Yoongi knows how he got into this situation, but he’s not quite sure he understands.
“You what?” He drawls, tap tap tapping in time to lazy hum of the record a customer put on earlier that Yoongi never bothered to switch, hand hidden under the counter so that Taehyung can’t see how jittery he is.
Not that Taehyung would care. Yoongi has learned quite a bit about the boy over the past several weeks—twenty-three, a landscape painter and portrait photographer, keeper of many a cactus, loves sweet drinks and his grandparents and music that plucks at the soul until you’re raw, has a hideously beautiful face—and judging people isn’t on the list.
Taehyung leaves Yoongi feeling raw most days. Today. Yoongi, under two layers of winter wear, feels quite exposed with Taehyung looking at him like this, determined, like he plans on giving Yoongi every bit of his attention and wants Yoongi to know that.
“A date,” Taehyung repeats, and Yoongi’s tapping picks up. An allegro instead of an andante. “I’d like to go on a date with you.”
Again, Yoongi knows how he got here. He woke up this morning, ate a hurried breakfast of toast and rice, rode the bus six blocks to the music store where he went about the unharried task of opening shop for the day. And now he’s sitting on his stool with its little cushioned pillow, music sheets spread out before him that he was trying to put lyrics to, with Kim Taehyung standing before him in yellow, wide-legged trousers that contrast brightly with the overcast sky peeking in through the front windows, apparently asking Yoongi to take a non-platonic trip with him to a limited gallery showing in Hongdae this weekend.
What he doesn’t get is why Kim Taehyung is asking him to take a non-platonic trip with him to Hongdae this weekend.
Yoongi’s quite sure that the guy isn’t here because of music.
This is fine, of course, because half of their potential customers don’t come here for the music. They come for the experience. There aren’t many authentic record stores left in this part of the city, and a high percentage of the people who walk through the door are only here to browse, have a laugh, or are foot-traffic passing by on nice days from the cafés that seem to surround them on all sides.
The weather hasn’t been nice, though. It’s been storming on and off for two weeks now, a typical kick off to spring in Seoul, and Yoongi makes maybe twelve sales a day. They’ve been drawing in so little that the owner, a kind, older gentleman whose knees are too achey to stay on his feet all day anymore, let off everyone but Yoongi until the summer crowds are out and about again.
So it’s been Yoongi, only Yoongi, to man the front counter and battle off the insurmountable dust that seems to build in old places like this, on old things like these, for weeks now. Between cleanings he sorts through donations, haggles with traders, and works away at the front counter writing songs that don’t seem to want to be written just yet.
It’s been Yoongi, only Yoongi, on this thundering Thursday afternoon. Yoongi thinks that he just might go the whole today without seeing another human being and is tempted to nap on the back sofa in the listening corner when the door tinkles and the scent of wet earth rushes in at the same moment a cloaked figure glides over the front stoop.
“Welcome,” Yoongi calls out to the dripping figure, and he’s about to ask them if they need any help scouring when their hood is thrown back and Yoongi is stunned into silence when he’s met with a ridiculous, light-filled smile.
“Hi!” There’s more joy behind that one syllable than Yoongi’s probably expressed in months. The guy shakes himself like a dog and plods over to the first rack of albums without another look Yoongi’s way.
He’s obviously on the hunt for something in particular, so Yoongi leaves him be and returns to his laptop where he has an audio program pulled open and is trying to piece together a decent melody.
A half hour passes like that, the two of them attending to their own tasks, and then a full one passes. Yoongi’s gaze flickers up not long after that and finds the guy halfway through the M’s. Yoongi puts down his pen and watches the guy work, his deft fingers flicking through title after title. There are a couple albums tucked under his arm, covered so that Yoongi can’t read the titles.
Yoongi watches him peruse through the N’s next, and then O’s and the P’s. The guy serpentines around the shop, and by the time he makes it to the end of the alphabet, he has a formidable stack of music. Yoongi startles and fluffs up his fringe when the guy marches his way, but the nervousness he tends to experience around beautiful people is squelched when the guy carefully places his haul on the counter.
Brows knitted, Yoongi starts to type in the albums. Patti Kim’s Gold Album from the early 90’s. An album of Korean vocal art by a woman named Kim So-Hee from the sixties. There’s a Korean print of Pink Floyd’s Final Cut, as well as several classical recordings—Vivaldi and Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. There are a few for jazz, as well, all practically unknowns. Yoongi lingers at the bottom of the pile. There’s no name on the sleeve, just a hodge podge mess of mid-century shapes in bold colors. Yoongi tries to check the vinyl and discovers it missing.
“Sorry, sir, but this one is a defect,” Yoongi states, looking up.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m just getting it for the art.”
It takes a few seconds for Yoongi to get past the guy’s gravelly voice. Takes a few more for the statement to register in his mind.
“You’re buying it for the art,” Yoongi restates. The guy nods, the tips of his bangs damp so they stick to his temples, and Yoongi has the mortifying urge to brush them aside.
“Yeah. I know that sounds super, y’know—” The guy wiggles his hand a bit, like it’s supposed to express some kind of state of being. “But they’re great inspo, y’know?”
Yoongi doesn’t know. Because usually when he’s looking for inspiration he actually listens to the music.
But he nods anyway, because the boy’s smile is starting to droop at a corner and Yoongi doesn’t want to be that one asshole that ruins someone’s day, or worse, their love for creating. “I get it,” he says, because in some twisted way it does make sense. “Inspiration’s all around us, after all.”
Yoongi thought it was a casual thing to say, but the boy is looking at him, beautiful face so serious and determined Yoongi stiffens and feels his insides knot up. His lashes are so long and dark they shadow his eyes, making his expression even more nerve-wracking.
The boy says, “How often do you add new stock?”
Yoongi, still knocked sideways, answers, “Every week or so. Depending on donations or trades.”
Yoongi’s not sure what that means until the guy shows up again the following Thursday, same time, same gargantuan smile. He’s not wearing a raincoat today, though; instead he’s dawned plaid slacks and a massive white tee under and even more all-consuming denim jacket.
“Hi!” The guy greets again, and Yoongi gives a small wave because he forgot how gorgeous the boy is and because he’s currently checking out a customer. The weather is pleasant today, just a bit on the nippy side when the wind blows wrong, and Yoongi’s had a decent stream of visitors for most of the morning.
For a half hour Yoongi watches the boy browse out of the corner of his eye. It’s impossible to work with him here, at least on music, so Yoongi sets about updating the cataloguing system and manages to immerse himself so fully that he physically startles when the boy shuffles up to place his goods down.
There are only four albums, but they’re even more of a hodge-podge variety than last week. Yoongi inputs them into the system, eyeing one of the covers. It’s the complete ballet of the Nutcracker Suite and dawns a pink kaleidoscope effect of hand-drawn dancers woven together that makes him think this is what it would feel like to be high. The album below it is much tamer. So tame, in fact, it just has a large photo of a whale.
“Humpback Whale Song?” Yoongi mutters to himself, and the boy across from him flat-out giggles.
“That one I’m getting for a friend. He’s in his thesis stage for a marine biology degree. I thought it might cheer him up some.”
Yoongi nods, considering, and the knowledge that a four-record compilation from the seventies of whale songs and their meanings is so overwhelming he can’t help but smile, shoulders jostling as he laughs a little under his breath.
“Will this be all for you today?” Yoongi asks, tilting his head up as he slips the albums into a paper bag.
The boy is staring at him, mouth parted, such a gleam of wonderment in his eyes that Yoongi has to wave a hand in front of his face to knock him back down to earth.
“I’m Taehyung,” the boy says, suddenly ducking his head. “Kim Taehyung.”
“Uh, Min Yoongi.” Yoongi dips his head in response. “Can I help you with anything else?”
“Yes, actually.” Taehyung is still looking at him with those dreamy eyes. “I was wondering if you could recommend me an album.”
Yoongi glances down at the stack between them, half the size of the one from last week but still twice what most people purchase in one visit.
“I mean an album for the music,” Taehyung says as if reading Yoongi’s face. “I’d like… What’s an album you’d think I like?”
Yoongi doesn’t answer that this guy is a complete stranger. He’s known Taehyung’s name all of twenty seconds, has no clue what he does for a living, and based off the sixteen albums he’s purchased, Yoongi still has no fathomable understanding of the guy’s musical preferences.
Yoongi slides off his stool and heads for the front of the store where they keep a case of speciality albums. He unlocks the glass, pulls out a midnight album with the shadowed form of a man on the cover, and shuffles back to the counter to hand over the vinyl.
“Miles Davis?” Taehyung pronounces slowly, mouth curling strangely around the name. “He has a trumpet. Jazz?”
“Just give it a listen when you get home,” Yoongi tells him with a small smile, and a thousand emotions pass over Taehyung’s face in the next few seconds.
He settles on one that Yoongi can’t quite read on him, and Taehyung thanks him softly and clutches his bag to his chest like he’s carrying something precious.
Yoongi watches him leave, and because he is a reasonable person, he makes sure to clean the store with a fury for the next few hours or else risk laying on the couch for the rest of the unseeable future as he dreams about Taehyung’s eyelashes and what they might feel like brushing against his cheeks when they kiss.
Taehyung comes bursting in the next day and Yoongi’s not prepared. It isn’t Thursday. He opened ten minutes ago. He had to skip his shower this morning and his hair still has this stubborn tuft in the very back that doesn’t want to rest.
“Why did you pick that album for me?” Taehyung asks, beelining for the back corner of the room where Yoongi stands as he sorts through the R’s. Taehyung stops before him with restless eyes, looking a little feral. He’s wearing a patterned dress shirt under his coat that has the buttons matched up wrong, and his hair stands on end in the front.
The real kicker is Taehyung wearing two different kinds of slide-on loafers. Like he was in such a hurry to get here he hadn’t bothered to check.
“There’s a song called Blue In Green on it,” Yoongi says as he turns back to his task at hand. Looking Taehyung straight in the eye this early is a difficult task. “Reminds me of you.”
Yoongi doesn’t say that Kind of Blue revolutionized the harmonic foundation of jazz. That it’s one of the greatest musical statements of the 20th century. That Miles’ work is both raw and startingly sophisticated, and that “Blue in Green” in particular is beautiful in that aching, lonely kind of way; like when he walks the streets of Seoul in the early hours of the morning, the only time the city ever seems to grow to near silence.
Yoongi doesn’t say much, but Taehyung seems to get it because he asks if Yoongi has any other Davis albums, and when Yoongi hands him three, Taehyung escapes to the listening corner to sit in front of one of the record players with a pair of big red headphones over his ears for the next hour and a half.
Taehyung starts coming in on other days than Thursdays. Starts bringing coffee and a sketchbook. Starts to place records he finds on the community turntable, but instead of slipping on the chunky blue headphones to listen independently, Taehyung keeps the speakers on so his pick of the day can filter across the store as he lies on the plush carpet of the listening area as if in a daze.
Sometimes Yoongi catches him sleeping. Sometimes he’s drawing. Usually, though, Taehyung is just curled up at one end of the sofa or in an armchair, staring off at an unknown point on the ceiling, head bobbing in time to whatever beat is filtering out.
Most days, Yoongi leaves him be. Music is a personal, intimate experience. Sometimes people just need to be alone but not Alone Alone; near someone even if they’re not interacting with them. So most days, Yoongi doesn’t bother Taehyung. He completes his duties in the comfortable silence they’ve quietly built between them over the past few weeks, and then he sits at the front to tap out a song or two.
Today, though, Taehyung has put on a crooning album from the fifties. He favors the classics. The romantics. He almost always has a love song going—sentimental, timeless odes and trembling, sappy bops. The song on now isn’t by someone Yoongi’ recognizes, but the vocalist has a husky, dulcet voice as she sings about the music and the birds and the roses she never noticed until she saw her lover for the first time.
Today, though, Yoongi takes his notebook and pads over to the sitting corner and plops himself into the other arm chair without a glance Taehyung’s way. There’s stillness for a moment, Taehyung momentarily surprised by his arrival, and then the air settles between them once more as Yoongi writes out lyrics to the nonsensical duet that Taehyung has started echoing under his breath back to the singer.
Time with Taehyung takes on a languid, looping shape. Yoongi’s read about liminal spaces; heard about them from Namjoon during a drunken, nightly tirade or two. Bathrooms at concerts and school buildings during summer break and gas stations in the late hours of the night. Average places that feel like something unexpected and mildly frightening is supposed to happen, but you’re not quite sure what the thing might be.
Taehyung feels that way. A little off, a little strange. Like he shouldn’t be here but he is. Yoongi’s not quite sure what to do with him, so he doesn’t do anything. He just continues to dust and dawdle with his music and watch Taehyung wind around the store like a lazy river, smile round and full whenever he catches Yoongi looking his way.
It’s a Saturday, when the swarm comes.
Yoongi’s not prepared. He opened shop not a half hour ago and is in the midst of wiping down the records from a drop-off when the bell sounds, signally the arrival of a customer.
Yoongi calls out a pleasant, “welcome,” and doesn’t glance away from his task until the bell tinkles again.
Yoongi frowns, thinking that maybe a kid’s showed up with a parent and is playing with the door. Instead he finds a stream of people filtering in, glancing about, some heading straight for certain sections of the store and others meandering about the front shelves.
Yoongi knows he’s gaping, but it kind of feels like a tour group just walked in. Maybe a tour group did just walk in.
Yoongi asks when the first customers come up, a couple dressed normal enough. Not exactly touristy. Very Korean. Nice shoes. You can always tell by the shoes.
“Why we’re here?” The man questions, smiling at Yoongi’s bemused expression. “Oh! You must not know.”
“V posted about this place yesterday,” the woman grins, glancing about. “On his twitter. Said there was the most wonderful record store in Namdaemun he’s been going to for inspiration. We just had to check it out.”
“V?” Yoongi asks again, ringing them up.
“Yeah. You haven’t heard of him?” Yoongi shakes his head. “He’s an artist and an influencer of sorts. A real good guy. You’re pretty lucky. Anything he mentions usually gets attention and a lot of it.”
The store does attention, and a lot of it. Yoongi’s cash out at the end of that weekend is twice what they made the entirety of last month. When Yoongi tells Mr. Lim, the man has to sit down and Yoongi panicks and thinks he’s having a heart attack.
Yoongi has Jungkook and Namjoon come by that night to help him go through the backroom where they keep the overstock, as well as any albums that just don’t fit on the floor. They order in chicken and set to work on re-organizing the store by genre instead of alphabetically, a feat Yoongi hadn’t seen the point in taking on until a few people mentioned it in passing. Between unboxing and dusting and shelving, Yoongi finally tells them about Taehyung, as well.
Jungkook also has to sit down because of chest pain.
“Kim Taehyung? The Kim Taehyung?” Jungkook shrills, pounding his heart like he needs it to beat again. “Holy crap, hyung!”
Yoongi scratches the back of his hand, uncomfortable. “What about him?”
“He has like, three million twitter followers! Don’t get me started on his Instagram count. The guy’s famous.”
“Since when?” Yoongi croaks, throat tight, and Namjoon gives him a hefty pat on the back like he thinks it might dislodge something there.
“Since he did this interview for Vogue Korea last year,” Jungkook answers. “Don’t get me wrong, his work is phenomenal, but you’ve seen his face. That’s a work of art in itself.”
“Stop objectifying people,” Namjoon grumbles, but a dimple is peeking out as he watches Jungkook’s excitement. He must feel Yoongi staring because his eyes flit over. Yoongi raises a brow. Namjoon widens his eyes as if daring him to make a comment about his obvious infatuation with the baby of their group.
“I don’t care about his follower count,” Yoongi tells them as he unfurls with a groan and gives his back an alarmingly crack. “Or his face. That’s not important to me.”
“But it’s a plus,” Namjoon says.
“He’s kind,” Yoongi says pointedly as he returns to pulling albums. They’ll only make it through the first few sections tonight, but it’s a good start. “He’s passionate. Seeing him smile makes me happy. I don’t know.”
“Gosh, hyung,” Namjoon exclaims with a hand over his chest. “I didn’t realize you were in love with him.”
“Shut up. Both of you,” he directs when Jungkook starts snickering. “You’ve seen his face. He’s out of my league.”
“First, you just said looks don’t matter,” Namjoon states with a pointed finger. “Secondly, if you speak badly about yourself again I’m going to make you put a ten thousand won in the Self-Deprecation Jar at home. This is your first warning.”
Yoongi scowls at that and Namjoon just winks at him.
“Yoongi-hyung, you know you’re like, weirdly pretty, right?” Jungkook makes an affronted noise when Namjoon and Yoongi both stare at him. “It’s true! Do I need to text the chat? Because I’ll make a poll. I’ll make this a public thing, hyung.”
“Please don’t drag Jimin and Hobi into this,” Yoongi tells him. “You know they’ll show up at the apartment with wine and a list of reasons why they love me.”
“Is that a problem?”
“They’ve already done it once this month,” Yoongi sighs. “I’m at my quota.”
Jungkook pouts, like this just might be a serious problem, but Namjoon rests his palm on the back of Jungkook’s hand, stilling his typing. Yoongi watches amused as Jungkook visibly goes into shock over the touch.
“Next time Taehyung comes in,” Namjoon starts as Jungkook stares down at their skin-to-skin contact in awe, “just ask him out to coffee or something, hyung. It doesn’t have to be a date-date. Just spend some time together outside of the store. From the way you talk about him, I bet he’s half-in love with you, too.”
“If I say that I’ll ask him, will you both shut up?”
“Probs not,” Jungkook shakes his head, not lifting his gaze from Namjoon’s hand on his.
“Nah,” Namjoon grins and sticks and entire chicken leg in his mouth, still without moving his hand from Jungkook’s.
Yoongi stares at them both, obviously swiveling back and forth as if to make them both acknowledge whatever is happening between them.
Namjoon chews his chicken leg.
Jungkook has graduated from staring at Namjoon’s hand to staring at Namjoon’s face.
“You both are ridiculous,” Yoongi tells them, biting back a smile as he swivels around to the shelves.
“Love you, too, hyung.”
Yoongi doesn’t get the chance to ask anyone anything because Taehyung doesn’t come in that week, or the week after. The crowds keep piling in, though, and Mr. Lim hires Sooyoung back on to help Yoongi during the morning shifts when the crowds are at their peak. They end up clearing out most of the back room, and Mr. Lim takes it upon himself to have his sons bring in the rest of his collection from home.
“Music is something you share,” he says, when Yoongi asks if he’s okay with letting all of them go. “Besides, I’m old. Can’t take them with me when I die.”
So they put out more albums and even some cassettes. Yoongi mentions that they should order in some record players to sell, in case there are any new vinyl listeners, and those sell, too.
On the third week, Taehyung finally appears. He’s wearing a mask and a ballcap and Yoongi doesn’t even notice him sitting in the listening corner until after he’s locked the front door and is returning from the maintenance closet with a broom.
“Holy fuck, Tae!” Yoongi crouches to the ground, one hand over his heart. “What the fuck, how long have you been there?”
Taehyung’s giggling behind the mask, and when he strips it back, Yoongi has trouble looking at him and thinking at the same time. It’s been awhile since he’s seen that gargantuan smile. “Just a few minutes. You were busy with that last group and I snuck in.”
“You don’t have to sneak in like a burglar,” Yoongi grumbles, rubbing his stomach. “Shit.”
Silence blankets them. Yoongi’s not sure what to say but feels like he should say something, but Taehyung’s eyes just keep drifting across his face as if he’s trying to remember something and Yoongi is honestly forgetting what language is and how to use it.
“You’ve been gone for a while,” Yoongi finally says, adjusting his grip on the broom.
“I had some work to take care of.”
“Well.” The intensity of Taehyung’s eyes is making is making his ears warm. “I’d say it’s been quiet, but we’ve honestly been swamped. Thanks for that.”
Taehyung blinks as if coming back to himself. “What?”
“You’re the one who posted about the shop, right? V?” Taehyung’s face warms. “I—You didn’t have to, but thank you. The store’s been struggling and—” Yoongi taps his foot against the ground. “Just, thank you. It means a lot to Mr. Lim.”
Means a lot to me, Yoongi doesn’t say.
“I could have posted earlier, but I didn’t want to,” Taehyung says, catching his bottom lip between his teeth. “I know it’s proud of me to say it, but I knew that if I told people about this place, then they would come. And I guess I kind of liked that it’s so quiet here. That it’s this little hidden gem. My own secret place.”
“So why’d you tell everyone?”
Taehyung’s voice is low, husky when he says, “Because of you.”
Yoongi blanches. “Me?”
“You’ve shared so much music with me that made me happy,” Taehyung says without looking away. “I wanted to give others an opportunity to find that small happiness, too.”
Yoongi’s jaw tightens. He looks down at his hands, but Taehyung doesn’t say anything more. Just stands there, patient and thoughtful, while Yoongi gathers himself together enough to say, “That’s really beautiful, Tae.”
Yoongi doesn’t say what he really wants to, though. That Taehyung’s work is beautiful, as well. That Taehyung himself is gorgeous. That Taehyung reminds him of sunlight filtering through the front window in the evening just before dusk takes over. That Taehyung’s half-lidded sleepy smile make something jangle inside Yoongi’s chest. That Yoongi wants to talk to him about music and art and space outside the store, maybe at a bookshop or a café?
Taehyung’s looking at him again. Face flushed, gaze intense. Yoongi frowns, and he’s about to ask if Taehyung is feeling okay when Taehyung bursts out, “There’s a special exhibit at this contemporary art museum in Hongdae this weekend and I’d like if you went with me. Maybe we can grab dinner after?”
And that’s how they end up here, with Kim Taehyung asking Yoongi to take a very non-platonic trip with him to a museum this weekend.
“You want to go on a date with me?” Yoongi asks, and Taehyung’s brow furrows, making a stern divot in the middle of his skin.
“Yes,” Taeyung nods, quick and sharp. “I want to go on a date with you.”
It’s the third time it’s been stated but Yoongi still feels like he’s trudging through murky water.
“If you don’t want to, that’s okay,” Taehyung says the longer Yoongi just opens and closes his mouth. His voice is casual and soft, but Yoongi can see the hurt bloom in his eyes. “I just… I really like you. Like spending time with you.”
“You do?” Yoongi says and his voice cracks.
Taehyung quirks his head to the side. “Yeah? Did you really think I come here everyday just to listen to music and sort your album collection?”
Yoongi slumps forward to lean against the broom, his spine suddenly dissolving from the exhaustion of this conversation. “Yeah? It’s a music store? And I’m, like, you know? And you’re, you know?”
Taehyung’s head bobbles to the other side. “What?”
“Taehyung, you’re fucking beautiful and literally the most gentle person I’ve met in my life,” Yoongi half-snaps. “And I’m kind of pasty and grumbly? My friends call me a gremlin. But like, a dumpling gremlin, not a weird demon gremlin.”
Yoongi snaps his jaw shut to keep from furthering his humiliation, but the longer Yoongi rambles, the brighter Taehyung’s eyes become.
“Yoongi-hyung,” Taehyung says, beaming. “I’ve meticulously been trying to communicate that I have a crush on you through records for weeks now.”
Yoongi’s face scrunches. “What?”
“And you put on ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ the other day, when I walked into the store, and I thought that meant you were trying to communicate back.”
Taehyung takes a strong, decisive step forward and Yoongi feels his breath catch inside when Taehyung peers down at him from under those ridiculous lashes. “I like you, Min Yoongi, and I want to date you. Is that okay?”
“I—yeah?” Taehyung grins, encouraging, and Yoongi nods, says more resolutely, “Yeah, okay.”
Taehyung helps him clean up the shop after that, and if takes twice as long as normal because he puts on Sinatra and demands that Yoongi dance with him, well, Yoongi will deny it until he's in his grave.