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Heists and Hearts

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Min Yoongi isn’t that fond of meetings. No one should really be fond of it, he thinks, except for his best friend Namjoon, who really likes talking. Namjoon can be soothing and perfect for PR, while Yoongi can be a bit stiff and unemotional, to say the least. In an alternate universe where they aren't criminals, Yoongi deduces, his partner would make a good speaker for some government official or CEO.

The thing is, Yoongi doesn’t care that much if the USB he needs to steal contains files that can ruin a city’s economic growth, or if the necklace his team has to retrieve is a family heirloom that has the sentimental value of about eight generations before and after it. Most of the times Yoongi sees the client on the second or third meeting, when they’re discussing payments or other pertinent information to their jobs.

For Min Yoongi, there are only two things that he needs to know: what needs to be stolen, and how much his team is going to get paid for it.

“When they tell you the sentimental value of the item, it means they want you to value it as well so you’ll work harder to retrieve it,” Namjoon explains and Yoongi rolls his eyes at him.

“Pay me higher and I’ll work harder.”

So now he and Namjoon are sitting inside Kwon Jiyong’s office, waiting for their client to say something. Namjoon almost fainted when he found out that Kwon Jiyong, billionaire businessman, fashion designer, artist, producer, and overall rich guy is looking to have a job for them. He’s giddy their entire drive to his building, thinking about what job he has for them.

“Steal competitor secrets? What do you think, Yoongi hyung? Shit, what if he wants us to acquire files that can actually ruin the Korean economy? I can’t have that hanging above my head for the rest of my life!”

“Shut up and drive carefully, Namjoon,” Yoongi drones. He pretends to be nonchalant about this possible gig, but he’s curious as well. Kwon Jiyong is literally rich enough to buy half the land in Korea. Whatever job he has for them won’t be easy, but it also won’t come cheap. They know the job will be illegal (when was it not, really) when they’re made to park in the next building and then walk to the car park of Kwon Jiyong’s building, where a man named Kang Daesung is waiting for them, giving them special visitor passes.

“Please press for the 59th floor and scan the passes for access. I’ll only be with you up to the lobby,” the man informs them as they walk inside the building. Yoongi does a quick scan of where the CCTVs are and does a mental note to make Jeongguk erase traces of them entering the building, just in case.

Yoongi and Namjoon get inside the elevator, use the passes, and the box moves.

“It’s going down,” Namjoon notes. Yoongi isn’t surprised and instead just shrugs. “This guy’s going to be a dramatic one,” he tells the older one. The door opens and they walk down a particularly long hallway. “A really dramatic one.”

But when Kwon Jiyong, wearing a full, plush velvet suit, ears studded with jewelry that can feed a family of four for an entire year, leans forward across his desk and tells them what they have to steal, Yoongi is a bit surprised. 

“Say that again?” Namjoon stutters.

“I need you to steal me a painting.” Mr. Kwon smiles but the glint in his eyes is far from affable.

Yoongi crosses his legs and arms. “And would that be the Mona Lisa, Mr. Kwon?” He literally cannot and will not be bothered to steal the most famous painting in the world, even if he can. Kwon Jiyong laughs and plays with the bracelet on his wrist.

“Please," he scoffs at them, "I don’t need you to acquire the Mona Lisa. I can get her if I want.”

Namjoon raises his eyebrows but Yoongi’s only impressed enough to raise just one. “And this painting you want… is harder to acquire than the Mona Lisa?”

Kwon Jiyong walks around his desk and sits on it, so there are no barriers between him and Namjoon and Yoongi, who are still seated on the velvet chairs. “Something like that.”

Yoongi assesses his potential client. He called some of the people he knows have worked with and for him, just to know what he’s like. Everyone told him the same thing: he’s extremely rich and extremely petty, and that makes him a good and dangerous client.

“It’s the other half of this painting behind me.” Kwon Jiyong continues, hand vaguely gesturing to his back. Both Yoongi and Namjoon look up at the small painting propped at the wall. The canvass is about four square feet in size, covered with gold streaks and white lines. The signature of the artist is nowhere to be found.

“Do you have a photo of the other half, Mr. Kwon?” Namjoon asks.

“No, but once you see it, you’ll know.” Kwon Jiyong informs them, like not knowing what their target item looks like isn’t a problem at all.

Yoongi realizes he really hates first time client meetings and would really rather get the Cliff’s Notes version from Namjoon next time. He blinks to avoid rolling his eyes and looks around the office, rich and filled with expensive things. He looks back at the frame behind Kwon Jiyong and thinks that if anything, the painting is the cheapest looking item in the place.

“I had this painting, and its twin, personally commissioned. It’s nothing of value to the black market, but it’s priceless to me,” Kwon tells them, tone suddenly a bit melancholic.

Yoongi succeeds in suppressing a groan sitting at the base of his throat.

Kwon Jiyong assesses their reactions and nods when he sees that both Namjoon and Yoongi seem to be genuinely disinterested in the monetary value of the piece of art. “The other half of this painting, the one I want you to steal,” he continues, his tone back to cold and sly, “is in the possession of Choi Seunghyun.”

*****

At any given moment Kim Namjoon is contemplating something.

At any given second he has a certain number of plans to get out of wherever he is, and that increases or decreases depending on the external factors he has little to no control of. If, for example, he suddenly finds himself locked out of his and Hoseok's shared apartment, he has 52 ways to get in without a key.

While listening to Kwon Jiyong explain the job, he starts with 153 plans. A hundred and fifty three ways to steal a painting. That number's pretty high, considering the fact that they don't steal paintings a lot. Not anymore, at least, after what happened several years ago. Their expertise nowadays lean more on information extraction: files, photographs, things like that. Sometimes even governments hire them to retrieve information their own funded bureaus can’t get into, but he can’t elaborate on that.

While their potential client further describes the situation, the nature of the building, and the target, Namjoon’s number of ways to steal said painting slowly goes down. Choi Seunghyun, like Kwon Jiyong, is a businessman and an art collector. Almost as equally rich as Kwon. But unlike their potential client, their potential target is more reclusive. Namjoon has heard of his name, knows how much the paintings in his house are worth. He’s heard of Jackson Wang’s crew steal one painting from that place several years ago, and it’s buffed up its security ever since.

There are seven levels of security to get to the one painting, Mr. Kwon explains to them. Said painting seems to be the most precious one in Mr. Choi’s collection. It actually makes stealing the Mona Lisa seem a lot easier, and Namjoon has nine ways to do that, if he needed to.

Kwon Jiyong goes back to his seat. “I’m actually very kind, so I’ll give you 48 hours to decide whether or not you can do the job." He pauses and leans back.

"Maybe 7 billion won is good enough to motivate you?”

Namjoon’s brain freezes at the mention of the pay. He looks at Yoongi, who has his eyes squinted and directed towards their potential client.

“You’re willing to pay us 7 billion won for this painting?” he hears Yoongi ask.

Kwon Jiyong chuckles and plays with the rings on his left hand this time. “I’ve heard of your team’s talents, gentlemen. I know you won’t come cheap. And I really, really want to get that painting.”

Yoongi and Namjoon stand up and prepare to leave. “And uh -- Suga-sshi, RM-sshi,” Kwon calls out to them. Both turn around and face him. “If you do accept this job but fail to acquire the painting, I’ll let you know I’m not very forgiving. Consider yourselves dead if Choi Seunghyun arrives in Paris with the painting."

Death threats are about as regular as breakfast for Yoongi and Namjoon. Over time the latter has mastered how to look like the threats don't send shivers down his spine. He looks at Yoongi who looked bored, like he'd just been told he'd have to wait five more minutes for his burger. By the time the two get back to their headquarters, which is the basement of Yoongi's house, Namjoon reads more about their target and contacts some friends to know more about the building, which is located at one of the most secured villages in Seoul.

More research on the house says that it’s practically a fortress.

Yoongi stands patiently behind him, waiting for him and his brain to compute and deduce and create blueprints inside his head. Namjoon plans the heists, but Yoongi is the one who molds it into an actual, executable, successful one.

"Give me a number,” Yoongi says when Namjoon finally turns around in his computer chair.

Namjoon looks at him and sighs.

"One."

It's not the first time he's stumped with one plan. Namjoon looks at Yoongi, eyes trained on him like a hawk. “One?” Yoongi asks, voice low.

“One,” Namjoon repeats, “and you’re not going to like it.”

There’s a hint of curiosity in Yoongi’s eyes and a question attempts to come out from his lips. But instead, Namjoon hears the order from his partner.

“Call them in.”

*****

Jung Hoseok leans back and watches as the guy who shoved him on the train and attempted to pickpocket him get arrested by the subway cops. He smirks and turns around, satisfied as he feels his wallet back and safe in his jacket pocket -- along with the pickpocketer’s, a random lady’s, and one of the cops’ money clip.

He’s known as Hope by other fellows like him. Hope on the Street, they called him back then, when he was still very active and not into big-time heists yet, because he knows the streets of Seoul, Gwangju, and Gwacheon like the back of his hand. He didn’t need to study it because he lived in it out of necessity. If it weren’t for his cousin, he would’ve had to live in it longer and he wouldn’t be the Hope everyone knows him to be. He would’ve been far worse.

Hoseok goes inside one of the public bathroom’s cubicles and checks his loot. He takes out the money and credit cards and puts it back in his pockets, while he tears up the photos and other identification and flushes them down the toilet. The pickpocketer’s wallet is made of genuine leather, so he keeps that and thinks that maybe Jeongguk would want it. The lady’s wallet is a knock-off, so he chucks it to the trash can.

“What a dumbass,” Hoseok mutters under his breath as he plays with the cop’s badge between his fingers, “who doesn’t notice his badge being taken?” He stops and thinks that well, it was the notorious Hope himself who took it, it’d be bad for his morale if he got caught. He laughs as he tosses the money clip and pockets the badge, because it might be of use to Taehyung.

Hoseok goes out and exits the subway station. He walks along the streets while playing with the lollipop in his mouth. He wasn’t even supposed to pickpocket today but the asshole had to shove him and attempt to steal his wallet, so he had no other choice.

He stole the lady’s and the cop’s wallets for fun, since they’re already there on the scene. Hoseok sighs and looks at his phone. He’s extremely bored, he realizes. It’s been a long time, about three months, since they’ve had a gig. He’s running out of reasons to drop by at Jimin’s shop on top of that Laundromat. Practically all his clothes are clean now because he keeps on going to the Laundromat every two days and the only dirty shirt he has is the one he’s wearing right now.

Hoseok hangs out at the bus stop, watching people pass by, and thinks about the ways he can pick their pockets. It’s his go-to leisure activity. But even that can’t stomp his boredom out, so after several minutes he prepares to get on the next bus about to arrive.

Suddenly he hears his phone ring. “What’s up?” he asks Namjoon as he takes out the lollipop from his mouth.

“We got a gig. A big one,” his friend on the other line says. Hoseok smiles and quietly thanks the universe for looking out for him.

“But we need to find someone first,” Namjoon tells him, the tension palpable in his voice.

Hoseok’s grin turns into a frown. “Why are you calling me about that? I’m not Jeongguk.”

“You know where your cousin is right now?”

Hoseok drops the lollipop, and the candy breaks into tiny little pieces when it hits the asphalt.

“Wait, you don't mean Seokjin hyung?”

*****

Jeongguk can do anything. That’s an understatement. He’s such a literal genius that he hacks into Mensa's system from time to time, just to fuck with the list (“Technically, hyung, Tony Stark is a genius so me putting ‘Iron Man’ on the list makes sense,”) and makes sure his name doesn’t appear in it.

He hates it when people use his IQ to justify his genius, because your IQ doesn’t push you to get up in the morning to practice bowling and having a photographic memory isn’t sufficient to make you good enough to compete for the Olympics. Your IQ doesn’t predict your path in life, and your IQ certainly doesn’t tell you when and how to make good career choices, that’s why now he’s a hacker working for one of the best thieves in Korea, maybe even in the world. And he loves it.

Jeon Jeongguk can do anything and find anything and anyone. He can hack into various levels of security systems, ranging from pet shops (Taehyung snuck inside to pet all the animals, even the snakes -- to Hoseok's dismay -- for fun) to federal government websites (he did this once, also for fun).

This time Namjoon gives him a name that makes him cock an eyebrow.

“Kim Seokjin.”

He’s heard the name before, the first name at least. It brings him back to the memory of a drunk Yoongi almost passed out on his bed. He muttered the name as Jeongguk placed a pillow under his head. He had asked Namjoon about it, and the other gives him one look and says, “Don’t mention that name again in front of Yoongi hyung, or anyone for that matter, if you still want to be part of this team.”

So when Namjoon tells him to find out where Kim Seokjin is, how he looks like and what he’s up to, Jeongguk had to ask. He usually doesn’t. “Is this the same-”

“Yes,” Namjoon says, cutting him off. “Now go find him.”

Jeongguk bets it’s going to take him a while to find this Kim Seokjin. He was right: he starts with basic police records and isn’t surprised when he finds none. There are approximately 358 Kim Seokjins in the world right now, and his instinct tells him to reduce the age range five years older and younger than Yoongi. Then he eliminates the ones who have died already, hoping that the Kim Seokjin they’re looking for is still alive. That puts him down to 125, which is still not good enough. He looks at the photos and sees if anyone is familiar, even if he has no clue how this man would look like, and that puts him down to about 78 Kim Seokjins.

Jeongguk takes about three more hours before he goes to Namjoon and demands for more information. He finds him in the basement, reading and eating on the couch. “How about a picture?” he asks.

“I don’t have one,” Namjoon replies lazily.

“Maybe Yoongi hyung has one? Where is he by the way?"

Namjoon peels his eyes off his book and looks up at him. “No idea. And he doesn’t know I’m looking for Seokjin-hyung.”

“What?” Jeongguk’s eyes go round. He knows Yoongi will not like this. 

“It’s for our next gig, Jeongguk. We need to find him immediately. Even if we had a photo, Kim Seokjin may have had his face altered already. He could be posing as a high school student right now, for all we know,” Namjoon informs him.

“I doubt that,” Hoseok says as he descends down the stairs, entering the basement’s living room. “He knows he’s too handsome to get his face worked on for the sake of hiding. No reason to, anyhow, it’s not like the cops are after him. Only we are.”

Jeongguk puts his hands on his waists and closes his eyes. Now he knows three things about his target: his name is Kim Seokjin, he’s a very, very sensitive topic for Yoongi, and he’s pretty. That should get him somewhere.

Jeongguk might deny it, but sometimes IQ gives you enough fuel to deduce well and having a photographic memory is really just a huge perk. He suddenly scrambles for the pad of paper and pencil on the coffee table, kneels in front of it, and starts sketching, his hands moving wildly on the paper.

He blocks out Hoseok’s and Namjoon’s confused voices in the background, determined to make the blurry memory inside his head a bit crisper, sharp enough to be drawn: a fuzzy but very real memory of Yoongi opening his wallet once while they’re at a café, pulling out some freshly-made counterfeit bills Jimin made to pay for their food when half of a photograph slips out, and Yoongi swiftly putting it back inside the wallet, and then glaring at Jeongguk, daring him to say something.

Jeongguk feels the beads of sweat on his forehead when he finally lifts his pencil from the paper. He shows the rough sketch to Namjoon and Hoseok.

“Is this him?” he breathes out. He realizes he barely breathed the entire time he was drawing the face.

“You never fail to surprise me, kid,” Namjoon smiles at him and nods. Hoseok gapes at the paper, eyes round and unbelieving. “This is – this is from the only photo they had. I remember because I was the one who took it! How did you know about this? I thought Yoongi hyung burned this photo or something,” he tells Jeongguk.

“He didn’t burn it. Well, at least not before I saw it. Accidentally. And once it’s here,” Jeongguk taps the side of his head with the pencil, “it’ll never go away.” He smirks.

“We don’t have a lot of time to clinch this gig. How long until you can find him?” Namjoon asks.

“Give me half an hour.”

*****

Kim Taehyung hasn’t been doing cons for a long time when he met Kim Namjoon, maybe only for a year or so. His grandparents accidentally owed money to some bad people and he had to find a way to pay them back. He started working and conning people for their insurance policies, using his wit, charm, and acting skills to pry it out of them.

When he bumps into Namjoon on the streets of Seoul and “bumps” into him again at the coffee shop he frequents, Namjoon had told him, “Why are you using your skills for this cheap kind of con?”

Taehyung had wanted to say “Why are you using those lips to drink that coffee instead of making out with me?” but he bites the retort back and renders himself speechless in front of Namjoon, who smirks and proceeds to hand him a calling card, bearing only a phone number and two letters: RM. Namjoon leaves with his coffee.

Taehyung takes approximately twelve seconds before he reaches for his phone and dials the number, eyes following Namjoon's walking figure on the streets. There is a ringing tone and Taehyung smiles when Namjoon picks up.

“You don’t mind having a second cup of coffee at four in the afternoon, RM?”

Namjoon introduces him to Yoongi and Taehyung finds out that their crew needs a conman, as their previous one had left months ago. “He didn’t die, don’t worry,” Hoseok assures him, but that didn't help Taehyung feel at ease. 

But working as part of Yoongi and Namjoon’s crew helps Taehyung successfully pay off his grandparents’ debt within a month. He finds himself embracing bigger roles, better than the ones he’s ever dreamed of when he initially thought of being an actor. He's been to countries he never thought he could visit in his lifetime. The job's more challenging as well, seeing as how there are no cuts or rehearsals when he's in the middle of a con. 

It also helps that Kim Namjoon is always talking in his comms, soothing voice ready to tell him what to do when their plans hit a wall. Now if he could take Taehyung’s invitations to go out on an actual date seriously, things would be perfect.

Taehyung is playing games on his phone, lying on his bed, when Namjoon calls him. His screen goes from the game to the caller ID photo of Namjoon laughing and hiding his mouth with his hands. Taehyung snapped the photo while he and the rest of the crew were out for drinks one night. Taehyung almost drops the phone and he catches it before it drops on his face. “Hi, hyung! What’s up?” he answers the call way too enthusiastically.

“Taehyung, come to HQ, we’ve got a gig. Pick Jimin up on the way here?”

The boy’s lips break into a grin and he half-shouts, “We’ll be there! Give me fifteen minutes!” He drops the call and runs to his closet to look for something to wear. By the time he’s halfway out the door, his grandma calls from the kitchen.

“Where are you off to, sweetheart?”

His grandparents believe that he’s working as an actor, which is technically isn’t a lie – he assumes different roles to trick people out of their money, which is basically the same thing as an actual actor.

“Uh, an audition, Grandma!” Taehyung looks down and sees that the laces of his shoes are untied. “On a Sunday? How about some lunch?”

Taehyung looks up from his boots and shouts, “Uh, yeah! They’ll be feeding us there, don’t worry. If I’m not home by ten I’ll be back tomorrow, alright? Please lock the doors.”

“Okay, take care, love.”

Taehyung tosses a scarf over his head and heads out.

*****

Jimin didn’t start out as a forger.

He had a future prepared for him, a future with his family’s company. His entire life had been mapped out for him by his father, so much so that for a very long time, Jimin felt like it wasn’t actually his life that he owned. That his life was fake.

A mandatory art class at eight years old (to make him a well-rounded person, so he can converse well with other businessmen when he takes over the company) makes Jimin realize that he was good at making fakes: they were made to recreate a painting, and Jimin – who knew nothing about going your own way or deciding for yourself or having your own style – ends up copying the painting down to its last stroke. He starts liking painting but then his father makes him stop taking classes out of fear that he will end up taking a degree in Arts and not Business.

That same day Jimin succeeds in forging his father’s signature on a check to continue paying for his art classes.

At school he starts earning his own money by falsifying signatures for his classmates: for credit cards, permission slips, and other documents the rich kids in his school don’t want their rich parents to see. When he went on to high school, he learns how to make counterfeit money.

By the time Jimin's father finds out that a considerable amount of money has been taken from his trust fund, he is already out of Busan and has successfully changed his last name, having taken on his late mother’s maiden name. He becomes Park Jimin, expert forger, someone who finally owns his life.

Jimin’s work makes a name for itself in Seoul and several heist crews offer him to work for them full time. He refuses, not wanting to be tied down again and being told what to do. One day Namjoon comes to him, saying they’re going to steal some money and documents from a certain company in Busan. Jimin chuckles as soon as he finds out the name of the project.

“I’ll do it for free,” he tells a confused Namjoon.

Once again Jimin forges his father’s signature, and six days later he watches on the news how the company he was supposed to be at the helm of, the one he was supposed to own, comes falling down at his own doing. He felt fantastic.

Namjoon and Yoongi insist on paying him – it’s business anyway – and sends someone named Jung Hoseok to his shop above the Laundromat. Jimin doesn't look up when Hoseok puts the wad of cash on his table. Before he leaves, he tells Jimin that he loves his work, especially his signature.

Jimin abruptly looks up from the painting he was working on at the time. “My signature?” he asks.

Hoseok smiles at him brightly. “The little sun? You have to look for it, but it’s always there, somewhere. It’s how I know the work is yours.” He waves goodbye and closes the door on his way out.

In all his years working as a forger, no one has seen or figured out Jimin’s signature, not even on the murals and murals of things that he has painted and duplicated and counterfeited for people. People thought his signature was that he had none. The next day Yoongi calls about another job, and Jimin asks if he wants a fulltime forger in his team.

Jimin is in the middle of counterfeiting some Canadian bills (“Why does it have to fucking smell like maple?” he mutters every ten minutes) when he hears Taehyung knock on his door.

“JIMIN-AH!”

Jimin removes his mask and walks to the door to open it, and finds Taehyung grinning at him from ear to ear. “What,” he asks, “Namjoon hyung finally agreed to go out with you or something? I’m busy.”

Taehyung’s smile abruptly turns into a frown. “You finally asked Hoseok hyung out, at least?” he retorts.

Jimin rolls his eyes and ignores Taehyung’s question. “Why are you here?”

“We have a new gig. Big one, from the looks of it, and Namjoonie hyung wants us at HQ. Why does it smell like maple in here? You eating pancakes?” He pokes his head inside Jimin’s shop and sniffs some more.

Jimin reaches for his jacket hanging behind the door.

“That’s for a different day. Let’s go.”

*****

Yoongi wasn’t able to sleep at lot that night.

Aside from the idea of getting paid 7 billion won overwhelming him and keeping him awake, the job Kwon Jiyong has for his team also reminds him of a certain heist he and his crew did several years ago. One that he’s forcing himself to forget and to move on from, but can’t.

Yoongi closes his eyes and wills himself to sleep, because he has to have a clear, well-rested mind for when he calls Kwon to formally accept the job.

“Hyung, wake up.”

Yoongi opens his eyes, and it feels like he hasn’t even slept for an hour, though the sunlight coming from his bedroom windows suggest otherwise. His eyelids feel like lead and he lets it close again for several seconds.

“What is it?” he asks Namjoon, who’s standing by his bedside, shaking him by the arm.

“They’re all here,” he informs him. Yoongi forces himself to open his eyes again. “This early? What time is it?” he groans.

“It’s almost two in the afternoon, hyung. I’m the one who should be sleeping, I haven’t gotten a wink since yesterday. Get up.”

"That's my fault, somehow?" Yoongi sits up, waves Namjoon away, and stumbles into the bathroom to wash up.

“What are you still doing here?” he asks when he finds Namjoon outside his bedroom. Now that he’s all washed up and at least half awake, he’s able to observe how tense his friend looked. Namjoon looked disheveled and jittery, the tip of his shoes tapping the hardwood floor.

They slowly make their way downstairs. They stop in front of a bookshelf near the living room. Yoongi finds the secret door handle behind some books and pushes it open, revealing a staircase to the basement, their headquarters.

“Hyung,” Namjoon stops him before they descend down the stairs. “If you don’t like the plan, we can always not take the job. You know that right?”

Yoongi looks back at him, his eyebrows scrunched. “Why wouldn’t I want this job, Namjoon? It’s 7 billion won.”

“I’m just saying,” Namjoon walks ahead of him down the stairs, “you wouldn’t like my plan.”

“I’ve literally been asking you about your plan since yesterday and you’re not telling me a single thing,” Yoongi replies. They get to the basement and he sees that the place is uncharacteristically quiet, given that all his members are present but no one is actually talking.

“I – I just had to make everyone we needed is here first, before I present it to you,” Namjoon answers and turns around to face him.

It doesn’t take Yoongi long to realize that there’s a seventh person in his headquarters, standing in between Hoseok and Taehyung. Yoongi freezes at the foot of the stairs, eyes zeroing in on said person. He feels the air knocked out of his lungs and he barely hears Namjoon whisper, “I told you you wouldn’t like it.”

Min Yoongi hates meetings.

But when he looks at Kim Seokjin, smiling at him like the past three years didn’t happen, like he never left, like already he belongs in Yoongi’s basement, he realizes he hates reunions even more.