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“Make dreams brighter, get rid of the nightmares
Peace will be right there.”
Piece of Peace, J-Hope

9 September 2018 – LA to Oakland

Hoseok places his hands on either side of the exterior door and gasps. “This is our plane?” he asks. 

Sejin, towering steward-like against the inner wall, gestures toward the jet’s plush, leather-appointed interior, and says, “While in America and Europe, yes.” 

Hoseok takes the final step inside, drinking down the crisp, filtered air. Behind him, Jimin also gasps, exclaiming excitedly to Taehyung and Jungkook, who are still outside on the boarding steps. “It’s so much bigger than I imagined,” Jimin says.

Jungkook whispers back to Taehyung, “Something I hear all the time,” and Hoseok reaches to smack him.

Yoongi, though, the first to board, and Seokjin, the second, have already claimed the best seats and recline now like wealthy sultans awaiting their take-off cocktails.

“And look,” Yoongi points out, “There’s a laptop, so we can keep working.”

“Or play games,” Seokjin adds.

“Or Namjoon-ssi can work on his UN address,” Sejin reminds them, to which the others nod and thoughtfully concede. 

Yoongi rolls his eyes to Seokjin and sighs. “Namjoon is a better man than the rest of us.” 

“Speaking of,” Seokjin says, half-rising, “Where is he?” 

Before he can leave his seat, Sejin proceeds to explain that Namjoon’s briefing with other staff members who will remain behind in LA, handling last-minute tour details and finalizing press. Always interested in these particulars, Seokjin nods along, soaking it in. All the while, Hoseok remains trapped between Sejin, who waits politely for him to get seated, and Jimin, who fidgets behind Hoseok with the impatience of a teenager in a theme park line.

At Hoseok’s elbow, Yoongi lifts the brim of his hat. “Wanna sit with me?” he asks. 

It’s odd, since Hoseok hadn’t considered sitting anywhere else. In the moment it takes to think this, Hoseok reads a twinge of uncertainty in Yoongi’s eyes, like maybe he’s afraid Hoseok might refuse.

At that second, Sejin adjusts to allow Hoseok to pass. He slides around Yoongi, to the window seat (who can deny a guy who saves you the window?) and stuffs his duffel under the table. 

“Hey Hope.” Yoongi grins, all gums.

“Hey Yoongs,” Hoseok replies. 

The moment hangs between them, tight and airless, like they both forget to breathe. Hoseok stares at Yoongi’s bare face, his skin like polished moonstones, his lips a deep rose-blossom red. Hoseok’s mind runs to fairy tales – Snow White, or a Sleeping Prince – and on the heels of that, he wonders, How long has it been since we kissed? Then, How long will it be before we kiss again? 

And then, with a stake in his heart, he thinks, What if it’s never?  

The moment’s shattered when Taehyung shouts, "Wha—? Hyung! There’s a bed in here.”

Namjoon’s voice calls up from boarding ramp, “Nope. No bed. Ignore the bed.” He gestures from Seokjin to Taehyung. “Especially you two.”

Seokjin gawks in mock offense. Taehyung slings himself into the seat beside him.

“Yah. Long Legs,” Yoongi gruffs, “Your feet, your side of the table.”

In response, Taehyung begins to loudly applaud, which draws Jimin’s and Jungkook’s attention. They peek around the partition where, incidentally, they had been fooling around on the bed unnoticed and unremarked upon by Namjoon. 

“Why are we clapping?” Jimin asks.

Taehyung sweeps a gesture toward Yoongi, who shoots him a glower of warning. 

“Make some noise for the Fifth Member of Dance Line,” Taehyung yells. 

“Is this necessary?” Yoongi grumbles. “Why are you so loud?”

Seokjin squints up at Namjoon. “Are you hearing this?”

“That we’re now the only non-Dance Line Members?” Namjoon smirks. “Yeah. I hear it.”

“No one expected Agust D to sing and dance so well,” Jungkook observes. He leans way over to give Yoongi a fist bump. 

“You killed it, hyung,” Namjoon agrees. “ARMY went nuts. And Hope, our Idol Challenge went viral—”

“—And we’re in a private jet, yo,” Hoseok adds. “Maybe we can finally get some sleep.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi snorts. “Our flight time’s an hour.”

“What?” Hoseok glances to Seokjin, who shrugs in confirmation. 

“Private jet, yo,” Namjoon echoes. “But this is for the best. For security purposes and for time constraints, too. Now only we can board the plane, which will simplify security and keep our members safe. Speaking of... JK, please keep up with this.” Namjoon passes Jungkook’s phone to him.

For a moment, Jungkook puzzles over the phone in his hand, a look of confusion peaked between his brows. He pats absently at his pockets to be sure this isn’t some other phone by mistake. “Where was it?” he asks.

“Benji-nim found it under the seat in the van,” Namjoon says. “No big deal, but y’know, we can’t be too careful.” He pats down Jimin’s tousled hair. “And I’m serious about the bed, man. No Mile High Club on this tour. Please.” 

Jimin gives a bashful bow, dragging Jungkook to their seats. Jungkook continues to examine his phone, rubbing the back of his head as he stares into the screen. “I don’t remember taking it out in the van,” he mutters. “We listened to music on Jimin's phone. I swear mine was in my bag the whole time.”

“Like I said, it’s no big deal,” Namjoon says. “Benji found it. He’s always finding stuff for me, too. So, you know, just be careful…”

Yoongi’s eyes meet Hoseok’s. They share a private smile of sympathy for Namjoon, who must keep track of so many things. Across from them, Seokjin whispers behind his hand into Taehyung’s ear. Consumed by an almost grade-school reflex to keep things balanced, Hoseok leans to whisper into Yoongi’s. As he does, though, he realizes he doesn’t have a clue of what to say. 

So he’s surprised by the first whisper that tumbles out, which is, “I still have the flower you gave me.”

Chills prickle up Yoongi’s arm. He trains his focus on his playlist, but the wisp of a smile crimps one corner of his mouth. 

“How?” Yoongi murmurs. “It was mostly powder when I picked it. I would’ve thought it crumbled to dust by now.”

“I pressed it,” Hoseok admits. “Inside a piece of paper, then inside a book.”

“You did all that?” Yoongi asks. 

“It wasn’t a lot,” Hope shrugs.

“It was a useless weed yanked from a roadside,” Yoongi counters. “It was trash, and you coulda thrown it away.”

“You gave it to me,” Hoseok says. “Your specific instructions were to hang onto it. What kind of friend would I be if I threw it away?”

The plane judders. Hoseok clamps tightly to Yoongi’s forearm. Outside the window, the tarmac scrolls back as the jet begins to taxi for takeoff. 

Across the table, Taehyung says, “Guess we don’t need the safety intro for a one-hour private flight?”

“Much as we fly, we could recite the whole thing from memory,” Seokjin says. “In English.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook teases. “Do it, do it.” 

“How much will you give me?”

Finally putting his phone away, Jungkook turns the contents of his pockets into his lap: a thousand won note, a wrapperless cough drop, and a crinkled receipt. “I will give you,” he holds up the cash, “One thousand won.”

Seokjin stands, straightens his sleeves, and clears his throat. “Attention passengers of Bangtan Air, Flight 0613—”

“—Oooh,” Taehyung and Jungkook marvel together.

Pleased with himself, Seokjin beams. “Flight 0613 with service to… where are we going?”

“Oakland,” Namjoon intones. Jimin dissolves into giggles.

“Yeah. Okay,” Seokjin says. “Oakland.” He begins an over-exaggerated pantomime of a flight attendant’s motions as he continues his speech. “So first, you know, please put on your safety belts and turn off your cell phones.” Hoseok and Taehyung make a show of clicking their belts into place, and everyone (except Yoongi) switches off their phones. 

“If passengers must leave this plane mid-flight,” Seokjin goes on, “which I hope not, it is a very long, long fall; there are emergency exits in the front and back of this plane.” He sweeps vaguely at a panel behind Sejin. “If the cabin loses pressure,” he continues, “Oxygen masks will drop from above.” 

They all look up to see that, though this is a private jet, the compartments are, in fact, present. Seokjin imitates slipping the mask over his face. Then he reminds them, “Please secure your own mask before giving a mask to another person.” Taehyung lolls over his chair’s armrest in an exaggerated faint. Seokjin mimics the motion of placing a mask over Taehyung’s nose. Jungkook grapples Taehyung, scrambling to snatch the imaginary mask from his face. He then pretends to give it to Jimin. 

“Wow,” Taehyung grumbles. “I see how it is.” Meanwhile, Jimin basks in the glow Jungkook’s attention.

“Finally,” Seokjin nudges in, smirking at the joke he knows he’s about to make, “Remember that in the unlikely event of a water landing, Min Yoongi’s ass may be used as a flotational device.” 

They were already on the verge of losing it. At this point, they devolve into howls. This is when their actual flight attendant steps around the corner. She stands beside Seokjin, who bows to her, his ears burning furiously red. She says, “You were doing such a good job, I didn’t want to interrupt.” 

Then she leads them through the official safety demonstration, which, according to Namjoon, is required by federal law. 

 

The hours after the flight blur together: ground transportation, hotel, venue, hotel, shower, and then a quiet room-service meal. Afterward, here's a moment of blankness as Hoseok sits on the edge of a bed identical to every other hotel bed he’ll sleep in on this tour. 

He takes a moment to skim through his inventory of concerns, starting with himself. 

On the surface, he’s healthy, reasonably rested, well-fed, and not nearly as sore as he might have been if they’d had to struggle through the stress of security at LAX. So all in all, he feels… physically, pretty damn good. 

Then, as Hoseok completes the checklist for each of his members, a realization dawns on him like a tingle in his belly. Every one of them seems to be doing well. They’re well and uninjured. None of them are on the edge of catastrophe or collapse. There’s a lingering fear over Jimin’s death threat in Texas, but they’ve addressed it, so there’s nothing more they can do about it now. 

“We should be safe,” he murmurs, and then he smiles. Things are better than they have been for a while, so he allows himself a moment to relax. 

Of course, he could let himself think now about Yoongi, about the tangled snarls of his feelings, which he wrapped up and tucked away beneath layers of distraction, video games, and bone-numbing choreo. He casts back to the moment in the plane where he daydreamed of kissing him, and that longing twists in him like a crochet hook to the gut.

It’s been long enough, he decides, meeting his own eyes in the mirror. He gets up, yanks on a shirt, and paces the short distance between his bed and the door. Before he can open it, though, he hears a soft tapping on the frame.

Hoseok knows who it is before he answers, but still, he lets the butterflies inside him swirl. Because it's Yoongi standing there, his hair damp, his face slightly contrite. 

He says, “Hey Hope.” 

“Hey Yoongs.” Hoseok steps aside to let him enter.

Yoongi sits on the bed. Hoseok sits beside him.

Yoongi goes, “So I’ve been thinking, about Seokjin’s safety demo.”

This is not what Hoseok expected to hear, but he doesn’t interrupt.

“It’s funny,” he says. Yoongi kneads his fingers as he speaks. “We talk about masks to hide behind.” A smile flickers across his lips. “I never thought about a mask as something that would… help.” Yoongi swallows. “The oxygen mask, you know? I have to put mine on before trying to help someone else.” He whispers, “I get that now.”

A coil of tension inside Hoseok begins to slowly unravel. He says, “Because how can you help someone if you can’t breathe on your own?”

“Exactly.” Yoongi’s face creases with uncertainty. “Right now, that’s what I’m doing. I’m securing my oxygen mask. Because I want to be better for me, but for other people, too. You. My family. Us. That’s what I’m doing.”

“Yoongi, you don’t need to explain—”

“—No, but I do,” Yoongi says. “I want to. Because I think… it’s working. When I left Malta, I couldn’t breathe. Literally. Also, metaphorically. So I went into this kind of clinic. I didn’t want to talk about it because I was ashamed, because I thought it meant I was broken again, like when I was a kid. Like all the progress I’d made meant nothing because there I was again, in the bottom of the well. But I started talking to someone, and I’m starting to see. Hope. It’s working. I’m starting to breathe.”

Hoseok wipes his eyes. He finds himself fixating on Yoongi’s lips and has to drag himself away. “I don’t really understand,” he admits. “You and me, we have such different struggles. But I'm so happy it’s working.”

Yoongi says, “I got a long way to go, I know that. And there’s a lot of anger, and fear. Not at you. Never at you.” He rubs his nose. “I’m understanding now that this… depression… is a part of me. It’s the shadow cast by every bright thing in my life. But I know I can live with it. Because, Hope, it’s only a shadow.” 

Hoseok stares into his face. He exhales and allows a few of his stifled feelings revive. They stir, like the embers in a quiet fire, and he savors the warmth of the feeling. “Yoongs,” he says. “I'm really proud of you.” 

“I’m proud of you, too,” Yoongi says. “I’m proud of us.” 

“Do you mean Us us, or y’know, Us?” Hoseok smiles. 

“Gonna go with both.” Then, taking Hoseok’s warm hand in his own, Yoongi says, “Much as I wanna be, Hope, I know I’m not fully ready.”

“I’m not in any hurry,” Hoseok says, reassuring Yoongi as much as he is himself. 

Grinning, Yoongi adds, “But, just so you know, you can always use my ass as a flotational device.” 

Fizzling into laughter, Hoseok says, “Fucking Seokjin.” 

“Goddammit, I know,” Yoongi agrees. 

They slide back onto the petal-soft duvet, curling up face to face to watch each other. 

“You wanna sleep here?” Hoseok asks. He doesn’t need to say ‘just sleep.’ They already know.

“Yeah.” 

They slide beneath the bedclothes, switch off the light, and it isn’t long at all before they both drift to sleep.