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The Perfect Japchae

Chapter Text

Min Yoongi worked at the local Supermarket on Sundays. It wasn't bad, as far as part time gigs went. Among all his previously held jobs it probably ranked second or third on the Least Shitty Work Environment scale. There were plenty of food samples and the pay was almost decent, both of which kept him from dying of extended malnutrition.

Mornings were slow, though. Yoongi spent a good half hour arranging jars of gochu-jangajji into the shape of a Manji Formation a la Naruto Shippuden for his own amusement. He was pretty pleased with it and was about to repeat the process when sweet old Mrs. Kim appeared by his side, asking for help with an item on a top shelf in the next aisle. Dutifully he abandoned his artistic endeavour and went to go fetch a step stool. A prickle on the back of his neck, however, stopped him short and let him know that History Was About To Repeat Itself Once Again.

This was the one thing he didn't like about his job. It was also the one thing he didn't like about the apartment building he lived in. It was the one thing that drove him nuts, week after week, Sunday after Sunday. It constantly nagged at him, knowing it was there, knowing nothing more than a thin layer of plaster and paint and probably non-existent insulation kept his little haven of dirty records and piano scores separate from whatever-the-hell happened to be on the other side.

"Here you go."

That voice. There was no doubt who it belonged to. Schooling his features into calm repose though he felt none, Yoongi turned.

As expected, he stood there, looking pleasantly solemn. There were vague signs of a sleepless night on his face, but unlike the rest of the mere mortals milling around, sleep deprivation made him seem even more handsome than usual. His hair looked like angels had woven sunbeams into it. This was something Yoongi had once overheard a girl say when she'd had the good fortune to be standing behind him in line at the cash register. It was not something he would ever in a million years voice himself, much less think, though he was thinking it now, because the dingy fluorescent lights of the market fell just so onto those artfully tousled locks and made them glow like Jesus, Mary and Joseph themselves had blessed it-

"Huh?"

"Here you go," was repeated again, with an arch of one eyebrow, pulling Yoongi out of his mental diversion. For some bizarre reason he was politely thrusting the single can of sweet corn in his hand towards Yoongi and not the sweet little old lady between them.

As soon as he walked away, the swooning began. "What a handsome young man!"

"You can't even see him," Yoongi grumbled. "You're not wearing your glasses."

"You're handsome, too," said Mrs. Kim cajolingly. "You shouldn't scowl like that, it makes you look scary."

"I am scary," he reminded her.

She laughed at him and tottered off, listing slightly starboard from the weight of her shopping bags. Yoongi caught up to take them from her, which made her laugh again, which he was thankful for, because it meant she didn't notice him glaring at the Very Handsome Young Man the entire time he cashed her out.

------

Around 1AM, a truly delicious smell wafted through the vents, waking Yoongi up from a dream he couldn’t quite remember. His stomach growled. He shoved his pillow over his head and grunted.

-----

Nearly a week went by without Yoongi’s notice - he tended to lose track of the days, and immersing himself in music meant he only surfaced to eat and drink and use the toilet as required. Life was good. His mom sent up a care package, so Yoongi called up a couple of buddies to partake. Namjoon was a city kid and probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much as Taehyung would, but he usually found the provincial snacks and homemade kimchi intriguing.

“Where’s Tae?” his taller, younger, and annoyingly- gifted friend asked.

“Busy with exams,” Yoongi replied. The two of them lugged the heavy package between them onto the elevator. It pinged on the fourth floor. The doors opened, and they were greeted with a sight that would forever be permanently seared into the back of Yoongi’s eyelids.

He’d always known, deep down. You couldn’t trust a face like that. In the wild, a beautiful exterior usually hid deadly intent. He’d seen the documentaries. Animals were hard-wired for survival, nature made them that way. The most seemingly adorable creature with big brown eyes and fluffy hair and broad shoulders could be a deadly predator in disguise. A predator with a predilection for underaged, apron-wearing, speedo-clad pretty boys covered in… uh, cake flour?

“Holy shit,” said Namjoon, slack-jawed.

“Jungkook! Get back in here!”

“YOU ALMOST BURNED ME!”

Too many things were happening at once. Images cascaded before Yoongi’s eyes, some too scarring to put into words, others beyond comprehension. Namjoon wasn’t helping. He was just saying ‘holy shit’ over and over again in the background.

“Sorry,” gasped his definitely-not-naked, definitely-just-had-his-shirt-gaping-open-with-nothing-underneath neighbour. Yoongi averted his eyes. Not looking. Nope. Not fucking looking.

“It’s not what it looks like-” he was saying. “It’s-”

“It’s none of our business,” said Yoongi at the same time in a grossly high-pitched voice. He grabbed Namjoon by the scruff of his neck - difficult, as it was much higher up these days than it used to be, fucking kids, always growing - and shoved him inside the apartment.

“Whoa,” said Namjoon. “What did we just see?”

Jesus Christ. Inexplicable embarrassment filled his stomach with hot roiling lava. He snapped, “Nothing. Forget it.”

“Thank god Taehyung didn’t come with us. He’s still just a kid, his eyes are pure-”

“Pure is not the word I would use to describe him,” Yoongi muttered, still feeling numb. “Or you.”

“I was pure,” said Namjoon mournfully. “Until about twenty seconds ago.”

“Yeah right.”

He’d always known, hadn’t he? He’d fucking sensed it from day one. Sexual deviancy was a real thing. Grandmother had always praised him for being a good judge of character.

“They always this frisky?”

“I don’t know!”

Christ, he needed a shower. Maybe some holy water to go with it.

“Are you blushing?”

“Shut up.”

“You’re blushing.”

“Fuck you.”

-----

Yoongi had a hard time getting to sleep that night, for reasons beyond his understanding - trauma, definitely trauma - and was in a horrible mood the following day. The smell of sizzling meat coming through the vents first thing in the morning didn’t help matters. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t have meat if he really wanted it. He just wasn’t made of money.

Money seemed to be the theme of the day, much to his chagrin. A sale on cabbage drove the ahjummas into a frenzy, and they were so busy that morning at the supermarket Yoongi didn’t have time to think about much besides fighting off crazed old ladies scouting for deals.

As preoccupied as he was, he still noticed when Mrs. Kim got to checkout and couldn’t find her money. Her distress was obvious, especially when his coworker turned to him questioningly, what should we do?

“I’ll get my wallet-” was on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t get to finish the sentence. A card was swiped through the credit slot, and payment went through. An elegant hand with long fingers quickly and neatly signed for the purchase. The name was legible, even from where Yoongi was standing. Not that he was looking. He just saw it, that was all.

Kim Seokjin.

“You’ll pay me back next time,” said Kim Seokjin, smiling down at Mrs. Kim. She was flustered and near tears, but nodded gratefully. He patted her shoulder gently, looking for all the world like he wasn’t the sexual deviant Yoongi knew him to be.

He quickly chastised himself for that. It wasn’t his business what - who - Kim Seokjin did in the privacy of his own home. (The hallway is not private property, a little voice said in his head. I have every right to be offended!) Anyway, just because someone was freaky in the sack didn’t mean he couldn’t be a good person. If his grandmother had taught him anything, it was that Good Deeds Deserved Good Reward. Or something like that.

“I’ll take over,” he said to his coworker, who was looking frazzled. “Go on your break.”

When their eyes met over the register, Yoongi almost changed his mind. He tried not to think too hard about the variety of fruit and two cans of whipped cream in the basket. He definitely tried not to notice the way Kim Seokjin looked at him, as if he had something to say.

“Fifty percent off,” he muttered, anyway.

“What?”

“There’s a sticker. Here.” He pointed at the red dot that meant half-price on the bottom of the container of strawberries. It hadn’t been there before. He scanned the items quickly, never once lifting his eyes.

“Thank you very much.”

No one ever said sexual deviants lacked polite manners.

-----

The next two days went by without incident. He didn’t see Kim Seokjin at all. Thank fucking god.

(He did have several bad dreams in a row involving strawberries and whipped cream and naked young men chasing him down the fire escape. His subconscious was just trying to work out some stuff, Yoongi thought bracingly. It didn’t mean anything.)

He spent his entire day off practicing on the piano, sinking into a demented state of obsessive playing where he just couldn’t stop, even though he was half-starved. It just happened to him sometimes. Music did that. He hated it some days and wished he’d never touched it on others but almost always, always, loved it.

Sometime around eight or nine in the evening - he wasn’t sure, time no longer held meaning - Yoongi felt himself being drawn away from the intensity of Bach and Mozart. A different song wound its way into his ear, took over, and before he realised what was happening, he was playing the Happy Birthday Song with great gusto. He stopped mid-note, confused.

“What the hell?”

His head snapped up at the sound of a rap on the wall. It was followed by a muffled sounding ‘bravo!’ which  floated through the vent. Horrified, Yoongi snapped the cover down over the keys of his piano and stormed into the bathroom.

-----


The stuff of nightmares always came at you when you least expected it. Yoongi was minding his own business, having a much deserved beer on his balcony after another grueling piano session when a face from hell itself peered over the concrete divider between the two balconies.

He fell out of his seat. "JESUS."

"Hello," said the demon face, using Kim Seokjin's voice.

"What the fuck!"

"Sorry, did I scare you?"

‘Scare’ was an understatement. "What the hell is wrong with you? I almost pissed myself!"

The monstrous creature rolled his eyes. It was a terrifying sight. "Don't be so dramatic. It's just a sheet mask."

"What the hell is that?"

"You don’t know what a sheet mask is?"

Yoongi bristled. He knew what a fucking sheet mask was. What he didn’t know was what the abomination currently being brandished at him was, or why, or what he’d done to deserve it.

“This is a limited edition item from Japan. I got it as a gift from one of my friends.”

Was he fucking bragging? “Is it supposed to be Attack on Titan or what?”

“Oh, is that what it’s called? I tried to google it, but no results came up.”

He wondered what search words had been used. He only knew himself thanks to his ongoing affiliation with the anime-obsessed Kim Taehyung. A million jokes about being eaten alive dangled on the tip of Yoongi’s tongue, but he swallowed them down. Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate. His heart was still racing, and the way Kim Seokjin’s eyes peered out from beneath the psychotic mask made him feel discomfited. He hoped it didn’t show on his face.

“Sorry about the other day, by the way,” his neighbour said casually, learning on his balcony. A breeze ruffled his hair, held back by pink terry cloth bunny headband with fluffy ears.

Wow. Just wow. Maybe being handsome beyond belief meant that a guy could wear whatever the fuck he wanted? Yeah, so technically he was at home, but he’d actually come out to talk to a neighbour in that get-up. It took balls, or perhaps just a staggering amount of self confidence. Or both.

“What other day?”

Kim Seokjin cleared his throat. “You know. In front of the elevators-”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

The brows of the Colossal Titan arched, in what Yoongi could only describe as a Handsome Way. Unbelievable. Tersely, he said, “It never happened. Whatever it was. No need to apologize.”

“If you say so.”

Yoongi turned away. What was this, anyway? In the eight months he’d lived here, neither of them had done more than nod in greeting when they passed in the hallway. Most of the time he just ignored Kim Seokjin and went about his own business while inwardly seething. A little voice deep down questioned why, exactly, he was so pissed all the time whenever he thought about his neighbour… but he really didn’t have an answer.

I just don’t like you, he thought silently in his head, staring at his beer can. It wasn’t the kind of thing you spoke out loud.

Instead, he surprised himself by saying gruffly, “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For paying for Mrs. Kim’s groceries last week.”

“It was nothing."

For you, maybe, Yoongi thought. He suspected, from the nice coats and good grooming and delicious smells, that Kim Seokjin was well-off. Someone like him wouldn’t understand what it felt like not to have enough money to pay for food.

“I almost didn’t do it,” his neighbour said, surprising him.

Huh?

The sheet crinkled where the corners of that handsome mouth lifted into a grin, revealing very even, very white teeth. "I mean, the last time I helped that old lady you glared at me so hard I thought I'd get punched if I deprived you of the opportunity to play hero. I seem to be surrounded by people with height complexes these days."

Yoongi scowled, skipped over the implication that he wanted to play hero, and grumbled, "I don't have a height complex."

"Of course you don't."

“It’s not height that matters, anyway,” he muttered, thinking of copious amounts of male flesh on display in nothing more than a tiny swathe of skintight spandex.

To hell with it.

“Look, it’s none of my business, but I just feel like I should say something. I mean, I don’t care, but you could get in trouble if the other neighbours saw.”

Kim Seokjin’s deviant bishounen eyes looked blankly at him through the gaping eyeholes of his demented sheet mask. Completely lost. Or maybe it was just denial? They said the heart wants what it wants or some such bullshit, but there were such things as laws.

“Just keep it on the downlow.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s illegal. You know.” He added in a lowered voice, “When they’re that young.”

Silence fell. Kim Seokjin opened his mouth, seemed at a loss for words, and then closed it again. Something changed in his expression, the briefest flash of… anger? Annoyance? Disdain? … glimmered in his eyes. Then it was gone. He turned his head, attention caught by something behind him.

“Just a minute-”

He pulled back abruptly, disappearing into his apartment. Yoongi blinked. He waited like an idiot, and muttered, "Hello?" into the darkness several times, confirming that he was indeed an idiot.

No response. He craned his ear and listened more intently than he'd like to admit for signs of life next door. At last, the dim sound of two voices talking animatedly floated through the darkness. Ah. Handsome Demon Mask had company - his boy toy, probably.

Well, I tried.

Yoongi shrugged and went back into his own cramped living room, tripped painfully over a toppled record player that belonged to that hipster Namjoon, and went to bed cursing.

-----

Sunday again. Yoongi got up for work with a raging hangover courtesy of Namjoon, whom he hoped with all of his heart was suffering twice as much. His throbbing headache was made worse by more than one difficult customer. Some kid wearing braces and enough bravado to sink the fucking titanic under the weight of his bullshit came up to the counter with four bottles of the cheapest soju in the store.

“Drinking is for adults,” Yoongi informed him, patience wearing thin.

“I’m old enough! I have ID,” the brat declared, with an air of challenge that instantly made Yoongi’s alcohol-shrivelled heart grow three sizes larger. He was going to do his good deed for the day now. He was going to save this moron from himself.

“Do I look stupid, kid?”

Yoongi went back to stocking soy milk, feeling much more cheerful now that he’d gotten to toss someone out on their ass. His head still hurt, but you couldn’t win everything.

While unloading crates of oranges, he felt someone approach, and looked up to see exactly the last person he wanted to see. Bright brown eyes under thick, well groomed eyebrows briefly met his own before looking away.

No one spoke. Usually this suited Yoongi. He didn’t care how awkward things got, especially with strangers, and always just went on doing his own thing. But for some reason he felt compelled to break the silence today.

“I didn’t recognize you without the Titan disguise,” he deadpanned.

Not even a twitch of acknowledgement.

He ought to just leave. He had things to do. Fruit to stock. The shelves could use a dusting. Or the register. Or the break room. There might be an old lady in aisle four who had fallen down and needed help getting back up. Someone might have made a mess in aisle two. Someone always made a mess in aisle two.

But he didn’t move. Kim Seokjin was ignoring him, he had no idea why, and damn if it didn’t piss him right off.

Yoongi continued unloading jeju oranges, ignoring the asshole right back. He was so focussed on stacking crates he almost didn’t register it when a voice behind him said very clearly, and very coldly-

“Jungkook is 18.”

Huh?

What?

No, wait- who the fuck was Jungkook?

Understanding hit him full force a few seconds later - like a sack of cake flour to the gut.

Kim Seokjin tossed an orange into his basket. “Thanks for the concern, though.”

-----

What a shitty week.

Yoongi returned home from his shift dead-tired. He needed a nap, badly. He stripped off his uniform and was just about to crash for the next fifteen hours or so when an incoming text arrived. He fumbled for his phone, hoping it wasn’t from his mom. He’d have to call her back if it was, and he just didn’t have the energy for a two hour conversation at the moment-

This is Kim Seokjin. I live next door.

He fell out of bed, nearly bashing his head on the corner of the nightstand. What the fuck?

Furiously he typed out, How did you get this number??? What do you want?

Your friend came by earlier with a package for you. He seemed to be in a hurry so he rang my doorbell and asked if I’d hold onto it for you.

Why the fuck didn’t he just leave the box on Yoongi’s doorstep?

He didn’t seem to think it would be safe in the hallway, and I don’t blame him.

Yeah fucking right. He was sure Namjoon had done it on purpose, just to piss him off.

Hastily, Yoongi sent out another text.

I’ll be right over.

A knock on the door made him jump. His phone simultaneously buzzed in his hand.

No need. I’m here.

 

Chapter Text

The very first thing that came out of Kim Seokjin’s mouth when Yoongi opened the door was: “You’re a pianist.”

No shit.

His neighbour peered over his shoulder with wide-eyed interest. It was easy enough for him to do, given their height difference. Yoongi gritted his teeth.

“Yeah,” he replied brusquely.

“Can I come in?”

Yoongi recoiled. “No!”

“Why not?”

He snatched the box from him, maybe with a little more force than was absolutely necessary. “What do you need to come into my apartment for?”

Both eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Isn’t that what people usually do with guests?”

“Since when are you a guest?”

“Were you raised by wolves?”

“What?”

“Didn’t I just bring you this box? I had it in my apartment all day. It’s the least you could do.”

“Fine, come in.” He stepped aside, and then lifted his hand to signal stop. His “guest” flinched slightly at the suddenness.

“Apologize to my mother.”

“What?”

“For that crack about wolves. Apologize, or you can go home.”

“I apologize.”

Yoongi let his arm drop.

Neither of them moved, as though trapped in some bizarre tableau of Tall-Handsome-Man vs Slightly-Less-Tall-and-Less-Handsome-Man-In-Need-Of-Emergency-Caffeine-Infusion. The doorway was too small for the both of them. Yoongi felt cornered, caged in by the broad shoulders that filled out the impeccably well-fitting button down shirt gracing his neighbour’s chest. This close, he caught a whiff several different scents… aftershave, laundry detergent… and something sweet, like caramel, or maybe it was chocolate…

“Your turn,” said Kim Seokjin.

“My turn?” he repeated, distracted by the smell of sugar and cologne.

“Your turn to apologize.”

He glared. “For what?”

“For implying I’m a pedophile.”

Oh. Fuck.  

“I never- I mean, that’s not what I meant…” he trailed off, wilting under the unwavering gaze of the man he had  insulted.

If the roles were reversed he’d be furious. He’d be demanding more than just a verbal apology. As a matter of fact, Yoongi would probably be acquainting someone’s face with his fist. He looked down at the floor, at the hole in his sock where his big toe went, and knew what he would have to do.

He was going to have to swallow his pride.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and meant it.

Kim Seokjin nodded. “Can I go in now?”

Tension leaked out of Yoongi like a deflating balloon. He hid his relief and embarrassment beneath a shield of disdain, allowing Kim Seokjin to cross the threshhold into his personal kingdom before slamming the door shut behind them.

He didn’t care that his place was a mess. It wasn’t as if he could do much in the way of making it look good, anyway, even if he tried. The space was too cramped. His piano took up half the tiny living room and there was just no way to control the multitude of scores lying strewn across the floor… ugh.

Now what? He glared at the back of the man he’d just let in. What the hell did people do with guests? Offer them drinks? That seemed about right.

“I only have coca cola.” He did, in fact, have two cases of it. For Taehyung, not because he liked that shit. “There’s no tea, or coffee, or water. Except for the tap. I wouldn’t recommend it. The kitchen faucet is clogged. I could fill up a glass from the bathroom sink for you.”

“Coke is fine,” said Kim Seokjin primly. He didn’t move to sit on the sofa, probably because it was covered in crap, and Yoongi didn’t move to clear it off for him. He wanted to make it perfectly clear that this was an invasion of privacy of the highest order and that he was most definitely Not Welcome.

“Drink up,” he said, tossing a can across the room. It went large, crashed into the floor, and rolled noisily into the wall that separated their respective abodes.

“Nice.”

“Shut up and drink.” He threw another one. This time the handsome idiot managed to catch it.

“You’re a music student?”

He grunted in affirmation.  

“How long have you been playing the piano?”

“Since I was a kid,” he muttered. “Too long.”

“You’re good.”

“How would you know?”

“I’m not deaf and you’re loud.”

“I don’t play after 9 PM,” Yoongi said defensively. “The landlord doesn’t have a problem with it.”

“I’m not complaining.”

Whatever. He turned his back, then, and attacked the newly arrived package with a pair of scissors. It was another one from his mother - the stuff she’d forgotten to send with the first parcel. Yoongi busied himself with putting the contents away into his (mostly bare) kitchen cabinets.

There was no reason to be nervous and yet he felt an awkward tension in his belly that just wouldn’t quit. He chalked it down to being antisocial and not used to having company besides that of Namjoon and Taehyung, who were both idiots. He didn’t know how to interact with normal people anymore. Fuck, he wasn’t sure he’d ever known how.

“Min-Yoon-Gi.”

The sound of his name being spoken aloud jerked him back to the living room. He found his guest perusing the contents of a bookshelf crammed full of old composition books and knick-knacks. Among them lay a collection of middle school plaques, silly things like BEST RECITAL PERFORMANCE, CLASS 3 with his name engraved on them as if they were real awards.

“So that’s your name,” said his neighbour thoughtfully.  

“You already knew that,” Yoongi pointed out.

“Did I?”

“You must have looked at the name on my package. Don’t pretend otherwise.”

“My name is Jin,” his guest said, turning his head away from the shelves. The last few rays of sunset that pierced through the windows fell on his face, highlighting that obnoxiously perfect bone structure. “Kim Seokjin.”

“I know,” Yoongi retorted, feeling ugly and angry about it. “Finished your coke yet?”

“Nope.”

“Are you gonna finish it?”

“Nope.”

He scowled with extra ferocity.

Jin smiled back, unaffected. He wandered over to the piano and tentatively touched it. “Can you play contemporary stuff, too?”

That was plebeian code for pop songs, of course. He gave Jin a contemptuous look. “Like what?”

“Do you know You’re Beautiful by James Blunt?”

Yoongi threw him out.  

-----

-two weeks later-

Good morning.

What the hell was this?

Don’t text me in the goddamn morning unless you have something important to say.

(If he were the type to use emojis, there would be a slew of rude ones at the end of his message. But he wasn’t the type, so he glared at his phone instead.)

You left your TV on all night.

I was watching it.

Some of us need to sleep.

As if. I heard you come in at 5.

That wasn’t me.

Oh .

Right. The boy-toy. Yoongi shook his head. Legal or not, it left a distasteful feeling in his gut. Still. It wasn’t his business.

I’ll be home all day today.

Yoongi stared at his phone. Yeah, so?

If you’re expecting any more parcels, you can give them my phone number. I’ll sign for them downstairs.

Huh. How suspicious. Finally he typed, Why are you being nice to me?

The response was almost instant. I’m not being nice. I’m being a good neighbour.

Whatever .

-----

Are you home?

You know I am.

Yes. I could hear the funeral dirge.

What do you want?

I need a favour. Can you go downstairs and sign for a courier package for me? My hands are tied at the moment.

With what, Yoongi wondered. Or who? He shook his head. Briefly he contemplated saying no, but something possessed him and made him type out a curt, Fine.

Thanks.

He fully intended to just slide the envelope under the door and disappear into the night but Jin apparently had super-hearing. He opened his door as soon as Yoongi got off the elevator. A waft of something that smelled utterly delicious hit him as his neighbour stepped out into the corridor.

“Hey. Thanks.” Jin smiled. It was a dazzling smile, one meant to knock down lesser mortals, but Yoongi was impervious. He barely flinched. That counted as a victory, right?

“No problem,” Yoongi replied, distractedly noticing the pink apron, the pink oven mitts, and the expertly styled hair.

“Do you want some pie?”

“No,” he lied, thrusting the letter at Jin’s chest.

“Suit yourself.” Jin shrugged, thanked him again, and went back into his apartment.

-----

A truly disturbing sight greeted Yoongi several days later when he got home. He just couldn’t understand it. Kim Seokjin had invaded his life like mold, sudden and pervasive.  

“That’s just his style, you know,” Namjoon said as he munched on a cookie, taken from a plate his neighbour was holding. The two were leaning against the doors, chatting as if they were long-time pals. Joon was running his mouth off as usual. “Mean.”

“Mean?”

“Yeah. He doesn’t like it when people think he’s nice. He is, though - underneath, you know? He’s got layers like an onion. You just have to peel them away. Carefully. Sometimes it stings. Sometimes you feel like crying. That’s just how it is. Oh, and he likes to look cool, like he doesn’t care. It’s very important to him.”

“I see,” said Jin.

“What the hell is going on?” Yoongi demanded, approaching his own front door.

“Oh, hello.” Jin turned. He was wearing an apron again. This one had yellow ducks printed on it. He held out the tray questioningly, looking like some kind of Domestic Greek God.  

“Jin made cookies,” said Namjoon, also grinning brightly, as if he hadn’t just been spreading vile and putrid lies about his best friend and life mentor. “They’re really good, you should try one.”

“No thanks.”

Yoongi shoved past them and went inside, fully expecting Namjoon to follow. Or not. The traitor stayed outside for a good fifteen minutes instead, stuffing his face with homemade cookies while chatting up a storm with the enemy.

“He’s a nice guy,” Namjoon said, wiping crumbs off his face when he finally deigned to enter.

“Whatever.”

“I don’t know why you hate him so much. He’s cool.”

Yoongi slammed the book he hadn’t been reading shut and heatedly retorted, “I never said I hated him!”

“Coulda fooled me. You’re always bitching about him.”

“When have I ever bitched about Kim Seokjin?”

“Not verbally,” Namjoon conceded. “But you always look like you’re bitching about him in your head. And you glare at the wall whenever he cooks.”

When the fuck had this kid become a mind reader?

“Anyway, he’s nice. I like him.”

Whoop-dee-fucking-do. He tossed his composition score aside and walked to the fridge, scouring for something to drink. Ugh. Coke, nothing but coke. Taehyung needed a fucking intervention. Yoongi glared at a can before popping it open and taking a lukewarm sip. He let Namjoon rummage about noisily until he couldn’t take it anymore.

Staring at a crack in the backsplash tile, Yoongi asked in a voice that was deliberately toneless, “Does it really seem like that?”

“What?”

“That I hate-” he chose his words carefully, “-everyone?”

“Ehh. Sometimes. But all a person has to do is spend like five years with you and they’ll realise you’re a softy deep down. Deep, deep down. Deep, deep, deep, deep, deeeeeeeep down-”

Namjoon ducked the book that was flung at his head and grinned. “Doesn’t matter. Jin looks like he’d be good at peeling onions, anyway.”

-----

Music always helped when he felt confused or sad or simply lost at sea. Yoongi retreated into it, though he couldn’t quite pinpoint why he was feeling so unsettled these days. Bach was a great favourite and he lost track of the hours until his phone beeped, breaking him out of his (Namjoon would describe it as 'terrifying') focus.

What is that song you’re playing?

Yoongi glanced at the wall, and then at the clock. Shit. It was late. He slumped against the piano, and begrudgingly typed out an appropriate response.

Sorry. I’ll stop.

No, it’s fine.

It’s late. I lost track of time. Won’t happen again. You can go back to sleep.

I’m having trouble with that, but it’s not your fault.

What the hell was that supposed to mean? Yoongi grimaced, rubbing his face with one palm. He didn’t need this shit, he really didn’t.

The fact of the matter was: Namjoon had been very curious about Jin’s private affairs. He had apparently gleaned a lot of information during their brief talk, going so far as to ask about Naked Speedo Boy. The second fact, possibly unrelated, probably not, was that Yoongi hadn’t seen Naked Speedo Boy come around for over two weeks now.

I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable, were Jin’s exact words, as relayed by Namjoon.

Yoongi sighed.

It wasn’t as if he’d done it on purpose. It wasn’t his fault if Jin felt like his relationship was being perceived the wrong way. If he’d ended things with his younger boyfriend because of what Yoongi had said to him, that was his problem. People had to stop caring so much what the world thought of them. Life was shitty enough without taking on other people’s baggage on top of your own. What other people thought didn’t matter to Yoongi. He didn’t give a crap as a general rule. He did draw the line at hurting other people’s feelings on purpose, though - he wasn’t a jerk. At least, not that much of one. If he saw someone being picked on unjustly, he spoke up. He didn’t like bullies, and he didn’t like cheats. If he knew he’d done something wrong, he owned up to it. His mother had raised him that way.

Restlessly, he sat up again. His fingers moved across the keys, slow, methodically, almost mindless. He played for a long time, pounding out every lullaby and dreamy sonata he knew off heart.

He wasn’t being nice or anything like that. Min Yoongi was just doing what he always did: he played the piano.

There was nothing but silence when he finally stopped, both in his apartment and the one next door. He checked his phone. No new messages. Yoongi stretched, fingers aching, and crawled into bed.

-----

The texts came in the morning.

Thank you.

I slept well.

I hope you did, too.

Things went back to normal shortly after that.

On his way home from class, he saw whatshisface - Jo Guk? Jong Gun? Jae Gook? - getting on the elevator, wearing the ugliest, largest, oversized pink t-shirt Yoongi had ever laid eyes on. His hair was wet under his beanie, and the dropped shoulders of the top made Yoongi think it probably belonged to someone else.

The kid looked happy.

That was good, he thought. He hadn’t inadvertently been a home-wrecker, after all.

He ran into Jin at the supermarket the following day, and received a smile in addition to their usual nod of greeting. The smiles turned into hellos, and how are you’s, and once even a cheerful have a nice day.

It felt like a truce, though truthfully they had never really been at war. Not a two-sided one, anyway, if a person were to ask Namjoon for his opinion. No one was asking, though. Especially not Yoongi.

-----

It was a rainy night. Namjoon was busy and Taehyung had a date. Yoongi was bored. He whipped out Rachmaninoff's Isle of the Dead for Two Pianos and pretended he had an invisible partner to play with him. He almost didn't hear his phone beep.

Having a bad day?

What?

That music.

What about it?

Sorry, do you just like burial dirges?

Well, that was just fucking rude. He didn’t reply. Jin sent another text.

I need your help with something when you're done sending off souls.

He was pretty bored.

And, if he was to be honest, pretty damn curious.

Twenty minutes later, Yoongi found himself sitting in his neighbour's neat living room with his hands clasped in his lap. He didn't know what to do with them. He didn't want to touch anything. He felt like a working-class slob who had been let into the first-class cabin, and didn't want to spread his germs. He was also kind of frightened by how spotless it was, and shuddered several times.

"This is unnatural. There's not a single speck of dust. Are you even human?"

"That's rude. Here's your tea."

He accepted the mug - it had World's Best Grandpa emblazoned in gold script along the side, which he opted not to comment on - and took a sip. He didn’t even like tea. It was friggin’ delicious anyway.

Jin propped himself on the loveseat across from Yoongi and announced, "I am trying to make the World's Greatest Japchae."

Well. There were a lot of ways to respond to such a statement. Yoongi chose the most obvious one. "Have you considered lamb skewers?"

His comment went ignored in favour of a solemn speech. "Japchae is time and labour intensive. It requires a skilled and experienced eye, and lots of preparation beforehand."

"What about bulgogi?"

"There's beef in my Japchae."

"Salmon bibimbap does well at the restaurant down the road," Yoongi offered.

"That's nice."

"I hate Japchae."

"What?"

"What?"

"What did you just say?"

"Nothing."

“I thought I heard you say something that couldn’t possibly be true, so I’ll pretend I didn’t hear it.”

“Alright.”

“Anyway, you’ve never had my Japchae.”

True enough. He’d never had any of Jin’s food. He’d turned it down every time it had been offered. The constant barrage of smells leaking into his apartment had helped him construct a defensive armour. He could even keep his stomach from growling these days. Being inside the very place where those amazing smells originated from, however, was sorely testing his hard-built defenses.

“I’m a culinary student,” Jin said.

Duh. “I figured that out on my own.”

“I was hoping you’d do me a favour.”

Always with the favours. He demanded, “What kind?”

“I need someone to taste-test my dishes, and to do testimonials.”

Yoongi gave him a suspicious look. “Why me?”

“All my other slaves are on holiday.”

“Seriously, why me? Why don’t you ask your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Yoongi looked at him skeptically.

“I don’t,” insisted Jin.

“Uh huh.”

He added pointedly, “Jungkook isn’t my boyfriend.”

Yeah right. “It’s none of my business.”

“I know it’s none of your business. I just wanted to make it clear. He’s not underage, and we’re just friends.”

“Friends who get naked and have naked fun times?”

“He wasn’t naked!”

“Looked pretty naked to me.”

“He had speedos on! He just wasn’t wearing a shirt because he spilled batter on it. So it was in the washing machine, along with his pants. And he’d just come from swimming practice, which is why he had his bathing suit on underneath. And the flour was just-” Jin stopped mid-sentence and frowned. “Why am I explaining this to you?”

“I have no idea. I stopped listening after the word “speedo” came up.”

Jin rolled his eyes.

Whatever. Yoongi didn’t care what Jae Gun or Jong Guk or whatever-his-name was to Jin. He turned the conversation back to the topic at hand and narrowed his eyes, giving Jin his best Clint Eastwood impression. "So basically what you’re saying is you need a guinea pig.”

“That’s a rude way of putting it.”

“It’s the truth.”

“Come on. I need an unbiased opinion, and you’re the most unbiased, straightforward, least-likely to give me bullshit person I know. Please?”

Jin calling him unbiased and straight-forward threw him off guard. It was the only explanation, or maybe his blood sugar was too low, impairing his better judgment. Possibly his tea had been laced with some sort of mind bending drug. He set it down, pursing his lips. It was just too clean and too nice in this goddamn apartment. The owner of it was looking at him now with eyes that contained the begging power of a least five hundred small drowning puppies combined. That shit didn't work on him and he was offended that Jin was even trying-

Yoongi opened his mouth to deliver a crushing refusal, but somehow what came out instead was: “Alright. I’ll do it.”

Jin threw his hands up in victory. “Great! I didn’t think you’d agree!”

Neither did I, thought Yoongi with an inward sigh. Jin looked so stupidly handsome and so stupidly pleased as he sprang to his feet and ran to the kitchen.

“Here,” said Jin shortly thereafter, offering him something hot and steamy and delicious in a bowl. Not Japchae, which was fine with him. Yoongi took a spoonful. And just like that, every urge to take back his words simply melted away.

“Wow,” he said.

“Yep,” said Jin, smile growing wider and wider. “Exactly.”

 

Chapter Text

“Breathe in…. and out. Innnnnnn… and ouuuuuuut.”

In the background, something crackled. Yoongi frowned. “What the hell is that noise?”

“Shhh. Just relax. Let the essence penetrate.”

“Gross,” he muttered.

“Let it soak in.” Jin spoke firmly, raising his voice to be heard over the weird zen music he was playing in order to punish Yoongi’s eardrums. “Enjoy it.”

“I’m enjoying it,” said Namjoon. “This is great.”

Yoongi snorted, and shifted position, trying to find a comfortable angle for his legs. It was hard when you were crammed on a sofa between two sweaty teenagers with goo smeared all over your face.

“This is just stupid,” he said, glaring at the mask-free face of his tormenter.

It was unbearably handsome, as usual. Nothing but a diversionary tactic to make you think there wasn't much beyond the good looks... evolution at its crudest, most mocking form. Yoongi knew better. Beneath that veneer of unadulterated male beauty lay the culinary souls of Martha Stewart, Bae Jong Won, and Sam Kim combined - only with better hair. Even further beneath that, deviously hidden, was the soul of the clumsiest dork to ever step foot on planet earth. As proof of this, Jin promptly tripped on the charging cable he was using to power his iphone in order to play his crappy elevator muzak - pitching headfirst into Yoongi’s lap. He caught himself in time, flailing about like a hapless bird until Jungkook grabbed him by the knees to balance him.

“You okay?” Yoongi asked, very aware of the fact that he had narrowly escaped having Jin face-plant directly into his crotch.

“Fine,” said Jin, ears pink.

Yoongi shifted again, trying to elbow out some space for himself.

“Don’t move,” Jungkook chimed in from his left. “And stop talking. If you keep talking, the sheet moves around too much.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Yoongi snapped before he could stop himself.

He got a mumbled, “Sorry,” in response. Great. Now the kid was sulking.

“Ignore him,” said Namjoon to Jungkook, with a supportive clap to the shoulder. “He’s just hungry. He tells me to shut up all the time, doesn’t mean a thing.”

Yoongi sighed deeply.

That was the problem with making new “friends”. You had to be nice because they didn’t know you well enough yet to know you didn’t mean it when you yelled at them. They didn’t understand that ‘shut up’ actually meant ‘tell me more’ or that ‘quit whining or I’m gonna kick your ass’ actually meant ‘I’m sorry you’re having a bad day, help yourself to a coke from the fridge’. He wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to cross over that bridge with Jin’s kid. The learning curve was too damn steep these days.

“Everyone is way too tense,” said Jin, standing up. “I’ll go get some cold drinks.”

Yoongi poked glumly at the wet stuff on his face, wondering how he’d been tricked into this.

When he’d agreed to become Jin’s food tester he hadn’t known it would mean he was going to be inducted into a home spa experience. He also hadn’t known it would evolve into a group thing - Namjoon had tagged along because he was nosy as all hell, and there was no way to kick out Jin’s kid once they started. He understood, now, the relationship between the two. He couldn’t understand how he hadn’t before. Jungkook was Jin’s liability, just like Namjoon and Taehyung were Yoongi’s. They existed to leech and annoy and run errands. Speaking of which-

Namjoon held out his cell. “Tae’s here and he wants to know why we won’t let him in.”

Tell him to get his ass next door.”

As soon as the words left Yoongi’s mouth and entered Namjoon’s phone, the sound of feet in the hallway met their ears.

Jin came back into the room holding a tray of glasses filled with iced tea. Thank fuck it wasn’t coca cola again. He called out, “It’s not locked! Come on in.”

Taehyung burst into the room - he didn’t have a shy bone in his body - with a huge smile on his face. It didn’t waver as he caught sight of his friends with their feet up on Jin’s pristine coffee table.

“Hey,” said Namjoon, lifting one hand in greeting.

“What is this?” Taehyung asked, eyes wide. “Is this an Alien party?”

“Shut up and sit down,” ordered Yoongi.

Obediently, Taehyung dropped into a cross-legged position on the floor at Jin’s feet. He stared up at the glasses like a mesmerised puppy. See? It was so easy once you had them trained. They knew “shut up and sit down” was code for “you’ll get fed if you do what I say” and didn’t argue.

“Here you go,” said Jin. “Do you want to do a mask, too?”

The eager gleam in Tae’s eyes was answer enough. Jin went to fetch another sheet mask from his seemingly endless supply and came back with a plate of sliced cucumbers.

“That’s a shitty snack,” said Yoongi, outraged.

“It’s not for eating!” Jungkook exclaimed with a snort. He wilted under Yoongi’s stare and explained in less exuberant tones, “It-it’s for your undereye circles.”

“You really need them,” piped Namjoon.

Alright, for once, “shut the fuck up” just meant “shut the fuck up”.

“Language,” said Jin.

“Don’t even start,” warned Yoongi. “I will storm out of here.”

“You won’t get any food, then.”

“I hate Japchae anyway!”

Jungkook gasped.

“I didn’t hear that,” said Jin, covering his ears.

“Whatever. Can we take this off yet?”

“It hasn’t been twenty minutes!”

“It’s too sticky,” he complained. “It burns. I have sensitive skin.”

“Fine, go rinse it off in the bathroom. I’ll get you a towel.”

He made a beeline for the sink. Jin’s bathroom was small and clean and neatly organized. Yoongi splashed water carefully onto his face, trying his best not to make a mess.

“You have the palest skin I’ve ever seen,” Jin commented.

He was leaning against the bathroom door with one shoulder, peering at Yoongi’s reflection in the mirror. A towel hung from his extended arm. Yoongi took it and swiped at his face, suddenly acutely aware of how sticky his forehead felt where his hair stuck wetly to it, and how old and ragged his sweatshirt was. He avoided his reflection. It would only look even worse than usual with Jin standing there next to him.

Standing too close, frankly.

He came even closer. Yoongi fought the urge to shy away. It was hard to get used to. Jin was a touchy-feely sort of person and was constantly getting into people’s space. Not in a bad way, though, and Yoongi bore it, mostly because he knew he was getting the better deal out of this ‘friendship’.  

“I hope you use sunscreen,” Jin said, brushing some lint off Yoongi’s shoulder.

“Nope.”

“I need to teach you about skincare. Sit down.”

Jin brandished a jar of something cold and smelly, and attacked Yoongi’s face with relish. He ran his mouth, uttering all kinds of bitter grievances, but truthfully it was kind of nice to have someone massage cream onto your cheeks and forehead. Jin’s hands were annoying soft, almost like a pianist’s. Yoongi tried to keep his own in good shape, but working at a supermarket made it tough. Gloves only did so much.

“Why is all this stuff so sticky?” he complained, just so Jin didn’t start thinking he liked it or anything stupid like that.

“That’s how you know it’s working. Look up.” Jin nudged Yoongi’s chin with two fingers, tilting his head back. His expression was intent, and Yoongi almost found it funny that Jin was so focused on such a meaningless task. Not like fancy creams were going to magically change him into Hyun Bin-

“Why do you have so much of this crap anyway?” he asked, staring at Jin’s perfectly shaved jaw. He didn’t get it at all. “You don’t need it.”

Jin played the humble card and joked, “You should see me in the mornings.”

“Yeah, right,” said Yoongi.

“No one’s perfect. Not even me. I have bad days too.”

“What’s that like?” he asked sarcastically. “You wake up with two strands of hair not perfectly falling over your eyes?”

The words came out sounding a lot meaner than he intended them to. Yoongi clamped his mouth shut, annoyed and bewildered by this sudden influx of… what? Self-consciousness? He had never cared about his looks before - why was he feeling this way now?

Gruffly, he snorted, “Come on, you’ve never had that problem a day in your life. The rest of us uglies have to face reality.”

“You’re not ugly,” said Jin, pulling back slightly. He frowned.

“Spare me.”

Namjoon’s head poked around the door, interrupting whatever Jin was about to say. Good thing, too, because Yoongi had a feeling he had come close to becoming the recipient of a lame inspirational pep-talk about self-confidence from the one person in the Universe who literally had zero self-esteem issues whatsoever.

Anyway, he was glad to see Namjoon until the punk started waggling his brows, a shit-eating grin on his face. What are you guys doing?”

“Having a heart to heart,” said Yoongi crossly. “Go away.”

“That's not what it looks liiiiiike-”

Oh, he wanted to die, did he? “What does it look like?”

“It looks like you’re in the bathroom getting a facial from Jin-”

“Come here, I need to slap you-”

“OKAY, we’re done,” Jin cut in, wiping his hands on a towel. “Everybody, back into the living room!”

“Can I have a facial, too?” Taehyung poked his head in under Namjoon’s arm.

The pervert put the kid into a headlock. “You’re too young.”

Right. He was going to find some fire and salt and perform a cleansing ritual on Namjoon’s laptop.  Someone really had to curb that porn addiction of his.

-----

Much to Yoongi’s relief, there were no more at-home-beauty sessions after that. Everyone suddenly got busy, either with school or work, and for two whole delightful weeks Yoongi didn’t have to look at any of his friends’ faces. It was great. Absence made the heart grow fonder and whatnot.

With the exception of one face, anyway.

“Is lactose-free better? What’s lactose? Why is this one so expensive? What’s ma.. marsh…kka… phone?”

“Mars-ca-PONAY,” said Yoongi through gritted teeth.

Furiously, he texted Jin. Tell your kid to stop pestering me.

The reply was instantaneous. Who?

You know who. I’m trying to work.

Oh, you mean Jungkook. I only sent him out to buy cheese.

Take him back. I didn’t sign up to be a babysitter.

Well, I have yours.

My what?

Namjoon and Taehyung are helping me.

‘Helping’ could only mean one thing. Just the thought of Namjoon in the kitchen made Yoongi’s blood run cold.

Christ. I’m sorry.

I’ll send someone over to get Jungkook.

Namjoon came tearing into the supermarket five minutes later, a gleam in his eye. He flashed Yoongi a victory sign and threw his arm around Jungkook, who was still happily playing the ‘ask Min-Yoongi-one-hundred-questions’ game. Jungkook resisted wholeheartedly, throwing pleading glances at Yoongi as Namjoon dragged him away. He only stopped fighting back when the latter began to whisper something into his ear.

“Don’t teach him weird stuff,” Yoongi yelled after them, dropping his stony facade in lieu of the catastrophe happening right before his eyes. “Jin is going to be pissed!”

As soon as his shift ended, Yoongi ran home. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the apartment building intact, with no fire trucks or ambulances in sight. Namjoon hadn’t burned the building down. Yet.

He found the goofballs in the living room of Jin’s apartment watching TV and shoving each other around. Jin was in the kitchen alone, busy with preparing a feast as usual. He resisted saying something lame like ‘long time no see’ and settled on a simple, casual, “Hey.”

“Hullo.” The greeting came out muffled because Jin had a pen in his mouth.

That was different. Yoongi watched as he stirred something in a pot, set the spoon down, took the pen from between his lips, and jotted down something in a binder resting on the toaster. “What are you making?”

“Spaghetti.”

“That doesn’t look like spaghetti.”

“No, over there.” He pointed at a simmering pot on the back burner. “I’m multitasking.”

“What is this?” Yoongi asked, coming over to take a closer look at the notebook. Jin stepped aside and let him flip through the pages slowly. Frankly, it looked like gibberish to Yoongi, a mess of numbers and fractions and the occasional scribble he was able to make out that read beef or sesame oil.

“My recipe book,” Jin explained. “I’m developing some noodle dishes at the moment. It’s a lot of trial and error. Still working on balancing out the flavours.”

“You’re making this up?”

“They’re original recipes, if that’s what you mean.”

Yoongi flipped another page. “Cool. What’s this?”

“A pie filling I’m considering making next week. I got the idea from a book I’m reading.” Jin took the book back, closed it, and set it on a shelf. He lifted an eyebrow at Yoongi’s expression. “What?”

“I’m impressed. You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

“Of course. Just like you’re serious about music. You’ve composed pieces, haven’t you?”

“Not really,” said Yoongi, suddenly embarrassed. “Nothing good, anyway.”

Jin stirred his pot again, head tilted. His mouth tipped up at the corners. “Well, I look forward to hearing one someday.”

“Dream on.” He scratched his arm, and then said in an annoyed tone, “Can’t you control that kid? What’s his problem, anyway? Why does he keep sticking like glue to me?”

“Jungkook, you mean? I think it’s cute. He’s got a bad case of hero-worship. Aren’t you flattered?”

Hero worship? Jin laughed at his expression. “He thinks you’re the coolest person in the world at the moment.”

“Well, it’s annoying. Make him stop.”

“How?”

“I don’t know! You figure it out! It’s your fault.”

“It’ll pass,” said Jin, supremely unconcerned. He held out a spoonful of pasta sauce. “Here, try this.”

It was the best fucking pasta sauce Yoongi had ever tasted in his entire life. He said so without thinking. Jin laughed, but he looked pleased, and didn’t stop smiling even when the others crowded into the kitchen clamouring for a taste, too.

At the height of chaos, Yoongi roared, “Get out!” but was entirely ignored.

Someone accidentally flung a meatball at his chest. He stood still for a moment in shock, and met the chef’s gaze through the fray. Jin had sauce all over his collar and apron, and seemed startled by the ravenous slurping of spaghetti going on all around him.

“Are we running a daycare?” Yoongi asked in disgust.

-----

“Not you again,” he groaned.

Hero worship or not, there was just no escape. Yoongi turned in the other direction, but not fast enough. Jin’s kid came bounding up to him, clearly in a hyperactive mood. He couldn’t even run away. Jungkook was too fucking fast.

“Hi! You’re finished work?”

He hoped the kid would go away if he continued to  ignore him, but no such luck. Jungkook seemed happy to ramble on and on without getting a response. Yoongi felt a headache building.

“Hey, can I hang out in your apartment until Jin comes home? It’s boring waiting by myself.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Jungkook opened his mouth to argue, or beg, and Yoongi was just too tired to fight back. His head was  pounding by the time he reached for his keys and unlocked his front door. “Fine. Get in. Don’t touch anything.”

“Wow! Your piano is so cool!”

“Don’t touch it.”

“What’s with all the paper on the floor?”

Yoongi shoved him aside and gathered his scattered composition notes. “None of your business.”

“Can I sit on the sofa?”

“Yes.”

Jungkook sat, and looked around expectantly. If he thought Yoongi was going to play the charming host, he was wrong. This wasn’t Chez Jin. This was the land of Min, where guests were not welcome and did not come. Still, the silence was mad awkward, even for Yoongi. He figured it would get back to Jin, as well, if he was too mean to Jungkook. That would just cause problems, and he didn’t want to interrupt the gravy train. Or have poison introduced into it.

“Why are you always so sweaty?” he asked. Okay. Possibly not the best conversation starter, but it was too late. He’d already gone down that route and had to follow through. “Have you gone to the doctor to get it checked out? Seriously, man, this can’t be normal.”

Jungkook flushed. “I just get overheated easily. Can I use your shower?”

No,” he said vehemently, horrified by the thought.

“Please? Jin always lets me use his.” The puppy dog eyes came out. That shit probably always worked on Jin.

With disgust, Yoongi succumbed. “Fine. Make it quick. Don’t use my shower gel. It’s expensive. Not my shampoo either. It’s even more expensive.”

Jungkook bounded off. Several seconds later Yoongi heard the sound of the shower running. He changed into his sweatpants and waited. When Jungkook emerged wearing one of Tae’s cast-offs, he sniffed, confirmed what he already knew, and smacked him across the back of the head.

“Ow!”

“What did I say about not using my shampoo, punk?”

“You stole it from Jin anyway!”

“You want another smack?”

“Sorry,” the kid said glumly, shoulders drooping.

Yoongi felt a pang of something that vaguely resembled guilt. He wasn't used to this. Namjoon always talked back and Tae lived in another dimension, so it was easy with them. It was just no fun with this kid. He constantly felt like he was kicking a kitten around.

“Want something to drink?”

Jungkook perked up. “What you got?”

What else? “Coke. It’s Taehyung’s. You can have some. Just don’t tell him.”

“Okay!”

It was stifling hot in the apartment. Yoongi opened a window, which didn’t help, so he wandered out onto the balcony with a drink of his own. Jungkook trailed after him.

Might as well make small-talk, he thought. “How do you know Jin?”

“We used to live in the same neighbourhood when I was little,” said Jungkook, in between gulps of liquid caffeinated sugar. “I’ve always known him for as long as I can remember. His mom gave all the kids on the street ice cream when it got really hot, like this. He’s just like her. He likes feeding people.”

True enough. Jin was definitely on the correct career path. He’d do well someday with his own restaurant, serving his own recipes. Yoongi could easily picture it in his head. People would line up for reservations at a place run by a talented, handsome chef. He might even become famous. Maybe ten years from today Yoongi would turn on his TV and see his neighbour’s face shining back out. Conversely, he saw himself in the same place, toiling away at the piano, forever a starving artist. He didn’t think he’d be able to afford a meal at Jin’s imaginary prospective restaurant - it’d have some fancy french menu he wouldn’t be able to read, and wine he wouldn’t like, and people he didn’t know.

“You’re not even listening,” Jungkook complained, voice suddenly breaking through Yoongi’s mental journey into the future.

He cleared his throat. “This is tough love, kid. Get used to it.”

“I like tough love,” said Jungkook, happy to have attention again. “Jin’s the opposite. He’s so nice. He’s always coddling me. Everyone thinks I’m his baby brother, but I’m not. I’m not a baby.”

“Yes you are,” said Yoongi automatically.

“I’m not! I’m eighteen! I turned eighteen a month ago!”

“Uh huh.”

“You didn’t know?”

“How the hell would I know?”

“You played the piano for me.”

“When the hell did I do that?”

Jungkook flushed. “On my birthday. You played Happy Birthday. We heard it through the wall. I thought Jin must have asked you to…”

A month ago, they hadn’t even spoken more than three words to each other. The incident came back to him, and he scowled, “It was just a coincidence.”

“So you were just playing Happy Birthday randomly? On the piano?” Jungkook regarded him skeptically. “Why would you do that? It’s not Mozart or whatever.”

“I told you, it was a coincidence.”

The kid pouted. “I thought it was for me.”

“Gimme a break. I didn’t even know you.”

“You knew me! We saw each other all the time! In the elevators and stuff! I mean, I knew you…” he trailed off, looking even more red in the face.

Yoongi considered his options for a second. He decided that crushing Jungkook’s fragile pubescent self-esteem was not worth the momentary joy of being an asshole. Especially not if it got back to Jin. “That’s true, I guess.”

“Now we’re friends, so next year you’ll play it again for me, right?”

“We’ll see. We aren’t friends yet.”

“Yes we are!”

“Are you yelling at me right now?”

“N-no.” He stammered a little. “But you said we aren’t friends, and we are!”

God, it was just so easy to rile this kid up. He was almost starting to enjoy it. “We might be friends. Eventually.”

“Eventually? What do you mean? How long is it gonna take?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if you’re friend material.”

“I’m a really good friend!”

“We’ll see,” Yoongi said. “I’m out of your league.”

Jungkook snorted, embarrassed but determined to play it off. “So who’s in your league, then?”

“No one,” he replied loftily, and took another swig of coke.

A familiar head turned the corner and came down the street towards the apartment complex entrance. Jin looked up, saw him, and waved. The setting sun made a halo of his hair, and his coat draped perfectly across his shoulders. He always looked like he’d just stepped out of fucking GQ magazine. Center spread, of course. Full interview. Kim Seokjin wasn’t a one page flash-in-the-pan-B-lister. He was leading man material.

Unlike the rest of us supporting roles. He shook the strangely depressing thought away and tipped his can at Jungkook. “My standards are too high for the likes of you.”

Jungkook retorted hotly, “I have high standards, too!”

He laughed at that. “Whatever. Jin’s back. Let’s go next door and harass him for food.”

 

Chapter Text

Jin’s fourth and final souffle came out of the oven looking like a pancake. He sighed and dumped the contents of the baking pan into the garbage. Yoongi, who had been providing colourful and witty commentary throughout today’s cooking adventure, finished off with dramatic fanfare- “Aaaaaaaaand it’s another failure!”

“Back to the cutting board,” said Jin, shoving his fingers into his flour-dusted hair. It was an attractive look on him, mainly because literally everything was attractive on Jin. Yoongi, on the other hand, resembled a dumpling who’d had a run-in with a rogue sieve. God definitely didn’t make all men equal, that was for sure.

“You’re tenacious, I’ll give you that. Never know when to quit.”

“I’m impressed that you know the word tenacious,” said Jin with a hint of a smirk. Gone were the days of blandly endured insults - Jin was always ready with a spicy comeback of his own now, and Yoongi (secretly) liked it better that way.

“Ha ha.” Yoongi crossed his arms over his chest. “Seriously, though. Why don’t you just skip this one and move on to the next dish on your bucket list?”

Jin crossed his arms over his chest as well, mirroring Yoongi’s pose. “It doesn’t matter how many times it takes to succeed. I’ll keep doing it until I get it right.”

Stubborn as a mule, and twice as determined. Yoongi hid a lazy smile, opening Jin’s fridge to help himself to a glass of cold water.

That was just how he was. Jin put everything he had into each dish, even when it was just going to be eaten by a bunch of unappreciative boys who didn’t know a scallop from a pea. To Yoongi it seemed like great expense for little to no reward. Jin wasn’t getting paid, not in money or high marks or michelin stars. No one acknowledged the effort he exerted every time he went into that little kitchen of his.

“Not like anyone’s gonna know you failed,” Yoongi said, finding orange juice and drinking straight from the cartoon (Jin’s face twitched, but he didn’t say anything to reproach Yoongi. There was no point. He was gonna keep doing it. Friend privileges.) “-Except me.”

“No one needs to know how hard I work except myself,” Jin declared, with emphasis. “I do it for myself, and out of love.”

Out of love. It was such a cliche. But the look on his face wasn’t trite at all, and Yoongi knew that not a single word of it was untrue. Jin meant what he said. He was always so painfully, embarrassingly, admirably earnest.

“Isn’t it the same for you?”

“Me?”

“Nobody practices for seven hours straight if they don’t love what they do.”

He supposed not. Clearing his throat, he said, “Alright, Jamie Oliver, why don’t we take a break? I think you need some fresh air before you collapse.”

The fact that Perfect Mr. Kim Seokjin was willing to  drink crap beer on his balcony without a fight was testament to just how fed up he was with his cooking block. It was even possible that he liked beer. Yoongi wouldn’t have pegged him for the type, but he was discovering on a regular basis these days that a lot of the things he thought about his neighbour were complete assumptions and mostly untrue.

Six months of friendship had taught him that, and a lot more. He knew that Jin was very close with his family, even though they lived abroad. He knew Jin had loved cooking since he was a child, and that he’d known he wanted to become a chef since the age of four. He knew Jin loved pink, but refrained from overindulging in it because of his sense of decorum, and that Jin was shameless about food and absolutely killer at Jenga.

“You know, you never tell me what you’re playing,” Jin said, cracking open his second can.

“What?”

“When you’re practicing, I mean,” Jin clarified. “I keep asking you and you never answer.”

“I didn’t think you were actually interested in knowing.”

“Why would I ask if I wasn’t?”

He shrugged. “People aren’t usually interested. They’re just making small talk.”

“I’m not people,” said Jin archly.

His interest in Yoongi’s music was weird. Not in a bad way. Just sort of… flattering, Yoongi supposed. He didn’t think Jin really liked classical music in any sort of meaningful way - this was the man who unabashedly sang along to My Heart Will Go On when it came on the radio and who repeatedly requested that Yoongi play piano renditions of Whitney Houston songs - no, hell no, a thousand times no. It was just curiosity, he figured. In the same way that he didn’t particularly care about cooking and yet found himself interested when Jin talked about specific foodie things that a normal person wouldn’t know about. The was friendship, right? Liking each other’s shit. Enjoying what the other person enjoyed.

You don’t give a crap about Namjoon’s polyglot blog though, a little voice at the back of his head reminded him. Or Taehyung’s cosplay plans. He mentally retorted, I can’t read Russian and I wore that Naruto costume once. Friendship was friendship, but there were limits. Anyway, Jin feeds me.

“What do you want to know?”

“Composers. Titles. That sort of thing.”

“Which one?”

“There’s a few. Um. The one you played on Thursday.”

Yoongi stared at him blankly. “I don’t remember. When on Thursday?”

Jin fished his phone out of his pocket. “Afternoon. 3:45 PM to be precise.”

“Uh,” he said, choosing not to dwell on the fact that Jin apparently could recall exact time and dates.

“Wait.” Jin swiped on his phone screen, and then tapped it. “Here. I recorded it.”

“What?”

“Listen.” A bad recording of someone playing the piano filled the air. Bad as in recording quality, not skill level of the individual doing the playing. That aspect of it was spectacular. Gifted, even.

“It’s Bach. Symphony No.5.”

“That’s pretty famous. I’ve heard of it.”

“Yeah.”

“How about this one? It was a few weeks ago.”

“Rachmaninoff. Isle of the Dead. You called it a funeral dirge.”

“And this one?”

“Dude, how many have you recorded?”

“Just a few.”

“How many is a few?”

“Not many.”

“Answer the question.”

“Five.”

“Really?”

“Ten.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m being honest. Not more than twelve.”

“Let me hear the other ones, you stalker.”

“I’m not a stalker!”

“Recording me playing the piano through the walls makes you a stalker. Or a pervert. I’m not sure which applies better.”

“I am not a pervert!”

“Uh huh. It sounds pretty good even through a wall.”

Jin coughed, looking embarrassed. There was colour in his cheeks, but Yoongi had a suspicion it had nothing to do with the alcohol he’d ingested.

“What?” He snickered. “Don’t tell me you stood on a chair with your phone against the vent ?”

Another cough, and even pinker cheeks. Definitely not the alcohol. Oh, this was rich. This was absolutely fuckin’ fabulous. He could use this material for weeks of leverage.

“What?” Yoongi grinned and cupped a hand behind his ear. “Say that again. You did what with duct tape?”

“Shut up,” said Jin, swatting him on the arm.

“Make me.”

The hand that was still on his arm stilled briefly, and Yoongi wondered what had possessed him to say something like that. Jin looked at him with an expression Yoongi couldn’t read, almost as if considering taking him up on the challenge. Something hot fluttered in his stomach - Jin pulled away in the same instant - and Yoongi decided he’d had one too many drinks.

-----

Yoongi came over to be fed lunch a few weeks later. He was fed very well.

Afterwards he leaned against Jin’s kitchen counter and watched as Jin sliced fruit for dessert. He marvelled at how sparkling clean everything was. By rights it shouldn’t be - Yoongi didn’t even cook in his own kitchen and it permanently looked like a tornado had just come through. Jin was constantly working in here, and yet… spotless. There had to be voodoo involved, or some kind of ritual sacrificial offering.

“I’ll be busy for a few days,” Yoongi said around a mouthful of mango. It was code for ‘can you handle the kids on your own while I face my destiny and perform at my end-of-year solo recital?’

Jin seemed to understand (at least the first part) perfectly. “Yup. What’s up?”

He shrugged, not quite ready to tell just yet. He didn’t want to jinx it. “I just have to practice.”

“Oh.”

“Here,” he said, handing Jin the thing he’d really come over to deliver.

“What’s this?” Jin took the slim jewel case and turned it over in both hands, puzzled.

“A CD.”

“I know that. What’s on it?”

“Listen to it and find out for yourself.”

“Okay…”

“That’s all,” said Yoongi. He left.

An hour later, his phone rang. He picked up on the first ring, knowing exactly who it was. “So?”

“You are a genius,” said Jin.

Yoongi smiled at the ceiling and closed his eyes. The afternoon sunshine felt warm on his face. “Don’t underestimate me.”

“I’ve never done that.”

-----

Are you alive?

Barely.

Answer the door.

No, I can’t, I can’t stop practicing.

You stopped to type out these texts.

Just leave the food and go home.

Fine, fine.

-----

It’s been five days. Are you really still alive?

I’m not sure anymore. I think my fingers might fall off.

Hang in there.

I’m trying.

You sounded really good last night.

Thanks.

I mean it. I almost cried.

You cry at the drop of a hat.

That’s not true at all.

-----

The big day came. Yoongi got up at the crack of dawn, downed a red bull and practiced until the very last minute possible. Then he took a shower, put on his suit, and went to face his destiny with a fairly sizable headache.

He was so intensely focused on preparing himself mentally for his performance (and deliberately not checking the arrivals lobby for something that might/might not be there, depending on how stupid/obvious Yoongi may have been) that he barely noticed the strange looks he received from his teacher and fellow students. He chalked it down to nerves - people were prone to strange behavior on nights like this, especially the two other classmates who would also be performing alongside Yoongi.

He finally understood why when the curtains were drawn back to reveal him and his piano. He scanned the crowd, and felt his pulse leap for one perfect, shining instant. Then it all went to hell as he realised what he was actually looking at.

First one familiar face stood out in the crowd, and then another, and then Yoongi realised with a throb of panic that all the faces were faces he recognized. The entire front row, as a matter of fact, held beaming smiles directed at him. One of them whooped loudly as Yoongi crossed the stage and held up a sign the likes of which never before been witnessed inside any musical hall of pedigree. It read in big sparkly letters, WE HEART YOONGI.

He sat heavily, stunned, and almost stumbled on the first few bars of his opening piece. Focus, he told himself. Block it out. You can murder them afterwards.

That thought sustained him until he arrived at the end of his final piece. The last note lingered in the air, clear as a bell, before fading into thunderous, cheerful applause. He stood and bowed shakily, trying not to notice the two rows of people giving him a standing ovation, or the fact that smack dab in the middle of that group was an extremely handsome man in a dark suit who was clapping the hardest of all.

-----

“Uh oh,” said Namjoon, in a mock-whisper. “Here he comes, and he looks pissed. Take cover, Jin.”

Jin ignored the warning completely and came forward, smiling warmly with both arms open - as if he expected Yoongi to run into them or something. Un-fucking-believable.

“I’m so fucking embarrassed. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even look at me. You’re all dead. Especially you.”

Jin dropped his arms, eyes dancing with fake innocence. “What did I do?”

“This! Them!” Yoongi gestured at the group, and then jabbed a finger at the most offensive thing of all, that hideous pink sign- “That!”

“He worked hard on that,” said Jin fondly. “Spent all day yesterday making it just for you.”

Christ. “Look around, idiot! No one else brought twenty fucking people with them to a private venue!”

“What’s the big deal? I called to ask and they said it would be fine. The theatre seats a hundred.”

SO not the point. Through gritted teeth, he demanded, “Why did you bring them?”

Jin’s eyes followed the trembling finger pointed at the row of old ladies still seated behind Yoongi’s snickering classmates. Mrs. Kim saw them and waved. Yoongi waved back, pasting a pained smile on his face.

“They wanted to come. Mrs. Kim especially. They didn’t know you were a pianist until I told them - just look at how happy she is. She’s so proud of you.” Jin nudged him, clearly trying to keep a straight face. He knew better than to laugh outright if he wanted to keep that perfectly straight nose intact. “Will you stop sulking? Everyone had a good time. You were amazing up there.”

As if that would be enough to appease him. He spun around, looking for more things to fuel his ranting.

“I don’t even know you,” Yoongi said contemptuously to a shorty in a snapback and black blazer who was in the middle of an animated conversation with Jungkook.

“Eh?”

He was introduced as Park Jimin, and his equally perky boyfriend was called Jung Hoseok. They were friends of Jin’s, in town visiting for the weekend. Looking at them made Yoongi want to vomit rainbows and punch orphan birds at the park.

“I couldn’t go out and leave my guests behind,” said Jin reasonably. “That would be rude.”

Seething, Yoongi rounded on Jungkook as a last resort and snatched the ridiculous sign from his hands. “I’m confiscating this!”

Up close, he could see it had been laboriously hand-drawn. The ugly-ass heart was covered in glitter, and his name had been lovingly coloured in, surrounded by a meticulous scattering of random musical notes. He scowled, not sure if he hated it with every fibre of his being or loved it with the entirety of his shrivelled, black heart. Jungkook beamed. Without warning, he threw his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders and squeezed. The sheer fucking gall, Yoongi thought, shoving him away a fraction of a second later than he usually would. His reaction time was slow, due to shock and the surrealness of everything that was happening to him.

“You’re gonna frame that, right?”

“Shut your mouth.”

(It went into the back of his closet. When asked about it later, he lied and said he’d thrown it away.)

“Let’s go eat, I’m hungry! You’ll treat us to dinner, won’t you?”

“Why should I?” he shouted, outraged beyond belief.

“Because we all came to cheer for you! It’s the least you could do!”

“I can’t afford to feed all fifty of you! And I didn’t bring my wallet!”

A devious look passed between Jungkook, Namjoon and Taehyung. “Let’s go home and fetch it, then!”

Taehyung and Namjoon grabbed one arm each and shoved Yoongi out the door into a waiting taxi.

He couldn’t believe this. “I am not paying for this fucking cab!”

Taehyung winced and groaned, “Stop yelling into my ear!”

“Yeah, will you relax?”

Like hell he would. Adrenaline from performing before a crowd still coursed through his veins, making him antsy and irritable. He was ambivalent about the whole thing, even though he knew he should be happy. His friends cared about him and he was damn grateful for that fact. But you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks, and Yoongi didn’t know how to express his gratitude except in the way he always did: by being loud and coarse and rough. So that was how he showed his appreciation now, mouth rattling out curses and grumpy threats the entire ride home. No one expected any different from him. When they arrived, he was unceremoniously pushed onto the elevator and manhandled all the way to the front door. Namjoon grabbed his keys from his hand and threw them to Taehyung, who excitedly let himself in.

“Wait here!”

“Like hell I will,” said Yoongi, breaking free of Namjoon’s hold. He stopped short at what he saw inside his own apartment.

The place had been cleaned.

There was shit on the walls.

A rainbow-bright banner hung from the ceiling, stretching across the living room. Taehyung ran beneath it and spread his arms in a ta-da! pose, looking so, so, so proud.

CONGRETULATIONS BRO.

“You idiot,” Yoongi said, burying his face into his hands.

-----

Hours later, Yoongi went out onto his balcony. The night air was cool and sweet, brushing through the open collar of his no longer crisp white button-down. His tie and jacket had been discarded, and one pant leg now sported several stains. While Yoongi wrestled with an inebriated, clingy Jungkook, Jin had helped Hoseok carry an absolutely-wrecked Jimin back to his own apartment. Namjoon and Taehyung had stumbled home together, drunkenly singing at the top of their lungs. 

He heard Jin’s footsteps on the balcony next door. He’d lost his suit jacket, too, but the rest of his clothes were pristine. “Party officially over,” said Jin wryly. “Everyone’s unconscious, except us.”

"Yippee."

“Is Kookie okay?”

Yoongi was too tired to take offense at the use of saccharine pet names and simply nodded. “Yep. Drooling on my pillow as we speak. I’ll roll him onto the floor when I want to sleep.”

“Gently.”

“I make no promises.”

Jin laughed and leaned against his railing. “The kids wanted to throw you the party.”

“Yeah right. It was your idea.”

“No, it was Joonie’s. Tae-tae made the banner.”

“OK. Let’s just get one thing straight. I let it go just now because Jungkook is your baggage, but I’m going to have to formally request that you refrain from giving my crew disgusting nicknames. On penalty of death.”

“Yikes.”

Jin stretched. He looked oddly feline as he did so, the movement more graceful than was typical of him. Tall men like Seokjin tended not to have as much control over their bodies as someone who was Yoongi’s size. He was compact where Jin was rangy. The disparity in their bodies always struck a chord with him, made him wonder about things that he didn’t want to be wondering about.

Jin peered at Yoongi over the barrier, unaware that he had been watched. “Did you like your party?”

Yoongi made a face.

“You loved it.”

He wasn’t going to admit to anything.

“That’s a seventy-percent happy sigh,” Jin said with satisfaction, mirth in his gaze. He was so damned pleased with himself. “I can tell the difference now. It’s like learning a new language. Baby steps.”

“What’s the other thirty-percent, Einstein?”

“Gratitude.”

“Try eighty-five percent humiliation, ten percent disgust, and five percent nausea.”

Jin just laughed. He ran his hand through his hair, making it stand up slightly, and smiled into the dark horizon. Suddenly, he lifted Yoongi’s cd recording into the air - had he had it with him this whole time? - and asked, “Did Namjoon record this for you?”

“Yeah.”

“He bragged all night about his top-notch equipment. I thought Jimin was going to have a stroke trying to keep from making dirty innuendos.”

Yoongi cracked a small grin at the memory. “You have weird friends.”

“I have great friends,” Jin corrected, his smile warm. “Just think, this whole night might not have happened. I almost didn’t see it. You hid that note inside the flap of the cd case. If I hadn’t read the tracklist, I wouldn’t have known it was there.”

Of course he’d seen it. He was Jin. The type to read liner notes and every name mentioned in the thank you section of any album in his possession. Yoongi hadn’t doubted it for a second. He’d known Jin would show up, dressed to the nines, happy to have been invited. He just hadn’t expected the entourage.

“It took me a bit to figure out the time and place and date- you couldn’t make it easy, could you?”

“Not my style,” said Yoongi, stomach clenching in that weird way it was prone to lately. Maybe he ought to see a doctor about it. Maybe he was eating too much, too well these days. Wouldn’t it be ironic if his body had become used to living off instant ramen and bread and couldn’t handle anything better? He might have to go back. The thought was terrifying, so he shut it down and asked, “When did you start planning all this?”

“Last week.” Jin grinned. “Pretty good, huh?”

Yoongi rubbed his neck, wishing the breeze would intensify. He’d open all the windows to let out the stifling heat before he kicked Jungkook out of his bed. He gazed out at the skyline - mostly darkness, the city a smudge of pollution and blurry lights - and felt restless. Jin didn’t speak, but he was waiting.

Eventually, Yoongi asked, “How’d you get them to keep it a secret for so long?”

It wasn’t the question he really wanted an answer to, but close enough.

 

 

Chapter Text

The blaring of his second backup alarm woke Yoongi out of a deep, if uncomfortable sleep. He groped for his phone on the bedside table but couldn’t find it. With a groan, he shoved hard at the dead weight lying across his knees - there was no feeling left in them, thanks to Jungkook - and found the buzzing device buried under a layer of rumpled sheets.

“Don’t you have a home?” he asked, giving the brat a kick to the shoulder.

No answer.

He should have known this would happen. You let a stray in once and it thought it could stay forever. Silencing the alarm, Yoongi glared at the top of Jungkook’s snoring head and sent Jin several rapidfire annoyed messages. Jin replied almost immediately.

Is he there again?

The real question was, did he ever leave???

He’s become really attached to you.

Understatement of the year. Yoongi rubbed his bleary eyes and made a second attempt at removing Jungkook. He succeeded, sending the boy rolling face first into the wall with a heavy grunt. He didn’t wake up.

Meet me on the balcony. ASAP.

Jin was already fully dressed and had clearly begun a productive day in his perfectly pressed chinos and tastefully striped sweater. Yoongi hadn’t even brushed his teeth yet. He yawned deeply before asking the same question a second time, “Doesn’t he have a home?”

“He does,” Jin replied, “But he doesn’t like it there. It’s complicated.”

It always was, thought Yoongi bitterly. “I didn’t ask for a roommate.”

“I guess something happened with his father, again.” Jin sighed. He looked pensively at Yoongi, briefly chewing on his full lower lip before he spoke again. “I’m a bit surprised, though. Usually he comes to me when he’s having difficulties with his family.”

“So why the hell is he taking up half my bed, then?”

Jin asked sharply, “He slept in your bed?”

It wasn’t the first time, Yoongi thought grouchily. “He was supposed to be sleeping on the floor but somehow every time I wake up he’s on my bed, crushing me alive.”

“Are you going to keep letting him?”

“What?”

“Stay over,” said Jin.

“Do I have a choice? If things are so complicated at home, maybe it’s better for him to stay here.”

He’d been eighteen once, too, and knew what it felt like to be on rocky terms with his own family. There wasn’t much Yoongi wanted to say on the subject except that even though blood was thicker than water, sometimes distance made life a lot fucking easier for everyone. Jin looked at him askance, perceptive as usual. For a second Yoongi thought he was going ask something far too personal for comfort, and wasn’t sure how he would deflect it without outright lying.

Instead Jin said, slowly, “He’s still young. He might not understand things in the way you want him to.”

Yoongi opened his mouth to say that Jungkook understood, alright - he knows I’m sick of seeing his face every time I turn around, he just doesn’t give a crap - but Jin wasn’t done fretting yet.

“I don’t know why he’s not coming to me.”

Yoongi threw him an incredulous glance. “What, are you jealous?”

“Of course not.” Jin looked down at the street below. The strangely troubled expression in his eyes didn’t go away. Finally, he said, “I guess you’re right. You don’t have a choice.”

-----

Something lingered in the air after that conversation on the balcony, niggling at the back of Yoongi’s head like an itch that wouldn’t go away. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was that was bothering him, except for Jungkook’s continued presence in his cramped living space, but that was a given. His unease translated into a bad mood that persisted for days like the world's worst migraine, making him so crochety and foul-mouthed that even Namjoon couldn't take it anymore. 

Jin was acting strange. If he could put a name to it… he’d call it distant. Distracted. Maybe he felt unwell, or maybe he was having trouble with his cooking. The latter didn’t seem likely - if Jin was struggling with a recipe, Yoongi was the first to know. Guinea pig and all that. He tried obliquely to find out what it was via text message, because Jin was being difficult to get a hold of. His responses were evasive. Yoongi's mood got worse once it came down to uncharacteristic one-line answers. What the fuck was going on?

Eventually, he caught Jin coming home one afternoon. The unmistakeable sound of footsteps pulled Yoongi out of his own apartment, as casually as if he hadn’t been lying in wait. The sight of Jin - rare these days - had him feeling both strangely eager and disgruntled. The two emotions battled it out in his chest as he tried to think of something to say. 

“You're back,” he voiced, at last. Stating the obvious. Smooth.

“You’re leaving.” It wasn’t a question. More like a pointed statement. Almost as if Jin wanted him to go. 

He ignored the way his gut dropped and said casually, like it didn't really matter, “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“I’ve got a lot of new recipes on the go,” Jin replied, absently sliding his hand into his pocket for his keys.

“I’ve been busy, too,” Yoongi added hastily, just so Jin knew he hadn’t been waiting around in his spare time to be summoned for taste-testing or anything dumb like that. “No rest for the wicked.”

There was a pause as Jin inserted his key into the lock. “I saw Jungkook downstairs in the lobby. He’s getting your mail.”

Seeing as the kid wouldn’t make himself scarce no matter how much he yelled, Yoongi figured he might as well make use of having a stray underfoot all the time. Now and then he sent Jungkook on small errands he couldn’t be bothered to do himself. (The hero-worship aspect of their relationship was also a balm to his starving ego, but he would die before he admitted to that.)

“I can’t charge him rent.” You’d kill me if I tried. “Next best thing.” Yoongi paused, trying to think of something else to say to prolong the conversation. He settled on complaining about Jungkook’s problems. “What’s up with his family anyway? He won’t tell me a damn thing.”

Jin fiddled with his keychain - a set of dangling silver dice. “It’s not my place to tell you.”

“Fine. I’ll get it out of him sooner or later. If I didn’t feel sorry for him I’d kick him out.”

“You feel sorry for him?”

“Contrary to popular belief, I do have a fucking conscience,” Yoongi said, annoyed. “If he ends up on the street, it’d be on my head.”

“It won’t come to that,” Jin said dismissively. “He’d come to me. He should have to begin with.”

Something in Jin’s tone - the implication that he was the obvious, superior harbour for runaways - irrationally irked Yoongi. He felt insulted, which was not a state-of-being he generally dealt well with. He’d done more than one stupid thing in a bar on a night out courtesy of lesser affronts to his honour. On top of that, Jin’s entire attitude was just… pissing him off.

Coolly, he muttered, “Well, he hasn’t come to you, so clearly he’s getting something from me that he can’t get from you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jin’s hand fell away from the door, and he turned to face Yoongi properly for the first time since they’d begun the conversation. He looked annoyed, which made no damn sense at all. If anyone had the right to be pissed it was Yoongi. “What exactly is going on?”

“You tell me,” he shot back. “What are you so pissed about? I’m being nice - you should be happy about it!” He clamped his mouth shut, a hair’s breadth away from saying I’m doing it for you! If not for Jin's clearly fraternal (Paternal? Maternal? Whatever the fuck it was) relationship with Jungkook, Yoongi would have told him to beat it ages ago. One night on his sofa was one thing - long term squatting? Hell no. 

“Is that really all?”

"What?”

“All of this is out of the kindness of your heart?” Jin had the fucking nerve to look skeptical. “Letting him stay with you. Letting him be clingy. You never tolerate that kind of thing, not from anyone else. But when it comes to Jungkook, you’re making special allowances.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s special.”

What the fuck? “He’s not- he’s not special. And I’m not giving him special treatment!”

“He won’t see it that way,” Jin replied stiffly.

“What way?”

“He cares for you,” Jin said slowly. “You know he does. And if you keep this up, he’s going to think that you care, too. In the same way.”

Yoongi couldn’t believe his ears. “You’re joking, right?”

A stony expression met his own incredulous one. “Is it funny?”

“Not even one fucking bit.”

“Then what?” Jin asked bluntly. “If you’re not leading him on, are you planning to reciprocate-”

What the fuck?

“Don’t be fucking dense,” Yoongi said in disbelief. “I don’t care if he’s eighteen, he’s just a baby. He doesn’t know shit-”

“Right,” said Jin stiffly. “Because he’s young, his feelings don’t matter.”

“That’s not what I said-”

“It’s what you meant-”

“Don’t put words into my mouth-”

“Then don’t act like an asshole, for once!”

A rush of pure, hot rage washed over Yoongi. He saw red. He was an asshole, he knew that, he wouldn’t deny it nine times out of ten. But to be called one to his face for doing what he knew was the fucking right thing to do was just bullshit.

“You fucking hypocrite,” he began, furious-

You’re the hypocrite,” Jin snapped back, his face high with colour. It was rare to see him upset, much less angry, and the sight of it momentarily arrested Yoongi. “You know what your problem is?”

What?”

“You never give anyone a chance, do you? You’re always so busy acting like you don’t care, but really you’re just letting that ridiculous inferiority complex of yours get in the way-"

“You don’t have a fucking clue about what you’re talking about-”

“I know exactly what I’m talking about!” Jin’s voice rose, a slight tremor in it. “You don’t see things clearly for what they really are. You’re constantly expecting people to expect nothing from you, and when they don’t, you-”

The elevator pinged, as if this was a fucking scene in a drama. The doors opened and fucking Jungkook of all people popped out. “Hi guys!”

He brightened at the sight of them, blissfully unaware that he’d been the object of their argument. He didn’t seem to notice their aggressive stances or the fact that neither Jin nor Yoongi returned his blithe greeting.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Jin said swiftly.

“We’ll fucking talk about this now,” said Yoongi, grabbing Jin’s arm. He pulled away. Yoongi wouldn’t let go. He pulled harder, with enough force to jerk free, but the momentum sent him stumbling backwards into his own front door with a loud, painful bang.

Jungkook seemed to register the tension between his friends at long last. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jin rubbed his elbow, waving Jungkook’s concern away.

Jungkook tugged nervously at his backpack strap. He looked back and forth between Jin and Yoongi, his oblivious smile fading. “Is... everything okay?”

“It’s fine. Don’t stay out too late,” Jin said, and let himself inside without another word.

Yoongi did the same.

-----

The following day, Namjoon demanded, “What the hell is going on?”

“Nothing.” His voice was scratchy from thirst and lack of use. “Move.”

He shoved past him and went into the bathroom. Namjoon followed.

“Get out. I’m taking a fucking leak.”

“What’s the matter with you? You look rough.”

“I’m fine.”

“What happened? You guys fought, right? Must’ve been bad. Jin’s been in a shitty mood all day, too.”

Halle-fucking-lujah.

“Come on,” Namjoon said, putting a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. “Let’s go. Whatever you did, just apologize. He’ll forgive you.”

He exploded. “Why the fuck should I apologize?”

The hand on his shoulder fell away, taken aback by his outburst. “I just-”

“You just assumed,” said Yoongi, furious.

The injustice of it ate at him like a ferocious parasite. He did one nice thing for a kid he barely even fucking knew and suddenly he was the bad guy? He wasn’t taking advantage of Jungkook. It was the other fucking way around, and Jin was the biggest asshole in the world for not realising the truth.

Of course it was my fucking fault! Of course. I’m the one who always fucks up, Jin’s never done a fucking thing wrong his entire life-”

“Hey man, I was just-”

“Just fucking leave me alone, okay? It’s none of your goddamn business anyway, so stay the fuck out of it!”

“Alright, alright. Fine.” Namjoon held up both hands in surrender. “Have it your way. I just wanted to help because you both look so miserable, but if that’s how you want it to be, I’ll mind my own business.” He turned on his heels and walked out, middle finger raised.

Yoongi cursed and slammed his fist on the sink, hard enough to hurt.

----

Yoongi didn’t leave his apartment for two more days.

He was bombarded the entire time. Jungkook banged on the door repeatedly but was just told to fuck off. Eventually he got a fucking clue and went away. Namjoon was harder to deal with, and Tae kept sending sad emojis, but Yoongi managed to ignore them both.

He finally left the house to go to work, and was given a wide berth from everyone around him. Even Mrs. Kim seemed hesitant to speak to him. He was viciously glad that everyone seemed frightened. He wanted them to be afraid, he wanted to be left alone. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jungkook lurking by the entrance of the supermarket. The kid didn’t come in. Something like hatred bubbled up inside Yoongi, and for once he didn’t try to tamper it down.

When it came down to it, all of this shit was Jungkook’s fault.

No. That wasn’t right. It was Jin’s fault.

Jin, who should know better. Jin, who was supposed to be cool and stupidly earnest and not some high-handed bitch looking down on him and saying things like asshole or inferiority complex to his face. That wasn’t the Jin he’d thought was his friend, the Jin he thought liked him even though he was, well, him-

Namjoon left a curt, expletive-laden message on Yoongi’s voicemail. Yoongi deleted it without listening.

Another week went by. He probably didn’t have any friends left, but he didn’t care. He got another voicemail while he was brooding on his balcony, this one long and angry and demanding:

“When this is all over, you’re going to get on your knees and apologize to Jungkook for being the world’s biggest dick to him,” the recorded voice boomed out. “I expect grovelling and no bullshit, you’re going to say sorry to me and Tae and Jin and everyone within a ten kilometre radius who has had to put up with your shit for the last month-”

He was about to hit end and delete the message altogether, but what Namjoon said next made him stop.

“Seriously. I don’t know what happened, but it has to stop. Jin’s a wreck, he’s lost all his focus and drive and you know that’s dangerous for a chef. He really hurt himself, we had to take him to the ER to get stitches last week-”

He didn’t hear the rest of it through the dull roar in his ears.

-----

Yoongi did something really, really, really stupid.

He climbed over that fucking barrier and jumped down onto Jin’s balcony and banged his fists on the glass doors that looked into the disgustingly clean apartment next door. He didn’t stop until Jin came running, shocked.

“Have you lost your mind?”

“Let me in.”

“What is wrong with you? You could have fallen-”

He slammed his hand onto the glass hard enough to make it vibrate. “Let me in!”

Jin let him in.

Panting, Yoongi scoured him from top to bottom, searching for injury or damage. There was nothing except for a bandage on his left thumb. He didn’t look hurt, not physically or in any other way. He’d been tricked. When he got his hands on Namjoon there wouldn't be enough left of his corpse for his mother to identify. 

Jin stared at him, mistaking his panic for something else. In a low voice, he asked, “What do you want, Yoongi?”

He looked like a Disney woodland creature, standing there with his perfect profile in the perfect summer evening sunlight, wearing that perfect face that Yoongi both hated and loved and just fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.  

“You risked your life to come here,” Jin said once more into the mounting silence - Yoongi didn’t know if he was being sarcastic or serious - his tone gave nothing away. “So talk. What is it, Yoongi?”

He didn’t fucking know.

“I’m just sick of this shit, Jin. I don’t even know what we’re fighting about, and I’m tired of having everyone up in my business, telling me to come over here and work things out with you.” He threw his hands up in surrender, gut twisting. “So here I am, ready to kneel at your fucking altar and beg for forgiveness. I’m not trying to fuck Jungkook. He’s all yours. Am I forgiven, your highness?”

It was the wrong thing to say. Jin wore the ugliest expression Yoongi had ever seen on his face. “Just go, Yoongi.”

He wanted to, but his feet wouldn’t let him. “Should I jump off the balcony?”

“You’re such an asshole, I don’t know why I bother-”

“It’s a fucking mystery to me, too,” Yoongi said. This time he could move his feet. He made sure to knock over the rack of drying dish towels on his way out the front door, because that was what assholes did. “I’m done. We’re done. Fuck you. Bye.”

He slammed his own door shut so hard it rattled on its hinges. Fuck Jin, and fuck everything.

The doorbell rang. It rang and rang and rang. Then there was banging. He ignored it all, until it came to an abrupt stop. His upper lip curled. Of course Jin had given up, that fucker, how typical-

The sound of the door being pushed open made him sit up in bed.

“What the fuck,” he said, leaping to his feet. Before he even took two steps Jin was in his face, tall body blocking the doorway.

“What the fuck!” he repeated. “How the fuck did you get into-”

“I picked the lock-”

“You picked the-”

“We’re not done,” said Jin, looming over him.

“Yes we fucking are-” He shoved, hard, but Jin just came right back, holding his ground. “Get the fuck out of my house!”

“No.”

“Go!”

“Make me,” said Jin.

Yoongi honestly considered punching the living daylights out of him for a split second. But there was no way he’d ever do that, no matter how angry he got, no matter how heartbroken. It made no goddamned sense, anyway. They were polar opposites. Jin was a poster boy for good manners, good breeding, good intentions. Yoongi was a mess in every sense of the word - volatile, emotional, his weak centre closely guarded by blustering spitfire.

How stupid am I? 

“We’re not done until we talk this out-”

"Now you want to talk," Yoongi spat. He felt cold, right down to his bones. 

"I shouldn't have kicked you out," Jin said, his voice tight, as if he were carefully controlling it, to keep from revealing too much of whatever he was feeling inside. Yoongi couldn't read him - not in the way Jin was always able to understand his cues and moods and unspoken intentions. "That was my fault. I want to work things out too, and get things back to normal between us."

Back to normal, Yoongi thought bitterly. Back to being Jin's unsightly, unmannerly next door neighbour who wanted something he couldn't have. Maybe it was better to just let things end and burn bridges. He couldn't go back to normal now. He knew better, knew what lay at the end of that painful path for him.

"Fine," he said, dully. Anything just to get Jin out of here. "Talk."

There was silence as Jin stared at him, mouth opening and closing several times. 

"What's going on with you and Jungkook?" Jin's cheeks were flushed, his eyes dark and boring into Yoongi's. "Just tell me the truth."

Yoongi didn't bother hiding the weary sneer that crossed over his face. He didn't know what Jin wanted. What was this? They were going in circles, rehashing the same conversation over and over. Dully, he asked, "What do you want me to say?"

"That's not what I asked."

"You won't believe me anyway," Yoongi said, wishing this would just end. "No matter what I say."

"Why should I?" Jin looked away, his fists clenched. "Tell me why I shouldn't believe what I see with my own eyes-"

You know why!” Yoongi all but shouted. The dam broke, and he let himself be honest for once. He was tired of pretending, sick of holding back. “Why did you record all my piano sessions? Why do you make ten meals a week and leave them on my doorstep? Why do you let my stupid friends ruin your pristine sofa every time they come over? Why do you care if I don’t sleep because I can’t stop practicing until my fingers cramp up? Why didn’t you come by yourself to my recital?”

Jin looked stricken. Not exactly the reaction he wanted.

“I invited you,” he said in a low voice, “-and you alone. You know I did. So what did you do? You brought the entire fucking village with you.”

They stared at one another. A pit of terror and relief opened in Yoongi's stomach. 

Jin spoke slowly. “I thought it would make you happier if everyone came to see you perform. You deserve that.”

Yoongi’s heart constricted in his chest.

“But maybe you’re right. Maybe I was just being cowardly. I didn’t know how to…”

Ah.

I didn't know how to turn you down. 

He’d known, of course, that the chances of rejection were high. Just the act of giving Jin the details for his recital - however roundabout - had felt like climbing out onto a precarious cliff-face. To know the intent behind it had been understood and then gently deflected was just… devastating. Jin was kind, and Jin was his friend. There wasn’t anything else. Even though he'd known... even though he'd fucking known all along... it still hurt. It hurt like a bitch. 

He wanted to lash out. He felt so humiliated and stupid for getting his hopes up, and furious at Jin for making him feel that way. If he didn't want Yoongi the way Yoongi wanted him, why did he care what happened between Yoongi and Jungkook? It was fucking stupid. A horrible thought rose from that small, cowardly part of him that he hated, the part that made him say things he didn’t mean and push people away if they got too close- He wished he’d never met Jin in the first place.

“I wasn’t sure.”

The words penetrated slowly, like a spoon through molasses. He looked up.

Jin looked down at the same time, his hair falling over his eyes like a shield. “I was afraid. I never really know with you. I couldn’t be sure that you meant it that way.”

The air was knocked out of his lungs as sudden clarity hit him. He’d been deliberately obtuse about things for so long, afraid of what might or might not happen if he allowed himself to admit his own feelings. But he wasn’t the only one. He saw himself reflected where he had never noticed it before - in Jin’s posture and tightly clenched fists and the longing that so precisely echoed his own.

“I meant it that way,” said Yoongi with all the courage he could muster, right before Jin closed the distance between them.

-----

Yoongi lay in bed, unmoving, listening with his eyes closed as Jin moved quietly around the room. He heard the rustle of clothing as Jin got dressed again, and then the sound of things being picked off the floor, and more rustling as his own clothes were folded and neatly placed in his wardrobe. He didn’t try to stop Jin. He didn’t want to break the contented bubble that had formed around him in this glorious, scary, post-orgasmic moment - even though it made him feel weird inside to know Jin was picking up after him - wasn’t this just too domestic? Just too cozy? Too soon?

Jin shuffled back to the bed. The mattress dipped where he sat down next to Yoongi’s arm. “Wake up.”

“Don’t wanna.”

“Come on. I cleaned your floor. Did you even know you had carpets under there?”

“Shut up.”

“I think that might be mold over there by the closet.”

“Mmm.”

“Come look at it.”

“I don’t need to. It probably is.”

“Yoongi. Open your eyes. Look at me.”

Something in the tone of Jin’s voice made him obey. The most beautiful face in the world looked down at him with a pensively tender expression.

“I hate looking at you sometimes,” Yoongi said, blinking grumpily. “You’re too good-looking.”

Jin’s mouth quirked. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

He leaned in, both hands coming down to rest on either side of Yoongi’s head. The neck of his cream sweater gaped invitingly, showing off several red marks on his collarbones - a wonderful reminder that Yoongi had been there, done that. Fuck yeah. It felt unreal. Like some kind of dream. He fumbled for something cool to say, something suave that would impress Jin and keep him here in Yoongi’s bed forever. But Yoongi’s mouth had a habit of doing the opposite of what his brain told it to do. 

“You’re sure?” 

“About what?”

He scowled. "I'm rude. And ugly. And poor.”

"Yoongi." Jin sighed, a hint of exasperation in it. “Let’s get a couple of things straight. One, you're not ugly." Jin looked at him pointedly, as if daring him to argue the point. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

"Yeah, right."

"You think I don't find you attractive?" he demanded. 

That flustered Yoongi for a moment. Obviously, given what had just gone down in this bedroom a few minutes ago, it was probably safe to say Jin was into him, but... well, who the fuck knows. He certainly wasn't going to point out that Jin could do better. 

"Anyway, its not like my good looks helped me very much. All it’s ever done is made you defensive. You wouldn’t give me the time of day in the beginning. Don’t try to deny it. How long did it take for you to see past my exterior and really get to know me?”

Too long.

“Can you blame me for being confused? I had no idea what you were thinking, and then you acted completely out of character and let Jungkook get close to you… in a matter of days he was sleeping in your bed. I’d never even been in your bedroom until-”

An hour ago, Yoongi finished mentally, when Jin trailed off, a flush rising on his cheeks. So that was what it was. The unflappable Kim Seokjin really had been jealous. He was amazed by the revelation.

“Jin-”

A brief kiss cut him off. “Doesn’t matter anymore. I got your attention in the end.”

You had it from the beginning, he wanted to say, but he wasn’t quite ready for a confession like that yet. Not right after their first time, and not when he was feeling so raw and elated and scared all at once.

Jin nuzzled his cheek, his voice taking on a slightly teasing tone that eased the tightness in Yoongi’s chest just a little. “It took forever. I’ve never had to work so hard for anyone in my life. Yet there I was, pining away for my foul-mouthed neighbour, who spent the first six months of our acquaintance giving me the evil eye every time he saw me.”

“It was an admiring evil eye,” Yoongi said, pulse quickening as Jin’s fingers ran intimately through his hair. He filed the words "pining away" into the back of his mind to be savoured later. “I thought you were hot.”

“Really? Even when you accused me of defiling a minor?”

“I apologized for that,” Yoongi muttered. “Anyway, you literally just spent weeks sulking because you thought the exact same thing about me and Jungkook.”

"You were being too nice."

Jin’s lips took on a distinctively pout-like shape that made Yoongi feel a little light-headed. Jealousy was a shitty feeling and he wasn’t into that, but there was something a bit powerful about knowing you drove someone else crazy. He couldn't deny that it made him feel smug deep down. 

“Yeah, that was the point. You were supposed to notice. I felt sorry for the kid, but not that sorry. Why else would I put up with that crap?”

The pout turned into a sarcastic look. “Sorry if I didn’t catch on right away to your deeply coded and complex mating ritual.”

“It wasn’t that complex. I made you a mixtape.” Everyone knew what that shit meant. It was like Dating 101.

Jin lifted an eyebrow. “You gave me a clue to a puzzle and expected me to work out that you were asking me on a date. And now I find out you were upset the whole time because I thought I was doing something nice for you by helping our friends throw you a party. I can't read your mind, you know. Sometimes you send some really mixed messages.”

Yoongi looked away, embarrassed. He muttered,  "Sorry."

He felt a hand rest on his cheek, far more tender than he deserved. 

“It’s alright,” Jin whispered, mouth inches away. “I know now.”

His breath was warm against Yoongi’s lower lip, leaving tingles behind where it traced his skin. “Practice makes perfect, and they say I’m amazingly tenacious.”

-----

The bedroom door banged open. Jin's head snapped up. His shoulders blocked the view, but from somewhere behind him Yoongi could hear muffled shouting and the shuffling of several pairs of feet. Someone yelped, loudly, in surprise. 

"I told you, Jungkook," said Namjoon's voice, sounding smug and amused- "It's fine. This is how adults make up - I'll explain it to you when you're older."

"Oh god," said Yoongi, covering his face with his arm.