Chapter 1: trying to keep it just like before
"I'd like to try it," Yoongi mumbles, looking Seokjin's way then down again, as if embarrassed. He sounds uncharacteristically unsure. "If you want to, I mean."
Seokjin tries to decipher Yoongi's expression from under his bangs, the cap, the uncountable amount of walls he puts up when he's uncomfortable.
It's supposed to be a joke.
"What's three months, even," Seokjin laughs, linking his arm with Yoongi's.
It's an odd fit, the two of them walking at different paces. Yoongi’s movements are stiff, legs moving in that extra careful way that Seokjin knows means he’s overwhelmed, hyper-focused on his own body. Seokjin, truth be told, isn’t faring any better. He feels lethargic, his muscles heavy, tired in a way that comes only after a day at sea, woozy from too much sun. The combination of their fatigue means he's half dragging Yoongi back, half being dragged forward. "Who's counting, even," Seokjin tries. Yoongi doesn’t respond, only reaches down to hold Seokjin’s hand. Both their palms are clammy, Yoongi’s hand is cold. It's a long walk back to the hotel, and Seokjin’s feet hurt.
Even when they start to walk in sync, Yoongi still stays silent, face impassive. He’s been like this for a while now. It’s a strange kind of silence, nothing Seokjin is used to, even if the downward tug of Yoongi’s mouth is familiar: Irritation. Stubbornness. It looks like he wants to say something. Seokjin has an inkling of what it might be. He isn’t sure he wants to hear it.
“Hey,” Seokjin tries, not really expecting any response.
To Seokjin’s surprise, Yoongi slows down, grips Seokjin’s hand tighter. It’s still not a full acknowledgement, but rather a concession of Yoongi’s attention, at least for the time being. They walk slowly along the beach, like they have all the time in the world. Seokjin tries not to rush them, ends up talking too fast instead. "Everywhere else we're the same age," Seokjin snorts, voice higher than he meant it to be, brittle.
The tiredness is getting him on edge, is the thing. It’s making him feel like he's being watched, cold sweat on the back of his neck. It means he's still half on camera mode, joking despite himself, despite the exhaustion. Seokjin is trying, by being loud and over the top—deflecting, deflecting, deflecting—to avoid having people’s attention focus on him. It’s a defence mechanism, reverse psychology and industry savviness, instinct. It all crumbles when Yoongi’s attention is the one Seokjin is trying to avoid—or catch.
"Let's just do away with the whole institution of honorifics, yeah. Trash the entire concept," he says, voice verging on hysterical instead of amused. Seokjin traces Yoongi's skin, the curve of Yoongi's thumb: a nervous tic. "We can just not do it at all," Seokjin shrugs, trying to make Yoongi laugh. Trying to make Yoongi react at all without having to rely on pinching him, on letting go of his hand and saying something too sincere. Seokjin isn't in the right mood to rile Yoongi up, at least not like that. He's just trying to lift the serious expression from Yoongi’s face that had settled the moment the cameras stopped rolling and everyone had started horsing around, rowdy and giddy after wrapping up filming.
Everyone but the two of them.
It had been fine, at first. Yoongi pressed to Seokjin’s side, a hint of a smile on his lips that Seokjin had wanted to photograph. Yoongi’s eyes had been so soft, his posture open and relaxed. His face shining with sweat and sea air, covered head to toe in black and still not overheating somehow. Seokjin had wanted to register that, make the moment tangible, keep that specific pocket of time where he’d had Yoongi’s attention all for himself, keep it hidden somewhere, to look at later.
"That was sweet.”
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I'm framing it."
“I’m getting a new roommate.”
“Good luck with babysitting, then, uncle.”
The mood switch hadn’t happened for any clear reason, or at least none that Seokjin could pinpoint. Seokjin knows it hadn't been a case of belated embarrassment, or of Yoongi regretting what he wrote. Nothing Yoongi put to paper was ever not carefully planned, and Seokjin had known, gutted by the realisation, that the letter had been a long time coming, a reply to his own fumbling attempt from years back. Belated, sincere, and completely unexpected. Or partly unexpected, anyway. Seokjin doesn’t question the letter’s existence in itself, or that Yoongi put the words down the way he did. But he doesn’t quite know what to do with the fact that Yoongi chose to share it with the world.
So it’s not embarrassment, and it’s not regret. Seokjin knows Yoongi at least half as well as Yoongi knows him, and he's confident at this point that he knows how to read discomfort on Yoongi's body, the lines of his mouth.
It’s just. It’s just that one moment Yoongi had been smiling, bright and lazy, teasing, and then the whole sometimes I feel lonely without a same-age friend thing had come up again, thanks to Seokjin’s little old man jibe, and to Hoseok chiming in with Namjoon about it, the worst mix of analytical assessments of emotionally charged situations (Namjoon) and a too-sharp eye for social discomfort (Hoseok.)
“Yoongi hyung must really feel lonely without anyone to talk comfortably with.”
“And Jin hyung just had to be there with his three months. Close enough to touch but still too far away. Ah, Suga hyung really has it the worst.”
Yoongi had been quiet after that, remained quiet even after the conversation moved on to safer terrain.
The coward part of Seokjin, shaking with inexplicable nerves, still half seasick, doesn’t want to deal with whatever that thoughtful look means right now. So he tries to make a joke out of it, tries to distract Yoongi from whatever it is that is plaguing him, all without actually asking.
"I guess you could have shown up a bit earlier," Seokjin teases. He's no longer rushed, but the joke is still a little flat. Seokjin moves his head, tries to catch Yoongi’s eyes. "Or I could have waited. Maybe we should have rescheduled for a simultaneous spring birth. Auspicious, huh."
Yoongi ducks his head a bit, away from Seokjin’s gaze, almost shy. It's a subtle enough thing, and not the reaction Seokjin was going for. Even behind the layer of exhaustion, behind the trepidation, it's got Seokjin curious. "What?" Seokjin asks, because he’s never been good at not prodding.
"I'd like to try it," Yoongi mumbles, looking Seokjin's way then down again, as if embarrassed. He sounds uncharacteristically unsure. "If you want to, I mean."
Seokjin tries to decipher Yoongi's expression from under his bangs, the cap, the uncountable amount of walls he puts up when he's uncomfortable. Because this is definitely uncomfortable Yoongi, but the exact colour of it is foreign to Seokjin. The clues are right there for him to unriddle, but he lacks the full picture, too focused on the details: Yoongi’s grip on his hand, almost painful. The light pink of Yoongi’s ears, growing redder by the second. "Uh," Seokjin tries, failing at not sounding confused. "Sure, yeah,” he tries again, clearing his throat. “I'd like that."
Yoongi looks up, finally, at that. Locks eyes with Seokjin only to roll his own a beat later, trying for exasperated. He looks fond as hell, though, and a little relieved, and Seokjin almost laughs. Almost. Can’t quite manage it when he still hasn’t figured out what it was that Yoongi saw in Seokjin’s face that made him smile like that. "That sounded so sure,” Yoongi scoffs. He’s still smiling, even through the snark. Something small and guarded, softer than what Seokjin is used to. “Wow, my confidence is boosted." Yoongi sounds as dry as he ever does, but Seokjin can see the blush from earlier start to spread over his cheeks, down his neck.
Seokjin lets go of Yoongi’s hand to elbow Yoongi on his side, half-assed and with none of the strength the situation warranted. He's tired, and it’s the idea behind the act that counts, anyway. He elbows Yoongi, almost a weird caress, because the blushing is really cute and because Yoongi should get punished for his rudeness. "Just do it, you punk," Seokjin concedes, reaching down to link their hands again. Yoongi’s hand is warmer now, grip lighter when their fingers touch.
Yoongi bites down a grin, holds on to Seokjin's hand until they reach the hotel.
It's really supposed to be a joke.
Japan makes things a little blurry, though. For one, there's no one to really follow them places, and Tokyo is big enough that even Seokjin can become just a face in the crowd. Japan always gets the two of them a bit off-kilter. The language makes them a little more sincere than they mean to, more blunt, prone to relying even more on the talk with our eyes thing, which had honestly started as the two of them being assholes, but now, every now and then, ended up genuinely helping them get out of bad situations. A blink of Seokjin's eye and it's, sorry, our Japanese is still lacking instead of, I won't answer that question or, fuck off.
Seokjin loves Japan, thrives in the relative freedom it provides. Things get looser, less strained, free from the particular weight of home and its responsibilities. Jeongguk is a little louder, but in a brighter way. Jimin sleeps more. Yoongi and Seokjin are in separate rooms, but there's a thrill in knocking on each other's doors, slipping out together for dinner, lunch, street food and overexpensive souvenirs. Seokjin appreciates what Japan has to offer in the same way he appreciates anything that seems too good to be his for very long: grateful, but still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Despite being wary, though, Seokjin is not suspicious of Japan, doesn't expect anything from it other than small pockets of happiness he sometimes still doesn't know how to hold. But then one night they're on their way back to the hotel from a quiet dinner, and Yoongi stops on his tracks. He almost makes Seokjin trip over his own feet in the process, locks their eyes like he's about to share some earth-shattering news. Seokjin sucks in an unsteady breath.
"Seokjin-ah," Yoongi calls.
The problem lies within two very simple facts: 1) Seokjin does not correct Yoongi and 2) Seokjin continues not to correct Yoongi.
They bribe Jimin into switching rooms with Seokjin for their Osaka concert, offer him sweets and expensive sheet masks and for Seokjin to convince Jeongguk to do Jimin’s laundry for a month.
“You guys need to cut it out,” Jimin had said, amused, grabbing his things from the nightstand. He hadn’t really unpacked, Seokjin noticed, almost as if expecting something like this to happen. “You two have been really weird lately.”
“What do you even mean,” Seokjin had replied, trying to sound innocent. “We’re roommates. We’re just. Extending the roommate-ness to overseas.”
Jimin had laughed, rolled his eyes like he always did when he thought he knew better than someone else. “Just. Be responsible. I didn’t break my back raising you only for Yoongi hyung to come and turn you into a degenerate.”
Seokjin had slapped the kid on the back of his head. Jimin had only laughed harder.
The night Seokjin moves into the room, nervous and uncertain of what exactly it is that they’re doing, Yoongi is there, waiting for him by the door, his eyes shining a little manically. He curls his fingers around Seokjin’s wrist almost immediately. Takes a look at Seokjin and says, “Hey, you.” It sounds nothing like when Yoongi would accidentally let formality drop to amuse the younger guys, or when he did it on purpose to rile Seokjin up, or even when he was younger and would use Seokjin as his go-to authority figure to scuffle with when he felt like it.
Now, instead of mocking, the sound unfurls into something much more intimate, closer, something that makes Seokjin’s skin itch with the desire to scratch, to touch. And Seokjin feels acid crawl up his throat, feels his stomach give up on him at the thought.
Seokjin sounds choked up, and isn’t that just fantastic. Yoongi looks at him like he can’t believe Seokjin is really there, even if it had been the both of them who’d kicked Jimin out in the first place. A bad decision made by two people, fifty fifty. Anyone who said they were supposed to be the others’ parental unit couldn’t have had great parents growing up. Irresponsible, thoughtless. Stupid.
“You came,” Yoongi says. He’s still holding on to Seokjin. And isn’t that the entire fucking issue here, Seokjin thinks.
“Superb observational skills as expected, Yoongi,” he tries, a weak attempt at sounding cutting, distorted halfway by the look on Yoongi’s face, a softness that Seokjin still doesn’t understand, still doesn’t know what do to with.
Yoongi keeps smiling at him, unguarded and close, too close. Seokjin keeps not correcting him, keeps falling asleep in the same bed as him, keeps letting Yoongi pull him in. It’s not the worst idea Seokjin has ever had, not by a long stretch, but it nears close to it with each indiscretion. What with the way Yoongi curls a leg around his in his sleep and Seokjin still, still doesn’t turn away.
Seokjin half expects it to be over once they go back to Korea. Expects it to be left behind overseas, a lapse in their collective poor judgement, something Yoongi proposed when he was homesick and needing something to occupy his mind with. Seokjin expects it to stop the moment they reach Seoul.
If anything, it gets worse.
It's like a dam has been broken. A week passes, and it’s like his name is Yoongi's favourite new punctuation mark.
After those initial, soft-spoken Seokjin-ah’s, it goes to a even-voiced Jin, which is neutral enough. Then it turns to the familiar enough Jinnie at the end of smaller sentences, then a soft-spoken Jinnie-ah, overkill and uncalled for when it's whispered at six in the morning when Seokjin is at his most vulnerable, Yoongi’s warm breath on his neck and the sudden but complete certainty that they need to stop accidentally sharing beds right now.
“We could do it like we used to, you know. Just move the beds together,” Yoongi proposes, three nights into them fumbling together in a bed that was big, sure, but not big enough to support the two of them at once for extended periods of time. Or at least to support them in a decent way. Not that Yoongi seems very worried about that. Irresponsible, impulsive. Stupid.
“There’s a shelf,” Seokjin points out. He tries to sound reproachful, but the effect is cut by the way Yoongi moves closer, lying on top of Seokjin like a lazy cat. Seokjin has half a mind on pushing him away so he’ll fall to the floor on his bony ass.
Yoongi smirks, like he knows exactly what Seokjin is thinking. Like he knows Seokjin could push him away but won’t. “We can move the shelf.”
Seokjin likes the shelf exactly where it is. A physical reminder to always put something between the things he wants too much and himself. Yoongi is yangnyeom chicken and Seokjin is on a strict diet, valiantly trying to become Yoongi intolerant. He’ll get there someday. He’s trying.
It isn't anything Seokjin can complain loudly about, not even when he catches Hoseok squinting at the two of them, suspicious. It happens whenever Yoongi decides to latch on to Seokjin’s side after practice and whisper things into Seokjin’s ear that would otherwise be harmless, I’ll help you cook tonight and, my knees hurt. Simple phrases that wouldn’t raise any eyebrows on a normal day, that wouldn’t make Namjoon look at them, concerned, if only they weren’t mumbled against the skin of Seokjin’s neck, warmth and Yoongi Yoongi Yoongi making Seokjin’s stomach burn with nerves.
Seokjin hasn’t been this shaken up, this out of his own depth since high school.
Taehyung, bless his heart, asks him once if he’s running a fever.
“I’ll take care of him if he is,” Yoongi says. Seokjin wants to snap at him, not your conversation, don’t interrupt me, no one asked you.
“Ah, hyung is always looking out for Jin hyung. I wish my elders were this nice.” Jimin throws a shoe at Jeongguk for that. It distracts Seokjin for a while, at least until they’re back home and, by traitorous, deadly instinct, he goes straight to Yoongi’s bed after undressing.
It’s subtle and quiet and, if Seokjin is feeling honest, ordinary enough that you could even believe it wasn’t anything to worry about.
They are all too close to each other, too much in each other’s spaces. This, though, Yoongi not only not avoiding eye contact but making sure it happens whenever he says Seokjin’s name—this thing is something new entirely. Seokjin knows how to deal with hormonal juniors who go a little overboard when flirting, Seokjin knows how to deal with teasing disrespect. He doesn’t know what to do with this, though. The way Yoongi looks at him that makes Seokjin feel tangled in his own thoughts, tongue-tied.
“I’m with Seokjin right now, yeah,” Yoongi tells his brother, his brother, over the phone. Casual, carefree, like they’ve always done this. Seokjin is burning with the need to tell someone, tell everyone. Seokjin is burning with the need to keep this contained to their room, to the skin of his neck, where Yoongi’s whispered good night’s have recently made a home for themselves.
And besides, besides—Seokjin had brought this onto himself. He had joked about it, on camera of all places, embarrassed and stomach turning, nausea crippling up from the rocking boat and the way Yoongi said heart and exclamation point. It was supposed to be a joke, but, as Yoongi would wisely tell anyone within earshot, Seokjin has never really been good at jokes, anyway.
It’s all familiar variations of his name for a good two weeks. And then, in the middle of an argument—a half serious one even, and with the others watching, for the love of god—right fucking then comes a particularly stern-voiced Seokjin that stops Seokjin mid-sentence, makes him forget what the hell it was that they’d been arguing about in the first place. Yoongi frowns at him, mouth set into a thin line, repeats, pointed and impatient: “Seokjin.”
Seokjin wants to laugh, tries his best to reign it in. Look at this guy, he thinks, all angry and cute.
“Shit,” one of the kids gasps, expecting the informality to be met with Seokjin’s righteous wrath. Nothing happens.
After that, Yoongi is shameless about it. Of course he is. Seokjin half expects the other five to try and latch on to it themselves, turn it into a shared practical joke. Maybe that was Yoongi’s intention all along. A drawn-out prank on Seokjin that went too far for too long. Yoongi says, Seokjin-ah, pass me the rice and Seokjin looks to his side, eyes Jeongguk suspiciously until dinner ends. Nothing happens. Seokjin remains suspicious.
Surprisingly enough, it’s Jeongguk himself who approaches Seokjin to talk about it.
“So, you and hyung.”
Seokjin is holding a knife. Jeongguk truly is fearless, Seokjin realises, not without a touch of pride. They have raised him so well. “What me and hyung.”
“’Seokjin-ah,’ hyung? Really?”
Jeongguk sounds like Jimin when he’s trying to scold Seokjin. It’s cute. It’s also, more often than not, deserved on Seokjin’s part. And irritating as fuck. “Yoongi and I are fine,” Seokjin bites back, knife clacking on the board a bit too forcefully. “What do you even want, Jeongguk?” Seokjin asks, putting the knife down and turning to face the kid. He keeps his hands on the counter behind him, grip tight, a final attempt at remaining grounded.
Jeongguk frowns at him for a while, a pout that he still hasn’t outgrown about to bloom on his lips. He’s registered the use of his full name, no endearments or shortenings, and he wants Seokjin to feel bad about it. Seokjin is tired of all these people around him and their thing with names and suffixes and forms of address.
“Just don’t give him something you’ll take away afterwards,” Jeongguk finally says.
Seokjin clenches his jaw. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says. It sounds strained, unsure. His acting coaches would blanch at the sight of him, avoiding his junior's eyes, incapable of lying to his face. “We’re fine. It’s just a joke.”
Jeongguk reaches out to pry Seokjin’s hands away from the counter. Seokjin’s joints hurt like they haven’t in a while. Jeongguk’s touch is careful, as gentle as his words when he says, “Just be careful with hyung’s heart, okay?”
In retrospect, Seokjin shouldn’t have gone out drinking with his friends, his good tolerance notwithstanding.
“You said forever.”
“Forever roommate, you said.”
“I know what I said.”
“Mm. Just checking. Go back to sleep.”
Yoongi always forgets the big things. Birthdays, graduation days, his MacBook. Once: a case, unopened, with his new Rolex inside. Yoongi always forgets the big things, and forever feels insurmountable, a large enough weight to crush the both of them under it without any effort.
Seokjin isn’t stupid. He knows that when he and Yoongi say things like eternal and life-long they’re joking, deadpan like two uncles, too fond of making the younger kids cringe. Seokjin knows it’s a joke. He knows that, at best, forever means Yoongi is comfortable with him, comfortable with their routine. For now.
The others make fun of them for not speaking to each other much when they’re by themselves. But for Seokjin, knowing that Yoongi feels safe enough with him to be completely quiet, to know that for Yoongi it’s no big deal to ignore Seokjin’s presence, that he does it now without fear of judgment or retaliation—that is enough, better even than long chats. It’s enough for Seokjin to feel overcome. With humility, mostly, which is a reflection of the gratefulness he feels all the time around all six of them, except Yoongi-coloured, particular. Knowing Yoongi feels safe enough to sleep next to, on top of, all around him—it makes Seokjin’s chest hurt, makes his heart swell with fondness and something else, much smaller, fragile, that he doesn’t often want to look directly at.
Who does Jin like best?
“Hyungie loves all of us equally,” Hoseok had replied, cackling, when the question was brought up during a fanmeet. “Jin hyung has a big heart,” Taehyung added, sincere.
Yoongi always forgets the big things.
Sometimes, especially when Seokjin is a little tipsy and a lot open, when Yoongi is lying on top of him, snoring softly, fingers touching everywhere that Seokjin’s skin shows—on those moments, Seokjin wishes he could make himself smaller, fold himself into an eye-catching detail that would enrapture Yoongi’s attention for more than just one moment. Just for a while, just to know how it feels.
“Seokjinnie,” Yoongi says, one night, reaching across the bed to tug Seokjin closer. It's just a suffix, Seokjin knows, but still.
Yoongi says his name again, sounding confused, and Seokjin flinches, doesn't mean to, but does it anyway.
Half of him hopes Yoongi is too far into sleep to notice. The other half is tired, twenty-five, and knows better.
“You’re uncomfortable with it,” Yoongi accuses, three months into whatever it is they’re doing. Flipping a finger at polite society, playing chicken. Seokjin doesn’t know anymore. It’s been a week since the flinching incident. Seokjin knows Yoongi had rehearsed this entire conversation. "You said you were okay with it."
Seokjin doesn't deny that. “Is now really the best time for this?” he asks instead, exhausted from the pre-recording they just got through, tired from being crushed under Yoongi’s unwavering gaze. “We’re working.”
Yoongi smirks. Seokjin knows exactly what he’s going to say next. It only serves to make his irritation flare up quicker, the need to grab at Yoongi’s collar and shake him almost a physical thing.
He doesn’t. Yoongi’s teeth catch the light.
“Sure,” he says, with a sharp little shrug on the side. “Whatever you say. Hyung.” He says it like an insult, the word clipped and empty.
That night, Seokjin sleeps in his own bed for the first time in months.
“Was it the banmal?” Namjoon asks.
He’d cornered Seokjin when Seokjin was leaving the shower. That had resulted in thirty uncomfortable minutes of Seokjin sitting down on their couch while wearing nothing but a towel, listening to Namjoon simultaneously try to defend Yoongi, try to defend Seokjin, and attempt to maintain a neutral stance on the whole issue.
Seokjin couldn’t help but be amused at hearing his own emotional turmoil summarised to him in neat bullet-point format.
“It wasn’t the informality, Namjoon,” he says, smiling a little.
The unguarded, unadorned way in which Yoongi had started talking to him had nothing to do with the tension lingering between the two of them now.
It was no secret to anyone that Seokjin thrived at being pampered, that he delighted at being shown affection, attention. Seokjin was at his best when he could play the role he’d been given for most of his life: the bratty younger brother no one could ignore, loud and brash and always a little too much. It was a joke, and it was even convenient sometimes. It made him look younger, more open than he actually was. People trusted him more easily when he stood side by side with Jeongguk and you couldn't tell who was the youngest.
So Seokjin isn’t bothered by the drop in formality, sometimes goads it himself, without thinking, almost an acting exercise, theory he has to test now and again. No, he isn’t bothered, or at least he isn’t bothered because it’s Yoongi.
So no, it hadn’t been the informality, it hadn’t been its shortness, or the quick, quick way it rolled off Yoongi’s tongue.
It had been how comfortable they’d become, how much closer that simple change in speech had allowed them to be. Seokjin and Yoongi were both obsessed with rules, albeit in wildly different ways: Yoongi enjoyed knowing ways to breach them, and Seokjin wanted to know how far he could wander from them without getting caught.
“It wasn’t that,” Seokjin repeats.
Namjoon looks devastated, the poor kid. Seokjin wants to say something deep and cringe-worthy like, he smiled at me like he was seeing me for the first time. Something that would satisfy Namjoon’s romantic side, that could make it into one of their lyrics, maybe. Seokjin wants to say something that will turn this entire thing into something useful. Instead, Seokjin says nothing. He settles for getting up, getting dressed, ignoring the hollow feeling between his ribs.
He knows the others don’t quite know what to make of this, knows they’d been doing their best to adapt to the thing before. Seokjin knows how unfair it is to ask them to adapt to something else that’s just as sudden, just as likely to go up in flames at any given time. But he also misses having Yoongi close.
“I did say I agreed to it,” Seokjin blurts out one night, after three days of trying to brave through choreo practice without locking eyes with Yoongi in the mirror, three days of losing balance and falling even more on his ass than he already did, whenever eye contact inevitably happened. “I did say I wanted to do it too.”
Yoongi doesn’t respond. Seokjin knows he’s awake.
“Do you want to change rooms?” Seokjin asks.
“No.” The reply comes quicker than Seokjin expected, Yoongi’s voice rough from disuse and maybe something else that Seokjin has no right to pry into anymore. “We said ‘eternal,’ didn’t we?”
He’s trying to make light of it, the bastard. Seokjin doesn’t quite choke on his own breath, but it comes close to it. And yeah. They had said that. Or Yoongi had. The difference was hard to tell sometimes, what with how both of them were idiots.
“Do you want things to go back to how they were?” Seokjin asks, voice firmer now, bolder than he should be, probably. Careless, impulsive, stupid. He wants too much, maybe, trusts too much that Yoongi will understand what he means.
It takes a while, but then:
Ah. But that leaves only one question to be asked, and Seokjin doesn’t know if he’s ready to hear what Yoongi has to say, or if he ever will.
“What do you want?”
The silence stretches for long enough this time that Seokjin is convinced no reply will come, that Yoongi will drift to nervous, uneasy sleep and he’ll be left wide awake, body shaking, anxious for answers he’ll never get.
There’s a rustle by the foot of his bed. Seokjin opens his eyes.
Seokjin sits up. His glasses are still on, so he can see Yoongi almost perfectly, even in the dimness of their room. He looks much like he did that day on the beach, except this time Seokjin knows what the mysterious look on his face is: Guilt.
“Nevermind,” he panics, like he always does when Yoongi's face closes off and he doesn't know why. “You know you don’t actually have to—”
Yoongi interrupts him. Of course. “I wanted to kiss you.”
“When?” Seokjin asks, because he has to say something, and because he has to be absolutely sure—
Yoongi snorts, interrupting Seokjin’s thoughts now. “Chronologically? In 2014. Every day after they dyed your hair blonde for the first time. Yesterday when you looked at me and tripped in the middle of a Super Junior song.” Yoongi is smiling, gummy and open and so, so stupid. Seokjin wants to punch him. “Right now, also, I guess.”
Seokjin is definitely going to punch him. “You guess?”
Yoongi shrugs. Seokjin moves closer to him. “Let me know when you make up your mind then—”
Yoongi is less of a biter than Seokjin expected. He kisses Seokjin like he’s catalogued everything Seokjin has ever said about kissing and is trying to prove a hypothesis, create the perfect kiss based on all the information he’s gathered from Seokjin, trying to one-up all the other kisses Seokjin had in the past. Yoongi’s mouth, chapped to hell and back though it is, something Seokjin already knew, is still softer than Seokjin expected.
And that hits Seokjin like a punch to the gut, the realisation that he expected anything at all from Yoongi's mouth, anything that isn't rapping or the occasional teasing remark. He shouldn't want Yoongi's lips on his throat, shouldn't want Yoongi's smile to be something he can feel, a physical thing between the two of them, something sharp and warm, hidden on Seokjin's shoulder when Yoongi can't trample down his laughter anymore. Seokjin shouldn't want any of this, shouldn’t want any of it back, shouldn’t want it for any stretch of time longer than right now, but. But then again neither should Yoongi go around calling him Seokjin-ah, like there was nothing between them anymore but air.
Seokjin kisses Yoongi back, grabs him by his shirt, frayed and soft and too old and Yoongi’s, entirely Yoongi’s. Seokjin kisses Yoongi until Yoongi is a sleepy, smiling thing under him, pliant and ridiculous and Seokjin’s, if only for the time being.
“We’re moving the shelf,” Yoongi says, right before falling asleep.
Let’s stay roommates even after you marry, he writes.
Yoongi laughs, ugly and squeaky, when he sees. Keeps laughing about it later, pressed against Seokjin’s side on the bed that Seokjin will, on a good day, concede is theirs. Yoongi laughs. Seokjin doesn’t mind. It is supposed to be a joke. (He’s still not very good at those.)
Chapter 2: growing apart (to get closer)
Yoongi is not lonely, no matter what Hoseok has to say about it.
because i couldn't resist, something from yoongi's pov. small as a sugar cube and taken from that very first scene on the beach. content warning for cursing.
Yoongi is not lonely.
With six other people surrounding him at all times, it is virtually impossible to be inside his own head for long. It’s something he’s grown to appreciate, the closeness, the way he can’t take a step without stumbling upon a reminder that he lives with other people. When his thoughts get too loud, he can just walk out his own room and go into the kitchen, the living room, rest his head on Hoseok’s shoulder for a while. He can sit down and listen to Jimin talk, softly, about something he saw online. Sometimes, if he’s feeling indulgent, Yoongi won’t leave the bedroom at all, will stay there and rest his head on Seokjin’s lap, let Seokjin’s voice lull him into a dreamless sleep.
So it isn’t that Yoongi is lonely, or that he feels alone or isolated in any major way. Hoseok and Namjoon would do well to let the whole thing be, accept Yoongi’s little sometimes I feel jealous of you as the joke Yoongi hadn’t meant to make but, sure, would concede it was. If only it would get them to stop looking at him like he was carrying some kind of world-ending burden by not having a same-age friend in the group.
And it’s not that Yoongi resents Seokjin, because it’s not as if Seokjin had been born earlier than him on purpose. Not that Yoongi would put that past Seokjin, though. He would definitely ask to be born earlier just to spite Yoongi, if it had crossed his mind to do so. But it hadn’t, and Seokjin had been born in December anyway, instead of in a much more reasonable month like, say, March. 1993. So it’s not resentment, and it’s not jealousy, like the kind Yoongi used to feel for his brother, the gnawing anger that threatened to swallow him up, when he couldn’t just magically make himself old enough to be something else.
It’s just that Yoongi got reminded, sometimes, of that brief window of time after they had just got introduced when he spoke casually to Seokjin, when he didn’t know yet that he was supposed to talk to that baby faced giant kid with deference. It’s just that sometimes it felt like Seokjin was close but never close enough to touch, either acting too young for his age, fooling around with the kids, or acting exactly like it, hands shaking while he held a flimsy piece of paper and told everyone alive that he was proud of Yoongi. And wouldn’t Hoseok just have a field day if he found out he’d nailed exactly how Yoongi felt.
So Yoongi isn’t lonely, but he is a little desperate, and a lot tired. He’s been tired since at least 2014, maybe even earlier. Tired of wanting to reach out to Seokjin, of wanting to bring him closer, bring him down to Yoongi’s lowly human level and say, we’re the same now, you and me. Yoongi thinks about the stupid shelf between their spaces, which he had insisted be put there himself, and he wants to set it on fire, maybe. Maybe do something less drastic and just move it away. Just to watch Seokjin’s shocked expression when he sees it, watch him gaping at the open space. Just to be able to say, there, now we’re exactly in the same place again. Now you can’t avoid me anymore.
Not that Seokjin ever does avoid Yoongi, not really. Or at least not in any way Yoongi can accuse him of. Seokjin, who’s usually all big gestures, can be subtle to a fault when he feels like it. Move smoothly out of Yoongi’s grasp just when Yoongi thought he’d caught him. It drives Yoongi up the wall, sometimes. Especially when Seokjin closes him out from his thoughts with an I’m the oldest here, you shouldn’t have to take care of me. Which, admittedly, was something Yoongi himself also used on the other guys all the time, but. But maybe he wanted the both of them, wanted him and Seokjin to be bad at being taken care of together. Maybe Yoongi wanted that, so what. Maybe he wanted it just a little and only sometimes, maybe he wanted it a lot and all the fucking time. Especially when he was feeling particularly maudlin and Seokjin was doing his damnest not to breathe too loudly from the other side of the room, pretending he wasn’t just as awake as Yoongi. Giving Yoongi an amount of space Yoongi didn’t remember asking for.
Seokjin says, what’s three months even and Yoongi wants so much, he’s hurting from it. He’s got Seokjin’s hand in his, can feel Seokjin’s pulse thrumming against his own, can feel Seokjin’s form cast a cool shadow over his own body, and still, still Yoongi wants him closer.
Seokjin has always told him to speak his mind if something made him uncomfortable. Seokjin has always told him—especially while tipsy, when it’s just the two of them still standing—that Yoongi should always tell Seokjin about his ideas because they’re brilliant. So Yoongi licks his lips, takes a deep breath, and does exactly that.
“I want to try it,” he says, trusting Seokjin to know what he means, but still not fully looking Seokjin’s way, not yet. “If you want to.”
Chapter 3: living lovely
(a small, 2018 interlude.)
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They move. It's bigger, sparklier, more expensive.
"In a way, it's us," Namjoon says, looking out the balcony at the foggy Seoul skyline.
Yoongi rolls his eyes. "It's an apartment," he bites back, snorting. Namjoon laughs. Yoongi closes his eyes, breathes in.
He thinks about the way the living room, scattered though it still is with boxes and discarded slippers, is already starting to look like them.
Yoongi smiles, small. Concedes to Namjoon's point, if only a bit.
Seokjin has his own room now. Yoongi asks him how it is, to have his own space. Seokjin kicks at him, almost makes Yoongi fall from the (bigger, comfier, softer--) bed.
"Very funny," Seokjin says, voice raspy with sleep. He doesn't look at Yoongi, eyes firm on his comic, glasses slipping down his nose. Yoongi reaches out to fix them.
Tomorrow, Seokjin will go to his room to change. Tonight, he stays in Yoongi's room. Allows Yoongi to get closer, closer, closer.
"Jinnie," Yoongi calls.
Seokjin closes his book.
thank you so much to everyone who has sent feedback about this story and who was glad to see it back <3 and to anyone reading this for the first time, welcome!