood him. His instincts swirled in his stomach, pleased that Yoongi had chosen well.

“But is this...” Jungkook said, his voice hesitant. “Is this a gift?”

And Yoongi knew what Jungkook was really asking. Did this gift mean that Yoongi was officially ending their pre-courting? Was Yoongi accepting Jungkook’s offer of courtship? And Yoongi felt shy about it, wanted to turn away, wanted something to hide behind.

Yoongi closed his eyes again. He wanted to move forward, he reminded himself. He didn’t need to be scared of this. 

Yoongi nodded. 

There was a hitch in Jungkook’s breath and then he said, “Really? You want to court me?”

Yoongi nodded again, his hands tensing, the fingernails of his right hand digging into the skin on the back of his left.

Jungkook breathed in sharply and then Yoongi heard a rustle of movement. 

“Can I touch you?” Jungkook asked.

Heat shot up Yoongi’s spine and Yoongi felt nervous about what Jungkook wanted to do, but he nodded again, his fingernails digging harder into the back of his hand. Yoongi knew courting involved touching, and he trusted Jungkook to stop if he did anything that Yoongi didn’t like.

Then Yoongi felt a hand on his, gently pulling at the fingers that were digging into his skin. Yoongi allowed Jungkook to pull his right hand up and away, and Jungkook’s thumb grazed over the skin on the back of Yoongi’s left hand, sotfly running over the divets that Yoongi’s fingernails had dug into the skin there.

Yoongi felt himself relaxing, then opened his eyes as Jungkook pulled Yoongi’s right hand forward, until his wrist and the courting bracelet hung in the air between them. 

Yoongi saw that Jungkook had set Yoongi’s gift down, and that his free hand now held a second courting bracelet that he must have already had on him. He must have been carrying it around with him, too.

Yoongi stared at the courting bracelet that Jungkook would wear. Then felt his own eyes widen in surprise as the Alpha bent his head down and put his forehead against the courting bracelet that Yoongi was wearing on his wrist—effectively bowing to him.

“Thank you,” Jungkook said, his breath warm against Yoongi’s fingers. “I’ve wanted this for a long time.”

Traditionally, there had used to be courting ceremonies where two people exchanged bracelets in front of their families and communities. But beginning a courtship was less formal in modern times, where courting itself wasn’t considered as binding as it once was—most people viewing it as more of a test of compatibility than as a promise of eventual mating. 

During a traditional ceremony, some Alphas would choose to get on their knees before receiving their courting bracelet and do a full, prostrate bow to their partner—a symbol that showed that, despite their dynamic being higher and more dominant, they were willing to respect and obey their partner in turn. 

A prostrate bow was also a difficult position for an Alpha to force their instincts into, and showed off a high level of control.

Yoongi was relieved that Jungkook was choosing to do only this, but his relief was cut short when Jungkook then released his hold on Yoongi’s hand and dropped to his knees. 

“No,” Yoongi said, a flash of panic and embarrassment going through him as he followed Jungkook to the floor, kneeling as well. But it was nothing compared to the embarrassment he would feel if Jungkook gave him a full-on prostrate bow. Yoongi would have no idea how to react to it.“That’s not necessary.”

Jungkook already had his hands on the ground, prepared to lean his forehead against them, and Yoongi lifted them up.

“But-” Jungkook began, looking confused.

“If I didn’t believe that you will respect me,” Yoongi said, cutting him off. “I would have said 'No' on day one. I don’t need you to... do that.”

“But I want to show you,” Jungkook said, his eyes wide and sincere. Yoongi was grateful that Jungkook wanted to show him that he thought of them as equals, that he was aware of the effect his dominance could have, but he didn’t think this was the way to do it.

“Then show me in practice,” Yoongi said, standing and trying to pull Jungkook to his feet with the grip he had on the Alpha’s hands, but Jungkook remained on his knees. “A symbol means nothing, in the end, without action.”

Jungkook blinked up at him, his head tilting to the side as he took in Yoongi's words.

“Okay,” Jungkook said, slowly nodding, then finally allowing Yoongi to pull him to his feet. “In practice, then.”

Yoongi nodded in relief.

After a moment of hesitation, where Jungkook eyes searched Yoongi’s expression like he was still expecting Yoongi to change his mind, Jungkook held out the courting bracelet in his free hand to Yoongi, who took it on instinct. It was identical to the one Yoongi already had around his wrist.

Then Jungkook held out his arm, his eyes soft as Yoongi met his gaze nervously.

This was it.

Once Jungkook was wearing a courting bracelet as well, it would be official. Yoongi had heard that it can be a little overwhelming to finalize a courtship, a least for a few moments as their instincts realigned—their instinctual perceptions and identities changing to accept each other as a courtmate. 

They both would become much more aware of each other’s emotional scents than they were before, much more aware of each other’s body language, and their instincts would start interacting in ways that no one really understood. 

But Yoongi wanted to be brave, so he unclasped the courting bracelet that Jungkook had handed to him, and saw that this one also had an Iron Man underneath the stone. It seemed like a good sign that Jungkook had put this marker of possession on his own bracelet as well, and it calmed Yoongi a little as he saw it.

Yoongi chanced a glance at Jungkook to see that the Alpha was watching him softly, his posture open and patient, but Yoongi could smell that he was nervous, too. 

Yoongi took a breath and reached forward to wrap the bracelet around Jungkook’s outstretched wrist. His hands were shaking a little again, but both he and Jungkook ignored it while Yoongi screwed the clasp shut. 

Once the bracelet was fully on, Yoongi let his hands fall to his sides, and waited as he stared at it. For a second, nothing happened.

But then Yoongi’s instincts burned in his stomach and Yoongi swore he felt something in his mind shift and click, like every part of himself focusing in on Jungkook. Then he felt the need to get closer, felt like the distance between him and Jungkook was huge in spite of it being only a few feet. 

He screwed his eyes shut when the need didn’t stop, and swallowed the whine building in his throat when his instincts started to burn hotter. It didn’t hurt exactly, but it was just so much to feel. When Yoongi opened his eyes again, he saw that Jungkook was wincing, too. 

Yoongi forced back another whine, his instincts worried that Jungkook was hurting, and Jungkook held out his arms to him. An offer.

Yoongi held his breath as he moved forward and into Jungkook’s arms, the proximity a welcome relief to Yoongi's overexcited instincts. Jungkook pulled him in gently, a hand resting on the back of Yoongi’s head and the other on the small of his back.

Yoongi leaned his forehead against Jungkook’s shoulder and closed his eyes, taking in a slow breath. He was ready to start keening at how good this felt, how right his body felt against Jungkook’s, and how good his scent of rain and metal smelt with Yoongi’s nose so close to his neck. 

Yoongi could smell the Alpha’s nervousness, excitement, shock, and happiness, knew them for what they were almost like they were his own emotions, and he could tell that would take some getting used to.

He wondered what Jungkook smelt in Yoongi’s own scent, as Yoongi himself wasn’t sure what he was feeling.

Then Jungkook suddenly laughed into Yoongi’s hair, and Yoongi couldn’t help but grin into Jungkook’s shoulder.

“What?” Yoongi asked, and he prepared himself for Jungkook to say something that would make him cringe, something like I’m so happy right now or I can’t believe this.

When Jungkook just laughed again, Yoongi could feel it against his body. Then Jungkook whispered, and Yoongi felt goosebumps breaking out across his skin as the Alpha’s warm breath hit the curve of his ear.

“Tae’s going to owe Jimin so much money.”