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paint-stained laundry

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Taehyung holds his brush in his hand, with a pensive expression painting his features and knotting his eyebrows together in what to an outsider would look like concentration. It’s clearly, judging by the blank canvas in front of him, not real concentration at all. It’s been weeks since his last project, he really can’t ask for more delays on his deadline, since he might need more time in the future and he can’t eat away all his postponable time on his first semester of university, his professor won’t even try to be as lenient, were he to need it later on.

Which explains why he’s currently stuck in this situation: stuffed in a tiny room on the third floor of the Arts building with broken windows and flickering light on the top of his head, which is only worsening his mental capability, already compromised by the strong smell of his oil set. There are canvases stacked in every single corner of the storage room, with others strewn along the floor, covered in dust, because he knows that janitors never clean this room since no-one should use it, the canvases are treated and tended to only once they get moved to the main storage room on the ground floor.

Taehyung is stuck, trying to paint with a semi-realism that doesn’t feel like his own, with colours that burn his eyes with how bright and saturated they are and he must work on a canvas that is too bland for him to be comfortable painting on it.
Dust makes him sneeze and he notices a text from Yoongi, who is asking him about their weekly movie night since Taehyung was supposed to meet him hours ago.

With a heavy heart and an even heavier hand, he explains his art block, says he needs to work to meet his deadline, but hopes to be able to catch up on the movie Yoongi had decided to watch. He almost types out that he hopes Yoongi won’t be disappointed in him, but he’s probably overreacting.

Was he looking forward to his movie night with Yoongi? Hell yes. Yoongi is his brother’s best friend, and Taehyung has other friends, but movie night with Yoongi on Tuesday evening is an institution. Established in early November, when Taehyung had been in university only for a couple of months and wanted to see his brother. Taehyung had not texted Namjoon, because he knew his brother wouldn’t have replied. So Taehyung had done a few more flights of stairs than what he usually had to and knocked on room 647, only to find his polite hyung at the door, who mumbled that Namjoon would have gotten home later, but Taehyung was free to wait there and watch a movie with Yoongi.

That night had been the first of many, at first awkward, movie nights, and by mid-December, Taehyung was already harbouring a crush on the “cool-but-soft” hyung that watched movies with him just because they were friends.

For Heaven’s sake, Yoongi had even written him a song, exactly how was Taehyung supposed not to fall? Even Jimin had whispered “whipped” at Yoongi when they listened to it.

Head in the clouds and art block too impending on him, Taehyung collects his oils, his acrylics and brushes and gets out of the storage room. Outside the Arts building, he shivers under his long coat at the February air as remnants of dirty snow cling to his boots. He thinks about going back inside, to his dorm where he can drown in Jimin’s cuddles, be a lovesick idiot and help his best friend to fall asleep before dawn. However, he promised him that would’ve worked on the stupid project.

He roams around campus with a bag too full of art supplies for him to walk properly in a straight line, cold seeping through his clothes despite the many layers. Taehyung notices a building with the lights still on and doesn’t think twice before going in.
It’s the campus’ laundromat, the one with washing machines that came out of one of those stupid coming-of-age movies from the 80s that Yoongi loves, the washing machines that let you use the useless change you never use because the size of the coins is perfect.

No-one, apart from Taehyung, is inside. He looks to his right from the entrance and sees that ugly looking wall, white and empty like the canvas in the storage room. The difference is that this is an unusual canvas, odd, broken in a few spots, with cracks lining and connecting the spots, a broken negative constellation that Taehyung stares at and sees.

He finally sees something. Something that smells faintly of strawberries and freshly mowed grass, of fresh air and summer sweat, sounds like Soonshim, his family dog, sounds like his grandmother telling him old tales, his siblings’ laughter and so many other things that simply scream Daegu. In the odd, broken mix, Yoongi pops up.

Yoongi and the drawl he carries out when he’s tired, the sheepish smile that drags along his lips and his cheeks from where he lies on Taehyung’s shoulder when they relax in front of the love comedies that Yoongi secretly adores. Yoongi and his muttered sentences when he’s battling not to fall asleep because “I wanna stay with you, Taehyung-ah, I won’t be sure to see you in my dreams,”; the corny expression that Taehyung sports is only for Yoongi to see in those occasions, light coming solely from the computer screen propped on the coffee table while they secretly glance at each other, not really paying attention to the movie that they chose. Yoongi and the kisses he gently lays on Taehyung’s forehead, on the crown of his hairline, on the top of his head.

Taehyung doesn’t realise that underneath his woolly sweater he’s wearing one of Yoongi’s black, oversized shirts, one of those shirts so big that even Taehyung swims in them, despite being several inches taller and with a much broader chest and shoulders. Warmth seeps through him as he paints, not caring about the impending sleepiness he feels. He paints the mountains that surrounded him while he was growing up, he washes them in the bright, saturated colours of the sunsets he spent years watching, seeing unreal colours and hues take shape in reality before the brightest stars would come up.

Sunset yellow, deep blue for shadows that Taehyung always thought were odd, taking shapes along the uneven surface of the mountains behind, pale orange and fierce red for the in-between, where shadows meet light and it all seems to explode in sparkles like fireworks on the ground.
Taehyung paints until he’s done and dawn is creeping up on him, the faint sunlight bleeding through the laundromat’s tiled floor, basking everything in pink hues that remind him, once again, of Yoongi.

He scribbles his signature on the upper right corner of the painting, along with the sentence that symbolises his relationship with Yoongi, from that very song he’d dedicated to him, asking Jimin to sing in it. At the end of it, he lets himself slump over the washing machines he had climbed on to paint the corners of the sky and finally, finally sleeps.

In all seriousness, Yoongi is worried that Taehyung turned down their movie night, having grown used to enjoying his Tuesday evenings with the younger, but he lets it slide and goes to sleep a little earlier than usual, reminding himself to grab his laundry to take out tomorrow morning, since he doesn’t have classes. He grows restless by the time his head hits his pillow, but he tries to ignore it, like the adult he’s supposed to be. And if he finds himself slipping shoes on top of his fuzzy socks and going out from his dorm and running down two flights of stairs to reach Jimin and Taehyung’s dorm, it’s only to check if he’s alright.

But when, with a scowl on his face, covered by a face mask, it’s Jimin who answers the door and he just says “Taehyung is fine, has a deadline and is working, don’t sweat it,” and proceeds to slam the door on his face, visibly irritated by the intrusion. Jimin probably doesn’t hate him, and Yoongi noticed the eye bags underneath his eyes, so he figures it’s the lack of sleep due to midterms and his upcoming showcase. Yoongi decides to climb back and falls asleep, wishing that Taehyung would be there next to him, just for human warmth, not because he likes when Taehyung falls asleep next to him, curled up in a ball and begging for something to hold, grasping Yoongi’s shirt and mumbling sweet nothings next to Yoongi’s heartbeat.

When he wakes up the next morning, it’s because of a sliver of sunlight slithering through his blinds. He looks to his phone with a heavy heart, noticing no new messages.
He grabs his laundry basket because he’s a functional human being, an adult on top of that, and wears the fuzziest sweater he owns, wrapping a huge scarf to top it off, thermic shirt and trousers underneath his normal clothes because he hates feeling cold, but he’s too lazy to find a coat that fits him from the rack by the door and sets off to do his laundry.

February is, to say the least, the coldest month of the year. Yoongi wishes he could hibernate all through it? Yes. However, he’s human, and human bodies do not sleep for months at once, so he sucks it up and speed-walks to the laundromat near the dorm, cherishing the warmth that seeps through him when he enters.

When he does look around, though, he notices three things: the place smells heavily of paint, but that’s because there’s a new painting on the wall, a mural, if he remembers the right term for it, and the third, oddest out of all the things in that Wednesday morning, is Taehyung. Taehyung sound asleep on the washing machines, paints scattered around him in a mess of furls and swings, wearing one of Yoong’s shirts, completely ruined by yellow, blue, and pink paint, stark on the black fabric.
In a new-found panic, Yoongi drops unceremoniously his basket on the floor, which emits a loud thump when it touches the ground, effectively waking Taehyung up. Which, in all honesty, is a sight to see: bird nest instead of hair, puffy eyes that can barely stay open, puffy cheeks which are only impeding his eyes to open even more, figure smaller than usual, with his shirt wrinkled in all the wrong places, twisted so that the back is on the front, big splotches of paint staining it even more.

Yoongi barks out a laugh and sees Taehyung flush a deep red, from the top of his ears to the base of his neck, matching the areas of his painting where lights and shadows meet. Yoongi smiles then, a low “Good morning, sunshine,” escaping his lips without him really wanting to, and finally, finally Taehyung smiles back. He scrambles off the washing machines, popping half of his spine in the process, and begins to take all his paints and brushes to shove them into his bag messily like he always does. But Yoongi gathers close, analysing the painting the way Taehyung taught him to, letting himself feel the emotions, and Yoongi feels nothing but uncontrolled, beautiful, unsettling love. The kind to sweep you off your feet, smile stupidly at derps and meme faces, the kind that makes you mumble “What an idiot,” secretly flushing a pretty dusty pink because: “I can’t believe I like you, of all people, with your bold non-sense and flamboyant, eccentric personality. But I love you.”

Yoongi realises what he just said when Taehyung chokes on his saliva, blushing a deeper, crimson red, mumbling “Hyung,” a little unsure, a little terrified, all Taehyung. Well, no turning back now, so Yoongi cradles Taehyung in his arms, the way he always does, but he doesn’t hold back; he takes Taehyung’s face in his hands, wanting to scream so many things at once, lost completely in Taehyung’s eyes, silent and open, wide, wide open now, mind racing a hundred miles a minute. Until Yoongi mumbles, voice low to avoid disrupting the silence, “Can I kiss you? Please,” and it’s so quiet, so, so quiet. But Taehyung nods, and his hair does it too, falling in his eyes. So Yoongi gathers all the courage he has and finally kisses Taehyung, the way he wanted to when he fell asleep on his shoulder the first time: slow and soft in the best way.

They kiss, the world spins on his axis, it all falls into place. February is biting cold, it’s a usual Wednesday morning, some people have classes, some don’t. Seoul is waking up, shops are opening. Taehyung and Yoongi are there, but not exactly: they kiss, soft and slow, and they’re in Seoul, but their minds drift and it feels like coming home, like watching the sunset painting the mountains in Daegu, like summer, like spring, like winter, like autumn. It’s a cycle, round process, from point A to point B, and it doesn’t mean anything, but it means everything. Because they love each other, but their love is quiet, strong, like the mountains back in Daegu.

If they’re exploding, it’s only for them, in the middle of a laundromat that nobody uses in the morning. They explode quietly, for them to know, and just for them.
It’s going from point A to point B, and right now that’s enough because February is cold, but it’s less rigid when they’re close. There’s a point C in the distance, but they don’t care right now, because point B is comfortable; a quiet promise, a steady heartbeat next to another.

Taehyung and Yoongi kiss, and it feels like coming home.