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I say them very quietly

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I sleep. I dream. I make up things that I would never say. I say them very quietly.

               - Richard Siken, Meanwhile

i.

Yoongi had met Seokjin roughly a year into his training.

Truth be told, he hadn’t been very friendly towards Seokjin at the time. Seokjin had struck him immediately as beautiful and polite, which Yoongi could appreciate, but didn’t have much use for. Even worse, Seokjin’s addition to the roster had spelled to Yoongi the ultimate death of Bangtan as a purely hip hop group. 

It had been a long time coming, but Yoongi had still clung to the idea that they would go back to it eventually. Seokjin joining the group meant the end of that. Hip hop groups didn’t need a visual. Yoongi knew it wasn’t fair to blame him for it, but he was also angry, anxious and disappointed and avoiding Seokjin was easier than confronting all of that.

So, instead, he worked hard and made the best out of the situation, despite the acid coil of anxiety eating him up from the inside.

Yoongi didn’t have a plan B. Big Hit and the group barely counted as plan A to begin with. This was it for him. He didn’t have parents who supported him, who let him live in his childhood bedroom and gave him pocket money while he pursued his dreams. 

He trained and he produced and he worked barely paying part-time jobs just to avoid starving and he needed everyone in the group to want it as much as he wanted it. If they were going to be an idol group, Yoongi needed them to be the best idol group the world had ever seen. He couldn’t afford anything less.

“Hyung.” Namjoon said in a tone that implied it wasn’t the first time he had tried to get Yoongi’s attention.

“What?” Yoongi asked, shaking himself from his thoughts.

It was a testament to how far they had come as friends that Namjoon didn’t even roll his eyes at the brusqueness of his tone and instead just calmly repeated his question. “I asked you about Seokjin-hyung.”

They were sprawled on the couch in the hallway, neatly sandwiched between the recording studio and the practice room, after a particularly gruelling recording session. Yoongi liked recording and producing most of all. It always filled him with a sense of accomplishment. He even managed to find a way to enjoy their vocal lessons, despite not being particularly skilled. Dance practice, he liked significantly less. 

"What about Seokjin-hyung?" Yoongi asked, as if Namjoon’s question hadn’t just single handedly pushed him into a Seokjin shaped spiral.

"I don't get him." Namjoon said, a note of whining in his voice Yoongi knew he was trying to learn how to get rid of. So far, he had been unsuccessful.

"What's there to get?" Yoongi asked, confused by the direction of the conversation had taken. It happened with Namjoon sometimes, his brain working faster than his mouth while everyone else was left to play catch-up. 

"I don't know, I can't get a read on him.” Namjoon said, more serious than the subject matter warranted, in Yoongi’s opinion. “I'm the leader, hyung, I should get a read on all of you."

Yoongi rolled his eyes. He loved Namjoon to pieces, petty squabbles long forgotten, and he didn't envy him the position of leader one bit, but the kid was a pressure cooker. Not that Yoongi was a stranger to anxiety, founded or unfounded, but well. Yoongi managed to mostly confine it to his head and his lyrics, Namjoon tended to get chattier when anxious. 

It made Yoongi feel awkward sometimes, the fact that Namjoon clearly looked up to him and wanted his input on things. His help in navigating this new life they were living together and the anxiety that came with it. He wasn't sure he knew how to be that kind of hyung to him, or anyone else for the matter. 

He could only really try his best and hope it was enough.

"He's a person, Namjoon-ah, not a book. You don't need to read him, just talk to him." Yoongi replied. 

Namjoon squared his shoulders, the way he always did when Yoongi said something he found vaguely offensive to his person, but that he also knew was right. Yoongi couldn't begin to fathom what he might have said to cause Namjoon to get defensive, but it was irrelevant. He knew Namjoon would do the right thing. He was a good kid with a good heart. 

Just then, Seokjin came out of the practice room, Hoseok and Jungkook in tow. They were drenched in sweat, chatting cheerfully despite the fact that Yoongi knew for a fact they had just gone through a three-hour dance practice. Yoongi suppressed a sigh. He felt bad even thinking about complaining, sometimes. He was, for all intents and purposes, living his dream, he guessed.

"Hyung!" Namjoon said, bounding up to Seokjin. "I was thinking of checking out this new cafe that opened around the corner. I was wondering whether you’d like to come with me? To, you know, chat and stuff." Namjoon continued, eyes big and excited. 

It hit Yoongi at odd times, how much he loved this kid, with his big mess of contradictions. At turns confident and insecure. A lover of all things small and yet trying so hard to hide all the small, soft parts of himself. Yoongi thought maybe these feelings should embarrass him, but looking at Namjoon, he just felt fondness.

"Of course, Namjoon-ah, let me just wash up and I'll meet you outside." Seokjin answered, a pretty little smile immediately breaking out on his face. 

Yoongi narrowed his eyes. It was a nice smile, if a bit worn around the edges, maybe. Tired. Not that Yoongi would consider himself an expert, but he was observant, definitely more than everyone gave him credit for, sometimes.

Whatever, he didn't really have time to delve into whatever was going on with Seokjin there, and frankly, he didn't have the emotional bandwidth either. 

Seokjin and Namjoon left for their cafe, Jungkook in tow. As soon as they were out of earshot, Hoseok sighed. Yoongi risked a look at him and saw him sprawled on the couch, legs bent on the armrest, face hidden in his hands.

"Everything okay, Seok-ah?" Yoongi asked, quietly, poking Hoseok in the forehead, the only visible part of his face now. 

"Yeah, hyung, just tired. Practice was... a lot." Hoseok replied, voice muffled by the hands on his face. 

Yoongi frowned. "Are the teachers giving you trouble?" 

"No more than usual.” Hoseok replied. “We’re learning." Hoseok continued, brows furrowing under his long, thin fingers. 

"Seok-ah, be honest with me." Yoongi said. Hoseok finally uncovered his face and looked up at Yoongi. Yoongi kept his face deliberately blank. 

"Sure, hyung." Hoseok replied, wary.

"Are we fucked?" Yoongi asked, voice and face as impassable as he could make them, which for some reason never failed to make Hoseok crack up.

Hoseok laughed, clear and high.

"No, hyung, we'll get there. We're a team." Hoseok replied, punching the air above him with a sudden burst of energy. 

Yoongi chuckled. It was impossible to stay moody around Hoseok. He was like a small human sun, warm and energetic. Yoongi liked him so much sometimes he didn't really know what to do with it. It was different to the way he liked Namjoon, louder. Being Namjoon’s hyung was a cozy day in winter, being Hoseok’s was a summer picnic. 

Hoseok jumped up and dragged Yoongi up by a hand. 

"Come on, hyung, let's go do something productive." He said, voice high and cute. 

"Why is it never 'come on, hyung, let's go take a nap' with you?" Yoongi grumbled.

"Because I'm more responsible than you." Hoseok replied.

"Rude, and wrong. And I can't come be tortured by you, I have more stuff to work on in the studio, I'll probably stay there until late tonight." Yoongi replied. 

Hoseok muttered something under his breath, but in the end let him go. 

For all Yoongi grumbled about how much he worked, he really did cherish his time in the studio. It was worth all the rest. It was worth the dancing and the long hours and the media training and the part time jobs. He got to actually produce music, music people were going to listen to soon. It felt slightly surreal at times. He couldn't wait. 

Yoongi re-emerged from his studio many hours later blinking blearily in the harsh light of the hallway, and only because the grumbling of his stomach had become too distracting to keep working through. He straightened his back, muscles protesting loudly and painfully after so many hours spent sitting down. He rubbed his dry eyes and yawned, almost tripping to death on someone sitting on the floor.

"Seokjin-hyung?" Yoongi asked, surprised. It was late, even by his standards, which Namjoon was always telling him were outside of the human realm anyway. Because Namjoon was a brat.

"Yoongi-yah! Are you okay?” Seokjin asked. “I’m so sorry, I was looking at my phone and I didn't see you." Seokjin said, waving his phone in front of Yoongi as an explanation. He seemed relaxed, but his ears were an incandescent shade of red and he made no move to get up.

Yoongi narrowed his eyes. Seokjin was sweaty and wearing practice clothes, the same as the ones he had been wearing that afternoon. He looked exhausted, face flushed with more than embarrassment, exertion probably. Yoongi wrinkled his nose. It made no sense. Seokjin ignored him and closed his eyes. He looked ready to fall asleep on the floor.

Yoongi sighed and lowered himself on the floor, his back screaming in protest. He really needed the company to invest in some better chairs for the studio.

"Everything okay, hyung?" He asked, tentatively. Things with Seokjin had been polite but distant so far and Yoongi had no illusions on whose fault it was. Seokjin had every right to tell him to mind his own business. That said, Yoongi had never been really good at leaving things alone. "Were you practicing?"

Seokjin rubbed a hand on his face. "Yeah." 

"It's really late." Yoongi said and immediately regretted it. It was a stupid thing to point out and he wasn't usually one for babbling, but he was sleep deprived and surprised, he could hardly be blamed for the lack of filter.

Seokjin snorted and shot Yoongi a meaningful look. It made something weird coil in Yoongi's gut, it was a downright bitchy look. Yoongi was bizarrely delighted.

"Okay, fair enough." Yoongi shrugged, he deserved that. "Can I just suggest that the floor is probably not the most comfortable place for a nap. Especially when there's a perfectly serviceable couch right there." Yoongi continued, nodding towards the couch at the other end of the hallway.

Seokjin groaned. "Yeah, this wasn't my plan."

"There was a plan?" Yoongi asked, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. He immediately cringed at it. Regardless of his personal feelings, Seokjin probably wouldn’t appreciate the tone and he was still his hyung. Yoongi hadn’t spent enough time with him to get a sense of whether he cared about things like that or not. 

Seokjin looked at him, just for a second, expression blank. Yoongi was just about to apologize when Seokjin spoke again. "The plan was to rest for a moment before driving home, sleeping for-" Seokjin said, blowing completely past Yoongi’s rudeness, and checking the time on his phone. "Roughly three hours, and then driving to class. I may have miscalculated my alertness there." 

A small wave of relief hit Yoongi square in the chest and he released the tension in his shoulders he hadn’t realized he was carrying. He smiled a little and shot Seokjin a look that he hoped conveyed the 'you think?' while also conveying only the most respectful level of sarcasm. It was a very layered look, one he had perfected in his years as a younger brother.

Seokjin gave out a pitiful whine. "Just leave me here, I'll be fine to go in a few minutes."

Yoongi snorted. "Come on, hyung, get up. I know a better spot for you to take a nap." He got up, trying his best to not overwork his knees. He was way too young for knee problems. 

Seokjin followed him up, every movement punctuated by a whine or a groan. 

Yoongi walked into the studio, Seokjin trailing in right behind him. It was a pretty small room, but it had a comfortable couch, a closed door, and some blankets Yoongi had stashed there a while back. He unearthed one from the recesses of a cabinet. 

"Here, they keep it pretty cool because of all the equipment, but this should be enough." Yoongi said, thrusting the blanket towards Seokjin, who was looking at him with a bewildered look on his face.

"Uhm, thanks, Yoongi-yah." He said, suddenly a bit shy, as if being allowed to sleep in the studio was somehow weirder than falling asleep in the hallway.  

Yoongi couldn't help but notice that it had been the first time Seokjin had tacked the endearment onto his name without any awkwardness lingering behind it. It wasn't something he had been consciously tracking, but well, the 'Jungkook-ah' and 'Seok-ah' had flown easily from Seokjin's lips from the beginning. He hadn't quite worked himself up to addressing Yoongi and Namjoon with it without it sounding foreign in his mouth. 

Yoongi amended his initial impression of Seokjin on the spot. It wasn’t something that happened often to him, he had been called stubborn more times than he could count by family, friends, and school administrators alike, but he could admit when he was wrong. Seokjin was beautiful, and polite, sure, but also bizarre in ways Yoongi hadn't been anticipating. Hard working and a little mean, which for some reason delighted Yoongi to no end. He chalked it up to natural curiosity. It was always thrilling when someone showed a new side of themselves, he reasoned. 

"Well, I'll go, then." He said, feeling shy and awkward under the weight of Seokjin’s gratitude and his own realization. 

Seokjin smiled again, a pretty glint in his eyes unmarred by the tiredness showing on his face or the redness of his ears. Uh. He really was extremely handsome. 

Then, as if in slow motion, he raised an arm and put one of his large hands on top of Yoongi's head, petting his hair once, twice, his hand warm and sure and heavy. “Yoongi-yah, don’t tell the others, but you’re my favorite dongsaeng.” Seokjin said in mock gravity.

Despite the warmth blooming in his chest and the hammering of his heart, or maybe because of them, Yoongi cracked up. “Thanks, Seokjin-hyung.” Yoongi said, shyness melting away.

-

ii.

Yoongi dropped unceremoniously onto his bed, face first. The sheets smelled a bit old, but the bed was soft and possibly the only thing sustaining Yoongi in corporeal form. He wondered whether it could be possible for him to melt away from tiredness. It felt like a distinct possibility.

It had been a long night that had bled into a long day and then another long night. Yoongi hadn't slept in so, so long, micro-naps in between sessions notwithstanding. In his defense, it was really hard to remember things like food and sleep when he was really invested in his work, music and words flowing out of him like he had rarely experienced before. It had felt too good, too precious to squander it with sleep. But now he was done and he wanted nothing more than to sleep for an equally long time. It was a pipe dream, what with the ever-present threat of dance practice looming, but he could probably make his excuses for one day. 

"Yoongi-hyung, you're back! How did the session go?" A terribly chipper, deep voice asked way too close to his ear. Yoongi could just about imagine Taehyung's broad grin and twinkling eyes. The face he always made when he was being a brat. 

At any other time Yoongi would have thought about indulging him, but he was way too tired for words, so he just grunted, the sound muffled by the pillow. 

Taehyung whistled. "That good, uh?" He asked, following it up with a giggle. 

He was a cute kid, Taehyung. From the same part of the country as him, and that alone would have been enough to endear him to Yoongi, but he was a genuinely bright guy. Warm and funny. Somewhat bizarre, but they all were in one way or another. 

So, yeah, Yoongi liked Taehyung, but in that specific moment he could have strangled him with his own scarf.

Instead he suppressed his murderous urges and burrowed further into the pillow, trying to block his ears. He couldn't really breathe like that, but then again, maybe the lack of oxygen would make him pass out and that was not the worst option in the world. 

"Yoongi-hyung, please don't smother yourself, Jin-hyung said that lunch is almost ready if you want to eat." Taehyung said, coming closer. He was still too intimidated by Yoongi to touch him, which was a relief, but Yoongi wasn't too sure it was gonna last long. Taehyung had a way of worming himself into people's good graces and then setting up shop there, regardless of any boundaries. 

Yoongi lived in constant fear that one day he and the other kids would find out he was all bark and no bite and then where would that leave him? Sleep deprived, probably.

Maybe if Yoongi was very still, Taehyung would assume he had fallen asleep, or died, and he'd leave him alone. Complete stillness was not very hard to achieve in his current state. If anything, it was the only thing he could do.

"Taehyung-ah, you were supposed to check the dorm room and then come back to help me with lunch." Seokjin said, suddenly in the room, voice pitched low as to not disturb Yoongi, but with just a hint of ice in his voice. Seokjin was good at that, Yoongi thought, conveying his hyung disapproval in subtle, but impossible to ignore ways. Yoongi had never found himself on the receiving end of it, but it always put him a bit on edge. 

"I was trying to get Yoongi-hyung to eat something." Taehyung replied, like the lying liar he was. 

Unfortunately for Taehyung, Seokjin had a fully functional bullshit detector. 

"Were you, or were you just wasting time so you wouldn't have to help me in the kitchen?" Seokjin asked, his voice on the knife edge between anger and amusement. Yoongi hid a smile in his pillow. He truly was a pro -  no wonder the kids had latched onto him like limpets. 

"Sorry, hyung." Taehyung replied, sounding adequately chastened. Yoongi couldn't see him, but he would have bet all the money he didn't have that he was doing his best kicked puppy impression.

Seokjin huffed out a laugh. "Aish, this kid. You're gonna be trouble." 

"You really think so, hyung?" Taehyung asked, voice lilting.

"You might even grow up to be almost as handsome as me one day, but only if you stop lying to your hyung, that's how it works." Seokjing replied, voice full of laughter. "Now come help me in the kitchen, like you promised you would."

"What about Yoongi-hyung though?" Taehyung asked. "I don't think he's eaten in a while, hyung." 

Yoongi considered, briefly, very briefly, getting up just for that. Taehyung, despite all the mischief and chaos that seemed to spontaneously manifest wherever he went, seemed genuinely concerned for Yoongi's health. Good kid. Terrible, awful manners, but a very sweet soul. 

"We'll set some food aside for him to eat when he wakes up, don't worry." Seokjin replied, mollified by Taehyung's display of thoughtfulness if the sweet tone he was addressing Taehyung with was any indication. "Now go chop the vegetables, I have washed them already." Seokjin continued.

Taehyung left, heavy steps bounding out of the room and into the hallway. Yoongi felt something warm and heavy, a blanket, be draped over his body. Before he could fully process it or even thank Seokjin, he fell into a peaceful sleep.

Yoongi woke up hours later, hungry and disoriented. He was in his bed, in the exact same position he had fallen asleep in, sprawled on his stomach, face towards the wall. The room was dark, not just lights out dark, but definitely middle of the night dark. He could hear the others sleeping in the too-small room, Hoseok's soft snuffles and Namjoon's snores, Taehyung mumbling something in his sleep. 

Yoongi fished his phone from the pocket of the jeans he was still wearing. It was late; forget lunch, he had missed dinner by several hours. Still, Seokjin had promised to keep some food aside for him, which was good enough reason to leave the warmth of his bed. 

Yoongi got up and stretched the sore muscles of his back as quietly as possible. All the other beds were occupied, their inhabitants deep in sleep. The only empty bed was the one at the far right corner of the room, Seokjin's. Yoongi grabbed his phone, his charger from the nightstand and tiptoed out of the room. 

Yoongi found the lights on in the kitchen, Seokjin hunched at the dining table, laptop in front of him and books, notebooks, and pens scattered around him. He had his glasses on, the ones he didn't like because he said they made him look dorky, and his hair looked like he had been pulling at it for a while now.

"Jin-hyung." Yoongi said, announcing himself softly as to not scare him or disturb him. It didn't work because Seokjin still startled. 

"Sorry, I didn't see you come in. Did you sleep well?" He asked. 

Yoongi shrugged. He got himself a glass of water and plugged his phone into the outlet. 

Seokjin rubbed his eyes, stifling a yawn. "Are you hungry? There's some dinner left." Seokjin continued, unbothered by Yoongi's silence.

"Yes, thank you. I didn't mean to distract you from your work." Yoongi said.

Seokjin got up from the table and helped Yoongi take out the leftovers from the fridge. "It's okay, I needed a break anyway."

"And you're hungry." Yoongi finished, flashing Seokjin a grin.

"Ah, you kids are all such brats." Seokjin whined, but he didn't argue with Yoongi's assessment, which was as much of an admission as anything else. 

Yoongi took two plates from the cupboard, while Seokjin fetched cutlery and glasses. He unceremoniously pushed aside his schoolwork, gently placing his laptop on one of the free chairs.

Yoongi immediately attacked his plate with a hunger that almost surprised him. Yoongi's appetite was a fickle thing, especially when he was focused on something, but the long hours were finally catching up to him. He ate like a man possessed.

"Yoongi-yah, slow down, you'll get heartburn." Seokjin said, biting the corner of his lip to keep from smiling. 

"Here." Seokjin said, offering Yoongi a piece of meat with a bit of bell pepper stuck on it on his chopsticks. "This way you won't choke to death."

Yoongi opened his mouth and Seokjin fed him, the smooth metal of Seokjin's chopsticks cool against his lips. He chewed, making a show of being slow. It was good, despite the fact that it was being devoured cold from the fridge. "It's really good, hyung, thank you."

Seokjin beamed, as he always did whenever someone praised his cooking. Yoongi would have to ask about it one day, about his passion for food. It was cute. Helpful too, in a house full of teenage boys who could hardly spell "self-sufficient" let alone be it. Yoongi was okay, he liked the routine of cooking and he liked food. He liked making something that he and others could enjoy together. He had even been meaning to ask Seokjin to teach him some of his recipes, whenever they had some free time. It would be cool. 

"Watching you eat well is its own reward." Seokjin said, trying to go for solemn and wise and missing it by about a mile.

Yoongi felt something warm and sweet lodge itself in his chest anyway. He was struck, not for the first time, by how glad he was that Seokjin had decided to move into the dorms after all. He had been fine as the oldest one in the house back then. He liked to think he had done a good job of making sure no one was on the verge of death or too homesick. 

Hoseok and Namjoon had helped too, of course, both of them quick and easy to love, but still. Yoongi had felt responsible. He still did, but it was halved, quartered even, most of the load falling gracefully on Seokjin's shoulders.

Things were different now, better. Now Jungkook and Seokjin usually did their homework together, Taehyung and Jimin often joining them, their things taking up all the space on the table, their friendly bickering filling the house with noise and laughter. Seokjin could easily coax the kids into meals and going to bed at a decent hour. He could cheer Hoseok up when he was down and they shared the same quest for a tidy dorm. He and Namjoon had kept up their weekly cafe meetings, where Yoongi suspected they mostly spent their time talking about dramas and books they were reading, but Namjoon always came back looking lighter and happier after. Seokjin managed to care without being overbearing. More often than not, at least. 

Yoongi, well, Yoongi had probably benefited more than anyone else. He was close to his brother, but he was his older brother. They had spent their childhood getting in trouble and fighting with each other. They loved each other and they had a good relationship, but Yoongi wouldn't categorize it as in any way tender. Complicit, sure, warm, of course, especially now that they lived on opposite sides of the country, but hardly tender.

Seokjin was, for lack of a better word, tender with Yoongi. He was kind, but it was more than that. Loving. Yoongi had thought he'd chafe under it, but Seokjin was always careful, relegating his most loving impulses to twilight moments like these, with no one around but them, the house blanketed in silence. And Yoongi, who tried so hard to appear tough and self-sufficient, thought that maybe, despite everything, he liked being babied a bit, being cared for. It was only human. 

It was only human, he thought again, as Seokjin fed him another bell pepper. Yoongi chewed thoughtfully, heart speeding up for some reason. He couldn’t quite figure out when Seokjin had realized bell peppers were his favorites. 

-

iii.

Yoongi looked at the sea of people staring at him, jumping, and cheering, singing and moving along to the music, his music, and he felt a thought pierce through it all, clear as day. He was happy. He was, he was so happy.

After all the years spent training and writing and worrying and pretending he wasn't worried, it had finally happened. They had debuted, they were a real group now. It felt dizzying and bizarre to even think sometimes.

They had been doing a few appearances on music shows, nothing too big yet, but he knew they could make it. It wasn't optimism or naivete that made him say that, no matter what his parents often said, it was an unshakable belief in himself and the people around him. It wasn't that he felt he had been blessed with special talents, but he knew damn well he worked hard. Dedication had to beat talent. It had to, or what was the point?

So, yeah, they weren't a big success yet, but they would be. 

Yoongi thought the others were feeling it too, if the way they had been bouncing off the walls since debut had been any indication. The only one who seemed ambivalent about all of it had been Seokjin. Yoongi couldn't really blame him. He had had a rough go of it on their first performance, and the company was insisting on him playing cold and aloof. 

It had been fine before debut, but now that he was interacting with people in this new capacity as rookie idol Kim Seokjin, he seemed to be floundering. Yoongi got it, it was bizarre, being himself, but not really, playing up parts of his personality as to please unseen, unknowable people. It poked a bit at the part of Yoongi's brain that made him shut his eyes and cover his ears during scary movies, if he thought about it too hard. 

He tried not to think about it, but if he occasionally had panic attacks about it, it was between him and the four walls of the studio. And in one memorable occasion an equally panicked Namjoon. They were fine, it was fine. They talked about it - sometimes ad nauseam - so Yoongi guessed they were okay.

They bounded off the stage, adrenaline coursing through their veins and sweat drenching their stage costumes. Despite the cold December air and the threat of snow outside, the studios were unnaturally warm, too warm, but that might have been the exertion talking. Yoongi was too hot, and a bit gross, but he was too happy to care.

He wanted nothing more than to ride the high into a shower, then ideally the studio, and then, finally, fall into bed. The kids seemed to share his feelings because they were already chatting excitedly about all the things they were going to do once they got home in the dorms. Yoongi gave them about an hour of half-hearted listlessness before they crashed, hard, and slept for the next ten hours.

But before all of that, they had to smile and have fun in front of Big Hit's cameras to commemorate the stage. It was hardly difficult, or something they had to agonize over. Especially with the remnants of the stage adrenaline still working its way through their blood. 

So, he laughed, cackled, really, and he acted as excited as he felt, fighting the incoming tiredness, and then he moved aside to let the others get in front of the camera. It was pretty standard fare by now. And how bizarre was it that standing in front of a camera could become rote and unremarkable? He could remember being camera shy once, as a kid, but he had grown out of it, maybe.

Yoongi grabbed a pack of makeup remover wipes and started cleaning his face off, waiting for the others to be done so they could leave together. His eyes found Seokjin in a corner, getting ready to leave. Yoongi frowned, he didn't think Seokjin had been on camera yet.

"Not feeling it, hyung?" Yoongi asked, quietly.

"Gotta leave them wanting more, Yoongi-yah, that's the trick." Seokjin replied, without missing a beat. He'd been doing that a lot lately, joking about how handsome he was. Yoongi wanted to be mad about it, because the jokes were always cheesy, but more often than not he played along, mostly to annoy the kids. 

Part of Yoongi wanted to let it slide, they were all tired and wired from performing, maybe Seokjin really just wasn’t feeling it. Another part, the bigger part, the one that paid attention during Big Hit's marketing meetings and wanted them all to do well, wanted to push. There was also a third, hidden and soft part, who cared about Seokjin and wanted him to do well.

"I don't know, hyung, isn’t it cruel to deprive the masses?" Yoongi asked. 

It wasn’t really in Yoongi’s nature to get at things sideways. He had always been direct, blunt even. Seokjin was different. He was rarely direct. Or rather, it was something about the way he was direct. Serious things were wrapped up in jokes and deflection, not enough to obscure them, but enough to make them more comfortable to discuss, maybe. It had puzzled Yoongi at the beginning, never quite sure where Seokjin stood. It had taken a while for Yoongi to figure out that Seokjin wasn’t cryptic or insincere, just considerate in his own way. 

Seokjin fixed Yoongi with a sharp glance, just for a second, like maybe he wanted to call Yoongi out for meddling and doing it poorly. Before Yoongi could fully process it, however, it was gone, replaced by a bright cheerfulness. The tightness around Seokjin’s eyes, the only clue that Yoongi hadn’t imagined it.

"You're right, Yoongi-yah, I should give the people what they want." Seokjin said, clapping Yoongi on the shoulder. Then he bounded towards where the camera people being entertained by Jimin and Taehyung, leaving a puzzled Yoongi behind.

From his vantage point in front of the mirror, still busy wiping his makeup off, Yoongi could see Seokjin charming the camera directors and the staff. He could also see the tense line of his shoulders and the way his fingers were running nervously through the short hair at the nape of Taehyung's neck. As if doing it to someone else could mask the anxiety, cloak it behind affection.

It was a couple of hours later and Yoongi was in sweatpants, having freshly showered and trying to valiantly work through the exhaustion. He had forgone going to the studio, having come out of the shower feeling ready for the day to end. Still, it had been early, and his hunger had superseded his need for sleep, for once. Performing tended to bring out the biological imperatives in him. 

Waiting to have dinner before crashing into bed, however, meant having to wait for everyone to shower and then either cook something or have it delivered. Which meant that Yoongi was sitting at the dinner table, ostensibly working on some lyrics, but actually just scribbling disconnected sentences on a new page in his notebook, while Namjoon placed the order. It was fried chicken, because of course it was. Yoongi was pretty sure that it was the only thing the seven of them could ever agree on. It shouldn't have filled him with a deep and warm sense of fondness, but these days Yoongi had made peace with all the ways in which his mind and heart were betraying him. 

"I have graciously decided to get some soju at the convenience store before the chicken gets here." Seokjin announced, the others cheered, and Yoongi perked up his ears. Seokjin never volunteered to go outside unless in case of life-or-death emergencies, carefully scheduled grocery runs, or a particularly bad hand of rock, paper, scissors. They had that in common. Yoongi looked at Seokjin with critical eye, half hidden behind his notebook. Maybe Seokjin needed some time alone, even if it was just ten minutes to the convenience store and back.

"One of you is allowed to come with me and help me choose, but only one, so think this through." Seokjin continued, voice grave and deep, meaningful gaze falling on each one of them in turn. When he got to Yoongi, the last one, he grinned.

So maybe not looking for time alone, just some quiet time and not sure how to ask. 

"I am pulling hyung privileges." Yoongi said, getting up from his chair and putting his notebook in his big hoodie pocket. As expected, the others started protesting.

"Hyung, no, your tastes are too expensive and weird." Jimin yelled. Jungkook being soundly asleep with his head in Jimin's lap was the only thing stopping him from trying to physically fight Yoongi. Jungkook barely even stirred. 

"Hyung, please, none of the hard stuff." Hoseok pleaded, already looking a bit green.

"Too slow, babies. Baby number one beat you fair and square." Seokjin said, putting on his shoes and shrugging on his coat. 

"The privileges of being the favorite." Yoongi said, tying his shoelaces. 

"Wait, wait, he never said that! It could just be age order." Namjoon protested. Yoongi snickered.

"You are all ranked on the basis of a complex and unassailable formula of my devising." Seokjin clarified.

"Hyung, didn't you fail math?" Taehyung asked, because Taehyung was an actual baby and had no sense of self preservation.

Seokjin narrowed his eyes. “It was science.” He corrected primly. "Minus a million and seventy-five points for Kim Taehyung. Demoted to baby number six. Take note, Yoongi-yah." Seokjin continued, putting on his gloves. Yoongi took his notebook out again and pretended to write it down.

"Noted." 

"Hyung!" Taehyung whined pitifully, pout out in full force. 

"You'll be given the opportunity to earn those points back." Seokjin replied, unmoved. "Now let's go, Yoongi-yah."

Yoongi wrapped his scarf tight around his face and followed him out.

They had barely taken three steps outside when Seokjin started whining. “Ah, it’s so cold Yoongi-yah.” 

Yoongi, safely hidden behind his thick gray scarf that swallowed him whole, chanced a look at Seokjin. He was wearing a scarf, but not nearly thick enough against the chill, and his hands, engulfed by a pair of knitted gloves, were stuck in his pockets. His coat, a stylish and warm-looking thing, was inexplicably open.

“Hyung, your coat’s open.” Yoongi supplied, managing to keep the eyeroll to himself.

Seokjin looked down on himself as if that was news to him. “I must have forgotten to close it before leaving.” He said, yet made no move to button it up.

"Hyung." Yoongi said, trying to sound as stern as the situation would allow, which wasn't very stern at all.

"I'd have to take my gloves off and then my fingers would freeze and fall off and then where would we be, Yoongi-yah? As a group?" Seokjin asked.

"Well, all of you is going to fall off at this rate." Yoongi replied. 

"If this is all a ploy to become the most handsome member of the group by sabotaging my flawless beauty, I can tell you right now it won't work, I'm too handsome." 

"Hyung, stop a second." Yoongi said, stopping in his tracks. 

Seokjin stopped. 

Yoongi stepped closer to Seokjin, every breath painful due to the cold air, white puffs of air leaving his mouth with every exhale. Seokjin blinked at him for a second, looking a bit like a deer in the headlights, which was a bizarre look on him. Maybe he was just upset about being interrupted mid-rant.

It was kind of stupid, Yoongi knew that. They were about two minutes away from the store, Seokjin could go in and button up his coat in the safety and warmth of the alcohol aisle. But Yoongi felt bad about letting Seokjin go around with an unbuttoned coat. It was probably the exhaustion talking, but it made him sad. Unloved people went around with unbuttoned coats. Seokjin wasn’t unloved. 

Yoongi took his hands out of the depths of his jacket pockets and the cold air hit him immediately, making him shiver. His nails were chewed to the quick, despite the desperate pleas of the staff, and the skin around them stung in the cold. Still, he grabbed the sides of Seokjin’s coat, the material rough on the outside and warm and fuzzy on the inside where it was lined. 

He started by zipping it up, slowly as to not snag any part of Seokjin’s sweater. His knuckles brushed lightly against the fabric, the wool too thick to really feel anything underneath besides the steady rise and fall of Seokjin’s chest. Yoongi focused on the zipper going up, for some reason too scared to look up and know exactly what expression was on Seokjin's face. 

Once he was done with the zipper, Yoongi did the buttons up as well. It was virtually useless, Seokjin's coat was a sturdy and warm thing - the zip alone would have been enough to keep the chill out. Still, he told himself he didn't like leaving things done by half. He thumbed the shiny plastic buttons, pulling them deftly through the buttonholes. He reached the uppermost one and Seokjin's face came into view. He was closer than he thought he would be. Closer than he needed to be to button someone's coat up, probably. His face was unreadable, which was unexpected. Yoongi had gotten pretty good over the last two years at reading Seokjin. Yoongi wondered what Seokjin even had to hide. Maybe the same thing you do, a voice unhelpfully supplied from the recesses of his mind as his heart sped up. 

Which was a stupid thing to think. Yoongi had nothing to hide. 

Yoongi patted Seokjin's chest once, lightly, as if to announce that he was done. He took a step back. Seokjin laughed.

"Thanks, Yoongi-yah, it's a shame you can't go up in the ranking." Seokjin said, which was fine. It was fine that he was joking and putting on a show for Yoongi. It was funny. Seokjin rarely did it with him, not like this, not to distract Yoongi from something he didn't want Yoongi to see. Yoongi had begun to think that maybe there was nothing Seokjin felt like he needed to hide from Yoongi. So, he was wrong, it wasn't a big deal. Annoying, maybe.

Yoongi huffed and started walking again, mostly to hide the way he could feel his cheeks flush an odd mix of embarrassment and frustration. He swallowed. This wasn’t about him.

Yoongi didn’t need to be a psychologist to realize that Seokjin used humor to protect himself. They all had their things. Yoongi had a veritable host of things.

"Hyung, does being baby number one come with privileges?" Yoongi asked.

"Of course." Seokjin answered. "Many perks mostly tied to my presence."

They entered the convenience store and a wall of warmth hit Yoongi and he sighed, content. He loosened up his scarf, just a little, and grabbed a basket. 

"Okay, then, I wanna claim one of these perks." Yoongi said. He walked towards the alcohol aisle, Seokjin right behind him.

"Get whatever you want to drink, hyung's treat." Seokjin agreed easily.

Yoongi turned around to look at Seokjin, who was scanning the vodka selection with critical eye. "No, hyung, I want to ask you a question." 

Seokjin turned around slowly, a look of naked horror on his face that would have made Yoongi laugh himself to death if he didn't think it would allow Seokjin to deflect. 

"I don't know, Yoongi-yah, I am an international man of mystery." Seokjin said, but it fell flat.

Yoongi rolled his eyes, discreetly. "It’s nothing bad, hyung." He said, turning back to the alcohol. 

Seokjin must have mistaken Yoongi’s turning around for anger or disappointment, because he cleared his throat with a nervous little sound. He stepped closer to Yoongi, close enough that the sleeves of their coats were brushing against each other. "I'm sorry, Yoongi-yah, of course you can ask me a question." He said, sounding embarrassed, if by his earlier deflection or the current concession, Yoongi wasn't sure.

Yoongi didn't turn around to look at Seokjin as he asked: "Hyung, are you okay?"

Seokjin huffed a breath, something between a laugh and a sigh. "I'm terrified all the time, Yoongi-yah." He said it like a confession. It made that small, unseen part of Yoongi’s heart that he had come to associate with Seokjin crack a little. "I keep thinking we're going to fail and it's going to be my fault because I have no idea what I'm doing."

Yoongi turned back around. Seokjin was looking at the alcohol display, eyes huge and ears red. "We all are. I have been on the edge of a panic attack for the past three months, but I keep needing to reschedule it because I'm too busy for it." Yoongi joked.

Seokjin laughed. "No jokes!" He protested.

"I'm too funny not to, hyung." Yoongi replied, shrugging.

"You're too devious for your own good, Min Yoongi." 

Yoongi, ready to let it go, returned his attention back to the alcohol. He grabbed a few bottles of soju, a couple of beers, and a bottle of vodka he knew Seokjin liked. He was busy trying to remember whether Jimin preferred melon soju or strawberry soju when Seokjin spoke up again.

“I used to be very sad.” Seokjin said, his face unsure and watery under a carefully blank mask. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I just want to try to be happy now.”

“It’s not selfish, hyung.” Yoongi said, softly bumping his shoulder against Seokjin’s. “When you’re scared but you still do it I think it’s called being brave.”

“Ah, Yoongi-yah, you say the sweetest things.” Seokjin said, in a tone that clearly implied he was done with the emotional part of the conversation. 

Yoongi understood it, but he still had one last thing to say. “You know, hyung, you can talk to us. We’ve have each other’s backs.” Yoongi continued. 

Seokjin laughed. “I’m trying to think of a less rude way to say that’s a bit rich coming from you.”

Yoongi frowned. “I talk to people, hyung.” He protested. “Namjoon and I have possibly dissected every aspect of our respective anxiety disorders.”

Seokjin looked surprised at this, as if he wasn’t expecting Yoongi to be open about it. Maybe Yoongi had been keeping things close to his chest for too long. He remembered the relief he had felt when he’d first talked to Namjoon about their anxiety and how they weren’t alone with it. Maybe it was something like this with Seokjin as well. 

Maybe they needed to make sure Seokjin felt less alone too.

-

iv.

It was a sweltering August day and Yoongi and the others were stuck in a stuffy recording room at a local radio station, the air condition only halfway doing its job. To top it all off they were sitting on leather chairs which was doing absolutely nothing to help them cool down. 

The hosts had been nothing but incredibly dull, their jokes tired and unfunny. The boredom coupled with the stifling heat made Yoongi want to take a nap. It would probably be considered bad form, though. 

Namjoon laughed at something the hosts said, which at least snapped Yoongi out of his reverie. It was his fake laugh, the one he practiced in the bathroom mirror whenever he thought he was alone. There was a time where he would have made fun of Namjoon to death for it, but now it just made fondness swell in his chest. 

Yoongi's eyes drifted around the room. Hoseok, Taehyung and Jimin were launching a valiant effort to help Namjoon get through this interview with his sanity intact. Yoongi wasn't sure it was working too well, but he could appreciate the effort. It helped that Taehyung and Jimin knew how to play off each other so well. 

Jungkook looked completely checked out. Yoongi could only really see the back of his head, but he was sure that if he could see him, he would see a pair of vacant eyes and a stupid expression on his face. The guys sometimes called it his schoolwork face, but it could make an appearance for every single activity Jungkook wasn't particularly thrilled about. 

Seokjin was on the other side of the line they had formed, Jimin and Taehyung sitting between them. He wasn't looking bored, but that didn't really mean much with Seokjin. He had a good game face and even better manners. He wasn't speaking much, but then again how could Yoongi blame him? He did however look like he was paying attention, which chastened Yoongi enough into at least pretending.

Just then, when Yoongi was just about to try his hand at acting interested and alive, Seokjin caught him looking.

Their eyes met and Seokjin shot him a conspiratorial look before discreetly rolling his eyes. It happened so fast Yoongi almost thought he had made it up in his state of terminal boredom, but it happened sometimes. Almost never in front of strangers, or during interviews, but sometimes. Sometimes when they were all lying on the floor of the practice room and Hoseok and Jimin insisted on another run-through. Or when they were in the dorms and one of the kids said something particularly obnoxious. A couple of times it had even happened during a concert, their eyes meeting in the middle of a song as if to say “can you believe this?”

It always felt like a private conversation between them. Usually something too sappy or too mean to say out loud. Mostly the mean thing. 

Yoongi liked it. He liked the fact that he got to share something like that with Seokjin, who was usually too polite and cheerful in public to let things slip. It was some sort of an inside joke between them, this small thing Seokjin hid from the world but not Yoongi.

Yoongi had plenty of friends even before becoming a trainee, and then he had made friends easily. It tended to surprise people, just how warm he could be once they got over the initial shyness. Yet, despite all the years of friendship, he had never felt something quite like this. He had never felt special for being someone's friend. But he did feel special, being Seokjin's friend.

It was something he doubted people noticed. Seokjin was warm and funny and handsome and he was good at small talk and he was polite. People were drawn to him and it made sense to Yoongi that they would be. It also made sense that Seokjin would be friendly, but it didn't mean he was their friend. Yoongi had learned how to spot the difference. The way he changed around the people he was really comfortable with. 

Sometimes, Yoongi thought maybe he was the person Seokjin was the most comfortable with, which was presumptuous and maybe a bit weird, but Yoongi had never claimed to be a normal person. Which was why Seokjin being weird and sometimes mean and sometimes withdrawn filled Yoongi with something unnamed and sweet. The joy of being let in. Of being allowed to see the soft underbelly of someone’s life, their unadorned personality. 

More than anything else, this was what made Yoongi like Seokjin so much, all the small parts of him he was letting Yoongi see.

-

v.

The first time Min Yoongi had seriously considered the possibility of not being straight, he had been sixteen and in attendance at a gospel concert. 

He had gone with his dad, he couldn’t quite remember why. Maybe as a gift for a good grade, or something more mundane, maybe his dad had gotten the tickets from a co-worker. He had worn a blazer and a shirt and he had felt every single one of his sixteen years surrounded by people much older than him dressed in their finest clothes and sipping wine. 

Yoongi had made slightly stilted small talk with his dad about his grades, about his dad’s work, about the news. It wasn’t that he and his dad didn’t get along, but it had been hard for them to sustain longer conversations back in the day. Especially without Yoongi’s mom bulldozing through their silences. 

The concert itself had been beautiful, the singers’ voices clear, the music simple and transcendental. Yoongi’s parents had probably thought he wouldn’t have enjoyed the show, gospel not exactly being his usual style, but he had found something beautiful about it. He had thoughts about music he couldn’t quite articulate yet, about how it brought people together and how it helped people connect and communicate in ways no other medium could achieve. 

Despite this, Yoongi had found his mind had started to wander. It was weird because Yoongi rarely got distracted when he was focusing, and yet. He couldn’t remember what had caused it to, maybe something that had happened that day in school, but suddenly he had been thinking about Minho, from his class. He had been thinking about Minho’s left hand, the way his long fingers wrapped a bit awkwardly around his pen, or the way Yoongi could see his slightly crooked front tooth every time he smiled at him. It struck him as odd that these were things someone would notice about another guy, maybe. 

Yoongi had never considered himself particularly manly, it prickled at him sometimes, but it had always struck him as too much effort. 

Still, he had felt this prickle for a while now, this nagging sense that something was different in him. Maybe wrong. It wasn’t even that he couldn’t name it, but he was avoiding doing so, because naming it made it real and if it was real it was something he had to deal with and on top of everything else, it seemed too overwhelming.

He had busied himself thinking about his last girlfriend instead, Soon-il, who had been beautiful and funny and a little mean. She had gotten too busy with school and they had decided to call it quits, but they had continued to occasionally make out at various shows, the last one just a week prior. Yoongi had been into it. He had been really into it.

And if Yoongi had been into Soon-il, and he had no doubt about it, he couldn’t possibly be into Minho. It didn’t make any sense. The fluttering in his stomach and the anxiety in his throat were probably something else. Jealousy maybe; Minho was good looking and popular and Yoongi had no illusion he was either. Maybe he had idealized Minho as some kind of golden standard of masculinity. 

That sounded like something Yoongi would do.

In the end, Yoongi had gone to bed that night and put the matter to rest, metaphorically speaking. Detangling the tight knot of his thoughts had sounded like too much of a hassle, a hassle he couldn’t really deal with. It had sounded like a problem for future Yoongi.

As he had fallen asleep that night, Yoongi had distantly registered that having this specific existential crisis during a gospel concert would one day strike him as very funny. 

Yoongi was now seven years removed from that realization and he did find it very funny.

He had gotten comfortable in himself since his days as a confused teenager. He had dated people, men and women. He had never sat his band members down and had the whole conversation about it, but he had never played the pronouns game with them either, and either by now they had  to have inferred something, or they were denser than Yoongi was giving them credit for. 

All of this to say, however, that Yoongi might have been slow to untangle his feelings, and maybe he tended to downplay them sometimes, but he wasn’t oblivious and he wasn’t in the habit of lying to himself. He was aware he had a small but persistent crush on Seokjin. 

They’d recently moved into their new dorm, a bigger place, where they only had to share with one person instead of six others and there was enough space in the kitchen to actually cook and two bathrooms and Yoongi had been incredibly worried. He could be prickly sometimes, downright antisocial, he knew that about himself and he was afraid it would be more noticeable with just one roommate. 

Then he had been paired up with Seokjin.

Yoongi had been afraid it would be weird, but it hadn’t been. Seokjin was a good roommate, tidy but not fussy, considerate, quiet. Yoongi felt like none of that should have surprised him, and it didn’t, but it was like putting together the final few pieces of a puzzle. He could see the picture just fine even before, but now it was different. Complete. 

Before, he could watch Seokjin be goofy and funny, trying to cheer Jimin up after a bad day and wonder how it fit with the serious and conscientious Seokjin he would find awake at three am working on some school project, head bent over books and glasses slightly askew. Before, there were tens of different Seokjins that he could stack in tens of different boxes, but now the boxes were all open and spilling out and there was just one Seokjin. Seokjin, his roommate.

Seokjin, his roommate, who was currently sitting at his desk, playing on his laptop, quiet save for a few displeased sounds at random intervals.

Meanwhile, Yoongi was busy torturing the kids through their group chat. The little demons had decided to swipe a bottle of Yoongi's expensive liquor and evidently decided he was either too busy or too stupid to notice. Yoongi was busy, but not too busy to dole out just punishment.

'was it a special bottle, hyung?' Jungkook asked, as if him willingly participating and replying in the group chat wasn't enough of tip off to the fact that he was clearly guilty. 

'yeah, describe it to us, hyung, maybe we can help you find it' wrote Taehyung, also spelling out his own involvement in the crime. 

The rest of the group chat stayed silent, the others clearly enjoying the show. Even Jimin, who was usually drawn to just punishment like a beautiful, vengeful moth to a righteous flame, was suspiciously quiet, not even toying with Yoongi's victims.

'mostly sentimental value.' Yoongi wrote. 'it's a bottle my dad gave to me to drink together on his next visit.' Was it unethical to use his own struggles and trauma to punish Taehyung and Jungkook for their thievery? Probably, yes. Did they deserve it? Also yes.

On the other side of the room, Seokjin snorted.

"Yah, Yoongi-yah." He said, then he laughed, squeaky and high.

Yoongi grinned. "Who texted you, hyung?"

"Taehyung." Seokjin said, snorting out another laugh. "He just offered to wash the dishes for the next week if I help him pick out an exact replica to your priceless and emotionally resonant scotch."

"Hyung, don't let them con you, this is worth at least a month of dishes from Taehyung and of laundry from Jungkook. Both of our laundries." Yoongi said. He sprawled side-wise on the bed, far enough that he could see Seokjin from around the shelf they used to divide the room. His headphones were now resting around his neck and he was typing furiously on his phone, long fingers flying on the screen and a devious smile firmly on his face. 

Yoongi's phone vibrated with a new message, this time from his private chat with Namjoon.

'Hyung, can you let them off the hook, they're really sorry.' Namjoon asked. He was using proper punctuation, which meant he was trying to sound respectable and in charge.

'but what will my father and I drink, namjoon-ah' Yoongi replied, because Yoongi's vengeance was swift and unmerciful.

'Hyung.'

Yoongi ignored him.

"Okay, Yoongi-yah, I've secured us dishes, laundry, and a month of no brats charging into our room uninvited." Seokjin said, looking up and sending Yoongi a triumphant thumbs up.

"Which reasonably is about a week, a week and a half.” Yoongi replied. “Good job, hyung." 

"Brains beat youth every time, Yoongi-yah." Seokjin said.

Seokjin, satisfied with a job well done, leaned back into his chair, hands crossed behind his head, to savor his victory. The move made the fabric of his short sleeves fall back, exposing some of Seokjin's inner upper arm to the air, the skin soft and pale. Yoongi found himself weirdly incapable of looking away.

It wasn't like Yoongi had never seen Seokjin's arms. In fact, he had seen way too much of Seokjin - and the others - through the years, there was no privacy in changing rooms. Still, Yoongi felt on the edge of something in that moment. Seokjin's arms were less bulky than they used to be. Now that the company had decided to change their concept, they spent less time building mass and more time on core strength and stamina, which suited Yoongi well enough. So, Seokjin's arms weren't particularly remarkable. They weren’t, but Yoongi couldn't stop the singular thought that crossed his mind. 

Seokjin's arms were lovely. It wasn't a word he had ever associated with anyone's arms before, but it was the only one that seemed to fit the strange mood that had struck him. Lovely arms he thought would look even lovelier wrapped around him.

Oh.

Oh no.

It felt like less of a revelation and more of an admission, as if a part of his brain was now saying finally, he stops repressing it in the tone of voice Yoongi used when someone he loved was being particularly dense. Part annoyed, part fond, part amused. Having it directed at himself made him wonder how Namjoon had never decked him for it. It was irritating.

It made sense though, he thought, in a distant and horrified way. Seokjin always took care of him and he was kind and smart and handsome. Honestly it would have been weird for Yoongi not to have a crush on him. 

So, Yoongi wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t oblivious to his own feelings. It took him a while but he tended to get there eventually. And now he was there. He was definitely there. The most there he had ever been. 

He might have been panicking slightly, which was stupid. It was a crush. He would get over it. It was a problem for future Yoongi to solve.

Yoongi’s phone buzzed again with a text from Namjoon.

lmao hyung, you’re messed up

If only Namjoon had known just how right he was, maybe he would have used proper punctuation for it.

-

vi.

Yoongi sniffled miserably, but his nose stayed stubbornly blocked.

He had been sick for three awful, terrible, horrifying days, and while his fever had gone down slightly, his cold was still persisting. His head was killing him, stuffed with cotton and live wasps. Yoongi was ready for the whole experience to be over. 

He had been confined to his bed for the larger part of the aforementioned three days. Yoongi remembered a time when they were strongly encouraged to work through worse things than head colds, but apparently now they were too precious to risk losing to the flu. Or something. 

Yoongi could appreciate that being sick was making him bitter and resentful, while also acknowledging that he was not wrong.

Yoongi wasn't ill often. He was stronger than he looked and he knew how to take care of himself. Which was why when he did get sick, it was usually something that could have felled an ox. 

In any case, he was bored and annoyed. All the others were at practice or working, and Yoongi had tried to compose from the comfort of his bed without much success. His vision started to swim whenever he concentrated on the page for too long and the headache wasn’t helping. 

Worst of all, being sick reminded him of being home. He remembered as a kid getting the flu and his parents fussing over him. His mom's cooking, his dad's cold hand on his burning forehead, his brother's voice as he told him stories from his day. It reminded him of being cared for. 

These days things were a bit easier with his parents. They talked on the phone, conversation no longer jagged ugly little things, they even texted. But Yoongi still could feel the years they had lost and he was sure they did as well, more than he did even. So, yeah, while thoughts of home didn't draw blood anymore, they still bit at him sometimes, especially when he was feeling low. 

Yoongi shook his head, trying to find a better position on the pillow and only managing to make himself cough. Once it subsided, he got up from the bed, enveloping himself in a duvet he had kicked aside a few hours ago in a fit of restlessness. While he couldn’t will himself healthy, he could help speed things along. He was going to clean all the debris of his illness from his bed and bedside table, shower, and then make himself lunch. The kind of lunch his mom always used to make to help him heal.

Forty-five minutes later, Yoongi was already feeling slightly less like death warmed over as he gathered the ingredients to make kimchi kongnamul guk. The way his mother made it, it could unblock the most stubborn of sinuses. He could be in and out of the kitchen in half an hour, maybe even less. 

Yoongi was rooting into the cabinets to find barley tea, when he heard the front door beep open. He ignored it. None of the others were due home until later that day. It was probably a staff member, in which case the best thing he could do was get out of the way.

"Yoongi-yah?"

Yoongi turned around and came face to face with a cozy-looking Seokjin, still in the clothes he had worn to a meeting that morning. He looked as surprised to see Yoongi up as Yoongi was to see him in the kitchen. Yoongi suppressed the sudden urge to scream into a cabinet, or a pot, or his hands.

Yoongi had gotten a lid on the whole Seokjin situation pretty much as soon as he had identified it as a situation in the first place. They were still roommates, and it was still nice, and they were friends, but Yoongi didn't look at Seokjin longer than strictly necessary and he didn't analyze his own emotional responses to Seokjin's presence too much. That way lay madness. 

He had even dated in the months since. He had gone on a few dates with a girl who worked in Big Hit’s accounting department and one date with a guy who was a rookie at a different company. Neither one of those relationships had worked out, but at least he was trying to move on. Which he found particularly hard when feverish and faced with a cozy-looking Seokjin, still bundled up in a sweater at least two sizes too big for him.

Yoongi was suddenly and viscerally reminded of that time, maybe years ago, when he had found Seokjin outside the practice room. He could just about see him, complexion washed out under the fluorescent lights, yet still handsome, somehow, with hair matted to his forehead and wearing a hoodie way too big for him. Yoongi remembered particularly the way he had seen the cracks in Seokjin for the first time. It had helped then, helped make him pull his head out of his own ass. Helped him extend a hand, make friends.

Seokjin had told Yoongi recently, on a night with too much alcohol and definitely not enough sleep, that he had appreciated it more than he could ever put into words. It had been a couple of weeks after Yoongi's realization and Yoongi had still been trying to figure out how to move on from it. He hadn't been consciously avoiding Seokjin, but it had been hard to be in the same room when all he had wanted to do was kiss him, run his fingers through Seokjin's hair, shove his hands under those hoodies and find the warm skin underneath. 

Yoongi had felt sad at the confession. How much time had he wasted not being Seokjin’s friend, too busy being a brat to be a good team-mate? And how much time was he wasting now, being a bad friend because of his stupid crush? Except now that Yoongi was hyper-aware, their normal interactions had started to feel weird. Domestic. 

Had they always been like that? Yoongi honestly couldn't remember the process of becoming friends with Seokjin. He was sure there had been one, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint it. One day they weren't friends and then the next one he had a hyung who was funny and kind and a bit mean and who took care of him. 

And it wasn't like Yoongi could exactly ask anyone about it. The others knew he was bi, but they certainly didn’t know about his crush on Seokjin. He could just about imagine how well that would go down. 

"Hyung, I thought you'd be at the office." Yoongi said.

"I was, but I finished early and I wanted to check on you." Seokjin replied, coming into the kitchen and leaving his bag on one of the chairs.

"You didn't have to, hyung, I'm fine." Yoongi said, sounding a bit pitiful even to his own ears. 

He decided to busy himself with food. It was a pretty simple recipe, even with the added step of including the kimchi in it. Seokjin stepped closer.

"What are you making?" Seokjin asked, peering curiously at the ingredients arranged neatly around the pot.

"Kimchi kongnamul guk and barley tea." Yoongi answered. He dumped the water into the pot and grabbed a dried anchovy packet. 

Seokjin wrinkled his nose. 

"I did always peg you for a classic man, Min Yoongi." Seokjin said.

Yoongi snorted, or well, he tried, but it mostly just sent him into another coughing fit. 

"Yoongi-yah, why don't you go back to bed?" Seokjin asked, pushing Yoongi's hair out of his eyes with a cool hand. "You're still warm."

Yoongi took as deep a breath as he could in his current clogged state, which wasn't very deep at all. He was suddenly very glad the symptoms for a crush and the ones for the common cold were extremely similar. There was something to that, maybe.

"It's okay, hyung, I can just make myself lunch and then I'll go to bed." Yoongi replied.

"Why don't I make this and you can go rest. I'll even make you actual anchovy broth, instead of whatever pre-packaged stuff you've got here." Seokjin said, gesturing towards the anchovy packet Yoongi was still clinging to. His voice still light, but a bit more forceful, closer to the tone he assumed whenever he wanted the kids to listen but didn't want to go full eldest mode quite yet. 

Yoongi shook his head. "I'm making my mother's recipe, you don't know it."

Seokjin looked like he wanted to argue with Yoongi and send him marching back to bed. Yoongi could see the struggle painted clearly on Seokjin's face. It was almost funny, just how much Seokjin weighed those three months that separated them and how they stacked against Yoongi's whole Yoongi-ness. When he gave up, Yoongi saw it clearly on his features.

"Fine. Last offer." Seokjin said, putting on his game show television host voice. "We can cook together, but you let me do most of the heavy lifting and then you go back to bed." He continued.

Yoongi liked to think that under normal circumstances and in full possession of his youthful vigor, he would have fought harder. As it was, he was too tired to argue and his head was still killing him. Getting lunch made for him didn't sound too bad.

"Okay, hyung, thank you." Yoongi said.

Seokjin smiled at him, small and pleased. He grabbed the sides of the blanket Yoongi was still wearing like a cape and hitched it up higher, folding it, snuggly and tight, around Yoongi's frame. Yoongi let it happen.

"Good.” Seokjin said, shoving Yoongi gently towards one of the kitchen chairs. “Now, go sit down, you look like you're about to keel over and die." 

"I'm thriving." Yoongi deadpanned. "And you're not allowed to blame me when you get whatever death plague I’m currently carrying."

"Ah, but this is the brilliance of my plan, Yoongichi.” Seokjin replied. “The kongnamul guk is going to counteract whatever germs you're currently harboring." Seokjin continued, gathering all the ingredients for the anchovy stock. 

"Yeah, yeah, no mushrooms in the stock, hyung." Yoongi said, catching Seokjin as he was taking them out of the fridge.

"I can't believe you were going to use packets of dried anchovies." He grumbled, putting everything on the counter.

"It takes too long to do with fresh ingredients." Yoongi protested.

"Ah, Yoongi-yah, I'm so disappointed. Our roommate bond may never recover. How can I trust you not to murder me in my sleep now?" Seokjin asked. Despite the light tone, his voice was quieter than usual, the way it always was when it was just the two of them. Yoongi liked that about Seokjin, how he always made it a point to adjust his volume levels for Yoongi. How he let himself be a little calmer to match him.

From his position sitting at the kitchen table Yoongi couldn't really see what Seokjin was doing, but he had a prime seat for the broad expanse of his shoulders. He was too tired and too sick to chastise himself for looking. Seokjin had good shoulders, it had been the first thing Yoongi had noticed about him, physically. He had looked a bit intimidating at the time, not that Yoongi had admitted it to himself or anyone else, too busy being angry and scared and anxious. Now, however, Seokjin's shoulders were something else entirely. They weren't intimidating, they were solid. 

Seokjin started boiling the various ingredients and then turned around. Yoongi turned away.

"So, what do you put in this special kongnamul guk of yours?" Seokjin asked, seemingly unaware of Yoongi's staring.

"I told you, it's not mine." Yoongi answered, defensive for a reason he couldn't quite work out. "It's my mom's recipe."

"Right! Well, that changes things. I definitely trust your mom more than I trust you." Seokjin replied, laughing a little huff of breath.

"Hyung." Yoongi whined. "I'm a good cook."

"Okay then, chef Min, what now?" Seokjin asked, gesturing at the mess of ingredients on the counter.

"We need to rinse the soybean sprouts and slice the kimchi." Yoongi grumbled, getting up and standing close to Seokjin.

"Well, if you really want to help, you can deal with the sprouts. I don't trust you around sharp objects in your current state." Seokjin quipped.

"It's the flu, hyung, I'm not turning into Namjoon." Yoongi replied, but he grabbed the sprouts and put them in a bowl.

"I'm gonna tell him you said that."

"I've said worse to his face, he'll survive." Yoongi replied, as he rinsed the sprouts and picked out the floating skins. 

"Yah, Min Yoongi, you're so cold." Seokjin said with the tone of someone who enjoyed Yoongi's alleged coldness way too much to be scolding him about it. "Am I slicing it right?" He asked then, pointing the knife at the kimchi on the counter. 

"Looks good, hyung."

They kept working in silence, side by side, preparing the ingredients and keeping an eye on the stock. It was nice, their shoulders brushing against each other and wordlessly passing each other knives, paper towels, and ingredients. Yoongi was struck, not for the first time, by how domestic it always felt with Seokjin. Not in an oppressive way, the way sometimes his home life used to feel in Daegu. He didn't feel smothered or trapped. It was just knowing that company was there if he wanted it. It was preparing a meal together and letting the silence settle them without feeling the need to fill it with mindless chatter. It was jokes and terrible puns that didn't make him laugh but still made him happy. It was knowing that someone was there. 

Yoongi looked at Seokjin's profile, beautiful in their sunny kitchen, the elegant slope of his nose, his eyebrows drawn together in concentration, his lips hanging slightly open, tongue peeking out from between his teeth. 

Seokjin always looked beautiful, at this point it had become a joke, but he was never as beautiful to Yoongi as when he was concentrating on something. When he was fully immersed, completely unselfconscious. It seemed so bizarre to Yoongi that, for all the media and their fans went on and on about how handsome Seokjin was, they would never get to see him at his most beautiful, at his most vulnerable.

Yoongi was seized by an immediate and overwhelming urge to kiss him. It wasn't the first time this had happened, in the past year. This time however was different. The urge to hold him, to kiss him was almost a physical ache, deep within his stomach, reaching all the way to his chest and his throat. Embarrassingly enough, Yoongi felt the sting of tears behind his eyes. 

This was ridiculous. Yoongi was an adult, he was internationally recognized for his work, he could deal with a stupid crush and a stupid cold without making a fool of himself. He took a moment to compose himself. He turned around and took a deep breath.

"Yoongi-yah, are you okay?" Seokjin asked, putting his hand on Yoongi's head. "Do you need to go lie down?"

Seokjin started stroking Yoongi's hair, cold fingers against Yoongi's overheated skin. Yoongi didn't mean to, but he let himself lean into it, until he was tucked against Seokjin's chest. Yoongi shook his head, his nose rubbing against the thick material of Seokjin's sweater. From there he could physically feel the rumble of Seokjin's laughter.

"Why are you so stubborn, uh? Were you bitten by a radioactive goat as a child?" Seokjin asked.

Yoongi nodded, which earned him another chuckle. He tried not to shiver as Seokjin's hand rested on the back of his neck. It was a nice hand, especially as it massaged the tender skin there.

"Yoongi-yah." Seokjin whispered. Yoongi whined. "Let me finish this, so you can go back to bed."

Yoongi didn't move. Seokjin laughed, not unkindly. He grabbed Yoongi's shoulders and shuffled him towards the closest chair. Once Yoongi was sitting down, Seokjin hiked the blanket up again and then left him there.

Yoongi let his mind wander, head too fuzzy and eyes too tired to even try and distract himself with his phone. 

Seokjin finished the soup, then brewed the barley tea. 

"Do you eat it on rice or do you want the rice as a side?" He asked.

"Rice on the side, thanks, hyung." Yoongi replied. 

Seokjin served Yoongi and himself, carrying way too many plates in one go. He then grabbed a soda from the fridge and placed it on the table.

"If the doctor asks, I didn't give this to you." He said, conspiratorially. 

"Wow, hyung, you're a rebel." Yoongi replied.

He wasn't hungry, not really, stomach hurting from the coughing and the medicine. The food had been more of a way to keep himself busy and keep the nostalgia at bay. Still, Seokjin had gone through the trouble.

Yoongi took a sip and promptly started coughing again. 

Seokjin thumped him on the back.

"Aw, poor baby." Seokjin cooed.

Yoongi felt himself flush from head to toe. He was not in a state to in any way elaborate the pet name. It wasn't even the first time Seokjin had called him that. It was a running gag, "Seokjinnie and the six babies" and all that. That had always been the context, Seokjin joking that they were all his babies. He called the kids that sometimes, mostly Taehyung, Jimin, and sometimes Jungkook when he was out of earshot. He had never called Yoongi baby though, not like this. It was doing something bizarre to Yoongi's insides, warm and liquid like the tea he was drinking. 

Yoongi found that he didn't mind. It was nice, to be someone's baby. It was something he had felt with Seokjin almost from the beginning. The idea that there was someone he could let go with. Someone who didn't expect him to be in charge in their interpersonal interactions. Who steered him gently whenever Yoongi needed it. 

Yoongi drank some more of his tea. 

"Hyung, I'm tired, I think I'm going back to bed." He said. 

"Ah, Yoongi-yah, you lasted 15 minutes more than I was expecting." Seokjin replied, with a satisfied little smirk. Yoongi would have sighed if he hadn't thought it would just start a new coughing fit.

"Hyung, you're a menace." Yoongi said and it sounded to his own ears like a confession of some sort, soft and fond as it was.

"Just the worst." Seokjin agreed easily, completely unaware of Yoongi's internal struggle. "Interesting strategy though, considering I'm the only thing standing between your food and the other guys."

"Hyung, you're a prince and a scholar." Yoongi replied, making sure to add absolutely no inflection to it.

"I'll allow your poor form only because you're clearly very, very sick," Seokjin said.

“Thanks for the food, hyung.” Yoongi said, meaning it for far more than just the food. He hoped Seokjin could tell.

“Thank me later if I manage to save it for you.” Seokjin replied, sounding like he knew anyway.

-

vii.

They fought sometimes, not often, not horribly, catastrophically, but sometimes. It made sense to Yoongi, it had always made sense to Yoongi. They had seven very different personalities and they worked together in such close quarters and under such stressful circumstances, not to mention the fact that they lived together. There was no escape. The entire situation had been a pressure cooker waiting to explode for a long time, was the issue. 

The argument between Taehyung and Seokjin hadn't even been the worst of the bunch. Not by a long shot, but it had been caught on camera, and then dissected at length by everyone involved, which had given it more weight than it deserved.

Yoongi could have seen it coming a mile away. Taehyung who took himself so seriously when it came to his work, who got so upset when he thought he was being underestimated and being made fun of. A sensitive kid. And then Seokjin, who cracked jokes when he was sad and uncomfortable. Who didn't feel particularly comfortable in his dancing to begin with. It was a miracle it had never happened quite like that before, frankly.

Still, arguments were nothing new. That's what Yoongi told himself the next evening as he knocked on Seokjin's hotel door, bottles of wine in one hand and delivery Korean food in the other. This too, would pass. Yoongi had never been wrong before.

"Who is it?" Seokjin asked, in Korean, despite the fact that they were abroad.

"Hyung, it's me." Yoongi said, making himself visible through the peephole.

"You, who?" Seokjin asked, the kind of tone he used when he was about to launch into a bit.

"Fine, I'll take the food and wine away, then," Yoongi replied, starting to walk away.

He had barely made it through three steps when the door flew open.

"Ah, Yoongi-yah, my favorite dongsaeng, please come in." Seokjin said. 

He was already dressed in his pajamas, not the one he used when filming, but a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt too big for him. His face was bare and his hair hung un-styled on his forehead. He looked a bit flushed, as if he hadn't come out of the shower too long before.

Yoongi rolled his eyes. It was the easiest reaction to have. He went in.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Seokjin asked.

Yoongi shrugged and set the food down. "The others are busy and I didn't want to eat alone."

Seokjin nodded, a ghost of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He did Yoongi the courtesy of not calling him out on his bad lie. They did that sometimes, lie to each other in small and meaningful ways. Mostly to save each other small and meaningful embarrassments. Seokjin joked around a lot, and there was a significant portion of his pride he was willing to swallow for the sake of others and the sake of a joke, but he had hard to spot, badly signposted boundaries. Yoongi saw them as if marked by neon signs. 

They ate mostly in silence, chatting idly at times about the concert and how the tour was going. It was nice enough. Yoongi was used to being quiet with Seokjin. It settled him, in a way. He liked to think it did the same for Seokjin. 

Seokjin didn't look particularly sad, but he did look pensive. It wasn't unusual, per se, but Yoongi frowned down at his food. Fighting was normal, it was expected, they did that sometimes. Recently they had been doing it more often, though. He wasn't worried, but there was something as insubstantial as fog and as heavy as stones pressing into his stomach. He reminded himself that Taehyung and Seokjin had settled it the night before, and while they'd be awkward for a little while, they'd also be okay. Taehyung and Seokjin had a bizarre relationship, this was just an extension of it. 

Yoongi had done his job, made sure Seokjin was okay, ate some nice food. He had nothing keeping him in Seokjin's room. He could go back to his room, work a little and ideally crash into his bed so hard he'd leave a dent in it. That sounded like a wonderful plan. 

"Hyung, do you have your laptop with you?" Yoongi asked, making a snap decision.

"Sure, why?" Seokjin asked, looking a bit taken aback by the question.

"Teach me how to play that game you like." Yoongi said, not even bothering to phrase it like a question.

Seokjin looked at Yoongi's face, clearly searching for something. Maybe he thought Yoongi was kidding, or asking him out of misplaced pity or worry. Maybe he thought Yoongi just didn't want to spend the rest of the evening alone. Yoongi was sure at least one of those was true, but he couldn't quite settle on which one in his mind.

"Okay, but you're not allowed to quit halfway through, this time." Seokjin admonished, getting his laptop out of the bag.

"Then teach me how to play an easier game!" Yoongi protested.

"It was an easy game! You just get frustrated when you're not immediately good at things." Seokjin replied, laughter in his voice.

They settled on the bed, side by side, laptop resting on Yoongi's thighs. Their shoulders were pressed together, solid and warm. The smooth and delicate skin of Seokjin's wrist brushed against Yoongi's forearm where he was leaning over to set the game up. From this close Yoongi could smell Seokjin's soap. 

"So," Seokjin said, logging into one of the servers. "Are you going to tell me what you want to talk about now or do you want to go through this first?" Seokjin asked, not even looking up from the screen.

Yoongi frowned. "I can go if you're not in the mood." 

"Not what I said." Seokjin said, laughing. 

Yoongi thought he should probably be madder about how often Seokjin laughed at him. Get annoyed, maybe. It was hard to get mad when Seokjin poked fun at him and seemed so happy doing it, never malicious or to embarrass him. And to be fair, he let Yoongi get away with just as much. 

Seokjin walked Yoongi through all the various commands again, especially gracious considering he'd done so many times before. Yoongi had to admit there was some truth to what Seokjin had said, he did tend to get bored of things he couldn't easily hack. To be fair, that was a trait many of his band members shared. Not necessarily Seokjin, who just tended to get bored of things or stick to them regardless of proficiency. It was the reason why he was a member of the band to begin with. He had stuck with it all, the singing, the dancing, and the public relations.

"I'm tired." Seokjin said after a while, as Yoongi's character died an embarrassing death on screen.

Yoongi sneaked a glance at Seokjin while the screen reloaded. He didn't think he was talking about the kind of tired that could be eased with a night of good sleep. The smoke stones in Yoongi's stomach dropped again.

"I can leave if you want to sleep, hyung?" Yoongi said. 

Seokjin slid down so he was lying sideways on the bed, his forehead now touching Yoongi's thigh. He groaned.

"It's not what I meant." Seokjin replied, sound muffled by the comforter.

Yoongi raised a hand and let it fall down gently on Seokjin's back, right where his shoulder blades met, in a way he hoped was soothing. 

"Hyung, what's wrong?" Yoongi asked. He was afraid of the answer, but he felt like he owed Seokjin to ask all the same. Seokjin would have asked. 

"I don't know, I've just been thinking." Seokjin said.

"That's dangerous." Yoongi quipped.

"You're a funny man, Min Yoongi." Seokjin replied.

"Thanks." Yoongi said, and then, when Seokjin didn't follow it with an explanation: "You're deflecting."

Seokjin huffed a breath and finally turned his face around to look up at Yoongi. Yoongi had the fleeting thought that on anyone else this would have been an awful angle, but Seokjin just looked domestic on these ridiculously expensive hotel sheets in a foreign country. Maybe it was just the familiar features of his face that made Yoongi think of home.

"I've been thinking about the contract renewal, next year." Seokjin said eventually. His eyes wouldn't meet Yoongi's.

"What about it?" Yoongi asked, dread worming his way into his blood, but miraculously not his voice.

"About whether I want to sign it." Seokjin replied, voice flat. Flatter than it had any right to be.

Yoongi's first instinct was to get mad, his second to turn it into a joke, his third one to be kind.

"Hyung, is it because of the fight with Taehyungie?" Yoongi asked, trying to put aside the maelstrom of feelings in his head, heart, and stomach for a moment. He needed more information, he needed to understand. Because the issue was, Yoongi thought he understood what Seokjin was saying perfectly well.

"Not really.” Seokjin replied. “I mean, that was awful, and I'm worried about it." He amended after a moment. “But I’m just tired, Yoongi-yah. All the time.”

"Elaborate, hyung." Yoongi asked, his tone sharper than he intended if the visible flinch that crossed Seokjin's face was any indication.

"Yoongi-yah," Seokjin started, physically steeling himself. He turned over so he was laying on his back, not touching Yoongi anymore, not even really looking at him. "I'm almost thirty and I'm gonna have to enlist soon. Wouldn't it be smarter to just call it quits now?"

Yoongi wanted to argue with Seokjin, anxiety bubbling in his stomach like lava. He looked at Seokjin, who was trusting him with this, something he was sure he hadn't told anyone else. He put aside his feelings for a moment. Seokjin had a point, Yoongi knew that. He was tired too, sometimes. The higher the heights they reached, the more tired Yoongi got. He knew the others could feel it too, all of them holding onto each other like shipwreck survivors holding onto a raft. 

He wanted to hold onto Seokjin. He wanted it so bad it felt like a physical ache. It wasn’t something he’d normally do. Too worried about his feelings for Seokjin and whether they were obvious, but what was the point of worrying? What use was agonizing over any interaction when Seokjin could leave?

Yoongi closed the laptop shut and put it aside, scooting down so he was eye level with Seokjin.

Over the years Yoongi had gotten better at accepting affection from others and even asking for it when he needed it, but he had never quite mastered the art of offering it in a way that didn't make him prickle with embarrassment. Still, no one had ever accused Yoongi of not being determined. He swallowed past the awkwardness and put a hand on Seokjin's shoulder. Seokjin turned his head to look at him.

"Hyungie," Yoongi started, the endearment slipping easily from his mouth. "You know I'll support you whatever you choose to do."

"But I shouldn't rush to make a decision?" Seokjin asked.

Yoongi shrugged as much as he could in the current position. "Consider all your options."

Seokjin fidgeted with his fingers, drumming them idly on his legs. "I'm afraid of letting the others down, I guess. We always said we'd sign again together or not at all. Wouldn't I be forcing everyone's hand?"

"We're all grown men, whatever choice we make it’s gonna be our choice.” Yoongi continued, swallowing once again all the pleas he wanted to make for Seokjin to stay, all the reasons why he should. Yoongi knew he could be convincing, make him stay. He’d get on his knees and beg if necessary, he would. It wouldn’t be fair though. 

As much as Yoongi wanted Seokjin to stay, as much as he wanted to hold onto him, if Seokjin wanted to go, Yoongi would help him through it.

That was a way off though, still far away in the future, so for now, just for now, he gave into the urge and draped an arm around Seokjin's middle. He hid his face in the soft material of Seokjin's hoodie, a sweet pink color that suited him, and breathed in the smell of laundry detergent, soap, and hotel sheets. It was probably weird to be comforted by the impersonal smell of hotels, but Yoongi guessed it made sense for them. Hotel rooms meant the day was over and they could rest, at least for a while. 

Yoongi almost expected Seokjin to make a joke out of Yoongi being clingy, just to bring them back onto familiar territory. It was part of those weird boundaries of his. He rarely voiced his discomfort, and when he did, he turned it into a joke. A gentler way to get people to knock it off. Instead, to Yoongi’s surprise, Seokjin just rested his arm on Yoongi's. Seokjin's hand was on Yoongi's elbow, Yoongi's knuckles brushing the tender skin of Seokjin's forearm.

Seokjin stayed silent.

There, in the bubble of a hotel room, surrounded on all sides by Seokjin and unfamiliar things, Yoongi had another realization.

Realization was probably the wrong word for it, it implied a sudden awareness. Nothing about it was sudden, except how one moment Yoongi was pretending he hadn't realized several years before he was in love with Seokjin, and the next he wasn't anymore. He had expected to panic once he had admitted it to himself, but all he could feel was the press of Seokjin's arm against his and the warmth of his body under the clothes. The swoop of butterflies in his stomach and the steady beating of his own heart. 

-

viii.

Yoongi finally snapped on a cool day in October. Everything felt like the stretching on an elastic band, slow, threatening to let go any second now. Then, the snap.

Yoongi was in the closet he shared with Seokjin, looking for a specific jacket. He wasn’t as neat as Hoseok or Seokjin, but he was reasonably tidy. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve to lose a great jacket to the maws of his closet.

The jacket in question was a black one, which made it difficult to locate in the sea of blacks and grays, but light enough for the weather they were having while still heavy enough to help him withstand the chill in his studio. It was a perfect jacket, really, if only he could find it. He got on his knees. Maybe his jacket had fallen down and was currently hiding behind the stacks of shoe boxes at the bottom of the closet. He held his phone up, using it as a flashlight, trying to look in every nook and cranny, but to no luck.

Yawning, Yoongi gave up. He stretched and lied down where he was. Maybe he could get a nap in, before he was due to the studio, at least. The floor wasn’t that uncomfortable.

Yoongi’s plans for a nap were shelved when he heard someone come in. He didn’t even have to open his eyes to know it was Seokjin. Of course, it was Seokjin.

Things were weird between them. They didn’t touch anymore. They had never been particularly touchy-feely with each other, but now Seokjin seemed to go out of his way to avoid touching Yoongi.

It was driving Yoongi nuts.

Seokjin’s affection had always felt natural to him, not something to earn or wilt under, but freely given just for the simple fact that Yoongi was loved. He had never quite realized how much it mattered to him until it wasn’t there anymore. Seokjin still talked to Yoongi and joked with him, they still teamed up against the kids, but Seokjin didn’t touch him. He didn’t brush Yoongi’s hair away from his forehead when they were both tired and sleepy after a long day. He didn’t sling an arm around Yoongi’s shoulders when they were getting a bit going. He didn’t put a warm hand on Yoongi’s back to gently guide him through a crowd.

The worst part was that Yoongi had an inkling of what was going on. It was obvious, wasn’t it? He was being let down gently.

Part of Yoongi, the blunt part, the one that preferred to talk things through, wanted to clear the air. He wanted to get the whole mortifying ordeal over with. Get Seokjin to talk this through with him so they could just move on and get back to being friends. The other part of him, the part with a shred of self-preservation, just wanted to let Seokjin work through whatever it was he was working through on his own and hope for the best. Give him space. Lock himself in a room and never talk to Seokjin again.

So far, the latter had been winning, but Yoongi’s resolve had started crumbling a while back. There were only so many songs he could write to process his heartbreak before someone would connect the dots. Namjoon and Hoseok had already started shooting him weird looks.

If Yoongi was honest with himself, which he tried to be on a semi-regular basis, he had been avoiding a confrontation because what if it went badly? What if Seokjin didn’t want to get past the awkwardness and go back to being friends? What if he was weirded out and didn’t know how to tell Yoongi that? Yoongi could feel the sick swirling of anxiety in his stomach just thinking about it.

Yoongi expected Seokjin to grab whatever he needed from the wardrobe and leave. That way Yoongi could go back to freaking out while lying on the dusty floor. Maybe really get that nap in.

Seokjin instead got closer.

“Ah, Yoongi-yah, help hyung out with this.” Seokjin said.

“You must have mistaken me for someone who is not currently taking a nap on the floor, hyung.” He replied, moving an arm to cover his eyes.

“Come on, I need help with this necklace and the kids are all out.” Seokjin said. He nudged his foot against Yoongi’s leg to underscore his point.

That got Yoongi’s attention.

Yoongi cracked an eye open. Seokjin was looking at him from above and holding something small in his hands, something that glinted under the artificial light. His ears were tinged an angry, embarrassed red, his eyes were sparkling with something deep. Despite the backlighting and the awkward angle, he still looked too handsome for words.

Yoongi couldn’t quite figure out what it meant. Maybe this was Seokjin’s way of signaling that he had gotten over whatever it was that was bothering him - Yoongi being in love with him, Yoongi’s brain helpfully supplied - and things were going to go back to normal. If anything, it would be in line with Seokjin’s weirdly good timing.

With a sigh and a groan, Yoongi got up. He extended his hand. Something Yoongi couldn’t quite decipher passed over Seokjin’s face as he dropped a necklace into Yoongi’s palm. It was a small steel Maltese cross; the same one they’d bought together in Malta a few months before. Warm from having been held in Seokjin’s hand.

“Put it on for me, please.” Seokjin replied, his tone a pale imitation of the usual bluster. Still, his face was determined. His ears were somehow even redder.

Yoongi was confused. It didn’t happen often, but he would readily admit to being completely lost right now if it meant getting any type of answer. Seokjin was being cryptic and Yoongi didn’t know how to live in a world where he didn’t understand him. Where Seokjin didn’t talk to him.

Still, Seokjin was clearly trying something, however weird and opaque. Yoongi guessed the only way out was through. If things went wrong, freaking out on the wardrobe floor was still an option.

Yoongi swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. He nodded wordlessly and Seokjin turned around.

The first brush of Yoongi's cold hands on Seokjin's warm skin was electric, a shiver working its way down Yoongi's spine. It had been a while. Too long. His fingers had barely brushed Seokjin's neck and collarbones, the necklace held tightly in his hands. He fastened it with unsteady hands.

Seokjin turned around, eyes dark and huge, mouth slightly parted, lips bitten pink. He looked like every fantasy Yoongi had ever had. It made no sense. Yoongi’s brain was working in overdrive. Maybe, just maybe, Seokjin hadn’t been trying to let him down easy.

“Sorry, Yoongi-yah, that was stupid.” Seokjin said. Whispered really, in the air between them, just a few inches. They were so close Yoongi could smell the laundry detergent on him.

Yoongi brushed a hand against the necklace where it rested against Seokjin's chest, his fingers finding purchase on the soft material of Seokjin's hoodie. The pads of his fingers were the only point of contact between them and yet, he could feel the warmth spread all over his body, the electricity of it thrumming through his veins. Seokjin let out a small wounded noise.

Oh.

Yoongi's hand continued his journey, higher, higher, finally touching skin. His thumb brushed against the pulse point in Seokjin's throat and he left out a long exhale, as if he had been holding his breath. Yoongi's eyes darted from his own fingers upwards to Seokjin's eyes. He was looking at Yoongi's face, serious and open. It made his skin prickle with something equal parts uncomfortable and exhilarating.

Yoongi looked away.

He went back to looking at his fingers, but they weren't a safer choice, not when they were now brushing against Seokjin's jaw, his thumb dangerously close to his lips and then, suddenly, there. Seokjin's mouth was warm under his skin, his lips a little wet from where he had been biting on them or licking them. Something hot tightened low in Yoongi's stomach. Seokjin's tongue then darted out, just a second, to wet his bottom lip, barely grazing Yoongi's finger, but enough to be unbearable.

Yoongi had been in love with Seokjin for years. It threatened to burst out of him at any moment. He needed to calm down, process. They needed to talk about this. They needed to sit down and discuss what it meant for them, for the band. Whether they even wanted the same thing.

Yoongi kissed Seokjin.

Seokjin's lips were as soft as they had felt under his fingers, warm and wet and perfect against his. This time Seokjin's tongue came out with purpose, licking at Yoongi's mouth, until Yoongi opened himself up for it, letting Seokjin in. Yoongi's hands flew to Seokjin's hair, his neck, his broad shoulders, his back, clinging to everything he could find, wanting to feel the warmth of skin.

Seokjin was attentive, but not careful, taking and giving in equal measure, in a way that didn't feel rehearsed or practiced, just lived, experienced. His own hands were holding Yoongi close, as if to make sure that he was really there, that it was really happening, Seokjin's fingers splayed over Yoongi's back, warming his skin through the thin material of his own shirt, his search for a jacket long forgotten.

They parted, finally, both of them flushed and breathing heavily, still clinging onto each other. He could still taste the inside of Seokjin's mouth in his, heavy on his tongue. It seemed like some kind of dream, surreal and perfect, but somehow so real, so real, so real. He had just kissed Seokjin. Seokjin had kissed him right back, heady and hot, impossible to misinterpret.

One of Seokjin's hands was now on his face, cupping his cheek, his thumb caressing the skin right under his eye, soft and sweet. A beautiful contrast to the heat of their kiss, but very Seokjin. Lovely Seokjin, who blushed under unexpected attention, but still powered through every uncomfortable moment to make everyone else feel at ease. Who pretended to be light and unburdened, but who was introspective and quiet. Seokjin who had made the first move, unsure and tentative, just so Yoongi wouldn't have to.

"Hyung." Yoongi said. He hid his face in the crook of Seokjin's neck, suddenly overcome, happiness and shyness choking him up a little.

Seokjin laughed, not his loud, squeaky one, but the little huff of breath he always gave out whenever he was feeling especially fond.

"Are you getting shy on me, Yoongi-yah?" He teased, but he was still holding Yoongi close, a hand now raking through the short hair at the nape of his head, leaving goosebumps in his wake.

And the thing was, it was normal. Despite the newness and the nerves and the anticipation, Yoongi felt safe in that moment. Seokjin teasing him, while still holding him tight, while letting him know that he wanted this, that he wanted Yoongi back.

"No, I'm trying to find the courage to tell you you're a terrible kisser." Yoongi replied, leaving a small kiss on the base of Seokjin's throat as an apology.

"Yah! Yoongi-yah! You're a terrible kid, has anyone ever told you that?" Seokjin whined, grabbing Yoongi's shoulders and shaking him. The effect was thoroughly ruined by the look of incandescent joy on his face. He looked so happy like this, young.

It hit Yoongi that maybe Seokjin had also wanted it for a long time. He was seized again by a wave of fondness so strong it almost made his knees buckle. It was heady and dizzying to see his own feelings reflected back at him and finally recognize them for what they were.

They still needed to discuss this, but they had time. Yoongi knew what he wanted; he’d known for so long now.

Yoongi kissed Seokjin again. A small peck at first, just lips against lips, then something slower and deeper and warmer. This time he waited for Seokjin to let him in, parted Seokjin’s lips with his tongue, licked into his perfect mouth, soft and sweet and aching.

-

ix.

The alarm pierced through Yoongi's consciousness, cruelly tearing him away from sleep. He groaned, burrowing his face into the warmth and softness of the pillow, the blankets, and Seokjin's body. From somewhere vaguely above him, Seokjin groaned too, as he fumbled for his phone and finally turned the beeping off. Yoongi hummed appreciatively, hugging Seokjin's waist and anchoring himself the warmth of it, nosing the material of Seokjin's sleep shirt. 

"Yoongi-yah." Seokjin called, voice rough with sleep.

Yoongi groaned again, not nearly conscious enough for words. Seokjin huffed out a breath that could have been a laugh or an annoyed sigh. Yoongi was too tired to figure out which or to even try and guess. 

"Yoongi-yah," Seokjin called again. "We need to get up." He continued, his long fingers now brushing Yoongi's hair away from his forehead. 

"Too early." Yoongi grumbled.

"Oh, definitely; it's a truly hideous time of the day." Seokjin agreed easily.

"Too early for you to be smart too." Yoongi said, but he was, to his dismay, beginning to lose the elusive threads of sleep.

"It's never too early for that." Seokjin replied, smacking a loud kiss on Yoongi's forehead.

Yoongi wrinkled his nose. He glanced outside. The sky was still an inky black. 

"It's still night out." Yoongi pointed out, tightening his grip on Seokjin.  

"We're going fishing." Seokjin said, grabbing Yoongi's hand and de-tangling it from his shirt. Yoongi whined, too sleepy and warm to be embarrassed about it. Seokjin, the traitor, just chuckled, deep and fond. "This was your idea." He continued.

It was true, the whole thing had been Yoongi's idea. The company wanted them to film some sort of vlog from their vacation and Yoongi thought they could kill two birds with one stone. They'd both get that out of the way and have a nice fishing date. It was a win on every front.

Yoongi loved fishing when he was doing it, but promptly forgot all about its many joys when he had to wake up at four am for it.

It was even worse if he had spent the night in Seokjin's room before the trip. On his own, he could make himself get up, shower, get dressed. He could even feed himself and remember to bring all his equipment. He could meet Seokjin at the door and they could go and be friends who fished together. He couldn't quite manage any of that when he woke up in Seokjin's bed.

First of all, despite the fact that they had been dating for about ten months, the newness of it hadn't yet worn off. They lived together and they had lived together for seven years, and yet every morning, when Yoongi found Seokjin in the kitchen, bleary eyed and sleep mussed, his heart still skipped a beat. It was cheesy and kind of gross, and if any of the other had said that to him he would have mercilessly mocked them for the rest of their natural life. And yet. Yet, Yoongi couldn't help all sorts of sappy thoughts from invading his brain every time he looked at Seokjin. So, yes, that was a problem when trying to get out of bed. Not to mention all the wonderful things that could be accomplished from the warmth of Seokjin's freshly laundered sheets. 

"Let's reschedule." Yoongi said, grabbing a hold of Seokjin's shirt again and resting his head on Seokjin's chest, a leg thrown over Seokjin's, effectively trapping him.

Sekjin laughed, squeaky and loud, which meant he had managed to shake all the sleep off and was definitely getting up, with or without Yoongi. Yoongi allowed himself a few seconds to feel disappointed about it before opening his eyes again and looking up at Seokjin's face. His hair was a mess and his eyes puffy with sleep, but he was still the best thing he'd ever laid his eyes on. 

"Did you just think something gross and sappy?" Seokjin teased, in contrast with the tender way he was stroking Yoongi's arm.

"No." Yoongi lied.

"Liar." Seokjin called out. "You get a face when you do."

"Hyung," Yoongi said, solemn. "I'm breaking up with you. It's not me, it's you."

"Oh, are you breaking me with me now or after the shoot?" Seokjin asked. He started wriggling around, throwing his long limbs in every direction, trying to break free. When he finally managed to slither out of Yoongi's grasp, he ended up on the floor.

"Does it matter?" Yoongi asked.

"Yes, it helps answering the question of whether I get you breakfast or not." Seokjin replied. He got up and finally turned on the lights in the room.

Yoongi squinted. He could recognize a lost cause when he saw one and he finally sat up.

"Whichever gets me breakfast, then." Yoongi said.

"You only love me for my money and my body." Seokjin whined, opening his wardrobe and grabbing a random pair of jeans and a hoodie.

"Don't sell yourself short, hyung." Yoongi said. "I also love you for your cooking skills." 

They had been dancing around telling each other “I love you” in a romantic sense for a while now. They had told each other a few times, over the years, both seriously and jokingly, but it had been meant in a different way, in a different context. One where Yoongi didn't fall asleep listening to Seokjin's breath evening out, where Yoongi didn't get to leave purple marks on the soft skin of Seokjin's thighs, where he didn't know what Seokjin's hands felt like, buried in his hair in the dark and quiet of his room. 

Yoongi could feel it weighting on the tip of his tongue though, no matter how many times he rolled it around his mouth. He would tell Seokjin, eventually, probably. Maybe soon.

Seokjin chuckled. "I'm gonna grab a shower. Be ready in 45 minutes or I'm leaving without you." He said. He got closer to Yoongi again, moving like a skittish animal, afraid that Yoongi was going to attack at any moment.

"What are you doing?" Yoongi asked, hiding his face and his laughter in his own hands. "It's too early to be this ridiculous."

"I want to kiss you but I don't want to be captured again." Seokjin explained, poking Yoongi randomly with his fingers. 

"I'm not gonna kiss you with morning breath." Yoongi replied, wrinkling his nose.

"Then let's go brush our teeth, come on." Seokjin said.

"Hyung, can't we just kiss later?" Yoongi replied, accepting the hand Seokjin was extending towards him and letting himself be dragged up.

"No, you need to get up and I don't trust you not to fall back asleep." Seokjin said, as Yoongi fell into his chest and hugged him close. "Aw, poor baby, you're so clingy today." Seokjin continued, holding Yoongi back. One of his hands was petting Yoongi’s hair and the other was around his waist, gentle and caring. 

It jostled something in Yoongi’s memory, something achy and far away like a fading bruise. A time when he didn’t allow himself to burrow into Seokjin’s warmth, when he didn’t allow himself to want it either. He held Seokjin tighter.

"I'm tired." He whined. 

"We can nap on the boat. You love boat naps." Seokjin replied, still rhythmically petting Yoongi’s head. Yoongi nodded and, with a last squeeze, released Seokjin. Before he could go very far however, Seokjin grabbed his hand.

They moved together towards the bathroom, Seokjin holding his clothes in one hand and Yoongi's hand in the other. The house was silent and dark, none of the others even in Seoul, but they still moved quietly, more out of habit than anything else.

They reached the bathroom and went in, Seokjin still holding onto the clothes he had picked. It was a strange habit Seokjin had developed years before when they had all shared one room. He had always been bizarrely shy, he still was sometimes, and preferred to get dressed and undressed in the bathroom before and after a shower. It delighted Yoongi to no end.

Yoongi brushed his teeth quickly and efficiently. Besides him Seokjin was stock still, clearly making a point, but Yoongi was too tired to argue. The tooth brushing was, however, having the desired effect of making Yoongi wake up a bit more. 

“What?” He asked, after patting his mouth dry with a towel. “Do you want me to brush your teeth?” Yoongi asked, his voice on that weird edge between fond and sarcastic he often got with Seokjin so early into their day. 

“My hands are busy, Yoongi-yah.” Seokjin protested, holding up his balled up clothes as evidence.

“You could just put your clothes on the counter.” Yoongi pointed out, but he’d already grabbed Seokjin’s toothbrush and their toothpaste. 

Seokjin smiled at him, the sweet one he wore every time he got his way with Yoongi, which was always. Yoongi resigned himself to a day of doing whatever Seokjin wanted him to. He probably should have been madder about it, but that ship had long sailed.

Seokjin just propped himself against the counter so his mouth was closer to Yoongi’s height and opened wide.

“You know,” Yoongi said, methodically brushing Seokjin’s teeth. "I read in an article once that you shouldn't brush your teeth with mint flavored toothpaste at night because mint wakes you up." 

Seokjin spat inelegantly in the sink. "Really?" He asked.

Yoongi hummed his yes while putting toothbrush and toothpaste back. Seokjin wiped his mouth dry with the edge of his sleeve, eyes trained on Yoongi.

"Hi." Seokjin said, grabbing Yoongi around the waist and bringing him closer.

"Hi." Yoongi said back. He looked up and met Seokjin’s eyes. They were lovely eyes, always had been, and time and affection had only made them lovelier. 

This time Yoongi didn't waste time in jokes and words and instead just kissed Seokjin like he had wanted to do ever since he had woken up, token protests notwithstanding. It was a short kiss, sweet and minty, just a press of lips against lips. Yoongi had always been a fan of kissing, but he could spend hours just kissing Seokjin until they were both short of breath, lips bitten red and skin flushed. They had done it too, often, especially at the beginning. 

Yoongi had been pining after Seokjin long enough to know what he wanted out of a relationship, but Seokjin had needed some time to figure it out and Yoongi had been happy to wait as long as needed. Seokjin, despite the jokes and despite what others might have thought, had only ever been in two serious relationships. He was terribly shy at times, especially about his body. He and Yoongi hadn't showered together for weeks, even after they had started having sex, and even now they only did it if sex was involved. 

Seokjin hopped on top of the counter and let his legs fall open just enough for Yoongi to slot between them. Yoongi took the opportunity to sneak his hands under Seokjin’s shirt, where he found warm, smooth skin. Seokjin shivered and Yoongi kissed him again, feeling his lips tremble against his own.

There was something to Seokjin when he got like this, warm and pliant and carefree under Yoongi’s hands. Over the years Yoongi had enjoyed the way Seokjin had taken care of him, in ways big and small. But Seokjin liked it when Yoongi took care of him too. He’d never said it, but Yoongi had noticed. He had noticed the way he flushed a pleased pink every time Yoongi brushed his hair away from his face or buttoned his coat or fed him something good from his own plate. Every time Yoongi praised his singing or commented on his dedication and hard work. Every time Yoongi held him onto the bed, panting and desperate. 

He could take care of him now, with his hands and his mouth and his heart. 

“Yoongi-yah.” Seokjin whispered against Yoongi’s lips. “We really need to finish getting ready.”

Yoongi opened his eyes and looked at Seokjin. He looked a mess, Yoongi’s mess. He also looked genuinely conflicted. 

Yoongi took a step back, suddenly cold, away from Seokjin’s skin.

“Fine,” Yoongi conceded. “But tomorrow we spend the entire day in bed.” He continued, crossing his arms on his chest. 

Seokjin raised an eyebrow. “Deal. Now let me shower in peace.”

“You know, we could shower together and kill two birds with one stone.” Yoongi said, but he had already turned around.

Seokjin slapped his butt playfully, just once. “Then we’d really never leave.”

Yoongi clutched the side of his ass Seokjin had smacked in mock hurt, which just made Seokjin laugh, high and squeaky and contagious. 

It was the last thing Yoongi heard before Seokjin locked the door after him.

“You’re lucky I love you!” Yoongi said, aggrieved, to the closed door. 

He didn’t know whether Seokjin had heard him, but it didn’t matter. He would tell him for real, eventually. Soon.

Seokjin already knew anyway.