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When Yoongi’s phone alarm went off, Seokjin blinked awake, looked at Yoongi, and gave him a warm, delighted smile. Then he closed his eyes again and planted his face in Yoongi’s armpit. Yoongi’s been lying here pretending he doesn’t need to get up yet for about fifteen minutes now.

He strokes a couple of fingers up and down Seokjin’s spine for a minute or two, and then carefully untangles his legs from the sheets. Seokjin opens his eyes again while Yoongi is trying to get out of bed without disturbing him. It was never going to work.

“Stay,” says Seokjin, his voice raspy with sleep.

“I have a meeting,” says Yoongi. He tugs the sheets up again to cover Seokjin’s bare shoulder. They’d kicked the blanket down to the bottom of the bed at some point, but Yoongi’s content to leave it there. He’s never seen a blanket with fewer redeeming qualities. It’s scratchy and looks a little like chainmail, and it isn’t even particularly warm.

Something occurs to Yoongi and he grabs his phone to send a quick message to Hoseok: “This is that TV guy's apartment, isn't it? With the jacket?” Then he looks around for his clothes. His boxers are at the bottom of the bed, with the ugly blanket. He doesn’t remember when he took his shirt off, but it’s ended up under the bed somehow. Seokjin finds it, bent over the side of the bed to reach underneath it, while Yoongi is checking his route from the bathroom.

Yoongi reaches for his shirt, but Seokjin pulls it away until Yoongi is stretched out halfway on top of him, and then Yoongi gets distracted. “I need my shirt,” he says, against Seokjin’s mouth. Seokjin’s, “Hmmm,” sounds skeptical.

“Hyung,” says Yoongi. It’s not like he wants to leave. He’s got a meeting.

“I know,” says Seokjin. “Tell you what. I’ll trade you for your sweater.”

“I need my sweater, too,” Yoongi grumbles, or tries to. Everything keeps coming out as a smile. Every neutral expression that’s been on his face since dinner last night, he’s put there by sheer force of will. His cheeks ache.

“You have a warm coat,” Seokjin says. “You’re just going home to change.”

“Fine,” says Yoongi. He grabs his sweater from the chair he draped it over last night, and hesitates. “Can we do a formal hostage exchange? I worry I’m going to end up with no shirt and no sweater.”

Seokjin rolls his eyes and holds up his hand. Yoongi sighs and tosses him the sweater. Seokjin hugs it against his chest and buries his face in it. When he looks up again his eyebrows are drawn together slightly and his lips are parted. He looks...lost. Yoongi is really pressed for time now, but he goes back to the bed for one more kiss--one more kiss that goes on for much too long.

“I’m going to be at the studio all day,” says Yoongi. “But...tonight?”

“Tonight,” Seokjin agrees.

“Do you want to go anywhere in particular?” Yoongi asks. “Or order in? Or--” and this feels oddly forward, almost the first thing that has-- “Do you want to come over and I’ll cook?”

“Yes,” Seokjin says immediately, almost before Yoongi’s finished talking. “Yes, I want to see your place. I want you to cook for me.” His eyes are crinkled at the corners and his cheeks are full of the smile he’s holding in. He’s never once not completely knocked Yoongi off his feet. Yoongi thinks he used to be better at hiding that. “I’ve missed home cooking,” he says.

“Cool,” says Yoongi. “Then that’s what we’ll do.”

He’s got a text from Hoseok, and he reads it on the way down in the elevator. It says, “What do you mean, ‘this’?”

--

It’s not a surprise, exactly, when Hoseok shows up at the studio in the early afternoon, and Yoongi doesn’t pretend it is, just looks up at him and shrugs. He knows Hoseok isn’t happy, but he’s got nothing to apologize for.

“What are you doing, hyung?” Hobi asks, after Yoongi’s offered a variety of drinks and snacks and they’ve both talked about how good it was to see everyone last night.

“You know what I’m doing,” says Yoongi. “I’m with Jin-hyung again.”

“But why?” Hoseok asks. “He--”

“I know,” says Yoongi. “I know what he did. I just...want to be with him, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Hoseok waits for him to stop talking and continues as if Yoongi hadn’t said anything. “He hurt you really badly.”

“I know,” says Yoongi, again. “I know that a lot better than you do.” He tries to say it calmly, matter-of-fact. He’s not mad at Hoseok for being right.

“Does he know?” Hoseok asks.

Yoongi nods. “Some,” he says. “At least some. We talked about it a little. We’ll talk about it more. I just--I’m not punishing myself for something he did. I won’t do it.”

“Okay,” says Hoseok. “I--” he makes a face. “I don’t want to see you let him off the hook, you know?”

“Then don’t look,” says Yoongi, with a little more heat. He looks at Hoseok for a moment, and then relaxes. “He’s not--it’s just hyung. You love him, too, remember?”

“I do,” Hoseok says. His mouth is a flat line. “But I don’t...trust him? With you. Anymore.”

--

Yoongi told Seokjin he’d be home by six, and Seokjin arrives at six on the dot.

Yoongi’s building isn’t one of the luxury high-rises they all bought into when Bangtan was still happening. That would be a problem if he still needed as much security as he used to, but he doesn’t, so it’s nice. It used to be some kind of industrial space, but one whole side of the building was ripped out and replaced with windows. It’s just as big as the last few places Yoongi has lived, but less sleek and a little less expensive. It makes Yoongi feel like he’s getting value for his money.

He got home earlier than he told Seokjin he would, and he’s already got dinner simmering on the stove. He’d wormed his way out of a session he was supposed to be in, but he’d wanted time to prepare--to get dinner started, but also to spend a little time by himself.

He’s given Seokjin the code for the door, but he’s not surprised to hear the bell ring instead. Seokjin is polite, in a bone-deep way that’s more about respect than manners. Yoongi turns the heat under his stew as low as it will go, covers the pot, and goes to the door.

“Hi,” he says, and there goes his mouth again, smiling too wide.

Seokjin steps inside and hugs him, tucking his face into the side of Yoongi’s neck.

“Hi,” says Yoongi, again, tangling his fingers into Seokjin’s hair. Seokjin follows the gentle pull of Yoongi’s hands and lifts his face to be kissed. This part is easy.

“Nice place,” says Seokjin, and Yoongi laughs.

“You haven’t looked at it yet.”

“I’ve seen the important part,” says Seokjin. He makes a ridiculous face, so he must really mean it.

Yoongi shakes his head. “Come look,” he says. He takes Seokjin’s hand and leads him around the corner into the studio.

“This is just my home studio, so it’s not as well equipped as the other one,” he says.

“It looks nice to me,” says Seokjin. “Do you record here a lot?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “Little things, mostly. A few secret projects where the person I was recording with didn’t want to come to the big studio.” This is the bit where he normally teases dropping a name or two. But he doesn’t want to do that with Seokjin. He shouldn’t need to.

Seokjin raises his eyebrows.

“No one you’d care about,” says Yoongi. “It’s always the least interesting people who think everyone wants to know what they’re doing.” He steps over to the keyboard. “Sometimes I just come in here to play,” he says.

Seokjin looks at him with understanding. “Yoongi-yah…” he says. “That’s really good.”

“I know,” says Yoongi. “I just…”

Seokjin looks at him enquiringly and comes over to stand next to him. He runs his fingers lightly over the keys.

“I don’t want to do industry gossip with you,” Yoongi says, finally. “I want to talk about real things.”

“Oh,” says Seokjin. He sits down at the keyboard, and his fingers find the opening chords of “Epiphany.” He looks up at Yoongi. “I wasn’t thinking about it as industry gossip,” he says. “I want to hear about what you’ve been doing. I was thinking about it as...something about you. We don’t have to--we’re just talking, Yoongi.”

“Okay,” says Yoongi. “That’s good.” He offers Seokjin a hand again. “Come see the bedroom.”

Seokjin smirks at him, and follows.

“I want to hear what you’ve been doing, too,” says Yoongi, because he sees what Seokjin means. He’s thirsty for information. He’ll listen to anything that Seokjin wants to tell him.

But Seokjin just shrugs. “I haven’t been doing anything interesting,” he says.

Yoongi makes a face that Seokjin, trailing behind him, can’t see.

At this hour, the light coming through the glass wall into the bedroom is just starting to turn gold. It’s more obvious, in here where the lights are off, than in the kitchen and living room. It’s a dark room, anyway--dark flooring, dark furniture, dark bedding that only shows color when the sun hits it.

“It’s nice,” says Seokjin, quietly. Yoongi feels like that about his bedroom, too--like it’s a place made to be quiet in. A sanctuary. He thought, when he was decorating it, about the room he and Seokjin used to share, and how they used to sit quietly together and not talk. They should have talked a little more.

Yoongi wraps up the tour in the front room again, by the big window next to the kitchen. “There’s a courtyard down there,” he says, pointing. Seokjin puts his face against the window. The gold light is here, too, now, outlining Seokjin’s profile and making Yoongi’s stomach flip.

“No windows opposite,” Seokjin observes.

“The glass here is tinted, anyway,” says Yoongi. “You can’t see in from the other side.”

“It would have to be,” says Seokjin. He purses his lips. “I can’t imagine you being comfortable somewhere where your neighbors can just look in whenever they feel like it. I never pictured you with floor-to-ceiling windows.”

“Did you picture my window situation at all?” Yoongi asks. He’d imagined Seokjin’s life in LA, and his brain had supplied him with surroundings, but it wasn’t something Yoongi ever actively thought about.

“Kind of,” says Seokjin. “Yeah. I think I did.”

Yoongi doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he says, ”The glass goes straight across this side of the building. You saw it in the bedroom.”

“Yes,” says Seokjin. He turns to look at Yoongi. “You hate light coming into your room at night,” he says. “Or--” his mouth tightens and a small unhappy dimple appears. “You used to, I guess.”

Yoongi swallows. “I do hate it,” he says. “Still. But--here, watch this.” He hits the light switch, and then the button for the blinds. They slide smoothly across the window like something on a sci-fi spaceship and Yoongi smiles. He’s never going to get tired of that.

“Wow,” Seokjin says into the darkness.

“Pretty cool, right?”

“Yeah,” says Seokjin, after a pause. “It’s really something.”

Yoongi hears him shift, then feels Seokjin’s hand bump his shoulder and settle on his arm. He looks down, but his eyes haven’t adjusted all the way, and there are no variations in the blackness. It’s so intimate, feeling Seokjin without being able to see him, that Yoongi’s breath catches in his throat.

He waits for Seokjin to kiss him, because he knows that it’s going to happen. When it comes, Seokjin’s lips land on his cheek first, then at the corner of his eye, and then, with a little more intention, on his ear. Yoongi’s hand finds Seokjin’s waist and pulls him in as Seokjin kisses his way down Yoongi’s neck. It’s good--better, somehow, than it would be with the lights on, but Yoongi gets impatient and bends to bring his mouth and Seokjin’s together.

Last night, Yoongi kept losing his grip on the moment, getting tripped up by the contrasting feelings of familiarity and newness. Something about the complete darkness sets him free from that. There’s nothing to see here, nothing to think about. Nothing to do but feel Seokjin’s lips and hands and the smooth skin of Seokjin’s back--and the wall, cool through Yoongi’s t-shirt and hard against his shoulder blades, and Seokjin’s thigh pressing between his legs.

Yoongi has to feel along the wall for a minute before he finds the button that will open the blinds again. The downside of Yoongi’s blinds is that the light comes back all at once when you open them; Yoongi never remembers to close his eyes for it. Seokjin and Yoongi blink in it and squint at each other.

Yoongi feels exposed, like an insect finding itself out in the open when someone lifts up a flowerpot. It’s a cliche, but a lot of things about this situation are cliches.

“Dinner’s on the stove,” he says. “Simmering, but. I should look at it.”

“Okay,” says Seokjin. He kisses Yoongi once more and steps back, smiling at him. “What did you make?”

“Kimchi jjigae,” says Yoongi. His isn’t as good as Seokjin’s, but it’s Seokjin’s favorite, or one of them. He has a lot of favorites. “You said you wanted home cooking,” he reminds Seokjin.

“I did, and I do, and that’s perfect,” Seokjin says. He lifts the lid off the pot and sniffs, and then he reaches for the spoon.

Yoongi beats him to it, and waves the spoon threateningly. “Hands off,” he says. “No helping.”

Seokjin holds up his hands and backs away, smiling. “Another time, though?” he says.

“Another time,” Yoongi agrees. He moves around the kitchen, pulling out store-bought banchan and bowls for stew and rice, setting things in front of Seokjin where he’s sitting at the counter. He looks like he hasn’t got a care in the world, and Yoongi wonders whether he’s really that happy, or if he’s gotten even better at hiding his feelings, or if Yoongi’s just lost the knack of seeing through his facade.

“You seem relaxed,” he says, and hopes it doesn’t sound like an accusation.

“I’m trying to be,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi isn’t sure what that means, but he lets it go. He holds up a bottle of wine, a question, and Seokjin nods.

It’s a quiet meal. They talk a little about LA, a little about what Yoongi’s life is like now. Small talk that isn’t small talk, because it’s them. It’s not about the past; it’s about getting each other caught up to where they are now. It’s...nice, in a way. Not bad, but it feels like work. Four years isn’t nothing.

Seokjin eats with a focus that’s more flattering than compliments would be, and flashes tiny smiles at Yoongi in pauses in the conversation.

“I’ve been here the whole time,” Yoongi wants to say, and doesn’t.

He wants to settle into this, and let it be easy in the way being around Seokjin has always felt easy, but he’s not sure if he wants Seokjin to do the same thing. Maybe Hobi was right, because Yoongi wants this--the quiet dinner, the smiles, the big, big feeling of the two of them here, together, alone--but he’s not sure he wants Seokjin to have it. It feels a little unfair that he doesn’t get to have this without Seokjin having it, too.

Yoongi loves Seokjin. He really does. He’s missed him, and it’s good to have him back. Yoongi doesn’t like the part of himself that wants to see a little more visible suffering.

After Yoongi clears the plates away, he walks around the counter to hug Seokjin from behind. “This is nice,” he says, resting his cheek against Seokjin’s back.

Seokjin puts his hand over Yoongi’s right one where it’s resting on Seokjin’s shoulder. A Seokjin-Yoongi-Seokjin sandwich. “Yeah,” he says. “It is. Do you ever think about how little time we got to spend together?” he asks.

“No,” says Yoongi. “I...know what you mean, but. We did have time, just us.”

“Not--not time we didn’t have to explain, or time that we weren’t supposed to be giving to someone else,” says Seokjin. “Anyway, I was just. Yes. This is nice.” He twists on his stool so he can hug Yoongi back.

“Hoseok is mad at me for jumping back into this,” Yoongi says, a little muffled against Seokjin’s shoulder. “But I didn’t want to wait.”

“Uh,” says Seokjin. He puts his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders and puts a little bit of distance between them. “Hoseok is mad?”

“Of course he is,” says Yoongi. He looks at Seokjin’s chin, his nose, his ear. Anywhere that’s not his eyes.

“It’s not ‘of course’ if I don’t know why,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi sighs. He should have thought about whether he wanted to have this conversation now before he said anything. He’s not sure he doesn’t, but he’s not sure he does.

“Why is he mad?” Seokjin persists.

“Because…” Yoongi shrugs. “Because it was bad, when you left. Because you hurt me. No one else really...he was the one who saw it the most.”

Seokjin’s hands fall to his sides. “You said you were okay,” he says. “You said that--that you were angry for a while, and then you were okay. Right?”

“I was angry and sad,” says Yoongi. “And--yeah, I was okay, after a while. But you can be okay and still hurt. I told you last night. I missed you, but it was alright.”

“I guess I thought you meant it a different way,” says Seokjin. “I thought you meant you were over it.” His voice is calm, still, but he’s getting flushed, the way he does when he’s upset.

“I said I wasn’t angry anymore,” says Yoongi. “But I stopped being angry for me. Not because it didn’t hurt still.”

Seokjin looks at him for a moment and then holds up his hands helplessly. “I’m sorry,” he says.

“I know,” says Yoongi. “Look, Hobi is mad because he knows you hurt me before and he thinks you might do it again. But--”

“Why?” Seokjin asks. “Why would he think I--why would I come back here just to break your heart, that’s--”

“Hyung,” says Yoongi. “You could. He knows you did before and he knows you could again. I guess we all know that now. It’s not that he thinks you want to. I don’t think you want to.”

“I don’t,” says Seokjin immediately.

“So don’t,” says Yoongi. “Hyung.”

“What?”

Yoongi finally looks Seokjin in the eye, but now Seokjin is looking away. “We’ll do it differently this time, okay?”

“Do you want me to promise not to leave you?” Seokjin asks. “I can’t imagine ever wanting to, anyway. I...didn’t want to do it when I did.”

Yoongi shakes his head. “I think we’re already--we’ve said that we’re both here, that we’re both trying, right? I think that’s enough.”

“I’m here,” Seokjin confirms. “I’m--this is where I want to be.”

Yoongi grabs his hand, and they stand there for a while, Seokjin looking at Yoongi in a way that makes it hard for Yoongi to look back.

“What do you want to be different, then?” Seokjin asks.

Yoongi shrugs. “Well, we’re different people now, aren’t we? We know more. We can be better together than we were before.”

Seokjin’s mouth tightens. “Were we--” He cuts himself off, and swallows. “I always thought we were really, really good together.”

Yoongi looks at him for a long moment, not knowing what to say. “We were,” he says. “In...in some ways. I guess there are a few things we need to get on the same page about,” he says. “But I didn’t mean to start this tonight.”

“Well, now you’ve started it,” says Seokjin. He slides off the stool and walks to the window. Yoongi follows him.

“I thought, after last night…” he begins, and shakes his head. “I thought you hated me,” he says. “And then you acted like we were good. We were good. We seemed good. And now you’re saying we’re not, that we weren’t even...” He’s leaning on the window, forehead against his forearm, forearm against the glass. His reflection is sharp-edged and handsome, and there’s something Yoongi’s always liked about seeing Seokjin look this handsome by accident. He makes his looks a joke so much of the time, even when he’s using them. Seokjin isn’t thinking about that, now, and Yoongi likes that he looks like this anyway.

He steps forward and puts his hands on Seokjin’s waist. “That’s the opposite of what I wanted,” he says. He’d thought about it a lot. Since Hoseok told him Seokjin was coming home he’s been making plans and discarding them. “I wanted to make sure you knew we were okay first, and figure out the details after.” He wraps his arms around Seokjin’s waist and presses his face into his back. “We’re okay. We’re going to be good.”

Seokjin turns around and pulls him in. “Is it too late to go back to not talking about this tonight?” he asks.

“No,” says Yoongi. “Whatever you want.” He’d like to say “whatever you want” to Seokjin all the time, but that’s the problem, or part of it.

“Cool,” says Seokjin. His lips find the edge Yoongi’s ear and whisper over it, follow it down to his neck. This is a very effective way to change the mood--that it’s transparently manipulative doesn’t bother Yoongi at all. He likes it when Seokjin is like this.

They make out for a while. Yoongi’s lips move against Seokjin’s slowly and easily, in sharp contrast to the speed of his heartbeat and the feeling of blood rushing through his veins. It was never like this before, even at the beginning. It’s only been about 24 hours since they met at the restaurant yesterday evening, but since then, Yoongi’s been going from zero to 100 in the space of about half a second every time Seokjin touches him. They’re barely doing more than kissing, Seokjin’s hands warm between Yoongi’s shirt and his back, but Yoongi is breathing too hard, whining softly into Seokjin’s mouth.

“Yoongi,” Seokjin gasps. He pulls Yoongi closer, until their hips are flush and Yoongi can feel that he’s hard, too.

“Is it okay if I talk about how much I missed this or are we not doing that right now?” says Yoongi.

“Talk about whatever you want,” says Seokjin. “But if I don’t get your dick in my mouth in the next two minutes I’m going to die, so don’t expect me to participate.”

“Two minutes?” Yoongi asks, as Seokjin drops to his knees and goes for Yoongi’s belt.

“I’ve been thinking about it since this morning,” Seokjin says.

There was a girl Yoongi went out with for a couple of months who liked the windows a lot. She’d pull him over to them, ask him to fuck her against them. Yoongi never pointed out to her that no one could see through from outside. He was pretty sure she knew, and enjoyed having the fantasy without having to deal with the reality.

Seokjin’s not like that. He looks up at Yoongi and says “You’re sure no one can see, right?” When Yoongi tells him he’s sure, Seokjin frowns up at him and pulls Yoongi away from the window anyway.

This is better, Yoongi thinks, grabbing onto the counter as Seokjin pulls his jeans and underwear off his hips. Something to hold onto, and no cold glass against his ass.

Seokjin looks up at Yoongi and blinks twice, slowly. His lips are shiny with spit, and so dark in the low light from the kitchen.

“Hyung,” says Yoongi. “Jin. Your time’s running out.”

Seokjin looks up at him uncomprehendingly.

“I don’t want you to die,” says Yoongi.

Seokjin grins then, and leans in, mouth ghosting over the head of Yoongi’s dick. Yoongi grips the edge of the counter.

“It does actually feel a little like life and death,” Seokjin says, close enough that Yoongi can feel his breath. Then he closes his mouth over the head of Yoongi’s dick.

He’s right; there’s something momentous about this. They jerked each other off last night, after Seokjin woke up to use the bathroom, and then they fucked in the morning, clumsy and rushed like they didn’t need it as much as they needed to get past it. This--Seokjin’s mouth soft and hot on Yoongi’s dick, his face half windows of yellow light, half blue shadows and dark fluttering eyelashes--this is something different. Yoongi slides his hand into Seokjin’s hair, just to feel, but Seokjin’s mouth sinks down further onto Yoongi’s cock. Yoongi can’t quite catch the noise Seokjin makes over the one he’s making himself, but he knows he remembers it.

“Missed this,” he murmurs. “Missed you.”

Seokjin hums agreement, and Yoongi closes his eyes, trying to let the feeling wash over him without consuming him too quickly. Not that Seokjin is trying to end this fast. He’s sucking Yoongi’s dick like he’s doing it for his own satisfaction, not Yoongi’s. But that in itself is a turn-on. Every time Yoongi looks at him and every time he tries to contextualize what’s happening, he’s overwhelmed.

He told Seokjin last night that he’d been in love, since they broke up, and he wasn’t lying, but Seokjin is the person he learned to love with, and some part of Yoongi will always be a lock keyed to him. Yoongi’s spent a lot of the past four years thinking about how unfair that is. Now he’s remembering how good it can be.

When he comes, he lets himself slide down to the floor until he’s at Seokjin’s level, or a little below that, and pulls him in. Yoongi doesn’t love tasting himself in Seokjin’s mouth, or anyone’s, but it’s worth it for the feeling of Seokjin’s lips and tongue on his, and for Seokjin gasping Yoongi’s name into his mouth.

Seokjin’s belly trembles when Yoongi brushes his knuckles over it, and Seokjin tips forward a little, resting his forehead against Yoongi’s neck.

“I’m so--” he whispers. “Yoongi, fuck.”

Yoongi thumbs open the button on Seokjin’s jeans and reaches inside. He doesn’t want to compete with Seokjin’s breath or his own heartbeat for loudest thing in the room, so he whispers, too, “Come on, baby,” as he gets his hand around Seokjin’s dick.

Seokjin laughs, and then he moans, and Yoongi kind of knew this was going to be over fast, but it’s over fast. He wipes his hand on his jeans, scrunched up at his ankles, and rubs soothing circles over Seokjin’s back and Seokjin breathes hot and wet against his neck.

“I’m not crying,” Seokjin says, quietly, after a while.

“Okay,” says Yoongi. His legs are beginning to get cold. “Come shower?”

“Yeah.”

Yoongi can’t help checking, as they’re getting in the shower, but Seokjin doesn’t look like he’s been crying. And once Yoongi is looking, it’s hard to stop. Seokjin doesn’t look older, exactly, but he does look different. More finely drawn.

If there’s a way to get past Seokjin’s looks, Yoongi’s done it. No one’s looked at Seokjin as much as he has. But he can’t get past Seokjin. He doesn’t think about it so much, when Seokjin isn’t in front of him. He hasn’t spent four years missing Seokjin’s face. He’s missed the way his voice sounds when he wakes up, and the way he telegraphs his jokes, and the heat that rises off his skin when he blushes. But now he’s here, and Yoongi has a hard time looking away.

“What?” Seokjin asks, narrowing his eyes.

The obvious words don’t feel adequate, but they’re there. “You’re so beautiful,” Yoongi says. “I always think I know, and then--”

Seokjin ducks his head.

“I mean, you know,” Yoongi says, helplessly. Seokjin doesn’t need to be told he’s beautiful.

“It’s different, hearing it from you,” says Seokjin. “I forgot.”

Yoongi wonders if it’s just that everything is different for Seokjin when Yoongi says it, or if he knows that when Yoongi says he’s beautiful, he’s not really talking about his face at all.

Maybe everything will be fine, Yoongi thinks, as they get ready for bed together. Maybe they can just coast through on the strength of their feelings. They have a lot of feelings. And Yoongi knows they should talk about things, but he doesn’t want to, and Seokjin never wants to talk about anything.

“Hey,” says Seokjin. “Can we do a little bit of the talking now? Like, dip our toes in? Or is it going to be a...a ‘see you on the other side’ kind of thing?”

Yoongi rolls to the side so so can look at Seokjin. “You want to talk now?”

“I want to get it over with,” says Seokjin.

“I don’t think either of us wants to fight,” he says slowly. They’re not very good at fighting with each other. It’s not that they’re bad at it, exactly, but they fight in such different ways.

“Okay,” says Seokjin. “Where do you want to start? Tell me what you hate about me--no, wait, let me brace myself first.”

“I don’t--” Yoongi begins, but Seokjin stops him.

“You said there were problems,” he says. His face is calm--expressionless, if you don’t know him, but Yoongi sees a hint of a smile in the shape of his cheeks. He doesn’t look like he’s braced for anything. “Tell me a problem.”

“Okay,” says Yoongi, but he has to think about it. When he imagined this conversation, he was always the one asking the questions, trying to pry out Seokjin’s secrets without spooking him.

When he looks up again, Seokjin has his eyes screwed shut like he’s prepared for a blow. He opens up one eye and shuts it again when he sees Yoongi looking. Yoongi grins and hits Seokjin in the stomach, lightly and with the back of his hand.

“Yah!” says Seokjin, grabbing Yoongi’s hand in both of his. “Here I am, trying to--trying to--”

“Why didn’t you ever talk to the kids about us?” Yoongi asks.

Seokjin lets Yoongi’s hand drop. Yoongi sees him swallow. “I didn’t talk to anyone about us,” he says.

“Yeah,” says Yoongi. “Why?”

Seokjin shrugs. “None of their business.”

Yoongi moves closer again and waits for Seokjin to put his arms around him before he says, “As if everything any of us did wasn’t everyone’s business.”

“That’s exactly it, though,” says Seokjin quickly. “We were together so much; it was hard to have anything private. You were--I didn’t want to share you. I mean, I didn’t think I could keep you all to myself, or anything, just...I didn’t want to share what we were together.”

“Oh,” says Yoongi, but he’s not surprised, exactly. He’d just thought of it in terms of hiding and not hiding, not of not sharing and sharing.

“I felt like you were embarrassed about us,” he says.

He feels Seokjin shift slightly. “Maybe a little,” Seokjin says. “Not about you, or us, really, but about me, sure. But mostly I just--you were an escape for me, you know?”

“Yeah,” says Yoongi. “Me, too, I think, but not--you like to keep things compartmentalized.”

Seokjin pauses before he says it, but his “Yes” is firm and decisive.

Yoongi says, “I think this is already the most honest you’ve ever been with me.”

“When have I ever not been honest with you?” Seokjin asks.

“You’re not dishonest,” says Yoongi. He sits up and turns so that he can see Seokjin’s face, so that Seokjin can see his. “You just...there are things you keep to yourself.”

Seokjin closes his eyes. Yoongi wonders whether, if he touched his finger to the spot between Seokjin’s eyebrows, he would be able to feel the tension there.

“What do you need from me?” he asks quietly.

“What do you mean?” Seokjin is holding himself very still, Yoongi notices. The noticing came back all at once. Remembering what all of Seokjin’s tiny cues mean is going to take longer, but Yoongi feels like he should recognize this one. He touches his thumb to his lip, but doesn’t bite it.

“I can’t read you anymore,” he says finally. It’s hard to say. He doesn’t want it to be true. “I can’t tell whether you actually don’t know what I mean.”

Seokjin’s eyes open. “I don’t,” he says. “I guess I can’t read you anymore either.”

Yoongi thinks that over for a while. There’s an idea there--that it’s not bad, if they can’t read each other--but he can’t see how yet. “I meant...you don’t have to tell me everything, if you don’t want to, but...if you don’t tell me what you want from me, I can’t give it to you.”

“Come back down here,” Seokjin says. Yoongi lies down again and lets Seokjin pull him close. “All I want from you is this.”

-

Jimin comes into Yoongi’s studio a day or two later, fresh from dance practice, and collapses on Yoongi’s couch as if he’s a push puppet. He’s going to leave the couch sticky with sweat but Yoongi doesn’t say anything. Jimin knows.

And Yoongi knows, too--knows why Jimin is here, now, when he hasn’t been dropping by as much during the last year or so.

“Were you waiting for him?” Jimin asks.

“Maybe,” says Yoongi. “But I didn’t know I was.”

Jimin nods, like he’s satisfied with that, and leans further back, looking up towards the ceiling and exposing the sharp line of his jaw.

“I’ve seen him a little, the last few years,” says Jimin. “Whenever I was in America, I tried to.”

“I know,” says Yoongi, and it’s mostly true.

“He’s very sad.”

“I know,” Yoongi says again.

“I really wanted to fix him.”

Yoongi rolls his chair closer to the couch, close enough that he can nudge Jimin’s thigh with his toe. He wants to tell Jimin that only Seokjin can fix Seokjin, and that he’s not broken, anyway, both at once. “That’s not something you can do for someone,” he says, finally.

“I know,” says Jimin. “But I think you’ll need to help.”

-

They go out for dinner one night, and it feels like a date. Yoongi picks the restaurant, western food, upscale in a business dinner kind of way, with good food and better drinks, and tells Seokjin, “It’s nice. Dress nice.”

“I always dress nice,” says Seokjin.

“You always wear jeans and a sweatshirt and get away with it,” Yoongi corrects him.

“No, I wear suits now,” says Seokjin. “I won’t embarrass you, I promise.”

Of course, then Yoongi spends half an hour in his closet, trying to figure out what to wear. He doesn’t want to wear a suit, especially not if Seokjin is going to. He knows this can’t look like a date, but he doesn’t want it to look like a business dinner. He settles on black pants, a dark red V-neck sweater, some jewelry. When he looks in the mirror, he realizes this is how he always dresses for dates. He hadn’t needed to reinvent the wheel.

Seokjin is already at their table when Yoongi gets to the restaurant. His suit is dark blue. His shirt is open at the collar. It occurs to Yoongi that Seokjin must not want to model, because it’s the obvious thing.

Seokjin sees him and smiles, but Yoongi feels like the smile isn’t for him, like it’s taking Seokjin somewhere else. “What?” he asks, sliding into his chair.

“What what?”

“You gave me this look.”

Seokjin smiles again, and if it weren’t so dark in the restaurant Yoongi thinks his cheeks would be pink. “You look good,” he says, his voice half a step lower than it should be.

If Yoongi can’t tell that Seokjin is flushed, no one will be able to see that Yoongi is, either. “It’s the sweater, isn’t it?” he says.

“No one tells you you’re not allowed to work out now, do they?” Seokjin says.

Yoongi takes that as agreement. He leans forward a little, and crosses his arms, and watches Seokjin’s face. Seokjin bites his lip and closes his eyes and smiles.

“You’ve seen my with my shirt off,” says Yoongi. He’s trying not to smile.

“It’s different like this,” says Seokjin. He smiles. “Put your cleavage away; I have a menu to read.”

Yoongi grins at him. He likes the way he looks now. He’s not big, but his body has grown into every demand he’s made of it, and when he looks in the mirror he sees someone solid and capable. He likes the way Seokjin looks at him in an entirely different way. He’s been told he’s hot before, by people who knew him and people who didn’t, people who loved him and people who thought they did. None of it is as good as Seokjin’s surprise, Seokjin’s appreciation, Seokjin getting a little flustered and laughing at himself about it.

They start with cocktails and move on to wine. They split an appetizer. When their main courses arrive, Seokjin threatens to roll up his steak and stuff the entire thing in his mouth, but Yoongi just grins and dares him to do it, and Seokjin backs down. It feels good, knowing how Seokjin is going to react. Things are different now, and it would be strange if they hadn’t both changed, but they still know each other. They still work.

Yoongi has been on lots of dates, and he and Seokjin were together for a long time, but they’ve never been on this kind of date together. They’d been too poor, and then too famous, and then they’d done their time in the military, and then Seokjin had gone to LA.

“I talked to Jungkook today,” says Seokjin, as dinner winds down.

“You said you were going to see him,” says Yoongi.

“Yeah,” says Seokjin. He finishes his glass of wine and reaches for the bottle, but he doesn’t refill the glass, just leaves his hand there, fingertips resting against the base of the bottle. “I--pretended to myself that we were a secret,” he says. “But everyone knew.”

“Everyone knew,” Yoongi agrees. He’d told Hoseok after the first time he and Seokjin jerked off at the same time, in the same room, together but not together. He and Namjoon had their first conversation about it the first time Yoongi wrote a song about Seokjin, but Namjoon had known already. Jimin had come into their room once, when Seokjin wasn’t there, and asked Yoongi to tell him about them, like a bedtime story. There had never been a secret.

“I don’t like thinking that you were feeling...alone, or like you needed to hide, when you didn’t,” says Yoongi.

Seokjin shrugs. “You shouldn’t worry about it,” he says. “If I ever--felt alone, it was something I was doing to myself.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes at Seokjin. “Well, now I’m going to worry more,” he says.

-

“I’m just finishing up,” Yoongi says, as Seokjin sits down on the chair behind him and stretches his long legs out in front of him.

“Don’t rush,” says Seokjin. “I have nowhere to be. And I like to watch you work.”

Yoongi smiles at him and puts his headphones back on. Then he takes them off and looks at Seokjin. “What?” Seokjin asks.

“You want to hear?”

“Sure,” says Seokjin. “Yes.”

Yoongi prefers headphones, but he can work without them for a while. He switches the audio output to his desk speakers and goes back to work. He doesn’t love people watching him work, and he rarely lets anyone listen, but being with Seokjin has always been a lot like being with himself. It’s a little odd, having him there, but only a little, and not in a bad way.

He works until he finds himself reaching for his headphones, and then he turns to Seokjin. “I’m at a good stopping place,” he says.

“Play it through one more time?” Seokjin asks. He listens, his eyes intent on the floor in front of him, and hums along with the hook. “I like it,” he says. “Who’s it for?”

“I was going to give Jimin the first shot at it,” says Yoongi. “I told him I’d write him something. If he doesn’t want it…” he shrugs. “Someone will.”

“It sounds like him,” says Seokjin. “I really liked the song you did for his last album.”

“Thanks,” says Yoongi. It’s not weird that Seokjin listened to that. It would probably be weirder if he hadn’t. Yoongi just hasn’t actively thought about it, or about Seokjin listening to anything he’s done. But--of course he would have. “Oh, shit,” he says. “You listened to the heartbreak mixtape.”

“The what?” Seokjin asks. “Oh. Is that what--yeah, of course I did.” His smile is a small one. “The heartbreak mixtape. Fuck, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi says automatically. Then he corrects himself. “I mean, it’s not, but at some point there’s no point to apologizing anymore.” He laughs. “No wonder you thought I was still mad.” The mixtape he’d put out after Seokjin left...he put too much of himself into it, he thinks. He can’t listen to it now.

“It hurt to hear,” says Seokjin. “But I figured...however much it hurt me, it was probably hurting you worse. I listened to it a lot.”

Yoongi spins his chair towards Seokjin, and nudges Seokjin’s foot with his. “You were in bad shape,” he says.

“No,” says Seokjin. “I was, but it wasn’t that. I listen a lot to everything you make.”

“Seokjin,” Yoongi says. He rolls his chair closer, until their knees bump together. “Do you want to sing?”

“Uh,” says Seokjin. “Sing what? Now?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “Do you want to sing again? Do you want to make an album?”

“Oh,” says Seokjin.

“I can start writing for you, if you want,” says Yoongi. “And--I have some stuff set aside. Not for you, specifically, but…” But those songs aren’t for anyone else. It’s less about whether Seokjin wants Yoongi to write for him then that Yoongi wants to write for Seokjin, he realizes. He looks at Seokjin. “I’d like to,” he says.

“Yoongi,” says Seokjin. He takes Yoongi’s hands in his. “I--I love you a lot. You know that, right? I really love you.”

“I know,” says Yoongi. He hesitates, and then he brings Seokjin’s hands to his mouth and kisses the knuckles on both hands.

Seokjin is smiling and looking away from him. Yoongi can see the gleam of tears through his eyelashes. “Your ears are so red,” Yoongi says.

“I know,” says Seokjin. “I can feel them.” He squeezes Yoongi’s hands. “I don’t think I want to make an album. Not now. But I want to hear what you’ve got set aside.”

“Cool,” says Yoongi. “Yeah, I’ll show you.”

-

It seems like a lot of people want to get together with Seokjin, now that he’s back in Seoul. The number of people he actually wants to see, now that he’s without obligations, is much smaller, but he still ends up going out a lot of nights, enough that Yoongi feels lonely sometimes, sitting at home by himself. It’s funny--it’s only been a few weeks, and Seokjin is nominally still living at Hoseok’s friend’s ugly apartment, but being at home by himself doesn’t feel the same as it did.

He’s in the studio late one night when Seokjin gets home. He’s not working, just listening to music--new things he’s been meaning to catch up on, and then old, comfortable things he never gets tired of. He would probably have gone to bed already, but he’s waiting up.

He’s left the door of the studio open, so he hears the door lock beep open, and the soft noises of Seokjin taking off his shoes and hanging up his coat.

“Hi,” says Seokjin, leaning against the doorframe.

“Hi,” says Yoongi, looking up at him and smiling. “What was tonight? That restaurant thing?”

Seokjin shakes his head. “I had dinner with Jaehwan,” he says. “And brought him back to the ugly apartment for drinks.”

“I thought he was out of town,” says Yoongi.

“He was,” says Seokjin. “Filming. But it’s done.”

Yoongi looks at the droop of Seokjin’s head, his lowered eyelids. “Tired?” he asks. “Or is something wrong?”

“Just tired,” says Seokjin. He comes into the room and bypasses the empty chairs to sit at Yoongi’s feet and rest his chin on Yoongi’s knee. Yoongi brushes his fingers through Seokjin’s hair once, and leaves his hand there, at the back of Seokjin’s head.

“I told Jaehwan about us,” Seokjin says.

Yoongi swallows. “He didn’t know?”

“He knew about me,” says Seokjin. “That I wasn’t--that I’m not straight.” The day Seokjin can say that without a visible effort will be a milestone of some kind, Yoongi thinks. “And he knew there was--someone.”

“I thought he knew,” says Yoongi. He pauses. “Did you tell anyone at all?”

“No,” says Seokjin. “No one.” He shifts so that it’s his cheek resting against Yoongi’s knee now. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Yoongi says, automatically.

“No,” says Seokjin. “I am. I’m trying to do better for you, you know? But now you’re just upset that he didn’t know before.”

“It’s not that,” says Yoongi. “Or maybe it is, a little. I just--I didn’t realize how alone you were. I told Hobi everything, you know? And other friends--I never outed you, but I told them stuff about myself. And you didn’t have anyone, for that.”

“I had you,” says Seokjin, slightly muffled against Yoongi’s leg.

Yoongi doesn’t think that’s enough. He smooths his hand over Seokjin’s head again. “And after me?” he asks, even though he knows.

Seokjin knows he knows, and doesn’t answer.

“I can’t change how it was before,” he says later, when they’re in bed. “But I’m trying a lot harder now. I talked to Jungkook. I’ve been talking to Namjoon. I told Jaehwan tonight. I’m--next time I visit my parents, I’m going to talk to them.”

“I know you’re trying,” says Yoongi. “Don’t--you don’t have to do it all at once. If you feel like you’re going too fast--”

“I don’t,” says Seokjin. “Everyone I’ve talked to--it’s felt good.”

“Still,” says Yoongi. “It’s a lot. You’re doing a lot.”

“Maybe,” says Seokjin. After a moment he adds, “So I shouldn’t talk to my parents?”

“Only if you want to,” says Yoongi. “It’s not--I can’t decide that for you--I wouldn’t.”

-

On nights when Seokjin isn’t out, he cooks. A couple of times they’ve made dinner together, communicating wordlessly the same way they do in bed. More often, Yoongi gets home to good smells, and Seokjin in an apron singing along to the girl groups of fifteen years ago.

Some days Yoongi gets home and hangs up his coat and goes into the kitchen to kiss Seokjin hello, and feels like they’re playing out some kind of salaryman-and-housewife fantasy--not Yoongi’s fantasy, but someone’s. More often, it feels good. Seokjin is enjoying himself, and Yoongi is enjoying having him there.

They used to cook together in the dorm, especially towards the beginning. Seokjin was more comfortable in the kitchen, and Yoongi was more interested in the process. Between them, they fed the younger kids as well as they could. But Yoongi kept being interested, kept learning, kept volunteering when there was cooking to be done, even after they stopped having to scrimp to feed themselves, and Seokjin didn’t.

The mandu on the plate in front of Yoongi don’t look as neat as they would at a restaurant, but they’re delicious. Cooking always came easier to Seokjin than any of the things that were part of hs job on paper.

“Did you make the wrappers yourself?” Yoongi asks.

Seokjin nods. “I’ve done it a couple of times before,” he says. “I taught myself a year or so ago.” He makes a face. “They came out looking nicer last time.”

“They’re really good,” says Yoongi. “What was the occasion?”

“Oh,” says Seokjin. “I had a craving, so I looked up kimchi mandu on youtube. And then I made them again when my parents visited.”

“Did you cook a lot in LA?” Yoongi asks, because he doesn’t quite know how to ask his real question.

Seokjin ducks his head like he’s embarrassed. “I guess so, yeah.”

“You’ve gotten better,” says Yoongi.

Seokjin looks at him, and--they both know each other so well. “I enjoy it a lot more than I used to,” he says. “It’s--fun to be good at things, you know?”

“I know,” says Yoongi. He takes another dumpling.

When Seokjin cooks, Yoongi feels like maybe what he thought was home before wasn’t the full picture.

-

Seokjin goes to his parents’ house for lunch one Sunday, and doesn’t make any plans with Yoongi for the evening because he doesn’t know how long he’s going to want to stay. Yoongi texts him at around six, just to find out whether to wait for dinner.

“When are you leaving your parents’?” he asks.

“I did already,” Seokjin texts back. “I’m at the ugly apartment.”

That sounds like an invitation to Yoongi. He takes a taxi, and he’s there in less than twenty minutes. His heart beats hard as he’s entering the code for the door, and he realizes that he’s scared.

Seokjin is in the kitchen, leaning on the counter, a drink at his elbow.

“What happened?” Yoongi asks.

Seokjin shrugs. “Nothing’s wrong,” he says.

“That’s not what I asked.” Yoongi picks up the glass and takes a sip. It’s soju. “Hyung,” he says.

“It went fine,” says Seokjin.

“What did?” Yoongi asks. “Oh. I thought you weren’t going to tell them yet?”

“I wanted to,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi leans on the counter next to Seokjin, so their arms touch from shoulder to elbow. “It wasn’t good?”

“It was fine,” says Seokjin. “They--said the right things. They were just surprised.”

Yoongi wants to ask if Seokjin thought they wouldn’t be, but he’s not sure how Seokjin will take it. He thinks about it for a moment, and then says it anyway. “Did you think they wouldn’t be?”

Seokjin seems to deflate. “I don’t know,” he says. “It’s just--a lot of people don’t know me very well, do they?”

“Seokjin-hyung--” says Yoongi.

“What?” says Seokjin. “Why do you sound like you’re going to scold me, what have I done?”

“I’m not scolding you,” says Yoongi. “But--how is anyone going to know you when you’re hiding yourself from them?”

Seokjin leans into Yoongi, resting his cheek on Yoongi’s shoulder. “You’re right,” he says. “I know you’re right. But...can you not, right now? I’m--” his breath catches, and he says in a different tone, “I’m having a little bit of a hard time, I think.”

Yoongi snakes his arm around Seokjin’s waist. “I’m not doing anything,” he says.

“Good,” says Seokjin. “Keep not doing anything.” After a few minutes of silence, he adds, “You know me pretty well.” Yoongi doesn’t know whether he’s trying to reassure himself, or pointing out the flaw in Yoongi’s reasoning.

“I’m special,” says Yoongi. He doesn’t say, I know you because you let me, or I don’t know you as well as I did, or You need more than just me. All of those things are true, but none of them would be kind right now.

Seokjin sighs--a big, exaggerated one. “That’s true,” he says. He stands up straight and runs his hands through his hair. “Do you want to get delivery?”

“Sure,” says Yoongi. “But let’s go home first.”

“We’re already here,” says Seokjin. “We might as well stay.”

“No,” says Yoongi. “This is--a place for shitty feelings. If we stay here I can’t cheer you up.”

“You’ve already cheered me up,” says Seokjin.

“I’m not done yet,” says Yoongi. “I do my best work at home.” He pauses. “Actually, that’s not true. Still--look, we don’t have to stay here, so why would we?”

“I love how much you hate this place,” says Seokjin.

“That’s because you hate it, too,” says Yoongi.

“Do I?” asks Seokjin. “Oh. I guess I do.”

“You’ve gone soft,” says Yoongi. “A few years ago you wouldn’t have put up with it.”

“It’s not that,” says Seokjin. “A few years ago I had other people to look out for.”

-

Yoongi orders chicken, because that’s always been the thing that brings the most enthusiastic noises out of Seokjin. Yoongi doesn’t have a lot of secrets--not ones that only he knows--but how much he enjoys watching Seokjin eat is one of them. Yoongi likes food--making it, talking about it, trying new things. Only rarely does eating feel like a religious experience. But Seokjin experiences food like that all the time. Watching Seokjin eat is what taught Yoongi that being uncritical can be a good thing.

“I keep meaning to ask,” says Seokjin. “Do you still have the boat?”

Yoongi hasn’t thought about the boat in long enough that it takes him a moment to understand what Seokjin is talking about. “No,” he says. “I sold it. Pretty soon after you left. I guess I owe you some money.”

“That’s not why I asked,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi shrugs. “Well, it was half yours,” he says. “I should have asked you before I sold it, but…”

“No, it’s fine,” says Seokjin. “We--I wouldn’t have expected you to ask.”

“Well…” says Yoongi. “I sold it. I wasn’t going to use it, so…”

“Of course,” says Seokjin. “I was just wondering.”

But if Seokjin isn’t really thinking about it, Yoongi is.

“We should go,” he says, later, watching Seokjin change into pajamas.

“What?” Seokjin asks. “Go where?”

“Fishing,” says Yoongi. “Sorry, I didn’t--I was thinking about it.”

Seokjin looks like he’s thinking hard, but when he speaks, it’s only to say, “I’d like that.”

“We could go to the same place,” says Yoongi, encouraged. “The captain--Cha Moonsik, right? If he’s not still chartering boats, he’ll know who is. And maybe we could make it an overnight trip? Charter a bigger boat, or stay a night on one of the islands?”

“Yeah,” says Seokjin. “That sounds nice. You’ve been so busy, though. Do you have time?”

Yoongi feels abruptly guilty. Seokjin has been out a lot, but Yoongi hasn’t tried very hard to work around his schedule. “I can be more flexible,” he says. “I don’t take time off enough for anyone to complain about it when I want a few days. I’ll have Hyunsoo clear my schedule for a few days.”

-

Seokjin still has Moonsik’s number. Yoongi probably does, too, but Seokjin is better at that kind of thing--at catching up without forgetting what he’s trying to accomplish, and at using his attention to make the person he’s talking to feel good. Yoongi’s always had a hard time with that, and it used to make him nervous--that it was so much easier to see what he got out of being around Seokjin than what Seokjin got out of being around him. He thought he got over that a long time ago, but some part of it lingers. It’s not just Seokjin that has things to learn as they build a new relationship on the foundations of the old one. Yoongi examines that metaphor and decides that he likes it. Their foundation is still strong.

So Yoongi arranges a few days off and an early morning car to Incheon, and Seokjin books Moonsik’s boat and rooms on Jawol-do. Three days after Seokjin’s dinner with his parents, they’re waking up in what feels like the middle of the night, stumbling into clothes and over packed bags and out into the dark street where the car is waiting for them.

Seokjin has been quiet since they started planning the trip. Quieter than usual. Yoongi has been less and less worried that he and Seokjin won’t work out, but he’s started to wonder what happens if moving back to Seoul doesn’t make Seokjin happy, and that’s much scarier.

Yoongi dozes off on Seokjin’s shoulder in the car, and wakes up, disoriented, to cold air and creaking ropes and the smells of sea and fish. They started doing this during the last year or two of their run as BTS, but they didn’t get a chance to go often. The last time had been on their own boat, almost new, the one time their leave from the military coincided. With an isolated string of memories like that, it makes sense that the sounds and smells would trigger some déjà vu, but it’s so vivid and intense that it wakes Yoongi up, and instead of napping he sits with his cheek resting against the back of his seat and looks out the window as they strike out towards the open ocean.

Now it’s Seokjin’s turn to nap, and Yoongi keeps looking away from his indistinct view of dark water and dark sky to watch him. He’s slumped slightly sideways in his seat, lights from the deck soft on his face. Yoongi feels a little bit creepy, watching him like this. He knows Seokjin wouldn’t mind--he’d be embarrassed, but pleased--but Yoongi’s discomfort is about his own behavior. He was never like this before--not with Seokjin and certainly not with anyone else. He feels off-balance and unable to deal with his feelings the way he has for most of his adult life. He doesn’t know what he’d change; he wants to be with Seokjin no matter what. But he’s uncomfortable with himself.

-

The first few times they went fishing, they took groups, and had a whole staff attending them. Once they had their own boat, they just had Moonsik there to captain it, and, when they were lucky, his wife to cook the catch. Moonsik can cook, and Seokjin and Yoongi are both capable of making a decent fish stew, but Eunkyung is better. Yoongi likes her, too. Moonsik is a nice, friendly guy, okay to spend a few hours with. Eunkyung is polite and professional and totally uninterested in Yoongi and Seokjin. Yoongi could almost believe, if he didn’t know better, that she has no memory of meeting him before.

The other plus of having her there is that once he’s set Seokjin and Yoongi up with lines and bait, Moonsik and Eunkyung sit inside together and talk, and leave Yoongi and Seokjin to talk, or not talk, by themselves.

The thing is, Seokjin is actually good at fishing. He goes somewhere inside of himself, Yoongi thinks. Somewhere where he doesn’t think about the passage of time. But Seokjin’s always been more patient than Yoongi. Yoongi doesn’t love fishing as much as he loves the trappings of it: the sea and the wind, and the feeling of being outside at dawn, the fresh-caught fish, the time to watch Seokjin.

Yoongi likes to work on things, and it’s always when he’s working that his mind works best, and new ideas come fastest. Seokjin needs to feel like he’s doing something in order to let his thoughts range free, and fishing is just the right amount of occupation for him. Yoongi hopes Seokjin’s head is doing whatever it needs to do.

Yoongi leans his head back against the outside wall of the cabin, turned just a little to the side to watch Seokjin. He’s in not-quite-profile, his cheek one almost-flat line with just lips, nose and eyelashes projecting. Yoongi had liked him right away, when they met, but he’d fallen in love with him slowly. They’d worried together for years--about Big Hit’s vision for them, together and separately, about feeding the kids, about showing the right faces to their fans--leaned on each other too much to add anything else to the delicate balance of their relationship. But the feelings had been growing that whole time, and when the need to worry finally let up a little, they tripped and fell into each other, the way you fall into a panic attack when the pressure goes away.

Yoongi has been in love with Seokjin for a long time.

There’s a hard tug on the end of the line, and Yoongi’s hands tighten around the fishing rod just in time to stop it from jerking out of his grasp. “I’ve got something,” he says, reeling the line in slowly, trying to gauge how much of the pull is the water and how much is something else.

“It’s a plastic bag again,” Seokjin says, with so much confidence that Yoongi takes another look at the water, thinking Seokjin has seen something he hasn’t.

“A very active one,” he agrees. The line jerks again, harder, but Yoongi is holding on tight this time.

“Easy,” says Seokjin.

“I know what I’m doing,” says Yoongi, but he’s excited. He’s caught fish before, he reminds himself. They always feel bigger on the line than they actually are. But--it doesn’t get less exciting.

It’s not the biggest fish Yoongi has ever caught, but it’s close, heavy on the line as it leaves the water. Seokjin, and then Moonsik, offer to help, but Yoongi manages to get the flatfish on the deck, flopping around, all by himself, even though his arms feel a little jelly-like. There’s a struggle to get the hook out--first between Moonsik and Yoongi, who hates doing it, but always wants to anyway, and then between Yoongi and the fish. Then Moonsik watches Yoongi re-bait the hook with an air of being ready to step in at any moment, and only takes the fish off to the galley when Yoongi has cast his line again.

“I do know what I’m doing,” Yoongi tells Seokjin, when Moonsik has gone.

“I know,” says Seokjin. He smiles at Yoongi, just a little, and Yoongi grins back. “It isn’t our first or second time,” says Seokjin. It has the feel of a quotation, but Yoongi can’t place it.

They catch other fish--smaller ones, but more than they can eat--and only put their rods away in the late morning, when the fish have long since stopped biting. Then Eunkyung and Moonsik come out with stew and sashimi, and they sit on the deck and eat, wind ruffling their hair and cooling the stew.

This is a small boat, not like the ones they used to charter when they first started fishing, and brought managers and friends and cameras. There are no padded benches to nap on, just the bunks down in the cabin. Yoongi remembers trying to sleep on those bunks, or ones just like them. It was the only time he’s ever been seasick. Instead, he dozes on the bench outside the cabin, his cap over his face to block out the sun.

When he wakes up, Seokjin is sitting on the floor by the bench, head resting by Yoongi’s knee. He’s asleep. Yoongi was looking at Seokjin’s face, he remembers. Before the fish distracted him. He looks again now.

Seokjin’s face is so familiar that Yoongi has to really work to see it on purpose, and not just look straight through it to Seokjin. The shape of it will surprise him sometimes, but more often it’s something else that catches him and holds him. Yoongi would have thought that the surprises would come more often now, after not seeing Seokjin for such a long time, but whatever he’s lost of Seokjin over the past few years, the slope of his nose and the soft point of his cheekbone aren’t part of it.

Love is a funny thing, Yoongi thinks. Seokjin’s jacket is draped over his legs. He carefully arranges it on Seokjin’s shoulders, and lies down, and sleeps again.

-

Moonsik drops them off on Jawol-do before he heads back to Incheon. He says that Deokjeok-do is more popular, but Jawol-do is quiet. At this time of year, they might be the only visitors to the island.

They’re certainly the only people at the inn. They’ve booked two rooms, just in case, but Yoongi has barely set down his bags before there’s a soft knock at the door. Seokjin comes straight in and lies down on the bed. It’s small--it looks smaller with Seokjin on it than it did before--but they’ve shared smaller.

“My room is a little bigger,” says Seokjin. “But yours has a nicer view.”

“Your choice,” says Yoongi.

Seokjin says, “Well, we’re here.”

“Mmm,” says Yoongi. He lies down next to Seokjin, flat on his back.

“It was good, wasn’t it?” says Seokjin. “The fishing.”

“It was.”

“You had fun?”

Yoongi turns to look at Seokjin, and finds Seokjin looking at him. “Of course I did,” he says. “I always do.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” says Seokjin. It’s a little abrupt, a non-sequitur, but not.

“I know,” says Yoongi. “But--I don’t think you have to. It’s okay.”

“It doesn’t feel okay,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi brushes Seokjin’s hair back from his forehead, just for an excuse to touch him. Then he realizes he doesn’t need an excuse. He traces Seokjin’s eyebrow with one finger, and then his cheek, down to the corner of his mouth. Seokjin smiles faintly and kisses the tip of Yoongi’s finger. Then he face changes, and he turns it towards the matress.

“Hey,” says Yoongi. He brings his face closer, until his lips brush Seokjin’s hair when he speaks. “Tell me.”

Seokjin just snakes his arm around Yoongi’s waist and brings him in closer. Yoongi can sleep anytime, but Seokjin isn’t sleeping, so he doesn’t either.

-

In the late afternoon they go for a walk. There’s a beach by the inn, miniature and rocky, and they cross it to find a short hiking trail. This isn’t the kind of thing either of them does--Jin likes his outdoor sports faster, and Yoongi isn’t a fan of outdoor sports at all--but it’s the kind of thing people do here. There’s a hill, bleak with bare trees, and they climb the wooden steps set into it to find the top colder and windier and otherwise exactly the same as the bottom. It’s getting dark.

“Are you hungry?” Yoongi asks.

“Do you want to go back?” Seokjin asks.

Yoongi does, a little, but that’s not what he was asking.

“I’m a little hungry,” Seokjin admits. “But...let’s stay here for a little while.”

“Okay,” says Yoongi, but he frowns when Seokjin sits down on dirt thinly covered by dried grass and leaves.

Seokjin’s smile is a direct response to Yoongi’s frown. He reaches up to take Yoongi’s hand. “Just for a minute,” he says, and Yoongi can’t refuse.

“It’s cold,” Yoongi grumbles, as he joins Seokjin on the ground.

“I know,” says Seokjin. “Here.” He unzips his coat so he can wrap it around both of them. It’s not really big enough for the task, and it does nothing about the cold ground numbing Yoongi’s ass, but Yoongi just leans into Seokjin and lets himself be enveloped.

Yoongi’s feet are starting to get cold, too, when Seokjin says, “I keep forgetting to ask if you’ve forgiven me. Or--I keep not asking,” he adds, before Yoongi has a change to frame a skeptical-but-not-unkind question about whether “forgetting” is really the word Seokjin wants.

“You can ask,” Yoongi says, instead. “But forgiveness isn’t really something I’ve thought about. I’m not...holding anything against you. I’m trying not to, at least, and I don’t think I am.”

Seokjin mulls that over for a moment, and then he asks, “How do you feel, though?”

“Right now?” asks Yoongi. “Or about you?” Seokjin should know how Yoongi feels about him. He has no excuse not to.

“Yes,” says Seokjin. “No. About us.”

Yoongi hesitates. He knows how he feels about Seokjin, and he knows how he feels about himself, but he’s not sure how to go from that to an “us” feeling. “How do you feel?” he asks.

Seokjin says, after a pause, “I asked you first.”

Yoongi shifts, and frowns, and closes his eyes. “You always ask,” he says. “Is that so you never have to answer?”

Seokjin doesn’t say anything, and after a moment Yoongi removes Seokjin’s coat from his shoulder and stands up, brushing dirt off the seat of his pants. “It’s cold,” he says. “And I’m hungry. Let’s go back.”

“Yoongi,” says Seokjin. Yoongi starts picking his way carefully down the hillside. “Yoongi, wait.”

Yoongi doesn’t wait, but he’s not going very fast. Seokjin catches up with him and passes him by, all long legs and good balance. When Yoongi gets to the bottom of the hill, Seokjin is waiting for him.

They walk back to the inn in silence, but they talk over dinner, a little, about Eunkyung and Moonsik, and what they’ve seen of the island, and how cold it’s going to be tonight. Yoongi thinks that’s good--that they can still talk, even if they’re in something close to a fight. That’s what he’s staked this relationship on: their ability to like each other even when they don’t. He’s frustrated with Seokjin, but he doesn’t want to be anywhere else, so it doesn’t feel so bad.

Over dessert, Yoongi says, "I can keep waiting, if you want me to."

He can't read the look Seokjin gives him in return. "I don't want you to," he says.

Yoongi nods. "Okay." He doesn't want to, either. He's only a little scared.

Yoongi is pottering around in his room, checking as many messages as the inadequate Wi-Fi will let him, when Seokjin comes in. He's wearing flannel pajamas and slippers, and his hair is a little mussed. Yoongi has been noticing the faint signs of age on Seokjin's face since he got back--the fine laugh lines around his eyes, a general sharpness around the corners--but they don't stop him from looking very young right now.

"Hi," says Yoongi. Seokjin steps forward into his arms.

They're silent, by silent agreement. This is the easy part; they don’t need words for it.

It’s chilly in the room, and once Yoongi gets Seokjin’s pajama top off, he covers Seokjin’s bare chest with his body, and pulls a blanket up over both of them. They warm up fast, and then they overheat.

Yoongi thinks that’s the end of their night--that they’ll talk tomorrow, before the ferry. That Seokjin is waiting for him to push, and he doesn’t have the energy to push tonight. But they’re still lying there, blankets off and sweat warm on their skin, when Seokjin says, “I’m a little scared of you, I think.”

“Of me?” Yoongi says. He shifts to face Seokjin and the damp sheet rubs uncomfortably against his skin.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I don’t want anything,” says Yoongi. “Just you.”

“You say that,” says Seokjin. “But you want things, and I don’t know--what if I can’t give you what you want?”

He’s lying flat on his back, looking up at the ceiling. “You’re here,” Yoongi wants to say. “That’s enough.” Instead, he rests his cheek against Seokjin’s shoulder. “What do I want?” he asks.

“This,” says Seokjin. “Me talking about my feelings, but I don’t know how I feel. Talking to other people about--us. Me. And--” He rolls onto his side, away from Yoongi.

Yoongi touches Seokjin’s back gently, like he would a nervous dog. “What?”

“I know I fucked up,” says Seokjin. “But I don’t want that hanging over my head forever.”

“Oh, hyung,” says Yoongi.

“I feel like you’re letting it hang there.” Seokjin’s voice sounds rough, and his face is turned as far away from Yoongi as it can go, pressing into the sheets. “You’ve got--you’re the one who’s forgiving me, or--or not. You’re the one who decides if I measure up. How do I get out from under that?”

Yoongi shifts closer, pressing himself against Seokjin’s back. “Hyung,” he says. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to make you feel like that.”

“I know,” says Seokjin. “You wouldn’t try to make me feel bad.” He pauses. “You’re the good one, and I’m the one who messes up.”

Yoongi doesn’t know what to say to that. He doesn’t want it to be like that.

“Hyung,” he says. “Why did you break up with me?”

Yoongi feels Seokjin swallow. “I don’t know,” he says. Then, with an attempt at humor in his voice, he says, “Did you ever hurt yourself just to see what would happen?”

“Yes,” says Yoongi.

Seokjin turns around to face him. His eyes are a little bit wet, his nose a little red.

“I did most of my stupid shit early,” says Yoongi. “Remember?”

“I remember,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi shivers, and pulls the blankets up over both of them. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide from me,” he says. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide from anyone.”

“We both have to hide,” says Seokjin.

“Not from the people we care about,” says Yoongi.

“Ah, Yoongichi,” says Seokjin. “You’ve got it all figured out, haven’t you?”

“No,” says Yoongi. He’s only got Seokjin figured out, and sometimes he’s not even sure about that.

-

In the morning--late morning, after Yoongi sleeps for as long as he wants and wakes to find Seokjin sitting by the window, lit by pale winter sunlight and stabbing furiously at his Switch--they borrow bikes from the inn and take a ride along a path that skirts most of the taller hills. The ferry back to Incheon isn’t until the afternoon. A shop on the other side of the island serves them tea. They warm their hands with it and drink it when it’s gone cool.

“Jungkook says he asked you about me,” says Seokjin.

Yoongi eyebrows draw together. He and Jungkook haven’t talked about Seokjin in a long time. “When?”

“Oh, a long time ago,” says Seokjin. “When we were younger. When he first...noticed us. That we were, you know. Something.”

“Fucking?” says Yoongi. He thinks he remembers the conversation now.

“He never thought it was just that, he said.” There’s something odd in Seokjin’s eyes, then--the look he gets when he’s unhappy with himself, Yoongi thinks, although he doesn’t see the connection. “He said he asked you about us and you just said, ‘Oh, well, you know hyung.’”

“That sounds like me,” Yoongi admits.

“What did you mean?” Seokjin turns his cup around in this hands, and Yoongi watches--not to avoid Seokjin’s eyes, but because the slow movement of his fingers is beautiful.

“Just--that you have things you share and things you don’t,” says Yoongi. “You always have.” He pauses. “You got better at it, after a while. You separated things more.”

“You say ‘better’ like you mean ‘worse,’” says Seokjin.

Yoongi shrugs and smiles. He doesn’t know which he means. He likes Seokjin’s firm boundaries, except when Seokjin uses them against him. He’s never known how to put only a part of himself into something.

“He says he asked again after I--left,” says Seokjin.

“I remember that,” says Yoongi. He hadn’t wanted to have that conversation with Jungkook, or with anyone.

“You said the same thing,” Seokjin says, leaning forward a little. “‘You know hyung.’”

“Ah,” says Yoongi. “I guess I did.” It didn’t mean the same thing, then. Yoongi knows that Seokjin knows that.

“I saw a statue once,” says Yoongi. “In a museum in...France? Of a bird, a pelican. The little card next to it said it was stabbing itself with its beak, so that its young could drink its blood.”

Seokjin wrinkles his nose.

“I know,” says Yoongi. “But I read that and I thought of us--of us with our fans.”

He looks sideways at Seokjin. Seokjin isn’t reacting visibly, but that in itself is a reaction. “That’s why we had to stop,” Yoongi continues. “And for the rest of us...I think that’s all we needed. To break that connection, to stop living for our fans. But you…”

“But me?” Seokjin asks. His eyes are challenging, and scared.

“You were always bleeding yourself for the rest of us, more than for Army, weren’t you?” says Yoongi. He speaks quietly, like that will soften the blow.

Seokjin looks down at his watch. “We’d better get back to the inn and pack up our things,” he says, quietly. “We don’t want to miss the ferry.”

Yoongi isn’t sure whether or not he’s made things worse. Seokjin looks open and relaxed as they pack their bags and say goodbye to the staff at the inn, but he feels closed off.

Seokjin says that Yoongi knows him, but Yoongi isn’t as sure. Seokjin has the key to his lock, but does Yoongi have his? There must be a right thing to say, but he doesn’t know what it is. He’s never had to think about it very hard with Seokjin; being honest has always been good enough.

“I always liked the way making other people happy made you happy,” says Yoongi, as the ferry approaches Incheon. “But you need to be able to live for yourself, too, I think. Not the group. Not your parents. Not me.” Then he walks to the rail and looks down at the water, so Seokjin knows he doesn’t have to answer.

-

Time passes. Seokjin moves his things out of the ugly apartment and into Yoongi’s. He sets up a gaming computer in a corner of Yoongi’s home studio, and sometimes they sit there together in the evenings. Yoongi keeps his headphones on, and turns every once in a while to see what kind of face Seokjin is making at the screen. Seokjin seems to be filling his time, as far as Yoongi can tell. Yoongi is pretty busy just now.

He doesn’t know if things are good or not. He doesn’t know if Seokjin is happy. Yoongi likes having him there, but he’s scared that he’s not enough for Seokjin, that he’s not doing enough to keep him happy. They don’t talk about things like that, and that scares Yoongi too.

“Do you think Jin-hyung is happy?” Yoongi asks. It’s easier to ask when he’s looking at his computer screen and he knows Namjoon is, too.

“You would know better than I would,” says Namjoon.

Yoongi rotates his chair to give Namjoon a look. If he thought that was definitely true, he wouldn’t be asking, and Namjoon knows that.

“I don’t know, hyung,” says Namjoon. “He seems happy to me. He’s got, you know, his bike, and that game he likes with the...farms? Space farms? He’s relaxing.”

“Yeah,” says Yoongi. That doesn’t seem like enough, to him, but he doesn’t say so. He’s not sure how to talk about Seokjin, even to Namjoon. Especially when he and Seokjin aren’t talking the way Yoongi wants to.

-

There’s a party, an industry thing. Yoongi knows how these go: he lets a stylist do their thing, so he doesn’t have to worry about what to wear. He goes early, and downs his first drink quickly, and nurses his second one for as long as he can. He seeks out the people he likes, and has long conversations with them that seem too short, sandwiched between short conversations that seem too long with people he doesn’t care about. And then at some point he gets hit by a sense of distance, and forgets how to engage with the people around him. He can push through that, when he has to, but these days he doesn’t have to, so when he disconnects, he goes home.

“What do you think?” he asks, passing his iPad over to Seokjin and leaning in to look over his shoulder.

Seokjin flips through the runway photos Yoongi’s stylist sent over. “Well, this one is boring,” he says.

“Classic,” says Yoongi. “And you like boring.”

“I like it on me,” says Seokjin. He scrolls up again. “The blue suit--I can picture you in that, but it’s skinny 22-year-old you.”

“I’m still skinny,” says Yoongi, without heat. He shifts so that he can relax against Seokjin’s side more comfortably, and Seokjin puts an arm around his waist.

“Not like you were,” says Seokjin. “You’re hotter now.”

“You thought I was pretty hot then,” says Yoongi.

“I did, and you were,” Seokjin agrees. “You should wear the green one.”

“The green-green, or the black pants with the green jacket?”

“Black pants,” says Seokjin. “Classic, but not boring.”

“I don’t know,” says Yoongi. “I can’t see myself in it.”

“Trust me,” says Seokjin. “Am I the world’s foremost expert on Min Yoongi, or not?”

“You probably are,” says Yoongi. “Okay. I’ll have them send that one over.”

“You’re going to look better than anyone else there,” says Seokjin. He pauses. “I wish I was going to be there to see.” There’s an odd edge to his voice.

“It would be more fun with you,” says Yoongi. He knows what Seokjin is like at parties: quiet and well-mannered, serious when he has to be, mischievous when he doesn’t. Yoongi misses having a group to go to things with--having people who are yours by right, whose conversations you can join without apology.

He takes his iPad back and writes a quick reply to the stylist. “Are you ready for bed, or…?” Yoongi isn’t tired, but he likes it when Seokjin tells him he’s hot.

“I guess,” says Seokjin. “Yoongi-yah?”

Something in his voice makes Yoongi sit up. “What?”

“Couldn’t I go with you?”

“Oh,” says Yoongi. “Yeah. I don’t see why not, if you want to.” He looks at Seokjin. “Do you want to?”

“Yes.”

-

Seokjin ends up wearing the black tux--classic, and not boring on him. There’s no red carpet for this event, but if there was, Yoongi thinks it would be just like old times, with Seokjin making the news just for being handsome. He holds Seokjin by the shoulders, keeping him still for a moment, trying to really see him, and fix a picture of him in his mind.

“Are you ready to go?” Seokjin asks.

“Mmm,” says Yoongi. “You’re such a--a trophy boyfriend.”

He’s not sure what he expected, but he’s a little surprised when Seokjin smiles a small, real smile and says, “Thank you.”

“You’re--other things, too,” Yoongi says, suddenly awkward.

“I know,” says Seokjin. “Can we go? The car is waiting.”

“I don’t like these things,” says Yoongi, when they’re in the car. “I never really have.”

“I know,” says Seokjin.

“I wouldn’t go if I didn’t feel like I had to.”

“It’s different when you don’t have to,” says Seokjin.

Seokjin has as many industry acquaintances as Yoongi does, even after years away. He’s good at this kind of thing--friendliness that isn’t fake, but doesn’t go deeper. People can’t tell when he doesn’t like them. He looks more at ease than Yoongi feels, and it’s nice to watch. Yoongi comes to stand at Seokjin’s elbow and insert himself into his conversations a couple of times, but he doesn’t stay long. He’s there for the sense of belonging, not the small talk. And then he runs into a couple of producers from SM, and they have so much to talk about that by the time they’re done, it’s well past the time Yoongi thought he ought to make himself stay until.

They’re in a big hotel ballroom, and it’s pretty full. Yoongi makes a circuit of the room, scanning for Seokjin’s broad shoulders and listening for his laugh. He keeps to the edges and ducks into anterooms, because he knows his hyung. He finds him, finally, by the doors in the lobby, where cool air filters in from the outside. He and Lee Hyun are sitting on the steps, wearing the kind of smiles that don’t quite fade when you’ve stopped laughing.

Yoongi sits down next to Seokjin and says, “Hi, hyungs.” To Hyun, he adds, “I didn’t know you were here.”

“I was only going to stop in for a minute,” says Hyun. “But this one wouldn’t let me go.”

Seokjin smiles serenely and tells Yoongi, “He’s barely let me get a word in.”

Yoongi likes Hyun a lot, but he’s always been more Seokjin’s friend, and maybe Jimin’s. Seokjin treats Hyun like he treats his own hyung, and Yoongi feels the same way around him as he does around Seokjung--friendly, and a little envious of their relationship. If they were alone now...Yoongi glances around the lobby. There aren’t many people, but there are enough that he can’t lay his head on Seokjin’s shoulder and hold his hand, the way he would if they were alone.

If Hyun wasn’t here, Yoongi would look at Seokjin and Seokjin would know that he wanted to leave. They would get a taxi, instead of waiting for a car, and they would hold hands there, where the driver couldn’t see.

“You’re tired,” says Seokjin.

“A little,” says Yoongi. “What about you? Are you having fun?”

“I am,” says Seokjin, sounding a little surprised about it. Yoongi smiles. Then he notices that Hyun is not-quite looking at them in a way that suggests he knows there’s something not to look at.

“I meant to be home a long time ago,” says Hyun. He stands up and stretches. “I’ll see you Thursday?” he says, and Seokjin nods. “That cafe was good, right?”

“Same place, same time,” Seokjin confirms. “Goodnight, hyung.” Yoongi echoes him, and they watch Hyun walk to the coat check. Yoongi doesn’t see him very often these days, but he’s still the same, a solid, comforting presence.

“You didn’t tell me you told him about us,” says Yoongi.

“I didn’t?” Seokjin looks at Yoongi for a moment. “I meant to. We should get going, too, shouldn’t we?”

“Not if you want to stay,” says Yoongi.

Seokjin shakes his head. “You’re getting cranky. Let’s go home.”

“I’m fine,” Yoongi says, even as he’s accepting a hand up and following Seokjin across the lobby.

“Don’t argue with me,” says Seokjin.

They do hold hands in the taxi, and when Yoongi rubs his thumb over Seokjin’s knuckles, Seokjin turns and smiles at him.

“You had a good time,” says Yoongi.

“I did,” says Seokjin.

“I’m glad,” says Yoongi. They ride the rest of the way home in silence, but Yoongi feels like the conversation isn’t finished, but paused.

“I want you to have a good time all the time,” he says, as he’s carefully hanging up his borrowed tuxedo.

Seokjin, halfway through putting on his pajamas, pushes his glasses up his nose. “I’m having a pretty good time,” he says.

“Are you, really?” Yoongi asks. He sits down on the bed.

He thinks for a moment that Seokjin is going to brush off the question, or not treat it as seriously as Yoongi is asking it. Seokjin opens his mouth to speak, but doesn’t. Instead, he comes over and sits down next to Yoongi.

“I’m still settling in, I think,” he says. “But--it’s going good. Better.”

“Sometimes it seems like you don’t have a lot to do,” says Yoongi.

“I don’t,” says Seokjin. “But that’s nice. I’m--when I’m not doing anything, I feel like I’m relaxing, instead of just killing time. I’m not making any plans I’m not actually looking forward to, you know?”

Yoongi would have a hard time identifying what makes Seokjin’s quiet, still face happy instead of sad, but there’s something there. He sees it.

“And there’s you,” says Seokjin. It’s hard for him to say. Yoongi can hear that in his voice, and he brushes his fingers over Seokjin’s face to feel the heat in his cheeks. Seokjin turns and kisses Yoongi once, and folds his hands demurely in his lap, and smiles to himself. Yoongi feels warmer and happier just looking at him.

“It’s like that for me, too,” he says. “Just having you here. There’s nothing else I want, now.”

Seokjin’s smile grows. “There are always things you want,” he says.

“I have them,” says Yoongi. He thinks. “No, I know what you mean,” he says. “I have--goals. But that’s just--it’s the work to achieve things that’s important, and I have that.”

“I remember thinking, a long time ago, that it was funny when you told people they didn’t need ambitions,” says Seokjin. He reaches for Yoongi’s hand. “You’re one of the most ambitious people I know.”

“I like to do things,” says Yoongi. “I need work. Challenges, you know?”

“I know,” says Seokjin. “But--I don’t.”

Seokjin’s profile doesn’t give much away. Yoongi touches his chin, turns Seokjin’s face towards him. “You work as hard as anyone I know,” he says.

“When I have to,” says Seokjin. “When there’s something that needs to be done. Ambition is something different.”

Yoongi keeps looking at him--at his serious dark eyes and the hint of humor at the corner of his mouth.

“I just want to be happy,” says Seokjin.

“That’s what I want, too,” says Yoongi.

“I know,” says Seokjin. He leans in for another kiss, warm and soft and tasting like the champagne that was being handed around at the party. The champagne probably has something to do with why Seokjin is like this right now, relaxed and softly happy. But Yoongi, despite the scotch he’d gotten from the open bar, is tense from his weeks of not quite knowing where he and Seokjin stand.

“I don’t always know what you want,” he says, pulling back. “I don’t know what you need from me.”

“Just you,” says Seokjin. His mouth twists a little, briefly. “Do you remember, right when I came back, you saying something about just wanting me to be here?”

“Vaguely,” says Yoongi. He remembers the feeling, anyway. And he sees where Seokjin is going with this.

“Everything is easier--” Seokjin frowns. “Better? More worthwhile, if you’re with me. I’m figuring it out. Just be here, okay?”

Seokjin is never going to be someone who shares every feeling. Yoongi thinks about that, examining the idea from every angle, and decides he doesn’t mind it. He’s here, and Seokjin is here, and they’re good, the way they’ve always been good, even when they weren’t.

“Yeah,” he says. “I’m here.” He goes for a small smile, but when Seokjin smiles back, it turns into a bigger one. “We both are.”

-

“This sounds familiar,” said Seokjin, when Jimin gave them the name and address of the restaurant. “I think I--have we been there before?”

Jimin beamed. “In 2017,” he says. “We all ate there together.”

Taehyung is finally coming back to Seoul, after half a year away.

Yoongi arrives late--a phone call, a miscommunication, traffic--and when he gets to the restaurant, everyone else is there.

Taehyung greets him at the door to their private room, pouncing on him as Yoongi is hanging up his coat and slipping off his shoes.

“Taehyung-ah,” Yoongi whines, half-heartedly pushing him away.

“You’re happy to see me, hyung,” Taehyung informs him.

“I’m annoyed,” says Yoongi. “You’re annoying.” But he lets himself be hugged. He hugs Taehyung back. “It’s good to see you.”

Over Taehyung’s shoulder, he can see all of the others. Seokjin is sitting at the far side of the table, sandwiched between Jungkook and Jimin. Jimin’s chin is resting on Seokjin’s shoulder as they both look at something on Jungkook’s phone.

Taehyung holds Yoongi at arms’ length to look at him.

“Taehyung-ah,” says Yoongi. “It’s only been six months.”

Taehyung plucks Yoongi’s beanie off his head. “You cut all your hair off again.”

Yoongi rubs his short, fuzzy hair, a little self-conscious. “Do you like it?” Taehyung’s hair, as usual, looks unfairly good for what is essentially a shaggy mess.

“Jimin’s been telling me about you and Jin-hyung,” says Taehyung. “Your hair is cute.”

“Jimin has?” Yoongi glances over at Jimin, and at Seokjin.

“You’re happy?” says Taehyung.

Yoongi nods.

“Good,” says Taehyung.

Yoongi makes his way to the far side of the table and taps Jimin on the shoulder and waits for him to move. Jimin sticks his tongue out at him. “I was going to sit with Taehyungie, anyway,” he says.

Yoongi slides onto the seat next to Seokjin. “Hi,” he says. Jungkook grins at him, and Hoseok, talking to Namjoon at the other end of the table, waves. Seokjin doesn’t say anything, but he slips his hand around Yoongi’s waist.

“Hyung, do you remember the time our shoes were missing?” Jungkook asks. “Jin-hyung doesn’t.”

“Jin-hyung didn’t have to spend a two-hour shoot hiding his feet,” says Yoongi. “I remember.”

“We were trying to come up with the worst MV shoot,” says Seokjin.

“Well, it wasn’t that one,” says Yoongi. “What about any of the ones where we had to film outside during the winter?”

“We’ve done those already,” says Jimin, sitting across from Yoongi now.

“Then why are we still talking about it?” asks Yoongi.

“Because,” says Jungkook.

“Because,” Jimin agrees. “Who put you in charge, anyway?”

“Nobody,” says Yoongi, at the same time as Taehyung says, “I did.”

Jimin pouts at Taehyung. “I thought I was your favorite.”

“You are,” says Taehyung. “And you’re going to talk to me while Yoongi-hyung looks at the menu.”

Seokjin silently passes the menu over, and Yoongi opens it. He’s been doing this for years, since the days when ordering for the group of them meant finding a balance between how hungry they were and how much they could spend. Now it’s just about controlling the chaos.

“When was the last time we were all together?” Namjoon asks. Yoongi looks up.

“Years,” says Jungkook.

“Four and a half years,” says Seokjin. It’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but Yoongi understands the need to make it longer. It had felt like longer.

“Really?” Namjoon leans forward. “Not since you left for LA? Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” says Seokjin. He glances sideways. “That was the last time I saw Yoongi, before--”

There’s a little silence. Namjoon lets out an uneasy laugh.

“Can we talk about that now?” Jungkook asks. “About you and Yoongi-hyung?”

“Haven’t we talked about it?” asks Seokjin.

“Not--” Jungkook pauses, lips pursing as he tries to put his thought into words. “I know we’ve talked--you and me--but is it okay for everyone to stop pretending we don’t know?”

Seokjin starts, and smiles, and turns to meet Yoongi’s eyes. Yoongi looks down, and smiles, too.

“You don’t have to pretend,” Seokjin says.

“Okay,” says Jungkook. “That’s all--I don’t want to talk about it now, I just wanted to know.”

That’s fair, Yoongi thinks. They’d all pretended when Seokjin clearly didn’t want them to know, and then, when Seokjin was gone, they’d kept pretending for Yoongi’s sake. And Yoongi--he’s never liked pretending, but he hadn’t wanted to bring it up, either. Having things out in the open is good. Putting himself out in the open is scary.

A waiter comes in, and the conversation dies down. Partway through giving their order, Yoongi hears someone start drumming their fingers on the table. It’s Jimin, and he doesn’t stop until the waiter closes the door of the room behind him.

Can we talk about it?” asks Jimin. “I want to.”

“About--?” says Taeyhung.

“About me and Jin-hyung,” says Yoongi. He looks at Jimin for a moment, and then at Seokjin. “What do you want to say?”

“I want to know what happened,” says Jimin. And--yes. Jimin’s always been the one who’s asked.

“I don’t mind,” says Seokjin. He straightens slightly in his seat. Yoongi thinks that Seokjin really doesn’t mind, and that not minding surprises him as much as it surprises Yoongi. One of the tricks to reading Seokjin is knowing when they’re thinking the same thing. Seokjin is realizing that he’d said he didn’t mind without knowing it was true, and that he would have said it even if it wasn’t. Yoongi knows that because he’s realizing it, too.

“I don’t know what to say,” says Yoongi. He feels like it’s more Seokjin’s story to tell than his, if it’s a story at all, but he knows without asking that Seokjin won’t be able to make it one. Yoongi is the writer.

Hoseok leans forward and stretches his hand across the table to Yoongi. Yoongi takes it, and looks around at the others. He hadn’t ever hidden this from them, but he hasn’t talked openly about it, either. Seokjin has been working on that. Yoongi hasn’t.

“You broke up,” says Namjoon. “Start there?”

Taehyung makes an annoyed noise. “You fell in love,” he says. “Start there.”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin again, and Seokjin gives him a tiny nod, and starts to rub Yoongi’s back in slow circles.

Hoseok squeezes Yoongi’s hand. He still doesn’t entirely approve, Yoongi knows, but he’ll still offer support. Everyone here has offered support, in one way or another. Yoongi squeezes back and lets go.

He’s held the hands of everyone at this table more times than he can count. They're his family, in as many ways as his parents and brother are. He thinks about Seokjin coming out to his parents--about Seokjin not feeling like people know him. He thinks about their family here, knowing and pretending not to.

"Oh," he says. "Well. You know hyung."