Yoongi Min was a model student.
Everyone in their relatively small school knew that Yoongi was one of the top students in the entire school. He had great grades, was class president, he volunteered at all the school spirit events. He played basketball, took part in the literature club, and generally just had that air of disgusting overachiever that made slackers like Hoseok and Namjoon feel like shit, honestly, so they were glad they weren't in his class.
“Jesus, he's like the energizer bunny or something,” Namjoon muttered, watching Yoongi zip across the gymnasium, his sneakers squeaking, his dark hair held out of his face with a sweatband. “How does one dude have so much go. It's not fair.”
“Just because you sleep for three hours a night,” Hoseok replied, leaning back onto his elbows. “Maybe if you like, tried to actually function like a human being you'd have half that energy.”
Namjoon leaned back to match him and together, at the back of the bleachers, they watched the basketball game. There wasn't much else to do in their small community on a Thursday night, and games were free for students, so at least they could sit and talk shit about everyone they saw (which they did.) Namjoon didn't say anything about the way that Yoongi's head dropped to his chest when he was on the bench, how he looked like he'd passed out sitting there. No one else seemed to notice.
“Don't you think it's fucking weird, though?” Namjoon asked as he walked down the dark street, taking sips of his soda as they walked back towards his house. “That he's so fucking everywhere but he has no friends?”
“You're awfully concerned about this,” Hoseok replied, hands in his pockets, his slouch making him appear shorter. “Look, why don't you just talk to the guy or something? He can't be that unfriendly.” Namjoon huffed, muttered something about not wanting to ruin his reputation by making an ass of himself in front of a cute boy and Hoseok, bless him, busted out laughing.
Namjoon got his chance to talk to Yoongi almost three weeks later. He'd been watching him (obsessively) and trying to figure out a good time to approach him. He never seemed to stop... Going. He came to school early, he buzzed around all day, he went to clubs, from clubs he left to a part time job where he stayed until midnight or later, then he went home. Namjoon never saw what bus he took to get home, never saw him climb into a car to catch a ride, nothing. It was fucking weird, is what it was.
Finally, that Tuesday night, he was walking home from Jimin's place when he caught sight of Yoongi locking up the convenience store he worked at, laughing with his coworker as said coworker headed off down the street. Namjoon stopped to watch—frowned when Yoongi seemed to struggle with the lock, found himself outright scowling when Yoongi's head dropped forward and his entire body seemed to be attempting to melt into the door.
He walked closer, watched Yoongi shove the keys into his pocket. Watched him bite his lip and push back his hair in what must have been frustration. “Hey,” he said, as Yoongi braced a hand over his stomach and bent forward like it hurt, like he was going to be sick. “Hey man, you okay?”
Yoongi jerked upright so fast he nearly fell backwards into the door. He blinked at Namjoon and Namjoon blinked back at him and for a moment neither of them said anything. It was nearly silent in the street, save for the cars driving by, and Namjoon took another step closer. “Man, you don't look so good.”
“I'm fine,” Yoongi replied, and Namjoon knew a liar when he saw one. He'd spent most of his childhood babysitting Taehyung and Jimin with Seokjin, so he also knew a lie when he heard it. “I gotta go pick up my brother, I'll uh. See you around.”
“You sure you should go by yourself?” Namjoon asked. “You look like you're gonna fall over, dude.”
There was a moment of silence that couldn't be qualified as awkward. They were sizing one another up, the two of them. Namjoon knew Yoongi from school so it was likely Yoongi knew at least who Namjoon was—Namjoon had a reputation, as someone who hung out with Hoseok and spent the weekends getting baked down at the train yard while reading philosophy books. It wasn't always true, but it was sometimes true, so Namjoon couldn't blame him for thinking twice about the stereotype.
“I got this,” Yoongi said, and Namjoon cocked an eyebrow as he swayed down the two stairs to the sidewalk.
“No you don't.”
“You shut the hell up,” he said, and Namjoon wiggled his fingers.
“Oooh, so frightening. C'mon, man, s'late. You're little and exhausted and this neighborhood sucks, lemme walk with you.”
Had Namjoon ever been so frank in his life? Probably not. Did he care? Not really, when Yoongi's shoulders dropped and he sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Fine,” he muttered, starting down the sidewalk and Namjoon got into step beside him, trying to keep himself slow for Yoongi's shorter legs.
“So,” Namjoon said after a minute. “You live around here?”
“Kinda,” Yoongi replied, turning down a narrow alley lit only with a streetlight at either end. “You?”
“Yeah,” he said, following easily. “Out by section 8, my parents got an apartment out there.” Yoongi nodded, and Namjoon continued. “Do you work here every day, man, like. Do you ever catch a break?”
“No,” Yoongi replied, turning left, climbing a set of stairs and knocking on the door to a brick townhouse. A haggard-looking woman opened the door, and Namjoon watched as Yoongi offered her an envelope and she brought a little boy to the door. He couldn't have been older than eight, face swollen with sleep and he mutely reached up to make grabby hands at Yoongi, who picked him up into his skinny arms. Okay, new information: Yoongi worked part time and paid for his brother's babysitter. Okay, that... All right.
The little boy had eyes the size of quarters and he stared at Namjoon as Yoongi carried him down the stairs. Namjoon stared back and Yoongi pinched the little boys arm lightly. “Don't stare, Jonny.”
“Name's Jeongguk,” the little boy protested, turning to look at Yoongi with an openly offended expression.
“Aah, right, I forgot, you're too big for nicknames, aren't you. Does that mean you're also too big to be carried?” Jeongguk nodded stubbornly and Yoongi set him down on the tarmac. “Okay. You have to hold my hand, though.”
Jeongguk took Yoongi's offered hand then turned to Namjoon, expectantly sticking out his other arm. Namjoon blinked twice and looked up at Yoongi, who cocked an eyebrow. He took the little boys offered hand and followed his lead as he started to walk and talk, babbling with a surprisingly thick accent about his day, about first grade, how they'd made paintings of their families and he'd gotten talked to about how he had to include his parents in his picture. Namjoon felt like he was getting too much information out of this and it made him very, very nervous, but Jeongguk's little hand was holding his very tightly and he wasn't enough of an asshole to just... Yank himself away from a little kid who was having fun swinging his light weight between their bodies down the street, grinning and giggling in delight.
“Okay, kiddo, Namjoon's gotta go,” Yoongi said when they reached a crossroad. Namjoon recognized it as the main road leading down and out towards the ghetto—if he went left, he'd be heading out towards section 8, if he went straight, he'd be at his parents house in a couple of blocks. “Say bye.”
“Bye Namjoon hyung!” Jeongguk chirped, clearly pleased with himself for the addition of the Korean word to Namjoon's name.
“Bye, Jeongguk,” he replied, giving him a wave. “I'll uh, I'll see you at school tomorrow,” he paused. “Hyung.”
“...Yeah,” Yoongi nodded, and Namjoon tried to ignore the weird lump in his throat that just seemed to grow when, at the crosswalk, Yoongi and Jeongguk turned left.
“Dude. You're being nosey.”
“I'm curious,” Namjoon muttered, rummaging through his bag for his homework, grabbing his notebook to set on the desk. “Look, I'm just saying—it's fucking weird, right? Isn't it weird?”
“You're reading too much into this,” Hoseok assured, cocking his eyebrow. “It's his business, anyway, so just keep out of it? Most people don't like it when you start asking questions and shit.”
“I'm concerned,” Namjoon said. It was nearly two weeks after he'd walked home with Yoongi and his kid brother and somehow he'd been looking more and more... Thin. Literally and figuratively. And he'd heard through the grape vine that he'd stopped going to the literature club, which was weird. “Don't you get worried when people start acting... Not like themselves?”
“And how do you know who his self is,” Hoseok asked, rolling his eyes as he pulled out a pencil. “Look I'm just saying, maybe you oughta mind your own business, cos like... He doesn't seem like the type who'd appreciate your being nosey. I mean helping. Or whatever.”
“Shut up,” Namjoon muttered, pulling out a second notebook and setting it on the desk. His hangul, luckily, wasn't as rusty as he'd thought it would be, and his quiet insistence that he speak Korean with his parents at home was helping. The language was coming back to him. Maybe it was Jeongguk's bright and squeaky hyung that night two weeks ago, maybe it was just the concept that he was enamored with, but as he wrote notes in Korean instead of English he felt a little bit like maybe he was getting closer to being able to talk to Yoongi like a person, like a friend, instead of a classmate he knew next to nothing about.
His chance to do that very thing came a few days later. He was walking home, late, when he saw Yoongi sitting on the stairs of the convenience store. His head was in his hands, and in the bite of late November he was only wearing a hoodie and a big grey scarf wrapped around his neck.
“Hyung?” he asked, jogging up, blinking when Yoongi jerked up and rubbed violently at his face. He'd been crying. He'd been crying, alone on the stoop of a convenience store at one in the fucking morning on a Friday and oh, god, Namjoon was so out of his depth. So he did the sensible thing: pretended he didn't see anything.
“You gonna go pick up Jeongguk? You want company?”
He watched Yoongi's breath in the cold, little puffs of white that came too fast, but he nodded and stood up, shoved his hands into his pockets. “Yeah,” he said, almost coughed, and Namjoon walked beside him, stopping only when he couldn't stand to see the shake in Yoongi's skinny shoulders.
“C'mere, hyung,” he said, his Korean accented but Yoongi paused and turned to look back at him.
What am I doing, he wondered to himself as he unzipped his coat. “C'mere,” he said again, offering out the sides of the warm down jacket his parents had gotten him for Christmas last year when he'd outgrown the last one. When Yoongi hesitated, Namjoon gave a tiny little whine. “Hyung it's cold, would you just come here already?”
Yoongi was tiny. He was shorter than Namjoon, narrower, and the jacket wrapped around both of their bodies for a moment. Namjoon could feel the violent shake in Yoongi's torso, the tight-muscled shudder of being too cold for too long and he hesitated. Just for a moment, he hesitated, let Yoongi stay against his chest for longer than he should have, let him warm up there in the middle of the street while someone wolf-whistled driving by and Yoongi pulled back, flushed.
“I gotta spare coat at my house,” he said clumsily. “If you wanna come over before you take Jeongguk home.”
“I don't,” Yoongi started, and Namjoon leveled his protest with a look so unimpressed even the likes of Jimin Park would have been a little put out. “...Yeah. Yeah okay. But I gotta get Jonny first.”
“Course,” Namjoon nodded, and took off his hat to tug it over Yoongi's hair, pulling the hood of his coat up over his head. “Onward.”
Again, Yoongi traded an envelope for his little brother, who seemed considerably more... Listless than he had a few weeks ago. He didn't protest being carried, just tucked his head into the scarf and Namjoon couldn't help but notice that even though Jeongguk was wearing canvas shoes, he was wearing a down coat. He was wearing little mittens and a matching hat.
“I'm this way,” Namjoon said when they reached the crossroad, and Yoongi nodded, shushed Jeongguk's questions as they walked two blocks to the apartment building Namjoon lived in. It wasn't great, but it was nice, and he let them into the building with a key card, heading for the elevator to the fourth floor. His dad wasn't home—he worked third shift—but his mother was sitting at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee and she smiled when Namjoon came in, the expression melting into concern when her son was followed by two other people.
“Namjoon,” she said, getting up.
“Hey mom,” he waved one hand frantically, don't make a big deal. “Is, um, are there any leftovers from dinner?”
“Namjoon, I just—”
“C'mon, hyung, you're already here—you might as well eat something, I'm sure Jonny's hungry.”
“Jeongguk,” came the weedy little protest and Jeongguk sat up, rubbing at his red eyes with one mittened hand. “I'm hungry. Hyung, I'm hungry.”
“...Okay,” Yoongi carefully set him down, and Namjoon tried not to watch as he pulled him free of his coat and hat and mittens, had him sit down to get out of his sneakers. Namjoon's mother watched her son with sharp eyes and when he got close enough to her, she pulled him in by the shirt.
“Kim Namjoon,” she warned.
“He's a friend of mine from school,” he explained, flushed with embarrassment and worry. “He's—I just wanna give him my coat, Ma, but—but,” he looked at her desperately, trying to explain without working for the words he couldn't seem to force out. She squinted at him a moment but let go and nodded, moving to the oven.
“I have some baked macaroni and cheese,” she said loud enough for Yoongi and Jeongguk to hear. “And I think there are hot dogs, too, if you want?”
“Mac and cheese!” Jeongguk yelped, and Yoongi gave him a pinch on the hand. “M... Mac and cheese, please,” he repeated in a softer voice, looking to his brother for approval. It came in the form of a hand in his hair and a soft kiss on the forehead.
“Why don't you come help me heat it up, hm?” she asked, smiling brightly as Jeongguk scrambled to do just that. God, he was a thin kid, his smile too wide for his face as Namjoon headed down the hallway to get the down coat from the closet. He heard his mother speaking to the boy Oh, your name is Jeongguk? Mine is Hyesoo, and couldn't help but smile to himself as he pulled the parka out.
“Why are you doing this,” Yoongi's voice came, soft and suspicious and Namjoon nearly jumped out of his skin.
“Jesus Christ,” he panted for breath, pressing a hand over his chest. “You scared me.”
“Why are you doing this,” Yoongi asked again, his brow furrowed in a scowl. “Why are you—you don't owe me anything, Namjoon, why.”
“...Cos it's the kind thing to do,” he said, holding the coat in both hands and trying to speak around the muddled mess in his brain. “Hoseok.. Hoseok says m'bein' nosey or whatever, but. But, you always look so tired. You don't have a fucking jacket. Winter is coming, you're gonna fuckin' freeze, n'I just...” he sighed. “I just wanna help. That's all.”
“You know I can't give you anything for this.”
“I'm not doin' it cos I want you to—to pay me back or some shit,” he hissed, offended that Yoongi would even think of such a thing. Namjoon was many things but an extortionist wasn't one of them, god damn it all. “M'doin' it cos you need help, because—cos it fucking sucks to watch you fall asleep on the bench, okay, to know you're getting' outta work at one am and pickin' up your kid brother n'you look like you never fuckin' sleep but you're the class president anyway and doesn't—doesn't anyone ever just do something good for you once in a while? Ever?”
Namjoon flushed with embarrassment. He didn't usually go off like that, but the implication that he was being kind because he wanted something from Yoongi (other than maybe his friendship) was fucking insulting. He wanted to be his friend. He wanted to be kind.
Yoongi glared at him, but the expression melted away after a moment and he looked like he was going to cry instead and Namjoon wasn't sure which face was worse, if he was honest.
“No,” Yoongi said and Namjoon took a moment to let that word sink in. “No, Namjoon, they don't.”
“Well,” Namjoon huffed a little, shoved the coat into Yoongi's hands. “Get used to it. I don't plan on fuckin. Fuckin' stopping.”
“Hyung!” Jeongguk's voice rang out from the kitchen. “Hyung, there's hot dogs!”
Yoongi smiled, ducked his head. The expression was gummy, guileless, almost foolish. Namjoon realized he'd never seen such an expression on Yoongi's face before. He'd never looked so young.
“I'll be right there, Jonny.”
“Whatever,” he said, and Namjoon smiled a little. He could hear Jeongguk going off on a tiny tirade about how Jeongguk was his real name and if his stupid brother was going to keep calling him Jonny then Jeongguk was going to call him Andrew or something like that.
“You don't look like an Andrew,” Namjoon said, and Yoongi shook his head slowly.
“M'a Yoongi, for sure.”
There was a moment while they stood there—something awkward and quiet and Namjoon smiled, knew his dimples were showing. “I never asked,” he said. “If it's okay to call you hyung.” Yoongi looked up at him for a moment and Namjoon waited patiently. Yoongi shifted his weight back and forth and nodded, his dark hair hiding his eyes. Namjoon felt something start to explode in his chest, something warm and dangerous.
“Yeah,” Yoongi said. “Yeah, Namjoon, s'okay if you call me hyung.”
“Hyung!!” Jeongguk shouted as he all but leapt down the stairs of the townhouse and straight into Namjoon, who fell backward into Hoseok, who gave a very unattractive squawk. “Namjoon hyung!”
“Sup shorty,” Namjoon laughed, bracing his arm under Jeongguk's light weight. “How you doin?”
“Fine!” he chirped, settling easily on his hip. “Are we going to your house today?”
“You bet we are,” Namjoon said, waving to the babysitter, who grunted and closed the door while Hoseok blinked in alarm. “Your brother's not gonna be there till later, though.”
“That's okay, Yoongi hyung always comes home late,” Jeongguk nodded sagely and looked over to Hoseok, blinking back at him. “Who're you?”
“Wow, rude,” Hoseok said, pushing back his hair. “I'm Hoseok, Hoseok Jung.”
“Hoseok hyung,” Jeongguk said, and Hoseok, after looking at Namjoon, nodded.
“Okay, so he's adorable,” Hoseok admitted, once they were at Namjoon's apartment and Namjoon's father had scooped Jeongguk up into his arms to make his afternoon snack and watch cartoons. “It's kind of gross. Does he spend that much time here? Your dad doesn't even like me that much.”
“He's cuter than you,” Namjoon observed. “And.. Yeah. Yeah, he does.”
Namjoon's mother had basically insisted that Yoongi and Jeongguk come over whenever possible. She found a twin bed to put in the room they'd been using as an office and it was there that Jeongguk took his afternoon naps and slept until Yoongi came to pick him up; sometimes the two of them stayed overnight because it was just too late, or too cold, for them to walk home. It was nearly Christmas and both Yoongi and Jeongguk had gifts under the tree, little things, nothing overwhelming, but it warmed Namjoon all the way through to know that he was doing good by both of them, that he was... That his kindness had been rewarded with Yoongi's friendship, his help in class and in life and just the warmth of his presence.
“Dude,” Hoseok said. “You're so gross right now.”
“Are you thinking about Yoongi?”
“Liar,” Hoseok cackled, leaning back into the chair and holding his math notebook to his chest. “You so are, you're so gross, dude! Ugh!” he laughed until Jeongguk came around the corner, blinking and holding his cup in both hands while wondering out loud, what's so funny, hyung?
“Nothing,” Namjoon insisted, and he smacked Hoseok on the arm when he opened his mouth. Even if he was crushing on Yoongi a little bit—it was hard to not crush on him! Look! He was a great student, a good athlete, he was a wonderful person and if spending time with him gave Namjoon dangerously warm fuzzies, well. Well.
Look. Namjoon just... He liked Yoongi. It was hard not to. But Yoongi didn't need to know, and Jeongguk definitely didn't need to know, so Hoseok could just keep his big stupid mouth shut.
Namjoon woke up on Christmas Day far too early for his liking.
They'd managed to keep Jeongguk up till about two, so hopefully he would stay in bed until at least eight, but it was five am and he made his way out to the kitchen for some water, blinking at the sight of Yoongi sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, wearing the pajamas he'd opened the night before. Namjoon's parents always gave pajamas on Christmas Eve.
“Hyung?” he asked quietly, and Yoongi turned to look at him, looking soft in the glow of the Christmas lights. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Yoongi nodded, smiled at him and sniffled a little. Namjoon made his way over, cup in hand, and sat on the couch beside him. “We, um. We haven't had a Christmas tree since Jeongguk was like... Four, or something. Mom just... Didn't care enough, I guess. I tried to get one of those little ones from Home Depot last year, but by the time I got there they were all gone, y'know? I wanted him to have a real tree.”
Namjoon nodded in silence, let Yoongi talk.
“He didn't say anything but, y'know he came home from Kindergarten last year and he didn't, he wanted to know why we didn't have a tree, why we didn't have any, any presents and I had to explain to this little kid, my little brother, that we were fuckin' lucky to have food in the house, never, never mind Christmas presents. I signed him up for the Angel Tree just so he'd get, get something. He wasn't even sad it wasn't toys, he was just so happy to have something to open, y'know?”
Yoongi rubbed under his eyes and Namjoon cautiously let one arm wind around him. Yoongi leaned into his body, rested against his shoulder.
“I wanted to give him the fuckin' world, Namjoon. Everything, all of it. He deserves it all.”
“So do you, hyung,” Namjoon said gently, and Yoongi rubbed at his face, took in a big sniffle. “I mean it. Like... How much of a badass are you, huh? You of all this shit at school, you find the fuckin' time to work and pick up your brother and... It's fuckin' amazing, you know that, right? You deserve it too, hyung, not just Jeongguk.”
For a moment, Namjoon thought Yoongi was going to argue with him but instead, much to his relief he just sank a little further into his side, offered the blanket to drape over his legs. In the silence of pre-dawn on Christmas Day Yoongi let himself collapse against Namjoon and Namjoon wrapped his arm around his shoulders and quietly, carefully, pressed a kiss against his hair.
“Bad form, Kim,” Yoongi murmured, his voice rasping.
“There's not even any mistletoe.”
“Are you saying you'd let me kiss you if there was mistletoe?” Namjoon asked, his chest tight, breathless.
“I'm saying you don't need mistletoe to kiss me.” Yoongi turned his head up and Namjoon looked down and he pressed a kiss to Yoongi's waiting lips. They were dry, chapped and tasted like the sharp edge of coffee, but Yoongi's mouth curled into a smile and he kissed again, a little harder, just a little.
“Merry Christmas, Joonah,” he said, pulling away to settle down, grabbing one of Namjoon's hands to hold as they sat there. Namjoon smiled into his hair and dropped off to doze—woke only when Jeongguk climbed up into their laps nearly an hour later, settled himself in with his thumb in his mouth and his eyes drooping closed.