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Before You Came

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Jimin fidgets anxiously, the fabric of his pants catching on the strange polymer-coating of his jump seat as he stares at the floor, tracing the patterns of its metal grating with his eyes.

 

He’s really never going to get used to riding in these jets, is he?

 

It’s not so much the fact that he’s thousands of feet in the air, or even the uncomfortable sensation of being cramped in the back corner of the airship, seated a few feet away from giant doors that could open and reveal the sky at any moment. They weren’t supposed to open unless landed, but who knows? Jimin isn’t going to pretend that all of this technology doesn’t go completely over his head-- he’s well aware of his own lackluster knowledge of the majority of all the weird new-age devices he’s seen in the last month.

 

The last month, where he went from a normal civilian shoved into an underground bunker with thousands of other families to a glorified militiaman for this side of the world’s only defense against the impending apocalypse.

 

The Singularity Coalition.

 

Just thinking about the next four years-- his term of enlistment-- makes Jimin shiver with a mix of fear and excitement. Most people have never seen one of ‘The Others’; unfortunately for Jimin, he hasn’t had such a luxury. He’s not dull to what entering the Singularity Coalition could entail for him in the future.

 

Most civilians today haven’t had the chance to see one of the monstrous aliens that invaded Earth two decades ago in the flesh. Jimin still isn’t sure if that is a good or bad thing-- they say ignorance is bliss, but if anything, it had made the population of people still alive that he knew of lazy and indifferent, not really knowing or caring about the true depth of crisis that the world had been plunged into. You’d think that the apocalypse knocking on your door would add a little pep in your step, but for most-- including Jimin’s own family-- it had the exact opposite effect. As long as the bunkers’ protective walls remained erect and sturdy, people didn’t care what was going on the outside world anymore.

 

Which brings Jimin to this moment, on this shaky jet flying over the Pacific Ocean exactly 32 days after enlisting into The Singularity Coalition with his best friend Taehyung. They had gone to the recruitment office on the day of Taehyung’s birthday, and in less than twenty-four hours were placed on a jet much like this one and flown out to a training camp. They didn’t really do too much in terms of ‘training’ for fighting the Other Ones, but they sure did a hell of a lot of placement tests.

 

Jimin hasn’t seen Taehyung since the first week of the training camp, but thanks to his VisTech (an implant in Jimin’s right eye that strangely reminded him of those ancient Virtual Reality headsets that his father had described to him when he was younger), he was able to find out that Taehyung was fortunately assigned to the same base as Jimin. He isn’t sure of his friend’s division, exactly, but Jimin is still extremely relieved at the possibility of seeing Taehyung again.

 

That was the whole point of this, right? To stay together.

 

The only problem is that Jimin is pretty sure that the exact base he is assigned to is the Bloodbane, the main headquarters of The Singularity Coalition-- and the Bloodbane is not located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s in New Seoul, the only major city in East Asia still left standing after the initial wave of The Others-- a city that is most definitely located on land.

 

Jimin sighs in exasperation, rubbing at his face and flinching backward when he feels the rough polyester of his gloves instead of the skin of his palm. This whole black, polycarbonate getup they forced him into is starting to really get uncomfortable, the thin fabric clinging to every inch of his body like a weird second skin. He feels like he looks like a Grim Reaper, one of those cool mythological creatures that his father would tell him and his brother about when they were younger and bored at home after school. Back when there was school, that is. Jimin had already long graduated high school when people had finally given up on the whole makeshift education initiative, but Jihyun had still been enrolled in the crappy one-room academies that the bunker leaders tried and, in the end, failed to maintain. It’s not like he’d need a ‘diploma’ now anyway, though. No one’s been hiring for twenty years.

 

Suddenly, the entire plane shakes violently, the metal of the seatbelts strapped around Jimin and the other recruits clanking loudly in the small space.

 

Jimin looks around frantically, noticing how the other recruits are bracing for landing. He does the same, his fingers clinging around the bottom edges of his jump seat until his knuckles turn white, clenching his teeth as his brain rattles in his skull.

 

The jet jolts hard, jostling so much that Jimin can literally hear the impact of everyone’s bodies being slammed against the straps that keep them seated. The wind is knocked out of him-- but just as the commotion on the plane becomes even worse, it stops.

 

The portgate at the far end of the shuttle makes a loud whoosh sound, the clamps holding the exit releasing as the giant metal door slowly begins to descend, revealing white concrete painted with yellow and white lines.

 

They’ve arrived.

 

At where, exactly, Jimin isn’t completely sure of. One of the head officers that strapped him in said that they were going to an ocean base on short-term, but Jimin didn’t know the reason why-- only that it was on the Pacific Ocean and that it took nearly an entire day to arrive.

 

The same officer that told him this is suddenly in front of him, unlocking the straps holding him to the seat with quick finesse like he’s done it a million times.

 

“‘Kay, JP134, it’s time to get up,” the gruff-looking man says, his gaze on Jimin bored and strained with fatigue before he turns to the other recruits, unlocking their seatbelts one by one, “All of you, line up quick. Your squad leader will be waiting outside the dock of the ship to greet you.” And that’s all he says, silently stepping back and gesturing to the open metal gate at the end of the jet, a ramp leading down to the white concrete foundation of what Jimin can only assume is the base.


Jimin stands up, stumbling like a newborn foal when his jump seat snaps up and folds into the wall of the jet neatly, leaving a smooth metal surface. Jimin is bewildered by the mechanism, tripping over his wobbly legs as he rushes to the back of the already lined-up recruits.

 

He pats over his polycarbonate suit, the sensation of the fabric weird and foreign against his gloved hands as he tries to get rid of non-existent wrinkles.

 

He’s not going to get used to any of this, is he?

 

Regaining his balance, he follows the marching recruits steadily as they exit the jet. The fresh air is like a blast of wakefulness to him, ruffling over his scalp and overwhelming him with the scent of sea salt. It reminds him of home-- or whatever was left of it. He’s personally never been to the beaches of Busan, with the outside world being a barred off warzone and all, scarred by destruction and death.

 

But this isn’t really home , Jimin has to remind himself.

 

As his view is less and less blocked by the ceiling of the ship, Jimin’s eyes widen as he takes in the view before him. A massive dome-shaped structure, reinforced by what he can only assume is titanium or some other strong metal with a surface ladened with solar panels lay in his view, a long extension of blinding white concrete leading to giant doors. Jets of every shape and size line the landing strip, people roaming about between all the other machinery and shouting loudly at each other over the sound of the plane behind him and the nearby shrill echo of cutting metal.

 

Jimin can already feel himself sweating underneath this midnight black getup and has to hold himself back from cursing under his breath at how ridiculously hot he feels underneath the unforgiving rays of the sun above them.

 

A short distance from the exit of their jet stands two young men, both of which appear around Jimin’s age if he can guess. He has to stifle a snort at how blindingly different their demeanors are, the one on the left smiling so bright that it could rival the sun blaring down on them while the other, shorter one stares at their group with a disinterested, blank look, as if he’d rather be anywhere but here right now. The cheery one is fanning himself dramatically, his bright red hair fanning gently against the sides of his face while the man next to him just stands there stiffly, arms folded behind his back and pitch-black strands of hair sticking to his glistening forehead.

 

They’re dressed exactly like Jimin and the other recruits, save for the obvious glint of pins marking them as a higher rank on their left pectorals. But which one is their squad leader?

 

When Jimin and the other recruits line up in front of the two men, Jimin at the far end in relation to the two of them, the red-headed one speaks first, voice drizzling pride and joy.

 

“Hello, cadets! Welcome to the Pacific First Quadrant Shatterdome! My name is Jung Hoseok-- SC I.D. HJ262-- and I am a General of the SC Bionics and the Stealth Specialist by training, at your service,” he beams happily, making eye contact with every one of the recruits, including Jimin, before continuing, “I will be your first squad leader for your time enlisted in The Singularity Coalition, however long that may be.

 

As you know, the division that you have been assigned to is the Tactile Guerilla Operations. Congratulations on your placement-- your high scores in intelligence, team-decision making, loyalty, and physical build have shown that you are the best suited for the job!” Hoseok pauses, wiping the sweat off his forehead as he bounces on the balls of his feet energetically.

 

Jimin instantly likes him, Hoseok’s optimism shining clear-- it’s refreshing, compared to the rather dull higher-ranked officers that he’s met so far.

 

“Unfortunately, I cannot give you a tour of the Shatterdome today because… well, I’m just really busy, to be honest. So!” Hoseok turns his Cheshire grin to the disinterested man next to him, who for some reason refuses to wipe at the sweat on his forehead, “Yoongi is going to take you around today!” Hoseok gestures to Yoongi excitedly, whose lips curl into the smallest and most pained of smiles.

 

“C’mon, introduce yourself, Yoongles--”

 

“Please do not call me that, General Jung,” Yoongi mutters, tight smile dropping instantly. Jimin almost has to take a double take when he hears it, the deep rumble of his voice in such stark contrast to his rather… small stature. Not like Jimin can talk-- what Yoongi doesn’t have in height, he makes up for in stature, an area in which Jimin is severely lacking in, being so out of his comfort zone here.

 

Yoongi steps forward, glaring straight ahead at the poor, unfortunate recruit standing in front of him, drawling out his words slowly and flatly, “My name is Min Yoongi, and I am the--”

 

“He’s my right-hand man! Well, at least for this squad. He’s only been here for a few years, but he’s already managed to climb his way all the way up to Second Lieutenant, or Second Squad Leader, specialized in both advanced short-ranged combat and tracking,” Hoseok interrupts, jittering with glee and clearly not able to stand still or wait for Yoongi to drag out his words. Yoongi seems unbothered though, his lips pressed into a flat line. Jimin guesses that the Lieutenant is probably well-adjusted to Hoseok interrupting him.

 

“So! I’ll only be able to stay for introductions and then I’ll be off!” Hoseok stops his babbling, and much to Jimin’s surprise, bows to them-- a gesture not expected of a General to his subordinates, Jimin is sure of.

 

“Again, my name is Jung Hoseok, SC I.D. HJ262. I am from the 132nd Bunker, my family originating from what used to be Gwangju, South Korea. I won’t say my age if you don’t.” Hoseok winks before he turns to Yoongi again, the same smile stretched across his lips only to be met with a carefully blank, if not utterly bored, expression. Jimin briefly wonders if grinning that wide hurts Hoseok’s cheeks.

 

“Min Yoongi, SC I.D. YM340. Seventh Bunker, Daegu,” Yoongi says nonchalantly, offering a polite smile to the group of newbies. The rest of the recruits shuffle uncomfortably, confusing Jimin at the sudden increase in tension in the air from his words. The man isn’t necessarily unpleasant, even smiled with his words. He’s just clearly not very… energetic, when compared to Hoseok. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? Is it perhaps something that he said that is causing the sudden shift in atmosphere?

 

Hoseok then gestures towards the first recruit at the opposite end of the line, stepping forward and shaking the new cadet’s hand joyfully as he introduces himself to the excited redhead, hesitantly huffing out that he’s from the same 132nd bunker as General Jung.

 

The whole bunker system only vaguely makes sense to Jimin; he really only knows about his own home, no one else’s. He gets that the higher the number, the more recent that that particular safe haven was built, but if each person down the line didn’t list their original home city with their bunker number, Jimin would have no idea where any of their families are from. He guesses it doesn’t really matter now, seeing as most people were assigned to a bunker that didn’t house the majority of the citizens of your original home city.

 

Jimin sighs. He’s last in the line, and he really hopes he doesn’t stumble over his words or embarrass himself, lest everyone remembers and he gets known as that guy.

 

One by one, the recruits in the line list their introductions, Hoseok shaking every single one of their hands with that same grin, and Jimin notices how each one of them avoids all and any eye contact with Yoongi. Is Jimin missing something? Maybe it’s that most of the recruits are from bunkers in the 100’s, like Hoseok, others in older bunkers, the oldest being the 74th. Being from a lower bunker meant that you or your parents were closer to the first touchdown of the Other colonies.

 

When Hoseok stands in front of Jimin, he holds his hand out expectantly. Jimin hesitantly takes off his itchy polyester gloves to accept the General’s own bare hand, his lips spreading into an even wider grin when Jimin looks up again.

 

“Oh my god! Your hand is so small ,” Hoseok almost shouts despite the close proximity, much to Jimin’s shock. He tries to ignore the suppressed chuckles of the recruits next to him, averting his eyes down for a moment to stare at Hoseok’s feet. The redhead turns back to Yoongi, grip still tight on Jimin’s hand, and seems to falter in his enthusiasm at the impatient glare that the other man is sending him. Hoseok clears his throat, dropping Jimin’s hand.

 

He’s still beaming despite the fact that Jimin is sure that his own expression is of complete mortification and embarrassment. He can literally feel the blush flooding his cheeks, and Hoseok only smirks, much to Jimin’s chagrin and disbelief. He has to fight every inch of himself that wants to tell Hoseok to piss off, suddenly triggered at the man’s remark-- Jimin isn’t small . Inexperienced, yes-- maybe a little nervous in contrast to his usual confidence, surely-- but definitely not small.

 

Maybe Jimin was too quick to like the General, who clearly doesn’t understand the concept of personal boundaries.

 

Yoongi sighs, finally wiping the sweat from his forehead as he shakes his head, his face now showing an emotion Jimin can feel boiling within himself: irritation.  “I hope he can hold a fucking blaster,” Yoongi grunts lowly.

 

Jimin feels anger rise in his chest, clawing up his throat. Before he can help himself, he scoffs, his brow furrowing as he stares angrily at the Lieutenant, who is now staring at him curiously. Yoongi quirks a brow, giving Jimin a disinterested once-over before shifting his flat gaze to Hoseok again.

 

Jimin can feel his face turning redder, but now from embarrassment instead of irritability. He turns to Hoseok, forgetting his rank and about to complain to the higher officer when he stops in his tracks. Hoseok looks completely unfazed by Yoongi’s rude comment, smiling brightly at Jimin.

 

What the--

 

“So, what’s your name, cadet? Introduce yourself, please,” Hoseok asks sweetly. Jimin struggles to put away his mortification quickly, and he unconsciously folds his hands behind his back, straightening up a bit in front of the General.

 

“Park Jimin, SC I.D. JP134. First Bunker, Busan,” Jimin says clearly, despite his gritted teeth. His eyes flicker to the side in surprise when a collective gasp escapes the lips of all the recruits next to him. Even Yoongi looks slightly caught off-guard, his eyes only a fraction wider as they focus sharply on Jimin.

 

“First Bunker?” Hoseok asks, tone the same and just as gleeful despite the low murmurs of the recruits next to them. Jimin nods slightly, feeling that same flush reach his cheeks at all the unnecessary attention, “Well, I’m glad you decided to join the fight!” Hoseok cheers, patting Jimin on the shoulder proudly.

 

Jimin is completely lost at the reaction-- something doesn’t connect, between the shocked looks of everyone else and Hoseok’s suddenly off-kilter enthusiasm.

 

Hoseok then turns sharply from him, walking over to stand next to Yoongi again, the latter of which is still staring ominously at Jimin. What is this guy’s problem?

 

“Now that we’ve all done introductions, Yoongi here’ll take you all around and give you a tour!” Hoseok is about to walk away before he turns back to the recruits, his eyes landing on Jimin as he puts his grin back on,

 

“And I almost forgot!” Hoseok pauses, knocking his clenched right fist against his left pectoral in some weird signal before yelling excitedly, “Welcome to the SC Bionics!”

 

 

                   

 

Yoongi doesn’t watch as Hoseok leaves, the General scurrying hurriedly away while muttering anxiously under his breath. Yoongi stands stout, taking a conscious effort to straighten his back and set each recruit in front of him with an even stare, none of them meeting his eye except for one.

 

Park Jimin’s expression is nervous, a thin layer of distaste flickering in his eyes when Yoongi meets his and keeps staring. Yoongi has to prevent himself from rolling his eyes as he shifts his gaze away. It’s not his fault that Hoseok had to go and make a fool of the kid; Yoongi didn’t feel guilty at all for his comment, even if it might’ve been unnecessary.

 

Being in the Singularity Coalition Bionics was an uphill path straight into some distorted version of hell that you were actually encouraged to delve deeper into, rather than avoid at all costs. They hadn’t even started their squad’s training regime yet, and the SC Bionics Guerrilla Forces was one of the most brutal programs that the Singularity Coalition offered. If Park Jimin couldn’t handle a rude comment or two, then Park Jimin definitely couldn’t handle the shit that every cadet had to go through.

 

Yes, Yoongi knew he had been rude, but he can’t be bothered right now to admit it-- he's too focused on making time, or his massive list of paperwork to fill out for the new team.

 

He had worked tirelessly to get Second Lieutenant and become Hoseok’s right hand, all in just a few short years. Yoongi had been in the first civilian test batch that had been shipped into the Singularity Coalition three years ago, and his hard work and unwavering effort had been one of the reasons why Hoseok had given the okay for the Guerrilla Forces to accept civilian drafts at all.

 

Yoongi wasn’t going to go easy on any of these new recruits, just like his trainers had done for him.

 

He clears his throat, raising an arm to gesture at the jets behind him as he lazily glances at all of the recruits, annoyance quickly replaced by poorly-placed indifference when he remembers that he has a job to do, even if it is giving a tour to a bunch of red-nosed brats who surely want to pick up the nearest advanced weaponry to blast a hole through the nearest Other-- or, like last time, the nearest wall-- rather than listen to his mandatory tour rambling. He’s sure he’ll like them eventually, just not quite yet.

 

“Behind me is the Shatterdome Landing Strip, housing all 1,057 of our state-of-the-art jets,” He shouts evenly, voice lacking any and all conviction as he mouths the words he’s been forced to memorize, “Do not touch any of these without my or General Jung’s express permission. Failure to comply will result in me or any nearby officer in swiftly kicking your ass and stripping you of any progress to your next Bionic upgrade.”

 

Yoongi pauses briefly to notice the collective look of confusion on all the cadet’s faces. He purses his lips tightly to hold back his worry at their lost looks before continuing, “If you don’t know what a Bionic upgrade is, don’t worry. You’ll all find out soon enough.” Did the introductory trainers teach them anything? Yoongi doesn’t want them walking into this without a real understanding of what it is exactly they’re signing up for, is all.

 

Yoongi swiftly turns around, marching off wordlessly towards the front gates of the Shatterdome. He doesn’t bother to check if they’re following-- he knows they are.

 

A few minutes later and about a hundred feet down the flight strip, Yoongi and the new squad cadets are entering the Shatterdome. Yoongi goes to the side of the gates, placing his hand on the fingerprint-activated, titanium-enforced hatchdoor. The sides of the door beep lowly, a green light flickering on above the hand scanner after reading Yoongi’s retinas before cold air from inside shoots out the sides to meet the excruciating heat outside, the door releasing its pressure-lock mechanism to let them in. He holds the door open, gesturing for the line of recruits to enter before him. Each one scurries through anxiously, Park Jimin entering last and brushing past Yoongi with a curious side glance.

 

At least the guy isn’t glaring anymore.

 

Once all of them are through the door, Yoongi returns to his spot in front of the cadets, all of which are no longer properly lined up anymore. A sharp glare to all of them quickly fixes that, Park Jimin being the only one to not notice until one of the cadets yanks him back into place. This guy is two seconds into the front doors and is already shellshocked from the inside of the base.

 

Yoongi has to fight a frown, not wanting to be biased-- but even then, he can’t help but think that Park Jimin is exactly like someone you’d expect out of the First Bunker.

 

He turns back around, ignoring the slight dampness of his forehead, loose strands of his hair sticking uncomfortably to his forehead. Yoongi has been through ridiculous amounts of exhausting training regimes, some even hours on end, but he can still never get fully accustomed to the blistering heat that seems to hover over every landing strip he’s ever been on. The sun always glints off the white surface of the concrete and right into his eyes, and he’s glad that they are now inside and out of the sun’s blinding reflection.  

 

Yoongi looks back at the cadets now, eyes flickering over their sweaty, tense faces. It seems he’s not the only one that isn’t used to the heat.

 

“Welcome to the Pacific First Quadrant Shatterdome,” he raises his voice half-heartedly, keeping a stern expression. He gestures lazily to the large front hall, high-rising steel walls towering above to give way to a domed ceiling about sixty feet above them. Yoongi stomps his boot twice down on the metal grates of the floor to get the cadets’ attention back on him, their eyes having easily wandered to join Park Jimin in gazing in awe at their surroundings.

 

“As some of you may have guessed by now, this is not the Bloodbane, the Headquarters of the Singularity Coalition and you all’s permanent assignment within our troops--”

 

“How long will we be staying here, Yoongi-ssi?” Park Jimin asks unabashedly, clearly struggling to keep his gaze fixed on Yoongi rather than flicking all over the immaculate structure around them. Yoongi can’t help it when his eyes widen a little in disbelief-- not so much at the interruption, he’s never really surprised when naive cadets pull that shit with him-- but more so at the way the decades-old formality slips off the man’s tongue like it’s nothing.

 

The other recruits turn to Jimin too, their faces easily showing their apprehension and unfamiliarity with the suffix.

 

Yoongi recognizes a defense mechanism when he sees it-- cadets often bring things like verbal practices, religion, or knick-knacks to keep them comfortable, even if it comes in the form of social practice that’s been abandoned for half a century.

 

“Not to distract from the fact that you just interrupted me, Cadet JP134, but you are aware that the use of -ssi has been considered an archaic practice for longer than you’ve probably been alive, correct?” Yoongi tries his best to contain his shock, but his disbelief still manages to slip through in his tone when addressing the recruit.

 

Park Jimin takes a few moments, chewing on his bottom lip before his eyes settle back on Yoongi, a surge of adamant confidence flickering in them before he responds.

 

“I apologize for interrupting, Yoongi- ssi ,” Yoongi almost scoffs at the man’s stubbornness in using the unnecessary attachment. Jimin smiles widely at Yoongi, his eyes laced with an affronted glare despite the cheery way his lips spread across his lower face.

 

For the first time in his entire career at the Singularity Coalition, and maybe the past couple of years, Yoongi is caught off-guard.

 

And maybe a little impressed at Jimin’s brash attitude, even if he will never admit it.

 

He can’t even really be mad, this time completely not expecting a snappy comeback from a new cadet, let alone one from the First Bunker. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s a little irked-- Yoongi recognizes when a cadet is trying to cling on to whatever aspects of home they can bring along with them into their new life, and Park Jimin’s use of old speech seems like a pretty good indication of where the man’s mind is at currently: stressed, uncomfortable, whatever name placed on the feeling of being far from home in a foreign and daunting place.

 

He just hopes it won’t become a problem in the future.

 

Yoongi’s upper lip twitches slightly as he drags his eyes up and down Park Jimin, sizing him up.

He isn’t sure how to react at first-- he can literally hear the other recruits holding their breaths-- but Yoongi decides to settle for slight embarrassment as a type of reprimand for the cadet’s sharp tongue. It seemed to work just as well earlier. Can’t have the newbies practicing outright disrespect, can we now?

 

“I’ll take this moment to provide a learning experience for you rookies,” Yoongi says, back to his signature robotic tone and blank expression for these types of introductory and painstakingly mandatory lessons. He glances at every cadet for a few seconds before starting up again, “You will address me by Lieutenant YM340 or Lieutenant Min, and only those,” he looks pointedly at Park Jimin before continuing, “I expect nothing less than perfect, precise behavior. Precise meaning acting precisely how a cadet should-- we don’t have time for disrespect or insubordination.”

 

Yoongi turns around sharply, not bothering to check for Park Jimin’s reaction. He can’t really find it in himself to care. It’s not that he views the recruits as lowly beings; in fact, he knows that eventually, he will treasure them just as he has learned to appreciate all his past comrades, in one way or another.

 

However, while they are training, or on a mission, he is going to remain stern, and polite only when able to be so-- anything different might risk lives, out on the field.

 

It would be hypocritical of him to judge them merely by rank, seeing as he was in the same position until only a year or so ago-- but Yoongi is a higher ranking officer now, nonetheless. He doesn’t have spare time to dote on the rookies more than he already needs to, refuses to give special treatment or gentle words-- even if it means hurting some people’s feelings with his unusual demeanor and sharp words, Yoongi has his own goals in mind and won’t have anyone stopping him from reaching them.

 

Especially not some kid from the First Bunker-- who doesn’t seem anywhere near as interesting as Yoongi had first hoped, having seen his detail report prior to the cadets’ landing-- with the warm, honey-brown eyes of someone who clearly has no idea what skin mods are. Yoongi can’t really judge him for that. It’s the Year 3434, and skin mods run rampant in nearly every city, even in the Singularity Coalition. Nearly every one of the cadets looks odd in some way-- black eyes, silver ones, even one with cold, steely blue-- it’s not rare for many people nowadays, especially soldiers, to choose something rather daunting.  What is considered odd in this day and age is not having some type of modification--

 

Yoongi blinks, drawing himself out from his own thoughts before leading the cadets down a corridor to the right, the change in space drastic from the spacious front hall to the narrow hallway they are now walking down.

 

They arrive to the infirmary next, Yoongi waving around lazily at the place where everyone goes if injured, or recovering from a particularly trying mission or exchange. He even introduces a few members of the medical team, but only because they’re already conveniently stitching up a gnarly lash on some pilot’s left shoulder (apparently the guy had made the dumb mistake of trying to adjust the steering cables while his jet was on).

 

That little visit causes a few cadets to shift uncomfortably from foot to foot, and Yoongi makes sure to pay special attention to those who show signs of queasiness-- a slash on the shoulder is nothing to some of the injuries he had received in training alone , and not being able to stomach something so insignificant is a characteristic that only the cadets shipped to a lower rank base had.

 

Weakness is not a trait that SC Bionics assigned to Headquarters can afford to have. Not if they want to make it more than a few weeks, that is. Yoongi will do his best to prepare them against that possibility.

 

Yoongi also takes them to the mess hall, the room being the third largest only to the front hall and the technology/statistics mainframe of the Shatterdome, in that order. It’s already almost dinner time, but Yoongi tells the cadets that they can eat after the tour, since the mess hall is always open due to the huge discrepancy in sleep patterns between the lower and higher ranks, the latter always having missions or work in the night hours.

 

Their second to last stop, nearly one hour later due to the massive square footage of the base, is the Special Upgrades Department.

 

Yoongi turns once again to the cadets, ignoring the fact that none of them are lined up properly. He doesn’t care to remind them to get back in order, however-- his patience is running thin with how hungry he’s feeling and he can’t be bothered to make this entire thing any longer than it already has been.

 

“This is the Special Upgrades Department for all SC Bionics personnel. That includes you all now, in case you were wondering,” Yoongi glances over the cadets’ faces, noting their tired and bored expressions. Well, all except for one, who is currently tilting their head in curiosity at the bland white doors behind Yoongi.

 

Yoongi moves to the left of the doors, letting the side electronic terminal to read his fingerprints and irises once again. Can never be too safe with protecting arguably the most dangerous-- yet so very important-- section of the Shatterdome operations.

 

As the doors unlock loudly, gears shifting quickly under the metal casing that composes them, Yoongi continues to give his robotic speal.

 

“If you happen to get an upgrade voucher from performing well on missions or in training, you can come to this division-- with my permission-- and receive one. Upgrades usually take anywhere from thirty minutes to 48 hours, depending on which part you’re replacing. Any questions before we go in?” His eyes linger over each silent cadet, their faces now morphing into ones of shock, before he drags his gaze to Park Jimin.

 

The recruit’s face remains as curious as ever, his lips pursed tightly as if he’s just begging to speak. Yoongi has had to quelch his apprehension of the rookie all day but doesn’t have to now, all annoyed curiosity having been replaced easily by a low giddiness as soon as he saw the front doors of this division.

 

The Special Upgrades Department is Yoongi’s favorite division.

 

“Go ahead and ask,” Yoongi mutters, lids hooded in fatigue at this trying tour as he stares at the recruit, who instantly speaks up.

 

“What is a ‘special upgrade’? What exactly are we ‘replacing’?”

 

Yoongi’s eyes widen slightly, caught off-guard once again by the one and only Park Jimin. When he flickers his gaze over to the other cadets to gauge their reactions and see if anyone else hasn’t heard glimmers of rumors about Special Upgrades, he sees that every single rookie is staring at Park Jimin with complete shock, as if he has been living under a rock his entire life.

 

To be fair, though, the kid was from the First Bunker-- living under a giant boulder, cut-off from all of society isn’t all that different from what Park Jimin is probably accustomed to.

 

Maybe a non-traditional approach is what’s best; Yoongi was a rough instructor, considered by many as the harshest, some might even say cruelest, only at times-- but he was never unfair. If Park Jimin or any of the other cadets needed extra help, he would provide it. It’s not that he didn’t care if they passed or failed, he did-- but more so than anything, training his recruits was what he was assigned to do. If teaching recruits to the best of his abilities meant getting new upgrade vouchers and climbing the ranks faster, he is willing to do whatever it takes. If being harsh on his recruits means they listen to him and live then he’ll do that, too. Anything to gain the validation that he is meant for this career path, that he is the best choice for the job.

 

Even testing his own usually rock-solid patience, withered down significantly in recent days due to personal reasons.

 

“Cadet JP134, do you know why our division of the Singularity Coalition is called the ‘SC Bionics’?” He hesitates for a moment before shaking his head; some other cadets look lost as well, so Yoongi knows this isn’t just something unique to the quirky rookie.

 

If Yoongi thought it was quiet before, it’s nothing compared to the silence that settles over them in that small corridor, nervousness high-strung and prominent in the atmosphere. They haven’t even entered the Special Upgrades room yet, and the recruits are already this wired with anxiety at Yoongi only asking them simple trivia that their previous teachers should have already taught them.

 

Yoongi purses his lips in a thin line, choosing his words carefully before continuing, this time addressing all of the cadets,



“Do you all know of the nickname ‘The Bulletproof Hunters’?”



The name causes an expression resembling recognition to dawn on the faces on all of the cadets, even Park Jimin.

 

“The SC Bionics and The Bulletproof Hunters are one in the same,” Yoongi picks up, a hint of excitement in his voice; he thinks fuck-all about a lot of the divisions in the Singularity Coalition, but he didn’t get Second Lieutenant in the SC Bionic Guerilla Forces this quickly for nothing-- Yoongi was a man of few passions, one of them being the division he works for.

 

He has his personal reasons for his rarely-placed enthusiasm, of course-- none of which is appropriate to mull over right at this moment, however.

 

After his last statement, the recruits collectively hold their breaths. Well, most of them. Park Jimin just looks more confused than before now. At least he’s expressive and honest about his knowledge rather than trying to play it off like some of his comrades.

 

“Here, let me just take you all in there so you can see for yourself. I think a hands-on experience will leave a more lasting impression, hm?” Yoongi is starting to feel a little… apprehensive.

 

If he’s right about how clueless Park Jimin seems to be-- and judging from the cadet’s questions and bunker number, he is-- then this will be a bit of a shock to the newbie. Maybe it’s just that out of all the things he isn’t hiding, his fear stays controlled and tame. Yoongi doesn’t get much entertainment or thrill in the Singularity Coalition, aside from the occasional special upgrade vouchers he’s received or the missions he’s been on-- so while he’s glad to show this one part of the SC Bionics that actually piques Yoongi’s interest, Yoongi is not looking forward to the possible reactions of Park Jimin.

 

It might be Yoongi’s job to expose the new cadets to the ‘harsh’ realities of the SC Bionics-- but it doesn’t mean he enjoys when the exposure goes sourly wrong. He doesn’t like to see anyone go through a full-blown panic attack, even if that someone is the enigmatic and occasionally disrespectful Park Jimin.

 

Yoongi has to clench his jaw to stop from frowning as he turns from the group of rookies to finally open the door to the Special Upgrade Department. When they walk in, Yoongi quickly closes the door behind them and leisurely saunters over to the front of the group. He glances at that one weird cadet, ignoring the shocked gasps of the other recruits. He’s hopeful that the cadet won’t freak out, because Yoongi out of all the things that Yoongi is good at, dealing with someone else’s suffering is not on the list.

 

Unfortunately, Yoongi was right in his suspicions that this would be too much for one Park Jimin, if the way the cadet goes ghostly pale within a nanosecond of taking in the room is any indication.

Chapter Text

“W-wh-what is--”

 

Jimin is suddenly feeling extremely lightheaded, staring in shock at the man on the other side of the thick glass in front of all of them. He is strapped to a medical bed, eyes closed and clearly asleep despite the absolutely horrifying things happening to him inside the closed-off room. Jimin watches in horror as the soldier’s arm is… altered by a laser emitted by giant surgical machines, shifting over his unconscious body and pouring vats of electrical blue into the seams of his skin. The strange liquid boils over, sealing the cracks in the man’s open arm completely, leaving tracks of violent light blue etched across his skin in random patterns.

 

Jimin feels like fainting.

 

“Welcome to the Special Upgrades Department; this is only the front surgery display room.” The sound of the Lieutenant thumbing at some techpad on the wall, the touchscreen beeping at every press, echoes in the background of Jimin’s mind. Jimin hears the officer shift around to his front right, but he doesn’t see what he’s doing, eyes too focused on the god-awful scene going on in front of him.

 

“This soldier is one of the SC Bionic’s older recruits-- he’s not in our squad, though. Overhead artillery; mans the guns on the fighter jets outside,” Jimin finally shifts his eyes to Yoongi. He would be surprised by his meeting the officer’s slightly concerned gaze, if Jimin wasn’t feeling so completely sick to his stomach right now.

 

“He’s getting a Ferium injection in his arm-- makes for significantly increased accuracy while handling the guns, stops any tremors or possible shakiness from anything ranging from deprivation of nutrients, nerves-- if you still get those-- or reactionary movements. Basically makes his arm a new and improved bionic killing machine,” the Lieutenant’s face still remains rather stoic, only a hint of tenseness now on his face as he watches Jimin, the corner of his lips slightly tilted down.

 

Yoongi’s face completely drops, however, when Jimin staggers back, weak knees easily giving under his weight. Jimin lifts his hand up to his field of view, making sure his own arm is still intact after the horrifying imagery he was just bared witness to. He pretends his fingers aren’t trembling like mad as he wipes at his face in disbelief, noticing the way his skin has broken out into an intense sweat already. His body tries to retch, but nothing comes up, his stomach empty after not having eaten since before dawn the same day. It doesn’t change the fact that he feels bile sting at the back of his sinuses before sloshing back down his throat, burning as he breathes.

 

“Cadet KL427,” Yoongi gestures hurriedly at the recruit that had reminded Jimin to pay attention when they had earlier entered the Shatterdome. “Take JP134 to the infirmary immediately,” he pauses, looking down at Jimin, who is sitting on the cold, concrete floor, feeling all types of embarrassment, shock, and disgust. “It seems I was wrong to assume that a rookie from First Bunker could easily stomach a Bionic transplant.” The Lieutenant purses his lips, some unreadable emotion flickering across his face as he drags his eyes away from Jimin before dismissing him and KL427.

 

“C’mon, JP, get the fuck up,” KL427 pulls at Jimin’s arms, lifting his limp body up into a standing position. He slings Jimin’s arm over his shoulder, letting him lean his weight in.

 

They’re only just struggling through the door when KL427 speaks up again.

 

“Wait,” he halts, shifting Jimin’s arm up and tighter around his neck, “I can call you JP, yea?” Jimin would scoff in disbelief if he wasn’t so embarrassed at his current predicament, deciding to instead nod shyly as he stares at the floor in front of them. His stomach is still lurching up his throat, and he really can’t find it in himself to push an attitude anymore.

 

KL427 continues to half-carry him down the same hallway their group had come down before, tracing their steps back to where Lieutenant Min had shown them the infirmary.

 

Jimin is just now taking in KL427’s appearance: dark, jet black hair that skims the edge of his sharp jaw, tanned skin, deep brown eyes… It also dawns on Jimin that KL427 is shorter than him.

 

“Not sure if you remember, but my name’s Lin Ke,” he glances to the side, pursing his lips into a slight frown when he sees Jimin’s shocked expression, mistaking it for a reaction to his name rather than the fact that he caught Jimin staring, “Yeah, I get it, JP. I have two fucking surnames-- my parents were a little... yea. The New Age thing that was going down in Shanghai before all of… this. Anyways, the point is-- free feel to call me whatever you like, just don’t go on referring to me as my SC I.D. Hate that robotic shit,” he scoffs, turning his attention back to the door of the infirmary that lies down the hall in front of them.

 

He pauses for a second, looking at Jimin quizzically from the side.

 

“JP, why’re you so quiet now? You were pissing all over Lieutenant Min earlier, and now I haven’t heard you say a word. Did you bite your tongue off or something when you almost fainted?”

 

“I didn’t almost faint, you--” Jimin is interrupted by the guy stopping to literally pry Jimin’s jaw open, looking inside curiously. Jimin sputters, pushing back at the hands gripping his chin.

 

“It looks perfectly fine in there, I don’t get it. Hey look, your front tooth is a little crooked. That’s kinda charming--” Jimin finally pushes him off, attitude back and rearing its ugly head. He just met Ke and this guy is already trying to practically shove his hand in Jimin’s mouth.

 

“What the hell, Ke-ssi? Back up, will you?” Jimin scowls, not appreciating Ke’s comment on his teeth. Jimin can’t help but interpret Ke’s ‘compliment’-- if it can even be considered as such-- on his appearance as backhanded in some way, considering how much of a fool he had just made of himself in front of their entire squad. His self-consciousness is at an all-time high, and Ke acting so uncomfortably comfortable with him is making Jimin feel more anxious than anything, even if it’s glaringly obvious that Ke isn’t being malicious. If he had really wanted to be a prick to Jimin, he wouldn’t have been clearly taking his time helping him to the infirmary. Or trying to get to know him at all, for that matter.

 

“I’m a man, not a toy you can pet, Ke-ssi--” He stops talking when he notices Ke’s shocked expression. Jimin veers back, suddenly worried if he offended him (even though Jimin knows that’s a stupid thing to worry about, considering this guy just invaded his personal space).

 

Ke blinks a few times in surprise before responding, pausing to knock on the infirmary door now in front of them in some weird attempt at being polite (for no reason, Jimin might add, seeing how Lieutenant Min had just waltzed in earlier) before turning back to Jimin.

 

“M‘sorry for getting in all your business, JP. I tend to do that, parents were really touchy. Just weird meeting someone from the First Bunker is all,” Ke mutters lazily, smiling at Jimin guiltily in a way that makes him instantly forgive him, oddly enough. “Didn’t expect you to use words like ‘hell’. Heard you lot are a… tightly-wounded bunch.” Ke averts his eyes now, flickering his gaze to the door that is now opening to reveal a very unimpressed, taller man with side-swept black hair and full lips, mouth spread into a deep frown. Jimin doesn’t remember seeing this guy here whenever Lieutenant Min had brought their group to the infirmary earlier.

 

“Why bother knocking?” The man’s eyes land on Jimin, sizing him up as worry replaces his annoyed expression. “Are you alright? Don’t knock and wait if you’re injured! Come in,” the man says in rapid succession before reaching out to carefully grasp at Jimin’s arm.

 

“M’sorry, Mr. Doctor, I thought JP would yell at me for not being prim and proper,” Ke offers, glancing meekly at Jimin who is now shooting him an affronted look. What is up with this guy and Lieutenant Min and every single person he’s met so far at this base assuming he’s stuck up or stupid?

 

“My name isn’t Mr. Doctor,” the man turns to eye at the I.D. numbers stitched into the polyester fabric of Ke’s midnight SC Bionics jumpsuit, the same that Jimin and all the other recruits have unfortunately been forced to wear. “KL427. My name is Doctor Kim Seokjin, SC I.D. SK445. Lead Medical Specialist for the Special Upgrades and Infirmary Divisions.” Jimin can see the faint HUD display of Seokjin’s VisTech blinking in his right iris, and he can only guess that the doctor is probably looking up his medical history. He settles Jimin down on a medical bed in the infirmary, and Jimin is glad to realize that the fellow getting operated on earlier is gone. He really doesn’t understand what is up with all the surgery and… unsettling imagery he’s been exposed to on his tour so far.

 

It’s not like he didn’t expect this kind of stuff, but it’s his first day, for God’s sake.

 

“JP134, could you tell me what happened or do I need to ask KL427, if you’re not feeling well?” Doctor Kim pulls up a stool in front of Jimin, who feels a little shy under the man’s attentive and concerned gaze. Doctors have always made Jimin a little nervous-- they’re always too inclined to prescribe medicine with a heavy hand or give Jimin one too many excuses, their eyes usually cold and calculating rather than warm and comforting, how a caretaker should be.

 

“Seokjin-ssi,” The doctor’s eyebrows raise slightly at Jimin’s formality, causing him to cringe at possibly being reprimanded for his lifelong linguistic habits once again, “I--”

 

“Lieutenant YM340 was taking us on our introductory tour, or whatever you call it, when JP nearly fainted in the Special Upgrades Division. Some dude was getting a… Fern? Ferim? Ferium? Injection? Or something?” Ke pipes up, interrupting Jimin is his haste to talk. Jimin sighs, rubbing at his face in exasperation. This guy is a lot to handle right off the bat, even if his demeanor is a little entertaining when it’s not causing Jimin suffering in the form of mortal embarrassment.

 

“Some ‘dude’?” Doctor Kim curves his lips in amusement at Ke’s use of crude slang before turning back to Jimin, his expression instantly softening into one of genuine concern, “I see. Well, I don’t think that Yoongi needed to send you over here. You seem perfectly fine now, you probably just needed a minute to… acclimate. I’ll do a few checks anyway, just in case.” Doctor Kim smiles kindly at Jimin, easing his nerves through such a simple gesture. Jimin likes him already-- feels that he’s different from the cold doctors that Jimin had to deal with in his home bunker.

 

“You know him?” Jimin asks hesitantly, noticing the way the Doctor Kim’s eyebrows lift even higher at Jimin’s question.

 

“Yes, Yoongi is a close personal friend. I’m surprised he didn’t comment on your use of old-age formalities. He loves to point out those kinds of… quirks,” Seokjin replies, turning over Jimin’s wrist to stick on an electrode that blinks a few times before turning bright green. It’s the flickering of Seokjin’s VisTech HUD that tells Jimin that the doctor must be looking at his vitals.

 

“He did,” Jimin says sheepishly, watching Seokjin tap on a tablet with a removed sort of focus. He seems to be so lost in what he’s seeing on the little screen that he does a double-take at what Jimin says-- or maybe it’s just because he’s shocked, his eyes widening the slightest.

 

“Oh? I see,” Seokjin purses his lips in consideration, gaze darting across Jimin’s face and probably noticing the look of discomfort that has taken over Jimin’s features, “I’m assuming he probably made an example of you, then. I wouldn’t take it to heart, Yoongi is just… a bit tense, these days. He’s been acting a bit of an asshole as of late,” Seokjin laughs, and Jimin sighs in defeat. Regardless of Seokjin’s words of reassurance, the sting of embarrassment at the day’s events is still fresh and Jimin doesn’t really want to think about how shitty his first few hours at the Shatterdome has gone so far.

 

“On second thought, ‘asshole’ is a bit cruel. I think that… ‘rough-around-the-edges’ is probably a better way to describe him. His patience may seem thin initially, but it’s actually rock-solid, especially with recruits. He’ll warm up to you all quickly enough.” He looks like he wants to expand on that point, but decides not to with a slight shake of his head.  “Regardless, he takes his career very seriously.”

 

Jimin is grateful when Seokjin quiets, focusing on his task instead of telling him about his squad leader. He doesn’t want anything to do with Lieutenant Min, especially not after the officer had unwittingly shoved Jimin into the Special Upgrades Division, where he felt like he nearly lost his mind (and his breakfast) within a matter of seconds.

 

But maybe he’ll keep Seokjin’s words in mind, considering that the doctor seems like a good person, so far (and Jimin considers himself to usually be a good judge of character). Jimin isn’t necessarily adamant about keeping how he was raised close to heart, and he doesn’t want to truly offend anyone (despite his snarky way of speaking with the lieutenant earlier), even if that anyone includes a ‘rough-around-the-edges’ and a rather cold officer with sharp eyes and a superiority complex. The Lieutenant did seem… concerned, even if his parting remarks were of disappointment and disdain to Jimin and his bunker number.

 

“I’ll keep that in consideration, Seokjin-ssi. You can call me Jimin, too, if you want--”

 

“Hey! I practically carried your ass all the way here and you warm up to him after a few minutes? What do you want from him, a lollipop or whatever?” Ke looks mock-offended, lip jutted out in a pout as he glares at Jimin.

 

“I’ve only known you for a few minutes, too, Ke-ssi--”

 

“Bull! We’ve been friends for a few hours, already!” Jimin falters at that. He doesn’t remember agreeing to be friends with anyone, but looking at Ke’s mildly wounded face now only makes Jimin like him a little more.

 

It’s ironic, and doesn’t really make any sense at all, but Jimin feels some type of camaraderie with the man who carefully brought him all the way to the infirmary instead of dumping him on the nearest soldier and running back to finish the Shatterdome tour of what, according from what he remembers of the looks of awe on the other cadets’ faces, was the most interesting division so far. However weirdly comfortable the man is with strangers so quickly, Jimin can’t help but feel like Ke would get along really well with Taehyung.

 

It’s that thought that reminds Jimin that he still has to go find his best friend.

 

“I’m sorry, Ke-ssi. I’ll be more considerate next time,” Jimin gives a small, genuine smile his way, drawing out a surprised, but pleased grin from the eccentric man. Jimin turns back to Doctor Kim, offering out his hand, “I’m sorry for wasting your time, Seokjin-ssi. We will be on our way now to the…” Jimin’s train of thought falters, realizing he has no idea where the tour was supposed to lead to next. Or if he even wants to go back to face the group and Lieutenant Min after his embarrassing episode.

 

“Why don’t you two just go ahead and head over to the cafeteria with me? I only came back here to do some charting before taking my late break. Yoongi won’t say anything about you skipping the rest of the tour if I’m with you,” Seokjin offers, getting up off the stool to go grab his coat.

 

“Also, don’t worry about the formality thing, Jimin. Your division is the one I look after the most, so I figure we might as well become more familiar with one another. I have no interest in titles, even… old-way displays of respect. Not that they’re bad, just… not my preference, usually. Just call me Jin, or… hyung? Is it? I’m older than you based off your medical files, so that’d work too, if you like,” Jin offers politely, lips stretched into a warm-hearted grin.

 

Jimin really appreciates the fact that Jin didn’t rudely shoot down his usage of formalities right off the bat like Lieutenant Min, even offering an alternative. It’s not like Jimin uses them out of spite-- well, he did with the lieutenant (Jimin won’t admit he was still riding on his embarrassment from earlier at the time he had rebuked Yoongi’s request to address him properly), but… it’s simply what he’s used to.

 

It’s not like he intended on offending anyone, originally. It just slipped out, a lifelong practice that his parents and the adults around him instilled in his generation since he could remember. He thought using formalities was supposed to signal a type of respect for his superiors. Isn’t that what his family taught him-- to be respectful toward strangers, even if not all of them necessarily deserve it? He admits that he had continued his use of said formalities just to spite the lieutenant, who had acted so cold to what Jimin genuinely considered goodwill, but it’s not like he had started out with those intentions.

 

Using them so far has only made him stick out like a sore-thumb-- he thought he was trying to escape that kind of thing, not dive back into it.

 

Jimin is about to turn Jin down on his offer, however, not wanting to be even more of a burden when Ke pipes up again, interrupting his train of thought, “Yeah! That sounds like a good idea, I’m fucking hungry. Hey, Doc, can I call you Jin, too?” Ke’s eyes flicker with uncertainty before settling back into his painfully optimistic expression.

 

He really has no filter, huh?

 

“Of course, Ke ,” Jin replies, emphasizing Ke’s name and eliciting a slight blush from the man, “Also, Jimin, if you like, I can take you to the Special Upgrades Division at a time someone isn’t getting an upgrade to show you what’s in there. If you’re in Yoongi and Hoseok’s guerilla squad, you’ll need to get used to that room very quickly. Those two get upgrades at rapid-fire speed from their missions, so that might end up being you, eventually.” Jin reaches over, squeezing Jimin’s shoulder comfortingly.

 

“I’d like that… Seokjin,” Jimin smiles tightly at him, not wanting to delve deeper on the conversation topic. He doesn’t plan on touching a Special Upgrades voucher with anything but a ten-foot pole if he ever receives one. He doesn’t care if he’s a part of the SC Bionics Guerilla forces, he’ll do all his responsibilities and more without having his arm-- or any body part, for that matter-- split open and laced with blue liquid and metal, thank you very much.

 

Seokjin pauses to settle Jimin with a questioning look before beaming, “Okay, then! Let’s go,” He holds the door to the infirmary open so that Jimin and Ke can pass through. “Oh, also,” Seokjin turns around, locking the door to the infirmary with a few presses of the touchpad next to it, “I hope you won’t mind sitting with all of us, you two being cadets and all.”

 

“Who’s going to be there beside you?” Jimin asks hesitantly. Ke is bouncing on his heels beside him like he hasn’t a worry in the world, but the way that Seokjin wordlessly glances at Jimin before leading them down to the hall makes Jimin feel nervous, despite the way that Ke is exuding confidence and contentedness.

 

Jimin is about to pester Seokjin to answer, but is interrupted by Ke nearly tripping over his heel, walking so close that Jimin can hear his incessant humming, “For fuck’s sake, Ke, watch your step!”

 

“Sorry, JP--,” Ke’s eyes widen, before a triumphant grin spreads across his face, “Did you just call me Ke without all that formality stuff?”

 

Jimin huffs, whipping his head to continue following Seokjin, who is glancing back with an amused expression. Jimin knows that he’s blushing-- can feel the heat on his cheeks-- and if the way that Ke hoots whenever he scrambles back up to Jimin’s side and peeks at his face is any indication, he’s correct in that assumption.

 

“You did! You called me Ke! Just Ke! Damn, JP, I knew we were gonna be friends right off the bat. Maybe you’re not as uptight as I thought--”

 

“Uptight? Ke, what the fuck is that even supposed to mean?” Jimin sighs in exasperation, but he can’t help but smile a little at Ke’s antics-- there’s something quite charming about the way he looks at others, like a sweet puppy dog. Even if it is mildly annoying, it’s oddly... familiar.

 

“Don’t play stupid, JP, I know that you know that we all know that you’re from the First Bunker, and that lot tends to be--”

 

“We’re here,” Seokjin mutters, lips twitching up into a smile when Ke accidentally trips over Jimin’s heel again. “And regarding your question, Jimin, we’ll just be eating with some of the higher-ranking officers. You both know two of them already.”

 

Jimin’s face drops, and he’s suddenly wishing he had just asked Seokjin to send him and Ke in the direction of their dorms rather than the dining hall.

 

Seokjin keeps walking, and Ke is dragging a very unwilling Jimin through the massive hall that leads to the cafeteria.



 

                

 

“I’m tired, Joon. Tired of these half-assed recruits coming in here and fucking up my shit,” Yoongi sighs, picking up an empty tray from the front of the line in the mess hall.

 

Namjoon glances briefly at him before grabbing a bowl of… whatever the hell that is and continuing down the line, “Don’t act like that, we both know you’re going to get attached to nearly all of them a few months from now. Just because you would rather be on a mission, doesn’t mean that giving an introductory tour isn’t necessary, Yoongi. It’s one of the most important parts of a cadet’s assimilation into--”

 

“‘--the Singularity Coalition, to train the next league of superfighters, taking one step closer to defeating The Others.’ Yeah, Joon, you’ve told me that same stupid quote more times than I’d like to count at this point. I don’t think there are enough infinities to explain how fucking redundant you sound,” Yoongi sighs even louder, shoulders aching and head pounding as he also shuffles some of the slop that Namjoon had got onto his plate. One would think that being an officer in the SC Bionics would get one some good food to eat, but no-- same old grub, same old mess hall, same old stupid tables with benches nailed to the ground. Yoongi just wants a nice dinner for once, is that too much to ask for?

 

“The truth is often redundant,” Namjoon frowns back at Yoongi, waiting at the end of the line for him to finish getting his food. When he notices that Yoongi is taking his sweet time, he gives Yoongi a dead stare, “Today, preferably. I haven’t seen Jin all day and you’re standing there slowly shoveling mush onto your plate, taking my precious time that I could be spending with my partner--”

 

“Okay, okay! Fine-- fuck, you’re so whiny,” Namjoon raises his brow at that, and Yoongi knows that he’s misplacing his frustration onto his close friend. Yoongi’s grip on his food tray is white-knuckled when he sighs in exasperation again, “Okay, sorry. I didn’t mean that. I’m just… I don’t know what to do with that JP134 cadet. If he nearly faints at the sight of a simple Ferium injection, how the hell am I gonna show him a Full Limb Rig? Or how he can upgrade his VisTech? How am I gonna teach him to fight--”

 

“Hey, hey,” Namjoon balances his food tray on one hand and is about to pay Yoongi on the shoulder before he falters, hesitation in his eyes as he clasps his tray with both hands more tightly. “You’re not gonna teach him-- or any of the cadets, for that matter-- alone. It’s always the same, nothing is different. You have me, you have Hobi, Jin, and all the other officers assigned to the SC Bionics unit. You said JP134 is from the First Bunker, yeah? Well, just because he’s from that Bunker, doesn’t mean he’s stupid or not willing to learn. I know that you are well aware of that, and are just letting stress get to your head and making you all grumpy.”

 

Namjoon sits down at their usual table, waiting for Yoongi to take his seat on his right side and ignoring Yoongi’s bashful frown before continuing, “Maybe he nearly fainted because he’s just naive-- I mean, I’d be scared shitless if I spent the entire length of the apocalypse huddled up with a bunch of people that spent all their time trying to ignore the catastrophe going on on the surface.”

 

Yoongi gnaws on his bottom lip, contemplating Namjoon’s words before deciding to speak up. “I don’t know, Joon…”

 

“Since when did you question yourself so much on the first day, anyway? I thought you only started freaking out when your newbie team inevitably blows a hole through one of the training room walls, or nearly cuts a limb off with those dagger things you always carry around,” Namjoon hums nonchalantly, and Yoongi knows when his friend is trying to show that he’s not curious. Yoongi isn’t ignorant to the way Namjoon likes to pry-- it’s his friend’s way of showing he cares.

 

“Don’t even try it, Joon. I don’t need to explain myself to you,” Yoongi huffs, staring down at the bland food in front of him. He’s suddenly not feeling so hungry.

 

“Maybe not to me, but to yourself? Possibly,” Namjoon mutters between bites, and Yoongi has to turn away from him-- Namjoon is a really sloppy eater.

 

“When Jin gets here and sees your face all covered in that goop, he’s gonna have a fucking fit trying to clean you up like some toddler--”

 

“Namjoon!”

 

Just on cue-- Seokjin has always been one to be on time. Yoongi snickers at the way Namjoon pales at his partner’s voice, nearly flinging food all over the place as he scrambles for a napkin.

 

Yoongi keeps his head down, not wanting to be caught in the crossfire as he hears the tsktsk’s coming their way that scream Seokjin.

 

“Namjoon, you couldn’t wait for me? What happened to your face?” Seokjin interrogates, voice rising in pitch at the end, probably at the exact moment he sees what a mess Namjoon has managed to make in such a short period of time. He might be a grown and fully-functioning adult man, but he eats like a child.

 

“Nuff’ing,” Namjoon mutters, and Yoongi can hear how he’s cursing under his breath, mouth full, as he wipes at his face. He clears his throat, and what he says next has Yoongi’s interest piqued, even if he won’t lift his head from his less-than-average meal to quench his curiosity, “Who have you brought to join us, love? I saw two guys come up with you before going in the serving line.”

 

Yoongi continues to eat his food silently, wondering to himself which of the new recruits tomorrow is going to give him a hellish time in his job for the first day of training. He has a feeling he knows a few already--

 

“Park Jimin and Lin Ke, some of the new guerrilla cadets,” Seokjin answers, and Yoongi snaps his head up in recognition at the names. He’s immediately met with Seokjin’s sharp eyes, like he’s challenging Yoongi to make a big deal out of what Seokjin probably already knows happened between him and the two cadets-- within the first few hours of their arrival, no less.

 

Namjoon turns his head to Yoongi, face morphing into one of amusement. Namjoon dodged the bullet of Seokjin’s hussing, and Yoongi is about to suffer unwillingly with the presence of his own cadets. He usually wouldn’t mind eating dinner with his comrades, but those two no doubt have a bit of something against Yoongi after today. He can’t blame them-- he’s stressed and apprehensive about how to deal with the whole situation, himself. Lin Ke might not be too much of a problem, but Park Jimin...

 

Fuck.

 

Seokjin clears his throat, and Yoongi tears his eyes away from a smirking Namjoon to meet Seokjin’s piercing ones once again.

 

“I hope this won’t be an issue, Yoongi-ssi,” Seokjin teases, and Yoongi can’t help the deep frown that pulls across his face at his friend’s use of Park Jimin’s incessant formalities.

 

“Please don’t fucking tell me he’s got you doing it now, too--”

 

“Yoongi-ssi? What’s this with formalities?” Namjoon asks between bites of food, each of which is much more careful now that Seokjin is standing at the head of the table, waiting for the cadets to get their food so he can wave them over. Namjoon shoves at Yoongi’s shoulder, trying to get his attention, “Yoongi? You didn’t tell me this Park cadet used formalities with you?”

 

“Yeah, Joon, I didn’t tell you because then you and your fucking boyfriend would never let me hear the end of it,” Yoongi groans, dropping his utensils so that he can rub at his face frustratedly. This day has been way too long.

 

“Well if it makes you feel any better, Yoongi,” Seokjin starts, waving his arm around in his signal to the recruits before plopping down to Namjoon and leaning into him, “I told Jimin to be careful how he addresses you, out of respect. But I doubt he’ll listen, he’s quite fiery and determined. That’s according to my first impression and his intel reports only, though. I only met him like half an hour ago, so maybe I’m wrong.” Seokjin angles his head on Namjoon’s shoulder so that he can wink at Yoongi, “Kind of reminds me of you, in a way.”

 

Namjoon spits out his food from laughing at that last part, and Seokjin darts up in a curse, reaching for a napkin. “Yoongi is not fiery,” Namjoon snorts. Seokjin rolls his eyes, shoving napkins into Namjoon’s hand to get him to wipe his face-- why he just doesn’t do it himself the first time instead of waiting for Namjoon to do it half-assedly still confuses Yoongi. “If anything, he’s the fucking ice-master when it comes to the newbies. Just look how calm and collected he is most of the time around them, only getting thawed out when a spunky cadet with pretty honey-brown eyes pisses him off--”

 

“How do you know that JP134’s eye color?” Yoongi sneers, ignoring the smirk that Namjoon sends his way, like Yoongi has just unwittingly proven his point.

 

“Looked him up on my VisTech while you were rambling on about him being from the First Bunker in line. Got to say, he’s a looker--”

 

“You know you shouldn’t tease Yoongles about that kind of stuff, Nams.”

 

Yoongi lazily turns his gaze to the front of the table again, meeting Hoseok’s worried gaze. He isn’t sure when he showed up, but after the slip Hoseok gave him to get out of running the tour, he isn’t too happy to see him.

 

“Like you’re one to talk, Hobi. He told me what you pulled earlier, feeling up that kid’s palms like you were trying to kill Yoongi with second-hand embarrassment--”

 

“His hands are small,  I just thought that Yoongles would appreciate it! He never wants to hold any of our hands, maybe the pocket-sized edition is an upgrade he’s willing to try--”

 

“Would you two idiots shut the fuck up and sit down to eat?” Yoongi groans, shoving his half-finished meal from him. He was right the first time-- he definitely doesn’t have an appetite anymore, not with all this incessant tomfoolery. “And stop calling me ‘Yoongles’ in front of the cadets, Seok. You know how I feel about them respecting me properly,” Yoongi mutters, opening up his VisTech to start organizing his music playlist for when he gets back to his room for the night. He’s going to spend all night trying to get this day blared out from in between his ears in between the personnel reports he has to file for the new team.

 

“You know you like it,” Hoseok smiles, eyes flickering to Yoongi’s right iris when he probably notices the light blue light of his VisTech HUD. “You spend all your free time lookin’ up old songs to download off the web so that you can dissociate into Music Heaven when you should be coming with me out on friend dates while we still have places on the surface to go, even if they are a jet flight away--”

 

“‘M not gonna go on another one of those things ever again, Seok. You took me to the jungle last time; that’s not a date, that’s a plan to get me eaten alive by every creature still standing after the First Wave. Besides, my ‘Music Heaven’ is perfectly healthy, and it’s what I prefer,” Yoongi grunts, swiping on his VisTech with just a slight movement of his pupil, shuffling for his Favorites playlist.

 

“Fair enough,” Hoseok frowns, quick to go back to his meal silently when he catches on to Yoongi’s especially moody days-- like today, for instance. Yoongi can’t help but feel a little better, with a friend as understanding as Hoseok.

 

“There they are!” Seokjin shoots up from where Namjoon is playing with their intertwined fingers, “Over here, Jimin! Ke!” Seokjin waves with his free hand and Yoongi smirks at the way Namjoon’s face flushes, their connected palms now exposed for everyone in the room to see-- as if everyone in the SC Bionics didn’t know how whipped they were for each other, already.

 

Hoseok coos and Namjoon shoots him a death glare. The interaction is distracting, for a fleeting moment-- that is until Yoongi can see natural dark brown hair instead of some crazy skin mod-induced color coming up in his peripheral vision.

 

This is going to be one hell of an awkward dinner.

 

                

 

“There you two are!” Seokjin smiles, reaching out with the hand not clutching onto the tall guy-- yes, Jimin can tell even when the stranger is sitting down that he has at least a few inches over him, much to Jimin’s self-pity-- who is seated and looking up at Seokjin with shy eyes.

 

“Sit, sit! I’ll do introductions,” Seokjin keeps that grin on his face, waiting for Jimin and Ke to follow. Jimin glances at Ke, only to see his new friend’s face is a slight tinge of pink as he moves to sit down next to General Jung, whose eyes are flickering happily between the two of them. Jimin quirks a brow at that, following Ke and sitting down at the end of the bench, across from a very silent, very-much-ignoring-the-world Lieutenant Min, who is currently utilizing his VisTech, if Jimin is guessing right from the flickering blue light in the officer’s right iris.

 

“You already know Yoongi and Hoseok,” Seokjin gestures to the two, Hoseok offering a bright little wave-- so calm in demeanor compared to earlier, Jimin thinks briefly-- and Yoongi not even acknowledging the conversation. Jimin has to fight himself from rolling his eyes. “This is Kim Namjoon, NK052,” Seokjin lifts up he and the blushing man’s intertwined fingers, waving it around and grinning pridefully. “He’s my partner.”

 

“Partner, hm?” Jimin questions. He knows what it means, only says it like that as a type of confirmation, or an acknowledgment for Seokjin to continue. The others seem to take his question as one born out of confusion or… ignorance.

 

“They fuck each other in their free time,” Lieutenant Min mutters nonchalantly, and when Jimin snaps his head up to look at him in shock from across the table, the officer is snickering quietly to himself, shoulders shaking and lips pursed probably in an effort to not straight up cackle as he stares at the table before glancing at Namjoon, “That was for earlier, Joon.”

 

Seokjin reaches around Namjoon to smack Yoongi up the head, who immediately goes rigid, face pinching. The action earns Seokjin a murderous glare from the Lieutenant, who soon goes back to using his VisTech. Jimin looks at Seokjin, unsure of how to react to hearing such foul words come out of his superior officer’s mouth.

 

“Don’t mind him, Cadet,” Hoseok interjects, winking at Jimin from the other side of a very quiet Ke. “Yoongi is just pissed that we’re interrupting the time he usually spends looking up more Queen songs to add to his massive collection of Freddie Mercury memorabilia--”

 

“Seok,” Yoongi warns, eyes distant as he doesn’t stop his search through the VisTech HUD, the frown on his face evident and clear. “I will leave this table--”

 

“What song is it this week, Yoongles? Somebody to Love? Play the Game--”

 

“It’s Don’t Stop Me Now, you fucking--”

 

“Hey! Hey!” Seokjin interrupts, shooting threatening looks at the two of them despite the smile stretched wide across his face, “No arguing. You’re supposed to be role-models for Jimin and Ke-- stop acting like this--”

 

“Do you know any Queen songs, Ke? If I can call you by your first name?” Hoseok asks, bright grin still plastered on his face as he swings his arm around the shoulders of a quiet Ke, who Jimin notices stiffens at the General’s touch.

 

“Yeah, that’s fine, General Jung. I like I Want to Break Free,” Ke murmurs, a small smile twitching at the corners of his lips. “My parents are part of the New Age Chinese migrants, so we don’t really listen to music from that century anymore-- err , or any music, for that matter-- but my grandma used to play that song for me when I was a kid.” Ke gives a pleading side glance to Jimin.

 

“Me? Oh, um… I don’t…”

 

“JP134 probably doesn’t listen to any good music,” Yoongi quips, still lazily scrolling through his VisTech, not even bothering to meet Jimin’s eye when he glares at the Lieutenant. Yoongi has a small, reserved smile on his lips— under different circumstances, it might even appear endearing.

 

Jimin isn’t dumb-- he can guess that the lieutenant’s words are only a light-hearted and teasing remark, a rather awkward attempt at friendliness despite the day’s events.

 

But he’s feeling embarrassed from everything that happened earlier, from being constantly ostracized to being forced into that horror room, only to faint like a little kid. His temper is quick and it rears its ugly head, destroying any possible meager progress he might’ve had in normalizing himself so far, “And why is that, Yoongi-ssi? Why would I not listen to any good music?” Jimin can’t help how his voice raises defensively.

 

This time, Yoongi looks up as his half-smile drops completely, meeting Jimin’s eye with such bland, curious expression that it causes Jimin to almost falter in his anger, “You’re from the First Bunker, no?”

 

Jimin shoots up from his seat, face red and anger simmering after the long, hellish day that he’s had, “What is that even supposed to mean? I’m really getting tired of your attitude, Yoongi-ssi.”

 

Yoongi had finally started to look like he was ready to fight back-- already halfway out his seat, glaring back at Jimin and ignoring the way everyone at the table tenses-- but he freezes in his tracks, like he reconsiders the situation after a moment’s hesitation. He settles back in his seat, face morphing into a guarded expression as he averts his eyes from Jimin’s, focusing back on his VisTech and drowning them all out once again.

 

“Are you ignoring me?” Jimin asks, livid and in disbelief. “What the hell is your problem--”

 

“Jimin,” Hoseok warns. “Keep in mind that Yoongi is your superior officer, even if this particular setting indicates otherwise.” Jimin doesn’t miss the way that Hoseok shoots Seokjin a tense look.

 

Jimin instantly sits back down, huffing in disbelief but humbled by Hoseok’s words. He’s not going to risk getting a slap on the wrist for dealing with a judgemental and rude assh--

 

“This is just how I am, JP134,” Yoongi looks up, VisTech no longer flickering as he starts to stand up from the table. He picks up his tray and then looks down at Jimin, face relaxed, “Especially when my subordinates don’t know how to address me properly. I only mention your Bunker number, because it seems that, like all other individuals that have managed to convince themselves or their relatives that leaving your hole in the ground is worth your time only now -- even after the war raging on for the last twenty years-- you seem to have adopted the unfortunate bull-headed nature of sticking to your archaic ways of speech in some desperate effort to keep yourself together when faced with the impending doom that is the Dawn of the Others--”

 

Hoseok stands up, taking his arm off from around a nervous Ke, “Yoongi, you don’t really mean what you’re saying--”

 

“And I have news for you-- that mindset won’t work. We live in a world now that is either kill or be killed, and latching onto to such age-old practices in an attempt to mask your fear of the unknown with the comfort of the familiar is frankly not going to do you any favors-- especially in regard to working with others, where your number one priority shouldn’t be keeping up the previous version of you from the First Bunker, but instead should be building yourself into the supersoldier that your comrades will need by their side in battle. So excuse me, JP134, if I act standoffish and rude. I can imagine you only take such a tone with me because of today’s events, and I don’t usually like to remind my recruits of my position-- in an effort to remain fair-- but I will forget that for a moment to suggest that you remember your place now, before we get to actual training and this problem really becomes a problem.”

 

A thick silence lays over the group, and Jimin distantly realizes that the rest of the room is still loud with chatter, as if being scolded in public like this is commonplace amongst recruits. Maybe it is, when it’s coming from Lieutenant Min.

 

“Yoongi--”

 

“No, it’s fine, Joon,” Yoongi waves Namjoon’s concern away, his expression still relaxed all the while, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning for the weekly intel update.” He glances at Ke and even meets Jimin’s eye again, “Be ready tomorrow before I arrive to take you to training. The other recruits are already asleep in your dorm, you’d do best to follow soon.” He nods once at Seokjin and Hoseok, who are both looking at him with indecipherable gazes.

 

And with that, Yoongi turns around calmly, taking his tray of half-eaten food and leaving the table abruptly, without another word.

 

Jimin doesn’t know how to react, or if he even should.

 

“I think that’s my cue to take you to your dorms,” Hoseok says, standing up with a solemn face. He seems to realize his stoic expression because his face quickly lights up with that sunshine smile when he glances towards Ke and Jimin. It might make Ke relax next to Jimin, but all it does is make Jimin feel like a manchild-- like he needs to be comforted, when all he wants to do right now is lash out and punch something.

 

Who the fuck does Lieutenant Min think he is? And why did Jimin get so defensive-- why couldn’t he just keep his fucking mouth shut and stop himself from embarrassing himself more than he already has--

 

“JP,” Ke mutters, gripping at Jimin’s shoulder and shaking him from his angry thoughts. “General Jung wants us to--”

 

“Yeah, I know, Ke. Sorry, I’m just…” Jimin trails off, getting up to throw away his tray of food. He waves goodbye to Namjoon and Seokjin, feeling a bit dejected and not willing to say anything further. He turns to follow Hoseok and Ke, the latter of which is looking at him worriedly.

 

Jimin barely got a bite in during dinner, but he isn’t really feeling any type of hungry after the positively awful day that he’s had so far. He just wants to see Taehyung and go to sleep.

 

Taehyung.

 

Jimin snaps his head up, reigning his anger and shame in momentarily as he reaches forward to grasp at the General’s sleeve. “General Jung.” Hoseok turns his head, raising an eyebrow at Jimin to indicate he’s listening. “Do you know if Kim Taehyung… uhh, TK130, is in the same dorm hall as us? He’s my friend from back home, and I saw he was assigned to this base in my VisTech--”

 

“TK130? Do you know his division?” Hoseok’s right iris lights up, and Jimin can only assume he’s looking him up.

 

“No, no I don’t, but I can describe what he looks like if that helps. And his personal information--”

 

“Is his birthday December 30th? Twenty-two years of age? Enlisted… on his birthday? Right at the legal age of civilian enlistment? That’s a little rash--”

 

“Yes, yes, that’s him. Can I go see him, please? I’ve been waiting all day,” Jimin pleads, tugging on Hoseok’s shirt. Jimin realizes what he’s doing, from the way Hoseok’s eyes are watching the movement, and he quickly removes his grip. “Sorry, he’s just… he’s family. I haven’t seen him in almost a month.”

 

Hoseok searches across Jimin’s face, mulling it over for a few long, drawn-out beats. Jimin thinks he’s going to say no, but then Hoseok smiles again, nodding, “Of course, JP134. He’s actually assigned to Namjoon’s Squad, believe it or not.”

 

“What squad is that?” Jimin asks, trying to keep down his excitement at getting to see Taehyung again.

 

“‘Intel Combatics’,” Hoseok squints, as if he doesn’t recognize what’s on his VisTech.

 

“Why do you sound like you have no idea what that is?” Ke asks, grin starting to stretch across his face. He really does look like a puppy dog--

 

“That’s ‘cause I don’t, Ke,” Hoseok’s grin twitches into a shy one, and Jimin is surprised to see the General look… reserved for once. “Namjoon and I made a pact not to discuss work anymore.”

 

“And why’s that? Got into an argument or somethin’?” Ke questions, looking at Hoseok curiously. Hoseok is about to respond when he’s cut off by a distant voice.

 

“No, that’s not it.”

 

Jimin whips his head around only to see Namjoon, who is walking towards them from around the corner, alone.

 

“Namjoon,” Hoseok greets, face blanched and voice suddenly squeaky, “I thought you and Jin were still eating--”

 

“Hoseok and I made a pact not to discuss work because this dumbass,” Namjoon stops walking when he gets next to Jimin, and he points a finger at Hoseok accusingly, a playful smirk on his face. “This dumbass asked me if I could hack into his VisTech--”

 

“Lalalalala! I don’t hear you! Not in front of my cadets!” Hoseok plugs his ears, turning around to walk forward, continuing down the hall and ignoring the wild looks that any passerby in the hallway start giving him.

 

“Hack into his VisTech, the hardware that I helped develop, so that-- so that he could watch porn without having to search blacklisted sites on his tablet!” Namjoon is laughing hysterically, wiping at his eyes when Hoseok stops walking away, frozen in his tracks and refusing to look back at the three of them, shoulders hiked up to his ears in a cringe.

 

Namjoon clears his throat after a fit of giggling, “Granted, I was really pissed when he asked me that. Didn’t speak to each other for like three weeks. That’s why we made the pact to not talk about work unless absolutely necessary.” Namjoon scratches the back of his neck, seeming to contemplate just who he’s with currently before continuing, “Oh, and no, Hobi. We finished eating already, Jin went back to our room to get ready for bed.”

 

Hoseok reluctantly turns around, flush high on his cheeks as he glares daggers at Namjoon, avoiding Jimin and Ke’s eyes. Ke looks like he wants to burst out laughing, worrying his lip between his teeth in an effort to stop himself. Jimin is just shocked that he’s hearing all of this on the first day, what the hell kind of professional environment--

 

“I can take you to see TK130, JP134,” Namjoon offers, not meeting Jimin’s eye until after he’s smirked triumphantly at a mortified Hoseok, who is currently quietly mulling in front of them. “Can even take you to your own dorm assignment afterward, if that’s alright with General Jung.” Namjoon’s eyes drift back to Hoseok, who has already started assuming a more professional demeanor at the mention of his title-- the reminder that they’re in the present of recruits.

 

Hoseok seems to realize that there’s no point-- the damage already done to his reputation in Jimin and Ke’s eyes-- his shoulders drooping back down just as quickly as they had picked up, “Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll take Ke here to the dorms. Don’t be too long, recruits have an early rise tomorrow.” He waves Namjoon and Jimin off, gesturing towards Ke to follow him.

 

Ke hesitates for a moment, giving Jimin a weird look before walking briskly after a brooding General Jung.

 

Jimin turns to find Namjoon looking at him analytically, like he’s trying to figure something out. Jimin clears his throat to get his attention, and Namjoon blinks a few times before shifting to stand up straighter. “Ready to go?”

 

“Yes,” Jimin responds, his earlier giddiness at getting to see his best friend returning full-force, “Take me to Taehyung, please.”

Chapter Text

Sharp banging on his door, echoing loudly enough that Yoongi can feel it rattling his mattress. He thinks he might even hear a little of the sound coming through his Bluetooth headphones-- he bought these things to be sound-canceling, not to let the outside world in like his VisTech audio unfortunately did.

 

“What?” Yoongi shouts, tugging off the blaring speakers around his ears so he can clearly hear who is on the other side. He has an idea, but if he’s wrong, he’s definitely not going to willingly get up to open the door to his room.

 

“You know exactly who it is, Yoongi,” Seokjin mutters, voice muffled heavily through the metal separating them. Yoongi sighs-- Seokjin had cleared access to Yoongi’s room at any time thanks to Yoongi’s medical history, so he doesn’t even understand what the hell the point of knocking is--

 

“Can I come in, or what?” Seokjin tries again, exasperation in his tone.

 

Yoongi barely grunts in approval but hears the soft sounds of the fingerprint coder recognizing Seokjin’s palms before the metal door is swinging open, the hinge making unpleasant creaking noises despite being in prime working order.

 

“You know you don’t have to ask, right?” Yoongi says, shifting on his bed to sit up, completely removing the headphones from around his neck to look at Seokjin nervously.

 

Seokjin, of course, completely ignores his reminder, gesturing to the black plastic that Yoongi just gently placed on his bedsheets. “You still use those things? You are aware of what century it is, correct?”

 

Yoongi just stares at him, really not in the mood for Seokjin’s badgering. It’s not that late, not by a higher-ranking officer’s standards, that is-- but Yoongi is exhausted, the drain of having to deal with all the… problems of the day weighing heavily under his eyes.

 

“What were you listening to just now?” Seokjin plops himself down on the foot of Yoongi’s bed, not even bothering to ask. Yoongi used to be bothered about it, but he isn’t anymore-- Seokjin is the only one that gets away with most things that would usually make Yoongi pissed off these days.

 

The question piques Yoongi’s interest, “Queen. Like what Hobi said earlier.”

 

“Hmmm,” Seokjin purses his lips, eyes flickering between Yoongi’s. “Let me guess: Killer Queen?”

 

Yoongi frowns, “No, Jin. I’m Going Slightly Mad is more of the mood I’m in right now. You of all people could have guessed.” The way Seokjin’s face drops tells Yoongi that his older friend did, in fact, figure that his original estimate was a poor one-- maybe he was feeling hopeful that the tension currently painting Yoongi’s face was just a trick of the poor lighting in his room.

 

“That’s a little dark, don’t you think?” Seokjin is giving Yoongi that look, the ‘do we need to go to my office again’ one that makes Yoongi’s stomach lurch; not because it’s with Seokjin, though, no-- Yoongi would do and feel much worse if going into the medical ward was with anyone but Seokjin.

 

“I think it’s quite fitting, the whole madness theme of the song, considering how shitty my day has been,” Yoongi yawns, feigning ignorance to the way Seokjin’s brow furrows even further.

 

He leans back on the mattress, staring at his ceiling. He’s ready to let silence settle over them enough for Yoongi to pop back his headphones on and drift off to sleep when Seokjin speaks up again.

 

“Don’t pretend that I don’t know how you’re feeling when you start binging Queen, Yoongi. It always starts the same-- you’re in a good mood, a good spot in your life, and then… and then you crash, and you shove yourself in between those fucking plastic sound discs for days, letting Freddie Mercury blast your eardrums all the way to another dimensi--”

 

“They’re not called plastic sound discs, Jin. They’re headphones. And…” Yoongi turns on his side, curling in on himself and placing a hand between his knees as he looks at Seokjin with as much of a calm expression as possible. He knows that it probably just comes off as Yoongi trying-- and most likely failing-- to show that he is fine, but Yoongi can’t be bothered with how obvious he’s being, just wants to be left alone right now. He ignores how the headphones are digging into his neck at the awkward position he’s lying in.

 

Yoongi is just doing what he does best when Seokjin gets like this-- when Seokjin is feeling introspective and sensitive to Yoongi’s distress: he’s going to lie straight through his teeth. Yoongi recognized a certain cadet’s use of self-defense mechanisms because he himself relies on them heavily, after all. “What I listen to does not dictate how I feel. You listen to classical music all the time, and you don’t feel like some freakishly-inspired reincarnation of Bach--”

 

“Bullshit, Yoongi,” Seokjin cuts him off, face turning into a deep frown that showcases his disappointment-- Yoongi knows that he’s aware that that expression only has an impression on him when Seokjin is doing it. “You and I both know very well that you’re deflecting onto me.”

 

Yoongi pauses at that. He turns his gaze from Seokjin after a few long beats, staring at the wall defiantly. “‘M not doing jack shit, Seokjin.” He knows his hesitance is nothing less of admittance, but he refuses to verbally acknowledge it-- it’s always the same back-and-forth game between the two of them. The problem with Yoongi isn’t that he feels nothing.

 

It’s that he feels too much.

 

Avoiding Seokjin’s usual line of questioning when it comes to these things isn’t because he doesn’t care, he’s simply going through the usual protocol of things in an effort to sustain some kind of barely-sustainable grip on his emotions. It’s something he’s especially adamant about right now, seeing as he let them affect how he treated his cadets-- one in particular-- earlier today.

 

“I know that the anniversary is coming soon, Yoongi,” Seokjin says below his breath as if raising his voice to a normal volume would lead to his words causing any more pain to Yoongi than they already do.

 

Dark eyes, the light in them fading. Bloody hands, intertwined-- hiding amongst them. Hold your breath, or you might not get another. These are the types of images that flood Yoongi’s mind at Seokjin’s words. It’s been years, and every time they talk like this Yoongi still gets drawn back into the deep dark buried inside.

 

Seokjin carefully places a hand on Yoongi’s ankle, waiting for him to flinch back as Yoongi is drawn out of his dark thoughts. When Yoongi suppresses the urge to do just that, resisting the familiar bile that raises up his throat when he thinks about… it, Seokjin continues. “I know that’s why you’re not your usual self, why you’re feeling bad enough to redownload the entire selection of the Queen’s Greatest Hits on your VisTech and play it through your shitty Bluetooth headphones despite the fact that all of it will just be wiped off your database in a week for routine data cleanup. I know you’re thinking about them, Yoongi.”

 

Yoongi smacks his lips, ready to feign ignorance once again in the hopes of avoiding the topic of conversation he knows that Seokjin the Doctor is just itching to delve deeper into, “I don’t recall what you mean.” Yoongi sits up slowly, pulling his leg from Seokjin’s barely-there grip. He’s trying to not showcase just how antsy he’s starting to feel at the current route the conversation is taking as he nervously places his hands on Seokjin’s shoulders, pushing slightly, an indication of Yoongi’s desire for him to leave. “‘M tired, Jin. That’s all--”

 

“When are we going to stop running circles around each other every time I try to talk to you about this kind of stuff, huh? We’ve been doing this for years,” Seokjin huffs, voice raising just that small amount that tells Yoongi he’s starting to get tired of chipping at his layers, if his words hadn’t shown that already. “I might be your psychiatrist, Yoongi, but I’m also your closest friend. We should be able to talk about this kind of stuff, after all this time. Do you want me to switch your PCP? So that we can talk as just friends? Would Doctor Take work better for you--”

 

“No, no, no,” Yoongi interrupts, not even bothering to mask his anxiety at the thought as he shakes his head, fingernails digging into Seokjin’s shoulders. Seokjin wraps his hands around Yoongi’s wrists, a silent but gentle request that tells Yoongi to ease up, to calm down. “Don’t. I don’t want another doctor, you know that, Jin. I can’t have another doctor,” Yoongi exhales.

 

Seokjin’s eyes flicker with regret. “I know you’re tired, Yoongi. But we can’t let it get bad like last year, okay? Please tell me you’ll stop by and talk about it with me-- if not today or tomorrow, as soon as possible. I know that you only snapped at Jimin earlier because you’re not in control of your emotions right now, with your past at the forefront of everything. Please, Yoongi-- I’m worried about you. Not as your doctor, but as someone who cares about you,” Seokjin says, tone heavy as he stands from the edge of Yoongi’s bed, looking at him with concern.

 

Yoongi just nods, letting a silence wash over them, not knowing what to say or sure if he even wants to say anything-- he knows that Seokjin means well, but there are certain things better left unsaid.

 

Hearing some comforting words or shedding a few tears isn’t going to heal Yoongi. He hasn’t found what will, yet-- isn’t sure if he ever is going to, when it feels as heavy in his chest like it still does after all these years. It’s not like he wants to be like this.

 

He forgets the screams sometimes, but they always come back eventually. Always.

 

“Get some sleep, and please don’t forget to stop by,” Seokjin starts, but then hesitates. Yoongi looks up to meet his eyes, only to find his own anxiety reflected back onto him. Seokjin’s hands twitch at his sides, and Yoongi knows instantly what he’s about to ask. “Can I…”

 

“I don’t know, Jin. I just..,” Yoongi mutters, waiting for that crestfallen expression to fall over his friend’s face. He sighs when it does, and forces his arms open, resisting the urge to crumble in on himself when Seokjin wraps him in a loose hug.

 

“Physical affection is an important part of the healing process, even if it only comes from one person. Even if you still think you’re broken, Yoongi, broken things need love, too,” Seokjin murmurs into his ear, stroking up and down Yoongi’s back gently until he feels himself relaxing into Seokjin just a little. “I’ll always be there for you, even if next time, you reject my touch. You can always talk to me.”

 

Seokjin pulls back after only a few seconds, completely removing himself from Yoongi. That’s the thing about Seokjin-- he always knows when it’s just veering on the edge of too much for Yoongi, always knows how far to push and when to pull back. It’s why he’s the only one that Yoongi will endure touch from anymore-- Yoongi loves his other friends just as much, but there’s something about Seokjin that’s always been understanding of his… issues.

 

Maybe it’s just the doctor thing-- he isn’t sure; Yoongi likes to take comfort in the idea that Seokjin is as good at reading Yoongi as he is just because he gets it. Not because of his profession, or because he pities Yoongi-- but because Seokjin was touched by the war in a similar, life-altering way. It hasn’t damaged Seokjin nearly as catastrophically, from what his friend has told him, but he likes to think Seokjin is just saying that in some effort to legitimize Yoongi’s pain. Yoongi never tells him that it’s not legitimizing his feelings that he needs, that he craves--

 

It’s the illusion of not being as alone as he feels, of being as alone as Yoongi knows he is-- that is the real reason why he lets Seokjin in as much as he does. Maybe some sick, twisted part of his mind likes to play up Seokjin’s past, make it sound worse than it actually was-- despite Seokjin’s assurance that that is no longer the case-- all so that Yoongi doesn’t feel… alone. So that he doesn’t feel abandoned.

 

All so that he lets at least someone in, even if they’re partially deaf to the sound of Yoongi’s screaming.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Seokjin says, stirring Yoongi from his thoughts once again. Seokjin’s eyes flicker with worry, then settle into a tight, reserved smile-- Doctor Seokjin has been tucked away for later once again. “And please listen to something other than Queen again, or at least something less obviously indicative of your current emotional state than I Feel Slightly Mad, I hate that stupid banana hat scene --”

 

“It’s I’m Going Slightly Mad,” Yoongi scowls, trying to fight the small smile creeping across his face at Seokjin’s interest in the band despite his obvious complete lack of knowledge of the band and its songs, all for the sake of small talk with Yoongi. “And alright. Doctor’s Orders?”

 

Seokjin quirks a brow at that, a coy grin twitching at the upper corner of his lips, “Yes, Doctor’s Orders. Night.”

 

And with that, Seokjin leaves the small room, locking the I.D. scanner with a few beep beep’s and a reassuring smile sent Yoongi’s way.

 

Yoongi puts his headphones back on, hitting play once again and letting sleep take over his mind. His last thought before slipping into the daunting depths of unconsciousness is distant, but clear-- maybe this time will be different.

 

It’s the most optimistic Yoongi has been in a long time.

 

           

 

“So you’re Taehyung’s superior officer?” Jimin asks curiously, straightening his back so he doesn’t have to crane his neck as much to look at Namjoon.

 

Namjoon’s gaze flickers to him, “Yes, I’m the Lead Informations Specialist of the Communications division-- Squad Leader of Intel Combatics, where TK130 is assigned.”

 

“Ah, I see,” Jimin murmurs, unsure of what to ask next, so he just decides to be honest, hoping some question will pop up in his mind with the flow of conversation. “I’m sorry, Namjoon-ssi, I don’t really know much about how the Singularity Coalition is divided up…” Maybe the formalities thing is going to take a lot more work if Jimin wants to strip himself of the stigma that seems to have been attached to the tendency of his by others.

 

Namjoon pauses at the formality, but doesn’t correct him at all-- is that just something that Lieutenant Min does?

 

“No, don’t worry, Jimin -ssi,” Namjoon smiles at Jimin reassuringly, cheeks dimpling up. Jimin almost trips over himself, catching himself before Namjoon notices, and suddenly he feels a lot like Ke.

 

Jimin distantly thinks that Seokjin and Namjoon are just right for each other, if their immediate kindness and acceptance directed at a relative stranger is a rather loose sign from Jimin’s rather new recent introduction to the couple.

 

They’re walking down a long hall now that Jimin doesn’t remember being a part of his cut-short tour, Namjoon slowing his steps as he continues speaking.

 

“Most of the civilian pre-training camps, like the one you went to, don’t spend too much time telling about the inner-workings of the Singularity Coalition, let alone the SC Bionics. It’s something that is talked about with rumors amongst lower level troops, yes, but as far as details go, a lot of it is under wraps until you are assigned to your official division.” Namjoon gestures for Jimin to follow to stop walking, before the tell-tale flicker of his VisTech in his right iris is blinking. Namjoon’s eyes move from side-to-side like he’s reading something important.

 

“TK130 is already in his bunk,” Namjoon says, VisTech HUD disappearing from the reflection in his eyes. “I just called for him to come to my location, he should be here any moment--”

 

Just then, a metal door that Jimin didn’t even know was there slides up, opening and interrupting the smooth surface of the wall to their right.

 

Taehyung stumbles out the door, looking frantically around the hall until his eyes land on Namjoon. “You said a ‘Park Jimin’ was here to see me, Lead Kim?”

 

Namjoon nods, stepping aside and revealing Jimin to Taehyung’s field of view. Jimin can feel his face alight in glee, his blood rushing to his ears and heart beating happily in his chest as he meets his friend’s eyes, his expression mirrored on Taehyung’s.

 

“Tae!” Jimin nearly squeals, clearing his throat as he rushes to his best friend and pulls him into a crushing embrace. He buries his face into the soft locks of blonde hair that now reach the nape of Taehyung’s neck, smiling widely as he whispers, relief heavy in his voice, “I missed you, TaeTae. It’s been too long.”

 

Taehyung chuckles in that low register of his, rubbing Jimin’s back comfortingly. “It’s only been a month, Chim.” Jimin is about to pinch him when Taehyung quickly adds, “But you’re right. A month is far too long.”

 

Namjoon coughs awkwardly behind them, eyes trained on the ceiling. “I am aware that you two clearly miss each other and have a lot to catch up on, but it’s generally frowned upon for first-day recruits to be milling about this late and doing this in the hallway is… risky,” He says, volume kept low as his eyes flicker down the hall in both directions nervously.

 

Taehyung pulls away from Jimin first, offering a light bow to Namjoon in apology before turning back to Jimin. “Let’s talk more tomorrow, yeah, Chim?” Taehyung’s eyes are sorry, lips pulled into a small frown.

 

“Yeah, Tae.” Jimin can’t hide the disappointment in his voice, can feel his face twitching into a frown much like the one that Taehyung is currently adorning, “I’m just glad I got to see you, I missed your face.”

 

Taehyung raises his brows comically, “Just my face?” He raises a hand to pinch at Jimin’s cheek fondly, easily letting his grip drop when Jimin swats at him.

 

“You know what I mean,” Jimin huffs, moving to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Taehyung’s ear. It’s grown so much longer in just a month’s time-- maybe it’s just Jimin’s mind playing tricks on him.

 

Namjoon clears his throat, and when Jimin looks back at him he receives an apologetic look from the man. Jimin can’t be pressed for the short amount of time given to him-- he got to see Taehyung today, know he was actually here, and that’s enough for now. Until tomorrow, that is.

 

Jimin turns to Taehyung, giving him a quick hug before pulling back again, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Tae. I have my first day of training tomorrow morning. Did you have yours yet?”

 

Taehyung nods, face morphing into one of triumph, “Yep. I got assigned to this squad a week ago, so I’m already settled in. Well,” Taehyung’s face flickers with an emotion that Jimin can only name as missing home, “As much as I could, you know?”

 

Jimin smiles at his friend, reaching forward to squeeze his loose palm comfortingly before dropping it. “Okay, see you then, Tae. Let’s have dinner, yeah? I’ll be sitting with…” Jimin’s face drops, looking back at Namjoon hesitantly.

 

He doesn’t know if he’s still welcome at their table, after what had happened earlier between Jimin and Lieutenant Min.

 

“Jimin be sitting with me, my partner, and a couple of our friends, TK130. You’re welcome to join as well, if you’d like,” Namjoon offers a small smile, shoulders still very much stiff as he keeps looking down the hall.

 

“Oh, so you call Jiminie by his name, but not me?” Taehyung leans his weight on one leg, crossing his arms as he sets Namjoon with a frown. “That’s a little messed up, Lead Kim.”

 

Namjoon is stuttering now, hands instantly going up in a defensive gesture as he tries to placate the situation, “Ah, I apologize, TK13-- Taehyung. You keep referring to me as Lead Kim, so I just assumed that you would prefer your SC I.D. I don’t know very much about formalities, I--I didn’t want to assume anything based off of your… you know.”

 

Jimin knows that Taehyung is just teasing, can read it in the way Taehyung’s eyes are glinting in that familiar way-- but Namjoon clearly hasn’t picked up on that in his recruit, yet.

 

“‘M only joking around, Lead Kim. Thanks for not making a big deal about the bunker number thing,” Taehyung says, winking at a flustered Namjoon in a friendly gesture. Taehyung glances at Jimin and must notice the pensive look surely painted on his face because his brow furrows. “What is it, Chim?”

 

“Nothing,” Jimin answers immediately, not wanting to hold Namjoon any longer. “We can talk about it tomorrow.”

 

Taehyung nods, grinning as he leans forward to give Jimin one more hug before he’s waving his goodbyes, slipping back into the strange gate he came from. The door melds back into the smooth metal of the wall once again, and Jimin is still baffled by all the technology around him.

 

Maybe Taehyung can help him with that tomorrow, clearly having grown somewhat accustomed to how things are run around here in just a week’s time-- if popping out of magic holes in the wall is any indication, that is.

 

           

 

Jimin’s first day of training is a lot like what you’d expect from the first day of any new job or career: mind-numbingly boring, with time going by way too slowly. It’s not what you’d have expected from the first day of a job that trains to fight against the impending apocalypse and its invaders.

 

General Jung and Lieutenant Min work like a well-oiled machine, however, showcasing and explaining their plans for how they’re planning on transforming the cadets into the super-soldiers they were promised to be within only a few months.

 

When Jimin had gotten an alarm on his VisTech, ringing so loud in his head that he nearly fell off his bunk (thank goodness he’s on the bottom one), he didn’t expect to be called to a conference room of all places. When Jimin arrived with a sleepy Ke in tow-- amongst the other grumbling recruits-- he pulled Ke to the back of the rows of seats, avoiding the sharp eyes of a certain individual as he begrudgingly sat down.

 

It’s almost strange, how Lieutenant Min and General Jung walk around the large space for the rest of the first day, pointing at a large digital screen and drawing figures and charts in the air with laserpens that leave the traces lingering in the air until one of them waves their hand to wash it away-- like they’re professors at some type of ‘university’, similar to one Jimin’s father had attended, back when the world still had those types of things two decades ago. Jimin wasn’t sure what he expected for the first day of training-- but it wasn’t this. He expected to go straight into physical training or something-- not go over rules and protocols and lesson plans.  

 

It seemed ridiculous at first, yes, but Jimin has to suppress his growing nerves when the two officers slowly reveal just how rigorous and brutal the whole thing seems.

 

And how they plan on introducing Special Upgrade units by showing off their own.

 

Well, Hoseok agreed to that plan, at least-- Lieutenant Min vehemently refused to show his. Odd, Jimin thought, that someone who seemed so rejoiced-- compared to their clearly usually-removed demeanor, at least-- to show the Special Upgrades Department and force the cadets to watch such graphic surgery on the first day of their arrival, would refuse to show off exactly what modifications he had had to himself. One meeting of the eyes from across the room and Jimin feels shame flood his face at the idea that the lieutenant clearly resorted to such a decision due to recent events. Maybe he thinks Jimin can’t handle it-- which in a way is a rather fair assumption, even if it does sting Jimin’s pride.

 

It seems to Jimin that Yoongi is a rather private individual, which he’s fine with-- Jimin is certain he wants nothing to do with the higher-ranked officer at the moment, especially not after the verbal beating he received from him on only his first day in the Shatterdome. He proceeds to flicker his gaze away every time those sharp eyes meet his-- Jimin doesn’t want to be publically humiliated again, thank you very much.

 

He still doesn’t really know what to make of that whole… episode that the lieutenant had had at dinner the night before. Jimin’s temper was usually quick and short-lived, so it wasn’t that he was necessarily angry anymore, just… confused. Uncomfortable, and maybe a little annoyed than he’s willing to admit to himself.

 

Lieutenant Min didn’t exactly seem to be awful all the time-- Jimin had seen first-hand last night how he acts with his ‘friends’, his comrades. Jimin also doesn’t understand the whole pompous use of titles-- it seems to him, especially after everything that occurred yesterday, that those in the Singularity Coalition don’t spend a lot of time actually considering the difference in rank between individuals.

 

All of those at the table in the dining hall had been pretty much completely different ranks, ranging from Hoseok’s General status to Jimin and Ke’s mere cadet titles. Friends just seemed to be… friends, and title seemed to only be something considered when working. So why is it that Yoongi prefers to be referred by his rank by Jimin so vehemently?

 

It’d be easy to believe that he’s just a stuck-up prick, but for some reason, that assumption just doesn’t sit well with Jimin. Not with how the others, who were much more familiar with him, reacted in such shocked concern at his outburst last night. Not with how Seokjin had shot Jimin an extra-apologetic look or had only an hour previous told Jimin that Yoongi was different from how he put off-- if Jimin can even trust the opinion of someone he just met, without considering how kind and open Seokjin had been with him almost immediately.

 

No, something tells him that Seokjin was right about Yoongi just being a little difficult to understand. Something tells Jimin that Seokjin was being honest with him when he said Yoongi isn’t exactly how he first shows himself to be-- but Jimin just doesn’t see it, and it’s starting to piss him off how the Lieutenant keeps glancing his way, like he’s on the edge of saying something but deciding differently at the last minute, delving back into his lecture on the next few months of training.

 

Jimin still can’t figure out why the hell he even cares. He doesn’t want anything to do with him, right?

 

He mentally curses his habit of being far too empathetic for his own good when Ke tugs on the sleeve of his shirt next to him. “Yo, JP, wake up,” Ke mutters under his breath, warm and pressed far too much into Jimin’s personal space. “Lieutenant Min keeps shooting you death glares.”

 

Jimin sighs. “You think I don’t know that already, Ke?” He wipes at his face in exasperation, pushing the man gently so that he unlatches from his arm. How is he even leaning so close with the arms of their seats in the way?

 

“Damn, JP, ain’t gotta be like that,” Ke scowls, leaning back hesitantly in a way that highlights the barely-there hurt in his voice. “I was just looking out for you since we’re friends and all now. Gotta stick it through together, right?”

 

Jimin frowns-- not so much at Ke’s blunt way of putting things (which he has, surprisingly enough, gotten accustomed to very quickly) but more so at how he himself is acting. Jimin isn’t usually one to push others away, even if they are new and barely past the point of being strangers, and especially not when they are as clearly so kind as Ke. It’s only occurring to Jimin now that he’s been acting… off, the last few weeks. Not the Jimin he usually is, not like himself-- he can’t really put a description to the feeling, but he knows something is different about his perspective of the world and those in it. He’s mildly surprised he has lacked the self-awareness to realize this until now-- he usually was the one to always know what he wants and feels.

 

Maybe this whole plan of enlistment that he and Taehyung had conjured up in desperation is affecting Jimin in more ways than he had anticipated.

 

“‘M sorry, Ke,” Jimin sighs, looping his arm around Ke’s and pulling him close. Contrary to how he acts externally, Jimin feels rather comfortable around Ke after such a short period of time. Maybe there’s something about being shoved into this meat locker of a Shatterdome and scrambling to get a strong footing in this new life that has made Jimin feel this way. Maybe he’s just been really desperate for a friendly face, seeing as Taehyung is in a completely different division and just slightly out of Jimin’s grasp for most of the day. “I know you didn’t mean it like that… I’m just… on edge.”

 

Ke relaxes, face curving into a shy smile that makes Jimin want to ruffle his hair for some reason. Ke’s gaze is fixed on the front of the room when he whispers, “‘Ts fine. Lunch is soon enough, and we can sit somewhere else, if you want. Just say the word.”

 

Jimin’s face heats-- maybe he’s more transparent with his worries than he thought. Or maybe Ke is just much better at reading people than Jimin had assumed, “No, it’s fine.”

 

He doesn’t say anything more, just idly watches and listens to General Jung’s excited babbling and Lieutenant Min’s low drawling. He pointedly tries to ignore the glances that Yoongi keeps shooting him, each one expressionless and guarded. It makes Jimin’s skin crawl with discomfort.

 

When lunch rolls around, he and Ke have to rush to the dining hall, gobble it down in ten minutes, not even considering sitting down with anyone else due to the time constraints. They run back to the conference room when they finish, and Jimin waves when he sees Seokjin passing by with a smile directed at them.

 

Ke trips over himself multiple times down the hall, and Jimin can’t help it when he starts playfully mocking him, feeling light-hearted from the short break from the suffocating room as he giggles when he and Ke start trying to trip each other on the way back.

 

His mood kills a little when they re-enter the room-- immediately going back into work mode, of course. However, Jimin can’t help but feel a little happy with his new, blossoming friendship, despite all the discomfort he feels when being reintroduced to the presence of a certain lieutenant.

 

When dinner rolls around, Jimin invites Ke to come meet Taehyung with him for dinner. Jimin isn’t exactly sure if he’s ready to go back to the dinner table with the others yet, despite Namjoon’s invitation the other night. He doesn’t have to express that to Ke verbally, however-- the man seems to get it all on his own, and politely declines Jimin’s offer, saying he doesn’t want to intrude.

 

It’s a bit weird, considering that Ke has been willing to intrude on just about every part of Jimin so far, but Jimin doesn’t question it-- just feels a little guilty. Maybe his sharp words to Ke earlier weren’t as easily forgotten as he had thought.

 

Dinner with Taehyung is… comfortable, in a way that Jimin didn’t realize just how much he had missed until now. Taehyung is sweet and kind and Jimin is reminded of just how much Ke is similar to him, even off of the short-term impression he has of his new friend.

 

Jimin can’t help but feel as if something has shifted in Taehyung, though-- a type of determinedness set in his deep brown eyes that Jimin is only just recently growing to recognize: ambition. Jimin feels it too, but for some reason, Taehyung’s seems… different.

 

He doesn’t spend too much time considering it, just revels in the long-missed presence of his best friend. Taehyung’s deep laugh is like music to Jimin’s ears, and he can literally feel himself being drawn out of the stunted emotions and guard he had subjected himself to over the past month without him.

 

Jimin feels like himself with Taehyung back in his life again and continues to feel that way over the next few weeks. He teases and jokes with Ke more often during their long training days, learning all the mental aspects of basic combat that he hadn’t even considered prior to being taught them.

 

There’s controlling your emotions and mentality in response to trauma, the basics of team dynamics, the key parts of attack plans and every way to avoid direct confrontation until absolutely necessary-- and the Others, the knowledge on the foreign species that the Singularity Coalition has gathered over the past two decades (and that is open access to those of their rather low rank, Jimin is sure of).

 

Jimin has to act shocked when General Jung unwittingly shows the cadets sketches of what the Others look like. He’s seen the real thing, but he isn’t about to delve deeper into those memories.

 

He pretends he doesn’t feel Lieutenant Min’s gaze on him when he nods along to Ke’s low remarks of horror and disbelief at the graphic images shown to them.

 

           

 

“What does JP134 know about the war, Hobi?” Yoongi asks nonchalantly, fidgeting with his work tablet. The cadets just left for the rest of the day, and Yoongi still hasn’t figured out to use this new model that Namjoon gave him, even three weeks into the new round of basic training sessions.

 

“I dunno, Yoongles,” Hoseok is messing around with his VisTech, and Yoongi has a sneaking suspicion that the distraction in his friend’s voice is not due to him filling out progress reports. “Why don’t you go ask him? Surely like to ogle him every day since training started, maybe he’d calm down and stop looking so damn tense when he finds out that that’s what you’re so fucking curious about.”

 

Yoongi stiffens and tries his best to ignore the guilt creeping up his chest.

 

Hoseok hums, and shoots Yoongi a knowing look, a small smirk twitching at the corner of his lips when he takes in Yoongi’s silence, “If that’s why you’re looking at him all the time, that is.”

 

Yoongi sighs in exasperation, ready to throw his tablet against the wall but instead gently placing it on the desk in the corner of the room. “It’s not like I haven’t considered apologizing, Hoseok. I just don’t have that capacity within me to do so.”

 

Hoseok snorts at that, the blinking of his VisTech stopping as he sets Yoongi with an unimpressed gaze. “We both know that that ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck’ attitude doesn’t work on me or any of your friends, Yoongi. You ought to just be upfront with what you’re feeling, even if I can’t help in the way you need,” Hoseok says, a shy smile tilting on his face despite the bluntness of his words. “Plus, it’s been three weeks since you roasted him in front of all of your mutual friends, maybe he already forgot--”

 

“What? So does that mean you’re JP134’s friend now, too? And everyone else? From what I recall, he blew up at me first,” Yoongi interjects, frowning. He knows he’s coming across as a petulant child, but tries to ignore that fact in hopes that he’ll get some helpful information on how exactly to approach the cadet and actually get his apology out before he dies from the guilt.

 

“We both know that you handled it wrong, regardless of who got mad first. And I’d like to add that we would be his friend, had you not scared him off so easily. According to Ke, Jimin has been going off and having dinner with one of Namjoon’s cadets ever since that first night. Looks like you missed your chance to really woo him, Yoongles--”

 

“I am not trying to woo anyone, asshole. I’m worried about all of my comrades,” Yoongi grunts, huffing in annoyance and maybe a little embarrassment-- the latter of which he’d never willingly admit to. “I just feel bad.” Yoongi’s shoulders slump in defeat, “I feel like I judged him only ‘cause…”

 

“The anniversary is coming up, yeah?” Hoseok asks hesitantly, and when Yoongi looks up he sees sadness in his friend’s eyes. It’s not pity, and Yoongi’s grateful once again for a friend like Hoseok.

 

Yoongi just nods in acknowledgment, and Hoseok continues, “Well, maybe you could tell him.” Yoongi shoots him an affronted look, and he’s sure that there must be horror on his expression because Hoseok quickly adds, “Or don’t. I don’t fucking know, make something up. We both know you only nitpicked at him because he’s from the First Bunker and you’re feeling like shit. Doesn’t mean that it was right, though-- title is important in a work setting, yes, and our cadets should know that and show respect, but during work-- not necessarily out of it. Publicly humiliating one just because you can’t get over your past isn’t the right way to teach them that.”

 

Yoongi is mildly hurt by Hoseok’s blunt way of putting it, but he agrees-- he took it too far. This isn’t the first time he’s snapped at someone like that, especially when around this time of year. It’s been a long time since his life changed completely from the war, and he doesn’t think he’s ever going to get over it. Regardless, all of that doesn’t mean he should subject practical strangers to the inner turmoil raging on within him. Well, not really practical strangers anymore-- Yoongi always gets a sense of familiarity quite quickly with the cadets in their squadron, even if he doesn’t say much of anything to some of them.

 

Maybe that’s why he’s been beating himself up over this-- a sense of camaraderie, however faint, established between comrades, regardless of rank. He had spent so much time worrying about how a particular cadet’s actions would affect the team in the future that he hadn’t paid enough attention to how his own would.

 

“You’re right, Seok,” Yoongi sighs, ignoring the numbness that is humming low within him, the gaping hole left by those of his past stretching wider before he forces it shut. “I should’ve handled it better. But that’s the problem… I don’t think how I said it was right, but what I said wasn’t necessarily wrong, either.”

 

Hoseok hums again, shifting to stand from where he’s leaning against the wall next to the projector screen, arms falling to his side once he uncrosses them. He seems to consider Yoongi’s words, or maybe he’s trying to recall the ones that he had used so harshly on Jimin three weeks ago, his eyes trained on Yoongi but not really seeing.

 

After a minute of this, Yoongi growing only a little impatient at the odd way that Hoseok always seems to consider things-- pinched brow and pouted lip as he stares off into space-- Hoseok’s eyes light up, refocusing onto Yoongi. “Nope, you’re wrong.”

 

Yoongi frowns, “That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna say? That I’m wrong? After all… that?” Yoongi gestures vaguely to the entirety of Hoseok.

 

Hoseok regards him coolly despite the warm smile on his lips, “Of course. You threw Jimin’s bunker number into his face like it was something to be ashamed of, and then you proceeded to tell him that this war is ‘kill or be killed’. You were wrong.”

 

Yoongi is at a loss for words for only a moment before he collects himself. He’s not angry, per say, just… taken aback. “And why is what I said wrong? Aren’t we training them to do just that-- to kill, so that they aren’t in turn?”

 

Hoseok’s smile drops, and he walks forward into Yoongi’s personal space. Yoongi doesn’t flinch, however-- he knows that Hoseok won’t touch him. None of his friends try that anymore except for Seokjin, and that’s just because he’s… well… he’s Seokjin. “I thought that after all these years, you’d get it, Yoongi. That you of all people would get it.”

 

“Get what, Hoseok?”

 

“Get that everyone deals with war differently. All of us deal with trauma differently,” Hoseok pauses, eyes flickering over the guarded expression that Yoongi has drawn up in an effort to not show just how much Hoseok’s words affect him, even if they have no ill intent. “Not all of us need to kill to cope. We train our cadets to do so only if they need to, not if they want to. It’s for survival-- nothing more, nothing less. We’re not here to continue the war, or to win it, we’re here to live through it. To make it out the other end and breathe without the Others watching us.”

 

Hoseok walks to the door past Yoongi-- being careful not to brush against him in any way, Yoongi notes, “And from the looks of Cadet Park Jimin, he isn’t gonna wanna touch a weapon with a ten-foot pole, or receive a Special Upgrade voucher, from what you told me happened his first day here. And I think that you were wrong to assume that that’s because he’s from the First Bunker. You’re not a judgmental prick, Yoongi, but you definitely acted like one that day.”

 

He glances back at Yoongi one last time, noting his silence with that same warm smile he always gives, “Park Jimin doesn’t seem like a dumbass to me, Yoongi. His test results were some of the strongest for loyalty and intelligence, and I’d like to believe that him being from the First Bunker has nothing to do with why he nearly fainted in the Special Upgrades Department. Maybe that’s what you ought to ask him about when you grow a pair and decide to talk to him.”

 

And with that, Hoseok presses his hand to the passlock next to the door, letting it slide open before he leaves, a pep in his step as always. His words are not lost on Yoongi, even if they did burn a little bit.

 

           

 

It’s a month into his time in the SC Bionics that Jimin has his first day of physical training.

 

It starts like most things in his life have been since walking off that porter ship that brought him to this steel island in the middle of nowhere: unexpectedly.



“JP, JP,” An oddly familiar voice whispers into Jimin’s ear, a tug on his arm followed. “Wake the fuck up, JP, Lieutenant Min is down the hall.”

 

Jimin wakes up slowly, blinking his sleep away with heavy lids. He’s sweating profusely, his body unbelievably sore with tension, hair sticking in loose, wet strands to his forehead and the nape of his neck. It occurs to Jimin-- like a creeping thought in the back of his mind-- that he had another nightmare last night. He doesn’t remember it this time, but that’s probably for the best-- he’s all too familiar with the small collection of painful memories that his imagination likes to pull from.

 

More tugging on his arm and Jimin lazily turns his gaze to Ke, who is looking down at him with wide, nervous eyes. “Ke, stop fucking pulling on me--”

 

“JP, Lieutenant Min is--”

 

“Rise and fucking shine, recruits!” Loud banging on one side of the room, followed by collective groans of annoyance echoing in the dorm room. Jimin hears creaking on the side of his bunk and realizes that Ke just ditched him to probably line up.

 

Jimin raises himself up, head lolling to one side on his bared shoulder. He freezes, wide awake as he realizes that that’s what Ke was warning about: it’s long past the time to get up and get ready for training, and Jimin is laying amongst his tossed up, damp sheets in a sweaty t-shirt and his fucking boxers.

 

He just wonders why Lieutenant Min is here in the flesh to retrieve them, instead of just calling for them on their VisTechs.

 

Jimin feels a chill run down his back, his blurry vision gaining clarity after a few seconds. Sharp eyes, bags heavy under them, are suddenly in his periphery, staring down at him with an unimpressed glare.

 

“I see not everyone is ready for today’s training regime, Cadet JP134. Maybe if you had spent less time sleeping, you’d have time to appear before your higher-ranking officer with…” Yoongi’s eyes trail down the slope of Jimin’s chest, stopping at where his white tee is hiked up over his abdomen, sweat glistening along his light happy trail. His frown deepens, eyes flickering back up to meet Jimin’s.  “A more fitting attire. I suggest you get up, JP134, or else this day is going to be much worse than it already has started to be for you.”

 

Jimin is too embarrassed to say anything, so he just nods, his face on fire as he tosses his sheets to the side and quickly dresses in the uniform that is folded under his bunk. He senses all the eyes of the other recruits on him the entire time, but it’s one pair that really has him feeling like an idiot so early in the morning.

 

He’s usually one of the first up, but sleep didn’t come to him easily last night, even if he turned in first. It’s not like he asked to toss and turn all night, waking up several times in a cold sweat-- sometimes it just happens like that. Jimin knows what triggers the nightmares, but he’s not going to think about that right now, especially not with the rapidly rising sense of panic washing him awake and startled.

 

Footsteps trail away from him, and he lets himself breathe for the first time that morning.

 

“I’m going to be completely honest with you, cadets-- today’s training is going to be brutal. You’re going to wish you had stayed in your homes, wish you had never signed up for the Singularity Coalition,” Yoongi’s voice rings clear and confident, not a hint of the fatigue that Jimin saw under his eyes present in his voice. Jimin looks up, only to see that the Lieutenant’s eyes are still on him, like he was talking to him directly. “But that’s alright, it’s a part of the program.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes shift from Jimin’s to meet the other recruits in the room, eyes lingering on a nervous Ke in some type of acknowledgment-- Jimin is reminded that Ke has been eating dinner with the lieutenant and his comrades for a month-- before he continues speaking. “If you can’t survive the regime that General Jung and I have developed for the Guerilla Squad, then you don’t belong in the SC Bionics. It’s as simple as that, and those who don’t belong are picked out quickly-- so while we won’t waste your time, you won’t waste ours, either. All the training in the past month is a failsafe so that even if you can’t handle us, you can be transferred to a different, more vanilla division for your tastes. Maybe further in the back, with all the other soldiers too scared to be in the close vicinity of hell incarnate.”

 

Jimin shuffles to the front of his bunk, now fully dressed, and stands next to Ke, who shoots him a sorry look. Jimin pats his shoulder, letting him know that he understands that Ke tried to get him up earlier. He’s just... a really heavy sleeper.

 

“I’m now going to lead you to the training grounds, recruits. Breakfast isn’t served until about three hours from now, but that’s preferred-- exercise on an empty stomach hikes up your metabolism and focus,” Jimin looks at Yoongi again, noticing that the Lieutenant’s gaze is quickly flickering away, like he didn’t want to be caught. Despite his tone and daunting words, Jimin thought he saw a flash of hesitation in those eyes. “Follow me, recruits. And try not to wake up the other divisions, their days don’t start until an hour or so from now.”

 

The smile on Yoongi’s face could be considered almost sadistic as he sharply turns on his heel, striding out the room with a straight back and yet slumped shoulders, an uncomfortable-looking demeanor for someone with such confident words, like he’s curling in on himself with each step.

 

Lieutenant Min is one peculiar character.





“Faster!” The Lieutenant shouts. Jimin can see that his jaw is clenched in frustration. “Run faster, recruits!”

 

They’ve been running for an hour already, and if Jimin thought that his body was sore this morning, it’s nothing compared to his screaming muscles now.

 

Lieutenant Min wasn’t kidding-- this regime fucking sucks. Breakfast already started thirty minutes ago, but Yoongi is making them take countless laps around the large outdoor track of the training ground, all because when Yoongi had tried to show some recruit named Zhe Xiang-- SC I.D. XZ448, he had reminded Yoongi with anger in his eyes-- how to properly wield a boot knife, the newbie had grown so frustrated at Yoongi’s blunt, but awfully true, criticism that he threw the knife to the other side of the room, nearly nailing Ke in the head before the sharp blade planted itself into the wall of the training room.

 

The training room, which was heated and warm, and had a bunch of weird weapons that Jimin has never seen before and that Ke was itching to maybe to try out-- the latter of which Jimin could not relate or understand, considering his friend had nearly been nailed in the head with one just earlier that morning. The training room, which they were shoved out of to run laps around this stupid fucking track an hour ago, where the cold morning air is currently blasting through him, scraping his lungs like claws and making him shiver with every foot forward.


“XZ448-- do you regret almost injuring your fellow comrade KL427 yet?” Yoongi shouts, breath only slightly staggered as he runs, too. That’s another strange thing about the Lieutenant-- he had assigned this punishment for Xiang’s actions, yet joined with the recruits when they reached the track. When the recruits had stared at him in bewilderment, Yoongi had simply said “we are a team” and started jogging along, gesturing back with his hand to tell the recruits to start.

 

Maybe he joined because he’s bored. Or maybe he joined because he knows that he can handle it. Jimin won’t lie when he said the action has left him stunned, reminding him of the Lieutenant’s harsh but honest words that night a month ago at dinner-- this Lieutenant Min really takes teamwork seriously.

 

“Yes! Yes, I fuc--” Xiang pants, cutting himself off before he really offends the Lieutenant, “Yes, Lieutenant YM340! I regret it!” Jimin doesn’t miss the way that Xiang shoots Ke a toxic glare-- is this dude serious? Is he really putting the blame on Ke?

 

Jimin is about to dash forward and knock Xiang up the head for giving his new friend such an affronting look, not caring if they have to run a hundred more laps, when Yoongi calls for all of them to round up.

 

When they all run to the Lieutenant-- Jimin now very conscious of how much his shirt is sticking to his chest uncomfortably in the sweltering heat-- Yoongi hands them all water, a pleased grin on his face. Jimin tries not to notice how his black hair clings to his forehead, a stark contrast to the deep rosy flush on the Yoongi’s usually-pale cheeks.

 

“Head to the cafeteria, cadets. You’ve got thirty minutes to eat, and then I expect you back in the training room so I can start your lessons on sparring,” Yoongi orders, gesturing for them to leave with a lazy wave of his hand. His eyes land on Jimin’s, face expressionless but tone warning, “Don’t be late. I’m harsher when people are late.” Oh, Jimin understands that after his rude awakening too well, now.

 

Jimin is about to reply snarkily, still a little pissed and embarrassed over this morning’s events as well as those a month ago (he’s not usually one to hold grudges, but Yoongi has done nothing to show he’s sorry for his cruel words, and Jimin is exhausted and irritated), when Ke comes up to his side, tugging on his sleeve hard enough to cause Jimin’s shoulder to nearly pop out the head opening.

 

“Jeez, Ke, rip my fucking clothes, why don’t you?” Jimin scowls at Ke, shoving his hands off so he can pull up the now-stretched sleeve of his shirt. He turns to continue his death stare with Yoongi, when he notices that the Lieutenant is already walking away, his back turned.

 

Jimin’s eyes are trailing down the slope of Yoongi’s broad shoulders when Ke shoves at his shoulder again. “Are you checking out the Lieutenant or some shit, JP?” Jimin’s head snaps to Ke, not able to hide his shock.

 

Ke really does have no filter.

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing, Ke,” Jimin answers honestly, wiping at his damp forehead with his sleeve before heading towards the cafeteria, Ke by his side. “I’m just really hungry, and it’s as hot as hell out here--”

 

“You were! You were totally checking out the Lieutenant!” Ke laughs, smacking Jimin on the back playfully. Jimin frowns, rolling his eyes. “What, JP? You got a shaming kink or something? If so, then I definitely think that Lieutenant Min is the man for you--”

 

“I was not, Ke!” Jimin huffs, pushing his clingy friend off. He’s not blushing, and if he is, it’s because he’s so frustrated by the confusing way that Yoongi flips from being cold and brash to… well, a different kind of cold and brash.

 

Jimin is so busy berating himself for his thoughts making no sense at all when he notices that Ke has stopped in his tracks. When Jimin looks up, he thinks he sees hurt flash across Ke’s face before it smooths out. It takes him a second to realize that Ke might have misinterpreted his horror at the idea of liking someone such as Lieutenant Min being due to something other than only Jimin’s first impressions of the officer.

 

“Not that there’s anything wrong with liking another man,” Jimin adds hurriedly, reaching forward to grab Ke’s hand. “My two closest friends are gay. And I’m not saying that I’d be… like, closed off to it. I just…” Jimin doesn’t know what he’s even saying right now, why he’s so honest with someone he only met a month ago. But there’s something about Ke that just makes Jimin want to be truthful with him, trusting enough to share his deepest thoughts with him-- Jimin doesn’t know what it is.  He should really stop dismissing his friendship with Ke, he thinks idly to himself, “...Yeah. I don’t think about that kind of stuff often, is all. I don’t really see the need to label it, if that makes sense.”

 

Something like understanding glints in his friend’s eyes. The look is quickly replaced by an apologetic type of sincerity, “I didn’t mean to piss you off, JP. I was only teasing, wasn’t trying to assume your… sexuality, or anything,” Ke says, face tilting into a small smile, relief evident on his face. “‘M glad you aren’t… judgy about that. I didn’t think, and just… yeah.” Well, that confirmed Jimin’s sneaking suspicion for the look of hurt that had crossed Ke’s face at his words only a few moments ago. “I only risked teasing you in the first place ‘cause you seem more open than those from the First Bunker. Turns out, I was right--”

 

“What’s this thing about me being from the First Bunker, anyways? What does it even matter if I’m from there? Why does everyone keep treating me like I’m some close-minded douchebag? It’s been a month and no one has bothered to tell me,” Jimin sighs, dropping Ke’s hand gingerly and starting to walk forward again.

 

Despite his words, he’s not necessarily mad that people are acting this way towards him-- not anymore, at least. He’s grown used to it over the last month, and considering how he started his time at the SC Bionics, he can’t help but feel their judgment isn’t necessarily ill-placed. Jimin is used to similar treatment from when he lived at home-- except, back then, the reality was flipped. Jimin was the one who was “radical” and “too into the outside world”, where his neighbors and family were the ones shut in and blissfully ignorant.

 

He is completely different from every other recruit besides Taehyung, even far-off from the likes of Ke. Jimin doesn’t fit in. He isn’t surprised that others noticed that and commented on it.

 

Jimin is only mildly disappointed that he’s been so easily placed in a box by the vast majority of those who are supposed to be his comrades. It seems he’ll never be able to really escape the judgment of others, whether they’re in the walls of the First Bunker or out of them.

 

Ke rushes closer, back at Jimin’s side as they stride to the dining hall, “I just heard that folk from your Bunker are kind of… closed off from everyone else, JP. I didn’t want to bring it up, seeing as we’ve only been friends for a couple of weeks. Didn’t wanna upset you.” That surprises Jimin, and once again he’s reminded that Ke is definitely better at reading others than he had originally assumed of him.

 

Ke must notice the hesitation on Jimin’s face because he elaborates. “I heard stuff like… like that you lot shut yourself out and tried to… revert back to an older version of society, when the First Wave hit twenty years ago. That’s what my parents told me, at least. They’re Chinese hippies, though, so they’re kind of judgmental about the whole old-ways shit--”

 

“Revert?” Jimin repeats Ke’s word, furrowing his brow in his contemplation. He takes a few moments to mull over Ke’s words before continuing, “I mean, I guess we did, in a way. I just didn’t think that when I came to the surface, I’d have so many people… assuming stuff about me,” Jimin sighs, glancing at Ke. “Do I really appear to be close-minded and shallow, Ke?” Jimin had hoped he’d fit in, even if that thought now is quite naive now that he reconsiders it. Maybe he’d belong somewhere else, he had thought back then while signing his enlistment papers next to Taehyung, maybe somewhere that isn’t within these metal walls.

 

Ke shakes his head immediately, looking at Jimin with what seems akin to guilt in his eyes. “No, JP. You don’t seem that I way, I think people just let their biases get the better of them. Neither do you after knowing you more over the past month. I just heard your bunker number, and couldn’t get my parents’ words out my head. There’s a lot of…” Ke’s eyes flicker with hesitation, like he isn’t sure how to choose his words. “There’s a lot of anger towards the people in your Bunker, JP.”

 

“Why exactly, though? I know I appear different without all the skin mods and everything, but I didn’t do anything wrong.” Most of everyone else sure made him feel like he did, though. Jimin has always had his appearance judged by others-- why would now be any different?

 

“It’s not what you did, JP. It’s the generation before you, and what they refused to do,” Ke sighs, but not out of exasperation or irritation at Jimin’s distinct lack of knowledge, Jimin hopes-- it sounds like he’s sighing from how heavy the words he’s saying seem. It must be awkward for Ke to tell Jimin these kinds of things, but Jimin finds he wouldn’t want to hear it from anyone else.

 

“I’m not sure I’m following, Ke,” Jimin offers, noticing that they’re close to the dining hall already. It’s already been about ten minutes, so they’re going to have barely any time to eat breakfast.

 

“Out of all the Bunkers in Asia, yours has continually refused to help in the efforts of the war. They even reject refugees, and just started allowing civilians like you to enlist a year ago, several years behind everyone else. They just…”

 

“Would rather pretend like nothing is happening?” Jimin offers, knowing only now what Ke is trying to get at. Jimin had been aware for a long time that his Bunker isn’t very proactive in the efforts of the war, according to his parents’ own words-- he just didn’t realize that his parents would be lying when they told him that the rest of the world was the same. Jimin didn’t realize just how warped the view of his home is to the outside world, just how…

 

Different.

 

But he knows now that he should’ve, if the way that his childhood had played out-- if how his neighbors ignoring his night terrors in favor of maintaining blissful ignorance was any indication. Maybe some part of Jimin just hoped it wasn’t true. Maybe some part of him hoped that he would come out of the First and see that everyone was just as afraid of the outside world that his family and bunk neighbors were.

 

Jimin realizes now that he had kept a bit of blissful ignorance for himself, despite his futile attempts at avoiding just that.

 

“Yeah, JP. It’s like The Others don’t even matter--” Ke cuts himself off when he notices the way that Jimin minutely tenses. It’s almost comical, how in only a month’s time, Ke has learned to catch when Jimin is trying to hide something.

 

Ke’s eyes flicker with understanding, even if Jimin knows that Ke probably really couldn’t ever truly understand. Not yet, at least, “Have you… have you seen one before, JP?”

 

Jimin doesn’t say anything, just drags Ke to the food line in the dining hall to grab something-- anything-- to eat. When they grab a few snack bars and some drinks and start heading back to the training room, is when Jimin decides to speak up again, swallowing down the dry nutritional bar before hesitantly opening his mouth.

 

“Yeah, Ke,” Jimin mutters, taking a sip of water to make the grossly fruity taste in his mouth go away-- is that… mango? “I saw one, once.”

 

Ke quirks his brows at that but otherwise tries to hide his shock. He shoves his entire breakfast bar into his mouth, chewing obnoxiously and following it with several loud gulps of what looks to be orange juice before he turns to Jimin. “And you… you survived? Seeing an Other?”

 

Jimin notes how Ke doesn’t point out how he had blatantly lied to everyone about being just as ignorant on the matter as they all seemed to be during the last months’ worth of intel training-- Jimin is thankful for Ke’s understanding on the clear sensitivity of the subject. Maybe that’s why people don’t seem to completely trust him-- maybe his habit of hiding his memories of the past due to being largely ignored by those supposed to be close to him when he was younger has finally come back to bite him in the ass?

 

“Yeah, I survived,” Jimin sighs, twisting the cap on his water again and throwing the wrappers of his multiple breakfast bars away. He was hungry earlier-- ravenous, even-- but now they’re settling weirdly in his stomach. Maybe it’s the mangoes.

 

Or it’s the foul taste in his mouth when he recalls that traumatizing experience of his childhood, a little blurry but a lot significant-- significant enough to plague his sleep, even to this day.

“How?” Ke asks, hesitant to push but always curious. Jimin doesn’t mind, for some reason-- no one besides Taehyung has ever bothered to ask, the rest of those in his friends or family from back home always choosing to ignore the truth in an effort to protect themselves from the horrors of the outside world.

 

It occurs to Jimin now that Lieutenant Min was dead-on accurate about his sentiments about the nature of the First Bunker, if not about all the remarks he sent Jimin’s way.

 

“I don’t know if right now is the right time to discuss that, Ke,” Jimin says, and Ke looks at him apologetically, pursing his lips and adding some distance between them. Jimin reaches out, grabbing at Ke’s wrist, “No, Ke. It’s okay, I’m not… I’m not upset or scared to tell you. I know we’ve only been friends for a little while, and maybe it’s a little strange for what I’m used to, but I… I trust you. And it’s… it’s not that big of a deal, anyway. Or at least, I try to not make it that way.” Jimin smiles at Ke reassuringly, and Jimin finds it kind of… funny. Funny how he’s the one consoling Ke about something that is a significant and awful part of Jimin’s past.

 

It’s that something about Ke-- his authentic kindness radiates in every one of his actions, even if his words have often thrown Jimin for a complete loop in the weeks since he’s met him.

 

“That’s fine, JP. ‘M not one to rush or anything. And don’t be surprised at trusting me already-- I told you we’d hit it off, right out the gates!” Ke exclaims, slinging an arm around Jimin’s shoulders, glee on his face. “We’re gonna be great friends-- hell, even are, already! And you don’t have to worry about telling me, I’m just a little… nosey,” Ke says, smiling sheepishly.

 

“You’re a lot more than just nosey, Ke, but I’m not complaining,” Jimin laughs, shoving playfully at Ke so that his arm falls from around Jimin’s shoulders.

 

Ke’s face turns into one of mock offense, “‘M hurt, JP-- I thought we were the best of friends, already--”

 

“You’ll have to fight Taehyung for that spot, Ke.” Jimin can’t stop the grin on his face-- even if Ke is a bit of a handful, he’s really fun to banter with. “He’s reigning supreme at first place.”

 

“You can have more than just one best friend,” Ke scoffs, lower lip pouted as he and Jimin walk through the doors of the training room, several cadets already back. “I’ll just be your other best friend.”

 

“That’s not even how the word ‘best’ works, dumbass.” Jimin rolls his eyes mockingly, dragging Ke along by the wrist to the side of the room, where the recruits are standing by and waiting for the break to end.

 

“God, I knew you were a fucking smartass, JP. Probably get off on being right--” Jimin pinches Ke’s arm, causing the man to recoil back and look positively affronted by Jimin’s existence, “Ow, JP. I didn’t know you had a thing for pain, too. That Lieutenant Min really is the one for--”

 

“Lieutenant Min is the one for what, KL427?” He slowly drags his eyes from Ke, bantering long forgotten as he’s met with Yoongi’s sharp gaze, under-eyes still heavy and dark, indicating his fatigue, but his appearance otherwise suspicious.

 

Jimin has forgotten how to breathe.

 

Yoongi is standing there expectantly, now fully dressed in that same itchy, black exosuit that they had forced Jimin and the other recruits into nearly every day since arriving. Seeing him in this getup-- standing like a soldier instead of how he was earlier, running along in sweats with the other recruits and smiling--  reminds Jimin that he’s the same officer that said such harsh words to him and still has yet to apologize, even if they were all true.

 

Jimin wishes he’d just express some regret at how the whole yelling match a month ago had gone down-- he’s so tired of feeling tense during training.

 

“N-Nothing, Lieutenant YM430, I was just…” Ke’s eyes dart between Jimin and Yoongi, unsure how to get out of this suddenly awful situation. “I was just teasing JP here, nothing to worry about. Let’s start train--”

 

“Teasing, hm? Is that so?” Yoongi quirks a brow, unreadable gaze shifting to Jimin, “Is that true, JP134?”

 

Jimin instinctively straightens his back, raising his head proudly as he stares right back. “Yes. Ke is just being an ass, I’m sure you can understand.” Jimin has to fight back a flinch at his own words-- he didn’t mean for all of that to come out.

 

The thing is, after a month of long nights in his bunk, staring at the bed above him and having late-night considerations of his life so far, Jimin can safely say that he’s definitely not angry at Lieutenant Min. Not anymore, that is-- annoyed maybe, yes, but not truly hateful.

 

There just isn’t enough time or energy to harbor hatred towards someone like that-- he learned that lesson long ago.

 

Jimin isn’t really one to hold onto his anger for very long-- not since he was much younger, at the very least. Since growing into adulthood and being able to contemplate the traumas of his childhood, he’s tried to maintain the philosophy that while he reserves the right to snap at people if they piss him off, it’s best for his personal health if he just gets over the things that bother him as soon as possible, lest they add to his long list of reasons why he loses sleep, too. It’s why he’s so quick to forgive and forget, as long as the other party properly apologizes (which he is quick to remind himself that a certain Lieutenant hasn’t done, but Jimin isn’t sure he should even expect one, at this point).

 

What Jimin can’t stand, however, is being pushed around-- he experienced enough of that back home, and he came here for a multitude of reasons, but a new start was one he held to his chest closely. There’s something about the Lieutenant always glancing at him, expression unreadable, and now trying to call them out-- it sets Jimin off in every wrong way, all over again.

 

The room goes dead silent at the double-meaning behind Jimin’s words, and he’s pretty sure that he’s going to get scolded again--

 

But Yoongi just cracks a smirk, eyes lazily flickering between Jimin’s. If Jimin wasn’t blushing before-- not used to the playful nature of the sexual innuendos that Ke throws his way-- then he definitely is now.

 

This is all so confusing.

 

“Fair enough, JP134. I think I might have deserved that,” Yoongi says, wetting his lips in a way that makes some part of Jimin want to punch him-- or something -- out of his sudden frustrated confusion at the officer’s unexpected reaction. Yoongi steps back, averting his eyes from Jimin and gesturing to the other cadets, “Anyone else want to take a crack at me? I won’t hold it against you. A month ago you were civilians, now you are soldiers-- if you feel the need to criticize me or my teaching techniques, please feel free. We are a team, afterall.”

 

No one speaks up, not even Xiang, who looks like he was going to until Yoongi mentioned the ‘team’ thing. Yoongi smiles wider, his gums showing, and Jimin wants to punch him a little less. Ke nudges him in the side, and when Jimin glances at him, Ke winks.

 

Jimin sighs tiredly. This is going to be a long four years.

 

“I’m glad,” Yoongi nods, like he expected that exact response of silence. His eyes land back on Jimin, “Thank you for your criticism, JP134.” Jimin doesn’t know how to react to that smile being directed at him.

 

“Okay!” Yoongi starts again, turning his back and going to the center of the room, hands clasped behind his back as he looks around the room. “Hmmm, I think that we ought to start with some basic weapon wielding, as long as XZ448 tries his best to not kill KL427.” Yoongi turns around to smirk at Xiang, who is red in the face and glaring angrily at Ke.

 

Jimin’s hands are twitching at his sides, and Ke seems to notice from next to him, shooting Jimin a placating look before Ke plasters a tense smile across his face, “I’ll make sure to dodge if he does, Lieutenant Min!”

 

Yoongi turns his gaze to Ke, his lips twitching into a pursed smile as he nods like he approves of Ke’s answer. The Lieutenant’s face quickly molds into a serious one only a second later, and then he’s gesturing to the cadets to come forward.

 

How is Lieutenant Min so… different, even from just yesterday? He’s like a completely different person-- teasing and smiley, whereas yesterday, and largely for the past month he seemed like he wanted nothing more but to remove himself from their company as quickly as possible, like he despised the grueling hours of presentation slides and lecturing (which Jimin can’t really blame him for, now that he considers it). The bags under his eyes are so much darker, but somehow, he’s… cheerier? Brighter?

 

It occurs to Jimin now that Yoongi has been different lately, not just today-- not shooting Jimin nearly as many ‘looks’ and snorting in amusement when Hoseok continued his often teasing remarks during training. His attitude change just hasn’t been that… obvious, until now.

 

Jimin spends the rest of training utterly confused, catching himself staring at Lieutenant Min multiple times, only to be poked and prodded at mockingly by Ke.

 

What makes Lieutenant Min tick?

 

Jimin can only wonder.

Chapter Text

“Okay, cadets, that’s all for today,” Yoongi announces, cracking his knuckles before he wipes at his brow. He actually worked up a bit of a sweat today-- these new recruits aren’t as awful as the last batch of ex-civilians.

 

Not that it really matters-- all the ones that remain at the end of his and Hoseok’s training regime go on to better things after their time spent here-- the guerilla squad requires some of the most training out of other squads in the SC Bionics, but a hidden operations team doesn’t really have much room for public growth, aside from adding to a soldier’s repertoire of ‘things one can’t discuss’.

 

“Same time tomorrow morning, here in the training room. Go get some dinner, good work today.” Dinner still isn’t due to be served for another hour, but the dismissal still earns a few exhausted smiles from most of the cadets, who shuffle past Yoongi immediately to leave.

 

Yoongi goes to the corner of the room, picking up his water bottle and dunking half the thing onto his face, wiping at his eyes to try and see again. He hates the fact that it’s been a whole year since he’s gotten Lieutenant as a rank and Hoseok still makes him wear this exosuit in the middle of training. Yoongi has gotten away with only having to put it on after breakfast, when Hoseok is most likely to show up, but still-- this polyester is itchy and suffocating, and any moment spent shoved into it is a moment that Yoongi is sweating too much.

 

His eyes flicker up, meeting a certain cadet’s eyes. Park Jimin is standing next to his fellow recruit and the newest resident to Yoongi’s dinner table, Ke. He’s staring at Yoongi with a pensive look, like he’s trying to figure something out-- and Yoongi doesn’t like it. He knows it’s a bit hypocritical of him to feel uncomfortable now, considering the last month-- but Yoongi had been avoiding the cadet’s eye ever since his conversation with Hoseok. He thought that his avoidance was enough of admittance of silent defeat and apology. Just that was a big step for Yoongi, who is often too painstakingly shy and prideful to admit he was wrong-- he is all too aware of this tendency of his, unfortunately. He was hoping that they could just go to ignoring the whole thing entirely, and just be teammates. Comrades.

 

Nothing more, nothing less.

 

But the recruit has been staring repeatedly over the last several hours of training, and Yoongi has been trying to ignore it for the most part, but he can’t be bothered now that they’re all done for the day. So he stares back, giving him the best-unimpressed glare that Yoongi can muster.  

 

Jimin, to Yoongi’s surprise, refuses to look away.

 

Yoongi won’t lie-- he’s in a good mood today. Has been ever since Hoseok gave him some much-needed tough love, which he has always responded well to. It gave him the clarity of mind that he often couldn’t muster for himself, always letting anxiety overcome him and make him overthink the smallest of issues in his life.

 

He visited Namjoon during his breakfast and lunch break, and finally got the intel report of the week on any changes in the upper divisions of the SC Bionics. It’s a tedious task, but it lets Yoongi know about the possibility of new special upgrade vouchers open for grabs in the future-- and that’s an additional reason why Yoongi has been feeling on the up-and-up all day long.

 

He’s tired as hell, of course, getting literally no sleep last night-- which isn’t too unexpected, if he’s honest with himself-- his fear of dreaming clouding his mind like it always does when he’s stuck in a rut in life. Or, when things are looking down, and Yoongi has ‘crashed’, like how Seokjin had said a month ago and nearly every one of his check-ups since then-- whatever the hell that means, exactly, Yoongi doesn’t want to consider.

 

“Do you have a question, Cadet JP134? Want some water?” Yoongi walks up to the cadet, toweling at his wet hair as he offers Jimin an unopened bottle.

 

Jimin’s cheeks are red from exertion when he nods wordlessly, accepting the water from Yoongi.

 

When their fingers brush, Yoongi barely suppresses a flinch-- he forgot that he took off his gloves earlier in the training when he didn’t have to help the cadets wield their bowie knives anymore and could go back to staying an arms-length away.

 

He turns away briskly, going back to his corner of the training room to gather the rest of his belongings, most notably his gloves and the digital tablet that has all his training plans on it.

 

Ironic, is the word that Yoongi’s friends so frequently use to describe how he often can’t stand the feeling of another’s skin on his, yet still works as a Close-Combat specialist and trainer.

 

It’s that extra layer of polyester and leather that usually makes him forget the warmth of another human, and it’s the distinct lack of that that has Yoongi frowning deeply now. He doesn’t want to touch anyone, especially not a cadet like Park Jimin, even if he bears no ill will against the man, really-- just… guilt. And maybe a little apprehension. Or a lot. Yoongi just figures that if there’s anyone he wishes he could willingly touch but just can’t, it’d be those he holds dearest to him, not someone who he can barely hold a conversation with.

 

He can’t help but frown at the lingering itch left on his hand where the cadet’s fingertips brushed his-- if there’s anything that Yoongi hates more than this, though, it’s a misunderstanding.

 

He turns to see the two cadets, murmuring quietly to one another much like they had been when he had come back after breakfast earlier in the day. He raises a brow at that, but he isn’t curious-- Yoongi doesn’t have time to listen to gossip. He’s got to go meet up with Seokjin and get his routine psychological evaluation, the notification having popped up in his VisTech this morning during his earlier visit to Namjoon’s lab.

 

Seokjin was never one to joke around about these kinds of things.

 

Yoongi leaves abruptly to Seokjin’s medical ward, not bothering to wave goodbye to the cadets. Maybe it’s a little rude, but Yoongi has a strong feeling that the two cadets don’t want him interrupting their conversation or associating with them… especially after his harsh words to a certain Park Jimin. Yoongi has a feeling that his silent admittance to defeat wasn’t enough for the cadet, nor his light-hearted teasing this morning. He isn’t sure what else he can do.

 

He cringes at the thought-- Seokjin and Hoseok had been right once again. Yoongi doesn’t necessarily regret all his words to the cadet, and he definitely wants to apologize for the strong majority of them after considering it for a while. But to do so… verbally? It’s been many years since Yoongi last physically saw his family, but their constant reappearance in his nightmares around this time of year isn’t a very helpful factor in making him an… amicable individual.

 

More often than not, Yoongi shuts himself in and succumbs to his growing social anxiety this time of year. The only two things that draw him out are Seokjin and his job. Scratch that, make it three-- he needs food, too.

 

Thinking about Seokjin makes Yoongi walk a little faster, not wanting a lecture from his older friend on the importance of punctuality (even though he often gives just that lecture to his recruits). When he reaches the door of the medical ward, briefly placing his hand on the passlock before he enters, he’s met with the pleased smile of his friend.

 

Seokjin always greets him like that, even if Yoongi is going to receive a verbal berating for his tardiness.

 

Yoongi hasn’t always been like this. Maybe he pushes most people away because he’s afraid of losing them, or maybe he’s just forced himself into this state of mind to run away from his problems. Even though he relies a lot on his oldest friend-- their friendship somehow different from all the others Yoongi holds dear-- Seokjin’s touch, Seokjin’s words, and Seokjin’s reassurance can’t erase the pain of Yoongi’s past.

 

As he sits down in the chair across from said friend, Yoongi briefly considers that he isn’t sure if anything ever will.

 

          

 

“Are you gonna come to dinner with us, Ke?” Jimin asks, walking next to his friend down the halls of the Shatterdome. Training is over for the day, and Jimin is exhausted-- but also sort of fulfilled. And maybe a little confused, after his staring contest with Lieutenant Min, whose hands were cold and much too soft for a seasoned soldier.

 

“Uh, no, JP. ‘M actually gonna go hit the showers before curfew,” Ke responded, averting his eyes from Jimin in like of fidgeting with an old-fashioned wrist-watch that Jimin is only just now noticing, the face of it a picture of delicately painted peach blossoms. A bit odd, to wear something that looks so delicate during battle training.

 

Jimin shakes his head to refocus back on the conversation. “But shower time is usually after dinner, yeah? Why not just go then? I thought you said you wanted to meet Taehyung finally.” Jimin frowns-- he thinks the two would really hit it off as friends, even more so than he and Ke had so easily done.

 

“Yeah,” Ke sighs, meeting Jimin’s eyes with a bright smile that somehow doesn’t seem very fitting for the rather mundane chat, “I’m just feeling gross after training all day is all, JP. I’ll make sure to come eat before dinner ends and meet your friend. I’ll just be late.”

 

“Oh, alright…” Jimin can’t hide his disappointment, even if Ke does eventually show up late. He won’t be alone at dinner, having Taehyung, but not having Ke means one less person to distract Jimin from having to sit across a specific pair of sharp eyes.

 

He had ran into Namjoon earlier, joined with Seokjin, and the pair had dogged Jimin for not showing up and eating with them for the past month. When Jimin had said it was to eat with his long-term friend and didn’t want to intrude, Seokjin had insisted, saying that Jimin and whoever he knew could never be a hindrance. Seokjin had said he missed Jimin and Ke’s funny dynamic, even after only knowing them for such a short time. He even said that Ke looked lonely at dinner without him-- which, now, he realizes, was probably just a ploy, seeing as Ke is probably skipping half of it to hit the showers early on the regular.

 

Jimin is an absolute sucker for sweet words, however, so he agreed. He’s only just now starting to regret his weakness.

 

Ke seems to catch on quickly to Jimin’s train of thought, because all of a sudden, his smile turns into one a lot more fitting for their type of conversing than Jimin’s frown: a smirk.

 

“Besides, JP, since you said you and your friend are finally showing up after a whole month, maybe now you’ll get some more chances to stare at a certain pretty face during dinner,” Ke chuckles, subconsciously following Jimin to the dining hall, postponing his trip to the showers in favor of continuing the shift in topic.

 

Jimin scowls, “I was not checking Yoongi out--” He stops himself, eyes widening.

 

Ke’s smile only grows wider, Jimin having proven his point for him, “Who said I was talking about Yoongi, JP?”

 

Jimin bites his bottom lip, averting his gaze from Ke’s. He keeps forgetting that Ke must know Yoongi pretty well now, having eaten dinner with him and everyone else for the past month while Jimin avoided the lieutenant at all costs. Ke only snickers, prodding Jimin in the side with his elbow. “It’s alright, JP. You said you were open to that kind of stuff, who cares if you think he’s a meal on legs? Maybe you’ll get more than just slop from dinner tonight--”

 

“Like you’re one to talk, Ke. I saw you blushing like a bride when Hoseok slung his arm around you that first night,” Jimin scoffs, a small, mischievous grin spreading across his lips when he sees Ke’s face redden at the comment. He feels victory wash over him, “So that’s why you insisted on continuing to eat with them instead of coming to join me and Taehyung.” Jimin shrugs nonchalantly, unable to wipe the wide grin on his face in light of Ke’s horrified, bashful expression, “It’s alright, Ke. Hoseok might be a total perv from that VisTech thing that Namjoon called him out for that first night, but at least he’s got a kind personality. Yoongi is an ass-- a very unapologetic ass-- even if he does have a nice face.”

 

Jimin knows that he’s blushing, despite his teasing jabs at Ke-- he’s usually never so open about these kinds of things despite having been so heavily judged for them by others back home, but there’s something about Ke that makes him so… loose with his words. Willing to touch on subjects that he had forced down when he lived back in the First Bunker-- maybe it’s a change of atmosphere or the fact that Jimin can tell that Ke seems pretty open and non-judgmental, so unlike his blood relatives.

 

It’s all just banter, though. And he surely isn’t going to directly admit real attraction to anyone, man or not. Jimin isn’t fickle with his heart, and confessing something like a little crush is rather binding for a blubbering romantic like himself, even if he does have barely any experience in the area.

 

Yoongi is just a brash lieutenant, quick-tempered but who tends to be rather fair to his subordinates-- unless he deems them disrespectful in some way, Jimin can’t forget.

 

“So you admit he’s got a nice face? Only that?” Ke’s elbow is now stabbing into Jimin’s side, and Jimin pushes him lightly on the shoulder to get him to back off. “Are you sure that I didn’t catch you checking out his backside earlier on the track--”

 

“Ke, just because I was looking at him does not mean that I’m interested. I--” He cringes at the look Ke is giving him, Jimin’s awkwardness coming off a little stronger than he wants, ”I don’t-- you know what, forget it. You’re just trying to rile me up,” Jimin sighs in exasperation, wishing Ke would just drop it now, the conversation no longer very entertaining in light of the door the dining hall now being in visible distance.

 

Jimin doesn’t have time to think about those kinds of things. But Ke is persistent for some reason unbeknownst to Jimin, so he continues haggling him in spite of the tension looming over Jimin at the topic.

 

“Whatever you say, JP. Was just trying to get you laid--”

 

“Ke, I do not need help in that area,” Jimin groans, glaring at his friend. Ke really has no idea what he’s talking about-- but maybe that comforts Jimin as much as it places him in an uncomfortable situation.

 

Ke just nods, sly grin on his face as he decides not to push any further. He stops when they’re at the entrance to the dining hall, people pushing past them to file into the large room. “Alright, JP. I’ll see you in about thirty minutes, yeah? Save a seat for me, will you?”

 

“Of course, Ke. Right next to Hoseok,” Jimin replies, a little smugness coming into his tone at the opportunity to throw Ke’s teasing back at him. Ke’s face flushes, and then he’s shuffling back down the hall to the showers of their dorm.

 

If this is how it’s always going to be between the two of them-- constant banter and teasing remarks, with intermittent bickering and meaningful conversation-- then Jimin is going to start needing way more rest to deal with Ke. Nonetheless, Jimin is certain that he and Ke are going to be even better friends than he had originally thought, if they haven’t reached that point already after a month’s time. To be so easily comfortable with someone so soon-- it’s something Jimin hasn’t really experienced with anyone besides Taehyung. To feel that with Ke now-- it’s exciting for Jimin, to have another friend that he can confide in, to have another person added to the list of people he can trust.

 

He has never been so glad to nearly faint at the site of graphic imagery in his entire life, if it means he got a friend like Ke so easily out of it-- even if Ke is a bit of a pain in the ass.

 

          

 

Jimin almost turns back around. Almost.

 

But as soon as he walked a few meters into the dining hall, caught sight of the table and noticed only one individual sitting down, and met those sharp eyes-- he was stuck.

 

Jimin sighs, weaving in and out of the many soldiers milling around the dining area. He pointedly avoids the line to get food, noticing that no one he knows is there and available as an escape route for him to avoid sitting alone with Lieutenant Min.

 

He gingerly sits down at the table, keeping his eyes on the sheen of its metal surface. It’s awkward for a long minute or two-- it could be longer, but Jimin zones out and starts trying to distract himself with thoughts of Taehyung and Ke possibly meeting tonight, and his hopes that they’ll click like he expects them to-- when he hears Yoongi clear his throat.

 

He ignores it at first, even when said man does it a few more times. He only looks up when he thinks that Yoongi has given up, only to freeze like a deer in headlights when he meets the lieutenant’s eyes.

 

“Hello, JP134,” Yoongi says, tone light and… dare Jimin say it, nervous? “Joining us for dinner tonight?”

 

Jimin doesn’t answer at first, eyeing him suspiciously. He notices that the bags under Yoongi’s eyes are still prominent, even more so now. He’s content to not say anything to the Lieutenant, just glare at him, but then Yoongi offers him a small smile that kind of looks like a pained grimace. Jimin caves instantly.

 

“Yes,” Jimin responds, biting his lip when he almost says Yoongi’s name aloud, unsure how to address him anymore. “I am. Is there…” Jimin searches Yoongi’s face, uncertain in how to speak to him, or why the Lieutenant is even trying to do so himself, “A problem? With that?”

 

Jimin had tried to seem irritated at Yoongi’s question, so he’s surprised when Yoongi’s lips quirk into a shy smile, guilt evident in his eyes for the first time that Jimin has ever seen.

 

Wait. Shy?

 

“No,” Yoongi says flatly, despite the confliction flickering in his expressive eyes, “I was just…” Yoongi averts his gaze, fidgeting with something he has under the table. “Curious.”

 

Jimin remains silent, not really sure how to continue with that. All of this is unbelievably awkward, and it’s only now occurring to him that Yoongi is basically waving a white flag-- maybe has been for the entire past week, if the way he refuses to meet Jimin’s eye even now is any indication.

 

What is throwing Jimin for a loop the most, however, is how the man is acting, so different from all their other interactions. Once again, Min Yoongi is leaving Jimin stunned and off-kilter.

 

Yoongi still isn’t apologizing though, and Jimin is willing to wait patiently for just that. They’re both grown men, and he isn’t going to accept anything less, now that he knows that the lieutenant might be trying to apologize. Jimin knows he has some apologizing to do himself.

 

He can play Yoongi’s little game for now, if that’s what the Lieutenant needs as encouragement. Jimin doesn’t personally understand what the big deal of just saying ‘sorry’ is for the other man, but he isn’t about to question it-- it’d be hypocritical of him, seeing as he couldn’t muster up the courage himself. Jimin guesses that Yoongi’s own apparent shyness just comes down to the fact that people deal with social interactions in different ways, and just because the Lieutenant is a confident man in training, doesn’t mean that he’s like that in all instances of his life. Jimin can relate to that, in some respect.

 

It’s not like he’s necessarily ecstatic about apologizing for his part in this whole situation, either. Jimin won’t admit how much of an asshole that makes him feel, expecting an apology out of the man when he himself needs to do just that as well. Maybe it’s the sudden nerves that are making him wait for Yoongi to take a crack at ‘sorry’ first.

 

Jimin’s brows quirk up in interest when he notices the thing that Yoongi is messing with, “Those a pair of Bluetooth headphones?”

 

Yoongi’s eyes glance up from his hands, and Jimin notices the light blue flickering of his VisTech HUD shut off. “Yeah. Did you…”

 

Jimin picks up on Yoongi’s train of thought, “Yes. I had a pair before. They’re pretty common in the First Bunker still… but you probably already knew that, Yoon--” Jimin abruptly cuts himself off, offering Yoongi a sheepish smile after a moment’s pause. He can feel his face heating up, and he has no idea what he’s doing or what to say next.

 

He hasn’t been this at a loss for words in… well, he can’t really remember.

 

“Do you…” Yoongi says hesitantly, gaze flickering between Jimin’s face and the headphones. “Do you want to listen?” Jimin’s brow furrows, and Yoongi must misinterpret his confusion, not realizing that it’s due to the fact that Yoongi is even offering such a thing to Jimin, considering their acquaintanceship so far. “No, it’s okay. I can still hear through my VisTech.”

 

Jimin decides to go along with it, realizing that Yoongi must not even consider it strange to offer. So, Jimin shouldn’t find it odd, either. “You can hear through the VisTech?”

 

The corner of Yoongi’s mouth tilts into a half-smile that makes Jimin’s mind go blank, “How do you think we called you cadets to training every day for the past month?”

 

Jimin purses his lips, trying to stop an embarrassed smile when he acknowledges just how dumb his question must’ve come across, now that he considers it. He rubs at the back of his neck, fidgeting with the hair at the nape before he meets Yoongi’s eyes again. The Lieutenant is patiently waiting, uncertainty in his expression, probably mistaking Jimin’s silence for offense. “I thought that maybe I was going a little insane is all.”

 

Yoongi’s face morphs into a small, pleased smile, “Ah. I can see how that might be confusing if you’d never used one of Namjoon’s creations before.” He leans forward in his seat across from Jimin, gingerly placing the headphones on the table between them. Jimin notes that Yoongi doesn’t directly offer it to him.

 

Jimin looks up from the accessory to meet Yoongi’s gaze again, “If you can hear with your VisTech, then why do you bother with these? Aren’t they a little… bulky? Compared to just hearing the music in your head?”

 

Yoongi’s expression flickers with surprise, like he hadn’t anticipated Jimin to do anything besides just put on the headphones. Or maybe it was the fact he was asking something about them at all-- Jimin has a feeling most wouldn’t recognize a pair of Bluetooth headphones nowadays, seeing as they’ve been out of commission for… well, decades.

 

He’s shocked they even work with the VisTech, to be honest. Such old technology with something that even now confuses Jimin seems… out-of-place, in some way.

 

“I… I like that they’re soundproof. The VisTech audio lowers every time noise in the user’s vicinity is rendered by it, or whatever Namjoon said the last time I asked. It’s… nice, to block out everything, I guess,” Yoongi replies sheepishly, gesturing to the headphones again. “I don’t usually share them with anyone, since everyone thinks they’re kind of pointless, even after the fact that the VisTech doesn’t block out all noise. I just thought…”

 

Jimin recognizes a peace offer when he sees one.

 

“No, it’s alright. I’ll just… listen for a little bit,” Jimin says, gingerly picking up the headphones up from the table and placing them on his head.  When they cover his ears, his brow naturally lifts-- Yoongi is right, they are soundproof. Well, mostly so. He can still hear a little of the obnoxious voices of the other soldiers having dinner around them, but other than that the outside world is shut out.

 

Yoongi gives him a thumbs-up, and Jimin has to fight back a snort from just how weird this all is. If someone would’ve told him he would be sitting at dinner across from his superior officer-- who only a month ago had publicly ridiculed him and practically called him a coward to his face-- and wearing his Bluetooth headphones, of all things to have in this day and age, then Jimin would’ve scoffed right to that person’s face.

 

He’s starting to grow accustomed to expecting the unexpected from his time in the SC Bionics.

 

Suddenly-- softly-- music starts playing lightly in Jimin’s ears. It’s not what he expected, distinctly remembering that the others had teased Yoongi for his love for Queen the last time he sat at this table. Instead, it’s sweet, melodic music, the keys of a piano and a crooning male voice gently twinkling in his ears.

 

It’s sweet and peaceful music-- a certain kind of tenderness to the notes. Jimin instantly recognizes it.

 

He looks at Yoongi curiously, watching as the Lieutenant’s smile only widens, revealing his gums. Such a broad taste in music-- a good one, too.

 

They sit in silence-- well, in music-- for several minutes, enough for the song to end. Jimin is watching the blue light blinking in Yoongi’s iris for what seems like too long, and quickly drops his gaze to fiddle with his fingers for a distraction. He briefly wonders when the others are going to show up.

 

The music stops, and Jimin looks up again. Yoongi’s eyes are closed, peaceful, but then they’re open just as quickly as Jimin takes in his expression. Jimin takes off the headphones carefully, putting them back on the table instead of handing them over directly, like how Yoongi had done. The Lieutenant’s eyes flicker with some unknown emotion as he stares at the Bluetooth accessory before he picks them up and places them around his neck, letting them rest there.

 

It looks odd, the almost primitive gleam on the plastic of the headphones in stark contrast to the stretch of the man’s exosuit, but it feels oddly familiar to Jimin. Maybe it reminds him a little bit of his home-- the old still present despite the new.

 

“I…” Yoongi starts, and Jimin has a feeling he knows what’s coming, “I just wanted to say, that I’m sorry. For how I… what I said. I didn’t mean to…”

 

Yoongi trails off, shoulders suddenly tense as his gaze flickers from Jimin’s, eyes darting anywhere but the cadet in front of him. Jimin can’t help the small wash of relief that falls over him, pleased to finally hear the words come out of the Lieutenant’s mouth. He didn’t need a long-drawn-out one, or even an explanation-- just needed the good will and intent through a verbal apology, is all. He isn’t about to question Yoongi’s reasoning for the things he says, knows that he himself doesn’t always say things that he necessarily means.

 

Even if Yoongi did mean any of those words, it’s not like they weren’t mostly true, even if they did come off as brash and rude. Jimin still isn’t sure if he should let Yoongi off so easily. In the same instance, however, Jimin did let his own temper get ahead of him-- it’s occurring to him now that this is really both of their faults, just in different ways.

 

“I’m not one to hold grudges usually,” Jimin adds, smiling kindly at the man across from him for the first time since he’s met him. “Comes with the territory of being surrounded by ignorant people for the better majority of my life.” Jimin bites on his tongue, not meaning for that last part to come out as sour as it did.

 

Yoongi frowns, his previous relief being replaced by guilt once again, “I didn’t mean to offend--”

 

Jimin holds up a hand, placating him, “I promise I didn’t take it the wrong way. Or, maybe I did, at first. But…” Jimin drops his arm, his brow furrowing, “I had a conversation with Ke, and I hadn’t realized until-- well, only recently, to be honest-- that things were that… bad, with the First Bunker. I didn’t truly know exactly how much my neighbors and family had closed themselves off from everyone. I guess it’s only natural for most people to feel angry at me since they can’t really yell at all the people from back home.”

 

Yoongi shakes his head, looking all types of apologetic and regretful, “I still shouldn’t have said what I said. I should have kept it to myself.”

 

“No, I’m glad you said it. It was true, wasn’t it? I was trying to cling to some type of safety net. I think I’m starting to realize that a lot of the things that I associate with my childhood and home are nothing more than that,” Jimin says, shocked at just how much sorrow is in his own voice. He never really considered it deeply before, but he had always avoided thinking too much about why he spent so much time invested in things like honorifics or age-old practices. It’s not like any of those things are precious beliefs that he holds close , but those of his parents--

 

Jimin is just now considering the fact that maybe he doesn’t even have his own beliefs. Maybe hardly any values, either, for that matter. And now that he’s on his own, he has to start making those. Maybe he should’ve started a long time ago.

 

“I underestimated you, Jimin,” Yoongi says, and Jimin looks up in surprise at the use of his own name instead of his SC I.D. The lieutenant’s expression is certain-- eyes flickering with a moment of confidence that tells Jimin he’s being completely honest, if he wasn’t already before. The look reminds him of how Yoongi is during training. “And I apologize for that. I’m sorry I blew up in your face, I’ve been… distracted, lately.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes flicker away for a moment before he’s resetting his gaze on Jimin, apology written across his expression, “I only said the things that I said because, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t know what to do. Believe it or not, I’ve never had a recruit look so horrified in the special upgrades division like that before,” Yoongi chuckles awkwardly, rubbing at the nape of his neck as if he’s uncertain whether his words are offensive or not.

 

When Jimin just blinks at him, he continues, “Sure, they have fainted, but you looked... like you were dying. Like you genuinely believed that you were the one getting a Ferium injection, not the soldier in the operating room. I thought that if I was brutally honest with you-- if not generally unfair in my treatment-- it’d make you... I don’t know... rise to the occasion? Overcome your fear? It’s not a good reason, I’m aware now, but at the time…”

 

Yoongi sighs, wiping at his face in an effort to let the words that he’s clearly struggling to let loose come free, “I guess what I’m saying is that I should have been more in control. My comrades… they are my responsibility. I felt like I had already failed you before even getting the chance to try and help you succeed, and I took that disappointment in myself and projected it on to you. I shouldn’t have done that, and I’m sorry.”

 

Yoongi sighs again, the exhalation deeper this time as if a burden has been lifted from his shoulders. In a way, it’s exactly how Jimin feels right then too, even if he doesn’t show it physically.

“No need to explain any further--” Jimin pauses, eyes trained on Yoongi’s face to measure his reaction, “--Lieutenant Min. It’s really okay, you know? I know we didn’t really set off on a good foot in the first place, and I wanted to apologize for how I blew up at you. I mistook your uncertainty as coldness, and I let my temper get the best of me. So…” He trails off, distracted by the way a full smile crosses Yoongi’s face now, eyes glinting with contentedness. Jimin is suddenly feeling self-conscious under that grin, “What? Is there something on my face?”

 

“No,” Yoongi chuckles, and the sound is foreign to Jimin’s ears but kind of nice, “I just think it’s funny that you’re just now using my title, is all.”

 

Just like that, the tension is lifted, a weight being removed from the air. Yoongi is acting just as he did this morning, if not a little more relaxed.  

 

Jimin quirks a brow at Yoongi’s words, amusement in his voice, “And that’s funny because…”

 

Yoongi sighs, steepling his hands in front of him before he props his chin atop the back of his palms, settling Jimin with a mirrored expression, “It’s just… I think we’re a little past that point now, don’t you think, Jimin? After all this trouble, too.”

 

Jimin snorts in response, his cheeks heating at the directness of Yoongi’s words. Maybe he’s misinterpreting something. “And what is that supposed to mean, exactly?”

 

Yoongi’s gaze is sharp, but not angry-- it’s more curious than it is calculating. He seems to hesitate for a few breaths, eyes flickering between Jimin’s before he decides to speak up again, “Well, we’re more than just acquaintances now, aren’t we? True teammates, I’d say.”

 

He really shouldn’t be surprised by Yoongi throwing him off again. “Are we?” Jimin asks, genuinely uncertain. “Is it really that easy? To just go from enemies to friends, just like that?”

 

Yoongi’s face drops for only a moment before he’s looking intently at Jimin, his tone of voice inquisitive, “Can’t it be? Easy like that? I showed you part of my Frank Sinatra collection, Jimin. That’s some sacred stuff.” Despite his words, his expression seems… uncertain, a crack in the mask of lazy indifference he usually assumes.

 

“I’m well aware,” Jimin replies, relaxing under their light conversation. Yoongi’s face doesn’t shift at Jimin’s words, so he knows that the man probably already guessed that Jimin had recognized the music that he had played in his headphones.

 

So much for Jimin having a bad taste in music. He decides he won’t tease the lieutenant with his false assumption from their first-- and hopefully, though he’s not placing bets-- and last argument.

 

“So what do you want me to call you then? I thought titles were important to you,” Jimin adds, looking at the time in his VisTech and surprised at how it’s already been ten minutes. Where is everyone?

 

“We’re early, Jimin,” Yoongi offers, startling Jimin from his drifting thoughts. He tries to hold down his blush at being caught checking the time as the man continues, a wry smile on his lips, “And you can just call me Yoongi, when it’s like this. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that it’s not so much the actual rank that matters here in the SC, but the time to use it. I only ask to be referred to properly when I am Yoongi your Lieutenant.”

 

“Why is that different from last time, then? What’s different between now and that first day?” Jimin asks, recalling their first conversation at the table when Yoongi had clearly expressed his displeasure on being referred to as anything but his title.

 

“Well, we’re proper comrades now, settled and having worked together for a month,” Yoongi blinks, as if it were that obvious. “Already forgetting that, Park?”

 

It occurs to Jimin now that sincerity and intent are both something very important to Yoongi, and that it must make him a person very invested in mutual respect. Maybe Seokjin’s words a month ago about the lieutenant just being a little rough around the edges were far more accurate than Jimin had wanted to believe.

 

“So it’s Park now, huh?” Jimin counters, crossing his arms in mock-offense. It’s dizzying, how easily Jimin has gone from disliking this man so vehemently to bantering playfully with him. It’s got Jimin teetering in his mind, a blissful type of high at making a new friend so easily-- maybe he’s getting better at this kind of thing.

 

“Sure,” Yoongi chuckles, and it takes Jimin a moment to realize that he’s not laughing at him, but at something behind him, Yoongi’s gaze is now trained toward the other side of the dining hall. Jimin turns around slowly, blushing wildly when he sees Taehyung barreling across the room towards him, waving gleefully.

 

“Chim!” Taehyung shouts, deep voice echoing loud above the collective chatter of the mess hall. A few soldiers sitting nearby do a double-take when they see Taehyung, staring in horror at how he’s stampeding through the room almost comically. It’s not really the behavior of a soldier-- and, well, Taehyung isn’t really a soldier, to be honest. He works in the Intel division, from what he had told Jimin, so while he does physical training and all that, he mostly just sits behind the telecommunications computers and go beep beep boop, as he had so tastefully put it to Jimin.

 

Whatever the hell that means.

 

“Hi, Tae,” Jimin grunts when Taehyung throws himself onto him, wrapping his lanky arms around Jimin’s shoulders and squeezing him nearly to death. Jimin’s body is thrumming with a low warmth, happiness flooding his chest. “Missed me?”

 

“Of course! Haven’t seen you all day,” Taehyung ruffles Jimin’s hair, much to his chagrin, and then starts tugging on his arm, trying to pull him up. “C’mon, Jimin-ah, let’s go get food before they take all the good stuff--” Jimin would’ve cut him off and commented on how nothing that the Shatterdome offered in form of sustenance should be considered as ‘good stuff’, if not for the way Taehyung’s eyes widen when he realizes Yoongi is sitting there patiently watching them. Taehyung’s words died in his mouth by his own fruition.

 

“Hello, TK--”

 

“Just call me Taehyung,” Taehyung interjects, settling it before it even becomes an issue. A part of Jimin wishes he had that kind of unwavering confidence. “You’re the Lieutenant that Jiminie always complains about, I’m assuming? You certainly look like what Jiminie described--” Jimin takes his chance to cut Taehyung off this time, clamping his hand over his friend’s mouth. He’s sure the expression he sends Yoongi’s way is a grimace.

 

Yoongi just smiles sheepishly, rubbing at the back of his neck and averting his eyes to the side, “Yeah, that’s me. I’m sorry about… all that…”

 

“Okay,” Taehyung interjects, making Yoongi stare at him in bewilderment. Jimin has to suppress a snort of amusement-- there’s plenty of things he’s beginning to regret having learned from his home, but the quickness to forgive is one thing that he doesn’t. Taehyung has the same trait, and Jimin is sure it’s going to bite both of them in the ass eventually.

 

Taehyung turns back to Jimin, pulling more incessantly on his arm, “Hurry up , Chim. I’m hungry--”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you,” Jimin sighs, shooting Yoongi an apologetic look. Yoongi just laughs, and Jimin can already see the blinking blue of his VisTech as Taehyung drags him into the dinner line.

 

          

 

Yoongi has his eyes closed when he hears Hoseok’s cackling enter the dining hall.

 

He has been sitting at this table for a few minutes, quietly contemplating why he hadn’t just apologized immediately to Jimin-- seeing as it had been much less painful than he had originally anticipated, if only a little awkward. His headphones are left around his neck, and he’s let his collection of classic jazz music just play through the VisTech audio implants.

 

He almost didn’t apologize at all, but… just thinking about letting the guilt eat him alive any further left a bad taste in his mouth.

 

“Yoongles!” Hoseok says, much closer now, and Yoongi’s eyes snap open. He must’ve been dozing off if Hoseok made it over this quickly, seeing as the man usually greets nearly every person on the way over. It usually takes an infuriating amount of time for him to make it to dinner-- so Yoongi is a little surprised he’s this early.

 

Or maybe Yoongi was just caught up in his thoughts about his conversation with a certain brown-eyed cadet.

 

“Hey, Seok” Yoongi replies, eyeing Hoseok warily. There’s something mischievous glinting in those green eyes of his, and Yoongi doesn’t like it. “What are you up to?” They both know the meaning behind Yoongi’s words, but Hoseok ignores them in favor of plopping himself down next to him. Yoongi is only mildly surprised that Hoseok pushes a tray of food in front of him-- it wouldn’t be the first time that Hoseok has made him eat when he’s clearly avoiding the dinner line for a reason. He just can’t seem to figure what exactly is on the tray, however. “What’s this?”

 

“Food,” Hoseok looks up from where he’s already shoveling said slop into his mouth, gaze flickering over Yoongi’s face before he squints. “You lose your vision from all those hours you stay up? You look like shit. The beard a new thing?”

 

Yoongi scoffs, self-consciously rubbing at his jaw. His fingertips are met with stubble-- he forgot to shave this morning. He really must not look like himself today. “No, asshole,” Yoongi sighs, frown on his face, “And thank you for the compliment.” His sarcasm is lost on Hoseok.

 

“I don’t know why you don’t just get the skin mod to stop your facial hair from growing in,” Hoseok continues, ignoring Yoongi’s insulting remark. “Makes life a hell of a lot easier waking up this handsome--”

 

“I’m not about to pay half my commission on some installments that I’d have to get replaced every six months,” Yoongi says, shooting Hoseok an unimpressed once-over, wry smile twitching at the corner of his lips when Hoseok has the gall to look mildly offended. “Plus, not everyone uses skin mods. I don’t need violently green eyes like yours to kick ass and get paid-- though you do seem to think otherwise, General.”

 

Hoseok hoots at that, banging a fist on the table as he throws his head back to laugh, eyes snapped shut, the noise he’s making alerting all the soldiers at tables around theirs, “Someone save me! The angry kitten is coming for my balls--”

 

“God, you’re so fucking immature,” Yoongi mutters, scooting a couple of inches more away from him and begrudgingly picking up his utensils. He ignores the amused gazes of nearby onlookers.

 

“When you said ‘plenty of people don’t use skin mods’, were you referring to the one currently watching us from the line?” Hoseok’s grin is turning mischievous again, the same expression he wore when he came to the table. Yoongi doesn’t have to look over to the mess line to know who he’s referring to.

 

“He is not the only one that doesn’t use skin mods, even if it is especially apparent on him,” Yoongi’s eyes flicker to the cadet from across the massive room, seeing that he’s already back into conversation with Taehyung, gaze drawn away from their table. He drags his eyes back to Hoseok, who is looking at him expectantly, chin propped up in his palm as he leans on his elbow, just out of Yoongi’s personal space. “Plus, Park was only looking over here because your loud ass has the type of voice that could wake up an entire colony of Others--”

 

“So, it’s Park now?” Hoseok interrupts, and Yoongi falls silent. “I take it you finally grew a pair and apologized to him?” Yoongi should’ve known he can’t get anything past the likes of Hoseok.

 

Yoongi hesitates for a moment. He decides the cat’s out of the bag and gives up trying to act otherwise, “Yeah, I did.”

 

“And?” Hoseok drags, moving closer into Yoongi’s line of vision.

 

“He said it was fine,” Yoongi mutters, not meeting his eye, “Was really nice about it, too. Apologized, even if he didn’t really need to, me being the officer and all. Didn’t ask too many questions.” Yoongi looks back to see Hoseok’s triumphant grin. “Happy now?”

 

“Yes, I am! In fact, I’m ecstatic,” Hoseok hums contently, taking another bite of whatever the hell he put on he and Yoongi’s respective trays. “Because,” Hoseok says through mouthfuls of food, “That means you two are friends now.”

 

“And what’s brought you to that conclusion?” Yoongi fakes a sigh, poking at his food. He unwillingly takes a bite, trying his best to hide his discomfort at Hoseok’s train of thought. Jimin had said the same thing earlier, and while Yoongi is open to being the cadet’s teammate, he isn’t so sure that ‘friend’ is something so easily achievable. Friend means so much more to Yoongi than what he has with his recruits, even if he does care about their wellbeing and want them to succeed.

 

Even if he does want to be on good terms with them.

 

Hoseok taps his chin with his free hand, acting as if he was putting a lot of contemplation into his response, “I can count on all ten of my fingers, and even then it’d be too many to consider all the people that you refer to as anything but their SC I.D. You called him Park.” Hoseok looks at Yoongi, curiosity in his eyes, “And while it’s only his forename, we both know you don’t call people by such very often. What’s gotten into you lately, Yoongi? Gone soft?”

 

Yoongi doesn’t respond, just continues eating. He makes the mistake of checking his VisTech instead of continuing the conversation because then Hoseok is taking in a sharp intake of breath. Curse Yoongi for giving him a moment too long to consider the unknown truth behind his own words.

 

It’s funny, in a totally non-funny way, how easily their light conversation can shift into a heavy one with the drop of a hat. Or, in this case, a fidgeting habit on Yoongi’s behalf.

 

“You’re going to go visit her again, aren’t you?”

 

He knows it’s not technically quiet in the room-- what, with the sounds of people laughing and conversing during the hustle-bustle of dinner time-- but if someone took out everyone else, and just left the two of them, Yoongi knows it would be. Dead silent, that is.

 

He takes in a deep breath, putting down his utensils, appetite loss back once again, if it was ever really there in the first place. “Yes, Hoseok. I am going to go visit her again, while I still can. Already got the approval from HQ.”

 

Hoseok’s frown shows his disapproval, but it’s lost on Yoongi now, after all these years, “You know that’s just gonna cause you more pain, Yoongi. Especially around this time of year.”

 

“What am I supposed to do, Hoseok?” Yoongi sighs for real this time, staring unseeingly at the food line, not looking at anyone or anything in particular. He’s so tired of having the same conversation. “It’s not like she isn’t suffering either--”

 

“No, that’s exactly how it is,” Hoseok cuts him off, and Yoongi knows when his friend is only getting protective. That glint in Hoseok’s eye isn’t anger, it’s worry, “She doesn’t remember him, and she doesn’t remember anything that happened. She doesn’t remember any of them. Every fucking year you do this shit, go back to that stupid bunker and see her, let her touch you and ask you a bunch of questions even though it only makes you worse--”

 

“Hoseok, it’s fine,” Yoongi sighs, “I accepted this all a long time ago--”

 

“Bullshit, Yoongi.” Hoseok’s face is going red, Yoongi distantly registers. “She’s how old, now? Five? She’s old enough to get it, in this fucked up state of society. Every year that you come back, you shut yourself back in that room for weeks, and I have to cover for you. I don’t mind putting my ass on the line for you, Yoongi, but… I know you, and--”

 

“I would’ve apologized to him either way, Hobi,” Yoongi mutters. “Park Jimin comes across to me as someone rather kind. Maybe I just finally ‘grew a pair’, like you said, and didn’t want one of the cadets that I’m supposed to protect and guide to hate me. We both know it’d be harmful to his training later on if he couldn’t stand being near me--”

 

“Or, maybe, you’re feeling lonely and want to talk to someone who won’t know what you’re hiding. Someone who doesn’t, as you so generously pointed out at the beginning of our conversation, ‘ask questions’. Don’t pretend I haven’t noticed how you’ve been avoiding me since our last talk.”

 

Yoongi glances at Hoseok, not even bothering to deny it, “I haven’t been avoiding Namjoon or Seokjin.”

 

“Seokjin won’t say anything until you come to him about it, and Namjoon is too worried that he’ll hurt your feelings,” Hoseok counters, not missing a beat. “Me, on the other hand-- I don’t give a shit. I’m not gonna sit by and watch you rip yourself to shreds. Be friends with Jimin all you want, because he is kind. Just don’t use him or any other recruit you happen to take a strangely particular interest in as your way to stick bandaids on your self-inflicted wounds. You need stitches for your soul, buddy, not some fucking plastic and cotton.”

 

To anyone else, Hoseok’s words would seem harsh, maybe even rather cruel. But to Yoongi, they’re kind of humorous. Or maybe, he’s just so conflicted over Hoseok’s words that he doesn’t really know how to react-- so, he does the one thing he can think of.

 

He chuckles. Hoseok frowns at him, sparing Yoongi by not saying anything else. Yoongi doesn’t miss the layer of sadness that flickers in his expression.

 

“I know this is only the start, Yoongi,” Hoseok mutters, no longer meeting Yoongi’s eye, “I know you’ll start visiting her more often, now that you’re not on active roster for the few months of training time with the squad. Just… can you do me one favor? Just one?”

 

Yoongi pokes at his food with disinterest, “Will it make you stop trying to prevent me from seeing my niece?”

 

Hoseok pauses, finally meeting Yoongi’s gaze. There’s a fire burning in Hoseok’s eyes-- more so than the usual-- but his words are soft, “Yes. I’ll stop.”

 

“What’s the favor, Seok? Go ahead,” Yoongi sighs. He idly scratches at the scruff on his jaw, wincing at how uneven it feels under his fingernails.

 

“Bring her here,” Hoseok starts, quickly continuing when Yoongi sends him a startled look, “I’ll even put my name on the line with HQ and with the medical department. I’m sure Seokjin would approve it. That way, you don’t have to be alone in watching over her for a few days. It’s safer here than in any bunker--”

 

“Seok, she’s five. That long of a porter jet ride is not fitting for a child--”

 

“I’m scheduled to pick up a new weapon shipment from the Eighth Bunker soon anyways, I can bring her myself.”

 

Yoongi frowns. Hoseok always has a way around things.

 

“I don’t know, Seok… she’s so young, I don’t want you guys to worry about my problems…” Which is true-- Yoongi has been visiting his niece around this time of year since he enlisted, and it’s always been something he viewed as private. It’s not that he doesn’t trust his friends, he just doesn’t want them to see how visiting her affects him. He’s afraid that those that truly know him will see just how conflicted he gets when he’s around her.

 

“Please?” Hoseok scoots closer into Yoongi’s personal space but doesn’t touch. Yoongi still cringes the slightest, the thoughts crowding his mind currently making him feel more anxious than usual. Hoseok doesn’t even blink, “Please, Yoongi. Your happiness matters to us too, you know. I won’t judge you, none of your friends will. Let us help.”

 

Seokjin has always told Yoongi that the only way he will be able to overcome his fears is if he decides that for himself. No one else can do that-- no one else can make Yoongi heal, despite Yoongi’s constant search for something to fill that void. Maybe he hasn’t been trying enough.

 

He highly doubts it’ll change anything, but what if it does?

 

“Okay,” Yoongi says, voice low. “Okay, Seok. I just… I’ll go get her myself. She’ll freak out if it’s anyone but me. I’ll need a day alone though, away from the cadets before I leave. We can put in the paperwork after dinner since I wasn’t supposed to leave until next week, but I need a day to myself before I get her. I…” Yoongi trails off. He isn’t sure how to exactly put into words how much he needs to be alone the day before he sees his niece-- how does he explain his need to mentally prepare himself to see a five year-old? When did Yoongi become this unstable?

 

“No need to explain, Yoongi,” Hoseok interjects, scooting out of Yoongi’s personal space. Yoongi feels like he can breathe just a little better, and that thought alone makes him feel guilty.

 

They go back to eating, not another word shared while they wait for the others. Yoongi briefly wonders just how much more his life is going to shift from the norm this year.

 

          

 

“So he turned out to be nice?” Taehyung asks, tone light as he accepts food from one of the line workers. It seems that even in the midst of the apocalypse, some things (lunch ladies included) don’t change.

 

“Yeah,” Jimin says, glancing over to see Hoseok and Yoongi in what looks like a heated conversation. Jimin doesn’t want to know what that’s supposed to mean. He quickly looks away, “He… confuses me.”

 

“He was sweet, though? Not rude like last time?” Taehyung continues, nodding appreciatively at the giant spoonful of-- what the fuck is that--

 

“Yeah, Tae. He is.” Jimin pretends to be oblivious to the way Taehyung glances with a raised brow at him.

 

They finish getting food, or what Jimin still can’t believe passes as such, and slowly start walking back to the table. Jimin is only just now noticing that Namjoon has also joined the group, chatting with Hoseok in what looks like a calm banter between friends. Yoongi is staring at the center of the table, and Jimin can only imagine that he’s on his VisTech. He briefly wonders where Ke and Seokjin are.

 

When they reach the table, Jimin sits down, Taehyung plopping down between him and Namjoon. It’s a relatively long bench, so Jimin scoots down to give some space so that Taehyung isn’t practically sitting in his lap.

 

Namjoon and Taehyung quickly start up a conversation, something about intel reports and funky computer jargon that Jimin is unbothered to listen in on. He looks up to see Hoseok from across the table and staring to the side, his lips curled into a soft smile.

 

Jimin’s gaze flickers to follow his line of vision. Yoongi is sitting directly in front of him. He notes how the lieutenant is already lost in his music library, headphones back on and eyes closed contently. Jimin can’t help but smirk in mild amusement, watching curiously as Yoongi sways just a little, only enough that someone who is watching would eventually notice.

 

His lips twitch into a small half-smile when he tears his gaze from Yoongi’s relaxed face to see Hoseok grinning widely back, eyes glinting with mirth before he waves his hands wildly around Yoongi’s head, silently teasing. Jimin bursts out laughing when Hoseok starts making lewd motions.

 

Yoongi’s eyes snap open to settle Jimin with a startled expression, and his laughter dies in his throat at the look. Jimin feels his face heating up in that moment of eye-contact, and then Yoongi is quickly glancing to Hoseok, shooting him a knowing glare.

 

“Hoseok, I thought you’d tell me when everyone came over,” Yoongi huffs in annoyance, cheeks red as he glances at Jimin before continuing his unimpressed glare in Hoseok’s direction, awaiting an answer.

 

“This isn’t everyone, though, Yoongles,” Hoseok replies brightly, clearly unaffected by the daggers in Yoongi’s gaze. “Jin and Ke aren’t here yet.”

 

Yoongi blinks, his face turning back to its normal shade, irritation easily forgotten as quickly as it appeared,  “Where are they, anyway? They’re always late.”

 

“Jin told me that Ke comes by to help him clean up the infirmary before the next shift or something,” Namjoon interjects, he and Taehyung’s conversation seeming to have naturally ended.

 

Jimin’s brow furrows in confusion, “Ke told me he was going to the showers early.”

 

Namjoon nods, “Yeah. He goes to Jin after that.” He says it like it’s common knowledge, and Jimin is suddenly feeling a little awkward about how little he seems to know about Ke’s schedule. It’s not like he needs to know where Ke is going at every waking moment, Jimin just finds it odd that Ke only mentioned the showers.

 

He shakes it off, deciding to let the subject naturally drop as he picks up his utensils and starts to eat his unfortunate excuse for a meal.

 

“Taehyung,” Namjoon speaks up between his own mouthfuls, gesturing to Yoongi and Hoseok from across the table as he looks at Taehyung, “Have you met these two yet?”

 

“I’ve met Yoongi-ssi already,” Taehyung starts, missing the way that it makes everyone besides Yoongi and Jimin fidget in their seats, “But I haven’t met…”

 

“Hoseok, Jung Hoseok-- SC I.D. HJ262,” Hoseok parrots off, like he’s said the same thing a thousand times. Which, considering his position, Jimin can only guess is a mostly accurate assumption about the eclectic man, “I am a General of the SC Bionics and a Chief Close-Combat Specialist by training, at your service--”

 

“He’s not usually so stuck-up sounding, I can assure you,” Yoongi cuts him off, earning a pouting glare from Hoseok. Yoongi’s eyes glint with mischief, a wry smile quirking his lips as he meets Hoseok’s gaze directly, “What? Like you weren’t thinking it while you were listing off your title and I.D., like--”

 

“Like you, you mean?” Jimin teases, unable to help the lilt in his voice that shows his uncertainty. He thinks a layer of tension is being laid out over the table before Yoongi turns to Jimin and chuckles, eyes curved up in amusement.

 

“Yeah, Park. Like me.” It’s only a brief pause around them before conversation naturally picks up again.

 

It seems that everyone seems to instantly click with Taehyung, talking about everything from how Taehyung recently got assigned to work directly under Namjoon for monitoring VisTech statistics to Taehyung sharing embarrassing stories about their childhood-- specifically one about the time where Jimin had dumped a vat of flour over his head that had been aimed for Taehyung instead, earning Jimin the awful childhood nickname of ‘mochi’, ‘from the way you could still see the pink on his chubby cheeks through the white powder’, Taehyung adds at one point amongst everyone’s cackling and teasing.

 

Taehyung also reveals that he’ll be working more closely with Hoseok and Yoongi’s squad-- Jimin’s home squad now, too--  and monitoring how their interactions with one another as teammates work, tying that directly with Intel Combatics. Something about flow of compatibility letting them work towards finding a way to sync up VisTech HUDs for a more ‘holistic fighting approach’-- whatever that means.

 

Namjoon praises Taehyung for his quick wit-- only a little over a month into it and Taehyung is apparently the most promising individual in Namjoon’s squad, already halfway through his intermediate training, which is a few months or so out for others. He isn’t sure why Taehyung hadn’t mentioned it before, but Jimin couldn’t be more proud of his best friend, and he expresses so by giving him a tight side hug, teasing lightly and pinching at Taehyung’s cheeks like when they were younger.

 

He pretends not to notice the indecipherable gaze across from him. Jimin takes it as an amused curiosity, but for some reason, that assumption doesn’t feel quite right.

 

Jimin asks Hoseok about his training, and Hoseok says that he will tell him-- along with the other recruits-- more about it tomorrow, now that they’re a month into training. Hoseok groans about how Yoongi gets to continue on with more of the physical combat in the next part of training, while Hoseok is still stuck with the more administrative side of things. Hoseok clearly prefers Yoongi’s job, if the way he pouts is any indication. Jimin asks why they don’t just switch since Yoongi clearly seems unaffected and bored by Hoseok’s complaining, but Hoseok says each member of Guerilla tactics have different roles for a reason. Yoongi wasn’t a soldier before the civilian enlistment, so Hoseok is more equipped to deal with the pompous lifetime-track military veterans above them.

 

Jimin, his hesitation of Yoongi rearing its ugly head despite the rather pleasant conversation they had not even an hour previous, asks about what his preference for things is. Jimin can only guess that Yoongi clearly enjoys his part of the training-- the early morning rises and the way he grins widely when any of the cadets get a particular move right from earlier that morning a clear indication.

 

Even then, though, somehow it doesn’t seem right to Jimin-- maybe it’s something that Jimin is just conjuring up, but some part of him thinks that Yoongi really enjoys his personal space, despite being all up in other’s nearly every day.  

 

“Oh, I guess…” Yoongi hums, staring off into space just over Jimin’s shoulder before meeting his eyes, “I guess I prefer whatever is given to me, Park. To be honest, if I didn’t work with the recruits directly most of the time, then I’d likely get no extra exercise whatsoever. That’s a pretty bad mix for someone specialized in covert missions-- even though most of the time we don’t fight every time we’re sent out, not being prepared for just that is life or death. I’d be pretty fucked, I think, if I didn’t train with you all every morning.” Yoongi smiles genuinely, pleased with his own answer, and then continues to eat, as if the conversation is over.

 

“Yeah,” Hoseok chimes in, devilish smirk crossing his lips. His eyes have a distinctive glint that has Jimin already regretting the line of conversation, “Yoongi would just stay in his room all day if he could. Lots of interesting research to do on the VisTech--”

 

Seokjin is suddenly there, much to Jimin and Taehyung’s startlement (Where did he even come from? Why did no one besides Jimin and Taehyung even blink at his abrupt appearance at the table?) and leaning across the table to whack Hoseok up the side of the head. There’s something about the gesture plus the way that Hoseok stiffens right before that tells Jimin that the General fully expected the swat but took it anyway, despite the way that Hoseok starts whining in complaint and nursing his head, his temple turning red next to his hairline where Seokjin had slapped him.

 

“Stop complaining, you pervert. Don’t project onto others-- just because you’d prefer to sit in your room, abusing Joon’s invention and touching your dick all day does not mean that Yoongi has the same fondness over his genitalia.”

 

Hoseok shrugs nonchalantly, but the bright redness that’s rapidly spreading across his cheeks tells Jimin that he didn’t want that private information (and by the way he won’t look anyone in the eyes and is now playing with his food, it’s accurate information) necessarily spelled out, however much he had hinted at it.

 

Namjoon sighs tiredly, and he and Seokjin-- who is currently taking his seat next to Namjoon with a tray of food, Jimin is just now noticing-- glare at Hoseok disapprovingly, Taehyung joining in on it. It occurs to Jimin that Taehyung, given the nature of his work related to Namjoon’s, has probably seen what’s on the General’s VisTech himself. Jimin can’t help but blush at the thought, wondering what Ke’s reaction will be to this whole story when he tells him later.

 

Yoongi, all the while and much to Jimin’s astonishment, just sits there, the soft blue blinking of his VisTech HUD flickering in his iris. It’s like he’s completely removed himself from this realm, no swaying or humming like usual.

 

“He’s in a Simfield, Chim,” Taehyung murmurs from the side, causing Jimin to tear his gaze from Yoongi’s expressionless face to look at his best friend in confusion. Taehyung’s brows lift, and he scoots closer to Jimin, lowering his voice conspiratorially even if the low timbre of it makes all his words naturally loud enough to be heard by the entire table, “You’ve been here a month and you haven’t entered a Simfield yet?”

 

Jimin shakes his head, sipping on his drink as Taehyung starts indulging him on a lecture on how to set up the VisTech to run virtual reality simulations, with any environment he chooses from downloads from the Singularity Coalition’s database-- or Jimin’s own optic memories-- to fill in his surroundings and leave those around him. Taehyung is just about to hook up to Jimin’s VisTech HUD wirelessly to show him how to access that particular feature, hidden amongst the thousands others that Jimin doesn’t care to divulge time into memorizing or asking about when Ke comes to the table.

 

Jimin wonders why Ke didn’t just show up at the same time as Seokjin, if he had been with the doctor after hitting the showers as Namjoon had mentioned. The thought is wiped from his mind just as easily as it popped up when Ke comes to sit on his other side rather than next to Hoseok’s, where Jimin assumes he had been sitting for the past month, if how the General had left a spot open on his side not taken by Yoongi was any sign.

 

Hoseok doesn’t even blink, but the way Ke smiles tightly at Jimin seems odd, “Hey, JP! What did I miss?”

 

Jimin grins back, tugging on Ke’s elbow to pull him closer and sling an arm around his shoulder in a comforting gesture. Ke relaxes into his hold, and Jimin takes it as a cue to respond now that Ke isn’t fidgeting in his seat, “Nothing much, Ke.” Jimin turns to his other side, leaning back a bit so that Taehyung and Ke can see each other over his lap, “This is Taehyungie, Ke. He’s my--”

 

“Soulmate, best friend, brother, other half,” Taehyung interjects, reaching across Jimin to offer out his hand with a wide, boxy grin thrown at Ke, “Nice to meet you, Ke. I’m Kim Taehyung, and my SC I.D. doesn’t matter because you’re Jimin’s new other best friend, so we’re gonna be close enough to scrap the unnecessary dog tags.”

 

Ke’s eyes are lit up with glee when Jimin looks between him and Taehyung-- so much so, that he doesn’t even glare at Jimin when he says, “I told you that you can have more than one best friend, JP!” Ke takes Taehyung’s offered hand and shakes it energetically, and Jimin can’t stop the cheek-hurting smile that takes over his face at how easily his two ‘best friends’ are melding. “This will be a satisfactory arrangement, I think,” Ke adds, nose wrinkling in amusement at the way Taehyung chuckles and winks teasingly.

 

The rest of dinner continues without a hitch, minus the fact that Seokjin leans over the table from next to Namjoon to tug on Hoseok’s ear every time the General makes a rather questionable comment or joke. Namjoon keeps sighing every time Seokjin’s attention is diverted but Taehyung is talking excitedly with Ke over Jimin’s lap, so he can’t be too bothered by the loud nature of the table’s banter.

 

Jimin, for the most part, is quiet. It’s not because he has nothing to say, but more so because at one point during dinner, Taehyung takes a moment to finish showing Jimin how to start up a Simfield.

 

For the significant portion of dinner, Jimin is staring at the ocean that used to line Busan’s shorelines-- according to the Singularity Coalition’s database version, that is. He’s never seen them himself, was too young to remember anything but dark bunker rooms and concrete roofs, but he’s sure that if he did, it would’ve looked just like this. His inexperience with them doesn’t stop his eyes from watering the entire time, and he ignores the questioning looks he can feel Taehyung sending him from him, even though he can’t see them-- Jimin isn’t crying, he’s… watching. Experiencing something that his parents had told him about countless times, but that he wasn’t born to be allowed to enjoy.

 

Maybe it’s just the salt breeze that the VisTech mimics on the nerve endings in his face or the way the device is messing with his olfactory senses and letting him smell the sea, that makes him keep having to blink back the wetness rimming his eyes. Taehyung had explained how it worked while showing Jimin how to set it up, but he didn’t think the Simfield would be this realistic.

 

It’s when dinner is over and he turns back on the feature that lets him see the people around him (which is default on, but that Taehyung had shut off for Jimin’s first time using a Simfield) that Jimin notices Yoongi’s curious gaze from across the table.

 

Jimin doesn’t want to think about how long he might’ve been watching, or if he knows how much emotion Jimin was holding back. Yoongi’s eyes are guarded behind the question in them, so Jimin can’t really tell.

 

It’s Yoongi’s expression that takes up his mind walking back from dinner.

 

“Hey.” Jimin is pulled from his thoughts on the way back to the recruit dorms, looking to his side to see Ke looking at him, brow furrowed. “I’m gonna go back to the room. I’ll see you later, yeah? Enjoy the showers, don’t take too long.” Jimin nods slightly in response, a little tired and still a little removed from his dizzyingly realistic time in the Simfield as Ke waves goodbye, bowing slightly to Taehyung in a dramatically stiff form at mimicking formality, making the latter laugh before Ke is walking away.

 

“Jimin-ah,” Taehyung starts after a few seconds, seeming to have taken the time to let Jimin adjust even more to his surroundings despite being out of the Simfield for nearly ten minutes already, “We need to talk a bit before you go.”

 

Jimin picks up on Taehyung’s serious tone after only a beat, “What’s wrong, Tae? I thought dinner went fine--”

 

“No, no, Chim, that was all fine. I like Ke, don’t worry. He’s charming and good for you, best friend approved,” Taehyung cuts him off, tension easing out of his smile. “He’s really funny, I’m not surprised you’re already comfortable with him. He looks like he’ll be a really good friend, I’m excited to know him more. It’s not him I’m talking about, I assure you.”

 

Jimin relaxes, glad he doesn’t have to deal with that kind of problem. “What’s up, then? I gotta hit the showers before bed because training is an hour early tomorrow, but I’ll skip and rush there earlier in the morning if you need me.”

 

Taehyung waves Jimin’s offer away assuredly, brow furrowing as he considers his words. After what seems like an eternity to answer, Taehyung sets Jimin with a deep gaze.

 

“I found him, Jimin-ah.”

 

Jimin’s eyes widen after a few moments with realization at who Taehyung is referring to. He grabs Taehyung’s arms instinctively. The world suddenly seems like it’s tilting, “What? Where? How--”

 

“Shhh, Chim, not too loud. I…” Taehyung bites on his bottom lip nervously, looking around them to check no one is within hearing proximity before pulling Jimin even further to the side and lowering his voice, “I may have stolen Lead Kim’s tablet and looked into the locked database and found his missing files--”

 

“You what?” Jimin nearly chokes on his own words, grip on Taehyung growing stronger before he realizes he’s probably bruising him slightly. He loosens his hold, matching the level of his voice to Taehyung’s in a hushed whisper, “Taehyung, I might not have caught on to a lot of the rules here as quickly as you have, but I’m certain that is stupidly fucking illegal--”

 

“I know, Jimin. I know, but I had to--”

 

“We don’t even know if Jungkook wants to see us again, Taehyung. I know we enlisted to follow him, and I told you I don’t regret joining you, but we’ve been here a month, Taehyung. You and I both know that if he was looking for us to follow, he’d have seen our names on the new civilian recruitment lists pop up at one point or another since we enlisted,” Jimin sighs, letting go of Taehyung’s arms and taking a step back at the disappointment that clouds Taehyung’s eyes as Jimin talks. Taehyung has always been so expressive, and Jimin sometimes forgets how much that can hurt to see sometimes.

 

“Jimin…”

 

“Tae, I know you want to see him. I want to see him too, yeah? I know you miss him a lot, but he… this is the journey he decided to take. And I know you don’t want to remember this particular detail, but Jungkook chose to take this path alone. Without us. He… he didn’t even say goodbye. You know what he’s looking for, Taehyung, we can’t interrupt him or distract him from that--”

 

“He doesn’t even know if they’re still alive, Chim. We don’t even know what Bunker his parents were sent to--”

 

“It doesn’t matter, Taehyung,” Jimin cuts him off harshly. He falters in his tone of voice at Taehyung’s expression, like that of a kicked puppy. Now he knows why Ke reminds Jimin of the blond so much. “Okay, it does. But you know it doesn’t matter what we want, Taehyung,” Jimin murmurs, pushing back Taehyung’s now-too-long hair from his eyes, careful fondness in his touch.

 

Taehyung won’t meet his eyes until Jimin gently nudges his cheek. “We’ll see him one day, Taehyung. It’s just too early, okay? You were smart to check his files, just… please be careful, yeah? I don’t want to lose you, too,” Jimin whispers, pulling Taehyung into a hug.

 

He hooks his chin over Taehyung’s shoulder, scrunching his face when blond locks tickle his nose on every inhale. “I’ll be here for you, okay. Exactly like you always have been for me,” Jimin mumbles into Taehyung’s hair, pressing a kiss to his temple before pulling back. Taehyung’s smile is weak, but it crumbles when he takes in Jimin’s face from so up close.

 

Jimin reels back, trying to hide the bags under his eyes with his fingers by pretending to wipe at them in what really isn’t far from realistic exhaustion.

 

The last topic bleeds too seamlessly into the next one.

 

“You had another nightmare last night, didn’t you?” Taehyung’s eyes are glinting with concern, hands on the backs of Jimin’s palms as they pull away his fingers from his under-eyes, revealing the grey and purple that stain his lids, heavy with exhaustion and memories that Jimin wishes weren’t so vivid or persistent.

 

“That’s nothing new, Tae,” Jimin mutters, dropping his hands to his sides and out of Taehyung’s grip. He looks to the side, watching as a group of particularly rowdy soldiers stumble down the hall, flasks in their hands and bubbliness in their laughter. Not all people have to train the next morning.

 

“But it’s been happening more than it usually does,” Taehyung says, leaning back into Jimin’s line of sight. Jimin huffs, rubbing at his face absentmindedly before he realizes what he’s doing and dropping his hand again. Showing signs of fatigue isn’t really in his best interest right now.

 

“Yeah, well, considering everything it’s not too unexpected. I’m stressed more than usual is all, no need to worry. It’s not like they can kill me in my sleep, you know,” Jimin meets Taehyung’s eyes again, offering a consoling smile to his worried friend, “I’m fine. Training might be early tomorrow, but it's way shorter than usual, and then I have Sunday off. I’ll catch up on sleep.”

 

Taehyung’s gaze flickers across Jimin’s face for a few long, drawn-out moments before he yields. “Fine. Go hit the showers. I only wanted to tell you about Jungkook. I’ll wait to contact him but I will keep looking into him, Chim.”

 

“I expect nothing less,” Jimin smiles, fondness in his voice as he gives Taehyung a quick hug before turning to go to the showers. “Love you, goodnight.” He waves over his shoulder, rushing off so that Taehyung won’t change his mind and continue his line of worrisome questioning.

 

That night in the showers, Jimin has time to think things over.

 

One of the few things he knows about bunkers is that people were shoved into them based on where they were when the calamity hit. If they were rich and could afford the security of transit, they could afford to go to the one bunker designated to their hometown, if not... then, well. They’re stuck wherever they’re at when the world was called to high alert and alien invaders started taking over the upper ground.

 

That’s what happened to Taehyung-- why he wasn’t in the Seventh Bunker for Daegu, but in First with Jimin and Jungkook. Taehyung’s family had been friends with Jimin’s and were visiting when the two of them were very young-- barely toddlers-- and got locked in with them. Jimin’s family and Taehyung’s had been inseparable ever since.

 

It wasn’t uncommon for families to be separated from their home and placed into the nearest bunker-- people apparently didn’t really think about anything besides surviving and making it to the nearest safehouse, at the time.

Jimin’s family was close with Jungkook’s when they were all younger, Jungkook’s father a family friend much like Taehyung’s. Jimin hardly remembers what all happened, being only a few years of age at the time, but knows that Jungkook was separated from his entire family at the calamity.

 

There wasn’t a second thought when he was taken into Taehyung and Jimin’s then-combined families-- sharing meals, designated bunks, clothes.

 

Jungkook left when he was eighteen. Imagine Taehyung and Jimin’s shock when they, after a year of endlessly searching the entire bunker (which housed several cities worth of individuals) that Jungkook had abused his emancipation rights to enlist himself into the Singularity Coalition underage. It was a power solely reserved for parents to hold but never use-- by the First Bunker’s standards, at least-- and Jungkook had forged his father’s signature.

 

A year and a few months later, and here they are.

 

Jimin and Taehyung have both known for a long time why Jungkook left. It doesn’t change the fact that he did, though, or how the youngest decided to completely leave the two of them out of the loop on his plans.

 

They still know, however. Still are very much aware that Jungkook is looking for his family or whatever is left of them, if they didn’t make it to a bunker.

 

Jimin never said goodbye to his parents-- figured they wouldn’t have understood-- but he did to Jihyun, his younger brother by blood but not much else. Jihyun wasn’t happy, and Jimin doesn’t want to think about how his brother is feeling now, a couple of months later and with no contact from Jimin or Taehyung. His parents must be livid-- Taehyung’s overprotective and clingy ones, even more so.

 

Jimin’s parents, though… their anger wasn’t the same. If they were mad-- which, considering Jimin’s streak over his teenage years of doing everything to subtly but not-so-subtly disobey his parents-- they probably didn’t even want him to come back, like Taehyung’s parents would want for them.

 

He was always different from the rest of the bunker, just like Taehyung and Jungkook-- had dreams outside the metal cage they had been placed in. While enlistment wasn’t the original plan, they were willing to take it. If it meant the three of them staying together, Jimin and Taehyung would do anything to reunite with Jungkook, even if he left without telling them. Their bond runs deeper than something like this, even if that something is the apocalypse.

 

Jimin still has his doubts, despite all of that. He’s only human, after all. Life isn’t some fairytale-- a brutal reminder too clear and evident in today’s world-- and Jimin isn’t about to indulge himself in some flights of fancy and belief that when they do meet up with Jungkook again, their friend will be nothing but accepting and ecstatic.

 

The world just doesn’t work like that anymore, if it ever did, and pain runs deeper than everyone is often willing to show. So, Jimin gets it-- understands why Jungkook left without telling the two people he loves the most in the world why he couldn’t stay trapped in the metal cage that housed their childhood.

 

Jimin understands why Jungkook had to take this journey alone, if not for being able to lick his lifelong wounds by himself, in private and separate from everyone else for the first time in his life.

 

He still loves Jungkook like a brother, despite the hurt he had caused by leaving Jimin and Taehyung behind. He loves Jungkook, in not too different a way than from how he cares for Jihyun, the old Jihyun who used to wish for freedom out the walls before Jimin and he had seen an Other in the flesh. They grew apart after that, and maybe Jimin wanted to leave to prove to Jihyun that the outside world wasn’t as horrifying as they had unfortunately born witness to.

 

Jimin was going to fight for Jungkook, and for Jihyun-- even if it meant giving up his freedom for four years.

 

Cold water starts pouring from the showerhead, and Jimin yelps in surprise before he quickly shuts it off. He’s been up in his head all day, and it’s finally coming back to bite him in the ass-- quite literally. He quickly dries off and dresses, realizing the showers have long emptied out of his fellow squad comrades and rushes back to the dorms.

 

He doesn’t have a nightmare that night, but he does dream of the ocean and soft laughter.

Chapter Text

Yoongi wakes up with a migraine. It’s nothing serious, but it puts him in a little bit of a sour mood.

 

It’s when he walks into training that morning that he relaxes, if only a little. He’d like to say it’s because he loves his job and while that part is true, it’s not the real reason why he’s feeling more light-hearted the last few days than he has in weeks.

 

Jimin is standing with Ke on the other side of the room and for the last few days since that one dinner, it’s not tense when their eyes meet. This time, and every time since their initial conversation and the ones during dinner since, it’s in amicable greeting and not silent challenge.

 

Yoongi nods slightly in his cadet’s direction, keeping his expression carefully blank as he places his digital work tablet and training bag in a corner of the room. He’s putting his gloves on when he looks up to see the confused looks on all of his cadets’ faces.

 

“Ah,” Yoongi starts, realizing that they must be questioning why he, as well as they, are not in their usual sweats for warm-up this early in the morning. “I see you all actually read the VisTech message and saw that we’re donning exosuits today.” His eyes flicker to Jimin, who is shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot and picking at the black carbon polyester clinging to his torso. Yoongi has to stifle a snort at the imagery-- it appears that he’s not the only one who finds the suits insufferable, although Yoongi has gotten much better at hiding so over the years.

 

He walks to the middle of the room and indicates for the cadets to group around him and listen up with a wave of his hand, “I know we only started physical training rather recently, but today I have good news for you all. General Jung and I finally got the paperwork done and figured that if you’ve made it these many days into PT and haven’t requested a switch to another division, you’re here to stay.” He smirks at the last part, watching the tired looks flicker into his cadets’ eyes at the mention of the last few days’ worth of rather arduous physical exertion. They don’t know the half of it, really, but training this intense usually scares off the ex-civilian recruits that just don’t have the stomach to be in the SC Bionic’s Guerilla Task Force.

 

Yoongi is certain that those left are going to remain as his squadmates.

 

“So with that, I am going to open up the conversation on specializations.”

 

The rest of the squad looks at Yoongi in bewilderment. It’s not something they went into depth about during the first month of Intel training, but he’s a little disappointed that most of them don’t seem to understand where he’s going with this. Most of them, of course, except for the select few that look at him in excitement or intrigue, namely a pair of honey-brown eyes that he has to avert his gaze from.

 

“Now that you all are more integrated into the squad, the next step is to choose the roles you will be playing during missions. While all of you will be further trained in how to defend yourselves and maintain stealth, each individual will be assigned to smaller subunits dedicated to different specializations, filling roles such as close-quarters combatant, ranged combatant,  and medic.” Yoongi takes note of how nearly every cadet’s face lights up at the first two options except for one.

 

If Yoongi were placing bets, he knows he’d win the lot on who he thought was going to train as a medic. It almost seems ironically fitting how Jimin’s eyes light up at the idea.

 

“So, of course, that means that your training time will be more rigorous--” the cadets collectively frown in protest, and Yoongi can’t hold back his amused smile, “--but also divided. You will spend half your time with general physical training and half your time with your specialization, slowly leaning more towards specialization as the months of your training passes. Keep in mind of course, that just because you choose a specialization doesn’t mean that you are the most well-equipped for that particular role. After lunch, I will send to you a composed list of your strengths and weaknesses that Hoseok and I have tailored to each of you according to your progress so far, and on that list will have our recommendations. Some will be pleased, others will not.”

 

Yoongi pauses, taking in the expressions of his squad: some conflicted, most antsy and excited. “Which is why we are in our exosuits today. There will be no physical training this morning, but will instead be a series of tests. Each examination will be monitored by an expert in that particular field. These tests are given to you so that you may see for yourself what you believe to be the best role for each of you and by the time lunch comes around, you will see the reasoning behind my and General Jung’s analyses of each one of you. Hopefully, your conclusion by that point will be in agreement with ours-- if not, you have the entire period from lunch to dinner to argue any discourse you may or may not have with our recommendations if desired.”

 

He straightens his back, activating his VisTech for a moment to call the individuals he had requested come in to perform the training tests with him before looking back to the cadets. “So, do any of you have any questions?”

 

A rather quiet, gray-eyed cadet with startling red hair, all thanks to skin mods-- Tanaka Asuka, SC I.D. KT109-- speaks up first, “Who will be our specialization leaders, Lieutenant Min?” Despite usually physically appearing rather meek, the girl speaks with a certain caliber that just screams confidence. Yoongi can only guess she’s itching for a role that leans towards the calm and calculating: perhaps a sniper, or a tracker. He’s gotten rather good at guessing these kinds of things over the years.

 

Yoongi nods in affirmation of her question, taking a moment to pause and consider whether or not he should go into great depths explaining the training regimes or just throw his cadets into the mess and wait for them to adapt. Both approaches have their merits of course, but something tells him that leaving them in the dark when they’re still so new to the world of a soldier would be rather cruel, even if he’s done it in the past (which had always been met with just the reaction you’d expect of barely-trained soldiers).

 

“As far as close-combat goes, I will be performing those particular tests first. Later in the morning, I’ve called in a favor from a different sector of the New Seoul branch that has also been relocated for the Bloodbane’s reconstruction time and had an old colleague of mine come in. Her name is Lyudmila Sokolov, SC I.D. LS442, a fitting name for a sniper and for the woman who will be giving you your aptitude tests in ranged combat. Towards the end of the morning and before lunch, Doctor Kim Seokjin from the infirmary division will be here to proctor your medic aptitude examinations.” He can see the sigh of relief from his squad at the last part, and he can only assume that they believe him to be giving them the ‘easiest’ set of tests for the end-- a bit of a downer, before lunch.

 

Yoongi has to suppress a smile at how horribly wrong those cadets that think Seokjin’s regime is any easier than the others’ are. Only a select few have the stomach for his friend’s line of work.

 

“Any other questions?” Silence. “Alright, we will begin a quick warm-up-- yes, with your exosuits on-- and then begin the first round of tests. Major Sokolov will be here within the next three or so hours.”

 

They don’t groan in complaint as much as they used to during warm-up and it tells Yoongi that they’re slowly, but surely, growing into their relatively new roles. Or maybe they just don’t have the will to whine anymore-- that’s a realistic possibility, too.

 

When the squad is all warmed up after running laps around the outside field, they come back to the training room. Yoongi wishes he would’ve joined them for their run, but he had to stay behind to set up the room. He trusts they didn’t slack, if the way they are all heavily breathing and have a light sweat going is any indication; their apparent progress makes pride brim in Yoongi’s chest.

 

“Alright cadets, line up on the side of the room,” he gestures to the right, making sure they aren’t close enough to the weapons racks. He already caught a few of them eyeing the blades and blasters that Yoongi usually holds off limits for the majority of their time spent together, usually barring them from practicing with anything other than daggers and boot knives. He doesn’t want any unnecessary injury before the real tests begin; God knows that they’re quite the curious bunch.

 

“For this examination, we will start out splitting up into groups. Light, hand-to-hand sparring for now-- I will be looking at your forms. Even if this is an exercise for you to choose your specialization, it is also to prove to me that my and General Jung’s analyses of you were not misplaced,” Yoongi says, going to stand at a spot off-center of the room, separate from the cadets. “After about half an hour of this, we will proceed to grappling matches. I’ve taken the liberty of forming tier brackets so that you all fight against the person most evenly-matched with you from initial estimates but will proceed until you have fought everyone. Knowing your comrades' strengths and weaknesses is critical to teamwork. After this, we will have the final test that each of you will undergo.”

 

A look of question crosses over the squad’s faces nearly instantly, and Yoongi cracks a smile at how in-sync his comrades already seem to be after only a little over a month of training.

 

It’s Jimin who raises his hand to ask the question that appears to be on all their minds, and Yoongi almost feels guilty at not just explaining the final test right off the bat and sparing the poor souls from sweating his answer. Almost.

 

“Yes, Cadet JP134?” Yoongi asks, tone flat despite the amusement in his voice at the look of apprehension on Jimin’s face. Yoongi really is in too good of a mood to do anything but be teasing his cadets like this.

 

“What exactly is the final test, Lieutenant Min?” Jimin asks, completely oblivious to the double-takes that his fellow comrades take at his use of the title. It’s been several days since Jimin started addressing Yoongi in that way during training, and it has yet to fail in shocking the other recruits from whatever wandering thoughts they may have during practice.

 

“Well-- you’ll fight me, of course.” The way Jimin’s brow lifts in amused challenge makes a breath of competitiveness flutter in Yoongi’s chest. “Each and every one of you.”

 

“Isn’t that a little… unfair?” Jimin tilts his head the slightest in question, a bit of disapproval on his face. Yoongi doesn’t mind it at all; he is well-aware that testing them on their physical capabilities after only having introduced them to physical training barely a week ago is rather sudden, but that is, unfortunately, the pace with which the training regime requires-- any time outside of basic training not spent learning and becoming an expert in a specialization is time potentially wasted.

 

“In a way, yes. I don’t expect any of you to win, and I’m not saying that out of pride or cockiness. If you all were going against General Jung, it’d be even worse. However, he and I have come to the conclusion that choosing your specialization is one of the most important choices in your careers. Making such a decision when not being tested against an individual who has actually fought an Other would be rather unrealistic, would it not?”

 

Yoongi watches the understanding dawn on not only Jimin’s face but all the other cadets’ as well. “To place you in a role that you do not get a hint of how it will feel to fill in the future would be an injustice done to you by the two of us. That’s all.”

 

Jimin nods, not saying another word. His eyes are deep with thought and Yoongi is reminded of that one day in training not so long ago, when he saw the same look of introspection on the cadet’s face when they had shown the squad intel sketches of the Others. His brow is heavy-set, the smallest of frowns on his face. Yoongi hopes he didn’t offend him but somehow he feels like it’s not him that is causing Jimin such stress, but rather his words.

 

Yoongi signals for them all to spread out into pairs of two to begin light sparring, and he isn’t at all surprised that Jimin pairs up with Ke.

 

He makes his way around each pair, lingering around them for a few minutes to watch the way each individual moves. He knows that his presence makes them nervous, their movements a little sloppier under his gaze. It’s why he only stays near each little group for a couple of moments, watching each cadet carefully before he moves back completely and lets them continue their sparring. It’s when he’s at a distance that he sees the change in their forms, the way their set shoulders relax the very slightest, their movements growing more confident.

 

This part isn’t really so much a measure of how precise they are-- he knows they are extremely new to physical training, so he doesn’t expect much. This is more-so an exercise to mark their progress, and to understand how his comrades’ bodies move so that he is able to properly test them later on when he fights them. Blindly going into the last part of his close-quarters combat training could end up in him possibly injuring one of his cadets if he’s not extra cautious.

 

It’s not like he’s completely unfamiliar with how they all spar already, but Yoongi isn’t one to take chances when it comes to the people he’s responsible for. Any information about his cadets’ developing personal fighting styles will help in his examinations.

 

By the end of this, the cadets are even more warmed up than they were after their run. There’s an aura of friendly competition in the air, and things are going just as Yoongi wants when he begins the grappling matches.

 

He has them wrestle in pairs, the two cadets up to spar in the center of the room while the others wait their turn at the sides of the room. Yoongi watches each pair carefully, making sure to give each cadet ample time to recover-- whether from a loss, from physical exertion, or both-- between matches. This seems to go well, for the most part, a list of individuals as top contenders to be placed in the close combatant specialist category matching up with the predictions that he and Hoseok had made previously.

 

Going well for the most part, of course, until near the end, when he calls for a certain two cadets up to the challenge.

 

“Cadet XZ448 and Cadet JP134, up to the mat,” Yoongi calls, shutting off his tablet that he had been shuffling around files in during the short minute-long intermission between matches. Taking notes on each cadet’s progress as a recollection of each fight he watches is a bit of a pain in the ass, but Yoongi isn’t complaining-- it’s an important part of the process.

 

He is, however, suddenly feeling apprehensive.

 

Jimin and Xiang come up to the center of the room, shoulders tense and form already all wrong. Yoongi can see clearly that something is… off. He pretended not to notice before how the two had been shooting each other glares since their time back from warm-up laps this morning, their relations always rather hostile since that first day of physical training when Xiang almost nailed Ke in the head with a bowie knife-- by accident, of course.

 

Something must’ve transpired during the cadets’ warm-up without Yoongi’s presence, and he isn’t sure he wants to know exactly what. With the way that Ke is shooting him guilty looks from his spot on the sidelines, Yoongi can only assume that he has something to do with the sudden tension in the air as well.

 

He hasn’t called for the start yet, and the two opposing soldiers are staring at each other with something akin to a strong dislike, a mere arms-length between them.

 

When Yoongi continues to remain silent, looking between the two and trying to decide whether or not he should call off the match and chastise them for taking their personal matters into training, Jimin’s gaze flickers from Xiang’s to meet Yoongi’s.

 

There’s a calm determination in there, and for some reason it makes Yoongi want to see what happens. He doesn’t enjoy the idea of watching his comrades pummel each other for any reason other than gaining skill in a friendly match, and for some reason, the look that Jimin gives Yoongi all the confidence that he won’t have to.

 

Jimin clearly has a temper, if Yoongi knows him at all from his time spent in the cadet’s company, but this isn’t a duel born out of spite. This a duel born out of the need to prove something. What that something is, Yoongi isn’t sure-- but something tells him that Jimin would have more than just his pride hurt if Yoongi were to call off the match.

 

“Start,” Yoongi calls, taking an extra step closer to watch more carefully. He might see that Jimin is in control of his anger, but he isn’t so sure about Xiang, who currently looks no different from a seething bull.

 

It turns out to not be a problem at all.

 

It seems that within a few, long beats of heated grappling, Jimin has Xiang pinned face-down into the mat of the training room. Yoongi notices the room has entered a stunned sort of silence, and he has to admit that he’s joined them in collectively staring at the scene before them. Jimin’s breathing is labored, his body tense as he holds down a very angry, very restrained Xiang.

 

“Round goes to Cadet JP134,” Yoongi announces, voice carefully flat. He doesn’t want to show it, but he’s impressed by Jimin-- it isn’t the first time that’s happened, but it’s the first he’s admitted it to himself.

 

The look that Jimin sends him when he climbs off Xiang’s back isn’t one of victory, however. It’s controlled and emotionless-- a demeanor held by the likes of higher-ranking officers, not mere cadets.

 

Yoongi shouldn’t be surprised anymore that Park Jimin always manages to catch him off-guard by the younger man’s reactions. Somehow, he still finds himself in this exact position.

 

“I want a rematch,” Xiang gruffs out, staring daggers at Jimin, who is standing straight with his hands folded behind his back, a look of contemplation still on his features as he stares unseeingly at the floor. “I want a rematch, you--”

 

“I appreciate your enthusiasm, XZ448,” Yoongi interrupts, cutting the man off before he says anything else that could potentially embarrass him or the other cadets in the room, who are mostly watching him with a mix of pensive and shocked expressions. “But what’s done is done. I trust you can accept defeat when it is in the face of your comrade.”

 

Xiang visibly deflates, as well as the rest of the room, and the grappling matches continue when the two cadets go to the sides of the room, albeit completely distanced from one another. Eventually, everyone has gone against each other and Yoongi has a ridiculous amount of new information to uplink to Hoseok’s VisTech. He briefly wonders when his friend will show up after lunch, if at all today. He’s got a massive backlog of reports and paperwork to do, not lessened in any thanks to Yoongi’s contribution, unfortunately.

 

He quickly decides to have the last sparring matches with him after Seokjin’s tests, right before lunch-- the cadets are clearly feeling tense after the almost-confrontation between Xiang and Jimin, and it’s really not the ideal setting for something as intense as fighting a squad leader like Yoongi. He supposes having it right before lunch will work up quite an appetite, as well-- he definitely doesn’t plan on going easy on any of them. Their stamina usually runs out after much heavier physical exertion, so he isn’t worried about their ability to handle it.

 

A mere two hours after the start of Yoongi’s test and Major Sokolov shows up. She’s as confident as ever, unruly midnight curls tucked into a tight bun on her head, steely blue eyes staring ahead at every one of Yoongi’s new comrades. A soldier in every respect, and one of Yoongi’s previous trainers, back when he himself was nothing but a cadet.

 

He’s been on countless missions with the woman, and she still looks no different from the day he met her. Acts the same, too.

 

“This is Major Lyudmila--”

 

“Major Lyudmila Sokolov, SC I.D. LS442, the Bloodbane’s best fucking sniper,” she grins cockily, smile stretching wider when she sees the delighted way with which Ke’s eyes light up at her attitude. Forward must recognize forward, Yoongi assumes. “And you best believe it, too.”

 

She turns to Yoongi, who is trying his best to give off a calm and unaffected demeanor despite the way his previous squad leader’s attitude is giving him flashbacks of all the times she would make him run extra laps for his rather… disrespectful tendencies when he had first been recruited into the SC Bionics. He was new to the world of the soldier back then, of course, and had a lot of hurt still marred fresh onto his heart. It really is a wonder she grew a liking to teaching him at all, otherwise, he’d have probably ended up kicked out and never having met Hoseok-- or any of his friends other than Seokjin-- at all.

 

The way she looks hungrily at the cadets who can barely hold the weight of the sniper rifles she places in their hands reminds Yoongi that maybe she just really fucking loves a challenge.  It’s always made sense, considering she’s one of the only individuals in New Seoul not of Asian descent-- being caught in a city you’re only stationed at for a national military conference when the apocalypse hits and deciding to stay despite your lack of knowledge of the local language or area never dawned on Yoongi as something rather easy.

 

Nevertheless, she tests them aptly, and if her accent is jarring, none of the cadets point it out. Yoongi’s glad, too-- they might all speak in the same language, but Yoongi has seen higher-ranking officers show disdain towards Lyudmila on missions. They all got swiftly put into their place, of course, but Yoongi isn’t sure what he’d do if one of his subordinates expressed that level of ignorance-- it definitely wouldn’t be as controlled a reaction as simply embarrassing them as Lyudmila did, that’s for sure.

 

It’s when Lyudmila has finished showing the cadets how to set traps, hold, clean and shoot a rifle, track, and then proceed to test them on their ability to adapt those new techniques, that she finishes her examination.

 

“Her,” Lyudmila says lowly next to Yoongi, nodding ahead. Yoongi follows her eye on the cadet who had spoken up first earlier that morning-- Tanaka Asuka, who is currently carefully cleaning a rifle, much like Lyudmila had shown her, “She’s your sniper. The other one,” he watches her gaze drift to Ke, who is currently whispering something to Jimin, their expressions indecipherable, “He’s a tracker, through-and-through. But something tells me he’s going to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, so I’d consider letting him dual-specialize.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes widen at that-- it was rare for a soldier to take up more than one specialization. He had done it, of course, but that’s just because he couldn’t decide between wanting to shove a fist through an Other’s head or keep as far as a distance as possible. He’ll be the first to admit that having specializations in both short-ranged combat and tracking has caused confusion as to his role on missions far in the past.

 

“He reminds me a bit of you,” she adds, eyes glinting with a type of knowing when she glances at Yoongi. It seems like it’s nothing short of witchcraft, the way she can read his mind sometimes. “Lots of conflict in that one. He’ll be a pain in the ass, just like you were,” she laughs aloud, causing a few cadets to startle and stare at her in wonder. Her laugh is rather light and airy-- such a stark contrast to her rather overbearing demeanor.

 

“I appreciate the sentiment, Mila, but I assure you KL427 hasn’t been a problem so far,” Yoongi sighs, letting a smile twitch at the corner of his lips when she laughs harder at the use of Yoongi’s nickname for her. She always said it was funny that such a reserved person could show affection in little ways like that-- Yoongi, of course, dismissed the very notion with a very red face at the time she had mentioned it years ago. “He’s just got a bit of weird sense of humor is all. Clings to JP134’s side all the time, too.”

 

“Sounds like you’re a bit jealous there, Kotik," she titters, eyeing said brown-eyed cadet from across the room, curiousness in her eyes. Jimin stiffens for but a second, noticing their gazes before he turns away to keep talking to Ke, a light blush flooding his cheeks. “Oh, how sweet--”

 

“You need to stop hitting the liquor, Mila. You’d say I’d take an interest in just about anyone, if it meant you could tease me--”

 

“I never said you were necessarily interested, Min.” She cracks a wide grin, and Yoongi can distinctly feel his face turning the color of a tomato, “But you’re not wrong, either. I do need to stop hitting the liquor. I have a fucking migraine.” Despite her words, she continues to keep grinning almost maliciously at Yoongi. How can someone hungover still appear so obviously… aware?  It makes nervousness skitter up his spine.

 

She transfers the information she gathered herself during the examination and bids Yoongi a farewell without another word on the subject. Yoongi wants to say he’s grateful for the spared embarrassment and mortification, but somehow her deciding not to push it just makes him feel even more nervous-- like it’s a sensitive subject, which Yoongi silently but profusely refuses the notion of.

 

“Alright cadets,” Yoongi calls, gesturing for them all to round up. “You did well this morning. You’re off for breakfast, be back in thirty for Doctor Kim’s examinations and the final test from my end. Dismissed.”

 

Jimin doesn’t meet his gaze when he and Ke leave the training room and somehow, that only confuses Yoongi more.

 

            

 

“You didn’t have to do that, JP,” Ke repeats for the hundredth time within the last two hours since Jimin’s match with Xiang. He thinks he might go insane if he has to hear it one more time.

 

“Of course I fucking did,” Jimin seethes, stomping down the hall to breakfast, his anger finally able to let loose from the tight reign he’s had on it nearly all morning. “You let him win during your match with him. I had to show him who the fuck he’s messing with--”

 

“JP,” Ke starts again, and Jimin swears to everything holy, if he has to hear him say he didn’t have to do that one more fucking time, “I didn’t let Xiang win. He beat me fair and square, and you know it--”

 

“If you had held onto your anger over him nearly picking a fight with you on the track this morning, you would have easily schooled his ass, just like I did--”

 

“Are you even fucking hearing yourself right now, JP?” Ke pulls on his arm, stopping Jimin’s death march to the mess hall. He sets him with a death glare as payment, and Ke doesn’t even flinch-- Jimin must look as threatening as an angry kitten in his friend’s eyes. “Hold onto my anger? And what would that have done besides make him worse? Did you even see the way Yoongi was staring at the both of you? He almost called off the fucking match because of the looks the two of you were giving each other! Xiang wasn’t nearly as angry with me-- at least, not more than he usually is--”

 

“Ke,” Jimin sighs, deflating on the spot at the start of Ke’s rambling. “If I can’t defend the people I care about then what the fuck am I doing here, huh? I’m not gonna let that prick walk all over you just because he thinks he got on Yoongi’s bad side from one mistake during training. That asshole doesn’t even know the half of what being on Yoongi’s bad side is like.” Jimin raises his hand to wipe at his brow in frustration as if clawing at his face will make him less distressed.

 

“Don’t worry about me, JP. I’m a grown man,” Ke says, and Jimin almost starts arguing again when he realizes there’s no point. “Xiang might be a dick, but he’s just worried about his position in the squad, just like everyone else. I don’t give a fuck if he doesn’t like me or us, he’s still a squadmate. If you keep poking the bear, one day the bear is gonna bite back--”

 

“You say that now, but we both know that if it was me he was talking shit about, you’d be all over trying to kick his ass,” Jimin mutters, not missing how Ke promptly closes his mouth in an unwilling type of acknowledgment of Jimin’s words.

 

Jimin’s anger dies out almost completely when Ke gives him a quick, silent hug before dragging him off to breakfast. It’s still teeming inside him, making him nearly choke with how quickly he shoves his breakfast bars down his throat when he thinks about Xiang’s stupid face or Xiang’s stupid remarks about Ke being a joke of a soldier.

 

It’s when they’re walking back into the training room that any lingering traces of his temper completely disappear. He swiftly ignores Xiang’s presence as he walks up to Yoongi before training starts back up again. Ke is in the corner downing a bottle of water, picking up a conversation with the Japanese woman with red hair and a mean aim. Jimin takes a deep breath before he starts talking, trying his best to calm the nerves suddenly crawling up his throat.

 

“Lieut--”

 

“Hey, Park,” Yoongi mumbles, demeanor relaxed.

 

“Hi… Yoongi,” Jimin replies, caught off-guard. His eyes flicker to the gloves on Yoongi’s hands, curious as to why he still has them on despite being on break. “I wanted to… to apologize for my behavior during my match earlier.” He drags his gaze back up to meet Yoongi’s, forcing himself to apologize for putting his lieutenant in a bad spot because of his actions, “I know you almost called it off, and I shouldn’t have put you in that awkward position just because I was angry with Xiang. I shouldn’t have brought that to training.”

 

Yoongi’s entire face curves up into a smile, and Jimin isn’t sure if he feels relaxed by the expression or even more nervous. “It’s alright, Park. XZ448 apologized too, you know. He stayed in here during breakfast to go outside and run extra laps as punishment,” Yoongi chuckles, face lighting up.

 

“I had to practically force him to go eat breakfast. Wouldn’t expect a direct apology from that one, though.” Yoongi’s gaze flicker to the other side of the room before meeting Jimin’s again, mischief glinting in his eyes, “I take it he’s a rather prideful man. He’ll be feeling the hurt for a while, after getting his ass handed to him by you as he did.”

 

“I see,” Jimin chokes out, eyes wide. He doesn’t say another word, and Yoongi seems content to let the conversation fall off, if the way he turns his attention back to messing with his work tablet is any sign.

 

Jimin knows that when he walks away from the lieutenant to join Ke and Asuka in their conversation that he’s blushing red. He just decides to pretend it’s from fatigue, and not the way Yoongi indirectly complimenting him made his whole body go rigid like he was receiving an insult instead. Insults weren’t usually accompanied by a flood of warmth in Jimin’s chest but often a rush of anger, but he isn’t going to linger on that moot point.

 

When Seokjin shows up for his version of the tests, Jimin has to hold himself back from waving excitedly at the older man. He notices Ke has the same struggle, if the way he smiles tightly at the doctor is any indication. It’s all rather amusing, Jimin thinks.

 

While he didn’t necessarily feel at home in either Yoongi’s close-combat test (even pinning Xiang to the floor had left him feeling rather conflicted and unrelieved of his anger-- it just wasn’t that satisfying to watch Xiang lose his composure, what with how often he so often does) or in Major Sokolov’s ranged combat examinations, something just… clicks during Seokjin’s.

 

He notices that Yoongi is watching him intensely throughout the exam, and it only occurs to Jimin halfway through that he might be worried about the possibility of Jimin freaking out like he did that first day. When he notices Yoongi’s stare, he notices the fleeting glances of nearly everyone around him, too.

 

He won’t lie and say it isn’t a little embarrassing, but Jimin knows he didn’t nearly pass out that first day because it was the wound on that soldier’s arm that alarmed him-- it was the type of surgery being performed. Jimin had spent a significant part of his life at home patching up scrapes on little knees or sewing up the occasional particularly nasty gash that one of Jihyun’s rambunctious teenage friends earned while milling about the Bunker levels.

 

Give an inch of freedom to teenagers, and they take a mile-- and that often lead to Jihyun and his group of friends coming to Jimin with tears in their eyes and blood on any one of their limbs after having slipped from climbing up the side of one of the many buildings within the Bunker during their countless explorations.

 

Jimin had done the same with Taehyung and Jungkook at that age, and even back then he was the only one to learn how to patch the three of them up-- he has his grandmother teaching him that when he was bored out of his mind and stuck at their Bunker room to thank for that.

 

So when Seokjin has the cadets enter a Simfield in the middle of a bloody battlefield-- set in a war that no one remembers anymore-- Jimin doesn’t even flinch when he has an imaginary soldier, sprawled on a stretcher and screaming loudly in Jimin’s ears, bleeding out from his leg. Jimin doesn’t blink when he has to clean it, or sew it up crudely as Seokjin had just taught not even five minutes previous -- sure, the wound is way worse than Jimin was used to and he definitely messed up the sutures, but… it wasn’t the worst injury that he’s ever seen.

 

Jimin has to remind himself that nothing will ever be as worse as when he saw an Other.

 

It wasn’t the wound on the soldier’s arm within the Special Upgrades Division that made Jimin nearly faint, no-- it was the entire concept of hot metal being poured into the man’s tissue or replacing a limb and a little tidbit of humanity willingly , all for the sake of fighting monsters more efficiently, that horrified him.

 

Jimin isn’t sure how he will react seeing another Other in the flesh in the future, but he knows he signed up for the Singularity Coalition because he was willing to take that chance, if only to protect Jihyun and Jungkook and to stay with Taehyung. He just hopes his years of dealing with the gruesome creatures in his nightmares will make him immune to the repercussions of seeing them in reality again.

 

When the training (or aptitude test, as Seokjin keeps so kindly putting it) concludes, Jimin and only a handful of others have made it through the test without either completely fucking it up or growing sick at one point. Jimin knows the Simfields are rather realistic, but some of his comrade’s reactions are a bit… much. He isn’t one to judge after his first day here, however.

 

He will, however, smile with pride when he catches Yoongi’s eye, only for the lieutenant to then give him a rather discreet nod of approval. Jimin thinks he’s found his specialization.

 

Yoongi calls for the group to take a small break, and Jimin takes that chance to walk over to Seokjin and help him pack up.

 

“Good job today, Jimin,” Seokjin whispers, eyes glinting in the light of the training room. He’s got the smallest of smiles on his lips, and Jimin is suddenly feeling bashful-- like Seokjin is an older brother holding back from showering him in affection. He’s gotten awfully close with the others at dinner, and Seokjin is definitely no exception. “I was impressed that you held such composure, especially since--”

 

“Since I nearly fainted my first day here?”

 

“-- you’re only a cadet,” Seokjin finishes, frowning slightly when he realizes what Jimin said. He puts the rest of his medical equipment in the bag he brought before he’s standing and turning to Jimin, who follows his movement. “Jimin, just because you got squeamish one time doesn’t mean you’re not meant for this line of work. I can’t tell you the number of times I would lose my lunch over certain wounds in the field back when I was on the active roster. After a few years, you just get over it, but it doesn’t change the fact that trauma is trauma. It’s perfectly natural to sometimes not be able to control yourself and act adversely-- it’s how you come back from it that matters.”

 

Jimin’s lips quirk up sheepishly, pursing his lips in his concentration of how to respond to Seokjin’s comforting words.

 

“And I don’t know what the others told you, but you came back pretty quickly from what happened your first day here. While it’s true that most recruits don’t react the way you did to the Special Upgrades department-- probably because their squad leaders take the good mind to make sure a surgery isn’t going on when the tour is happening--” Seokjin shoots a glare to Yoongi, who is currently speaking with Ke and a few other recruits.

 

“-- most recruits go down for at least the rest of the day when they react in that way to such shocking imagery. I mean, I didn’t see it for myself, but from what Ke and Yoongi told me… it wasn’t a reaction that you can just wash away. Plus, I’ve watched over a Ferium injection before and those procedures are rather gruesome--”

 

“I still embarrassed myself in front of all of them,” Jimin sighs, gaze flickering to his feet. He thought he was done being embarrassed, but having his comrades and his lieutenant watch him so carefully-- as if he were about to breakdown-- left a sour taste in Jimin’s mouth. It made him feel like he was a burden rather than a teammate. He wanted to prove them wrong, even if their notions were without ill intent.

 

“If I embarrass myself right now, will that make you feel better?” Seokjin offers, smile growing on his face.  His eyes flicker to Yoongi after Jimin shakes his head, “What about if I embarrass him?”

 

Jimin’s jaw drops in horror, but he can’t lie about the giddiness that rises up his chest, “Hyung, that’s fucked up. It’s not his fault, I can’t ask you to do that. It won’t make me feel better, I assure you--”

 

Seokjin isn’t listening, instead walking over toward Yoongi and pulling on his elbow to get his attention. Jimin notices how Yoongi stiffens the slightest before his eyes flicker to Seokjin’s, the set of his shoulders relaxing only a little before Seokjin is waving Jimin over.

 

That’s another thing that Jimin has noticed over the past few days. During training, Yoongi has no qualms having others in his personal space, moving all their limbs to correct forms and grips on knives. For some reason, though, he keeps an arms-length distance from nearly all the people at dinner.

 

Jimin would figure he just appreciates his personal space, but he has noticed more than once how the others at the table will almost reach to touch Yoongi but falter. Even Yoongi seems to notice it himself, if how he stiffens up like he just did when Seokjin touched him.

 

Except with Seokjin, he relaxes. Jimin doesn’t get it, but he’s certain that it’s absolutely none of his business (he just can’t help noticing, despite his best attempts not to).

 

He walks over hesitantly, absolutely dreading the look of barely-controlled mischief on Seokjin’s face. Yoongi is looking at him with a look-- what kind of look, Jimin isn’t sure, but it makes nervousness skitter across his skin. He’s just grateful that most of the cadets he was speaking with aren’t paying attention anymore, now in a separate conversation a few feet away.

 

“What did you think of Jimin’s crack at my exam, Yoongi?” Seokjin asks brightly, removing his hand from Yoongi’s elbow. The lieutenant straightens his posture the smallest amount, eyeing between Jimin and Seokjin suspiciously.

 

“You know I can’t show any bias to my cadets, Jin,” he mutters, frown on his lips. Jimin suddenly remembers the lieutenant’s words earlier about Jimin kicking Xiang’s ass, and for some reason, this whole situation becomes a lot more amusing than nerve-wracking. He isn’t exactly sure why, though.

 

Seokjin pauses, looking at Yoongi seriously for a few moments before re-entering his teasing demeanor, if that’s what Jimin can call it, “So, you’re saying that if you could show bias, you would say that Jimin’s show of aptitude for medic was, dare I say it, impressive?”

 

Yoongi’s eyes narrow, the center of his face dusting the slightest of pinks under Seokjin’s line of questioning, “Seokjin, I didn’t invite you to be Specialist Lead for the medics just so you could come and heckle me.” Yoongi glances at Jimin, a reserved expression on his face, “Plus, I doubt I need to tell Park he did a good job. He doesn’t need my approval--”

 

“Got it! Thanks!” Seokjin cuts him off, shooting Jimin a broad smile before starting to leave the room. “I’ll see you two at dinner! Tell Ke to stop by earlier than usual.”

 

At Yoongi’s affronted look, Jimin can’t help but start laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, nearly falling over in his attempts to suppress the snorts rising up his throat. The room goes silent, and Jimin is starting to feel mortification take him over until, surprisingly enough, Yoongi starts chuckling, too. The other conversations in the room pick up again, and Yoongi is still laughing lowly, “You shouldn’t-- you shouldn’t be laughing, Park--”

 

“Like you’re one to talk--” Jimin wheezes, and he has no idea why any of this is as funny as it is, but for some reason, almost anything that Seokjin does these days comes off as rather amusing to Jimin.

 

When he composes himself, he looks up to see Yoongi smiling widely at him, hands folded behind his back as he waits for Jimin to recover. His eyes are searching Jimin’s face, and Jimin can’t help but let a snort rip loose at how comfortable their interactions seem now compared to not even a week ago-- let alone a few moments before-- and he has to bite his tongue to stop from laughing again. “‘S there something on my face, Lieutenant?”

 

Yoongi hesitates for only a moment before he’s making a tsktsk sound, eyeing Jimin with amusement alight in his expression, “Yes, Park, it’s your pride.” His words are snarky, but his tone is light, “You ought to reign it in, or else I might not go easy on you before lunch.”

 

Jimin pauses at that-- he thinks he can see challenge in Yoongi’s eyes. “We’ll see about that,” Jimin counters, even though he’s certain that Yoongi could make a fool of him if he wanted to. Something tells Jimin that Yoongi wouldn’t embarrass him now as he had before.

 

Yoongi smirks before he’s turning to the rest of the cadets to call their attention, “Roundup! Let’s get this last test over with so that we can go eat.”

 

The first few matches go rather slow; it’s what to expect for a duel between a lieutenant and a mere cadet-- Jimin has a feeling it’s completely intentional on Yoongi’s part. He’s never seen the lieutenant in battle, and with the way he moves now-- lithe and calm, a deep focus set on his brow as he easily dodges his opponent’s grabs while watching their every move-- Jimin is wondering what the real thing looks like.

 

It seems as if Yoongi lets his cadets hit him, each shot that they do manage to land met with barely a reaction from their squad leader. It seems like Yoongi stays in their radius only when their form is right, like he’s encouraging them to make the proper moves and punishing them by returning a few jabs himself when they misstep. To anyone who didn’t know the nature of Yoongi’s training, they’d assume it was simply just the cadets being able to actually place some well-timed hits-- Jimin and his comrades are wiser.

 

They all know that Yoongi is the one completely in control of the tide of these duels.

 

Yet somehow when he eventually finishes the match by pinning each cadet down in a grapple they can’t escape-- or that he won’t let them-- none of the losers seem tiffed about it. There’s something humbling about how Yoongi handles each fight, yes, but there is no shame in it-- it’s clear from Yoongi’s praises after each match that this isn’t about proving he’s far ahead of them all (which he clearly is), but about their improvement.

 

It seems like Yoongi knows none of them can beat him yet, but there’s a certain excitement in his comments on each of their progress that shows that he clearly wants them to one day.

 

Yoongi wants them to grow, to develop, to outmatch him. There’s a pride in his eyes that only a teacher can have when he shakes the hand of every cadet he goes up against at the end of each match-- a pride clearly not accosted to the lieutenant’s success, but to each cadet’s promise of improvement. Jimin finds himself completely enamored by it all-- not that he’ll admit it anytime soon. Just the thought of telling Yoongi he’s grateful for his fairness and dedication to preparing the squad as a strong leader makes Jimin’s face go pink.

 

However, just because he’s kind to his recruits doesn’t mean he doesn’t keep his aura of sternness, too. When each cadet inevitably messes up during the match, he calls them out on it immediately. It would be foolish to not see how it clearly irks each one of Yoongi’s opponents, but by the end of it, they all end up thankful for the practice, to one degree or another. Even Xiang bows respectfully before Yoongi and thanks him for whatever praise Yoongi gives at Xiang’s rather strong form. It seems the effect Yoongi’s encouragement and criticism isn't lost on anyone.

 

“Alright, JP134. Up to the mat,” Yoongi says, his breath heavier than usual. It seems that fighting nearly all the cadets for the past hour and a half has caused a bit of a sweat to break out-- maybe he isn’t as unaffected as he puts off.

 

Jimin glances at Ke, who got a particularly nasty hit to the face by Yoongi’s knee when he tried to take the lieutenant down, to see his friend smiling brightly at him. He gives a thumbs-up to Jimin, who can’t help but grin back, the adrenaline already kicking into his system from the anticipation.

 

He walks to the center of the room, rolling his neck dramatically and raising an eyebrow at Yoongi in a challenge. Yoongi’s expression remains mostly blank, except for the slight twitch of the corner of his lips.

 

“Drop into position, JP134,” Yoongi orders, hunching into a defensive stance, hands slightly forward and palms open as he looks at Jimin with a glint in his eye. Jimin follows suit, and waits for Yoongi to call the start.

 

It’s with a simple nod from the lieutenant that Jimin lunges forward.

 

Yoongi doesn’t seem to expect it; if he does, then he lets Jimin tackle him to the ground. Jimin wrestles with him, rolling around on the mat and trying to pin him until Yoongi does just that. Jimin thinks he sees a flash of amusement flicker across Yoongi’s face from above him, but then he’s letting go of Jimin’s wrists and standing up.

 

“Get up, JP134. Keep going-- the element of surprise means nothing when you can’t use your opponent’s strength against them. Your weakness is your brashness,” Yoongi huffs, crouching into position once again, eyes trained on Jimin as he gets up.

 

Jimin takes a slower approach this time in an effort to heed the lieutenant’s advice, walking circles carefully around Yoongi as he waits for a flaw in his defense. He has a strong feeling that when Yoongi opens his left side to attack just the slightest, it’s a test-- but unfortunately for Jimin, he’s high on adrenaline and the want to win, so he takes the bait.

 

It’s only in the matter of a second and the blink of an eye that Jimin is slammed to the ground again, the air being knocked out of him. His arms are pinned under Yoongi’s legs, the lieutenant looking down at him from sitting on his abdomen. Jimin frowns, only now realizing what Yoongi was playing at when he let his guard down the slightest.

 

This match is nearly identical to how all the other ones with the cadets have gone so far-- except for the fact that Yoongi is definitely smirking down on him, showing emotion instead of the cool, blank expression he had held with others. Jimin is reminded of his own foolishly cocky words during the break and is suddenly regretting them immensely.

 

This is still training, and still an aptitude test and chance for improvement on Jimin’s part-- but it is also a challenge. Yoongi wants to see if Jimin can pin him like he’s already done twice to the cadet, and Jimin will be damned if he doesn’t try to take a crack at it.

 

This is no different from that first day when Yoongi had made an example out of Jimin during the tour. Or maybe it is, if the way the lieutenant’s face is alight and open instead of annoyed and closed-off like it was when he put Jimin in his place over a month ago.

 

Yoongi lifts off from Jimin, his inhales strained compared to the light pant he had going on at the start of the match. Yoongi is true to his word as ever and is definitely not going easy on him. If anything, he’s more conniving than he was with the other cadets-- Jimin would call it unfair, if it wasn’t so damn exhilarating.

 

Jimin drags himself off the ground, ignoring the small hoot of encouragement he hears from where he can only assume Ke is standing. Yoongi’s face breaks out into a full smile then, and this time it’s him who makes a move.

 

He grabs at Jimin’s shoulder, pulling him down and taking him completely by surprise. Jimin twists in his hold, failing to escape and being left in a chokehold, Yoongi kneeling behind him as he is put into an awkward sitting-up position on the mat. His own breathing is labored, and he can feel the small puff of Yoongi’s breath on his hair.

 

“You should expect the unexpected, JP134. Just because I’m your teacher in this situation doesn’t mean that I won’t come for you first,” Yoongi huffs, holding stronger onto Jimin when he tries to pry the lieutenant’s arm from his neck and escape. “You make the mistake of assuming that I fight all you cadets the same. The difference between you and them is that they didn’t try to pin me right at the beginning like some rabid animal.” Yoongi chuckles and Jimin feels his temper bubbling up.

 

He now understands why Xiang was so angry earlier at losing, and why each cadet had shown irritation at some point during their fights with Yoongi-- getting absolutely manhandled in front of your peers is nothing short of embarrassing, even if it is an opportunity for growth.

 

“‘M gonna kick your ass, Lieutenant Min,” Jimin pants out in a promise when Yoongi lets him out of the chokehold, even if he knows it’s a lie. Yoongi goes silent at that, and Jimin turns around when he stands to see that the lieutenant’s expression has turned curious, if not still a little amused. It should be demeaning, but if anything, it just eggs Jimin on and makes him feel more focused on winning at least once.

 

It’s easier said than done.

 

Time and time again, Yoongi keeps winning their grapple and pinning Jimin into the mat. He knows realistically that the match is progressing similarly in length to the others, but it feels so much longer now that he’s the one getting his ass handed to him. Yoongi doesn’t hold up on the critiques either, which is really no different from before-- pointing out the flaws in Jimin’s form and the way he approaches the fight. Jimin is getting tired, his usual stamina during practice running thin with how often the air is knocked out of him.

 

But he won’t lie and say that this match isn’t doing more for him than the running track outside or the light sparring from earlier.

 

He’s learning fast, and almost gets a true hold of Yoongi a few times. Of course, he’s met with a knee to the gut or an elbow to the face, but that doesn’t mean he’s not leaving an impression on Yoongi, too.

 

The lieutenant is sweating-- something he didn’t do with any of the other cadets before him-- and Jimin is starting to realize that while Yoongi’s defense and movements are somehow only getting smoother and more focused, Jimin still finds himself completely invigorated. Jimin hasn’t been this into training… well, ever, and it’s apparently starting to show in his movements, if the critiques slipping from Yoongi’s tongue are slowly but surely replaced with praises at Jimin’s rapid improvement.

 

Jimin is adapting, and soon enough, he does slam Yoongi to the mat.

 

“Good job, JP134. You’re the first to pin me properly,” Yoongi grunts, shimmying under Jimin to try and get loose. Jimin only holds his wrists down tighter, tightening his thighs around the lieutenant’s torso to keep him still. Yoongi huffs out a breath of annoyance, and it breaks Jimin’s resolve completely.

 

He starts laughing like a madman, relieved that he finally was able to win the edge over Yoongi, who has been driving him absolutely mad for the past ten minutes. Jimin is soaked in sweat, his exosuit clinging to him uncomfortably, but he’s elated. He lets go of Yoongi’s wrists, just sitting there atop him and absolutely losing his shit. He can barely hear the claps and amused chuckles from his comrades, the whole ordeal apparently very entertaining to watch-- a friendly competition-- when he looks down to see the lieutenant’s face.

 

Jimin stops laughing when he sees the proud smile on Yoongi’s face, and he’s drawn into just staring, his endorphin-riddled mind running him numb. He feels as if his own self is reflected back onto him in that small moment, completely enraptured in the dark pools that stare back into him.

 

He can feel his pulse running across his face, his skin; fatigue is setting in, but somehow he still can’t help but continue to stare instead of getting up. Yoongi’s smile drops after a few seconds of eye contact, and while Jimin is sure that the others can’t see it, he does.

 

The faintest twitch of Yoongi’s face, an almost-grimace… a repressed flinch.

 

Jimin is off of him within seconds, his blood running cold and his mind suddenly clearing of the post-victory high he had so easily slipped into.

 

He looks up from where he’s standing to see if anyone did notice besides him but sees that everyone is suddenly crowding around him, patting him on the back and congratulating him. Not even Ke seems to notice, although Xiang is eyeing Jimin with disdain (which really should be of no surprise).

 

When Jimin looks over their shoulders to search for Yoongi, unable to help himself, he meets the lieutenant’s eyes. His expression is more guarded than Jimin has seen since that first night at dinner, and he looks away from Jimin a mere second after making contact with him. How dizzying it is, to have the atmosphere change between them so quickly. Jimin finds himself reeling in place, attributing the airiness in his head to the adrenaline in an effort to ignore the confusion clouding his mind.

 

Surroundings drowned out by the sound of his comrades laughing and Yoongi calling for the next cadet to line up to start their turn, Jimin is left with a revelation that he isn’t sure he’s supposed to have had.

 

The Yoongi that slammed him to the mat countless times is a different person from the one that he pinned down. The Yoongi that trains him is not the Yoongi who he eats dinner across from-- in fact, the two couldn’t be further apart.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week goes without a hitch and the next week starts out fine, too. Dinners are fun and Jimin always spends the last half an hour or so in a Simfield, enabling audio and listening to others around him, occasionally chiming in as he explores the many virtual reality simulations offered.

 

Yoongi does the same from across the table, and Ke keeps commenting on how he thinks that Jimin has been swapped out for a clone of Yoongi and is just wearing the old Jimin’s skin. Jimin shuts it down immediately, the whole concept rather disturbing-- especially with how it makes him blush red at Ke’s insinuation that Yoongi and Jimin are closer than how they really are.


He and Yoongi are slowly getting more comfortable with each other-- sure, with how many hours of the day they spend in each other’s company-- and Jimin would like to think they’re friends. But he can’t help but notice when Yoongi refers to his ‘friends’-- namely Hoseok, Seokjin, and Namjoon-- as so but then calls Jimin and Ke and even Taehyung his ‘comrades’, strictly so.

 

It shouldn’t feel as disappointing as Jimin experiences, but it is— and he doesn’t understand why he cares so much. He just started on good terms with the lieutenant fairly recently, but they click so well in the conversations and interests that they do have (as Ke had so enthusiastically pointed out to him nearly every day since Jimin had sparred with the lieutenant); Jimin simply feels like he’s being shut out before he even has the chance to get in.

 

Maybe he isn’t as good at this friend thing as he had thought before. Maybe he’s permanently stuck as nothing but Yoongi’s jovial comrade and subordinate, even if the lieutenant treats him like more than that outside of the time of training.

 

Perhaps the way that Yoongi had flinched back from Jimin during specialization training was still on the lieutenant’s mind every time he decided to strengthen the distance between himself and the newest additions to the dinner table. Jimin sure knew that it was on his own, coming to the forefront of his thoughts every time Yoongi referred to him as ‘comrade’ and not ‘friend’.

 

It’s not like the two words have much difference, either-- Jimin knows realistically that the two could be used synonymously in their line of work, as Yoongi does so frequently himself. It’s the incessant use of the term and no replacement of such when referring to Jimin, Ke, or Taehyung that really leaves a rather hurt feeling in Jimin’s chest. He briefly wonders if this is how Ke felt whenever he would push him away at the beginning of their friendship, and the guilt makes him cling to Ke’s side and shower him in affection much more often than before.

 

Ke doesn’t complain one bit, even if he shoots bewildered looks of amusement Jimin’s way every time Jimin randomly hugs or compliments him.




All is good for the most part-- despite how awkwardly Jimin tiptoes around Yoongi, getting closer only to be pushed away again-- until one day, Yoongi doesn’t show up to training.

 

Instead, Hoseok is the one who shows up-- in sweats and a smile far too content for this early hour of the morning.

 

“Hello, cadets! I’m sure you’re surprised to see me today, but I assure you that Lieutenant Min is perfectly fine! I didn’t kill him and take his job or anything,” Hoseok jokes, chuckling despite the looks of barely-contained horror that graces the faces of some of the cadets. Jimin and Ke have to suppress a laugh when they meet each other’s eyes-- they both know that out of the two, Yoongi would be the one pushed to murder much sooner than sunny, crude-humored Hoseok.

 

Hoseok’s laughter dies out when he sees the worried glances the few cadets affected by his words are shooting one another. It’s not that they necessarily think Hoseok would do such a thing, but the evidence of Yoongi-- Yoongi, who hasn’t been late to a single training day and constantly pushes attendance-- suddenly not showing up is a little too… convenient, for a joke like the one that Hoseok just said. It’s just so out-of-character for the lieutenant to not show up for training.

 

“I assure you, Lieutenant Min is just busy with a mission today, lots of paperwork to catch up to,” Hoseok continues, clearing his throat and dropping his duffel bag into the corner where Yoongi’s stuff usually goes. “Let’s hit the track, do some of the regular rotations and I’ll let you all off early to visit your specialization leaders.”

 

Jimin is curious as to why the two hadn’t mentioned Yoongi’s absence last night at dinner, if it was planned for him to go on some type of mission. He doesn’t really consider why an officer who is off of the active duty roster for training is off on a mission instead, either.

 

When Hoseok eventually lets them out of general training to go visit their specialization leaders, Jimin walks with a certain type of distraction to the infirmary ward.

 

After lunch that day of the exams, Jimin had chosen medic as his future role in the squad. There was really no discrepancy between what he decided and the predictions that Hoseok and Yoongi had given him on the analysis they sent to his VisTech-- aside from the last-minute change by Yoongi for what seems like an improved aptitude score for close-quarters combat.

 

Jimin didn’t pay it any mind, easily choosing medic-- he knew that if he chose close-quarters combat, he’d be put in more situations where he’d have to pin Yoongi to the ground during practice. He isn’t sure he wants to see that look cross the lieutenant’s face again, even if the small victory he attained against him felt sweet but for a fleeting moment.

 

Plus, when Hoseok had mentioned in the analysis that medics tended to rely less on Special Upgrades for themselves, Jimin couldn’t help but feel even more inclined to choose that option. The more distance he has from that particular surgery room, the better.

 

He opens the door to the infirmary, grateful that it’s always open unless one of the doctors aren’t there, and walks inside. He loops around some medical attendants that he’s had light conversation with over the past days since starting his specialization training, all of which are either charting their medical reports or too busy attending to patients that they briefly wave at Jimin before going back to forgetting his presence.

 

Seokjin is in the back, looking over the bandages of a soldier’s healing arm. The man is sitting on the edge of a hospital bed, looking pensively at Seokjin, who is turning over his arm as he unwraps the cloth bound around his limb. He had come in the first day of Jimin’s training, his forearm heavily lacerated-- by what, Jimin didn’t have the guts to ask. Apparently, his squad leader had put in the report before the soldier’s presence in the infirmary-- so thankfully, Seokjin didn’t have to ask the soldier and Jimin didn’t have to listen to a possibly uncomfortable conversation. Jimin doesn’t mind the wound, but he’d like to not focus too heavily on how one’s injury achieves such gruesome feats.

 

He’d rather just learn how to heal it. Seokjin has done a good job showing Jimin how to do so.

 

When Seokjin notices Jimin’s presence after a few beats, he wordlessly gestures for Jimin to pull up a stool. Jimin does so obediently, only a little surprised when Seokjin scoots back, indicating for Jimin to take over changing the day-old dressing on the soldier’s arm. The man-- Jimin can’t seem to remember his name, though he assumes it doesn’t really matter, considering he’s not the soldier’s doctor-- looks apprehensively at Jimin, who offers him a timid smile and finishes unwrapping his arm.

 

“Check the sutures, Jimin,” Seokjin instructs, pointing at the angry red of the man’s arm. It’s a signal that the tissue is healing properly, a slight gleam to the sensitive skin. Jimin is careful to clean around the stitches. When the soldier sees that Jimin-- who up to this point, had only ever watched Seokjin touch the patients-- is skilled enough to not cause him any significant pain, his shoulders relax.

 

“How long do you think until we can discharge him, Jimin?” Seokjin asks curiously. Jimin knows it’s a test, expects nearly everything to be at this point. The soldier doesn’t look like he cares that he’s being talked about as if he isn’t there, a curious expression on his face as Jimin uses a delicate touch on the man’s arm to inspect it.

 

“You said he’s on an accelerated healing serum?” Jimin counters, taking the salve that Seokjin had left to the side of the soldier’s leg to smear it carefully across the healing skin.

 

That’s another thing that Jimin didn’t really know about until a few days ago-- accelerated healing serum. It goes in through an IV, and quickens the cell turnover rate of each patient. It’s some kind of freakish version of healing on steroids, and Jimin wasn’t shocked that it was invented by the Special Upgrades division. It seems anything that has to do with altering the body’s natural state comes from that section of the Singularity Coalition.

 

“Yes, has been on it since day one. Full dosage, too,” Seokjin adds, and Jimin can feel his gaze on the side of his face.

 

As soon as Jimin had heard about the option to opt out of personally using medical advancements such as this in his own time of emergency, he took it. It doesn’t bother him that his future patients will use it, but the idea of losing any more of his sense of normalcy than what his future missions will no doubt steal from him seems too uncomfortable an idea for Jimin to comprehend. It seems that even now, after all the technology he’s seen and the good that it can apparently do, he can’t keep the beliefs that his family had instilled in him separate from his new life.

 

“I think we could discharge him as early as tonight, then. Especially since it’s the full dosage of the serum,” Jimin estimates, wrapping the man’s arm in a new bandage. The shock of seeing the soldier’s arm go from near ribbons to an almost fully-functional limb in the matter of less than a week isn’t something that is lost on Jimin. He understands the gravity of such a medical advancement, but acknowledging it and wanting it for his own future injuries are two very different things.

 

Jimin has been having an internal battle with himself on several fronts of his life, needless to say.

 

“Good,” Seokjin hums in approval, suddenly on his tablet when Jimin glances at him. The doctor is tapping with an almost bored kind of focus like he’s gone through the motions of charting data on a patient’s report thousands of times; Jimin can only assume he most likely has.

 

“Does that mean I can go back on the active roster by next week?” the soldier asks, and Jimin has to hold back a frown at his quite obvious enthusiasm at the prospect. He meets Seokjin’s eyes for a moment, the doctor’s gaze calculating and focused as he searches Jimin’s face before he’s turning to his patient.

 

“Yes, I’d say you’ll be good to do so by the beginning of next week.” Seokjin stands up, tucking his tablet into the pocket of his lab coat before helping the soldier settle back against the pillows at the head of the hospital bed. “Get some rest for now. A nurse will be in here soon enough with your lunch and your next bag of serum. Ring for me on VisTech if you need anything else.”

 

The soldier is already slipping into what Jimin can only assume is a Simfield as Seokjin leads Jimin to the other side of the infirmary, where his desk is. Seokjin sits down, patting at the stool next to him for Jimin to join him. It’s when he’s plopping down tiredly onto the seat that Seokjin finally meets Jimin’s gaze, his brow furrowed the slightest.

 

“How are you today, Jimin?” Seokjin asks, giving a slight nod of thanks to the doctor who takes that moment to bring Seokjin a cup of coffee. He sees Jimin and hands him one out of the four-cup tray he’s holding, offering a polite smile before he goes to the others. They take turns every day on who goes on the mid-afternoon coffee or tea run, Jimin has noticed.

 

“I’m fine,” Jimin offers unconvincingly, taking a sip of his hot drink. His nose scrunches up in distaste-- it’s bitter and distinctly the taste of coffee, but Jimin takes another sip anyways. He’s not usually one for caffeine, but he was up late last night thinking about a long list of things he doesn’t really have the energy to reconsider quite yet.

 

Seokjin hums, “Is that so?” Jimin looks up from the rim of his coffee to meet the doctor’s eyes. He feels as if Seokjin is looking right through him, and Jimin briefly wonders when it was that he had gained so many people in his life that could notice in Jimin what Taehyung and Jungkook used to only have the burden of seeing. Maybe his time as a soldier has made him more transparent rather than guarded. “Why don’t you tell me how you’re really feeling, Jimin?”

 

Maybe it’s a doctor thing, the way Seokjin can so easily read him.

 

Jimin worries his bottom lip, messing with the paper of the small cup in his hands. His fingers are starting to burn from the heat, and he only withstands it for a moment longer before he sets the bitter drink down. “I told you, it’s nothing.” Just because Seokjin can tell that Jimin is off-kilter doesn’t mean he’d understand the reasons why.

 

He has to constantly remind himself that even if all indicators point to those that he surrounds himself with now being far more understanding and open than the majority of the individuals he grew up with, not everyone is as easy going as he sometimes likes to be in his mind. Jimin still finds himself in situations where he’s at a crossroads on whether or not he should share his innermost self with those around him.

 

There are only a few people on the list who have seen that part of him. Jimin considers he’d like all his new friends to be on that list-- he just isn’t quite sure how to get there without risking hurting himself.

 

Seokjin sighs. “So, you’re just going to sit there and brew, huh?”

 

Jimin shrugs and stares at the clock nonchalantly-- at least, he hopes it looks that way. In some distant place in the back of Jimin’s mind, he thinks that maybe that’s his problem with this whole thing-- he sits and brews, rather than simply being direct.

 

He’s too afraid of rejection, in whatever form it may or may not come in. When he first arrived here, it never occurred to him that he needed to change a lot more than just his attitude with authority when he enlisted in the Singularity Coalition-- as time progresses, he finds not only that evolving but also his worldviews, and how he approaches others. “I don’t… usually talk about my feelings,” Jimin breathes, dipping a toe in the waters as he extends a figurative olive branch in Seokjin’s direction.

 

“You sound like Yoongi,” Seokjin comments, unaware of the turmoil Jimin feels over that subject. That changes quickly, however, when he sees the flicker of emotion that not even Jimin can prevent from flashing across his face. “Oh,” Seokjin exhales, gaze softening with something kind, something gentle. Something understanding. “You’re mad at Yoongi, then.”

 

“Not necessarily mad, and not necessarily at him,” Jimin answers simply. He averts his eyes again, huffing out a breath when Seokjin waits for him to continue. “It’s more like… I’m mad at myself. I feel… dumb, I guess is the simplest way to put it.” He struggles to finds the words to properly describe the way his heart falls in his chest every time Yoongi pushes him away while the others welcome him so easily. “I’m just being a selfish brat but for some reason, I can’t stop myself.”

 

He doesn’t look up from the cup to see Seokjin’s expression, but he can only assume it’s one of surprise, if the way he takes a long pause before responding is any indication. “I don’t think you’re a selfish brat. You’re not dumb, either. You proved that in the other room not even ten minutes ago.”

 

Jimin smiles at Seokjin’s knees, unable to meet his eye and hoping that his expression doesn’t come across as a grimace. “Yeah, one intelligent comrade to have.” He bites his bottom lip in silent chastisement to himself at letting that snarky comment slip.

 

“Tiffed about Yoongi calling you three comrade all the time, hm?” Jimin can’t control it when his eyes dart up to meet Seokjin’s, widening when they see the small half-smirk playing across the older’s lips. “Or, is it just at him calling you comrade?”

 

Jimin blushes, fidgeting in his seat. “I’m not a child, Jin-hyu--” He clears his throat, “Jin.”

 

“You sure are acting like one.” Jimin glares at him from under his lashes and Seokjin throws his head back to laugh. The way his Adam’s apple bobs up and down makes Jimin feels like even Seokjin’s throat is mocking him. “Look, Jimin. You’re looking way too far into all of this.”

 

“I’m well aware.”

 

“The truth of the matter is that Yoongi is very aware of what he’s doing, I assure you.”

 

“That… that doesn’t make me feel better. At all,” Jimin says, not bothering to hide the full-on frown that crosses his face.

 

“It should.”

 

Jimin quirks a brow at that. “And why is that?”

 

“Because it means you’re not special.” At the look that must cross Jimin’s face, Seokjin reiterates, “What I mean is, Yoongi isn’t doing this to irk you. He might be specifically doing it to you and Ke and Taehyung, but he’s not…” Seokjin sighs. “It’s not with malicious intent or anything that you’re doing that is causing him to act that way.”

 

“How can you be so sure?” If there was one thing Jimin had never considered himself before arriving here, it’d been a people-pleaser. Somehow, though, he’s stuck in this position, caring about what only one person thinks of him over the countless others-- often judgemental or harsh as the likes of Xiang-- that he’s easily ignored or scoffed at. He’s learning a lot more about himself than he ever did when in the First Bunker.

 

Seokjin purses his lips, hesitation on his face. “Because… I’ve known Yoongi for a very long time. And, as I’m sure you’ve gathered from my excellent doctoring skills, I can read people really well.” His smile seems innocent, but Jimin knows it’s directed at him in a manner that screams ‘you can’t hide shit from me’. “Plus, Yoongi is a man of action. Words don’t do him much.”

 

“A man of action?”

 

“Yeah,” Seokjin smiles, his gaze on Jimin unfocused as he considers his words. “He might call you a comrade or say things that would normally be interpreted as him pushing you away but really, they don’t matter at all. Yoongi’s heart bleeds through his fingertips, not his tongue.”

 

At Jimin’s furrowed brow Seokjin sighs, leaning back in his chair. “There are a total of three things that Yoongi treasures most in this world: his family, his self-preservation, and his music. Just the fact he lets you touch those stupid sound discs that he slings around his neck every dinner means that you’re more than a squad member, a comrade. Don’t let his words distract you from his actions-- he shows he cares in the little things, like listening to Hoseok’s jokes or asking about whatever project Namjoon is cooking up in his division. Or humoring me. Point is, he’s a listener and a doer, not a talker.”

 

Seokjin takes a moment to tap something on his tablet, Jimin assuming it’s a notification for the data charts being successfully admitted into the database. At the pleased hum Seokjin always makes when such a thing pops up on his screen, Jimin knows he’s right.

 

“I’m not saying that you have to pretend it doesn’t hurt your feelings. Its okay to be hurt by it sometimes-- don’t discount whatever bond you believe you have made with him simply because to others it might seem you’ve known him for only a short period of time. For Yoongi, it’s a lot.” Seokjin looks up at him. “And from the concerns you seem to be having yet unwilling to easily share, it means a lot to you, too. It’s okay if you take something that others would consider minor as something more serious. Everyone puts something different into relationships-- do you understand what I’m saying to you?”

 

Jimin nods, pursing his lips as a blush creeps over the tops of his cheeks. He’s never experienced this feeling before, but Ke called it a ‘friend crush’-- Jimin thinks there couldn’t be a better name for how jittery he feels when he makes Yoongi laugh or smile.

 

The truth of the matter is that Seokjin is completely right, when Jimin really considers it.

 

It seems that everything about the nature of his relations with the sharp-eyed lieutenant is polarized: whether it be his initial strong dislike or his current confliction about where they stand, Jimin has never felt this easily invested in something he isn’t even sure exists. It’s not easy and natural like it is with Ke; it’s not strong and sturdy like it is with Taehyung. It’s debilitating and confusing, and he just wishes things were simple, instead of letting his stupid head fuck it all up. He never used to invest this much into new relationships, all for the worry of being hurt or rejected-- but Jimin… Jimin is changing. He’s not quite there yet-- and knows he still has a long way to go-- but his world is so different now from only a few months ago and for some reason, all of this is part of his new path. He’s certain of it.

 

“I know this isn’t the best of advice, Jimin--” Seokjin starts, clearing his throat after taking a sip of coffee and putting the cup down on his desk carefully, “--or really anything original to be honest, but patience is a virtue. Just because we have all so quickly hit it off and become a group of friends does not mean that all boundaries have just evaporated into thin air.”

 

Seokjin scratches his jaw, red streaks left where fingernails trace across skin as he considers what to say next. “I shouldn’t even be telling you any of this, but Yoongi hasn’t had the same type of past that many of the soldiers here have had. He has a hard time truly trusting people, much more than the usual for a military man of his rank, and often finds himself in many situations where he is nothing more than slightly-better-than-acquaintances with others. Like I said before-- I’ve known him for a really long time. Years, in fact, and even now he strongly resists in telling me about the things that bother him.”

 

Jimin suddenly finds himself scrambling to close the conversation, ”You don’t have to delve deeper into it, I don’t want to intrude on Yoongi’s life and my worries aren’t all that import--”

 

“Jimin,” Seokjin cuts him off, reaching out to wrap his long fingers around one of Jimin’s hands that are resting and clenched into fists on his lap. “Don’t be sorry for being transparent about your feelings. It’s harder than you think.”

 

“I don’t want to fix my problems if it means creating ones for others.” Jimin blinks, shocked at the honesty in his own words. Such a small confession, but something that Jimin often finds himself not wanting to think about; to say it to Seokjin… “I don’t want to burden him. Or you.”

 

Seokjin huffs out a breath, irritation seeping into his expression and startling Jimin. “Look, all I’m saying is that burying it under a bunch of pretenses is only going to cause you more pain. Stop being so difficult and let it all out. You’re making this harder on yourself.”

 

Jimin blinks, taken aback by his words. He caves easier than he thought, sighing as he slumps in his seat and giving Seokjin a pitiful look. It still takes him a long minute before he starts, “I know that not even a few weeks ago I was dreading anything to do with him, but I’ve grown so close to all of you so… so quickly, after spending so much time together. I feel like… I feel like I now have some of the most meaningful relationships that I’ve ever had in my life, regardless of the time that we’ve known each other. And that’s so fucking sad, isn’t it? But for once, it’s not just Taehyung and...”

 

Jimin trails off, biting his lip in frustration. Why is this bothering him so much? Why is this such a struggle for him? Surely, men his age don’t flail about this much at basic friendships. One minute he’s making friends with Ke in the matter of a few hours and the next, he’s...

 

He raises his gaze to meet Seokjin’s, the frustration and defeat ebbing away as an uncomfortable feeling in his chest begins to rest in their place. “I’m just overthinking all of this.” Jimin takes a long exhale, his shoulders relaxing.

 

“Trust me, you definitely are,” Seokjin chuckles, pulling out the tablet from his coat. “But just because that may be the case doesn’t mean that your feelings are invalid, you know? We all consider the things that are important in our lives differently. There may be a million and one wrong ways to approach relationships with others, but there’s definitely no single right one.” He’s drawing something on it with his finger, smirking to himself at whatever is on the screen before he turns it to show Jimin.

 

It’s a cartoon diagram. To say that Jimin is forgetting his anxiety in light of his bafflement would be putting it lightly.

 

“Let me put it simply for you. You see,” Seokjin points to a crude stick-figure, the hair a pitch black that looks oddly familiar but strange antennae that don’t, “Yoongi here considers himself an alien.”

 

Jimin bursts out laughing out of complete shock, pushing roughly at Seokjin’s shoulder, “Hyu-- Jin, that’s rude!” He tries-- and fails-- to cover his mouth and prevent the sound from echoing off the walls of the infirmary, the feeling of the pointed looks of people working around them causing the hair on the back of Jimin’s neck to rise.

 

“No it’s not,” Seokjin gives an innocent, wide-eyed look, his mouth dropping open in mock disbelief at Jimin’s accusation, “He told me the same thing just last week.”

 

Jimin is positively snorting at Seokjin’s expression and the god-awful doodle of Yoongi, feeling the tension and fatigue ease out of his shoulders at every rumble of giggles that wrack through his body. “Yoongi is not an alien--”

 

“And that’s why one day, his words will match his actions. He’ll call you a friend, just like he treats you as one.”

 

Jimin stops laughing, startled at Seokjin’s sudden change in tone. He blinks once or twice, letting Seokjin’s words settle over him as the high of his laughter settles warmly in the bottom of his chest. “Because I said he’s not an alien?”

 

“No, silly,” Seokjin huffs out, lips curling into a fond smile. “Because you view him as normal.” When Jimin frowns at Seokjin’s words, Seokjin hesitates for a few moments. It seems he’s coming to a decision, and it’s when his brow relaxes that he speaks again.

 

“I’m not sure if you know this, Jimin, but Yoongi is somewhat of a legend amongst the higher-ranking officers.”

 

Jimin blinks. “I… I didn’t. I thought he was just a normal lieutenant?” He looks at Seokjin sheepishly. “Was that something that only I’m not in the know about?” It wouldn’t be the first time that he’s out of the loop, that’s for sure.

 

Seokjin waves his hand in a placating gesture, “No, no. It’s not information he or any of us really volunteer. It’d make sense that you or any of the other cadets wouldn’t know, either; we aren’t in the Bloodbane, so the amount of people at this Shatterdome is much less than the usual amount. Less people, less gossip.”

 

Jimin frowns. “People talked about Yoongi a lot in the Bloodbane?”

 

Seokjin purses his lips into a half-smile at the concern in Jimin’s voice, “Yes, Jimin. They talk about both him and Hoseok quite often. Though, Yoongi is often the one at the top of the list. It’s mostly good things, of course, but… you know. It’s the negativity that often sticks out in a sea of approval.” Seokjin sighs, taking a sip of his drink and clearing his throat. His shoulders are more tense than usual like the entire topic is uncomfortable for him. Jimin can’t help but agree, even if his curiosity is piqued. The guilt over that fact is settling deep in Jimin’s chest.

 

“Yoongi is famous in the Bloodbane and amongst a large percentage of the higher-ups. Yes, because he is excellent at his job and has one of the highest turn-out rates of trained soldiers in his very short amount of years in the SC Bionics. His accomplishments, however, are often shared with Hoseok. It is not his success that garners him such attention but who he is, instead.”

 

Jimin fidgets in his seat. Seokjin continues, “I’m sure you’ve been informed that Hoseok is the one out of the two of them who takes care of all affairs with other divisions and Bunkers-- it’s not just because Hoseok has been a soldier for far longer than Yoongi has been.”

 

Seokjin pauses, eyes searching Jimin’s face-- for what, he isn’t sure. “Yoongi chooses not to go to those meetings with the other branches of the Singularity Coalition. He is well-known for ostracizing himself, even when he was a trainee. There is not a person outside of his friends that view him as normal anymore-- he has long been associated with the reputation that others have created of him and that he has not pushed to disprove, one of a lieutenant who views social interaction as a burden rather than a necessity for--”

 

“Why are you telling me all of this?” Jimin interrupts. Part of him knows that Seokjin is just trying to help, but Jimin can’t help but feel just like the people who apparently talk about the lieutenant. “I… I just told you that I don’t want to intrude on Yoongi’s life. This--” Jimin gestures between the two of them, “--feels a lot like that.”

 

Seokjin sits back in his chair, staring at Jimin intensely for a few moments before his gaze softens considerably. “Everything I’m telling you is something that everyone who is close to Yoongi, or who was stationed at the Bloodbane before its current renovations began, knows. Even Yoongi himself knows all of the things said about him. Me telling you this is not out of cruel intent, but out of a need to explain to you why it is so important that you continue to view Yoongi the way you do.”

 

Seokjin scoots his chair closer, expression taking that seriousness again, “It’s not something that has been announced publicly, Jimin, but Namjoon told me the Bloodbane is almost ready for inhabitance again. Meaning that soon enough, whether it be a week or a month from now, we will be going back to that place in New Seoul.”

 

Seokjin leans out of Jimin’s personal space, and the sudden intensity that the conversation had taken is dimming, if only minutely. “Don’t think that what I tell you is just me gossiping. I care about Yoongi deeply and would never betray his trust. I cannot sit by, however, and risk your view of Yoongi warping to the views that will surely be forced upon you and the other cadets once back in the Bloodbane. The people that usually take up our home base view Yoongi as the lieutenant who keeps himself in a bubble and is wildly strange. They don’t view him like we view Yoongi-- Yoongi, whose smile lights up a room and who hums and sways to classical music no different than he does to hardcore rock.”

 

Jimin looks away, his mind a jumbled mess. He is smiling at the imagery of Yoongi listening to music, though. “I still don’t understand why any of this has to do with my… self-esteem, when it comes to him.” A deep part of him hates this unending vulnerability; another considers Seokjin’s words so far, feeling the comforting warmth of them settle around his heart.

 

He looks back to Seokjin when the quiet between them becomes too much. Seokjin purses his lips, a contemplative expression on his face.

 

“I’m telling you all of this because instead of thinking there’s something wrong with him when considering why he’s keeping you at arms-length, you think it’s your own fault. Maybe that’s just you being a little naive and self-deprecating, or maybe it’s because you’re just very kind and can’t find it in yourself to think lesser of Yoongi despite your hurt.” Seokjin raises a hand to squeeze Jimin’s shoulder, eyes soft, “I like to think it’s mostly the latter side of things, and Yoongi is a sucker for kindness. It’s how each one of his friends so far has become staples in his life, after all.”

 

Seokjin swivels in his chair, picking up his tablet and tapping on it before continuing, his demeanor distracted despite the focused look on his face, “Yoongi will call you friend soon enough-- not that the word in itself really means anything to him. If he does say it, it’ll be more out of his want to comfort you, or to… show you he cares in a way that he believes most people to understand. As I said, it’s different for him, you know? He’s not necessarily… bad at emotions, just careful with how he shares them.”

 

He smiles down at the small screen in his palms, “You two click too well much too quickly for him to put it off for much longer. He just takes a fucking lightyear to admit his innermost thoughts or feelings, much preferring to show them through little, unnoticeable actions. I promise you that his current behavior is just him being afraid that you’ll learn about those rumors of him and reject him as a person.”

 

He can’t help but frown. “Why would I do that? Rumors are just rumors.” Despite Jimin’s words, he’s starting to understand why Seokjin has brought up all the points that he did. He himself has spent almost all of his life being burdened by rumors and gossip.

 

Sometimes, people become plagued by the same disease, just under a different name. “I’ll make my own opinion about Yoongi.”

 

“Exactly,” Seokjin hums in approval, smiling down at his tablet. He’s more focused on the conversation than he looks. “Rumors are just rumors.” Seokjin looks up, settling Jimin with a passive expression. “Keep that in mind, Jimin, and it will get you a long way. Always make decisions based on your own collection of information, and you will never be disappointed. Be more direct-- speak your mind, tell the people you care if you do in the way that feels most natural. If after this conversation, that means doing what you were doing earlier and sulking--” Seokjin winks when Jimin huffs out a breath of embarrassment, “--then that’s your prerogative. I’m just here to help you, be a source of advice if you want it. I know you’d do the same for me or anyone else.”

 

Jimin gives him a genuine smile at that, confirming Seokjin’s words with a silent gesture of assurance. Seokjin hums as he takes in Jimin’s expression before adding, “Anyway, stop fussing over Yoongi-- you’re much too new to this whole social butterfly game to be losing sleep over it.”

 

“Is it that obvious?” Jimin snorts, glancing to the side to stare at the clock ticking on the wall. He briefly wonders what the point of having one is if everyone can just check their VisTech for the time.

 

Seokjin quirks a brow. “That you’re extremely sleep-deprived or that you’re new to making friends?”

 

“I guess that answers my question.” Jimin pouts, picking up his now-warm drink to take a few sips of. His nose scrunches up in distaste.

 

“I find it sweet, nonetheless,” Seokjin says, still not meeting Jimin’s eye in favor of typing whatever he is on his tablet still. “Not the lack of sleep part. I’m just saying that it takes a certain type of perseverance to take a crack at the walls that that man has built up. He’s got to be awfully flattered by you seeking his friendship, seeing as you’re practically the only one that pays extra mind to his addiction to music. Even if it’d be like pulling teeth to get him to admit so, I’m sure that he’s impressed by your efforts. I definitely am.”

 

Jimin blushes at the compliment, and he’s suddenly feeling rather glad that his time at the Singularity Coalition has resulted in such quickly meaningful relationships such as his one with Seokjin. “Now I know why Namjoon pouts every time Hoseok draws your attention away,” Jimin says through his smile, adoring the way that Seokjin’s cheeks flush at the comment, “He’s spoiled rotten--”

 

“Lalala!” Seokjin yells, not caring that a doctor that walks by him shoots him a baffled look. “I don’t want to hear anymore! No more talk about other people! Now,” Seokjin opens the drawer to his desk and pulls out a fresh and very unripe banana, accompanied by suture thread and hooked needle. “Practice your field sutures again until you can do it with your eyes closed.”

 

Jimin is quickly growing to despise the yellowish-green fruit.

 

The rest of his time in the infirmary for the day is spent with a determined type of focus. Jimin sutures the banana so many times that it’s practically falling apart by the end of the day, and Seokjin cracks a few distasteful jokes (some of which could rival Hoseok’s) before they head off for dinner to meet the others.

 

Yoongi still isn’t there, and Jimin is a little thankful for it, if only to have a bit more time to himself in a Simfield to contemplate things. He knows he runs the risk of overthinking the whole situation (which surely, he has far passed that point), but there’s something calming about having some extra time spent to himself rather than trying to-- and failing to-- contemplate just exactly why the things that bother him affect him so much.

 

A little alone time-- however false it may be when spent in virtual reality-- never hurt anyone. One talk with Seokjin won’t fix all of Jimin’s problems, but maybe it’s the right start.

 

The next day goes very much the same-- Yoongi is nowhere to be found once again, and Hoseok takes overtraining. He lets them out early again, and Jimin spends the good part of his afternoon suturing a new banana and changing bandage wraps. He does, however, get to discharge the soldier with the now-almost-completely-healed arm. Seokjin even gives Jimin the tablet to take a crack at charting patient information (even though Jimin won’t be doing it nearly as in-depth when on the field, due to the time constraints that being in enemy territory will apparently incur). Charting is just as boring and mind-numbing as Jimin thought it would be.

 

It’s at dinner on the second day that Yoongi is gone that Ke-- much to Jimin’s surprise-- is the one to bring up the lieutenant.

 

“How much longer is Yoongi’s paperwork supposed to take, anyway?” he asks absentmindedly, taking a sip of his drink as he raises an eyebrow expectantly at Hoseok from across the table.

 

Hoseok doesn’t meet his eyes, rubbing at the back of his neck and staring at the metal of the table. “He ought to be back tomorrow, I think.” Hoseok glances up to Ke, his expression morphing into one of his usual teasing confidence, “Why, Ke? Tired of this General already?”

 

Ke snorts, no longer bashful around Hoseok as he had been their first day at the Shatterdome, “Why, of course. I see your face often enough as it is, what with you walking into my specialization training with Major Sokolov every day--”

 

“Wait, isn’t Hobi’s area of expertise stealth? What’s he doing with the ranged combatants?” Namjoon interjects, eyeing Hoseok curiously.

 

Hoseok’s ears are red, “Ranged combat requires stealth too, I’ll have you know! Maybe I just think that Lyudmila is sex on legs, what with that fiery attitude--”

 

“Or you’re checking up on your favorite cadet,” Seokjin cuts him off, a smug expression dawning on his face when Hoseok and Ke both choke on their drink.

 

Jimin watches them all with amusement, silently eating his food as he watches everyone sit quietly contemplating various parts of the conversation in a natural pause. Taehyung seems to be doing the same. After a few moments, Ke speaks up again.

 

“So, what kind of paperwork is it, anyway?” Ke pushes, an intrigued look on his still-pink face. “I can’t think of a single thing that would require more than a day to fill out, but maybe it’s just because I’m not a Lieutenant myself.”

 

Hoseok purses his lips, staring down at his food for several beats before he looks up again, pensiveness on his expression. He’s rubbing at the back of his neck again, and Jimin is starting to recognize the gesture as one of nervousness, as if he’s trying to hide something, “To be honest, he finished the paperwork nearly four days ago.”

 

Jimin’s mouth drops open at that, and he isn’t sure how to respond. Luckily, he doesn’t have to because Hoseok continues. “Yoongi left to go get his little girl.”

 

Jimin’s eyes widen, and he’s not the only one that coughs on his food. Taehyung is sitting next to him, head tilted in interest at Hoseok’s words. “I didn’t know Yoongi-ssi had a child,” Taehyung says, clearly intrigued by the notion. Jimin just feels confused; he’d think that something like a child would be something that he would have heard the lieutenant bring up at some point in their many dinners. Jimin has to remind himself that Yoongi is a private person and that he shouldn’t expect--

 

“No, no,” Hoseok shakes his head in dismissal, quick to deny the claim. “Eunhae is Yoongi’s niece. She’s five. He had to take a porter shuttle to the Eighth Bunker and they ran into a storm on the seaside, so he’s taking a bit longer than what they’d expected.”

 

Jimin distinctly remembers Yoongi saying that he was from the Seventh Bunker, but he isn’t about to question Hoseok’s words-- families being split up by the war was rather common, after all.

 

“Jiminie loves children.” Jimin snaps his head to see Taehyung smiling fondly, “He used to babysit nearly all the neighbor’s kids back home.”

 

“Really?” Hoseok’s eyes light up, and Jimin feels everyone’s eyes on him. He nods in agreement, proud of all the countless hours he spent with the children of his Bunker. He always had a soft spot for babies since Jihyun was born, so it’s really no surprise that he grew so easily attached to all his little brother’s friends, too. It’s too bad it didn’t stop his neighbors from despising him. “Do you miss it?”

 

Jimin doesn’t even hesitate, “Out of all the things I don’t miss about home, babysitting isn’t one of them. Children are so pure, even if they are often loud and unruly.” Jimin can’t help the content smile that stretches across his face, warmth settling under his skin. He misses Jihyun deeply, even if he knows his little brother probably doesn’t feel the same.

 

“Maybe you could help Yoongi, then,” Hoseok counters, and Jimin’s smile drops the smallest amount.

 

“I don’t know…” Jimin fidgets, “I don’t think that’d be such a good idea. I might be overstepping some kind of boundary by--”

 

“Nonsense!” Hoseok exclaims, reaching over the table to pat Jimin’s hand a few times in what he can only assume is a sign of reassurance before pulling back and continuing, “Eunhae is kinda shy, from what Yoongi told me. Do you know any kid games she could play? She’s probably gonna be scared coming all the way to the Shatterdome.”

 

“Wait, she’s never been here before?” Ke asks around a biteful of food. Jimin scrunches his nose in a muted type of disgust-- he’s used to this kind of behavior by now, having sat only a person away from Namjoon for so long.

 

“No, Yoongi has always just gone to visit her every couple of weeks around this time of year,” Hoseok answers, scratching the nape of his neck. He lifts his brows, a smile strangely unlike him fitting across his face, “Yoongi just thought it’d be a good idea to bring her here this time so that he could spend more time with you cadets.”

 

Jimin isn’t dumb, and he doesn’t think anyone else at the table is, if how they all look at Hoseok with varying degrees of an unimpressed look is any cue. For a General, Hoseok really is an awful liar.

 

No one calls him out on it though-- he clearly has his reasons for hiding most of the truth. Hoseok keeps talking as if he doesn’t notice the way Ke is narrowing his eyes at him, “What do you say, Jimin?”

 

The Shatterdome is hardly the place for a small child, and Jimin is sure that Yoongi will already have his hands full enough trying to accommodate her. Adding Jimin to the mix might just mean more stress instead of relief.

 

“I don’t want to put Yoongi in an awkward position,” Jimin answers honestly. He obviously still isn’t sure exactly where they stand on the whole friendship spectrum despite Seokjin’s reassuring words from before, not having been able to get the chance to take a crack at finding out more about that particular issue since Yoongi’s prolonged absence. “Plus, where would I even find the time? Between general training and my time with Seokjin, I barely--”

 

“I was planning on having you read up a bunch on the most common medical techniques used on the field,” Seokjin speaks up, waving his utensil around in a circle as he talks. “You’ve still got some work to do on your sutures, but that hardly requires me watching anymore. You should know what they’re supposed to look like by now.”

 

“And general training gets out by lunch nowadays for our squad. Plus, Yoongi could really use the help. Since he’s been gone for two days, I’ve slowly watched the notifications for late progress reports pile up, and he’s always adamant about being the one to fill those out, since he sees you cadets the most,” Hoseok adds excitedly, leaning over the table so far that Jimin can see his pupils dilating. It’s just as disturbing of a sight as Jimin would imagine, if he were to think about such things.

 

“Why me? Wouldn’t Yoongi rather have someone familiar with Eunhae help--”

 

“We’ve never met her,” Namjoon interjects. “Yoongi has never brought her here, just as we’ve never joined him in visiting her. It’s usually something he doesn’t want to burden us with.” Hoseok shoots Namjoon a look, and Namjoon glares right back at him. Jimin isn’t sure he wants to know what that is about.

 

“It seems to me that Yoongi is a private man,” Jimin says, pausing at the way both Hoseok and Namjoon snap their attention back to him. “I doubt he’d want me in his business.”

 

“Please, Jimin,” Hoseok begs, nearly crawling on top of the table again in his effort to grab at Jimin’s hands in his pleading. “I suck at dealing with children--”

 

“Don’t we know that,” Seokjin chuckles, sipping his water before continuing, “Nearly made one of your previous squad member’s son cry--”

 

“That was one time!” Hoseok shoots daggers with his eyes at Seokjin, “How did I know that he didn’t like lizards? What kid doesn’t fucking like lizards--”

 

“I think we’re losing the point of this conversation,” Jimin sighs, poking at his food with disinterest. “I’m just saying that I’m not agreeing to anything unless Yoongi himself asks me. I love children and would be glad to take care of Eunhae, but I’m not about to sit here and assume he’s willing to trust me to watch over his niece. I’ve only known Yoongi for around two months and--”

 

“And you’re one of his trusted comrades!” Hoseok exclaims, not noticing how Jimin flinches slightly at the word. “Yoongi will agree to it, I guarantee it.”

 

Jimin is doubtful, to say the least. He stays quiet the rest of dinner, only speaking up when he asks for Seokjin to send over the medical texts he had just mentioned. Jimin reads the rest of the night, only stopping to take a shower.

 

It’s a welcome distraction from the confliction bubbling at the back of his mind.

Chapter Text

“We’ve almost arrived, Lieutenant YM340.”

 

Yoongi starts out of his sleep, stopping himself from placing a deathgrip around the forearm of the individual who is making the grave mistake of shaking him awake. His eyes flicker open to see the woman snatch her hand back with wide eyes.

 

She must be new to the porter ship system, if she so freely touches soldiers of war in their sleep.

 

Yoongi grunts, rubbing the back of his neck, sore muscle knotted under his fingertips. He hates falling asleep in the jump seats, but he’s been on this ship for more than he’d like to consider. Stupid ocean storms and their tendency to fuck up the most carefully planned of flight itineraries.

 

He looks to his side and downwards, irritation dulling out almost instantly into a melancholy kind of peace. Eunhae is strapped into the jump seat next to him-- the extra seatbelts that Yoongi demanded be attached to her seat causing her head to lull to the side in her sleep-- breathing softly. Her hair, much the color of Yoongi’s midnight black, is dangling in messy locks and hiding her face.

 

“Eunhae,” Yoongi murmurs softly, gently pushing her hair from her face to stroke the side of her face, all in a calm effort to wake her up. Eunhae stirs in her sleep, dark lashes fluttering against her soft cheeks as she opens her eyes.

 

“Uncle,” Eunhae sluggishly mumbles, sleep on her small voice. Yoongi offers his hand to her and she grips at his fingers, Yoongi’s palm nearly engulfing hers.

 

“Hmm?” Yoongi hums, half-listening to her and half-listening to the hushed conversation going on between the woman who woke him up and another porter ship attendant, both of which keep sending him apprehensive looks. Yoongi wasn’t particularly nice to them even before his nap-- Eunhae was fitful in trying to fall asleep, uncomfortable in her seat and the new surroundings. Yoongi feels somewhat guilty for bringing her all the way from the Eighth-- he just hopes Hoseok and Seokjin were right in saying that it’d be good for both of them to spend time together outside of that Bunker’s walls.

 

He turns to Eunhae, who in the midst of his thinking had fallen back asleep, her hand limp in his. “Eunhae, wake up,” Yoongi tries again, gently squeezing her hand. She startles awake when the ship suddenly jolts around them, and suddenly her grip on Yoongi’s palm is a lot tighter.

 

Yoongi’s hand twitches in her grasp, but by now she’s used to it. She looks up sleepily at him, and Yoongi feels a new-- but not unfamiliar-- wave of guilt wash over him at her doe-like eyes.

 

He clears his throat and his thoughts as best as he can, smiling down at her. “Don’t be nervous, Eunhae,” Yoongi murmurs, thumbing at the back of her tiny palm-- not so tiny as when he first held her, but small still. “You’ll get to meet your other uncles soon, the ones I tell you about all the time. They’re excited to meet you.”

 

Eunhae looks apprehensive-- she’s very cautious for her age-- but her eyes shine with a trust that Yoongi doesn’t feel like he really deserves, even to this day.

 

“Uncle will buy you some ice cream when we land,” Yoongi offers her. He chuckles at the way her face scrunches up in disgust.

 

“Uncle, you know I don’t like ice cream,” Eunhae mumbles, now taking the time to drag her gaze around the ship she was at first so afraid to be in, only hours ago. “Makes my mouth feel funny.”

 

“Ah, I already forgot,” Yoongi jests, grinning innocently when she gives him an unimpressed glare. She is the spitting image of her father when he was younger, but Yoongi tries his best to not think about that when with his niece. “Then what would you like as a treat for being so good?” She wasn’t that good on their trip over here, but considering how daunting this all must be for a five year-old, Yoongi supposes she actually was quite well-behaved, in the grand scheme of things.

 

Her face scrunches up again, this time in thought, “Another story.”

 

Yoongi’s smile falters for only a second before he hums in agreement, sitting back in his seat to watch the porter ship attendants mill around the ship in preparation for landing. He watches the woman who woke him up strap herself in a jump seat across from him, meeting his eye for a moment before her gaze flickers away.

 

The ship jolts again and Yoongi watches Eunhae’s reaction carefully. She was whimpering when the porter had originally taken off for flight, but now she stares at the metal gate at the end of the ship separating them from the outside world with particular interest. It’s only a few minutes before they land.

 

Yoongi unstraps himself from his jump seat quickly and efficiently, having done so hundreds of times by now in his years of taking these types of extensive trips. Unbuckling Eunhae takes a bit longer, but he does it just as well and picks her up. He knows that her legs will be wobbly from the time spent in the seat, so he just decides to carry her, even if the way her little arms wrap tightly around his neck makes him a little tense. Yoongi is more afraid of her tripping than of his own reaction.

 

Eunhae buries her face in the crook of his neck-- Yoongi both enamored by the closeness and guiltily uncomfortable by it-- as he carries her out of the porter ship. Hoseok is waiting just outside, and it occurs to Yoongi that it’s very late-- far past midnight, by the looks of it. His eyes adjust quickly to the darkness.

 

“Hello,” Hoseok fails at whispering, eyeing Eunhae warily. “Was your flight okay?”

 

“She’s awake, Seok,” Yoongi says, a thread of amusement winding up in him at Hoseok’s antics staying true even this late into the night. Eunhae shifts her face to look at Hoseok. Yoongi can only guess that her expression is one of sleepy acknowledgment, her head tucked mostly under his chin.

 

She doesn’t say anything, and Hoseok’s face shows that he’s already smitten despite his clear apprehension of the child. Yoongi isn’t surprised-- his niece is adorable, even if she is awfully shy. Somehow, her bashfulness only adds to her cuteness.

 

“I see,” Hoseok speaks up again, this time his voice level closer to a normal volume (although not Hoseok’s norm). “I took the liberty of asking Seokjin to put an extra cot in your room with blankets and pillows and--”

 

“Thank you, Hoseok,” Yoongi cuts him off, the cold of the night chilling him past his civilian clothes. He only misses his exosuit’s heating system at this hour. “But that won’t be necessary. Eunhae sleeps next to me.”

 

Hoseok frowns, clearly not happy with the comment. Yoongi knows why-- a child sleeping next to a soldier that gets night terrors doesn’t sound like the brightest of ideas.

 

But Yoongi doesn’t get them when Eunhae is around-- his reminder of the past is in every time he looks at her, and somehow that lessens his struggle during his hours of sleep. Part of Yoongi wants to be severely offended that Hoseok would ever suggest Yoongi could have the capacity to harm Eunhae, who he treasures enough to prioritize over his own personal mental health and well-being (which isn’t something necessarily to be proud of, Yoongi will admit). The larger part of Yoongi, however, knows that Hoseok is just worried, and cares for Eunhae similar to how he cares for Yoongi, too. Even if he’s never met her, Hoseok knows everything about Eunhae.

 

Yoongi wouldn’t ever willingly hurt his niece, but that hasn’t stopped him from hurting himself, either. Maybe the two are more inexplicably intertwined than Yoongi sometimes likes to believe.

 

“It’ll be fine, Seok,” Yoongi sighs, walking briskly past his friend towards the entrance of the Shatterdome.

 

They walk in silence down the landing strip until Yoongi reaches the passage gate, where he waits a moment for the guards on the other sides of the surveillance cameras to recognize him and Hoseok’s genetic signatures via the digital scanner that lights blue rays atop their figures. It blinks orange on Eunhae’s form for only a moment before registering her into the system, and then the door automatically unlocks, the sound echoing in the quiet of the night and joining the soft waves on the ocean under the Shatterdome. It’s a more troublesome process during the day, but a much-needed precaution at night, when soldiers aren’t frequently entering and exiting the Shatterdome as they do in the daylight.

 

He can feel Eunhae’s head shifting under his chin, taking in the grandiose height of the ceiling of the Shatterdome as he carries her down the halls. It reminds him of a cadet with honey-brown eyes similar to hers.

 

When he reaches his room in the officer quarters, he shifts Eunhae to his hip so he can use the fingerprint scanner and iris reader. The wall opens up a passage, letting him slip into the room. He pauses at the entrance, signaling for the door to remain open a few extra seconds for Hoseok, who has been grumbling to himself for the past few minutes’ walk over.

 

Yoongi sets Eunhae down, holding her shoulders as she adjusts to standing again. “Just…” Yoongi falters when he takes in how sleepy Eunhae looks, “Go lay down and try to get some sleep, Eunhae. I’m gonna be a minute, okay?” Eunhae looks up at him with a flash of nerves before nodding once and walking to Yoongi’s bed, completely ignoring the cot that Seokjin had apparently set up. She takes a second to climb up the side before tucking herself under the blankets and almost instantly settling down.

 

Yoongi drops the backpack of her personal belongings at the foot of his bed and turns to Hoseok, who is looking at him disapprovingly. Yoongi sighs and steps out into the hall, closing the door in hopes that Eunhae won’t hear the conversation-- or argument-- he’s about to have with her uncle Hoseok.

 

“Yoongi, I know she’s your niece but don’t you think you’re putting your neck out by being so close? She’s a kid, yeah, but I know you haven’t stopped your self-pity train since picking her up form the Eighth. Just look at your face--”

 

“Seok,” Yoongi mutters, cutting him off by raising a placating hand. “Eunhae is fine, I’m fine, this is all fine. She views me as no different from her father--” Yoongi frowns, guilty at the thought of having replaced his brother in his niece’s eyes, even if he knows that he’s the only one she remembers. “--so imagine how scared she must be, in this new place and away from her caretakers in the Eighth? She’s horrified, even if she’s old enough now to try her very best at hiding it. I don’t want her to feel unsafe.”

 

Yoongi takes a long exhale, rubbing his face and pushing his hair back from his forehead in his stress. “Maybe this was all a really fucking bad idea…”

 

“No.” Hoseok shakes his head, his expression one of worry, though calmed from how it was only moments ago. “No, you’re right about her being scared. But this isn’t a bad idea. You’ve said it yourself before, Yoongi-- Eunhae is deprived of the outside world in that Bunker. She’s only five, yeah, but maybe… maybe getting to know her other uncles will help her build meaningful relationships.” Hoseok’s eyes flicker with doubt as he fidgets in his spot, “I apologize if I’m overstepping any boundaries, Yoon--”

 

“Don’t worry about that, Seok. You’re not overstepping, you’ve known Eunhae for years, even if you haven’t met her until now.” Yoongi waves his words away, slowly relaxing now that he’s in the familiar space of the Shatterdome and around Hoseok, even if his friend is causing him stress. “You’re right about her needing out of the Eighth. I’m just… I’m so fucking conflicted right now,” Yoongi mutters, not able to meet Hoseok’s eyes in his moment of vulnerability.

 

“There’s part of me that just wants her to depend on me for everything, like she always has so that I can protect her. Then there’s the other part of me that knows it’s realistically causing me and her harm-- me because I see them every time I look at her, and her because I’m in her way of trusting others. I don’t know what the fuck I’m even doing, Seok. I shouldn’t even be worrying about this right now, I should be in there with her--”

 

“Then let us help.” Hoseok takes a step forward, a conviction in his eyes when Yoongi finally looks up to meet them. “You’re scheduled to take over training for the cadets again tomorrow, yeah? How long until you have to take Eunhae back to the Eighth?”

 

“A week,” Yoongi says, keeping his voice low in the silence of the hallway. “They gave me an extra few days since I can work in between seeing her. Even then, it’s near twice the time I’m usually around her, and I don’t even know how I’m going to make it without losing my mind. Eunhae isn’t a trouble, but… the memories…”

 

“You didn’t request less time?”

 

Yoongi gives him a look. “How would that look, Hoseok? She’s my fucking niece, practically my daughter. How would Eunhae feel if she realizes her Uncle Yoongi has PTSD and had to cut her visit short all because he can’t handle seeing the faces of her dead parents every time he so much as--” Yoongi is cut off by a knocking on the other side of the door. He quickly opens it, panic rising in his chest at the thought of Eunhae possibly hearing what he was just so carelessly raising his voice over.

 

Eunhae stares up at him worriedly, and Yoongi’s heart is bleeding in his chest until she starts speaking, “You said you’d only be a minute. I counted, Uncle.” She pouts at him and Yoongi has to stop himself from sighing in relief. He reaches down to tuck her hair behind her ear, pinching lightly at her chubby cheek, which earns an affronted glare that is quite intimidating for a five-year-old.

 

“I’m sorry, Eunhae. It’ll be a while longer, yeah? Why don’t you go look in your bag for Uncle’s headphones and I’ll play some music? Uncle Hoseok is a bit talkative.” Yoongi murmurs, watching as Eunhae’s shoulders relax. He ignores the scoff that Hoseok lets loose behind him.

 

She nods wordlessly after a few moments of contemplation, looking up at Hoseok shyly before turning back into the room. She kneels down at the foot of the bed to shuffle through her backpack and pull out Yoongi’s Bluetooth headphones, crawling up on the bed without another remark. Yoongi shuffles through his VisTech and plays some children’s music he downloaded on the ride over to get her, and Eunhae smiles at him from across the room.

 

She gives him a thumbs-up and he nods, closing the door again only to turn and glare at Hoseok.

 

“It isn’t my fault that you can’t keep your voice down,” Hoseok pouts.

 

“Like you’re one to talk, Seok,” Yoongi grumbles, suddenly feeling embarrassed by how emotional he just got in front of his friend. Hoseok can take a hint though, accustomed to when Yoongi is about to shut others out in some vain attempt to collect himself because he takes a step back and out of Yoongi’s personal space. Yoongi visibly relaxes, leaning against the closed door and looking at Hoseok helplessly. “What do I do, Seok? I can usually push aside the discomfort for a few days and just show Eunhae the side of me that loves her. What if I slip up and show her the side that’s… that’s scared of her?”

 

“I don’t know, Yoongi,” Hoseok exhales, tension in his shoulders. “I think we both know that Seokjin is the one that gives the best advice in these situations of yours.” Hoseok looks guilty. Yoongi feels bad for making his friend feel insufficient in that way.

 

“Don’t say that,” Yoongi grumbles, even if they both know it’s true. “Just… just don’t judge me, okay? I know I’m more than a little fucking weird to be afraid of my five-year-old niece, but…” Yoongi chuckles, mostly out of stress than amusement. “I guess what I’m saying is that you being there for me and Eunhae is enough. I’m sorry I can’t explain it more.”

 

“You don’t have to,” Hoseok replies, stiffness easing out of the set of his tense form. His eyes light up a second later, “Oh! I forgot to mention. I asked Jimin if he could babysit Eunhae for you.”

 

Yoongi stares blankly at Hoseok for a moment, lost in shock. “What?”

 

“Yeah, I asked him during dinner… well, now it’s technically a whole day ago that I asked him. He’s apparently really good with kids, used to babysit them all the time in the First Bunk--”

 

“Hoseok,” Yoongi starts, quickly losing his cool again, this time for a completely different reason. Hoseok blinks at him, as if what he’s saying is completely normal. “You asked my cadet, who I have only known for two months, to babysit my five-year-old niece instead of any of our friends.” Yoongi must be hearing him wrong.

 

“Jimin is one of our friends, too.” Hoseok has the gall to look offended, and Yoongi is at a complete loss for words.

 

“He might be your friend, but he is nothing more than a comrade to me--”

 

“Oh, you are so full of it,” Hoseok scoffs, a deep-set frown marring his features as he considers Yoongi with what can only be akin to disappointment. “We all know you’ve grown just as attached to the newest additions to our dinner table as the rest of us have. We also all know that Jimin is your favorite--”

 

“Seok,” Yoongi warns through his teeth. It’s not that he particularly dislikes Jimin-- in fact, he enjoys his company a lot nowadays-- but Yoongi… Yoongi has a hard time trusting others. It’s not something he would’ve admitted about himself several years ago, but after a lot of time spent alone and with Seokjin, Yoongi knows exactly how he approaches others. He knows exactly why he feels hesitant around people that aren’t the select few that he’s decided to keep in his life for the long run.

 

When the people you care for could just as easily die the next day, being selective about who you give part of yourself to is something like second nature-- a necessary defense. Well, at least it is for Yoongi.

 

“Yoongi,” Hoseok whispers harshly, and Yoongi looks up from where his eyes had drifted to the floor. “I can hear the cogs whirring in your head. It’s not that difficult a concept, you’re making this way harder than it needs to be.”

 

“But I’m not,” Yoongi counters. He knows he’s being unnecessarily stubborn, but he’s exhausted after a long flight and too much emotional baggage to consider, and Hoseok grilling him for his friendship status with one of his cadets is not something wants to be doing right now.

 

Hoseok actually rolls his eyes at him, and Yoongi sees now that it’s not only his patience that’s wearing thin. “You don’t have to call him your friend aloud, fine. But I’m telling you he’d be a great alternative for babysitting Eunhae--”

 

“Is that it? An alternative for babysitting my niece? Is she that troublesome? I brought her here to know you guys, not Jimin. Not Taehyung. Not Ke. You, and Namjoon, and Seokjin. The people that I trust most--”

 

“The only people you trust.” Yoongi promptly closes his mouth at Hoseok’s words. “Don’t you see the problem, Yoongi?” Hoseok’s face is alight with worry, and Yoongi suddenly feels like the only one making this whole situation a problem is himself, what with the way that Hoseok is pleading with his eyes. “Out of all the people left in this world-- and I will admit that there’s a lot less available than before-- you only trust three people.”

 

“That’s not true,” Yoongi mutters, looking to the side. “I trust Lyudmila, too--”

 

“Trusting someone with your life is not the same as trusting someone with your death.”

 

Yoongi meets Hoseok’s eye again. “What the hell does that even mean, Seok?”

 

Hoseok’s stare is hard. “If you were to go on active roster tomorrow, get sent out on a mission and die, who would you trust Eunhae to?”

 

Yoongi is silent.

 

“Who would you trust to raise her, take care of her? I can assure you that Lyudmila isn’t on that list, even if she is a kind and strong person. You only trust three people to take care of the mess that your death would result in. Trusting someone with your life is very different from trusting someone with your death, Yoongi, and I think it’s long past time that you start to add to the latter list rather than the former.”

 

“I don’t want to owe him anything,” Yoongi sighs, wiping tiredly at his eyes. He’s not an emotionally void person-- Yoongi feels things, often in excess. It’s hard to decipher through his feelings a lot of the time-- to decide what’s worth putting more energy into and what’s not. Acknowledging that he has a host of problems and actually dealing with them are two very different things.

 

Yoongi has got a migraine coming, he can feel it. “Regardless of my relations with Park, I cannot force him into something like that as his lieutenant and superior officer. I don’t want to just dump my kid on him--”

 

“He practically volunteered himself!” Hoseok exclaims, quickly lowering his voice when he remembers where they are-- in a silent hallway of the Shatterdome, around a bunch of sleeping officers’ rooms. The inside of Yoongi’s room may be soundproof, but the area outside of it surely is not. “Trust me, Yoongi, we all want to see Eunhae and get to know her in person rather than what your stories of her provide. But if you stick to what you’re used to and don’t force yourself to come out of your shell, how the hell are you gonna expect Eunhae to do just that as well?”

 

Yoongi opens his mouth to object, but Hoseok glares at him so sharply that he hesitates.

 

“All I’m saying is that you’re missing an opportunity here. You, yourself, said before that Jimin comes across to you as a kind person-- let him be fucking kind, then! When he talked about taking care of the kids at his Bunker, he looked like he missed home for the first time since we’ve met him. You know that guy avoids talking about the First like it’s a plague on his past rather than his home. Every time we bring it up at dinner, or ask him or Taehyung about their childhood, he fucking clams up and shuts down--”

 

Hoseok sighs, wiping at his face in exasperation as he brings himself back on track with the conversation. “All I’m saying is that this isn’t about him owing you, this is about you owing him. Plus, Seokjin said he’s giving Jimin a bunch of medical text to read, so he won’t be too busy--

 

“I do not owe Park anything.” Yoongi frowns at the unimpressed look Hoseok gives him.

 

“Yeah, and I didn’t use Joon’s VisTech admin password to download porn off the web. Also, I saw unicorns flying in the sky the other day, maybe we ought to catch one for Eunhae--”

 

“Okay! Fine! Fine!” Yoongi shushes him, realizing that this conversation needs to end soon, or else he might go a little more insane than he already feels. “I know I’ve been hurting his feelings. I just… I can’t afford to risk caring about anyone else how I care for you or Seokjin or Joon, Seok. You three aren’t on the active roster for the foreseeable future, but what about Park? What about Taehyung? What about Ke? We’re training them to kill, but we can’t train them for what death really means. I can’t…”

 

It isn’t the first time that Yoongi has pushed away others; even his long-term friends aren’t immune to Yoongi’s unhealthy social tendencies. It’s not that he doesn’t feel anything-- it’s that he feels too much.

 

“You don’t have to do anything that you find truly unbearable, Yoongi,” Hoseok whispers, tone suddenly soft. “But on the other hand, you don’t grow if you’re comfortable. Evolving into a stronger person for Eunhae, for yourself, only comes if you put yourself out of the self-induced isolation that you have built around yourself since… since it all happened. You can’t expect Eunhae to ignore the way you fidget when she clings to you forever. You’ve said it yourself-- she is far beyond her age mentally.”

 

“I don’t even know why I’m having this conversation with you right now instead of being in there. I promised her I would read to her, and I have to wake up at the crack of dawn to train our cadets--”

 

“She can’t read yet, right?” Hoseok interrupts, an expression that Yoongi doesn’t like the look of crossing his face.

 

“No, they don’t have school in the Eighth anymore. I’ve been trying, but I see her so little, and her caretakers have so many orphans to look after that aren’t as self-sufficient as she is--”

 

“Jimin can teach her,” Hoseok claims, confidence radiating in his words. “I bet you that Jimin can teach her how to read.”

 

“Seok, teaching a kid to read takes a lot longer than just a week,” Yoongi huffs. His friends really don’t know anything about children. He can’t really blame them though-- he didn’t before he became Eunhae’s only guardian, either.

 

“Let him try! Jimin is smart, I’m sure he can figure it out.”

 

Yoongi eyes Hoseok wearily. Somehow, he feels that there are ulterior motives to his friend’s insistence. Hoseok usually pushes him to do things that Yoongi wouldn’t dare do of his own volition, but this… this is something different. “Intelligence has nothing to do with how to deal with a child.”

 

“But experience does, and that’s something that me, Namjoon, and Seokjin all lack. Just let Jimin try. He’s kind and smart and experienced, and you know he would take looking after Eunhae seriously. He’s too determined of a person to not.” Somehow, it feels like Hoseok is leaving something out.

 

Yoongi wets his lips and then nods briefly, if not a little reluctantly. He supposes he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter-- he had originally planned on bringing Eunhae to training with him and then bringing her to… well, he doesn’t really know what to do after that. He usually handles progress reports on the cadets for the rest of the afternoon, but that hardly is something very entertaining for a five-year-old. When he would go visit Eunhae, the caretakers there would always have all kinds of books to read-- Yoongi would spend days rereading stories for his little niece, whatever she liked.

 

There are no books (other than the ones she brought with) in the entirety of the Shatterdome. It’s hardly enough to do for a child of her intelligence, even if she hasn’t learned how to read yet. Maybe… maybe Jimin can help with that.

 

“Only if I can supervise,” Yoongi starts, and Hoseok looks like he’s about to shriek. The light blue of his iris is blinking, and Yoongi pauses briefly to look at Hoseok in horror. “Are you recording this?”

 

“Of course! Jimin said he’d only do it if you asked him yourself. So,” Hoseok taps his right temple, indicating for Yoongi to look into his eye. “Ask him.”

 

Yoongi huffs in disbelief, looking into the camera with what he hopes is a reserved expression. He has no idea why he’s so easily agreeing to this-- maybe it has something to do with the migraine that is definitely creeping up on him, making him desperate to go to sleep. “Hi, Park. Please take the time out of your busy schedule--”

 

“He’s not busy for the next week--” Hoseok cuts himself off when Yoongi’s look turns threatening.

 

“--to help me take care of my niece, Eunhae. Hoseok told me you have experience with kids, and Eunhae doesn’t know how to read yet. She’s five, and she’s very shy. Thank you.”

 

To say Yoongi is a little mortified with embarrassment at sending a message to Jimin through Hoseok’s eyeball would be the understatement of the century.

 

“Your face is red,” Hoseok says, VisTech signal still blinking. He shuts it off a second later, and Hoseok’s gaze goes back to normal-- teasing, and staring a hole straight through Yoongi’s head.

 

“Shove it up your ass, Hoseok--”

 

“Now, now, Uncle Yoongles, that is no type of language for a nice daddy to--”

 

“--I have had enough of you and it’s only been half an hour since I arrived.” Yoongi sighs for what seems like the hundredth time that night alone, wiping at his face again in his exhaustion. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an early riser and a five-year-old who has probably fallen asleep in her wait for me to read her a bedtime story. If you could fuck off and let me breathe without embarrassment until at least tomorrow night at dinner, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

 

Hoseok chuckles at Yoongi’s failed attempt at being threatening in his fatigued state. Yoongi cracks a smile at Hoseok’s own struggle at trying to keep quiet-- the officers in the rooms around his must sleep like fucking rocks.

 

“Goodnight, Yoongles,” Hoseok half-whispers, smiling at Yoongi before he’s walking off. Yoongi looks after him for a few moments, wondering how it is that Hoseok always manages to force Yoongi into new situations that he never thought he’d find himself in.

 

He curses his soft spot for the people he keeps in his life before entering back into his room. True to his predictions, Eunhae is fast asleep, her long black hair sprawled out across Yoongi’s pillows. He’s glad he upgraded to a full-size bed last year because his niece is currently taking up way more space than what his old twin bed would provide.

 

Yoongi goes into the bathroom off the side of his room, proud to see Eunhae’s little toothbrush off to the side of the sink. He didn’t even have to remind her to brush her teeth, and somehow it’s just that small gesture that eases him far more than it should. Eunhae is largely self-sufficient for her age, and Yoongi only needs to be there for her-- that’s it. Surely, he’s overthinking all of this, as he does so many things in his life?

 

He changes into some sweats, turning off the lights of his room and crawling into bed, careful to not accidentally lean on Eunhae’s wild hair. He moves the soft locks to the side, freeing up a pillow and settling in under the covers.

 

Yoongi hasn’t comfortably slept next to another living person in years. Now is no different,  Eunhae’s presence both a balm on his nerves and a cause of stress. It’s with his attempts at trying to remember the last time he did find sleep easy in situations like this that he’s lulled into sleep, the sound of his most-treasured niece’s soft breaths echoing in the dark.

 

            



“JP, what are you laughing at?”

 

Jimin only giggles harder, struggling to pull his shirt over his head as he replays the video that Hoseok sent him sometime earlier this morning. When his head pops out of the collar of his tee, Ke has an eyebrow raised, looking on at him in mild amusement.

 

“Hobi sent me a video of Yoongi,” Jimin chuckles, half his vision obscured by the imagery of Yoongi looking into what Jimin can only assume was Hoseok’s eye. The lieutenant has a look of irritation on his face, but there’s pink dusting his cheeks and Jimin can’t help but be endeared by the way his eyes slowly widen throughout the clip with embarrassment.

 

Yoongi has yet to ask a favor of Jimin, but somehow this doesn’t seem like a truly one-sided favor-- Jimin has a bleeding heart for children, and ever since Taehyung had brought up the subject of babysitting two days ago, he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about home. Nevertheless, Jimin is going to milk this for what it’s worth. Yoongi blushing and glaring into the camera sends a thrill up his spine, too, even if he won’t ever admit it to himself.

 

He looks up to see Ke staring at him deviously.

 

“What’s the video about that’s got you so quiet, JP?” Jimin goes red in the face. Ke has been spending far too much time talking to Hoseok.

 

“He asked me to help him teach his niece how to read,” Jimin says, a bit of timidness in his tone that makes him bite his tongue. Ke is smirking at him, and Jimin finds he doesn’t like the look on his friend’s face this morning. Jimin huffs when Ke winks at him, “Shut up and get ready for training.”

 

“Didn’t say shit, JP,” Ke counters, tying his shoes. He’s always dressed far before Jimin even wakes up, and Jimin is starting to wonder why lacing a pair of sneakers takes Ke as long as it does. “Your expression said enough for the both of us.”

 

Jimin shoots him a dagger-like glance, adjusting the drawstrings on his sweatpants before he starts tying his shoes, too. He grabs his exosuit, throwing it in his training bag before adding his water bottle and zipping it up. He slings the thing over his shoulder, looking up to see Ke already waiting for him at the end of their bunk. Jimin walks over to him, ignoring the sniggering that he hears from Ke when they meet eyes.

 

“So, are you gonna do it?”

 

Jimin glances at Ke on their way down the hall. “Do what?”

 

“Teach her how to read?”

 

Jimin adjusts his grip on the strap of his duffel bag. “Of course I will.”

 

“You’re not nervous?”

 

Jimin halts, looking over to see Ke’s expression. It’s curious, despite the pensiveness of his tone. “I’d be lying if I said that I’m not.” Jimin sighs, continuing to walk ahead with a trailing and silently waiting Ke. “Yoongi confuses the shit out of me, Ke. You know this. But I’m going to take Seokjin’s advice and keep trying to understand him. Plus, Hobi sent a picture of his niece that he made Yoongi send him; she’s absolutely precious-looking, so I couldn’t really say no.”

 

“Still don’t really get why you care so much, JP. ‘M gonna be honest with you, I wouldn’t have the patience--”

 

“Ke, you are literally the living embodiment of patience,” He laughs, shoving lightly at Ke’s shoulder when he scrunches his face at Jimin. “Whether it’s you testing it or having it, you’re not one to be dissuaded easily.”

 

“Just don’t relate to Yoongi that much, I guess.” Ke pauses, looking at Jimin in mock amazement. “That’s why you’re so into him! You two basically share one mind, what with your heads constantly up in Simfields and music that no one liste--”

 

“I am not ‘into’ him, Ke,” Jimin scoffs, dragging Ke into the training room. He nods in greeting to his fellow cadets, smiling at Asuka and completely ignoring Xiang’s presence before putting his duffel bag into the corner with all the other cadets’. He turns to Ke, who is looking at him expectantly. “It just… bugs me, that he’s so distant. Doesn’t it bother you how we’re already so close with the others, but Yoongi remains in his own world most of the time?”

 

“He’s not in his own world all the time. He comes out to talk to you, play along to Hoseok’s teasing, not laugh at Seokjin’s jokes, and listen to Nam--” Ke cuts himself off suddenly, looking over Jimin’s shoulders with wide eyes.

 

Jimin jerks around, stopping in place at what he sees. It’s a little shocking but melts his heart a thousand times over.

 

Yoongi is walking at a slower pace than his usual stride into the room, his hand behind his back. Jimin sees the little feet trailing behind him, and the warm-- if not a bit anxious-- smile on Yoongi’s face paints the most heartwarming picture. Yoongi is clearly nervous about Eunhae’s reaction to meeting new people, if what he had said in the video message Hoseok sent about her being shy is accurate.

 

“Good morning, Lieutenant Min,” Jimin calls, walking with Ke and a few other cadets who join them to meet Yoongi halfway. To most of them, Jimin can only assume, Yoongi appears his normal, reserved and alert self. It’s the slight clenching of his jaw that tells Jimin he’s not as composed as he looks.

 

“‘Morning, JP134.” Yoongi’s eyes flicker to Ke after a long pause on Jimin, “KL427.”

 

“‘S that your niece, Lieutenant?” Ke asks curiously, leaning so far to the left in his attempt to peer around Yoongi that Jimin is surprised he’s maintaining his balance instead of falling face-first into the floor. Ke’s first question opens up the rest of the cadets to start barraging the lieutenant with questions. Yoongi looks taken aback, to say the least.

 

“Is that really why you were gone for so many days?”

 

“How old is she?”

 

“We didn’t know you had any siblings, Lieutenant!”

 

“Does that mean we don’t have practice today?”

 

“What’s her name?”

 

“Yes,” Yoongi hums, quieting the chattering cadets. “Her name is Min Eunhae, she is five.” Yoongi pauses for a moment before continuing, “And no, we still have practice today. Don’t be lazy,” Yoongi chastises the whole group, not knowing who asked that particular question. He starts smiling again regardless, moving slightly to the side to reveal a little more of Eunhae. She immediately drops his hand, clinging to his leg and looking up at the cadets with narrowed, sharp eyes.

 

She looks like a carbon copy of what Jimin can only guess Yoongi looked like at that age, and Jimin can’t help but smile widely at the thought of a child lieutenant walking around and shooting suspicious glances at everyone, much like Eunhae is doing now. Her eyes land on Jimin, watching him with a careful hesitance as he kneels down to meet her at eye level. He smiles at her, causing her to only narrows her eyes further.

 

Jimin can immediately tell that she’s picked up on some of Yoongi’s tendency to observe before acting-- so cautious for only a five-year-old.

 

“Nice to meet you, Eunhae,” Jimin says brightly, extending out his hand in offering. “My name is Park Jimin.” Eunhae stares at his outstretched palm with something akin to shock. The room is quiet, and Jimin can only assume it’s because out of all the things to do when meeting a child, shaking hands as if the kid is an adult isn’t high on the list of commonality. Jimin, however, is a firm believer in treating children with respect and the notion that they can show maturity, if given the expectation to do so.

 

Eunhae may only be five, but her demeanor clearly carries that of a child much older. Jimin is good at telling these types of things, with his years of looking after the First Bunker’s little ones.

 

She looks up at Yoongi for only a moment, attempting to measure his reaction but only being met with the lieutenant staring at Jimin with an amused expression. She drags her eyes back to Jimin, suspicious gaze a little less intense, “How do you know my Uncle?”

 

Jimin falters for a second, and Eunhae’s sharp gaze actually seems to catch it, her eyes flickering between Jimin and Yoongi questioningly. She’s definitely picked up on Yoongi’s quick wit. “Your Uncle is my boss. He’s all our boss,” Jimin tries, suppressing a giggle at the stunned look that Yoongi gives him. The rest of the cadets behind him seem to collectively hum in agreement, and Jimin’s cheeks burn with the stretch of his smile as he watches Yoongi’s face dust pink.

 

Eunhae seems to consider Jimin’s answer for a moment before her shoulders drop, taking his hand and shaking it. Jimin’s cheeks are hurting.

 

“May I ask what about that statement led to your approval?” Jimin jeers lightly, adoring the way Eunhae’s face is reddening to a shade much similar to her Uncle’s. Adorable.

 

Eunhae puffs out her cheeks, back straightening as she sets Jimin with a hard look, “My Uncle said the people he takes care of are his favorites. If he’s your boss, then that means your his favorites. Uncle Yoongi is my favorite, so this’ll work out.”

 

Jimin lets the words settle over him before he’s bursting into giggles, completely enamored by Eunhae already. “Uncle Yoongi is our favorite, too,” Jimin says, not really considering his words until he glances up to see Yoongi’s eyes widen.

 

The room erupts into laughter at Jimin’s slip-up, and Jimin is starting to feel mortified at having called Yoongi ‘Uncle Yoongi’ when said man starts laughing, too. Jimin watches in shock as the lieutenant’s eyes glint with amusement, body shaking with how hard he’s laughing with the other cadets. Eunhae looks up at him as well, though her expression looks contemplative rather than surprised.

 

“It’s not nice to laugh at others,” Eunhae scolds them, which makes the soldiers laugh even harder (especially Ke, who Jimin is sure is the one borderline cackling at Jimin’s stumble). Eunhae lets go of Yoongi’s leg, stepping forward to give Jimin a hesitant pat on the head in a gesture of consolement.

 

Yoongi’s laugh immediately ceases-- as well as everyone else’s-- and Jimin completely melts. He glances up at Yoongi with uncertainty before looking back to the girl. “It’s okay,” Jimin chuckles, patting Eunhae’s upper arm when she pulls back her hand just as quickly as she stepped forward. “They’re laughing with me, so it’s okay.”

 

Eunhae smiles at Jimin shyly, clearly still a little reserved despite how much she’s opened up in such a short amount of time. Something tells Jimin that Eunhae is usually much more off-put by strangers, as she was when she first stepped in here-- he remembers that back at home, introductions to one of Jihyun’s newest friends were often eased by the presence of Jihyun himself.

 

Eunhae must feel comforted by Yoongi’s easygoingness around them. It’s hardly a surprise, as is the case with most children-- but somehow it’s something that Jimin likes to consider, a warm thought blanketing the back of his mind.

 

“Alright,” Yoongi says, startling Jimin out of his thoughts. He can feel the eyes of his teammates behind him. “We’re now gonna up and head to the track, cadets. Twice the laps as usual--” A collective groan is heard, and Yoongi cracks a smirk, “--because I know all too well that General Jung has let you out early nearly every day that I’ve been gone, if not all of them.”

 

Nothing really ever gets past their more… orderly squad leader. Hoseok definitely hasn’t gone necessarily easy on them the past few days, but compared to the overly-strict regime that Yoongi usually forces on them…

 

It’s safe to say that Jimin has had a lot of extra time for lunch lately.

 

“Stop looking at me like that, you all,” Yoongi chastises, his commanding demeanor taking over as per usual. Jimin automatically stands up to take a step back and join the others, straightening his back at the call to attention. “Complain in between water breaks, after you’ve earned them.”

 

The cadets around Jimin file out of the room, taking the usual route to the outside track. Stamina training is a critical part of being a soldier, after all-- plus, complaining anymore might mean more laps. Jimin is about to follow after Ke when Yoongi’s gaze pins him in place. Yoongi looks conflicted for a moment and is then turning to follow after the rest of the squad, only pausing for Eunhae to take his offered hand before he begins walking. Jimin trails behind them, unsure if he should run ahead or stay walking where he is.

 

It’s when Jimin is about to join the others on the track that Yoongi clears his throat. Jimin meekly glances at him, seeing that Yoongi looks like he’s trying to figure out what to say. Jimin, in his nervousness, takes the chance from him.

 

“How are you today, Lieutenant Min?” Jimin tries, shifting his weight between his soles as he offers Yoongi a small smile in the form of the slightest curve of his lips upwards. It was the first thing that came to his mind, so he’s just going to roll with it.

 

Yoongi looks taken aback by the question but quickly recovers, “I’m doing fine, Park.” Oh, now Jimin understands the nature of this conversation. His gaze quickly flickers down to Eunhae, who is staring up at Yoongi with an open expression of deep thought. “I…” Yoongi’s eyes flicker down to Eunhae. He seems to consider something for a few moments. “Eunhae--”

 

“Uncle,” Eunhae tugs on the edge of Yoongi’s sweatshirt, the look in her eyes having changed to excitement. Yoongi looks surprised by her change in demeanor but hums in acknowledgment regardless. “Can I go run, too?”

 

Yoongi furrows his brow, “I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Eunhae. You’re still a little tired from the flight yesterday, I don’t want you to trip--”

 

“Someone could carry her around the track?” Jimin suggests. Yoongi looks like he’s about to reject the idea when Eunhae gasps in childlike glee. She’s so different from not even a few minutes ago, but Jimin isn’t complaining.

 

“Piggyback! Piggyback!” Eunhae shouts excitedly. Yoongi appears to be completely taken aback by her outburst, his brow furrowing as Eunhae tugs on the edge of his shirt.

 

Yoongi frowns when she tugs hard enough to make him nearly lose his balance. “Eunhae, what has gotten into you--”

 

“Ke!” Jimin calls, waving down his friend hurriedly. He has a feeling that Eunhae is far more excitable than what Yoongi is usually used to, and if a piggyback ride is what the kid wants, that is exactly what she’ll get (if only to calm the slowly increasing stiffness of Yoongi’s shoulders).

 

Ke turns his head and breaks from the formation that the squad usually takes while running, jogging over to Jimin with a confused look when he sees the way Yoongi has taken Eunhae to the side, kneeled in front of her and speaking in lowered tones. The girl’s face is completely placated, and Jimin briefly wonders what it is Yoongi is saying to make her so easily calm and collected.

 

“What’s up, JP? Why aren’t ya on the track?” Ke has broken into a light sweat in the heat radiating off the black rubber of the track. Otherwise, he appears unaffected after the weeks of repeated vigorous exercise.

 

“Can you give Eunhae a piggyback ride around the track?” Jimin asks sheepishly, glancing at Yoongi and his niece to see the two still in a hushed conversation. Eunhae fidgets at the mention of a piggyback ride but otherwise keeps her attention focused on Yoongi.

 

“Sure,” Ke exhales, taking a moment to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand. He’s as easygoing as ever, a bright smile on his face as he considers Yoongi. “Whatcha say, Lieutenant? The little one there want a run ‘round the track?”

 

Yoongi finishes whatever he’s saying to Eunhae before standing up, pursing his lips before folding his hands behind his back. He sets Ke with a serious gaze, “If Eunhae agrees.” He looks down at his niece, who has an eyebrow raised at Ke.

 

Ke grins sheepishly under her critical gaze, “I’ll run extra fast, just for you.” Eunhae seems to consider it for a long moment, glancing at Jimin before she offers her hand out to Ke, much in the same fashion that Jimin had done towards her in greeting.

 

Ke snickers at her gesture, taking her hand and offering a firm shake before dropping her hand to turn and kneel down. Eunhae looks at Yoongi with wide eyes before clambering atop Ke’s back, squealing peals of laughter when Ke shoots up and sets off at a blistering pace down the track. Eunhae looks like she’s holding on for dear life, and Jimin sees a grace of panic flash on Yoongi’s face before it settles away as Eunhae’s laughter only gets stronger when Ke zooms past the other recruits.

 

“Is there something you wanted to talk about, Yoongi?” Jimin asks after a few moments of watching Ke blaze a trail of fire (figuratively, of course) around the others. He’s genuinely surprised Ke’s keeping that pace so easily.

 

Yoongi startles out of the amative stare he had watching the scene, settling Jimin with a calm-- if not a bit apprehensive-- expression. “I wanted to know if you got Hoseok’s message. I don’t usually like to talk about stuff like this during training, you know, but…” Yoongi trails off, his expression going to one of deep thought.

 

“There’s not really any other time to ask?” Jimin attempts to finish for him, and Yoongi gives him an appreciative nod. Jimin shifts from foot to foot, finding the conversation somewhat stilted compared to how the two of them talk at dinners. Maybe it’s all in Jimin’s head, and this is just how they’ve always interacted-- he really has no idea, at this point. “I saw it, and yes-- I’d love to help with whatever you need for Eunhae. To be honest, I was a little surprised you asked at all.”

 

Jimin looks away for a moment to gather the courage that usually comes so easy to him but somehow falls flat when talking to the sharp-eyed lieutenant. Be direct, Seokjin had offered as advice. “I don’t really know where we stand, so I definitely wasn’t expecting you to ask me of all people to look after your niece.”

 

Yoongi has the smallest of frowns on his mouth, ignoring Jimin’s comment. “Hoseok mentioned you used to babysit in your home Bunker.”

 

Jimin falters. Too direct, maybe? “Is that all?”

 

Yoongi’s frown deepens, “And that you… wanted to..?”

 

It’s not easy, the way the realization that this is going to be a lot difficult than he had unrealistically hoped for, if the way Yoongi won’t meet his eyes now is any indication. So, he gives in-- for now. “Yes. I would especially love to teach her how to read.”

 

Yoongi’s expression flickers with something unknown. “Okay, sounds good then. After training? I got a lot of paperwork to do and I really don’t want to bore her--”

 

“Yeah, that’s fine.” Jimin offers him a tight smile, turning to the track. “After training.”

 

Yoongi seems to finally pick up on what Jimin was hinting at a moment ago, sighing, “Wait, Park--”

 

“C’mon, slowpokes!” Ke shouts from the track, Eunhae’s giggling reviving as she urges him to run faster. He’s got a lead on the rest of the group.

 

Jimin lingers only a moment before he takes one last glance at Yoongi. The lieutenant has a pensive look on his face, as if he’s considering something deeply. Jimin joins the rest of the group without another word shared between the two, getting his frustration out with every pace he takes along the white meter lines beneath him.  

 

He feels a lot better by the time the morning run is over with. Going through the rest of the day’s training is a little strange, seeing as there’s a mere child watching them all work with blades and staves and all types of advanced weaponry that even Jimin is barely qualified to wield.

 

The time he spends after with Yoongi and Eunhae is even more out of place. Eunhae seems to have gone back into her initial quiet and reserved demeanor at some point during the whole thing, and Jimin finds teaching her how to read a lot more difficult than he had thought it’d be. Not impossible, and not out of his grasp-- but more difficult, with the way she sometimes won’t reply to him, lost in her own little world or too meek to muster an answer.

 

Yoongi doesn’t help much either-- maybe he doesn’t know. He just sits there in the back of the random common room he had brought the two of them to, working on his tablet silently. Jimin felt his eyes on him more than once but didn’t hear a single peep out of him.

 

It’s during Eunhae’s late nap-- sleeping on one of the couches in the room, still tired from the flight yesterday-- that Jimin decides to break the silence. “What changed?” He asks, adjusting the books that Yoongi had brought along to the room after training.

 

“Hm?” Yoongi hums. His eyes lift up from his tablet when Jimin turns around to stare at him. “What do you mean, Park?”

 

“What changed for you to bring her here?”


Yoongi blinks, eyes narrowing. “So someone snitched on me, huh?”

 

“Not necessarily,” Jimin quips, ignoring Yoongi’s knowing look. “You didn’t answer the question.”

 

“You didn’t answer mine.” Jimin glares at him, the look he gives the other one of warning-- after all, Yoongi has avoided plenty of Jimin’s inquiries in the past. Yoongi sighs, giving in, “Eunhae is getting older now.” The gaze he has linger on his niece’s sleeping form is forlorn and melancholy before it slips back into an unreadable one. He seems to struggle with his words for a few moments before he adds in a low, hushed voice, “I don’t think that having only me around is enough for her any longer.”

 

“Bullshit,” Jimin lets slip almost automatically. Yoongi’s eyes widen, but Jimin decides to simply continue, “That’s complete bullshit.” He wets his lips, avoiding his gaze, “You’re plenty.”

 

When he returns his eyes back to Yoongi’s, he isn’t sure what he sees there. “I’m… I’m flattered that you think so, Park, but… what makes you think that? You barely know my niece.”

 

“I barely know you, as well,” Jimin counters, paying careful heed to the way Yoongi’s eyes widen in shock. “I may be only your comrade, Yoongi, but I’m not blind. I see the way you treat her-- it…” He shifts to lean his cheek in his palm, the small plastic coffee table hard against his elbow. His mind drifts off to a faraway place in that instant, thoughts of his baby brother filling his heart with fondness and a little too much heaviness. “It reminds me of Jihyunie, I guess.”

 

“Jihyun?” Jimin glances at him to see a look of confusion.

 

He clears his throat, shaking himself from the sad path his emotions were taking. “My younger brother, Jihyunie. I treat him with as much tenderness as you do-- well, nevermind, actually. I’m not nearly as close to him as you are with Eunhae, I suppose.”

 

“And why’s that?” Yoongi looks like he regrets asking almost immediately. He looks away from Jimin, “Sorry, I--”

 

“No, it’s okay.” Jimin smiles, despite himself. Yoongi is showing interest on something more personal to Jimin-- it’s something that he’s learned is considered to be quite rare, so he runs with it. “To put it simply, I left him a long time before I actually… left, if that makes sense. Something…” He sighs before looking straight into Yoongi’s eyes. “Something bad happened where we were younger and instead of being strong for him, I… I shut down. I lost a part of myself that I could never really get back and Jihyun changed, too.”

 

It’s easier than he thought, revealing a little bit more of his innermost self. He still struggles, but he’s… getting there.

 

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, but Jimin knows he’s curious. “He didn’t want to leave while I wanted to leave more than ever before.” He doesn’t add the fact that Jihyun quickly became the only acknowledged son of the Park family, too young to have truly remembered the scarring detail seeing the Other that still plagued Jimin in his dreams but old enough to remember flashes.

 

To know danger when he saw it and to never want to see it again, unlike his foolish elder brother.

 

“I’m sorry I judged you before,” Yoongi suddenly speaks up. Jimin looks at him shock, earning a sheepish grin in return. “I don’t think of you that way now, of course. I know I said it when I apologized a while ago, but I never mentioned that when I first met you I kinda pegged you for… you know…”

 

“A dumbass?” Jimin snorts at Yoongi’s resulting anxious expression. “Only kidding. Partially,” He purses his lips, face relaxing after a few moments. “I know what you meant, Yoongi. Trust me, I’m more of a disgrace in my family’s eyes than an actual member of them. I guess I just wouldn’t have that pointed out even when I left, though.”

 

Yoongi frowns, brow furrowed. “I guess life is just unexpected that way, you know?” Jimin sighs, drumming his fingers on the surface of the table for a bit before continuing. “Maybe I’ll tell you one time.”

 

“Tell me what?”

 

“What makes me such a disgrace,” Jimin winks, knowing fully well that his newfound confidence is only present because of the discomfort of his past creeping up his back-- of the newness of being so direct, of trying a way of communication so very different from how he was raised. “Even got some pretty scars from it. Though Taehyungie is the only one to have ever called them that.”

 

At the wide-eyed look Yoongi is giving him, Jimin recedes. “Sorry, did I overstep?”

 

“No, uh,” Yoongi gulps, averting his gaze to the tablet in his lap. “Just… didn’t expect to hear all that. Especially… considering how I’ve been treating you.”

 

“Oh?” Jimin quirks a brow at him. “We talking about that now?”

 

“Park… I--” Yoongi cuts himself off, rubbing at his face as he watches Eunhae stir. “Let’s talk about it after dinner, please? Hoseok, Namjoon, and Seokjin wanna try spending some time with her and--”

 

“You’re not gonna go with them?” Realistically, Jimin knows that it makes perfect sense that Yoongi would trust the three of them with his niece more than him, the two of them only having known each other for such a short period of time. It’s not so much that that makes him unable to hide his grimace-- it’s moreso the very reminder that Yoongi doesn’t really trust him at all. “I guess that’s fine.”

 

Yoongi seems to notice the look of hurt on Jimin’s face but doesn’t otherwise acknowledge it aside from the slight downtilt of the corners of his mouth. Jimin is once again reminded that Yoongi is far different from the others-- words shared over two months mean nothing to him.

 

Even if they mean everything to Jimin.

 

Jimin, who despite having Taehyung and Jungkook and himself had always felt a strong sense of loneliness in the world. Jimin, who sees part of his inner self in every flinch Yoongi takes away from others, every wall he has built up.

 

Watching Yoongi nod quietly before focusing his attention back on his tablet, expression going carefully flat-- Jimin sees the barrier being built up again, imaginary only in its literal sense yet very much real in every other aspect.

 

It makes him only want to try harder.



            

 

 

Dinner is just as Yoongi would expect it to be: loud.

 

Hoseok and Ke keep making Eunhae laugh far more than Yoongi has ever heard from his little niece; Namjoon and Seokjin are in some intense under-the-breath conversation; Taehyung chirps in between both the aforementioned conversations, seeming to easily slip in easily into either topic, completely welcomed by the others.

 

Jimin, however, sits perfectly still. Quiet. Maybe it’s the fact he’s lost in a Simfield, or maybe it’s something else entirely. Either way, he occasionally will meet Yoongi’s eyes only to give him a tight smile in return. It shouldn’t make Yoongi feel as guilty as it does.

 

Part of him thinks back onto what Seokjin said about healing. The other part thinks back onto something Freddie Mercury once said-- something about having everything in life yet still being the loneliest.

 

If Yoongi could reach out to others and not be scared of losing them, would it get rid of the gaping void in his chest-- heavy and sometimes just a little too insufferable-- or would it only widen its breadth? Those with the most to cherish also have the most to lose, don’t they?

 

“Uncle Yoongi.” He blinks, looking down at Eunhae, who has found her way back to sitting in his lap. He gave up on encouraging her to eat several minutes ago, what with Hoseok and Ke making such a fuss of noise next to him. “Uncle Hobi and Uncle Ke said that they can do stories with a-- a--” She turns to the two mentioned, pouting in a silent effort to help.

 

“A Simfield. Little Eunhae wants to go into a Simfield,” Hoseok quips, smile stretched across his face wide. Yoongi does a double-take when he sees a similar expression across Ke’s, though slightly off in some way. “I can’t believe you’ve never taken her into a Simfield, Yoongles. That’s some grade A headas--”

 

“Seok,” Yoongi warns. He gingerly covers Eunhae’s ears before seething at him, “For the thousandth time, watch your fucking mouth around my kid.” Eunhae looks up to him curiously when he removes his palms, smoothing her hair behind her ears. He stiffly pulls his hands back when he realizes what he’s doing, feeling many pairs of eyes suddenly trained on him.

 

She’s still focused on one thing. “Uncle Yoongi, can I do the Simfield thingy?”

 

Yoongi glances up to meet Jimin’s indecipherable stare before his eyes flicker back to a pleading Hoseok and Ke. “As long as it’s kept innocent and I don’t have to explain anything questionable afterward.”

 

Eunhae smiles brightly in return, leaning back to give him some type of backward hug, little hands patting the back of his neck. His heart aches at the motion-- a lot of tenderness and a lot of pain mixing together, an absolute bleeding heart for Eunhae and all the ways she reminds Yoongi of the family he used to have.

 

Sometimes he really wishes he could just move on, look at her and only feel the happy and proud emotions of a father rather than an awkward pseudo-parent.

 

The rest of dinner involves Eunhae squealing in delight at the VisTech goggles Namjoon had apparently snuck from his division to show her. Yoongi, who was completely unaware of the many plans that his friends had apparently made to impress his nieces’ wondrous child mind, can’t help but feel something close to gratefulness that Eunhae has something to do. The Shatterdome might be home to Yoongi, but he knows his niece is more uncomfortable than she’s putting off-- always so good at hiding her emotions, even for a five-year-old.

 

Yoongi can’t help but feel he’s guilty for that the most, amongst other things.

 

He waits outside the dining hall after Eunhae goes off with Hoseok, Namjoon, and Seokjin for whatever they have planned until her (unfortunately due to Yoongi’s night-owlish tendencies as well) late bedtime. Jimin appears only mere seconds behind him, Taehyung and Ke glancing back at the two of them before disappearing down the halls of the Shatterdome.

 

“So, about that talk,” Yoongi tries after a long, tense silence of the two of them staring anywhere but at each other. “Do you…”

 

“Can we go somewhere else for this?” Jimin looks up from the floor, expression more guarded than Yoongi remembered it being than earlier. At Yoongi’s blank stare, Jimin blurts, “I don’t want anyone to interrupt, is all.”

 

“Okay,” he agrees easily. He starts walking but falters in his steps when he realizes he has no idea where to go. It’s not like he can really bring the cadet to his private quarters-- well, technically he could, but…. “How about outside? On the porter docks?”

 

Jimin hums, pursing his lips and slightly bowing his head, an indication for Yoongi to lead the way. He does so with slow steps, not wanting to have a sit-down talk but knowing that it’s not really avoidable at this point.

 

He likes Jimin, he really does. He just doesn’t like what liking Jimin means.

 

Yoongi leads them outside of the Shatterdome, going to the very ridge of the sea base’s docks. He sits on the edge, feet dangling over the side as he leans back on his palms and stares at the dark, vast ocean. When Jimin doesn’t come to sit next to him, he looks up behind him. “What’s wrong, Park? Afraid of heights?”

 

Jimin frowns at him, something close to fear in his eyes. It’s a little off though, and Yoongi thinks maybe that it’s not necessarily the cliff face of the ship’s side down to the water that frightens him, but who he’s with that does.

 

Regardless, Jimin takes a seat, keeping a careful distance from Yoongi. He doesn’t dangle his feet over the edge.

 

It’s a long time before either of them talk-- Yoongi finds himself alright with it, if it means he doesn’t have to go through with this awkward conversation. He doesn’t even know why he suggested it in the first place, but--

 

“So,” Jimin is the first to interrupt the heavy silence, sharp and salty ocean breeze almost deafening his voice for a moment before dimming back to a quiet kind of calm. He distantly hears the waves crash against the side of the ship from all the way below them as Jimin takes a deep breath. “Are you gonna start or am I?”

 

Yoongi takes a moment to look at the side of Jimin’s face, watch the wind blow against him. He’s solid against its pull, and a very small part of Yoongi thinks he might be able to do this.

 

Make another friend, risk another person to lose.

 

Or maybe it’s just the stupid sea breeze. “I’m well aware that I’ve been keeping you at a lengthy distance, Park.” Yoongi takes a deep, calming breath. Maybe too long a pause-- either way, Jimin stays silent. Yoongi’s gaze scrapes across his face one more time before going back to the ocean waves, mesmerizing in their push and pull movements-- a lot like how he is with his own emotions, he thinks. “I guess the only explanation that I have is that… that’s just how it is. For me.”

 

Jimin takes a long time to respond. “Why, exactly? I… want to try and understand. We’re practically friends already-- you show me music all the time, we talk every day, and yet… is it so bad for me to want to be closer to you?” Jimin’s voice dies out at the end, almost like he regrets his choice of words. “To get to know you better?” He sighs. “Look, I know I fucking suck at this whole friend thing, okay? I’m not nearly as good at is as Taehyungie is but… am I weird to think all these things? That we could be friends?”

 

“No, Jimin,” Yoongi says, voice barely above a hush as he looks to Jimin and sees his eyes widen the slightest amount. “I’m sure others have thought it before, but most don’t have the… bravery, maybe. To say anything.”

 

“Then why? Why can’t we be friends? Is it some unspoken word?”

 

At that, Yoongi doesn’t reply. He isn’t really sure how to, at this moment. How does he tell someone that he has major commitment issues when it comes to trusting others not to die on him without actually… telling them? If Yoongi knew the answer, maybe he wouldn’t have pushed so many people away over the years, picking and choosing carefully who he thinks would hold the least risk of leaving him empty-- though, Park Jimin is one that seems a lot more resilient when it comes to chasing Yoongi’s companionship than the others.

 

Part of Yoongi is flattered; the other part thinks about the faces of his dead family members.

 

Jimin is quiet for a minute or so before he starts again. “How about we play a game?”

 

Yoongi quirks a brow at him, his eyes back on the cadet. Jimin’s expression is calm except for the slight furrow of his brow, the jitter of his knee against the steel of the ship docks. “A game, Park? You wanna play a game-- out here? With me?” At the confident look that flashes across Jimin’s face, Yoongi decides to humor him. “Alright, what kinda game?”

 

“I say something about my fucked up past, and you say something about yours.”

 

Yoongi feels something he hasn’t felt in a long time brim in his chest, always avoiding it when it threatens him-- true social panic. “Park, I--”

 

“It’s best this way, yeah?” Jimin waves off his concern before looking back out to the sea. “We’re both adults yet clearly can’t communicate properly to one another. It’s a bit of a stretch, but couldn’t that mean there’s something we share in common yet don’t want to admit? So, let’s just get it out in the open. Maybe it’ll explain why I can’t get you out of my head and you can’t quit calling me fucking ‘comrade’,” Jimin says calmly, confidently. His knee shakes against the ridge of the ship though, and Yoongi sees the nerves skittering across Jimin’s expression before it’s suppressed again.

 

Yoongi isn’t sure why but he blushes, cheeks stinging against the cold of the night air. “Okay,” he finds himself mumbling under his breath, enraptured in a way he didn’t think he could be by another person. It’s so strange, how much Jimin’s words make sense to him in this moment, make all of this seem suddenly… okay.

 

Stupid sea breeze.

 

“My parents blamed the war on the government. Told me I’d never get to see the ocean because they failed at protecting us. Even as a kid, I knew they were full of shit. Guess that’s why they liked my baby brother more than they ever liked me,” Jimin breathes out in a rush, his words having a breath of nonchalance despite the pain Yoongi can see flicker across his expression-- so brief he almost misses it.

 

“Funny thing is, I see the ocean right now--” Jimin spreads his arms out wide, gesturing to the large breadth of water before him. “And I’m pretty sure it was the government who got me here in the first place. It’s funny, how things work out like that, you know?” Jimin turns to him, dropping his arms back to his sides as a small grin graces his lips, eyes tilting into half-smiles as he looks to Yoongi. “One day, I’m trapped under a metal roof that feels as if it’s suffocating me. Now, I’m under another metal roof-- this time though, I can go outside. This time, I feel free.”

 

“Free?”

 

“Yeah, really fucking free.” Jimin’s smile dims into something else. He doesn’t say anything else-- doesn’t pressure Yoongi to take his turn, doesn’t look at him expectantly. He’s just staring out to the water, some strange emotion on his face.

 

It’s not content, but it’s not troubled either-- maybe it’s something close to acceptance.

 

“Eunhae is the most precious person in my life,” Yoongi says simply. “I think about her every day.”

 

Jimin blinks. “That’s hardly something fucked up about your past, Yoongi.”

 

“She’s also the last person in my family that’s alive. Everyone else died in the last wave.”

 

“Oh,” Jimin exhales slowly. Yoongi doesn’t look him in the eye. “I see.”

 

Yoongi isn’t sure why-- but somehow, in this moment, he finds himself wanting to say more than simply that. Maybe it’s the way Jimin is approaching it-- he’s so calm, so collected in the face of information that usually torments Yoongi in his every waking moment. He feels like he’s talking into a void of space, but the space breathes-- it smiles at him like he’s not broken and lights up with the moonlight and--

 

“When I was ten-years-old, I watched my friend die.” Yoongi’s eyes widen, his gaze shifting back to the ocean when he realizes he was staring at Jimin’s side profile. “Jihyunie and I… we tried to go outside during one of the waves-- I think that’s what it was, at least. Only heard about those right before I came here, realistically.” He sighs. “They really did hide everything from us. Or tried to, at least. I’m lucky that all Bunkers were forced to administer information about recruitment-- otherwise…”

 

Jimin trails off for a moment before collecting his thoughts, continuing. “And when we went outside, my friend was there, too. A lot of our childhood friends, in fact. Back when I still had a lot of those. It was a stupid dare, but I was always one for a dare-- too stupid and too brave for a kid my age. Even now, it seems,” Jimin laughs, the sound somewhat sour.

 

“Park, you don’t have to…”

 

“No, it’s okay. You should know this about me, if we’re gonna ever truly trust each other. Or even as my squad leader.” Jimin looks away. “I’m scared that the first time I see one again, I’ll have an episode.”

 

“An… episode?”

 

“Night terrors. An anxiety attack. Like what happened in the Special Upgrades department, but… worse,” Jimin grimaces. “I… watched it tear him apart, you see. Jihyun and the others, they ran, but I-- I tried to…”

 

“You tried to save him?”

 

“Yeah, Yoongi. I tried to save him.” Jimin looks back to him, face solemn and eyes glinting with something sad, yet something… at ease. It looks so strange to Yoongi-- Yoongi who thinks of his past and only feels pain. With the way Jimin appears right now, he thinks that Jimin… is at peace with it. It’s a foreign concept to him, and it leaves him staring so long that eventually, Jimin blurts out, “Wanna see what I was talking about earlier today before dinner?”

 

Yoongi frowns in confusion. “See what?”

 

Jimin searches Yoongi’s face calmly for a long moment, expression suddenly unreadable. Then, he’s turning around, pulling the back of his shirt up his back. Yoongi watches in something akin to a mix of shock and captivation as inch by inch of tanned, smooth skin is revealed and then--

 

And then there are scars. Or really, one scar. One massive, claw-like scar reaching up and up, all the way up and touching Jimin’s shoulder blades, curving around the slope of them. It looks so much like something Yoongi has seen before-- but only in books and Simfields, never in real life.

 

“It’s a tree,” Yoongi says dumbly, not really capable of anything more in his stupor.  

 

Jimin chuckles. “Yeah, that thing. A tree. You like trees, Hyung?” His shoulders go stiff as he pulls his shirt back down quickly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to--”

 

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says automatically, eyes still trained on Jimin’s back despite fabric being there now. “I know what that means. ‘Hyung.’” He looks to the hands in his lap, fidgeting with his fingers. He hears Jimin shift back to face the ocean. “I told you before, Park. The titles only matter during work. I don’t care what you call me out of it.”

 

Jimin’s voice is hesitant, “Does that mean I can make a cute nickname, like what Hoseok has for you? What was it-- ‘Yoongles’?” Yoongi glares at him, watching the tiny smirk that Jimin had slowly start to drop from his mug. “Okay, no Yoongles. But I think… I think I’ll just stick with Yoongi. I didn’t lie when I said you were right about clinging to the past.

 

He pauses, seeming to ponder some thought before he speaks to Yoongi again, “Does this…” Jimin offers him a shy look, “Does this mean we’re friends now?”

 

“I didn’t play the game right, though,” Yoongi frowns. “You said way more than I did.”

 

“That’s alright,” Jimin grins. “You don’t have to tell me anything, if you don’t want to.” At Yoongi’s skeptical gaze, Jimin’s face turns serious. “I’m not kidding. In fact, you didn’t have to tell me anything that you just said. If you would’ve said no, I would’ve simply accepted the fact that you don’t like me. It would take a little convincing on my own part, of course, but--”

 

“Then why did I tell you anything?” Yoongi asks, more out of stunned curiosity than anything else. Telling anyone what he-- for some reason unbeknownst to him-- just told Jimin is a challenge for Yoongi. He’s not usually that forward, even if he’s fully aware that others often have a much easier time bringing up their past, like Jimin so clearly has demonstrated.

 

Somehow, though, he finds he doesn’t mind.

 

“Because you like me, Yoongi. We’re basically friends, I told you.” Jimin laughs at Yoongi incredulous expression. “That’s okay with you, isn’t it?”

 

“I hope you’re aware what you’re asking of me, Park. I don’t take friendships lightly. And I have major personal boundaries, and sharing like this isn’t something that I pride myself in being necessarily good at, and--”

 

“That’s all okay, really. I don’t mind.”

 

He doesn’t believe it. In all his years since his family died, he’s never met a single person who hasn’t asked the big question: how. Yet Jimin is sitting here in front of him, dopey grin on his face as he nods in reassurement-- completely content to not hear the horrors of Yoongi’s past, completely content to not pity him, and Yoongi--

 

Yoongi is completely and utterly captivated-- if that’s even the word for it. Still, he finds himself not believing the younger’s words. “You’re hiding something,” he tries blindly, watching for the look that should cross Jimin’s face-- guilt.

 

It doesn’t come. “Yeah, I am. Aren’t we all hiding a little something?” Jimin lays back against the metal underneath him, resting his head back on his forearms as he looks up to the sky. “I figure that nobody can really tell everyone anything, or even tell anyone everything. We’re all bound to hide something, whether we want to or not. I learned that a long time ago-- it’s why I don’t get angry when I think about all the things my family hid from me, whether it be their disappointment in having a son as fucked up like me or their fear of the outside world. Everyone has a reason for what they do or say, even if I don’t quite understand it myself.”

 

Yoongi’s jaw drops the slightest amount. He narrows his eyes at Jimin. “Have you always been this…” He struggles for the right words. “Confident? Self-assured? You… I’m…” He trails off, simply staring at Jimin in bewilderment. “You’re really something, Park.”

 

“Can I tell you a secret? Free of charge, none of yours needed as payment,” Jimin says lowly, turning his head to look up at him. Yoongi nods, almost hesitantly slow as his eyes trace over the way Jimin’s hair fans out. “This… all of this--” Jimin gestures with his hand between the two of them, “This talk. It’s taking a lot of me… I’m not confident on the inside at all when I talk about stuff like this. Even telling you this… I guess I’m acting weird right now because I’m scared.” Despite his words, Jimin smiles.

 

The way Jimin is simply staring up at him, through him, sweeps some of the cobwebs from some dark, damp corner of his soul. That is, that’s a lot what it feels like, if he really over exaggerates the way his heart staggers in his chest. “What are you scared of?”


“A lot of things,” Jimin exhales. Every sound he makes suddenly seems deafening compared to the ocean waves below them and the soft breeze-- sounds reversed, all a backdrop to the beat of Yoongi’s pulse. “Mostly disappointing others. Myself, too. Scared of not getting a chance. I have a strong feeling that when I wake up, you’ll just keep calling me comrade.”

 

“What’s so wrong with being called a comrade?”

 

Jimin purses his lips. “It sounds like an excuse. ‘Comrade’. Like, ‘I’ll call you comrade so that I can keep you at arms-length’ or ‘comrade: because you suck but I don’t have the heart to tell you’. That kind of thing.”

 

“You don’t suck and I keep everyone at arms-length,” Yoongi blurts out, his eyes widening at his own honesty. He’s not even this forward with Seokjin, but somehow Yoongi finds himself being okay with that. Somehow. “You’re no different.”

 

“So you don’t feel it, then?” Jimin sits back up, looking at Yoongi expectantly.

 

“Feel what?”

 

“Feel like we’re both hurting in some way. Similar ways,” he murmurs. “My mother once told me that like souls attract like souls. That those in pain should find someone to experience it with them or else they’re left to suffer alone.”

 

“You don’t know anything about me, Park,” Yoongi snaps on instinct, suddenly all too aware of his own discomfort with the path the conversation is taking. It all feels too… intimate for his liking. Like Jimin can read him as if he’s a worn-down, open book and not a steel-enforced cage. “I thought you didn’t like your parents.”

 

“I don’t,” Jimin says, seemingly unaffected by Yoongi’s harsh tone. “I love them, but I don’t like them. I don’t know anything about you, yet here I am: wanting to. Is that so bad? Is it creepy for me to feel that way, only knowing you for two months?”

 

“You’re awfully honest,” Yoongi grumbles, averting his eyes. “Seems like too much, compared to how you were when you got here. Even though you told me you’re scared, it still feels… like something is different.” He grimaces at his own words-- why can’t he ever say something right, in tense moments like these?

 

To his surprise, Jimin giggles. Giggles. “Yeah… Jin might have had something to do with that recently. He’s a great listener.” At Yoongi’s suspicious look, he quickly adds, “Ke is a really good influence on me, too. If anything, I’ve gotten so attached to him so quickly that it makes me think that maybe if I just say what comes to my mind as he does, I can make friends as quickly as he can. Sounds kind of dumb, I know, but--”

 

“It doesn’t sound dumb,” Yoongi cuts him off. “Just naive.”

 

“Thanks for that,” Jimin snorts. Yoongi looks at him again, sees the downcast way his eyes stare at the hands in his lap, much like Yoongi had been doing earlier.

 

It makes him look smaller than he actually is. “I know, though. Part of me thinks that I should get the chance to be naive like this. Instead of naive about the war, I can be new and try to learn what it means to have relationships outside of Taehyung and…” Jimin trails off, his eyes moving back to the waves. It sounds like he was going to mention someone else, but he doesn’t say. “I have a new chance to prove them wrong about me.”

 

“Your parents? About what?” Yoongi subconsciously tilts his head to the side as he watches several emotions flicker across Jimin’s face before settling on something resembling determination, his brow set downward.

 

“That I’m not a problem child. That it wasn’t okay to ignore my night terrors or to ignore me and hope it all goes away. That ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s not just them, either,” Jimin’s voice is barely above a whisper, “All my neighbors, too. Called me a lot of things that I’m not, trying to find an excuse for as to why I started having a bit of an attitude with my parents towards the end of my stay there.”

 

“Something tells me that you and authority don’t usually mix very well, Park,” Yoongi jokes, internally berating himself when he realizes it could come off an insensitive. He isn’t used to this kind of… comfortably normal way of speaking about troubling things. It’s so nonchalant, the way Jimin lists off his problems like they’re anything but.

 

It’s like he’s not afraid of them. Yoongi has always been-- he thought Jimin was the same too, but now...

 

“You’re not wrong there, Yoongi,” Jimin cracks a smile. He winks, the gesture making Yoongi’s face heat when it’s directed at him. “I’ll be the first to admit I can be a bit of a brat. Only when I feel like someone’s crossed me, though.” Jimin turns his eyes away again. “I think every day I change from who I used to be. It’s only been maybe three months since I’ve been home, but I feel completely different-- a new person, a new Park Jimin. I used to be really angry at the world. Blamed a lot of people, mostly myself. I catch myself still doing it, even now.”

 

Yoongi can’t take his eyes off of him as he speaks. “I used to pretend to be a good son during the day-- would take care of Jihyun, spend time with my grandmother, listen to my parents. But they all knew what I did at night-- they could just tell. Maybe it’s because I would get really bad bags under my eyes.”

 

“What did you do at night?”

 

Jimin huffs out a breath that sounds a lot like a shy chuckle, if chuckles can be shy. “I’d go spend a lot of time in the outskirts of the Bunker, near the walls. That’s where all the untouchable type people live-- people that were like me but that didn’t have a normal family that could back them up and let them live amongst those who didn’t really know about what was going on outside. Or care.”

 

Jimin averts his eyes. Yoongi thinks he sees his face redden, despite the harsh blue tint of the moonlight above them. “My parents used to think I was fooling around with them-- you know. Whoring myself out or some shit. Doing drugs.”

 

“Why?” Yoongi asks, unable to stop himself. He admits that he had always thought the First Bunker was ignorant, true, but he didn’t realize they still experienced that kind of social hierarchy. He thought First Bunker people collectively thought themselves above everyone outside-- he didn’t realize that for some who lived in those walls, it included people that lived within them, too.

 

Jimin doesn’t look like he’s going to answer, and Yoongi is fine with that. But then, “Probably because at one point, I was,” Jimin whispers, pursing his lips as he glances to Yoongi. He looks nervous, in a way-- maybe he’s waiting for Yoongi to judge him. Maybe everything he’s telling Yoongi isn’t as easy for Jimin to bring up as he puts on.

 

At the dark expression that Jimin lets loose, his control slipping just long enough for Yoongi to notice, Yoongi realizes that his previous thought might more accurate than he considered.

 

“It was only for a few months when I was in my teens, but… it was right around the time when I was giving up on hoping that the dreams would just go away. That I wouldn’t see an Other every time I closed my eyes. Sometimes coping comes in ways you don’t need but find yourself wanting anyway.”

 

Yoongi relates to that in a similar, yet so very different way. “Taehyungie and… his family, they didn’t know. I think they suspected, but…” Jimin averts his gaze once again. “In the end, my grandmother is the one that put me in my place. The rest of my family were waiting for me to not come back. Even my Jihyunie. I wasn’t lying when I said I was a disgrace in their eyes.”

 

“You still love them? After all that, you still love your family?” Yoongi grimaces, somewhat at the thought but mostly at the fact he can’t seem to keep asking the wrong questions.

 

Jimin doesn’t even seem to mind. “Of course. Love isn’t supposed to be easy-- it’s supposed to suck everything out of you. There’s good love and bad love, though-- the good kind gives what it took back tenfold. The bad-- well, you know...” He sighs, moving to stand. He dusts off his backside as he looks down at Yoongi, “It’s okay if they gave me bad love. I’ll find more people who give me the good kind to make up for it.”

 

Yoongi stares, not really certain what or how to respond to that. Jimin yawns, “Anyways, it was nice talking to you, Yoongi. I’m beat, so I think I’m going to go hit the showers and then head to bed.” He pauses, “Let’s do this again sometime. We don’t have to talk about the hard stuff, but I like talking to you. It feels like you’re listening for the right reasons.”

 

“The right reasons?”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin breathes, stretching out his legs. “Not for yourself, but for me. Like with your music-- you listen to remember the ones who made it because they’re important to you. It’s nice, to simply be heard. That’s all. Goodnight.”

 

Yoongi watches as Jimin walks back towards the entrance of the Shatterdome, a light pep to his step. He can’t find it in himself to move from his spot on the edge of the docks for a long time after Jimin has left.

 

When he does, it’s with a heavy mind-- washed with the imagery of Jimin’s scars, Jimin’s smiles, Jimin’s words. Jimin, who saw his friend be torn to pieces at such a young age and still suffers-- similar to Yoongi but yet so different.

 

Jimin.

Chapter Text

“JP!”

 

He blinks, turning his head to the source of the hushed voice. “JP,” Ke whispers harshly again, pushing at Jimin’s shoulder when he doesn’t respond. “Pay attention. Lieutenant Min is asking you a question.”

 

Jimin looks from Ke to the aforementioned, distantly hearing the other cadets chuckle under their breaths around him. Yoongi’s eyes are alight with amusement, a now familiar half-smile gracing his lips. “Sorry, what?” Jimin blurts out dumbly, having spent a majority of the debrief staring at the ground, lost in his thoughts.

 

“I asked,” a little bit of the amusement in Yoongi’s eyes dies out, replaced by a seriousness that makes Jimin straighten his back, “What do you do if a comrade is in a compromising situation?”

 

Jimin knows this answer-- at least, in theory. “Help them as much as possible and then contact the designated Medtech on your attending squadron for immediate relief.” Despite his words, the idea of shoving himself in an altercation between an Other and another soldier makes a chill shiver up his spine.

 

His back feels suddenly like it’s burning, the edges of his scar catching against his exosuit despite not being nearly as deep enough to warrant such a feeling. “Yes,” Yoongi hums, nodding in approval at Jimin’s answer. He doesn’t let Jimin off easy, however. “Make sure to pay attention, JP134. It might not be important right now but I assure you it will be when on a mission.”

 

Jimin stays completely still despite his desire to simply slink down into his seat and bury his face in his hands, certain that he’s flushing pink. He nods, lips pursed as he averts his eyes from Yoongi’s. The meeting goes on as planned, Jimin going back to droning off only a minute in. He pretends not to notice the concerned way he can see Ke glance at him from the corner of his eye.

 

You see, Jimin has a problem.

 

Well. A few.

 

It’s been a few weeks since Eunhae went back to her home bunker-- she didn’t go very willingly, but she didn’t pitch much of a fight either. Yoongi promised her that he would bring her back for their next visit. She agreed easily enough after that.

 

Jimin taught her how to read at a very basic level in only a week’s time-- not nearly where she should be at her age but then again, she’s only five. Any literacy in a world where education has taken a very far back burner is an accomplishment in Jimin’s book.

 

He bonded with her, too-- Jimin can already tell he’s awfully attached to her and her childlike charisma. What makes it worse is that despite his best efforts at being there only to help the child read and nothing else, Jimin quickly found himself looking forward to not only Eunhae’s presence but Yoongi’s as well.

 

It doesn’t make it any easier that once Eunhae was gone, they fell into a common schedule of meeting up in the common room and simply listening to music and chatting together. They haven’t talked about the past again, like that first night of the week of Eunhae’s stay-- but somehow, Jimin is okay with that.

 

He’s okay with it all because now he feels like he and Yoongi are finally friends for real, and while part of Jimin is curious deep down as to why Yoongi acts the way he does around others, he never pushed it all during that week and during the time since. He’s all too familiar with the want to bury your feelings. To hide what you're really thinking or feeling from others, out of fear of being rejected or ostracized for things out of your control.

 

Maybe not asking Yoongi about his past will make Jimin’s quickly-developing pining less obvious.

 

Yeah, that’s a thing. His main problem-- his problem that is making him zone out at certain periods and avoid Yoongi at all costs outside of their little meetups on the side. His problem that Ke has stopped teasing about-- which somehow makes it far too real-- and has instead caused Ke to try and distract him at any given moment.

 

Jimin sighs, wiping at his face in exasperation. He feels a hand wrap around his one clutching the arm of his seat in a comforting gesture, glancing up at Ke to see a worried expression.

 

Maybe it’s not just that Ke is concerned over. The thing is, Ke has known about Jimin’s past for a long time now-- it’s something he can’t remember telling him in detail, something mumbled in the dark quiet of their shared bunk. Ke had caught him in the middle of a particularly loud nightmare, so there really wasn’t room for avoiding the subject.

 

Telling Ke that he told Yoongi made Ke a lot more protective than before. Perhaps he’s concerned that with the more times Jimin thinks about it, the more times it’ll come to haunt him in his dreams.

 

Jimin still isn’t sure why he let Yoongi see his scar.

 

Maybe it’s got something to do with the way Yoongi looks at Eunhae-- with a mix of sorrow and love, a bittersweet reminder of the past yet a proud telltale of the future. A promise of growth, of letting the old wounds heal eventually. Jimin thinks that when he looks in the mirror and sees the jagged lines of healed-over tissue on his back that he looks at it kinda like that, too.

 

By the time Jimin finally gets out of his head, the meeting is coming to a close. He jolts in his seat when Ke untangles their fingers only to grab at his forearm instead.

 

It seems like Ke’s brow only furrows deeper. “What’s up, JP? What’s got you lookin’ so tense? Are you sick?” Ke places a hand on Jimin’s forehead, cool palm pressing against his skin. “You seem kind of warm--”

 

“I’m fine, Ke. Don’t worry,” Jimin tries his best to smile, but he’s sure it comes out more as a grimace. If Ke is noticing Jimin’s discomfort and trying to ease him rather than make a joke and make him laugh it off, then Jimin really is screwed. “Kind of tired is all.” He looks around to see the other cadets start trailing out of the room, confusion settling in his expression as he looks back to Ke. “Why’s everyone leaving? We still have to train.”

 

“Going to go pack,” Ke replies simply. When he sees the panicked look on Jimin’s face, he frowns. “You really didn’t even notice that the day already started out different, with a debrief and everything instead of the laps? Boy, JP, you got it bad.”

 

“Got what bad? Why are they packing?”

 

“Lieutenant Min and General Jung told us we’re movin’ base. Back to the Bloodbane-- HQ. Like we were s’posed to be in the first place.” Ke pulls Jimin up and out of his seat, strong hands centering him by his shoulders. “Look, JP. You’ve got to get it together if we’re gonna go on this mission.”

 

Jimin thinks he remembers Seokjin mentioning something about the Bloodbane a few weeks ago, but nothing about a mission. “Mission?” Jimin takes a step back, Ke’s hands dropping to his sides. “What mission?”

 

Ke’s mouth gapes a little in shock before he’s reaching up and placing his palms on Jimin’s head, moving it around to get a look at his ears, “You hard of hearing or something now? You got a switch to turn these things off--”

 

“Ke! I’m not fucking playing around,” Jimin sighs, letting Ke keep moving his head around before he drops his grip again. If it had been when they first met, Jimin is sure he would’ve clawed his eyes out-- now, he has only grown accustomed to Ke’s antics. Maybe he’d be even a little amused and flattered at the attention, if he weren’t in such a sour mood. “What mission?”

 

Ke tutts, shaking his head. “General Jung put us on a recon mission. Split all the cadets into teams. You, me, Xiang, Asuka, Lieutenant Min for ours. Gonna scout the area outside of the Bloodbane to check and see if no Others set up camp since the reconstruction ended and there was a lack of soldiers to defend the base.”

 

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Jimin groans. “Our first mission?”

 

“Told you to pay attention, Park.” He turns around stiffly, being met with Yoongi’s sharp eyes, glinting with amusement and warmth. “Should’ve been listening to me instead of daydreaming.”

 

Yoongi’s face lifts into a half-smirk and Jimin feels a blush creep up his neck for more reasons than one. “‘M sorry,” he replies meekly, a little lost for words not only at the shock of hearing about his first official mission but also at the fact that Yoongi is standing there, calling him Park despite the work setting and smiling at him like that. It’s happened a lot more frequently over the past few weeks since Eunhae’s departure, but it still has Jimin faltering in his words at any given moment.

 

A problem indeed.

 

“It’s alright,” Yoongi fidgets with the tablet in his arms. “Only ‘cause you look kind of ill.” His eyes search across Jimin’s face, a small frown forming on his lips. He looks concerned, but then he pauses-- his face carefully going flat. “Make sure you’ve got a clean bill of health before the mission. We leave in three hours.” He walks past the two of them, nodding briefly at Ke in acknowledgment before heading to the exit, only to be joined by a spunky Hoseok who starts chattering almost immediately.

 

Their voices drown out as the room clears, and Jimin is left with Ke staring at him questioningly.

 

He doesn’t comment, however, and Jimin finds himself beyond grateful. He’s used to Yoongi flicking some kind of switch in the middle of a conversation that changes him from the Yoongi who recommends him songs from a different century and sings softly to himself to the Yoongi that also happens to be a stern, careful lieutenant.

 

The switch is also one of the things about Yoongi that has been increasing in occurrence over the weeks since Eunhae went back to the Eighth. Jimin is starting to wonder if the two sides of Min Yoongi that he’s accustomed to are beginning to merge.




He packs quickly enough-- not really having much in terms of belongings to begin with aside from his training gear-- and soon finds himself strapped into a porter ship.

 

He had seen Taehyung in a moment’s passing, putting the cryptic look his friend gave him to the far back corner of his mind for now. He’s noticed that Taehyung has been avoiding him somewhat, especially after he had accidentally brought up Jungkook randomly during dinner with the others a week or so ago.

 

Jimin hasn’t had the chance to pull him aside and ask questions, their divisions in the Shatterdome so far removed from one another for now. It doesn’t help that with Taehyung’s first specialization exam coming up sooner than Jimin’s, his friend has been out for the count more times than none. He’s sure he’ll be able to ask him what’s on his mind when they arrive to their official base, even if he hates to wait longer.

 

His exosuit still clings to his skin in weird places as he shifts uncomfortably in his seat, much like they did when he first arrived at the Shatterdome.

 

Part of Jimin is sad to see it go. He hopes he and Yoongi can keep meeting up-- maybe even around their other collective friends if they aren’t too busy. They still have dinner all together, but somehow it always just ends up being the two of them when it comes to music.

 

He isn’t sure if he wants to change that.

 

“Okay,” Yoongi calls from his seat opposite Jimin and Ke, looking to the cadets with a serious expression. He nearly has to shout with how loud the engines are roaring, but then the exit gate is closing, a sealing sound echoing through the small space before the outside world is muted.

 

Yoongi continues when it’s relatively quieter, “So, you’ve all been generally debriefed on why we’re going to the Bloodbane.” He glances at his tablet, brow furrowing before he looks back up to settle his gaze on each of them, one by one. “But I’m here to give you a more in-depth run-down on our time in recon.”

 

His iris starts blinking that familiar pale blue and Jimin briefly imagines that they’re alone, in the common room one more time and laughing as they try to emulate the chords of certain songs with their voices.

 

The illusion is quickly replaced by a different one as Jimin’s VisTech activates as well, and he’s suddenly in a blank room. Literally blank-- wall-less, floor-less. Vast and never-ending. Yoongi is there, too, but then one by one, so are the other cadets, each popping into the simulation in rapid succession.

 

Jimin didn’t know that this was a feature of the VisTech, too.

 

“It’s something only used on mission debriefs that have to be private, usually,” Yoongi says, eyes trained on Jimin. Briefly, a feeling of dread and shock washes over him at the idea that Yoongi can read his mind in this thing. At the look of horror that must cross Jimin’s face, Yoongi chuckles softly, face scrunching up slightly as he shakes his head. “No, JP134. I cannot read your mind, but I can read your face.”

 

Jimin isn’t sure if that’s any better.

 

Yoongi turns to the other cadets before lifting his arm out and pressing some imaginary screen, fingers tapping quickly. Suddenly, they are placed in what can only be described as a barren wasteland-- bleached earth doused in gritty sand, scorch marks scarring the terrain and debris littering the surface.

 

“Where are we?” Jimin asks out of instinct, eyes trailing across the empty landscape.

 

“Where we are headed, JP134,” Yoongi replies simply. He gestures to behind Jimin, causing him to follow the direction of his opened palm. Jimin’s mouth drops. “And that is the Bloodbane.”

 

A massive structure-- bigger than what Jimin thought could be possible-- lies before him, metal glinting in the sunlight. He’s suddenly hit with a blast of hot, dry breeze as the simulation completely renders around them, the feeling of virtual sand scraping across the skin his exosuit doesn’t cover. “Why?” He hears Ke ask, not able to draw his eyes from what he can only assume is the ceiling of what Yoongi says is the Bloodbane.

 

“To simply put it, I am showing you where we’ll be stationed to survey for the night.”

 

At that, Jimin turns only to find Yoongi’s gaze already on him. He barely manages to stop himself from jumping in surprise, “We’re spending the night? Out here?”

 

Xiang scoffs from the side. “Figures he’d complain. Used to the posh surroundings of the First.”

 

“You ought to be careful of what you say, Xiang,” Asuka frowns. “Jimin will dropkick your ass again, big guy.” Ke snickers, completely missing the way Xiang’s eyes shoot to the ground sheepishly. Jimin quirks a brow at that.

 

Yoongi clears his throat to get their attention back but Jimin doesn’t miss the small, pleased smile that spreads across his lips. “Yes, JP134. We are spending the night out here. All of us. It’s important to understand how to do recon missions-- eventually, you’ll do them with only a single partner. For now, we’re showing you in groups.” Yoongi folds his hands behind his back, sweeping his gaze between the four of them. “Feel free to take a look around-- it’s not a real-world render of the present time, of course, but… it’s good to get an idea of what the area looks like.”

 

They spend an indeterminate duration in the Simfield-- Jimin doesn’t bother keeping track of the time, too busy trying to get in the right state of mind for the mission. He’s well-aware he’s designed medic in this context and while there necessarily isn’t a guarantee that there may be trouble on a simple recon mission, Jimin can’t be too sure.

 

He’s never been on one, after all.

 

By the time they exit the simulation, Jimin is exhausted from his last-minute re-cram of the extensive medical text database that Seokjin helped him download into his VisTech, Ke is unusually quiet as he mutters with Asuka, and Xiang is watching the two of them with a pensive expression. Yoongi is in his own little world again, staring at the metal grated floor of the shuttle with a focused set to his brow.

 

Jimin isn’t sure when he falls asleep, but he quickly finds himself jolting awake with the final movements of the ship. Ke shoots him a glance that tells him he wasn’t as silent in his sleep as he wished for. Hopefully, he won’t need much rest for the duration of their stay.

 

He doesn’t look at the other squad members as they exit the port, the moon high above them in the sky and the air chilly. Yoongi speaks up again once they manage to find their way to a cave along the barren wasteland, a suitable place for a temporary camp apparently. “Alright-- can I let you cadets pick out turns to watch or do I need to delegate for you?”

 

Ke perks up, “I’ll take the first with Asuka--” He trails off at the look Xiang starts to give him. “And… Xiang. It’s alright if there’s three, right?” Ke doesn’t notice the death glare that Jimin shoots Xiang-- he’s careful to make sure his friend doesn’t catch it, lest he tries to chastise Jimin for defending him again.

 

Yoongi’s lips are pursed. He looks to Jimin, gaze far away as he seems to consider something before responding, “How about you three take the second shift? JP134 got some sleep on the way over-- giving him allotted rest time now might mean he’s fatigued later on.”

 

Jimin frowns, cheeks reddening in embarrassment as he looks away from everyone else to train his eyes on the path their footprints made to the cave. He watches as the sand is swept away by a particularly strong gust, along with any trace of their presence. “Alright, Lieutenant Min,” Ke agrees easily only a moment later. “How long until our shift, then?”

 

“Halfway through the night. Standard protocol. Keep somewhat alert, just in case.”

 

Setting up camp feels weird for Jimin-- despite him knowing that this is a mission, he can’t help but feel out of place. His medical supplies and meager belongings salvaged from his bunk in the Shatterdome fit in one crappy duffel bag shoved in a corner of the cave next to Ke’s giant backpack and satchel. Jimin wonders exactly how much useless crap Ke stuffed into that thing.

 

Standing outside of the cave’s entrance and staring out into the darkness of night next to Yoongi is just as weird for him as the juxtaposition of the lack of personal items he owns compared to the abundance of the others is.

 

It’s several long, drawn-out moments before either of them say anything. Surprisingly enough, Jimin finds himself being the one to break the silence.

 

“Can we listen to music?” He blurts out, wincing at the wash of nerves that settle over him at the sound of his own voice in the heavy quiet. There’s not a peep from inside the cave from Ke, which tells him the others have already done their due diligence and begun to rest.

 

“No,” Yoongi replies simply, not another word. Jimin tries to show he’s not the slightest bit tiffed about it, trying to focus his eyes out onto the black canvas of landscape in front of them, searching for anything that might bear as a useful distraction from the restlessness bubbling within him.

 

It’s quiet for a few more minutes before Yoongi decides to add, “Do you feel better?”

 

Jimin blinks, turning to look at him. He can only see the glint of Yoongi’s eyes reflecting against what meager light the moon manages to cast upon them. “What do you mean?”

 

“You looked sick earlier, remember?” Yoongi pauses, hesitation clear in his voice. “Thought maybe you ate something bad last night at dinner.”

 

“We’re on a mission and you’re really worried about what I ate yesterday?” Jimin tries to control the echo of his own voice and fails, wishing that his harsh whispers didn’t sound so loud in the stillness of the night.

 

“I’m not allowed to worry about you, Park?”

 

Jimin is glad he can’t see the blush staining his cheeks. It’s not even supposed to be flattering, Yoongi’s question-- Jimin is sure it’s a simple comment, yet still finds his nerves taking on a new nature. “It’s not that, just found it odd to think about, considering the context of where we are.”

 

Yoongi doesn’t say anything to that and Jimin finds himself sighing. “I’m fine, Yoongi. I didn’t get much sleep last night is all.”

 

“Should I have made the other three take the first watch, then?”

 

“No, no, it’s okay. I’d be tired either way.” He’s well-adjusted to sleeplessness.

 

Yoongi hums but doesn’t comment further. Jimin feels a chill shoot up his back as a strong gust of wind blows over them-- he tries to attribute it to the weather and not the way thoughts of having to sleep in the same cave as Yoongi later on creep into his bored mind.

 

Maybe an hour or so of milling about the cave’s entrance, Jimin finds himself shivering like a leaf.

 

“Fuck, it’s c-cold,” Jimin chatters, teeth clacking. “These exosuits have an internal heater or something?”

 

“Yeah, it’s a button.”

 

Jimin does a double-take despite not being able to actually see much of Yoongi’s face. “Really?”

 

Yoongi chuckles, shaking his head but otherwise not moving. “You really have no idea, Park.”

 

“Hey, that’s not nice,” Jimin whispers in a pout, rubbing at the outsides of his arms in an effort to create some semblance of heat from the friction between his gloves and the polycarbonate getup.

 

He sighs after a few minutes, slowly but painstakingly growing accustomed to the cold. He pretends not to notice that Yoongi inches closer in proximity, close enough that Jimin could just barely move his arm and brush up against his. He appreciates the warmth, even if he wishes it were enveloped around him instead of being swept away with every strong gust of wind that blows over the mouth of the cave.

 

Suddenly, a thought occurs to Jimin. “How are we supposed to see anything? It’s so dark.”

 

The wind sounds hollow again before it quiets, giving Yoongi the chance to think his answer over before responding, if he even needed the time. “If you see anything, your VisTech will automatically pick it up and highlight it. No need for night vision.”

 

Jimin pauses before another question pops up into his mind. “What if we see One?”

 

It’s almost an instant answer. “You get away from it as quietly as possible.”

 

“What if we can’t do that? The sand crunches under the soles of my boots every time I take a step-- surely, they can hear that if I can, too?” It’s never really something they discussed in training-- always absorbing information when given but not really sure of what questions to ask as a result of what they learn.

 

Jimin figures it’s mostly a learn-as-you-experience kind of thing-- there’s only so much you can prepare for.

 

“You’re right,” Yoongi hums. “And if you can’t get away quietly, you run.”

 

“What if…” Jimin trails off, feeling a lot like a child asking about simple, obvious things rather than a soldier on a reconnaissance mission. He tries his best to not ask any more questions, silently at war with himself in his tiredness and boredom as he tries to stop himself from speaking up again. He isn’t sure what mission etiquette quite entails-- he hopes he isn’t pushing Yoongi away or annoying him.

 

Even if he’s calling him Park, this is still a work situation-- this isn’t the Yoongi that Jimin both avoids and yearns the presence of.

 

“Park,” Yoongi sighs, the sound loud now that the wind is settling across the sand in content waves, whistling softly in the distance. Jimin hears a holster unclip in the quiet followed by Yoongi fidgeting with something solid.

 

What Jimin doesn’t expect, however, is for that something to be in the shape of a gun as Yoongi lifts his wrist to press it into Jimin’s open palm. “If you can’t run-- if you can’t fight-- you use this.”

 

“I…” Jimin is at a loss for words, the weapon leaving a scorching sensation on his palm even through the thickness of his gloves-- unwanted and uninvited, both literally and symbolically. “Yoongi, I hardly think that--”

 

“It’s a stun gun, Park,” Yoongi dismisses immediately, leaving the item in Jimin’s hand for him to hold. He leaves his fingers splayed open however, not wanting to grip something like a gun even if it’s non-lethal. “I’m saying that if you have no other choice, you incapacitate yourself. Knock yourself out cold.”

 

Jimin is confused. “Wouldn’t that just give them the chance to kill me easier?”

 

“No.”

 

“I’m not sure I understand then, Yoongi. That hardly makes--”

 

“Just listen to me, okay?” Yoongi’s voice is serious, turning cold and domineering within an instant. The next thing he says comes out softer, and it occurs to Jimin that maybe what Yoongi is saying has a deeper meaning than simply advice from lieutenant to cadet, “You knock yourself out and you’ll survive. That’s all that matters.”

 

“How do you know this? I don’t remember this part of my training…” Jimin isn’t sure why, but for some reason finds himself not wanting to know the answer. Even if he can’t see Yoongi’s expression, he knows it’s not a content one.

 

He thinks that Yoongi is looking off into the distance when he answers simply, his voice directed to the path of the wind blowing, “They can’t hear your heartbeat when you’re unconscious. Most people don’t get far enough to know that.”

 

“And you did?”

 

A pause, long and suffocating and making Jimin regret even asking in the first place follows. Yoongi, much to Jimin’s surprise, answers. “Yeah, Park. I did. Maybe…” He sighs. Jimin feels him move slightly away, the only indication of vulnerability expressed in his calm and collected tone. “Maybe one day I’ll tell you how.”

 

“Only if you want to,” Jimin reminds him. “I only want to hear it if you really want to tell it, remember that.”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi exhales, leaning back into Jimin’s personal space despite still not touching. “Only if I want to-- I know.”

 

Jimin isn’t sure what else to say besides that.

 

Yoongi seems to find something to fill the quiet after several minutes, “I’m sorry if I was harsh. About the music thing. It’s not usual practice, and I…” He takes a deep breath, one that Jimin feels, too. “I forgot you wouldn’t know that.”

 

“I don’t think you were being harsh.” Jimin smiles to himself. “Don’t worry about it, Yoongi. I guess I’ve just been kind of… you know,” He clears his throat, “Nervous. This mission is kind of sudden.”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi mutters, shuffling on his feet. “That was intentional. It’s most realistic to have missions at the drop of a hat.”

 

“Oh,” Jimin exhales, “I see.”

 

“But we can… listen to music when it’s our time to rest. I brought my headphones, and--” Yoongi cuts himself off, fumbling with his words-- Jimin assumes its from trying to have a normal conversation despite the abnormal circumstances they are currently in, “Only if you want to, it might be a distraction from sleep--”

 

“No, no--” Jimin shakes his head despite the darkness, “--no, it’s okay. That’s great, actually. Maybe it’ll, I don’t know… make me more relaxed.” He purses his lips, taking a moment to be brave. “To be honest, I thought that if I suggested the music, it’d be sending you a signal that I want to keep listening.”

 

Yoongi snorts and Jimin raises an eyebrow, “Park. Just because we’re moving bases doesn’t mean I wanna stop listening to music with you. Where the hell did you get that idea?”

 

“Well, I just thought, you know…” Jimin shuffles his feet back and forth, despising his meekness in moments like these-- the moments where Yoongi is the one being direct and confident, flustering Jimin out of his usual attempts at a confident, unbothered demeanor. “I wasn’t sure if there would be a place to… you know. Hang out still.”

 

“I got you addicted to Queen, didn’t I?” Jimin doesn’t have to see him to know that Yoongi is smirking at him. He also doesn’t have to “Tsk, tsk, Park, I told you it was only inevitable--”

 

“I prefer Abba, but…” Jimin trails off, a small grin twitching at the corner of his lips. “You’re not wrong.” Though Yoongi already knows that it’s not so much one particular singer or band that Jimin likes to listen to, but more so the music at all-- while he could recognize a lot of them, he only really listened to music when he was younger. When things were a lot easier and life a lot more blissfully ignorant. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of times like that.

 

Jimin only mentioned it briefly, vaguely-- but he knows that Yoongi knows, too. Yoongi remembers things like that-- the little ones.

 

“You’re right,” Yoongi hums. “Anyways, no more talking-- shouldn’t have been anyways. Keep an eye out.”

 

Jimin’s lips split into a full-out grin then, staring out into the darkness of the night.

 

                

 

Yoongi has never felt this calm on a mission before. He isn’t sure exactly what that means.

 

He shifts against his makeshift bed consisting of the nappy military-issue blanket, his backpack as a pillow, and the cold stone of the cave. Looking up at Jimin, who is currently fidgeting with the weapon holsters that come standard with his exosuit only when out on the field, Yoongi can’t help but hide a grin.

 

He must not be very good at it because Jimin catches it, even in the meager lighting that the single battery-powered lantern next to the squad’s belongings casts off. “Don’t mock me, these things are impossible to take off,” Jimin pouts, huffing out an exasperated breath as he claws at the clips holding the tools he has yet to utilize and the weapons that he refuses to hold for more than a few seconds at a time.

 

“It’s only a button on the side, Park. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”

 

“I can’t see shit,” Jimin whines, making an accomplished sound when he manages to get the stun gun strapped to his thigh off. “I just wanna fucking sleep. Why do I have to have all this shit on?”

 

“You keep being so loud then we’re definitely gonna see something during this mission.” Jimin shoots him a glare and Yoongi chuckles softly, fidgeting with his Bluetooth headphones as he holds them on the plane of his chest. He feels heat spread across his cheeks the longer it takes Jimin to unholster his tools. “Sleep with them on, it’s fine. They’re designed to not go off unless the fingerpads on your exosuit press them.”

 

Jimin doesn’t say anything to that. He simply keeps messing with them until eventually, after several long minutes where Yoongi can barely keep his eyes open, he gets the last of the holsters off. “There,” Jimin sighs before plopping himself down next to Yoongi.

 

He manages to keep a good, arms-length distance. Yoongi pretends he doesn’t notice Jimin’s consideration-- he doesn’t like the idea that his trust issues are that obvious. Jimin won’t look him in the eye as he settles his head against his own duffel bag and Yoongi takes it as a sign that the other is thinking something similar.

 

Yoongi sighs, wordlessly handing the headphones over to Jimin. He flexes his hands after Jimin grabs the device, brow furrowing when he feels sweat that’s accumulated under his leather gloves.

 

He usually doesn’t get nerves on these types of missions and it’s rather cold outside the cave than his usual missions, though he supposes it could simply be the fact he hasn’t been on one in several months due to training the new squad. Yoongi is rather good at hiding how his surroundings affect him after spending so long out on missions far worse than this in terms of--

 

“Yoongi?” He blinks, looking to Jimin in confusion when he’s startled from the far-off place his thoughts were starting to drift off to. He can see the outline of Jimin’s face just barely, thinks he sees a light flush to the slope of his cheek. Yoongi doesn’t know how to respond and Jimin adds, “Can I make a request?”

 

“S-sure,” Yoongi stutters out a breath, not sure why he feels more awake now than he did guarding outside the cave. Jimin is so close, closer than what Yoongi allows most of his comrades to have when sleeping next to each other on missions. “What is it?”

 

But Jimin isn’t a comrade-- he’s more than that. A friend. They’re not even touching, Yoongi should be fine.

 

“Can you play something… I don’t know, light-hearted? I…” Jimin looks away, and Yoongi has to remind himself that they’re on a mission, that it’s okay if Jimin is this close because it’s cold outside and this is purely out of necessity rather than comfort, or-- “I feel kind of scared to sleep out here. You know, knowing that an Other could be outside.”

 

Yoongi feels a wash of concern settle over him at the expression Jimin has, the slightest sliver of fear shining in his eyes in the dark. It isn’t the first time he finds himself worried about the cadet ever since their deeper conversation weeks ago yet it still leaves Yoongi scrambling for the words that won’t show how… affected he feels, as of late. “Yeah,” he breathes, not really sure how else to respond but knowing that it’s enough for Jimin. It’s always been enough, the things Yoongi offers him. “I have a few songs like that.”

 

Jimin smiles sleepily, and Yoongi activates his VisTech to scroll through his playlists. It’s out of pure chance, really, the one he chooses-- at least, that’s what he tells himself when The Carpenters song comes on.

 

It’s such a fucking cliche and Yoongi is about to skip it, tired of the thousands of old movies that come to the forefront of his mind when the lyrics start rolling off, but then…

 

Then Jimin starts to hum along. Yoongi pretends he doesn’t lower the volume simply to listen. Jimin shifts onto his back, staring up at the ceiling of the cave, palm spread out over his chest and eyes fluttering closed.

 

Pretty. Park Jimin is pretty; it’s not like he hasn’t noticed long before, always trying to avoid thinking about it-- but now, it hits him like a train, his eyes widening in the dark. Beautiful, Yoongi could use-- with the way his lashes sweep across his cheeks even in the dim lighting, a shadow cast over most of his face that only leaves a small sliver left for Yoongi to see and--

 

Yoongi sees. Stares at the curves of Jimin’s face as the song goes on about stars falling from the sky and angels coming together and moondust sprinkling in someone’s hair, and even if Jimin doesn’t have any of those things-- no blue eyes, no moondust or sparkles-- Yoongi finds himself just as captivated. Just as lost in the song as Jimin seems to be, humming along drowsily, a slight focus to the set of his brow as he lingers on the edge of sleep.

 

It’s similar to the feelings he had from that night several weeks ago, but so much more intense than he remembered. There’s no sea breeze now-- only a dark, lonely cave and awful lighting.

 

Yoongi isn’t sure if it’s a good thing or not, the way his entire side that faces Jimin tingles with a pseudo-warmth, the way his heartbeat gets louder than the music his VisTech is playing in his ears. Part of him feels like it’s a lot like a panic attack, the way he holds his breath so he can hear Jimin hum the tune.

 

He feels his fingers twitch on his chest, dread and thrill tingling across his skin when he realizes why.

 

And then it’s over-- the song, the humming. Jimin falls asleep within minutes, soft breath echoing in the hollow cave. The light from the lantern in the room flickers and strains against the sweep of wind that does manage to enter through the mouth of the cave but stands strong, wavering only slightly as it causes shadows to shift across Jimin’s face.

 

Yoongi stays awake, a little horrified at the revelations that come to him now-- so easily compared to all the times he’s buried such thoughts or feelings down to the bottom of his heart, the back of his mind.

 

He doesn’t trust it-- any of it; the want to watch Jimin, hear Jimin… be close to Jimin. These aren’t the type of thoughts he should have about anyone, he thinks-- let alone a friend.

 

But somehow, in this dark and damp cave outside of the Bloodbane and on a shitty recon mission after a few months’ hiatus and so many countless hours spent with the man lying right next to him, Yoongi finds himself wanting to.

 

To trust it.

 

Conflict shouldn’t feel like warmth washing over him and spreading to the tips of his gloved fingers, his socked toes. It shouldn’t cause his heart to brim over, shouldn’t settle in his burning cheeks or sting in the corners of his eyes. Conflict should feel brash and cold, hard-set and adamant.

 

Yet, despite Yoongi’s best efforts to wrangle a tight grip of control back on his unruly emotions, he finds himself a lot like the light of the lantern nearby-- wavering, struggling to stay solid and firm in his usual stance against the gusts of winds that are blowing against him.

 

He doesn’t want to change, but maybe he doesn’t have a choice.

 

Near falling asleep after who knows how long of his endless flashes of self-doubt, Yoongi’s second to last thought is the only thing constant in this moment, the only thing familiar-- his family’s faces, the people he cared about the most. In some sick and twisted flash of his unconscious mind coming to the forefront of his blackening vision, he feels a sharp pang of sadness as he imagines Jimin’s face amongst the ones he’s lost.

 

His last thought is that he simply can’t risk that, even if he so desperately wants to.

 

                

 

Jimin is jolted awake by the sound of footsteps, heavy and clumsy, entering the cave.

 

The lantern’s light is long gone, the only light being from the moon casting at only the entrance. Jimin looks to his side out of instinct, eyes adjusted enough to see the still-sleeping outline of Yoongi. His breaths are soft and even and Jimin feels his own stagger in his chest when he hears the footsteps again.

 

The lantern is lit again and Jimin squints to see past its dim light, painful to his sensitive, sleep-ridden eyes. The form is solid and tall and Jimin’s heart stutters in his chest like a bird trapped in a cage. He sits up into a defensive stature, hoping that whoever or whatever is looking at him can’t see Yoongi behind him.

 

“Lieutenant,” the voice breathes, taking a step into the light. It’s Xiang, but not Xiang at the same time-- Jimin doesn’t feel a wave of relief crash over him as he takes in the man’s beaten up face and horrified gaze, he feels terror. A terror that creeps up his throat and has him stiffening in response.

 

Xiang takes a few steps forward, wobbly on his legs. Jimin feels concern followed by panic shoot up his spine when he realizes that Xiang is rounding past him to kneel, hand outstretched as to reach for Yoongi. Jimin instantly tugs at his wrist, pulling him away-- the movement would normally be too harsh for a medic to use on a patient, but with Xiang it only makes him falter.

 

“Don’t touch him,” Jimin warns, surprised at his own tone. Xiang’s eyes flicker with something he can’t read and Jimin only loosens his grip when he decides to ask the most pertinent question, “Where are Ke and Asuka?”

 

“Outside the cave.”

 

Jimin frowns, his gaze lingering on the bruise on Xiang’s face. “Alive?” He whispers in bated breath, partially out of not wanting to wake the lieutenant but also out of not wanting to hear one of the possible answers.

 

Xiang doesn’t answer and Jimin is about to press on when he slumps forward into him, out cold. Jimin huffs out in shock and strain, pushing Xiang back onto his back and checking his pulse. He does a quick search for major injuries and finds none-- exhaustion and shock, he quickly rules.

 

Jimin gets up from his makeshift bed, shoving Xiang onto it with as much care as he can considering the circumstances. He drags it to the other side of the cave quickly, hoping it doesn’t wake Yoongi.

 

Grabbing his duffel bag and whipping out the medical supplies quickly, Jimin feels panic rise in the back of his throat like bile once more. He rushes outside of the cave only to find Ke and Asuka directly outside of its entrance, panting and wheezing as they lean against the rocky walls.

 

Ke sees him first-- perhaps that’s a mistake. “JP! JP!” Ke yells out despite it being dead quiet outside and Jimin only being a few feet away, the distance quickly closing between them as Jimin kneels by him and clamps a hand over his mouth. Ke’s screams are muffled but his eyes are focused, and Jimin is wondering what has got his friend acting so delirious when Asuka clears her throat next to him.

 

“Used a stun gun and his hearing is temporarily shot, I think,” she mumbles, wincing as she shifts. Jimin instantly can tell that her arm is broken.

 

“Why--”

 

“What the fuck is going on here?” Jimin gulps, turning his head slowly to see Yoongi looming over the three of them. His eyes are dark and livid, his gaze not meeting Jimin’s as they glance over the state of Asuka and Ke. “Why the fuck is XZ448 waking me up by retching? Why are you two bent out of shape? Explain, now.” His tone is all domineering and cold, causing a shiver to wrack down Jimin’s spine.

 

This is Lieutenant Min-- not Yoongi.

 

“Obviously, we saw an Other,” Asuka bites, the snarky remark unlike her entirely. People act differently when under duress, and Jimin can tell it was just that that made her snap at the lieutenant when she adds regretfully a second later, “Ke got caught out and took the worst of it.”

 

Jimin zones them out as he starts tending to Ke’s injuries, mostly his bleeding ears from some sort of shock blast and gashes on his limbs. He hears Yoongi’s gruff voice barking out commands and chastisement once it’s deemed they are no longer in danger of being possibly attacked at base camp (he makes sure to grill the two of them particularly harshly on that moot point).

 

Xiang shows up after the first five minutes of Jimin wiping down Ke’s arms, dry heaving on the side and shaking like a leaf when Jimin glances at him, completely engrossed in his work.

 

He feels like he’s not present, even when he starts to finally listen in more attentively to their conversation after his internal shock has calmed. “It tried to fucking eat Ke,” Xiang snarls, sitting down roughly on the soft sand near the mouth of the cave. He’s near them in proximity but just off, smelling awfully like stomach bile and anxiety. “It tried to fucking eat him.”

 

“Others don’t eat humans, XZ448,” Yoongi says coolly. “You’re not even supposed to have come in contact with any on this mission. It was just to get you a feel for fieldwork.”

 

“So what are you saying? That we didn’t just see one?” Xiang growls despite looking ten levels of pitiful, limp against the wall and breathing heavily. He looks like he’s going to have one of Jimin’s episodes, and the thought alone makes something heavy settle over Jimin’s mind as he stitches up a particularly gnarly cut on Ke’s arm. “Is that what you’re saying, Lieutenant?”

 

Yoongi is silent. Asuka speaks up, “Look, all I know is that if it really wanted to kill us, it would have. We’re nothing but noobies at this even with our months of training, and yet all we got away with is my broken arm-- which I got from falling as we tried to run-- Ke’s beat up self and hearing problems, and Xiang puking?” Asuka closes her eyes, tilting her head back against the stone wall behind her. “Xiang’s got a point-- it was drooling all over itself. But it definitely didn’t try to eat us.”

 

Xiang goes quiet, pouting in the corner. Jimin looks up to see a pensive look on Ke’s face. When he reaches for the zipper of his exosuit to try and tend to a wet patch of blood on his side, Ke grabs his wrist tight, stopping the movement.

 

The panicked look he gives Jimin screams at him to back down. Jimin can’t, though-- he has to give Ke medical treatment, even if he rejects it. It’s in the protocol laws he signed when he decided to specialize in field medicine. “Ke, I need to check the damage.”

 

He only then notices how quiet everyone has gotten, the wind from earlier in the night coming back and whistling loudly in Jimin’s ears. Ke’s expression is adamant, even when Jimin forces his hands away.

 

He’s not sure why, but he can’t find it in himself to continue-- the way Ke won’t look at him, gaze pleading as he stares at Jimin’s chin rather than his eyes makes something awful settle in Jimin’s chest. It’s like his friend is getting a moment of clarity from his shock only to stop him from taking off his exosuit, still intact but so soaked in blood and caked in dirt that something heavy and tense settles in Jimin’s chest just looking at it.

 

Jimin decides then. “How long until we can go back to base?”

 

“We can go now. The sun is almost up,” Yoongi replies hastily, seeming to somehow understand the nature of Jimin’s tenseness. Jimin tries to meet his eye but Yoongi refuses to do so, keeping his gaze trained on Ke instead. “Tend to KT109 and XZ448. I will pack the rest of our belongings.”

 

Jimin pauses before doing just that, a strange sense of tenseness filling him as he avoids everyone’s stare and continues to work diligently to nurse to them.

 

When they’re packed and ready to go-- Xiang carrying Ke on his back with a muted expression on the both of them, Asuka fidgeting nervously at their side-- Jimin and them follow Yoongi to the path leading to the Bloodbane. Seeing as their departure is slightly earlier than expected despite Yoongi’s words, there’s no shuttle to come to pick them up.

 

So, it’s walking in the desert that is the only option left for them-- walking in the desert, with an unknown number or location on the Other(s) (if that’s even what attacked the three of them) out on the loose.

 

The trek to the Bloodbane is arduous and silent, none of them talking to one another. Jimin is fighting himself the whole way-- over Yoongi’s renewed and off-kilter demeanor, over Ke’s resistance to treatment only when Jimin tries to reach into his exosuit, and over the way he woke up this morning, taking a protective stance over Yoongi despite the other man not being awake.

 

Did he do something wrong? Mess something up? This mission was going so well but just as quickly, Jimin found himself losing a grip on it all. The mission was so simple yet slipped through his fingers faster than the sand crunching under his boots.

 

He can’t even find it in himself to be amazed by the size or stature of the Bloodbane when they finally arrive. Walking into its doors is like walking into the Shatterdome, except everything is twice as massive-- the enforced gorilla-glass of the Shatterdome now replaced by hard, cold steel and glinting rungs of metal anchoring the entire structure down.

 

It’s like a Bunker on steroids. Yet Jimin doesn’t even blink twice at it, completely lost in his thoughts as they’re given the green to enter through its doors. He mindlessly looks up the infirmary on his VisTech to take his three fellow cadets there when he halts at the sound of a familiar voice.

 

He quickly dismisses it in the roar of other soldiers milling about past them, some shouting into their VisTechs and others laughing jokingly. It’s a jovial atmosphere, he barely notices-- too caught up in trying to look through his own database for the infirmary ward when Yoongi completely ignores his question as to where it resides in the Bloodbane.

 

He freezes when the sound echoes again, the voice so much clearer and finally having an identity to it.

 

“Jimin!” Taehyung calls from somewhere behind him. Jimin turns around from his squad, searching through the flood of people he didn’t realize were in the opening halls of the Bloodbane until now, having been so engrossed in trying to find the others proper medical help.

 

He drops his duffel bag, knees going weak at what he sees.

 

Jungkook.

 

Jimin stands stock still, breathing picking up and eyes widening unbelievably so as he watches the two of them approach. They thread through the ever-flowing crowd of soldiers, Taehyung’s expression nervous, with a furrowed brow gracing his features.

 

Jungkook’s face is stony and unreadable-- so similar yet so different. The jut of his jaw, the slope of his cheek, the strength in his shoulders-- more mature in the way he carries himself, in how he keeps his emotions hidden behind a careful guise.

 

Jimin finds his feet moving of their own volition, forgetting about the place, his duties, his squad members, the time spent away-- quickly picking up speed until he’s in a full sprint, shoving past people in his desperation to reach, to touch, to--

 

He halts right before, hesitation slamming into him like a brick wall. What if Jungkook is mad? Guilt crawls across Jimin’s skin, sinking in his chest as he considers how he’s been so caught up in his own issues that he didn’t even truly help Taehyung, didn’t even try nearly as hard for Jungkook like he knows that his friend would have done for him--

 

Jungkook chokes out a half-sob when he’s in hearing proximity, face flushed like it always is when he’s trying not to cry in front of him or Taehyung. His stony expression is long gone now, quickly being replaced by regret and wide, watery eyes as he regards Jimin’s haphazard, post-mission appearance warily. He stands idly by, only a few yards between them-- like he’s hesitating, too.

 

Jimin can’t stop his steps quick enough when he runs to slam into Jungkook, nearly shoving him off his feet, arms wrapped around his shoulders as he struggles to pull him into an embrace.

 

“Kook-ah,” Jimin breathes in, fingers carded in the hair at the back of his neck.

 

He can’t find it in himself to say anything yet, too lost in not only the crazy path his day has seem to taken so far but in the feeling of complete and utter belonging that washes over him when he feels Jungkook clutch at the dip of his back, fingers digging into his exosuit.

 

He barely registers the shakiness in Jungkook’s voice, too caught in his own relief, “‘M sorry, Jimin-hyung, I’m sorry--”

 

Jimin has completely forgotten their surroundings, forgot all his problems from this morning and the mission-- all he’s focused on the fact that Jungkook is here, that all that he left behind was worth it.

 

That what they came for can actually come true-- that the three of them can stick together.

 

It’s a long minute before Jimin finds his voice. “You don’t have to be sorry-- I should be sorry, I messed up and didn’t--” He cuts himself off, the sounds of the bustling hall coming back to him. He goes rigid against Jungkook, feeling him tense under his fingertips as he slowly pulls away. “Let’s talk somewhere--”

 

“What the hell happened to you guys?” Taehyung cuts in, giving a bewildered look to the four people standing idly behind. Jimin turns his head only slightly enough to see, keeping his hands on Jungkook in some strange worry that he’ll disappear from his sight if he lets go. “You look like you--” Taehyung cuts himself off when his eyes drift to Asuka’s limp arm, sitting in the makeshift brace Jimin had set for her. “Holy shit.”

 

“Yeah,” Ke yips drowsily, wincing as Xiang carefully adjusts him on his back. “Holy shit!” He laughs, and if Jimin didn’t know that Ke was feeling the effects of the opiates he dosed him with in an effort to lessen the pain from having so many shallow wounds all over his torso, he’d think that Ke was going insane. “Crazy, huh? Got to see one up close! Pretty awesome-- just like JP now!”

 

Jimin stiffens, keenly aware of other soldiers nearby who pause to take in their appearance and Ke’s words before scuttling along. He assumes it’s Taehyung who’s giving them the glares to move on.

 

“I think I’m gonna pass out,” Xiang huffs, face drooping.

 

“Okay, that’s our cue to leave,” Asuka sighs. Jimin moves to show them to the infirmary but she holds up her good hand in a halting motion. “No worries, JP. I already looked it up while you were hugging your…” She eyes Jungkook curiously before glancing to Yoongi. “Friend. Anyways, Lieutenant-- do we have permission to cease?”

 

Yoongi doesn’t answer at first, eyes trained on Jungkook. He blinks soon enough, clearing his throat and averting his gaze to Asuka. “Yes. Permission… permission is granted.” Yoongi purses his lips, face calm. “I’ll send you all your new room assignments.”

 

“New rooms?” Jimin says, voice somewhat squeaky.

 

Yoongi doesn’t look him in the eye when he responds-- doesn’t even directly address him. “New room assignments are given to all cadets when they come to the Bloodbane after their first official mission.” Yoongi straightens his back, taking an official position. Jimin is baffled at his demeanor and maybe a little hurt even if he knows that this is how things should be during work. “VisTech announcements will be made to everyone. I will be in debrief with General Jung for the next few hours. See to it that everyone gets a checkup at the infirmary ward and possibly psychological evaluation due to the possibility of approaching an Other for the first time.”

 

“‘S that all?” Ke mumbles goofily, doped-out glaze to his blown pupils as he regards the side of Yoongi’s stiff expression. “New rooms!”

 

Jimin’s chest tightens at the state of Ke, not for the first time today, “Maybe I should go with Ke to--”

 

“No need, JP134,” Yoongi interjects, finally meeting Jimin’s gaze. He doesn’t like the coldness of his stare-- so different from Yoongi last night. He turns and walks briskly away, not another word. Asuka eyes Jimin before she leads a drunken Xiang and dopey Ke behind.

 

Jimin stands there a few moments after they leave, unsure of what to make of Yoongi’s demeanor. It’s with a tug on his arm that he’s shifted from his thoughts.

 

“Hyung,” Jungkook murmurs, brow furrowed. “Are you okay? He said you saw--”

 

“Don’t worry about that, Jungkook-ah. I didn’t see an Other, and even if I did…” Jimin falters, sighing out in a long exhale. “Lots of things have changed since you’ve been go--” Jimin bites his bottom lip, turning to him. “Since you’ve been away. We have some catching up to do.”

 

Jungkook eyes him warily, concern creasing the space between his brows. “Taehyungie has already filled me in on most of it, I just need to hear about you now.” Jungkook gives a timid smile and Jimin can’t help but feel like it’s the same boy he grew up with, just in a full-grown man’s body. He completely surprises himself when he laughs at the thought, causing Jungkook’s eyes to widen. “Wow, I haven’t heard you laugh in so long.”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin snorts, the fatigue of the trek over here, the stress of his first mission gone wrong, and the worry over not only Ke but also Yoongi settling into his bones, deep within every single fiber of muscle surrounding them.

 

Despite the way he feels his whole body sag at the weight of simply everything so quickly, Jimin feels a lightness in himself when he refocuses his attention back onto Jungkook’s warmth next to him-- Jungkook’s presence, his timid half-smile that is still so Jungkook despite the way he looks like a muscled hardass compared to the lanky young adult that had left him and Taehyung in the First.

 

He throws his arm over Jungkook’s shoulder and drags him into another quick hug. “I missed you. Let’s get something to eat-- I’m dying for anything.”

 

Jungkook snickers, pausing to lean back and pull Taehyung along by the sleeve of his shirt, going all lovely smiles and flushing cheeks when Taehyung grins widely in return.  

 

Jimin is left reeling with every step.

Chapter Text

A quick pass of his fingerprints and a scan of his irises has a quietly fuming Yoongi entering the small, private room that holds Namjoon captive from nearly all things social for the significant portion of every day.

 

Yoongi is hit with a wash of nostalgia at being in the room again after so many months at the temporary base in the Shatterdome, but the thought is quickly swept away by his irritation as the door slides closed behind him.

 

“Hey, when did you get back?” Namjoon asks, leaning back in his chair. He looks behind himself to glance at Yoongi, face falling at what he sees. “Holy shit, what happened to you?”

 

“Nothing,” Yoongi huffs, slumping on the weirdly uncomfortable couch in Namjoon’s humble little office. Humble, meaning a massive technology center with his desk, his countless digital touch screens, and computer database towers and other equipment that Yoongi has no idea what to call, and the stupid boxy couch. All this crazy tech equipment that hurts Yoongi’s brain when he thinks about it too much, all cornered off in a room that is tucked in the back of the Communications division. “I got back only earlier today. Had a debrief with Seok, the usual stuff.”

 

“Why are you in here, then?” Namjoon swivels in his chair to face Yoongi fully. “Shouldn’t you be getting some sleep? Or like… setting up for the squads meet… or…” Namjoon sighs, leaning back in his seat to stare at Yoongi. “I don’t know, literally doing anything else besides interrupting my work when it’s well past midnight.”

 

“It’s not even dinner time yet, Joon. How long have you been in this room?” Yoongi rolls his eyes at Namjoon’s incredulous look. “I guess that answers my question.”

 

“Someone’s in a sourpuss mood to be judging my shitty sleep schedule when his isn’t much better,” Namjoon frowns, turning for a second to grab his work tablet and start pressing on it as he waits for Yoongi to answer. “What’s got you all wound up, then, Yoongi, if you insist on sitting on my couch and commenting on my lack of comprehension of time?”

 

It takes him longer than he’d like to admit, especially with Namjoon’s mocking tone of voice grating his nerves. He always gets like this when anyone but Seokjin comes in here to piss all over his bad work habits-- part of Yoongi thinks his reaction is justified, seeing as no one but the doctor really considers his own health when it comes to his career.

 

The other part just wants to leave-- that’s most likely his current mood talking, however.

 

“My team saw an Other,” Yoongi grits out, ripping off his leather gloves to pick at his nails.  

 

Namjoon glances up, only for a second. “An Other? How did your squad handle that?” He asks idly, clearly trying to pretend his interest hasn’t been piqued in an effort to pull more out of Yoongi-- it’s too bad he’s too attentive to not be well-aware of his friends’ tricks by now. “How did Jimin handle it? He gets all weird about them, doesn’t he?”

 

At the mention of Jimin, Yoongi huffs out a breath. Namjoon quirks a brow at his tablet.

 

“It all went surprisingly well,” Yoongi answers simply, deciding to humor him.  Namjoon raises his gaze once more to stare, expression void of emotion. Yoongi sighs, “Don’t give me that look.”

 

“‘Surprisingly well’? If it truly all went well then why aren’t you in Seokjin’s office getting your required psychological evaluation?” There it is-- the break in indifferent guise, revealing the concerned Namjoon who only drops his work when it comes to worrying over others.

 

Yoongi huffs out a breath of disbelief, settling Namjoon with a glare. “I have my reasons.”

 

Namjoon hums, smirk twitching at the corner of his lips in amusement. “You realized, huh?” Namjoon stares and Yoongi is just about to ignore him and start listening to his headphones, which for some reason he has yet to take off from around his neck when Namjoon quickly adds, a breadth of smugness settling into his gaze, “You definitely realized.”

 

“Are you trying to piss me off with your cryptic bullshit? I don’t know what you think I realized, but--”

 

Namjoon throws his head back and laughs, shaking his head and turning his chair back to its rightful position. “I’m not as direct as my partner or as Hoseok, so you ought to go to them if you want me to fish for your confession. You know how I operate, Yoongi-- I only give advice when wanted, even if you do desperately need it.”

 

“I don’t desperately--” Suddenly, the door to Namjoon’s office slides open with a hiss, revealing a very pissed Seokjin, murderous glare already set on Yoongi. “Oh, fuck,” Yoongi breathes, completely forgetting his line of bickering with Namjoon in light of Seokjin’s presence, radiating all kinds of discontent and anger directly towards Yoongi. “Not again--”

 

“Why the hell haven’t you come in for psych eval? Min fucking Yoongi, how many times do I have to tell you that I do not mess around when it comes to these scheduled meetings?” Yoongi opens his mouth to argue back, more out of habit than actual fight, when Seokjin cuts him off before he even has the chance, “Don’t even start with me! You have literally no excuse, you were early back from your recon!”

 

Seokjin stands there, tapping his foot incessantly. Namjoon swivels in his chair to give him a look, hands reaching up and out. Yoongi looks away when Seokjin goes to peck him, “You guys are gross.”

 

“I think that maybe,” Seokjin starts, much calmer than only a few moments prior as he settles on Namjoon’s lap, leaning back to wrap an arm around his shoulder. He still settles Yoongi with a glare, though, so maybe not as calm as he outwardly looks. “You are  projecting.”

 

Yoongi doesn’t reply and Seokjin’s frown deepens. “Why not just be honest now and then be embarrassed about it later? Why didn’t you show up at my office, Yoongi? I waited half an hour after the last of your cadets showed up-- even then, I sat there and waited until long after Jimin came by. The only reason I knew you were here is that I ran into Hoseok…”

 

Seokjin trails off from his ranting, some emotion not foreign to Yoongi clouding his expression as his eyes search across Yoongi’s appearance. He’s well aware he’s still in his exosuit, still unchanged from his mission. Seokjin sighs, “Is this about the Other?”

 

“No.” The truth is that it really isn’t-- Yoongi is worried about his cadets having been exposed to one, but only because he wasn’t there to help them. They shouldn’t have seen one on the mission, true, but that doesn’t mean it’s too soon for them to be exposed to such a sight-- it’s experience, an extra chance to grow desensitized to the graphic nature that meeting an Other always harbors.

 

No, that isn’t what is bothering Yoongi at all. “What is it then, Yoongi?” Seokjin fidgets on top of Namjoon’s lanky legs, looking a lot like he wants to get up and sit next to Yoongi instead.

 

But Seokjin usually doesn’t try to physically comfort Yoongi when around anyone-- Yoongi feels too guilty that he lets one friend touch him and not the others, even if it is usually during his appointments rather than simply being near one another.

 

“I…” Yoongi trails off, sinking down deeper into the couch cushions. Thinking about being hugged or comforted in any way physical makes Yoongi’s mind drift off to last night, his fingers twitching at his sides nervously. “It’s nothing important. Nothing that I can’t handle.”

 

“Is it because Namjoon is here?”

 

“Hey,” Namjoon frowns, looking up from where his eyes had drifted to his tablet propped against Seokjin’s thigh. “I’m still listening, you know.”

 

“I don’t care if Namjoon is here,” Yoongi answers truthfully, shocking even himself. He quiets again, pretending not to notice the way both his friends snap their widening gazes to him, stunned silent. He clears his throat out of discomfort, knowing fully well that it’s always just been Seokjin when it comes to matters regarding Yoongi’s psychology evaluations, even if all his friends knew of his past and the problems that haunt him. “It’s okay.”

 

“Did something… happen? On the mission? Other than the… well, other than the Other?” At Yoongi’s silence, Seokjin’s brow furrows. It’s a few minutes of awkward, tense silence before Seokjin inhales sharply, both Namjoon and Yoongi glancing at him to see his expression.

 

Yoongi doesn’t like what he sees. “Does it have something to do with why Jimin came into my infirmary acting all… blissed out? Not to say Jimin is usually in a bad mood, it’s just… I found it a little odd considering the nature of how badly your assignment seemingly went, but then he started telling me about his friend, and...”

 

Something thick, dark and unpleasant settles in Yoongi’s chest, unruly as it writhes in his guts at Seokjin’s words. It must show on his face because Seokjin narrows his eyes at him. “What’s with that look? Did Jimin not do his job on the mission properly because he was too distracted? The stitches on Ke and the work he did on Asuka looked good, I thought--”

 

“No, he was perfect,” Yoongi grumbles, making a hissing sound of pain when he nicks his finger on his nail, blood starting to well at the cuticle due to his incessant picking. He frowns, putting back on his leather gloves as a wave of self-consciousness washes over him for more reason than one. “He performed his role as a medic perfectly.”

 

Seokjin-- always one to pick up on the root of emotional stress rather than only noticing the presence-- scoffs at him. “You’re just green with envy, aren’t you, Yoongi?” It shouldn’t baffle Yoongi anymore, how his friend is so easily able to pick up on his feelings despite trying so desperately to hide them.

 

Yoongi thinks his anger would flare up at such a comment but instead he’s left with an empty feeling as he sinks even further into the couch, wholy hoping that it will just suck him up and bury him under suffocating shiny faux-leather and cotton stuffing.

 

“Yeah,” he says under his breath, too tired emotionally and physically to feel more surprise at his rare-- but increasingly less so-- moments of brutal honesty. “I am jealous.”

 

He glances up from his hands to see a look of bewilderment on Namjoon’s face as he looks back and forth between the side of Seokjin’s face and Yoongi, who watches as a careful mask of attentive indifference slides over Seokjin’s face. He’s entering doctor mode, Yoongi likes to call it inside his head. If he were less exhausted, he’d even snicker at how quick the switch is.

 

“What are you jealous about exactly, Yoongi?” Seokjin asks carefully, all soft tones and focused eyes as he considers Yoongi’s expression. “It’s not Jimin’s good performance, surely-- you’d be proud of him for that. You are proud of him for that, even if you’re perhaps forgetting that right now, hmm?”

 

Yoongi huffs out a breath, some small part in the back of his mind genuinely confused about his own demeanor-- Namjoon is here, Seokjin is asking him questions in his doctor’s voice, and Yoongi is…

 

He’s responding in a manner he never easily does: without the usual order of things, without pretending everything is okay. Maybe it’s because the feelings that are settling in him are ones he’s not used to dealing with-- he isn’t used to jealousy and fluttering, unruly emotions, even if he is well aware of what they are.

 

Yoongi is used to being in control of his chaos, yet somehow he now finds himself struggling to keep a grip on it all-- his words, his feelings, his expressions.

 

“I like him,” he finds himself blurting out, the words slipping from being crumpled in his mind all day and past his lips like butter. “I like him more than I’m supposed to.”

 

It doesn’t feel like relief. It only makes Yoongi feel heavier, guiltier-- sadder.

 

“Oh,” Namjoon breathes into the thick silence of the room. He shifts in his seat, the chair groaning in protest at the weight change from the two of them. “Are you… sure? That you want me to be in here, Yoongi? Maybe I should--”

 

Seokjin shushes him by placing a hand of the one Namjoon has gripping his tablet, plunging the room back into silence. Yoongi feels numb as Seokjin clears his throat. “You… like him? Jimin? What makes you think that?”

 

Knowing what Yoongi knows now, he is well aware that he’s been showing the signs over the past weeks since he took Eunhae back to the Eighth. He knew before that he had developed a soft spot for Jimin long ago, but it grew so tender so suddenly and now--

 

Now he’s sitting on Namjoon’s couch, thinking about all the clues he was giving himself yet ignoring so blatantly in hopes that he didn’t have to confront it-- his problem.

 

He thinks about all the times he’s caught himself letting his eyes linger on Jimin too long to be platonic, found himself in a position where he called him by his last name instead of his SC I.D. in work settings, worried over the slightest frown on Jimin’s lips, felt a simmer of excitement well in his chest when he would see the slightest bit of flush on his cheeks and--

 

“Yoongi?” Seokjin calls again, voice barely above a whisper as he brings him out of his spiraling thoughts. “What makes you think you like him?”

 

“I almost touched him,” Yoongi answers robotically, staring a hole into the concrete flooring beneath Seokjin’s dangling booted feet.

 

Namjoon chuckles awkwardly, the sound so out of place given the atmosphere of the conversation, “Isn’t that… a good thing, Yoongi? Isn’t that good that you want to touch someone?”

 

He doesn’t answer, so Seokjin does for him. “Yoongi wants to touch a lot of people, he just usually doesn’t.”

 

Yoongi hears the sharp inhale of breath from Namjoon, “Even… us?” A pause, “I’m sorry if I sound like I’m in disbelief, but… I’ve never tried to ask anything beyond what Yoongi has said about… the past, you know.” Yoongi stiffens, taking a moment to realize that Namjoon then starts to address him, “I always assumed you didn’t want to touch anyone, so I respected it.”

 

“That was intentional,” Yoongi says quietly, eyes still averted down. “My problem has never been that I don’t want to touch you, or Seokjin, or Hoseok, or… Eunhae,” he winces, guilt causing an unfamiliar type of wetness to accumulate at the corners of his eyes. He quickly throws his head back, blinking it away in frustration.

 

He wishes he didn’t have to see the expressions on the two of their faces on his eyes’ way up to the ceiling. “My problem is that I don’t want to be touched back.”

 

It’s something he always feels guilty about-- Yoongi could be doing anything around the people he loves only to be hit with a sharp pang of something akin to self-disgust when he notices how they hesitate around him, how they consider his comfort first. He’s well-aware that trust in any relationship-- whether it be between blood or friends or lovers-- is a two-way street.

 

To deny his friends the ability to show him affection in a way so closely-linked to human intimacy isn’t fair to them-- he knows it’s the way it is, and that realistically, it’s simply his friends respecting his much-needed boundaries, but it… it isn’t fair.

 

He’s hurting them by not trusting them to hold back, even if he doesn’t want to-- even if they try their damnedest to not show it, to stifle those types of selfish feelings down and ignore them in the hopes of keeping Yoongi safe, keeping Yoongi comfortable.

 

“Oh,” Namjoon breathes, the only sound in the room being from the soft beeps of his computers behind him. “I see your... problem, then, but…” Yoongi looks up at the last word, trying his best to control his expression and quell the feelings of self-doubt rising up his throat. “But what if Jimin is okay with that?”

 

“Who would be okay with that, Namjoon? Why--” Yoongi tries to control his breath, will his rising heartbeat to calm down in his accumulating frustration at something he’s thought about countless times, “Why would anyone like not being able to touch someone? You think I like being like this? I want to give you and Jin and Seok hugs, okay? I know I play it off all the time, but I want the closeness, I want the affection, the comfort, the assurance that you guys are there for me in one more way, but I-- I just can’t--”

 

He threads his fingers tightly in his own hair, completely rigid as he wills himself to not start pulling his hair out from the confliction roiling through him. “I think about them, every time… their faces, before they died and--” he chokes off into a sob, wetness staining his cheeks as he tries to hide his face from the two of them-- feeling a lot like a pitiful, whiny child throwing a tantrum.

 

He hears Seokjin get up from the chair and feels him settle next to Yoongi on the couch. He doesn’t have to look up from where his face is pressed into his wet palms to know that Seokjin’s hands are hovering around him, unsure of what to do, or what to say.

 

The thing that’s different about this time and the thousand others between Yoongi and Seokjin-- aside from the presence of Namjoon now-- is that Yoongi never cries. He tears up, sure; maybe even sniffles.

 

He doesn’t sob, doesn’t completely lose every ounce of composure and recede so far back into his shell that when Seokjin tries to touch him-- which, at this moment, Yoongi feels on one of his shoulders-- he goes into a full-body shiver, flinching away from his friend’s touch like hot magma has burned his skin.

 

Seokjin drops his hand in his lap and Yoongi presses the heels of his palms so hard into his eyes that he feels pain behind his sockets as he tries so desperately to force the tears back in. Logically, he knows that the attempt is futile; the only problem is, of course, that Yoongi is no longer logical.

 

“What do I do?” He whispers, voice cracking. “I c-couldn’t even… couldn’t even look at him properly. That kid… touching Jimin, hugging him. I wanted that-- still do. Wanted to be the one.”

 

“Why can’t you be?”

 

Yoongi laughs at Seokjin’s optimism, a sick and sad gargle in the back of his throat, “You know that I can’t, Jin. Broken things might need love, but they can’t give it back.”

 

A silence follows and Yoongi continues to reinforce the idea in his mind that, if by some chance, Jimin did care for him in that way, it wouldn’t matter-- Jimin could give Yoongi everything, but Yoongi wouldn’t be able to reciprocate a tenth of it. He lost the ability a long time ago, buried along with the people he used to call blood, too.

 

“I thought you liked him for a while and already knew… that’s why I said you realized earlier,” Namjoon murmurs, voice pained. “I had no idea…”

 

“I have liked him, Joon,” Yoongi sniffles, familiar defeat clouding into his emotions like it does when he gets like this, as rare as it does. “I’ve liked people before, you know. I’m only a man-- not some babbling virgin, like you guys think I am.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with being a--” Namjoon cuts himself off, face dropping when Yoongi gives him a look. “I see your point, sorry.”

 

“I was always okay with looking. I figured that if there was anyone I’d want to touch, it’d be the people I already care about-- the people in my life that really matter, like you guys. Not some… fling,” Yoongi looks down again, clenching his fists in his leather gloves. “But Jimin…”

 

“Jimin isn’t a fling,” Seokjin deadpans for him when he trails off. “Jimin is more than someone to look at-- he’s important to you now. Someone you treasure. So, you want to touch him.”

 

“So, I want to touch him,” Yoongi repeats, face falling flat. “I want to touch him and show him how I care, but I don’t want to be touched back.” Even if it were simple touches, nothing beyond that, Yoongi would have a hard time trying to adjust-- the idea alone makes something sad bloom in his chest as he considers how fucked the whole logic is.  

 

Namjoon sounds defeated when he says, “And it’s worse because instead of in a friend or family sense, it’s…”

 

“It’s in a romantic sense,” Seokjin murmurs, tone soft but carefully controlled. He sighs heavily, slumping back now into the couch cushion next to Yoongi. “Jesus, Yoongi. Why didn’t you mention this before? I know there was something between the two of you, but this… it’s so much more intense. Maybe I should’ve figured--”

 

“It wasn’t like this before the mission,” Yoongi cuts him off, shaking his head. “You’re right when you say it’s intense because it changed from something simple to something suffocatingly tempting so quickly, so strongly and…” Yoongi closes his eyes, thinking back to last night-- Jimin’s humming, the way he seemed comfortable respecting Yoongi’s personal space rather than barely contained and awkward like everyone else. It’s different, the way Jimin shows love-- and Yoongi wants it all. “I’m so fucked.”

 

Yoongi can still recall the unpleasant feeling that stirred in his chest when Jimin threw himself against that man, enveloping him in a tight embrace-- the way they clung to each other, clearly in a platonic fashion but even then so much more than Yoongi could ever have with the honey-eyed cadet that listens to his music and smiles at him and makes him… makes him feel things.

 

“I am so unbelievably fucked,” Yoongi repeats in a long sigh, running his hand through his hair in frustration.

 

“Why don’t you sleep on it?” Seokjin offers. Yoongi gives him a look, noticing how his friend is keeping a respectful distance between the two of them-- it’s only somewhat relieving, at this moment. “Clearly, you are extremely fatigued. You don’t even look like you slept at all. Why not do some of that and then… I don’t know, try talking to Jimin tomorrow?”

 

Yoongi sends him a horrified look, “You want me to tell Jimin? That I like him? My subordinate-- my friend?” Yoongi doesn’t add that he’s probably not on Jimin’s good side right now, having avoided him like a plague for most of the day. Yoongi was even planning on skipping dinner just so he didn’t have to see him, even if the other half of him yearns for it.

 

“You don’t have to necessarily tell him, though I do think you ought to,” Seokjin sighs, pursing his lips. “But Yoongi… you can’t just shut him out, okay? I know you think that you feel too much compared to others, but isn’t that a little unfair to assume about Jimin? Don’t sell his emotions short just because you aren’t aware of them.”

 

“Yeah, you could always just tell him,” Namjoon cuts in, leaning over his lap, elbows on his knees as he regards Yoongi with a concerned, serious expression. “Maybe Jimin would be okay with the no touching thing.” At Yoongi’s expression, Namjoon leans back in his chair. “Or maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. I mean, we’re all close to Jimin but we don’t know much about his life before. You’re closer to him than all of us. Well, except maybe Ke.” Namjoon grimaces at his own fumbling words, wiping at his face as he glances away.

 

Seokjin sighs. “Do you want my advice, Yoongi?”

 

Yoongi forces himself to relax, only now realizing just how stiff his entire body has become over the course of the conversation. He’s surprised when he hums, unable to put the yes in words but hoping it comes across anyway.

 

It does. “Take a step back for a few days, maybe.”

 

Yoongi falters. “But, you just said--”

 

“To not cut him out, yeah. I still stand by that.” Seokjin’s eyes flicker between Yoongi’s, his face relaxed. “Taking a few days to yourself for your thoughts isn’t cutting Jimin out-- it’s taking care of your emotional health.”

 

The thing is-- despite Yoongi’s efforts the entire day so far-- is that he doesn’t want to take a few days away from Jimin. He’s crossed between running from him and running to him, his past shackling him in place and choking him with the chains.

 

His internal conflict must also show on his face, because Seokjin adds, “Or maybe take Namjoon’s advice and bring it up to Jimin directly. There’s really no one right approach to something like this. My point is-- you like him, yeah? Enough to bring it up to us? You’re usually awful at confessing about these sorts of subjects or anything that bothers you, for that matter.”

 

Yoongi glares at Seokjin, not really sure how to form the words of a response for the unfortunate truth behind that last comment.

 

“I know you know what I’m talking about, Yoongi. You’re not emotionally stunted,” Seokjin grumbles. “You just suck at admitting things. That’s okay though; you’ll have your time.”

 

“What if I don’t want my time, though? What if I never want to tell him?” It sounds both appealing and unappealing to him-- keeping this to himself instead of simply telling Jimin. Part of Yoongi wishes he could be more like Jimin had been that night so many weeks ago-- so direct in his confessions, so unbothered by the notion of vulnerability. Even if Jimin had said it was all a façade of confidence at the time, Yoongi can’t help but feel like that was the exact moment where his feelings for Jimin took a sharp turn, leading to where he is now.

 

He sighs for what feels like the thousandth time today, lids suddenly weighted as he blinks down at his hands. “Those are stupid questions, aren’t they?” Yoongi groans, rubbing at his face in fatigue. “I can’t ignore it forever. I see him literally every day.”

 

Yet somehow, Yoongi is sitting here with his head in his palms. It could be so easy-- he could go to the other side of the Bloodbane, where he knows Jimin’s new room assignment is supposed to be. He could bang on the door until Jimin let him in, could tell him how Yoongi hasn’t been able to stop hearing his low hums or thinking about how his hand lingered when giving him the stun gun last night, or--

 

“You’re overthinking it,” Namjoon says. “Stop overthinking it. Just get some sleep, okay?”

 

Yoongi nods numbly, abruptly getting up and off the couch. He barely pays attention to his surroundings as he leaves the room and aimlessly walks to his room, barely hearing Seokjin’s exasperated sigh as the door closes behind him.

 

It could be so easy to tell Jimin, yes-- but Yoongi’s life has never been fucking easy.

 

Even if he told Jimin all that, it’s not like he could do anything about it-- Yoongi couldn’t hold his hand, or embrace him, or press his lips to his like they do in those cheesy romance movies from the last century that Yoongi would watch for the soundtrack alone. He couldn’t do any of it without flinching back and, if by some miracle, he could, he would still never be able to get rid of the sadness he gets whenever he’s too close to another person.

 

It’s like every time Yoongi thinks he could be happy, he’s reminded how he survived and his family didn’t-- how he was spared and they all left to be torn to shreds. He can still feel their lifeless bodies against his when he wakes up in the morning.

 

He can’t tell Jimin-- can’t tell him how he wants to be with him, or about how he can’t.

Chapter Text

It’s several days before Jimin can visit Ke in the infirmary ward.

 

He spends more time than he’d like trying to find his way through the new, unfamiliar setting of the Bloodbane. The map on his VisTech is clear, of course-- easy to understand, well-designed to guide him through every step. His thoughts just keep barraging his sense of direction, leading him to take wrong turns and become distracted by the smallest of things.

 

Jimin has been doing a lot of thinking, as of late. It shouldn’t be anything new by this point-- maybe he even ought to have learned how to sort through his feelings by now-- yet still, he finds himself stuck in his head.

 

He sighs as he finally approaches the front doors of the infirmary, letting the scanner sweep across him and approve his entrance as a fully-fledged medical personnel, for the first time since he’s come back from his mission and been back on active roster. Taking a few days off after missions was apparently commonplace, but Jimin still found it strange to not have the scanner instantly greenlight him in as it did back in the Shatterdome.

 

Stepping past the medical staff who barely glance at him in between their duties, Jimin walks back to where he knows Ke to be from the update Seokjin had given him the other day.

 

Something feels off as he enters the hallway where Ke’s room is. He still isn’t sure why he got a private room whereas most soldiers are in the general ward, from what he remembers.

 

Opening the door as quietly as possible in case Ke is asleep, Jimin glances up to see the other looking at him.

 

“Hey,” Jimin whispers, offering a small smile that feels… strange, even to himself. Ke blinks at him from under a mound of covers, clutching them to his chest.

 

His face looks rounder than usual, eyes wide as they bore a hole through Jimin, not directly meeting his eye but trained lower on his face, instead.

 

When he approaches the side of Ke’s hospital bed, he belatedly realizes that Ke must’ve had skin mods on before-- his usually black hair a lighter shade of brown, a light scar running down the side of his temple as Ke focuses his gaze now completely away from Jimin, silently regarding the edge of the blankets bunched up under his neck.

 

Jimin decides not to comment on the change in his appearance. “Ke?” He calls softly, the look in his friend’s eyes distant. “Are you… feeling okay?” His eyes trail to the soft yellowish bruise on Ke’s cheek, nearly completely healed.

 

Accelerated healing serum. Jimin fidgets.

 

“I’m fine, JP,” Ke responds after a long minute, expression shifting into something tight as he offers Jimin a weak smile. “Just tired. I’m surprised you didn’t come earlier to visit.”

 

“I tried to,” Jimin murmurs, shifting from foot to foot. “Jin told me it’d be best to wait.”

 

“I’m only teasing,” Ke says robotically, completely unlike himself. Jimin knows he’s lying. Ke shifts onto his side, facing Jimin as he tugs his arm out from under the covers pressed still pressed to his body and patting the expanse of bed next to him.

 

Jimin wordlessly moves to lay next to him, concern bleeding into his expression. He keeps his hands to his sides awkwardly-- Ke has comforted Jimin from the aftereffects of the really bad nightmares before, but it always had felt natural; this… this didn’t.

 

He tries to fix it, whatever it is that’s causing the rigid aura between them. “I’m not sure if you remember because I had you inebriated for your injuries on the way back, but Jungkookie was there.”

 

Ke’s face relaxes, seemingly content with the shift in topic between them. He tucks his hand under his cheek, settling Jimin with an attentive gaze resembling the Ke that Jimin is accustomed to. “The kid you and Taehyung came here for?”

 

Jimin’s smile becomes more honest, easier. “Yeah. Although, he isn’t much of a kid anymore.”

 

The corner of Ke’s lips tilts up only slightly, “‘S that so? Tell me about your last few days. Need a distraction.”

 

So, Jimin does. He tells Ke about his first dinner in so long with both Jungkook and Taehyung, about how eating at the new base instead of back in the First was strange for only about ten minutes before they were laughing together, like it used to be-- well, as similar as it could be, after all the things that have happened since then.

 

He says this instead of the truth. Jimin omits the parts that bother him about how the three of them slipped back into a foreign normalcy, resembling how it was and how it should be but not quite there-- doesn’t mention the worries that still sit at the back of his mind regarding Jungkook or the past. Jungkook is still Jungkook, Taehyung is still Taehyung-- but just as Jimin had felt when stepping foot into the SC Bionics, everything has changed.

 

Nothing is the same. He wants to tell Ke, anyone, but maybe at this moment isn’t the right time.

 

This version of Jimin’s last few days is happier than the reality. It makes it easier-- makes it something that Jimin is comfortable talking about in front of a Ke who still has yet to smile since he’s stepped foot in the room.

 

Caught in his own excitement over his recount of the time he’s spent with the two of them over the last few days despite the black spot in the back of his mind, Jimin doesn’t notice the shift in Ke’s expression until the other’s eyes go glassy.

 

Jimin falters in his words, watching a stray tear escape past Ke’s lashes and trail down the slopes of his face, bleeding into the pillow below him. Concern hits him quickly though, and he finds his hands hovering over Ke’s tense form as he sits up.

 

“Ke, what’s wrong?” Jimin glances over him, reading his rigid stature as physical suffering. “Where does it hurt? Is it… is it your injuries?” Ke doesn’t respond, and Jimin is fully up now, tugging gently at the covers Ke is clutching like a lifeline. “Let me check them, okay?”

 

Ke forces his eyes shut, silently sniffling as he curls in on himself. He lets Jimin pull the blanket back, letting go almost immediately.

 

He starts shivering violently but that’s not what has Jimin freezing on the spot when the blankets are pulled away, a cold wash of understanding following his initial shock a few moments later.

 

He’s read about this in a medical text before, curious about skin mods and the Special Upgrades department more than he’d ever willingly admit.

 

Within the first few months of the war, the world shifted in its focus on a lot of things--  government practices, economics, religion. Medical practices were one of the things that changed the most-- ethics flew out the window in a desperate attempt at trying to find a way to heal people faster, save lives, and increase the capabilities of the human body far beyond its natural point all in an effort to fight. To survive the Others, to win the new war of attrition.

 

Naturally, research for improving the quality of life of people with ailments or any other issue not immediately detrimental to saving the person’s life-- in a world where the population numbers needed to be sustained as much as possible after it was cut in half by the first few Waves-- became nonexistent.

 

For those in the group of people who wanted surgery for a non-life-threatening issue, such as plastics or body alterations, skin mods were available. They existed before the war, true, but after its beginning, they became all-the-more prevalent.

 

Especially for people like Ke.

 

Ke, who won’t look Jimin in the eye right now. Ke, whose chest isn’t flattened by the bandages wrapped around it-- there to soak up the blood and keep almost-healed wounds separate from the outside environment, but causing something uncomfortable settle in the bottom of Jimin’s ribcage.

 

Skin mods are temporarily deactivated when placed on accelerated healing serum. Jimin never thought it’d cause issues outside of aesthetics.

Jimin sits perfectly still, breathing ragged. His fingers feel numb as he folds them in his lap, knowing that Ke needs the gauze swapped out but unsure if he can find it in himself to do just that.

 

Seokjin’s subtle warnings of Jimin coming to visit Ke too soon suddenly seem too obvious.

 

“Is it okay if I change them?” Jimin ventures, not liking the look of defeat on Ke’s face. Ke only offers a slight nod, sniffling quietly as Jimin gets up and searches for medical supplies he knows are likely in the cabinet in the corner of the room.

 

Changing the bandages that wrap around Ke’s healing torso while keeping mind not to touch him feels a lot like he’s crossing some kind of boundary. It conflicts Jimin endlessly-- part of him feels like he shouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

 

The other part can’t help but think that Ke wouldn’t let him do this if he weren’t trying to show him-- if he weren’t trying to tell Jimin something that he’s been hiding for all their friendship, the same something that only a few days ago caused Ke to refuse medical care from him.

 

“Are you angry?” Ke’s words crack, voice wet. Jimin looks up from taping the edge of the gauze under Ke’s armpit to see the tears that track down his friend’s cheeks silently.

 

“Why would I be?” Jimin murmurs, tone soft. He feels his face contort for only a moment before he reigns his emotion back in. There’s something sad causing a pressure to build behind Jimin’s eyes, something a lot like hurt-- a hurt that, logically, he realizes he shouldn’t feel. “What you decide to tell me and what you decide to not tell me has never been any of my business, Ke.”

 

Ke is quiet as Jimin puts the supplies away. When Jimin returns to the side of his bed, moving to sit only on the edge, he speaks up again. “I’m sorry,” Ke whispers weakly.

 

Jimin’s gaze snaps up from where they were trained on his clenched fists to meet Ke’s watery stare.

 

He instinctually reaches for Ke’s hand, a small slip of relief settling over him when Ke tangles his fingers in his. “You shouldn’t be sorry for something like this, Ke. Something you can’t change anymore.” The types of surgeries that used to help people like Ke haven’t been available for almost as long as he’s been alive. “It’s not in your control.”

 

Ke shakes his head despite his attempt at comfort, “But it is. I c-could’ve… could’ve told you. I lied to you, JP, pretended to be something ‘m not--”

 

“You didn’t pretend anything. You were yourself and still are-- you’re Ke. Saying you lied would imply that I had any right to know,” Jimin says immediately, cutting down the notion that Ke owed anything to Jimin.

 

He’s hurt, yes-- but not for the reasons that Ke assumes.

 

“I’m not mad you didn’t tell me, Ke,” Jimin breathes, finding himself sniffling back whatever is threatening to fall from his eyes. He feels like he shouldn’t be affected by this, shouldn’t express shock or hurt or any other emotion to seeing Ke’s body. It feels so wrong for him to do so-- like he’s making something out of nothing, like he’s making Ke feel different for something that should be normalized.

 

But Ke is reacting a lot like how Jimin is on the inside-- scared, nervous, sad. Maybe, in the end, it matters how Jimin reacts even if in an ideal world, it shouldn’t.

 

“I’m upset because I feel guilty… guilty, and hurt that you didn’t… that I wasn’t able to be there for you for this. And realistically, I know that I shouldn’t even think like that, yea? There’s nothing wrong with you, but then I think about how you reacted when I tried to tend to your wounds on the mission. The look of panic on your face, and it…” Jimin sighs. “It hurts, Ke. Did you think I’d hate you or some sick reason? For something like this?”

 

“No, no,” Ke grimaces, curling in on himself again. Jimin forces himself to relax, to not react in the way that Ke seems to be so scared of. “I just… I’m so sorry,” he sobs, face scrunched up as the sound wracks through him.

 

Jimin takes a chance and lays back down next to Ke, albeit a little hesitant as he pulls him close, hand carefully on his shoulder. He feels Ke hesitate before he presses the side of his face to Jimin’s chest, wetting the thin, loose material with his drying tears.

 

They don’t say anything for a while-- Jimin thinks it’s mostly a lack of knowing what to.

 

Jimin finds something after what he thinks is an eternity, but is a measure of time in disagreement with the clock on the wall. “You’re my family, Ke.”

 

Ke snorts against Jimin’s throat, the sound choked and garbled. “We’ve only known one another for a couple of months, JP.”

 

“That doesn’t sound like you at all,” Jimin smiles, despite himself. “Where’s the Ke that said we were best friends not even twenty-four hours into knowing each other? Surely, by that logic, we’re related by now.”

 

Ke clutches Jimin’s side as a response, fingers digging into the fabric.

 

“I guess what I’m saying is that I love you, okay?” Jimin stares at the infirmary wall over Ke’s thick head of hair. “And just like you’ve always been there for me, I’ll be here for you for this and anything else you need. You don’t have to hide stuff from me, alright? Time hasn’t been a measure for how close we are, so why the hell should anything else be?”

 

“You’re right,” Ke murmurs. Jimin can feel him grin against his shirt before the expression settles into something he can’t feel. “I think I was just… scared. Of your reaction? I dunno what, exactly. The war has taken over everything, and my kind of situation isn’t really something that’s thought about anymore. People have already forgotten, y’know? Forgotten that problems that don’t involve starving or not getting slaughtered by crazy ass aliens still exist.”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin sighs. “I know. This world fucking sucks sometimes,” he laughs bitterly. “Gotta look out for each other, you know?” Ke hums, and they fall into a sort of comfortable silence.

 

After a while, Ke whispers something against his throat. Jimin makes a questioning sound and he repeats it, “I’ve never been gladder that you almost passed out on the first day here.” Jimin snorts in response but doesn’t say anything to that. He decides not to admit that he’s glad, himself.

 

He feels Ke’s chin press to his chest. “Why’re in here visiting me, anyway?”

 

Jimin pulls back to look at Ke’s face. “What’s that supposed to mean, Ke?”

 

Ke frowns, moving to shift on his back. “I mean, I knew you were coming today. Seokjin told me that I could… I could request visits, if I wanted.” Jimin’s brow furrows and Ke adds, “I know he didn’t mention it to you but… yea. He’s been helping me a lot.”

 

“I figured something close to that, though I didn’t know you asked for me to come,” Jimin murmurs, eyes searching across Ke’s face. The different times for showers, the meetings before dinners with Seokjin-- Jimin had always noticed these things about Ke but never thought to ask beyond what information was proffered. “You weren’t very subtle about a lot of things, you know.”

 

Ke smirks, eyes on the ceiling. “Yeah, maybe to you-- that’s ‘cause you’re like that, JP. You sit there and you watch and listen. Not everyone’s like that.”

 

Jimin lays in some kind of stunned silence-- used to Ke’s directness, but never like this. “Hey…”

 

“That’s a good thing, you know? Makes people trust you, want to be around you.” Ke turns his head, looking Jimin directly in the eyes. “That’s why Yoongi likes you. You know, I think I had a crush on you myself, at one point.”

 

Jimin’s eyes widen and Ke has the gall to laugh at his taken-aback expression, “Don’t worry, I’m only kidding. I meant the friend crush kind of crush, y’know? Though, I think Yoongi’s is kinda different…”

 

Jimin pouts, smacking Ke lightly on the arm but not enough to jostle his wounds. “I thought we were passed you teasing me about him.”

 

“Well, yeah. That’s ‘cause it got to the point where I thought it was one-sided. Then he got all weird with you.”

 

Jimin averts his eyes. He wants to deny it, but then he thinks about how Yoongi hasn’t been able to meet his gaze over the past few days. They haven’t listened to music together as he’d promised, haven’t even really… spoken. “I don’t know what his problem is,” he answers truthfully.

 

His feelings about it must translate in some way in his expression, because Ke then asks, “Wait… I wasn’t imagining things from being drugged?”

 

“No, Ke… you weren’t,” Jimin sighs, pursing his lips before continuing. “The night of the mission we were fine, and then the next day he just… clammed up on me. He hasn’t spoken to me, hasn’t even so much as looked at me and I… I don’t know anymore.”

 

“Oh,” Ke breathes, frowning. He tugs the sheets up and under his chin again. “I guess I shouldn’t have said anything, then.”

 

“It’s alright,” Jimin huffs out a breath, moving to sit up against Ke’s pillow. “I can’t focus on him, anyway. Jungkookie is back and I have to focus on him and Taehyung. I owe ‘em that,” he says, fidgeting with the edge of Ke’s blanket. “I owe them everything.”

 

“Did he say where he was all this time?” Ke asks.

 

“We haven’t had the time to talk about it. Between settling back into the Bloodbane, training, and whatever the hell tests Tae has been preparing for, we’ve been unable to really sit down and talk. Things feel normal, but…”

 

But, again, Jimin can’t help but feel like they shouldn’t be.

 

Even with the presence of Jungkook’s twinkling laughter at dinners, Jimin can’t help but think about the sounds he had heard in the months after he had left— Taehyung’s sniffling, his pleas to no one but Jimin that they go get him back. Jungkook might be back, but he brought a lot of pain that Jimin had buried deep within himself with him, too.

 

He’s so tired of the thoughts repeating themselves-- one minute he’ll feel like he’s passed something, and then it’ll pop up in the forefront of his imagination and cloud the rest of his day.

 

“He was gone a long time, it’s understandable.”

 

“I feel like he should be more different… he left us, but I’m…” Jimin falters for the right word, for the right expression for how he feels about Jungkook being back so easily, after how much he and Taehyung have had to give up for just that.

 

Their families, their homes, their safety. Possibly, in the future, their lives.

 

“You don’t look mad about it,” Ke notes simply, poking at Jimin’s cheek. Jimin scoffs, batting at his hand-- Ke and his antics even in the most serious of conversations. Despite that, Jimin is glad to see his friend coming back to his usual self. “You look… I don’t know how to describe it. Confused, maybe.”

 

Jimin pauses, nibbling on his bottom lip for a moment before answering, “That’s a way to put it. I always thought I’d be at one extreme or the other-- either completely furious or completely understanding. Instead, I’m left somewhere in the middle.” Jimin smoothes over the crease he’s sure is in between his brows. “I don’t know whether to forget about it all and just be happy he’s back or to be upset that he didn’t trust us enough to take us along with him. That we had to go through all of this, for such a simple reunion. I guess it sounds dumb when I say it aloud.”

 

“I knew you weren’t telling the whole truth when you first came in here,” Ke murmurs, concern on his expression as he regards Jimin. “Sounds like maybe you ought to be tellin’ all that to him, JP.”

 

“If I had time, I would. I want to, so fucking bad,” Jimin suddenly feels irritation bloom in his chest. “You know that I’m already set for another mission? Yoongi told me yesterday. Well, told our squad. I can’t even fucking believe he won’t look me in the eye--”

 

Ke’s hand is firm on his forearm, Jimin not even realizing he had shot straight up into a sitting position, back stiff. “Woah, woah, chill , JP. You’re calm one minute and pissed the next? What’s gotten into you? And more importantly-- why has no one told me about the mission? I’m on Accel-- I should be great by tomorrow?”

 

Jimin gulps. He’s a mess, forgetting his priorities and now, even his responsibilities. “You’re still hurt. I don’t want you on another mission, and—“

 

“JP, that’s hardly your choice—“

 

“—and I need time, Ke. It is my choice, as your squad MedTech. I wanna say that things are good again, but are they? If you get hurt on a mission again, I can’t just wait it out to get you back to the Bloodbane. I have to come up with a plan, some way I can—“

 

“You ain’t gotta do shit, JP.” Ke’s voice is adamant, but Jimin finds no trace of hurt in his expression— only determination. “Asuka already knows. Xiang can shove it to No Man’s Land if he’s got a problem with it.”

 

“Asuka knows?”

 

“Yeah, told her when I saw her when one of her skin mods died the last month.” At Jimin’s expression, Ke quickly adds, “Look, it was inevitable. I wanted to tell you on my own time. Plus, she read me like a fucking book— knew I was hiding something, so I told her as a gesture of good faith. Also, no, you cannot ask me what she looks like without the mods.” Ke blinks rather unceremoniously at Jimin, owlish eyes staring a hole through him.

 

Jimin hesitates for a long moment as he contemplates that long-winded answer before asking, “So, what about Yoongi?”

 

“What about him?” Ke shrugs. Jimin isn’t convinced by his nonchalance. “He can hold up a fucking curtain, for all I care.”

 

“So, why all the fuss? If you’re okay with them looking, them knowing? Why… why did it take you so long to tell me?” Jimin internally berates himself over the lack of capability he has when it comes to being able to even control his own words.

 

Ke takes his hand in his, squeezing gently. It calms him more than it normally would, gives him an inch of clarity even if he needs a mile. “Your opinion mattered to me, JP. It’s not that I thought lowly of you, or thought you’d react badly… it’s just that I was scared. There’s really nothing else to it.”

 

“What made you not scared anymore?”

 

“Well, for one thing, those drugs you gave me might’ve made me all loopy and shit, but I was pretty cognizant of my surroundings. I saw you run up to that Jungkook and hug him harder than when you hug me when you wake up from your episodes, so I figured if you could still be so happy to see him after all that shit that happened, then you’d be fine if I told you about my own issues.”

 

Jimin isn’t sure what to say to that until Ke adds, “Plus, if you thought my chest was an eyesore compared to the state of your back then I’d have to call you a hypocrite and an asshole and would probably kick you to the curb for being transphobic anyways.”

 

He has to pause to contemplate yet another long-winded response from Ke, briefly wondering if speaking that fast is hurting his torso. “You’re really something, Lin Ke,” Jimin breathes, eyebrows raised high as he shakes his head in amusement at Ke’s biting words.

 

He settles back down after Ke laughs, a natural pause in the conversation following.

 

“When’re you leaving for the next mission, JP?” Ke asks lowly, like he doesn’t want to hear the answer.

 

“Tonight.” Ke shifts to look at him, eyes wide. “Another reason why you can’t come with. Would’ve told you when I was notified since you’re VisTech is disabled while in care, but...”

 

“Yeah, I was… you know, still in my head about a lot of things. And in pain.” Ke chuckles, fingers tracing over the sheets covering his chest. “They don’t tell you that the Accel serum hurts like a bitch.”

 

“What does it feel like?”

 

Ke blinks, narrowing his eyes at nothing in particular as he considers his answer with a purse of his lips. “Kinda burns. Feels like when you get a cut or something and need to swab it with alcohol-- but instead of on the skin, it’s under it.” Ke yawns, slumping further into his pillow and causing Jimin to shift, too. “Just thinking about it makes me all sleepy.”

 

“Maybe I should go, then,” Jimin starts, moving to slip off the bed. Ke looks up at him with eyes drowsier than they were only a minute ago. “I have to go get ready for the next mission, anyway.”

 

Ke pouts and Jimin tries to find something else to bring up-- a reason to linger for a few seconds longer. “I put all your belongings in your new room, by the way.”

 

“Ah?” A bit of alertness comes back to Ke’s expression. Jimin’s eyes drift to the IV he has in his arm, and suddenly Ke’s quickly-changing temperament seems logical, considering he’s clearly receiving a concoction of accelerated healing serum and whatever other drugs the infirmary ward has him on. “Come back when your mission is done,” Ke mumbles, his words only slurring at the ends but still coherent in structure.

 

“Okay. Don’t worry too much,” Jimin hushes. In a moment of fondness, he finds himself pushing Ke’s dark hair from his face. He pulls back when he notices his friend’s eyes start to droop, tugging the blanket back under his chin.

He lingers for far too long before finally walking out of the infirmary ward quietly.

 

Heading back to his own room to don his exosuit and pack materials for the next squad mission, Jimin wonders if he should’ve told Ke more about the mission than just the bare minimum.

 

It’s nothing serious is a thought he keeps repeating in his head as he enters his private quarters, still unaccustomed to having a place to himself after spending nearly all his life not having such a luxury. Even when coming to the SC Bionics, Jimin had been bunked with others.

 

There’s something lonely creeping up the back of his thoughts as he stares at his exosuit, strewn across his too-large bed in his too-quiet room. Putting it on is easier after the countless times he’s done it by now, but it doesn’t make him any more comfortable.

 

It still itches, and he’s still not used to it-- any of it. He visited Ke to try and get a grip on his thoughts, but if anything it’s just brought all the chaos he shoved into the back of his mind to the forefront.

 

He should’ve told Ke more about his mission. He should’ve told him that Jungkook is coming along to fill the temporarily-void spot that Ke had left. Jimin should’ve told him that he isn’t sure if he’s ready to go on a mission with his childhood friend, ready to risk possibly seeing an Other when he was so very close on their way to the Bloodbane.

 

He should’ve told Ke that they’re visiting the First-- but maybe it’s too ironic, given recent events.

 

He should’ve told Ke that he’s been having nightmares since the first night back, and they’ve been getting worse because his sheets are too cold against his skin when he wakes up in the middle of the night.

 

Over the last few days, Jimin has felt a lot like a bystander to his own life-- between the nightmares and the brief meetings with Jungkook and Taehyung where he would listen to delighted, tinkling laughter but find himself daydreaming instead of joining in, Jimin hasn’t been feeling… himself.

 

Instead, he’s been feeling a lot like the self-conscious, scared, weak boy he was in the First Bunker-- not the man he is now.

 

He should’ve told Ke. He should’ve told anyone-- stopped someone from their busy schedules, asked for some more time off to recollect himself. He could’ve begged for Yoongi to look at him, for Taehyung or Jungkook to admit that nothing is the same and everything’s different, for Seokjin to stop telling him that his psychological evaluation was fine and everything that he’s feeling is normal, because--

 

He doesn’t feel like that-- normal. He feels like he’s about to erupt from the inside, and he doesn’t know how to stop it.

 

How can Jimin prevent something he doesn’t know is coming?

 

It’s something that hasn’t left his mind since waking up from his round of episodes the first night in the Bloodbane, and it doesn’t leave his mind as he walks from his room to eat before his mission.

 

                 

 

“Alright, Specialists,” Yoongi calls, eyes trained on his work tablet. His eyes drift up to Jungkook, clearing his throat. “And Corporal Jeon. You all got the debrief?”

 

He glances at everyone to see their heads nod, keeping mind to force his eyes from lingering on a certain soldier. “Repeat it back to me. KT109, first goal.”

 

Asuka leans forward against the belts that have her strapped into her porter shuttle seat, face calm. “Visit the First for a routine checkup of the bunker’s defense systems and aid in the monthly transportation of relief packages.”

 

Yoongi sees Jimin fidget in his seat out of the corner of his eyes. He tries to stifle the wave of worry that crashes up the inside of his chest. “Good. XZ448, second goal.”

 

Xiang, as always, goes stiff at Yoongi’s attention. “Right. Guard the caravans and the entrances to the dome as aid is distributed.”

 

“Yes, that’s right.” He sighs as he shuts his tablet off and tucks it in between his outer thigh and the jumpseat. “All of this shouldn’t take too long, either. Like I said before, a lot of these missions are to grow you all accustomed to not only the real-world chance for battle but also the hierarchy of things.” Yoongi looks up, accidentally meeting Jungkook’s gaze but deciding to keep it. “Just because these missions are rather simplistic in nature and with lower risk than some does not mean that they aren’t dangerous or important. Corporal Jeon agrees, I assume?”

 

“Yes, I do,” Jungkook smiles, eyes sharp as they regard Yoongi. It’s something that’s happened quite a lot over the past few days-- some type of small feud with gazes between the two of them. Yoongi doesn’t even remember who started it but knows he can’t find it in himself to be the one to end it. “All missions have their value.”

 

Nothing is said for the next hour or so of the ride. Yoongi keeps his headphones on and all the way up, ignoring the feeling of Jimin’s eyes on him. It shouldn’t make a thrill shoot up his spine and butterflies wrestle in his stomach every time he remembers it’s there in between fits of dozing off, but it does.

 

He still hasn’t decided what to do about it.

 

It’s when he gets the alert fifteen minutes before landing that he hears a conversation start to pick up behind the sharp notes playing in his ears. He feels heat flush across his face as he turns down the volume from his VisTech, keeping his eyes closed as he listens.

 

“...--om the First Bunker, right?” Asuka, her voice directed away and almost muffled under the sounds of the shuttle. “That’s got to be really exciting, to come back and visit your families.”

 

“Does this mean we have to tag along, Corporal? No offense, but I’d prefer not to dilly-dally in the walls of the First,” Xiang says, his voice far too loud. It explains why Yoongi could hear someone talking over the blasting tones of his music.

 

“Don’t be such a dick, Xiang,” Jimin scoffs. Yoongi completely mutes his headphones at the sound of his voice. His face gets warmer at this own helplessly pitiful action, guilty that this is how he gets to listen to Jimin again instead of simply talking to him. “We won’t be visiting, anyway. I highly doubt my family wants to see either of us.”

 

There’s a pregnant pause in between them all until Jungkook adds, “Let’s just say that Jimin and I love the people that raised us, but we wouldn’t be very welcome. Plus, that’s not the priority of the mission.”

 

“Fair enough,” Asuka says. Yoongi can hear her tapping her fingers against the metal of her jumpseat. “My family don’t like me very much, either. A fiery Japanese girl from the 298th isn’t too big a deal, but I’ve always been one to tell my parents to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine when they comment on my skin mods.”

 

They break out into laughs at Asuka’s comment, the tension that was there prior dissolving into thin air; well, it seems to dissolve, anyway.

 

“Don’t you have a little brother, though, JP?” Asuka asks after a while. Jimin hums as an answer and she continues, “You think he’ll enlist into the Singularity Coalition, too? Maybe seeing us will convince him.”

 

The pause that follows is short by other’s standards, but Yoongi knows Jimin. When he opens his eyes, the look on Jungkook’s face tells him that he’s not the only one. “Jihyunie likes weapons even less than I do,” he jokes, a small chuckle escaping past his lips. Jimin looks so... sad, Yoongi is only now noticing, having spent days avoiding looking at him for far too long. He supposes it’s only his fault for not having seen it sooner. “If he tried to pick up a boot knife and thrown it like Xiang did our first week here, he’d have managed a way to hurt himself with it.”

 

The round of laughs after his words mostly come from Asuka and Xiang.

 

Just as Yoongi is about to look away again, Jimin catches his eye. He’s frozen in place for several long, breathless moments before he averts his gaze again.

 

Yoongi didn’t take Seokjin or Namjoon’s advice. Somehow, he’s stuck in the middle.

 

Sometimes, he’ll find himself about to let it all spill and confess to Jimin during dinner instead of ignoring him and hoarding his headphones to himself. He’ll stay up at night and think about throwing his door open and running to the other side of the Bloodbane where he knows Jimin’s room to be amongst the lower ranks, barge his way in, and touch him.

 

It’s not as much sexual as it is just a deep yearning for Yoongi to be different from how he knows he is. He’ll stare at his ceiling in the wee hours of the morning with Namjoon’s words repeating over and over in his head: maybe Jimin would be okay with the no touching thing. If that were the case with any of the people Yoongi has liked in the past, then he’d have been happy a long time ago.

 

But he wants to try-- he just needs a little more time to grow the courage. He knows that realistically he will break eventually, having spent only a few days of cutting Jimin out as much as he could having left him sleepless and wishful in a way he never thought he’d be.

 

Yoongi’s got it bad-- between the stifling, exponential growth of his feelings and the suffocating grip that his years-long cowardice has on him, he’s stuck between two decisions and still managing to choose neither.

 

During a particularly hard thrust of the porter ship, he wonders if Jimin feels it, too.

 

                 

 

“Hyung.”

 

Jimin looks up from where he’s passing the digital scanner over the cart of relief supplies that he’s kneeled next to. They’ve been checking cargo for all the promised items and no compromisation for most of the day.

 

Jimin has been trying to forget where they are. “Yeah, Kook-ah? What’s up?”

 

“It’s break time. You wanna get a bite to eat?” Jungkook’s face shows his concern, if not a little tension for other reasons besides Jimin’s stiff behavior thus far. “Maybe you should take a load off for a bit, yeah?”

 

“Alright,” Jimin agrees easily, standing from where his knees were tucked into the soft sand of the area outside the First’s walls. He dusts off his exosuit, blinking rapidly when a particularly strong gust of wind sweeps over the barren landscape of his old home and ruffles his hair.

 

It’s funny-- Jimin spent every second of his life up until the SC Bionics just past these walls, yet only made it past them twice. The last, when he was leaving for enlistment.

 

The first… well, he has his scar to remind him of that particular memory every time he takes a shower.

 

“What’s on your mind?” Jungkook asks as they walk into the First, sweaty and exhausted from the mission so far. He didn’t think it’d be so labor-intensive, but he supposes that they have to start somewhere in terms of mission assignments.

 

Jimin wets his bottom lip before answering, only half-avoiding Jungkook’s question with one of his own. “Why’d you come on this mission, Kook-ah? You didn’t have to fill Ke’s spot, you know. You’re a corporal, too-- we’re a whole rank below you, aside from Yoongi. He’s only here because he’s required to be. Isn’t this kind of… menial, to you?”

 

“I wanted to see it one more time,” Jungkook answers easily, as if it doesn’t bother him in the slightest to bring the elephant in the room up. “Plus, I figured that if I were to ever come back, I’d want it to be with you and Tae. Since Tae never goes on these types of missions, I wanted to come with you.”

 

“Oh,” Jimin exhales, not sure why the response makes him feel lighter.

 

“Did you expect to hear something different?” Jungkook has a brow quirked at him.

 

“I don’t know what I expected,” Jimin sighs. “Was just wondering, is all.”

 

They don’t say anything else as they walk into the bottom levels of the bunker, where the marketplaces are. Plural, meaning there is the normal one and the one towards the outskirts of the dome. Jimin remembers spending an awful amount of nights on that side of the bunker when he was younger-- for plenty of reasons, none of them good.

 

An older lady he’s glad to not recognize flags the two of them down, offering some rather sad-looking fruit for sale. Jimin takes what was allocated to him for a break period and offers her a few coins for a couple of them. By the look on her face, he’s clearly overpaying.

 

He remembers now that the prices in the marketplaces used to fluctuate vastly nearly every day. He hasn’t been in the First in so long that he’s even forgetting how he and his family used to survive here.

 

“Want one?” Jimin offers, hand outstretched to Jungkook. Jungkook takes it easily, giving the fruit a hesitant once-over before taking a large bite out of it, his front teeth poking over the edge as he sinks them in, juice spilling over the edges.

 

They walk casually through the marketplace, finding more things to eat. The food tastes better than it looks, but it’s not nearly as appetizing as Jimin remembers. He supposes he’s been spoiled by the healthy diet he has in the Singularity Coalition.

 

The thought that Jihyun must be still struggling just as Jimin was months ago as the only son left to go barter causes something sick and twisted curl in his gut. Jimin knows that it’s guilt he’s experiencing-- he’s been feeling pangs of it a lot, recently.

 

Walking back to their post and continuing their duties seems almost robotic to him.

 

He sees Yoongi talking to soldiers stationed at the First in the corner of his vision the entire time. He forces down whatever emotions bubble up within him at the sight of him and focuses on the task at hand, and if he shoves the carts a little harder into the line-up of supplies, then he pretends not to notice.

 

When all the supplies are filed into the storerooms of the bunker, Jimin leans against one of the outer walls and stares out into the darkness. It wasn’t too far from this entrance that Jimin saw that Other, so many years ago. It’s weird how detached he feels from that reality now, despite the way it still haunts him.

 

Sometimes, emotions make no fucking sense. It’s something Jimin’s known for a long time but hasn’t really had much time to himself to ever acknowledge. But now, he has a room all to himself back at the Bloodbane-- the alone time has given him plenty opportunity to marvel over his ineptitudes in that area of his life now.

 

He’s alone now, propped up against the outer walls of the place he used to call home. ‘Home’ was a bit of a funny word to call it, now that he thinks about it.

 

“Park.” Jimin drags his gaze from the endless expanse of barren wasteland in front of him to look towards the familiar voice, his heartbeat rising with every millisecond.

 

Yoongi stands at the edge of the door, close enough where he could take a few steps back and be hidden by the steel enforcing it. “Yes?” Jimin tries, his voice almost failing against the sound of the wind buffeting the bunker’s sides.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Jimin scoffs, his next words almost coming out as a snarl before he thinks twice about it, “Why does it matter to you, Lieutenant?” He doesn’t like the flash of emotion that crosses Yoongi’s face, but he stares anyway, arms crossed and gaze stern.

 

It’s all in an effort to hide what he’s been feeling. He’s reminded again how tired he is of feeling this way.

 

Yoongi averts his eyes, “Jimin…”

 

“Don’t ‘Jimin’ me if you can’t even look at me when you do it,” he whispers harshly, stuck somewhere in between wanting to hurt Yoongi and wanting to hold him.

 

Having the thought alone shocks him to the core, and suddenly he can’t think of anything else to say, his confidence blown away with the sand scratching along his skin. It’s a conflicting concoction of emotions, to say the least.

 

“I just wanted to know if it was a bad idea to bring you on this mission. I know your past isn’t--”

 

“Don’t bring up my past like it’s something that could inhibit me in my duties, Yoongi,” Jimin bites, not particularly wanting to be angry at Yoongi but just unable to control how it rises in his throat and spills out.

 

The rejection stings as much as the pain of watching Yoongi flinch from Jimin’s words alone, a barely-repressed reaction but there all the same. “Don’t ask me about something that you don’t want to know the answer to. Don’t act like you care when you haven’t had a proper conversation with me outside of work in days.”

 

Yoongi meets his eyes again, something guarded in the way he dawns a relaxed expression. “Jimin, I--”

 

“I don’t wanna hear whatever excuses you might have right now, Yoongi. I really don’t-- not when you’re just gonna clam up on me after. You know, I told you that you only have to tell me things when you want to in an effort to make you comfortable, right? And that still stands,” Jimin takes a breath in an effort to calm himself. “But I didn’t say it to give you a reason to use what I tell you against me, and I sure as hell didn’t say it so that you could hide everything from me.”

 

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, frozen in place as he stares at Jimin-- expressionless, except for the glassiness of his eyes. Jimin takes it as a trick of the light, unable to be vulnerable enough in this moment for the alternative.

 

“I don’t care about your past or any of that shit. I just thought that if I did something to offend you, you’d tell me. But I guess I was fucking wrong,” Jimin laughs bitterly, feeling like a sore-loser who’s lost a lot more than just his temper. “I just wanna be there for you, is that so bad?”

 

“There’s a lot that you don’t know about me, Park.”

 

“Then fucking tell me!” Jimin nearly screams at him, unable to reign in the raw emotion clawing at his insides anymore. Part of him is glad that there’s no one left outside the bunker’s walls beside the two of them. “Or don’t. Don’t tell me anything, and we can go back to being just comrades--”

 

“I don’t want that,” Yoongi cuts him off, expression hard. “I don’t want to go back to being just comrades.”

 

“Then what do you want? Because I’m getting some mixed signals, here. One minute, we’re fine and happy and how friends should be, and then the next, we’re like this! I’ll accept you in any way, but I can’t just sit around and--”

 

“Hyung!” Jimin quiets down at the sound of Jungkook’s voice. Footsteps follow, and Jimin can’t look at Yoongi anymore, too upset and too close to saying something he might regret. Maybe he already has. “Hyung, it’s time to sleep!”

 

Jungkook approaches the two of them quickly enough, either not picking up on the tense atmosphere or deciding to ignore it. Jimin hopes it’s the former rather than the latter. “Jimin-hyung, they set up a place for us all to sleep for the night.”

 

“All of us?”

 

“Yeah,” Jungkook takes a deep breath, as if he had run all the way over here. “Didn’t…” Jungkook glances at Yoongi, who is stiff as a rod and staring at the ground. “Didn’t you tell him, Lieutenant? I thought that’s why you went off.”

 

“I was just about to get to it,” Yoongi says through a clenched jaw.

 

“Oh,” Jungkook pants, wiping at his forehead. He looks between the two of them before grabbing onto Jimin’s elbow, grip loose and warm against the wear of his exosuit. “C’mon, then, Hyung. Gotta get one of the good bunks.” Well, that explains the running. “Xiang and Asuka are still eating last time I saw, we can get a lead on them.”

 

“Kook-ah, I don’t think that I can--” He’s cut off by Jungkook dragging him along like an overexcited puppy, Jimin’s boots digging in the sand until he follows along.

 

It’s with one last look at Yoongi’s tense shoulders that Jimin is pulled into the bunker-- not feeling like anything’s resolved, like he didn’t have enough time to try to do just that. He doesn’t want to stop talking-- some twisted part of him enjoying the arguing as long as Yoongi looks at him again-- but his chaos is stored back in the back of his mind once again by the incessant pull of Jungkook’s hand on the crook of his elbow.

 

Jimin hopes he hasn’t made it worse.

 

                 

 

Yoongi kicks at a rock by his feet before slumping down, leaning back to prop himself against the very wall Jimin was just against.

 

He should’ve just kept his worry to himself-- should’ve let Jungkook worry about Jimin during their trip back to the place that’s caused Jimin so much pain and suffering. Yoongi briefly wonders why he keeps finding himself seeking out Jimin’s presence despite his feelings of also wanting to avoid him, but one quick flash of imagery of a Jimin red-in-the-face with anger and the flip of his stomach reminds him a little too harshly for his liking.

 

He stares at the moon for an indeterminate amount before he receives a notification on his VisTech.

 

It’s from Hoseok.

 

They still won’t let me in to see Ke. How’s your mission going?

 

Yoongi sighs at the message before sending a quick reply. You know the rules— only doctors or people he specifically requests. And it’s going fine. No Others, caravans received successfully. Should be back by mid-afternoon tomorrow.

 

He closes his eyes in a long moment of reckless vulnerability, letting his guard down before another notification pops up. He’s glad that there’s no change in the area outside of the bunker when he opens them to answer.

 

Jimin?

 

Yoongi’s lips twitch upwards at the corners despite the heaviness the name carries. Don’t wanna talk about it.

 

Hoseok’s reply is almost instant. Don’t wait.

 

Yoongi scoffs at his friend’s message, about to silence any notifications from him when Hoseok adds something that makes him take pause.

 

If you want him, get him.

 

Yoongi frowns. He briefly wonders if the expression looks odd to civilians, seeing as he’s frowning at something that none of them can see. Take your own advice.

 

That ought to show Hoseok to tell Yoongi what to do when it comes to his love life when the General can’t even get over his teenage pining over a goofy cadet who trips over the tips of his feet like there’s a rope constantly held out in front of him.

 

At least Ke has good taste in music, too, he supposes.

 

Yoongi rolls his eyes when he gets another notification. He really needs to stop getting distracted by his own thoughts and just mute the guy at this hour of the night.

 

Don’t wait for someone else to determine the outcomes in your life, Yoongi. If you want Jimin, and Jimin wants you, then get him.

 

Yoongi is stock still and rigid against the wind blowing sand through his hair and into his eyes as Hoseok keeps going, blue lighting up his vision constantly as the messages roll in.

 

We’re in the middle of the apocalypse— there’s no time to wait around and see if you’ll get better. You have to do it yourself.

 

Out of pure brattiness and maybe something else, Yoongi quickly decides upon a reply. Like you’re one to talk about waiting.

 

Hoseok’s comeback is instant. The difference between you and I is the presence of effort.

 

Yoongi seethes at Hoseok’s words, ready to grill him on his disrespect. He stops when he reads what Hoseok sends next.

 

This is your chance at being happy again. What have you got to lose?

 

He wants to say everything-- he has everything to lose. He almost does, but then Hoseok adds something else.

 

What have you got to gain?

 

And Yoongi… he thinks about that for, unsurprisingly enough, the first time since his talk with Seokjin and Namjoon.

 

He could gain a lot of things-- namely, Jimin. He could be happy.

 

And even if he couldn’t have Jimin like that— even if he couldn’t be with him in that way— he could still be happier. Happier than he is right now, feeling all types of self-pity and a lot like a useless pile of hopeless pining.

 

He’s so tired of waiting— waiting for what, exactly? Waiting for his problems to go away at the drop of the hat? For Jimin to somehow magically come to him and tell him it’s okay that he can’t stand being touched, that he can’t bear the very thought of actually having intimacy with someone despite how badly he yearns for it?

 

It’s been only days not talking to Jimin, and even having an unpleasant argument has Yoongi feeling more energized than he has in that long. Looking at Jimin, talking to Jimin, hearing Jimin-- even if all under a negative context-- it sets some sort of twisted satisfaction curling in Yoongi’s gut. He wants more of it, preferably from pleasant conversation rather than the alternative.

 

Maybe he should spend less time thinking and more time doing. Maybe Hoseok is right— Yoongi isn’t putting in the effort. He’s just sitting around in a bunch of sand and dirt, his exosuit clinging to his clammy skin despite the cold of the night and waiting.

 

Waiting for something to change. Waiting for Jimin to come back.

 

But he isn’t. He won’t come back— not unless Yoongi gives him a reason to.

 

After the mission, I’ll try, he sends to Hoseok in the midst of his blurring emotions. Maybe forcing it out of himself as he had with Namjoon and Seokjin will solve his problems. Maybe letting Jimin in would fix things, make the tension between them not necessarily disappear but become something clear, something finite-- something that Yoongi can wrap his head around and understand.

 

Maybe it’s time for him to tell Jimin about his past. Whatever he needs to do, he needs to do it fast-- he thought he could hold out a lot longer than this but if anything, his endless overthinking has made it all far worse.

 

After the mission, he’ll try. He’ll try to tell Jimin just why he has reservations about the two of them, and then maybe that’ll fix things. It’s far too optimistic for the Yoongi of only a few months ago, but maybe it’s optimistic enough for the Yoongi of now.

 

He can only hope.

 

                 

 

“What was that about, Kook-ah?” Jimin asks as he settles into the thin mattress on the floor. Xiang and Asuka each got a bed to themselves along with Yoongi’s already reserved spot as the squad leader. Jimin and Jungkook hadn’t run fast enough and are now stuck with the flimsy cotton shoved in the corner of the small room.

 

The springs dig into his back when Jungkook slumps in next to him. “Dunno what you’re talkin’ about.”

 

Jimin huffs out a breath when Jungkook snuggles up to him, heavy limbs wrapping around him as he pretends he doesn’t know exactly what Jimin is talking about. “Don’t play dumb, Jungkook. Also, this is hardly appropriate for a mission.”

 

“It’s like when we were kids,” Jungkook mumbles into Jimin’s shoulder, propping his chin against it as he turns his face to speak more clearly. “It’s perfectly appropriate, considering where we are.”

 

Jimin focuses on the tone of Jungkook’s voice, the way it almost lilts like a flower as it slips past his lips. It makes him think of their conversation earlier. “Are you sure you’re only here to visit the First with me? Is there something else you want to tell me, Jungkook?”

 

It’s a long time before either of them say anything. Xiang and Asuka are already settled in, the soft, blue blinking of their VisTechs letting Jimin know that neither of them is really present despite being physically so. Yoongi is nowhere to be found. Jimin tries not to focus on that.

 

He’s about to ask why Jungkook is so hesitant to speak when they have as close to privacy as possible given their surroundings when Jungkook mutters something quiet and unintelligible against Jimin’s exosuit.

 

“What was that?” Jimin asks, focusing his attention more closely on Jungkook’s voice.

 

“I found them,” Jungkook repeats, this time loud enough for Jimin to hear. “I found my parents.”

 

“Oh,” Jimin exhales, no other response coming to mind at the information. He’s caught-off-guard, he’ll admit. He was expecting to have this conversation with Taehyung when they all had enough time to delve into the deeper issues. “I--”

 

“It’s not a big deal, Hyung,” Jungkook sighs, cutting Jimin off before he has the opportunity to truly begin his endless worrying. “I didn’t bring it up to you or Tae yet because, well… they forgot about me.”

 

“Jungkook…” Jimin feels pressure build behind his eyes at the thought regardless of Jungkook’s efforts at shutting it down. He turns on his side, tucking Jungkook’s head under his, fingers carding through the hair at the back of his head in an effort to comfort him.

 

But Jungkook doesn’t cry-- he chuckles. The sound is soft and a little muffled against Jimin’s collarbone as Jungkook slings his heavy arm around Jimin’s waist. “Don’t worry, Jimin-hyung. They remembered after I told them who I was.”

 

Jimin’s sadness turns into irritation at Jungkook’s antics, “That’s not funny, Jungkook.” He tries to say it as sternly as possible but then Jungkook chuckles again, the vibrations against Jimin’s chest causing his anger to deflate before it even had the chance to really exist. “Where were they?”

 

“The 32nd Bunker.”

 

Jimin quirks a brow, even if Jungkook can’t see it. “All the way over there? That’s on the opposite side of New Seoul compared to here.”

 

“Yeah. It wasn’t hard to look them up once I started picking up ranks in the SC,” Jungkook shuffles, the mattress squeaking with the movement. “But meeting them… I don’t know. It feels like I don’t know them. And I know that, realistically,  that was the whole point of me leaving-- to find them, and then get to know them.”

 

Jungkook takes a long pause, “But even after months of me going back to visit, I realized I was spending more time on the shuttlecraft on the trip over there than actually with them. And even with the time that I did spend with them, I just kept thinking about home.”

 

“Home?” Jimin whispers.

 

“Yeah, you and Taehyung,” he murmurs. “You guys are my home. And… I left you.”

 

Jimin blinks and feels wetness glide across his face and into the mattress below them, not really surprised at how fast the tears brim the corner of his eyes, considering the stability of his emotions as of late.

 

Jungkook sighs, “I knew when the two of you enlisted.” Jimin’s breath hitches in his throat and Jungkook continues, “I knew that you’d both come for me because I’d have done the same for you two, if the tables were turned. It took me so long to reach out because I was scared that you’d… be upset. Upset that I left you behind for some crazy dream.”

 

“It’s not crazy to want to belong,” Jimin croaks out. “I couldn’t be mad at you for doing something that you needed to do. I’m sure Taehyung would agree.”

 

“I know,” Jungkook mumbles immediately, without an ounce of hesitation. “I still could’ve handled it better. I’ll tell Taehyung when we get back, I was just--” He cuts himself off, taking a deep breath. “I guess I’m just glad I can be with you guys again.”

 

“I’m glad, too, Kook-ah,” Jimin exhales, his voice having more tenderness than he intended.

 

It’s several minutes of quiet in the room after. Yoongi still doesn’t show up and Jimin feels concern wash over him when he checks the time on his VisTech. He can hear the sounds of the bunker creak around them, so familiar to his ears after years of his life hearing them.

 

Jimin finds himself staying up as he waits for Yoongi to at least come back. Asuka and Xiang are fast asleep soon enough, and he feels when Jungkook’s breathing evens out.

 

He isn’t sure when Yoongi comes in, or if he does at all. He falls asleep too quickly even if he tries his hardest not to, feeling that he might get a night’s rest without the dreams that usually accompany him.

Chapter Text

Yoongi wakes up in a cold sweat— his exosuit clinging to his body, the fabric damp with moisture from his skin. His VisTech woke him up first as he planned, even if he had gone to sleep the last out of his squad. He shifts onto his back, head slinking to the side as he gazes lazily around the room.

 

Asuka and Xiang seem to be waking up in their separate makeshift beds. Yoongi’s eyes land on Jungkook’s broad back— knowing that Jimin is on the other side of him makes something twist in his chest, pulling the corners of his lips down out of instinct.

 

He sits up, wiping at his face haggardly in an effort to wipe the sleep from his eyes. His gaze lands on the gloves he always keeps right next to his pillowcase.

 

Yoongi sighs. It’s going to be a long day.

 

Heading out to take care of the duties he’s set as squad leader for their mission in the First isn’t something he’d prefer to be doing but something he takes stride in, nonetheless. He’s still sleep-deprived and emotionally unstable. Yoongi also finds himself flinching at every brush of a stranger against his exosuit as he walks through the crowd, despite his best efforts to get a death grip on his stature in an effort to remain composed and collected as a lieutenant.

 

All Yoongi wants to do is go home. It doesn’t help that it’s getting colder, a tell-tale sign of the season slowly but surely changing to winter. He’s not looking forward to it at all, the thoughts that cloud his mind every time he’s reminded of that very fact and the memories associated with the time of year finally approaching causing him to sometime pause in the middle of a conversation with officials from the First.

 

It’s about an hour later that his entire squad is up and awake. Not even Jungkook, who Yoongi has discovered to be a rather energetic individual, stares blankly at him, face drooping with fatigue. It should be normal for a man of his rank to be well-accustomed by now to the fate of sleepless nights that missions like these often harbor. Yoongi takes Jungkook’s demeanor as emotional stress rather than an actual lack of rest.

 

Jimin won’t look him in the eye. Yoongi doesn’t know quite yet how to react to that, having the dynamic of no eye-contact flip completely between the two in less than twenty-four hours— first, it was him who couldn’t meet Jimin’s gaze. Now, it’s the other way around. He isn’t sure if he’s allowed to feel tiffed about that, considering it’d be hypocritical on his part.

 

He does, however, know that he needs to fix it. He just has to find the right way to do it.

 

“So, same agenda as yesterday,” Yoongi starts, eyes glancing between the rest of his team with a type of focus he hopes will convince them into a higher state of alertness. At the slight way they all seem to perk up, even Jimin, Yoongi knows it works enough. “Only exception is that we’ll be leaving right after lunch. Ideally, we should leave before but…”

 

He tries not to be obvious about how he rakes his gaze over the apparent bags under Jimin’s eyes. He feels the rest of the squad’s stare on him, even if it’s not the one he wants. “We’ll take it slow. I’ll let General Jung and the Intel division know. Same posts as yesterday.”

 

He gets a few grumbles in reply before they all go their separate ways-- Xiang and Asuka to the entrance closer to the East, Jimin and Jungkook the one to the West. Yoongi gets to work on planning the next aid mission for the First, which is set to be several months from now but something the squad leader of the prior drop-off is required to set up in case of emergency relief.

 

The rest of the day is what is expected of a mission of this nature-- boring, orderly, and painfully slow. He counts the seconds as if they were minutes, catching himself whenever his thoughts drift off in the middle of conversations throughout the day. He can’t help but feel antsy today, fingers twitching and drumming against any surface he can get them on as he absentmindedly listens to new aid plans or reports from the First’s stationed soldiers.

 

Yoongi is walking back to meet up with the cadets for lunch before they head to the shuttlecraft for the close of their mission only a few hours later. It feels a lot longer than that.

 

Asuka and Xiang are standing by a market stall, chatting idly as they comment on their surroundings. Yoongi distantly thinks that the three of them look odd without Ke next to them, facilitating their conversations that seem to always end up with Asuka cackling and Xiang blushing red like a tomato.

 

He looks forward to when the rambunctious soldier is recertified for the active roster. Yoongi briefly wonders if the new skin mods he had secretly ordered for the new specialist have been installed yet. He isn’t sure which ones they were exactly, but Seokjin had mentioned Ke needing new ones. Yoongi hopes they don’t take too long and prevent him from joining the squad on the next mission.

 

He’s dragged from his thoughts when Jimin approaches them, dragging his feet. He’s got a light sweat dotting his forehead, the poor lighting of the bunker reflecting in the tiny beads of moisture that Yoongi sees the closer Jimin gets.

 

Yoongi’s hand twitches at his side as Jimin clears his throat, his eyes still trained away from him and on Asuka instead. “Jungkookie had to go to the restroom and finish up some things, but he’ll be joining along soon.”

 

Asuka offers him a small smile, nodding before she tilts her head to the side inquisitively. “What’s good to eat here, anyway, JP? Didn’t get the chance to ask you yesterday.” Her eyes flicker to Yoongi’s for a moment before training back onto the honey-eyed specialist.

 

Yoongi rolls back one of his shoulders tensely, averting his gaze as he feels heat crawl across his cheeks. Jimin doesn’t seem to notice the interaction. “Well,” Jimin sighs, pursing his lips in consideration. “There’s nothing really that good, to be honest.”

 

“Oh, don’t play,” Asuka grins, walking over and slinging an arm around Jimin’s shoulder. Yoongi and Xiang both stare as she starts to lead him down the marketplace stalls, not even checking behind to see if the rest of the squad is following. “I’m sure there’s gotta be something you ate down here that’s killer. Everyone has some favorite food from home that they always remember, even if it’s awful.”

 

Yoongi sees the slight upcurl of the corner of Jimin’s lip before he hears him chuckle, shoulders slackening under Asuka’s hold. “I think… maybe you’d like the fish. I don’t know.”

 

“Fish?” Xiang pipes up, able to keep up easily with his long legs yet still looking awfully like he’s stumbling to do so. “You all have access to the oceans still?”

 

Jimin’s face falls the slightest. “Ah, no. We don’t. But the area around used to be known for its seafood before the war, at least that’s what my parents said. I think that they grow them in the stalls in the lower districts, but…” Jimin bites his lower lip. “It’s not a good idea to go down there.”

 

Yoongi’s mind drifts back to that night, now seemingly so long ago, where Jimin told him about the other things found in the lower districts. Jimin’s tense expression must not be apparent to the other two because they don’t even do a double-take as they watch him talk.

 

Yoongi does, though-- notice the shift in Jimin’s eyes from something light to something bothered. It puts him on edge, makes him want to change the subject. He finds something to say after a noticeable lull in the conversation.

 

“Maybe they’ll have it up here?” He tries, clearing his throat as he presses his pursed lips against a closed fist, a type of uncertainty in every one of his movements.

 

Jimin falters in step along Asuka for only a moment before glancing back, face guarded. “Maybe…” He trails off, eyes searching between Yoongi’s for a short moment before he turns his attention back to where Asuka is leading them all.

 

Asuka points at a row of vegetables hanging from a rack on one of the stalls they pass and is about to speak up when Jimin halts completely in his tracks, nearly making her topple over.

 

“JP? What’s up? Did you trip?” She drops her arm from around her shoulders and gives him an inquisitive look.

 

Jimin has gone rigid, the line of his spine straight as an arrow, face stony as he stares ahead. Yoongi glances between Xiang and Asuka when Jimin doesn’t respond, the both of their confused expressions causing something unsettling to flood Yoongi.

 

It seems they all collectively gape as Jimin just shakes his head and blinks, seeming to come out of a stupor. “Sorry,” he smiles sheepishly at the three of them, demeanor having taken a complete one-eighty. “I thought I saw someone familiar. It was just my imagination.”

 

Even Xiang looks like the attitude change has given him whiplash. “An old friend, maybe?”

 

Jimin’s smile turns the slightest amounts of sour-- after months of knowing him, it seems that even the two of them pick up on his discomfort, despite not knowing about Jimin’s past as Yoongi does.

 

Or maybe they do know-- somehow, though, Yoongi feels like that’s not quite right, if the way Jimin tries to reign in his emotion in front of them is any indication. His shoulders stiffen again, his face going tight. “You could say that,” Jimin laughs half-heartedly, scratching at the back of his neck. “Anyway, I think we should split up and look for food. If we’re in a group, we’ll get haggled more for sales that aren’t really… up to the normal standard.”

 

“Oh,” Asuka breathes, gaze flickering between all of them before landing back on Jimin again, who is currently staring out into the crowd of people shuffling around them. “Okay.” She turns to Yoongi. “That’s alright, right, Lieutenant Min?”

 

“Of course,” Yoongi says, voice coming out rough and low. He gulps before speaking again, not liking the way Jimin’s expression looks as he stares out into the masses. “We’ll meet back here after. I’ll wait for Corporal Jeon here.”

 

Jimin doesn’t even fight that point, not sparing a glance towards any of them as he stalks off, disappearing into the crowd. The other two specialists slowly slink away as well, and Yoongi is left trying to find a head of dark brown hair amongst all the unfamiliar faces-- it’s a lot like searching for a needle in a bunch of other needles, considering the First has a knack for rejecting things like skin mods.

 

He waits around for what feels like a lot longer than twenty minutes-- if he didn’t have his VisTech blinking in his iris and telling him the time passed, he would’ve thought so.

 

Jungkook comes along eventually, searching around in confusion before his eyes land on Yoongi. Maybe he had forgotten to mention that the rest of the squad had moved along for food and that it was only him that was waiting for the corporal. Jungkook has got what looks to resemble a sandwich in his grasp, so maybe it never really concerned him at all what the rest of the squad was up to.

 

“Where’s Jimin-hyung?” Jungkook asks when he’s in Yoongi’s hearing range. He swallows down his food in a few bites, tossing his napkin into a nearby bin easily.

 

“I’m not sure,” Yoongi replies simply, ignoring the glare that Jungkook gives him at the lackluster answer. Yoongi sighs before adding, “He’s getting food, like the rest of the squad. I’d say you should do the same, but clearly, that’s no longer necessary.”

 

Jungkook eyes him up and down. It seems that now Jimin isn’t there, the way the two of them truly regard one another is out in the open. Yoongi doesn’t even shift, holding his ground as he stares back. “And what’re you gonna do in the meantime?” Jungkook asks, gaze piercing.

 

“I’ll wait for all of you to eat before I do the same.”

 

Jungkook tries to hide a scoff under his breath. “How courteous of you, Lieutenant Min.”

 

They stare at each other for a long moment-- ignoring the bustle of the crowd pushing past them, the sounds of the bunker echoing around-- before Yoongi decides to say the obvious. “That sounds a bit sarcastic there, Corporal Jeon.”

 

Jungkook smirks, tilting his head back in challenge. “Ah, I wouldn’t say that.”

 

“Why don’t you like me, exactly?” Yoongi’s expression is flat as he regards the bratty demeanor that Jungkook has so quickly assumed.

 

“I could ask the same of you, Yoongi- ssi,” Jungkook snorts. Despite his tone, he shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot.

 

Yoongi isn’t one to miss these kinds of things-- that doesn’t change now. “You learn that attitude from Jimin?”

 

Jungkook’s stare goes hard. “You shouldn’t be so informal with him.”

 

Yoongi searches across his face. “Why not? He’s my friend.”

 

He receives a sour smile in return. “Friends don’t avoid each other. You hurt my Hyung’s feelings.”

 

“Oh, I see,” Yoongi sighs through tight lips. “So, they don’t avoid each other but they leave without a trace. Am I getting that--” Yoongi cuts himself off-- not only as he realizes that what he’s saying is a low blow, but at the way that Jungkook comes up into his personal space, glowering down at him.

 

Despite his immediate regret-- not because he doesn’t want to tell Jungkook to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, but because hurting Jungkook means hurting Jimin-- Yoongi can’t keep his mouth shut, “Oh? Did I touch a nerve, Jeon?”

 

“You don’t know fucking shit about my nerves, Lieutenant Min,” Jungkook growls lowly. “I’d watch--”

 

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Yoongi and Jungkook both look away from each other to find Asuka a little ways away, Xiang standing by her side quietly, eyes wide. “Are you two trying to pick a fight in the middle of the First? What’s with all the seething testosterone in the air?”

 

Yoongi and Jungkook step a foot back from each other, anger dissipating quickly at the murderous glare Asuka gives the both of them. “Un-fucking-believable,” Asuka scoffs. “I leave for fucking ten minutes and you two high-ranking officers whip your dicks out and start wavi--”

 

“‘Suka,” Xiang mutters absentmindedly, his attention somewhere else as he tugs on her elbow, fingers slipping against her exosuit.

 

“Not now, Xiang,” Asuka says, still shooting daggers with her eyes at the two of them. “I cannot believe you guys couldn’t wait until we were at least back on the shuttlecraft for this. It’s been tense all mission, and I’ve been trying to ignore it for the best of the squad but acting this way in front of civilians? JP is already--”

 

“Asuka--”

 

“What, Xiang?” Asuka snaps, lifting her gaze up to glare at him instead. She follows his line of sight, “Are you gonna start, now-- oh.” Her eyes widen, stare directed where Xiang’s is.

 

Yoongi’s follows, too. He doesn’t like what he sees.

 

The crowd has seemed to thin, civilians having left the area at the sound of a shouting red-haired Japanese woman yelling at her comrades. Or maybe it’s at what other scene is being made in the area, only a few meters away.

 

Jimin is standing there, frozen in place and clearly on edge, his back turned to the rest of them. Yoongi’s eyes drift from him to the younger male in front of him, whose face he can see and who bears a striking resemblance to the aforementioned. The same lips, softer cheeks, the same mop of dark-brown hair and honeyed eyes--

 

“Who’s that?” Asuka murmurs, the words coming out soft and meek compared to her demeanor only seconds ago.

 

“Jihyunie,” Jungkook answers. “Jimin-hyung’s baby brother,” he adds bitterly. Jihyun doesn’t have the expression of a younger sibling seeing his older brother for the first time in months-- his face is stony and apathetic, disgust and anger and a hurt that Yoongi can’t relate to laced in the look he’s giving Jimin.

 

Jimin, who is standing there like a deer stuck in headlights. Jimin, who only tenses further when Jihyun spits something vicious yet unknown before stalking off in the other direction, not sparing a single curious bystander or his own brother a second glance.

 

The crowd continues to move around them-- never really stopped, despite the initial thinning at Yoongi and Jungkook’s glaring match and Asuka’s outburst. Now that those have diminished, strangers’ faces continue to crowd the marketplace.

 

No one looks at Jimin except for his squad. It’s as if for that one moment, the bunker was focused on him, only him-- and now, he’s being slowly degraded away by the current of people who merely glance at the clearly tense scene and shrug, only to move on to the next market stall.

 

It’s when Jimin starts to stomp away towards an alley that Yoongi finds himself moving, too. He’s stopped in his tracks by an uninvited hand on his forearm, grip tight and unyielding. He looks up into Jungkook’s eyes and nearly snarls at the surge of aggressiveness that ebbs into him at the notion of someone stopping him from going to help Jimin.

 

“Hands off of me, Corporal. That’s a fucking order.”

 

“Or what?” Jungkook bites back, grip tightening. “Hyung doesn’t need your drama right now; he’s clearly upset enough as it is. He needs me.”

 

“Don’t assume what JP134 needs, Corporal Jeon,” Yoongi seethes, yanking his arm from Jungkook’s grasp harshly. “I said to stay here. Take Specialists XZ448 and KT109 back to the shuttlecraft. We’re leaving as scheduled-- I’m just going to go get him.”

 

“What about JP?” Xiang asks, expression worried. It unsettles Yoongi, to see even Xiang show concern over Jimin’s state of mind. “What’re we gonna do about him?”

 

“Did I stutter, XZ448?” Yoongi says clearly, wincing at his current inability to control the direction of the swell of emotion rising up his chest. Xiang doesn’t look too tiffed despite the sharp bite to Yoongi’s words, giving Yoongi a curt nod before pursing his lips together tightly.

 

Jungkook and Yoongi glare at each other in challenge for a long moment before Asuka sighs, turning around and latching a hand on Xiang’s exosuit sleeve. She starts to pull him along wordlessly in the direction of porter ship, giving Jungkook no choice but to follow. Jungkook looks like he’s about to give one last biting remark before he thinks better of it, not missing the way Yoongi’s demeanor becomes darker the longer he has to wait.

 

Yoongi doesn’t do a double-take as he turns around and stalks after Jimin, feet taking him swiftly. It’s with the peek of black, shiny exosuit slipping past a broken down, stone wall that gives him the path to take.

 

He’s about to call out to him to get him to stop when Jimin picks up a sprint, dashing out of the alley and around the corner. Yoongi curses under his breath and chases after him.

 

Jimin takes him around every bend, every loop around the market district of the First-- Yoongi finds himself stumbling more than once, losing Jimin for a second before finding his familiar crown of hair in the masses of unfamiliar faces. Part of him is glad for his endless pining and awful habit of staring at the younger during training, if that’s what’s helping him go after him now.

 

By the time Jimin finally stops running, they’re in another alley-- this one just as dank and dark as the last, Yoongi’s gloved fingers slipping on the rough slope of the crumbling stone wall as he leans against it to catch his breath. Every exhale and inhale is labored compared to usual, and it occurs to Yoongi that the exhaustion-- both emotional and physical-- he’s been experiencing as of late has taken a toll on his body a lot more than he had originally thought, if he’s losing his breath over only a high-speed chase.

 

When the roaring of blood rushing through his ears dims, Yoongi looks up to see Jimin kicking and punching at something in the middle of the alley. Yoongi’s vision swims for a second more before the image comes into clarity-- the tension in his shoulders, the sound of banging as he slams his fists into what looks to be the side of a dumpster, angry whimpers sounding out into the air.

 

Yoongi scrambles from leaning against the wall, fists clenched at his side before he reaches up to grab at Jimin’s shoulders, turning him around and shoving him roughly away from the metal he was forcing his frustration into. Jimin swats at Yoongi’s hands and tries to go back to it, but Yoongi shoves him back again, staggering back against the wall behind him.

 

Jimin has his eyes screwed shut as he screams, tears running down his bright red face,  “Leave me the fuck alone, Jungkook!”

 

“I’m not Jungkook,” Yoongi says as calmly as he can, heart hammering against his ribs harder the longer he watches Jimin crumble in on himself. Jimin’s eyes flutter open, the wetness clinging to his lashes glinting against whatever light seems to seep into even the darkest corners of the First.

 

Yoongi watches the anger bleed into shame-- watches Jimin close himself off in a way Yoongi can relate too much to, the younger sliding his back down the wall to sit on the dirty floor of the alleyway. He pulls his knees up to his chest, burying his face in the dip between his legs that the position provides.

 

Yoongi doesn’t know how to react to the stark contrast of the silence now compared to the enraged ruckus that Jimin was causing only moments ago. It’s dizzying, the switch-- but Yoongi recognizes it for what it is.

 

Hurt. Jimin is hurt, and Yoongi wants to make him feel better.

 

“Park,” Yoongi breathes, struggling to let down his own guard even now. He doesn’t know how to fix this, doesn’t want to assume anything from Jimin’s interaction with his younger brother aside from the obvious-- Jimin is upset. “We’ve got to leave.”

 

Jimin laughs wetly against his knees, the sound muffled and sour. He doesn’t lift his head.

 

Yoongi feels pressure build behind his eyes the longer he stares at Jimin, so small and folded in on himself. Yoongi moves to kneel down in front of him, wringing his hands together nervously as he regards the younger. “Jimin.”

 

Jimin doesn’t say anything, sitting there and seething quietly. He speaks up after a long minute, “Leave.” His voice is rougher than usual, wet and scratchy as it grates Yoongi’s ears.

 

The world outside the alley hasn’t stopped-- it’s still going, no one even having spared more than a glance into it when Jimin had kicked at the dumpster and emptied his lungs in anguish.

 

Yoongi doesn’t know what to do, at first. He’s always been someone to show that he cares for his friends through the comfort of distance-- a small remark here and there, the sliding of tissues across a table, or the physical and emotional space that he often provides as well as seeks when dealing with his own troubles.

 

He’s well aware of his want to touch Jimin-- to comfort Jimin and tell him that it’s okay, that everything is going to get better and that they’re going to go back to the Bloodbane and forget this mission ever occured in the first place. But something stronger lies in Yoongi than his want to touch Jimin.

 

He wants to trust him.

 

Yoongi takes a risk-- to others, it’d be nothing but to him, it’s a decision that he’s avoided taking in over half a decade. He’s still kneeled in front of Jimin, and after a long moment of hesitation, he sits next to him, back pressing against the wall, the cold of the stone seeping through his exosuit to his skin.

 

He reaches out and touches Jimin’s shoulder again, gloved fingers splaying out carefully, gently across the surface instead of harshly as they were before. He thinks if it weren’t so loud in the bunker, he’d be able to hear the slip of the leather on his fingers across the polyester of Jimin’s exosuit. Yoongi feels the sweat pooling inside his gloves, the hitch in Jimin’s breath even against his fingertips.

 

A wrecked sob escapes Jimin’s lips, a delayed reaction to Yoongi’s touch, muffled by his position.

 

Yoongi’s immediate reaction is to pull away, unsure if reaching out was the right choice and vocalizes so, “‘M sorry.” He steels himself at the way Jimin’s form goes completely tense, forcing himself to grab at one of Jimin’s limp hands, curling his fingers around the heat of Jimin’s ungloved palms.

 

He traces his thumb across the swollen, bloody state of Jimin’s knuckles. Yoongi can hear his own pulse.

 

It’s suddenly too intimate-- too close-- and Yoongi is stuck frozen, in the middle of anguish and some sort of sick satisfaction at the way Jimin’s fingers curl back around his palm, at how Jimin won’t let him go. But then Jimin turns his face, cheek red and pushed up against his knee. He looks at Yoongi through a watery gaze, eyes red-rimmed and puffy, nose leaking as he sniffles softly.

 

Yoongi’s heart tries to claw its way out of his chest at the sight for more reasons than, at the moment, he can ever hope to consider.

 

He’s sure he’ll think about it later, the soft way the corner of Jimin’s lips slowly quirk up, the sad way it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He doesn’t tell Yoongi to be sorry or to not worry, doesn’t regard him as if Yoongi’s touch is some kind of gift.

 

Yoongi hasn’t willingly touched another out of an effort to comfort, out of an effort to support, in years. He knows Jimin has to have some kind of idea by now of Yoongi’s tendency to avoid these kinds of situations, if his careful behavior around him so far is any indication.

 

Yet Jimin sits there, hand in his, offering Yoongi a sad but sweet, half-lidded look-- as if touching Yoongi isn’t some burden, but something kind. Something comforting. Something… normal.

 

Yoongi doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t know what to do-- doesn’t want to move, in case he ruins it all and flinches, or maybe even draws in closer instead. The worst part of it all is the uncertainty of it-- with others, Yoongi knows what his own reaction will be. With Jimin, he’s always surprised.

 

Yoongi doesn’t know what to say. He’s lucky he doesn’t have to.

 

“He said he didn’t have a brother anymore,” Jimin croaks out, voice crackly and wet and just as vulnerable as Yoongi feels with every movement of Jimin’s now-moving thumb against the back of his palm.

 

Jimin doesn’t add anything to that for a long moment. His eyes trail across Yoongi’s face, and a squeeze to Yoongi’s palm is followed by a long stare. Maybe he doesn’t need to say anymore-- maybe the both of them are left in varying degrees of speechlessness, not really expecting to have things turn out this way and left in a stunned sort of silence at just how good it feels to have their hands interlinked.

 

Yoongi feels lightheaded. He doesn’t miss the fact that he has yet to flinch away.

 

Jimin turns to wipe at his red, blotchy face with his free hand. He squeezes Yoongi’s limp fingers again after several minutes, muttering a small thank you. The look he gives him says a lot more, and part of Yoongi knows that Jimin understands it all-- the meaning behind Yoongi’s gesture, the way he can’t seem to find words in this moment.

 

He finds something when Jimin glances away, eyes brimming with new tears as he stares at the dents he put in the dumpster against the wall. “People say hurtful things when they’re in pain, too,” Yoongi murmurs, the tenderness in his voice surprising even himself.

 

Jimin sighs, missing it, “I’d rather he’d have said nothing at all.”

 

“Sometimes that only makes things worse.” Jimin’s eyes snap up to meet his. “I know that now.”

 

“Yoongi…” Jimin purses his lips, grip tightening on his fingers.

 

“It’s okay,” Yoongi exhales slowly. “It’s all okay.”

 

Jimin gives him a sad, rueful expression. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.” Yoongi knows he’s referring to more than the time just now. “I… got caught up in my feelings again and--”

 

“You should’ve,” Yoongi interrupts, eyes trained on a sliver of tear that tracks down the slope of Jimin’s cheek. “You should’ve yelled at me.”

 

“I don’t wanna yell at you,” Jimin mutters under his breath, face crumbling. Yoongi watches as Jimin tries his damnedest to pull himself together, rubbing at his face with his free hand furiously as he hiccups out a shuddering breath. “I don’t want any of this hurt anymore. I just want to be happy--”

 

“Hey--”

 

“--I don’t even know why Jihyunie had to say those things to me, why he can’t just love me back like he used to? I know I was a burden to our family, always waking up the neighbors with my nightmares and causing problems, but--”

 

“Jimin, Jimin,” Yoongi hushes, not sure when he lifted his free hand but flickering his attention to it as it hovers with uncertainty over Jimin’s cheek. He holds his breath for a moment as he wipes at Jimin’s tear-stained skin, not able to look him in the eyes but certain that if he could, he’d be able to trace the patterns in Jimin’s irises with his own. “You’re not a burden. You never were one.”

 

Jimin sniffles, not commenting on that. Yoongi wishes that Jimin believed him. “Your glove is wet now,” he sniffles, the sound so close now that Yoongi is so far in his personal space. Yoongi finally drags his gaze from his hand on Jimin’s cheek to meet his stare, his eyes watery as they look back into Yoongi’s, brow furrowed.

 

“I know,” Yoongi whispers, his voice failing him. He watches as the flush to Jimin’s skin deepens and suddenly, Yoongi is reminded all-too-well of their impending schedule.

 

He drops his hand from his cheek almost out of instinct-- but mostly out of buried fear-- and clears his throat, moving to stand. “We should probably head back to the shuttlecraft. The others are waiting for departure.” He helps Jimin up before reluctantly letting go of his palm.

 

“Yeah,” Jimin exhales, wiping the rest of his face hurriedly. He pushes his hair back from his face before looking down at his bruised and angry knuckles, the skin split on a few of them and bleeding. “I don’t know what to do about this. You think they’ll ask questions?”

 

Yoongi pauses before he strips his gloves off his hands, offering them to Jimin quickly so as to not think about it too deeply. “Just… give ‘em back later.” Jimin accepts the gloves with a subtle kind of carefulness, seemingly fully aware of the gesture as he slips them on.

 

He purses his lips before looking up at Yoongi again and for a moment, Yoongi can pretend that the mix of sadness, warmth, and understanding glittering in Jimin’s eyes doesn’t make his heart do backflips in his ribcage. “Thanks,” Jimin murmurs softly after a moment, a small half-smile tilting the corner of his lips, still wet with tears.

 

Yoongi knows he doesn’t just mean the gloves.

 

                

 

Walking back onto the porter ship, Jimin tries his best to still the shakiness in his legs. He flexes his hands absentmindedly, not missing the way they pool at the gaps between his fingers, much too large for him but still comforting to wear, all the same.

 

When he sits down in his jumpseat, Jungkook is kneeling in front of him in an instant. He doesn’t say anything as he helps Jimin strap in; it should be insulting, the infantile treatment-- as if Jimin can’t do it himself. The worried look Jungkook shoots him when he glances up from his lap quickly eases him from any irritation that might bubble up within Jimin at the gesture.

 

Xiang coughs into a closed fist to his right, on the other side of Asuka, who is quietly scrolling on her VisTech, feigning indifference. “You, uh, sure you don’t wanna stop and visit anyone, JP?” Xiang mutters under his breath, the sound nearly muffled by the roar of the jet’s boosters starting up.

 

There’s a kind of tension in the air that causes the hairs on the back of Jimin’s neck to stand up. No one says anything-- no angry remarks thrown towards Xiang not-so-subtly (yet still all the more subtle for Xiang) bringing up the elephant in the room.

 

Jimin still can’t mask the sadness in his voice as he replies, “I’m fine.” He feels his expression soften as Xiang’s falls, realizing the true gravity of his question moments too late. “Don’t worry, Xiang. It’s all okay.”

 

If Jimin were in a better mood, he’d think he’d find the situation funny. Zhe Xiang showing tenderness for Park Jimin? He glances to the side to Asuka to find a glint of amusement in her eye and Jimin must be feeling better than he believed from the thought alone, the corner of his lips twitching upwards.

 

Asuka raises an eyebrow at him when the port shuttle gate closes with a sealing sound, and Jimin snorts unattractively at the teasing question in her gaze.

 

Xiang makes a loud huffing noise of disapproval and Jimin loses his control, suddenly finding the entire situation a lot more hilarious than only moments before as he starts laughing aloud, eyes squeezing shut at Xiang’s affronted glare.

 

“I try to be nice for once and he just laughs at me,” Xiang grumbles, crossing his arms across the thick belts that have him strapped to his seat. “I shoulda just said you deserved it, stupid cackling prick.”

 

Jimin only laughs harder, slapping at his knee. Asuka starts to chuckle, too, the sound of her laughter causing Xiang to purse his lips and stare a hole through the wall of the ship opposite of him. Jungkook sighs from Jimin’s left, a tired yet already fond sound in the hooting of the small space.

 

When he opens his eyes after the laughter has died down and Xiang’s grumbling has reached a low hum, Jimin meets Yoongi’s gaze from across the walkway between their jumpseats.

 

He thinks he sees some fondness there, too.




It’s towards the end of their return back to the Bloodbane that the sound of a stomach growling echoes through the relative quiet of the porter ship. Jimin goes alert from dozing off, eyes searching around the room curiously.

 

“Lieutenant Min, did you ever get any food to eat?” Xiang pipes up, all their eyes focused on Yoongi, who shifts in his seat awkwardly.

 

Jimin watches as a blush creeps up his cheeks at the attention. “Uh, no,” Yoongi mutters, shutting off his tablet and sighing before raising his head up to meet their collective gaze. “It’s not a problem, though. I have a diminished appetite when it comes to missions.”

 

“Why’s that?” Xiang asks, genuinely curious. It occurs to Jimin that it must not make sense for someone as muscley and hulk-like as Xiang to go a day without some form of sustenance. The amount of protein alone to sustain that strength must be insurmountable-- Jimin wonders exactly what Xiang must’ve eaten on the mission, considering the fact that Jimin’s home bunker was rather lackluster in terms of culinary options.

 

“Ah,” Yoongi rubs at the back of his neck, Jimin’s eyes darting to the pale skin of his hands. He keeps forgetting that he’s wearing the lieutenant’s gloves. Jimin flexes his fingers against the leather gathering loosely at his palms absentmindedly as Yoongi ponders his answer. “I guess I just don’t really have a knack for food that isn’t from the Bloodbane. Not to say it’s, uh, personal preference or that I think less of the food options in bunkers, per say… it’s moreso that I don’t think to eat when I’m anywhere besides home base.”

 

“Not even if you went back to your own home bunker? You wouldn’t get a bite to eat?” Jungkook asks this time, eyes wide as he tilts his head slightly. Jimin smirks, remembering that Jungkook has always had quite the appetite himself.

 

Yoongi purses his lips, eyes distant as they regard Jungkook, “No, I wouldn’t.”

 

Suddenly, the room is bathed in awkwardness from the odd tone of Yoongi’s words alone-- such a drastic shift from only moments ago. Jimin has a feeling he knows where this is going, from the little he knows of Yoongi’s past and from the way the lieutenant’s expression drops, his gaze cast on Jungkook yet his thoughts somewhere else entirely. He’s about to change the subject when Jungkook blurts, “Why not? Was the food from your home bunker bad or something? Everyone likes something from home.”

 

The room goes completely silent for a long pause before Yoongi laughs awkwardly, scratching at the stubble on his cheek. The sound is loud in the small space, and Yoongi clears his throat before answering, “Well, you see-- I’m from the Seventh.”

 

Jungkook’s face falls, for some reason unbeknownst to Jimin. He glances over to Asuka and Xiang and finds confusion in their expression as well, though unlike Jimin, their eyes slowly garner a certain understanding that leaves Jimin lost.

 

Jimin knows that Yoongi only has Eunhae left. Was there more to that than simply the natural discourse of war?

 

“Oh,” Jungkook exhales after seeming to have been holding his breath. “Sorry to have brought it up.”

 

“It’s fine,” Yoongi smiles tensely, the gesture not reaching his eyes. “I don’t remember much about the kind of food from there, anyway. Haven’t visited in a long time.”

 

Jimin is fighting himself over whether or not to ask them all to elaborate when the jet starts to land, the hud starting to shake violently as it rapidly begins to approach the runway strip next to the Bloodbane.

 

He closes his eyes, still not used to the chaotic nature of the jet even after all this time. When he opens them, the plane is landed, a cold stream of pressurized air hissing from the latches of the hatch gate as it opens.

 

Jimin’s legs stop wobbling when they’re within the walls of the Bloodbane again, standing idly past its entrance as they wait for approval of the end of the mission by Yoongi.

 

He’s quiet as he presses on his work tablet, a slight furrow in his brow as he reads over something. His VisTech starts blinking in his iris, pupils scanning whatever notification he receives.

 

Yoongi’s face lights up before he focuses his attention back on the rest of the squad. “Looks like you all got a special upgrade voucher.”

 

Jimin’s back straightens automatically. Jungkook tilts his head, “I didn’t get one as well, did I?”

 

“Ah, no,” Yoongi shakes his head. “You’re a new transfer to the Bloodbane in terms of paperwork as a corporal, plus it takes a lot more than a few missions like this for you to-- well, you know your own parameters for the next upgrade, I presume.” Jungkook nods his head to confirm Yoongi’s words. Yoongi focuses his attention back on the tablet for a moment before looking up again, “It looks like this upgrade is for each permanent member on our squad, except for Ke. He’s ineligible until the next since he was out for this one.”

 

“So, you get a voucher as well?” Asuka asks, hovering near Jimin’s side. He forgets sometimes that she’s more than aware of his feelings over the whole thing, Jimin having let his thoughts slip through in conversation.

 

“Yes,” Yoongi smiles, genuinely. “I haven’t had one since before General Jung and I took on new cadets to train, so I assume it’s the credit from these last two missions and the time spent training you all that allowed me to receive one so quickly, despite my rank.”

 

“When can we use them?” Xiang asks.

 

Yoongi’s eyes lift up, “Well, now, actually. I brought it up instead of just waiting for the notification to be sent to your VisTechs after I conclude the mission because I wanted to ask if you’d all like me to bring you to the Special Upgrades division here in the Bloodbane? It’s a lot…” Yoongi purses his lips, “Larger, than the one that was at the Shatterdome.”

 

Jimin has never out-right, directly explained his… particular distaste towards Special Upgrades to Yoongi, let alone anyone besides Ke. Aside from the obvious (particularly, Jimin’s first day back at the Shatterdome not going particularly well), he’s never brought it up in conversation, always a little scared of the reaction.

 

Jimin doesn’t miss the way that Yoongi’s eyes are glittering now as he explains what Special Upgrade is available to a curious Xiang-- he just doesn’t understand it.

 

“JP? You gonna come?” Xiang asks, already stepping to Yoongi’s side.

 

Jimin gulps down the imagery from the last time he stepped foot in that particular division of the SC Bionics, “No, I’m fine.” He offers a tight smile, hoping it’s convincing enough. “I’m actually gonna go and...” Jimin glances at Jungkook, watching his friend shift from foot to foot. He almost forgot that Jungkook had planned to talk to Taehyung directly after the mission about his family. “Go visit Ke. He’s probably worried about how the mission went.”

 

He straightens his back instinctively when Yoongi meets his gaze. “Are you sure?” To anyone else, Yoongi would look calm and collected, but Jimin can see the hesitation start to bleed into his expression.

 

Even though Jimin has never outright admitted his discomfort with the Special Upgrade division, part of him knows he’s never had to. Perhaps Yoongi has known a lot longer than Jimin could have ever noticed. The thought makes something uncomfortable bubble up his throat, hairs standing on the back of his neck.

 

“Yes,” he squeaks out, clearing his throat immediately after. “I’ll just… see you all later.”

 

Yoongi’s brow furrows, then. Jimin knows now what that look means.

 

Regardless, Yoongi nods, concluding the mission through his VisTech, the data going straight to headquarters.

 

Jimin watches them leave before heading off to the infirmary, knowing fully well that there’s now more than what happened on the mission that he and Yoongi will undoubtedly have to discuss later on.

 

He just isn’t sure when that’s going to be.

Chapter Text

It’s a day later that Yoongi heads to the infirmary.

 

He itches at the new addition to his body, the lines of fresh ferium he can feel under his skin causing his sweats to cling awkwardly to that area of his arm. It’s on the smaller side of upgrades he’s gotten before-- a simple injection that increased his reaction time in his trigger hand the smallest of amounts.

 

Yoongi still finds that they add up quickly in their desired effects, if you get enough of them. The worst part about getting a new upgrade, however, is the aftermath.

 

Every time a soldier-- regardless of rank or roster status-- receives an upgrade unit, they must visit the infirmary ward once a day for three days after installment to have the medical staff check over it. Everything about special upgrades is unnatural; while it makes sense to Yoongi that they would need to be checked as to see that his body doesn’t reject the new mod, it doesn’t change the fact that it annoys the hell out of him to visit Seokjin more often than he already does.

 

It’s not Seokjin that bothers him-- it’s the touching necessary for him to take a look at Yoongi’s injection area that does. Yoongi has had enough upgrades laced into his skin by now to know the risks that come with them, but he still can’t quite get the hope out of the back of his mind that one day, he won’t need checkups at all.

 

Walking into the ward after it’s greenlighted him at the entrance leaves a sour taste in Yoongi’s mouth. He fucking loves getting upgrades-- the new surge of power, however small, that he experiences after is something close to an addiction. That is, if Yoongi ever felt those types of urges towards intangible things anymore.

 

Entering Seokjin’s private back office-- courtesy of the Bloodbane being much larger in all areas when compared to the Shatterdome-- Yoongi is reminded that no, it’s not intangible things he can grow addicted to.

 

Jimin is sitting on Seokjin’s stool instead of the man himself, and Yoongi is reminded that Jimin-- unlike the newfound power that Special Upgrades give Yoongi-- is very much tangible. If only Yoongi could get around to testing that out without shaky fingers and a hesitant grip.

 

He clears his throat awkwardly and Jimin looks up. “Yoon--” Jimin’s eyes widen when he takes in his attire, gaze lingering on the dark bandage that can be seen through the white of Yoongi’s sleeves. “Lieutenant Min, is there something I can do for you?”

 

Yoongi and Jimin still haven’t talked about what happened on the mission. He definitely wasn’t planning on doing it while in sweats. “Uh, yeah,” Yoongi mutters, clearing his throat. He instinctively touches the side of his cleanly-shaven jaw. “I was supposed to have a checkup with Jin, Park.”

 

Jimin’s posture relaxes at the term of familiarity. Yoongi’s lip quirks up into a half-smile,  finding it a little amusing how Jimin seems to always wait for him to decide the nature of their conversations.

 

It’s more flattering than it should be. It also makes nerves skitter across Yoongi’s skin.

 

“Oh,” Jimin says after a moment of hesitation. “I can go get him, if you want. He’s in a surgery right now, though, so it might take--”

 

“Could you just do it?” Yoongi blurts, biting his lip once he realizes what he said. “Uh, it’s nothing serious.” Even downplaying it is hard for Yoongi, his foot tapping against the tiled floor anxiously as a flash of Jimin touching him crosses his mind.

 

“What do you need, exactly? I see your arm there, but I need to know exactly what you were planning on having Seokjin do. I don’t know anything about your appointment,” Jimin says meekly, wetting his lips. Yoongi’s eyes follow the motion.

 

“Oh, shit,” Yoongi mutters under his breath, snorting awkwardly as he rubs at the back of his neck. His gaze moves everywhere around the room, forgetting how to use his tongue. “Just… checking up on the wound. I guess I... I keep forgetting you haven’t had a Special Upgrade yet. There’s some maintenance involved the couple of days after the installment. Mostly cleaning the injection site, checking inflammation or whatever. Medical stuff.”

 

If Yoongi weren’t fidgeting at the calm but concerned look Jimin is giving him, he’d have slapped himself in the face by now at the way he’s completely fumbled communication in general since entering the room. His tongue continues to feel strange in his mouth, the words he conjures up coming out as rambles rather than complete sentences.

 

Jimin’s brow furrows deeper. “Are you sure you’re okay with--”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Yoongi cuts him off, moving to sit on the medical bed tucked into the corner of the room. The paper sheet lying over it makes loud rustling sounds as Yoongi hops up onto it. “It’s only my arm. No big deal.”

 

They both know Yoongi is lying when he says that last part, if the higher pitch in his voice and the nervous paddling of his fingers against his knee is any indication.

 

“Okay,” Jimin says, the picture of calm professionalism as he slowly scoots his way over to Yoongi after retrieving a standard first aid kit from inside Seokjin’s desk. Jimin pauses when he’s next to Yoongi, eyes lingering on the jittery way Yoongi moves his leg against the crinkling leather of the medical bed.

 

His eyes slowly drag up when Yoongi takes a long exhale. Jimin’s hands are hovering over Yoongi’s forearm a moment later, “Can I?”

 

Yoongi gulps. He’s more nervous than when it’s Seokjin, if it weren’t obvious to him before. “Yeah, that’s fine. You can touch me.” He blinks after a second, wondering if Jimin hesitates with that question with every patient or if it’s just in this situation. They stare at each other for a long moment before Yoongi has to look away, cheeks flushing.

 

He distantly thinks that while Jimin soon touching his skin is largely contributing to his current state of anxiety, it’s not simply that. He’s scared of Jimin seeing it, too.

 

He snaps his eyes shut as he hears and feels the soft rustle of his sleeve being rolled up the length of his arm. The snap of plastic as Jimin puts on medical gloves fills up the room, the sound of the first aid kit opening almost as loud as the stutter of Yoongi’s heartbeat.

 

His skin burns, not in the literal sense but in the sense that he can feel Jimin’s eyes tracing over the patterns of Ferium running up and down Yoongi’s skin-- present there not only from this most recent injection but many ones prior as well. He hasn’t missed the way Jimin reacts to Special Upgrades, and there’s something akin to embarrassment and self-consciousness that brims in his chest for the first time at the state of his modded limbs.

 

Jimin’s gloved fingertips graze across the crook of his elbow, and Yoongi flinches hard. “Fuck,” Yoongi lets slip past his lips, a hush of breath. He opens one eye to see Jimin focusing on his expression steadily, eyes wide but expression controlled.

 

It’s a work setting, right? Yoongi shouldn’t be reacting this way, especially with a layer of plastic in between his skin and Jimin’s fingers. Yet it still feels like so much more-- maybe it always has, and maybe that’s why Yoongi can feel sweat slick his palms, his pulse beating in his ears as he looks at Jimin and Jimin looks back.

 

Yoongi’s not only letting someone touch him-- he’s willingly inviting them in. It’s as scary as he thought it’d be, though for different reasons that he had originally imagined.

 

“Do you want me to get Seokjin?” Jimin asks, voice solid and low. It’s an out, Yoongi knows it is-- but he has to take Hoseok’s words the other day seriously.

 

Yoongi has to try.

 

He finds himself shaking his head, pursing his lips in an effort to hide the strained giggle that threatens to erupt from him. Something similar to shame mixes in with his nerves at his own reaction; Yoongi wishes that his words from a minute ago were true-- that this isn’t a big deal.

 

If he weren’t having such a strong adverse physical reaction at the simplest of touches, he could believe that it wasn’t as big a deal as it actually is.

 

He takes a deep breath, exhale shuddering out in strange patterns as Jimin rests his hands on him again. His arm is unwrapped in mere seconds, cool air hitting fragile skin. It’s not as bad the second time, but that’s until Yoongi opens his eyes.

 

“Park… are you--” Yoongi cuts himself off when Jimin sniffles, eyes brimming before a single tear tracks down the side of each cheek. Jimin bites his bottom lip, shaking his head and offering Yoongi a gentle smile before focusing his attention back on the injection site on Yoongi’s arm. “Is it that ugly?”

 

Jimin chokes out a laugh, leaning his head down to wipe his eyes on the shoulder of his scrubs. “No, nothing about you is ugly, dumbass. I’m just getting emotional,” he chuckles, reaching over to the first aid kit sprawled open next to Yoongi’s thigh and taking out some alcohol swabs.

 

“Why’s that?” Yoongi asks softly, unable to find it in himself to raise his voice.

 

“I don’t think I have to say it aloud,” Jimin murmurs, glancing up at Yoongi momentarily before going back to the injection site. “You and I both know.”

 

Jimin doesn’t ask why Yoongi is the way he is. He just cleans and bandages his arm, the whole ordeal ending after several long minutes of silence between the two of them.

 

Yoongi swallows nervously-- albeit a lot less anxious than he was when first sitting down-- before deciding to ask, “Why didn’t you want to get your mod the other day, Park?”

 

Jimin pauses as he finishes rolling down Yoongi’s sleeve before looking up at him again. His gloved hands feel cold yet warm against the skin of Yoongi’s wrist, causing a shiver to wrack up his spine before they’re pulled away. “I guess I can’t imagine myself with them. I don’t really think it’s for me.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Jimin hesitates, stripping off his medical gloves and tossing them in the trash to the side. “I guess I kind of view it with a conservative perspective. I don’t know, to me, it seems… strange, to give up a part of what makes me human just so I can be ‘better equipped’ by someone else’s standards to fight aliens.”

 

“Wouldn’t you be gaining something, though? Better reaction time, steadier hands?” Yoongi purses his lips at the last part, thinking it ironic that he has plenty of upgrades for steadier hands yet still found himself shaking like a leaf just because of his hardlined adversity to touch.

 

He averts his eyes as Jimin answers, seeing him shake his head gently in the corner of his vision, “Becoming a stronger weapon means losing vulnerability. I don’t want that for myself.”

 

Yoongi looks at him again at that. It takes him a moment before he finds how to respond to that. “Do you… do you like that? Being vulnerable, I mean?”

 

They stare at each other for a long breadth of time and Yoongi considers that the question has more implications than just the ones apparent on the surface.

Jimin searches Yoongi’s face for a few heavy seconds before answering simply, “No.” Jimin straightens his back in his seat as he regards him. “I don’t think anyone likes being vulnerable, Yoongi. But if we don’t have that, then how do we grow?”

 

Yoongi purses his lips, looking down at his lap to contemplate that. Jimin chuckles and his eyes snap up. “I guess it doesn’t really make sense, when you think about it objectively. I’m biased because it’s how I was raised to think. It’s… complicated.” Jimin’s grin downturns, his gaze distant. “It seems that even if I want to separate myself from the old Jimin, some habits die harder than others. Beliefs, too. I don’t know what would require me to change the way I view the whole thing, but it’d definitely have to be something really big. Bigger than just wanting something like better aim, that is.”

 

They don’t say anything more for that-- Yoongi isn’t sure what to, exactly. He’s always left a little speechless after his deeper conversations with Jimin-- they’ve been happening more frequently as of late, and Yoongi still isn’t sure why he both fears and yearns for the openness, the ability to talk about important subjects and not completely gel up like an idiot.

 

Maybe it’s got something to do with who he’s doing it with.

 

Jimin is putting away the first aid box into Seokjin’s desk when Yoongi blurts out, “I miss listening to music with you.”

 

He freezes, turning to look back at Yoongi and blinking. He looks to be at a loss for words and Yoongi quickly adds, for some fear of rejection, “I want to start meeting up again, Jimin.”

 

He looks him directly in the eyes. Yoongi watches in some kind of out-of-body enrapturement as a flush of red creeps across Jimin’s cheeks. A distant part of him thinks he shouldn’t revel in it so much. The rest of him feels his face mirror the blush.

 

“O-okay,” Jimin says, a little breathlessly. He blinks a few more times before wetting his lips, gesturing toward Yoongi’s arm, “Your checkup is done, by the way. Oh, and...” Jimin goes to his duffel bag in a corner of the room, the thing heavy with what looks like… books? “Here. I thought you might want these.”

 

When Jimin turns back to him, he holds out a pair of black leather gloves. Yoongi’s.

 

He accepts them after a long pause, nodding in thanks. Yoongi almost feels like his request to see Jimin more wasn’t really acknowledged, like Jimin is dismissing him in an effort to avoid the topic. But then, Jimin says, “I can meet after dinner, if you want.”

 

Yoongi feels something warm and gooey flood his chest at the way Jimin blushes harder, averting his eyes. Pressure is building up his throat as he mutters that that’s perfectly fine, that he’d love to meet up with Jimin after.

 

It seems so cordial, considering how relaxed they used to be with one another. Despite that, Yoongi feels like he’s making progress in areas he never thought he’d try to approach again.

 

As he’s walking out the infirmary, one hand absentmindedly touching the bandage under his sleeve and the other clutching the gloves stuffed into his sweatpants pocket, Yoongi thinks about the future.

 

He also thinks about the past. He isn’t sure what else he expected when it dims his mood considerably.

 

 

                   

 

The next few weeks go by slowly but in a good way, a dynamic that doesn’t really make sense to Jimin when he thinks too much about it but that still leaves him the happiest he’s been in… well, weeks.

 

The squad goes on multiple missions in the time span-- Ke attends every one with his skin mods finally intact and torso healed. Jimin is ecstatic to find that Jungkook and Taehyung are great again, too, if not even closer than before. Taehyung accepting Jungkook’s words was never really a concern for Jimin, though he’s glad that things between all of them are back to a comfortable, although morphed, stability.

 

Jimin finds that he and Yoongi have reached a type of delicate normalcy, however different it is from before. The time he spends in Yoongi’s room-- an alternative to the common room that he tries not to think too much into-- is more fun than it ever was, a newfound tender understanding between the two of them that ironically relaxes Jimin while also making his heart beat nearly as fast as in his workouts between missions.

 

He tries not to think into it too deeply, the way Yoongi’s laugh and smile make tingles skitter across his skin.

 

Walking into the Bloodbane’s dining hall, Jimin is also thankful for the reestablishment of dinners with all his friends, when they’re available.

 

He sits down quickly, bouncing the balls of his feet as he waits for the rest of his friends to show up. Jimin’s knee nearly bangs into the bottom of the metal table when he feels a pair of hands on his shoulders.

 

Glaring up, he finds Ke smiling down widely at him. “Heya, JP! You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

 

“Ke,” Jimin sighs, patting his forearm when he wraps his arms around Jimin’s neck in a quick hug. “You should’ve given me a warning.”

 

“Nonsense,” Ke snickers, plopping down next to him. He gives Jimin a wide smile, dark hair tucked behind his ears in a way that makes them stick out more. “You’re supposed to be a medical specialist. Gotta always keep an eye out, Mr. Doctor.”

 

Jimin rolls his eyes, a fond half-smile twitching up his lips. “Someone’s in a good mood today.”

 

“I’m always in a good mood, JP,” Ke says. He reaches over to push a stray strand of Jimin’s hair from his forehead, the motion making Jimin go cross-eyed for a moment as he follows it. Ke grins wider. “Well, most of the time. Anyway, who all are we waiting on?”

 

Jimin sighs again, leaning on his elbow, cheek in palm as he stares off at the people in line getting food. “I thought you’d know. I haven’t heard from Jin, Namjoon or Hoseok. Tae and Kookie are coming, and Yoongi…” He looks back to Ke, “Well, you know. He’s out right now.”

 

Ke perks up, “Ah, yeah. His niece again, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin exhales, shoulders slacking. He wishes the two of them were in the Bloodbane and not the Eighth. He wishes the two of them were here. “I can’t believe HQ denied him her visitation rights. If that stupid Other hadn’t shown up about a month ago, I’d be playing games with Eunhae and reading with Yoongi.”

 

Jimin doesn’t notice he’s pouting until Ke reaches over and pokes at his jutted out bottom lip, laughing at the affronted expression Jimin shoots him as a result.

 

“You’re whipped--” Ke makes a panicked sound when Jimin reaches out to swat at him.

 

“Who’s whipped?” Jimin turns to see that Taehyung has appeared, looming over them. Jimin must be more out of it than he thought, to have so many people sneak up on him in such a short amount of time. He looks past his tall friend to see Jungkook not far behind, somehow managing to balance multiple trays of food in his arms.

 

Jimin holds back a snort, completely ignoring Taehyung’s question. “Kook-ah, you didn’t have to--”

 

“I brought food!” Jungkook interrupts, smile wide as he hovers over them and starts trying to pass out the trays. Ke reaches out and gladly accepts them, giving Jungkook a hand. Jimin ignores Taehyung’s stare as he sits down across him. “I saw you and Jimin-hyung sitting down here, Ke-ssi, and I thought it’d be nice to bring you food so you didn’t have to go and wait too long.”

 

Jimin doesn’t hold back his snort this time, “Ke has been out of the infirmary for nearly a month, Kook-ah. He can carry a food tray.”

 

Ke and Jungkook collectively stick out their tongue at Jimin, noses scrunching up in a way that’s far too similar between the two. Jimin sighs once more as Jungkook takes his seat next to Taehyung, Ke joining him in immediately digging in.

 

Taehyung picks up on Jimin’s attitude faster than Jimin himself, “What’s up, Chim?”

 

“Where is everyone else?” Jimin avoids.

 

Taehyung slides his tray forward, propping his chin up on his steepled fingers as he stares at Jimin, contemplation written across his face. “Well, Lead Kim is working extra time for the new VisTech updates. I assume Seokjin-hyung is worrying over him.”

 

“What about Hobi?”

 

Jungkook speaks up around a mouthful of food, “Hoseok-ssi is…” Jungkook’s eyes flicker to Ke, who is suddenly intently focused on twirling his utensils against whatever mush is on his plate. Jungkook’s eyes go back to Jimin, “He’s busy! I think.” He grins wide, cheeks straining with the gesture for a moment before he goes back to eating.

 

“Uh,” Jimin glances between Jungkook and Ke, the both of them far too quiet as they eat their food. Even their bites seem out of order from the usual mess they create at dinner. “Okay.”

 

“So, that leaves Yoongi-ssi.” Jimin looks from the two to find Taehyung still staring at him. “What’s he up to again?”

 

Jimin chuckles awkwardly, feeling Ke and Jungkook’s eyes on him now, too. “He’s in the Eighth, with his niece Eunhae. You remember her, Tae.”

 

“Yeah, I remember talking about her. Never met her last time though, remember that?”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin offers, not really knowing where this is going.

 

“So, Jimin.” Taehyung takes the pitcher of water and one of the plastic cups that were already on the table and pours himself a glass before taking a sip. Jimin almost rolls his eyes at the dramatic nature of it all. “What’s the deal with you and Yoongi-ssi?”

 

Jimin feels the blood drain from his face-- not as quickly as it does in the cartoons that Yoongi has shown Jimin in their free time together, but just the same in terms of chills that shoot down his spine. “What do you mean?”

 

“Oh, you know what I mean, Park Jimin. You definitely do,” Taehyung says clearly, the beginnings of a Cheshire smile curling his lips. Jimin glances at Ke and Jungkook to see wide eyes staring back at him.

 

Jimin sighs for what seems like the thousandth time, this week alone. “I don’t know, exactly.”

 

“I do,” Jungkook grumbles, a slight frown on his face as he stabs his food. “Jimin-hyung likes him. I don’t see why, though. Dude’s a fucking dick.”

 

“Shut up, Jungkook,” Taehyung laughs under his breath, shaking his head in amusement at the glare Jungkook sends him. “You’re just mad that he takes Jimin’s attention away.”

 

“Hyung doesn’t even have time to spend with anyone but him!”

 

“I spend time with JP all the time,” Ke pipes in, his expression calm as he looks at a pouty Jungkook. Jimin still can’t quite pin how strange the dynamic between the new pair of friends is, “He spends time with you and Tae, too. You’re just exaggerating.”

 

Jungkook’s mouth drops open at Ke’s directness, causing Taehyung to throw his head back and laugh so loud that the soldiers at the table next to them glance over to see what all the noise is about.

 

Taehyung ignores their annoyed looks, “See! Even Ke will call you out on your bullshit! Ah, my favorite child.”

 

Ke gives him a weird look, “I’m older than you.”

 

Taehyung shrugs, pushing at Jungkook’s shoulder playfully to try and get him to stop pouting as he pointedly ignores Ke’s comment. He turns to Jimin once Jungkook starts eating again, “So, you gonna tell us?”

 

“Tell you what, Tae? You’ll have to be more direct,” Jimin mutters, taking small bites of food. His appetite is a bit low, considering where the conversation has gone so far.

 

Taehyung snorts, “That’s tough, coming from you.”

 

“Hey!” Jimin throws him an offended look, “What’s that s’posed to mean?”

 

Taehyung looks at Jimin with a dead-calm expression, all traces of humor leaving as quickly as they had graced his features, “I’m serious, Chim.”

 

“I already told you-- I don’t know,” Jimin mumbles. The table goes silent, the rest of the dining hall suddenly a lot louder around them. “We… haven’t talked about it.”

 

“You haven’t either,” Jungkook pipes up. “You never even told me what he did to get you back on the porter ship when we went on that mission to the First a month ago.”

 

“What? Yoongi did what?” Ke offers Jimin a confused expression.

 

“See,” Taehyung makes a disapproving sound. “Not direct.”

 

“Okay, fine!” Jimin scowls, fidgeting in his seat. “I’ll only tell you what I think is appropriate, though. Nothing too… I don’t know. I’m trying to respect Yoongi’s privacy as much as my own.”

 

“We didn’t expect anything else,” Taehyung smiles, having won. Jimin glares at him, “Don’t give me that look. We’re just worried about you.”

 

“More like you’re overly protective. I’m a grown ass man, I don’t need three babysitters,” Jimin huffs out.

 

“Hyung, it’s definitely that we just love you. Get over it and spill the beans,” Jungkook exhales, looking at Jimin from underneath his lashes. Sometimes, Jimin has to do a double-take at how similar Jungkook and Ke can be sometimes-- Ke, who is currently hosting the same expression and demeanor that Jungkook is, but from next to him instead of diagonally across.

 

Jimin takes a calming breath. “Yoongi doesn’t like… touching.”

 

Jungkook makes a disgusted face, “Please don’t tell me you’re about to tell us that he’s railing you.”

 

Ke scoffs, and Jimin feels like he’s in another dimension. “First of all, what makes you think JP would be the one getting railed? As far as I’m concer--”

 

“What the fuck?” Jimin growls. He doesn’t miss the way Ke raises his eyebrow at Jungkook, gesturing his head in Jimin’s direction as if to say ‘told you so’ . Jimin nearly shoves him off his seat when he processes it. “I’m trying to be serious and tell you guys about my personal life and you’re sitting here making fucking sex jokes? I swear to fucking--”

 

“Enough!” Taehyung slaps the table, quieting the three of them down. The soldiers around them must’ve gotten used to their antics or just really good at hiding their possible eavesdropping because none of them react. Taehyung gestures to Jimin dramatically, “Continue, Chim.”

 

Jimin ducks his head, covering his face with his palms and wiping at his eyes in exasperation. “You guys are… whatever. Okay, as I was saying-- Yoongi doesn’t like touching. And, on the mission in the First… he did that.”

 

“Did what?” Ke asks, feigning obliviousness. Jimin can tell from the way Ke’s eyes glint with amusement when he turns to him.

 

“He held my hand, you pervert,” Jimin frowns. “I need to stop you and Hoseok from hanging out, your mind has been in the gutter for months.”

 

Ke gives a sheepish smile as Jungkook and Taehyung snicker behind their palms. Jimin continues, “And he let me change his bandages over his a day later. Other than that, we haven’t spoken about anything in depth or even mentioned what happened on the mission. I haven’t brought it up to you guys because… well… I haven’t brought it up to him.”

 

“I don’t get it,” Jungkook says through a mouthful. “What’s the big deal about being touched? Not to be insensitive, but, uh…” Jungkook looks around to garner their reactions. “I guess I just haven’t been here long enough.”

 

“It’s always been a thing,” Taehyung nods, fingertip tapping on his chin in a pseudo-contemplative gesture. “I noticed it during dinners when people would pass him water. I thought it was just a cooties thing.”

 

“A cooties thing?” Ke gives Taehyung a bewildered look. “What the hell is a ‘cooties’?”

 

“It’s nothing important,” Jimin dismisses, expression in a permanent state of being downcast.

 

It’s not like he hasn’t had a similar-- though much less… childish-- conversation in his own head. He can’t figure out what’s between him and Yoongi, either. Jimin dealt a good chunk of cards to Yoongi before; part of him feels like he should just ask and be direct , as Seokjin had put it.

 

The other part thinks that doing so would only cause more barriers between them to form.

 

“I’m worried about him,” Jimin says honestly, catching all their attention once again. “He was a little off before going to see Eunhae, but it’s not just that.”

 

“What do you mean, exactly?” Taehyung tilts his head to the side curiously, brows furrowed.

 

Jimin purses his lips, “Well, I don’t know. He’s… been a little more down, I guess. It’s not that I expected him to want to… touch or anything--” Jimin tries to fight the blush that creeps across his cheeks. “But Yoongi… he’s my friend first, before whatever else is happening. Maybe we’re just really close, or maybe I’m just really thick in the head, but… he’s been different. He’s always listened to Queen, right? But lately, it’s been all the sad songs by them. And sometimes-- sometimes, he’ll stare off into space and not even realize I’m asking him a question and--”

 

“Whoa, Chim, wait,” Taehyung cuts him off, palms up and utensils down. “So you’re telling us that you and Yoongi have spent all this time together, yet haven’t talked about any of--” Taehyung gestures wildly, “--all of this? Chim, c’mon, I know that communication is ninety-seven percent non-verbal but--”

 

“Wait, really? Ninety-seven percent?” Jungkook interrupts, eyes wide. “That sounds fake.”

 

Taehyung gives Jungkook a look before continuing. “As I was saying, this is a little… much? Maybe a lot of pressure?”

 

“I care about him,” Jimin blurts, feeling the rush of heat that floods his cheeks at the truth behind his own words. He half-expects them to comment on it but they don’t, all of them looking at Jimin worriedly. It’s more comforting than Jimin realizes. “I don’t want to push him away by pulling him, if that makes sense.”

 

The three of them are silent as Jimin takes a deep breath before continuing, wetting his suddenly-dry lips. “It’s just like how I’m still learning how to, you know… talk about things. I’m a lot better than how I was when I left home--” Jimin can’t look Jungkook or Taehyung in the eyes but knows that if he did, he’d see a hint of sadness bleed through at the word that holds so much pain and longing at the same time, “--but everyone goes at their own pace. Who am I to tell Yoongi how to talk to me?”

 

“Who the hell is Yoongi to make you so worried?” Jungkook huffs out. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re tiptoeing around him like he’s some fragile thing instead of what he really is: a hardass lieutenant who has probably killed more Others than I, or anyone else in this fucked up world, can count. Dude almost kicked my ass yesterday when I tried to go get you, I’m sure he can handle a conversation just fine.”

 

“I really can’t tell if you’re insulting Yoongi or defending him,” Ke says casually, twirling his finger around the rim of his cup.

 

“Neither,” Jungkook answers immediately. “I only care about Jimin-hyung in this situation. He’s my family. Min-- no offense, Hyung-- can suck it.”

 

“You might look like an older Jungkookie, but you sure do still hold grudges like the baby back from the First,” Taehyung teases, pinching his cheek. Jungkook blushes under the attention, Taehyung’s smile widening at the flush.

 

“People from the First are a lot different than I thought,” Ke whispers to only Jimin, eyes transfixed on the way Taehyung is squishing a red-in-the-face Jungkook’s cheeks together and laughing. “You think one day you’ll do that to me, too?”

 

Jimin laughs, tension bleeding from his stiff shoulders as the topic of the conversation naturally moves from him. “Probably not that,” Jimin mumbles, wincing at the way Jungkook roughly shoves Taehyung back, their harsh play still prevalent, even after all these years. “But I accept requests.”

 

“Ah, I see,” Ke winks mischievously, eyes dragging across Jimin’s side. Jimin glares at him. “Kidding, kidding, JP. No more sex jokes.”

 

“You better,” Jimin warns. He hushes Taehyung and Jungkook when their laughs start to get so loud that the soldiers-- who were, now as Jimin sees it, previously ignoring the four of them rather well-- start to stare at them with irritation laced in their leers. “Enough rough-housing and personal talk, I wanna eat.”

 

Taehyung and Jungkook still shove at each other under the table as they shovel food in their mouth. Jimin is well-aware of their contest to eat the fastest, as well-- he decides not to comment on it further, instead listening to Ke as he tells Jimin about something funny Hoseok did the other day.

 

He tries to pretend his thoughts don’t drift off once or twice to shaky grips and warm, calloused fingers. Missing lieutenants has yet to do Jimin any good.

 

                   

 

Eunhae’s hands clasp a little tighter around Yoongi’s as the wind picks up, blowing cold air over the two of them and spreading fine sand around the place they used to call home.

 

It’s a desert, now.

 

“Uncle Yoongi?”

 

Yoongi shifts his gaze to Eunhae from the cold-looking, worn-down stone that’s supposed to represent his brother. “Yes?” He flexes his free fingers in his glove, waiting for the minutes to tick by while also being inevitably stuck in each one.

 

It’s the first time that Yoongi has brought Eunhae back to the desolate wasteland that used to be the Seventh Bunker. There’s not a soul in sight-- that’s counting Others, if they even have such a thing.

 

Eunhae looks sad. Yoongi can relate. “Is this why you don’t visit me until after holiday time?”

 

Yoongi purses his lips. He’s come here far too many times by now to cry in front of his brother now, even if his daughter is here to visit him now, too. “Yes,” he answers simply. He doesn’t tell Eunhae that this is the first year he hasn’t delved into such a deep depression that he is unable to come to see her.

 

The beginning of winter is where it all began. It’s also when it all ended.

 

Maybe it’s bad luck, the way Yoongi lost a life in the season that he also gained his new one. He doesn’t like to think about it too much, how his current way of living leads him to be as far away yet so connected to his old family.

 

His old family, the only member left standing next to him, grip tight and small in his. “You wanna leave, Eunhae? Tell me if you’re too cold.”

 

“‘M fine, Uncle,” Eunhae mumbles, not too young to be here but far too young to really understand all that it means. She knows enough-- Yoongi hopes so, at least. “Are we gonna go see Jimjam?”

 

Despite where they are and what he’s feeling, Yoongi cracks a smile. It’s the first time he’s done so since his feet touched the sand. “Unfortunately, no. Jimin is too busy.” He squeezes Eunhae’s hand. “But I’m sure he misses you.”

 

“Can we see him next time you come? I wanna read to him,” Eunhae says with a smile. Yoongi nods as he ruffles her mop of black hair with his free hand, earning a small, tired giggle. The ride over here was draining, true; the emotional toll, more so.

 

“How about we head out now, so you can read me something before I leave tonight, hmm?” Yoongi offers, leaning down to tuck Eunhae’s hair behind her ears. She can’t do it with the mitts on-- an item of clothing not really necessary since it’s only the start of winter, but something Yoongi was adamant about. No buildings in sight to block the harsh winds makes the wasteland of the Seventh a much colder place than it used to be.

 

“Okay,” Eunhae agrees easily. She swings their intertwined hands together as she waves goodbye to the graves in front of them, a sad look on her face. Yoongi knows that she’s aware it’s important, though he isn’t sure if she knows why quite yet.

 

One day, he’ll grow the courage to tell her.

 

It’s a long walk back to the nearest public hovercraft stop. Yoongi has ridden the thing countless times, the Singularity Coalition never really funding his truly personal trips, only the ones mandated by him as the only available legal guardian of Eunhae.

 

Mini-vacations to a graveyard in the middle of nowhere are unfortunately reimbursed. Yoongi is lucky to not have many expenses.

 

Climbing onto the small vehicle and shuffling past the one or two passengers that take up the seats closer to the front of the bus, Yoongi sits on the side closer to the row. He’s watching Eunhae blow steam onto the glass to draw smiley-faces when he gets a notification on his VisTech.

 

I expect you to not miss the visit you were supposed to take prior to your departure when you return, Yoongi.

 

Yoongi sighs at Seokjin’s words. He replies more out of knowing that he’ll forget to do it later if he doesn’t do it now. I was on a tight schedule. Don’t hold it against me.

 

Seokjin’s reply is nearly instant, as expected. Tight schedule, my ass. We are going to sit down and have much more than a psych eval when you get here. I expect a full-on conversation, feelings and all, Min Yoongi.

 

Yoongi doesn’t have the energy to fight. Okay, he replies. He’s not surprised when Seokjin doesn’t send anything after that-- he knows when it’s too much. Maybe he expected more of a talk-back from Yoongi; between the travel, the cutting open of old emotional wounds, and the way he yearns to be back in his room with Jimin, listening to old music and temporarily forgetting everything that has to do with the past and now…

 

He hasn’t felt this type of exhaustion in a year. He thought it’d be easier, but it’s not-- it gets harder every time he treks across the sand to find the place his life completely changed. Yoongi hopes that one day, he doesn’t have to come back here out of some lingering attachment to the past.

 

He hopes that one day, he can move on.




Climbing off the porter ship hours after leaving Eunhae back in the Eighth feels… different. It was always a burden before-- knowing that he’d have to get a psych eval from Seokjin, knowing that he’d have to go back to pretending he’s normal the next day.

 

He walks into the infirmary ward like he’s not about to have his emotions drained even further. Maybe it’s the numbness of it all, or the way Eunhae’s soft voice reading off decades’ old stories is still clouding his mind like a vision.

 

Seokjin looks up when Yoongi knocks on the edge of his doorframe. “Oh, already back?” He glances at the clock. It’s not day by any means-- if anything, it’s in the middle of the night. “I expected you by early morning at best.”

 

“Eunhae read me a story and forced me onto the jet because I looked ‘sleepy’.” Yoongi moves to hop up on the same medical bed that Jimin had changed his bandages on a month ago. It feels like it happened yesterday.

 

“She’s such a sweetheart,” Seokjin sighs fondly, leaning back on his stool when he swivels to face Yoongi, back propped up against the corner of his desk as he regards him with tired eyes. “A real kind soul, to look after her Uncle so gently at her young age.”

 

Yoongi nods, pursing his lips. “She is.” He leaves it at that, not really having much energy for anything more.

 

Seokjin leans forward, propping his chin in his palm as he sets his elbow on his knee. Yoongi recognizes the shift in demeanor as a sign to listen. “So, how was your trip? You said during our last meeting, what was it… two weeks ago? That you were going to bring Eunhae to visit your family this time? How did that go?”

 

Yoongi hums as confirmation before letting the words flow out as if they don’t cause him to shift in discomfort, “It went fine. I don’t think she understood what it meant. She was happy to go with me.” It’s strange to him, how several months ago, it’d take Seokjin minutes of drilling to even get an answer like this -- direct, to the point instead of the usual beating around the bush-- out of Yoongi.

 

“What makes you think she didn’t understand?”

 

Yoongi blinks, fatigue causing his face to strain at even that simple gesture. “I just said-- she was happy to go.” If Eunhae truly grasped what it all meant, she wouldn’t have let Yoongi leave the Eighth so quickly after such emotional stress. She wouldn’t have been smiling, or humming along on the trip to or from the wasteland Yoongi used to call home.

 

“Why did you bring her, then?”

 

Yoongi looks up from where his gaze had drifted to the floor, lost in thought. He takes longer than necessary to answer. “It felt like it was time. The longer I wait, the higher the chance that she’ll never get the chance to go because I might…”

 

“Because you might die on a mission, right?” Seokjin’s expression is calm, collected.

 

Similar to how Yoongi feels, though his is much more due to exhaustion than professionalism. “Yeah. Because I might die. I didn’t want her to not know where the rest of our family lay.”

 

Death has always been a possibility in times of war. When considering how little they still knew about the Others, even after all these years fighting, the chances of something going wrong are far higher. Yoongi would like to think that if the Waves by which the Others attacked were more frequent in occurrence, they’d have known all about them by now.

 

“Why now, though? Why not sooner?” Seokjin shifts on his stool, the metal of it creaking loudly in the room. Yoongi distantly hears murmurs of the medical staff passing by the closed door, the sound of the clock ticking echoing against the cold tile.

 

“I’ve been thinking about the future a lot, lately,” Yoongi answers honestly.

 

“Isn’t visiting the graves of your family thinking about the past?” Kim Seokjin, and his fucking doctor questions. Yoongi sighs.

 

“Unfortunately, for bastards like me,” Yoongi starts, his patience wearing thin now that the conversation is really getting to the thick of it. “My past is a bigger part of my future than I’d like.”

 

“Does Jimin know?” Yoongi snaps his gaze up at that, giving Seokjin a confused expression that causes him to repeat the question. “I asked, does Jimin know?”

 

“That I went to go visit Eunhae? I mean, yeah, sure. But that’s hardly got to do with anything, since Joon, and you, and Hoseok know, t--”

 

“No, Yoongi,” Seokjin cuts him off, shaking his head calmly. His gaze is stern, solid. “I mean, does Jimin know?”

 

Yoongi tenses. He doesn’t ask why it matters if Jimin does or not-- he knows the answer.

 

Seokjin continues, “I know that you are aware of what I’m asking and why I’m asking it, Yoongi. Please let me know if you can answer that, if not-- we can change the subject.” Even now, Seokjin knows when the line is close to being crossed.

 

Regardless, Yoongi finds himself answering. “No, he doesn’t know.”

 

The way Yoongi stares directly at Seokjin instead of at the clock for once in their sessions makes Seokjin’s eyes squint suspiciously. He hesitates before his expression evens out completely, a look of clarity bleeding into the way he stares back at Yoongi. “You’re going to tell him, aren’t you?”


Yoongi is stock still. “Yes.” Just the thought makes his heartbeat rise, even if he’s been adamant in his decision for a while now. “I’m going to tell Jimin.”


Seokjin’s eyes widen after several long seconds— gaze flickering across Yoongi’s entire front like he’s analyzing everything about his demeanor. Maybe, he’s even reading his mind— at this rate, Yoongi wouldn’t be surprised. “You’re going to tell him soon, aren’t you?”


“Yes,” Yoongi exhales, something heavy being lifted from his shoulders only to be replaced by the consuming thoughts of what Jimin’s reaction could be. He’s been trying not to think too much about it and just do it, but it’s harder than Yoongi had anticipated— to stop himself from overthinking is a challenge far greater than what he had believed.

 

“How soon?”

 

Yoongi wets his lips, his mouth dry. “When I wake up from recovering from the jet lag.”

 

Seokjin’s eyes go comically wide. “Why the sudden shift? Two weeks ago you were nervousness personified about showing Eunhae the Seventh.”

 

Yoongi digs his fingers into the leather of the medical bed. When he looks up to Seokjin again, he finds the words.

 

“When I visited them, Eunhae asked about him. She asked about Jimin.” Yoongi blinks, surprised at how little pain follows the memory despite it being so heavily associated with the events of earlier in the day. “She thought about him right there, while we were standing in the middle of where it all used to be.”

“What does Eunhae have to do with your decision to tell Jimin about how they died?”


Yoongi blinks. He is so fucking certain that in that moment, if he weren’t as tired and sad and numb as he is, he’d feel tears prick the corners of his eyes. Instead, he feels dryness, much like the sand that sweeps across the stones marking the tombs of his loved ones.


“Because right before she asked, I was thinking about him, too.”


Yoongi was thinking about pretty honey-brown eyes, a handsome face, and delicate touches while standing at the same place that’s been haunting his dreams for over half a decade.


He doesn’t have to say what it means for Seokjin to understand— it’s written across his friend’s face. Seokjin immediately gets up, losing his doctor mode in an instant as he paces around the room.


Yoongi watches him as if he’s out of his body and looking down at the two of them, separate yet still very much a part of the conversation. Seokjin turns to him after a moment, expression focused. “You said last time you came by that you had voluntarily touched him?”


A hum as a response is all Seokjin needs to hammer out another question. This one makes Yoongi’s skin tingle, a wash of semi-alertness hitting him like a crashing wave. “What are you gonna do when you tell him? Are you going to let him touch you again?”


Yoongi knows that Seokjin means ‘for real’, meaning ‘without gloves’.


“I—“


“—‘cause if you are, don’t do too much. It’s my professional opinion that too much too fast will ruin all your progress, and then you’ll go back to not wanting affection at all, and then all this will have been for—“ Seokjin cuts himself off, checking to see if his panic caused it to be instilled in Yoongi, as well.


“I’m fine, Jin. I know my own boundaries.”


“But does Jimin know them?”


Yoongi pauses. He thinks back to Jimin’s hovering hands above his arm, his worried but calm expression. The way his voice echoed softly, the way his lips ended up curling into a shy smile both times-- back in the First and in the very room Yoongi is in now. “If he doesn’t know them, he’ll ask.”


Judging by the wash of relief that floods Seokjin’s expression, it was the right answer. He scratches the side of his temple, brow furrowed. “It’s not that I don’t trust Jimin, it’s just that...”


“It’s been years. Yeah, I get it.” Despite Yoongi’s lackluster outward demeanor, the whole ordeal has slowly been waking him up more and more, adrenaline pumping in his veins.


Yoongi isn’t the type of person to go back on a decision unless completely necessary. It’s what got him into this whole mess of avoiding physical affection and discussing his real feelings for years.

 


It’s also what’s going to get him through telling Jimin-- at least, he hopes that’s true.

 


“You should go to sleep,” Seokjin suddenly says, stirring Yoongi from his veering-off thoughts. “You look like shit.”


“‘S that as Seokjin my friend or Seokjin my doctor?”


“You are aware that when you call me ‘doctor’, you’re also referring to the part of me that stitches you up, right? I’m Seokjin your psychiatrist right now, sleepyhead.”


“I’m not that tired,” Yoongi yawns, defeating his own words as he subtly ignores Seokjin’s comment. “Okay, maybe I lied.”

 

Seokjin’s gaze sweeps over Yoongi’s expression, some unknown thought tugging his brows down as he purses his lip in focus, scratching his chin. Yoongi yawns again and Seokjin keeps the same expression as he helps him off the medical table. Yoongi pretends he doesn’t almost stumble.

 

He almost misses the way Seokjin stares at him in silent shock when Yoongi doesn’t quickly pull back from his friend’s lingering grasp on his arms as he stands. Yoongi’s too sleepless to contemplate what his lack of flinching means.

 

“Next session will be in two weeks, as per usual,” Seokjin says softly, like he’s afraid Yoongi will blow away into fine dust if he speaks too loudly. It makes Yoongi snort unattractively, adjusting his rumpled clothes absentmindedly before heading to the door.

 

He pauses at its frame, not looking back at Seokjin but knowing that his eyes are on him all the same. “Thanks, Jin.”

 

Yoongi doesn’t say anything as he leaves the room; he knows he doesn’t have to.



                   



Jimin wakes up sweating.

 

He shoots up in his bed, sheets sticking to the bare, clammy skin of his chest. One quick look around the room and Jimin calms considerably, knowing realistically that no one or no thing is there, but feeling the need to check regardless.

 

As Jimin grows accustomed to his surroundings in his newly-awake state, he discovers what caused him to stir from sleep in the first place: an incessant ringing of the censor that indicates someone’s at his door.

 

He shifts out of bed, stumbling on the sheets that wrap around his legs before pressing his open palm to the reader to the left of his door, the mechanism instantly unlocking and sliding the smooth metal open.

 

Jimin leans on the doorframe, looking up tiredly to find Ke staring at him with raised brows. “What?” Jimin groans, straightening his back to roll his shoulders.

 

Ke gives Jimin a quick once-over before sticking his head in the doorway, gaze flitting across the empty room. “I’m not gonna find any scantily-clad fuckbuddies in here, am I?”

 

Jimin scoffs, turning around to shuffle to his bathroom, feet cold against the smooth concrete of his floor. “I don’t know what you’re implying, but I slept alone last night. Like always.”

 

Ke follows him into the bathroom, not even blinking as Jimin turns his back to him and lifts up the toilet seat. Jimin sighs and Ke starts ranting over the sound, “You know, I really shouldn’t have expected any different, seeing as your pissing in front of me like we’re married.”

 

“I would never marry you-- too annoying,” Jimin mutters, readjusting his sleep pants before fumbling with the toilet’s handle and flushing. He moves to wash his hands, ignoring the pointed glare from Ke, who is leaning against the doorway lackadaisically. “I just woke up and you’re already talking my ear off. Wouldn’t be a good match.”

 

“Someone’s grumpy today,” Ke says absentmindedly, staring at Jimin as he begins to brush his teeth. “I guess I shouldn’t have implied that you’d want anyone besides your grumpier counterpart in your bed.”

 

Jimin coughs out toothpaste, throwing a sharp look Ke’s way. “He’s not my counterpart.”

 

“Oh, ‘s that so?” Ke smiles wryly, eyes glinting with amusement as Jimin rolls his. He focuses back on routine, washing out his mouth. “Then I guess I shouldn’t tell you that he’s back from his little trip to the Eighth.”

 

“What?” Jimin blurts, water and toothpaste dripping down his chin. “Yoongi’s back?”

 

“Mhm,” Ke hums, grin wide as Jimin wipes at his face with a towel, eyes wide and focused on him. “Came back late last night, apparently.”

 

Jimin narrows his eyes. “And how do I know you’re not just trying to mess with me when I’m half-awake?” It wouldn’t be the first time Ke’s done it-- Jimin is always a lot more honest with his reactions after any amount of rest, even if it’s the bare minimum needed for him to function.

 

“Jin told me,” Ke answers, taking a prideful stance, chest puffed and chin tilted up as he smiles at a glaring Jimin. “I went to visit him for a tweak on my skin mod installments and he let it slip. Guy’s always had a loose tongue ‘round me--”

 

“I gotta get dressed,” Jimin cuts him off, maneuvering around Ke to go to his closet. A pass of his hand against the smooth part of the wall near his bed allows the compartment to slide open. “I gotta see hi--”

 

“There’s no point, JP.” Jimin stops in the middle of tugging a shirt over his head, his arms tangled up in the shirt as he looks at Ke in bewilderment. “Jin said he’s probably holed up in his room and sleeping like a rock.”

 

Jimin finishes putting on his shirt, pushing back his hair as he contemplates Ke’s comment. “But…” He takes a deep breath, willing himself to calm down from the rush of adrenaline that had started having an effect on him. “He… when is he supposed to wake up? He said he’d come and stop by the day he came back.”

 

“Yeah, JP. It’s technically still the same day as when he came in on the porter ship,” Ke says, throwing himself onto Jimin’s bed in a starfish position. He blows his hair out of his eyes as he sets Jimin with a lazy gaze. “And I don’t know what Yoongi’s sleep schedule is like. You’re the one that’s supposed to know that stuff.”

 

“Stop saying things like that,” Jimin mumbles, taking a look down at himself to realize that everything he’s wearing is completely mismatched from his now-gone hurry to leave. He sighs, going back to his closet to take out workout clothes instead.

 

“Why?” Ke asks, rolling over onto his side and somehow managing to reach a leg over and kick the side of Jimin’s thigh. “You two are inseparable since you came back from the First a month ago. It’s even worse than before you left to go there in the first place. Might as well treat it like it is.”

 

“And what is that, exactly?” Jimin huffs out, swatting at Ke’s ankle the second time he nudges his leg. “What are Yoongi and I, since you seem to be an expert in my relationships?”

 

“Lovers,” Ke says matter-of-factly. Jimin goes so red in the face so quickly that he gets dizzy from it, nearly missing Ke’s ankle when he reaches to grip and pinch it. “Ow! That’s fucked, JP. Ain’t gotta take it out on me just because I have the courage to say aloud what you and Yoongi can’t.”

 

“We are not lovers,” Jimin mumbles, wetting his bottom lip, mouth suddenly dry. “Yoongi is my friend. From the looks of it, about to be my only best friend, seeing how you and Taehyung keep butting into my life and causing me hell.” Jimin squints at Ke accusingly before averting his eyes.

 

He sits on the edge of the bed as he puts on his shoes. Ke keeps going, as expected, “Yeah, yeah. ‘Friends’. That’s what you call it when two people wanna bone each other but are too chicken shit to admit it.”

 

“Is that what you think of my friendship with him? That I just wanna ‘bone’ him?” Jimin keeps his eyes on his laces.

 

Ke sighs, “Well, no.” He feels Ke shift on the bed next to him but doesn’t look to measure his expression. “I think you guys wanna do the sappy stuff, too. But the, how did Yoongi put it oh-so-gracefully about Jin and Joon the first day at the Shatterdome, how they ‘fuck each other in their free time’? Yeah, that shit definitely applies to the two of you. Now that effort-- if there even is one yet-- oughtta be acknowledged.”

 

“You are insufferable,” Jimin scolds half-heartedly, too focused on trying to will away the pink permanently staining his cheeks. “Absolutely insufferable. I should’ve kicked you out the window of the porter ship on the way back from our last mission so I didn’t have to hear this shit spew from your mouth.”

 

Ke outright cackles, the loud sound reverberating in the small space of Jimin’s room. “Ah, damn, JP. You’re so funny when you’re flustered,” Ke sighs. When Jimin glances back at him, he sees Ke wiping at fake tears dramatically.

 

“Now it’s not only Hoseok that’s the problem-- it’s Taehyung and Jungkook, too. Now you’re too horny and too much of an actor.”

 

“That’s the best combo, though,” Ke snickers, getting up off the bed quickly when Jimin tries to whack him. “Ah, ah, ah, JP,” Ke warns, wagging a finger with a bright smile. “No harming the messenger bird. You’re s’posed to give me snacks instead.”

 

“The only snack you’re gonna get in a minute is my fist down your throat, asshat,” Jimin scoffs, raising off the bed to stalk towards his door. “Now, c’mon. Gotta train between missions to keep up our stamina.”

 

“It’s supposed to be our week off,” Ke groans, following Jimin out of his room anyway. “You fucking overachiever.”

 

“Better to overachieve than to be eaten,” Jimin jokes, referencing their first mission.

 

“I still can’t believe that idiot Xiang thought the Other was trying to eat me. Do I look tasty to you?”

 

Jimin glances at Ke before heading off to the training room. “Maybe in certain lighting, sure. Perhaps to a certain general, who shall not be named.”

 

“Hey now, JP,” Ke whispers harshly. Jimin doesn’t have to look behind himself to know Ke is searching for any possible bystanders to their conversation. “That’s--”

 

“Can’t hear you over the sound of my future kickboxing!” Jimin sing-songs, picking up his pace into a run out of nowhere.

 

He can hear Ke cursing behind him as he rounds the corner.

Chapter Text

It’s only thirty or so minutes into running around the track that Ke is called away for something to do with his specialization training. He doesn’t say he’s going to go visit Hoseok for said task to Jimin, but he doesn’t have to-- the meek expression he wears as he exits the track at a light jog is as good a sign as any.

 

Jimin smiles to himself as he continues running, keeping his breaths at an even pace as he lets his mind drift to far-off places. Other people from all around the Bloodbane come and go, none of them ever running next to him or waving in greeting. Everyone seems to be doing their own thing and Jimin would be grateful for it, if his thoughts weren’t somewhere else entirely.

 

Yoongi is back at the Bloodbane. Jimin missed him more than he had expected.

 

Maybe Ke, Taehyung, and Jungkook all have a point, though separate and rather off-kilter ways of putting it entirely; what is his relationship with Yoongi? Out of all the times Jimin has done the things that a perverted Ke not-so-vaguely hinted at, it’s never been with emotion or feelings or love.

 

Jimin does love Yoongi; but is it really different from how he loves Taehyung? Or how he loves Ke? How he loves Seokjin, and Namjoon, and Hoseok? Jungkook? Jimin knows he cares for Yoongi in a non-platonic way, but can he really say he’s in love with him?

 

He always thought that when he did find someone to love him-- someone who would look at the scars on Jimin’s back and soul and not feel pity or shame but acceptance-- that it’d be simple, easygoing. Effortless.

 

But everything-- every minute-- he has spent with Yoongi has been anything but that. It’s been complicated, even tense at times; always with a couple of extra layers of importance, understanding, effort. Jimin can count on one hand the number of times he’s tried this hard at something, and how he feels about Yoongi-- what he has with Yoongi-- is on that list.

 

If there’s one thing that Jimin has still to this day been unable to shake from his beliefs from home, it’s his uncertainty. His heart beats in his chest for more reasons than just his sprinting, picking up in speed as he continues to think about the sharp-eyed lieutenant with a soft heart and softer touches; Jimin thinks that everything about Yoongi is uncertain.

 

He just wants to see him again. Not one more time, but all the time. Jimin doesn’t want to make assumptions about Yoongi, doesn’t want to take it a step too far and scare him off and never see him again--

 

Jimin doesn’t want to lose him. For some reason that even he can’t quite comprehend, he believes that pushing Yoongi for more might make just that happen.

 

He comes to a slow stop, ragged breaths dragging out from his lungs as he bends over and leans his upper body weight on his knees. Jimin blinks the sweat away that drips into his lashes, wiping at his forehead.

 

He isn’t sure how much time has passed while he was in his own head, the sun now fully out above him and bearing down searingly. The black of the track burns under the soles of Jimin’s sneakers, and suddenly he’s starting to feel the effects of thirst.

 

It’s when he straightens his posture and looks up on his way to his water bottle that he sees the person who’s been standing at the corner of his unattentive vision.

 

Yoongi waves at him with a bright smile, cheeks shining under the harsh wash of sunlight that bathes the track in gold. Jimin’s heart stammers up once again.

 

“Park!” He calls, dropping his hand and shifting on his feet in a way that looks a lot like excitement, the quiet happiness on Yoongi’s face making Jimin’s gut do somersaults.

 

Jimin jogs over to him, suddenly a little too aware of his own feet and where he places them on the ground beneath each step. It takes him a normal amount of time to reach Yoongi, but some part in the back of Jimin’s mind thinks it’s far too long for his taste.

 

“Yoongi,” he exhales once he reaches him, offering a genuine smile in return. His tense thoughts from moments ago are quickly being deposited back into a far corner of Jimin’s psyche. He briefly wonders if Yoongi had waited however long to catch his attention because of the focused look that must’ve been painted on his face as he ran. “I thought you were supposed to be resting?”

 

Yoongi blinks, smile dropping the slightest amounts, “Uh, yeah.” He scratches the side of his jaw, Jimin tracing the way his fingertips pull the slight stubble along their path. “But I couldn’t sleep much. Needed my music.”

 

Jimin freezes, almost forgetting that Yoongi had left his Bluetooth headphones with him in the midst of all his contemplation as of late. “Oh, you want me to go get them for you? I have them in my workout bag inside. ‘S that why you’re here?” He internally winces at the last part, hoping it doesn’t come off the wrong way.

 

“Y-Yeah,” Yoongi stutters, gaze dragging along Jimin’s face and nape. The look makes a shiver run up his spine, Yoongi’s eyes snapping back up after a moment too long. “But I also wanted to see you. We… need to catch up.” He purses his lips, Jimin’s eyes unintentionally following the motion before meeting Yoongi’s once more. “Eunhae asked about you, you know.”

 

Jimin perks up at that, “Really? What did she ask?”

 

Yoongi pauses for longer than necessary, seeming to contemplate his words carefully. “Why don’t we go inside the training room and out of this sun and I’ll tell you about it?” He offers, expression unreadable.

 

Jimin nods, albeit a little hesitantly. Yoongi seems… off. He dismisses it as fatigue, following along when Yoongi leads the way back into the Bloodbane.

 

It’s when they’re walking into the cool, air-conditioned space of the training room that Yoongi halts in his steps, seeming to reconsider something.

 

He turns to Jimin, face outwardly calm. “How about you… uh,” Yoongi gulps, eyes glancing over Jimin’s entire front before meeting his gaze again. “Clean up and come by my room, instead? There’s going to be a lot of in-and-out traffic here, and I figured we could talk in… private.”

 

Jimin tries to hide how taken aback he is. He’s been to Yoongi’s room countless times by now but somehow, this invitation feels… different. “Um, sure,” Jimin concedes almost immediately, leaning down to pick up his workout bag. “Do you want your headphones now, or..?”

 

“Okay,” Yoongi agrees. Jimin pulls them out and offers them. He almost drops his jaw in shock when Yoongi reaches out to accept them, not showing any outward signs of discomfort as the bare skin of his fingertips brush Jimin’s palm. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

 

Jimin’s stare flickers between his open palm and Yoongi’s back as the older leaves the room, not sparing Jimin another glance.

 

 

Something’s different.

 

 

Those are the same two words that repeat in Jimin’s mind as he goes back to his room to wash up and change into casual clothes, his selection few and far between seeing as most of his closet is full of workout attire and exosuits.

 

He almost knocks on Yoongi’s door instead of pressing his hand to the print scanner at its side, the daze of Yoongi’s unabashed and seemingly intentional touch from earlier making every movement of Jimin’s hand feel… robotic, measured. Like he’s considering that he’s starting to feel pseudo-sensations on his skin instead of real ones.

 

The smooth metal of the doorframe pushes aside with a whooshing sound, revealing a Yoongi that looks far too anxious for simply a story about visiting his sweet niece. He fidgets with the headphones settled around his neck, not meeting Jimin’s eyes. He gulps as Yoongi wordlessly invites him into the room, gesturing for him to sit on the bed, as he always has when Jimin comes by.

 

But this time is different. Jimin doesn’t have to ask to know that.

 

“Yoongi,” Jimin says, his voice echoing against the metal walls in a way that feels too ominous for the moment. Yoongi’s gaze is trained on his feet, still standing stiffly as if he’s been shut off. “What’s on your mind?”

 

Yoongi shakes his head, offering Jimin his best attempt at a relaxed expression. Jimin sees it for what it really is. “Nothing. ‘M just really exhausted. Do you think we could, uh… listen to music instead? For the time being? My head isn’t in the right place.”

 

Jimin purses his lips to bite back the part of him that wants to push Yoongi for what’s really bothering him. His thoughts from earlier on the track flicker at the forefront of his mind before he pushes them back down. “Yeah, okay. That’s fine. Like usual, right?”

 

Yoongi hums, moving to slump down on the bed next to Jimin. He shifts to where his legs are crossed on the sheets, Jimin following suit and taking the same position, hands fidgeting in his lap. There’s just enough space to where they’re not touching, and Jimin thinks that this is normal, that this is how it usually is and that Yoongi acting strange was all a figment of his imagination, but then--

 

Then Yoongi takes the headphones from around his neck and places them on Jimin’s head, warm fingertips brushing against the skin of his temples, the soft hairs on the lobes of his ears. Yoongi doesn’t meet his gaze, eyes searching across every parameter of Jimin’s face like he’s measuring its dimensions before he’s pulling back.

 

Jimin’s ears are warm. It’s not the headphones causing it.

 

He isn’t sure where to look as the music starts up from Yoongi’s VisTech, staring a hole through the sheets. He glances up once or twice during the first song-- something familiar and melodic, a favorite of Jimin’s that he often hums along to when it comes up on shuffle-- to see that Yoongi’s eyes are closed, expression pinched like he’s focused on something.

 

It takes Jimin several minutes to realize that Yoongi’s playing all of Jimin’s favorites, one by one. It’s not that he’s ever chosen them outright or listed them in order of preference; some of the songs Jimin has only ever heard once or twice in Yoongi’s massive collection of music. They’re all choices that Jimin has hummed too, though-- never really knowing the lyrics but feeling them more intimately than the others all the same.

 

Jimin stares at Yoongi in confusion, the inside of his throat constricting and palms sweaty as he continues to listen. At one point, at a time far longer than any duration they’ve listened to music together in one go, Jimin closes his eyes as well.

 

It’s several songs down the line from this point that his eyes flutter open again, only to meet Yoongi’s for the first time since he’s been in the room.

 

A warm intensity settles between the two of them, neither dragging their eyes away as the notes of what Jimin can only assume Yoongi had called a ‘guitar’ strums in his ears, the male voice that joins shortly singing sighed out, bronzey notes into Jimin’s mind.

 

I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do, about you now.

 

Jimin blinks, listening to the lyric as it sticks out from the others, eyes never leaving the chocolate-brown ones boring into his. The song picks up in tempo-- long, flat tones accompanied by a somber ballad that drag out the word Wonderwall, the same lyrics repeating in Jimin’s ears but not really connecting.

 

No, they don’t connect; they don’t connect, because Jimin’s focus is no longer on the song, but on the delicate touch of Yoongi’s fingertips grazing along his jaw, tickling the light five-o'clock shadow that graces the slopes of his features.

 

Jimin’s eyes widen at the unexpected but welcomed feeling of Yoongi’s skin on his, the tender way Yoongi’s eyes soften the closer he leans in.

 

His lashes flutter shut on instinct when he feels Yoongi’s breath dusting across his lower face. Part of him thinks that this is all a dream-- Yoongi, who sleeps next to a pair of leather gloves and keeps his hands to his sides at all times, touching Jimin, caressing him.

 

Jimin shivers when Yoongi gently slides the headphones off his head, the sound of them hitting the sheets behind him accompanied by the ragged, nervous way Yoongi pants so close to his face.

 

The echo of the song can still be heard from the headphones discarded behind Jimin. Yoongi’s lips are on his within a heartbeat later.

 

Jimin gasps against him, heat rushing to the surface of his skin as Yoongi cups his cheek with an almost reverent hold. He tries to keep his hands to himself before losing the battle, reaching forward and gripping at the loose fabric of Yoongi’s shirt, fingers twisting within it and pulling Yoongi closer, closer, closer.

 

His heartbeat is so loud he wouldn’t be surprised if Yoongi could hear it, too-- his breath staggering out and mingling with Yoongi’s, months of want and need pooling in every corner of his body so fast it makes his head tingle with hints of dizziness. Jimin feels the bliss in his fucking toes, fingers shaking against Yoongi’s broad chest as he takes what he can, what he’s finally offered.

 

Jimin didn’t know what he was waiting for before now-- with the way Yoongi’s breath dusts across his upper lip in short bursts, fingers pressing more incessantly into the side of his cheek as he lets out the faintest of whimpers against Jimin’s lips, he finally realizes.

 

It was this. He was waiting for this.

 

Yoongi parts his lips slightly and Jimin takes the invitation to push his tongue against his, licking at the back of his teeth in smooth motions. His breaths are stuttering out of his lungs and making them, along with his entire body, burn with something akin to arousal.

 

The difference is in the speed of burn-- for once in Jimin’s life, need like this is slow and ebbing and so intense that it makes his heart beat hard enough that he can feel the pulse in his face.

 

Yoongi pulls away and they collectively gasp for air, a string of spittle connecting their parted lips that Jimin couldn’t feel less embarrassed about. He swipes at it, reveling in the feel of Yoongi’s kiss-swollen skin under the pad of his thumb before he dives back in, chasing after Yoongi’s warmth again.

 

But things aren’t fixed in an instant, like kissing Yoongi momentarily made Jimin think it did.

 

Yoongi flinches out of instinct and maybe a lot of renewed nerves. He curses under his haggard breath, forcing his eyes shut in something that looks an awful lot like shame as he wraps his fingers around Jimin’s wrists, pulling his hands from being coiled in the fabric of his shirt.

 

The buzz doesn’t really die down despite Jimin’s sharp and sudden guilt, face flaming as his gaze lingers on the glossiness of Yoongi’s puffy mouth, the stain of red high on his cheeks. “‘M sorry,” Jimin finds himself murmuring, voice lost and a lot sadder than he intended to let show.

 

He feels pressure build quickly behind his eyes when Yoongi doesn’t immediately respond or open his. Jimin thinks he’s fucked it all up-- thinks that he shouldn’t have forgotten his reservations from as early as this morning, believes he should’ve just kept his stupid hands to himself.

 

The tears are starting to sting the corners of his vision when Yoongi finally, slowly, opens his eyes, such a confusing mix of grief and bliss laced in his gaze that Jimin goes completely still.

 

“I only stopped you, Jimin, because,” Yoongi takes a deep breath, dropping Jimin’s wrists so he can thumb at the corners of his eyes instead, catching the wetness there before it even really had a chance to escape. “Because I… I can’t go further than just kissing if--”

 

“That’s fine, that’s okay,” Jimin says hurriedly, forcing his hands back into his lap when they raise up out of a need to touch, to hold. “We don’t have to do anything. I got carried away.”

 

Yoongi strokes the bridge of Jimin’s nose before his touch lingers on the bow of his upper lip, palm moving to cup the side of his cheek after a moment’s pause. He raises his gaze to meet Jimin’s again and if Jimin weren’t so unbelievably scared of making Yoongi flinch again, he’d be on top of him, pressing him into the sheets and locking their lips once more.  

 

“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” Jimin repeats, his words not so different from a mantra in the way they roll off his tongue, in the way he wants so badly to hold true to them, all for Yoongi.

 

“I can’t go further than just kissing—” Yoongi starts again, expression shifting into something more vulnerable than any of the looks Jimin has seen grace Yoongi’s features. “—if I can’t tell you about why I am the way that I am.” His hands drop from Jimin’s face, folding in his lap.

 

“You don’t have to tell me anything, Yoongi,” Jimin says automatically, knowing that the words aren’t really true but wanting them to be, anyway. He’s well aware that if he wants whatever… this is to be more and to not end here, he’ll need to know a lot more about Yoongi.

 

Jimin is well-aware that to be a part of Yoongi’s future, he needs to know about his past.

 

He just doesn’t want to hurt him in order to learn it. “I do have to tell you, Jimin. I have to.” Yoongi’s voice cracks, his expression pinching for a moment before struggling back to something trying so hard to resemble neutral. “Just give me a minute to find the words.”

 

Jimin does that-- waits, waits a lot longer than only a simple minute for Yoongi to speak again. There’s always been a part of him that was curious about Yoongi’s past, about the trauma he must’ve suffered to be so averse to touch, to physical affection and intimacy.

 

He didn’t think he’d ever know. Then again, he didn’t think he’d be the one Yoongi invited in, either.

 

It’s several tense minutes-- all of which feel like small yet significant lifetimes-- before Yoongi speaks, their breathing calmed and echoing loudly in the now-silent, now-still air. He clears his throat before he begins, the first words of his story leaving Jimin stunned into silence.

 

“I watched them all die,” Yoongi starts, his eyes taking a type of solemn anguish that momentarily makes Jimin lose his ability to exhale. “I felt each of them take their last breath, and I let it all happen because I was too scared to fight back.”

 

Jimin doesn’t dare say a word. Yoongi takes a deep inhale before releasing it, the strain of the topic evident in the way his forehead furrows into a deep frown before being forced to relax.

 

“The last wave-- it started at the Seventh. All that’s left is some sand and flat earth, along with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of graves. It’s where I…” Yoongi sighs, jaw tense. “It’s where I took Eunhae to see for the first time yesterday, and it’s why every single winter, I throw myself into such a deep depression that not even Seokjin can pull me out.”

 

Jimin wants to comfort Yoongi so badly that it physically aches in his chest. He isn’t sure how to do so, aside from listening. “I only resurface when the new year comes, and even then, I think I lose… something, when I try to go back to normal. It’s been happening for every year since they all died--” Yoongi’s tone grows bitter, “--and I feel less like myself every time I visit those stupid fucking rocks in the sand.”

 

His face falls, a look of defeat taking on the way he holds himself-- shoulders slacking, gaze dropping from Jimin’s.

 

“I only survived the wave because Eunhae’s real father, my older brother, protected me. Our family…” He flinches despite not being touched, posture caving in on itself. Jimin holds his breath, afraid Yoongi might shatter if he lets it go too quickly. “W-we… We tried to… to…”

 

It’s silent, the way Yoongi breaks down. It’s like he’s trying to shove the emotions back in himself, his hands dropping twisting in the fabric of his pantlegs as if he were trying to tear them apart, tear anything apart, to make the turmoil go away. Jimin watches as the tears start to streak down Yoongi’s cheeks faster than he can blink, everything Yoongi has been harboring within him crashing in one go.

 

Everything in Jimin screams for him to touch, to hold, to cradle Yoongi so close to his chest that he loses the ability for his lungs to gulp in air-- but Jimin holds himself back.

 

Yoongi doesn’t need Jimin to touch him, for this. He needs Jimin to listen.

 

“We tried to r-run,” Yoongi chokes out, eyes shut hard and face scrunched up in pain. “But t-then, they came, and I just stood back and watched. I was s-so fucking stuck,” Yoongi growls, the sound a lot like a gurgle in his state. “I couldn’t move, and I kept thinking to myself ‘move, you fucking idiot-- your family is dying’, but I just… I couldn’t.

 

Flashes of the Other that still haunts Jimin’s dreams and childhood memories flash in his mind before Yoongi continues, “And one by one, they were all torn to fucking pieces, almost like they-- like they weren’t even human to begin with. Like they didn’t matter.

 

Yoongi takes a moment to wipe at his wet cheeks, face bright red with emotional exertion.

 

“And my brother-- I can’t even say his fucking name anymore, it hurts so bad,” Yoongi croaks, gulping against the new tears that spring free. “He was a soldier back home for visit, too. H-he… he knocked me out, with his pistol.” Yoongi blinks, grief clinging to his lashes as he looks back up to meet Jimin with a watery gaze. “The Others didn’t kill me because they couldn’t sense me. I woke up to his body on top of me.”

 

It suddenly makes sense, the advice that Yoongi had whispered to him on the cold night of Jimin’s first mission.

 

Yoongi chuckles sourly to himself as he wipes at his face with his sleeve, the tension still there in every one of his movements. He clears his throat before speaking again, breaking the deafening silence where his words don’t lay once again, “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time, Jimin. I wasn’t ready until I took Eunhae to see them. I… I’m telling you this, because I want to try to have with you what I think I’ve been denying myself a long time: happiness.

 

Happiness without guilt. Happiness without thinking about the face of my dead brother every last moment before I go to sleep and every first moment when I wake up. Happiness, in a life where I can still raise Eunhae and not worry about what’ll happen to her if I’m not around.”

 

“Yoongi…” Jimin murmurs, his voice failing him. He doesn’t add anything to it, saying Yoongi’s name purely out of a want to say anything, to show he’s listening in one way other than the fact he can’t keep his eyes off of the man in front of him.

 

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to give you everything, and I know this is far more dramatic than these things tend to be, for normal people… but I’m not normal. I haven’t been in a long time-- I won’t be able to immediately give you a lot of intimacy physically, but I’ll try my hardest.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes search Jimin’s face as he continues, hope bleeding into the way they’re rimmed red from his drying tears, “I won’t be happy a lot, but I’ll try. I want to try and change, I want to try and be happy.”

 

“You don’t have to change to be happy,” Jimin says, voice low and gruff with emotion. “You don’t have to change for me.”

 

“That’s bullshit, Jimin, and you know it,” Yoongi sighs, wetting his lips as he takes a deep breath after. “You can say you’re different, but really, everyone is the same-- healthy relationships can’t last forever on words and false promises. I told myself I could go on forever without the touch of another, and look where that landed me; I can’t even properly kiss you without flinching like some wounded, sick animal.”

 

“You can flinch as many times as you need to,” Jimin murmurs, fingers digging into the calves of his folded legs. He looks at Yoongi with a serious expression, meaning every word, “As long as you keep kissing me.”

 

Yoongi’s gaze flickers across Jimin’s face for several long beats. The tension begins leaving his demeanor slowly but surely, his eyes softening to that same tender look that makes Jimin’s chest tighten.

 

He watches a rosy pink flood Yoongi’s cheeks, Jimin’s own face mimicking that same tint, “I... fuck,” Yoongi exhales, closing his eyes a moment before opening them to meet Jimin’s, “I like you, Park Jimin. Perhaps too much for my own good.”

 

“Then let’s try,” Jimin isn’t above begging, “Please? Please, let’s try?”

 

The faintest of smiles twitches at the corner of Yoongi’s lips-- it’s not much, but it’s something, considering the heaviness of the conversation before. Relief starts to edge it’s way into the way Yoongi stares into Jimin’s eyes, his forehead slowly smoothing of any stress.

 

“Are my kisses that good?” Yoongi half-jokes, his tone still flat but more lively than only moments ago.

 

“Mm, not so sure,” Jimin tries to tease, a small glimmer of delight fluttering in his chest when Yoongi’s smile grows more evident. He continues, “Might need more convincing.”

 

“I should’ve known that your issues in the attitude department would also make you a flirt, Park,” Yoongi says, voice low. “I hope you don’t take my trust and reliance on you as my now new, sole source of physical intimacy and run away with the wind.”

 

“Oh, I could never,” Jimin full-on grins as Yoongi’s face finally lifts to show amusement, if not still a little bashfulness in the form of his rosy cheeks. “I’m awful at running.”

 

Yoongi snorts, gaze shooting down shyly. He takes Jimin by surprise when he reaches over to grab one of his hands and pull it into his lap, intertwining their fingers as Yoongi rests their joined palms on his calves. He looks up after a long moment, meeting Jimin’s warm gaze through thick lashes and meek eyes.

 

It shouldn’t make Jimin practically melt into the mattress, but it does. “Please feel free to take my hand at any moment in time,” he smiles, thumb grazing across the back of Yoongi’s palm.

 

Jimin isn’t sure how he can go through so many intense emotions in such a short period of time-- maybe that’s just the nature of his relationship with Yoongi, to go from one extreme to another in the blink of an eye.

 

He doesn’t know what he’s doing, having never cared for someone the way he cares for Yoongi— he’s scared of what might go wrong, what he might mess up and accidentally say or do that could hurt the both of them.

 

He almost slips completely into his thoughts at the waves of self-doubt and anxiety washing over him; but then, he’s stirred from the consuming nature of his fears by Yoongi leaning in once more.

 

Jimin, a grown man and now trained soldier, shouldn’t feel butterflies rattle his insides at a simple, chaste kiss to the cheek, Yoongi’s lips soft and sweet as they press into the plumpness of his skin.

 

Yet he gets them anyway— all thousand of them as their battering wings shake and quiver in his chest and around his bleeding heart— and Yoongi’s hand in his is the only thing that grounds him. He has to remind himself that he’s not a blushing virgin, but exactly the opposite and should, logically, not react as one.

 

Holding Yoongi’s hand as they quietly go back to listening to music— a new, tender adoration settling between the two of them— Jimin continues to try and convince himself of just that.

Chapter Text

“So you’re saying that we could use it in training?”

 

Namjoon nods, obnoxious grin permanently stamped onto his face. His dimples are so deep that part of Yoongi wants to smirk in fond amusement, and the other half wants to slap him for being so cocky. “It’s the best installment I’ve ever created for the VisTech, hands down. This’ll revolutionize how we train our cadets-- hell, even you, Yoon--”

 

“Oh, boy, Joon,” Hoseok laughs, shooting Yoongi a nervous side-glance, “I wouldn’t say that to him, considering his mood. The sun is not even out yet.”

 

“You do know that you’re talking about me while I’m in front of the both of you, right?” Yoongi rolls his eyes-- something he notices himself doing as of late, the more time he spends with Jimin-- and clears his throat before turning back to Namjoon, “Plus, this sounds unsafe. You and the Intel division have barely had enough time to course through the new stackload of data on the Others, what if the Simfield alters aren’t accurate? Have you even had time to properly test it?”

 

“You have a point, I’ll admit,” Namjoon nods, pursing his lips as he contemplates his answer. He looks up at Yoongi from where he’s sitting straight in his chair, the thing creaking loudly in the small space of his office as he straightens his back. “We haven’t had enough time to test the Simfield alters. But we’re at war, Yoongi,” Namjoon stresses, face going serious. “I know it’s been over two decades now, but you said it yourself-- we just got a bunch of new intel on them. Now is the time to train, now is the time to take action.”

 

“And you think throwing my squad into a simulation where they fight an Other is how we should do that?” Yoongi is wary, nonetheless.

 

“It’s not just your squad,” Hoseok cuts in, plopping on the couch opposite Namjoon’s desk. “It’s all of ours.”

 

“Yeah,” Namjoon nods, eyes glancing between the two of them. Yoongi is still tense, fingers drumming against his folded arms. He doesn’t look to his side to see Hoseok’s expression. “And it’s a computer generated Other. Completely fake.”

 

“You say that as if the VisTech doesn’t still render pain. Most of the specialists have at least seen one by now, but fight one? Only Ke, Xiang, and Asuka reported one and even then, they ran, as they should’ve. We teach survival, not direct confrontation,” Yoongi grumbles through clenched teeth. He doesn’t like arguing with the two of them, but just thinking about any of his comrades suffering more trauma than they need to leaves a sour taste in his mouth.

 

“It’s desensitizing them, Yoongi,” Namjoon sighs, leaning back and completely avoiding Yoongi’s concerns. “The closer we get to finding the Others main base, the closer we get to the final battle. Attrition was the priority before, yes-- but ever since your squad reported the Other two months ago, HQ has been on their toes.”

 

Namjoon’s gaze shifts away, his expression turning reserved. Silence fills the room as everyone thinks of something to say, the only sounds being from Hoseok shifting on the couch and Namjoon’s computers buzzing.

 

Suddenly, the dots connect in Yoongi’s mind. He tries to suppress the shiver that runs down his spine as his eyes widen. “They think the next Wave is coming, don’t they?”

 

Namjoon’s eyes flicker to his immediately, the expression that flashes across his face answering Yoongi’s question before he even has the chance to respond. It doesn’t change the fact that when Namjoon does so after a long pause, Yoongi feels a low hum of terror creep up his throat, “They know it’s coming. Why else would the Others show face again, if not to scout out where they want to target next?”

 

“They’re coming to the Bloodbane,” Hoseok exhales raggedly, the words slipping from his mouth causing tension to build so high in the room that Yoongi is suddenly losing his ability to do just that: breathe. “They’re gonna attack HQ.”

 

Flashes of the last Wave cause something sick and hollow to twist in Yoongi’s gut, threatening his meager breakfast. It’s almost strange to him, how the thoughts that follow the same ones he’s had countless times include Jimin instead of the dark, vivid memories of his past. It’s been a month since the anniversary of his annual visit to the Seventh and he was feeling hopeful that the nightmares would stay away for once, but this...

 

“Not only HQ,” Yoongi says, voice low. “They never only attack one base.”

 

“You’re right,” Namjoon murmurs, hand pressed to his mouth, as if even speaking of it makes him uncomfortable. Yoongi supposes it’s the same reaction for everyone, though at varying degrees of intensity. “They’ll attack some of the bunkers, too. Anywhere they believe they can get away with, for their colonization efforts.”

 

“Fucking bastards,” Hoseok growls under his breath. “Why make us suffer? Why make us wait as they come back every couple of years, wipe some of us out and then leave? I have never understood it.”

 

“There used to be this animal,” Namjoon starts, gaze distant as he stares at the ceiling. “It was called Panthera tigris--” he pauses, wetting his lips. “A tiger, is what they called it. It was a big cat, a part of a family of other big cats and--”

 

“Why are you telling us this, Joon? What the fuck does a cat have to do with getting our asses handed to us?” Yoongi huffs out, trying his best to remain agitated rather than the alternative-- horrified.

 

Namjoon’s eyes slide down to meet his, “Some tigers used to play with their prey before killing them. It was a game to them, entertainment.”

 

“So, the Others are playing with us and killing us off slowly because it’s fun? Is this some theory you came up with, Joon?” Despite Yoongi’s tone, he’s keenly focused on Namjoon’s words now.

 

It’s not too far of a stretch, to consider that the monsters that haunt Yoongi’s moments in life might garner amusement from it.

 

“They’re intelligent,” Namjoon counters, face calm. Calmer than Yoongi feels. “Far more intelligent than you, than I, than anyone in this entire building. They are under the assumption that they will win regardless of our efforts; so why would they waste precious resources in taking us in one go? The Others are clearly a far older and more advanced species. Twenty years, thirty years, forty-- it probably means nothing to them, in the grand scheme of things.”

 

“This is what you’ve been discussing in those long Intel meetings with HQ?” Yoongi gives him a hard look. “The Others motives and intelligence, along with how to give our squads more PTSD than they probably already have from this stupid fucking war?”

 

“It’s what’s been discussed at a lot of meetings, Yoongles,” Hoseok murmurs. Yoongi glances back at him to find Hoseok staring at the ground. “You just don’t show up to them.”

 

“Because every time I do, they look at me like I’m some kind of freak. Ask me about my niece, about how I’m coping,” Yoongi huffs. He moves to sit down next to Hoseok, keeping his distance. “I’d rather train other things aside from my social skills.”

 

“Can you blame them?” Namjoon leans back in his chair. “You and Eunhae are the sole survivors of the Seventh.”

 

It’s not something Yoongi likes to think about. “I don’t like it being mentioned.”

 

“Why? Afraid Jimin will hear?” Yoongi gives Hoseok a side-eyed look at his words. Hoseok, all too good at reading him, picks up on Yoongi’s expression change almost immediately. “Oh, you did?”

 

“They’ve been together a month, Hobi. Yoongi even told us that he was the one to confess first. What makes you think he didn’t tell Jimin about his past?” Namjoon asks, jumping to Yoongi’s defense, even if it isn’t really needed.

 

“It’s ‘cause he’s mad that I only told him about that one day and none of the details afterward,” Yoongi grumbles, relaxing into the couch at the abrupt topic shift. Thinking about Jimin still makes him nervous but for completely different reasons.

 

“Well, screw me for being curious about the first and might I add, only, romantic relationship that I’ve ever seen you in!” Hoseok pouts. “I’m just curious as to how it works.”

 

Yoongi briefly considers how it’ll always be like this-- how they’ll go from talking about the world ending to his personal life in a matter of seconds.

 

The two topics aren’t as unlinked as he would hope. “My relationship with him is exactly like you’d expect. At least, for during the end of the world,” Yoongi replies sarcastically.

 

Hoseok quirks a brow at him, “So, you guys have fucked, huh?”

 

“Hoseok…” Namjoon gives him a disapproving look.

 

Yoongi flushes despite his disdain for Hoseok’s shamelessness in asking, “That’s none of your business.”

 

“Just teasing,” Hoseok smiles, grin devious and glinting with mirth before it settles into something worried when Yoongi doesn’t meet his gaze. “I’m only worried, Yoongles.”

 

“About what? My inability to let people in?” Yoongi is suddenly regretting the topic change. He’d much rather talk about Others, at this rate.

 

“No,” Hoseok says, his nonchalance not fooling Yoongi for one second. “I just know it means a lot to you, and...”

 

“...and because it means a lot to you, Hoseok wants to know, too. We all do. You’re different this year, you know?” Namjoon doesn’t say that he means that Yoongi isn’t depressed this winter like he usually is, but Yoongi fills in the blanks in his head.

 

Telling his friends that Jimin recently started visiting his room at night to sleep about an arms-length away-- all in an effort to quell the frequency of their collective nightmares-- doesn’t sound like the brightest idea. Yoongi keeps his mouth shut.

 

Namjoon clears his throat after a long pause, “I don’t know how we switched from our possible doom to Yoongi’s love life so quickly, but now that Hoseok brings it up… how have you and Jimin been, Yoongi?”

 

Yoongi’s cheeks burn under unwarranted attention. “Good.”

 

“Just ‘good’?” Namjoon pushes. Hoseok leans in closer to Yoongi’s side.

 

He scowls as he responds, “You’re just as bad as Hobi, you know. At least he has the balls to ask what he’s really thinking.”

 

Namjoon stammers as he tries to think of a response to his accusation before Yoongi quickly adds, wanting to get this all over with, “If you really are so curious, no, Jimin and I have not had that kind of intimacy. Just because I like him doesn’t mean my problems all go away at the drop of a hat. I still flinch when he touches me, sometimes.”

 

“Only sometimes?” Namjoon quirks a brow up. Yoongi fidgets. “Well, that’s good, at least.”

 

“If you’re looking at it optimistically then yeah, it is good. Really good,” Yoongi murmurs, hiding the lower half of his blushing face with his palm. The thought that so many people-- he’s even noticed other soldiers glancing at him and Jimin during dinner, word spreading quickly in the Bloodbane despite Yoongi’s best efforts for it not to-- care about Yoongi’s change in demeanor makes him turn red like a tomato.

 

He highly doubts they all know the real nature of their newfound closeness. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s uncomfortable to endure the added attention.

 

It’s not them that are the reason that Yoongi and Jimin have yet to explore… other areas of each other. It’s a lot more complicated than he’d wish it were-- Yoongi doesn’t think he can get any redder, thinks he might implode from the natural course his thoughts take from his friends’ words.

 

It’s all so new, after not experiencing it in so long. He wants to, it’s just… he hasn’t had the chance to test out his reaction to such a situation. None of the right moments.

 

When he sees the wolfish grin Hoseok is sporting in the corner of his eye, Yoongi clears his throat loudly. “So-- next meeting, right?”

 

“Next meeting, what?” Namjoon asks, sly smile twitching at the corners of his lips. Yoongi glares at him. “Oh, you mean to test out the new Simfield alters? Yes, next meeting.”

 

“Alright,” Yoongi exhales, getting up from the couch and ignoring the look he can feel coming from Hoseok. They all know where he’s going. “I’ll see you guys at dinner then, yeah?”

 

“Of course,” Hoseok purrs. Yoongi looks at him and receives a wink in return, “Tell Jimin we said hi, if he’s even awake at this hour.”

 

Yoongi sighs in exasperation as he leaves the room, not keen on the way he can hear Namjoon and Hoseok chuckle at his sudden exit.

 

               

 

Jimin rolls over, huffing out a long breath when he feels the coldness of the sheets sticking to his clammy skin, the covers stuffy as they slip around his legs.

 

Yoongi is gone. It takes Jimin a moment to remember he said he’d have a meeting early in the morning. It’s crazy how he’s only been sleeping in Yoongi’s room a little while-- not even every night, for the times they both need some space-- and already finds himself so… needy.

 

Needy for what? A lot of things. Jimin doesn’t like to consider them too long, especially when he can be slipping back into sleep as he stuffs his face into Yoongi’s pillow.

 

Their close-knit group of friends’ reaction to the still relatively recent change in Yoongi and Jimin’s relationship was… a lot less dramatic than Jimin imagined it would be.

 

Mediocre at best, he could describe it; he definitely isn’t complaining-- Jimin prefers the way things went down. Seokjin smiled and nodded, giving a cheeky wink that made Jimin go red in the face. Namjoon and Hoseok found out at dinner in hushed tones, barely glancing up from their meal before giving the two of them a thumbs-up and going back to eating. Taehyung and Jungkook, sitting across, gave Jimin opposite expressions-- Jungkook’s, a small, relenting smile that surprised Jimin the most, and Taehyung, a brief, approving nod.

 

Ke heard as soon as Jimin made it back to his room the night he and Yoongi had first kissed. Now his reaction… Jimin had to shove him out the door to get him to stop asking for daunting details. Asking about what happened afterward, assuming Jimin had the same train of thought that Ke and Hoseok, in the perverted state their minds are so often resting in, certainly think of right off the bat…

 

Jimin shudders against the sheets, pulling them closer around his shoulders and rubbing his face against soft, warm fabric.

 

The truth of the matter is that Jimin does think about those things with Yoongi. When Yoongi is off doing paperwork for their squad or catching up on intel with Namjoon and Hoseok like he is now, Jimin finds himself thinking about it a lot.

 

The absence of Yoongi makes Jimin think about his presence. How he wants to see what Yoongi looks like under him, on top of him, around him. It’s bad enough on the nights where he wants so badly just to reach out and touch, but can’t despite being in the same bed as him. Even now, he’s trying to will away the unsatisfied heat curling between his thighs.

 

Jimin holds himself back. He knows Yoongi notices.

 

It’s something they try to avoid-- how Yoongi is afraid of flinching and Jimin is afraid of the unknown. Jimin’s never had sex with feelings before-- it was always in the back of poorly lit alleys in the lower markets of the First, selfish and quick and regretful.

 

He knows that with Yoongi, it’d be completely different, despite the mechanics being the same. They’re both adults, so this shouldn’t be that difficult of a subject to approach; yet still, Jimin finds it nearly impossible to bring it up, out of a pure and irrational fear that Yoongi will reject him.

 

Jimin wants Yoongi in that way, badly-- probably has for the entire time they’ve known each other, thinking back to the times during training where his eyes would linger on broad shoulders and slick-with-sweat temples. He wishes he had the courage to ask if the feeling is reciprocated.

 

He flushes at his own train of thought. He’s pulled from the spiral of yearning that pools from his chest to his groin as he hears the sensor at Yoongi’s door activate.

 

Jimin knows who it is. He isn’t sure why he goes completely limp and feigns sleep, a thrill of giddiness strumming in his chest.

 

He’s hiding his grin under the sheets when Yoongi enters, the soft swoosh of the door sliding back into place behind him loud in the dead quiet. He hears Yoongi start changing and it makes Jimin’s ears go bright red.

 

They may have been together for a month, but kisses and hand-holding don’t involve anything under fabric. The many times it’s gotten more heated than usual, Jimin always kept his hands to himself. He shifts under the covers, trying to force himself to focus on something else.

 

Jimin feels absolutely ridiculous as guilt starts to creep up on him just as the side of the bed dips. He stiffens on instinct and Yoongi chuckles softly, “How long have you been awake, Min?”

 

Min. It’s something Yoongi’s been calling him for only a little while-- something that started as a running joke as a jab at Jungkook’s same snarky nickname for the lieutenant but quickly shifted into something sweet, fond, and just the slightest amount of possessive. Jimin is starting to seriously prefer it over his own name.

 

Maybe that’s just him exaggerating. “Not long,” he murmurs into the pillow, nearly suffocating himself in the cloth of the pillowcase so that Yoongi doesn’t see the pink staining his cheeks.

 

“Hmmm,” Yoongi hums, suddenly above him. A thrill shoots down Jimin’s spine, turning into a shiver when Yoongi lifts the sheets to poke at Jimin’s shoulder blade. “Hey, sweaty. You’re on my side.”

 

Jimin shifts and stills completely when he feels his lower half drag against the covers. “Go to mine, then,” he squeaks out, scrunching his face up. He twists to allow himself to breathe, heart beating loudly in his throat.

 

Yoongi snorts and crawls over him, slumping down and causing Jimin to slide closer from the way it sinks under the added weight. Just because Yoongi is a lieutenant doesn’t mean his mattress is the best of quality-- it is free, of course.

 

Jimin settles down slowly as Yoongi wiggles under the covers. “Jimin,” Yoongi murmurs, close enough that even in his heated state, Jimin can feel the warmth of him. “Did you sleep okay? Why are you so… tense? Did you have a nightmare while I was gone?”

 

Yoongi reaches out to touch his side and Jimin draws up tight, the movement catching him off-guard in his state of frazzlement. “Min?” Yoongi whispers, drawing his hand back. “What’s up?”

 

Jimin doesn’t know why he’s so embarrassed. It’s happened before, a natural thing when any man wakes up in the morning. Maybe he just hasn’t been caught thinking about other things when it happened.

 

“Nothing, just sleepy,” he replies groggily, not entirely lying but not entirely telling the truth, either.

 

“Can I see you?” Yoongi pokes at the corner of Jimin’s wrist that peeks from under the pillow he has his face stuffed in. “Maybe get a good morning kiss?”

 

Jimin smiles, despite himself, “My breath stinks.”

 

“That’s okay. I’m sure mine isn’t much better, after talking about aliens all morning.” Jimin can hear the grin in his voice. He turns his head to find Yoongi looking at him with soft eyes and a softer smile, black hair dusting across the bridge of his nose. “Ah, that’s better.”

 

“Why is the bathroom light on?” Jimin blinks, eyes readjusting slightly.

 

Yoongi drags his gaze across Jimin’s face-- he knows he’s searching for signs of distress, the kind that usually comes after the sleeplessness that his usual dreams bring him. “Wanted to see you,” Yoongi murmurs, delicate in the way he wets his lips. “You want me to turn it off? I thought it wouldn’t be too harsh, since it’s so dim.”

 

“It’s okay. Let’s just go back to sleep.” Jimin closes his eyes, his neck straining at the position he’s laying in. He can still feel the hardness between his hips when he tenses his thighs, cheeks a permanent stain of red.

 

“Where’s my kiss?”

 

Jimin cracks one eye open to see a pout on Yoongi’s lips. He shyly scoots closer to peck the corner of his mouth, holding his breath before returning back to his spot. Yoongi’s pout only deepens.

 

“What?” Jimin asks, feigning innocence.

 

Yoongi picks up on it immediately, narrowing his eyes. Jimin hopes he doesn’t realize the way he kept his lower half still and pressed to the mattress when he came closer.  “Jimin, what’re you hiding? Did you really not have any nightmares?”

 

“No nightmares this time,” Jimin says, voice small. He feels like a coward-- realistically, things like this should be openly discussed in a romantic relationship. It’s not like Jimin has only known Yoongi for the time they’ve been together; it’s so much longer than that. They’re a lot closer than what a normal couple-- if any type of dating can truly be considered such a thing in the midst of the apocalypse-- would be, this long in.

 

But they’ve always avoided this topic. He isn’t sure if this is how he wants to bring it up. “Why aren’t you facing me, then? And you usually… give me more than a peck,” Yoongi huffs, shifting closer.

 

Jimin’s face is on fire. “I--” He forces his eyes shut, knowing that this entire situation is taking an uncomfortable turn because he’s making it more than it needs to be before blurting, “I have morning wood, and it won’t go down.”

 

It’s not completely a lie.

 

He watches as Yoongi’s expression goes through a handful of emotions before landing on… amusement? “That’s what’s got you so tense?” Yoongi chuckles. Jimin sees the flush creep across his neck, regardless.

 

“Is that funny?” Jimin tries hesitantly. It’s not like he’s really turned on anymore, but… “I promise I’m not a pervert like Ke or Hobi.”

 

Yoongi snorts, fluffing the pillow under his head in something that Jimin recognizes as a nervous gesture before he answers, “It is. It, uh... Made me think of my conversation with Namjoon and Hoseok before I came back.”

 

“They know I’m in here?”

 

Yoongi moves to lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, blush just as evident as Jimin is sure his own is. “No, they don’t. I think they assumed I was heading to your room, even with how early it is. But they, uh… asked me about us. About my sex-life. Ours.”

 

“Is that any of their business?” Jimin frowns despite the tension pulling at every inch of his body.

 

Yoongi laughs, the sound reverberating in the room and making Jimin’s heart flutter still, even after the countless times he’s heard it. It doesn’t help his situation. “Well, no. It’s not any of their business, to be honest. But they worry, you know? I think they know that I… might have problems with that. That I do.”

 

Jimin hums, not sure how to respond. Yoongi’s gruff morning voice is doing things to him that he doesn’t want to quite admit. “Does it bother you?”

 

Jimin swallows the mortification at the edge of his mind at the nature of this situation, dick stiff in his sleep pants and pressed against the mattress as Yoongi so calmly talks about their friends teasing him. It’s throwing his sleep-addled mind for a complete loop, “Does what bother me?”

 

“That we haven’t had sex? That we haven’t been intimate in that way?” Yoongi’s expression is serious, the furrow of his brow telling Jimin that maybe they should’ve brought it up sooner.

 

They’re only a month into being together. Jimin feels like it’s been far longer.

 

“I learned a long time ago that sex and intimacy are not exclusive, Yoongi,” Jimin murmurs, not really answering the question. He doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him the truth. “You can have one without the other.”

 

“But you want both?” Such a short amount of time since they started paying more heed to each other’s mannerisms, and Yoongi is already able to read Jimin like a book, if he couldn’t already before. At Jimin’s pursed lips and lack of answer, Yoongi nods, tilting his face to look at Jimin with a tender expression. “You want both, don’t you?”

 

“It’s okay,” Jimin blurts, uncertain if the way Yoongi is looking at him means he wants comfort or something else. “We don’t have to have sex for me to want to be with you. There are plenty of asexual people in this world; I read about it in my medical texts. It doesn’t make our relationship any less important.”

 

It takes him a long moment but Yoongi slowly cracks a smile, eyes glittering against the dim light casted over the bed from the bathroom. “You’re really something special, Min.”

 

“What? I’m serious,” Jimin pouts, avoiding the way Yoongi’s words make his heart throb harder. “You think I’m going into us completely blind? I mean, yeah, I’m new to all of this… romance, but it’s not like I didn’t consider you might not want to--”

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi laughs. “You’re rambling.”

 

“‘M sorry,” Jimin sighs. “I--”

 

“Are you still hard?” Jimin feels his eyes go impossibly wide, choking on whatever he was about to say, the thought abruptly slipping from his mind before it even really had the chance to form.

 

“What?” He squeaks out, dumbly.

 

Yoongi quirks a brow at him, smile curling into something shy, “Well, are you?”

 

“Yes,” Jimin says, voice cracking. He’s imagined Yoongi saying something similar before, in moments he’s trying not to think about lest his problem get worse, but he never thought he’d be hearing it like this. In a situation like this. “Why?”

 

Yoongi seems to consider something deeply, expression far-off and intent before focusing back on Jimin’s.

 

“Show me,” Yoongi says, voice gentle and so quiet when compared to only moments ago. Jimin goes completely still, even holding his breath as he goes dizzy from how fast blood shoots south at Yoongi’s request. Something like regret flickers in Yoongi’s eyes at Jimin’s unresponsiveness, “Or not, if it’s too much, too soon. I’m rusty at this and--”

 

“No, no, it’s fine,” Jimin croaks out, head spinning and arousal burning low. He hesitates before flipping onto his back, surprised at the flood of bashfulness that washes over him. His heart is beating loudly against his ribcage, threatening to burst out of his chest as he tugs the sheets down and around his hips.

 

He can’t look anywhere but at Yoongi’s face. Jimin knows that Yoongi’s eyes are focused on how his dick is tenting his pajama pants, expression controlled aside from the rosy tint that colors his cheeks.

 

Yoongi looks like he’s completely out of his element, at a loss for words. Jimin doesn’t know where the boundaries end, but he knows where they start-- if he can’t touch Yoongi, then surely, he can touch himself?

 

It’s a thought that at one point in his life, wouldn’t shame him to do in front of another person. In front of Yoongi, it’s a completely different league-- Jimin feels butterfly wings tickle his gut instead of the usual sharp hunger as he tugs his elastic waistband down, all in a moment of braveness.

 

Yoongi’s breath hitches at the sound of Jimin’s half-hard cock slapping against his skin at the motion. Jimin purses his lips to hide his mortification at how loud it sounds in the stillness of the room. “Is this… is this too much?” Jimin swallows around the intoxicating cocktail of anxiety and want that is making the hairs along his arms stand up under Yoongi’s stare.

 

“No,” Yoongi answers simply, wetting his lips. “I think I’m trying to get used to looking at a dick that’s not mine after six years.”

 

Jimin shocks himself when he lets a nervous giggle slip out his dry mouth, stomach doing somersaults. His fingers brush along the light happy trail dusting his navel, a tremor running through him as he looks to Yoongi with uncertainty, “You want me to..?” He trails off before adding, “Are you sure this is okay? Don’t… don’t say it just because you know I want it. Is this okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, voice low and curling with what Jimin hopes is desire. Jimin watches him gulp. “I wanna see you touch yourself, Min.”

 

His dick twitches and Yoongi’s eyes snap to the movement. Jimin’s breath hitches when he trails his fingers down to wrap around himself, his skin delicate, hot. Sensitive.

 

He keeps his gaze on Yoongi’s expression, watching it darken as Jimin drags the ring of his fingers gently across the head of his cock, thumbing at the beads of precum that stick to the tip when he drags his loose grip back down.

 

The slide is dry, but Jimin’s hips twitch up and out of his control, anyway. “Fuck,” he hisses, squeezing slightly before letting go completely. He pushes the loose fabric of his shirt up and under his armpits, blushing at the vulnerability as he looks to Yoongi again.

 

“When’s the last time you did this?” Yoongi asks, voice deep and low and causing the heat searing in Jimin’s groin to curl in on itself.

 

“Got off by myself?” He murmurs, breathless already from the tension alone. Yoongi nods, and Jimin raises his palm to lick a few wet stripes against it, smirking at the way he hears Yoongi take a deep inhale before Jimin is slicking himself up, sighing at the tight glide. Yoongi’s small reactions are turning him on quickly enough that he’s starting to forget his own meek apprehension. “Too fucking long, Yoongi.”

 

Jimin is way too aroused for something as simple as masturbation, regardless of how good it feels after weeks-- hell, months-- of going without any self-attention. He knows it’s Yoongi that he’s really getting off on.

 

Yoongi, who’s staring at him like he wants to swallow him whole. When Yoongi’s gaze flickers to his, Jimin swallows and averts his eyes, the stare too intense for what Jimin is used to quite yet.

 

He drags the curve of his palm roughly against the slick underside of his dick, shivering at the pleasure that writhes in between his hips at the feeling of himself throbbing in his own hand. Closing his eyes allows him to get more into it and not focus on the way Yoongi’s eyes are on him entirely, consuming him and making his racing pulse skitter across his skin.

 

The room fills with the lewd sounds of Jimin reaching between his mouth and his cock as he lubes himself up, soft sighs escaping past his lips once he can finally pick up a regular pace. The tight circle of his hand feels so good that Jimin finds himself pressing his knees together, thighs rubbing against one another in a way that the fabric of his pajamas brushes up against the underside of his balls.

 

Jimin pretends that the soft cotton against his delicate skin doesn’t make his insides quiver, a low whine breaking past his pants of breath.

 

He’s completely lost track of everything that has to do with his surroundings until Yoongi’s heavy breathing is suddenly closer, dusting across his cheek and scattering goosebumps across Jimin’s skin.

 

When Jimin garners the courage to open his eyes and look to him through a half-lidded glance, Yoongi is staring at the movement of Jimin’s hand. He’s watching how Jimin’s hip twitch up to follow the drag, how his legs and stomach tense when he pushes his grip down.

 

It makes his cock twitch hard in his palm.

 

Jimin’s lidded gaze absentmindedly trails down Yoongi’s front in between small gasps and sighs, keeping the pace measured so he doesn’t cum as fast as he knows he might. It takes him a minute to notice the flex of Yoongi’s arm, the shift of the covers over his crotch.

 

“Are you palming yourself, Yoongi?” Jimin asks, swallowing at the dryness of his own voice. Yoongi stills completely, but Jimin doesn’t miss the way he shivers, lower half kicking closer to where Jimin’s hand is still working himself up. “Does it--” Jimin whines when Yoongi surprises him with a peck to his cheek, Jimin unable to meet his gaze, “--feel good? Does it? To watch, ah, me?”

 

He watches as a shiver runs down Yoongi’s body, biting his lip before he presses more kisses down Jimin’s temple, tugging on the lobe of his ear with his teeth and blowing air against him.

 

Jimin feels the burn of arousal in the fucking soles of his feet as he lets another high-pitched whine loose , toes curling and body tense as he arches from his own touch and towards Yoongi, even if his hands aren’t on him. It shouldn’t be this intense-- but then again, everything with Yoongi always has been.

 

“Wanna touch you,” Yoongi sighs against the skin of the underside of Jimin’s jaw. “Wanna touch so bad.” Jimin slows the pace of his hand when he sees the way Yoongi’s wrist flexes against his hidden hard-on. It gives him a moment of clarity despite the way he grinds his teeth at the drop of his incoming orgasm.

 

Stopping himself from the cusp is harder than it used to be, with Yoongi so close to his side.

 

“Do it,” Jimin pants, adrenaline high and coursing through his beating heart so fast that he feels light-headed. Trying to think about anything other than cumming is a bit of a challenge, at this moment. Jimin’s tongue feels heavy in his mouth, “Touch me. ‘S’okay.”

 

His cock is rock hard and heavy in his palm, precum still dribbling out the tip and mixing with Jimin’s saliva. A flash of abashment flickers in him at how fucked-out and shameless he must look. “‘S not fair,” Yoongi mutters through clenched teeth, still palming himself but now in slow, rough movements. “Not fair to you.”

 

Jimin doesn’t have to be completely coherent to understand what Yoongi means. “It is,” he exhales, forcing himself to uncurl his aching fingers and tuck his hands under the dip of his back.

 

Yoongi doesn’t want to be touched back. Jimin will take what he can get. “Please,” he murmurs, heat simmering low. He isn’t above begging, if it means Yoongi’s hands on his skin. “Yoongi--”

 

Jimin keens when he feels a warm hand that’s not his curl tight around his aching cock, hips arching off the bed to chase after the intense feeling. Yoongi strokes him hard and fast of the bat, unrelenting in the way he twists his grip and thumbs at the underside of the head on every couple of pulls up.

 

Waves of pleasure wrack Jimin’s body, ebbing in harsh waves from his groin and making him dig his nails into the meat of his ass in an effort to keep his hands underneath him.

 

He feels Yoongi rut against the bed the faster the curl of his palm jerks Jimin off, wetness seeping between his knuckles at the glide. It’s so intense, the way Jimin’s entire body starts to lock up and force his hips off the bed in an effort to thrust back into the heat of Yoongi’s hand.

 

In the back of his mind, he briefly wonders if the rooms in the Bloodbane are as soundproof as they claim to be, Jimin an audience to his own uncontrollably loud and drawn-out moans.

 

Jimin feels the wetness of Yoongi’s tongue lave at one of his pert nipples and it throws him over the edge. He chokes on his own whine, stuck in a silent groan as he starts cumming all over Yoongi’s hand, the slick sound growing louder the longer his orgasm is dragged out.

 

He’s still locked up and only beginning to come down, Yoongi’s hand firm around his spurting head as his hot cum drizzles out against his light pubic hair when he hears Yoongi growl animalistically next to his ear, hips stuttering to a halt against the mattress.

 

His body goes limp next to Jimin’s, panting loud and pressed against his shoulder. Jimin lays there in post-coital bliss, breaths coming out fast and shallow. His throat burns and he experiences a brief flash of horror as he wonders whether the scratchiness is from his inability to control his own voice or from the dehydration that this type of physical exertion tends to lend.

 

“I can’t believe that the first time I orgasm with someone in over half a decade, it’s in my pants,” Yoongi chuckles breathlessly, albeit a little shyly as he buries his face into the expanse of pillow next to Jimin’s head.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever came so fast in my entire life,” Jimin jokes in a half-hearted effort to console. Personally, he finds it unbearably arousing that Yoongi reacted like that over a handjob. Jimin subconsciously presses his thighs together, gulping at the feeling of cooling cum sticking to his skin. Yoongi’s hand is pressed to the warmth of his navel, covered all the same. “Sorry that I--”

 

“Don’t apologize,” Yoongi cuts him off, sighing as he moves to sit up. He looks down at Jimin meekly, shifting awkwardly. Jimin doesn’t let his eyes trail down to the large wet spot he sees in the front of Yoongi’s pants, evident even in the dim lighting of the room. “It turned me on so much that I got… carried away,” he laughs as scratches the side of his temple with his clean hand.

 

Yoongi purses his lips in the small silence that follows, Jimin still stumbling down from his high, his breathing slowing. “Let me go get something to clean all of… this up,” he murmurs quietly, scooting backwards on the bed until he can climb off.

 

Jimin closes his eyes and feels something anxious yearn in his chest as he waits for Yoongi to hurry up. The sound of him cursing as he trips over something on the way to the bathroom makes a crooked smile grace Jimin’s lips.

 

The bed dips a minute later and Jimin jolts at the feeling of wet cloth wiping at his spent cock. “Sorry,” Yoongi murmurs, a gentleness taking over his touches. Jimin smiles goofily, offering his hands to be cleaned as well while looking at him through lidded eyes. Yoongi snorts at his expression when he glances up to measure it, “You look…”

 

“Fucked out? Hmmm,” Jimin grins coyly, sleepiness making him giggle drowsily. “I am.” Jimin, in this moment, feels a lot like the cat that caught the canary-- or whatever that phrase was that Yoongi sometimes quoted, plucked from one of the many movies he sometimes downloads to his VisTech to show Jimin.

 

Yoongi huffs out a laugh and goes into the bathroom, closing the door. Jimin pouts as he pulls up his pants, tugging the drawstring before pulling the covers over himself. Half of him worries that Yoongi is going to take a shower or something instead of coming back to cuddle him.

 

A wave of alertness makes Jimin’s eyes stretch open when he realizes Yoongi might not even be comfortable with that at all. Jimin assumes that’s what’s next, never really having done it before, himself; back alleys in the First aren’t the place for precious things like affection.

 

He still finds himself yearning even more for it, the longer Yoongi is on the other side of that closed door.

 

He starts spiraling into a silent panic but is pulled from it when Yoongi appears as the door slides back into the wall again, a fresh pair of pajamas tugged around his narrow hips.

 

“Sorry, had to… you know,” Yoongi murmurs, wetting his lips as he climbs back onto the bed.

 

He shuffles back under the covers and Jimin lays stock still, not sure what to do. It’s bad enough he’s never really done this but when considering Yoongi’s boundaries, he’s even more at a loss.

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi calls out into the now-darkness, soft and sweet and so tender compared to the rough, needy nature of what they just did. “What are you thinking?”

 

Jimin, for the nth time that he can no longer count, remembers to try being direct, in a situation where a heavy topic is now brought to the table. “I want to…” He trails off, not really able to find the words. To hold Yoongi? To press his face in his neck and lay there, content and safe? Surely, he can’t ask for that-- Yoongi might’ve touched him in an intimate way, but healing isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.

 

He’s a lot more self-aware than he used to be; Jimin knows what he wants. What he can ask for, even if he can’t yet receive it.

 

“I want to touch you back,” he finishes. He turns on his side, eyes open despite not being able to really see much aside from the outline of Yoongi’s body. “But I’ll settle for a real good morning kiss instead, if that’s all that’s on the table.”

 

Yoongi hesitates, Jimin knows he does, if the way his breathing stops for a moment in the silence of the room before being replaced by rustling sheets. “Alright,” Yoongi murmurs, voice suddenly closer. His hand moves onto Jimin’s cheek blindly as he leans in.

 

Jimin is only now registering the smell of aftershave and sweat on Yoongi’s skin as his lips press to his, tender and gentle in a way that always seems to leave him wanting more. He gets it, too-- a hand on the slope where his stubbled jaw meets the column of his neck, an incessant press of Yoongi’s tongue against his lips and then his own, sliding along the inside of his cheek.

 

It’s so gentle that Jimin forgets he has morning breath, forgets to warn Yoongi as a new type of lightheadedness drowns him.

 

“Good morning,” Yoongi murmurs against his lips, dotting pecks against Jimin’s cheek in a way that makes something deep and not quite yet understood stir in his heart. He chokes out a muffled laugh as he tangles his fingers in between the ones Yoongi has pressing to the underside of his jaw.

 

Jimin could get used to this-- the version of Yoongi that always kisses him like it’s the first time. He thinks he already has.


               

 

Yoongi wakes up slowly, the alarm in his VisTech blaring in his ears. His eyes open and it shuts off, silence following.

 

Well, mostly silence-- except for the soft breathing of Jimin next to him, wrapped up in covers like a cocoon. His cheek is bunched up and pressed to the pillow clutched in his arms. Yoongi’s eyes trail over the puffiness of Jimin’s lips, the way his hair falls into his eyes and sticks to his temples.

 

It reminds him of only a few hours ago, early in the morning. Yoongi feels his face heat as he buries his smile into his arm, rolling on his side. Reaching out to trace along the slope of Jimin’s jaw makes warmth bloom in his chest as the stubble scratches against his fingertip, making Jimin’s face twitch in his sleep.

 

It’s moments like these that Yoongi wants to call Jimin more than just ‘Min’-- baby, sweetness, honey… He’s never been a person for pet names before, always finding them repulsive when slipping past the lips of Namjoon in reference to Seokjin or vice versa.

 

He knows now that he simply didn’t understand the feeling, the need to find some way to express the tender emotion that swells in his chest when he looks at Jimin.

 

Yoongi moves to sit up, exhausted in a heady, satisfying sort of way. He’s got to meet up with Hoseok to prep the next meeting for the collective group of the SC Bionics, having not had one since before leaving the Shatterdome. He doesn’t want to leave bed for more reasons than just the one drooling all over his pillowcase but he forces himself up anyway, climbing over Jimin’s sleeping form quietly.

 

He thinks about last night as he changes into an exosuit. Jimin’s warm skin under his fingertips, a thin layer of softness lining the sinewy tone underneath. The way Jimin’s muscle would twitch under his grip, the little gasps and loud moans that slipped past his lips. Yoongi flushes down his face and neck as he looks at himself in the mirror while trying to fix his wild bedhead, the rosy tint disappearing underneath the collar of his exosuit.

 

He pauses in the doorway of his bathroom as he looks down at his open palm, flexing his gloveless fingers with the world on his mind. His world.

 

Yoongi made his decision to ask Jimin if he wanted more. It was hot, and far too arousing for how far they actually went, but Yoongi isn’t focused on the fact that he got off on it.

 

No, he’s focused on what he feels about it. And as he hovers by the edge of the bed a moment later, his thoughts somehow taking him from one side of the room to the one that Jimin is in, he finds he doesn’t regret a single thing.

 

Yoongi’s issue in the past has always been that he feels too much, shutting people out in an effort to protect himself. Leaning down to push away dark brown locks of hair and press a lingering peck onto Jimin’s forehead, Yoongi finds that for the first time, it’s not a problem.

 

It’s not a problem that he feels too much for Jimin. If anything, it feels nothing short of a blessing.

 

He doesn’t recall how he manages his usual path to the training room, head in the clouds and heart beating for the man tucked in the still-warm sheets of his bed. His eyes drift down from where they’ve been trained on the ceiling of the Bloodbane on his way over, entering the training room with a clearing of his throat.

 

“Yoongles!” Hoseok waves before glancing down at his tablet, face alight but focused.

 

“Hey, Hobi,” Yoongi smiles, walking over to him with a lightness in his step. The room is empty save for the occasional soldier who walks past the open hall on the other side, the doors held open as they always are.

 

Yoongi hums along with some tune he listened to with Jimin last night, before they tucked in for the night. When the sound echoes against the high ceiling of the room, Hoseok looks up again and initially, grins back in pleasant surprise.

 

But as Yoongi draws closer, Hoseok’s head tilts to the side in curiosity. “What’s up?” Hoseok asks, the combination of his furrowed brow and hesitant smile causing Yoongi to internally jolt from his daydream-like state. “You’re all… smiley, today. Had a good few hours sleep?”

 

Yoongi scratches at the back of his neck, playing with the hair at his nape, “Yeah, I guess you could say so.”

 

“You went to see Jimin, right? How was he? He must still be pretty puckered out after the last recon mission you guys did the other day-- what was it, near the 10th this time?”

 

Yoongi nods and averts his eyes out of instinct, pursing his lips. “Yeah, it wasn’t too bad, just long. And he’s, uh… good. Sleeping.” It’s a few moments later when he looks up that he sees the curious look in Hoseok’s eyes.

 

“Oh, yeah? How do you know he’s asleep and not hammering at those medical texts that Jin always seems to find for him.”

 

“I…” Yoongi trails off, not really knowing how to answer that.

 

“‘Cause Ke just dropped by and told me that he wasn’t in his room. Did he, uh, go somewhere in the last few hours since you saw him?” Hoseok smirks devilishly, gaze intent. “Maybe, say, on the other side of the Bloodbane, in a room a lot like his? You think he slept there, too?”

 

Fucking Jung Hoseok.

 

Yoongi is sure that his face is stark red, unable to answer quickly enough before Hoseok calls, “Ke! You were right!” Yoongi’s gaze snaps up to see the aforementioned peek out from around the corner, a light sweat dusting his brow.

 

Yoongi narrows his eyes suspiciously. Hoseok turns to see it, his wide Cheshire grin dropping as he scoffs at Yoongi’s expression, “What? Like you didn’t know he was hiding in the corner and eavesdropping. I even mentioned he was here.”

 

“You mentioned he was here earlier--”

 

“He was!” Hoseok dismisses Yoongi’s words with a wave of his hand as Ke joins them, looking chipper as ever. Hoseok turns to him with his shit-eating grin plastered back onto his face, cheeks rosy with exertion from training as well as a little too much giddiness, “Ke. Our Lieutenant here got himself laid--”

 

Yoongi ignores Ke’s smug expression to sputter out, “No one got laid! Stop assuming shit, you bast--”

 

“I call bullshit,” Ke cuts him off, apparently oblivious to the intensity of Yoongi’s glare. Perhaps he’s become immune to everyone’s judgment of the behavior he’s picked up from Hoseok over the months, “There is no way Jimin wouldn’t answer any of my VisTech messages if it weren’t because he’s with you.”

 

“What if he’s just really tired?” Yoongi tries, managing to keep a straight face despite the way Ke’s words make something painfully fond twist in his chest. “It’s his day off. He could just be really tired.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure he is, especially after the eventful morning you had. You reek of sex, you know? Maybe you should’ve taken a shower before coming to visit,” Hoseok snickers at Yoongi’s affronted expression.

 

“I do not smell like--” Yoongi cuts himself off and sighs, wiping at his face in exasperation. One Hoseok was enough, and now he has two. “You know what? Yeah, I saw Jimin. But it’s none of your business what we did or didn’t do. I better not hear from him that you guys went and asked him, too.”

 

Hoseok’s and Ke’s expressions instantly sober, surprise painting them with wide eyes. They don’t say anything for several seconds before the same small, genuine smile graces their faces.

 

It should be far creepier than it actually is, the way the two of them seem to always be in sync.

 

“What?” Yoongi asks, tone hesitant as he maneuvers around the two of them toward the other side of the training room to dump his belongings on the ground.

 

He doesn’t even remember picking up Jimin’s duffel bag and shoving his water bottle and work tablet in there. Yoongi scowls-- no wonder the two of them were so quick to catch on.

 

Yoongi goes immediately stiff when he feels a hand on his shoulder. He slowly turns back around to be met with Hoseok, who is looking at Yoongi with a serious gaze.

 

It shouldn’t surprise him anymore, how quickly his friend can go from one emotion to the other in the blink of an eye. Hoseok’s fingers squeeze the fabric of Yoongi’s exosuit firmly before dropping completely.

 

“You didn’t flinch,” Hoseok breathes, something akin to amazement flickering in his eyes.

 

Yoongi purses his lips. He’s fully aware that he’s blushing. “I guess I didn’t.” He doesn’t add some sarcastic comment about not knowing that touching him suddenly became a test of tenacity. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the way Hoseok is staring at him.

 

“It’s ‘cause you’re happy right now, isn’t it?” Hoseok tilts his head to the side in question, looking at Yoongi with that same expression he always has when he’s taking a topic to heart. “Like, feeling raw happiness for once. Nothing else.”

 

Yoongi takes a moment to consider Hoseok’s demeanor change, Hoseok’s words.

 

It’s not the norm, Yoongi’s behavior as of late; for winter, especially. This last month since the anniversary of his family’s death has been… difficult, but not in the way it used to be. The pain is still there, but somehow it’s softened its edges, no longer sharp stabs to his heart behind every beat.

 

Yoongi looks at Hoseok for a long time before he nods carefully, almost as if he doesn’t want to jinx it, “Yeah. I’m happy, Seok.”

 

“Is that because of Jimin?”

 

Being with Jimin isn’t going to fix everything. At some point today, Yoongi will be reminded of the time of year, of his responsibilities, of his past, his future. Right now, though, he wants to consider only one thing: his present.

 

His present is bright, and warm, and comforting in a way that Yoongi didn’t think he’d ever feel again. Peace is something not reserved for the ones who fight for it-- it’s something he’s learned in every mission, every time he’s fought an Other or seen a comrade die.

 

Yoongi will take what he can get, even if the peace he garners is a false one, at best.

 

“He’s part of the reason, yes,” Yoongi answers, looking away. He thinks it’s the end of the conversation and he turns to scan the room. Ke is nowhere to be found anymore, and Yoongi wonders if that was intentional on Hoseok’s part. It feels as if it’s just the two of them.

 

Yoongi pulls out his gloves and is about to put them on, preparing for the usual quick spar before getting down to the actual planning of the meeting tomorrow when Hoseok murmurs, “Are you in love?”

 

Yoongi stills, fingers on the strap that usually tightens the leather around his wrists.

 

Thinking back to earlier in the morning once again, Yoongi knows that it’s the first time. The first time he’s ever seriously considered giving Jimin more than what he can realistically afford.

 

In what, exactly? Yoongi can’t express it. It’s not just about wanting to be with Jimin, anymore-- it’s not about just wanting to touch, to get over his fears for himself and for Eunhae and for the sake of his past family, his present one.

 

Jimin could barely look at Yoongi as he touched him so intimately-- maybe out of bashfulness, maybe out of something else that even he can’t quite comprehend, yet.

 

Yoongi’s eyes were on him the entire time. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get that imagery out of his head-- Jimin writhing under his touch, flushed cheeks and blissed out expression, all next to Yoongi, all for him-- but standing here, listening to Hoseok’s bated breath, Yoongi finds that he’s glad he won’t ever have to. He wants to see it again.

 

Being with Jimin-- physically, emotionally, mentally-- is the first time that Yoongi truly values someone else over his own self-preservation. When he asked Jimin to show him more, Yoongi did so with the confidence that he wants Jimin to have it all.

 

To have everything that Yoongi can give, even if it takes him forever.

 

He looks up to meet Hoseok’s gaze, face not really able to form an expression that composes all his thoughts and feelings into one.

 

“Don’t tell him before I do.”

 

It shouldn’t be so quick and easy, the way he feels for Jimin. Thinking back on the last few months, it really hasn’t been-- Yoongi has been fighting it for a lot longer than just the time since they’ve been together; since they’ve started trying.

 

Yoongi feels too much. For once, he’s okay with that. “Okay?” He asks a shocked Hoseok, watching as a multitude of emotions flicker across his face. “No telling Ke, either. You guys conspire against me enough, as it is.”

 

Hoseok nods quietly, mouth slightly open before he closes it to gulp. Yoongi cracks a half-smirk in amusement at his friends stunned silence before fixing his gloves the proper way.

 

It’s going to be a long day. Yoongi is content with it, as long as he gets to see honeyed eyes and a handsome smile at the end of it.

 

Winter is still bad, but maybe it’s getting a little warmer.

Chapter Text

Jimin hums as he swivels in his chair, head tilting back as he stares at the ceiling absentmindedly.

 

“You gonna do that all day?” Seokjin sighs, the sound of his tablet touching the desk as he puts it down letting Jimin know his eyes are on him.

 

“Yep,” Jimin smacks his lips, eyes tracing the random patterns in the metal grating above them. “As long as you keep me from being in here.”

 

“You are in here, though,” Seokjin groans in irritation, drumming his fingers on the desk. Jimin’s chair squeaks again and he snaps, “Quit that, will you!”

 

Jimin pauses, tilting his head up to settle Seokjin with a bored gaze, “Then let me do a round with the patients.”

 

“It’s your day off, JP134--”

 

“Don’t ‘JP134’ me, Jin.” Jimin rolls his eyes, going back to twirl his chair around. “I can spend my day off however I want. So, if I can’t work, I’ll just do this.”

 

“I’m going to remove your access to my office from the database,” Seokjin warns, all bark and no bite.

 

“Yeah, and I’ll tell Namjoon that you’ve been complaining to me about how he’s been spending so much time in his office that he hasn’t been paying enough attention to you, even though you guys literally message each other on your VisTechs for hours on end during your infirmary shift--”

 

“Okay!” Seokjin slaps the top of the desk, the sound of the metal reverberating under his palms loud and deep. Jimin stops the chair from spinning again to quirk a brow at him expectantly. “What do you actually want, Jimin?”

 

“I already told you. I want to work.”

 

“Yeah, right. And I want to listen to the incessant squeaking of your chair for the rest of the day. I totally don’t regret setting an order for a seat for you that wasn’t a stool,” Seokjin scoffs, leaning back in his chair. He’s glaring at Jimin as he adds, “Just ask me for advice instead of playing hard to get.”

 

“I’m not playing hard to get,” Jimin pouts, cheeks inadvertently reddening. “I’m just bored.”

 

“Bored? Maybe. Because you’re not working? Doubtful,” Seokjin sighs. He narrows his eyes at Jimin for a long moment before shrugging in a gesture that tries too hard to be nonchalant. “Guess I’ll just have to wait for Yoongi to come running to me, instead.”

 

Jimin purses his lips, quiet. Seokjin sighs, exaggeration in the way he slumps his shoulders. He presses the back of his palm to his forehead in a way that reminds Jimin of the drama movies that Yoongi has shown him-- never really convincing but littered with good soundtracks. “Woe is me, it looks like I’ll have to beg for Yoongi to let me know about what seems to be bothering his bashful, irritating lover--”

 

“I am not bashful,” Jimin mutters, averting his careful gaze from Seokjin to the ground. He’s fully aware that he’s not proving his point. “Nothing is bothering me.”

 

“Oh, you definitely are bashful. And definitely Yoongi’s irritating lover. Just come out and say you guys had relations or whatever-- what are you, a teenager? It’s so obvious by how you’re acting, my goodness,” Seokjin tosses his head back to snort in amusement, picking up his tablet and starting to press on it as he ignores the daggers Jimin is currently staring at him.

 

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

 

“Oh, it definitely isn’t. Trust me, I don’t want to know a single thing about you or Yoongi’s sex life,” Seokjin waves him off before taking on a contemplative look, “Well, I guess that technically, it’s both of yours. Disgusting.” He shakes his head and makes a gagging motion before turning his attention back to the tiny black screen in front of him.

 

“Why are you like this?” Jimin whines, wiping at his face in an effort to clear the red that stains his cheeks.

 

Seokjin side-eyes him, suddenly serious. Jimin gulps. “Why are you in here hiding from Yoongi?”

 

Jimin wets his lips nervously. “I’m not hiding.”

 

“Oh, I see. That sounds, hmm, I don’t know-- fake? Yeah, definitely fake,” Seokjin nods along with his own antics, his own number-one supporter. “I guess if you’re not hiding from Yoongi, then you have no problem if I call him up and ask him to come by and pick you up so that I can work in peace instead of being aggravated by your stupid fucking squeaky chair that I definitely won’t be throwing out after today?”

 

“Please don’t throw out my chair.”

 

“I’m sure your favorite lieutenant would love to be distracted from his work!” Seokjin counters, just as quick to ignore Jimin’s words as Jimin is to ignore his. “Planning your weird task force meeting tomorrow, with your stupid laser guns and schematics--”

 

“They’re called blaster guns,” Jimin corrects, frowning. “And those meetings aren’t weird. Please don’t call Yoongi, he’s in a good mood.” Jimin may or may not have heard him humming this morning as he shuffled around the room, feigning sleep as he listened to deep, content rumbles and the shift of clothes. He tries to ignore the blooming warmth in his chest at the thought as he focuses back on the now.

 

“And you fidgeting in place and radiating anxiety would ruin that, you think?” Seokjin keeps his eyes trained on the tablet. Somehow, though, Jimin still feels the point of his stare. “I see.”

 

“I’m just worried that I pushed him too far,” Jimin blurts, biting his bottom lip after.

 

Seokjin takes a deep breath before shutting off his tablet and placing it back on the desk. He stretches before turning back to Jimin, who recognizes the shift in his demeanor as quickly as it occurs. It should be daunting by now, how quickly Seokjin can go from… well, Seokjin, to the doctor version of himself.

 

“Did he tell you it was okay?”

 

“He--” Jimin cuts himself off, blushing. “Yes.”

 

“Then you didn’t push him too far. Yoongi is a big boy, he can handle himself. He knows his parameters.” Seokjin eyes Jimin for a long moment before adding, “You’re awfully blushy lately, you know? I told you before, Jimin. You can’t let yourself get wound up in what other people think-- you’ve been sitting here in my office since early this morning, driving me fucking insane over your endless worrying. What do you think of your time with Yoongi last night?”

 

“It--”

 

“Ah, ah! No!” Seokjin shakes his hands and head, grossed out expression on his face. “Don’t tell me. Tell Yoongi. You can save that sex talk for him, or even Ke. I’m sure that perv would love to hear it. Hobi, too. Not me.”

 

Jimin drops his mouth open in disbelief, “Then why would you ask?”

 

“I was serving the role of ‘primer’. Like in genetics, you know? I started the train, now you go find someone else who wants to hear it. Thank you, have a good day!” Seokjin shoos, waving his hand at Jimin before swiveling in his chair to face away from him.

 

Jimin sighs, a little dizzy with the back-and-forth nature of the conversation. He sits there for a long moment, half-expecting Seokjin to turn back to him and say something else.

 

When he doesn’t, Jimin gets up and leaves Seokjin’s office for the first time since this morning.

 

Wandering aimlessly around the halls of the Bloodbane, Jimin finds himself people-watching as he walks by other soldiers.

 

He woke up not long after Yoongi left this morning-- took a shower in a bathroom that isn’t his, put on a pair of sweats that doesn’t smell like his usual laundry detergent. He’s so used to sharing clothes with Yoongi by now that he isn’t even sure what his detergent is supposed to smell like, anymore.

 

It’s closer than what Jimin has ever had, the way he and Yoongi are. He’s been thinking about it all day, trying to find some emotion or warning in the back of his mind telling him to back off, to space himself from the other man.

 

The thing is, Jimin hasn’t found one.

 

Sex has never been something… difficult, for Jimin. The repercussions of it? Definitely. Between the shame he used to endure from the walk he’d have back to his family’s shared bunk in the First, to the backhanded compliments from his neighbors who all knew what he used to get up to down in the lower markets-- sex has never been something pure, but maybe always something rebellious.

 

He used to want it simply to throw it back in others faces, as a big ‘fuck you’ to the people who would look down on him for his nightmares and anxiety; to give them something to really judge Jimin for.

 

Now, he’s at a loss. All that time exploring other people’s bodies, he never really got a chance to explore their souls. He isn’t even sure what he feels; Park Jimin, the ever-self-aware, waking up after sex and feeling less confident than when he was having it.

 

Jihyun would laugh at his pathetic state alone, if he were here.

 

“JP!” Jimin turns to see Ke barreling towards him, a wide grin on his face. It makes skittishness shiver down his spine a moment before Ke throws himself against him, wrapping his arms around Jimin’s shoulders and tackling him into a hug.

 

Jimin grunts as he barely manages to keep his balance, ignoring the confused glances from strangers that pass by. “Hey, Ke. What’s up?”

 

“I was just--” Ke takes a deep inhale, panting, “--heading over to come and get you.” He pulls off of Jimin to wipe at his forehead, flushed and smiling from ear to ear.

 

“Why didn’t you just call this morning instead of waiting all day? It’s nearly dinner time.”

 

Ke’s smile wavers as a hint of hesitation flashes across his face. He looks ahead distantly before he turns to Jimin as if nothing important crossed his mind, “I guess I forgot.” He scratches the back of his head sheepishly, laughing in a way that sounds… stilted.

 

Jimin has learned to know when Ke is hiding something.

 

He decides not to comment on it, throwing an arm around his friend’s shoulder. Maybe Seokjin was simply using his hypersensitive doctor tingly senses to be able to so easily call Jimin out on the things weighing heavy on his mind, if Ke doesn’t even seem to notice. “Wanna do something before dinner?”

 

“Meh,” Ke shrugs, fingers digging into Jimin’s shoulder before patting gently. Jimin furrows his brow. “I was thinking we could just hang around and chat some.”

 

“Uh, sure,” Jimin mutters, uncertainty in his voice. “Could we do it outside, though?” He isn’t sure why, but some air could really do him some good, even if it’s hot and littered with sand. He feels like the walls of the Bloodbane have been slowly suffocating him all day long.

 

Ke glance at him from the side. “It’s raining, JP.”

 

Jimin blinks in surprise. “It rains out here?” He asks, straightening back his shoulders. “It’s like a desert outside.” They've been here for many weeks by now, but Jimin hardly ever takes a step outside besides for missions. He’s not seen the rain in a long time.

 

“Apparently it wasn’t always like that outside. But yeah, it’s raining.”

 

Jimin purses his lips before replying, “Well, that’s alright, then.”

 

Ke stares. Jimin wants to see the rain. “Okay.”

 

It only takes them a few minutes to reach the outside of the Bloodbane’s metal walls. The mist of the rain sticks to Jimin’s skin and clothes as they move to the side, right under where the massive structure overhangs still, protecting them from the downpour just barely.

 

Jimin sighs unintentionally, a deep exhale that feels warm in the humidity of the weather. Ke looks at him worriedly. Jimin pretends to not see it.

 

They stand there in silence for several minutes, the pitter patter of the rain droplets smacking against the concrete of the Bloodbane’s outer foundation. He can’t remember the last time he saw any weather aside from a clear, suffocatingly hot day.

 

Jimin thinks it’s been a long time since he’s had the time to just simply be-- to stare at nothing in particular and breathe. To think of nothing, yet feel everything.

 

He used to not feel a single thing. The change over recent months in his capacity for emotion has left him realizing the emptiness he had been carrying.

 

Jimin wants to try and fill it. The rain is making him feel like maybe he can do that. “I’ve been in Jin’s office all day long.”

 

He sees Ke’s eyebrows lift in interest in his periphery, “I know.”

 

“I’ve been avoiding everyone, especially Yoongi,” Jimin continues, knowing that Ke is listening intently. He’s got to know something is up, to be so quiet in Jimin’s presence; Jimin isn’t quite aware what, as of yet.

 

“Why?” Ke asks, voice soft.

 

“I don’t know how to put it into words. I was hoping that coming out here with you would give me them immediately, but instead, I’m just stuck thinking about the same shit that I’ve been stuck on all day.”

 

Ke hums, pausing for a moment before asking, “What have you been thinking about all day, JP? Maybe if you… let it out, all at once, it’d help?” He hesitates before adding, “Only if you’re okay with it.”

 

“Of course I’m okay with it, it’s you,” Jimin chuckles, the sound coming out more sad than anything. “It’s easy if it’s you. It always has been.”

 

Jimin thinks it’s as easy with Ke as it is because, in a way, Ke is separate from all the things that weigh on Jimin’s heart and mind.

 

He’s not like Taehyung or Jungkook, having been from a completely different childhood than Jimin. He’s not Hoseok, or Namjoon, or Seokjin, who all have known the true impacts of the war and have rarely needed to ask Jimin why he acts the way he does because in some way, how he is is simply a product of attrition and survival.

 

He’s not Yoongi. Jimin doesn’t know quite yet how to put into words as to why that matters.

 

“Just… give me a minute,” he sighs, wiping at his face. He stills his hands when he feels moisture accumulated at his forehead, almost forgetting entirely the sound and warmth of the rain amongst his muddled thoughts.

 

It doesn’t take him as long as he assumed it would, to start talking.

 

“I think… that I want to go back to visit the First,” Jimin breathes, tongue heavy in his mouth. Ke doesn’t say anything and he slowly adds, “I want to go see it again. Maybe try and fix things.”

 

“JP… I thought that your family hated you?” Ke murmurs, voice nearly drowned out by the downpour. Jimin thinks it’s refreshing, the way Ke is always blunt when Jimin finds himself being anything but. “Why the sudden change of heart about them?”

 

“They do hate me,” Jimin replies, watching with a type of distant focus on the way soldiers in the distance are working in the distance, business as usual even outside the Bloodbane’s internal parameters. “I never used to care before. Now that I’ve gained so much that I used to lack in life, I’ve been thinking about it a lot: family.”

 

The thing is, Jimin has been considering visiting his family back in the First for a time a lot longer than this day alone. Ever since being with Yoongi for real, Jimin has been starting to see the world… differently.

 

Something like a romantic relationship shouldn’t have changed so much in him-- at least, that’s what Jimin keeps repeating to himself in his mind. Yet he still finds himself thinking about it in moments of heavy silence; the way he longs for an alternate reality where he didn’t have to leave behind others to live the life he leads now.

 

It’s when Jimin is completely with himself that he is the most lonely.

 

He still loves them. He thinks he appreciates Jihyun, his mother, and his father more now that he’s seen a glimpse of what it’s like to not have them. For once, he has something he’s proud of that he wants to show them-- the new relationships he’s made, the new people he cares about.

 

“There was a time of ignorant bliss with them when I was younger, you know? Back when my parents used to tell me and Jihyunie bedtime stories and be kind. Loving,” Jimin says, still very much in his thoughts but allowing a peek into his mind slip past his lips. “Back when things were simple before I tried to be a stupid hero and save a dumb kid who didn’t know how to keep his curiosity to himself. Now I have a fucked up scar and no blood relatives that like me.”

 

Jimin is glad for those bittersweet memories, now. The stark contrast of them to the way his relationship with them curdled after his trauma made him understand the impact that war had, how it destroyed fragility and innocence.

 

It made Jimin appreciate a lot of things, including the relationships that he built and is continuing to build from his past.

 

“Every time I think about how happy I’m supposed to be now, I think about how miserable they still are. Fighting for food, so afraid of the outside world that they even rejected me, their family,” Jimin says after a long silence, not even really knowing how long it was but knowing that Ke was waiting patiently the entire time. “Lately, instead of nightmares of Others, I get nightmares of them struggling.”

 

“JP, that’s hardly your fault. They chose to ignore your problems and make you feel like shit.” Ke sounds adamant, strong. Jimin feels weak. “You’re better off now without them; I miss my family, too, you know? But that’s because they treated me well.”

 

“But you’re fighting for them, aren’t you?” Jimin looks to Ke now, eyes pleading for something he doesn’t know how to ask for. “What do I have to fight for? It used to be to prove them wrong, to make a world that my baby brother would want to live in. But then, the last time I went to the First, Jihyun…”

 

“He rejected you,” Ke finishes, harsh in his words but soft in his tone. “He stepped on everything you’ve managed to build in yourself, for yourself, in the short half-year you’ve been here and he threw it back in your face, JP.”

 

“But he’s only a kid! He just listens to what my parents and my neighbors feed down his throat and takes it for the truth,” Jimin exclaims, lowering his voice once he finds himself raising it. “He’s only a kid. He doesn’t know any better. I put so much pressure on him at such a young age-- he had to be the good brother. He had to be tough and listen to the insults that others flung my way and pretend that it didn’t hurt him, my family, me. That’s too much for a kid--”

 

“You have to stop blaming yourself for things that you’ve never had control over, JP,” Ke cuts him off, voice stern. Jimin purses his lips, not knowing how to respond. “None of it was ever your fault. We live in a world where no one gives and everyone takes. You and I and everyone else in the SC are the only ones trying to change that.”

 

“I want to visit them to tie things up, Ke,” Jimin says, sure for once. A look of surprise crosses Ke’s face at Jimin’s words, replacing the furrow of his brow and the tension in his shoulders. “I’m tired of being angry, tired of being sad. I think I’ve been thinking about them more lately because I realized that I don’t want to die with any regrets.”

 

“Why are you thinking about dying?” Confusion bleeds into Ke’s expression as he steps forward, hands hovering over Jimin’s folded arms. He didn’t even realize he had taken such an insecure stance. “Are you alright, JP?”

 

Jimin relaxes when Ke squeezes his forearms, “I’m fine, physically. I’ve been thinking about the future a lot and, yeah…” Jimin looks away, a blush creeping its way across his cheeks at the attention. “I don’t know how to make the conflict I feel go away aside from going to go see them and trying to fix it.”

 

“You don’t have to fix any of it, you know? You don’t owe them a thing,” Ke says. “I need you to know that you don’t owe anyone anything.”

 

“I…” Jimin hesitates, really considers Ke’s words instead of brushing them off. “Okay,” he exhales, tension bleeding out of the way he carries himself. “I’ll try.”

 

“You better,” Ke smiles, genuine in the way his lips curl up before he pulls Jimin into a hug. “Also, you could’ve just said you want to brag about Yoongi to them. I don’t think any of us would be offende--” Ke pulls off, wacking at Jimin’s hand, “Ow, JP! The pinching thing is not cool.”

 

“Don’t say things that fluster me, then,” Jimin chastises, rolling his eyes fondly. “And you can stop pretending that you don’t know something. Don’t act for a second that I don’t know that when you’re quiet, you’re hiding something, Lin Ke.”

 

“Oh, we’re pullin’ out the full names now, then? I see,” Ke hums, moving to Jimin’s side to sling an arm around his shoulder.

 

He starts leading them back into the Bloodbane, probably picking up on Jimin’s willingness to go back to real life instead of the little bubble they’ve built for themselves, now that the mood has so easily shifted. “Well, I’ll just be direct then, Park Jimin. When were you gonna tell me you got some action?”

 

Ke wiggles his eyebrows at him and Jimin scoffs, shaking his head in abashment. It seems that despite everything, some things never change.

 

                    

 

“So, it’s all set?”

 

Hoseok nods happily, twirling a boot knife in his hands absentmindedly as his iris flickers blue. “It looks pretty good from my perspective.”

 

“Well, I can’t see it. Give me some more details, Seok. Gotta make sure this shit works if we’re gonna show the squads tomorrow,” Yoongi says, frowning. It’s been a long as hell day so far-- he’s even missed dinner, with how long he and Hoseok have been planning this forsaken meeting tomorrow.

 

He hasn’t heard from Jimin at all. That plus the stress has soured his mood, though not as much as it normally would. Yoongi never thought he’d be the optimistic type. Hoseok makes a tsk ing sound before he throws the dagger, the sharp blade impaling in the padded wall.

 

Yoongi scowls. “You could try and avoid fucking up our walls, you know?”

 

Hoseok smiles sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. “‘M sorry, it just looks so real. I got sidetracked for a moment in the weird settings Joon set up on this thing. I looked back to this ugly fucker and it was staring at me.”

 

“What a way to describe a virtual Other. ‘Ugly fucker’. You should add that one into the books,” Yoongi chides.

 

Hoseok’s VisTech stops blinking and he shifts his now-aware gaze to Yoongi, glaring at him. “Are you really that hungry, to be so grumpy right now? Who cares about a missed lunch?”

 

Yoongi stares at him flatly. “It’s almost midnight, Seok.”

 

“Okay, a missed lunch and dinner. Whatever,” Hoseok waves him off, walking over to the training room wall to pluck the sharp knife from its padded covering. “You miss those all the time.”

 

Yoongi sighs, backpedaling the conversation. “So, are we done here?”

 

Hoseok nurses his finger in his mouth, a look of pain on his face when he turns to him. Yoongi didn’t even notice him prick himself. “Yeah,” Hoseok mumbles around his digit. “Go whine to Jimin now. Tired of you, grumpy cat.”

 

Yoongi falters before huffing out a breath of exasperation as he moves to the other side of the room to pick up Jimin’s duffel bag and head toward the exit.

 

“Bye Yoongles! See you tomorrow morning!” Hoseok calls after him, amusement laced in his loud voice.

 

Yoongi winces at the sound in juxtaposition to the quiet of the open halls. “Bye,” he mutters before rounding the corner, not for the first time regretting being a higher officer and having to deal with the insufferable late hours.

 

It’s quiet as he speedwalks back to his room, the half-full water bottle in Jimin’s bag sloshing around as it hits the side of Yoongi’s leg between steps. He completely ignores the curious glances he gets from the few officers still lingering about the empty halls at this hour.

 

Opening up the door to his room only to find it empty leaves a sinking feeling in Yoongi’s chest.

 

He sighs as he drops the duffel bag in the corner of the room, staring at the bed longingly. He hesitates at where his closet is installed in the smooth surface of the wall before walking to his bathroom and closing the door.

 

It feels empty, without Jimin. They sometimes don’t sleep in the same room if they need some space-- it’s a natural order of things, given how new everything still is. Them sleeping together and nothing else is already strange enough as it is, compared to what he assumes would be the norm if he didn’t have so many… boundaries. Yoongi supposes there isn’t much that’s normal about a romantic relationship in the apocalypse, anyway.

 

It doesn’t change the fact that as Yoongi hops into the shower to wash the day’s sweat and tension away, he finds himself wondering if he did something wrong.

 

He’s standing under the spray of hot water, contemplating whether or not it was too soon in their relationship to do the things they did when considering both their pasts separately when he gets a notification on his VisTech.

 

Are you awake?

 

His heart stammers in his chest as he lets the user interface take over his vision, blocking out the stark black of his shower walls. Hi, Min. Where are you?

 

Yoongi is shifting from foot to foot nervously in a way that really could be quite dangerous, given the way his skin glides against the wet surface of the floor. His skin tingles under the spray when Jimin responds.

 

Be there soon.

 

Yoongi’s brow furrows, dismissing the weird feeling he gets when he notices that Jimin avoided his question. He presses the touchscreen on the side of the shower head to make the cycle go faster, shivering as the water goes from hot to cold as it sprays him down like a soaked kitten.

 

Getting out of the shower, he curses. He forgot to bring his pajamas into the bathroom.

 

Opening up the bathroom door and entering his bedroom in nothing but a towel wrapped tightly around his hips, Yoongi halts at the doorway. “Min? Why are you standing by the door like that?”

 

That was a lot sooner than he had anticipated. Yoongi is a lot more aware of his nakedness.

 

Jimin looks up from where he was staring at the floor, eyes widening as his eyes drag up Yoongi’s body to linger on his face. “What?” He blinks before wetting his lips, “Oh. Sorry.”

 

He really hopes Jimin can’t see the faint blue of all the upgrade mods littered across his skin in the shitty lighting.

 

Yoongi forces himself not to hover and walks to his closet, quickly picking out a loose tee, some briefs, and sweatpants. He doesn’t really pay attention, to be honest-- his hands reach blindly as he keeps his eyes trained on Jimin’s far-off expression in the artificial lighting of his room. “I thought you’d already be in here sleeping when I came back,” Yoongi tries.

 

Jimin’s gaze snaps up once again. Yoongi quirks a brow at him, hoping his concern is only slightly evident. “I haven’t been in here since this morning.”

 

Yoongi fists his hands in his bundled up clothes, unsure if he should leave to change or continue talking. Jimin decides for him, stepping across the room to sit on the edge of the bed, his back turned to Yoongi in an obvious gesture to continue.

 

He gulps as he slips on his clothes, the room quiet except for the rustling of fabric and the dropping of Yoongi’s towel. It doesn’t feel awkward in the sense that Yoongi doesn’t want Jimin to see-- it’s more the stiffness in Jimin’s shoulders that has Yoongi blushing down his neck and discomfort twisting in his gut. It’s like Jimin keeps forgetting he’s even there in the first place.

 

Yoongi is starting to get frustrated, more out of exhaustion from the long day he’s had and his incessant longing the entire duration of such, when Jimin blurts, “I was in Namjoon’s office.”

 

He pauses his fingers from twirling the drawstring of his sweats, awkwardly moving them to his sides as he walks towards Jimin. Yoongi crawls onto its edge, lingering for a moment before sitting close behind him. “Why’s that? To go see Taehyung?”

 

They both know that Taehyung is always in the Intel division’s area outside of Namjoon’s office, working with the Communications workers. Yoongi can’t think of another reason Jimin would be anywhere near Namjoon’s office, however.

 

“No,” Jimin exhales, shoulders and back still rigid. “I went to request placement on the rounds recon mission to the First, out of our cycle.”

 

Yoongi blinks, fingers twisting in the sheets beneath him. “That’s pretty soon, isn’t it?”

 

“The closest one is the day after tomorrow, apparently.”

 

“That’s not what I meant, Jimin,” Yoongi says, barely above a whisper. The room is plunged into silence. Yoongi swallows in an effort to lessen the tension. “I meant that the last time we were there, you…”

 

“Lost my cool,” Jimin finishes for him. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry.”

 

Yoongi doesn’t falter when he replies, “Jimin, you don’t need to be sorry. You can’t control those things all the time. I’m worried, is what I’m trying to say. About you.”

 

Jimin doesn’t reply and Yoongi purses his lips. He hesitates a moment before reaching out, careful as he scoots closer to loops his arms under Jimin’s and around his middle, hooking his chin over his shoulder.

 

Yoongi doesn’t flinch-- not that he really expects it often, by this point-- and hums, pressing his cheek to the nape of Jimin’s neck. “Talk to me, Min,” he murmurs, part of him surprised at his own tenderness.

 

He finds himself accepting it wholeheartedly when Jimin melts into his chest, making something akin to gooey bliss stick to the walls of Yoongi’s heart. “I wanna tell them about you, even if they don’t deserve it,” Jimin whispers, voice rough. Yoongi watches the way he drums his fingers against his thighs nervously. A bashful smile curls the corners of Yoongi’s lips up.

 

“What do you wanna tell them?” Yoongi coos, going red in the face. How different he is from the irritated lieutenant he was only an hour ago.

 

Jimin snorts, the sound coming out much softer compared to the way it causes vibrations to echo against Yoongi’s front. “Like you’re gonna get it out of me that easy.” He can hear the teasing grin in Jimin’s voice.

 

“I was worried you weren’t gonna come by tonight, you know,” Yoongi sighs, sleepiness addling his brain. “I came in here and you weren’t all rolled up in my sheets and… it made me think I did something wrong.”

 

“You didn’t. You never do,” Jimin tilts his head back to press a kiss to Yoongi’s temple, despite the awkward angle. Yoongi’s smile goes dopey, eyes fluttering closed. “I just needed to take care of that. And some space.”

 

“Not too much space, though, right?” Yoongi murmurs softly, still hesitant.

 

“Mm, no,” Jimin takes a deep breath. “If anything, it’s less so, after earlier this morning.” Yoongi stills before burying his face in Jimin’s shoulder, receiving a soft laugh in return. “Is Lieutenant Min Yoongi feeling shy? Around his most-temperamental comrade, Specialist Park Jimin?”

 

Yoongi groans in embarrassment, pulling off of Jimin to roll onto the bed. “You shouldn’t tease me after the long day that I had, Min,” Yoongi huffs out, face hitting his pillow, causing it to fluff out. He peeks out from the fabric to settle Jimin with a barely-threatening look, “I’m never touching your dick again.”

 

“Don’t play hard to get,” Jimin giggles, looking at him over his shoulder, fondness in his eyes. Yoongi’s pulse beats against the fabric he’s lying in, delicate and sweet.

 

They stare at each other for a long moment before Jimin clears his throat, gentle smile still gracing his face. “We’ll talk more about it tomorrow, okay? I feel a little weird taking a mission without you and the squad, but I feel like I need to. Is that… okay?” Jimin tilts his head back, hair sweeping from his forehead as he looks back to Yoongi. There’s worry bleeding into his smile.

 

“I’ll support you, no matter what you decide. Like how you do for me, with my… you know, boundaries,” Yoongi whispers, unable to say the words in a louder voice. It feels precious, the way he reveres Jimin now compared to not so long ago. “As long as you tell me what you’re thinking, I can’t complain.”

 

Jimin’s expression is calm as he searches Yoongi’s face-- for what, he isn’t sure. “Oh,” he finally responds, tone soft, “Okay.” He lingers for a moment before lifting off the bed, slipping off his shirt without even batting an eye at Yoongi. “Stay up for me? Please? I’m gonna take a shower so that I don’t have to before the meeting tomorrow.”

 

Yoongi swallows, keeping his eyes trained on Jimin’s face as he hums in agreement. Crawling under the covers and watching as Jimin goes to the bathroom, Yoongi tries to will his blush away, wondering if he’ll ever really stop ogling over the other.

 

He really isn’t looking forward to this meeting tomorrow.

 

                    

 

“Are you nervous?”

 

Jimin looks up from where he’s zipping up his exosuit, hand slowly moving up his chest. He glances to where Yoongi is still lying down, wrapped in loose sheets. “Hm?”

 

“Are you nervous, Min? About the meeting,” Yoongi repeats, adjusting his pillow under his head and yawning. His eyes are puffy and his hair fluffed out as he stares at Jimin lazily from the bed. “Why are you getting up so early?”

 

“So you can watch me dress, silly,” Jimin winks, giggling at the abashed scoff that Yoongi gives. There’s something fond and sweet about the way he views Yoongi when the older is like this— sleepy and delicate, vying for Jimin’s attention but trying to play it off. “The real question is why you aren’t up yet. You and Hobi are the ones presenting the new VisTech thingy to the squads.”

 

“VisTech thingy? I don’t think you really understand how this could all go, Jimin,” Yoongi sighs, turning on his back. He sprawls out his limbs, looking at him over a double chin that makes Jimin crack a small half-smile. “I opposed the use of it as much as I could, but HQ and Joon are certain that it’s necessary. Even Seok gave in, that fucking traitor.”

 

Jimin smooths back his hair and sits down on the edge of the bed to tie his boots as he replies, “What are you so worried about? You didn’t oppose it ‘cause you were concerned about me, were you?”

 

At Yoongi’s silence, Jimin glances back to see him with pursed lips and an avoidant gaze. Jimin sighs, denying the softness that enfolds him, “Yoongi... we talked about this.”

 

“Yeah, no special treatment. I know,” Yoongi pouts, fluttering his eyes closed as he frowns. “I’m allowed to share my opinion about this type of thing, however. I might be biased because of you but I didn’t fight the new Vistech update only for you. I know I wouldn’t want to see one of those stupid fucking Others if I could avoid it, even if it is a simulation.”

 

“Is it really realistic?” Jimin asks, voice quiet.

 

Yoongi hums. “I didn’t see it myself ‘cause the program was only installed on Hoseok’s VisTech first, but... yeah, it’s supposed to look like the real thing. Act like it, too.”

 

“Smell like it?” Jimin smiles to himself, despite the nerves that skitter across his skin. Maybe Yoongi was right when he said that Jimin didn’t really consider all that the new Vistech update could be.

 

Or maybe he was playing it off in hopes that it wouldn’t bother him. Yoongi seems to understand Jimin more often than he understands himself.

 

Yoongi seems to pick up on the reaction for what it is, “Come here, Min.”

 

“Your morning breath isn’t that bad, Yoongi,” Jimin jokes, pursing his lips when he ties his boot too tightly and has to undo it. “You don’t have to use it as an example for how the Others reek. Your breath is much more pleasant.”

 

“Jimin, I’m serious,” Yoongi murmurs, too soft and sudden but far too expected for the natural course this type of conversation has taken, especially given the early hour of the morning.

 

Jimin pauses his hands, slowly shifting on the edge of the bed. Yoongi is staring at him with an expectant gaze. Jimin moves to where he can crawl over to him, slowness in his movements. He’s leaning over him, hesitation in his voice when he asks, “What is it?”

 

Yoongi doesn’t say anything for a long while, eyes flickering between Jimin’s with an uncertain expression. “Yoongi,” Jimin sighs, shifting to move away. “I don’t have time for gam--” He’s cut off by a yelp when Yoongi pulls him down, chests pressing together. Jimin doesn’t know how to react.

 

He isn’t used to being this close to Yoongi. His heart beats loudly against his ribcage as Yoongi pushes his face into the side of Jimin’s neck, wrapping his arms loosely around Jimin’s torso. “Yoongi?” He squeaks, stiff as a rod.

 

“You don’t have to go, you know? I’ll lie for you and you can take the day off and sleep, instead,” Yoongi murmurs, hand absentmindedly dragging up and down Jimin’s back. The tenderness of the gesture and words combined cause him to slowly relax into Yoongi’s hold.

 

“What’s up with you?” Jimin asks, pushing himself up to see Yoongi’s face. “I’m fine. You know that. Are you sleep-deprived? You’re usually not so… you know.”

 

“Touchy?” Yoongi looks up at Jimin lazily, hand still smoothing a path along his spine. “I know.” He cranes his neck up to peck Jimin on the lips gently, slumping back into the pillow after a long moment. “Just worried about you.”

 

“Is this ‘cause I’m going to the First tomorrow morning?” He feels Yoongi’s arms tighten around him. Jimin’s face splits with the resulting grin. “Oh, that is it, hmm?”

 

Yoongi frowns, cheeks reddening as he averts his eyes. “I usually see you every day, even on missions.”

 

“I’ll only be gone for a few days, max,” Jimin teases, pausing for a moment before reaching up to card his fingers through the side of Yoongi’s hair. He watches as Yoongi’s eyes flutter at the feeling before continuing, “I have to do this. I thought you were okay with it.”

 

“I don’t have to be okay with it-- it’s none of my business.” Jimin thumbs over the crease between Yoongi’s brows silently. He shivers when Yoongi’s blunt fingernails drag up the sides of Jimin’s exosuit.

 

“That’s not true.”

 

“Oh, yes, it is. You have your own life aside from me, too, Jimin. Even if doesn’t feel like that sometimes,” Yoongi murmurs, voice calm. “Even if we spend a good part of every day together, it doesn’t change that.”

 

“You’re not supposed to be so serious this early in the morning, Yoongi,” Jimin sighs, tracing the bridge of his nose with a delicate touch.

 

“I’m stressed for our squad using the VisTech alters, worried about you going and coming back disappointed. I don’t want you to start having more nightmares again.”

 

“I still have those, Yoongi. They don’t go away just because I’m with you. You still have yours, too.”

 

“I know,” Yoongi wets his lips. “But I don’t think about them as much. Too busy thinking about you.”

 

Jimin snorts, unable to stop the smile that twitches at the corners of his mouth. “Is that so? I’m a lot to handle, huh?”

 

“An armful, or two,” Yoongi grunts out as Jimin wiggles on top of him to prove his point further.

 

“Let’s get up, get this meeting over with, and then we can come back here and spend the whole day in together. No training, no going to dinner-- we’ll eat in here and listen to music and watch shitty old movies,” Jimin smiles, pausing for a moment before leaning down to press a kiss on Yoongi’s closed mouth. “Maybe more, if you’re ready.”

 

“Is Park Jimin offering me goodbye sex?” Yoongi quirks a brow in amusement-- Jimin doesn’t miss the layer of nerves hidden underneath the way his jaw tightens.

 

“Try ‘see-you-later’ sex. Or nothing-- we don’t even have to cuddle like this, if that’s all you want.”

 

“This is considered cuddling?” Yoongi’s eyes widen in mock shock. “I had no idea.”

 

“You’ve changed so much,” Jimin rolls his eyes. “Where’s my Yoongi that would avoid me like the plague? There’s no chase anymore.”

 

Yoongi chuckles and shoves at Jimin’s shoulder, “Time to get off, then.”

 

“What kind of ‘get off’?” Jimin’s smile turns devilish, winking at Yoongi before he lifts himself off of him, catching the edge of the bed with his knees before standing.

 

“You always complain about Ke and Seok making perverted comments during dinner about us, yet here you are,” Yoongi groans.

 

“Just putting the option out there, in case you wanna take it.”

 

“Jimin…” Yoongi warns, sitting up on the bed, hair fluffed out and wild.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Jimin waves him off, going back to fix his boots. “Talk about it later. Go brush your hair, sleepyhead.”

 

Yoongi grumbles as he gets up from the tangled mess of sheets on the bed, scratching his head as he moves to the bathroom. Jimin smiles as he laces his shoes the right way for the first time all morning.

 

                    

 

“Yes, KL427?”

 

Yoongi watches a series of emotions cross Ke’s face before settling back on confusion. “So, we fight the Other ‘alter’, but none of it is actually ‘real’?” Ke clears his throat before continuing, “I mean, I get Simfields and all, but… I’ve never felt pain in one before. Didn’t think it was a thing.”

 

“The pain is a pseudo-feeling,” Hoseok interjects, back ramrod straight but shoulders relaxed. He clearly believes in this technology that Namjoon conjured up over several weeks of sleepless nights, even if everyone else in the entire room is dubious, to put it lightly.

 

The tension in the room doesn’t cause the confident expression Hoseok has on bleed into anything less than absolute certainty, “It’s very similar to the usual neuropathways that the VisTech activates when you get a notification, or feel something like wind in a Simfields. The only exception is that it activates the same efferent pathways without an afferent signal to begin with.”

 

“A what pathway?” Xiang asks, brow furrowed.

 

“You sound like you’ve been spending too long in the Intel division, General Jung,” Asuka laughs despite the way her frame is stiff. “You sound like you don’t even really understand how it works.”

 

“I appreciate your concern, KT109, but it is not necessary,” Hoseok counters, more serious than their combined squads have probably ever seen him. If they didn’t catch the hint that Hoseok wasn’t messing around before, they have now. “To answer your question, XZ448-- efferent pathways are pathways in the brain that the central nervous system uses to send signals to the body. Afferent is the body to the brain.”

 

“So, we get the feeling of pain even if it isn’t really happening,” Jimin says under his breath but loud enough for the entire room to hear.

 

“Exactly,” Hoseok nods, seemingly pleased. Yoongi can tell he’s just glad he’s getting through to them. He’s well aware the reality of the situation-- Hoseok had spent a lot longer than just the meeting they had yesterday learning about the new alters from Namjoon. Yoongi is almost glad he wasn’t told about them until the last minute.

 

Almost.

 

Yoongi decides to ignore the glance for help from Hoseok, wondering if his reserved attitude is as apparent to the other squad members as it is to his friend. Yoongi glances up to see Jimin staring at him.

 

Apparently, it is.

 

“Well,” Hoseok clears his throat, confidence lessening by the moments that Yoongi stays astute in his refusal of supporting the VisTech update. Yoongi thinks it’s ironic, how his title really means nothing when unable to prevent situations like this. “I think we ought to get started, then. Who first?”

 

“I think we need to show the rest of the squad our visualization first, General,” Yoongi suggests, his tone flat and bored to mask the frustration he’s feeling. He doesn’t want to do this; realistically, he knows that it’s not Hoseok’s decision or even Namjoon’s. One look at this technology, even if Namjoon didn’t intend it, and HQ was going to make sure it be incorporated into the troops’ training regimes. “To give them an example.”

 

He doesn’t add that it’s also to prevent them from letting fear destroy their first experience with new technology that is being forced upon them all. Lately, it feels like he’s the only one that really wants to lessen the blows to soldiers’ mental health.

 

Maybe he’s just changed while everyone else has stayed the same.

 

Yoongi shakes his head in an effort to clear his thoughts. He can’t have that same pessimistic thinking anymore. “I’ll go first, even.” Confliction has always left Yoongi a bitter man, but he’s got to be more than that now.

 

He reminds himself that he has to give it a chance-- that even if he hates every moment of this, Yoongi has to suck it up and endure it. If not for his soldiers, then for the people that can’t defend themselves; he doesn’t want more families like his own. “Okay,” Hoseok agrees easily, not bothering to hide his surprise. “Go ahead.”

 

Hoseok gestures for everyone to step back before activating his VisTech, the soft blue blinking in his iris calm and steady, much unlike what is about to happen in Yoongi’s. It only takes a few moments before Yoongi’s responds to the signal, throwing him into the midst of a blank room.

 

It’s much like the normal Simfields that Yoongi calls for pre-mission debriefs. That, except for giant, sputtering Other on the other side of the room. That much drool and Yoongi thinks back to when Xiang exclaimed that the Other his squad saw had tried to eat Ke.

 

Yoongi never really forgot what they looked like. He just didn’t think he’d ever see one willingly.

 

“What do you want me to do with it, Seok? No weapons.” He hopes it isn’t obvious how he’s resorting to nicknames instead of titles-- Yoongi’s doesn’t want to think about the implications of him using speech in an effort to comfort himself with the familiar, at this moment.

 

“I want you to try and pin it,” Hoseok replies in Yoongi’s head. Or maybe it isn’t in his head and is only a few meters away from him. Yoongi cannot tell the difference, his vision clouded with only what the simulation provides.

 

“Pin it?” Yoongi tries to hide his disbelief. Everything they’ve always trained was to only fight when completely necessary-- and, to do so with heavy artillery and sharp edges. “You want me to pin a fucking Other to the ground? Are you insane?”

 

“Yoongi,” Hoseok warns, a reminder of where they are. Who they’re supposed to be. “I trust you are capable of doing so. I’m putting a timer up.”

 

“How long?”

 

“Five minutes.” Yoongi curses under his breath, bracing himself by shifting into an offensive position. He doesn’t like the chill that runs along his spine when the Other mirrors the movement. It takes longer than usual for Yoongi to enter the cold and deadly demeanor he usually takes on during these types of confrontations.

 

Maybe it’s because he knows it’s not real. He wishes his body would catch the hint, too. “Ready, set,” Hoseok starts, the sound of footsteps and people shuffling far back solidifying him. “Go.”

 

Yoongi lunges forward, thoughts blacking out as he rushes towards the Other. His entire nervous system lights on fire with alarms screaming to run away, to not move towards the evil thing with drooling jowls and intelligent eyes.

 

He hesitates, and it earns him a swipe to the middle. A normal blow would throw him back several yards. Instead, he stands his ground, feeling every ounce of the pressure and pain that surges across his gut and ribs but not experiencing any of the physics behind the injury. When he glances down, his exosuit stands sturdy and unaffected.

 

Yoongi clenches his teeth, “How are they even going to see this?” Yoongi dodges a heavy swipe from his enemy, deep, horrifying growls emitting from the teeth that get far too close to his neck during one backstep.

 

It takes him only a few seconds to discern that even if this Other is supposed to mark a resemblance to the actual thing, it doesn’t hold a candle to reality. This one is slower, less cunning, mindless-- if this were real life, Yoongi wouldn’t be lasting nearly this long.

“Told you already-- broadcasted on their VisTechs, too. A livestream,” Hoseok calls from a distant corner of the room, unseen by Yoongi. He seems to catch onto Yoongi’s train of thought, as well, “It’s only a trial, right now. To get them a feeling of the real thing.”

 

Yoongi gulps, mouth dry as he tumbles underneath the Other’s legs and forces himself up and off his knees, tripping it over its own weight. He doesn’t say anything more as he fights, the whole thing a giant blur of blinding sweat and glaring pain.

 

When the alter simulation is over, Yoongi is staring at the empty space below him, his hands pinning nothing but his own fingered gloves underneath. Part of him thinks that without the Simfield and out in an actual warzone, he’d be the one pinned to the ground.

 

He’s panting heavily as he looks up through his sweat-slick fringe. “What do you think?” Hoseok chimes in, leaning his body down and to the side to look at Yoongi eye-to-eye.

 

Yoongi’s eyes lazily glaze over the awestruck faces of his comrades lining the furthermost wall. He’s on the complete other side of the room from where he started. Yoongi briefly wonders if he even heard them scrambling to get out of his way.

 

“You’re asking me?” Yoongi exhales. Hoseok nods as he offers out a hand to help Yoongi up, which he gingerly takes. Standing up feels weird-- it’s like Yoongi’s body is out-of-sync, as if it knows he should be in pain but can’t find any evidence of it.

 

All he feels is out of breath. It’s as disconcerting as he thought it’d be. “It’s… effective.” Effective at scaring the shit out of him and his squad, if the way Ke, Xiang, and Asuka are all staring at him with wide eyes and furrowed brows. Yoongi glances to Jimin to see a stony, unreadable expression.

 

“You don’t hurt right now?” Hoseok asks, making the mistake of reaching for Yoongi’s arm. Yoongi pulls back as quickly as Hoseok moves forward, keeping his distance. It’s a minute interaction, definitely not noticed by those who don’t know Yoongi’s behavior intimately.

 

He can feel Jimin’s eyes on him. “I’m fine. No pain at all.” The whole thing wasn’t as traumatic as Yoongi was worried it might be, but that isn’t what has got him angry. That isn’t what has got him frustrated.

 

Yoongi doesn’t feel true fear from Others anymore, aside from the physical reactions that he usually is able to control-- not in the pure, uncontrollable way that many soldiers usually do. No, what Yoongi truly fears is what Others bring.

 

Suffering. Far too much of it.

 

Yoongi’s eyes drift to Jimin, as they always do when he’s thinking about the things he doesn’t want to lose. It appears that he’s only received another reminder. “Alright, then we can start with the other squad members and finish up before lunch. I’ll go next, however.” Hoseok turns to the other soldiers, either missing or ignoring the expression that must be painted across Yoongi’s face. “Any questions about Lieutenant Min’s performance?”

 

The word ‘performance’ to describe what he just did leaves something sick and bitter welling under Yoongi’s tongue.

 

Yoongi doesn’t listen as he walks calmly to stand amongst the others, not even bothering to not show his beeline straight for Jimin. He hovers next to him as he wipes at the sweat that accumulated on his brow throughout the alter Simfield, wetting his lips in discomfort.

 

He can’t find it in himself to care what others think when he leans into Jimin’s side, the gesture subtle but easy to catch if someone were really looking for it. Jimin shoots him a worried glance and it’s enough for Yoongi, as long as it isn’t the unreadable one he saw right after exiting the Simfield.

 

Better for Jimin to feel something than nothing at all. Yoongi doesn’t want the latter for him.

 

The rest of the Simfield alters go by smoothly; Yoongi and Hoseok taught their squads well, after all. He’s not surprised when a good portion of them come out of the alters with expressions ranging from disgust to horror-- it’s exactly why he didn’t want to subject them to it in the first place.

 

Yoongi thinks back to the time when he would’ve found no issue with subjecting his troops to possibly traumatizing experiences, all for the sake of teaching them something important-- something critical to surviving this unforgiving war. Part of him knows he’s gone soft but the vast majority of him finds himself not caring.

 

He’s learned fairly recently that a little bit of gentle empathy goes a long way.

 

By the end of the lesson, Jimin is one of the last to go. Yoongi forces himself to watch intently to the way Jimin moves, trying his best to not let the visible reactions to pain affect him too deeply. It’s not real but Yoongi knows that one day, it could be.

 

He has never wanted to not be in the four walls of the training room so much in his life.

 

Jimin doesn’t look as scared as the others when he finishes, sweat dripping onto the mats of the training room as he struggles for breath in the same position that everyone before him has ended up in. Yoongi would be proud of him, if the nature of the training wasn’t something he was so vehemently against. It’s strange, how he hates it all now but still realizes the need for it.

 

Jimin is back to his side in only a few moments, seemingly more worried about Yoongi than he is himself.

 

“That’s all for today, everyone,” Hoseok calls into the quietness of the room once the last few specialists go. “Lieutenant Min and I will be working over the next few days to get all of this data compiled and incorporated into an official update for your VisTechs over the next couple of days. Feel free to contact either one of us for information on it. Please continue to go on regular missions and specialist training for now, until our group debrief next month.”

 

Yoongi nods along, waiting for most of the soldiers to file out of the room, a few milling about in hushed conversation. He can only guess what they’re discussing.

 

“Are you okay?” Jimin whispers next to his ear, hands twisted together in front of him. Yoongi recognizes when Jimin is holding himself back from touching him. “You look… pale.”

 

“I’m alright, Min. I have a lot on my mind, is all,” Yoongi replies, voice soft and low. At Jimin’s disbelieving expression, Yoongi quickly adds, “We’ll talk about it in the room. Go catch up with Ke and them, I have to talk to Seok.”

 

Jimin nods, silent as he purses his lips and moves away. Yoongi tries not to miss his warmth and comforting presence too much as he walks toward Hoseok.

 

“Hey,” Yoongi calls, garnering Hoseok’s attention from where he was staring down at his tablet with a furrowed brow. “Um. Sorry. About that.” He doesn’t really know what else to say. Yoongi is sorry for putting it on Hoseok, true, but nothing else.

 

Hoseok picks up what he really means easily, always able to read Yoongi like it’s second nature, “I understand. See you for dinner?”

 

“Actually,” Yoongi averts his eyes, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. “Gonna skip dinner to spend time with Jimin. He’s going on a mission with another squad tomorrow.”

 

Yoongi hears the eyebrow raise in Hoseok’s words before he sees it, “Oh? One of ours?”

 

“No,” Yoongi says, glancing over to where Jimin is talking with Ke, Asuka, and Xiang quietly. He assumes it’s about the very same mission that Yoongi and Hoseok are discussing. “He’s going to the First, off cycle. It’s why I didn’t know about it until he told me-- I’m not even sure under which leader or division he’s going under. It’s probably just a networking mission for Intel, seeing how he got it from Namjoon.”

 

“Oh, I see,” Hoseok exhales, blinking as he tucks some of his fire red hair behind an ear. He looks genuinely surprised as he adds, “Well, if you guys need someone to drop you off some food. I’d be down. Just… don’t be doing anything questionable when I knock on your door. Don’t wanna walk in on a naked party.”

 

“Really not in the mood for your shitty jabs, Seok,” Yoongi grumbles under his breath. “Not ever.”

 

“Sorry, had to take the chance, even if it’s not fitting right now,” Hoseok apologizes half-assedly, quirking a guilty half-smile to Yoongi. “Have fun. Do everything that I would do. See you tomorrow.”

 

Yoongi mutters out a goodbye before waving him off, the tension that was in the room for a significant portion of the meeting finally starting to wash from the atmosphere. He waits by the open door for Jimin to finish up.




They walk in silence back to Yoongi’s room, within an arm’s length of one another. Yoongi feels like it’s too far but isn’t sure how to bring it up, words caught in his throat from the stress that the meeting put him through.

 

As they slip past the door and into the quiet space, Jimin clears his throat as Yoongi hovers by his side, “I think that... we both need a shower. How about I, uh, go to my room and clean myself up before coming back?”

 

Jimin doesn’t wait for an answer, going to Yoongi’s closet and taking out some clothes and a towel. He shouldn’t be so accustomed to the two of them not being able to discern whose clothes is whose, by this point. “Min,” Yoongi mutters under his breath, pursing his lips nervously. He doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants. “It’s okay.”

 

“It’s alright, you don’t have to say that for me,” Jimin replies with his back turned to Yoongi as he slowly puts clothes in his duffel, reluctance in his movements. “We agreed to give each other space when we need it and even though I wanna stay, I can tell you’re up in your head right now. It’ll only be for about an hour or so and I’m okay with it, you know. It’s fi--”

 

“No, Min,” Yoongi cuts him off, voice soft. “Stay. Take a shower with me.” His face blushes red at his own words but it’s an idea that, when it popped in his head at the sight of Jimin stuffing fresh clothes away, he can’t find himself denying.

 

Jimin is stiff as he turns to Yoongi, cheeks stained pink from exertion and maybe a little something else, “We can just take turns, you know. I don’t think...” Jimin trails off, seemingly at a loss for words at the abruptness of Yoongi’s suggestion.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time that Yoongi’s demeanor doesn’t match his words.

 

“Is that what you want?” Yoongi asks, shuffling across the room on light feet as he nervously drums his fingers against his sides. Jimin’s eyes are on him. “‘Cause… it’s not what I want. Not right now.”

 

“Just showering, right?” Jimin wets his lips, gulping back what looks like nerves. “I don’t want to take advantage.”

 

“You wouldn’t,” Yoongi replies with confidence, certainty. Jimin’s eyes are doubtful. “I’m serious, Min. I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts, right now. I… I need you.” At Jimin’s still-stiff frame and anxious expression, Yoongi adds, “It’ll be fine. It’s okay, I know it’s sudden, but I’m ready.”

 

“You aren’t doing this because I’m leaving tomorrow morning, are you? I need to know that you’re doing this because you want to, not because you feel obligated for some reason,” Jimin says, brow furrowed.

 

Yoongi reaches forward to smooth the skin in the middle of Jimin’s forehead, a wave of contentedness washing over him. “Keep worrying like that and you’ll be as bad as me,” Yoongi offers him a small half-smile, fingers trailing down Jimin’s cheek before his hand drops by his side. “I don’t wanna think about it. Just wanna do it.”

 

“What if you flinch when I touch you?”

 

“I probably will,” Yoongi sighs, eyes dragging across Jimin’s focused expression. The tender attention makes his heart swell. “That’s fine with me, though. I feel like it’s a natural hazard, at this point.”

 

Jimin lets out a nervous giggle, covering his mouth in regret immediately after, eyes wide, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh.”

 

Yoongi chuckles in response, leaning forward to peck his cheek, the sound loud in the quiet of the room. “I’d rather you laugh than be offended. Come on.”

 

He grabs his hand and leads him into the bathroom, skin tingling under the thick fabric of his exosuit.

 

Once the door is closed behind them, Yoongi proceeds without another word. Changing out of the offending garment, huffing at the way it sticks to him from the sweaty workout that fighting the alter was earlier, Yoongi keeps his eyes trained on the tile of his bathroom.

 

He’s distinctly aware of when Jimin follows suit, the sound of zippers and rustling polyester filling the small space. Turning to the shower, Yoongi draws the curtain away and hops in.

 

Jimin follows him silently, back turned to him as Yoongi reaches past him to press his hand to the sensor and turn the shower on.

 

They collectively curse at the spray of cold water that drenches them, Jimin nearly falling at the surprise. Yoongi finds himself clutching at the backs of Jimin’s elbows to steady him. “Why is it so cold?” Jimin squeaks out, sputtering under the water.

 

He shivers under Yoongi’s grip as the water turns warm. “My personal settings always start it with cold water. Wakes me up.”

 

“Min Yoongi, you are insane,” Jimin huffs out, tension slowly bleeding out of his shoulders. Yoongi watches water slide in delicate trails down Jimin’s goosebumped skin. “Who the hell does that?”

 

“Hey, I didn’t bring you in here to judge me, Min,” Yoongi complains, hands smoothing over Jimin’s shoulders. His eyes drag over the scars marring Jimins’ back before his fingers follow, featherlight and reverent. Jimin shivers again, but for different reasons.

 

“Why did you, then?” Jimin’s voice is rough. The water is warm as steam pillows around them.

 

“So that I can have someone rinse my hair and reach the spots on my back that I can’t, silly,” Yoongi cracks a smile. Jimin turns around in the small shower, expression twinged in mock disapproval, eyes carefully focused on Yoongi’s instead of... elsewhere. He briefly wonders if Jimin is aware that Yoongi can still see the flush running down his neck in the poor lighting of the shower. “Ah, there we are. My designated hair washer.”

 

“You… I don’t even know how to deal with you, anymore,” Jimin mutters, voice quiet under the sound of the water spraying around them. His eyes flutter when Yoongi reaches up to push wet strands from his eyes, fingertips grazing his temples. “Feels nice, at least.”

 

Yoongi hums as he cups Jimin’s face, leaning down to peck his lips softly, the skin damp with moisture. He hasn’t missed the way Jimin’s hands are held firmly at his sides, fists clenched as if he’s holding back. “You can touch, you know, Min. Just a shower, nothing else.”

 

They both know that what they’re doing now means a lot more than just freshening up.

 

Maybe that’s why Jimin exhales a suddenly shaky, “Are you sure?” The breath pillows against Yoongi’s face, catching with the steam.

 

“Yes,” Yoongi murmurs, dragging his hands down from Jimin’s jaw, along the outsides of his arms before lingering on his wrists. “I want you to,” he murmurs, eyes soft. “I won’t crack you if you take a peek or two, as well,” Yoongi jokes, reveling in the snort of disbelief that Jimin lets loose, rolling his eyes at Yoongi’s odd sense of humor.

 

Jimin purses his lips as he lets his gaze drop despite Yoongi’s teasing remarks, face flushed. Yoongi flinches back in a violent, barely-repressed shudder when he feels his fingertips graze along his hip. “Sorry,” Jimin mutters, panic in the way he tries to draw his hand back.

 

Yoongi catches his wrist, keeping his fingers pressed to the dip of Yoongi’s abdomen. His skin tingles, but otherwise, he’s fine the second time Jimin touches his naked skin, “It’s okay.”

 

Jimin clears his throat as his gaze drags across the canvas of Yoongi’s skin, the wet surface littered with the light blue lines of upgrade mods. His fingertips follow the motion, scattering goosebumps across Yoongi’s body. The contrast of the coolness of Jimin’s touch to the heat of the water spraying on them leaves Yoongi feeling a sleepy kind of sensitive.

 

There are tender words sitting on the tip of Yoongi’s tongue for how he feels about Jimin. In this moment, they’re heavier than usual, weighing him down and making him consider what it’d be like to be how he used to be again-- lonely, without another person to explicitly entrust with this kind of intimacy.

 

Yoongi swallows the words back, not wanting to say something precious quite yet. He thinks that maybe they aren’t really ready for them to be spoken into existence, even if they hang from Yoongi’s heart like tinkling, shiny ornaments, bringing a delicate kind of beauty to the tortured state of his soul.

 

Maybe he’s overthinking things, as per usual.

 

“You’re quiet,” Jimin murmurs, fingers trailing up Yoongi’s chest as his voice echoes against the hard sound of the shower running.

 

“Thinking,” Yoongi answers, eyes fluttering shut as he forces himself to relax under Jimin’s gentle touch.

 

“About?”

 

“You.” Yoongi exhales, body slowly melding into jelly. He peeks an eye open when Jimin pauses his movements, “What about you?”

 

Jimin’s expression is unreadable yet calm as his eyes flicker across Yoongi’s face, settling on his lips for a long moment before lifting back up to his hair. “Wondering what you’d look like if I stuck all your hair up with some shampoo.”

 

Yoongi grins, eyes closing once more. “Go ahead and find out.” He settles his hands around Jimin’s waist, pulling him closer. “No pictures with your VisTech, please.”

 

Jimin laughs softly, the sound of the sensor above dispensing soap making him laugh harder when it falls into Yoongi’s face, causing him to sputter as he tries to spit the suds out. Jimin wipes it away easily before tangling his fingers in Yoongi’s hair, a content kind of silence blanketing them under the comfort of the water.

 

They don’t do anything intense except for the amount of unattractive cackling that erupts from both of them when either one manages to get a particularly ugly hairstyle out of the manipulation of the soap.

 

Maybe Yoongi has gone soft. At least he gets to steal some wet kisses because of it.

Chapter Text

Jimin wakes up in a state unlike most mornings. He’s content, warm in a way that doesn’t have sweat accumulating at every slope and plane of his back; well-rested, comfortable.

 

He’s distinctly aware of the soft press of a body to his back. Jimin doesn’t bother biting back the dopey smile that splits his parched lips, audience to none. His mouth is dry as he stretches out from his curled up position, leaning back into Yoongi more as he smacks his lips drowsily.

 

“Are you awake or do you just make those noises in your sleep when you have no nightmares?” Yoongi murmurs from behind him. His breath dusts against the back of Jimin’s neck, making him shiver from more than only surprise.

 

“I didn’t have any nightmares?” Jimin asks, voice rough and crackly from sleep. He scoots away so that he can roll onto his back, sheets dragging against his skin. He blinks a few times before his eyes focus on Yoongi’s face a few inches away. “Really? I guess it makes sense since I don’t remember ‘em.”

 

Yoongi hums as a response, lashes fluttering shut as he takes a long exhale. He doesn’t move at all aside from the arm he drags out from between them to sling over Jimin’s waist, not really able to pull him closer with his weak grip but trying to anyway. Jimin snorts at the effort, trailing his palm up his arm and squeezing the top of his forearm in an absent-minded gesture.

 

They didn’t have sex last night. Somehow, Jimin finds himself more than content with that, if the way that a different kind of warmth is blooming in his chest, radiating out to every limb and making his body feel heavy with bliss.

 

“When are you leaving, Min?” Yoongi whispers. Perhaps he feels that if he speaks too loud, he’ll break the tenderness of the moment-- Jimin certainly feels that way.

 

Jimin activates his VisTech, eyes dragging across the user interface to find the time. “In about an hour.”

 

“You got anything to do before then?”

 

“Have to see Tae,” Jimin mumbles, wetting his lips. His fingers move up Yoongi’s arm in a rhythmic motion as he thinks about the mission. “Needa talk to him for the debrief.”

 

“Taehyung is going with you?” Yoongi’s eyes snap open, narrowing almost immediately. “That’s not fair.”

 

Jimin’s lips twitch into a small grin. “Jealous Yoongi is one of my favorites.” He turns on to his side so he faces him, pulling Yoongi’s arm over his waist again in a gesture asking him to stay close. Yoongi’s expression softens the slightest as Jimin adds, “But there’s no need for that, now. Tae isn’t coming along, I just need to ask him about the people I’ll be going with.”

 

“So you did get the mission from Joon?”

 

“Mhm, I did,” Jimin yawns, moving his hand from Yoongi’s arm to wipe sleep from his eyes as he moves onto his back once more. “I needa get up to get ready.”

 

“I would hope that in another dimension, we could just stay in bed and roll around,” Yoongi grumbles, shifting closer to cling to Jimin’s side. He doesn’t pin him down with his leg like Jimin half expects-- he figures it’s the nature of the mission he’s going on that’s got Yoongi needy for his presence but uncertain whether or not to ask for it.

 

“We did plenty of that last night. I haven’t watched that many movies in weeks,” Jimin says, scratching at the light spackle of facial hair that’s settled along his jaw overnight.

 

“The movies were fine, yeah,” Yoongi sighs. “That’s not what I was referring to, though.”

 

Jimin takes a moment to process Yoongi’s words, his sleep-addled mind leaving him slow to respond. When he does, he shoots Yoongi a side-eyed glance, “And you crack me for being the pervert between us.”

 

“Like you weren’t thinking it,” Yoongi smiles, despite himself. Jimin looks at him with wide eyes when he sneaks in a loud peck to his cheek. Yoongi being forward is still something new, not only for the both of them. “Anyway, let’s get up. I need to break my recent habit of being late to everything.”

 

“Ah, the days where Lieutenant Min was on time. It feels like an eternity ago,” Jimin jokes, earning a pinch to his side as Yoongi crawls over him to get off the bed. It only makes him smile wider. “He’s too busy being a clingy boyfriend to someone under him.”

 

“That’s the idea,” Yoongi snickers when Jimin instinctually rips his pillow out from under his head to throw at him. “Okay, okay, enough. It’s time to get dressed, Jimin.”

 

“Come here, first,” Jimin says as he sits up, blood rushing to his head and blurring his vision. Yoongi does as he asks, knowing what Jimin is asking for because he’s asked for it himself multiple times in the past.

 

It’s with a soft press of chapped lips, regardless of the presence of morning breath and scratchy stubble, that Jimin starts his day.

 

He’s not complaining.

 

               

 

 

Yoongi fidgets with the edges of his gloves as he watches the porter ship that’s carrying Jimin on it lift off. The blast of wind from the engines ruffles his hair back, bearing his forehead and distinctly reminding him of the place where Jimin kissed him on it prior to leaving.

 

His skin feels cold except for that spot. He didn’t think this would bother him as much as it does.

 

“It’s his first mission without us, Yoongi,” Ke says from his side, looking up at the ship slowly drifting into the distance with an expression of deep contemplation. Sometimes, Yoongi is graced with this version of Ke that comes across a lot more complex than the usual goofy, perverted cadet he used to only be. “It’s natural to feel like shit.”

 

“Who said I felt like shit?” Yoongi mutters, clenching his fists open and closed by his sides.

 

“You did,” Ke clarifies, not even bothering to return Yoongi’s sharp gaze. “With your sad, grumpy voice and watery eyes. You look like an abandoned kitten.”

 

“My eyes aren’t watery,” Yoongi snaps, blinking to try and hide the evidence. “I should’ve hooked you up to the rungs of the porter ship’s exit ramp so that you’d fly away with it and leave me be.”

 

“Definitely snappy,” Ke laughs, face splitting with amusement. “God, you’re just like Jimin when he gets mad, now.”

 

Yoongi falters in his irritation, deciding not to point out Ke’s lack of use of Jimin’s nickname. Given the context, the switch makes all the more sense, if the sad glint in Ke’s eyes is any indicator. “You miss him already too, don’t you?”

 

“Yeah. He’ll be okay, though. It’s only a few days that he’ll be gone; realistically, I think I’m only worried he’ll be shut down again,” Ke murmurs, voice suddenly taking on a tender kind of decadence. Yoongi can relate too much. “But if he does, he’ll have us for that. And everyone else, even if they aren’t as dramatic as us and didn’t come to see him off.”

 

It’s not a high-ranked mission by any means, but Yoongi couldn’t imagine not watching Jimin leave. It’s the reminder that he’s leaving that’s letting Yoongi cling on to the hope he’ll come back sooner than planned. It hadn’t occurred to him until now, but maybe Ke is the same.

 

“We should go back inside,” Yoongi offers. “I have a shit ton of paperwork to do, and you have to do your rounds with Seok.”

 

Ke catches on to Yoongi’s sudden workload despite no recent missions for what it is. “You gonna go visit your niece next week or something?”

 

Yoongi purses his lips. “I didn’t mention it to Jimin ‘cause I wanted him to focus on his mission instead of worrying about having to hurry back but… yes, I’m going to get Eunhae next week. I think I’m gonna have her stay here this time, now that we’re all settled into the Bloodbane.”

 

Ke seems to consider Yoongi’s words for a long moment before starting to walk back to the entrance of the aforementioned base, hands in his sweatpants pockets. “Well, I won’t tell JP, if that’s what you’re worried ‘bout. I agree with your decision to not tell him yet. I think he’s hiding how much anxiety he has over this mission.”

 

“You think?” Yoongi tilts his head, worry painting his brow. It’s not something he dismissed; maybe something he hoped wasn’t true.

 

Ke glances at him with a serious expression, unlike his usual demeanor. “With you, he forgets his problems. I wouldn’t crack yourself over it.” It doesn’t stop Yoongi’s face from falling, guilt ebbing and flowing with the sting of Jimin’s absence.

 

Ke seems to pick up on it almost instantly, “I’m serious, Yoongi. JP likes to bottle everything up, just like you. He’ll spend every minute with you in a bliss ignorant to the things that bother him as long as you’ll let him.”

 

“You’re saying I let him?” Yoongi narrows his eyes.

 

“No,” Ke answers immediately. “I’m saying that he only thinks about good things when he’s with you. I’m worried that now he’s on that ship, the bad will start to come back. JP didn’t used to always be this happy, you know.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Neither were you.”

 

Yoongi cracks a half-smile that he’s sure comes off more like a grimace, “Thanks for pointing that out.”

 

“No problem,” Ke smiles, triumphant as he settles back into his usual self.

 

Yoongi hovers in the hallway they’re now in, wondering how he’d lost track of where they were going. He watches other soldiers mill around, the busy yet relatively calm hustle bustle of a military base that has no current warzones to worry over.

 

There’s something ominous about it all. Maybe Yoongi is just letting things get to his head. “I’ll see you later, Ke.”

 

Ke nods. “Good luck with that paperwork. Make sure to be on time for dinner.”

 

Yoongi looks at him with a quirked brow. “Now you’re bossing me around?”

 

“Gotta take care of JP’s favorite lieutenant while he’s away, otherwise he’d kick my ass if he came back and you weren’t the same as he left ya,” Ke seems to tilt his head to the side, tapping his chin in a mischievous manner that has Yoongi dreading his next words. “Well, if not a little clingier.”

 

“I’ll take that as my cue to leave,” Yoongi grumbles, fighting back the instinct to roll his eyes. Ke waggles his brows before Yoongi turns from him and starts to walk off, trying to remember where he put his work tablet last.

 

It might only be a few days without Jimin but Yoongi is thinking it might feel like a lot longer.

 

He briefly wonders when he became so dependent on another’s happiness for his own.

 

               

 

 

“So, you’re the cadet that pinned Min before, hm?” Lyudmila asks from across the room they’re stationed in, similar to the one that Jimin and his home squad were in the last time he was in this place.

 

He didn’t realize she was going to be on the mission until he and the rest of the squad showed up to the First. He wasn’t going to complain, but now…

 

“I bet you two are quite the pair; Min has never been the one much for atarvatsa, but these things can change, I suppose,” she snickers, adjusting the knife strapped to her thigh distractedly.

 

Jimin stares at her crown of hair in disbelief. “What’s that?”

 

Lyudmila glances up from her short blade, the metal glinting in the dim light. Jimin’s eyes have already long adjusted to the shitty lighting of the First, despite his hiatus from living within its walls. “You don’t know atarvatsa? Hmm, it’s like, uh… spending a lot of time together. But, ah, given the context of my words… it means a lot more than that, if you see what I mean.”

 

Jimin’s cheeks redden, clearing his throat at the rise of discomfort that settles over him. He settles Lyudmila with a flat gaze, “You wouldn’t happen to be good friends with General Jung too, would you?”

 

Lyudmila’s eyes sparkle with mischief. “Hoseok got his sense of humor from me, Specialist Park. Make no mistake about it.”

 

“Not to come off as rude, Major Sokolov, but you still haven’t explained to me why you’re on this mission. It’s an Intel check-up,” Jimin says, sitting up straight. It’s been nearly an hour since they arrived and he’s been stuck on off-shift with her the entire time, waiting for directions from the operating officer while the rest of the squad are out doing their weird… engineering things.

 

Jimin feels trapped, waiting for others to let him out. If he weren’t on the next shift he’d be able to go visit his family. At this rate, he’ll have to wait until the end of the night.

 

“I thought it’d be fun.”

 

Jimin looks up from where his eyes had drifted to the door to look at Lyudmila again. “Fun?”

 

“Yes. Fun. The First is an interesting place, you see,” Lyudmila says, confidence even in this. “Littered with filth and prejudiced individuals who can’t bear the presence of soldiers like us yet tolerate it all the same. And despite their best efforts, they produce individuals like yourself-- intelligent, desperate to leave the domed metal walls of this shatterdome infrastructure and make a name for yourself. To prove something.”

 

Jimin swallows, the startling shift in Lyudmila’s behavior from a mischievous, playful friend of Yoongi’s to a cunning, sharp-eyed woman worth her weight in title and blunt tongue. If this is the same individual who trained Yoongi from an unruly cadet with deep scars and a deeper world complex to a timely, decorated second lieutenant, then Jimin is no longer surprised.

 

He’s intimidated. “And what makes you think that I’m intelligent? You just met me.”

 

“It takes a lot more than brute strength to pin a lieutenant down as nothing more than a cadet,” Lyudmila smirks, seeming to catch on to Jimin’s course of thought despite his best efforts to hide the chill that her demeanor sends down his spine.

 

Lyudmila Sokolov is one fucking scary woman. “Plus, Min wouldn’t choose a fool. He’s much too picky for that.”

 

“You know, he calls me Min,” Jimin finds himself blurting out, face permanently a different shade. “Short for ‘Jimin’.”

 

“Are you sure that that’s the real meaning of such a nickname?”

 

Jimin purses his lips at her question, avoiding it entirely. “Why do you call him Min? Why not his first name?”

 

“Because I view him as a son rather than as an equal,” Lyudmila answers without hesitation, smirk still present. “What’s your excuse?”

 

“For what?” Jimin frowns, subconsciously folding in on himself. He doesn’t like the way she seems to be able to read him-- it feels like an encroachment on his privacy, the way Lyudmila sees straight through Jimin’s words for what they mean and ignores their message anyway: a warning to back off. She’s brave and direct in a way that Jimin doesn’t quite know how to deal with. “I don’t call him any nickname.”

 

“And why’s that?” Lyudmila quirks a brow, tilting her head in a sign of innocent gesture. She isn’t the only one that can be read-- but maybe she already knows that. Maybe, instead of trying to hide her intention, she uses its glaring apparency as an advantage.

 

Yoongi did always mention that people are most honest when they’re caught off-guard; perhaps, those words were from the lips of the woman across from him. “You two are lovers, are you not? Pet names are commonplace.”

 

“Maybe for your era,” Jimin scowls, an ounce of regret towards the end of his tone at the blatant disrespect in his voice. He’s not like that anymore, without heavy reason. “Sorry,” he murmurs sincerely, shame shooting his pitch lower.

 

“You’re right, Specialist Park,” Lyudmila says clearly, smiling when Jimin’s gaze shoots up to meet hers. “I have been around for quite a bit longer than you or Min. Long enough to know that in this new world-- where we are only bystanders of our own doom, evitable only by our meager attempts at compensating for our lack of technology and knowledge-- that you either know someone, or you don’t. There is simply not enough time for anything different.”

 

Lyudmila leans back in her cot, resting her head gently against the wall as she stares at Jimin, “So, my question to you, Specialist Park, is why are you here?”

 

“You really wanna know? About me?”

 

“Are you intending on breaking ties with Min anytime soon?”

 

“No,” Jimin answers, appalled by the suggestion. “I… I like Yoongi.”

 

Lyudmila’s gaze drags across Jimin’s face for a long moment before replying, “Then, yes. I do want to know about you, Specialist Park. I want to know everything.”

 

Jimin doesn’t bother asking why-- he knows fully well why, considering how she regards Yoongi. “I’m here to see my family. My brother in particular.”

 

“Younger?” Jimin hums in response. Lyudmila’s lips tilt into a half-smirk. “He just as fiery as you?”

 

Jimin chuckles, scratching his cleanly-shaven jaw down to his chin. “I guess you could say that he’s a bit of a--”

 

“You love him.”

 

Jimin stops laughing, the atmosphere shifting into something more serious. “Yes, I love my baby brother a lot.”

 

Lyudmila pauses a long moment before continuing, “I think you know why I’m here then, Specialist Park.” She sighs, crossing one leg over the other. “I’m sure the Bloodbane has recently had a debrief mission on Simfield alters. I am here for a related, although distant, reason.”

 

Jimin wets his lips, mouth dry. “And that reason is..?”

 

“Nothing you need to worry about until it happens. I am particularly interested in the Bloodbane’s Intel division, so it’s really out of my own curiosity.”

 

“Curiosity?”

 

“Yes, particularly in the ways the First lacks a way to directly communicate with Bloodbane comms.” Jimin purses his lips, not knowing what to say to that. He doesn’t know anything about Intel division stuff, aside from the information Taehyung would sometimes go on long divulging rambles about during lunch. “It’s nothing serious really--”

 

Just then, Jimin’s VisTech blinks, blue clouding the rims of his vision as a notification pops up. He looks to Lyudmila with an apologetic expression, hoping she doesn’t take it as him turning it on in the midst of their conversation. “Go ahead,” Lyudmila nods, a strange smile on her face.

 

How’s the First so far?

 

Jimin purses his lips, Lyudmila’s Chesire grin suddenly making a lot more sense. “I’ll leave you two to chat. You can call him, you know? On the Simfield. I’ll keep the others distracted if they try and come back in.”

 

“Thanks,” Jimin mumbles, folding his arms over his chest. He stares down at the floor as Lyudmila leaves.

 

Replying to Yoongi makes something sickly sweet and longing writhe in his chest. He doesn’t want to consider the implications quite yet. He settles for simply replying over message, not wanting any other ears to be keen on his conversations with the other man.

 

It’s good. Miss you.

 

Jimin thinks back to a time when he and Yoongi weren’t like this. Where he and the despised Lieutenant Min would bicker over the littlest of things-- whether it be Jimin’s incessant use of old-world beliefs or Yoongi’s tendency to shut everyone out.

 

It’s funny how things have flipped around-- Yoongi used to push Jimin away at every chance. Now that things have gotten serious, Jimin is the one doing the same thing to him.

 

Part of Jimin recognizes his feelings towards the older man for what they are. The larger portion just doesn’t want to acknowledge them.

 

Spend enough time pretending things don’t affect you and you’ll eventually find that you forgot how to let them do just that; Jimin is trying to learn what it means to have love in a sense that isn’t tainted with memories of his past. Or maybe that's just the problem-- maybe he’s letting his past corrupt the thing he has with Yoongi, nameless as it is.

 

Will it ever be… enough?

 

I miss you too. Check in with me again tomorrow, please?

 

Jimin smiles despite the way his eyes water, vision blurred. He wonders when he started becoming such an emotional person, crying like a baby in a soldier’s barrack room at the beginning of a mission, in the place he used to call home. With Yoongi, Jimin has been trying to get over the shame that accompanies him when showing his feelings to others.

 

I will. See you soon.

 

Part of hi