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Big Kids, Young Adults

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SEOKJIN

Seokjin stood at the bottom of the stairs, trying to listen for any sounds of life. It was hard to tell if anyone was awake with Taehyung and Hoseok arguing over Cocoa Pebbles versus Cocoa Krispies in the kitchen; they were both so loud. Seokjin gave up on listening in.

“Cookie! If you’re not dressed and downstairs in ten minutes, you’re going to miss your bus!” he shouted up the steps.

Jungkook didn’t respond.

Seokjin huffed out a sigh. Sometimes he couldn’t tell if Jungkook was asleep or if he was ignoring him in the morning. Regardless, Seokjin had four other kids to see off to school, and checking up on Jungkook any further would only result in a screaming match that Seokjin didn’t have time for.

Instead, he headed back to his kitchen. He stole the box of Cocoa Krispies out of Hoseok’s hands as he walked by. “It’s a school day, you need proper nutrition,” Seokjin said when Hoseok whined, shoving a box of Cheerios into his hands.

Before Hoseok could complain, Jimin piped up. “Jin? Can you pick me up after cheer today?”

“Of course!” Seokjin answered easily.

“Can you also drive Tzuyu home?”

Seokjin thought back to the rest of the cheer squad, managing to remember Tzuyu’s face and house amongst all the other girls. “Sure. She lives right by the school, right?”

Jimin nodded. “Uh-huh.” His cheeks bulged out as he crammed seven Mini Wheats into his mouth at once. Milk dribbled down his chin. Yoongi grimaced across the table and passed him a napkin. “Also, Chaeyoung needs a ride,' Jimin said as he wiped himself off.

Seokjin ran a hand through his hair: still fully black after all these years. “Geez, does the whole team need a ride home?”

“No, just me, Tzuyu, and Chaeyoung,” Jimin amended quickly before slumping in his seat sheepishly. “And also Sana...”

Seokjin huffed out a sigh. He stretched across the table to ruffle Jimin’s hair. “All right, you got it kid. Anything to support the Knights."

Jimin brightened under his touch.“Thanks!” he replied a little too excitedly. He sat up straighter as he spoke, nearly spilling his cereal bowl all over his homework.

“Jimin!” Yoongi cried, hand thrusting out to catch his bowl before he could make a mess. “Watch what you’re doing!”

But Jimin was already distracted. “Mmm,” Jimin hummed. He was too busy refocusing on his homework to reply.

Seokjin frowned. This year, it seemed like Jimin was always rushing to finish the last of his homework in the morning. He needed to find time to talk to him about it: maybe in the car on the way home from cheerleading, once all the other girls had been dropped off. And speaking of driving...

“Does anyone else need a ride home from school today?” he asked, knowing that Hoseok usually stayed late.

“Yep, yep, yep. I have programming and then dance,” Hoseok answered.

“So, you’ll be late tonight, huh?” Seokjin asked, already getting up from the table to pack Hoseok with some extra snacks. His lunch block was at 11; he would need an extra pick-me-up to get through computer programming club and a dance practice.

“Yeah, we have rehearsal for the homecoming parade, so it’ll be like... seven. I’m sorry, I know I should have told you earlier. I’m not gonna mess up dinner, am I?” he asked.

Seokjin waved him off. “No worries. I’ll just have Joonie pick you up.”

“What am I doing?” Namjoon asked behind a yawn as he trudged down the stairs. He looked like he had crawled into his suit; he was so rumpled. He had recently dyed his hair a silvery grey, and while the color looked great, it was piled up into a rat’s nest on top of his head. Seokjin grinned at him affectionately.

“You’re picking up Hoseok on your way home,” he said. He finger combed Namjoon’s hair into something more presentable. He was wearing it longer than usual on top, and Seokjin couldn’t stop running his hands through it.

“M’kay.” Namjoon collapsed onto Seokjin’s shoulder. “Mornings are so hard,” he whined.

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “There, there,” he said, not a trace of sympathy in his voice. He did pat Namjoon’s back a few times, however, and slipped him a travel mug of his favorite coffee. He glanced at the clock.

“Okay, kids, the bus comes in five minutes. Can one of you go yell for Jungkook again? Jimin, hurry up with that homework. Hoseok, don’t forget to rinse out your bowl, and Taehyung, how are you feeling? Are you up for school today?”

Taehyung shrugged.

Jin sighed. “Good enough. You can always call me if you start feeling dizzy or disoriented. I’ll come get you if you need me,” he promised. Taehyung didn’t say anything, just pushed his cereal around his bowl.

Jin pressed his lips together. Taehyung had always felt nervous about going to school. He hadn’t grown out of his seizures like they had hoped he might, and Jin knew it was embarrassing for him. But while he had never liked going to school, he hadn’t always gotten quiet like this before the bus came. Seokjin didn’t like seeing him so scared.

Fortunately, Jimin was there to help cheer him up. “And I’m at school, TaeTae! No worries,” he said, bumping Taehyung with his shoulder.

Taehyung snorted and shoved Jimin back. “Yeah, but you’re annoying,” he complained.

Jimin gasped. “How dare you. I am a treasure. Tell him, Jinnie.”

“Taehyung, your brother is a treasure,” Seokjin agreed with a smirk. He turned to Namjoon -who was still slumped against his side- and forced him to straighten up. “Okay, you have your coffee. You need to get going. No more leaning on me,” he said.

Namjoon muttered but started off to get his shoes.

“Wait, um, Joonie?” Yoongi piped up. He stood up awkwardly from the breakfast table.

Namjoon hummed. “Hold on, Sugar,” he said, going to the laundry room to grab his shoes. He came back out a moment later and sat at one of the kitchen chairs to pull on his loafers. “Okay, shoot.”

Yoongi squirmed by his chair. The way he was kicking the floor made him look more like a toddler than a high school senior. “So, um... I have a paper due tomorrow, but I finished it yesterday, and it’s edited and everything, so I was just wondering if, well, I mean...” he trailed off.

“If what?” Namjoon asked, sharing a knowing smirk with Seokjin across the kitchen.

“If, well... The chorus teacher at school asked if I could help with some arrangements for one of the a cappella groups, but I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I was wondering if I could come to your office today and maybe... maybe we could try some things out,” he said, wringing his hands. “I mean, if you’re not busy, that is. Like if it’s okay. Because I finished all my other homework, so I have time, and just... yeah,” he finished lamely.

Namjoon’s eyes left Seokjin’s, and he smiled up at Yoongi. “Sure thing. Why don’t you come over right after school? You can come on my show.”

“Your radio show?” Yoongi asked, standing up straight.

“Yeah, kid,” Namjoon replied, obviously trying not to laugh. Seokjin was just as amused. Yoongi was always wheedling to go visit Namjoon at work. He loved music, and it was no secret that Yoongi looked up to Namjoon a little more than he looked up to Seokjin. Namjoon was his role model –that much was obvious- but Seokjin couldn’t figure out why Yoongi kept trying to make excuses about going to Namjoon’s office.

All he had to do was ask.

“Hey, the bus is here!” Hoseok shouted from the front of the house.

“Shit,” Yoongi swore, grabbing his book bag and making a mad dash for it. Seokjin frowned when he only counted four kids rushing towards the bus.

He ran to the bottom of the stairs. “Jungkook? Jungkook, are you coming?” he called. There was no answer from upstairs. Seokjin groaned.

“He didn’t even wake up, did he?” Namjoon asked with a knowing smirk. He was much more awake now that he had his coffee. Seokjin fussed with his hair again.

“I doubt it,” he answered. Now he was going to have to drive Jungkook to school again.

“We need Yoongi to get his license so that you don’t have to drive everywhere,” Namjoon mused, closing his eyes as he took a good long sip of his coffee. “Also, this is so good, Jin. You’ve outdone yourself. It’s so good.”

Seokjin snorted. “Joon, it’s coffee. Every cup I’ve ever made you for years has been nearly identical.”

“Yeah, but it’s so good today, Jinnie. It’s great,” he promised. He looked like he was two seconds from diving into his cup and drowning in it.

“Okay, sure,” he said dismissively. He was too focused on righting Namjoon’s collar to properly respond. “But you should probably get going, if you’re going to catch your train.”

Namjoon looked at his watch and groaned. “Ugh, okay, okay,” he said, kissing Seokjin’s cheek. “I’m off. I’ll see you at dinner?”

“Don’t forget to pick up Hoseok,” he replied. “Also, wait, wait, wait.” Seokjin grabbed Namjoon’s sleeve and pulled him back before he could walk away. He pressed a proper kiss to his lips. When he pulled away, he was smiling. “I love you. Have a good day at work.”

“I love you, too,” Namjoon said dopily. He pressed one more kiss to Seokjin’s nose for good measure. “To the moon and back. You’re the light of my life. Good luck with, Cookie.”

“I certainly need it,” Seokjin muttered as Namjoon left the house. He didn’t have the energy to chastise Namjoon for being so cheesy.

Jungkook was a terror in the morning.

Seokjin loved him. He had raised him from a tiny baby with curled fingers and tiny toes. He had changed all of his diapers; he had held him when he cried. He’d given him piggyback rides, and helped him with his homework, and played street hockey with him in the summer, and gone to all of his lacrosse games. He had loved him through every single minute of it, and he still loved him when he was dragging him out of bed by the ankles.

But that didn’t change the fact that Jungkook was a terror in the morning.

“Okay, Cook, it’s time to get up,” Seokjin said, entering his room without knocking. Jungkook was lying face down on his mattress. One leg stuck out from under the sheets. Seokjin opened his curtains, and even though Jungkook’s head was buried under his pillow, he still groaned when light filled his bedroom. “You missed the bus again.”

Who cares?” Jungkook moaned.

“I do,” Seokjin replied. “I’m not a taxi service. I need you to catch the bus in the mornings so I don't have to spend my whole day driving.”

“You don’t have to drive me to school,” Jungkook muttered bitterly. “You could just let me sleep.”

Seokjin sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Jungkook, we’ve talked about this. I don’t care how mad you are at me and Joon; your education is extremely important. I know eighth grade doesn’t seem like it matters now, but when you’re older, you’ll be really upset with yourself if you don’t take it seriously. Don’t blow it off just to get back at your parents.”

Jungkook sat straight up at that, glaring. “You guys aren’t my parents,” he said, eyes narrowed into slits.

Seokjin pressed his lips together, the words ripping through him like a jigsaw. It wasn’t the first time Jungkook had said something similar, but that didn’t make it any easier. If anything, how often Jungkook said it made it that much harder.

“Okay. Okay, fine,” Seokjin said, his voice clipped. “But as your legal guardian, I am telling you that you need to get dressed and you need to go to school. Not optional.” He threw Jungkook some fresh underwear and socks. “Be downstairs in ten minutes, or I’m taking away your headphones.”

Jin-“

“Ten minutes,” Seokjin repeated, closing the door behind him. He rested up against it for a moment, staring at the ceiling. Why?

As soon as he was sure he heard Jungkook moving around and getting changed, he left the upstairs hallway for the kitchen. If he was going to make it through the rest of the day, he was going to need caffeine and a lot of it. He put on a kettle to boil as he waited for Jungkook, his eye on the clock.

The kitchen was a disaster. Somehow, feeding five teenagers was messier than feeding five preschoolers. It was funny that while most things were easier with older kids, some things had become increasingly difficult.

When Jin’s tea finished steeping, he called up to Jungkook. “I’ll be waiting in the car! You have two minutes!”

“Okay!” Jungkook shouted back.

“Grab a granola bar on your way out the door!” he tagged on. He waited to make sure Jungkook had heard him.

Okay!” Jungkook replied, sounding as if Seokjin had asked him to clean his room instead of just eat breakfast. He sighed and tried to remember what his yoga instructor had taught him: breathe in peace, out happiness.

Seokjin repeated the mantra in his head as he sipped his tea. He waited in the car for Jungkook to join him. When he finally did, he was still in a bad mood.

“This van is so embarrassing,” he complained under his breath, throwing his backpack onto the floor with a little more force than necessary.

Seokjin turned the key in the ignition. “If you had ridden the bus this morning, you wouldn’t have to be seen in it,” he said gently; although, he somewhat agreed with Jungkook. If it weren’t an absolute necessity for their family, there was no way Jin would be driving a massive, 9-seater mini bus to and from the grocery store. It was too ugly and hard to park.

Jungkook didn’t say anything. Instead, he threw on his over the ear headphones and glared at his cellphone. He had been doing that a lot lately: tuning everyone out. It was frustrating, but more than that, Seokjin was worried.

He knew the adoption process had scared Jungkook. It wasn’t until he was thirteen that he had finally been able to be adopted. Thirteen years of waiting, and hoping, and praying, and Jungkook had finally been theirs, but at a heavy price.

Jungkook’s mother had held on to custody until the very end. She had been asking for visitation since Jungkook was two, begging to see him despite never going to rehabilitation to get her drug use under control.

Namjoon and Seokjin had only been allowed to adopt Jungkook when she died of an overdose.

It had shaken Jungkook, understandably. Even if he had never met his mother (aside from the day she gave birth to him), it had still been jarring. Seokjin wasn’t sure if Jungkook had ever wanted to live with his mom again –he had seemed happy living with them before his adoption papers went through- or if it was just scary to think about getting taken away from Namjoon and Seokjin before they gained custody, but regardless, it was affecting Jungkook’s behavior.

Jungkook had been so sweet growing up. He had the cutest little bunny smile, and he used to like snuggling something as he walked around, like his Elmo plushie or his teddy bear. He had been so cute.

And now he was so grumpy.

While Seokjin couldn’t blame him for feeling conflicted and angry, he was just about done with Jungkook’s attitude. He had raised four fourteen-year-olds. It wasn’t in their nature to be this angry all of the time. He needed to get Jungkook feeling better as soon as possible.

As he pulled the car up to a red light, Seokjin turned to look at Jungkook. He was wearing a tank top that showed off his scrawny arms. Seokjin smiled. He was sure Jungkook was beyond proud of the little muscle he had been able to build through lacrosse and hockey, but he was still growing. He was still lanky and goofy. Jungkook had always been all elbows and knees, and Seokjin couldn’t help but reach out to ruffle Jungkook’s gelled hair.

“Hey! You’re messing it up!” Jungkook yelled, quick looking in the flip down mirror to fix his hair. His headphones fell off.

Seokjin laughed. “Sorry, sorry,” he promised. He helped to smooth down Jungkook’s hair. “But hey, now that you can hear me... Jungkook, I know that me and Joon aren’t your biological parents-“

“Oh, God, spare me,” Jungkook interrupted, his face paling.

Seokjin ignored him. “But we love you. You know that, right? We love you so much, Cookie. No matter where you go or what you do, Namjoon and I are going to love you, and take care of you, and be there for you, okay?”

Jungkook crinkled his nose and was quiet for a minute. His silence proved that Seokjin had gotten through to him at least a little bit. “...Whatever,” he muttered after a moment.

Seokjin snorted. “Whatever,” he agreed, leaning over to ruffle Jungkook’s hair again. Jungkook squawked, his hands flying up to fix it. Seokjin pulled up to the middle school and unlocked the car doors. “All right, kid. Have a good day at school.”

Jungkook didn’t reply, only slammed the door behind him as he got out of the car. Seokjin smiled sardonically to himself. He loved Jungkook, but he certainly did know how to wear him out.


JIMIN

Jimin squinted at his homework. His homeroom teacher never remembered to turn on the announcements, and Jimin had started using the extra free time to finish up some last minute assignments.

Actually, all of Jimin’s free time had been going to homework, lately. High school wasn’t easy. His teachers had high expectations, and there was a lot more reading to do for his classes, and all the other kids were so big, and he was so small.

“Hey, Chim Chim, whatchya workin’ on?” Taehyung asked, sticking his chin on his shoulder. Jimin snorted and shrugged him off.

“Homework,” he answered, spinning around in his seat. “You wanna help me?”

Taehyung nodded and took Jimin’s worksheet out of his hands. The freshman homerooms were organized by last name, so Jimin and Taehyung got to share a class. Jimin sat in front, and Taehyung sat right behind him whenever he felt well enough to go to school. Jimin liked the days when Taehyung was with him much more than the days he came to school alone. He had a lot of friends in his class, but Taehyung was his brother. He could help him with his homework, and reading the white board, and copying down notes.

Jimin didn’t have to hide his difficulty reading when he was with Taehyung.

“Okay, this question wants to know what ‘AMU’ stands for,” Taehyung said, pulling out a pencil from behind his ear.

“Atomic mass unit,” Jimin answered.

Taehyung nodded. “Yep.” He flashed Jimin a big, boxy smile. “My Chim Chim’s a genius.”

“Shut up,” Jimin said, flushing. He definitely wasn’t a genius. He wasn’t even smart.

His hands gripped the back of his chair. Taehyung tapped his knuckles with the eraser end of his pencil. “Nah. You know the answers, you just have trouble understanding the questions,” he said, as if reading Jimin’s mind. “I think you could still be a genius if you wanted to be.”

“Just read the next question,” Jimin whined.

“How many shells does an atom with 13 electrons have?”

“Three,” Jimin answered.

Taehyung shot him another grin. “See? Genius,” he said, writing in Jimin’s answers for him. Taehyung wrote everything in complete sentences, even when he was filling out Jimin’s homework for him.

“I said shut up,” Jimin yelped. He had trouble believing Taehyung, but he was mostly complaining for the sake of complaining at this point. He was always yelling at Taehyung to stop complimenting him (even if it was one of the few things getting him through his day).

Taehyung shifted gears. “Hey, you know what?” he asked.

Jimin blinked. “What?”

“Your hair isn’t long enough to wear a cheer bow, is it?”

Jimin frowned. “Um... No? Why?” All of the girls on the cheerleading team were required to wear their team t-shirts and cheer bows on game days, but that wasn’t until Friday. Jimin didn’t know why Taehyung was thinking of it now, so suddenly.

“Because we should get you a cheer bowtie for the homecoming game,” Taehyung said, and promptly moved on. “What happens to the pressure in a sealed tube if you increase the temperature?”

“It’ll increase, but wait,” Jimin said before Taehyung could scribble down his answer. “A cheer bowtie?”

It was Taehyung’s turn to blink. “Yeah, like... a glittery one. Purple and gold. Go Knights!”

Jimin groaned. “Taehyung, that’s terrible.

“I’ll convince you otherwise,” Taehyung replied, and Jimin couldn’t tell if it was a promise or a threat. “But we can’t keep talking about bowties all day, Jiminnie, we have to focus. You have homework,” he chastised. Jimin sputtered. Taehyung had been the one to bring up cheer bows in the first place! However, Taehyung pressed on before he could complain. “What does NaCl stand for?”

“Sodium Chloride,” Jimin answered, watching as Taehyung scribbled down his answer. For as weird as Taehyung could be, he certainly made up for it by helping him with his homework.


 YOONGI

Yoongi was out of his seat and off the train the second it pulled into the station.

He hated train rides. He didn’t like sitting on the stained seats or cramming in next to strangers. He didn’t like having to touch the conductor’s hand when he exchanged his money for his ticket.

However, he loved visiting his dad at work. No matter how much he hated trains, it was worth the ride to go to his dad’s studio. Namjoon was always working on something cool, and getting invited to come on his radio show was an added bonus. As much as Yoongi loved making music, listening to it was even better.

(Especially if he got to listen to it with Namjoon, but he would never admit that out loud.)

Yoongi practically ran to Namjoon’s building. His dad’s show started at 3:00, and it was already 3:06. He rushed into the front lobby, his cheeks flushed and hair flying.

Fortunately, the security guard at the front desk recognized him right away. “Hey, Yoongi! You’re dad’s waiting for you. Go ahead up,” he said, waving Yoongi through towards the elevators. Yoongi nodded, ducking his head awkwardly. He wasn’t very good at talking to people, even the nice employees at Namjoon’s office.

He kept his head low as he rode the elevator to Namjoon’s floor. The “On Air” sign was dark when he reached Namjoon’s studio, so Yoongi let himself in.

Namjoon looked up when the door opened. “You made it!” he said, smiling.

Yoongi flushed and squirmed. “Um... yeah,” he said. “Sorry. I know you’re busy...”

“I’m never too busy for you, buddy,” Namjoon promised. “Why don’t you take a seat? You can help me chatter away the rest of this hour, and then we’ll take a look at your project.”

Yoongi stood up a little straighter, unable to hide his excitement. He quick grabbed a set of headphones and found a seat at the desk and a microphone. “I’m on two,” he said, reading the microphone’s number.

“Cool, cool,” Namjoon said, turning up the audio levels for his mike.

Yoongi shifted in his seat, pulling at his sleeves. His dad was just... so cool.

Most radio shows were automated or recorded in advance, but Namjoon was adamant that his production company needed to have a live show. He wanted their station to have hand-selected music –not just the typical computer-generated songs other stations played- and for DJs with great taste and real stories take over the prime time spots.

Because Namjoon had fought so hard for the station, he had a show at 2 o’clock every weekday, and Yoongi loved being part of it. Talking on air, choosing music, telling stories... It was the one time Yoongi felt confident in his voice. He could only hope that one day, he would have a radio show like his dad’s.

“All right. We’re going live in sixty seconds,” Namjoon said, flipping through the binder of advertisements he had to live read during his hour. “Anything you wanna talk about?”

“Ah, I dunno...” Yoongi said.

Namjoon looked up at him. “Maybe you can tell everyone why you’re here today. You can tell them about your chorus teacher and the arrangements you’re doing... That would be interesting.” When Yoongi blinked wide-eyed at Namjoon, his dad shifted gears. “Or we could talk about dinner last night. Taehyung was being a goofball.”

Yoongi nodded tersely. “That would be easy.”

Namjoon nodded. “Cool. Mikes going live in 3... 2...” Yoongi stayed quiet, waiting for the song to end. As Namjoon unmuted his microphone, the On Air sign in the studio lit up bright red. The song ended in Yoongi’s headphones, and his dad’s voice came through. “Hey, hey, hey, you’re listening to WWMR, 102.5, your station for vibing and riding. You’re listening to Rap Monster, and I’m playing all hip-hop and R&B until the end of the hour. I’ve got my son in the studio today. Sugar, why don’t you introduce yourself?” he said.

Yoongi took a sharp breath. “Hey, it’s me.”

Namjoon laughed, his DJ persona breaking as he looked at Yoongi. “Perfect. Great introduction,” he said flatly. Yoongi flushed. Meanwhile, his dad turned back to his microphone. “Hopefully you guys all know my son by now. He’s either got everything to say, or nothing at all.”

“Hey, I have plenty to say,” Yoongi interrupted, making sure to talk into the mike rather than at his dad.

“That’s true. You had a lot to say at dinner last night, especially,” Namjoon said, segueing smoothly. Yoongi followed his lead.

“Dinner last night was crazy.”

“It was crazy,” Namjoon agreed. “Why don’t you tell our listeners what your brother was doing.”

Yoongi groaned. “It was awful. Taehyung was using his spoon to freaking catapult huge globs of mashed potatoes at me whenever our parents turned around.”

Namjoon laughed. “Yeah, it was hilarious.”

“It was gross,” Yoongi corrected. “One second he was eating off his spoon, and the next he was flicking spitty potatoes at me.”

“That’s fair, that’s fair,” Namjoon promised. He ran his hand through his hair. “I’ll try to catch him next time he’s bothering you.”

“You’d better,” Yoongi muttered into the mike. Namjoon laughed again, and Yoongi sat up a little straighter. He was always proud of himself when he managed to make his dad laugh. It felt like such a big accomplishment, even when Namjoon was probably only doing it for the sake of their listeners.

“I’ll do my best,” he said. “But okay, I think we should get back to some more music. I’m gonna come at you guys with some new Kanye and one of my favorites: ‘Sober’ by Childish Gambino, but I’m gonna let Sugar pick the last song. What do you think we should listen to, kid?” he asked, looking at Yoongi.

Yoongi scrambled to think of a song. “Um... Um...” he stammered, but tried to talk through it. He knew people wouldn’t be able to see him thinking. “I don’t know what would fit well with that... Um... Um...” he puffed out a breath of air. “Can we listen to ‘The Fix?’”

“Oh, by Nelly?” Namjoon asked. He looked excited, and relief washed over Yoongi. “Sure, I love that song. That’s a great one to look forward to,” he promised before directing his voice towards the microphone again. “All right, stay tuned for ‘The Fix,’ but up first, here’s ‘Jesus Walks.’”

Namjoon threw on the song and muted their microphones. Yoongi wrung his hands together, waiting for his dad to say something.

It took Namjoon a second to look at him. He had to queue up Yoongi’s song selection into the playlist and set up their next break. However, once he was done, he had nothing but praise for Yoongi. “All right, nice work. Perfect song choice, too.”

“Ah, okay,” Yoongi said, feeling relieved.

“Yeah, it’s cool you came in. I like getting your input on this kind of thing,” he said. “Plus, this show is way more fun with someone to talk to.”

“Really?” Yoongi asked. He knew he crashed his dad’s show a lot. He was always worried he was annoying him by constantly hanging around, but he learned more about music at his dad’s studio than he did in any of his classes at school.

“Really,” Namjoon promised. He reached out to pinch Yoongi’s cheek. “And there’s nothing I love more than talking to my precious Yoongi,” he said in a goofy voice.

Yoongi grunted and pushed his chair away from Namjoon’s. “Gross.

Namjoon let Yoongi slip away, but not before patting his back. “You’re a good kid,” he said, ignoring Yoongi’s complaining. “But okay. I have to practice reading this ad for the next break. Give me one minute,” he said.

Yoongi nodded. Namjoon started practicing his script. Meanwhile, Yoongi looked about the studio. The desk was covered with loose papers and pencils. It made Yoongi’s skin itch just to look at it.

As Namjoon read through the script a couple times, Yoongi occupied himself with straightening the desk. He turned the computer keyboard to line up with its monitor, making sure it was two inches from the bottom of the screen. He stacked up the papers properly. He stuck the pencils and pens in their cup. The papers went two inches from the bottom of the desk. The pencils went two inches from the top of the papers.

He was straightening the audio board when Namjoon looked up at him. “Just be careful, Yoongi. That board costs over ten thousand dollars,” he said gently, but didn’t otherwise comment on Yoongi’s straightening.

Yoongi nodded and let the board be as soon as it was straight. Namjoon reached out to ruffle his hair.

“You okay?”

Yoongi squirmed a little in his seat. He didn’t like when things were messy, but it didn’t feel as stressful when he was in a place he was familiar with, like his house or Namjoon’s office.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” he promised, picking at his fingers compulsively. Sure, he was nervous, but when he was with his dad, it was usually okay to feel a little anxious. Namjoon made everything a lot easier.


 HOSEOK

Hoseok was sweaty.

He was sweaty as he ran through the group dance. He was sweaty when his teacher gave them a break. He was sweaty when he sat down for a drink of water, and he was still sweaty as he opened up the single serving bag of cashews his dad had packed him as an extra snack.

Jin was the best with snacks.

Hoseok had swallowed just about half the bag, when Oliver approached him. “Hey, wanna go to the vending machine with me?” he asked, flicking his sweaty bangs out of his face.

Hoseok scrambled to his feet. “Sure!” he answered. It was kind of embarrassing, but Hoseok would jump at any opportunity to hang out with Oliver.

Oliver was a senior, and Hoseok was a sophomore. That meant Oliver was older. The only seniors that hung out with Hoseok were the nerds in the computer science club and Yoongi (and Yoongi definitely didn’t count).

“Cool,” Oliver replied, sauntering away without looking back.

“Cool,” Hoseok squeaked before rushing after him. The vending machines were in the cafeteria, and Hoseok trailed Oliver through the halls. As the dance studio grew further and further behind them, Hoseok realized just how empty the school was. The only people left in the building were on the dance team, and Hoseok and Oliver had ditched them for M&Ms and potato chips.

“Hey, what are you even going to get?” Hoseok asked, trying to fill up the silence.

Abruptly, Oliver grabbed his wrist and pulled him into an alcove. “You,” he answered, leaning forward. Hoseok squeaked when –out of nowhere- Oliver bent down and kissed him. He shoved Oliver away from him.

“What are you doing?!” he yelped, eyes wide.

Oliver frowned. “JB said you were gay,” he said as means of explanation.

Hoseok didn’t even know how to respond to that. His mouth opened and closed like a fish. “I mean... I mean... Well, yeah, I guess. But how did he-“

“And you like me, right?” Oliver asked, cutting him off. Hoseok’s jaw snapped shut and his lips pressed together. His cheeks heated up. When he didn’t answer, Oliver continued. “Come on, Hoseok. I see the way you look at me. You’re always staring at me in the mirrors during dance,” he justified.

Hoseok laced his fingers through his hair. This was so embarrassing.

“So if you like me,” Oliver continued, “then let’s do something about it.”

He leaned down and kissed Hoseok again. Meanwhile, Hoseok’s cheeks were absolutely burning. This wasn’t how he had expected his first kiss to go.

But Oliver was right. He did have a crush on him. It was so easy to watch him in the mirrors during dance practice, to ogle at his strong arms and even stronger legs. Hoseok was just embarrassed to admit it.

However, he had no idea how JB had figured out he was gay. He hadn’t even told his parents yet.

Kissing Oliver felt stressful. Hoseok pulled away. “Hey, you at least have to take me on a date first,” he said, turning his cheek towards Oliver so he couldn’t try to duck in and kiss him again.

Oliver froze. “A date,” he repeated. He sank back, standing away from Hoseok. “Okay, a date. Where do you want to go?”

“The Melting Pot,” Hoseok answered quickly, and then bit his lip. Maybe it would be too expensive and Oliver wouldn’t offer to take him.

“You drive a hard bargain, Hoseok Kim,” Oliver said, winking and wagging a finger at him. “But okay. The Melting Pot. I’ll take you this weekend, and we’ll kiss after-“ he started, “But I a have a condition of my own.”

Hoseok squirmed against the wall. “What?”

“You can’t tell anyone about us,” Oliver said. “Not yet, anyway. And especially not your parents.”

Hoseok frowned. “Oliver, I have two dads. I don’t think they’re going to care if I kissed a boy.”

Oliver rolled his eyes. “Trust me, they won’t get it,” he promised. He stepped forward, closing in Hoseok closer against the wall. He grabbed both of his hands. “And anyways, I just want to keep this between us for a bit. It’s more romantic this way, all right? Take it from someone older.”

Hoseok blinked. “... Okay,” he agreed. “I won’t tell anyone. We’ll go to The Melting Pot, and then if –and only if- I have a good time, we’ll kiss after.”

Oliver grinned. “Don’t worry, Hoseokkie,” he said, “I’ll make sure you have a good time.”


 SEOKJIN

Seokjin fell on his face when a loud clang startled him. Whoever was coming into the house must have thrown open the garage door so hard it hit the laundry machine.

A few seconds later, Hosoek flew through the living room. He took the steps three at a time and disappeared from sight. The door to his bedroom slammed closed.

Seokjin frowned. That was very un-Hoseok-like behavior.

Meanwhile, Namjoon and Yoongi were walking through the door. “What the hell is happening in here?” Namjoon asked.

Next to Seokjin, Taehyung grunted as his arms wobbled, his elbows threatening to give out. “Shut up, I’m a wheelbarrow!” Taehyung squeaked.

Seokjin winced from his spot on the floor. “It’s Yoga Tuesday,” he explained. Usually Taehyung and Seokjin did yoga together right after school before anyone else was home, but Taehyung desperately needed some new clothes to fit his growing arms and broadening shoulders, so they had gone shopping instead. “Is something wrong with Hoseok?”

Namjoon shrugged. “He was quiet when he got in the car, but he wouldn’t talk to me about it.”

Seokjin’s frown only deepened. Make that very, very un-Hoseok-like behavior. Usually when Hoseok was upset about something, he didn’t hesitate to complain about it. Seokjin was used to struggling to understand Hoseok’s words through snot and tears.

Their DVD’s yoga instructor had them switch to an extended side angle pose, and Seokjin decided to join Taehyung. They both groaned as they nearly toppled over.

“You guys aren’t very good at this,” Yoongi said, crinkling his nose as he hung up his coat and put away his shoes.

“It’s hard!” Taehyung replied. “You try it. See for yourself!”

Yoongi’s nose stayed scrunched. “I don’t have a mat.”

“Take mine,” Seokjin offered, standing up. “I have to check on Hoseok anyway.”

“Do you want back up?” Namjoon asked, while Yoongi took Seokjin’s spot. He could barely bend over, he was so inflexible, and Taehyung laughed at him. Seokjin smiled when Yoongi mimed pushing Taehyung over.

“Nah, I think I got it. You make sure these crazy kids don’t kill each other instead, how about?” Seokjin asked.

“Solid,” Namjoon agreed, jumping over the back of the couch to watch Yoongi and Taehyung nearly fall on their faces. They had moved into Eagle, and Yoongi was definitely struggling more than Taehyung was.

Seokjin gave them one last look before following Hoseok up the stairs. It was good to see Yoongi outside of his room. Usually, he locked himself away as soon as he got home from school, and Taehyung had to lie outside his door and whine to get Yoongi to spend time with him. Seokjin was happy to see them hanging out.

Or he would be, if he wasn’t so worried about Hoseok.

Seokjin knocked lightly on Hoseok’s door. “Hey? Hopie-Hopie, you busy?” he asked, popping his head in.

Hoseok looked up at him. He had big headphones covering his ears, and his computer was open on his lap. “Just coding,” he answered, scooting over on the mattress to make room for Seokjin.

Seokjin sat on the edge of Hoseok’s bed. “What does this one do?” he asked, gesturing to Hoseok’s program.

“I’ll show you,” he said, pressing ‘run.’ Five blank spots showed up on the screen, and a line of script prompted the user to guess a letter.

“Is this hangman?” Seokjin asked.

Hoseok shrugged. “Yeah. Or... it will be. I need to make it so it won’t accept numbers, but it’ll still go through the while loop,” he said, as if that made any sense to Seokjin at all. He supported Hoseok’s interest in computer programming –despite how different it was from his other passion: dancing- but he didn’t understand it at all. Namjoon was usually the one who got the most excited about Hoseok’s projects.

But today, not even Hoseok seemed excited about his project.

Seokjin hummed, taking in how limp Hoseok seemed against his pillows. He looked exhausted, and Seokjin reached out to feel for his temperature. “Hey, you don’t look so good. Are you feeling okay?” he asked, brushing Hoseok’s bangs off his forehead as he felt for a fever.

Hoseok squirmed. “Yeah, I just... Ugh.” He put his computer to the side and rolled to bury his face in his pillow. Seokjin shifted to make room.

Hoseok spoke into his pillow, and Seokjin strained to hear him. “What was that?”

“I said I can’t tell you,” Hoseok answered, lifting his face out of his pillow for just a second. As he hid his face again, Seokjin’s stomach knotted up in anxiety. Hoseok had never had trouble talking to him before.

“Hoseok...” Seokjin started. He floundered for a moment, unsure of what to say. “You can tell me anything. You know that.”

Hoseok wrapped his arms around his pillow. He didn’t resurface this time, but Seokjin was able to make out his words, even if they were muffled by his pillow. “You wouldn’t get it. You’re going to be mad at me.

Seokjin held his breath for a minute. Hoseok was holding onto his pillow so tightly, it looked like his elbows might snap. Seokjin reached out to rub Hoseok’s locked shoulders. “I won’t be mad, okay? I’d rather help you than be mad at you.”

Hoseok didn’t answer, just hugged his pillow impossibly tighter.

“Oh, Hopie,” Seokjin sighed. He nudged Hoseok over and lied down in the bed next to him. He guided Hoseok into a hug, burying his nose into Hoseok’s hair as Hoseok buried his face into his chest. “You always talk to me when something goes wrong. What’s so different this time?”

“Because it’s weird.”

Seokjin arched an eyebrow. “Weird?”

“Yeah.” Hoseok’s nose scrunched up against Seokjin’s sternum. Hoseok seemed at war with himself for a moment before finally speaking up. “... I kissed someone.”

Seokjin sat up straight. “You kissed someone?”

Hoseok squirmed nervously. “Well, I mean... I mean, it was more like he kissed me,” Hoseok explained, backtracking.

Jin must have made a ridiculous face because Hoseok tensed up just looking at him. “A he? You kissed a boy?”

Hoseok grabbed his pillow and hid his face in it. “Don’t be mad.”

Seokjin shook the shocked expression off his face and pried the pillow from Hoseok’s hands. “Hopie!” he exclaimed. “Hopie, of course I’m not mad! This is so exciting! You’re first kiss!”

Hoseok looked at him fearfully but sat up in bed. “Yeah?”

“Of course,” Seokjin replied. “You’re growing up; you’re dating boys; you’re getting out there! Ah, I’m so excited for you, I really am,” he promised. He put his hands over his heart for a minute, tears suddenly springing into his eyes as he realized just how quickly Hoseok was growing up.

How quickly all of his boys were growing up. God, Yoongi was looking at colleges. Taehyung and Jimin were in high school, and Jungkook would join them soon enough. They were all getting so big.

“Jin, you’re getting weird,” Hoseok complained.

Seokjin covered his mouth with both hands. “I’m sorry, I’m just so happy for you,” he said, half-crying. “You’re so grown up, and I’m so excited for you, and I’m so proud.”

“Dad, what he heck, we haven’t even gone on a date yet,” Hoseok complained, but he was definitely cheering up now that he realized Seokjin wasn’t upset with him.

“Well, are you going on a date?”

Hoseok blushed and nodded down at his lap. “Yeah... to The Melting Pot.”

“That’s so fancy,” Seokjin gushed. “Is he paying? Or are you paying? What’s his name? How did you meet him? What grade is he in, how old is he, can he drive-“

“Well, okay, hold on, give me a chance to answer!” Hoseok squeaked, but the shy smile on his face said he was glad Seokjin was asking about it. “His name is Oliver. He’s older. He’s a senior, but he’s on dance team, and he’s gonna pay, I think.”

Seokjin smiled encouragingly. “Well, he sounds like a nice boy,” he said. His grin dropped after a second, however. “But why were you upset when you came home?”

Hoseok’s hopeful expression fell off his face. “Oh, um... That...” He seemed uncertain. “It’s just... Well, it’s all very sudden, you know? And also I was really scared you’d be mad.”

“Okay, that’s okay,” Seokjin sympathized. “Is it stressful?”

Hoseok blinked, looking a little dazed like he did when he was deep in thought. “... I’m not sure,” he answered truthfully. “I think so. I know what guys do with girls on dates, but I don’t know what guys do with guys on dates.”

Seokjin patted Hoseok’s leg. “I understand. First dates are hard, and first first dates are even harder. But –hey- if you want date ideas, you should ask Namjoon. He’s always coming up with fun things to do.”

Hoseok squirmed. “I guess...”

“Mhm,” Seokjin hummed encouragingly. “And other than that, don’t worry too much about what you’re doing. Just be yourself. And if it goes well: great! And if it doesn’t... Well, I mean, Hoseok, you’re a great kid, you know? The best kid. My kid. There will be other boys. And other girls, and other people, like... whoever you want, whichever way you swing, there’s going to be others.”

Hoseok took a shaky breath. “Okay,” he agreed. He seemed a little shaken, but his shoulders hung differently, like a weight had been lifted off of them.

The timer on the oven went off downstairs, and Seokjin stood up. “And that’s dinner,” he said, wrapping up the conversation. “Let’s go eat, okay?”

Hoseok picked himself up out of bed. Seokjin watched him as he saved his work, a bounce in his step that had been missing when he had stormed through the house earlier. He ruffled Hoseok’s hair as they left his room.

Suddenly, Seokjin felt a wave of anxiety rush over him. He looked down at his son. “Hey, Hopie,” he said, starting up the conversation again. “Remember, you can talk to me about anything, okay? Don’t ever worry about me getting mad at you. It’s my job as a dad to help you get out of problems, not make them worse.”

Hoseok looked up at him and threw him a blinding smile. “Right!” he agreed as if it was obvious, even if he had sounded differently a couple of minutes ago. “You’re great at helping.”

Seokjin huffed out a laugh. “Well, I try.”

Chapter Text

JUNGKOOK

Jungkook hunched down, pulling his jacket tighter around his body. It was freezing. The weather had stayed warm for so long, but all at once, the temperature had changed from the mid-sixties to the low-forties.

But even though it was cold, his dads still made him come out to watch Jimin’s football game.

Jungkook tucked his chin into his scarf just as Jimin jumped up into a pike, his knees perfectly straight. Jungkook was jostled when Taehyung jumped up on the bleachers next to him. “All right! Go Jimin!” Taehyung shouted.

“Nice form, Jimin!” Jin shouted, also up on his feet in a standing ovation.

“Yeah, looking good!” Namjoon tacked on.

Jimin smiled and waved up at the bleachers with one of his pompoms. Jungkook rolled his eyes. His family was so embarrassing. Who got excited over one stupid jump? They’d been here for over an hour, and Jimin had done backflips in that time, but his family still cheered for every little thing.

The cheerleaders did another one of their routines, and his family cheered just as much when Jimin pulled off a perfect herkie. “There you go, Jimin! Nice job!” Hoseok cheered.

Jungkook glared.

Once everyone was seated again, someone tapped Jungkook on the shoulder. He turned around to face the old man sitting on the bleachers behind them. “Are you all related to one of the players, then?” he asked, nodding to the football players lined up on the 20-yard line.

Jungkook scowled. “No, one of the cheerleaders,” he answered, turning back around.

Taehyung elbowed him in the side. “Hey, quit being cranky. You should be excited! Jimin is doing a really great job, and how often do we all get to sit together like this?” he asked, smiling despite his drippy nose and red ears. Jungkook crammed his hat a little lower on his head after looking at how cold Taehyung was.

“Um, all the fucking time,” he answered, keeping his voice low so his parents wouldn’t hear him swearing. “Jin is always making us do this shit.”

“Oi,” Yoongi said from a little further down the bench. He leaned around Hoseok and Taehyung to glare at Jungkook. “Don’t be like that. The only person who is forced to come and support Jimin is you. Everyone else wants to be here,” he chastised.

“Yeah, it’s fun,” Taehyung agreed.

“It’s all right,” Hoseok said with a shrug. “It’s a little cold tonight, but Joon said he’d buy hot chocolate at half time.”

Jungkook kicked at the ground. Hoseok was the only one of his brothers who ever tried to get out of family stuff. He liked hanging out with the dance team or something. Normally, Jungkook could count on Hoseok to try to fight his way out with him, but apparently Hoseok’s friends didn’t have plans tonight so he didn’t mind going to the game. “No amount of hot chocolate could make this worth it,” he grumbled.

Hoseok laughed. “Geez, Jungkook, you’re so cranky.”

“And entitled,” Yoongi grumbled.

“Shut up,” Jungkook said. “You’re always on my case!”

“Now, now, let’s not fight,” Taehyung interrupted. “Let’s talk about something else. Yoongi, you just toured Kutztown with Joon, right? How was it?” he asked.

Yoongi’s frown only deepened. “It was fine, I guess. It’s only an hour away.”

“But?” Hoseok asked.

But I don’t want to talk about it,” Yoongi snapped. He looked remorseful immediately after, though. “Sorry, I think I’m just stressed. And cold. Can we pick a different thing to talk about? Something other than school.”

“Sure!” Hoseok agreed. He didn’t seem too hurt by Yoongi snapping at him. Jungkook figured he must be used to it, considering how much time he spent in Yoongi’s room. (Hoseok was the only one allowed to hang out in there. Jungkook couldn’t remember the last time he stepped foot on Yoongi’s carpet.) “Maybe we can talk about –oh wait, hold on. Good job, Chim Chim! Nice form!” Hoseok stood up as he screamed down at Jimin. Jungkook groaned and hid his face between his knees. Why did his family have to draw so much attention to themselves? Meanwhile, Hoseok sat down and looked between his brothers. “What were we talking about again?”

“You were going to suggest something, stupid,” Jungkook said, rolling his eyes. He didn’t want to be here. His family was so humiliating. Jin was still standing up and yelling down to Jimin, clapping his hands the whole time. Jimin, meanwhile, had a massive smile on his face as he went through routine after routine.

“Oh, right! Maybe we could talk about my date!” Hoseok suggested.

Taehyung gasped. “You went on a date?”

“Yeah, Saturday last week,” Hoseok answered.

Yoongi didn’t look as stressed as earlier, but he still seemed uneasy. Jungkook didn’t really care. As long as Yoongi wasn’t yelling at him, it didn’t matter what kind of mood he was in. “With that Oliver kid, right?” Yoongi asked hesitantly.

Hoseok nodded. “Yeah, he took me to the Melting Pot. It was super expensive, but he paid for everything. And he said he’d take me out again tomorrow.”

“That’s so cool!” Taehyung gushed.

Jungkook rolled his eyes again. “You’re only saying that because you’ve never been on a date ever,” Jungkook said, earning himself a smack on the back of the head from Hoseok.

“Be nice,” Hoseok said. His voice softened when he addressed Taehyung. “But yeah, Tae it was cool.”

Taehyung –for his part- didn’t seem at all affected by Jungkook. He never did, which is why Jungkook teased him so often. He knew he could get away with it. “What kind of fondue did you get? Was it good?”

Hoseok nodded. “We got cheese and chocolate, and the cheese one was this like... spinach and artichoke thing, and then the chocolate had peanut butter mixed in.”

“That sounds so good,” Taehyung gushed.

“It does sound good,” Jungkook admitted begrudgingly.

“What I want to know-“ Yoongi broke in, “-is why this Oliver guy is so interested in you.” He didn’t seem angry anymore. Instead, his eyes were wide and hesitant as he looked at Hoseok. His hands nervously pulled at the hems of his coat sleeves. Jungkook only knew two Yoongis: grumpy Yoongi and nervous Yoongi. He didn’t know which one was worse.

“Because he thinks Hopie is hot, obviously,” Taehyung answered.

“I guess,” Yoongi agreed. He sighed. “It’s so weird that you’re dating. You’re too young.”

Hoseok laughed behind his hand. “Yoongi, you’re such a grandpa,” he teased, and Jungkook snorted. There were days where he doubted Yoongi was 18. Honestly, he didn’t act a day under 72.

Just then, Jimin did a particularly incredible tumble down the side lines of the field, and Jungkook was shouldered again when Teahyung leapt out of his seat to cheer, the rest of the family standing up to join. Jungkook stayed right where he was. The last thing he wanted to do was make an idiot out of himself by getting all worked up over nothing.

Jungkook wasn’t about to embarrass himself, not even for his family.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin got most of the cleaning and laundry done on weekdays, when the boys were off at school and Namjoon was at work. However, sometimes slow Saturday mornings were also good for getting chores done. Sure, there were more people around to get in his way, but usually it was time Seokjin couldn’t afford to waste.

He vacuumed the whole first floor of the house before any of the boys had managed to make it downstairs. However, by the time he lugged the vacuum up to the second floor, Taehyung was lying outside of Yoongi’s room. He had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his eyes were droopy with the early hour.

“Yoongi... Yoongi, I know you’re awake, let me in,” he begged. He knocked tiredly on the bottom of Yoongi’s door.

“Taehyung, why don’t you go down and eat something instead of harassing your brother?” Seokjin suggested. It was sometimes hard to be in the middle of Taehyung and Yoongi. On the one hand, he knew Yoongi needed time and space to himself. On the other hand, he knew Taehyung was desperately lonely, and it would be nice if Yoongi would make more of an effort to spend time with him, especially because Yoongi never hesitated to spend time with Hoseok.

As if on cue, Hoseok came out of his bedroom –bags under his eyes from staying up all night and computer tucked under one arm- and knocked on Yoongi’s door. “Yo, Yoon,” Hoseok said.

The door opened automatically, and Taehyung whined when it slammed right back in his face.

Fortunately, Namjoon called for Taehyung from downstairs before he could make a fuss. “Hey, Tae! I’m making scrambled eggs, you want some?” he shouted.

Taehyung pouted, but Seokjin patted his back before plugging the vacuum into a nearby outlet. “Go get some food in you, kid. Make sure Namjoon doesn’t burn all the toast,” Seokjin said.

Taehyung sighed but got up off the floor. “Okay. But for the record, I think Yoongi’s hair looks like a walrus’s mustache,” he said, raising his voice so Yoongi would hear. Seokjin snorted and let it slide.

With the boys getting older, sometimes it was important for them to work through their own problems.

Seokjin vacuumed the hallway. He skipped going into Yoongi’s room –Yoongi kept his bedroom spotless all on his own- but ducked into Hoseok’s. He picked up a couple of his dirty t-shirts from the floor and threw them in his laundry basket so he could vacuum his rug.

Next, he pushed the vacuum into Jungkook’s room. The thirteen year old had his head buried under his pillow per usual, and he groaned loudly at the noise Seokjin was making. “Sorry, Kookie,” he apologized, patting his leg as he walked by.

Jungkook didn’t like it when Seokjin straightened his things, but he couldn’t help but pick up a little bit. He shoved his lacrosse gear a little further into his closet and stacked his books properly on his desk.

After sorting out Jungkook’s room, Seokjin moved to Jimin and Taehyung’s. He was surprised to find Jimin out of bed and at his desk. “Hey, bud. What are you up to?” Seokjin asked, taking care to vacuum out the bottom of the boys’ shared closet.

“Homework,” Jimin answered.

Seokjin frowned. He turned off the vacuum. “Homework, huh?” he walked over to Jimin and sat on the edge of his desk. He and Taehyung had their beds pressed against the wall, and their desks back to back in the middle of their room so they could face each other while they did their work. “It’s pretty early on a Saturday to be working on homework.”

“I guess,” Jimin said, crinkling his nose. He had a textbook open in front of him. Seokjin pressed his lips together when Jimin refused to look up at him.

“Do you have a big projects coming up, then?”

“No.”

“A big test?”

“Not for awhile.”

“But you’re working on homework now? Before breakfast?” Seokjin asked, worried. He felt Jimin’s forehead. “Are you sick? What’s going on with my Jiminnie?”

Jimin pushed his hand away, blushing. “Nothing, nothing, I’m fine,” he said. Jimin rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “It’s just...” Jimin trailed off, and Seokjin waited patiently for him to finish. “Well, high school is harder than middle school.”

“I bet,” Seokjin said sympathetically. He knew Jimin had been struggling to keep up with his homework for a while now. He had been waiting for a good time to talk to him about it, and now seemed like the perfect opportunity. Seokjin gently closed Jimin’s textbook. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Jimin looked weirdly guilty. “I dunno...”

Seokjin hummed. He could understand if Jimin was having trouble with school. He had been diagnosed with dyslexia when he was nine-years-old, and while he was an exceptionally intelligent boy, it often took him a long time to do his reading. Even getting through worksheets took Jimin longer than most, despite knowing the answers to most of the questions off the top of his head.

Seokjin knew Jimin was insecure about it. Jimin usually clammed up whenever the topic arose, but Seokjin didn’t want him to feel bad for his dyslexia. He wanted him to feel proud for achieving so much despite the disorder holding him back.

“I think it would be good to talk about it,” Seokjin said. “Do things feel like they’re too hard? Because Joon and I could find you a tutor, or we could talk to the school... I’m sure we could get you some extensions on your work if you’re just having trouble keeping up.”

Jimin’s cheeks heated up to a bright pink. “Um, no, it’s okay. I have everything done, it’s just not... easy, is all. Everyone else gets their homework done so fast, but I’m too stupid.”

Seokjin couldn’t help but coo. He brushed Jimin’s hair off his forehead. “You’re not stupid,” he promised. “You’ve got dyslexia, honey, it’s okay if it takes you a little longer.”

Jimin didn’t seem convinced.

Seokjin kept carding his fingers through Jimin’s hair. “Jimin, Joon and I are so proud of you. As long as you’re doing the best you can, then it doesn’t matter what your grades are. Don’t be to worried.”

Jimin’s big bottom lip stuck out. His pout was so extreme; it was almost comical. “But Taehyung gets straight As.”

“That’s Taehyung, though. Taehyung isn’t you,” Seokjin pointed out. “You don’t have to push yourself to be like Taehyung. Just be like Jimin.”

Jimin sighed and buried his face in his arms. Seokjin rubbed his back a little, trying to help him to relax. “I need, like, 20 more IQ points.”

Seokjin leaned over to kiss the crown of Jimin’s head. “You just need a break,” he corrected. “Let’s go get you something to eat, and then we’ll try to tackle that textbook together, okay? I’ll help you.”

Jimin looked up hopefully. His sad little face and brightened up with the prospect of help from his dad. “Really?”

Seokjin smiled. “Of course. Any time you need help with homework, all you have to do his ask.”

Whatever tension Jimin had been carrying in his shoulders eased away. “Okay,” he agreed. He looked so grateful; it took everything Seokjin had not to laugh at him. Instead, he helped Jimin out of his chair and followed him downstairs. Vacuuming could wait until later.


NAMJOON

“Think fast,” Namjoon said, tossing an orange towards Taehyung. Taehyung squealed and held his hands up, blocking his face. The orange bounced off his forearm and fell to the floor. Namjoon laughed. “You were supposed to catch it, kid,” he said.

Taehyung winced. “Sorry,” he apologized. He went back to staring into the fridge, his head disappearing behind the door. Meanwhile, the orange rolled back to Namjoon’s feet. He picked it up and started peeling it while Taehyung rummaged around. “Do we have any hot sauce?”

“I think so. Let me see,” Namjoon said. He handed Taehyung half his orange before nudging him out of the way. As he rummaged around, Taehyung saved the toast he was on the brink of burning, popping up the toaster early. “Ha, got it,” Namjoon said, pulling out a bottle of Sriracha from the back of the fridge.

“Grab butter while you’re there,” Taehyung said, making grabby hands.

Namjoon passed him the condiments. He kissed the top of Taehyung’s head as he started buttering toast for his brothers. “You’re a good kid, Taehyung,” he said, sticking some more bread into the toaster.

“I’m just trying my best,” Taehyung said, but he perked up a little with Namjoon’s praise. Namjoon rolled his eyes fondly. He elbowed Taehyung in the side as he passed him to check on the eggs.

Namjoon wasn’t a worrier like Seokjin was, but he was concerned for Taehyung. He was always home, either hanging out in the kitchen with Seokjin or studying out in the living room. He didn’t have any kids his own age to hang out with (other than Jimin, of course). While Namjoon loved making breakfast with Taehyung on Saturday mornings and watching movies with him when he came home from work, he also wanted Taehyung to have friends to talk to and hang out with.

“All right, get a plate, I got scrambled coming at you,” Namjoon said when the eggs were done. Taehyung quick grabbed a dish and held it out for Namjoon to fill up.

Taehyung squirted a disgusting amount of Sriracha onto his plate. Meanwhile, Namjoon cracked some eggs to fry up for Jungkook and Jimin. They liked theirs fried, while Yoongi and Hoseok preferred them scrambled.

Namjoon was about to call up to Yoongi and Hoseok to get their eggs before they could get cold, but they came downstairs before he could. “Ew, Taehyung, that’s gross,” Hoseok complained, grabbing his own plate of eggs and a piece of toast.

“You’re gross,” Taehyung countered, but he laughed when Hoseok stuck a slobbery finger in his ear. “So gross!” he squealed, trying to get away.

Namjoon snorted. Hoseok and Taehyung were too much to handle at the breakfast table. He decided to give Yoongi some attention instead. “ ‘Morning, Sugar,” he said, sliding his plate across the island. Yoongi grabbed a fork and pulled up a chair. “How did you sleep?”

“Pretty good,” Yoongi answered. “It was good to be like... in bed and warm after the football game.”

Namjoon hummed in agreement. His warm bed, however, had been somewhat ruined by Seokjin’s cold toes poking at him all night long. “That’s good. Do you have any plans this weekend?”

Yoongi frowned and stabbed at his eggs. “Not really... I have to finish that arrangement thing, and I was gonna maybe try to wrap up a couple remixes I was working on.”

Namjoon nodded. He nudged the eggs in the pan a little bit, trying to see if they were ready. “Cool. It sounds like you have some time. Maybe we could go look at another college or two,” he suggested. He turned around when he heard something clatter behind him. Yoongi looked flushed as he bent over to pick up his fork from the ground.

“Gross, gross, gross,” he squeaked, rushing over to stick it in the empty dishwasher.

Namjoon watched him carefully. “Yoongi, did you hear me? Did you want to tour a college? Maybe today or tomorrow. I was thinking we could go look at-“

“Do we have to? We’ve already looked at, like, six hundred,” Yoongi interrupted. He was fidgeting anxiously in his seat.

“Yeah, but you haven’t liked any of them,” Namjoon said gently. Jungkook and Jimin’s eggs were done. He slid them out of the pan. Meanwhile, Yoongi didn’t seem to have anything else to say for himself, and Namjoon sighed. “It’s getting pretty close to the application deadlines, Yoongi. We should at least try to find some place you like.”

“I mean... I guess,” Yoongi replied. He pushed at his eggs with his clean fork. “Did you wash your hands before you made everything?” he asked, eyeing his toast nervously.

“Yes,” Namjoon promised. “But you don’t need to worry about that, you’re okay. Don’t be nervous, it’s just college.”

Yoongi slumped down a little, his shoulders curling inwards. “Right... It’s just college.”

“Just college,” Namjoon repeated for good measure. “I thought we’d look at Millersville today. They have a great music program; you’ll like it, I think. You’ll get to use all the same equipment I use in the studio.”

Yoongi pushed his eggs around his plate with his fork. Namjoon could tell by the look on his face, he had given up on eating. “How far away is it?”

“Forty minutes,” Namjoon answered.

Yoongi’s expression didn’t change at that, and Namjoon fought the urge to pick up Yoongi’s fork and feed him like he would when he was little. He knew Yoongi wasn’t excited about college. He knew he was anxious. But it was important that he fight through that to experience life to the fullest: to be educated, and have a nice job, and not have to worry about money. More than that, Namjoon wanted him to feel happy and excited about change instead of spending all of his time dreading it.

Yoongi had always been easy to read. After being diagnosed with OCD, Namjoon and Seokjin had read up on his disorder to look for obsessions and compulsions they could work on easing with Yoongi. Now, Namjoon was great at spotting obsessive and compulsive behaviors, and they became especially prevalent whenever Yoongi was anxious.

His OCD always shone through when they talked about colleges.

“Yoongi, why don’t you just do your best to eat your eggs, and we can maybe visit Millersville tomorrow, okay? So you have some time to rest and work on your music projects,” Namjoon suggested. Sometimes it helped to give Yoongi some time to mentally prepare himself.

“...Okay, I guess,” Yoongi agreed. He seemed relieved but not fully satisfied.

Namjoon figured it would do. “All right, good plan,” he said, stealing half of Yoongi’s piece of toast.

“Hey!” Yoongi yelped, but Namjoon only laughed. He started on his and Jin’s eggs while Yoongi complained behind him, munching on Yoongi’s toast right in front of his face.

Jimin and Seokjin came into the kitchen next. Jungkook stumbled in a few minutes later, his hair a matted pile on the top of his head, a sleep shirt three sizes too big hanging down to his knees. Namjoon almost cooed.

“Jungkook, you look like someone hit you with a truck,” Namjoon said fondly. Jungkook only sneered and took his breakfast. He sat at the opposite end of the table as Hoseok and Taehyung, cramming headphones over his ears as soon as he was seated.

Seokjin slipped behind Namjoon wrapping his arms around his waist. “Is that for me?” he asked, looking down at the eggs Namjoon was cooking.

“For both of us,” Namjoon answered.

“Cool.”

Seokjin’s hands started to unwind from around his torso, but Namjoon smacked him before he could move. “Hey, don’t rush off,” he said. “I like you here.”

Seokjin hummed and cuddled closer. “You’re such a dweeb.”

“Ew, dad, don’t say ‘dweeb’,” Jimin complained, ducking around Seokjin to grab the orange juice by Namjoon’s elbow. “That’s lame.”

Seokjin pulled away to pinch Jimin’s side. “I’m a dad, I’m supposed to be lame,” he said, making Jimin giggle.

“Well, I think Jin is plenty cool,” Namjoon said.

“Thanks, babe.”

Ew,” Jimin complained. He climbed up into a seat at the counter next to Yoongi. Jimin poured himself a glass of orange juice, and then poured another cup for his older brother.

Yoongi –who had eaten a surprising amount of his breakfast- took a swig of OJ. “Just be happy it isn’t the alternative. You’re lucky to have parents that care about each other,” Yoongi said, as grateful for their family as ever. Namjoon smiled. Yoongi was always correcting his younger brothers when they undervalued their family, even if they were just being goofy.

“Hey, wait!” Hoseok said, breaking into the conversation from across the room. “I have news.”

“What news?” Seokjin asked, leaning back against the counter while he waited for Namjoon to finish cooking.

“Oliver is coming over to take me on a walk, is that okay?”

Seokjin brightened. “Oh, sure! Does that mean we’ll get to meet him?”

“He doesn’t want to meet me,” Namjoon glowered. Anyone who wanted to date Hoseok was his enemy. Hoseok was too naïve and innocent to be dating (or maybe he wasn’t, but that didn’t mean Namjoon didn’t feel like he was).

Hoseok wavered. “Um...”

Fortunately, Seokjin took pity on him, his expression softening. “We can wait until you guys are ready, no biggie.”

Hoseok looked relieved. “Okay, great. I’m just gonna slip out and we’re gonna walk to the playground or something. Maybe we’ll sit on the swings. That’s a good idea right?”

“It sounds romantic,” Taehyung said excitedly, bouncing in his seat a little.

Hoseok flushed. “I think so too.”

“Just be careful,” Namjoon said, unable to keep himself from being a little overprotective. Hoseok was his kid. While he was excited that he was young and in love, it was also concerning just how young and in love he was.


HOSEOK

“You’re here early!” Hoseok said, rushing to the end of his driveway.

Oliver was waiting for him on the front curb. He looked so cool with a backwards snapback and an army green bomber jacket. Hoseok, meanwhile, was wearing a warm hat and a North Face because Seokjin had worried he would be cold. Hoseok flushed when he realized his dad had basically dressed him. It made his and Oliver’s age difference even more apparent.

“Yeah, just missed you,” Oliver said. “I didn’t like the idea of you hanging out without me.”

Hoseok flushed. Ever since their first date, he and Oliver had been spending a lot of time together. They ate lunch together, met up between classes, hung out during their breaks at dance practice... No one at school knew they were dating, but it was kind of exciting to keep things secret. It made Hoseok’s heart flutter to know that Oliver missed him even though they had basically spent the whole week together. “You did?”

“Of course, I did. You’re my boyfriend,” Oliver said.

“Boyfriend?” Hoseok squeaked. He had never had a boyfriend before (or girlfriend, for that matter).

Oliver extended his hand and Hoseok took it. “Of course,” Oliver answered. “It’s been a week since our first date, and I think things are going pretty well, don’t you?”

Hoseok nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah,” he said. Their hands swung between them. It was quiet for a moment, Hoseok guiding Oliver towards the park as they walked along the sidewalk. While the silence was comfortable, Hoseok eventually broke it. “So... are we official now? Does this mean we can tell people?”

Oliver frowned. “Of course we’re official, we’ve been official. But you can’t tell anyone,” he said.

Hoseok bit his lip. “Anyone?” he asked.

Anyone,” Oliver repeated.

Hoseok blinked slowly. “Okay... Okay, well just so you know, I did tell my parents about us. I know you said not to, but like... we don’t really keep secrets in my family. We all talk about stuff.”

Oliver’s temper flared in the blink of an eye. “What the fuck, Hoseok?” he snapped. “I told you like a million times not to tell anyone, I’m not ready for anyone to know!”

Hoseok winced. “I mean... I didn’t tell anyone at school. Just my parents and my brothers.”

Oliver glared at Hoseok. His hold on Hoseok’s hand tightened. “But who knows who they’ll tell. What if it gets around? Your one brother’s on the cheerleading team! Cheerleaders gossip all the time. He’s probably going to tell everyone! And what if it gets back to my dad? What if your parents mention it to mine or someone else and it gets back to my family?”

Hoseok paled. He didn’t think Jimin was one to gossip, and his friends on the cheerleading squad seemed nice when they came over to the house, but Hoseok hadn’t really hung out with them before. He also didn’t think his dads would tell anyone else, but he didn’t know what parents talked about when they got together. Oliver was older, maybe he knew better. He floundered for a response. “I guess I didn’t think of that,” he eventually said.

“Yeah, you didn’t.”

Hoseok’s stomach twisted. “Sorry, I promise I won’t give anyone anymore details, okay? This can stay between us for awhile longer.”

“It’d better, Hoseok.” Oliver rolled his eyes. “God, for someone so cute, you really can be an idiot.”

“I’m not an idiot,” Hoseok said, his voice starting to shake. He didn’t want to get upset in front of Oliver, but he didn’t like getting yelled at. It didn’t help that Oliver could be a little condescending when he was mad.

Oliver must have heard the waver in his voice because his expression softened. “You’re right, you’re not an idiot,” he promised. “It was a little stupid to tell people about us, but it’s okay. You’re too adorable to stay mad at.”

“I guess I am pretty cute,” Hoseok said timidly.

Oliver smiled and reached out to pinch his cheek. “Right again. See? You’re not dumb. You’re great.”

Hoseok’s heart settled. He hadn’t realized how fast it had been racing before, but now that Oliver was back to complimenting him he felt so relieved. “Yeah, well... I try,” he said, gaining some confidence. He flicked his hair out of his eyes.

“You succeed,” Oliver promised, ducking in to kiss Hoseok’s cheek. His grip on Hoseok’s hand loosened. Hoseok smiled, soaking up the attention.

“So,” he said, deciding to switch the subject. “I was thinking we could go to the park? I didn’t know if you’d wanna like... just hang out there for a little.”

“Sure,” Oliver agreed easily. “Whatever you want to do.”

Hoseok’s smile only grew wider. “Okay, well I wanna race. Beat you there?” he asked, letting go of Oliver’s hand to jog backwards in front of him. He looked at Oliver expectantly.

“Oh, you’re on,” Oliver said, his pace picking up into a sprint. Hoseok squeaked as Oliver pushed by.

“Hey, no fair, you got a head start!” Hoseok yelped, spinning to catch up with him. Oliver only laughed as he ran head ahead of him. Hoseok laughed with him, hot on his heels.


JIMIN

The weekend passed by way too quickly for Jimin’s liking. Fortunately, Jin had helped him with his homework; otherwise, he would have had to work through lunch. However, with his dad’s help, he was able to eat with his friends for a change. He was still nervous –school always made him feel awful- but at least he didn’t have to spend the whole day working.

“He texted saying he’d call on Sunday, but like I waited all day yesterday and he never did,” Mina pouted.

“Maybe he just forgot,” Dahyun suggested.

“You fools,” Nayeon interrupted with an impressive eye roll. “Boys always call at least two days after they say they’re going to. Don’t worry about it unless it’s like... Thursday and he still hadn’t called. He’ll probably call you tomorrow or Wednesday.”

Jimin snorted. Sometimes it was hard to keep up with all the girl talk, but usually the other cheerleaders were funny enough to make it worth it. Plus, Jimin liked cheerleading, and team bonding was important to strengthen the trust of the squad. So usually, Jimin sat with the cheer girls for lunch, but honestly, he could sit at just about any table and feel comfortable. Despite being a freshman, Jimin had gotten to know most of the school already.

Jimin was just taking his lunch out of his backpack, when Taehyung walked into the cafeteria.

Jimin quickly exchanged a look with Hoseok across the room. While Jimin had friends in every clique at school –and Hoseok was about on equal footing- Taehyung didn’t have very many friends. Normally, they took turns hosting Taehyung at their respective tables during lunch, but lately Hoseok had been eating with Oliver and didn’t want his younger brother hanging around.

When Hoseok quick looked at Oliver sitting across from him and winced, Jimin nodded back. “Hey, everyone,” Jimin said, addressing his lunch group. “Would it be okay if Taehyung came to sit with us again today?”

“Sure.”

“Whatever.”

“Yep!”

“If he wants to!”

Jimin sighed in relief. “Thanks, guys. Sorry he’s had to sit with us so often.” Jimin waved Taehyung over, and the look of gratitude on Taehyung’s face was almost overwhelming. He quickly took up the seat across from Jimin.

“Hello, Jimin!” he said brightly. “Hello, Sana! Hello, Mina! Hello, Jihyo! Hello, Tzuyu! Hello, Jeongyeon! Hello-“

“Okay, that’s enough, they get it,” Jimin laughed. Sana, who was sitting next to Taehyung, smiled behind her hand but Taehyung didn’t seem bothered. Mostly, he seemed excited to have someone to sit with.

“Sorry,” Taehyung apologized. His cheeks were flushed. “Am I interrupting? What were you guys talking about?”

The girls all glanced at each other around the table, but eventually Dahyun leaned forward. “Nothing, really, except Mina is dating someone from the dance team! They just got together,” she said excitedly.

Sana sighed dreamily. “It’s just so exciting. And he’s so cute.”

Taehyung’s eyes widened dramatically. “Wow! My brother is on the dance team!” he gasped.

Nayeon smirked. “Yes, we know,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” Taehyung replied, nodding along a little too seriously. His eyes were still wide, and Jimin lightly kicked his ankle under the table to try to get him to settle down. Taehyung was always a little over-eager to talk to new people.

Fortunately, the cheer team was used to Taehyung by now, and the girls were surprisingly nice, especially because Jimin could usually occupy Taehyung pretty well if he got a little over the top. Jimin didn’t mind Taehyung sitting with the squad. Taehyung was his best friend, even if he was a little embarrassing sometimes.

“Hey, wait. Jimin, do you know anything about Mark from Hoseok?” Mina asked, tilting her head at him. Her hair fell into her milk carton, and she yelped.

“No, not really,” Jimin answered as Mina patted her hair dry with her napkin. “Just that he’s really good friends with JB. And I think he’s pretty close with that guy from the basket ball team: Jackson.”

“Oh, yeah, they did that dance thing in the talent show last year,” Sana remembered.

Nayeon flipped her hair off her shoulder. “Nothing wrong with being good at dancing and sports,” Nayeon said, grinning innocently. Jimin could see right through her.

Sana laughed loudly at that. “Nayeon, you and Jackson, I can’t even deal,” she said.

“Nayeon. So thirsty,” Dahyun snorted.

Taehyung sat up at that. “I have water,” he said, digging the bottle Jin had packed for him out of his backpack. “Do you want some?”

The girls all started giggling –albeit behind their hands as to not embarrass Taehyung- and Jimin sighed. “Not that kind of thirsty, Taehyung, but it was nice of you to offer,” he promised. Maybe it was about time he distracted Taehyung from the girls at the table. “Also, how is your day going? You feeling okay?”

Taehyung nodded as he took out his lunch. “Yep! Which is actually weird. Because it’s been like... over two weeks and usually I would have started feeling crappy by now.”

Taehyung didn’t say it, but Jimin new exactly what he meant: two weeks since his last seizure. The longest Taehyung had ever gone without a seizure was three and a half weeks, so it really had been a long time since he last felt sick. “Maybe you’re getting better,” Jimin said positively. He knew there was a chance of Taehyung growing out of his seizures. Maybe he was just a late bloomer.

Taehyung’s eyes twinkled. “Maybe!” he said, excitedly. He opened his lunch from Seokjin and groaned. “Crap, it’s ham and cheese.”

Jimin quirked a smile. “What? You love ham and cheese.”

“Not anymore. Did you know pigs can be pets? They’re smarter than dogs!” Taehyung exclaimed.

Jimin held back a snicker, trying not to laugh at Taehyung like everyone else. He jumped around in conversations so fast, and sometimes it made him sound a little silly. “I didn’t know that.”

“I want a pet pig.”

Jimin sucked on one of his cheeks. “Ah, I see. You can’t eat ham because you like pigs too much,” he realized.

Taehyung tapped his temple then pointed at Jimin. “You get it,” he said sagely as he picked ham out of his sandwich. This time Jimin couldn’t help but laugh. Taehyung was great, and Jimin was happy he was eating with him instead of Hoseok.

Jimin spent most of his time at school anxious, but Taehyung always managed to cheer him right up.


HOSEOK

Hoseok jumped when Namjoon knocked on his door, but honestly, he should have been expecting it. He’d been rushing up to his room right after school every day this week. It had only been a matter of time before his parents checked up on him.

Hoseok wasn’t a great secret keeper. He told everyone what he bought them for Christmas, he spoiled the end to every movie, and he had ruined all of his brothers’ surprise parties growing up. Keeping the details of his relationship with Oliver secret was the hardest thing he had to do. Every time he saw his family, he wanted to tell them about all the nice things Oliver said and how cool he felt holding his hand. He was constantly on the brink of sharing everything when his family was around, so it was better if he hid in his room.

It was lonely, but it was the best way to ensure he didn’t break Oliver’s trust anymore than he already had.

“Come in!” Hoseok yelled after Namjoon knocked. His dad came in, a protein shake in each hand.

“Hey, thought we could both use some protein after working out,” he said, still in his exercise clothes from the gym. He had picked Hoseok up from dance practice sweaty.

“I didn’t work out,” Hoseok frowned.

Namjoon waved him off. “Dance practice: close enough.”

“Oh,” Hoseok said. He grabbed his smoothie and took a sip. “This is good. You didn’t make this, did you?”

Namjoon snorted. “No, Jin did. But I brought it up here, so you can still thank me.”

Hoseok grinned sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck. “Ah, sorry. Thank you, Joon,” he said.

“No problem,” Namjoon promised. He sat in Hoseok’s desk chair, making himself comfortable. “What are you working on now?” he asked, nodding to Hoseok’s open computer on his lap.

Hoseok looked down at the program he was working on. “Um... It’s not that crazy. I’m just redoing a couple of programs with functions because they’re like... not very concise.”

“Yeah? Why don’t you show me? Run one.”

“Okay.” Hoseok quick saved what he was working on and ran the program. This one found the surface area and volume of any geometric shape. Namjoon grunted in approval when all his inputs went through.

“It’s really amazing that you can do that, Hoseok. I’m so proud of you,” Namjoon said, and Hoseok flushed under the praise. “How are your friends in the programming club doing, anyway?”

“They’re pretty good,” Hoseok answered.

“And your friends on the dance team?”

“Fine.”

“And Oliver?”

Hoseok narrowed his eyes. “What is this, twenty questions?” he asked, but inwardly his heart was starting to race. He didn’t know how to answer Namjoon’s question without giving away too much. He didn’t know what Oliver would be comfortable with, and he didn’t want to make him mad.

“I’m just checking up on you,” Namjoon promised. “You’ve been quiet, and I wanted to see if you needed anything.”

Hoseok bit his lip. “I’m fine,” he answered. “Or... Actually, we’re planning this showcase-“

“Already?” Namjoon interrupted. “I thought you were practicing for homecoming still.”

“We are,” Hoseok answered. “It’s ridiculous, they’re putting too much on us all at once... But anyway, I was wondering if you had any song suggestions. I wanna dance to something really cool. Kinda edgy. And you play really good stuff on your show.”

Namjoon smiled. “Ah, I’m so flattered. My teenage son thinks I have good music taste,” Namjoon said. He ran his hand through his hair. “I’m not really sure... It’s hard because it’s a school event, so it can’t be too inappropriate.”

“Yeah,” Hoseok answered.

Namjoon hummed. “You know, Yoongi is always coming to my show. Why don’t you swing by tomorrow? We can listen to some radio-appropriate songs and figure something out together.”

Hoseok squirmed. “I dunno...” He and Oliver had plans to hang out after school.

Namjoon groaned and hung his head in his hands dramatically. He grew louder and louder as he spoke. “Ah, no, I miss my Hopie! Why won’t he spend any time with me? Am I not cool enough? Does he hate me? My own son, I can’t believe-“

“Okay, okay!” Hoseok interrupted, laughing. He had his hands over his ears to block out the noise. “I’ll come!”

“Great!” Namjoon said, reaching out to ruffle Hoseok’s hair. He shoved Hoseok’s protein shake towards him. “Now drink up. Gotta rebuild those muscles.”

“I got it,” Hoseok whined, rolling his eyes. Namjoon was a dork, but he loved him anyway. He’d figure something out with Oliver. Surely he wouldn’t mind him missing one date.


YOONGI

“Yoongi! Come downstairs! We’re about to eat dinner!” Seokjin called up the stairs.

Yoongi groaned but took off his headphones. He quickly saved the project he was working and kicked his desk chair out from the wall.

He paused for a second. As much as he loved his family –and eating- he didn’t like having to leave his room to sit at the table with them. His bedroom was the one place he felt comfortable. He had total control over everything that happened in his room, and the second he left, things got... unpredictable.

Fists banging on his door startled him into action. “Yooooooongi, come on!” Jimin yelped.

“What, are you trying to punch the door down?” Yoongi asked. He yanked open his door and had to duck to avoid one of Jimin’s fists decking him in the face. Jimin stumbled forwards.

“Whoops.”

“Yeah, whoops,” Yoongi said, rolling his eyes. This is exactly why he didn’t like leaving his bedroom. There was no way to control Jimin’s unbridled energy, and Yoongi didn’t need a broken nose.

Jimin didn’t even seem sorry. He just grabbed onto Yoongi’s wrist and started pulling him down the stairs. Yoongi followed him willingly, but only because dinner smelled great. Frankly, dinner always smelled great. He was so grateful to have a dad like Seokjin who made sure he ate well and was comfortable, despite how nervous he was all of the time. Yoongi sat down eagerly at the table.

“There he is! I wasn’t even sure you were upstairs; you were so quiet,” Seokjin said. He placed a big pot of beef stew under his nose.

Yoongi hummed, and Namjoon passed by, ruffling his hair on his way. “Ah. Our silent Yoongi,” he said fondly.

Yoongi opened his mouth to speak, but he was cut off when the laundry room door burst open. Jungkook tumbled into the kitchen. His lacrosse gear spilled everywhere.

“You’re late,” Namjoon said, his voice suddenly harsh.

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “So what?” he asked, taking off his backpack.

So,” Namjoon said. He pulled out Jungkook’s seat at the table. “Your father made dinner, and you very nearly missed it.”

Jungkook was hardly paying attention as he wiggled out of his hoodie. “I don’t need dinner. The team went to Spuds after practice.”

“Yum!” Taehyung said, not reading the situation at all. Yoongi knew for a fact that Spuds was one of Taehyung’s favorite restaurants; their whole menu consisted of French fries with different toppings. Yoongi’s usual choice had avocado and egg on top. “Did you get the Luau? That one’s my favorite!”

“French fries aren’t dinner, Kookie,” Hoseok chastised.

“Shut up, Hoseok!” Jungkook’s nose crinkled up, like it always did when everyone was ganging up on him like this. He was two seconds from a tantrum. Yoongi braced himself for the yelling to start, but Seokjin cut in before he could.

“Okay, that’s enough. Jungkook, next time text me when your plans change. For now, why don’t you sit down at the table and eat some vegetables for me,” he said, eyeing Namjoon. Yoongi couldn’t read their silent conversation, but he had a feeling it had something to do with leaving Jungkook alone.

Jungkook stomped over to his spot across the table from Yoongi. Yoongi winced when Jungkook pulled his chair in so fast, their knees clacked together.

“Okay, let’s eat,” Seokjin suggested. “Hoseok, can you pass the bread?”

Yoongi ducked his head down and let his brothers carry the conversation. Apparently the nerds in Hoseok’s computer programming club had gotten into a huge fight over Java vs. Python. Things had gotten personal. One kid almost punched out a senior. Hoseok relived it all animatedly at the table. Meanwhile, Taehyung seemed to be sticking as many peas as possible in Jimin’s water while he wasn’t looking.

Normally, Yoongi would be laughing along with Hoseok, and flicking peas off his own plate to help out Taehyung, but Jungkook had put him in a bad mood. It was hard to see him be so rude to his parents when they had given them so much. It was especially frustrating to see him be rude to Seokjin, who spent so many evenings cooking dinner, so many mornings packing lunches, and so many afternoons cleaning and doing laundry.

Seokjin had his own life, and he was using it to take care of them. He had no obligation to adopt all of them –or any of them- but he had. Yoongi was grateful, so why wasn’t Jungkook?

A quick look at Namjoon proved he was also annoyed. His knuckles were tight around his silverware, like it was taking everything he had not to send Jungkook to his room.

Yoongi huffed out a sigh. Sometimes his dads were too sympathetic, too graceful. He was done with Jungkook’s attitude problem; meanwhile, his parents seemed to forgive every rude thing he said and did. If Yoongi were in charge, Jungkook would have been grounded a long time ago.

As it was, Jungkook didn’t seem bothered by the tense atmosphere. Instead, he picked at his food with a disgusted look on his face. “Gross,” Jungkook said, stabbing at one of his carrots.

Yoongi couldn’t help but snap. “Excuse me?” he asked, eyes narrowing.

Jungkook’s eyes narrowed right back. “What?”

“Are you really complaining about Jin’s cooking? Jin’s?

Jungkook’s nose crinkled up again. “So what if I am? No one likes mushy carrots.”

“Oh, actually, that’s my fault. I was helping, and I put some of the stuff in a little too early,” Taehyung said apologetically, trying to ease the tension. But Yoongi’s eyes never left Jungkook’s.

“See?” Jungkook said victoriously. “Gross.

Yoongi’s entire face screwed up. “You ungrateful, little piece of shi-“

“Stop right there,” Seokjin cut in, his voice carrying strength Yoongi wasn’t used to hearing. Seokjin only got stern when things were serious. “I won’t be having that kind of language in this house, especially not directed at each other. Jungkook, you owe Taehyung an apology.”

“Sorry,” Jungkook muttered.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung said brightly.

“Now ask for forgiveness,” Seokjin prompted.

Jungkook seemed annoyed, and his words were insincere because of it. “Will you forgive me, Taehyung?”

Taehyung nodded, and Seokjin seemed pleased. He turned to Yoongi. “Okay, now Yoongi, why don’t you apologize to Jungkook?”

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “I’m sorry, Jungkook. Please forgive me.”

No.”

“But I didn’t even do anything!” Yoongi exploded, furious. He fiddled with his silverware, straightening it, double-checking that it was straight, and re-straightening it over and over again. This was so stupid. Why did Seokjin even bother to take care of Jungkook when he was so rude and awful all of the time? He couldn’t even properly accept an apology.

Jungkook’s nostrils flared. “Well, I can tell you don’t mean it! You’re always yelling at me.”

“Because you’re always being awful.

“I said stop,” Seokjin repeated. “Now you two can either get along, or you can both give me your headphones for the rest of the day.”

Yoongi blanched at that: anything but his headphones. Jungkook seemed just as affected and he quick muttered his forgiveness under his breath. “I’m sorry, Yoongi. I forgive you.”

“I forgive you, too,” Yoongi said. Although, frankly, he was still beyond frustrated. Jungkook really knew how to get under his skin.


SEOKJIN

“What to do about Jungkookie?” Seokjin wondered aloud, stripping the sheets off the bed.

Namjoon sighed. “Good question. I keep going back and forth between wanting to ground him for the next few weeks and snuggle him for the next few years,” he said, climbing into a fresh pair of boxers. His work clothes were strewn haphazardly across the bedroom.

Seokjin grinned. “You’re not alone,” he promised. “But you’ve been really good to him in spite of it all.”

Namjoon straightened up at that. “You think?”

“I know,” Seokjin promised, coiling his arms around Namjoon’s neck. His cheeks were flushed, and Seokjin kissed both of them. After all these years, Namjoon was still insecure as a father, but he was doing a great job. Seokjin was proud of him. “You’ve been really patient.”

Namjoon nodded. He ducked his head into the crook of Seokjin’s neck for a moment. “Patient is the right word for it. It’s exhausting waiting for him to come around. I keep trying to talk to him about it, but he keeps shutting me out.”

“Same,” Seokjin said with a wince. He pulled away from Namjoon and ducked into the linen closet for a fresh set of sheets he tossed half the fitted sheet to Namjoon and they worked together to stretch it over the mattress. “He’s scared, and I know that. I just wish I knew why he was so scared of us.

“What do you mean?” Namjoon asked.

Seokjin shrugged. He grabbed a pillow and its case while Namjoon worked on layering their sheet, blanket, and comforter on the bed. “I mean... there’s got to be something keeping him from talking to us. I don’t know if he thinks we won’t want to listen to him, or if he thinks we won’t understand, or what. But something has to be making him too nervous to speak up.” Seokjin tossed the pillow onto the bed and grabbed the other. “I mean, you know Kookie,” he said, stuffing the pillow into its case. “He’s always been vocal. But now it’s like pulling teeth; there’s gotta be a reason for that.”

Namjoon’s hum of agreement turned into a grunt as he lifted the mattress to tuck the covers under the end. “I haven’t really thought about it like that... I’ve just been trying to be as supportive as possible,” he said.

Seokjin finished making the bed and stood back from his work, akimbo. “Nice,” he said, looking at their handiwork. He turned back to Namjoon. “And honestly? That’s probably the best thing to do. Just be there for him.”

“Good, then we’re on the right track,” Namjoon said, pushing Seokjin down onto the bed.

“Maybe we should have gotten him a therapist after his mom died. Yoongi seems to like his.”

“Hm.”

Seokjin squeaked when Namjoon bit on a fresh hickey. “Joonie! We just changed the sheets!”

Namjoon hummed, his breath feathery against Seokjin’s collarbones. “I just wanna kiss you for a little longer.”

“You always say that,” Seokjin grumbled, but he let his arms wrap around Namjoon anyway. His shirt was soft and stretchy. It felt nice in his hands, but not as great as Namjoon felt in his arms. He arched up a little when Namjoon nibbled on his ear. “You know, maybe we should move to the shower. I’m not making the bed twice in one night.”

“How about the bath?” Namjoon asked, his eyes already dark. Seokjin snorted and patted his husband’s cheek.

“If you run it, I’ll get in it,” Seokjin promised.

Namjoon jumped off the bed at that. “Be back in a minute,” he said, rushing off. Seokjin watched him go with a smirk on his face. Namjoon had always said he would never get tired of Seokjin, and it looked like he was standing firm by that promise.


JIMIN

“I feel funny,” Taehyung said, putting his hands over his chest.

Jimin looked up sharply from his worksheet. “Like you just started feeling funny? Or you have been feeling funny?”

Taehyung squirmed at his lab station. “I don’t... I don’t really know. Maybe since I woke up this morning? But it doesn’t feel that bad,” he promised. “I think I can make it until the end of the day.”

Jimin put down his pencil. “We can have Jin come pick you up, Taehyung. He wouldn’t mind.”

Taehyung crinkled his nose. “Yeah, but I have an English test next period.”

Jimin hummed. Usually Taehyung felt off for a day or two before he had a seizure. They probably had some time before his next one; he just might have to stay home from school tomorrow instead of going home early today.

“As long as you think you’ll be okay,” Jimin said because –honestly- the seizure would be the same no matter where Taehyung was. It didn’t matter if he was in a classroom or at home. It just usually embarrassed Taehyung to have a seizure in front of strangers.

“Yeah... Hey, wait, are you working on the study packet?” he asked suddenly.

Jimin crinkled his nose. “Yeah. Everybody is working on the study packet. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” Jimin said.

“Do you know the answer to number 23, then?”

Jimin looked down at his paper and bit his lip. “Taehyung, I’m only on question nine, you’re way ahead of me,” he said.

Taehyung blinked owlishly at him. “Oh, okay. I’ll just look it up.”

Jimin scowled. He tried not to be jealous as Taehyung skimmed through his textbook with ease. He found his answer in about thirty seconds. It would take Jimin at least four times that long.

Jimin knew there was no use in trying to keep up with Taehyung, so instead he kept his head low and tried to work as quickly as he could. Jin said it didn’t matter how fast he got things done, so long as he did his best. He could manage that.

After awhile, Taehyung’s pencil stopped scratching across his paper. At first, Jimin thought that he was just finished his packet, but then he realized that the lead was still poised against the page, his hand suspended in midair.

“Tae?” Jimin asked, sitting up fast only to find his brother frozen on his lab stool. His heart stopped. “Crap, can someone get a blanket?” Jimin yelped just as Taehyung toppled off his seat.

Jimin managed to leap out of his chair and catch Taehyung’s head before it cracked against the floor tiles. He pushed the lab table out a little bit from where Taehyung was lying and shoved his stool as far away as possible. The last thing Taehyung needed was to bruise himself against the furniture.

Jimin pulled off his jacket and stuffed it under Taehyung’s head. He gently rolled Taehyung onto his side as one of his classmates shoved one of the emergency fire blankets under his nose. “Thanks,” Jimin said, using it to cover the wet patch growing on the front of Taehyung’s jeans.

“Is he having a seizure?”

“What’s going on?”

“Fuck, is his mouth going to start foaming?”

Jimin set his jaw, ignoring his classmates. Taehyung usually did his best to hide his epilepsy, staying home whenever he felt like he might have a seizure. However, they weren’t always predictable, and sometimes he ended up in situations like these: shaking in the chemistry lab while their entire class circled around him.

“Give him room,” Jimin said, carefully nudging back the legs of a girl who had wandered too close. She quickly stepped away.

“Someone go run and get the nurse,” his teacher ordered and Jimin shook his head.

“No, don’t worry, he’s okay. We’ll just walk there once it’s over,” Jimin promised. “Taehyung gets seizures all the time. We only have to worry about it if he hurts himself or if it lasts longer than five minutes.”

“How long has it been?”

Jimin winced and looked at the clock. He wasn’t great at remembering to check the time when Taehyung’s seizures started. “I don’t know, a little less than a minute? He’s okay,” Jimin promised.

Taehyung made a wailing noise, and every person in the room tensed.

Jimin scratched the back of his neck. “Listen, I promise he’s okay,” he said again. His teacher shifted her weight back and forth nervously. She clearly didn’t believe him. Jimin decided to ignore her, too. Instead he sat next to Taehyung’s head and let him shake. “You’re okay, Tae Tae,” he said because Taehyung needed to hear it too. “You’re all right. Don’t be scared. You’re okay.”

Taehyung’s right side stopped twitching.

Jimin released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “There you go, Tae, it’s almost over. You’re okay.”

“Shit, look at his eyes,” one of their classmates muttered.

Jimin looked up at Taehyung’s face. His left eye was dull and unseeing, while his right darted around wildly, looking at everyone’s shoes. Taehyung’s breath hitched, and Jimin felt for him. It must be stressful to be surrounded by so many people in such a vulnerable position.

Jimin cleared his throat, trying to catch whatever was left of Taehyung’s attention. “Don’t worry, Taehyung, I’m here,” he promised as Taehyung’s neck finally stilled. He relaxed into Jimin’s jacket balled up under his head. “Almost done, Taehyung. Just your arm and your leg. You’re okay.”

Taehyung’s seizure only lasted for another minute, but as soon as it was over, his eyes scrunched closed. A sob erupted from his throat and Jimin quickly swept him up into a hug, not caring about the state of his pants. “Hey, you’re okay... you’re okay,” he swore. He knew Taehyung wouldn’t remember much of his seizure, so it was best to reassure him again.

Taehyung’s words were garbled for awhile, but eventually he managed to get out a coherent sentence. “Get me out of here, Jiminnie,” Teahyung begged, tears staining the shoulder of Jimin’s t-shirt.

“Okay, okay,” Jimin said. “We’ll go to the nurse’s and call Jin, okay? You’re okay,” he promised again. Taehyung was limp against him, and Jimin wondered if he was still too disoriented and confused to walk. “You think you can stand?”

Taehyung didn’t say anything at first, just wept into Jimin’s shoulder for a couple breaths. “Y-Yes,” he eventually agreed. He moved to get up, and his blanket fell off.

“He peed his pants,” a girl failed to whisper.

Jimin sighed and picked up the blanket. He wrapped it around Taehyung’s hips for him and then snaked an arm around his shoulders. He led him out of the room before Taehyung could overhear any other comments about him.

“I want Jin,” Taehyung said.

“We’re going to get Jin,” Jimin promised.

“No, no,” Taehyung slurred. “I want Jin.”

Jimin frowned and wiped sweat off Taehyung's forehead. He hated seeing Taehyung so confused. “We’ll get Jin,” he promised again.

“I want Jin,” Taehyung muttered, his head hanging low as he cried. Jimin sighed and tightened the blanket around Taehyung’s waist as they walked. Today had been embarrassing enough for him, the last thing he needed was for anyone else to see his wet pants.

They made it to the nurse’s office, and the nurse called Seokjin while Jimin helped Taehyung into a fresh pair of pants in the private bathroom. When he was all cleaned up, Jimin laid him down on one of the cots. Taehyung’s chest heaved up and down. He hiccupped while he cried and Jimin rubbed his back. “You’re okay. I’m here,” Jimin said. “You’re going to be just fine.”

“I want Jinnie, so badly, I want him so badly,” Taehyung sobbed, snot bubbling in the back of his throat.

Jimin sighed. “Scoot over,” he said, nudging Taehyung back a little bit. He climbed into the cot next to him. Taehyung gripped onto him like a lifeline, leaving Jimin sputtering for breath as he tried to rub his back and calm him down.

When Seokjin came into the nurses office, he was flushed like he had sprinted to school instead of driving. He looked absolutely panicked until he saw Taehyung with Jimin.

“Oh goodness, there you are,” he breathed out. Taehyung stretched an arm out, and Jin helped him sit up, hugging him close and hooking his chin over Taehyung’s scrawny shoulder. Jimin sat up too. Seokjin pressed a kiss to Taehyung’s ear, and then reached out to grab Jimin’s hand. “Good job, Jiminnie. You did a good job, I’m so proud of you,” he gushed.

“I got him fresh pants,” Jimin answered awkwardly.

Seokjin looked surprised and he pulled away from Taehyung to look at his clothes. “Oh, that’s so great,” Seokjin said. “Thank you, that probably helped a lot more than you would think.” Jimin nodded tensely. “Talk to me. Do you want to go home with me and Tae? Are you feeling shaken? Or do you think you can head back to class.”

Jimin shrugged. It wasn’t the first time he’d had to handle one of Taehyung’s seizures all by himself, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last, even if it had been stressful. “I mean... If I go home, I can’t go to cheerleading practice later. I’m learning a new tumbling routine.”

Seokjin reached out to run his hand through Jimin’s hair. Taehyung, meanwhile, gripped at the front of Seokjin’s t-shirt, crying into the fabric. “Okay. Do you think you can get a ride home?” he asked, like Jimin was his number one concern.

Jimin took a shaky breath. This was why he loved his dad. Seokjin always made him feel important, even when there were a hundred other things that needed his attention.

“I can get a ride,” he said.

“Okay,” Jin answered. He pulled Jimin close by the back of his neck and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Go do your best, okay? I’ll see you when you get home. We can talk about this later if you want.”

Jimin nodded. “Okay.” He patted Taehyung’s back. “Bye, Tae Tae.”

Taehyung squeaked in response. Jimin spared his family one more glance as Seokjin finally diverted his full attention to Taehyung. Jimin took a deep breath. Taehyung was in good hands. He would be okay.


SEOKJIN

Namjoon came home, as loud as ever. “Hello? Honey, I’m home!”

“Shhh,” Seokjin shushed, nodding towards Taehyung, who was curled up in a ball, sleeping in the bay window. He was really too big to sleep there anymore, but Taehyung liked napping near Seokjin after a seizure. Seokjin had to work on dinner, so Taehyung had taken his familiar spot curled up in the sun like a cat.

Namjoon seemed to notice the tear tracks on Taehyung’s cheeks immediately. “Did he have a seizure?” he asked.

Seokjin nodded. “Yeah, he’s really tired. I was gonna let him sleep, have him eat some dinner, and maybe skip school tomorrow.”

Namjoon reached around Seokjin to grab a few elbow macaroni from the strainer he was shaking. “Sounds like a good plan. Maybe we’ll sit on the couch together and watch a movie later,” he said.

“That would be great. Maybe convince Yoongi to watch with you guys. He could use some time out of his room, and I think it would mean a lot to Taehyung,” Seokjin said.

Namjoon glanced at the ceiling. “Is he upstairs?”

“Everyone is,” Seokjin answered. Loud music pounded through the floorboards, threating to shaking the whole house. “Jungkook came home from lacrosse cranky, and now he’s angsting in his room.”

Namjoon snorted. “Classic.”

“It would be a miracle if you could somehow convince him to watch a movie, too,” Seokjin suggested. “No pressure.”

“I’ll try my best,” Namjoon promised. “Is dinner almost ready?”

“Yep. You could probably go wake Taehyung up if you wanted. “

“Sure thing,” Namjoon agreed. He walked across the kitchen to sit on the last remaining sliver of bench. Taehyung took up nearly the whole thing. Namjoon shook his hip gently. “Hey, Taehyung. Dinner is almost ready. Why don’t you wake up so you can eat something?”

Taehyung’s eyes opened slowly. He blinked them a couple times –clearly confused- until he realized that Namjoon was across from him. As soon as he processed his dad sitting next to him on the bench, he shot up and lunged at Namjoon, wrapping his lanky arms around Namjoon’s neck.

Namjoon caught him easily, and looked over to Seokjin with a smirk. Seokjin grinned back. At least Taehyung was still snuggly, even if Jungkook wasn’t. 

Chapter Text

 

TAEHYUNG

Taehyung scrubbed his eyes as he woke up. He couldn’t remember falling asleep last night. To be fair, he was usually a little disoriented after seizures, but he was near positive that he hadn’t put himself to bed. The only thing he could remember were snippets of a movie he had been too anxious to watch and sitting in Namjoon’s lap. Taehyung was pretty sure he embarrassed himself in front of Yoongi by holding onto Namjoon like a koala and crying, but yesterday had been terrible and Taehyung had deserved a bit of a mental breakdown.

The clock read 10:32, but it might as well have been six in the morning for Taehyung. It took ages, but he eventually managed to drag his sore body out of bed and go downstairs in search of company.

“Jinnie?” he called out.

“Doing dishes!” Seokjin shouted back.

Taehyung walked into the kitchen and immediately dropped onto the bench in the bay window. The sun coming through the glass was familiar enough to ease some of his headache away. He curled his legs up and closed his eyes. Taehyung felt like he was on the brink of death.

Seokjin cooed at him. “Taehyungie, honey, why don’t you go back upstairs and sleep if you’re still tired?”

Taehyung groaned. “No one should be alone on their death bed.”

Seokjin laughed. He dried his hands off on a dishtowel. Taehyung lifted an arm, and Seokjin took his hand. “You’re not dying,” he promised. “But are you feeling okay? You slept for a long time; were you just tired or do you feel sick?”

“I think I’m okay. I’m just tired, and...” Taehyung bit his lip, cutting himself off.

Seokjin’s eyebrows furrowed together. “And?” he prompted. Taehyung took a shaky breath.

“And embarrassed,” he finished. He could feel his cheeks start to heat up. Sometimes it was hard to even talk to Seokjin about how he was feeling. They spent so much time together. Seokjin was the only person who was home as much as Taehyung was. When Taehyung was lonely, Seokjin was always there to talk to, and Taehyung didn’t want to lose face in front of him. He was already too dependent on Seokjin; he didn’t want to humiliate himself further.

Seokjin hummed. “I thought you might be,” he replied. His voice was so gentle. Taehyung liked how Seokjin was gentle. “I figured that maybe a day home from school would help, so I let you sleep in.”

Taehyung sighed. “Thanks.” He wouldn’t have to face anyone at school today, but it didn’t change what had happened.

Seokjin still looked worried. “What can I do to help cheer you up? Do you wanna go watch a movie together? Do you want to call Jimin? I’m sure he’d like to hear from you; he seemed worried this morning. Or we could call grandmom; it’s been awhile since you guys talked.”

Everything sounded exhausting to Taehyung. He just wanted a nap. He was more prone to seizures when he was tired, and he didn’t want to have a second one.

“Can I just sleep for a little longer?” he asked. His voice was groggier than expected.

“Of course,” Jin answered, bending down to kiss his forehead. Tears sprung up in Taehyung’s eyes. He was tired, and embarrassed, and he had felt so stressed all day yesterday, and he missed his dad, and everything felt like too much.

“Can... Can we sleep in your bed?” he asked.

Seokjin nodded. “Sure, let me just finish these dishes, okay?”

“Okay.”

“If you fall asleep, do you want me to wake you up so we can go upstairs together?”

Taehyung was too exhausted to answer properly. “Mhm,” he hummed, eyes drooping closed.

“Okay, will do,” Seokjin answered. Seokjin carded his fingers through Taehyung’s hair. Taehyung leaned into the touch, wishing his dad didn’t have chores to do so they could stay together. He melted into the bench cushion despairingly when Jin pulled away to finish the dishes.

Taehyung closed his eyes, but he had just slept for a full 12 hours. Even if he still felt a little drowsy, he had gotten more than enough rest, and his mind was racing too quickly to sleep through anyway.

He had trouble piecing together memories after seizures. He would remember whatever he was doing before the seizure, and then he would remember however he was feeling when he woke up afterwards. Everything else in the middle was a blur.

Bits and pieces from yesterday swelled up in his chest. He remembered ankles. He remembered feeling terrified. He remembered Jimin, and hyperventilating, and needing Jin.

He remembered wet pants.

It was one thing to have an accident at home, but it was another thing to have one at school. (“Another thing” being a way, way, way, way worse thing that Taehyung would rather die than have to own up to.)

Just thinking about everyone watching him cry, drool, and loose control made Taehyung want to dig a hole and bury himself in it. He felt betrayed by his own body. The seizure had come on so fast. He had thought it would come around bedtime, when he was tired and strung out. He didn’t think it would come in the middle of science class.

Taehyung gasped for breath. His eyes flew open only to start burning, and it wasn’t until Seokjin was kneeling next to him that Taehyung realized he was crying.

“Tae... Tae Tae, honey, you’re okay... you’re okay,” Seokjin promised. His hands were still a little wet from washing dishes as he held either side of Taehyung’s face. “You’re okay.”

“’M-‘m s-so em-embarrassed. Everyone saw,” Taehyung stuttered. He didn’t even want Jin to look at him.

But he didn’t want to be alone either, and when Seokjin made him sit up and pulled him into a hug, Taehyung felt a wave of relief wash over him. He was still humiliated, though, and he buried his face in Seokjin’s chest.

“Taehyungie, there’s no reason to be embarrassed. They’re your classmates; they’re your friends.”

“No, they’re not,” Taehyung coughed, overwhelmed.

Seokjin’s arms wrapped tighter around him. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Taehyung shuddered. He wanted Seokjin to be proud of him; he didn’t want him to think he was a friendless loser. But he also wanted Jin to listen to him and tell him everything would be okay. “No one is my friend. No one likes me, just- just Jimin,” Taehyung wept. It was horrible to admit out loud.

Seokjin pulled back a little, and Taehyung ducked his head. “You don’t talk to anyone at school?”

Taehyung pressed his lips together, the corners of his mouth pulling down into an ugly frown. “Just Jimin,” he repeated. He made a keening noise, and Seokjin pushed his messy hair off his forehead. He didn’t seem to know what to do. He was just staring at Taehyung, confused.

“But you used to talk to some boys, I remember. What about Doug? What about Steven?”

Taehyung pulled at the bottom of his t-shirt. “I don’t... I don’t want to talk to them.”

“Why?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung’s heart was racing. He tugged on his shirt hard, stretching it almost down to his knees. “Because I’m embarrassing,” he answered.

Seokjin was gentle as he pried Taehyung’s hand from the bottom of his t-shirt, but his voice was stern. “Taehyung, honey, you are not embarrassing. You’re a kind, loving, wonderful boy. And you are so smart, and funny, and interesting, and you need to stop worrying about your seizures and talk to people. Doug and Steven were nice boys. Why would you push them away?”

“Because I don’t know how to talk to them,” Taehyung said, sniffling.

Seokjin sighed. “Taehyung-“

“It’s just-“ Taehyung started, interrupting, “-I don’t have anything in common with anyone. It’s like everyone else likes all the same things, and talks the same way, and... and is in the same world, and I’m not. And I have seizures. And I don’t go to school, and I peed my pants, and Jimin had to take me to the nurse. And how am I supposed to face anyone after that? How am I supposed to talk to people after that?”

“I don’t know,” Seokjin said. He gave Taehyung’s back a couple scratches. “But isn’t that lonely?”

Taehyung nodded.

“Okay... Okay, so why don’t you try?”

Taehyung shrugged.

Seokjin sighed. “It’s not okay to just talk to Jimin, Taehyung. We need to get you out there and making friends. I think we should sign you up for a club or something, you need people to hang out with that are you own age,” he said.

Taehyung winced, tears still dribbling down his face. He pushed them away, sucking in a harsh breath of air. “That sounds really hard, and I don’t want to do it,” Taehyung said through snot and tears.

Seokjin bit his bottom lip. “But you’re lonely,” he said. “I don’t like seeing you lonely.”

“But if you’re lonely, then you’re alone. And if you’re alone, then there’s no one around to laugh at you,” Taehyung argued.

Seokjin looked at him for a second, his expression wide open. Taehyung squirmed nervously, not sure what to do, until Seokjin’s face crumbled up. Taehyung squeaked when his dad pulled him flush against his chest. “Oh, Tae Tae... Tae, I hate that. Taehyungie, I hate that,” he said, and Taehyung’s heart rate sped up when he realized how wet Seokjin’s voice sounded. “I wish you weren’t so scared about getting embarrassed. I wish you were confident, honey.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said.

Don’t be,” Seokjin replied. “Don’t be, don’t be, don’t be. I’m not mad, I’m just sad for you.”

Taehyung sniffed. He crept a hand up between him and Seokjin to rub at his nose. “It’s ‘kay. I have you, and Joon, and Jimin,” he said.

“What about your other brothers?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung shrugged again. “Yoongi and Hoseok don’t like me. And Jungkook doesn’t like anyone.”

“That’s not true. Yoongi and Hoseok love you fiercely. They’re just like you and Jimin, is all. They’re best friends. And Jungkook loves everyone; he’s just going through a tough time.”

Taehyung just pressed his face further into Seokjin’s chest. His dad sounded so upset, Taehyung didn’t want to argue with him. Meanwhile, larger part of Taehyung wanted to believe him so badly that he didn’t dare say anything contrary. He just wanted to have friends and for everyone to like him.

“I’m just tired,” he eventually sniffled.

“Okay,” Seokjin said. “Okay... Well, let’s go up to my room, yeah? I’ll read a book, and you can nap on me.”

“But what about the dishes?”

Seokjin scratched the crown of Taehyung’s head a couple times. “You’re more important than dishes,” he answered. “Let me focus on taking care of you today. Yesterday sounds like it was really hard. I didn’t realize how difficult it must have been for you.”

Taehyung gripped at Seokjin’s shirt. “I wish yesterday hadn’t happened.”

“Me, too, honey,” Seokjin said. “Me, too.”


 JUNGKOOK

Jungkook hated school as much as he hated everything else (AKA: a lot). But if he had to pick one class that he hated more than all the others, it would definitely be third period math with Mrs. Schaffer.

The reasoning for why Jungkook hated math was trifold.

  1. It was algebra, and all his friends took geometry.
  2. Schaffer was terrible at teaching.
  3. Jungkook refused to apply himself.

Namjoon and Seokjin always told him to “do his best.” But when he did do his best he ended up alone in the advanced algebra class, instead of the normal geometry class with all his friends. The hockey team gave him enough crap for being a goodie-two-shoes, and no one on the lacrosse team had ever gotten a grade higher than a C in their lives. If none of Jungkook’s teammates cared about school, why should he?

Jungkook was glowering at the front board when the girl in the seat next to him tapped on his shoulder. “Hey, Jungkook. When is the next lacrosse game?” she asked.

Jungkook sat up a little, surprised that she had bothered talking to him. “Ah, hey, Amy. It’s not until Tuesday, actually.”

Amy looked relieved. “Good, okay, I’m free on Tuesdays!” she said to herself. She fixed her attention on Jungkook again; her eyes squinted up hopefully. “You wouldn’t happen to know Rocky, would you?”

Jungkook smirked. “Yeah, we’re both on Varsity,” he answered. “And we’re both attackers.”

Amy beamed at that. “Okay, well, we’re like... talking you know? Me and Rocky. So... I dunno, he’s just cute! Like so cute. So I thought I would come see your game, and- Well, do you think you can make sure he notices me? Like just maybe look up in the stands and be all ‘oh, there’s Amy, the cute girl from my math class’ or something? Nothing too crazy. Just to make him see me and think that other boys think I’m adorable and stuff. ”

“Sure thing,” Jungkook answered easily. “Do you really want me to say ‘cute,’ though? Or like... something else?”

“Cute is just fine!” Amy answered. Her smile stretched across her entire face. “Thank you so much, Jungkook. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea how much this means to- Oh, wait, hold on, I think class is starting.”

“Okay, students,” Mrs. Schaffer said, getting the class’s attention. Jungkook pulled his hood up over his head. “Please pass up your homework.”

Jungkook scowled down at his notebook. He definitely hadn’t done any homework last night. Jungkook never did his homework, but that didn’t make him feel any less awkward when the girl in front of him held out her hand for his work and he didn’t have anything to pass her.

Mrs. Schaffer picked up the papers at the end of each row of desks, flipping through each sheet and checking for everyone’s name. She looked up over her glasses when she found Jungkook’s paper missing. “Mr. Kim, I see you don’t have your homework again,” she said. Jungkook didn’t say anything, just kicked at the ground. “Did the dog eat your homework?”

Jungkook’s nose crinkled. “I don’t have a dog.”

“Did your sister take your homework to school instead of hers by mistake?”

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “I don’t have a sister, I have four brothers.”

Mrs. Schaffer snapped her stack of papers down on her desk. “Then what was it this time, Jungkook? Did you lose your notebook? Did your computer crash? Was there a death in the family?”

Jungkook’s cheeks burned. Death wasn’t something to use as an excuse; it was serious. No matter how mad Mrs. Schaffer was with him for missing out on his homework, it wasn’t okay to make jokes about people dying. He knew Mrs. Schaffer was stupid, but he hadn’t known she was this dumb. “Fuck you,” he snapped.

“Excuse me?” Mrs. Schaffer asked, eyebrows skyrocketing up her forehead.

“I said fuck you,” Jungkook repeated, furious. The whole class was squirming in their seats, sharing looks and staring at him. “You don’t know my life. Maybe I have a really good excuse for not doing my homework, or maybe I just didn’t feel like it. Who cares? This class is a waste of time anyway.”

The whole class tittered anxiously, and Mrs. Schaffer took off her glasses. Jungkook slumped lower in his seat.

“Well, Mr. Kim. I may not know your life, but I do know where you’re going to be after school today.”

She pulled out a pink pad of paper from her desk and scribbled across the top sheet. She tore off the page. Jungkook groaned when she dropped it off on his desk.

Detention.


 HOSEOK

“Okay, so now all there’s left to do is write a function call for the final answer in Main, and make sure we have a return command in Circumference, and... There! You got any user input to test?” Hoseok asked.

“Yeah, hold on,” Mikey said, pushing his desk chair away from the computer to grab his notebook. If there was one thing their computer-programming advisor, Mr. Clarke, was adamant about, it was keeping their notes on paper. Mikey showed his data to Hoseok to enter into the program.

“You got a calculator?” Hoseok asked.

Mikey scrambled for his backpack. He punched his data into his calculator to double check the answer. He jumped up out of his seat when it was right. “Hell yes!” he shouted. Mr. Clarke glared at him from across the computer lab and Mikey shrunk down in his seat. “I mean... yay,” he said meekly.

“You just wrote a program with functions,” Hoseok said proudly. “How do you feel?”

“Older,” Mikey answered, leaning back in his chair. He kicked off the desk to spin in a circle. “From here on out, I’m no longer Freshman Mikey. I am a changed man.”

Hoseok snickered. “I’m pretty sure no matter how old you get, you’ll always be Freshman Mikey,” he teased. Mikey couldn’t weigh even 120 pounds soaking wet. He was short, and gangly, and zitty, but his personality made up for all his shortcomings (or at least Hoseok thought it did).

The kids in computer programming club weren’t very cool, but they were good friends. They couldn’t dance and they didn’t listen to the same music that Hoseok did, but they were really nice and supportive. Hoseok knew he should spend more time with them, but now that he was dating Oliver, he only saw them during their scheduled club hours.

“Hey, Hoseok, can you check over my code, too? It won’t run,” Dustin said, scrubbing at his eyes.

Hoseok rolled his chair over to Dustin’s computer, his own code long since forgotten. “I guess,” he answered, taking his spot in front of the monitor. “But honestly, you’re better at finding errors than I am.”

“True,” Dustin agreed. “But I forgot my glasses at home. I can’t see shit.”

“Fair enough. All you’re missing is an extra equal sign in your ‘if’ statement,” Hoseok said, typing in an equal sign and running the program. He smiled confidently when it ran right away.

“I think I hate you,” Dustin said. “I’ve been staring at this blurry thing for like twelve minutes.”

Hoseok grinned. “Well, a missing equal sign is hard to spot.”

“Fair enough,” Dustin mimicked, pulling his feet up onto his chair. “So how are you doing, Hoseok? I feel like I haven’t gotten to talk to you in like... three years.”

“Me either,” Mikey piped up. When both Hoseok and Dustin whirled around to stare at him, he hid his face behind his notebook awkwardly. “Sorry, I was eavesdropping.”

Hoseok scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, just as embarrassed as Mikey was. “Yeah, sorry... I guess I’ve been hanging out with the dance kids a lot more lately,” he admitted. Really he was just hanging out with Oliver, but he knew Oliver wouldn’t be comfortable with him telling his programming friends about it. Any time he brought up being open about their relationship, he clammed up.

“Are you suddenly too cool for us or something?” Dustin asked.

“Dustin!” Mikey squeaked, but the blush on his cheeks said he was thinking the exact same thing.

Hoseok felt sick. He wasn’t that kind of person. “No, of course not,” he answered. “You guys are so much better than everyone in dance. They’re all so dramatic, you know? Like... Like you know the couch in the instrument closet?” he asked. Dustin and Mikey both nodded. “Right, well, you’ll never believe how many people have had sex on that thing this year alone.”

Mikey’s eyes widened. “You mean like blow jobs?”

Hoseok shrugged. “I guess,” he answered, uncertain.

Dustin slammed his fist on the table. “The real question is who, though? Who.”

Hoseok smirked, leaning forward. “Okay, so like... Lisa and Jess? Just last week. But just yesterday? Lisa and Dean.

Dustin’s eyes widened. “Holy shit, I would have never guessed,” he said, running his hand through his hair. He punched Hoseok in the shoulder. “See? This is why we need you around. You know all the drama; you’ve always got cool stuff to talk about. Meanwhile, I’ve been stuck listening to Lucas talk about Doctor Who for the last three lunch periods in a row.”

Mikey nodded eagerly. “Yeah! I haven’t even seen an episode of Doctor Who since the Ponds left the show. I have no idea what he’s talking about.”

“I’m talking about the greatest show ever created!” Lucas shouted from across the room.

“That don’t make it any less confusing,” Mikey shouted back, sticking his tongue out for good measure.

Hoseok laughed loudly. “You guys are great. I’ll try to make it to lunch tomorrow,” he promised. It would be hard to get out of eating with Oliver –he always complained about missing him too much when Hoseok needed to skip out on him- but his friends were worth it.

“Okay, solid,” Dustin said. “I’m actually kind of relieved. I thought you were getting a big head or something.”

“Like you were leaving us behind,” Mikey piped up, rubbing his pink nose.

Hoseok smiled. “Nah, I would never leave you guys,” he promised. “You’re the best friends I have.”


 SEOKJIN

Seokjin tapped his foot impatiently. Jungkook was taking his sweet time walking from school to the car. He seemed hesitant, but for once, he had every reason to be.

Seokjin was furious. He had been very clear when he had told Jungkook he could be as angry as he wanted with him and Namjoon, but he had to drop the attitude at school. He couldn’t believe he had talked back to a teacher. He had raised Jungkook better than this.

Seokjin’s hands tightened around the steering wheel as Jungkook climbed into the car. “Hey,” Jungkook said awkwardly, his eyes big and round. He always pulled out his best puppy dog eyes when he was in trouble, but Seokjin wasn’t having it.

Detention, Jungkook? Really?”

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook said, already slumping in his seat. “You don’t get it.”

“Enlighten me,” Seokjin snapped back.

“She was being awful. She kept acting like I was a liar or something, and she like... yelled at me, and she made fun of me for not having my homework in front of the whole class. It was stupid!”

Seokjin watched as Jungkook buckled his seat belt and then pulled away from the curb. “Yeah, about that. I was on the phone with your Vice Principal, and he said you haven’t turned in your homework for math class since the beginning of October.”

“So?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin almost laughed. “So? So? Jungkook, you have one job. One. And that’s to do your best at school. You need to do your homework. Like on a long list of things you are responsible for, that is number one,” he said. Jungkook didn’t bother to respond, just scooted down lower in his seat and crossed his arms. Seokjin scoffed. “I’m warning you right now, Namjoon is not going to be happy when he gets home.” His husband had no patience for the boys acting up at school.

“Whatever,” Jungkook said, his voice cracking. Seokjin spared him a glace at a stop sign and realized there were tears brewing in Jungkook’s eyes.

Shoot.

Two melt downs in one day.

Being a dad to five kids had never been an easy job. Untangling himself from Taehyung had been difficult enough as it was, and it was always hard to take care of a clammed up, crying Jungkook, but Seokjin had handled far bigger problems in his fourteen years of being a dad. He could do tantrums; he could do tears.

When the boys were preschoolers, their crying would overlap all of the time. It wasn’t uncommon for Seokjin to have a kid in both arms and one clinging to each leg by the time Namjoon came home from work. Just having the boys be able to feed themselves made things easier. Seokjin could handle a crying Taehyung in the morning and an angsty Jungkook in the afternoon.

But that didn’t mean it would be easy.

Seokjin melted as Jungkook started sniffling. When he spoke again, his voice was much softer. “Jungkook...” He sighed. “Kookie, love, what’s going on? This isn’t like you. You’re a good kid.”

Jungkook sniffled and hid his face in his backpack. “You don’t get it,” he said. “You don’t get anything.”

Seokjin pushed his hair off his face and threw on his blinker. He spun into the church parking lot, and turned to face Jungkook. “Don’t assume I don’t get it. You won’t know unless you try talking to me about it,” he said.

“But you won’t.”

“Kookie, just try.”

Jungkook’s shoulders arched further around his book bag. “Mrs. Schaffer’s the worst, okay? You and Namjoon can tell me to respect my teachers as much as you want, but Mrs. Schaffer sucks, she’s awful, and you don’t. Get it.”

“Well, why is she the worst? Because she gives you too much homework? Or is there something going on that I should know about?” Seokjin asked. When Jungkook didn’t answer straight away, Seokjin grabbed his shoulder, forcing Jungkook to look him in the eye. “If something is going on, I can protect you, Jungkook. You just need to tell me.”

“She’s just not nice,” Jungkook repeated. “She acts like she knows me, but... but she doesn’t know anything. And today she was like... making up excuses for me for why I didn’t do my homework, and she made a joke about someone dying, and it wasn’t funny, and everyone heard, and I snapped, okay? But it was rude.”

Jungkook’s narrow body shook as he held back tears. His whole face had grown red and blotchy, and Seokjin’s heart ached for him.

“People dying isn’t a laughing matter,” Jungkook squeaked, hugging his book bag as close to his chest as possible.

“No, it’s not,” Seokjin agreed.

“Can we just go home?” Jungkook asked, burying his fists into his eye sockets in a vain attempt to hide his tears from Seokjin.

“Sure, sure,” Seokjin said, turning the key into the ignition. He was quiet for a moment, his mind racing. Usually, Seokjin was good at following his instincts as a father, but right now he had no idea what to do. Jungkook had been sensitive about death ever since his mother overdosed. He had a reason to snap. But at the same time, Seokjin couldn’t ignore Jungkook swearing in class and skipping his homework.

“Okay, here’s the plan,” Seokjin said after they had been driving for a minute. “I’m going to call the school and explain your situation-“

“Dad, no-“

“If you’re having outbursts in class then the school needs to be aware of what’s going on,” Seokjin interrupted. He continued planning out loud. “Then I’m going to see if Mrs. Schaffer will accept your homework late, and I’m going to keep your phone until all your work is submitted.”

Dad.”

“I’m not finished,” Seokjin said. “Lastly, we’re going to get you some professional help.”

Jungkook paled. “Like Yoongi?” he asked.

Seokjin nodded. “Like Yoongi.”

Jungkook started to cry in earnest at that, sniffling into his backpack as he tried to hide it. Seokjin leaned over to put a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder, but Jungkook only shook him off. Seokjin sighed. “Jungkook, honey, I promise, I’m just trying to help you, okay? If you won’t talk to me, you need to talk to someone.”

Jungkook didn’t say anything, just squeezed his backpack harder.


 NAMJOON

“You don’t think I was too hard on Jungkook yesterday, do you?” Namjoon asked, nudging Seokjin’s feet so he could Swiffer beneath him.

Seokjin adjusted his glasses, looking up from the bills spread across the kitchen table. “... I’m not sure,” he answered.

Namjoon winced. He had been furious with Jungkook when Seokjin had told him about his detention. Namjoon considered himself a relatively patient person, but he had no tolerance for his children misbehaving at school.

Namjoon had humble beginnings. He had grown up with nothing, but he had given himself a prosperous future by taking school seriously, working hard, getting valuable scholarships, and respecting his teachers. He didn’t need his kids to get near perfect grades like he did, but he did need them to take their education seriously and be grateful for their opportunity to learn and be successful at school. Namjoon had always worked hard so he could one day provide for his family. He wanted his boys to have the same mindset.

To hear that Jungkook was blowing off homework and disrespecting his teacher felt like a slap to the face.

However, now that some time had passed, Namjoon felt horrible for chastising him. Maybe grounding him for the weekend on top of Seokjin taking away his phone was a little much. “I mean... I did yell at him a little, but no matter what happened in that classroom, there’s no excuse for not doing your homework,” Namjoon said.

Seokjin hummed, reaching into the bowl of almonds in front of him. They had just had lunch, but Seokjin was always hungry. It didn’t matter if it was 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday or 3:30 a.m. on a Wednesday night; he was always eating. (Although, his figure would say otherwise.)

“I agree. I looked at his math grade online, and I’m... I’m very disappointed,” Seokjin admitted. “He’s too smart for the test scores he’s getting.”

Namjoon –who was moving the kitchen chairs to Swiffer under the table- slammed one of the chairs into the island on accident; he was so frustrated.

But,” Seokjin said. “I don’t know if I like this Mrs. Schaffer. I don’t think she’s being very understanding when it comes to Jungkook.”

Namjoon blew a strand of hair out of his face. He had been helping with chores all morning, and he hadn’t gelled his hair back yet. “How do you mean?”

“To my knowledge, she made a comment about Jungkook making up excuses for not doing his work because there was a ‘death in the family’ or something along those lines,” Seokjin said, scribbling out a check.

Namjoon looked at his husband, aghast. “That fucker.”

Seokjin glared at him over the rim of his glasses. “Language,” he chastised. “You’re where Jungkook gets it from.”

“Seokjin, that is so inappropriate.”

“I know, dear. I already emailed the vice principal to schedule a meeting about it,” he said, stuffing the check in an envelope and licking it closed. He stacked it on top of his growing pile of paid bills.

Namjoon took a few seconds to breathe, forcing himself to calm down. “... You have it all sorted, then?”

“I will have it all sorted,” Seokjin promised. “Do you want to come to the meeting?”

Namjoon laughed humorlessly. “No. I think I’d lunge across the table if I tried to sit through that,” he said.

Seokjin arched an eyebrow. “At who?”

“Doesn’t matter. Someone,” Namjoon answered. He was quiet for a moment as he finished Swiffer-ing the kitchen. “Hey, you know, I think it might be good if we got Jungkook a therapist, like you were saying. It might be good for him to have someone he can talk to other than us.”

“Way ahead of you, babe. He’s got an appointment on Thursday.”

Namjoon huffed out a sigh of relief. “See? This is why I married you,” he said gratefully. Seokjin smirked as he licked another envelope closed, and Namjoon couldn’t resist ducking in for a kiss. His husband certainly knew how to get things done.


 JIMIN

Jimin squeaked as he struggled to hold the low lunge the yoga instructor on the DVD was doing. He wobbled a bit. “Ah, Taehyung, I think you might be more flexible than I am,” he complained, as Taehyung stretched his arms up to the sky.

“Jin says yoga keeps you limber,” Taehyung said factually.

Jimin pouted. “Yeah, well cheerleading should probably keep people ‘limber,’ too,” he complained. He leapt out of his lunge and into a side hurdler just to prove he could.

Taehyung snorted. “All right, show off, settle down,” he teased.

Jimin shoved Taehyung’s shoulder and laughed when Taehyung had to whirl his arms in circles to keep his balance. He normally didn’t do yoga with Taehyung –Seokjin did- but Seokjin was busy with all the chores he had missed out on yesterday, and Jimin knew that Taehyung could use a buddy.

When he had come home after cheerleading practice yesterday, Taehyung had three drained cups of tea in front of him and Round Ireland with a Fridge sitting in his lap. Taehyung only read Round Ireland with a Fridge when he was feeling poorly.

Jimin had made it his personal mission to cheer him up ever since, and if that meant contorting his body into weird yoga poses, then Jimin would do it. Besides, Taehyung was so grateful for his attention, it was hard not to give it to him.

“Hey, how much longer is this?” Jimin asked just as Jin walked through the family room.

“Half an hour.”

“Okay, perfect. Because Tyler and Matt are picking me up at three to go hang out at Nayeon’s place.”

“That sounds like a perfect thing to invite Taehyung to,” Seokjin said suddenly from the stairwell. He was paused on the first step, looking at Jimin over the banister.

Taehyung made a whining noise next to him. “Jin. It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

Jimin frowned. It’s not that he didn’t want to hang out with Taehyung –whether they were doing something painful like yoga or fun like playing video games- but the football guys definitely didn’t. And while the cheerleaders were graceful about Taehyung eating lunch at their table, Jimin was pretty sure they were starting to get annoyed with him for always inviting Taehyung to hang out with them. Hoseok hadn’t taken a turn eating lunch with Taehyung in ages.

“I mean, I would,” Jimin said, “But I don’t think that’s a great idea.”

“Why not?” Seokjin asked, putting Jimin on the spot. Jimin’s ears heated up. He didn’t know how to explain himself without sounding shallow or insulting Taehyung. If Jimin weren’t hanging out with the most popular kids in school today, he would totally invite Taehyung. But the football team and cheerleading squad were usually pretty exclusive, and Jimin didn’t want to ostracize Taehyung further by dragging him into a party where he wouldn’t be welcomed.

“Ah, it’s like... it’s kind of an invite only thing,” Jimin said, rubbing his ears in an effort to make them stop burning.

Seokjin fixed him with a look, and Jimin knew that he had lost the argument.

“Okay, fine,” he agreed. “Taehyung, do you want to come with us?” Jimin asked, silently begging for Taehyung to say no. Surely he wasn’t so socially oblivious to think that coming with him would be a good idea.

“Can I?” Taehyung asked hopefully.

Jimin looked over at Seokjin and winced. “Yes,” Jimin answered.

“Then okay!” Taehyung agreed.

Seokjin looked satisfied and continued upstairs. Jimin huffed out a sigh and grabbed Taehyung’s sleeve. “Okay, listen, you can come, but you’ve gotta be really cool, okay? Try not to talk too much or ask too many questions,” he said. “I didn’t ask anyone if you could come so I don’t want to like... annoy anyone.”

Taehyung pressed his lips together. “Oh, okay,” he said, his eyes wider than Jimin was used to seeing them.

Jimin took pity on him. “It’ll be chill, okay? Just don’t be too crazy, and it’ll be fine.”

“Got it,” Taehyung answered, but his voice was shaky. Jimin ignored it in favor of transitioning into the next yoga pose.


 TAEHYUNG

“Okay, never have I ever... mooned the boy’s soccer team,” Jihyo said, squealing happily when Nayeon had to lower a finger.

“And to think I trusted you,” Nayeon said flippantly, rolling her eyes. It was her turn next. She thought for a minute. “Never have I ever made out in the back seat of a car.”

Tyler and Jihyo both put down a finger and blushed. “Not with each other,” Jihyo clarified.

Tyler snorted. “Yeah, you wish.”

Jihyo threw a pillow at him.

Taehyung pressed himself further into the side of the couch. He had already won three games (given that he didn’t do much of anything besides have seizures and read) and he wasn’t allowed to play anymore. Jimin was sitting next to him, which was somewhat comforting, but after his brother had told him to keep quiet in front of his friends, Taehyung had lost just about all of his confidence.

He shouldn’t have come. When Jimin had invited him, he had gotten so excited about the prospect of making friends he had agreed, but now that he was here he remembered just how out of place he was.

All of Jimin’s friends were attractive, funny, cool, and mature. Meanwhile, Taehyung was ugly, and weird, and he peed his pants. The only reason he was here was because his brother had invited him, and that didn’t count as a real invitation. Even the car ride over had been awkward. No one had talked to him.

“Hey, I’m hungry,” Jihyo complained out of nowhere.

“Of course you are, chubby,” Nayeon teased, poking her side. Jihyo smacked her hand away while everyone laughed. Taehyung pulled his t-shirt down over his knees. He didn’t think he was chubby, but next to Jihyo he surely was.

“I’m just saying,” Jihyo said. “Can’t we go somewhere to eat? I want Taco Bell.”

“Gross,” Matt complained.

“I’m in,” Tyler agreed.

“Oh, wait, then same,” Matt agreed, changing his mind immediately. Taehyung had to keep himself from balking. He didn’t get it. Why didn’t anyone just say what they were thinking? How come some opinions were okay and others were wrong? And how did everyone magically know the right things to say?

“Taehyung,” Jimin said, leaning towards him on the couch. “Would you maybe want Joon to pick you up at Taco Bell? You don’t seem like you’re having a good time.”

Taehyung wrung his hands together. “I guess,” he said. The longer he sat here, the more embarrassed he was. He wanted to hide his face, his voice, his body. He shouldn’t have come in the first place.

“Okay, do you want to text him then?”

“Sure,” Taehyung agreed, taking out his phone. He pulled open his contacts and frowned when he realized he only had six numbers saved.

“It’s just, we have homecoming practice in an hour, and I don’t think you’d want to come to that,” Jimin said with a wince. Taehyung just nodded, not needing Jimin to make any excuses. Taehyung knew he should leave. He wasn’t cut out for talking to other people.

“It’s no big deal, Jimin.”

“It’s just-“ Jimin lowered his voice. “These aren’t the best friends for you to hang out with, you know? Like, I’ll invite you with me when I’m hanging out with the theater kids or the student council or something. They’re usually more chill.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Taehyung squeaked. He fiddled with his phone so he wouldn’t have to look at Jimin. He knew if Jimin realized he was on the brink of tears, then there would be no going back; he’d end up crying in front of everyone. It would be embarrassing. Plus, he didn’t want to make Jimin feel guilty. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t fit in.

Namjoon texted back that he would meet them at Taco Bell, and Taehyung felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. As everyone piled into the back of Tyler’s van, however, he felt his lower lip start to wobble.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Tae?” Jimin asked, frowning. He could always tell when Taehyung was off.

“Yeah, you don’t look so good,” Jihyo tacked on, squeezing in the backseat with him and Jimin.

Taehyung scrubbed at his face, humiliated as usual. “I’m fine,” he promised. “I just... I miss Namjoon.”

“He’s gonna come pick you up. Don’t worry about it,” Jimin said sympathetically, but Taehyung wasn’t soothed. He just needed to be home with his dads. As soon as Joon picked him up he would be okay, but Taehyung knew he wouldn’t be able to relax with everyone else around. He was too out of place.


 YOONGI

Yoongi glared at the ground, pointedly refusing to look at anything. Namjoon had a hand between his shoulder blades, guiding him along the tour with the rest of the group, but it was doing nothing to calm his nerves. Sundays were the one day Yoongi had to unwind and relax, but Namjoon was making him spend yet another weekend touring colleges.

“Hey, Yoongi, check out the cafeteria. It’s huge right?” Namjoon asked, nudging him in the ribs with his elbow.

“It’s gross,” Yoongi argued without looking up. There was no way he could ever eat from –essentially- one giant buffet every meal. He doubted he would even be able to touch the serving spoons without throwing up.

“Okay, no problem,” Namjoon replied. The group moved away to check out one of the academic buildings, and Namjoon and Yoongi fell to the back of the group. “This college doesn’t have a real music program. I’m sorry if coming here feels like a waste of time.”

“It’s fine, as long as you don’t get mad at me for not liking it,” Yoongi answered.

“You don’t have to like this one,” Namjoon promised. “I just need you to like one of them.”

Yoongi quieted at that. Namjoon kept trying to get him excited about going to school, but Yoongi couldn’t picture himself at college. Living in a dorm room, sharing a bathroom with strangers, eating in a cafeteria... All of it made Yoongi’s skin crawl.

He didn’t want to go to college; he wanted to live at home. He didn’t want to be too far away from Namjoon or Seokjin. Even Hoseok, Taehyung, Jimin, and Jungkook were all constants that he had come to appreciate. He didn’t want to have to leave them.

But it seemed like Namjoon and Seokjin wanted him to leave.

They kept pushing him into college tours –Namjoon especially- and talking about how much fun he would have in college. Yoongi didn’t believe them. Maybe they were tired of dealing with his OCD, or maybe they couldn’t deal with now needy he had become. Or maybe they just wanted to free up his room and use it to hold some more foster kids. Yoongi had always had a hard time believing Seokjin when he said he was done taking in kids.

Just the thought of having to leave next year had Yoongi on the brink of hyperventilating. As his breathing grew ragged, Namjoon turned towards him. He stopped them both in their tracks as soon as he got a good look at Yoongi’s face.

“Oh man, okay, what’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Yoongi squeaked. The tour group walked on without them. “We have to keep going, we’re going to get left behind.”

Namjoon arched an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Yoongi, you don’t even want to see this college. Let them go on ahead. You’re freaking out. What’s going on?”

Nothing,” Yoongi wheezed. “Just- You love me, right? You love me?”

Namjoon blinked. “Of course I do. But you know that, Yoongi.”

“But you’re sure? You love me?”

“Yoongi.”

Yoongi winced at how disappointed Namjoon sounded. He knew he was being obsessive, but sometimes he couldn’t help it. “But you’re sure?” he asked again, eyes searching.

Namjoon sighed. “Yoongi, honey-“

“Please, dad, I just need to check.”

Namjoon looked at Yoongi for a second before seemingly giving up and pulling him into a hug. “Yoongi, I love you so much. You can trust me when I tell you, okay? You don’t have to keep checking.”

“But you’re sure?”

“I’ve never been more sure of anything,” Namjoon promised. Yoongi shuddered a little bit as his dad pulled away. “Why are you so anxious, huh? We’re just looking at a school. You don’t have to actually go here.”

Yoongi shrugged, not sure what to say. His heart felt like it was trying to pound its way out of his chest.

Namjoon sighed and pulled Yoongi into a headlock. He ruffled his hair. “What do you say we get out of here, huh? We can go home and get Jin to maybe make us some pancakes or something before we have to leave for Hobi and Jiminnie’s parade.”

“You always want pancakes,” Yoongi said with an eye roll. He tried to ignore the way his lungs were climbing up his throat.

“Pancakes are great,” Namjoon argued.

Yoongi laughed through his anxiety. “Okay... Okay, let’s just go home, I want to go home,” he said, a wave of relief washing over him as Namjoon released his grip and walked him to the car. He calmed down as Namjoon’s arm stayed slung around his shoulders.


 HOSEOK

Hoseok shimmied into his dance team uniform. This was maybe the best one yet: a purple, black and gold streaked shirt and tight black pants. It was a little revealing, sure, but at least it wasn’t covered in glitter and missing a sleeve like last year or a leotard like the year before.

Hoseok was just pulling his shirt over his head, when someone pinched his bare skin. “Ah, Oliver! Someone will see!”

“They won’t if you’re quiet,” Oliver said, hungrily attaching his lips to Hoseok’s. Hoseok’s shoulders slammed into the lockers behind him. Hoseok was the only one who had forgotten to change into his uniform, so they were alone in the locker room. Everyone else was outside finishing up some last minute practice or float decorations.

He pushed Oliver off of him. “Hey, if you want to keep things a secret, then act like it,” Hoseok said, blushing. He hated when Oliver kissed him without asking first.

“I am,” Oliver growled, diving in to kiss Hoseok again. He came in so fast, their teeth clacked together.

Hoseok pushed him off again. “Stop it!” he yelped.

Oliver pouted. “Come on, baby, please, I’m craving you,” he complained. He fought against Hoseok’s hands as Hoseok tried to keep him away. Fortunately, before Oliver could take things any further, the door to the locker room slammed open, and added voices filtered through the air. Oliver slunk back.

“Fuck, Hoseok,” he said, running a hand back through his hair. “Next time, don’t be so shy. Now I have to miss you.”

“You always miss me,” Hoseok said, smiling weakly.

Oliver reached out to grab Hoseok by the hip. “I do... I worry about you when you’re on your own, you know? I’m scared you’ll do something dumb and get hurt or mess something up.”

Hoseok frowned. He stepped away from Oliver. “I don’t need you to constantly watch over me,” he said. “I’m not stupid.”

“Aw, come on, Hoseok,” he said, pouting. His hands chased Hoseok as he ducked out of the way. Eventually, he managed to grab both of his hands and hold on. “Come on, you know you’re not the brightest bulb, babe,” he said, and Hoseok wanted to argue. He had a 3.85 GPA, thank you very much. “But it’s okay because I love you anyway.”

Hoseok tiled his head to the side at that. “You love me?”

“Of course,” Oliver said. He dropped his voice so no one would overhear. “Now come here, just one kiss.”

Hoseok melted. “Okay,” he agreed. He pressed a quick kiss to Oliver’s lips, pulling away before he could take things too far. “I love you, too,” he promised.

“Thought so,” Oliver smirked. “Now go get your cute little butt out there. We’ve got a parade to somehow pull off.”

Hoseok grimaced. “Ah, I probably should have practiced more.”

Oliver squeezed his hands before letting go. He spanked him as he walked by. “Don’t worry, babe. If you can’t remember the steps, just look at me. I’ll take care of you.”

“I think I got it,” Hoseok said, but he was grateful for Oliver’s support. Even if Oliver was a little too excitable for his liking, at least he only got worked up when it came to Hoseok.


 JIMIN

Jimin put his hands between his knees, hoping that his family would find him soon. It was so cold. He couldn’t wait to get in the car and go celebrate his and Hoseok’s performance with the rest of his family. Taehyung always complimented him for ages after seeing his cheers, and Namjoon had promised to treat them all with a dinner at Applebee’s.

The parade had gone by smoothly. The cheerleading team always cycled through the same handful of routines during parades, and while Jimin was only a freshman, the sequences were easy enough. He was feeling confident, but mostly he was feeling cold.

“There he is! Finally!”

Jimin looked up and smiled when he saw Seokjin running towards him. “Dad!” he chirped.

Seokjin didn’t even seem to hear him; he was already too busy fussing over his clothes. “Oh dear, look at this tiny little outfit, you must be freezing,” he said, gesturing to Jimin’s short sleeves. “Come here.”

Jimin let out an ‘oof’ as Seokjin pulled him close to his chest and wrapped him up in his coat. Jimin blushed. “Dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

“Shhh, no one can see your cute little face. Just let me warm you up,” he said. Jimin rolled his eyes, but didn’t move.

“Where’s Namjoon?”

“He’s off looking for Hoseok. Everyone else made a beeline for the car,” Seokjin answered. Jimin opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, Seokjin tightened his hold on him and swirled him in a circle. “Oh, Jimin, you just did such a good job! I’m so proud of you! You’re getting so much better with every passing day.”

“You think?” Jimin asked.

“Definitely. I love watching you perform; you’re so talented!”

“Did you see my tumble?”

“Did I ever!” Seokjin gushed. “It was great. The whole thing was great, Jimin.”

Jimin blushed and hid his face further into Seokjin’s coat. His classmates and their parents were all bustling around him, but he was comfortable burying his nose into Seokjin’s jacket. He took a deep breath, the adrenaline from performing finally wearing off.

When Seokjin spoke again, his voice sounded fond. “Let’s get you to the car, kid. You need a sweatshirt and a seat warmer.”

“And some water,” Jimin tacked on.

Seokjin tried to keep both arms around him as they walked to the car, but Jimin shook him off, embarrassed. He regretted it immediately, however, when the cold October wind hit him again. Maybe the humiliation was worth staying warm.

Jimin opened the car door, and his brothers immediately started cheering for him. Jimin giggled as Hoseok forced him into the seat next to his, and Yoongi ruffled his hair.

“Hey, there’s my other superstar,” Namjoon said from the driver’s seat, adjusting the rearview mirror to look at Jimin. “Are you hungry? Wanna head to dinner straight away?”

“Starving,” Jimin answered.

“Ditto,” said Hoseok. He was still beaming from his dance routine. It was hard to shake the good feeling that came from applause. Jimin had the same smile spread across his face.

“Then off we go!” Namjoon said as Seokjin buckled himself into the front seat. Namjoon threw the car in reverse, and Jimin bounced in his seat as they backed out of their parking spot. 

“Nice work, Jimin! You really stole the show,” Taehyung said, hanging over the back of his seat.

Jimin beamed. “Thanks, Tae.”

“No problem.” He leaned in conspiringly. “Also, Yoongi won’t admit it, but when you did that back layout, he totally gasped. He was amazed,” Taehyung tried (and failed) to whisper.

Yoongi scowled. “I wasn’t amazed, I was terrified. I thought you were going to land straight on your face.”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Seokjin interrupted from the front seat. “No one is going to talk about Jimin landing on his face. We’re going to pretend like that isn’t even a possibility, okay? It won’t happen. It can’t happen. Nothing is going to happen.”

Namjoon snickered, but tried to hide it behind his palm. “Listen to Jin, kids. He needs us to sugar coat things for him.”

Jin smacked Namjoon in the arm, and Jimin busted out laughing. He was in such a good mood; everything seemed funny, even Jungkook glaring out the window with his headphones on. Jimin stole his headphones straight off his head and tossed them to Yoongi in the backseat before Jungkook could take them back. “Hey!”

“So someone tell me about Hoseok’s performance. How did it go?” Jimin asked, ignoring Jungkook entirely.

“Fine, fine, I was just a back up dancer this time around. But at the showcase, I’m going to have a solo!” he said excitedly.

“Ah, that’s gonna be awesome,” Jimin said, holding his hand out for Hoseok to high five. “That’s the beauty of being the only guy on the cheer squad. I get a lot of opportunities for solo stuff, even though I’m only a freshman.”

“Well, just rub it in, why don’t you?” Hoseok said, grinding his knuckles into Jimin’s hair. Jimin squealed happily.

“No fair, I want to beat up Jimin,” Taehyung whined.

“I definitely want to beat up Jimin,” Jungkook said crankily, crossing his arms over his chest. Jimin snorted at him, and he was pretty sure he could hear his parents snorting, too. Jungkook had been playing hockey for four years now, but he still had yet to check anyone. He had never gotten a penalty in lacrosse, and he had never responded to any of his brothers picking on him with hitting or kicking. He was the least violent person Jimin knew, despite his attitude.

Plus, if he did try to fight Jimin, he was pretty sure he could beat his scrawny butt to a pulp.

No one is beating up Jimin. We’re all together to celebrate him and Hoseok for a job well done,” Namjoon said, fixing everyone with a pointed look through the rearview mirror as they pulled up to a stop sign. Jimin beamed at him, thankful to have all of his dad’s attention for once.

Honestly, Jimin felt so great, he was pretty sure nothing could bring down his mood. 

Chapter Text

JIMIN

Cheer practice was over. Jimin was stretching out his shoulders –ready to go home- when his coach approached him. “Jimin, can I talk to you real quick?”

Jimin strained to look up from under his arm. “Um...”

“You can finish stretching first.”

“Okay,” Jimin agreed. He wasn’t really in a position to tell his coach no.

“Just meet me in my office,” she said brightly before leaving him to finish stretching. As she walked away, Jimin shared a look with Jeongyeon. She crinkled her nose. Jimin crinkled his right back.

Coach Ansley wasn’t at all intimidating. She was young, and excited, and bubbly. Her personality was just as bouncy as her ponytail, and usually, Jimin liked talking to her. However, she had never asked him to stay after practice before. He had no idea what she wanted.

Jimin’s heart sank to his stomach. He tried to keep calm as he finished stretching, but the looming conversation made him too nervous. He gave up on loosening up his shoulders and instead trailed off to the locker room to grab his things. He met Coach Ansley at her office.

He knocked on the door. “Um... hey,” he said.

Coach Ansley looked up from her desk. She had papers spread out –presumably notes from practice- and Jimin felt bad for distracting her. Still, she smiled up at him. “Jimin! Why don’t you sit down?” she said, gesturing to the chair across from her desk. The seat was piled high with papers, and Jimin frowned.

“Um-“

“You can just move everything wherever,” she offered, bending over to search through one of her file drawers.

Jimin frowned. There wasn’t a clean surface to put the stack of papers on, so he settled on piling them on top of another cluttered chair. Her office was so messy. Seokjin would kill him if his room looked like this. He didn’t know how the coach got away with it.

As he sat down, Coach Ansley whipped out a folder with his name on it. “Okay, Jimin! As you may know, mid-marks come out on Friday,” she said.

Jimin squirmed. “Yeah, what about it?”

“Okay, so –quick background- the guidance department compiles all your grades the week before mid-marks come out and sends out early warnings to club and sports team advisors where your participation is dependent on your academic success.”

Jimin blinked slowly. “...I’m sorry?”

“Basically,” Coach Ansley said, pulling out a sheet of paper with a big, bold warning label at the top, “It looks to the guidance department like you might fail your Spanish III class this semester.”

Jimin took the paper and looked at the test scores his Spanish teacher had loaded into the grading system. He hadn’t realized he was doing so poorly. His teacher never passed back their tests, so to see he suddenly had a 57% after doing so well last semester was a shock. He knew he had been slacking in Spanish a bit lately. (He just had so many classes to study for.) However, he hadn’t realized it had gotten this bad.

Jimin cleared his throat. “And if I fail Spanish, then-“

“Then you can’t be on the team,” Coach Ansley finished for him, wincing. “I wouldn’t want to kick you off, of course, Jimin. It’s just school policy. Grades come first, cheerleading comes second.”

“Cheerleading comes second,” Jimin repeated, feeling numb.

“Right. But! Don’t worry!” his coach said brightly. “All you have to do is raise your grade in Spanish to at least a C by the end of the semester, and you can stay on the team. Also, maybe watch your English grade, that’s looking a little questionable, too.”

Jimin’s throat closed up. She said it like it would be easy, but Jimin had such a hard time with school. Instead of arguing, however, Jimin found himself agreeing. “Okay. No problem. Thank you, Coach.”

“Sure thing!” she said brightly, turning back to her work.

Jimin stood up on wobbly knees. He crammed his grade sheet into the bottom of his backpack. Just looking at it made him want to throw up, and he certainly didn’t want Seokjin or Namjoon to see it. Seokjin had been supportive the other day when Jimin had spoken up about how hard school had been for him lately, but Namjoon had just grounded Jungkook for his terrible math grade.

Jimin didn’t want his parents to be disappointed in him. He was acutely aware of how much Namjoon valued education. He wanted to seem like he was taking his classes seriously.

As Jimin walked outside to find Seokjin’s car, he consoled himself with the fact that there was still a month left in the semester. He had time to get his grade up, and he could do it by himself. His dads wouldn’t have to know.

As he climbed into the car, Seokjin greeted him with a smile. “Hey, kid. How was school?”

Jimin shrugged. “It was fine.”


 YOONGI

Yoongi’s fingers moved awkwardly across the keys as he tried to remember the arrangement he had worked out the night before.

Fortunately, the vocal ensemble didn’t care if he hit a wrong note every couple notes. They were just excited to sing along. Even if Yoongi had worked out the song specifically for Irene to sing as a solo, the whole choir was singing with her.

By the way, right away, you do things to my body. I didn’t know that I was starving till I tasted you~”

Yoongi usually didn’t like being surrounded by people, but it was different when he was sitting behind the piano. He was able to make the music the center of attention instead of himself. Yoongi was comfortable behind a keyboard. He always had been.

I was so much younger yesterday,” the chorus sang in unison as Yoongi played his final notes. The entire choir room erupted into cheers as soon as he was done.

“Is that okay?” Yoongi asked, wincing up at Irene.

She positively beamed at him. “Of course, it was okay, Yoongi! I’m so excited for the concert now!”

“Okay? Just okay?!” Joy piped up, leaning over the top of the piano to get a better look at Yoongi. “It was more than okay, Yoongi! It was so good! Best version of the song I’ve ever heard!”

Yoongi straightened his sheet music, thumbing over a corner where he could still see the pencil marks he had painstakingly tried to erase. “I’m not so sure about that,” he said, re-aligning his music properly on the piano bench. Everyone was staring at him. He fussed with his sheet music again.

“No, really, it was so good,” Joy promised.

“Yeah, Yoongi, you’re like... confirmed amazing,” one of the tenors –Jinyoung- said. “Would you mind real quick playing through my song again? Or just the chorus. I’m trying to figure out some of the runs.”

“Sure,” Yoongi said. He took his hands away from fidgeting with his pencils long enough to play the chorus of “Die In Your Arms” by Justin Bieber. He had been playing this song for longer, and it showed. His fingers moved fluidly over the keys.

That would break my heart to pieces. Honestly the truth is. If I could just die in your arms~” Jinyoung sang.

Yoongi nodded his head to the beat: his own personal metronome. He always thought it looked awkward when other musicians closed their eyes while playing, but as he slipped into the bridge of the song, he stopped looking at the keys.

He was so lost in the music, that he didn’t realize the choir teacher –Mrs. Rhymers- had come in until she dropped her bag on top of the piano. “Yoongi! Welcome to vocal ensemble. Are you here to stay?” she asked.

Yoongi jumped so high, his knees hit the under side of the piano. “Oh, um...” Without thinking, he moved to neaten up his already tidy sheet music. “I mean, I just came to help Joy with her solo, but I’m not doing anything if you need someone to-“

Mrs. Rhymers interrupted before he could finish. “I definitely need someone,” she said, almost desperate. “You can sight read, right?”

Yoongi leaned back, slightly terrified, but nodded.

“Okay, great. Do you think you can stay in here with the girls, while I help the boys out in the orchestra room? We’re a song short for the Christmas concert and I just decided to have the men’s choir do ‘For the Longest time’-“

“Ah, great song,” Yoongi said without thinking. He kicked himself when he realized he had spoken.

Fortunately, Mrs. Rhymers didn’t seem frustrated, only frazzled. “Well... Yes, but we have no idea what we’re doing, so we need extra practice. Can you help the girls with whatever they need in here?”

“Yes, Yoongi, help us!” Joy chirped.

Yoongi shrunk inwards on himself. “Um... yeah, okay. My dad isn’t picking me up for another hour or so anyway.” He had missed his ride with Seokjin and Jimin. He had to wait until Namjoon came to pick up Hoseok.

“Great,” Mrs. Rhymers said. She sounded beyond relieved. “Seulgi, you’re in charge while I’m gone.”

“On it,” Seulgi said, saluting Mrs. Rhymers as she gathered her things to leave with the men’s ensemble.

“All right, boys. We don’t have a moment to spare. Follow me,” she said, leading the boys out of the room.

Yoongi blinked as he watched them go. Seulgi passed him a copy of the music and winced at him. “Just give us an A and we should be able to work out most of it on our own,” she said.

Yoongi nodded. “No problem.”

“Not for you of course,” Joy said with a wink. Yoongi blanched. As Joy went up to her spot on the risers, Yoongi frantically adjusted his pencils to lie perfectly parallel. As he was fixing his music for the hundredth time, Seulgi cleared her throat.

“Yoongi, could you play us that A?” she asked.

“Hold on,” Yoongi said, tidying his things. He knew he wasn’t supposed to let his OCD get in the way of his responsibilities, but sometimes he was too anxious to stop himself. He tried to remember the deep breathing his therapist taught him. He and Seokjin had just practice the other night.

In for three, hold for three, out for three.

“Are you okay, Yoongi?” Wendy asked. Her spot on the risers was next to the piano, and she had a front row seat to Yoongi’s mini breakdown.

“Mhm,” he hummed between breaths. His hands stilled. “What was the note you guys wanted? An A?”

“Yeah,” Seulgi answered. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Yoongi took one last deep breath. “Never better,” he answered, not totally sure why he had freaked out in the first place. Joy had only winked at him, and she winked at everybody. There was no reason for him to start panicking.

He just... wasn’t great with girls. But Yoongi was pretty confident he could play a couple notes for the women’s choir without having a panic attack. As long as no one else complimented him (or winked at him, geez), he would be all right.


 JUNGKOOK

Jungkook put his hands over his ears, wishing he could somehow block out Jimin practicing for his Spanish-speaking exam. Seokjin was holding his headphones hostage until he had finished all of his makeup homework. However, it was hard to get anything done with Jimin making noise across the kitchen.

Jimin cleared his throat loudly. Jungkook rolled his eyes. It was like he was trying to be annoying as possible. “Tambo, mi hermano es más alto que yo. Pero creo que soy más atractivo,” Jimin said, sticking his tongue out at Taehyung.

Taehyung snorted and flicked a piece of onion at Jimin. He was helping Seokjin cook, and Jungkook forced himself not to feel jealous of how well Seokjin and Taehyung got along. However, it was easier said than done when Seokjin could wordlessly hold out a spoon for Taehyung to taste from and take one look at his face before knowing he needed to add more salt, or paprika, or pepper, or... Well, Jungkook didn’t know anything about cooking. He just knew that Seokjin trusted Taehyung to help him do it. Meanwhile, Jungkook had to sit at the kitchen table and work on his homework without headphones.

“Idiot, it’s not tambo, its también,” Jungkook grumbled.

Jimin turned to look at him, one eyebrow arched. He looked unimpressed, but Jungkook didn’t really care about how he was feeling. Not when he was on the other side of the kitchen, sitting at the island all happy with Jin and Taehyung, and Jungkook was stuck by himself without headphones.

“Excuse me?” Jimin asked.

“What?” Jungkook deadpanned. “I’m just correcting you. You’re dumb and wrong.”

“Well, you’re a brat! You think you’re so smart? Then why are you failing math, huh?”

Jungkook could feel his face heat up at that. However, before he could say something scathing back, Taehyung stepped in. “Ah, you know what? This is all my fault. Jimin, I heard you say the wrong thing earlier and didn’t bother to correct you. It was probably misleading,” he said.

Jimin looked pacified at that, but Jungkook rolled his eyes. “That doesn’t change the fact that he got it wrong.

Seokjin tapped his tongs on the edge of his skillet, and everyone flinched at the noise. “That’s enough,” he said sternly. “It’s okay to make mistakes. No one has to feel bad, or feel responsible, or tease anyone for it.”

Jungkook blew his bangs off his face, frustrated. 

Seokjin fixed him with a pointed look. “Cookie, why don’t you apologize to your brother and set the table?”

“He’s not my brother,” Jungkook snapped. He was sick of this family act. Jimin wasn’t even nice to him. None of his brothers were nice to him, and his ‘parents’ didn’t even care.

“He is your brother, and you own him an apology,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook opened his mouth to argue further, but as Seokjin’s gaze hardened, he felt the words leave his throat. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Fine. Sorry, Jimin. Will you please forgive me?” He said the words like he was reading a script.

Jimin still looked annoyed, but when Taehyung nudged him in the ribs, he agreed. “I guess,” he said, running a hand through his damp hair. (Whether it was sweat from practice or still wet from the shower, Jungkook couldn’t tell.) “I’m sorry, too. Forgive me?”

“Fine.” Jungkook looked back to Seokjin. Now what?

“Great, thank you, Jungkook. Now set the table, please,” Seokjin said. Jungkook sighed but got up anyway. He put his notebook on the half wall between the kitchen and the living room and went about sorting through plates and silverware. As he started filling glasses with water, Namjoon, Hoseok, and Yoongi all came in through the garage.

“Honey, I’m home!” Namjoon called.

“Me, too!” Hoseok cheered, bouncing through the laundry room and into the kitchen without taking off his shoes. “It smells great in here. What are we having?”

“Sausage scaloppini,” Seokjin answered, grabbing Hoseok by the shoulders before he could get any further. He turned him back towards the laundry room to take off his shoes.

“With onions and peppers,” Taehyung tacked on, holding up his cutting board proudly.

“Ah, so that’s why you had me pick up rolls on the way home,” Namjoon said, handing Seokjin a brown paper grocery bag. Jungkook crinkled his nose in disgust when Namjoon kissed Seokjin’s cheek.

“Are we almost ready to eat? Or can I go upstairs for a bit?” Yoongi asked, unbuttoning his coat.

“Why don’t you stay down here?” Seokjin said. “We’ll be ready in two minutes.”

“Yeah? Is Taehyungie on it?” Yoongi asked, reaching out to ruffle Taehyung’s hair. Jungkook didn’t miss how much Taehyung brightened with Yoongi’s attention. He jammed another cup into the water dispenser. “You cooking, TaeTae?”

“A little,” Taehyung answered. “I was bored.”

“Well, next time you’re bored, you should whip up some of those scores bars you sometimes make. Those are so good,” Yoongi said absentmindedly. Regardless, it made Taehyung absolutely beam. Meanwhile, Seokjin pulled out a tray of sweet potato French fries from the oven, and Namjoon pre-emptively got out the ketchup.

Hoseok jumped up on the back of Jimin’s bar stool and leaned over him. “Studying for Spanish?”

“Unfortunately,” Jimin answered. Hoseok grabbed Jimin’s pencil to correct something for him. Jimin laughed when Hoseok’s armpit ended up a little too close to his face.

Jungkook’s hand tightened around his glass as he put it down on the table. It was like everyone in his family was part of some weird hive mind. His dads had never needed to talk to meet each other’s needs, and his brothers were practically at their level. They all knew how to interact naturally with each other.

And then there was Jungkook.

He didn’t know anything. It was too much work, and Jungkook didn’t want any part of it. (At least, that’s what he told himself.)

Eventually, everyone settled around the table to eat dinner. Jungkook slumped down a little in his seat, not in the mood to be part of the meal when everyone else was so close and he was so distant. He had hoped to get through dinner unnoticed, but almost as soon as he sat down, it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen. “Jin, did you meet with Kookie’s teacher today?” Namjoon asked, putting together a sandwich.

Seokjin hummed around a mouthful. “Yes. Mrs. Schaffer agreed to accept any homework he could get in before mid-marks come out on Friday.”

Namjoon took a bite of his sandwich. “And?”

“And she said she owed Jungkook an apology for how she treated him in class, but the detention will stay on his permanent record,” Seokjin said. Jungkook picked at his French fries. He didn’t feel hungry anymore.

“As long as she apologizes,” Namjoon said.

“Jungkook’s teacher needs to apologize?” Hoseok asked. He looked concerned, and Jungkook didn’t know how to feel about it. It was always weird when his brothers worried about him.

“She just said something a little insensitive. Don’t worry about it, Hoseok,” Seokjin said easily.

“What about his appointment? With the therapist?” Namjoon asked. “Is that squared away?”

“Dad!” Jungkook yelped. His cheeks burned. “Don’t just bring that up!” he exclaimed.

Namjoon blinked, clearly confused. “What’s wrong?”

Jungkook gripped at the bottom of his chair, furious. “You can’t just... announce stuff like that!”

Namjoon frowned. “I’m not announcing anything, I’m just checking up on things. Jin’s been the one sorting everything out. I wanna make sure you’re okay, too,” he said.

Taehyung tilted his head to the side. “Wait, Jungkook’s going to therapy?” he asked.

Jungkook’s cheeks burned pink. “See?! Everyone knows now! That’s announcing,” Jungkook said through gritted teeth. He stood up from the table, humiliated. “I’m going to my room.” He grabbed his homework and stormed off, too embarrassed and angry to talk to his family for a second longer.


 SEOKJIN

Namjoon looked to Seokjin helplessly as Jungkook got up from the table.

“I got it,” Seokjin offered. He had been fielding most of Jungkook’s tantrums lately, but it seemed to be paying off. Jungkook had actually answered his questions in the car the other day. Plus, he might be more inclined to talk to Seokjin now that Namjoon had embarrassed him.

Seokjin followed the sound of Jungkook stomping through the house, ending up at his closed bedroom door. He knocked lightly. “Jungkook, honey, can I come in?”

“No!”

“Please?” he asked. When it became obvious that Jungkook wasn’t going to answer, Seokjin knocked again. “Come on, love. No good can come from you moping in your room alone. You do too much of it already.”

A second later, loud music from Jungkook’s CD player came booming through the walls. Seokjin winced and tried the door handle. It was locked. He felt above the doorframe for the key, and a second later, he was barging into Junkook’s room.

The fourteen-year-old was slumped over his desk, head buried into his arms. He looked up sharply when he noticed Seokjin’s presence. His face went from surprised to livid. “Why did you even bother knocking if you were just going to come in?” Jungkook asked.

“What happened to our ‘no locked doors’ policy?” Seokjin asked. He leaned up against Jungkook’s desk, reaching over to turn down the music. Jungkook buried his head back into his elbows.

“I want to be alone,” he squeaked.

Seokjin looked down at his son. As often as Jungkook ran off and told everyone to leave him alone, Seokjin knew he didn’t actually like being by himself. Jungkook had grown up as the youngest of five brothers. He constantly had someone to play with or dote on him. Being on his own must feel foreign to him, and Seokjin could tell just by the arch of Jungkook’s spine that he didn’t want to be left alone right now.

He decided to get right to the heart of the matter. “You know that Namjoon didn’t meant to embarrass you,” Seokjin said, diving straight in. “He doesn’t understand why therapy might be embarrassing for you, considering Yoongi goes to see someone every other week and we’re all your family.”

Jungkook groaned. “But you’re not my family.”

Seokjin sighed. “I really wish you would stop saying that, Jungkook.”

Jungkook laid his cheek on his arms, just to glare at Seokjin. “Well, you’re not,” he said. His voice cracked. “I had a mom, and she’s dead. And now I have no one.”

“You don’t have no one, you have me, and Joon, and four brothers who don’t understand why you’ve been so mean to them lately,” Seokjin said. Jungkook tried to ignore him and hide his face again, but Seokjin wasn’t about to let that happen. He got down on his knees and tilted Jungkook’s desk chair to face him. He grabbed Jungkook’s hands. “Jungkook, who’s raised you ever since you were a little tiny baby?” he asked.

Jungkook didn’t answer.

Seokjin shook his hands a little. “Who takes care of you, Kookie? Who has made you every single meal you’ve ever eaten and bought every shirt, coat, and pair of pants you’ve ever worn? Who changed your diapers, and gave you baths, and tucked you in, and taught you the alphabet and how to read and tie your shoes, and-“

“Okay, I get it. You did,” Jungkook said, breaking through Seokjin’s list. He tore his hands away. “But only because some social worker dropped me off on your door. I could have ended up with anyone.”

“But you ended up here,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook looked off to the side, his nose crinkling. “I guess, but the government could have taken me away and put me somewhere else at any time. This has all... It’s only been temporary. It’s not a real family.”

Seokjin’s jaw snapped closed. Anger flooded his chest –like it always did when someone threatened the integrity of his family- but a moment later, he was overcome with sadness. He closed his eyes, biting his lower lip hard.

“Jin?” Jungkook asked. “...Dad?”

Seokjin took a deep breath. “Hold on, Kookie, just-“ Seokjin scrubbed his face. “Listen, love, I know it took me a very long time and some awful circumstances to get to adopt you, but even if we did have to worry about getting split up for awhile, that doesn’t mean we’re not a family.”

Jungkook’s nose twitched again. “Um, I’m pretty sure legally it does.”

“A piece of paper doesn’t make a family,” Seokjin said. “Lots of love does. And I love you so much, Jungkook. And so does Joon. I’m sorry if you’re embarrassed about going to see Dr. Kroger, and I’m sorry if you didn’t want your brothers to know about it, but they love you too. We all love you, Jungkook, so stop thinking you’re alone.” Seokjin had one hand on Jungkook’s knee, his thumb rubbing circles through his jeans.

Jungkook’s bottom lip wobbled. “You don’t get it,” he said.

Seokjin kissed his forehead. “No, you don’t get it. But don’t worry, you will one day,” he promised, sweeping Jungkook’s hair off his forehead. He was determined to make Jungkook understand how much he loved him.


 HOSEOK

“I can’t believe you would wanna name our puppy Mittens,” Oliver said over the phone. His laughter was quiet so his parents wouldn’t overhear, but Hoseok could still hear the tinkle in his voice.

Hoseok bit his hand. If he busted out laughing now, there’s no way Jin wouldn’t wake up. It was way too late, and the house was way too quiet. “Well, what would you want to name it?” Hoseok asked.

“I don’t know,” Oliver said, his voice tinny over the phone’s speaker. “Not something wimpy like Mittens. That’s something you name a two day old kitten.”

“It doesn’t have to be Mittens,” Hoseok promised. “I also like Tiny, and Waddles, and Pipsqueak. We could call it ‘Pippy’ for short.”

Oliver snorted. “What kind of dog fits the name ‘Pippy’?” he asked.

Hoseok bit his lip in a vain attempt to keep himself from smiling. He fiddled with the hem of his blankets. “I dunno... Something small and cute... You know Lady from Lady and the Tramp? A dog like her.”

“You’re too cute,” Oliver said. “I was thinking of something big. Like a Rottweiler or an English Mastiff.”

Hoseok smirked at the thought of trying to sit on the couch and a giant dog crawling into his lap. “I wouldn’t mind a big dog, I guess. But I think it would be really fun to see you walking a tiny little thing. Like a little puppy the size of your foot,” Hoseok said.

Oliver laughed, but this time it sounded mocking. “Of course you would want a little dog.”

Hoseok frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing, nothing, it’s just... I dunno, you’re just like that, aren’t you?”

“Like what?”

“Like really fucking gay,” Oliver deadpanned.

Hoseok was quiet for a moment. Oliver had a way of ruining every conversation. They would always start off by talking about something cute and happy, like adopting a dog together one-day, but then Oliver would say something really insulting that wrecked everything.

When Hoseok stayed silent, Oliver spoke up. “Oh, come on, Hoseok. Quit being offended by every little thing. You know how you are.”

“No, I don’t,” Hoseok said stiltedly.

“Sure you do. I mean, you wore tight camo shorts to school yesterday.”

“And how is that ‘really fucking gay’?” Hoseok asked. “I bought them because Kanye has a pair.”

Oliver barked out a laugh. “See? Hoseok, that’s a gay reason to be buying gay pants,” he teased.

Hoseok’s face flamed red. “You know what? If you’re going to be like this, I’m hanging up. I don’t want to talk to you if you’re going to be a jerk,” he said, feeling his eyes start to sting.

Oliver made a cooing noise over the line. “Oh, Hoseok, honey, I didn’t mean anything bad by it, it’s just how you are. You know how you are; you know.”

“No, I don’t,” Hoseok repeated. “And don’t call me ‘honey’ when I’m mad at you.”

Hoseok hung up the phone before Oliver could respond. Usually, Oliver didn’t like it when he didn’t give him the chance to explain himself, but unless he wanted to apologize, Hoseok didn’t want to hear it.

He threw his phone on the floor and screamed into his pillow. Hoseok stayed face down on his bed for a moment, before a knock on his door startled him upright. “Hello?” Hoseok called. His door opened. “Oh, Yoongi. What are you doing up?” he asked as Yoongi stepped into his room.

“I heard you talking,” he answered. Yoongi immediately crawled into Hoseok’s bed, and Hoseok scooted over to make room. He rolled onto his side, so he and Yoongi were facing each other. “What’s going on?”

Hoseok quickly scrubbed at his cheeks, trying to hide the tracks of any wayward tears. “Nothing.”

“Liar.”

Hoseok flinched.

“You’ve been weird lately,” Yoongi continued. “You’re always in your room. Usually, you’re around, you know? Like in the kitchen, or in the family room, or something, but lately you’ve been keeping to yourself.”

Hoseok crinkled his nose. “What do you care? You’re always in your room, too.”

Yoongi –who had been squinting ever since Hoseok woke him up- narrowed his eyes even further. “Your dumb. And so am I. I should know better than to talk to you when your mouth is triangling,” Yoongi said, poking the corners of Hoseok’s mouth.

Hoseok batted his hands away. “Triangling?” he asked.

“Yeah. When you’re mad, your mouth makes a triangle,” he said.

Hoseok frowned further. “It does not!”

“It one hundred percent does,” Yoongi argued. He wriggled under Hoseok’s sheets. “So what’s making you grumpy, huh? Tell me.”

Hoseok made a grumbling noise and pulled the blankets up over Yoongi’s head so he wouldn’t have to look at him. Yoongi whined and fought himself free over the covers while Hoseok tried to keep him hidden. After a short scuffle, Yoongi ended up sitting on Hoseok’s chest, pinning his arms to the mattress.

“Come on, Hoseok! What the hell is going on with you?” he asked.

Hoseok tried to break himself free, but Yoongi had the upper hand. He melted into his pillow when he realized he was trapped. “Ugh, fine! But... Well, do you think you can keep a secret?” Hoseok asked. Yoongi arched an eyebrow. “Okay, okay, I know you can. But... but this is serious.”

Something in Hoseok’s voice must have caught Yoongi’s attention because his grip on Hoseok’s wrists eased up. “How serious?” he asked.

Hoseok thought back on how angry Oliver had been the last time he tried to make their relationship public. “Super serious,” he answered.

Yoongi sat up a little bit, his eyes widening. “Okay, fuck. Tell me.”

“Get off of me first,” Hoseok demanded, and Yoongi crawled off his chest. “So... So Oliver and I are officially dating. Like boyfriends. We have been for weeks.”

“What?! Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Yoongi asked.

“Because he doesn’t want anyone to know,” Hoseok replied. “So you can’t tell Jin and Joon, okay?”

Yoongi pressed his lips together. Hoseok knew this look; this is how Yoongi looked when he was worried. “Okay...” Yoongi agreed slowly. “But what does you dating Oliver have to do with you arguing with yourself late at night?” he asked.

Hoseok sat up in bed, frustrated. “I wasn’t arguing with myself, I was arguing with him.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Hoseok said. “I dunno... It’s like all our conversations start out great, but they always end up awful.”

“Well then maybe you shouldn’t be dating him,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok frowned and collapsed down on his bed. “But the great parts are so, so worth it,” he whined. “It’s just the parts in the middle of him being awful and him apologizing and being super cute that suck.”

The face Yoongi pulled at that was almost unbelievable. He looked absolutely disgusted. “Hoseok. There’s not supposed to be sucky parts when you’re dating someone. Relationships are supposed to be good. Didn’t Jin make you read that ‘Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti’ book?”

Hoseok frowned. “Maybe...”

“Okay, so don’t be stupid, and don’t let some freak treat you like crap.”

“He’s not treating me like crap, he’s just... he just doesn’t get how some of the things he says come off. That plus me being a little oversensitive sometimes makes for a sticky situation,” Hoseok said. Yoongi opened his mouth to say something, but Hoseok kept talking before he could argue. “I think it’s just the honeymoon phase wearing off. We need to find our stride.”

Yoongi looked at him skeptically. “Okay... Well, if it gets worse, break up with him. You don’t need to be worrying about boys at 12:30 on a school night. Jin would be pissed if he knew we were up.”

Hoseok smiled weakly. “True. This never happened.”

“Fuck, no. As far as I’m concerned, I slept like a baby all night,” Yoongi said, peeling himself off Hoseok’s mattress. He sat on the edge of his bed, staring at him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Hoseok smirked. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just grumpy.”

“It’s because you’re overtired.”

Hoseok’s smile only grew. “You know? You actually sound just like Jin tonight. The dating advice, the sleeping advice...”

“Okay, the last thing I need to hear right now is that I’m turning into my father. Unacceptable. I’m over this. I’m going to sleep,” Yoongi said, getting up. He patted Hoseok’s leg caringly and then yanked his hand away like he had been burned. “Oh my God, I am Jin.

“You are,” Hoseok laughed.

“This never happened,” Yoongi repeated, practically running out of Hoseok’s bedroom. Hoseok laughed as he watched him leave. Yoongi was a dork, but he always managed to make him feel better.


 JIMIN

Jimin stared at his Spanish quiz with bleary eyes.

It was too early in the morning for a pop quiz, but apparently Senorita Snyder didn’t care about that. All she cared about were verb conjugations and their farm animals vocabulary list. Meanwhile, Jimin struggled to remember the Spanish word for sheep.

He lifted his head to cast a glance towards Taehyung in his seat across the room. Senorita had separated them on the first day of school for making each other laugh during class. Jimin couldn’t see Taehyung’s paper from his seat, but he was sure he was almost finished. Taehyung had never had trouble with Spanish.

Jimin, however, was awful at Spanish. It was hard enough to read English with his dyslexia, but Spanish was twice as hard. It was like his brain kept trying to read English words, even when he knew he was supposed to be reading in a different language.

They had only had their pop quizzes for a half hour, but Jimin’s head already felt like it was splitting open. Watching the letters drift and float above the page always gave him a tension headache. He pinched the bridge of his nose.

There were only ten minutes left of class, and he had only managed to get through half of the questions.

He should have taken up Jin’s offer to talk to the guidance counselor. Maybe then he could have had extra time on his pop quiz. But as it was, he wasn’t going to finish, he was definitely going to fail, he would never be able to bring his grade up, and he was going to get kicked off the cheerleading team.

“Pencils down.”

“What?” Jimin squawked, looking up from his exam. Senorita Snyder was at the front of the room, already collecting everyone’s quizzes.

“I have to go over the homework before you all leave for the day,” she explained.

Jimin blanched. “But I didn’t finish,” he said, his cheeks coloring when he realized the whole class was staring at him.

“I’m sorry, Ivan,” she said, using his Spanish name, “But the instructions said clearly that everyone would be given a half an hour for their exam.”

Jimin squinted down at his paper. He hadn’t read the instructions; he never read the instructions. He never had time to read the instructions because crazy teachers like Senorita Snyder only gave him a half an hour for pop quizzes.

“Can I have the bathroom pass?” Jimin asked, voice tight. He ignored the way Taehyung was looking at him.

“Can you ask in Spanish?”

“Por favor, ¿me puedo ir al baño?” he asked again, stumbling over the words.

“Sí.”

Jimin got up and grabbed the pass before storming out of the room. He felt like he could flip a table, he was so angry. He knew he was supposed to be feeling embarrassed and sad, but his emotions were all mixed up, and instead he was just feeling... mad.

Jimin punched a stall door as soon as he stepped foot in the bathroom, scaring a boy at the urinal so badly that he scurried out of the room without washing his hands. Jimin punched the door again, just because he felt stupid for doing it in the first place.

He hid his face in his hands, fighting the urge to scream.

He was too angry to head back to class, so he locked himself up in a bathroom stall, rocking himself back and forth in an attempt to calm down. When the class bell rang, Jimin still didn’t move. A couple minutes later, he heard the bathroom door open again.

“Jimin? Jiminnie. I brought you your backpack,” Taehyung called.

Jimin held his breath, not sure he wanted to be found.

Footsteps paused outside his stall, and Taehyung’s shadow dropped as he looked underneath the door. Jimin pulled up his feet a second too late. “Found you!” Taehyung said and wormed underneath the bathroom door a moment later.

“Oh my god, Taehyung, gross,” Jimin said.

“Crap, I’m stuck,” Taehyung said, wiggling to try to get himself free. “Never do this with two backpacks on.”

“You’re such a dork,” Jimin said, laughing despite how frustrated he was.

Taehyung made it underneath the door and sat cross-legged at Jimin’s feet. He passed him his book bag. “You stormed out of class,” he said. Jimin’s nose twitched and Taehyung poked it. “I take it the quiz didn’t go well?”

“It didn’t,” Jimin admitted.

Taehyung hummed, his hands on his knees and his shoulders relaxed like he wasn’t sitting on the disgusting floor of the boys’ bathroom. “That sucks... We were even studying Spanish last night!”

“Yeah, it’s crazy,” Jimin said, his wet voice betraying him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I don’t really want to talk about it. Especially not with you. You’re too good at school, and I’m too jealous.”

Taehyung beamed up at him. “I’m am a genius, after all.”

“Oh my god, shut up,” Jimin laughed, hitting Taehyung lightly upside the head.

Taehyung gasped. “Jimin, gentle,” he said, aghast. His face grew serious a moment later. “But actually, we have orchestra in-“ he checked his watch, “Two minutes. So what can I do to make you feel good enough to go?”

Jimin’s smile shrunk into something a little less happy but a little more sincere. “I don’t know... I really needed to do well on that quiz, and I bombed it,” he said sheepishly. “And I’m... I’m pissed.”

“That’s fair,” Taehyung said.

“I think Senorita hates me.”

“She is a pretty spiteful person,” Taehyung agreed. “Think we could convince the principal to tie her up and toss her in the lake?” he asked.

Jimin laughed loudly at that. “Why would we try to get him to do that?”

“To see if she’s a witch,” Taehyung answered. “We could also try to make her recite scripture or search her body for the devil’s mark.” Taehyung wiggled his fingers in Jimin’s face before going to tickle his neck.

“Ah, Tae! Quit it!” Jimin squealed, giggling.

Taehyung moved his hands away from his neck only to attack his armpits. “Not until you’re smiling,” Taehyung said, as Jimin shrieked.

“I’m smiling, I’m smiling!” he promised. “Let’s go to class, okay? Or you’re not going to have any time to pick up your saxophone.”

“I already don’t have any time to pick up my saxophone,” Taehyung said with a shrug, but he stood up anyway. He shrugged his bag onto his shoulder. “But I only wanna leave if you’re all right. Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m definitely all right,” Jimin promised. “I was more mad than anything.”

“Mad?” Taehyung questioned.

Jimin closed his eyes. “Furious,” he corrected.

“Once again, fair enough,” Taehyung promised. “But don’t be too bummed about a bad quiz. You’ll do well on the next one, and I’ll be proud of you, and I’ll give you my dinner roll as a reward for a job well done,” he said as they left the bathroom.

Jimin hoisted his backpack a little higher on his shoulders. “A dinner roll. That’s definitely something worth working for.”

“A dinner roll and my after school snack.”

Jimin grinned. “As long as it’s something chocolate. I don’t need any more clementines or apple slices. I already eat way too much fruit.”

“Does trail mix count?” Taehyung asked.

Jimin made a face. “Under no circumstance, no.”

“What if it’s the good kind? With peanut butter chips?” Taehyung asked.

Jimin had to think about that. “Well, now you’re speaking my language,” he eventually decided. “I will get an A for a dinner roll and trail mix, providing peanut butter chips are included.”

“Then let’s shake on it,” Taehyung said, spitting in his hand and extending it out towards Jimin to take. Jimin didn’t bother to turn up his nose. He just spit in his hand and clapped it together with Taehyung’s, squealing in disgust when their hands made a squelching noise.

“Ew!”

“At least that’s settled, now,” Taehyung said, nodding sagely. Jimin just laughed and rubbed the spit off his hand and onto Taehyung’s jacket. They were late to orchestra, but it had been worth it to have a little calm down time with Taehyung.


 SEOKJIN

“Odds that Jungkook will forgive me in this lifetime?” Namjoon asked as he helped Seokjin to fold the laundry.

Seokjin hummed. “Slim to none. But we did have a talk that went absolutely nowhere, if that helps to console you at all.”

Namjoon groaned and dropped the shirt he was folding into his lap. “Why does it feel like we’re both not getting anywhere with our kids lately? It’s not even just Jungkook,” he complained. “Yoongi won’t answer any of my questions about college, and Hoseok has been weirdly secretive.”

Seokjin set the laundry to the side, giving Namjoon his full attention. Whenever they had conversations about the kids, Seokjin felt like he needed to focus. “Hoseok has been weirdly secretive, hasn’t he?” he mused.

“I just want our kids to talk to us,” Namjoon said, flopping back on the bed. His body bounced a couple times, and Seokjin cooed. He curled up next to his husband.

“Is my Joonie sad because his babies are being distant?”

“They won’t talk to me,” Namjoon pouted.

Seokjin hummed. “They’re teenagers, Joon, dear. They’re programmed to not want to talk to their parents.”

“Yeah, but we’re supposed to be above that. We’re supposed to be a really open, communicative family. We’re supposed to all talk, and hug, and tell each other how much we love each other, and be close, and not so... so... so... despondent.”

Seokjin squinted. “That’s a big word.”

“Thanks,” Namjoon said, still looking downcast.

Seokjin groaned and snaked his arms around Namjoon’s waist. He forced Namjoon onto his side, determined to be the big spoon for a while. He pressed a kiss to the back of Namjoon’s neck. “We’re not despondent,” he promised. “Our kids do talk to us, I just think sometimes they get nervous or don’t think we’ll understand. But if we’re patient, they’ll tell us what’s going on in our lives. They always do. It’s okay if they want to figure things out on their own first; they’re growing up. They’ve got to learn to do things on their own.”

“No, they don’t,” Namjoon argued. “They’ll always have me.”

“What about when they go to college? Or get jobs and move out? Or just when they’re in class and you’re not right by their side to give them advice?” Seokjin asked.

Namjoon sniffed. “None of those things are going ever to happen.”

“You’re in denial.”

“It’s my ideal state.”

“Exhausting,” Seokjin said. “That’s what you are: exhausting.”

Namjoon laughed and rolled over to face Seokjin. He looped his arms around Seokjin’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to tire you out, I’m just... stressing out. Being a dad is hard, and I’m not sure if I’m any good at it.”

Seokjin smiled and gave Namjoon a kiss of his own. “Well, as I’ve been telling you for fourteen years: you don’t have to worry. You’re a great dad.”

“No, you’re a great dad,” Namjoon argued.

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “No, you’re a great dad.”

“No, you’re a great dad.”

“No, you’re a- Oh my gosh, actually, I’m not doing this with you,” Seokjin said, interrupting himself. He earned a big laugh from Namjoon, though, and Seokjin couldn’t help but feel fond at the sight of Namjoon’s beautiful smile. He kissed the corner of Namjoon’s mouth. “We do have a great family, though. Don’t worry about the boys talking to us just yet. It’ll happen with time,” he promised.

Namjoon winced, his smile fading fast. “That’s what I was afraid you’d say.”


 TAEHYUNG

Taehyung stirred his pasta, unable to eat it. He felt too awkward.

Which was a real shame because Seokjin had agreed to try making the family go vegetarian for a day, and Taehyung had been really excited for the pesto sauce they’d whipped up last night. He had diced up tomatoes and everything to eat with it. Plus, Seokjin had packed him a little container of nutella with raspberries and pretzels, and that was his favorite, and-

“Is your brother going to talk at all?” Oliver asked, looking at Hoseok accusatorily.

Taehyung winced, stabbing at a piece of penne. Hoseok hadn’t invited him to sit with him in ages, ever since he had started eating with Oliver regularly. Taehyung didn’t know what was going on between them, but he knew he wasn’t welcome.

It wasn’t Taehyung’s first choice to sit with Hoseok and Oliver. Usually, he liked sitting with Hoseok, but only when Hoseok invited him. Lately, he had to sit with Hoseok out of necessity. If Taehyung had to sit with Jimin’s cheerleader friends after crashing Nayeon’s place on Saturday, he would probably die of embarrassment. It was either sit with Hoseok, or lie in an early grave.

Unfortunately, sitting with Hoseok meant subjecting himself to Oliver’s teasing.

“Leave him alone, Oliver. He’s just nervous around new people,” Hoseok promised. Taehyung felt Hoseok squeeze his knee under the table, and he bit his lip. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Hoseok comforting him, but it made him feel like a little kid.

Taehyung wasn’t a baby, and he wasn’t stupid. He just wasn’t great at talking to kids his age. There was a difference.

“I’m sorry,” he squeaked, although he didn’t know what for.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Hoseok assured him.

“Well, there kind of is,” Oliver said. “We were supposed to have lunch just the two of us, and now your kid brother is crashing two days in a row. This is supposed to time for us.”

Hoseok arched an eyebrow. Taehyung could tell he was unimpressed. “He’s not crashing, he’s more than welcome.”

“I just don’t get why you can’t saddle him with Jimin. Or why he can’t eat on his own, if no one else wants to sit with him. Why do we have to be the ones to deal with him?” Oliver asked.

“Um, I’m right here,” Taehyung said, waving awkwardly.

Hoseok, meanwhile, was glaring daggers at Oliver. “You need to be nice,” Hoseok seethed. He leaned across the table to whisper to Oliver, but Taehyung could still hear. “I get that you like having couple time during lunch, and I know that you miss me during the day and that you like having my full attention. But Taehyung is my brother, and you’re not going to treat him like this.”

Oliver pouted. “Babe, I just wanted it to be us two.”

“Well, there are nicer ways to go about it,” Hoseok said, settling back into his seat. Taehyung watched as Oliver reached for Hoseok’s hand. Hoseok tried to pull away, but Oliver gripped onto his fingers, forcing him to stay put. Taehyung sent a fearful glance to Hoseok. He didn’t think Oliver was a good guy, and he certainly hoped his brother wasn’t really dating him.

“You’re too cute,” Oliver said to Hoseok. Taehyung winced when he felt a socked foot trail up his leg.

“That’s me,” Taehyung said. “I think you might be playing footsie with the wrong person.”

The foot retracted. “I wasn’t playing footsie,” Oliver snapped glaring. Hoseok smirked, and while he wasn’t laughing out loud, his eyes certainly were. Oliver pouted. “Hoseok,” he whined.

“Yes, dear?”

“You’re laughing at me.”

“I’m not,” Hoseok promised.

“You are, and I don’t like it,” Oliver said. Taehyung watched as his hand visibly tightened on Hoseok’s. Taehyung shot his brother another worried glance, wanting desperately to speak up and ask if he was all right –if he even wanted to be eating lunch with Oliver- but he was too nervous to. Oliver had already been mean to him one too many times, and Taehyung was scared of what he would say if he spoke in front of him again. He pressed his lips together, determined to stay quiet for the rest of their lunch block.

He timidly ate a raspberry, all the while pulling his knees up underneath the hem of his shirt and holding them close to his chest. He wanted to hide away.

Meanwhile, Hoseok ignored Oliver and turned to Taehyung. “Tae Tae, no one has to ‘deal’ with you, okay? I’m glad you’re eating with us.”

Taehyung just shrugged. He ate another raspberry and stared longingly at Jimin across the room. Jimin had said yesterday that he was jealous of him, but Taehyung hadn’t really understood why. Taehyung was better at school, but Jimin was better with people, and that was certainly more valuable to Taehyung.

It was better to be confused with friends than confused and alone.


YOONGI

“Okay, so just hang tight, we’ll be right back after this commercial break,” Yoongi announced just as Namjoon segued into the commercials the station had to play for the hour. Yoongi loved getting to talk on air, and he was ecstatic that Namjoon had let him come to his studio again. The train ride had been as harrowing as ever, but now that he was here, it was all worth it.

“You’re a natural at this,” Namjoon said proudly as soon as they were off the air. He held out a hand for Yoongi to high-five.

“Really?” Yoongi asked, smacking his dad’s hand.

“Yeah, you see really comfortable on air.”

“Really?”

“Totally,” Namjoon promised. “It’s like the studio is your second home.”

“Really?” Yoongi asked again, and Namjoon shot him a look. Yoongi scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “Right, sorry, no checking. I’m just really glad you think so, is all. I think it would be cool to be a DJ one day.”

Namjoon nodded. “That’s great, Yoongi. I think you would do a really good job of it, as long as you’re doing it because you want to you know? Not just because I want you to.”

Yoongi wrinkled his nose at that. “What do you mean?”

Namjoon drummed out a beat on the edge of the table, mimicking the drums to the commercial that was playing in the studio. “Just that I know you’re nervous about college, and I don’t want it to be because you think I’m trying to force you into music production. You can do whatever you want you know?”

Yoongi’s eyes widened at that. He knew he hadn’t been doing a great job of hiding how nervous he was about college, but he hadn’t realized how much Namjoon was thinking about it. He frowned a little. “No, I really... I really want to do music. I like it. And I like making it. And I want to learn about it in college so I can be good at it like you are.”

Namjoon put a hand over his heart. “Sugar. Kid. I’m supposed to be the sappy one in this family. Don’t take my title away from me.”

Yoongi snorted. “Okay, I won’t.”

“Phew, I was worried,” Namjoon said. His fingers still beat in time against the desk. Yoongi tried not to be bothered as he disturbed the papers lying there, knocking them out of their neat piles. “So talk to me. What’s going on at school? Any drama?”

“Not really,” Yoongi answered. He paused. “Joy has been talking to me a little more than usual lately.”

Namjoon quit drumming and turned to face him straight on. A knowing smile lit up his face. “And who is this Joy?”

Yoongi felt his face starting to heat up. “Um...” He checked to make sure the microphones were off. He checked again. He checked one last time. “She’s just this girl. She’s in the vocal ensemble, and the women’s ensemble, and she’s doing a solo at the concert, and... Well, she’s a singer.”

“Are you interested in her?” Namjoon asked.

Yoongi’s hands twitched. He checked to make sure the microphones were off one last time. “Um... No. Definitely no.”

Namjoon looked like he was about to laugh. “No?” he asked.

Yoongi shuddered. He felt like all his blood was in his face, and the rest of him was freezing. “No, I don’t think I’m interested in anyone,” he admitted.

Namjoon nodded, his smile softening to something a little more understanding. “That’s okay, you don’t have to be interested in anyone. No worries.” he promised.

Yoongi didn’t know how to respond. The silence was stifling, and he squirmed in his seat, trying to resist the urge to fix the papers Namjoon’s tapping had messed up. He cleared his throat, trying to think of a good conversation starter. “Um... So... Do you have any music planned?” he asked.

Namjoon shook his head. “Nope. Do you have any ideas?”

Yoongi nodded. “’Weight in Gold’ by Gallant, if that’s cool,” he said.

Namjoon made an excited noise at that and straightened up. “I love that song, and it deserves more attention, you’re right,” he promised. “Maybe we can do some neo-soul or something for the next set.”

“There can never be enough neo-soul,” Yoongi said with a shrug. He perked up a bit when Namjoon ruffled his hair.

“That’s my kid,” Namjoon said, flipping through the station’s music database. Meanwhile, Yoongi preened at his side, happy to have made his dad proud.


 HOSEOK

Hoseok jumped when a tiny body slammed into his side. His heart lodged into his throat. “Shoot, Mikey, you scared the crap out of me,” he said, trying to remember how to breathe as Mikey laughed.

“Sorry,” he apologized, but he didn’t sound sorry at all.

“You checked me into the lockers,” Hoseok complained rubbing his shoulder. Mikey was too energetic for him sometimes.

“My B, my B,” Mikey said. He rubbed his nose off on the back of his hand, and Hoseok tried not to be too disgusted by it. As he headed off to programming club, Mikey followed him. “Hey wait, I wanted to ask you, are you busy after programming today?”

“Actually, no,” Hoseok answered. “Dance was cancelled because our instructor is out sick.”

“Cool!” Mikey said, rubbing his nose off on his sleeve again. “Dustin and Lucas were going to come over and re-watch BBC Sherlock with me, if you wanna come.”

Hoseok shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

Mikey jumped excitedly, like he hadn’t expected Hoseok to come. “Shit, yeah!” he yelped as they turned the corner into the computer lab. Mr. Clarke sent them a warning look, and Mikey shrunk inwards on himself. “I mean, ‘Yay, that’s great,’” he said meekly, waving at Mr. Clarke apologetically.

Hoseok bit the inside corner of his cheek. “No problem. Your house always has Oreos. My dads never get Oreos.”

Mikey laughed at that. “That’s all it takes to get you to come over? Oreos?” he asked.

Hoseok smiled. “That and something to drink other than flavored water and orange juice. Jin is kind of a health freak, and Namjoon says it’s best not to fight him on it,” Hoseok explained.

Mikey’s face scrunched up. “I think I have a couple cans of Mountain Dew.”

Hoseok clapped him on the shoulder. “Perfect, I’m in,” Hoseok said, taking his seat before Mr. Clarke could begin his lesson.

He was supposed to have a FaceTime date with Oliver later that night, but it would just have to wait. Hoseok wanted to be able to spend time with his friends, too, and Oliver had been a little too clingy lately. Hanging out at Mikey’s would be the perfect opportunity to get away for a little bit.

Mr. Clarke started talking about sentinels, and Hoseok whipped out his notebook. Maybe it was nerdy, but when it was time for coding, nothing could distract him.


 NAMJOON

Namjoon was starting to get a little worried. It had been a few days, and Jungkook still wasn’t talking to him. He needed to apologize. Namjoon was on the way to Jungkook’s bedroom, when Taehyung’s voice made him pause. “Woah. Have you everlistened to ‘Belle’ from Beauty and the Beast with one headphone in?”

Namjoon turned, thinking Taehyung was speaking to him, only to realize he was in his room with Jimin and Seokjin.

“No, why?” Jimin asked, balancing on the back legs of his chair. His feet were up on their joined desks. Namjoon leaned up against their dorm frame, just watching his family for a moment.

“It’s so weird,” Taehyung said, his eyes blown wide. “It’s like... so, you know how the villagers come in opposite ears sometimes?” he asked. Jimin nodded. “Okay, well, it’s like you can just sort of hear them echoing in the opposite headphone, like... like the villagers are dead and calling from the afterlife.”

“That sounds disturbing,” Jimin said.

Taehyung held out an ear bud. “Wanna listen?”

“Duh,” Jimin said, snatching it up. He had to lean across their desks to do it, and Seokjin put a hand on Jimin’s leg, forcing him to sit back down.

“Hey, kid, we have some serious work to do for your English test tomorrow. I need you to focus,” he said, moving his hand to the back of Jimin’s neck and smoothing down the short hair at the nape of his neck.

Namjoon stepped into the room, making his presence known. “Hold on, I want to hear it,” he said, and Taehyung passed him an ear bud excitedly. Namjoon bent over, his eyes widening when he heard what Taehyung was talking about.

“Oh, man, you weren’t lying,” he said.

“See?!” Taehyung said. “Ghost villagers!”

“It’s awful,” Namjoon said. “Didn’t I teach you better than this? Listen to some hip-hop. Or better yet, put on some Frank Ocean. He’s good for you.”

“Some 2016 Frank Ocean? Or like his older stuff?” Jimin clarified, obviously not focusing like Seokjin needed him to.

“I find it hard to believe that Blonde is even Frank Ocean at all. Put on ‘Novacane’ or ‘Swim Good.’”

Taehyung’s thumbs hovered over his iPhone screen.

“Everyone is listening to ‘Nikes,’ though, Taehyung,” Jimin corrected. “You gotta listen to ‘Nikes.’”

Seokjin cleared his throat. “As lovely as I think it is that we can all talk about music together, Jimin has an English exam that he needs to study for. So we all need to be respectful and keep quiet so he can focus,” he said diplomatically. Jimin hunched over his notes sheepishly.

“Actually, yeah, I should probably buckle down and get serious,” he admitted.

Seokjin pinched his cheek. “See? There’s that hardworking attitude! You get that from me, not Namjoon.”

Taehyung sat up a little straighter. “Wait,” he said, closing his textbook. Namjoon figured he should sit down on the edge of Taehyung’s desk. This conversation might take awhile. “Can you guys pass down attitudes onto us? Like... like is that a genetics thing? Or is that a ‘I raised you’ kind of thing?” he asked.

Namjoon looked over to Seokjin nervously. He didn’t like where was this conversation was headed. He wasn’t surprised when Seokjin was already staring right back at him. “I think it probably depends,” Seokjin said slowly, his eyes were slow to leave Namjoon’s. “But I think that most behaviors are things that you learn, not things you are born with.”

“So does that mean that we used to be different?” Taehyung asked.

Now it was Jimin’s turn to sit up straighter. “Yeah, we had different parents at first. So what were we like when we came to stay with you guys? Were we different when we were babies?”

“Well... well, of course you were different, you were toddlers,” Seokjin said. He looked overwhelmed and Namjoon cut in to save him.

“You kids were actually a lot different than you are now. All five of you were,” Namjoon promised. “You came from some really dangerous households with really incapable parents, and so Seokjin had to work really hard to re-teach you how to behave.”

“But like... how?” Jimin asked.

Seokjin scratched the back of his neck. Namjoon was at a loss, too. As a principle, they tried to be as open as possible with their kids when conversations like these came up. Their pasts still affected them so much. Sugarcoating everything wouldn’t help matters; it would only confuse them.

However, that didn’t mean it was easy to talk about Jimin and Taehyung’s personalities after being abused and neglected for years.

Namjoon cleared his throat. “Well, I mean... I think you already know some of this, but Jimin, you had some pretty vicious mood swings. Like tantrums were a big deal for you. And Taehyung, you were pretty independent at first, but then when you started to make attachments to Jin and I, you didn’t like it when we left you on your own.”

“You and Yoongi used to shadow me,” Seokjin said fondly. Namjoon smiled. Yoongi was a lot more independent now, but Taehyung still trailed Seokjin around the house.

“Didn’t Jimin used to hit me a lot?” Taehyung suddenly remembered.

“Jimin used to hit everyone a lot. His parents taught him to use his hands instead of his words,” Seokjin explained. It was a repeated phrase in their household, or at least it used to be. We use our words, not our hands.

“Sorry,” Jimin said, flushing.

“Oh, no, Minnie. Don’t you ever be sorry for that, it wasn’t your fault,” Seokjin promised. He reached out to smush Jimin’s chubby chees together and pressed a kiss to his forehead. Meanwhile, Namjoon got up to stand behind Taehyung, looping his arms around his son’s shoulders.

Taehyung shifted in Namjoon’s arms. “Why would- I mean... How could... How could someone do that?” Taehyung asked. “To Jimin, I mean. Like I love Jimin. Everyone loves Jimin. So I mean, how...” he trailed off.

Once again, Seokjin and Namjoon shared a look. Namjoon had no idea what to say, and it must have shown on his face because Seokjin ended up fielding the question. “Well... Well, Jimin’s parents weren’t sane people. They were seriously, mentally ill, and they didn’t know what they were doing.”

“But what did they do?” Taehyung asked, oblivious to how uncomfortable Jimin was becoming. “Like how would they hurt him?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Namjoon said sternly, finally finding his voice. “All that matters is that they went to jail, and now we have Jimin.” Namjoon realized he sounded a little harsh, and he cleared his throat. He tried to sound more positive. “And it’s great because –you’re right, Tae Tae- everyone loves Jimin. We lucked out getting such a great kid.”

“What about Taehyung?” Jimin piped up. “What did his parents do?”

Namjoon winced. “Well, nothing, really. But that was the problem.”

“They didn’t help Taehyung with his seizures at all,” Seokjin explained. “So he didn’t have any medicine or anyone to make sure he was safe.”

“But like... did they cause his seizures?” Jimin asked.

Taehyung paled at that, and Seokjin bit his lip. Namjoon mirrored him unthinkingly. “Well... We’re not sure. The doctors think it is likely that Taehyung was born prematurely, and that caused a brain injury he just never grew out of. ...But as for why he was born prematurely, it could have just been because of natural causes, or it could have been because his mom wasn’t careful when she was pregnant with him. Which, given the way she cared for Taehyung after he was born, seems very likely.”

“The doctors say they don’t have a lot of pre-natal information about Taehyung in their files, which means that maybe there isn’t any pre-natal information about Taehyung. Like maybe his mom didn’t get any,” Namjoon explained.

“She might not have been able to afford it,” Seokjin said.

“Or she had a private doctor and the records aren’t on file,” Namjoon said. “And it was just natural causes that lead to Taehyung’s preterm delivery. Or maybe she drank or smoked while she was pregnant. Or maybe Taehyung just has seizures for no discernable reason. No one knows,” Namjoon said, watching Taehyung carefully.

He looked upset, but it wasn’t information he hadn’t heard before. They had talked about it a lot with Taehyung; they just hadn’t talked about it much with Jimin. So when Taehyung piped up with a question, Namjoon was surprised. “Why do you need proof of pre-natal stuff? What’s pre-natal stuff?” Taehyung asked.

“When people say ‘pre-natal’ they mean before the baby is born. But we don’t need it,” Namjoon said, giving Taehyung’s shoulders a squeeze.

“It just would have shown that your mom went to the doctors’ while she was pregnant with you and gave you checkups while you were still growing inside of her,” Seokjin explained. Namjoon couldn’t help but feel relieved. Seokjin was a much better teacher than he was. He always gave the best explanations to their kids.

“So if you don’t check up on your baby before it’s born, it might be premature, and if it’s premature, it may wreck it’s brain, and that’s how kids get seizures,” Jimin explained.

“Nailed it,” Seokjin said.

Namjoon, meanwhile, watched as Taehyung’s bottom lip started to wobble. He buried his nose in his son’s hair. “So it’s my mom’s fault? Because she didn’t care?” Taehyung asked.

“We don’t know,” Namjoon answered. “But don’t be sad, TaeTae. Don’t be sad. We love you so much, and we’re going to take care of you, okay? These seizures aren’t going to be forever. We’re going to figure it out, okay?”

Taehyung nodded, but Namjoon could tell how hesitant he was. They had been trying for years to find the right balance of medication to help with Taehyung’s seizures, but it was hard to keep up with his growing body and needs. He certainly wasn’t having as many seizures as he did when he first came to their house, but it was hard to say if any of the medication had ever helped or if he just had fewer seizures now that he was 15 instead of two.

Seokjin clapped his hands together. “Okay. Well. As willing as I am to talk to you both about your biological families, I think maybe it’s a conversation we all have to be a little more emotionally prepared for, don’t you?”

Taehyung nodded a little more emphatically, and Jimin grunted in agreement.

“Okay,” Seokjin said, smoothing down Jimin’s hair. “Why don’t we stick a pin in it, and if you still have questions, you can come talk to me when you’re ready, okay? And for now, we have an English exam to study for.”

“I think I’m sleepy,” Taehyung said, scrubbing at one of his eyes.

Seokjin wordlessly kicked his legs up on Jimin’s bed and patted his lap for Taehyung to rest on. Namjoon let go of Taehyung so he could crawl up on the mattress and lay his head on Seokjin’s leg. He smiled when Seokjin’s fingers immediately found their way through Taehyung’s hair. He was such a good dad.

“Do you have things handled?” Namjoon asked Seokjin. Taehyung tended to sleep off bad feelings, and Jimin didn’t seem too shaken.

Seokjin nodded. “Yeah. I’ve got flashcards, and Things Fall Apart, and I’m ready to talk about Okonkwo with ‘Minnie.”

“Okonkwoooooo,” Jimin cheered, putting up a fist in the air.

“Well, then. I’ll leave you to it,” Namjoon said, coming around the desks to press a kiss to Jimin’s temple and to Taehyung’s cheek. He patted Taehyung’s leg and Jimin’s hair before leaving the room-

-only to trip over Jungkook’s legs.

“Oh, Kookie, I’m so sorry,” Namjoon said, trying to quietly close the door to Jimin and Taehyung’s bedroom behind him. He didn’t want to bother them if Jimin was trying to study and Taehyung was trying to sleep.

“It’s okay,” Jungkook said, standing up quickly. He looked flustered.

“Are you okay?” Namjoon asked. Jungkook wrapped his arms around himself, and Namjoon furrowed his brow. “What were you doing out here? Were you listening in?”

“No,” Jungkook said quickly. “No, I wasn’t.”

Namjoon blinked. “Okay,” he said, although he wasn’t sure he believed him. Why else would Jungkook be sitting out in the hall? He decided to let it slide, however. “Actually, I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to talk to you.”

“No thanks,” Jungkook said, scooting past him towards his bedroom across the hall.

“Wait, Jungkook-“

“I said no,” Jungkook said, slamming his door shut. Namjoon jumped backwards when the door closed right in front of his nose. He bit his lip. Maybe he would have to wait on talking to Jungkook.


 JUNGKOOK

Jungkook lingered outside of Namjoon and Seokjin’s bedroom door. He could hear his dads talking on the other side of the door.

“I’m serious! I can’t leave my lunch in the break room anymore.”

“You’re paranoid.”

“No, I’m not! Erin steals my lunch every single day, or at least something from it. Yesterday there was a sizable divot in the nutella you packed me. A sizable divot, Seokjin.

“Okay, pulling out my full name won’t make me believe you.”

Jungkook took a deep breath, his eyes welling up with tears. He felt inexplicably sad. His parents talked to each other so casually, and they sounded so happy. This was familiar to them, and Jungkook ached for something similar.

When he was little, he used to just run into Namjoon and Seokjin’s bedroom without worrying what they were doing. If they were reading, or talking, or watching the news, or getting changed, or stripping the bed... It didn’t matter. Jungkook would rush through the doors and know that he’d get to join in the fun.

But now he was nervous.

Hesitantly, Jungkook knocked on the door. The conversation on the other side came to a halt. Seokjin’s voice reached him first. “Hello?”

“Come on in!” Namjoon chirped immediately after.

Jungkook opened the door and poked his head in. His dads were both in bed, Seokjin with a book in his hands and Namjoon with his MacBook in his lap. They both were wearing glasses and sleep shirts, and Jungkook realized that he hadn’t seen them like this in a long while. He only saw Namjoon when he was in his work clothes, and he only saw Seokjin when he was dressed for the day.

Suddenly, Jungkook was overwhelmed with a need to crawl up in the bed between them.

“Jungkook,” Seokjin said, pushing is glasses down his nose as Namjoon pushed his up. “I thought you might be Yoongi.”

“Well, I’m not, I’m me,” Jungkook replied.

“Come on in!” Namjoon said excitedly waving him forward. “Come sit with us. What’s going on?” he asked.

Jungkook came into the room. He looked hesitantly at his dads’ bed, not sure where to put himself, but eventually he decided to fold himself up by the footboard. He looked down at his toes. His parents, meanwhile, waited patiently for him to gather his thoughts. “...Okay. ...Okay,” he said.

“Okay,” Seokjin repeated, leaning forward to pat one of his feet. “What’s going on?”

Jungkook took a deep breath. “So... So earlier I may have overheard you guys talking with Jimin and Taehyung about where they came from-“ he started, unable to look Namjoon in the eyes. “And I just was wondering, um...” he trailed off, unable to say it.

Seokjin looked at him appraisingly, adjusting his glasses to see him properly now that he was closer up. “Were you wondering about your mom, honey?” he asked.

Jungkook nodded, wincing when his parents shared a look.

“She was nothing if not determined,” Namjoon eventually answered. “She really loved you, but her addiction was out of her control.”

Jungkook nodded. The way Namjoon spoke about his mom made it sound like he had said the same thing before, over and over. Seokjin, meanwhile, smiled at him encouragingly. “It was terrifying. She was tenacious trying to get you back.”

“Every time the phone rang, I was convinced it was your social worker saying that she had earned visitation,” Namjoon admitted, putting a hand over his heart.

Jungkook crinkled his nose. “You didn’t want her to get visitation?” he asked.

Seokjin and Namjoon shared another look that Jungkook couldn’t read. Eventually Seokjin’s eyes flickered back to meet his. “Well... No. It’s probably selfish, but we wanted to keep you Jungkook.”

“You were our little baby,” Namjoon said reminiscently. “Our only baby.”

Seokjin grabbed his foot. “And you were so cute.”

“So, so, so cute,” Namjoon promised. “Your nose was so flat and wide, I kissed it all the time. I couldn’t help it. It called out to me. Frankly, I’m still obsessed, I’m pretty sure your nose is the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” he said.

Jungkook hid his face in his knees.

Seokjin laughed and smacked Namjoon’s arm. “Okay, settle down, you weirdo,” he said. “But honestly, Jungkook, it’s hard to say much about your mom that wouldn’t upset you because she just... had no idea what was going on. You’ve never really been exposed to anyone addicted to drugs, but it’s scary. And your mom was very sick. It was for the best that we kept you away from her, especially considering how unpredictable she was.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said.

“Yeah, it was good that we got to keep you,” Namjoon agreed. “Also!” he took off his glasses and scooted towards Jungkook. “I owe you an apology for embarrassing you at dinner the other night. I’m sorry it’s overdue. Will you forgive me?”

Jungkook shrugged. “Sure, I guess,” he agreed. “Just... don’t do it again.”

“I’ll try not to,” Namjoon agreed. “But will you tell me how it goes tomorrow? I wanna know how it goes.”

Jungkook blanched. He had forgotten that he had his appointment tomorrow. Just the thought made him feel like hyperventilating. “Maybe,” he answered. “I don’t know.” He stood up abruptly. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I want to go to sleep.”

“Okay,” Seokjin said easily. “It’s past bedtime anyway. We should all be going to sleep.”

“Whatever,” Jungkook said, rushing out of the room, his heart pounding in his chest. He had said he wanted to sleep, but he didn’t know how he ever would now that he was this anxious. The last thing he wanted to do was talk to a stranger about his mom.

It had been hard enough to talk to his parents about it.

Chapter Text

JIMIN

Every morning, Taehyung’s alarm clock went off at seven o’clock, and every morning Jimin felt like dying.

“God, why?” he groaned. Jimin pulled his blankets up over his head in a weak attempt to block out the noise. Every fourth beep, there was a pause like it was going to stop, but then the bleeping would start right back up again. “Tae, can you get that?”

“Mmmphf.”

Jimin sat straight up in bed. “Tae?” He threw off his covers and crossed the room to Taehyung’s side. He turned off the alarm clock on his way. “Tae Tae? You okay?”

“I don’t wanna wake up,” Taehyung answered. His face was buried into his pillow, and Jimin could barely make out the muffled words. “It’s too much.”

“It’s too much because you feel funny or because you just don’t want to go?” Jimin asked, climbing over Taehyung’s Magic Bumpers to sit beside him. “You didn’t have a seizure last night, you don’t think, did you?” he asked as an afterthought, feeling Taehyung’s covers for any dampness.

Jimin knew all too well that seizures could strike Taehyung at any time, including while he was sleeping. Foam bumpers helped make sure he didn’t fall out of bed, and a vinyl slipcover protected his mattress from accidents, so the only evidence of Taehyung’s nighttime seizures were wet sheets.

Today, Taehyung’s comforter felt dry.

“I didn’t have a seizure. Cut it out,” Taehyung said, pushing Jimin’s hands away. Taehyung hated when Jimin checked his sheets, especially when he really had wet the bed. Apparently, it was embarrassing even if Jimin had helped him deal with it a million times. “I just can’t go today, ‘Min.”

“But why?”

“I’m tired,” Taehyung answered. “I napped too long yesterday, so I couldn’t go to sleep last night, and now I’m really tired, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to school.”

Jimin sighed. He hated when Taehyung stayed home. Jimin felt better in class when Taehyung was there to help him. Without Taehyug there, Jimin felt like an island: standing alone.

“Okay... I’ll tell Jin,” he said, climbing out of Taehyung’s bed and into some fresh clothes. It was Thursday, so he didn’t have to wear his cheer uniform. Instead, he threw on one of Hoseok’s sweaters (don’t tell him) and a pair of skinny jeans with holes in the knees. He quick combed his hair into a side part and grabbed his backpack before going down to the kitchen.

“Good morning, Jimin.” Jin greeted him with a bowl of oatmeal and a full lunch box. “Where’s Taehyung?”

“He says he’s too tired to go to school today,” Jimin answered.

Jin frowned. “Okay, I’ll go check on him. You boys eat breakfast; don’t miss the bus.”

Jimin took his seat at the kitchen table next to Jungkook. “Morning,” he said cheerfully. Jungkook didn’t answer, just growled into his bowl.

“I see someone’s in a mood,” Yoongi said disdainfully from the opposite side of the table. Yoongi’s bowl was half empty, while Jungkook’s looked like he hadn’t even touched his spoon.

“Hey, is that my sweater?” Hoseok asked suddenly.

Jimin pulled is shoulders together and crossed his arms over his chest. “No,” he answered.

“That’s totally my sweater.”

“It definitely isn’t,” Jimin said innocently.

Liar,” Jungkook piped up.

“Oh, just keep your thoughts to yourself, Mr. Grumpy Pants,” Jimin said, patting Jungkook’s head, and laughing when Jungkook flinched away like he had been burned. He poked Jungkook’s cheek, and only laughed harder when Jungkook batted his hand away.

“I’m not grumpy,” Jungkook argued. “And I’m certainly not Mr. Grumpy Pants.”

“Well, you’re right about one thing,” Hoseok said, stepping up as peacekeeper with Taehyung, Jin, and Namjoon all upstairs. “Yoongi is Mr. Grumpy Pants.”

“You’re a nuisance,” Yoongi said, leaning over to mess up Hoseok’s hair. Hoseok shrieked.

Seokjin came downstairs a moment later and clapped his hands together. “Okay, so Taehyung isn’t going to school today. Anybody else have any grievances? Any problems? I’m putting out fires,” Seokjin said.

“I’m good,” Yoongi promised.

“Is my hair okay?” Hoseok asked.

“Come here,” Seokjin said, finger combing Hoseok’s bangs back into place when he was close enough. Jimin watched them for a moment before remembering a question he had on his homework.

“Oh, wait, I have a question,” Jimin said. He pulled out his chemistry homework. “What’s this word?” he asked. Seokjin peered at the sheet from across the room, but Yoongi answered.

“Pentanal,” he answered.

Jimin nodded, scribbling in the function group, formula, and structural formula on the chart he had to fill out. “So then this one is pentanol?” he asked Yoongi, pointing to a different name.

“Yep,” Yoongi answered.

Jimin nodded. “Okay... Geez, they look so similar, it’s not fair.”

“You got it, Jimin,” Seokjin promised. “Don’t worry.”

Jimin straightened up with Seokjin’s words. Seokjin always made him feel a little better about school. He tried to hold onto the confidence Seokjin had given him, knowing he would need it if he was going to go to class without Taehyung.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin heard footsteps on the stairs and grabbed his bookmark. Taehyung’s tentative voice called out for him a moment later. “Jinnie?”

“Right here,” he called back. Taehyung’s footsteps got closer, and Seokjin closed his book when he felt the couch dip next to him. “Hey, you’re up,” he said, putting his novel down.

Taehyung nodded. “Didn’t think I should sleep in too late.”

“No, that wouldn’t have been good,” Seokjin agreed. He looked at Taehyung for a moment, acknowledging the slope of his shoulders. He had a feeling that Taehyung didn’t stay home today just because he was tired, that maybe he had other reasons to avoid school and all the people there. “Hey, you know, I’m glad that you’re home, I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“Yeah?” Taehyung asked.

“Yeah,” Seokjin answered. “What would you think about maybe joining a sport or a club at school?”

“Why?” Taehyung asked straight away. He looked terrified.

“Ah-“ he floundered, surprised by Taehyung’s response. “Well, so maybe you can make some more friends,” he winced. He hadn’t meant to be so blunt.

Taehyung pulled away from Seokjin, curling up his legs so they were between them like a barrier. “I can’t join a sport, and I don’t want to join a club.”

“Okay,” Seokjin answered carefully. He hadn’t realized how skittish Taehyung was going to be about this. Usually he liked having the opportunity to go out and talk to people; he always tagged along with Jimin when he was invited out with his friend group. Seokjin wondered what had changed. “It’s just... Well, Taehyung, honestly, it doesn’t seem like you stayed home today because you were tired.”

Taehyung pressed his lips together.

“You only rested your eyes yesterday afternoon, you didn’t sleep,” Seokjin continued because he knew the difference between a sleeping Taehyung and a resting Taehyung: he had to. “And when I checked up on you and Jimin last night, you were out like a light. Your sleep schedule is just what it should be; you shouldn’t be tired.”

Taehyung’s nose scrunched up. “Why were you checking up on us?” he asked.

“Jimin left his desk light on,” Seokjin answered. Taehyung’s surprise at Seokjin coming into their room last night confirmed that he really had been asleep, that Seokjin hadn’t been imagining things. “Taehyung, honey, why are you avoiding school?”

Taehyung fell silent again, and Seokjin reached out to grab one of his feet. He ran his thumb over Taehyung’s ankle. When Taehyung didn’t speak up for awhile, Seokjin spoke again.

“I just think it’s important that we get you out there and talking to people, Tae.”

“But I don’t want to,” Taehyung blurted out. He looked shocked that he had spoken up, but the words didn’t stop tumbling from his lips. “I don’t want to, you don’t get it, you don’t get how- how people are. Like... Like Oliver, and Nayeon, and Jihyo, and Tyler, and Matt, and all the cheerleaders, and everyone, and I don’t have anywhere to sit at lunch, and I don’t want to be in a club with any of those people; no one will want to sit near me, and there’s no assigned seats, and I don’t want to have to pick a desk, and-“ As Taehyung spoke he only grew more and more frantic. His shoulders started shaking. “And- And- And-“

A couple tears slipped out the corners of Taehyung’s eyes, and Seokjin couldn’t help but reach out for him. “Oh, Tae Tae, oh no. Come here,” he said, pulling Taehyung into his lap.

Seokjin wasn’t used to seeing Taehyung look anxious about anything that wasn’t seizure-related. Taehyung always seemed to feel secure and relaxed when they were together. Seokjin knew Taehyung felt safer when he and Namjoon were nearby, but he didn’t realize the extent of it. It was alarming to get a glimpse into how Taehyung felt when Seokjin and Namjoon weren’t around.

Seokjin couldn’t help but worry. “Is something going on at school? Is someone bullying you?”

“N-No,” Taehyung sputtered out. “Just n-no one wants to t-talk to me.”

“Sweetheart, I’m sure that’s not true,” Seokjin promised. “See? This is why we need to get you on a team or in a club, so you can meet some people you have things in common with. You need some people who you like and who like you: not just Hoseok and Jimin’s friends.”

Taehyung was so overwhelmed for a moment, he couldn’t answer. When he finally did, it wasn’t what Seokjin wanted to hear. “I don’t want to,” he repeated.

Seokjin pressed a kiss to Taehyung’s temple and reached out to grab a packet of club listings from the side table. “Well, let’s just look at what options there are, okay? Can we just do that? Let’s see if there’s anything fun before we make a decision,” he said.

Seokjin really needed both hands to flip through the paperwork, but he couldn’t seem to move one hand away from the nape of Taehyung’s neck. Taehyung’s response had been alarming. He hadn’t realized how insecure Taehyung had been feeling lately.

Seokjin wished he had noticed earlier.

“Okay, let’s see,” Seokjin said, fumbling with the papers. “Astronomy club sounds fun! You like space.”

“I don’t want people to make fun of me,” Taehyung said, practically whimpered. Seokjin tried not to start feeling stressed, but it was awful seeing Taehyung like this. He took a moment to rub his chest, willing his heart rate to slow down. He couldn’t freak out on top of Taehyung’s freaking out. That wouldn’t be fair.

“Okay, well there’s the Cooking Club, you like cooking. And here’s the Ping Pong Club; that sounds really fun! It’s technically a sport; you could be on a team! Would you feel comfortable doing that?”

“No,” Taehyung answered.

Seokjin nodded. “Okay... that’s okay. How about the competitive jazz band? You’re so good on your saxophone, and I know Yoongi hangs out with the music kids after school. They seem like a really nice crowd.”

“No,” Taehyung said. Another rejection. Seokjin frowned, knowing full well that Taehyung took a band and a choir elective. He wondered why it was okay to do music for class and not for fun.

“Okay... Okay, well you missed choir auditions this year, so no worries about that... Do you like the idea of an art club? Like painting or ceramics?”

“I don’t want to do anything,” Taehyung said.

Seokjin desperately flipped to the last page of the packet. “There’s got to be something you like, Tae... What about yoga? You love yoga. How about joining the yoga club?”

“No,” Taehyung said, his breathing picking up a bit. He hid his face in Seokjin’s neck and Seokjin dropped the papers so he could hold his son properly. “Can we just stop talking about it? I don’t want to talk about it.”

Seokjin sighed.

Taehyung was fifteen-years-old. As much as Seokjin loved having him home, he was growing up. Teenagers were supposed to hang out with their friends, and avoid their parents, and learn to be independent.

But with all Taehyung’s illness, he still needed a lot of emotional support. Seokjin didn’t miss how every time Taehyung cut up an onion or stretched into a new yoga pose, he looked to Seokjin to make sure he was doing a good job. Taehyung still came to him with the smallest problems, and he wasn’t confident when faced with new tasks.

It was hard on both of them. It was like Seokjin still had a toddler in the house sometimes, especially with the safety measures they had to take for Taehyung’s seizures. Every table had corner guards, and the mantle and fireplace had edge guards in case Taehyung fell. He had toddler rails on his bed, and Seokjin still had to worry about accidents, and none of it was Taehyung’s fault –absolutely none of it- but it was hard to be a dad of five teenagers and still wonder about whether or not wearing pull ups to school would help or worsen Taehyung’s embarrassment.

It was exhausting. Even if Taehyung was old enough to recognize the early signs of a seizure and verbalize them to Seokjin, he still felt like he had to watch him so carefully.

But even if taking care of Taehyung was tiring, Seokjin was so glad he was placed in their family. Seokjin wouldn’t trust Taehyung with anyone else. Even for Taehyung’s few short hospital stays, Seokjin had refused to leave him alone with the doctors. If he could be with Taehyung, he would be with Taehyung. And maybe that was part of the problem.

He needed to let Taehyung go out on his own and be as independent as possible.

“We’ll have to talk about it sometime,” Seokjin said, kissing Taehyung’s cheek. “But we’ll put a pin in it for now.” Even if he would have to push Taehyung out of his shell eventually, for now he would let him keep to himself. In the mean time, he would have to settle on simply giving Taehyung all the love and support he needed.


JIMIN

Dahyun laughed so hard milk came out of her nose, making Jimin laugh twice as hard as he had been before.

Tzuyu had done her best impression of her dog –Gucci- and it had been scarily good and definitely hilarious. However, Dahyun’s wide eyes as milk dripped off her nose was the funniest thing Jimin had seen in a long time.

“Oh my gosh, I think I’m crying,” Jimin said, wiping his eyes.

Sana flipped her hair over her shoulder, accidentally hitting Jimin in the face with it. “Okay, but as I was saying before Tzuyu cut in about Gucci,” she said, interrupting, “My favorite colors are purple, pink, white, black, and beige. Unless it’s clothes because purple clothes aren’t cute on me.”

“I think you look fine in the cheer uniform,” Dahyun said, wiping her nose with a napkin.

Jimin furrowed his eyebrows together. “Wait, is white a color?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think black is,” Tzuyu said, still fixing her hair after her Gucci impression had messed up her curls.

“Okay, you know what? Why do I bother talking? None of you listen to me,” Sana said, pouting.

Jimin rolled his eyes. “We’re all listening to you, goofball. Your favorite colors are purple, pink, beige, and then probably white and black if they count.”

“Which they don’t,” Tzuyu tacked on.

Jimin smirked. “They definitely don’t.”

Sana’s pout only grew and she crossed her arms over her chest. “They definitely do,” she argued. She seemed annoyed, but before Jimin could try to cheer her up again, Jihyo cut in from the opposite side of the lunch table.

“Hey, wait, Jimin, is it true that you’re having trouble in Spanish?” Jihyo asked, reaching out an arm in his direction. Suddenly, nine heads were turned towards him and Jimin flushed.

“Um... Yeah,” he answered. “Why?”

“Because my mom made me get a job as a tutor at Sylvan, and Spanish is one of my subjects,” she answered. “I thought, maybe, if you needed some help we could meet there after practice or something.”

Jimin’s cheeks felt like they were burning, he was blushing so hard. Sylvan was for kids with ADHD or dyslexia.

Jimin flushed even deeper when he realized he had dyslexia.

“Yeah, no thanks,” Jimin answered, suddenly picking at his corn chips and salsa instead of eating them. “I think I’m okay.”

“Okay, no problem!” Jihyo chirped. “Just let me know if you change your mind. It’s only, like, 95 dollars to sign up or something, it’s pretty cheap.”

“Yeah,” Jimin said, not really listening. He was pretty sure he could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. The last thing he wanted to do was talk about Spanish; he had to think of a new conversation topic fast. “But, ah... Hey, you know, with that Gilmore Girls revival, I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should start watching it. Do you think I would like it, or...?”

“Honestly, anyone would like Gilmore Girls,” Jeongyeon said, taking the bait. Practically the whole squad agreed all at once. Jimin could barely keep track of all the girls trying to talk to him at the same time. He leaned back a little bit, overwhelmed.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Jihyo said, interrupting everyone. “Are we sure that Jimin would like it, though?”

“Excuse me? Every girl likes Gilmore Girls,” Sana said, banging her fist on the table.

“But Jimin isn’t a girl, he’s a boy,” Jihyo said.

“That’s true, I am a boy,” Jimin shrugged. He was used to it at this point: the squad had invited him to more sleepovers and pedicure appointments than he could count. He was the only guy on the team. Sometimes that meant getting left out, and sometimes that meant sacrificing his masculinity (because Jimin was a manly man) and letting Mina paint his nails for the evening so he could be included.

“You would still like it,” Sana said determined.

“Agreed,” Jeongyeon said. “You should come over to my place after practice; we can all watch the first episode together!”

“Oh my gosh, I love that idea!” Dahyun squealed. “Jimin will you come? Say you’ll come, you’ve gotta see it. Even if you don’t like it, you have to watch at least one episode. It’s like a mandatory life event: the first episode of Gilmore Girls.”

“... Sure,” Jimin agreed. He had a couple quizzes coming up, but if Jimin spent even another hour studying this week, he was going to go insane. “But my dad doesn’t like it when I miss dinner, so I’ll have to leave a little before six thirty.”

“Ah, he’ll watch it!” Dahyun cheered, and the rest of the table cheered with her. Jimin winced at the shrill noise. He definitely could feel a headache coming on.


HOSEOK

“There’s my adorable boyfriend!”

Hoseok turned around just in time for Oliver to duck in and kiss his cheek. Hoseok grinned, playfully pushing Oliver back. “Quit it, or someone will see,” he said. Sometimes it felt like he cared more about keeping their relationship secret than Oliver did.

“Sorry, you’re just cute,” Oliver said, pinching Hoseok’s butt through his boxers.

“Ah, Oliver!” Hoseok yelped, surprised. He ducked out of the way and quickly stepped into his sweatpants. He was just trying to get ready for dance practice for goodness’ sake. “You’re crazy sometimes.”

“Crazy for you maybe.”

Hoseok blinked, a fond smile sweeping over his face. “You know? That sounds like something my dad would say. Namjoon, I mean, not Jin. Jin would smack you for being so corny,” he teased.

Hoseok expected Oliver to laugh and tease him back, so he was surprised when Oliver stilled, his eyes darkening. “Why would you say something like that?” Oliver asked.

The smile dropped right off of Hoseok’s face. Oliver made him nervous when he got like this. “Oh, um... I don’t know. My parents are just kind of goofy, you know? Like they’re corny sometimes, just like you can be. It’s a good thing,” he promised. The last thing he wanted to do was insult Oliver. Whenever Hoseok hurt Oliver’s feelings, he was either one of two ways: unbelievably furious or unbelievably clingy.

“You know, Hoseok, sometimes you’re not even nice to me.”

Hoseok’s eyes widened. “What? Oliver, no, I wasn’t trying to be mean.”

“You told me I remind you of your dad,” he whined. “Why don’t you like me? We’re supposed to be boyfriends, you’re supposed to care about me, but all you do is insult me.”

“Oliver, I would never, ever, ever want to insult you. It makes me so sad that you think I would,” Hoseok said, reaching out to take Oliver’s hand. Oliver smacked him away before he could, however.

“You’re such a liar. You don’t even hang out with me. You’re always ditching me for Dustin, and Mikey, and Lucas. I mean, last week you canceled on me to hang out with your dad at work. And you know? When we do have lunch together, you can’t even just hang out with me. Taehyung has to be there too. Do I really mean that little to you?” Oliver asked.

Hoseok put his hurt hand over his heart. “No, I just... I have a lot of friends, and my family is really important to me. I can’t just hang out with you.”

“Friends and family are supposed to come second when you have a boyfriend.”

“Okay, that is not true,” Hoseok said firmly. “I love you, Oliver, I do, but you have to let me do my own thing sometimes.”

“I just want you to care about me.”

Hoseok huffed out a sigh. He dropped his head in his hands, closing his eyes for a minute. He felt like an awful boyfriend, but sometimes Oliver was just so frustrating. He was torn between feeling guilty for insulting Oliver in the first place and irritated with how clingy Oliver could be sometimes. “Let’s just go to dance, okay?” he asked, grabbing his water bottle. “I think we both need to cool down.”

“You don’t love me,” Oliver said pouting.

Hoseok sighed and leaned forwards to press a kiss to Oliver’s mouth. “Of course I love you, crazy. Let’s go dance together, okay? I wanna spend time with you.”

Oliver crossed his arms over his chest, but sighed. “Okay fine... But only because you look so cute when you forget the steps.”

Hoseok pressed his lips together. He didn’t want to argue with Oliver, especially when he was this fragile, but sometimes his compliments felt a little backhanded. He didn’t think he forgot the steps to their dances all that often.

“Come on, silly goose,” he said instead, slinging his arm around Oliver’s shoulders. “Let’s get out there.”


YOONGI

Yoongi jumped when there was a knock at his bedroom door. “Come in,” he called, taking off his headphones. Seokjin popped his head in.

“Hey, can I ask you for a favor?”

Yoongi arched an eyebrow. “What kind of favor?”

“The kind of favor that requires you to leave your bedroom,” Seokjin answered.

Yoongi sighed, whirling around in his desk chair to face his dad. “That’s a pretty big favor,” he said. “What is it?”

Seokjin came into the room, being careful not to touch anything. Usually, Seokjin refused to play into Yoongi’s OCD, but he had always been cautious about messing anything up in Yoongi’s bedroom. It was the one place Yoongi had total control over, and Yoongi was grateful for it. “Well, as you know, Taehyung didn’t go to school today,” Seokjin began.

Yoongi drummed his fingers on the arms of his desk chair. “Yeah, and?”

“And,” Seokjin started, “Well... Basically we had a little talk today, and I think he’s having a really tough time at school. And I know you’re busy, and I know you like having time to yourself, but you are his older brother, and he just thinks the world of you, and it would be really great if you could maybe spend some time with him. I don’t want to leave him on his own.”

“Leave him on his own?” Yoongi asked. “Are you going somewhere?”

Seokjin nodded. “I have to take Jungkook to Dr. Kroger’s office.” Suddenly, Yoongi noticed Seokjin wringing his hands together. “I just... I can’t be in two places at once, obviously, so it would mean a lot to me if you would watch over Taehyung while I’m gone. Just... watch a movie or something. I’ll even let you rent one if you want: PG13 and everything.”

“High stakes,” Yoongi said sarcastically, but he got up from his chair anyway. “But okay, I’ll do it. Where is he?”

Seokjin immediately looked relieved, the tension leaving his shoulders. “Great, that’s great. He’s in the living room reading. Would you go down to him? I have to get Jungkook ready.”

Yoongi nodded. “No problem,” he promised. He loved Taehyung; it wasn’t a chore to hang out with him. “Just let me save my homework.”

“Sure thing,” Seokjin said, kissing the top of his head before leaving to find Jungkook.

Yoongi bent over his computer to quick save the essay he was writing. He chucked his headphones onto his desk, grabbed a hoodie and a blanket, and went off in search of Taehyung. He found him in the living room tucked up into the armchair in the corner, head bent over a book just like Seokjin said.

“Hey, Tae, what’s up?” Yoongi asked.

Taehyung looked up, startled. “Oh, um...”

“Are you reading?”

Taehyung squirmed. “Yes.”

“Do you wanna stop?”

“Heck yes.”

“Good,” Yoongi said. He dropped his blanket on the couch and pulled his sweatshirt over his head. Namjoon refused to turn on the heat until after Thanksgiving, but that wasn’t for another month and it was starting to get cold outside. “You know, Jin said we could rent a movie if you wanted.”

“What?”

“What’s wrong?” Yoongi asked.

“Dad? Dad said we could rent a movie?”

“Is that really so hard to believe?” Yoongi asked innocently. One look at Taehyung’s face made him drop the act. “Okay, fine, maybe it is hard to believe, but he said it nonetheless. So what do you want to watch, kid?”

Taehyung looked stricken. “He thinks I’m a nutcase,” he realized.

Yoongi shifted his weight to one foot. “Ah, I’m sure that’s not true. He just said he was worried about you,” he promised. Taehyung shrunk down in his seat, and for the first time, Yoongi noticed the tear tracks on his cheeks and the slump in his shoulders. He looked miserable. “Its okay for people to be worried about you, Taehyung, you look like you had a hard day.”

Taehyung huffed out a breath of air, and Yoongi frowned.

“TaeTae, come on. It’s not like you to mope. Come sit on the couch with me and watch a movie.”

“Okay,” Taehyung agreed, getting up from his chair.

Yoongi made sure Taehyung was settled in before sitting next to him. Taehyung, Hoseok, and Jimin were all a little too touchy, and Yoongi liked to sit down last so no one could saddle up next to him. He made sure there was a good amount of space between him and Taehyung before grabbing the remote and turning on the TV. “So what do you want to see?”

Heathers, Rocky Horror, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Taehyung answered, scooting over and resting his head on Yoongi’s shoulder. Yoongi sighed in defeat.

“Yeah, okay, Seokjin would either poison my cereal or ship me off to boarding school if I let you watch any of those,” he said.

“I’m trying to watch all the cult classics.”

“I think you need to be a little bit older first,” Yoongi said. “If you want to watch a cult classic, pick something Seokjin wouldn’t kill me for letting you watch. Like... I don’t know, have you seen Labyrinth?”

Taehyung squeezed onto Yoongi’s arm. “What’s Labyrinth?”

“Perfect,” Yoongi answered, searching for it on On Demand. “I watched this at Yugyeom’s house. He told me it was an epic fantasy, good enough to rival Lord of the Rings.”

“And is it?” Taehyung asked.

Yoongi snorted. “No. Absolutely not.”

“That sounds amazing!” Taehyung kicked his feet, and for a split second, Yoongi thought he was having a seizure. But then he saw the smile on Taehyung’s face. “I’m so excited now!”

“I can tell,” Yoongi replied. He pulled up the movie and frowned as he heard Jungkook and Seokjin arguing upstairs. “Maybe we should wait for them to get out of here,” he said as Jungkook’s shouting pounded through the floor. “Otherwise I don’t think we’ll be able to hear the movie.”

“Okay. Jin said they were just about to leave, anyway,” Taehyung answered.

As if on cue, Jungkook stormed down the stairs. He blew through the room like a hurricane and threw open the front door as he left the house. The sound of the car door slamming closed followed immediately afterwards. Yoongi flinched.

Seokjin came down the stairs a moment later, looking worse for the wear. “All right, boys, be home in an hour or so,” he said wearily.

“Good luck,” Yoongi said sympathetically throwing an arm around Taehyung.

“You’re gonna come home soon?” Taehyung double-checked.

Seokjin nodded. He came around the couch and held his arms open. Taehyung practically threw himself at Seokjin, and Yoongi held back, letting them hug. “I’ll be right home,” Seokjin promised. He planted a kiss to Taehyung’s cheek. “But you and Yoongi are hanging out. That’s fun! You’ll be okay.”

Taehyung nodded as Seokjin pulled away, but he didn’t look totally certain. Yoongi pulled Taehyung close to him again. “Come on, we have a movie to watch,” Yoongi reminded him.

“Right,” Taehyung said. “The most epic fantasy of all time.”

“Blockbusting film,” Yoongi agreed.

“Life changing cinema,” Taehyung tagged on.

“Sounds great,” Seokjin said genuinely, not catching on to their joking. Yoongi and Taehyung shared a look and snickered. Seokjin kissed both their heads. “See you guys later.”

“Bye!” Taehyung and Yoongi chorused. They looked at each other again and laughed.

“We’re in sync,” Taehyung said.

Yoongi smirked. “Actually, I think you’re copying me,” he said. “I mean, I get it, I’m your older brother, I’m perfect, it only makes sense that you would look up to me as a role model.” Taehyung pushed him so hard, he fell sideways on the couch, but Yoongi didn’t stop talking. “Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you. Mimicry is the highest form of flattery, after all.”

“Oh my gosh, you’re so annoying,” Taehyung said, but he was laughing, and that was an improvement from earlier. Yoongi figured two hours of tearing apart a truly terrible –but equally amazing- movie would be enough to get him back to being more like himself.

“Excuse me? I’m not the copy cat, here. You’re the annoying one.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “Choke me.”

Yoongi snorted at that and hit play on the movie. “Okay, that’s it, us talking isn’t going anywhere. Let’s just watch this movie.”

“Fine.” Taehyung pressed himself a little closer to Yoongi, but the smile on his face proved he was in a much better mood. Yoongi let him sit close anyway.


JUNGKOOK

Jungkook was furious.

Usually, he could focus his anger to just his brothers (who sucked), Namjoon (who also sucked), and Seokjin (who really sucked). However, today he was mad at everyone. He snapped at his teachers, his friends... even some poor sixth grader who bumped into him in the hallway.

It was actually a little scary. He didn’t feel like he was in control of his hands or his words. He kept saying awful things, and while usually he didn’t care about insulting Seokjin, he knew he was out of control. Right now, he was absolutely wild.

“I mean, what even gives you the right to drag me out here? I don’t want to go,” Jungkook complained for about the millionth time. He was on a roll. “This is stupid! What’s a shrink supposed to do for me, anyway? I don’t need a shrink, I need a social worker to get me the hell away from you.

“Jungkook,” Seokjin said calmly, his eyes on the road, “the only thing you screaming at me is going to do is cause an accident. I need you to calm down.”

“No!” Jungkook yelled. He was so angry he could feel tears forming behind his eyes, and he had no idea why. “God, you’re so awful. You don’t listen to me at all. You don’t even care. You’re taking me to some whack job with a fake PhD all because you’re tired of me hating you so much! And you think that somehow he’ll trick me into liking you, but it’ll never work because I’ll always hate you, and it’ll never stop, no matter what anyone says because I actually hate you so much, Jin, I hate you so much, I hate you- Wait, where are we?” Jungkook asked as Seokjin pulled into the parking lot of some business suite.

“We’re at Dr. Kroger’s office.”

“No.

“Yes,” Seokjin answered, and Jungkook would be stupid to miss the red rimming around his dad’s eyes. However, he was too angry to care about how Seokjin was feeling right now. All Jungkook cared about was how angry he was and how much he desperately didn’t want to go to this doctor’s appointment.

No,” he repeated, staring up at the building with something a lot like terror building up in his chest. “No, no, no, no, no.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Seokjin sighed. He sounded exhausted. “I know you’re scared, but I promise, this will be good for you.”

“Then maybe you should go see Dr. Kroger because you sound insane,” he spat, the words burning through him like acid. He felt hot. Like red hot. Like he was two seconds from exploding. “I’m not getting out of the car.”

“You’re getting out of the car, Jungkook.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Jungkook, as your father, I’m telling you that you are going to get out of the car, go into Dr. Kroger’s office, and let him help you calm down.”

Jungkook couldn’t even breathe, he was so angry. He held his breath for a moment -cheeks blown up and face growing red- until he couldn’t hold it anymore and all he could do was shout. “My father? My father? How can you call yourself that, when I literally don’t want anything to do with you?!” he screamed.

Seokjin didn’t respond.

He didn’t even look at him. Instead he got out of the car, his arms wrapped around himself as he walked into one of the suites. Jungkook watched him leave.

He stayed sat in the car.

Maybe Jin was right; maybe he did need to calm down. But he definitely didn’t need to get out of the car and talk to some stranger for an hour about his mom, so he didn’t dare move. He didn’t even unhook his seatbelt.

A few minutes later, a man walked out of the same building Seokjin went into. Jungkook thought he might have been a patient until he came over and knocked on his window. The man waved at him through the glass, and Jungkook felt like throwing up. He cracked the door open.

“Hello, you must be Jungkook!”

“So?” he asked.

“I’m Dr. Kroger,” the man said, holding his hand out to shake. “Do you want to come out of the car and shake my hand?”

Jungkook stared at his hand and suddenly was conscious of the tears streaming down his cheeks. He pushed them away with the heels of his palms. “No,” he muttered down at the ground, unable to make eye contact. He really did feel like throwing up. He really and honestly felt like throwing up all over the ground; he was so overwhelmed.

“Okay,” Dr. Kroger said easily. Jungkook hadn’t realized there were people who could be as patient and calm as Seokjin. “Your dad mentioned that you were a little nervous about coming today, so tell me: What can I do to make you more comfortable?” he asked.

“Stop existing?” Jungkook suggested. He sniffled. Geez, when had he even started crying in the first place?

Dr. Kroger winced. “Yeah, I think I can do just about everything short of ceasing to exist,” he said, and Jungkook managed to crack a smile at that. Dr. Kroger seemed encouraged. “Why don’t you come inside, huh? I have tea in my office. I have no idea what kind or where it’s from; it just says ‘black’ on the back like that means anything. Also, it kind of tastes like boiled dirt if you drink it. But it’s warm, and it’s free, and I can make you some if you’d like.”

Jungkook refused to smile, but Dr. Kroger wasn’t anything like he thought he would be. He was honest (and kind of funny). “What do you mean ‘black’ doesn’t mean anything?” he asked instead of answering Dr. Kroger’s question. He sounded stuffy.

Dr. Kroger’s smile softened. “Ah, labeling tea just as ‘black’ is sort of like labeling a chocolate bar just, well, ‘chocolate.’ Like is it milk? Dark? White? And where is it from? Are there nuts in it? Nougat? Because I hate nougat. God forbid I accidentally stumble into some nougat.”

“God forbid,” Jungkook agreed.

Dr. Kroger held open the car door a little wider. “You know, I would love to keep talking about tea and chocolate, but maybe we could do it inside where it’s a little warmer. Does that sound okay with you?”

Jungkook took a shaky breath. He stared up at Dr. Kroger’s office again, but suddenly it didn’t seem so big anymore. He clenched and unclenched his fists, feeling the anger slowly leave his body. “It sounds okay,” he agreed, still staring up at the building. “... It sounds okay.”

“Great,” Dr. Kroger said encouragingly. “Why don’t you lead the way?”

Jungkook slowly unbuckled his seatbelt. He nervously toed out of the car. Just shutting the door behind him felt like a big deal, and Jungkook found himself slamming it. Apparently he was still a little mad, despite the tears and the tiny smile and all the other emotions flooding through him.

Fortunately, anger was the easiest emotion for Jungkook to process, and he actually felt a little better as he stomped up to the office.

“First door to the left,” Dr. Kroger directed from behind as Jungkook stormed through the waiting room. Seokjin was sitting in one of the chairs, and Jungkook glared at him, making a bigger show of stomping his feet.

He somewhat dropped the act once Dr. Kroger closed the door behind them.

“Just a matter of confidentiality, Jungkook. You can leave whenever you want, you’re not trapped here,” Dr. Kroger promised. “Would you like to take a seat?”

Jungkook eyed the chair skeptically and then looked at Dr. Kroger. “We’re just talking about tea and chocolate, right?”

“If that’s what you’d like.”

Jungkook took a breath. “Okay,” he said, eyeing the chair one more time. For some reason, this felt like a big step.

He sat down.


NAMJOON

Namjoon drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Do you ever get a weird feeling?” he asked, his eyes flickering to the rearview mirror so he could direct his question at Hoseok and Jimin.

“What kind of a weird feeling?” Hoseok asked. He seemed less withdrawn than usual, which was a good sign. Lately, talking to Hoseok felt like pulling teeth. However, despite how happy he was to hear from Hoseok, he couldn’t shake the strange sense of dread hanging over his head.

“The kind where it feels like something bad has happened,” Namjoon explained.

Jimin hummed. “I only feel that way when something bad is happening,” he said as Namjoon pulled into the driveway.

“Get out of here, kid,” Namjoon said, ruffling Jimin’s hair before he could hop out of the car. Jimin and Hoseok bounced into the house in front of him, playfully pulling at each other’s clothes to try to get into the laundry room and take off their shoes first. Namjoon laughed. “You two are such goofballs,” he said as he kicked off his own shoes. He entered the kitchen. “Honey, I’m-!“

One look at Seokjin made the words catch in his throat.

“Home,” he finished. It was more of a breath of air than a word. “Jin, baby? What’s wrong?”

Jimin and Hoseok –who had found a strainer full of freshly washed grapes on the island- looked up, wide-eyed. Seokjin looked awful. His cheeks were blotchy, and his eyes were red, and never once had Namjoon seen Seokjin cry in front of the kids, but he had a feeling that was about to change.

Seokjin’s voice sounded wet. “Joon.”

Suddenly, Namjoon found his arms full as Seokjin all but launched himself at him. He caught him easily. “Boys,” Namjoon said warningly, sending Jimin and Hoseok scurrying from the room. He buried his nose in Seokjin’s hair as his husband all but collapsed against him. He more felt Seokjin’s sobs –wracking through both their bodies- than heard them. “Jin... Jin, Jin, angel, what’s wrong? What happened? Is your mom okay?”

“She’s fine, she’s fine,” Seokjin promised choppily.

“Then what’s wrong?”

“My kids hate me,” he answered.

Namjoon immediately pulled back, his hands on either side of Seokjin’s ribcage. “What? What could possibly give you that idea?” he asked, searching Seokjin’s face as if just looking at him could explain what was wrong.

Seokjin shook him off and turned back to the stove. “We’ll talk about it later, I have to finish dinner,” he said, reaching out to turn up the front burner with shaking hands. He had some kind of alfredo sauce simmering. Namjoon covered it and turned off the stove.

“Well, geez, Seokjin, don’t worry about that now, you’re crying.”

“It’s almost 6:30. Dinner needs to be made,” Seokjin said. He sounded frantic, his movements quick and jerky as he flipped the burner on. This wasn’t the Seokjin Namjoon knew. Namjoon grabbed on of his hands, worried.

“Dinner doesn’t need to be made. There’s sandwiches, and cereal, and leftovers, and-“ A timer went off, and Namjoon took the strainer full of pasta out of the double boiler, balancing it crookedly on the top, “cooked pasta with butter, the kids can make out on their own. They can take care of themselves.”

Seokjin didn’t answer, just buried his face in his elbows.

Namjoon sighed and flipped off the stove. He pulled Seokjin away and sat him down at the table. The living room looked empty, and for once, Namjoon was thankful that all the boys appeared to be in their rooms. He knelt down in front of Seokjin. “Jin,” he said, forcing Seokjin to look at him. “Why on Earth would you think that your kids hate you? You’re the world’s best dad.”

Seokjin took a shaking breath. “I took Jungkook to his therapist appointment today.”

Namjoon immediately bristled. “Did Dr. Kroger say something about your parenting? Because I don’t care how long Yoongi has being going to that office. I swear, I’ll-“

“No, no, nothing like that,” Seokjin promised. He looked lonely, and Namjoon reached up to card his hands through his hair, effectively ruining his side part. “Jungkook was... well I think he must have been scared, but he was- God, the things he was saying, Namjoon, I-“

“Okay, you’re working yourself up, hold on,” Namjoon said, rubbing Seokjin’s back. He was slowly starting to move out of emergency-problem-solving mode. Instead, he focused on being as gentle and loving as possible for his overwhelmed husband. He waited for Seokjin to catch his breath. “So Jungkook was upset?”

“He said he hates me and he doesn’t want anything to do with me,” Seokjin said. “And that- Geez, I can’t even say it all, it’s too much.”

“Don’t try unless you’re ready, honey. You’re shaking.”

“Right,” Seokjin said. His face crumbled and his voice was tighter. “Right.”

Namjoon was quiet for a moment. He let his hands drop to hold Seokjin’s. He rubbed the back of his wrists with his thumbs. “It’s not just Jungkook,” he said eventually. “It can’t be.”

Seokjin sniffled. “What makes you figure that?”

“You usually wait to start crying on me like this, first of all,” Namjoon said. He earned a tiny laugh from Seokjin at that. “And second of all, you’re usually so strong and patient with our Kookie, no matter how... trying he can be.”

“I think that’s just it,” Seokjin said. He pulled a hand from Namjoon so he could grab a napkin and dab at his eyes and nose. “It’s trying, and I’m exhausted, and I’m... I’m sure that somewhere, deep down, he still loves me, but... but wow, do I wish he would show it,” he squeaked.

“Jin...”

“But you’re right, it’s not just that. It’s... it’s everything. I... I can’t do this job,” he said, his bottom lip still wobbling.

“But you can do this job,” Namjoon promised. He stole Seokjin’s dirty tissue to help him wipe his nose. “You are doing this job. You’ve been doing this job for so long, Seokjin, and you’ve been doing it so well.”

“No I’m not,” Seokjin argued. “I’m missing things. Did you know that Taehyung doesn’t talk to anyone at school?”

Namjoon frowned. “No, but-“

“He talks to no one, Namjoon. I’m terrified for him. Today I talked to him about maybe joining a club, and he broke down crying because he’s too scared to sit near anyone.”

“To sit near anyone?” Namjoon asked dumbly.

“During club activities, kids choose their desks, and Taehyung doesn’t know how to choose a seat because he doesn’t want to bother anybody and get made fun of.”

“Well, he shouldn’t be worrying about that.”

“I know he shouldn’t be worrying about that,” Seokjin said, pulling at his hair. “I keep trying to talk to him about it, but he’s so fragile, and I just keep picturing him in hospital beds or mid-seizure, and he doesn’t deserve this stress, and I... I should have been there to help him sooner.” Seokjin took a break for a moment. He closed his eyes. “I haven’t been there to help any of the fast enough. Jimin’s gone through a quarter of the school year desperately needing extra help with his studies and I haven’t been there for him. His grades are his future, and I let him struggle for so long. And I don’t even know what’s going on in Hoseok and Yoongi’s lives, and I just-“

“Okay, hey, stop right there, that’s enough,” Namjoon said. He loosened Seokjin’s hands from his hair and finger-combed it back into place. “I’m pretty sure you were the one just telling me that we need to let our kids come to us. Isn’t that right?”

Seokjin nodded.

“Okay, well then. You need to stop putting so much blame on yourself. It’s not your job as a father to be omnipotent and know every tiny detail about the lives of your kids. It’s your job to help them when they come to you. And you’re great at helping, Seokjin, you always have been,” Namjoon promised.

Seokjin choked on his tears, his shoulders shaking twice as hard as before. “K-Kook says I shouldn’t even call myself a father because he doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

Namjoon stilled. “Well, that’s... an incredibly naïve thing to say.”

Seokjin shrugged.

“He didn’t mean it,” Namjoon promised, his fingers itching. He had to stay calm for Seokjin. He couldn’t go screaming at Jungkook right now, even if he was furious with him for saying something so insensitive.

“I know he didn’t,” Seokjin said. “And he went into his appointment, so... so it was good. It was. I just...”

“I understand,” Namjoon promised. He stood up a little so he could hug Seokjin properly. Seokjin’s face slotting into the crook of his heck seemed to set him off again, and he started crying twice as hard as before. Namjoon hummed. “Okay, how about we get you out of this kitchen, huh? Let’s get you into some cozy clothes and tuck you into bed.”

“What about dinner?” Seokjin asked, even though Namjoon had thought he had been pretty adamant about not letting Seokjin finish making it.

“I’ll finish it up,” Namjoon promised. “Just let me take care of you for a little, okay?”

“Okay, but don’t forget the kids.”

“I’m not going to,” Namjoon swore. “I just need you to take two seconds to put yourself first, okay? Let’s just think about you for a few minutes. We need to think about you. You’re running yourself into the ground, putting everyone else first all of the time.”

Namjoon slipped an arm around Seokjin’s shoulders and helped him up from the table. When it became obvious that Seokjin was too upset to walk on his own, Namjoon swept him up bridal style.

“Namjoon,” Seokjin said.

“Shh, we’re putting you first,” Namjoon said. “That means letting me carry you.”

“You’re such a dweeb,” Seokjin whined, but Namjoon only kissed his cheek. He was going to take care of Seokjin even if it killed him.


YOONGI

Yoongi was still tucked under a blanket with Taehyung in the living room when Hoseok and Jimin came flying in.

“Ah!” Jimin yelped when Hoseok tugged on his arm to make him sit right up against the half wall. Yoongi arched an eyebrow.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked, putting his cards down on the coffee table. Labyrinth had ended a long time ago, but when Seokjin hadn’t come to collect Taehyung right away, Yoongi had offered to start up a game of Crazy 8s with him.

Hoseok didn’t answer, just brought a finger to his lips. “Shhh.”

What’s wrong? What happened? Is your mom okay?” Yoongi heard Namjoon say from the other room, and Yoongi’s heart lodged in his throat when he heard Jin sniffling. Something was wrong.

“What’s going on?” Taehyung asked, alarmed.

Shhhhhhh,” Hoseok shushed them again. Yoongi got off the couch, dragging Taehyung by the collar behind him. He kept low so Namjoon and Seokjin wouldn’t see them hiding behind the half wall, too.

“We just walked in and Jinnie was crying,” he heard Jimin whisper to Taehyung.

Yoongi felt sick. He could only remember seeing Seokjin cry a handful of times, and it had never been real crying. He was sure Seokjin cried all the time when it was just him and Namjoon, but up until now, Yoongi had only seen him tear up at SPCA commercials and the beginnings to Pixar movies. It was scary to hear him crying like this.

And of course, it was all Jungkook’s fault.

“I’m going to kill that kid,” Yoongi muttered under his breath.

“Be quiet. I’m trying to listen,” Hoseok said, putting a calming hand on Yoongi’s knee. Yoongi shook him off. He was furious. How could Jungkook say he hated Seokjin? Who could ever hate Seokjin?

Yoongi was still angry, even when the topic shifted off of Jungkook.

When Seokjin started talking about Taehyung — Hoseok, Jimin, and Yoongi all turned to look at him. Taehyung shrunk down and looked at his toes. Yoongi bit his tongue. Well that solved the mystery as to why Taehyung was so upset earlier.

Jungkook came clomping downstairs a moment later. “Hey, what’s for-“

Shhhhh,” Hoseok hushed. He was getting pretty good at it. He beckoned Jungkook over, a finger to his lips still, and Jungkook crawled on his hands and knees to join them under the half wall.

“What the hell is happening?” he asked, keeping his voice low.

You are,” Yoongi hissed back. “You made Seokjin cry.”

Jungkook arched an eyebrow. Yoongi noticed his eyes looked puffy, too, but he didn’t have any sympathy for him, not after he heard all the things Seokjin had to say about him so far. “What?” Jungkook asked, his face the picture of innocence. Yoongi knew better.

Listen,” Yoongi demanded, keeping his voice down so they wouldn’t get caught.

Seokjin and Namjoon had moved onto talking about Jimin. Poor Jimin looked just as shaken as Taehyung to have his name mentioned, and Yoongi realized that maybe, maybe, they shouldn’t be listening to this. But it was too late now.

If any of them moved their cover would be blown. Plus, Yoongi was annoyed with Seokjin and Namjoon for always protecting Jungkook from their feelings. Hopefully they would say something else about him while he was listening.

“K-Kook says I shouldn’t even call myself a father because he doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

Kind of like that.

Yoongi glared at Jungkook, his hands turning into fists at his sides. How could Jungkook say that? And how could Namjoon just pass it off as naivety? This was way more than that. Something deep in Jungkook was twisted and broken; it would have to be to make him insult Seokjin. Seokjin was the world’s most forgiving and understanding dad. Jungkook should be grateful to get to live in their household, and instead he was insulting his parents with every opportunity.

Yoongi was livid as Seokjin and Namjoon wrapped up their conversation. Seokjin was so selfless, and he always put everyone else first, and he never took breaks, and it took Namjoon telling him over and over just to let himself relax when he was crying. Yoongi depended on them both so much, and it wasn’t fair that Jungkook could disrespect his parents whenever he wanted.

At least Jungkook had the decency to look ashamed.

“Incoming,” Hoseok said under his breath as Namjoon and Seokjin came through the living room to get to the stairs. Yoongi held his breath and pushed himself further into the wall. He could feel his brothers doing the same next to him.

Fortunately, Seokjin’s eyes were buried in Namjoon’s neck. Meanwhile, Namjoon was too focused on kissing Seokjin’s shoulder to see them.

As soon as the door to Namjoon and Seokjin’s bedroom closed, everyone let out a collective breath of air.

“Okay, that was intense,” Jimin breathed.

“We need to regroup,” Yoongi said. He stood up and faced his brothers. “I think maybe we’re all putting a little too much stress on Seokjin. Or, in Jungkook’s case, being a dick to Seokjin.”

“Hey, this isn’t my fault,” Jungkook snapped.

“No, actually, it is your fault, dumbass. Seokjin started crying because you keep saying you hate him. You’re the fucking worst,” Yoongi snapped.

“Okay, woah, hold on,” Taehyung said, standing up between them. “Namjoon and Seokjin both said it wasn’t just Jungkook, that it was a lot of things building up. We all haven’t been doing a good job.”

“No, I’m pretty sure we can confidently blame Jungkook,” Jimin said.

Jungkook scowled at Jimin. “I wasn’t here for all of it, but I’m pretty sure I heard your name mentioned half a dozen times. You just don’t want to blame yourself,” he snapped.

Yoongi felt his blood start boiling. “You’re such a hypocrite, Jungkook. You’re the one who never wants to take any blame. Why can’t you just admit that you’re awful?!”

Jungkook stood up, and Yoongi noticed tears in his already puffy eyes. “I’m not awful. You don’t even know me.”

“Well I know it’s awful to snap at people all the time,” Yoongi said. “And I know it’s awful to treat Seokjin the way you do.”

“Guys,” Taehyung squeaked as Yoongi and Jungkook took a step towards each other, blocking him in on either side.

Hoseok got up to help him. “Okay, okay, that’s it, that’s it, calm down,” Hoseok said, slinging an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders and turning him around so he and Jungkook were forced to break eye contact. Yoongi cooled down a little once he wasn’t looking at Jungkook any longer. “It would only make Jin more upset if he knew we were fighting. We need to focus on him right now.”

Jimin ran a hand through his hair. “How do we even do that?”

“Well for starters, we should probably leave him alone for a little bit. He’s so stressed; we can’t keep putting stuff on his shoulders. We should try to figure out things on our own before going to him so he doesn’t feel too much pressure,” Hoseok said knowingly.

Taehyung squirmed. “But... But Seokjin seemed like he likes it when we come to him with stuff right away. I think we should tell him about our problems as they happen, instead of putting it off. That’s what he wants.”

Yoongi pushed Hoseok off of him. “We’ll ask him when he’s feeling better,” Yoongi decided. “For now, Taehyung, what are the odds you can finish whatever dad was making for dinner? I think he would like it if we could eat what he was planning on making.”

“I can probably do it,” Taehyung said.

“Good. Jimin, you’re in charge of setting the table, Hoseok you can prepare a tray to take up to Jin and Joon, I’ll get drinks, and Junkook-“ Yoongi glared at him, “you can just get out of my sight.”


TAEHYUNG

Taehyung couldn’t take the guilt any longer. He knew he was supposed to be asleep, but every time he tried to close his eyes, he could hear the sounds of Seokjin’s shaky breathing. He felt awful for what he had done. Like it or not, he had been part of the reason Seokjin had been crying, and he hated that he had done that to his dad.

Taehyung got out of bed and Jimin sat up a little, rubbing his eyes. “Taehyung? You okay?”

“Yeah,” Taehyung answered, feeling guilty that Jimin even had to ask. “I’m just going to go fix things with Jin.”

Jimin frowned. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I was going to wait until tomorrow after things have cooled down to apologize.”

Taehyung bit his lip. “I think I have to do it now,” he said. When he was stressed about something, he wanted it to get fixed right away. Maybe he could fix things now with Seokjin so he wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.

Taehyung padded downstairs. He knocked on his dads’ bedroom door timidly.

“Come on in!” Namjoon chirped from behind the wall, and Taehyung slowly opened the door. Namjoon was sitting up in bed with his laptop, but Seokjin was lying down, glasses off and hair a wreck. Namjoon was rubbing his back absentmindedly, and for a second, Taehyung thought Seokjin might be asleep.

“Jin?” he asked hesitantly, and his dad lifted his head a little.

“Taehyung? What’s going on, are you okay?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung nodded. “Yeah, um... I just... I just came to tell you that... that I thought it over, and... and I’ll join a club if you want me to.”

Seokjin sat straight up in bed. “You will?” he asked. He looked so excited that even if Taehyung wanted to back out (which he really, really did), he wouldn’t be able to.

“Yes.”

“Oh, Taehyung. TaeTae, that is such great news,” Seokjin said, holding his arms out for Taehyung to climb into. Taehyung knew that Hoseok said not to put too much pressure on Seokjin, but he figured needing a hug didn’t count. He climbed into his dad’s lap straight away.

“What club do you want to join?” Namjoon asked, closing his laptop to pay attention to Taehyung.

Taehyung shrugged, and Seokjin rubbed his back a little.

“I don’t think he’s gotten that far,” Seokjin answered for him.

Taehyung definitely hadn’t gotten that far. Honestly, the thought of walking into some clubroom was humiliating. He knew he didn’t belong, and the only thing more embarrassing than not belonging was not realizing you didn’t belong and doing things anyway.

Taehyung knew full well that he didn’t fit in, and he didn’t want other people thinking that he thought that he did.

It was too confusing to try to explain to his parents, though, so instead of trying, Taehyung just shifted a little on Seokjin’s lap. “I just... Maybe, if it’s okay, I don’t want to join a school club.”

“What do you mean?” Namjoon asked.

Taehyung squirmed. “I don’t want to do a school thing,” he repeated. He didn’t want to go to a club with the same kids he saw at school. If something went wrong, he would never be able to escape. He’d have to go to the same school with the kids he embarrassed himself in front of for four years; the humiliation would never end.

Seokjin pulled away and looked at him appraisingly for a minute. Taehyung stared back. His dad looked so tired, and Taehyung’s heart sunk to his stomach when he realized it was his fault. He should never have made a big deal about this. He should have just agreed, even if he didn’t like it. He had to stop speaking up; he always said the wrong thing, no matter who he was with.

“Okay,” Seokjin eventually agreed. “Maybe there’s a community activity you could do. I’ll look into it,” he promised.

Taehyung released a breath of air he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “A community thing would be great,” he said.

“Perfect, then it’s sorted,” Namjoon said, just as Seokjin wrapped him up in another hug. Taehyung squeaked in surprise.

Seokjin’s strong arms wrapped around him. “Thank you so much, Taehyung. That was very flexible of you. You did a really good job compromising, and I’m really proud of you for being brave enough to go out and try new things with new people,” he said. His voice was more strained than Taehyung could ever remember hearing it.

Taehyung frowned. “I dunno if I’m brave,” he said. He was terrified. Honestly, Taehyung wasn’t sure if he’d even be able to get in the car the day Seokjin tried to take him to whatever club he signed him up for. It was scary to go new places.

“You’re plenty brave,” Seokjin said. He squeezed Taehyung closer. “Really, thank you so much for trying, Tae. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

Taehyung’s eyes drooped a little. He was pretty sure he did know how much this meant to Seokjin, and that was the only reason he was doing it. He couldn’t let Seokjin down again.

Chapter Text

JUNGKOOK

Jungkook was awake long before his alarm clock went off, but even as it beeped at him to get out of bed, he stayed slumped against the mattress. He was exhausted.

At first, Jungkook had been mad at Seokjin for being upset, especially for crying within earshot of his brothers. Now everyone hated him even more than they already did. But sometime during the night, Jungkook realized that he couldn’t keep pointing fingers. He had made Seokjin cry.

He hadn’t heard his full conversation with Namjoon, but he knew he was partially to blame. He had heard his name come up, and he had seen Seokjin’s red-rimmed eyes in Dr. Kroger’s parking lot. More than that, Jungkook could remember all the awful things that had spilled out of his mouth during that car ride.

He had been cruel.

He felt spoiled and entitled, and it was embarrassing. He didn’t know why he was so angry lately. It was scary. Jungkook was scared. He was scared of the world around him, but more importantly, he was scared of himself. Needless to say, it had been a long sleepless night.

“Kookie! I hope you’re moving around up there, the bus comes in ten minutes!”

Jungkook buried a little further under his covers. How could Seokjin call for him so calmly when he had been so awful to him the day before?

“Kookie! Hurry up! You’re going to miss the bus!”

Jungkook didn’t move.

A few minutes later, the screech of brake pedals rattled his bedroom windows. He could hear his brothers rushing out the door. Jimin and Hoseok were laughing loudly about something, and Taehyung was humming the same tune Jungkook had heard Yoongi practicing on the piano earlier. Jungkook buried his face in his pillow.

A few minutes later, there were footsteps on the stairs and his bedroom door was thrown open. “Rise and shine, Jungkookie! It’s time to greet the day!” Seokjin said, stepping into his room.

“I’ve already greeted it,” Jungkook answered in a gravely voice.

Seokjin –who was already rooting through his dresser to find him some clothes to wear- turned to face him. He looked surprised. “Oh, you’re up already?”

Jungkook nodded, his eyes fixed on a loose thread on his comforter. It had little roads and buildings printed on it. When he was little, he and Seokjin would take turns lying underneath it while the other drove little matchbox cars across the roads on their backs.

Jungkook scrunched his eyes closed.

“Well, that’s good! If you hurry, you can make it to first period on time,” Seokjin said. He put a stack of clothes on Jungkook’s hip. Jungkook rubbed his face with both hands, his guilt magnifying. Seokjin seemed to notice something was the matter because he sat on the edge of his bed a moment later. “Jungkook? Honey? Is something wrong?”

“Stop asking,” Jungkook muttered into his hands. He felt Seokjin’s fingers start combing through his hair.

“What’s that? I couldn’t quite hear you.”

“I said stop asking. Stop being nice to me,” Jungkook said a little louder. Seokjin’s hand pulled away fast, as if he had been burned.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“You... You shouldn’t be so nice to me,” Jungkook snapped, blinking his eyes open to stare at Seokjin. His dad looked crestfallen for some reason, but Jungkook had a feeling it was his fault. “Yesterday, I made you cry, and you’re still being nice.” Jungkook wanted to stop sounding angry, but he couldn’t get rid of the edge to his voice. He bit his bottom lip, frustrated. Meanwhile, Seokjin’s expression softened a little bit.

“I can’t help but be nice to you. You’re my Kookie,” he cooed, planting a couple kisses on his forehead. For once, Jungkook didn’t squirm away. Seokjin pulled back a little, his eyebrows furrowing together. “Sweetheart, what’s going on? It isn’t like you to be so slumped like this.”

Jungkook grunted. He felt slumped — like he couldn’t lift his body from his mattress even if he tried. “I wasn’t nice to you,” he repeated.

Seokjin’s concerned face relaxed with an amused smile. “You know, most people apologize when they feel guilty,” he said gently.

Jungkook’s face immediately screwed up at the thought. He didn’t want to apologize. But as he stared up at Seokjin and thought about his dad driving toy cars over his back while he was falling asleep, he crumbled a little bit. He was so tired.

Jungkook’s bottom lip wobbled. He tried to keep it still, but the more he tried not to cry, the worse he felt. “I’m really sorry,” he managed to choke out just as his shoulders started to shake. He let out a sob so violent, he thought his body would shake apart, but his dad caught him before he could.

“It’s okay,” Seokjin promised. “It’s okay, you’re okay. I understand.”

Jungkook shook his head against his dad’s chest. His shoulders were so tense he was worried they would snap in two. It wasn’t okay. He had broken Seokjin’s heart over and over again without caring. He didn’t deserve to be in this house, he didn’t want to be here. “F-Forgive me,” he stammered out.

“You didn’t even have to ask,” Seokjin promised. He settled them into a more comfortable position. Jungkook was humiliated to be seen crying like this, but if anyone was going to witness it, he was glad it was just Jin.

Jin had always been gentle with him, always cradled him close and kept him safe. Jungkook was embarrassed to be crying, but he was happy for the excuse to have Seokjin hold him for the first time in a long while.

His hands clutched at Jin’s t-shirt.

“You know,” Seokjin started, one hand playing with the hair at the nape of Jungkook’s neck, “You were the first of all the boys to start regularly calling me and Namjoon ‘dad.’ I think Jimin had said it once before you, and Yoongi had mentioned it a couple of times, but you were the one who came home from school one day and said, ‘Dad, I’m home!’”

Jungkook sniffled.

Seokjin continued. “I think you heard all the kids at school calling their parents mom and dad and realized that ‘Jin’ and ‘Joon’ weren’t quite the same.” Seokjin dropped his head to bury his nose in Jungkook’s hair. Jungkook didn’t pull away. “I know that it’s hard for you and that you’re really confused and scared. Growing up isn’t easy. But yelling at everyone isn’t going to solve anything, and I think that pushing everyone away is hurting you more than it’s hurting me.”

Jungkook shuddered. “I’m not pushing everyone away,” he muttered, his tears mostly subsiding. He wanted to stay close to Seokjin, but his pride made him pull away. “I don’t know what I’m doing. But... but I am sorry.”

Seokjin offered him a knowing smile. “You don’t have to know,” he promised. “We’ll figure it out together, okay?”

Jungkook took a shaky breath. “Sure.”


NAMJOON

Just as Namjoon was trying to leave the office for the weekend, he got stopped at the door.

“Hey, Namjoon! Kim! Namjoon!”

Namjoon sighed when he recognized the voice. He spun on his heel to face the woman calling for him. “What do you want, Erin?” he asked. Seokjin would call him immature, but he didn’t want to be seen talking to a nutella thief.

“So, word on the street is that you think I’ve been stealing your lunch,” Erin said, strolling up next to him, hands in her pockets.

Namjoon glared. “That’s because you have been.”

“No,” Erin said smirking, like she thought it was funny. Namjoon was hungry, and it was her fault. “I really, really haven’t.”

“There was a sizable divot, Erin,” he said.

Erin laughed. “Look, I don’t know what that means, but I think a peace offering might be in order,” she said. She pulled out two gift cards from her messenger bag. “Here.”

She passed them to Namjoon.

“Two tickets to Max Brenner’s. It’s that-“

“Chocolate restaurant downtown,” Namjoon filled in before she could finish. His eyes widened. “Seriously? You’re giving these to me?”

“Sure. I don’t like chocolate much, and these were a gift from a client. It would be good if someone got some use out of them, and I figured it would be good to clear my name,” she said.

Namjoon clutched the gift cards tight. “How much are these worth?” he asked, excited.

“About thirty dollars each,” she said. “That’s enough for two people to get a meal and a dessert or so.” She looked up at Namjoon hopefully. “Do you think you’ll use them?”

“Are you kidding?” Namjoon asked. “This will be great for date night. My kids are going to be so jealous they can’t come,” he said excitedly; although, he felt a little guilty for being so rude to Erin. If she didn’t like chocolate, there was no way she was the one responsible for prematurely dipping into his nutella. Someone else must have been messing with his lunch. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry for wrongfully accusing you. Please forgive me,” he said, ducking his head in shame.

Erin curled his hands further around the gift cards. “Consider yourself forgiven.”


YOONGI

“God, could this be any longer?” Yoongi whined. Namjoon didn’t look at him, but he did reach out to scratch Yoongi’s back. The message was clear: Be respectful.

Seokjin and Namjoon had both dragged Yoongi out of bed before dawn to go on a tour of Temple.

It was Saturday.

Yoongi should by all accounts still be asleep, but instead he was stuck watching yet another boring college Q&A panel. He didn’t care about Temple’s dining options or sports teams. He wasn’t concerned about having a platinum TV in every dorm when he wasn’t going to be staying in one. It didn’t matter if their team played on Lincoln Financial Field because Yoongi wasn’t going to any football games. He wasn’t going to college at all.

A parent in the audience asked a question about study abroad options, prompting a student on the panel to start a longwinded story about her semester in Italy. Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Gag me.”

“Shhh,” Seokjin warned, patting his leg.

Yoongi’s mouth snapped shut. If Seokjin wanted him to be quiet, he would be quiet. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was a little shaken over seeing Jin cry. He was used to seeing both his parents happy, so knowing Jin wasn’t made him feel anxious.

Yoongi would do anything to help Seokjin feel better. If that meant being quiet through another college tour, he would do it.

But that didn’t mean he had to do it happily.

The panel came to a close and everyone in the audience exited through the back of the classroom. The walk out to the car was a short one, but Yoongi stomped the whole way. He didn’t want to be here.

He slammed the car door closed as he got into the back seat of Namjoon’s Q50.

“Sugar, honey, I think your frown is deeper than Marianas Trench,” Seokjin teased, looking at him through the rearview mirror. Yoongi appreciated Seokjin’s trying to keep the atmosphere light, but he wasn’t in the mood.

“This was a waste of time,” he complained.

His parents shared a concerned look, and Yoongi crossed his arms over his chest, grumpier than before. “So I take it you don’t want to go to Temple?” Namjoon asked.

“No.”

“Okay, well, that’s okay,” Seokjin promised, pulling out a folder from the center console. “I’ve got two other tours planned for today: Drexel and UPenn.”

“I don’t want to go on any more tours,” Yoongi complained, sliding down in his seat.

Namjoon glanced at him in the mirror as he put the car into reverse. “Seatbelt, Yoongi.”

Yoongi buckled up begrudgingly.

“I can understand not wanting to go on any more tours today, I know we woke you up early,” Seokjin began, “But we’re running out of time here, Sugar. There are only a few weeks left before applications are due. It’s really important that we find you a college you like: fast.

“You know, I don’t have to go to college,” Yoongi said. His parents both stiffened, and Yoongi rolled his eyes. “What? I don’t have to. I can just start working right out of high school.”

Namjoon bristled. “Where?”

“There’s a help wanted sign at Applebee’s.”

Seokjin choked on the water he was drinking. “No. I love you too much and you’re too smart to spend the rest of your life working at Applebee’s.”

“Well, it’s not like I want to work at Applebee’s, it’s just an option,” Yoongi said. He tried to keep his voice flat, but it sounded hesitant even to his own ears. He didn’t know what he wanted. He liked music, and he’d like to learn more about it, but he didn’t want to leave home. He wanted to stay with Namjoon and Seokjin. Everything else was up in the air.

“Getting a higher education is also an option,” Namjoon said. Yoongi winced. That was Namjoon’s I’m-Not-Playing-So-Get-Your-Act-Together-Right-Now voice.

Seokjin seemed to sense how frustrated Namjoon was getting because he put a hand on his shoulder. “What your father means,” Seokjin started, giving Namjoon a warning look, “is that we both think you would do well at college. You’re so smart, and you like school, and you love music. I think that college would be good for you, Yoongi. You would be able to get a job doing what you’re passionate about, and you would make more friends, and you would learn to be more independent.”

Yoongi’s jaw clenched tight. How could Seokjin say that? Yoongi would do terribly at college; he couldn’t imagine being able to eat or sleep in that environment. And be more independent? What was that supposed to mean? Did Namjoon and Seokjin want him out of the house that badly?

Yoongi regretted ever worrying about Seokjin because apparently Seokjin wasn’t worried about him at all. “Whatever,” he said, voice tight with tears.

Seokjin casted him a worried look over his shoulder. “Let’s just see Drexel, okay? You never know, you might like it!”

Yoongi sighed. He already knew he wouldn’t like it. The kids at school had already told him all about the awful food options and seedy neighborhood. But, apparently, Yoongi had no control over where he was going or what he was doing, so instead he stayed quiet in the back of the car.

He checked that the car door was locked. He tightened his shoelaces. He fixed his hair. Over, and over, and over.


JIMIN

Jimin wasn’t sure how long he had been at his desk, but every second that ticked by felt like a second closer to a bomb going off.

(The bomb was Jimin’s head.)

“I’m going to explode,” Jimin complained to Taehyung, who was reading in his bed across the room. Taehyung snorted, but otherwise stayed immersed in his book.

Jimin was also trying to read. He had let all of his reading had pile up, and now he had full chapters to read instead of the usual handful of pages he forced himself to struggle through every night. Jimin was trying to parse through it all, but reading for prolonged periods like this gave him headaches.

Having a headache made reading take longer, and the longer he read the more his head ached.

Usually, Jimin would have Seokjin to help him, but he was hesitant to put any more stress on his dad. Plus, both his parents were out touring colleges with Yoongi, so he couldn’t get their help even if he wanted it.

A couple pages later –with a growing headache and growing frustration- Jimin realized he had only finished one of the three chapters he had to read this weekend.

“Fuck!” Jimin swore, punching his desk.

“Ah!” Taehyung squeaked, jumping a good couple inches off his bed in surprise. He clutched at his heart while Jimin shook out his now stinging hand. “Geez, Jimin, what the heck?”

“Sorry,” Jimin said, too busy nursing his hurt hand to apologize properly. He didn’t usually swear (especially not around Taehyung), but the situation totally deserved it. Jimin felt stuck in this constant loop of trying to do better, failing, disappointing everyone, and then trying to do better all over again, failing all over again, and disappointing everyone all over again. He was studying for English now, but he still had to figure out his chemistry homework, and his awful Spanish grade was still hanging over his head.

It was a losing battle, and Jimin couldn’t help but feel more and more frustrated.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung promised. “But what’s going on?”

“English.”

Taehyung hummed. He got out of bed and leaned over his and Jimin’s back-to-back desks. He plucked Jimin’s book out of his hands. “Things Fall Apart,” he said, reading the title. “I hate this book.”

“Same,” Jimin agreed. “I hate this book, I hate this class, I hate reading, I hate my head and this stupid headache, and-“

“Woah, okay, hold on,” Taehyung said, folding down the corner of Jimin’s page and closing the book. “It’s okay to hate the other things, but it’s not okay to hate you, Chim Chim.”

Jimin snatched his book back from Taehyung. “Don’t call me that; I’m not in the mood,” he said, flipping to his page.

“Then maybe you need a break,” Taehyung suggested. He tried to pull the book out of Jimin’s hands, but Jimin gripped the book tight before he could.

“I can’t take a break. I have to finish.”

“You can finish later,” Taehyung said, trying to tug the book away from Jimin. Jimin refused to let go, playing tug of war with Taehyung across the desks.

“I can’t finish later.”

“You can.”

“No, I can’t. You don’t get it, Taehyung. You read so fast, but I take ages because I’m stupid, so I have to do it now, or I won’t have enough time, and it won’t get done. I need to finish it,” Jimin said, his voice high pitched and frantic. Taehyung dropped the book, and Jimin fell back against his chair.

“What if I help you?” Taehyung offered. “I could read aloud for you? You usually do really well when you’re just listening. You’re like a... what’s the word...” Taehyung snapped his fingers. “An audio learner!”

“I don’t want help,” Jimin mumbled, staring down at his toes.

“Why not?” Taehyung questioned, climbing up to sit on the top of his desk. Jimin frowned as he pictured Taehyung falling off the desk and cracking his head on the floor mid-seizure, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t say anything at all, actually, but Taehyung pressed on anyway. “It’s okay to get help sometimes, Chim Chim. Especially because everybody I know wants to help you.”

Jimin didn’t say anything to that either: his face said it all. His cheeks were burning, and he knew that if he looked in the mirror, he would be bright pink. Why couldn’t anyone understand how humiliating this was for him?

Taehyung crawled across their desks, knocking over Jimin’s pencil cup. “Jimin... Jiminnie...” he cooed. Jimin ignored him. Even as Taehyung started poking his face he ignored him. “Come on. Chim Chim... Jiminnie... Cheer up...” Taehyung’s voice grew progressively higher and higher pitched as he poked and prodded at Jimin. “Jiminnie.... Chimmie Chim, please!”

Taehyung tickled Jimin’s neck, and Jimin couldn’t help but squeal. “Ah, Taehyung! Cut it out!”

“Not until you’re smiling,” Taehyung said brightly.

“You have to stop doing this,” Jimin complained, trying to bat Taehyung away without hurting him. He laughed a little louder when Taehyung switched from tickling his neck to his armpits. “Tae!”

“Okay, okay, fine,” Taehyung agreed, pulling away. He sat up crisscross applesauce on Jimin’s desk. “But seriously, Jimin, I’ll help you with any class you’re having trouble with. You know that. I feel like we’ve been studying for Spanish together all week. You don’t have to do it all on your own.”

Jimin closed his eyes and leaned back in his desk chair. “You don’t get it,” he said, striking a meditative pose. “I am an island.”

Taehyung smacked him upside the head. “If you were an island, you’d be Hawaii. Or the Philippines.”

Jimin snorted. “The Philippines?”

“You know, like a little island surrounded by other little islands?”

Jimin snorted. “Taehyung.”

“And one day, as the tectonic plates shift and underwater volcanoes explode and build up rock, you and your fellow islands will rise from the ocean and become a continent together. Like Australia,” Taehyung said, using hand motions to facilitate his explanation.

Jimin managed to laugh at that. “I don’t think that’s how Australia was formed.”

“You’re right, I think it broke off from Pangaea,” Taehyung agreed. “But that’s not the point. The point is: you’re not alone. You can ask for help.”

Jimin sighed. He thumbed through the pages of his English book. “... You’re sure you don’t mind helping?”

“Not at all!” Taehyung chirped. He grabbed the book out of Jimin’s hands. “Oh, did you just finish the chapter?”

Jimin sighed. “Yeah, but I’ve got two to go.”

“Oh, okay, well then maybe it is time for a break.“

Before Jimin could respond, Hoseok popped his head into their bedroom. “Hey, are you guys as bored as I am?”

Taehyung looked to Jimin in question, and Jimin eyed the stack of homework on the corner of his desk. He really did have a lot to do, but if Taehyung didn’t mind helping him... “Yes,” Jimin answered. He could use a change of scenery. “What did you have in mind?”

“I was thinking mall trip,” Hoseok said.

Taehyung crinkled his nose. “The mall?”

Jimin, meanwhile, sat up straighter in his seat. “Ah, yes, the mall would be so great,” he said standing up. “Exton or King of Prussia?”

“King of Prussia, obviously,” Hoseok said. “We’ll catch a train in? Taehyung, I’ll get you a frozen yoghurt for being a good sport.”

Taehyung caved. “All right, fair deal.”

“Great!” Hoseok cheered. He jumped on Jimin’s back just as he was standing up. “Onwards, Jiminnie, let’s go drag that Jungkook kid out with us,” he said, pointing out the way. Jimin rolled his eyes but hoisted Hoseok up a little further on his back anyway.

“Onwards,” he agreed.

It was a little stressful to leave a mountain of work behind for a stupid trip to the mall, but knowing he had Taehyung’s help made it a little easier. Maybe Yoongi wouldn’t mind helping him out with his chemistry homework or his chord progressions for piano a little later.

Taehyung had said he wasn’t an island. He wondered to what degree that was true.


TAEHYUNG

Taehyung stepped out of his dressing room in a forest green sweater.

“I like it,” Hoseok said delicately, “but I’ve liked other things on you more.”

Taehyung looked in the mirror, eyeing himself critically. He turned a little bit, looking at himself from all angles. “Yeah, I agree.”

Hoseok and Jimin had been dragging him and Jungkook around the mall for the better part of two hours now, determined to bulk up their winter wardrobe. Taehyung was in desperate need of sweaters that were long enough to cover his wrists properly; meanwhile, Jungkook was growing like a weed needed all kinds of warm clothes: shirts, hoodies, jeans, sweaters...

Unless they acted fast, he would be freezing come December.

“Can we go now?” Jungkook whined, a stack of clothes next to him that Hoseok and Jimin had picked out. Most of Jungkook’s clothes consisted of tank tops from Pac Sun, and Hoseok and Jimin were determined to break him from his addiction.

“Not until we’re done helping Taehyung,” Hoseok said.

Jungkook groaned. “But I don’t want to be here.”

“That’s funny because last time I checked you were the one to agree to come out with us in the first place,” Hoseok reminded him. Jungkook slumped in his seat, but didn’t argue. Taehyung smiled. Jungkook loved them, even if he didn’t show it.

Jimin came out of the dressing room wearing a new pair of khakis. “What do we think of these ones? Too beige? Or too camel?”

Jungkook groaned even louder, and Taehyung couldn’t help but laugh. Shopping with his brothers always took longer than expected. Jimin was used to overanalyzing clothes –what with spending most of his time with cheerleaders who overthought everything- while Hoseok tended to be detail-oriented. He had to be as a computer programmer; meanwhile, being a hip-hop dancer seemed to come with a sharp sense of style. He was very fashionable and very critical.

Taehyung didn’t mind. It was relieving to not have control over his clothes. He didn’t want anyone to tease him for how he dressed, so letting Jimin and Hoseok pick his clothes made shopping less stressful.

Way too camel,” Hoseok answered.

Taehyung shrugged. “I think they look fine.”

“Shows what you know, Taehyung,” Hoseok said snottily, and Taehyung shoved him. Hoseok pushed him back playfully.

“You know,” Jimin said, pushing past Taehyung and Hoseok to get to the three-way mirror. “It’s nice hanging out with you, Hobi. I feel like we haven’t seen you in ages. You’ve been kind of MIA lately.”

“With Oliver,” Taehyung agreed. He hated Oliver. It was people like him who made Taehyung anxious to go to school. He was a bully. He wasn’t even nice to Hoseok, and they were supposed to be dating (or at least, that’s what it seemed like).

Even Hoseok looked uncomfortable at the mention of Oliver’s name. “Ah, yeah... Things change when you have a boyfriend, I guess,” he said. He shifted from foot to foot awkwardly, but after looking at his brothers, a smile lit up his face. “But I like hanging out with you guys, too. You’re so cute,” he promised.

He pinched Taehyung’s cheek, and Taehyung batted his hand away. “Okay, that’s enough. I’m changing,” he said.

Jimin hummed, turning a little in the mirror to see himself from all angles. “Good. Then I think we can get out of here. I’m out of stuff to try on. Final thoughts on the pants?”

“Great!” Taehyung said.

“Tragic,” Hoseok argued.

“Who cares?!” Jungkook asked. “Let’s just get out of here, I want Annie Anne’s.”

Taehyung laughed and snapped his dressing room curtain closed. He was feeling good about himself for once. He liked hanging out with his brothers like this, even if Jungkook was being kind of cranky. And he was happy to have some new clothes. He had a sweatshirt that looked like snakeskin and a big cream sweater that Hoseok said made him look like a ‘charming marshmallow.’

“I think we’ve made some good purchases,” Hoseok said as they left the store, holding open one of the bags to look inside.

Taehyung snorted. “Yeah, and all thanks to you.”

“I resent that,” Jimin said, forcing himself between Hoseok and Taehyung to get in front of them. He walked backwards to talk to his brothers straight on. “Who was the one to find that bomber jacket you like so much, Tae? Was it Hoseok? Or was it me?”

Taehyung hid his smile behind his fist. “It was you,” he admitted sheepishly. Jimin’s face was so funny when he was offended, and Taehyung didn’t want to get caught laughing at him.

“Right? It was definitely me. I did a great job.”

“You did do a great job,” Hoseok agreed. “We’re all proud of you. Even Kookie.”

They all turned to look at Jungkook, who was walking a couple yards behind him. Jimin put his hands to his mouth to call out to him. “You doing okay back there, Kookie? You all right?!”

Jungkook glared.

“Do you not want to be seen with us or something? Is that it?” Jimin asked.

Hoseok snickered. He shouted louder than Jimin. “We’re not embarrassing you, are we?”

Jungkook’s glare deepened, and Taehyung laughed loudly. Jungkook was so cute, even when he was mad. Just looking at him was enough to make Taehyung laugh today. That, or he was just really happy. It was nice to get out of the house for a change, and his brothers were so cool and funny. It was great to get the chance to hang out with them on the weekend like this.

It wasn’t until they were in line for Annie Anne’s that Taehyung’s mood came crashing down.

Jungkook was trying to wheedle a pretzel out of Hoseok when Taehyung gripped his wrist. “Hoseok, please, buy me a pizza pretzel, plea- Wha~ Ow, Taehyung! That hurts,” Jungkook complained, shaking his arm free and rubbing where Taehyung had grabbed him.

Jimin was immediately concerned. “Taehyung?” he asked.

Taehyung gulped. “We need to go home.”

Hoseok slung an arm around Taehyung’s shoulders and ducked them both underneath the yellow rope forming the Annie Anne’s queue. “What’s going on?” he asked as Jimin and Jungkook scurried behind.

“I dunno, I just feel weird,” Taehyung said, his breathing picking up. He didn’t want to have a seizure here. What if someone from school saw? What if he had to get back on the train in wet pants? What if he threw up, or hurt himself, or seized for longer than five minutes and needed to go to the hospital?

“Like an aura?” Hoseok asked.

Taehyung nodded.

Hoseok frowned. “Okay, well don’t worry, usually you have some time between starting to feel funny and having a seizure.”

“No,” Jimin piped up, rushing forward to take Taehyung’s hand. “Last time he had a seizure a few minutes after saying he felt funny.”

Taehyung’s chest constricted. “I don’t want to have a seizure on the train,” he squeaked.

Hoseok frowned and picked up the pace. Even Jungkook –who had been trailing behind them by at least twenty feet for the whole trip- was speeding along right with them. “You’re not going to have a seizure on the train, Tae. We’re going to get you home.”

Taehyung whimpered. He hated this. He felt so weak, and fragile, and awful, and-

“Hey, listen,” Hoseok demanded. “You’re not going to have a seizure on the train, or here at the mall, or anywhere but home, okay? We’re going to get you back, and we’ll try to get you to go to the bathroom, and maybe we’ll have some ice cream, and then Jin and Joon will be home to take care of you.”

Taehyung squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to have a seizure at all.

Jimin squeezed his hand. “Taehyung, worrying won’t change anything, yeah? Just focus on getting home.”

“Okay,” Taehyung agreed.

The rest of the walk to the train was spent silently. They boarded, and Hoseok took care of their tickets. Taehyung’s knee bobbed up and down anxiously as the stops drew closer and closer to home.

Jungkook, meanwhile, stared at him over the back of his seat. “Are you sure you’re okay, Taehyung?” he asked. He almost sounded concerned.

Taehyung nodded shakily. “Yeah, I just need to be home.”

“We’re almost there, Tae,” Jimin promised.

Taehyung just hummed in response. He never should have left the house in the first place. If he had a seizure on this train and had to walk home after, panicked and exhausted, he would never forgive himself. It was stupid to think he could do things like this: go out and be a normal kid. He couldn’t even buy a stupid sweatshirt without worrying about collapsing in public.

Meanwhile, Seokjin wanted him to join a club. It was already risky spending seven hours at school. Going to a club after hours –with no nurses’ office to hide out in- sounded like suicide.

“Can someone call Jinnie?” Taehyung asked.

His brothers all frowned at each other. “Would Joonie be okay?” Hoseok asked eventually, taking a leadership position in the situation.

Taehyung shrugged, and Jimin got Namjoon on the line. He passed the phone to Taehyung, and Taehyung gripped it in both hands. Namjoon’s voice crackled through the line. “Tae? Tae, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just... Do I have to join a club?” he asked.

Namjoon made a huffing noise over the line, and Taehyung felt guilt pool in his stomach. “Taehyung, I know you’re scared, but it’s going to be okay, all right? It’s going to be okay.”

Taehyung sniffled. It certainly didn’t feel okay.

“Listen, love, Jin, Yoongi, and I will all be home in a few hours, okay? And you’ll be home in a few minutes. You’re okay. Just get home, change your clothes, and rest up.”

Taehyung cleared his throat on the verge of crying. This was so stressful. “Hoseok and Jimin said we could have ice cream.”

“Perfect,” Namjoon said. “That’ll be good. Put some extra sprinkles on it for me, okay?”

Taehyung nodded, only to realize Namjoon couldn’t see him. “Okay,” he agreed. The train pulled into their station. “We’re walking home now.”

“Okay, good,” Namjoon said. “You’re almost there. That’s good.”

“Mhm.”

“Why don’t you give the phone to Hoseok real fast and I’ll make sure he’s ready to help you, okay? You, Jimin, and Jungkook just focus on getting home and getting you comfortable.”

“Okay,” Taehyung agreed, but his hand stayed clamped around the phone.

Namjoon paused for a moment before speaking. “Oh, and Taehyung? I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Taehyung said before passing the phone to Hoseok. He still felt anxious, but it was good to talk to Namjoon. Namjoon always managed to sound reassuring somehow. Something about his authoritative tone made Taehyung feel like he could trust him: that and the fact that Namjoon had been nothing but trustworthy for the twelve years Taehyung had lived with him.

Taehyung took a shaky breath. Jimin looked at him warily as they stepped off the train. “You okay?” he asked.

Taehyung bit his bottom lip but nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay.”


SEOKJIN

Seokjin had felt strung out all weekend. Between Jungkook freaking out on Friday, Yoongi suddenly saying he wasn’t interested in college, and Taehyung being on the verge of a seizure late Saturday and well into Sunday morning, Seokjin had barely had a second to think.

If it wasn’t for Namjoon and his impromptu date nights, Seokjin didn’t know what he would do.

“Does everything on this menu include a waffle?” Seokjin asked, surprised when there were even waffles included on the salad menu.

“It looks like it,” Namjoon said. “This place is crazy, right?”

“It certainly is,” Seokjin replied. Namjoon was always taking him to the most bizarre restaurants. It was one of his ways of keeping their marriage fun and exciting, and while Seokjin wasn’t exactly interested in trying chocolate-covered pickles or Korean-Nigerian-Mexican fusion, he would pretend he was for Namjoon.

“I was thinking next date night, we could do something other than dinner, though,” Namjoon said. “Like maybe go to the Kimmel Center for a concert or something.”

Seokjin hummed, circling a finger around his wine glass. “That sounds nice.”

Namjoon stared at him for a moment. He snapped his menu closed. “Your mind is elsewhere,” he noticed.

Seokjin sighed. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I’m just...”

“Worrying?” Namjoon asked.

Seokjin nodded. “I didn’t realize Yoongi was so against college. I’m worried we’re pressuring him into it.”

“It’s something he needs to be pressured into,” Namjoon argued.

Seokjin shrugged. He knew how important education was to Namjoon, but if Yoongi didn’t want to go to college, there was nothing they could do. He was an adult now. Seokjin would have hoped that they would have instilled in Yoongi the same values for education that he and Namjoon shared, but if they had failed, then that was it. There was no redo button, at least not when it came to raising kids.

Instead of arguing, Seokjin switched subjects. “I’m also worried about Taehyung.”

Namjoon frowned. “He was napping when we left. I think he’s okay.”

“I’m just worried about him waking up and realizing we’re not there,” Seokjin said. Taehyung was always clingy after his seizures. Seokjin liked being there for him when he needed it.

“He’ll be okay. He has Jimin, and Yoongi, and Hoseok. They’ll all take care of him,” Namjoon promised. He reached across the table to hold Seokjin’s hands. “Honestly, I’m more worried about you.”

“Me?” Seokjin asked.

“You,” Namjoon repeated. “It’s okay to stop thinking about the boys for a little, you know? You need a break. It’s Sunday night; we’re at dinner. Let’s just enjoy it.”

Seokjin smiled sheepishly. “You’re right. We need to talk about something else. How’s work?”

“Complicated,” Namjoon answered. Seokjin arched an eyebrow, but before Namjoon could continue, their waiter came to take their orders. Seokjin figured he would try one of their salads on top of a waffle, and Namjoon ordered the same. “The hunt for the Sandwich Sniper is still underway,” Namjoon continued when their waiter left.

Seokjin snorted. “The Sandwich Sniper?” he asked.

“The person stealing my lunch,” Namjoon clarified, adjusting his glasses. Seokjin laughed straight in his face.

“Namjoon, honey, no one is stealing your lunch.”

“No, listen,” Namjoon said. “I counted the apple slices you packed me this morning before I left, and there were six. Six. And when I opened my lunch box at work, there were only five.”

“You sound paranoid,” Seokjin teased.

“You need to start taking this seriously!” Namjoon exclaimed. “I have evidence!”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Seokjin promised. “Talk to me about something else. How is that new demo you’re working on?”

Namjoon relaxed in his chair a little. “Ah, fine, I suppose... It needs a little something. Marvin Gaye used to have a track called ‘Vibes’ in all his songs. The album needs more vibes.”

“Vibes,” Seokjin repeated.

“Yeah, everything needs more vibes.”

“Do I need more vibes?” Seokjin asked, taking a sip of his wine.

Namjoon hummed, resting his cheek in his hand. He rubbed the back of Seokjin’s hand with his thumb. “No, you’re perfect just as you are,” he promised. Seokjin scoffed and ducked his head down.

“You’re too much.”

Namjoon didn’t say anything, just gave his hand a squeeze. “Tell me about you. How are you doing? How’s yoga? How’s book club?”

Seokjin shrugged. “Yoga is fine. I wish I could bring Taehyung to my classes; he likes doing my old DVD lessons so much. Book club was just as much of a disaster this week as it is every week, I don’t know why I keep going... And as for how I am, I’m still a little stressed, but I actually think freaking out on Thursday helped.”

“Yeah?” Namjoon asked. “How so?”

Seokjin scratched the back of his neck. “I’m not sure. It was kind of... cathartic, crying it all out like that. And it was nice to have a night in to just lie around.”

“You know, that’s a pretty manageable thing: to have a night to just lie around,” Namjoon said. “Do you want me to make that a weekly kind of deal? We could have Thursdays be leftovers night?”

Seokjin brushed his hair off his face frantically. “Oh, I’m not sure. I kind of want Jungkook to be able to have a decent, home cooked meal when he comes home from therapy.”

Namjoon nodded. “Then Wednesday?”

“That’s when Yoongi comes home from therapy.”

“Then Tuesday,” Namjoon decided. When Seokjin opened his mouth to argue, Namjoon cut him off. “Tuesday will be fine. We’ll eat sandwiches, and oatmeal, and whatever else we have lying around.”

Seokjin laughed nervously. “Hoseok will probably just eat three bananas and call it a day. I don’t know what his problem is, but he eats the whole bunch practically the second I bring them home from the store.”

“Let him,” Namjoon said. “I’m sure Jimin will clean out the fridge for us if we don’t try to stop him.”

“He’s a growing boy, he’s hungry,” Seokjin said in his defense. Namjoon caught his eye and they both started laughing. Seokjin had to put his glass down to keep it from spilling. “Wow, we can’t go more than two minutes without talking about our kids.”

“They’re just too cute, and there’s way too many of them,” Namjoon sighed, taking out his phone. “Look at this picture I got of Yoongi on the way home yesterday.”

Seokjin took the phone and immediately cooed. Yoongi was curled up in the back seat, dead asleep. His bangs were so long, they brushed his eyelashes, and Seokjin couldn’t help but clutch his heart. “So cute.”

“I think he’s frowning in his sleep,” Namjoon laughed.

“He’s such a cute little baby,” Seokjin said, making kissy faces at the screen.

“He’s eighteen,” Namjoon corrected.

“He’s a baby.

Namjoon smiled. “Right, a baby.”

“I can see in your eyes that you don’t agree with me, but I’m just going to ignore it because I know I’m right,” Seokjin said, turning Namjoon’s phone off and passing it back to him. He grabbed the dessert menu and flipped through it idly. “Oh! There’s chocolate turtle fondue! With fried bananas! And strawberries!”

“See, I knew you would like it here,” Namjoon said proudly.

Seokjin smiled and grabbed Namjoon’s hand again. “You did. You know me so well,” he promised.

Namjoon picked up Seokjin’s hand to kiss his knuckles. “I try, anyways.”


JUNGKOOK

Jungkook kept his head down at lunch. He usually ate with the lax team, and while he liked all the guys he played with, he didn’t feel like talking today.

Ever since Thursday, he had felt raw. Jungkook hadn’t said much of anything to Dr. Kroger –most of the session was spent debating peanut butter vs. chocolate chip cookies (they decided that chocolate chip peanut butter cookies were the best of both worlds)- but the things he had said had made him start to think.

Dr. Kroger had asked him about his family.

It wasn’t anything deep: just run of the mill stuff. Jungkook explained the usual facts. He had four brothers, he was the youngest, Yoongi was the oldest, and then Hoseok, Jimin, and Taehyung. They were all adopted, but Jungkook had been living with Namjoon and Seokjin his whole life. It was the same old story.

Most people asked questions like, “Wow, isn’t it hard to have so many siblings?” and “Do you have to share bedrooms?” But Dr. Kroger was different.

“So there’s five of you kids, huh?” Dr. Kroger asked, twirling his pen in his hand. He had written all of his brothers’ names down, but he hadn’t written anything else. “That must be fun!”

“Fun?” Jungkook asked. “There’s like a million of us.”

“Yeah, that sounds great. I’m sure you always have someone to talk to.”

But Jungkook didn’t always have someone to talk to. Most of the time it felt like he had no one to talk to, and ever since his conversation with Dr. Kroger, he had felt tense. Anger was part of it, but anxiety was another, and Jungkook missed feeling normal.

Seokjin had let him skip school on Friday, but it was still hard to be in class. Mondays were hard for Jungkook even when he wasn’t completely overwhelmed. Today he just felt awful.

“Hey, Jungkook, are you going to finish that?” Moonbin asked, eying Jungkook’s half-eaten sandwich. Seokjin had packed him egg salad. Jungkook really liked Seokjin’s egg salad.

“You can have it,” Jungkook said, pushing the plastic bag a little closer to Moonbin. He grabbed a carrot stick and swirled it in the little cup of peanut butter Seokjin had given him. He wasn’t hungry, but he figured he should at least look like he was eating.

“All right,” Moonbin said. “Your dad packs such great lunches.”

“Are you kidding?” Jungkook asked, arching an eyebrow. “You get to have Tasty Cakes every single day. I don’t think I’ve had a Tasty Cake in my entire life.”

Moonbin snorted. “Yeah, Tasty Cakes, Pop Tarts, Twinkies... My mom just throws in whatever takes the least amount of effort. I’m going to die of cardiac arrest before I graduate high school.”

Jungkook bit his tongue. “Well, you can have some carrot sticks if you want.”

“Sick,” Moonbin said, stretching across the table for a carrot stick the second he was invited. “I’m taking some peanut butter, too.”

“Be my guest,” Jungkook offered, his heart racing for some inexplicable reason. Why was he suddenly terrified? Why couldn’t he get through a lunch break without thinking about his dads, and his brothers, and his family, and his mom, and-

“I think I’m just going to go to the bathroom,” Jungkook said suddenly, his fight or flight response kicking into high gear.

“Okie dokie. Can I finish your food?” Moonbin asked.

“Sure,” Jungkook answered, scurrying away. He just needed to be alone for a few minutes. Everything was starting to feel like too much for him.


HOSEOK

Hoseok was panting as he ran through his steps for at least the thirtieth time that day. The dance team’s showcase was coming up soon, and while their instructor had gone home a few run-throughs ago, most of the team had stuck around to practice a couple more times. Hoseok couldn’t go home until Namjoon came to pick up him and Yoongi anyway.

“Fuck,” Mark swore as he messed up the last few steps again. “Why is this so hard? This shouldn’t be so hard,” he complained. Hoseok watched Mark practice it a few times on his own while he tried to catch his breath.

“Don’t stress it, Mark,” Oliver piped up, wiping sweat from his brow. “You’re doing better than Hoseok, anyway.”

Hoseok coughed into his shoulder but didn’t say anything.

“Ah, actually, Hoseok is the one I’ve been watching to fix what I keep messing up,” Mark said, coming to his rescue.

“Yeah, Hoseok, if you weren’t standing in front of me for half the song, I’m pretty sure I’d be straight fucked. You and Taemin. Without you, I’d be dead,” one of the freshmen –Bam Bam- said.

“Thanks, guys,” Hoseok tried to say, but Oliver spoke over him.

“Guys, the showcase is right around the corner. Now isn’t the time to be nice. We have to start making corrections, or we’ll look like idiots out on stage,” he said. He nudged Hoseok’s ankle with his toe. “First things first: you gotta start keeping your feet flexed.”

Hoseok didn’t answer, just reached for his water bottle. It was too exhausting to argue with Oliver, especially when he knew it came from a place of insecurity. Oliver had been struggling to keep up all practice. Hoseok had a feeling Oliver was just pointing out all of his flaws just to get some of the attention off of his mistakes.

However, it didn’t make it hurt any less.

“Hoseok’s doing fine,” Mark said, slightly heated.

“Let’s just run it again,” Hoseok said, trying to keep the peace. He couldn’t take any more conflict today. He was too tired, and they had a long way to go if they were ever going to be ready for the showcase.

Lisa –who had previously been sprawled out across the ground like a starfish- dutifully got up to flip on the studio’s crappy CD player. The music started, and not even halfway through the song, Oliver started berating Hoseok’s technique.

“Come on, Hoseok, watch your footwork.”

“Keep your arms up when you turn!”

“Everyone else can do this part, Hoseok, why can’t you?”

“You’re leading into your turn too early!”

Hoseok landed nimbly on his feet and doubled over, hands on his knees. There was still another minute or so left to the song, but Hoseok couldn’t go on. Oliver glared at him. “What do you think you’re doing? We’re only halfway through the routine.”

Hoseok looked up. He could see his cheeks flushing bright pink in the studio mirrors. He was so embarrassed: both for himself and Oliver. His was humiliating, and the more Hoseok felt the eyes of the rest of the dance team on the back of his neck, the more uncomfortable he felt.

“I... I have to go,” he said.

Oliver’s gaze sharpened. “We’re not done.”

“I am,” Hoseok said, running out of the room before Oliver could argue with him anymore.

He didn’t stop running, even as he rounded the corner in the hallway. His chest felt tight; his lungs ached from dance and now running. He was so embarrassed. Panicked tears welled up in his eyes, and without thinking, he made his way to the choir room.

He could hear the piano from the end of the hallway. Hoseok threw open the choir room door, his eyes immediately landing on who he was looking for. “Yoongi.”

His voice must have carried some portion of the anxiety he was feeling because Yoongi’s fingers stopped abruptly on the keys. The chorus kids all winced at the noise it made. “Hobi? What’s going on?”

Hoseok didn’t answer, just bit his lip, and Yoongi stood up from the piano.

“I’ll be right back,” he told the chorus kids milling around the piano.

“Sorry,” Hoseok croaked, when everyone slumped with disappointment. However, Yoongi already had slung and arm around his shoulder and was guiding him out of the music wing. “Sorry,” Hoseok said again. He didn’t mean to drag Yoongi away from his friends.

“No, Hobi, you seem upset. You’re okay,” Yoongi promised, finding a seat for them on the floor outside of the cafeteria. This part of the school building was deserted afterhours. “What’s going on?”

Hoseok curled his knees up to his chest. The brick wall behind him prickled at his neck and shoulders. “You know how relationships are supposed to be good?” he asked, answering Yoongi’s question with one of his own.

Yoongi frowned. “Yeah?”

Hoseok made a whimpering noise in the back of his throat. “Well... Well sometimes it feels like mine isn’t,” he squeaked, hiding his face in his knees.

He felt one of Yoongi’s hands squeeze his shoulder, and Hoseok crumbled inwards on himself. He coughed as he tried to catch a breath, his shoulders wracking with sobs. He hardly felt Yoongi’s hand tracing circles between his shoulder blades. He was too upset.

The worst part of it –the worst part- was that this wasn’t even that unusual. Oliver made fun of him in front of people all the time. He was always teasing him and pushing his buttons. He toed over the line so often; Hoseok didn’t even know where the line was anymore.

He just knew he was tired, and frustrated, and he missed his family. He felt like he had been keeping things from them for far too long.

But Jin would be stressed if he told him what was happening, and Namjoon would be angry. Both of them would probably demand that he broke up with Oliver straight away, and Hoseok wasn’t sure that he wanted to do that. He liked having a boyfriend. He liked holding hands and having someone to trade ‘I love you’s with.

And it was stupid —because plenty of people had proven that they wouldn’t abandon him over the years— but at least Oliver was one more person Hoseok could count on to pay attention to him instead of kick him out of the car in the middle of the highway.

He was frustrated with himself for thinking it, and he was frustrated that he can’t voice any of it; that he had to keep it bottled up. So he cried into his knees while Yoongi futilely tried to keep him calm by sitting with him and rubbing his back.

“Hoseok...” Yoongi said eventually. “You said if it gets worse, you would break up with him. What would Jin and Joon say?”

“You can’t tell Jin and Joon,” Hoseok said sharply, panting around the words. He was crying so hard. “You can’t tell either of them about this.”

“Hoseok, this is a problem.

“Yeah, but it’s my problem, and I don’t want them to know,” Hoseok said, and Yoongi stared at him. His gaze was scrutinizing as his eyes flickered across Hoseok’s face.

“What did he say to you?” Yoongi asked, looking more alarmed by the second.

Hoseok crossed his arms over his stomach. He tilted his head back against the wall, staring up at the ceiling because he couldn’t meet Yoongi’s eye. “Stupid stuff,” he answered. “Today he was just making fun of my dancing, is all. He does stuff like that, sometimes. I don’t think he means it. I think... I don’t think he’s very confident, and I think it somehow helps him to bring me down a peg. Like maybe it makes him feel better.”

“He sounds like a broken person,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok thought about the few things Oliver had said about his parents and home life. “Yeah, I feel really sad for him.”

“No,” Yoongi said sharply, and Hoseok arched an eyebrow, his tears starting to slow. “He has a choice. Everyone chooses how they treat people, and he’s warped if he chooses to take out all his anger on you.”

Hoseok made another whimpering noise and hid his face in his knees again. “You don’t get it.”

“No, I definitely get it. He’s a dick,” Yoongi said.

“He’s not.”

“Then he’s disturbed. How could anyone be mean to you, Hoseok? You’re so good.”

Hoseok palmed tears away from his cheeks. “I’m not anything,” he argued, and Yoongi grabbed his wrist.

“See? See, he’s getting to you. Hoseok, that’s not okay for him to make you feel that way. You know you’re a good person. You’re confident. And you’re funny, and cool, and energetic, and silly, and smiley, and... and good with people, and things don’t phase you,” Yoongi listed. “You’re so many things I wish I could be. And you know it. You know you know it.”

Hoseok sighed, breathing out some of the bad air. He managed a watery smile. “Well, maybe I know a little bit of it,” he said.

“There you go. That’s the Hoseok I know,” Yoongi said, punching his shoulder.

Hoseok’s smile grew a little before it dropped right back into a frown. “You seriously can’t tell Joon and Jin though, okay? I’m... I’m gonna figure things out on my own. Jin’s too stressed about the babies to have to worry about me, too.”

“I don’t think Jin feels that way,” Yoongi said, but with a pleading look from Hoseok, he sighed. “But okay, fine. I guess it is your business... but if you don’t fix things on your own, then I’m going to tell them. I’m your big brother, I can’t let some shitty kid in a Vineyard Vines t-shirt boss around my Hobi.”

That managed a little laugh out of Hoseok. “He doesn’t wear Vineyard Vines.”

“Well does he layer polos? I feel like he probably layers polos,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok snorted into his elbow. He scrubbed the few remaining tear tracks off of his cheeks. “No. He kind of dresses like me.”

“I see,” Yoongi said. “So like you, but douchey.”

“He’s not douchey!” Hoseok argued.

“Oh, he’s definitely douchey. I bet he makes his friends Venmo him back twenty-five cents when he loans them a quarter for a gumball,” Yoongi said. Hoseok couldn’t help but laugh at that one. Yoongi seemed encouraged to see him smiling and didn’t hold back. “Have you seen him in the summer? Because I bet he wears chubbies. No way a kid like that doesn’t wear chubbies.”

“What’s wrong with chubby shorts?” Hoseok asked. “They’re good for tan lines.”

Yoongi arched an eyebrow. “First, tanning? Ew. Second, they’re way too short. It’s like he’s asking to slip some nuttage.”

Hoseok threw back his head, laughing so hard his shoulders wracked against the brick. “Ugh, never say that again. Gross,” he said, wiping mirthful tears from his eyes.

Yoongi blew him off. He threw an arm around Hoseok’s shoulders. “Feeling better, though?” he asked.

Hoseok shrugged. “Not enough to go back to dance, but maybe enough to go hang out in the choir room.”

“Actually, that would be great,” Yoongi said, standing up. He extended a hand to Hoseok to help him off the ground. “I’m trying to get one of the tenors to sing that Bruno Mars song –‘That’s What I Like’- and none of them can get the rhythm.”

“Oh, what, and I can?” Hoseok asked.

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Believe me,” he said, leading the way. “You can.”

Hoseok hummed, shaking off the last of his tears (at least for now). “Well, I’ll give it my best shot, anyway,” he offered, knowing that he could probably figure it out on the fly. He’d been singing with Jimin to the radio on the way home from school this semester, and his voice was getting better. Any practice was good practice.

“Cool, we’ll just chill until Jin comes to pick us up,” Yoongi said. He smacked Hoseok’s shoulder, and Hoseok grinned at the confidence it brought him. It was moments like these that made Hoseok realize: Yoongi was his best friend. There was no question about it.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin knocked on Taehyung and Jimin’s bedroom door as Taehyung practiced his saxophone. “Hey, bud,” he said, waving when Taehyung looked up from his music notes. “Wanna come down and help me with dinner?”

“Depends what you’re making,” Taehyung said. He still looked exhausted from his seizure the day before, but at least he was up and playing his saxophone. That was an improvement.

“Whatever you want, kid.”

“Does that mean miso soup and rice? Because I would like miso soup and rice,” Taehyung said.

Seokjin smiled. “Sure, that’s easy. Wanna be the one to chop the tofu?”

“And the green onions!” Taehyung chirped, carefully putting his saxophone away. He rushed out of his room and down the stairs in front of Seokjin.

Seokjin followed after him, happy Taehyung still seemed to have some of his usual energy. By the time he made it to the kitchen, Taehyung was already bending over to dig out the rice maker from under the island.

Seokjin skirted around him to get to the refrigerator. “What are you getting?” Taehyung asked.

Seokjin waved him off. “Oh, never you mind.”

“What is it?” Taehyung asked.

Seokjin slipped a family pack of pork chops out of its packaging. “Don’t worry about it, just make your rice.”

“You’re making pork chops,” Taehyung pouted as Seokjin got out a cutting board.

“Maybe,” Seokjin answered slyly.

“You don’t want my soup.”

“I do want your soup, I just also want pork chops,” Seokjin answered. If there was one thing he knew for certain, it was that tofu and rice wasn’t enough to hold over his family for dinner. He had five boys (six, if you included Namjoon), and all of them needed a lot of protein to tide them over.

“So can I also make broccoli, then?” Taehyung asked.

Seokjin smiled. “Make whatever you want to make, Tae,” he offered, getting out the ingredients for tonkatsu. Seokjin was quiet for a moment: happy for the peace cooking brought him. The sound of Taehyung rinsing off broccoli and of his knife on the cutting board as he cut off florets was relaxing.

But the peace could only last so long.

“So. I have done some thinking and some searching, and I heard you when you said you didn’t want to do a club at school, so I think I have found the solution,” Seokjin said.

Taehyung looked up, suddenly nervous. “Oh,” he said.

Seokjin nodded, finding the panko breadcrumbs in the pantry. “Yes. What would you think about joining the boy scouts?”

Taehyung paled. “Um. Isn’t that for little kids?” he asked meekly, his eyes flickering over to Jungkook.

Seokjin rolled his shoulders back, trying to look as confident and reassuring as possible. “No, there are lots of high school students in the area who do it, and I’ve talked to the troop leader, and it sounds really, really fun, Taehyung. You’ll get patches based off of things you like, like cooking and astronomy. And you’ll get to do fun activities every week, and learn tons of new things, and I know you like camping, and the boys seem so nice, Tae. They’re Boy Scouts. It’s their job to be helpful and friendly. I think you’ll fit in well with them,” he said.

Taehyung squirmed, and Seokjin knew how worried he was. He couldn’t blame Taehyung for being embarrassed about his seizures. He knew how hard they were on Taehyung, how the anxiety attacks afterwards were the worst part of it. Seokjin wished he could keep Taehyung tucked close to his side so he could help with every tear and tantrum, but it was time for Taehyung to branch out on his own.

Taehyung, obviously thinking the same thing, let out a shaky breath. “Okay,” he agreed.

“Okay?” Seokjin asked. He had been expecting more of a fight, especially with how shaken Taehyung had seemed on the phone with Namjoon on Saturday.

“Okay,” Taehyung said again with a little shrug. He looked defeated.

“Aw, Tae, I’m so proud of you,” Seokjin said. He had been touching raw pork, but he washed his hands just so he could cup Taehyung’s face in his hand and pepper his cheeks with kisses. “You’re so brave, I’m so proud of you. I think you’ll have so much fun; it’ll be so good. You’re so good, TaeTae. My TaeTae,” he cooed, and Taehyung giggled, pushing him off.

A pencil clattered to the ground, stealing Seokjin’s attention. He looked over to Jungkook, who was staring at them wide eyed from his spot at the kitchen table.

“Jungkookie, wanna help us make dinner?” Seokjin offered.

Jungkook shrunk inwards on himself a little. “Um... I dunno,” he answered.

Taehyung, bless him, perked up next to him. “Come on, Kookie, it’ll be fun! I’ll let you be in charge of the red pepper flakes for the broccoli. I know how you like things spicy,” Taehyung offered. Jungkook brightened a little at that.

“Really?”

“Of course!”

“Okay,” Jungkook agreed, standing up hesitantly. He had been timid lately, and it was interesting to watch. Seokjin knew that personality changes didn’t happen overnight, but it was obvious that Jungkook was starting to open up a little. He just didn’t know how.

“Can I trust you?” Taehyung asked, dangling the red pepper flakes in front of Jungkook’s nose (Seokjin inwardly cooed: Jungkook’s nose), and Jungkook snatched them out of his hand, clearly annoyed.

“I’m not stupid, I can do this on my own,” he scowled.

Taehyung for his part just snorted. “Of course,” he agreed. He passed Jungkook a cookie sheet and some basting oil. “You just might need these first.”

Jungkook rolled his eyes, but looked to Taehyung expectantly as he waited for further instructions. Seokjin smirked. Personalities may not change overnight, but attitudes certainly did.

Seokjin let Taehyung take over, showing Jungkook how to roast broccoli so it was crispy on the top and make rice so it was soft but not mushy. Taehyung absorbed information like a sponge, and he hadn’t needed Seokjin’s help to make any of his favorite meals since he was in middle school.

Meanwhile, Seokjin puttered about the kitchen, finishing off the pork and singing under his breath as he worked.

“Hey, what’s that song?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin frowned. He hadn’t been paying attention to what he was singing.

“’I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ by the Temptations,” Jimin answered as he walked into the kitchen, his hair freshly damp from the shower. He grabbed an apple from the island.

Jungkook seemed unnerved that Jimin had crept up on him, but he still rinsed off the green onions Taehyung needed for the soup. “... You used to sing that when we were little, right?” Jungkook asked hesitantly.

“Yep,” Jimin answered before Seokjin could. “And ‘Get Ready,’ and ‘My Girl,’ and ‘Just My Imagination,’ and-“

“I sang a lot of the Temptations,” Seokjin admitted. “But you can blame Jimin for that. Somewhere along the way he got a taste for older music. For a little while, it was all that could calm him down. Do you remember that, Minnie?”

“A little,” Jimin said with a shrug. “I still like it best when I’m mad.”

“I listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra by extension,” Taehyung piped up. “Jimin is always playing weird stuff in our room.”

“It’s not weird, it’s classic,” Jimin said, tossing his apple at Taehyung. Taehyung fumbled with it, but managed to catch it, if only just.

“Oi, no throwing things in my kitchen,” Seokjin scolded, and Jimin scratched the back of his neck sheepishly.

Taehyung took a bite of Jimin’s apple and offered it to Jungkook. “Want a bite?” he asked.

Jungkook looked as it hesitantly, his eyes flickering up to meet Seokjin’s before he grew embarrassed and looked away. “I... I guess,” he answered, taking the apple from Taehyung. He bit into it and Taehyung ruffled his hair.

Seokjin smiled. Jungkook was just getting his sea legs when it came to this whole “acting like a family” thing but, already he seemed to be getting along well with Taehyung. And Taehyung needed more social interactions. With any luck, this could be a profitable relationship for the both of them.

Seokjin sighed. If only all his kids could be this easy.

Chapter Text

JIMIN

“Okay, so talk to me. What do you know about the religions of India?” Seokjin asked.

Seokjin had been curled up on the sofa with a book when Jimin got dropped off from cheerleading. Now his book was replaced with Jimin’s history study guide, and Jimin was sprawled out on the floor, stretching while his dad quizzed him for his next test. Upstairs, Jimin could hear Yoongi practicing his piano.

“Um...” Jimin chewed on his bottom lip as he fixed his legs into a butterfly stretch. He touched his nose to his toes. “Well, can you give me one and then I’ll tell you about it?” he asked.

“Just pick whichever one you want to start with,” Seokjin suggested.

Jimin groaned and tried to flatten his back a little more. “Um... Well, Hinduism is a big one, I guess.”

“Yeah?” Seokjin asked, twirling a pencil in one hand. “And how many people practice it?”

Jimin switched into pigeon pose. “One billion. It’s 15% of the world population.”

“Is it only largely practiced in India? What about other countries?”

“Oh, yeah! There’s Nepal, and Mauritius, and.... um, the Caribbean, and Bali in Indonesia,” Jimin recalled. He straightened up and unbent his front leg, lowering his hips into a split. He bent down to grab his toes.

“Geez, kid, I don’t know how you do it,” Seokjin said, watching him. “You’re so flexible.”

Jimin bent his elbows as he lowered himself further. “Mm, I think it was all the gymnastics,” he said. Jimin hadn’t always been a cheerleader. He used to do gymnastics, but all the other boys in his gym quit and he didn’t like practicing rings and parallel bars all by himself while the girls did balance beams and uneven bars across the room. At least in cheerleading, everything was mixed so he still had friends. Plus, he got to dance a little.

(He would never tell Hoseok, but he had always thought his dancing was cool. Hoseok was awesome. Jimin wanted to be awesome, too. Maybe cheerleading didn’t have much in common with hip-hop, but Jimin and Hoseok could still bond over dance.)

“I think so, too,” Seokjin agreed. “I’m actually really jealous. I’ve been doing yoga for longer than you’ve been alive, and I can’t stretch like you can.

Jimin snorted and switched sides, starting again with pigeon. “No one can stretch like I can,” he said.

Seokjin set the study guide on the coffee table for a moment. “Really, though. You’re pretty incredible, Jimin. I’m really proud of you for sticking with a sport like you have; you always do your best —in sports and school— and it shows,” he said.

Jimin felt his cheeks heat up. “I don’t know if it shows,” he said weakly. There was a Spanish quiz burning a hole through his backpack that said otherwise. At least the C he got on this one was better than the D he got on the last one. He’d have to get Bs on the next three if he wanted to stay on the cheerleading team.

For a minute, there was only the sound of Yoongi’s piano. Eventually, Seokjin spoke up. “Minnie?”

Jimin grunted, too doubled over to answer properly.

“How have you been feeling lately? Are you okay?”

Jimin sat up at that. He looked at his dad, eyes wide. “What do you mean?” he asked. He was used to Seokjin asking that question to Yoongi and Taehyung, but they had real issues. Yoongi had OCD; he was anxious. Taehyung was epileptic and prone to panic attacks in the hours after a seizure. But Jimin was just Jimin. He didn’t think he needed to be checked up on.

“Nothing, nothing,” Seokjin promised, tucking his pencil behind his ear and grabbing his teacup instead. “I’m just asking how you are.”

Jimin frowned. “Um... I guess I’m okay. Things in the squad were tense for awhile, but it’s fixed now.”

“How so?” Seokjin asked, casually sipping his tea. He didn’t sound probing, just curious. Jimin relaxed into the conversation.

“So, like, last week, Nayeon kissed Jihyo’s ex-boyfriend at a party, and everyone was really mad and like... took sides and stuff. But Nayeon apologized, and everything is okay now,” he answered.

Seokjin nodded encouragingly. “That’s good, I’m glad your friend group is back to normal,” he said. “It sounds like Nayeon sometimes makes decisions without thinking.”

“Seriously! Whenever everyone fights it’s because she did something dumb,” he said, but then felt guilty. He backtracked. “But, I mean, she apologizes and stuff, so it’s not so bad.”

“She’s just growing up,” Seokjin agreed. He stirred his tea and nudged his can of honey chipotle almonds towards Jimin. Jimin took a handful gratefully. “What else is happening in your life, though? I feel like I don’t really know what’s going on with you.”

Jimin tensed. “Nothing’s really going on,” he said. He winced at how fake he sounded.

“I’ve been noticing- Well...“ Seokjin paused in thought and took a sip from his mug. “I don’t know how to put it. You just seem a little more... self-deprecating lately, I suppose.”

“Oh,” Jimin said. He pulled his knees to his chest.

Seokjin hummed. “It’s just... I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything. I feel like maybe as a teenager, it’s hard to believe you can talk to your parents, but you really can, you know? Even if you think we might get mad, Namjoon and I just love you so much. If you’re having a hard time, we want to know so we can help you.”

“Okay,” Jimin said. All of a sudden, words burned at the back of his throat. He almost spilled everything about his projected grades, his threatened position on the team, and his self-doubts right then and there. But for some reason, he bit his tongue. “I’ll come to you when... when I need you.”

Seokjin smiled wanly. “You don’t have to need me, Minnie. We can just... talk. About whatever you want, whenever you want.”

Jimin didn’t have a response. Yoongi had stopped playing the piano. The house was quiet.

Seokjin put down his mug. “Like, for example, we can talk about karma,” Seokjin suggested, picking up the study packet. “What can you tell me about it?”

Jimin let out a breath of air he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “Ah, everything, that’s easy,” he said, grateful for the change of topic. “It’s ‘the spiritual principle of cause and effect’ where a person’s intent and actions influence their future,” he defined.

“Nice,” Seokjin said. Yoongi’s piano started up again upstairs. “So what happens if you do a lot of good things?”

“You get a lot of happiness in your next life,” Jimin answered.

“And if you do bad things?

“You face a lot of sorrow and hardship in your next life.”

“Ah, see, you don’t need my help studying for history, you already know everything,” Seokjin said, clapping for him like he was five-years-old and wrote his name properly for the first time. Jimin would be lying if he said he didn’t like it.

“But you’ll still help me anyway, right?” Jimin asked, just double-checking.

“Of course,” Seokjin said. “Anything you need, I’m here for you,” he promised, and Jimin wondered to what extent that was true.


 

YOONGI

Yoongi had been at the piano all afternoon. As much as he loved playing, he was pretty sure he’d die if he practiced “Starving” one more time. It had to be perfect for Irene’s solo, but Yoongi had long-since gotten it down pat. He could play it perfectly; he just wanted to be sure he could play it perfectly.

Sometimes his OCD made him practice songs one too many times. He just wanted to be absolutely sure he wouldn’t mess up his accompaniment. Just because he didn’t mess up last time, it didn’t mean he wouldn’t mess up the next time. He had to play it perfectly at least ten, twenty, thirty times in a row before he believed he could do it properly.

He was about to start the song again, when there was a knock at the door.

Yoongi got up from his keyboard, only to find Taehyung with his saxophone case standing out in the hallway. “Hey, wanna jam together?” he asked. Yoongi frowned and looked back at his piano. His more anxious side said he needed to keep practicing, but his more logical side said it was time to take a break.

“Um...” He bit his lip, not sure what to do. “Um, yes. Yeah. Okay. Wanna go downstairs?”

“You never let me in your room,” Taehyung whined.

Yoongi pushed past him out into the hallway, closing his bedroom door behind him. “The better piano is downstairs,” he said as an excuse.

“Who cares?”

“Tae, I’m not playing my crappy keyboard while you play your actual nice saxophone. It wouldn’t do it justice.”

Taehyung groaned, following Yoongi down the steps. “Fine. But only because Nelly really does deserve the best,” he said. He took out his saxophone by Seokjin’s desk. “She’s a beaut, ain’t she?”

“She’s something all right,” Yoongi agreed, but he couldn’t judge. Taehyung named his saxophone Nelly, but Yoongi had named his keyboard Antoinette. (He just never said her name out loud, was all). “What do you want to play?”

“Wait, first, check this out,” Taehyung said. He took a deep breath and blasted the sax solo to “Careless Whisper,” brandishing his saxophone like a man twenty years older and twenty times cooler.

“Ah, you finally learned it,” Yoongi said, impressed.

“Jealous?” Taehyung asked.

“You wish,” Yoongi snorted. He let his fingers dance across the keys for a moment, playing the left hand part to some classical piece he couldn’t remember the name of.

“Wait, do that again,” Taehyung said, leaning against the back of the couch with his saxophone tucked in close to his body.

“What this?” Yoongi played the same few notes again. Taehyung copied it on his saxophone. “Ah, that sounds good,” Yoongi said, sitting up a bit. He played the right hand part while Taehyung repeated the left. “You know, I was thinking. Maybe there’s a sax solo somewhere in ‘Cold Water.’”

Taehyung blinked at him.

“The Justin Bieber song?” Yoongi clarified.

“Um...”

“Taehyung, there is no way you don’t know about Justin Bieber. He sings ‘Baby,’ ‘Sorry,’ ‘Love Yourself’... ‘What Do You Mean’? Do any of those ring a bell?” he asked. Taehyung still looked at him blankly, and Yoongi groaned. “Don’t make me start singing, Tae, I’m no good at it.”

“The one that’s like ‘baby, baby, baby, oh’?” Taehyung asked, uncertainty written across his face.

Yoongi’s posture slumped in relief. “Yes, that’s the one,” he said, happy that Taehyung knew who he was talking about. The funniest things slipped by Taehyung sometimes. “And the song I was talking about is like... ugh, geez.” He cleared his throat, posing his fingers on the piano keys. He played out the melody to help his awful singing voice. “And if you feel you’re sinking, I would jump right over into cold, cold water for you. And although time may take us into different places, I will still be patient with you, and I hope you know, I won’t let go.”

Taehyung brightened. “Oh, okay! Minnie sings that one!”

“Right,” Yoongi said. “So, like I said, I think there could be a sax solo in there, we just have to find it.”

“Like write one?” Taehyung asked.

Yoongi crinkled his nose. “We don’t have to.”

“No, no!” Taehyung chirped, fitting himself next to Yoongi on the piano bench. “I love writing with you,” he said. It was obvious he was fighting back a smile, and Yoongi fought the urge to ruffle his hair. Taehyung was the dorkiest little brother of all time. All Yoongi had to do was look at Taehyung, and it was enough to make him happy.

“Shut up,” Yoongi said, elbowing him in the ribs. Just because everyone else in his family was corny, it didn’t mean he had to be.

“No, really! You’re so good at it, and like... It’s cool making music. I’m not so good at making things up on my own, but you always have good ideas. Like Namjoon, you know? Are you gonna study music theory like he did? Or composition? Or both?!”

Yoongi’s blood ran cold. Without intending to, he started practicing “Starving” again, just to keep his hands busy. The last thing he needed right now was to talk about college. “I’m not sure,” he answered, hoping to drop the conversation.

“Didn’t dad do a composition minor? Or a concentration? I’m not good at telling the difference between things like that. Do you know?” Taehyung asked.

Yoongi played a little louder. “No.”

“Oh, okay. Hey, where do you want to go to college anyway?”

“Listen, I don’t want to talk about college right now,” Yoongi said, keeping his eyes trained on his fingertips. He was panicking so badly, it was hard to breathe. He raced through the song, trying to get in as many play-throughs as he possibly could. His heart felt like it was beating in his ears.

“Why not?” Taehyung asked.

“I just don’t want to, Taehyung. Can we please just drop it?”

Taehyung blinked. “But-“

“Taehyung, take a hint!”

Taehyung stiffened next to him, and Yoongi immediately felt bad for snapping. He was just stressed, he wasn’t actually angry. “Okay, I’m sorry,” Taehyung agreed quickly. There was an uncomfortable pause in the conversation before Taehyung broke it with an awkward laugh. He scratched at the back of his neck sheepishly. “Aha, sorry, I’m just not the best at things like that sometimes.”

Yoongi’s playing slowed to a stop. “No, it’s fine, it’s my fault. Let’s just... let’s just focus on music, okay? I really do want to write something with you. It would be cool, you were right.”

“Really?” Taehyung asked hopefully.

“Yeah, whatever,” he said with a shrug. It wasn’t much, but Taehyung still visibly brightened next to him. Taehyung was dorky, yes, but he was so genuine and kind that Yoongi didn’t mind spending time with him. “Play me a little something on Nelly to give us some inspiration.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking for,” Taehyung said with a smirk, bringing his saxophone back up to his mouth. Yoongi winced when he played a little too loudly in his ear. At least now they were playing music instead of talking. Yoongi was better at expressing himself musically than vocally anyway.


 

JUNGKOOK

Jungkook walked into the kitchen, and Hoseok gasped.

“Is that who I think it is? Do my eyes deceive me?” Hoseok asked, rubbing his eyes and blinking owlishly at Jungkook as he grabbed a cereal bowl. “Am I really seeing Jungkookie awake and downstairs before noon?”

“Shut up,” Jungkook muttered, pouring himself a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats and keeping his head down. He didn’t want to have to bother Seokjin with driving him to school anymore. If that meant waking up in time to catch the bus, he would do it. He didn’t need his brothers making a big deal about it.

“Awake, but still cranky I see,” Yoongi snorted.

“Not all of us can be morning people,” Taehyung said. For a second, Jungkook thought Taehyung was teasing him, too, but then- “Leave Kookie alone. He’s trying his best.”

“He is trying his best,” Seokjin agreed, overhearing the conversation as he walked into the kitchen. He pressed a kiss to the crown of Jungkook’s head as he walked by. Jungkook scowled into his cereal.

“Dad,” Jimin said, suddenly sitting up at the table. Seokjin hummed in response, already having busied himself with stuffing lunchboxes into backpacks. “Do you think some of the cheer girls could come over after school today?”

Seokjin arched an eyebrow. “How many is some?” he asked.

“Just four or five.”

Seokjin eyed him warily. “As long as the whole team doesn’t end up crammed in my kitchen while I’m trying to cook, it’s fine.”

“Really?” Jimin asked, excitement already clear as day on his face.

“Sure.”

“I never get to have friends over,” Jungkook whined.

“That’s because you’re annoying and don’t deserve anything nice,” Yoongi said, sticking his tongue out. Jungkook’s face flamed bright red. Insults burned at the tip of his tongue, but before he could say anything back, his dad stuck up for him.

Seokjin leveled Yoongi with a look that could bring fully-grown men to their knees “Yoongi is that any way to talk to your brother?” he asked. Jungkook crinkled his nose, happy to not be on the receiving end of Seokjin’s glare for once.

“Um... No,” Yoongi said.

“So what should you say?”

“Sorry,” Yoongi answered, and then turned to Jungkook. “I’m sorry, Kookie,” he said, like they were back in elementary school and Yoongi had knocked over his block tower. It was impossible to take him seriously. Jungkook clenched his hands into fists.

“Fuck you,” he snapped.

“Try again,” Seokjin said. His voice sounded dangerous.

Jungkook flinched. “Sorry,” he apologized. “It’s okay, Yoongi. Sorry for swearing at you.”

Yoongi looked unimpressed. “It’s fine,” he said, but his tone indicated that it really, really wasn’t. Fortunately, there wasn’t any more time to stick around. Yoongi got up from the table with his book bag. “Gotta go catch the bus,” Yoongi said, practically running away.

Hoseok and Jimin got up quickly, too. “See you later, Dad,” Jimin said, bouncing over to Seokjin to give him a quick hug goodbye. Jungkook watched awkwardly. He didn’t want to stand at end of the driveway if Yoongi was there. Maybe he didn’t care about missing the bus after all.

“Bye, Dad,” Taehyung said, waving.

Seokjin cradled Taehyung’s face in both hands before he could pass by. “Have a good day. Try to get out of your comfort zone a little,” he said, pulling Taehyung closer to kiss his forehead. Jungkook tried to walk past, but Seokjin stopped him before he could. “Make good choices,” he warned before giving Jungkook a kiss, too.

Jungkook stood stunned. The sound of screeching brakes announced the bus’s arrival outside.

“Come on, Kookie,” Taehyung said, grabbing his wrist and pulling him out the door.

Jungkook got on the bus and took a window seat. He rested his head on the glass, hugging his backpack close to his chest. He stared at his house and tried to parse through his feelings. In some ways, he felt like such an outsider. In other ways, he felt so at home.


 

HOSEOK

Between fourth and fifth period, Hoseok felt hands pinch at his sides. He jumped about three feet in the air. “Geez, you’re so jumpy,” Oliver teased, grabbing him by his hips again. Hoseok pushed him away.

“Well, yeah, you just tasered me,” he complained, batting away Oliver’s hands. He quickly glanced at the people milling around them, worried about how Oliver’s grabby hands might look. “Are you sure you want to keep things secret still?” he asked as Oliver pulled him in closer. “You’re all over me lately.”

“You’re not allowed to-“

Tell anyone,” Hoseok finished. “Yeah, yeah, I know, I just...” he trailed off as Oliver pulled him into the bathroom. “It’s been awhile, I don’t know,” he said. Oliver dragged him into a bathroom stall and immediately attached his mouth to Hoseok’s neck.

“Yeah, but-“ Oliver connected a trail of kisses from his collarbone to his ear. “No one has to know, do they?”

“No, but, I don’t know, I’d like to talk about it with other people,” he explained. He shuffled away from Oliver a little, backing into the stall door. They didn’t have much time. Hoseok had to get to the other side of the school in two minutes, or he’d be late to class.

“Why?” Oliver asked distractedly. He was more preoccupied with biting at Hoseok’s jaw than their conversation.

“I don’t know. To talk about you and the cute things you do. And so I don’t have to lie when I tell my parents where I’m going and who I’m seeing. And so I can ask for advice when things are hard. Like... Like I really want to tell Jin.”

That seemed to catch Oliver’s attention. “What the fuck? Why?” he asked, his grip on Hoseok’s waist tightening. Hoseok squirmed. Sometimes Oliver held onto him so forcefully, it hurt.

“Because- Because he’s my dad?” Hoseok sputtered, not sure how to answer the question with Oliver glaring at him. He didn’t want to make Oliver any angrier with him than he already was, and sometimes he could be a little erratic. Hoseok had no idea what he wanted to hear.

“But I told you that I-“

“Don’t want anyone to know. I know,” Hoseok promised. “I know. Just... I really don’t think my parents would have a problem with it. Like they’re gay. Two men in love. They share a bed and everything,” he said, gesturing awkwardly. “I think they’d get it, and they’d get keeping it secret. They wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“But it doesn’t matter because you’re not telling anyone,” Oliver said firmly.

“Ollie, I know you’re not out yet, but they’re my parents, I-“

Oliver’s nails dug into his sides. “Shut up. Stop arguing with me about this! I know what I want, and I don’t want your stupid ugly parents all up in our business.”

“I just want them to know,” Hoseok said, thinking about his conversation with Yoongi. He wasn’t sure he wanted to tell them about how Oliver was treating him, but he could really use their advice. This didn’t feel right. If there was anyone in the world who knew what a good relationship was supposed to look like, it was Namjoon and Seokjin. Maybe they would be able to figure out what was so broken about his.

“God, you’re such a baby! I swear you go running to your parents for every little thing. You’re so immature, Hoseok. You’re so dumb, I have no idea why I’m dating you. Sometimes you’re such an idiot,” Oliver snapped.

Hoseok felt the air knock out of his lungs. He must have looked like he was on the brink of crying because Oliver quickly started apologizing.

“Oh, geez, Hoseok, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. Here, come here,” he said, expression softening. He leaned in to kiss Hoseok sweetly on the lips, but it didn’t feel sweet to Hoseok. It felt disgusting, like Oliver’s lips were dead on his. Vomit stung the back of his throat. It felt like kissing a corpse.

But he didn’t push Oliver away.

“Don’t cry, baby. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Hoseok kept his lips in a thin straight line as Oliver cupped his face between his hands, kissing his cheeks and forehead without permission. He squeezed his eyes closed. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t right.

“I have to get to class,” Hoseok squeaked, hoisting his backpack higher on his shoulders. He reached for the lock on the stall door.

“Don’t leave angry,” Oliver said, grabbing his wrist before he could leave. His grip was strong.

“I’m not,” Hoseok promised. And he wasn’t angry, he just... he needed to get out of this bathroom before he started suffocating. “I just need to get to class.”

“Okay,” Oliver agreed, letting go of his wrist and granting him permission to leave. “I love you. So much.”

“Yeah,” Hoseok agreed numbly.

Oliver stepped closer and kissed at his neck again. “No one could ever love you like I do,” he whispered in his ear, and Hoseok shivered.

“I need to go,” he repeated, but he reached out to squeeze Oliver’s hand. “But I love you, too. Sorry for pressuring you. We’ll tell people when you want to tell people,” he conceded. Oliver smiled, and Hoseok squeaked when he kissed him so hard, his body slammed back against the stall door.


 

NAMJOON

When Namjoon got home from work, he was surprised to find his living room full of teenage girls. They squeaked when he entered the room, leaning towards each other and sending him smirks as they whispered behind their hands. “Oh, sorry ladies. Excuse me,” he said, ducking back into the kitchen.

“Back so soon?” Seokjin asked when Namjoon rejoined him by the stove.

“Why didn’t you warn me?” he asked.

“About what?” Seokjin asked, feigning innocence.

“About the entire high school cheerleading team sitting in our living room,” Namjoon seethed, buttoning up an extra button or two on his dress shirt. “I think they ogled me when I walked in. I was ogled.

Seokjin smirked as he fluffed up the rice in the rice cooker. He looked entirely too pleased with the situation. “Don’t tell Jimin, but apparently, Chaeyoung thinks your cute.”

Namjoon blanched. “What? How do you even know that?”

“They told me while Jimin was in the bathroom,” Seokjin answered casually. Meanwhile, Namjoon was still squirming uncomfortably in his shoes. “Chaeyoung asked when you would be coming home, and Dahyun helpfully explained that she was only asking because she likes you. Like... like-likes you.”

Namjoon hid his face behind his hands on the verge of an existential crisis. “Oh my gosh. I’m going to jail for statutory rape.”

Seokjin swatted his hip with a dishtowel. “Oh, relax,” Seokjin said. “She’s just a teenager with a crush. Nothing is going to happen. You’re already spoken for.” And if that wasn’t a reminder enough, Seokjin kissed his cheek just to prove it.

“Just get them out of here,” Namjoon groaned. He had no idea how to talk to teenage girls, and he was always thrown off his game when Jimin invited his girl friends over. He was awkward around most of the boys’ friends, but their lady friends were even worse.

“Already on it. Tzuyu’s mom should be here any minute to take them all home,” Seokjin promised.

True to his word, a blue Honda pulled up the driveway a few minutes later. The girls left, shouting their goodbyes from the front door. Meanwhile, Seokjin finished putting dinner on the table, and Namjoon put out the plates and silverware. Technically, it was Yoongi’s turn to set the table, but he was at his friend Yugyeom’s house for dinner and wouldn’t be home until later.

The family ended up sitting around the table a little later than normal, but it just meant that the boys dug in a little more enthusiastically than usual (and there wasn’t anything wrong with enjoying Jin’s cooking.)

“So, Hobi. You seem quiet. Is everything okay?” Seokjin asked from the foot of the table. Hoseok was slumped over his plate, picking at his stir-fry unhappily.

“Yeah, just a long day,” he sighed.

It was clear he didn’t want to talk about it. Namjoon shared a look with his husband over the table, and Seokjin wrinkled his nose at him. Namjoon focused back on his food, confident Seokjin would be the one to follow up with Hoseok later when there weren’t five other sets of ears listening.

“How about you, Jimin?” Namjoon asked. “How was hanging out with your friends?”

“Great!” Jimin chirped. “I had a really good time. Mina’s new new boyfriend apparently does cricket-spitting competitions on the weekends, and he made her try it.”

“There’s cricket-spitting competitions around here?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung gasped before Seokjin could get his answer. “There’s cricket-spitting competitions?!” he asked excitedly. “What? How?! How do you compete?!”

Namjoon smirked. It certainly seemed like something right up Taehyung’s alley. The knowing smile on Jimin’s face said he was thinking the exact same thing. “You eat a cricket and see how far you can spit it.”

“A live one or a dried one?” Taehyung asked.

“A live one,” Jimin answered.

“You can feel the legs twitching in your mouth and everything,” Namjoon said from experience.

Taehyung gasped excitedly, and Seokjin raised an eyebrow. “You’ve cricket-spit?”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Namjoon said mysteriously. He narrowed his eyes at Seokjin suggestively while he took a sip from his water glass.

The eye roll Seokjin offered him in response was impressive. “Now, I know that’s not true.”

“What can I say? I’m just full of surprises,” Namjoon teased again. Taehyung looked at him like he hung the moon and the stars.

“What else have you done?” he asked.

Jimin’s eyes sparked with interest. “Yeah! What other crazy things have you done?”

Namjoon’s eyes caught Seokjin’s once again. He didn’t know how to answer. “Ah, maybe ask Jin, he knows more about my life than I do, actually,” he said.

“No, why don’t you answer, babe? I’m sure the boys would love to hear a story from you. What about you, Jungkook? What do you think?” Seokjin asked, effectively pulling Jungkook into the conversation. Their youngest looked up from his plate, startled.

“Oh, um... Sure,” he said, stirring his rice and vegetables together.

“Yeah, come on, dad! Tell us a story,” Jimin begged.

“Come on, dad,” Seokjin teased, leaning back in his chair.

Namjoon sighed. He wasn’t always great at telling stories about his childhood. Honestly, his life before college was one giant mess. He usually only talked about growing up in the context of “life lessons” and lectures about gratitude. It wasn’t until college that anything interesting happened to him. “Well... Have I ever told you about the time I was kidnapped?”

“You were kidnapped?” Hoseok asked, sitting up at the table. For the first time that evening, he seemed interested in the dinner conversation.

“Sort of,” Namjoon answered.

“What does ‘sort of’ mean?” Jungkook asked, his adorable bunny nose crinkling. It took everything Namjoon had not to lean across the table and kiss his nose on repeat. He was just too cute.

“So,” Namjoon took a bite and set down his fork. “In college, a lot of the clubs you join —especially the prestigious ones— have a ton of traditions, especially when it comes to initiating new members. And I wanted to be in this club that was... I don’t know, I guess it was pretty special.”

Seokjin snorted. “It was this crazy elite, secret society for only the top music students at the college,” he corrected. “Joon couldn’t even tell me the name of it. They only accepted students with a perfect 4.0 GPA.”

“Well, don’t make a big deal about it,” Namjoon said, squirming.

“You had to play four instruments to even be considered.

“Does Yoongi’s drum machine count as an instrument?” Taehyung asked, counting on his fingers.

Namjoon waved away the question. “We’re getting off track,” he said. “Basically, I wanted to be in this club, but it was really exclusive. So for a few weeks, I had to carry this guy Brady’s books around campus, and rub his feet, and give him my tips from work-“

“You had a job in college?” Jimin interrupted.

“Namjoon worked at T.G.I. Friday’s,” Seokjin said, snickering, and Namjoon’s cheeks flared red.

“We don’t talk about T.G.I. Friday’s,” he said firmly. He punched the table but it only made Seokjin laugh harder, and Namjoon thought he might die of shame as he remembered his uniform and suspenders with 27 pieces of flair. “But right, so I was doing all this work and following Brady around everywhere. And then one day, we were driving across campus in his car with his friends, when someone in the back suddenly threw a pillowcase over my head.”

“What?” Jimin squeaked. He leaned forward in his seat, and Namjoon was relieved that at least one of his kids was interested in his story.

“Right? So I was like... freaking out.”

“Namjoon was still kind of twitchy at the time,” Seokjin explained. When Namjoon glared at him, he put his hands up in surrender. “But cute twitchy. That’s why I liked you; you were a nervous, thoughtful little pumpkin.”

“A blind-folded pumpkin,” Hoseok tacked on.

Namjoon nodded. “Yeah. I couldn’t see anything. And they duct-taped my arms to the armrests, and I didn’t fight them because I figured it might be a test to get into the club, and I didn’t want to ruin my chances. But as they were driving, they kept flooring it and then slamming on the breaks, so I was, like... flying around the car even with my seatbelt on.

“We drove for over an hour. I thought we were leaving the state. I thought they were taking me somewhere crazy, but I realize now that they were just driving randomly all over town to confuse me. And then the car stopped and they made me get out.”

“Did they take the blindfold off?” Jimin asked, clearly invested.

“No, they left it on, but I could tell I was in some field. Like... there was just this sense of there being nothing around. And I could feel tall grass up to my ankles, and by this point, it was pitch black and there were no lights around so I figured we were in the middle of nowhere. But they made me line up with these other four guys and do all this crazy stuff. Like we had to stand on one foot until it literally hurt. And we had to spin in circles and jump up and down.”

Taehyung looked amazed, while Jungkook looked skeptical. “Still blindfolded?” he asked.

Namjoon nodded. “Of course. And with our wrists duct-taped together.”

“And then what?” Jimin asked, leaning in further.

“And then we had to go on this hike through the woods. And I kept tripping over everything because I couldn’t see-“

“And also because you’re clumsy,” Jungkook muttered under his breath.

Namjoon ignored him. “And while we were walking, one of the graduate students kept reading out the club handbook, which was.... probably the creepiest part of it? It was like, ‘You will honor the organization and its members. You will respect the code. You will blindly follow the rules put in place by the founders, by generations past, and by your council members. You will die for the cause.’”

Jimin dropped his fork. “And this is a music club?” he asked. “It sounds like a cult!”

“It was a little cult-y,” Namjoon admitted. “But after that, we ended up in the attic of the graduate student housing, and we had to like... repeat some weird oath and drink wine from the oldest member’s belly button, which was... hairy. And gross. But I got into the club, so I guess it was worth it.”

“I think Yoongi would be gagging if he heard that story,” Hoseok said thoughtfully.

Namjoon smirked. “That’s why I told it when he wasn’t here.”

“That’s crazy!” Jimin said, still reeling.

Taehyung nodded. He looked just as amazed. “That is crazy. It’s like something that you read about happening or you watch on TV. I didn’t think people actually did that kind of thing.”

“It was wild,” Namjoon agreed. “But it was a pretty good night. That’s how I got my college nickname,” he said. Seokjin immediately started laughing, and Namjoon’s cheeks turned pink.

“What was your nickname?”

Namjoon flushed a little deeper. “Um...”

Fortunately, Seokjin took over. “Okay, so basically, in a lot of college clubs you get a nickname based on the members’ first impressions of you. So maybe you get a nickname from a weird facial feature, or an opening story you tell, or the way you introduce yourself. But apparently, the only thing Namjoon could talk about on the night of his induction to the most exclusive club on campus was me,” he said, his eyes twinkling.

Namjoon smoothed his hands over his face. “We had just started dating,” he explained.

“And so he ended up with the nickname: Homeo,” Seokjin said, snorting.

“Like ‘Romeo’ but... homosexual,” Namjoon said with a sigh. “I was maybe a little too obsessed with Seokjin at the time. But in my defense, he was older and nice to me.”

“Older and nice to you?” Hoseok clarified.

“Of course. Jin has always been nice to me,” Namjoon answered.

“And I’ve always been older than you,” Seokjin said, which was a bad enough joke that the entire table groaned.

“Jin...” Hoseok chewed on his bottom lip. “You still respect Joon even though he’s younger than you, right? And you always have? Like you’ve always listened to him and stuff?”

Seokjin frowned. “Well, I’d like to think I have.”

“You definitely have,” Namjoon promised.

“Okay,” Hoseok said, going back to picking at his rice. Namjoon looked around the table, worried that he had missed something, but the only thing worth noting was the look Taehyung was giving Hoseok. Before he could question it, Jimin spoke up.

“I want to get kidnapped someday.”

“I could make that happen,” Seokjin said. “Come here, kid.” Jimin dove out of his chair before Seokjin could lock him into a headlock. Jungkook stole a piece of his chicken while he was otherwise occupied.

Namjoon sighed contentedly. It wasn’t until he spent time with his family like this that he realized how much he missed them during the day. It was nice to be able to share his stories with his kids and mess around with them at the dinner table. He wished he could freeze time so he would never have to watch them grow up.

A sudden thought struck him. “Hey, Jungkook. Would you want to come to the studio tomorrow?”

Jungkook froze, a piece of pepper suspended in midair between his mouth and his fork. “Um... Me?”

Namjoon nodded. “Yeah. It’s been awhile since we’ve spent time together.”

“No fair,” Taehyung pouted. “I wanna go.”

“You can come next week,” Namjoon promised. “Or whenever, I just feel like maybe I should invite Kookie this time around.”

Normally, Namjoon would expect Jungkook to blow him off in an instant. He had been so ornery lately; it was hard to get him to agree to anything, especially anything that involved spending time together. But for the past couple days, Jungkook had seemed a little softer around the edges. Maybe he had a shot.

Jungkook hesitated. His eyes flickered between his brothers, his plate, and back to Namjoon again. “Ah... Well, do I have to go?” he asked.

Seokjin shot him a look across the table, and Namjoon took the hint. “I think it would be best if you came, yes,” he said. He didn’t actually want to force Jungkook into spending time with him, but if ordering Jungkook into coming to his studio saved him some embarrassment, then he would do it.

“The only thing is... Well, I don’t know how comfortable I feel about Jungkook taking the train by himself,” Seokjin spoke up.

“I’ll take him!” Taehyung chirped, trying to weasel his way into the outing. Seokjin smiled at him fondly.

“I don’t know how comfortable I feel about you taking the train by yourself either, peanut.”

“I’ll pick him up from the train station. He’ll be okay,” Namjoon promised. “I take that line every day, it’s practically empty around 2 or 3 on weekdays. And he knows the stops and how to buy a ticket... He’ll be okay.”

Seokjin still looked antsy.

Namjoon wished he could take his husband’s hand. “He can do it, babe, he’s growing up.”

Seokjin looked pensive for another minute, but eventually sighed. “Okay, fine. I’ll pick him up early from school and drive him to the station, just to make sure he’s all right. And then he will text me when he’s on the train, and then you both will text me when he’s made it there safely, and then I will take Yoongi to Dr. Kroger’s in the afternoon and Taehyung to his scout meeting that night.”

“And I’ll pick Jimin and Hoseok up from cheerleading and dance when I get back,” Namjoon said.

“Perfect,” Seokjin said, diving back into his meal. A happy Jin was an eating Jin, so Namjoon felt good about their plans. He really wanted to spend some one on one time with Jungkook; they could both use it.

Not perfect,” Taehyung muttered under his breath.

“Don’t worry, kid; you’re going to love it,” Namjoon promised. “I was a scout when I was in middle school. I promise, it’s right up your alley.”

Taehyung huffed into his rice, but didn’t otherwise respond. Fortunately, Jimin was there to cheer him up. “Yeah, TaeTae, I’m sure you’ll make friends! It’s cool to be in a club. Look at all the friends I made in cheer!”

“All girl friends,” Taehyung countered.

“Very lovely girl friends,” Seokjin said before Jimin could get annoyed. “Now focus on eating before the rice gets cold. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”

“Worry about tomorrow tomorrow,” Taehyung repeated.

Namjoon lifted his glass. “A motto worth toasting to,” he said, knocking his cup into Hoseok’s. There were clinking noises as everyone tapped their water to each other’s. Seokjin smiled at him from the end of the dinner table, lifting his glass towards him. Namjoon raised his in response, wiggling his eyebrows.


 

YOONGI

With Yoongi’s anxiety, it was often important for him to have a break mid-day to clear his mind and calm down. That’s why, ever since freshman year, his guidance counselor had helped him to schedule a study hall during fifth period.

The best place to spend study hall was in the back of the choir room. Mrs. Rhymers’ grading period over lapped with Yoongi’s break, so while she was locked up in her office, going over sheet music and her plans for the next couple classes, Yoongi was able to use the piano in the back of the room with little to no interruption.

He probably should be practicing “Starving” or “Die in Your Arms” again. However, he was feeling a bit strung out after taking exams in both first and second period. Plus, it was Wednesday.

Yoongi had therapy on Wednesdays.

He didn’t want to stress himself any more than he already was, so instead he flipped between playing “It Had to Be You” by Frank Sinatra (because it was slow and pretty, and it was his dads’ wedding song, so Namjoon sang it around the house all the time) and “Versace on the Floor” by Bruno Mars.

After sorting out something for “Cold Water,” Yoongi and Taehyung had figured there was probably also a sax solo buried in a Bruno Mars song somewhere. “Versace on the Floor” seemed like a no brainer. Plus, if Jungkook could stop being a jerk for ten minutes, it would really suit his voice. Maybe Jimin or Hoseok could be on drums-

“Oh, Yoongi! You’re in here!”

Yoongi looked up just as Seulgi stepped into the room. Yeri, Irene, Wendy, and Joy came in after her. Joy looked particularly excited to see him. “Yoongi! Good to see you!” she chirped, immediately rushing over to the piano. “Whatchya doin’ here?”

“Um... practicing?” he answered.

“Practicing what?” Joy questioned.

“Um... music?”

“Joy, geez, leave him alone. Just let him play,” Seulgi said, sneaking in front of Joy to lean over the piano. “Play us something I can sing to.”

Yoongi reached for his sheet music, not sure what to do. “Versace on the Floor” was something he was working on at home; it didn’t really seem school appropriate and he doubted Seulgi knew the lyrics. “It Had to Be You” was nice and Seulgi might know bits and pieces of it, but it was romantic and... personal.

Yoongi was overwhelmed, and he found himself stuck shuffling his sheet music around. The piles were already neat, but he pushed them around on top of the piano, trying to make them straighter and more equally spaced. Wendy quirked an eyebrow at him, coming around the piano to sit on a chair behind him. “You okay there?” she asked.

“Just... can’t figure out what to play,” Yoongi answered honestly.

“Play something romantic,” Joy suggested, also rounding the piano. However, she sat on the bench next to Yoongi, her hip touching his. Yoongi’s straightening grew more frantic. Was this flirting? Was Joy flirting with him?

“Play whatever you want,” Irene suggested, seemingly sensing his anxiety. “Just not my solo again. I can’t listen to any more Hailee Steinfeld for at least 48 hours; I need a break.”

Yoongi wracked his brain, trying to think of the songs he played the most often at home. His fingers almost stuttered over the keys as he played the melody to “Irreplaceable.” It was one of Namjoon’s favorites, and sometimes Jimin sang it in the shower.

“Ah! To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left,” Wendy started singing as soon as she recognized it. All the other girls joined in quickly afterwards. Joy’s sweet voice sang directly in his ear, and Yoongi shivered.

“I love Beyoncé,” Yeri sighed when the song ended.

“Same,” Joy said, suddenly hugging onto Yoongi’s arm. Yoongi’s skin itched with the sudden contact. He stood up abruptly, nearly toppling Joy from the bench.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Sorry, I just- I just remembered I have a test next period,” he lied. “I have to go. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Yoongi grabbed all of his sheet music, nearly crying when some of the pages carded together in his haste. He was such a mess. Everything was such a mess.

“Are you okay?” Irene asked.

“Fine, fine, I just need to study,” Yoongi said, but he didn’t miss the suspicious looks Seulgi and Irene were both sending him. Even Joy seemed a little thrown off, and Yoongi couldn’t blame her. He had practically leapt away from her touch. “See you all tomorrow at practice,” he said, rushing from the room.

His skin was crawling where Joy had touched him, and he knew the only thing that could fix it was as proper shower. But since he was at school, a simple washing in the sink would have to do.

Yoongi rushed into the bathroom and rolled his t-shirt sleeve up as high as possible. Tears burned at the back of his eyes as he frantically splashed water on his arm. His dad would be so disappointed in him. Seokjin had literally just been saying the other night how proud he was of Yoongi for coping so well with his OCD, and now here he was, panicking and scrubbing his arm just because some girl hugged him.

He just... He wasn’t ready for hugs. Or girls. Or anyone. He wasn’t ready for college, or moving away from home, or getting a job, or making new friends, or having a girlfriend. Just the thought of growing up made Yoongi’s throat swell up.

Everything felt like it was moving too fast, and Yoongi was helpless to make it slow down.


 

SEOKJIN

Seokjin twirled his keys in one hand. “Tae? TaeTae, it’s time to go!” Seokjin called, knocking on Taehyung’s door. “Are you alive in there?”

“Yeah,” Taehyung called back, his voice wavering.

“Well, why don’t you come out so we can get some dinner in you before your meeting. Do you want to get some Chickfila?” he asked. Taehyung was usually pretty motivated by Chickfila.

“I’m not hungry,” Taehyung replied.

Seokjin winced. “Can I come in?” he asked. Taehyung didn’t answer, which Seokjin took as a yes. He found his son buried under his blankets. “TaeTae, come on. You’re going to have so much fun,” he promised. He couldn’t sit on the edge of Taehyung’s bed because his toddler rails were in the way, so instead he crawled into the bed next to him.

“I don’t want to have fun. I want to stay home,” he complained.

“Well, there’s nothing to do at home today, Taehyungie. It’s just me here,” Seokjin said.

“That’s fine,” Taehyung squeaked, and Seokjin sighed. He loved having Taehyung around, and a big part of him wanted to put off Taehyung making other friends for as long as possible. It was nice having him around for hugs and snuggles. Seokjin missed having babies, and the selfish side of him wanted to keep Taehyung feeling little forever.

But he wouldn’t do Taehyung any favors by holding him back. He needed to encourage him to leave the nest and make friends. Even if it was hard, even if he was scared and shy. He would be so much better off in the long run with some friends to talk to and support him.

“Taehyung, can I see your face? Let me see your handsome face,” Seokjin said. Taehyung peeled back the covers, and Seokjin kissed his nose. “Love bug, you are one of the smartest, funniest, most imaginative, thoughtful, intelligent kids I know. Other kids will see that, you just have to be brave enough to show them.”

Taehyung didn’t say anything, but his watering eyes and wobbling bottom lip said he didn’t believe a word Seokjin said. It broke Seokjin’s heart to see someone he loved so much value themselves so little.

“Let’s just start with dinner,” Seokjin suggested. “How’s a spicy chicken sandwich sound?”

“Okay,” Taehyung answered with a shrug.

“Okay? Just okay?!” Seokjin asked, tickling Taehyung’s sides. “But you love spicy chicken sandwiches!”

Taehyung giggled and batted Seokjin’s hands away. “Okay, okay! It sounds good, I want one,” he promised.

“Good. Let’s go,” Seokjin said, climbing out of the bed with Taehyung in tow.

Getting him into the car and to Chickfila was easy enough. Taehyung seemed happy while eating his sandwich on his way to the rec center, but as they walked into the lobby of the building, Seokjin heard Taehyung’s breath hitch.

He turned around to see tears dribbling down Taehyung’s cheeks and snot bubbling from his nose.

“Oh, honey,” Seokjin cooed. He quickly swept Taehyung under his arm and pulled him into the bathroom by the front door. Seokjin grabbed some toilet paper for Taehyung and had him blow his nose while he dabbed at the tears streaming down his face. “What happened? You were doing okay in the car.”

Taehyung didn’t hesitate to voice his concerns. “What if they don’t like me?” he asked.

Seokjin’s chest tightened up. “Tae, they’re going to like you. You don’t have to be worried about that. They’re going to be nice to you,” he swore. Kids could be cruel, but that didn’t mean Taehyung had to feel terrified to talk to them. Seokjin had already spoken with the Troop Leader. These boys were a nice group; Taehyung didn’t have to feel scared.

“But what if they’re nice, and they don’t like me?”

“They’re nice and they don’t like you?” Seokjin repeated, confused.

Taehyung nodded, sniffling. “What if they act nice, but just because they’re supposed to and not because they like me? Because... because then I wouldn’t know they don’t like me, and I’d talk to them, and once I left they’d start laughing at me, and I would keep giving them reasons to laugh because I’d keep talking to them even when they don’t like me, they just don’t say so,” he said, anxiously wringing his hands.

Seokjin didn’t even know where to start. “Taehyung, who is making you feel this way? Who’s laughing at you behind your back?”

Taehyung shrugged.

“No, tell me. Who?” Seokjin asked again.

“I don’t know,” Taehyung squeaked. “Everyone. Everyone laughs at me; no one likes me. I know they’re all laughing at me.”

Seokjin ran his hands through his hair, overwhelmed. “Honey, I’m sure that no one’s laughing at you. You’re just... you’re psyching yourself out. Just relax,” Seokjin said, drawing Taehyung in close. Taehyung’s nose immediately left a wet patch on the front of Seokjin’s sweater, but Seokjin’s only pulled him in closer. “Just relax, sweetheart, you’re working yourself up.”

“I don’t want to go,” Taehyung wept.

“I know... I know. I know this is hard for you, I know you’re insecure.” Seokjin dropped a kiss in Taehyung’s hair. “But I think if you give it a shot, you’ll see that you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Taehyung didn’t look convinced.

“Just... let yourself be vulnerable for a little bit,” Seokjin suggested. “If you get made fun of, that’s okay. I’ll come pick you up, and you’ll never have to see these people again. But try not to think about what everyone else wants from you, and instead just say and do what you naturally would. Act like you’re at home.”

“With Jimin?” Taehyung asked.

Seokjin nodded encouragingly. “Yeah, with Jimin. Just imagine a sea of Jimin’s when you walk in the room.”

Taehyung snorted. “Okay, I love Jimin, but a sea of him sounds awful. They’d all be back-flipping into each other.”

Seokjin laughed at the image, and ruffled Taehyung’s hair. “Ah, see, kid? You’re funny. Go show everyone how silly and fun you are. You’ll be fine.”

Taehyung took a shaky breath.

“Come here,” Seokjin said, cleaning up his face with another bit of toilet paper. He kissed Taehyung’s forehead. “Okay, there you go, you’re all set. You don’t even look like you’ve been crying; you’re ready to face the world.”

“I don’t know,” Taehyung said uncertainly.

“You’re ready,” Seokjin promised. “Give me a high-five.” Taehyung gave him a high-five. “Oh, come on, harder than that!” Seokjin said, just like Namjoon used to when the kids were preschoolers. Taehyung rolled his eyes but gave Seokjin a stronger high-five. “All right. Go get ‘em, kiddo.”

Taehyung gulped down a big breath of air. “I can do this,” he said, balling his hands up into fists.

“You can do this,” Seokjin agreed, holding the door for him as they exited the bathroom. The clubroom for the Boy Scouts was at the end of the hall, and Seokjin didn’t want to walk Taehyung to the door and risk embarrassing him. Instead, he stood by the entrance and watched Taehyung go.

Taehyung waved awkwardly at him outside the door, and Seokjin waved back. It wasn’t until Taehyung was out of sight that his shoulders slumped.

All his babies were growing up.

The whole point of raising kids was to turn them into adults. Seokjin knew that his boys becoming independent was a good thing, especially given their pasts. There were times when Seokjin was genuinely worried that they’d never be able to leave home due to some of the developmental and psychiatric problems they faced. In fact, there had been times he hadn’t been convinced all five boys would even live long enough to see adulthood, let alone go off and make families of their own. Seokjin knew he should be proud of his kids and himself for making it this far.

So why did he feel so hollow? Why was it so hard to fill out the forms for Yoongi’s senior pictures? Why did it hurt to think about Hoseok dating? To think about any of them dating? Why was it painful to watch Jimin’s math homework switch topics from division, to geometry, to algebra? Why couldn’t he drop Taehyung off at a club or let Jungkook ride a train without thinking about the day when they would inevitably leave home?

Seokjin felt a lump form in his throat as he weaved his way through the parking lot back to his car. He had been a dad for so long.

But he had only been a dad for so long.

His life was tangled up so deeply in the lives of his kids. He didn’t know what he would do once they left the nest. He still had four and a half years before Jungkook –the youngest- graduated high school, but that felt like such a comparatively short time next to the years he had spent raising them.

Seokjin thought about blowing bubbles in the garage, and changing diapers, and reading bedtime stories. He thought about how much he missed his kids. They weren’t even gone, but they were growing up, which might as well be the same thing.

Seokjin tried to stick the key in the ignition, but he found his hand was shaking too hard to do so.

Instead he hugged the steering wheel and focused on holding back tears. Maybe it was stupid to mourn sons who were very much still alive and needy, but ever since becoming a dad, Seokjin decided he had the right to be as emotional over his kids as he wanted. He could allow himself to shed a tear or two.


 

JUNGKOOK

“All right, thank you everyone. You just listened to Rap Monster, here on WWMR, 102.5, your station for vibing and riding. We’re just about to sign off. Cookie, wanna say anything to our audience before we switch over?”

“Ah, see you soon, I guess?” Jungkook said into the microphone. He winced. “Or, I guess I won’t see you, but I’ll... I’ll talk at you again soon. Maybe. If my dad lets me.”

“I’ll let you,” Namjoon promised. He was smiling at Jungkook behind his microphone. “Okay, well if that’s all, let me hand the mike over to DJ Fresh next door.”

The On Air light in the studio turned off, and the recording light in the next booth over turned on. Namjoon flipped closed his book of advertisements and PSAs and Jungkook picked up his backpack.

“So how was it?” Namjoon asked.

Jungkook toyed with the zipper on his backpack. “Um, it was good,” he answered, but it wasn’t everything he was feeling.

He had actually had a great time. He loved music, and it was fun getting to build a playlist and then force a quarter of a million people in cars and nail salons to listen to him. Plus, Namjoon had really made an effort to ask him questions and get him talking between sets. Jungkook couldn’t help but eat up the positive attention. It had been awhile since Namjoon had smiled at him so many times in one day.

“Ah, I’m glad to hear it. You’re welcome any time. I think Jin would feel better if you were catching the train with Yoongi, though,” Namjoon said, grabbing the rest of his things and pushing in his desk chair. Jungkook followed his lead, exiting the studio.

“What do you do after your radio show?” Jungkook asked.

“Well, most of the time, I go back to my office and either work on some of the tracks I’m responsible for or answer some emails. And then I drive home. However, Wednesdays are tricky now because Seokjin has to drop Taehyung off at his club, while Jimin and Hoseok need to be picked up from theirs, so I think I’m going to take off a little early,” Namjoon said.

Jungkook arched an eyebrow. “You’re playing hookie?”

“No one needs to know,” Namjoon said, pulling on his pea coat before stepping into the elevator. Jungkook trailed after him, amazed.

“I never thought you would skip anything, let alone work,” Jungkook said.

“It’ll be okay. Aside from the radio show, I can do most of my work from home,” Namjoon explained. “I have just about everything I need on my laptop.”

“Is that why we’re not allowed to touch it?” Jungkook asked.

Namjoon nodded. “Yep. No one’s allowed to touch it but me. I’m not losing all the work I put into Neyo’s new album just so one of you can play Solitaire,” he teased. The elevator doors closed, and Jungkook’s stomach lurched as they dropped to the first floor. “So, kid. How is school?”

“I’m doing my homework,” Jungkook answered automatically.

Namjoon snorted. “I’m sure you are,” he said, clapping his shoulder. “But I meant, like, how are your friends? How are your classes? How are your teachers? How are you?” he asked just as the elevator doors opened. Jungkook hurried after him through the lobby of the building, waving numbly at the doorman as they left for the train station.

“Ah, I think... Well, I think things are good.” He pulled his backpack a little higher up on his shoulders. “Eric and Jack accidentally wore each other’s jock straps at hockey the other day, and now they can’t look at each other without blushing or screaming.”

To Jungkook’s surprise, Namjoon started laughing. “Oh man, yeah. That’s a pretty big mistake,” he agreed.

“When Eric saw Jack’s initials on the band, he flung it across the locker room so fast, it pegged Sidney in the face,” Jungkook said, smiling when Namjoon kept laughing. “It was like a rubber band,” he continued. “Just- snap!

“Kookie, geez, it’s like you’re trying to kill me,” Namjoon said, rubbing his chest. “What did Sidney do?”

“Start screaming,” Jungkook answered. “I’ve never seen anyone so angry. And I was like... in the middle, so I had to, like, squat down and try to take off my shoulder pads while Sidney waved this jock strap in Eric’s face, and Eric tried to yell that it was Jack’s and also that it wasn’t his fault.”

Namjoon started laughing again, twice as hard, at the mental image. “Geez, I would do anything to be in eighth grade again.”

“Really?” Jungkook asked.

“No. It was awful. But you get some pretty good stories out of it,” he said. Jungkook was quiet for a minute as they climbed down the stairs to the train. Namjoon hurried him along, a hand on his back so they wouldn’t miss it. Once they were seated, Namjoon seemed a little more relaxed and Jungkook was glad Namjoon had made sure that they got on safely.

“Do you have any good stories from eighth grade?” he piped up.

“Yes, but I’m too humiliated to tell you any of them,” Namjoon answered.

Jungkook played with the straps on his backpack. “Was Jin there?”

Namjoon shook his head. “No, I didn’t meet him until my sophomore year of high school. He was the star in the school play, and I was dorky and into audio, so my teacher asked me to work the soundboard for it.”

“Jin was in theater?”

“Yep, in high school and college. He was actually pretty good. Everyone in high school was like... obsessed with him because he was on stage all the time, but he was nice about it, you know? I have no idea why he chose to hang out with someone like me.”

Jungkook’s nose crinkled. “Were you really that dorky?” he asked.

Namjoon reached out to tap Jungkook’s nose (which would have been weird, if he wasn’t so used to it). “However dorky you’re thinking? Multiply that by ten. That’s how dorky I was.”

Jungkook was quiet for a minute. “... I think maybe I’m pretty cool. I know three girls who have crushes on me.”

Namjoon lifted an eyebrow. “Yeah? When is your Sadie Hawkins dance?”

“February,” Jungkook answered.

“Ah, so hopefully two of them stop liking you by then. That way you don’t have to choose between them,” Namjoon said.

Jungkook squirmed. “Well... Well, I don’t want Rory to stop liking me.”

“Oh? And who is this Rory?”

Jungkook did not like how interested Namjoon suddenly looked. “No one,” he answered. “She’s just... She’s no one. She’s no one.”

“Right, got it, no one,” Namjoon said, but his eyes said something different. Jungkook blushed. He turned towards the window, trying to deflect the rest of the conversation. It was starting to get dark outside but it felt safe and warm on the train with Namjoon.

The whole afternoon felt safe and warm, actually. Jin had driven him to the train station and fussed over him before he boarded. Namjoon had picked him up, and ever since, he’d been really nice. He kept asking him about his friends and school, and he actually listened to the answers. He thought Jungkook was funny, and the only time he cut him off was when the last song in a set was ending and he had to get back on the air.

Jungkook didn’t know what to call what he was feeling. It was just... nice. He wondered if this is what hanging out with Namjoon felt like when Jungkook wasn’t too busy screaming to listen. Maybe this is why all his brothers wanted to spend so much time with their parents, even if it wasn’t cool.

Jungkook wished he had appreciated it before. He had been missing out.


 

TAEHYUNG

Taehyung was trying to walk out of Boy Scouts without embarrassing himself, when he was stopped by the door. “Hey, wait, Taehyung! Give me your number so I can send you that video,” Phil said, shoving his phone into Taehyung’s hands before he could leave the clubroom.

Taehyung startled but managed not to drop it. “Okay,” he agreed, quickly typing in his number. Phil took his phone back and a second later, a text lit up Taehyung’s screen.

hey its philly!!!

“Yo, Phil, add Taehyung into the group chat,” Dan said. “We can figure out a meeting time to go to the lake and catch him up on some camping stuff.”

“You have so many knots to learn,” PJ said, nodding sagely.

Taehyung blinked in surprise when another text lit up his screen.

new group chat! text your name so taehyung can save your number

Names started popping up in his phone from Dan, PJ, and Chris: his new friends, apparently. Despite himself, a hopeful smile started to creep up Taehyung’s face. “Really? You guys don’t mind teaching me some stuff?”

“Of course not,” PJ said.

“Anyone who likes Game of Thrones for the books and not the TV show is someone I want to be talking to,” Dan reassured him. “Maybe we can hang out this weekend. You can tell me about this potato book, and I’ll show you how to tie some knots.”

“Okay!” Taehyung chirped. He knew he was being too enthusiastic, but- “Geez, okay! I’ll bring it for you, you can borrow it,” he promised. The book was called Spud, but he wasn’t about to correct the first person his age to show interest in him outside of his brothers.

“Cool. See you soon, Taehyung! Glad you joined the troop,” Chris said, elbowing him. Taehyung stumbled, but the smile didn’t leave his face.

“Same! See you soon!” he promised, waving enthusiastically as he left the room. When he saw Seokjin waiting for him at the end of the corridor (like he hadn’t moved since dropping Taehyung off), Taehyung practically bounced over to him. “Dad, Dad! Guess what?”

“What?!” Seokjin asked, throwing an arm around his shoulders and guiding him back to the car.

“I made friends! Just like you said!”

“Did you?” Seokjin asked, and Taehyung didn’t miss the proud smile on his dad’s face.

“Yeah! So I went in, and I was going to sit in the back, but these guys at the front were like, ‘Hey, you’re new, right? Come sit with us.’ And I was like... really nervous, but I sat with them and then. One of them —Dan— started talking about Game of Thrones which I’ve read but never watched, and I said so, and he got so excited because he only likes the books and doesn’t know anyone else who had read them, and so we started talking about that. And then it turns out I have stuff in common with everyone else, too!” he said.

“Aw, Taehyung, that’s so good to hear,” Seokjin said genuinely. He opened up Taehyung’s car door for him. Taehyung climbed in and by the time Seokjin made it to his seat, he was already buckled and ready to go. “Ready?”

“Yeah! Can I still tell you about Boy Scouts?” he asked.

Seokjin nodded. “Of course.”

“Okay.” Taehyung took a deep breath. “So, the meeting at first was a little bit boring. Apparently, they’re not going camping until the spring, but that’s okay because I still have a lot to catch up on. But at the very beginning, the Troop Leader, Rhett, introduced me to everyone, and he said I had epilepsy, which was really embarrassing, but guess what!”

“What?” Seokjin asked, his eyes on the road as he drove them home.

“They had just done a big lesson on seizure care! And everyone was really excited, and Rhett tested everyone on what to do if I started seizing, and I had to be the expert authority, he said, to tell everyone if they were right or wrong, but pretty much everyone was right. And my new friend Chris says that he has an uncle with epilepsy and once, he had to be the one to roll him on his side before his wife came to help him. Isn’t that cool?”

Seokjin blindly reached out to smooth Taehyung’s hair off his forehead. “That’s so cool, Taehyung. What else happened?” he asked.

Taehyung wiggled in his seat. “So much!”

As they drove home, Taehyung launched into a detailed account of every single thing that had happened at Boy Scouts. He had been surprised by how much fun he had. Everyone got to make paracord bracelets, and apparently next week they were making kites. Plus, everyone had been nice to him, but not in the way Jimin’s friends were nice to him. Jimin’s friends were nice because he was Jimin’s brother. These new friends were nice because they liked him.

Or, at least, Taehyung was pretty sure they did. He was hopeful they did. It would be really nice if they did.

The car pulled into the driveway, but Taehyung still hadn’t stopped talking. Seokjin had been nice enough not to interrupt him, and he followed Taehyung into the house, still nodding along.

“And then while we were making our bracelets, Phil said he was hungry, and Dan said he was craving these cupcakes Phil apparently makes, so I asked if he baked, and I was really nervous he would say no or be mad at me for asking, but guess what!” Taehyung said for about the millionth time.

“What?!” Seokjin asked, just as excited and curious as he had the first time. They both took off their shoes as Taehyung kept talking.

“He said yes. And apparently he makes really good Italian prune cake, and Chris promised that even though that sounds weird, it actually tastes really good, and then this other guy Link —who I think helps Rhett, but I’m not sure really— said that the prune juice makes the cake really moist and sweet, and then he asked if I’m good at baking,” Taehyung prattled off.

“And what did you say? Also, let’s get you upstairs to bed,” Seokjin said, gently guiding him up the stairs by his elbow.

“I said yes. And then they asked what my ‘claim to fame’ was, and I was confused, but then they asked again, like, what I was good at making? And so I said strawberry shortcake because that’s my favorite, but then I said Yoongi likes my scores bars, and they said that maybe we could have a week where we make them because the rec center has ovens and they sound really good, and it would be a nice way to show my skills to the rest of the group, and isn’t that nice? I think it’s so nice!” he exclaimed. His cheeks felt flushed; he was so excited.

“That is nice. I’m sure everyone would like learning to bake from you. You’re a great teacher, Tae,” Seokjin said encouragingly.

“I think I would do a good job, too! It’s just that everyone has to like coconut, but no one seemed picky or anything, so I think it would be okay,” Taehyung said, wiggling into his pajamas. He quick went to the bathroom, but he opened the door back up as he was brushing his teeth so he could still tell Seokjin about everything that happened. “Also, guess what!”

“What?” Seokjin asked again as Taehyung put a dollop of toothpaste on his toothbrush.

“When I was leaving, Phil had me give him my number and he invited me out to Marsh Creek to learn some camping skills with everyone. Like they want to help get me caught up: him, Dan, PJ, and Chris,” he said, although it sounded sort of gurgly with his toothbrush in his mouth. He spat in the sink and rinsed. “They said maybe this weekend! Do you think I can go?”

“Do I think you can go hang out with your friends who all recently learned basic seizure care?” Seokjin asked, walking Taehyung back to his room. “Of course. That sounds great, Taehyung.”

“I think so, too!”

Taehyung crawled up into his bed, and Seokjin pulled up the blankets to cover him. Jimin was still sitting at his desk, studying. “I’m so glad you had a good time.”

“I haven’t even told you everything,” Taehyung said, words burning on the tip of his tongue. He could talk for ages about how great things went. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been in a similar social setting without feeling like a failure. For once, he felt confident. “Did you know you can get a pet patch? I want to get my pet patch!”

“Oh, wow,” Seokjin said. He suddenly looked exhausted. “Well, maybe we can talk about you getting a fish or a turtle or something. But for now, it’s way past your bedtime.”

“But I haven’t even told you everything,” Taehyung repeated.

“You can tell me everything else when you get home from school tomorrow,” Seokjin promised. “Believe me, I want to hear about it. But it’s important that you get some sleep after all this excitement, yeah? I don’t want you to be too worn out tomorrow.”

Taehyung sighed but nodded. His dad was right. His brain always felt a little off when he was tired. He couldn’t explain it, but he could feel how he was more prone to a seizure when he was sleepy. And honestly, it was past his bedtime. He should have gone to sleep ages ago.

“Goodnight, TaeTae. I’m so glad that you had a good time,” Seokjin said, ducking down to press a couple kisses on Taehyung’s nose.

“You said I would and I did,” Taehyung said smiling, hugging his covers closer to his chest.

Seokjin smiled. “You did,” he said. “And I’m so happy you did. Tell me all about it tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay,” Taehyung agreed, stretching his arms up for a hug. Seokjin complied easily, bending down to give him a tight squeeze.

“You did so good today,” Seokjin promised. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Really?” Taehyung asked.

“Of course,” Seokjin promised. He kissed Taehyung’s temple a couple extra times and straightened out. “Good night, honey, see you tomorrow, okay? Try to get some rest.” Wordlessly, Jimin turned his desk light on and Seokjin turned the overhead lights off.

As Seokjin left, Jimin’s eyes flickered up to meet Taehyung’s. “So it went well, then?” he asked.

“It went amazing,” Taehyung answered, rolling onto his tummy to go to sleep.

“That’s awesome, Tae,” Jimin promised.

Taehyung yawned. “I know.” He wiggled a little until he found the comfy part of his mattress and settled in. He let out a huff of air. He was so sleepy. Seokjin was right when he said it would be good to sleep after all the excitement; Taehyung felt so worn out so fast.

He was asleep with in seconds, a smile on his face.


 

NAMJOON

Namjoon scooted around Seokjin on his way into their walk in closet. Seokjin was standing in front of their floor length mirror, pinching at his stomach. His cheeks were still a little pink after his morning run, and his hair was still damp from the shower. “Do you think I’m gaining weight?” Seokjin asked, side-eyeing himself in the mirror.

“No,” Namjoon answered immediately.

“You didn’t even look.”

“Because you’re not,” Namjoon said, still not turning to look. He didn’t need to. “Why are you so obsessed with asking me that question?”

“I just want to look good for you,” Seokjin said, pouting, and Namjoon sighed. He put a guiding hand on the back of Seokjin’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss.

“You do look good for me. Always. No matter what,” Namjoon promised, letting go so he could get his dress slacks for work. “But, babe, if you gain weight, like... so what? We’re not in high school anymore, that happens when you get older.”

“Ugh, don’t say that word,” Seokjin said, switching his towel out for briefs.

“What word? Older?”

“Yes, ugh, gross. Everyone is getting older. My parents, the kids, me. I’m over it,” Seokjin said.

Namjoon frowned, but he was too busy buttoning up his shirt to comfort his husband properly. “Jin... That’s what life is. It’s not a bad thing.” Seokjin didn’t say anything, just pulled on his green cable knit sweater. The color brought out the gold in his skin and the auburn in his hair. Usually, Namjoon would smile at the sight, but Seokjin’s silence had him frowning. “Are you worried about your parents? Are you sad about the kids? What’s going on?”

“I’m sad about everything,” Seokjin answered. “I just... I want to freeze everyone at this age, you know? I always feel that way, but now everything feels so much more real, what with Yoongi graduating and my mom getting sick, and... I don’t know, I just want everyone happy and living together. And I don’t want to get older. I want to stay like this.”

“Jin.... Jinnie, baby, your mom is doing fine, she just slipped in the shower and hurt her hip, but the doctors say she’s healthy as a horse,” Namjoon reminded him. “And the kids are growing up, but it’s not like you’re going to have to miss them.”

“They’re going to leave me.”

“Well of course they are, they’re growing up. But you’ve been so good to them. I can’t imagine any of the kids going to college and not making sure to call you and text you, and coming home on weekends, and meeting you for lunch. They need you. You’ve been too good to them,” he promised.

“But they won’t be here,” Seokjin said, indignant and pouty, and Namjoon couldn’t help but laugh a little at him.

He wrapped his arms around Seokjin’s waist just before his husband could try to step into his jeans. “But I will be,” Namjoon reminded him, kissing the back of his neck. “What about me? Don’t you love me?”

“Well, you’re a given,” Seokjin grumbled.

Namjoon hummed. “Don’t worry so much. Some of the kids might move back home after college. And I think Yoongi is going to end up commuting, so he’s not going anywhere. Taehyung really isn’t going anywhere. And I think Jungkook is secretly a home bunny; he’ll probably never leave.”

“Geez, he’ll be up in his room blasting awful punk music until he’s forty-years-old,” Seokjin groaned.

Namjoon snickered into the back of Seokjin’s neck. “See? There are positives to the kids moving out, too.”

Seokjin sighed and turned around in Namjoon’s arms. He grabbed his green tie off the rack and looped it around Namjoon’s neck for him. “There. We match,” he said weakly.

Namjoon smiled. “Hm, I don’t know. What if people think we’re a couple?”

“We are a couple.”

“But what if they think it?”

“Get out of here,” Seokjin said, smacking Namjoon’s hip to get him out of his way. Namjoon grabbed his suit jacket and threw it on over his shoulders.

“Meet you downstairs in a few minutes? I have to trim my nose hair,” Namjoon said.

“Gross.” Seokjin looked exasperated. “I’ll have coffee waiting.”

Namjoon grinned. “See? This is why I chose you to grow old with. You know me so well,” he said.

Seokjin snorted. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t,” he complained; however, he kissed Namjoon on the cheek as he left the bedroom. Namjoon smiled to himself. Seokjin may be worried about getting older, but Namjoon wasn’t. Not when he had an amazing husband to share his life with.


 

JUNGKOOK

Jungkook dropped his backpack by his seat. He practically threw himself onto his desk, burying his head in his arms to block out the too-bright fluorescent lights.

These early mornings were killing him. He had been on his best behavior for the past week: doing his homework, watching his language, waking up to catch the bus... It was awful. His body wasn’t made to wake up at the crack of dawn. He didn’t know how the rest of his family did it without melting all over the floor.

Jungkook flashed back to the Wizard of Oz.

I’m melting! I’m melting!

“I’m melting,” Jungkook mumbled into his sleeves.

He would have been content to sleep through first period, if someone wasn’t busy digging their toe into his side over and over and over. “Hey, Jungkook. Jungkook. Dude, wake up. I’m trying to talk to you.”

“Ugh, what?” Jungkook asked, rolling his head to the side to shoot Moonbin a glare. Jungkook knew he hadn’t been treating him all that well lately, but only because Moonbin kept doing awful things. He just wanted to sleep.

“San-ha invited everyone over for a quick game at his place after school. You in?” he asked.

Jungkook curled his toes in his sliders. “Ah, I don’t think I can,” he said, anxiously pulling up his Nike socks. He had therapy after school. Seokjin would kill him if he missed it, partly because every session cost eighty dollars and partly because his dad was under the impression that he’d have a nervous breakdown if he didn’t talk to someone about his feelings.

Jungkook had screamed at a teacher. A teacher who deserved it. He didn’t need a therapist (especially one who was content on talking about nonsense for an entire session instead of about his problems). However, Seokjin disagreed.

And unfortunately until Jungkook turned eighteen, Seokjin had the last word on what Jungkook did with his time.

“What? You have hockey practice or something?” Moonbin asked.

“No, I’m just... busy,” Jungkook answered. He didn’t want to tell Moonbin about Dr. Kroger. It was humiliating, and while he loved the lax team, he wasn’t sure how they would react. Namjoon and Seokjin might think therapy was the answer to everything, but not everyone did.

“Okay,” Moonbin said, pulling the neck of his t-shirt up over his nose. “What about tomorrow then? Have any Friday night plans? I think the lax team’s thinking of going to Spuds.”

Jungkook winced. “Can’t.”

This time, Moonbin pouted. “Why not?”

“I have family plans.” There was a football game, and Jimin had cheer. His parents would make him clap for every layout and handspring.

“Geez, do you have any free time anymore? Weren’t you busy yesterday, too?”

Jungkook winced, thinking back to his time at Namjoon’s studio. Sure, he had fun while he was there, but he had missed out on video games at Rocky’s place after school. Jungkook could feel his popularity dropping as if it were a tangible thing. “I’ll be free this weekend. Maybe we can do something on Saturday.”

“Sure you won’t have plans?” Moonbin asked, arching an eyebrow like he didn’t believe him.

Jungkook slouched in his chair. “I better not,” he said. The thought of spending any more unnecessary time with his siblings made his skin crawl. Hanging out with Namjoon and Seokjin was one thing. Hanging out with his brothers was something else entirely.


 

HOSEOK

Hoseok’s phone vibrated in his pocket, but he didn’t feel like answering it. Oliver had been texting him all morning. All Hoseok wanted to do was eat lunch with his friends from programming, but Oliver couldn’t handle it. Hoseok’s phone was full of text messages ranging from desperate to furious, begging to eat lunch together.

Hoseok needed a break.

Not only was Oliver unbearably clingy, and not only had he been unnecessarily mean lately, but he also wasn’t nice to Taehyung. Hoseok didn’t want to make Taehyung uncomfortable; not after hearing what Jin had told Namjoon about Taehyung having trouble making friends. The programming kids were nice to Taehyung; they understood him. Oliver didn’t.

“And then Lucas started trying to type a print statement with parenthesis in HTML. HTML. Like he hadn’t even heard of brackets before—“

“Oh my gosh,” Lucas interrupted Dustin. He banged his fist on the table. “You make one mistake one time, and then you hear about it for the rest of your life. I’m only sixteen. Have mercy,” he demanded.

“The sins of our youth linger for a lifetime,” Taehyung provided sagely. He was sitting up a little straighter than usual. Hoseok smiled. It was good to see him feeling confident.

Meanwhile, Hoseok felt like trash. Like actual scum scraped off the bottom of a dumpster. Oliver’s frantic text messages made him feel so guilty. He knew Oliver didn’t have a great home life; he just needed some love and attention. Hoseok was his boyfriend. He should be taking care of him, not hiding on the other side of the cafeteria to avoid getting his feelings hurt.

“It was just dumb,” Dustin said. “And funny.” When Hoseok didn’t laugh, he narrowed his eyes. “This is when you’re supposed to laugh.”

Hoseok blinked. “What?”

“You’re supposed to laugh at Lucas,” Dustin answered, eyeing him skeptically.

No, you’re not,” Lucas said.

Mikey frowned at the end of the table. He looked concerned. Hoseok winced when he opened his mouth to say something, but before Mikey could interrogate him, Taehyung beat him to it. “Hobi, are you okay? You look...” he trailed off, his face screwing up in thought.

“Ashen?” Mikey filled in, clearly agreeing.

“Like he saw a ghost?” Dustin suggested.

Wobbly,” Taehyung finished. “You’re all wibbly-wobbly. Is everything okay?”

“Everything is fine,” Hoseok said. He held his phone in his pocket. It vibrated every minute or so, like Oliver was timing out his texts. Hoseok would have thought he would be happily talking to the other dance kids by now, but apparently, Oliver missed him too much to let anything distract him.

Taehyung frowned. He fiddled with the flaps on his milk-box, but didn’t say anything. His posture had slumped, and Hoseok felt guilty for lying on top of everything else.

“Are you sure? You’ve been weird for a while, Hoseok. What’s wrong?” Mikey asked.

“Nothing. Everything is fine,” Hoseok repeated. He couldn’t tell them anything. Oliver still wanted to keep things a secret; he couldn’t tell them anything.

“But you don’t sit with us at lunch anymore,” Mikey argued, suddenly getting riled up. Mikey was younger and had a short fuse, and Hoseok tried to remind himself of that as Mikey leaned towards him, pointing an accusatory finger in his face. Hoseok leaned back. “You’ve been avoiding us. This is, like, the first time we’ve seen you in ages, and now you’re not even paying attention to what we’re saying.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just... I’m distracted, I’m not trying to be,” Hoseok apologized. He didn’t want to insult anyone, he just wanted Oliver to stop texting him.

“Then why are you doing it? Why are you always somewhere else? Even when you’re sitting with us, you’re somewhere else,” Mikey whined.

Hoseok’s eyes flickered over to Taehyung.

He couldn’t let any of this get back to Jin and Joon, they would ask too many questions and Hoseok was terrible at keeping secrets. “That’s not true. I’m just— Geez, I don’t know, can we just drop it? I’m trying to eat my pita chips,” he complained, swirling a chip in his little cup of tzatziki sauce. He couldn’t tell them anything.

“But you’re being a bad friend!”

“Okay, woah,” Dustin said, putting a hand on Mikey’s shoulder. He forced him back into his seat before he could lunge across the table at Hoseok. “No one’s being a bad friend. I’m sure Hoseok isn’t trying to hurt our feelings.”

Mikey struggled under Dustin’s palm. “But-“

“Calm down,” Lucas said.

Hoseok stood up from the table, snapping the tiny Tupperware lid back on his tzatziki and stuffing his baggies of pita chips and cucumber slices back into his lunchbox. His phone buzzed in his pocket. “I’m just... I’m just going to go,” he said, deciding to sit with Oliver after all. All this stress wasn’t worth it.

Taehyung looked up at him: terrified to be left alone. He started stuffing his lunch back into his lunchbox.

“No, Tae, you stay here,” Hoseok said, grabbing his backpack. “I’m just gonna sit with the dance team today, is all. I’ll see you guys later at programming, okay?”

Mikey’s face flamed red, but he didn’t say anything. Dustin and Lucas nodded resolutely, seemingly more understanding. Hoseok could only hope they could get Mikey to calm down by the time they all met up in the computer lab. The last thing Hoseok needed was to sit side by side with Mikey for an hour when he was still mad at him.

Taehyung still looked scared. So much for not putting him in any more uncomfortable situations.

Taehyung bit his lip. “Hobi-“

“I’m okay,” Hoseok promised. “I’m okay, just... See you at home.”

“See you at home,” Taehyung squeaked. Hoseok hardly heard him; he was too distracted by his phone. Scrolling through the text messages, he could see how much Oliver missed him, how much he needed him. He felt horrible for ignoring him for so long.

He crossed the cafeteria, guilt worming its way through his chest. When he reached the dance team’s table, Oliver was sitting on the end. There was an open seat next to him and a smirk on his face. “Ah, see? I knew you would come,” he said.

Hoseok cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said, taking a seat. “Sorry it took me so long.” He got out his lunch, and —because he was having a hard time— decided to start with the oatmeal toffee cookies Jin had packed him.

“Sure you want to eat that?” Oliver asked, pinching his side.

Hoseok pressed his lips together. It was like he could feel something snapping in half inside of him: the last pillar holding him upright. He passed Oliver his cookies (because he didn’t care at all, not because he cared about losing weight). “Here.”

“Ah, perfect, babe. You can watch your weight, and I can get a good lunch out of it.”

Hoseok didn’t say anything. He just wanted to go home.


 

JIMIN

Jimin carefully braced Dahyun’s ankle. He supported her right side, while Jihyo held up her left. “1... 2... 3...” Coach Ansley counted down and Jimin and Jihyo threw Dahyun up in the air. She stretched out into a toe touch (Jimin watched her bad knee to make sure it was straight) and fell into a basket catch. Jimin caught her easily.

Mina, their watcher, punched Dahyun’s shoulder as soon as she was standing. “Nice one,” she said.

“Really?” Dahyun asked, scratching underneath her knee brace. “Were you watching my knee? I was worried about my knee.”

“Of course,” Mina said.

“It was perfect,” Jimin promised.

“Again!” Coach Ansley demanded from the bleachers. Jimin and Jihyo immediately jumped into action, hoisting Dahyun up out of the grass. Jimin knew he had to stay focused; he couldn’t let Dahyun fall. However, he couldn’t stomp out the smile on his face.

He loved cheerleading. Even when they had to practice in the cold, Jimin liked the feeling of his blood and sweat warming him up against the wind. He liked exercising. He liked stunts. He liked having a team he could rely on, who could rely on him right back.

And its not like Jimin would consider himself an aggressive person, but he was definitely grateful for the outlet. Sometimes at the end of the day, he felt so pent up and frustrated; it was nice to expend some of that energy on something positive, like dancing.

In how many sports did you get to dance? Or do gymnastics? Cheerleading was the best.

Dahyun’s knee bent a little on her next toe touch. Jihyo made sure to focus on catching her before pointing it out. “That one was a little wonky.”

“Ugh, I know, I’m a disaster,” Dahyun pouted.

“You’re not a disaster, just your knee is,” Jimin said.

“One more try,” Dahyun said, determined. Jimin arched an eyebrow, looking down at her knee. It was quivering a little. They had been at this for the better part of a half hour; he could understand if Dahyun was feeling a little worn out. She had dislocated her knee over the summer, and it was still a little iffy.

“Ah, at this point, I’m kind of worried about your knee buckling,” Jimin said. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

Dahyun made a whining noise, stomping her foot. “I’m fine.”

Mina laughed at her cute little face screwing up. Jimin tried to hold back a smile. “Your frowny face says otherwise,” he said, reaching out to poke her cheek.

“I think a break would be a good idea,” Jihyo said, flipping Dahyun’s ponytail to hang over her eyes. Dahyun squealed, obviously feeling beat-up on, but before Jimin could tease her for being so stubborn, there was a shout from the other side of the field.

“Chaeyoung!”

Jimin stood up on his tiptoes, trying to see over Mina’s head. Everyone was gathering in a tight circle. Jimin could just see the toe of a cheer shoe lying limply on the ground. His stomach flipped as he recognized Chaeyoung’s pink pompom socks.

His eyes drifted to her ankle, and his blood ran cold. That wasn’t a natural angle.

“Give her space, give her space,” Coach Ansley said, jumping off the bleachers and running to Chaeyoung’s side. Jimin pushed his way forward. He could see Chaeyoung’s face, tears dripping down her cheeks as she pointedly avoided looking at her feet.

“I can’t move it,” she said, voice cracking. Jimin’s heart flip-flopped.

“Yeah, that looks broken, kid. How did this happen?” Coach Ansley asked, looking to Nayeon expectantly. Nayeon was Chaeyoung’s watcher.

“I... I don’t know. I wasn’t- I mean, I was watching, but one second she was up in the air fine, and then she was falling forwards instead of backwards, and-“

“I didn’t release her right,” Jeongyeon said. Her eyes shone with guilty tears. “It’s my fault. Chaeyoung, gosh, I’m so sorry.”

“Can someone-“ Chaeyoung cut herself off. “Can someone call an ambulance?”

Jimin spurred into action. “I got it, I got it,” he offered, unzipping the pocket on his trackies to pull out his cellphone. He had practice calling ambulances. When it came to emergency situations, Jimin usually knew just what to do.

He spoke with the phone operator, stating the situation and their location, but he could hardly focus. He was distracted half by Jeongyeon’s apologies (she sounded like a broken record, begging for Chaeyoung’s forgiveness) and half by Chaeyoung’s ankle.

There was no way she would be cheering at the game tomorrow. There was no way she’d be cheering for the rest of the season.

Jimin hung up the phone and his eyes fell on Dahyun’s knee. She was still reeling from a sports injury she got during a pick-up soccer game over the summer. Meanwhile, Chaeyoung would be hobbling around on crutches, all because of a freak accident during practice.

Jimin felt sick.

It would be so easy to randomly break a bone or dislocate a joint. He could tear a tendon or a ligament. Or he could fail all his classes, and end up off the squad for the rest of the year.

Suddenly, Jimin’s position on the cheerleading team felt twice as precarious than it had before. There was nothing keeping him on the squad other than blind luck and a couple late night cramming sessions.

Meanwhile, Chaeyoung had her face buried in her hands, and Jimin felt guilty for thinking about himself when he should be thinking about her. He knelt by her side. “Don’t worry Chaeyoung, there’s an ambulance coming,” he promised, trying to focus on his friend. “They’ll get you all fixed up, and we’ll all come over to your place after the game tomorrow to hang out.”

“A sleepover!” Tzuyu chirped.

“Yeah, we’ll keep you company,” Jimin agreed, even though he wouldn’t be allowed to spend the night. (Even if Chaeyoung’s parents said yes to having a boy sleepover, Jimin’s parents would kill him for even suggesting it.)

“I just. Want. An ambulance,” Chaeyoung said.

“It’s coming,” Coach Ansley promised. “Now, seriously, everyone, back up. Give her space,” she demanded again, her face steely. Usually she was so bubbly and excited, but now, faced with an injury, she was serious.

Jimin backed up and gave Chaeyoung some room to breathe. He flipped his phone in his hand, wishing he could somehow make the EMTs come faster. Chaeyoung would be fine, but he knew her ankle probably really hurt.

“It’s going to be okay, Chae,” Mina promised.

Jeongyeon was still torn up. “I’m really sorry, Chaeyoung, I’m so sorry.”

Jimin breathed through his nose. Maybe Chaeyoung would have to take a break from the team, but at least he was still on it. He just had to work harder to keep his position. He could do it. He would do it.

He had to.

Chapter Text

SEOKJIN

Seokjin adjusted Hoseok’s hat, much to his son’s displeasure.

“Dad, what the heck, I’m not five,” Hoseok complained, batting his hands away. He fixed his beanie to how it was before. Seokjin flicked his earlobe.

“Your ears are sticking out,” he said.

“It looks weird when they’re covered,” Hoseok replied. “And anyway, why are you noticing? We’re supposed to be watching Jimin. Leave me alone.”

Seokjin pressed his lips together. Hoseok was cranky, his mouth pulled downwards in a triangle. He had plans with some of his dance friends tonight, but with the Knights on a winning streak, Jimin still had to show up and cheer for football game after football game, and Seokjin still expected the whole family to come out to watch. Hoseok was not happy.

But Seokjin was happy to be sitting with him. Lately, Hoseok had been quiet. He kept his eyes on his plate at dinner, and he hardly ever left his room. Seokjin missed hearing about his friends and his programming projects. It was nice to get to spend some time together, even if Hoseok was cranky.

“You know, Jimin’s got a great sense of rhythm. All you boys do,” Seokjin said. Hoseok grunted. “How’s dance?”

“Fine.”

“How’s school?”

“Fine.”

“How’s programming?”

Hoseok didn’t answer, just glared at the field, and Seokjin sighed. He pinched Hoseok’s chin and spoke for him, making his mouth match up with the words. “’Oh yes, it’s lovely, dad, thank you for asking.’”

Hoseok snorted and pushed his hand away, but Seokjin saw the grin on his face and wasn’t done. He caught his chin again. “’In fact, father, as a thank you for buying me a computer for Christmas last year, I am currently coding a program that will make sure the pasta water is boiling right when you come home from picking Jungkook up from lacrosse. That way you won’t have to ask your unreliable, forgetful sons to do it anymore,’” Seokjin said in a very un-Hoseok-like voice.

It was enough to get a laugh out of Hoseok, and while he pushed Seokjin’s hand away, Seokjin could see his shoulders relaxing. Hoseok wound up easily, but it didn’t take much to calm him down. Seokjin scratched the back of Hoseok’s neck before keeping his hands to himself.

“Come on, we never sit and talk anymore. Tell me things. How are you doing?” he asked.

Hoseok hummed, blinking down at the field. Jimin was waving his pompoms with the biggest smile on his face, and Seokjin waved back. “I guess I’m okay,” Hoseok answered eventually. “...How are you?”

“Ah, I’m fine, thank you for asking!” Seokjin said, touched that Hoseok had bothered to ask. “I’m just happy to be sitting with my favorite kid watching one of my lesser kids perform,” he said, elbowing Hoseok’s ribs. Jungkook made an indignant squawking noise on the other side of him.

“It was a joke, asshole,” Yoongi said, rolling his eyes as Jungkook crossed his arms tightly over his chest. Seokjin sighed. Everyone was in a bad mood today.

“Jungkookie, I was just teasing, I love all of you evenly,” he promised, but Jungkook still glowered.

Yoongi scoffed. “Could you stop being a baby for like five seconds?”

“Shut up!” Jungkook snapped.

“Okay, everyone calm down,” Seokjin said, stepping up as peacekeeper. He pulled out a ten-dollar bill from his wallet. “Yoongi, love, why don’t you go buy everyone some macaroni and cheese? Jungkook, what do you want? Do you want to snuggle? Do you want to sit in my lap? How can I show you I love you?” he asked, pulling Jungkook into a hug and smothering his face in his chest.

Jungkook made another squawking noise and pulled away sputtering.

“I don’t even like macaroni and cheese,” Yoongi muttered.

“Sure you do. And also you need to get away from Jungkook, so go be a dear, and get us all snacks. You can get something else if you want,” he offered. Yoongi’s frown didn’t leave his face, but he got up anyway.

Jungkook watched him go through narrowed eyes. “I hate him,” he muttered, and Seokjin ruffled his hair.

“No you don’t. Where are your earmuffs?”

Jungkook pointed to his backpack. They were looped around the top strap.

“Why don’t you put them on, peanut?”

“They look stupid.”

“Geez,” Seokjin said, suddenly tired. “Since when is it more important to look cool than to feel warm?” he asked.

“Since always,” Hoseok answered amiably. He seemed in a much better mood now, especially at the prospect of mac and cheese. Past Hoseok, Taehyung and Namjoon were talking about something that had both of them smiling. On the steps of the bleachers, Yoongi had run into some friends and had paused to talk to them.

Seokjin hummed. “Well, if being cold is so important...” He traded Jungkook’s earmuffs out for the #1 Dad baseball cap he was wearing.

“This is worse,” Jungkook complained, ripping the hat off right away, but he held it carefully in his hands. He didn’t give it back to Seokjin.

Seokjin smiled to himself. “Well, why don’t you just keep it anyway? If you’re miserably cold, you can wear it.”

“I’m miserable for other reasons,” Jungkook said. Hoseok laughed out loud, and Seokjin couldn’t help but grin. Something about Jungkook’s pouty face was still funny, even if he was used to seeing it by now.

“You know, one day we’ll appreciate this,” Hoseok told Jungkook. “Even if it kind of sucks to be here right now, one day we’ll look back on this and feel really lucky.”

Seokjin nodded, his eyes on Jimin as he got in position for a pyramid. “Being together is important. Soon it’ll just be the five of us. Yoongi is going off to college next year.”

“Good riddance,” Jungkook said darkly.

Seokjin bumped their shoulders together. “Oh come on, you don’t mean that. You two have just been squabbling a bit lately. You’re both going through phases.”

“Well, I hate his phase,” Jungkook said.

“I’m sure he feels the same way about yours,” Seokjin said. “But it’ll end soon. And in the mean time, I’ll give you both extra kisses and snuggles to make up for it,” he said in a dopey voice, bending down to kiss Jungkook’s cheek enough times to fully humiliate him.

Jungkook leaned away. His cheeks turned bright pink. He put on the baseball cap low enough to cover his eyes, and Seokjin noticed it was a little too big on his head. Jungkook still had a lot of growing up to do.

“You know, I don’t even understand football,” Hoseok said suddenly, his eyes trained on the field.

Seokjin arched an eyebrow. “Really? You come to the games every week.”

“Yeah,” Hoseok answered. “Why, do you know anything about it?”

“Oh, oh, I know everything about football,” Taehyung interrupted, joining the conversation. One of the players geared up to kick a field goal, and Taehyung pointed him out. “See, this one is about to try to shoot a basket,” Taehyung said, and Hoseok lifted an eyebrow. The football soared through the goal posts. “Home run! Go sports!”

“Go sports!” Seokjin agreed while Hoseok rolled his eyes, laughing.


YOONGI

The last thing Yoongi wanted to do on a Saturday morning was think about college, but with applications due at the end of the week and both of his parents breathing down his neck, he was forced to fill out his Common App on the living room computer. He had done the essay in class; it was just a matter of filling everything out and saving it.

“Hey, dad? Where were you born?” Yoongi shouted.

“Who are you asking?” Jin called back from the kitchen.

“Both!”

“Philadelphia,” Namjoon yelled from somewhere upstairs.

“Media,” Seokjin answered. He showed up over the half wall a moment later, throwing a dishtowel over one shoulder. “Do you need help, kid? Or is everything going okay?”

“I think I’m okay,” Yoongi answered, typing in his parents’ respective answers. Upstairs, he could hear Jimin and Hoseok’s dance music blasting. Taehyung was laughing. Namjoon’s voice was too low to pick out, but it sounded like everyone was having fun. Meanwhile, Yoongi was missing out.

“All right,” Seokjin said. He walked around the half wall to watch over Yoongi’s shoulder as he filled in his address and nationality. Yoongi felt sick. “Hey, what kind of pie do you want?” his dad asked suddenly.

Yoongi looked up. “What?”

“For Thanksgiving,” Seokjin said. “I usually make apple, but Taehyung wants to give it a go this year. So would you want something different? I have a good pie-making hour free. I’d like to use it up, maybe try something new.”

“Oh.” Yoongi didn’t know why he was so surprised to be asked. Seokjin was always checking up on him, making sure he was well fed and happy. It was one of the reasons he didn’t want to leave home. He wanted to eat Seokjin’s cooking every night; he wanted his dads to be around to take care of him and help him when he needed it. He didn’t want to leave. “Um... What about something weird?”

“Something weird?” Seokjin asked.

Yoongi nodded. He was feeling overwhelmed for some reason. There was too much happening, and he found himself fussing with the computer monitor and the keyboard, trying to make them both perfectly straight with the edge of the desk. “Like... Like cherry or something.”

“I’m not sure I like the sound of cherry,” Seokjin said.

Yoongi kept his eyes focused on the edge of the keyboard. “It’s what they eat during Trapped in the Closet.”

“I’m not making anything that’s been featured in a rap opera,” Seokjin said dryly. “Especially in a rap opera as ridiculous as Trapped in the Closet.” Yoongi quirked a smile, even though he was now focused on straightening the mouse pad. He was pretty sure one of the edges was crooked.

“Fine. I would eat pumpkin, too.”

“Oh, a classic,” Seokjin chirped. “Sure thing. But that’s not what I was hoping you would ask for.”

“What were you hoping I would ask for?” Yoongi asked. His eyes flicked back up to the computer screen, and his Common App stared back at him dauntingly. He really didn’t want to go to college. He really didn’t want to go to college. He really didn’t want to go to college.

“Blueberry,” Seokjin answered, and then —suddenly— Yoongi felt his dad’s fingers lace through his hair. He stilled as Jin’s nails lightly scratched over his scalp. Yoongi really liked it when his dad scratched his head.

He melted in his seat. The tension left his shoulders, and he leaned up against the back of the chair.

“Why blueberry?” he asked, his eyes drooping. He loved getting his hair played with, especially when he didn’t have anywhere to be for the rest of the day. Then it could get as messy as it needed to.

“I’ve never made blueberry,” Seokjin answered.

“You could make both,” Yoongi suggested, fiddling with the sleeves of his sweatshirt now and trying to make them perfectly even. However, he was considerably less worried about his sleeves compared to how stressed he had felt while trying to straighten the computer out.

“I could make both,” Seokjin said, doubling over to press a kiss to Yoongi’s forehead. “Why don’t you finish this up and then come grocery shopping with me, hm? It’ll be fun.”

Yoongi grunted. “I don’t know if that’s fun,” he said doubtfully.

“What could be more fun than picking out a turkey?” Seokjin asked incredulously.

Yoongi’s lips twitched into a grin. “Well, nothing, obviously. I didn’t know we were going to pick out turkeys,” he said.

“Consider it a reward for finishing up,” Seokjin said. “Want me to stay while you work?”

Yoongi looked at his computer screen. He had three more sections left to fill in and Seokjin’s hand felt really nice in his hair. He sucked in a deep breath. “Yes, please.”


HOSEOK

Mikey scrambled up from his chair the second he saw Hoseok. “Oh, Hobi, you came,” he said. He nearly knocked his water glass over; he was so frantic. Hoseok put Barbra’s present on the table.

“Of course I did. Happy Birthday, Bobbie,” he said, giving Barbra a nod. She paused in her conversation with Nancy to wave at him. Nancy and Barbra were the only two girls in the programming club. The rest of the table was filled with out of shape, pimply boys.

Hoseok sat down across from Mikey. It was early to be meeting, but Barbra had wanted a birthday brunch, and no one had the heart to tell her no. Plus, Hoseok loved Nudy’s; they had pumpkin bread French toast.

“I just thought, like, maybe you wouldn’t,” Mikey said.

Hoseok adjusted his glasses on his nose. He felt awkward talking to Mikey. “Why?”

“Because I owe you an apology,” Mikey said. He wasn’t younger than Jimin or Taehyung, but his eyes shone with such honesty, Hoseok felt like the age gap between them was nine years instead of nine months.

A warm smile took over Hoseok’s face. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, forgiving Mikey just as easily as he had apologized.

Mikey took a shaky. “It’s just I’m —well, everyone, really— is worried about you. I don’t think that Oliver is a good—“

“I said don’t worry about it,” Hoseok said, sending a nervous glance down the table to see if anyone had over heard. “We’re at a birthday party. I’m getting breakfast. Let’s just enjoy it.”

“Okay,” Mikey said, swallowing a breath of air.

“Oi, Hoseok!” Barbra said, cutting into the conversation at just the right time. Hoseok peered around Dustin to see her. She was cute in an unconventional sort of way: a round face with red hair. She was wicked smart, though, and a great friend: much better than any of the girls on the dance team. “What’d you get me?” she asked, shaking her gift like she could hear what was inside.

“Why don’t you try unwrapping it?” Hoseok asked. Seokjin had helped him pick it out.

“Fair point,” Barbra replied. She broke the ribbon instead of untying it and tore the paper to shreds.

“It’s Korean,” Hoseok said helpfully.

“But what is it?” Nancy asked, taking the little box out of Barbra’s hands and peering at it thoughtfully. Hoseok pressed his lips together. He thought girls were supposed to know this kind of thing.

“Peeling gel? It’s like an exfoliator. For your face. The directions are in English,” he said. Barbra took the box back and opened it up to find the tube inside. She flipped open the cap and smelled it.

“Ah, it’s so nice!”

“It’s roses and something. My dad recommended it,” Hoseok said, suddenly uncertain.

“I love it, Hoseok, thank you,” Barbra said, smiling at him charmingly. “It’s almost as good as the Labyrinth tank top Dustin bought me.

“Nothing beats Bowie,” Dustin said, raising a glass.

“Nothing beats Bowie,” Hoseok agreed; although, he had no idea what they were talking about. He sort of remembered Taehyung and Yoongi talking about something similar over breakfast a few days ago, but he hadn’t ever watched the movie.

The waiter came around and took their orders. Within a few minutes, Hoseok had a hot chocolate in front of him with extra whipped cream. It towered the mug it was sitting on, nearly toppling over the sides. Hoseok eyed it hungrily.

“Geez, have some hot chocolate with your whipped cream,” Lucas said, taking a sip of his coffee and making a face. Lucas always ordered coffee and hated it.

“It’s like a mountain,” Hoseok said happily as Lucas dumped sugar packets into his coffee cup.

“Yo, give me a spoonful,” Dustin said, his fork coming dangerously close to Hoseok’s drink. Hoseok smacked his hand away before he could touch it.

“No.”

Dustin pouted, and Nancy watched as Hoseok shoveled whipped cream into his mouth. “You know, Hobi,” she said, her chin resting in her hand, “I don’t know where you put it all. You eat so much, but you’re so slim. I look at food and my butt gets bigger.”

Hoseok choked on his spoon. He squirmed in his seat uncomfortably. “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think I’m all that skinny.”

“You can’t care about that kind of thing,” Dustin interrupted. “That’s why I ordered pancakes and hash browns.”

“That’s disgusting,” Lucas said, as he dumped a fourth creamer cup into his coffee.

“You’re disgusting,” Dustin fired back.

“I’m starving,” one of the older boys —Jonathan— interrupted.

“Same,” Nancy agreed immediately, causing the table to erupt into chaos. Everyone knew Nancy liked Jonathan and Jonathan liked Nancy. Every time they had something in common or said something at the same time, the entire club lost their minds. Hoseok was one of the first to start singing: Nancy and Jonathan, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Nancy looked hideously embarrassed, and she hid her face behind her hands. Meanwhile, Jonathan looked like he was sucking a Warhead; his face was screwed up sourly. Hoseok laughed, but he was quickly brought out of it when he felt Mikey’s gaze boring into the side of his face.

Hoseok blinked back at him, startled by the serious look in Mikey’s eyes. He quickly looked away. He had a feeling he knew just what Mikey wanted to talk about, but he wasn’t going to: not here, not now.

It was a birthday party, after all. They were supposed to talk about happy things.


TAEHYUNG

“Okay, so this time you wrap the rope around the branch three times, and that’s how you get ‘the pipe hitch,’” Phil said helpfully. “The knots at the end are the same as the last one, though.”

Taehyung held his tangled rope in his hands, overwhelmed. Phil had said he had tied the hitches correctly last time, but this was the fifth knot Phil had tried to teach him, and honestly they were all blending together.

They had been out in the woods for an hour or so. Seokjin had dropped him off in the parking lot by the boat rentals where PJ had been waiting. Teahyung’s new friends had a special spot on the edge of the lake where they liked to hang out, and PJ showed him the way to where Dan, Phil, and Chris were waiting.

The trees were bare, but the lake was sparkling. Chipmunks rustled underfoot. Taehyung was having a good time, even if the chill was starting to get to him. He buried a little further into Namjoon’s vest and pulled Hoseok’s hoodie down over his hands.

“Stop throwing names at him. He’s never going to remember,” Dan said from his spot sprawled out on a log.

“What’s hard about two half hitches, a round turn and two half hitches, and the pipe hitch?” Phil asked. Taehyung blanched. “The progression is obvious.”

“Yeah, obvious,” Chris agreed snottily.

“Counter argument,” PJ piped up. “It’s not obvious.” He took the rope out of Taehyung’s hands and gave it a shake, magically untangling the bowline knot Taehyung had stuck in the end of it three knots ago. “Listen, don’t worry too much about remembering everything right away,” PJ told him, wrapping the rope around a low hanging branch three times, just like Phil said. “It’s too much to keep track of all at once, but you have tons of time to practice. We’re not going camping until the spring anyway.” He tied two hitches, and Taehyung watched carefully.

“Yeah, there’s no way you can remember everything all at once,” Dan agreed.

“Sorry,” Taehyung said, pulling at the bottom hem of Hoseok’s sweatshirt.

Dan waved him off. “Nah, we’ve been doing this for ages. ‘Can’t expect you to catch up right away.”

“You have a stick in your hair,” Phil said.

Dan ran a hand through his hair, trying to shake out the little twig that had worked his way into his curls, and PJ passed the untied rope back to Taehyung. “Your turn,” he said. Taehyung took a breath.

His eyes stayed on his hitches, but inside his mind was racing. He sometimes found it hard to speak up around new people, even if he was excited to be making friends, but one question had been burning at the back of his mind since meeting Dan, Chris, Phil, and PJ. He tightened his knots. “So, um... where do you guys go to school?” he asked. He hadn’t seen them around before.

“Well, I’m at the STEM Academy,” PJ answered.

“PJ is our resident genius,” Dan explained. “Meanwhile, Chris and I go to Bishop Shanahan, up on Woodbine Road? The fancy private school?”

“Have to wear uniforms and everything,” Chris complained.

Dan continued like Chris hadn’t even spoken. “And Phil goes to the tech school in Brandywine.”

“I’m going to be a veterinarian!” Phil exclaimed.

PJ hid a laugh with a fake cough. “Phil is the most interesting out of all of us because he’s the only one who regularly sticks his hands up animals butts.”

“That’s not true,” Phil laughed. “But I have had to squeeze out some dogs’ anal glands before which was, you know, an event.”

Taehyung wasn’t sure if he was allowed to laugh or not, but he couldn’t keep a smile off his face. Dan seemed to notice Taehyung struggling not to laugh and chimed in. “Phil wants to be a veterinarian for farm animals like horses and cows and stuff, so he’s working his way up to going elbow deep.”

“He’s been practicing on bigger and bigger animals,” PJ said.

“He started just looking up hamsters, and now he can stick his whole hand in a golden retriever,” Chris said.

Ew,” Taehyung said, but he was laughing. His new friends looked proud of themselves; all but Phil, who looked traumatized.

“You guys are sick. If this what you think medicine is like, I’m scared to know what happens at the doctor’s office during your physicals.”

Taehyung pressed his lips together, trying not to laugh at Phil’s misery, but one look at Dan had Taehyung cracking up all over again.

Phil pouted, but he didn’t actually look sad. At least, Taehyung didn’t think so. He sort of looked like Jimin when Hoseok was teasing him, which meant he probably knew that no one meant to hurt his feelings. (Taehyung didn’t mean to hurt his feelings, anyway.)

“Sorry, sorry,” Taehyung apologized anyway, and Phil rolled his eyes.

“You guys are gross.”

“Love you, too, Philly,” Chris said. He picked up a rock and skipped it across the water. Taehyung watched it bounce and found a rock of his own. “Oh ho, what’s this?” Chris said, watching as Taehyung eyed up the lake. “You know, you can’t be friends with us if you can’t skip rocks well.”

“Shut up! Don’t make him nervous,” Dan said, once again coming to Taehyung’s defense. But this time, he didn’t need it.

The rock skimmed the surface of the water, and Chris let out a low whistle as it jumped off the waves six times before sinking without a splash.

“I’m good at skipping rocks,” Taehyung said proudly.

“Obviously,” Phil said. He sounded impressed, and Taehyung stood up straight. He was smiling, until a familiar feeling hit him like a truck. PJ noticed the change on his face first.

“Hey, Taehyung, are you okay?”

Taehyung swallowed down his nerves. He put his hands over his heart, his eyebrows scrunching together. “Um... I’m just- PJ, you drove here, right?”

“Ah, yeah?” PJ said, twirling his car keys around his pointer finger as proof.

Taehyung blinked. Keep calm, Taehyung, you’re okay. “Do you think you could drive me home?”

“What’s wrong?” Dan asked.

“I’m just-“ Taehyung took a wobbly breath. “I think- I mean- I don’t want to leave, but I’m-“ He rubbed his chest, trying not to freak out in front of his new friends.

“Is it a seizure?” Phil asked.

Taehyung nodded.

“PJ, take him home,” Phil said.

“On it,” PJ agreed, already walking back towards the trail. Taehyung hesitated to follow. “Come on, Tae, I’ll drive you.”

Taehyung’s feet stuttered forward. He waved back at Dan, Phil, and Chris. He felt guilty for leaving. He felt embarrassed. He was scared he was going to have a seizure in the car with PJ.

“Hey, what’s with the face? Don’t freak out, I’m going to take you home,” PJ said.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung squeaked.

“For what?” PJ asked. “Well hang out next weekend or something. Dan’s going to Tennessee for Thanksgiving, but the rest of us can hang out on Friday or whatever.”

“You still want to hang out?” Taehyung asked, trying to ignore his heart racing.

PJ gave him a weird look. “Ah, yeah? What of it?”

“Nothing,” Taehyung answered. He just wanted to go home. “But, um... Okay. I’m not doing anything next weekend. Maybe... maybe we could... we could...”

“We can do anything,” PJ said, as they made it to the parking lot. “Don’t worry about it right now. Maybe just focus on getting home.”

“Okay,” Taehyung breathed. He was upset, naturally. The one time he actually got invited somewhere —and not just because it was an elementary school birthday party and the whole class was invited— and he had to feel an aura in the middle of it. He just wanted to be normal.

But at the same time, no one had seemed to care that he had to leave early. Maybe they wanted him to go? Or maybe it was just like PJ said, and they knew they would get to see Taehyung at scouts and maybe again on the weekend. Maybe they just knew he had to go home.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung said again. He absolutely refused to cry in PJ’s presence, but there were still tears burning at the back of his eyes. He chewed on his bottom lip. “I’m really sorry.”

“Dude, you’ve got nothing to be sorry for,” PJ said. “My little sister has POTS. She has to leave stuff early all the time because she feels sick or exhausted, and the other guys aren’t mad at you for leaving. Everything’s chill.” They reached PJ’s truck. “Do you need help climbing in?”

Taehyung shook his head, staring up at the truck fearfully. He imagined toppling out of the passenger seat from so high up. “I’m okay,” he promised.

“Okay,” PJ unlocked Taehyung’s door, and he climbed in. He felt numb, his hands barely working to put on his seatbelt. As he gave PJ directions back to his house, he tried to focus on the positives. At the very least, his new friends seemed to like him, and PJ had promised him over and over that no one was mad. He hated his seizures, but at least Dan, Chris, Phil, and PJ didn’t seem to feel quite so strongly.


NAMJOON

Namjoon walked into his bathroom to brush his teeth, only to find Seokjin already there with a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. “Oh, you’re here,” Namjoon said. He pushed his glasses up his nose, surprised. Recovering quickly, he pinched Seokjin’s butt as he walked by. “We can brush our teeth together, lovie.”

Seokjin stuck his foamy toothbrush in Namjoon’s face. “Here, want to share?”

“No.”

“I thought you said you wanted to brush our teeth together?”

Namjoon kissed Seokjin’s cheek. “I just wanted to brush my teeth next to you. Stop being annoying.”

“You’re annoying,” Seokjin fired back. Namjoon squeezed toothpaste onto his toothbrush and wondered if this was one of the perks or drawbacks to being married for so long. At least Seokjin knew how to keep things interesting.

“Hey, would you want to watch a movie tonight?”

“We could,” Seokjin said. “I promised Jimin we would watch Planet Earth II sometime this weekend, though.”

“Oh, yeah, he’s been talking about that nonstop.”

“Yeah,” Seokjin agreed. He paused to rinse out his mouth, but when he stood up straight again, his eyebrows were pinched together. Namjoon looked at him inquiringly, and Seokjin sighed. “Does he seem... I mean, he hasn’t really said anything about it, but does he seem... off to you?”

Namjoon thought for a minute. “Not as off as Hoseok.”

“No, not as off as Hoseok,” Seokjin agreed.

“But yeah, maybe a little. He’s sort of been looking, like... I don’t know... Shaken?”

“That’s what I think, too,” Seokjin said. “I keep trying to talk to him about it, but he keeps saying everything is fine. Hoseok keeps saying everything is fine. Everyone keeps saying everything is fine.”

“Well, then, maybe Planet Earth II is a good idea,” Namjoon said. “We can watch up in our room.”

Seokjin smirked. “Cute.”

“Do we wake Taehyung up?” He had gone to bed early after his seizure that afternoon.

“Nah, let him sleep,” Seokjin said, pumping his foam cleanser a couple times before washing his face. Namjoon stole some of his bubbles to wash his nose. Seokjin rinsed his face off and patted it dry. “Okay. I’ll go assemble the crew.”

“Assemble who?”

Namjoon turned to find Jimin standing in the doorway of their en suite bathroom. He was wearing a too-small pair of trackies and a too-big sweatshirt. He had been working on homework all day, and his ruffled hair and slouchy clothes proved it. Seokjin pinched his cheek. “You and Yoongi,” Seokjin answered. Jungkook and Hoseok were both out with friends.

“For what?” Jimin asked.

Planet Earth II,” Namjoon said, sharing the good news before Seokjin could. Jin scowled at him, but Jimin’s entire face lit up.

“Oh, okay! I’ll go get him, hold on!”

Jimin rushed off, and Seokjin pouted. “You stole the good part,” he complained. “I wanted to be the fun dad for once.”

“You’re always the fun dad,” Namjoon promised.

“No, now I’ve got to make cookies to seem cool.”

Namjoon frowned and looked at the clock on their bathroom radio. “Babe, it’s like... eight thirty.”

“I have frozen cookie dough from the fundraiser Mina’s entrepreneur class did in September.”

“Who is Mina?”

“Jimin’s friend. You’ve met her, like, six times.”

Namjoon pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “I can’t be expected to keep track of Jimin’s eight thousand friends, especially the girls. They’re terrifying,” he said. Seokjin snorted, and Namjoon glared. “Just go make your cookies, I’ll be here waiting.”

“They’re peanut butter chocolate chip,” Seokjin muttered under his breath, like that was supposed to be some sticking point, but Namjoon wasn’t big on sweets. In fact, one of the reasons he and Seokjin worked so well was because Seokjin really cared about food and Namjoon didn’t, so whatever Seokjin wanted, he got. (Even extra bites from Namjoon’s plate.)

Seokjin left the bedroom suite to go make his cookies. Namjoon left the bathroom to go put on some pajamas. In the time it took him to pull his sweatshirt over his head, Jimin managed to come into the room, get into bed, and tuck himself in. Namjoon jumped when he found his son staring at him as he tugged his head through the neck hole.

“Minnie, you scared me!”

“Sorry,” Jimin said sheepishly. “Where’s Jin? Are we still gonna watch the show?”

“Yeah. He’s just downstairs making some cookies. Where’s Yoongi?”

“He’s coming. He’s just getting some socks.”

Namjoon arched an eyebrow. “Are you wearing socks?”

Jimin frowned. “No?”

Namjoon shook his head. “Unacceptable. I’m not letting your cold toes touch my leg under the blankets.”

Jimin laughed. “What?”

“Your feet are made of ice,” Namjoon explained.

“No, they’re not!” Jimin argued. He wasn’t laughing out loud, but his eyes were sparkling more than usual. Namjoon grabbed a pair of socks from his dresser.

“Come here, kid.”

“No!” Jimin kicked himself to the far side of the bed. Namjoon pulled the covers off and threw them onto the floor.

“Come here.

“No!” Jimin yelped again, pulling his knees to his chest. Namjoon jumped onto the mattress and grabbed one of Jimin’s feet. Jimin squealed and twisted onto his tummy. He clutched at the carpet, trying to pull himself off the bed and out of Namjoon’s grasp.

“Just let me put socks on you!”

“Never in a million years!”

“Why not?!”

“Because you’re crazy!”

Namjoon gave Jimin’s leg a particularly hard tug, and Jimin laughed as he slid across the mattress. He tried pushing at Namjoon, but he was laughing too hard to do much of anything, and Namjoon sat on top of his back to keep him still. He forced a sock on one of his feet, and Jimin shrieked. “Get off of me!”

“Just stay still!”

“What the heck is going on in here?” Namjoon looked up to see Seokjin standing in the doorway.

Namjoon decided to play it cool. “Hey, babe. I thought you were making cookies,” he said airily.

“They’re in the oven. It’ll be twelve minutes,” Seokjin said. He looked at Namjoon and Jimin, confusion clear on every part of his face.

“Dad, save me,” Jimin whined.

“Quiet, you,” Namjoon said. Jimin was still for a moment, and Namjoon used the opportunity to force another sock on him. Jimin tried to kick himself away, but ended up giggling when Namjoon tickled behind his knee.

“Stop!” he begged, laughing into the mattress, and Seokjin sighed.

“I’m going to go check on Taehyung and see what’s keeping Yoongi. By the time I get back, everyone is going to be sitting nicely, and no one is going to be drooling onto my clean sheets,” he said.

“Sir, yes, sir,” Namjoon agreed, saluting. Jimin saw his chance and slipped away from Namjoon while he was distracted. He took off his sock and threw it in Namjoon’s direction. Namjoon gasped. “Oh, now you’re asking for it,” Namjoon said.

Namjoon tackled Jimin onto the mattress, watching him laugh against his t-shirt sheets. Jimin had always liked wrestling. When he was little, Namjoon used to throw him over his shoulder, carry him upside down, hold his hands while he did flips against his legs, and airplane him on his knees.

Namjoon still liked rough housing with Jimin, and he was glad to see Jimin liked it right back.

I wanted to be the fun dad for once,” Seokjin said as he left the room.

“You’re plenty fun!” Namjoon promised.

“Dad, save me!” Jimin shouted again, and Namjoon clamped a hand over his mouth. Seokjin turned around and smirked.

“You’re on your own kid,” he said before disappearing up the stairs to Yoongi’s room. Jimin squealed and fought Namjoon off. Namjoon let Jimin push him to the side, just to see the smile on his face. Maybe Jimin still hadn’t told him or Namjoon what was going on, but for once, there wasn’t a cloud hanging over him. He looked happy, and that was all Namjoon was hoping for tonight.


JIMIN

Jimin took a big bite of his oatmeal. He had to eat quickly; Zoey would be over any minute to pick him up to go hiking with half the school. It was supposed to be just a theater kid thing, but Jeongyeon and Jihyo were both chorus girls, and Mina was one of the leads, so the cheer squad was all going to be there. And now that Nayeon was going to, so were half the football and the basketball team.

“Morning.”

Jimin looked up just as Seokjin was bending down to kiss his forehead. His dad ended up kissing his nose instead on his way to get coffee. Jimin blinked. “Whoops.”

“You’re up so early,” Seokjin said, turning on the electric kettle.

Jimin shrugged. “I’m always up early.”

“That’s true.” Seokjin took out a box of Assam tea from the cabinet. “Would you like some tea, Minnie?”

Jimin hugged his knees to his chest. “Only if it’s in a travel cup.”

“You got it.”

Jimin ate a couple more bites of his oatmeal. He had stirred some dried cranberries in it along with some brown sugar. It was good in a healthy sort of way. Jimin stared into it for a minute. “Hey, dad?”

Seokjin hummed in response. He sounded sleepy still, but Jimin pressed on.

“Do you think we could watch Planet Earth in your room again? Like tonight?”

“Well, tonight, Namjoon and I will be out late with Yoongi,” Seokjin started. “But you and I could watch it when you get home from cheer on Monday.”

“But then Joonie won’t be there,” Jimin said.

Seokjin stirred some milk and sugar into Jimin’s tea. “Well, then, we’ll just have to wait until he gets home,” Seokjin said, handing Jimin his cup just as Zoey pulled her car up the driveway. She honked her horn.

“Okay, gotta go,” Jimin said, taking a big sip from his paper cup. “See you later! Love you!”

“Love you, too,” Seokjin echoed back, but Jimin had already left the kitchen. He crammed his feet into his sneakers and rushed out to Zoey’s car. Zoey’s boyfriend, Chase, was already sitting in the passenger seat, so Jimin squeezed into the back with Mina and Momo.

“Hey!” Zoey chirped. “Ready to go hiking?”

Jimin nodded. “Yeah, sorry for crashing.”

“No problem! Glad you could make it,” Zoey said, waving her hand at him dismissively.

“Yeah, glad you could make it,” Momo agreed. Her eyes were trained on the rearview mirror as she tugged her ponytail tighter. Mina poked her head out from around her.

“Hey, Jimin.”

“Hey, Mina.”

Zoey pulled the car out of the driveway. Jimin looked around the car. Chase was sleeping in the front seat, his curly hair pillowing his spot resting against the window. Momo was awake on her phone (probably texting JB), and Mina’s head was stuck between the headrest and the wall of the car. She was asleep now that the van was rolling again.

No one looked like they felt like talking, but the ride to Hawk Mountain was at least an hour and a half. Jimin pulled out his phone. He scrolled through his notifications, pausing at the sight of a calendar reminder. “Fuck.”

“Hm?” Momo asked, her eyes still glued to her phone.

“I forgot I have a project due for English on Wednesday,” he said, taking his hat off to run a hand through his hair. His heart was racing.

“So? Just do it later.”

“You don’t get it,” Jimin said. It took him a long time to do school projects. It took him an especially long time to read a book for English class: no one talks like they do in Jane Eyre. It took forever for Jimin to read, process, and then write an analysis about it. His project was going to take forever. He didn’t know how he was going to squeeze it in between practice, school, and his regular homework. He should have stayed home today. “I don’t know if I can go hiking today.”

“Jimin, we’re already driving,” Momo said, looking up at him. She seemed annoyed. Jimin could understand; it was early, and they had too long of a drive to turn around. “Just do it later.”

Jimin wanted to argue, but his jaw snapped closed. Instead he sat there, quietly seething. His shoulders tensed further and further. His fists clenched tighter and tighter.

Jimin punched the window, and the car swerved.

“Geez, Jimin!” Zoey yelped, pulling the car back onto the road. She was loud, but everyone in the car had already woken up. Mina was pale as a sheet. “You scared the crap out of me!”

“Wha’s goin’ on?” Chase asked, sitting up.

“Jimin just punched the car!” Momo said.

Chase ran a hand over his sleepy face. “Why?”

“I just-“ Jimin tensed his jaw. “Forget it. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare everyone.”

Mina popped her head out from around Momo again. “Minnie, are you okay?” she asked. Jimin tightened his hand around his phone.

“Yeah, I’m fine, I’m, um...” He pulled up Taehyung’s name in his messages. “I’m fine,” he said again, shooting an SOS text. “I just wanna get there, you know? I’ll be good once we’re hiking.”

From: Jimin (08:10)
Just remembered that English project (꒪⌓꒪)

“Why don’t we put on some music?” Zoey suggested, turning on the radio. “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande screeched through the broken speakers of Zoey’s Honda Odyssey. It did nothing for Jimin’s nerves.

From: Taehyung (08:11)
Hang in there, Minnie!
We can work on it together when you get home

From: Jimin (08:11)
Ok. Try not to die before I get back

From: Taehyung (08:12)
I make no promises ~(>_<~)
Feeling pretty gross...
Why am I not still sleeping?

From: Jimin (08:12)
I wish I was always sleeping

From: Taehyung (08:12)
Don’t say that (T_T)
You’ll have a fun time hiking!!!!!!!!!!!!

From: Jimin (08:12)
No

Jimin’s phone buzzed in his pocket —presumably with a text from Taehyung— but Jimin didn’t feel like being cheered up just yet. It was stupid how school could ruin his day, even on the weekend.

He slumped down against the backseat and crossed his arms over his chest. He took a shaky breath. “Do you think we can change stations to 102.5?” he asked.

“Sure,” Zoey agreed. She flipped the call numbers just as the station ID played: You’re listening to WWMR, 102.5, your station for vibing and riding.

“Hey, Jimin, isn’t that your dad?” Mina asked.

“It’s just a recording,” Jimin answered. “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna played automatically after the Station ID. Jimin rested against the car door, not exactly feeling better but also not feeling quite so bad.

Momo side-eyed him before her expression softened. She turned towards him. “Maybe take a break, Jimin. It’s still super early in the morning,” she suggested, patting his knee.

“...Maybe.”

Momo pinched his cheek. “Go night-night.”

“You’re weird,” Jimin said, batting her hand away. Momo poked him as he closed his eyes. He blindly smacked her back into her place. Momo tasered his side, and Jimin yelped. “Leave me alone!”

“Okay, okay, just go to sleep,” Momo said.

Jimin huffed. “Thank you.” He adjusted his hat to lie nicely against the door. He wasn’t exactly tired; he usually woke up early. But he definitely wasn’t up for socializing. He just needed a break, even if that meant ignoring Taehyung’s texts and fake-sleeping in the back of Zoey’s beat up mini van.

He got so angry so quickly, but it took him so long to calm down.

JUNGKOOK

Jungkook slipped a little further down on the couch. Last night, he had gone to a hockey sleepover, and now he was exhausted. As far as Jin and Joon knew, the guys had gone to bed around midnight, but in actuality it was more like 3 AM.

Jungkook was so tired. He felt like a slug. Like a mucus-covered, wet-and-slimy, big, fat slug.

“Hey, look at this,” Jungkook said, turning is phone towards Taehyung so his brother could see. There was a video of a giant tortoise eating a tomato. Every time it tried to take a bite, the tomato rolled away and the tortoise had to slowly chase after it.

Taehyung stared at it for a little too long as the video looped, but a smile slowly crept over his face. “Cute. I love turtles.”

“It’s a tortoise,” Jungkook corrected.

“Right,” Taehyung agreed before turning back to his TV show. Jungkook stared at the side of his face for a moment. Taehyung was the only one of his brothers who didn’t seem to outright hate him. (Or, well, Yoongi was the only one who actually got mad at him, but Jimin and Hoseok still teased him an awful lot.)

“Taehyung?”

“Hm?” Taehyung blinked over at him with clouded eyes. He looked just as tired as Jungkook, but he had gotten three times as much sleep. He was like a baby, sleeping all night and taking naps all day.

“Will you get me a glass of water? With ice?” Jungkook asked.

“Why can’t you get it?” Taehyung asked. Impractical Jokers was on, and Taehyung was always reluctant to take his eyes off the TV when he was watching an episode.

“Because I’m tired.”

I’m tired,” Taehyung argued.

“No, you’re not, you get tons of sleep,” Jungkook said. Taehyung didn’t look impressed. “Come on, Tae, no one else is home to ask.” Seokjin, Namjoon, and Yoongi were all on a last minute round of college tours. Hoseok was out with some guy from the dance team, and Jimin had gotten into one of the theater kids’ cars at eight in the morning and hadn’t come home since. His Snapchat story was full of football players and cheerleaders, though, so Jungkook didn’t know when he switched friend groups or if he was even with the same people.

“It doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten tons of sleep,” Taehyung said, but he got off the sectional anyway. His eyes were droopy, and Jungkook squinted up at him. Seokjin’s words replayed in his head: Keep your eye on Taehyung while we’re gone. He’s still tired and stressed from his seizure yesterday.

Jungkook almost spoke up to tell Taehyung to forget it —that he could get his own water— but he hesitated. Everyone babied Taehyung. It was stupid. Besides, Jungkook wasn’t asking him to run a marathon; he just wanted a glass of water.

Taehyung put his hand on his head as he untangled his feet from his blanket. “I feel funny,” he complained.

“Namjoon and Seokjin should be back soon,” Jungkook promised. They could deal with Taehyung when they got home.

“Like aura-funny.”

“I don’t know what you want me to do about it,” Jungkook answered.

“Guess I’ll just go get your water then, princess,” Taehyung said snidely, and Jungkook crinkled his nose. He didn’t mean it like that; he had meant it honestly. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do when Taehyung said he felt funny. Usually, there was someone else around to help Taehyung with his seizures — someone more equipped.

Jungkook tried not to worry when Taehyung disappeared into the kitchen to get his water. At the mall the other day, everyone had been worried Taehyung would have a seizure right away, but he usually had a good bit of time between feeling an aura and actually having an epileptic episode. Hopefully, his parents would be home in time. They were due back any minute.

Jungkook frowned when Taehyung was gone for longer than expected. He didn’t hear any footsteps in the kitchen, just the sound of water dripping.

“Taehyung?” he called out.

Taehyung didn’t answer.

Jungkook felt sick. “Tae?”

The sound of water dripping didn’t stop, and Jungkook jumped up from the couch, suddenly full of energy. Fear was a powerful motivator.

Jungkook walked into the kitchen, only to find Taehyung standing at the refrigerator with a cup pressed against the water filter. It was overflowing onto the floor, and Jungkook crinkled his nose. “Taehyung, what are you doing?” he said, annoyed, before Taehyung collapsed to the floor.

His face hit the ground with a sickening thump, and the plastic cup bounced off the ground, water spilling everywhere.

For a second, Jungkook couldn’t figure out why Taehyung hadn’t caught himself during his fall, but then his body started quivering, and the shock wore off. Taehyung was having a seizure.

Right.

Jungkook ran a hand through his hair, lost and confused. He had no idea how to help. He had been painfully genuine when he had told Taehyung he didn’t know what to do about his aura, and now that he was across the kitchen from his shaking brother, the reality of it felt like it was hitting him square in the chest. He had no idea what to do. “Taehyung,” he squeaked.

He checked the stove clock: 7:18. Jungkook only had to worry if Taehyung’s seizure lasted over five minutes. Right now, he just had to...

Clear the area.

Jungkook rushed to Taehyung’s side and pushed the bar stools away from him so he wouldn’t kick or punch one with his twitching limbs. Next, he had to roll Taehyung onto his side.

As delicately as he could, Jungkook rolled Taehyung over. There was blood gushing from his nose and water soaking through his t-shirt. His eyes stared straight ahead, unseeing, and suddenly Jungkook felt so panicked, his breath caught in the back of his throat. Yoongi would have caught Taehyung before he fell. Actually, Yoongi wouldn’t have made Taehyung get up in the first place. No one in their family would have.

No one but Jungkook.

Tears spilled over his eyelashes, and Jungkook knew he was supposed to be watching Taehyung, but he was too busy crying. He hid his eyes in the crook of his elbow. He was crying because of his own selfishness, but that in and of itself was a selfish thing to do when Taehyung was bleeding mid-seizure in a puddle of water.

Jungkook felt Taehyung’s arm bump into his knees, and he struggled to pull himself together. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help you, I don’t know how to help you.”

Taehyung made a strangled noise, one eye now staring at Jungkook and the other somewhere towards the floor. It only made Jungkook cry harder.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Taehyung’s right side stilled, but it was his left arm that kept knocking into Jungkook’s knees. Jungkook watched it fling out from Taehyung’s side through his fingers, tears still rolling down his cheeks. His parents were going to be so mad when they came home to see Taehyung drenched, bloodied, and bruised. Jungkook didn’t even have an excuse.

Taehyung made a wailing noise, and Jungkook sobbed right with him. Eventually the left side of Taehyung’s body stilled, and at least Jungkook had the presence of mind to check the clock. 7:22. The seizure had lasted a little less than 4 minutes.

That was so long, and it had come on so fast.

“Taehyung,” Jungkook called. He put his hands on Taehyung’s arm to get his attention, but Taehyung was already looking at him. Jungkook heard his breath hitching, but he wasn’t crying, just confused and staring at Jungkook.

Jungkook realized he probably looked like a mess. He couldn’t remember the last time he cried in front of one of his brothers. “Come on, we have to get you cleaned up.”

Taehyung opened his mouth to speak. His lips moved, but no words came out. When they finally did, they were fast and garbled. Panicked gibberish. Jungkook couldn’t make sense of it, so he sat Taehyung up against the counter and assessed the damage.

There was blood streaked across his cheek, and he looked terrified, but that wasn’t what Jungkook was focused on. No, he was too busy watching the darkening bruise spread out under Taehyung’s eye. Jungkook couldn’t tell if it was still growing or not, but Taehyung definitely gave himself a shiner when his face hit the floor.

Jungkook’s stomach flip-flopped. At least Taehyung’s nose had stopped bleeding. That was a good sign. He needed a change of clothes, though, and Jungkook wasn’t sure if the puddle around them was just water or not.

Jungkook sniffled. “Do you need to change, Taehyung?”

Taehyung looked at him helplessly. He tried to talk, but couldn’t answer, and Jungkook rubbed snot from his nose with the back of his hand. “I’m just gonna clean your face off first, ‘kay?” He felt like such a failure.

Jungkook wet a paper towel to try to scrub the blood off Taehyung’s cheek. He had just about cleaned him off when the sound of the garage door opening made him sit up.

“Jin,” Taehyung managed, a sudden whine to his voice. He had just seemed panicked before, but now he seemed desperate and overwhelmed. Taehyung’s eyes filled with tears as Jungkook rubbed his own off on his sleeve.

His hands tightened into fists.

Of course his family would come home after Taehyung’s seizure. They weren’t there for the hard part; they never were. His parents were just going to swoop in after the damage had been done to fix everything, when they could have just prevented it in the first place.

Jungkook turned away so Taehyung wouldn’t see his face as it twisted up into something furious. The laundry room door opened, and Jungkook listened to Yoongi and Namjoon talking jovially as they took off their shoes. “Boys, we’re- Oh my goodness, Taehyung.”

Jungkook watched as Namjoon stepped into the kitchen, only to drop to his knees next to Taehyung.

“What happened to you, TaeTae? What happened?” Namjoon asked, arms open. Taehyung clutched onto him immediately, heaving a sob into Namjoon’s chest. Namjoon turned to Jungkook, his gaze questioning, as Yoongi and Seokjin stepped into the kitchen.

“You weren’t here. That’s what happened,” Jungkook said, his knuckles white.

“I’m sorry?” Namjoon asked. He looked confused. His arms were wrapped protectively around Taehyung, and for some reason, that made Jungkook furious.

“You just left! And you knew he was like this,” Jungkook said, gesturing to the pathetic lump that Taehyung had turned into. “You drove off, and then I had to deal with him like this.”

“What are you talking about?” Yoongi snapped, and Seokjin stepped forward.

“Yoongi, why don’t you go to your room,” Seokjin said, eyeing Jungkook like he was a wild animal. Jungkook’s vision turned red.

“Don’t look at me like that! I have every reason to be mad! This isn’t my job!” he exclaimed.

“It’s not a job,” Yoongi argued.

“That’s enough,” Seokjin said, turning to Yoongi. “Go upstairs. I’ll talk to Jungkook.”

“Come on, Tae, honey, let’s go get you into some dry clothes,” Namjoon said, helping Taehyung to his feet. Jungkook glowered as Namjoon guided a sniffling Taehyung towards the stairs. Yoongi was still standing in the kitchen, glaring, but Seokjin nudged him onwards. Yoongi stomped away, and Seokjin turned to Jungkook.

“Okay, what’s wrong?”

“It’s not my job to take care of Taehyung!” Jungkook said angrily.

“Okay,” Seokjin answered.

“You shouldn’t have left him with me! You left me alone with barely any warning, and then his face smacked the floor, and it’s not my fault! It’s your fault! It shouldn’t be my responsibility to look after him, I’m not his babysitter.”

“Okay,” Seokjin said again, slowly. Meanwhile, Jungkook’s chest heaved with anger. “I mean, you don’t have to watch him every second, but if he starts having a seizure-“

“Someone else should deal with it,” Jungkook snapped. “I don’t want to!”

“Jungkook-“

“Don’t ‘Jungkook’ me!”

Jungkook,” Seokjin said again. “What’s this about? You like Taehyung, you’re friends. And you and I have been getting along better lately. Why are you suddenly so angry?”

“It’s not my fault that Taehyung got hurt!” Jungkook demanded.

“Of course not,” Seokjin promised. “He has epilepsy, Kookie. He’s going to get hurt sometimes.”

Jungkook didn’t say anything, just stood in front of Seokjin with his hands balled into fists and his head turned away as far as possible so his dad couldn’t see his face.

“Are you just worried, is that what this is?” Seokjin asked. Jungkook didn’t say anything, just tried to keep his chin from wobbling. “Jungkook, love, Taehyung is fine, I’m sure. You looked like you were doing a great job taking care of him,” Seokjin promised, but Jungkook refused to respond. “It’s okay to be worried, though. Seizures are scary.”

Jungkook’s shoulders shook.

He flashed back to his last conversation with Dr. Kroger. They had been talking about emotions, about anger, about fear. “It’s okay to be scared, Jungkook. And it’s okay to admit it. You don’t have to feel angry all the time, if you don’t want to.”

Jungkook sniffled. He hid his face in his palms again. “Just... just leave me alone. I don’t want to have to deal with this.”

“Deal with what?” Seokjin asked.

“This!” Jungkook snapped, looking up at his dad. “All of this! It’s too much. I don’t want to have to deal with it. It’s not fair; everyone expects me to deal with everything on my own!”

“No one expects you to do anything on your own,” Seokjin promised. “Come here, kid.” Seokjin opened his arms, and Jungkook eyed him skeptically. “Come here, come get a hug.”

Jungkook felt like snapping, but he thought about what Dr. Kroger said again: “You don’t have to feel angry all the time, if you don’t want to.”

He bit his lip, but before he could even make the decision to take the two steps into his dad’s arms, Seokjin was already hugging him. Jungkook melted into his dad’s chest. “Were you just worried?” Seokjin asked again. “Is that what this is?”

“I don’t want anyone else to die,” Jungkook said into Seokjin’s t-shirt.

“Of course not.”

“I didn’t know how to help him.”

“Well, it certainly looked like you did. I’m sure he was probably really grateful that you were there to help him through it instead of having to deal with it all on his own,” Seokjin promised.

“Everything feels like too much,” Jungkook said, overwhelmed, and Seokjin kissed the crown of his head.

“Eighth grade is hard,” Seokjin agreed.

“It is hard,” Jungkook said.

Seokjin hummed and rubbed his back. “How about we get you cleaned up, huh? You seem exhausted. Let’s get you showered and in bed, yeah? Did you eat dinner already?”

Jungkook scrubbed at his nose. “Taehyung made little English muffin pizzas.”

“That sounds good,” Seokjin said. “So you’re ready for bed then? A quick shower and we’ll get you tucked in?”

“I don’t need to be tucked in,” Jungkook complained.

“Humor me,” Seokjin said as he led Jungkook towards the stairs. Jungkook closed his eyes. His brain felt foggy. Maybe this evening would have gone different if he had gotten the proper amount of sleep last night. Suddenly, he realized why his dad was so insistent that he got in at least a full eight hours.

He hated admitting his parents knew best, but sometimes they were right when he was definitely wrong. Today had been a day full of mistakes, and Jungkook was too exhausted to argue it. “Fine,” he agreed. Maybe a shower and an early bedtime would do him well, especially if Seokjin was there to see it happen.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin sipped his tea calmly and flipped through his new recipe book. He had been cooking with cast iron lately, and this magazine had a section on cobblers that could be made in his new skillet. He was just looking further into a peach blueberry recipe, when he heard Taehyung’s bedroom door creak open.

Ah.

The rest of the boys were off at school. Jungkook had seemed a little distracted but well rested. Fortunately, he missed the daggers Yoongi was shooting at him from across the table. The last thing Seokjin wanted to do was play referee at breakfast.

Seokjin had let Taehyung sleep in because it was obvious he had been exhausted after his seizure on Saturday to the point of having another seizure on Sunday, and Seokjin knew the lingering anxiety Taehyung must be feeling was just as much of a stressor for his epilepsy as fatigue.

Feet padded towards the upstairs bathroom, and Seokjin heard the toilet flush a minute later. Seokjin flipped his book closed.

The sound of the sink turning on, and then a startled yelp. “Dad?”

“You’re okay,” Seokjin called back.

A moment later, Taehyung’s terrified face appeared at the top of the stairs. His eye had blackened to a deep purple, and his nose was swollen still from his harsh landing the day before.

“You’re okay,” Seokjin promised. “Your nose hit the ground when you fell, but you’re okay, just a little banged up.”

Taehyung’s bottom lip wobbled. “I don’t- I don’t remember.”

“That’s okay,” Seokjin promised. “You never remember your seizures. It’s okay.”

There were picture frames hanging on the stairs, and Taehyung looked at his face in the glass covering one of Jimin’s old gymnastic photos. He stared at his black eye, horrified, and Seokjin’s heart broke for him.

“Taehyung, honey?”

Taehyung grunted in acknowledgement, but didn’t stop staring at himself, his fingertips grazing his cheek.

“Taehyung, why don’t we get some food in you, yeah? That’ll be good. You don’t need a third seizure.”

“No,” Taehyung agreed.

“No,” Seokjin repeated. “Come down, I’ll make you an English muffin and some tea.”

Seokjin toasted Taehyung some English muffins and steeped his tea. Taehyung liked peanut butter and honey together, so Seokjin spread both across his muffins, and he stirred sugar and milk into his mug. He gave them to Taehyung with a kiss on his forehead and read his book while Taehyung finished eating.

“You okay?” Seokjin asked when Taehyung finished eating and didn’t move.

Taehyung nodded. He kept touching his eye.

“I was going to do some yoga. Do you want to join?”

Taehyung nodded again, and Seokjin rolled out the yoga mats while Taehyung changed. There was still something off about Taehyung as he sat down next to Seokjin to begin the DVD lesson. He seemed quiet, disoriented. Seokjin knew he would be back to his normal self after a couple hours (and maybe a nap), but seeing him so confused didn’t do anything to ease his worries.

It was so sad to see Taehyung’s handsome face marred by a massive black eye.

The instructor had them move through the poses. Seokjin stuck his tongue out at Taehyung as they moved into downward dog. Taehyung stared at him blankly for a minute, before blinking away with a smile.

Seokjin let himself relax. He knew Taehyung would be back in fighting shape, soon. He just needed some time to recover.


HOSEOK

Hoseok trudged out of dance practice. He used to love dance, but lately, being around Oliver was hard. He was so critical. Hoseok used to be able to stand up under the weight of his criticism, but hearing the same insults day in and day out was wearing him down.

He didn’t know how to disagree with Oliver anymore. Every time he corrected his dance moves or teased him for his clothes, his sexuality, his weight, Hoseok just sat there quietly.

Dance had been hard today.

It had been so hard.

“Hey, you’re here,” Jimin said as Hoseok stepped into the locker room. Hoseok froze. He looked at Jimin. His brother was hunched over his cheer bag with dark circles under his eyes. Hoseok knew he didn’t look much better. His mouth had been stuck into a triangle for the past hour and a half. He locked eyes with Jimin.

They both snickered.

“Wow, we look great,” Jimin said, running a hand through his sweaty hair. He fixed his purple and yellow Knights sweatband. “Rough practice?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok answered. “You?”

“Practice was good. Had a Spanish pre-test that went miserable, though.”

Hoseok arched an eyebrow. “I thought you’ve been studying with Jin for that?”

Jimin shrugged and stared into his cheer bag. “I thought so, too.”

Hoseok snorted. “Relatable.”

Hoseok’s clothes were sticking to his body, he was so sweaty. The dance they were working on was fast with no breaks. Hoseok didn’t stop moving throughout the entire song, and he was worn out. He spun open his gym locker and grabbed his dance deodorant.

“Did you text dad?” Hoseok asked, rolling on his Old Spice.

“Yeah, he’s coming,” Jimin answered. Hoseok sat down next to him on the bench. Jimin leaned on his shoulder heavily. “Support me.”

“What? Sit up!”

“I’m tired.”

“So am I,” Hoseok said, shoving him. Jimin groaned but peeled himself away. Hoseok capped his deodorant and sat it down on the floor. He kicked his way out of his dance shoes. “Why does dance have to be so sweaty?” he complained, plucking at the front of his t-shirt to try to cool down.

“Why does my life have to be so sweaty?” Jimin fired back. To be fair, he was glistening from head to toe. Sweat clung to every inch of skin Jimin had showing, and there was a dark patch down the back of his t-shirt.

“Why does your mom have to be so sweaty?” Hoseok asked.

It startled a laugh out of Jimin. “Shut up.”

“You shut up.”

You shut up.”

“Maybe, I will shut up.”

Jimin threw his hands up. “I hate talking to you,” he complained, but there was a smile on his face. Hoseok grinned and bumped their shoulders together.

“No, you don’t.” He ruffled Jimin’s damp hair. “And as for the sweat, I think it’s worth it. You’ve been really great during all the football games. You’ve been keeping up with all the older girls, even though you’re just a freshman.”

“Yeah, I think I’m good at cheerleading,” Jimin said, but he sounded off.

Hoseok crinkled his nose. “You’re good at plenty of things, Jimin.”

Jimin fiddled with his headband. Hoseok watched as he tried to center the logo. “I mean... maybe. It’s just I’m really, really good at cheerleading. I think it’s my talent.”

“Maybe,” Hoseok answered, but only because agreeing felt the same as saying it was the only thing Jimin was truly good at. He was a great cheerleader, of course, but he was also a great friend, brother, and son. There was a lot more to him then just cheerleading. Hoseok didn’t want him to think otherwise.

“I wanna do it for as long as I can, you know?” Jimin asked.

Hoseok’s nose twitched. “Like in college?”

“...Sure,” Jimin answered. He zipped up his cheer bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Hey, are you ready to go? Jin will be here any minute. We should probably go out to meet him.”

“Hold on.” Hoseok finished tugging on his sneakers and through the rest of his stuff into his locker. He quick spun the dial a few times to be sure everything was locked up tight and slung his backpack over his shoulder. “Okay. Ready.”

“Ready,” Jimin said, jumping into a ready stance like he was about to dive for a volleyball or catch a stray baseball. Hoseok snorted and kicked at his shin. Jimin pushed him back playfully.

They snaked through the school building towards the offices and the pick up loop where Jin would be waiting in the car. “Is Yoongi coming home with us?” Hoseok asked.

“Nah, it’s Monday. He’s probably back at the house already.”

“Odds Jin made good snacks today?” Hoseok asked.

Jimin put a hand on his chin. “... Low. He said he would make peanut butter cookies after dinner for when we watch Planet Earth II. He’s probably waiting for that to make something really good.”

Hoseok nodded. “All right. Then I guess I’ll have a Kind bar when I get back.”

Jimin whistled. “Good choice. I think we have some of the coconut almond ones,” he said, and Hoseok’s mouth watered at the thought. There was nothing like a Kind bar after hours of sweating and definitely-and-without-a-doubt not-crying. Jimin giggled at the hungry look on his face. “I think there’s only one left. Rock, paper, scissors for it?”

“Best two out of three,” Hoseok agreed.

Jimin chose rock and Hoseok chose paper. Jimin chose paper, and Hoseok chose scissors.

“Ha, loser,” Hoseok teased.

“Lame,” Jimin complained, but he looked better off than he had when Hoseok first walked into the locker room. Hoseok rolled out his shoulders. He was feeling less tense, too.

They walked outside, and Seokjin was already there waiting for them. Seokjin waved out the window, and Hoseok waved back. “I’ll let you have shotgun as compensation,” he offered.

Jimin furrowed his eyebrows together. “What? For not winning the Kind bar?” he asked. Hoseok nodded, and Jimin laughed again. “I’ll take that deal,” he said, climbing into the van. “Hey, dad!”

“Hey, boys,” Jin said, moving some papers off the passenger seat for Jimin to sit. “Good day at school?”

Jimin and Hoseok shared a look. Hoseok cleared his throat. “It could have been better... Ended well, though.”

“Yeah,” Jimin agreed. “It ended okay.”


YOONGI

The winter concert was coming up fast, and Mrs. Rhymers had Yoongi coming in to assist with chorus practice four days a week. (Yoongi was busy on Wednesdays.)

But Joy had been weird lately.

She kept touching him and talking to him. Yesterday she asked what brand deodorant he used. She asked about his deodorant. That was private. Just thinking about it made Yoongi pull his elbows tight against his sides, hiding his armpits behind his backpack straps. Why was Joy thinking about his armpits anyway? Why did she have questions about them?

Yoongi knew Mrs. Rhymers was counting on him, but he didn’t think he could handle a room full of women today. He was just one man, and while music soothed him, chorus stressed him.

Instead of going to choir, he snuck out of 8th period early to catch the afternoon train to Philadelphia.

Yoongi hovered outside the door of Namjoon’s studio as his dad read off the date, time, and weather. He hadn’t told him he was coming. It wasn’t until the next song started rolling that Namjoon looked up.

“Yoongi,” Namjoon said through the glass of the sound booth. Yoongi couldn’t actually hear him, but he could see his name on his lips and the surprise in his eyes. Namjoon rolled his desk chair over and opened the door. “Hey kid, what are you doing here?”

“... Dunno,” Yoongi answered honestly. He had wanted to go to chorus or at least finish the school day, but it was like his feet had moved here on their own. “Can I come in?”

“Of course! Stay for the show,” Namjoon said, pushing out a chair with his foot. “Just tell me what mike you’re using.”

“Three,” Yoongi answered as he took a seat.

“Cool.” Namjoon turned up his sound on the audio board, but left the mike off for the time being. He was playing Drake, but Yoongi didn’t recognize the song.

“Is this off the new album?” he asked. Namjoon nodded, too preoccupied with his PSA binder to answer. “I didn’t listen to it. The last one was terrible, I gave up hope.”

That startled a laugh out of Namjoon. “Ah, you’re right. He’s been off his game lately. I like ‘KMT,’ though.”

“Is that what this is?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon answered, turning up the in-studio sound a bit so Yoongi could hear it better. “It’s kind of trap and I’m kind of into it. And I like ‘Lose You’ and ‘Glow.’ ...Basically, the slower Drake is, the more I like him.”

Yoongi paled. “Please don’t make me listen to this the whole show,” he said. He liked Namjoon’s show because he played good songs, not the same terrible rap music his classmates listened to. “I don’t think I can take it.”

Namjoon smirked at him. “All right, well, why don’t you pick out the next set?”

“’Sunday Candy,’” Yoongi started, “’Same Drugs,’ and ‘I’m the One’ by DJ Khaled.”

Namjoon snorted, but he queued up Yoongi’s set anyway. “This is like... all Chance the Rapper.”

“Yes,” Yoongi said.

“I can’t believe I’m about to play Justin Bieber on this station.”

Yoongi sniffed haughtily. “He’s changing with the times, dad.”

Namjoon laughed. “He certainly is.” The music playing switched from Drake to Childish Gambino. Namjoon went back to focusing on his script for the next advertisement. Yoongi busied himself with straightening out the microphone chords. “Careful, Sugar,” Namjoon warned him. Yoongi laid the chords out nicely and switched to fiddling with his shoelaces.

Childish Gambino swapped over for Kendrick Lamar, and Namjoon snapped his binder closed.

“Okay, wanna introduce your set? Or should I do it?” Namjoon asked, knowing full well how shy Yoongi could be.

Yoongi gave his shoelaces one last tug and sat up in his seat. “I can do it,” he said.

“Okay,” Namjoon said. “Mikes are going live in 3... 2...” Namjoon flipped open the lines for his and Yoongi’s microphones. Yoongi threw on his headphones, waiting for the current song to end. As the music faded out, Namjoon greeted the audience. “Hey, everyone, you’re listening to WWMR, 102.5, your station for vibing and riding. I’m sitting in the studio with my son today. Sugar, say hey.”

“Hey,” Yoongi said.

“All right, all right, I’m sure everyone listening is saying hey back,” Namjoon promised with a smile. Yoongi wondered if everyone in their cars and at home could hear it in his voice. “So Sugar was just yelling at me-“

Yoongi scoffed. “I wasn’t yelling at you!”

“-because he apparently hates Drake,” Namjoon said, ignoring him. “So he’s demanded that he gets to chose the next set.”

“I didn’t demand anything. You offered!” Yoongi complained.

“I mean, honestly,” Namjoon said with an eye roll. “He acts like I didn’t have to listen to his goofy Backyardigans album. I swear, I still have every single one of those songs stuck in my head. I’ve gotta go, go, go, go, I’ve gotta go, go, go. You can’t go fast if you’re going too slow so go, go, go, go, go~”

“Okay, first, I was five,” Yoongi said, counting on his fingers. “And second, those were good songs! Or at least, for what they were, they were good songs. You should consider yourself lucky!”

“Cool. Now that no one trusts your music taste, why don’t you tell them what they’re about to listen to?” Namjoon teased.

“Basically, three songs with Chance the Rapper featured,” Yoongi said. “Because he’s the best. And I know that because I have great music taste, thank you very much.”

“He’s right, I’m just teasing him,” Namjoon told the audience. He looked over at Yoongi, adjusting his headphones a little more snuggly over his ears. “Sugar, you wanna give the Station ID one more time?”

“Sure,” Yoongi said. “This is WWMR, 102.5, your station for vibing and riding, and you’re listening to Chance the Rapper in ‘Sunday Candy.’” Namjoon faded up the song and switched off the mikes. Yoongi lowered his headphones to rest around his neck.

“All right, nice work, bud. I’m glad you came to visit,” Namjoon said.

Yoongi blushed. “Yeah.”

Namjoon absentmindedly queued up a couple pre-recorded advertisements. “Any reason why you decided to drop by unannounced?” he asked. While he didn’t seem angry, Yoongi still felt his face flush in embarrassment.

“Um... I don’t know. Just didn’t feel like going to chorus.”

“Yeah?” Namjoon looked away from his computer. He turned down the in-studio sound. “Sunday Candy” played quietly over their conversation. “Is everything okay?”

Yoongi shrugged. “I guess.” Nothing was wrong; he just needed a break. Joy had been breathing down his neck, and with college applications due at the end of the week, Yoongi was more stressed than usual.

Namjoon looked at him. “...Okay. Well, you’re welcome here any time.”

Yoongi took a shaky breath. “Thanks, dad.”

“No problem,” Namjoon said, turning back to his computer to set up a new set list of songs. “You know, if you go to school in the city, you can come to my show whenever you want. You can even schedule your classes around it.”

Yoongi pulled his knees to his chest. He picked at the knot tying his shoelaces together. His bow could be straighter, and the lengths of either strand could be more even. “I guess.”

Namjoon sighed. “You have to at least give college a chance, Yoongi.”

Yoongi’s nose twitched. Sometimes it seemed like Namjoon could read his mind. “I don’t need to give it a try, I know I won’t like it.” There was no way Yoongi could enjoy living at school when his home was already so perfect. He had moved around so much as a kid; he just wanted to stay in one spot.

Yoongi,” Namjoon said in his I-know-you-know-better-than-that voice. Yoongi rolled his eyes.

“Can’t we just have a nice conversation for once? Why does it always have to be about college?” He tried to sound annoyed, but his voice wavered at the end. Namjoon turned away from the computer for good.

His expression softened at the sight of Yoongi hunched over himself, frantically toying with his shoelaces. “We can have a nice conversation,” Namjoon promised. “What’s going on with you, Sugar?”

Nothing,” Yoongi answered. He just wanted time to slow down. Everything was moving too fast.

“It doesn’t seem like nothing.”

“Well, it is nothing.” Yoongi stared hard at his shoelaces, but when he looked up, Namjoon had a hurt expression on his face. His stomach twisted in guilt. “Sorry. Can’t we just talk about music again? Tell me more about why you think I should like Drake, I forget why I ever even liked him.”

Namjoon sighed and adjusted his glasses. “It’s not that I think he’s great, it’s just that he’s not nearly as bad as you think he is.”

Lies,” Yoongi hissed.

“All right, kid, take a deep breath,” Namjoon said, his mouth quirking up into a smile. Yoongi stretched out his fingers. He could handle a smiling Namjoon. He could handle talking about music, about artists so far removed from himself it didn’t matter what he said about them.

He couldn’t handle growing up.


JIMIN

Jimin ran a hand through his wet hair. He was freshly showered from cheerleading. Jin would have dinner ready in a few minutes, but he needed every spare second to work on his English project.

He was supposed to read Things Fall Apart (he had finished that at least) and make a poster board about it. There were supposed to be four parts: Characters, Setting, Literary Elements, and Overall Opinion. Taehyung had already helped him type out his descriptions of the characters. Now he had to do some research to write about the setting.

English was one of the only classes Jimin and Taehyung didn’t have together. Taehyung was a fast reader and a good writer. He was in the honors class for English (which apparently was even harder than the AP class at their high school). Meanwhile, Jimin was struggling in the remedial class. It wasn’t as bad as Spanish, but he certainly wasn’t going to get the A/B report card he knew Namjoon wanted from him.

Regardless, he wouldn’t have Taehyung as an example for this project, and he had no idea where to start on his own.

Jimin opened up Google and stared at the search bar. He should start by looking up Nigeria, if he could spell it. Jimin slowly typed in the letters: N-I-G-E-E-R-I-A.

Google didn’t hesistate to correct him: “Showing results for Nigeria.”

Jimin let his head drop back against his desk chair. He couldn’t even spell Nigeria, a word he must have read and written down at least a hundred times this semester. Why wouldn’t it stick in his brain? Why couldn’t he remember how to spell anything? Why couldn’t he read?

“Yo, Jiminnie,” Taehyung popped his head into their shared bedroom. “Dinner is ready.”

“Cool,” Jimin said, not moving a muscle.

Taehyung quirked an eyebrow. “You coming?”

“No,” Jimin said. “I’m not leaving this chair for the rest of the night. I have so much crap to do.”

“The English project?” Taehyung asked. Jimin grunted in confirmation. Taehyung hummed. “You know, I don’t mind helping you out if you need it. We could finish it together really quick. I’ll be your typist.”

Jimin scrunched his nose. “Don’t you have other stuff to do? You’ve been absent for like... two days.” Jin usually only let Taehyung miss one or two days in a row if he could help it. Surely Taehyung would be back at school tomorrow; his homework would be due.

“Jin says I don’t have to go to school until the bruising has faded a little,” Taehyung said, ducking his face subconsciously. Jimin frowned.

“Why? Does it hurt?” Taehyung hadn’t been complaining.

“No, it’s just ugly.”

Jimin’s frown only deepened. “Tae Tae, don’t say that. You could never be ugly.”

“I’m not ugly. My black eye is,” Taehyung said. He wasn’t exactly wrong. His face was beaten and bruised. It wouldn’t be a good look on anyone, but it didn’t make Taehyung look bad. His handsome face was clearly visible beneath it all. Jimin opened his mouth to say as such, but Taehyung cut him off. “Look, it’s dinner time. Are you gonna come? Jin made coconut fish curry.”

“Oh,” Jimin said. “Weird.”

“You’re weird.”

“No, you’re weird.”

“You’re both weird,” Jungkook butted in as he walked by. He looked at Taehyung. “What did you say dinner was again?”

“Coconut fish curry,” Taehyung answered. Jungkook made a face, and Jimin felt similarly. Fruit and fish? That didn’t sound like a good combination. However, Taehyung only rolled his eyes. “Come on, it’s good, I promise. And it’s spicy. Cookie, you like spicy.”

“I like some spicy things,” Jungkook corrected. “Not all spicy things.”

“Well, you’ll like this,” Taehyung promised. “Jimin, come on, let’s go downstairs.”

Jimin stared hopelessly at his half empty poster board. His project was due tomorrow, and he had next to nothing. If Taehyung hadn’t offered to help, he would have been up all night working, no doubt. Honestly, he still might be. Maybe he would ask Jin to man a glue stick for him.

“Jimin,” Taehyung said again.

“Sorry, sorry,” Jimin said, standing up from the desk. He stretched out his sore shoulder muscles. “What did you say dinner was again?”

Taehyung grabbed him by the collar and tugged him downstairs. “Oh my gosh, coconut fish curry. Come see for yourself, you loon, I’m tired of repeating myself over and over.”

“You’re going to stretch it,” Jimin complained, pushing half-heartedly at Taehyung’s hand to make him stop pulling at the neck of his favorite sweater. (It was dark green with fuzzies on the inside; it was irreplaceable.)

They had caught up with Jungkook by the time they made it downstairs, and Seokjin kicked out Jimin’s chair as they walked into the kitchen. “Look who decided to join us,” Seokjin teased, obviously unimpressed by how long it took them to come downstairs.

“I tried to hurry everyone along,” Taehyung said innocently.

“I’m sure you did,” Seokjin said. He didn’t look sure at all.

Taehyung squawked. “I did!”

“I’m not saying you didn’t,” Seokjin said. “All I’m saying is that the last time everyone was late to dinner, it was because a certain someone had distracted himself and his brother by trying to measure how long it would take to overflow the bathtub.”

“We didn’t actually overflow the bathtub,” Jimin said, helpfully.

“Let me live my life, dad!” Taehyung complained. “I have long, hard days, and my medicine makes me feel sick all of the time, and I get face bruises. I deserve to flood bathrooms whenever I want.”

Jin looked too exhausted to argue. “Geez, kid, sit down, eat your fish, and don’t you dare ever even allude to flooding my house again.”

“Technically, it’s our house,” Namjoon tacked on from the head of the table, a full plate of curry in front of him. There was naan stacked in the center of the table. The dishes were already full of rice and fish. Jimin sat down excitedly.

“Don’t tell me what I already know,” Seokjin mumbled into his fish.

Jimin took a bite and his eyes widened. When he looked up across the table, Jungkook was staring down at his own plate, just as shell-shocked. “Woah,” he said, taking another big bite.

“Dude, you have to try it with the bread. The bread makes it,” Hoseok said.

A smile snuck its way onto Seokjin’s face. “You two always freak out when I make anything,” he said fondly, but Jimin was too busy having the best meal of his entire life to listen.

“Woah,” he said again.

“Right?” Hoseok asked.

“Woah.”

Taehyung nudged Jimin in the ribs. “See, I told you,” he said before having his first bite. His narrow eyes turned into full-blown circles. “Woah.”

Namjoon looked to Seokjin. “I think you broke them.”

“I’m not broken,” Hoseok said. “It’s the opposite. Every part of me is fixed. I am fully restored. I think I just developed an immunity to snake bites, cancer, and six varieties of poison ivy.”

“I’m not sure there even are that many varieties,” Yoongi muttered under his breath, but Jimin saw how fast he was tearing through his own dish. It was already half empty in front of him. Yoongi didn’t like to make a big deal about the things he liked, but it was obvious he enjoyed dinner more than he let on.

“Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of my food,” Hoseok said, eating a big spoonful of rice.

“You can’t hear food,” Yoongi argued.

“I can hear mine,” Taehyung said, holding his plate up to his ear. He listened closely. “It says you can’t hear because you don’t believe you can. What’s it like to be a deaf cynic, Yoongi?”

Jungkook let out a bark of laughter, and Yoongi glared at him.

Jimin laughed, too, but he had the courtesy to do it behind his hand. The last thing he needed was an irate Yoongi glaring at him. He was trying to stay on the cheerleading team, not end up in the hospital. Although, honestly, a hospital trip might get Jimin an extension on his project, which he sorely needed.

Unfortunately, Yoongi would never hurt a fly. Jimin had four brothers and none of them were actually mean. Where was someone to break your arm when you needed one?

Taehyung waved a hand in front of his face. “Minnie? You okay there? You’re spacing out.”

“What?” Jimin asked. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Just... I can’t get over this curry.”

“I’m buried deep in this curry,” Hoseok agreed.

“I’m drowning in this curry,” Taehyung said.

Namjoon cleared his throat. “I’m so full of this curry, it’s squirting out my eyes.”

“Gross!” Taehyung complained, sticking out his tongue, and Jimin was right there with him.

“Yeah, dad, ew,” Jimin agreed.

Seokjin sighed. “You all exhaust me. I’m exhausted,” he complained, and Jimin laughed. Fatigue clung to all of his bones. His muscles felt like they were on the verge of snapping. Seokjin didn’t know what tired meant. Unfortunately, Jimin was acutely aware of how hard it was to be exhausted, and he had a project due tomorrow that was sure to keep him up. He could only pray he would make it through the night unscathed.

At least tonight there was curry.


JUNGKOOK

Jungkook barely made it onto the bus on Wednesday morning. He missed three of his alarm clocks, and he was wearing the same t-shirt he fell asleep in under his oversized Obey sweatshirt.

He felt gross. His hair was gross. He slumped against the bus window, trying to catch a few more minutes of sleep before school.

The bus seat bounced, and Jungkook startled awake. “Ah, Jimin!”

“Sorry,” Jimin said, rolling his poster board up to fit more nicely in the seat. Jungkook glared at him. “Taehyung isn’t here again.”

“So?” Jungkook asked.

“So,” Jimin drawled. “There’s no point in us both sitting alone.”

Jungkook normally would kick him out of his seat, but Jimin looked exhausted. There were deep purple bruises under his eyes. He seemed softer around the edges than usual, and while sometimes Jimin got on his case and Jungkook hated having to see his cheer performances every Friday night, Jimin seemed nice now.

Jungkook was working on giving everyone in his family the benefit of the doubt. That, and Jungkook had some questions that Jimin would have the answers to. “I guess... Hey, is Taehyung mad at me?” he asked, scratching awkwardly at the back of his neck.

Jimin frowned. “Why would you think that?”

“Well, he’s not here.”

Now Jimin just looked confused. “So?”

So,” Jungkook took a deep breath, “I was the one who was supposed to be watching him when he had his seizure. He got a black eye because of me. It’s my fault.”

Jimin blinked. “I think it’s the epilepsy’s fault, actually,” he said.

Jungkook squirmed. Seokjin had said something similar, but that didn’t stop Jungkook from feeling guilty. He had been so helpless when Taehyung had his seizure. He should know how to take care of him.

And maybe it was stupid, and maybe Jungkook should have known all along, but seeing Taehyung go through something so scary made Jungkook realize how much he cared about him. And by extension, Jungkook realized how much he loved his whole family.

He didn’t want anyone to die. He didn’t want to live with anyone else or be in a house missing one of his brothers or parents. He just didn’t know how to express it.

Jungkook had been keeping everyone at an arms distance for so long. He was too proud to admit he was wrong, but the guilt was eating him alive. Maybe this is why Jin signed him up for therapy: so someone could teach him how to stop being such an asshole.

“But... But Taehyung wouldn’t have gotten hurt if you were there. Or if Jin or Joon was there, you know? Even Yoongi would have done a better job than me, and Taehyung was bleeding and everything.”

Jimin snorted. “Yoongi hates blood,” he snickered. He sobered up quickly, however, when Jungkook looked at him wide-eyed and concerned. “Ah, but Cookie, that’s not true. Taehyung falls over randomly, and he can’t catch himself. He gets hurt all the time; he just drops to the floor like a sack of potatoes.”

Jungkook frowned. “He hit his face.

“Sometimes he does that.”

“He’s not at school.”

“Because he’s embarrassed,” Jimin said. “But he’s okay. And it’s really not your fault; the only person who can predict a seizure is Taehyung. The rest of us just have to guess and do our best.”

Jungkook didn’t like the sound of that. He wished there was something more he could do. “Okay.”

“Cool,” Jimin said, turning back to his poster board. “Hey, you don’t happen to have a rubber band or something, do you? I need something to hold this poster board closed before second period.”

“I don’t,” Jungkook answered, slumping against the window again.

“Okay.” Jimin turned his attention towards the girl in the seat next to them. “Hey, Lisa, do you have a hair tie or something I could borrow?”

Jungkook closed his eyes again, blocking his brother out. Jimin was nice, but Jungkook was still exhausted and grimy. He didn’t even get to wash his face that morning, and now his skin felt like one massive oil spill. He should –for all intents and purposes- still be asleep, so he closed his eyes and pretended like he was. He could talk to Jimin later, if he was still feeling nice.


HOSOEK

Hoseok crammed his books into his backpack as the final bell rang. Today was the last day before the long weekend. Thanksgiving was tomorrow, and Hoseok was looking forward to the break from school (and from Oliver).

But speak of the devil, and he shall appear.

“Babe, I’m going to miss you this weekend,” Oliver said, announcing his presence by squeezing Hoseok’s butt a little too firmly to be comfortable.

“Oliver, someone’s either going to see you or hear you,” Hoseok said, exasperated. For all Oliver said about wanting to keep their relationship secret, he certainly didn’t act like it. He was constantly creeping around Hoseok, marking his territory. Hoseok didn’t like how possessive Oliver could be, but he didn’t know how to make him more secure in their relationship.

(Is it even a relationship if nobody knows about it?)

“Let them. I’m not going to see you for four days. That’s ages,” Oliver complained.

Honestly, Hoseok felt like four days wasn’t enough, but he didn’t dare voice his thoughts to Oliver. “If you think that’s bad, then wait until Christmas break.”

Oliver made a whining noise. “Ugh, don’t remind me.” His face shifted into something a little less sad and a little softer. “Don’t forget me while you’re at home, okay? I’ll be thinking about you the whole break.”

“Yeah,” Hoseok said.

“I love you, I’ll miss you.”

“I love you, too. I’ll miss you, too,” Hoseok said, but it sounded flat even to his own ears.

Something in Oliver’s expression twitched, and he grabbed Hoseok’s hand. “I love you so much, Hobi. No one will ever love you like I can.” It was supposed to sound romantic, but it just sounded scary.

“Thank you, Oli. But can you let me go? I’m going to miss my bus.”

“Just let me look at you for one more minute.”

Hoseok squirmed in Oliver’s grip. His eyes flickered around for help, and somehow by the grace of God, he ended up making eye contact with Yoongi at the end of the hall. Hoseok’s bottom lip wobbled, and Yoongi immediately broke away from his friend group to come over. “What’s going on here?” Yoongi asked.

Hoseok pulled his hands away from Oliver’s. “Nothing,” he said.

“None of your business,” Oliver answered over him. Hoseok flushed, and Yoongi lifted an eyebrow.

“It is my business. That’s my younger brother that you’ve got your hands all over,” Yoongi said, crossing his arms over his chest. Hoseok took a step back as Oliver and Yoongi squared each other up. Yoongi’s eyes were narrowed into slits. Hoseok was used to seeing Yoongi holed up in his bedroom or tucked under blankets in the living room. He wasn’t used to seeing him so scary.

“I don’t know what you think you saw, but my hands weren’t on anyone,” Oliver said firmly.

“Good. Cause if I even see you come near Hoseok, I’ll-“

“Yoongi!” Hoseok interrupted. He grabbed his brother by the shoulders and started pushing him down the hallway. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, Oli, don’t mind Yoongi, I’ll just see you on Monday, okay? Hugs and snuggles, bye!”

“Hoseok, quit pushing me,” Yoongi complained, but they were already halfway down the hallway. Hoseok shoved Yoongi around the corner. “Okay, you’re, like, running. Slow down!”

“What were you thinking?” Hoseok asked as soon as they were out of earshot.

Yoongi ducked away and grabbed Hoseok by the back of his shirt to slow him down. “You looked like you needed help. Just relax.”

“Ugh, he’s going to be so mad at me for that,” Hoseok whined, dragging his hands down his face. He peered at Yoongi through his fingers, expecting him to look sorry, but instead, Yoongi seemed unimpressed.

“He was being an asshole.”

“So were you!”

“Hoseok.” Yoongi’s hand tightened into his t-shirt. “You complain about him all the time. You looked at me from down the hall: terrified. If you look scared, I get to be mean to whoever’s bothering you. That’s how being the big brother works.”

Hoseok groaned. “You don’t get it. He’s going to be upset with me all weekend. When he’s mad, he’s mad for, like... ever.”

“So then let him be mad,” Yoongi said. “Break up with him; he’s a dick.”

“That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about,” Hoseok said.

“Yeah, the one that you told me you were going to break up with if he kept being a jerk. And oh, look at that! He’s still being a jerk.”

“Listen, I think we just need some separation,” Hoseok said. “It’s Thanksgiving Break. If things still aren’t good next week, then I’ll break up with him,” he promised. Yoongi looked at him skeptically. “I promise.”

“Fine,” Yoongi said, but he didn’t sound like he believed him. Hoseok decided to ignore him and boarded the school bus home without talking to his brother. He didn’t need Yoongi breathing down his neck. He just needed Oliver to lay off.


TAEHYUNG

Baby, baby, baby, it’s a lifetime, baby, baby, baby, baby, ride on. Time, time, time, time, time, time. Baby, baby, baby, baby ride on time.”

Taehyung smiled under his breath as he stirred brown sugar in a pan. Jimin was sitting at the counter, singing along to Vampire Weekend’s “Diane Young” while he stole bacon crumbles.

“Those are for the Brussels sprouts,” Seokjin reminded Jimin, breaking bacon slower than Jimin was eating it.

“It’s better without the vegetables,” Jimin said.

Seokjin smirked. “I’m sure.”

“Dad,” Taehyung spoke up, adding brown sugar to the pan. “How much salt am I supposed to put in again?”

“Just a teaspoon,” Seokjin answered. Taehyung grabbed a spoon and measured out some salt. He sprinkled it into the mixture and added the half-cup of water he was supposed to stir in.

This year, Seokjin had agreed to let Taehyung help with some of the cooking, and he had taken responsibility for the sweet potatoes. Jimin couldn’t understand why Taehyung would willingly sign up to do more work than he had to on Thanksgiving, but honestly, Taehyung was a little bored sitting around the house. He wasn’t confident enough to go outside with his bruised eye, but he was tired of being inside. Having a job at least gave him something to do.

(He may or may not have baked a few more pies than any human family could actually eat, but he was bored.)

Baby, baby, baby, baby, ride on, baby, baby, baby, baby, ride on~” Jimin kept singing as Seokjin warded his hands off. “Just one little bit!”

“You can eat it with your Brussels sprouts!” Seokjin said, grabbing both of Jimin’s tiny hands in one of his own. He sprinkled the bacon in to the roasting pan with the vegetables and stretched to pass it to Taehyung without letting Jimin go. “Quick, Taehyung! Put it in the oven!”

Jimin was laughing as Seokjin held him back. “No! Taehyung! Feed me!”

“I’m sorry, Jimin. It’s in everyone’s best interest,” Taehyung said sagely, sliding the pan into the oven.

“No!” Jimin screamed in agony, dropping onto the counter top.

“Ugh, geez, I’m sweating,” Seokjin said. He let Jimin go and untied his apron. “Okay, I’m going to go upstairs and get ready. Grammie and grandpop should be here soon. Taehyung, you’re okay finishing up the potatoes?”

“I’m on it!” Taehyung said, mock saluting.

“Great! And Jimin, don’t forget, you and Yoongi are on table-setting duty. Don’t break any of my china.”

“I make no promises,” Jimin said.

Taehyung gasped. “Jimin, that china was a wedding gift.”

Seokjin laughed. “Yes, lots of my mom’s family friends spent a ridiculous amount of money on my table settings.”

“Yeah, Jimin, Jin has expensive taste,” Taehyung said.

“Okay, geez, I’ll be careful,” Jimin promised, smiling something stupid. Taehyung smiled back. Lately, Jimin’s smiles had been on the rare side, but Taehyung liked seeing his scrunched up eyes and his pearly white teeth. He looked so cute when he smiled; he looked more like Jimin.

“Good,” Seokjin said. “Okay, boys, I am off. Try not to burn the house down.”

“Aye aye, captain,” Taehyung said, turning back to his brown sugar glaze. The sweet potatoes were cubed and resting in another pan. Taehyung carefully poured the sauce on top.

“What would you do if I tickled your neck right now?” Jimin asked, kicking his feet against the kitchen cabinets.

“Probably drop this burning sugar sauce all over your feet.” He drizzled some glaze in the corners of the pan.

“What about your feet?”

“I’m wearing slippers.”

“Are you?” Jimin asked. Taehyung put the empty saucepan back on the stove and kicked up one of his feet. He made one of his Eevee slippers wave at Jimin. “Oh, so you are.”

“My feet would be fine, but I guess Eevee would die a very slow, sugary death.”

“Sounds bittersweet.”

“Oh my gosh, shut up,” Taehyung said, laughing despite himself. He hated encouraging Jimin’s puns, but sometimes he couldn’t help it. (Taehyung was glad they could all still have so much in common with their parents even though they were adopted, but Taehyung hated that Jimin had picked up Seokjin’s sense of humor. The last thing he needed in his life was more bad puns.)

“Wait, pause,” Jimin said. “Are you wearing Eevee slippers and Spiderman pajama pants?”

“Um... yes?”

“Sick.”

Taehyung positively beamed, bouncing on his toes. “I thought so, too! Don’t really know what I’m going to wear to dinner, though.”

Jimin hummed and stole a scoop of cranberry sauce. “Who cares? It seems like a lot of fuss for one stupid dinner. We’re not even leaving the house. I feel like I should be allowed to wear sweatpants, I’m going to need the extra wiggle room.”

“Gram and Pop would hate that,” Taehyung said. His grandparents were nice, but they could be a little strict. Taehyung made it a point to always wear khakis when he saw them.

Jimin pouted. He looked miserable. If Taehyung called the shots, he would have caved in and let Jimin wear pajamas to dinner by now. “Well, it’s more comfortable than wearing Hoseok’s hand-me-down dress pants and an oxford all day! The stuffing is supposed to be bread in a turkey, not me in my pants,” Jimin complained.

Taehyung snickered. “Dude.”

Jimin was on a roll. “Listen, next year year, Gram and Pop are going to be at Aunt Mijin and Uncle Sejun’s house, so I’m setting the dress code,” he said. “We’re all wearing PJs, and no one’s gonna be mad about it.”

“Whatever you say, Minnie,” Taehyung said, sticking the sweet potatoes in the oven with the Brussels sprouts. Everything smelled like bacon and brown sugar. Taehyung set the timer on the microwave and turned to Jimin. “Wanna go get dressed with me? I have a pair of stretchy khakis with your name on them.”

Jimin looked like he was about to tear up. “You’re a life saver,” he said, jumping off the counter to go upstairs with Taehyung.

Taehyung swung an arm around his shoulders. “That’s what brothers are for.”

“Stretchy khakis?”

“Amongst other things, yes,” Taehyung said. Jimin snickered into his sleeve. Suddenly, however, Jimin was running, and Taehyung chased him up the stairs when he realized it was a race. “Wait up!” Taehyung helped, happy to have Jimin home. He had been missing him lately.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin wrapped his hair around the barrel of his curling iron, all too conscious of Namjoon staring at him. “Don’t judge me,” he said, pouting. “My parents are coming today.”

“So you broke out the curling iron?”

“Last time they came, they complimented me on my natural waves.”

“What?" Namjoon stepped into the bathroom in his sleek black suit and shiny double monk-strap shoes. He looked perfect. Seokjin, meanwhile, was still in his sleep shirt and sweatpants. “But curling your hair is hiding your natural waves.”

Seokjin flicked his bangs into place. “I curled my hair last time, though,” he said. “It’s always been a rouse.”

“Ah.” Namjoon put his hands on Seokjin’s hips. He watched Seokjin’s hands in the mirror as he finished fixing his hair for his parents. “I know your parents are a little finicky, but I’m sure they don’t expect everything to be perfect.”

“I know they don’t.”

“Then why are you freaking out?”

Seokjin unplugged the curling iron. “I’m not freaking out.”

“Babe, first of all, I can feel how tense your shoulders are. That’s your first tell,” Namjoon started. He hugged Seokjin a little tighter. “Second of all, I know you. You’re always stressed when your parents come over, but it always goes well. They love you; they love the kids.”

Seokjin made a whining noise in the back of his throat and immediately regretted it. “I mean, you’re right. I’m not saying you’re not right, but...”

“They put a lot of pressure on you. And you put a lot of pressure on yourself,” Namjoon filled in.

Seokjin gulped. “Yeah.”

“Okay.” Namjoon’s thumb rubbed through Seokjin’s t-shirt to his hip. “It’s okay that your stressed, as long as you know you don’t have to be, you know?” He kissed the back of Seokjin’s neck. “You look amazing. The kitchen smells amazing. The house looks great. Everyone loves you.”

Seokjin laughed, breathy and frantic. “I certainly hope so, anyway.”

“I know so,” Namjoon promised.

Seokjin pulled away. “I have to go change.” He needed to be downstairs in time to greet his parents, and he had to be dressed formally to do it. He carefully shucked off his t-shirt (being delicate as not to mess up his freshly styled hair) and headed to the closet. Namjoon followed him.

“So, Yoongi didn’t send applications in to any colleges.”

Seokjin dropped the hanger he was holding. “What?!”

“Don’t worry,” Namjoon said, passing Seokjin the grey suit he liked so much on him. “I sent his Common App in to a couple places nearby. I just need to call the guidance department to send over his transcripts next week.”

Seokjin put a hand over his heart. “Geez, you scared me,” he said, taking the suit from Namjoon. He pulled out a white dress shirt to go with it and a silver tie. “Wait. Does Yoongi know you sent out his application?”

Namjoon shrugged. “No, but he knows how I feel about school; he needs to at least give it a try.”

Seokjin narrowed his eyes and hummed. He agreed with Namjoon that Yoongi should at least try going to school. He shouldn’t give up before he gets there. However, he wasn’t sure he liked that Namjoon went around Yoongi’s back to get him there. However, with time running out, Yoongi hadn’t left Namjoon with much of a choice.

Seokjin quickly dressed into his dress clothes. “Maybe talk to him about it later. Otherwise, he’ll be pretty confused when the acceptance letters start rolling in,” he suggested.

Namjoon nodded. “Definitely.”

The doorbell rang downstairs just as Seokjin was sliding in his cufflinks. “Perfect timing,” he said, extending his elbow to Namjoon like a perfect gentleman. “Shall we go get the door?”

Namjoon slipped his arm through Seokjin’s. “Yes, we shall.” He kissed Seokjin’s cheek. “Don’t worry, lovie. Tonight will be lovely, thanks to you.”


YOONGI

Yoongi adjusted his tie and reached for a second scoop of mashed potatoes. They were just the way Yoongi liked them: smooth, creamy, and buttery. Seokjin always went to so much effort to make sure there was salad and vegetables at Thanksgiving, but Yoongi always used it as an excuse to carb up. He had already eaten three rolls, and dinner was just getting started.

“So, Jungkook,” his grandma started. Jungkook looked up with wide eyes, his mouth stuffed with turkey. Yoongi snickered, and Jungkook kicked his shin. Yoongi kicked him right back. Their grandma continued, unaware. “I heard you had trouble in math last semester. Did you manage to bring your grade up?”

Jungkook cleared his throat and tried to swallow. “Um, yes,” he said around a mouthful of turkey. He took a big swig of water. “I managed to bring my grade up to a B.”

“Oh, wow, that’s impressive! You really recovered last minute, huh? Are you doing better this semester?”

Jungkook shrugged. “I mean, I guess so,” he said. Yoongi hid a laugh behind his napkin. Jungkook doing well at school? As if.

Jungkook glared at him and kicked his shin again under the table. Yoongi kicked Jungkook’s ankle in retaliation, this time twice as hard. The wince on Jungkook’s face was worth it.

Jungkook had been behaving like an absolute brat lately. Ever since coming home to Jungkook screaming and complaining about Taehyung’s seizures, Yoongi had all but given up on him. He was sick of Jungkook acting however he wanted without any kind of repercussion. It wasn’t fair. Normal people faced consequences for when they acted particularly rude or cruel, but no one ever got mad at Jungkook for anything.

“Speaking of school,” his grandpop said, “Yoongi, what colleges did you end up applying to?”

Yoongi paled. He glanced fearfully towards his parents at the end of the table. “Oh, um... I actually didn’t apply to any.” He had never sent in any of his applications. He had been telling his parents for a while now that he didn’t want to go to college, but he hadn’t actually told them that he didn’t even bother applying. Applications were due yesterday, and he hadn’t sent a single one in.

“Actually, that’s not true,” Namjoon said. “Yoongi applied to Temple, Drexel, The University of the Arts, the Curtis Institute of Music, and a few other nearby schools.”

“What?” Yoongi asked. “No, I didn’t.”

Namjoon knitted his eyebrows together. “No, actually, you did.”

“No, I didn’t,” Yoongi said again, absolutely certain. He had filled out applications and portfolios for a ton of schools, sure, but he never actually sent any of them in. He just let them sit on the computer in the family room as part of his senior year folder. He had filled it all in back when he thought college was worth a try or when his parents were watching, but he never submitted any of it. “What are you talking about?”

Seokjin sighed. “Yoongi, honey, Namjoon sent in your applications to a couple of the schools we toured, just so you would have some options.”

Yoongi dropped his fork. “You what?

“I didn’t want you to make a choice you would regret,” Namjoon said. “You don’t have to go to any of these colleges. Or you can try them and transfer, or you can drop out, change your mind, whatever. I just didn’t want you to make a bad decision.”

“So? Who cares if it was a bad decision?! It was my decision,” he said, voice rising.

“Okay, maybe this isn’t the best topic to discuss over Thanksgiving dinner with Grammie and Grandpop here,” Seokjin said, putting his hands up to try to bring peace to the table. Yoongi could feel everyone eyes on him, but he didn’t care.

He ignored his dad. “What the fuck, Namjoon? College is my choice, not yours, and I don’t want to go!”

“Yoongi, you have to go,” Namjoon said.

“I don’t want to!”

Seokjin stood up. “Okay, that’s enough. No one is allowed to raise their voice at my Thanksgiving table.”

“Are you kidding me?” Yoongi asked, standing up, too. He smacked his hands down on the table. “You’re going to yell at me? Me? For raising my voice? I shouted one time! This asshole—“ He gestured to Jungkook, “—spends literally 95 percent of his time shouting useless bile into the void, and everybody lets him do it, but when I get upset about one legitimate thing, I get in trouble?!”

“Hey, leave me out of this,” Jungkook said, his eyes narrowing.

“No, I won’t leave you out of this, you ungrateful, selfish piece of shi-“

“Yoongi,” Seokjin said, cutting him off. “No one is yelling at you. But this is a nice dinner, and I need you to calm down.”

“Why should I?” Yoongi asked. “No one in this family cares about what I want. Why should I care about what you want? I don’t want to go to college, and you guys are doing everything in your power to make me.”

Namjoon sighed. “Yoongi, it’s not-“

“Yes, it is!” Yoongi cut in before Namjoon could finish what he was going to say. Tears welled up in his eyes. “What’s going on anyway? Why are you trying to get me out of the house so bad? Why are you kicking me out?”

Seokjin and Namjoon’s faces both fell at the exact same time. Seokjin looked especially horrified. “What? Sugar, no one is kicking you out.”

“Yes, you are!” Yoongi yelled, refusing to hear otherwise. His hands balled up into fists at his sides, and his chin quivered. “You’re making me leave, and you’re letting this absolute brat stay,” he said, wildly gesturing towards Jungkook again. “He’s not even nice to anyone! I’m nice to everyone, and I actually appreciate this house and the people in it. Meanwhile, Jungkook doesn’t give a shit about anyone and all anyone does is baby him! It’s so backwards!”

“Sugar,” Namjoon said, reaching out to grab Yoongi’s wrist. Yoongi pulled away like he had been burned.

“Don’t touch me,” Yoongi demanded. He felt so overwhelmed. His breathing was shallow, and he struggled for air with every breath. The room felt suffocating, and he could feel his family’s eyes on him: half caring and half pitying. “None of you touch me. Just- just leave me alone!”

Yoongi sprinted out of the dining room and rushed to the upstairs bathroom. He threw on the faucet as far as it could go and shoved his hand under the water. Tears burned down his cheeks like the water burned his wrist.

Yoongi’s teeth chattered together. He didn’t want to leave home, but for the first time ever, it didn’t feel like the safe place it usually did. A sob caught in Yoongi’s throat.

He hated it here.

 

Chapter Text

NAMJOON

As Yoongi stomped up the stairs, Namjoon felt Seokjin’s withering glare turn on him.

“I’ll fix it,” Namjoon promised. He moved to push his seat out from the table, but Jungkook beat him to it.

Jungkook stood up, the napkin in his lap falling to the floor. He looked stricken. Sometimes it surprised Namjoon just how big Jungkook’s eyes could be. They grew to the size of dinner plates whenever they were wide and shiny with tears. “I’m sorry, Grammy and Grandpop. I’ll be right back,” he said politely, before rushing out of the kitchen and into the garage.

Seokjin —who had turned to watch Jungkook go— looked back to Namjoon again, but with a completely different expression. Thanksgiving dinner had gone from problematic to a full-blown crisis, and Seokjin had gone from frustrated to calm and collected. He looked ready for some damage control, and Namjoon felt the exact same way.

“I’ll go get Yoongi,” Namjoon said.

Seokjin was already standing up. “I’ve got Jungkook.”

Namjoon felt a little guilty as he left his in-laws at the table, but at least Taehyung, Jimin, and Hoseok were still there to entertain them. Frankly, Namjoon had bigger problems than impressing Seokjin’s parents. Two of his sons were upset. Taking care of his kids would always be more important than entertaining guests, even relatives.

Namjoon ran up the stairs and skidded to a stop outside the boys’ bathroom. His heart dropped to his stomach when he heard Yoongi crying inside. He knocked on the door.

What?”

“Yoongi, Sugar, it’s me. Open up, sweetheart.”

No.

“Come on, boo bear, this is just a big misunderstanding, I think. Can you please let me in? Let’s talk about it.”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” Yoongi said, choking on a sob halfway through. Namjoon tried the bathroom doorknob. It was locked.

Namjoon scrubbed a hand over his face. “Yoongi, are you sure you don’t want to talk to me?” he asked.

“Just go away ,” Yoongi said as means of answering.

“But, Yoongi, I’m your Joonie-person. I’m your dad, and I love you. You must want to talk to me,” Namjoon said, dragging his knuckle up and down the door. Yoongi didn’t respond, but Namjoon heard him hiccup through tears through the wall. “...What if I let you talk to me, huh?” Namjoon asked. “Clearly, I haven’t been listening to you. I’ll start now, if you just open the door.”

There was a pause. Some shuffling.

The door creaked open a moment later, and Yoongi appeared with damp cheeks and a wet sleeve. “I don’t want to go to college,” he said firmly.

Namjoon nodded. “I hear you.”

Yoongi might have been about to say more, but first, Namjoon had to wrap him up in a hug. Yoongi —for all his anger, frustration, and ‘don’t touch me’s— leaned into Namjoon, his wet nose splotching through Namjoon’s dress shirt. “I’m not leaving,” Yoongi said, his hands balling up in Namjoon’s suit jacket. He was holding onto Namjoon like there was someone ready and waiting to rip them apart, but Namjoon wasn’t letting go.

“Okay. You don’t have to. Let’s just-“ Namjoon reached around Yoongi to turn off the faucet. “Let’s go sit in Jin and Joon’s room, yeah? Let’s talk about things: really.”

“I’m not leaving,” Yoongi said again.

“You don’t have to, you don’t have to, come here,” Namjoon said, even though Yoongi was already pressed against him. He walked Yoongi down the hallway, but before he could take him down the half-flight of stairs to the master suite, Yoongi pulled him into his own bedroom.

Namjoon happily sat with Yoongi on his bed.

“Okay, there we go,” Namjoon said, settling on the mattress with Yoongi nearly in his lap. It was like he had forgotten he was eighteen, like the past fourteen years had never happened. He was the same little four-year-old who was tired of bouncing between houses, who needed someone to finally care about him, to give him a good home. Namjoon had sacrificed everything to give Yoongi a safe place to stay. He wasn’t trying to kick Yoongi out now, not after he worked so long and so hard to provide for him. “Yoongi, you don’t have to go to college; you just have to give me a really, really good reason why you’re not going.”

“Because I don’t want to,” Yoongi said, high-pitched and breathy.

Namjoon squeezed him a little tighter. He couldn’t see Yoongi’s face from this angle, just the tip of his pink nose and his ruffled bangs. “Okay, that’s what you keep saying, but you gotta give me more than that, bud. Why don’t you want to go to college? What’s scaring you?”

Nothing ,” Yoongi wheezed.

“Honey, you can’t even breathe, you’re so panicked. Why don’t you just talk to me? I can help you feel better.”

Yoongi didn’t say anything, but Namjoon could feel him shaking in his arms. Namjoon tapped Yoongi’s quivering chin to make him face him.

“Yoongi,” Namjoon said, his heart breaking at the sight of tears streaking down his son’s cheeks. “You’re terrified . Let Joon fix it.”

Yoongi’s bottom lip trembled. Namjoon could see the resolve dissolving from his expression. His eyes scrunched up. “ Everything is scary about college,” he finally answered. “I don’t want to sleep in a bed other people have slept on. I don’t want to stay in a room other people have lived in. I don’t want to eat food from a place where other people are eating, and I don’t want to have to use a bathroom that other people use too, and I don’t... I don’t...” Yoongi trailed off, his eyes still closed.

Namjoon scrubbed a couple tear tracks from Yoongi’s cheek. “Don’t what?”

“I don’t want to have to miss you.”

Yoongi’s hand fisted further into Namjoon’s shirt, and Namjoon couldn’t help but coo. “Yoongi... Yoongi, Sugar, sweetheart, pumpkin, you’re never, ever going to have to miss me.”

Yoongi sniffled. “I don’t want to have to miss anyone .”

“Okay. Okay...” Namjoon said, just holding his kid for a minute. He thought over what Yoongi had said and watched him hyperventilate in his arms. “So, you... you don’t want to go to school, that’s what I’m hearing.”

“I’m not going,” Yoongi said again.

“No, I know, I get it, you’re not going,” Namjoon agreed. “But... But do the classes scare you? Does the work scare you? Do you not like learning, is that part of it at all?”

“I’m not going ,” Yoongi repeated.

“I know, Sugar, you’re not going,” Namjoon promised. “But... but you don’t have to live at college if that’s what’s scaring you. You can take classes without living there.”

Yoongi didn’t say anything, just shuffled impossibly closer to Namjoon.

Namjoon was quiet for a moment. He rubbed Yoongi’s back slowly in an effort to help him breathe. He pressed his nose into Yoongi’s hair. “Yoongi, when we started looking at schools, I wasn’t thinking you would go far away. Every school we’ve looked at is under an hour’s drive. I figured you’d want to be able to come home on weekends or for dinner sometimes, but... but if you want to commute, we can make that happen, too.”

Yoongi took a shaky breath. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t have to live at school, but you could still go to class. Like, if you wanted to go to school in Philly, we could ride the train there together in the mornings, and then take the train home in the afternoon. You could live at home.”

“...I wouldn’t mind learning more about music,” Yoongi admitted.

Namjoon nodded. He rubbed Yoongi’s shoulder a little more firmly. “Okay. So... So I know that I went around your back by submitting your Common App so many places without your permission. And that was wrong. But... but I just... I think you’re so smart, and if living at school is the only thing holding you back from learning, then don’t live at school. Live here.”

Yoongi made a strangled noise. “Maybe.”

Namjoon felt a wave of relief wash over him. “Maybe is enough for me. At least for now.” Namjoon kissed Yoongi’s forehead as his breathing started to level off. It was physically painful to see his son so panicked because of something he did. Namjoon was supposed to protect Yoongi; he was supposed to keep him calm. He wasn’t supposed to be the one who made him upset. “I really am sorry, Yoongi. I don’t want you to feel like I’m pushing you out.”

“You keep telling me to leave ,” Yoongi said, a stray tear rolling down the bridge of his nose. Namjoon thumbed it away.

“Don’t leave.” Namjoon brushed Yoongi’s bangs off his forehead. “I don’t want you to go anywhere, I just want you to be prepared for the future, you know? But if you did leave for college, I would miss you twice as much as you could ever miss me.”

Yoongi dug at his eyes with the heels of his hands. “You’re just saying that.”

Namjoon smiled wanly. “Absolutely not. Do you know how much I love you?” he asked. Yoongi made a keening noise. “I love you so much. Do you know how much you mean to me?” Yoongi made another upset noise in the back of his throat. “You mean so much. I can still remember the first day you came to this house.”

Yoongi looked up at him. “You can?”

Namjoon nodded. “Of course. You were about this big,” he said, making a gesture that was about half the size Yoongi had actually been. “And you were so scared, but I just wanted to pick you up, and go like this.” Namjoon squished Yoongi’s cheeks between his hands and pressed a thousand kisses over the bridge of his nose.

“Ew, dad, I’m not four, get off!” Yoongi complained, pushing at Namjoon’s chest, but it was a weak attempt. Namjoon landed a couple extra kisses before backing off.

“But I love you.”

“You’re weird.

“But I love you,” Namjoon repeated, about to dive back in, but Yoongi pushed him away, laughing. It was such a relief to see Yoongi smiling, Namjoon almost forgot Jungkook crying downstairs.

Almost.

“Hey, you know who else I love?” Namjoon asked suddenly, reaching up to ruffle Yoongi’s hair.

Yoongi arched an eyebrow. “Who?”

“Jungkook.”

Yoongi snorted.

“You know better than to yell at any of your brothers like that,” Namjoon said. “I understand that you were frustrated, but Jungkook is going through a really tough time.”

“You could have fooled me. All anyone in this family does is coddle him,” Yoongi said moodily.

“But his life isn’t just here,” Namjoon said. “It’s a lot of different things. His mom just died.”

My mom died,” Yoongi interrupted.

“She did,” Namjoon said, “And when you were five, and you weren’t sure if you were going to get to stay with us, and you didn’t have your mom, or dad, or grandparents, you were scared, and you acted out, and you screamed and cried, and nothing Jin or I could do could calm you down.”

Yoongi looked down at his hands.

“Jungkook is still young, Yoongi. And he went a long time without a truly stable household. You’ve been ours for most of your life, you’ve had a worry-free eleven years in this house, and I’m so glad you’re grateful for it. But Jungkook has been adopted for less than a year. His mom has been dead for less than a year. Give him some time to grieve.”

Yoongi groaned and flopped down onto the mattress. “Well, now I feel bad.”

“Good, so then I don’t have to tell you to apologize,” Namjoon said, reaching out to pat Yoongi’s bum.

Yoongi swatted him away. “Don’t touch me,” Yoongi complained, but Namjoon knew an angry Yoongi from a playful one, and this Yoongi was just being silly.


JUNGKOOK

When Jungkook had walked away from the dinner table, he hadn’t expected anyone to follow him. Yoongi was obviously upset, and he fit the mold of the perfect son much better than Jungkook did. He figured everyone would go after him.

Which is why the sound of Seokjin’s voice startled him so badly.

“And just where do you think you’re going?”

Jungkook jumped so high, he banged his head on the top of the car door. “Ow,” he said miserably, clutching his head. He had planned on sitting in the car until he didn’t feel like crying anymore, but now that he’d given himself a concussion, he felt like tears might be inevitable.

Jungkook scrambled for anger, for frustration; those were much easier feelings to process. But before he could even think about getting mad, Seokjin was there, peering at him. “Let me see,” he instructed, gently prying Jungkook’s hands away.

Jungkook’s eyes widened when he realized Seokjin didn’t sound mad.

Jungkook dropped his hands and stared at Jin as Jin stared at the bump on his head. His dad didn’t even look mad. He just looked worried. Jin always looked worried. Jungkook didn’t deserve it.

“The good news is, I think you’ll survive,” Seokjin said, and Jungkook snorted. He pushed Seokjin’s hands away. “The bad news is, that looks like it’ll hurt for awhile. Do you want some ice?”

Jungkook kicked at the ground. “I’m not four, I don’t need ice.”

Seokjin laughed, and Jungkook arched an eyebrow at him. “Sorry,” Seokjin apologized, hiding a smile behind his hand. “It’s just... Well, you sounded like Yoongi just then.”

Jungkook’s nose scrunched up in annoyance before the same crushing sadness he had felt before swept over him. “He hates me,” he said. He could feel his face falling, but Seokjin was there with a well-timed forehead kiss.

“He doesn’t hate you, he just doesn’t understand.”

“He was mean.”

“He was mean,” Seokjin agreed. His hands were on either side of Jungkook’s ribcage, and Jungkook felt forced to make eye contact with him. However, while normally he would fight to get away from Seokjin whenever things felt too close and overwhelming, Jungkook was sad , and lately Seokjin had been helping with that. “If Namjoon hasn’t already told him he needs to apologize to you, then I will. Being upset doesn’t give him the right to yell at you.”

Jungkook felt his cheeks heat up. He looked down at his toes. “...When I’m upset, I yell at people.”

“Not lately.”

Yes lately,” Jungkook countered. “I... I yelled at you about Taehyung, but that was my own fault, I keep-“ He cut himself off and pulled at his hair. “I keep messing up.”

“Jungkookie-“

“I do care about everyone,” Jungkook interrupted because he just had to get it out. “Dr. Kroger said it must be nice having so many brothers, and I keep thinking about how it isn’t nice right now because none of them like me, but they used to , and I used to really like playing street hockey with Jimin, and if he died, we’d never get to do that again, and I would-” He took a big breath. “-I would be really sad .” He squirmed in Seokjin’s hold. “And that’s caring, right? That’s caring. I don’t want Jimin to die. And I don’t want Hoseok to die because he’s really funny, and he used to be the nicest out of everyone. And if Taehyung dies, no one will be almost my age, and if Yoongi dies then... then he’ll never play piano with me again, and if everyone dies then I’ll be alone, and if you die then I’ll have no one , and if Namjoon dies, then-“

“Hey, hey, hey, Kookie, honey, hold on, just breathe,” Seokjin said, cutting off his spiraling before he could go too far. “No one is dying. Why are you worried about everyone dying?”

Jungkook didn’t realize how close he was to crying until Seokjin told him to breathe. He choked on air. “Because everyone dies eventually. My mom died.”

“Oh, peanut...” Seokjin trailed off, and Jungkook’s stomach flipped. It wasn’t often that Seokjin was at a lost for words, and it alarmed Jungkook to see him like this. Seokjin’s mouth opened and closed like a fish, and Jungkook wished desperately that he would just say something. “Jungkook, your mom died because she... she used drugs and she overdosed.” Jungkook made a high-pitched noise in the back of his throat. “It was sudden, but... but she was making bad choices, and it’s not abnormal for people addicted to cocaine to die.”

Jungkook’s face was so hot, he felt like it might melt off. He buried his face into his elbows as Seokjin continued. His dad’s thumbs grazed his sides.

“But you don’t have to worry about your brothers, or Joon, or I dying. Everyone in this family is healthy as a horse.”

“That’s a lie.”

“Okay, well Taehyung is sick, but he is going to be fine, I’m going to make absolute sure of it,” Seokjin promised.

Jungkook’s shoulders shook, but he refused to shed a single tear. His hands tightened into fists in determination, but his voice was still wet when he spoke. “They’re going to die hating me,” he croaked.

Seokjin pulled Jungkook’s arms away from his face. Jungkook could hardly make eye contact with him. “Jungkook, that is absolutely not true. If you’re worried your brothers are mad at you, then you can apologize to them, like you did to me. But no one is dying any time soon. We all have long happy lives ahead of us. And no one is dying angry. This is a family; we stick together. We forgive each other.”

Jungkook didn’t know how to argue. Instead he pulled his wrists out of Seokjin’s grip and covered up his face again. Seokjin hummed and guided him into a sitting position on the edge of the car. Jungkook peaked out between his fingers as Seokjin knelt on the ground in front of him.

“Jungkookie.”

“What?” Jungkook asked, hiding his face again.

“Look at me, honey.”

Jungkook curled his fingers and stared at Seokjin over his knuckles.

“You know we all love you right?”

Jungkook blinked, his nose scrunching up. At this point, he knew Seokjin loved him. He had made Seokjin cry so many times, and here he was, still chasing after him every time he left a room upset. He was pretty sure Seokjin cared.

But everyone else...

“Jungkookie, all of us love you. All of us love you ,” Seokjin promised. He paused, scratching at Jungkook’s knee. “...And when you love someone, you forgive them when they lash out. If you say sorry, then they’ll forgive you.”

Jungkook made a squeaking noise. “Okay,” he said, blinking back tears. His heartbeat thrummed in his throat.

“No one is dying, Kookie.”

“Okay.”

“You don’t have to be scared of that. I understand why you’re worried, but you don’t have to be.”

Jungkook didn’t know how to respond. Because everyone died, that much Jungkook knew. It wasn’t like Seokjin could promise that everyone would live forever. He couldn’t promise tomorrow that there wouldn’t be a car accident, or a fire, or a bomb, or... or something . He took a wobbly breath. “Okay,” he said again. “Okay, maybe.”

Seokjin snorted. “Okay, maybe?” he asked.

Before Jungkook could answer, the laundry door opened. Yoongi stepped into the garage. Jungkook’s jaw snapped closed, and Seokjin turned when he felt Jungkook’s knee tense up beneath his hand. Yoongi cleared his throat awkwardly. “Hey, um... Do you have a minute?”

Seokjin didn’t answer; instead he just beckoned Yoongi closer, cooing. “Oh, Yoongi, who took care of you? You’ve got tear tracks on your neck, you poor thing, and you’re all wet,” he said, immediately fussing over Yoongi the second he was close enough to touch.

“I’m supposed to be apologizing, ” Yoongi complained, pushing Seokjin’s hands away.

Seokjin clapped his hands together excitedly. “Oh, yes, do that. Let me give you two some space.” He got up to leave but turned to Jungkook before he left. “Or do you want me here?” he asked.

Jungkook didn’t know what he wanted. “You can leave,” he said. He regretted it as soon as the words came out of his mouth.

Seokjin seemed to sense his hesitancy and ducked down to kiss his forehead. “I’ll just be in the kitchen,” he promised.

“Okay,” Jungkook said. He watched Seokjin leave bitterly. Meanwhile, Yoongi hovered anxiously by his side. The door closed behind Seokjin, and Yoongi didn’t move. “What?” Jungkook asked, pulling his knees up to his chest.

“... Namjoon says I need to say sorry.”

“Okay, well you just did,” Jungkook said. “Can we go back to dinner now?”

Yoongi sighed. “I mean... No. I owe you a better one than that,” Yoongi said. Jungkook peered up at him skeptically. “Namjoon kinda... he kinda explained what you’re going through, and before I didn’t get it, but now I think I do.”

Jungkook snorted. “Doubt it.”

“No, actually, I do,” Yoongi said, his voice bordering on irritated. “You’re not the only one with dead parents.”

Jungkook clenched his jaw and stayed silent.

Yoongi softened. “Listen, I’m sorry, okay? Genuinely. It wasn’t right for me to yell at you, especially in front of everyone like that, and especially when you weren’t even doing anything wrong. So I’m sorry. You’re going through a hard time, and I should be more supportive and less angry with you.”

“I don’t need your support,” Jungkook muttered, kicking at the ground.

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Well, you have it, so. There.”

“Whatever.” Jungkook didn’t want to listen to Yoongi apologize just because someone told him to. Yoongi had no idea how he was feeling, even if he said he did. Seokjin had just told him that loving someone meant forgiving them, but he didn’t feel like Yoongi was properly saying sorry.

“Listen,” Yoongi said, “It’s not like I want to be a dick to you. It’s just... it’s frustrating to see you yelling at everyone all the time. And Joon and Jin are so nice; sometimes it feels like they’re too nice? But I guess you’re not yelling because you actually hate anyone or anything.”

“You think I don’t give a shit, but I do,” Jungkook complained. “Obviously, I do.”

“It’s not obvious,” Yoongi said. “You come home, go up to your room, slam the door closed, and whenever anyone tries to talk to you, you yell at them.”

“Well, you’re not much better! You lock yourself up in your room all the time!”

Yoongi crossed his arms over his chest uncomfortably. “That’s different,” he said; although, Jungkook didn’t see how. “Look, this isn’t supposed to be another argument. I’m trying to apologize.”

“Well, you’re doing a really shitty job,” Jungkook complained. His face crumbled. Why couldn’t he just stay mad lately?

Yoongi frowned at him. There was a prolonged pause as Jungkook sniffled into the sleeve of his blazer and Yoongi frowned down at him. “...You really do care, huh?”

Jungkook coughed into his sleeve. “See? I told you; you don’t get it.”

Yoongi grunted. “I guess,” he agreed. “... Look, I really am sorry. I wasn’t fair, I was just... freaking out about college, but that has nothing to do with you. So can you please forgive me? I’m hungry, and Jimin’s probably eaten all the sweet potatoes by now. I want to get back to dinner before he eats all the turkey, too.”

“Jimin can’t finish an entire turkey by himself,” Jungkook said, changing the subject.

Please just forgive me, Jungkook,” Yoongi begged.

Jungkook sighed. “Okay fine. I forgive you,” he said; although, he wasn’t sure he actually did. Maybe if he were less tired, he’d be able to stay stubborn, but as it stood, he was exhausted, and he didn’t want to have to fight back tears anymore. He’d rather be sitting next to Seokjin eating Brussels sprouts than stuck in this garage with Yoongi.

“Okay, good,” Yoongi said, swinging an arm over Jungkook’s shoulders. Jungkook recoiled away from him a little bit, but didn’t move from the hold. “Let’s eat, yeah? I’m still hungry.”

“Whatever,” Jungkook replied, but he got up anyway. Maybe he hadn’t fully forgiven Yoongi, but he hadn’t been lying when he said he cared about him. Even if he was mad, he could sit civilly at a dinner table with him. He just had to keep his head down, eat dinner, and be nice enough to grandma and grandpa that they forgave him from running away from the table.


JIMIN

“Ugh. I’m never getting off the sofa,” Jimin complained, holding his swollen tummy.

“Good, because I’m never getting off of you ,” Hoseok said from across the room. Jimin was confused, until Hoseok took a running jump onto the couch and landed right on top of him.

Ow, ” Jimin whined when Hoseok elbowed him full force in the stomach. He gagged a little. “Get off, I’m going to throw up.”

Hoseok didn’t move, but Jimin didn’t have the energy to care. Thanksgiving dinner had a rocky start, but once Yoongi and Jungkook came back to the table, things started to move along more smoothly. He knew that tears had been shed and —potentially— blood had been drawn, but all in all, Jimin had enjoyed his evening.

His grandma might be bossy, but she made a mean green bean casserole.

Hoseok shifted, and Jimin groaned in pain. “Ugh, seriously, Hobi. I feel like I’m either about to explode or give birth.”

Gross ,” Taehyung complained from his end of the sofa.

“Shut up, Mr. Controlled-Portion-Size. You don’t know what it’s like to eat your body weight in one sitting.”

“I can’t believe you had three pieces of pie,” Hoseok said. “I can’t decide whether I’m disgusted or impressed.”

Jimin sniffed haughtily. “Both, obviously,” he said, looking down his nose at Hoseok and earning a handful of giggles from his two brothers.

Even though he felt sick from eating so much, Jimin couldn’t remember the last time he felt this happy. Seokjin had finally turned on the heat in the house, and everything felt warm and cozy. He didn’t have to worry about school or practice for the next couple days. Hoseok was curled up on top of him, and his foot bumped into Taehyung’s every so often under the blanket they were sharing. It was calm, and quiet, and nice.

Jimin was at peace.

“Wanna watch a show?” Taehyung asked, already reaching for the remote.

Hoseok propped himself up on his elbows. Jimin groaned when his arms dug into his tummy. “Only if it’s Thanksgiving themed,” Hoseok said. “Like the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, except not the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, I’ve seen that —like— four times this week.”

“What about Friends?” Jimin suggested. He squirmed under Hoseok until he was sitting up enough to watch TV. Meanwhile, Hoseok stubbornly stayed in his lap.

Taehyung pushed his glasses up his nose and navigated to Netflix. “What about friends?”

“Oh!” Hoseok snatched the remote out of Taehyung’s hands. “’The One Where Underdog Gets Away’!”

The show started up. Taehyung and Hoseok fell silent, which was just fine with Jimin. He was enjoying the peace that had settled over the house. Once his grandma and grandpa left, everyone seemed to decompress a little. Yoongi was up in his room, Namjoon and Seokjin were doing dishes in the kitchen, and Jungkook was—

Standing awkwardly by the half wall.

“Jungkook?” Jimin asked. Hoseok and Taehyung turned to look. “What are you doing?”

Jungkook looked embarrassed to be caught hovering. His cheeks turned bright pink. “Ah, um... I just...” His eyes flickered towards the TV, and Jimin frowned.

“Do you wanna watch?” he asked.

Jungkook nodded.

“Well, then come join us!” Taehyung chirped excitedly. He pressed closer to Jimin on the sectional, and lifted the blanket for Jungkook to climb under. Jimin wasn’t surprised when Jungkook grabbed his own blanket from the basket, but he was impressed with how close to Taehyung Jungkook chose to sit.

Jimin settled back against the couch. Even Jungkook seemed at peace. Things were quiet and calm again, until Jungkook broke the silence.

“What’s VD?”

“Shhh,” Hoseok said, reaching over a giggling Taehyung to clamp a hand over Jungkook’s mouth. “You don’t want to know.”


SEOKJIN

“I hate doing dishes,” Seokjin complained, elbow deep in dirty sink water as he tried to clean off the glazed sweet potato pan. It was like the brown sugar was glued to the nonstick surface, and Namjoon nudged him out of the way.

“Then let me do it,” Namjoon offered, handing Seokjin the drying towel.

There wasn’t enough room in the dishwasher for all of the pots and pans they’d used on Thanksgiving, and if there was one thing Seokjin hated, it was a full sink. He had been washing dishes, and Namjoon had been drying them off, but with only a few stubborn pots left, Namjoon was clearly ready to take over.

“Do we have steel wool?”

“You’re not about to suggest using steel wool on my nonstick cook wear.”

“Well, how nonstick can it be if stuff is stuck to it?”

Seokjin scoffed. “Fair point.” While Namjoon busied himself scrubbing at the pan, Seokjin started to wipe down the counters. He was exhausted. Cooking for nine people wasn’t easy, but Thanksgiving wasn’t just about the food. The cooking, the cleaning, the emotional fallout... It was hard work to take care of it all. Seokjin was tired and stressed. “So, how is Yoongi?”

“He was in a panic, the poor thing,” Namjoon answered, standing up on his toes for better leverage as he scrubbed. “But... But I don’t think he hates the idea of college; he just doesn’t want to leave home.”

Seokjin pressed his lips together. “Are you sure that’s not just wishful thinking?”

“Don’t worry; I’ll talk to him about it again when he’s not so upset. But I really do think the issue is less about, like, school and classes and more about just wanting a stable household.”

Seokjin hummed. “I just don’t think he’s ready to grow up yet.”

“And that’s okay,” Namjoon promised, rolling up his sleeves. He was growing more and more agitated as he scoured the pan.

“It’s worrying ,” Seokjin corrected.

“Maybe.”

“He’s not progressing like the other kids.”

“The other kids don’t have OCD. It’s okay if Yoongi needs to take his time,” Namjoon promised. He tried to clean the pan for another minute before throwing down the scrub brush. “That’s it.” Seokjin jumped when Namjoon ripped the pan out of the sink by the handle and spiked it into the trash. Namjoon dusted off his hands. “I’ll buy you a new one tomorrow. How is Jungkook?”

“He seemed scared, but I think that’s good,” Seokjin answered, a little distracted. He blinked down at the pan in the trash. If Namjoon didn’t buy him a new one first thing tomorrow morning—

“How so?” Namjoon asked, moving on to the last pot. The grim wiped off this one with ease.

“At least he wasn’t angry, you know?” Seokjin reached for the pot when Namjoon passed it to him to dry. “I’m so used to him fronting and acting angry. For once, he was just being Jungkook.”

Namjoon hummed. “You know, I think I just saw him go in the family room with the other boys.”

Seokjin straightened up. “Oh, yeah?” he asked, daring to be hopeful.

“Yeah.”

“I have to see it to believe it,” Seokjin said. He put the pot down on the counter and crept over to the refrigerator. He poked his head out from around the corner and counted heads. 1...2...3...4. “He’s snuggling with them,” Seokjin gushed, and Namjoon dropped what he was doing to come see.

“They love each other,” Namjoon said.

“They’re best friends ,” Seokjin cooed.

Seokjin’s breath caught in his throat when Jungkook’s head started listing towards Taehyung. “Go for it, Kookie, go for it,” Namjoon whispered. Seokjin crossed his fingers. Hesitantly, Jungkook lowered his head to rest on Taehyung’s shoulder.

Namjoon pumped a fist in the air, and Seokjin had to stop him from smacking the refrigerator. Seokjin bounced on his toes. “He’s interacting? With his brothers? Is this a miracle? Am I witnessing a miracle; is that what this is?”

Seokjin and Namjoon both watched as Jimin stretched an arm around the back of the couch to ruffle Jungkook’s hair.

“Oh my god,” Namjoon swore.

“This is everything I’ve wanted for so long,” Seokjin nearly cried. It was just so exciting to see his kids getting along. This was the first time in months Seokjin had seen them all gathered in the same place without Jungkook throwing a fit. The only one missing was Yoongi.

Namjoon rested a hand on Seokjin’s hip. “Do you really think we should be spying on them?”

Seokjin stilled. “No.”

“You’re not moving.”

“Neither are you.”

“Fair enough,” Namjoon said, copying Seokjin’s tone from earlier. He hooked his chin over Seokjin’s shoulder. His arms looped around his waist. “Let’s just watch them for a minute.”

Seokjin leaned back against Namjoon, letting the exhaustion from the day catch up to him. It was so easy to let Namjoon support him. Seokjin had to be careful he didn’t put too much on his husband’s shoulders. “You know, I think we did all right,” Seokjin said when Jimin’s hand stayed on top of Jungkook’s head.

Namjoon laughed. “Well, it’s not over yet. We can still mess them up if we’re not careful. Tonight was kind of rough.”

“Yeah, but look at them,” Seokjin said. “They’re little people.”

“They’ve always been little people.”

“But before they were the littlest people.”

Namjoon laughed into Seokjin’s neck, but he didn’t argue with him. Instead, he looped his thumbs into Seokjin’s belt loops and pulled him closer. “Okay, this is starting to feel weird and creepy.” He gave Seokjin one last squeeze. “The dishes are done. I’m going to sleep. You should come with me.”

Seokjin frowned. “Should we put the little ones to bed?”

“They’re teenagers, Jinnie.”

“Don’t remind me.”


JIMIN

Jimin blinked his eyes open slowly. His arm was trapped somewhere above his head, and something wet was buried into his ear.

Taehyung sniffed loudly, and Jimin sat up straight, suddenly wide-awake.

Gross.

The wet feeling in Jimin’s ear had been Taehyung’s nose pressing into it. Jimin rubbed snot out of his ear and assessed his surroundings. Apparently, he had fallen asleep on the sectional last night. The TV was still on from the night before, Netflix’s “Are you still watching?” notification glowing down on him. Hoseok was using his leg as a pillow, and Jimin had only just managed to dislodge his arm out from underneath Taehyung.

Jungkook was lying on the carpet beneath them. Jimin vaguely remembered waking up to watch Hoseok stuff a pillow under his head and throw a blanket over him. At least Jungkook was cozy, even if he was lying on the floor.

The sound of feet on the stairs made Jimin turn around. Seokjin met his eyes. He was dressed in running gear and strapping his phone to his arm. Seokjin pointed to the door and lifted an eyebrow. The message was clear: “Do you want to come?”

Jimin leapt off the couch as an answer.

Within ten minutes, Jimin was dressed in exercise clothes and sneakers and out the door.

“It’s freezing out here,” Jimin complained, falling into step with his dad. Jimin wasn’t the best runner, and Seokjin always kept things to a slow jog when they went out together.

“Hm.” Seokjin took a big breath of the crisp, morning air. “I kind of like it. It’s invigorating. I’ve always thought it was easiest to run when it’s cold outside.”

“Even in November?”

Seokjin smiled. “Even in November.”

They ran in silence for a couple minutes, nothing but the sound of their feet hitting the pavement. Seokjin rounded the corner, and Jimin struggled to keep up. “Wanna go to the trail?” he asked. Running on flat paved ground was easier than tripping up and down the streets through the neighborhood route Seokjin sometimes lead him down.

“Always,” Seokjin answered.

Near the back end of their neighborhood, there was a little path off one of the furthermost cul-de-sacs that lead down a steep hill to a trail below. Running to the trail alone was about 3/4ths of a mile, and Jimin’s lungs already felt like they were about to give out.

But he liked running through the woods. The trail also had a creek running alongside of it that always smelled especially fresh and clean this time of year. Jimin liked hearing the birds, and he liked waving to the bikers and other runners, and sometimes at the end of the run, Seokjin would sit with him on the bench at the bottom of the path and they’d talk before going home.

“Left or right?” Seokjin asked as they stumbled down the path. Jimin would regret coming down the hill when he had to climb back up it later, but for now, he felt energized and ready for another mile or so.

“Left,” Jimin answered. The children’s play area was towards the left. It was early for any families to be out, but maybe they would get lucky and see some cute little kids playing hopscotch or switching books out at the free library.

“Everything is wet,” Seokjin complained, dodging puddles.

“It smells good.”

Seokjin shot him a bemused grin. “How can you smell with that stuffy nose?” he asked, somehow managing to pinch it as he was running. Jimin squeaked and pushed his hands away.

“Ah! Gasping for breath here, leave me alone!”

Seokjin backed off, and they ran to the end of the trail and back without much talking. Jimin was panting so hard; he couldn’t smell the wet leaves and rushing water anymore. All he could smell was muscle fatigue and exhaustion.

“Wanna take a break?” Seokjin asked when they neared the path back to the neighborhood. The hill somehow looked steeper than before.

“Please,” Jimin said.

He collapsed onto the bench as soon as they reached it. Meanwhile, Seokjin doubled over and started stretching out his hamstrings next to him.

“Geez, I’m so out of shape,” Jimin complained. His dad still seemed so full of energy. Meanwhile, he was dying.

“The last thing you are is out of shape, kid,” Seokjin promised, poking Jimin’s cheek where it was smushed up against the bench. “Not everyone is a runner. Some people are gymnasts who can backflip over their dad’s head with ease.”

“I can’t backflip over your head.”

“What if I was lying down?”

Jimin smiled. “Well then maybe.”

Seokjin hummed again, and started stretching his calves up against the base of the bench. Jimin watched him silently, a sudden sadness falling over him. Jin was always so quick to praise him and reassure him, but Jimin didn’t feel like he deserved it. He had been so angry lately and so stupid. He didn’t think it was going to be possible to raise his grades by the end of the semester, and he was already anticipating the talk he would have with Couch Ansley when she inevitably kicked him off the team. Fortunately the season was ending soon, and he could always try out again next year, but still—

“Hey,” Seokjin said, interrupting Jimin’s self-destructive spiral. “What’s going on, kid? You look lost.”

“I’m okay,” Jimin answered, staring down at his cuticles.

Seokjin squatted down in front of him, his sweaty face close to Jimin’s. “Are you sure? You know you can talk to me,” he said, his eyes wide and concerned. It was almost overwhelming.

Jimin debated how much he should say. “I just... Sometimes I think you think that I’m some great gymnast, but I’m not. I’m not really good at anything,” Jimin said.

“Not good at anything?” Seokjin nudged Jimin into a sitting position but stayed kneeling in front of him. “Jimin, you’re good at everything . You’re such a talented boy.”

“Okay,” Jimin said, kicking at the ground.

“I mean it,” Seokjin promised.

Jimin made a whining noise in the back of his throat before he could stop himself. “You’re just saying that because you’re my dad,” he complained, his bottom lip sticking out further than he could remember it being able to.

“I don’t just say anything,” Seokjin said. “You’re my son, yes, but you’re also an amazing cheerleader, an amazing gymnast, an amazing dancer, an amazing brother, an amazing son, and an amazing Jiminnie. You can’t deny that.”

Jimin rubbed his nose off on his sweatshirt sleeve. He sniffed. Seokjin had been right when he pointed out how stuffy he was. Jimin felt like someone had stuffed his face full of cotton. “I think I’m swollen,” Jimin said instead of responding. He pushed on his sinuses and Seokjin frowned.

“Yeah? Do you want Namjoon to come pick us up?”

“I think I can make it home,” Jimin promised.

“Want to race to the top of the hill?”

“Never in a million years,” Jimin answered, getting up from the bench when Seokjin extended a hand to him. He was exhausted, but there was less than a mile left before they made it back to the house. Jimin could do it.

“Then, come on, kid, let’s start walking.” Seokjin trailed up the hill behind Jimin, letting him set the pace. Soon, Jimin would be showered and back on the sofa with his brothers and a cup of hot chocolate (if he could weasel one from Namjoon). The thought alone was enough to propel him through the end of his workout.


TAEHYUNG

Taehyung walked into the kitchen, his mind on one thing and one thing only.

Lunch .

The day after Thanksgiving, everyone fended for themselves at meal time. Seokjin had said repeatedly that he wasn’t cooking for anyone , not even himself. If Taehyung wanted lunch, he was going to have to make it.

Fortunately there were lots of leftovers. Taehyung dove into the fridge and rustled up a plate of cut up vegetables and a half empty container of hummus. He stuck the Tupperware of leftover turkey under his arm and a little bowl of mashed potatoes under his chin.

He closed the refrigerator door and jumped 3 feet in the air when he found himself nose to nose with Jungkook.

“Cookie, geez!” Taehyung complained, clamping his elbow down on the turkey just before it dropped to the floor. “You scared me.”

“Sorry,” Jungkook said sheepishly.

“Don’t worry about it, just like... make some noise next time. Stomp around or clap a little when you walk.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows knitted together. “Um, okay, I’ll be sure to do... just that.”

“Good.” Taehyung started on the mashed potatoes first. He had remembered to grab a spoon before sitting down at the table, and he grabbed a heaping spoonful. PJ had said he would pick him up to go hiking at one-thirty, and Taehyung barely had ten minutes to eat lunch.

Jungkook hovered as Taehyung moved from mashed potatoes to bell peppers dipped in hummus. Jungkook squirmed a little.

“Want some?” Taehyung asked, pushing the hummus container towards Jungkook.

“Um...”

“It’s the garlic kind.”

“Actually, I’m not very hungry,” Jungkook answered. He didn’t move away from the table.

Taehyung eyed him warily. He and Jungkook had seemed to be on good terms lately. Last night had felt so normal: hanging out, watching Friends , falling asleep on top of each other... It was like before Jungkook was adopted.

But now he seemed weird.

“Wanna at least sit down?” Taehyung asked, kicking Jungkook’s chair out for him.

“Okay,” Jungkook said, sitting down eagerly next to him. Taehyung ate a carrot stick slowly, watching Jungkook the entire time. He was sort of worried Jungkook would chew his bottom lip off; he was biting it so hard. “Um... Can we... Can I...”

“Yeah?” Taehyung prompted, not sure why Jungkook sounded so nervous.

“I don’t want you to die mad at me.”

Taehyung blinked. “Okay?”

“So I’m sorry,” Jungkook blurted out, his whole face turning red as he said it. “I was really mean after your seizure, and I yelled at you, and I didn’t know how to take care of you, and your face is all bruised, and it’s my fault, and I’m really, really sorry, Taehyung, I don’t know how Jin, and Joon, and Jimin, and everyone does it.”

“Is my face really that bruised still?” Taehyung asked before he could even process what Jungkook was saying. He felt his eye to ensure that the swelling had gone down. He didn’t want to hang out with his new friends if he still looked beat up and puffy.

Jungkook paled and pressed his lips together. “No.”

“Wait,” Taehyung said, Jungkook’s apology slowly catching up to him. “What?”

“I just feel bad about everything that happened,” Jungkook clarified, “And I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you,” Taehyung said, bewildered. He didn’t remember anything about his seizure, but he knew it had happened when Jungkook was the only one home. The last thing he remembered before Namjoon tucking him in was Jungkook showing him the video of the turtle eating a tomato.

“But I was mean ,” Jungkook said.

Taehyung furrowed his brow. “Were you?” He wracked his brain trying to remember. Meanwhile, Jungkook nodded his head shamefully. “Okay, well, it can’t have been a big deal because I don’t remember it.”

Jungkook shook his head. “But it was a big deal,” he said. “I don’t... I didn’t know what I was supposed to do for you, and I didn’t take care of you, and you hurt yourself, and-“

Taehyung choked on his carrot stick, effectively cutting Jungkook off. “Jungkook, I’m the last one to admit it, but I hurt myself during seizures all of the time.”

“But-“

“Listen,” Taehyung said. “Did you make sure the area around me was clear?” Jungkook looked stricken, but he nodded. “Did you check to make sure I was on my side?” Jungkook nodded again. “Did you loosen my collar?”

Jungkook frowned. “You were wearing a t-shirt.”

Taehyung nodded. “Okay, well then did you check to make sure it didn’t last longer than five minutes? Was I breathing okay? Did you stay with me after?” he asked. Jungkook nodded to every question. “Then there you have it. You did fine.”

Jungkook still looked upset. “I don’t think I would have been able to administer your emergency medication.”

Taehyung waved him off. “Yeah, but you need special training for that. Only Namjoon, Jin, and Jimin can do it.”

“But-“

“Dude, why are you getting upset about me not being mad at you? That’s a good thing,” Taehyung said, but Jungkook still looked guilty.

“I just... Yoongi was mad. Because I said something really mean about it not being my job to take care of you. But I was just... really scared , which Seokjin figured out, but I didn’t know if you would be able to,” Jungkook explained. “And I don’t want you to die mad at me.”

“Okay, well, I’m not dying,” Taehyung promised, taking a few pieces of turkey out of the Tupperware with his hands. He snapped the lids on everything else closed. “And I’m still not mad at you. So like... boom, done, finished. PJ is picking me up to go hiking so we can talk more about it later if you want to, okay?”

Jungkook seemed uncertain as Taehyung crammed his feet into his best sneakers. “You’re sure you’re not mad?”

“Positive,” Taehyung assured him, holding up an OK sign.

“Okay,” Jungkook said, and Taehyung took it as permission to run out the door to PJ’s waiting car. He had seen it pull up while Jungkook had been apologizing, and his phone had buzzed in his pocket a second later. Taehyung rushed out to the truck and clambered up into the front seat.

“Ready to go hiking?” PJ asked, flipping on his turn signal as Taehyung buckled his seatbelt.

Taehyung smiled, ecstatic for his first non-family social interaction in nearly a week. “Absolutely!”


HOSEOK

Hoseok scowled as his phone lit up with another string of texts, each one coming sooner than the last. His phone vibrated loudly on the hardwood floor.

Yoongi arched an eyebrow at him from over his hump of blankets. “Who is texting you so late at night?” he asked. Usually on Friday, Hoseok would be out with his friends (or stuck at one of Jimin’s football games); however, this weekend Hoseok was trying to keep a low profile.

He had been hoping to avoid Oliver, but his phone was making it impossible.

“Probably Oli,” Hoseok answered, even though he could see Oliver’s icon from his seat on the couch.

Before Hoseok could stop him, Yoongi swooped down and grabbed Hoseok’s phone off the floor. He entered Hoseok’s pin and scrolled through the texts. “What the fuck?” Yoongi spat, glaring at the phone screen.

“That’s private,” Hoseok complained, trying to grab his phone back. Yoongi batted his hand away.

“What the fuck is this guy’s problem? ” Yoongi asked, still peering closely at Oliver’s most recent batch of text messages. Hoseok didn’t have to read them to know what they said. “Where are you?” “Pay attention to me.” “Text me back.” “Why are you ignoring me?” “I swear, I’m about to come over, and if you’re not home, you’re in big trouble.”

Hoseok was pretty sure Oliver just copy pasted texts from the night before, that’s how he managed to send them all so quickly. That, or he really was just as crazed as he sometimes seemed.

Yoongi looked up at Hoseok, horrified. “He’s threatening to come over to the house.”

“He’s just teasing,” Hoseok said. He was getting tired of excusing Oliver’s bad behavior.

“Well, I’m not teasing,” Yoongi said. “If that fuck face comes anywhere near this house, I swear, I’ll break every bone in his body.”

Hoseok gulped. “Don’t say that.”

Yoongi’s glare sharpened. “I will break his spine. Over my knee.”

Hoseok grabbed his phone back while Yoongi was distracted. “That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about. Be nice to him,” Hoseok complained.

“Boyfriends don’t get to keep tabs on each other like this; this is stalking,” Yoongi said. Hoseok kept quiet. “I mean, what’s his deal? Why does he think you have to answer him right away? You have your own life! He should acknowledge that. And what the fuck is all this bullshit about you not being home? You can go wherever the hell you want.”

“Yoongi,” Hoseok squeaked, begging him to stop.

“You have to break up with him,” Hobi.” The seriousness in Yoongi’s voice was enough to get Hoseok to look at him. He wasn’t ready for the sadness hanging in Yoongi’s eyes when he did. “You have to. This isn’t healthy. He’s terrible to you.”

“You don’t know him,” Hoseok tried.

“I don’t have to know him. I don’t want to know him. Those texts are disgusting , you deserve someone better.”

Hoseok had no idea how to respond. Fortunately, Namjoon came into the room before he could answer, putting the conversation to a grinding halt. Hoseok looked up at Yoongi wide-eyed, and Yoongi glowered back at him.

Hoseok sighed in relief. Yoongi wouldn’t talk about Oliver with Namjoon in the room, at least not now. Hoseok had gotten off easy with that conversation.

Namjoon sat down between Hoseok and Yoongi (on both of their feet) with a bag of Snyder’s honey-mustard and onion pretzels in hand. “What are we watching?” Namjoon asked, letting Hoseok steal some of his snack when he reached for it. Hoseok ate them eagerly. Snyder’s flavored pretzel pieces were the greatest things to ever happen to him. He was addicted.

Game of Thrones ,” Yoongi answered.

“Don’t tell Jin,” Hoseok tacked on.

Namjoon grunted. “I need plausible deniability. Switch channels before I’ve seen too much.”

Yoongi grabbed the remote and went from GoT to a Chopped re-run on Food Network. Hoseok settled into the couch. They were about to reveal the dessert round’s basket ingredients, which always left Hoseok on the edge of his seat. He was anxious about Oliver, but Namjoon’s weight on his feet was comforting, and while Oliver talked about coming to the house, he never actually did. Hoseok was safe.

At least for now.


SEOKJIN

“Yes, Mom,” Seokjin said like a reflex. His mom had called to voice her concerns early that morning, just as Seokjin had started on breakfast. The phone caught between his shoulder and ear. He cracked two eggs into a bowl and moved to wash his hands.

“It’s just five kids was always too much, I think, and now you’re having trouble taking care of them,” his mom was saying. She’d been beating around the bush for half an hour, and Seokjin was exhausted by it.

Now it’s too much?” he muttered.

“What was that?”

Shit. Seokjin beat the eggs with a fork. “Nothing, it’s just... I don’t think it’s suddenly too much now . It was worse when they were tiny preschoolers, stumbling around.”

“So you admit it was too much?”

Seokjin didn’t miss the triumphant tone to his mother’s voice. “Well, maybe, Mom. I mean Taehyung is epileptic. Yoongi’s OCD was awful. Five kids under eight years old was a lot to handle,” he admitted. Namjoon’s Keurig beeped behind him, and Seokjin left his eggs alone for a minute to stir cream and sugar into his husband’s coffee.

“I told you it was a mistake. Yoongi and Taehyung were handfuls enough, and then you kept-“

“Mom,” Seokjin said sharply, cutting her off. “I said it was too much, I didn’t say it was a mistake.” His mom was quiet for a minute, and Seokjin pinched the bridge of his nose. “You love Yoongi. You love Taehyung. You love all of my boys. What are you even suggesting? That I get rid of them?”

His mom chose her next words carefully. “Of course not. They’re my grandkids; I do love them. I just think adopting five kids was too many.”

“Okay, well, I already did it. It’s done. It’s too late to rethink it.”

“I’m just saying-“

“I know what you’re saying,” Seokjin snapped irritably. He pulled the griddle out from underneath the island and plugged it in. “Listen, I don’t condone Yoongi or Jungkook’s behavior during Thanksgiving, but they said sorry, and they both have a lot on their shoulders right now. I mean, they’re kids . Outbursts happen. Yoongi has been fighting through mental illness his entire life , Jungkook’s mom just died; they’re allowed to have bad days. And if those coincide with whatever major holiday you’re concerned about, then too bad. Holidays aren’t about manners and putting on a brave face, they’re about family , and my family isn’t perfect. My family struggles with panic attacks, and anxiety, and depression, and chronic illness, and insecurity, and fear, and it’s definitely too much for me, but they need me and I don’t care.”

Namjoon’s arms snuck around Seokjin’s waist. Seokjin didn’t even see him come into the kitchen.

“Seokjin, dear, that’s not what I-“

He swallowed thickly.  “Mom, I’m making breakfast for my kids, and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” Seokjin hung up the phone before his mother could get a word in edgewise.

Seokjin turned in Namjoon’s hold and looped his arms around his husband’s neck. Namjoon grabbed his coffee cup and took a sip over Seokjin’s shoulder. “Your mom?” he asked. He smelled like aftershave and coffee.

“Unfortunately.”

Namjoon rubbed a hand up and down his spine. “You love your mom.”

“Not right now,” Seokjin mumbled. He broke away from Namjoon and rubbed his face. “She just... She doesn’t get it. She had two kids because that’s what you do, you have two kids, and then she stopped because that’s the expectation.”

“Two kids and a white picket fence,” Namjoon smirked.

Seokjin smiled wanly. “Exactly.” He took a deep breath. “I have a million kids because I actually love them and actually care about them.”

“Your mom loves and cares about you,” Namjoon said frowning.

Seokjin waved him off. “Oh, no, I know. She just doesn’t love children. Like... all children. She loves her kids, and her grandkids —adopted ones included— but she doesn’t love like... you know, random babies on the street and her friend’s children and grandchildren.”

Namjoon grunted in agreement.

Seokjin pushed his hair out of his face. “Listen, I can’t think about it right now. I need to finish breakfast. The kids have a sixth sense for when I get the griddle out.”

Namjoon snorted. “I’m sure Yoongi will stumble downstairs half asleep if he smells French toast being made,” he said, gesturing to the ingredients covering the counter.

Seokjin unclipped the bread tie from the bag. “I’m apologizing for not cooking yesterday.”

“Unnecessary, but nice,” Namjoon promised.

Footsteps creaked on the steps, and Seokjin smiled. As if on cue, he could hear Hoseok and Jimin’s bickering on the stairs. Seokjin started dipping bread into his egg, cinnamon, and milk mixture. “Will you pour orange juice?”

Namjoon was already elbow-deep in the fridge. “Of course,” he answered easily as Jimin and Hoseok bounced into the kitchen, a sleepy Taehyung and a quiet Jungkook in toe. Seokjin heard shuffling upstairs.

“That must be Yoongi.”


YOONGI

Yoongi stumbled downstairs, his eyes barely opened. The only thing fueling him forward was the smell of coffee and his rumbling tummy. He needed breakfast. He needed caffeine. He needed a another four hours of sleep.

“Good morning, sunshine!” Hoseok chirped as Yoongi threw himself into a chair at the kitchen table.

Normally, Yoongi would snap at him for being so cheerful and annoying so early in the morning, but after last night, Yoongi felt like Hoseok could use a break. Instead, he just moaned loudly.

“Hold on, peanut, I’ve got you.”

Yoongi blinked his eyes open just as Seokjin set a plate of French toast down in front of him. Yoongi dug in right away, stealing a sip of Namjoon’s coffee when his dad wasn’t looking. He was halfway through his breakfast when he finally registered the taste.

“Dad, this is amazing,” Yoongi complimented. “Thank you so much.”

“Don’t start,” Seokjin said in warning.

Dad ,” Hoseok said. “Yoongi is right. This is the greatest French toast in the history of French toast.”

“True,” Jimin agreed. “It’s light, fluffy-“

“Not too eggy,” Taehyung tacked on.

Hoseok nodded. “Exactly. And the cinnamon?”

Jimin groaned. “Killer.”

“Just enough,” Taehyung nodded sagely.

“Not too much,” Namjoon agreed distractedly, too focused on checking his email to join the conversation properly.

Yoongi blinked his eyes further open just in time to catch Jungkook hiding a smile behind his hand. Yoongi smiled back, and Jungkook’s eyes widened. He scrunched his nose and turned away.

Yoongi scrunched his nose, too.

Honestly, he had kind of been avoiding his family this weekend, especially Jungkook. He wanted to figure out how to extend an olive branch and get them back on better terms, but Yoongi was slowly coming to grips with the fact that, well, he hadn’t been all that nice to Jungkook either.

Jin always said, “It takes two to tango.” It looks like he was right. Clearly, he had really hurt Jungkook’s feelings because his younger brother would hardly look at him. Yoongi didn’t feel explicitly guilty, but he certainly didn’t like it. As the oldest brother, Yoongi felt responsible for Jungkook. He wanted to be someone Jungkook could come to with any kind of problem, and he wanted to be the one to fix it.

He was still bothered by Jungkook’s past behavior, but Jungkook being afraid of him was definitely worse.

“I’m going to stop cooking if you kids are going to keep being like this,” Seokjin threatened.

Hoseok took a big swig of orange juice. “You know, most people would like to be showered in compliments and gratitude,” Hoseok replied. Yoongi relaxed into his chair a bit. At least Hoseok seemed at ease.

“I like compliments and I like gratitude, but not when it’s so greasy,” Seokjin said, setting a plate in front of Hoseok and kissing his cheek. Hoseok was too preoccupied with his French toast to respond.

“Hey, I’m not greasy,” Taehyung complained.

“I am,” Jimin said with a seductive eyebrow wiggle that almost made Yoongi throw his cup at him. Jimin was gross sometimes.

Yoongi sat down his knife and fork. “I’m leaving,” he said.

“No, no, Yoongi stay,” Taehyung whined. “I feel like we haven’t seen you all weekend. Where have you been?” he asked, throwing one of his long legs on top of Yoongi’s knees so he couldn’t get up.

Yoongi eyed Jungkook awkwardly. “Um... Around,” he answered, not sure how much he should say. He didn’t want to ostracize Jungkook further; he had already done too good a job at that.

“Finish your breakfast at least,” Seokjin instructed from his spot at the counter. The griddle crackled in front of him.

“Finish your breakfast,” Namjoon echoed, supporting Jin even when his attention was elsewhere. Yoongi locked eyes with Jungkook and this time they both laughed behind their hands.

Yoongi felt his heart swell a little, even when Jungkook inevitably turned away. Maybe things were tense now, but Yoongi had hope they would eventually go back to normal.


TAEHYUNG

Taehyung’s phone buzzed across the room, and he almost broke his downward dog position to grab it. “That’s my group chat,” he said excitedly, craning his neck to see if he could read his lit up screen from afar.

“Geez, Tae, relax. You’re turning into one of those blasted teens who can’t stay off their cellphones,” Jimin said in his old man voice and Taehyung mimed pushing him over.

“Yoga is supposed to be a quiet activity,” Seokjin gently reminded them.

Taehyung quickly snapped his mouth shut. Seokjin had seemed stressed today. Taehyung was around his dad nearly all of the time. At this point, he was pretty good at telling when Seokjin was anxious or sad, happy or mad. Taehyung knew Seokjin was stressed about Thanksgiving, but it seemed worse now.

If his dad needed some quiet, relaxing yoga, then Taehyung would make sure he got it.

Taehyung felt like his arms were getting stronger from yoga. Their DVD instructor lead them into Crow and Crane, and Taehyung confidently balanced on his head and hands.

“Wow, Taehyungie,” Jimin said, kicking out a foot to bother him. Jimin could balance in a headstand all day. He could also kick Taehyung while in a headstand. Taehyung wobbled and nearly toppled over.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Seokjin complained, falling out of his pose in time to catch Taehyung’s ankle. “I’m trying to stretch and relax. Stop fighting.”

“We’re not fighting,” Taehyung and Jimin said in unison.

“Stop teasing each other,” Seokjin said, correcting himself. Taehyung tried to nod, but ended up falling onto his yoga mat. Jimin snickered at him.

Seokjin looked exhausted, but before he could scold them again, Jungkook came traipsing downstairs. “Hey, I’m leaving,” he said. The words were cold, but his eyes were big and cute instead of narrowed into angry slits. Taehyung smiled at him and waved goodbye.

“Leaving where?” Seokjin asked.

“To hang out with the lacrosse team.”

“And do what?”

“Eunwoo’s mom is taking us to Rita’s,” Jungkook said.

Seokjin relaxed. “Okay, do you need money?” he asked, moving into the next inversion: Camel. Taehyung liked this one. He got on his knees and grabbed his ankles, tilting his head back to stare at Jungkook in the doorway.

“I’ve got some,” Jungkook promised. “See you when I get home?”

“See you, Cookie!” Taehyung said brightly.

“See you, Cookie,” Jimin repeated, not as enthusiastic as Taehyung but not unhappy either. Taehyung was ecstatic.  He felt like he had been waiting forever for his brothers to start getting along, and now Jungkook was basically asking to hang out with him and Jimin later. They could play video games! Or cards! Or a board game!

“Okay,” Jungkook said, looking just as excited. Jimin laughed somewhere at Taehyung’s side, but Taehyung ignored him.

As Jungkook walked out the door, Hoseok walked in.

“Oh, yoga,” Hoseok crooned, finding a spot on the floor next to Jimin. The DVD transitioned from inversions to Half-Moon pose, and Taehyung watched Hoseok wobble dangerously close to Jimin.

“Hobi, no-“ Seokjin tried to say, but it was too late. Hoseok toppled over onto Jimin, who knocked into Taehyung, who knocked into Seokjin, sending them all to the floor like dominos.

Jimin started giggling, and Seokjin groaned. “I just wanted a peaceful, relaxing yoga session.”

“I’m very peaceful,” Hoseok said, crawling across all of them.

“You’re a nuisance,” Seokjin said, catching Hoseok around the neck and ruffling his hair. Taehyung crawled out from under his brothers and paused the DVD. Yoga with Hoseok always turned from stretching to a contact sport surprisingly quickly. But Taehyung would take loud, bad yoga with Jimin and Hoseok over boring, quiet yoga any day.


JUNGKOOK

Jungkook took a big bite of his mango water ice. He had forgotten how good Rita’s tasted. He grinned stupidly into his cup as he took spoonful after spoonful. He was so focused on his water ice he missed the conversation going on over his head until his name was mentioned.

“Look at Jungkook,” MJ said.

Jungkook looked up. “What about me?” he asked.

“Nothing,” MJ said. “You just looked happy.”

“You’ve looked happy a lot lately,” Moonbin said in agreement.

“I’m always happy,” Jungkook said, frowning around his spoon. His frown grew deeper when his friends either scoffed or rolled their eyes. “I like hanging out with you guys. I like it. I’m happy,” he said assertively.

His friends shared confused looks across the table, and Jungkook didn’t know what he was missing. Moonbin cleared his throat. “Jungkook, you’re usually carrying around a pretty bad mood,” he said honestly.

“But you’ve been a lot happier lately!” Sanha chirped.

“Yeah, you’ve seemed better the last week or so,” Eunwoo agreed.

“Oh.” Jungkook’s face screwed up, and he stirred his water ice. He hadn’t thought his feelings carried over from home to school. He didn’t think of himself as a cranky person, no matter how often his family complained about his attitude. Now he felt bad about being so grumpy so much of the time.

At least he seemed happier now.

“I think... things are going better for me,” Jungkook said as means of explanation. “So, hopefully I’ll be less crabby.”

“Great!” MJ chirped before moving the conversation along. “So, anyway, you guys know how my mom makes me do the dishes and take out the trash and stuff? Well, you’ll never guess what she made me do last night!”

Jungkook took another bite of his water ice, trying to let the sugar cheer him back up. He didn’t know why he suddenly felt so bad about being moody, but there was a big ball of guilt winding it’s way up his throat, making it hard to breathe.

Moonbin seemed to notice the panic in his eyes because he clapped him on the shoulder while MJ complained loudly about how his mom made him clean the bathtub. Moonbin’s thumb dug into his shoulder. It felt like something Seokjin would do to cheer him up, and that alone was enough to keep him calm.

The more Jungkook thought about it, the more he realized: Things really were going better. Maybe Seokjin was right. Maybe therapy, hanging out with his brothers, talking to his parents... maybe that really would help him feel better. It certainly had already.


NAMJOON

Namjoon knocked on Yoongi’s door and poked his head in. “Hey, kid. Wanna do some chores?”

Yoongi took off his headphones. “Is ‘no’ an acceptable answer?”

Namjoon tossed Yoongi his jacked. “No. Come on, we’re going outside.”

The front yard was a mess of leaves, and Seokjin had commented about it under his breath enough times that Namjoon knew he had to do something about it. Plus, he had been hoping to spend some time with Yoongi this weekend. Watching Chopped with him and Hoseok had been nice, but Namjoon felt like it would be good to give Yoongi some positive attention after everything that happened during Thanksgiving.

He might as well kill two birds with one stone.

Yoongi shrugged on his jacket and grabbed a pair of Timberlands from his closet. He trekked after Namjoon and down the stairs, his flannel hanging out the bottom of his coat. “What are we doing?” he asked. Namjoon handed him a beanie on their way out the door.

“Raking leaves,” Namjoon answered.

Yoongi actually looked excited. “Oh, good! I’ve been wanting to clean up the front yard.”

Namjoon snorted. “Of course you have.” OCD aside, Yoongi was a hard worker. He was the oldest of the boys, and he tended to take a lot of responsibility for household tasks. Seokjin got a lot done, staying home all day instead of going to work like Namjoon, but every now and then, Yoongi would deep clean part of the house. The windowsills, the sliding track on the back door, the base boards... Yoongi took care of the little things.

Namjoon was grateful for all of his hard work. It was good of him to do so many chores without complaining or being asked. When Namjoon handed Yoongi a rake, he knew he would do a good job.

“You have any music preferences?” Namjoon asked, setting up his speaker on the front porch.

“Um... Maybe something other than hip hop or rap.”

“Does that mean no R&B?” Namjoon asked. The look Yoongi fixed him with was answer enough. “All right, geez, kid, you’re limiting my options.” Namjoon flicked through his phone for something else to play.

“I got it,” Yoongi said. He connected to the Bluetooth from across the yard. “’Talk Too Much’ by COIN,” Yoongi announced as a song started playing through the speaker.

Namjoon hummed. He didn’t usually associate indie pop with Yoongi; Jimin was more likely to listen to alternative. But Yoongi usually surprised him with his music taste. Pretty much anything was fair game; he was better acquainted with rock and indie than Namjoon would ever be.

“So, I was thinking,” Namjoon said, joining Yoongi to help with his leaf pile. “You don’t have to go to school, obviously, if you really don’t want to. But if you did want to study music, and you chose to go to school in Philly, then maybe you could be a regular on my radio show. You could schedule your classes around it if you wanted to. That would be fun, right? A father and son thing?”

Yoongi looked up at him, excited. “Really?!” he asked, unable to hide the hopefulness in his voice.

“Sure,” Namjoon replied. “Maybe like a biweekly thing.”

Yoongi didn’t say anything, just pressed his lips together. Namjoon could tell he was trying to hide a grin, but it wasn’t quite working. Yoongi raked up a couple more scoops of leaves before muttering shyly, “You know, I kind of liked Temple.”

“Did you?” Namjoon asked.

Yoongi nodded. “And Drexel, if I like... definitely didn’t have to eat there.”

“You don’t have to eat anywhere,” Namjoon promised.

Yoongi ducked his head, but Namjoon still caught his smile. Namjoon felt sick. Yoongi must have been terrified to go to college. His panic attack was proof enough, but seeing how happy he was to have Namjoon tell him he didn’t have to leave...

Namjoon remembered his purpose for inviting Yoongi outside: to shower him in positive attention. Clearly, Yoongi still didn’t understand how much Namjoon loved him, and something needed to be done about that.

“Sugar, do you know how proud I am of you?”

Yoongi flushed. “Ugh, don’t start. Leave me alone.”

“I’m so proud of you.”

“I don’t even do anything,” Yoongi complained, his ears turning pink. Namjoon knew Yoongi’s blush was part insecurity and part embarrassment. He had never liked when Namjoon told him gooey, mushy things. Namjoon was hoping sheer exposure would change his mind.

“You do plenty. You’re a good big brother; I can tell you’re trying to be a better big brother to Jungkook. You work hard to support our family, you’re always grateful, you study hard, you follow your passions... You do a lot, and I’m proud of you,” Namjoon gushed.

Stop ,” Yoongi whined. For the third time, Yoongi tried to hide his smile and failed.

“I just love you,” Namjoon promised.

Gross.”

“I love you to the moon and back.”

Ew.

Namjoon opened his mouth to say something else syrupy and sweet, but before he could, Seokjin opened the front door. He looked concerned and Namjoon and Yoongi shared a look.

“Are you two out there working without gloves?” Seokjin called worriedly.

Namjoon and Yoongi dissolved into snickers. Seokjin was such a worrywart sometimes. Namjoon loved him with all his heart, but his motherly tendencies were a little over the top. “Yes,” Yoongi admitted.

“Namjoon!” Seokjin always blamed Namjoon. “It’s too cold for that, and raking can cause blisters! There are work gloves in the garage.”

“Sorry, babe,” Namjoon apologized, laughing behind his hand. Seokjin waved him off and went back in the house. Namjoon turned to Yoongi, trying his best not to laugh. “Well, you heard the man.”

“Dad, how could you let me rake without gloves on? In this weather? Are you crazy?” Yoongi asked.

“I’m sorry, I’m a bad father.”

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “This is why I have trust issues,” he muttered under his breath, walking to the garage to grab some gardening gloves. Namjoon stayed out front and stuffed some of the leaves they had already raked up into bags. When Yoongi came back, he was wearing the pink gardening gloves Seokjin used to weed. He was carrying Namjoon’s orange gloves (that Namjoon usually used when handling power tools).

“Cool, we’re all warm and safe.”

“I don’t know,” Yoongi said. “I actually do blister easily.”

“You’re delicate.”

Yoongi frowned. “No, I’m not,” he groused.

Namjoon shook his head. He focused on packing the leaves tightly into the bag. “You are. You’re fragile with delicate skin. We have to take care of you. I’m clearly doing a bad job,” he said, talking about the gloves.

Yoongi took a sharp breath, and Namjoon looked up at him. “I think you’re doing okay,” he said weakly.

Namjoon was confused for a moment before remembering Yoongi’s feelings about college and how colossally he had screwed that up. He softened his expression. “I’m glad you think so,” he said. “I only want to do my best for you, Yoongi. But it’s much easier when you talk to me.”

Yoongi bit his lip. “I know, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Namjoon said. He looked at the front yard. They’d barely cleared a quarter of it. “But okay, let’s buckle down. We have a lot to do, and I promised Seokjin I would help him cook dinner.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said, getting back to work. Namjoon watched his back as he started raking again. Some indie rock song played in the background, and with it, Yoongi’s shoulders seemed taller. Namjoon felt space in the back of his mind clear up; space that had previously been clouded over with worry. Yoongi would be okay, that he was sure of.  

 

Chapter Text

YOONGI

Yoongi stirred his cereal in his bowl, watching his mini wheats spin in the current. He was feeling peaceful today. He wasn’t sure what would happen after high school, but he felt secure in his seat at the kitchen table. He didn’t have to go anywhere until he was ready.

Yoongi picked out a particularly frosting-covered mini wheat with his spoon. Footsteps pounded on the stairs. (Yoongi knew it was Jimin; he had the loudest footsteps out of everyone in the family.)

Sure enough, Jimin entered the kitchen a minute later, looking frazzled. Yoongi nudged the box of cereal towards him. “Morning.”

Jimin spun around in a circle, eyes searching the kitchen for something, before falling into his seat. He blinked at his empty bowl.

Yoongi opened up the mini wheats and poured Jimin a bowl. “You okay there?” he asked, arching an eyebrow at Jimin while he poured his milk.

“Fine.” Jimin said. “Fine, fine, fine. Fine. Absolutely fine.”

“Sure,” Yoongi said.

“Mhm.” Jimin hugged his backpack. “... I have an English test today.”

“There it is,” Yoongi said, nodding sagely.

“It’s not so big a deal,” Jimin promised. “I just, um... Well, it’s writing. Like an essay test. And I’m...”

“A slow writer,” Yoongi filled in.

“Shut up,” Jimin said miserably, slinking down in his seat. Yoongi watched for a minute as he stuffed his face with cereal, his cheeks puffing out like a chipmunk.

“It’s not bad to be a slow writer, Jimin. You just have to ask your teacher for more time. I’m sure she knows about your dyslexia; she’ll probably say yes,” Yoongi said, taking a big sip milk from his bowl.

“You don’t get it,” Jimin said. He stared down at the table, refusing to make eye contact. His cheeks were flushed pink. Yoongi opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Seokjin stepped into the kitchen.

“Good morning! How are the best and brightest kids in the world doing?” Seokjin greeted Jimin and Yoongi. Jimin slouched down further in his seat.

Jungkook stepped into the kitchen behind Seokjin. “Hey,” he whined, obviously feeling excluded.

Yoongi had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Instead, he poured Jungkook a bowl of cereal and nudged it towards him. He really was trying to do a better job of supporting Jungkook.

Jungkook looked surprised as he took a seat at the table. Meanwhile, Seokjin stood behind Jungkook’s chair and swept his bangs off his face. He doubled over to kiss his forehead. “Relax, everyone knows you’re secretly my favorite,” Seokjin told him. Jungkook’s nose crinkled. But instead of just noticing his scrunched up nose, Yoongi noticed the tiny smile on his face afterwards. Maybe Jungkook wasn’t as bratty as he thought.

“I thought I was the secret favorite,” Yoongi said.

“You’re all my secret favorite,” Seokjin promised, moving to the other side of the kitchen to make Namjoon’s coffee and start the kettle for tea. Jungkook and Jimin silently ate their cereal, while Hoseok and Taehyung came took their spots at the table.

“Taehyung, are you coming to school today?” Jimin asked.

“No, I’m just wearing jeans because I like to lounge around the house in total discomfort.”

“Shut up,” Jimin said, shoving him.

“I don’t get that,” Hoseok piped up. “Jeans aren’t uncomfortable. They feel fine. What kind of jeans are you guys buying?”

“Women’s jeans,” Jungkook muttered under his breath, and Jimin bristled.

“Do not!”

“Woah, okay, Jimin,” Yoongi cut in, “Chill.”

“But he-“

“Who’s grumpy?” Seokjin interrupted Jimin as he placed a bunch of bananas on the table between them. He smushed Jimin’s cheeks together. “Is it you? What’s your problem? What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Jimin whined, shaking himself free. “I just buy men’s pants. Because I am a manly man, who likes manly things, and does manly stuff.”

“Well, of course you are,” Seokjin agreed. “That’s why I call you when I need someone to carry in the groceries or take heavy boxes out to the garage. You’re my little muscle man.”

“I’m not little,” Jimin complained. Yoongi winced at the whine in his voice. Even Seokjin flinched back a little.

“Okay, okay, you’re right, you’re not little,” Seokjin said. “What’s gotten into you this morning?”

“Nothing.” Jimin yanked his backpack out from under the table and fixed it on his shoulders. “I’m going outside to wait for the bus.” He ran off before Seokjin could give him his lunch.

Seokjin sighed. “Taehyung, can I trust you to give him this?” Seokjin asked, handing Jimin’s lunchbox to Taehyung.

“Sure,” Taehyung agreed.

“Thank you. Have a good day at school today,” Seokjin said pointedly to Taehyung. Yoongi followed Seokjin’s gaze to the yellowed bruise still covering Taehyung’s eye. It was fading, but it was still obvious, and Yoongi knew Taehyung was embarrassed about it.

“We’ll have a great day,” Yoongi corrected, kicking Taehyung under the table to get his attention. Taehyung looked over at him. “Do you want to sit together on the bus?”

Taehyung’s face split into a smile. “Sure!”

“Cool,” Yoongi said. He finished his last few sips of milk just as screeching break pads rattled the window frames.

“That’s the bus, everyone. Move it,” Seokjin said, herding everyone up from the table and out the door. Yoongi almost bumped shoulders with Namjoon as they crossed paths at the kitchen door. “Have a good day! Come home with stories!” Seokjin called behind them. Yoongi snorted as he climbed onto the bus, his dad’s words registering.

Nothing interesting ever happened on Mondays.


HOSEOK

Hoseok unzipped his lunch box, glad to see that the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers were finally gone with the long weekend. He was ready to eat something other than turkey and mashed potatoes. He wasn’t ready, however, to be back at school.

He wasn’t ready for Oliver.

“Want one of my pretzel rods?” Hoseok asked, holding his sandwich baggie out like a peace offering.

Oliver rolled his eyes and slumped further over the table. “No.”

Hoseok’s stomach twisted. He knew Oliver was mad at him for ignoring him all weekend, but he wasn’t sure how to apologize without disregarding his need for independence. He needed space. Oliver wasn’t allowed to be this moody over a couple unanswered texts.

“Are you sure?” Hoseok asked, nudging his tub of hummus towards him. “I’m sure pretzels and hummus beats school cafeteria French fries any day.”

No, I don’t want your stupid pretzels,” Oliver repeated. He spoke slowly, like he was talking to a two-year-old, and Hoseok’s cheeks flushed. Meanwhile, Taehyung looked up across the table. His eye was still a little bruised, but it was open as wide as it could be as he looked at Hoseok.

Hoseok winced. Sometimes Oliver made comments about Taehyung sitting on his own, and while Hoseok didn’t mind eating with him, he almost wished Taehyung would sit by himself. If he didn’t feel comfortable with the cheerleaders, then surely he didn’t feel comfortable around Oliver.

Oliver made it obvious he didn’t want to sit with Taehyung. Hoseok hated to admit it, but Oliver was a bully. Hoseok didn’t know why Taehyung stuck around. Maybe it was better to be teased than to be alone and embarrassed.

Hoseok could understand the feeling all too well.

“TaeTae, would you like a pretzel?” Hoseok asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere. The air around them was heavy, and Hoseok could feel it weighing down his shoulders.

“Trade you for a celery stick,” Taehyung offered.

“Gross,” Hoseok said, but he made the trade anyway. He scrunched his nose as he bit through a particularly stringy piece of celery.

“They’re better with hummus,” Taehyung said, swirling his pretzel in the container Jin had packed him. “At least, they’re better with garlic hummus, not your nasty red pepper stuff.”

“I’m sorry, does it sound like anyone here cares about your opinion?” Oliver asked, and Hoseok immediately turned on him.

Oliver.

Taehyung blinked. “I’m sorry.”

Oliver scoffed and looked down at his cheesy fries. “If you were sorry, you’d sit somewhere else,” Oliver muttered under his breath, like even he knew it was an awful thing to say.

Hoseok narrowed his eyes. “Oliver, I swear to God, if you say one more awful thing to Taehyung, I promise-

“What? You promise what?” Oliver asked. “That you’re going to spend less time with me than you already do? That you’re going to ignore me more often? That you’re going to invite fourth wheels, and fifth wheels, and sixth wheels to our dates so I get even less of your attention?”

“So you are dating him?” Taehyung blurted out.

Shut up,” Oliver said, whirling on him.

You shut up, Oliver,” Hoseok squeaked. “You’re being crazy. If you have problems with me, then talk about them with me. Don’t spin this around on Taehyung; he’s just eating lunch.”

“Yeah, with us. Every day. Because he’s a fucking loser with no other friends who leeches onto you and makes it so I can’t enjoy lunch with my boyfriend because his freak loner brother won’t leave either of us alone,” Oliver complained.

Hoseok balked. “What- What happened to keeping us a secret?” Hoseok asked.

Oliver rolled his eyes again. “Look at him,” he said, gesturing to Taehyung. “Who is he going to tell?”

Hoseok looked towards Taehyung with the gesture. He was hunched over himself, his arms wrapped around his torso, and Hoseok’s stomach squirmed. He was doing a miserable job of protecting Taehyung. He felt like the worst big brother in the world.

Hoseok tried to stand up for Taehyung, but before he could, Oliver interrupted him. “Listen-“

“You know what? No. Fuck that,” Oliver said, suddenly getting angry. Hoseok stilled as Oliver’s shoulders started shaking. “I’m so fucking sick of listening to you go on and on and on about what you think is best, and what’s best for us, and what’s best for me, like you know better than me. Because guess what: you don’t. I’m the smart one; you’re the idiot. I’m the one who cares; you don’t. I’m the one who knows better; you’re the one who needs to stop talking.

Hoseok leaned away from Oliver as Oliver leaned in. He wasn’t yelling, but he was seething. His eyes were narrowed into slits, and his face was actually turning red with anger. Hoseok’s jaw quivered.

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Oliver said. “You’re going to tell your freak brother to get out of here; that no one wants to sit with him and that he just needs to get over it and accept the fact that he’s a freak and no one fucking likes him. And then you’re going to sit with me, and only me, and you’re going to shut up and listen to what I say and do what I want because I know best.

Hoseok floundered.

“Tell him to get out of here!” Oliver demanded, near shouting. “Tell the freak to leave!”

“I’m not a freak,” Taehyung said, standing up for himself when Hoseok didn’t say anything (couldn’t say anything).

Oliver whipped around on him and glared. “You drool and pee your pants like a baby. I’m pretty sure you’re a freak.”

Taehyung stood up. Hoseok could see Taehyung’s bottom lip wobbling, but he knew that if he tried to speak up, he would start crying too. “I’m leaving,” Taehyung said. “But not because you told me to, because I don’t want to sit near you.” Taehyung looked to Hoseok.

Hoseok shrunk his shoulders inward.

“Are you coming, Hobi?” Taehyung asked. Hoseok could hear the tears in Taehyung’s voice, but his jaw was set tight. Hoseok wondered when his little brother had become braver than he was.

Oliver put his hand on his knee. His nails dug into his skin. “Hoseok’s staying with me,” Oliver said. “Get out of here.”

“Fine,” Taehyung said, grabbing his bag. Hoseok watched him sign out of the cafeteria, feeling like he should follow him, but Oliver’s hand on his knee kept him seated in place.

“God, your family is psycho,” Oliver complained to Hoseok once Taehyung had left. “No wonder why you’re so fucked up. The crazy must have rubbed off.”

With the base of his palm, Hoseok pushed a tear off his cheek.


JIMIN

Jimin ears perked up as he tried to identify the song blasting in the gym. “I’m sorry, is this ‘Bad and Boujee’ mixed with ‘Super Freak’?” Jimin asked.

“Sounds like it,” Nayeon said next to him, already a little out of breath. Coach Ansley had them running laps around the gym as a warm up. Last week, they had talked too much during practice, so this week they had to run for an extra ten laps. However, even when she was annoyed with them, Coach Ansley usually let one of the girls play their own music during warm up.

So far, today they had listened to Ke$ha’s “Woman” and “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai.

“Who’s music is this?” Jimin asked.

“Sorry not sorry!” Chaeyoung called from the sidelines. Her leg was propped up on the bottom bleacher, pink cast covered in silver signatures. Her phone was posed in her hand; a USB cord connected her to Coach Ansley’s speaker.

Jimin smiled as he ran. “Is this how you’re going to entertain yourself during practices? By making us listen to your crazy music taste?” he called.

“It’s not crazy, it’s good!”

“Sure,” Jimin said, rolling his eyes.

“Jimin!”

Jimin turned at the sound of his name, and found Coach Ansley staring him down from the girl’s locker room door. She had disappeared to her office after she had gotten the team started with warm up, but now she was back with a frown on her face. “Can I see you for a minute?” she asked gently as Jimin ran towards her.

“Sure,” he said. “Should I finish running first?”

“No, it’s just-“ Coach Ansley’s voice lowered as Jimin slowed to a stop in front of her. The rest of the team ran by, paying them no mind. “The guidance department has been hassling me for weeks now, Jimin. Are you going to get your grades up or not?”

Jimin blinked. “I’m... I’m going to get my grades up,” he stuttered. He had never seen Coach Ansley look so worried. Her eyebrows were pinched together in concern.

“Are you sure you can with cheerleading? Or is it taking up too much of your time?”

“My grades have nothing to do with cheerleading,” Jimin said, feeling ambushed. This conversation had come out of nowhere. He was supposed to be warming up his muscles with a quick jog, and he was supposed to stretch afterwards, and then he was supposed to practice his new routine. Why had Coach Ansley interrupted that?

“Well, they might. Maybe you’re spending too much of your time here when you should be studying.”

Jimin paled. “What?”

“Your education is most important, Jimin,” Coach Ansley said, and Jimin flushed.

“I know it is,” he said, his heartbeat stuttering faster. “Look, you don’t get it. It’s not about cheerleading, it’s-“ He looked anxiously at the team, remembering Jihyo’s offer to tutor him in Spanish and feeling embarrassed all over again. He dropped his voice to a near whisper. “Look, I just have this thing with dyslexia, and I’m trying my best, but it’s not enough, and-“

“Jimin.”

Jimin looked at Coach Ansley nervously.

“If you’re trying your best and it’s not enough, then that means something needs to change.”

Jimin’s heart beat erratically in his chest. He felt his face heat up as he grew more panicked and –suddenly- more frustrated. “Okay.”

Coach Ansley sighed. “Look, I don’t want to kick you off the team, Jimin, but if that’s what you need, if that’s what’s going to help your studies, then-“

“You’re not kicking me off the team,” Jimin said, suddenly shouting. He felt the other girls’ eyes turn on him.

Coach Ansley’s eyes widened. “Hey, hey, hey,” she said, putting her hands up to placate him. “Don’t get angry. If you just think you need some more time, you have until the end of the semester, I just wanted to warn you what might need to happen if your grades don’t improve.”

“Don’t get angry?” Jimin asked, eye twitching as his blood ran hotter and hotter. “I haven’t done anything wrong, and you’re kicking me out.”

“Well, I would love to keep you on, but the school has a strict policy for athletes regarding their grades. I can’t make exceptions.”

“But I am an exception!” Jimin shouted, followed by a loud clanging noise as he kicked the metal trashcan next to him. If the girls on the team weren’t staring before, they certainly were staring now. The back of Jimin’s neck heated up as everyone looked at him. He was humiliated.

Even his English test had gone poorly today. He had never felt stupider. He had never felt lower. He had never felt more insecure. He was too stupid to do the thing he loved, and now everyone knew it.

Coach Ansley looked alarmed. “Jimin, I-“

“Shut up!” Jimin yelled before he could stop himself. “This is bullshit! All of this is so stupid; no one at this school fucking gets it. No one understands.”

Coach Ansley’s eyes widened further. “Jimin,” she said again, this time her voice like a warning.

“I said shut. Up!”

Jimin punctuated his sentence by kicking the trashcan again, hard enough to send it clattering to the floor. Trash spewed everywhere. Jimin hated himself for getting angry enough to start making such a mess; he was so stupid, he was too stupid to even deal with his anger correctly.

He kicked the trashcan again in frustration. He kicked it again, and again, and again, getting more and more furious with every kick. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a thousand reminders to be “gentle, Jimin” tried to get him to stop, but all he saw was red.

He barely felt Coach Ansley’s hands on him as she tried to turn him away from the trashcan. He knew she was talking, but he couldn’t hear her. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears.

He needed to snap out of it.

As hard as he could, Jimin punched the bleachers next to him with the side of his fist. Stinging pain radiated up his arm, and Jimin clutched at his forearm, focusing on the pain instead of the anger. Coach Ansley’s voice came flooding into his ears.

“Just calm down. You need to calm down.

“I’m sorry,” Jimin said, his vision still swimming. He tried to take deep breaths. “I’m sorry, this happens sometimes. I’m so sorry.” He held his head with one hand, feeling disoriented. He felt like the room was swimming around him, and for the first time, he realized how short of breath he had become.

“What’s going on?”

“Jimin, are you okay?”

“What was that?”

Jimin closed his eyes as he registered the rest of the team milling around him, all asking questions. They seemed panicked, but Jimin was too overwhelmed to deal with them. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m not being gentle, I wasn’t gentle.”

“Jimin,” Coach Ansley said, her voice cutting through the noise. “Do you have anger issues I wasn’t previously aware of?”

Jimin nodded mutely. “Since I was a little kid.”

“Okay,” Coach Ansley said. “Why don’t you just go take a walk and cool off and then sit this one out today?” she asked.

“I just want to cheer,” Jimin whined.

“We’ll talk about that,” Coach Ansley promised. “First, go cool off.”

“Fine,” Jimin said, shaking her hands off of him and leaving the gym through the side door. He really did need to take a couple laps around the school and chill out. He needed to stop thinking about his grades and start thinking about what Jin would tell him. Just calm down, count to ten. Take deep breaths.

It had been awhile since Jimin had needed the advice for how to deal with his anger, but then again, it had also been awhile since anything had made him truly frustrated. This year, school seemed to be pushing all the right buttons.


SEOKJIN

“Rigatoni or penne?” Seokjin asked, holding up the two boxes. Taehyung didn’t answer. His eyes were downcast and his nose was pink as he pushed the shopping cart. “Or bowties: farfalle,” Seokjin offered.

Taehyung stayed quiet.

“Fusilli looks fun,” Seokjin said. When Taehyung stayed silent with his lips pressed together, Seokjin shook a box of spaghetti in front of his face. Taehyung startled and blinked up at him. “Hey, you okay over there? Is it an aura?”

“I’m- No,” Taehyung said.

“You’re no?”

“No, just no. I meant just no,” Taehyung said quickly, shrinking away from Seokjin. “I like bowtie pasta.”

“Bowtie it is,” Seokjin said, throwing the box in the cart. He led Taehyung further down the aisle, suddenly hyperaware of his son’s slumped shoulders. He knew Taehyung wasn’t the type to voice how he was feeling right away. Insecurity was Taehyung’s number one motivator, and it usually caused Taehyung to keep things to himself out of embarrassment.

But Seokjin also knew that he couldn’t let Taehyung keep secrets anymore. Taehyung had too many setbacks. It was time to get him out of his shell and talking, even if his social anxiety made it hard for him to speak up.

“Taehyungie, you seem off, peanut,” Seokjin said, taking a jar of lupini beans off the shelf.

“Oh.”

Seokjin grabbed a couple cans of corn. “Did something happen at school?” he asked, turning to Taehyung. Taehyung picked at his fingernails. “TaeTae, what happened?”

Nothing,” Taehyung answered.

“’Nothing’ definitely means something,” Seokjin said. He watched as Taehyung’s bottom lip started to wobble. “Why don’t you want to tell me?”

Taehyung hid his face behind his hands. “Because it’s not a big deal.”

“It doesn’t have to be a big deal for you to talk to me about it,” Seokjin said, gently lowering Taehyung’s hands from his face. Taehyung’s cheeks were flushed and his nose was pinker than before. “What happened? Tell me.”

“I just...” Taehyung sucked down a breath of air. “I just don’t like going to school.”

“Okay,” Seokjin said. Taehyung hadn’t felt comfortable at school since his classmates started teasing him for wearing pull-ups in second grade. That was no surprise.

“People aren’t nice there.”

“Did someone say something to you?” Seokjin asked, jumping to conclusions. The look on Taehyung’s face said it all. “Who?” Seokjin demanded. Taehyung’s face screwed up, and he walked in front of the cart. Seokjin pushed it after Taehyung as he walked to the freezer section. “Taehyung, who?” Seokjin asked again. Taehyung eyed the frozen pizzas.

“He doesn’t just make fun of me, is the thing.”

“Okay, so then clearly something needs to be done about this boy. Who is he?”

Taehyung grabbed a Digiorno’s cheese and bacon stuffed crust. Seokjin took it out of his hands and put it back in the freezer case. “You know Oliver?” Taehyung asked.

“The boy who took Hoseok on a date?” Seokjin asked.

“Hoseok’s boyfriend,” Taehyung corrected.

The freezer door handle slipped out of Seokjin’s fingers. The glass door fell closed on it’s own.  “His boyfriend?” he asked. Taehyung nodded meekly. “Hoseok didn’t tell me he had a boyfriend.”

“Well... Well, he does, and he’s not nice,” Taehyung said, grabbing the pizza again and shoving it in the cart. He stuffed a box of ice cream cones by the bread and vegetables.

“What does he say to you?”

“...Stuff,” Taehyung answered. “I don’t want to tell you.”

“Taehyung-“

“But it’s not a big deal,” Taehyung interrupted. “It doesn’t matter what he says to me, even if-“ Taehyung cut himself off and scrubbed at his eyes. “It doesn’t matter,” he repeated. He put his hands out in front of him, as if trying to refocus himself. “It’s more important that... that... Dad, he says stuff to Hoseok.”

Seokjin was overwhelmed. Before he could forget, he picked the frozen pizza out of the cart and passed it to Taehyung. “Taehyung, get this pizza out of this cart. You don’t even like stuffed crust.”

“It’s not for me, it’s for Hobi.”

“Why?” Seokjin asked.

“Because! I’m telling you! His boyfriend is mean.”

“What?” Seokjin asked, slowly catching up with the conversation. Hoseok had a boyfriend. Who was mean to Taehyung. Who was also mean to Hoseok. “What do you mean he ‘says stuff’?”

“He calls him stupid,” Taehyung answered. “And he calls me stupid, and we’re both freaks, but he says Hoseok isn’t allowed to talk, and that he has to listen, and he doesn’t let him sit with his friends, and he doesn’t want to let me sit with them, but I have to because Jimin’s friends don’t like me either, and no one likes me, and Oliver doesn’t like Hobi, and it’s all a big mess, and... and it’s not a big deal because you can’t fix it.”

“Taehyung,” Seokjin said, his voice steely. “This is a very big deal.”

“But you can’t fix it,” Taehyung repeated, his voice watery.

“Like hell I can’t fix it,” Seokjin said, throwing the frozen pizza back on the shelf. He was going to do more for Hoseok than toasting him something from the freezer section. He was going to make this better.


JUNGKOOK

When Jungkook’s skates hit the ice, nothing could stop his focus. His eyes were glued to the puck. Jungkook’s life was filled with distractions, but he left all of his problems at the locker room door. The rink was the one place he could clear his mind and focus on something other than family, and death, and dying for a little while. He kept his eyes forward and his head clear.

So it wasn’t until Jungkook got checked against the boards that he noticed Namjoon.

His face was smashed against the Plexiglas for less than a second, but Namjoon was one of the few parents sitting in the stands. That, plus his recognizable pink #1 Dad hat, made him easy to pick out.

As fast as Jungkook had been hit, the body on him peeled away, and Jungkook had to refocus on the hockey stick tangled with his own. The puck got away from him. Jungkook chased after it, his mind racing. They were down by one with minutes left on the clock.

Namjoon was here? For a scrimmage? Why had he come? What was going on?

The game ended quickly, 2:3, but Jungkook wasn’t upset about losing. As his team huddled up, Jungkook skated over to the bleachers. “Dad?”

“Jungkook! You’re missing your huddle,” Namjoon said.

“Why are you here?” Jungkook asked.

“Seokjin told me you had a scrimmage with another school today, and I wanted to see how your team was doing,” Namjoon said. “You guys look great.”

“We lost,” Jungkook deadpanned. “Also, don’t you have work? I thought you had you radio show every day after school.”

Namjoon took off his hat to run his hand through his hair. “The deejay before me took over. I wanted to come support you. It’s been awhile since you’ve had any games, and I thought it would be nice to come see you play, even if it’s not an official match.”

“None of the other parents came,” Jungkook pointed out.

“Well then, I guess all the other parents suck.”

Jungkook blinked when he realized Namjoon really had just come to see him play. His face broke into a smile. “You came to see me? Did you see my goal? Wasn’t that crazy? I had two guys all in my face, and I managed to sneak it right through. Did you see? Did you see it?”

“I saw everything,” Namjoon promised. “You were great, kid. Now go get your stuff, I’ll drive you home.”

“Well-“ Jungkook cut himself off, suddenly getting an idea but not wanting to come across too hopeful about it. “Well, there’s free skate after this. Would you want to maybe stick around a little?” he asked tentatively.

“Of course. I’d love to watch you skate a little longer.”

“No, I mean,” Jungkook shifted from skate to skate, his hands up against the boards. “Maybe we could skate together. You can rent them, you know? And I could show you some moves.”

Namjoon’s face fell. “Oh, Cookie.”

“It’ll be really fun,” Jungkook promised. “And I’ll teach you how to skate backwards! That’s cool, right? You can learn some cool stuff.”

Jungkook knew Namjoon was klutzy and that the rink was probably the worst possible place for him to be. After all, if Namjoon could slip on asphalt and shag carpeting, he would certainly slip on the ice. Jungkook also didn’t miss Namjoon’s look as he stared down at his nice work clothes. They weren’t exactly tailored for figure skating.

Jungkook braced himself for a no.

“All right,” Namjoon said.

Jungkook straightened up. “Really?”

“Sure. Where do I go for my skates?”

“Right through those doors!” Jungkook said, pointing. “I have to go put all my gear in the locker room, but I’ll be back, okay? I’ll meet you out here?”

“Meet you out here,” Namjoon agreed, and Jungkook dashed off.

He had never pulled his gear off faster. Jungkook crammed everything in his locker and threw his sweaty jersey into the school laundry basket. His clothes underneath were gross, but he was just going to sweat more while skating with Namjoon, so he didn’t pay any attention to the pit stains on his long-sleeve tee.

As fast as he could, he rushed back out to the rink to meet Namjoon, his backpack and gym bag strapped across his chest in case his coach locked the locker room behind him.

The Zamboni was just cleaning up from the scrimmage, and Jungkook perked up at the sight of fresh ice. Namjoon, meanwhile, was seated on the bench, tying his laces. “Hey,” Jungkook said, shuffling around the rink in his skates.

“Hey,” Namjoon replied. “Am I doing this right?”

“There’s not really a way to do it wrong,” Jungkook promised. He sat down on the bench next to Namjoon, but then jumped right back up when his excitement got the better of him. “Dad, if you hurry, we can get on the ice while it’s still all smooth.”

“Okay, okay, one second,” Namjoon said. He finished tying his laces just as the Zamboni left the rink. Jungkook practically pulled him to Namjoon feet, but he stopped when he realized how wobbly his dad was on his skates.

“Sorry, sorry, it’s hard to walk on skates, let’s just get out there,” Jungkook said, hopping over the boards and gliding out to the center of the ice. Namjoon, meanwhile, stumbled as he tried to step through the door.

Jungkook waited patiently for Namjoon to come join him, but as Namjoon’s skates slid uselessly beneath him, he realized that wouldn’t happen any time soon. Namjoon clutched the wall as his foot swerved outwards and he nearly landed flat on his face.

“Dad, what the heck? What are you doing?” Jungkook asked. He glided to a stop in front of his dad and helped him straighten up.

“I’m skating,” Namjoon answered, loosening his tie.

“You’re falling,” Jungkook corrected.

“I’m-“ Namjoon tried to skate forward and nearly face-planted again. “Nope, yep, I’m falling. This is impossible.”

“What do you mean? Why are you so bad at this?”

“Jungkook,” Namjoon looked at him. “I’ve skated two times in my life. Once in college because Jin thought it would be a good date idea, and once for your team’s father-son skating event when you were a little kid. Both times went miserably.”

“But we play hockey all the time!” Jungkook said in disbelief.

“Yeah, street hockey. I’m okay when my feet are on the ground.” Namjoon’s ankles wobbled and he nearly crashed to his knees. “Mostly, anyway.”

“Oh.” Jungkook looked down at Namjoon’s skates for a minute before meeting his dad’s eye. “Okay, so I guess I can’t teach you how to skate backwards today. That’s kind of advanced.”

“I’m definitely not advanced,” Namjoon agreed.

“I could teach you how to normal skate,” Jungkook offered.

“That sounds like a great idea,” Namjoon agreed. Jungkook offered a hand to him, and Namjoon took it, using the extra leverage to stand up straight instead of half leaning on the wall.

“There you go! You’re doing good already,” Jungkook promised. He pulled his dad forward a little bit. “Now the first thing you’re doing wrong is you want your feet to go out on angles kind of, not straight back and forth. Like you know how tire tracks look? It’s like your sort of drawing tire tracks with your feet.” Jungkook pulled his dad along, skating backwards. Namjoon slowly started to mirror him. He was a little wobbly, so Jungkook slowed down. “Stiffen your ankles.”

“When did you get so grown up, huh?” Namjoon asked. His eyes were glued to his ice skates as he tried not to fall. “I’m supposed to be the one to teach you things.”

“Technically, you did teach me how to skate, if being the one to buy my hockey gear and lessons counts,” Jungkook said, tensing his forearms to keep Namjoon upright.

It felt a little funny. Usually Namjoon was the one supporting Jungkook, even if Jungkook didn’t like admitting it. After all, Namjoon was here. He came to watch him play and check out his team, and now he was learning to skate. For Jungkook. Jungkook couldn’t remember the last time he did something for Namjoon.

Namjoon was quiet as he focused on staying standing, and Jungkook watched him carefully. Even though he kept almost falling, Namjoon didn’t seem frustrated. He looked as calm and even-tempered as ever.

It dawned on Jungkook that the only time he ever really saw Namjoon mad was when he got in trouble at school.

“Dad?”

“Hm?”

“Why are you here?”

“Because you asked me to be,” Namjoon said, looking at him like he was crazy. Jungkook took a turn staring at Namjoon’s feet.

“But I didn’t ask you to come to my game.”

“Ah.” Namjoon got a couple good footfalls in, and Jungkook switched to standing by his side, holding his hand just in case he fell again. Namjoon’s grip was strong as he fought to stay standing.  “Because I love you, Jungkookie. And I’m proud of you and your sports. You’re really amazing, especially on the ice. I like seeing you skate around the other players in circles, you’re really good.”

Jungkook tried to fight down a smile, but he could feel it showing at the corners of his mouth. “Okay.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Namjoon asked.

Jungkook blinked up at him. “Sure.”

“You seem abnormally cheery. What’s got you so happy, huh? You’re all smiles,” Namjoon pointed out.

Jungkook scratched the back of his head. He supposed he was feeling pretty happy. He had woken up grumpy, but hockey had been fun, and then- “It was cool you showed up at my game,” Jungkook said. “I didn’t expect you to, and...and I made a really cool goal! And you saw it!”

“It was really cool,” Namjoon agreed.

“Yeah, and you were here for it! And sometimes I think-“ Jungkook cut himself off. “Well, I don’t know what I think.”

“It sounds like you do,” Namjoon said, giving Jungkook’s hand an extra squeeze.

Jungkook spoke before he could stop himself. “It’s just...sometimes you’re mad at me, and I know it’s because I do things that make you mad, like I know it’s my fault, but... It’s just really cool you’re here. It’s cool you came.”

Jungkook stole a glance at Namjoon’s face and was surprised to see his eyebrows furrowed together. Jungkook waited for Namjoon to say something, but it took awhile. “Jungkook... I know we haven’t had many good interactions lately, but I’m always going to show up to your hockey games.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said.

“When you don’t take school seriously and when you’re disrespectful to Jin, there needs to be a punishment. I can’t let those things can’t slide,” Namjoon said, “But I don’t like lecturing you. I don’t like punishing you. I like spending time with you, and watching you play sports, and listening to your stories. Like skipping my radio show to go ice-skating with my Jungkookie? That’s my idea of a good afternoon.”

“But you’re not even good at it,” Jungkook said, his nose crinkling.

“Yeah, but you are.”

Jungkook huffed out a breath of air and thought for a minute. “I don’t like when you lecture me either.”

Namjoon nodded. “Okay, then let’s cut a deal,” he said. Jungkook looked up at him. “If you treat Jin well, and you treat your brothers well, and you do your best at school, then there won’t have to be any more lectures.”

Jungkook pressed his lips together. That didn’t sound too hard. Why hadn’t he been following the rules from the start? There were only, like, three of them. “That sounds like a fair trade.”

“I think so, too,” Namjoon said. They skated in silence for a couple minutes. “Jungkook.”

“Yeah?”

“My ankles feel like they’re going to snap in half.”

“I’ll tighten your skates,” Jungkook offered. He wasn’t ready to get off the ice just yet.


NAMJOON

Namjoon followed Jungkook into the house, still laughing about their conversation in the car. “Honey, I’m home!” Jungkook called goofily in Namjoon’s voice, and Namjoon nudged him in his ribs (knowing full well how ticklish Jungkook’s tummy was). He smiled when Jungkook curled in on himself, laughing harder than before.

“Hello?” Namjoon called from the laundry room.

“Hello!” Seokjin called back. “Hurry in, dinner is almost ready.”

Namjoon kicked off his shoes and placed them neatly on the shelf. Jungkook was still hanging up his coat as Namjoon entered the kitchen. Seokjin was just pulling a stir-fry off the stove. His shoulders were tense, and Namjoon noticed right away. “Babe, is something wrong?”

“I’ll tell you later,” Seokjin answered. Namjoon furrowed his eyebrows together.

“Okay?” Namjoon said, confused.

“It’s not something that everyone needs to know about,” he said in explanation, glancing towards Jungkook. Namjoon’s eyes widened in understanding.

“Okay, right, dinner first,” he agreed, trusting Seokjin to tell him later. He went to the bottom of the stairs to call the rest of the family down to the table. “Yoongi? Jimin? Hoseok? Taehyung? Are you guys up there? It’s time for dinner!”

“Coming!” Yoongi shouted back, but oddly enough, there was no answer from anyone else. Namjoon counted heads on the staircase, surprised to find his three noisiest kids absolutely silent as they made their way to the kitchen. Jimin, Taehyung, and Hoseok didn’t make a peep as they joined the rest of the family at the dinner table.

Namjoon followed everyone into the kitchen. Jungkook threw him a confused look from the end of the table, but Namjoon could only shrug in response. He had no idea why everyone was acting so weird. It was like someone had stolen the vocal chords straight from the throats of his normally noisy family.

“So,” Namjoon said, sitting down slowly like any quick movements would make the fragile tension in the room snap in half. “How was everyone’s day?”

“Fine,” Yoongi answered, obviously not affected by whatever was upsetting his brothers.

“Great!” Jungkook answered.

Namjoon frowned deeper. It was a strange day when Jungkook was the happiest person at the dinner table. He tried to make eye contact with Seokjin, but his husband was too busy staring at Hoseok to notice.

Namjoon took stock. Hoseok and Taehyung seemed to be trading glances but never making eye contact. Jimin looked like he was trying to set his plate on fire with the sheer intensity of his stare. Seokjin wouldn’t take his eyes off of Hoseok.

And Yoongi was just eating dinner.

“I had a great day, too,” Namjoon said. “I took off work to see Jungkook’s hockey game, and he did really well.” Namjoon smiled around a forkful of sautéed peppers while Jungkook puffed up with pride. “I have a lot to do tonight to make up for the hours I missed today, though,” Namjoon continued. “Anyone else have any homework?”

“Yeah,” Jimin said, his fork scraping across his plate.

Yoongi looked over at Jimin, seemingly suddenly aware of how off everyone was. Namjoon was just relieved he wasn’t the only one confused.

“Okay, well does anyone have anything they want to talk about?” Namjoon asked.

Jungkook cleared his throat, looking to Namjoon hopefully. “I got an A on my last math test,” he said proudly. “My teacher keeps talking about what my grades would be like if I had applied myself earlier this semester. But I’m applying myself now! So that’s good.”

“That is good,” Namjoon said. He was trying to do a better job of encouraging Jungkook, and praising his achievements was a good start. “Anyone else have any happy news?”

“Mrs. Rhymers asked me to play accompaniment for the Christmas concert,” Yoongi said.

“Oh, wow, she must trust your talent, huh?” Namjoon asked.

Yoongi shrugged. “I suppose. I have to learn, like... twelve songs, though, so that’s pretty crazy.”

“A lot of late hours on the keyboard,” Namjoon said knowingly. He’d been asked to play accompaniment for every violin, cello, and viola final during his senior year of high school. It had been insane. Literally. Namjoon had nearly been driven to the point of insanity due to all the lost sleep. “Make sure you still get a full eight hours.”

“Yes, sir,” Yoongi said with a mock salute.

“I’m finished,” Jimin said abruptly, standing up from the table.

“Same,” Taehyung said, getting up too.

Hoseok put his napkin on his empty plate and grabbed his silverware. “May I be excused?”

“Sure,” Seokjin agreed. The boys cleared their plates. Namjoon looked to Seokjin, hoping for answers, but before Hoseok was even out of the kitchen, Seokjin had jumped up from the table to follow him. Namjoon blinked and looked to Jungkook and Yoongi.

“So...”

“That was weird,” Jungkook said.

Yoongi snorted. “Honestly, with this crazy family, I think that might have actually constituted as normal,” he said, taking a big bite of chicken and rice. Jungkook looked confused, and Namjoon laughed in spite of himself.

“Yeah, something’s definitely up, Jungkook. You’re right,” he promised, lacing his fingers in front of his face to hide his deprecating smile. Sometimes he wished everything would just slow down. “But okay. We’re here. We’re normal. What else is going on in your lives?”

“... World of Dance is on tonight,” Jungkook said.

“Wanna watch it?” Namjoon asked. Jungkook nodded. “Cool, finish your homework first.”

“I’ll watch, too,” Yoongi said suddenly, like he was making the decision out loud. Namjoon picked up a few more pieces of pepper on his fork, savoring his meal instead of scurrying away like some of his kids.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Namjoon said. Even if the rest of his family was acting strange, at least he could see Jungkook and Yoongi getting along.  In lieu of not knowing how to help his other kids, he could accomplish the bare minimum by getting Jungkook and Yoongi to spent time together. It would be a small achievement, but an achievement nonetheless.

He could only imagine what Seokjin was dealing with upstairs.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin found Hoseok’s door closed, despite seeing him jump up from the dinner table only moments before. However, he didn’t hesitate to knock. He’d been waiting all afternoon for a chance to talk to Hoseok, and he wasn’t going to let a closed door come between them.

“What?” Hoseok called from inside. His nose sounded stuffy.

“It’s Seokjin. Can I come in?”

There was silence for a few seconds. “... Okay.”

Seokjin opened the door and gingerly stepped into Hoseok’s bedroom. It was already dark outside, but Hoseok’s overhead lights were turned off. Only his tiny mushroom lamp was on, casting an orange glow over his messy room.

Hoseok was sitting up a little in bed. There were snot stains on the cuffs of his sweatshirt, and his eyes were puffy and red.

Seokjin’s heart broke a little when he realized he had caught his Hobi crying.

“Hey, you don’t look so good,” Seokjin cooed. There was anger thrumming at his fingertips, but he wasn’t frustrated with Hoseok. He was upset that he hadn’t told him anything about his boyfriend, but mostly he was worried for him. It hurt his heart to know that someone was mistreating his baby, that someone was making him cry.

Hoseok had already been neglected enough in his short little life. He was supposed to be safe under Seokjin’s roof, and now here he was, crying because someone had hurt him again.

“Just a tough day,” Hoseok said.

“Yeah, Taehyung told me a little bit about it,” Seokjin said, sitting on the edge of Hoseok’s bed.

“What did he tell you?” Hoseok asked. Seokjin didn’t miss the stiffening of Hoseok’s shoulders. How long had Hoseok been keeping secrets?

Seokjin clasped his hands together. “He told me your boyfriend isn’t a nice guy.”

Hoseok made a choking noise in the back of his throat. “Look, I know it’s not cool of Oliver to treat Taehyung that way, but Oliver doesn’t listen to me, and I can’t get him to stop no matter how hard I try, and I’ve said a bunch of stuff, but he won’t chill out, and-”

“Hold on,” Seokjin said, pulling his legs up beneath him to sit cross-legged on Hoseok’s bed. He wanted to look at him fully. “Hobi, as worried as I am that someone is being mean to Taehyung, I’m more worried that your boyfriend is being mean to you.” Hoseok held his breath. “I’m concerned. Why didn’t you tell me you had a boyfriend?”

Hoseok scrubbed at his nose. “Oliver said you wouldn’t understand.”

“I don’t understand,” Seokjin admitted. “I think it’s crazy that you’ve been dating someone for two months and you haven’t said anything about it. We’re not supposed to keep secrets in this family, and you know that. I think it’s insane that you’re dating someone who is so out-rightly cruel to you and your brother. More than that, I don’t understand how someone so confident, and brave, and stubborn would ever stay with someone who doesn’t listen to them. Tell me how that makes sense,” Seokjin said.

“See, you don’t get it,” Hoseok said, hugging one of his pillows. He rolled away from Seokjin. “I don’t want to talk about it with you.”

“Okay, well, you’ve already put off talking about it with me for months, so that’s not an option,” Seokjin said. He was quiet to give Hoseok the chance to speak up, but Hoseok stayed firmly silent, his back to Seokjin so he couldn’t see his face. Seokjin sighed. “Hoseok, Taehyung told me Oliver calls you stupid. Is that true?”

Hoseok’s silence was enough answer.

Hoseok,” Seokjin said, his heart bleeding. “He’s not allowed to say those things to you.”

“Well, he doesn’t always!” Hoseok muttered. “Taehyung just tells you the bad stuff. There’s been a lot of good stuff, too. You don’t get it, just like he said you wouldn’t.”

Seokjin pushed his hair back off his face. Hoseok’s answer was alarming. Seokjin had thought he had taught his kids better about how they deserved to be treated, but apparently not. “I don’t care if there’s been good stuff. It doesn’t matter if there are good moments in between the bad. It’s still a problem. No one is allowed to call you stupid,” he tried to explain.

“You don’t get it,” Hoseok repeated. It was a weak argument, but Seokjin didn’t know why Hoseok was putting up a fight at all. He knew better than this; he must know better.

“Listen,” Seokjin said. “I’m sure that you and Oliver have shared some nice conversations together. But, like… even if Oliver is nice to you 60 percent of the time, that means 40 percent of the time he’s mean. That’s still abusive.” Just the word left a bad taste in Seokjin’s mouth.

“It’s fine,” Hoseok whined.

“Is that what you would say to Jimin?” Seokjin asked.

Hoseok sat up. “Dad, Oliver’s not beating me.”

“Sweetheart, he’s insulting you, and manipulating you, and making you keep secrets for him,” Seokjin said, and Hoseok refused to meet his eye. “I know you. I know you wouldn’t keep things hidden unless someone was making you. That’s emotional abuse, and it’s not okay.”

Hoseok’s face screwed up. “You wouldn’t know anything about it,” he complained, and Seokjin’s hands balled up into fists.

“I know everything about it,” he said so forcefully that Hoseok actually turned to look at him. “If you think that I became a parent just so I could see someone else mistreat you, Hoseok, then I don’t know what kind of message I’ve been sending out all these years. I’m your dad to protect you, and you know better. You know what healthy relationships look like. Why are you with someone who belittles you when you’re together?”

Hoseok looked at him, his eyes watering and his bottom lip wobbling. Seokjin simultaneously wanted to hold him and shake some sense into him. “B-because he loves me,” Hoseok said, fresh tears falling, and Seokjin shook his head.

No,” he said, reaching out to Hoseok and pulling him close. Hoseok buried his face into Seokjin’s t-shirt. “He might say he loves you, and he might think he loves you, but someone who doesn’t see how smart you are? Who doesn’t see that you’re your own person? Who doesn’t let you make your own decisions? They can’t possibly love you because they don’t know you.”

Hoseok shuddered.

“This Oliver boy doesn’t know you, and I absolutely cannot allow you to see him anymore.”

“But dad-“

Hoseok.”

“But what about dance?” Hoseok whined, pulling away. His hair was a wreck. “They need me for the showcase, and Oliver’s on the team, and if you make me break up with him, then-“

“Funny enough, I don’t care what the dance team needs. I care about what you need, and you need to be kept safe.”

“But-“

“If that means finding a new dance team, then it means finding a new dance team.”

“You can’t just-“

“I absolutely can,” Seokjin said, fierce determination behind his words. He maybe should have waited until he was calmer to talk to Hoseok about this, but at the time, it felt like it couldn’t wait. He needed Hoseok and Oliver to break up for his own sake just as badly as Hoseok needed it. “You’re more important to me than any of those dance team kids. Where were they when Oliver was teasing you?”

“They tried to help,” Hoseok said. He groaned and hid his face in Seokjin’s shirt again. “It’s not a big deal, even! He’s my boyfriend. I get to chose if I break up with him or not.”

“You’re sixteen,” Seokjin said. “You can chose who you date when you’re eighteen.”

“God, I hate you,” Hoseok complained, pulling away.

“You’re not dating him anymore, Hoseok.”

“I heard you the first time!” Hoseok yelped, his voice oddly hysterical. “Stop saying it!”

Seokjin stared at Hoseok. His son was all but boneless on the mattress, his arms curled up to hid his face. Seokjin’s lungs seized up in his throat. He felt like the worst father in the entire world, like this was all his fault even if there was nothing he could have done to stop it. His own chin started to wobble.

“Hobi,” he said, voice tight. He reached down to card his fingers through Hoseok’s hair. “I know you’re angry, and I know you’ve been hurt today and it’s hard to hear that someone you care about isn’t taking care of you back. But I promise, you’ll thank me for this, okay? It’s going to be really hard for a really long time, but you’re going to see that you’re better off without him, that this is for the best.”

“How can it be for the best if you’re controlling me just as much as you say he does?” Hoseok asked. Seokjin didn’t miss the bite in his voice.

“Because I have your best interests in mind, Hobi. And I’ll always have your best interests in mind. Dads get to make decisions for their kids, that’s how the whole ‘loving and raising you’ thing works.”

“Just get out,” Hoseok said.

Seokjin sighed. “Hoseok-“

“Get out!” Hoseok said again. “Get out, I just want to be alone.”

Seokjin held his breath for a second. Every part of him just wanted to reach out and hold Hoseok until he understood, until he knew how valuable he was, until he decided for himself that he deserved better. However, Seokjin could see the sharp C of Hoseok’s spine, and he knew it was time that he let Hoseok make at least some of his own choices.

“...Okay,” Seokjin said, standing up. It physically pained him to leave Hoseok like this. “Okay, we’ll talk later.”

“I never want to talk to you again,” Hoseok complained.

“We’ll talk later,” Seokjin repeated, knowing full well that Hoseok wouldn’t be mad at him for long. Of all the boys, Hoseok had always been the most forgiving, the least likely to hold a grudge. He was just pushed to the end of his rope, and Seokjin needed to respect his need for space (at least for the time being). “I love you, Hobi. It’s going to be okay.”

Seokjin pressed a kiss to his son’s forehead, but Hoseok didn’t respond.


YOONGI

Yoongi’s evening had been weird to say the least. First, half of his family had booked it from the dinner table before he had managed to get two bites in. Second, he had watched a dance show with Namjoon and Jungkook of all people.

And third, it actually went really well.

Jungkook’s eyes had lit up at some of the stunts like they did when he was little kid and Yoongi was showing him something cool in a book or on the computer. It was nice to see the softer side of Jungkook without tears or bitterness getting in the way.

Despite the strange turn of events, Yoongi had found himself oddly relaxed when bedtime rolled around. He fell asleep the second his head hit the pillow, restful until someone shaking his shoulder woke him up.

“Yoongi.”

“Wha~? Five more minutes,” Yoongi complained.

“Yoongi, wake up. It’s only like... 1 AM. I need to talk to you.”

Belatedly, Yoongi recognized the voice as Hoseok’s. Shortly afterwards, he registered the panic in his tone. He blinked his eyes and looked to his alarm clock for the time. “Hoseok, fuck, what are you still doing awake? We have to get up in like... five hours.”

“Jin knows.”

Yoongi scrubbed his eye. “What?”

“Jin knows.”

“About what?”

“Oliver,” Hoseok said, his voice cracking and his expression collapsing like he was two seconds from falling apart.

Yoongi couldn’t help but yawn. “Oh. Good.”

Hoseok laughed a little frenziedly. “How could that possibly be good?”

Yoongi scooted over, patting the bed next to him so Hoseok could lie down. “Because. He’s an asshole. I hate him. Something needed to be done about it,” Yoongi said, feeling relieved despite how exhausted he was. He had been worrying about Hoseok and Oliver for a long time now, and if there was one person he trusted to make things better, it was Seokjin. Hoseok was in good hands.

“Why does everyone hate him so much anyway?” Hoseok asked, climbing between the sheets. “He’s not that bad.”

Yoongi fixed him with a look.

“He’s not,” Hoseok repeated. He pulled the covers up over his nose. He whispered to himself, “I swear he’s not.”

Yoongi grunted, deciding not to argue. They both knew how cruel Oliver could be. Yoongi didn’t need to say anything else about it, Hoseok already looked wrecked. Yoongi’s eyes drooped as a wave of exhaustion hit him. “How did he find out?” Yoongi asked, trying to stay awake.

“Taehyung told him.”

“I always liked that kid,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok was shaking so hard, the bed started creaking beneath him. “Jin says we have to break up: me and Oliver.”

“Awesome.”

Yoongi.”

Yoongi sighed. “Well, what do you want me to say, Hoseok? That you should stay with him? You know how I feel about that guy. He deserves a lot more than just a break up from you. You should beat his face in for some of the stuff he’s said.”

“None of you are fair to him,” Hoseok said. Yoongi could only see his eyes, but he could tell they were swimming with tears. His face was so swollen; it looked like he had been crying for ages. “This is why he didn’t want me telling anyone for so long: because everyone just wants to pick out the bad stuff, no one cares about the good parts about our relationship.”

“Hoseok, you’re the one who told me he ruins every good conversation you guys have by teasing you. There are no good parts about your relationship.”

“How can you say that?” Hoseok asked. “You don’t know anything about us.” Hoseok threw back the covers, and Yoongi sat up.

“Where are you going?”

“It was a mistake to come here,” Hoseok said. “You’re just as bad as Jin.”

Yoongi watched Hoseok leave the bedroom and fell back on his pillows. He wasn’t used to Hoseok being so dramatic. Yoongi sighed. He knew Oliver had changed Hoseok, but hopefully the effects weren’t irreversible. The sooner they got the old Hobi back, the better. 

Chapter Text

 

SEOKJIN

“That’s the thing with these kids,” Namjoon continued. He’d been ranting for the better part of two hours, arguing with Seokjin even though Seokjin had yet to disagree with him. “They don’t think. They don’t realize how much of an impact they make. Hoseok’s going to question his relationships for the rest of his life all because some entitled, selfish, horrible upperclassman decided to take advantage of someone younger, and it’s like... Just spend two seconds thinking about someone other than yourself. At least think about your boyfriend, for fuck’s sake, think about Hoseok.  Think about his feelings, and his future, and the people who care about him.”

Seokjin yawned. “You’re right,” he agreed.

Namjoon hardly heard him. “I mean, who does this kid think he is? Does he think he’s invincible? Because tomorrow morning, I’m calling everyone. I’m calling the school, I’m calling this kid’s parents, I’m calling the police. Everyone’s getting involved, I will not stand for this.”

“Of course not,” Seokjin agreed tiredly. It was nearing two in the morning, and Seokjin had to wake up in a couple hours to pack lunchboxes and see the kids off to school. Namjoon had to go to work. They both needed sleep, but Namjoon was too pent up and frustrated to settle down.

“What kind of stuff was this kid even saying?”

“I don’t know Namjoon,” Seokjin sighed. “You’d have to ask Hoseok more about it, and he’s sleeping. Like you should be.”

“I’m not going to sleep until this has been dealt with.”

Seokjin hummed and grabbed Namjoon’s hand. His cheek was squashed on his pillow, and his eyes slipped closed. He was so tired. “Okay, well... I might need to go to sleep. Do you think you can be angry by yourself?”

“I don’t know,” Namjoon answered honestly. He shoved his glasses up on his nose. Namjoon’s jaw set tight, and for a second, Seokjin thought he was going to start screaming, but instead, his face crumbled and Seokjin squeezed onto Namjoon’s hand tighter. “I can’t believe this has been going on for so long.”

“We don’t know how long it’s been,” Seokjin reassured him.

“I’m supposed to protect him.”

We’re supposed to protect him,” Seokjin corrected. “But there was nothing we could do. He wouldn’t talk to us about it. That’s not our fault.”

Namjoon pressed a palm against the bridge of his glasses, like he was trying to force them back into his head. “But he’s been acting so off, and I saw that. I know that. I should have—“

A knock at the door cut Namjoon off.

“Who is it?” Seokjin called, glancing at the bedroom clock. It was 2:13. All of the boys should be long asleep by now.

Jimin poked his head in the room. “Um... I think Taehyung had a seizure. His sheets are wet, and he’s crying.”

Seokjin closed his eyes. Just when he thought this night couldn’t get any worse, Taehyung had to have a seizure. “I got it,” Seokjin offered, putting a hand on Namjoon’s leg to prop himself up out of bed.

Jimin wavered in the doorway. “Um, I have a chemistry test tomorrow, and I really need to get a good night’s sleep...” He had his pillow in his arms, and his eyes were puffy with exhaustion.

Seokjin kissed Jimin through his ruffled bangs. “You can sleep in my bed. I’ll steal yours.”

“Okay,” Jimin agreed. Jimin crawled into the master bed, and Seokjin tucked him in unthinkingly. Namjoon reached a protective hand out to run through Jimin’s bedhead. Seokjin hummed to himself. Maybe having a kid nearby would help Namjoon relax.

Seokjin didn’t have long to dwell on that thought, however. He couldn’t hear Taehyung upstairs, and Seokjin knew he needed to check on him ASAP. The sooner he got Taehyung settled, the sooner he could get some sleep.  Seokjin’s head felt like it was buzzing with exhaustion. It had been hard enough to stay up with his kids when he was in his twenties. Now he was nearly forty, and he didn’t snap back the same way he used to.

Jimin had closed his bedroom door behind him, and Seokjin’s shoulders were heavy as he turned the knob.

However, he all but melted when he saw Taehyung.

“TaeTae? You okay?” he asked, full well knowing the answer. Taehyung was curled on his side, and looking down on him, his shoulders looked shallow and hollow. Seokjin knew that Taehyung wasn’t the same, emaciated two-year-old who had showed up on their doorstep all those years ago, but sometimes Seokjin couldn’t shake the picture of toddler Taehyung gasping for breath with silent tears streaking down his cheeks.

Taehyung shuddered, sucking in a breath through snot and spit. Seokjin rushed to his side. Taehyung looked for him, his hands bumping into Seokjin’s chest as he reached for someone who was already there. A sob caught in the back of Taehyung’s throat. “Dad.”

“Oh, Taehyung,” Seokjin cooed, his heart melting down into his toes. “It’s a bad one, isn’t it?”

Dad,” Taehyung squeaked again. He choked around the word, and Seokjin grabbed a tissue from Taehyung’s bedside table to wipe his face clean. He had thrown up a little on his pillow. Seokjin knew this seizure hadn’t come while Taehyung was sleeping.

“TaeTae, were you having trouble sleeping?” Seokjin asked, but Taehyung either couldn’t or wouldn’t respond. He just heaved out a mattress-shaking sob. “Honey, how long have you been like this?”

Taehyung didn’t answer, just cried into his pillow. Seokjin cooed. He scooped Taehyung up into his arms, not caring when Taehyung’s messy face clumsily pressed into the crook of his neck. How could he, when Taehyung was shaking in his arms?

Seokjin kissed Taehyung’s ear, trying to get him to calm down, but he could practically hear the blood rushing through Taehyung’s veins. Seokjin felt Taehyung’s soaked sheets seep through the back of his pajama pants, but when he tried to stand up, Taehyung just clutched on tighter. “Let go, Taehyung, we need to get you cleaned up.”

No,” Taehyung sobbed. “No, don’t leave.”

“I’m not leaving,” Seokjin promised. “We’re going together. We’re going to wash your face and get you some new PJs.”

“Don’t leave,” Taehyung begged. He sounded desperate, and his fists tangled up in the back of Seokjin’s sleep shirt. “Dad... Dad... Dad...

“Taehyung, I’m not leaving,” Seokjin said firmly. “Come on, honey. We’re going to get you more comfortable. You’ll feel better when you’re not messy, remember? That always helps.”

Taehyung didn’t show any signs of understanding, but his fingers loosened up enough for Seokjin to pull back. He helped Taehyung stand up on wobbly knees.

“One second,” Seokjin said. Taehyung hid his face in his hands as Seokjin stripped his sheets and stuffed them into Taehyung’s hamper. “Okay, let’s go to the bathroom, yeah? Jinnie’s gonna wash your face and change your pants, and you’re going to start feeling a little more normal.”

Taehyung coughed. “I’m not,” he said, disoriented.

“You’re not?” Seokjin asked, frog walking Taehyung to the bathroom and holding his hamper under one arm.

“I’m Taehyung,” Taehyung said, and then started crying harder than before. Seokjin wrapped an arm around his waist, a hand splayed out on Taehyung’s tummy as he pulled him in close.

“You’re Taehyung, it’s okay,” he promised. He clicked on the bathroom light switch. “Just sit down, and I’ll help you.”

Taehyung needed to be guided down onto the toilet seat. He sat carefully, his eyes wide and confused. Seokjin kept a steady hand on his shoulder, but when he pulled away to help Taehyung take off his damp shirt, Taehyung grabbed his wrist.

“You’re okay, Taehyung. I’m just going to help you get cleaned up,” Seokjin promised. “Can you put your arms up for me?”

“...I-I-I-“

“I got you,” Seokjin promised, cutting in when Taehyung started to struggle with his answer. He lifted Taehyung’s arms up, and quickly pulled off his shirt. He tossed it with his other dirty laundry. “Okay. I’m going to grab a washcloth. Don’t be scared.”

Taehyung made an upset noise and started to slur together some sort of protest as Seokjin moved to dampen a washcloth. He stole some of Hoseok’s face wash and returned to Taehyung. He gently wiped at his nose and mouth. Taehyung cried into the washcloth.

“Oh, TaeTae,” Seokjin couldn’t help but coo. “TaeTae, you’re having a really hard time, huh?”

Taehyung gasped for air. “I’m-I-I don’t-I’m not,” he tried to communicate. Seokjin frowned and wiped at Taehyung’s neck. He had a little throw up caught behind his ear.

“You’re not what?”

“I’m not, I’m not, I’m not.”

“Okay,” Seokjin said easily. He kissed Taehyung’s forehead and stepped back to the sink to wring out his washcloth. Taehyung grabbed at the hem of his t-shirt with stiff fingers. “Okay, next order of business, do you want help with your pants? Or do you want to do that yourself?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung blinked, his eyes glassy with tears. “I-I-I-I... Jinnie.”

“Relax, honey, I’m right here,” Seokjin said. “Why don’t you stand up for me, okay?” He helped Taehyung back onto his feet. He quickly stripped his pants and wiped down the insides of his legs. Taehyung was crying so hard above him, Seokjin could hear tears getting caught in his throat. One of Taehyung’s hands tangled into Seokjin’s hair. “My poor Taehyung,” he said as he helped Taehyung step into some protective underwear. “I’m going to get you some jammies. You wait here.”

Taehyung made an upset noise deep in his throat. He reached for Seokjin, but Seokjin stepped away before he could latch on. Taehyung’s broken cries followed him as he pulled some pajamas out of Taehyung’s dresser.

“I’m back, I’m back, I’m back,” Seokjin promised hurriedly. He helped Taehyung into some fresh PJ pants first and his new shirt second. “There we go, there we go,” Seokjin cooed. “All better, yeah? Should we brush your teeth now? Let’s brush your teeth.”

Seokjin had Taehyung hold his own toothbrush. His eyes seemed to spark with recognition as Seokjin squeezed toothpaste onto the bristles. He stuck the toothbrush in his mouth and started to clean his back teeth without instruction, albeit a little distractedly. Seokjin followed his brushing with a quick once over, and then helped Taehyung lean over the sink to spit. He gave Taehyung a Dixie cup of water to swish, but he swallowed it instead.

“There. All clean,” Seokjin said. Taehyung sniffled. He was starting to calm down a little, and his eyes seemed a bit more aware. He wasn’t searching the bathroom like it was a new place he didn’t recognize; instead he seemed a little more at home.

“I’m tired,” Taehyung said, his first full sentence.

Seokjin’s shoulders dropped. “So am I,” he agreed. “My bed is taken, but maybe we could lay together in yours, does that sound like a plan?”

Taehyung shrugged.

“Do you think you could rest in Jimin’s for a little bit while I finish cleaning up?”

Taehyung huffed out a sigh. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Seokjin echoed. He kissed Taehyung’s forehead. He didn’t trust him to make it into bed on his own, and Seokjin had to wipe down his plastic mattress cover anyway, so Seokjin followed Taehyung back into his bedroom with a container of Clorox wipes in hand. Taehyung collapsed onto Jimin’s mattress.

The worst part of Taehyung having a seizure in the middle of the night —aside from the fear factor—  was remaking his bed. Seokjin wiped down his plastic sheet with Clorox. He had to stick his dirty sheets in the laundry now before they started to smell, so while the Clorox took a second to dry, Seokjin went downstairs to change his damp PJ pants, start a load of laundry, and grab a new set of twin-sized sheets.

Seokjin stood back from his work when the bed was made. “Okay,” Seokjin said, wincing at the exhaustion in his own voice. “Let’s get some rest. Come here, kiddo.”

Taehyung stumbled out of bed, and Seokjin found a way to make them both comfortable between Taehyung’s Magic bumpers. It was a tight squeeze, but with Taehyung resting on his chest, Seokjin made it work. “Sorry,” Taehyung apologized.

“For what, honey?”

“For doin’ a bad job.”

Seokjin frowned and kissed Taehyung’s hair. Taehyung’s hand was resting on the pillow by Seokjin’s ear. His fingers curled. “What are you talking about?”

“I dunno,” Taehyung answered. “I’m not... I’m not doing a good job.”

“Hm...” Seokjin cradled Taehyung’s head close to him. He thought for a moment about the day they had shared and the things Taehyung must be feeling. “Is this just about one thing? Or are you feeling bad about a lot of things?”

Taehyung sniffed. “A lot of things,” he said, voice high pitched and broken. He made a whining noise in the back of his throat. “I’m not doing good at anything.”

“But TaeTae, what does that mean?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung started shaking as he held his breath. Seokjin rubbed his back until he was ready to talk, words pouring out like a faucet. “I don’t have friends, and no one likes me, and I’m always sick, and I... I threw up?” He said it like a question. “And I’m not good, I’m not good, I’m not—“

Seokjin cut Taehyung off with a fierce kiss to his cheek. “Taehyung, you have friends. You have your brothers, and Chris, and Dan, and Phil, and PJ... And grandmom loves you, and I love you, and Namjoon loves you. Lots of people love you. Don’t talk like that, pumpkin.” He snuggled Taehyung closer. “And you did throw up. And you are sick. But that’s okay. It’s not going to be forever, we’ll get you feeling better.”

When?” Taehyung asked.

“I don’t know when,” Seokjin answered. “As soon as we can.”

Taehyung closed his eyes and turned into Seokjin’s collarbone. Seokjin felt tears drip onto the collar of his t-shirt. “I’m tired,” Taehyung said again. Seokjin hated hearing it.

“Taehyung-”

“Also, I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you about Hoseok sooner,” Taehyung squeaked. The back of his neck was pink with a flush. Seokjin massaged the top of his spine like he was trying to rub it away.

“Don’t be sorry, Taehyung. I’m thankful you spoke up in the first place, and I know I didn’t show it very well. I wasn’t a good listener in the grocery store, was I?” Seokjin asked. He had been furious to hear that someone was mistreating Hoseok, and he had been curt with Taehyung because of it. But Taehyung had his feelings hurt, too. Taehyung had been bullied today (he had been bullied his whole life), and Seokjin had ignored that in favor of checking up on Hoseok. “I’m really sorry for not listening to you. That was wrong of me.”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung said, desperately huddling closer to Seokjin. Seokjin laughed a little and wrapped his arms more snugly around his son.

“You’re just saying that because you want a hug,” Seokjin said. Taehyung hid his face in Seokjin’s chest. Seokjin patted Taehyung’s waist where his hand fell naturally. “I’ll say sorry again when you’re feeling better, yeah? I really should have listened to you.”

“It’s just... He’s not very nice.”

“Oliver?” Seokjin asked. Taehyung nodded. “What did he say to you?”

Taehyung shrugged.

Seokjin hummed. Usually, Taehyung was forthcoming with information, but Seokjin could understand why he might not feel like sharing now. “Okay... Well, we’ve talked about this before, right? It doesn’t matter what mean things people say. You’re still our Taehyung, and we love you endlessly.”

Taehyung’s breath caught somewhere in his throat, and Seokjin squeezed him closer before Taehyung could start crying again. “I’m not...” He didn’t seem to have a way to finish the sentence.

“Taehyung, I love you so much. Please don’t focus on what Oliver said to you. He’s not a nice person; he doesn’t understand you or your feelings anymore than he understands Hoseok’s. You don’t have to worry about his opinion, especially not when you’re surrounded by people who care about you as much as Joon, your brothers, and I do.”

Taehyung squeezed his eyes up tight.

“Is that why you couldn’t sleep, pumpkin? You were thinking about Oliver?” Seokjin asked. Taehyung nodded into Seokjin’s shirt. “Aw, honey... Did you feel the seizure coming, or did it hit you out of nowhere?”

Taehyung shrugged.

“How about we just get you some sleep, huh?” Seokjin carded Taehyung’s bangs off his face and winced at the bruise still over his eye. “Why don’t you rest, and we’ll talk more in the morning?”

“I’m not...” Taehyung looked so conflicted, but he also looked so sleepy. His little face was slack, but his eyebrows were furrowed together tight.

“You’re okay,” Seokjin promised. “Just rest, TaeTae, I’ll stay here.”

“You’ll stay?” Taehyung asked.

Seokjin smiled weakly, feeling like the worst dad in the entire world. “I already told you, honey. I’m not leaving.”


HOSEOK

Hoseok was walking down the hallway, when he saw Oliver approaching from the opposite direction. Panic seized his heart. He ducked behind a set of lockers, despite the fact that he was surrounded by people and the person he was hiding from was supposed to be his boyfriend.

“You okay there?”

Hoseok nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden voice in his ear. “Yoongi! Holy crap,” Hoseok yelped, clutching at his heart. He turned around to face his older brother, his heartbeat struggling to return to normal. “You scared me.”

“You startle easy,” Yoongi huffed, and Hoseok snorted. Yoongi had been sneaking up on Hoseok since they were little kids. Yoongi had always been quiet. He had always been able to creep into Hoseok’s blanket forts and tiptoe through his twisted train tracks: scaring the life out of Hoseok whenever he decided to make his presence known.

Demon, Hoseok thought.

“Do not,” Hoseok complained, pushing at Yoongi’s shoulder, even though he definitely did.

Yoongi looked unimpressed. His hair was growing out, and while his bandana kept his bangs out of his eyes, his black roots were showing. His pushed-back hair made the dark bruises beneath his eyes more prominent. “Who are you hiding from, anyway?” he asked.

Hoseok groaned. “Isn’t it obvious?” he glanced over his shoulder just as Oliver turned into his classroom.

“Um, last time I checked, I don’t know anything about you two,” Yoongi said, referencing the night before. He took a sip from his Camelback. “Anyway, aren’t you like... convinced you’re in love with him or something?”

Hoseok winced. He squirmed in his spot. “I’ve been doing some thinking.”

Yoongi grunted.

“He’s just... I think he’s misunderstood, but... But...”

“But?” Yoongi prompted.

“But I’m not stupid,” Hoseok blurted out. He hid his face in his hands and groaned, leaning back against the lockers. “Ugh, he’s so mean sometimes, and sometimes I don’t want to see him, but I don’t want to break up with him, and Jin says I have to, like dumping him is as easy as putting the dishes away or taking out the trash, and... and it’s so dumb.”

“Okay, well... if you don’t want to see him, then you do need to break up with him,” Yoongi pointed out.

Hoseok laughed. He pushed his hair off his face almost frantically. “Okay, everyone needs to stop telling me what to do, or I’m going to lose my shit.”

Yoongi grunted and looped an arm around Hoseok’s neck to pull him into a noogie. “Just relax. You can’t spend all week avoiding him. Bite the bullet, kid. Get him out of your life.”

Hoseok escaped from Yoongi’s grasp. “Um, I definitely can spend the week avoiding him. I’m great at avoiding. See? I’m avoiding confrontation right now.” Hoseok hiked his backpack up on his shoulders and sped off to his next class before Yoongi could stop him. As he walked by Oliver’s classroom, he made the mistake of looking into the room and making eye contact with the one person he was trying to avoid.

Oliver glared at him.

A second later, Hoseok’s phone buzzed with a text.

From: Oliver (10:34)
Date night Friday. Meet me at the football game: behind the bleachers.

Hoseok’s stomach flip-flopped. The last thing he wanted to do was go on another date with Oliver, but he also didn’t know how to say no without making Oliver mad or straight up breaking up with him. Hoseok didn’t know what he wanted yet. He had been dating Oliver for months without Seokjin knowing; they didn’t technically have to break up, even though Seokjin said so.

But Hoseok wasn’t sure he wanted to sneak around anymore. He wasn’t sure Oliver was worth it.

From: Hoseok (10:35)
Sure! See you there.

Hoseok bit his bottom lip, not sure he made the right choice. It was too late now, though. He could figure out what to do with Oliver after Friday.


JUNGKOOK

Jungkook rammed his baby carriage through a row of gold coins. He snagged a question box and mushroomed to a larger size.

Hoseok grunted. “Yo, smush Bowser if you can. He’s on the red team, and he just stole all my coins.”

Jungkook ran over Donkey Kong. “Will do.”

It had been awhile since Jungkook had played Mario Kart with his brothers, but after winning six races in a row, Hoseok had decided they should switch to a team sport. Coin Runners was a good compromise. For once, the house felt... homey. Jungkook was comfortable, minus Hoseok’s feet in his face. (Hoseok had propped his feet up on Jungkook’s shoulder after trying to distract him on Coconut Mall by cramming his toes under his nose.)

Jungkook ramped up Delfino Pier and stole coins from a crushed Princess Peach. Behind him, Jimin bounced down the stairs. “Hey, you’re home?” Hoseok asked.

Jimin scratched the back of his neck. “Oh, yeah... Cheer was, um-“

Seokjin interrupted before Jimin could finish. “Hey, Jungkook, ready to head out?” Jin asked, car keys in hand.

“Where are you going?” Hoseok asked, pausing their game.

Jungkook fumbled with the controller, looking down at his hands. “Therapy,” he murmured. Hoseok’s eyes flashed in recognition. Meanwhile, Jimin cleared his throat behind them.

“Um, dad? Has Coach Ansley called you?”

Seokjin tilted his head to the side, acknowledging Jimin. “No? Should she have?” Seokjin asked. Jimin shrugged, and Jungkook bounced off the sofa, anxious to leave before the awkward tension between him and Hoseok became too stifling.

“Dad, we have to go,” Jungkook said, grabbing Seokjin’s wrist and pulling him to the door.

Seokjin frowned at Jimin but started following Jungkook. “Okay, right. Let’s go. Boys, we’ll be home in an hour and a half. Please pick up down here before Namjoon and Yoongi come home. Everyone likes to come back to a clean house!”

Jungkook managed to tug Seokjin out of the room as Hoseok and Jimin grunted in confirmation. Jungkook saw Jimin steal his spot on the couch out of the corner of his eye.

Seokjin laughed as Jungkook practically pulled him out of the house. “Oh, geez, you’re eager to get going, huh?”

“The sooner I’m there, the sooner it’s done,” Jungkook said, heading out to the garage and climbing into the car.

“That’s fair,” Seokjin said. Jungkook closed his car door as Seokjin hopped into the driver’s seat. Seokjin opened the garage door and started to pull out. “Are you starting to like Dr. Kroger?”

Jungkook buckled his seatbelt. “... He’s not a bad guy, I guess.”

“I knew you would like him,” Seokjin said with a smile. “Everyone in that office is really nice. I used to go there when you guys were little, and I always felt like everyone was really friendly and helpful.”

Jungkook looked at his dad, shocked. “You went to Dr. Kroger’s office?”

Seokjin nodded. “I saw someone else while I was there, but- You didn’t know? I talk to Yoongi about it all the time.”

No,” Jungkook said. “Why did you need a therapist?”

Seokjin hummed, his eyes on the road as he drove out of the neighborhood. “Because it was stressful having so many little babies. And you don’t remember, of course, but... Well, Yoongi had panic attacks regularly, Taehyung was sick, Jimin had these violent outbursts, and we weren’t sure we were ever going to get to adopt you or Hoseok, and I was... Really attached to all of you. It was really hard to see you guys sick, or sad, or acting out. And it was hard to take care of you and not know if I could keep you or not.”

“So you had to see a doctor?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin spared him a glance and snorted. “Jungkook, you look so shaken. Namjoon and I are people, too. We’ve had some tough years, and I think everyone could benefit from talking to a therapist at some point, especially anxious people like me.”

“You’re anxious?” This was all news to Jungkook.

Seokjin gestured vaguely. “Not as much anymore. But in college? And when we got you? Definitely.”

Jungkook frowned and clutched at the front of his shirt. “Why was having me so scary?”

“Because your mom really loved you, Jungkook. And she couldn’t take care of you, but she wanted to. And we were worried we’d have to give you back when we had already made you ours.”

Jungkook pressed his lips together and stared out the window, not sure how to respond. He thought about coming to Namjoon and Seokjin’s house as a baby. He couldn’t remember it. He couldn’t remember anything before he was five, really, except for the picture of his knee after a particularly angry bee sting.  He couldn’t remember his mom, or the hospital, or crying like Seokjin said he used to.

But the years he could remember had Seokjin, Namjoon, Yoongi, Hoseok, Jimin, and Taehyung consistently throughout. Every memory he had —good and bad— included them in someway.  He didn’t know why he missed his mom so much when he couldn’t even remember her, but... maybe that would be a good thing to talk to Dr. Kroger about.


JIMIN

Jimin hovered by the gate to the football stadium. The players were in position on the field, and the cheerleaders were all standing on the sidelines. Jimin felt sick. His parents were probably wondering where he was.

Tsuyu spotted him through the crowd. Jimin jumped and ducked behind the bleachers before Seokjin or Namjoon could spot him standing by the field in his school clothes instead of his uniform.

Coach Ansley wasn’t the most organized person, so it was taking her longer than expected to call his parents about his fragile position on the cheer squad. He wasn’t allowed to cheer until he pulled his grades up and Coach Ansley talked to his parents about his violent outburst, but she still hadn’t called.

Given her messy office, Jimin wouldn’t be surprised if his coach had lost Jimin’s parent information in her mess of file folders. And while Jimin didn’t want his parents to know how much he was struggling in school, he also kind of wanted to Coach Ansley to get her act together and call. At least, then he wouldn’t have to hide anymore. He felt like he was living a lie.

Jimin hid in the bathroom behind the bleachers. He knew it would be better if he told his parents instead of letting Coach Ansley break the news, but every time he tried to speak up, shame got caught in his throat and he ended up backing out of the conversation. He needed to be honest, but he didn’t want to get in trouble, and he didn’t want to admit how difficult school was for him at the moment.

So instead of owning up to his problems and sitting with his parents, he was hiding out in the stadium bathroom.

Jimin holed up in one of the stalls and pulled out his phone. He could hear couples walk by outside as he played a couple levels of Word Cookies. The stall doors next to him slammed open and closed. The puddle of pee on the floor crept closer and closer to his sneakers as high school boys continually missed the urinal.

Jimin leveled up from Pastry Chef to Star Chef.

Jimin’s ears perked up when he recognized a voice outside. “Seriously, Oliver, let go of my hand, I can walk by myself.”

“You can walk off by yourself, maybe. You’ve been dodging me for weeks now.”

Jimin looked away from his phone. He stared at the crack in the stall door, listening in. He recognized Oliver as the kid Hoseok and Taehyung usually ate lunch with. Hadn’t Taehyung said Oliver was a bully? Yoongi had been complaining about Hoseok spending time with Oliver all week.

“I told you, I’ve been busy.”

“Don’t treat me like an idiot. I know when you’re lying.”

Jimin stood up: uneasy. As quiet as he could, he unlocked the stall door and pressed himself against the wall between the bathroom door and the hand-dryer. There was something in the tone of Oliver’s voice that wasn’t right.

Jimin’s hands balled into fists.

“I’m not lying, I just—“

Hoseok.” Oliver’s voice was a growl. “You stupid fuck, you’re mine.”

“What? Ollie, I’m—“ Hoseok cut off with a squeak, and Jimin’s vision clouded when he heard sneakers scrape against the concrete. He started moving to the door. “Stop! Oliver, stop. Ow, you’re hurting me, cut it out!”

Jimin shot out of the bathroom door so fast, his feet almost slid out from underneath him. He caught himself on the molding.

Jimin’s eyes locked onto Hoseok immediately. Oliver had him pinned against the wall, Hoseok’s cheek pressed into the brick. Oliver was kissing Hoseok’s jaw, but it looked more like he was eating him.

Hoseok looked terrified. His eyes grew wider when they met Jimin’s, and Jimin saw red. Jimin’s nails dug into his palms. Sometimes Jimin’s anger was slow-building and long-burning.

But sometimes it snapped.

“Get your fucking hands off him,” Jimin barked, teeth biting around the words. His hands acted on their own, grabbing Oliver’s shoulder and throwing him off of Hoseok.  He slammed Oliver’s back into the bleachers. Somewhere behind him, a police whistle blew.

Hey, break it up!”

“Jimin!” Hoseok squeaked.

Jimin’s fist slammed into Oliver’s jaw before anyone could react. (Jimin couldn’t even react.) Oliver crumpled to the ground, and Jimin’s knuckles throbbed. Oliver’s body folded like paper at his feet.

Jimin’s leg geared up for a kick, but before he could make contact, someone big and strong pinned his arms behind his back. “Let me go!” he demanded as a school security officer dragged him away. Where was he when Oliver had his fingers tight around Hoseok’s wrists? “Let me go!”

“Jimin, chill out, you’re being crazy,” Hoseok said.

Jimin clenched his teeth around a scream. “He fucking-“

“I’m getting Jin and Joon,” Hoseok interrupted, running away before Jimin could finish. Jimin tried to shake out of the police officer’s grip.

Gentle Jimin. Gentle Jimin.


NAMJOON

Namjoon knew he was scaring Jimin with how angry he was, but his hands wouldn’t stop shaking. He hid his clenched jaw behind his fist, knee bobbing like a piston. Jimin shifted in the chair next to him.

“Dad, I’m-“

“Sorry. I know,” Namjoon said curtly.

They were sitting in the high school lobby. Namjoon glared at the principal’s office door. The blinds were drawn, so he couldn’t see anything but Hoseok’s ear through the gap in the curtains. Currently, Seokjin and Oliver’s parents were working out how to handle Hoseok and Oliver sharing the same school building.

Seokjin seemed hell-bent on a restraining order. Oliver’s parents were hoping to avoid that.

Meanwhile, Hoseok seemed uncomfortable about having Jimin in the room, so Namjoon was sitting out in the hallway with him, trying to cool off before going back in to see that his son was properly taken care of.

He was just so mad. He was mad that things with Oliver had escalated so far. He was mad that it took violence for the school administration to step up and do something. He was mad that Jimin would now have an ISS on his permanent record for punching another student. And he was furious that Hoseok had hid his dangerous relationship and Jimin had hid his slipping grades under his nose for so long.

“But-“ Jimin’s flat nose twisted up, and he blinked away tears. “But I really am sorry. I’ve been trying to get my grades up and calm down; I have been.”

Namjoon sighed.

“Jimin. I’m not mad about your grades.”

“I’m sorry about cheer, too,” Jimin tagged on.

Namjoon frowned. “You don’t have to be a cheerleader.”

Jimin pushed tears out of his eyes with the palm of his hand. “I’m sorry about being so angry.”

Namjoon pressed his hands to his face for a moment and willed the anger to leave his body. He took a couple deep breaths and dropped a hand to rest on Jimin’s knee. “Jimin, you’ve had trouble with your aggression since you were two-years-old. I know it’s hard for you. And I’m... upset that this happened, but I understand it. I hate it, but I understand it.”

Jimin looked at Namjoon’s hand and then looked at his face. His chin wobbled. “I should have told you earlier,” Jimin said. He seemed to have given up on keeping his tears at bay. “I thought I could pull everything together on my own.”

Namjoon hummed.

Jimin continued. “It’s just really hard this year. And the worse I feel about school, the worse I feel about everything, and I get... so frustrated that I scare people, I scare me... And then Oliver attacked Hoseok, and I-“ Jimin cut himself off.

“I understand,” Namjoon repeated. “You’re still grounded. For forever. But I understand.”

Jimin groaned. He curled up into a ball, burying his face in his knees. “I’m an asshole.

“You need to learn to ask for help,” Namjoon said. “Jimin, I don’t expect you to be perfect, I expect for you to come to me when you have a problem. Pride is important, but you can’t be boastful about failing grades and poor anger management. When those things become problematic, you have to speak up so you can move past them.”

Jimin made a keening noise into his knees. “I’m sorry,” he apologized again. His shoulders were shaking. “I’m sorry. I just wanted you to stay proud of me, and I fucked it up.”

At that, Namjoon softened. “Minnie, you don’t think I’m still proud of you?”

“I fucked up,” Jimin repeated.

Namjoon snorted. “Okay, well, maybe to get back on the right track, you could stop swearing,” he teased. Jimin stiffened. “But Jimin... I don’t actually care about your grades. I care about you trying. And you have been trying, and I see why this is frustrating for you, and we’re going to fix things. Of course I’m still proud of you.”

Jimin peaked up at him from over his knees. “You are?”

Namjoon nodded. He patted Jimin’s back. “You’re still grounded. For the rest of time. For forever. But yes, goofball, I am still proud of you.”

Jimin sighed and wiped his nose off on the sleeve of his denim jacket. “Forever, huh?”

“Forever,” Namjoon repeated. “College graduation? Won’t be able to make it. You’ll still be grounded. Your wedding day? Sorry, you’ll just have to stay home. You’re grounded. Your funeral? Can’t go. Grounded. Forever. Grounded.”

Jimin laughed and then settled against the back of his chair. He looked relieved, despite the punishment extended in front of him. He had to serve a three-day in school suspension for school, Namjoon and Seokjin had grounded him for the entire month of December, and he’d be going to tutoring twice a week for the rest of the year.

Tutoring plus switching his Spanish class for a study hall would hopefully help his withering GPA. He could retry Spanish next year, and he would get to use the school’s testing center to help him pull up his English grade.

There were so many resources available to Jimin. Namjoon was going to make sure he used all of them to his advantage.

Jimin stared at the ceiling. “So what’s going to happen with Oliver?”

Namjoon hardened his expression. He clamped his jaw shut. “I don’t know. I should probably head back in there. I’m sure Seokjin needs the support.”  

Jimin kicked at the ground. “I hope he burns in hell.”

Namjoon laughed accidentally. He covered his mouth, surprised with himself. “Me too, kid. Me too.”


TAEHYUNG

“Oh my god, I can’t watch,” Jungkook whined, covering his face with Taehyung’s pillow.

“It’s so sad. How could someone do that?”

Taehyung and Jungkook had been watching Vet Ranch YouTube videos for most of the afternoon. With each puppy Dr. Matt saved, Taehyung’s heart grew simultaneously heavier and lighter. He hated seeing abused animals, but he loved seeing them get better and find happy homes.

Jungkook whined into Taehyung’s pillowcase. “She has maggots in her leg.”

Taehyung gagged.

“Hit fast forward!” Jungkook demanded. The cat on the operating table was censored, but nearly its whole leg was missing. Taehyung was frozen on the image. “Hit fast forward!” Jungkook said again, snapping Taehyung out of it. Taehyung skipped further in the video. Jungkook squeezed the pillow tight. “If he has to amputate, I’m going to be so upset.”

Taehyung skipped to a screenshot of a stitched up wound where a leg used to be. “No,” Taehyung said, devastated.

Jungkook looked just as upset. “I hate this. I hate this video; I hate this channel.”

“Should I close out?” Taehyung asked, mouse hovering over the X.

“No, I want to see the dog with the head wound get better.”

Taehyung clicked on the thumbnail Jungkook was talking about. It was hard to see such innocent animals be so broken. Taehyung related a little too much to the shivering shih tzus covered in scabs and the tired cats infested with fleas.

Jungkook sniffled as yet another recovered dog leapt and bounded through Dr. Matt’s backyard. “It’s the ending song that gets you,” Taehyung said.

“This channel is such a dark hole.”

“An abyss,” Taehyung agreed.

“I can’t look away.”

As if on queue, Jimin kicked open the door to his and Taehyung’s shared bedroom. Taehyung and Jungkook both jumped and looked away from the computer screen. “Hey,” Jimin said. He sounded exhausted.

“Hey, how’d it go?” Taehyung asked as Jimin dumped his backpack on the floor.

“Jin took me out of Spanish, so instead I have a study hall,” Jimin said. He looked disappointed, and Taehyung frowned. He closed his laptop.

“Is that bad?”

Jimin jumped up on his bed. “Not really, except on Mondays, I have to use that time to go to counseling for anger management lessons.”

Jungkook squirmed. “Was that Jin’s idea or the school’s idea?”

Jimin sighed. “It was mutual.” Jimin pressed his lips together. His face was puffy, like he had been crying. Jimin had been keeping a lot to himself recently, and Taehyung wasn’t sure if he should ask too many questions about how he was feeling. Fortunately, Jimin spoke up before he had to respond. “I just... I thought I could handle everything, and I... obviously can’t.”

Jungkook huffed out a sigh. “Neither can I.”

“Neither can I,” Taehyung agreed. “It’s okay. We all need help sometimes.”

Jimin didn’t look convinced. “I guess.” He flopped back on his comforter. “I’m so grounded. Like Aaron Carter grounded.”

“Can you be Aaron Carter grounded if you don’t throw a house party?” Taehyung asked.

Jungkook lowered his eyes, too shy to meet Jimin’s. However, he looked thoughtful. “I think it depends how grounded you are, not how you became grounded.”

“Fair enough,” Taehyung agreed easily.

“I hate everything,” Jimin whined. He rolled onto his tummy, only to sit up when Seokjin knocked on the door.

“Knock, knock.”

“Come in!” Taehyung chirped.

“It’s me,” Seokjin said, ducking his head into the room. He looked tired. “Namjoon and I are going to have a family meeting in ten minutes. Meet us in the kitchen.”

“A family meeting?” Jungkook asked. Taehyung was curious, too. They never had family meetings. Usually their parents either came to them personally or announced stuff over dinner.

“Yep. Ten minutes. Or as soon as you can come down,” Seokjin said.

Taehyung frowned and met Jimin’s eye across the room. Jimin looked down at his hands and squirmed. “I guess we could go down now,” Jimin said awkwardly.

Seokjin hummed. “Okay. Well, let me go get Yoongi and Hoseok, and we’ll all talk together.”

Seokjin turned and left, and Taehyung and Jimin looked at each other across the bedroom. Jimin made a face. Taehyung snorted. “What was that about?” Jungkook asked, his eyebrows pinched together in confusion.

Taehyung stood up. “Let’s go find out, huh?”

Jimin ended up leading the way down the stairs. When they made it to the kitchen, Namjoon was sitting next to the head of the table (next to Seokjin’s empty seat). Taehyung frowned. Namjoon usually sat at the foot, opposite to Seokjin, not next to him. Taehyung stole Namjoon’s usual seat, not sure why they were suddenly playing musical chairs.

Namjoon looked up from his phone and smirked when Jimin hovered by Taehyung’s side. “You guys look uncertain.”

“This is weird,” Jungkook complained.

“It’s not weird. Seokjin and I just wanted to talk to you guys,” Namjoon said.

Jimin frowned. “About what?”

“You’ll see,” Namjoon said cryptically. Taehyung kicked out a chair for Jimin to sit in, and Jungkook anxiously sat on Taehyung’s other side. Slowly, Hoseok, Yoongi, and Seokjin all joined the table.

“Okay, we’re all here!” Seokjin said brightly. Namjoon passed Seokjin his coffee, and Taehyung noticed how much more awake he seemed with caffeine in hand. Taehyung pulled his feet up on his chair to sit cross-legged. Namjoon and Seokjin had been with Hoseok and Jimin at the principal’s office a long time. Taehyung wondered what they talked about.

“Am I...” Jimin looked confused. “...more in trouble?”

Seokjin shook his head. He took a long sip of coffee. “No, no, of course not,” he promised.

“You’re still grounded for forever,” Namjoon added with a pointed look. Jimin huffed out a sigh.

“Namjoon and I have just felt like communication has been... off between us all for a while, and we thought we could all sit down and talk about it: no distractions,” Seokjin explained.

Hoseok whined. “Are you kidding? I’m sick of talking about talking. Can I go?”

“No,” Namjoon said sternly.

“Just listen,” Seokjin said. Taehyung grabbed at his toes. Next to him, Jungkook wriggled awkwardly in his seat. “Wanting to handle problems on your own and keep things to yourself is a natural part of growing up. Namjoon and I understand that,” Seokjin began. “But there are some things that you need to tell us.”

“Like when you start dating someone,” Namjoon said, looking at Hoseok. Hoseok crinkled his nose indignantly.

Seokjin put a hand on Namjoon’s wrist. “We don’t want to suffocate you,” Seokjin said. “But we can’t have you boys keeping such big secrets. Like failing grades, and boyfriends, and bullying... Those are all things you need to speak up about and feel like you can speak up about. So Namjoon and I thought maybe we could make a communication plan together.”

Namjoon nodded, frustration rolling off his shoulders. He tapped a blue washable marker on the piece of paper he had in front of him. “We’re going to make a list,” he said as Seokjin took another sip of coffee.

Seokjin set his mug down. “Of all the positive and negative things that are worth sharing,” he further explained. “And then after, we’ll talk about how maybe Namjoon and I can be more approachable so it’s easier for you guys to talk to us.”

“Ew,” Hoseok whined.

“I’ll start,” Namjoon said. He wrote in the positives column. “Girlfriends and boyfriends.”

“What if you don’t know if they’re your girlfriend or boyfriend?” Jimin asked.

Meanwhile, Hoseok frowned. “That’s in the positives section?”

“That’s the thing,” Namjoon said. “We don’t want to suffocate you. So we’ll trust you to be the judge whether you should bring it up or not... But dating should definitely be a positive thing, even if in some cases, it’s not.”

“Bad grades,” Jungkook piped up and then looked sheepish. He shrunk in his seat. “I... I got in trouble for not telling you about math.”

Namjoon hummed. “Bad grades are probably a negative... But tell us about good grades, too. That’s a positive.”

Seokjin smiled as Namjoon scribbled down Jungkook’s answer. “Yoongi last week told me he got an A on his civics and government test. I’ve never been prouder,” he said, a hand over his heart. He wasn’t holding his coffee in a death grip anymore, which was a good sign.

There was a pause. Taehyung bit his bottom lip. “Um... um, you said bullying earlier,” he said. Seokjin looked at him warmly, and Taehyung’s cheeks heated up.

“Yeah, you should definitely tell us about that,” Seokjin said, his voice kind and gentle. Taehyung hugged his knees.

“...Maybe we could tell you about our performances and stuff? Like... like games? And...” Jimin winced. “Well, I guess I’m not cheerleading anymore.”

“But you will be soon,” Seokjin said.

Namjoon wrote down Jimin’s answer. “Yeah, I would never want to miss any of your games, or dances, or routines.” He looked down the table at Yoongi. “Yoongi? Any ideas?”

“Our plans,” Yoongi said. “Like if we’re going over to a friend’s house, or going out for dinner, or something.”

“Definitely. Especially if it includes driving,” Namjoon agreed.

Hoseok had his arms crossed and his head down, so Taehyung decided to speak up before his parents looked to Hoseok for an answer. Taehyung wrung his hands together. “And maybe... maybe we should tell you about how we’re feeling and things?”

Seokjin smiled. “I like the sound of that. Can you be a little more specific?”

“Like maybe when we’re sick. But also for emotion-things, like... like when we’re anxious,” Taehyung said.

“Or when we’re frustrated,” Jimin added.

“Or angry,” Jungkook agreed.

“Or scared,” Yoongi said.

Hoseok picked at his fingernails. “...Or insecure.”

“Okay, good,” Namjoon said encouragingly. He wrote them all down. “But those are all negative things. What are some positive feelings you could share?”

“When we’re happy!” Jungkook chirped.

Namjoon smiled at him. “Yeah, there you go.”

“When we’re excited,” Yoongi added on.

“When we’re feeling better,” Jimin said.

“All of those are great ideas,” Namjoon promised. He wrote them all down, each one big enough to fill up the page. “I think that’s probably enough.”

Seokjin nodded, his hands were wrapped around his cup of coffee warmly. Taehyung noticed he had changed into a sweatshirt after a long day, and some small part of him wanted to crawl into his dad’s lap for a hug. Seokjin had a way about him that made him seem so safe and cozy, like he actually cared about what Taehyung had to say. Like he cared what everyone had to say. Taehyung hugged his knees a little tighter. “Okay, great. But just so you know,” Seokjin continued to say, “We don’t want you to feel like you have to share your every waking thought with us or that you can’t keep anything to yourself. But you should tell us the big things going on in your lives. We’re your parents. We want to know. We should know.”

“I mean,” Namjoon cleared his throat. “I understand that you boys will probably keep some things secret from us, and that sometimes small things spiral into bigger things, and that some things are ambiguous, and...” Namjoon rubbed the back of his neck, seemingly lost in his own sentence. “Well, basically, it’s okay if you don’t tell us everything. But if you feel like you’re keeping something a secret, then that’s not okay, and you should speak up.”

“There’s a no-locked-doors policy in this house for a reason,” Seokjin said. “So let’s not lock each other out of our bedrooms, and let's not lock each other out of our hearts.”

Yoongi snorted.  “Did Joon come up with that?”

Seokjin winced. “Why, did it sound hokey?”

“It was terrible,” Yoongi said.

Namjoon pouted. “Hey, I resent that,” he complained, and Taehyung giggled. He looked over to Jimin and saw he was laughing, too. The weird tension in the room had officially broken as Taehyung and Jimin dissolved into laughter. Namjoon rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay, but really. No more secrets.”

“No more secrets,” Jungkook agreed, his eyes wide like Namjoon had his full attention.

Hoseok shifted in his seat, agitated. “Okay, can we just move this along? What’s the next thing?” he asked. Taehyung’s eyes drifted over Hoseok. He looked like he would rather be anywhere else in the world than at the kitchen table. His muscles looked tense, like he was about to get up and run from the table at any second.

Seokjin seemed to sense this because he didn’t chastise Hoseok for being disrespectful. “Sure. It’s just...” Seokjin looked to Namjoon. “Well, we didn’t know if it was something about us that was making you boys feel like you couldn’t tell us anything. So can you think of anything that would make talking to us easier?”

Silence fell over the kitchen.

The weird tension came back full force, and Taehyung scratched at his ankle. Next to him, Jimin opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but his mouth snapped closed when Taehyung looked at him.

Taehyung nudged Jimin’s knee with his toe. Jimin frowned. Taehyung nudged him again. Jimin sighed.

“Um...” He scratched at his ear. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell Namjoon about bad grades because... because he’s so smart, and I know he wants me to be smart, too.”

Taehyung looked at Namjoon. His dad looked heartbroken. “Do you all feel that way?”

Slowly, Jungkook nodded his head.

Namjoon’s frown deepened. “Okay, well... first of all, I think all of you boys are bright, so please don’t worry about what I think of you,” he said. “And second, I do get disappointed when you boys have bad grades, but I don’t expect you to have straight As. Jungkook, when you were struggling with math, it wasn’t because you’re not good at it and needed help, it was because you weren’t trying. That’s why I was angry. And Jimin, if you had come to me early on about Spanish and English, you wouldn’t be in trouble right now. It’s because you let the problem grow without asking for help that I’m upset.”

“But what if we don’t know when to bring stuff up?” Taehyung blurted out. He felt his face heat up further when he realized he had accidentally changed the conversation. “I’m sorry, I just... I don’t know when is a good time to tell you guys things, and I...” his hands balled up in the cuffs of his jeans.

“That is a good point, Taehyung,” Seokjin said. “Actually, Namjoon and I thought of that, and we figured we could have ‘office hours’: a time set aside when you guys can come talk to us.”

“We thought right before bed, when everyone is in their rooms,” Namjoon said.

Seokjin nodded. “You guys can come down to the master bedroom, you can sit in our bed, and we’ll stay up with you until the problem is solved.”

“And I guess,” Namjoon looked guilty. “If you want to just talk to one of us, you can say so.”

“No hard feelings,” Seokjin promised.

Namjoon schooled his expression into something more resolute. “No hard feelings.”

“Office hours in a bedroom,” Yoongi said thoughtfully.

Namjoon ruffled his hair. “You got it.”

“...And no one is in trouble?” Jimin asked. “Or more in trouble?”

“Nope! We just wanted to talk to you,” Seokjin promised.

Jimin sighed in relief. “Okay, good.”

“Okay, good,” Seokjin echoed. He grabbed the list. “I think we’ve covered this. I’m going to put this list on the fridge, is that okay? Anyone else have any ideas about how Namjoon or I can be of better help to you guys?”

“You could un-ground me,” Hoseok said. “I didn’t know we had to tell you about boyfriends.”

“Maybe, but you should have known not to lie and say you were getting a soda and instead creep off behind the bleachers with a boy you’re not allowed to see,” Seokjin said. Everyone in the room shared a collective wince. “Let me keep an eye on you for a little while.”

“Fine,” Hoseok said, pushing away from the table. “Can I go now?”

“Unless anyone else has anything they need to say,” Seokjin said. “Going once... going twice...? Meeting adjourned.” Seokjin smacked his hand on the table. Everyone got up at once except for Taehyung. He watched as Seokjin hung up the list they’d made on the fridge with a magnet. Seokjin noticed Taehyung watching as the kitchen emptied out. He smiled at him. “Hey, Taehyung. You look like you want something.”

Taehyung lifted his arms up for a hug.

Seokjin’s smile only grew. “I see how it is.” He wrapped Seokjin up in the biggest hug he could manage, snuggling him in close. “You feeling okay?”

“Yeah. Much better,” Taehyung said.

“Good. That’s what I like hearing.” Seokjin kissed the top of Taehyung’s head. Taehyung hid his face in Seokjin’s shirt. Nothing was more healing than a hug from his dad.


YOONGI

Yoongi gagged when he walked through the mall doors, only to come face to face with a Christmas tree. “They’re playing Christmas carols already,” he complained. Frank Sinatra’s “Jingle Bells” played over the mall loudspeaker.

“Well, it is December,” Jungkook said. “And I like it.”

Taehyung, meanwhile, was glued to his phone. “Okay. PJ says he and Dan are waiting for everyone at TCBY,” Taehyung said, directed towards Seokjin. “Can I go?”

“Yep! We’ll text when we’re headed home,” Seokjin said. Taehyung beamed and ran off. Seokjin watched him for a moment before turning back to Yoongi and Jungkook. “Okay, so where are we headed?”

Yoongi trailed after Jungkook. “I don’t know... I thought I’d get Jimin something for running.” Yoongi didn’t keep tabs on his brothers, but he had noticed that since taking a break from the cheerleading team, Jimin had been running more often. Apparently, just because he couldn’t leave the house to hang out with friends, Jimin could still leave to go on a run.

Seokjin smiled, like Yoongi’s idea was the most thoughtful thing in the world. “That’s great! Santa was going to get him some new running shoes, but maybe you could get him an armband for his phone. I know he likes listening to music while he runs.”

“Then I guess we’re headed to Dick’s Sporting Goods,” Yoongi said. “Come on, Jungkook.”

Jungkook spun on his heel and scurried after Yoongi. He had gone a little too far ahead and ended up turning around the wrong corner. Jungkook looked around the mall with wide eyes, and Yoongi smirked. Jungkook was such a baby. He always looked so lost and confused (at least, when he wasn’t glowering and being a brat, anyway).

“Cookie, What Christmas gifts are you hoping to get today?” Yoongi asked.

Jungkook frowned. “Um... Definitely Hoseok and Jimin’s cause they aren’t here. And maybe Taehyung and Namjoon’s.”

Yoongi stomped through Dick’s front door. “What do you wanna get ‘em?”

Jungkook shrugged. “I know... I know Taehyung likes reading? So... a book? A funny one. And I know Namjoon likes reading too, but maybe I’d get him a smart book or one with a bunch of music in it, so he can play radio stuff on the piano. And then... then for Hoseok and Jimin I was thinking... Ah, I’m not sure. I don’t know what they like.”

Yoongi nodded and looked over his shoulder. Seokjin had stopped a little ways behind them, checking out the running shoes. Jimin had a specific pair that stucked to his feet like suction cups. Seokjin seemed content to let Yoongi and Jungkook shop for their brothers on their own. “You know, Jimin complains a lot about not having a good pair of over-the-ear headphones. And Hoseok really likes Calvin and Hobbes. Maybe you could get him one of the comic books he doesn’t own.”

Jungkook blinked at him.

“What?” Yoongi asked.

“You’re so good at this,” Jungkook said. Yoongi snorted and found the armbands. He looked through all of the different colors. “No, really! You always know what to get everyone! And you always know what everyone needs. How do you do that?”

Yoongi looked at Jungkook like he was crazy. “Um... I don’t know; I pay attention?”

Jungkook frowned. “Oh.” He flicked at the armband display. “I’m trying to do a better job at paying attention and being, like, a good brother and stuff.”

Yoongi thought before speaking, knowing his words would have weight. “Yeah, I noticed.”

“You have?”

“Yeah.” Yoongi picked out a black Trianium armband. He and his brothers tried to only spend ten dollars on gifts for each other, so an armband was just about perfect. “You’re doing a good job.”

Jungkook preened. “Good! Jin says I should apologize to everyone, and I’m going to, I just have to figure out how to do it,” he said, determined. “But, um, I’m sorry to you, um, individually, Yoongi, because... because I know I wasn’t nice to you especially.”

Yoongi couldn’t even look at Jungkook. “Honestly, I wasn’t nice to you either, kid. So I’m sorry, too. It’s all in the past, yeah?”

Jungkook looked at him hopefully, a tiny bunny smile on his face. “Okay. All in the past,” he agreed.

“Good.” Yoongi coughed into his sleeve. “Anyway. It seems like you’re trying to buy a ton of books, and I think there’s a Books-A-Million in this mall. Maybe we could go there next.”

“I’ll get Jin!” Jungkook chirped, running off.

Yoongi fiddled with the armband in his hands. Jungkook really did seem to be trying his best. His attitude had done a total 180 spin, and Yoongi was genuinely relieved. He watched as Jungkook bounced up to Jin, just as energetic and excitable as Yoongi remembered him being as a kid.

Suddenly, Yoongi realized: he had missed Jungkook. It was nice to have him back.


JUNGKOOK

Jungkook stumbled in from the mall with Yoongi, his hands full of shopping bags. “Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look!” he called into the house.

“I’m not looking!” Jimin shouted back from the living room.

“Seriously, don’t look!”

“I won’t!” Jimin promised.

“Namjoon, don’t look!” Jungkook shouted.

“What?!” Namjoon called from upstairs.

“Hoseok, don’t look!”

“I can’t hear you!” Hoseok shouted back from his bedroom.

“I think the coast is clear,” Yoongi said dryly, and Jungkook flushed.

“I’m just going to go run these up to my room,” he said. He held his bags close to his chest as he ran past Jimin, who had his eyes scrunched closed. He narrowly avoided Namjoon and Hoseok, slamming the door to his bedroom closed so he could hide his gifts in his closet. Yoongi had been a massive help. Jungkook had been able to buy presents for everyone except for Yoongi and Seokjin, and that was only because he’d been with them. (He may have spent a little extra on Namjoon, but Namjoon had come to his hockey practice, and that had been really nice.)

Jungkook hid everything carefully under the stack of sweatshirts in the bottom of his closet. By the time he made it back downstairs, the kitchen was full and something was sizzling in the oven.

“What’s Jin making?” Jungkook asked, joining Jimin and Yoongi at the end of the table. Jimin’s chemistry homework was splayed out between them. Jimin was chewing on his pen.

“I think ham,” Jimin answered.

“And macaroni and cheese,” Yoongi tagged on. “Also, Jimin, make sure this chem equation is balanced.”

“And I’m making glazed carrots,” Taehyung said from the island, an unhappy frown on his face. He had a cutting board in front of him filled with sliced up carrot rounds. “I don’t even like glazed carrots.”

“Here is a question,” Seokjin said, dumping a box of Kraft into boiling water. “Why am I the only person in this family who likes hamloaf?”

“Um, it’s called hamloaf,” Yoongi said. “You do the math.”

“Hamloaf is a Pennsylvania dutch tradition,” Seokjin said.

“But we’re not Pennsylvania dutch,” Yoongi pointed out. “Also, Jimin, double check number 18.” Jimin erased something on his homework sheet and rewrote it. Jungkook watched, dreading the day he’d have to balance chemistry equations.

“Yes, but we live amongst them. It’s okay if their traditions seep into ours,” he said. “And the tradition of hamloaf definitely should. It’s delicious.”

“I don’t mind it if it’s the really thin-sliced kind,” Jungkook dared to speak up. He felt comfortable, despite how many people were milling around him. It was warm in the kitchen, and Jimin’s leg was resting against his shin comfortably. Everything smelled like brown sugar and hot pasta. Jungkook pulled his sweatshirt sleeves over his hands.

“I don’t mind if it’s hamballs,” Taehyung said.

“I actually want to throw up hearing you three talk about this,” Yoongi complained.

“I’m just trying to do my homework,” Jimin whined.

“Jimin, obviously ham and it’s many forms are more important than your chemistry homework,” Seokjin teased, and Jimin groaned, dropping his head on the table. Jungkook patted his shoulder awkwardly. Jimin didn’t shrug him away. Jungkook considered it a success.

“You’re two problems from finishing,” Yoongi said. “You can do it.”

“Okay, but the thing is, I don’t want to.”

“You can do it, Jimin!” Taehyung cheered.

Seokjin chanted from his spot by the stove. “Ji-min, Ji-min, Ji-min, Ji-min.”

“Ji-min, Ji-min, Ji-min, Ji-min!” Taehyung and Yoongi chimed in. Jimin buckled up and powered through his last few problems. Everyone broke into cheering. Jimin beamed under the praise, but suddenly, his eyes met Jungkook’s and he started laughing.

“Jungkook, I swear, you look no different now than when you were five-years-old. You’re a baby.

“What?” Jungkook asked.

“A baby,” Jimin repeated.

"Hey," Jungkook whined, and Yoongi reached out to pinch his cheek. Jungkook fell out of his chair trying to get away, and Namjoon -walking into the room- extended a hand to help him up. “You okay there, kiddo?” Namjoon asked.

Jungkook felt flushed but happy. “Yeah. I’m okay.” he answered. He was finally at home in his own house. 

 

Chapter Text

JUNGKOOK

Jungkook tugged on his sweater as he walked down the stairs. It was a little chilly in the house, and Seokjin had helped him dig out his woolen ski socks earlier. Jungkook was finally warm: just in time to bake Christmas cookies.

“Are you going to join everyone?” Namjoon asked as Jungkook padded through the living room. Namjoon was sitting on the couch with the largest mug of coffee Jungkook had ever seen.

“Yeah,” Jungkook said, “Jin said I should come down.”

“Good,” Namjoon said, his eyes glued to the TV. There was a story about the new tax reform on the news, and Jungkook immediately tuned it out, bee lining for the kitchen. “Bring me one with a lot of Red Hots when you’re done,” Namjoon called after him.

“Will do,” Jungkook called back. As he walked into the kitchen, the smell of butter and sugar hit him full force. Meanwhile, Taehyung looked up from the sheet of cookies he was decorating to smile at him.

“Hey!”

“Hey,” Jungkook said awkwardly, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“Come join us,” Jimin said. Yoongi wordlessly shifted over to make room. Jungkook saddled up next to him. Seokjin slid a tray of cookies shaped like Christmas wreaths in front of him, and Jungkook absently stuck a couple Red Hot candies into it for Namjoon.

“Is that my sweater?” Taehyung asked suddenly.

“You outgrew it,” Seokjin answered from his spot by the sink, squeezing out cookie dough into Christmas trees. “It’s Jungkook’s now.”

“It’s mine now,” Jungkook agreed.

Jimin pouted. “Um, I thought I was supposed to have dibs on all of Taehyung’s old clothes.” He looked especially sad with Michael Bublé’s “Blue Christmas” crooning in the background.

Seokjin didn’t look up, too focused on his cookies. Flour clung to his forearms and cheek. “Jungkook is sprouting like a weed. If you start growing, you can have Taehyung’s clothes,” Seokjin said. Jimin sputtered, and Jungkook flushed, trying to hide a smile by looking down at his toes.

“I am growing,” Jimin demanded.

Seokjin took a break from shaping cookie dough to grab Jimin’s head and kiss his cheek. “Well, stop. I like you just as you are.”

Yoongi snickered, and Jimin rolled his eyes. “I’m pretty sure you’re shorter than I am,” Jimin said. The sudden sound of footsteps on the stairs, however, made Jungkook turn his head.

“Oi, watch it, kid,” Yoongi said, while Jungkook watched Hoseok try to sneak out the garage door. “I’m definitely taller than you.”

“Hold it!”

Jungkook jumped, Hoseok flinched, and Seokjin wiped his hands off on a towel, looking decidedly unimpressed.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” Seokjin asked, an eyebrow lifted, and Jungkook knew that look. He knew that look far too well. For once, however, he wasn’t on the receiving end of it (even if his stomach still flip-flopped at the site).

“Nowhere,” Hoseok said with an eye roll.

“Mhm. And who are you going out with?”

Hoseok groaned. “No one.”

“Well, if you can’t tell me, then you’re right,” Seokjin said. “You’re going nowhere with no one. Go ahead back up to your room.”

Hoseok whined, “But—“

“You either tell me who you’re going out with, or you’re not going out at all,” Seokjin said. His voice was so firm; Jungkook shuddered. Lately, Seokjin had been a lot... nicer with him. He was more patient (probably because Jungkook was making an effort not to scream at him so much). It was unnerving to see him so stern, especially when Jungkook wasn’t being stubborn right back.

“I’m going out with Lucas, okay?” Hoseok snapped. “We’re going to the Dollar Tree to find gifts for the programming club Secret Santa.”

Seokjin went back to his cookies. “Okay. You have an hour.”

Hoseok’s face dropped. “What? I have a time limit?”

“You’re not sneaking off with that boy,” Seokjin said as an answer. Jimin had to stifle a snort behind his hand, and Jungkook could feel his eyes widening. Had his family always been this dramatic?

“I wasn’t going to, God,” Hoseok whined. “Whatever, I’m leaving.” He stomped out the door, and Jungkook blinked.

“Geez,” Yoongi winced.

Jungkook looked to Seokjin, mortified. “Was I that bad?” he asked, guilt creeping over him. Seokjin froze, and Jimin outright laughed. Jungkook searched his family’s faces, trying to get an answer.

“You were way worse,” Taehyung admitted with small smile. “But that’s okay. You’re here now.”

“These phases pass,” Yoongi said sagely. “It’s hard to be young.”

Jimin’s laughter picked back up. “You’re only five years older.”

“Only?” Yoongi asked. “That’s five years of wisdom that you all don’t have,” he said, not making eye contact. Instead, he grabbed a baked cookie from the cooling sheet and stuffed it in Jungkook’s mouth before he could flinch away. “Stop frowning, kid. You’re young. It’s okay to be a little immature.”

Jungkook bit down on the cookie and looked to Seokjin for confirmation. “You’re a good kid, Jungkook. You were having a hard time.”

“Oh,” Jungkook said, lowering his eyes. “I’m sorry.” It didn’t feel good enough.

“That’s okay. You’re making up for it now,” Seokjin said.

“Yeah!” Taehyung agreed. “You’re making Christmas cookies. Hobi isn’t,” he said, and then immediately looked guilty. “But, um, he will. He just like... is in a bad mood, and it’s no one’s fault, and it’ll be okay. I love him anyways.”

Jimin smirked and patted Jungkook’s hand consolingly. “And we love you anyways.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said.

“Just make me some cookies, kid,” Yoongi groused, shoving some sprinkles in his direction. “I’m sick of seeing you in a bad mood. We’re doing Christmas stuff. You’re supposed to be jolly,” Yoongi said.

Jungkook arched an eyebrow in his best impression of Seokjin. “I thought you hated Christmas.”

“Shut up and make cookies.”

Jungkook pressed his lips together to hide a smile. He picked out a couple snowflake sprinkles and dotted them around one of his wreaths. After a few minutes of quiet decorating, Jimin jostled his shoulder affectionately and Jungkook let out a quiet, relieved sigh. Seokjin said he was making up for the way he was before. He just hoped he could do enough.


SEOKJIN

Namjoon walked into the bedroom late. Seokjin was already cuddled up in bed. He had been hoping the boys would all be too old for decorating Christmas cookies this year, but Jimin had seemed excited about it (and he definitely needed a pick-me-up), so Seokjin had pulled out the flour and sugar.

He really was getting older if even baking could wear him out.

Namjoon, however, was staring at him like they were back in high school, eyes glazed over and a smile on his face. He was leaning on the doorframe like he was frozen, taking Seokjin in.

“Hey, babe,” Seokjin said warily.

Namjoon smiled dopily at him. “Hey.”

“You okay over there?”

“I’m married to the most handsome man alive.”

“Oh my god,” Seokjin deadpanned, going back to his novel. His book club meeting was tomorrow, and he hadn’t read anything. When Namjoon stayed hovering in the doorway, Seokjin dropped his book onto his chest. “Are you going to stay there all night?”

“Maybe,” Namjoon said. “I could stare at you forever.”

“Relax.”

“You have a lock of hair curled perfectly on the center of your forehead.”

Namjoon.”

“Like Superman.”

Seokjin groaned, and Namjoon crawled into bed. “You’re the sappiest, gooiest, nastiest person in the whole entire worl-“ Seokjin was cut off as Namjoon dipped in for a kiss.

Seokjin’s glasses hit the bridge of Namjoon’s nose. “Get rid of these,” Namjoon said, pulling away to pluck Seokjin’s glasses off his face. He folded them and put them safely on the nightstand.

“Geez,” Seokjin swore. He grabbed Namjoon by the collar and pulled him back in. Namjoon eagerly kissed back, his hands finding Seokjin’s jaw. He only ducked away to pepper kisses across the bridge of Seokjin’s nose, and Seokjin hummed. “What’s got you in such a good mood?”

“Hm?” Namjoon carded his fingers through Seokjin’s hair. His hands pushed away a headache Seokjin hadn’t even noticed he had. Seokjin’s eyes slipped closed as Namjoon’s lips dragged down his cheek before dipping in for another kiss. “It’s a secret.”

“A secret?” Seokjin asked as Namjoon crawled on top of him.

“A Christmas secret,” Namjoon clarified. He kissed Seokjin so hard their noses smushed together and Seokjin felt a little lightheaded. It has been a long time since Namjoon had been all over him like this. He gripped at Namjoon’s waist.

“Is it a present?” Seokjin asked when Namjoon finally pulled away. He let go of Namjoon’s t-shirt only to slip his arms around his middle. Namjoon rested his cheek on his shoulder as the day seemingly caught up to him. He suddenly looked tired, but he still kissed at Seokjin’s collarbones.

“Maybe. It’s not a definite yet.”

Seokjin blinked down at Namjoon. He snorted. “It’s not like you to keep secrets.”

“This is a good one. You’ll like it.”

“Will I?”

“Yes,” Namjoon said. He nuzzled the corner of Seokjin’s collarbone just enough to get Seokjin to turn his head. Namjoon breathed in sharply through his nose as he pressed their lips together. “I love you so much, did you know that?”

Seokjin pinched at Namjoon’s hip. “Yes.”

“No, but did you?” Namjoon asked, a wandering hand pulling on Seokjin’s earlobe.

Yes, babe. What are you planning?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Namjoon promised. “I don’t want to say anything about it too early in case it doesn’t come together the way I want it to.”

“Does this have anything to do with the possible promotion the company has been hinting about for next year?”

Namjoon tried to keep his expression passive, but Seokjin could read him like a book. The smile pulling at the corner of Namjoon’s mouth wrote it all out in black and white. “I’m not telling you anything.”

“Mhm, your smile already did.”

Namjoon sighed happily. His finger twirled around the curl across Seokjin’s forehead. “Just kiss me.”

Seokjin grinned. “With pleasure.” Seokjin leaned back in to kiss his husband, warmth swelling up in his chest despite the wind howling outside. He knew Namjoon liked to show his love with grand gestures, but he didn’t need to try so hard to prove his feelings. It was little moments like these —cold winter wind blowing outside and warm still air beneath the blankets— that said it all.


HOSEOK

Hoseok picked at his lunch, not bothering to hide how torn up he was feeling. He had already told his friends about his breakup. Mikey, Dustin, and Lucas had warned him about Oliver, but Hoseok trusted them not to say ‘I told you so.’ (Even if they hadn’t approved, at least they weren’t as unsupportive as his family.)

Hoseok rested his head in the crook of his elbow. He stirred at his diced up peaches, Dustin’s hungry eyes on the back of his neck.

“Are you gonna eat that fruit cup?” Dustin eventually asked, and Mikey threw a balled up napkin at his head.

Dude,” Lucas admonished, unimpressed.

Hoseok sighed. “No.” He slid the peaches over to Dustin, who snatched them up happily. Meanwhile, Mikey and Lucas shared an obvious look over his head. When neither of them said anything, Hoseok felt a hand touch his elbow. He lifted his head to see Nancy staring at him.

“Hoseok, are you okay? “ she asked gently.

Hoseok’s eyes flickered to the other side of the cafeteria. Oliver was sitting with the dance team. Hoseok looked back at Nancy. “He’s over there.”

“Ah,” she said. She turned to Jonathan and they both made a face. Seeing them share a look —and knowing full well about their mutual crush— only made Hoseok sink lower in his seat.

“What—“ Mikey cleared his throat. “What, um, what happened between you two anyway? Like I know you guys broke up, but... how did it... go down?” he asked awkwardly.

Hoseok ran his hand through his hair. “Um... Well, like... we had this meeting with the principal—“

“After Jimin punched Oliver’s lights out?” Dustin asked.

Hoseok huffed out a sigh. “Yeah.”

“Cool shit,” Lucas said with a nod.

“The coolest,” Dustin agreed.

Moving on,” Hoseok said. “Basically, my dad and his parents were there, and my dad was mad even though Jimin was the one who punched Oliver —not the other way around— and Jin told the principal and Oliver’s parents everything that’s been happening in our relationship even though it has nothing to do with him or the school.”

“And then?” Mikey asked.

Hoseok groaned and his face in his arms, nose flattening against the tabletop. “And then Oliver’s parents were furious, like I knew they’d be. Oliver’s told me they’re super homophobic or whatever, but I could tell they were trying to hold back because my dad was so mad. And then Oliver’s parents said we aren’t allowed to date, and my parents say we aren’t allowed to date, and I tried to text him after, but he texted back and said like... that he was really mad at me, and that it was all my fault for being stupid and telling my parents about us, and I should have kept our relationship secret like he said, and... I don’t know, he was really mad.” Hoseok choked a little, breath hitching. “I think it’s over, and it’s not fair.”

Nancy rubbed his arm a little. “Do you still want to date him?”

Dustin made a gagging noise. “Fuck that.”

Nancy glared. “Shut up. This is girl-talk, you don’t get it.”

“Um, I’m not a girl,” Hoseok pointed out.

“All break-up talk is girl-talk,” Nancy said. “You have to be understanding. Boys aren’t understanding. Or—“ She looked at Jonathan, blushed, and then looked down at her toes. “Most boys aren’t understanding.”

“Okay, well... I mean, I think I still want to date him. Of course, I want to date him. He loves me.”

“But does he?” Jonathan asked, stepping in. He was usually quiet, but his eyes held a certain intensity that Hoseok wasn’t used to seeing.

“I mean...” Hoseok’s heartbeat picked up. He knew he was wrong, but he couldn’t stop lying. “Yes? Or at least, maybe he did before all this crazy stuff happened.” He could tell by the look on his friends’ faces that he hadn’t managed to trick anyone. Hoseok couldn’t even fool himself.

“Geez,” Mikey said, running a hand over his head. “Were you thinking of, like, marrying him or something?”

“I dunno,” Hoseok said. “Maybe one day.”

“You can’t be serious,” Dustin cut in. “He treated you like shit.”

“It was fine,” Hoseok said.

“He was controlling,” Nancy argued. Her voice was careful as she broke the news. Hoseok knew she was right, but he didn’t want to believe it.

“My dad is controlling for making us break up,” Hoseok argued.

“You were thinking of marrying this guy?” Jonathan asked, aghast. His expression was disbelieving. Hoseok squirmed. Honestly, before this had all happened, Hoseok had been considering dumping Oliver, but he had chickened out, and things had spun out of control. Now that everyone was making decisions for him, he couldn’t admit that he was wrong. He didn’t want to look stupid.

“Not seriously,” Hoseok said. “I just... I don’t know, he’s not that bad of a guy. Everyone’s acting like he was terrible for me, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Nancy frowned. “Hoseok...”

“’Not that bad’ isn’t a reason to date someone,” Lucas said.

Hoseok rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”

Jonathan slammed his juice box on the table. “Listen, I don’t know half the shit this kid has said to you, but from what I’ve heard, he was a manipulative dickwad,” Jonathan said sternly. “If my little brother started dating someone half as shitty as Oliver, I would have stepped in day one.”

Hoseok’s hands balled into fists at his side. “What the fuck, why do you guys hate him so much?”

“He called you stupid,” Lucas said.

“He didn’t let you hang out with us,” Mikey squeaked.

“He’s a bully, and he was mean to you,” Dustin said clarified.

So?” Hoseok asked.

So?” Lucas sputtered. “What do you mean, ‘so’?”

“Think of it this way,” Jonathan cut in. “You have four brothers, right?” Hoseok nodded. “If one of your brothers was dating a guy like Oliver, would you be okay with that?”

Hoseok felt sick to his stomach. “Absolutely not.”

“Then you shouldn’t be with him either,” Jonathan said. “And it’s good you two have broken up. You deserve someone who’s good for you.”

The bell rang and Hoseok stood up abruptly, his lunch half-eaten. “I have to go,” he said, scurrying out of the cafeteria before he could run into Oliver. He rushed into his class and pulled out his notebooks, heart racing wildly in his chest. As he pulled the cap off his pen, Hoseok felt his chest constrict.

Seeing the way Oliver spoke to Taehyung (while Hoseok was powerless to stop it) had been hard enough. Hoseok didn’t want Oliver talking that way to anyone else in his family. Jimin had so much self-doubt. Jungkook was just finding his place in the family again. Yoongi was so anxious. Hoseok didn’t want anyone to hurt them; they had already been through enough.

Hoseok scrunched his eyes shut as his teacher turned off the lights and turned on the Smart Board. He didn’t want his brothers to get hurt, and here he was in pain. Hoseok wasn’t a masochist; he hated when Oliver insulted him and hurt his feelings. Hoseok had been uncomfortable since the start of his relationship with Oliver. He had thought that he was just nervous because Oliver was so much older and experienced, but really, Oliver was cruel.

Oliver had lorded his power over him. He had made Hoseok feel weak and small. Hoseok still felt weak and small.

Maybe it really was for the best that he and Oliver didn’t see each other anymore. He just didn’t want to have to admit that to anybody.


JIMIN

Jimin snickered as Taehyung tied his hoodie strings in a bow beneath his chin. “You’re such a dweeb,” Jimin said, bouncing in his seat as the bus went over a speed bump.

“My ears are cold,” Taehyung complained.

“You look like you’re crowning,” Jimin said. “Like a little baby.”

Ew,” Taehyung responded as emphatically as possible, his whole face crinkling. “I hate you. I want my lawyer. I’m filing for emancipation.”

Jimin laughed, pulling his knees up to his chest. His backpack flopped over onto the ground. “Can you calm down?”

“Can you leave me alone?” Taehyung asked, untying the strings of his hoodie. He let his hood fall back, and he shook out his hair.

Jimin’s smile fell a little. “Nope. Until I’m back at cheerleading, you’re stuck with me.”

Taehyung groaned, and leaned up against the back of the seat. The school bus was freezing, but fortunately, their house was one of the bus’s first stops. Jimin pulled his sweatshirt sleeves over his hands. Taehyung zipped his vest up a little higher. “Since I’m stuck with you, does that mean you’d want to do yoga with me when we get home?”

“I’d do that anyway,” Jimin promised.

Taehyung perked up a little at that. “Cool. Afterwards, I’m going to take the hottest shower in the history of showers, and once my skin is scalded off, we can watch a movie or something.”

“Woah,” Jimin gasped. He put his hands on his chest. “Is this what free time is like? I can watch movies? I can hang out? We can spend time together?”

Taehyung smiled behind his fist. “Seems like it.”

“Holy shit. Suddenly I have a life,” Jimin said, goofing around. However, when Taehyung laughed, it didn’t seem like he found Jimin’s teasing all that funny.

Taehyung’s laughter faded fast. He scratched at the back of his neck. “I guess. But like...” Taehyung trailed off, looking uncertain. Jimin frowned.

“What?” he prompted. Sometimes Taehyung clammed up whenever he was about to say something serious. Jimin knew Taehyung talked to their parents about how he was doing and how he was feeling, but Jimin liked knowing about Taehyung’s life too. Sometimes talking to Taehyung took a bit of nudging.

Taehyung wavered in place. The bus came to a screeching halt. “Like... free time is good, but sometimes it gets boring.”

“What do you mean?” Jimin asked. A couple kids got off the bus, jostling Taehyung’s slight shoulders. Taehyung’s hand stayed on the back of his neck as the bus doors closed again.

“Well, when you’re not home, I’m usually, kind of, sort of by myself,” he said sheepishly.

Jimin frowned. Logically, he knew that Taehyung hung out on his own most of the time, but he hadn’t realized that when he was at cheerleading, surrounding by his nine best friends, Taehyung was riding the bus on his own or sitting around in their room by himself.

Jimin hummed. “I mean... We’re going to be together now at least,” Jimin said. Maybe a break from cheerleading wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it had purpose other than helping him get caught up with his studies. “I was thinking we could finish Lego Batman this week. It’s been ages since we started.”

“Good idea,” Taehyung said, sitting up a little bit straighter. Their bus stop was coming up quick, and Jimin started to gather his things. He picked his backpack up off the ground, but when he looked back to Taehyung, Taehyung was staring at him. “But hey, don’t worry about me, okay? Sometimes I’m bored, but like... until you’re back at cheer, you’ll be bored, too. Don’t feel bad about going out and having fun. I’m responsible for me, and you’re responsible for you.”

Jimin arched an eyebrow. The bus pulled up in front of their house. “Um, excuse me, but I didn’t give you permission to read my mind.”

“Can’t help it. I’m omnipotent,” Taehyung said with a shrug. Jimin snorted and pushed him out into the aisle, ready to get home.

Taehyung jumped off the last bus step. As he landed a weight seemed to roll off his shoulders. He always seemed a little tense at school, but by the time they got home, he usually turned back into the goofy, lovable, huggable Taehyung Jimin knew and loved.

“You’re omni-stupid, is what you are,” Jimin groused, jumping off the bus behind him so he could ruffle his hair. Taehyung laughed and pushed him off. His backpack fell to the ground.

“You’re such a dork!”

“Liar, I’m the coolest kid in our class.”

“Says who?”

“Says everybody.”

“Yeah, okay,” Taehyung said disbelievingly. Jimin jumped on his back, and Taehyung yelped as he suddenly became Jimin’s piggyback. Jimin looped his arms tighter around Taehyung’s neck so he couldn’t push him off.

“Take the coolest kid in class into the house, loser,” Jimin demanded. Taehyung laughed but complied. However, he only managed to make it three steps before nearly collapsing under Jimin’s weight. Jimin jumped off when Taehyung’s knees buckled.

“You’re too heavy,” Taehyung whined.

“Yeah, yeah, or you’re just too weak,” Jimin said, grabbing Taehyung’s backpack for him and heading into the house.

“Grandma says I’m a strong young man,” Taehyung argued, and all Jimin could do was laugh. He had meant to try to cheer Taehyung up, but per usual, it was the other way around. Taehyung always knew just what to say to keep him laughing, and Jimin had a feeling his time at home wouldn’t be as awful as he had dreaded it would be.


YOONGI

Mrs. Rhymers frowned at Yoongi as he ran away with the tempo, fingers flying across the keys. He was nervous. Yoongi played fast when he was nervous. “Sorry,” he apologized mid-song. He slowed his hands on the piano.

Tonight was the big night: The Christmas Concert. The choir, band, and orchestra had been practicing all year, and Yoongi was accompanying on piano for almost every performance. He had practiced as much as possible; he’d stayed up late with his keyboard and his headphones, running each piece over and over. However, that didn’t stop his pre-performance nerves as he helped the vocal ensemble go over their music one last time.

As the women’s choir finished their last song, Yoongi’s hands started shaking. His anxiety was at it’s worst, and Yoongi needed to calm down if he didn’t want to have a panic attack.

“All right, sounds good,” Mrs. Rhymers said during the choir’s final notes. “Go ahead and get changed.”

Yoongi let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He closed his eyes, trying to find his peace, but just as he was trying to relax, the piano bench dipped a little as someone jumped on the seat next to him.

“Hey!”

No.

“Are you nervous? You look nervous.”

Yoongi blinked open his eyes to find Joy sitting next to him. She was wearing an incredibly low-cut sweater, and her hair slipped off her shoulder as she leaned a little closer.

“See? Your hands are shaking,” she said, picking up one of Yoongi’s hands in both of hers.

“Um... yeah. They do that,” he said. He was hyperaware of the heat of Joy’s hands, and while he knew it was irrational, suddenly Yoongi felt like his skin was crawling. He pulled his hands away from Joy. His heart rate picked up further. Sitting next to a girl, being touched... it felt dangerous. Yoongi hated how his OCD could make him so terrified for no reason.

“But you’re a great performer,” Joy said honestly. “Mrs. Rhymers says you play piano better than her, and she, like, went to college for music.”

“I practice a lot,” Yoongi said dismissively, hoping Joy would take the hint and just leave.

She didn’t.

“Yeah?” She put a hand on his knee. “You seem dedicated. I bet you have a ton of hidden talents.”

Yoongi’s brain short-circuited. “Um—“

“Oh my god, Joy, would you leave him alone? Obviously he’s not into it,” Seulgi said, threatening to slam the piano closed on Joy’s fingers. Joy squeaked and pulled her hand away just in time. Conveniently, she also pulled her hand away from Yoongi’s knee.

“Ah, sorry, sorry!”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi said. “I’m just, um... I’m not... Interested.”

“Oh,” Joy said. She looked disappointed for a moment, but she shrugged easily after Yoongi’s words sunk in. “Well, no worries. I’m just kind of into musicians.”

“Jackson plays guitar and piano,” Yoongi offered.

Joy blinked. “Ah, okay.” Above the piano, Seulgi locked eyes with Joy. An understanding seemed to pass between them, and Joy cleared her throat. “Um... I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi said.

“Okay,” Joy said, standing up abruptly and leaving the room. Yoongi watched as she grabbed her dress on the way out, presumably headed to the dressing room. Meanwhile, Seulgi drummed her fingers on the top of the piano.

“That girl’s a mess,” Seulgi said. She narrowed her eyes at Yoongi. “For what it’s worth, I think she does really like you. She just comes on strong.”

“Good to know,” Yoongi said blandly.

“I’m just saying,” Seulgi said. “But you can be blunt with her; she can take it. If she ever gets to be too much again, that is.”

“She’s not too much, I’m just... easily overwhelmed,” Yoongi said. His tongue felt sticky against the roof of his mouth. He didn’t want to put any blame on Joy. It wasn’t her fault that he was nervous about things like this. Namjoon said he could take his time growing up, but he wasn’t sure he’d ever be in a position where he wanted a girlfriend.

Seulgi smirked. “I can see that.” She looked pointedly down at his hands, and Yoongi blushed when he realized they were still shaking. “Why don’t you go get changed and grab a sip of water? I’ll make sure no one touches your sheet music.”

“I have it all straight,” Yoongi said. He’d worked forever making sure everything was properly spaced apart with perfect right angles.

“Yep, I noticed.” Yoongi wanted to be embarrassed, but Seulgi didn’t seem concerned, just amused. Yoongi stood up from the piano bench.

“I’ll be right back.”

“See you soon,” Seulgi crooned behind him. Yoongi ducked out of the choir room with his tuxedo bag in hand. As soon as he made it to the men’s bathroom —a place that usually made him anxious (high school public restrooms were the worst)— he felt himself relax. It was good to be alone for a minute just to catch his breath.

Now, all he had to worry about was the concert (and figuring out how to tie a bowtie).


SEOKJIN

“I want to learn to play the saxophone,” Jungkook complained from the backseat.

“I could teach you,” Taehyung offered. Seokjin was driving, but he took his eyes off the road for a split second to look at his kids in the rearview mirror. Hoseok was slumped in the back, headphones in his ears. Jungkook was next to him, leaning into the front two seats to talk with Jimin and Taehyung. Yoongi was at school, helping out the choir teacher, which left Jimin and Taehyung to sit in the middle two seats.

Hoseok, Jimin, and Taehyung were dressed up for the concert. Their school issued out choir uniforms, and all three boys were wearing their tuxedos with blue bowties.

They were so cute. They were so handsome. They looked like little grown-ups; Seokjin was dying. They had grown up so fast.

“You could also learn the trumpet,” Jimin said, holding up his instrument case proudly. “It sounds way prettier than the saxophone.”

“I think you should stick with what you got,” Namjoon said from the passenger seat. “The upright bass is a really cool instrument. It was my first strings instrument, actually. I learned it before guitar.”

“Yeah, but it’s giant,” Jungkook whined. “I can’t even take it home. It has to stay at school.”

“You could always learn both,” Namjoon suggested.

“Not everyone is as good at instruments as you are, dad,” Taehyung said. “It’s hard to keep up.”

“But we’re talking about brass versus strings. Those are different enough to keep things straightforward,” Namjoon said. Seokjin pulled into the school parking lot, and Taehyung kept quiet. Seokjin looked in the rearview mirror again. This time, Taehyung was looking up at the school building like a prisoner staring up at the gallows.

Seokjin hummed. “Taehyung, are you nervous, sweetheart?” Taehyung had been so shy lately; Seokjin couldn’t imagine he wanted to go up on stage. But he had practiced all year, and Seokjin didn’t want him to back down from his performance. He owed it to himself to give it a try.

“I’m okay,” Taehyung answered.

“Of course he is,” Jimin said, slinging an arm around Taehyung’s shoulder. “We’re gonna blow the roof off this place. Hello, Philadelphia! Are you ready to rock?”

Taehyung laughed and pushed Jimin off of him. “You’re such a weirdo. And you’re way too peppy.”

“It’s Christmas,” Jimin said. “It’s the most exciting time of the year. If there was ever a time to be peppy; its now.”

Taehyung snorted while Seokjin pulled into a parking spot. “The jazz band is playing ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘Mele Kalikimaka.’ I don’t think any roofs will get blown off during our performance.”

“I’ll try to get the crowd going,” Jungkook offered. Taehyung and Jimin both laughed at the earnest expression on Jungkook’s face. Jungkook only seemed encouraged. “I’ll stand up and start fist pumping. I’ll scream to the beat.”

“Okay, goofballs, let’s get out of the car,” Seokjin said, noticing the smile on Taehyung’s cute little face. As Jimin clambered out of the car, Seokjin caught him by smushing his cheeks together. “You’re a good kid,” Seokjin said, kissing Jimin’s forehead.

“Dad, we’re at school,” Jimin whined.

Seokjin ignored him and kissed his forehead one more time. “Thank you for being a good brother,” he said as he let Jimin’s face go. Jimin crinkled his nose, and scratched at the back of his neck.

“Um... thanks?”

“I’m just proud of you,” Seokjin said. Jimin had always been a sweet kid, despite frequent tantrums and violent outbursts. He was still learning how to conduct himself, that was obvious. But it was also obvious that he cared about his brothers: enough to protect Hoseok from demanding boyfriends and distract Taehyung when he started feeling anxious.

“Oh,” Jimin said. Doubt flickered across his face. “Really?”

“Yes,” Seokjin said. “Now go knock ‘em dead, yeah? I’m sure you’ll do an amazing job.”

“I dunno about that,” Jimin winced, still full of self-doubt. “I don’t know half the words to the last chorus song.”

“You’ll do great,” Seokjin promised. He led Jimin out from between the cars to join the rest of the family. He locked the van over his shoulder.

“Are you guys coming?” Namjoon asked.

“Yep,” Seokjin chirped. “Why don’t you boys rush ahead?” he suggested to Jimin, Hoseok, and Taehyung. “We’ll find you after the concert.”

Hoseok kept his eyes downcast, and Taehyung looked to Jimin for an answer. Jimin puffed his chest out. “Yeah, okay,” he said. He grabbed Taehyung and started dragging him towards the school. Hoseok followed after them. “See you later, guys,” Jimin called over his shoulder.

“Good luck!” Namjoon called back.

“You can do it!” Jungkook chirped.

Seokjin hid a smile behind his hand. Namjoon looked at him curiously. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I just—“ Seokjin waved his other hand dismissively. “They’re just so funny. They’re growing up into young men, you know? It’s cute.”

“They’re trying,” Namjoon agreed with a grin. He turned to Jungkook. “And Jungkook is trying too,” Namjoon said. His hands were in his jacket’s pockets, but he hugged Jungkook anyway, trapping them both inside his coat. Jungkook yelped.

“Let go!” Jungkook said hurriedly. “We need to go inside and find seats.”

“All right, all right. Lead the way,” Namjoon said. Jungkook broke into a run, getting as far away from Namjoon as possible. However, he stopped to hold open the door for a little old lady and for Seokjin and Namjoon when they made it up to the school building.

“I don’t know where the auditorium is,” Jungkook admitted, and Seokjin had to bite his lip to keep from cooing.

“It’s this way, kiddo,” Seokjin said, slinging an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders because he was confident Jungkook wouldn’t pull away this time. Seokjin cheered inwardly when Jungkook stayed close to his side. Maybe his kids were growing up, but they weren’t quite all the way there yet.


JIMIN

Jimin fidgeted as the conductor collected his music. Hoseok elbowed his side. Jimin made a face at him, and then —for good measure— he made a face at Yoongi sitting at the piano. Yoongi glared, unamused. Meanwhile, Taehyung snickered from the saxophone section.

Jimin smiled as he brought his trumpet to his lips. He loved band concerts. It was the perfect opportunity to pester his brothers. They couldn’t say anything back with an audience and their conductor staring them down.

The conductor raised his hands. Jimin fought back his smile so he could blow on his trumpet properly. The opening notes to “A Sleigh Full of Saxes” filled the school auditorium.

Jimin didn’t even need to look at the sheet music to play the song. As hard as it was for him to read words, reading music was easy, and he had memorized the melody within the first week or so of school. He knew he should be focused on the conductor, but he was too busy watching Yoongi at the piano.

His brother looked like he was on the edge of a meltdown. His page-turner was making a mess of his sheet music, and Yoongi already stressed out enough about concerts without having to worry about some freshman messing up his perfectly straight paper stacks.

Hoseok stomped on his foot, and Jimin realized he was pushing the tempo.

Jimin’s eyes flickered back to the conductor. It was nice having a brother who played the same instrument; although, it wasn’t happenstance. Little kid Jimin made most of his decisions based on what Hoseok decided to do.

Hoseok was the coolest. Hoseok was older, and awesome, and someone to look up to. Jimin had wanted to be just like Hoseok when he grew up. It was why he got so into gymnastics and cheerleading; Hoseok was a dancer. Jimin wanted to emulate that, even if he didn’t want to steal Hoseok’s thing (Jimin had picked the same instrument as him, he couldn’t pick all the same hobbies as well).

Jimin looked up to Hoseok, which is why it was so devastating to find out about Oliver.

Jimin couldn’t come close to describing the anger he felt when he saw Oliver crowding Hoseok against the bleachers. For as long as Jimin could remember, Hoseok had stood up for Jimin. Hoseok always had his back, and when Jimin saw the opportunity to return the favor, he took it.

He would have kicked Oliver’s face in if no one had held him back. He still would. But for now, Jimin tried to focus on cheering Hoseok up. He was trying to cheer a lot of people up these days, but he felt like Hoseok needed it the most.

“A Sleigh Full of Saxes” came to an end and the auditorium erupted with applause. Out in the audience, someone wolf-whistled. Hoseok stiffened.

“You okay?” Jimin asked lowly as the clapping died down.

“Fine,” Hoseok whispered as the conductor readied his baton again. However, Hoseok didn’t make a move to lift his trumpet to his lips. Instead, his gaze was locked out on the audience.

Jimin followed his stare and saw Oliver sitting in row four, straight in the center, just close enough to make out his face despite the stage lights.

“I’ll kill him,” Jimin growled.

Hoseok didn’t answer, just put a quieting hand on Jimin’s knee. “Mele Kalikimaka” began, and Jimin pulled his attention away from Oliver’s smug, ugly face. He kept his eyes forward, trying to remember what Jin and his counselor said about reigning in his anger. He tried to keep focused.

Next to him, Hoseok seemed to be struggling. Half of the notes didn’t make it out of his trumpet. With the band playing loudly around them, his missing notes were lost in the noise, but sitting next to him, Jimin could tell that Hoseok was short of breath.

Halfway through the performance, Hoseok lowered his trumpet.

Jimin spared a glance and noticed Hoseok’s red-rimmed eyes.

The band played on. Jimin looped ankles with Hoseok, tapping the beat out and rubbing his dress shoe against his brother’s. Everything’s gonna be okay, Jimin tried to say as his elbow bumped Hoseok’s arm. You’re gonna be okay.


HOSEOK

Hoseok’s family tumbled in the door in front of him, all smiles as they talked about the performance. Hoseok walked in the house behind them. He silently toed off his shoes while the rest of his family went upstairs to get changed out of their formal wear and into pajamas.

“Good job, Hobi,” Yoongi said. He was the last to leave the laundry room. Yoongi clapped Hoseok’s shoulder, and Hoseok realized Yoongi must not have seen him freeze mid-performance (his eyes had been glued to the piano).

Hoseok didn’t say anything. He unzipped his coat, alone with the washing machine. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, the kind he felt when he made a completely irreversible mistake.

Hoseok stopped at Namjoon and Seokjin’s room on his way upstairs.

“Come in!” Seokjin called when Hoseok knocked on the door. Hoseok opened the door slowly. His parents were inside, half undressed. Namjoon was stepping out of his pants, while Seokjin’s tie was still draped over his shoulders. “Hoseok, what’s up?” Seokjin asked, working on the buttons of his dress shirt. His undershirt was eggshell blue.

“Um...” Hoseok hated how his voice cracked. “I was hoping to use up some office hours?”

Namjoon stilled, ankles still stuck in his pants. “Yeah, buddy. Come on in; shut the door.”

Hoseok slipped fully into the room and closed the door behind him. Seokjin finished unbuttoning his shirt, and sat down on the bed. He patted the space next to him, and Hoseok sat down carefully. He cleared his throat. “I think... I think I made a mistake.”

“Yeah?” Seokjin asked.

“Yeah,” Hoseok said. He tried to swallow, but his spit got caught in his throat. “I shouldn’t have dated Oliver. And I shouldn’t have gotten mad at you. Or... or maybe I should have, but Oliver wasn’t nice, and you were just protecting me, and I should have been more open and talked to you about it because then maybe you would have trusted me.” Hoseok paused. “But also, you shouldn’t have trusted me because I don’t think Oliver knows what it means to be a good boyfriend, and he was really mean to me.”

“Hm,” Seokjin hummed and gently swiped Hoseok’s bangs off his forehead. Hoseok gripped at the edge of the mattress. “He was mean, huh?” Seokjin asked.

Hoseok looked down at the carpet. “Yeah.”

“Are you okay?” Seokjin asked.

“I don’t know,” Hoseok squeaked, and Namjoon made an unhappy noise as he pulled on his PJ pants. He looked ready for bed, while Hoseok was still in his tuxedo.

“I swear to God, if I was twenty years younger and didn’t have a family to take care of,” Namjoon muttered.

Seokjin snorted. “Then you wouldn’t have Hoseok to protect in the first place,” Seokjin said, pulling Hoseok into a side-hug.

“Yeah, but also no one would miss me if I went to jail,” Namjoon said.

“Okay, relax,” Seokjin said. He looked back to Hoseok. “What do you mean you don’t know?” he asked, rubbing Hoseok’s shoulder where his hand rested. Hoseok gulped.

“I’m just sorry,” Hoseok said. “You were right, and I was wrong.”

Seokjin frowned. “It’s not about being right or wrong, Hobi,” Seokjin said. He pulled away to put his hand on Hoseok’s knee instead. “I’ve just been worried about you. I know I was firm, but I still want you to talk to me about stuff. You’ve been so closed off lately.”

Hoseok felt his chin start to wobble. “I didn’t want to be wrong,” he said, digging the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. “I’m so embarrassed. Oliver said so many things, and he did so many things, and I didn’t even notice.

“What did he do?” Namjoon asked, his voice suddenly so serious that Hoseok lost his own voice momentarily.

“I... I don’t know. He just grabbed me and stuff.”

“Excuse me?” Namjoon asked.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok yelped, and Seokjin immediately fussed over him.

“No, no, honey, you’re okay, no one’s mad at you. It’s just hard to hear that,” Seokjin said. He guided Hoseok so that he wasn’t sitting up on the edge of the bed, but rather leaning back on the headboard, reclining across the mattress. Namjoon and Seokjin’s bed used to be Hoseok’s favorite place in the world when he was little. It was so comfy, and soft, and big: like spreading out on a cloud. Hoseok let himself sink into the comforter and tried to remember happier times.

“We didn’t do anything,” Hoseok clarified. “He just liked... I don’t know... Kissing me when I said no and stuff. And he like...” Hoseok looked up at the ceiling. He could feel his cheeks start to burn. “He grabbed my butt and stuff, I don’t know.”

Hoseok closed his eyes, but he could still sense Seokjin and Namjoon having a silent conversation next to him. Eventually, Seokjin rubbed his leg a little, coaxing Hoseok’s eyes open.

“Hoseok. That’s not okay.”

“I know,” Hoseok said. “Now I know.”

“Right, okay, well, see, I’m worried,” Seokjin said. “Because number one, that’s completely unacceptable that he would do that to you.”

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok repeated, and Seokjin shook his head.

“Nope. It’s not your fault. It’s his fault. He’s the one who did something wrong, not you,” Seokjin promised, and then continued with his list. “And number two, that’s really serious, Hoseok. No means no, you have to know that.”

“I do know that,” Hoseok promised. He wished he had just gone straight up to his room. He was so embarrassed. Admitting all of this was awful, and he hated how his parents were looking at him.

But seeing Oliver out in the audience had made Hoseok realize just how awful their relationship had been. It had hit him all at once, and he didn’t know who else to talk to about it, except for his parents. He had made a big deal about his breakup to just about everyone, but Seokjin and Namjoon were the only people he could think of who would forgive him for acting out the past few weeks and listen to him.

“Are you sure?” Namjoon asked. He suddenly looked a lot less angry and a lot more concerned, like he could hear Hoseok’s thoughts. “Because it can be hard when you come out of a bad relationship to know what’s acceptable and what isn’t.”

Hoseok felt tears pool in his eyes. He blinked them away. “Please don’t send me to therapy like Yoongi and Jungkook.”

“Well, do you think you need it?” Seokjin asked sincerely.

Hoseok frowned. His bottom lip wouldn’t stop wobbling. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe a first appointment wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Namjoon said to Seokjin, and Hoseok felt a couple tears slip past his guard.

No, that’s embarrassing. I don’t... I don’t want to be messed up from this. I just wanted to have a boyfriend,” Hoseok cried. But before he could let out his first sob, Seokjin was there with the biggest hug he could muster. Namjoon, meanwhile, had a hand on his back, rubbing up and down his spine with every shuddering breath he took.

Every time he almost stopped crying, he started right back up again, until he was heaving so hard, he thought he was going to be sick.

“Hey...” Namjoon cooed. “Hey, you’re okay. You’re okay. Jin and Joon are here. We love you, you’re okay,” Namjoon promised, like Hoseok was five and crying about his mom or something equally stupid. Hoseok buried his face further into Seokjin’s neck, and his dad hugged him closer.

“You gotta calm down, honey, you’re going to make yourself sick,” Seokjin said. Hoseok took a stuttering breath. “Joon and I understand, yeah? Sometimes these things happen slowly and you don’t notice what’s happening until it hits you all at once. But it’s okay. We’re going to make sure that Oliver doesn’t bother you anymore, and that you’re safe, and that you get any help you feel like you need.”

“I-I still love him,” Hoseok wept.

“You’ve got a big heart,” Namjoon said. Hoseok sat up a little, just in time for Namjoon to duck in and kiss his temple. Hoseok sniffled.

“I think his parents are going to be really mean to him,” Hoseok said. His face crumbled, and he ducked his head back down into Seokjin’s t-shirt, feeling self-conscious. “He’s told me stuff... I think they’re going to be really mad.”

“They should be mad,” Seokjin said.

“But I mean like... I mean like mad that he’s gay.”

“Oh.” Seokjin’s voice was like a warm rumble in his chest, and Hoseok smushed his cheek closer. “Okay. Well, has he said enough to you that you feel like you could tell social services about it? Or do you think that they’ll just be frustrated?”

“I dunno,” Hoseok answered. His nose was a stuffy mess.

“Okay,” Seokjin said, idly rubbing his back as Hoseok continued to cry. “I can inform the proper authorities if you feel like Oliver is at risk of being abused, but otherwise, honey, it’s hard, but it’s not your problem anymore. You can’t worry about him. He ruined his opportunity to be close to you when he hurt you.”

“Sometimes,” Namjoon said, reaching out to play with Hoseok’s hair, “we have to be a little selfish.”

“You have to distance yourself,” Seokjin agreed. “In with the good, out with the bad.”

“I feel bad,” Hoseok said.

“I feel bad, too,” Namjoon said. “I’m worried about you, kiddo.”

“I’m worried about you, too,” Seokjin agreed. “But you’re okay. We’re going to take care of you. You’re going to be all right. We’ll make a well-adjusted adult out of you, yet.”

Hoseok choked on a laugh, and Namjoon ruffled his hair. “There you go,” Namjoon said. Hoseok’s smile, however, fell just as fast as it came.

“I just wanted a boyfriend,” he repeated, squeezing his eyes up tight. Seokjin hugged him tighter.

“I know, bud. I understand. Everyone wants a boyfriend when they’re sixteen. You’re not alone,” Seokjin promised.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok said again. He’d been so awful this past week, and his parents had been so patient. Even now, Hoseok had come to them because he knew they would forgive him. It was so unfair of him to push them away when they were only trying to take care of him.

Namjoon scratched Hoseok’s head. “You don’t have to be sorry.”

“You’ve just got to learn from this and move forward,” Seokjin tacked on.

Hoseok inhaled sharply. If this was learning, he had certainly gone through it the hard way. Hoseok never wanted to go through this again.


NAMJOON

“Dad, is this okay?” Jungkook asked.

“What?” Namjoon asked, and then shook his head. “Sorry. Yes. That looks great!” he said, looking at the bush Jungkook had covered with Christmas lights. Namjoon was currently trying to detangle a string to wrap around the front door, but his head was a million miles away.

Talking with Hoseok last night had been productive, and... awful. Having five kids under seven-years-old had been difficult, but Namjoon found himself wishing for a time when his kids’ biggest concerns were empty sippy cups and toppled block towers. Namjoon’s mind was preoccupied, and he knew it. His son had been sexually harassed by someone who claimed to love him, and it made Namjoon sick to his stomach. It was all he could think about.

But right now, he was hanging up Christmas lights with Jungkook. He had to live in the moment, and currently, he had another son who needed his attention. Jungkook was finally coming around. Namjoon should be showering him with attention, not getting wrapped up in his own thoughts.

“Are we gonna put up the inflatable penguins this year?” Jungkook asked.

Namjoon frowned. “As much as I love the inflatable penguins, Jin hates them.”

“What?” Jungkook asked, looking up from his second net of Christmas lights. His cheeks were flushed from the cold, and his mouth hung open in surprise. “Why?”

“He says they’re tacky,” Namjoon answered, finally shaking loose the last knot in the string of lights he’d been untangling. He draped it across the nails lining the top of the door.

Jungkook smiled. “Well, we did buy them on sale for eight dollars.”

“You remember that?” Namjoon asked.

“Yeah,” Jungkook said. “We were at Target, just me and you.”

Namjoon laughed. “You boys all love going to Target. You’re so funny about it,” Namjoon said, although he understood why. He and Seokjin didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to spending one-on-one time with their kids, so they tried to use errands to their advantage as a bonding experience. It just so happened that Target was their go to place to pick up everything from towels to laundry detergent to trash bags.

“Target is great!” Jungkook exclaimed. Namjoon noticed his ears sticking in the cold.

“Kid, pull your hat down, you’re ears are all red.”

“Sorry,” Jungkook said, tugging on his beanie.

“No worries, just looking out for you,” Namjoon said. “But, ah, I was thinking we’d put up the Joy sign with the little spotlight on it, and then I think that would be enough decorations.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said. “I’ll go get it.”

“Think you’re strong enough to lift it?” Namjoon teased, and Jungkook huffed.

“I’m strong enough to lift anything!” he exclaimed before rushing off to the garage to get the big wooden letters. Namjoon plugged his lights in, and was happy to find that they all worked. After they put the sign up, they’d be finished. Namjoon stuck his hands in his armpits, looking forward to going inside. The sun was starting to set, and he was getting cold.

Jungkook scurried out of the garage with all three letters in his arms.

“Woah, careful there,” Namjoon said, taking the Y from him before he could drop it. “All right, almost done.”

“Almost done,” Jungkook echoed, stabbing the J into the ground. He followed with the O, and Namjoon stuck in the Y while Jungkook ran back to get the spotlight. Once it was set up, Namjoon let Jungkook plug it in. He cheered. “We did it!”

“It looks great,” Namjoon said encouragingly.

“Good, I worked really hard!”

“You did,” Namjoon agreed. It was cute to see Jungkook so excited about something. He was still a little shy around Yoongi (and his other brothers to a lesser degree), but he was starting to really open up. Namjoon couldn’t be more proud. “Now lets go inside. It’s cold out here.”

“Okay,” Jungkook agreed, stomping off his snow boots on the welcome mat. There was a dusting of snow on the ground, and Namjoon made sure to kick off his sneakers too before stepping into the house.

The heat from the living room hit him fast, making his nose run. “Ah, it feels warm in here,” Namjoon said, unzipping his jacket. Jungkook was shrugging off his own coat. Yoongi and Jimin looked away from the TV. “What are you two up to?”

“Playing the Hallmark Movie Drinking Game with apple juice,” Jimin answered. He hit pause on the film.

“This one’s called Hats Off to Christmas,” Yoongi said.

“Guess where the girl works,” Jimin prompted, arms drooping over the back of the couch. His eyes sparkled, and Namjoon tapped his chin, pretending to think.

“Hm... I’m guessing a hat store?”

“A Christmas hat shore,” Jimin answered, and Namjoon snorted.

“Wow.”

“It’s going out of business,” Yoongi said. “Obviously.”

“That sounds funny,” Jungkook said, and Namjoon turned his attention back on his youngest son.

“Yeah? You should go join them, Cookie.”

“Yeah!” Jimin chirped. “Come watch with us. It just started, and like... it’s Hallmark. You didn’t miss anything.” When Jungkook looked nervous, Jimin pushed forward. “Seriously. Hoseok’s getting popcorn. You should watch with us.”

“Okay,” Jungkook agreed, hesitantly stepping forward. Namjoon sent Jimin a silent thank you as Jungkook sat nervously on the edge of the couch. Yoongi tossed Jungkook a pillow, and Namjoon felt confident that he could leave them on their own.

Jungkook was in good hands.


JIMIN

Jungkook’s head swiveled to watch Namjoon leave, and Jimin nudged his shoulder. “Do you want me to bring you up to speed?” he asked, trying to pull Jungkook’s attention away from Namjoon and onto the movie.

“What?” Jungkook asked.

“Don’t even bother,” Yoongi groused. “Nothing’s happened.”

“We’re a half an hour into the movie,” Jimin said.

“Yes, and nothing has happened.

Jimin sighed and turned to Jungkook. “Yoongi didn’t want to watch a Hallmark movie in the first place. I think he’s genuinely angry.”

“I am genuinely angry,” Yoongi said.

“Well, forgive me if I don’t believe you,” Jimin said. He stole the pillow from Jungkook’s hands just to throw it at Yoongi. “Everything you say is a lie.”

“I am always truthful,” Yoongi replied, handing the pillow back to Jungkook without looking up from his cellphone. “I’m nothing but honest.”

“You liar,” Jimin said. “You’re sarcastic, like, all of the time.

“I don’t even know what sarcasm is.”

“Yes, you do, you’re being sarcastic right now!” Jimin argued. Next to him, Jungkook shifted and wrapped his arms and legs around the throw pillow. He seemed uncomfortable, but that wasn’t anything new. Now that Jungkook wasn’t screaming all the time, he seemed nervous. (At least, he seemed nervous whenever Yoongi was around.)

“Um... You don’t have to tell me about the movie if you don’t want to,” Jungkook said. He looked terrified.

Jimin bumped their shoulders together again. “Nah, it’s not a big deal. Yoongi’s just being a grump,” he promised. “Basically, this girl’s hat shop is going out of business, and the guy in the movie is in charge of marketing so that the store can stay open. It’s kind of like You’ve Got Mail, but nowhere near as good.”

“Counter-argument,” Yoongi spoke up, “Both movies are terrible.”

“What?” Jimin squawked. “You’ve Got Mail is great!”

“Maybe if you like romantic comedies,” Yoongi said. “But you’re the only one in this house that does.”

“It’s nice that things always turn out happy,” Jimin said in his own defense. Next to him, Jungkook snorted, but when Jimin turned his head to look at him, Jungkook’s face dropped. “Do you have something to say?” Jimin asked.

“Ah, nothing,” Jungkook said.

“He hates romantic comedies, too,” Yoongi said off-handedly.

“Do you?” Jimin asked.

Jungkook scrunched behind his pillow. “Um... yeah.”

“He likes action movies,” Yoongi said. “And mysteries. We watched Kingsman the other night.”

“Is Colin Firth in that?” Jimin asked, and Yoongi threw a blanket over his head and brought him in for a noogie.

“You hang out with too many women,” Yoongi chastised.

“I do not! Colin Firth is a good actor, leave me alone!” Jimin yelped, squirming until Yoongi released him. He pulled the blanket off his head and felt his hair static. “I can’t help being a catch,” he complained.

“That’s it, come here,” Yoongi said, jumping on top of Jimin. The movie was all but forgotten. Jimin squealed as Yoongi tried to sit on him. He wriggled to try to kick Yoongi off, but he was laughing too hard.

“W-What? It’s not my fault the l-ladies are all over me,” he giggled, and Yoongi jumped up just to throw his weight on top of Jimin again.

“I think you have him pinned,” Jungkook said quietly.

“Uncle,” Jimin said. “Uncle.

“Kids today,” Yoongi said, standing up. “There’s no humility.”

“Can we just watch the movie?” Jungkook asked with a wince.

“Yeah, yeah,” Yoongi said, hitting play. “You guys watch. I’ll go see what’s taking Hoseok so long.” He left the room, and Jimin refocused on the movie. Hillary Duff’s sister was the star in this one, and they looked weirdly similar. Jungkook, meanwhile, couldn’t keep still at his side.

Jimin looked at him. “Are you okay?”

“Do you...” Jungkook trailed off. He refused to make eye contact with Jimin. “Do you think we’ll have fun like that sometime?” he asked, and it took Jimin a second to realize what he meant.

“What, you mean like arguing and wrestling?” Jimin asked. Jungkook nodded, his expression forlorn like he was scared to hear the answer. Jimin kicked at his shin. “Yeah, if you relax. You’ve been too agreeable lately to fight about anything.”

“Oh,” Jungkook said.

“But it’s not your fault,” Jimin said. “You’re going through a weird time. Seokjin says you’re transitioning.

“Oh,” Jungkook said again; although, this time his eyebrows pinched together in confusion. Jimin sighed.

“Listen, you’re all right, Cookie. Just hang out. You don’t have to worry so much,” he said as reassuringly as possible. Seokjin had said he was a good brother, and Jimin didn’t want to let him down. He had been putting extra effort into taking care of his family lately to make Seokjin proud.

“Okay,” Jungkook agreed, but his nose was still wrinkled in concern. Jimin decided to let it slide. Jungkook had seemed uncomfortable for a long time, and some things couldn’t be fixed with just one conversation.


TAEHYUNG

Taehyung tapped his foot, staring out the window as his dad drove him to his Boy Scouts meeting. They were having a Christmas party, and Seokjin had bought him a light-up Santa hat from 5 Below for the occasion.

Seokjin turned on his blinker as he pulled into the parking lot. Taehyung was jittery with excitement. “Are you feeling nervous?” Seokjin asked.

“No,” Taehyung said. He stuck his hands under his legs and bounced in his seat a little. He couldn’t wait to get out of the car. “I’ve been feeling pretty good lately.”

Seokjin smiled at him. “You’ve seemed like you’ve been feeling good lately.”

“Yeah!” Taehyung exclaimed as they rolled up to the rec center. He practically jumped out of the car before it pulled to a stop. “Thanks, dad! I’ll see if PJ can give me a ride home!”

“No problem!” Seokjin promised. “Have fun!”

Taehyung ran up the front steps of the rec center. He wasn’t supposed to run in building, but he might have skipped a little bit as he rushed to the Boy Scouts’ meeting room at the end of the hall.

“Taehyung!” His whole troop greeted him as he stepped into the room.

“Hey, guys!” Taehyung said. He spotted Phil first, waving at him from his spot by the snack table. Phil was sitting the rest of Taehyung’s closest friends and their troop leader Link.

“Hey, Taehyung, guess what I —and by I, I mean, my wife— made,” Link said, showing off a batch of what could only be Seokjin’s scores bars recipe.

“No way!” Taehyung said, taking one excitedly. He took a big bite and held up a thumbs-up. “These are perfect!”

“It’s always weird to have food other than popcorn at these things,” Chris said, taking a fistful of caramel corn from the center of the table.

Dan looked at Chris like he was absolutely insane. “All you’ve eaten so far is popcorn.”

“Yes, because it’s great,” Chris replied.

“But it’s all you’ve eaten,” Dan said.

Chris arched an eyebrow. “So?”

“So why are you concerned?” Dan asked.

“I just want popcorn,” Chris explained.

“Then just eat popcorn!” Dan said.

Phil winced. “Um... I brought Sun Chips? Was that wrong?”

“Um, according to page 89 article 47, Boy Scouts meeting rooms are ‘chip free zones,’ and when you look at the rules on fundraisers, Boy Scouts are only allowed to promote branded snack items. Now, I’m not a stickler for the rules, but the purchase and consumption of Sun Chips feels like promotion to me,” Chris said.

“That’s bullshit,” Dan argued, but Chris ignored him.

Chris continued referencing rules against chips in the Boy Scout bylaws, while Dan started yelling over him that all his rules were made up. Taehyung hopped up on one of the tabletops and listened to the conversation. PJ leaned up on the table next to him, watching the two go back and forth with Phil in the middle.

“Is anything he’s saying real?” Taehyung asked, as Chris strained his voice to be heard over Dan’s screaming. He was siting something from the handbook, but Taehyung didn’t think the pages went up to 1,843.

“Chris hasn’t said one real thing in his entire life,” PJ answered.

Taehyung nodded. “Got it.” He took a bite of his scores bar and PJ stole one for himself.

“Hey, by the way, my birthday was last week,” PJ said offhandedly around a bite of chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. Taehyung’s chewing slowed. He looked at PJ guiltily.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Happy belated birthday?”

“No, don’t worry, I don’t usually make a big deal about it” PJ said. “It’s just that like... next weekend Dan, Phil, and Chris and I are going to go up to the Poconos to celebrate because, like... my family has a cabin? And I don’t know if you can ski or whatever, but you’re invited. We’re going to Blue Mountain and Jack Frost.”

“I’m invited?” Taehyung asked.

PJ frowned. “Can you not ski?”

“Um... I don’t... I think I’m actually only allowed to go cross-country. I have to ask my dad. I’ve only gone with him, and sometimes things like that are funny, because, um...”

“Seizures?” PJ filled in.

Taehyung nodded, sucking in his cheeks. “Yeah, seizures. But I maybe I could go! Mostly it’s just nice of you to ask,” Taehyung said. He knew he was getting a little too worked up —especially because he was pretty sure he wasn’t allowed to go downhill skiing— but he’d never been invited for an overnight before. He tried to reign himself in a little bit. “It’s just, like, are you sure you guys want me there? I know I’m, like... the new kid, but you’ve all been so nice, and like-“

“Taehyung, what are you talking about? You’re one of the gang,” PJ said.

Taehyung bounced to his feet. “I am?”

PJ snorted. “Ah, duh? Why do you think we invite you to hang out with us so much? We’re friends, dude.”

“That’s so cool,” Taehyung exclaimed, getting the attention of the rest of his friend group.

“Now what are you shouting about?” Chris asked, already on the defensive, and Dan elbowed him in the stomach.

Taehyung didn’t know how to respond. Screaming “We’re friends!” felt like a little much, even if his mind was currently shouting it inside his head. Fortunately, PJ stepped for him. “Just that he’s going to cream you on Blue Mountain. Taehyung can parallel ski.”

“What?” Taehyung asked.

“Taehyung placed silver at the Junior Olympics,” PJ said smugly.

“I’ll show you a silver medal,” Chris said, and Link —who had been supervising the snack table— stepped in to talk Chris down.

Dan looked unimpressed. “He certainly is easy to rile up, isn’t he?”

Phil scoffed. “Like your one to talk.”

Before Taehyung could clarify that he wasn’t an Olympic level skier (junior or otherwise), Rhett called everyone into the center of the room for the White Elephant. Taehyung sat cross-legged between Chris and Phil, a smile on his face even when his gift got stolen three times.

He pulled his knees to his chest. He was sitting in a circle of friends. Everyone here liked him, enough to spend a weekend together skiing. Taehyung didn’t even know if he could go, but he was still the happiest person in the world.


HOSEOK

Hoseok stabbed at cold sausage scaloppini. The only light on downstairs was the lamp hanging above the kitchen table. It was nearing 10pm, but Hoseok needed a late night snack before he could go to sleep.

Hoseok took a massive bite of rigatoni. The garage door opened. Hoseok slowed his chewing as Taehyung stepped into the laundry room. “Hey,” he said, hiding his mouth behind his hand so he didn’t spit chewed up pasta everywhere.

“Hey!” Taehyung said. He came into the kitchen and headed straight for the refrigerator.

“Every time I see you, you’re getting food,” Hoseok said, watching as Taehyung elbowed past the zucchini spirals and cranberry juice to get to the hummus in the back. “It’s like you’re constantly ravenous.”

“I am constantly ravenous,” Taehyung said. He found some pretzels in the pantry. “I’m hungry. All the time.” He sat down next to Hoseok at the table. “Hey, can I have a bite of your pasta?”

“Only if you give me a pretzel with some of your hummus.”

“Deal.”

Hoseok passed Taehyung his fork, and Taehyung excitedly took a big bite of pasta. He seemed happier than usual. “Where were you?” Hoseok asked, swirling his finger through the hummus. He swiped a pretzel over it when Taehyung crinkled his nose at him.

“A Christmas party,” Taehyung answered. His nose smoothed flat, and he sat up a little with excitement. “I got invited to a birthday party, too!”

“Nice,” Hoseok said.

Awkward silence fell over them. Taehyung eventually stole his hummus back, more concerned with stuffing his face than talking to Hoseok. The silence stretched around them, and Hoseok knew the building tension was his fault. He’d been blocking his family out ever since the football game, but he’d been particularly careful about avoiding and ignoring Taehyung.

Hoseok drummed his fingers on the table. “So, um... We’re cool, right?” Hoseok asked, swapping snacks with Taehyung again.

Taehyung froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. “Um... I’m not sure,” Taehyung said. Hoseok winced. Taehyung was honest to a fault. “Are you mad at me for, uh...” It was Taehyung’s turn to wince. “The whole ‘ruining your life’ thing?”

“You didn’t ruin my life,” Hoseok promised.

“Okay, well, the whole ‘ruining your relationship’ thing?” Taehyung tried again, and Hoseok let out a bitter laugh.

“I’m pretty sure it was ruined from the start,” Hoseok said deprecatingly. He scratched at his arm. Suddenly his pretzels didn’t seem so appetizing. “I know I’ve been a jerk lately, but... none of this was your fault. Or maybe it was, but it’s good that you told Jin, even if I was really mad about it.”

Taehyung’s nose wrinkled. “You think?”

“Yeah.” Hoseok chewed on his bottom lip. “And anyways, I should apologize to you. I should have spoken up when Oliver was dicking around at lunch. I feel really bad that I let him be so mean to you.” It had been eating Hoseok up for months.

Taehyung frowned. “I let him say mean things to you, too.”

“But he was my boyfriend.”

“But I’m your little brother!”

“Yeah, and I’m your older brother. It’s my job to take care of you,” Hoseok pointed out.

“I can take care of myself,” Taehyung pouted, and Hoseok smiled fondly.

“Yeah. You can.” Taehyung was sick, but he was strong, and he always made the right choice. He took care of the people around him, and he was always himself —pure, 100% unadulterated Taehyung— no matter who he was with. Meanwhile, Hoseok would do anything to gain approval from other people (even throw his family under the bus). “Still. I’m sorry. You’re really great, and not enough people try to make you feel that way, and it was wrong of me to let someone harass you all the time and not do anything about it.”

Taehyung’s pout only deepened. He dropped his fork and put his hand on Hoseok’s arm. “Hobi, I understand why it was hard for you. It’s okay.”

“It’s really not.”

“It is,” Taehyung insisted. “The only person who was a bad guy was Oliver. And you weren’t a bystander, you were a victim, so it’s okay.”

Hoseok arched an eyebrow. “A bystander, huh?”

“That’s what they talk about in health class,” Taehyung said. He pulled his hand away and looked down at his toes. “Also, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I dunno.”

“Oh.” Hoseok hated the idea of anyone thinking about his relationship with Oliver. It was one, big, embarrassing mess. “Did you come up with anything?”

“Nothing except that Oliver’s a massive jerkface,” Taehyung said. “And that, according to 17 Again, he probably has a small penis.”

Surprised laughter burst out of Hoseok’s belly before he could think about his family trying to fall asleep upstairs. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Hoseok squeaked, trying to quiet down. “Sorry, that was just— I mean, I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen it, but I bet you’re right.”

“Well, I would hope you haven’t seen it,” Taehyung said, a horrified look on his face, and Hoseok felt his faith restore in humanity.

“Taehyung, never change,” Hoseok said, just as he heard feet on the stairs. He looked out into the family room to see Seokjin emerge from the stairwell. He had a bathrobe pulled around his shoulders and his eyebrows were drawn together with the late hour.

“Hey,” Taehyung chirped.

“Hey,” Seokjin said softly. “What’s going on down here? How was the party?”

“It was good,” Taehyung said. Seokjin kissed Taehyung’s forehead, and Hoseok blinked in surprised when his dad kissed his forehead, too.

“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Are you two going to head to bed soon?” Seokjin prompted, and Hoseok dipped one last pretzel in hummus.

“Yeah, I think I’m gonna go up now. Goodnight, Taehyung. Goodnight, dad.”

“Goodnight, Hobi!”

“Goodnight, pumpkin.”

Hoseok climbed the stairs in his Mario slippers (a gift from Seokjin), and pulled his sweatshirt sleeves over his hands. His heart felt lighter with everything off his shoulders. He wasn’t keeping secrets from his parents; he didn’t have unfinished business with Taehyung. Now, he could just work on feeling better, like Namjoon kept telling him.

Lots of sleep, lots of water, and lots of talking about his feelings... Seokjin had suggested a counselor of some kind after the holidays, but Hoseok didn’t know if he needed that. It had been scary, but it was over now. Maybe he couldn’t take care of himself properly before, but now that Oliver was gone; things were starting to clear up.

Hoseok could see the bigger picture. It was a big, ugly, twisted mess, and all he wanted to do was move on from it. No matter what the future held, as long as Hoseok kept moving forward, he would be making the right decision.


YOONGI

~You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am. I’ll come running to see you again,” Jimin sang into Yoongi’s cheap microphone. “Winter, spring, summer or fall. All you’ve got to do is call. You’ve got a friend.”

The last notes of the song played through Yoongi’s headphones, and he threw a thumbs-up in Jimin’s direction. “I think that’s it, kid. You’re free to go.”

“Awesome,” Jimin said, taking out his ear buds. “This is such a great idea. Namjoon and Jin are going to love this.”

“Hopefully, anyway,” Yoongi said with a shrug. He was making an EP with covers by his brothers. They could all sing; meanwhile, Yoongi was stuck to music production. He was trying to utilize his own talents while stealing some skills from his family. He wanted to make something his parents would love, that they’d listen to over and over.

Mostly his goal was to make Seokjin cry.

“More like definitely,” Jimin corrected. He jumped off of his stool and headed for the door. “Want me to grab Jungkook?”

“That would be great,” Yoongi said. He was going for songs that reminded him of his parents, and Jimin had just wrapped up “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor (one of Jin’s favorite artists). Jungkook was coming in to sing, “Count On Me” by Bruno Mars.

Yoongi changed out his sheet music. This project had been a massive undertaking. It was intimidating to make music for Namjoon. Yoongi kept trying to tell himself that it didn’t have to be perfect, but his OCD refused to believe him.

There was no way he could make something on the same production level as Namjoon’s music. He would do his best, but —like Seokjin sometimes told him— he could only do what he could do. It was the day before Christmas Eve, and Yoongi was feeling the time crunch.

Fortunately, it was supposed to be the thought that counts.

“Knock knock,” Jungkook said hesitantly. Yoongi looked up to spot him hovering in the doorway, his eyebrows furrowed together. “Can I come in?”

“Take a seat,” Yoongi said invitingly, gesturing to the stool he had set up. Jungkook stepped into Yoongi’s bedroom and closed the door behind him. “You ready? Or do you want to do some vocal warm-ups?”

“I want it to be as good as possible,” Jungkook said as an answer, and Yoongi nodded.

“Cool. We can do some scales, if you want.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook agreed. He had his own copy of his song in his hands, and he was holding it so hard, the paper crumpled. Yoongi lifted an eyebrow.

“Hey, are you okay?”

“What?” Jungkook asked. He followed Yoongi’s gaze down to his hands. “Oh, yeah,” he said, loosening his grip. “I just... I want this to be really good,” he repeated.

Yoongi blinked. “I mean... Yeah, same, but why are you worried about it?” he asked.

Jungkook shrugged. “I just have a lot to make up for.”

“Shit,” Yoongi said. “You’re still on this?”

“Well, yeah,” Jungkook said defensively. Jungkook puffed up like an angry bird, but his feathers smoothed over a moment later. “I don’t want to be, like, a bad guy, you know? I feel like such a jerk.”

“Why?” Yoongi asked.

“Because everyone’s mad at me!”

Yoongi had no idea what Jungkook was talking about. “No one is mad at you.”

You’re mad at me,” Jungkook pointed out, and now Yoongi was really lost.

“I’m not mad at you at all. We’re cool,” Yoongi said. “I told you that on Thanksgiving. Like we’re alright.”

Jungkook crossed his arms and looked to the side. Yoongi could feel the wall Jungkook was building between them as the conversation wore on. “I’m not alright with anyone,” Jungkook said, sounding more regretful than anything else.

Yoongi sighed. “Okay, well, if you feel that way, have you ever thought about apologizing? That might be a good way to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Jungkook’s gaze dropped from the wall to the floor. “Do you think I need to?” he asked.

Yoongi drummed his finger on his keyboard. “Do I think you need to? No. I’m pretty sure everyone’s already forgiven you. But it might be nice, sure. And then, I dunno, everyone would hug you and tell you that you’re great or something,” Yoongi suggested.

Jungkook looked over at Yoongi skeptically. “Even you?”

Yoongi sighed deeper and longer. “Even me, I suppose. Although, not the hugging part, I’m not into that.”

“Okay,” Jungkook conceded. “I’ll think about it.”

“Cool. Now can we do this thing? I’m trying to get this done before Christmas, in case you forgot.”

Jungkook looked wide-eyed at Yoongi and then down at his sheet music. A tiny smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Yeah, let’s do it. I like this song.”

“Good,” Yoongi said, fighting back a smile of his own. Jungkook was so cute. Every time he smiled, Yoongi saw him as an adorable, baby two-year-old running around instead of the lanky fourteen-year-old he had grown up to be. “Let’s warm you up,” Yoongi said, pushing forward and playing a couple scales on his piano. As Jungkook sang along, Yoongi felt himself relax. The track still had a long way to go before it was ready for the EP, but at least he and Jungkook were back on speaking terms.


NAMJOON

Namjoon stepped out of the en suite bathroom, only to find Seokjin on the floor with a roll of wrapping paper and a stack of gifts next to him. He promptly tripped over a spool of ribbon.

“Careful,” Seokjin warned. He bit off a piece of tape to close up the wrapping paper on a DVD box set of Avatar the Last Airbender for Yoongi.

“Next time warn me before I trip,” Namjoon said. He toed through the minefield of Christmas supplies to make it to his bed (and his pajamas). “What are you up to?” he asked as he tugged on his pajama shirt. Seokjin was already in PJs. His contacts were off and his glasses were on as he tied a little bow around the DVDs.

“Wrapping Yoongi’s gifts,” Seokjin answered. “He’s the only one who doesn’t go looking for them, so I end up wrapping his last minute.”

“It’s a Christmas Eve tradition,” Namjoon said, bending down to give Seokjin a kiss.

“I can’t believe Christmas is tomorrow,” Seokjin said. “There’s still so much to do.”

“Are you stressed?” Namjoon asked.

“Are you stressed?” Seokjin fired back.

“Not really,” Namjoon laughed. When Seokjin was worked up, he sometimes got a little snappy. Namjoon knew to take it in stride. “But then, I don’t take on as nearly much as work as you do when it comes to the holidays.”

“I have to make a ham tomorrow,” Seokjin groaned, rolling out the paper to wrap another present. “I have no idea how to do that.”

“You make a ham every year,” Namjoon pointed out.

“I unsuccessfully make a ham every year,” Seokjin replied, and Namjoon laughed. Before he could offer to take the reigns, the bedroom door flew open, and Jimin and Jungkook tumbled in with a sleepy Taehyung stumbling behind them.

“Dad!”

Dad!”

“Yes,” Namjoon and Seokjin answered at the same time.

“They started the Yule Log already,” Jimin said excitedly, his shaking hands emphasizing his point. “We have to watch it.”

“Cookie, you wanna watch it, too?” Seokjin asked. Jungkook’s nose twitched like a bunny at the sudden attention. He nodded eagerly. Meanwhile, Taehyung wasted no time crawling onto the bed and tucking himself in. He looked exhausted. Seokjin smiled at their two youngest. “All right, then turn it on.”

“I got it!” Jimin chirped. He turned on the TV. Meanwhile, Namjoon bent down by Taehyung and helped pull the covers up to his chin.

“Has Christmas worn you out?” Namjoon asked. They had been cleaning the house, wrapping gifts, and preparing for Christmas all day. Plus, Taehyung had been jumping around with excitement nonstop. Namjoon wouldn’t be surprised if Taehyung was exhausted.

“I’m tired,” Taehyung whined.

“I told you to take it easy,” Namjoon said gently as the Yule Log crackled to live on the TV. Meanwhile, Jungkook climbed up next to Taehyung. “Hey, Jungkook. What’s up?”

“Um... I brought cards?” he said like a question. “Maybe we could play Crazy 8s?”

“I definitely want to play Crazy 8s. Deal me a hand!” Jimin said. He jumped on the bed, and the frame shook. Taehyung whined, and Namjoon patted his tummy.

“Count Taehyung out and me in,” Namjoon said.

“Okay,” Jungkook agreed. He dealt three hands. “Wait, should we get Hoseok and Yoongi, too?”

“Yoongi absolutely cannot come in here,” Seokjin said suddenly and forcefully. He still had a tall stack of Yoongi’s presents next to him, sitting just inside of the closet.

“I’ll get Hoseok, though,” Jimin offered, scurrying off. Seokjin still seemed stressed, but no more so than earlier. Namjoon hummed.

“Are you sure you don’t want to play with us, babe?” he asked.

Seokjin huffed out a sigh. “I want to finish wrapping these presents. I want to set out the stockings for Santa, and then I’m going to get in bed, and then I’m falling asleep and I’m not waking up until late tomorrow morning.”

“But what about Christmas presents?” Jungkook asked.

“They can wait until late tomorrow morning,” Seokjin repeated himself.

“I’m excited to open presents,” Taehyung said. He sounded tired, but his eyes were wide open. Namjoon settled back against the headboard and ran a hand through Taehyung’s hair.

“So am I,” Namjoon said. “I want a unicorn for Christmas,” he said in the same dopey voice he used to use when Taehyung was three. Taehyung giggled, and Namjoon continued. “I want it to be pink and fluffy with lots of feelings and needs, and it needs to have glitter horseshoes,” he continued, and Taehyung hid his face in the space between Namjoon’s pillow and arm.

“You’re so weird,” Taehyung complained.

“But TaeTae, I’m trying to make you laugh.”

“Well, stop it,” Taehyung said. His fist clenched around the sheets, but his grip loosened when Namjoon pulled him in closer and rubbed his back. Feet pounded down the stairs, and Jimin shouted before entering the room with Hoseok hot on his heels.

Incoming!”

Before Namjoon could figure out what Jimin meant, Seokjin slammed closed the closet door. Yoongi walked into the bedroom a second later, his presents all hidden from sight.

“So what are we doing?” Yoongi asked.

“We’re playing cards,” Jungkook answered.

“Not in here you’re not,” Seokjin said.

“What?” Yoongi asked.

“Jin is wrapping up your Christmas gifts,” Jimin explained. He grabbed his hand from Jungkook. “Wanna go play in the family room? We can turn on the TV down there.”

“On it,” Hoseok agreed, grabbing a stack of cards from Jungkook and heading out the door. Seokjin sighed and looked up at the ceiling.

“Why can’t everyone just go to sleep? Santa can’t come unless everyone goes to sleep.”

“I’m asleep,” Taehyung piped up, and Namjoon laughed.

“Listen. Let’s all go downstairs and leave Seokjin to wrapping presents, okay? We’ll play cards with Jungkook,” Namjoon said, standing up. Taehyung whined and reached for Namjoon’s hand. Namjoon pulled him up to standing. “Are you awake enough, love?”

“Yeah,” Taehyung sighed.

“Okay, then lets leave Santa to it,” Namjoon said, ushering Jungkook up and off the bed. His skinny ankles stuck out from under his new pajama pants.

“Santa isn’t here,” Seokjin said. “He’s at the North Pole. I’m wrapping my gifts to Yoongi.”

“Santa and dad’s wrapping paper looks weirdly similar,” Jimin giggled, and Seokjin threw a bow at him on his way out the door.

“I don’t think I told Santa what I want for Christmas, but I know I told Seokjin,” Jungkook joked. Seokjin threw a bow at him, too. Namjoon hugged Jungkook from behind and frog-walked him to the door.

“Lets go, kiddos. Let’s go,” Namjoon said. Jungkook laughed in his arms, while Taehyung dragged the comforter off the bed and wrapped it around his shoulders. Seokjin blew kisses at everyone as they walked out the door.

Namjoon made sure all his kids were out the door and downstairs before closing the door behind him. When Seokjin was stressed out, it was Namjoon’s job to entertain the kids. Fortunately, with sons as sweet as Namjoon’s, his job didn’t feel like work at all.


SEOKJIN

Seokjin wrapped the last of his presents and filled the last of the stockings. He looked at the clock and groaned. Midnight had come and gone, and now it was nearing on 2 AM.

Seokjin kept telling himself he was done with late nights, but he always ended up awake way past his bedtime.

Seokjin bundled up gifts in his arms to put beneath the tree. In an effort to take as few trips as possible Seokjin stacked as many presents as he could carry. The pile was so tall, he almost missed the sight of his family flopped across the couch.

Almost.

“What is everyone doing?” Seokjin asked, dropping the presents under the tree with a thump. Jungkook’s nose crinkled at the noise, and Namjoon sat up, proving he hadn’t really been sleeping. “We have to go to sleep so Santa can come,” Seokjin announced loudly. Jungkook’s nose crinkled again, and Yoongi and Hoseok stirred. Seokjin wished he was sleeping half as soundly as they were. He was exhausted.

“What time is it?” Namjoon asked, scrubbing at his eye with the back of his hand.

“Time for everyone to be asleep,” Seokjin said, clapping his hands. “Everyone wake up, or I’m going to start singing.”

No,” Yoongi grumbled. “Don’t start singing.”

“I love dad’s singing,” Hoseok said: awake enough to be contrary. “Dad, sing your song.”

“Last chance to wake up,” Seokjin said before he cupped his hands around his mouth to start singing. “Good morning, Jungkook, its time to wake up, and greet the sunrise, with a little love.

Jungkook’s eyes squinted open, and Seokjin sat down on the sliver of couch next to him. He rubbed his arm while he woke up.

“Good morning, Jimin. It’s time to wake uuuup. And greet the sunrise, with a little looove,” Seokjin sang, twice as awful as before.

Yoongi groaned and covered his ears. Jimin hardly stirred. “Dad,” Yoongi whined.

Seokjin ignored him. “Good morning, Hobi, it’s time to wake uuuuuup. And greet the sunrise, with a little loooooooooooove.”

Hoseok woke up fully, laughing before he even opened his eyes. Seokjin patted his leg as he sat up, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Meanwhile, Jungkook was scrubbing his eyes, and Jimin’s leg was twitching. Even Taehyung –who was notoriously hard to wake up- had started to blink his eyes open.

Seokjin cooed. “Good morning, TaeTae. It’s time to wake up! And greet the sunrise. With a little looooooove.”

“Stop, stop, stop, it’s so annoying,” Yoongi complained.

This time, when Seokjin sang the song, Hoseok chimed in. The volume doubled as Hoseok sang along (his voice as screechy and irritating as possible). “Good morning, Yoongi. It’s time to wake uuuuuuup. And greet the sunrise with a little loooooove.”

“Okay, fine, that’s it, I’m awake,” Yoongi said, sitting up fast. “Merry Christmas, I’m going to sleep.”

“Merry Christmas,” Seokjin cooed. He refused to let Yoongi pass without a kiss to his cheek. Meanwhile, Hoseok stood up as well.

“Same. Come on, Cookie.” Hoseok grabbed Jungkook’s hand and helped him get up off the couch. “Let’s go to bed.”

“M’kay,” Jungkook said sleepily.

“Goodnight, boys,” Seokjin said. He leaned over to pat Jimin’s leg while Namjoon slowly coaxed Taehyung awake. Seokjin could see in Taehyung’s cloudy eyes that he was at risk for a seizure; he looked exhausted. Seokjin didn’t like having to wake him up when he was finally getting some much-needed rest.

“I don’t want to move,” Jimin whined.

“You have to, peanut. Or else Santa can’t come.” Seokjin still had at least an hour’s worth of work to do before he could go to sleep. He needed everyone to get in bed so that could happen. (Plus, Santa had a tradition of putting the boys’ stockings in their rooms while they were sleeping. Seokjin needed to wait until all the kids were in their beds and fast asleep to make that happen.)

“Carry me,” Jimin said.

“You are fifteen,” Seokjin replied. “I couldn’t carry you even if I wanted to.”

Jimin made a whining noise and sat up on his elbows. “Are you sure?” he asked, and Seokjin snorted.

“I’m certain, kiddo. This one’s on you.”

Fine,” Jimin whined. He sat up straight all of a sudden. “Wait. What time is it?”

“Two-fourteen,” Seokjin answered.

“It’s Christmas,” Jimin said, the word holding more excitement and enthusiasm than Seokjin thought it could handle. “Can we open presents now?” Jimin asked.

“Not now,” Seokjin said, but —because he had a hard time saying no to Jimin’s swollen eyes and puffy cheeks— he continued, “but I’ll let you sneak an early Christmas cookie if you want.

Jimin gasped. “One of the chocolate pecan macaroons?” he asked.

Seokjin smiled. “Go for it, kid,” he said, and Jimin sprung up off the couch like he hadn’t been essentially unconscious a few minutes ago. Seokjin watched him go, and then turned his sights on Taehyung and Namjoon. Taehyung looked pale, and Namjoon was rubbing his tummy. “Feeling nauseous?” Seokjin asked.

Taehyung didn’t say anything; his pout was enough. Namjoon cooed and pressed a kiss into his hair.

“Well, why don’t you get changed just in case you have a seizure so you don’t ruin your new Christmas PJs,” Seokjin said tactfully. Taehyung still frowned. “And then if you’re worried, you can sleep in our bed.”

“I can?” Taehyung asked.

“Sure,” Seokjin offered. “I’m going to be going in and out, but Namjoon can rest with you.”

“Okay,” Taehyung said.

“Go head up, TaeTae. I’ll be there in a minute,” Namjoon said. Taehyung stood up on shaky legs just as Jimin appeared from the kitchen, cookies crammed in both hands. Jimin waved and walked Taehyung up the stairs.

Namjoon groaned and stood up off the couch. He grabbed one of the blankets the kids had pulled out and started folding it into thirds to cram back in the ottoman. “You don’t have to do that,” Seokjin said.

“Nah, I want to help you out before I go take the easy job of lying with Taehyung,” Namjoon said.

“That is an easy job,” Seokjin said. “But don’t worry. I’ll join you two soon enough.”

“Hm.” Namjoon hummed and put down the blanket. He put his hands around Seokjin’s waist and pulled him in for a kiss. “Hey. You’re a good dad. Don’t forget that.”

“What?” Seokjin asked. “Where’s this coming from?”

“I’m always thinking it,” Namjoon said. “You deserve the world, okay? I love you so much.”

Seokjin snorted. “Every time you get sappy like this, I consider filing for divorce.”

“I just love you. You’re going to have a good Christmas this year, I can feel it,” Namjoon said, and suddenly everything clicked in Seokjin’s brain.

“I see,” Seokjin said. He rubbed at Namjoon’s hipbones with his thumbs. “So this is about my secret surprise. You went overboard this year, didn’t you?”

“I’m not saying anything about it,” Namjoon said firmly.

“You didn’t have to,” Seokjin promised, ducking his head down for a kiss. As much as he hated when Namjoon went too crazy —whether it was buying him too many gifts or showering him in too many compliments— Seokjin loved his husband enough to fall into his arms every time.

But there was work to be done, and Seokjin had to break away. Namjoon kissed his temple. “Hey, you know what? Why don’t you go hang out with Tae, and I’ll finish up with the presents,” Namjoon offered.

“Oh my gosh,” Seokjin said. “You are such a blessing.”

“I’ll even bake the ham tomorrow.”

“Wow, just when I thought Christmas ham couldn’t get any worse,” Seokjin teased. He kissed Namjoon more time before heading upstairs. It had only been Christmas for two hours, but Seokjin was already having a great day.


NAMJOON

Namjoon rolled over on Christmas morning to find his bed surprisingly empty. Usually, when Taehyung spent the night, Namjoon woke up absolutely smothered by his son. However, this morning the bed was cold and Namjoon was alone.

Namjoon groaned and reached for his hoodie. He pulled it on over his head while lying down, refusing to sit up until he absolutely had to.

Eventually, Namjoon pried himself off the mattress and set off in search of his family. His feet were cold on the hardwood floor. Namjoon made it halfway down the stairs, when Jimin popped up from the couch. “Jin! Dad is awake! Can we open presents now?” Jimin asked.

“That’s only one down and three to go, pumpkin,” Jin replied from the kitchen.

Jimin flopped back down on the couch with a blanket and his phone. Namjoon ran a hand over Jimin’s bedhead as he walked by. He found Seokjin in the kitchen with Taehyung curled up fast asleep on the window seat. He was wearing a different sweater than before, and there were tear tracks on his cheeks.

“Did I sleep through a seizure?” Namjoon asked.

Seokjin hummed. He had the waffle maker out on the counter, and he was cutting up some strawberries. “Sort of. He tried to make it to the bathroom, but he collapsed on the tile.”

“Poor thing.”

“I think he was just excited about Christmas and stayed up too late,” Seokjin said, pouring Namjoon a cup of coffee. Namjoon got out the coffee creamer. As soon as the coffee was in his hand, Namjoon took a sip of it black and added his coffee creamer after. Seokjin snorted. “Well, that’s one way to do it.”

“I’m desperate,” Namjoon said. “It’s seven in the morning.”

“Mhm, welcome to my life,” Seokjin said. “I can’t remember the last time I slept for more than a handful of hours.”

“Okay, I know that’s not true,” Namjoon said. He chugged his whole cup of coffee, and Seokjin poured him another before getting started on the waffle batter. Namjoon got out the Nutella and peanut butter preemptively, thinking. “But you know, I could understand if it felt that way. You do a lot for this family.”

“Nope. No, I refuse,” Seokjin said. “No more goopy stuff about my surprise until you’re actually ready to give it to me.”

“Okay, well what if I am ready to give it to you?”

Seokjin cracked an egg and nearly dropped the shells in the bowl. “Well, are you?” he asked. He sounded startled. It took a lot to surprise Seokjin, and Namjoon had to stop from gloating.

“Yeah,” he said, opening up the fridge. He pulled out the box of baking soda from the back of the refrigerator, and fished around on the inside. Seokjin watched, floored.

“Now that is a good hiding spot.”

“It had to be. You find everything,” Namjoon said.

“What could you possibly have hidden in there?” Seokjin asked.

“Okay, will you just relax? I’m trying to do something nice for you,” Namjoon said, reaching out to squeeze Seokjin’s arm.

“Oh my goodness, hold on, I need to wash my hands,” Seokjin said, running away to wash his hands in the sink.

“Jimin,” Taehyung croaked from the window bench. “Jimin, Namjoon is giving Seokjin a present.”

“Oh, I wanna see!” Jimin cheered. “Can I open a present after?”

No,” Seokjin and Namjoon said at the same time.

Seokjin finished washing his hands, and Taehyung sat up, a hand on his forehead. Jimin saddled up next to him, stealing half of his blanket. The frosty December air seeped through the window frames, and Namjoon pulled out a tiny, flat wrapped package from the baking soda box.

“Wow,” Seokjin said. “I have no idea what that is.”

“Well, why don’t you open it?” Namjoon suggested. “Just be careful you don’t rip what’s inside.”

Seokjin took him up on the offer. He carefully pulled at the packaging, and Namjoon watched to make sure nothing was destroyed in the process. Seokjin pulled two plane tickets from the wrapping paper. “Namjoon,” he said, his voice stern. “What is this?”

“Tickets to Hawaii.”

What?”

“You deserve a break,” Namjoon said. “And we deserve some time to ourselves after this crazy year, and before you get worried, the trip won’t be for another six months, so you’ll have plenty of time with Jungkook and Hoseok in case your concerned about that. We’re going to stay in a five star hotel, I’ve already booked us three couples’ massages, and got us a reservation at Chef Kaiwi’s restaurant, which I hear is nearly impossible to do. And the rest of the time, we can just hang out on the beach, and maybe you can finish a book for once.”

“Namjoon, this is too much. This is the definition of overboard, you’re crazy—“

Namjoon cut Seokjin off with a kiss, ignoring Taehyung’s gagging noises behind him. “I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“How can we even afford this?”

“I took money out of the kids’ college fund.”

What?”

“Nah, I’m just kidding,” Namjoon said, kissing the surprised expression of Seokjin’s face. He loved getting his husband all worked up. “Remember that promotion?”

“Stop,” Seokjin said.

“You’re looking at the new partner at SummerCloud Studios,” Namjoon announced, and while Namjoon had been hinting about his promotion for a long time, Seokjin still looked every bit as surprised and proud as Namjoon hoped he would.

“Namjoon, honey, that’s amazing. You’ve worked so hard.”

“I have. I wanted to buy you something nice. Next year, I’m buying you a beach house.”

“You are not,” Seokjin said. “I’m happy with what we have. You’re a nuisance.”

“I just love you.”

“I know, geez,” Seokjin laughed, cupping Namjoon’s face in both hands and kissing his nose and cheeks before his lips found Namjoon’s. Taehyung made another gagging noise, while Jimin clapped his hands delightedly.

“So do you like your present?” Namjoon asked.

“I love it. I hate you, but I love it,” Seokjin said. “As long as you think the boys would be okay without us.”

“We’ll manage,” Jimin chirped.

“As long as it means I don’t have to see you two sucking face,” Taehyung complained. However, his words lacked heat when they were stifled with a yawn.

Namjoon snorted. “I already asked them all. Jungkook seemed a little concerned, but I promised that we wouldn’t leave if he didn’t feel comfortable. Plus, your mom said she would come watch the boys.”

“Then I really do love it,” Seokjin grinned. “I have to get my beach body ready,” he said with a shimmy, and Namjoon pinched his hip.

“It’s already ready. You should just take your shirt off now.”

Gross,” Taehyung said, over-enunciating the word. “It’s Christmas. Spare me.”

“Can we open more presents now?” Jimin asked, bouncing in his seat.

No,” Seokjin said sternly. “First, we have to have breakfast, and your brothers need to wake up.”

“Oh, waffle bar,” Taehyung said. Waffle sundaes had been a Christmas tradition ever since Yoongi first came to the house. (Namjoon and Seokjin had been desperate to get Yoongi to smile, or talk, or otherwise engage with them. Waffle sundaes had been one of the first things to keep Yoongi’s interest for more than a minute.)

“Ah, yes, waffles!” Jimin said excitedly, jumping up to the counter and sitting on one of the bar stools. “I forgot!”

“What? But you’re supposed to be the Christmas hype-man. I thought you loved anything and everything Christmas,” Seokjin said, whisking his waffle batter.

Jimin squirmed in his chair. “I do! It’s just with all the other great things about Christmas, I forgot about this thing.”

“I’ll go wake up Sugar, Hobi, and Cookie,” Namjoon offered, pausing to press a kiss to Taehyung’s head as he left the kitchen. Taehyung lifted his arms for a hug, and Namjoon quick gave him a squeeze. Taehyung was still acting clingy, but at least he was well enough to keep up the dramatics over his parents kissing. Namjoon kissed his neck as he pulled away. “I’ll come back for you,” he promised.

“M’kay,” Taehyung said. His expression shifted to reveal how anxious and embarrassed he was really feeling. Namjoon thumbed at his cheekbone.

“I’ll be right back,” Namjoon promised before leaving the kitchen.

Namjoon could spend the whole day holding Seokjin and showering him with gifts, but he had five kids that he loved more than anything in the world. He had to give them some attention, too.


JUNGKOOK

“I’m too tired,” Taehyung said when it was his turn to open a present. Jungkook wiggled his toes, looking up at him. Taehyung was in Namjoon’s lap. He looked exhausted. Meanwhile, Jungkook had taken a seat on the carpet beneath him, sitting on his hands. “Jungkook, you open it.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said and tugged at the wrapping paper. Taehyung made a delighted noise when he saw the cover of the new Jack Reacher book.

“Oh, cool,” he said.

“It’s from Hoseok,” Jungkook read on the tag.

“Thank you, Hoseok,” Taehyung said. “I’ll read it tomorrow.”

“And I’ll read it when you’re done,” Namjoon tacked on. It was Namjoon’s turn to open a present next, so he unwrapped the gift closest to him, one-handed to keep from disturbing Taehyung. “What is it, what is it, what is it?” Namjoon asked out loud as he shredded the wrapping paper. Namjoon opened up a wood-wick candle from Jimin.

“I thought you could put it in your office,” Jimin said sheepishly.

“I will,” Namjoon said, opening the candle to smell it. “Oud Wood. That’s so nice, it’s like the cologne I used to steal from my foster dad,” Namjoon teased, and Jimin nodded.

“Uh-huh, that’s why I bought it!”

“It’s super thoughtful. Thank you, Jimin,” Namjoon said. “Who’s next?”

Jungkook watched quietly as Yoongi, then Hoseok, then Seokjin opened up their gifts. He squirmed uncomfortably. It was weird to see his family giving each other gifts and getting excited when they saw what was inside. Jungkook had needed help buying everyone gifts this year because he had no idea what his family members currently needed or were interested in.

Jimin opened up a pair of fluorescent yellow Yeezy sneakers. “Oh my gosh.”

“That’s your big ticket item,” Seokjin warned.

“They’re awesome,” Jimin said, pulling them out of the package and trying them on. “You have no idea how jealous Chase is going to be.”

“Forget Chase, I’m jealous,” Hoseok teased with an ease Jungkook wished he could copy. It had been hard to talk to his family lately. Sometimes he found himself joking and teasing, but most of the time he felt nervous. He didn’t want to make everyone mad. He had already made everyone mad.

Yoongi said he should just apologize, but he could never find the right time. His family was never all in one place at one time.

Until now.

“I’m putting them on and I’m never taking them off. I don’t care how dirty they get. I want to wear them,” Jimin said.

Jungkook held his toes. It was his turn to open a present. All eyes turned to him. Jungkook’s face must have been as screwed up as he was feeling, because Seokjin frowned at him. “Jungkook, honey, are you okay?”

“I just... I wanted... I wanted to say something,” he stammered, getting everyone’s attention. He squeezed his toes and rocked back and forth a little. “I know that I haven’t been the nicest this year, and I know I’ve been mean. But I don’t... I don’t want to lose you guys, and I’m just really sorry. I’m sorry I’ve caused so much trouble.”

“Oh, pumpkin, apology accepted,” Seokjin said.

Namjoon nudged him with his foot. “Don’t worry about a thing, Jungkook.”

“You’re not losing anyone,” Yoongi said. His voice was expressionless, but his eyes looked serious, and Jungkook felt himself flush.

“I’m just sorry,” he squeaked, and Jimin jumped on top of him.

“Don’t be, crazy. I’ve already forgiven you!”

“You’re too stupid to be mad at,” Hoseok promised, and Taehyung grunted in agreement.

“Stupid isn’t the word I would use,” Seokjin said sternly. “But I think everyone knows that the screaming, angry, fire demon version of Jungkook wasn’t the real you.”

Jungkook looked up at his dad, and then felt his face crumble. He looked down at his lap, hiding his face between his arms. “I just don’t want anyone to leave.”

“No one’s leaving, Jungkook,” Jimin said, patting his back.

Jungkook sniffled and looked up just in time to see Seokjin kneel next to him. “We know you’re afraid, Jungkook, but you’re okay. Everything is okay. We’re your family, yeah? We’re not going anywhere.”

Jungkook rubbed his nose off on his arm. “Okay. I’m still sorry.”

“You can be as sorry as you want, and it’s very nice of you to apologize,” Seokjin promised. “But we all love you and we all forgive you, so you don’t have to feel guilty.”

“Okay,” Jungkook said.

“Yeah, you just need to relax,” Taehyung said tiredly. “We’re all friends here,” he sighed, dropping his head down on Namjoon’s shoulder. He sounded like the caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland; he was so sleepy.

“You guys are the only friends I have,” Yoongi said while staring at his phone.

“You’re texting Seulgi right now,” Hoseok said, peering at Yoongi’s screen.

“She’s not a friend, she’s just an acquaintance.”

“An acquaintance who you’re updating about all your Christmas presents?” Hoseok asked.

“Okay, number one, leave me alone,” Yoongi said. “And number two, leave me alone.”

“Thank you for apologizing, Jungkook, sweetie, that was very mature of you,” Seokjin said, putting things back on track. “But you’re safe with us, yeah? There’s not much you can do that we won’t forgive you for.”

Jungkook sucked in a harsh breath of air. “Okay,” he said again.

“Okay,” Seokjin repeated, rubbing his back a little bit. “Now let’s see you open up a present, yeah? It’s Christmas. It’s time for gifts, not time for crying.”

“I’m not crying,” Jungkook argued, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hands.

“Of course not, because you’re opening this deceptively small package. Oooh, what could be in there?” Seokjin tempted, swirling the gift in front of Jungkook’s eyes. Jungkook laughed and caught it.

“Okay, okay,” he said. He unwrapped the paper and found a new set of fake-gauges. “Oh, cool,” he said. These ones had metallic black spikes on the end, while the current pair he was wearing were matte and flat on the front and back.

“I thought they looked like you,” Hoseok announced from the opposite side of the room with a shrug. Jungkook found himself tearing up yet again. His family knew him so well.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice tight, and Hoseok laughed.

“Aw, Cookie, it wasn’t a big deal!”

Jungkook found himself on the verge of tears again. He tried to blink them away, but Seokjin still noticed. “Hobi just loves you, Jungkook. It’s okay,” Seokjin promised.

“I know,” Jungkook squeaked. He frantically swiped at his eyes with his sweater sleeves. “I know. It’s just really nice. Everyone is so nice.

Seokjin hummed. “Oh, honey, just take a breather.” Jungkook paused, desperately trying to keep from crying. “You’ve done a lot of growing up this year, I’m really proud of you.”

“All of you have,” Namjoon tacked on. “You guys even taught me a few things.”

“You think so?” Hoseok asked sheepishly.

Namjoon nodded. “I know so. I used to see you boys like you were still little kids, but now you’re young adults.”

“Soon you’re going to move out and leave us behind,” Seokjin pretended to wail, and Jungkook managed a laugh.

“I’m not even in high school yet,” he said. “I’m not leaving for ages.”

“Good,” Seokjin replied. “Because your place is right here.”

Jungkook’s breath caught in his lungs, and Seokjin rubbed his back a little. Jungkook went back to squeezing his toes. He didn’t believe it for a long time, but he really did belong here with the people that loved him.

This was Jungkook’s home.