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“Paint ghosts over everything, the sadness of everything.

W e made ourselves cold. We made ourselves snow.

We smuggled ourselves into ourselves.

Haunted by each other’s knowledge.

To hide somewhere is not surrender, it is trickery.

All day the snow falls down, all night the snow.

I try to guess your trajectory and end up telling my own story.

We left footprints in the slush of ourselves, getting out of there.”

- Richard Siken, War of the Foxes

i.

 

The first thing Hoseok learns about him is that he’s got a penchant for knives and stabbing. The second thing he learns is that he’s got eyes as sharp as the knife he always carries on his person and a downturn curve of his mouth that always, always means he’s displeased with Hoseok’s presence because Hoseok, always, always manages to make a mess for the both of them (and hey, it takes two to tango and all of that, right)?

Their names come in a hushed whisper after that, so quiet, not even the wind can carry it away.

My name is Min Yoongi , comes his voice, and even though they usually talk in whispers, tonight is different, because they’re not supposed to have conversations like this on the rooftop. They’re not supposed to be trading information like trivia. Secrets passed around from hand to hand like spare change.

The only thing they’re supposed to do is try to stop each other and if that doesn’t work, then eliminate the problem.

It hasn’t worked the first time they met and it sure isn’t going to work now, years down the line.

But still, they talk in hushed whispers.

This is their life.

This is who they are.

Whispers.

Ghosts.

 

ii.

 

So this is how they first meet—

Hoseok is sent to Taiwan for a mission. This one he has to protect without question—which is funny because Hoseok is never allowed to ask questions, only to submit and to accept and to never, ever say anything on his mind.

He’d tried once, when he was new.

They’d broken that habit out of him quick and now Hoseok knows how to hold his tongue.

Although that really isn’t the case when he gets on top of the rooftop only to spot the would be assassin of the diplomat he’s supposed to be protecting for the night. His team had told him to make quick work of the man sent out to kill the diplomat. Hoseok had only agreed.

They stare each other down, Hoseok in his suit to match all of the diplomat’s bodyguards, hands swinging at his sides and empty. There is a knife strapped to the side of his leg and a few pistols he’s concealed under his blazer and everywhere else around his person.

There’s no way he’s passing a metal detector test but that’s okay, there are no metal detectors here.

Hoseok raises both hands up, as if in surrender, and the man a few feet in front of him, with a rifle trained to a window that Hoseok recognises is the same hotel window that the diplomat will find himself in just minutes from now after his big speech. He’s ready to make the shot as soon as his target walks through the door.

Anyone else would’ve panicked, laughed this whole thing off and walked away—or worse, trained a gun right to this man’s head, a direct call for his surrender. But not Hoseok.

Hoseok just walks slowly towards him, hands still raised in a perfect show of surrender, of peace, a sense of calm that Hoseok radiates but doesn’t necessarily promise. He walks over and stops just a few steps in front of him.

There are no words now and Hoseok tilts his head, eyes flitting to the rifle before he looks at the man again. This close, Hoseok gets a clearer view of his face—dark hair that blows against the winds and skin so pale Hoseok starts to wonder if he’s even here or if he’s a ghost.

The next thing that happens is quick, and Hoseok moves before the man who is also a ghost—a ghost , he’s a ghost and Hoseok starts to think of him as such—swings his arm to knock him back. He misses, Hoseok dancing out of his way in a fluid motion that looks graceful from the outside but completely deadly when you’re at the receiving end.

Because this is how Hoseok likes to fight—he likes to fight with a little tune in his head, just as if he was dancing. Hoseok with his light feet and dancer’s flexibility, skill and practice and patience and a lot of hard work knocked right out of him so he can be who he is, now.

Only Hoseok hasn’t forgotten because before he was anything else—before he was an assassin, a spy, and a man of mercy, he was a dancer.

So they dance, the ghost barely able to land a hit on him once Hoseok has slipped right into the flow, every movement fluid and quick, like he’s anticipated each and every one of the ghost’s attacks.

The knife gleams silver under the moonlight and cuts through Hoseok’s suit, sending him tumbling back. He catches himself before he can fall over on his back completely but it’s too late.

The ghost is already back at the rifle, finger pulling on the trigger.

Hoseok throws himself at him just as he shoots.

The shot still makes it but it’s not a direct kill.

Hoseok gets thrown off for his troubles and the ghost stands over him now, moonlight bracketing his head like a fuzzy halo, and sneers. He actually sneers. His eyes are as sharp as the knife that had cut Hoseok’s leg.

There is a brief pause between them.

Hoseok can see his whole face and there remains an innocence in the softness of his cheeks and the small point of his nose. Everything else about him is cold. He is a ghost.

And Hoseok might die tonight if he doesn’t move but he can’t, not when he’s got a gun trained to his forehead and an assassin staring him right down the barrel.

So Hoseok does what he’s always punished for doing. He throws his head back and laughs, letting out a little sigh that he knows is uncalled for in this situation.

“God, Joon would be so angry if I died tonight he probably wouldn’t even bury me,” Hoseok starts, still laughing. It’s a surprising thing, high and clear in this cold night. “Isn’t that just awful, to not get a burial from the only person you consider a friend?”

To his utter surprise, he gets a reply.

“You have friends?” comes his voice, quiet and not as cold as the night is.

“Friend,” clarifies Hoseok. “Just the one. His name’s Namjoon and he hates when people die.”

“Do you?” asks the ghost. There is hardly any inflection in his tone, hand still steady, not a single tremor in the way he holds the gun down to Hoseok.

That’s a funny little thing.

Hoseok pushes himself up on his elbows, mulls on the question, and then shrugs, in an effort to completely disregard the stinging gash in his leg from a knife that he thinks might be poisoned because this man looks like he dips his knives in poison, of course he fucking does.

“If I did then I wouldn’t be here right now,” says Hoseok after a long, unnerving beat.

“You’re here to protect him,” there is movement in the hotel room, blue and red lights out in the street. The ambulance.

“Yeah, and sometimes I’m out to kill people like him. I don’t make the rules,” says Hoseok, a little exasperated because he’s about to die and he’s forced into this conversation which, now that he thinks about it, isn’t exactly that bad. Hoseok’s never talked to an enemy assassin before—or at least, never talked for much. They always had to die before they got to the good part of the conversation.

“I don’t make the rules, either.” and then in an act that surprises Hoseok, the ghost sheathes his knife back into place and then lowers the gun, turning it around so the butt is to Hoseok before he brings it down on his head.

Hoseok is knocked out cold but he wakes up later to warm hands on his face and Namjoon peering down at him from a metal table, brows furrowed and mouth twisted in confusion.

“What happened?” asks Hoseok, feeling a numbness in his leg and a sore bruise on his head when he touches a hand to his hair.

“They found you knocked out and freezing up on that roof,” Namjoon’s expression is worried. Hoseok hates it when Namjoon is worried.

“I saw someone up there,” Hoseok winces, remembering the knife to his leg and the first punch to his chest that had knocked the air right out of him. He remembers everything that hurt and then he remembers the dance. The dance always makes the hurt that much more bearable.

“I’m surprised you’re still here,” Namjoon allows a gentle tone to slip into his words. He touches a soft hand to Hoseok’s forehead, his lips curving up. A hint of a smile that is more than what Hoseok ever sees in here. “You’re the first one to see him and make it out alive.”

Hoseok doesn’t try to overthink it. He just takes it for what it is and nods his head, grateful that Namjoon at least doesn’t have to bury a friend on a fucking Wednesday morning.

 

iii.

 

They don’t meet again until a few months later. There is only a ghost of a bruise left on his forehead. Hoseok can’t see it anymore but whenever he presses on his temple, he thinks that it’s still there. A reminder that he’d met him. A ghost, Hoseok had told Namjoon.

A ghost, Namjoon had agreed.

Hoseok sees him again. This time, they’re in Beijing and it’s not winter anymore. The weather is more merciful and Hoseok feels warmth seep through his bones. He likes the summertime has finally come to knock on his windows.

“It’s you again,” says the ghost, looking up from the newspaper he’d been reading just as Hoseok had walked into the cafe.

“Are you going to stab me again?” counters Hoseok, eyebrow raised.

They’re speaking in perfectly fluent Mandarin, always careful not to stand out too much.

“Perhaps,” says the ghost, eyes flickering to Hoseok.

“Why did you leave me on the rooftop?” Hoseok slides easily into the chair in front of him, finger trailing around the rim of his coffee cup. “Did you forget to shoot?”

There’s a scoff, incredulous. “You want to ask that question again?”

Hoseok thinks that the ghost is funny, which isn’t always a normal thought to be had, now that he realises it.

“No. So why didn’t you kill me?” the orders are the same all the time: eliminate anyone who gets in the way of the mission, and for people like Hoseok, the mission always comes first. It has to.

It’s been ingrained in him since day one, when they’d dragged him and forced him into training, every bone broken so they could realign them back how they wanted him to be, to fit into their mould. Hoseok remembers cold. Bitter and biting cold. And red. A lot of red.

Hoseok snaps out of it.

This time, he sees a soft blue sweater and hair that fans across the ghost’s forehead, eyes finally looking up to meet Hoseok’s gaze. The corners of his mouth twitch up in what could only be a ghost of a smile and Hoseok feels his heart squeeze.

“Namjoon,” says the ghost again, as if that’s the only explanation he’s going to give Hoseok.

“Namjoon.” Hoseok agrees, because the look on Namjoon’s face when he’d woken back up at base was as if he’d seen a ghost come to life. Hoseok can’t imagine dying on him. He doesn’t want to do that to a friend.

They sit together in complete silence until the ghost’s target walks out of the embassy across the street. He slips out of his seat quietly, one hand touching his hip as he nods at Hoseok.

There are perhaps more concealed weapons on his person than any normal person can even imagine, not to mention his knives—dipped in poison and so sharp, even a slight graze is enough to kill.

Hoseok does not follow him out because the senator is not his mission.

His mission comes in the form of a scientist who is also attending the same hearing in the embassy. But she isn’t supposed to be out until much, much later.

So Hoseok just leans back into his chair and takes a sip of his coffee. It’s sweet, too many packets of sugar and so warm it nearly scalds his tongue. But it is good.

It is everything his past isn’t and Hoseok clings to it, fingers tightening around the cup.

Outside, he sees the ghost turn a corner, disappearing from Hoseok’s line of sight.

He disappears from the rest of the world, but Hoseok isn’t surprised.

Hoseok has to disappear after every mission, too. That’s just protocol.

 

iv.

 

Surprisingly, their most significant meeting yet isn’t during a mission.

They’re both back in Seoul, the heavy downcast of a summer’s rain starting to form, the clouds dark and heavy.

Seoul has never really been home but perhaps it’s close enough, or at least, that’s what Hoseok likes to think, anyway. Anything to keep the screaming voices in his head at bay.

Hoseok stretches out on the mat, hands under his head as he looks up at the darkening sky. It’s about time he leaves. He’d only been given a few hours in the afternoon for this—a reward for a job well done. Flawlessly executed, actually, and Hoseok wonders if it’s perhaps because he’d been the only one acting in that mission, no strike team or no ghosts stopping him. Just him alone. Hoseok’s always worked best by himself.

A shadow passes by his face before he feels someone else settling on the mat beside him, the sheet wrinkling under his weight.

“Who’s your mission?” asks the ghost, not tearing his gaze away from the river just a few feet in front of them.

“My mission,” starts Hoseok, turning to his side so he can look up at his face. “is this . Nothing,”

The ghost blinks down at him, an amused look on his face. It passes by quickly enough.

“A day off, that’s it, but you’re not here for that same reason, are you?” asks Hoseok, wanting to lean up to brush the ghost’s hair out of his eyes. His fringe is getting terribly long, but perhaps Hoseok isn’t one to talk about that, not with his hair just falling past his shoulders, gathered in half a bun now, because it’s summer and while it looks like it’s going to rain anytime soon, the heat is still stifling. Sticky.

“No,” the ghost tells him, easily enough.

Hoseok doesn’t push it, but since he is on his day off, he does start talking, voice carrying softly enough that only the two of them can hear, no passersby and definitely nobody from the agency, because Hoseok isn’t supposed to be fraternising with the assassin who should’ve killed him on two separate accounts but didn’t. Couldn’t.

“My name’s Hoseok,” he starts, rolling onto his back. If the ghost reacts in any way, he doesn’t see it. “I didn’t grow up here. I grew up—a few more towns over. I don’t remember much of it and maybe some of the things I do remember aren’t exactly accurate, but I know for a fact that my mother gave me this name, even when I can’t remember her face anymore,” or her voice. Or anything about her.

“You don’t have to say anything, I know you’re still working, but I just thought that it’d be nice for you to know me,” or some part of him. Just a few things. The parts Hoseok is sure of himself.

“That’s dangerous,” says the ghost, looking down at Hoseok, a furrow in his brows.

“Hey, I like fun facts,” and here Hoseok grins up at him, as bright as the setting summer sun is warm.

“It seems so.” fingers comb through his hair now, pushing it out of his eyes. The act is surprisingly gentle, feather light touches on Hoseok’s face. It’s a startling difference to the way he’d knocked him out cold, the way he can easily shoot his target from across the street, four buildings away. It’s startling.

Hoseok leans into his touch, eyes closing.

When he opens them again, the ghost is gone.

He gathers his things up and heads back to the base before the rain starts in earnest.

Hoseok is feeling light spirited, which is nice. He hasn’t felt like this in a long time. He hasn’t felt well and truly rested in, well, Hoseok can’t even remember.

 

v.

 

They call their main base of operations the compound, so it has that false sense of security. So it sounds warm when you say it out loud because compounds are usually consisting of families and groups of people who are friends, who like each other.

But the only compound Hoseok’s grown up in is one where he was trained to fight and be light on his feet. His is a hand that takes and gives, sometimes at the same time. For all they did trying to break him, Hoseok still has a lot of fight left in him. Not that he really has any choice on that matter, especially when you’re friends with one Kim Namjoon who nags all the goddamn fucking time.

Namjoon brushes his hair, untangles the knots and then inspects the bruises and scars along Hoseok’s shoulder and down the length of his torso.

Hoseok catches the look Namjoon makes in the mirror, pained and like he wants to say something.

Namjoon doesn’t, though, because while he isn’t in the business as a gun for hire, he is here as the resident doctor (however laughable that is, but hey, organisations like this needs doctors too, don’t they?).

“Just say it, then,” Hoseok tries for a smile. It’s fake, doesn’t really reach his eyes, because he’s got two ribs that are still healing and a crick in his neck from sleeping at an odd angle in the plane ride over. “Let’s get this over with.”

Namjoon’s deft hands squeeze lightly on Hoseok’s shoulder. He wasn’t the one who’d patched him up after this mission but he sure is the only one who constantly looks after Hoseok here in this compound—base, HQ, hell.

This place is hell and sometimes Hoseok looks at Namjoon and he wants to say it, says words he knows he’ll regret as soon as they’re out because they’re not supposed to feel antagonisation towards this organisation that saved them, scraped them from the gutter and gave them a new life. They’re not supposed to and yet Hoseok wants to, fingers balled into a fist, nails biting into his skin.

“Don’t, Seok,” voice as steady as it is soft, Namjoon carefully guides Hoseok back into his button-up. “And don’t say it, not here, not now,” Namjoon understands, hears the words Hoseok doesn’t need to say— we need to go, we need to leave, we have to, Joon, we can’t stay here our whole lives. They share another meaningful look before Namjoon tears his gaze away from Hoseok to walk back to his table.

“What happened to your partner?” asks Namjoon, tidying up the mess.

Hoseok steers away from the mirror, can’t stand the sight of him—his hair’s a bit shorter this time around. Another Asset, Jimin, had helped him hack it off. It’s not the best but it’ll make do, for now. It barely hangs just above his shoulders and this is fine. For now.

A lot of things are okay, for now .

“Didn’t make it,” Hoseok thinks back on the mission, another assassination attempt that had ended with his partner shot by a security detail. Hoseok had touched a hand to his face, checked the pulse, and then declared him lost. He’d left with everyone else after that, because you leave away casualties. You leave people who weigh you down.

All of Hoseok’s life has been a series of coming and going, of leaving but never running away.

He wonders just when he can do that, run away.

“Did you know him well?” Namjoon is always careful when it comes to these things. He isn’t allowed to be too loud or else they’ll kick him out—dismiss him or dispose of him, whichever one works best in his handler’s favour.

Hoseok shakes his head.

“Only for a few missions,” a few missions could sometimes span years, but Hoseok’s never really spoken to his partner, never even gotten anything out of him except for the last name he’d told Hoseok in a clipped tone. “When you have to go, you have to go,”

Namjoon looks absolutely pained, the hurt etched in his face.

“I know, Joon, I know,” Hoseok walks over towards him, closes a hand around Namjoon’s and squeezes. “But you don’t have to worry about me,”

“I worry every time you leave, you dumbass,” Namjoon pinches the bridge of his nose. “How did we end up like this?”

In the private, cold medical bay that is Namjoon’s office, Hoseok allows himself to laugh. There is no happiness there, no mirth. It sounds hallow. Namjoon flinches away from it.

“One day, Joon,” Hoseok promises him, voice determined. Like fire and steel and the sound as clear as a gunshot in the dead of the night. “If there’s one thing I can promise you, then it’s this. One day.”

Namjoon only looks away from him, because this is never a conversation they start. Never a conversation they should finish.

“You don’t get to make promises,” Namjoon’s voice is low and quiet. “You only get to do .”

 

vi.

 

It seems as if the ghost wants Hoseok to work for the information he wants to give. It isn’t a problem for Hoseok, who’s been dispatched yet again to Shanghai, all by himself on this rooftop with no backup in sight.

“What, no, ‘How have you been, Hoseok, long time no see?’” says Hoseok, a little trill in his voice as he dodges the kick that goes arcing high up before it comes down, hitting Hoseok square in the chest.

Hoseok stumbles back, the wind knocked out of him, but it isn’t enough. Hoseok has been in plenty of fights before. A gun is an extension to his arm, at this point, and a grenade almost like a best friend. And yet, Hoseok prefers to fight the old fashioned way.

Perhaps it’s because Hoseok enjoys the thrill, loves the dance.

And they are dancing right now, aren’t they? Hoseok moving swiftly to avoid each punch and kick that never seems to connect, because he’s always a step ahead, a step too fast.

That is, until, he sees the ghost lean to the side just the slightest bit, hand a blur of motion as he swipes at the knife strapped to his leg.

Hoseok acts before the knife can connect with skin—or worst, can fly right to his face—and he throttles him. Full on throttles him, hands going tight around his wrists while he sits on top of his chest, a triumphant smile on his face.

There’s a beat of complete silence, three a.m dead and quiet, everyone still asleep, unaware of the scuffle and near death match that had just transpired on the rooftop.

Hoseok stares him down, looks into his eyes, wide and a little too bright, and then he smiles down at him, a curl of a smile that could mean anything but for tonight means it’s his pleasure to finally turn the tables around.

To his complete surprise, he hears a muffled sound and a quiet rumbling from underneath his palm, still pressed on the spot where his heart should be. Belatedly, Hoseok realises that he’s laughing. That the ghost is laughing up at him, a small little laugh that has Hoseok smiling even bigger at him, despite how tired he is, sweat making his hair stick to his forehead, arms and chest and everywhere hurting, ready to bruise ugly tomorrow.

“Hoseok,” he breathes, hand circling around Hoseok’s wrist. “Long time no see.”

It’s been a year since they first met.

The realisation comes to Hoseok quickly and something changes, eyes turning softer, and his laugh much, much more muted as he rolls off of the ghost to help him up, hand reaching down to pull him up to his feet.

When they find their balance again, the ghost turns to him, still with that smile and far-away look in his eyes, like he sees Hoseok but he’s not looking out at the dismal night landscape of one of the seedy parts of town. No, Hoseok looks at him and he wonders if he’s seeing what Hoseok is seeing.

A vast expanse of blue skies and rolling green hills.

“Yoongi,” comes his voice, nearly a whisper. He touches a finger softly to the graze on Hoseok’s cheek. “My name is Min Yoongi.”

Hoseok’s palm comes up to his cheek, pressing into the very same spot that Yoongi had just touched.

“Yoongi,” repeats Hoseok, a little dazed. That’s a beautiful name. To match the face, the smile, god, the laugh. Yoongi had laughed right up at Hoseok and Hoseok had felt at a loss for words.

He still does, now.

“My target will wake up in two hours,” Yoongi tells him easily enough, glancing over his shoulder at the high rise building right across from them.

“That’s an awfully long time,” Hoseok purses his lips. “I know this shitty cafe.”

Yoongi doesn’t respond right away. He takes his time, slipping the knives back into place and the gun under his jacket. Yoongi adjusts the sleeves of his jacket and then loops a thick scarf around his neck.

Just like that, Yoongi the ghost drops away and is replaced with Yoongi. Just Min Yoongi, with the bright eyes and the soft cheeks and a laugh that sounds warm in the middle of winter.

“I love shitty cafes.” says Yoongi, already heading to the little hutch of a door at the edge of the rooftop.

Hoseok walks right by his side, and if their shoulders brush and their fingers touch when Yoongi passes him a shitty coffee at four a.m then Hoseok doesn’t mind.

Coffee with your arch-nemesis right before you tango all over again over who gets to kill the annoying high profile public official from across seems just par the course.

 

vii.

 

The thing is, Hoseok doesn’t quite understand what they have. What they are.

All he knows for a fact is that the ghost’s name is Min Yoongi and Hoseok’s waited a year to know that information.

He also knows that Yoongi likes to take his coffee pitch black and either very cold or scalding hot. Yoongi is always two sides of the extremes—he’s either ready to hurl Hoseok out a window or brush his fingers through his hair and trail them down his scratched up cheek, remnants of when Hoseok had bursts through the window, feet first and with only very minimal wincing.

Another thing Hoseok knows about him is that Yoongi has nightmares.

He finds out about this one particular afternoon, after the diplomat has been eliminated and Yoongi’s failed in his mission to protect. He doesn’t look too bummed about it,  just business as usual. They spent a few extra minutes on the edge of the bed, Hoseok catching his breath while Yoongi just looks at him, with the same dark eyes and the heavy lashes and the soft, soft mouth.

“Do you ever remember them?” asks Yoongi, looking away from Hoseok to sweep a casting glance around the room. Aside from the broken window, the whole place is as the woman had left it.

Hoseok nods, a lump in his throat. “Every single one of them,”

Because it haunts him at night. The dark circles under his eyes are evident of that. Hoseok goes away into his head a lot and when he does, he sees them. Sees the fear in their eyes and the realisation that the one person tasked to protect them has failed. They all take turns. Hundreds of them, by now.

There is remorse inside of him, a guilt that tugs on his chest. On his heart. But it is a feeling that’s been crushed and beaten out of him from a young age.

Never feel sorry. Never apologise. You are steel and gunpowder and fire. You will not succumb.

But Hoseok always does, in his nightmares.

“Me, too,” says Yoongi, fingers clutching tightly on the sheets.

Hoseok notices the strain, the tight press of Yoongi’s mouth. Hoseok covers a hand around Yoongi’s, giving his hand an experimental squeeze.

Yoongi doesn’t rip his grip away from Hoseok which is a good sign.

Hoseok holds onto Yoongi’s hand the whole time they’re in that bedroom, waiting for the sirens, for anyone else to come bursting through the door.

But nobody does. It’s not until the evening that someone will notice her absence. Not until the evening until someone will realise their mistake.

Which is just fine for the both of them, Hoseok thinks. They’ve got a while together, he and Yoongi.

“I’m not going to see you for a while,” says Yoongi, once they’re ready to leave. Hoseok has come out of this fight barely unscathed, except for the scratches on his face that Yoongi always winces at when he looks at him. It makes Hoseok’s lips curl into a tell-tale smile.

“Are you going somewhere?” asks Hoseok, even though he already knows the answer to that, which is nothing.

“Everywhere, Hoseok,” this time, when Yoongi touches his face, it’s flesh to flesh. He’d slipped out of his gloves just for the sole purpose of feeling the warmth rise in Hoseok’s face. His thumb grazes over Hoseok’s cheekbone, the look on his face sad. Wistful. “Don’t go getting yourself in trouble,”

“Without you? Impossible,” and Hoseok grins under Yoongi’s scrutiny, because it’s true. Most of Hoseok’s other missions are a hundred percent success rate. It’s really only when he meets Yoongi on these rooftops and dimly lit hotel rooms that things start to go to hell.

“Stranger things have happened,” Yoongi drops his hand but lets it linger for a few seconds too long just under Hoseok’s ear, resting warmly on the back of Hoseok’s nape.

It’s only through years of severe training that Hoseok suppresses the shiver that runs through him.

“Sure they have.” breathes Hoseok slowly, eyes never once leaving Yoongi’s. Hoseok takes him in, the round cheeks and the slope of his nose. The hair that he wants to run his fingers through. It will be a while since they meet again so Hoseok takes as much as he’s allowed to take and sighs when Yoongi finally drops his hold around Hoseok, a ghost of a smile on his face and a light in his eyes akin to the sunrise.

Hoseok’s always loved sunrises.

 

viii.

 

This mission is one he works with Jimin, Hoseok’s unofficial but really should just be his official partner, because Jimin is capable and he cracks jokes and he likes it when Hoseok cracks jokes himself and when he laughs, the day isn’t so bad. Hoseok likes Jimin.

Jimin, who had started as an agent, a spy that Hoseok himself had trained. Where everyone else used heavy hands and even harsher words, Hoseok had always been gentle and quiet with him, eyes sharp and his words murmured between them because nobody else must know that Hoseok wants this boy to be safe. No one must know.

And nobody does know, because Jimin’s survived training to go off on his own missions. Usually undercover, seldom assassination attempts. Intel, recovery, the like. Hoseok murmurs a prayer every once in a while for that small mercy, for him to be far away from danger.

Danger is for people like Hoseok.

But it seems as if praying has failed him this time around, because when they’re dispatched and given the new objectives of the mission, Hoseok all but starts to feel his blood go cold.

They need to infiltrate a gathering of the world’s top minds—from physicists to politicians to entrepreneurs—during one of the most publicised conventions ever. Infiltrate and bomb it from the inside.

Hoseok feels Jimin tense beside him but otherwise his face is calm. Empty.

They strip out of their tactical gear and slip into something more appropriate for the event, Jimin with his hair perfectly styled, ears glinting with piercings that he’s always had a penchant for.

Hoseok touches a gem and Jimin smiles at him, that same bright smile that he’d smiled when Hoseok had offered him water and a hand up. When Hoseok had taken him to Namjoon’s bay and helped clean him up, watched as Namjoon stitched Jimin back up with careful touches and then patted his arm, because he’s all better now. Because he’s in good, soft hands.

“Are you ready to do this?” whispers Jimin, once they’ve separated from the rest of their team.

They’re posing as part of the press, IDs slung across their necks and their suits pressed to perfection.

If it wasn’t for the fake ID Jimin’s sporting, Hoseok thinks he’d pass off as a public figure. Jimin always stands out in a crowd, with his glittering eyes and his easy smile. He wonders, sometimes, how Jimin even manages to fulfil his end of the mission when everyone can’t seem to take their eyes off of him.

But then Jimin guides them through the crowd with a hand on Hoseok’s back and a smile and a nod for anyone who even looks at them and Hoseok realises that it’s because of how easy his personality is that Jimin’s always successful. Someone who doesn’t always have to do the dirty work but instead ensures that everyone else who does, does it without any hitches.

The whole time, Hoseok keeps an eye out for a familiar sweep of black hair and sharp eyes. He doesn’t actively look for Yoongi, but he still keeps himself on alert. Yoongi had said they wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while and while Hoseok did believe him, there’s no way an operation this big wouldn’t have tipped them off.

But there is no opposing spy to stop them from doing what they’ve been dispatched to do. They set the bomb on timer and then quietly slink out of the venue to join the rest of their team to watch as a portion of the building crumbles down. He and Jimin sit side by side, shoulders and legs pressed together.

Hoseok grips Jimin’s hand in his and Jimin laces their fingers. It is a quiet reprieve.

Even though the mission is a success and their whole team breaks out the drinks and starts celebrating on the whole flight back to base, Hoseok can’t help but situate himself in the farthest corner of the plane, away from the noise and the celebration.

Perhaps he’s disappointed he hadn’t seen Yoongi, a thought that he quickly shakes because he doesn’t know how it would have gone if he did.

Don’t go looking for trouble , Yoongi had said.

Hoseok tips his head back and closes his eyes, tries not to think too hard on how Yoongi is the literal personification of trouble and fails, because Yoongi is. All sharp edges and soft cheeks and cherry stained lips that spells out trouble whenever he so much as quirks them up at Hoseok’s direction.

If he smiles in his sleep and the rest of his team rag him for it back at base, then he doesn’t mind.

 

ix.

 

There comes a day when everything changes. When the tide rolls and the wind blows colder than it ever has before. When the whole game is thrown away, rendered fruitless.

This is that day.

Hoseok and Yoongi, months after their last confrontation.

Yoongi and Hoseok, months after the explosion. The bomb.

They don’t talk, at least not before the mission is completed.

Objective: kill the agent posing as a secretary to one of the world’s leading tech giants.

The way Yoongi slowly drags his gaze away from Hoseok to stare across the street at the man, hair perfectly in place and hands folded in front of him as he trains his eyes at the woman in front of her. He’s here as a secretary but Hoseok knows better. He is a personal bodyguard, an agent that’s gone rogue. One he must dispose of.

“My mission,” says Yoongi, hand drawing up to his gun.

“He’s my mission,” counters Hoseok, still not moving from his spot. There are too many people around this busy street, security swarming the area.

“He’s mine, too,” and there is an acceptance there, a dawning realisation when they both come to the same thing: all they have to do for today is to eliminate the same target.

It’s not hard work but it’s also new.

This is the first time they’ve ever really worked together, side by side instead of fighting each other from the get go. It’s nice. It’s refreshing.

Hoseok’s never really had a partner for long but Yoongi feels just like that. Someone on Hoseok’s right when he needs him to be, but also, most importantly, someone whose six Hoseok has, always on the lookout.

It’s not quick work, though, because the agent catches on to them quick. They corner him in an alleyway and the agent shoots at Yoongi, who ducks and rolls quickly away.

Recognition flashes in the agent’s eyes and Hoseok meets him head on, two guns drawn and already firing.

Hoseok is a quick shot. He is never one to miss his target.

The agent falls.

Hoseok waits, makes sure that he’s well and truly dead, before he rounds back to Yoongi.

“You have to leave,” Yoongi tells him, back against the wall. He’s holding onto his side, hand pressed tightly just above his abdomen.

Hoseok’s heart nearly stops when he sees the red on Yoongi’s hand. How it’s staining his clothes even darker.

“No,” says Hoseok, firm. He reaches a hand out to help press on the same spot, helps ease Yoongi down onto the grimy alley floor.

Yoongi leans his head on Hoseok’s shoulder, eyes closing. His breathing is ragged.

“It doesn’t look like it hit anything vital,” says Hoseok, a false sense of calm in his voice that he thinks Yoongi easily picks up on, because Yoongi smirks up at him.

“What, you a doctor now?” Hoseok bites back the retort that he’s learned from Namjoon a lot. That however sick and twisted it is, Namjoon had walked him through the vital areas for a gun wound. How Hoseok knows just where to aim, even if Namjoon hadn’t given him that quick medical lesson years and years ago. Hoseok always knows where to aim, whether it be by fist or by bullet.

If the agent was a better shot—or if Yoongi was just a breadth slower—then he would’ve hit his abdomen, and it would only be a matter of minutes before Yoongi would slip away.

But he hadn’t.

Instead, they are here, Hoseok’s hands stained red and damp as he presses down on Yoongi’s stomach, tells him again and again that he’s not going anywhere, that he isn’t going to die, not today, not now, not when he’s here.

“Shut up,” says Hoseok, voice trembling while his hands remain completely still over Yoongi’s stomach. “You’re not dying on me,”

Yoongi tilts his head up and looks at Hoseok, forcing himself to focus, eyes glazed and bleary. Yoongi is slipping away.

“You can leave, Hoseok,” whispers Yoongi, voice raspy. “Someone will come for me,”

When Hoseok tells him that he’s better off at a hospital, Yoongi shushes him with lips grazing over the line of Hoseok’s jaw, Yoongi’s wet and sticky hand—blood stained hands, Yoongi’s own blood in his hands, god so much blood—clutching over Hoseok’s.

“Please,” pleads Yoongi this time, a small, sad smile pressing into the crook of Hoseok’s neck. It’s a kiss, almost, and Hoseok burns. He feels himself actually burn. “You said it yourself, I’m not dying today,”

And then, when Hoseok still hasn’t breathed, not an inch, Yoongi does it again, presses a small kiss to Hoseok’s neck, the easiest expanse of skin he’s got access to.

“I promise, Seok,” and even though it breaks Hoseok’s heart to stand and walk away from him, he does, because back-up for Yoongi will be coming in under a minute. They’d been so close Hoseok had heard them talk through the comms, first in perfect Japanese before they shifted to Korean, the voice on the other end urgent, some colourful swear words punctuating his instructions to Yoongi, reassurances that they’re coming, whoever they are.

Hoseok lingers by the mouth of the alley, still looking at Yoongi.

“Seokjin,” he hears Yoongi say, still looking at Hoseok. “ Friend . I’ll be okay.”

It’s all Hoseok needs to hear before he slinks away, heart tight in a fist and his nerves going absolutely haywire.

Hoseok doesn’t sleep at all for three nights because whenever he closes his eyes, all he sees is Yoongi dying in that alleyway, Seokjin too far away and Hoseok already walking away from him.

 

x.

 

Another night where Hoseok barely sleeps, hands fisted in his sheets. Hoseok wakes up drenched in cold sweat.

Jimin’s hand tightens around his shoulder.

It is too quiet in the compound. It can’t be morning, not yet.

Jimin crouches low, whispers something in Hoseok’s ear that’s so quiet, Hoseok can barely hear him, not when his heart is hammering like a drum behind his ribcage.

Hoseok catches Jimin by the wrist and asks him to say it again.

Instead, Jimin just presses a slip of paper into Hoseok’s palm, lifts a finger up to his lips, miming the shhh gesture, and then looks at the door.

Eyes and ears everywhere.

“Sleep, Hoseok,” says Jimin, ruffling his hair before he steps back out into the cold halls of this cold compound. “Good night.”

When he leaves, Hoseok checks his nightstand. It is not even three in the morning yet.

Slowly, Hoseok unfurls the paper and brings it up close to his face to read. There is only neat writing in the middle of it and a very terse message:

YG OK. SOON. - SJ.

While Hoseok doesn’t recognise the handwriting, he does recognise the initials. SJ . Seokjin. The friend Yoongi had mentioned. The friend that saved Yoongi.

Yoongi is safe.

Yoongi is okay.

Hoseok’s heart finally calms down after what seems like a full week of aching. His eyes sting and he realises that they’re brimming with tears, breath coming out in little hitches. Hoseok presses a palm to his chest, closes his eyes tight, and forces himself to breathe. Remembers what Namjoon had taught him, breathing exercises for when things get too much, too hard, too heavy. For when everything falls apart around him and all Hoseok needs is something to hold on to.

His breath steadies.

He burns the letter before he slips back into bed.

There are many more questions he wants to ask, starting with how Seokjin had managed to contact Jimin and ending with what he means by soon , but Jimin’s voice filters into his mind, a gentle good night ringing in his head and wrapping around his finally mending heart, bones so, so tired that he sinks right into bed and falls asleep the second his head hits the pillow.

 

 

Sleep really does wonders. Hoseok wakes up feeling better, head not threatening to crack open and his colour considerably better, if Jimin has anything to say about it.

Jimin drags him out of the compound in the pretence that he be the one to drive him back to his newest assignment, undercover operations as the newest associate in the country’s biggest media company. Hoseok is all too willing to comply, anything to get them out of the compound and into the streets.

The drive to Jimin’s new office takes a good two hours of their time. It’s a little just outside the city but Hoseok doesn’t mind. It’s not all the time that Jimin gets to work so close. Not all the time that their schedules align like this—or, rather, Hoseok’s lack of. He’d been declared unfit for any more operations. Three weeks bed rest and for what—for a mission he had accomplished?

For shock, you idiot , Namjoon had told him sternly, the papers already signed and approved. Hoseok had refused to look at Namjoon, just left him then and there, the door banging to a close behind him.

It’s been four days. Hoseok misses Namjoon.

His fingers tighten around the wheel.

“Jimin,” he starts, because if not now, then when.

Jimin looks at him sideways, cutting himself off from retelling something funny that had happened with another agent at his previous assignment.

“Hoseok,” says Jimin cooly, toying this time with the cuffs of his sleeves. “Something on your mind? I’ve been making stories up for the last thirty minutes and you’re only catching on now?”

Actually, Hoseok hasn’t caught on at all. He was barely listening, just heard glimpses here and there about one agent named Jeongguk who fell face-first when he tripped on a wire, setting the whole office on fire.

“So Jeongguk didn’t blow up the supervisor’s office?”

Jimin laughs, loud and bright, filling up the entire car.

“No, that part was true. You should’ve seen the look on his face, god, priceless,” Jimin has tears in his eyes, shoulders still shaking. “I’d kill to see it happen again,”

The joke doesn’t go over Hoseok’s head and for the first time in a long, long time, Hoseok cracks a smile.

“That’s good,” Jimin tells him, leaning across the centre console to pat his arm. “I hate seeing you mope around, you know that,”

Hoseok nods. He does.

“So, about the—“ here Jimin’s hold around Hoseok’s arm tightens. He squeezes.

Hoseok looks at him, sees Jimin shake his head minutely, and then he sighs.

“I’ll tell you more about Jeongguk’s ridiculous adventures later,” Jimin is speaking in code, and while Hoseok knows that Jeongguk sure as hell is the type to find himself in either the best or worst situations, he also knows that it’s not what Jimin means. What they want to talk about.

They pull up outside Jimin’s new office, a looming skyscraper that has Hoseok looking up, up, up, until the glare of the sun becomes too bright for him.

He walks Jimin up to the front door and Jimin pulls him in for a hug before they leave.

“I know people there,” whispers Jimin, arms tightening around Hoseok’s middle. When Hoseok stiffens, Jimin just rubs his back reassuringly. “They’re good. They’re—friends, if you wanna call it that. I trust them the same way you trust him,”

They’ve never spoken about Yoongi because they know better.

But everything has changed after that back alley disaster.

Hoseok starts to pull away, a thanks already 0n the tip of his tongue but Jimin pulls him back in for a hug, a proper hug now, no more scheming or whispering, just the warmth of a friend and arms around him. Hoseok melts into the hug and feels his eyes stinging again.

He can’t cry, not here, not now.

“I’ll see you in a fortnight,” says Jimin when they finally pull away. “Also, before you go back, check out this cafe, it’s only a few blocks from here. Really good matcha, you’ll love it. I’ll text you the address.”

Jimin’s smile is beatific, face bright.

Hoseok has a weird feeling about this.

 

 

It’s a cafe, alright.

But it’s also boarded up. Rundown is putting it gently.

Still, Hoseok peers into the windows. Sees nothing of interest except for some tables and chairs and a bar that hasn’t seen an order in so long, Hoseok has no idea why Jimin had even sent him here. He’s about to call Jimin, a really annoyed phone call that he hopes will disrupt Jimin’s otherwise wonderful day, but stops when he notices smoke rising from the other side of the cafe.

Hoseok follows it, ducking into an alley to find the backdoor of the cafe. He wiggles the knob and finds it unlocked. That’s weird. Instantly, he is on high alert, one hand on his side where his gun is concealed under his civilian clothes, ready for anything that he may find.

He stalks quietly into the cafe, bypasses the abandoned storefront and heads to the kitchen to find it completely blank and clean. It’s empty except for another door, this one more unassuming, blending into the paint.

Hoseok opens it quietly, unsure of what he’s supposed to find here—god forbid this whole place blow up in his face or else he’ll really haunt Jimin forever— and then stops abruptly when he finds Yoongi leaning on the window, one hand stuck out to throw his cigarette.

“You left the doors unlocked,” is all Hoseok tells him, disbelief colouring his entire face, shaking his bones. Inside, Hoseok is a tidal wave, a storm. Outside, he barely moves, except for the tremor in his hands.

Yoongi glances down at it, noticing it immediately.

“Knew you were coming,” says Yoongi easily. He moves away from the window slowly, steps measured. He’s got a limp, still, and Hoseok wants to chastise him for even moving at all. He should be on bed rest, he shouldn’t be out here, he should—

And then it hits him, what this whole cafe is. The facade. The empty backroom.

This is a safe house.

“I could’ve picked the lock,” sniffles Hoseok finally, shoulders sagging in relief.

Yoongi fixes him coffee, a small smile playing across his face. It’s nice. Yoongi looks a little bit beaten, colour not completely there yet, but aside from the healing gunshot wound and the limp, he looks good as new.

Hoseok winces. Sometimes, he really does lie to himself too much.

But, case in point, Yoongi is beautiful, that will never change.

Yoongi slides the coffee over to his side and Hoseok furrows his brows.

“I was told there’d be green tea,” says Hoseok, a little petulant, and across from him, Yoongi bursts out into laughter.

He laughs so much he clutches at his side and winces.

Hoseok is instantly beside him, arm coming around to steady Yoongi, teeth worrying on his lower lip.

“Everything aches, still,” says Yoongi, patting Hoseok gently on the chest.

Yoongi rests his hand just over Hoseok’s. It’s warm.

Yoongi smells a lot like coffee and cigarettes and underneath that, a brief whiff of cherries.

Hoseok doesn’t understand why he could be smelling of cherries instead of the hospital but he doesn’t mind, not really, not when Yoongi’s smiling at him, obviously holding himself back from laughing again.

“You’re okay,” Hoseok lets out the breath that he’s been holding for a hundred years. His chest expands and he feels at ease, like the mission is finally over and he’s achieved his objective.

“I told you I would be,” counters Yoongi easily, still with that easy smile. While he looks like he’s seen better days, Hoseok has never seen Yoongi like this—swimming in a sweater that’s too big on him and looking cosy, cheeks pink. He doesn’t seem to be armed, too, which is a surprise but one Hoseok holds close to his chest. “D’you trust me now?”

Instead of answering, Hoseok just turns them around slightly, smiling down quickly before he ducks his head to kiss Yoongi, quick and soft and a long fucking time coming.

Yoongi kisses him back, hand tightening around Hoseok’s before he laces their fingers together. It’s glorious and Hoseok wants, for the first time in such a long time, he wants something so much.

When they pull apart, Yoongi is practically falling into Hoseok’s arms and that’s fine, that’s perfect, Hoseok notes that he fits right in, that there’s nowhere Hoseok would rather be than in this safe house dressed as an abandoned cafe. Nowhere else.

Hoseok cups Yoongi’s cheek and Yoongi leans into the touch, eyes fluttering close, and his cherry lips stretching into a lazy and languid smile.

“Yoongi,” whispers Hoseok into Yoongi’s hair, lips pressing to his forehead. “I’d be a fool not to trust you.”

 

xi.

 

They don’t go to where the skies are vast and blue or where the mountains are green and beautiful. Instead, they go to a stream, just at the outskirts of town. A few hours drive from the compound and far enough for now.

There are no civilians here, just the quiet blowing of the wind and the trees swaying with it, dancing to a song that nature’s always sung.

Hoseok leans his head against Yoongi’s shoulder, eyes closing.

Yoongi loops an arm around Hoseok’s middle and they stay quiet like that, just sitting in front of the stream as the summer sun sets behind them. For all the day had been uneventful, it was also nice. Wonderful.

It’s all too easy to sneak out of base when you’re a spy of their calibre. All too easy to go unnoticed. And make no mistake, Hoseok is always vigilant, always on the lookout. He’d scoped the perimeters of the area before they’d settled in, before they’d declared it safe. Safe enough .

It’s as good as it’s going to get, and while it’s not the mountains and the ocean and the long stretch of road that Hoseok often dreams of, whenever his brain gives him reprieve from all the nightmares, for now, it is more than enough.

“How are you?” asks Yoongi, carding through Hoseok’s hair. He’s breathing better, now. The gut wound properly healing, his ribs not aching anymore with every breath.

Hoseok likes it. Likes how he’s seen Yoongi recover like this. Likes the glow and the colour and the life on his face. Hoseok likes looking at Yoongi. Being with Yoongi.

“Not so bad, actually,” says Hoseok, opening his eyes to look up at Yoongi. It’s a good view. God, it’s the best fucking view and Hoseok wonders if this is alright, if this is normal—he feels so much, wants too much, it’s ridiculous, but hand to god, he’s never felt this way before.

Yoongi bends down low to brush their lips together.

This is a good spot, too, Hoseok with his head on Yoongi’s lap while Yoongi brushes through his hair, peppers kisses to his forehead, the tip of his nose, his cheeks, and then to just the very edge of his mouth. Yoongi kisses like he’s pressing secrets against Hoseok’s skin, secrets whispered in the dark and away from prying eyes. Secrets that sound a lot like promises and wishful thinking.

Hoseok holds on to every one, listens as Yoongi tells him about a dog that he used to have, and an older brother that he had to leave behind. Yoongi tells him everything in a voice so soft that Hoseok wonders if he’s dreaming this whole thing, because that’s what it feels to him. A blissful, beautiful dream.

“I think I had a sister,” says Hoseok, reaching a hand up to the sky, palm stretching out, as high as it can go.

Yoongi catches his hand and slips his fingers through the spaces between Hoseok’s, brings the hand up to his mouth and kisses it, lingering for a beat longer as Hoseok smiles at a distant memory of a sister that he thinks he had, that he barely remembers but still fills his heart with warmth.

“I think I owe Jimin, too,” Hoseok watches as Yoongi plays with his fingers, a thoughtful expression on his face. “He did deliver your message,”

Yoongi scrunches his nose, brows furrowed. “I told Seokjin it would be dangerous,”

“Everything always is, Yoongi,” says Hoseok, not too harshly. He means it as a matter of fact thing but still, Yoongi winces. “But we’re fine, now. It had—it had been okay,”

“Okay,” Yoongi tests the word out, says it again in a lower voice, under his breath, before his lips curl into a smile that Hoseok loves, a smile that looks like sunrise breaking across the sky. You can’t just look away from the sunrise. “Yeah, I guess we owe them for that,”

And just like that, they talk of their friends, Namjoon and Jimin, and Seokjin, who’d nearly wanted to murder Yoongi for almost getting himself killed in that alley. Hoseok talks of a younger boy, too young to go on his own missions, one Jeongguk that Jimin’s extremely fond of, and Yoongi counters that with another one in his division, someone in the research department that seems to be just as fond of Jimin.

“His name is Taehyung and whenever I leave, he gets this really sad look on his face,” Yoongi copies Taehyung’s expression, brows furrowed and a puppy dog frown that turns into a pout, one that Hoseok laughs at as he pushes himself up on his elbows, head shaking. “Really hard to say no to that face,”

Hoseok laughs with Yoongi, and they kiss again, stolen little kisses that keep Hoseok’s heart beating, loud and proud and strong in his ribcage.

“Leave and take him with you,” says Hoseok, hand looping around Yoongi’s neck to pull him down to the grass beside him.

Yoongi tumbles into Hoseok’s arms, supporting himself before he comes crashing against him. He lowers himself down easily enough, the tips of their noses brushing, and Yoongi’s smile amused, open.

“Take them all with you,” Hoseok noses against Yoongi’s neck, feeling Yoongi’s eyelashes flutter against his cheeks. “Let’s do that. I’ll bring Joon and Jimin, and Jeongguk because Jimin never wants to go anywhere without him these days,”

And because Hoseok owes it to them, these young boys who are not supposed to be fit for this life. These young boys who have so much left for them. Hoseok refuses to stand idly by as the world continues to swallow them whole, darkness and destruction and red, so much red all the goddamn time.

“Hope is a very dangerous thing,” says Yoongi finally, sagging against Hoseok’s chest. But he’s smiling, almost, and Hoseok smiles at that, too. Smiles at the note of wistfulness in Yoongi’s tone, at how warm he is, at how the sunset has coloured their little stream orange and golden and red. This is the kind of red that Hoseok likes to see. “Dangerous, but beautiful. Are you going to make me hope for this, Jung Hoseok?”

It’s playful, the lilt in Yoongi’s tone.

Hoseok pinches Yoongi's side, bites playfully at the shell of his ear and laughs right next to him.

God, Hoseok is so, so happy.

“I’ll tear the whole world apart for you, Yoongi,” laughs Hoseok into Yoongi’s side, and Yoongi holds him through it, hand slipping under Hoseok’s shirt to trace circles on the small of his back.

“Not before we get to see it, I hope,” and when Hoseok looks at Yoongi, he can see it, the flicker of hope and something else in his eyes, something strange and powerful and beautiful.

For the first time in his life, Hoseok sees all the things that could be. He sees an after .

It’s not an if anymore, now it is a when.

When they run away. When they go see the world.

After they run away. After they sail across the sea.

It is a beautiful feeling that makes Hoseok soar.

“Not before we see it.” confirms Hoseok, kissing Yoongi with a smile on his face and a laugh bubbling in his heart.

Yoongi slips his fingers through Hoseok’s hair and kisses him back, and it is all Hoseok can taste, the whens, and the afters, and the hope that sparks like fire in his chest, keeping him warm, warm, warm .

 

xii.

 

There is no room to be careless because they’re both highly trained and highly secretive assassins for two opposing criminal organisations.

So they don’t slip, especially after the last incident.

If anything, they’re more careful around each other, never letting the pretence go because they can’t drop it, not when they know that they’ve got people watching them, waiting on their every command, hanging on to each word. It’s difficult, but they manage.

This one mission isn’t too hard, actually. Just a short scuffle that led them both up to the roof. It’s more for show than anything, now. Hoseok never really wants to hit Yoongi and Yoongi doesn’t want to hit him, either.

Perhaps it’s been this way for a long time but they’ve never said it out loud. They never do.

This is a moment of vulnerability. Something raw and tangible that they can both claw at, hands closing around it at the same time. It is magnificent.

But they’re both extremely competitive and while they don’t hurt each other anymore, they still don’t let up. Because a mission is a mission.

The mission will always come first, a mantra that Hoseok’s been saying over and over again since he can even begin to remember when. An echo of memories in his mind and the first thing he will ever bring to the surface is this—the mission always comes first, everything else is just secondary.

“How are you?” asks Yoongi after they’ve fixed themselves up and Yoongi’s gotten the files he’d infiltrated the supposedly secure office for (and it wasn’t all that secure, not really, but maybe that’s more of a testament to how good they are rather, so.).

Hoseok was supposed to act as a deterrent to him and he tried, he really did. Locked the doors and tried to push Yoongi away but all it had taken was a curl of Yoongi’s lips and a hand to Hoseok’s wrist and he was sent flying to the other end of the room.

Hoseok had fallen onto the couch. Yoongi is not only irritating, but he’s also got perfect aim. Hoseok hates him for it.

“You threw me across the room,” squawks Hoseok, indignant.

Yoongi just rolls his eyes at him. He slides the files into his bag, securing it behind him and then walks back to where Hoseok’s still on the couch. Yoongi walks towards him like a cat prowling in the dark.

Hoseok reaches for him before Yoongi can do the same to him, arms stretching until Yoongi falls into him, sharp knee against Hoseok’s stomach and Yoongi’s lips on his cheek, a proper hello that they press close and tight for each other, for this small space in time.

“You know this is going to get ridiculous from here on out, right?” asks Yoongi, looking up at Hoseok.

They’re so comfortable right now, the alarms successfully disabled and the both of them pressed in the corner of this plush couch, legs tangled and Yoongi half-laying on top of Hoseok. It’s good. It’s a—it’s a false sense of normalcy, at playing at something they’re not supposed to be—civilians, friends, partners, what else —but it is something Hoseok needs. He suspects Yoongi needs it, too, because he always gives in, always melts into his touch and curls up against Hoseok much like how a cat would.

“D’you wanna talk about this?” Hoseok trails fingers over Yoongi’s back, nails scratching against leather.

“No,” bites back Yoongi, head pillowed on Hoseok’s chest. And then, after a moment, “Maybe, maybe we should. I don’t intend on losing to you,”

“You won’t jeopardise my mission,” confirms Hoseok just as easily, because he knows what he’s here for. Albeit he’d failed spectacularly this time around. Just another thing to be yelled at. Nothing new, really.

“Just say you like being roughed up,” Yoongi is teasing, laugh obvious in the way he smiles and the way his eyes twinkle. He reaches up and pinches Hoseok’s cheek. “But you’re not hurt, are you?”

Yoongi voice is gentle, so achingly sweet Hoseok can just close his eyes and imagine them far away. Blue skies and rolling green hills. The rev of an engine and the sound of the radio coursing through their veins as the wind whips their hair into their faces. Hoseok can just—he can just taste it, the sunshine, the fresh air.

“No,” says Hoseok, honest enough. He’d been tossed to a couch and hardly made a squeak. Sure, it was unbecoming of someone of his calibre, but barely anything to make a fuss about. “Do you ever wanna go away?”

This is something that Hoseok whispers, lips brushing against Yoongi’s forehead. They’re both still, neither one of them moving. Hoseok doesn’t want to jostle the moment. He wants to stay here forever, on the couch in a dimly lit room, with Yoongi on top of him and humming contentedly. The top secret files stuffed in Yoongi’s backpack and the innumerable weapons strapped to them are merely minor details that can be overlooked easily.

“I wanna go see the sky, Seok,” Yoongi tells him, kissing up Hoseok’s jaw. “Wanna drive down a long road. Wanna listen to shitty pop music with you while we do all that,”

“I’m not one for hiking,” laughs Hoseok, his heart almost full to bursting because Yoongi had read his mind. Yoongi wants what he wants and it’s crazy, absolutely fucking crazy for Hoseok to feel this way about someone, not after all his years of training, all the years in the compound of being conditioned not to fraternise, not to really enjoy anything, not to laugh, most of all not to touch with gentle hands. God, would his handler be furious at him now.

Yoongi nips playfully at him, a kiss too quick Hoseok doesn’t catch it. “You say that but you also scale twenty story buildings and crash through windows, so I really don’t know what to believe here,”

“Well, that’s a mission,” which is another way of saying, that’s not really what I want.

Yoongi hears the words without Hoseok saying them, because he lifts himself up on his elbows to look at Hoseok, fingers brushing Hoseok’s fringe out of his eyes.

“The mission comes first,” says Yoongi, a little sadly, and smiles a smile that Hoseok had first seen on the ghost.

It breaks his heart, kinda.

Actually, it breaks his heart, a lot. A whole fucking lot.

Hoseok tightens his hold around Yoongi’s middle, presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth, and sighs, “The mission comes first.”

 

xiii.

 

Hoseok’s first stop after a particularly boring mission is to go and see Namjoon, heart still hammering from the conversation that he’d had with Yoongi just a few days ago.

Namjoon avoids his eyes, though, tries to busy himself and Hoseok knows that it is fear that runs through his veins, fear not for himself but for his friends.

“Joon, you have to listen to me,” hisses Hoseok, rounding Namjoon’s table.

Namjoon only looks up from his  chart, one agent or someone else Hoseok doesn’t know. The name rings no bells.

“Hoseok, if you’re going to—if you’re going to bring that up again then don’t,” Namjoon’s stuck here as much as Hoseok is, and god does Hoseok regret that so much. Hates how Namjoon has no choice in any of this but can’t leave, because he knows too much, has seen too much.

Hoseok isn’t allowed to leave, too. Defecting sounds like a wonderful option but Hoseok doesn’t want to trade one kind of nightmare for another, it’s just like getting sick all over again, fighting a war you don’t believe in, not when Hoseok has been on both sides, has held a gun to someone’s head and been on the receiving end of it.

“I know someone,” Hoseok assures him, hands coming around to grip Namjoon’s arm. He squeezes gently, reassuringly, trying to get him to listen, because Namjoon is stubborn the same way Hoseok is. Perhaps this is why they always butt heads but at the same time get along wonderfully. “I know someone, Joon, and we can do it,”

“And Jimin?” Namjoon is fond of the younger boy. Hoseok is, too. Had seen Jimin’s growth and progress over the years. Jimin has the kind of potential that this organisation will hold on to, no matter what. Jimin and Hoseok, they’re both assets, and anyone would be stupid to let go of these assets.

“We’ll take him with us,” Hoseok will not give up on this. He’s seen the look on Jimin’s face when he thinks nobody’s looking at him. Heard him sigh, resigned to this. “We’ll take him before he—“ and the words die in his throat because everyday Jimin is out there risking his life for a cause he doesn’t believe in, a cause that’s been drilled to his flesh and his bones and his very being, his spirit.

Hoseok will blow the whole compound up before they can even so much as touch a perfectly styled strand of hair on Jimin’s head.

“You say that now but you’ve got a thick dossier waiting for you,” Namjoon’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Where am I going?” Hoseok hates going too far away, hates how debriefing always goes.

“Far,” confirms Namjoon, hand squeezing around Hoseok’s wrist. “You be safe,”

Hoseok wants to tell him that of course he will be. He’s been doing this for years. For most of his life. He’s allowed to be confident. But Hoseok never makes false assurances. Never makes promises he isn’t sure he can keep.

“Come back home, okay?” Namjoon walks him out of the office, still with that pained smile around in his eyes. “You have to, or else there’s no getting out of here.”

This is the first time Namjoon’s ever agreed to this plan.

Hoseok’s eyes widen.

Namjoon pushes him out of the office and Hoseok stumbles into the hallway.

The walk back to his quarters isn’t as miserable, but flipping through the dossier proves otherwise. It’s as if a boulder has settled in the pit of his stomach.

His next mission is a high profile one. Some nuclear physicist that’s traveling by land across the desert, somewhere stateside.

Hoseok goes down the supposed security detail. A small group for this covert mission, the fewer people the better, less attention that way.

There’s no mistaking the blurry photos attached to the end of the file. It’s a sideways photo, hair in his face and a mask pulled up to his nose but there’s no missing the set of the shoulders and the gait.

No name, no other identifying information except for the label: Ghost .

But Hoseok will know Yoongi wherever he goes, there is no mistaking it.

Hoseok’s hands tremble when he puts the file back down.

 

xiv.

 

He has a team of six for this mission.

Briefing goes smoothly and everyone understands what they have to do.

The mission comes first, Hoseok repeats to himself, hand nervously clenching and unclenching into a fist.

Nobody seems to notice, or if they do, then they know better than to ask.

Some of his team Hoseok’s worked with for years already while the other half he’s known through training. For some of them, this is their first mission.

For Hoseok, it is almost do or die.

They catch up to the physicist and her security detail easily enough. They are intercepted at a turn on the cliffside, a blindspot.

Hoseok’s team is out of the car before it comes to a full stop. Hoseok is not far behind.

Bullets rain down on the car and it does not give for the first few moments before a window finally shatters just as all the tires are popped.

The first out of the vehicle is an agent Hoseok does not know. He tries to catalogue the face, young, with no fear in his eyes. This is not what Seokjin or Taehyung looks like, Hoseok knows, he just knows, and by god he is relieved to know that they are not here, but Hoseok’s heart still stammers when the agent falls, leaving only the physicist and the ghost in the car.

His team stops firing just as the agent drops to the ground.

Hoseok steps forward, doesn’t even have to look over his shoulder to know that they will be taking the backseat, now. They’d talked this through already, they understand their instructions.

Hoseok makes it all the way to the halfway point before Yoongi emerges from the vehicle, face unreadable and a rifle already drawn, raised at the perfect point for a very precise and effective headshot. The physicist hides behind him, a small woman that Yoongi hides easily enough behind him.

But they are outnumbered and outgunned and Hoseok knows this is a suicide mission, he knows.

Still, Hoseok does not give anything away. His hand moves before Yoongi can even anticipate it, firing just under his ear. It does not even graze Yoongi but it does hit the physicist, but it’s not a fatal wound, she merely stumbles.

It is all the opening Hoseok needs.

He gets a better shot at her now that she’s moved, more in the open and away from Yoongi. She falls easily enough, white dress pants soaking through with blood. So much red.

It all happens so quick that Yoongi barely even moves.

They stare each other down, Hoseok’s hand moving to lower the gun, and it’s as if he’s forgotten the rest of his team behind him, forgotten just where they are, who he is. Forgotten that the ghost is Min Yoongi. Hoseok has forgotten who they are supposed to be and his walls fall just as he hears the sound of footfalls, quick and impossibly loud in Hoseok’s ears, a drum that echoes and bangs around his head.

They chase after Yoongi, who miraculously has dodged the first wave of fire. But there is nowhere else to run here, not when there is only the closed off road and a cliff. He could steal their car but one of the agents could easily shoot the tires out.

There is no escape and Hoseok feels like he’s about to get sick.

Yoongi falters just by the cliffside and for the first time since they’ve both arrived, he looks Hoseok in the eyes.

There is no hope, there is only grim determination and then something that Hoseok has never seen before.

Fear .

Three things happen in quick succession:

First, Hoseok runs. He runs towards Yoongi before his strike team can get close to him and he throws himself at Yoongi, the both of them grappling on the desert floor before he manages to wrestle both of Yoongi’s guns out of his hands.

Second, with steel cold determination, Hoseok turns around and fires at his team, picking them off one by one, and when his pistols run empty, he drops it quickly and substitutes it with a knife that he pulls right out of a sheathe strapped to Yoongi’s leg. Thrown with perfect accuracy, it hits the target and the last one falls, all of his team gone and dismantled quickly. Hoseok does not even have a scratch on him.

Third, Hoseok jumps off of Yoongi and looks down at him, a little frenzied and his heart beating a thousand miles a minute. Yoongi slowly gets to his feet, hands trembling, and his breathing going shaky.

They are in the clear before a shriek pierces the air and someone from Hoseok’s team lurches himself at Hoseok. Yoongi tosses Hoseok to the side and the agent slams into Yoongi, sending the both of them rolling to the edge of the cliff.

Yoongi manages to flip the agent over his shoulder and off the cliff but not before the agent manages to grab at his leg, pulling Yoongi down with him.

Hoseok yells, he actually yells, composure long broken as he throws himself to the edge of the cliff.

Yoongi is hanging on but barely, fingers quickly slipping. The agent is nowhere to be found but that does not matter. All that matters is that Yoongi is still here, hanging on to dear life.

“I told you,” anger and venom seep through Hoseok’s tone, but not at Yoongi. Never at Yoongi. “You’re not dying on me.”

Hoseok pulls Yoongi back up and away from the cliff.

They are away from the edge and safe, surrounded by the bodies of Hoseok’s former team.

Hoseok allows himself to finally breathe and it is a relief to take in air and look at the sky above them. This was never how he wanted to see it, never under these circumstances.

Yoongi is quicker beside him, easily getting up to his feet and stalking to each of the fallen agents, stopping to make sure that they’re all down and gone. When he makes sure that none of them are going to be getting back up again, Yoongi walks back over to Hoseok. He looks angry. Absolutely fucking livid.

“That’s your team,” seethes Yoongi, glaring at Hoseok. That is a fact, sure. Hoseok has known some of them for years while the others he does not even have a first name of. Agents are dispensable. Assets are not. “God, what if they find out. Goddammit, Hoseok, that was fucking reckless and stupid—“

“It doesn’t fucking matter,” Hoseok had used Yoongi’s gun and his knives for this very reason, just to be meticulous, to cover everything just in case. Everything might have happened quickly but Hoseok always thinks quicker than the situation calls for. This is the only reason he’s stayed alive for this long. “I couldn’t let them kill you,”

To his surprise, Yoongi pushes at his chest. Not to hurt but to shock. There is anger and scorn and viscous hissing that Hoseok’s never once seen in him. The look in Yoongi’s eyes is the complete opposite of how Hoseok had found him that first time, cold and sharp. Now, Yoongi is all blunt edges and fury.

“Better me than you,” says Yoongi through gritted teeth, fists tightening around Hoseok’s front. “Tell me you understand that, tell me now,”

Hoseok lets Yoongi be angry with him because now that it’s over, Hoseok is starting to feel it, too. No shame or embarrassment for what he’d done but fear for what comes after this.

“I don’t regret it,” murmurs Hoseok, barely moving. He lets Yoongi grip at his collar tighter, watches his knuckles turn white and his eyes stare up at him with ivory and fire. But there is no more fight left in Hoseok, not now, not when it comes to Yoongi. “You don’t get it—“

“What don’t I understand here?” repeats Yoongi, finally dropping his hold on Hoseok. But neither of them move, only stare each other down. “That you’re a reckless goddamn idiot who would rather jeopardise his own mission, his safety for someone like me?”

“Someone like you?” shoots Hoseok back, and his voice must finally rise higher because that gets another reaction out of Yoongi. He looks like Hoseok’s just shaken him by the shoulders.

“Your mission,” says Yoongi, voice as cold as steel now. It feels like Hoseok is talking to the ghost all over again and he hates it, hates how Yoongi’s face is slowly slipping into a blank slate. “Your safety.”

“I love you,” this time, Hoseok’s voice falls, quiet and afraid and like he’s just revealed his biggest secret. “Yoongi, I’m in love with you and you can’t just expect me to—what, just watch as they took you down?”

Yoongi breathes in sharply.

The next thing that Yoongi says is enough to break Hoseok’s heart. It’s as if he’s taken a sledgehammer against it and just started swinging.

“Hoseok, you don’t mean that,” there is no more anger in Yoongi’s voice, no more fire in his eyes, there is only this—aching and empty.

“I do, is the thing,” a laugh bubbles out of Hoseok. It doesn’t even reach his eyes and he feels cold for it but he laughs, anyway, because everything is fucking ridiculous and he’d never expected this, not today, not here, of all places. “And I’m not sorry for it, not if it’s you, Yoongi,”

There is nothing to be sorry about. Hoseok’s secret had been the name of this fluttering in his chest, this warmth that’s seeped all over him ever since he’d met Yoongi. This is his one greatest secret and Yoongi has it tight in a fist. Hoseok feels like he’s just been sucker punched. Like he’s broken.

“The mission comes first,” it is a mantra, now. Yoongi repeats it again and it hurts just like a slugger to his gut.

Hoseok looks at Yoongi and he wonders just when his mission had changed from objective : kill and destroy to objective : protect at all costs . But the when does not matter, now. All that matters is that it’s happened.

“Maybe my mission has changed,” Hoseok smiles and it hurts, it actually physically hurts and his ribs ache whenever he so much as breathes in—one of the agents must’ve hit him hard right here, right under where his heart should be, and Hoseok had barely registered it, had been so focused and set on his mission. Protect Min Yoongi. Keep him alive, whatever it takes.

The way Yoongi is looking at Hoseok is enough to break his heart all over again because Yoongi looks at him like it hurts, like he’s just one gust of wind away from being blown to absolute pieces.

“You’re looking at me like that and—“ Hoseok gestures vaguely, knees finally buckling underneath him. He crumples to the sand and he shakes his head, forcing the words to come out. “And it’s breaking my heart, yeah?”

Yoongi walks over to him, each footstep echoing loudly in the emptiness surrounding them. When Yoongi finally reaches down to touch Hoseok, it is with impossibly gentle hands. He runs his thumb across Hoseok’s cheek, fingers pressing in softly before they slip under his chin, tilting his head up so that they’re looking eye to eye.

“Oh, Hoseok,” Yoongi’s voice is quiet, soft. He kneels down in front of Hoseok and presses their foreheads together. He matches Hoseok’s breathing, a steady inhale and exhale that has the world turning right in its axis again. “If it comes down to it, it’s better me than you. God, I fucking hope it’s never going to be you.”

It sounds like a confession, reverent and solemn.

It sounds like a prayer.

 

xv.

 

There is no celebration, no heroes welcome. Hoseok had lost all of his team to the ghost.

But he does not get reprimanded for that, it is not his fault they had been incapable. Inadequate.

“You are the best of us,” says one of his handlers, hand to his shoulder, squeezing. “You are built to succeed, always,”

They don’t know that it was not the ghost who had killed his team of carefully chosen and highly trained assassins. It had been Hoseok himself. But they do not need to know that. They will never know of that.

“We only expect maximum results.” says another one, somewhere to his left. This one nods at him, gesturing his dismissal.

Before Hoseok turns to leave, he nods, too, and murmurs, as he always has after every debriefing and mission report, “The mission comes first.”

Only this time, Hoseok’s mission has changed.

He doesn’t think it’ll ever change back

Some things you just hold on to forever, it seems. Even when it breaks your fucking heart.

 

 

Neither one of them asks Hoseok just what had happened because they understand.

That night, Jimin slips into Hoseok’s room with a cup of hot chocolate and a fuzzy warm blanket that he wraps around both their shoulders.

Namjoon comes, too, bringing with him a nice little fever patch that he slaps on Hoseok’s forehead, because Hoseok’s caught himself the fever after everything that’s happened, and he doesn’t know whether he’s freezing from the fever or if he’s just never stopped trembling after the mission.

Jimin leaves the blanket with Hoseok, wrapping it around him and carding his fingers through Hoseok’s hair, lips pursed thoughtfully.

They don’t really bring the topic up for discussion and for a second, Hoseok is thankful, they understand. But for the rest of the night he wishes that they would talk about it because Yoongi is the kind of story that deserves to be told, only information is as important as keeping quiet, in their line of work, and so Hoseok keeps it to himself.

The less his friends know about Yoongi, the safer they’ll be.

Hoseok falls asleep with the sensation of Jimin’s fingers in his hair and Namjoon’s voice low in his ear, quiet reassurance that he will get through tonight just fine.

And the thing is, Hoseok does, but that still doesn’t promise anything about all the nights after.

 

xvi.

 

The next time Hoseok sees Yoongi, they are a little bit more stateside again. Hoseok’s tactical gear makes the weather more stifling than it has to be. Everything about this mission is wrong, wrong, wrong .

Hoseok sees Yoongi perched just on the fire escape, a sniper’s little hideaway a few buildings away from his target.

There are no words traded between them because Hoseok doesn’t even climb up to the rooftop, but still, he knows that Yoongi sees him, feels a prickling on the back of his neck that tells him that there are eyes on him.

And yet, Hoseok leaves.

He drops all that he has and turns around.

Ever since Hoseok’s objective has changed, he’s found that it is surprisingly easy to turn around and walk away from him, because Hoseok would rather leave than have to fight him again, even if it is just for pretend.

Hoseok comes back to base and there is a moment of terse silence as his handlers look at him during mission report, eyes wide before they narrow suspiciously.

“Mission report,” says one of them, an order, not a request.

Hoseok squares his shoulders.

“Enemy agent was there before I even arrived,” says Hoseok, which is the truth. He does not lie, and if he does, then he says it easily. They’ll never know. “Possibly tipped off hours ahead. Target was dead when I got there,”

The target was very much alive when Hoseok got there but that’s not for them to know, it is something between Hoseok and Yoongi, who had seen him, who had watched him walk away from his mission.

“Asset,” the word comes out like a double edged sword from his handler’s mouth. She taps her fingers on the cold steel of the table. “What can you tell us about the enemy agent?"

“He is a ghost story,” is all Hoseok says, no inflection in his tone and barely a look of recognition in his eyes.

He gets punished for his failure, of course he does, and Namjoon and Jimin try to make things better when Hoseok’s stuck in confinement, Jimin with his secretly coded letters and Namjoon with his blankets and warm hands and even warmer hugs.

Hoseok refuses to see them both all the same.

 

xvii.

 

While this organisation values their assets, they are also no fools.

They keep a sharper eye on Hoseok on his next few missions, always tags him with a partner who is on him like a hawk. But never Jimin or Jeongguk, though, and Hoseok murmurs a small prayer whenever it’s someone he doesn’t know, whenever they make contact with enemy agents that isn’t Yoongi, or Yoongi’s Seokjin or Taehyung.

He’s out with an agent who’s got tenure as close to him, someone by the name of Agent Lee that he barely even talks to. When Hoseok gets shot at the shoulder and gets bodily thrown out of a window and crashes on a rooftop in the next building over—several floors from where he’d fallen—Agent Lee finishes the job quickly and then flings herself out of the Hoseok-shaped hole from the window, easily landing on her feet and administering quick aid to the gunshot wound.

Everything else she cannot help him with, but Hoseok feels her sticky fingers in his hair, sees her face surrounded by a halo of light, and sees her normally impassive and blank face contorting in shock and pain.

“Jung Hoseok, you will stay conscious,” she all but hisses to him, one hand on her ear as she gives orders in rapid French, calling for whoever else is on their team to come and to make it quick.

Hoseok tries to stay as conscious, tries to keep himself awake, and the whole time she holds his head in her hands and presses her lips into a thin line, a hardness in her shoulders and a furrow in her eyebrows that don’t let up until Hoseok slips into darkness. He feels incredibly guilty for it and plans on apologising to her as soon as he wakes up, and a little part of his brain snorts.

If he wakes up.

 

 

So, Hoseok is dramatic, even in the face of death.

He eventually wakes up but it’s days after the incident, every bone in his body aches and he can barely breathe without sending a cold chill through his bones. Even that, Hoseok is careful of doing.

Namjoon is next to him as soon as Hoseok opens his eyes.

Jimin doesn’t come visit him immediately. He is away on his own recon mission and Hoseok is almost thankful that he doesn’t have to look at the disappointment in Jimin’s eyes trying to war with the relief that he’s alright. Hoseok’s never liked being a burden to anyone.

Hoseok doesn’t expect any visitors but Agent Lee is there all the same, hair pulled tight into a bun and her eyes dark as she surveys him on the bed.

“He’s not dead,” says Namjoon, looking over Hoseok’s aching everything to catch her gaze.

She nods at him, “Good, or else I would’ve killed him myself,”

And that is enough, for now.

They’d started at just around the same time. Went through the same rounds of training. And while they’ve never really spoken to each other a whole lot, there is still camaraderie between them all the same.

Agent Lee leaves him in Namjoon’s care.

Hoseok reaches for Namjoon’s hand and Namjoon takes his, carefully, gingerly, afraid of hurting Hoseok.

But his hand is okay and it feels so much when Namjoon covers his hand over Hoseok’s, when he squeezes on their clasped hands.

“What did they say?” asks Hoseok, hating the rasp in his voice. His head is still light, like he’s lost too much blood (he has).

“You’re out of commission for three months,” says Namjoon, staring straight at Hoseok. “They’ve put you on medical,”

Hoseok turns his head away from Namjoon and closes his eyes. Every breath rattles inside of him, like a storm that blows the shutters out in a rickety old house, haunted by the echo of distant memories and warmth that Hoseok had known, a voice and a song that his heart can sing to, can dance to.

“Three months, huh,” Hoseok’s hand slacks in Namjoon’s hold.

Namjoon tightens his hand around Hoseok’s and nods.

“Three months.” confirms Namjoon, and Hoseok doesn’t understand if the bursting sensation in his chest is supposed to be relief or disappointment.

Perhaps, this time around, it is both.

 

xviii.

 

Hoseok is out for three months. They put him in a safe house, one that’s miles and miles outside of the city and near a seaside front.

Hoseok can taste the ocean every time the wind so much as blows.

This house is undetected, tucked quietly with the rest of the houses of this neighbourhood. Nobody even bats an eye at him because this is how sleepy seaside towns work.

Hoseok isn’t fully functional or perfectly healed, at least, not yet. He still wears a sling around his arm and there are bruises littered across his chest and his torso and scratches on his neck and his face—not to mention his ribs and his stomach and god, why must everything hurt weeks after he’s supposed to be all better and ready to start rehabilitation? Why .

Namjoon comes to visit him every few days with supplies but mostly it is all pretence to check up on Hoseok.

Most of the time, it is Jeongguk who keeps Hoseok company. The nervous younger boy who hasn’t gone out on his own missions yet and is now stuck on babysitting duty to one of the organisation’s Assets. Boy, must he be loving this.

“I told you, you can go,” says Hoseok, shooing Jeongguk away.

Jeongguk frowns at him. “I was given explicit instructions to stay and keep a watch on you,” and then, after a little while, “To make sure you’re okay,”

Hoseok can do that just fine. He waves Jeongguk off towards the door again.

Jeongguk is harmless, Hoseok knows this. Jimin trusts him and by extension, Hoseok does, too.

But Hoseok’s already cooped up in this house (that had been his choice. He’d thrown a pin on a map and said, I want that one when asked just which safe house he wanted to spend the next three months in. It is only the organisation’s trust in him that all this is possible. Hoseok still gets away with so, so much.), he doesn’t want Jeongguk to have to suffer on his account.

“I’ll be back with Jimin this weekend, then,” Jeongguk finally relents, bag swung over his shoulder. Before he leaves, Jeongguk sweeps the perimeter. Double checks on supplies and then lingers again by the door.

Hoseok almost wants to laugh but he doesn’t because he knows it’ll only hurt if he does, so instead he just smiles at Jeongguk and nods him away, his good hand lifting up in a wave that Jeongguk returns, his smile nervous but all the same immaculate.

The rest of the day passes by slowly after Jeongguk’s departure. Hoseok spends it staring out of the window, feeling the cool breeze against his face. How different this town is to the compound, to all the cityscapes he’s found himself in over the years.

Hoseok doesn’t plan for it but he falls asleep under the window, curled on the couch and sleeping on his side, on his good arm. The sound of the town around him—chatter and the distant traffic, the wind and the trees and then from a few streets over, children laughing, cats pitter pattering on the rooftop—lulls Hoseok to sleep.

The little seaside town getting ready for supper isn’t what wakes him up a few hours later, though. What wakes Hoseok up is the unmistakable feeling of someone in the same room as him, staring at him. Hoseok’s been trained for this, conditioned to always be one step ahead.

But then he notices the fuzzy wool blanket thrown over him as he’d slept and he feels slow all of a sudden, like he should have woken up as soon as the intruder had gotten in, because his brain is hardwired into detecting danger. But a smaller part of him whispers, voice uncanny, that perhaps he hadn’t woken up because there is no danger here, not when it comes to him.

Hoseok feels his cheeks warm, all of a sudden embarrass as his fingers twist around the blanket.

Aside from the blanket, everything else is the same, except for a shadow in his kitchen that looks a lot like the ghost stories Hoseok’s spent a good amount of time running away from.

“How long have you known?” asks Hoseok, cutting right down to it. He doesn’t move from the couch except to sit up. The blanket pools around his waist but he doesn’t shake it off. It’s warm and comfortable.

Yoongi steps out from the shadows, reveals empty hands and civilian clothes. None of the tactical gear with the several gun sheathes strapped to his leg and guns and grenades all over his person. None of that. Yoongi doesn’t even look like he’s armed, although Hoseok is willing to bet that there’s at least a few concealed weapons tucked away under that sweater.

If there’s one thing Hoseok’s learned from his time with Yoongi then it’s that you don’t bet against a living ghost story.

“A few days after you moved here,” says Yoongi, bending down to slide a knife out from behind his boot. He drops it on the counter where it clatters next to a small handgun. This time, when Yoongi crosses the threshold between them, Hoseok knows that he is unarmed, in all the ways that someone can be.

Hoseok watches Yoongi the whole time. His heart still aches—hurts even more now that he looks at Yoongi. And here Hoseok had thought that he’d learn to live with this for the rest of his life. What a silly, ridiculous thought. It’s not easy to live like your heart’s trapped in a vice-grip, icy cold and suffocating for the rest of your life.

Heartbreak can potentially kill and isn’t that a way to go?

Yoongi lowers himself on the coffee table just across from Hoseok. He sits gingerly on the edge, hands clasped tight in front of him, and if Hoseok hadn’t known better, then he would’ve thought Yoongi was ready to pray, with his lowered gaze and his joined hands.

As much as Hoseok doesn’t want to ask, he still does, because the question will burn him from the inside out. “Why are you here?”

“Jimin let me know,” there’s no surprise there. Hoseok had expected this. Jimin possibly thinking of this little act as him returning the favour. One letter about an injured Yoongi to be adequately reimbursed by another letter about an injured Hoseok. “Gave me the coordinates days ago and I dropped everything, as soon as I knew,”

“And yet you’re here days later,” says Hoseok bluntly, eyebrow raised.

For the first time in months, Hoseok sees a smile slip through Yoongi’s face. It’s been so long since he’s seen Yoongi, since he’s talked to him. Hoseok’s heart is so heavy he wonders, and not for the first time, if it’s medically okay to love someone this much.

“Yeah, I am,” Yoongi nods, eyes downcast yet again. “I think I’ve been a coward too, Seok. Just—just really afraid, all the time,” there is a quiver in his voice that tugs at Hoseok’s heart. It makes him want to reach out for Yoongi and take him into his arms, bring him back to a time when the world was steady and the sun broke through the clouds.

Yoongi looks at him, at his face and then at his hand in a sling, and he grimaces.

Hoseok reaches out to him all the same with his good hand.

Yoongi takes it, their fingers lacing together as he moves quickly from the coffee table to the couch.

“Me, too, Yoongi,” whispers Hoseok, closing his eyes. He can feel it, now, waves crashing against him. The sound of the ocean is not too far away. Hoseok tugs Yoongi up on the couch with him and it takes a lot of work to get a position that doesn’t make Hoseok groan or wince or hiss out in pain but eventually, they manage to do it, Yoongi climbing up to settle around him, on his good side.

“Aren’t you angry with me?” asks Yoongi, arm coming around Hoseok’s middle.

Hoseok presses his back to Yoongi’s chest and he lets out a small breath.

“No,” which is the truth. Hoseok is neither angry nor disappointed in Yoongi. He had been sad, for a little bit, and then after that he’d just missed him. “No, I don’t think I am.”

There is quiet for a little while longer, the only sound the town around them and their breathing, Yoongi matching his every inhale and exhale with Hoseok’s, hand tightening around Hoseok’s as he holds him up against him, and for a moment they are content.

Hoseok can even close his eyes and pretend that the desert had never happened, that nobody had ever said anything. Hoseok can do that, he thinks, but at the same time, he knows that he can’t. Knows that it is not something you just move on from.

So when Yoongi asks, “Did you mean it?” Hoseok almost stops breathing. “Do you—do you still mean it?”

Slowly, Hoseok turns in the circle of Yoongi’s arm. The couch really was a bad idea when there’s a perfectly sized bed just in the next room over, but neither one of them want to relent, and so they stay.

Hoseok lifts his hand up to touch Yoongi’s face, fingers tracing over the curve of his mouth and then the softness of his cheeks.

“Which part, that I thought you were a jackass or the whole I love you thing?” Yoongi winces at that—at both things—and Hoseok, despite how much of a bad idea it is, laughs. He actually laughs. Before Yoongi can even respond, he brushes their noses together and kisses blindly on the corner of Yoongi’s mouth. Hoseok barely pulls away, not wanting to be too far, and Yoongi brings him in closer, the both of them in sync, like no time has passed between them. Finally, Hoseok murmurs, “I still do,”

And true to Yoongi’s form, he quips, “Which one?”

Hoseok laughs again, and it hurts, god fucking damn it, it makes his chest and his ribs hurt and Yoongi chastises him for it, hand rubbing circles around his back and kissing his cheeks and his nose and his forehead, but while it hurts it also feels good to laugh, feels good to feel fucking good for the first time in such a long, long time, Hoseok was starting to wonder if this day would ever come.

“Both, maybe,” and then, when Yoongi pouts at him, actually pouts, Hoseok grins, “But more the second one, I think,”

“You think,” says Yoongi, looking sullen, sounding sullen, and it’s too much, Hoseok starts to wonder if his heart had also suffered a beating when he’d fallen ten storeys down.

“It’s the only activity that doesn’t hurt, to be honest,” quips Hoseok right back, still smiling.

“Yeah, well, me too,” and Hoseok knows that Yoongi isn’t really playing around now, sees it in the shift in his gaze, the corners of his mouth twitching. “I didn’t say it back then, at the desert. I don’t think I could, Hoseok, you were—reckless, a goddamn idiot, I swear to god I’m never going to stop saying that because you scared me, you know that? I was so scared,”

“I know,” Hoseok tucks his head under Yoongi’s chin, presses a kiss into the hollow of his throat and closes his eyes. “But I’m okay, now,”

Yoongi’s laugh is a rumble under his ear and it sounds a lot like rain.

“You wanna say that again?”

“Okay, maybe not literally and maybe not right now, but you know what I mean,” Hoseok bumps his head under Yoongi’s chin before he resurfaces again, meets Yoongi for a kiss that seems a lot like endless hellos and summer, where everything is warm and golden and Hoseok doesn’t have to worry about the cold settling around him and never leaving.

“I do, yeah,” Yoongi moves his hand over Hoseok’s back, keeps the motion going because Hoseok melts under his touch, is easily soothed. His back doesn’t hurt and he can breathe easy, finally.

Yoongi brings their foreheads together, much in the same way that he had that afternoon at the desert, only this time Hoseok’s heart isn’t aching anymore and it’s not scattered everywhere in the sand.

“I love you, is the thing,” whispers Yoongi, another secret that they pass between them. A secret that Hoseok will hold on to like a lifesaver. “And I meant what I said, Seok—if it comes down to it, then it should be me, never you,”

“It won’t ever come down to that,” Hoseok shakes his head, feels a prickling behind his eyes. He keeps going, though, knows that he needs to say this before anything else. “I told you, we still have to see it,”

The open road, the sky, the mountains. The rest of the world. There is still an after for them.

Yoongi relaxes against him, lets go of every bit of worry that he’s been holding on to in the months that have passed the same way the sky lets go of the sun as it fully sets under the horizon.

“Yeah, we do.” Yoongi presses a kiss to Hoseok’s forehead, a smile, really, and Hoseok smiles at him, breath evening, and eyelids turning heavy.

Yoongi continues to rub gentle circles over his back, pressing kisses every now and then to his forehead, or his cheek, or just anywhere he has access to, and it’s not long until Hoseok falls asleep against his chest, perfectly safe and content and in love .

Hoseok sleeps the whole night through for the first time in what seems to be actual years.

It is the best night’s sleep he’s ever had and when he wakes up to a crick in his neck and arm a bit sore from the bad sleeping position, Hoseok doesn’t mind, not at all, not when he has Yoongi sleeping next to him, breathing quiet and even, the ghost of a smile on his lips, like he’s dreaming of something very, very good.

Hoseok’s never felt more peaceful.

 

xix.

 

The plan is simple: they leave. That’s all they have to do. They just need to leave.

Hoseok talks it out with his friends. All of them agree, but neither one of them look too pleased about it.

Jimin is nervous, of course, but that is expected.

Jeongguk looks like he’s about to throw up.

“What if it won’t work?” Jeongguk looks around them, voice lowered.

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek, stews on an answer, and then says, “You blow shit up, I guess.”

This is perhaps the worst and the best answer imaginable and for it to come from Namjoon himself is a cause for alarm.

The shock only lasts for a second before Jimin gasps and Hoseok shakes his head in laughter.

Jeongguk doesn’t look too green anymore and for tonight, their plans are solid.

They just need to leave. If need be, then throw a few couple hand grenades and set up some timed explosives here and there. Simple.

 

xx.

 

For as long as Hoseok can remember, he’s always been a fighter. A weapon. That he is both someone who kills and someone who saves. That doesn’t make him a good person at all and Hoseok knows it. God, he can stand on trial in front of the international court and the universe herself and they’ll all tell him the same thing—he’s not good, period.

But Hoseok also knows that there is no way out of this. You either stay long enough to die in a mission or they get rid of you all the same—because you’re outdated, too slow, failed one too many times. It all ends the same way.

You live by the sword, you die by the sword, and all that jazz.

And it’s not exactly the first time that an agent wants to deflect. This happens all too often—when you realise that you’re tired being a pawn to someone else’s scheme, when it all comes crashing down that both outs you’re going to get results in the same thing: elimination; when it all starts to click that you’re truly better off somewhere—but it’s not always successful, and never on this scale. Never this many people.

But Hoseok and Jimin are what the organisation calls their Assets. There is no way any mission with the two of them together will fail.

So Hoseok is confident, to say the least, but also worried, because the same thing has to happen all the way at Yoongi’s base, and Hoseok has no clear answer if it’s going to be successful until the day they either burst through the doors or quietly slink away into nothingness.

And true to Hoseok’s fashion, they don’t do it quietly—they don’t do it at night, too, because then that will mean more casualties, and Hoseok might hate the organisation but he doesn’t necessarily hate the agents. Well, at least, not all of them. Not by much, anyway.

A loud rattling screeches through the entire underground compound while a robotic voice announces that there’s been a fire at quadrant three, assistance needed.

That is Hoseok’s queue to leave.

Hoseok stops by to pick Namjoon up. No words are exchanged, just very brief nods. He ushers Namjoon to his left and takes a sweeping look around the area—all clear, so far.

The second and Hoseok’s final stop of the day is to his handler’s office. He makes Namjoon wait a few feet away, just to the stairs leading all the way up to the surface level of the compound, and then slinks into the office. His handler barely gets a word out (a very pointed, Asset and then when it doesn’t work, half of Hoseok’s name) before he goes down quickly. Quietly.

Hoseok takes out a few more of them, too, because the world would be a better place without them, he thinks.

They break through the concealed door and emerge to a flurry of gunshots and smoke. Hoseok pushes Namjoon back into the stairwell and tries to duck down low, away from the smoke.

He’s pretty sure that whoever’s opening fire are a group of ground personnel, definitely not any of the agents Hoseok’s gone on missions with because they would be better shots.

Jimin’s voice breaks through the plume of smoke followed by Jeongguk’s face and hands reaching out beyond Hoseok to pull at Namjoon, who, for all intents and purposes, is really just a civilian here who can’t even aim so much as hold a gun and shoot it.

“Where’s Jimin?” asks Hoseok, eyes trained on Jeongguk the whole time.

“Getting rid of the last ones,” says Jeongguk, hand tight around Namjoon’s arm.

Hoseok nods at them and watches as they both disappear in the smoke, Namjoon with an arm pressed to his mouth and Jeongguk leading the way, always on the lookout. Hoseok trusts him with Namjoon’s life, and by extension, his.

Now, to find Jimin.

Which is hard when you think about it, given the smoke and the yelling and the frenzy they’ve created, but really easy in action.

He spots Jimin throw a kick at one operative lunging at him and then easily leap to his next victim with a leg choke, Jimin balancing on the poor man’s shoulders with a dead set look in his eyes as a thin string appears in his hands.

Hoseok isn’t afforded the honour of watching Jimin garrote a man in front of him because there’s more firing behind him, the smoke finally clearing to reveal at least four other people behind desks and open doors.

It is easy work, getting rid of them. Hoseok disposes of them but not with the intent to kill, only to knock them down, guns kicked far, far away from their reach. He doesn’t know if Jimin and Jeongguk are fighting with the same mindset because that’s on them. Hoseok already knows he wants to operate differently, wants to start something new and if it that rejuvenation starts with a fire and by bombing his boss’ office then that saying about old habits dying hard can apply to this, most definitely.

Nobody even gets close to him,except for a woman who runs straight at him with only a syringe in hand. It doesn’t look friendly at all and Hoseok avoids it but not quickly enough. She manages to stab it into his arm, but only barely, a shallow little stab that doesn’t even prick. Hoseok moves her out of the way before Jimin joins him, garrote safely tucked away and a fire in his eyes that’s unbridled.

They are fighters, the both of them, but they will no longer be weapons, not after today.

They fight back to back and side by side, Jimin on Hoseok’s left flank, covering him whenever he needs it. They fight until everyone single one is down for good or for the moment (for now, Hoseok hopes, but with the way things have escalated, he thinks not everyone will have the luxury of waking up to a headache), until they make it to the last heavy set iron doors.

The outside is littered with a few agents, a little surprised by the fire and the explosion but for the most part completely okay. A lot more of the agents are away on missions, or simply in another base. They don’t keep too many in one place, at least, not for a long time.

Only Assets are allowed such privileges.

Jeongguk and Namjoon are nowhere to be found which means their bodies are also not lifeless and lying somewhere around the front garden so Hoseok breathes, finally breathes a sigh of relief, but does not lower his gun.

Neither does Jimin.

Agent Lee is there to block Hoseok’s path when he moves to walk out of the gates. She stares at him, one long, icy stare that starts from his head right down to his feet, and then cocks her head, lips pressed into a thin line.

There are no goodbyes, not for them, not for anyone here, and Hoseok doesn’t ask her to run away with them.

Hoseok was basically stripped of the ability to make choices as an agent, as the organisation’s Asset. He will not force his own choice on anyone. They can make their own choices, the same way Hoseok has learned how.

Jimin hustles Hoseok out of the gate and Hoseok shares one last meaningful look with Agent Lee before he follows. She locks the gate behind him and walks back to the chaos.

It’s only when they round the corner that Hoseok starts to feel it, a sting in his shoulder. He loses control of his feet and he stumbles, his body suddenly weighted down and heavy.

Jimin is by his side in an instant, eyes wide and arms coming around Hoseok to haul him back up.

“Hoseok, hey, Hoseok,” hisses Jimin, and then when Hoseok doesn’t even make a move to acknowledge, starts to talk through his ear piece, calling for Jeongguk and Namjoon, because something’s wrong and Hoseok isn’t moving, and everything is starting to go dark.

It seems to go on forever, this dragging eclipse. Hoseok is eventually lifted from the ground and then into a car that drives faster than should be necessary, but Hoseok can’t complain. His tongue is heavy in his mouth and he can’t move, his own thoughts starting to go muddy, and he can’t move, chest constricting, like it doesn’t want to cooperate when it comes to breathing, and he can’t move, and god, god, he can’t breathe—

And then there are soft, gentle hands cradling his face, a voice that echoes in his mind that Hoseok will know wherever, no matter the circumstance.

“This can’t be happening again,” says Yoongi, strong and fierce, and Hoseok has to agree with that just as the lights go out.

 

xxi.

 

Hoseok wakes up to the sound of the birds singing outside his window and the late afternoon sunshine spilling through his curtains, he wakes up to soft music just outside his door, and the smell of a nice dinner waiting for him, and—

And it’s all a lie, really.

Hoseok actually wakes up in a cold sweat, pain all over his body, and head like it’s just been split open.

“Hoseok, Hoseok, it’s okay,” he must’ve woken up screaming, too. He can’t move too much, not with all the things they’ve attached to him, but he is awake now. He’s disoriented, doesn’t know where he is. All he knows is that a warm hand is holding on to his and Yoongi’s face finally comes into view.

Yoongi holds his face in his hands, eyebrows furrowed, “Nightmares, only nightmares,”

It isn’t reassurance because anything that doesn’t hurt him in his dreams will hurt him when he wakes up, and boy does Hoseok wake up like he’s just been flattened by a ten wheeler.

“Won’t let anything hurt you,” says Yoongi, slowly climbing up in bed next to him. The hospital bed isn’t too big for the both of them but it only reminds Hoseok of the small couch back at the safe house and it is enough. He scoots over, giving Yoongi some space, and Yoongi wraps his arm around Hoseok’s middle, the first kiss that he presses to the side of Hoseok’s face like sweet, sweet salvation. “You’re safe now,”

“I got stabbed,” says Hoseok, words still heavy. He’s still so disoriented he doesn’t actually know whether this is part of his dream or not but Yoongi is warm next to him and Hoseok will run as far away as he can with this, with Yoongi. “That was pretty stupid, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, it kinda was,” there’s no humour in the way Yoongi talks, just quiet anger under his voice. Hoseok doesn’t like to hear it.

Hoseok turns his head sideways to look at Yoongi. Even in the dim light, he thinks he can map out Yoongi’s face with just his fingertips, like connecting constellations in the night sky.

“Was I poisoned?” asks Hoseok, voice quiet. “Am I actually dead? I feel like I might be, everything is swimming,”

Yoongi twines their fingers together and kisses him again, this time on his cheek.

When he speaks, it sounds a bit wet, eyes blinking back furiously like he’s refusing to cry.

“No, no, you’re not dead,” says Yoongi kindly, gently. He brings their joined hands together up to his mouth and presses a long, searing kiss on the back of Hoseok’s palm. “Didn’t I tell you? I’d never let you die, Seok,”

Hoseok touches Yoongi’s cheek, lips curving up into what he hopes is a smile. Everything is a bit too woozy right now. If he wasn’t already laying down, Hoseok thinks he would’ve fallen over.

“Wouldn’t want you to die on me, either,” says Hoseok, voice just as soft, like they’re back on those rooftops in the middle of winter, huddled together for warmth and whispering secrets, trading little things about themselves like trivia that they hold tight in fists and close to their hearts. “Think I’d get lost if you did,”

This time, Yoongi really does start crying, eyes closing as the first tear rolls down his cheek.

Hoseok wants to reach out to him with both hands and bring him in against his chest but it’s impossible, if he moves then he’ll only rip out a tube and he knows Namjoon won’t like it, not one bit, so instead he just squeezes on their hands and offers a small, sheepish little smile and continues,

“You’re my true north, y'know?” Hoseok leans in to rub their noses together, a small little thing that makes him feel giddy. Is it the drugs, the poison, or just being with Yoongi? Maybe it’s all three. “Yeah, yeah, that’s what you are to me, Yoongi.”

Even when Hoseok’s high from pain medication and with the poison still possibly flowing through his blood, Hoseok can still see Yoongi next to him. Can see when Yoongi lets Hoseok wipe away his tears and pinch his cheek. Can see when Yoongi eventually starts to laugh, a bubbling little sound that fills the hospital room and makes their cramped bed more comfortable than it should be.

Hoseok listens to Yoongi’s laugh and he holds onto his hand like a tether, and he closes his eyes, and he hopes that when he wakes up again, it is to a warmth similar to this.

He hopes for that for all the days he’s got left.

 

xxii.

 

This time, when he wakes up again, there is no more screaming, no more nightmares, and no more sludge in his brain. This time, when Hoseok wakes up, it’s to Yoongi right next to him, warm and dozing, hair a mess and his fingers splayed across Hoseok’s stomach.

Hoseok wakes up feeling good, well rested.

And it must show because Namjoon forgoes the formalities and goes straight into it, tells Hoseok what had happened— yes, you dumbass, you were poisoned, yes it could’ve been lethal, and yes this is a hospital —and Hoseok learns everything he needs to learn in two minutes and thirteen seconds, which is a new record for Namjoon.

Jimin and Jeongguk slink into the room after that, Jimin with his hand on the small of Namjoon’s back to guide him down on the bench next to Hoseok.

“Calm down or else you’ll need to be admitted,” laughs Jimin, that same tinkling laugh that Hoseok’s always loved.

Jimin and Jeongguk crowd to his side of the bed, the both of them offering to hug him but backing away because there’s not one good spot to go about it, so they settle for head pats (Jimin patting Hoseok’s head and Jeongguk getting a pat on the head from Hoseok), and then they start talking, but mostly everything that’s happened that Namjoon had conveniently left out—it’s four days after the big incident, the organisation is in disarray, all Assets recalled back to base, and then, of course, “A possible hit on all of us,”

“Explain why that’s only possible,” comes Yoongi’s groggy voice. He rises from beside Hoseok, a mess of sheets and crinkled shirts and hair that Hoseok wants to ruffle even more. Yoongi glares at the open window and Namjoon pulls the blinds closed immediately.

“We weren’t the only ones who left,” says Jeongguk this time, staring at Yoongi a little bit wryly. This is the first time they’ve met and Hoseok doesn’t exactly blame Jeongguk. For years, all that was known about Min Yoongi was that he was a living ghost story.

“A lot of agents saw, took advantage of the situation. The—the handlers—“ the word is heavy on his tongue, like it hurts to even say it out loud. Hoseok takes Jeongguk’s hand and squeezes. “Not all of them made it, so it’s a mess,”

“Insider information tells me they’re still organising a thorough list, but it could take a while. A lot of people defected,” says Jimin, a pleased little smile on his face. It makes Hoseok feel good to know that more people chose for themselves that day. “And some files got leaked—some profiles on low-ranking agents, handlers over the years,”

Jimin catches Hoseok’s gaze. Hoseok can’t bring himself to ask, thinks that it’s well and truly over if he does, but Jimin just offers a gentle smile and a shake of his head.

“Nothing about the Assets,” says Jimin, pursing his lips. “I think—I think an old friend made sure none of that is ever going to make it out to the public,”

Hoseok thinks back to the hard line of Agent Lee’s shoulders, to the determined look in her eyes. Hoseok can only wish, not for the first time, that he gets the chance to thank her.

“So we’re good,” says Hoseok, breathing out a sigh of relief. He slumps back against Yoongi, who nuzzles his nose to his hair, fingers twining with Hoseok’s under the blanket.

“For now,” says Namjoon, but he’s smiling, too, and there’s an ease to him that Hoseok hasn’t seen in so long. For the first time, Namjoon finally feels safe. “We’ll leave so you can rest. Don’t worry about the hospital, it’s safe here.”

Hoseok doesn’t ask why but he has a feeling it’s got something to do with Kim Seokjin, if Yoongi’s muttering from behind him is any indication.

When everyone is gone and the door closes with a small click, Hoseok turns to look at Yoongi, careful not to tangle any of the wires and tubes.

“How are you?” asks Hoseok, tucking Yoongi’s hair behind his ear, the better to see his face with in this new morning.

Yoongi nips playfully at Hoseok, an eyebrow raised as he counters, “Sure, let the guy who just got poisoned ask me that, let me feel like an asshole yet again,”

Hoseok laughs against Yoongi, head tilting forwards to knock their foreheads together in a way that’s more painful than necessary. It makes Yoongi groan and Hoseok laugh even harder.

“I’m fine ,” says Yoongi, hand slipping under Hoseok’s ugly hospital required gown. “We stole out in the middle of the night and didn’t set anything on fire, unlike some people,”

“Wonder who that could be,” murmurs Hoseok, teeth biting down on his lower lip to stop another laugh from spilling out of him.

Yoongi just rolls his eyes and then kisses him, a short little kiss that draws out a pleased sound from Hoseok as he leans in for more.

“Now, your turn,” says Yoongi, kissing up Hoseok’s cheek, fluttering butterfly kisses that Hoseok thinks he can drown in. “How are you?”

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

Hoseok smiles, a little like the sun blooming outside the window and a lot like adventure.

“Never better,” so he’s stuck in this hospital for a week or so more but Yoongi’s allowed to climb into bed with him and his friends visit him whenever they like, and Hoseok, for how beat up he might have been, is fine. He’s better than fine. Hoseok’s alive and he’s happy.

“I’m okay,”

Okay is good.

Okay is safe.

Okay is everything Hoseok ever wants.

Yoongi nudges their noses together, kisses the smile on Hoseok’s lips, and nods, “Yeah, okay is fantastic.”

 

xxiii.

 

The coast is beautiful and the sun beats down at them from high above the sky but everything is perfect because Hoseok’s never seen skies this blue or an ocean that glitters like diamonds.

Hoseok’s never seen anything so beautiful.

Yoongi reaches over the centre console to take Hoseok’s hand in his, their fingers twining.

The sun is about to set on the horizon and soon the blue skies will turn purple and orange and golden, and red. The best kind of red. The only kind of red that Hoseok wants to see.

There’s laughter in Yoongi’s eyes and in the way that he looks away from the road to look at Hoseok next to him, who suddenly forgets how to breathe, because Yoongi is basked in sunlight, skin glowing under the sun and eyes glittering the same way the sea does.

“Good?” asks Yoongi, lifting their joined hands up for a squeeze.

Hoseok grins at him, bright. So, so bright.

“Happy,” says Hoseok, because he is. This is a kind of happy that falls right under bliss. This is the kind of happy that you never, ever forget.

Yoongi laughs at that, head thrown back and hitting the backrest of the seat. He laughs until there’s tears in his eyes and if Yoongi wasn’t a super assassin, then Hoseok would’ve been worried because he’s driving and he’s laughing and god, he’s closing his eyes, but Yoongi has years of experience doing more extreme things in a car so Hoseok isn’t too worried. He just laughs with Yoongi, as warm as the summer sun.

“Yeah, me too,” Yoongi’s grin this time is as big as the world and Hoseok grins back at him, just as big, just as silly, two stupid boys finally being able to do just that—be absolutely ridiculous around each other. “It’s about time.”

It really is.

To their right, the waves roll. The coast is beautiful and Hoseok wants so, so much to take to the open sea, but not as much as he wants this.

When the sun starts to set, the colours of the sky bleeding into something that can bring anyone to their knees, Yoongi starts to slow down.

“So, where do we wanna go?” asks Hoseok, leaning across the console to kiss Yoongi quickly.

“Hey, true north,” Yoongi looks at him, still with that diamond-in-the-waves glitter in his eyes, and says, “We can go anywhere .”