Somehow it's less cool that Hoseok has to share a car with his sister than it would be if he didn't have a car at all. Possibly because when they drive somewhere together—like they have today, coming downtown so Hoseok can see his friends and Jiwoo can meet her date—she gets out and forcibly tells everyone how uncool they are for a while before she goes off to her own business.
Yoongi is already sitting with some of the others on the steps outside the convenience store—Jungkook at his side, a step down to make himself short enough to snuggle in, and Jin and Namjoon up on the rail. He quails as Jiwoo’s assessing gaze passes over him—he’s admittedly not sure about the hat—but he escapes evaluation today. Instead, she narrows her eyes at Jin. "So what, a couple of you losers get real jobs and you think you need to wear blazers on a Saturday?"
Jin snaps his lapels. "It's just a jacket."
She raises one eyebrow and moves dismissively on to poke at the spikes of hair furring off Namjoon's head. Nothing moves. He ducks away, grimacing, and Hoseok whines, "Stop being mean."
"Some of you look less bad than usual," she says, nodding with the air of someone being extremely generous. “Jungkook’s really starting to turn into an actual person.”
Jungkook looks up but chickens out and ducks his face again before he manages to make eye contact with her. (That’s wise. She’s hypnotic, like a snake.) Jiwoo smirks but doesn’t press, and Yoongi is glad for it. Because, well— “starting to turn into an actual person” is kind of a mean way to put it, but Yoongi has noticed that development, too. When did little Jungkookie get taller than Yoongi is? He’s wearing this artfully destroyed sweater that shows skin all over his arms and shoulders and even right down the center of his chest, which is filling Yoongi with an appropriate horror but also some other emotions that don’t have names.
Jungkook’s just a kid, he’s their little kid friend following behind. He has been forever, and Yoongi is starting to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Thoughts like, he has gotten awfully built and technically my parents’ ages are farther apart than ours shouldn’t have any place in his head.
But when Jungkook shrinks away from Jiwoo and a little into Yoongi’s side, when he knocks his head into Yoongi’s shoulder like a cat asking for scratches… there are a few extra thoughts flitting around Yoongi anyway.
Jungkook is so embarrassed and cute, though, that Yoongi pushes it away fast. He pats Jungkook's head and glares at Jiwoo. She's unphased.
"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Hoseok asks her. "You're mean and you're short and you're making everyone uncomfortable."
"I haven't even done anything yet," says Jimin, walking out of the convenience store with Taehyung at his side.
Hoseok rolls his eyes and Jiwoo snorts.
"Everyone, I have an important announcement to make." Taehyung takes his lollipop out of his mouth to gesture grandly with it, earning the quiet attention of the whole group. He grins. "Jimin is wearing red pants."
He starts squeezing Jimin's butt and Jimin pretends half-heartedly to push him away, looking both flustered and pleased. They devolve into a laughing play-fight and Jin catches Yoongi's eye. Yoongi raises his eyebrow. Yes, someone needs to intervene in that, but Yoongi has his own problems. Jungkook is still cuddled up into his side, stealing a lollipop from Taehyung's bag. He unwraps it and pokes it up, and Yoongi doesn't even think before he opens his mouth and takes it.
Jin shakes his head, and Yoongi turns his head to dip out of this silent conversation.
"How long are you going to be here?" Jiwoo asks. "What are your plans?"
Hoseok shrugs and looks at Yoongi; Yoongi shrugs back. He doesn't have any big plans. Just hanging out at the convenience store with his friends. Messing around the basketball hoop by the fountain, maybe. Doing a chill, normal amount of snuggling with the recently hot baby of the group. It's whatever.
"Text me when you're done," Hoseok says. "We're just going to hang out, maybe talk to some girls from school."
"Yeah, right," Jiwoo says. "Who would talk to you all? Gross."
"Will you just go?" Hoseok tries to turn her around with his hands.
"Fine, fine," she says. "Have fun getting rejected or whatever."
"Ooh, I love rejection," Taehyung says brightly. It is impossible to tell if he's kidding, but Jungkook laughs. He's still lying on Yoongi's shoulder, and Yoongi can feel it.
"Some of us have game," Jimin says. "Jungkookie had a girl at school trying to marry him the other day."
Everyone looks at Jungkook, who pulls away from Yoongi to curl in on himself like a bug. He goes all red, and says something in reply but it's muttered too low to hear.
"Right." Jiwoo stretches the word doubtfully. "If any of you can get a girl's number, ice cream's on me later."
"You're on," Namjoon says, like a fool.
Jiwoo grins all evil. "See you in a couple hours."
"See you in hell," Hoseok replies, but only after she's gotten far enough away that she probably won't hear.
There's a lot wrong with taking Jiwoo's bet, but one of the simplest problems is that downtown is pretty dead this afternoon. There are a couple of people walking around, and every now and then a car drives by, but it's not exactly a nightclub out here.
"Ducks!" Taehyung shouts. "Jimin, come look!" He grabs Jimin's hand and pulls him over to the bridge to look down at the river, even though Jimin is hollering to slow down as they run together.
Jungkook gets up after them like he might follow, but he lands on the battered basketball hoop instead. He gives the ball a couple lazy dribbles before taking a beautiful, clean shot. Swish, like the air in Yoongi's lungs.
He gets it back and turns to make an easy chest pass to Yoongi, his fingertips taut in the air between them with the follow-through as the ball traces a perfect heart-to-heart arc. Yoongi reels too much, but he catches it.
"Play with me," Jungkook says. Yoongi is already spitting out his candy and getting up, anyway.
He floats a basket from well past where the three-point line would be if this were a real court. Jimin and Taehyung clap from across the street, but a fire catches in Jungkook’s eyes and he grabs the ball back with a real, sharp movement. Yoongi dives into Jungkook’s back as Jungkook turns to box him out. Jungkook feels even stronger than Yoongi guessed, steady on his feet even as Yoongi throws his whole weight against a remarkably broad back. Yoongi brushes the skin of Jungkook’s upper arm when his finger slips through a hole in the sweater and Jungkook stumbles a step, just enough for Yoongi to reach under him and use his shoulder to twist both their bodies open, and Yoongi gets the ball back and hunches over to protect it as Jungkook covers his back.
They aren’t dressed right for this—Yoongi’s damn jeans are too tight and his jacket feels heavier than it did a few minutes ago, too hot with the extra bulk and heat of Jungkook’s torso over his own. Jungkook laughs near Yoongi’s ear, a tiny gust like a flame.
Jimin’s “ooh” stops Yoongi in motion and gets Jungkook’s attention, too. Taehyung and Jimin are walking from the river, slower but still hand-in-hand. Yoongi gapes at that for a second before he follows Jimin’s gaze.
There’s a girl, an actual in-real-life girl, walking to the convenience store. She looks cool, in a dress like a cheerleader’s and a hat like a skateboarder’s, and she’s beautiful. Yoongi is extremely aware of Jungkook staring at her, behind him.
On the steps, Hoseok, Namjoon, and Jin are having a whispered, shoving argument, and Yoongi knows a moment of true, heart-dragging dread as Namjoon steps forward. “Good afternoon,” he says, cheesing in this terrible smile even though his regular one is much nicer. “What are you here for today? Something sweet?”
Privately, Yoongi thinks that’s pretty good. Better than he could do, anyway. What are you really supposed to just walk up to a girl and say? But she ignores him.
“Let me know, I’m buying,” Namjoon says.
She turns on her heel and gives him a flat look. “Tampons,” she says, and goes through the door, letting it close in his face.
Namjoon stands there, dazed, as Hoseok laughs and Jin covers his eyes with his hands. “Hyung!” Taehyung shouts, running forward. “Men should buy tampons, for feminism. Do you think we should go after her?”
“Let’s just leave her alone,” Jin says, taking Taehyung into his arms to physically hold him back. Taehyung cheerfully offers the lollipop out of his own mouth, which Jin grimaces and does not accept. Taehyung sticks his arm out to offer it to Jimin, who takes a shy lick.
“Ugh,” Jin says. He loosens his hold but he’s stuck under Taehyung and Jimin both, now.
Yoongi turns back to the game, a smile on his face, but stops when he sees Jungkook looking almost stricken. “You all right?”
“Namjoon-hyung is so cool,” Jungkook says forlornly. “If he can’t even talk to—you know, to girls and stuff…”
He trails off, and Yoongi ignores the prickly thing happening in his own chest. Girls. Of course.“First of all, Namjoon is a nerd,” Yoongi says. “But he has plenty of time to grow out of it, just like the rest of us. And, like—” He tries to give Jungkook a firm nudge, but he still has the basketball in his hands, so he just kind of boops his elbow with it. “You don’t need random girls on the street to think you’re cool. You’ve just got to be good to your people. The rest will fall into place.”
Jungkook nods, holding Yoongi in that galaxy-wide gaze of his. “I think you’re cool, hyung.”
Yoongi swallows hard, and he can’t figure out if he wants to play it off or say thank you and his words get all stuck in his throat, and then Jungkook’s face breaks into an impish little grin and he grabs the basketball out of Yoongi’s hands and turns to make a shot. Yoongi barrels into his back and Jungkook barely even moves, which is just—it’s fascinating, it feels so strange and sort of a little bit good in Yoongi’s body to shove into another and feel it so stable and strong like that. He does it again instead of going after the ball, just jumps against Jungkook’s chest as Jungkook is turning into him. Jungkook does rock back, this time, but he hunkers down some and flexes his thighs in his tight black jeans and really does not move even a little when Yoongi smashes into him again.
Jungkook has a smug look on his face, slightly confused about whatever Yoongi’s doing and completely sure that Yoongi won’t take him down regardless, and it feeds the giddy rush in Yoongi’s heart with something like outrage. He also doesn’t know what game he’s playing, but he knows he doesn’t want to lose it, or stop to think about what it is.
Jungkook gets his arms around Yoongi’s to stop him jumping around, and there’s a turn and a whoosh and suddenly, with a delicious, sickening thrill of vertigo, Yoongi is floating twice his height above the earth, perched on Jungkook’s sturdy shoulders.
Only a lifelong commitment to holding a straight face could have trained Yoongi to keep from yelping and grabbing Jungkook’s scalp. It’s lucky, because he can tell even strong Jungkook is working hard to keep them both upright like this, even though he’s grinning as their friends whoop and cheer for him. Yoongi smiles, holding his face unbothered as his whole body surges with adrenaline. He cups his hands under Jungkook’s chin and feels the frantic flutter of his pulse.
He gets one breath to survey the world, his raggamuffin friends and the graffitied basketball hoop and the line of buildings down the street, from this dizzy new height that makes it all beautiful and strange.
And then the girl comes back out of the convenience store, making her way through the shouting group on the steps and giving a slow once-over to the picture of strength Jungkook must make. Jungkook hunkers carefully down to get Yoongi’s feet on the ground and extracts his head from between Yoongi’s thighs. Being carried was the unsteady thing, but it feels like it’s the ground that’s shaking.
Namjoon and Hoseok scurry up, Taehyung close behind them. “Go say something,” Hoseok whispers urgently to Jungkook, gesturing to the girl, who’s walking away.
“She was into that,” Namjoon adds.
A queasy knot jams in Yoongi’s throat. Jungkook, turning red, shakes his head.
Namjoon and Hoseok share a glance. “Jin-hyung said we should leave her alone,” Taehyung pipes up, and Yoongi’s about to agree, but Hoseok is already squaring his shoulders and turning to jog away.
He runs past her, to his car, and leans against the side like it’s casual even though they all saw him sprint over there. “Can I give you a ride somewhere?” he asks as the girl walks by.
“Can he?” Taehyung whispers. “Doesn’t noona have the key?”
Yoongi can’t take it—he starts cackling even before the girl says, “No, I'm good," and gives Hoseok a cute, brutally condescending wave.
He wanders back as they regroup—Taehyung wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist, and Jungkook takes a step behind Yoongi, still close enough to feel. “We should probably just leave her alone,” Hoseok says.
“If only someone had mentioned that before,” Jin says.
“I did, I told them,” Taehyung tells him. Jin opens his mouth and closes it again.
Jimin snickers at any or all of them, and Jungkook drapes his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders. Yoongi can’t see, but he can feel Jungkook’s pout behind him. “It’s a shame about the ice cream, though,” Jungkook whines.
“I’ll buy you ice cream,” Yoongi says, immediately. Like he’s been possessed, compelled.
Namjoon’s eyes pop open in surprise; Jin’s narrow, suspicious.
“I mean, all of you,” Yoongi says. “Ice cream on me.”
Jimin and Taehyung whoop, and Jungkook picks Yoongi up by the waist to spin him around again. A few of them brought bikes, and they grab them to hurry ahead to the dessert shop down the street.
“Jimin,” Taehyung says. “Can I ride on your handlebars?”
“Every time we try that, someone ends up bleeding,” Jimin says, and rides away.
“Jimin!” Taehyung calls after him. “I don’t care! I like it, actually! Jimin! Jimin!”
Jimin doesn’t let him on the handlebars, but both Jimin and Jungkook ride their bikes back and forth in circles, looping around to stay close, as the ones who are walking make their way down the block. And Yoongi has… he’s lost control, a little, and he’s looking at Jungkook’s legs as they flex and extend, at his arms stretched over the handlebars, at the shift of muscles through the holes in his incredibly ugly and embarrassing sweater. He skims circles around Yoongi on his bike, laugh coming from everywhere, and if Yoongi has any power over any of this, he gives it up.
They all place huge, fancy orders since Yoongi’s buying, and he’s too pleased by the smiles on Jungkook and Jimin and Taehyung (and Jungkook, and Jungkook) to make them stop it. Yoongi pays an astronomical amount of money for all their ice cream and feels nothing but happy when he sits down in a booth and Jungkook squeezes in next to him.
The booth is too small for everyone, so Jimin and Taehyung stay at the counter and Namjoon goes over to the music machine on the shop’s wall to flip through the screens. Jungkook asks for a bite of Yoongi’s ice pop, and Yoongi lets him take it, watching his lips on the plastic. Yoongi wonders if he really, actually wants to kiss little Jungkookie. Whether it would be okay if he did. How it might feel.
The girl they’d been following down the street comes into the shop and stops in the doorway. Only when no one mobs her does she decide to actually walk in. Yoongi feels awful, but there’s probably nothing they can do about it now but let her be, so he busies himself with his ice pop. Namjoon picks a song from the machine—Yoongi catches his eye and smiles when he recognizes Epik High.
“Yoongi-hyung,” Jungkook says. “Will you make me a playlist of some songs I should know?”
His face is so sincere, already halfway to a smile. Yoongi does want to kiss him. He can absolutely make a playlist that tells him so. He nods.
The girl orders a whole bunch of stuff, like maybe she’s meeting friends outside or planning a party. She leans over the counter as the attendant puts together her order.
“Hey,” Taehyung says to her. “I’m really sorry to bother you. I was just wondering, what kind of eyeliner do you use? It looks super good.”
“Oh.” She stands up straight, almost startled, and peers at Taehyung like she’s trying to see through the scam. He keeps grinning, and eventually she says, “I just get whatever one’s on sale. They dry out faster than you think, the trick is to replace them a lot.”
“That’s really good advice, thanks!” Taehyung beams. “My friend Jimin always has great eyeliner, look how sharp it is.” He grabs Jimin’s face and hauls it over—Jimin screams a little, but he relaxes into it quickly.
“Very nice,” the girl says. Now she’s looking at the pair of them like they’re a brightly colored caterpillars or something, the kind of bugs that are too weird to be gross.
“Your eyeliner is good, too, Taehyungie,” Jimin says, once Taehyung has stopped squishing his face and he can talk.
“Yours is best,” Taehyung says, and then must remember he started a conversation with the girl and turns back to her. “Isn’t he cute? I love his red pants.”
He pats Jimin’s butt, and even though they’re sitting in front of that pretty girl, they’re just smiling at each other. Yoongi can’t remember if they’re always like this or not. Maybe they are, and he’s just seeing it new because he’s imagining it through this girl’s eyes.
She takes her hat off and pushes her hair back underneath it, and as she settles it back down, she actually, openly laughs out loud. With her whole chest, just right at them. And honestly, that is so fair. It feels like someone should ask her name, try to make friends, convince her that they aren’t a pack of animals, but it also seems like they should just put their heads down until she leaves and hope no one ever speaks of this afternoon again.
She gets her bag from the attendant and says thank you. She pulls Taehyung into a real, warm hug and says, loud enough for everyone to hear, “He thinks you’re cute, too. You should go for it.”
She winks before she flounces away. Taehyung gapes after her, and just before the door closes behind her, he shouts, “Thanks! Maybe I will!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jimin puffs his chest up, fight or flight.
Taehyung shrugs, putting his spoon his mouth and smiling cryptically around it.
“Maybe I’ll go for it first,” Jimin says, like that’s a really sharp comeback.
Taehyung’s grin breaks wider, sunny. “Okay. I’ll look forward to it.”
Jimin looks confused, like he's not sure what he's gotten himself into. Yoongi doesn't know, either.
Hoseok and Jin share exactly one second of eye contact and spill out of the booth at once to go over and start yelling again. When Yoongi pulls his attention back, he finds Jungkook looking at him, his face all screwed-up. Like he’s about to say something, something scary and huge and brave. Yoongi could pretend, but he knows what it is.
“Don’t,” Yoongi says quickly.
Jungkook’s face falls and he makes a tiny, tiny sound in the back of his throat. He looks crushed, and he scoots back like he might run out of the booth, too.
Yoongi grabs his hand. “No,” he says. “I mean, just… not right now. Not yet. Okay?”
Jungkook searches his face, and Yoongi pushes down the urge to school his expression flat and bored. He sits still and lets himself be read like a book. He isn’t brave enough to give any more than this, but that's because right now, this is taking a lot of courage.
“Okay,” Jungkook says softly. “Not yet.” He smiles small and wavering, two red spots high on his cheeks, but he turns his hand under Yoongi’s, lacing their fingers together, and goes back to his ice cream with his spoon in his other hand.
Yoongi takes another bite of his pop. It’s melting now but it feels like it’s gotten colder, because his whole head is burning like the sun. This probably wasn’t the right way to handle things. In a year or two, this memory will be so humiliating it will make him scream. He can already feel it, looming on the horizon like a stormcloud.
But right now, he has his rowdy friends all around him and Jungkook’s hand in his, and it feels good and right and sweet as the sugar on his tongue. He’s not ready for anything more. He needs a little more time to be an embarrassing kid, just like this. Just like this.