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“Damn, okay, legs .”

Jeongguk glanced up from his sandwich, still chewing on the bland food, (he had run out of mayo yesterday) along with everyone else at Namjoon’s words.

On his left, Jimin let out a low whistle. “Damn is right. Wow, those are some long legs. I bet she’s a force to reckon with in heels.” Taehyung laughed, agreeing with his input.

Jeongguk shifted his gaze across the street to the woman they were talking about. She did have very nice legs, as she walked briskly down the sidewalk. She was wearing a pair of runners, loose-fitting shorts, and a baggy t-shirt that was tied in the back, showing off part of her midriff. Earphones in, she was not paying much attention to the seven constructions workers who were currently ogling her on their break. He swallowed, his throat dry.

Well, six of seven.

“I bet those legs would look nice wrapped around-” Taehyung started but was cut off when Seokjin cuffed him on the head. “Yah, what was that for?” He rubbed his head, miffed while Seokjin held him with a stern look.  

“Don’t be a pig,” He stated. The others laughed, poking fun at Taehyung for being scolded. Jeongguk stayed silent through this, nibbling on his sandpaper sandwich.

“Come on hyung, you can’t tell me you don’t think she was quite the catch,” Taehyung protested, craning his head to try and get a good look at her as she continued down the street, Jimin’s hands on his back as he also peered past him.

“You can appreciate her looks without being sleazy,” Seokjin spoke without taking his eyes off his food, though Jeongguk saw the way his own eyes had flickered up after the girl had disappeared from view.

“Her hair though, it looked so soft. Would love to run my fingers through it,” Hoseok commented from near the end, and Jeongguk smiled at the innocent comment. Hoseok tended to have sweeter things to say.

“Gukkie, what do you think?” Jeongguk’s head snapped up from his food to Yoongi on his right who was watching him, expression neutral save for a small smirk playing on his lips. Jeongguk tried not to wilt under his gaze and the gaze of the rest of the group as they all awaited his input.

“Sh-she looked pretty nice.” He felt his face heat up, more from the attention and what was going to follow, a blush running up his neck and cheeks as he bit into his sandwich.

Namjoon barked a laugh from his place near Seokjin. Leaning forward to see Jeongguk at the end of the line he raised an eyebrow. “You are never going to find yourself a girl if you don’t get more confidence there Gukkie,” Namjoon patronized. “You can come up with something better than ‘she looked pretty nice’ can’t you?”

“At least he is respectful of women, unlike you lot,” Seokjin commented before Jeongguk could respond - not that he had anything to say - giving Namjoon a side eye. Namjoon merely shrugged him off, sipping on his drink.

“Hyung, you are so mean,” Taehyung jumped in. “We are respectful, I’d never treat a lady wrong. Doesn’t mean I can’t speak my mind among my friends. And oh boy does it have a lot to say,” Taehyung remarked, earning laughs from Jimin and Namjoon, and a snigger from Yoongi.

“But Tae-Tae, what lady would give you the chance to anyways?” Hoseok quipped and that had everyone roaring with laughter, even Jeongguk had barked a laugh, reaching over to pat a disgruntled Taehyung on the head.

“But really, Jeonggukie, we will find you a woman. It’s my mission to take care of my boys on and off the worksite.” Namjoon made a vow, and the others all voiced their agreement in ‘getting Jeongguk some tail’. Jeongguk just hunkered down, cringing and finished his food, ignoring their comments and jibes. It was nothing new, but it only seemed to get worse over time.

Moments like this he wished they knew, and sometimes he would feel a surge of courage, entertaining the idea of blurting out the truth, laying himself bare for them to see. But then fear would take over. Nightmares and memories would vault to the forefront of his mind, warning him of what could happen if he were to reveal the truth to them. So like every other time, he kept his mouth shut, and let them think he was moping at their teasing.

“Alright, break’s over. Back to work.” Groans rang out at Namjoon’s words as they packed it in. “Quit your groaning, and smile like you love this job.”

Yoongi turned to Jeongguk as he put his half-eaten sandwich back in his bag - his hunger had dissipated and it wasn't all that great anyhow - and flashed him a big, mocking smile at Namjoon’s words.

Jeongguk stifled a laugh at the face. Yoongi turned to follow the rest of them, Jeongguk trailing along. He looked at the back of Yoongi’s head, watching the way his wavy locks tumbled in the breeze as he walked. Jeongguk knew what that hair felt like between his fingers when he would tease Yoongi by playing with his hair. His hand twitched at his side. He wanted to reach forward and let his fingers twist between the strands right now, but he couldn’t. Not without having to explain why he did it.

Jeongguk wanted to do a lot of things with Yoongi; more than he should. More than what coworkers -  friends - should do. The kind of comments his friends all seemed to want him to say he could totally manage. 100%, he was a grown ass man and could be as lewd as any in his own head.

It’s just he didn’t have those thoughts about girls. And that. Well, that was just it isn’t it?

 

 

Jeongguk tossed his keys and lunch kit on the counter as he kicked his boots off. He plugged his phone in to charge on the nightstand of his room, fiddling with it until it actually charged properly. He needed a new cord but he was lazy and didn't want to spend the money to get a nice one. He shed his clothes in one motion and headed into the bathroom to wash off all the sweat and grime from the day. Standing under the spray of hot water Jeongguk let out a suffering sigh for only himself to hear.

But really, Jeonggukie, we will find you a woman.

Jeongguk winced at the words that had been bouncing around in his head all afternoon. They hurt and he had no one to blame but himself. It was his secret he kept and he wished he could just come clean to his friends. But...

He ran his hand over his stomach, hands grazing the puckering of skin to the right of his belly button.

Deep down he knew they wouldn’t judge him, or probably even care at all. But he didn’t want to take the chance. They were his only family and he couldn’t lose them.

Finishing in the shower he dried off and changed into sweats and a tank top. He distracted himself with tidying up in the kitchen and made his lunch and dinner for tomorrow - another dry sandwich - then threw some leftover ramen in the microwave. He checked his calendar while he waited, double checking his shifts.

He had a second part-time job, working nights at a twenty-four-hour convenience store called Jung’s Convenience for the last two years or so. He worked there three or four nights a week. He hated it, it left him exhausted, but he was trying to save money so he could maybe go back to school. The hours changed all the time, some nights he’d go right after work until midnight, others he’d start at nine or ten at night and be done right before his day job.

It was a fairly lax job at least, but the customers were often either drunk or stoned, and some of them downright creepy, while others are just plain rude. He had quite a few stories, some of which he hadn’t told his friends so not to worry them. They already hated that he had this job, to begin with, as it wasn’t in the best area, nor were they very happy when he started picking up more shifts. He used to only work once or twice a week but he had been having a hard time with money as of late, so he asked for more.

His manager had been more than happy to give them to him, taking away shifts from some of their more, relaxed , employees. Jeongguk didn’t understand why he didn’t just fire them, but apparently, the manager would rather widdle your shifts away to nothing until you quit. He was finally starting to see the difference after the last several months, and it was gratifying as hell.

The microwave dinged, and he grabbed his food and a water bottle, flopped onto his bed with his food and checked his phone, seeing messages in the group chat.

 

       Seokjin: Are you all still coming for dinner on Friday?

       Taehyung: as opposed to any other friday when we dont come for dinner?

       Jimin: lol

       Jimin: I’ll be a little late parents stopping by after work

       Seokjin: Shut up, it’s good to confirm, you all don’t always come.

       Taehyung: thats like maybe once a month lololol

       Namjoon: I’ll b there as per norm

       Hoseok: Same here~

       Yoongi: yup

       Jimin: Gukkieeeeeeee

       Jimin: Where are youuuuuuuuu

       Jimin: Guuuuuuuuukkieeeeee

       Taehyung: hes left us

       Taehyung: gone forever

       Jimin: Rip Jeon Jeongguk

       Jimin: He was too young 

       Yoongi: will you two stop he’s fucking busy

       Yoongi: or he’s working at jungs

       Taehyung: too busy for us?

       Taehyung: for shame

       Taehyung: plus he doesnt work there on mondays

 

Jeongguk rolled his eyes at their antics, watching the speech bubble at the bottom as someone typed. He tapped in a response before they could continue.

 

       Jeongguk: I will be there (smile emoji)

       Jeongguk: I was making food, relax. 

       Yoongi: you mean reheating leftover ramen

       Taehyung: GUKKIE U LIVE

       Jimin: Our boi is back to us!!!!

       Jimin: (gif)

       Jeongguk: Food is food (food emoji)(thumbs up emoji)

       Seokjin: This is why I make these dinners, I know all you lot eat is ramen and rice. 

       Yoongi: it’s quick easy and cheap.

       Yoongi: just like tae

       Hoseok: OHH

       Taehyung: (angry react)

       Taehyung: HOW FUCKING DARE YOU

       Taehyung: I AM A GODDESS

       Taehyung: (gif)

       Namjoon: Jesus Christ

       Hoseok: That was beautiful.

 

Jeongguk reacted to Yoongi’s message with a laughing emoji then put his phone back down, grabbed his laptop from his desk and pulled up Netflix, chewing on his food. The chat continued for a little longer, mainly kept alive from Jimin, Taehyung, and Yoongi. Jeongguk, remembering that he was off early Friday due to a doctors appointment, sent Seokjin a text asking if he wanted any help preparing for dinner. Seokjin graciously accepted his help, telling him to head over right after the workday was done.

After eating he made the trek down the stairs to the laundry room in his apartment building. He was on the sixth floor but the elevator always took forever to arrive then go down the six floors, making creaking sounds the entire way. He genuinely feared one day he’d get in and it would just stop midway between floors, so he took the stairs. The idea of being in a small enclosed space for more than the ride was extremely unappealing to him.

The laundry room was empty, a few machines halfway through their cycles. Jeongguk grabbed a washer near the back, the one closest to the dryers. He hated doing laundry - some of the tenants in the building like to stare, particularly an elderly lady who seems to always be in there whenever Jeongguk was doing his underwear. Another reason he hated it. No one needed to see his underwear. Particularly his Marvel set.

He was putting his clothes in the washer when another tenant walked in, a man around his age, maybe older. He was never good at guessing ages. Jeongguk spared him a glance as he walked by. He recognized him, seeing him in passing every now and again. In his opinion, he was one of the prettiest men Jeongguk had ever seen; his sharp jawline contrasted by soft and more feminine features. He was only a little taller than Jeongguk, just under six foot, and had dark brown hair, almost black.

He blushed when the man turned and caught him looking, turning back to his laundry flustered. He hastily finished putting the detergent in and closed the lid, turning to leave. He felt his stomach twist when he saw the man was also leaving, his clean laundry in hand. Jeongguk hesitated for a moment before his manners kicked back in, opening the door and stepping aside to allow the man through first. He had his head bowed politely as he waited for him to pass by.

He watched the man’s feet - adorned in simple black slippers - stay stationary in front of him. Jeongguk could feel eyes on him and peered up to see the man staring at him. His eyes had a sly look in them as he gave Jeongguk an obvious once-over, an appreciative smile slipping on his face before finally making his way past, eyes dragging slowly away from Jeongguk’s form.

Jeongguk, after gaping for a moment, dashed to the stairwell, his face hot as he made his way back upstairs and into the safety of his apartment.

Once inside, Jeongguk felt his stomach bubble in a variety of emotions. Did he check him out? In a ‘boy checks out hot girl’ kind of way? Or was he just laughing at him? Mocking him? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t help the smile that played on his lips at the possibility. He didn’t think he had ever had a guy check him out. He caught a lot of female attention, but never a guy. Or at least not one so obvious.

Jeongguk could easily imagine all sorts of scenarios right away and he had to physically shake himself from getting over eager over quite literally nothing. He grabbed his phone and went to go message the group chat instead. Just as he started to tap out the message he stopped, fingers hovering over the screen. Excitement turned into despondent. Oh, right. He couldn’t gush about this to them because they didn’t know .

His smile faltered and he deleted the text, then let his phone drop back down to his nightstand. He sighed and dropped to his bed, staring at the ceiling. Melancholy and frustration flooded over him. It was times like this he really felt the divide between him and his hyungs. This secret created an invisible wall between them that only he could feel and he despised it. He was so close with all of them and he didn’t like that he was keeping such an important part of himself from them.

Rolling onto his side he looked at the photo on his bedside table, a group photo of them, all wearing their construction gear and leaning up against a work truck. It had been taken last year, after Namjoon got his promotion to foreman and became the crew leader. He looked at each one of his friends, lingering on Yoongi who, in the photo, was ruffling Jeongguk's hair as he flashed a peace sign. His eyes soft but endearing as he looked at the camera.

Jeongguk felt his heartache. His hyungs were everything to him, they were his family. His only family. They took him in and practically raised him for the past five years. He trusted them to take care of him, and he did everything he could to take care of them.

He let out a huff of breath, falling onto his back. He could just tell them if he pushed past his fear and told them, then maybe it would be alright. They had never turned him away before, not even in the beginning when he had been a quiet and shy boy, mostly avoiding the others as to not be in the way, and barely talking to anyone. A boy with so much hiding underneath the surface, waiting to break free. They helped him break from his shell.

Laying in bed his thoughts clashed in his head and he thought about how wonderful it would be to not have to lie to them, or to have to pretend around women. He was reaching his breaking point with it, scared that soon he was just going to snap and blurt it out in front of all of them.

It was a thought he entertained many times, one that always had various outcomes in his mind, and it plagued his dreams on occasion. Usually turning his dream into a nightmare.

He flipped over on his side, back facing the picture and argued with himself. Just do it, he whispered to himself, but the other side of his brain, the one that housed all his fears, reminded him of why he didn’t. It always overshadowed everything else.

Turning back to the photo again, he thought about how freeing it would be to no longer hold this secret, and as his eyes drifted once again through the people in the picture, he thought about Yoongi and what could maybe, possibly, in his dreams could happen..

He shook his head, letting his thoughts of Yoongi and the others scatter. Trying to avoid his train of thought, Jeongguk got up and did a light work out while he waited to change loads, using one of his weight sets. When he finally brought his clothes up from the laundry room, it was almost ten. He locked up his door and crawled into bed, scrolling through his phone for a bit before setting his alarm and rolling over.

Maybe one day I’ll tell them, were Jeongguk’s last thoughts before he fell asleep.

 

 

Jeongguk woke with a start, body bolting up as he gasped, leaning forward and tried to catch his breath. He reached over and turned his lamp on, illuminating the room as he placed his hands on the comforter, fingers curling around the fabric as he closed his eyes, breathing through his nose. Looking at his clock, said it was after three a.m., Thursday morning already. He had only gotten home from his night shift a couple of hours ago, barely slept for more than two hours. He could feel the strain in his limbs, his head pounding from the little sleep. He felt tears prick his eyes as a strangled whine gurgled from his throat, willing the tears back. He didn’t feel like crying right now and was trying to keep focused on calming himself down. His laboured breaths were loud in his ears, only beat by the thumping of his heart.

Nightmares like this were far from foreign to him, but they had been more frequent lately and stealing away the little sleep he already barely got. When he was younger, they had been every night, plaguing him constantly for months, the same one every time. Over time they lessened, his hyung’s support and time helping him heal, until he only ever had them once in a while, usually during times when his stress levels were at their highest. Over the last few months, they had started to return more and more, not going a week without having at least one. It was starting to become a problem, as they interrupted his already nonexistent sleep schedule.  

He twitched when he heard a car honk from outside, eyes flicking over to the window that overlooked the city streets, various apartment and office buildings just barely visible in the night.

He recognized that the nightmares were probably due to his heavy workload which had been weighing on him more and more as time passed, but what really made them so troublesome was the changes to the dreams. They had always been more or less the same thing, a moment from his past he wished he could forget, but now the twisted and dark memories were enhanced by the inclusion of his friends.

Jeongguk finally felt his heart rate even out, and he released the comforter, his hands a little cramped from the tight grip he had. He took a deep breath, holding it for a moment before exhaling and falling back onto the bed. The room was quiet except for the quiet hum from the fan in the corner, which did little to actually cool the room in the heat of the night. Sweat caused his clothes to cling to him, his sheets feeling sticky. He kicked his comforter off, followed by his shirt and sweats he had worn to bed. He hadn’t gotten home until after midnight and had pretty much fallen into bed and passed out.

He laid in bed, uncomfortable and sweaty. One of the corners of the sheets was slipping off the bed and he could feel the scratchy material of the mattress on his feet. After a while, he knew he wasn’t going to fall asleep like this and with a groan, he sat up and moved to his desk, putting the sheet back on the bed as he went. He grabbed his sketchbook and selected a pencil from his case.

The dream had started out as they always did. Same house, same eyes. But it twisted and changed, the previous monsters and terrors morphing into the familiar faces of his friends, except there was nothing familiar about their expressions. They were filled with disgust and hate, all their eyes trained on Jeongguk who was begging them to understand and to help him, but they just turned their backs, walking away, ignoring him, leaving him. Then the original demons from before came back, closing in on him, suffocating him and then he woke up.

He hated them, hated that his mind has taken and twisted his fears and insecurities into a visual form, that he had to see those looks on his hyung’s. He knew, he knew, they would never turn their backs on him, but in the throes of his nightmare, and the subsequent fall that came after waking, it was hard to remember that.

He brushed the sketch pad after erasing his pencil mark, leaning in close to work at the detail.

It was these times he really felt his insecurities. His sense of self-worth at its lowest, never feeling quite good enough for his hyungs, who were everything to him. Old scars resurfacing and transferring onto them, thoughts and actions they had never committed easily being mistaken in his mind. Not to mention the fear of whether or not it would happen if he opened up and told them his secrets, things he kept hidden from everyone but wanted to share so badly.

He leaned back, looking at the drawing. It was messy, few details, just enough to try and capture the emotion and not the story. Figures looming over a quick sketch of what was supposed to be Jeongguk huddled in a ball, looking small and weak, scared and alone. It was what most of the drawings in this book consisted of, as the dream never really changed, but the more recent ones had subtle differences that distinguish them from the others. Like how there was six figures rather than four.

Leaning back in his chair Jeongguk dragged his hands down his face, letting out a deep sigh. Looking at the clock it was now four in the morning. Fatigue was settling back into his bones and he dragged his heavy body from the desk and back into bed. He was supposed to meet Jimin at the gym at six. He would have to grab an energy drink on his way and try not to let Jimin see how exhausted he was. He doesn’t want to worry them, not yet at least.

Jeongguk knew these new nightmares had been brought about by his rising desire to tell his friends about himself, to tell them that no I don’t like girls I like boys, and once again he was facing the inner battle of whether or not just to tell them. It might help with the nightmares, probably would solve them to an extent, but said nightmares were one of the things that kept him from telling them.

He looked at the photo beside his desk again, wanting the last thing he saw before he fell asleep were his hyung’s smiling faces at him.

 

 

“Is everything okay there Guk?”

Jeongguk looked up from the weights he was lifting at Jimin’s concerned face. He finished his set then placed them on the ground and wiped his face with the hem of his shirt.

“Yeah? Why wouldn't it be?”

Jimin was standing above Jeongguk, towel around his neck and holding out a water bottle to him. Jeongguk graciously accepted it, downing half the bottle and wiping the back of his mouth then laid back on the bench.

“You’re quiet. More than usual.”

Jeongguk frowned at the ceiling. He didn’t think he was acting any different, but thinking about it, he had been lost in his own thoughts from last night.

“Am I? I didn’t notice.” He shrugged. “I’m alright though.”

Jimin held his gaze for a moment longer before dropping the towel on the ground and moving to the leg press. Jeongguk let out a sigh of relief that Jimin wasn’t going to press it and turned back to the weights. Checking his phone, they had another half an hour before they had to hit the showers and head to the office.

Jeongguk tried to join Jimin at the gym as often as he could, the other hitting the gym Monday to Friday almost every morning before work. Jin joined him a couple times a week and Jeongguk tried to go anytime he didn’t work his overnights. He used to work out at home, going on runs or working out in his living room, until a few years ago Jin invited him to go to the gym with him and Jimin. He had been shy at first, self-conscious at working out around others but he found he liked the competition, especially Jimin who was more intense than Jin and offered him a new kind of motivation to work out.

He still did his own routines outside of the gym, usually going on runs. He had a few sets of weights at home he still used most days as well. They called him a junkie. While Jimin certainly hit the gym more than he did, he only went hard when Jeongguk was there, usually doing a lighter routine when he was on his own. Jeongguk, on the other hand, tended to go hard every time. It was a good distraction for him.

Today though, it seemed even the competition with Jimin as they both worked side by side wasn’t enough to keep him out of his head. Last night's nightmare was weighing down on him heavily along with the exhaustion from the little sleep, and he couldn’t keep his focus on what he was doing properly.

He hadn’t even realized it, but Jimin was probably the hardest person to get anything by, aside from Yoongi, but like Yoongi, usually wouldn’t push anything unless he felt it needed to be addressed. Jeongguk was often grateful they didn't push, but always seemed to know when to push.

Jeongguk could feel Jimin’s eyes on him now, and it only furthered to add to his turmoil. Will he let it go this time though? Will he mention it to the others? Is he annoyed? He was putting a damper on the morning. The two of them were usually in high spirits, the excitement of competition increasing the adrenaline as they tried to best the other. The silence was uncomfortable now that it had been pointed out.

Jeongguk put his weights down, grabbing the spray bottle to wipe down the bench and dumbbells and moving to the leg press beside Jimin.

Jimin only glanced over at him while Jeongguk changed the weight, pulling out one of his earbuds as a way of acknowledgment before turning back to his set. They worked in silence, grunts and heavy breaths the only sound between them. Jeongguk glanced over at Jimin’s weight and he let out a sly smile as he moved to adjust his own again, going ten pounds heavier than Jimin.

Jimin noticed the change, and after a raised eyebrow, changed his own to match. A few minutes later, Jeongguk changed it again. Jimin followed suit. He glanced over and saw the sheen of sweat starting on Jimin’s brow, which was scrunched in concentration, but his lips were curled into a smile.

“You know, Jimin-ah, if you need a break,” Jeongguk started, aware that his tone was far more even than what he felt from the exertion.

“Ha,” Jimin huffed. “I’m completely fine, but if you need one, please feel free. And that’s ‘hyung’ to you brat.” Jimin leaned forward and increased the setting again. Jeongguk copied him.

This went one a few more times, the both of them now huffing and puffing as they pushed through, neither wanting to give in before the other. They kept throwing shit-eating grins to each other, making the odd shot between heavy breaths. Jeongguk’s earlier thoughts had dissipated the back of his mind as he competed with Jimin, enjoying the adrenaline it brought. Jeongguk glanced at the clock. They only had a few more minutes left, and he said as much to Jimin.

“Hmm, well I guess we better stop then,” He commented, making no effort to let up. Jeongguk leaned his head back, letting it roll to the side towards Jimin who flicked his eyes over to him. They maintained eye contact for a moment before the two shot forward with laughter, feet falling to the ground and off the press, the weights hitting the ground with a loud thunk.

“Hey! Be careful with the equipment!” Came an angry yell from behind them. They both twisted back, still laughing, waving apologizes to the attendant at the desk. The man sent them warning glares, muttering down at the desk as he started talking into the phone again that had been resting against his shoulder.

Jimin shoved at Jeongguk, who flailed for a moment getting his balance back before leaning over and shoving Jimin right off the machine. This started off another round of boisterous laughter, the two of them getting a mix of amused and annoyed looks from the other patrons at the gym. Jeongguk jumped up off the machine, going over to help Jimin up off the ground.

“You’re a brat, you know that right?” Jimin raised an eyebrow at him.

“A cute brat.”

“Hmm, sure.”

They wiped the machines off, heading to the change room to shower and change into their work clothes. They laughed and joked, Jeongguk’s earlier mood lighter now as he wrestled with Jimin, having stolen his pants and making him chase him around the room in his underwear to get it back, he himself shirtless. Jimin had finally caught up, holding him in a headlock and mashing his fist into Jeongguk’s head, telling him to give.

Jeongguk, realizing he was not going to get out of the hold, reach behind him and grabbed Jimin's side, pinching hard. Jimin howled, releasing him and Jeongguk darted away, throwing the pants at Jimin's face.

Yah! You are such a little shit,” Jimin yelled, eyes glaring but a smile on his face. “Why do you disrespect me this way? I am your elder here. I should be treated with respect.”

Jeongguk just stuck his tongue out at him, moving back to his stuff and put his shirt on.

“What are you, five?” Jimin came up and put his pants on, one last shove at Jeongguk. They gathered their stuff, exiting the gym and waving goodbye to the desk attendant who waved them off without looking up from his computer. The morning air was crisp, chillier than expected on a summer day. Jeongguk shivered, rubbing his arms. They made their way down the sidewalk towards work.

During the walk, there was a couple that passed them, two men, holding hands as they walked. They had large smiles on their faces as they went, arms swinging between them, talking animatedly to each other. Jeongguk tried not to stare as they passed, only taking a moment to look back and observe them. He watched in pained wonderment, at the ease in which they carried themselves, knowing that they were putting their affection for each other out on display for everyone to see. Were they scared? Did they care? Jeongguk wished he could have the kind of confidence and even more so, wished he could have someone to share it with. He didn’t notice Jimin watching him, taking in the pained expression on Jeongguk’s face that he didn’t realize he was making.

The gym was only a short walk from the trailer, and the two stopped at a small cafe they frequented enough to be recognized and to not even have to order, the barista already knowing it.

“The whole team or just you two today?” The woman, Seoyeon, asked with a bright smile at Jeongguk.

“All seven today, already got texts from the crew grumbling about their need for actual coffee and not the crap work provides us.” He replied with his own smile. Seoyeon giggled and set to work making the order. Jimin and Jeongguk waited on their phones, but Jeongguk noticed Jimin giving him the odd side look. He ignored him.

“Here we go, four americano’s, a steeped tea, a latte, and a cube latte.” She handed an americano to Jeongguk and Jimin, and then the tray holding the rest of the coffee. Jeongguk tapped his card, paying for the coffee’s then bowed his head in thanks. Seoyeon returned the sentiment, smiling widely as they left the shop.

As they walked down the street, he still felt Jimin's eyes on him. After a minute when the growing unease at the stare peaked, he snapped.

“What is it? Do I have something on my face or what?”

Jimin watched him for a moment, unaffected by Jeongguk’s tone. “You know she was flirting with you right?”

What?

“She has been for months. Not that subtly either, if I’m honest.”

Jeongguk thought back to all the times he had come to the store, with or without the others, and all the friendly smiles and easy chats. He really didn’t see it, but Jimin was usually the one to pick up on those things.

“Really? I mean, I didn’t realize. She doesn’t flirt like, other girls usually do.” Meaning she wasn’t throwing herself at him. “I’ve never even thought of her like that,” He stammered out, getting flustered and desperately wanting to change the subject.

“She is pretty cute,” Jimin commented casually, watching Jeongguk from the corner of his eye as he sipped on his latte.

“I mean, I guess,” He shrugged, the short walk to work suddenly seemed much, much longer than usual.

Jimin shrugged back, head tilting to the side, eyes back on the road. “Eh, she’s not your type.”

Jeongguk watched Jimin, who kept his eyes forwards. ‘Not your type’? What did he mean by that? As far as they knew, Jeongguk didn’t really a have a type, besides men but they didn’t know that. He was going to ask as much but was interrupted by a body slamming into his back and a low laugh in his ear.

“Good morning! How are my lovely boys this morning?” Taehyung singsonged into his ear, both Jimin and Jeongguk rolling their eyes, the latter holding up the takeout tray.

“We both know this is all you care about,” Jeongguk said dryly, walking onto the site with Taehyung still hanging off his back like a monkey.

“Jeon Jeongguk, I am insulted that you would even think that I am not even the slightest bit interested in how my dongsaengs’,” Jimin muttered an ‘I’m older than you dipshit’, “are doing.”

“So I guess I can just throw this out then.” Jimin grabbed a drink from the take-out tray, walking towards a garbage barrel by the trailer. Taehyung yelped as he scrambled off Jeongguk’s back, elbowing him in the head in his rush, running and yelling after Jimin who was now holding his latte hostage.

“You’d think the two of them were the youngest.”

Jeongguk turned at the sound of Yoongi’s voice behind him who was standing with Hoseok, the latter hollering at Jimin and Taehyung to give it a break. Jeongguk smiled at Yoongi with a ‘good morning’, offering the two their drinks - americano for Yoongi and latte for Hoseok. They thanked him, both returning the smile - Hoseok’s bright and far too bubbly for the early morning, Yoongi’s small but soft, fond, as he sipped at the drink.

“I’m going to go round those two up, I’ll meet you in the trailer,” Hoseok told them as he marched over to Jimin and Taehyung, who were both now crawling over the machinery while Jimin did his best not to spill both his drink and Taehyung's.

“This is way too much energy for me,” Yoongi groaned as he took big gulps of his coffee, Jeongguk snickering as the two moved to the trailer.

“You’re just a grandpa. Don’t forget your afternoon nap today.” Jeongguk opened the door, letting Yoongi in first, ducking when Yoogi raised a hand, muttering ‘brat’ as they got into the trailer. Namjoon and Seokjin were sitting at the table talking.

“Ah, blessed be.” Seokjin jumped up, grabbing his tea from Jeongguk. “I could kiss you.” Seokjin furthered the declaration by grabbing the back of his head and plopping his lips on his forehead with a loud mmwah. Jeongguk pushed at him, making a disgusted noise while the other laughed. Seokjin ruffled his hair and moved back to his place at the table. Jeongguk brought Namjoon’s coffee to him, who, thankfully, took it with far less fanfare than Seokjin.

“Where are the others?” Namjoon asked, all of them settling into their seats at the table.

“Hoseok is trying to wrangle up the other two. Jimin is holding Tae’s latte hostage.” Yoongi leaned back, head falling back with his eyes closed, likely wishing the day was already over.

“Does Jimin have a death wish?” Seokjin laughed, and they heard a loud crash from outside followed by Hoseok yelling, “Are you trying to kill yourselves? Get down now!”

The four of them looked at each other, (Yoongi kinda just tilted his head a bit) then at Namjoon who shrugged. “I’m not on the clock yet. Not my problem.” Yoongi snorted but otherwise didn’t move from his spot.

The door slammed open a minute later, Taehyung walking in, a happy smile on his face as he sipped on his cube latte, followed by a less than happy Jimin, hands empty and a stain on his shirt. Hoseok closed the door behind him, a look of exasperation on his face. The three sat down at the table, Jimin falling into the chair beside Jeongguk with a heavy flop, arms crossed and huffing as he glared at the table.

Everyone looked at him, then at Taehyung who sat there humming happily then finally at Hoseok.

“Jimin discovered why he really shouldn't get in between Taehyung and his cube latte.” Hoseok offered no other explanation, sitting down on the other side of Yoongi and began to pester the dozing elder. Namjoon and Seokjin shook their heads, going back to their conversation.

Jeongguk tried his best to keep the smile off his face as he turned to Jimin, wrinkling his nose at the unfortunate coffee stain on Jimin’s shirt.

“Did you at least get to drink most of it?”

Jimin’s glare was answer enough. Jeongguk pushed his own drink, a little over half left, towards Jimin. Jimin looked up at Jeongguk with surprise, then a soft smile.

“No, it’s fine Guk, I’m just moping. It was my own fault anyway, even if Tae went overboard.” He shot Taehyung a withering look, Taehyung only responding with a boxy smile. Jimin rolled his eyes, looking back at Jeongguk.

“Nah, it’s fine. Really, I know how you are without your morning coffee,” Jeongguk gave him a teasing smile, pushing it forwards again. “Plus I had an energy drink earlier. I probably don’t need this anyway,” He laughed.

Jimin relaxed his shoulders, arms uncrossing and falling to the table and wrapping around the coffee that was still warm.

“Thanks, Gukkie, you’re truly my favourite.”

“Hey, I thought I was!”

“You’re dead to me.”

 

 

Jeongguk leaned against the counter, eyes half closed as he dozed in and out of consciousness. It was almost three a.m. and he had had maybe one customer in the last hour and a half. He had run out of stuff to look at on his phone, and his eyes hurt too much to keep watching videos. He was exhausted, and just wanted to go to sleep, but he had to go right to his day job after this, then Seokjin’s place. At least he was off work early today. He could nap after his doctor’s appointment before he went to Seokjin’s.

Groaning he pushed off the counter and stood from the stool, stretching his legs. He did a walk around of the small convenience store, fixing the shelves for the third time that night. He grabbed an energy drink from the cooler, cracking it open and sipping on it as he wandered around idly. There was some pop song playing quietly through the speakers in the store, but someone had fucked with the radio dial and any music that comes out is distorted and static, so he had no idea what song it was. It was annoying as fuck but his manager had yet to actually fix it and no one else is allowed to touch the thing. Jeongguk was just glad it’s set at a quiet enough volume that he can usually tune it out.

A customer came into the store, some older man dressed in a construction shirt and ratty jeans, looking like he was still asleep as he stumbled over to the cooler Jeongguk had just been at, grabbing some drinks.

Jeongguk made his way back behind the counter as the man came up to the till, dropping the cans of energy drinks and asked for a pack of cigarettes. As Jeongguk rang him in the man commented on his own drink.

“You know, those aren’t very good for you,” he nodded at the can, and Jeongguk looked at him then at his own drinks and said nothing, just smiled and nodded at the man. Customer service was the bane of his existence but he was pretty used to that kind of behaviour by now.

The man paid then grumbled out a goodbye, before leaving. Jeongguk watched him leave, watched as he opened the new pack, immediately lighting the cigarette as soon as it was in his mouth, seeing the way he breathed almost in relief. Jeongguk frowned, looking away.

His phone dinged, pulling his attention away. It was three thirty in the morning, who would be texting him now?

Yoongi’s name flashed across the screen and Jeongguk smiled to himself. He shouldn’t be surprised, Yoongi didn’t have a normal sleep schedule, or one at all really.

 

       Yoongi: are you working

 

Jeongguk typed back a response.

 

       Jeongguk: Yup, another two and a half hours.

 

Ten minutes passed and he didn’t receive another message from Yoongi, assuming he just fell back asleep. He finished off the last of his drink when the door chimed again. Looking down, his eyes widened as he spotted the familiar bucket hat sitting atop of short, wavy black hair.

“Yoongi-hyung, what are you doing here?” Jeongguk asked, surprised.

“I was bored and figured you’d need some help staying awake.” He tossed Jeongguk some energy bars and a banana. Jeongguk looked at him questioningly.

“‘Cause I know you won't eat an actual breakfast before work and that’s all I had at my place.” He said nonchalantly as he leaned back against the counter, taking a bite out of an apple.

He thanked him, peeling the banana as they both ate in comfortable silence, Yoongi moving to browse the store when a customer came in buying smokes. When the customer left, Yoongi came back holding a bag of candy that he tossed at Jeongguk along with some change as he hoisted himself onto the counter, sitting facing the store.

Jeongguk rang in the candy, putting the money in the till as Yoongi opened the bag, tossing some of the gummies into his mouth and offering a few to Jeongguk.

“I don’t know how you do this job kid,” Yoongi commented after a few minutes of silence. The first signs of sunrise were starting to peek through the buildings, the traffic outside slowly starting to pick up as people got ready to start the day.

“What do you mean?”

Yoongi gestured to the store. “Sitting in a store all night with shit all to do, knowing you can’t even go to sleep after this.” Yoongi glanced back at him, looking over his shoulder. Jeongguk couldn’t help but think he looked adorably cute, the way the early light reflected in his eyes.

Jeongguk shrugged, indifferent. “It’s not so bad. You get used to it after a while. Plus it’s only temporary.” At least he hoped it was. It had been almost three years since he got this job, in hopes of saving up enough money to be able to afford school, but he felt nowhere closer to that goal than he did three years ago.

“Ah, yes. Your plans to be a schoolboy again.” Yoongi turned back to the store, swinging his legs. “I was glad to get out of high school. Don’t think I could go back to school again.”

Jeongguk just shrugged. Yoongi knew he hadn’t finished high school, and one of the things he was hoping to save money up to do was to also finish high school so he had the opportunity to go to college and get scholarships or bursaries. It would be easy enough to take the classes he needs at a college or university, it all just came down to money.

His hyung’s were encouraging to his desire to finish school. He had joined the company when he was barely seventeen, Yoongi, Seokjin, Hoseok, and Namjoon already working there, Jimin and Taehyung joining later after they had finished high school. That was almost five years ago now.

They asked him why he had left school, claiming he was a bright kid, that he was way above being some dirty construction job and shop boy. He always pushed off their questioning, changing the subject when he could. They had accepted that it was a topic he was sensitive about, but he was sure they had their theories. Jeongguk didn’t fit the stereotype of a dropout in their eyes.

They chatted some more, Yoongi moving and sitting behind the counter on the ground as customers started to become more frequent, spending most of the time trying to make Jeongguk laugh or trip up as he was with a customer.

At one point, Yoongi had run his hand up the inside of Jeongguk’s leg and Jeongguk had to hold back a squeak, kicking his leg out at Yoongi who let out a small yelp as Jeongguk’s foot connected with his arm.

The lady who had been on her phone while Jeongguk rang her items in looked up at him, her expression annoyed and questioning.

“Sorry, there was a bug.” Jeongguk watched out of the corner of his eye as Yoongi stifled a snigger. The lady just rolled her eyes, paying and leaving. Once she was gone Jeongguk kicked at Yoongi who let out a loud laugh, crawling away to avoid being hit by Jeongguk.

Soon it was six and the next shift arrived. Gathering his stuff and clocking out, he waved goodbye as Yoongi and Jeongguk left. They made their way right to the subway, settling in for the half hour ride to the office. He held his bag on his lap, his eyes fluttering as he tried his best to stay awake. Yoongi, who had been casually commenting on the people around him, noticed how Jeongguk was slowly swaying, eyes closed.

Rolling his eyes, Yoongi shook Jeongguk to get his attention, sleepy eyes turning in his direction.

“Take a nap, I’ll wake you when we are there.”

“I don’t want to leave you alone, plus you’re usually the one falling asleep.” Jeongguk resisted, not wanting the two of them to miss their stop.

Yoongi scoffed. “I can manage to stay awake for thirty minutes, kid. Get some rest. You’ll need it.”

Jeongguk relented, his own body already moving to sleep before he had even decided. He pulled his hood up on his sweater and leaned his head back against the glass, letting himself drift off to the sound of the subway car on the tracks.

Jeongguk was awoken by a soft shaking, and he slowly opened his eyes, blinking. Yoongi was talking to him.

“Jeongguk-ah, time to wake up.”

Jeongguk yawned, rubbing his eyes, then halted when he realized his head was no longer leaning back against the window but was resting on Yoongi’s chest.

He quickly pulled back, blushing furiously and now wide awake. Looking around, he checked to see if anyone had been watching him, if anyone was throwing him disgusted looks or heated glares, but all he was met with were equally exhausted people who gave them no mind.

He heard Yoongi chuckle beside him and he bent his head, letting his hoodie hide his face. Times like this he was glad he could pass these reactions off as just being a shy kid and not as something more. It's not like they weren’t all affectionate with each other - Taehyung and Jimin were often hanging off someone or grabbing at peoples hands. Jeongguk wasn’t as forward as them, but when in the privacy of their homes or the worksite, he would give in to the skinship.

Publicly though, he was reserved. Too scared at the idea of someone looking at him and just, knowing; especially with Yoongi. It was silly, but as usual, he was weak to his fears and insecurities always got the best of him.

They exited the subway and made the five-minute walk to the trailer, arriving at the same time as Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jimin.

“Ah, good morning!” Hoseok singsonged, greeting them all cheerfully while Jimin just kind of grumbled in response. He wasn’t a morning person by any definition without his coffee.

“Were you able to get any sleep Gukkie?” Taehyung asked as he walked up to Jeongguk, putting his arm around his neck.

“Yeah, I got a quick nap on the subway over.” He smiled, bumping his head against Taehyung's shoulder as the walked.

“That’s impressive that you didn’t sleep through your stop.”

“Yoongi-hyung was with me this morning, he woke me up in time.” Jeongguk glanced back to Yoongi, who was talking with Hoseok, a sleepy Jimin trailing behind them.

“That’s even more impressive, that Yoongi didn’t fall asleep and you both miss the stop ending up on the other side of the city,” Hoseok commented, poking at Yoongi who rolled his eyes.

“One time, it happened one time and you fucks never let me forget it,” Yoongi grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest and Hoseok laughed, draping himself over Yoongi’s grumpy form.

They laughed at the two as they got into the trailer, Seokjin and Namjoon already there as per usual, nursing their coffee’s. They looked up and greeted them as they walked in.

“There they are. How are my men doing on this fine morning?” Namjoon asked, standing as they entered. There was a chorus of ‘good’ and ‘glad its Friday’ along with Jimins incoherent grumbles as he stumbled over to the coffee machine. Namjoon laughed, ruffling his hair.

“Ah, my sleeping beauty, ready for the day as always.” He received more grumbling from Jimin as he took a gulp of his coffee. “Alright, you got ten minutes before we start the debrief. I’ll be back, just got to make a call to home base.” Namjoon left the trailer, and the others milled around, waking up. Jeongguk slid past to the bathroom so he could change into his work clothes, then stuffed everything into his locker. By the time he got his own coffee into his mug, they were all heading out to begin the day.

Jeongguk pounded back his coffee on the walk, Seokjin falling into step by him.

“How are you doing Jeongguk?” He asked as Jeongguk lowered the coffee mug.

“I’m alright, little tired.” He shrugged. Tired was an understatement, but he didn’t want to worry Seokjin.

Seokjin watched him like he was looking for something before speaking again. “You’re off early today?”

“Yup, doctors appointment. Just a routine check-up.” He smiled at Seokjin as they gathered around Namjoon. He went over the work order for the day, and then they set off into the work trucks, leaving the lot and heading to the work site.

They were working on a contract for a new, fifteen story office building. They were still working on the foundation, Namjoon and his team one of many working on it. Once they were there they jumped right back into where they had left off the day before.

Jeongguk was on the excavator for most the morning, mostly keeping to himself as they continued to dig out the ground. They took their first break, and it goes the same as usual; cute girls walking by, comments about said cute girls and shots at Jeongguk. The teasing wasn’t every day but it was enough. It had been bothering Jeongguk more than usual this week but he did his best to act normal as always, keeping his expression light.

After that, Jeongguk left for the day for his doctor's appointment, waving goodbye and telling Seokjin he’ll be over after work.

He got to the office with a few minutes to spare and the ladies at the reception greeted him warmly and by name. He smiled and moved to the waiting room until his name was called, sitting cross-legged in the moderately comfortable chairs, half paying attention to the news that was on a small screen in the corner.

“Jeon Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk looked away from the T.V., that was talking about a rash of robberies as of late. His doctor, Jin-Kyu, was standing by the desk. He greeted Jeongguk with a smile as he approached, leading him to the room. Jeongguk sat on the chair by the examinations table while Jin-Kyu sat on the stool at his desk.

“How are you Jeongguk?”

“I’m doing well, Seonsaengnim. And you?” He asked politely. The elder doctor smiled at him, amused by Jeongguk’s formal manner. Jeongguk had been seeing him for quite a few years now, but he was as respectful as always.

“I am well, thank you for asking.” He looked over his chart, crossing his legs. “So it’s just a routine check-up for today?” He peered at Jeongguk over his glasses.

“Yes, Seonsaengnim,” Jeongguk nodded.

“Well then, please seat yourself on the table.” He gestured to the examination table as he turned to his desk to type something in. Jeongguk moved accordingly, his legs dangling off the side. He watched Jin-Kyu, waiting. He had been his doctor since he first moved to Seoul from Busan and helped him immensely in the beginning. He was grateful for Jin-Kyu and all his help over the years, and his caring nature.

Jin-Kyu turned from his desk and grabbed the stethoscope from around his neck.

“Alright, Jeongguk, you know the drill. Deep breaths.” Jin-Kyu instructed as he brought the bell to his chest. They went through the standard procedures; lungs, heart, blood pressure, etc. Jin-Kyu moved down to look at the scar tissue on his stomach. Jeongguk shivered at the touch there, the skin still sensitive.

“You know, you can get this scar removed through surgery Jeongguk,” Jin-Kyu commented, glancing at him before moving to his desk to tap some information into his computer.

Jeongguk smiled at the doctor’s back knowingly. “I can’t afford that kind of procedure, Jin-Kyu-seonsaengnim.” It was something that he had mentioned in the past and Jeongguk had considered it before, but it was a cost he couldn’t afford right now. And if he was honest, part of him didn’t want to remove it, to keep the reminder.

They said no more on it, and Jin-Kyu deemed him healthy and good to go. He thanked him then left the office. As he stepped out into the fresh air, Jeongguk felt his exhaustion seep into his bones. He was totally drained and it had been a struggle to keep awake on the subway. He had a couple of hours before he had to be at Seokjin’s, so once he was home he ate a quick lunch then set an alarm, throwing himself onto his bed and passing out as soon as his head touched the pillow.

When his alarm cut through his dreamless sleep, he groaned, his eyes stinging and head stuffed. He dragged himself from his bed, not feeling any more rested than before. He really just wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep till next week, but Seokjin was waiting for him and he never likes skipping the dinners at his home. So he took a quick shower to help wake himself up and made his way out to Seokjin’s place.

The ride was long, Seokjin living the farthest away out of everyone. He used to live on the same block as him, but eventually moved out into a house on his own when he had saved enough money to do so. Though he lived right by a subway station which was always a bonus after the long ride when his legs were stiff from sitting. He walked across the street, turning onto another road passing a couple of houses until he got to Seokjin’s. It was small, quaint, even. It was a fairly simple, white with wooden trim, and an A-frame roof that hung off the front porch.

Jeongguk entered Jin’s house, the home as familiar as his own. They all spent much of their time here, whether as a group or on their own. Enough that Jeongguk wasn’t even bothered by the fact that Jin was in the shower when he arrived, just kicking his shoes off and throwing himself down on the couch. He scrolled through his phone as he waited, music playing from Jin’s laptop quietly in the background.

About ten minutes later he heard the shower turn off followed by some shuffling and doors closing. Couple minutes later, Seokjin came thumping down the stairs asking if Jeongguk was there.

“I’m here hyung,” He replied as he sat up from the couch into view.

“I thought I heard the door. Thank you for offering to help.” Seokjin walked down the hall to the kitchen, Jeongguk following closely behind looking around at the spotless house. Jeongguk always marvelled at how tidy Seokjin managed to keep his house. He was the only one of the crew to actually own a house, the rest of them renting apartments, and he found that hard enough to maintain. But Seokjin was always the most responsible of them all, at least when it came to being an adult.

“So what are we making?” Jeongguk asked as he watched Seokjin take out various pans and utensils.

“Kimchi and bulgogi.”

“That sounds wonderful.”

Seokjin glanced back at him. “Anything sounds wonderful to you. All you eat is ramen and leftover ramen.”

Jeongguk rolled his eyes as he moved to start cutting the vegetables while Seojin started to prep the beef. “As Yoongi-hyung said before, it’s quick and cheap.”

“This is why I feed you all. Mainly you young ones and Yoongi. Hobi and Joonie at least seem to eat somewhat reasonably.”

“Yes mom, I get it,” Jeongguk said, giggling at Seokjin’s exasperated look.

“Someone has to take care of you all. God knows your future wives will have their hands full.” Seokjin gave him a cheeky wink, focusing back on the beef.

Jeongguk sobered a bit at the off-handed comment, his body tense as he continued to chop the onions. He felt it again, the desire to just say it. He could blurt it out right now, then asking Seokjin if he thought it would rain later.

Instead, he just put the vegetables into a bowl to mix.

Seokjin, the ever observant, noticed Jeongguk's tense posture and lack of response to the jibe. “Jeongguk-ah, what’s wrong?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re quiet. Do you doubt you’ll meet someone? Because I know you’ll make a lucky lady very happy one day. Don’t worry about things like that, regardless of the boys’ teasing.”

Seokjin said it with so much compassion in his voice that it had Jeongguk flustered as he tried to find a response. He hated lying to Seokjin. It left a bad taste in his mouth and a sour feeling in his gut to lie to someone who had been more of a parent to him than anyone else in his life. He was always the one to curveball the boys teasing, seeing how uncomfortable he got. But he didn’t have another way out of it, besides actually telling him the truth, which was slowly becoming more and more of an option and it terrified him.

Clearing his throat while still chopping, he smiled before responding, “I know hyung, I’m just tired from work. I had a nap before I came here though.” He resisted the urge to grab a glass of water to wash away the false words.

“Tsk, you should go take another one. I’ll finish dinner.”

“No, I’m okay. I want to help.” Jeongguk insisted.

He tutted but relented. “Fine, but I know that’s not it. Something's been bothering you all week. You’ve been off, and I know the others have noticed it too.”

Jeongguk frowned, keeping his face down as he focused on what he was doing. Had it been that obvious? He knew he worried Jimin the other morning when his mood had been tainted by the remnants of his nightmare before, but it wouldn’t have been enough for him to mention it to anyone. Would it? It had only been for part of the morning, the rest of it had gone quite nicely he thought. Ever since Monday, his thoughts had been weighing on him more than usual but he didn’t think he had been making it known around the others.

“I’m fine, just more tired this week than usual. You know I go through slumps sometimes.” Not a lie, but not the complete truth. Seokjin didn’t look like he believed him though.

“Whatever it is Guk, you know you can always talk to me, and I’ll never breathe a word of it to anyone.” Seokjin’s voice was sincere as he looked at Jeongguk, his eyes searching as he tried to discern what was on the youngest mind that was dragging him down so much. It had been subtle, nothing glaringly obvious, but he noticed that the light in his dongsaeng’s eyes had been dimmer this week, his smile not always as bright.

Jeongguk squirmed a little under his stare. He wanted to tell him so badly, Seokjin was the one out of all his hyung’s that he would feel the most comfortable telling, but the usual fear flared and silenced him just as he thought about opening up.

“I know, hyung.”

They went back to work in silence. Once the meat was prepped and sitting in the marinade, they put it in the fridge to sit for a few hours. The first people probably wouldn’t show up for another hour, so the two got the dishes out and tidied the kitchen and had everything ready so they just had to cook the beef in the wok and serve it with the kimchi. Once that was done, they sat and decided to play some video games while they waited.

As they were playing, Jeongguk’s ears perked up as he recognized the opening chords to Holland’s song ‘Neverland’ that came through the speakers. He was an artist Jeongguk really enjoyed and looked up too, as the first openly gay idol in the industry. Jeongguk glanced at Seokjin, waiting to see his response.

Jeongguk had never heard them use derogatory language towards people who were gay, and he never got the feeling that any of them were homophobic, they were not those kinds of people. Jimin even mentioned once that he had a cousin who was gay, and he didn’t seem bothered by in the least. But still, they lived in a country where it was still very taboo, and it was part of the reason why he was so hesitant to open up.

When Seokjin made no visible response to it, Jeongguk decided to test it, making an offhand comment about the song and the artist.

“I’m looking forward to Hollands new song,” he said, waiting on bated breath.

“Me too actually. I’ve been following him since he debuted. It’s so wonderful to see someone taking a stand like that. I hope he will be the first of many.” Seokjin had a smile on his face, looking genuinely excited at the prospect.

Jeongguk felt his grip loosen then tighten on the control repeatedly as he stopped focusing on the game. Seokjin looked over at him, concerned as he gazed at nothing, his mind whirring as he was struck with overwhelming emotion.

“Jeongguk? What’s wrong?”

Jeongguk mumbled.

“What?”

“I’m gay.”

The silence that followed was agonizing for Jeongguk as he felt panic immediately bubble up in him replacing the courage that had briefly surged up within him moments ago. His breathing started to shorten as he tried not to let himself fall into a full blown panic attack. Did I just say that? Out loud? The worst possible case scenarios flashing through his mind, of Seokjin looking disgusted, of him yelling at him, throwing him out or even-

“Jeongguk, are you listening?”

Jeongguk was brought out of his thoughts by Seokjin’s hand on his shoulder. He looked at him, seeing the concern that coloured his face, eyes soft and warm as he ducked to meet Jeongguk’s gaze, which had been redirected to the ground.

“Take a deep breath. That’s it, just like that. Relax Jeongguk-ah.” Seokjin rubbed his back as Jeongguk got his breathing back to normal, though his body remained tense and wary, ready to bolt at the slightest hint of ill intent. He sneaked a peek at Seokjin who was staring at him with a kind smile. He felt his body relax a bit.

After a minute, Jeongguk hesitantly spoke. “Are- are you okay with that? Hyung?” Jeongguk asked, the words coming out in a stuttered breath.

“What, about you being gay? Did you think-” Seokjin’s face morphed from disbelieving to wounded. “Oh, Gukkie, did you really think I would be upset about that?”

Jeongguk cringed at the palpable hurt in his voice, quickly shaking his head.

“No, I mean, not really. Part of me, maybe.” Jeongguk let out a sigh, body sagging. “Most of me knows you wouldn’t be but the rest of me was… scared.” He bit his lip, looking up at Seokjin. “So, you’re fine with it? You don’t-” He swallowed. “Everything is okay?”

“Jeongguk, you being gay changes nothing.” Seokjin’s voice was stern, no room for argument. “I’m sorry if I ever gave you a reason to think otherwise.”

“No, you haven’t! It’s just,” Jeongguk paused, hesitating. Part of him wanted to open up more to Seokjin, to really explain why, but he wasn’t ready for that. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready to share that with someone. “I’ve told people in the past and the response... Wasn’t the warmest.” He mumbled the last bit, looking away. Seokjin got the feeling that he didn’t want to share more than that and he wasn’t going to push him.

“Jeongguk-ah, you are my family. No matter what, even if it is something I dislike or disagree with, you will always be loved and supported by me. I promise.”

Jeongguk stared wide-eyed at Seokjin, tears stinging the back of his eyes as he surged forward, hugging Seokjin tightly, trying to convey just how much it meant to hear those words, how much he needed to hear those words. Seokjin wrapped his arms around him, holding him for as long as he needed. He couldn’t understand how Jeongguk was feeling, and he was hurt that the boy had felt he couldn’t talk to him about this, but he wouldn’t hold it against him. He must have his reasons, and Seokjin would respect that.

After a few minutes, once Jeongguk felt more composed, he pulled back and wiped his nose.

“Thank you, hyung. I’m sorry for how I reacted. It’s just, not something I share with people, but I’ve wanted to tell you, all of you, for so long, but I never had the courage.”

“Ba, don’t apologize. Don’t thank me either, I’ve done nothing more than what is expected of me.” Seokjin smiled as he patted Jeongguk on the head who gave Seokjin a goofy smile. “Do the others know?”

Jeongguk's smile dropped. “No, you’re the first person I’ve told in years. And it wasn’t planned either. It just kinda came out.” He blushed, a little embarrassed that he just dropped the bomb like that.

“You know that they would have the exact same reaction as I right? None of them would judge you.”

Jeongguk shifted. “I-I know that I do. But...” He trailed off, looking back at the ground.

“But you’re scared.” Jeongguk gave a curt nod. “That’s understandable. I do think you should tell them, but I won't pressure you, nor will I tell them anything.”

Jeongguk sighed in relief, looking back up at Seokjin. “Thank you.”

Seokjin smiled at him, ruffling his hair. He had a sweet spot for him, they all did, as the youngest of them. They all felt protective over him, an unspoken agreement that they would take care of him, all knowing that they were all Jeongguk had, even if the boy himself had never confirmed it either way. He knew none of them would treat Jeongguk any different.

They returned to the game and not much longer after that, Hoseok and Namjoon arrived, followed by Taehyung and Yoongi. Jimin had messaged soon after saying he was on his way, and they all played games until he arrived, while Seokjin went back to the kitchen to continue with dinner.

They goofed around, being the rambunctious group that they are, only getting worse when Jimin arrived, Taehyung and Jeongguk practically tackling him when he walked through the door.

“Ack, can I get my shoes off at least?” Jimin screeched as Jeongguk hoisted him into the air over his shoulder.

“I’ll get them!” Taehyung said as he started to wrangle Jimin's shoes off, tickling as he went. He spasmed and flailed but Jeongguk had a good grip on him.

“Will you guys help?” Jimin yelled at the others, who were all doubled over in laughter. Yoongi was the first to recover.

“I’m not going anywhere near those two right now. Help yourself.” The others laughed while Jimin whined.

“Yah, Gukkie, you need to show off those muscles more often. You’ll be sure to get a girl then,” Namjoon commented as Jeongguk moved and dropped a now shoeless Jimin onto the couch. He just smiled at Namjoon in response, his awkwardness being mistaken for shyness as usual.

“Yeah, I’m honestly surprised you haven't scooped one up yet, not even a high school sweetheart!” Hoseok exclaimed, leaning over to poke at Jeongguk bicep. Jeongguk moved his arm away and kept the smile plastered on his face, hoping it still looked believable while looking for a way to change the subject. Lucky, Seokjin came to his rescue.

“Jeongguk, can you come help me for a minute?”

“On my way!” He eagerly jumped at the chance to remove himself from the situation, the others laughing as he ran, making jokes about his shyness. He noticed that Yoongi did not partake, watching him as he left the room.

Entering the kitchen he saw that Seokjin was almost done the cooking. “What do you need help with?”

Seokjin looked back at Jeongguk from the counter, moving closer to him. “Nothing, I just wanted to help you out of that situation there,” Seokjin commented then he put his hands on Jeongguk shoulders, lowering his voice. “It just hit me. All those times we’ve joked and harassed you about women, about being shy. I’m so sorry Gukkie. It must have been so awkward and uncomfortable.” Seokjin looked so sad and Jeongguk felt his heart break a little.

“Hyung, please, you all had no idea. You have nothing to be sorry for. It’s my own fault for being in those positions.” Jeongguk placed a hand on Seokjin’s arms, trying to sound as sincere as possible. “Plus, you never really partook. If anything, you took the attention off of me.” Seokjin was far too much of a gentleman to really get into the catcalling the others did.

“Still, even if we didn’t know, thinking back I could see how uncomfortable you were. And for that, I am sorry.” Seokjin placed a hand on his head as he looked him right in the eyes.

“And I forgive you, I forgive all of you, even though there is nothing to forgive.” Jeongguk smiled. “Now, is there something I can actually help with?”

Seokjin moved back, turning to the counter. “Everything is pretty much done, just have to serve it all. Want to wrangle up the boys for me?”

Jeongguk nodded as he turned back to the living room, calling them all in. Everyone hollered at the prospect of food and filed their way into the kitchen. Jeongguk waited at the doorway as he let them all pass. Yoongi was last and as he walked passed Jeongguk he glanced at him giving him a smile. It was quick and Jeongguk barely even registered it but it was enough to set a blush crawling up his neck. He was too weak.

He followed him to the table, all sitting down as Seokjin brought the food to the table, telling everyone to ‘dig in’ before sitting himself.

It was, as always, delicious, and everyone made sure Seokjin knew it. Jeongguk loved the look of pride on Seokjin’s face every time he made a meal that was loved by them. It was really the only reason they all made a fuss about it, seeing the way Seokjin lit up at taking care of them in any way he could. Jeongguk himself was surprised he hadn’t found himself someone yet, but he had noticed how Seokjin had been awfully chummy with one of the secretaries at work as of late.

After dinner, they lounged around for a while, playing games and some of them having a few drinks. At some point Jimin and Taehyung left as they both had to be up in the morning, going to visit Taehyung’s parents who lived outside of Seoul. Hoseok and Namjoon decided to stay the night, indulging in more drinks. Yoongi had yet to voice what his plans for the evening, nursing the same cooler he had started with earlier.

Jeongguk decided it was time for him to head home and actually indulge in a good sleep after the last few days of sporadic naps here and there.

He said as much to them, getting ready to leave when Yoongi offered to walk him home since Jeongguk's apartment was on the way home for him.

Jeongguk thanked him as his stomach did flips. It never mattered what they were doing, but being alone with Yoongi always had him feeling a mix of excited and nervous.

They chatted as they walked towards the subway, Yoongi telling him about a song he was working on.

“It’s almost done, I’m just trying to figure out some of the harmonies,” he explained as they boarded the subway.

“Can I hear it?” Yoongi nodded as he pulled out his phone and a pair of earbuds. Jeongguk was always excited to hear Yoongi’s music. Most people didn’t know, but he was actually a really talented writer - his words and lyrics always filled with so much emotion and meaning. Aside from Namjoon, who has known Yoongi for years, no one else knew much about Yoongi’s hobby with it. They knew he played around with music and sound, but only Jeongguk and Namjoon knew the extent of his talent and were lucky enough to actually hear it. He had confessed it one day when they two were hanging out at Jeongguk’s place and Yoongi spotted a guitar tucked away in his room.

“Hey, Jeongguk-ah. What's this here?”

Jeongguk poked his head into his room to see what Yoongi was talking about. He blushed when he saw him holding an acoustic guitar, covered in various stickers of different bands, games, shows and more.

Yoongi looked up at him. “Do you play?”

“Uh, yeah, sometimes,” Jeongguk answered, going back to the kitchen to finish pouring their drinks then came back into his room.

Yoongi raised an eyebrow at him. “Sometimes?”

Jeongguk ducked his head again, a shy smile on his face. “It’s a hobby.”

Yoongi passed the guitar to him and sat down on his bed, legs crossed and hands clasped, looking at him expectantly. “Well?”

“Well, what?” Jeongguk asked, confused.

“Play for me. Show me what you’ve got.”

Jeongguk spluttered at the request, protests coming on his lips that Yoongi silenced.

“Ah, play.” He demanded, and Jeongguk felt his face heat up considerably as he placed the strap around his neck, sitting on his chair and started to play.

He played songs he had done covers of in the past, not looking at Yoongi as he played, but very aware of his watchful gaze that sent shivers down his spine.

When he was done he hesitantly looked up at Yoongi who was looking at him with an unreadable expression.

“Not bad,” He spoke after a minute. “You have some talent kid. Do you ever write your own stuff?”

Jeongguk was surprised by the comment. “Uh, I’ve tried in the past, n-nothing concrete though.” He stuttered a bit.

“Can you show me?”

Jeongguk had always kept that as a secret, something that was more of an outlet than a hobby, private. He could have easily told him they were private or that he didn’t want to share and his hyung wouldn’t have pressured him. But he realized he wanted to share it with Yoongi, and doing so he learned about his own music hobbies and they often worked on things together, which was a gift that Jeongguk cherished and was more than worth a few embarrassing moments.

Jeongguk still kept a lot of his own, unfinished songs tucked away, some far too personal and raw for anyone, let alone Yoongi to see. But he enjoyed helping his hyung with his music, and sometimes would let him in on one Jeongguk was working on. Yoongi always pushed him to do more and take it farther. It was a nice dream.

Jeongguk put the earbud in and listened to the music, the soft tones and haunting melody drifting through. He was ensnared by Yoongi’s low tones as he rapped, the song about lost and found love, about pain and hope, how they were intertwined, one always present around the other, and how one will always win out in the end.

“It’s beautiful,” Jeongguk replied honestly, looking at Yoongi. Yoongi held his gaze for a moment before dropping his gaze to his phone. For a second, Jeongguk thought he saw some pink in his cheeks.

“Thanks, maybe you can help me with the harmony on the chorus line.”

Jeongguk preened, eagerly accepting the chance to work with him on it.

They exited the subway and headed towards Jeongguk's apartment. Once they reached it, Jeongguk noticed a familiar figure standing at the door. He felt the hair on his neck stand and he immediately ducked his head when he realized it was the guy from the laundry room early this week. He tugged his jacket close to him, hoping to hide in plain sight. He wasn’t ready to face this guy yet, not so soon after the fool he had made of himself, and especially not with Yoongi with him, who he noticed was giving Jeongguk a strange look as Jeongguk practically cocooned into his coat.

He prayed to any god that would listen that he could slip by unnoticed as he seemed to be waiting for someone or something outside. They had almost made it to the door when the guy turned back suddenly, and Jeongguk did his best to refrain from squeaking.

The guy smiled at Jeongguk. “Hey, it’s you again.”

His voice was deeper than Jeongguk expected, and he was thrown off guard by the greeting. “Uh, h-hi.” What a brilliant response.

The man looked at Yoongi. “Who’s this, boyfriend?”

Jeongguk blanched at the comment, both because of its ridiculousness and insinuation. “No! He’s just a friend.” He sputtered. Why was he even asking?

The man's smile turned to a smirk, turning his chin up and looking down at Yoongi then back at him. “Ah, well then.” A car pulled up then, and the man turned to it then back to them. “Catch ya later.”

He got into the car and Jeongguk quickly put his key into the latch and hurried inside.

“Who was that?” Yoongi questioned.

“Uh, just some guy that lives here. I run into him from time to time, just the other day actually we were doing laundry together.” When he caught me checking him out and maybe he checked me out too? But he wasn’t going to tell him that.

“Huh,” Yoongi replied as he looked back towards the door for a minute before back to Jeongguk.

“Well, I’ll see you later then. Thanks for walking me home.”

“Eh, I think I’ll stay here for the night,” Yoongi stated.

“What?”

Yoongi raised an eyebrow at him. “What, is that a problem?”

Jeongguk quickly composed himself. “No, no, not at all! Just surprised. You don’t really stay the night at our places.” Usually only Seokjin’s and even then not as much as the others.

Yoongi shrugged. “It’s a long walk and I’m tired. Let’s stop standing here and go.” He leaned past Jeongguk and opened the door to the stairway, waiting for him to move. Jeongguk felt his blush creeping back once again as he turned to the stairway, making his way upstairs, Yoongi behind him.

They entered his apartment and Yoongi immediately threw his stuff onto the counter and plopped himself onto the couch. “I’m going to bed,” He stated as he kicked his socks off and shed his shirt, snuggling under the blanket that was on the couch and a pillow that was sitting on one of the chairs.

Jeongguk wasn’t bothered by his antics, all of them used to his ability to fall asleep pretty much anywhere at any time at the drop of a hat. What he was a little bothered by was the way Yoongi had stripped his shirt off, stretching in front of Jeongguk, torso bare for a few seconds before disappearing under the blanket.

That damn blush came roaring back as he mumbled out a good night and scurried to his room.

Shedding his own clothes down to his boxers he crawled into bed, practically falling onto it in his exhaustion. It had been a long day and his mind was still whirling with the knowledge that Seokjin now knew his best-kept secret, and he had a shirtless Yoongi, asleep in his apartment. He really didn’t want to ponder on either of those thoughts, his body already starting to shut down at the prospect of sleep. He decided to let future Jeongguk deal with those ramifications.

He sighed to himself, thinking back on Seokjin’s words from earlier. Yoongi was another reason he never told them. If he did tell them, and they were all okay with it, they would probably still tease him and try to set him up. Under any other circumstances, that would be great. Having six guys try and actively find someone for you? Six, all fairly attractive guys? Jeongguk could probably have a boyfriend within a week if they all knew.

The only problem with that is Jeongguk already had someone. Or, he had someone in his mind. But it was a pipe dream - one he tortured himself by entertaining the idea more often than he should, but could you blame him?

He rolled on his side facing his door. If he listened carefully, he could faintly hear Yoongi’s quiet snores from the other side. Jeongguk could picture his face when he slept - soft and soft and soft. Jeongguk thought Yoongi looked the most peaceful when he was asleep and that the hardlines and darkness under his eyes faded. It never failed to make Jeongguk love him more.

And that was the biggest issue. He loved Yoongi, more than a friend, more than a family member. He thinks he might have fallen for Yoongi in the first week he met him. He was the first of them to treat him like an adult rather than a kid. Not that Namjoon, Hoseok, and Seokjin treated him like he was incapable, but they coddled him a lot and wouldn't let him take on as many responsibilities as the rest. He had been so young compared to them - barely seventeen, and he was so shy and quiet.

But Yoongi, he didn’t coddle. He was blunt and to the point and treated him as a true equal regardless of the age difference. Jeongguk had been terrified in the beginning, not totally realizing that Yoongi wasn’t being hostile. He honestly thought Yoongi disliked him. But Yoongi still showed him the same warmth as the others, just in his own way.

He gave Jeongguk the chance to show the others what he was capable of and over time, they all gave him the same respect. Jeongguk worked hard and always did his job well. He grew closest to Yoongi in that first year, often trailing around after him like a lost puppy, admiring his work ethic and his meticulousness in his job. The others bugged them both about it, and while Jeongguk would blush and cringe, Yoongi just laughed and told them ‘at least he’ll see what a proper construction worker does.’

Then Jimin and Taehyung joined the company and Jeongguk was ecstatic to have people closer to his age, and they helped him open up even more, giving into the teasing and shenanigans they often pulled. But it all started with him.

Yoongi was the first one to break through his walls, by treating him as his equal in every way. Showing him he was worth the respect. And Jeongguk thinks that's what made him fall in love with him. The rest followed after - the way he smiles with his whole mouth, his calm demeanour in stressful situations, his snarky humour and savage remarks. The way he can put his entire soul into his music, or his patience with everyone when it comes to learning new jobs or starting new worksites. It’s the way he always seems to know when Jeongguk isn’t okay but always knows how to help. Or the way he just exudes this - warmth, that Jeongguk can't get enough of.

Jeongguk could go on for hours about it, creating lists upon lists as to why he fell for Yoongi, but in the end, they don’t really matter. No one would ever get to know all the feelings that are constantly swirling around in his chest. Yoongi would never know.

Jeongguk felt his eyes droop, sleep dragging him down. His eyes lingered on the door, the only thing between him and the one thing he wished he could have, but never will.