LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
"Listen," Seokjin says, "I have to go, Taehyung-ah." He's already getting strange looks from other passengers boarding the train, mumbling Korean into the phone to his little brother, hauling his old leather suitcase down the narrow aisle.
Everyone around him is speaking english, or at least something that sounds like it. While Seokjin's english is passable, he's not exactly desperate to try it out. He can see the hot puffs of his breaths in the cold air, seeping into the car from the open doors.
"But hyung," Taehyung whines, crackling in the phone, "we haven't gotten to talk in ages. Don’t be lame. Are you still meeting me in Moscow?"
Seokjin's luggage catches on the trim of the carpet, and he tugs on it desperately in an attempt to keep the crowd moving.
"Of course, Taehyung," Seokjin sighs, "I'm still meeting you in Moscow."
Seokjin finds his cabin, nudges open the door, phone trapped between his ear and his shoulder.
"You're doing a stopover in Berlin, too, right?"
Seokjin drags his suitcase through the doorway, and turns to look out the window; people carrying bags, suitcases, all bundled up in winter gear pass by; the commotion of the station muffled through the thick glass.
"Yes," Seokjin replies, unwinding his scarf, "I'll be there for one--"
The door to the cabin opens, and a young man with a mop of dark hair and piercing eyes peers around the doorframe, his black overcoat hanging loosely into Seokjin's line of vision.
"Taehyung," Seokjin says into the phone, moving to hang up, "I really do have to go."
"You speak Korean?" the man says. His voice is low, rumbling, pleasant.
It takes Seokjin longer than it should to realize that they're speaking the same language.
"Yes," Seokjin replies, “yes, I do.” The man smiles in what must be relief and releases a small puff of air, visible in the still cold train.
"I'm Min Yoongi," he adds, stepping into the cabin. Seokjin extends his hand to shake.
Yoongi shoves his luggage haphazardly under one of the beds bolted to the wall, starts taking off his coat, revealing a thick blue sweater and a pair of skinny legs. “Seokjin-ssi,” he says, the train creaking slowly to life, “I think we’re in this for the long haul. London to Beijing.”
In a span of ninety minutes, Seokjin has learned several things about Min Yoongi.
First, Min Yoongi is quiet until he’s not, will give clipped, one word answers until you get him going on the right topic.
Second, he has passable languages skills across the board, discovered only after speaking accented english to a child terrorizing the aisle of their car, saying hello to a man in Russian with a nod.
Most importantly, he seems completely at ease on the train. He had thrown his coat off along with his gloves, immediately settled down on the half bench-half bed across from Seokjin in the cabin.
“I’m a writer,” Yoongi says, like it explains anything, “and a photographer. And a musician. I’m several things. It’s a non-issue.”
“Oh?” Seokjin replies, not understanding where Yoongi is going with any of this.
Yoongi rifles through one of his bags and sets a yellow mug on the dirty white table between them.
“What I’m saying is; I take this train all the time. For fun. For inspiration.”
Seokjin looks around them at their first class cabin. Even though it’s technically top of the line, he can’t help but dread the long journey ahead, trapped in a tiny box with a hard bed and the worst meal options he’s ever seen.
“You enjoy this?” Seokjin asks, gesturing around at the car. Yoongi’s eyes follow the motion of his hand; the path it makes from the lacey white trim of the curtains to the tacky red carpet on the ground.
“Don’t you?” Yoongi asks, the corners of his pink mouth creeping upwards. “I always meet interesting people.”
Yoongi stands and disappears out the door with his mug. Seokjin lets out a breath of air he didn’t know he was holding.
When Yoongi returns, steam rises out of the mug and he pulls a tea bag out of a box in his suitcase. The scent of it spreads slowly through the cabin, water rippling as the train trudges on.
“So, Seokjin-ssi,” Yoongi begins, smiling mouth hidden behind the raised yellow mug, “what do you do?”
Seokjin feels akin to an animal already caught in it’s cage. “I’m a historian,” he says. “I work in a museum, help pick out artifacts for exhibits.”
Yoongi hums around a mouthful of tea. “Is that what you were doing in London?”
Seokjin nods. He still has his coat on, warming up with the train.
“Do you have a mug? I’ll make you some tea.”
“No,” Seokin replies.
“Amatuer. Buy one at the next stop.”
“Don’t they have disposable cups?” Seokjin asks.
“Well, yeah” Yoongi says, “but with a real one we can also make instant noodles. Multiple times.”
Seokjin wrinkles his nose. He’s not fond of the idea of eating more terrible food after living off the hotel buffet for a week. His body sways with the train; left, right, left. Out the window, snowy white hills whip by, broken by houses and low wooden fences, so old they might have grown right out of the earth itself. Seokjin looks at Yoongi; his button nose, his thick, dark hair, his narrow body. Yoongi is pretty in a way that sort of scares him.
Yoongi looks right back. “You don’t want to eat in the restaurant car, anyway, Seokjin-ssi,” he grins. “When I get off for a day in Berlin, I’m eating my weight in meat.”
When I get off for a day in Berlin, Seokjin thinks.
“Ah,” Seokjin stutters, “Yoongi-ssi, I’m also--”
Yoongi smiles a cheshire grin, all teeth. “You’re also stopping in Berlin?” he asks, watching Seokjin nod. Yoongi looks from the foggy window to Seokjin and back again. He leans forward over the bolted table, looks him right in the eye.
“Seokjin-ssi, would you like to order some vodka?”
To his credit, Yoongi holds off on the vodka. They both do two shots and remain pleasantly buzzed as the french landscape speeds by out the frosty window, finally giving way to snow. Through the sea of flickering white, old buildings and uneven streets appear and disappear like magic. The bottle of Smirnoff sticks halfway out of Yoongi’s bag beneath his seat.
When the train had stopped at the station, Yoongi had kicked Seokjin out the door, made him go buy a shitty souvenir mug from the platform, said I’m going to make you tea, Seokjin-ssi, to which Seokjin could only smile and comply.
Now, Seokjin sits cheerfully buzzed on the lumpy bench of their cabin as Yoongi reappears in the doorway with two mugs of steaming hot water. When he sets them down on the table, he leans over and rifles through his half zipped suitcase on the floor, pulls two tea bags out of that box again, drops them into the cups. “Blackberry tea,” he mumbles.
Seokjin takes his mug and watches the water change colors slowly, steam rising up into his face.
“Hm,” Yoongi hums, stirring his tea, face almost imperceptibly pink from the vodka.
“Yoongi-ssi,” Seokjin says, “where are you from?”
“Daegu,” he responds, “but I haven’t been there in years. You?”
“Gwacheon,” Seokjin says, “although I live in Seoul now.”
“For work?” Yoongi asks, two hands around his warm tea. Seokjin nods. Yoongi hides his mouth behind his yellow mug. “I live everywhere for work. Or nowhere. Depends who you ask.”
Seokjin is buzzed and warm and feeling a little out of his body. “And if I’m asking you ?” he says, unable to resist a smile, molasses slow and summer warm.
Yoongi smirks right back. “Which one do you like better?” The toes of his boots poke at Seokjin’s calves underneath the table.
Seokjin coughs, flustered, face heating up under Yoongi’s heavy stare.
Yoongi hums to hide his laugh, Seokjin’s eyes flick up, up, away, catching on the silver glint of Yoongi’s tiny hoop earrings.
Yoongi hums to himself, low in his throat. He pours more vodka into Seokjin's mug.
"You said you were a writer, right?" Seokjin asks.
Yoongi sits back in his blue pajamas, flushed a little in the face from the alcohol. "Among other things," he says.
"Anything I would know?"
"No," Yoongi replies, "probably not." He sits cross legged on the bench, toes curling in his socks. "I write for a travel magazine, but only for the money. It's easy, and I get to go anywhere." Yoongi takes a sip from his mug. "But otherwise I just do...weird stuff. For fun. For myself. I take photos, write music, I'm doing this whole thing with craigslist..."
"Craigslist?" Seokjin repeats, laughing high and bright.
Yoongi laughs too. "Yeah," he says. "Missed connections ads. It's fun. They usually get a lot of attention, for whatever reason. I like it."
Yoongi lets Seokjin pour an unnecessary amount of smirnoff into his mug, too, watching the tendons strain against the skin of his hands. His chestnut brown hair is parted unevenly in a zig zag across his scalp.
“You said you were a historian, Seokjin-ssi,” Yoongi continues.
“Mhm,” Seokjin replies into his mug. Yoongi’s pajama bottoms ride up at his ankle and reveal a smooth plane of pale skin between his socks and the hem. Seokjin’s eyes wander to it and then back up again.
“Then you must know lots of things, right?”
Seokjin laughs. “I guess.”
Yoongi stretches his legs out in front of him and they brush against Seokjin’s shins.
“Tell me a story, then,” Yoongi says. Outside the train, the sky is midnight blue through the window, the exact color of Yoongi’s pajamas.
Yoongi asks Seokjin to tell him a story, and Seokjin does.
Seokjin steps off the train into the cold night air, breathes a puff of white that disappears right before his eyes. He can feel Yoongi stepping down onto the platform behind him, suitcase and carry on bag in tow.
They’re both still residually drunk. Seokjin feels warm inside his coat.
Everything glows faintly silver through the glass ceiling of the train station, flickers of feeble white light in the strands of Seokjin’s hair.
They follow the sleepy flow of the crowd out to the front of the station. The heavily settled snow on the ground leaves a strange luminescence, light reflected back up into the sky, a lovely yellow glow stretching out across the city.
Yoongi stands next to Seokjin, his profile sharp, looking out at Berlin.
“Seokjin-hyung,” he says, “what is it about winter that makes the air so clear?”
Hyung? Seokjin thinks, watching Yoongi’s back recede down the long, uneven street, disappearing around a corner as Seokjin steps into the isolated warmth of a cab.
CRAIGSLIST>>MISSED CONNECTIONS>>INSIDE THE INSIDE OF EVERYTHING THAT GLOWS
You were last seen outside of a train station in Berlin.
I think of vodka and my blue pajamas and your laugh, all turning you pink.
I have no tricks up my sleeve. I have nothing to offer you, except strange tea, instant coffee. I have watched you stumble over english, french, german. Sometimes, a man with gold on the buttons of is coat would make his way through the cars, muttering the name of a city over and over again. You are very quiet. Very beautiful. We are both halfway out the door. I like you anyways.
Do you ever think of the heart? How small it is? How weak? Its translucence. I think we often ask too much of it.
I am not sure how to say this, but you seem like someone who over-waters their plants. No idea how to stop giving.
Seokjin presses his phone to his ear, ice cold in the winter air.
“Hyung,” Taehyung begins, voice crackling through the speaker, “you won’t be lonely for long. Moscow is only three stops away.”
Seokjin scoffs and smiles despite himself, Taehyung’s brotherly teasing always cutting right to all the weaker parts of his heart.
“Plus one day in Saint Petersburg,” Seokjin replies. “And I’m not lonely,”
“Oh?” Taehyung says, voice inching higher as he speaks. In the distance, Seokjin can hear the train rumbling like a memory of thunder, closer and closer with each passing minute. “I can tell mom to stop asking me about your love life? Since you never answer her calls?”
“You’re both terrible,” Seokjin smiles. “Stay out of it.”
“I’m your little brother, hyung. It’s not in my agenda to stay out of it. I live to make fun of you. You haven’t dated in what? A year? When’s the last time you even got laid?” Taehyung’s voice is goofy and teasing through the phone, and Seokjin can hear someone laughing and smacking Taehyung on the shoulder, saying don’t say that in public, you perv, to which Taehyung responds with a hiss of it’s not like anyone else in Moscow understands korean, Jimin.
“Oh my god,” Seokjin deadpans, “I’m hanging up.”
“Wait!” Taehyung says, just as Seokjin jams his finger into the green end call icon on the screen.
His phone instantly lights up again, Taehyung’s name flashing across the screen. Seokjin has some time. He answers.
“What,” Seokjin says.
“I’m onto you,” Taehyung replies, and then promptly hangs up the phone.
Someone taps his shoulder as he’s putting his phone into his coat pocket. When he turns, he is met with Yoongi’s face; nose red from the cold, looking tired and regretfully conscious.
“Yoongi-ssi,” Seokjin stammers.
Yoongi’s nose crinkles up along with his squinting eyes. “Hyung,” he complains, “don’t call me that. It makes me feel old.”
Seokjin’s brain still catches on hyung, inexplicably flustered by Yoongi’s easy familiarity.
“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin corrects.
Yoongi nods to himself and doesn’t say anything more.
Seokjin feels antsy with Yoongi just standing there, looking sharp and predatory in the harsh white light, feels compelled to fill the silence.
“Did you get first class again?” Seokjin asks.
Yoongi’s dark eyes slide over to him. “No,” he replies, “I bought my tickets four minutes ago. None left.”
Seokjin’s toes scrunch up inside his shoes. “Me either.”
Yoongi turns his head and looks at him. His eyes are smiling.
Seokjin’s stupid heart skips a beat inside his chest. Pretty, pretty, pretty, his brain repeats. “My brother is getting on in Moscow,” he says instead. The train rolls into the platform.
“Well,” Yoongi says. “At least now we have room.”
Warsaw is orange and green and delicate blue, tumbling by through the dirty cabin window. Yoongi sits across from Seokjin on their benches, the two bunks above them left empty. Yoongi’s yellow mug and Seokjin’s cheap Paris one lay empty with cheap instant coffee grounds drying in their bases.
“Hyung,” Yoongi says, feet stretching out across the cabin to rest next to Seokjin, “Tell me a secret.”
“A secret?” Seokjin repeats, caught off guard.
Yoongi nods. “Everyone has at least three.” He smiles, fiddles with a few of his silver earrings. “I’ll tell you some of mine.”
Seokjin watches Yoongi’s face, pleasant and unchanging against the wooden backdrop of their tiny cabin.
“I haven’t seen my best friend in two years,” Yoongi begins. “Jungkook. He has all the stuff that used to be in my apartment and didn't make it into my suitcase. I worry about him often. He’s quite shy.” Yoongi knocks his socked feet together a couple times while he talks. “And sometimes my job is very lonely. Lot’s of leaving.”
“Those aren’t secrets,” Seokjin counters.
“Sure they are,” Yoongi says. “Secrets don’t have to be bad.”
Seokjin makes a face, wonders what Yoongi’s third secret might be, glances at the colorful buildings rolling by out the window.
“Then what are they, Yoongi-yah?”
Yoongi’s hands fold together in his lap, and his eyes crinkle up with the hint of a smile, dark and sweet.
“Something you don’t tell just anyone.”
“You never told me one of your secrets, hyung,” Yoongi whispers. On the bunk above him, a stranger sleeps. He had gotten on in Minsk, offered them food and drink, stumbled through a conversation with a smile. For an hour they had all stayed on the two lower benches, navigating a conversation with basic english and hand gestures, sipping on mulled wine, Seokjin eating all the pastries.
Seokjin’s head turns from the window to Yoongi. He is as blue as a glacier in the dark, legs stretched out to Seokjin’s bench on the other side of the cabin.
The train is quiet, aside from the rumbling and creaking, the hushed conversations through the thin walls.
“I was engaged, once,” Seokjin says, quiet, quiet, quiet.
Out the window, telephone lines and fences make a blurry painting over the blackness of the sky.
“When?” Yoongi whispers.
“About a year ago.”
Yoongi considers this for a moment, shoves his hands under his thighs, shoulders coming up to his ears with the motion.
Seokjin continues. “We just weren’t right for eachother. I know that now.” A shadow passes by the door. “We were together for so long, you know? It’s hard, starting all over again from nothing.”
Seokjin feels Yoongi’s socked feet press into the side of his thigh. “Hyung,” he says, “You’re looking at it all wrong.” The train turns and the moon shines faintly across his face, his hair, casting delicate shadows over his pale skin as he smiles. “It’s more like you have nothing to lose.”
Seokjin places a hand on Yoongi’s ankle beside him, warm and bony, feels the tendons shift and settle under his palm. “Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin whispers, “I’m stopping again in Saint Petersburg. Do you want to tag along?”
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
Seokjin has no idea what time it is. All he knows is that it’s late, the sky is dark, the road they’re standing on is empty. There's snowflakes sticking in Yoongi’s hair, settling on the shoulders of Seokjin’s coat. The sound of someone laughing echoes from somewhere unseen, resounding down the path between two stone buildings
The road narrows, giving Seokjin an excuse to press a little closer. Yoongi stops, points upwards at the sky, points at a light, white against the black, doesn't seem to care if its a satellite or a star. Seokjin’s head tilts back, looking skyward, too. When it tilts down again, he is face to face with Yoongi, nearly goes cross eyed trying to look at him.
Yoongi pulls down on the lapels of Seokjin’s coat.
“Tell me if I’m reading this wrong,” he says, eyes making their way down Seokjin’s face. Seokjin can feel his warm, minty breath fanning out across his skin, breaking the cold winter air. Yoongi has gone pink on the crests of his cheekbones, for all his brashness he is shy. His earrings glint in the streetlights.
“You’re not,” Seokjin says. He’s finding it hard to get words out. “Not at all.”
Yoongi hums, his cold hands sliding up Seokjin’s neck and onto the smooth planes of his face. His rings clink together when he moves. “Good,” he mumbles, “you’re very handsome. I like you quite a bit.”
Seokjin slips his hands into the opening of Yoongi’s overcoat; for once his body knows exactly what to do. He feels sixteen again, red in the ears, pulling Yoongi closer by the sharp bones of his hips. A shiver runs down his spine, Yoongi’s fingers messing with the hair at the nape of his neck.
“Charming, too,” Yoongi continues.
“You know me,” Seokjin smiles, mouth dimpling in the corners. Yoongi’s head tips back a centimeter, eyes flickering across all the soft angles of Seokjin’s face.
Yoongi feels chaotic and undone, like those few minutes before a storm where the wind picks up and the sky is dark and the air is hot but, still, still, still, you feel safe. Anticipating.
Jin closes his eyes to the lovely image of Yoongi’s face swimming towards him as snow sinks around them, down, down, down in every imaginable direction.
What gets Yoongi is how easily it happens; zero resistance, how quietly Seokjin had pulled him closer, let Yoongi’s hands slide right up his body.
One of Seokjin’s hands slips from the bone of Yoongi’s hip to the small of his back, warm, gentle, fingers splayed out across the back of his sweater.
The kiss becomes less kissing and more smiling in dangerous proximity, until Yoongi pulls away and knocks his forehead against Seokjin’s collarbone, laughs quietly to himself, hands tangled in the lapels of Seokjin’s wool coat.
“Shh,” Seokjin says, but he’s laughing, too, the hot puff of air fanning out across the crown of Yoongi’s head.
Yoongi can’t do anything but snicker again, mellow and tinny, lift his head up and look at Seokjin haloed by warm yellow in the streetlights, his smile wide and stretching all the way up to his eyes.
When they had arrived here it was still day. Yoongi had been beautiful in motion, a silhouette against the Neva River, coat flapping behind him in the wind. He had dragged Seokjin across the city, through the streets, over bridges, made him try perozchki and belyashi , told him Seokjiin-hyung, I think you’ve been travelling all wrong, too.
Now, Yoongi pulls Seokjin along by the sleeve of his coat, looks back over his shoulder at the soft, sweet angles of Seokjin’s face, blurry in the dark.
The hotel is small, creaky, and the rooms smell of dust. Yoongi holds back a smile, watching Seokjin wave around his doorway, disappearing halfway down the hall.
CRAIGSLIST>>MISSED CONNECTIONS>>HOT AS A STAR, HOOKED AS A BIRD
You were last seen down a hotel hallway in Saint Petersburg.
I think of how you move; you step into the room and the room steps into you. You step into the night and the sky falls into your hair.
You wear your burdens as a mountain wears snow. You are opening like a river.
I think windchimes, I think ash colored houses with green doors, I think cheap mugs filled with instant coffee. I have a voice like a gunshot and a tangerine mouth. I think of you, leaning your head into my hands, knowing I’ll kiss you if you’ll just close your eyes. I think I will see you in the morning.
Yoongi watches Seokjin talk to his brother over the phone as the train slows to a stop at the platform.
“I’m in the car right by the newspaper stand. Third cabin,” he says. Yoongi can’t make out his brother’s response. “That’s fine,” he replies. “There’s two empty bunks left.”
Yoongi pulls on a sweater over his shirt, cold again, watching the bustle of the station out the window, foggy through the glass.
“Yeah,” Seokjin repeats to the phone, “third cabin.”
There’s rustling outside the door and then it opens; a tall, willowy boy with long fringe and tan skin appearing in the frame.
“Jin-hyung!” he says.
Seokjin stands, nearly hits his head on the bunk above him, pulls the boy into a hug.
“Taehyungie,” Seokjin smiles. Then they both laugh into each other's shoulders as Yoongi realizes that their hair is almost the same shade of chestnut brown.
They pull apart, and Seokjin sits down on Yoongi’s bench instead, leaving the other one empty.
“Ah,” Taehyung says, reaching back through the doorway, pulling another boy in by the sleeve of his puffy coat. “This is Jimin.” He has dirty blond hair that curls away from his face and a gold stud in his cartilage.
“Uh, hi,” Jimin says, smiling nervously.
Seokjin puts a bony hand on Yoongi’s knee. “This is Min Yoongi. He’s your hyung, so don’t be an idiot, Taehyung.”
Yoongi nods and sips at his awful coffee, observes the way Taehyung and Jimin carefully sit with six exact inches of distance between them.
Taehyung relays several months worth of information to Seokjin in a strange sort of rapid fire, my russian is still awful, I miss jajangmyeon, I cant believe its so cold, filling in the gaps for each other as they go. Yoongi can see how they came from the same place; corny humor, easy laughs, kind smiles. Seokjin’s knee keeps hitting Yoongi’s and Jimin mostly just stares at Taehyung while they talk, lulled by the sway of the train on its tracks.
After a while, Seokjin leaves with Yoongi’s mug to fill it with hot water again, emptied of his instant coffee.
Taehyung turns and squints playfully at him, a smile creeping up his face.
“I’m onto you,” he says.
Yoongi looks pointedly at the rapidly shrinking space between Taehyung and Jimin. “So am I.”
Yoongi watches Taehyung, Jimin, and Seokjin standing on the platform during the thirty minute stop.
Seokjin has stepped out to tell Taehyung goodbye, Yoongi had stayed on the train in the relative warmth of his coat and the cabin.
They hug again, and Taehyung pulls his backpack on all the way, trying to situate it comfortably around his coat.
Seokjin turns and watches them go, hands in his pockets. Halfway down the platform, Jimin and Taehyung stop so that Taehyung can tie his shoelace. When he stands again, Jimin looks nervously around them, biting his lip, right before leaning up on his toes, pressing his lips to Taehyung’s in a chaste kiss. Taehyung’s ears go instantly red and his hands fly up to cover them. Yoongi smiles.
Seokjin can’t be sure from where he’s standing, but it looks like Taehyung had flushed beet red, sputtered you could have warned me! Jimin cracks a tiny smile, pink in his cheeks, pokes the toe of his shoe at Taehyung, shoulders shyly creeping up to his ears.
Seokjin meets Yoongi’s eyes through the window of the train, thinks I wish someone had warned me about you. I wish someone could tell what my decisions will mean in the future.
When Seokjin wakes up, Yoongi is glowing pink; the sun setting directly in their window, tinging their immediate universe the color of a peach.
He looks up from what he’s writing at Seokjin, smiles when his eyes land on his bed hair.
“Hi,” Yoongi whispers.
“Hi,” Seokjin replies. “What are you up to?”
“Writing a draft. And zoning out.”
Seokjin laughs. It comes out garbled with sleep. He sits up. Yoongi’s suitcase is thrown open on the floor, disorganized and everywhere.
Dark sweaters, mismatched socks, leather notebooks. His glasses, the box of tea, several pens, no caps. Cameras, instant coffee. Seokjin smiles. It’s like a tiny museum of Yoongi; all of him shoved into one rectangular space. He is immediately reminded of the fleeting nature of whatever it is that they’re doing; hundreds of miles across the continent and a very definite ending point. Seokjin looks at it for a moment and lays back down again.
Yoongi’s eyes wander to Seokjin, rosy in the sunlight. He is young in his face and old in all his details; corny humor, kind eyes, gentle hands.
“What are you writing?” Seokjin prods.
“Nothing,” Yoongi blurts, refusing to look up again.
Seokjin winks at him, knowing Yoongi wont see. “Is it about me?”
Yoongi’s pen stills on the page, casting a long shadow across the journal. “Maybe.”
Oh, Seokjin thinks. He wasn’t expecting that.
Yoongi hunches closer to the paper, curling in on himself, doing a fine impression of a turtle.
After a while, he closes the notebook, puts the pen down on the table with a clink. “Tell me a story,” Yoongi says.
Seokjin listens. Seokjin tells him the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. How he had gone to save her from the underworld, how he couldn't resist looking back at her, even before she had even seen the sun. How she had disappeared forever, as soon as he caught sight.
“I wanted to kiss you before,” Yoongi says, “but I wanted to be alone.” His head tilts upwards and his eyes flutter closed, eyelashes fanning out across his cheekbones, fragile and dark.
He tastes like the wine they had at dinner, reminds Seokjin of Yoongi’s red stained lips stretching out into a smile, how he had said Я хоч у теб я поцелов а ть and refused to translate.
They had eaten in the restaurant car, finally out of snacks, and Seokjin’s ankles had intertwined with Yoongi’s underneath the table in the booth, perpetually cold. Seokjin doesn’t even know what they had eaten, had let himself be pulled along by Yoongi as he led them down the train, back to their empty cabin.
And; Seokjin can only kiss him back and think helplessly that Yoongi somehow already means something, is something to him, that he thinks of Yoongi this way, even when it hasn’t been two weeks.
And; Seokjin feels stupid. He feels stupid, like a kid with a crush at summer camp. He feels stupid, like a freshman in college on their first real date, except that Seokjin isn’t nineteen anymore, except that Yoongi smiles against Seokjin’s lips, pulls him closer by the front of his shirt, except that Yoongi is kissing him and showing him that everything Seokjin thought he wanted was wrong.
They’re both on the sober edge of tipsy, Yoongi’s hands tangled in Seokjin’s brown hair, Yoongi’s back against the flimsy wooden door.
“How do you feel?” Seokjin breathes, cut off over and over and over again by the press of Yoongi’s pink lips.
Yoongi kisses his cheek, his jaw, leans up on his toes to kiss his temple. “Like springtime.”
LAKE BAIKAL, RUSSIA
The bus is cold, and Yoongi leeches heat off of Seokjin like a lizard, body curled around all of Seokjin’s angles like origami paper.
Yoongi said he wanted to stop in Irkutsk, visit an island in Lake Baikal, do a russian sauna. The water is frozen, but the bus takes an ice road.
Yoongi’s face is pressed tiredly into Seokjin’s upper arm, and he feels more than sees it when Yoongi speaks.
“I’ll tell you my third secret,” he says, “from before.”
Seokjin thinks of Poland, thinks of Warsaw, thinks of Yoongi’s feet pressing into his side.
“I once had a part time job and ruined my shoulder. Never healed quite right.”
Seokjin looks down at Yoongi leaning on him, the precise way that he is sitting, the slight and permanent tilt in one direction, thinks that makes sense. And then, that’s kind of an intimate detail.
Seokjin thinks of Yoongi’s strange definition of a secret, wonders why he wouldn’t tell that to anyone, right up until Yoongi shifts in his seat and mutters it kind of hurts.
OLKHON ISLAND, RUSSIA
Yoongi’s hair sticks to his forehead in the humidity. Drops of water roll into his clavicles, pooling there. The wood of the sauna is dark with water, the air is thick with heat.
Seokjin stands just inside the doorway, feeling naked even in his towel.
Yoongi’s eyes are closed, head leaned back against the wall, bony hands in his lap.
“Come over here,” he says.
Seokjin sits down on the wood next to him, careful not to touch Yoongi.
Yoongi turns his head and opens his eyes. “Are you shy, Seokjin-hyung?”
Seokjin turns pink. “No,” he defends. Yoongi laughs and the sound of it is sticky, sticky, sticky, sickly sweet, plastered to the inside of Seokjin’s head.
Seokjin has never been weird about his body; he likes his shoulders and his back, likes the taper of his waist. Yoongi’s body is thin and pretty like a ragdoll, bony knees, sharp elbows. There are at least 3 right angles at any given part of him. Three of his ribs are visible, transitioning into the soft, pale skin of his stomach, the sharp jut of his hipbones above the towel.
Yoongi grabs Seokjin’s arm, turns it over a few times, examines its intricacies. He slides his hand up Seokjin’s bicep to his shoulder and leaves it there.
Yoongi’s hair is soaked, clumping together into sharp little points over his eyebrows. Seokjin brushes it back towards his head.
“Nice forehead,” Seokjin teases.
“Thanks,” Yoongi replies. “It’s what the bangs are for.”
When Seokjin goes out to cool down before his second sweat, Yoongi watches the muscles in his back expand and contract, straining against the smooth plain of his skin.
When he returns, Yoongi let’s Seokjin’s palms slide down his arm, his back, over the ridgy bumps of his spine, across his shoulder blades, all the places that constantly ache, gentle and hesitant, one part massage, three parts exploration.
Yoongi blushes for no reason other than that’s just how he is, drops his face into his hands to the sound of Seokjin’s teasing, “Are you shy, Yoongi-yah?”
His heart swings open like a switchblade.
CRAIGSLIST>>MISSED CONNECTIONS>>POINT OF MIGRATION
You were last seen with damp hair, asleep next to me in a king sized bed.
I think of the door, the stairs. Your handprints, stained on the wall. Not blood. Something more urgent, more gentle, something I can only see in the right light. I want you to become dust with me. Insignificant and everywhere.
I don’t know how to say this, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I could delete what I have written, but I cannot unwrite it. I do not want to.
This scares me. There is no god. There is only what you want.
OLKHON ISLAND, RUSSIA
Seokjin has pillow creases in his cheek and his eyes are puffy, still closed as he slowly rolls onto his side.
Yoongi lies next to him on his back, turns his head towards Seokjin’s sleeping face, whispers, Kim Seokjin, I think I could fall in love with you.
ULAAN BAATAR, MONGOLIA
Yoongi is asleep in Seokjin’s lap, face turned towards Seokjin’s hip. He had been writing in a notebook, arm at a weird angle, now limp against the bench with the pages still open.
I take some words and I put them in your mouth, it says. I put them on your eyelids. I think of you as gently as I can. Sometimes the way things seem isn’t the way people feel. Sometimes it is. This is a problem.
You asked me once when you thought I was sleeping if I’m like this to everyone I meet.
I am here to tell you no. Just you, Kim Seokjin. Just you.
Seokjin closes the notebook, rubs at Yoongi’s wrists, plays with his hair. Yoongi wakes up and slides onto his back, staring up at Seokjin from below.
There are several things that are not said.
CRAIGSLIST>>MISSED CONNECTIONS>>THERE IS STILL SO MUCH I WANT TO TELL YOU
Tomorrow you will last be seen on a train platform in Beijing. Through a crowd. If we are lucky; through snow.
I think of your hands touching my body, aware of it’s pains.
I think of how I do not go home, how you open up like a sky, how you are as blue as the night in Cuba.
I think of how usually, I do not mean it when I tell someone goodbye.
Say it softly, with all eight muscles of the tongue, as if leaving is a language that doesn't bite back. Say my name; one more perfect time while it still belongs to you. Say that it has been the greatest kindness. Say thank you, first. Say time. Say ocean. Say gravity. In us, everything sinks.
The station is loud, loud, loud. Seokjin follows Yoongi through the crowd, down the platform, through the doors. Yoongi stops. Yoongi turns.
Everything about his body language tells Seokjin that he is at ease except his eyes; miserable and forlorn. Serious. Sinking like boats.
“Okay,” he says. Seokjin can’t tell if he’s talking to him or himself.
“Okay,” Seokjin repeats. They’re right outside the main entrance of the station, the crowd separating and coming together again as it moves around them.
“Kim Seokjin,” Yoongi says. “I think softly of you.”
Seokjin wants to kiss him, thinks I want to keep you but I refuse to own a cage. He pulls on the opening of Yoongi’s coat, lost for what to do.
Yoongi looks down at Seokjin’s hands on him and back up at his face. His eyebrows pull together in a frown. “I think we both have to go,” he says. His voice is scratchy and tight.
“Yoongi-yah--” Seokjin blurts. He doesn’t really know where to go from here, what to say, how to make Yoongi understand that nobody has captivated him like this in such a long time. That nobody else has even kissed him since the engagement ended. That Seokjin didn’t even want them to.
“Hey, now,” Yoongi mumbles. His cold hands reach up and wipe a tear from the corner of Seokjin’s eye, fingers splayed out across the soft planes of his face. He leaves them there.
Seokjin feels stupid until he looks at Yoongi, the glassiness of his eyes, the downward pull of his expression.
“I’m going to kiss you, now,” Seokjin says.
Yoongi laughs, scrubs at his eyes. “Okay,” he replies. Seokjin pulls Yoongi up onto his toes by his coat, kisses him hard and sweet.
They let go of eachother. Yoongi takes a single step backwards, just stands there for a moment, looking at Seokjin, willing the sight of him into his memory.
“Au revoir,” he says. And he is so, so beautiful. His dark hair, his blunt humor, the gentle slope of his shoulders. How he writes, how he thinks, how quietly he sleeps. Seokjin would give all his tomorrows for a single yesterday.
“Isn’t that goodbye?” Seokjin almost wants to close his eyes. Doesn’t even want to watch him go.
“No,” Yoongi corrects. “It’s ‘until we see eachother again.’” He wants to reach across and pull Seokjin right out of his skin, out of his responsibilities. Wants to say quit your job, come with me, I can show you how fine and rare and beautiful it is just to simply exist. Just us. Another train. Another city. I think I miss you already.
Seokjin wraps his arms around himself like a hug. “Au revoir,” he calls.
He watches Yoongi walk away, glacier slow and golden, realizes belatedly that it’s snowing. Before he disappears around a corner, Yoongi stops and turns to face Seokjin over his shoulder, looking at him. Looking through him. Seokjin feels even more naked than he had in the sauna.
Seokjin thinks of Orpheus, stealing a glance at Eurydice before she is out of his reach forever, reminds himself that not all stories are true.
Finally, finally, finally, Yoongi smiles; crooked and artless. Seokjin thinks of how he leaves the air untouched, how he came into Seokjin’s world and made it honest again. Simply walking through it.
CRAIGSLIST>>MISSED CONNECTIONS >> THERE IS STILL SO MUCH I WANT TO KNOW
You were last seen on a train platform in Beijing. Through a crowd. Through the snow. I told you I was a writer. A musician. I told you a lot of things. Each one of them is true. Especially when I told you that I could fall in love with you. I am trying to see where beauty comes from in a world without you, and I think I finally understand why people fail at love; it’s much less scary to just walk away.
We first kissed in St Petersburg. Second in Krasnoyarsk. The whole time, I thought of the paper wings of a dragonfly, pulling a cello out of it’s black case, a dim farmhouse, morning radio, blackberry tea. The steam rising from your shoulders. How my hands remember where they touched you. How we forgive winter for destroying what's beautiful, because we see a little bit of it in ourselves. I could learn you again and again and again.
I have dreams where I hear your laughter pealing through the trees for hours on end. Where I look down the street I’ve been standing on, where I see you and the rising sun. Where I’m not sure there is a difference.
I was wrong. I don’t have to go. Let me stay. I will bring myself to you, the way hunger turns to a spoon.
Kim Seokjin. Don’t make me spend the rest of my life writing poems about missing you.
RE: CRAIGSLIST>>MISSED CONNECTIONS>>THERE IS STILL SO MUCH I WANT TO KNOW
Yoongi-yah, don’t you know me at all?
I would never.