When Yoongi meets Jungkook, the first thing he notices is his daemon.
It’s flickering between forms so rapidly that Yoongi can barely keep up—rabbit, moth, frog, owl, a large dog, ermine, a finch, and on and on. The boy himself stands in the entrance of the Bangtan dorm, half hidden behind the door, wetting his lips nervously when he notices Yoongi staring. He’s so young.
“Hi, I-I’m, um, Jungkook?” He says uncertainly, dark eyes wide as he shifts from foot to foot. “And, I think I’m supposed to, um, move in today? O-or, I mean, I’m supposed to move in today.” He flushes at his own stuttering, looking like he wants to drown himself in his oversized hoodie, and his daemon shifts into a mouse, chittering in agitation and tugging on Jungkook’s loosened shoelace.
The boy’s so painfully shy that Yoongi almost feels bad for him.
“Yeah, kiddo. I’m Yoongi. We heard that another member was joining today.” Yoongi waits for him to respond, but Jungkook only shifts nervously.
For once, Yoongi wishes Taehyung and Jimin were here, or maybe Hoseok. Any one of them could do a better job at melting through Jungkook’s skittishness than he could. But Yoongi’s the only one home right now, so he takes a deep breath and tries again. Hopes he doesn’t accidentally screw this up.
“How old are you? And what’s your daemon’s name? They didn’t tell us anything other than you were coming.” Yoongi strokes the ears of his own daemon, who had settled in the form of a silverish cat when Yoongi turned seventeen. “This is Moonyeon, by the way, but we just call her Moon.”
“Moon,” Jungkook repeats, smiling bashfully when she flicks her tail lazily in acknowledgement. “I’m fifteen,” he adds, “and my daemon’s name is Haru. He’s—he’s not usually this…um, this volatile.” Jungkook seems a little distressed as Haru changes into a chameleon, clinging to Jungkook’s pant leg, and then drops down between his feet and lands as a palm-sized turtle. “Haru, please. You’re making us look spastic,” he whispers, and the turtle morphs into a hedgehog, slumped sulkily over Jungkook’s shoe.
So young, Yoongi thinks again. No wonder his daemon hadn’t settled yet. Most daemons settled around eighteen, some of the earlier ones around seventeen. By the time children began to enter adolescence though, the majority of daemons slow down their shifting, picking several preferred forms to transform between. Yoongi’s never seen a daemon shift so much.
Moon had been one of the lazier ones—she’d found a preference for staying in feline form in Yoongi’s early childhood, and he could only ever remember her shifting between two or three breeds based on her mood or Yoongi’s needs.
“You don’t…you don’t mind that Haru’s a male?” Jungkook whispers, breaking Yoongi out of his thoughts. And now that the older boy observes more closely, he can see that Jungkook holds himself tensely, an edge of fear and apprehensiveness in the set of his mouth. He scoops up Haru protectively, and the hedgehog transforms into a python, wrapping defensively around Jungkook’s small form.
Moon lifts her head at that, blinking open narrow golden eyes. She sniffs and leaps to the floor lightly, nonchalant as she ambles up to Jungkook, tail flicking back and forth. She gives Haru a cursory sniff and sits back on her haunches.
“We could give less of a crap about gender,” she rasps, voice sandy and deep. Yoongi snorts in exasperation. Tactful as usual. Moon hold’s Haru’s gaze unflinchingly, completely unfazed by the other daemon’s threatening form.
Yoongi smiles wryly. It is uncommon for one’s daemon to be the same gender, something that’s stigmatized and treated like a disease in their culture.
He’s witnessed parents, whispering and glaring, pulling children away from same sex human-daemon pairs; he’s seen news sources and even his own traditional-minded family discussing how these people must have some sort of spiritual or personal defect since daemons were manifestations of the soul.
The way that Jungkook holds himself tells Yoongi everything he needs to know.
“I don’t care either,” Yoongi reaffirms, finally standing to approach the younger boy. Yoongi watches as Jungkook’s expression relaxes a fraction, and Haru slowly uncurls from Jungkook’s shoulder, dropping down to the ground as tabby housecat to match Moon.
Purring softly, Moon rubs her face against Haru, who bumps under her chin with his nose. “It’s nice to meet you,” Haru says, and his voice is just as soft as Jungkook’s. His tail twitches in embarrassment now that he’s finally calmed down. “It’s just that—that no one ever accepts us right from the start, other than our family.” He touches his flank to Moon’s.
“You don’t have to worry about that with us,” Yoongi replies, ruffling Jungkook’s hair. The younger boy startles, cheeks blushing pink. “Namjoon and Hoseok might be surprised, but they’re both open-minded, ok? I can’t speak for the other boys that are joining soon, but I trust that Bang PD-nim chose good people. And here, I’ll help you with your bags.” Yoongi brushes past Jungkook to pick up the bags that were abandoned at the doorstep.
“You can call me Yoongi-hyung. And Moon-noona for Haru,” he adds, and Jungkook hurries behind him with another backpack and suitcase as he leads them toward Namjoon’s room. “Get settled, alright? You’re rooming with Joonie and Iseul.”
“Joonie? Iseul?” Jungkook asks, brow crinkling. He looks worried again, the same insecure anxiety that he had arrived with bleeding back into his face.
Moon barks out a husky laugh. “It’s Namjoon-hyung to you, and his daemon’s name is Iseul. Yoongi and I are nineteen, and Joon and Iseul are a year younger. Those two are the least of your worries; we can all guarantee that they’ll welcome you openly.”
“Iseul’s a late settler though,” Yoongi adds. “She likes staying as an owl, but don’t be surprised if you catch her trying something else.” Like a baby elephant. Iseul is one of the gentlest daemons Yoongi has ever met, but she has a thirst for curiosity to match Namjoon’s ever expanding intellect. They had all found Iseul testing strange forms at the most inconvenient of times, never able to pick one shape to settle in.
“Call if you need any help, ok?” Yoongi turns to leave, thinking that Jungkook might need some space, and Moon gives Haru an affectionate lick before leaping onto Yoongi’s shoulder.
“I—okay,” Jungkook says hesitantly.
Yoongi raises a brow but doesn’t push, already a step out the door.
“Wait!” Jungkook calls, and Yoongi pivots back around, expectant. Haru is tucked in the cradle of Jungkook’s arms now, and the boy ducks his face into the fluffy ears of—what is it, a rabbit now?
“I just…um, wanted to say thank you, Yoongi-hyung.” He mumbles into Haru’s thick pelt. “And Moon. Thank you.”
Yoongi doesn’t need to ask what for, warmth blooming in his chest.
“Mhmm, anytime, kiddo.”
Introductions go fairly smoothly from there, and for the most part, the boys seem more delighted to meet Jungkook and Haru than anything else. Yoongi watches quietly from the sidelines, both Moon and himself passive but attentive.
Seokjin joins soon after Jungkook, followed by Taehyung and Jimin. Yoongi can tell that it sooths Jungkook to have a couple boys closer to his age in his dorm, and Seokjin and his daemon adopt a strange role between a overprotective parent and a playfully antagonistic older brother. It also doesn’t hurt that all of the members find their maknae unbearably adorable, but Jungkook still remains anxious in the early months of living in their new home.
Yoongi is content to let Jungkook come into his skin at his own pace, but he draws the line when he catches Jungkook showering at three in the morning.
He’s returning from another late night at the studio, when he hears the water running in the single bathroom they all share. Furrowing his brows, he toes off his shoes and hangs up his coat by the doorway, checking his watch quickly.
That’s pretty late for even Yoongi, and no one had dance lessons today either. Which begets the question, who the hell is showering at this time?
The water shuts off, and less than a minute later, the door cracks open, Jungkook stepping out in a towel. Haru ambles behind him in the form of a palm-sized turtle, looking content to be waterlogged.
Jungkook yelps when he sees Yoongi. “I—I thought everyone was sleeping already—”
Yoongi crosses his arms, unimpressed. “Is that why you’re showering right now?”
Jungkook shuffles his feet self-consciously, drawing his towel tighter around his hunched shoulders. “I—I…” he drops his eyes sheepishly, “yeah…”
Yoongi is about to scold him about regular sleeping patterns, despite the clear hypocrisy, but he finally notices Jungkook shivering, cold droplets of water running from his hair down his neck. Haru has hunched down into his shell, pressed against Jungkook’s leg for warmth.
“Come on, Kook,” Yoongi sighs. He grabs another towel from the rack in the bathroom and drapes it over Jungkook’s wet hair, gently drying him off. “Let’s go to sleep, okay? It’s late. And no more three am showering. We all know to respect each other’s boundaries by now, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Jungkook nods silently.
“If someone’s giving you a problem, just tell hyung, alright? We’re going to be living together for a long time if things go as planned, so we can’t let problems fester.”
Eyes widening, Jungkook shakes his head. “No! It’s not that, I swear. No one’s giving me trouble. It’s just… sometimes my head gets really loud and I don’t know what to do or where to go. Like, like my head and hands and chest and everything is buzzing, and it—it’s too much. And I just want to hide.”
Oh. Yoongi mulls that over. Thinks of Jungkook’s anxious appearance when they had first met, his nervous stuttering around the managers and stylists, and now, his middle of the night showering habits. Yoongi had thought Jungkook was just shy, but maybe it was a little more than that.
“Well,” Yoongi offers, “hyung’s mind is kind of like that too”—except it doesn’t make him anxious, it just makes his thoughts turn dark and melancholy—“so why don’t you come over to my studio the next time that happens? Or send me a message, and I’ll come home, if it’s in the middle of the night.”
“Really?” Jungkook says doubtfully, but a flicker of hope sparks in his eyes. “But…but I don’t want to bother you if you’re working.”
Snorting, Yoongi rubs Jungkook’s hair with the damp towel one last time. “Trust me, I spend half my time there frustrated or watching cat videos anyway. Company would be nice.”
“I…okay then. If you don’t mind.” Jungkook cracks a small smile, the dredges of anxiety in those chocolate eyes finally melting away.
“I really don’t,” Yoongi assures him. Then he snaps the damp towel at Jungkook’s towel-covered rear lightly, grinning when the younger boy squeaks. “Off you go then, maknae. It’s late enough as it is.”
“Says the hyung who never sleeps,” Jungkook shoots back cheekily, and Yoongi blinks in surprise as the younger boy scampers away, Haru scurrying beside him as a little black bunny.
“He’s not wrong, you know,” Moon says, amused.
“He’s not,” Yoongi agrees, and he laughs quietly to himself, smiling softly as he pads toward his own bedroom. Brat.
Jungkook and Yoongi begin to grow closer over the months, discovering a shared love for lamb skewers, sharing song lyrics, and bonding over late nights in the studio watching Studio Ghibli films when they should be sleeping or working. Jungkook’s birthday passes, and Yoongi is content to see him settle into both the dorm and his own skin a little more, not nearly as skittish and much more mischievous than he was before.
They’ve become a duo within the group, and it doesn’t escape the other members’ notice that Yoongi welcomes physical affection far more when it’s with Jungkook. It also isn’t difficult to see Jungkook’s face light up when he’s with Yoongi, the way he just laughs more.
Sooner or later, Yoongi knows their relationship is bound to draw some commentary from the members, whether it be teasing or fond. Having that vague inkling doesn’t mean Yoongi expects it any more when it’s sprung on him though.
Hoseok wanders into the kitchen one morning, gaze flickering between Yoongi and the open doorway to the living room where Jungkook and Jimin are. Yoongi’s facing the pair from his position at the table, and despite her closed eyes, Moon also has her ears pricked up in their direction.
“You two are pretty protective of Jungkook and Haru, aren’t you,” Hoseok observes, grabbing orange juice out of the fridge. His daemon, only recently settled as a stoat, unfurls from around his neck and bounds sleepily over to Moon, attempting to curl up again on the older daemon’s back.
“Sunhi, get off. You’re heavy,” Moon mutters, cracking an eye open. She rolls over, shaking off the insistent ball of tawny fur trying to cling to her side.
“Aww, but you’re never like this with Haru,” Sunhi whines as she finally gives up and meanders back to her perch around Hoseok’s shoulders.
“Because Haru never tries to suffocate me like you do,” Moon sniffs back. Her tail flicks in irritation, only calming when Yoongi runs a hand through her pelt soothingly.
Jungkook’s and Jimin’s uncontrollable laughter, as well as some loud, discordant squawking filters through the doorway, and Yoongi’s face melts into something fond.
Then he turns around and sees Hoseok air-sipping directly from the carton.
“Disgusting. Are you a caveman? Go get a glass.” Yoongi’s nose wrinkles, and Hoseok’s mouth drops at the betrayal.
“Are you kidding me?” Hoseok squawks. “Jungkook literally did this two days ago and you didn’t even bat an eyelash. What is with this selective vision?” Selective treatment, more like, Hoseok thinks sulkily, pulling the cupboard open.
Another shriek of giggles erupts from the living room, and Yoongi attention slides away from Hoseok.
Apparently selective hearing too now. Hoseok sighs and pours himself half a glass of orange juice. This is tyranny.
Moon stands up, stretching lazily. “C’mon,” she rumbles at Yoongi, springing to the ground and stalking toward the doorway. “I want to play too.”
Yoongi rises without complaint, and Hoseok stands by the open fridge, frozen with a half-full cup of juice in one hand and the carton in the other. He blinks in disbelief. Hoseok can’t remember the last time Moon willingly did anything other than eat, sleep, and complain, much less play. And Yoongi…Yoongi willingly following along to ‘play’? Not even Taehyung and his daemon’s puppy pouts had been able to achieve that.
What in the actual hell—
Realization hits him like a truck.
“You LIKE—” Hoseok gasps, and Yoongi shoots him a glare that practically dares him to finish.
“I do not,” he spits, but the pink on his cheeks betrays him. “For heaven’s sake, he’s sixteen. And a literal and figurative child.”
Hoseok rolls his eyes. “Whatever, your soft little heart would never do anything but pine anyway. Still, you think he’s cute—”
“Everyone thinks he’s cute,” Yoongi valiantly tries to defend himself, but Hoseok just snorts.
“Hyung, you’re in denial. Accept the fact that you’re in looo—”
Hoseok shrieks as Yoongi tries his damnest to smother him. Jungkook’s head swivels around at the commotion, and Yoongi immediately drops his grabby hands, shooting daggers at a breathless Hoseok.
Oh man, if looks could kill.
“Whipped. So whipped,” Sunhi whispers, cackling, tail thumping in mirth.
Done. Sealed. Absolutely confirmed, Hoseok thinks gleefully. He gives Sunhi’s tiny paw a hi-five.
Namjoon shares the few recording studios with all the other Bighit artists, but by one in the morning, it’s usually only Yoongi and himself that are still there.
“How do you think it sounds?” Namjoon asks, turning up the speaker volume for Iseul to hear. She’s decided to use Namjoon’s left arm as a tree trunk, dozing quietly as a koala as he works endlessly into the night.
“Mmm. Good,” she mumbles.
Namjoon sighs. “You say everything sounds good, Iseulie, even when it’s not.”
Yawning widely, Iseul blinks blearily at Namjoon. “You’re too hard on yourself sometimes, Joonie. It really does sound good.” The demo track continues to play, and Iseul shifts into her usual pygmy owl form and flutters onto Namjoon’s head, burrowing herself comfortably into his hair. The clock in the corner of the room chimes once to indicate the hour.
“And I think it sounds like it’s time to go home. Why don’t we go find Yoongi and remind him to get some sleep too? Moon-unnie never drags him home like I keep telling her to.”
“Just half an hour more, Is,” Namjoon tries, but Iseul hoots in disapproval. “Really Namjoon, it’s time to go home. Seokjin and Bomi-unnie always wait up for us, you know that. You have to think of others too.”
“Fine, fine,” Namjoon sighs, shutting down the monitor and rubbing his eyes. Now that he looks away form the glowing screen, he realizes just how tired he is. And Seokjin probably fell asleep on the couch waiting again, Namjoon thinks with a flare of guilt.
He closes up his studio and walks across the hallway to knock softly on Yoongi’s studio door. He’s probably working with headphones on and can’t even hear him though. Might as well just enter. Hopefully Moon can give Yoongi a heads up so Namjoon doesn’t accidentally scare the living daylights out of—
Namjoon stares in confusion at the lump of maknae sleeping on the small couch in the corner. What is Jungkook doing here?
Namjoon takes another step into the room, eyes adjusting to the dim lighting. Haru is scrunched into a ball of bunny in Jungkook’s arms, and the maknae’s face is slack and peaceful in slumber. And…and Yoongi’s favorite jacket is draped over the boy’s stomach and thighs, a small cushion Yoongi always uses as a chair backrest under Jungkook’s head.
“Yoongi, you have a visitor,” Moon murmurs, tapping at his hand with the tip of her tail. Yoongi peels off his headphones, spinning around in his chair, and Namjoon almost winces when he sees the dark circles under his eyes. They look dark enough to be bruises.
“Hyung, why are Jungkook and—” Namjoon starts, but Yoongi shushes him, gesturing at the couch. “They’re sleeping,” he whispers.
“Sorry,” Namjoon mutters, lowering his volume. “Why are Jungkook and Haru here? I’ve never seen them in the studio outside of recording sessions.” He feels like he already has a faint idea why though, recollecting the maknae’s puppy-like trailing after Yoongi.
Yoongi swivels back around to face his computer, nonchalant. “He’s been coming on and off for months, how have you not noticed? Kid gets stressed sometimes, and I said he could drop in and keep me company if he wants.”
Namjoon squints at Jungkook tiredly again, his brain struggling to catch up. Is that why Jungkook sometimes wasn’t in their shared room at night? He had always wondered, but in an off-hand way, exhaustion dragging him into sleep and dismissing his concerns. Namjoon had just assumed after a while that he was staying late in the dance studios or practice rooms to fix up his choreography.
Yoongi starts clicking again, attention diverted, and Iseul clicks her tongue in disapproval. She flies down from Namjoon’s head, landing squarely on the keyboard with a clack. “It’s late,” she says quietly but firmly, and both Yoongi and Moon have enough experience with being kindly but insistently herded back to the dorm to know what that simple statement means.
“Aish, ok, ok,” Yoongi grouses, and Moon yawns and starts padding toward the couch as Iseul perches between Moon’s ears like a little general.
“Here, I’ll wash that for you,” Namjoon offers, picking up two dirtied mugs. “Come on, Iseul, let’s go.” Yoongi dips his head in thanks, and Namjoon makes his way down the hall to the tiny communal kitchen, rinsing the cups in the sink.
It only takes a couple minutes before he’s traveling back down the hallway, but just as he’s a few steps away from the half-opened door, he hears Jungkook’s sleep-groggy voice.
Something makes Namjoon stop and listen.
“Mm…hyung? What time is it?”
“Time to go home, Kook-ah. Iseul and Joonie found us, unfortunately. Haru might want to change into something smaller if he wants to sleep in your pocket or something on the way back.”
“But I want to sleep on the way back,” Jungkook replies, pout practically audible in his voice. “Can you carry me, hyung?”
“Absolutely not, Jeon Jungkook. You’ll crush me. And besides, Moon likes to ride on my shoulder when we walk.”
“Please? Please, hyung.” Jungkook’s voice is impossibly pleading, and Namjoon peers through the crack of the door to see both the maknae and his daemon staring at Yoongi with large eyes, Haru taking the shape of a baby beagle, ears drooping and all.
“Aish, that’s not fair,” Yoongi complains, but Namjoon can already hear his resolve crack. “Fine, but just this time, ok? Why do I even put up with brats like you.” Yoongi sounds so disgustingly fond and affectionate though that Namjoon almost wants to turn away and forget this ever happened. He feels like he’s intruding.
Yoongi appears in the doorway moments later, one sleepy maknae draped over his back, face in the crook of his neck. Haru has shifted into a Saint Bernard, offering Moon a comfortable position on his back as he trots happily beside Yoongi and Jungkook.
As soon as Namjoon comes into view, Yoongi’s expression shifts from indulgent warmth to threatening pain and eternal hell so fast Namjoon almost gets whiplash.
“Oh, hi, Namjoon-hyung, Iseul,” Jungkook mumbles, propping his chin on Yoongi’s shoulder. Haru’s tail wags in greeting. “Yoongi-hyung is really comfy.” He giggles, sleep-drunk, and Namjoon imagines Yoongi’s stone cold heart melting, melting, melting.
Except he’s still shooting lasers from his eyes.
When they get home, Jungkook is fast asleep, supported only by Yoongi’s grip on his thighs and his awkwardly hunched back to keep the younger boy from falling off.
Yoongi trails Namjoon back to his shared room with Jungkook, where he carefully removes the maknae’s shoes and outerwear, tucking him into bed. Jungkook clings to Yoongi’s warmth when he tries to pull away, and Namjoon doesn’t miss the flash of fondness in his hyung’s gaze.
“Gonna give him a goodnight kiss too?” Namjoon says teasingly, climbing into his own bunk.
There’s no reply, but Namjoon hears the paper-soft brush of lips on skin and sees the light flush on Yoongi’s cheeks as he climbs down the bunk ladder.
He closes his eyes quickly, pretending not to hear Yoongi’s embarrassed huff and threat of decapitation. Seconds later, the door shuts with a click, the lights in the hallway going out.
Namjoon turns over in the dark and smiles into Iseul’s feathers.
Jungkook gets sick during one of their infrequent breaks, and Seokjin doesn’t question it when Yoongi elbows him out of the way to make soup for their maknae.
“He told me his mom makes him chicken broth when he’s sick,” Yoongi says, face turned resolutely away from Seokjin. Moon is up on her hind legs, pulling the refrigerator door open, and Bomi—settled as a sugar glider for a good four years now—peers out of Seokjin’s shirt pocket in curiosity.
“Yoongi, the milk,” Moon gripes, unable to reach.
“What?” Yoongi asks, distracted. He’s typing something on his phone, which keeps buzzing as he recites ingredients under his breath. Moon yowls loudly, and Yoongi finally looks up. “Moon, seriously? Now’s not the time to drink milk. I’m trying to focus on making soup.”
“For Haru, you idiot. Warm milk always makes him feel better.” Moon twitches her ears impatiently, and Yoongi relents, striding over to grab the milk. “Fine, only if it’s for Haru. You better not steal any though.”
Moon scoffs, and Seokjin watches in amazement, Bomi laughing squeakily in his pocket all the while. “Jinnie, Jinnie, you have to get this on film. They’re trying so hard, this is adorable. Who knew Moonie had a side other than grumpy?”
Seokjin ignores Bomi’s antics, trying to look over Yoongi’s shoulder. He’s more concerned about the possibility of the kitchen burning down. “What recipe are you using? And do you even know how to make it?” He tries to steal a glance at the phone, Yoongi keeps blocking his view of the screen with his shoulder.
“Hyung, stop it. I know what I’m doing, alright? This is not the first time I’ve cooked, and I’m not like Joonie who wrecks the kitchen and himself every time he tries to make anything.”
“That is true,” Seokjin concedes, but he’s still somewhat skeptical. “What recipe are you using though? You didn’t answer. If you need one, I can give you the one I use.”
Yoongi mumbles something unintelligible under his breath.
“What was that?” Seokjin cups his ear obnoxiously and leans forward.
“I said, I got the recipe from Jungkook’s mom!” Yoongi’s face flushes as soon as he blurts it out, and the phone buzzes again. Swiping it from Yoongi’s grasp, Seokjin ignores his undignified grabby hands and grumbling, scrolling through the messages. There’s a photo of a hand-written recipe on a page of a book, along with lots of instructions and tips texted directly into the chat.
10:17 am [from: Mrs. Jeon]
Thank you for taking care of our Jungkookie and Haru!
10:18 am [from: Mrs. Jeon]
Kook talks about you so much when he calls back…I trust he’s in good hands! Tell me how the soup turns out, and remind Jungkook to call if he forgets. Also, remember to add more ginger, and go light on the salt!
10:22 am [from: Mrs. Jeon]
Hi Yoongi-ssi, this is Junghyun, Jungkook’s older brother. You better treat him right.
Damn. Seokjin raises a brow at the last message, and Yoongi snatches the phone back, face red. He points at the door mulishly. “Leave. Now.”
“Aww, is that any way to speak to your hyung?” Seokjin grins blithely. “Also, how did you even get her number?”
“Leave now, hyung. And none of your business,” Yoongi grits out, and Seokjin dances away merrily.
“Call if you need help,” he hollers over his shoulder.
“I won’t!” Yoongi returns sourly, and Seokjin rolls his eyes. What a petty dongsaeng.
If only Yoongi treated everyone as well as Jungkook.
Seokjin checks back later, partially to make sure that the kitchen hasn’t burned down—and partially to make sure Jungkook is doing alright—but mostly to eavesdrop.
He’s not ashamed (okay, maybe just a little ashamed) that he’s army-crawling on the floor with a blanket over his head, Bomi scouting the way for him to watch discreetly. He feels like the creepy uncle in those movies, but hey, worth it.
Yoongi brings a bowl of soup into the living room, settling on the ground beside the couch where Jungkook and Haru are swaddled in blankets.
“Jungkook-ah, wake up. Hyung made you soup.” Yoongi shakes Jungkook’s shoulder gently, Moon nosing at Haru’s sweat dampened pelt. He’s switching between a black rabbit and a tabby housecat in intervals, two of the forms that he had taken a particular liking to in the past year. None of them have commented on it, but Seokjin thinks it’s obvious why Haru has a preference for these two animals, considering Yoongi’s off-hand comments about Jungkook’s cute bunny smile (which are blatantly adoring and way too obvious in Seokjin’s opinion) and Moon’s affection for her fellow feline daemons.
“Moon brought some milk for Haru too, if he can stay as a cat. I don’t know if it’ll make him even sicker as a bunny.” Yoongi blows on a spoonful of soup as Jungkook rubs at his eyes and props himself up to sit upright. Haru, apparently hearing, squeaks pitifully and shifts into his tabby cat shape, shivering and sneezing.
“Yoongi-hyung?” Jungkook asks, throat raspy and eyes bleary. “Hyung, I don’t feel good.”
“I know,” Yoongi says patiently. “That’s why you’re going to drink some soup and take some medicine. Then you can go back to sleep.” He lifts the spoonful of soup to Jungkook’s lips, and the younger boy opens obediently to accept it.
“Hyung…” There’s a strange note in Jungkook’s voice.
“What?” The edge of worry in Yoongi’s face is unmistakable. “Is it bad? I can ask Jin-hyung to make something else—”
“No, it’s good. Really,” Jungkook adds, seeing the sliver of doubt. “It’s nothing, hyung, don’t worry.”
“Alright, if you say so,” Yoongi says hesitantly, lifting another spoonful for Jungkook. On the ground, Moon nudges forward a small bowl of warmed milk, and Jungkook deposits Haru beside the older daemon, giving his ears a comforting rub. “Go on,” Jungkook whispers, “Moonie doesn’t share her milk with everyone.”
Yoongi doesn’t make soup for everyone either, Seokjin wants to scream.
They finish the rest of the bowl in comfortable silence, Yoongi carefully blowing on each spoonful, Jungkook pliant and uncomplaining as the older boy feeds him bites of chicken and broth. Moon lies, head resting on her paws, watching attentively as Haru slowly laps up the milk. He curls into her side when he finishes, and Moon licks over his flanks and ears, gently grooming him.
Yoongi’s just about to ask Jungkook if he wants another bowl when the younger boy breaks in, that odd note back in his voice again.
“Hmm? What is it?”
“Is this…is this my mom’s recipe?” Jungkook’s eyes are wide and expectant, almost hopeful.
Yoongi rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, and Seokjin can see the tips of his ears flush red. Aigoo, how cute. “I…yeah, it is. You could recognize it, huh?”
Jungkook turns his head down, voice thick. “Yeah…I could recognize my mom’s recipe anywhere. I just—I really—” He breaks off suddenly, angling his face away, and Yoongi reaches out to the younger boy in concern.
“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” Yoongi asks. “Are you—are you crying?”
The question seems to break something in Jungkook, and he bursts into tears, throwing himself into Yoongi’s arms.
“Oof.” Yoongi manages to catch the younger boy, rocking back a bit at the impact. Jungkook buries his face into Yoongi sweatshirt, hiccupping. “Whoa, hey, what is it? C’mon Kook-ah, talk to me.” Panic is the only thing clouding Yoongi’s brain right now. He can’t handle tears, oh God, he can’t, his heart is going to break.
“Was the soup really that bad?” Yoongi asks.
That prompts a wet laugh from the maknae.
“N-no, I—I just…I miss my mom. A-and my, my family,” Jungkook chokes out, and Yoongi’s face softens. He runs a hand over the boy’s back soothingly, hugging him close.
“‘M really glad you’re here, Yoongi-hyung. An-and thank you for the soup.” It means a lot, goes unsaid, but they all hear it anyway. Yoongi hums and lets Jungkook cry himself out, brushing a hand through his hair even after he’s fallen back asleep.
After a while, Yoongi stands up, Jungkook still clinging to him loosely, and deposits the lapful of maknae back onto the couch. He pulls the blankets up, and Moon gently picks up a dozing Haru by the scruff like a mother cat would a kitten, laying him beside Jungkook.
“Mmm…no, don’ go, hyung,” Jungkook protests and clings to Yoongi’s sleeve, eyes cracking half-open. Exhaustion hangs heavily about him, both from sickness and from crying.
Yoongi shushes him softly. “C’mon, let go. I’m just gonna clean up the kitchen, and I’ll be right back, okay? Go back to sleep.” Jungkook makes an unsatisfied noise but acquiesces, loosening his grip, and the older boy picks up the emptied bowls and spoon, padding back toward the kitchen.
And very quietly, from the opposite doorway, Seokjin and Bomi give each other a look and start crawling back to the bedrooms.
This will be a story for the grandchildren one day.
Of course, not everything goes smoothly. As public figures, they’re exposed to criticism every day, from the way they look and act to the forms their daemons choose to take or end up settling in.
The majority of their fans are supportive of both them and their daemons, going the extra step to reassure Jungkook and Haru especially. There are even fans that send letters or come up to speak to them at fanmeets, earnestly thanking them for how their media coverage—especially Jungkook’s—has begun to change the perception of same-sex daemons.
But hate crimes and slurs still happen, and as they gain popularity as a group, the threats become more and more vicious.
They’re at a fan signing event, just a couple days after their newest comeback, and Jungkook is smiling brilliantly at the cheers and atmosphere, riding off the happiness of the crowd.
“Next!” The manager behind him calls, waving the line along. Jungkook is seated at the edge of the leftmost table, first in order to receive the new fans, Yoongi right beside him.
A girl in a dress, her hair dyed a pretty copper color, slides up to the table. “Hi!” She chirps, smiling brightly.
“Hello!” Jungkook greets the girl, smiling cordially. She looks older than him, but not by much. “What’s your name?” He asks, reaching for the small notebook she pushes forward.
“I’m Jiae,” she replies, folding her hands on the table. The light glints off her silver rings, and Jungkook finds his gaze drawn to her fingers. There are…strange brown stains under her fingernails, but Jungkook looks away quickly, knowing how uncomfortable a prying stare can feel. He uncaps his pen, a shivery feeling running up his spine as he touches the notebook, but he pushes it away, trying to focus on signing.
Her daemon, a large falcon nearly double Haru’s size in rabbit form, hops forward onto the table and cocks his head at Haru.
“Jungkook,” Haru whispers, nose twitching uneasily. He flinches back a little as the falcon takes another step closer, feathers puffing up. “Jungkook, something smells weird.”
“Be nice, Haru,” Jungkook hisses back. It’s not like they haven’t had quirky or strange fans before, but upholding a friendly public image is crucial. Neither Haru nor himself can kick up a fuss without a valid reason, and even then, the media still loves going wild with accusations at hairpin trigger, salivating after tabloid headlines for quick profits.
Turning from the fan he’s talking to, Yoongi shoots him a concerned look, but Jungkook smiles back reassuringly. Nothing to worry about.
“No, Jungkook, seriously.” Haru backs up and bumps into Jungkook’s arm, shifting into the tabby cat—just a little bigger than the form he would normally take. His voice is louder this time, almost distressed, and Moon, curled on the table beside him, looks over. She flicks her tail against his. “Haru?”
“Haru, we can’t—” Jungkook tries again, but the apprehension is unescapable now. Daemons and humans are inexorably linked, and Jungkook can feel the fear pulsing through Haru, bouncing between them and amplifying.
“Oh my,” the girl—Jiae—coos, “Is Haru alright? I have something for him if he’s not feeling well.” Her rings glint again as her hand dips into her bag.
“O-oh,” Jungkook stutters. “No, it’s alright, really—”
The girl pulls a limp mass of fur out of her bag and shoves it straight at Haru. It takes a fraction of a second to register, and then Haru shrieks in terror and leaps away, crashing into Moon.
Jungkook gasps, horrified, shooting to his feet and stumbling back so fast his chair topples backward, and Yoongi inhales sharply. Haru leaps into the security of Jungkook’s arms, and he holds him tightly, heart pounding.
It’s a dead rabbit, throat slit and body half-mangled, soaked in so much dry blood that its snowy white pelt is almost entirely brown.
“Oh my God,” Jungkook whispers. The brownish stains under her fingernails…
The girl laughs, just as brightly and cheerfully as she had smiled before, but Jungkook recognizes the edge of malice to it now. “You will never be accepted. And you think the fans haven’t noticed? The way you look at Yoongi-oppa is disgusting,” she says softly, low enough that no one other than Jungkook can hear her.
“Security!” Yoongi shouts. “Security, get her out!” Everyone is gaping at them, all heads turned in confusion. The carcass is blocked from the crowd by the girl’s body, only visible to the members, and all of their faces are pale with shock.
“He’ll never love you the way you love him,” she whispers, and there’s a flash of hard conviction in her eyes that shakes Jungkook to the core. “Never.”
The guards start moving in, but the girl is fast, darting off the stage and winding her way through the confused crowd, her daemon soaring over the masses. Some people are shouting directions, but no one moves to grab her, clamoring in bemusement as they try to get a glimpse of what happened at the table. The managers and security move immediately to block the view of the table, trying to do damage control.
The dead rabbit is still sprawled across the notebook, and Jungkook stares, feeling sick to his stomach.
“Kook, don’t look at it.” Yoongi stands as well, tucking the younger boy’s head into his shoulder. There’s a tremor of fury that runs through his movements. “Hey, we’re leaving, okay? They’re going to shut down the event and find her. What she did was repulsive.”
“But…but the rest of the fans,” Jungkook says weakly, trying to latch onto any semblance of normalcy he can. His head is still reeling from what the girl had said. A sluice of hurt washes through him, clouding his brain, cottoning his ears. Yoongi had always been a far-off dream, a doting brother figure that he had realized somewhere along the way was more than just that. Of course, he had never expected anything back, but was it truly so obvious? To be called out on it, to be attacked for it? Doubt floods his mind.
“The staff and managers will figure out a way to compensate them, or we can hold another one for them,” Namjoon replies firmly, and Hoseok nods from beside him, face serious. All of the members crowd defensively around Jungkook, acting like a protective circle. “No one expects you to go on like nothing happened, not after that.” Jimin and Taehyung also gather around Jungkook, their daemons pressing against Haru in comfort, and Seokjin hovers behind them, lips pulled tight.
Jungkook tries to protest again—fans, think of the fans, think of anyone, anything else but him—but Yoongi shushes him sternly. “You come first, Jungkook. Your safety and ours, not what the fans or public might think.”
“A-alright.” Jungkook feels a little numb and slightly nauseous, still stunned. Dizzy with the sudden realization that no one else had heard what she said but him.. The managers are shouting, herding them away from the screams of the crowd, and Jungkook clings to Yoongi’s hand blindly.
Swallowing down the bile, he closes his eyes, hoping no one else can see the wetness on his lashes. He tilts his head down.
They’re going home.
“Jungkook? I ran a bath for you.” Yoongi knocks lightly on the maknae’s door before pushing it open and stepping in.
Jungkook remains silent, hiding under the covers with Haru curled on his pillow. Still a cat. An awful feeling beats at Jungkook’s heart, the words looping over and over in his head. You will never be accepted. He can’t bear to replay the part about Yoongi though. Is he really so transparent? It sickens him. Jungkook sickens himself. He feels like he can still see the coppery brown, smell the sickening metallic odor.
You will never be accepted…the way you look at Yoongi…
“Jungkook?” The covers lift, and Yoongi’s dark eyes peer at him, worried. Jungkook shuts his eyes against the bright room lights and hides his face, careless of how his cheek smears against the pillowcase. “Aish, you haven’t even taken off your makeup yet. C’mon, bathtime,” he coaxes gently. Moon detaches from Yoongi shoulder, crawling over to Haru. She mews despondently when Haru ignores her nuzzle and scrunches up tighter.
Yoongi sighs and sits down on the bed. “Kookie, please?”
It’s nearing an hour since they’ve gotten back to the dorms, and Jungkook and Haru had practically fled to their room as soon as they arrived.
Yoongi had moved to follow them, but Namjoon had stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Give him a bit of space, hyung. He probably wants to be alone.”
Yoongi had eyed him incredulously. “Why the hell would he want to be alone after that? If anything, he needs someone now more than ever.” His tone is unintentionally snappish.
Namjoon drops his hand as if he’s been burnt, and Iseul chirrups, a bit hurt. “I don’t…” he blows out a frustrated breath, and suddenly, Yoongi sees the uncertainty in the set of his shoulders, the fatigue and frazzled nerves. “I don’t know what to do, hyung. I don’t know what he really needs either, I’m just…trying my best, alright? If that’s what you think he needs, I’m sure you know him better than me.”
Yoongi immediately feels bad. This must weigh heavily on Namjoon as a leader, for despite his inexperience, he’s still responsible for the group. He’s trying his best, like they all are.
“Yeah,” Yoongi mutters. “Sorry. I’ll—I’ll go run him a bath or something.”
Namjoon nods, taking a deep breath. “We’ll be alright. Jungkook will be alright.” Yoongi can’t tell who he’s reassuring. “I’ll go ask Seokjin to make Jungkook something to eat,” Namjoon adds, brushing past Yoongi into the kitchen.
And now Yoongi is here, sitting beside an unresponsive maknae hiding in his blankets.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says suddenly. His voice is scratchy, as if he’s been crying, and when he finally faces Yoongi, the older boy can see that his eyes are a little red. “Hyung,” he whispers again. “She said…she said we would never be accepted.” By whom, he doesn’t say, but they both know what he’s talking about: society, the public, the world.
“Would you guys…would you guys ever replace me? And Haru? With someone normal, I mean. I know I’m a liability…” he rambles, trailing off. And in that instant, Jungkook sounds so scared and alone.
There’s a beat of silence, and Jungkook’s face begins to close off in bitterness. His eyes shutter, and there’s just hurt, hurt, hurt pulsing—
Yoongi smacks him over the head. “You idiot.”
Jungkook’s face crumples, and he whips his head away, not wanting Yoongi or Moon to see the tears that have gathered in his eyes. “Alright, I get it—"
“No, you absolute moron,” Yoongi snarls, and there are suddenly hands on Jungkook’s cheeks, forcing him to look into the older boy’s eyes. He tries to jerk his face away, vision blurry with tears, but Yoongi won’t let him go.
“Aish, where did your common sense go?” Yoongi sighs, softer and more exasperated now. “Kook-ah, what I meant was that we’ll never replace you. Never. It’s not even an option, and you’re an idiot for thinking that we would even consider it. Bangtan isn’t Bangtan without you. Bangtan wouldn’t be the same if any of our members changed.”
Jungkook sniffs, wiping at his eyes. The hesitation is still there when he says, “Really?”
“Yes, really.” Yoongi taps his knuckles gently against the side of Jungkook’s head. “Whatever she said was just to mess with you, okay? There will always be anti-fans, haters, and bigots in this world, and none of what they believe changes the fact that you are valuable and loved. It doesn’t matter what they say, because we accept you, and you have to learn to accept yourself too.”
Jungkook stares at his hands, fingers curling and uncurling. He turns them over and observes the clean white of his nails, unmarred by blood, and shivers. “I…I don’t know how to accept myself sometimes.” The image of the blood and rabbit loops over and over, and Jungkook squeezes his eyes shut. “Hyung, I can’t get the—the bunny out of my head. And the blood…” he whispers. It was a statement against Haru, loud and clear, and what if, what if that had actually been Haru? It haunts him.
“Oh, Kook-ah.” Yoongi pulls the boy into a loose hug, and Jungkook finally lets himself take the reassurance he needs, hiding his face in Yoongi’s sweater. “Aish, Kook, you know I’m not the best at this. I have issues too, and sometimes there are just those days. I’m not the best at loving myself, nor am I the best one to give advice, but you have us, you know? I think a child’s mentality”—Jungkook huffs at being called a child, but Yoongi bulldozes on—“of how they view themselves is a reflection of how others have treated and viewed them from a young age. It takes time to change that, and sometimes it never really goes away completely. So if you can’t accept yourself, then we’ll just have to do it for you until you can learn to love yourself.”
“Got it?” Yoongi knocks his chin gently on Jungkook’s head, still buried in his sweater. “Hey, c’mon, Kookie. Look at hyung.” Pulling away, Yoongi tips Jungkook’s chin up, meeting his eyes squarely.
Jungkook stares back, something in his expression strained and sad. “Got it,” he murmurs, but it sounds more like he’s trying to convince himself.
Yoongi’s chest squeezes, prickling painfully. “We’ll get there, alright? It’s okay not to be okay.”
Jungkook nods, but his eyes are averted. “I’ll just…I’ll go take that bath now. Before the water goes cold.” He stands up, scooping up Haru. “Thanks for…thanks for taking care of me, hyung.” There’s a note of finality in his voice that Yoongi can’t understand.
And he vanishes out the door.
Yoongi sighs. He’ll try again later.
Haru doesn’t take the shape of a rabbit again.
They have talks about what happened, of course they do, but their concern seems unwarranted when Jungkook goes right back to acting normal—happy even—just a handful of days after the fansign. They have their suspicions and worries, especially Namjoon, who has seen the darker side of bottled rage and pain and overwhelming media attacks before.
But Jungkook honestly seems…just fine. And after a couple weeks, none of them tiptoe around Jungkook anymore, not after his frustrated outburst about how they all treat him like glass. He carries on like usual, and things stabilize back to routine, but Haru’s refusal to return to his previously favorite form is a constant reminder of what happened.
Months pass, and they mostly forget about the event, too caught up in promotions and practice and recording and go, go, go. Haru stays in his tabby cat form for the most part, and they get used to it, like they do to everything, but the question still lingers in the back of their minds from time to time, especially Yoongi’s.
For the most part, Jungkook acts normal. He smiles and laughs, works hard and talks to all of them, but some of his habits change, and he begins to pull away from Yoongi slowly. It hurts, just a little, when Yoongi looks back at the past months—nearly half a year even—and realizes that he and Jungkook are no longer as close as they used to be. Realizes that Jungkook now chooses bowling with his friends and playing video games with Taehyung over their sleepy late-night chats and lyric writing. Realizes that it used to be just—just Yoongi and Jungkook, YoongiandJungkook, and now, this. He no longer sleeps on Yoongi’s couch or asks for piggyback rides, and it’s like Jungkook is slipping through the cracks his fingers, like water through the gaps, still there but no longer his.
“Where’s Jungkook?” Namjoon asks one day, popping into Yoongi’s studio, Iseul perched in his rumpled hair. It’s late at night again, and Yoongi has a flash of déjà vu, a brief off-kilter moment when he looks toward the couch and feels like Jungkook should be there, but he’s not.
Yoongi rubs his eyes and shrugs. “I dunno. He’s stopped coming for…” It takes him a moment, and then he realizes he can’t quite recollect. How long has it been since Jungkook last visited? What is he doing now?
“For…” Namjoon echoes curiously. Yoongi wonders what kind of expression is on his face.
Yoongi shrugs again, a frown tugging at his lips. “For…a while. But anyway, I’m almost done with this track, okay? I’m just gonna stay for a bit longer. Tell Jin-hyung not to wait up.”
“Alright, I will,” Namjoon replies, and there’s a faint chiding voice Yoongi identifies as Iseul’s. But moments later, the door sweeps shut quietly, and the two of them leave without pushing for Yoongi to return to the dorms.
Yoongi sighs and spins his chair in a circle.
Moon cracks an eye open from her comfortable sprawl on the couch, eyeing Yoongi’s computer-illuminated visage.
“It’s a bit empty, isn’t it?” She murmurs, but Yoongi doesn’t reply, just jams his headphones over his ears again and keeps working.
And if she abandons her spot on the couch and curls up in his lap instead, Yoongi doesn’t say anything either.
Jungkook is growing up though, Yoongi rationalizes to himself. He’s finally branched out, meeting some friends from other groups, expanding from his shy shell. The anxiety that had driven him to shower at three am and to take refuge in Yoongi’s studio is fading over time. He’s lost much of the baby fat that once clung to his cheeks, preferring to skip meals and exercise constantly over everything else. He throws Taehyung around and bullies the hyungs and is generally the most athletic and fearless member in their group, and Yoongi is…proud. He’s proud of Jungkook’s new confidence and of who Jungkook has become as he’s grown into himself…but he’s sad too.
The realization is like pushing at an ache or prodding at a bruise; Jungkook’s growing up, changing, and Yoongi doesn’t want to let go. He’s proud, but he misses the kid that used to cling to him for cuddles and cry into his shoulder and look to him with stars in his eyes, asking wordlessly for approval and affection. He misses that.
Jungkook drops into his desk chair, hair still damp from a recent shower. It’s been a long day of practice. Endless, endless practice.
They’re gearing up for yet another comeback, and every day is sweat-stained and strained, a quiet sort of tired monotony that permeates through their bones. Practices are serious, Hoseok’s laughter dwindling as the weeks stretch on, replaced by sharp instructions. It’s wearing on everyone, especially on Yoongi, who shows up to early practices with dark undereye circles and stays in his studio into the late hours of the night.
He’ll never love you the way you love him.
Jungkook still replays that in his head, an unwanted but inescapable mantra that claws at him when he lies in bed, thoughts looping and vulnerable.
The shifting lights of his keyboard shine in the dimness of his room, reflecting off the paleness of his face, the painted colors of Haru’s tabby fur. He’s been working on a cover recently, but it feels just a little too difficult to bring it to the studio, to have someone else listen and instruct him as he records.
The open screen of the monitor blinks before him, and he presses play, soft chords filling the silence.
Impulsively, Jungkook picks up his phone. Hesitates. Presses record.
And he lets himself sing, gentle syllables and heartache filling the spaces between notes. He closes his eyes and sees Yoongi’s warm eyes, his inscrutable looks and hidden little acts of care and kindness. A hint of thickness creeps into his throat as Jungkook thinks about all the ways he’s been trying to pull away from Yoongi, slowly and inconspicuously. Gradual enough to be natural.
He’ll never love you the way you love him.
And isn’t that what hurts the most? For someone else to be your entire world and life but for none of that to be returned. Jungkook had seen his love for what it was: a burden. A burden upon Yoongi, upon the team, upon their future. A burden not only because it could never happen but because he and Haru were at their core, unnatural.
The music reaches a crescendo, and Jungkook opens his eyes, voice wavering and vision blurry. He cuts off the recording, and wetness traces down his cheeks moments later. The darkness of the room envelopes him with melancholy, the rainbow-lit keyboard a hypnotic rhythm to his thoughts.
“Haru…” Jungkook whispers, and for a moment, he feels the warm mass on his lap morph into a familiar, smaller form. Two long, velvety ears tickle his damp chin, and Jungkook allows himself to gather Haru close for just a moment, breathing deep.
“It hurts,” Haru whispers back, and Jungkook almost laughs. Of course it does. They can both feel the bond stretching between them, saturated with sadness and a sort of desperate pain. Fitting, Jungkook thinks ironically, sniffing. Fitting that his soul manifestation is hurting.
“Change back,” Jungkook murmurs softly into the downy fur, and Haru understands.
That night, Jungkook goes to sleep with a warm, tabby tail wrapped around his wrist, and he tells himself, this is enough.
They’re only a couple days away from Jungkook’s eighteenth birthday when Yoongi decides. On what, he’s not exactly sure, but he has to do something. Time is trickling by so quickly.
“Jungkook-ah, your birthday’s next week, isn’t it?”
Yoongi looks up from Jungkook’s fumbling hands on the piano. Jungkook had been taking piano lessons with him for a while now, but they had been few and far in between considering Bangtan’s crammed schedule. The lessons themselves have been distant and cordial too, with Jungkook distracted and quiet, and Yoongi too tired to lecture Jungkook about practicing. Not like they had the time to be practicing side hobbies anyway.
Jungkook pauses, the melody trailing off unfinished. His fingers are clumsy on the keys, and it sounds a little hollow in the big practice room, only half-lit and empty save for the two of them. His brow wrinkles. “Oh yeah…it is, isn’t it?”
Yoongi flicks his forehead, chuckling when Jungkook whines and cups his head, affronted. “Yah, you nearly forgot your own birthday. Who’s the old man now?”
“Wait, I’m turning eighteen!” Jungkook gasps, as if he’d just remembered. “Haru…Haru’s gonna settle soon, right?” He strokes a hand through his daemon’s tabby coat apprehensively, and Haru yawns, nodding. “I feel like it’s coming soon.”
“Eighteen,” Yoongi muses, and Moon cracks an eye open from atop the piano. Eighteen. So fast. Too fast. Has it been three years already? “We’re too busy to go next week, so why don’t we go out for lamb skewers today? Hyung’s treat.” Yoongi’s heart beats just a little harder in his chest. He can’t remember the last time they went out for lamb skewers, just the two of them together.
Jungkook’s eyes light up, and he shoots up from the piano bench. “Really? Right now?” Laughing at the younger boy’s open enthusiasm, Yoongi checks his watch.
“Yeah, why not? It’ll be dinner time soon anyway.” He watches fondly as Jungkook practically races to get his hoodie over his head, struggling to fit his limbs through the right holes. It’s like he hasn’t grown up at all, but he has, Yoongi thinks, heart aching.
“Hey, hey, slow down. There’s no rush.”
“Lamb skewers wait for no one!” Jungkook declares, hair disheveled as his head pops out of the fabric. He gives Yoongi a bunny-toothed smile, and Yoongi can’t help but remember. Haru. Something in him feels just a little off-kilter, anticipatory, but Yoongi pushes it away. Not now. “C’mon, let’s go!”
Yoongi pretends to huff, but he lets Jungkook pull him along, warmth unfurling in his chest.
Aish, this kid.
When they get to the restaurant, Jungkook predictably starts shoveling his face with abandon, and Yoongi feels a bit sick just watching him.
“Slow down,” Yoongi repeats, and if he could have a shot for every time he said that, he’d probably be piss drunk by now.
“This is slow,” Jungkook mumbles around a mouthful of meat, and Yoongi wrinkles his nose in disgust.
They eat in companionable silence for a while, and everything is normal and wonderful and good until Yoongi stupidly opens his fat mouth and ruins it all.
“Jungkookie,” Yoongi says. He puts down his empty skewer, stomach tight. He can’t tell if it’s from the food or something else. “I just wanted to ask, how are you, really? I feel like I haven’t talked to you properly in a long time.” The words come out stumbled and uncertain, a reflection of how he feels.
Jungkook finally slows down, chewing contemplatively before swallowing. His eyes are deep enough for Yoongi to drown in, his face and jawline sharper than Yoongi remembers, and he wonders when Jungkook turned into an adult without him noticing.
“I—I’m okay. Everything’s good,” he says hesitantly, but there’s that tell-tale stutter and averted gaze that Yoongi recognizes. He’s lying.
A flare of hurt slices through Yoongi, but he keeps his face placid and picks up another lamb skewer. Has it really come to this? They’ve grown so far apart that Jungkook no longer trusts him enough to confide in him?
Yoongi doesn’t push and nods woodenly, but the easy atmosphere between them is broken now. Strained. The mouthful of meat in his mouth tastes charred and ashy.
“Good, good,” he replies mechanically, smiling. “Make sure you eat up, ok? I’m going to run to the bathroom for a bit.” He stands quickly, missing the flash of regret and wistfulness in Jungkook’s gaze.
Later, he faces himself in the bathroom mirror, lights ambient and a jazzy song crooning about love in the background.
“You’re a coward, Min Yoongi,” he whispers at his reflection. He wants to scream, to ask Jungkook point blank what happened, why he pulled away, but he’s scared. Scared of jeopardizing their friendship and the fragile web holding them together now.
His reflection stares back at him, and Yoongi wonders if it was something in him that drove Jungkook away.
Haru doesn’t settle by Jungkook’s eighteenth birthday, but none of them think too much of it. Late settlers were nothing rare, and Iseul had settled a good year late too. The day before his birthday, Jungkook asks for a rare day off, which the company grants him without fuss. He goes out bowling with some of his same-aged friends, and Yoongi sits in his studio and listens to sad songs. Watches cat videos.
Pretty much sums up his life, he thinks gloomily.
Hoseok cracks his door open at around midnight.
“Where’s Jungkook?” He asks, just like Namjoon had, and Yoongi feels like life is just playing a joke on him at this point.
“Clearly not here,” he snaps, and Moon flicks her tail at him in reprimand.
Hoseok lifts a brow, letting Sunhi down from her wrap around his neck. She scurries over to Moon and tucks herself into Moon’s underbelly, chittering sadly when the older daemon doesn’t respond or even move to shoo her away.
“Trouble in paradise?” Hoseok asks, and Yoongi snorts, irritated.
“There is no paradise,” he retorts.
Hoseok lets him stew in silence for a couple minutes, and when he next speaks, his tone is softer and more serious.
“Hyung…you still like him, don’t you?”
Yoongi blows out a frustrated breath, horribly guilty but also unable to deny it. He doesn’t just like Jungkook—he’s horrifyingly, disgustingly, gut-wrenchingly in love with him. Yoongi thinks of the way his breath catches when Jungkook sweats through those damn white shirts he loves to wear, thinks of the way his heart pumps a little harder at those eye-crinkling smiles, thinks of how unbearable it is to hear him laugh because he’s just so in love. So in love it hurts.
“Couldn’t it be any more obvious?” Yoongi asks brokenly. “But what does it matter? He doesn’t see me that way, never will. All I am to him is a hyung.”
Hoseok’s mouth opens and closes incredulously. “Did you just say what I thought you—Yoongi! Are you stupid? Do you not see the way he looks at you?”
“You mean the way he doesn’t look at me?”
“He looks at you like you hung the moon and stars in the sky! Jungkookie’s not exactly subtle, you know.”
Hope wavers in Yoongi’s chest fragilely, but he pinches it out savagely. “How do you explain him pulling away then? He never comes around anymore, and he hardly talks to me unless he has to. How do you explain that then?”
For the first time, Hoseok falters.
Yoongi’s lips twist in a bitter mimicry of a smile. “Exactly.”
“Maybe...” Hoseok tries, “maybe he’s scared too. Have you ever considered that? He’s never been in a relationship, and from what we know, he’s probably received more criticism than anything else in his life. He’s not out either. Maybe—maybe he’s scared of his feelings and where he stands with you.”
“Maybe, maybe, maybe,” Yoongi mutters. Too many postulations, too much false hope. It’ll just make the inevitable disappointment harder to bear in the end. “Enough with the theorizing, Hoseok-ah. It doesn’t change anything.”
He turns back to his computer, a clear dismissal. Sunhi uncurls herself and slinks away, head down, and moments later, the door shuts quietly.
Yoongi empties his brain and goes back to his track. It sounds so empty.
Jungkook’s birthday itself is a cozy affair within the company—nothing big, just the way he likes it.
“I got you a notebook for lyric writing,” Yoongi says, handing Jungkook a wrapped parcel after dinner. Jungkook has been getting into songwriting more and more recently, taking an interest in collaborations, songcovers, and the production process of their own tracks.
Jungkook stares at Yoongi’s outstretched hand for a minute before he takes it gingerly. He unwraps it right there, sliding a finger beneath the tape and peeling it back carefully. Taped inside the front cover is a picture Namjoon had sent him a couple years ago, of Moon curled up with Haru at the foot of the couch where Jungkook was dozing. Yoongi is watching a cat video on his computer, caught red-handed not working.
“Do you…do you like it?” Yoongi asks, unable to bury the thread of anxiousness in his throat. “I noticed that you’ve been asking Joonie about songwriting and production lately, and I thought that maybe it would help to have your own place to put down ideas. It’s what I do, and Namjoon and Hoseok have their own journals too…” he keeps rambling, and Jungkook waits patiently until he finishes. Moon draped over his shoulder, flicks her tail up and down restlessly.
“I love it.” Jungkook runs a fingertip over the picture and hugs it to his chest. “Thanks, hyung. I really do like it. And I’ll definitely use it.”
“Ah, well, um, good,” he says, awkward. He doesn’t know what to say. Like why did you ask Namjoon about songwriting and not me? Yoongi mentally slaps himself. Jungkook can ask whoever he wants.
“Good,” he repeats dumbly, and Jungkook’s lips quirk.
“Let’s go back, hyung. I think they’re bringing out the cake soon.”
“Right,” Yoongi fumbles. He lets Jungkook lead the way back, steps widening like the growing chasm between them.
After Jungkook’s birthday passes, Yoongi sees the younger boy toting the lyric journal around with him everywhere. It’s open on his lap in between shooting breaks, thrown into his bag whenever they leave the dorm, held in his hands when he vanishes into Namjoon’s studio to do who knows what. It strikes a strange, off-balance feeling into Yoongi’s chest—is he just overthinking things? Perhaps Jungkook had never felt that he had pulled away, and it was simply Yoongi complicating things in the cacophony of his mind.
Nevertheless, he begins to see Jungkook less and less, if such a thing was even possible with how little he already sees him. Their maknae seems to be working harder now than ever, gearing up for the next comeback. He alternates between late nights with Hoseok in the dance studio and Namjoon in the recording studio, and he wakes up early in the morning to fit in gym time with Jimin and Seokjin. Jungkook’s eating less as well, and while the new definition of his waist definitely looks good, it also worries Yoongi to see him so thin.
They’re at a dance practice, two weeks before their comeback and grueling through the fourth hour, when Moon points out that something seems strange with Haru and Jungkook.
Hoseok runs through the steps again in slow motion. “Pah, pah, pah! Just like that, leg out a little further, Jungkook.”
The boy obliges, but his face is pale with exhaustion, an inordinate amount of sweat wetting his bangs. Haru is situated in the pocket of his hoodie as a dormouse, front paws hanging limply on the edge of the fabric.
“One more time, okay? Then we’ll try at full tempo.” Hoseok rewinds the music, still at half speed, and waits for the members to get back in position.
Jungkook takes a moment, squeezing his eyes shut. His breathing comes fast and shallow, and Namjoon, ever observant, shoots Hoseok a worried look, jerking his chin at their youngest member.
“Jungkook,” Namjoon asks, “do you need a break?”
Jungkook’s eyes open, and he shakes his head in determination. Shoots them a thumbs up and musters up a smile. “I’m good!” He reassures them, brushing off their concerned glances.
Hoseok scrutinizes the younger boy for another second but accepts his answer. Being tired is nothing new to them, and Jungkook knows how to handle himself. He presses play and takes his position at the front again.
Less than a minute into the run-through, Jungkook stumbles and rights himself immediately.
“Yoongi,” Moon whispers. “Something’s wrong. With Kook and Haru, I mean. They don’t smell right.”
“What do you mean?” He pants, grimacing. God, all he can think about is the burning in his legs right now. He hates dancing.
“I dunno,” Moon growls, frustrated. “It’s just wrong.”
Yoongi opens his mouth, about to ask Hoseok to stop, but Jungkook suddenly crouches down, face twisting. Sweat is pouring off him in earnest now, and he’s gasping for breath, face paler than a sheet of paper.
The music cuts out immediately.
“Jungkook-ah!” Jimin exclaims, panic evident. “Are you ok? What’s wrong?”
“H-haru—” he grits out, and now that Yoongi is watching intently, he finally notices how Jungkook’s daemon seems to be fighting himself, curling and uncurling in pain. Taehyung’s daemon tries to lick Haru in comfort, but he flinches away from the contact.
Namjoon stares at the duo, mind whirling, and everyone else too looks to him for direction. Namjoon, out of all of them, has probably done the most research on soulbonds and daemons, not to mention his clear-headedness during emergencies.
“Jimin, go tell the managers to call the medical team,” he orders, and Jimin races from the room immediately, his daemon—a golden retriever—nipping at his heels.
Namjoon tries to steady a hand on Jungkook’s back, but the younger boy yells, jerking away. Haru still seems to be fighting something, writhing and squeaking in pain. Eighteen, Namjoon thinks cloudily, Jungkook and Haru just turned eighteen and that’s important for some reason…Namjoon’s eyes widen in realization.
“Are you—are you fighting the settling? Jungkook! Listen to me, is Haru settling?” He asks urgently. Iseul hoots in distress.
Yoongi’s brow crinkles in confusion, uncomprehending. What does the settling have to do with anything?
Jungkook sobs, and Namjoon’s normally clear eyes are stormy with fear.
Yoongi shifts his weight uneasily, exchanging equally confused and panicked looks with the circle of boys crowding Jungkook and Haru. He feels utterly helpless, hands clenching and unclenching. Yoongi’s never seen the younger boy in so much agony.
“Shit, shit,” Namjoon curses, and he grabs the maknae’s face between his palms, unrelenting even when he tries to jolt away. “Jungkook, you have to listen to hyung. You cannot fight the settling. Whatever form Haru is settling in is the form he’s meant to be. If he fights it—if you fight it—the soulbond will tear. The damage will be irreversible. Jungkook, do not fight it.”
Jungkook’s eyes slip open, blinded by tears. His eyes connect with Yoongi’s stricken ones for a second, and then he hunches over, hands curling into fists. “I—I can’t…” he chokes out.
Yoongi finally steps forward, crouching down. “Please,” he pleads. “If that’s what it is, don’t fight it. It’s ok, no matter what form he decides to take.”
Wetness carves lines down Jungkook’s face, and he shakes his head rapidly, murmuring to himself. “No, no, I’m disgusting…Yoongi-hyung, I’m so sorry…”
A lump grows uncontrollably in Yoongi’s throat. What is he talking about? He reaches out a hand to touch Jungkook, but in that instant, Jimin bursts back into the room with a team of medical staff, just as Jungkook collapses.
And, and Haru.
Haru writhes with a screech and morphs—
—into a black rabbit.
The medical team sends them home after doing a couple brief tests.
“He’s fine,” one of the paramedics tells Namjoon. “Really lucky with the timing though. If they had resisted any longer, the soulbond might have been damaged. He might be a little tired after waking up, but it’s probably more from overworking himself than from the settling.”
Namjoon listens attentively, and the paramedic continues. “Make sure to keep a close eye on him, just in case anything changes. We still don’t fully understand this stuff, so you never know what can happen.”
“Got it.” Namjoon thanks the medical team, who had brought Jungkook to the company van before taking their leave. Everyone loads in somberly, quiet on the trip back.
When they get back to the dorms, Seokjin hauls Jungkook onto his back, and Jimin’s daemon gently hoists up Haru by the scruff, leading the way up the stairs.
Seokjin lays Jungkook’s prone body on Namjoon’s bottom bunk instead of his usual top bunk, and Haru is deposited in the crook of his arm. Jimin’s daemon gives him a subdued lick and a quiet whine.
“I’ll stay with him for now,” Yoongi volunteers, and there’s a brief interlude when everyone silently communicates with looks that Yoongi would rather not think too much about. Namjoon nods.
“Call if you need anything,” Seokjin adds as everyone files out. “I’ll be in the kitchen, and everyone else will be right outside.” The door clicks shut, and Yoongi sighs, drained.
He pulls up a chair next to the bed, and Moon springs from the ground into his lap and then onto the bed. She noses at the black lump of fur on the bedcovers.
“Haru…” she whispers, an unspoken question in that one word. Why? Had Jungkook and Haru hidden it this entire time? The incident at the fanmeet had passed a long time ago, and while no one had quite forgotten it, the memory had smoothed over like time weathered river stones over the years. That was when Haru had abandoned his bunny form, Yoongi recalls with a burst of clarity.
“How could he ever think he’s disgusting?” Yoongi asks the silence of the room. He traces over Jungkook’s features with his eyes, the bow of his parted lips, the touch of his eyelashes against his cheek.
He’s so beautiful it hurts.
Glancing at the door, Yoongi checks that it’s closed. Jungkook’s breathing is steady and deep. It can’t hurt right? Yoongi thinks with a tiny thrill of guilt. It can’t hurt anyone to love Jungkook if they can’t see, can’t know.
It can’t hurt anyone but himself.
He reaches out slowly, brushing a hair through the younger boy’s silky hair. Cups his soft swell of his cheek, ghosts his fingers ever-so-softly over the bridge of his nose, the curve of his cupid’s bow, the line of his brow. Brushes against the endearing imperfections—a mole under his lip, a scar on his cheek, a smattering of faded acne marks. His chest aches with the force of the emotion trying to tear through it.
His line of sight follows his fingers, tracing up, up, until—his brain short circuits.
Jungkook’s eyes are open.
“Hyung?” He asks, disoriented. A note of vulnerability threads through his voice.
Yoongi pulls back his hand like it’s been burnt.
Jungkook struggles to his elbows, propping himself halfway up, and Moon retreats into Yoongi’s lap, leaving a gaping divide between them.
“I…Jungkook, what was that? What happened back there?” The unsettled feeling of dread returns, heavy and uncomfortable in the pit of his stomach.
Jungkook’s expression shutters.
“Nothing,” he mutters abrasively.
“That was not nothing, Jungkook,” Yoongi growls, patience worn thin. He’s tired, suddenly. Tired of the endlessness of the comeback preparation, tired of Jungkook’s carefully maintained distance, tired of doubting himself, tired of missing Jungkook and the closeness they used to have. He’s tired to his bones.
“What happened?” Yoongi asks again, defeated, Moon limp and still on his thighs. “Was it—was it me? Did I do something? You never come to my studio anymore—” you hardly ever talk to me, “and now you’re fighting your soulbond and Haru’s settling. I wish,” Yoongi’s voice cracks, and he swallows roughly. “I wish you would just talk to me.”
When he looks up at Jungkook, there’s a glossy sheen in the younger boy’s eyes.
“Hyung, no.” His hands shake where they’re buried in Haru’s black pelt. “How could you possibly think that it was your fault? It was…” it was years of convincing myself that I was unnatural for loving you, years of telling myself and Haru that we weren’t normal. “It was me, okay? Nothing was your fault, so you don’t have to feel bad.”
Yoongi snaps. After everything that had happened, Jungkook still refuses to speak.
“What happened?” Yoongi cries. “Why won’t you trust me? Why won’t you trust anyone on this team? Bangtan is family, Jungkook! Let us in, please. All we want to do is help.” He heaves an enormous breath, throat closing up. “You don’t have to bear it all alone,” Yoongi whispers.
Jungkook’s voice breaks, his shoulders heaving with sobs. “Fine! I’m in love with you! Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Yoongi freezes, and Jungkook takes one look at his face and weeps, tear-stricken.
“Exactly! That’s why I never said anything,” he spits. “I bet you’re disgusted now, aren’t you?” Haru whimpers, Jungkook clutching him too hard. “Because I’m filthy, I’m unnatural, I’m—”
Yoongi slaps a hand over Jungkook’s mouth, clenched lips trembling at the self-directed vitriol in his voice.
“Stop, please.” He climbs onto the bed, gathering the younger boy into his arms, tender even as Jungkook struggles. “Jungkook, stop. Stop. I—don’t you understand? I’m in love with you too.”
Jungkook stills, and the raw desperation in Yoongi’s chest melts into something more hopeful. A wild laugh rips itself free from his throat.
Lifting his head from Yoongi’s chest, Jungkook settles on Yoongi with a guarded, uncertain look. “Are you…are you serious?” He seems almost too afraid to hope.
“I’ve loved you for a long time now, Jungkook. I never said it, but it hurt so much when you started pulling away.” Yoongi settles his chin on Jungkook’s warm shoulder. “How could you possibly think you’re disgusting or unnatural? We told you—I told you—from our very first day that you and Haru are accepted here. Where are these thoughts coming from?”
“I—” Jungkook sniffs. “That girl, remember? The one that, that, with the bunny. She saw through me so easily, and I was scared. I was scared the whole world would see how I felt, that you would see, and you would hate me. For loving you when Haru and I were like this.”
Yoongi pulls back and cups Jungkook’s cheek, chest aching fiercely with protectiveness. Jungkook shivers at the touch, eyelids falling closed.
“Oh, Kook, I don’t know what she said to you that day, but it’s bullshit. Even if I didn’t return your feelings”—Jungkook makes a breathy, wounded noise at that—“I would never hate you for feeling the way you do. It’s just like any other relationship or person in love, regardless of whatever gender your daemon is. I would never fault someone for feeling the way they do, even if it hurts.”
Jungkook nods and takes a deep breath, tension bleeding out of his shoulders. Suddenly, wonder and a shy joy takes over his face as he begins to process beyond the hurt.
“You…you really love me too?” He breathes, eyes shining.
Yoongi laughs, the realization finally settling in for him too. “Yes, I really do.” His fingers tighten on the younger boy’s chin, and Jungkook’s breath hitches.
“Kiss me, hyung?” Yoongi pulls in a sharp breath at that. Even tear-stained and disheveled, Jungkook is beautiful, staring up at him pleadingly. “Please, hyung, I’ve wanted this for so long.”
Wordlessly, Yoongi leans down, tilting Jungkook’s chin up to meet him. Jungkook’s eyes flutter closed, and Yoongi slots their lips together, warm and a little salty from their tears.
Jungkook pulls back first, pink cheeked and beatific.
“Let me in next time, okay?” Yoongi threads his fingers through Jungkook’s. “Promise me you won’t hide everything like this again.”
“I—” Jungkook hesitates, and Yoongi can now see Jungkook’s careful distance for what it was: hidden insecurity and fear. And now, he can see Jungkook struggling to open himself up, to gather enough courage to freefall into trust. Yoongi waits patiently, pride and pain warring as he watches emotions flash over the younger’s face.
“I will, Yoongi-hyung.” Jungkook promises. “I’ll do my best.”
Yoongi hums, finally satisfied with the quiet conviction in Jungkook’s voice. He stretches out beside Jungkook, filling up the cold spaces on the bed. Moon tucks Haru into her belly where they lie between the two larger bodies, and Jungkook feels complete. Complete to bursting.
Jungkook falls asleep like that, head buried in Yoongi’s chest, the lines of his face at peace. Yoongi cards a gentle hand through his hair, listening to the steady rise and fall of his breaths.
“It’s you, Jungkook,” he sighs, closing his eyes. “It’s always been you, and it always will be.”