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Heroes, we come in all shapes and sizes

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Part I - Ordinary Individuals

I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
- Christopher Reeve

 

Brrii-iing, brrii-iing, brii-iiing-

The ringing of his doorbell is sharp and unceasing. It jerks Yoongi out of his grey, smudgy dreams that he can’t quite remember and back into the sharp white light of reality.

“For fuck’s sake,” Yoongi growls as he throws back the suffocating covers and stumbles down the hallway. “I’m coming!” he yells to the impatient recipient on the other side of the door and the ringing blessedly ceases.

Yoongi maneuvers himself through the messy living room, floor still strewn with moving boxes half-filled with this or that. The curtains are drawn and he nearly falls over what might be his rice cooker but could also be his speakers and in the process nearly trips down the step that divides his living room from the hallway entrance.

He has to make a grab for the little ledge to stop himself from face planting this early in the morning and as he pulls himself upright, he gets a glimpse of his reflection in the hallway mirror. His hair is disheveled and sticking up in all directions. The current color is a faded orange, like the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot, forgotten. It’s orange because Hoseok at that point of time had thought red would be a good idea; faded because he hasn’t thought to re-dye it in a long time.

He has dark circles under his eyes and downward curl to his lips. He looks and probably smells like one of those feral alley way cats. It’s not a good look and Yoongi hopes the annoying door-bell ringer appreciates it.  

Yoongi unlatches the lock and throws open the door. “Yes?” he practically snaps to the person awaiting him.

The mailman looks unimpressed. “Delivery,” he says stonily and shoves a giant package into Yoongi’s arms. It’s heavy and Yoongi almost drops it straight onto his foot. He however manages to gain his six am senses at the last second and gingerly lowers it to the floor instead.

“Sign here,” the mailman says roughly, now shoving a tiny black handheld towards Yoongi and nearly stabbing him in the eye with the little pen attached to the side. Yoongi fumbles for it clumsily and his signature comes out more a runny dot than a legible character. However the mailman seems more occupied with getting out of here than getting an actual signature and snatches it back before Yoongi can even ask for a redo.

“Um,” Yoongi starts, wanting to ask who sent the package and from where but the mailman has already shoved his equipment back into his bag and given a quick bow, all customary and no actual courtesy.

“Have a good day,” he says mechanically and turns around so quickly that his heels snap together.

Yoongi is left looking down at the giant package the size and shape of his neighbor’s ridiculously large and fluffy white dog (whose weight he knows because the dog jumped him three days ago when he first bumped into his neighbor in the hallway outside). If it’s anything the weight of his neighbor’s dog then Yoongi can probably carry it. It just won’t be any fun.

Then again the alternative is to sit here until his neighbor returns home at six ridiculous twenty am (as Yoongi knows because he always hears his neighbor’s door slam open and then close and his cry of Soonshimie! I’ll missed you! did miss me ?) and no doubt that will end in a one sided conversation of his neighbor’s amazement at you’re awake before noon hyung! That’s amazing! We should celebrate! Wanna come over- and no. Just no.

To avoid anything but that Yoongi decides he better get this box into his house and quick.

He crouches and raps his knuckles against the lid of the box. Nothing moves which is a good start so Yoongi goes ahead and wraps his arms around the cardboard, bracing himself and hefting it up into his arms. With an oof, he staggers backwards, nearly tripping over the bump of the door and only just managing to stay steady and kick the door close behind him.  

He takes the box to his kitchen slash living room and drops it onto the sturdy wooden table there. It falls to the surface with a solid thud and Yoongi lets out a deep sigh of relief as he stretches and massages his sore arms.

The box is wrapped well, if a little messily, with several layers of cellophane and thick parcel tape. A white label has his name and address finely printed in stark black letters making it unmistakable that this package is his. Still though, there’s no note of the sender.  

With a sigh Yoongi goes hunting for a pair of scissors. He might as well open it up to see what’s in there and with the ridiculous amount of tape he definitely can’t tackle this with bare hands alone. Even with his heavy duty scissors that he’s been using for ripping apart the moving-in boxes and bubble wrap he still has difficulty and he’s grunting and sweating by the time he finally is cutting through cardboard and not cellophane.

“There!” he huffs triumphantly and tosses the scissors aside. It skids across the table until it collides with a stack of papers that Yoongi has yet to sort through and stops.

The box is filled to the brim with a sea of little styrofoam bits and some falls out as Yoongi pries open the lid. He sifts through it impatiently, not caring as more spills over, until his fingers come into contact with a smooth surface. He slides his hands down until he can grip and base and lift up the strange object. It’s cuboidal in shape, with rounded edges and a curved domed top. On either side are two additional cuboidal pockets. The object is red and shiny all over except for a bar of white on the front and two bars of black on the pockets. It’s a strange, sleek design and Yoongi has no idea what it is meant to be.

He taps at the top of it, scratches at it with his fingernails to try and find a crack of an opening, prods it all over in search for a button. Yoongi tries everything he can think of but try as he might he just can’t find a way of opening it.

“How useless,” he mutters, giving up. There’s no instruction or even the slightest word to tell him who sent him this box and for what reason. Yoongi doesn’t even know if this box is even meant to open.

He drops back into his chair with a sigh and rolls his shoulders which are stiff and knotted. Defeated by a box. Urgh. He hasn’t hit a low this low in ages.

“Stupid box,” Yoongi growls and throws the wadded up tape at it. The messy scrunch of material goes flying so hard that it ricochets right off the curved edge and hits Yoongi squarely in his left eye.

“Ouch!” Yoongi hisses, his hands flying to his injured eye and his chair scratching horrendously as he shoves it back. “God…dam…tape-“

There’s a hissing sound and Yoongi quietens, unsure of where it is coming from.

He leaves his left hand still pressed over the watering eye but drops the right so that he can watch as the red box unfolds before him. It splits by some invisible fault line and mist spills out, blanketing the identity of the strange shadowy object that emerges.

Yoongi squints and stills, uncertain of whether he should be worried or not.

He catches a glimpse of tousled brown hair, soft and silken looking. Beneath that, skin, sun-kissed, and then long limbs and soft features and it all happens so quickly that one moment the box is opening with a hiss and a crack of steam and the next there’s a full grown boy standing on Yoongi’s kitchen top table.

The ceiling is low and the kid promptly bangs his head on it. For a moment the kid just freezes, pausing as if thinking of what to do next.

Then, “ouch,” he says and pulls a face. Yoongi stares. The wince and the responses to the ceiling are all normal, but there’s kind of… mechanicalness to it that makes the actions feel not quite so genuine.

The boy on the table rubs at his head stiffly with one hand and Yoongi takes a moment and a step backwards to frame him. He’s tall enough to reach the ceiling so he can’t be much taller or shorter than Yoongi is (he tried to change a lightbulb the day he moved in and upon clambering up onto the tabletop, promptly bumped his head on the ceiling), but his figure is swallowed by a long sleeved white shirt which makes him look tiny. It doesn’t help that the boy has a round face, dimpled when he winces, and large black eyes. He looks and reminds Yoongi of his next door neighbor’s dog, just maybe not quite as fluffy as Soonshim. Or quite as white.

“Um…” Yoongi says, not quite knowing what else to say in this situation.

He gains the attention of the boy on his table top who looks down. His eyes go wide and his mouth drops open slightly, like he hadn’t noticed Yoongi at all in the first place.

“Hello,” he says pleasantly and lifts his right hand in salutations, all five fingers and a palm spread flat.

Yoongi stares.

“I am Jimin. Your personal healthcare companion,” the boy chirps.

“My personal wha-?” Yoongi splutters.

“I was alerted to the need for medical attention when you said,” he pauses and his brow furrows, and then his tone changes, as if trying to mimic Yoongi’s lower vocal range, “’ouch’”.

He looks extraordinarily pleased with himself.

“Umm…” Yoongi clears his throat. He’s not entirely too sure about the situation but from what he can gather this kid on his tabletop is a robot, and not a standard one. San Seoul-Sokyo may be famous for being the hub of all things robotics and technological, but this is the first time Yoongi has ever heard the term ‘healthcare companion’.

Yoongi frowns at the robot on his tabletop.

Who could have sent him? And for what purpose?

The robot – Jimin, Yoongi corrects himself for identity’s sake – doesn’t seem to register Yoongi’s apprehension. He’s occupied with tapping his white shirt, plain but for a small circle where his heart would be. There’s a gentle beeping sound and a row of circles appear across the white canvas, two rows, five on each.

Yoongi has seen people wear this before. Customizable t-shirts seem to be the trend right now. Only this pattern is definitely not made for fashion.

The circles range from a bright smile, yellow in color, to a sad frown that is red.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?” Jimin asks, tilting his head as he looks down at Yoongi.

“Zero,” Yoongi says, his eye still throbbing but his curiosity that now borders on annoyance, overwhelming. “I’m fine.”

“Shall I scan you instead?” Jimin offers, tilting his head the other way.

“Wait, what? Scan me? No!” Yoongi protests, jerking his gaze up to the boy and that infuriating smile.

Jimin just smiles even brighter and his eyes curve in response. “It’s done!”

“Incredible,” Yoongi growls and stares flatly as Jimin pauses, one finger on his chin. “He doesn’t even listen. What sort of ‘healthcare companion’ are you?”

Jimin either doesn’t hear him or flat out ignores him. “The scans show that you seem to have a slight corneal abrasion. I suggest that you be careful to not apply pressure to the area of injury until it has full healed, or if you desire medication I can apply prednisolone via an eye drop.”

Yoongi’s eyes grow wide with alarm as Jimin holds out his index finger.

“Wait, what? Medication? From your… finger?” he stares incredulously. He definitely has not seen a robot like this before.

“Yes,” Jimin replies simply with a wide, beaming smile that makes Yoongi’s eyebrow twitch. “I am equipped with over a hundred different types of drugs and medication. I can assure you that all of them can be legally obtained from over the counter. You do not have to worry about my prescription.”

“And I’m to trust you administering this on…what basis?” Yoongi asks with a healthy dose of skepticism.

“Because I am your healthcare companion!” Jimin beams and Yoongi feels like he’s exceeded his recommended daily dose of sugar.  

“Uhh, right,” Yoongi says roughly because enough is enough.  It’s been days since he’s talked this much to another human, let alone a robot, and it’s starting to give him a headache. “I don’t know what you are or who sent you, but I definitely did not order some, uh, healthcare nurse or anything.”

“Oh?” Jimin’s smile falters and his shirt wipes clean, the faces rippling away and leaving it a blank slate again. “But you are Min Yoongi, right?”

Yoongi frowns. “Yes?” he says hesitantly.

Jimin’s smile returns in his full one hundred wattage glory. “Then that’s fine! I was built to be your healthcare companion Yoongi-ssi!”

“Um… by who?”

“By Namjoon-hyung,” Jimin chirps and suddenly it all makes horrible, horrible sense.

Yoongi’s hands ball into fists and he closes his eyes, the dull pain there forgotten.

“Yoongi-ssi? Yoongi-ssi?” Jimin says, sounding worried. “Are you okay? My sensors are reporting that your blood pressure is rising at an alarming rate.”

“Yes it is,” Yoongi replies through gritted teeth. He is this close from smashing something to pieces. Of course it had to be Namjoon. Kim I-can’t-keep-my-hands-out-of-someone-else’s-business Namjoon.

“High blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular artery disease. I suggest a soothing cup of tea and meditation may help your state of mind. If you so wish I could play some music to calm you down. I have an audio database of up to three thousand-“ Jimin trails off as Yoongi holds up his hand. His eyes are still closed.

“I’m alright Jimin,” Yoongi says, though the calm is forced.

“My scans suggest elsewise,” Jimin says simply and Yoongi’s blood pressure spikes in sync with the twitch of his eyebrow.

“No Jimin,” Yoongi says shortly. “I am perfectly fine. I just need to go make a phone call. Stay here.”

“Okay,” Jimin chirps and thankfully does as he’s told whilst Yoongi gets up to go grab his phone from his bedroom. Namjoon’s number is the third on his very scant list of contacts and Yoongi swipes at it quickly.

The phone rings incessantly loud and Yoongi paces back into the kitchen where Jimin is watching him with large, curious eyes.

After around three rings the phone goes straight into voicemail. “Hi Kim Namjoon. Sorry but looks like I can’t pick up right now-“

“C’mon Namjoon,” Yoongi growls and presses the call button again. “I’m not going to kill you. Just maybe throttle you until you start turning blue…”

Jimin looks slightly alarmed, as much as robot can. His eyes widen and mouth rounds. “Yoongi-ssi, vascular obstruction of another person’s trachea can lead to unconsciousness, or in the worst case scenario, death by asphyxia. This can be considered as homicide by the law and I would not recommend-“

“It’s just an expression Jimin,” Yoongi says flatly as his call goes through to voicemail again. He flips back to his contact list and calls Namjoon’s workshop instead.

“Hi, R&M Tech and Robotics. How can I help?”  

“Jungkook?”

“Oh? Hyung?!” Jungkook chokes on the word. He coughs and Yoongi can hear him pulling away the phone and frantically clearing his throat. He puts the phone back to ear and speaks again, “Hey…hyung, it’s um, been a while.”

A month and a half to be exact.

“How can I help?”

“Is Namjoon there? I couldn’t get through to his mobile.”

“Oh…” Jungkook suddenly sounds rather nervous. “Um, no he’s not around. He’s um…”

Yoongi rubs at the bridge of his nose. “Is he avoiding me?”

“Yeah,” Jungkook says, sounding sheepish. “He told me that if you called to pretend that he’s out.”

“And is he?” Yoongi asks, hopeful that he’s wrong.

“Actually he is right now,” Jungkook says, sounding apologetic. “He had to go check out the new shipment of actuators that he ordered from overseas. He won’t be back till this afternoon. I’m in charge until then.”

Yoongi groans.

“Sorry hyung. I can leave a message for him if you want.”

“Better than nothing I guess,” Yoongi sighs. The last thing he wants to do and first thing Namjoon wants is to leave the house. “He’s sent me some sort of healthcare robot and I have no idea what to do with it.”

“He sent you the Baymax Prototype?!” Jungkook says in a tone of great surprise.

“The what?”

Jungkook clears his throat. “It’s a new project that Namjoon-hyung’s been working on. He um, wanted to make a robot that can help people medically, like if you’re sick it can sense and diagnose it, or if you’re sad or angry it can tell and try to alleviate it. I guess…I guess he chose to test the prototype on you….”

“On me!” Yoongi explodes, his fury building to a boiling point. He turns and comes face to face with Jimin the healthcare robot whom he has forgotten is still in his house. The robot is still on the table, but crouching now so that he is relatively eye level to Yoongi.

“Do you not want me to be your healthcare companion Yoongi-ssi?” he asks in a tiny voice that sounds remarkably like an abandoned five year old. Yoongi wonders if he was programmed to sound like this or if he’s learnt that this is the best way to wiggle his way into somebody’s heart.  

Yoongi sighs heavily and runs a hand through his messy bed hair. “It’s not that Jimin. It’s just that I don’t need help. I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there whom you could help better and-“

“No,” Jimin says simply, cutting him off.

“What?” Yoongi blinks.

“No. There isn’t anyone else I could help better,” Jimin repeats and affirms. “Namjoon-hyung programmed me to help you.”

Yoongi’s voice is quiet when he speaks. “I don’t need help,” he says and for a moment there is a fluttering silence, like butterfly wings beating against a glass jar. Jimin pauses, blinking, and Yoongi knows he is formulating the ideal answer based on his System’s predictive ability.

Yoongi thinks that this is it. Even a robot whose every action are based on a series of predictions and binary choices should be able to understand when he is not needed. Hopefully now it’ll shut down and pack up and Yoongi can return him to Namjoon by this afternoon.

Except then Jimin smiles all wide and sunshine and says, “Well that’s what you think hyung.” And… what? “I mean I can call you hyung right? Namjoon programmed me to have mentality and personality of a teenager and my database tells me you are twenty two, so I can call you hyung right?”

Like that’s the issue right now.

“Okay, good, well hyung, sometimes it’s hard to tell when you need help. And that’s why Namjoon-hyung created me! To notice when people need help and then to provide it. Yes?”

Yoongi is completely and totally at loss for words.

In the distance Yoongi can hear Jungkook’s tinny voice go, “hyung, hyung. Are you listening to me! Hyung!”

He lifts the phone to his ear. He wonders if these words are his own. “Jungkook, I’m coming down the garage. If Namjoon comes back early don’t let him run away. Solder him to the table or something.”

“Eh? Wait, what?”

“See you in an hour or so,” Yoongi says shortly and hangs up before Jungkook can say anything further.

“Are we going somewhere hyung?” Jimin asks. Yoongi wants to hate that tiny dimple that appears when he does so.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says softly. He knows exactly why Namjoon has sent him Jimin but he can’t. He can’t keep him. It’s the smile. That smile reminds him of a certain other person… and- “We’re going to visit Namjoon-hyung, okay Jimin?”

Jimin’s smile grows even brighter. “Okay!”

No matter what Jimin says or thinks he’s a robot and he’s just programmed this way. Better Yoongi gets rid of Jimin before he’s grows too attached. And Yoongi will. He knows he’s a sucker for faces and personalities like Jimin.

“Good,” Yoongi says with a soft heave. “Get ready. We’ll leave in fifteen minutes.”

“Okay!”

It’s been over a week since Yoongi has last gone out of the house and it shows. His clothes are rumpled and probably haven’t seen the laundry machine since he first moved in; his hair is messy and greasy, he can’t remember when he last had a shower, was it yesterday? Or maybe the day before. There are sharp shadows under his eyes that make him look sickly when compared to his pale skin. In the bathroom mirror he looks washed out, waxen almost.

“I don’t need help,” he whispers to himself but the words tastes and sound bitter in his mouth.

He shucks his clothes off and steps into the shower. The water is too cold at first and then too warm. He ignores it and squirts shampoo into his hand, rubs it into his hair as quickly as he can. The water rivulets down his body and he tries not to look at how skinny his legs have gotten as he quickly scrubs at them.

He feels no cleaner stepping out of the shower than when he first went in but he tries to ignore it. He throws on the first clothes he can find in his wardrobe. It’s worn out jeans and a hoodie that smells comfortingly of oil and steel.

“Are you ready Jimin?” Yoongi calls as he comes out from his bedroom. He spies his bare kitchen and makes a mental note to do some grocery shopping later. He’s probably run out of ramen cups by now and the pizza delivery guy must be sick of coming to this apartment by now.

He comes round to the corner only to find Jimin still perched on the table.

“Jimin?” Yoongi coughs.

Jimin draws his gaze up and away from the floor and smiles towards Yoongi. “Hyung!” he chirps. “Can you help me? I can’t get off this table.”

Yoongi stares. “You’re a robot. Just, jump, or something.”

Jimin’s mouth rounds with shock, like Yoongi has just suggest he strip and start dancing on the roof or something. “But I’m a healthcare robot hyung!” he exclaims.

“And so?” Yoongi stares, failing to see the point. He’s a robot. He’s probably made of titanium and steel joints. He could fall of a building and probably come out relatively intact.

“And so in order to help my patients I must be in the best physical conditions myself!” Jimin says with an air of pride that no robot should retain. What on Earth Namjoon has programed this robot with, Yoongi will never know and probably never wants to know. “And so I can’t jump. It could damage something. So hyung,” he blinks puppishly at Yoongi, “help please.”

He holds out two hands and Yoongi groans. What sort of flimsy, unreliable robot has Namjoon sent him now?

Yet somehow Yoongi finds himself stepping forwards and slipping his hands underneath Jimin’s armpits. Yoongi finds that Jimin is lighter than he expects and he’s pretty easy to lift off the table and drop onto the floor.

“Thank you hyung,” Jimin beams when he’s safe and sound but Yoongi just makes an assenting sound and moves away to fetch his keys. “Hyung?”

“Let’s go Jimin,” Yoongi says curtly. He tugs on his shoes and checks his pocket for keys, wallet and phone. Jimin follows, a confused expression on his face. Yoongi makes a clicking sound and holds open the door for him.

Yoongi tries not to feel bad because Jimin is just a robot. He’s programmed to look and feel this way. And he’s just a robot who will be gone in a few hours’ time.

“Hyung?” Jimin asks again as Yoongi closes his door and locks it. It’s ridiculous sometimes how in such a high end technology run city they still have houses with lock and key, but they do. But sometimes, Yoongi realizes with a little pang in his chest, it’s nice to have a bit of the sentimental old left behind in a world racing far again.

“It’s nothing Jimin,” Yoongi says shortly and pushes past Jimin to head for the stairs.

He doesn’t look back to see whether Jimin follows.

*

They take the tram that heads down Stockton Street to Namjoon’s place. As a robot programmed to absorb all new experiences in order to adapt and act more human Jimin is like a five year old taken to a zoo. As a human who has spent his entire four years in San Seoul-Sokyo going to and fro his house and the university, the novelty of the bustling city has long worn off.

Watching the way Jimin’s mouth falls open and his eyes widen as if to try and take in more of their surroundings, it reminds Yoongi of the magic of the first time. It’s kind of endearing. It’s been a long time since he’s felt anything akin to excitement in the big city.

If there’s one thing though that Yoongi will never tire of it’s the gentle breeze that tugs at his hair as the tram goes down a hill and then up again. It’s the rhythmic chugging sounds as the red and brown vehicle struggles its way across town, and it’s the calming rocking sensation that comes from sitting inside the tram. It anchors him. It’s safe, it’s homely.

It’s only at times like these that Yoongi truly feels that he can relax, sit back and let his mind wander, his eyes scan past the rows of Queen Annes, pretty in pastel and white.

At some point in the distant past, three cities decided to band together and become one great capital. History says that times were hard and resources growing rare, but the demand for progress was punishing and it was only logical path for the top three cities for technology in the world to join hands. As a result San Seoul-Sokyo is a miss-mash of three very different cultures.  

It’s evident in one simple tram journey. You’ll start at one end with the rows of pretty white residential houses that a few stops later suddenly give way to rocketing sky scrapers, tall and curved and all sharp planes of glass, the hub of all business and financial matters. Then like a hidden grove in the middle of a metallic forest there will be the older, grittier sliver of the time. It was when Tokyo and Seoul had first joined San Francisco and built the foundations of their legacy on make-shift stores of tarpaulin covers and wooden crate tables. Kabukicho and Yongsan are what they are called these days, markets of ancestry that have grown more downwards or outwards than upwards, and ones that have never really lost that wonderful grittiness of its past to commercial growth.

There’s a saying in San Seoul-Sokyo, that so long as you know where to look, you can find anything and everything.

Yoongi thought that once. That this was a city of miracles and a treasure trove of dreams. Now he’s not so sure.

Four years ago Yoongi came to San Seoul-Sokyo to attend the prestigious department of Robotics and Technology.  Admission wasn’t easy but once you were in, you had access to the greatest resources and minds available on the planet. So long as you did well of course. And Yoongi had. He had excelled and graduated and had hoped to continue his research at the University. A year ago everything had seemed to so bright. But now…  

“Look hyung!” Jimin pipes up gleefully. “According to my databases those are San Seoul-Sokyo’s most famous invention of the century. Each wind turbine is composed of 456g of carbon fibre, 325g of…”

Yoongi tunes out Jimin the minute he starts listing parts. He knows by heart what they’re made of, those hundreds of colorful wind turbines which float above the city. It’s was the first grand collaboration project between three countries: Tokyo’s lightweight titanium research allowing the turbines to be built light enough to fly so high, Seoul’s advancements in propellers allowing them to be lifted in the first place, and San Francisco’s for their turbine designs that first brought about the idea for the new energy source.

It’s a brilliant decision. San Seoul-Sokyo naturally has strong winds which blow over the city. Funnel it and you have an unlimited source of energy. Along the way somehow they managed to find a way to make it not only efficient but picturesque and that has become the mantra of the city: beautiful and purposeful.

“Did you know that hyung?” Jimin says, bringing Yoongi back to Earth.

Yoongi tips his head down to look at him and he has to suppress the instinctual frown because Jimin’s human-ness is bordering on unnerving. At least when he first emerged from that box he still had the awkwardness and airs of a program, but it’s only been two hour or so and his speech now is smoother, his expressions more natural. He’s learning at an incredible rate and if Yoongi didn’t know better he would almost think him human.

“Hyung?” Jimin prompts him again.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says softly. “My professor was part of the design team that built the turbine prototypes.”

“Really?” Jimin says, sounding astonished. Yoongi is more astonished by the fact he can replicate human surprise so well.

“Oh? What is that?” Jimin goes, suddenly distracted and Yoongi twists his head to look.

“Oh, that’s Kabukicho market,” Yoongi says absently in answer as he catches sight of the dangling lines of lanterns that by night are brightly lit with varying shades of fluorescence. By day they are absent of glory. Dirty is probably a better way to describe the place, scuffed up earth and boarded up stalls. The strings look limp and the walls are a washed out color of grey. It’s not like it operates during the day as Yongsan market – it’s cleaner, more upmarket counterpart – does.

Yoongi’s throat suddenly feels dry and he wishes he had the sense to drink something before he left. He tries to swallow and spit is scarce. “You can buy lots of parts and wires cheap if you know how to deal and haggle,” he says in explanation when Jimin asks for more information. “There’s a lot of other illegal stuff that goes on down there like bot fighting and hacking races, so stay away from there okay?”

Yoongi shudders to think what the black market would do if they got their hands on a walking, talking, learning robot like Jimin.

It’s not that robots of Jimin’s caliber haven’t been built before, but there’s something unique about Jimin that Yoongi can’t quite put his finger on. He knows that others would spot it as well, and in Kabukicho, unique equates to high bids, and high bids equates to the storehands doing anything – legalities out of the way – to get their hands on it.

Yoongi’s glad when the tram takes a turn away from Kabukicho and towards Yongsan which is a sprawling maze of tiny shops and stalls, each with their own treasure trove of goods. The two markets are mirror opposites. Kabukicho is the darker dirtier place; Yongsan is the washed clean one. In both you can get the same sort of things: wires, motors, actuators. But only in Yongsan can you be sure you’re getting legal shipment. And that means higher prices and less choice. In Kabukicho almost anything is obtainable; it’s just a matter of cost. And not always the monetary kind.

“Are we there yet?” Jimin asks, innocently enough, and Yoongi breaks out of his reverie to notice that they’ve just missed their stop. He jams a thumb on the red button and grabs Jimin’s wrist, pulling him up and off the seat and they jump just as the tram begins its ascent up another hill.

He skids to a halt and stops for a moment to catch his breath.

“Are you okay hyung?” Jimin asks, eyes round with worry.

Yoongi nods and licks his lips. “Fine. Just, a little winded.”   

Jimin nods and smiles patiently until Yoongi gathers his breath and bearing. The area looks unfamiliar with him and for a frightful minute Yoongi thinks he may have to call Jungkook for directions. No, anything but that. Maybe Yoongi can walk until he sees a familiar landmark.

Then an idea strikes him. “Which way is Namjoon’s house Jimin?”

“That way,” Jimin says immediately, pointing in the opposite direction Yoongi was thinking of heading.

“Okay.”

Yoongi turns and picks his way across the tracks, careful to check that there are no incoming trams. Jimin follows happily enough as they make their way to Namjoon’s.

Kim Namjoon is a robotics genius who managed to skip a year and so shared a graduation ceremony with Yoongi. Yoongi met him in his second year of college and Namjoon’s first. They quite literally collided into one another, Yoongi late for his lecture and Namjoon carrying a tower of books that had blocked his view as Yoongi had hurtled round the corner. Yoongi had ended up missing that lecture but instead had instead gained a friend. Not that Min Yoongi liked to call people ‘friends’, he prefers acquaintances and colleges, something more distant and easily detachable, but Namjoon wasn’t having any of that and within two weeks Yoongi found his flat invaded by Namjoon’s truly. 

Since graduation Namjoon has set himself up with his own garage and been doing booming business. Yoongi has only been over a few times but he remembers it being a comfortable balance of messy and functional.

He recognizes the battered garage door now.

“Hey hyung,” Jungkook calls from the entrance. The garage door is drawn up suggesting that Jungkook saw him coming from a CCTV or something and opened up for him.

“Hey,” Yoongi says, forcing a smile in response. Jungkook gives a curt nod and steps aside to let Yoongi and Jimin enter.

Jungkook is a second year at SSS U who basically idolizes Namjoon and upon hearing that the elder was graduating and opening his own workshop, got on his knees and begged him to let him work there during his spare time. Yoongi has learnt over time that this is completely out of character for Jungkook who back at the university is known for his cold city boy character and high CV specs.

Jungkook is clever, quick to learn, and keeps to himself well enough that Yoongi doesn’t mind his intrusion and Namjoon finds him useful enough to keep around. He’s been around for so long now that Namjoon practically treats him as his right hand man, sometimes leaving the running of the store entirely to him when he’s running about town or fully immersed in his latest project. And so even though Jungkook doesn’t show Yoongi half the respect he shows Namjoon, Namjoon is happy and so it’s not like Yoongi really needs Jungkook’s respect and so it all works out. 

As Yoongi and Jimin make their way through the cluttered entrance of the workshop there’s a grating sound as the garage doors lower.

The workshop itself is an old thing. Namjoon had gotten it cheap through some connections. It has a little one bedroom flat above it where Namjoon sometimes sleeps and Jungkook sometimes crashes over at, but more importantly it has a sprawling space underneath.

With his winnings from a college competition, Namjoon completely renovated and filled the workshop.

There are four large screened computer positioned in one corner that allow Namjoon and Jungkook to both monitor their programs and run coding at the same time. Away from the testing and coding area is a large sprawl of tables piled high with metal tools and parts. Brightly colored wires spill out of one box and there is a pair of clippers next to it. The floor is not spared either; steel boxes filled with scraps can be pulled out and sifted through. Each is labelled but Yoongi knows that Namjoon has terrible organization ability and things tend to spill over into each other. Jungkook is usually the one who goes through the boxes at the end of every week to re-sort the stuff. To the left of the work tables is a clean space where Namjoon tests out his robots and experiments under the watchful gaze of cameras and sensors that can give him feedback real time.

Yoongi makes his way to the center of the workstation, his fingers trailing over the dusty tabletops and itching to pick up a spanner.

He looks over his shoulder to Jungkook, “Did Namjoon say when he’d be back?”

A shake of the head is his reply. “Maybe in another hour or so. You know the way hyung forgets about time when it comes to checking shipment quality.”

“Yeah I know,” Yoongi says with a sigh. “We’ll wait here if that’s okay.”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Jungkook says, rolling up his sleeves again. He has a test program running on one of the screens that looks suspiciously like a hack. Namjoon caught him last time and forbade him from doing it again but Namjoon has always been a good boy and never taken part in the secret school exam which all students take part in but never admit. Yoongi squints at the code and thinks that maybe Jungkook has a chance at succeeding. He’s not Namjoon’s right hand man for nothing.

“Have you tried a Trojan on the database?” Yoongi asks as he throws himself into a threadbare sofa that Namjoon got from the flea market down at Treasure Island. It’s comfortable enough, though there may be a spring somewhere that’s poking into his backside. He shifts until it’s gone.

Jungkook huffs a sigh from his black wheelie chair at the monitor. “I’ve tried. No good.”  

“SQL?”

“Been there, done that.”

“HHQ?”

“I’m trying that next,” Jungkook admits, shooting Yoongi a sheepish smile. Yoongi laughs as he always does when Jungkook finally steps off his high, sassy pedestal and admits that people other than Namjoon who are better at coding than he is exist.

“How is the exam material this year?” Yoongi asks lazily as he tosses his legs over one arms of the chair and reclines back, staring up at the spotted ceiling.

“A terror as usual,” Jungkook replies absently as his fingers dance across the keyboard.

“But not too tough for golden boy?” Yoongi says teasingly.

It always gets under Jungkook’s skin when Yoongi calls him that. “I got 92.5% on the mock tests,” Jungkook admits, half turning to look at Yoongi.

“But?” Yoongi catches the unspoken continuation.                     

Jungkook purses his lips, pleased that Yoongi caught it. “But Namjoon-hyung got 97% on his second year finals.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Of course,’ he says, turning back at the ceiling.

Jungkook is incredibly smart of his own right but Namjoon has always been a class of his own and Jungkook desperately wants to catch up to him. The only way he knows how is to excel at the backdoor exam the University boasts.

The test is not exactly advertised on the brochures of San Seoul-Sokyo’s University of Robotics and Technology but by the end of fresher’s week all the students know about it. It comes in whispers and hushed stories, in the back of the university bars after three shots and during far too late nights at labs.

The rules are simple enough: hack into the school server and get 100% on the finals to succeed. In any other school cheating would be punishable by expulsion, but here at SSS U, being able to hack the school’s almost impregnable system is proof you are a cut above the others. That and it also allows the university the chance to review and test their security system which they always modify after someone has passed the test. It’s a good arrangement, one that encourages both the students and the teachers to constantly improve. The tests themselves are designed to be impossible to score full marks unless cheating is involved so if anyone gets 100% there is no mistaking what they have achieved. Namjoon is proof that it’s impossible to do it the legal way.

Even then, in the history of cheating only three people have succeeded, and as smart as Jungkook is Yoongi isn’t quite sure he’ll be the fourth just yet. Give it another year or so and then maybe.

The sounds of typing fill the air again and Yoongi leans his head back to stare at the vintage clock Hoseok had bought last Christmas from the West End flea market after a good hour of hard bargaining. It’s old and battered and ticks far too loudly for Yoongi’s liking but Namjoon had been pleased with the gift and hung it up in his workshop straight away, proof that it had meant a lot to him. Right now it shows the time as quarter to twelve.

Beneath it, Jimin pokes the base of the clock curiously.

“Don’t do that Jimin,” Yoongi chides, forgetting for a moment that Jimin is only a robot and not a tiny child.

Jimin looks at him puzzled.

“Namjoon likes that clock,” Yoongi says, trying to explain and wondering if it’s just a folly to try.

“What should I do then?” Jimin asks, blinking wide eyes at him.

Yoongi frowns. “Do you need to do something?” He’s never met a robot as demanding as Jimin. Always asking for something to do, for something to be explained, for something to be told.

“I am your healthcare companion hyung,” Jimin says simply. “I cannot just sit around while you remain unhappy.”

Yoongi sighs deeply. Of all problematic programs Namjoon had to code Jimin with it had to be the overly fussy and caring one. “I told you already, I’m not…” he pauses and his brow wrinkles with realization. “When did I ever say I was unhappy?”

“My scanners note that you have had a disturbed sleeping pattern, worrying weight loss, and general fatigue and apathy. I have come to the conclusion that you are suffering from mild depression.”

“Enough Jimin,” Yoongi says curtly, his eyes narrowing.

Jimin pauses and tilts his head, but Namjoon doesn’t seem to have programmed him with the ability to shut up when required. “But hyung, depression, no matter how small, should not be left untreated. My databases suggest cognitive behavioral therapy as a suitable treatment. I am equipped to perform basic CBT but to do so I require participation from you-“

“Enough!” Yoongi snaps and Jimin freezes. Jungkook too. Yoongi can hear the sounds of typing cease and he knows he’s gone too far. He stops and forces himself to calm down. In, out. In, out. He breaths and controls his anger. This is not Jimin’s fault. Yoongi closes his eyes and tries to drown it all out, the simmering rage at the centre of himself.

“You haven’t charged Jimin yet, have you?” Jungkook says suddenly and Yoongi jerks open his eyes to find Jungkook standing over him. His eyes are dark and blank and give nothing away.

“Charged?” Yoongi echoes, finally finding his voice.

“He’s a robot hyung. One that you just activated,” Jungkook says flatly like Yoongi should have thought of this earlier. Truthfully he should have. “The red box that stores Jimin doubles as a charging station.”

“I…” Yoongi blinks, feeling dumb and clueless. “I left it at home.”

“We have a spare one here as well,” Jungkook says easily enough. He moves out of Yoongi’s line of sight but Yoongi can still hear him well enough. “Come Jimin. Let’s re-charge you.”

Footsteps fade as Jungkook leads Jimin further into the workspace and Yoongi closes his eyes, berating himself silently. Jimin is only a robot. He should not have let his temper get the better of him.

Faint footsteps returning signal Jungkook’s return. He doesn’t scold Yoongi as Hoseok once would have and Yoongi isn’t sure if he’s grateful or not for that.

There’s the squeak of the chair as Jungkook settles down into it, then the sound of typing filling the air again. Yoongi has been around Jungkook long enough to know that silence from him is not a good thing. It usually means he does not quite know how to respond or that he doesn’t want to respond at all.

However after a few minutes of silence and typing Jungkook pauses. His question is soft, so much so that Yoongi almost misses it.

“What do you think of Jimin, hyung?” he asks.

Yoongi gives his answer great consideration. What does he think of Jimin? Jimin is a robot, a robot that crash-landed his way rudely into life this very morning. He’s an incredible robot, that much Yoongi cannot refute. He learns at an unbelievable rate and can replicate human emotions amazingly well. Yoongi would love to sit down with Namjoon sometimes and discuss the programming code that has gone into him.  But at the same time Yoongi just wants to hate Jimin. Not because of Jimin himself, but because of the memories that Jimin resuscitates. The times when it had just been the three of them sitting over paper strewn desks with coffee cups in their hands and arguing over designs and code.

It’s everything and nothing and honestly what Yoongi thinks is that Jimin is tiring. He’s inquisitive and invasive and that is the last thing Yoongi wants.  

“He’s interesting isn’t he?” Jungkook supplies when Yoongi fails to answer.

Yoongi lifts his head to find Jungkook offering him a glass of water in the chipped mug that has always been his.

Yoongi rights himself into a sitting position and takes it gratefully. “Thanks,” he says and gulps it down. He’s thirstier than he thought he was. “And yeah, he is. Well made. Well designed.”

Jungkook’s expression softens. “Hyung built him for you, you know.”

A lump forms in Yoongi’s throat. “Jungkook…” he says, settling down the mug in his lap. His fingers tap up and down the side of the ceramic design of some bad name. Another flea market buy, it must be. He doesn’t know how to say the words he wants to say, how to vocalize the guilt and worries that chews away at him.  

“I know what happened. Hyung told me. Hoseok told me,” Jungkook’s eyes gleam like an alleyway cat under the blueish lights of the workshop.

“Don’t Jungkook,” Yoongi says heavily. “I don’t want to talk about it.” That’s all he really knows how to say.

“Then don’t,” Jungkook says with a shrug. “Or at least not to me. But how about to Jimin? He’s built to deal with these sorts of things. Why don’t you give him a chance?”

“I don’t need help Jungkook,” Yoongi says, his voice steely and sharp like one of Namjoon’s laser blades that he uses to finely cut metallic parts. “I just need…”

“To stop blaming yourself.”  

Yoongi flinches at Jungkook’s bluntness.

Jungkook’s eyes are steely, his jaw tight. “I may not have been as close to Hoseok-hyung as the two of you were but from what I know he wouldn’t hold a grudge against you.”

“Of course he wouldn’t,” Yoongi huffs because he knows without confirmation that Hoseok is the last person who would ever blame another human being. He’s just too good for that.

“Then why?” Jungkook pushes. “Why continue to blame yourself?”

“Because,” Yoongi says softly, staring down at his fingers, so small and trembling and they can hold on to nothing. “It’s not as simple as telling myself not to.”  

“But it wasn’t your fault,” Jungkook says. It’s quiet and it speaks to something in Yoongi. And Yoongi hates it.

“It was.”  

“You know that Namjoon-hyung worries about you.”

“I…” the words catch in Yoongi’s throat. “I know…”

“I know this may sound harsh, but…” Jungkook swallows hard. “But all I see you doing is blaming yourself for something that is in the past now. And then you push everyone who is worried for you away. And it’s selfish. It’s selfish and it’s hurting everyone else and I wish you’d just stop it so you would stop hurting Namjoon-hyung.”

Yoongi stares – properly this time – and it’s the first time he realizes, at just how young Jungkook really is. His eyes aren’t actually alleyway blue and his face and posture isn’t city boy cold. No. His eyes shimmer with unshed tears, bright like metal under harsh inspector lights. His body trembles, so tense that his muscles stand out on end under his dirty white tee.

Yoongi may have only made acquaintance with Jungkook through Namjoon and thought that was the extent of their relations, but apparently not. Not in Jungkook’s eyes. His outburst is passionate and caring and even though Jungkook’s first priority is Namjoon, somehow by extension Yoongi is there and it scares him, how easily humans can become attached to one another.

It makes Yoongi feel even guiltier.

“I…” he stands up and Jungkook instinctively takes a step back as if he’s afraid he’s said too much.

Yoongi leans forwards, his hand trying to stop Jungkook whilst his mouth formulates an apology, an explanation, but suddenly a hand comes between the two of them.

“Fighting resolves nothing,” Jimin says and Yoongi almost wants to laugh. He almost does, a maniacal little thing bubbling in his chest. Both Jungkook and Jimin stare at him like he’s crazy and Yoongi half wonders if he is.

“I’ll come back another day,” he says suddenly, his resolve to meet Namjoon and tell him off for presuming he needs help vanishing like foam.

Jungkook opens his mouth like he wants to say something, but Yoongi pushes past him before he can find the words.

“Thanks for the hospitality,” Yoongi says softly, not wanting to mean discourtesy but he really can’t find it in himself to stick around.

He finds the button at the entrance of the garage but it opens so slowly that he gets frustrated and tries to squeeze beneath it before it opens tall enough to admit him exit. He ends up hitting his head against the steel door and hisses with the sudden pain of it. Yoongi has to bite back a curse.

He just wants to get out of there. At the same time though, he doesn’t quite feel like going home. That place is too dark and lonesome, the memories and regrets still piled there under boxes and tape.

The sky above him is a wonderful blue and Yoongi tucks his hands into his pockets and wonders if things would be so much more different if he had just heeded Hoseok’s words.

“Hyung…”

Yoongi turns and there stands Jimin, cheeks flushed far too humanely and eyes far too emotional.

“Why didn’t you stay back at Namjoon’s garage?” Yoongi finds himself asking, though truthfully he knows the answer.

“You are my patient,” Jimin says with a soft smile. “And until my patient is satisfied I will not leave their side.”

Yoongi lets out a small sigh, but it’s no longer wrought of irritation.

“Where are you going hyung?” Jimin asks.

“Have you been about San Seoul-Sokyo yet?” Yoongi asks Jimin, watching his facial expressions carefully.

Jimin blinks and he shakes his head solemnly.  “I may be programmed to act like a teenager but Namjoon-hyung only initialized by system twenty two days ago. I’ve not been out of the garage until the day I was shipped to your house.”

“So you’ve never seen the outside world huh,” Yoongi says.

“Not until you took me outside hyung,” Jimin says and now Yoongi knows why everything fascinates Jimin so.

“Come with?” Yoongi offers. He could use a tag along. A stranger. A robot, perhaps.

“To where hyung?”

“You’ll see when we get there,” is all Yoongi says, and Jimin bows his head in acceptance and follows.  

*

Yoongi’s favorite retreat when he wants time alone is this little hill that overlooks the San Seoul-Sokyo bay. It’s a dazzling sight no matter what time of day and it brings a wry smile to his face as he watches Jimin’s eyes round like coins as they scale the top.

From here, one can see the iconic Golden Gates, the pier harbor, and a gorgeous view of how the city ripples and interchanges from area to area, brown and then white, pastel and then glassy transparency.

Yoongi is always surprised that this place isn’t more popular. Maybe it’s because the hill is so steep and the actual path is a dirt trek that to get to, you have to climb through a hole in the dusty fence that is hidden behind some blockish building.

He loves this place because it provides him what he thinks is the best view of the Golden Gates. The bridge stretches across the scene at an angle so that not only can you see the entire spread of it, but you can see between the arches as well. By night it’s long and glorious, lit up by hundreds of tiny yellow lantern lights fastened to the roadside. By day it is a strong red print on the San Seoul-Sokyo skyline, the beams painted a stolid brick red and the thick cable wires stand out against the blue of the harbor beneath.

Yoongi remembers studying the blueprints in design class once, remembers being fascinated, not because it is an icon that has withstood time and change, but because of the blood and sweat and tears that have built its foundations.

Once upon a time Yoongi had dreamed a dream like that: to build something as historically rich as the Golden Gates, but with his own sweat and his own blood and his own tears. He wanted to create something that would make people stop and stare, something that would make writers weave silverspun words and photographers clutch for their cameras.

But that was once upon a time and everyone knows that those are best left for fairytales.

“Are those seals over there?” Jimin gasps, pointing and interrupting Yoongi’s thoughts.

Yoongi squints but he’s no robot with interchangeable 360mm lenses in his eyes. Tour guides always tell the visitors that there are but Yoongi has never seen one with his own eyes.

“I dunno,” he says instead. “You tell me.”

The way Jimin turns back to the bay and widens his eyes with renewed strength is so comical that Yoongi can’t help but laugh. He knows that Jimin is actually just zooming in through his lenses, but his exterior is so human that it just makes him look incredibly short sighted.

Jimin pauses though as Yoongi laughs. His movements falter and he turns to look at Yoongi.

“What?” Yoongi asks, wiping away a stray tear at the corner of his eye when Jimin peers at him curiously.

“You laughed?” Jimin says in almost wonderment.

Yoongi pauses and thinks on that. And maybe it has been a long time since he last felt like laughing. Surprisingly it feels good.

“I guess so,” he says and flops down onto the grass. It’s still warm under his hands from the summery afternoon sun and Yoongi sighs as he melts into the grass. It has been a long time since he’s left the house. A very long time since he’s actually stopped and just well, let it all go.

He lifts a hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun and between his fingers he can just make out the swaying forms of the wind turbines and their long cords that anchor them to the ground. It’s soothing to watch them sway and Yoongi finds himself matching the inhale and exhale of his every breath to the sway forwards and back of one particular turbine that is painted a soft yellow and red, like the flickering embers of a flame. Some sort of ad is printed on its side, but it’s so far away and at an awkward angle that Yoongi can’t make it out.

Then, a shadow.

“Jimin,” Yoongi says, trying not to sound annoyed as he drops his hand. “What are you doing?”

“Checking on you,” Jimin replies simply.

“Well you can do that sitting next to me instead of staring down at me,” Yoongi says, disgruntled. He tugs on Jimin’s trousers until the robot gets the signal and sits down stiffly next to him, back straight and legs sticking out like planks.

Yoongi winces. “Relax would you?” he says, prodding Jimin in the side.

Jimin blinks down at him, puzzled. “Relax how?”

“I don’t know. Lie down. Loosen up. You look so stiff,” Yoongi says with a shrug.

“Lie down?” Jimin says and Yoongi lets out a tiny huff of irritation.

“Like this,” he says and half pulls himself up. He presses his hand to Jimin’s chest and applies a little pressure.

“Hyung? What are you doing?” Jimin asks as Yoongi pushes him down onto the grass.

“Showing you how to lie down,” Yoongi says with a roll of his eyes.

“But why do I need to lie down?’

“Well, I don’t know, because it’s a way of relaxing,” Yoongi growls. When it becomes apparent that Jimin is going to comply and stay down, he removes his hands and flops down onto the grass next to him again with a little sigh. “Isn’t it nice?” he murmurs, eyes closed and lips barely moving. “Relaxing. Forgetting about the real world for a bit?”

“Forgetting? Isn’t forgetting a bad thing?” Jimin asks back, inquisitive as always.

Yoongi sighs. “Some people may think so, but I don’t. Sometimes work and life and expectations gets too much and it will suffocate me unless I do this. So it’s my way of coping. My way of living.”

“Oh,” Jimin says simply.

“Yeah, oh,” Yoongi echoes.

“So forgetting is a good thing?”

Yoongi pauses to think of that. “Yeah,” he says. “It can be a good thing.”

“Meaning it could also be a bad thing?” Jimin says, a lilting question at the end of his sentence.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, more somber this time. “Yeah it can be.”

There’s a silence for a moment and in it Yoongi can hear the sway of the grass, the whistle of the wind, the faraway chatter of the city, the sounds of the street.

Jimin’s words shatter that. “Should you really be forgetting things? If it’s bad as well?”

Yoongi sighs, long and drawn out. He rolls over onto his side so that he can look at Jimin. Jimin looks back at him intently, eyes wide and unblinking. It slightly unnerving, how hard he looks, like if he tried a little hard he could see right through Yoongi.  

“Hyung?”

Yoongi struggles to find his words. “There are a lot of things people should and shouldn’t be doing. But we still do them, because sometimes doing what is right is just… too hard…”

“So you’re going to continue coming here and forgetting things?” Jimin summarizes.

A small laugh issues out of Yoongi’s mouth. “You put it so bluntly. All I’m doing is forgetting for a while. Sitting back, letting it all go blank.”

Jimin blinks once. “Are you saying you’ll remember it all again later?”

“I don’t forget it,” Yoongi says softly. “I’ll never forget it all. It’s just I pretend to forget. Because if I didn’t then I think I wouldn’t be able to handle it all.”

There, he thinks. There Jungkook. I’m trying to tell it all to him.

Another blink. “Are you unhappy hyung?”

Yoongi snorts. “There you go again. So black and white.”

Jimin tilts his head as best he can lying down.

“I’m not happy, but neither am I unhappy. I’m fine aren’t I? Isn’t that what matters? I’m healthy, I don’t have any serious injuries, I haven’t shown any suicidal tendencies. It’s not like I have zero problems but I’ll figure them out on my own. I told you before Jimin, I don’t need help.”

Jimin’s reply is quiet, hushed almost. “But Namjoon-hyung doesn’t think so.”

Yoongi sits up sharply. “Yes well Namjoon is a little short-sighted and-“

“And so are you,” Jimin replies quickly, cutting Yoongi off.  Yoongi’s mouth is half open, shocked that a robot has the audacity to interrupt him. Jimin takes advantage of it. “You don’t want people to worry, so you push them away. But hyung, they are still worried. So isn’t the best thing if you become happy again, then everyone else will be happy as well…”

Yoongi’s mouth feels dry as he watches this healthcare robot over-analyze him. He hates it. He hates the squirmy feeling in his chest. Don’t. I’m fine. Leave me alone, he wants to say.

Instead, he says, “being happy won’t change the past.”

The words escape him before he even realizes it and his hands fly to his mouth as if he can stop any more from slipping out. Suddenly the sun doesn’t feel quite as warm and he draws his legs up to himself, hugging them tightly. He doesn’t want to talk to Jimin anymore.

Jimin tilts his head; Yoongi can see the movement in his peripheral vision. “Being unhappy won’t change the past either though,” he says, annoyingly wise for a robot.

Yoongi is silent. His older self would have spit retorts by now. That was the sort of person he was. Even if he was wrong he was right, he just had to convince the other party elsewise.

But Yoongi is different now, more hesitant, more uncertain.

“Don’t you want to be happy hyung?” Jimin asks again, voice impossibly gentle and caring but all it does is build a fort of frustration in his chest, brick by brick, and it cages the squirmy sensation, sealing it in the cavities there.

“I-“ he bursts out, though what he is about to say he does not know, but then his phones rings, loud and incessant, and Yoongi pauses. 

“You better pick that up hyung,” Jimin says and Yoongi numbly fumbles for his phone. He doesn’t look at the caller ID as he swipes blindly across the screen and he regrets that as he puts the phone to his ear.

“Hyung.”

His voice is so infuriatingly gentle, just like Jimin’s. They all tread around him like he’s a wounded beast, ready to lash out the moment at any moment.

“Hoseok,” Yoongi says throatily.

“You finally picked up,” Hoseok says in a murmur, a tone of wonderment there.

“I…” Yoongi struggles.

“It’s okay,” Hoseok says. “You don’t need to say anything. Just… just… come over? Please? I haven’t seen you in so long.”

Yoongi swallows hard, the spit falling to his stomach like a stone.

He looks over to Jimin who smiles and nods encouragingly and somehow the words find their way to Yoongi’s lips.

“Okay,” he says reluctantly.

“Okay,” Hoseok says. There’s a smile behind his words, Yoongi can sense it.

Hoseok hangs up before Yoongi can, the incessant dull beep, beep, beep filling the air. Dread fills his stomach and Yoongi hopes he hasn’t made the wrong choice.

*

The hospital lobby is cold and white and professional. They always unnerve Yoongi and has to squash down the urge to flee. The only thing that holds him back is the knowledge of how sad Hoseok will be if he doesn’t show up.  

“Name?” the nurse at the reception desk asks him systematically. Her voice screams efficiency, cold and clean like antiseptic. Yoongi tries to squash down the squirm of nausea that crawls up his throat.

“Min Yoongi,” Yoongi says, swallowing roughly.

“And you?” the nurse then asks to Jimin. 

“Jimin,” Jimin chirps back to her.

“Sorry I’ll be needing your full name sir,” she says politely.

“He’s with me,” Yoongi says hurriedly. “He’s um, a robot.”

The nurse pauses in the typing of Yoongi’s name onto the attendance list. “He’s what?” she says, sounding astonished. Her eyebrow flickers upwards and would be lost in her hair if it wasn’t tied back so tightly and fastened neatly beneath a white hat.

“A robot. An um, healthcare robot.”

“Is he safe?” the nurses asks.

“Um…” Yoongi goes. He’s pretty sure Jimin is but it’s not like he programmed him so he’s not entirely too sure.

Jimin instead steps in. “I am,” he says brightly. “My creator Kim Namjoon programmed me to operate in accordance with the Laws of Robotics, act five, section two, that a robot must never bring harm to a human with the exception of act seven, section three, that with the necessity to enforce the law, a robot may exercise force to restrain potential criminals whilst taking caution to not inflict lethal damage to the subject.”

The nurse blinks with surprise but then dips her head. “Very well. I’ll add you in with the visitor Min Yoongi. Now who will you be visiting?”

Yoongi coughs to clear his throat that feels ten times swollen. “Jung Hoseok,” he croaks.

“Okay,” the nurse hums and quickly types the name into her system. She taps at the screen several times and squints a little from beneath her broad framed spectacles to read the information there. Yoongi watches with a sinking feeling of dread as her eyes flicker with surprise and her lips purse.

She turns to look at him. “May I ask your relation to Jung-ssi?”

Yoongi forces himself to stay calm. “Friends,” he manages to say. “Housemates. Ex. I mean, well ex-housemates, not like ex-friends or ex, or…” he trails off with a cough. “Friend.”

The nurse eyes him suspiciously for a moment but she doesn’t reject him outright. “Let me put a call through to the room. I’ll have to check with Jung-ssi’s nurse if he’s allowed visitors right now.”

Yoongi nods and steps back for a moment to let the nurse do her job. He’s glad for the momentary break. His hands feel clammy and his throat feels constricted. It’s been almost six weeks since he’s last seen Hoseok and honestly nothing has ever scared him more before than seeing his face now.

He knows that Hoseok won’t be angry. It’s just not the way Hoseok was made. He’s sunshine and pixie dust and ridiculous three am convenience store runs when all Yoongi wants to do is head back to the lab and finish off his tests but somehow ends up getting dragged along by Hoseok into a midnight run down the empty streets of Giles Street that leaves him exhausted but laughing harder than he has ever thought possible.

“Hyung.”

Yoongi jerks his head up. There in front of him are Jimin’s eyes, wide and sweet, blinking up at him.

“The nurse says it’s fine to go in.”

“Oh.” Yoongi fumbles, lost all of a sudden. “I-“

There’s a hand held out in front of him. Yoongi stares at and then at Jimin. Jimin beams at him.

“Let’s go hyung,” he says in that sunny way of his. It reminds Yoongi of Hoseok and sometimes it scares him. But Jimin is just a robot. He tells himself this over and over again, like a mantra.

Yoongi stands and pushes away Jimin’s hand, not unkindly. “Yeah, let’s go,” he says and walks ahead.  

Jimin smiles, not offended in the slightest, and simply falls in step behind him. 

When Yoongi jams his thumb down on the open button to keep the elevator door open for him though, Jimin’s smile widens just that little bit bigger and Yoongi has to avert his eyes and pretend he didn’t just see what he knows he saw.

*

According to medical records that Namjoon uploaded to Jimin’s database right before he sent him off to Yoongi’s, Jung Hoseok was involved in an accident just six weeks prior that resulted in a  seventy four point nine percent chance that he will never walk on his own two feet again.

Despite that Hoseok greets them both with the sunniest smile Jimin has ever seen. Which to be fair is rather limited, but whatever. 

“Hey hyung!” he grins at Yoongi, and a “Hey Jimin,” which surprises Jimin a little bit.

He doesn’t recall ever meeting Jung Hoseok before and he is a robot programmed to recall the face and name of every person introduced to him.

“Namjoon told me about you,” Hoseok then says by way of explanation and Jimin remembers to supply the expected response of “oh”.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Hoseok says with a grin and Jimin finds himself smiling back reflexively.

Hoseok’s gaze then slides past Jimin and fixed onto Yoongi who is hanging back at the door. Yoongi half looks like he wants to flee and Jimin knows it is only because of his presence that Yoongi hasn’t already.

“Hyung,” Hoseok says softly. “Yoongi hyung. Please come over here.” It sounds like the coaxing out of a tiny creature from the bushes and it sort of looks like that with the way Yoongi creeps forwards, eyes downcast and mouth tight.

Hoseok reaches out with one hand and holds it towards Yoongi.

Yoongi eyes it with hesitation and Jimin’s scanners pick up on the palpitations of Yoongi’s heart. He half thinks that Yoongi is going to bolt. He readies himself to block the door.

But when Hoseok shakes his empty hand at Yoongi, Yoongi swallows and reaches down to touch it with a hand that only quakes slightly. Jimin watches the way Hoseok handles him gently, his palm sliding along Yoongi’s until they align, the way his fingers slowly curve upwards and interlace with Yoongi’s, the way he slowly secures his hold and then tugs Yoongi in closer.

“I missed you hyung,” Hoseok says in a hushed whisper and pulls Yoongi in for a hug.

Yoongi is stiff in his hold but Jimin can tell from the rush of hormones through his system that he too has missed this. Fear however still wars and Jimin notices that Yoongi’s eyes are drawn to the white sheets that cover Hoseok’s lower half.

Hoseok notices too because he looks down at them with a slight forlorn twist to his lips.

“The doctor says there’s a twenty five point one percent chance of me being able to use them again.” His lips quirk up into a tiny smile. It’s nice how he chooses to look at the positive rather than the more overwhelming negative.

Yoongi’s inhalation catches in his throat. “I-“ he falters. “I’m so-“

Hoseok’s finger finds its place on Yoongi’s lips. “It’s alright,” he says gently. “It’s alright.”

He doesn’t say it’s not your fault or I don’t blame you because as Jimin guesses he knows that that would not soothe the roiling guilt in Yoongi’s chest. Part of Jimin thinks that logically no human could ever be so saintly as to have never once harbored blame and hatred towards Yoongi, but it’s evident that that point of time has come and gone. Hoseok has forgiven Yoongi but Yoongi hasn’t forgiven himself.

 “I-“ Yoongi tries to say, his breath coming out thick and harsh. And then it pours out. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I’m-“

He buckles forwards and Hoseok loops his arms around Yoongi’s back, pulling him in as close as he can before the bars of the hospital bed getting in the way of them.

Jimin can see the way Yoongi’s spine arches as he bends down and buries his face into the crook of Hoseok’s neck. His body trembles and the quietest of sobs can be heard.

“It’s alright,” Hoseok says over and over like a prayer. His hand sweeps up and down Yoongi’s back and for the first time ever Jimin feels a strange sensation, like his programming is telling him that maybe he shouldn’t be here.

But that’s weird. He’s a healthcare robot. He’s meant to be at his patient’s side until his patient is completely satisfied with their care. Yoongi evidently is not ready for that yet and so Jimin shouldn’t feel the need to go. So he squashes down the foreign feeling and tells himself to focus.

*

When they leave the hospital it is past six pm and they only go because visiting times are over. Yoongi comes out with eyes still red but mostly dry. Jimin leaves with the strange feeling in his chest larger than ever.

They take a tram home and spend the entire journey in silence.

It is only when they get off and are trekking back to Yoongi’s apartment that Jimin finally speaks up, else the questions rummaging about his database make it explode.

“Do you want to be happy hyung?” he bursts out and Yoongi comes to a halt in front of his apartment door, keys in hand, turning with a surprised expression on his face.

Jimin can see Yoongi stop and think it over. His face settles into one of deep thought. Subconsciously he starts turning the keys over in his hand and they jangle as they clink against each other.

“Maybe?” Yoongi says with a frown. He doesn’t sound too sure. Jimin can hear the uncertainty in his voice most of all. He wonders if it is strange that he feels relieved at that. Then the frown falters and melts a line that curls at the edges. It’s foreign and Jimin doesn’t know what sort of emotion to tag it with. Peace, perhaps?

Yoongi’s turns, leaving the keys in the door and fixes Jimin with bright, burning eyes. ““I want Hoseok to be happy,” he says, and Jimin blinks, unable to comprehend how the conversation suddenly switched to Hoseok’s happiness and not Yoongi’s.

“Why?” he asks, because further questions are always key to comprehension.  

Yoongi’s words are careful, cherry picked. “The accident was my fault. The way Hoseok’s legs are right now are my fault. I owe it to him to try and fix what I broke.”

Jimin tilts his head. “And if you fix Hoseok’s legs, will that make you happy?”

Laughter bubbles out of Yoongi’s throat, a little scornful. “Maybe,” he says, a little sadly. “Before he lost his legs Hoseok was always moving. I barely saw him stop for more than a few seconds at a time. He would be here and then there, dancing or skipping back and forth. He could never sit still, that kid. I think the accident hurt him more than he would like to admit. And I think that knowing he’s unhappy and that that was my fault makes it hard for me to just let this accident slide.”

“And so if you fix Hoseok’s legs then he’ll be happy, and as a result you’ll be happy?”

A soft smile plays on Yoongi’s face now. It’s like the dapple of sunlight that shone down that afternoon they spent on the hill. Jimin finds himself snapshotting the moment and saving it to his database. For what reason he cannot logically explain but he does so on autopilot. It’s a double blink of his eyes and it’s saved, Yoongi knowing nothing better.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says and in that moment he looks so distant that Jimin wants to reach out and anchor him to his reality, to make sure his patient is still with him.

“Okay hyung,” he says loudly as if it will shake away his strange hesitations. “Then I, your healthcare robot, will help you to the best of my abilities!”

Yoongi blinks for a moment, but then he shakes it away, a soft toss of his hair. He smiles, gentle and curled and holds out one hand.

Jimin stares at it, confused.

“It’s a thanks in advance,” Yoongi says. He reaches out with his left hand to lift Jimin’s unresponsive right and hold it in position. Yoongi then bridges the distance and folds his hand about Jimin’s. “Thank you for helping me”

It’s my job, Jimin wants to say, the words tugging at his mouth and at ready. But for some strange reason he doesn’t say it. He doesn’t know why but there’s a strange knowledge that if he does, Yoongi would probably withdraw away from him and Jimin doesn’t want to lose this new friendlier face of Yoongi’s.

He opens his mouth, intending to say something different instead, but then the door door one room down flies open and crashes spectacularly with the wall. The sound is so loud that it makes both of them jump, their hands parting and their heads turning to see something bright orange blaze out.

“Hyuuuuung!” comes a fantastic cry and the orange collides straight into Yoongi, sending him careening into the wall with an emphatic oompf.

“Taehyung!” Yoongi groans, rubbing at his head. “Seriously?”

“I haven’t seen you in almost seven days hyung! I missed you!” This Taehyung person cries as he wraps his arms tighter around Yoongi.

A series of barks issues from the open door and Jimin turns to see a tumult of white tumble out. The bundle of white fluff barks and runs round in circles.

“Soonshimie missed you too!” Taehyung says earnestly, making wide puppy dog eyes to Yoongi.

“I’m sure,” Yoongi says dryly, eyeing the dog carefully.

Jimin blinks and scans the dog. Namjoon hasn’t uploaded his database with extensive information on dog breeds and so Jimin can only hazard a guess that this Soonshimie could be a Hokkaido Dog or a Kishu. Its face however suggests that maybe it’s a cross breed. At the very least it does not seem to display dangerous characteristics and should not harm his patient.

Soonshimie spies him and pads over, sniffing at his feet. As a robot Jimin is not programmed to release organic scents and it seems to make the dog nervous as it issues small, nervous yaps.

Jimin’s programming tells him that the best way to approach a wary subject is to first make yourself the same size as it, and then to act friendly and show no signs that you might harm them. Jimin crouches and Soonshimie watches him with wide eyes and flickering ears. He then holds out a hand for her (his scans can at least ascertain gender, relative age and health) to sniff. She pauses, looking puzzled, but edges forwards and gingerly sniffs his hand.

Jimin may not smell like a human, but he guesses he acts like one enough that it calms Soonshimie down. She licks experimentally at his hand.

As a robot he also can’t technically feel, but when something brushes against the sensors just under his skin, rapid fire electron communication tells his system that he is being touched and at what pressure and that will translate into a sensation of some sort. Just like the feeling of Yoongi’s hand pressed against his, or against his chest, or against his ankles, soft yet firm.

“She likes you,” Taehyung says from the wall where he still has his arms locked around Yoongi. It’s a statement, not a question.

Soonshimie blinks at him and Jimin smiles back, trying to be friendly. “Hello,” he says and Soonshimie barks up at him in a tone of what he would like to think is a hello back.   

Taehyung extracts himself from Yoongi and pads over. He looks at Jimin with a curious gaze. He bends his knees and peers at Jimin from below, straightens up and stares deep into Jimin’s right ear, circles round him and squints at the start of his spine which peeps out the back of Jimin’s loose shirt.

“Um,” Jimin says, feeling a prickle of uncomfortableness. He reasons it must be his programming’s sense of self-defense.

“Taehyung, stop bothering him,” Yoongi says suddenly, rescuing Jimin from this strange neighbor of Yoongi’s. A hand comes between the two of them and then all Jimin sees is Yoongi’s disgruntled expression.

“Aw hyung, don’t tell me I’ve been replaced as your best friend,” Taehyung whines, eyes wide. He reaches for his dog and hugs her tightly around the neck.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “In the first place you were never my best friend. You’re my strange neighbor who feels the need to sing Touch My Body at one in the morning. Secondly you haven’t been replaced. Jimin is a guest of mine. And thirdly you’re going to strangle Soonshim if you hug her any tighter.”

“Nonsense,” Taehyung sniffs and Jimin wonders if that’s an answer to all three points that Yoongi has just made. He however releases his hold on his dog who promptly shakes her head violently and makes a direct path to Yoongi.

Yoongi sighs and kneels, ruffling his hands through Soonshim’s thick fur. “Hey girl,” he says gently and Jimin watches as Soonshim closes her eyes in pleasure. It looks kind of nice and it makes Jimin wonder what it feels like to have someone’s hands run through your hair.

Jimin however finds himself in the direction attention of Taehyung. Taehyung’s face hovers right in front of his, his eyes are large and wide and searching.

“So your name is Jimin?” he says and Jimin can do nothing but nod.

“Yes,” he replies and for half a second he cannot predict what Taehyung is about to do next. What comes though is a giant smile, unusually wide at the edges and resembling a rectangle. It makes Jimin realize that smiles can come in all shapes and sizes.

His next words however sound somewhat like a challenge. “So what are you to Yoongi-hyung?”          

“Oh my god Taehyung,” Yoongi hisses from his kneeling position. “I told you Jimin is a guest. Don’t go being all territorial on him.”

“A guest?” Taehyung echoes like he didn’t hear anything of what Yoongi said earlier.

“Yes,” Jimin blinks, feeling like he needs to explain things. “I am here to help Yoongi be happy.”

Another hiss of displeasure from Yoongi. “Do you really have to put it that way Jimin?” he mutters and stands. Soonshim gives a little whine and butts her head into Yoongi’s legs. Yoongi relents by placing a hand on top of her head but he does not move it.

Instead he turns and addresses Taehyung. “Jimin’s a robot,” he says bluntly. Taehyung’s mouth widens into a huge ‘o’ shape and his eyes practically sparkle as he turns to look at Jimin with new eyes.

“Awesome!” Taehyung gushes and grabs for Jimin. Yoongi however intervenes and bats Taehyung’s grabby hands away.

“Just because he’s a robot doesn’t mean you can just touch him as you like,” Yoongi chides. “Jimin is a healthcare robot. He’s built to take care of people.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says, backing off momentarily. “Is he helping you then hyung?”

Yoongi pauses.

“I mean,” Taehyung says, one foot scuffing the floor. “You don’t smile much hyung. And I know some people don’t do that, but you’ve like never smiled before. And that’s not normal.”

“I smile from time to time,” Yoongi protests.

“Only that one time when Soonshim licked your face all over and you said it tickled.”

“Well,” Yoongi relents.

Taehyung takes a step forwards, closing the distance between the three of them even more. “So is Jimin here to help you?”

Jimin watches carefully, assessing the situation. Yoongi takes a breath, scratches the back of his head, shuffles of feet, and then, impossibly, almost impossibly so he gives a tiny mutter of, “something like that.”

Taehyung breaks into a beam and bundles Yoongi into another huge hug. “Well done hyung,” he says with a grin and Jimin can see the way Yoongi is torn between smacking Taehyung on the head for audacity and actually admitting the hug is nice.

Jimin would do something except he’s got this strange sensation in his chest again. It’s warm and it’s sunny and it’s actually kind of nice.

Jimin looks down to see Soonshim sniffing at his fingers, his arms limp at his side. She looks at him quizzically like she can’t understand what her owner is doing.

Jimin kneels. “He’s happy for Yoongi,” he says by way of explanation as he scratches her ear. Soonshim rubs her head into his hand and pants happily.

He’s happy because Yoongi is going to be happy.

And so if you fix Hoseok’s legs then he’ll be happy, and as a result you’ll be happy?

Jimin can sort of see how that will work now. And that’s good. He has a clear plan of action now. Step 1) help fix Jung Hoseok’s legs, Step 2) ensure Jung Hoseok is happy, and then by extension Step 3) check that Min Yoongi is now happy.

And then he’ll have done what he was designed to do.

But after that, Jimin has no idea what happens.

He pauses, fingers half buried in Soonshim’s fur, and wonders.

He’s a robot. He’s programmed to make people feel happy. That’s all he needs to do. He should be focusing on his task at hands. Stray thoughts is not what he was programmed to have.

A wet stripes runs down his cheek and completely ruins Jimin’s train of thoughts. Soonshim barks at him, her long pink tongue at the ready. She looks at him with something akin to worry in those intelligent eyes of her.

“I’m okay,” he says to her because he feels he needs to reassure her.  

He is. He will be. He is a healthcare robot and his job is to make sure his patient is satisfied, nothing more and nothing less.

Focus, he tells himself. Focus.  

*

They eventually manage to close the door behind an exhaustingly unexhausted Taehyung who they can still hear yelling goodnight! at the top of his lungs. They stumble into Yoongi’s apartment and Jimin watches as Yoongi locks and bolts the door, tosses his keys into a little bowl by the door and then tiredly kicks off his shoes.

Jimin is hesitant because from what he’s learnt from the human social manuals Namjoon uploaded into his database, there are certain protocols and niceties that one has to be mindful of when entering a stranger’s house.

Not that Yoongi is a stranger per say – Jimin’s entire life has been designed and constructed around him – but because to Yoongi, Jimin might be the stranger, and for some unexplainable reason, that saddens him.

So he hovers by the door, awaiting some sort of signal. It comes when Yoongi turns, halfway down the corridor and realizes Jimin is still stuck at the door.

“Come in. What? Are you waiting for a royal invitation,” he jokes lightly. “We should recharge you shouldn’t we?”

Relief pours through Jimin and he happily follows Yoongi in.

He’s grateful that he doesn’t have to remind Yoongi to recharge him because he’s been running pretty low the past hour and when he hits the red light on battery mode he starts to feel sleepy and slurred. It makes the commands that bounce around his system a fraction of a second slower and whilst that is not much compared to a human, it could mean a lot for a healthcare robot when it comes to taking care of his patient.

Jimin watches as Yoongi hefts the recharge station off the table where it still remains from the very distant moment of this morning and when he beckons, Jimin totters over.

The red box is open, exposing the two slots where his feet go. He turns around and allows Yoongi to guide him back and as he steps in he feels the sweet thrum of energy as his batteries begin to recharge. When Namjoon had asked him to describe the sensation once, Jimin had compared it to the feeling of drinking cool water on a hot summer day. It makes him feels energized and relieved all at once.

He barely registers Yoongi bidding him goodnight and flicking off the lights as he heads to his bedroom one door away. His mind has already disconnected and begun to drift.

During re-charge time his system takes the initiative to recalibrate and organize the events of the days. Namjoon told him the down time would allow him to better assess the situation better and thus make more calculative moves come the next day.

And it does. Jimin runs through the events of today slowly and methodically, and he comes to several conclusions.

The first is that Namjoon was right in sending Jimin to Yoongi. Yoongi needs help. He may deny it, being the proud creature he is, but even he is starting to realize that the way he is right now is not optimal.

Jimin can understand why Yoongi acts the way he does. He’s lived a life of relative solitude, and his achievements and success have been born from that solitary path. A  San Seoul-Sokyo’s Robotics and Technological Engineering graduate at age twenty two, notable mentions on his third year thesis on the design and distribution of wind turbine sourced energy, full marks on fourth year examinations, impressive combined project with fellow course students Kim Namjoon and Jung Hoseok on the humanization of robots through active and concrete learning, the list continues.

The second conclusion that Jimin draws is that the cause of Min Yoongi’s depression is likely due to Jung Hoseok’s accident. Jimin doesn’t know the exact details of the incident other than it involved Kabukicho market and a stampede. He has already determined that in order to try and help Yoongi with his depression, he needs to help Jung Hoseok first of all.

And that brings him to his third conclusion: that he needs to figure out first of how to help Jung Hoseok. And the best way to do that is to visit Hoseok himself.

Jimin opens his eyes and blinks, his sensors quickly scanning his surroundings. Dawn has come, thin light filtering through gauzy curtains. His clock tells him it is six in the morning.

As Jimin flexes his fingers and stretches his legs, he feels the buzzing sensation underneath the vinyl skin of his exterior and he doesn’t have to consult the battery meter in his system to know he is fully charged.

He does a quick scan towards the vicinity of Yoongi’s bedroom and his scans pick up a slow and measured heart rate, signs that Yoongi is still deep in sleep.

Jimin decides not to disturb him yet. From what Namjoon has told him about Yoongi, the latter is not a morning person.

Instead his eyes take in Yoongi’s apartment. The first time he was here he was too busy dealing with activation and initialization and then figuring out how to get off the table. Now though he can appreciate how un-lived in the apartment is.

There are still boxes stacked in the corner of the living room, the packaging tape sliced open but half the contents still inside. A large black couch is positioned against the wall but it looks shiny and untouched. The kitchen appears immaculate, like Yoongi hasn’t even bothered with cooking. Then again Jimin eyes the bin and his scanners pick up the outlines of several discarded packets of instant noodles. Maybe Yoongi just doesn’t cook in the first place. Jimin scrolls through his database and when his search comes up empty, he decides to install cooking guides the next time he gets hooked up to a computer. Yoongi could do with a nutritious meal now and then.

But that will come later.

For now Jimin stands and stretches, picks his feet out of the recharge station and steps onto sturdy ground. He makes sure each limb is fully functional before he pads over to Yoongi’s bedroom, opening the door without so much as a creak.

It’s dark in there, the curtains thick and plunging the room into near blackness. Only the scant light that spills in from the living room and Jimin’s night vision that automatically switches on allows him to make out Yoongi’s sprawled form amongst the twisted sheets. He’s curled face down into the pillow, but now and then he twists and turns, muttering nonsensical words under his breath. His sleep is restless and Jimin knows this is only further proof of the guilt that Yoongi so hard tries to hide.

He closes the door quietly.

The time is seven. Visiting hours begin at eight. That gives Jimin just under an hour to consult his GPS and get to the hospital. If all goes well he can be back before eleven which is when Yoongi should be waking up at.

He leaves a scrawled note on the table next to his recharge station where Yoongi cannot miss it, just in case he does wake up before the expected time.

Jimin knows that Yoongi will probably panic if he sees him gone, but this is something he has to do in order to make his patient happy.

Because I’m your personal healthcare robot!

The front door closes with a tiny clack behind him and Jimin sets off, already formulating the questions he has for Jung Hoseok in his head.

*

The way to the hospital is easy enough. Jimin takes two trams and walks the short distance between. He gets slightly lost in transition but the people in San Seoul-Sokyo are nice enough to notice and offer him help before he even gets the chance to consult his GPS.

The ahjummas are almost too eager to engage him in early morning chats, cooing over how adorably sweet his face is and how polite he is when he allows them to board the tram before he does. If only they were twenty years younger, they sigh to one another as Jimin waves them goodbye as he exits the tram at the appointed stop.

Then there’s the kind man with tousled brown hair and thin framed horn glasses who spots his hesitation and points him in the right direction of the second tram. He bids Jimin a brilliant day as he leaves which makes Jimin pause because he’s heard of telling someone to have a good day, but not a brilliant one. But oh well. He makes a log of it in his compiled database and moves on.

At the hospital the nurses all but gush over him, saying it’s so sweet of him to come visit Hoseok who is this little ray of sunshine that never stops smiling or singing even though he can’t sing and yet has only a handful of visitors.

“Right this way,” one pretty black haired nurse with her shiny hair tied back into a ponytail sings as she leads him down the hall. Taking him there wasn’t necessary but for some reason the nurses felt he wouldn’t be able to find Hoseok’s room without a guide.  

The nurse knocks on Hoseok’s door loudly and when there’s a muffled, yes? come in! she slides it open and pops her head in.

“Hoseok-ah,” she says brightly. “You have a visitor.”

“Eh?” comes Hoseok’s reply. His voice sounds a little rough like he’s only just woken up as well, but he’s receptive all the same. “Who is it?”

The nurse beams and looks to Jimin. “Go on,” she says, practically shoving him in. “Hoseok has an appointment at ten, so that gives you two just over an hour.” She all but shoves Jimin in, sticking her head in and blowing Hoseok a kiss before saying, “I’ll pop by with your breakfast in a bit. Ah, and maybe a snack for you?” She’s gone before Jimin can tell her he can’t eat but thank you very much anyway and he’s just looking at a shut door instead.

Jimin turns to look at Hoseok instead. Humans can be so pushy and he’s forgotten everything he had planned to say. He tries to go back through the archive and recall the mental notes he made, but before he does Jung Hoseok speaks.

“Jimin, right?” he asks, scratching at his nose a little bashfully.

Jimin gives one hesitant nod.

“Yoongi not with you today?”

This time Jimin gives a resolute shake of his head.         

There’s a flicker of disappointment on Hoseok’s face, but it vanishes so quickly that only Jimin and the incredible lenses that Namjoon installed him can catch it. “Well then,” Hoseok coughs, “What can I do for you?”

When Jimin speaks, it’s careful. “I wanted to discuss something with you. Without Yoongi-hyung here.”

He watches as Hoseok’s eyes round and glimmer at the term ‘hyung’. His lips twitch in a look of faint regret. “Is it about the accident?” Hoseok asks softly.

Jimin nods.

Hoseok gives a little sigh and shuffles under the sheet, up-righting himself against the mass of pillows at his back. “Grab a seat then,” he says, gesturing at the plastic visitor’s chair in the corner. “This might take some time.”

Jimin blinks. “It’s okay. I don’t tire as easily as humans. I can stand.”

Hoseok stares and then breaks into a nervous little chuckle. “You’re so human I forget sometimes that you’re a robot.”

Jimin tilts his head. “You forget? But you helped design my program.”

Hoseok laughs at that, a fuller laugh. His smile grows impossibly wider. “That’s true. But all the same, it just proves how well we programmed you.”

Jimin blinks. “Okay,” he says.

The smile vanishes. “Well then, what do you want to know? I presume Namjoon has told you the details, has he not?”

“Correct,” Jimin affirms, “But Namjoon-hyung says he doesn’t know the full story. He tells me that neither you nor Yoongi-hyung were willing to divulge full details of what happened that night. Is there a reason for that?”

Hoseok’s eyes flicker with something – nervousness perhaps? – and he draws a shuddering breath, licking his lips like his mouth is dry.

“Do you know where the accident took place Jimin?”

Jimin pauses to consult his database. “Kabukicho market.”

Hoseok gives a tiny, almost imperceptible nod. “And do you know what Kabukicho market is famous for?”

Another check with his database tells him a hotspot for robot enthusiasts when it comes to buying parts, comparing specs and then auctioning off your pride goods. A notifying message reminds him of what Yoongi also said: There’s a lot of other illegal stuff that goes on down there like bot fighting and hacking races, so stay away from there okay?

Jimin tries to filter through and give Hoseok a reasonable answer. “Robot enthusiasts?” he says, trying to summarize.

That brings a flicker of a smile to Hoseok’s lips. “I guess you could say that,” he allows. “Maybe that’s how it started up as, just a place for people who loved robots to go. But over time it got replaced by Yongsan market and to survive it kind of went underground.”

“Illegal betting, unsanctioned auctions and trade, activities such as hack races and bot fighting,” Jimin says and knows he’s hit the jackpot when Hoseok’s face tightens at the end of his list.

“Yes,” Hoseok says in a long, drawn out exhale. “Those sort of things.

“There was a bot fight that night that you got hurt,” Jimin says, a statement awaiting confirmation.

“Yes…” Hoseok says, and he closes his eyes as if to review the night of the accident on the back of his eyelids. “Well,” he then amends, “there are bot fights every night. It brings in too much money for the bookies to not do it.”

“Were you there bot fighting?” Jimin asks innocently enough.

Hoseok’s eyes fly open. “God no!” he gasps like it’s the worst crime on earth to be caught doing and maybe it is. Jimin doesn’t know much about bot fights since Namjoon hates them but from bits of conversation he’s grasped that it’s not a popular sport in the eyes of SSS U students.

Hoseok sighs and forces himself to relax. His shoulders drop and he rubs at the bridge of his nose. “Bot fights, well, are self-explanatory. Two people put forth a robot and they fight till at least one robot is completely destroyed.”

He looks at Jimin carefully as if expecting him to be shocked. Jimin isn’t. He’s guessed enough from the name and Namjoon’s distaste for the sport, but at the same time hearing the blunt truth from Hoseok’s lips evokes a strange sensation of hollowness in his chest. Its blank space that he has no name for and isn’t quite sure what to feel about it.

Hoseok caries on carefully. “The one participating in the bot fights wasn’t me.”

Before Hoseok can finish, Jimin knows who it is already. He should have guessed it from the beginning. And he doesn’t know why it’s starting to affect him only know. There’s a reason Yoongi hasn’t told anyone, not Namjoon or Jungkook and most definitely not a robot like Jimin.

“Why?” he finds himself saying.

Hoseok’s eyes widen with surprise. “Why what?”

“Why would Yoongi use us… use robots like that? I thought he understood that robots aren’t just… tools.

Jimin hates the way his voice sounds whiny, more pitched and bitter. It’s not the way a healthcare robot should sound, even if it has the capabilities to do so.

Hoseok picks his words carefully. “Yoongi does care about robots. Robots are the world to him. It’s just…”

“Just what?”

Hoseok eyes him strangely. “It’s just to him his dreams have always been one step higher than everything else. Than anybody else.”

The hollowness in his chest spreads and Jimin thinks he should really make a trip to Namjoon’s after this and get himself checked up.

“Please don’t think badly of Yoongi-hyung,” Hoseok begs. “He loves robots. He really does.”

And Jimin understands that. He’s seen the files. He’s seen Yoongi’s achievements. You don’t get that far in the field of robotics and technology without having the passion for it.  Namjoon is exactly the same. He’s come this far because he loves doing what he does.

It’s just Jimin can’t understand how you can love something so much and yet care for it so little.

“I’ll come back another day,” he blurts out, interrupting whatever Hoseok was about to say. “I…” he blinks furiously against the sudden ache at the back of his eyes. He came here today to discuss with Hoseok how to fix his legs, not to talk about Yoongi and his treatment of robots. What’s wrong with him? Is he broken? Is he breaking down? He definitely needs to go find Namjoon. “I’m sorry,” he says and whirls around to throw open the door before Hoseok can speak further.

He almost runs straight into the shiny black-haired nurse from before who squeaks with surprise as he nearly collides with her. It’s only thanks to his automatic reflexes that his body halts and side steps with just millimeters to spare.

See? he thinks in almost relief. I am still a functioning robot. I’m not broken.

He manages a garbled apology to the nurse who has dropped the tray with Hoseok’s breakfast and is clutching her hands to her chest. Behind him Jimin can hear Hoseok calling out for him to stop and stay, to hear him out properly, but Jimin is already gone.

He takes the stairs because it’s faster and it’s not like he can feel tired. Jimin bursts out of the hospital though, gasping like he’s out of breath. He’s not. He doesn’t even know why he’s doing it, so he shuts his mouth and picks a direction and just heads in it.

It’s strange, the way he’s acting.

Jimin is a healthcare robot. He’s programmed to care for his patient, and that person is Min Yoongi. His entire life has been geared towards this point. And yet all he’s received so far is rejection.  

The burning at the back of his eyes intensifies, but that’s weird. Maybe he’s just overusing his lenses or something and the material is heating up because the only other instance of this happening that Jimin knows about is when a human cries. He’s seen Namjoon cry, just once, when Jungkook had gone home and Seokjin was powered down and he thought he was alone.

He wasn’t.

Namjoon and Jungkook have never realized it but Jimin has been aware of everything from the very beginning.

They had thought that his memory chip would be wiped at every new trial, but it wasn’t. And Jimin remembers everything, from the first moment that his wires and batteries were connected and the bare bones of a system constructed.

At first Jimin hadn’t really understood what was going on. Trial #1 is a shadowy memory, just blurry faces and voices. Trial #10 had been slightly better, he could now discern their words thanks to Namjoon uploading a language and word deciphering program. From then one he began to record words and sentences, storing them for future reference. Trial #32 gave him the ability to replicate human emotions. Trial #34 allowed him to respond to other human situations. With Trial #66 he was finally a healthcare robot. But it was only with Trial #85 that Jimin was considered complete.

Throughout the eighty five trials Namjoon had thought Jimin asleep. But in truth he heard everything that Namjoon has had to say: his discussions with Jungkook about optimizing Jimin’s design, his talks with Seokjin about Yoongi and about how worried he is for his best friend, his calls to Hoseok that usually end in painfully bad puns, and most of all the moment where he curls up in front of Jimin with a blanket and hot chocolate and just talks to him.

You’re going to help a lot of people Jimin, he said once. But before that I need you help one person in particular. He’s my best friend, even if he won’t admit it himself. And he’s in a lot of pain right now. You see he made a mistake and someone else got hurt for it, another one of my best friends. And Yoongi, well Yoongi doesn’t know how to help people. He knows how to fix robots and solve mechanical problems, but he’s never had to deal with helping another human like this before. He’s stuck and he’s scared. And I want to help him but all I’ll do is scare him even more. So Jimin, you’re my little hope. Help him for me, will you?

Jimin finds himself slowing to a gentle walk. He has no idea where he is, some random street or another, and he could easily GPS his location but he doesn’t really want to.

Isn’t it nice? Relaxing. Forgetting about the world for a bit?

Jimin sort of understands that now. Lost in the middle of nowhere, there a sense of serenity to it.

There’s an internal buzz that his system sends him. A message, from Namjoon. He doesn’t open it. He doesn’t want to yet.

Instead he wanders, trying to see if he can recognize the streets he strolls upon.

There a row of houses that looks sort of familiar. Maybe he glanced them on the tram ride to Namjoon’s yesterday. Then again, all the houses start to look the same after a while.

A towering sky scraper and the building next to it that look like a gnome with its mere five stories, they look like something Jimin might have seen before. Or again, maybe not.

The more Jimin walks the more he realizes that he doesn’t know this city at all. He may have be created here and uploaded with an extensive map of the area down the very streets and pebbles that lie on them, but as much as he may know them from a surface view, up close and in personal he realizes he knows nothing.

The same goes for Yoongi.

He’s read on Yoongi’s history, watched all the videos and scrolled his Kakao-story from Namjoon’s accounts, and yet nothing compares to meeting the actual person.

Yoongi in real life is impatient and gruff, sleeps far too late into the day and barely eats. From the moment they’ve met Yoongi has wanted him gone but the very same Yoongi has treated him kindly and taken him to his private spots and he’s even tried to let Jimin in.

And yet somehow Jimin can’t forgive him for using robots so. For using him.

And then it hits him. It’s not about Yoongi’s treatment of all those other robots. It’s about him. Jimin the healthcare robot. The robot that is designed to help Yoongi and then after that…

Well in Yoongi’s eyes would he just be a tool? To be used and discarded after?

Yoongi will be happy. Hoseok will be happy, Namjoon as well, and Jungkook too he guesses. But Jimin? Jimin is just a robot and after he has completed his job, that is it.

Jimin grinds to a stop. He realizes he does actually recognize those limp strings strung up with lanterns and the boarded up shop fronts. Kabukicho market is too distinctive to not remember, as are the words and warnings he heard from Yoongi.

It’s to help understand Yoongi-hyung, he tells himself. Just part of my job.

He finds a rusty door somewhere. It’s battered and blue, no tags or signs to suggest what it opens to, but the architect of the area seems to suggest this will lead underground. And underground is where everyone says the action happens.  

It takes Jimin several hard tugs to pull it open. When it does, it’s with a crunch and a grinding shift.

There’s a darkened staircase downwards. Jimin switches to night vision immediately and begins his descent.

He counts forty two steps and two walls of crumbling plaster. Limp leaflets and dog-eared posters line the side. The floor levels out as he reaches the bottom and walks through a dark hallway and then widens into what must be the main room.

It is large and cavernous. The ceiling is low, accommodating enough for floor of balcony where people can stand or lean against the strong yet ugly steel barricades. Two swooping staircases are positioned on either side of the room, but it is the first floor that grabs Jimin’s attention.

The exterior is ringed with what looks like empty counters. The dusty rings on the shelves suggest that by night they are lined up with bottles. His sensors pick up the olfactory chemicals of sweat and alcohol, and beyond that, the faintest trace of blood.

It’s towards the center of the room.

Jimin overlays a grid system onto his vision which marks out the altitude and layout of the floor. There’s a slope to the center so that the middle of the room dips down at least a good ten centimeters to give a round arena-like structure, three meters in diameter. It is ringed in stark red and covered not with concrete, but a softer, sandier spread.

This must be where they hold the bot fights.

From what Namjoon has told Jimin, anyone can enter the bot fights long as you have a functioning robot and the money to pay the entry fee. Fights are held four times a week and the winner of each round gets forty percent of the cut. That includes the bets as well.

Bot fights are a quick way to become rich if you’re good. And Jimin has no doubt that Yoongi was good.

The bigger question is why Yoongi does them. He’s financially stable, having scored a scholarship from the university and worked several part time jobs throughout the years.

So why then?

Jimin has no access to Yoongi’s project files so he can’t really fathom a sensible guess. All he knows is that Yoongi has specialized in materials and was about the launch his own project after leaving the university. But how does that all link to bot fighting?

Jimin approaches the arena and does a sweep of the room with his scanners. Nothing out of the ordinary stands out. There’s some broken glass fragments in the corner that Jimin supposes someone missed to sweep up; a shoe left forlornly on a step; a steel object half buried in the sand.

Jimin crouches to dig it out. It comes easily, the sand falling off it and revealing a cylindrically shaped object, one end curving inwards like it was meant to be attached to a ball joint or something. It’s made of some alloy, studier than most of the stuff Jimin sees nowadays, yet incredibly light and flexible at the ends. Light dances off it as Jimin turns it around, making it look almost jewel like in appearance.

He wonders if maybe he can trace the robot back to its owner and then ask for a firsthand account of the night or something. It might bring up nothing, but it can’t hurt.

Jimin closes his eyes and makes the call.

Seokjin-hyung.

There’s a momentary silence as his call goes through, but with 6G broadband it doesn’t take more than a few seconds.

Jimin? What’s wrong? A pause. Where are you? Seokjin asks in a deeply suspicious tone. Yoongi isn’t near you is he?

Jimin hesitates and hopes his transmission does not sound too guilty. Hyung’s still sleeping. I went out for a bit.

Jimin! comes Seokjin’s sharp chide. You know that’s not safe. You barely know the city yourself. What if you got lost!

I have a GPS hyung. Plus the people here are super nice.

Not all of them Jimin! You’re too trusting sometimes! I know that’s your program but still… A huff. Now where are you? Send me your location and I’ll come pick you-

“Oi! What are you doing in here?”

Jimin snaps his eyes open and whiteness floods everything. His system automatically reverts his lenses to normal vision and he blinks to find the room flooded with light.

An angry man storms towards him. “Who are you?” he barks in a rough voice.

Jimin backs up as he comes up close. “I- I’m nobody. I’m just here to find out what happened during the stampede?”

That seems to make it worse. The man’s expression grows thunderous, thick eyebrows coming down and dark eyes growing wide. “Questions huh? What are you with? The police? The reporters?”

“No!” Jimin says hurriedly, holding up his hands and dropping the robotic limb by accident.

The man’s eyes goes to the fallen metal. He squints at it and bents to pick it up.

“Must have been from that night,” he mutters darkly. “That was a bad day. And now thanks to that incident we have the police breathing down our necks and customers are too scared to come crawling back. Bad for business.”

“Um…” Jimin tries.

The man’s glare is trained on him instantly. “Yeah? What?”

“I… I just wanted to know what happened that night? Do you have any camera recordings or anything of that?”

The man snorts. “Camera recordings? Kid, does I look like someone who would hand those out like candy?”  

“Well then,” Jimin swallows hard, trying to aid for clearer speech. “Can you tell me what happened?”

The man gives him a suspicious look. He’s taller than Jimin by a good two feet or so and he ends up squinting down his long, pointy nose. “Why’d ‘you wanna know?”

“For my friend,” Jimin blurts out. “He was here that night and he got hurt.”

The man does not sound the least bit sympathetic. “So?”

“So… he won’t tell me what happened…”

“And?” the man raises one caterpillar like eyebrow. “I don’t blame him. There are a lot of judgmental folks out there. People who would spit on bot fights and the like. Nothing wrong with them or anything.”

“Nothing?!” Jimin almost squeaks. The man gives him a dark look and he ducks his head. “But all the robots that get hurt!”

“So?” A shrug. “They’re robots. They don’t feel pain, physical or emotional. What’s there to get hurt?”

Which maybe is true of some robots but not all. And oh. There it is. The strange hollow feeling in his chest again.

“Well?” Thick Eyebrows goes, ignorant of Jimin’s internal turmoil. “Why are you asking me? Go ask that friend of yours? Unless maybe you’re not such good friends after all, if he or she has a few dark secrets or two that they don’t want to share with you.”

They’re not really friends at all to be truthful.

Thick Eyebrows sighs and scratches the back of his neck. Jimin must be pulling some sort of expression to evoke his sudden pity because then he says, “listen kid. What happened that night was no different than any other. There were several bot fights, several winners and several losers. People came and went and we made money from bets and alcohol. And then one kid comes along and he’s doing brilliantly; heck it’s not his first time and I didn’t think it’d be his last. But then some other kid coms in and yells that he’s calling the police and so of course everything goes to shit.

“Now why your friend was there I can’t say. Why your friend won’t tell you, I can’t say either. Listen kid I’m just here to run a business and make money and right now I’m losing lots of it. Why don’t you just go home and man up and ask him straight-“

“Jimin?!”

Both Jimin and Thick Eyebrows jerk their head in its direction and stare.

Jimin recognizes that face and that hair. “Taehyung?”

Sure enough it’s him, his head poking around some back door half hidden near one of the counters that Jimin had skimmed over. He stares at them, one eyebrow almost haphazardly raised high as he looks and most definitely judges them.

“You know this kid?” Thick Eyebrows points roughly at Jimin. More a stab of his index finger really.

Taehyung nods earnestly. “He’s my neighbors’ healthcare robot.”

Thick Eyebrows whirls round on him. His hands come down hard on Jimin’s shoulders and his fingers grip uncomfortably tight. “You? A robot?” he says so emphatically that spittle flies into Jimin’s lenses. He blinks and an internal wiper cleans them.

“Yes?” he replies, a little hesitantly.

Thick Eyebrows lets him go and takes a step back. “I don’t believe it,” he says with something of amazement. “You’re a robot?”

Jimin nods slowly.

Thick Eyebrows circles him, his eyes giving him a solid one-over.

“But you’re so human,” he breathes. “Who built you?” he asks as he prods one thick finger into Jimin’s back.

“Kim Namjoon,” he replies, centering himself so he doesn’t stumble as the man exerts pressure.

Thick Eyebrows frowns. “Who?”

“The owner of R & M Tech and Robotics? When Thick Eyebrows continues to show no sign of recognition. “He graduated from San Seoul-Sokyo’s Robotics and Engineering course last year. Maybe that’s why he’s not so well known yet but soon enough-“

It’s the wrong thing to say. Thick Eyebrow’s eyes darken and his eyebrows furrow more deeply. “Triple S kids,” he spits. “More trouble than they’re worth.”

Jimin is taken aback.

“What’s wrong with them ahjussi?” Taehyung asks as he comes into the room. “Lots of my friends are Triple S grads.”

Thick Eyebrows ahjussi snorts. “I don’t care who your friends are Taehyung so long as you work well. What I do care about is when they’re my customers. Forever on about robot rights and stuff. About how we’re abusing good parts and stuff like that.”

Taehyung squints at him. “I thought you said there the one kid on a winning streak was a Triple S grad.”

Thick Eyebrows snorts again. “I did. I guess not all of them are bad. Haven’t seen him since that incident but now he was a kid not afraid to get his hands dirty. Built some of the best robots I’ve seen in a while. He brought in the crowd that kid did. Said he needed the money and the experience. What was his name again? Lim? Kim? Mi-“

There’s the sound of cymbals crashing, the door at the top of the staircase colliding with the concrete wall. All eyes whirl to the dark entrance as a storm of footsteps approach.  

“Who else is crash gating,” Thick Eyebrows grumbles. “For starters, what are you doing here Taehyung? I thought I gave everyone the week off until the customers start coming back?”

Taehyung blinks innocently at him. “I left something behind by accident.”

Thick Eyebrows stares at him unbelievingly. “Sometimes I wonder why I ever hired you.”

“Because no one else wants the job of cleaning up this place,” Taehyung says with a beam.

Thick Eyebrows sighs. “I will never understand you.”

And then out of the dark entrances comes a pale ghostly form. Yoongi. He catches sight of Jimin and stalks over, curling his hand around Jimin’s wrist and yanking him towards him and away from Thick Eyebrows and Taehyung. “Fuck,” he snaps.” Do I need to babysit you now? What were you thinking? I woke up and you were gone! Do you have any idea how worried I was?”

Something thuds in his chest, like the kick of very heavy duty boot. “You were worried about me?” Jimin says.

Yoongi’s chest rises and falls erratically. He shoots Jimin a deathly glare. “Of course. Do you have any idea how mad Namjoon would get at me if I lost you?”

“Oh…” And the sensation deflates.

“We’re going home.”

Only as Yoongi turns, a large hand makes contact with his chest, knocking the air out of Yoongi and forcing him to stop.

“What are you-“ he turns, glaring and then halts. “Oh, you.”

Jimin frowns. Yoongi knows this man?

“That was it. Min Yoongi,” Thick Eyebrows says in a deep drawl. “You were on a winning streak that night until that friend of yours ruined it all.”

Yoongi’s brow furrows and his eyes flash. “It was not Hoseok’s fault,” he hisses, deep and threatening.

Thick Eyebrows however does not look intimidated. He crosses his arms and stares Yoongi down. He’s got at least a foot in height and twice the amount on breadth. If this turns into a fistfight it’s clear who will win.

Jimin looks nervously between the two. His senses are on high alert and he’s trying to run several simulations in his head to decide what the best plan of action would be. Taehyung watches the interaction with something akin to being entertained. He has a lollipop in his mouth and sucks at it casually.  

“You gonna tell me if that kid didn’t threaten to call the police then none of that chaos would’ve happened?”

Yoongi exhales harshly. “Look. Fine. It was my fault that Hoseok ended up here. He shouldn’t have. He was just trying to look out for me and-“

“And exactly,” Thick Eyebrows stabs a finger into Yoongi’s chest. Yoongi backs up, alarmed. “It’s your fault that my business is losing money. And I want compensation.”

Yoongi stares, first at the finger, and then at its owner. “I… What do you want?”

Thick Eyebrows pauses, thinking. He gives Yoongi a long look, then slowly turns his head, almost lizard-like, to look at Jimin.

“This kid here,” he says, voice deep and dangerous. “He’s a robot right?”

Yoongi’s eyes flare. “No,” he says, voice shaky.

No, what? Jimin wants to ask.

Thick Eyebrow smiles slow and saccharine. “Yes,” he says with a little hiss at the end of the word. “He’s the most human robot I’ve seen so far. Can you imagine how much people would pay to come see a robot like him fight?”

“No!” Yoongi says, louder this time. “He’s not for sale-“

Thick Eyebrows cuts him off. “I never said I was buying. I said I wanted compensation. And he works.”  

“He can’t fight,” Yoongi says roughly. He takes a step forwards and shoves Jimin behind him. All of Jimin’s sensors are on red, high alert. What is this man saying? He wants Jimin to fight? Against other robots? Impossible. He’s built to care for people, not to kill.

“He can learn,” Thick Eyebrows says, not dissuaded.

“No he can’t,” Yoongi says firmly. “He’s a healthcare robot. He’s built to take care of people. Fighting would go against his program.”

“He’s a robot.” Thick Eyebrows shrugs. “He can be programmed differently.”

“No,” Yoongi growls and his hands come up to shove at Thick Eyebrow’s chest. The man stumbles and his eyes flash angrily. Yoongi turns and pushes Jimin, one hand flat against his chest. “We’re going Jimin,” he says, but then there’s a hand at the back of his collar, fingers curling around the fabric and yanking Yoongi roughly back.

Yoongi makes a choking sound as he stumbles backwards and he loses his grip on Jimin. There a meaty hand which comes down in a hook, Thick Eyebrow’s fingers fisted and his surprisingly muscular arms standing out defined.

Jimin turns and his sensors slow everything down. He can see Yoongi’s face white with fright as he’s pulled in; he can see the fist come down, it’s trajectory perfectly aimed to smash in Yoongi’s cheek; in the corner there’s Taehyung, lollipop discarded and forgotten on the floor, he rushes forwards, what he’ll do or what he can do, Jimin can’t say; and then there’s Jimin, one hand outstretched towards Yoongi uselessly. “Hyung!” he manages as the fist comes down and time returns to normal.

Yoongi goes flying, landing hard on his back as he hits the ground.  Thick Eyebrows seethes above him.

“You will give me that robot and then you will show me respect,” he hisses. “I gave you the benefit of doubt when you came to me, another one of those fancy Triple S graduates. You wanted a testing ground, I gave it you. What did you give me? Nothing but trouble.”

Yoongi coughs and gasps for breath on the ground. Already his cheek is coloring up, darkness blooming across his pale skin. He fumbles onto his knees and glares right back at Thick Eyebrows.

“You only offered me that because it was to your benefit as well,” he snaps, the back of one hand swiping at his mouth. It comes away with a slash of red.

The expression on Thick Eyebrow’s face does not deny it. “And look where that got me.”

Taehyung kneels at Yoongi’s side, his hands steadying Yoongi at his shoulder. “Hyung,” he says, unusually solemn. His wide eyes are even larger, his face pale and ghostly. “Don’t start a fight. Kyungtae ahjussi used to be a boxer. You won’t win.”

Yoongi jerks his body away from Taehyung. “I didn’t here to win. I came here to find Jimin and to go.”

He stands, though not without some difficultly. “Look,” he says to Thick Eyebrows whose name is apparently Kyungtae. “I’ll pay whatever you want. I’ll give you back all the winnings I earned from here. Just not Jimin. He’s not part of any deal.”

Kyungtae jerks his chin towards Jimin who still stands, frozen. “What is this robot to you?”

Yoongi sighs. “A friend of mine built him. I can’t just give him away like that. Anyway like I said, he’s not built for fighting. If you want a fight bot I’ll make you one. If you want money, name your price.”

“Unless you can build me a replica of him, then I don’t want any of those.”

Yoongi stills. His face darkens.

“Bot fighting aside, can you imagine how much money could be made if I sold him to some rich collector?”

“You try this and I promise I will be the one to call the police this time,” Yoongi says darkly. Jimin can see the way Yoongi’s knuckles stand out as his fists tighten. He tilts his head and his eyes flash.

There’s a deathly silence as Kyungtae’s glower deepens. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“I would.” Yoongi’s eyes gleam challengingly.

“You do that and your dirty record will be known as well.”

“So be it,” Yoongi licks his lips. “If that’s the price to pay.”

Kyungtae’s eyes widen marginally at the unsubtle threat. He raises one fist threateningly. “You think I’d let you have the chance to do that?”  

The corners of Yoongi’s lips curl up. It’s almost fascinating how fearsome he can suddenly look “Just you try,” he hisses.

Beside him Taehyung is frozen, his pupils dating back and forth the two like he wants to stop them but has no idea how. Jimin wants to as well. He’s physically strong enough to restrain one of them, probably, but what if doing so worsens the situation. He’s never run a fight simulation in his head before and he has no idea what to expect.

Suddenly there is a banging sound of the front entrance door being thrown open. It’s accompanied by the rush of feet down the stairs.

“Who now?” Kyungtae snaps. “Did you call someone else to come?” he looks first  at Yoongi and then Taehyung.

From both their expressions of surprise that is not the case.

Jimin turns and he feels that familiar presence. We’re here Jimin! Seokjin sends as he and Namjoon burst through the dark entrance and spill into the arena.

“Who are you?” Kyungtae grunts.  

“Kim Namjoon,” Namjoon says curtly, panting slightly. Seokjin rushes to Yoongi’s side, his hands patting up and down him to assess for damage.

Recognition lights in Kyungtae’s eyes. “You’re the maker of this robot here,” he says, pointing one finger at Jimin.

“Yes,” Namjoon says shortly. “I made Jimin.”

“I want him,” Kyungtae says bluntly.

Namjoon’s eyes narrow to almost slits. “You can’t have him.”

“And why’s that?” Kyungtae asks, eyes flashing again in the way Jimin has determined he does when he’s unhappy with not getting his way.

“He is not for sale,” Namjoon all but growls.

“That can easily be corrected,” Kyungtae says with a little jerk of his head and the crack of his knuckles.

Namjoon takes a step forwards, facial expression furious.

“Namjoon…” Seokjin says quietly, a warning to keep his cool.

“Jimin is a project of mine. With association with the San Seoul-Sokyo University. If you try to steal him then I do have the rights to contact the police and involve them. My assistant is waiting at another location, ready to call the minute Seokjin there sends him the signal to. Don’t think I didn’t come prepared.”

That has Kyungtae backing off slightly. “You could be lying,” he says, though there’s a tiny shake to the end of his sentence. It’s a fear all illegal business’ hold. Running bot fights and illegal bettings could land Kyungtae in jail for ten years or more.

Namjoon knows this and he smiles, cruelly almost. It’s a smirk though, one that Jimin knows he wears for show. “I could be,” he says tauntingly.

Jimin can see the way Kyungtae is calculating the odds in his head. His hands are still at his side and his eyes dart back and forth Namjoon and Jimin. On one hand if he got his hands on Jimin yes, he could probably make a lot of money in some way or form. But the risk of the police holds a far higher cost and Jimin knows Kyungtae won’t risk that.

Kyungtae exhales. The fight goes out of his body, his shoulders slacking and his fingers uncurling. “Fine,” he says shortly. “Get out of here. Take your robot and go. I never want to see any of your faces in here again, got it?” He glares at Yoongi. “Especially yours.”

“With pleasure,” Yoongi mutters, turning and massaging his sore jaw.

He pushes past them all and heads for the exit. Seokjin and Namjoon make to follow, but when Jimin doesn’t come instinctively Seokjin walks over to him and curls soft fingers around his wrist

“It’s okay,” he says gently and leads Jimin out.

Behind them Kyungtae spits viciously to the ground, keeping a sharp eye on them until they are all out of the door.

There, Yoongi turns, rounding on him.  

“What were you thinking?” he begins, voice frustrated and on edge. “You could have-“

“Enough!” Seokjin barks, sliding his body between the furious Yoongi and the frightened Jimin. He stares down Yoongi until Yoongi backs off. “Enough.”

“Let’s go back to the garage first,” Namjoon suggests. He’s dressed haphazardly in jeans and an oil-stained jacket. His hair sticks up in all directions and his shoes are wrinkled at the back as if he jammed them on and ran.

“We came as soon as your sensors starting showing signs of alarm,” Seokjin says as he notices Jimin’s glance at Namjoon’s attire. “We were worried.”

Jimin deflates. “I’m sorry hyung,” he mumbles.

Seokjin gives him a small smile and pats his head. “It’s okay Jimin. Let’s go home and we’ll talk about it there, yeah?”

Jimin gives a tiny nod.

“Ah guys, wait up!” comes a call from behind them.

Jimin turns to see Taehyung half-jogging to catch up with them. He has a new lollipop in his mouth and as he stops he offers them a blinding smile. “Let me come with you.”

“And you are?” Seokjin frowns.

“Kim Taehyung. Yoongi-hyung’s neighbor,” Taehyung says, sticking out one hand to shake.

Seokjin takes it but with apprehension. Jimin doesn’t blame him.

“What were you doing here Taehyung?” he asks with a tilt of his head.

“I work part time here,” Taehyung says, sticking his hands into his jean pockets. “Or well, I used to. Kyungtae ahjussi’s a bit mad with me now. Says I should choose better friends which is a little funny since earlier he said he doesn’t care who my friends are so long as I can work. Then again there are no customers of late so it’s not like I’m getting paid. Maybe I’ll just find another job.”

Seokjin gives him a disapproving look. “You should. Working in an underground betting arena could get you in trouble with the law.”

Taehyung offers Seokjin a bright smile. “I was just clean up service. They wouldn’t have pinned me down with the others.”

Seokjin pulls a face. “Clean-up service? Whatever for? Aren’t there plenty of better jobs out there?”

“Maybe,” Taehyung allows. “But whilst I was there I could study other people’s bot designs and then keep the scraps afterwards. It was good learning experience.”

“For what?”

“Work?” Taehyung chirps. “Robots are so cool that I wanted to get a job involving them but no one would hire anyone without skills. This was the best I could get, and hey, I learnt stuff.”

“Oh,” Seokjin pauses. “Well, maybe Namjoon could hire you?”

Taehyung’s eyes go wide. “Really? You think? Wait, what does he do?”

“Namjoon runs a garage of his own. He specializes in producing high-end robots.”

“Like Jiminnie here?”

Seokjin nods. “Like Jimin.”

“Cool!” Taehyung’s eyes practically glow. “You think he’d want me?”

“We can ask him later,” Seokjin says, not without a smile. “For now though let’s let him try and cool down Yoongi.”

They all look to Yoongi ahead of them, shoulders hunched and feet heavy as he stomps on. Namjoon trails just behind him, hands flying as he tries to pacify him with words. It doesn’t seem to work.

Seokjin sighs and goes to intervene. The walk home is going to be a long one.

*

Jungkook is there to open up the garage door for them.

“Hey hyung,” he greets them. Yoongi mutters something under his breath that might a hey back or just a grunt and storms in. Namjoon follows, patting Jungkook on the shoulder and telling him he’s done well talking care of the garage. Seokjin simply smiles at him.

For Jimin though there’s just a curt nod. That’s the extent of their relationship.

And then he spies Taehyung. “Who is this?” he says, wrinkling his nose like Taehyung smells. And actually his clothes do look pretty rumpled and his hair like he hasn’t showered in a while. Maybe he does smell. Jimin’s just grateful he can’t actually pick up on it.

“Kim Taehyung,” Taehyung chirps and takes Jungkook’s hand, shaking it vigorously. “I’ll be working here from today onwards.”

Seokjin spins, alarm on his face. “Wait Taehyung, I said you need to talk to Namjoon about that first!”

Namjoon pauses and looks at Taehyung. “Do you have experience with robotics at all?”

Taehyung shakes his head brightly. “Nope!”

“But you want to learn?”

Taehyung nods vigorously. “Yup!”

“Then okay,” Namjoon says with a shrug and heads to the backroom.

Jungkook stares at Taehyung, mouth wide open. “It took me a month to get Namjoon-hyung to hire me!” he says with a large dose of jealously.

“It’s probably because you’re such a young little fetus that he worries you’ll get hurt around the big machinery or something,” Taehyung offers with a big grin.

Jungkook’s face shut down, his mouth tightening and eyes narrowing

He slaps the button to lower the garage door a little too viciously and stomps off into the workshop, muttering darkly under his breath about obnoxious newcomers and whatnot.

Normally Jimin would interfere because friendship is an important part of ensuring satisfaction, but right now his stomach churns and he’s too worried about Yoongi’s reaction.

Yoongi is at the back of the workshop, sprawled on the ratty couch there. He has one arm draped over his eyes but his lips are moving furiously as he mumbles to himself.

Jimin approaches him nervously. “Hyung…” he says in a quiet voice and Yoongi’s lips still. He moves his hand so he can see and his eyes narrow as they latch onto Jimin.  

“You,” he says shortly and swings himself into a sitting position, legs spread and steady on the ground. He rests his elbows on thighs and loops fingers together to form a mesh where his chin can rest. His eyes are dark and unforgiving. “Did you not remember me telling you not to go to Kabukicho market? I told you it’s a rat’s nest for illegal ongoings and now that Kyungtae knows about you…” His gaze drops and he begins muttering furiously again.

Seokjin sits down next to Yoongi gracefully and puts an arm around his shoulder. “Now, now. Let’s not overthink things.”

Yoongi pulls his head back and gives Seokjin an incredulous look. “That reminds me, who the hell are you?”

“He’s Seokjin,” Namjoon says as he comes out from the backroom, voice muffled as he wrestles a new shirt over his head. He smoothens down his mane of a hair, silver right now, and reaches for his pair of glasses atop a work desk. “He’s a robot I built. The previous model to Jimin.”

Yoongi stares. “You built more than one?”

“Well technically I didn’t build Seokjin with the intentions of making him a healthcare bot,” Namjoon says as he turns on the coffee machine and slips a dirty mug underneath the nozzle. He waits for it to heat up. “I started building him after finals. Hoseok was helping me. Originally he was designed to be a general care robot who could help me about the garage. I never planned on hiring anyone until Jungkook asked, didn’t think I’d have the cash to do so, but well Jungkook works mostly for free and so Seokjin became more of the cook and clean and moodmaker of the place.”

Seokjin rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “You’d perish without me here,” he says, voice warm and infused with humor.

“He would,” Jungkook chips in as he passes by on his way to fetch something.

“Anyway,” Namjoon coughs to regain Yoongi’s attention, “It was after Hoseok’s accident and Seokjin was uh, helping me deal with everything, when I realized the potential for a health bot.” For you, are the implicit words underlying.

Yoongi cuts in. “Why didn’t I know about this project of yours.” Namjoon used to tell him everything.

Namjoon presses a button and the coffee machine gurgles into life, dark liquid spurting out and into the cut. The aroma of coffee fills the air quickly.

“You were busy with your own things,” Namjoon says with a shrug. “After graduation we barely saw you, you know? You said you were going to help us with the humanization tests but then after graduation you all but disappeared.” There’s an accusatory tinge to his words.

Yoongi has the good graces to look guilty.  

“I…” he tries. “I got a little obsessed with a side project.” It’s an understatement. Everyone knows. Namjoon and Hoseok of all people should know full well that when Yoongi gets deep into a project he gets such tunnel vision that everyone else gets put on the backburner. They know, but it never lessens the hurt that they are secondary to Yoongi’s obsessions. 

Namjoon fishes out his mug of coffee from under the nozzle and swirls it under his nose, inhaling sharply before taking a deep sip. “Was it anything to do with bot fighting hyung?” he asks archly.

Yoongi squirms under his cross-examination. “Maybe,” he mumbles, eyes averted.

Namjoon sighs and puts down the mug onto the table. “Why won’t you just tell us what happened? You can stop worrying about me going on about legalities of it and all. We’re way past that already.”

Yoongi fumbles with his fingers. Jimin picks up on the cold sweat and the nervousness in his actions. 

Seokjin stands. “Why don’t I go make us lunch,” he says gently. “I know Namjoon hasn’t eaten yet and I’m sure that Taehyung and Yoongi haven’t either. We’ll all talk better on full stomachs. Do you need re-charging Jimin?

Jimin checks his battery and it’s still 78% full so he shakes his head.

“Okay then. Well why don’t you go sit over there while I go cook something.” There’s a meaningful glint in his robotic eyes, telling Jimin to go and do what you were designed to do and make Yoongi more receptive, got it?

Seokjin may be an older version compared to him but there is no way that means he’s of higher authority to Seokjin, not with the way Seokjin gives him that commanding look. So Jimin goes, gingerly creeping up to where Yoongi sits morosely on the chair. He sits down as gently as he can without disturbing Yoongi and watches in his peripheral vision as Namjoon and Taehyung turn away to engage in a casual chat, leaving it all completely up to him.

“Hey, hyung,” he tries, reaching out to touch Yoongi and comparing the situation to touching a wild tiger between cage bars. Warning signals blare but Jimin persists.

Yoongi flinches at his touch. He pulls his head out of his hand to stare at Jimin, eyes gleaming foreign under the fluorescent ceiling lights of Namjoon’s workshop. His lips part and the words issue out throatily, hoarse and raspy like smoke sand papered down. “Look Jimin,” he says, voice rough. “I know what you’re going to try and do, but, can we not?”

Jimin feels the world tilt. “Not?” he echoes.  

Yoongi’s hands clench and unclench, frustration breaking through. “Not pretend.”

“Pretend?”

Yoongi sighs. “I know you’re just doing what you’re programmed to do, but look, just stop?”

“Stop?” Jimin feels like all he can do is parrot what Yoongi is saying.

“Yes, stop,” Yoongi says as he exhales. “As in stop with all this you trying to help and psycho-analyze and fix me. I get it. I made a mistake and I’m pretty torn up over it. But that’s not going to just change overnight. And it’s not going to suddenly change even if I fix Hoseok’s legs.”

Jimin can feel his synthetic muscles lock. Everything becomes all so very still all at once.

“Are you saying… that you don’t need me?” Jimin says. The words sound tiny and hollow.

Yoongi sighs. “So black and white as always Jimin. Yes, if you want to put it that bluntly, yes I don’t need you.”

And it hurts. It hurts more than Jimin would have thought it would.

“But listen.” Yoongi’s voice grows incredibly soft and Jimin finds himself straining to hear, even with his superior audio sensors. He has to lean in to pick up on the words. “I don’t need you because my problems are mine alone. I can solve them. And I don’t need to drag you into this to help me.”

“But I was designed to help you,” Jimin mumbles.

“I know you were,” Yoongi says, his words light and careful. “But you were designed to help, not to get hurt helping me.”

Jimin frowns as he tries to puzzle that sentence out.

“What I mean is you’re getting hurt in a matter where no one else needs to get hurt. You’re a healthcare robot and you can help so many people. It’s just that you’re tied down by me because you’re programmed that way.”

“It’s not like that!” Jimin protests, his head swinging up and his hands bunching at his side. His mind is white static and everything is messy and blurry. He doesn’t know what he’s saying or doing.

Then, Yoongi’s hands. They clasp on either side of Jimin’s head and force him to look Yoongi in the eye. His gaze is so, so, incredibly gentle. It grounds him, Yoongi does. Jimin feels the gears in his arms slowing down and he stills in Yoongi’s hold.

“Listen to me Jimin,” Yoongi says and his quiet voice is a rasp. “I don’t deserve your help. You have to know by now what I did in Kabukicho. I used robots, and I used them to fight. I did it to get experimental data. It was for my project and it was going to be amazing. But don’t you see, in the process of doing that I didn’t look behind me and I ended up dragging all these other people into this mess of mine. I thought being alone meant I would never have to bother about other people but the truth is that you are never really alone. And because I didn’t realize this I hurt people. And so now I have to fix it. By myself. This is something I caused and I don’t want other people getting hurt anymore.”  

“But hyung-“

“But nothing. Look at you. You’re a healthcare robot. You’re built to diagnose over a hundred rare diseases and to recognize cancer in its secondary stages or earlier and if that’s not amazing then I don’t know what is. So why are you so fixated on helping me, someone whose only problem is that they’re reaping what they sow?”

“Because Namjoon-hyung and Seokjin-hyung and Jungkook and Hoseok, they all want you to be happy-“

“And I will be,” Yoongi says softly. “I will be someday.”

“But that someday could be today!” Jimin says frustrated.

He knows he’s gone too far when he sees Yoongi’s eyes widen. He probably has gone too far. What is he saying? It is not logically feasible for Yoongi to be happy just like that. Jimin knows that. His programming tells him so, and yet why is trying to give Yoongi false hope? That’s not a logical answer.

Yoongi is saying something now but for some reason Jimin can’t hear the words. He can see his lips move but all that Jimin can think about is Yoongi telling him to stop.

Yoongi is standing now. Jimin doesn’t recall when he moved but his eyes are gone and Jimin is staring at a blank wall now.

But he can’t go. Jimin needs to stop him. To grab him and hold him back until he can find the words to tell Yoongi that he can’t go because if he does, then what is Jimin to do? A healthcare robot who can’t even help his own patient?

His hand flies out and tangles about Yoongi’s wrist.

“Please,” he manages to say behind the burn at the back of his eyes.

Yoongi gives a tiny shake of his head and slips out of his grip.

All Jimin has ever known is Yoongi. He’s been built on the foundation of Namjoon’s stories and files. Yoongi is all there is to Jimin and without him, what else is left?  

He has to go after Yoongi, but then he blinks there is a different face. Seokjin’s Worry painted there.  

 “-im,” his voice sounds faint. “Jimin? What happened? Where’s Yoongi?”

Jimin opens his mouth to try and reply, but the command sends a shock of electric across his system. It collides with the hundreds of other thoughts swirling about his system, like bumper cars, sparking and lighting and there’s laughter somewhere in the distance.

He has to find Yoongi. He has to-

And then a voice, cool and calculation. system overload. system overload. shutting framework down now. in three, two, one…

His eyes roll back and he gets a glimpse of circuitry.

All he ever did want to do was help Yoongi.

There’s a wink of white and a horrified yell in the background, and right before it all goes black there is one phrase that rebounds about his System.

You cannot help anyone.

 

Part 2: Heroes

Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Yoongi stands outside of Hoseok’s hospital room, one hand hovered in front of the door. To be honest Yoongi doesn’t want to be here. He’s still got some inane fear of Hoseok blaming him for everything. For not listening to him, for continuing to go to the illegal bot fights, for the night that ultimately ended with Hoseok in ICU and the report that he would probably never walk again.

But he misses Hoseok. His old self would never admit this but it does.

He misses his bright smile and his constant need to talk or dance or show Yoongi some new video of a cat rolling on the floor. He misses the warmth that encapsulates Hoseok. And Yoongi has always maintained that he prefers robots over humans, but somehow Hoseok has managed to slip through the cracks of that façade wall he has built.

Yoongi blinks and finds his knuckles raised to the door, his body taking over. But then, a voice.  

“Hyung?”

He whirls and Hoseok is there, eyes wide with surprise, sitting in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over his ruined legs. A brown haired nurse pushes it.

Yoongi’s mouth falls open and his hand falls uselessly to his side. He tries to give voice to the chaos in his head but nothing substantial comes out.

Hoseok leans forwards, his hands curling and uncurling around the wheelchair armrests. “Did you come to visit me?” he asks carefully. The nurse behind him watches Yoongi with pursed lips and interested eyes.

“I…” Yoongi stutters, his own hands fluttering about. “I… may have…”

Hoseok beams, that sunny smile of his growing and spreading like a sunrise above Namsan Park. It’s enough to make Yoongi lose all the words in his head. “Do you want to come in?” he offers, looking purposefully at his hospital room door. “I mean we are kind of blocking the hallway.”

As he says that two kids squeeze past the slim space between the wheelchair and the wall, laughing as they succeed. Hoseok flashes them a smile and they wave back energetically as they dash down the hallway.

Yoongi nods dumbly in acceptance.

When he doesn’t move the nurse gives him a wry smile and goes, “I’ll need you to open the door if that’s not too much trouble…” and Yoongi jumps to obey. He can hear Hoseok’s laugh mingling with the nurse’s tinkling one and Yoongi feels the back of his neck heat.  

He pushes the sliding door open and steps aside to let the nurse push Hoseok through.

She aligns the wheelchair next to the bed and begins to hum as she bustles about, plucking the blanket off of Hoseok’s lap and folding it and hanging it on the frame at the end of the bed. Yoongi averts his eyes so he doesn’t have to see the limp lie of his legs.  

With great efficiency she goes about tapping at the dashboard at the end of the bed which lowers the bed. The frame on the left side gets unlatches and swung to one side and then Hoseok grips the bed and heaves himself over. The nurse helps him with his legs and then she pulls up the covers, plumps the pillows and folds away the chair. In a matter of minutes Hoseok is tucked in and Yoongi can almost imagine he didn’t see the bandages beneath the sheets.

“C’mere hyung,” Hoseok beckons. The nurse helpfully pulls out a plastic chair which she unfolds and sets next to the bed. Her eyes are kind as she asks if Yoongi needs anything. He shakes his head.

“Okay then,” she says in a soft, sweet voice. “I’ll leave you two be. Hoseok you have therapy at four. I’ll come by then.”

“Okay, thanks noona,” Hoseok beams and the nurse laughs as she closes the door behind them. “That was Jisoo noona. She’s the one who takes care of me on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She was telling me that her first year anniversary with her boyfriend’s coming up soon and asking what they should do. I suggested visiting N tower. They have some sort of padlock tradition for couples there. They do electronic engravings there. Like you can draw what you like on a computer and then when you’re happy a CAD machine laser engraves it onto the padlock. I thought it’d be a cute thing for them to do.”

And then he goes on and on about hospital food and how much it is than his own cooking, his mother calling and scolding him down the phone, the cute kids who stay in a room on the fifteenth floor and always cause trouble for the nurses.   

It’s so easy to just sit there and let things slide back into normality, Hoseok’s inane chatter washing over Yoongi like a warm caress. He nods and mm-hmms in all the right places and when Hoseok grins at him he feels like the accident has never happened and this is just another Friday night in the living room with hot chocolate and marshmallows.

But eventually they have to get to the heart of the matter and of course it’s Hoseok who has the courage to bring it up.

“Hyung,” Hoseok says softly and Yoongi notices the change in tone. It’s the one Hoseok uses whenever he’s talking to an injured animal, coaxing it out from under some bush or bench. “Jimin came by earlier today. He wanted to know about what happened that day.”  

Yoongi gulps, his throat suddenly dry as dust. “And what did you tell him?”

Hoseok blinks, eyes like liquid coffee, dark and intense. “I told him you took part in the bot fights.”

Yoongi closes his eyes and counts to three.

“Was that okay?” Hoseok asks tentatively.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”

“Really?”

Yoongi opens his eyes. “Yeah really. If you hadn’t told him he’d have probably found out another way.” Probably at Kabukicho market. He’s not mad at Hoseok. He’s just mad at himself.

“Hyung?” Hoseok says suddenly. “I want to apologize.”

Yoongi jerks up straight. “For what?” There’s nothing that Hoseok needs to apologize for. Conversely these should be Yoongi’s words right now.

“For acting the way I did that night.” Hoseok swallows hard and his face is uncharacteristically downcast. “I shouldn’t have confronted you like that. I know you hate it when people shut you down and yet I went and did that. I should have talked to you, tried to convince you, not show up in the middle of a club and yell for the police.”

“You were worried. You panicked. It’s okay,” Yoongi says.

Hoseok shakes his head. “Even so. I should have known better.” As one of the two people in SSS U who had known what lay under the cold and focused exterior that the rest of the school knew Min Yoongi as, he really, really should have. “If I had talked to Namjoon. Maybe even asked Jungkook. Or your supervisor. I don’t know-“

Yoongi puts his hand to Hoseok’s mouth. Hoseok stills against the curve of his palm.

“I get it Hoseok,” Yoongi whispers. “I get it.”

He can feel Hoseok smile against his hand, those goddam lips always upturned.

“We all make mistakes.” Some bigger than others. What matters is not the fall, but the getting back up.

Yoongi drops his hand and leans forwards to rest his forehead against Hoseok’s shoulder. Hoseok shifts to accommodate him and it’s like old times all over again, two bodies leaning against one another with the TV blaring for background noise.

Yoongi thinks of the medical reports. Of the seventy four point nine percent chance that Hoseok will never walk again.

In the stampede over twenty bones were crushed, some beyond repair. They had to implant synthetic materials in place of those that were too fragmented to fix. Then there are the tendons and ligaments and muscles whose nerves and connections have been destroyed from the crush. Even if the therapy allows him to walk again, it will be with a limp for the rest of his life.

Hoseok nudges Yoongi gently with his shoulder and Yoongi cracks open his eyes questioningly.

“What are you thinking?” Hoseok asks in a gentle tone, a tiny smile playing at the edges of his lips as it does when he knows Yoongi has an idea crackling in his mind.  

Yoongi licks his lips. What is he thinking? He’s thinking that he wants to fix Hoseok’s legs and therapy isn’t going to cut it. So he just goes ahead and says it.

“How do you feel about prosthetic limbs?”

Hoseok blinks, the surprise there, but muted.

There have been discussions, Yoongi knows. Namjoon has kept him updated when it became clear Yoongi wasn’t going to visit him in hospital. He knows that they’ve suggested prosthetic limbs and Hoseok has turned the offer down.

Prosthetic limbs are a common sight nowadays. It’s easy for people to lose limbs when this city is so mired in physical and technological work. As a result the city has become adept at producing and attaching prosthetics of the highest quality. It’s become so common that obtaining a titanium grade B limb costs no more than a simple stich surgery.

The problem isn’t with the limbs. It’s with the interface.

Prosthetic technology has advanced so much that human nerves and impulses cannot keep up with the tech inside of the limbs. It results in twitchy limbs and difficult control. And for the sort of quality of limbs that Hoseok would want, there’s little doubt of it working smoothly.  

“You know what I think about them Yoongi,” Hoseok says quietly. And Yoongi does. But he wants to hear it out loud.

“Fine,” Hoseok says, giving in. “I don’t mind them but only if the tech can let me walk as I did before. I know I sound ungrateful but I’d rather keep my own two legs than swap them for a metal pair that can’t keep up with my expectations. I don’t want false hope hyung.”

Yoongi knows what he means. He remembers some Hongdae club that Hoseok had dragged him to despite Yoongi’s protests of hating the loud electronic music and the heavy grind of bodies that no amount of technological advancements seems to be able to improve.  But Hoseok had pleaded with large puppy eyes that Yoongi has never been able to resist and so he had gone. And it became the night that Yoongi really – properly – saw Hoseok. Alive. Hoseok dancing. And it was a side of Hoseok that he had never known before. It was like electricity sparked in his veins, circuitry glowing under his skin. Hoseok loved his research in the humanization of robotic programming, but Yoongi had never seen Hoseok so alive as he had been that night, dancing and moving and becoming one with the heavy bass beat of the room.

“And if I can get you limbs that will?” Yoongi asks, eyes gleaming.

Hoseok gives him a dubious glance. “You know the interface would be fuzzy with something that high grade.”

“But if I can?” Yoongi presses. Thoughts are bubbling about his brain, hot and fizzy They collide off one another in tiny golden sparks. The data. The material. He hasn’t tried interfacing it with anything yet but in his design plans there was discussion of the possibility of using it for prosthetics. He’s never actually tried design prosthetic limbs before but this will be a challenge and he always succeeds best at challenges.  

Hoseok exhales and gives in. “Then yes. If it’s you, I’ll always give it a chance.”

Yoongi leaps out of his chair. Too many thoughts. He can’t sit still anymore. He never could when a project came to mind. “I need my computers. And the programs. And, and, Namjoon has stuff. I’ll talk to him, see if I can borrow his lab, maybe run some ideas past him and-“

Hoseok bursts out laughing. “Go hyung, go.” He makes a shooing motion with his fingers. “Just… keep me in the loop okay.”

Yoongi turns to him and gives him a firm nod. “Of course,” he says throatily and then before he can second guess his actions, he ducks down and wraps Hoseok into a rough hug.

It shocks Hoseok into silence, this rare show of skinship from Yoongi. Normally it’s Hoseok who has to initiate them. Beneath his throw over jacket Hoseok can feel Yoongi’s heart hammer fast and wild.

“Go,” Hoseok finds himself whispering and Yoongi nods and backs off. He slides open the door and slips out before Hoseok can let any other words slip.

Yoongi has only been gone for a mere few seconds but Hoseok feels the loss vividly. It’s like claws scrabbling at his chest, each draw deeper, darker. Is it twisted that he likes the pain?

Like all fairy tales goes, it starts with a crush and ends with the ashes.

Hoseok knows that Yoongi doesn’t feel the same way as him because one night when he was tipsy off alcohol and the adrenaline from dancing he tried to kiss him and got a firm, but gentle shove in return.

The truth is that it’s probably not him. It’s that Yoongi probably doesn’t know how to love another person. From the snatches that Yoongi has let slip, Hoseok understands that he’s spent most of his childhood alone, his parents both in lucrative and influential businesses that took them often abroad. To fill his time, Yoongi learnt how to fix the things broken around him, and that eventually translated into an interest in building them. When he was seventeen he made the decision to apply for the best university for technology and as a result was thrown out of the house by his disappointed father who would have preferred he follow suit with an occupation in finance. His mother, three years buried underground by then, had no say in the matter, though Yoongi had commented once that she would have probably sided with his father.

It’s probably due to the combination of his parent’s absence and yet overwhelming expectations that finds Yoongi disconnected from all things social. To him the only reliable handle is work and he clings to it like a dying man.

It’s almost amazing that Hoseok even managed to meet Yoongi in the first place.

It had been thanks to a dare from a coursemate to go see if there was truth the rumor about the ghost of the third floor lab. People said years ago some unfortunate student working overtime to finish a project had gotten crushed by the machinery in there. Ever since then he has been haunting the room, continuing to work mindlessly, not knowing that he is dead. They say it must be a ghost because the lights of the third floor lab are always on, and no classes are assigned there. Rumor says that if he spots you he’ll steal your soul and force you to work with him for all of eternity.

Hoseok being the eternal optimist he is couldn’t believe there was an ounce of truth to the talk and had readily agreed.

The room was a long, rectangular room that stretched far out of sight from the small window near the doorway. Peeking in Hoseok could see tables littered with tools and the light turned on blindingly bright. But he couldn’t see any occupants.

He had turned to his friends and laughed and said it was just a rumor after all. Probably the cleaner bot had forgotten to turn off the lights, that was all.

To prove it, Hoseok had opened the door and taken a bold step in, much to the horror of his coursemates.

“See? It’s nothing,” he had said, arms spread wide and a grin plastered on his face.

Then there had been the whirring sound of a saw and his friends had yelped and split. Hoseok had gulped because he definitely hadn’t seen anyone from the window but there was definitely the sound of a saw. He had turned slowly, cold sweat trickling down his neck and there he had found the disgruntled expression of a tiny, pale figure with a gigantic saw half the size of him in one hand. 

“Please don’t kill me,” had been the first thing to slip out of his mouth.

And instead of death threats of why shouldn’t I? or would you like to beg for your life? there had been a snort and the whirring sound stopped.

“Now why would I do such an unsavory thing?” the man who had later introduced himself as Min Yoongi had said with a roll of his eyes.

“Because you’re a ghost and you’re going to saw me in half and chain my soul to this room for eternity to help you work?”

Yoongi had given him a flat look and said, “Do you know how many laws that would break? Homicidal and overtime charges being the first ones that come to mind. And now what is all this business about me being a ghost?”

Hoseok had blinked and stared. “You’re not?”

“Do I look like a ghost?”

Hoseok had paused to frame him and frankly, with the paleness of his skin that was only amplified by the bright white lights above, yes, he sort of did.  

“Can I touch you?” Hoseok had asked.

“Excuse me?” Yoongi had coughed and his fingers had reflexively tightened about the handle of the saw.

“For proof!” Hoseok had yelped and fumbled for words. “To check you’re um, human.”

“Seriously? Okay, fine,” Yoongi had huffed and held out one hand. Hoseok had approached him gingerly, but when Yoongi hadn’t pounced and devoured his soul, he reached out and touched him and he was real, real and warm and human.

“Who are you then if you’re not a ghost?” Hoseok had asked in wonderment.

“Min Yoongi, second year. And you Mr-I don’t-read-do-not-enter-signs?”

“Eh, there’s a do not enter sign?”

“Yeah, by the entrance.”

“Um,” Hoseok coughed. “I think someone removed it because there definitely isn’t any there.”

 “Wait what?!” Yoongi had exploded. He has rushed to the door and flung it open to check and when he saw that Hoseok had been speaking the truth, had stormed back and grabbed his phone and the rest had gone down something like Kim Namjoon did you take my do not enter sign! You know I need that to keep stupid first years from entering! And you technically are also a first year! It doesn’t matter, just give me back the damn sign or I’ll solder you to the table and saw you into four pieces! No that’s not a joke, I will do it goddamn it!

And ever since then they’ve been best of friends.

It turns out the rumors started up because Yoongi’s favorite work table just happens to be in the in the blind spot of anyone peeking in from the window outside. Couple that with the fact he’s managed to secure a lab all to himself and that no one really knows about it, and you have a ghost story in the making.

Hoseok still privately thinks Namjoon had a hand in it.

But he’s kind of thankful to Namjoon, because if he hadn’t started this rumor then Hoseok would have never met Yoongi, never become friends and then later housemates when Namjoon had invited him to move into their tiny flat a few minutes’ walk away from the lab block.

But at the end of the day all he has with Yoongi is friendship. Hoseok’s one-sided crush will probably never see the light of day and he has to come to terms with it.

It just kind of hurts to know that’s it all over before he even had a chance to try.

A knock at the door startles him out of his thoughts. Hoseok raises his eyes to it. “Yes? Come in,” he calls in response and the door slides open partially to reveal Jisoo’s face poking in.

Hoseok likes her. She’s cheerful but not in an overbearing kind of way. She was the one who had sat by Hoseok when he had first discovered he would never be able to run again the way he always did and rubbed his back as he cried.

By nature, Hoseok is not a crier. By expectations, he is also not meant to be a crier. He’s known to his friends and his family as a happy-go-lucky kind of person. Nothing is supposed to bring him down. Not rain or shine or broken legs. But it does. He looks at them every day and it’s like a fresh blow to sternum each time.

Jisoo understands and she is always there for him with a cupcake and a comforting hug when he feels the tear prick at the back of his eyes. Where she pulls the cupcakes out from, Hoseok will never know.

“It’s nearly four Hoseok,” Jisoo sing-songs as she enters “Time to go visit Doctor Lee for therapy.”

“Okay,” Hoseok says easily and pushes back the blanket to help her.  

“How was your friend?” Jisoo asks as she works. “The sweet looking one who came to visit just now?”

Hoseok can’t help but half-smile at the thought of Yoongi. “Good. I’m glad he finally visited.”

“A lover?” Jisoo guesses with a flick of her finger. She taps the dashboard and the side of the bedframe lowers.

Hoseok shakes his head, though he’s pleased to hear that.

“No?” Jisoo sounds disappointed. She always loves a good gossip. “Pity. You two would make a cute couple.”

Hoseok laughs at that. “Yoongi-hyung is only in love with one thing and that’s his work.”

“Oh dear,” Jisoo says with a sigh and a click of her tongue as she helps Hoseok into his wheelchair. “Those are the worst kind. They don’t know what they have until they lose them.”

The words hit a little too close to home.

Jisoo notices and she pauses. “Did you love him?” she asks, voice soft and treading careful.

Hoseok hesitates, his fingers dancing a pattern in his lap.

“Complicated?” Jisoo amends.

Hoseok gives a low laugh. “Something like that,” he says. “It was a one-sided kind of thing. I kind of gave up though when I realized the best we were going to be was friends.” 

Jisoo’s eyes glimmer with sympathy as she drapes the blanket over Hoseok’s lap.

She doesn’t speak to him again until they enter the lift where it’s quiet.

“I think it’s for the better,” she says gently. Hoseok can’t see her face from here but he guesses her brow would be furrowed and her mouth twisted. “We deserve people who love us back.”   

Hoseok can’t help but smile at the fierceness in her voice. It’s sweet that she cares about him this much, that she gets angry for him when Hoseok knows he can never be angry at Yoongi no matter how much hurt he inflicts on him. He knows that Jisoo has never seen the side of Yoongi that Hoseok has, the bright lights in his eyes when he talking about his latest project or some new equipment on the market. She’s never seen Yoongi when he is most alive. It’s a beautiful thing but Hoseok knows that those sorts of things are rarely the sort that can be kept.

But yeah, like Jisoo says, maybe it’s better if he finds someone who looks at him the way he looks at Yoongi.

Jisoo stops the wheelchair and knocks on the doctor’s door. There’s an answering call and she opens it and pushes Hoseok in.

“Hey Hoseok,” Doctor Lee grins as he gets up to welcome them in. “How’s my favorite patient doing?”

The smile that spreads on Hoseok’s face is natural. And it’s wonderful.

“Ready for today’s workout?” he asks, standing and tucking away his chair. His table is scattered with stress balls and little weights. Further in the room there are balance beams and bars.

For now he’ll set love aside and focus on himself first.

“Definitely,” he replies with a grin.

*

Yoongi spends the tram ride back to Namjoon’s garage with his mind so full of blueprint designs and lines of code that he misses his cue to get off by almost two stops. He ends up jumping off mid-ride and jogging the distance back.

He arrives at the garage entrance sweaty and with so many ideas in his head he doesn’t know how he’ll convey them all to Namjoon with words alone, but he has to. He’ll do it. He’s going to design the best limbs he could ever create for Hoseok and Hoseok is going to walk again he swears.

Yoongi comes to halt at the corrugated door and raps one fist hard against the metal. “Open up,” he yells in a raspy voice. There’s a whirring sound as the camera moves to capture his profile, then the garage door winds up. Impatient, Yoongi ducks through the too-small opening and bangs his shoulder against the bottom of it. It stings but he ignores it, take long strides into the room.

“Namjoon, Jungkook, I’ve got an idea you need to hear,” he says as he comes into the wide area of the work station and only then does he realize that everyone is gathered around a table.

Someone turns – Jungkook – and his eyes flash in warning. “Hyung,” he says softly, tersely, and that is all the warning Yoongi gets before a fist grips his collar and it’s the second time today that he’s being choked.

“What did you do to Jimin?” Namjoon growls, up in his face and close.

“What?” Yoongi coughs, squirming in Namjoon’s hold. “What do you mean? I left him here whilst I went to go visit Hoseok.”

“Is that all?” Namjoon demands.

Yoongi wrenches himself out of Namjoon’s grip. “Yes!” he hisses. “Why. Did something happen to him?”

Namjoon’s eyes flash and Yoongi flinches. He’s never thought of Namjoon as imposing before but now he’s beginning to appreciate the hours that Namjoon has spent at the gym and at the workstation in the form of tense biceps.

A hand intervenes. “Enough Namjoon,” Seokjin says and Yoongi has never felt more grateful for a robot program that dissuades violence than now. “He left before Jimin short circuited. He couldn’t have known.”

“Wait, what?” Yoongi chokes.

Namjoon exhales harshly as he takes a small step back. “Yeah,” he says, sounding tired. “Shortly after you left Jimin’s circuitry overloaded and he crashed. We’ve been trying to reboot him since, but no luck.”

“Where is he?” Yoongi demands. He pushes past Namjoon roughly to find Jimin laid out on a worktable they are encircling. His eyes are closed and his skin is pale. When Yoongi puts a hand to his cheek it feels cold as ice, the circuitry underneath having long stopped working.  

“How long as he been like this?” he asks over his shoulder.

“Four or so hours,” Jungkook says, stepping up next to him. He has dark circles under his eyes, probably from long nights of trying to hack the school system. He grimly hands Yoongi a table with all of Jimin’s records that he’s compiled on it. “Activity suggests that he overheated and the system shut him down in response. The primary question is why is he’s not responding to our reboots.”

“What have you tried?” Yoongi asks as he flicks through the record. He sees the spike of activity, the numbers ridiculously high. It’s not surprising he overheated. But a cool down and hook up to some external fans should get Jimin up and walking within minutes.

“The standard. We hooked him up to some fans,” Jungkook says, jerking his chin at the two external fans whirring on the table beside Jimin. “We did a software scan but nothing jumps out. We’ve re-charged him, de-bugged him, cooled him, yet nothing seems to make him restart. The only option we have left is to do a system restore.”

Yoongi freezes. “But that will mean…”

“Yeah,” Namjoon rumbles as he sidles up to Yoongi. He casts a sad glance at Jimin’s still body. “His memory chip will be wiped clean.”  

“There’s no earlier restore point?” Yoongi tries desperately.

Namjoon shakes his head. “You forget he’s only been active for two days. Less actually.”

“Are you sure you’ve tried everything?”

“Everything we can think of,” Namjoon says bitterly. “Unless you have anything to add hyung?” There’s a mocking edge to his words.

“Enough Namjoon,” Seokjin says sternly, keenly picking up in the change in his tone.

Namjoon deflates, his shoulder slumping. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “It’s just… I don’t want to reset Jimin. He was doing so well.”

Seokjin puts a reassuring hand to his shoulder. “I know Namjoon. But remember, you programmed Jimin. Resetting him won’t change his base nature. He’ll still be the kind and gentle and brilliant health robot you designed.”

“I know,” Namjoon says, as he scrubs at his eyes with the heel of his hands. He doesn’t look like he’s slept all day.  “I guess we don’t have much of a choice anyway.”

“Surely there must be something you haven’t tried yet,” Yoongi protests, his hands clammy as he scrolls down the tablet.

“Maybe there is Yoongi, but I sure as hell can’t think of one!” Namjoon snaps, snatching back the tablet and slamming it down onto the table.

“Okay, now,” Seokjin tries to slide between the two of them. “Let’s calm down-“

“Well maybe you haven’t thought enough!” Yoongi throws back as he sidesteps Seokjin and steps forwards to meet Namjoon’s challenge.

“Oh then what does the great Min Yoongi have to offer, hm? Anything?”

Yoongi is taken aback at the sudden venom in Namjoon’s voice.

“No? Nothing? Surely someone who’s managed to hack the near impregnable system of San Seoul-Sokyo University must have a novel idea or two. Yes?”

Yoongi can feel a flush creep its way up his neck. This is it right here. Namjoon and his absolute distaste for anything illegal. Namjoon may be one of his closest friends but Yoongi has always known that Namjoon has harbored a small grudge for attempting, let alone acing the university’s secret exam.

“I’ve never thought that just because I did that I was better than anyone else,” Yoongi says quietly.

“You say that, but every time you have some idea or a new project, you up and vanish. You don’t care about the rest of us. You don’t even think about letting us in to see your new ideas. The only time you do is when you need our help.”

The accusation is like a knife right between his ribs. It’s piercing, that sliver of might-be truth. 

“Yoongi,” Namjoon continues, his voice raspy but not a shout anymore, “I get that you don’t like to rely on people and I get that it’s hard for you to trust us, but you know, sometimes I even wonder if you ever care?”

Yoongi’s mouth dries. “I…do…” he manages.

“You don’t seem to show it,” Namjoon says unforgivingly.

“I…”

“I mean we ask you to help us with the human emotive program trials and what do you do? You go and take part in those bot fights. And you know the university frowns upon that. It depreciates robots, treats them like fighting dogs or something. And robots are better than that. So why? What was so important that you had to drop everything and go partake in illegal activities?”

“It was for… experimental data,” Yoongi mumbles.

“Data for what?” Namjoon says unflinchingly.

“For a new skeleton material I was designing,” Yoongi admits. “It had to make it light, flexible, and most importantly, strong enough to withstand any pressure or external force. It had to be bulletproof essentially. I ran the blueprints past my supervisor and he said that if I could make it then I could possibly have a patent on my hands. The only problem was getting enough experimental data to make it a reality. And the place best to test it out was Kabukicho. Do you understand Namjoon? I needed this. If I could make it work then this would get me a foot into the design industry. It would give me the propulsion I needed to make my life work. Do you get it?”

Yoongi wonders if he does. After all, for Kim Namjoon, the poster child of SSS U, he barely needs any promotion. He already has lovecalls from various companies and potential buyers, begging to be first in line for his new designs.

On the other hand Yoongi is barely known. It’s not surprising given that the school doesn’t advertise their secret exam and that Yoongi himself has never been particularly sociable, hence, the lack of connections. 

If he wants to become a successful and profitable engineer, he needs to be known.

Surely Namjoon can understand this.

“No, I don’t,” is Namjoon’s cold answer.

Yoongi takes one wobbly step back. “Oh.”

Namjoon bites at his lip and opens his mouth again like he wants to say something. He reaches out with one hand but before Yoongi realizes what he’s doing, he’s slapped it away, and the sound echoes loud and sharp throughout the room.

Namjoon stares at him with a look of dismay. “You-“

Yoongi’s mouth shakes.

“Enough,” Seokjin says firmly as he comes between the two of them. His eyes blaze enough to induce silence. “We’re all tired and not thinking straight. Go home Yoongi, rest. We won’t do anything to Jimin until tomorrow, okay?” He sends Namjoon a sharp look before turning back to Yoongi. “So go home, sleep, and then tomorrow we’ll all talk again, when we’re of a more controlled nature.”

Yoongi swallows hard at the subtle threat if they’re not.

“Okay,” he says quietly and backs off.

Seokjin’s gaze softens. “Don’t take Namjoon’s words too harshly,” he starts to say and Yoongi doesn’t want to hear this, pity and all its accompany parties. He stumbles away, avoiding Jungkook’s wide-eyed stare and open mouth that looks like he’s about to say something more. Yoongi pushes past him before he can say a word and lets himself out of the garage.

The tram home is quiet and lonely. There are no loud voices from his next door neighbor to lighten the mood, no bright smile to welcome him home.

The room is dark with the curtain drawn and its towers of cardboard. He flicks on the lights and throws the keys into the tiny bowl on the shelf. When his stomach growls he turns on the kettle and makes himself a bowl of instant noodles that tastes like plastic on his tongue. He swallows down half of it and ends up pouring the rest away.

It’s never mattered much to him before, the idea of coming home to an empty house. But that was when he was ten and realized he was better off not expecting such things. Then came Namjoon and Hoseok, little UFOs crash landing their way into his life and all of a sudden he no longer had to reach for the keys because there would be someone by his side with them, or another already inside, flinging open the door and then rushing back to a smoking stove.

At first it was annoying, okay, maybe just a little irritating. Namjoon was forever breaking things; Hoseok couldn’t stop hugging things. And then there was Jungkook with his quiet presence and Taehyung with his incredibly loud one, and Jimin and Seokjin, and without him realizing it, they’ve all managed to squirm their way into Yoongi’s life somehow.

Yoongi had always told himself that it was okay to be alone. More time to devote to fixing and building and learning. But somewhere along the way it’s changed and the loneliness hurts now.

It’s physically in the form of the recharge station on the floor next to the dining table with the styrofoam bits still scattered about the table top. It’s tucked away in the boxes he can’t bear to unpack because somewhere in there they’ll be the blue mug that comes in a set of three which Hoseok bought on a whim for them all, or maybe Namjoon’s t-shirt that somehow always ends up in his clothes pile. It’s everywhere, their presence. And for the first time ever Yoongi admits to himself that he misses it. He misses them.

He’s crying without realizing it, the tears warm and salty as they patter to the floor like raindrops. He brushes them away brusquely, but they just keep falling.

“Don’t cry,” he tries to order himself. “Don’t-“

He chokes it off and sinks to his knees in front of the recharge station.

The material is cool and soothing. He leans forwards so his forehead touches it and tries to pretend it’s the gentle touch of a hand.

He gets it now in a tiny moment of clarity, why he doesn’t want Namjoon to wipe Jimin’s memories. Because as of right now, Jimin is the only one who has no reason to hate him. 

Hoseok and his legs, Namjoon and the bot fights, Jungkook and his disapproval of the way Yoongi disturbs their everyday peace; they may all claim to be with him, but Yoongi knows that a part of them resents him for what his actions have caused. Taehyung and Seokjin are neutral but then again they are more of side-line watchers than anything else.

The only one completely on his side is Jimin and Yoongi doesn’t want to lose that.

Performing a system restore would do that. So yes Jimin will essentially be unchanged, but the new Jimin won’t be the Jimin who knows what the view from the hilltop looks like, or why not to touch Namjoon’s vintage clock. This Jimin may be on his side, but it just won’t be the same.

It burns, the unshed tears at the back of his eyes and the guilt. He lets the tears run, off his cheeks to where they slide off the shiny surface of the recharge stations.

Yoongi bunches one fist and punches the machine. It hurts. He likes it.

He realizes what hurts more is all the opportunities he’s let slide past him. Jimin’s offer for help, Namjoon and Hoseok offer of friendship, Taehyung’s of casual company.

He’s been so, so selfish.

He’s told them all no and yet now he wants to turn back time and say yes, yes, yes, a hundred times yes.

The recharge station is no pair of comforting arms but Yoongi takes it over his empty bed. He curls up next to it, his head resting on one of the pockets where he can pretend that it’s someone else’s shoulder and not just metal. And just like he falls asleep, dreaming of grassy hills and blue skies and a warm body tucked right up against his.

*

Brrii-iing, brrii-iing, brii-iiing-

Yoongi gasps into wakefulness, his body tipping forwards and he hands flying out to stop himself face-planting straight onto the floor.

His neck is still and his body protests from the uncomfortable sleeping position.

Still, the doorbell continues to ring relentlessly.

“For fuck’s sake,” Yoongi growls as he gets stiffly to his feel.

“Hyung!!!” comes a familiar deep voice. “Open up!” It’s accompanied by several loud barks.

Yoongi throws open the bolt and the door. “What is it Taehyung?” he says grumpily without even thinking.

There’s a pattering as Soonshim rushes forwards to press against his legs. His hands automatically wander into her fur, kneading and digging in all the right places. She barks once with happiness and licks his hand.

“I went to the garage. You weren’t there,” Taehyung says.

Prickles of discomfort run down the back of Yoongi’s neck.

Taehyung must be able to discern his look because he continues by saying, “Jungkookie told me everything.”

Yoongi sighs. “Well, come in then.”

Taehyung kicks off his shoes and seats himself down on the shiny leather couch like he’s been best buddies with Yoongi all his life. Yoongi eyes him with minute annoyance but settles for shutting the door and leading Soonshim over to the living room.

“A little messy in here,” Taehyung comments as he surveys the piles of boxes and the styrofoam mess. “You should clean up more often.”

“Yes, yes,” Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Now? What is it that required you to disturb me at…” he fumbles for his phone to check the time. “At three in the morning.”

Soonshim pads over to her owner’s feet and curls up there. Taehyung slides off the couch to hug her about her waist. “Jungkookie says they’re going to wipe Jimin’s memories if they can’t come up with a way to fix him.”

“I know Taehyung,” Yoongi says, a touch tersely. “Namjoon’s mad at me for it.”

“I had a look at him,” Taehyung continues as if Yoongi never spoke.

Yoongi frowns. “I thought you didn’t know much about robots?”

“I don’t,” Taehyung shrugs. “All I know if from what I’ve seen in Kabukicho “

“Then?”

“I may not know much about robots, but I know a lot about computer.”  

Yoongi blinks. Maybe he’s running low on sleep but he definitely isn’t thinking straight right now. “Huh?”

“I’m a hacker hyung,” Taehyung says casually, one hand stroking a path from the back of Soonshim’s head to her tail. She wags it once.

Yoongi blinks again. “You’re a, hacker?”

Taehyung nods. “Yeah,” he says throatily. “I’ve been doing it ever since I was a kid. I started it for fun, but then it turns out I was good and it made me a lot of money at the hack races in Kabukicho.”

“Then,” another blinks, “why were you working for Kyungtae at the club?” As far as Yoongi knew, the hack races took place in the adjoining club where the basement had rows of computers all hooked up to one black screen that would show a live feed of the ensuing battle between several hackers to break the code provided.

“Because of you.”

“Me?”

Taehyung nods to affirm. “I went there once on a whim. Kyungtae-ahjussi’s club has better booze but bot fights have never really interested me. Until I saw you there one night. I watched one of your fights. And then another. You won both of those that night. But then you lost the third.”

Taehyung fixes him with a long look, his eyes uncharacteristically dark and solemn. His hands still and Soonshim whines, but Taehyung does not resume the action. His voice when he speaks is deeper, throatier. “Everyone who comes to Kabukicho to fight does so for money. But not you.”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “So?”

“I’ve grown up in Kabukicho all my life hyung,” Taehyung says lightly. “And around here, robots are the equivalence to tools. And that’s not cool. It’s like the way people said that in the old days, they used dogs to fight. And I could never imagine sending Soonshimie out like that. But you weren’t like that.”

“What makes you say that?” Yoongi asks quietly.

Taehyung’s eyes gleam as he grins. “You lost the third round. Normally losers cry or curse and then leave. But you picked up the pieces of your robot and you went home with it in your arms.”

Yoongi coughs. “So?”

Soonshim pads to where he sits cross-legged with his back to the recharge station. She butts at his hand with her head and Yoongi complies easily, sliding his hand behind her ear and scratching there.

“So you took your robot home. That’s not normal hyung.”

“Any SSS kid would do the same,” Yoongi protests.

“But no SSS kid would be down at Kabukicho,” Taehyung returns.

“So what are you trying to say Taehyung?”

Taehyung’s grin glitters. “That you are not normal hyung.”

“And so what?” Yoongi feels kind of miffed at that statement.

“And so,” Taehyung leans forwards, unnervingly close to Yoongi’s face. “That’s interesting.”

Yoongi squints. “If this is a confession that you stalked me and moved in as my neighbor just so you could get closer to me then I am throwing you out right now and calling the police on you.”

Taehyung leans back and cackles. “You wouldn’t. I know you hyung.”

Yoongi frowns. “I’m not sure if I should be more freaked out by the fact that you did not deny my statement, or that you actually do know me that well.” If he calls the police his father might well hear about it and that could be the end of his life over here.

Taehyung gets to hit feet and stretches his arms above his head. “Thinking too much isn’t good for you hyung. Anyway I came here with a proposal for you. I can fix Jimin, but I need you to come with me somewhere.”

Yoongi’s eyes widen. “How?”

Taehyung grins. “I’m a hacker hyung. We have our mysterious ways.”

A laugh bursts out of Yoongi’s mouth unbidden. It seems to please Taehyung.

“That’s the spirit hyung, smile, smile! Now come on. You want to help Jimin right? I can help you. But I need something first. So we need to go. Now. Today. Present time.” He holds out a hand but Yoongi brushes it away and stands up alone.

Taehyung pouts but doesn’t seem too hurt by the fact.

“So?” Yoongi looks at Taehyung expectantly. “Where are we going?”

Taehyung gives him a knowing look as he taps the side of his nose. “Where else hyung? Back to Kabukicho.”

*

No trams run this late at night but Taehyung possess a shiny red Moped for some reason and Yoongi has no say as Taehyung jams a helmet on his head then proceeds to straddle the seat, patting the back of it eagerly when Yoongi shows no signs of getting on.

“No way,” Yoongi says flatly. “Aren’t you too young to even have a license?”

“The age limit is sixteen hyung,” Taehyung sing-songs, “and I’m twenty two.”

“You don’t look it.”

“Stop complaining and get on hyung.”

“If we die then who’s supposed to help Jimin?”

“Aw c’mon hyung. Have a little faith in me,” Taehyung whines. “Or are you planning to walk all the way there. It’ll take you at least forty five minutes. An hour tops. Not to mention all those hills. Maybe for you I should allow an hour and a half.”

“Shut it kid,” Yoongi retorts and approaches the Moped, eyeing it suspiciously.

“It’s easy hyung. Just hold on to my shoulders, lift one leg over, and prop it on the ledge here. Then-“

“I can get on a Moped myself,” Yoongi grumbles, trying to ignore the way his cheeks heat. He pointedly does not put him hands on Taehyung’s shoulders, and then goes again and swings one leg over.

The Moped is tall and Yoongi’s foot misses the ledge on the other side, causing him to almost slip.

Taehyung catches him by the shoulders. “I told you to put your hands on my shoulders hyung,” he chides, and takes Yoongi’s right hand and places it on his shoulder. “There, now look over and put your foot on the ledge properly. Yes? Okay?”

“Okay,” Yoongi mutters, but his fingers dip in deeper onto Taehyung’s shoulder and he manages to seat himself properly on the Moped.

“There you go,” Taehyung says brightly. “Okay, now you should probably put your arms about my waist whilst I drive. We wouldn’t want you fall off in the middle of the road, hm?”

“There is no way I am hugging you as you drive,” Yoongi says flatly.

Taehyung gives a theatrical sigh and cranks his neck around to look at Yoongi. “Hyung,” he says pointedly. “Would you like to fall off as I drive, break a couple of limbs, and not get to Kabukicho sometime tonight? Or would you prefer to get over your nonsensical need to remain manly and just put your arms about my waist. “

Yoongi grumbles but privately he prefers the latter. If it was up to him though, he’d pick option c, none of the above.

His hands settle around Taehyung’s waist nervously.

“Tighter hyung,” Taehyung says. He takes Yoongi’s wrists with both his hands and yanks them closer to one another, ignoring the way Yoongi protests as he’s pulled forwards and into the back of Taehyung’s linen shirt. “There you go. Now hold on tight.”

He turns the key and the engine groans and kickstarts, rumbling into life. Yoongi’s never been good with motorbikes and the sort and as the Moped jerks off, he instinctively leans forwards and tightens his grip about Taehyung’s waist.

“Not that tight hyung!” Taehyung laughs, his voice snatched by the wind and thrown back. Yoongi almost misses it.

He wants to retort, to tell Taehyung to zip it and focus on driving, but as he opens his mouth to deliver them, a strange feeling swells in his chest and the words shrivel up like flowers in drought.

“Did you say something hyung?” Taehyung yells back at him.

Yoongi pauses, and then shakes his head into the fabric of Taehyung’s shirt. It’s warm and it’s weird that Yoongi feels so at peace, but he does. Like this, right here, right now.

“No,” he whispers. “I didn’t say anything at all.”  

 

Part 3: The thing about heroes

The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he's going to keep digging, he's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who he is.
- Joss Whedon

 

It’s black.

The beginning is always black.

But then there is a spark, a small shard of light that winks out as fast as it appears, and then it is black again.

And it is black for a very long time.

*

Kabukicho by night is meant to be a glorious sinful kind of place. After the stampede incident, it’s anything but.

The lantern lights are on dim, as if to try and attract as little attention as possible.

Taehyung parks his Moped somewhere a few streets down and they want the remaining distance to the club. There are technically two main clubs in Kabukicho underground, but they’re connected by a tunnel somewhere further in so technically they’re just one big club and everyone refers to the place as the Kabukicho club. In reality though each half is owned by two different people.

Jung Kyungtae runs the bot fight side of it. Jang Sungjae runs the hack side of it Taehyung’s mother supplies the alcohol to both. 

For as long as he’s remember he’s grown up flitting between the two clubs and it was only natural that eventually one of them would sink their hooks into him.

“Where are you going?” Yoongi asks. His voice is raspy but quiet. Taehyung likes that about him despite being a person of loud speech by nature.

“Back entrance,” Taehyung replies. He leads them away from the rusty corrugated door that Yoongi normally uses and round to one of the apartments nearby. The door is gray and has a passcode box. Taehyung types it in quickly and holds open the door.

“How’d you know about this?” Yoongi asks as he steps in.

Taehyung closes the door quietly behind him and waits until he hears the clicking sound that affirms that the door is properly locked. It’s not good to let other civilians enter.

“I worked here remember,” he says, picking the easiest reply.

The truth is that he used to live here as well. This block is where a lot of the traders and workers live. As such there’s a back entrance to the club from the basement that leads to where they need to go a lot easier.

“Oh,” is all Yoongi says.

He doesn’t pry much into other’s affairs. Taehyung likes that as well.

“This way,” he points to a set of rickety stairs.

“Up?” Yoongi says, confused.

“I need to pick something up first,” Taehyung explains and leads the way.

*

The blackness persists for a very long time. It’s punctuated by flashes of grey and an occasional arc of white, but for most of the time it’s just black. Sight and sound.

He feels like he’s floating in a vacuum. He’s surrounded by nothingness and nothingness keeps him afloat. He himself is made up of the nothingness.

But then one day there’s a change.

There’s a word. A voice.

Back then he had no vocabulary to describe the voice, but he would have called it low and rough and deep. Sentimental even.

“Hello,” was what was said.

And then it was black all over again.

*

Yoongi has no clue where they’re going but he’s pretty sure it isn’t to the club, not if they’re going up instead of down.

Taehyung leads him up a dizzying number of steps that go round and round, the skinny metal railing the only support he can have. They go on for so long that it entrances Yoongi and when Taehyung stops, he promptly bumps into the back of him.

“Where are we?” he asks, watching as Taehyung stares at the greyish door with its faded number seven on it.

“My house,” he replies distantly.

“Then the one back on Seventh street?”

“My new house.”

“So this?” Yoongi looks up.

“Where I grew up.”

“Oh.”

He’s silent as Taehyung takes out a rusty metal key and inserts it into the doorknob. It turns with a creaking sound and inside is black shadows stretched far.

Taehyung beckons him to come in and closes the door behind him.

“Stay here for a bit,” he says softly and pads off somewhere. He must know the place by heart because it’s so dark that Yoongi can’t see where are the windows and where are the door. He stands there and listens as there’s the sound of another door opening and some rustling as Taehyung presumably searches for what he’s after.

Taehyung may have told him earlier that he was born and raised in Kabukicho, but it didn’t strike Yoongi that he literally meant Kabukicho. His parents must have one of the first few settlers who came and ran their trade whilst clinging tightly onto old pride.

It must have also been the reason why Taehyung ended up working for Kyungtae.

Yoongi turns as he hears the shuffling of feet. “You done?” he says, but the hand that rushes out of the shadows to clamp about his wrist is not Taehyung’s.

“Tae? Baby?”

The voice is distinctly female, but it’s hoarse like she’s smoke one too many cigarettes.

“I- um, I’m a friend of Taehyung’s-“ Yoongi tries to say but the words don’t seem to get through.

She appears to fall forwards and into Yoongi’s arms.

“You finally came home Taehyung,” she smiles, a far-away thing. She looks around her late forties, teetering between still pretty but battling the onset of lines. Her eyes are wide and ringed with black. Her mouth opens into a pretty curl but all Yoongi can smell is alcohol.

“I’m not-“

She strokes the back of Yoongi’s hair, long, languid strokes that evokes an ache in Yoongi’s chest. Never has his mother ever done something like this.

“How was school today? Did you go? I hope you did. You need to study hard Taehyung, so you can graduate from here and move on to something better. Your father would have wanted that of you.”

“Yes mother,” Yoongi finds himself saying, just to please her.

It works. She breaks out into a large smile that makes her seem years younger. It’s a strange smile, rectangular almost, but it lights her up in the way that age and living in Kabukicho has not.

Then, “mother!” Taehyung exclaims. He rushes forwards and extracts her from Yoongi, pulling her back and into his own embrace.

His mother does not seem to notice the difference. “Have you made any friends Taehyung? You should invite them over if you do. I’ll make them your favorite jjigae and you can show them your robotics collection. I’d offer them our best soju, but you’re far too young to be publicly drinking.” She giggles at that.

“Of course mother,” Taehyung says, falling into stride. “I’ve made lots of friends. Too many to bring over. But maybe I’ll introduce some of them someday. Now it’s late mother. You should be sleeping. You have shipments to deal with tomorrow.”

“Of course, I do,” his mother says sleepily, swaying as Taehyung gently turns her around and leads her in a different direction.

Yoongi exhales and leans back against the wall. He tips his head up to look at the blackness that must be the ceiling and wonders what it must be like to have a mother who loves you, but does not know you as opposed to one who does not love you, but think she knows you.

*

The next time the voice returns it is not alone.

There are two of them, a pair, double, several. He has a dictionary now and he uses them gleefully. He can apply descriptions. One is deep. The other light. One is smooth. The other is, bumpy?

Okay so maybe he’s not so great at using them but it’s amazing, having vocabulary that is.

It may all still be black but there are smudges of sound and there are words.

And slowly the nothingness that is himself, becomes a something.

*

“I’m sorry about that,” Taehyung says, his voice deeper than normal as he leads Yoongi out of the apartment and down the dizzying flights of stairs again. “I thought my mother would be fast asleep by then.”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says, paying attention more to where he puts his feet than with Taehyung’s business.

Taehyung halts at the bottom of the stairs. “I… you’re not going to ask?” he says, a touch fearful.

Yoongi watches his back carefully. Body language speaks volumes about a person. “Not if you don’t want me to.”

“Why?” And it’s the first time Yoongi has heard Taehyung’s voice crack. It’s only a splinter, but it’s a break and he’s letting Yoongi in.

“Because,” Yoongi shifts from one foot to another. “We all have our own stuff to deal with. And I don’t judge. But,” he swallows, “if you want to tell me, then I’ll listen.”

Taehyung turns and there’s a glimmer in his eyes.

“Really?”

Yoongi nods. It comes easily. “Really.”

*

He notices two other voices in addition to the previous two.

The deep one occurs the most. Other than the light and bumpy one, there one that jumps all over the place like a rabbit, and another that speaks in calm, measured tones.

The voices have become clearer now. He can make out full sentences at a time and record them to his database. They shape him and slowly he gathers form.

“How’s the hospital treating you? The food any good? If not I can get Seokjin to whip up something. Yeah? Of course. It’s going well. Progress is slow, but it’s only been a week or so. Mm, yeah, I hope it works too.”

“Run the trial. If it doesn’t work we’ll have to alter the parameter again. If not, then it’s back to checking the basic algorithm. Yeah I’ve checked that already. Oh that? Um, I’m not too sure. Can you look for me kookie?”

“I’ve been sleeping /yawning sound/ yes Seokjin, I have. I know. I am. Er. Have I showered. Um, I’m not too sure about that… ouch! Okay I’ll go, I’ll go!”

The voices are lovely. They make him feel like he is not as alone as he used to be in the darkness.

But nothing compares to the day when light finally comes.

*

Taehyung talks as they take a different flight of stairs underground. This one is mostly linear and goes on for what seems like forever.

“My mother runs the alcohol supply to the clubs,” he says as they walk. “It used to be her and my father until he got into some debt problems and then disappeared.”

“What’d he do to get the debts?”

“Gambling.”

“On the bot fights?”

“Yeah”

“Oh.”

“It was partially his own fault. He shouldn’t have done such a risky thing,” Taehyung goes on as they walk through a long tunnel. “Betting on bot fights is completely up to luck sometimes. My dad took the risk and lost. Big time. He started drinking as well and getting violent at home. Mom took it hard but she managed to run the alcohol shipments by herself well enough.”

“And then?”

“But then one day dad came home real drunk. He tried to hit her and so I fought back. Mom starting yelling and all the other residents came to help us. They drove dad out and we haven’t seen him since.”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says awkwardly.

Taehyung pauses in front of a different door to type in a passcode. It beeps and he opens it.

“It’s okay,” he says, half-turning and smiling. “It’s probably for the better. Or at least it would be if it hadn’t been such a big blow to my mom. She drifts sometimes. Thinks he’s still around and that I’m still fourteen or something.”

“But she can still handle the shipments?” Yoongi is mildly surprised.

“It’s not that bad. She functions pretty well by herself. She can cook and deal with the clubs and make phone calls just fine,” Taehyung says. “It’s just that at night she tends to drink a lot. But the neighbors keep a good eye on her and I call her every day to check up.”

“Why’d you move out then,” Yoongi can’t help but ask.

Taehyung pauses whilst holding the door open. Yoongi gives him a long, searching look. “Because I couldn’t handle the ghosts in that place,” he admits quietly.

Yoongi reaches forwards and ruffles Taehyung’s hair. “I know the feeling,” he says softly. “That’s why I came to this city. Because there were too many ghosts back home as well.”

*

The first images that he properly can see are unfocused.

The figures are humanoid in shape, but they’re shaded in with smudges of charcoal. The features are undistinguishable but from the shapes alone, he can finally place labels to their voices.

Deep and low and of medium build, firm and sturdy. Light and bumpy is this skinny little thing with a mop of black hair atop his head. Calm and smooth is broad and always murmurs to him gently. The fourth one never seems to be around.

He hears more, sees more. Slowly but surely, he becomes more.

And then one day Deep and Low approaches him. He touches him. And he realizes that he can feel things, small, buzzing sensations. They send shocks down his system and he revels in them.

He can see, he can hear, he can feel.

“Jimin,” Deep and Low utters. “That will be your name.”

And so that is who he becomes.

*

There are several people nervously milling about the club. The store fronts are open and bottles line the shelves. Everyone gives the bot arena a wide berth.

“This way,” Taehyung says, closing the door and leading Yoongi away from the grounds that he grew so familiar with. “We want the control room.”

“What do we want from there?” Yoongi asks as he tries to pull his eyes away from the rusty door.

“The CCTV recordings of that night.”

Yoongi comes to a halt. “What for?” He voice hitches.

Taehyung half turns, his hand on a different door knob. “I had a look at Jimin when Jungkook wasn’t looking. The reason he doesn’t respond to the reboots is because he hasn’t crashed.”

“What makes you say that?” A kid who claims to know naught about robotics.

“From time to time there was an activity spike. It was tiny, and it only occurred once every hour or so. Easy to miss. Easy to believe it’s just background noise or something. But I think that spike is Jimin. You couldn’t reboot him because he didn’t need rebooting. He’s there, but he’s hidden. He’s curled up in this tiny ball, trying to hide.”

“That’s a lot of speculation from just one activity spike,” Yoongi says, sounding doubtful.

“It is,” Taehyung says with a shrug, “But I’ve seen hack programs like that. They reduce their processing power they consume until it’s almost negligible. Doing so means they can’t actually do much, so the program is usually used as a kind of lie-in-wait type of attack. And then when users expect it the least, they activate and catch everyone by surprise. But to re-activate they need a stimulus. And that-“

“Is why we’re here?” Yoongi finishes.

“Correct!” Taehyung beams and turns the door which appears to have a box to enter some sort of passcode.  “We’re going to get the video feedback of that night and show it to Jimin. Just give me a sec to hack it.”

He pulls out a small black device which he hooks up with a small wire to the box. The screen ripples and Taehyung taps about it happily, humming under his breath.

“Can you hack it?” Yoongi asks, nervously looking over his shoulder.

“Of course hyung! Have faith in me. I could do this in my sleep!”

A few more taps and then there’s a whirring sound and the door clicks open.

“See?” Taehyung grins at him as he pockets the device again. “Am I a good hacker or what?”

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “The best,” he allows and pushes past him into the room.

The control room is as expected a swivel chair and several screens that show six shots of each club. The screens change every thirty seconds, showing a new angle. It gives Yoongi a glimpse of the hack side of the club which he’s never really been to. There are only three people in the seats at the moment, their fingers flying across the boards as they duke it out.

“Guy in the red shirt’s going to win,” Taehyung pipes up as he grabs the keyboard and begins entering commands.

“Yeah?” Yoongi says, unsure. He’s never watched a hack race before and so determining winners is out of his league. All he can gather from the big screen is that there’s a lot of code floating about on the screen and he has no idea what half of it means.

“Yeah,” Taehyung says. “The other two are amateurs, more about speed than tactics. It’ll be an easy win for him. But more importantly, the camera feed.”

Taehyung’s nimble fingers fly and white code scrawls across a tiny box far faster than Yoongi can read. Away goes the feed for the hack races and up center come the bot arena feed.

“When did it happen again? Six, seven weeks ago?”

“Something like that,” Yoongi murmurs.

“Okay,” Taehyung bobs and the feed goes scrolling backwards, fuzzy lines appearing on the screen and figures backpedaling at a furious pace. The lights go on and off so quickly that they appear like strobe lights and Yoongi has to look away and rub at his eyes to clear the spots that dance there.

“It’ll take a few minute hyung,” Taehyung says as he leans back onto the swivel chair. “So,” he quirks an eyebrow, “shall we go back to my further speculations?”

*

Jimin: That is his name.

Healthcare robot: That is his purpose.

He is Jimin and he is a healthcare robot. These are his only two certainties, the two planks that build the foundation of what he is to become.

He is to be Jimin the healthcare robot, cheerful and bubbly, likeable without being in your face, smart without being demeaning, a robot who can help people with anything and everything.

“You’re going to help a lot of people,” Namjoon his creator had told to him one late night when he was exhausted and thought Jimin turned off.

Jimin however is never turned off. He made this decision a long time ago when Namjoon had updated his System with his purpose. After all, if he is shut down then how will he help people? How will he know when his patient is hurt and in need of help? Or when his patient is finally treated and satisfied, ready to be let go?

Because at the end of the day Jimin is to be a transient existence to his patients. Success will be marked by how many patients leave with the words ‘I am satisfied with my care’ on their tongues. These words will trigger a power down until the next time Jimin is alerted to a need for help. And the cycle will begin anew.

Jimin’s purpose is to be temporary and that’s okay.

That’s his job.

That’s his purpose.

And therefore he should not dwell on the fact.

It is a certainty. That people will come and go. Parting will be his normal routine, just like the expected endings in all those movie clips and dramas that Namjoon has uploaded to him to better understand human emotions and expressions. Parting is natural and so loneliness is natural.

But those things are for humans and he is a robot.

Parting is natural but loneliness is not.

He’s a robot. He’s meant to mimic emotions, not feel them.

He’s meant to watch people come and go and smile all the while.

That is his job. That is his purpose. That will be his way of life.

And so that is what Jimin tells himself.

You are Jimin, and you are a healthcare robot.

And that is all you will ever be.

*

“Jimin is a healthcare robot,” Taehyung says. He waves one hand grandiosely about like he is a magician about to cast a spell and not just some teenager with his feet propped up on the control panel table. “And so his sole purpose in life is to care for his patients.”

Yoongi leans against a wall and tries not to be distracted by the backwards scrolling of the camera feeds.

“And so?” he says impatiently. “Is it that simple? We show him a feed of a lot of people getting into an accident and that should stimulate him to reactivate? If it’s that simple we could have just found a video online or something. Why does it have to be from Kabukicho?”

“Because,” Taehyung stabs a finger at Yoongi, “Jimin is your healthcare robot.”  

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “So?”  

Taehyung grins widely at the implicit permission. “From what I understand Namjoon originally designed Jimin to be a healthcare robot who could distinguish the need for help from anyone.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi chips in. “I mean they have those healthcare bots in the hospitals. They’re just basic machines thought. They do scans and prelim checks on potential patients before the doctors and nurses step in. I’m assuming Namjoon based his designs for Jimin on those. Then stepped it up a level by programming emotional response and care.”

Taehyung purses his lips. “So these robots are meant to help anyone and everyone, yes?”

Yoongi nods. “Yes. They don’t discriminate between gender, age or nationality. Anyone can access them for free so long as they go to a hospital with the equipment.”

“But Jimin does,” Taehyung points out.

“Hm?” Yoongi frowns.  

“I mean Jimin is a healthcare robot, but back in the club he didn’t care about Kyungtae-ahjussi who was angry and pulling punches, or me who frankly was pissed scared. When we went to Namjoon-hyung’s garage he didn’t care when Namjoon got frustrated or Jungkook went all quiet and sad.”

“Your point, Taehyung?”

“My point is that from the very beginning Jimin has only ever cared about you,” Taehyung says bluntly. “Jimin is a healthcare robot but he is a healthcare robot designed for only one person – you. And therefore the one thing that should reactivate him is if you can show me how hurt you were by that night.” 

There’s a lump in his throat and his pride makes him want to tell Taehyung that he’s wrong, that it just looks that way and this is all just one theory that has no solid evidence backing it up, but really… the more he thinks, the less he can refute.

There’s a clicking sound and the images on the screen slow down, revealing a completely empty club, dusty and trampled looking. 

“There we go,” Taehyung says gleefully. “Now if I just slow down the rewind…”

“Stop,” Yoongi says throatily. He leans forwards, his hands gripping the edge of the table.

Taehyung hits the enter key a heartbeat too late and he pauses the screen on a singular image where the majority of the scared crowd has fled and all that are there are a scatter of people. They stare, horrified, those who at least care, at the boy who howls with pain.

“Is this it?” Taehyung asks unnecessarily. His voice sounds dry, like all along it’s been a game but now the reality has kicked in hard and he is about to see what has actually happened.

Yoongi stares as the camera enters into play mode, normal time, and Yoongi remembers it all afresh. From this distance all that Yoongi can make out is his black hair and sun kissed skin. He remembers the rest. The face torn in pain, the gagged chokes before he had passed out.

Taehyung presses a button and the video pauses.

It’s enough to snap Yoongi out of his trance. He drops his eyes and backs away from the table like it is contagious. He tries to swallow but his mouth is dry as a desert.

He tries to say it but the words fail him.

Taehyung reaches out with one hand, eyes warm and sympathetic, but Yoongi backs off, his hands wrapping about himself. Taehyung does not chase him.

This is it, he thinks. This is it. This is it.

*

One day Namjoon hooks him up to the main computer. Another update, Jimin thinks. Maybe more behavioral edits or additional medical files.

It is not.

There is a rush of words. A blur of faces. They pour about him, the information far too much for him to process at once.

He sets them aside to trawl through more carefully at a later date.

But one face stands out. Pale, angular, a curl to the lips. Eyes that dance and soften all the hard edges.

Who is this?

Min Yoongi. That is his name.

Patient. That is who he will be.

And this is the light. Not literally, but metaphorically. It’s clarity in its most distilled sense.

This is to be his first patient. Possibly, his only patient.

“You’re going to help a lot of people Jimin,” Namjoon tells him one day. His voice this time is deeper, darker. Jimin pauses and reads the underlying sorrow. He wonders if Namjoon needs help as well. But then Namjoon continues to say “But before that I need you help one person in particular.”

Of course. That’s what Namjoon designed Jimin to do. Jimin is puzzled. Why is Namjoon stressing this one particular point?

“He’s my best friend, even if he won’t admit it himself. And he’s in a lot of pain right now.”

Jimin frowns. Okay, so this sounds like a serious case.

“You see he made a mistake and someone else got hurt for it, another one of my best friends.”

Is it emotional pain then?

“I want to help him but all I’ll do is scare him even more.”

An alert runs through Jimin’s system. It sounds like Namjoon is in pain as well. Should Jimin engage with him? But is he prepared for it?

He decides to ask Jimin.

Namjoon is surprised. Then he laughs.

“Looks like I can trust you Jimin,” he says. “And thank you. But the one who needs help more is Yoongi. And I can’t help him so Jimin, you’re my little hope. Help him for me, will you?”

Something blossoms in Jimin’s core. It’s warm and fuzzy like static. Jimin does not know what to name it, but he likes it.

He is Namjoon’s pride.

He is going to help this Min Yoongi, for Namjoon’s sake. For his own. No matter who comes and goes, Jimin will try his hardest for each and every one of them.

From then all he thinks about is Min Yoongi.

Who is he? How can he help him? What can he do if Plan A fails? He thinks and he plans and he hopes.

And this is how Yoongi becomes Jimin’s third certainty.

*

Taehyung copies over the data onto a small unassuming red stick which is etched with two crossing scratches in the corner that form a tiny V shape.

“Okay, we’re good to go,” he says as he stands and tucks the chair back into its original position. He turns but Yoongi does not react. He stands stock still, eyes still distantly glazed over as he stares at the video screens. “Hyung?”

Yoongi snaps out of it and shakes his head quickly. “It’s nothing. Let’s go.”

Taehyung fixes him a worried look.

Yoongi catches it. “It’s nothing, really,” he says and proceeds to reach for the door. But then there’s a clicking sound and he freezes.

The door opens before either of them can move and there behind it stands Kyungtae, eyes glowering beneath his thick eyebrows that Taehyung always used to tease him about when he was five. Right now thought teasing is the last thing on his mind.

“I thought,” he growls, voice harsh and raspy from years of the bottle, “that I said I didn’t want to see your face around here again.”

Taehyung can see the muscles at the back of Yoongi’s neck tense. He steps forwards and in between the two of them before any fists can rise.

“We’re just leaving ahjussi,” Taehyung says with his best smile. It’s always worked when he wants to wheedle extra candy out of his godfather.

“I can see that,” Kyungtae says with a raise of one eyebrow. His voice however softens a notch, just enough for only someone like Taehyung who has grown up with Kyungtae as a second father figure to notice.

“Ahjussi,” Taehyung widens his eyes pleadingly.

“Don’t think those puppy eyes work on me Taehyung,” Kyungtae says warning. He takes a step in so that the door can fall shut behind him. “I want to know what you were doing in here.”

“We were…” Taehyung fishes around for an excuse.

“We came to get a recording of the night of the accident,” Yoongi says bluntly, stepping out from behind of Taehyung.

“Why?” Kyungtae asks, eyes narrowed, thick eyebrows making him look all the more menacing.

“I need it to fix Jimin.”

Kyuntae frowns. “The robot that was with you?”

Yoongi nods.

“That smells like a lie,” Kyungtae says. “How would a video help a robot in any shape or form?”

Yoongi falters. Taehyung takes the chance to step around him and face his uncle. “Jimin is Yoongi’s healthcare robot. He crashed yesterday night and I think if we show him the video it’ll restart him.”

Kyungtae raises one eyebrow sharply. “You have a healthcare robot taking care of you? You don’t look particularly injured to me. Not half as much as that police-caller friend of yours.”

Yoongi flushes, redness creeping down his ears and up the back of his neck.

“It’s not a physical injury per say,” he coughs.

Almost impossibly, the eyebrow creeps higher. Kyungtae gives Yoongi a long look.

“My friend who built Jimin was worried about something silly, that’s all,” Yoongi mutters, his eyes falling downcast.

Taehyung reaches forwards and clamps his hand down on Yoongi’s shoulder. It makes him flinch, but Taehyung tries to give him his warmest gaze.

“It wasn’t something silly hyung,” he says. Yoongi’s downplaying it, he knows it. He kind of understands it as well, what with both of them being the kind of ‘keep it to yourself’ type of people. “It’s complicated ahjussi but it’s important we get this video to Jimin. Please can you let us pass?”

“With that sort of video evidence?” Kyungtae says, sounding astounded. “I lock this room for a good reason Taehyung. Can you imagine how it would affect the club if this sort of video got onto the net? Business is bad enough as it is.”

 “It won’t ahjussi,” Taehyung promises. “You know me. I’m good with computers. I’ll make sure it doesn’t get leaked.”

“I know you’re good at computers. You got in here,” Kyungtae says, looking marginally irritated. “But you’re not the one I’m worried about. It’s that one.” He jerks his chin sharply at Yoongi. “I don’t trust him and I don’t have any reason to think elsewise.”

“Ahjussi!” Taehyung groans. “Really?”

Kyungtae leans back against the door, firmly blocking their only exit. “This is business Taehyung. It shouldn’t bother you. So step aside kid.”

“But-“

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says. He steps forwards and puts a palm flat to Taehyung’s chest, applies a little pressure and gives him a long look. He turns to look at Kyungtae. “We can talk.”

Nervously, Taehyung takes a step backwards, his fingers fumbling for the red stick in his back pocket.

“So?” Kyungtae says expectantly.

Yoongi takes a deep breath, his chest rising and falling.

“Hyung…” Taehyung begins to say.

But then Yoongi takes one step back and bends, knees straightening and back sweeping forwards into a perfect ninety degree bow.

“I’m sorry,” he says in a solemn voice. It shakes just slightly. “For the trouble I caused that night. I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve brought you and I’ll do all I can, repay the damages. It’ll take me a while but I’ll do what I can. Just please, please, Taehyung and I go with the video right now. I need it to help Jimin. Please.”

There is a creeping silence, broken only by the soft buzzing from the camera screens.

Then. “Do you think an apology will magically make everything better?”

Yoongi straightens. Looks Kyungtae unflinchingly in the eye. “No,” he says, “But I owed it to you anyway.”

Kyungtae takes the words carefully, turns the over like meat roasting on a spit. “My business suffered. My family. My extended family, we’re not well off. We’re just the generation that came from those who settled in San Seoul-Sokyo and tried to survive with the trades of their old and failed. Every day we fight to make sure we can feed ourselves and there are you children, playing with your toys and treating it all like a game.”

Taehyung can’t help but stare, his mouth half open.

He knows his godfather, uncle, father figure, whatever he is, has always been bitter about their lack of fortune.

There were those who emigrated to San Seoul-Sokyo and immediately took flight with their success. Many of them were connected with the University. And then there were those whose stuck with their trades of the old and floundered.

They had come to this new country with the expectations that their trade in robotics and electronics would keep them afloat. But tied to the past and their traditions as they were, they failed to see that this was a country of progress and they were remnants of the past.

Taehyung knew his father had been one such person.

He had placed his hopes on his trade and when that had not worked he had turned to other ventures. And when that too failed him, the bottle was always there to keep him afloat and that was how Taehyung had lost his father.

But Kyungtae had refused to drown. He had treaded the surface with the grit of a bitter man scorning the abyss and he had survived. It had turned him cruel and willing to do whatever it took, but he had kept them as a community alive. He had been the one to feed Taehyung when his father had stopped bringing home the pay and he had been the one who had taken care of his mother when his father vanished. He gave Taehyung candy when no one else remembered that he was still a child and sometimes it was so easy to forget that at the end of the day he was just a man who knew how to hate.

“I know,” Yoongi says softly. “And I’m sorry.”

Kyungtae gives him a long look. “Is that all you can say?” he says.

Yoongi grits his teeth. “What else do you want me to say?”

“Ahjussi…” Taehyung says, trying to step in.

“Taehyung,” Kyungtae says, looking at him for once.

“Yes?” Taehyung replies, a little nervously.

“Do you trust this guy?”

“Of course,” Taehyung answers without hesitation.

Kyungtae looks at him with an expression of surprise. “Truly?”

“Yes…?”

Kyungtae gives a gusty sigh. He leans forwards and away from the door. For a split second Taehyung is worried that Kyungtae will use his fists. He wasn’t lying before; Kyungtae used to be a boxer and he knows how to knock a person about. He’s not just club manager for his ability to organize and order others about.

But Kyungtae doesn’t come any closer. He gives Yoongi a deep, searching look and then jerks a thumb at the door.

“Go,” he says. “Before I change my mind.”

Yoongi stares. “Seriously?”

“I still don’t trust you, but Taehyung does, and I’ve always had a soft spot for that little kid.”

His heart swells, it does. “Ahjussi…” Taehyung takes a half step forwards, but Kyungtae quickly holds out a hand.

“I don’t do semantics Taehyung. You know that. Just go and promise me you’ll delete that video after you’ve used it.”

“I promise,” Taehyung says easily.

“Then that’s all I need,” Kyungtae says. He leans back against the wall and closes his eyes.

Taehyung looks at Yoongi, surprise written all over his face. Yoongi too looks surprised that it’s gone so smoothly.

He reaches forwards and puts his hand to the door knob. “Thank you,” he says throatily and exits.

Taehyung makes to follow, but just as he is about to step through, Kyungtae reaches over to put one hand to his shoulder.

“And…visit your mother more often, okay?” he says.

Taehyung blinks and gives a tiny nod. “I will,” he promises and Kyungtae lets go of him. He reaches down for Taehyung’s hand and pushes something into his palm.

“Good,” he says and then pushes Taehyung out. The door closes behind him and Taehyung is left with Yoongi who looks at him expectantly.

“What’s that?” Yoongi asks, looking pointedly at his hand which is curled around the object.

Taehyung unfurls it slowly. It’s a lollipop. Grape flavor.

Yoongi snorts. “He really is soft on you, isn’t he?” He turns and starts striding down the hallway before Taehyung can give him an answer.

Taehyung shoves the sweet into his pocket and follows. It’s warm, the feeling and weight of it there.

“Yeah,” he says, half to himself. “I guess he is.”

*

Everything is black but unlike the beginning where there was nothing, this time Jimin is conscious. Of his job and of his purpose.

He is about to meet Yoongi and his System is practically buzzing with excitement, ready to launch the initiation program the minute his enclosing station is opened. He’s going to make Namjoon happy and Seokjin proud. Everything is going to go perfectly.

And then he meets Yoongi.

Yoongi is nothing like what Jimin imagined him to be.

He is abrasive and rude. He speaks in short, clipped sentences and he looks positively tired of Jimin already. He makes it no secret that he wants Jimin gone.

But Jimin can’t just give up. He has people’s expectations riding on his success. He has his own expectations. He is after all a healthcare robot and no matter the difficulties, he has been designed to overcome them all. He will persevere and he will help Yoongi.

Because he knows that Yoongi is not pushing him away out of spite but out of habit.

So he sticks with Yoongi. Follows him. And he learns that Yoongi is more than his files suggest. He’s irritated and frustrated one moment, then the next he’s peaceful and almost happy. Sometimes he’s sad and at other time he’s gets full blown angry. He’s a mish-mash of so many emotions that it confuses Jimin how he can contain them all without exploding.

He’s just so… human, so alive, that Jimin can’t help but be drawn like a moth to a fire.

He should’ve known that he’d get burned in the end.

*

The drive back to the garage is in complete silence. It’s only when Taehyung stops at a red light that he speaks.

“Hyung?”

Yoongi blinks, surprised by the sudden conversation. He leans down though so Taehyung can hear as the lights turn green and he starts the moped again. “Yes?”

“When we get back to the garage. And after we fix Jimin…”

“Yeah?”

“What are you going to do with Jimin?”

Yoongi pauses. “What do you mean?”

“Are you going to keep him around?” Taehyung continues as he takes a left turn. “I mean do you still need him?”

Yoongi is quiet. Truthfully he hasn’t thought this far ahead.

Taehyung picks up on that. At the next red light he turns his gaze away from the road and to Yoongi. “It’s okay if you don’t have an answer. Just… think about it okay?”

He revs the Moped up and when the lights turn green shoots down the street again.

And Yoongi turns his head and stares at the night sky speeding by in a blur of black and white.

Sometimes he thinks that no matter how hard he tries, he can never have all the answers. He wonders what it must be like to be Jimin sometimes, to have all the answers laid out for you in a systematic and sensible order. To have a purpose and to have everything figured out for you by someone else.

And then he wonders, if that is all there is to Jimin, or if beneath the surface there lurks more.

*

He floats in the blackness, the dark caressing his exterior.

His name is Jimin and he is a healthcare robot but he is unwanted and unneeded and so what is he to do?

Yoongi has told him quite clearly that he will figure this out on his own. And that’s good isn’t it? He’s being independent. He’s solving his own problems. He’s…improving isn’t he? And that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

So why does he feel so hollow, so empty in his core? He is a robot. He’s not meant to feel things. He is only meant to perform as he is designed to and to watch as patients come and go.

He should be glad that Yoongi is getting better, happy that he is moving on.

So why? Why can’t he just accept it and let Yoongi go as he wishes. Why… why is he so dysfunctional like this?

The darkness encroaches, and he welcomes its cool caress.

Maybe he’ll just stay here forever then, where it’s dark and it’s safe and no one has to see how broken of a robot he is on the inside.

*

Jungkook awakens to a persistent knocking sound. At first he thinks it’s just his imagination and the sound is a carry-over from his dream of a huge steel wall and his tiny fist hammering against it again and again, the hollow sound ringing out into the dusty air.   

When he realizes that it’s not in fact his dream and actually someone’s knuckles rapping on the garage door, he sleepily kicks off the blankets and rolls off the couch.

It’s cold in the garage without it.

He slips on his sneakers and reaches for the tablet, tapping for the CCTV feed. It’s Yoongi and Taehyung. It’s also five in the morning.

“What are you guys doing here so early?” he groans into the speaker.

There’s a pause as the sound is translated over there and then Yoongi lean in, his lips moving as he shapes a reply. “Taehyung has an idea of how to fix Jimin.”

Sleep melts away just like that. “How?” he asks, unable to help the incredulousness of his tone.

“Let us in. It’s easier to show than explain.”

“Fine,” Jungkook says and taps another button. The shuddering sound signals the door opening. He lets it rise half way before stopping it, allowing Taehyung and Yoongi just enough space to duck under.  

When their figures vanish from the outdoor camera he taps the button again and drags his finger down to close the garage door. He sets down the tablet and grabs the blanket, throwing it over his shoulders to ward off the cold.

They enter slowly, cautiously almost.

Yoongi catches sight of him and dips his head in greeting. “Hey,” he says, voice low and hoarse from disuse.  

“Hey,” Jungkook says quietly in return. Interactions with Yoongi have always been quiet. Borderline awkward sometimes.

Jungkook only knows Yoongi by extension because of Namjoon. He’s always been a bit of an enigma, what with his various projects sending him shooting all over the place. Hoseok at least was more tied down than Yoongi and so Jungkook at least got the chance to know him better.

But it’s not just that. It’s the way that Jungkook well, admires Namjoon and his utterly amazing, ingenious, gorgeous works of design. I mean, well, who wouldn’t? Namjoon is the number one kid at SSS U. Everyone knew him back in his university days and even now everyone talks about the kid who graduated top of his class and yet turned down all the offers to join research teams in favor of opening up his own workshop. His designs are sleek and functional; some would even go as far as to call it artistic.

The most admirable part of it all though in Jungkook’s opinion, is that Namjoon achieved this all by himself, with nothing but his own hard work as his foundation.

Namjoon makes his roots no secret. Unlike Jungkook’s parents who have been supportive of everything he has chosen to do, Namjoon’s had piled on obstacle after obstacle to try and detract him from coming to San Seoul-Sokyo. It didn’t work though. Namjoon rose above it all and here he is, proving to them and to everyone else time and time again that this is what he was meant to do.

After seeing Namjoon’s work and learning about his past, how could Jungkook not help but admire him, or well, as Hoseok prefers to put it as, ‘fanboy’ over him.

Jungkook vehemently denies that status which Hoseok always finds hilarious and Yoongi, amusing.

But it’s one thing to be laughed at by Hoseok who can say anything and not make it feel like an insult, and then there’s Yoongi who will catch him cooing over Namjoon’s latest blueprints and say nothing, but smirk.

He knows Yoongi doesn’t mean ill. It’s just Yoongi has this abrasive exterior, and Jungkook is prideful as hell. Hoseok is always telling that it’s just a habit of Yoongi’s, but it doesn’t soften the blow much. 

Yoongi’s staring now, no smirk, but it’s enough to make Jungkook want to shrink into nothingness. Taehyung patters about in the corner, shaking out his jacket or something.

“So,” Jungkook coughs to clear his throat and the unnerving silence. He really needs a drink of water. His throat is parched. The fridge is on the other side of Yoongi though and he’s not sure he’s ready to tackle that obstacle yet. “Um, what’s this idea then?”

He watches as Yoongi nods to Taehyung.

“Oh, yeah!” Taehyung goes, fumbling about for something in his pockets. “Here,” he says, taking out and brandishing a small red stick.

Jungkook takes it hesitantly. He doesn’t know why the hesitation but with Taehyung it kind of feels like anything might be rigged.

What’s on it?” he asks as he turns the stick over in his hand. It looks like an ordinary memory stick, the cheap kind you can buy from any downtown store. It’s old and battered though, a tiny etched scratch that looks like a ‘v’ shape at one end.

“A video,” Yoongi says. He sounds distracted, and when Jungkook looks up he sees Yoongi’s line of sight leads to Jimin who is still splayed out on the table. There is a blanket pulled up to his neck – Seokjin’s work – and under the muted ceiling lights, he looks like a boy sleeping and not a robot broken.

“Of what?” Jungkook forces himself to ask.

Yoongi does not reply. He takes a half step towards Jimin and the fingers of his right hand twitch.

“Of the accident” Taehyung steps in smoothly.

That sends off alarm bells. Jungkook looks to him quickly. “Why?”

“Taehyung thinks it will work,” Yoongi says absently. His right hand rests on the table besides Jimin’s head. Jungkook can see the longing in his eyes.

“How?” he asks, because Jeon Jungkook has always been the kid who needs to know everything before he commits to it.

“I’ll show you as I do it,” Taehyung says, evidently the kid who has never liked telling everything before he commits it.

Jungkook thrusts out one hand to block his path. “Definitely not,” he says sharply. “You tell me first before you mess around with Jimin. Actually you better tell Namjoon first.”

Yoongi turns around to look at him. “Where is he?”

“Upstairs. Sleeping,” Jungkook replies shortly.

Yoongi’s forehead creases. “Sleeping?”

Jungkook understands his apprehension. Namjoon by nature does not sleep when he has a project to work on, or conversely a project that is not going well. Yoongi must know his habits as well.

“I made him.”

Everyone turns, surprise painted on their faces.

It’s Seokjin, stepping out from the doorway that leads to the upstairs flat. His footsteps are silent and this is not the first time that he has made Jungkook jump.

“I gave him a stern talk and a sleeping pill,” Seokjin goes on to elaborate. “I told him he needs the proper rest if he wants to be able to think on a clear mind about what to do with Jimin. Will this be a problem?”

“No,” Yoongi replies smoothly. “We don’t need Namjoon for this.”

“Namjoon will want to know what’s going on,” Jungkook says tersely, taking a step towards him.

Yoongi shoots him a cool look, eyes frosty in the way that had made every triple S kid back in the days freeze in their steps. But not Jungkook. Never Jungkook.

“He can find out later,” Yoongi says.

“Or he could find out now,” Jungkook throws back.

Seokjin’s eyes swivel to him a stern look. “Let’s not fight,” he says evenly and Jungkook forces his shoulders to relax.

“I will if Yoongi-hyung sees that the sensible thing to do is wake Namjoon up and explain it all to him. Why not have a third person opinion.”

“Namjoon is sleeping deeply,” Seokjin says with a minute frown. “To wake him up like this…well it will take a while.”

“So we wait until morning,” Jungkook says with a shrug.

“We don’t have time for that,” Yoongi hisses. “We need to do this now.”

“Why?” Jungkook challenges him back. “Why can’t we wait till light’s up?”

“Because…” Yoongi bites at his lower lip.

“Because?” Jungkook says goadingly.

Anger flashes briefly in his eyes. “Because I don’t want Namjoon to see the video,” he says quick and sharp and just like that the fire goes out of Jungkook. It seems that even Yoongi has parts of him that he does not want to show. And if there’s one thing that Jungkook understands well, it’s that.

“Oh,” he says and bites his lower lip.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says roughly and coughs to clear his throat. “Just… can we just try this at least? If it doesn’t work then we’ll wait till dawn and wake Namjoon then. But just once?”

Yoongi doesn’t look him in the eye. He’s staring at his hand atop the table. He swallows once and his breaths are short and quick.

Taehyung takes a step towards him. He is the one to look Jungkook straight in the eyes. “Hear him out,” he urges, “Let us try. At least once. It can’t hurt, can it?”

That sends a frown to Jungkook’s lips. But before he can say anything in retort Yoongi steps forwards. “Please,” he says again, more solemn this time. His eyes are liquid ink and charcoal and with them he paints a picture of desperation that Jungkook can’t refuse.

He looks briefly at Seokjin. Should I? he mouths to the robot who is fully programmed with the ability to read lips.

Seokjin gives him one small nod.

“Okay,” he says, turning back to both Yoongi and Taehyung. “Let’s give it a try.”  

Relief breaks out on Yoongi’s face, the emotion so vibrantly colored that it kind of unnerves Jungkook. “Taehyung, please,” he murmurs, already focused on the next task.

Taehyung nods and pulls out a small black device from another pocket.

“I’ll need to use one of your computers,” he says, half turning to address Jungkook. “Is that okay?”

“Um, yeah. Sure” Jungkook says. He pauses and waits. Belatedly he realizes Taehyung is waiting for him to show him which computer to use. “Oh! Sorry! Uh, let me start it up.”

Focus! he scolds himself. He’s meant to be more collected than this.

He is the guy that everyone expects to be the next Namjoon, top of the class and all. That’s what his coursemates think, his friends believe, and his parents encourage him to be. But being the next something is the same as saying you’ll never surpass them. You’re as good as their former shadow and that is all. And Jungkook does not want to be Namjoon’s shadow or Namjoon’s anything. 

As much as he admires Namjoon, he wants to stand on his own ground and be known for his own things. Being Namjoon’s assistant was a dream come true, but it also reality calling.

Jungkook wonders if the real reason the chasm exists between him and Yoongi is because he’s jealous of Yoongi’s own independence.

“Here you go,” he says to Taehyung. He steps back and lets Taehyung take over, connecting his black device to the USB port. The red stick goes into the second port.

Jungkook’s linked the computer to the table that Jimin lies on. It was one of Namjoon’s own designs, a table that scans and reports the status of the objects and robotic parts on the table. At the top is a port to which Jimin is hooked up. It shouldn’t be too difficult for Taehyung to do what he wants to do if he knows his way around computers.

Which, hang on a sec. “Taehyung! I thought you told Namjoon you know nothing about robots!” Jungkook exclaims, rushing forwards to grab Taehyung by the shoulder.

“Mm yeah, I don’t,” Taehyung says easily, looking not the least bit worried. His fingers continue to fly over the keyboard even though his eyes are on Jungkook’s.

“But- then- how-“ Jungkook splutters.

“I’m good with computer though.”

Like that makes it all magically better, Jungkook thinks.

“He’s good at hacking,” Yoongi says, stepping into their space and leaning over so he can see the monitor better. “You good?” he says, addressing Taehyung.

Taehyung hums under his breath. “Of course hyung,” he says with an impish grin and continues tapping about the computer, bringing up the linked screen of Jimin and typing in commands that fly by too quick for Jungkook to read.

Today feels like a day of too many revelations. Jungkook feels like he needs to lie down and take a ten hour nap before he can process everything.

Before he gets the chance to, Taehyung brings up a large black screen. “I’m ready hyung,” he announces.

All of a sudden, the color seems to drain out of Yoongi’s face. “Okay,” he says, his voice coarse. It reminds Jungkook of his own parched throat and maybe he should get everyone a drink of water. But then Yoongi leans forwards, his finger hovering over the enter button that will start the video.

It’s strange to see Yoongi so scared of anything that all Jungkook can do is stand there and watch, unable to find the words to comfort him which to anybody else, would happen naturally to Jungkook.

He’s no stranger to offering comforting words to other people, yet here he is, standing and watching, feeling like a stranger watching in as Taehyung smiles encouragingly up at Yoongi. Yoongi takes a deep breath and hits the play button.  

*

Jimin loses track of time and place. He floats, forgotten in the folds of the black.

From time to time there are pinpricks of white in the distance. They bloom and they flash and then they vanish. They are like stars far away on a night sky. He watches them come and go as he drifts and tries to forget.

But then there is one star that does not vanish.

It blooms and it grows and it flashes but it does not vanish. Instead it fills his vision, not just with white, but with an image.

There are figures dotted about, so small they looks like tiny paintbrush strokes. The scene is a familiar one, a fenced balcony ringing the edge, a sandy circular area on the first floor.

Jimin stares at it, widening his eyes as if his lenses will let him see better. Then he remembers that this is not the outside world. This is his sleep function and here is a world where he is meant to rest.

The hollow sensation returns and it squeezes his insides, the sensation pressing his wires up against his vinyl exterior and he feels like he is overheating again.

But he can’t. He needs to calm down, cool his system, cool his thought processes and then-

Two figures approach the circle. They deposit a bundle of notes onto a silver plate that a girl in a soft silk kimono holds. She examines it briefly then gives an approving nod and covers the plate up with a domed lid.

As she steps back gracefully, another woman takes a step forwards. She wears black leggings underneath her red and gold kimono and her hair is bundled up atop her head, two long chopsticks holding it in place. She holds a retracted parasol in one hand and gives the crowd a stern glance over.

“Fighters ready?” she calls out in a firm but surprisingly low voice.

The two fighters on either side nod and push forwards their robots into the ring. One is large, at least 30 centimeters tall and twenty in length. It is built bulky and strong, the material some hard metal that looks difficult to crack. Limbs have been forgone in favor of one big wrecking ball of a body.

The second robot is smaller, shaped relatively humanoid with four limbs and a rounded torso that is thicker at the bottom and more tapered at the top. It looks unimpressive when matched up against the first robot.

Mutterings from the crowd fill the air. Money exchanges hands and one man leaning against a pillar looks incredibly smug. His thick eyebrows are unmistakable.

The woman brings up the parasol and in one swift movement unravels it, spinning the red and black fabric in a hypnotic circle.

“On the left we have Wreckage. On the right, Gloss. Two robots enter. Only one can win.”

The woman looks about the crowd. The anticipation is almost thick in the air.

“Fighter’s ready?”

The spinning of the parasol slows.

“Then fight!”

It lifts and the two robots and their owners stare each other down. And so it begins.

*

Jungkook would be lying to himself if he didn’t admit that the bot fights were pretty cool.

He picks out Yoongi in the video feed sitting cross legged on a red silk pillow. His face is a picture of concentration as his fingers sweep across a tiny tablet screen, directing his tiny robot to smoothly side step as the larger robot – Wreckage – comes careening across the arena floor.

Evidently he has chosen to go for speed rather than size and it works here, his robot neatly avoiding every attack from his opponent.

But there had to be more to the robot than just that. Speed wasn’t going to win the battle.

Jungkook sneaks a glance at Yoongi wondering if he should ask, but Yoongi is too fixated on the screen. He is after all, literally re-living the moments of his greatest regret.

It’s Taehyung instead who catches the look. He must see the question dancing on the tip of Jungkook’s tongue, because he winks and puts one finger to his lips as if to say, just you wait and see.

So Jungkook turns his attention back to the screen and there it is, the giant robot has somehow gotten a lot faster and is charging down at Yoongi’s robot. At first Jungkook thinks that Yoongi can still avoid it, but then he realizes he can’t.

The robots are designed to move about on the sandy surface, but the larger robot’s rage roving has dug trenches on either side of Yoongi’s robot. Now it’s costing him because unless Yoongi’s robot has jumping power, he can’t escape as the larger robot bulldozes straight into him.

Jungkook’s breath is caught in his throat; his heart is leaping wildly as he’s sure Yoongi is about to lose.

But Yoongi’s eyes are alit with a fire that suggests elsewise. He taps a button and the black shiny surface of Gloss ripple, the spotlights from above dancing over it. The robot bends over, arms tucking in and legs spread and it takes on the larger robot head-on in the epicenter of the ring.

There is an almighty crash as the two robots collide, then, a rough grating sound like granite on steel as the two robots engage in their game of push and shove. It’s evident that the owner of  Wreckage and half the crowd thought this would be an easy win once he had Yoongi’s robot pinned down, but somehow Gloss, not even one third the size of the larger one, holds its own, not giving an inch as the larger robot’s

There is a grin on Yoongi’s face, dark and smug as he taps another button and holds it down.

Gloss’ surface ripples again, this time with a tinge of red.

Its arms unlock from its position by the torso and swing upwards to rest against Wreckage’s body.

“What-“ Wreckage’s owner starts to say but he quickly shuts up as Yoongi taps another button and Gloss takes a step forwards. It’s arms positioned just over Wreckage’s tough surface glint once under the light and then in a movement too fast for Jungkook to see, they puncture right through its exterior.

There’s a collective gasp from the crowd, but Yoongi is not finish.

He swipes his finger up the screen and slowly but impossibly surely, Gloss begins to lift Wreckage.

A hush falls over the crowd as the tiny robot stands, Wreckage held above its head from the two arms drilled deep into Wreckage’s skeleton.

His owner looks furious. “You-“ he snarls, getting to his feet.

Then the man with thick eyebrows is there, one hand gently but firmly applying pressure to the man’s shoulders. “The match is not over yet,” he says in a coarse voice and the owner of Wreckage spins on his, eyes flashing. But when he sees who it is fear replaces the anger and he gives a tiny nod and sits back down.

“No,” he says, “It’s not.

He taps at his own control device and Wreckage begins to making a whirring sound. It looks like he’s trying to make Wreckage spin so he can gather enough propulsion to launch himself off of Gloss’ arms but it doesn’t work.

It kind of sounds like one of those dirt bikes stuck in the sand, the engine revving and whirring but the vehicle going nowhere.

Yoongi’s smirk is full blown now and he’s putting on a show.

He makes a circle motion on his control and Gloss turns, Wreckage still in its hold. “Bam!” he says playfully and his finger flies down and Gloss brings its arms down in one harsh swing and Wreckage goes flying out of the arena.

The crowd jumps aside as the robot goes careening, skidding and spinning until it comes to a wobbly halt, the two holes that Gloss has made in its skeleton clearly seen.

“Winner. Gloss!” the woman with the parasol announces in a clear voice and the crowd roars.

Jungkook pulls his eyes away from the screen to look at Yoongi. Taehyung catches his eyes again and winks. Isn’t he awesome? he mouths.

Jungkook finds himself nodding.

He’s never thought much about Yoongi before even though Hoseok and Namjoon always maintain that he is really smart and hard-working but wow… Jungkook can’t stop staring at Yoongi.

His hyung might be pretty awesome after all.

*

Jimin knows that the appropriate reaction would probably be to disapprove of Yoongi’s actions, but well, he can’t help but think that Yoongi looks so happy, so alive in that one bot fight.

And well, Yoongi happy is a good thing. So why? Why did Yoongi want to hide that accident so much?

The video is still playing. Yoongi is fighting a second round, his opponent this time smaller but with dual chainsaw blades for arms. Somehow they just glance off Gloss’ exterior.

The crowd is going wild, cheering for Yoongi this time now that they have had a taste of his ability. It’s going well and Yoongi looks so happy for the first time in ages, his hands smooth over the screen and his smile so wide it looks like his face is about to split in half.

And then in the split of a second everything goes wrong.

There are yelps as the crowd is pushed aside and someone emerges, eyes wide and shoulders heaving as he gasps for breath.

Yoongi’s eyes flicker up at the disturbance and the smile vanishes. “Hoseok,” he says softly.

“Stop this Yoongi. Now,” Hoseok demands, panting between words. He’s dressed roughly in jeans and a crumpled shirt that is plastered to his back. His neck is coated in sweat.

Yoongi frowns and turns his attention back to the fight where Gloss narrowly misses another swipe from the chainsaw blades. “No Hoseok. I’m in the middle of a fight. We can about this after.”

“No Yoongi! That’s what you always say! Later, after.” His eyes are ablaze with frustration. “This is why this has dragged on for so long. We leave now!”

Hoseok reaches down and his hand anchors under Yoongi’s arm. He tugs him up and Yoongi stumbles, the controls flying from his hand. Gloss spins and becomes unresponsive.

“Let go of me Hoseok!” Yoongi yells, struggling in his Hoseok’s firm grip.

There’s a hard but determined look in Hoseok’s eyes. “No Yoongi,” he says firmly. “You’re coming with me.”

Kyungtae appears out of nowhere. His hand comes down on Hoseok’s wrist and as he tightens it, a flicker of pain dances over Hoseok’s face.

“We’re in the middle of a match kid,” he breathes. “Do not interfere.”

Hoseok matches his look unflinchingly. “This is my best friend I’m trying to take care of. The one who should not interfere is you.”

Kyungtae’s eyes widen with something akin to delight. “This is my club. My rules.”

“Then we’re leaving,” Hoseok says primly and tugs Yoongi out and away from the arena.

“Wait! Hoseok!” Yoongi struggles but it’s evident that Hoseok is much stronger. “My robot! Gloss is back there! And my money! I can’t just-“

Hoseok halts and turns to look at Yoongi. His eyes are uncharacteristically cold. “We’re going Yoongi. I’ve called the police. They’ll be all over this rat’s nest in a few minutes time.”

Kyungtae’s eyes harden. “You what?”

“I’ve told you before Yoongi, this place is no good for you. But if you don’t talk and listen to me then I have to do things like these.”

Yoongi’s face is a picture of horror. “This place isn’t bad Hoseok! You can’t just-“

Kyungtae barrels in between them. “You did what you brat?”

Hoseok looks at and says quietly, “I called the police.”

And that’s when everything goes to hell.

Kyungtae swings a fist and Yoongi is there, yelling and shoving as Hoseok goes down, blood trickling from his split lip. Around them the crowd yells and rushes for the exit, their feet kicking up dust and sand and the robots are left forgotten in the pits.

Yoongi loses sight of Hoseok amidst the thick of the bodies.

“Hoseok?” he yells, worry permeating through his words. “Hoseok!”

 Someone pounds by and shoves Yoongi in his haste to get out. Yoongi hits something solid behind him and the breath is knocked out of him. Jimin wants to somehow get through the screen and help him, pull him out of the middle of the stampede but he can’t. This is just a video and Yoongi’s pain is in the past.

Yoongi’s on the floor now, curled up as best as he can to stay out of the way. He tries to crawl through the rush of bodies and it’s like being battered by the wind. Someone accidently steps on Yoongi’s hand and he hisses with pain, tears coming to the corner of his eyes.

And then just like that it’s over.

People are gone and Yoongi is left mostly alone in the windswept club. There are a few people like him on the floor clutching themselves or huddled against the walls, a wild look in their eyes. Kyungtae is nowhere to be seen.

Yoongi turns around, looking lost and as if he is trying to get his bearings.

There is a solid footprint on his hands, and indents where the sole has left marks. Jimin winces and tries to suppress the sudden rush of medical knowledge that would help alleviate the pain, but that is all forgotten as Yoongi’s mouth falls open and he stops moving.

Jimin looks over and there is Hoseok on the floor, writhing in pain. His legs are bent at angles too awkward to be normal and blood rushes down the side of his face. Beneath the red his lips are pulled tight with pain and his breaths are short and hitched.

“Hoseok…” Yoongi whispers, crawling slowly to him as if he’s in a dream. “Hoseok?”

He settles at Hoseok’s side, his hands hovering above Hoseok as if he does not dare to touch him in case he inflicts more pain.

“Hoseok? Hoseok? Speak to me. Please?”

A groan is all he gets, soft and low.

Momentary relief flickers over Yoongi’s face. “Hoseok? I’ll get an ambulance. I’ll get some help. Just… just stay with me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Just please… please don’t die.”

Yoongi fumbles for his phone. The screen is cracked but it works and he dials through to the emergency hotline.

“Yes please. Kabukicho. Please be quick. My friend. His legs.”

Yoongi’s words come out static and patchy. There are tears on his cheek and his other hand flutters about.

“They’ll be here soon Hoseok. Please hold on.”

Another groan and Hoseok cracks open one eye. “Yoongi…” he whispers and Yoongi is there, at his side.

“I’m here. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. For not listening, for not talking with you. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

A faint smile flickers over Hoseok’s lips. “It’s…okay…” he manages before his eyes close again and the tension in his shoulders dissipate.

Alarm flashes over Yoongi’s face. “Hoseok? Hoseok?”

Just as his hands touch Hoseok’s shoulders, people in white uniform burst through the open doorway. They survey the situation quickly and then one person issues orders in a short and clipped tone. Two people settle by Yoongi’s side.

“Are you okay?” one man asks Yoongi as his fellow colleague inspects Hoseok’s legs and face. “Sir? Can you speak?”

Yoongi trembles but no words come out.

“I think he’s in shock,” the man says to his colleague. “How is that one doing?”

“Legs definitely look broken. Possibly ribs as well. May have concussion. We’re going to need a stretcher here. He’s on the priority list. If the other one can walk, that will be better.” The second medic flits off to go make a report.

The first guy puts a hand to Yoongi’s shoulder, gently and carefully. Yoongi jerks at the contact. “Sir, it’s okay now. We’re here to help. We’re going to get medical help for you and you friend. Okay? Sir?”

Yoongi’s mouth moves and the medic leans closer, thinking he’s just speaking too softly.

“What is that sir? Can you speak louder?”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi whispers. His eyes do not leave Hoseok’s prone body.

“Sir?”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says again, louder this time. “I’m sorry, sorry, sorry. Hoseok. I…”

The medic withdraws from him. He turns to his colleague. “We’re going to need anesthesia here. This one is in definite shock.”

The second one pulls out a red pack and unrolls it, locating and slipping out a tiny needle and a small bottle of clear liquid. “Here,” he says, offering it to the first. “God, what happened here?” he says distantly as he surveys the room.

The first medic pulls on a pair of gloves and then takes the needle and rips the clear plastic off of it, securing it on a plunger. He then attached the liquid to the other end. “What else?” he says with a shake of his head as he taps the needle and to clear the bubbles. “A stampede. And this poor soul-“ he jerks his head down at Hoseok who nobody touches for fear of making it worse “-got the worst of it.”

He kneels by Yoongi’s side. “Sir, I need you to calm down. Please or I’ll be forced to sedate you.”

Yoongi does not hear him. His eyes are distant and detached. His mouth continues to move, but the only words coming out now are “fault, fault, fault.” His hands grip his arms, the nails digging in so deep they draw blood.

The medic sighs. “Help me out here,” he says to his colleague who kneels and takes Yoongi firmly by the shoulder. He slips down his shirt to expose his shoulder. The first medic raises the needle and slips it into the skin smoothly. Yoongi barely reacts, only taking one shuddering breath as the medic presses down on the plunger and the sedative goes into his bloodstream.

“There we go,” he says gently. “It’s okay. Just relax. When you wake up, everything will be better.”

Fear enters Yoongi’s eyes as he feels the drug beginning to take effect. His hands drop to his side and his muscles go lax.

“Hoseok…” he manages to whisper once, half reaching out towards him before the drug takes over and he falls back into the medic’s arms and just like that it’s over.  

The video freezes like that, Hoseok still on the floor with a stretcher lying next to him, Yoongi being lifted and carried out. Jimin wants to reach through and pull Yoongi to his chest.

Yoongi, poor, poor Yoongi. He’s tried so hard and struggled with the guilt and it has never really hit Jimin as real as it does now. He’s does his best to hide it but Yoongi, he just really wants to help Yoongi.

It’s not about expectations or living up to Namjoon’s hopes anymore. This is Jimin’s one wish. And he may be a robot who’s not supposed to wish or hope or feel happy or sad and it’s okay if he’s broken and afterwards Namjoon wants to disassemble and reprogram him but for now… for now all he wants to do is see Yoongi and tell him it’s okay.

And there is that flash of light again, whiteness blooming and bursting.

Jimin reaches for it this time and as his hands enclose around it, warmth beats through his central circuit and his world floods with light.

*

The first thing he sees is when he opens his eyes are Yoongi’s eyes, dark with a glossy sheen. Then it is his lips, twisted thin with worry. As expected, he thinks with a small sigh, Yoongi is so full of life in every fibre of his body.

“Hello hyung,” he smiles and Yoongi buries his face in the crook of Jimin’s neck.

“You idiot,” he whispers into his ear for Jimin and Jimin only.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers back.

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says softly. “Just don’t leave so suddenly again, okay?”

Jimin smiles. Somehow it no longer feels programmed. “Okay hyung.”

*

Before they do anything more, they wake up Namjoon who performs several quick tests on Jimin.

“I think that it,” he says with a broad smile on his face as he steps away from the monitor. “It doesn’t look like there are any problems.”

Jimin beams up at him.

Seokjin hands Namjoon a cup of coffee which he accepts as he leans back against a table. “So Jimin. What now?”

Jimin tilts his head in question.

“I mean what do you want to do now?” Namjoon clarifies.

The look in his eyes is serious despite the fact he’s dressed in scruffy red checked pajamas and is wearing fluffy slippers.

“What do you mean?” Jimin asks. He doesn’t quite get what Namjoon is trying to say.

“He’s asking if you want to continue helping Yoongi, or if you’d like to return to the garage,” Seokjin says. He sits down on the table next to Jimin, offering him silent support. “It’s your choice.”

“But aren’t I supposed to help Yoongi? I mean isn’t that why you built me?”

Namjoon blows at his coffee. “That is true,” he admits. “I built you solely to help Yoongi. But Yoongi and I had a chat whilst we were running the tests. He told me that what I did to you wasn’t fair. I programmed you to have human emotions and to be able to process human expressions, but I never offered you human freedom.”

“Human… freedom?”

Namjoon exhales and puts his coffee down. He links his fingers together and looks at Jimin. “You and Seokjin were part of a series of robots that Hoseok, Yoongi and I were trying to build. The purpose was to make the most human-like robot, not just in terms of looks, but in terms of thoughts as well. We built Seokjin to make his own decision, but you… I forced you to take care of Yoongi.”

“I don’t mind that hyung,” Jimin replies easily.

“Yes… but…”

It’s obvious that it bugs Namjoon.

So Jimin says, “I want to help him hyung.”

“What?”  A blink.

“I want to continue helping Yoongi. Until he tells me he’s satisfied. Until you can tell me that he’s happy.”

“Is…this the program speaking?” Namjoon asks nervously.

“Namjoon’s right you know,” Seokjin says, always the voice of reason. “Your programming was based on the frameworks of mine. But the difference is that you think you have to help Yoongi. And you know you don’t have to right? If you want Namjoon can erase that part of the programming.”

Jimin shakes his head gently. “It may be programming hyung or it may be not, but right now hyung I want only one thing and that’s for Yoongi to be happy. After that, well we’ll talk then.”

“Okay Jimin,” Namjoon says. There’s a soft smile playing at his lips. “This is your choice.”

Jimin nods emphatically. “Yes. It is.”

“But,” Namjoon continues, “First of all you should talk to Yoongi. He is the one who wanted you to stay with me in the first place. He says he doesn’t want to rely on others too much.”

Jimin’s face falls.

“Hey,” Seokjin says playfully, nudging him in the shoulder. “He may say that, but I’m pretty sure we all think the opposite. Yoongi needs to learn how to rely on others more, and maybe, well maybe you can convince him of that. Yes?”

A smile twitches its way back to Jimin’s face. “You think?”

“I don’t know,” Seokjin shrugs. There is a smile on his face though that makes him looks so very human. “Remember. We’re built with the ability to choose. And if you choose to want to help Yoongi no matter what, then go for it.”

“Yeah?” The smile brightens on his face.

Seokjin smiles in return. “Yeah.”

*

Yoongi is asleep on the couch, a blanket pulled up to his neck. He sleeps on his side, his head resting in what looks like an uncomfortable position on the arm of the couch. Taehyung sits at the other end upright, somehow sleeping peacefully. He snores and wriggles in his dreams. His blanket has been kicked to the floor.

Jimin crouches till he is eye level with Yoongi.

As always only in sleep does Yoongi seem completely at peace. His skin is smooth without worry and his bangs fall into his face. Jimin reaches forwards and brushes them back with one hand.

The motion jostles him and Yoongi opens his eyes slowly. “Jimin?” he mumbles, voice still sleep saturated.

“Hey hyung,” Jimin murmurs. His fingers play with the edge of Yoongi’s hair. The color is a faded and Jimin wonders what it was before. Red perhaps?

Yoongi shuffles into a sitting position, yawning so wide there’s a cracking sound. “Hey yourself. Sit down.”

Jimin complies.

“How are you feeling then?”

“Fine, I think. Namjoon says there should be no more problems with my System. He wants to keep an eye on me in case something does happen again though.”

“Maybe you should stick around his garage for a while just in case,” Yoongi mumbles through another yawn.

“I… do you want me to?” Jimin asks Yoongi carefully.

Yoongi closes his mouth and looks back at him. “You don’t want to?”

Jimin can feel his circuitry warming up. “I… I want to stay with you hyung…” he admits in a tiny voice.

“Why? Haven’t I hurt you enough?” Yoongi looks genuinely worried. “I mean, what I said earlier is true. I can deal with my own problems you know. I don’t want you getting wrapped up in something you don’t need to.”

This time Jimin won’t let Yoongi walk away. “I know hyung,” he says earnestly. “But I want to help you. It doesn’t have to be much. It doesn’t have to be anything at all, but I want to stay with you and help you until you’re satisfied with your care. So… can I stay with you hyung?”

Yoongi pauses for a second and then swallows. When he speaks, he sounds uncertain. “Jimin… I don’t want you to stick me with me if it’s just because you think this is your job and you need to fulfil it or anything.”

“It’s not!” Jimin says quickly. “It’s not like that anymore! It’s because I want to stay with you! I want to help you, not as a job but as a…”

“As what?” Yoongi asks.

“As a companion.”

“A healthcare companion?”

Jimin shakes his head. “No, just an ordinary… companion…”

“Like…” Yoongi flounders for the word. “Like a friend kind of companion?”

Jimin brightens. “Yeah! Like that!”

Yoongi leans back into the plush of the chair. Taehyung doesn’t even shift, just snuffles and continues on dreaming.

“So… what you’re saying is, you want to be friends with me?”

Jimin leans closer. “Yeah! Is that the proper term for it? Friends? Does that mean I can still stay with you and talk with you and make sure you’re okay?”

Yoongi squints at him. “Yeah,” he huffs. “I guess that’s sort of what it means.”

“Then yeah. Can we be friends?”

His eyes are practically sparkling.

Yoongi sighs. “Yeah, okay. We can be friends.”

“So I can still stay with you?”

“If you want to stay with me. You’ll have to go for checkups with Namjoon every few days though.”

“And when you go out can I come with you?”

Yoongi pulls a face. “It depends on where, but I guess why not. You’ll have to learn how to go to places by yourself though. Without getting into trouble.” Jimin knows he’s referring to the club event.

“And… um… then does that mean I can be someone who makes you happy?”

A pause. “You want to make me happy?”

Jimin nods.

“Not because it’s your job or anything?”

A shake of the head. “Because I’ve decided that hyung looks best when he’s happy,” Jimin beams. “And so maybe it’s because I’m designed that way, but does it matter? All I want is to make sure you’re happy. Is that okay?”

Yoongi sighs again, a longer, more drawn out one. “You are impossible Jimin you know that right?”

Jimin tilts his head. “How so?”

“Right there,” Yoongi points. “Right there is the impossibility of it all!”

“I don’t get it.”

“I knew you wouldn’t.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“Does this matter? Does this mean I can’t be your friend?”

A sigh. “No you can be my friend. I’m just saying you’re pretty impossible to handle. But I guess you’ll do as a friend.”

“Wow.” Yoongi spins around to see Taehyung staring at them both, his chin resting in his hand. He reclines on the other end of the couch watching. Popcorn would complete the picture.

“Taehyung! Don’t scare me like that!” Yoongi scolds.

“You were so loud you woke me up,” Taehyung says with a shrug. “But lookie here. Yoongi-hyung admitting he has friends, aww.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes. “Taehyung…” he growls.

Taehyung blows him a kiss and leaps up and off the couch before Yoongi can retaliate. “I’ve got to go home to feed Soonshimie, but I’ll come over and visit you later.”

“Don’t!” Yoongi huffs after his retreating back.

Taehyung just laughs and waves as he leaves.

“He’s strange,” Jimin comments.

“You think?” Yoongi says with a laugh. “He is definitely strange. But he helped. He helped fix you, so I guess I’m a little thankful to him.”

“He did? Maybe I should thank him later.”

“Yeah, you can if you want.”

“Do you think he’ll be my friend?”

Yoongi gives him a look. “How many friends do you want?”

“Well,” Jimin says pensively. “He makes you laugh and that’s a good thing. And you said being friends with someone means sticking close to them. So if I stay close to him and then I stay close to you then he will be around to make you happy and that’s a good thing, right?”

Yoongi blinks several times, trying to digest what Jimin has just said.

“Please don’t tell me that’s how your programming makes its decisions,” he says, almost begging.

“Why? Is that a problem?”

He’s so serious about it that Yoongi can’t help but laugh. “No,” he says chortling. He leans over and puts his head to Jimin’s shoulder. Something glows in his chest, a feeling or a sensation unlike any that he has felt before. It’s good feeling he decides. It’s warm. It’s wholly Yoongi. “It’s not a problem at all.”

 

Epilogue: measurements of the heart

A true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.
- Zeus, Hercules

 

Three months later.

“How do they feel?”

Yoongi watches as Hoseok leans back on the bed, his hands propping him up as he raises his left leg mechanically up and down.

“Stiff? Heavy? Are they responding as you like? If not I can tweak them. Just tell me how you’d prefer them-“

“Give him a chance to try them first,” Namjoon says, laughing as he stands on the other side of Hoseok.

“They’re a little stiff but I think I just need time to adjust,” Hoseok says slowly. He switches to his right leg and repeats the same exercise.

Jisoo the nurse sits on the bed beside him, her sharp eyes watching him to make sure he doesn’t overextend himself. Doctor Kang who is the doctor who oversaw the entire design process and led the surgery to attach the limbs squats in front of Hoseok, eagle eyes examining.

“There don’t seem to be any repercussions from the surgery. The only issue that may crop up later will be to do with the nerve interfaces? But that will take time to appear. For now are there any issues Hoseok?”

“I don’t think there are…” Hoseok replies. “They’re responding well. It’s just… until I try walking I can’t say.”

“Of course,” Doctor Kang says easily. “And we’ll find out that out soon enough. But not for another week or so. I want simple exercises to keep the muscles and joints stimulated. Nothing more or you might overwork them instead.”

“Got it doc,” Hoseok says with a nod.

Doctor Kang grunts his approval and stands. “Keep me updated Jisoo,” he says to the nurse and then bids everyone goodbye.

Before he leaves though he stops and claps one hand to Yoongi’s shoulder. “Good job,” he says under his breath so that only Yoongi can hear. “You did well.”

Yoongi feels his cheeks heat but he’s glad he’s not the blushing type. “Thank you,” he says softly in reply.

Doctor Kang nods and lets himself out.

“As he said hyung,” Hoseok says with a wry smile, “thank you.”

Yoongi feels the heat rise to his cheeks. “I was just keeping my promise, that’s all,” he says roughly.

Hoseok laughs jovially in response. “Sure hyung,” he says, but there’s a knowing tinge to his tone. Yoongi huffs and look away from Hoseok. It only makes him laugh harder.

“Alright, we should get going soon. It’s going to be closing time soon,” Namjoon says, his tone amused as he steps around the bed. “I’ve got all the data here so Yoongi and I can keep track of the limbs. We’ll come visit tomorrow or something, yeah?”

“Mm sure thing,” Hoseok says with a smile. “Call before you come though.”

Namjoon mock-salutes as he opens the door. “Sure thing. We’ll bring you food as well. Seokjin’s cooking improved a ton.”

“Yeah?” Hoseok grins. “I’m looking forwards to it then.”

“Nothing too oily or spicy,” Jisoo says warningly. She’s fierce enough to make Namjoon gulp and nod and duck out the door.

Yoongi however does not follow immediately. He looks to Jisoo and says, “Can I have a moment with him?”

Jisoo looks at him hard for a moment, but then gets up. “Ten minutes max,” she says and sweeps out of the room.

“So?” Hoseok prompts when the door is closed behind Jisoo and they are alone in the tiny hospital room with its wide gaping windows and fluttering white curtains. “What’s up?”

“I wanted to ask you…” Yoongi starts, his foot scuffing along the pristine hospital floor. “What you were planning to do after you leave the hospital?”

Hoseok thinks on that. “I’m not really sure yet. Maybe open up my own workshop. Or I might take up a research offer from this professor. Why?”

“I was wondering,” Yoongi says, clearing his throat, “If you wanted to move in with me after you do.”

Hoseok’s eyes widen. “You would do that?”

Yoongi’s eyes are fixed on the floor, but he gives one tiny nod.

“Hyung,” Hoseok says. “C’mere.”

Yoongi takes three unsteady steps to Hoseok.

“Sit,” Hoseok says, patting the space on the bed beside him.

Yoongi complies and as soon as he’s sitting properly, Hoseok leans over and bundles him into a tight hug.

“Hoseok!” Yoongi protests but Hoseok only squeezes him tighter.

“Thank you hyung,” he whispers into his ear. “But no.”

Yoongi stills. Hoseok pulls away so he can look him properly in the eye.

“It’s not because I don’t want to hyung. I do, I really do. But…” he takes a deep breath. “But I like you hyung. Like more than just a friend like.”

Yoongi’s face feels frozen. He doesn’t know how to response. “I…”

Hoseok holds up one finger. “I know you don’t like me back, and that’s okay. I just thought I might as well finally tell you.”

“And that’s why you don’t want to move back in with me? Because I won’t reciprocate your feelings and it’ll make this complicated between us?”

Hoseok gives him a small smile. “Something like that hyung. I don’t want things to be uncomfortable between us. And I think it’s time I tried something new. Living alone might be interesting. Not to mention it will take time for me to get used to these limbs.”

“Things would never be uncomfortable between us!” Yoongi bursts out, his hands flying out and fisting in Hoseok’s hospital slip. “I… I’m sorry but I don’t like you like that, but-“  

“But we can still be friends right?” Hoseok interrupts. He has always been the one there with the words that fail Yoongi so frequently.

“Of course,” he says fiercely. “Friends.”

“Good,” Hoseok whispers and pulls him in for another hug. “Now you should go. Before Jisoo comes back in and goes all ballistic about not following hospital rules.” He winks and gently pushes Yoongi to the door. “Besides,” he says, making Yoongi half turn back. “Three people would be too much for one apartment, wouldn’t it?”

“Three?” Yoongi says, puzzled.

Hoseok winks. “Three.”

“Oh.” Jimin.  

“I’m sure you’ll do fine with your new housemate,” Hoseok says cheerfully. “Don’t think I won’t come over for movies nights though,” he says teasingly as he shoos Yoongi out.

It brings a smile to Yoongi’s face. “Always,” he promises and slides open the door.

Namjoon waits beyond it, leaning against the wall. “Garage?” he asks.

“Garage,” Yoongi nods.

*

Back at the garage they find Taehyung and Jungkook arguing loudly over a monitor screen.

“No! It’s more efficient if you do this-“ Taehyung says, trying to reach for the keyboard but Jungkook bats away his hands and wrenches the keyboard back to a safezone.

“This is my exam! You can’t help me! That’s cheating!” he protests.

“Cheating on a secret exam that involves hacking?” Taehyung points out.

“Argh!” Jungkook explodes. “So fine you have a point! But no, I don’t need your help!”

“But then you’ll never break it,” Taehyung says pointedly. “I mean their walls are surprisingly pretty good.”

“That’s not for you to decide!” Jungkook growls. “I’ll show you that I can do this!”

“Now, now Taehyung, leave him alone,” Yoongi calls out as Namjoon winds down the garage door behind them. “He is the university’s golden boy. He can figure it out on his own.”

“I thought I told you to drop that nickname hyung,” Jungkook throws over his shoulder. There’s no bite to his words though.

“Mmhmm sure thing kookie,” Yoongi says, not really paying attention as Namjoon hooks up the new data and the information scrolls up on the screen. He taps at several things and Jungkook knows Yoongi is not listening at all anymore.

“He calls you kookie?” Taehyung says with a teasing lilt.

“Don’t you even dare,” Jungkook says before Taehyung can even say anything more.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Taehyung says, dancing away and Jungkook just knows that this going to come back to haunt him some day.

Another pair of footsteps approach and Jungkook briefly looks away to see Namjoon approaching. Out of habit he freezes in his actions and his fingers itch to hide the evidence. He doesn’t need to though. Namjoon approached him a few weeks back and told him that he can go ahead with the exam if he wants.

“It wasn’t my place to stop you in first year,” Namjoon had said in apology late one night when they had all been working on the blueprints for Hoseok’s limbs and Yoongi was fast asleep sprawled out on the couch. “I owe you an apology for that.”

Seokjin had explained it to him later. Yoongi and Namjoon had had a long chat about Kabukicho and the school’s secret exam and they had come to acceptance that whilst their opinions differed on the subject, it shouldn’t affect the other. Yoongi had then pointed out that Namjoon had done that with Jungkook by preventing him from completing the exam in his first year which was when Yoongi had instead done so.

Now Jungkook is able to work on hacking the system whenever he wants and sometimes Namjoon offers him advice at times like these.

“How are you doing?” he asks, leaning over and glancing at the screen.

“Okay I guess. Found another firewall I can’t get past but I’ve got an idea.”

“Did Taehyung give you an idea?” Yoongi smirks, popping his head over Jungkook’s other shoulder. “He is a decent hacker after all. This would probably be a nice bedtime challenge for him.”

“Scram hyung, I can do it,” Jungkook says good-naturedly.

Somehow their relationship has developed into this strange barbed banter. It’s a welcome change from the frigid distance they used to share and sometimes Jungkook will even admit that Yoongi is kind of fun to chat with. He’s just as knowledgeable as Namjoon is, but somehow he’s a lot easier to talk to when you’re not worried about maintaining expectations with the one you admire.

“Sure thing kid,” Yoongi scoffs and ruffles his hair once before heading upstairs to the kitchen where Seokjin is cooking dinner for them all.

“You get along with Yoongi now?” Namjoon asks as he settles down in a spare chair. “That’s good.”

“I guess I found out he’s not all that bad,” Jungkook says, still tapping away at the keyboard. “And we’re a lot more similar to each other than I first realized.”

“Yeah?” Namjoon says absently. He tips his head back to stare at the ceiling. “That’s good. This is good.”

“What is?”

“You. Yoongi. Both of you two need more people in your life. A few months ago you two were very different people. I like how things have changed.”

“Even Hoseok’s legs?”

Namjoon winces. “Even that I guess.”

Jungkook pauses in his typing. “You’ve changed as well,” he says casually.

Namjoon looks down at him. “How so?”

“You…you’re softer now? I don’t know. You feel more approachable,” Jungkook says with a shrug. “Did you ever finish your talk with Yoongi? You know the one about the exam?”

Guilt grows in Namjoon’s belly. “No… I didn’t. I guess we both tried to avoid it.”

“Yeah well,” Jungkook shrugs. “I think it’s pretty important. It kind of hurt Yoongi-hyung a lot. Maybe you should bring it up again.”

“Yeah, okay,” Namjoon says and stands. “I’ll… go find him then.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook nods and turns his attention back to the screen again.

Namjoon follow Yoongi’s path up the stairs and nearly collides with Taehyung who comes careening down them.

“Taehyung! Watch it!” he yelps, barely surviving.

“Sorry hyung!” Taehyung throws over his shoulder as he bounces down the last two steps and then all Namjoon can hear is a “koookie! I brought snacks! They’ll help fuel you!” and oh dear, Namjoon knows he said it’d do Jungkook good to have more people in his life but he’s beginning to regret his words if it ends up with murder happening in his garage. 

Upstairs is a more peaceful scene. Yoongi sits on a kitchen stool, a fond smile on his face as he watches Seokjin instruct Jimin on how to cut up the vegetables. A month or so ago Jimin asked if he could learn how to cook and Seokjin had been more than obliging, citing that it was better he learnt first-hand rather than from some manual that Namjoon was about the upload.

Yoongi hasn’t said anything yet but Namjoon’s heard from Jimin that he cooks for Yoongi sometimes and Yoongi hasn’t complained yet, so it’s a pretty good sign.

“Hey,” Namjoon says throatily. “Can I speak to you for a bit?”

Yoongi drags his eyes away from Jimin and Seokjin. “Yeah? Sure. What’s up? Is it to do with Hoseok’s legs?”

“Ah, no. It’s um, I want to apologize, for when I called you selfish and said I couldn’t understand why you went to Kabukicho.”

Understanding fills Yoongi’s eyes. “Oh, that’s okay. I get why you were angry. I mean I knew you hated things like that, you never made it a secret.”

“Yeah, but,” Namjoon coughs and kicks at the tiled kitchen floor. “You knew I didn’t like them and I knew that you didn’t mind them but I… I…”

Yoongi offers him a smile. “It’s okay Namjoon. We’re past that aren’t we?”

“But still I just wanted to say, back then when I said I couldn’t understand why you had to go to Kabukicho, I… I wasn’t say that to look down on you. I just… I really can’t. I didn’t want to lie and say elsewise but I just want to tell you that even if I can’t understand and we both have different views, I’ll always support you hyung.”

Yoongi blinks with surprise. “Thank you Namjoon,” he says, his voice thick with gratitude. “That… means a lot. After all you were my first friend here.”

“Yeah?” It’s Namjoon’s turn to be surprised. He scratches his neck, embarrassed. “You probably were mine as well.”

Yoongi laughs. “Really? What a pair we are.”

Namjoon chuckles. “I guess so.”

He walks over the fridge and takes out two cans of beer, hands one over to Yoongi. “Here,” he says, popping the tag and holding it out. “To friendship,” he announces.

Yoongi does the same with an amused expression. “And future collaborations.”

The tap cans and gulp it down and when Namjoon looks over at Seokjin, the robot flashes him a warm smile and Namjoon thinks that maybe more than a few things have come out well in these past few months.

“Hyung, hyung,” Jimin says suddenly, turning and scampering over to Yoongi. “Try this.” He holds out a spoon with stew in it and Yoongi opens his mouth without thinking.

“Is it good?”

“Mm yes,” Yoongi says. He offers the robot a soft smile unconsciously.

Jimin’s smile lights up the room.

It’s funny, Namjoon thinks, how a few months ago he designed Jimin to be a healthcare robot to help Yoongi, but what Jimin seems to have done instead is soften him, unravel him, helped him as the friend that Yoongi probably needed all along. Jungkook is right, they’ve all changed.

Hoseok is more solemn but honest to himself, Yoongi is more open, Jungkook has accepted his limits and Taehyung is learning to expand his. And Namjoon, well he’s starting to learn that maybe charging ahead isn’t always the best of things. Seokjin shows him that sometimes it’s good to stop and take a breather and to try to understand that not everyone else is like him.

And Jimin.

He is so, so grateful to Jimin.

“Namjoon-hyung,” Jimin says, surprising him out of his thoughts. “Seokjin-hyung says dinner’s ready. Are you hungry?”

Namjoon grins. “Starved,” he says. He lets the robot lead him to the living room where he then diverts and rushes off to go gather Taehyung and Jungkook. There’s a loud whoop and two and a rush of footsteps back up.

In the kitchen is Yoongi and Seokjin laying out the dishes in unison.

It is kind of funny. Somewhere along the way they’ve become this one big family, helping each other and changing each other.

Namjoon thinks of his parents who told him that this was the wrong path to take, that he would one day regret not choosing a profession with more stability. But he stands here now and thinks that they were wrong.

Hoseok will return soon and Jungkook will graduate in a year’s time. Taehyung is considering transferring into the university’s computing course and Yoongi is going ahead with his patent. It’s working. It’s all somehow coming together and working.

He sits back and he can’t help the smile on his face. This life, these choices, there are good ones and bad ones and they’ve all struggled these past few months, but as Namjoon sits there and watches Taehyung and Jungkook filter in, Jimin at their side and Yoongi already seated, he thinks and he smiles. Seokjin looks over.

What is it? he mouths.

Namjoon shakes his head. It’s nothing much. It’s just that he wouldn’t have things any other way. He’s happy, and he hopes they all are as well.

*

It’s late by the time they get home.

Taehyung stumbles off to his room where he’s greeted loudly by Soonshim who barks and pounces on him the moment he crosses the threshold. Yoongi has to hold back his laughs else he wake up the other neighbors and instead waits until he’s in his own house to let out a breathless laugh.

“Did you have fun tonight hyung?” Jimin asks as he pads over to turn on the lights.

“Yeah, dinner was good. Your cooking’s improved.”

“Yeah?” Jimin says, looking positively delighted. “I’ll make it for you again then tomorrow!”

“Maybe not so soon,” Yoongi says, amused. “How about next week instead?”

“Okay,” Jimin says agreeably. “What shall we do for lunch tomorrow?”

“Namjoon said Seokjin was going to cook for Hoseok. Why don’t you make something for him as well? I think he’d like that.”

Jimin beams. “Sure.”

“For now,” Yoongi says with a yawn. “Bed.”

They stumble into the bedroom where Yoongi sheds his clothes immediately, tossing them onto the floor where Jimin knows he’ll trip over them come morning so he picks them up after him and tosses them into the laundry basket. By the time he comes out of the bathroom Yoongi’s dressed in a soft cotton shirt and boxers. He has Jimin’s recharge station unlocked and ready for him.

“C’mere, bedtime for you as well,” he says, beckoning Jimin with one hand.

Jimin totters over and lets Yoongi help him step backwards into it. The minute his soles touch the wires, he can feel the electricity thrum through his circuits.

He blinks twice, sleep mode washing over him.

He forces himself to stay alert just long enough to see Yoongi crawl into bed and turn off the lights. He stretches out on one his side, eyes half closed already.

“Hey hyung?” Jimin says before they both fall asleep.

“Yeah Jimin?”

“Are you happy now?”

Yoongi’s laughter fills the room. It’s tired with a drag, but it’s a lovely sound and Jimin knows it is not forced.

“The happiest,” Yoongi murmurs. “What about you Jimin?”

Surprise bolts through Jimin and it’s not the electricity. “I’m a robot hyung.”

“So?” Yoongi retorts. He’s too drowsy to make it sound harsh though.

And Jimin thinks. Is he happy? Can he be happy? Yeah, he thinks. Maybe it’s part of his programming and maybe these are all just artificial thoughts, but for now he likes the way things are and he would not change a thing.

“I am hyung,” he says softly. “I really, really happy to have met you hyung.”

He can see Yoongi’s smile in the darkness, the shaded curve of his lips. “So am I Jimin. I’m glad I met you too.”

Sleep mode takes over and his vision fades to darkness, but even then Jimin can see it: the imprint of Yoongi’s smile and the importance that lies beyond it.

He’s happy and Yoongi is happy, and despite all that has happened, he wouldn’t change a thing.  Not one bit at all. He holds that close to his core and sears it into his soul.