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Today I Decided

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Tables set up in the lounge? Check. Kids ready and waiting? Check. Your boss, Caroline, in the office, ready to greet the group when they arrive? Check. Now you just need to get to the office too, before the guys show up…

Your phone rings as you’re leaving the dormitory, where you were checking in with the kids housed at Chicago’s Clary Foundation. Today, in less than 30 minutes, they get to meet the world-famous Korean musical group, Bangtan Sonyeondan, or BTS. The group has agreed to do a fan meet and fundraising concert for the Clary Foundation, which provides housing and other services for homeless teenagers and pre-teens. As the foundation’s Events Director, you’ve been planning and preparing for this concert for months, and now you’ve finally reached the big day. BTS is coming to meet the kids this afternoon, and the actual concert is scheduled for tomorrow evening. Tickets sold out as soon as they were made available, months ago. You’re expecting a packed house tomorrow, and with luck, floods of donations from the concert-goers.

You’re almost as excited as the kids you just left. Like them, you’re a fan of BTS, though you’ve kept quiet about it in recent months. You don’t want Caroline, your boss, thinking you won’t be able to handle the pressure of meeting some of your favorite musical artists. So you’ve tamped down your enthusiasm, handling the arrangements with the same cool professionalism you’ve displayed during every event since you were hired three years ago.

Your phone rings, and you whip it out of your pocket as you hurry up the path from the dorm to the Clary offices. And then you sigh as you see your friend Hannah’s name on the screen. This is the fifth time she’s called since lunch.

“Hannah,” you greet her. “Why do you keep calling me?”

“Are they there yet?” she asks, completely ignoring your question. Hannah loves BTS even more than you do. In fact, she’s the one who introduced you to their music a couple years ago. As a Korean-American, Hannah has always been well-informed about South Korean groups, and she’s followed BTS practically since they debuted.

“They’ll be here soon,” you tell her. “Which means I can’t really talk. I’m on my way up to the office right now.”

“I still can’t believe you couldn’t get me a volunteer spot at the concert tomorrow,” Hannah moans, and you immediately start to feel guilty.

“I tried,” you promise, “but we already had so many volunteers from among our regular connections, I couldn’t take them all. It wouldn’t look good if I accepted you over some of the donors.”

“You could have hired me as your assistant. Just temporary for the event. You wouldn’t even need to pay me.”

“But I don’t need an assistant,” you begin, and Hannah heaves a sigh.

“I know, you’re Superwoman. You can take care of everything on your own. Just as long as you know you’ve destroyed my one chance for Hoseok to fall for me.”

You cringe. Jung Hoseok, or J-Hope, has been Hannah’s bias for as long as she’s known about BTS. Knowing what a huge fan she is, not just of Hoseok but of the whole group, you really did try to find an opening for her at the concert. But so many people called in favors with Caroline that you’re already overstaffed for the event.

“Oh my god, what if one of them falls for you?” Hannah asks suddenly, her voice rising in excitement. “You’re going to be talking to them a lot. You could go out with someone from BTS!”

“That won’t happen,” you scoff. “First, you know they don’t date. You’re the who told me none of them have ever gone out with anyone since they debuted.”

“Yeah, but I bet they have some fun. What’s to stop you from having fun, too?”

“My job,” you say sternly. “I need this concert to be a success, and it’s not going to happen if I lose focus. Anyway, they’re never even going to look at me. Not like that, at least.”

“Yeah right,” she interrupts. “You’re pretty gorgeous, you know.”

“I’m not gorgeous,” you sigh. “And I’m too old for them.”

“You definitely aren’t too old,” she disagrees. “They’re all in their twenties.”

“And I’m almost thirty,” you remind her.

“Ok, maybe you’re too old for Jungkook,” she concedes. “He’s only twenty-one. But the others are fair game. You should go for it! Seriously. Just not with Hoseok,” she finishes, and you roll your eyes.

“I’m not ‘going for it’ with any of them. I’m going to have more than enough on my hands just keeping everyone happy and on track for the next thirty hours. I definitely won’t have time to flirt.”

“Just wait until you’re face to face with them. As soon as one of them smiles at you, you won’t be able to help yourself. Who’s your bias again?”

“I don’t have one,” you say patiently, and she laughs.

“You will after this. I bet it’ll be Jimin. I saw you drooling over him when we watched the Boy with Luv video this weekend.”

“I was not drooling,” you correct her, and she laughs merrily.

“Close enough. You totally think he’s cute. And Seokjin too. You’re always saying he’s the handsome one.”

You sigh. “They’re both cute, but that doesn’t mean I want to date them.”

“Well, how about Namjoon? He’s smart like you, and he writes a lot of their songs. And I know you like his voice.”

“I do, but I don’t know that I’d say he’s cute.”

“Wait until you meet him. And all of them. They’re like, the most beautiful, talented, interesting men in the world. There’s no way you won’t end up in love with probably the whole group. And I just bet one of them will be interested in you, too.”

You roll your eyes again. “We’ll see. Now I really have to go,” you tell her. “And please stop calling me every twenty minutes. They’ll be here soon.”

“I know. Why do you think I keep calling you? I’m hoping to hear their voices in the background.”

“If you call after they get here, I’m not answering the phone. I’ll tell you all about it later, I promise.”

“You have to tell me everything about Hoseok. What he’s wearing, how he looks at you, what he says, how he smells…”

“I’m not smelling him! He’ll think I’m creepy.”

“But you’ll probably shake his hand. You might catch a whiff of him. And you have to tell me if his hands are soft, or calloused. How big his feet are. Seriously, I need you to memorize every single detail about him. It’s the least you can do, as my friend.”

“Ok, you’re a little creepy. But I’ll do my best,” you give in. “Now I really have to get up to the office.”

“Fine, fine, I’ll let you go. Good luck. You know I’m rooting for this to be a big success, right?”

“I know,” you smile. “Thanks for that.”

“Yeah, yeah. I love you. Talk to you soon.”

You hang up the phone, shaking your head at your friend’s overactive imagination. You’re sure the members of BTS will be strictly professional. They won’t be looking for a flirtation any more than you will. But as you hurry up the path towards the office building, your mind lingers on memories of Jin’s handsome face, and how stunning Jimin was in their new video. And Hannah is right, you do love Namjoon’s voice. And Yoongi’s too, probably even more than Namjoon’s. His solo songs are some of your favorites…

And then you shake your head again. You can’t allow any thoughts like that to sneak in when you meet the group. You need to treat them with respect, not act like a fangirl. You glance at your phone, and pick up the pace when you see what time it is. They’ll be arriving any minute.

Then you round a clump of trees and notice the two huge black SUVs parked in front of the building. Well damn, they’re already here, which means you’re late. You cover the remaining distance to the office at a run, and swing yourself up the front stairway two steps at a time. Inside, you pause at the front desk to speak with Audrey, the Clary Foundation’s administrative assistant.

“They’re here?” you ask, and she tilts her head towards the main conference room. Through the glass wall you see Caroline and a crowd of people. “Quick, how do I look?”

“Straighten your hair,” Audrey mutters, shoving a hairbrush at you. You smooth things down as well as possible before handing the brush back. She gives you an approving nod, and you turn towards the conference room. This is it, then.

You stride briskly into the room, sparing only the briefest glance at the young men ranged on one side of the open space. They’re dressed casually, you note in relief, so they’ll fit in well when they meet the kids. Several of their staff members hover at the side, some holding video cameras and lights. You quickly tamp down the flutter of nerves in your belly and straighten your shoulders as you take your place next to Caroline.

You shoot her an apologetic look, but she only smiles reassuringly before turning to the group.

“May I introduce Y/N Y/L/N, who is directing this week’s events. She’ll tell you a little bit about what to expect today and tomorrow, and then we’ll head down to the dormitory.”

Caroline steps back, and you finally face BTS, not flinching even as seven pairs of eyes settle on you expectantly. You give a warm smile, but you can’t quite make eye contact with any of them as you launch into your welcome speech. You note a few murmurs of surprise when you speak in Korean, and a couple of the guys even grin a little. God, you hope you’re not saying anything idiotic. But they continue to smile and nod in encouragement, so you figure you can’t be messing up too badly. You even allow your eyes to meet Kim Namjoon’s as you finish, happy to see his pleased expression. He usually takes the lead in the group, and now he steps forward and responds with a brief Korean phrase of thanks, before repeating his words in English.

Caroline takes that as a cue to move towards him for a more personal greeting. You’d spoken with her beforehand about offering a bow instead of a handshake, and she follows your instructions carefully. Namjoon bows in return, but also holds out his hand. Caroline holds it with both of hers for a few seconds as she welcomes him, before continuing to the next person in line.

Namjoon turns to you and smiles, and the first thing you notice is that he’s got dimples the size of the Grand Canyon creasing each cheek. You can’t stop an answering smile from sliding over your face as you take the hand he offers.

You can’t believe you just told Hannah this man wasn’t cute. He’s adorable.

“Miss Y/L/N, I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the work your foundation has done to prepare for this show,” he begins, clasping your hand earnestly instead of shaking it. “You’ve made things very easy for us.”

“Please, call me Y/N,” you urge. “And we’re the ones who appreciate the time you’re giving to our foundation. The kids are so excited to meet you all, and to see your concert. Which, thanks to your participation, is already projected to be the most successful fundraiser we’ve ever had.”

Namjoon ducks his head modestly. “Well, we’re happy to help out,” he tells you. “We intend our music to be for everyone, but to some extent our message is one of hope and positivity for teenagers and young people. It’s nice to feel like we’re doing something specifically for that audience.”

“Yes,” you agree. “And these particular teenagers can really use that hope, considering some of the things that have happened in their lives.”

“We’ll do our best, then,” Namjoon assures you. “Especially this one,” he adds, clapping the shoulder of the man standing close beside him. “He’s not far from being a teenager himself. He’ll work hard for the kids.”

You turn to see the second man ducking his head in embarrassment at Namjoon’s comments. But he quickly holds out his hand, bowing slightly.

“Jeon Jungkook,” he murmurs, and you realize it’s the maknae of the group, the one Hannah said was only 21. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Y/L/N.”

You start to tell him to call you by your first name, as you did with Namjoon, but you realize from his demeanor that he may not feel comfortable with that. Instead, you bow in return and shake his hand firmly as you smile in welcome.

“It’s so nice to meet you too. I’m sure Namjoon is right, that you’ll all do a wonderful job for our event.”

Jungkook flushes slightly, the color on his cheeks and his wide brown eyes making you want nothing more than to give him a comforting hug. Hannah was right; they’re both so cute, you think to yourself, as you move on to the third man in line.

It’s Kim Taehyung, and he only further confirms Hannah’s assessment as he peers at you with deep, lovely eyes. His eyelashes sweep the perfect curves of his cheeks as he looks down after only briefly meeting your gaze. He doesn’t smile, which is probably good for your sensibilities since he’s already as beautiful as a portrait. He shakes your hand with care, but releases it again without saying anything. You aren’t sure if it’s because he isn’t interested, or if he just isn’t given a chance, since the next member of the group is already crowding him out of the way, smiling angelically at you.

With an internal shrug, you give this one your attention, realizing with a quick jump of your heart that it’s Park Jimin. He’s gazing at you like you’re the most interesting person he’s ever met, and your breath catches in your throat as you study his warm eyes and plush, curving lips. His hair is an orangey-pink, reminding you of Boy with Luv. You remember how sexy he was in that video, and you have to fight to keep your smile professional as you greet him.

“Thank you for coming,” you tell him, and his impish smile deepens.

“You’re very pretty,” he says, his tone a little shy, but with nothing timid in the way he still looks at you. Suddenly, the member at his right smacks him in the back of the head.

“Jin-hyung!” Jimin protests, turning on him, transforming from angel to demon in an instant. He lets out an aggrieved stream of Korean that doesn’t affect the older man one bit. Kim Seokjin simply rolls right over his words.

“You can’t go around saying things like that to women you just met,” he lectures.

“It’s ok,” you assure them both, laughing. “It was sweet.”

Seokjin smiles, his own eyes as warm as Jimin’s, dark and comforting as a mug of cocoa. Your heart jumps again as his lips curve deliciously, and you feel justified for always thinking he was the handsome one. “In that case,” he says, “Let me say that I agree with Jimin.”

He takes your hand, but instead of shaking it, he raises it to those gorgeous lips and places a soft kiss against your wrist. You feel a flush of embarrassment rising on your neck, especially when Jimin starts berating Seokjin again. You’d laughed off Hannah’s predictions that a BTS member would fall for you, and you certainly never expected two of them to act flirty like this. Especially the two best-looking members, at least in your opinion. To make it worse, you realize Caroline has already finished saying hello to everyone and is watching in amusement.

Struggling to regain your composure, you quickly move to the next member of the group, Jung Hoseok. You give him your warmest smile as you bow. You think you hear a slight intake of breath from the man standing next to him at the end of the line, but you’re too intent on meeting Hoseok to spare a glance for anyone else. Remembering Hannah’s admonitions, you focus intently on the man in front of you as you greet him.

“Thank you for coming. We really appreciate your time. It means so much to the kids here.”

“When do we get to meet them?” Hoseok asks, grabbing your hand and pumping it up and down as he offers a dazzling smile. You grin back at him because his energy is infectious. His puppy-dog enthusiasm provides a dizzying contrast to the stunning planes and angles of his face. As you look at him, you have no problem understanding why Hannah is so infatuated with this man. And thinking of her, you groan internally, because she’s still right. Every member of BTS truly is gorgeous.

“We’re going right now to meet the ones who live here,” you tell Hoseok. “You’ll get a chance to talk with them for a little bit, answer questions. The foster kids will join us for the fan-meet before the concert tomorrow.”

“We’re looking forward to it. Suga-hyung, hurry up and say hello, so we can get going.” Hoseok nudges the final member of the group, who holds out his hand politely. You finally turn to face him, part of your mind still tucking away the conversation with Hoseok.

And you freeze, gazing into the eyes of the most beautiful man you’ve ever seen.

Better than pink-haired, seductive Jimin. Better even than the handsome, wrist-kissing Jin. You wonder how you ever could have thought either of them was the best-looking, when surely this man was always standing alongside them in the pictures, dancing with them in the videos.

It’s Min Yoongi, of course, you recognize that much. He’s one of your favorite artists of the group. You love the songs he writes, and his voice when he’s rapping them. Yet somehow, his visuals have never really caught your attention on screen.

But in person…. holy shit.

There’s no one outstanding feature, like Hoseok’s giant smile or Namjoon’s dimples. His face is just a perfect arrangement of deep brown eyes, round nose, full, slightly pouty lips, and softly curving chin. His deep silver hair contrasts with his flawless skin as it waves softly over his eyes.

And maybe it is his eyes that grab your attention. Your breath catches in your throat as they lock onto your own. Sexy, sharp-cornered eyes, glimmering with an intoxicating mixture of humor and intensity.

You realize you’re staring at him. He was smiling as he held out his hand, and now one corner of his mouth tugs upward even more as he waits for some reaction from you. Mentally smacking yourself, you quickly take his hand and force a smile back into place.

“Thank you for coming,” you murmur, ignoring the thrill that runs down your spine at the feel of his long fingers gently but firmly wrapping around your own. As attractive as they all are, none of the others caused this kind of reaction in you. Nervous that your eyes might be giving you away, you glance back at Hoseok. “Are you all ready to go? Caroline and I will take you to the kids.”

Yoongi releases your hand, looking slightly disappointed. Because you didn’t talk with him more? You realize you didn’t even give him a chance to say anything. Of course, that’s probably for the best. You already have a thing for his voice. Hearing it when he’s standing right in front of you, looking so completely gorgeous, might be too much to handle. You turn away from all of them, letting Caroline take over again as she ushers them out of the room and towards the front door. You’re glad to have some time to compose yourself after the onslaught to your senses caused by meeting seven lovely, sexy men. Especially the last one.

But you aren’t allowed to escape that easily. As Caroline leads the group down the drive to the dorms, you follow a few yards behind. The members of BTS walk in twos and threes, together or with their camera crew and staff. You’re surprised when one of them suddenly breaks out of the line, turning to wait for you.

It’s Yoongi. Though you’re immediately nervous again, you offer him your most professional smile as he falls into step with you.

“How can I help you?” you ask, and he tilts his head, not-so-subtly studying you as he walks by your side. You realize he’s a tiny bit shorter than you are, at least while you’re wearing high heels.

“You mentioned some foster kids are coming for the fan-meet tomorrow,” he begins, and your stomach swoops a couple times because, god, his voice is even better in person too. Lower than you expected, lightly accented, and with a rich timbre that somehow soothes your ears.

“Are these different kids from the ones we’re going to meet now?” Yoongi continues, and you struggle to focus on his words, not on him.

“Yes, the kids we’re meeting today all live here in the home. The foster kids lived here at one time, but now they’ve been placed with a family. They’re still under our jurisdiction to some extent, until they’re either officially adopted or have the opportunity to return to their own homes.”

“And how many foster kids are attending tomorrow?”

“About sixty,” you answer. “I think sixty-two, if everyone is able to make it.” You’re dismayed to see him frown a bit.

“And the kids who live here? How many are they?”

“Thirty-two.” Yoongi still looks worried, and you try to reassure him about whatever the problem might be.

“I know it’s a lot of kids, but I can assure you we’ve arranged plenty of time for you to see everyone before the concert. Big Hit was very specific about what’ll you’ll need for the event, and how to manage it.”

“It’s not that,” Yoongi hurries to explain. “It’s just that we prepared gifts for the kids, to hand out when we meet them, but we didn’t realize it would be more than the residents at the home. We don’t even have half of what we’ll need for tomorrow.”

You’re touched, but confused. “There was nothing in the agreement about gifts,” you say slowly. “You didn’t have to do anything like that; you’re already doing so much.”

Yoongi shrugs a little and grins, and your heart leaps in response. “Exchanging gifts is a fan-meet tradition,” he tells you.

“Exchanging?” you ask, stopping dead. You vaguely remember from your research that sometimes fans would bring gifts to the group during fan meetings, but it hadn’t been mentioned during the negotiations with Big Hit. “We don’t have anything prepared for the kids to give to you.”

Yoongi has stopped with you. “We’re not expecting anything from the kids.”

“And they aren’t expecting anything but to see you. You really don’t have to give gifts. I mean, if I’d known anything about this, I would have let you know they’re all just excited to meet you guys. It’s more than enough.”

“Please, don’t worry about the gifts. It’s just something we do. And no one from our staff let you know about it, so don’t beat yourself up thinking you missed something. You’ve really done a great job of organizing this whole thing. It was you, right? Not your director?”

You’re surprised by the look of admiration he gives you. He’s right, you have orchestrated the event, down to the smallest considerations, but you wonder how he knows it was you. And how he somehow understood immediately that you’re so concerned about missing anything, even one of those tiny details. But the warmth in his eyes is reassuring, so you allow your ruffled feathers to smooth down a bit as he continues speaking.

“We wanted to do something special for the kids, so we prepared the gifts. Like I said, we don’t have enough. But don’t worry about that, either. I’ll see what I can figure out.”

He smiles at you again as he resumes walking, pulling a cell phone from his pocket as he goes. You hustle to keep up, eyeing him curiously as he makes a call. He has a brief conversation, in Korean, before hanging up and dialing another number. He glances at you as he waits for the connection, and you’re embarrassed to be caught watching him. Quickly, you walk ahead, catching up with the rest of the group as they come to a stop in front of the dorms.

Caroline gives another brief talk, describing what to expect when you go inside. A staff member approaches you with questions about where to place cameras in the meeting room, and you quickly become absorbed with making sure everyone knows what to do as you enter the building.

The kids are waiting in the lounge as you file in. You can tell how excited they are from their expressions, and the few muffled squeals that break the silence, but you’re proud of how well they behave. Though many of them are jittery, they stay in their seats around a handful of small tables. Caroline brings the members of BTS to the front of the room, and you notice Yoongi has rejoined the group. A few people squeal again to see the idols right in front of them, and you notice some of the younger kids bouncing in their seats in impatience. Slowly, unobtrusively, you move among them, laying a gentle hand on the occasional wiggly shoulder, smiling reassuringly, and generally trying to calm them down as Caroline presents BTS.

They focus when the artists introduce themselves, listening raptly as each provides a brief introductory statement. Then each member joins a table. You move slowly around the room, observing the interactions, keeping an eye out for an overexcited kid or any sign of trouble. But things seem to go smoothly as each member chats for a while with the kids at their table before getting up and moving on to the next group.

You pause at Taehyung’s table. Though he was silent when you met him, and didn’t say much in his introduction, he’s come alive now, talking with animation to the kids, asking them questions in his husky voice, teasing them into giggles. When it’s time for him to move on, he stands up and bows to each of them, formally offering his hand to shake.

You’re so charmed that you don’t realize someone is hovering right behind you, waiting to take Taehyung’s chair when he leaves. You only become aware when a low voice speaks in your ear.

“He’s good, isn’t he?” You turn, startled, and your heart jumps as you realize it’s Yoongi. You move out of his way, cursing your quickening pulse. But as he eases past you to reach the seat, you can’t help inhaling, ever so slightly, just enough to catch the scent of his hair. He smells divine, like something outdoorsy, but with a hint of citrus. You lean a bit closer, wanting more, but then he turns towards you, and you snap upright again.

God, now you’re being creepy.

“Tae is a tough act to follow,” Yoongi says in an aside, shooting you a wry grin that has your stomach swooping again. He sits down and immediately starts to talk with the kids. They don’t seem at all disappointed in him, even if he’s not Taehyung. After a moment, he looks up at you, winking when he sees you’re still watching. You turn away quickly, moving on to the next table and hoping nobody notices the flush on your cheeks.

You spend the rest of the event avoiding Yoongi. It’s not hard, because your body’s antennae have completely tuned in to him, tracking his every move. Even with your back turned, you’re almost painfully aware of where he is in the room every moment. It’s his voice that keeps finding its way through the crowd to your ears, his laugh that makes your knees weaken a little every time you hear it. At one point, you can’t help but turn your head in his direction, and surprisingly, you find him watching you too. Your cheeks grow hot once again, and you quickly look away from his amused expression. You don’t think you’ve reacted to a guy this way since you were still in school.

Jimin approaches you at the end of the event, offering another one of his shy smiles layered with flirtation.

“That was fun,” he tells you, somehow implying with his eyes that he can think of other fun things he’d like to do with you. It’s flattering, but you aren’t affected like you were when you first met him. Instead, your attention is completely diverted by Yoongi standing on the other side of the room, laughing at something Seokjin says. God, even his laugh is sexy. With an effort, you wrench your gaze back to Jimin.

“I’m glad you had a good time,” you answer. “You guys did a great job talking with the kids.”

“They’re so sweet!” he raves. “It seems like they’re really our fans.”

“Oh, they are,” you assure him. “Last year, we asked what musical artist they most wanted to meet, and BTS was the top choice.” Jimin smiles even more widely, looking embarrassed but pleased, and you can’t help grinning in return. He’s as sweet as the kids are.

“I’d like to hear more about them,” he suggests suddenly. “If you have time, I’d love to talk with you some more. Maybe when this is over?”

He’s still beaming at you, and you internally curse Hannah for being right with all her predictions. Somebody from BTS is looking at you with more than professional interest, after all. And had you known a couple of hours ago that it would be Jimin, you would have been pleasurably excited. But now, all you can think is that he’s not the one you want to get to know better. Your eyes drift back to Yoongi, and yet again, he’s watching you, though this time there’s no smile on his face.

You jump, startled, as Caroline suddenly claps her hands to get the kids’ attention. Jimin laughs beside you, and you glance at him, realizing you’re blushing again. Seriously, what is wrong with you? Jimin probably thinks it’s because of him. As least you don’t have to answer him, since the event is wrapping up. Namjoon is the last member still remaining at a table, and only because he seems to have gotten his leg stuck through the back of a chair, much to the amusement of the kids. You shoot Jimin what you hope looks like a regretful smile as you hurry to help Namjoon extricate himself.

Once he’s free, he and the others join Caroline at the front of the room as she gives a few more remarks. She offers effusive thanks for their time, and then the members leave amidst a flurry of waves and finger hearts to their audience. The camera crew and other staff file out after them. You hang back a moment to give the kids an approving thumbs-up, then you follow the rest of the group out to the driveway and fall in behind them as they start the trek back to the office.

You hone in on both Jimin and Yoongi, their pink and silver hair standing out amidst the crowd of dark heads. Both of them seem to be looking for someone, and you duck your head, afraid you might be their target. You don’t want Jimin to continue your interrupted conversation, because if he asks you again for your time, you’ll just have to say no. But you’re even more afraid to talk to Yoongi. If that man asks you for anything at all, you know you should say no, but you’ll be entirely too tempted to say yes.

To save yourself, you engage a BTS staff member in conversation, asking if she got some good photos. And somehow, Hoseok jumps in, teasing the photographer about how she must secretly hate him because she always takes pictures of him with his mouth hanging open. He has you both giggling madly with his impressions of what he claims all his pictures look like, eyes wide and mouth gaping like a fish. His antics slow your progress, making the three of you the last to arrive at the office.

When you get there, you see that most of BTS have huddled around Caroline, while their staff members are starting to load equipment into the SUVs. As you and Hoseok hurry to join them, you notice Yoongi isn’t with the others. You spot him standing by the cars, looking through a bag held by one of the staff. Though you’ve been trying not to talk to Yoongi again, you’re disappointed when he doesn’t come back to say good-bye with the others. And then you kick yourself for being upset. Do you really think because he spoke to you a couple times, and shared a few electric moments of eye contact, now he owes you something?

You recall your attention to the conversation as Namjoon offers his hand to Caroline, and then to you. Hoseok gives you an appreciative thanks, and Jimin graces you with one last smile, full of hints and compliments, and they take their leave.

The members head towards the SUVs, and you and Caroline walk up the steps to the office. You resist turning back for one last glimpse of Yoongi. Sure, he’s incredibly good-looking. But the reality is that after tomorrow, you’re never going to see him again.

“That went very smoothly.” As you enter the building, Caroline’s pleased comment breaks into your thoughts. “Y/N, you did a wonderful job organizing this. Do you still need anything for tomorrow?”

“Everything is covered,” you assure her. “I have a few phone calls to make before I leave tonight, just to confirm the food will be delivered on time. But the set-up is already complete. I was there this morning doing a walk-through, and the auditorium looks perfect.”

“I knew you’d have it under control. If you don’t need me, I’m going to slip out a little early. I have a salon appointment tonight. I’ve got to have my hair looking perfect, too!”

She gives your arm a quick squeeze before heading into her office to collect her things. You head over to the reception desk and ask Audrey for your messages. You say goodnight to her, since it’s already 4:30, and she’ll be leaving at 5:00 when the building closes. Then you return to your office to get back to work. You’ve got a long night ahead of you.

Chapter Text

After making your calls, you become absorbed in updating the event’s budget spreadsheet. You don’t even notice when your office door opens, until a soft voice says your name. You look up to find Audrey standing by your desk. When you glance at the clock, you’re surprised to see it’s 5:30.

“What are you still doing here?” you ask, and she smiles a little nervously.

“I wasn’t sure what to do about the guy in the lobby,” she explains. “I didn’t want to leave him alone out there.”

“What guy?” you ask, and now Audrey looks surprised.

“One of the ones from earlier. He came back in when the others left and asked if he could use the tables to work on something. But he doesn’t seem to be finished, and I need to get going. I thought you knew about it?”

She trails off questioningly, and you shake your head a bit, rising to your feet. “I didn’t know anyone was still here,” you tell Audrey. “Next time, just call me. Remember, I won’t expect you to stay late without clearing it with you first. You can go now, and I’ll take care of this guy.”

The two of you head back to the lobby. “Are you sure you’ll be ok if I leave?” Audrey asks in a low voice. “Nobody else is here.”

You smile at her. “I’ll be fine. It must be one of the BTS staffers, and I’m sure they’re not dangerous.”

You suspect this has something to do with the gifts Yoongi was worried about earlier. He must have talked to his staff about making up the shortage. You don’t mind if someone works here, since you’ll be around for a few more hours anyway. But you need to check in with him, maybe move him to a conference room so you can keep an eye on him.

When you reach the lobby, Audrey points out a man sitting at a table in the corner, hunched over what looks like paperwork. And even though his back is to you, you realize immediately that it’s not a staffer, but Yoongi himself. You stop dead, all your nerves from earlier flooding back and paralyzing your body momentarily. Audrey looks at you curiously.

“Are you sure you’ll be ok?” she repeats, and you shake yourself out of it.

“No, I’m good. You go,” you assure her, giving her a gentle push towards the door. Although honestly, you want to keep her, because you’re not sure how well you’ll hold it together if you’re alone with the most gorgeous guy you’ve ever met.

But that moment of doubt is enough to galvanize you into action. You’re a professional; you’ve met handsome, talented, even famous men before, and you haven’t embarrassed yourself yet. You can deal with this one, too. You stride briskly over to where Yoongi sits at the table. He turns at the sound of your heels and his whole face lights up, almost causing you to freeze again.

But you’ve settled your professional mask firmly in place. Instead of smiling in return, you frown slightly, mostly to hide the fact that your heart is pounding. Yoongi’s own smile dims at your reaction.

“Do you need me to go?” he asks, shooting a glance at Audrey as she exits the building with a wave. “The cars took the others to the next appointment, but one of them is coming back for me. Really,” he continues, glancing at his watch, “it’s probably already here. I can get out of the way if you’re ready to leave.”

“No, I’ll still be here a while,” you say absently, your eyes scanning the items on the table. You see stacks of notecards, and more stacks of little plastic gift cards from what looks like Footlocker. Yoongi seems to be hand-writing messages into each notecard. Seven or eight sealed envelopes are stacked at one side, neatly lettered on the outside with “BTS” and a few Korean characters.

You pick up one of the gift cards and turn it over, but it doesn’t have an amount on it. “What exactly are you doing with all these?” you ask in curiosity, and Yoongi hands you the note he just finished writing. You open the card and read, ‘Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it.’ The signature, oddly, is Seokjin’s.

“We had thirty-five gifts prepared,” Yoongi explains, “and I asked staff to go buy me enough letters and gift cards to make at least another sixty.” He nods his head at several eight-pack boxes of notecards, most of them open on the table. “Now I’m adding personalized messages, and putting them into envelopes with the gift cards.”

“And you’re forging Jin’s signature?” you ask, flipping the card around for him to see. Yoongi laughs.

“Of course not. I asked the others to each open up a box of cards and sign them before they left. I’m just adding the messages, and I’ll sign the last couple packs myself.”

“How much money is on each gift card?” you ask as you hand the note back to him.

“Fifty dollars,” he tells you, and your jaw drops.

“Oh, but that’s crazy,” you protest, without thinking about being diplomatic. “You can’t give out such expensive gifts.”

Yoongi just picks up a gift card and slides it and the finished note into an envelope. “And why not?” he asks, glancing back up at you as he lays the card to the side. His lips are jutting out a bit.

“You’re already making a substantial donation just by doing this concert. To give such a huge amount of money to almost a hundred kids is too much.”

“It’s not a huge amount of money,” he counters. “Fifty dollars is barely enough to buy a decent pair of shoes. Nice shoes are a big deal when you’re young, and these kids probably can’t afford to spend much, right?”

You nod reluctantly. “Definitely not when they’re living here. We have a really tight budget for clothing. The ones in foster care probably get more choices.”

“Well, this will help them all have more choices. Believe me, I know what it’s like not to be able to afford what you want. Or even what you need. A gift card might in some small way bring them joy. So how can you say no to that?”

He tries another smile, more tentative than the one he welcomed you with, and you realize how rude you’re being. When you think about it, even though five thousand dollars is almost two months’ salary to you, it probably doesn’t make much of a dent in Yoongi’s bank account. If he wants to make the donation, you should let him. The kids really will appreciate it.

“Ok,” you finally agree, and he grins outright, pleased by his win. And your traitorous heart starts pounding again, and your lips betray you too, as they curve into a smile to match his. You have to drop your eyes because somehow, he’s melted right through your professionalism.

Yoongi follows your gaze to the stack of finished cards. He reaches out and flicks one long finger through the envelopes, counting them up. “This isn’t going as quickly as I thought it would,” he admits. “Are you really planning to be here a while longer? Or do you want me to go?”

You survey the table’s contents again, the haphazard stacks of gift cards and notes, the amount of work still left to be done. And you spare a quick glance at the man responsible for the chaos, sitting there with his gorgeous lips still quirked in a smile as he waits for your answer. Surprisingly, there’s a touch of hope in his eyes, like he really wants you to let him stay. And seeing that, you make your decision.

“Why don’t I give you a hand?” you ask easily. You kick off your heels and slide onto the bench opposite him before he can accept. But the pleased look on his face is enough of an affirmative.

“I’ll go let the driver know I’ll be here awhile,” he says, getting to his feet.

“Your driver can come inside,” you offer, but Yoongi shakes his head, laughing.

“I’ll pass that on, but he’s probably happy in the car, watching Netflix on the big screen.”

You laugh too. “You have a big screen TV in your car? That’s terrible.”

“I know. Think how many pairs of shoes that could have bought,” Yoongi says, shaking his head, and causing you to look at him in interest. Not many people think that way. “I’ll be right back.”

Yoongi exits the building and disappears down the front steps. You survey the mess of notes and gift cards in front of you, not sure where to start. Music would be nice, you realize, so you jump up and run to your office to get your cell phone and Bluetooth speaker. You’ve just finished setting things up when Yoongi returns. He eyes the speaker appreciatively.

“Good idea.”

“Do you have any musical preferences?” you ask as you unlock your phone and open Spotify. Yoongi chuckles.

“Of course, but I like hearing other people’s choices, too. It’s like market research. You should play whatever you enjoy.”

You start your current mix of favorite songs, and set the phone to one side as Yoongi starts to organize the cards.

“Why don’t I keep working on the personal notes, and you start stuffing envelopes,” he proposes, and you nod in agreement. He slides a finished notecard to you, and you pull a stack of Footlocker cards to your side of the table, flipping one from the top of the pile to insert into the notecard.

“Do you want me to label the envelopes?”

“If you want to.”

“What do they say?” you query, pointing at the Korean characters on one of the finished gifts. Yoongi looks up in surprise.

“Don’t you know Korean?”

“No,” you answer, also surprised that he would think you do.

“But you gave that speech,” he comments. “And when you were organizing this event, you always communicated with Big Hit in Korean as well as English.”

Again, you wonder how he knows so much about the work that went into planning this. Was he involved with the organizing, too? You never saw any of the members’ names attached to the back-and-forth correspondence.

“I worked with a Korean exchange student from my college,” you explain. “He did the translations for all my communications with Big Hit, and he helped me write and practice my speech. And I have a friend who knows Korean. She helped me practice, too. But I don’t really know the language. I was afraid I would mess up today and say something completely weird.”

Yoongi is looking at you with interest. “You didn’t mess up,” he confirms. “You honestly sounded fluent. You must have practiced a lot.”

The compliment, and the look in his eyes, are causing your face to warm. You drop your gaze back to the envelopes, and Yoongi lays a finger on the Korean printing.

“It says love,” he tells you, and for some reason you flush even more. You keep your head down, focusing on copying the characters to a new envelope. When you’re finished, you turn it to show him.

“Add a line, here,” he says, a half-smile on his face as he points out a mark you missed. You make the correction and he nods in approval before going back to his own writing. You both work in silence for a few minutes, until a Snow Tha Product song starts playing. Yoongi tilts his head, listening as the rapper launches into the first verse.

“Who is this?” he asks in interest, and you tell him, happy to talk about one of your favorite musical artists. You ask him who he’s been listening to recently, figuring music talk is a good way to pass the time as you work.

And you’re not wrong. Yoongi is voluble about American and Korean artists alike, especially rappers. You can’t help feeling a little pleased with yourself when you find you know as much about hip hop as he does. Or at least when it comes to the American acts; Yoongi is much more knowledgeable about Korean artists. After a while, he tells you all about TXT, a group Big Hit debuted a couple months earlier, and recommends a couple of their songs to add to your playlist. He pauses when a song by one of your newest favorite rappers starts playing.

“I really like this,” he comments.

“This is Trouble in Central, by Buddy. Have you heard of him?”

“No, but I like the way he sounds.”

“I don’t think enough people know about him,” you sigh. I only discovered his music recently, but I already love it.”

“I can see why. I’ll have to listen to some more of his work. You know a lot about hip-hop,” he adds.

“And that’s surprising?” you ask.

“I guess I would have expected more Taylor Swift, or Halsey.”

“I love Halsey,” you say. “And so do a lot of the kids here. They like pop, so I listen to it to keep up with them. But hip-hop and R&B are my favorites. So you can stop stereotyping me now.”

Yoongi laughs. “I’m sorry. I should know better after talking to the kids today. I asked them about the music they like, and a lot of their favorites surprised me too. I shouldn’t make assumptions.”

“Oh, well, kids. I learned not to make assumptions about them a long time ago,” you say wryly. “I never know what they’re going to say next.”

“I know. One of them asked me today if my mom named me Suga because she likes sugar in her coffee. It was funny. Wrong, but funny.”

“So your mom doesn’t like sugar in her coffee?” you ask, amused.

“I don’t even know. I don’t see a whole lot of her. Although I hope the answer is no, because drinking coffee any way except plain black is just wrong.”

“I agree,” you say fervently. “Well, unless it’s a peppermint white mocha latte from Starbucks.”

Yoongi grimaces. “Starbucks is my favorite, but not lattes. Especially the ones with obnoxious names like that.”

“Well, what do you like at Starbucks?”

“I always get an iced Americano.”

“Mmmm.” You smile happily. “I like those too. Or just a straight-up cup of black coffee. I think that’s my one addiction. Well, that and work,” you add, looking around and recalling how many hours a week you spend in this office building.

Yoongi smiles a bit as he slides you another notecard. “You and I share addictions."

You bend over the card to hide your own smile. You’re surprised by how easy he is to talk to. You’ve been growing more and more comfortable in his presence, even though your heart still skips a beat every time he smiles at you, like now. He’s just so incredibly gorgeous, and yet he sits there and works, and chats with you, like he’s an ordinary person.

“Why don’t you see your mom?” you ask after a while, breaking the silence that has fallen. You’re surprised at your daring in asking a more personal question, but Yoongi doesn’t hesitate to answer.

“We don’t get much time off. A day here and there, but we haven’t had a real vacation since before we debuted.”

“When did you debut?” you ask.

“2013,” he replies, and you purse your lips in a silent whistle. That’s impossibly long. Even you’ve taken vacations in that span of time.

“We were training and working on our first album for a long time before that,” Yoongi continues. Basically, it’s been seven years since I’ve had more than the occasional weekend to do what I want. And when I do get time off, I still spend too much of it working on music, and not as much as I should with family and friends.”

You nod in understanding. It sounds like he really does share your workaholic tendencies.

“I see my parents more than I used to,” Yoongi continues. “They moved to Seoul a couple years ago. Before that, they were living in Daegu, where I grew up, and I never saw them. What about you?” he asks, turning the tables on you. “Are you close with your family?”

You hesitate, not sure how honest you should be. Family, for you, is a foreign term, but you don’t like to talk about that, especially with people you just met. Usually you just make some comment about your family being ordinary, and then change the subject. But for some reason, you don’t want to lie to this man. You finally decide to give him an abbreviated version of your childhood.

“I never knew my dad. My mom raised me alone, without help from her family. And she couldn’t care for me all the time, so I was actually in a home like this for a little bit, and then foster care. When my mom was doing better, I went back to her.”

The quiet sympathy in Yoongi’s eyes somehow makes you feel defensive.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” you tell him. “Because I got to go home again. A lot of the kids who live here will never have that chance. They have to live with the fact that they have nobody. Except us. And maybe, if they’re really fortunate, there’s a new family in their future. But it doesn’t happen often enough, especially for the older kids. I think my experience growing up is why I work so hard here. I know what a lot of these kids are going through, how hard it is to feel like they don’t have their own place in the world.”

You stop with a frown, worried because you’ve volunteered more than you usually do. Not everyone likes to hear if you’ve had a less than perfect life. But Yoongi doesn’t look uncomfortable, only contemplative.

“That makes sense,” he says, almost to himself.

“What does?” you ask, feeling defensive. He meets your eyes quickly.

“I mean, I understand a little more about why you’ve worked so hard on this event. It’s obvious that it’s very important to you.”

“Yes,” you agree, softening. “It’s probably too important. I mean, there’s only so much I can do. But some of these kids…god, they deserve so much more than what they’re getting out of life right now. There’s this one boy, Spencer, who is so…good. He’s only fourteen, but he takes care of everyone here. He’s their big brother, their dad, even their mom. He cares. And he deserves to be cared for like that too. But almost nobody adopts kids his age. Especially boys. I’m afraid he’ll be here until he’s eighteen. And after that, he’ll be on his own.”

You stop, realizing you’re spilling your emotional baggage all over Yoongi. But when you look at him, he still has the same sympathy in his eyes, and interest. He’s really listening, so you continue.

“We have a girl, Madison, who’s already eighteen. When she graduates from high school at the end of the month, she’ll have to move out. And she’ll be on her own too. She hasn’t found her place yet. I’ve been trying for over a year to convince her to go to college. But her grades aren’t the best, and she was rejected from the first school she applied to. After that, she gave up.”

“Have you given up, too?”

“No! I’ve been pushing her to fill out more applications, or at least go to community college. But she’ll have to work her way through, and I think she’s afraid she can’t do it all.” You sigh, remembering the conversations you’ve had with Madison, the hopelessness in her eyes when you mention college applications.

“Anyway,” you continue, “the fact that BTS is doing our concert tomorrow is huge. You’ve gotten us so much publicity. We’re even going to have news teams there. I hope the results will be really good. More adoptions. Or at least more donations. I’ve been working with Caroline to establish a college fund for the kids who stay here until they reach their majority. Tomorrow, we might get enough money to really move forward with that.”

“Is college so important, then?” Yoongi asks, and you pause, considering his question.

“In general, yes. It opens doors. And it opens minds. Madison hasn’t had much exposure to all the possibilities life offers. If she doesn’t make it to college, I’m afraid she’ll get stuck in the same kind of life she grew up in. And it wasn’t a good life. That’s why she ended up here.

“If she does go, she’ll have a chance of discovering something more, something better. So it’s something I want for her. For all of them.”

You decide you’ve definitely overshared now, and you apologize for rambling. But Yoongi still doesn’t seem bothered. He simply regards you for a moment longer before turning his attention to the stack of finished gifts, pulling them towards his side of the table and counting them up.

“We’re getting close,” he tells you. “Thank you for the help. This goes a lot faster with two people.”

You smile in acknowledgement. Yoongi opens a new pack of notecards and starts writing in one. You notice it’s the last pack. You really are close to the end. But rather than being relieved, you’re a little sad, because when you’re finished, he’ll leave.

As he passes the note to you, Yoongi tilts his head, listening to the newest song that drifts out of the speaker. “Ok, this whole playlist is fantastic,” he says. “Are you streaming something or did you make this?”

“I made it,” you tell him. “Just a bunch of my favorite songs.”

“I need to see the list. Can I?” He holds out his hand, fingers gesturing for you to pass your phone to him. After a moment, you comply, unlocking your screen and placing the phone into his palm. His fingers brush against yours and you shiver. Fortunately, he’s too eager to start scrolling through your playlist to notice. You watch him peruse the contents, muttering to himself. “You like Epik High?” he asks, glancing up at you.

“Very much,” you reply, and he shoots you a look of approval before dropping his gaze back to your phone.

“What’s Japanese Breakfast?” he asks in another minute.

“She’s kind of an indie singer,” you explain. “I love her.” Yoongi stabs a finger at the screen and Essentially begins playing. You smile hopefully at him as you wait to see if he likes it, but after a minute, he wrinkles his nose in judgment and stabs again. Kendrick Lamar’s Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe starts to play, and you dissolve into laughter.

“Better,” Yoongi mutters, continuing to scroll. “Do you have more Snow Tha Product?”

“Definitely. Try Holy Shit.”

Yoongi smirks at you. “You don’t look like someone whose favorite songs all have curse words in the titles.”

“You’re still stereotyping!” you accuse him, and he shakes his head in defense, laughing. He starts the song you suggested, and you finish sealing the completed card into an envelope.

Since he’s still distracted with your phone, you take advantage of the break to stand up and stretch your arms above your head, trying to ease the slight pain between your shoulder blades. Yoongi glances up, a concerned look on his face.

“Are you getting tired?” He looks at his watch. “Wow, it’s after 7:00. I’m really keeping you from your evening. I can finish this back at the hotel.”

You watch as he stands up and starts to gather the completed cards, placing them carefully into one of the empty bags. You think about what you’d be doing if he hadn’t been here. You’d be holed up in your office, checking and double-checking every last detail of the concert tomorrow. And sadly, even if you didn’t have a big event scheduled, you’d probably still be at work. That’s the pattern of your life: work too late, order take-out, make your weary way home, collapse into bed, and get up the next day just to do it all over again. No, he’s not keeping you from anything.

“I don’t mind staying to finish this,” you volunteer. “There’s not much left to do.”

Yoongi pauses in his work, tilting his head to study you.

“Are you hungry, at least?” he finally asks. “I just realized I’m starving. Let me buy you some dinner, to thank you for the help. Is there someplace nearby? Or anyplace that delivers?”

Your heart beats a little faster at the thought of having dinner with him. You know it’s dangerous to your already susceptible emotions, but it’s too tempting to resist.

“Ok, but I’m buying.” He looks like he’s going to disagree, but you stop him before he can speak. “You can’t possibly object after you’ve spent so much money on all this.” You gesture at the bags and stacks of cards spread out on the table, and Yoongi dips his head in acknowledgement, a half-smile on his face.

You head into your office to retrieve your well-used stack of take-out menus, and return to hand them to Yoongi. You notice that he’s taller than you after all, now that you’ve shed your stilettos. His shoulders are broad for someone so slender, and you can’t help imagining how good his arms would feel wrapped around you, how perfectly you could fit if he pulled you against his chest. As he takes the menus from you, his fingers touch yours again, and for the second time a thrill runs down your spine. You turn away quickly, chastising yourself for ogling him like a fangirl. He’s probably tired of getting that kind of reaction from people. And he’s not like Jimin, flirting with you, shooting you suggestive looks, asking you to talk with him. Yoongi’s only here because he wants to get the job done, not because he wants to get to know you.

And yet…why does it feel like he has gotten to know you? And you’ve gotten to know him? You can’t stop a morsel of hope from warming in your chest. If Jimin finds you attractive, maybe Yoongi can too?

Yoongi is flipping through the menus, seemingly oblivious to your inner struggle. When he gets to the end of the stack, he shoots you an apologetic look.

“This might sound weird, but do you know any good Korean restaurants? We’ve been travelling long enough that I’m a little tired of American food.”

You sigh internally, squashing the hope again. He’s not looking at you suggestively at all. He didn’t ask you to have dinner with him for any special reason. He’s just hungry. Picking up your phone, you Google a nearby Korean BBQ place. You hand the phone back to Yoongi once the menu is pulled up on screen, being careful to avoid touching him a third time.

“I’ve only been here once, so I don’t really know if it’s good or not,” you warn him, but Yoongi seems pleased with the menu options.

“It looks pretty authentic to me,” he says.

“In that case, do you want to order for me?” you ask, a little hesitantly. “You’ll probably know what dishes are the best.”

Yoongi looks up with interest. “That’s brave of you. Is there anything you can’t eat?” You shake your head. “Do you like things hot?”

“If you mean spicy, then yes, definitely,” you reply, and he smiles just wickedly enough that you start to worry. But it’s too late to back out; Yoongi is already pulling out his own phone and dialing the number of the restaurant. He orders in Korean, reading off the dishes he wants from your phone, seemingly extending the conversation with some side chat. You listen, mesmerized by his low voice, and the soothing cadence of a language that feels familiar, though you don’t know most of the words. You’ve spent enough time prepping your speech, and even more, listening to music from BTS and other Korean groups, that the syllables are comforting, recognizable even when you can’t understand them.

“What’s the address here?” he asks you in English, breaking into your trance. You supply it, and he passes on the information and ends the call. “Food should be here in 30 minutes,” he tells you. “I think we can finish this by then.”

Yoongi sits down and starts working on a new card. You join him at the table and wait for him to pass it to you when he’s finished.

“Where are the rest of the members tonight?” you ask curiously, and Yoongi glances up at you, a wry smile on his lips.

“You mean, why are you the one helping with this instead of their lazy asses?” he jokes, and you immediately start to protest. But he only laughs and returns to his work. “We had a meeting scheduled tonight with a brand promoter. Big Hit wants us to sign an advertising contract with a couple of new companies. I hate that kind of thing, so I was more than happy to do this instead.”

“Isn’t that kind of an important meeting to attend?” you ask in concern.

“Yeah, but they don’t need me there. They can make the decisions, and I’ll sign the papers later. I’m really bad at promoting anyway; I tend to just buy what I want, wear what I want, without thinking about our sponsorships. This kind of thing,” he pauses, nodding at the cards. “This is the only thing I care about promoting, something that’ll do some good for people, not just put more money in rich people’s pockets.”

You gaze at him in awe, not forgetting that he’s rich himself, and that signing an advertising contract will put more money in his own pocket. But he dismisses it so casually, choosing instead to spend his money, and his time, to make sure a few unknown foster kids feel a little bit special the next day. It’s not what you were expecting from someone so famous. It’s not what you expect from most people.

As Yoongi slides a card across the table to you, he glances up and notices you staring. You look down in embarrassment, realizing he’s already done three more cards and you haven’t started putting them into envelopes yet.

“Are you ok?” he asks gently, though he’s got just a hint of a smile on his face. You wonder if he’s starting to notice how much he flusters you.

“I’m fine. I just like what you said about caring. Practically my entire job is trying to get people to care about these kids, enough to offer one of them a home, or at least enough to donate money, or time. But you don’t need any convincing to help them. You just do it effortlessly.”

Yoongi leans back in his seat, regarding you thoughtfully.

“I did need convincing,” he tells you. “You’re the one who convinced me, and all of us, to come here. Do you remember the letter you sent, last year, requesting a concert?”

You nod, puzzled.

“You must know we get dozens of requests like that, every month. Our communications team goes through them all and selects the ones that seem most in line with our message, and that don’t already conflict with our schedule. They give us, the members, a handful of requests to review each quarter, and we decide which events we’ll accept. When we read your letter, your words were so powerful that we all immediately agreed we wanted to do this concert.”

You remember that letter, of course. After the kids chose BTS as the top group they’d like to meet, you spent weeks crafting your request. You researched BTS to figure out their story, thought about the lives of the kids at your home, and pretty much poured your heart into drawing parallels, hoping to make a connection. You knew it worked when Big Hit accepted your request, but you had no idea it worked as well as Yoongi is saying.

When you don’t respond, he seems to realize you’re embarrassed again, and he turns his attention back to the notecards. You join him, grabbing another envelope and bending to pen the Korean word for love. You work studiously after that, only pausing to turn the music back on, and occasionally comment on one of the songs. You’re almost finished by the time dinner arrives.

You pay the delivery service and haul the bags of food inside. Yoongi labels the last few envelopes while you unwrap the dishes and set them out on the next table.

“Do you want something to drink?” you ask him. “We have all kinds of soda, some bottled water, lemonade.”

“I like Coke, if you have it.” He starts packing up the finished gifts as you head to the kitchen. You return with two Cokes, a couple glasses of ice, and some paper plates and napkins. Yoongi joins you at the table and starts opening the carry out containers. You don’t know what he ordered, but it smells heavenly, and you realize how hungry you are. He points out the dishes for you.

“This is beef bulgogi, tofu kimchi pork, japchae noodles, and domi maenuntang. Fish stew,” he clarifies, grinning at your blank expression. “I ordered it extra spicy.”

There’s a challenge in his eyes, so you help yourself to the stew first, heaping a generous portion onto your plate and taking a bite. And yeah, it sets your mouth on fire, but it’s incredibly tasty, underneath the heat. You nod in approval, and Yoongi looks mildly impressed. He starts to fill his own plate, taking some of everything he ordered. You finish the stew, though it practically makes you cry, and then you sample the other dishes. You don’t like the kimchi, much to Yoongi’s disappointment, but everything else is delicious.

“If you haven’t grown up with kimchi, you have to learn to like it,” he tells you at the end of the meal, emptying the last of the dish in question onto his plate. There’s lots more food in the other containers, but you’re too stuffed to take any. And after he finishes the kimchi pork, Yoongi declines another helping, leaning back in his chair and sighing decadently.

“That tasted like home,” he comments, shutting his eyes, and you take advantage of the opportunity to study his face. You realize he looks tired, and you marvel again that he would devote his precious time to putting the gifts together. Especially while he’s on tour, and surely getting pulled in a dozen directions at once, never getting any time to relax.

He opens his eyes again and catches you staring, but you don’t look away.

“The kids will be so happy, and impressed, when they get your gifts tomorrow,” you assure him. “Thank you for spending so much time to make sure you have enough for everyone.”

Yoongi’s eyes crinkle in a smile as he studies your face. “And thank you for helping,” he says softly. “You really didn’t have to do all this, or even let me work here. But I appreciate it. Thank you for dinner, too. It was good.” He stretches his arms over his head, sighing again, before he gets to his feet. “You look tired,” he comments, and you start, since you were just thinking the same about him. “So, I will…finally…get out of your way.”

He helps you gather the trash from your meal into a tidy pile and close up the remaining take-out boxes. You join him as he moves to the other table to collect the bags of gifts, but he waves away your offer to help carry them. You walk him to the door, opening it for him since his hands are full. Yoongi pauses at the top of the steps, turning to face you.

“It’s after dark. Do you have a car? Or can we give you a ride home?”

“No, I have a car,” you assure him. “It’s in the back.”

“I’ll put these away and come back and walk you out,” he offers, but you shake your head. You don’t plan on leaving just yet, since you interrupted your work earlier.

“I’ll be fine, really,” you tell him. “I leave work after dark all the time. There’s no one nearby to bother me, and my car is right behind the building.”

He hesitates, and you smile to reassure him. “It’s quiet around here. And there are guards and other staff down the road at the dorm. You don’t have to worry.”

“Ok,” he says finally. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” He smiles too, sending your pulse into overdrive one last time, before turning to run lightly down the steps. You close the door slowly, still thinking about Yoongi as you walk back to take the remains of the meal to the kitchen. Now that he’s gone, you’re replaying every moment of the night, every word of your conversation. You can’t believe you opened up to him like you did, talking so much about the kids here, and even your own life. Usually it takes you months before you’ll tell people anything about your childhood.

For some reason, despite how attractive you find him, you’re comfortable around Yoongi. You almost wish he could have stayed all night, just so you could keep talking, keep hearing his voice, keep seeing his face sitting across the table from you. But of course, that’s impossible. You stifle a sigh, reminding yourself again that after tomorrow, he’ll be gone. There’s no point in getting your hopes up. Sternly, you direct your thoughts back to your responsibilities, returning to your office to finish your final check of the details for tomorrow’s show.

Chapter Text

The next afternoon, a couple hours before the fan meet, you’re closeted in the dressing room behind the stage, poring over your checklists, nervous that you’ve missed something. You’ve been at the venue since six am, working non-stop, and you think everything is finally ready. BTS staffers have been swarming all over the place, reviewing security measures, testing the lighting, doing sound checks. Your own staff is under strict orders to get them whatever they need, and so far, things are going smoothly. The food is on the way. Caroline’s speech already at the podium on stage. The guest and volunteer lists triple checked.

“Are you hiding in here?”

Your head snaps up in shock as a voice breaks the silence. Yoongi is standing in the doorway, holding a couple of Starbucks cups. He smiles at your reaction and comes towards you, causing your breath to catch in your throat. He’s even more beautiful than he was yesterday, in his concert clothes, with his hair artfully waved.

“This is for you,” he says. “They didn’t have that white – peppermint – chocolate – whatever thing you said you like. Out of season, I guess. I got you a grown-up coffee instead.”

You look down in wonder at the cup he’s holding out. “Grown-up coffee?” you repeat. “Did you put alcohol in it?”

“No,” he says, looking at you like you’re weird. “It’s plain black coffee. No sugar or whipped cream. The way people should drink it.”

“It’s the way I like to drink it,” you admit, taking the cup from him gratefully.

“I know,” he says. “You told me.”

You glance at him as you inhale the delicious scent of the dark roast. He looks pleased with himself, and honestly, he has reason to be. Nobody ever brings you coffee.

“You also said you had a lot of work to do last night,” Yoongi continues, and you frown.

“I never said that.”

“I read between the lines. But you still spent hours helping me. I was afraid you’d keep working for too long after I left, and not get enough sleep. So…” he shrugs, tilting his head at the coffee.

You just stare at him in awe. How did he know you would go back to work last night? And stay at it until well after midnight? And that you could use a cup of coffee so damn badly right now? You’ve only just met him; there’s no way he can already read you this well. Yet, somehow, he has.

“Anyway,” he says, when you don’t answer, “we’re all here.”

“Of course,” you say, snapping out of it. “I’ll be right out.”

“Take your time. The crew has us running through sound checks. They’ll probably need us for a little bit. But then we’ll be at your disposal.” He grins, and you smile back.

“In that case, I’m going to have a private moment with this cup of coffee before I get back to work. Thank you,” you say, hoping he can tell how grateful you are. “This was really thoughtful of you.”

He shrugs modestly as he heads for the door. “It was nothing. Don’t have too much fun with that coffee,” he adds, raising one amused eyebrow before he disappears, leaving you laughing to yourself.

You take more than a moment; you give yourself a whole seven minutes to savor the life-giving coffee as you finish double-checking your list. Then you head back to the stage area, noting immediately that the chaos level has quadrupled since you left. The sound checks are in full swing, with Taehyung currently on stage belting out some song you don’t recognize while the techs work over their soundboard. Crew members bustle behind him, repositioning the tables and chairs for the fan meet. Seokjin and Jungkook are waiting their turn to sing down below, and you note the handful of people hovering eagerly near them, probably volunteers who’ve shown up early.

Even as you watch, Jungkook shoves Seokjin in the shoulder, seemingly annoyed at something he said, and they immediately begin play-dueling with their microphones. The volunteers murmur appreciatively and press closer, cell phones held up to capture the moment. They are not supposed to have their phones on them. You look around for your staff, but the ones in sight are already occupied with helping the BTS crew, or desperately holding their ground at the entrance to the auditorium, preventing more people from coming inside. Sighing, you plunge into the fray, mustering all the authority at your disposal to direct the rogue group back to the lobby.

As you herd them up the aisle, you realize Yoongi and Hoseok are sitting a few rows back, slumped unobtrusively in their seats as they laugh at the antics of the two fighting in front of the stage. They look your way, and you shoot them an apologetic glance, embarrassed that your organization broke down enough to let these camera-wielding volunteers get so close to the members. But they both just grin at you, and for some reason, Hoseok gives you a thumbs-up.

Heartened, you manage to get the volunteers out of the auditorium. You find more volunteers already gathering in the lobby. Everyone must be coming early, hoping to get a glimpse of BTS. You quickly corral them all into a side room, and take some time going over the rules, especially the one about no cell phones or cameras. There are a few grumbles, but they disappear when you smilingly remind the group that you have more than enough volunteers, and anyone who doesn’t want to follow the rules is welcome to leave.

Then you head back to the auditorium. Yoongi is on stage now, which is more of a distraction than you need at the moment. You purposefully ignore him, but you can’t help swooning a bit as his deep voice resonates through the big space. You notice Jimin has replaced him in the seats, perched next to Hoseok and watching Yoongi intently. Ignoring him too, you steer to the other side of the auditorium, tracking one of your staff members as she scurries after the BTS crew.

But after you have a brief conversation with her, you turn away to find yourself face to face with Jimin. You jump in surprise, and he chuckles, eyes warming as they meet yours.

“We didn’t find the time to talk yesterday,” he begins, and you nod, smiling, even while you try to think of a polite way to tell him you don’t have time to talk today, either. You notice that the sound crew is beckoning for Hoseok to replace Yoongi on stage. You hope he’s the last one to go, because pretty soon you’ll need all the members to head backstage so you can bring the volunteers in.

“Do you organize a lot of events like this?” Jimin asks, recalling your attention to him. He’s hopped up on a folding table and is contentedly swinging his legs, looking like he’s happy to sit there all day and chat with you.

“We hold a concert like this once a year,” you tell him. “Always with a well-known singer or group. But you guys are the biggest celebrities we’ve ever had, so this is also the largest event we’ve done. And the craziest,” you add, hoping he’ll get the hint that things are too crazy to allow for a conversation right now. You’ve spotted one of your staffers leaning in through the auditorium doors and waving his hand at you. The food has probably arrived, which means you need to go.

But Jimin doesn’t notice that your attention is divided. “What other singers have you had in the past?” he asks in interest.

“John Legend performed last year,” you tell him. “He was excellent. And so nice.” You try to remember who came the year before, but your employee is waving his hand even more frantically, and you decide you really need to excuse yourself.

But before you can say anything to Jimin, Yoongi appears by your side.

“Hey Jimin, can you help me with my mic pack?” he asks, and Jimin frowns a bit.

“Maybe in a minute, hyung?” he suggests. “I’m talking to Y/N.”

“I think she’s pretty busy right now,” Yoongi says mildly. Then he turns to you. “That guy up there is signaling,” he says, nodding in the direction of the auditorium doors. You smile gratefully at him, and an answering smile sparks deep in his eyes. But he keeps a straight face as he looks at Jimin again. “Anyway, we need to get backstage. The event’s going to start soon.”

Jimin sighs, but still gives you a dazzling grin as he hops down from the table, his eyes crinkling cutely as he waves goodbye. He really is attractive, you think, as you hightail it up the aisle to the lobby.

But not as attractive as Yoongi, who’s not only mouth-wateringly handsome, but almost magically perceptive when it comes to knowing what you need. You don’t know how he spotted your agitation from all the way across the room, but once again, you’re grateful.

*****

After the food is set up in the reception hall, you lead the caterers backstage to the “green room” you prepared earlier. The members of BTS have already congregated there, and most of them gather around eagerly as food and beverages are quickly arranged on the waiting tables. The caterers leave as soon as they finish the set-up, but you linger to talk with the group about the upcoming event.

Once they’ve gotten food, that is. Seokjin, Taehyung, and Jungkook immediately attack the buffet. You casually look around for Yoongi, only to spot him in a corner of the room, deep in conversation with Namjoon. You don’t think they’ve even noticed the food. Yoongi certainly hasn’t noticed you yet, at least that you can tell.

But Jimin has. He and Hoseok gravitate to your side rather than to the buffet. Jimin is smiling warmly, as usual, but Hoseok speaks first.

“Is this all really for us?” he asks, grinning hugely, and you nod.

“Of course. I hope it’s ok. I asked Big Hit about your food preferences, but they weren’t very specific. If you want anything you don’t see, let me know, and I’ll send someone to get it.”

“Everything looks so good,” Jimin assures you, and his eyes flick lightly down your body and back, as if implying that you look so good too. But just as you’re expecting some sly comment, he laughs merrily, his attention turning to Seokjin and the impressively loaded plate in his hands. “Seokjin thinks the food is ok,” he jokes.

Hoseok’s smile instantly drops from his face as he notices the plate, too.

“You’re not eating all that! You won’t be able to dance!” he scowls, and you raise an eyebrow at the lightning change from his normal laidback demeanor to that of an exacting dance instructor. But Seokjin seems used to it. He quickly shoves an appetizer into his mouth, obviously intending to eat as much as he can before Hoseok stops him. Jungkook and Taehyung insert themselves into your group, and when Hoseok sees the similar amounts of food on their plates, he sighs in resignation.

“We’ll be ok,” Jimin assures him. “It’s a short concert. Come on, we should eat, too.” He drags Hoseok over to the buffet with him, and Seokjin smiles at you, triumphant from his win.

“Thank you for bringing all of this for us,” he says charmingly. “I don’t think we’ve ever had such a nice selection at an event like this.”

“Or even at bigger ones,” Taehyung adds, and you look at him in surprise. He notices your expression and offers an explanation. “In America, sometimes we get overlooked. Or…” he pauses, searching for the word he wants. “looked down at? I’ve had people treat me like I’m not even human, just because my English isn’t so good.”

Your mouth falls open. BTS is so huge, you’d expect people worldwide to fawn over the group, to give them whatever they asked and more. But you guess you’ve underestimated the power of xenophobia in your country.

“I’m sorry that’s happened to you,” you say softly. “I think anyone who would treat you that way is an idiot. Especially if you’re doing something to help them, like you are for the Clary Foundation. And your English is excellent, by the way,” you tell him, sad that he’d think it’s not. Maybe that’s why he didn’t say anything when you first met him. Or maybe he just didn’t want to waste time on another American who was probably going to treat him like nothing.

“It’s not that bad. Most people in America are very welcoming,” Seokjin assures you.

Jungkook has been eating steadily throughout the conversation, but now he shakes his head. “But Taehyung is right about some of them,” he disagrees. Then he looks over your shoulder. “Namjoon-hyung, tell Miss Y/L/N about the time the reporter made fun of your English.”

You whirl around, to find both Namjoon and Yoongi standing just behind you. You were so caught up in dismay at Taehyung’s comments that your Yoongi-radar failed you. Now you’re unprepared to meet him face-to-face, and you feel yourself flushing under the weight of his gaze.

“Y/N doesn’t need to hear that old story,” Namjoon objects, clearly wanting to move on from the topic, like Seokjin.

“Not so old. It was only last October,” Yoongi says mildly. His eyes are contemplative as they still study you. Quickly you step back to make room for him and Namjoon to join the circle, and the whole group shifts slightly as Jimin and Hoseok also return with their food.

“I wanted to see if you have any questions before the event begins,” you say, and watch as they all glance at each other, shaking their heads slightly.

“I think you and your staff have already prepared us very well. We know what to expect,” Namjoon tells you, and you smile at the compliment.

“I won’t be in the auditorium most of the time, but I’ve assigned someone to stay with you throughout the event. If you need anything at all that she can’t get for you, she’ll let me or Caroline know, and we’ll come to help.”

“You won’t get to watch our show?” Jimin asks, his smile both charming and regretful at once. You smile in return.

“I hope to see as much as I can, but I’ll have other responsibilities to attend to. But like I said, send for me if you need anything. I’m going to get back to work now, unless there’s anything…?” You trail off, looking around once more, but they all shake their heads, so with a quick wave goodbye, you head for the door.

“Y/N,” a voice calls, just as you pass through to the stage area. You turn back to see Yoongi moving towards you. “I do have one question,” he says. He follows you through the doorway, causing you to step back and let go of the door. It drifts shut behind him, shutting off the chatter and laughter of the other members.

He’s standing so close that you back up another step, instantly aware of how intimate this is, the two of you alone together in a tiny, dim hallway, sheltered from the view of the distantly bustling workers on stage. And he’s just looking at you, with an expression that makes your heart race.

“You had a question?” you venture, nervously. You’re not sure how much longer you can gaze into his eyes before you forget yourself and do something catastrophic, like try to kiss him.

Yoongi blinks, then shakes his head slightly. “I didn’t have a question,” he admits, and your eyebrows raise in surprise. “I just wanted to say thank you. For the food, but even more, for responding to Taehyung like that, and for encouraging him about his English,” he clarifies. “Out of all of us, he’s probably the one who has the least patience with people’s bullshit. And when he’s subjected to it, he shuts down. He doesn’t want to put himself out there to be ridiculed.”

“Well, he shouldn’t have to!” you say hotly, and Yoongi smiles a bit. “Nobody should ridicule any of you, for any reason. And for your English skills? That’s crazy. I mean, have you heard Namjoon?” you demand, and Yoongi’s smile grows.

“I have,” he says mildly, and your cheeks grow warm. Of course he’s heard Namjoon.

“Well, anyone who makes fun of his English probably can’t even speak the language themselves,” you finish, rather lamely. But Yoongi laughs, and the warmth in his eyes makes you want to kiss him even more. Desperately, you clutch at your professionalism, the only shield you’ve had against your growing feelings for this man.

“I should get going,” you say briskly. “I hope you all enjoy the food. I’ll send Audrey back in a moment, and she’ll stay with you the rest of the evening, like I mentioned. If you run out of food, let her know.”

“I don’t think there’s any chance of that,” Yoongi assures you. “But I should go, too, before the rest of them eat all the best stuff. Thanks again,” he says, tossing you one last grin as he turns back to the door. And you hurry away, the memory of that smile sparking in your mind as you throw yourself back into preparing for the event.

*****

Things go smoothly after that. You’re kept busy through the fan meet, and well past the beginning of the concert. But finally, after counting the donations you’ve gotten so far and securing the money, you can slip into the auditorium to watch the show.

Caroline is standing near the door, and you join her, pleased to see her actually swaying her hips to the opening beats of Boy with Luv. When she notices you, she puts one arm around you, pulling you into her little dance as she leans to shout in your ear.

“Everything’s still going well. People are really enjoying themselves!”

As you look around the auditorium, you see that she’s right. Almost everyone is on their feet, clapping, cheering, often singing along, despite the fact that the song is in Korean. The kids in the front rows have broken into the aisles to dance, and the volunteers have apparently let it go, won over by the pure joy of their movements. Happy that the show’s been a success, you sway along with Caroline, turning your attention to the stage, and to Yoongi.

He’s a cute dancer, you think. They all are, of course, but there’s something about Yoongi that makes it impossible to take your eyes off him. But when they finish, you scream and cheer as loudly as the rest of the audience, for all of BTS, because they really are amazing.

Namjoon moves to stand near the edge of the stage, mic in hand, gesturing for everyone’s attention.

“I want to thank you all so much for being here tonight,” he begins, and you frown in dismay. Is this the end already? Did you really miss the whole concert? You must have, because Caroline is moving forward, ready to join the group on stage and make some closing remarks, one last appeal for donations. But she pauses, glancing back at you in surprise when Yoongi suddenly steps up to Namjoon and interrupts him, indicating that he wants to speak. Namjoon looks puzzled too, but he steps back, and Yoongi faces the audience, standing quietly until he also has their attention.

“You already know why we’re here tonight,” he says, his deep voice commanding a respectful hush from the crowd. “You’ve heard about the Clary Foundation. But I thought you might like to hear more specifically about what your donations will do for the kids there. And for that, I’d like a couple of people to join me up here. Is Madison out there? And Spencer? Please, both of you, come up onstage.”

He shades his eyes against the stage lights, peering out into the first few rows as the kids from the foundation start laughing and calling, encouraging Madison and Spencer to get up on the stage. Caroline has turned to you again, questions on her face, but you’re dumbfounded. You move forward to join her.

“Did you know anything about this?” she demands, and you shake your head.

“Do you want me to stop it?” you ask, heart sinking, but Caroline lays a hand on your arm.

“No, let’s see what happens,” she suggests, and you nod nervously, returning your attention to the stage. Both kids have joined BTS by now. Madison looks nervous, hunching her shoulders a bit, but Spencer stands tall, even though he looks like he has no idea what to expect. Yoongi starts with him.

“Spencer,” he greets him, offering his hand to shake. “I hear you are someone the other kids at the foundation really rely on. Someone who looks out for them, someone they go to for help or advice. Is that true?”

Spencer ducks his head modestly. “I guess,” he concedes, leaning towards the mic as Yoongi holds it out to him. “I help them with homework. I help if they have a problem at school. If they get bullied.”

“Does that happen a lot?” Yoongi asks softly, and Spencer nods.

“Sometimes, yeah,” he says. “People make fun of us because we don’t have a home, or parents. But I tell them to quit. And I have friends who don’t act like that, friends from the foundation, and others at school. If we all stand up, the bullying isn’t so bad.”

“That’s right,” Yoongi agrees. “It’s very brave of you to be the one to stand up. To help your friends. And Madison,” he continues, turning to her as Spencer stands even taller in pride, if that’s possible. “I understand you’re graduating from school soon. And you’ve been thinking about going to college?”

Madison only nods nervously, and Spencer reaches out to put an arm around her shoulders and draw her closer. Yoongi hands him the mic to hold for her, and you feel tears welling in your eyes at the way Spencer encourages her.

“I…I don’t really know yet,” Madison finally says. “I want to go to college, but I don’t have any money. And I can’t get a scholarship. I’m not even sure I can get in. But…yeah, I want to go,” she finishes, dropping her head. Spencer starts to hand the mic back to Yoongi, but he stops him, gesturing for Namjoon’s microphone instead.

“Spencer, what would you tell your friend right now? To help her?”

“I would say go to college if you want!” Spencer practically shouts. “Madison, you can do it!”

The kids are cheering again, even the ones who are already in foster care, and Spencer lifts his arms a few times to encourage them. Jungkook and Namjoon copy his motions, and the other members of BTS join in, getting not only the kids but the whole crowd involved.

“Mad-i-son! Mad-i-son!” Spencer chants, strutting across the stage, clearly loving the attention. The audience joins in, and soon Madison is standing with her face buried in her hands as her name thunders through the auditorium. You and Caroline are clutching each other’s arms now, enthralled.

Yoongi lifts a hand, waving it a few times until the noise dies down again. “So, Madison,” he asks, still so gently. “What do you think now? Do you think you can do it?”

She raises her eyes to his, and something about him seems to give her confidence.

“Yeah,” she says quietly, and then she repeats it, louder, as Spencer holds the mic closer. “Yes!” she shouts, and Spencer hugs her as the crowd erupts into cheers again.

Yoongi raises his arm again.

“The Clary Foundation has a plan,” he says, once the noise dies down. “A plan to establish a college fund that will help Madison be able to afford college. And Spencer too, if he’s still here when he graduates. Kids like these, kids with character like Spencer, or perseverance like Madison, deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. I hope you will all consider donating tonight, because your donations will make this college fund a reality. And maybe change a lot of lives for the better.” He nods at Namjoon, finally seeming to be finished.

“How does he know about the college fund?” Caroline asks, and you look at her in guilt.

“I told him about it yesterday,” you admit. “And about Spencer and Madison. That’s how he knows their stories. Was that a mistake?”

“Oh, Y/N, look around. Look how many people have pulled out their checkbooks. And there’s not a dry eye in the house. It’s wonderful that he did this. Now I need to get up there.”

She leaves you still gazing around, noting the evidence of her words. All across the auditorium, people are scribbling checks, or pulling cash out of their wallets. Quickly you gesture for your staff to start circulating with the donation boxes.

When you turn back to the stage, you could swear Yoongi is looking at you. You know he can’t see you, or anyone in the audience, when the stage lights are on him, but still. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but the smile on his face seems like it’s meant just for you.

*****

After Caroline officially ends the event, chaos ensues as people start pouring out of the auditorium, talking and exclaiming loudly over the concert. BTS has disappeared backstage with Caroline, and you try desperately to make your way back there, nervous that they might leave before you get to say goodbye. But you’re going against the flow, and so many people stop to compliment you on the event, to comment about BTS, or even better, to ask about the college fund. Finally, you give up and let the movement of the crowd carry you out into the lobby. You position yourself there for a while, conversing with donors as they leave, knowing how important it is to talk up the foundation while you can.

When both the auditorium and the lobby have emptied significantly, you try again to reach the stage, but you’re stopped by the kids as they’re heading out to their bus. Madison barrels into you, clutching you around the waist as she starts to cry against your jacket.

“Miss Y/L/N, I want to go to college,” she sobs.

“You can,” you tell her, hugging her comfortingly. “The college fund is going to happen. We’ll help you do it.”

She pulls back, laughing and crying all at once. “You really think I can?” she asks, and you smile at her.

“I’ve always thought so,” you confirm, and she grins through the tears. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” you tell her, as one of her friends wraps an arm around her and leads her towards the door. You follow them back to the lobby, waiting a little longer to make sure all the kids make it onto the bus safely. But before you can go back into the auditorium, Caroline stops you.

“Y/N, this is the best fundraiser we’ve ever had. I’m so glad you convinced me to invite BTS; they were truly wonderful. I’ve just said goodbye to them, and I hope I was able to convey how much they’ve helped us.”

Your heart sinks when you hear the group already said goodbye. You can’t help glancing through the auditorium doors at the stage, but you don’t see any of the members.

“What do you need me to do now?” you ask Caroline, but she only laughs.

“Nothing at all. I know how long you’ve been here today. I’ll take care of the donations, and make sure everyone gets out safely. You go home. Have a rest. We’ll break down the details tomorrow.”

You say goodnight, and finally head into the auditorium, hoping against hope that maybe BTS is still hanging around. This time you make it to the stage without interruption, but it’s empty. Your worry intensifying, you hop onto the stage and stride behind the curtains, dodging crew members as they haul out the last of the sound equipment. You follow a couple workers as they lug a speaker, but you make it all the way out through the propped-open back door without seeing anyone from the group. And worse, when you get outside, you notice the staffers are loading equipment into a large truck, but there’s no sign of the black SUVs the members traveled in yesterday.

You stand still, frozen with disappointment. Did they really already leave? Did Yoongi leave? Without saying goodbye? Yesterday, you knew it shouldn’t have bothered you when he did it, but today, things are different. Today, you want more, some acknowledgement that you two shared something, however fleeting it may be.

But even as you think it, you know you’re being an idiot. Fleeting is exactly the right word for your interactions with Yoongi, and with all of BTS. They had a job to do, and so did you, and now you’ve all done your jobs, and it’s time to move on.

Even as you chastise yourself, you can’t help a last hopeful look around the parking lot, a final scan for the shiny black cars, or for a man with silver hair still lingering with the crew. But there’s nothing. And as you watch, the last workers close up the rear door of the truck, hop into the cab, and drive away. It’s really over. Shoulders trembling with the letdown, you head back inside.

You reach for the door handle to tug it closed behind you. But before you can grasp it, you just about jump out of your skin when somebody calls to you.

“Y/N.”

It’s Yoongi’s voice, saying your name with that special inflection that’s already music to your ears, it’s so different from how others say it, so uniquely him. Heart pounding, you turn around to see him approaching from the green room. There’s a grin on his face that has you shaking again, but not with disappointment this time.

“I’m glad you’re still here,” he greets you. “I was looking for you after the show, but you’d disappeared. I was afraid I’d missed you.”

It takes you a moment to find your voice, but you finally remember how much gratitude you’re feeling right now, not just because he hasn’t left yet, but because of everything he’s done this week. You collect yourself enough to answer.

“I’m glad you’re here, too,” you tell him. “I wanted so much to thank you, personally, for the show. Especially for what you did for Spencer and Madison.” Oh hell, your eyes are starting to water as you think of how proud Spencer looked on stage, and how Madison hugged you after the show. You blink rapidly, not wanting your own tears to fall in front of the man who had that effect on them. But he notices anyway, and his look softens as he steps a little closer to you.

“I was glad to,” he replies. “We were all happy to do this event. I hope the results are good for you, and for the kids.”

“Oh, they’ll be more than good. I counted the donations that came in before the concert started and, they’d already surpassed any previous year. And then what you did tonight, talking about the college fund? You made us so much money. You were outstanding. Honestly, all of you were. Are the others still around?” you ask, glancing beyond Yoongi. “I’d like to thank them, too.”

“They’ve already gone.”

“Well, please tell them how grateful I am. I’m happy to get a chance to tell you, at least. Even aside from your speech, you’re the one who did the most to make this show so amazing for the kids. They were really excited about your gifts.”

Yoongi’s smile widens again. “Good. I’ll let the others know. We’ve got a rare night off, and most of them had plans.”

You smile in response. “And you don’t?”

“That depends on you,” he says, and a cloud of butterflies immediately starts to flutter in your stomach. You realize again how beautiful he is, standing there in a black suit jacket, silver hair falling over his eyes, one corner of his mouth lifted as he tilts his head inquiringly.

“Can we go out to dinner?” he asks, and your mouth drops open in surprise. The butterflies are beating their wings even harder as you consider his request.

“I suppose that would be all right,” you begin, thinking it through. “We’ve certainly got the budget for it considering we’ve smashed all projections tonight. I’m sure Caroline is available.”

“No,” Yoongi interrupts, his brow furrowing in slight impatience. “Not for work, and not with Caroline. I’d like to take you out to dinner, alone. Like a date.”

Oh god, forget butterflies, now you’ve got an entire rhinoceros trampling inside your chest. Did he seriously just ask you out? You wanted one last chance to see him, to get some kind of closure, but a whole date? You regard him nervously, wanting so badly to just say yes, but knowing it can’t possibly be a good idea. And yet, it’s so tempting. He’s so tempting. You’ve never met anyone who attracts you, intrigues you, draws you in as much as Yoongi does.

“I’m afraid that wouldn’t be very professional of me,” you begin, wondering how serious he really is about this.

Yoongi smiles in understanding. “We can keep it quiet. My company wouldn’t like the idea either, if they knew. But I’d really like to have dinner with you anyway.”

“You know I must be five or six years older than you,” you try next, but he only smirks.

“Not likely. I’m twenty-seven.”

“Really?” You ask, and he winces a little at the surprise in your voice, raising a hand to scratch at his neck.

“Do I really seem that young to you?” he asks, and you rush to assure him.

“No, it’s not that. I just thought you were all teenagers when you debuted.”

Yoongi nods in understanding. “Some of the others were, but I was twenty-one.”

“You’re still two years younger than I am. It’s a little weird.”

“Not to me,” he says seriously, moving closer. “Age isn’t important. It doesn’t have anything to do with why I’d like to go out with you. I admire you. Your confidence and talent. How dedicated you are to helping these kids. I know Caroline is your director, but you’re the one who pulled this show together. Made it a success. Only a special kind of person can do something like that.”

His words are overwhelming you, almost bringing you to tears again. You’ve never heard compliments like this from anyone before. You can’t believe you’re hearing them now from a freaking idol, someone so talented and handsome that women all over the world probably throw themselves at him.

“Also,” he continues with a half-smile, “I had a lot of fun last night. I’d like to spend a little more time with you before I have to leave Chicago. What do you think?” he asks, gently, as if aware of the turmoil in your brain. You want to say yes, but it’s hard to accept that he might actually mean the things he’s said, that he doesn’t have some baser motive for asking you out right now.

Yoongi looks concerned at your lack of response.

“Listen, I live halfway around the world,” he reasons. “If tonight is awkward as hell, you’ll never see me again. What have you got to worry about?”

Amusement curves your lips into a smile, which he returns hopefully. “I’m more worried that I’ll have a really good time, but I’ll still never see you again.”

“Ah,” he nods, his eyes lighting as he if can sense your defenses crumbling. “If we do have a good time, then what’s to stop us from seeing each other more often?”

“As you’ve already pointed out, you live half-way around the world.”

Yoongi dismisses this. “But I travel all the time. I might not be able to visit Chicago that often, but I can at least get here sometimes. This doesn’t have to be a one-time thing.”

As you still hesitate, he takes your hand, and you nearly gasp at the thrill that shoots through you at the first brush of his fingertips. He twines his fingers through yours and gives a gentle tug as he starts to move toward the open door. “Come out with me, Y/N. I know it’s strange. You probably never do anything like this. Honestly, I never do anything like this either, in case you’re wondering. But I feel like I have to try.” You’re trailing after him, but slowly, and he glances back at you, his brown eyes warm. “I’ll regret it too much if I don’t,” he says seriously, and finally, you allow yourself to believe him. Or maybe you just want to spend time with him at any price. Either way, you make the decision not to resist any longer. You quicken your pace to match his, and Yoongi smiles over his shoulder at you as he pulls you out into the night.

*****

You end up at a rather fancy restaurant near your office, a place Caroline likes to take big donors, to wine and dine them into pulling out their checkbooks. You’ve gone with her a few times, and now it amuses you to watch Yoongi behaving much like Caroline, charming the maître d into giving you a good table, ordering champagne, and approving it as the waitstaff pour it into flutes for you both. Once the champagne ritual is over, you clink glasses with Yoongi and take a sip, letting the fizzy smooth tartness slide down your throat. His eyes never leave yours as he also drinks.

“You said you never do anything like this,” you tell him, “but you seem to have some practice at it.”

“Does that mean I’m doing good?” he asks, smiling. “So, you’re impressed?”

You dimple at him. “Fancy restaurants and champagne don’t really impress me.”

The interest in his eyes deepens. “Then tell me what does. I really want to know.”

You look down, studying the bubbles in your champagne glass. This is the reverse of how things should be. Instead of him trying to impress you, you should be the one trying to impress him. But you can’t think of anything about yourself that might win his admiration. Even though you were hoping for it, you can’t figure out why he’s showing this interest in you. Just because you care about a fundraiser?

Or maybe it’s less personal than that; maybe he really has been reading you like an open book this whole time, noting your every reaction to his physical presence, and assuming you’ll be easy to get into bed. But even then, shouldn’t he be used to just…well, breathing, and having girls falling all over him? Probably guys too, if he wants them. Surely, he doesn’t have to wine and dine you like this if he’s just trying to get laid.

You realize you need to say something; he really won’t be impressed if you can’t even sustain a conversation.

“I like how you interacted with the kids this week. Not just with Spencer and Madison on-stage, but with the kids at the Foundation yesterday. And I’m impressed that you spent so much of your time and money putting those gifts together.”

Yoongi is the one examining his champagne now. “That’s not a big deal. It would be if it was a sacrifice of some kind, but it wasn’t. I wanted to do it.”

“See, that’s impressive too,” you tell him, and he looks up at you again. “You downplay your achievements. You’re modest, not full of yourself, even though you have every reason to be.”

He smiles at you, one eyebrow quirked wryly. “I’m not always modest. I’m proud of my music, of what I’ve accomplished with BTS.”

“And you should be,” you tell him. “Your music is excellent.”

“I noticed last night that you have some BTS songs in your playlist. Are you really a fan?”

“Oh, definitely,” you answer immediately. “I’ve been listening since your Love Yourself: Her album.”

“What’s your favorite song?”

You groan and lean back in your chair, thinking about it. “That’s too hard,” you say finally. “Can I have a top seven?”

“Top seven? Why not just five?”

“Because I’ll think of four of my favorites, and then I’ll think of at least three more songs that deserve to be in the top five, and I can’t decide.”

Yoongi laughs. “Ok, top seven.”

“In no particular order.” You take a breath. “Tear, Pied Piper, Sea, Seesaw, Let Me Know, Am I Wrong, and Anpanman. No, wait, I Need U. No, never mind, it’s Anpanman.”

Yoongi is still chuckling. “It seems you have a top eight. Might as well go for ten.”

You think for another minute. “Paldogangsan and First Love,” you finally decide. Yoongi regards you for a moment before turning his attention to the menu. But after a minute, he speaks.

“First Love, huh? And Seesaw?” You see the tiniest of smiles on his face, and you kick yourself for blurting out those two songs, even if they are your favorites.

“You write good music,” you tell him, and he shoots you an endearing, scrunch-nosed look halfway between pleased and embarrassed. He doesn’t react to anything the way you’d expect him to. He says he’s proud of his music, but really, he’s not cocky about his talent at all.

“I also wrote Let Me Know,” he says, eyeing you slyly, and you amend your thought. Ok, maybe he’s a little cocky.

“That’s probably why I like it,” you say lightly. “I could listen to that song all day. And Seesaw. But First Love is for special occasions. Sometimes when I listen to it, I actually cry.”

Yoongi looks embarrassed again, but he’s smiling. “That is the kind of compliment I think every songwriter wants to hear,” he says quietly.

“I even talk to the kids about this song. I mentioned yesterday that a lot of them need help finding their place? Well, they’re often fixated on their old home being the only place they have. I play this song, and I point out that their place can be more metaphorical than physical. If they have something they love, something they’re passionate about, they can make that their place in life. Like you and your music. I encourage them to think about things they can achieve for themselves, things they actually have some control over. It doesn’t have to be playing a musical instrument. Just anything. A sport, or a close friendship, or making the decision to go to college. Or maybe just traveling, if there’s someplace they’ve always wanted to visit, or even live someday. They can make that their dream, their destination. Their place.”

Yoongi has propped his head against one hand as he listens to you. Now you feel embarrassed, wondering if you’re completely misinterpreting his song, and insulting him into the bargain. But he doesn’t look upset.

“That’s also a compliment,” he tells you, and you smile in relief. Maybe you’re impressing him a little bit after all.

*****

After the meal, you offer to drive Yoongi back to his hotel. He accepts, and you’re relieved (but face it, also a little disappointed) that he doesn’t mention going back to your place or somewhere else where you can have privacy. He just plugs the hotel’s address into the map on his phone so you know where to go. He’s quiet for a moment after you park, and you turn to find him studying you.

“So, what do you think?” he asks lightly. “Was it a good night? Or is it a good thing I live halfway around the world?” He grins at you and you feel a flush rising on your neck. But you keep your composure as you answer.

“I had a good time. I’m glad you asked me out, even if one date is all we get.”

Yoongi sighs in exasperation. “You know, we’re not leaving Chicago until Saturday. We’ve got concerts the next two nights, and media appearances and I don’t even know what else scheduled during the days. But I can probably find time to see you again. Why don’t you come to one of our shows? I can get you a VIP pass so you can watch from the sidelines. Friday’s better, right, since tomorrow’s a work night?”

You consider the offer, not sure you should accept even though you know ARMYs around the world would kill for the opportunity. Yoongi doesn’t even wait for your agreement though, pulling out his phone and creating a voice memo.

“Send two VIP passes for Friday’s show to Y/N’s office tomorrow.”

“Two?” you ask.

“So you can bring a friend. Otherwise you’ll be standing around alone all night until we’re finished and I can meet up with you.” He smiles a little smugly. “Just don’t bring a date. I’d be jealous.”

You look down in confusion. “I won’t do that. I never go on dates anyway.”

Yoongi eyes you, grinning. “Except tonight,” he reminds you, and you feel the warmth spreading from your neck to your face. “I’ll send the passes tomorrow,” he continues. “Can I, um, can I have your phone number? I’ll text you mine, and you can let me know when they arrive.”

You give him your number and in a moment your phone pings with a text.

“Listen, please don’t share that with anyone. If the media get hold of it, I’ll have to change my number.”

“I would never do that,” you assure him, a little stung he would think it of you.

“Believe me, if I thought there was even a chance you would, I wouldn’t give you the number. But I have to hand out the disclaimer too. Reporters can be pretty crafty when they’re trying to get things out of you.”

“Over my dead body,” you object, but then you wrinkle your nose at the cliché. “Ok, maybe not my dead body, but you know, at least my threatened-at-gunpoint body.”

“Oh my god, they’re not that bad,” he exclaims, and you laugh. “But I’m glad to know you’ll take it seriously.” Yoongi’s gaze holds amusement, and something more, something that has your breath catching in your throat. You can’t tear your eyes away from his.

“Can I kiss you?” he asks, and your heart jumps straight out of your body. You nod nervously, and his smile widens as he leans closer, placing one hand lightly on top of yours where it rests on the console. You’re arrested by the sensation of his fingers tracing a soft pattern around your knuckles. While you’re focused on his touch, and completely unprepared, his lips brush against the corner of your mouth, sending a hard shiver down your backbone.

You feel his other hand slide gently along your neck, his fingers teasing your hairline and causing more shivers. His teeth just barely nip at your lower lip and as it drops open for him, he fits his mouth perfectly against yours. He kisses you slowly, and so sweetly, sucking lightly at your upper lip, nudging his tongue inside the seam of your mouth. And all accompanied by the exquisite skim of his fingertips against your neck. He pulls away too soon, leaving you a breathless, quivering mess.

“Goodnight,” he says calmly, and you wonder if he’s even aware of the effect he’s just had on you. “I’ll see you on Friday.” Before you can reply, he’s already out of the car and loping across the street towards the hotel. When he reaches the entryway he turns back, shooting you an infuriating grin before disappearing into the hotel. You groan in frustration. Yeah, he’s aware.

Chapter Text

You barely get any rest that night. Usually, once you’ve made it through a major event like the fundraising concert, you sleep like a baby, happy in the knowledge of a job well-done.

But this time, all you can think of is Yoongi. The way he smiles at you. His sexy voice, the low, gentle cadences that send thrills shuddering across your very soul. The way his fingertips felt against your pulse, the gentle pressure of his lips against yours. And maybe best of all, the choice words he had for Madison and Spencer on stage, the way he single-handedly lifted your fundraiser to unprecedented heights. You lie awake for hours, replaying the events of the day in your mind, even things that seem small, like him bringing you coffee, or rescuing you from Jimin’s sweet but inconvenient attention. As you picture each moment, you alternate between hugging yourself in sheer joy, and trembling in fear that maybe this really is all you’ll get. Even if Yoongi does send you concert passes, there might not be time for more than a hurried interaction at the show. And then he’ll have to leave Chicago and move on with his life.

It’s crazy that the thought of him leaving already hurts so much.

You finally doze off, but only manage about two hours of sleep before your alarm blares. You make it through the next day fueled by caffeine and willpower. You should be more interested in the record-breaking returns from the concert, and the heavy amount of exposure the Clary Foundation has gotten in the media, but all you can think about is seeing Yoongi again on Friday. You focus intently on your work as you wait, with fading hope, for his promised delivery. When Audrey finally calls you, late in the day, to let you know an envelope was dropped off at the front desk, you’re pretty sure you scare her with the intensity of your response. You run to the front desk and rip open the envelope, breathing a sigh of relief when you tilt it upside down and two BTS VIP badges slide into your hand.

“Is everything alright?” Audrey asks, looking at you with big eyes.

“Everything’s perfect,” you assure her, smiling beatifically as you float back towards your office. But halfway there, you break into a run again. You have to call Hannah to invite her to the show! And you have to go shopping, to find the perfect outfit for the concert. And buy new lingerie (you know, just in case). And clean your apartment, and learn the Army chants….

Needless to say, you don’t sleep that night either.

 

But as you and Hannah make your way through the crowd of concert-goers on Friday, you don’t feel tired at all. Your body is alive with a hum of anticipation, not only because you’re about to see Yoongi again, but because the energy of the crowd is phenomenal. Even though it’s unseasonably cold, everyone is so happy to be there, even the ones who’ve clearly been waiting all day to get inside. Nobody even shoots you dirty looks when you and Hannah show your passes at the first barricade and are allowed to go through without waiting. Instead you hear people cheering you on. Hannah grabs your hand, looking up at you with wide eyes.

“You look so nervous,” you tease her. “But why? I know you’ve been to BTS concerts before.”

“I’ve been to a few,” she confirms. “But I’ve never been anywhere close to the stage. And now, we’re going backstage. I’m going to meet BTS. This is crazy! Tonight could end up being, like, the keynote of my entire existence!”

You roll your eyes, grinning. “Well, while you’re having the time of your life, just remember who made it happen.”

“Oh my god, like I could ever forget. You’re seriously the best friend in the history of friends. I can even forgive you for not getting me into the fundraiser. This is so much better.”

You laugh together, but quickly sober as you reach another barricade, and a couple of stony-faced security guards. But you show your passes again, and one of the guards lets you through and then leads you down a long corridor, between metal fences, slowly winding towards the stadium. You eventually reach a door, and your guide knocks for access. Another uniformed guard emerges, and you’re handed into his custody. This one scrutinizes your passes yet again, before raising a walky-talky to his mouth and speaking into it in Korean, never taking his eyes off the two of you.

Hannah raises onto her toes to murmur into your ear. “He was telling someone to find Namjoon,” she whispers, and you can hear the excitement in her tone. “This is really happening!”

And sure enough, after only a few minutes, the door opens again, and Namjoon sticks his head out.

“Y/N!” he greets you. “Come in, both of you.”

You and Hannah ease past the guard and in through the doorway, only to find yourself in a long hallway, crowded together with both Namjoon and Jimin.

And Yoongi is there too, hovering behind the others. He smiles at you over their shoulders, but doesn’t say anything because both Namjoon and Jimin are talking at once, greeting Hannah, who’s bowing as she timidly introduces herself. You know you should help with the conversation, but you only have eyes for Yoongi.

It’s been just two days, but his hair has changed, from silver to an ashy blonde. You wonder idly how often he dyes it, but it doesn’t really matter because he’s beautiful no matter what color his hair is. You notice the new shade makes his brown eyes look darker. Or maybe it’s just the intensity of his gaze on yours. You feel like you could stare into his eyes all night, but the moment breaks as Namjoon turns to drag Yoongi forward to meet Hannah. They shake hands, and you finally tune into your surroundings.

“So, Y/N,” Namjoon begins, “I want you to know it was Yoongi’s idea to send you the passes.”

You glance at Yoongi in surprise, and he shrugs minutely. Of course, now that you think about it, he probably didn’t tell the members he had dinner with you the other night. As far as Namjoon knows, the passes were a complete shock when you received them.

“We all wanted to do it, though,” Jimin interjects, tucking his arm into yours as you all begin to walk down the hallway.

“Well, I appreciate it more than I can say,” you respond. “I don’t know how to thank you for the gift.”

“No, no,” Namjoon objects. “We’re the ones thanking you. We’re glad to have you. Both of you,” he adds, turning back to Hannah. He opens a door and ushers her through. Jimin has to drop your arm so you can both follow her. Yoongi is the last to trail through before Namjoon lets the door shut.

“Jimin-ah, will you go find Hyun-jae?” Namjoon asks, and Jimin beams his megawatt smile at you one last time before scampering away.

“Hyun-jae will take care of you while we get ready, and show you where you can watch the concert,” he explains to you both. “For now, do you want to see the stage, before the audience comes in?” He smiles at Hannah’s excited reaction, and quickly leads her down another hall towards the stage area. You follow, but slowly, falling into step with Yoongi.

“I should have warned you that I didn’t let anyone know we went out to dinner,” he begins, speaking in a low voice so the others won’t overhear.

“It’s fine,” you tell him. “I’m not surprised, knowing the kind of scrutiny you get.”

“That’s understanding of you,” he says gratefully. “Most people question the secrecy.”

You wince internally, wondering how many people he’s had this kind of conversation with. But you keep the tone light, reminding yourself that no matter what’s going on here, it’s not going to last. “I do have a question for you.”

“Yeah?” Yoongi tilts his head at you, one eyebrow lifted.

“Just how often do you dye your hair?” you ask, keeping a straight face. “I mean, it was blue in the Boy With Luv video, silver this week, and now blonde.”

Yoongi groans in frustration.

“I don’t do anything to my hair; it’s the stylists, and they change it entirely too much. If you don’t like it, take it up with them. I’ll be happy if you can get them to slow down a little. At this rate, my hair’s going to fall out by the time I’m forty.”

“I’m not saying I don’t like it,” you assure him, chuckling at his rant. “You look really good, actually.” Yoongi slants a look at you, his eyes glinting. But before he can say anything else, the two of you round a corner and nearly bump into the others.

They’ve found Seokjin, much to Hannah’s delight. She shoots you meaningful little looks as you join them, and you remember he’s the one she thinks you like. Jin greets you with as much charm as he displayed the other day, but fortunately with less wrist-kissing. That would really give Hannah the wrong idea.

Of course, maybe you need her to have the wrong idea, or she might start paying attention to the way you’re reacting to Yoongi. And good luck trying to maintain any secrecy after that.

Before long, Jimin has returned with a slightly intimidating woman who introduces herself as Hyun-jae. She takes charge of you and Hannah, allowing the members to go get ready for the show. You smile a last good-bye at Yoongi as he leaves, before turning your attention back to Hannah and Hyun-jae.

*****

The concert itself is a dream. Even the rain can’t dampen the energy in the stadium. Right before the start, you and Hannah are corralled into a small space in the wings and ordered by Hyun-jae not to step outside of your assigned spot. You have a great view across the length of the main stage, and Hannah grabs your arm, squeezing in excitement as the opening chords of Dionysus begin to pound. You feel your heart pounding too as BTS suddenly appears, and you can’t stop yourself from screaming and cheering along with the enormous crowd.

You’re in a daze as the members perform song after song, each one getting more thunderous applause than the last. You try to keep your eyes on Yoongi, but all seven of them run around so much, often disappearing from your view altogether as they navigate a long walkway that extends out into the crowd. You have to be content with enjoying the music and the overall vibe.

But when you hear the beginning of Seesaw, you can’t help edging closer to the stage, not wanting to miss a moment of Yoongi performing his solo. You’re surprised when Taehyung and Jungkook suddenly join you and Hannah. They’re clearly also interested in watching the performance. Jungkook leans close to shout into your ear.

“Yoongi-hyung is so cute when he does this song,” he explains, and you nod in agreement. He is cute, especially when he starts dancing. Jungkook, Tae, and Hannah all start dancing too, and even singing along. You envy Hannah’s command of Korean, as you can barely join in for the chorus, even though it’s your favorite song. But at least you can dance with them. You haven’t seen the choreography before, but it isn’t hard. The others are going full-swing. Tae, in particular, is dancing so enthusiastically that Jungkook has to hold onto him to keep him from making his way out onstage.

At one point, when Yoongi is facing in your direction, he glances at the four of you all dancing in the wings. His gaze meets yours, and he shoots you the most brilliant grin before he turns back to the audience again. And you stop singing, stunned into silence because he really is so cute, but he’s also beautiful, and hot as sin in his sparkly suit. It isn’t fair that he can be all of that at once.

Or that all he has to do is look at you and you feel your whole body heating up, remembering how he kissed you the other night.

The next song is Epiphany, Jin’s solo, and the slower pace gives you a chance to cool down your thoughts. The younger members stay to watch this one, too, chatting quietly with you about how you’re enjoying the concert so far. You catch Hannah’s eye and she grins in excitement. You’re hoping for her sake that Hoseok might join this little party. It’s frustrating that he’s the only one who hasn’t made a personal appearance, when he’s the one she wants to meet the most. But after Epiphany, the stage lights go down, and as the music starts, you realize he’s needed onstage to perform Tear. You and Hannah grab each other, jumping up and down and shrieking, since this one is a favorite for you both. Tae and Jungkook are grinning, amused at your reaction, but even they seem pretty regretful that they have to leave to get ready for the next song.

And after that, the show is almost over. The encore is amazing, three of your favorite songs. At the end of Mikrokosmos, you and Hannah are left hugging each other, standing too close to the stage as you gaze up at the last remnants of the fireworks. When you finally look down at her, you see she’s crying, and you feel a welling up of gratitude for Yoongi, and all of BTS, for making this experience possible for her. And for you.

You’re shaken from your reverie as the concert officially comes to an end, and staffers start swarming past you, heading for the stage to tear down the props and equipment. You and Hannah try to get out of the way, but every step you take seems to make it worse. You end up huddled together in the middle of the stream of people. Hannah grips your hand, pressing her smaller frame close against your side as people haul risers past you.

You look around for Hyun-jae, but instead you spot Namjoon heading towards you. He dodges through the traffic and places a hand on your shoulder so he can speak close to your ear.

“Come with me,” he commands. “We’ve ordered a car to take you both home. You can leave through the back.”

You catch Hannah’s eye and indicate with a tilt of your head that it’s ok to move. Still holding hands, you both follow Namjoon’s tall figure through the chaos. He leads you into the interior of the backstage building and through a door into the same hallway you started in before the show. You see the exit at the end and wonder if you’re about to be kicked out without getting a chance to see Yoongi one more time. You feel something akin to panic at the thought, so you’re glad when Namjoon doesn’t immediately lead you out the door. Instead he turns to face you, grinning apologetically.

“Sorry we left you on your own out there. The techs always grab us the minute we come off stage and make us turn over all the audio equipment. They don’t trust us not to destroy everything if we’re left unsupervised for too long.”

You both laugh, especially when Namjoon adds something about the staff being right not to trust him, at least. “I’m a walking disaster,” he confesses, and Hannah tries to console him.

“It’s part of your charm,” she insists, and he smiles. Just then the door from the stage opens, and Hoseok slips in, with Jimin behind him. You glance at Hannah, who’s fallen silent, a look of ecstasy on her face as she regards her bias. But he approaches you first, and to your surprise, gives you a hug.

“I’m so glad you came tonight,” Hoseok tells you, pulling away and smiling broadly. “We really enjoyed doing the event with your kids. And you kept everything running so smoothly! It was a good experience. I hope you enjoyed the concert. It’s our thank you gift.”

“It was wonderful,” you assure him. “We both loved seeing you perform. This is my friend Hannah,” you add, directing his attention to the trembling girl at your side. Hoseok turns to her, pulling her into a hug too, and you smile as pure joy washes over her face. You turn to Jimin, and blink at the radiance of his expression. He was already beautiful, but in his show clothes and make-up, his hair still lightly dewed with rain from the performance, he’s stunning.

“Did you really like the show?” he asks shyly, and you recall yourself to the moment.

“Oh yes,” you tell him. “You did a beautiful job singing Serendipity. And you’re so good in Boy With Luv.” You look at Namjoon. “And I loved hearing Baepsae and Tear. Tear is one of my all-time favorite songs.”

He looks down modestly, while Jimin is trying to control his gratified smile. You grin at their reactions, and at the happy chatter floating between Hannah and Hoseok. Namjoon joins the two of them, and you turn back to Jimin.

“So…” he begins, and trails off, scuffing his toe against the ground. You smile, because you’ve never seen anyone do that in real life, and it makes him look like a little kid. But then he glances up at you, and the smoldering charm is there, reminding you he’s anything but a child.

“I’m sorry we didn’t have more time to get to know each other,” he says, dimpling cutely. “I think if things were different, you and I could be friends.”

“I think so too,” you tell him, because it’s true. Jimin is impossibly sweet. You feel lighter just being around him, and not only because of his looks. You’re even starting to think he doesn’t realize how sexy he is.

“Or maybe…more than friends?” he continues, still looking at you from beneath lowered lashes, and you chuckle, because maybe he does realize.

“I think just friends,” you say firmly, and he laughs too, before leaning in to give you a hug. And it’s a friendly hug, not suggestive at all.

“If things were different,” he says again, pulling away.

“You never know,” you smile at him. “Maybe we’ll get to see each other again someday.”

Then Namjoon clears his throat, and you both turn to see him looking at his watch.

“I don’t know if the others are going to be able to say goodbye, but I can tell you we are all very grateful for the work you did to make things so easy and comfortable for us during your event. And we were glad to have you both here tonight. If you’re ready to leave, I’ll walk you out to the car.”

The panic returns, washing away the glow that bloomed while you were talking to Jimin. You’re not ready to leave, not before you see Yoongi. But you can’t think of any excuse to stay. Hoseok and Jimin are saying goodbye, and Namjoon is starting to lead you down the hallway. Your feet are following him, seemingly without direction from your mind, which is begging you to stay, to wait just a little longer…

Then the door opens again, and you turn back hopefully, just as Yoongi slides in from the bustle and noise of the stage area. His gaze meets yours instantly, and you can’t stop a smile from spreading across your face as relief and excitement flood through you. His lips curve upwards in amusement at your expression. He makes his way around Hoseok and Jimin to join you.

“Joon-ah, did you tell them about the car?” he asks, and Namjoon turns back, surprised to see him there.

“Yes, I was just walking them out.”

“I’ll do it,” Yoongi offers, and Namjoon shrugs.

“Ok. Y/N, it was a pleasure.” He offers his hand, first to you and then to Hannah, before following Hobi and Jimin as they head back out to the stage. Yoongi starts walking towards the exit, and you follow him, your heart bumping in your chest since you get to see him one last time, after all.

The metal barricades have disappeared, and the usual black SUV stands at the curb outside. Yoongi leads you over to it and opens the door. He bows to Hannah, thanking her for coming to the concert. She climbs into the back seat, leaving you on the sidewalk with Yoongi. He’s looking at you rather nervously.

“If you don’t mind waiting another ten or fifteen minutes, I’ll be ready to go and I can ride with you. If you want me to,” he adds, looking down at the curb. “I’m sure you can get home just fine without me. But if I come along, we’ll have a little more time to talk. Or we could go somewhere, maybe have a drink, or just hang out for a while?” He says the last part in a low voice, almost a whisper, glancing towards the open car door.

“I’d like that,” you murmur shyly, and he grins.

“I won’t be too long,” he assures you, before turning and trotting back to the stadium door. You get into the SUV, which has limo-style seating, and sit down next to Hannah. She’s still so giddy that she doesn’t even ask about your brief conversation with Yoongi. Nor does she notice that you’re not leaving right away, as she gives you an extended play-by-play of every second of her interaction with Hobi.

Finally, she leans back in the seat, sighing lustily. “I can die a happy woman now,” she tells you. “Jung Hoseok hugged me. I want nothing else out of life.”

You regard her, a little envious that she can be so happy with a hug. I mean, Yoongi kissed you, which should be even better, but you aren’t content with just that. Your whole body is tingling with anticipation right now, as you wait for him to join you in the car, as you wonder if he’ll kiss you again later. You want him to, so badly. No, a hug definitely won’t be enough to let you die happy tonight.

“Are we leaving?” Hannah asks, finally waking up to her surroundings.

“We’re waiting for Min Yoongi. He’s coming with us,” you tell her, and her eyes sharpen in interest.

“Why?” she asks, looking at you pointedly.

“He wants to make sure we get home safely.”

“And your independent, ‘I can take care of myself’ ass agreed to that?”

“Yes?” you say meekly, hoping Hannah lets it drop. Fortunately, the door opens at that moment, and Yoongi hops in, taking the seat across from you both.

“Have you told the driver where you live?” he asks, sliding open a window between the front and back seats. You both lean forward to provide your addresses.

“My place is closer,” Hannah volunteers, “if you want to go there first.” You don’t meet her eyes, but you’re silently thanking her. You know she suspects something is up, but you don’t care. If something is actually happening tonight, which is by no means established yet, you’ll have plenty of time to make up a story for her later.

Yoongi spends the first few minutes of the ride complaining dramatically about the cold, leaving both of you giggling and trying to convince him Chicago isn’t always like this. Then he chats with Hannah, asking about what she does for a living, and her interests. You end up in a discussion about Korean groups, with Hannah contributing more to the conversation than you can. Finally, you reach her place, and Hannah thanks Yoongi for the escort. She gives you a quick hug, and one meaningful look, before climbing out of the car and running up the sidewalk to her apartment building. Yoongi asks the driver to wait until she makes it inside safely. When she does, he gives the ok to drive on and slides the dividing window shut again. Then, oh-so-casually, he moves from his seat into the one next to yours. You look at him timidly.

“Do you want to stop somewhere for a drink?” he asks. “Or even something to eat? It’s late, but we can probably still get food someplace.”

“Are you hungry?” you ask, concerned that you haven’t thought about how he might be feeling after his performance. If it was you doing all that work on stage, you’d be starving by now. But he eases your worries on that front.

“Not so much. They always have food for us backstage, so I’ve snacked a little tonight.”

“I’d love a drink, then,” you accept, and Yoongi pulls out his phone.

“Do you know a good place?” he asks, ready to look up an address for the driver. You respond without thought, purely on instinct.

“We could have a drink at my apartment.”

You’re immediately mortified. You seriously just asked a member of the biggest musical group in the world to come back to your place. Surely, he gets the implications. Fearfully, you raise your eyes to his, expecting a look of pity at how badly you’ve misunderstood his intentions. Or, worse, a knowing leer, some sign that he’s been angling for sex this whole time.

But to your surprise, he only smiles calmly. “Good idea. If we go out in public, there’s always a chance I’ll be recognized, especially right after a concert.”

And just like that, he’s normalized the whole thing. You smile in return, immediately feeling more comfortable. You don’t even get nervous again when you reach your apartment, and Yoongi dismisses the driver for the night, explaining he’ll call an Uber later.

You lead him upstairs and into your apartment, shutting the door and preparing to play hostess.

“So…I don’t have the kind of selection you’d get at a bar, but I have a few beverage choices.” As he wanders further into the living room, looking around, you list the contents of your liquor stash. He doesn’t pick anything though, having gotten distracted by the bookshelves covering one wall of the room. They’re almost entirely filled with CDs, and Yoongi is regarding them with amazement.

“You have a lot of music,” he mutters, moving closer to run his finger over one row of cases, tilting his head sideways to read the titles. You join him in front of the shelves as he pulls out first one CD, then another, before finally turning to you with a look of actual joy.

“This is a great collection. You have more albums than I do, even counting the music I keep online.”

You’re amused by his reaction. “Music is a passion of mine,” you explain, “and about the only hobby I can maintain when I work as much as I do. Of course, now I listen to practically everything on Spotify, but I still enjoy buying albums to play when I’m at home. You know, support the artists and all.”

Yoongi shoots you a warm look before scanning the shelves again. He leans in front of you to see the one on the left, and your body trembles when his arm brushes against yours. He straightens again, grinning at you, and for a moment you think he noticed your physical reaction. But he’s happy about something else.

“You have our albums,” he says proudly, and you nod in relief.

“A few of them. I’m working on getting the rest. It’ll be a higher priority now. I’m buying every album you’ve ever made, not just because I want them, but because I’ll never be able to repay you guys for what you did this week.”

Your answer seems to make him shy, and he returns to his perusal of your CDs. You ask again if he’d like a drink, and he names something, still distracted. You retreat to the kitchen to mix the cocktails, but before you can carry them back to the living room, your phone buzzes in your pocket. It’s Hannah.

“Did you make it home ok?” she asks, as soon as you answer the phone.

“Yes, I just got in,” you assure her.

What is going on with you and Yoongi?” she demands. “Why did he come with us tonight? Do you like him? Does he like you? I told you one of them was going to fall for you. I cannot believe it’s Min Yoongi. That is so freaking incredible.”

Just then, Yoongi appears in the kitchen doorway, holding a handful of CDs. “Y/N,” he begins, but you wave your hand frantically at him before pointing at the phone. His mouth drops open in surprise, and he turns and leaves without another word. You smack your hand over your eyes, embarrassed by your overreaction. Fortunately, Hannah is still talking, and didn’t seem to hear Yoongi’s voice. You cut into her excited rambling.

“Nothing’s going on,” you lie. “Yoongi dropped me off. I think he just felt responsible for making sure we were ok.”

Even through the phone, you can sense the gears turning in Hannah’s head. “There’s more to it than that. You really like him, don’t you? I could tell in the car. Did he say anything before he left? Or did you? Did you give him your number?”

“No, of course not,” you protest. Which isn’t exactly a lie. You didn’t give him your number tonight. “He hasn’t fallen for me. But you’re right, I do like Yoongi,” you continue. “He was really helpful while we were putting on the fundraising event this week. And he even gave us a big personal donation, on top of what BTS was doing for the home.”

“So that’s why you’re into him,” Hannah says, and you relax a little. “He won you over by helping your kids.”

“Definitely,” you agree. “He’s going to be my bias now.”

“Soft stan or hard?” she teases. “He’s pretty sexy.”

You think about the man waiting in your living room. She’s right, he is so sexy. Your nerves start fluttering again.

“Maybe a little of both,” you admit, laughing, before you end the call.

When you come back to the living room with the drinks, you find Yoongi curled in the corner of your couch like he’s been there his whole life. He’s deposited a whole slew of CDs on your coffee table and he nods at them as you set the glasses down.

“Can we listen to one of these?”

You consider his choices, and finally select What’s the 411? by Mary J. Blige.

“I’ve listened to her newer work, but never that album,” he explains, when you hold it up. “And you’re clearly a fan; you have a ton of her CDs.”

“I think I might have all of them. I love Mary,” you tell him, as you carry the CD over to your player. You adjust the volume and walk back to the couch. You’re tempted to curl up next to Yoongi, but maybe that’s too forward. You sink into the other corner of the couch instead, folding your legs under you in imitation of his posture.

“Was that Hannah on the phone?” he asks, grinning, and you roll your eyes.

“Yes, she just wanted to make sure I got home safely.”

“I guess you didn’t tell her I’m here?”

“No, I didn’t know if that would be a good idea?” You frame it more as a question, unsure if you did the right thing, but Yoongi only nods his head in agreement.

“Probably not. But did she have fun tonight?”

You smile in remembrance. “We both had so much fun. Hannah’s always trying to get me to go to concerts with her, and I hardly ever do it. I made her night on so many levels, because I invited her out at all, and because she got to actually meet you, and the others. Especially Hoseok. I should have warned you that he’s her bias. He gave her a hug when he came to say goodbye to us, and she said now she can die happy.” Yoongi chuckles at that. “I’m forever going to be a hero to her for making it happen. And you too, by extension, since you got us the tickets. Thank you for doing that for me, for both of us.”

You stop abruptly as you realize you’re gushing. Yoongi doesn’t seem to notice, though, focusing instead on what you said about yourself.

“Why don’t you go to more concerts with her?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I have the time, I guess. I’m always working, even most of the weekends. And I love my job; I love being around the kids, and doing whatever I can to help them. I should probably make more time for other things, but somehow, I just don’t.”

“Believe me, I understand,” Yoongi says, and you remember you’re talking to a man who hasn’t had a vacation in seven years. “But you have to take a break for yourself, and for things you like outside of work, or you’ll burn out.”

“And do you do that?”

Yoongi sighs. “It’s hard, but yes, we do get some opportunities to pursue interests outside of BTS. I like to produce. It’s what I wanted to do when I joined Big Hit, and they’ve supported me. Lately, I’ve been able to work a little with other artists, and I enjoy that.”

“That’s still your work, though, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but it’s what I love. And I get away from music sometimes when we’re traveling or filming our TV show, or our videos and specials. I’m close to the others. You might think we only get along like we do for the cameras, but it’s not like that at all. The guys are my best friends, my family. Filming with them is sometimes just like going out and having a good time, not like we’re working.”

“And you never fight?” you ask skeptically, and he scoffs.

“Of course we fight. Some of us more than others. But we get over it. We talk it out. And I think the fights have helped us to grow even stronger. When I disagree with someone, or witness an argument between some of the rest, I have a better understanding of what they care about. It helps me to be closer with all of them.”

“Who are you the closest to?” you ask curiously. But he shakes his head at the question.

“I’d probably say someone different every day of the week. They all support me, and encourage me, in different ways, and I think I can say I do the same for them.”

You find yourself smiling wistfully at his words, envious of the picture he’s painted of a bunch of guys who really get each other, who have each other’s backs. He mentioned the word family, and you envy that. “It’s good that you have them,” you tell him. “I need someone like that, or something, to encourage me to go out more, to do something new once in a while.”

“You might not have a group like I do, but you do have someone,” Yoongi says. “It’s you. You can make yourself take risks, try new things, do whatever you want.”

You gaze at him in wonder. Of course, he’s right, but you never thought about it that way before. You’re always so practical, focusing on your responsibilities, on the work that needs to be done. You always make the smart decision, not the impetuous one. You think, deep down, that you’ve become this way because you’ve had to take care of yourself since a very young age. There’s nobody to catch you if you put a foot wrong and fall down. But maybe you’re missing out on something, some essential life experience that only comes from falling. Or maybe you’re just missing out on life, in general.

You’ve been staring at him just a shade too long. Yoongi doesn’t seem to mind though. He just smiles at you, and your eyes drift to his mouth, remembering the way he kissed you two nights earlier. Will he kiss you again? He’s not making any moves. Maybe he’s waiting for you? You drop your eyes before he can notice your sudden nervousness.

You knew what you were getting into when you invited him up to your apartment, but now you’re chickening out. He’s too sexy, too smart, too perfect. It’s better to just sit here and make conversation a little longer and then say goodnight. You know that’s the right decision, the wise one, but you also keep hearing Yoongi’s words of a few moments earlier, saying basically that you have control over your own life. You don’t always have to do the safe thing.

Looking up again, you realize Yoongi is definitely not as nervous as you feel. In fact, he looks completely at home, with one arm flung casually along the back of the couch. It doesn’t seem like he’s contemplating how to get you into bed. In fact, you feel like he’d be ok if all you do tonight is talk. But are you ok with that? If there’s any chance you can have more?

As you watch, he stretches out the other arm to pick up his drink, and even that simple motion is so graceful and arresting you catch your breath. In that moment, you make the decision to go for it. The worst that can happen is he says no. You’ll be embarrassed, but you’ll never have to see him again. And if he says yes, and then you never see him again, at least you’ll have him for one night. You don’t even care if you end up being his latest in a string of conquests. He’s worth it.

Before you can lose your nerve, you slide your way down the couch towards Yoongi. You’re glad to see by his expression that you’ve caught him by surprise. He adjusts quickly though, unfolding his legs to make room for you next to him, and dropping his arm from the back of the couch to your shoulders. That’s a good sign.

“Do you want another drink?” you ask, since he’s just drained the first one. But he shakes his head and leans forward to place the empty glass on the coffee table. When he settles back again, he shifts to face you, and you marvel at his beauty. You want to touch him; you didn’t react fast enough for it when he kissed you the other night.

You lift a hand to stroke a finger down his jaw, tentatively, afraid of rejection. But his eyes crinkle up as he smiles at you, and the fingers resting against your shoulder begin playing softly with your hair. Still good. You trace your finger across his lips now, so slowly, and his eyes flutter closed. And that’s all you need to lean in and replace your fingertip with your mouth, kissing him softly. He responds instantly, returning the kiss with much more urgency than he did the first night, but with no less attention to detail. His arms tighten around you and you clutch at his waist, pulling yourself closer. You smile as his lips leave yours to explore your jawline, your throat, the hollow behind your ear, all while his hands are slowly roaming your body. Apparently, he’s not going to say no.

It seems like no time before you’re both wrestling your shirts off, desperate to touch each other’s bare skin. Yoongi’s eyes warm when he sees the bra you bought during your hectic shopping spree the night before. He strokes your breasts delicately, almost reverently, before leaning in to kiss you again, pushing you lightly down onto the couch.

After kissing you deeply for a minute, he pulls away slightly. “Is this ok?” he asks softly. “I know we just met, but, god, I like you.” He’s looking at you with concern, and you feel yourself melting at his words.

“It’s ok,” you whisper. “I like you too.” An understatement, but it’s enough to get the point across. Yoongi’s bright grin flashes out before he recaptures your lips with his own, his hands resuming their exploration of your body. In only a few more minutes, he’s undone your pants and slipped them down your legs, working his way back up from your ankles with feather-light brushes of his fingertips combined with deep, enthusiastic kisses along your calves and thighs. He lingers at your panties, fingers and tongue skimming teasingly across the sheer fabric as you whimper in anticipation. But he keeps moving, leisurely making his way along the line of your hip to your waist, and up to your breasts, your collarbone, your throat again. You thread your fingers through his gorgeous hair, and pull his face back to yours for another kiss.

And oh my god, can he kiss. You’re lost in the sensation, even as you’re keenly aware of his hands on your skin, his body moving against yours. You can feel his erection, and you adjust your hips so you can press into him, causing Yoongi to groan and pull away. As he starts to unbutton his jeans, you sit up abruptly.

“Do you have a condom?” you ask, and he freezes, staring at you.

“I don’t,” he answers, shoulders slumping. He sits back on the couch and begins to button his pants again, but you stop him with a touch on his hand.

“Wait, I might have some.” You leap up and run into your bedroom, throwing open the cabinet in your bedside table and rummaging around. You do have an open box of condoms, but you don’t know if they’re still any good; they’ve been in there for years. You make your way back to the living room, scanning the box for some kind of shelf life.

“Do you know how long condoms are good for?” you ask Yoongi. When he doesn’t answer, you glance down to see him staring at your body, a half smile on his lips. He looks up guiltily.

“What?”

“Do you know how long condoms last?” you repeat. Yoongi shakes his head, and you sigh in frustration, still peering at the box. The last thing you want to do is put an end to what you started tonight, but there’s no way you’re going to risk getting pregnant. You glance at Yoongi, afraid that he’ll start putting his clothes back on and getting ready to leave. But he’s still sitting there, watching you with interest.

“Let me see it,” he says, taking the box from you. He fishes out a condom and examines the wrapper. “These are from 2016?” he asks, and you immediately drop your head into your hands in mortification. “Here, it says the expiration date is 2021. We’ve got two years.”

You peek between your fingers to see him grinning in triumph. But when he notices your discomfort, he immediately asks what’s wrong.

“I’m just embarrassed that now you know how long it’s been since I had sex,” you admit.

“What, 2016?” he asks in surprise, and you nod, cringing, wondering if now he really will start to get dressed. But to your surprise, Yoongi reaches for your hand, tugging you towards the couch, and you sit down next to him. He waits to speak until you’re looking at him.

“Y/N, I don’t care how long ago you had sex. Why would that embarrass you? If it’s been awhile, I’m sure it’s just because you’re more focused on other things. You’ve already mentioned that you work all the time. I understand prioritizing your career over personal relationships.”

He studies your face, looking for confirmation, and you shrug one shoulder in semi-agreement.

“I do the same,” he continues. “If you want to know the truth, it’s been a couple years for me too.”

“That can’t be true,” you object, and he wrinkles his nose in annoyance.

“And why not?”

“Because…look at you!” you blurt. His mouth curves smugly and you shake your head. “I mean, you’re gorgeous, you’re famous. You’re an idol, surely you have beautiful women throwing themselves at you all the time.” You’re finally voicing the thought that’s been flashing in neon lights in your head ever since the day you met him. You’re afraid of offending him, but Yoongi doesn’t seem fazed.

“It doesn’t happen as much as you’d think,” he says gently. “And someone throwing herself at me isn’t attractive. Even if it was, it’s not like I ever have time to do anything about it. None of us do; we’re too busy to have a relationship, or even date more than casually. And worse, we’re too scrutinized. By Big Hit, by the fans. When we do try to be with anyone, it has to be a secret. And it’s hard, to maintain that secrecy for any length of time.”

You regard him skeptically. “So…it’s seriously been two years for you.”

“Yeah, at least. You don’t look like you believe me,” he says wryly, and you rush to assure him.

“I don’t think you’re lying. Really. But, why me? After all this time, and all the opportunities I’m sure you have, no matter what you say. It’s hard to believe you’d break your habits right now, just for me.” You break off, looking down, before you share your final fear. “Is it…just because I’m making myself available? I am kind of throwing myself at you tonight.”

“What? No, that’s not it,” he objects, and you look back up at him. “If anything, I’ve been throwing myself at you ever since I met you,” he argues. “Not even necessarily to get to this point. I’ve just really wanted to get to know you better. I thought…” he trails off, looking down. “I thought maybe you felt the same.”

“I do feel the same,” you say quietly. “It’s just hard to get past the fact that you’re this incredible, gorgeous, talented guy…no, idol, and I’m not anybody special.”

“Oh, Y/N,” Yoongi breathes, raising his eyes to yours again. “You are special. Do you not know how beautiful you are? Not to mention everything else you have to offer?”

As you hear his words, and more, see the look in his eyes as he says them, the last of your insecurities melt away. It seems like he actually means what he says. And if not, if he’s just feeding you a line, well, it’s a really good line. And maybe you’re tired of missing out on life.

“We don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to,” Yoongi continues, but you interrupt him.

“I do want to. I really want to,” you tell him, and his lips quirk into a smile. Taking his face between your hands, you lean in to kiss him once more.

“Thank god,” he murmurs against your mouth, and you pull back again, chuckling. “Do you have a bed?” he asks, but then he pauses, flushing a little. “Ok, that was a dumb question.”

You stand up, still laughing, exhilarated by your decision. “Come and see.” You hold out your hand, and he clasps it firmly, laughing with you as you tug him to his feet and into the bedroom with you.

Chapter Text

You don’t get any sleep again. Even when Yoongi finally dozes off, you lie close to him, limbs tangled with his, one hand resting against his chest. You can just make out his face in the early morning light seeping through your bedroom window. You can’t tear your eyes from the soft curves of his nose and chin, the pouty lips, slightly parted, the way his hair falls away from his forehead. It doesn’t seem real, that someone so breathtaking could actually be here in your bed. In fact, thinking about it too much is a little terrifying.

At least he seemed to enjoy himself. You know you did. You sigh blissfully as you remember some of the best moments of the last few hours. You wonder if you’ll ever get to see Yoongi again, but before you can even begin to hope, you quash those thoughts. Despite what he said about coming back to Chicago some time, you know how unlikely it is that you’ll ever get more than this one night. But still, you can’t find it in you to regret anything. Not when every fiber of your body feels so incredibly good.

You’re still staring at his features, mapping them to your memory. You’re tempted to lean in and kiss him awake, but you resist the impulse, instead gently rolling over to look at the clock. It’s nearly 6:00 a.m. Before he fell asleep, Yoongi asked you to set the alarm for 6:30, so he can make it back to his hotel and sneak into his room before an 8:00 a.m. wake-up call. But that leaves him with less than two hours of sleep for the night, so you don’t want to deprive him of even thirty minutes. You content yourself with inching closer, trying to snuggle back under his arm. You don’t mean to wake him, but Yoongi stirs, snaking his arm around your body and tugging you against his bare chest, his face nuzzling into your hair at the nape of your neck.

“What time is it?” he murmurs, and you tell him, smiling a little when he emits a string of cute noises, a vague combination of Korean and English, whimper and groan.

“You’ve still got half an hour,” you assure him, but he doesn’t relax back into sleep. Instead, his long fingers start tracing light circles on your belly, just above your hipbone. You close your eyes as his lips ghost over your shoulder blade. He shifts even closer, and you can feel him hardening against you. His hand works its way up towards your breast, unerringly finding your nipple and gently rubbing it into a tight bud.

You arch against him, your body already tingling, and he moves away, but only so he can roll you onto your back next to him and shift one leg over yours. You see the intent gleam of his half-closed eyes before he lowers his face to your breast, letting his lips and tongue take over the work his hand started. You’re the one to whimper now as each pull of his mouth sends an answering tug straight to your core. The sound only spurs him on, and, with sudden energy, Yoongi rolls completely on top of you, legs spread and braced on either side of your hips, as he turns his attention to your other breast. You grind against him, hardly believing how much you still want him after the extent of your activities tonight.

You stretch one arm out for the condom box lying in readiness on the bedside table. As you draw out the last remaining condom, you wonder how many you went through. But Yoongi doesn’t give you time for distracting thoughts as he slides his way down your body, shifting position to nudge your legs apart. You feel his breath hot against your thighs, and you gasp his name just as he buries his face between your legs. Last night he teased you with this, moving in, and then away again, until you were actually begging him for it. But this time he doesn’t tease you at all, already knowing how to drive you over the edge. You cry out at the shocking pleasure as your orgasm starts building almost immediately. His strong hands pin your thighs to the bed as they jerk in reaction to the persistent strokes of his tongue. You still clutch the condom in one hand, and your other hand clutches at the sheets, searching for an anchor as the wave crashes over you.

Yoongi works you through it with his agile mouth and fingers, only raising his head when you’re finally quiet, lying rapt and shuddering. You can see his self-satisfied grin in the gathering morning light.

“Is that the last condom?” he asks, his eyes lighting briefly on the packet slipping from between your limp fingers. You barely manage a nod. “It’d be a shame to waste it,” he continues, “I mean, if you aren’t planning on having sex for another three years, it’ll be expired before you can use it.”

Even in your ravaged state, you still have enough energy to scowl and toss the condom at his smirking face. He ducks, laughing, and quickly makes his way back up your body to kiss you gently at the base of your throat.

“I’m only teasing you,” he murmurs into your ear. “I hope I was worth waiting for.”

“Do you even have to ask?” you question him, and he raises his head to look quizzically at you.

“Why wouldn’t I ask?”

“Well, you are one of the sexiest men in the world,” you remind him, and he actually looks down a little shyly.

“That’s subjective. And anyway, I’m out of practice. But I’ve…well, I’ve had the best night. I just want to make sure you had a good time too.”

You’re shaken by his words, by the thought that he might find this night as memorable as you will. And that maybe he isn’t quite as confident as he seems to be.

“Believe me, I will never forget this,” you reassure him, watching as the smug look slides over his face again. “And you’re right, we shouldn’t waste that condom.”

Yoongi grins, biting his lip in anticipation as he turns to hunt for the packet.

*****
You stay in bed past the 6:30 alarm. (Both of you scrabbled at the clock in frustration when it started blaring at the absolute wrong moment. You ended up yanking the cord from the wall and Yoongi chucked the whole thing on the floor before picking up where he left off.)

The result is that when you finally get up, he’s got very little time before he has to leave. You offer to drive him back to the hotel so he doesn’t have to wait for an Uber and possibly be too late to slip in undetected. He accepts gratefully, and after you both manage a lightning-fast clean-up, you hustle out of the door and down to your car.

You’re both silent during the ride. When you risk quick glances at him, you see that he’s staring rather pensively out the window, watching the passing buildings and homes. When you’re only a couple blocks away, Yoongi suddenly sits up and says your name.

“Can you pull over here?” he asks, and you check your rearview and quickly maneuver the car to the side of the road, pulling into a loading zone and shifting into park.

“There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts back there,” Yoongi explains, grinning at you. “I’ll go in and get coffee, and then if anyone sees me coming back to the hotel, they’ll think I just went out for breakfast.”

You nod approvingly at his plan, though you’re not sure how you feel about him hiding the fact he was with you. Yoongi tilts his head, eyeing you. “Listen, for many, many reasons, it’s better if we keep this a secret,” he says, apparently reading you perfectly. You swallow and nod again, smiling brightly to try to show him you understand. Because you do, really. As far as you know, the members of BTS have never been publicly involved in any kind of relationship. Whatever they do in private, they need to maintain their image for the media and the fans. It’s just business. You’re lucky he trusted you enough to spend even this little bit of time together.

Yoongi is still watching you closely. “One of the main reasons to keep quiet is that I would really like to stay in touch with you,” he says, “and Big Hit probably won’t approve.”

You stare at him, the smile slowly fading from your face. Yoongi’s eyes crinkle as he grins at your expression.

“You look scared. Is staying in touch such a bad idea?”

“No,” you say slowly, “I mean, not for me, but is it even possible for you?”

Yoongi shrugs. “Big Hit doesn’t monitor my phone. I can talk to whoever I want without them knowing about it. Seeing you again will be a lot harder. But let’s not worry about that right now. I just want to call you sometime. I don’t want this to just end.”

Your smile is returning now, because honestly, you weren’t expecting him to say anything like this. But somehow, you believe he means it. You know you’d definitely love to stay in touch with Yoongi. Although your acquaintance has been short, you feel like he’s gotten to know you better in a few days than some people who’ve known you for years. And while it sucks that you have to find that kind of connection with someone who doesn’t even live in America, you’re grateful he doesn’t want to sever it, at least not yet.

And if there’s even a slim chance of ever seeing him again, and having another night like the one you just shared, you’re not passing that up.

“I’d like to stay in touch,” you agree, and Yoongi smiles again.

“Good. I’ll call you next week, then. I’ve got your number.” He unbuckles his seatbelt and leans over to cup your face in his hands and kiss you softly. “Thank you. For your work on the concert, for helping me finish the gifts, really for everything you did this week, but especially for letting me get to know you. I’m glad you gave me a chance.”

“Me too,” is all you can manage in the face of his eloquence. He doesn’t seem to need more than that, though, getting out of the car and leaning over to shoot you one last grin before shutting the door and backtracking in the direction of the donut shop. You turn your head, watching him through the rear window until he disappears into the store. Then you lean your head back against the seat, cover your face with both hands, and release a muffled shriek into your palms. God, now you know how Hannah felt last night. You can definitely die happy after this.

Except, you don’t want to die. If you do, you’ll miss Yoongi’s phone call.

*****

Although you’ve hardly slept for days, you’re too wired to go home and back to bed. You were supposed to take the weekend off, but you swing by your office anyway, with a quick detour to Starbucks to pick up a double latte. You end up getting so swamped in work that you don’t even notice your exhaustion until you hit a late-afternoon wall. You make your way home and crash into bed.

Fourteen hours later, you wake, amazed that you slept so long, but knowing that you needed the rest. You go into work again, even though it’s Sunday, because the other option is to sit around and torture yourself with thoughts of Yoongi. Even as you busy yourself at the office, you can’t stop your mind from wandering to the moments you spent with him this week. Especially the moment when he said he wants to call you. And then you wrench your thoughts back to what you’re doing. You don’t want to expect more than he can actually deliver.

That evening, a phone call from Hannah provides a nice distraction. You spend hours talking with her, finally filling her in on all the details about your interactions with BTS during the fundraiser. She asks a few more questions about Yoongi, clearly still suspicious that something happened on Friday night, but your answers seem to satisfy her. Finally, you say goodnight and crawl into bed.

When your phone rings again, you note the international phone number and immediately tense up. Could Yoongi actually be calling you so soon? You should have added his name to your contacts after he left, so you wouldn’t be caught by surprise like this. But that seemed so presumptuous, like you were assuming he’d actually call. You hadn’t wanted to jinx it.

The call is already on the fourth ring. Quickly, you shake off your nerves and answer the phone. “Hello?”

“Hey.”

It is Yoongi. You panic as soon as you hear his low voice. So you say something dumb.

“I thought you weren’t going to call me until next week.”

“It is next week. It’s Sunday. That’s the beginning of the next week.”

“I guess I thought you meant next weekend.”

“Ok, if you’re too busy now, I can just call you then.” You can hear the laughter in his voice, but you object quickly, in case he’s actually offended.

“No, no, I’m not busy. I was just in bed. Why are you calling?” you ask, and immediately smack your hand over your eyes. Maybe you could act a little happy to hear from him?

“I just wanted to talk to you. And I have a favor to ask.”

Your heartbeat quickens. You can’t believe he’s called you so soon. To be honest, despite the seeming sincerity of his declaration to you yesterday morning, you’ve been more than half-expecting that you won’t hear from him again. You suspect it will be all too easy for him to forget about you as he moves on with his life. But apparently, he hasn’t forgotten just yet.

“I want a picture of you. Can you send me one?” Yoongi asks, interrupting your thoughts. You grin, amused and pleased by the request. Elation floods through you suddenly, because he really called. Whatever’s going on between the two of you, it isn’t over yet.

“Man, sleep with a guy one time, and he thinks he can get nudes,” you joke, and Yoongi immediately starts to protest.

“Oh my god, keep your clothes on,” he laughs. “I just want a normal picture. I should have taken one while we were together, but I didn’t think of it.”

You consider for a moment. “I’ll send you one if you send me one.”

Yoongi scoffs. “You can find pictures of me online.”

“Well, you can find pictures of me online,” you counter. “I have a LinkedIn account.”

“Oh, really,” he purrs, and you furrow your brow.

“Why do you sound so turned on by that?”

“Because the first couple times I saw you, you were wearing some very sexy suits. LinkedIn profile pictures could be interesting. But I still want a regular picture from you.”

“Ok, and I still want one from you. Something the rest of the world hasn’t already seen.”

“Feeling a little possessive already?” Yoongi asks smugly.

“Maybe,” you admit, even though that’s probably yet another dumb thing to say. But he only laughs again.

“Fine, give me a second.” You hear him moving around, and then the click of the camera. After a few moments, your phone dings with a text, and you swipe open the message to find a photo of Yoongi.

He’s in bed too, his blonde hair falling off his brow, and one arm resting on the pillow above his head. His face is tilted slightly into his arm, but his eyes are focused directly on the camera above him, and he’s nipping at his bottom lip, a teasing smile curving up on one side. Just looking at the image, you remember certain moments from two nights ago, and you have to swallow a couple times before speaking again.

“That is such an inappropriate photo,” you tell him.

“What?” he protests, laughing. “I’m fully dressed.”

“But you’re still too sexy,” you complain, and he laughs.

“I can’t help it; it just comes naturally.”

“Yeah right, you know what you’re doing. I won’t be able to give you that kind of picture.”

“That’s ok. Just send something.”

“I need a few minutes.” You slide out of bed and cross the room to your closet to find something to wear. You put the phone down to get dressed, but pick it up in a couple minutes when you hear Yoongi’s voice.

“What did you say?”

“I was just wondering where you went.”

“You said to keep my clothes on for the picture, so I had to get dressed.”

“Wait, hold up. If your clothes are already off, why go through the trouble of putting them back on? You can just send a picture as-is.”

You chuckle. “I knew you wanted nudes. Anyway, it’s too late; I’m dressed now. Hang on.” As he groans in disappointment, you hold up your phone, tilting your head to try to find your best angle, and take a shot. You’re not pleased with the result, but you don’t bother taking another one because you know it won’t be any better. You hit send, and then throw yourself back into bed and close your eyes tightly, the phone pressed against your ear as you wait for Yoongi’s reaction.

“Gorgeous,” he murmurs after a moment, and your eyes pop open again in surprise.

“Really?”

“Yes, of course. You’re beautiful. Thank you.”

You don’t know what to say. After a moment, Yoongi breaks the silence.

“So, what did you do this weekend, since you didn’t have to work? Something fun, I hope. Kayaking, maybe?”

“Why kayaking? That’s so random.”

“Random? It says right here on your LinkedIn profile that it’s one of your favorite hobbies.”

Your mouth drops open. “You’re actually looking at that?”

“Of course. I was right about your profile picture, by the way. Very sexy.”

“I haven’t even looked at that myself in a couple years,” you muse, wondering what else is in there that you forgot about. “I haven’t been kayaking for years either.”

“So kayaking isn’t your hobby? What, were you just making stuff up?”

“No, of course not,” you laugh. “I used to kayak a lot. I just haven’t done it in a while.”

“What about these other things you list? Like camping?”

You think back. “Same as the kayaking. I did that kind of thing a lot in college. It was a very cheap way to have a vacation, during a time when I didn’t have much money. I kept it up for a few years after I graduated, but lately I’ve been too busy.”

Yoongi is silent for a moment. “So…you don’t camp or kayak anymore, you don’t go to concerts, you don’t even date or hang out with your friends. What do you do besides work?”

You fidget, uncomfortable that he’s bringing this up again after your conversation the other night.

“I told you, my work is my passion. I know I should have more balance in my life, but it’s hard to take time away from my job when I love it, and when I know I’m doing some good.”

You wait for him to scold you, but he’s quiet again. And somehow, the silence feels comforting, like he understands. You can almost picture him nodding his head in agreement.

“Did you at least use your time off this weekend to get some rest?” he finally asks.

“No, I ended up working,” you admit, and Yoongi squawks in annoyance.

“Y/N! I thought you had the weekend off?”

“I did, but we’ve been getting so many calls and inquiries after the concert that I ended up going in yesterday and today. You guys got us a lot of publicity.”

“I’m glad, if what we did helps you, and the kids. But I don’t like causing you more work. Can you take time off next weekend?”

“Oh, probably. I’m entitled to a lot more time than I actually take. But it might mean leaving some inquiries unanswered for a day or two.”

“You mean inquiries about fostering or adopting? If they’re serious about it, people won’t mind waiting for information. How about this? I’ll call you next Sunday, and I want to hear that you did one thing completely separate from your work this week. Something fun or relaxing. Even if it’s just spending the whole day in bed watching your favorite TV show.”

“I don’t really have a favorite TV show,” you comment, and he groans.

“That’s right, I didn’t even see a TV at your apartment. You are seriously the biggest workaholic I’ve ever met. I thought I was bad, and the rest of the group, but you’re even worse.”

“You’re making it sound like working hard is a bad thing,” you say in annoyance, and Yoongi immediately apologizes.

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to criticize you. I’d just like to see you relax a little bit. I don’t even know why. You can tell me to go to hell if you want.”

“It’s ok,” you say softly, won over by his apology. “I think you’re right, overall. It’s just not a mindset I’m used to. I’ll find something to do next weekend. Hannah’s not the only friend I haven’t paid enough attention to lately.”

“Good,” he replies, and you can hear the smile in his voice. You change the subject, asking him what they’ve done in New York so far. You talk for another hour before he says he should let you get some sleep and you both say goodnight.

But you can’t fall asleep. You can’t stop thinking about him, this lovely, intelligent, perceptive man who showed up out of nowhere and somehow made it feel like you’ve known him forever. You can’t understand it.

After a while, you turn your phone back on and pull up the picture he texted you. No, you can’t understand it at all. But you’re not complaining.

*****

By the next Sunday, you’re so ready for Yoongi’s call. Although you hate admitting it, terrified of the implications, you miss him. You miss talking to him, and you haven’t been able to stop playing his solo songs over and over, just to hear his voice. You also can’t stop thinking of the things he said to you, complimenting you for your dedication to your work while simultaneously calling you out for being too one-dimensional in your life. You actually took his advice and reached out to some of your friends during the week, and you’re looking forward to telling him about it.

But you haven’t heard from him by 10:30 at night. You try to distract yourself with a book, but you keep turning on your phone to see if you missed a call or text. After another twenty minutes, you’ve tossed the book aside and started pacing your apartment, testing the wi-fi connection and the notifications on your phone to make sure they’re working. You do a search for BTS’s tour schedule, trying to remember where they’re supposed to be. You thought they had a few more weeks in America, but maybe they’re back on the west coast and Yoongi’s forgotten about the time difference.

By 11:00, you’ve figured out they’re still in New York, which means it’s officially not Sunday anymore where Yoongi is, and he still hasn’t called. BTS had a concert tonight, but they must have finished a while ago. Feeling crushed, you start getting ready for bed. After you wash your face in the bathroom, you stare at yourself in the mirror. Just an ordinary face. Ordinary figure. Somehow, Yoongi had you convinced he might actually find you beautiful, but as you scrutinize your features, you start to doubt his words. He wanted to get you into bed, like you suspected when he first asked you to dinner. He said all those things about keeping in touch, and called you the next night, because he’s a nice guy and he wanted to let you down easy. But now he’s moved on. He’s probably out right now with some girl he met in New York and invited to his concert.

You feel tears welling at the thought. Before they can fall, you run back into the bedroom and throw yourself into bed, burying your face in your pillow. You know you’re being an idiot, that you should never have had any expectations from Min Yoongi.

But you did have them. And it hurts, letting them go.

You lie awake, eyes burning, unable to relax into sleep. When your phone rings, you bolt out of bed and start feeling around under the covers. You can hear the phone, but you can’t find it in the tangle of bedclothes. You yank frantically at the sheets and the phone finally pops into sight. You note the time, 11:51, and the caller ID. It’s Yoongi.

“Hello?” you answer, trying to remain calm, but you can hear how breathless you are.

“Hey,” he says. “It’s Yoongi. Did I wake you?”

“Sort of.”

“I’m sorry it’s so late, he apologizes, and you hear the chagrin in his voice. “Last week when I said I’d call, I didn’t realize we had a concert tonight. We just made it back to the hotel. I almost didn’t keep my promise.”

You have no idea how to respond. He really called you. And he’s not out with another girl. But you’re still feeling hurt, and scared. Honestly, what do you actually expect from him? He lives on another continent. He’s incredibly busy. He’s got beauty, talent, everything in the world going for him, and you, well, you’re ordinary. There’s no way you can hold his interest.

“Y/N?” he asks, when you don’t say anything. “Is it too late? I can call you another time. I should have just texted you earlier to let you know we were busy today, but things got so crazy. Or honestly, that’s a bad excuse. Things are always crazy when we’re on tour. I just need to plan better.”

“Yoongi,” you interrupt, since he’s rambling. He’s actually rambling, trying to explain himself. Is it really that important to him? “Listen, you don’t have to stress about calling me.”

“But I said I would call. I didn’t want you to worry.”

“I wasn’t worried,” you lie. “I know how much you have going on in your life. I understand if you don’t want to try to keep in touch, or if you don’t have time. It’s ok with me.”

There’s a dead silence, broken only by the sound of your own breathing as you struggle to slow it down to a normal pace. When Yoongi finally speaks, his voice has changed subtly, become colder.

“But I do want to keep in touch,” he says. “I told you that already, and I thought you felt the same. Are you saying you don’t want to anymore?”

“No!” you burst out, before you can stop yourself. It might be smarter to let him assume you’re the one who’s lost interest, to put an end to things before he does. But he sounds hurt by your words, and you can’t bear that.

“I’d like it a lot if I can keep hearing from you,” you say slowly, struggling to find the words that can explain how complicated your thoughts are. “But I don’t want it to feel like an obligation, you know? Like you say you’ll call, so you have to call no matter what.”

“Oh, Y/N, it’s not an obligation. I called you tonight because I wanted to.”

“I’m glad, but it’s late, and I’m sure you’re tired. If you hadn’t felt like you’d be breaking a promise, would you really have called me right now?” You hold your breath, not sure how he’ll react to your blunt words. He’s silent, thinking about it.

“Maybe not,” he finally admits. “Tomorrow would be easier. No concert.”

“Ok, so call me tomorrow,” you tell him. “If you can, but don’t stress if something comes up.”

“But if you’re expecting to hear from me,” he begins, and you realize in a flash what the problem is. Why you were so crushed when you didn’t hear from him tonight.

“I’ve got an idea,” you interrupt. “No expectations. Just…call me if you want to, and if you don’t want to, then don’t, and don’t feel guilty about it. I’ll be happy to hear from you if you call, but I won’t be disappointed if you don’t, because I won’t be expecting anything.”

Yoongi is silent, clearly mulling this over. “Then, if I don’t even call you for a couple weeks,” he finally asks, “you won’t be angry?”

“Yes, exactly. I really do understand how much is going on in your life. And I’m busy too. Staying in touch shouldn’t feel like something we’re trying to squeeze in. I know we just met, but I think we’ve gotten to know each other enough that we can be comfortable with whatever level of contact we’re able to maintain. And not judge or get angry, even if we only have time to talk every once in a while.”

He takes a while to think about your words, and you get anxious again as you wait for his reaction. “You’re basically describing a friendship,” he says eventually, and you feel dismay wash through you.

He seems to understand what you’re getting at, but you’re thrown by the word ‘friendship.’ That’s not exactly what you want from him, not after he spent the night with you. To be honest, that hasn’t been what you wanted since the moment you met him. But maybe it’s the best you can hope for from someone in his position. After a moment, you decide to go along with it.

“Yes, a friendship. I like you a lot, more than I thought it was possible to like someone I just met. I’d like to have you as a friend, even if the circumstances make it difficult.”

There’s a beat of silence. You’re not sure, but you think you hear the faintest exhalation of breath, almost a sigh, before he speaks again.

“Ok, then we’re friends. And considering the circumstances, there’s no pressure to get in touch on some kind of schedule.”

“Exactly. No pressure. No expectations.”

“No nude pictures.”

“Yoongi! You weren’t getting those anyway.”

“What do you mean?” he laughs. “I was talking about me.”

You groan, though you’re amused. “Please don’t be that guy. I’m pretty sure most girls don’t actually want dick pics.”

“Really? Maybe that’s why I didn’t get laid for two years.”

You know he’s joking, but he sounds so aggrieved that you dissolve into helpless giggles. It feels so good to laugh, to release some of the pent-up emotions that have been swirling inside of you.

“Don’t laugh at my technique. I did something right with you, at least,” Yoongi points out.

“You didn’t send me nudes; you sent me V.I.P. passes to your concert. That was much better.” you tease.

“So, you’re saying the passes won you over? That hurts. I thought it was my music, at the very least.”

“Maybe that had something to do with it,” you admit. “I love your songs. And I kind of like talking with you. Do you, uh, want to keep talking tonight, or is it too late?”

“No, tonight’s ok, unless it’s too late for you. You still need to tell me what you did this week to relax.”

At least you’re prepared for this part of the conversation. “I had drinks the other night with a couple of my college friends,” you tell him. And one of them, my friend Bryce, invited me to join this kayaking group for singles that she’s trying over the summer. We’re going on a day-trip with them next weekend.”

“Kayaking group for singles. Like where you meet guys?”

“Yeah, pretty much. I mean, the main thing is the kayaking, but I’m sure people join because they’re looking for a date. Bryce definitely is.”

“Well,” Yoongi says after a pause, “good luck with that.” You’re not sure if he only means good luck finding someone for Bryce, or if he’s somehow including you in that statement, but he continues talking before you can poke too deeply at his words. The two of you drift into a new topic, and keep talking until Yoongi finally claims exhaustion and says goodnight.

Though you’re exhausted too, you still can’t sleep. You feel like you let something slip through your fingers, like if you’d used some different words, or maybe just had better timing, the conversation wouldn’t have worked out the way it did. But no matter how hard you think about it, you can’t really see things ending any differently. You and Yoongi can be friends, if you’re lucky, but that’s all.

Anything else is surely impossible.

Chapter Text

After Yoongi tells you he just wants to be friends, you’re not sure if you’ll hear from him again. But to your surprise, he does call, less than a week later. And again, the next weekend. He’s in Sao Paulo this time, relaxing on his hotel balcony after a concert. There’s some kind of midnight festival occurring, with partiers roaming the streets below him, and even a big fireworks display. Yoongi spends a chunk of the call trying to snap a photograph of the fireworks to send to you. He gets increasingly frustrated at every failed attempt, complaining cutely until you finally tell him you don’t need a picture.

But at that very moment, he apparently captures the perfect image. He texts it over, and you have to admit it’s pretty stunning. Your praise launches him into a highly technical discourse on how much cell phone cameras have improved since their origin. He rambles on about the subject as he gets ready to go to sleep. You’re already in bed, and you snuggle into the pillow, phone against your ear, listening happily as he speaks. You don’t particularly care about cell phone cameras, but you’re impressed by how much he knows. And Yoongi’s voice is so hypnotizing, rich and soothing and sexy all at once.

He pauses suddenly. “Are you still awake? I’m not boring you, am I?”

“No,” you say sleepily. “I love the sound of your voice.”

And then your eyes pop open in dismay. That is not an appropriate comment for friends to make.

Yoongi is chuckling smugly. “You love my voice, huh? Is that why my solo songs are some of your favorites?”

His voice has deepened, turned flirtatious.

“I don’t know if they are, anymore,” you tell him. “I’m really starting to fall in love with Persona.”

You intend for the reference to Namjoon’s recent solo to have a dampening effect, but to your dismay, Yoongi only bursts into laughter.

“What are you doing right now?” he asks, still giggling. “Are you in bed? Send me a picture?”

“No,” you refuse. This is not at all the direction you expected this call to take. Why did you have to say anything about his voice?

“Come on,” Yoongi coaxes. “I’ll send you one.” He’s silent for a moment, and then your phone pings with a text. You lift it from your ear and open his latest photo. He’s gotten into bed by now, and in the shot, he’s smiling teasingly up at the camera. A shiver of lust runs through your body, and you toss the phone away from you in frustration. Why does Yoongi have to be like this? Flirting with you one week, telling you he just wants a friendship the next week, and now taunting you with thirst trap photos?

You hear his voice, and you pat around until you find the phone, raising it to your ear once more.

“Your turn,” Yoongi is saying, and you sigh. Should you reciprocate? Send him something provocative? But then what? He can’t give you what you want, so why encourage the teasing?

You pull the covers up to your chin and smile demurely at the camera, using your free hand to make a finger heart next to your cheek as you snap the selfie. When Yoongi gets the photo, his laugh rings through the phone line again.

“Cute,” he says softly, and his tone is no longer dangerous. You sigh again, in relief this time. “But you look tired.” Yoongi continues. “I should let you get some rest.”

“What about you?” you retort. “Isn’t it later there than it is here?”

“It’s two a.m.,” he confirms. Two hours later than Chicago time. “But don’t worry about me. We’re flying to Europe tomorrow, so my sleep schedule’s going to be all messed up for the next couple days. Next time I call you, it probably won’t be at night.”

Next time. The words echo in your head as you say goodnight. He really wants to keep calling you. And though you’re still confused by his motives, you want him to keep calling, too. He’s so easy to talk to, and so much fun. You feel like he’s someone who really could become a close friend, if you could just stop thinking about how gorgeous he is. And that’d be easier if he would just stop flirting with you.

*****

The next few phone calls are less complicated. Yoongi calls you twice from London, and you beg him to tell you everything he can about a city you’ve been dying to visit since you were a girl. He keeps you entertained with stories of the sights Bangtan sees, the people they meet, and the meals they have during their week-long visit. He doesn’t ask you for another selfie.

He calls you from Paris on your birthday, though it’s a coincidence, since you never told him the date. But just having a conversation with him is the best gift you could have wished for.

Now, you know he’s back in Seoul. But though he’s been home for over a week, you haven’t heard from him. A slight uneasiness has settled into your consciousness, as you wonder if he’s lost interest after all. Maybe you were a nice distraction while he was on tour, but now that he’s back to his normal life, he has more important things to worry about.

The problem is, you miss talking to him. And you have some news, really good news, that you’re dying to share. A family visited the Clary Foundation with the intention of adopting Spencer. You’ve been overjoyed that this kid you respect so much is really going to get a home. You’ve told a couple of your other friends, but somehow, out of all the people you know, Yoongi is the one you feel would most appreciate the news. But he hasn’t called.

After days of waiting, you screw up the nerve to call him instead. You calculate the time difference, and decide to reach him early in the morning, your time, which makes it evening in Seoul. You wait nervously as the phone rings. You think it’ll go to voicemail, but suddenly Yoongi picks up.

“Y/N?” he asks, sounding concerned. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” you reply, puzzled.

“Ok…good.”

“Why wouldn’t I be ok?” you ask, since he sounds doubtful.

“You just never call me,” he explains. “I’m always the one to call you. I thought maybe you had some bad news.”

“No, nothing like that,” you hurry to reassure him. “I have something good to tell you, actually. And I hadn’t heard from you, so I thought I’d try to get in touch. Maybe I should have just texted?” you finish hesitantly, your confidence fleeing at his words. But Yoongi quickly reassures you.

“No, it’s ok. I’m glad you called. What’s your good news?”

So he still wants to talk to you. You pep yourself up again to share the reason for your call. “Do you remember Spencer?”

“The boy who takes care of everyone. The one who came up on stage.”

“Yes, because you invited him up there. I don’t think I told you, but one of the news crews filmed what you said to him, and about him. And they interviewed him afterwards, and featured his story on their broadcast about the concert.”

“Wow, that’s exciting. It’s a good thing, right?”

“It’s a very good thing for Spencer, because a family who saw the broadcast came in last week to meet him. They’re interested in adopting him.” You wanted to tell the story without crying, but you can already feel your eyes tearing up.

“Wow,” Yoongi says again, but softly this time. You can tell he’s affected too. You’re feeling so many emotions right now, joy for Spencer, hope for his future, excitement about this family, this really amazing family, who wants him to be part of their unit. But most of all, you’re feeling an overwhelming gratitude for Yoongi, for being the catalyst for all of it. You try to hold back the tears long enough to express how much you owe him for this.

“If you hadn’t asked Spencer up on stage, and talked about him the way you did, this family wouldn’t have heard about him. I just wanted you to know about it, because you’re the reason it happened.”

“Hey, I wouldn’t have asked Spencer onto the stage if you hadn’t cared enough to tell me about him,” Yoongi tells you. “And the news crew wouldn’t have been there to do the story if you hadn’t promoted the event so hard. Take some credit. You’re the real reason.”

At that, you break down completely. Great. Your first phone call to a famous idol, and you can’t get through it without crying.

“I’m sorry,” you apologize after a moment, wiping at your eyes with one hand and trying not to sniffle too much into the phone.

“Don’t be. It’s a big deal. I’m really happy for Spencer. And for you, because I know this means a lot to you.”

“It does,” you agree, wiping your eyes one more time. You were right to want to tell Yoongi about this; he knows exactly what to say, more so than your other friends, even Hannah. “Ok, I’m fine,” you tell him. “We don’t have to keep talking about it. How are you doing? Are you happy to be back in Seoul?”

“God, I’m so happy,” he tells you. “We’re still really slammed, but at least I’ve been able to sleep in my own bed again. And eat real food. And no more airports and time changes and jet lag, at least for a little while. Hey, what time is it there, anyway?” he asks suddenly.

“It’s about six in the morning,” you tell him. “I thought evening would be the best time to try to catch you. But I had to look up the time change.”

“Yeah, I’ll have to remember that now that I’m home. I don’t want to call you in the middle of the night by mistake.”

You chuckle. “It’s ok if you do. I’ll either wake up and talk to you, or I won’t. I’ll at least see that you called, and I can call you back.”

“The same goes for me, you know,” Yoongi says. “I really am glad you called me. I was beginning to wonder if you liked talking to me that much.”

“Of course I like talking to you!” you burst out. Has he been worried about that? “I just, I figure you’re a lot busier than I am, so it’s better for you to call me when you’re free. I’m probably more available to answer the phone.”

“Maybe,” he concedes. “But like you said, there’s caller ID. I can always call you back.”

“Ok,” you agree, but he picks up on the hesitation in his voice.

“It makes me feel good to hear from you. So, call me again sometime. Don’t be afraid to bother me. Especially if I don’t call you for a while. I can get stressed sometimes, too wrapped up in my music, and I don’t always reach out to people when I should.”

“Ok, I’ll remember that,” you say, more confidently this time.

“What else is going on in your life? Have you been kayaking lately?”

“Yes, I’ve gone a couple of times now. The group Bryce and I joined is a lot of fun.”

“Have you gotten a date yet?” Yoongi throws out, and you pause. There is one guy, Luke, who’s flirted with you on both trips. He’s cute, and witty, and you’ve enjoyed talking to him. But you don’t have any interest in dating him. And for some reason, you don’t want Yoongi to know about him.

“No, but I’m not looking,” you answer. “I didn’t join the group to get a date.”

“Why would you join a singles group, then?” Yoongi asks. “If you meet someone you like, why not go on a date?”

You’re silent. You can’t tell him it’s because of him. Every conversation you have with Yoongi only reinforces how much you like him, and ridiculously, how much you miss him. You feel like if you try dating someone else, you won’t be able to stop thinking about Yoongi, picturing him as the one with you instead. And that’s not fair to your date. Or to you.

“I joined the group for Bryce,” you say finally. “And because of you. You said I should get out more, do more than just work all the time. And you were right. I’m enjoying the kayaking, and spending more time with my friend. And even meeting new people. I don’t have time to start dating on top of all that.”

Yoongi sighs. “We both work too much, don’t we? I think you should stay open to dating, though, if you meet someone. Keep saying yes to life, when you have the chance.”

You echo his sigh. Maybe he already knows he’s the reason you don’t want to date someone else. This could be his way of telling you not to keep hoping. Realistically, you already know having any hope at all is crazy. But you don’t want to let go quite yet.

*****

Between working, and putting some real effort into reviving your social life, you don’t even realize how quickly the summer passes. It’s almost August before you know it. The last week of July, you and Bryce go on a weekend camping and kayaking jaunt with the singles group.

On the final day of the trip, you get dressed and packed up early, and slip away from the rest of the group for a quick break. You make your way along the river bank until you can no longer hear the chatter and noise from the campsite. And even then, you keep going until you find an open, sandy bank that provides a good view of the water. You sink to the sand and stretch out your legs, enjoying the warmth from the early morning sun.

You need just a little bit of peace and quiet before the group gets back on the water. Two of the guys on this trip don’t seem capable of looking you in the eye when they talk to you, opting instead to address every word to your chest. Even when you donned a hoodie last night, they kept checking you out. This morning, when you were back in your bikini, the ogling got to be too much and you fled. If this is what you have to put up with every trip, you and Bryce are going to have to find a new kayaking group.

Not that most of the guys in the group are like that. You’ve met some really nice people this summer. Luke, for one, has become something of a friend. He asked you out after the third kayaking trip you took together. You turned him down as gently as you could, trying to explain that you’re just not looking for a relationship right now; that you’re only in the group to spend time with Bryce. He seemed to understand, and not even hold it against you. The last few trips, he’s just been friendly with you, transferring the bulk of his attentions to another girl.

You wonder if Yoongi would be mad at you, if he knew you said no to a date.

You sigh as you realize your thoughts have turned to him, as they always do. He’s still calling you, usually once or twice a week. Sometimes you even call him, although you’re still nervous about bothering him too much. But he always seems happy to talk to you, even prolonging the conversations for hours some weekends. You’ve fallen into a habit of talking on Sundays, when it’s morning for you, and late night for him. You’ll stretch out on your couch, or go sit on your tiny balcony, and just relax in a way you never do, drinking coffee while you chat with him.

Your conversations are all over the map, sometimes lighthearted, but sometimes more serious, about Yoongi’s struggles to fit songwriting into his hectic schedule, and the pressure he feels to release another mixtape. Hearing him talk, you realize he and the rest of Bangtan don’t live the superstar lifestyle you would have expected. They don’t party, they don’t drive around in fancy cars, they don’t travel, except for professional obligations. Instead, they work their asses off, practically seven days a week. Yoongi, especially, doesn’t give himself much of a break. Even when he has time to relax, he seems to spend it alone. You wonder if that explains why he’s stayed in touch with you this summer. Maybe he just likes having someone to keep him company now and then.

You know you appreciate his calls, more than you can say. You wouldn’t have considered yourself lonely before you met him, but he definitely fills a void in your life. The only family you have is your mom, and she’s the opposite of an emotional support system. The closest you have to a confidante is your best friend from college, Angie, but she got married and moved to Atlanta a couple years ago. Though you talk to her frequently, it’s not the same as it used to be. You have Hannah of course, and Bryce, and a couple of other friends who are close enough to forgive you for not hanging out with them more often. But if you were having an existential crisis at 3:00 a.m., you’re not sure you’d call any of them for help.

Yoongi, on the other hand, feels like the perfect candidate. He’s not always the one sharing his troubles; he’s an incredible listener when you have your own problems. He talks you down on more than one occasion when you’re fretting about one of the kids at the Clary Foundation. His advice is always so wise, even when it’s just reminding you that you can’t fix the whole world. He has an uncanny way of knowing when you need to hear something serious, and when you just need to loosen up. On the latter occasions, he’ll talk about something ridiculous, or just straight-up tease you until you’re laughing too hard to defend yourself.

Sometimes he’s in bed, and he’ll send you another one of his sinful selfies, laughing at you when you get hot and flustered. Then he’ll nag you to share a picture too, not listening when you complain that you haven’t taken a shower or fixed your hair yet. Even when you’re not trading pics, your talks turn flirty just a little too often for the friends you’re supposed to be. Fortunately, one of you usually nips that kind of talk in the bud before it becomes more than playful.

But no matter how hard you try to keep the relationship friendly, you can’t stop wishing it had somehow been able to turn into more. And as long as you’re in touch with him, as long as you keep nurturing a deep-down hope that maybe someday you’ll get a chance, you can’t muster any interest in other guys.

You feel your phone vibrating against your hip, and you shift to pull it from the pocket of your shorts, curious about who would be calling you. To your surprise, it’s Yoongi. It’s about the normal time for your Sunday phone call, but you’re sure you told him you wouldn’t be around this weekend.

“Hey,” you greet him, “how did you know I was thinking about you?”

“Were you?” he asks, sounding pleased. “I didn’t know; I just wanted to talk to you.”

“I didn’t think you’d call since I’m kayaking this weekend.”

“I know; I just need to ask you something. I can make it quick. Are you on a kayak right now?”

“No, not yet, and there’s no hurry. A lot of people are still breaking camp. I’m just hiding out, waiting for everyone to get ready, and avoiding a couple of guys who keep staring at my breasts.”

“Hold up, what?” Yoongi is chuckling, but also sounding a little concerned. “What kind of people are you hanging out with?”

“Nice people, except for these two. These guys are new to the group, and they’re taking the singles thing a little too seriously. They hit on anything that walks, and it got old fast.”

“Is there anyone there who can put a stop to it? A group leader or something?”

You wave off his concern. “Oh, I can take care of myself. It’s just annoying. Especially because I bought a new bikini for the trip, but now I’m really wondering who I was trying to look good for.”

“Send me a picture,” he suggests. “I’ll let you know you look good.”

“Yoongi,” you scold him. “Friends don’t ask for bikini pictures.”

He groans. “That’s right, we’re friends. Why did we make that decision again?” he asks, and your stomach flips. Why is he always teasing you like this? Doesn’t he know how much you wish you could have more? You hesitate a moment, making sure your voice doesn’t sound too wistful when you answer him.

“Because we live on different continents? And we might never see each other again?”

“About that,” he begins, but interrupts himself. “Wait, send me a picture first. Seriously, I want one. Just leave the bikini out.”

“Leave the bikini off?” you joke, laughing, and Yoongi’s voice raises as he tries to explain himself.

“I said leave it out, not take it off! Just do a regular selfie, like, your face only. You haven’t sent one in a while.”

“Fine, fine,” you placate him, still giggling as you turn your back on the river and hold up your phone to take a shot. You capture the water in the background, rippling and sparkling in the sunlight. And you maybe accidentally-on-purpose include enough of your body that he gets a glimpse of your cleavage, nicely showcased by the new bikini top. You text the photo to him and settle back down into the sand.

“Holy fuck.”

“What?” you ask, alarmed, surveying the river for some threat your picture might have captured, like alligators, or pirates.

“Why do you have your hair in braids? Are you trying to kill me?”

You start laughing again. “It’s easier when I’m outside.”

“That look is lethal. And I’ve got to admit, I’m as bad as those guys from your group. I’m totally staring at your breasts.”

You’re still giggling. He’s been torturing you with sexy photos all summer. Revenge is sweet. “You can look all you want. I intended you to.”

“That wasn’t very friendly of you,” he chides. “I’m feeling quite attacked.” His tone of voice is too much to handle, and you collapse on the sand, laughing hysterically.

“I’m glad you’re amused by my suffering,” Yoongi sighs, which doesn’t help you calm down. “If you’re finished flirting with me,” he continues, “I do have something to ask you. Something serious.”

You sober up quickly at the word serious. “Ok, I’m done laughing.”

“It’s not that serious. It’s just that we’ve negotiated with Big Hit to finally take some time off. We’re going on a break, a long one, next month.”

“Oh, that’s great news!” you cry, pleased for him and the others. “You need some rest.”

“Rest, and time to do some of the things we’ve been wanting to, like travel. And I was thinking about coming back to America for a couple of weeks, to see some of the cities I’ve visited on tour, but not had time to really explore.”

Your heart beats faster as you start hoping you know where he’s going with this.

“Like Chicago,” he suggests, and you can’t stop the grin that spreads across your face. “If I come back there, maybe we can see each other again after all?”

“Of course,” you say softly, almost whispering. “I’d really like that.”

“Yeah, me too. I just wanted to make sure it’s ok with you before I book plane tickets. I need to confirm the date our break starts, and I think we want to have an early birthday celebration for Jungkook before we all split up. And I need to spend a couple days in L.A., so I can meet with some people. I’ll let you know once I get the details settled and I have an arrival date.”

When you end the call, you spring to your feet, ready to finish the kayaking trip and get back to Chicago. Or even better, to just fast-forward your whole life to the part where you get to see Yoongi again.

Chapter Text

It’s the day Yoongi arrives in Chicago.

Last night, you left work early for a salon visit, just to make sure you’re looking your best. You went shopping for new lingerie (and a new box of condoms). You’re ready for sex, but you have no idea if it’ll even be on the menu. Judging by Yoongi’s recent behavior, it probably won’t be. He’s called you a few more times since he told you he was coming to Chicago, but the conversations were all brief, almost brusque. During the last call, when he was in L.A., he let you know when his flight was scheduled to land, and then casually mentioned that he’d booked a hotel room. You were surprised, since you’d been expecting him to stay with you. You’d been daydreaming constantly about having him back in your bed, so the word hotel was like a bucket of cold water dumped over you.

Then he said he’ll come by after he gets settled, and the two of you can go out to dinner. Dinner can mean a date, but it can also just mean two friends catching up with each other after a few months. You have no idea what to think anymore, and it’s making you nervous. He’s supposed to be at your apartment any minute now, and you’ve been pacing for the past half hour as conflicting thoughts bounce around in your head.

He’s the one who first brought up friendship as opposed to something more. But then, he’s also the one who’s always teasing you for pictures and telling you how good you look. And he’s the one who said he wanted to keep in touch in the first place. But he’s also been keeping tabs on your kayaking adventures all summer, even encouraging you to go on a date with someone from the singles group. He wouldn’t do that if he wanted to sleep with you. Of course, he was definitely interested in sleeping with you when he was in Chicago before. But then again, you were the one who initiated pretty much everything that night. Maybe he was just going along with it, because he’s a guy, but he never really wanted you that much….

The doorbell finally rings, saving you from the endless spiral of your thoughts. You run to throw the door open. Yoongi is standing there, and you gasp at how amazing he looks. His hair has remained blonde all summer, surprisingly. Now it’s straighter than it was in the spring, though it still falls in a gentle wave over his brow. He’s smiling at you, with this look in his dark eyes, like you’re the best thing he’s ever seen. You’re stretching out one arm to shake hands with him, but before you can even think about it, you’ve grasped his belt instead and tugged him towards you.

He wastes no time taking advantage of your invitation, grabbing your hips and pulling you close. His face is inches away, and he hesitates only a moment before crushing his lips to yours. You return the kiss, sliding your own arms around him and doing your best to press every inch of your body against his. But after a minute you pull away, breathless and guilty.

“I’m sorry,” you gasp.

“Don’t be,” he murmurs, running one hand up your back.

“We’re supposed to be friends,” you remind him, but he only leans in to kiss you again, this time along your jawline.

“I don’t care,” he says against your throat, as his hand grips the back of your neck. His mouth finds yours again and you forget all your objections.

Yoongi is the one who pulls away next. This time he steps back, leaving you propped against the wall, your chest heaving as you try to catch your breath again.

I’m sorry,” he says. “This isn’t the way I planned to greet you.”

You look at him standing there, hair sexily mussed, desire shining in his eyes, and you begin to laugh. You’re intoxicated by seeing him again, by the way he looks at you, and the way he just kissed you. There’s no question that his reaction is purely for you, that somehow, he really does want you. This isn’t the way you planned to greet him either, but it’s exactly the way you dreamt it would be.

“Friends with benefits?” you ask, and his lips curve deliciously in agreement.

“Oh, hell yes,” is all he has to say before you grab his hand and pull him with you to the bedroom.

*****

A few hours later, you’re both too hungry to stay in bed any longer.

“We missed our dinner reservation,” Yoongi comments, “but we can still go out.”

You turn your head to see him lying sprawled next to you, his eyes closed. He looks exhausted, and you remember he’s probably still fighting jet lag.

“Or we could just stay here and order something,” you suggest, and he opens his eyes and looks at you gratefully.

“Are you ok with that?” he asks, and you nod. “Can we get pizza?” he adds hopefully, and you laugh.

“Yes. There’s a place I call all the time. I swear it’s some of the best pizza in Chicago.”

You slide out of bed and fish your phone from the pocket of your discarded jacket. You load the restaurant’s menu and hand the phone to Yoongi before pulling some clothes out of your bureau and starting to get dressed.

Yoongi looks up. “Have you got a t-shirt or something I can borrow?”

“Sure.” You grab some old shirts from a drawer, and pull out a couple pairs of track pants for good measure. You bring the stack of clothes back to the bed and Yoongi trades you your phone for the shirts.

“I’m thinking the one with all the meats on it. What do you like?”

“Mushrooms and peppers. Pepperoni. But we can get two. We’ll have leftovers.”

You plug in the order as Yoongi selects one of the t-shirts. He shoots you a wry look. “I wasn’t expecting this to happen, or I would have brought a change of clothes from the hotel.”

Perched on the bed, you watch as he finishes dressing and starts picking up the suit and shirt he discarded earlier. “You know, you can stay with me while you’re in Chicago. If you want, that is.” You swallow nervously as his eyes meet yours. He studies you carefully before replying.

“Are you comfortable with that?” he asks, and you nod.

“I was actually kind of expecting you to stay here,” you admit. “I was surprised when you mentioned a hotel.”

Yoongi smiles a bit. “I didn’t want to make any assumptions about us,” he explained. “You hadn’t said anything, but I didn’t know if you started seeing someone recently, if you had a boyfriend now.”

“Oh no, there’s nothing like that,” you protest, surprised he’d considered that there might be. His smile widens as he sits down next to you.

“I’m glad. I wanted to have more opportunities to be with you like this.”

You look down, rendered speechless by his words. But Yoongi lifts a hand to your face, gently drawing his thumb down your jawline, causing you to look at him again. “I know it isn’t fair to ask you for your time when I can hardly offer any of my own,” he tells you. “But it’s hard not to be selfish.”

Your heart is pounding, hope slowly rising as you wonder where he’s going with this confession. You’re afraid to let on, though, so you try to keep your words light. “You’re much less selfish than I am,” you tell him. “I didn’t even think about you meeting someone else.”

“Don’t worry, there’s no one for me either. Believe me, I wouldn’t have come here without letting you know if there was.”

“But I didn’t know that, and I still just kissed you the moment you walked in the door.”

Yoongi laughs. “I’m ok with that. I like friends with benefits better than just friends.”

Your heart falls when he says friends with benefits. You were just beginning to hope he might say he wants something more. Since he’s still watching your face, you struggle to hide your disappointment with a smile and a change of subject.

“Pizza should be here in a bit. You want something to drink?”

You jump up and exit the bedroom, and after a moment, Yoongi follows you to the kitchen. You’re angry at yourself for running away from the conversation, from the opportunity to tell him what you want. But you’re so sure he’ll say no, and then you won’t even be able to dream about it anymore. So you keep things easy, upbeat, as you open your refrigerator and survey your beverage choices.

“I’ve got Coke, Sprite, ginger ale, iced tea, water. Vodka. There’s some wine,” you say doubtfully, crouching to peer into the mostly-empty wine cooler under your counter.

“Do you have any whiskey? Or Scotch?” he asks, and you shake your head. “Then Coke is fine,” Yoongi tells you, and you grab the soda bottle from the fridge and a couple of glasses from a cabinet.

“Do you want a straw?” you ask, but Yoongi shakes his head. You pour the sodas and get out your favorite twisty straw for your own drink. Yoongi eyes it when you carry the glasses to the little table by your balcony doors.

“What is this, kindergarten?” he complains, but you only smile sweetly at him as you place the straw between your lips and sip slowly. His eyes follow the soda as it twists up through the loops and coils of pink plastic. Finally, he caves.

“Ok, I want a straw.”

You grin in triumph as you fetch one for him.

“How was Jungkook’s birthday party?” you ask as you sit down at the table. Yoongi is momentarily distracted by his straw, but he finally looks up to answer the question.

“Good. Funny. Jimin tripped and put his hand through the cake.”

Jimin did?” you ask incredulously. One thing you remember about Jimin is that his every move held a panther-like grace.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Yoongi grins. “He’s the smoothest dancer. I don’t know how he’s also so clumsy, but he’s always falling over things. Or off things. At least the cake was still edible. One year, Hoseok dumped an entire cake on top of me by accident. Completely destroyed it. And my shirt. Yeah, our birthdays are usually chaotic,” he continues as you snicker.

“Did you have fun, at least?”

“Yeah, we did. We went out, and Jungkook drank too much. Almost everybody drank too much, and I had to drive them all home.”

“You didn’t drink too much?” you ask. “That’s no fun.”

“I didn’t want to be hung over on the plane the next day. And Seokjin usually drives us, but he wanted to drink with Jungkook, so I volunteered. Everybody partied more than usual, since we don’t have any place we need to be for a while. We were kind of celebrating Joon’s birthday too, since we’ll probably still be on break for it. It’s in mid-September.”

“When’s your birthday?” you ask.

“March,” he tells you. “What about yours?”

“June.” You’re quiet for a moment, calculating in your head. “Wait a minute. You’re still 27?” Yoongi nods. “I’m 30 now. I’m actually three years older than you are, not two.” You study his face, looking for some kind of negative reaction, but he only looks amused.

“If you want to know the truth,” he says, “I’m 27 in Korean years, but I think in America you would say I’m only 26.”

You stare at him, utterly at sea, and he tries to explain.

“In Korea, we say babies are one the first year they’re born, and so on, so it’s a little different from the American system.”

“So, you’re 26?” You can’t quite grasp this.

“No, I’m 27, but an American would say I’m 26. Just like you say you’re 30.”

“But you would say I’m…31?” you gasp. “I’m four years older than you? Wow, that’s…that’s not good.”

“Why isn’t it good?” Yoongi laughs.

“Because a minute ago I was only two years older, but now I’m twice as much older, and it’s a lot. It’s not funny,” you say sharply, as he continues to laugh. He sobers quickly at your tone.

“Tell me why it matters,” he demands, but you don’t have a good answer. He goes on without waiting for a response. “Am I not grown up enough? Not mature enough for you? A girl who, I might add, uses Hello Kitty straws?”

“I don’t think that. And don’t criticize my straws.” You frown at him, fingering your glass protectively. But he’s not finished.

“Am I not experienced enough to satisfy you sexually?” he asks, and your mouth drops open.

“I think we just demonstrated that’s not true,” you object, and he smirks a little.

“Then am I not established enough? Have I not achieved a great enough level of success and security to be considered ‘old enough’ for you?” You don’t even dignify that with an answer, but merely shoot him a withering look.

“Then what’s the problem?” Yoongi asks, and despite his half-facetious words, you know he’s completely serious. And you still don’t have an answer that you believe will satisfy him.

“It’s just not usual for a woman to date a man who’s so much younger,” you finally explain.

“Social norms are responsible for enough pain and suffering,” Yoongi says flatly. “Don’t let them dictate your life to you.”

You stare at him, awed once again by how easily he can crystallize an issue. It would take you months to come to that conclusion, if you ever reached it at all. You realize he’s proving his own point about age not being important. He might be younger, but his wisdom surpasses yours.

“Ok,” you say finally. “I won’t.”

The doorbell rings, saving you from this crazy conversation. You hurry to answer, and when you return to the table with the pizzas, the atmosphere is back to normal. For a few minutes, you’re both absorbed in transferring cheesy slices to your plates and savoring the first bites. Then Yoongi breaks the silence.

“So, you’re worried about my age because women don’t usually date younger guys. Does that mean you want to go out with me?”

You pause mid-chew, furiously thinking back to the last bits of the conversation. Fuck, you really did use the word dating. You’re not sure how to talk yourself out of this one. Finally, you swallow your bite and attempt to answer.

“I was just making a general observation. Nothing specific.” You reach for your drink, and Yoongi does the same.

“That’s disappointing,” he says. “Because I want to go out with you.”

Your soda goes down the wrong pipe and you start coughing in surprise and confusion. When you finally catch your breath and look at him again, he just smiles at you around his straw.

“What happened to friends?” you demand. You wince at the shrillness in your voice; you sound angry, but it’s more like panic caused by this emotional roller coaster he’s got you riding today. Yoongi remains calm, though.

“Is that really what you want?” he asks. “It’s not what I want.” He’s still smiling, barely, but his eyes look worried. God, why is he nervous? You’re the one whose throat is tight with…you don’t even know what. Fear, or are you about to cry? You take a desperate gulp of soda, trying to compose yourself. Yoongi looks down at the table when you don’t answer him.

“I didn’t mean to put you on the spot,” he says quietly, and you flinch. You have to say something.

“I just…don’t see how it would work,” you begin, rather lamely, and Yoongi cocks his head as he regards you.

“I imagine it would work a lot like what we’ve been doing,” he suggests. “We talk on the phone, we text. We can video chat. I can’t promise I’ll be able to see you in person very often, but I will do whatever I can to make time for us.”

“And that’s enough for you?” you ask incredulously.

“If it’s all I can have, then yes,” he insists. “I know we didn’t plan for this. I definitely wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. But we’ve started this relationship whether we like it or not. And I do like it. I want you in my life, in whatever way we can make it work. If being friends is the most we can have, then I’ll take it. But I feel like we’re more than that. Or we can become more, if we try.”

You’re definitely on the verge of tears now. This is…beyond everything you’ve dreamt of this summer. If he really wants more than a friendship, of course you’re going to say yes. You don’t even care if the time you spend together is limited; you’re happy to take anything he’s offering. You meet his eyes, which still look worried at your lack of response.

“What do you think?” he asks gently. “Do you want to try?”

“Yes.” You punctuate it by nodding your head, probably too eagerly, but Yoongi doesn’t seem to notice. He sighs in relief at your assent, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again and picking up his pizza.

“For a minute there, I thought I was going to have to keep my hotel room after all,” he says wryly.

You just shake your head, a little dazed despite your elation. You don’t know how he can be so calm. You’re ready to jump out of your seat and run around screaming.

“Listen,” Yoongi adds, breaking into your euphoria, “it’s not going to be the easiest thing, having such a long-distance relationship. Are you sure it’ll be enough for you?”

His eyes still hold a hint of concern. Maybe he isn’t really calm about this whole thing either. He’s right, after all; attempting to date each other is crazy, when you probably can’t see each other in person more than a few times a year. But you don’t care.

“I want whatever you can give me,” you admit, and Yoongi smiles a little.

“Me too. Just… if whatever that is stops being enough, please let me know. If you get tired of the distance, or if you just get tired of me, talk to me instead of drifting away. And if you meet someone else, someone you like who can actually be with you, spend time with you, just, please don’t cheat. Tell me how you feel, and maybe I can do something to fix things between us. And if not, then we break up.”

You wince, and he chuckles. “It’s better than letting me think everything’s fine when it’s not. I know it’s a lot to ask…”

“What, being honest, and not cheating? That’s not a lot to ask. Those are like, the building blocks of any relationship. And good communication.”

Yoongi nods approvingly. “I think we’re already pretty good at communicating.”

You nod too, though you’re not sure that you agree. You certainly haven’t been honest with him about your feelings. And it sounds like he hasn’t been either. If he really liked you, then what was all that talk about friendship at the beginning of the summer?

Maybe if either of you had been braver, you could have had a conversation like this a lot earlier. But at least now you know what he wants from you. And you’re more than happy to give it.

*****

The next morning, you wake up earlier than Yoongi. You spend some time staring at him, just like the last time he was asleep in your bed. But today, you’re not trying to save up memories to last you the rest of your life. This time, there’s hope that you can see him again in the future, and keep making new memories.

Smiling to yourself, you finally slip out of bed. After showering and dressing, you make your way into the kitchen and survey your options for breakfast. You’d done quite a bit of grocery shopping before Yoongi said anything about a hotel, so you have plenty of food. You even visited an international store near your apartment, and found the ingredients for a few Korean meals. But today, you figure you’ll start with something easy. When you hear noises from the bedroom, indicating Yoongi is awake, you quickly assemble what you need for waffles, and begin mixing the batter.

You start as you feel a pair of hands come to rest on your hips, but quickly relax as Yoongi presses lightly against your back. You lean into him, smiling as he kisses your neck.

“What are you doing?” he murmurs against your skin.

“Making waffles,” you answer, as he wraps his arms all the way around your waist. You hope he’ll keep kissing you, but instead he hooks his chin over your shoulder and peers into the mixing bowl.

“Waffles?” he repeats. “The batter looks thick.”

“I followed the recipe. And I bought a waffle maker.” You ease from his grasp to retrieve the appliance in question from the corner of the room. When you bring it back to the counter, Yoongi is just staring at you doubtfully.

“Have you never made waffles before?”

“No,” you answer. “But it can’t be that hard. And I bought lots of toppings. If you put enough toppings on, they’re sure to taste good.”

His lips twitch. “I don’t think it works that way. Maybe you should let me make breakfast.”

“Well, have you ever made waffles before?” you challenge, and he grins at you, already moving to the sink to scrub his hands.

“All the time,” he tosses over his shoulder. “I’m an excellent cook.”

“And what makes you think I’m not?” you ask. Yoongi eyes you in amusement as he returns to the mixing bowl. He picks up your spoon and prods dubiously at the doughy mass you created.

“Let’s just say I have doubts about your waffles. Seeing as you’ve never made them before,” he adds generously. “I’m sure you’re excellent at cooking other things.”

You bite your lip. The truth is, you hardly ever cook. Your past attempts include such disasters as practically poisoning an ex-roommate with undercooked pork chops, burning a pot of instant rice, and starting an oil fire when you were just trying to sauté some vegetables. After that last one, you pretty much gave up. Now you survive almost exclusively on take-out, fresh fruit, and Starbucks.

You didn’t think waffles would be that difficult, but maybe you should just defer to Yoongi’s experience in the kitchen. You definitely don’t want to poison him. Or scare him off. With a good grace, you retreat to the refrigerator to get the strawberries and blueberries you bought for toppings. At least you’re an ace at chopping fruit.

Yoongi is examining the instructions on the box of batter mix. “How much milk did you add?” he asks, and you look at him cluelessly. You can’t even remember. He seems to realize you won’t be any help, and he turns back to the counter, chuckling. You watch as he picks up the measuring cups you used and scrutinizes them, as if they might help him unravel the mystery. But finally, he tosses them down with a huff and reaches for the milk. “I’m just going to wing it,” he says, pouring some milk into the bowl and starting to work it into the dough.

You return to the strawberries, but you can’t help watching in fascination as Yoongi goes about rescuing your batter. He ransacks your entire kitchen searching for the right kind of whisk, which you apparently don’t own. Then he starts complaining that you don’t have enough spices, and you roll your eyes behind his back. Who even puts spices in waffles? But he’s finally placated by the discovery of vanilla and nutmeg, and the new waffle maker definitely wins his admiration. By the time you’ve brewed coffee and assembled all the toppings on your little dining table, he has two giant, golden-brown waffles plated.

He’s a little taken aback when he carries them to the table and sees the chocolate syrup, shredded coconut, marshmallows, and powdered sugar accompanying the bowls of berries.

“It’s waffles, not an ice cream sundae,” he comments, and you frown at your toppings in worry. Isn’t this what you’re supposed to put on waffles? Truthfully, you don’t eat them any more often than you cook them. “Don’t you have any syrup?” he asks. You nudge the chocolate sauce to the forefront, and his shoulders start to shake with silent laughter.

“I meant maple syrup,” he explains, and you wince. You didn’t even think about that, but of course it’s the obvious thing to put on waffles or pancakes.

“It’s ok, I like fruit too,” Yoongi assures you, setting down the plates and grabbing a chair. You take the other chair, silently fretting that you’re already displaying what poor girlfriend material you are. But Yoongi doesn’t seem upset at all. He just dumps berries over the top of his waffle, and dusts the top with just the tiniest sprinkle of powdered sugar. Cheering up, you go straight for the chocolate sauce and marshmallows, and Yoongi smiles at how you smother your plate with both.

“This is a surprising new side of you,” he comments, and you glance warily at him. “Fancy straws. Marshmallows. Do you secretly eat all your meals like a little kid?”

“No,” you protest, though when you think about it, you definitely don’t eat much like a grown-up. You wonder if it’s because of your childhood, which was…not good. More often than not, you didn’t have any meals, much less fun ones. But you aren’t going to bring that up right now. You make a show of drinking your coffee instead, which is strong and black and definitely not the way kids like it.

Yoongi tries the coffee too, and sighs blissfully at the first sip. “You make excellent coffee,” he compliments, and you smile as you tackle the waffle on your plate. At least you’re good at something in the kitchen.

Yoongi drinks two cups of coffee during the meal, but he barely eats half of his waffle, and you start to worry again that you messed up by not buying maple syrup. When you voice your concern, offering to fix something else to eat, Yoongi assures you that it’s not the food.

“I’m on a diet,” he explains. “Strict orders from Big Hit not to indulge too much during the break.”

You stare at him. “Why do they make you diet? You’re already so thin.”

“Ah, I’ve added a few pounds this year. And the fans have noticed. There were comments lately, online, about my weight gain. Saying I looked fat. Big Hit saw, so the managers gave me restrictions.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” you interject. “I can literally see your ribs when you take your shirt off. Why the hell would anyone say you’re fat? And why would your managers listen, when you’re clearly not?”

Yoongi shrugs. He doesn’t seem bothered by the idea that strangers would criticize his appearance. Instead, he looks amused by your outrage. “It’s part of being an idol,” he explains. “There’s a ‘type’ we’re all supposed to conform to, girls and guys alike. I’ve never really had the looks for this job, so I have to work at it.”

“Oh my god, Yoongi, you’re gorgeous. You’re perfect. Don’t say that you’re not. And don’t listen to anyone else who says you’re not. They’re jealous. Or blind.”

You catch yourself, realizing by his expression that you’re embarrassing him. You’re embarrassed too, for gushing so much. But he also seems pleased by your words, smiling a little as he looks down at the table. You get up to take your dishes to the sink, to give Yoongi a moment. But he rises too, following you and handing over his plate. You’re disappointed that he didn’t go ahead and eat more, but you take it from him and dump the remains of the food into the trash before stacking the plate in the sink.

When you turn around, Yoongi is standing just behind you, his eyes still warm. He lifts a hand to your cheek, edging even closer and trapping you against the counter.

“You’re pretty gorgeous, too,” he murmurs, his fingertips barely skimming your cheekbone, and down to the line of your jaw. His touch sends tremors through you, and the corner of Yoongi’s mouth curves at your reaction. You weren’t lying, a moment ago, when you said he was perfect. You could spend a lifetime drinking in the exact expression on his face right now, the confidence in his eyes that you, at least, find him attractive. You hope he knows how many millions of people would agree with you, would melt into a puddle if he looked at them the way he’s gazing at you right now. You’re halfway to melting, yourself, gripping desperately at the edge of the sink as your legs fight a losing battle to hold your weight.

It’s all over when he kisses you. You surrender, letting Yoongi and the counter support you as your mind goes hazy with pleasure. His lips are perfect, too, moving against yours with the most exquisite pressure. His hand has dropped from your face, to move gently up and down your arm. You feel his other hand easing underneath the hem of your shirt, to press hotly against your bare skin.

“Let’s go back to bed,” he breathes, and you nod, too shaken to speak, barely able to walk as he takes your hand and tugs you with him to the bedroom. He pauses in the hall to kiss you again, his tongue slipping inside your mouth this time, teasing you with hints of what’s to come. You manage to work one hand into his hair, and the strands are so soft between your fingers that you can’t help tightening your grip. Yoongi gasps in reaction, and breaks away to complete the brief journey to your bed, still pulling you after him.

The room is in full sunlight, which would normally make you self-conscious, but you’re too aroused to worry about anything but getting your clothes off. Yoongi strips just as quickly, and grabs the box of condoms you ravaged the night before. He’s got you on the bed before you know it. You do spare a moment of worry for the imperfections of your body, your skin, as Yoongi’s hands and mouth move over you. But he doesn’t seem to find any flaws. He silently worships you with his touch, working you up to a fever pitch before he finally slips inside of you.

You’re afraid of coming too quickly, so after a few minutes you flip him onto his back, hoping to control the pace and bring him to climax along with you. But the view is too rewarding, as Yoongi arches his back, head thrown into the pillow, throat exposed in the sunlight. His eyes slit nearly closed as a moan is wrung from between half-parted lips, and his reaction is enough to unleash your orgasm. Yoongi supports you as you tremble through it, continuing to work his hips until you hear his groan of ecstasy. His movements stutter to a halt, and he eases you down to rest against his chest. You can feel his heart pounding, but you don’t think it can possibly be racing as hard as yours.

“Thank you,” you murmur, and then you blanch at how dumb that sounds. But Yoongi just chuckles, his chest moving up and down beneath your head.

“No, thank you,” he retorts. “For not thinking I’m fat.”

You pinch him for that, right over the rib cage, where there’s barely anything to get hold of. He flinches away, laughing harder.

“I don’t ever want to hear you say that again,” you scold him. “And I want to know who these so-called fans are, who think they have any right to comment on your weight.”

“You can’t fight against them,” Yoongi sighs, and you roll to the side so you can look at him. “They’re everywhere. And it doesn’t mean they aren’t fans. People say all kinds of things, sometimes for reasons they genuinely believe are helpful. The trick is to not pay attention to the negative comments. I wouldn’t even have known people were saying things about me, if Big Hit hadn’t spotted it and put me on a diet.”

“Well, maybe they shouldn’t be paying attention either. Doesn’t hearing about that kind of thing hurt your confidence?”

“Yeah, a little.” You look at him in concern, but Yoongi only smiles and draws you closer to him. “But you’ve made me feel a lot better.”

You snuggle against his chest once more, glad that you could help a little bit.

*****

The rest of the week is as perfect as the start. Yoongi is so easy to be with, it’s almost scary. In the past, the few times you’ve started a relationship with someone, there was always a warming-up period. You and the guy would dance around each other for a few weeks, learning each other’s quirks and buttons, before you relaxed into a comfort zone. But with Yoongi, your summer of phone calls took care of that. Now you’re able to be yourself around him, and you believe he feels the same.

You expect he’ll want to see some of the sights. Before he came, you’d worked hard to plan for his visit, to make sure he would have a good time in Chicago. You bought the groceries, you bought him a Ventra pass so he could ride the CTA, and you spent hours researching all the best tourist spots your city has to offer. You got pretty excited about some of the places yourself. Even though you’ve spent your whole life in Chicago, you haven’t explored its attractions nearly enough.

But Yoongi seems surprisingly unmotivated to go out. He takes an interest in your to-do list, highlighting several places he wants to visit, and adding a few of his own. But most days, you don’t make it out of the apartment until afternoon. Yoongi is lazy in the mornings, content to sleep in, leisurely prepare breakfast, and then just potter around for a while. He seems happy to simply spend time with you, even if you aren’t doing anything particular.

You notice he explores your small apartment with a feline curiosity, making himself as comfortable in every room as he did in the kitchen the first morning. He takes a deep dive into your CD collection, happily spending hours playing albums with you, arguing about your favorite artists, poking into your Spotify account, and updating his own playlists. He gives your bookshelves the same attention, selecting several books he’d like to read. He commandeers your kitchen, subtly rearranging things every time he cooks a meal. You’re used to privacy, after living alone for years, but somehow, you aren’t offended by his invasion of your space. Instead, his interest kindles a happy glow inside you.

*****

On Friday, the day before he has to leave, Yoongi shows a sudden urgency in checking a few last things off the to-do list. He drags you out after lunch to pay a visit to the Chicago Architecture Center. Afterwards, you take a river cruise with a focus on some of Chicago’s architectural history. Yoongi surprises you with his extensive knowledge of building design. By the time you’re near the end of the cruise, you feel like you’ve taken a crash course in architecture, yourself.

“What do you think of those concrete ones?” Yoongi asks, nodding at the Marina City buildings as you float past them. You wrinkle your nose.

“Not my favorite.”

“The architecture here is so different from Korea,” Yoongi comments. “It’s uglier,” he continues, laughing when you frown in annoyance. “But it’s also more breathtaking. We don’t have the same kind of skylines in Seoul, and definitely not in Daegu. Busan’s pretty good,” he adds, almost as an afterthought. “But mostly, the architecture in Korea is more homogenous. There aren’t as many different styles as you see here, or in some other American cities.”

You listen as he goes on to talk about some of his favorite buildings in Seoul and Busan, even pulling out his phone to show you pictures. He seems to favor very modern structures. But then he circles back around to the Marina City buildings, which he also seems to like despite their 1970s aesthetic. He argues extensively for the benefits of concrete in design, and brings up Antoni Gaudi, who he says is one of his favorite architects. He semi-converts you to being a concrete fan when he shows you pictures of Gaudi’s work in Spain. But you like the Korean buildings better, with their soaring walls of glass curved into sleek shapes. You wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to see any of them in person. If you’re really able to maintain a relationship with Yoongi, maybe you’ll be able to visit him. It’s an exciting thought.

After you disembark from the cruise, you pause to decide on your next move. One thing you’ve insisted on is going out to a club tonight, because you really want to dance with Yoongi. Now you debate the merits of going home for dinner, or grabbing an early meal somewhere downtown. As you’re both peering at your phones, comparing notes on nearby restaurants, you’re startled by the sound of a sharp squeal. Before you can even move, two young women have rushed up to Yoongi, faces glowing, hands clasped eagerly.

“You’re Min Yoongi!” one of them says reverently. The other is emitting a steady stream of tiny oh my gods. You’re momentarily frozen, not sure what to do. The girls haven’t noticed you standing there, but it’s only a matter of time. Yoongi glances at you, and you detect a hint of panic in his eyes. Then you get an idea.

“Once you get to Michigan, turn right and go two blocks, and then you’ll be there,” you say, in a louder voice than usual. Understanding washes over Yoongi’s face.

“Yes, I think I can find it now,” he replies. “Thank you for the help.” The two girls have turned their attention to you, but not with any kind of speculation in their eyes. They only seem impatient that you’re distracting their idol.

“It’s no trouble,” you say easily, and then you turn and walk away. You hear the girls behind you, happily chattering about BTS, asking Yoongi to take a picture with them. You resist the urge to look back, but instead just keep walking until you can’t hear their voices anymore. Your whole body is shaking, adrenaline coursing through you after such a close encounter. You’re glad now that you and Yoongi have been cautious while out in public, refraining from holding hands or even touching each other, just in case someone recognizes him. So today, it wasn’t hard to pretend to be a stranger when the girls approached.

When you reach an intersection, you glance at the street signs and note with amusement that you’re at Michigan Avenue. You turn right, just like you told Yoongi to do with your made-up directions. You don’t have to walk quite two blocks before you spot a Starbucks across the road. That’s as good a place as any to wait for him to contact you.

Once inside the dim, nearly empty shop, you order an iced latte and settle down at a table in the corner, still a little too paranoid to sit near the windows. Then you pull out your phone and check for a message or call from Yoongi, but there’s nothing. You send him a quick text, asking if everything’s ok, and if he wants anything from Starbucks. But before you can even put your phone down, the door of the shop opens, and Yoongi saunters in. He spots you immediately and grins smugly before heading to the counter to order.

In a minute, he’s joined you at the table, still looking proud of himself.

“How did you find me?” you ask, and he smiles.

“I followed your directions,” he says simply. “Even before I got your text, I saw this place and thought it must be where you wanted me to go.”

You laugh and laugh. “I didn’t even know there was a Starbucks here,” you finally admit. I was just making up something that would sound plausible.”

Yoongi laughs too. “It was still impressive. You think on your feet.”

The look of admiration on his face is making you embarrassed. “So do you,” you deflect. “Those girls weren’t suspicious about me, were they?”

“I don’t think so. They were curious about what I’m doing in Chicago, but I just said I’m on vacation. They knew about Bangtan taking a break. I asked them not to publicize my being here. We’ll see if they listen.”

“Will it matter if they don’t? You’ll only be here one more day.”

Yoongi leans back in his chair, one hand coming up to scratch behind his ear.

“Nobody knows I’m in Chicago,” he tells you. “I told Big Hit and the group that I’d be in L.A., maybe San Francisco if I had time. They think I’m in the U.S. to work on some music. And I did do some of that, during the two days I spent in L.A. before coming here.”

“Why wouldn’t you let them know you’re in Chicago?” you ask hesitantly. “You wouldn’t have to say anything about me.”

“No, but when we were here in May, I kept sneaking away to see you. That wasn’t normal behavior for me, and while nobody confronted me about it, there may have been some concerns. Hoseok definitely suspected something was going on. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell by how he looked at me whenever anyone mentioned your name later. If he finds out I’m in Chicago, he’ll connect the dots.”

“You don’t want him to know about me?” you ask. You’re not hurt, exactly, but you hadn’t really considered this aspect of the relationship. You’d like to know what you’re getting into.

Yoongi seems to understand. “It’s not that I don’t want him to know, or any of the guys. But I can’t let Big Hit know. We don’t have a no-dating clause in our contracts, but there are penalties if any kind of relationship is made public without the company’s consent. We still date sometimes, at least some of us do. But Big Hit is not supportive of that kind of thing, and mostly it’s been too hard for us to maintain anything for long. A quick fling is about all that’s safe.”

You fiddle with your coffee cup, poking at the ice cubes with your straw. You thought Yoongi wanted an actual relationship with you, but maybe he just meant for this week, or when it’s convenient. It doesn’t sound like he’s able to commit to more.

“Y/N,” he says, his tone so serious that you raise your eyes to his. He’s leaned forward again, and now he reaches across the table to wrap his hands around yours. You glance around the shop, but it’s almost empty, and no one is paying attention to the two of you.

“I don’t want a quick fling,” Yoongi says, and you return your attention to him. “I hope we can have something more than that, whatever we can find together. That’s going to be hard enough to achieve as it is. If Big Hit learns about you, it’s going to be practically impossible for us to spend time together. They won’t approve the kind of leave I’d need to visit Chicago. You could come to Seoul, but our time together would still be limited.”

“Why would Big Hit be like that?” you ask.

“All the companies do this, not just Big Hit,” Yoongi explains. “It’s just part of being an idol. We need to appear single, and available, so we can be a daydream for the fans. Messing with that means messing with profits, and of course that’s what any company is concerned about.”

“Not your welfare.”

“No, Big Hit cares about our welfare. But they expect us to make a choice. Be an idol and an artist, or have a personal life.”

“It seems like you should be able to have both.”

Yoongi smiles a little ruefully at you. “Well, that’s what I’m trying to do right now. But it will be easier to have both if nobody knows about us.”

You eye him, not entirely convinced that any of this is a good idea. Hiding the relationship sounds comparable to sitting on a time bomb. But telling Big Hit about it seems fated for disaster. And despite this perfect week you’re enjoying, you still don’t understand why Yoongi’s even doing this. Why he picked you when he can have anyone in the world. You look down at your drink again, suddenly feeling depressed. Maybe the whole idea is too crazy. Maybe Yoongi was on the right track earlier in the summer, when he said he just wanted to be friends. Maybe you should suggest that you go back to a more platonic relationship after he leaves.

Except you don’t want to be just friends. You spent the whole summer pining for him. Are you going to spend your whole life in the same fashion, staying friends and wishing for more? Especially now that you’ve gotten a taste of it, a whole glorious week of dating Min Yoongi. There’s no way you’re giving him up after that. No, you decide, you’ll take the more, in whatever form it’s offered.

“I should have explained all of this when I first asked you out,” Yoongi apologizes, and you glance up to find him still studying your face.

“No, I had some idea. You warned me this week that we can’t look like a couple out in public. And even back in May you said that you have to keep your relationships private. I just didn’t realize that means even from BTS and people who know you personally.”

“Maybe I can tell the group someday,” Yoongi says. “But for now, I’d rather not.”

“Have you ever tried to have a relationship before? A real one, I mean?”

“I was with someone when I was a trainee,” he answers. “Anything since then has been casual, just sex, or not even that much. Listen, I know it seems like geography is the biggest barrier you and I are going to have, but my career is going to be just as big, if not bigger. Even if you lived in Seoul, it would be hard for us to date freely, to spend a decent amount of time together.”

It sounds like the odds of having a successful relationship with Yoongi are close to zero. But still, when you agreed to go out with him, you told him you want whatever he’s able to give, and you meant it. Squaring your shoulders, you try to give him your most encouraging look.

“I’m committed,” you tell him. “I want to see what we can find, too. And I’ll do my best to keep it secret, if that’s what you need.”

Yoongi smiles widely, and your heart melts a little.

“I honestly think the geography is going to help us with the secrecy,” he tells you. “We’ll get less time together, but that means less risk. There may be other incidents like the one with the girls today. But you dealt with that really well.”

“Maybe we should eat at home after all, to avoid being out in public anymore,” you suggest. “And we can skip the dancing tonight. I know you really didn’t want to do that anyway.”

Yoongi chuckles. “But you want to go. I won’t break my promise. It’ll be dark in a club. And it’s not like anyone will expect to see me there. We’ll be fine.”

As you look at him doubtfully, he rises to his feet, tugging briefly at your hand to get you to follow, before releasing it from his grasp. “But dinner at your place is a good idea. And I’m starving, so let’s go.” You follow him out to the sidewalk, not talking anymore as he looks up the bus you need, proud that he’s been able to master the CTA website this week. You smile in encouragement, but you’re distracted by thoughts about the talk you just had.

You’re glad to know the obstacles you’re facing, even if they seem monumental. You’ve spent this past week in a happy cloud, fully absorbed in Yoongi, so it’s good to come back to reality to some extent. A relationship with someone in Yoongi’s position isn’t going to be easy. You have him for now, for another 24 hours, but after that, who knows what could happen. He could lose interest, meet someone he likes better, or just simply not have time for you due to his grueling schedule. The best thing you can do is just enjoy the moments you get with him, and not look too far ahead.

Chapter Text

“Are you ready to dance?” you ask hopefully. The club you found is packed tonight, the energy high, the music pumping, and the drinks strong. You’ve already had two huge cocktails consisting of some indeterminate mixture of alcohol, sugar, and juice, topped with umbrellas and pineapple. Yoongi, who seems mildly appalled by your beverage choice, is sticking with Heineken. But he claims he needs to drink a lot before he’ll be comfortable dancing, and you’re starting to get impatient. You haven’t been dancing in years, but you love it, and with the alcohol loosening your limbs, you can’t wait to get out on the floor. Especially with Yoongi. You’ve watched him dance in enough videos by now that your expectations are extremely high.

“I need one more drink before I’m ready,” Yoongi decides, and you roll your eyes in amusement. “I’m heading to the bar. Do you want something?”

You hold up your empty cocktail glass, and he winces. “Are you really going to make me carry one of those obnoxious things through the club?”

“I can come with you and carry it. I mean, if you’re not man enough to be seen with an umbrella drink.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes, an appreciative grin on his face. “I’ll carry your drink, but not because you’re making fun of me. You need to stay here and guard our table.” He gestures in exasperation at the people crowding around you. When you nod in agreement, he takes a deep breath, as if bracing himself, and then plunges into the fray.

You watch him go, admiring how purposefully he threads his way through the pack. You’re only mildly frustrated that it’s taking him so long to dance with you. The anticipation of finally getting him out on the floor is part of the fun.

You people-watch for a few minutes, giving a hard stare to a couple of girls who try to inch up to your table. When they’ve backed off again, you pick up your drink, idly sucking on your straw to get the last few drops of liquid from the bottom of the glass.

Someone grabs your arm roughly, causing you to drop the empty glass as you spin to face them. Two guys are standing just behind you, one of them still grasping your upper arm as he leers at you. You wrench away from him, causing both guys to laugh.

“She’s feisty,” says the one in the back, and the one who took your arm steps even closer, causing you to press against the table.

“I’m Josh,” he smirks. “I’ve been watching you, over here all by yourself. You look like you need some company, so why don’t you come dance with me.”

“No, thank you. I’m here with someone,” you tell him coldly, drawing yourself up to your full height. But even in heeled boots, you’re still several inches shorter than he is.

And he’s not intimidated, leaning in even farther.

“He shouldn’t have left you alone, then. Why don’t you ditch him and come dance with me?”

His arm is leaning on the table now, blocking your easiest escape route. You glance to the other side, wondering if you can slip through the crowd in that direction, and thankfully, you see Yoongi returning with the drinks. You catch his eye, and he quickens his pace, brow furrowing as he takes in the scene.

Josh puts his hand back on your arm, but you smack it away, causing an angry look to slide over his face, especially when his friend laughs again. But before they can do anything else, Yoongi is there, setting the drinks down and casually positioning himself between you and your harasser. You look defiantly over his shoulder at the jerk who’s been hitting on you, but to your surprise, the anger clears from his face and he joins his friend in laughter.

“Is this the guy you’ve been waiting for?” he asks, looking down at Yoongi, who’s barely as tall as you are when you’re wearing heels.

Yoongi tilts his head, giving Josh a once over.

“Who’s this little bitch?” he asks you, mimicking Josh’s amused tone. He seems completely relaxed, even a little bored, but you panic when you see the fury in Josh’s expression. Without even thinking about it, you slide your hand along the table to Yoongi’s empty beer bottle, grasping it around the neck and lowering it close to your side.

“What did you call me?” Josh asks, clenching his fists, even while his friend is trying to talk him down.

“I can’t remember now,” Yoongi says. “Was it little bitch, or motherfucker?” You gasp as Josh swings his arm, aiming a fist straight at the side of Yoongi’s head. But it’s a clumsy punch, and Yoongi only has to step backwards to avoid it, bumping into you as he maintains a protective position. You press into his back as you raise the beer bottle, ready to strike at Josh if he swings again.

Fortunately, his friend is hauling on his arm now, trying to convince him to let it go. “It’s not worth the trouble, man. Look at them.”

Josh squints at both of you, not missing Yoongi’s tensed posture or the bottle in your hand. Slowly he lifts his hands to signify peace.

“I just wanted a dance.”

“And I said no,” you tell him. “I’m with him.”

“Your loss,” he scoffs, and after one last look, he turns and lets his friend pull him away through the crowd. After a few moments of watching to make sure they’re really gone, Yoongi turns to you, his eyes full of concern.

“Are you ok? What the hell was that about?” He runs his hands gently up and down your arms.

“Just some jerk hitting on me,” you explain, letting out a shuddery sigh.

“He grabbed you, though. Are you sure you’re alright?” Yoongi is examining your upper arm closely, looking for any sign of damage on your bare skin.

“I’m fine. But I’m glad you got rid of him.”

Yoongi slides his hands down your arms again, but stops suddenly. He raises one of your hands in dismay, revealing the beer bottle with your fingers still clenched tightly around the neck.

“What is this?” he asks gently. “Were you going to hit him?”

“Maybe,” you admit. “If he’d hit you, I would have.”

Yoongi’s face softens. He slowly works the bottle away from your tense grasp and sets it aside. “He wouldn’t have hit me, you know.”

“He was sure trying.”

“But he was drunk, and unsteady on his feet. And there was a bouncer heading our way, probably to kick those guys out. See, look, he’s taking them outside now.”

He nods his head over your shoulder, and you turn to see that there is in fact a huge guy grasping Josh and his friend by the shoulders, corralling them towards the exit. You face Yoongi again, looking into his still-worried eyes.

“I didn’t see the bouncer, and I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

Yoongi pulls you closer. “I wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

“How do you know? Drunk people are unpredictable. And you made him angry with your insults.”

Yoongi smiles in a satisfied sort of way. “He deserved it. And it looks like I had you to protect me.” He eyes the beer bottle again, and you flush. “Do you want a job as my bodyguard? Bit Hit pays well.”

You roll your eyes, laughing, and he grins.

“That’s better. Do you still want to dance? None of this would have happened if I’d gone with you earlier. I really owe you now.”

“I don’t know.” You smile wryly. “I think I lost my buzz.”

Yoongi reaches around you and presents you with your new cocktail. “Then it’s a good thing I was man enough to bring you this lame excuse for a drink.”

Laughing, you claim the cup and take a sip. “There’s a lot more alcohol in these things than you’d think. This ought to get me back in the mood.”

“Then drink up,” Yoongi urges, reaching for his beer. The smirk on his face causes anticipation to flutter within you, and you take a healthier drink of the cocktail, ready once more to dance with him.

*****

When you wake the next morning (scratch that, when you wake the next afternoon), you’re quite sore. You’re definitely hungover, you have a mild headache from the alcohol, and aching feet from all the time you ended up spending on the dance floor. But it was so worth it. You cuddle closer to the still-sleeping Yoongi, smiling as you remember how much fun you had. As the two of you finished your drinks, he claimed several times that he wasn’t a good dancer. Then he led you into the crowd and proceeded to put the entire club to shame.

The man can move his hips.

The way he ground them against yours as you danced, and more than that, the way he used every part of his body to turn you on, had you simmering with desire the whole night. Every time his chest brushed against yours, or his fingers skimmed the nape of your neck, or the sensitive skin behind your knee, or his lips fluttered along your earlobe, you felt yourself heating up a tiny bit more, until by the time the club closed, you were on fire with your lust for him.

You’d caught an Uber back to your apartment, and Yoongi had teased you the whole ride. You were a silent, shivery mess while he inched his long fingers under your dress, all while chatting with the driver like nothing was going on. When you finally got him to your apartment, you were too impatient to do anything except shove him against the wall and attack his clothes, wanting nothing but to get them off as fast as possible.

The resulting sex might also account for some of your soreness, you muse. But still worth it.

Yoongi is still passed out, but you’re not tired enough to go back to sleep. You slip from the bed and head into the bathroom, hoping a steamy shower will help you feel better.

After cleaning up, you sneak back into the bedroom, grabbing some clothes on the way, hoping you don’t wake Yoongi. You think about fixing something to eat, but your stomach is slightly queasy, so you settle for some Advil and a giant glass of water. Then you curl up on the couch, where, surprisingly, you almost immediately doze off again.

You wake not too much later, disturbed by the sound of running water. Listening, you realize Yoongi must be in the shower, but as soon as you identify the noises, the water is shut off. A few minutes later, Yoongi wanders into the living room, dressed in track pants and a long-sleeved shirt, wet hair hanging into his eyes. He peeks into the kitchen, and then turns to find you blinking sleepily at him from the couch. He pads over to join you, climbing wordlessly across your body to fit himself in between your length and the cushions. You shift a little to make room for him, and he winds his arms around you and settles your back comfortably against his chest. You relax into him, inhaling his freshly showered, citrusy scent.

“Are you hungry?” you ask, and he just groans.

“I’m hungover.”

“Do you want some Advil?”

“No, I’m fine.” Then he groans again. “God, what did we do last night?”

“You don’t remember?” you ask, frowning slightly.

“I remember,” he tells you. “I’m just trying to accept it. I can’t believe you got me to dance like that.”

I can’t believe you said you weren’t a good dancer,” you counter. “You’re so amazing. I mean, I knew that already; I’ve seen your videos, but still…”

Yoongi presses a kiss against the back of your neck. “You’re really good, too. I wouldn’t say dancing is my favorite thing, but I had a lot of fun doing it with you.”

You fall silent, glowing at the compliment. Yoongi is quiet too, but it’s comfortable, at least until he breaks the silence with an abrupt question.

“How’s your arm?”

You pull up the sleeve of your t-shirt, and you and Yoongi both peer at your upper arm. His face hardens when he sees the faint purple bruises from where Josh grabbed you.

“That fucker,” he mutters. “I should have punched him after all.”

“Or I should have hit him with the bottle,” you add, and Yoongi tugs you around so that he can see your face.

“So, tiger,” he says, “knocking someone with a bottle isn’t a typical reaction to stressful situations. Do you have any training in self-defense, or something like that?”

You look at him, biting your lip. “Nothing formal,” you finally answer, and he scrutinizes your face.

“But informally?” he asks, and you sigh. He’s probing into some of the hardest facts of your life, things you never talk about. You’re not sure you want to talk about them now, even with him.

But to your surprise, Yoongi doesn’t press you for an answer. He only lets you curl into your original position, your back snugged against him. He buries his face in your hair and kisses your neck again. His patience, his understanding that you don’t want to say anything, and his acceptance of you anyway, is perversely enough to loosen your tongue. And it’s easier to talk about it when he’s not looking at you anymore.

“I told you I was in a state home for a while, and foster care,” you begin, and Yoongi stirs in surprise.

“Yes,” he replies, but he doesn’t turn you to face him again, and after a bit, you go on with your story.

“I said at the time that I was one of the lucky ones because I got to go home again,” you continue, and you feel Yoongi nodding slowly.

“And that was a lie. A nice little story to tie up the loose ends of my life, to fit in with the work I do, the reason I’m motivated to do it. The real story is that my time in foster care was the best part of my childhood, the only time I ever felt safe anywhere.”

“You weren’t safe in your real home?” Yoongi asks, and you shake your head, laughing a little bitterly.

“No. My mom was never really able to take care of me. Before foster care, I lived with her in a tiny little apartment. Our neighborhood was pretty dangerous. My mom didn’t take much interest in getting me to school, so I had to do it on my own. And since I was alone, I was a perfect target for bullies.”

Yoongi’s arms have tightened around you, but other than that he’s perfectly still, listening to your story.

“For a couple years, I couldn’t really defend myself. But eventually, I learned how to fight back. I was small, so I had to use every advantage I could, including picking up bottles or rocks from the street to use as weapons.

“Once I started fighting, and even winning a few times, the other kids didn’t bother me as much. But I got used to keeping my eyes peeled for anything lying around on the street that I could use to defend myself. And at home, I did the same thing.

“My mom drank, and used drugs, and about the only thing she cared about was bringing men home, to get high, and for other things. They did pretty bad things to my mom, some of them, and I was so afraid of what they might do to me. Our apartment was only one room, with a kitchenette and a bathroom. We didn’t have a bed, only a fold-out couch, and that’s where my mom slept. Whenever someone came over, I didn’t have any place to go, so I hid in the closet. My mom would never put the couch together, so at some point I took the couch cushions and sort of stuffed them in the closet to sleep on. And when I was home from school, I spent a lot of my time holed up in there.”

“Wait a minute,” Yoongi interrupts, and you tense, waiting for his question or comment. “You spent your childhood locked in a closet?”

“Not locked in. It was my hiding place. A sanctuary, not a prison.” Despite your explanation, you can actually feel the waves of anger rolling off of Yoongi.

“Didn’t your mom notice you were always locked up in there?”

“No. She didn’t pay much attention to me.” Yoongi doesn’t say anything else, though he’s still practically vibrating with fury. “I didn’t mind the closet,” you continue. “I only went in there when my mom was around, in case she was expecting company, or sometimes just because she was high and unpredictable. I felt safer there. I had books, that I got from the school library, and a flashlight, so I’d mostly just lie on the cushions and read. Those books were my escape. I thought they were all fairy tales, even the stories about normal kids in normal homes, because I didn’t understand that could be reality. But I loved those fairy tales.

“If the men my mom had over got loud, I’d turn off the flashlight and just hold it. I was ready to use it as a weapon if I needed it, but I hoped nobody would open the door and find me.

“It was right before I started middle school that my mom got arrested. One of the men she was seeing involved her in some kind of check-cashing fraud. They were both sent to prison, and I was sent to the state home, and eventually, a foster home.”

“And that was better?” Yoongi asks.

“Very much better. The home was in a different part of town, and I went to a smaller school. My foster parents even drove me to school, so I didn’t have to walk. And they fixed meals, so I didn’t go hungry. I had an actual bed, and a place to do my homework. No bullies, no strange men, no need for weapons or sleeping in closets. I learned that a lot of my ‘fairy tales’ were a reality, or could be. That was when I started dreaming about making that kind of reality for myself. About going to college, getting a job, having a nice home, a safe place of my own.”

You finally feel comfortable enough to roll over and look Yoongi in the eyes. He has such a look of pain on his face that you falter in your storytelling, reaching out to touch him, to reassure him.

“Yoongi, it’s ok. I got through it. You don’t have to be upset.”

He grimaces. “I just…I can’t stop thinking about you hiding in that closet. Why did you have to go back? Why couldn’t you have stayed in foster care?”

“Well, my mom got out of prison after a couple years. I guess she got sober inside, and she wanted to start her life over. She got a job, she got another apartment, and she petitioned to get me back. And of course, the State sent me back to her because it was costing them money to keep me in foster care.

“I was fourteen, and just starting high school. Things were a little better at home, but I had to go back to the same school district I’d been in before, with a lot of the same kids who beat me up in elementary school. I was a lot taller by then, and stronger, but the bullies were stronger too, and they had real weapons this time, knives, and sometimes even guns. I started babysitting to make money, and I bought a pocketknife. And I kept my head down. I stayed away from pretty much everyone, and just focused on my schoolwork, and on earning money to go to college someday. I only had to pull the knife a couple times, and when people saw how willing I was to use it, to not go down without a fight, they mostly left me alone. But that’s how I learned to defend myself. With a knife, a bottle, or whatever. I guess you could call it life training.

“I haven’t been in a fight in a long time,” you continue thoughtfully. “I figured the instinct was pretty well repressed by now. But last night, I grabbed that bottle without even thinking about it. I thought that guy was going to beat you up.”

“He wouldn’t have touched me. Listen, I don’t really fight, but I can judge people, and either talk or dodge my way out of a violent situation. Give me a chance next time.”

“Maybe we should just not have a next time,” you propose, and he nods in agreement.

“Yes, it’s better if my tiger keeps her claws sheathed.”

“Why are you calling me tiger?” you complain, but Yoongi just smiles, unbothered.

“Because tigers are fierce, strong, instinctive, stunning, surprising, and courageous. Just like you.”

You flush under the wave of compliments, resting your face against his shirt so he can’t see your embarrassment.

“Also, they’re rare,” he continues, his low voice rumbling through his chest and into your ear. “Incredibly hard to find.”

He pauses, stroking your back lightly. “I’m glad I found you,” he adds, and you smile happily.

“Me too,” you whisper.

You lie curled together like that for a while. You think Yoongi might have dozed off, but suddenly he says your name. You tilt your head to see that his eyes are on you.

“Did your mom stay sober, or did she go back to using? You said once you don’t see her very often.”

You sigh, thinking about it. “I think she did stay sober for at least a couple years after I went back to her. But by the time I graduated from high school, she was back on drugs. And she still is. I pay the rent for her apartment now, because she can’t even hold down a job anymore. And she calls me when she needs something, more money, or help. But I very rarely see her in person. I don’t enjoy seeing her.”

“And you’ve never met your dad?”

“No. I don’t know anything about him, not his name, his nationality, even if he lived here in Chicago. I tried to ask my mom about him when I was younger, but she either wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me anything. I’ve stopped caring. He didn’t have anything to do with me becoming the person I am now.”

Yoongi still studies you, and you wonder if he believes your declaration. You’re not sure if you believe it.

“What about you?” you ask him, ready to change the subject now. “I remember reading last year that you didn’t have the easiest time either. That your parents didn’t support you or your music?”

Yoongi grimaces. “God, those stories. I swear I’ve never said half of what people write about me online. And even the things that are true have gotten blown out of proportion. My parents were fine. It’s true they didn’t want me to pursue music, but it’s only because they wanted me to focus on school so I could do well and get a good job. Even though we fought about it at the time, I know they were only trying to help me, because they love me. They both worked really hard when I was growing up, but we still didn’t have a lot of money. They just wanted me and my brother to succeed better than they did.”

“And you have succeeded.”

“Yes, and they’re proud of me now. Before, they just couldn’t see a future in what I wanted to do with my life. They did actively try to stop me from writing music, and going out to perform in clubs, but they weren’t cruel, or neglectful. They weren’t around a lot, but they made sure we had a roof over our heads. They gave me what I wanted, when they could afford it. And they always gave me what I needed. I had meals, and a bed,” he continues, looking angry, and you quickly steer him off the topic before he can start thinking about your childhood again.

“I can’t believe we’re wasting your last day in Chicago just lying around on the couch.”

Yoongi laughs, shifting a little and stretching his arms above his head. “I wouldn’t call that a wasted day. Lying around is one of my favorite things. I don’t get to do it nearly enough.”

He brings his arms down again, wrapping the top one around you and sliding his hand under your shirt to rub the small of your back. But just then his phone rings, and with a frustrated sigh, he disentangles himself enough to pull it from his pocket.

“Yeoboseyo,” he answers, but he quickly holds the phone away from his ear as a loud voice practically shouts through the line.

“Miiiin Yoooooongiiii!”

“Jimin-ah,” Yoongi mutters, and you quickly clap a hand over your mouth, afraid to make any sound that will betray your presence.

“What’s going on?” Jimin asks, his voice still booming. For some reason, he’s using English, but Yoongi answers briefly in his own language. He must have asked why Jimin wasn’t speaking in Korean, and you smile at the response. “Because you’re in America, and people speak American in America!”

Yoongi again says something in Korean, but Jimin keeps on with English, and with the shouting, so you can hear every word. It seems that he’s in Paris, and he’s eager to tell Yoongi about the clubbing he’s done so far, while he prepares for yet another night on the town. Yoongi is still answering in Korean, and you bite down on your palm to keep from laughing out loud at their weird back-and-forth.

“What have you been doing all week? Have you met any hot girls?” Jimin asks, and Yoongi shoots you a worried look.

“I’m not here to meet girls,” he replies, giving up on having a conversation in Korean.

“Hyung, you should be trying to meet people. You’re in L.A. When was the last time you hooked up with anyone?”

Yoongi smirks knowingly at you, and you bury your face in his chest again to try to control your silent giggles.

“You know I don’t like hook-ups,” you hear him say to Jimin.

“I’m kind of tired of them too, hyung,” Jimin replies, his voice deflating a little. “I’ve met a lot of hot people here in Paris, but I didn’t like any of them. Do you remember Y/N? From Chicago?” he asks suddenly, and your head shoots up. Yoongi is looking at you in alarm. He starts to sit, maybe to go somewhere for more privacy, but Jimin keeps talking, and you can still hear his voice through the phone.

“She was hot, but she was nice too. Why can’t we meet more people like that?”

Yoongi settles back onto the couch again, still regarding you warily. “Maybe you shouldn’t try to meet people in clubs,” he suggests. “Go to a museum or something.”

“I’ve been to museums,” Jimin sighs. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. There’s no time for more than hook-ups, anyway. Did you see they’re shortening our break?”

“What? No, I didn’t hear anything about it.”

“There was an email. We get one month now, not two.”

“Typical. Listen, I need to go,” Yoongi says abruptly. “I’m flying back to Seoul tonight, and I still need to pack. You’ll be home in a few days, right? Why don’t we get together then?”

Jimin agrees, and Yoongi ends the call with admonitions for him not to do anything dumb when he goes out again. Then he sighs, glancing at you with a troubled look in his eyes.

“I’m sorry about your break,” you say softly, and his eyebrows raise.

“Yeah, I was thinking I might be able to come back here next month, but I guess not. Maybe, ah…” he trails off, and you look at him expectantly. He’s started fidgeting with the hem of your shirt, regarding it with close attention. Finally, he glances at you again.

“Maybe you can visit me in Seoul? If you want.”

“You’d want me to come?” you ask happily.

“Of course.”

“I don’t have a passport,” you worry aloud. “But I can get one. I’ll do it next week.”

Yoongi looks so pleased that you feel like laughing from the joy of it. “So this week really wasn’t just a glorified hook-up?” you ask, and his smile twists into a more exasperated look.

“God, no. Listen, about what Jimin said…”

“It’s ok,” you interrupt him. “He doesn’t know about me, right? I can understand why he’d think you might be trying to have some fun, while you can.”

“I wasn’t worried about him saying that. But I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable that he was talking about you. I noticed Jimin was flirting with you a little, when we met you, but it wasn’t like he was just trying to get you into bed. He really liked you.”

You’re silent, recalling your interactions with Jimin back in May. It’s true he was a little flirty in the beginning, a little interested, more so even than Yoongi seemed to be. But you hadn’t been uncomfortable with the situation. And you hadn’t imagined that Jimin would even think about you again after they left Chicago.

“He talked about you the first night, about how cute you were,” Yoongi continues, breaking into your thoughts. You look at him in surprise. “Do you remember right before your fundraiser, when Jimin was talking to you, and I came over and interrupted?” he asks, and you nod in confirmation. “I thought he might be asking you for a date. And I knew if you said yes, then I couldn’t ask you. So I got in the way.”

You gape at him and he winces a bit. “Was that wrong of me? Jimin is a good person. He’s the most thoughtful person I know. If you’d gone out with him, I think you both could have been happy. But I didn’t give either of you the chance to make that decision.”

He studies you nervously, waiting for your reaction. He looks guilty, and that’s enough to jolt you into speech.

“If Jimin had asked me out, I would have said no.”

Now Yoongi looks surprised. “Really?”

“Yes, really. I’d hardly talked to him, in that couple of days. There wasn’t any connection, and I wouldn’t have risked my professionalism, maybe even my job, just for a random date.”

Yoongi studies you, chewing over your answer. “You went on a date with me, though,” he points out.

“That wasn’t random,” you tell him. “With you, I did feel a connection. It wasn’t what I expected, but I wanted to pursue it. I made the decision that it was worth the risk, to see what might happen between us.”

Yoongi starts to smile. “I felt a connection with you, too. But I felt guilty about Jimin. And after we left Chicago, I wondered if he was the person you’d really wanted. If that’s why you said we should just be friends, during that phone call. I’m glad I was wrong.”

“Wait,” you object, staring at him. You definitely remember Yoongi using the word friends, not you. Are you crazy, or is he? “I didn’t say we should be friends,” you tell him. “You’re the one who brought up friendship that night.”

Yoongi looks at you strangely. “Because you were talking about it. I was just trying to make sure I understood that’s what you wanted, to be friends instead of dating.”

“But…but you didn’t say either friendship or dating,” you insist. “I didn’t know dating was one of the options.”

“We were already dating.” Yoongi looks bemused. “We had two dates. And we spent the night together. Isn’t that dating?”

You can only stare at him. Finally, as the realization hits you, you cover your face in your hands, groaning.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. You hear amusement in his voice now, and you peek through your fingers at him.

“So, basically, I broke up with you.”

Yoongi chuckles. “Basically. I take it that wasn’t your intention?”

“No. Definitely not.” You groan again. “I’m such an idiot.”

Yoongi is still laughing. “I guess I am, too, for believing you. But I was worried about Jimin, and then you started talking about meeting people in that kayaking group. It took me a while to figure out maybe you didn’t want some other guy.”

“I didn’t,” you assure him. “I wanted you.”

“Well, we got there in the end,” Yoongi soothes, but you’re still frustrated by the misunderstanding.

“If I wasn’t so clueless, we could have been dating this whole summer,” you moan.

“I don’t think we missed out on much,” he comforts you. “I couldn’t have made it back here any sooner, so we would have had to settle for talking on the phone, which we did anyway. Maybe we could have had phone sex,” he adds, eyes gleaming. “We’ll have to try that sometime.”

“I guess we’ll have plenty of opportunities when you leave,” you sigh. “And that’s so soon. When do you need to be at the airport?”

“6:30 maybe. Something like that,” Yoongi replies. “I really should go pack.” But he doesn’t make any move to get up. Instead he looks down at you quizzically.

“When I leave this time, you’re not going to break up with me again in a couple weeks, are you?” he asks. He’s still smiling, but you can see in his eyes that the question is serious.

“No,” you say fervently. “I swear to God, I’m never breaking up with you again. I’m not making the same mistake twice.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Yoongi smirks, leaning in to kiss you.

Chapter Text

After Yoongi leaves Chicago, you swear your life resembles an emotional volcano. You’ll remember some sweet moment with him, and joy will bubble up like a geyser, coloring your whole day in a rosier hue. But at night, you’ll start thinking about all the reasons you’re not good enough for him, and your fears erupt, burying the memories in gray ash.

Then he’ll call you, and the happiness will return as soon as you hear his voice. It’s not a healthy cycle, but you can’t seem to break it.

You try making a list of the things he likes about you. He enjoys your conversations. You can make him laugh. He’s attracted to you (probably). Then you get stuck. And you start writing down all the things you like about him, and throwing in all the things the whole world likes about him, and the list fills a page. You end up tossing it out in frustration, not wanting to see the evidence of your inadequacy.

Maybe the lowest point is when you see a Twitter thread discussing that Yoongi is distantly related to Korean royalty. You spend days fretting about that one, comparing his lineage to your own. He’s got queens and empresses in his family tree. You’ve got nothing but a mother who’s a drug addict. It’s almost a blessing that you don’t know more about your family; who knows what other unpleasant surprises could be lurking.

You don’t ask Yoongi about his background. He’s warned you not to believe anything you see online, at least not without talking to him first. You assumed he meant things like dating rumors, or the stories about his family that he said were blown out of proportion. But these royalty claims could be exaggerated, too. And if not, well, you don’t want to know. You’re already insecure enough.

At least the internet provides some rewarding content, too.

“I saw the most interesting Twitter thread today,” you tell Yoongi during one of your Sunday video calls, a few weeks after his visit. He’s in bed, looking deliciously sleepy, and he only raises an eyebrow as an indicator for you to continue.

“It was a debate over who in Bangtan has the best ass,” you tell him.

“That’s Taehyung,” Yoongi says dismissively.

“You’ve put some thought into this,” you laugh, but he shakes his head lazily.

“I haven’t, but his ass is hard to miss.”

“Well, not everyone in this thread agreed. I’d say it was a three-way tie between Taehyung, Jimin, and you.”

“Me?” he squawks, finally waking up a little, and you laugh again.

“Why are you surprised? People were posting all kinds of pictures of you. It was very enjoyable.”

“Ugh,” he groans, his face showing a mixture of embarrassment and exasperation. “I don’t know what’s wrong with ARMY.”

You study him in concern, your amusement fading. You only mentioned the thread to try to boost his confidence after fans complained about his weight last month. But maybe hearing that they’re objectifying him and the others isn’t any better. “Does it bother you?” you ask quietly. “That people talk about you like that sometimes?”

Yoongi shrugs, his expression smoothing into something more like acceptance. “Not really. To be honest, we aim for that image. Our choreography, our outfits, even some of our lyrics, are meant to be sexy. It’s part of the package, but it’s not the most important part. I’d like it better if fans were debating about their favorite songs.”

“They do that, too,” you assure him. ARMY loves everything about you guys. Sometimes they just get a little thirsty.”

Yoongi snorts. “Then I’m glad my ass makes them happy. But I don’t think it’s top three in the group.”

“Don’t be so sure. You’ve got the best ass I’ve ever seen, and I’ve met the others.”

He smiles wickedly at you. “Have you gotten your passport yet? You can come to Seoul and see my ass in person.”

You sigh unhappily. You applied for a passport the week after Yoongi left, but you were warned it would take six to eight weeks to process. “Not yet. It’s probably going to be a while.”

Yoongi sighs too. “If you don’t have it by next week, I don’t know when I’ll have time for you to visit. Our break is officially over tomorrow, so I’m going to be a lot busier after this. It could be hard to schedule something. And I might not be able to call you as often, either.”

“That’s ok,” you tell him as you get ready to end the call. “We’ll talk when we can.”

You might not have spoken so quickly if you’d realized how much the phone conversations would drop off. After that Sunday, you don’t hear from Yoongi for over a week. You know it’s because he’s traveling with the rest of the group, filming some kind of television show. They’re in each other’s presence almost continually during the trip, making it too risky to have even a brief conversation. Even when he gets back to Seoul, Yoongi has so much going on that he only manages to call you about once a week through October. BTS has concerts, both out of town and in South Korea, as they wrap up their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour. They’ve got more TV shows to film, and Jimin’s birthday to celebrate. And most of all, you know they’re working incredibly hard on their next album.

You understand how busy Yoongi is, but not hearing from him doesn’t help your confidence.

Still, when your passport finally arrives, you call him immediately, excited to finally plan a time to get together. You’re reassured that Yoongi seems happy too, though he pushes the visit out a few weeks. You end up booking plane tickets for a long weekend right before Thanksgiving. After that, time passes quickly, as you juggle planning for the trip with your own busy work schedule.

*****

The day you come to Seoul is freezing, and you’re glad of the hat and scarf you’d donned for some kind of anonymity. Yoongi hadn’t wanted to pick you up at the airport, because of the photographers that apparently live there. But he hired a car to bring you to his building. You text him when you arrive, and he gives you the elevator access code so you can get to his floor without checking in at the front desk.

On the ride up, you study yourself in the elevator’s mirrored wall. Despite the long flight, you don’t look terrible. Your hair is messed up from your hat, and you look sleepy, but overall, you’re not too bad. Nervously, you smooth down the rumpled front of your jacket, wanting to look as sleek and together as possible when you see Yoongi again. Then you grip the handle of your bag as the elevator slows to a stop and the doors glide noiselessly open.

And Yoongi is standing there grinning at you.

He’s so perfect, he puts your not-too-bad, flight-weary self to shame, but you’re so happy to see him you don’t even care. He doesn’t seem to mind your appearance either, judging by how tightly he grips you when you throw yourself at him, and how quickly his lips find yours.

Bliss. Suddenly the months of separation and doubt don’t feel so terrible. The reunion alone makes it worthwhile. You’d be happy to stay like this forever, but Yoongi breaks away after only one deep kiss, lunging around you to stick his arm in between the elevator doors before they close.

“You might want that,” he laughs at you, nodding at the bag you abandoned in the elevator. Flushing, you grab the handle and tug it into the hallway. But he takes it from you immediately, linking his other hand with yours instead, and pulling both you and your luggage down the hall and through his open front door. As soon as you’re both well inside the apartment, he draws you close and kisses you again. And you sink into the remembered taste of him, the shape of his mouth, the way even the lightest swipe of his tongue against yours can reverberate right down to your toes. God, you missed him.

“I missed this,” he murmurs, and if you’d had any breath left you would have laughed at how he echoed your thoughts. He pulls you into a tight hug for a minute before finally breaking away.

“I missed you too,” you tell him, and he smiles at you, his eyes nearly closing.

“How are you feeling after the flight?” he asked. “Are you hungry? Or tired?”

“Not so much,” you reply. “But I really want to take a shower.”

“You can do that. Let me show you around really fast. Here, can I take your coat?” Taking the coat and your bag, he leads you further into the apartment, and you gasp as the entry widens into a huge living area.

“This is amazing,” you tell him, surveying the long open space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a balcony running the length of the room. The furniture is simple, mainly consisting of an entertainment area and lots of seating. There’s some art on the walls, and a few framed photos, but no other decorations, save the view, and the dramatic expanse of blonde hardwood floor. It hardly looks like anyone lives there. “It’s so clean,” you add, almost in surprise, causing Yoongi to shoot you a mock-offended look.

“What, did you think I’d be a slob?”

“Well, many guys are,” you say apologetically. “Sorry.”

He laughs. “Truthfully, I can be messy sometimes, but I’m not here often enough to wreck the place. And I hire the building’s cleaning service whenever I’m expecting guests.”

“Do you have a lot of guests?” you ask, and then silently curse yourself. The question slipped out before you could stop it, as you suddenly imagined him hosting other girls here. But Yoongi doesn’t even seem to think about that aspect of your curiosity.

“My brother stays pretty often, whenever he visits from Daegu. And occasionally one of the members will ask if their family can stay here. Namjoon has even asked if he can stay here for a day or two. Not that I bother cleaning if it’s just for him.”

“Why would Namjoon want to stay in your apartment?”

“I think he just wants some peace and quiet sometimes. He doesn’t have a place of his own outside of our dorm. The others do, except for Jimin, but Jimin likes to go home to see his family whenever he has the chance.”

“How often do you get to stay away from the dorm?”

“Technically, we can go to our other homes whenever we want, but realistically, Big Hit wants us to stay in the dorm as much as possible. It makes scheduling and filming a lot easier. And it’s a nice apartment, and it’s convenient to live there because a lot of things are taken care of for us.

“Let me show you the bedrooms,” he continues. He leads you down a hall, pausing at one doorway and gesturing inside. You walk past him into a small bedroom, also sparingly decorated with a bed, nightstand, and desk.

“This is the guest room,” Yoongi tells you, a little nervously, and you glance at him in surprise. “I, uh, I hope you’ll sleep with me in my room, but if you do want a place to yourself, you’re welcome to come in here at any time. There’s a desk if you have any work to do. And you can put your clothes in here, if you want. The closet is empty. Or you can use my closet. Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

You check out the small room, noting the towels folded on the desk and the stack of books on the nightstand. Although, you can’t read the titles on the spines, you can see that they’re in English, not Korean, and you smile at his thoughtfulness in preparing this space for you. But you’re definitely sleeping with him, so you turn to leave.

“Will you show me your room?” you ask, and he grins and moves on to the next doorway.

This room is much bigger, with more of the floor to ceiling windows that made the living area so stunning. Yoongi lifts your bag onto the king-sized bed as you wander around, looking at the pictures on the walls and the view of the river and the city skyline. He follows you to a couple of closed doors, opening the first to reveal a walk-in closet. It’s so jam-packed that you understand why he offered the empty closet in the guest room for your use.

“You have more clothes than I do,” you tease, and Yoongi wrinkles his nose.

“And half my clothes are over in the dorm,” he admits, and you gape at him.

“I get a lot of free stuff,” he mutters defensively, and you chuckle as he moves on to the next door. You both walk into the most luxurious bathroom you’ve ever seen. You eye the huge shower with what looks like eight or ten different nozzles adorning the walls and ceiling.

“I’ll leave you here,” Yoongi says, noticing your gaze. “You’ve got towels, and some toiletries,” he tells you, indicating a collection of items on the bathroom counter. “The hair dryer is under the sink, and there’s a robe hanging behind the door, if you want it.”

You look around at this further evidence of how much thought he put into readying for your visit. Your heart swells as you notice a bottle of shampoo sitting atop the towels. It’s the same brand you use at home. How does he even remember that kind of detail?

You turn to see him fidgeting a bit. “Is there anything else you need?” he asks, and you shake your head. “Then, I’ll, ah, be in the kitchen when you’re finished,” he tells you, turning to leave. But you reach out to grasp his hand, smiling when he looks back at you.”

“Unless you want to join me?” you offer, and you feel your heart start to pound as interest sparks in his eyes. He comes closer, pulling you into his arms, and you grin happily before leaning in to kiss him.

*****

Later, you do get to see the kitchen, which is even fancier than the bathroom. You perch at the huge island, watching as Yoongi prepares a meal of rice bowls. The two of you can’t stop talking, both while he’s cooking, and when he sits down to eat with you. He wants to know how Spencer’s doing, and you give him an update, happy he would care enough to ask. Then you tell him about an upcoming fundraiser you’ve been agonizing over for the past month. Yoongi talks about their new album, which won’t be released for a few months, but which they’ve more or less finished. He said all the members wrote at least one song this time. The writing process is newer for some of them, and Yoongi relates how stressed out they’ve all been as they work through it.

After you eat, Yoongi dismisses the clean-up, pausing only to wrap up the leftover food before grabbing the bottle of soju you’ve been drinking, and ushering you into the living room. You curl up on the couch with him, listening as he finishes a story about Seokjin’s new song, which he says is pretty much a love song for ARMY.

Then he brings up the Grammy nominations.

You’d read the announcements on the plane, scrolling feverishly through the list of nominees, searching for Boy With Luv, MOTS: Persona, or BTS. But the group didn’t get anything, and your heart ached with disappointment for all of them, but especially for Yoongi. You hadn’t mentioned the Grammys when you arrived, in case he didn’t want to talk about it, but apparently now he’s ready.

“This wasn’t entirely unexpected,” he comments, after speaking about their initial letdown. “We had some hope this year because the Academy has been in touch with us about several things. It seems they’ve been more accepting than they were in past years. But we were also prepared for this outcome.”

“That doesn’t make it fair!” you insist. “They contact you because they know they need you, to get viewers, to stay relevant. The least they can do is give you what you deserve! I was reading about the nominations on the plane, and everybody says they’re messed up this year.”

“People say that every year, if the nominees aren’t who they wanted,” Yoongi placates you, but you rant a little longer, regurgitating some of the information you gleaned from your reading, breaking down all the different forces working against Korean artists when it comes to Grammy nominations. You finally wind down, and realize Yoongi is just watching you with amused interest.

“You don’t have to tell me all this,” he chuckles. “Believe me, we are well aware that we’re trying to climb a mountain here.”

“I’m sorry,” you say meekly. I just got really upset when I saw the nominations.”

“Yeah, we did too. Probably me more than the rest. I have to admit, I really want this recognition, and it hurts, not getting it.”

“Well, you don’t need it. BTS gets plenty of recognition, and validation, from the places that really matter.”

“Yeah, we have ARMY,” Yoongi agrees. “That’s the best validation. Maybe next year we’ll get a Grammy. The new album should be good enough.”

You frown at his tone. Yoongi has always been so confident about his music, but now he sounds hesitant, like maybe their album won’t be worthwhile after all. In that moment, you hate the Recording Academy for not recognizing BTS with even one Grammy nod, for giving them any reason to doubt themselves. But getting angry won’t help Yoongi. All you can do is be supportive.

You take his hand and squeeze it, and Yoongi smiles at you. “What do you want to do while you’re here?” he asks, changing the subject to something happier.

“I have a list,” you tell him, and run to retrieve it from your bag. Of course you have a list; you love lists, and this one was a lot of fun to make. You bring it back to get Yoongi’s opinion on which spots are the best to visit.

“We should go to Gyeongbokgung Palace,” he tells you, tapping a long finger against one of your first suggestions. “It’s beautiful at night. You ought to see the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, too.”

He helps select a few more things to do. Sadly, he vetoes all the museums you’d picked out, saying there’d be too much risk of someone recognizing him if you go inside. Instead you plan a series of outdoor attractions, figuring you can bundle up against the cold, staying anonymous in hats and scarves and masks. Yoongi spends the rest of the evening telling you about Korean history and culture, and helping you practice a few phrases you can use to find your way, if you get separated from him while you’re out. The excitement keeps you up way too late, as you anticipate the next two days.

*****

The first day is incredible. You see so many sights, and Yoongi is the perfect tour guide, sharing all kinds of random tidbits about Seoul. You stay out far into the night, enjoying the way the city lights up after dark. You return to Yoongi’s apartment with aching feet, but a blissful sense of fulfillment.

“Did you have fun today?” Yoongi asks, smiling hopefully at you after you collapse on the couch together.

“Oh yes,” you gush. “Seoul is beautiful. Especially with all the Christmas lights. I didn’t think the holiday would be a big deal here, but there are more decorations than I see in Chicago.”

“Plenty of Koreans celebrate Christmas,” Yoongi tells you. “Even if there’s no religious motivation.”

“Do you?” you ask curiously, and Yoongi nods.

“My parents are Christian, so I got all of it growing up, the tree, the church service, Santa Claus. Of course, since we debuted, we haven’t had much time for it. Christmas is just another day to us. But I have good memories of the holiday from my childhood. What about you?” he asks, and you grimace.

“I never celebrate,” you admit, and Yoongi looks at you in surprise.

“I thought most Americans did Christmas.”

“I think you’re right. I’m one of the exceptions. I don’t have family to celebrate with, or any holiday traditions to preserve. My mom never bothered with it.”

Yoongi winces. “You never had a tree? Or gifts from Santa?”

“No. I did try to celebrate, one year. It was when I was in kindergarten. I’d never even heard of Christmas, but my classmates were all talking about it. They told me about Santa, and the presents they’d get. And I wanted presents, too.

“We had a little party at school, and the teacher let all of us pick out a book to keep, for a gift. I was so happy, because I was learning to read, and I already loved it, but I didn’t have any books at home. I looked and looked at all the choices. And then I thought, ‘Why don’t I pick a book for my mom?’ I’d give her a Christmas present, and then maybe she’d be happy and we could celebrate together. I thought she’d read me the book, and Santa would come, and we’d be just like everybody else.”

You smile, still vividly remembering some of the excitement you’d felt as you planned your first Christmas.

“I finally chose a book called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It wasn’t very long, but it was advanced enough that I couldn’t read a lot of the words. The pictures looked exciting though, and I was sure my mom would love it. That afternoon when I got home, after my mom woke up, I got out the book and gave it to her.”

You pause, because the next part of the story is painful. Yoongi seems to sense this somehow, and he draws you closer, letting you lean against his shoulder so you don’t have to see his face anymore. You just breathe him in for a few seconds, gathering the strength to continue.

“My mom was surprised. She even smiled a little, and looked at me like ‘What’s this?’ And I told her it was Christmas, and I didn’t know if she knew about Christmas, but I got her a gift. And she looked at the book, and she still smiled at me. And I was so happy because she never did that. But when I asked if she would read it to me, she said no, not now, and she put the book aside. She didn’t even read it herself. And then she left, like she often did at night.

“I thought maybe she was going to get me a gift too. But she didn’t come back until late, and she was drunk like she usually was after she went out. She just passed out on the couch. And that was the end of Christmas.”

“Did she read the book to you another day?” Yoongi asks softly, and you sigh.

“No, she never did. I never even saw it again, until a couple months later when I found it in the trash can.”

Yoongi’s body jerks, his arms tightening around you. “My god, Y/N,” he murmurs into your hair. “I’m sorry.”

You wonder how he knows what a bad moment that had been for you. You can still feel it to this day, the shock and disappointment when you’d been struggling to carry the overflowing trash can out to the dumpster in the alley, and you’d noticed the corner of the book poking up out of the debris. Recognizing the bright reds and blues of the cover, you’d quickly dug the book out. And then you’d sat down on the floor and cried. You’d meant that book to make your mom happy, to give her some reason to spend time with you. And maybe, you’d hoped to activate the magic that you’d somehow imagined was a part of Christmas. Discovering your mom put your gift in the trash made you feel like she’d thrown you out, too. It was from that moment that you started to accept what you’d already basically known, that she didn’t love you, and she didn’t even want you. Christmas magic wasn’t going to work for your family.

“After that, we never mentioned Christmas again,” you continue. “I kept the book, and eventually I was able to read it to myself. It was a story about a flying car that took its family on adventures. I read that book so many times. And I started imagining that the car would come to me one day, and just fly me away from my house, my mom, everything.”

Yoongi is studying you with such a soft expression that you can’t look at him. You look out his huge window instead, at the bit of the Seoul skyline that you can see, sparkling and brilliant in the night. It’s the kind of place you used to imagine flying to, in your magic car. Someplace perfect and beautiful.

“Anyway,” you finish, with a soft sigh. “That’s why I don’t celebrate.”

You lean back against Yoongi’s shoulder, still studying the view. He wraps an arm around you, shifting until you’re both comfortably settled. When he finally speaks again, you’re surprised that he’s still mulling over your story.

“Maybe you should celebrate this year,” he suggests. “Put up a tree.”

“But I’ve never had one before,” you object.

“All the more reason,” he encourages you, and you twist to face him again.
“It would be kind of silly to put up a tree if I’m not going to have any presents to put under it. I really don’t do Christmas,” you insist. “We have some parties and things at the Clary Foundation. For the kids, you know. But that’s about it. I don’t even exchange gifts with most of my friends.”

“You should do that, too,” Yoongi argues. “I’m not saying go all out. But a lot of things about Christmas are nice. You can make some happier memories of the season than the ones you have.”

“We’ll see,” you murmur, and Yoongi seems satisfied with the answer. You’re not sure if you want to get involved with a holiday that you don’t really care about. You’re surprised he would even make the suggestion; he’s generally more pragmatic than sentimental. But you’re happy he cares enough to try to infuse a little extra happiness into your life.

*****

You spend the second day touring the city, doing some shopping, and eating meals from street vendors. You end the evening by persuading Yoongi to go skating at Seoul Plaza. It takes a lot of persuading, actually, as Yoongi apparently ranks ice skating as an activity even less enjoyable than dancing. But he joins you anyway, albeit complaining the whole time, especially when he falls more than once. You try to help him up one time, but you only make it worse by tripping over his legs and sprawling on top of him. After that, you’re laughing too hard to be any use, at least until you remember somebody might recognize Yoongi and photograph the two of you flailing around on the ice like idiots. That sobers you quickly, and you’re happy to agree when Yoongi claims he’s done with skating.

You make your way home, your legs and feet aching even more than they did the day before. Yoongi is limping a bit too, and he keeps complaining about the effects of the skating.

“I’m going to have bruises all over my ass,” he accuses you. “It’s one of the three best asses in Bangtan, and now it’s damaged goods. You should have thought about that before you forced me into such a dangerous activity.”

You eye him in amusement. He’s sighing dramatically, making a show of lying down face-first on the couch, to protect ‘the goods’ from further harm.

“ARMY won’t be able to see the bruises,” you say flippantly as you sit down on the other couch, since he’s taking up all the space on the first one. “Your ranking is still safe.”

Yoongi’s shoulders start to shake with laughter. He rolls over and sits up as he starts to tell you a story about one time when he fell off a chair and bruised his butt. Apparently Namjoon gave him the chair, so he tweeted an accusation about it being broken. He was just trying to be funny, but ARMY engaged with the message, replying with condolences about his injury. Then Namjoon replied, extending the joke, and the whole thing spiraled out of control with a mistranslation. The episode caused Yoongi’s ass to trend worldwide for a while. You can’t stop laughing, rolling around on the couch in amusement, and prompting Yoongi to share more stories of Bangtan’s crackhead behavior.

You’d be happy to listen to him all night, but eventually you feel exhaustion creeping up on you. As Yoongi shifts to less chaotic tales, your eyes close. Your head slips down against the couch cushions, and you curl your legs to your chest for warmth as you slowly drift away, lulled by the relaxing sound of his voice.

The next thing you know, Yoongi is crouched in front of you, saying your name.

“Let’s go to bed,” he says, gently rubbing one of your arms.

“But it’s so early,” you mumble.

“And you are so tired,” he counters. “The jet-lag’s finally caught up with you. Come on, can you get up? I don’t know if I can carry you.”

You ignore him because you’re perfectly comfortable where you are. Yoongi gives you a minute, but when you don’t move, he sighs and slides his arms underneath you. “Fine, just don’t get mad if I drop you. You’ll have bruises to match mine.”

The threat, and the strange feeling of losing control that comes from him starting to lift you, are enough for you to open your eyes and attempt to sit up. “I can walk,” you tell him, and he chuckles, shifting his grip to your elbows to help you stand. You make your way to the bedroom without help, waking up enough to undress when you get there. You crawl under the covers and cuddle face-first into the pillow, turning your head to watch as Yoongi picks up the clothes you discarded on the floor, folding them and placing them on his dresser.

“Are you coming to bed with me?” you ask, and he smiles and climbs onto the bed. But he doesn’t undress first or get under the blankets. Instead he sits cross-legged next to you and begins to lightly stroke his fingertips across your exposed shoulder blades. You close your eyes, shivering a bit from the sensation.

“Just relax,” he murmurs. “Go back to sleep.”

“Sing me a song?” you ask sleepily. You have no idea where that idea came from, but as soon as you say the words, you desperately want him to agree.

He laughs softly. “Like a lullaby?”

“Sing Let Me Know,” you beg, opening your eyes. But he shakes his head at you.

“That one is too sad.”

“But I love it.”

“It’s about a heartbreak,” he argues, and you stop, contemplating his words. He wrote the song; is it about his own heartbreak? You’re afraid to ask, afraid that now you’ve got him thinking about a past love. You’re shocked by the jealousy you feel. You don’t like imagining him spending time with someone else the way he has with you this weekend, joking and laughing, sharing stories and confidences. But you know there’s no point in getting upset. You both have pasts; there’s nothing you can do to change that.

“I’ll sing you something else,” Yoongi is saying. “Something I wrote recently. You can tell me if you like it.”

He coughs gently, clearing his throat, and then he begins to sing. Well, it’s more of a rap, like First Love, but the rhythmic cadence of his voice is delicious and soothing, and he matches the movement of his fingers on your back to the beat formed by his words. You close your eyes again, listening as the verses build to a chorus that he actually sings. The tune is sweet, but poignant too. You can’t understand all of the words, but the few English phrases, and even more, the emotional melody, make you want to cry.

At the end, he falls silent, though his fingers still trace patterns on your bare skin. “Do you like it?” he asks, and you open your eyes again to see the nerves playing across his face. They smooth out when he sees your huge smile.

“I love it,” you tell him, and he smiles in return. “What is it about? Not another heartbreak? It’s a little bit sad, but happy too.”

“It’s about having success, having everything I wanted, and finding out it’s not so great as I thought it would be.”

“That can be heartbreaking,” you muse, and he nods.

“Or frightening. That’s more the theme of the song, the fear. The being alone in the fame. Not having anyone who can understand. Or catch me if I fall.”

His words strike a chord deep within you. You’ve been in that place yourself, not isolated in fame, of course, but isolated as a child, alone, afraid, trying to make sense of a world that didn’t give you any help, any connection. And it’s terrifying.

You start to speak, to share how the message of the song resonates with you, but you break off as you see Yoongi’s expression. He’s gazing through his window, out at the lights of Seoul, and there’s enough pain in his eyes that you understand the song is autobiographical. That he struggles with the fear, not just of being successful, but of being alone, of dealing with life by himself. And it hits you like a thunderclap, this sudden and all-consuming urge to tell him that he’s not alone, that he has you. That he’ll always have you, if he wants you.

I love you. The thought trembles through your awareness, leaving your body shuddering in its wake. It’s what your mind says, what your heart says, but you manage to stop the words before your mouth can say them too. You can’t just blurt out something like that. Especially not to someone like Yoongi, who deserves far more than what you can offer him.

You turn your face back into your pillow, to hide the sudden tears that fill your eyes. Yoongi’s hands resume their light movements against your back. “Hey, you’re shaking,” he says in concern. “Are you cold?”

“No,” you try to tell him, but he’s already pulling the covers up over your bare shoulders, tucking them snugly against your neck.

“Get some sleep,” he says softly, before sliding off the bed and padding out of the room. But you’re wide awake now, shaken by the revelations still coursing through your head.

You can’t tell him you love him. Can you? There’s no way he can feel the same. He doesn’t have time for love; his passion is his music, something that consumes his whole being. Look how much he talks about his songs, Bangtan, their album, the Grammys. Clearly, this is what Yoongi thinks about, just as your thoughts are occupied by him. You can compare your insecurities about being with him to his own fears about being good enough as a musician, as an artist. Music is his number one, his first love.

But still. He does think about you, at least sometimes. He wanted you to come to Seoul, and he put a lot of effort and consideration into preparing for your visit. And his thoughtfulness, and more, the way he is around you, the way he opens up, the way he looks at you sometimes, all make you so impossibly happy. You haven’t felt insecure the whole visit, or like you aren’t good enough for Yoongi. You’ve only felt right, like the two of you fit together in some indescribable way.

That doesn’t mean he feels the same, though. And if he doesn’t, and you tell him you’re in love with him, you could be giving him a burden he never wanted. He might decide you’re getting in too deep for him, getting too clingy or emotional, and he could end the whole relationship. And that, you fear, is something you won’t be able to deal with. No, it’s better to keep your feelings to yourself.

You’re still awake when Yoongi comes to bed later, but you stay quiet, pretending to be asleep. Your heart beats faster when he gently eases his body against yours, wrapping one arm around your waist and snuggling you against him. But you stay silent, even as a tear of mingled joy and sadness slips down your cheek to the pillow.

Chapter Text

You chicken out.

Your final day in Seoul, you don’t have much time together before you have to get to the airport. Yoongi seems sad that you have to leave, but not unduly so, keeping things light as he fixes breakfast and helps you pack.

There’s one moment, right before you have to go, when he kisses you, and it feels almost desperate, not light-hearted at all. He’s holding you too tightly, and you can’t stop from increasing your own grip around his waist, and just hanging on, not wanting to leave. You almost tell him you love him, right there in the hallway, but you’re too much of a coward. And he doesn’t say anything when he finally lets you go, other than the conventional phrases about having a safe trip and calling him when you get home. Then you watch as the elevator doors close on his smiling face, shutting him out of your life once more.

You have a lot to think about on the plane home.

You keep your promise to call Yoongi once you’re safely back in your apartment, but you have to leave a voicemail. He texts you back a few hours later, but doesn’t actually call you the rest of the week. Again, your confidence plummets, and you’re glad you didn’t say anything about your feelings. You have a new realization now, not only about your love for him, but about his love for his work. He’s channeling his passion into so many things at the moment, the album, new choreography, awards shows, his insistence that he’s going to drop a second mixtape sometime in the next year. There’s no way he’d appreciate you tossing him your emotional baggage, while he’s already juggling so much.

That weekend, Hannah invites you over to watch a recording of the Melon Awards. You accept, and the two of you spend Saturday evening happily pigging out on leftovers from her family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and cheering for BTS as you watch them win award after award.

Look at Hoseok,” Hannah keeps saying during the group’s extensive performance, near the end of the show. “I swear that man is the love of my life. I shouldn’t be stuffing all this pie in my face if I want to win him over. He’s so fit. Look at him dance! He’s incredible.”

You study your own slice of pumpkin pie, practically indetectable under a mountain of whipped cream. Yoongi is so fit, too; maybe you should be worrying about your own figure if you want him to stay attracted to you. Your attention returns to the screen of Hannah’s laptop, where the cameras are showing audience reactions to BTS as they finally leave the stage. And you feel a chill as you note how many gorgeous, sexy women are smiling and applauding for the group. These are all idols, talented performers in their own right, yet you can see the admiration in their eyes. You wonder, suddenly, how often idols hook up with each other, and how many of these women might have been all over Yoongi the night before. Feeling slightly ill, you push your plate away.

“Please don’t tell me you can’t finish that,” Hannah admonishes you. “If you don’t eat it, I will, and then where will I be? I’ve already had two pieces.”

You slide the pie over to her, and though she scolds you for it, she digs right in, clearly not caring about the calories. But then, you know she’s not serious about wanting to be in shape for Hoseok. She doesn’t really expect to date him someday. You, on the other hand, have somehow managed to get involved with an idol, despite being woefully inadequate. Before you know it, the insecurities that plagued you all autumn come flooding back. Feeling depressed, you grab the pie again. You need the sugar rush. And there’s nothing wrong with your figure, anyway. It’s your brain that’s the problem.

“Bitch,” Hannah objects, blocking your fork with hers. “No takebacks. That’s mine now.”

“But I want to finish it,” you beg. “I need to cheer up.”

Hannah softens immediately, relinquishing the plate. “How’s your fundraiser coming?” she asks, and you sigh. Of course she would assume your troubles are work-related. As far as all your friends know, your job is the most important aspect of your life. And six months ago, they would have been right, but somehow, since May, Yoongi has eclipsed your passion for work. And unlike your job, which is something you know you excel at, you’re far from sure you’re a good girlfriend. You’d love to talk about it with Hannah, to get out of this echo-chamber of your brain, and try to gain an outside perspective. But you can’t tell her anything about Yoongi. Even if you trust her to keep it secret, you can’t risk his career like that.

“The fundraiser’s fine,” you tell Hannah, since you have to say something. “But it’s next weekend, and I still have a lot to arrange.”

“You’ll do great,” she reassures you. “You always do. Those kids are lucky to have someone like you to work so hard for them.”

“I guess,” you mutter. “And it’s not just me. Our whole team is amazing. It just doesn’t always feel like it’s enough.”

“Then you just keep doing everything you can,” Hannah encourages you, and you smile.

“Look at your bias!” she commands, directing your eyes back to the computer screen, where BTS is now accepting the award for Song of the Year. “Yoongi’s almost as beautiful as Hoseok. That’s sure to cheer you up.”

You sigh, because his beauty is part of the problem. But you do love watching him. He truly is stunning, with his hair fluffed around his face, the ends hanging in his eyes. He’s been glowing the whole night. You and Hannah already squealed when you saw him in some fuzzy gray sweater that the stylists must have known would wreck people’s bias lists. Now he’s still in the suit he wore at the end of their performance, and he looks unreal.

The group wins the final two awards of the night, achieving an all-kill that according to Hannah, is unprecedented. She’s shrieking and crying with happiness, and you shriek right along with her, your worries temporarily forgotten. You’re so happy for Yoongi, and the rest of the group.

*****

When Yoongi calls you the next morning, you’re effusive in your praise and congratulations. He seems pleased about their abundance of awards, but he grows shy when you start to rave about their performance. You watch through the screen, amused, as his cheeks flush slightly at the compliments.

“Did you watch the whole thing?” he asks in surprise.

“Yeah, Hannah and I watched together. We couldn’t get over how good you looked in that gray sweater. It was even prettier than the one you wore for your final Seesaw performance.”

“The stylists are having a love affair with sweaters lately,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“It wasn’t only the sweater. You looked fantastic the whole night. Your stylists are geniuses.”

Yoongi smirks. “I’ll double their end of year bonus.”

“And it was more than just your wardrobe. Your rap was so good. Your dancing was so good. That was one of the best shows I’ve ever watched,” you rave. “The entire audience was captivated. You really were incredible. All of you.”

He shrugs awkwardly. “Yeah, we did ok.”

“No, it was more than ok,” you correct him. “You guys were…breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it. And the fan reaction, not just in the stadium, but online. All around the world. You’re like heroes.”

“You’re exaggerating,” he scoffs. “We’re entertainers, not heroes.”

“But do you realize how much power you have, even as entertainers?”

Yoongi considers your words, lifting one hand to idly scratch behind his ear.

“I do feel powerful on stage,” he admits. “I love performing in front of a huge crowd, having every eye on me, especially when I’m rapping.”

He pauses, scrutinizing you through the phone. “I don’t really like saying that out loud,” he finally continues, and you raise an eyebrow.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s the hidden part of me, maybe the worst part. The part that enjoys feeling powerful, in control, respected. Sexy even. On stage I feel able to do anything I want, take what I want, be with any woman, win every award. It’s not how I feel most of the time, and it’s not the kind of person I want to be. Most of the time,” he amends, looking worried.

You’re worried too, mainly because he mentioned being with any woman. That ties in too neatly with the images you’ve been torturing yourself with, of all the gorgeous, perfect idols at the awards show the day before. “Do you ever act on those feelings?” you ask in a low voice. “Like, after a show?”

“You mean, just do what I want? No, I think I’m still grounded enough to keep from getting too much of an attitude. Partly because of ARMY. Their support is very humbling. And I get support from the other members as well. We all help each other with that kind of thing.”

“I meant, more, being with any woman,” you say. You know you should stop talking, but you can’t. “I imagine it can be a huge turn-on, having so many girls screaming for you when you’re on stage. Especially someplace like an awards show where a lot of them are idols, beautiful, talented…”

You trail off because Yoongi’s face has hardened as you speak. Even through the tiny phone screen, his eyes are boring into yours with a devastating intensity.

“Are you asking if I acted on it last night? With another woman?”

“No,” you practically whisper, but he keeps staring at you. “Maybe?”

A ripple of pain moves through his face, but it doesn’t change the hard look. “Y/N, do you really think I would do that?”

“I don’t think so, not really,” you falter.

“Not really, or not at all? I wouldn’t cheat on you. We talked about that, right at the beginning.”

“I know, but, look at what you did yesterday,” you blurt. “You ruled that place. You were so brilliant. It doesn’t feel real that I even know someone who could do that. Or that someone like that would choose to be with me, when all those other women are available.”

“Y/N, listen to me,” he says, a little desperately. “That’s the stage persona. That’s my job. You might not know that person so well, but you know me. The behind-the-scenes me. And you have to believe I wouldn’t cheat on you.”

You meet his eyes, seeing the pain still there behind the anger.

“If you don’t believe it,” he continues, “then this is never going to work out.”

Oh, god. You look down quickly as tears fill your eyes. Why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut? You haven’t only fallen in love with him, you’ve come to trust him so much in the last few months. You’re comfortable with him. You don’t really think he would cheat, do you?

“Y/N,” he says, and his voice has softened just enough that you look up again, trying unsuccessfully to swipe the tears from your eyes. Yoongi has such a look of concern on his face. He’s touching the screen, as if he could reach through it to wipe away the tears for you.

“I shouldn’t have said it that way,” he tells you. “It’s not an ultimatum, I swear. I want this to work out. But we do need to trust each other for that.”

“I trust you. This is just hard, trying to figure out why you even want to be with me, when I’m not good enough for you. When you could have so much more with someone else. I mean, do you know how many people would kill to be with you?”

Yoongi’s expression cools again. “Is that why you’re with me, then? Because other people want me? Because of my fame? If that’s all you’re thinking about, then it’s no surprise you don’t feel good enough."

“That’s not why I’m with you,” you argue, but to your horror, you don’t sound very sure of yourself. You’re still struggling not to cry, but Yoongi doesn’t seem bothered by your tears anymore.

“I should go,” he says, suddenly, his voice still cold. “I need to get some sleep.”

“No, Yoongi, wait,” you plead, because you don’t want him to retreat until you’ve managed to straighten out this mess you’ve created. But his eyes are distant, his mouth a thin line. You’ve never seen him like this before.

“We’re flying to Japan tomorrow,” he says shortly. “I’ll call you when I can.”

And then he’s gone, and you’re staring into the blackness of your phone screen. Your image is distorted, making you look like some kind of monster. Fitting, considering how you feel right now. How could you have flat-out accused Yoongi of cheating on you? With no evidence? A sob escapes you, and you pound your couch cushion in frustration. Your insecurities have really screwed things up now.

*****

Yoongi doesn’t call you for days. After he hangs up on Sunday, you send him a text apologizing for what you said, and for being an idiot. He doesn’t respond. You spend the next few days trying to keep up with preparations for your upcoming fundraiser. You have so much work to do, but you can’t focus, as you wait intently for some kind of contact from Yoongi. But there’s nothing.

You almost call Hannah after all, for some advice, or at least comfort. Or even better, your friend Angie in Atlanta, who’s got more experience with this kind of thing. She’s shared plenty of stories about the highs and lows of her marriage. But you know you can’t betray Yoongi’s trust by talking about the relationship. Even if it’s over now, destroyed by your jealousy, you have to keep it a secret.

But you hold onto a hope that it isn’t over. You haven’t even told Yoongi that you’re in love with him. And maybe you still can’t say that yet, not while he’s upset, and not over the phone, but you can show him. You can assure him that you do trust him, and you care about him. You just need to get him to talk to you again.

After too many sleepless nights, you finally call him on Thursday. He doesn’t answer, so you leave a message, apologizing again and asking him to please get in touch as soon as he can. And finally, finally, on Friday, your phone buzzes with an incoming call from him.

“Yoongi,” you answer breathlessly, hurrying from the Clary Foundation’s conference room to your office, where you can have some privacy from the bustle of fundraiser preparations.

“Y/N,” he greets you, tentatively. You can’t tell if he’s still angry or not, so you just plunge into another apology.

“I’m sorry about the things I said last weekend. I didn’t mean them. It was just my fear talking.”

“Y/N,” Yoongi says your name again, cutting you off before you can babble any further. “I know,” he says, and you hold your breath, waiting for him to continue. “I understand. I mean, I don’t understand how you could think I would cheat on you, but I understand feeling insecure about our relationship. I feel the same, sometimes. And it’s hard to reassure each other, when we can’t be together all the time.”

Relief floods warmly through you, loosening muscles you realize were tense from anxiety. Yoongi doesn’t sound upset, just tired, and a little sad. And while sad isn’t good, either, maybe you can move past it. You just need to find the right words.

“I shouldn’t need you to reassure me about something like cheating,” you tell him. “You’ve never given me any reason to believe you would do that. I just get nervous because I…because I like you so much.” You pause, because you almost used the other l-word, the one that’s been in your thoughts since you visited him in Seoul. You take a moment to compose yourself so you don’t make a slip. “And it’s not because you’re famous. I don’t even think about that most of the time. It just creeps up on me every once in a while.”

Yoongi is silent, and you wait as he thinks over your words. “The fame is always going to be a part of my life,” he finally tells you. “I can’t change that.”

“I don’t want to change it,” you insist. “I like so many of the things that made you famous. Your music, your talent, your ambition. How wise you are. How beautiful you are,” you finish shyly. Yoongi lets out a small snort of laughter, and you continue, emboldened.

“But what I like the most is just being with you. Talking, laughing. Getting to know the real you. I had such a good time when I came to visit.”

“So did I,” Yoongi agrees. “I want to have more times like that. There’s just so much else in my life that gets in the way.”

“I know,” you agree, sympathizing fully with his frustration. “This is all a lot harder than I thought it would be.”

“I know my lifestyle is different from what you know, from what’s comfortable to you. Just…don’t give up on me yet, ok? At least not until we have a chance to see each other again, to have a real conversation about everything. If you still think it’s too hard after that, then we’ll decide what we want to do.”

You’re speechless, filled with dread at his words. Is he talking about breaking up? Because he thinks that’s what you want?

“It’s not so hard that I don’t want to keep trying,” you blurt.

“Good,” Yoongi says softly. “We still need to talk, though. I’ll try to see you very soon. Right now, we have a lot of things tentatively scheduled for the next month, but I’ll let you know if something falls through.”

He sounds happier, but still tired. Suddenly, you realize it must be close to 4:00 am in Seoul. Maybe he’s been having some sleepless nights, too, you think.

“You should get some sleep,” you say, feeling guilty. “It’s so late. You can call me in the morning, if you still want to talk.”

“It’s not late,” Yoongi begins, sounding confused. Then he lets out a soft ooooohhhh. “I didn’t tell you. We’re in L.A. We’re doing Jingle Ball this evening.”

“Oh,” you say blankly. Jingle Ball is a pretty big concert, and you didn’t even realize BTS would be performing there. Yoongi’s life moves so fast, you can’t keep up even when he isn’t angry, much less when he’s not talking to you for days.

“There’s something else I didn’t get a chance to tell you,” he says, a little hesitantly. “I have a new song out. It was released last night.”

“What?” you ask, dismayed that you didn’t know anything about it. But it’s your own fault. If you hadn’t been such a jerk during your last call, he might have told you.

“Well, it’s not mine, it’s Halsey’s. But she asked me to rap on the track. We worked on it a while ago. I didn’t even know if it would be on her new album, but she told me this week she was releasing it. And she has another song out. You should listen to them both.”

“I will,” you promise. And you do listen to the songs, as soon as you end the call with Yoongi, even though you should be getting back to work. They’re both lovely, but Suga’s Interlude brings you to tears, especially when you read the translation of his Korean lyrics.

He wrote that the darkest moment before dawn is where you can find your stars, and you take comfort in that. Maybe you’re making a mess of your relationship with him right now, but at least it’s giving you the opportunity to find things like trust, and forgiveness. Stars that can lead the way, even if you still feel like you’re fumbling in the darkness.

*****

Although the phone call ended on a good note, you’re still unsure about the status of your relationship. Yoongi calls you a little more often in the coming weeks, but he can never talk for long. He mostly just apologizes because he doesn’t have time to visit you, and then you apologize for not having time to visit him, and everything feels awkward.

You just want to tell him you’re in love with him, but something always stops you. You agonize over the words, even looking up the Korean translation, thinking you should use his own language to share something this important. But though you perfect the words, practicing until they flow from your tongue with ease, you still can’t say them when you’re actually talking to him.

The Friday before Christmas, you come home from work to find a large package propped against your apartment door. Feeling puzzled, you heft the box into the house and lower it to the floor, remaining in a crouch as you study it. Underneath the shipping label, you see some additional labels and stamps that are definitely in Korean. You assume it’s something from Yoongi, but it’s so big you can’t imagine what it would be. You want to call him to find out what’s going on, but it’s still early in Korea, so instead you go find a knife and start working on the yards of packing tape smothering the cardboard.

Eventually, you’ve got the box open and several wads of bubble wrap scattered around you. You start pulling various-sized bubble-wrapped lumps out of the box and lining them up on the coffee table.

When the box is empty, you turn to the lumps, wielding the knife again to free them from their protective layers. Each one turns out to be a Christmas present, brightly wrapped, with tags affixed with your name on them in Yoongi’s handwriting. Five gifts altogether. You sit back on your heels, amazed and touched that he would do something like this.

Checking the time again, you calculate that it’s 8:00 a.m. in Korean time, which you judge is a reasonable enough hour to call.

“Hello?” His voice is sleepy and you figure you must have woken him after all. You lower your voice as you greet him.

“Good morning.”

“Oh. Y/N? Hey, same to you. I mean, good night? What time is it there?” His voice is deep with sleep, and somewhat muffled. You hear rustling and picture him burrowing into his pillows.

“It’s 6:00 here,” you tell him. He lets out a long, drawn-out groan, and you think he must be stretching.

“Why are you calling so early on the weekend?” he finally asks.

“I just wanted to let you know I got your package.”

“Really?” he asks, his voice perking up immediately. “Finally. I mailed that so long ago, and I was starting to worry you wouldn’t even get it by Christmas. I don’t know how long it takes to ship things to America.”

“I can’t believe you sent so many gifts. And wrapped them. That’s so…well, it’s a lot.”

“It’s not a lot, it’s just little stuff,” Yoongi disagrees. “I wanted you to have something to put under your tree.”

“But I don’t even have a tree.”

“Y/N, I thought you said you would get one this year!”

You think back to the conversation you had in Seoul, about trying to create some better Christmas experiences. You’d forgotten all about it, too preoccupied with work and with fretting about your feelings for Yoongi. It’s oddly reassuring that he remembered, when he’s even busier than you are.

“Maybe I can do it tomorrow,” you say slowly. “I need to get you a gift, too. I haven’t even been thinking about the holiday.”

Yoongi dismisses that. “I don’t need a gift. Just worry about the tree.”

“Ok, I’ll see what I can find. I guess it’ll be fun, having an actual Christmas morning for once.” You feel an unusual excitement growing as you think about it. For the first time in your life, you have something to look forward to on Christmas.

“Hey, I want to see when you open the presents, but we’re going to be so booked on Christmas Eve and Christmas,” Yoongi tells you. “What are you doing this weekend?”

“Buying a Christmas tree, apparently. I’ll have to get an early start tomorrow. It’s supposed to snow here.”

“Can you call me when you have everything set up? Like, Sunday morning, your time? We’ll do a video chat and open presents.”

You grin as you agree to his request.

“Listen, I’d like to talk some more, but I need to be somewhere pretty soon. My alarm went off right before you called.”

“Ok. I just wanted to say thank you. I’ll talk to you on Sunday.”

You let him go, and immediately turn to your laptop. You want to see if you can possibly find a gift you can get to Yoongi in the next 24 hours, so he’ll have something to unwrap too. You’re not going to open presents alone. And you need to search for tree lots. And what goes on a tree? Fuck, you don’t even know. Lights, of course. Ornaments? That shiny stuff that makes a mess everywhere? You grab a notepad and start scribbling a to-do list.

*****

Saturday is frantic, as you try to get your tree-hunting and shopping done before a predicted winter storm hits Chicago. You do get a small tree, as Yoongi suggested, mainly because you saw a stunted little pine at the tree lot and immediately felt a connection with it, imagining nobody else would want the poor thing. But even a tiny tree is a lot of work. Hauling it to your apartment, setting it up, and decorating it takes significantly more time than you imagined. And when you’re finished, the tree still looks a little bare. How many ornaments does the thing need? You bought so freaking many. You shift a few from the back to the front to try to jazz things up, feeling bad for being critical. It’s not the tree’s fault you’re new to this. It still doesn’t look great, but when you turn off your overhead light, the tree glows warmly from the corner of the room, making you feel warm inside, too. Peaceful, even. You leave it turned on when you go to bed, feeling comforted somehow by the tree’s very presence.

You set your alarm for 6:00 on Sunday, so you don’t keep Yoongi up too late waiting for your call, but you wake up even earlier than that, with an unfamiliar jittery anticipation in your stomach. Is this how kids feel, waiting to see what Santa brought them? And is this why Yoongi sent the presents, so you’d be able to feel it too?

Although it’s dumb since you’re only going to video chat, you take a quick shower and put on your cutest pajamas before you call him. Then you brew a cup of coffee, settle down in front of your tree, and dial his number.

He answers quickly. “You’re up early.”

You laugh. “I seriously cannot wait to open your presents. I’ve never done this before.”

“I know,” he says softly. “Are you ready now? Did you really get a tree?”

“I did. I don’t know how good it looks, but it’s here. Do you want me to turn on the video so you can see it? Oh wait, I wanted to put on some Christmas music, too.”

Now Yoongi laughs, seemingly infected by your excitement. “Go do that first,” he directs, and you scoot yourself over to your laptop to find something festive on Spotify. You tuck the phone against your shoulder as you type in your password, but it slips to the floor when your doorbell rings, startling you. You snatch it up again, apologizing.

“Argh, sorry. The doorbell rang and I dropped the phone. I have no idea who would be here this early in the morning.”

“Well, go see, and then we can open presents.”

“Ok, don’t hang up,” you command, running to the door. You’re expecting Mrs. Planck, your octogenarian neighbor who always thinks someone took her newspaper and doesn’t care how many people she wakes up to get it back.

But it’s your boyfriend. Standing right there in your hallway, looking way too pleased with himself, especially when you literally jump in shock, dropping the phone again.

“Can I hang up now?” he asks, lowering the phone from his ear.

“Yoongi!” you screech at him, remembering too late that you might wake the neighbors. You grab him, tugging him inside, and straight into your arms. He’s bundled up in a wooly coat and thick scarf, and you hide your face in the fluffy layers, afraid you’re going to cry. He holds you tightly against his chest, and you breathe in his scent. Despite all your stilted phone conversations, it’s not awkward at all, being with him again. It’s perfect.

“Why are you here?” you ask, once you’re pretty sure your voice isn’t going to crack. Yoongi loosens his vise on you, enough that you can pull back to see each other’s faces.

“We needed some time together. Things have felt…uneasy, I guess, since the Melon Awards. I thought we should talk.”

“Oh Yoongi, it’s my fault things are like this right now. It’s because of what I said about other women. I didn’t mean them.”

“Y/N,” he soothes. “There’s no fault if you’re just telling me how you feel. I’m glad you were comfortable enough to say what you did, even if it upset me.”

“I’m over it now. I truly don’t believe you would cheat on me.”

“And I’m not upset anymore. But phone conversations aren’t always good enough. This was the first chance I had to come here and talk about it in person.”

“We don’t even need to talk,” you murmur. “You being here means so much.”

“Well, I wanted to open Christmas presents with you, too. Can I come in?”

Reluctantly, you unwrap your arms from around his waist. Yoongi starts to unwind the scarf, and you pick up his bag, leading him into the living room. He grins at your skinny, crooked tree as he unbuttons his coat.

“Were all the good trees gone by the time you got to the tree lot?” he jokes, and you mock-glare as you take his coat and scarf.

“Don’t insult my tree. It has character.”

“I’m not sure that’s the word I would use.”

“Why are you being mean? You’re the one who wanted me to get a tree in the first place. This one was so small, I knew nobody else would buy it, and I didn’t want it to end up in the trash without having a holiday first.” You turn around after placing his coat and bag on the sofa, only to find him smiling softly, his eyes so warm it makes you want to cry again. How can just a look mess with you so badly?

“Are you hungry?” you ask, a little shyly. “Do you want breakfast, or a cup of coffee?”

“Coffee would save my life right now,” he tells you, and you hurry to fix him a mug, relieved to have a moment to compose yourself. When you get back, with the coffee, he’s curled up on the floor, his back against the coffee table. He’s excavated your presents from under the tree and spread them out around him. He takes the coffee and cradles it against his chest, inhaling the scent with a blissful sigh.

“What were you even doing outside my door this early?” you demand, dying of curiosity now that the first shock has worn off. Yoongi closes his eyes briefly, sighing in frustration.

“I was supposed to be here yesterday evening, but the flight out of Seoul was delayed due to bad weather. I missed my connecting flight in L.A. and had to take a later one. And then that one was delayed too. I didn’t land until about 4:00 this morning. I caught an Uber here and hung out in the lobby waiting for you to wake up.”

“Why didn’t you go to a hotel and get a few hours of sleep?” you ask, amazed at his story. “Or at least call me when you got here so I could let you in?” Yoongi just smiles at you.

“I didn’t want to wake you. And I wanted the surprise to be perfect. But I’m glad you got up early. This weather’s terrible, and it was cold even in the lobby.”

You regard him silently, noting the exhausted slump of his shoulders and the way he still curls his body around the hot coffee mug. He’s got plenty of money; he could have come up with all sorts of plans that didn’t involve camping out in the frigid lobby of your apartment building at ungodly hours of the morning. But he wanted you to have a surprise for Christmas. Nobody, nobody, has ever gone to these lengths for you. Your heart aches with the knowledge, but it’s swelling with happiness too, because he’s here, and he’s yours. Even when you keep messing up, he forgives you, and more, does something like this.

You slide across the rug and straddle his legs, settling gently into his lap. Yoongi looks at you in surprise, but with the smile still playing around his lips. You take the coffee from his hands, setting it aside as you lean in to kiss him. You keep it tender, wanting more than anything to show him how much you appreciate what he’s done for you, and how happy you are to be with him. But the heat is still there, simmering underneath as it always does, and pretty soon your mouths are open, tongues tangling, and his hands have made their way underneath your pajama shirt to caress your bare skin.

You finally pull back, and Yoongi shifts a little under your weight. You smile provocatively at him as you feel how aroused he’s already become, but he doesn’t take the bait.

“Don’t you want to unwrap your presents first?” he asks, and you realize that you’ve messed up again, this time in the present category.

“I don’t have anything for you,” you say sadly. “I did get you a gift, but it should have been delivered to your apartment in Seoul last night. You won’t be able to open it now.”

Yoongi eyes you in amusement. He reaches over to one of your gifts and detaches the cheerful red bow. Before you can say anything, he sticks the bow on top of your head, patting it gently to keep it in place.

“There,” he tells you. “Now I have a present.”

You dissolve into laughter at the smug look on his face.

“So, do you want to unwrap presents first?” you ask, sliding your thighs against his and earning a hiss of appreciation from him. “I bet you’re really going to like yours.”

He grins and pulls you closer. “I can’t wait to find out.”

*****

You end up in bed, feeling positively blissful about Yoongi’s enthusiastic response to his gift. You guess he still wants to have a conversation, but you don’t feel like you need reassurances after this. Somehow, he makes you feel like the sexiest woman in the world when you’re in bed with him. He seems to want you so much; it’s a powerful feeling, like no other woman can ever compete with you.

You need to learn to hold onto that when you’re apart.

“This is the best Christmas present I’ve ever had,” you sigh. Yoongi just hums weakly in agreement, and you smile at the way it sounds when your ear is pressed against his chest.

“I always heard make-up sex is the best,” he says suddenly, and you pop your head up to look at him in dismay.

“Was that make-up sex?”

Yoongi regards you with a quizzical smile. “Kind of? We had a fight. I mean, we already pretty much made up, but it’s good to…connect, and make sure we’re not still upset about anything.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong for me to be upset about. I was just being an idiot. I didn’t think about how my words might hurt you.”

“I was hurt. And upset, but I’m not anymore.” Yoongi smiles for real now, and you lean in to kiss him again.

“Why are you so perfect?” you ask, and he laughs gently.

“I’m not anywhere close.”

“You sort of are, though.”

“You’ll get over thinking that soon enough,” Yoongi tells you. “I used to think you were perfect too.”

“Used to?” You frown just a little at that.

“Yes, I did. But then, I heard you singing in the shower at my house. And after that…” he trails off, shaking his head ruefully, and you punch him in the shoulder.

“Ow,” he complains. Catching your wrist before you can pummel him again, he expertly flips you onto your back, pinning you underneath him. “We’re having another fight,” he says, and you groan. “We can have more make-up sex.”

“First, admit you love my singing,” you command, turning your face away as he skims his lips down your jaw. But that only gives him better access to your neck, and he takes advantage of it, pressing a lingering kiss against the pulse in your throat, sucking lightly and making your toes curl.

“Admit it,” you say again, almost whispering, and he hums indeterminately against your skin, causing you to shiver. Yoongi still grasps your wrist in one hand, pinning your arm to the pillow above your head. Your other hand begins moving of its own accord, tracing patterns into his back as he continues to trail kisses along your shoulder.

If this is a fight, you figure you’ve lost.

But Yoongi stops abruptly and raises his head to meet your eyes, simultaneously freeing your wrist.

“I do love your singing,” he tells you, and his gaze is so warm. He’s looking at you in that same way he did earlier, the way that makes you want to run around screaming in delight, or curl up in a ball and sob, or both. And suddenly, you’re not afraid to tell him what you feel for him. You even think he might feel the same. Look at what he’s done for you this weekend. And what he always does for you. You realize that all Yoongi has ever done, since he met you, is try to be with you, and make you happy. He deserves to know how well he’s succeeded, and how much you want to do those same things for him.

“Saranghae,” you say carefully, still meeting his eyes. They widen in shock, and the smile drops from his lips. Ok, you were lying about not being afraid. Now you’re terrified.

“Do you know what you just said?” Yoongi asks, his voice low and urgent.

“Yes, I know,” you begin hesitantly, and Yoongi starts to smile again.

“And you intended it?” he asks, and you nod. He begins to laugh, and your fear eases.

“Nado saranghae,” he murmurs. “I love you, Y/N,” he repeats, and you feel the joy welling up inside of you, the smile threatening to crack your face in half. He lowers his face to kiss you, full on the lips this time. It’s so sweet, so, well, damn it, it’s perfect, no matter what he says.

“I came here to tell you that,” he continues. “I want you to know how I feel, so you aren’t uncertain about our relationship.” He grins suddenly and drops his forehead to your shoulder. “I wasn’t expecting you to say it first, especially in Korean.”

You thread your fingers into his silky hair, lightly brushing them against his scalp. “I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while, but I was scared.”

“My tiger, afraid of something?” he teases. “I don’t believe it.”

You pause, not sure how much to tell him. “I’m afraid of you,” you finally whisper, and though you’re staring fixedly at his chest, you see the slight frown twitch across his lips.

“You don’t have any reason to be afraid of me,” he soothes, and you raise your head to meet his eyes.

“I’m afraid you’ll break my heart. Honestly, you’re a really scary person to be in love with. With the lifestyle you lead, even just the person you are, it seems like you could slip away so easily. And I keep making things worse.”

“Oh baby,” he murmurs, smoothing the hair from your forehead. “You’re doing fine. And I’m not slipping away anywhere. I’m right here with you.”

“I know,” you sigh. “You coming all this way, that’s…actually…incredibly reassuring.”

“I came because I love you. And because you can break my heart too, you know. I was worried about it happening, with the Melon Awards, when it seemed like you were getting more of a taste of what my life is really like. It’s so different from yours, I feel like one of these days, you might reject it. Decide it’s too much trouble for you.”

“I don’t feel that way at all. I just wish I could see you more often. That’s why it means so much that you made this trip. I’m sorry it was such a hard flight.”

Yoongi kisses you again. “It was worth it. Except you haven’t even opened your presents yet. I came all this way and we still haven’t gotten to the whole reason I’m here.”

“You mean make-up sex wasn’t the reason?” you ask, and he grins.

“Not exactly, but I’m not complaining.”

*****

You finally get around to opening presents. Yoongi said he just got you small stuff, but his idea of small is not the same as yours. The first gift isn’t bad, a Christmas ornament showing the skyline of Seoul, delicately etched into silver.

“So you can remember your visit,” Yoongi explains, when you look at him in delight. Like you could ever forget the time you spent in Seoul with him.

Shaking your head, you unwrap the next gift. Yoongi found you a sweater that explodes out of the gift box like a cloud, so airily soft and cuddly that you immediately bury your face in it. It reminds you of the sweater he wore at the Melon Awards, or the one from his Seesaw performance in October, and you remember how much you raved to him about both outfits. He was listening, apparently.

Then comes a robe, long and silky like the one he got for you to wear in his apartment. This one is a soft black with silver tigers roaming over it. You groan over the pattern, since you know he chose it on purpose, thinking of his nickname for you. But the robe is beautiful, and you’re thrilled to have it to wear in your own home every morning.

When you open the fourth present, you just find a couple of computer printouts. You study the pages, puzzled. It looks like there’s a hotel booking, and something about kayak rental. “What is this?” you finally ask.

“It’s a weekend kayaking trip. I found this resort place outside Chicago. I thought you could do it this summer.

“Are you serious? This is incredible. Will you go with me?” you ask, but he shakes his head.

“There’s no way you’re getting me on a kayak. I more intended you to take your friend Bryce. I didn’t know if you’d be going to the singles group with her anymore. You know, since you’re not single now.”

“I can still go. The group is open to everyone. It’s really hardly about dating at all.”

“But you get creeps hitting on you, like those guys last summer.”

You laugh at the slight pout on his face. “Maybe Bryce and I can find a new group. And we’ll love going to this resort. I can’t believe you got me something this big. And these clothes! I don’t even want to ask how much you spent on them.”

“You’re not supposed to ask; they’re gifts,” Yoongi chuckles.

“But you don’t have to get me such expensive gifts,” you try, sliding your arms around him. “I don’t want you to think I’m dating you for your money.”

One side of his mouth quirks up in amusement as he pulls you closer. “Believe me, that’s one worry I don’t have. And this is the first time I’ve gotten you presents. I don’t know why you’re concerned.”

“You got me things when I came to visit you.”

“Sure, some books, and a bottle of shampoo.” He speaks like it’s nothing, but you won’t let him dismiss it that easily.

“And another robe.”

Yoongi sighs. “Listen, I really don’t shop that much. But I wanted you to have a nice Christmas, and I thought of some things that maybe you would like. It’s not a big deal.”

You lean in to kiss him softly, to soothe his annoyance. “I do like them. I love them. Just don’t get too carried away, or you’ll freak me out.”

He smiles, reaching for the last gift. “I hardly spent any money on this one,” he says, handing it to you. It’s about the right size for a scarf or a purse. But when you lift the lid from the gift box and fold back the tissue paper, you find a book.

You recognize it instantly; it’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the book from the story you told him, about your one childhood Christmas experience. You lift it gently from the box, hands trembling as you remember some of the emotions you felt at that time. And as you realize anew how perceptive Yoongi is. You still don’t know how he does it, but he always seems to sense exactly what you need, even when you don’t know it yourself. Maybe he’s not such a scary person to be in love with after all, not when he’s always showing how much he cares about you.

You can’t even look at him as you slowly turn the pages, your eyes watering as they light on remembered phrases and images. His voice floats above your head as he talks about the book, rambling somewhat nervously in the face of your silence.

“There’s a movie too,” he’s telling you. “This was a very popular story a long time ago. And do you know who wrote it? Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series.”

“Really?” you ask, finally raising your face to his excited one.

“Yes. It looks like you had genius taste even when you were in kindergarten.”

You roll your eyes. “That might be the only time I’ve displayed genius taste in anything.”

“What are you talking about? You fell for me. That’s pretty brilliant.”

You break into laughter and he grins, looking pleased.

“You’re absolutely right,” you agree, leaning in to kiss him. “It’s the best decision I ever made.”

Yoongi slides his arms around you, but he doesn’t deepen the kiss. “I was reading about Ian Fleming when I ordered the book,” he tells you. “Do you know what he said once? He said, ‘Never say no to adventures. Always say yes. Otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.’ I like that idea.”

“I know you do,” you chuckle. “It’s what you’re always telling me. It’s why I said yes to you.”

He smirks a little. “With that in mind, I have an adventure to propose, one I hope you’ll say yes to. We just confirmed we’re performing in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”

“Oh, wow, that’s huge!” you exclaim, excited for him, and the rest of BTS.

“Do you think you might be able to come to New York that night? Hook up with me after the show? We won’t have much time, but it might be fun, meeting in a hotel for a change. And it’s a chance to see each other without you having to fly all the way to Seoul.”

You meet his eyes, surprised by the hesitancy in his voice, like he thinks you might refuse. As if you would ever want to refuse him anything.

“Yes,” you say firmly.

Chapter Text

That night, you start looking for a New York hotel reservation as soon as you get home from taking Yoongi to the airport. Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, every hotel even remotely close to Times Square is fully booked on New Year’s Eve. But you keep trying, widening your search area until you finally find something decent miles to the south. You’re able to book a flight as well, after texting Caroline to confirm you can leave work early that day.

The madness of traveling to New York on the last night of the year means you don’t get checked into the hotel until after 10:00 p.m. You hurry up to the room and immediately turn on the TV, not wanting to miss BTS on stage. But it’s just interviews, and you check the schedule, relieved to see you still have time before they’re supposed to perform. You explore the room, which is small, but quirky and welcoming, with a huge window, soft lighting, and most importantly, a comfortable bed.

When you hear the announcers starting their lead-in to the BTS stage, you perch excitedly on the edge of that bed, watching as they jump immediately into Boy With Luv. You vaguely register that they all look fantastic, but you only have eyes for Yoongi. He looks completely adorable, and more importantly, like he’s having a really good time. You can’t stop grinning at how much he’s enjoying himself during that song, and afterwards, during Make it Right. At the end, when they’re no longer on stage, you finally take the time to settle in and prepare to see Yoongi.

Once you’ve showered and dressed in something more comfortable, you curl up in bed to watch the end of the show, and the ball drop. BTS is back on stage for that part, and you watch as Yoongi and the others still seem to be having the time of their lives. You wish you could be there with him, but of course that would never be possible, for so many reasons. You have to be content with enjoying his reactions over the TV screen, and knowing that you’ll see him soon.

Except it’s not that soon. Though you try to stay awake even after BTS leave the stage again, you quickly doze off, slipping down into the nest of fluffy hotel pillows. You start into consciousness when your phone buzzes with a text. It’s Yoongi, of course, but you note sleepily that it’s almost 2:00 in the morning. You can’t believe it’s taken so long for him to get in touch with you. The text is brief.

Yoongi: OTW

You text him back that you can’t wait, and then you run to the mirror to make sure you still look ok, before returning to your vigil on the bed. Not wanting to fall asleep again, you start scrolling through Twitter, checking the fan reactions to the BTS performance. You know it’s not always a good idea to read about them on the internet, but you can’t help it; sometimes you love seeing proof of fans’ admiration for the group, and for Yoongi in particular.

Of course, tonight, the hard stans are out in full force, sharing and resharing a clip of Yoongi’s dancing during Make It Right. And you don’t blame them. He’s so sexy, you’re getting excited just watching the brief video, and knowing you’re about to see him in person.

But thirty minutes later, he still hasn’t shown up. You text him again.

You: Are you still coming? Or did you get mobbed by your thirsty fans?

He calls you immediately. “I didn’t get mobbed,” is how he greets you, and you hear the amusement in his voice. “But traffic is terrible, and your hotel is a million fucking miles away.”

“Well, you try getting a hotel in New York, on New Year’s Eve, with a week’s notice.”

He laughs. “Don’t get mad; I’m almost there. The driver says it’ll only be a few more minutes.”

He hangs up, and you jump out of bed, straightening the pillows and smoothing down the covers. Once again you go check your appearance in the mirror. You’re nervous about what he’ll think of your ensemble, which is just some really fancy lingerie, and the robe he gave you for Christmas, left untied and hanging loosely off your shoulders. But before you can chicken out and change into something less obvious, there’s a quiet knock on the door. You run down the entry hall to open it, and Yoongi comes in quickly, already unbuttoning his coat.

He looks so beautiful, with his blonde hair tousled over his forehead, and a glowing smile on his face. You help him slip the coat off his shoulders, and he immediately wraps his arms around you. His lips are still cold from being outside, but they warm quickly as they fit against yours, and you lose yourself in kissing him. You start to slide a hand into his hair, but it’s weirdly stiff with some kind of product and your fingers hesitate at his hairline. He pulls away with an apologetic look.

“Sorry, I came straight here. I still need to shower.” He seems to notice your outfit for the first time, and he steps back even further, gently pushing your robe open.

The way he’s looking at you is getting you excited again. “You really came straight from the stage?” you ask, but he only smiles, more interested in gliding his hands down to your hips and running his thumbs over the lacy waistband of your panties. You remember what he told you a month ago, about how he feels when he’s performing.

“Do you feel…powerful right now?” you murmur, and he looks at you in surprise. “Sexy?”

“I do feel that way,” he answers, his lips curving in a sly grin as he pulls you up against him again.

“Do you feel like you can have any woman?” you question him, and his eyes fire. You gasp as he suddenly backs you up until you hit the wall. His eyes burn into yours as he braces one hand next to your head. With the other he skims a teasing finger down your throat, down your chest, to finally hook around the clasp of your bra.

“I do. But there’s only one woman I want,” he tells you, his voice so impossibly deep it sends shivers down your spine. “Can I have her?”

You can only nod.

“I didn’t hear you,” he says, so softly. His hand is moving once more, and his eyes follow hungrily as it slides down your belly to toy with your panties again. You draw in your breath as he slips his thumb beneath the fabric and brushes the pad against your already pulsing clit.

“Y…yes,” you manage to gasp out, and he raises his eyes to yours again, smirking.

“Then let’s get rid of these,” he commands, grabbing a fistful of lace and yanking, jerking the fabric harshly down over your thighs. You shift your legs to let the panties fall to the floor, but before he can touch you again, you grasp the hem of his hoodie.

“You too,” you murmur, tugging, and Yoongi raises his arms, helping you pull the bulky sweatshirt over his head. As he shrugs it to the floor, you curl your hands into his white t-shirt, intending to pull it off too, but you realize with a start that, other than exchanging his sparkly jacket for the hoodie, he’s still in the same clothes he wore to dance onstage in Times Square. Lust leaps in your belly at the thought, distracting you, and Yoongi’s got his hands back on your body before you can tug at his shirt. You moan as his long fingers caress your hips and thighs, finally nudging your legs farther apart to slide between them, right where you want them to be.

You’re already so aroused that he’s able to plunge two fingers deep inside you without even giving you warning. You arch your back in response, and your head knocks against the wall. You whimper, in pain, or in need, you don’t even know. The sound has Yoongi cursing as he wrestles with his belt buckle with one hand, the fingers of his other hand still curling inside of you. You need more, you need all of him, so you reach out to help, your hands fumbling against his as you loosen the belt and undo his black jeans.

He pulls a condom from his pocket and rips at the wrapper with his teeth as you shove at the waistband of his pants, finally freeing him. You take the condom from him and roll it slowly over his length, and he lifts one of your legs, drawing his fingers from you and slicking them over himself. You hate the sudden feeling of emptiness, but he’s already guiding himself between your legs, sliding in, slowly filling you again. You clutch at his shoulders, just barely holding your own weight on one foot, but then he grabs that leg too, lifting you completely and pinning you against the wall. Gravity helps him plunge all the way into you, and you cry out from the sensation, your body arcing against him once more.

He fucks you harder than usual, pounding you into the wall, his hands gripping your legs and his mouth suckling desperately against your throat until you know you’ll be bruised in both places. But you love it, you love the feral energy, and the intensity of the sensation, and within minutes you’re cresting. The moan that escapes you as the orgasm washes through your body is so primitive you barely recognize your own voice. But Yoongi reacts to the sound, and to the way you clench around him, and you feel his body trembling with the force of his own release.

His legs give out suddenly, and for one panicky moment you feel like he’s going to drop you. But he manages to hold on as he staggers back against the opposite wall and slides down it onto the floor. You end up in his lap, collapsed against him as your body still vibrates from the assault.

“Holy fuck,” he mutters, and you nod weakly in agreement, your forehead resting against his. He runs a hand up your back, coming to rest at the base of your neck, and you smile as he kneads his fingers gently into the muscles there.

“That’s not a side of you I’ve seen very often,” you comment, and he laughs softly.

“What do you expect when you answer the door wearing something like this,” he teases, fingering the lacy bra you’re still wearing. “I didn’t hear you complaining.”

“Well, what do you expect when you show up still dressed in your stage clothes,” you retort.

“Oh, is that what got you in this mood?” he asks, with a cheeky grin, and you laugh.

“God, yes. I don’t even know why. Unless it’s because millions of people saw you wearing these clothes, but I’m the only one who gets to take them off of you.”

“You haven’t taken them off of me yet,” he points out, and you realize he’s right, you’ve hardly even touched his bare skin. You grab his shirt, desperate to haul it over his head so you can get your hands on him. He’s just as eager to finally unclasp your bra and shove it and the robe off your shoulders. You gasp when he lifts your breast to his mouth, teasing the nipple with his tongue. When you slide your hand down his stomach to his lap, you realize he’s already hard again. You grasp him lightly, and his breath hitches against your skin. He raises his head to kiss you again. It’s slower than before, but still intense, and you lean into him, drinking in his taste, and the small sounds he makes as you tighten your grip on him.

It’s only minutes before he’s inside you a second time, pumping against your hips as you ride him, nurturing an orgasm that builds as quickly as the first one. When you give in to it, moaning his name, he flips you onto your back and adjusts the angle, thrusting deep inside you until he comes. Then he collapses on top of you, chest heaving against yours, face turned into your neck. The sweaty tips of his hair brush your cheek, and you realize you’re both a hot, sticky mess. You can barely move, but you shift when his weight makes it hard to breathe, and he rolls off of you to sprawl on the carpet, still breathing heavily.

“You know,” he finally comments, “the bed is literally six feet away. Why are we down here on the floor?”

You turn your head to look at him, amused. “Totally your fault. You’re way too sexy.”

“Oh god, don’t start talking like that again,” he chuckles. “I really need a shower, first.”

“I think we both need one, now,” you sigh, and he grins at you.

“Then let’s go.”

In the shower, you’re expecting another wild round, but instead you see his gentler side as he wordlessly fills his palms with body wash and starts to slide them over you. His long fingers sweep over your skin, rubbing up a lather, cleansing and soothing every inch of the body he was manhandling only a few minutes earlier. You return the favor, working shampoo into his hair and kneading your fingers into his scalp, causing him to lean his head into your touch, groaning softly. When he rinses his hair, and the wet locks fall into his face, he’s so gorgeous and soft-looking that you can’t resist kissing him, your hand sliding down to tease him yet again. But he stops you, amusement in his eyes.

“Next time needs to be lying down,” he says. “Let’s go to bed.”

So you do, and he’s still so gentle, making love to you in a way that has your heart stuttering in time with the thrumming of your body. Meeting in a hotel like this makes the whole night feel like a hook-up, with the initial quick sex only contributing to that impression. But now Yoongi reminds you that you’re so much more than that. Not with words, but with tenderness, soft touches, softer looks. And afterwards, he holds you to his chest like he’ll never let you go. You’d be happy if he didn’t, but you know in a few hours he’ll have to leave again. You curl into his embrace, enjoying it while you can.

“Do you know what’s fun?” Yoongi asks quietly, a long time later, breaking the satisfied silence.

“Sex?” you answer, and he lets out a surprised laugh.

“Yes,” he says, pulling you closer to kiss you. His tongue slides between your lips, sending instant thrills down your body. He kisses you deeply for a minute, but pulls away finally and lays his head against the pillow again.

“Was that the right answer?” you ask, amused, and he laughs again.

“That’s always the right answer, but it wasn’t quite the one I was thinking of. I should have said, do you know what’s a fun fact?”

“A fun fact? No, I don’t.”

He grins lazily at you. “We’ve been dating for two decades now.”

“You’re such a dork,” you laugh, and he pushes his lips into an insulted pout. “It’s been four months.”

“Eight months,” he corrects. “Almost. Don’t forget last May.”

You only smile at him. “As unforgettable as that was, it was still only one night. And then I accidentally dumped you. I don’t know if that counts.”

“It was two dates and a night. And then you flirted with me all summer.”

“Oh my god, you’re the one who flirted with me!”

Yoongi smirks comfortably. “You know you loved it. Let me have the eight months,” he continues, more seriously. That makes it the longest relationship I’ve ever been in.”

“Really?” you ask in surprise, and he nods in confirmation.

“I told you I haven’t been in many relationships at all. Only one real one, before you.”

You think about his words for a while. For some reason, you always feel like the inexperienced one between the two of you. But Yoongi hasn’t dated even as much as you have, at least not seriously.

“Is it the longest for you?” he asks. The question is thrown out casually, but you don’t miss the way he sets his lips, as if he’s not sure he’ll like your answer. And maybe he won’t.

“I’ve dated a couple people for longer,” you admit. “I even slept with someone in two different decades before.”

“Were you old enough for that?” he asks in surprise.

“Yes, of course. I was twenty in 2009, and I met a guy at school that fall. We dated a long time, until about March of 2011. That was my longest relationship, seventeen or eighteen months. And the first guy I slept with.”

Yoongi is studying you, his eyes dark. “That’s a pretty long time. Why did you break up?”

“Oh, we were getting close to graduation, and we had different views about what our lives would look like after that. He had this whole plan, and he wanted me to fall in line with it. Except I didn’t like his plan. He wanted me to get some terrible job, just so I could make money. And he wanted us to borrow money from his family so we could buy a fancy house. Too much house for someone right out of college, at least in my opinion.”

“That sounds like it was really serious,” Yoongi murmurs. “Did you love him?” He pulls you closer while he waits for your answer, and you rest your head against his chest.

“Ye-es,” you say slowly, considering it. “I thought I did. We had a good relationship. I respected him a lot, his brains, his ambition, how well he had his life planned out, at such a young age. I thought he loved me too. But it turned out he liked me more because of how I could fit into his plan than because of who I really was. Or at least, he liked the plan better. When I didn’t want to fit, he wouldn’t even compromise. Now I question whether it was really love for either of us.”

“I’ve been through something like that,” Yoongi tells you, and you raise your head to look at him again. “It wasn’t as serious,” he qualifies. “But I know it can hurt to find out someone’s reasons for liking you are different from what you thought.”

“It did hurt,” you admit. “He was the first guy I really opened up with. It took a while, but I told him about my mom, and my childhood. He said he respected how I was able to rise above those experiences, and better myself. But later, I didn’t apply for the kind of fancy job he wanted for me. I told him I was going to work in the non-for-profit industry, so I could help people, even though I wouldn’t make as much money. And he didn’t understand at all. He said I was lowering my standards, lowering myself, even. He broke up with me, because I wasn’t good enough for him.”

Yoongi clutches you a little bit harder. “Y/N, don’t believe something like that. If all he cared about was money, and a big house, then he’s the one who wasn’t good enough for you.”

You sigh. Yoongi can say that, but that doesn’t make it true. Your ex had a lot of good qualities. When you first told him about your career decision, he’d tried to argue that you could have a greater impact by securing a high paying job and donating to causes you cared about. But you couldn’t see it that way. You needed to feel like you were more directly involved in making a difference in peoples’ lives. And he didn’t feel like you were worth sticking with, if that’s what was most important to you. He wanted something better. After the initial heartbreak, you realized you weren’t even surprised. Your mom never loved or wanted you; why should you expect it from anyone else?

“Was that the most serious relationship you’ve been in, then?” Yoongi is asking. You wonder why he’s so interested in this topic, all of a sudden.

“Yes, although I’ve had a couple other boyfriends since then.”

“I hope they were nicer than the first guy,” Yoongi grumbles, and you laugh a little.

“The second guy wasn’t, but I probably shouldn’t have expected him to be. I went out with him because he was incredibly hot. I couldn’t resist him. That’s not usually the kind of thing that leads to a lasting relationship. We were really intense for a couple months, and then he just lost interest.”

Yoongi chuckles ruefully. “I’ve been there too.”

“After that I didn’t date anyone for about three years. I was busy, and it wasn’t a priority. But then I met someone at a networking event. We were both looking for new jobs in the non-for-profit industry, and he seemed like someone whose plan was the same as mine. Totally the opposite of my first boyfriend. This guy shared my values. And he was funny, and sweet, and so nice, not like the guy who was all about sex. We became friends, and then he asked me on a date.”

“Wow, he sounds…perfect. Why didn’t it work out?”

“I don’t know,” you sigh, not sure you want to share. The reason will make you seem shallow. But when you look at Yoongi, he’s got this look in his eyes that reminds you he’s already seen some of the worst sides of you, and he’s stuck around. You go on with your story. “I waited a while to sleep with him, and when I finally did, it wasn’t all that great. I mean, it was fine…” you continue, feeling bad for insulting the guy, but Yoongi interrupts you.

Fine? Oh my god, Y/N, you can’t tell a guy the sex is just fine, and expect him to be happy about it.”

He’s laughing at you, and you rush to defend yourself. “I didn’t say that to him. Although maybe I should have, and we could have tried to make things more interesting. But I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. And I thought I was ok with fine. I mean, a lot of people are. They get married and everything, because they’re in love, and they don’t care if the physical side of the relationship isn’t the greatest.”

“But in the end, you cared?” he asks.

“Yeah, more than I thought I did. We were really good friends, but things just weren’t exciting. And I started working at the Clary Foundation not long after I met him, and I very quickly became more passionate about my work there than about our relationship. He lived all the way on the other side of Chicago, and after a while, when I was working such long days, I didn’t even want to drive to see him in the evenings. Finally, I realized I just didn’t want to be with him, and I broke it off.”

“I guess you didn’t love him, then?”

“I don’t think so. I cared about him, but there was something missing. I should have just tried to be his friend, not his girlfriend. But we didn’t even stay friends after we broke up. I don’t really blame him, I guess.”

“Who was next?” Yoongi asks.

“You,” you tell him, and he looks surprised.

“You only went out with three guys before me? I thought you’d have a whole trail of broken hearts behind you.”

“No,” you chuckle, embarrassed. “I can’t say I’ve ever been all that open to dating. And whenever I did try, and it didn’t work out, it just reinforced that I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to picking guys.” Or that you just weren’t good enough for any guy, but you’re not going to say that part again.

“It doesn’t sound like you did too badly,” Yoongi speculates. “You went out with someone you respected, someone you were sexually attracted to, and someone who was your friend. Those are all good things to look for.”

You realize he’s right. Maybe you were looking for the right things, but you just never found them all in one guy. Until Yoongi. Your heart swells as you think about how easily he’s ticked all the boxes.

“So, what’s your reason for going out with me?” he asks, grinning, and you jump, wondering if he’s read your mind.

“It’s definitely the sex,” you try to tease him, although your voice is a little shaky. It’s so much more than that, but you don’t always know how much sappiness he can handle. He only told you he loved you ten days ago (yes, you’re counting), and he hasn’t said it again since. You’ve been protecting the words, holding them close, a little afraid to expose them to a more everyday existence.

Yoongi is laughing at your answer, and you relax a little.

“You’re so sexy you broke Twitter again tonight,” you tell him, remembering the videos. Yoongi winces.

“What did I do now?”

“Oh, everybody was posting clips of you dancing and rolling your hips, and talking about how you’re the thotty one in the group.”

“I’m the what? What’s a thot-ty?” he asks, carefully pronouncing a word that’s clearly new to him.

“It’s like Brit for slutty,” you explain.

“And slutty is American for having sex with everyone?” he asks, looking aggrieved. “I’m not the slutty one in the group.”

“Really?” you laugh. “Who is it, then?”

“No comment.”

“Awww, c’mon. I won’t tell anyone.”

“Actually,” he says, smirking at you, “maybe it is me. I am the only one who’s had sex this whole decade.”

“This decade’s about five hours old,” you object, but he continues, not listening.

“Or maybe I shouldn’t say that with too much confidence. Tae has kind of a genius for hook-ups. I guess it’s possible he met someone tonight.”

“So Tae’s the slutty one,” you crow, and he looks caught out.

“You didn’t hear that from me,” he mutters.

“What about Hoseok?” you prod, hoping he’ll spill some more. You need to know for Hannah’s sake.

“Hobi never hooks up with anyone. He cares about music, career, success. Not relationships.”

Damn. Poor Hannah.

“Then he’s on one end of the scale, and Tae’s on the other. So where do you fall?” you tease. “I mean, how many people have you slept with?”

“Why are you trying to get all these secrets out of me tonight?” he complains, and you sit up to stare accusingly at him.

“I just told you all my secrets! Now you have to share. It’s only right.”

Yoongi wrinkles his nose. “Yeah, but my stories are worse than yours. You slept with people you were dating. I’ve just slept with people. I don’t always like that about myself.”

“And you think I won’t like it, either? That I’ll judge you? First, there’s nothing wrong with it. And second, how could I judge, when you’re always so understanding about my weird baggage?”

He thinks about it for another minute. “Ok. I’ve slept with five people before you. Or six.”

“Five or six? Don’t you know?”

He grimaces. “That’s one of the bad stories. When I was still living in Daegu, I was doing hip hop with a group, and also writing some music for other local artists. I spent a lot of time at clubs, performing, pushing my songs, things like that. And as I became more well-known, there started to be people who wanted to be with me, to sleep with me, even. I was just a teenager, and I couldn’t believe that was happening. I’d never had people attracted to me like that, so it felt like proof that I was a good rapper, that I was going to be successful.

“I had sex with a couple of the people who approached me that way. There was a third girl. I remember making out with her, but I was really drunk that night, and I don’t know what else happened. I woke up the next morning on the couch in a strange apartment. I guess it was hers, but I don’t know. The girl wasn’t in the room with me, and I didn’t look for her to ask what happened. I just snuck out. I moved to Seoul right after that, and I never saw her again. I don’t even remember her name.”

You’re still sitting next to his reclining figure, watching as he tells a story that obviously embarrasses him. “Maybe nothing happened,” you offer, since he’d probably feel better if that was true. But he only sighs.

“I probably did sleep with her. I felt like I did. She was cute, and if she was also willing, I don’t know what would have stopped me back then. I should have stuck around that morning to find out for sure. It’s not something I’m proud of.”

You take his hand and squeeze it comfortingly, and he smiles at you.

“Anyway,” he continues, “After I moved to Seoul, I decided I wouldn’t do that kind of thing anymore. Not only did I feel bad about it, but Big Hit really drilled into us how careful we have to be about sleeping around. Idols can have their careers ended by a bad dating scandal, a leaked photograph, or worse, an unplanned pregnancy. I took it seriously. I wanted success so badly, a lot more than I wanted casual sex.”

“But you did date, at some point?” you ask. He said there were five or six people altogether, and he’s only mentioned two or three.

“Yes, I think I told you I was in a relationship for a while when I was a trainee. After we broke up, I stayed away from dating again, for a few years. But twice since debut, I’ve slept with someone I met. The first time, the relationship was just casual, hardly more than sex, but it lasted a few months. The second time was with someone I met on tour.”

“Like me?” you ask, but Yoongi shakes his head violently.

“Nothing like you. I knew it wouldn’t be more than once. I didn’t want it to be more. I was just feeling low that night, exhausted and depressed from being on tour. Also, it wasn’t too long after things ended with the last person. We’d been sleeping together maybe once every two or three weeks, but one day, she just stopped calling. When I called her, she didn’t answer or call back. I let it go, and I honestly didn’t even care that much, but rejection is still rejection. A few months later, I was out with the group, in Japan, and this girl approached me. She was pretty, and her attention made me feel good. I’d been drinking, and honestly, the others encouraged me. They didn’t know I’d been seeing someone back in Seoul, and they thought it was time I loosened up a little. So I did.”

He looks at you a little fearfully, and you squeeze his hand again. “Your stories aren’t that bad,” you assure him, and his face lightens. “Thank you for trusting me with them.”

“Same goes,” he smiles. “I’ve been curious. I didn’t know if someone had cheated on you, in the past, and that’s why you’ve been so worried about me doing the same.”

“No-o,” you say slowly, thinking about it. “Not that I’m aware of, at least. That wasn’t the reason for any of my break-ups. I think I’ve just been worried because you’re you. But I’m working on that.”

“Good.” He stretches suddenly, turning his head to look at the clock on the bedside table. "I hate to say this, but I have to get back to my hotel soon.”

You check the time too, and groan when you see it’s already almost 6:00. “I can’t believe we’re hardly getting any time together.”

“I know,” he agrees. “And you flew all the way to New York just to see me.”

“I’m happy to,” you tell him. “It was a good idea, for me to meet you when you’re at least in America and not such a long flight away. Maybe we can do it again when you’re on tour this spring.”

Yoongi is regarding you smugly. “And you wouldn’t even drive across town to see your last boyfriend. Is the sex really that good?”

You’re starting to blush, but you shrug nonchalantly. “It’s fine.” At that, Yoongi yelps like you hit him, and launches himself up from the bed.

“Fine?” he asks, grabbing you and tickling you along the ribs. You squeal and try to twist away, but you can’t escape his agile fingers. You collapse on the bed and he pins you down, still tickling as you frantically try to defend yourself. “I can’t believe you used that word,” he accuses over your laughter.

“Alright!” you shriek. “I was teasing! The sex is incredible. It’s the best I’ve ever had.” Yoongi stops tickling, much to your relief, and sinks down against you, his arms crossed on your chest and his chin resting on his hands.

“That was somewhat coerced, but I’ll take it,” he grins, watching as you wipe at your eyes, which have teared up from laughter. You meet his gaze, noting the softness of his smile as he regards you.

“The sex isn’t really the reason you’re dating me, right?’ he asks quietly. You think you feel tears pricking at your eyes again, because you know what he’s talking about. Well, if he’s going to be sappy, you can go ahead and say what you feel.

“No,” you admit, hoping he can hear your sincerity. “It’s everything. The sex, yes, but we have friendship too, and respect, and most of all love. Things I’ve found before, but not all at once. Not until you.”

“Me either,” he agrees. “Not until you.” Your heart flips over as you see how his smile grows. For once, you’re saying something right.

Chapter Text

After the holidays, you feel a little more confident about being with Yoongi. He really said that he loves you. You hadn’t expected it at all, but you know he doesn’t speak lightly about his emotions. You have to believe he means what he said.

You’re happy you were able to tell him a little bit about your past relationships. And even happier that he reciprocated. After hearing about his experiences, you realize most of his relationships revolved around the physical. You wonder if maybe he’s been wondering when someone could love him for more than that, or for more than his fame and talent. Just like you’ve wondered if someone could really love you at all, considering your background. Thinking about it only reinforces your desire to make Yoongi happy, to help him understand his worth. To do a better job of that, you work hard to let go of your insecurities, to simply accept that he cares about you, that he likes having you in his life.

Only two things keep bothering you.

To start, you didn’t miss how Yoongi never gave any details about the person he dated as a trainee, even though New Year’s was the second time he’d mentioned the relationship. You still remember the night he refused to sing Let Me Know, saying it was about a heartbreak. You keep thinking about his words, and the song, and wondering if he’s still trying to get over the break-up, even though it was so long ago. Or maybe the person is still in his life, and he’s dealing with some unresolved feelings. Neither scenario is ideal. You know you shouldn’t dwell on something from his past, but you can’t stop yourself, especially whenever you listen to the song.

The other thing you can’t get out of your head is his song, First Love. You don’t have to wonder what those lyrics are about. You know Yoongi is sharing his passion for music, something that’s sustained, nurtured, and driven him, something that’s consumed his whole life since he was young. But this relationship isn’t in the past; it’s still very much a part of his present. And as the BTS comeback frenzy reaches its peak, you get more than a glimpse into this particular love affair.

As the group prepares for their first comeback trailers to drop, Yoongi is more jittery than you’ve ever seen him. He’ll try to tell you what to expect, but he’ll often get so excited he slips into Korean without even noticing. You know you miss things before you can coax him back to English, but he’s too wired to backtrack. You barely even have his attention during your scattered phone calls; all he can think about is release dates and video shoots, concept photos, and a hundred other things that you never suspected have anything to do with music.

Though you’ve never previously felt any language barrier with Yoongi, you start to feel bad for making him constantly think in English when he’s talking to you. He’s perfectly fluent, even slangy, but you know it’s occasionally a strain for him. To remedy this, you sign up for a Korean class at the nearest community college. You hope you can eventually learn enough to at least understand him if he wants to speak in his native tongue. You’re happy to find some small action you can take to make things easier for him.

Even beyond that, it feels good to plan for something more long-term with Yoongi. Normally, you don’t even attempt to picture a future beyond the next time you get to see him. Which is often hazy. After New Year’s Eve, his schedule is so packed that he can’t arrange any kind of a next time. You make vague plans to try to work in a visit after MOTS: 7 is released, but before BTS go on tour in the spring. But Yoongi can’t promise he’ll be able to come to Chicago, or even that he’ll be able to commit to a time for you to visit Seoul.

Though it’s disappointing, you don’t hold it against him. You know the whole group is overly keyed up about the album. During one conversation, Yoongi tries to help you understand why he’s been so distracted. He confesses that this album feels like the summit of that mountain they’ve been scaling for the last seven years. You already know they have Grammy hopes, but as he talks, you realize that there’s far more driving them during this comeback. The album is incredibly meaningful to Bangtan, and they badly want ARMY to respond well, to love and enjoy the offering. You do your best to be supportive, to remind Yoongi how loyal the group’s fans are, and how eagerly they’ve been awaiting the comeback, too. But it’s hard to tell if you’re helping him. So you stay patient as the weeks pass and there’s no talk of getting together. You quash the sadness you feel as he directs his passion into his music, not into your relationship. It’s all you can do.

The last week in January, Yoongi calls you one morning just as you arrive at work. You’re distracted as you answer, trying to juggle the phone, your laptop, and your Starbucks as you let yourself into the office.

“We’re performing at the Grammys,” is how he greets you, practically shouting. His unusual volume, and the excitement in his tone, have you dropping your keys, and then flailing to save the coffee. You lose the phone instead, yeeting it over the rail into the grass below. Muttering curses, you quickly dump everything else on the stoop and retreat down the stairs to rescue it. Yoongi’s voice is issuing from the speaker.

“Are you still there? Did you faint dead away? I’m the one who should be passed out, not you.”

“I’m here,” you say desperately, falling to your knees in the grass and snatching the phone up. “The Grammys? Oh my god, that’s incredible!”

“It is incredible,” he says, practically crowing. “It’s not a nomination, but at least we’ll be there. We’ll get to be on that stage again. Get more exposure to American audiences.”

“Are you performing any of your new music?” you ask. You’ve been addicted to the two songs they’ve released so far. Interlude: Shadow is one of the most amazing things you’ve ever heard. Within seconds of listening to it for the first time, you were rearranging your top-seven favorite BTS songs to make room. You realized immediately that it was the song he sang for you at his apartment, but the finished version is so much better. Of course, you know they won’t perform a solo at the Grammys, but you’ve also fallen in love with Black Swan. You can already picture Bangtan performing that one on stage in front of a huge audience.

But you quickly realize your excitement is premature. Yoongi sounds a little deflated as he answers. “We’re not doing one of our own songs,” he explains. “We’ll be part of a collaboration with Lil Nas X and some other artists, performing Old Town Road.”

You’re kicking yourself; you should have remembered that only Grammy-nominated artists actually sing their songs at the awards show. You’re not sure what to say to strike the right tone, since BTS is performing, but not their own music, and you can’t tell if Yoongi is more pleased or disappointed. You decide to take the positive view. “I love Lil Nas X,” you tell him. “And so do the kids at the Clary Foundation. They had a lot of fun with that song last summer. Seoul Town Road, too.”

“Yeah, Namjoon is losing his shit, since his collaboration is the reason we got the invite,” Yoongi chuckles, his voice perking up again. “But I think we’re sticking with the original, for the Grammy stage. We’re flying to L.A. tomorrow, to start preparing. I’ll know more after we attend a practice.”

“I’m really happy for you,” you say sincerely. “You know I’ll be watching, and cheering for you guys.” You’d initially decided to boycott the Grammys after they didn’t give BTS a nomination, but now you’ll have to tune in, at least for the group’s appearance.

Yoongi is still laughing. “How are you going to watch if you don’t have a TV?” he asks.

“You can see anything online,” you scoff. “I’ll watch on my laptop. Or go to Hannah’s house.”

“Or,” Yoongi suggests, his tone playful. “You could come to L.A. this weekend. We can meet up like we did in New York. I’ll tell you what hotel we’re staying in. You might be able to get a room at the same place.”

Excitement leaps through you at his first words. Of course you want to go to L.A. You’ll do anything to see him again, even for a brief, clandestine encounter like the one you shared on New Year’s.

“I’d love to come,” you tell Yoongi, and he happily arranges to text you the hotel details as soon as he knows them. After ending the call, you take the stairs two at a time, and finally get yourself and your stuff into the building. You need to get some work done if you’re going to take the weekend off.

*****

You’re high with anticipation as you fly to L.A., happy to see Yoongi again and soothe some of your recent anxieties. But the visit ends up being something of a wreck. You arrive Friday night, check into the same hotel as BTS, and immediately text Yoongi that you’ve arrived. He doesn’t answer for a while, and when he finally responds, it’s only to tell you he’s still at dance practice with the others. You wait around for hours, growing increasingly sleepy, but Yoongi doesn’t show up. He texts you at midnight to let you know they’re still practicing. At that point, you give up and allow yourself to doze off. After all, it’s two a.m. in Chicago, and you’ve been up for twenty hours straight.

You wake hours later to the sound of soft knocking. Stumbling blearily to the door, you admit Yoongi, who takes one look at you and shoos you back to bed. He crawls under the covers and curls up next to you a few minutes later, but you’re too tired to do anything except wrap your arm around him and sink back into slumber.

You expect Saturday night to be better, since Yoongi assures you they won’t stay so late at practice. Bangtan’s managers have given them strict orders to have an early night, so they’ll be fresh for all the interviews and photo ops, the red-carpet appearance, and finally, the performance the next evening. Yoongi tells you he ought to be able to make it your room around nine. But again, you’re left waiting as he texts you about one delay after another. He finally shows up well after midnight, frustrated and antsy, too keyed up to even sit down right away. Instead, he paces around as he vents about his evening.

“Every single person I know wanted to be in my hotel room tonight,” he complains, throwing his arms in the air as he circles the room. You’re perched cross-legged on the bed, watching him and trying to hide your amusement. “I couldn’t get rid of them all.”

“Who exactly was in your room?” you demand, figuring he’s exaggerating. He sighs heftily.

“Namjoon started it. He’s so nervous about tomorrow, and he came in to freak out. I don’t know why he came to me. I’m not the one who deals with that kind of thing.” He’s pouting adorably, and you bite down on your smile.

“Who usually deals with the freak-outs?” you ask, and he snorts.

“Namjoon. But Hobi’s good at it, too, so I called him for help. He and Seokjin both came in, and we sat around and drank for a while, and Namjoon calmed down. And I started hinting that it was time for everyone to go, but they all just thought that meant have another beer. I finally crawled into bed and yelled at them to get out. Seokjin was the only one who listened. And when he left, Jimin and Taehyung came in. It’s like they were stalking my room, waiting for the door to open. Jimin was having his own breakdown, and Namjoon started freaking out all over again.”

He sighs again, finally sinking down on the bed next to you. You lean into him, resting your head against his shoulder, and he slides an arm around your waist.

“An hour later,” he says heavily, “a whole hour, Namjoon and Jimin finally got themselves under control. I told them all, again, to get out, because I wanted to go to sleep. And fucking Taehyung crawls into bed with me and says, ‘I know you’re nervous, hyung. I’ll stay with you tonight.’”

You smile outright this time, because that’s one of the sweetest things you’ve ever heard, but Yoongi just makes it sound annoying.

“And then Jimin gets mad because he thought Taehyung was going to stay with him,” Yoongi continues. “And Tae says we can all sleep together. So now they’re both tucked up in my bed, and I don’t know how I’m ever going to get out of there. I finally told them I’m not nervous, and I just want to get some sleep, and I can’t do that with them crowding me. I said if they were going to sleep in my bed, one of them needed to let me go to their room. After that, they believed I didn’t want the company, so they left. And Namjoon and Hobi left.

“I still couldn’t come to you, though, because the four of them kept wandering in and out of each other’s rooms for a while. But they eventually settled down. And just when I thought it was safe to sneak out, Jungkook, the only one I didn’t already want to strangle, comes out of his room and starts knocking on people’s doors. He went to Tae first, but I guess Tae really was in with Jimin, because he didn’t answer. So Jungkook went into Namjoon’s room instead. And I ran out of there fast, before the two of them decided to come back to my room and start freaking out all over again.”

He ends the story with another hefty sigh, and you tighten your arm around him in sympathy. He went through all that stress, and abandoned his friends in their hour of need, just so he could be here with you. You’re grateful, though you feel a little guilty.

“Maybe Taehyung and Jimin needed your company tonight,” you suggest. “You could have stayed with them, instead of coming here.”

Yoongi turns his face into your hair. “They have each other,” he murmurs. “Taehyung will help Jimin with his nerves. And Namjoon will help Jungkook, if he needs it.”

“And who will help Namjoon?” you ask. “It sounds like he’s in worse shape than anyone.”

“Yeah, he is,” Yoongi says slowly. He sounds a little guilty, too. “It’s surprising, because he’s usually the one who holds us all together. But we did help him tonight. Hobi always knows what to say. I even managed to come up with a few things that sounded good. I think Joon is ok now.”

“And you’re really not nervous about tomorrow?” you ask. Yoongi starts to laugh.

“I’m fucking terrified,” he admits. “It’s the Grammys. Honestly, if you weren’t here, I would have been happy to have the others in my room, even sleeping with me. But obviously, I wanted to be with you.”

“Can I do anything to help you?” you ask, and Yoongi shifts to pull you even closer.

“You’ve already done it. You came here for me. That means a lot. I’m sorry we aren’t getting much time together.”

“And I’m sorry I was so sleepy last night.”

“It’s ok. I came too late. Although I swear to God, tonight I was so close to just yelling that if the guys didn’t let me get out of there, my girlfriend was going to be asleep again and I wouldn’t get laid for two nights in a row.”

You poke him. “You got laid this morning. Twice.”

“I know,” he cackles. “I’m joking about that part. But it really was hard to keep quiet about the reason I wanted them to leave.” He stands up abruptly, pulling away from you, and you watch idly as he begins to undress. He was too agitated to even take off his shoes when he first arrived.

“Do you ever…” you begin, but then you break off. You’re not sure you want to talk about anything that might disrupt the status quo of your relationship. But despite Yoongi’s recent distractions, he’s still adept at reading you, and he doesn’t let you back out of the question.

“Do I ever what?” he asks, pausing in the act of removing his socks, and giving you his full attention.

“Do you ever want to tell them about me? For real, I mean?”

Yoongi studies you carefully. “I do want to tell them,” he says quietly. “I’ve been wanting to. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea.”

For some reason, you feel disappointed. You haven’t been particularly bothered by keeping the relationship secret. Sometimes, it’s even a little exciting, like this weekend, when Yoongi’s friends and managers have no idea you’re here with him, right in the same hotel. But under it all, there’s a sense of guilt about both of you lying to everyone you know. And worse, there’s a fear that maybe you’re both lying to yourselves too, about the actual chances for this relationship to succeed.

“Once the guys know, it won’t be long before Bit Hit finds out,” Yoongi explains. “And I don’t think they’ll react well.”

“Would they want you to break up with me?” you ask, your voice small.

“Probably,” he says, and his tone is so matter-of-fact that it causes your gut to clench. The thought of breaking up is like a punch in the face to you, but Yoongi doesn’t even seem bothered. How can he say he’s in love with you if he doesn’t mind the thought of ending things? Maybe, to him, this really is about getting laid, but with just enough feelings thrown in that he won’t be weighed down by guilt. Not enough feelings to have him thinking about an actual future, as you were starting to do. No, he has his love affair with music. That’s what’s lasting to him.

Your insecurities flood back, full force. You must make some small sound of anguish, because Yoongi looks at you in concern.

“I don’t have to get laid tonight,” he assures you. “If you’re tired. I’m happy just being here with you like this. My life has been, god, it’s been…a hurricane, lately. But you’re like that quiet, calm spot in the center. The place where I can breathe.”

You study him. If he doesn’t really love you, how can he manage to say something so perfect? Is it just his skill with words? Or are there enough feelings there after all? God, why is everything so confusing? Your own feelings are simple; you want to be with Yoongi. You want a future with him, but you can’t picture it. How could you, when you live in opposite corners of the Earth? When none of your friends know about the relationship? When Big Hit doesn’t know, and would clearly try to put a stop to it if they found out? There’s no use in planning. You think sadly about your Korean class. You’ve been struggling with Hangul for the past few weeks, determined to master the alphabet and move on to words and phrases. But maybe there’s no point.

“Hey,” Yoongi approaches the bed again, cupping your face in one hand and stroking a thumb over your cheek. “Let’s go to bed. You look exhausted.”

You try to smile at him, but you can tell by the worry in his eyes that it’s not successful. So you create a distraction, for both of you, by lifting your hands to toy at the waistband of his sweatpants, rubbing your thumbs in light circles over his hipbones.

“You can get laid first,” you tell him, and you’re pleased to feel the slight shiver of reaction run through him. “I’m never too tired for that.”

He grins, but he looks skeptical. “Except last night,” he points out, and you manage to work up a laugh.

“You could’ve gotten some if you’d tried. I always want you, even when I’m half-asleep.”

“I’d rather have you fully conscious,” he objects, but he’s laughing, and already moving you backwards on the bed, kneeling over you as he strips his shirt off. You curl your fingers into his hips, tugging him closer. If sex in an uncritical atmosphere is what he needs from you, you can definitely give it to him.

And you do, but with every move, every touch, every whisper and gasp, you know you’re offering more than just sex. You can’t stop yourself from giving him your heart, too. You don’t think you’ll ever be able to stop, even when he doesn’t want it anymore.

*****

You fly back to Chicago the next day, and you do end up watching the Grammys with Hannah, reveling in every BTS appearance. Yoongi calls you at about 5:00 the next morning, Chicago-time, and you’re jolted from sleepiness by the jubilation in his voice as he gives you a play-by-play of his night. You’re glad he wants to share the experience with you. You weren’t lying at New Year’s, when you said you’d found more than just sex with him. The two of you are friends, and you love hearing about all his triumphs and joys, even when they don’t involve you.

Yoongi finally winds down, seemingly not noticing your distraction. You tell him regretfully that you have to get off the phone so you can go to work. Before he ends the call, he tells you the group plans to stay in California for a while, doing some television appearances and filming several music videos.

A week and a half later, Yoongi surprises you by inviting you for another visit. BTS has finished their filming, and they just have a couple small things scheduled in America before they fly back to Seoul. You travel to L.A. again, and this time, you actually get to enjoy the weekend with Yoongi. He comes to your hotel room early both Friday and Saturday nights, and you just chill in bed, making love, ordering room service, watching movies on Yoongi’s laptop. And talking. You hear all about the videos the group finished, the ever-looming album release date, even the pre-order sales figures.

You know Hannah would die of jealousy if she knew how much inside information you were getting about the comeback. But of course, she can’t know anything about it. Maybe she’ll never know. You’re still haunted by this new concern that Big Hit will eventually discover the relationship and put an end to it. Or worse, that Yoongi will eventually make the decision to end things himself, choosing BTS and his career over you. Even if he loves you, you know he’ll always love them more. You haven’t given up your Korean class, but to protect yourself, you’ve completely stopped trying to envision a future with Yoongi, forcing yourself to be happy with the present.

You don’t even ask when you can see him next, assuming once the album is released that Yoongi won’t have time for you. You know he’ll be in Chicago in June, and you figure that’ll be the next time you meet, if you’re even still together by then. But Yoongi surprises you again, committing to come see you the last weekend in February. He says he’ll have a couple days free before their schedule gets packed again. He goes on to talk about planning a time for you to meet him while BTS is on tour in America, even before they make it to Chicago. You can’t believe he’s actually looking that far ahead, but you’re not going to argue. For the time being, at least, you don’t have to wonder if you’ll still have a next time.

For now, you’re content with that.

Chapter Text

You meet Yoongi at the airport in Chicago, a little over a week after the MOTS: 7 release. You know BTS has had non-stop schedules and appearances since then, even flying to New York to do American interviews and film an episode of Jimmy Fallon. You’re not surprised that he looks completely wiped out when he settles into the passenger seat of your car.

“I’m sooo glad to be here,” he sighs, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the seat. “This comeback is driving me crazy.”

“It’s so good, though!” you encourage him. “This is the best one you’ve ever had. I mean, I can’t speak much from personal experience. I’ve never gotten so involved with a comeback before. I’m really ashamed at what a bad ARMY I’ve been in the past, now that I see how much work goes into streaming, and promoting, getting your numbers up.”

Yoongi opens his eyes to study you quizzically. “We don’t want ARMY to have to work hard. We want them to enjoy our music. That’s more important than getting good numbers.”

“But streaming is enjoyable, for a ton of people. If it’s not, they don’t do it.” This is true. Hannah has welcomed you with open arms into her personal BTS fan community, and you’ve seen firsthand how much pleasure the comeback has brought to her and her friends. It’s made you happy too, even aside from the personal pride you feel for Yoongi, for his and the group’s accomplishments. They’ve really achieved their goals, releasing the kind of album that resonates with a huge group of people. You try to express some of this to Yoongi during the drive to your apartment, but he waves it off, seeming impatient with the conversation.

“Well, I may not be the most experienced with streaming, and charts, but I know all your albums, and I’d say this is the best one yet,” you tell him, switching tactics in an attempt to cheer him up. But Yoongi groans in embarrassment.

“Let’s not talk about the album, or the comeback,” he requests. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about for months. I need a break.”

You’re silent, remembering what he said about you a month ago, calling you the eye of his hurricane, or something like that. You can be that for him this weekend. You can let him rest a while with you, find some peace away from his hectic lifestyle. You change the subject, talking lightly about the Chicago Bulls’ recent losing streak, and their terrible season in general. Yoongi perks up at the topic, though he’s disappointed to hear the team is doing so poorly.

“It hasn’t been the same since Jordan,” he says sagely, and you laugh at him.

“Do you even remember when Michael Jordan was a player?” you ask. “I barely remember, and I’m older than you are.”

“I’ve seen the highlight reels!” he defends himself, and you drift into a friendly argument about the greatest players of all time. You don’t pay much attention to sports, but basketball is the one game you enjoy, and it’s one of Yoongi’s favorites as well. The discussion, and other inconsequential topics, fill the remainder of the ride, and of the evening, at least until you’re both lazing on your couch after a late dinner. Yoongi has fallen silent, gazing unseeingly up at the ceiling.

“Do you mind if I check something?” he asks abruptly, and you say of course not, though you have no idea what he’s talking about. He gets up and trots into your bedroom, where he left his bag earlier, and returns with his laptop. He curls up in the corner of the couch again and flips open the cover of the computer. Within a few minutes, he’s muttering over something or other, and after a moment, you slide down to see what he’s looking at. To your surprise, it’s MOTS: 7 sales numbers.

“Yoongi!” you accuse. “I thought you needed a break from the album.”

He groans. “I do, but I can’t stop thinking about it. This comeback is huge for us. We want it to mean a lot to ARMY.”

“And ARMY loves the album,” you tell him. “Believe me, you know I hang out too much on stan Twitter. I’ve seen the reactions, and they’re almost universally awesome.”

“I know,” he mutters. But his eyes still scan the website.

“I thought you just said you don’t care about the numbers,” you say gently.

“I know,” he repeats. “But it’s not entirely true. The numbers are a measure of how well the album is received. And despite what I said in the car, we do want good streaming and viewing for more selfish reasons. Numbers lead to radio airplay, awards, things like that.”

“Your sales are phenomenal,” you remind him, and he nods.

“Yes, and other numbers are too. I shouldn’t be this stressed about it.”

You regard Yoongi unhappily. He does look stressed, and tired. Gingerly, you lean into him, and you’re happy when he smiles a little and shifts to let you nestle against his shoulder. You slide your arms around his waist, smiling too when you feel the weight of his chin against your head.

“I honestly haven’t been this nervous about an album since we debuted,” Yoongi admits, and you shiver as his breath fans your hair. “I’ve been acting like I did back then, spending too much time online looking at fan reactions, re-watching and second-guessing every interview and TV show we do.”

“Jimmy Fallon was really good,” you encourage him, but he only hums indeterminately.

“I don’t know. I looked like a dork when we played the games.”

“Maybe a little. But you are a dork, so I don’t know why that would bother you.”

He heaves a sigh, fluttering your hair again. “I seem to remember a time when my girlfriend would lavish praise and adoration on me. But now all I get is insults.”

You smile smugly into his shirt. He can’t be feeling too down if he’s pulling out the long-suffering act. “I was trying to adore you earlier, but you didn’t want to talk about the album. So insults it is.”

Yoongi is quiet, and you just keep smiling to yourself. Finally, he says, nonchalantly, “We could talk about the album. If you really want to.”

You sit up abruptly, pulling away from his embrace and bouncing on the couch cushions. “Ok, first, I just have to say, I love Moon so, so much! You have to find a way to tell Jin. Not that I said so, of course, but just that somebody you know thinks Moon is one of the best songs on the album, and definitely the best song he’s ever done, and it’s so fun and happy, and every time I listen to it, I want to dance.” You’re rambling in your excitement, but then you notice Yoongi’s expression.

“This is praise and adoration for Seokjin,” he pouts. “Maybe you’d rather date him instead of me.”

You eye him in amusement. “I did think Jin was the cute one, before I met you all,” you tease, hoping to pull him out of his slight depression. The tactic works better than you thought it would.

“What?” Yoongi yelps, his pout dropping away as he sits upright in shock. “You thought Seokjin was cuter than I was?”

“A little,” you reply, snickering at his reaction. “I mean, you were cute, too. You just weren’t the one I’d noticed particularly.”

When he doesn’t react again, you shoot a quick glance at him. Yoongi has such a look of dramatized disgust on his face that you dissolve into laughter.

“Why is it always Seokjin?” he complains, with that aggrieved note in his voice that always sends you over the edge.

“He is worldwide handsome,” you cackle.

“Because Big Hit set him up to be the visual,” he pouts. “Everyone thinks he’s the cute one. Even my own girlfriend. I can’t believe you’d betray me like this.”

He finishes with a hefty sigh, one hand clutched over his heart, and you think you might actually die of laughter if he doesn’t stop.

“You laugh,” he sighs, “but my pain is real.”

“Oh Yoongi,” you gasp, reaching out to place a comforting hand on his knee. “I think you’re the cute one now. As soon as I met you, I thought it.”

“It’s ok,” he protests, holding up a hand to stop you from going on. “You don’t have to try to make me feel better. I know I can’t compare to Seokjin. You even like his song the best.”

“I don’t it like the best. But it’s my third favorite song on the album, and it’s the first one he ever wrote, right? I really want him to know how good it is, and to feel proud. So don’t be like this. You have to find a way to tell him.”

Yoongi is grinning at you now, his fake outrage forgotten. “I will tell him. It’ll make him feel good. And I’m glad too, that you like the song so much. You’re right. Seokjin did a good job. He should be proud.”

He does look genuinely happy, and you smile again.

“What are your first two favorite songs?” he asks curiously.

“We are Bulletproof the Eternal is second,” you tell him. “And Shadow is first, of course.”

Yoongi shrugs a little, although you don’t miss the little smile that twitches across his lips. “You’re biased.”

“No, I’m not,” you insist. “It’s not just the best song on the album, it’s one of the best BTS songs ever. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Read the album reviews. Look at Twitter instead of the sales numbers.”

“Alright, alright,” he complains, and you can tell he’s done talking about it again. It’s cute how he wants praise, but too much of it makes him shy. He puts the laptop away, changing the subject to talk about your plans for the next day. All your recent visits have been no more than snatched moments together, and usually at night. It’s been a while since you’ve had a day to spend doing what you please, and Yoongi wants to take advantage of it.

 

*****

On Saturday, you end up visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, a museum you’d bypassed when Yoongi visited you back in August. He’s not as worried about being recognized as he was when you were with him in Seoul, but you still both bundle up in hats and scarves, and follow your usual routine of acting like strangers out in public.

You let your guard down slightly in the museum, orbiting ever closer to each other throughout the visit. As you wander around, comparing opinions on the various galleries, Yoongi tells you about Connect BTS, the art exhibitions his group funded in several cities around the world. You listen, awed by the thoughtfulness and care that went into conceiving and preparing the project. It’s just one more way BTS tries to comfort and connect with their fans, and even with non-fans.

You head home once you’ve both become too footsore to continue through the huge museum. On the way, you stop off in an obscure sports bar in your neighborhood. The two of you relax in a shadowy corner booth, getting pleasantly tipsy as you watch the Bulls lose yet another game. Yoongi gets affectionate whenever he drinks too much, and his attention fades from the TV screen before the game is over. He’s much more interested in getting you back to the privacy of your apartment, and you’re happy to oblige.

Later that night, you lie in his arms, exhausted, but rapt. “This has been a perfect day,” you sigh, and Yoongi is quick to agree.

“With my career, I miss out on this kind of thing,” he tells you, and you dimple at him.

“What, sex?”

“No,” he frowns. “Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant. I mean just doing normal things, going out with friends, going on dates. Sometimes, I just want to go to dinner, or see a movie with someone, and eat nachos, and not worry about getting recognized.”

You grin. That explains the huge plate of nachos he ordered at the bar earlier. He was feeling like a normal person. You’re happy you could give him a day to indulge like that. You wish, suddenly, that Yoongi really was normal, not famous and world-renowned, not always having to hide his real life, even his identity. If he was normal, you could have met him in some everyday fashion, and started dating him, and you’d be able to enjoy days like this all the time. The force of your longing for it trembles through you like an earthquake.

But the aftershocks of remorse follow quickly, and you sternly quash those thoughts. The next step would be to think you deserve more of Yoongi’s time, maybe even to ask him to put you first, above his career. Maybe, god forbid, you’d even ask him to give up BTS, to truly become that normal person you’re both thinking wistfully about right now. And while Yoongi might wish for a humdrum existence every once in a while, he’d never be satisfied without the success he’s found through music. And the world shouldn’t be deprived of a group like BTS. As you curl against Yoongi, drifting into sleep, you can’t stop thinking about all the contributions they’ve made, not only musically, but emotionally, financially through their support of different causes, and even aesthetically, with things like Connect BTS. The group left normalcy behind long ago, but that’s a good thing. You shouldn’t be so selfish as to try to wish it away.

You’re awakened from your doze when Yoongi carefully disentangles himself from you and climbs off the bed. You hear him pad out of the room, and you burrow further under the covers, trying to conserve some of the warmth he left behind. But he returns almost immediately, wafting cold air against your skin as he slides under the sheets. As he shifts around, settling back against the pillows, you grumble and clutch the blankets more tightly around you.

“Are you still awake?” Yoongi asks, softly, and you mumble in response, cracking one eye open to peer up at him. The lights are off, but he’d apparently gone to retrieve his laptop, and now the glow from the screen illuminates his features.

“I am now,” you mutter. “What are you doing?”

“I’m just checking the sales numbers again,” he says, and both of your eyes pop open.

“Yoongi, we both need to sleep,” you moan, but then you can’t help asking, “How’s Shadow doing?”

“Really well,” he says, grinning. “It’s one of the top songs so far in individual sales, streams, and downloads.” He closes the laptop and sets it on the bedside table, leaving the room in darkness except for the moonlight streaming through the window.

“Ha, because it’s the best,” you gloat. “Just like I told you.”

“Not necessarily. It probably just has to do with it being released earlier. People recognize it.”

You smile into the pillow. “I’m sure that’s what it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with your talent as a songwriter, or a producer, or artist.”

Yoongi rolls onto his side to face you. He doesn’t say anything, but even in the dim light, you don’t miss the pleased look on his face.

“Do you think it’s better than Seesaw?” you ask.

“I think it’s a better song, but I don’t know if it will be more popular. People like Seesaw because it’s upbeat, even though it’s about a break-up.”

“Did you write it from personal experience?” you ask, and he smiles a little.

“Not really. It was just an idea I had, about how unhealthy love can become.”

“What about Let Me Know?” you ask, more tentatively this time. Yoongi gets a look in his eyes that you can’t quite read.

“That one was more personal,” he says, slowly.

“About the relationship you had as a trainee?” you ask, when he doesn’t continue. He nods, and you bite your lip, unsure if you should question him further. In the last month, you’ve been far more worried about Yoongi’s future than about his past, but you’re still curious to know the details. For some reason, tonight, you feel brave enough to ask. “Was it someone you loved?”

“Eh.” Yoongi makes a face, scrunching his nose up. “I thought I was in love, but I was young. I was twenty. It was before our debut, but Jimin had just joined us, so we knew everyone who would be in the group. Big Hit assigned a whole staff of songwriters, choreographers, producers, to help us put our album together, develop our sound, our style. And there was this one choreographer I couldn’t help noticing. She was a good dancer, and she had so much energy. And a no-bullshit personality. I hung around a lot after our dance practices, just to talk to her, and she was fun, and funny. After a while I asked her out. I was surprised she said yes, but she did, and we started dating.”

“You got to have a normal relationship with her?” you ask wistfully.

“No, it had to be secret, even back then. Big Hit didn’t allow staff to date each other. People knew we were friends, but we kept the dating part quiet. It lasted for about five or six months, but then our debut was pushed back. We were ready, but Big Hit said we’d have to wait. They reassigned a lot of our staff, including my girlfriend. She started working with a group that had already debuted, and after another month, our relationship just fell apart. She told me we couldn’t keep seeing each other, that we didn’t have time, that we would be in trouble with the agency. I tried to convince her that we still had as much time as we did before, and that we’d done fine keeping it a secret so far, but she wasn’t having it. She stopped answering my phone calls.”

Yoongi pauses in his story, and you find his hand under the covers, twining your fingers comfortingly through his. He smiles wryly as he continues.

“The next thing I knew, there were rumors going around that she was dating someone from the other group.”

You gasp, anger and surprise coursing through you. What was wrong with her? How could she possibly want to be with anyone else when she had Yoongi? And how could she bear to hurt him like that?

You realize you’ve tightened your fingers in a death grip around his hand, and you let go quickly. Yoongi draws his hand away and flexes it a bit, chuckling at your reaction.

“I wasn’t entirely surprised. She was a lot more distant after the reassignment. Even though it took another month for her to say anything about breaking up, I noticed her withdrawal before that. That’s where some of the emotion behind Let Me Know came from.”

“Do you think she started seeing the other guy before she broke up with you?” You’re still upset; your fingers are clenched around the edge of your pillow now, instead of his hand.

“I don’t know. Probably. I think she was ambitious to be with someone famous. Several months later she and the other idol were involved in an internal scandal. Apparently, she was flirting with a member in an even bigger group, maybe trying to move on from her boyfriend. He got upset and dumped her, and then he reported his relationship with her to Big Hit.”

“She deserved it,” you say, but Yoongi only looks at you quizzically.

“Do you think so?” he asks. “She was fired. The idol only got a warning. Big Hit wasn’t going to release him while his group was successful. But choreographers can be replaced.”

You feel ashamed. He’s the one who was hurt, yet he’s able to forgive her, even feel bad that she had to face the consequences of her actions. You don’t even know this girl and you want to punch her. But you try to accept his point of view.

“You could have reported her, for dating the other idol, but you didn’t,” you comment, and he nods.

“I could have. I was angry when I heard about it, and still hurt from her leaving me, but reporting her didn’t feel like a good thing to do. I’d cared about her, so I didn’t want her to get in trouble. And I was more angry with myself, for caring for someone who didn’t return my feelings, for thinking I was in love with her, even, when it was only one-sided. I felt like I didn’t understand love. And I felt young. She was a few years older, maybe your age, now that I think about it.” Yoongi grins slyly at you, but you’re still contemplating his words.

“I think you understood love better than she did, even if you were younger. Otherwise you would have reported her.” Yoongi tilts his head in consideration.

“Some of that decision was selfish. She could have turned around and reported me, and since BTS hadn’t debuted yet, Big Hit might have decided I was replaceable too.”

You lean in to kiss him. “I doubt it. And if they had, they would have been wrong. Look at how much you’ve contributed to the group’s success.”

His mouth curves against yours as you kiss him again. “Hindsight,” he murmurs. “At the time, I hadn’t contributed much of anything. We didn’t even write most of the songs on our first album.”

“And look how many songs you’ve written now,” you point out, and Yoongi grins.

“Thank you for pointing that out. And for listening. Although I don’t know how you’re even awake right now; you were a zombie half an hour ago.” He pulls you closer to him, and you rest your head against his chest.

“You woke me up to brag about your new song. That you wrote. And produced. And that has helped earn huge sales and critical acclaim for your new album. Not that that’s a big contribution or anything.”

He chuckles. “Ok, I get it.”

“You said this girl is my age?” you ask suddenly, raising your head to look at him again. “Do you just have a thing for older women? Is that why you asked me out?”

Yoongi starts to laugh. “That is absolutely not why I asked you out. I didn’t know how old you were until you told me. I have a thing for strong, confident, self-assured women, and those traits just often coincide with people who are older than I am. I thought you were done worrying about the age difference,” he adds, smoothing your hair away from your face.

“I mostly don’t worry,” you reply. “But I never really forget about it. It still feels strange sometimes.”

“Well, get over it. There’s an age difference for me too, and I don’t worry about it.”

“But it’s not the same for you,” you object, and he shakes his head violently.

“It’s exactly the same, and it doesn’t matter. Age is not important, no matter who’s older or younger, or by how much.”

“I guess you’re right,” you sigh. “I mean, look at my friend Hannah. She’s three years younger than I am, and when we met in college, I had no interest in getting to know a little freshman. But she’d decided we were meant to be, and she wouldn’t stop bugging me until we were friends. It took a lot of work on her part; I’ve never opened up to people easily. But she persisted, and here we are.”

Yoongi is smiling fondly at you. “You opened up to me pretty easily.”

“Yeah, well you’re like a snake-charmer or something.”

He laughs. “That’s funny, because your zodiac sign is the snake.”

“What? I’m a snake? That sounds bad, not funny.”

“It’s not bad, it’s just representative of the year you were born. Like I’m a chicken. Your animal is supposed to embody some of the character traits you possess.”

“Like what? Like I’m slithery and sneaky?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Yoongi laughs. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff. The only thing I remember about my own sign is that chickens are arrogant. And that’s not true about me at all.”

You raise an eyebrow at that statement, but you don’t correct him. After all, he’s only arrogant some of the time. But whether Yoongi is like a chicken or not, you’re still skeptical about the whole zodiac thing. “So, everyone born in 1993 is arrogant? That sounds ridiculous.”

“I know,” he agrees, grinning at you. “I don’t believe in it myself. I only brought it up because you said I charmed you like a snake. You’re the same age as my brother and that’s his sign. When we got into fights when we were younger, our mom was always telling us we were supposed to get along, that she had us four years apart on purpose so our zodiac signs would be compatible. That means you and I should be compatible too. That’s something good about our age difference.”

“No, it’s not. It’s like saying I can date anyone born the same year as you. But I guarantee I won’t be compatible with most of them.” He laughs at that, and you warm to your theme, happy you’re able to amuse him after your earlier conversation. “And you just said you and your brother got into fights, so clearly, that didn’t work out for you guys.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he argues, still laughing. “We’re good friends now.”

“And snakes and chickens aren’t compatible anyway,” you continue. “Snakes eat chickens. Or at least their eggs.”

Yoongi is giggling helplessly. “Just forget I said anything,” he manages, and you grin to yourself.

“Fine, but don’t start calling me snakey now. Tiger is bad enough.” He snorts, gathering you rather weakly against his chest, which is still shaking with laughter.

“I won’t call you that, but I’m not going to stop calling you tiger. It’s perfect for you.”

You heave a dramatic sigh of resignation, but you’re still grinning. Despite your complaints, you’ve started to like it when he calls you tiger. You snuggle into his embrace, resting your head against his shoulder once more and letting your tired eyes close.

“Go back to sleep,” Yoongi murmurs, his fingers moving softly in your hair. You relax into his touch, drifting towards slumber as your thoughts swirl gently around what he told you. You’re glad to finally know about his heartbreak, even if you haven’t been worrying about it lately. And you’re happy he doesn’t seem to need closure. But you’re still appalled that anyone in Yoongi’s life could have treated him so badly. That choreographer probably is the same age as you, you think. She sounds like a real snake. You’d rather be a tiger, like Yoongi calls you, fierce and protective of what you love. If you’d been the one dating him all those years ago, you wouldn’t have given him up so easily, just because he hadn’t debuted yet. You wouldn’t have given him up for anything.

“Is tiger a zodiac sign?” you ask sleepily.

“Yes, but not yours.”

“Well, maybe it should be.”

“You’re right. We’ll pretend it is.”

His arm settles more firmly against you, drawing you closer, and you wrap your own arm around his waist.

“But tigers eat chickens too,” you murmur.

“Oh my god, go to sleep,” Yoongi groans, but he’s laughing again. You smile to yourself, happy you can end this perfect day on a carefree note.

 

*****

The next morning, you survey the contents of your refrigerator. If Yoongi was just a normal guy, you figure you’d cook breakfast for him, like a normal girlfriend. But your cooking skills haven’t improved since the waffle fiasco, and you think Yoongi deserves something better than burnt toast or eggs with the shells in them. You take him out for breakfast instead, walking to a diner a few blocks from your home. The meal is fun, though bittersweet, since you know you’ll have to drive him back to the airport soon.

The temperature dropped overnight, and during the walk back to your apartment, Yoongi complains constantly about the weather.

“What is it about Chicago?” he grumbles, hunching his shoulders up inside his coat and shoving his hands deep into his pockets. “Every time I’m here, it’s freezing. Even last May. Don’t you have summer?”

“It was hot when you were here in August,” you reply, defending your city. But Yoongi isn’t listening.

“Actually, what is it about America?” he continues. “We were in New York last week, and it was like the Arctic. It was even cold in California. I packed spring weight clothes for the trip, but I swear it was five degrees when we were filming our video. I was so cold I could hardly move.”

Your mind gets stuck on the five degrees, which seems outrageously cold, before you realize he’s talking about Celsius, not Fahrenheit. But it’s too early for your brain to calculate a conversion, so you have no idea how chilly it has to be before Yoongi starts complaining about it. Today, at least, you don’t blame him; it’s below freezing and even you feel uncomfortable. You hook your arm through his, pulling him closer so you can share body warmth during the last couple blocks of the walk.

As your apartment building comes into view, you suddenly spot something that causes you to increase your pace, dragging Yoongi with you. You both trot up to the small front yard of the building, and you quickly approach your elderly neighbor, Mrs. Planck, who’s standing on the sidewalk in only a nightgown. At least she has socks on, you think gratefully, glancing down at her feet, but she must be freezing with nothing but the thin cotton to protect her.

“Mrs. Planck,” you greet her, dropping Yoongi’s arm to take your neighbor’s instead. “Why don’t we go inside. It’s so cold out.”

“Someone stole my newspaper again,” she says fretfully, resisting your gentle tug on her arm. Despite her frail stature, she’s surprisingly strong.

“I’m sure no one stole it,” you soothe. “Remember the last time? It just fell in the bushes. Why don’t you go inside, and I’ll take a look.” You glance at Yoongi, hoping for help, but as usual he’s a step ahead of you, already taking Mrs. Planck’s other arm, working with you to turn her towards the front staircase.

“Who are you?” she asks sharply, looking at him. “Are you the boy who delivers the paper? Why can’t you put it on the porch? It always used to be on the porch. People won’t take it if it’s on the porch.”

Yoongi shoots you an amused grin behind her back, and you hurry to correct the mistake. “No, Mrs. Planck, this is my friend. He doesn’t deliver the papers, but I’ll call the delivery company again and let them know the papers haven’t been on the porch, like you requested. Go on inside,” you encourage again, and this time she lets Yoongi help her up the steps.

“It’s the Sunday paper,” she tells him, almost tearfully. “I won’t get my coupons.”

Yoongi murmurs something soothing as he takes her inside. You turn your attention to the thick evergreen shrubbery on either side of the steps. Crouching, you peer under the bushes and sure enough, you spot the newspaper on the ground, all the way in the back against the building’s foundation. Cursing the delivery company, you get onto your hands and knees and wriggle underneath the lower branches, eventually dropping to your belly to shove yourself the last few feet. Triumphantly, you snag the plastic wrapper of the newspaper between the tips of your fingers and drag it towards you. Once you’ve got a good grip, you start to inch backwards, but you pause when a particularly sharp branch stabs under your jacket and into the small of your back.

“Do you need a hand?” You hear the familiar, low voice, and you glance behind you to see Yoongi’s Converse next to where your own feet are sticking out from under the shrubbery, splayed clumsily on the grass. You mutter a few more curses, at the delivery company and at the universe in general, for letting him see you in this awkward position. You reach around and grasp the offending branch, extricating it from your jacket and shoving it upwards so you can slide past. Then you turn part way around and toss the newspaper backwards onto the lawn.

“Grab that, will you?” you ask, and Yoongi complies, crouching to pick it up. You can see his face now as he glances at you, concern struggling with amusement on his features. You scowl at him, and the amusement takes over completely. “You want me to haul you out of there?” he asks.

“No, I’m good,” you sigh, and with an effort, you twist yourself enough to half slither, half roll out from under the confining branches. You end up on your back in the grass, gazing up at Yoongi as he smiles at you. And suddenly, you don’t care about looking like an idiot. It’s worth it to earn that look of fondness from him.

Yoongi stands and offers his hand, pulling you to your feet when you grasp it. You brush sadly at your clothes in a futile attempt to remove the mud, but finally give up and retreat into the building. Mrs. Planck is overjoyed when you present her with your hard-won trophy, and now she doesn’t resist at all when you lead her back to her apartment. You help her settle in the kitchen, finding her a cardigan, pouring a cup of coffee from the pot brewing on the counter, and making sure she has something to eat for breakfast while she enjoys her paper. Yoongi leans against the doorjamb, still watching you with an expression in his eyes that gives you butterflies. You can’t even look at him as you both finally leave and make your way upstairs to your apartment.

But once you’re inside, Yoongi shifts to face you, backing you against the door and gazing into your eyes, and you can’t escape. You’re expecting a kiss, but he just keeps looking at you, a soft smile on his lips. You can almost feel his eyes tracing the lines of your face, and finally your cheeks warm.

“Why are you staring at me like that?” you ask, and the corner of his mouth quirks up.

“I’m just adding a couple things to the list of reasons I love you,” he says, and the butterflies beat their wings frantically inside your stomach. He hasn’t said the words since New Year’s. Now your face is definitely on fire.

“You’re kind to strangers,” he continues, not noticing or not caring that you’re embarrassed.

“Mrs. Planck isn’t a stranger,” you argue. “She’s been my neighbor for years.”

Yoongi only smiles more widely. “Then you’re kind to your elders. You were willing to risk bodily harm, not to mention hypothermia, to help her,” he adds, and you snort.

“Oh my god, it’s not that cold out. And I crawled under a bush. I wasn’t in any danger.”

“Well, you risked your hair and wardrobe, at least.”

You raise a concerned hand to your hair, wanting to gauge the damage, but Yoongi beats you, tracing his long fingers over the crown of your head and deftly extracting a large twig. He shows it you, smirking, and you pat frantically at the rest of your hair, yelping when you find a sprig of evergreen stuck above one ear.

“Well, at least I don’t look like the boy who delivers the newspapers,” you mutter, and Yoongi laughs aloud.

“You’re cute,” he tells you, not insulted at all, and now he kisses you, leaning in to capture your lips with his. He starts walking you backwards, and you follow eagerly, struggling to unzip his coat and yours while still kissing him. Yoongi takes pity on you, pulling away long enough to strip both coats off and let you drag him down the hall to the bedroom.

*****

Afterwards, you think he’ll get up, get dressed, finish packing, finish getting ready to exit your life once again. But to your surprise, he only sits up far enough to grasp the bedclothes and draw them over both of you. He lies down again, wriggling and snuggling until he’s got you slotted comfortably against him, his arms around you, and his forehead resting against your shoulder.

“What time do we need to leave for the airport?” you venture, and he sighs, his breath warm against your skin.

“I don’t want to leave,” is all the answer he gives, which isn’t helpful considering you don’t want him to leave either. If he’s not inclined to catch his flight, you don’t know if you have it in you to force him, not if it means keeping him around a little longer.

The two of you drift into silence, the only noise the faint chirp of birds outside your window. The sound reminds you that despite the cold, it’s already March. Spring is coming, a spring that means Yoongi will be touring, and busy, and unavailable. Back to the antithesis of a normal life. And you remember an old fantasy, one you haven’t indulged since childhood, one that gives you the power to stop time at any one moment, and stay in that frozen existence forever.

You used to wish for it some mornings in elementary school, mornings when you were still curled in your closet, when your apartment wasn’t too cold, and the one sheet you had was enough to keep you warm. Mornings when you’d actually had a meal the night before, so your stomach hadn’t been growling angrily all night. Mornings when you didn’t want to get up and walk to school, because you knew the bullies would be looking for you. When all you wanted to do was stay cocooned in your sheet, in the darkness of your closet, warm, and fed, and safe. At least in that moment, safe. And if you could push a button, and freeze time, you would do it.
Now of course, things have changed. If your house isn’t warm enough, you turn up the heat, or put another blanket on the bed. If you’re hungry, it’s only because you’ve worked too late without stopping for lunch or dinner, a situation that’s easily remedied. And it’s been a long, long, time since you haven’t felt safe, in your home, out on the streets, or anywhere. You survived, and you know you can take care of yourself now. You love your apartment, you love your job, you love most of the circumstances of your life, even if they’re ordinary. You have nothing so unpleasant to look forward to that you would want to stop time to avoid it.

But this moment is so perfect, with Yoongi curled into your side, the scent of his hair drifting into your nostrils, the exquisite brush of his fingertips against your skin as he gently traces patterns on your thigh. The drifting strands of post-sex bliss still curling through your bloodstream, and the memory of his eyes on yours as he tells you he loves you.

And the knowledge that he has to leave. This life that means so much to you would never be enough to satisfy Yoongi, even if he does enjoy escaping into obscurity now and then. But he has his own existence to return to. He always has to leave, and every time, you feel a clutching fear at your heart that he won’t come back. That’s the unpleasant thing, the thing that makes you wish for that button. And wonder if you’d actually push it, and give up everything else you love, just so you could keep him with you forever.

Yoongi stirs, sighing again, and the moment breaks, the magic dissipating. “We should leave in an hour,” he tells you, and you sigh too. There’s no button, and probably neither of you would push it anyway. Yoongi because he can’t; he’s got far more important things in his life than you. And you because you won’t take him away from his music, from BTS, from what he loves more than anything in the world. As painful as it is, you know you’ll have to settle for being his escape, his brief respite from the pressures of his real life, his fame and fortune, his demanding work. Yoongi wasn’t made to be normal. He was given too much talent and ambition for that.

You think about the story he told you last night, about the choreographer who didn’t want normal, who wanted to be with someone famous. How ironic, that Yoongi has surely surpassed every expectation she could have had for him, or for anyone, and she didn’t get to stick around to see it. Now you get to have him, at least for a while, and here you are craving the opposite of what she wanted. Wishing Yoongi was just a little bit less special and successful. You feel like there’s a lesson in there somewhere, and you need to learn it, fast, or you could end up just like Yoongi’s ex, undeserving and discarded.

Chapter Text

Over the next couple months, you find yourself wishing more than once that you’d had a magic button to push, after all. Yoongi becomes just as busy as you predicted, once again barely able to find time for a decent phone conversation with you, unless he gives up sleep you know he badly needs. You sacrifice your sleep instead, and time you should be working, just so you can talk with him for a while, whenever he finds time to call you. Once again, you’re patient, refusing to nag him about a visit, waiting for him to set the schedule.

Yoongi finally asks you to visit Seoul for a weekend in April, not long before BTS starts the American leg of their MOTS: 7 tour. You book plane tickets, but only a few days before the trip, Big Hit schedules BTS for some promotions in Indonesia and the Philippines that weekend and beyond. When Yoongi calls to tell you, he sounds so frustrated that you suggest changing your tickets for a flight to wherever he’ll be. But he says they’ll be moving around, not staying any one place longer than a night, and he doesn’t even have the hotel details. Instead, he proposes you come back to L.A. when BTS is there at the end of the month. They’ll be performing concerts in California two weekends in a row, and attending the Billboard Music Awards in between, so he knows they’ll be stationary long enough to make a visit worthwhile.

Unfortunately, the Clary Foundation’s annual fundraising concert is scheduled the week after that, and you know you can’t take even a couple days away from work so close to the event. It’s the first time you’ve had to say no to him, and Yoongi seems shaken by your refusal. You pore over his concert schedule, offering to meet him anywhere else on their tour once you get through the fundraiser, but he’s noncommittal, saying you should both play it by ear. He doesn’t sound angry, but your mind still begins running along its all-too-familiar paths of uncertainty and fear. You should be working, preparing for your fundraiser, but you keep getting distracted by tortuous thoughts about how fragile your relationship really is.

Once BTS arrives in California, Yoongi starts calling you more often, always at night. It’s reminiscent of the first weeks you knew him, when he’d call you after a concert, or whenever he made it back to the peace and privacy of his hotel room after a full day. You talk for hours a couple of nights, even though you badly need sleep. At work, you’re in full event-planning mode, working easily 14-16 hours a day, powering through your extensive to-do lists with an efficiency only made possible by excess caffeine. You know you should limit your late-night phone time with Yoongi, but it’s impossible to give up even a few minutes of conversation with him, not when you’ve missed him so much.

You justify the lack of sleep by getting Yoongi to help you practice Korean, at least for a small portion of each conversation. You’ve been slacking on your classwork the last couple weeks, so you figure this will help you keep up with the lessons until your fundraiser is over and you can focus again. Yoongi is a patient teacher, only occasionally laughing when you mess up, and giving you some good tips to help simple phrases and grammar stick in your memory.

The night of the Billboard Music Awards, you don’t hear from Yoongi. You don’t even watch the show, being too busy at work, and too exhausted once you get home to do anything except drag yourself into bed. The next morning, you’re in the office at 6:00 a.m., working feverishly for a few hours while it’s still quiet. You finally take a break to get a fresh cup of coffee from the kitchen. Back at your desk, as you take the first sip, you click open a website and search for BTS news. You’re hoping to indulge yourself for a few minutes with stories of them raking up awards and looking stunning on the red carpet the night before. But when you see the first story that appears on screen, the shock hits you like a physical blow.

There’s a photo of Yoongi, leaning into some girl, one hand on her shoulder, while they kiss. You can’t see the girl’s face, but the headline screams that it’s Dua Lipa, Getting Physical with Suga from BTS! The story goes on to speculate about whether this was a one-time thing, or if the two are an item. But you can hardly read the words.

This is your worst nightmare come to life, the fear that’s plagued you pretty much since your first date with Yoongi. That he’d eventually grow tired of you, and move on. And worse, that he wouldn’t even be honest with you, that you’d have to find out like this. You didn’t think it would actually happen, though, not really. Could you have been wrong? He’s been as frustrated as you with the recent long separation, after you both got spoiled by so many visits over the winter. He could be angrier than you thought, because you wouldn’t fly to L.A. this week. Or maybe he’s just lonely, and he sought out some temporary companionship.

Then you stop yourself. You’re sure he’s not like that. There must be some explanation.

You immediately dial Yoongi’s number, but as the phone rings, you look again at the picture. Your initial confidence in him fades. He’s definitely kissing someone, and while you can’t tell if it’s really Dua Lipa, you know it’s not you, and that’s all that matters. An anguished sob escapes your lips, and you quickly end the call just as you hear Yoongi pick up.

The phone rings in your hand almost immediately as he calls you back. You toss it down, not wanting to talk to him while you’re crying. You try to calm yourself, to slow your breathing.

On your desk, the phone stops ringing, but buzzes with a voicemail notification before starting to ring again. Again, you don’t answer, and after the ringing stops, your phone pings with a text.

Yoongi: Please answer the phone

It rings again, and again you ignore it. But you can’t stop yourself from reading the stream of texts that start to pop up on the screen.

Yoongi: Y/N please

Yoongi: You saw the news story? Can we talk about it?

Yoongi: It’s not real. The picture is a fake

Yoongi: I barely even saw Dua last night. I did not kiss her

Yoongi: Please answer the phone

Again, he tries to call, but you’re still digesting what he’s telling you, and you don’t think you can talk to him without breaking down. You reject the call, so he starts texting again.

Yoongi: I will keep calling until you answer

Yoongi: I don’t care if you’re at work

Yoongi: We need to talk. Let me explain

The phone doesn’t immediately ring again. You take a few deep breaths, thinking that maybe you can hold yourself together now, and wondering if you should call him back. You take a closer look at the photo in the news story. Could it be a fake? Or just blown out of proportion? The girl’s hair hides their faces enough that you can’t quite see if their lips are locked. He could have been whispering in her ear. But still, why would he do that with someone he doesn’t know intimately?

Yoongi calls again, and, after hesitating a moment, you finally answer and raise the phone to your ear. You don’t trust yourself to speak just yet.

“Y/N?” Yoongi asks, and you can hear the distress in his voice. “Why did you hang up? And not answer the phone?”

He pauses, waiting for a response from you.

“You said you can explain,” you say, and you’re proud that you sound so calm. Cold, but at least calm. “So explain what’s going on.”

“About this news article? What’s going on is it’s a made-up story that somebody put together to sell to the news outlet. The managers dragged me into a meeting this morning to try to figure out what happened, and now we’re going to sue the news outlet, and we’re going to track down whoever took, or made, that picture, and sue them too. And Dua’s probably going to sue them. She’s dating someone.”

“So are you!” you cry, and he sighs.

“I know, but unfortunately I can’t use that as weight for our case. But I can swear to you that the whole thing is a fake, that I never kissed Dua last night.”

“Then who was it?” you demand, your voice finally breaking. “Because you were kissing someone!”

“Oh my….” Yoongi begins, but his English fails and he slips into Korean, letting out a strangled exclamation that you don’t understand. Oddly, the frustration in his voice goes farther towards convincing you of his innocence than any of his words so far. You don’t hang up just yet, even though tears are streaming down your face now.

You hear him take a couple deep breaths before he continues, more calmly, and in English again. “Listen, Y/N, I talked to so many people last night, at the show, and afterwards. I hugged some of them, and I even kissed a few people, because that’s what they do in Hollywood, but it was on the cheek. Never on the lips, not with anyone. I know that picture looks terrible, and I don’t know how they managed it, but it had to be from using some innocent photo of me greeting someone. Maybe Dua, although I don’t remember even a cheek kiss with her. I hardly know her. It could have been edited. Or just a really bad angle, and somebody decided to take advantage of it for click bait.”

You’re silent after his explanation, and in a moment he tries again.

“Y/N? I would never do something like this to you. You have to know that much about me by now. About us. We’ve talked about this before.”

You remember a few months ago, when you basically accused him of cheating after another awards show. That conversation was born of your insecurities, but this time, none of it is in your imagination. No, it’s painfully real, the image still blazing at you from your computer screen. You don’t know what to think.

“You said before that you trust me,” Yoongi continues. “So please trust that I would never hurt you like this.”

You squeeze your eyes shut, to block out the photo, to try to focus on Yoongi, on what you know about him. You know he loves you, at least a little bit. He wants to be with you. And he’s a kind person, always thoughtful of your feelings, understanding your emotions sometimes better than you know them yourself.

But you also know you’re not good enough for him, not really. He deserves someone like Dua Lipa, or those idols he sees and works with on a regular basis. Someone beautiful and brilliant, who can share his passion for music, even accept why it has to come first for him, not indulge in a guilty longing for his fame and success to disappear. It makes sense that Yoongi would eventually gravitate to someone like that.

“Do you believe me?” he asks after a moment, when you don’t answer him. “Please say something.”

“I don’t know,” you whisper, and he sighs. His next words sound resigned, and his voice is distant.

“Ok. Listen, Big Hit will put a statement out, denying the story and announcing the lawsuit. I’m sure this whole thing is going to be blown apart today, or at least tomorrow, and then you’ll have proof that I’m telling the truth. You can wait until then to talk about it, if you need to.”

You hear the pain in his voice, and you realize he doesn’t want you to wait for proof. He wants you to believe him now, based on his words alone. He wants you to trust him.

And the photograph really could have been faked, like he claims. So ultimately, it still comes down to your own insecurities. Trusting him, but also trusting yourself, that maybe you are someone who’s good enough for Yoongi. You’re still having a rough time with that part. But you do think you know him by now. And you don’t believe he would do something that he’d know would hurt you so badly.

“Y/N?” he asks, interrupting your thoughts. “Why don’t you just call me when you’re ready. I might not be able to talk right away. We’re supposed to be doing an interview in a couple hours. And then we’ve got some ad campaign to film the rest of the day. But I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“Wait,” you say before he can end the call, and though he doesn’t say anything, you think you can actually hear the hope crackling through the line as he waits for you to continue.

“I believe you,” you say softly, and after a moment, he lets out a huge sigh.

“Really?” he asks, almost laughing in relief. “Turn on the video.”

“No, I’ve been crying. I don’t want you to see me. I didn’t even want to talk to you like this.”

“Please turn it on? I want to see your face when you say that. To make sure you don’t have murder and revenge in your eyes.”

“And if I do?” you ask, practically laughing yourself. You go ahead and turn on the video function, and Yoongi’s face appears on screen, looking strained and tired. He peers intently into the camera.

“If you do, then I’ll be on the next flight to Chicago,” he says seriously, still studying your face.

“Can you do that?” you ask hopefully, and Yoongi sighs.

“Not really, not with all this shit they have scheduled. But if you need me, I’ll come, and they can do the events without me.”

“I don’t need you,” you say, but regretfully, since you sort of do need him. But you don’t want to ask him for something that might cause even more problems. He’d have to give his managers some kind of explanation for leaving, and if Big Hit finds out about the relationship, well, you don’t think you can handle that kind of stress right now.

Yoongi is still scrutinizing you. “You really believe me?” he asks, and you nod. His face finally relaxes a little.

“Thank you. For trusting me. I’m sorry this even happened, and that it upset you so much. But it’s not what it looks like. You really will have the proof soon.”

“I don’t need it,” you sigh. “Just, don’t keep stressing about it. Go and get ready for your interview. I’ll be ok.”

Yoongi keeps watching you carefully. “We’re really not getting any breaks lately, are we?” he asks softly, and you shake your head.

“Not so much.”

“I have a question for you.”

You raise an eyebrow, but he still hesitates a few moments before he asks.

“What do you think about going public with our relationship?”

“What?” you squawk, because that’s the last thing you expected. And the last thing you want right now, honestly. If Yoongi releases any details about you, or even hints he’s dating someone, Big Hit will be all over it. You’ll be the next person getting sued. How could Yoongi think that’s a good idea?

“Think about it a minute,” he argues, when he sees what must be an appalled expression on your face. “This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. The media live for stuff like this, but if the public knew I wasn’t single, they’d stop trying to manufacture all this dating drama.”

“Are you sure about that?” you ask. “I don’t think it would matter to the people who make money off that drama. I mean, they picked on Dua Lipa, and you say she’s with someone.”

“Maybe you’re right,” he admits. “I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, not just because of this. I’m tired of keeping secrets. You’re one of the biggest parts of my life right now, and I can’t even talk about you with the other people who are closest to me.”

His words spark a small glow inside you. It’s a huge deal that he’s really thinking about acknowledging your existence in his life. It’s a validation of your status. But while Yoongi seems to think a disclosure will make things better, you’re afraid it will destroy the delicate balance you’ve achieved in the past year. “Big Hit doesn’t know about us,” you remind him. “The other guys don’t even know. We can’t just go public.”

“I’d tell them all first, of course,” Yoongi says. “Big Hit wouldn’t approve any kind of statement without being involved.”

“Are you sure they would approve it at all?” you ask, your voice rising in agitation. “You said they don’t want any of you to date. Instead of announcing the relationship, they could just put a stop to it.”

“I’m sure they’ll try,” Yoongi admits, and your heart sinks. Once again he doesn’t sound upset by the prospect. Does he really have that much confidence that things will work out? Or is he just indifferent to the outcome?

“Maybe we can think about it for a while,” you plead. Yoongi finally seems to realize he isn’t convincing you.

“I won’t say anything to anyone,” he promises. “Not until we have more time to think, and to talk it out. God, I really want to see you,” he says, half-laughing, though it’s more in frustration than amusement.

“I can come see you after next week,” you offer. “Whatever city you’re in, I’ll go there. I don’t want to wait until you’re in Chicago again.”

“No,” Yoongi agrees. “I’ll text you our schedule for May. We can figure out a time and place.”

“Ok,” you agree, relieved. You try a tentative smile, and Yoongi matches it.

“I love you,” he says, still watching you closely. Your smile grows, because, honestly, while he shows you that he loves you in countless nonverbal ways, he hardly ever says the words, and right now, you need them.

“I love you too,” you tell him, before ending the call. You take one more look at the picture of him supposedly kissing Dua Lipa, and then you shut down the webpage with a renewed determination. You are going to trust Yoongi. At least when it comes to other women. You’re just not sure you can trust his instincts about talking to Big Hit.

*****

Yoongi calls you almost daily after the article, keeping you updated on the lawsuit, and the eventual retraction issued by the gossip news site. He seems anxious that you still don’t really believe it was a manufactured story. He only relaxes a little when you agree to meet him the weekend after your fundraising concert. He promises to send you hotel details as soon as he knows them.

It turns out Dallas is the group’s next stop after L.A. Once you make it through your event, you book a room at the same place BTS is staying, and find a flight that gets you to Texas not too late that Friday night. When you finally check in, you text Yoongi to let him know your room number. You’re expecting to wait a while, but you hear a soft knock almost immediately after you arrive in the room.

You crack the door, prepared for Yoongi to slip in quickly like he usually does. But today he’s lugging a bag with him, and he has to open the door a little wider to fit through. As you shut the door behind him, he sets the bag down and immediately pulls you into his arms.

Joy floods through you, and you clutch at him just as desperately. It’s been a little over two months since you saw him last, but it seems like so much longer. Maybe you’ve logged too many emotional miles in the interim, making the separation feel endless. Or maybe you’ve just grown too addicted to him, and any reunion is enough to make you this happy. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to stop hugging him.

At least, until he kisses you. It’s definitely been too long since Yoongi’s lips were on yours. He seems to feel the same, kissing you leisurely, deepening the contact so gradually that you barely notice the slow bloom of heat inside you, until you realize you’re about two seconds away from ripping his clothes off.

Nothing wrong with that idea, you think, and you reach for the buttons of his shirt, trying to undo them without losing contact with his lips. But Yoongi breaks away, not only from the kiss, but from your hands. He steps back, grinning at you. You lower your eyes, needing to compose yourself, and you realize suddenly that he’s not only wearing a button-down shirt, but a whole suit, tie included.

“Are you going someplace?” you ask, disappointed. You thought you’d get to have the whole evening with him. Yoongi smiles at you, seeming to read your mind.

“Don’t worry, I’m staying right here tonight,” he assures you, stooping to pick up his bag again. You stand still, watching as he heads further into the room and slings the duffel onto the bed. He unzips it and pulls out his laptop and a Bluetooth speaker, followed by a couple packs of microwave popcorn. He glances over his shoulder at you, and scrunches his nose when he sees you haven’t moved. “Aren’t you going to join me?” he asks, and you wander closer to the bed, puzzled by Yoongi’s actions.

He tosses a deck of cards onto the bedspread, and then he unearths a six-pack of Heineken.

“I’m not helping you drink that,” you tell him, but then he pulls out the next item with a flourish. You laugh when you see it’s a four-pack of mudslides, one of your favorite drinks.

“And,” he teases, reaching into the bag one more time. “We have this.” He draws a bottle of champagne out of the bag, displaying it like a waiter in a fine restaurant, before heading over to the dresser to place the bottle next to the hotel’s ice bucket. He turns to find you gaping at him.

“Are you planning to get me drunk and take advantage of me?” you ask. Yoongi’s shoulders start to shake with laughter, but he manages to walk over to you. He reaches into the inner pocket of his suit jacket, and you gasp when he pulls out a single rose and hands it to you.

“Happy anniversary,” he murmurs, his eyes warm, and his smile still huge as he watches your face. You’re completely flummoxed.

“What anniversary?” you ask carefully, terrified of offending him. But Yoongi only chuckles.

“Our first date?” he reminds you. “It was a year ago, today. And yesterday was the anniversary of the day we met.”

You think back frantically, and realize he’s right. The date of last year’s fundraiser is burned into your brain, after you spent so many months planning for it, but it didn’t occur to you that it was also the night Yoongi asked you to have dinner with him.

“Don’t say we have to wait until August to celebrate,” Yoongi continues. There’s an amused tilt to his smile. “We already decided to count May.”

“It’s not that. I just never even thought about the date,” you apologize. “I can’t believe I didn’t remember.”

“You’ve been dealing with a lot lately,” Yoongi says. He doesn’t seem disappointed by your forgetfulness, only happy he was able to surprise you. “I wanted to take you out tonight, but this hotel is seriously in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how easily we can sneak away.”

“That’s ok,” you assure him. “We can order something from room service. I didn’t bring anything nice to wear out, anyway. In fact, I’m completely underdressed,” you sigh, looking down at your jeans. Yoongi follows your gaze, reaching out to grasp your hips and pull you closer.

“No matter,” he says slyly. “I’m not expecting either of us to be dressed for long.”

“So you are trying to take advantage of me,” you joke, as he leans in to skim his lips over your forehead. You wrap your arms around his waist, perfectly happy to let him do whatever he wants. He finds your mouth again, kissing you harder than before, sucking your bottom lip, teasing his tongue deliciously against yours until you decide he’s been dressed long enough. You tug at his belt, unclasping the buckle, but Yoongi pulls away. You frown at him, and his lips twitch in amusement.

“You should go get some ice,” he suggests, and your mind stalls. Is he suggesting…?

“For the champagne,” he adds, smirking, and you flush. He’s having way too much fun with you tonight. But he’s right, the alcohol won’t be any good unless it’s chilled.

Within a few minutes, you’ve nestled the champagne bottle in a bucket of ice from the machine down the hall, and trimmed the stem of your rose and placed it in a glass of water. You survey the poor thing sadly; it was already a little beat up when Yoongi rescued it from his pocket, and then you sort of crushed it while you were kissing him.

Yoongi is perched on the edge of the bed, watching you fuss over the rose. “Don’t worry if you can’t save it,” he offers. “I bought it from a guy in the street earlier. It was more for the gesture than anything.”

You spare him a pitying glance. It’s the first flower he’s given you. You’re taking it home and pressing it between a couple of books and saving it for eternity.

“How did you get the alcohol?” you query, and he shrugs.

“I asked staff to buy it for me. They weren’t surprised. They usually have to pick up beer for us when we’re on tour. The champagne was a little harder to explain, but it’s not unheard of.”

“And the mudslides?” you ask, and Yoongi grins like the Cheshire Cat.

“I said those were for Jungkook. He’ll kill me, if he finds out. But staff believed it, and that’s all that matters.”

You laugh with him, but behind the amusement, you’re marveling at how Yoongi actually prepared for the night, how he even remembered the anniversary in the first place. Even more than that, the knowledge that you’ve managed to have a whole year with this man is making you a little shaky. When you accepted his dinner invitation, last May, you never in a million lifetimes expected anything like this to come of it. A year isn’t really so much, but to you, it seems monumental.

You walk over to Yoongi, who’s started to flip through the room service menu. Gently, you take it from him and slide into his lap, causing him to lean back on his elbows as you straddle him.

“Why are you still dressed?” you ask, and his eyebrows raise in surprise.

“It sounds like you’re the one trying to take advantage of me,” he purrs, his voice making you shiver. “Don’t you want to eat? On our first date, we had dinner first, and then we kissed.”

“We can eat later. Right now, I just want to be with you. I missed you.”

Yoongi’s eyes soften as you lean down to kiss him again. He’s gentle this time, at least until you get his shirt unbuttoned for real and start trailing your fingers over his bare chest. Then he drags your t-shirt over your head and flips you onto your back, the better to attack your neck with his mouth. His hand traces light patterns on your breast, following the design of your bra, as he kisses and nips his way up your throat. When his teeth close over your earlobe, your body jerks in reaction, but then you yelp as the six-pack of Heineken suddenly tips over, the bottles clattering onto the bedspread next to your head.

“Fuck,” you mutter, your heart racing from the fright, and from Yoongi’s ministrations. He sits up, also looking a little affected, his eyes wide and chest heaving.

“I need to put these away,” he says, shifting from you to collect the beer bottles. You watch as he carries them and the mudslides to the refrigerator. On his way back, he takes the opportunity to shed his jacket and tie and finish unbuttoning his shirt. You take the opportunity to admire him. You know Yoongi spent the winter working out, and you can see the changes from a year ago, the increased definition of his chest, the ripple of muscles in his upper arms as he lowers himself to you again. God, he’s so gorgeous. You undo your jeans and start wriggling out of them, wanting nothing more than to have his entire body pressed against yours.

You don’t get more than a few moments of contact before he’s up again, walking back to his bag. You huff out a sigh, and Yoongi smirks over his shoulder at you. “Forgot the condoms.”

He returns quickly, and you grab him, tumbling him down onto the bed and pulling him back against you. Your whole body is already flushed with need for him, and the way he slips his thigh between your legs as he kisses you only makes your blood pump faster in anticipation.

But he rolls away yet again, this time grabbing his laptop from the edge of the bed. “Let’s put some music on,” he suggests, laughing as you groan in frustration.

“Why are you such a tease tonight?” you demand, your voice coming out high-pitched and desperate. Yoongi giggles even harder as he types in his password.

“Because it’s so much fun.”

“Well, next time save it for when we haven’t been waiting two months to see each other.”

“Patience,” he counsels, grinning at you. “We’ve got all night. Let’s set the mood, make this a little more like a date than we usually get.”

“Ok, but I’m picking the music,” you stipulate, rolling over to claim the computer from him and log into your Spotify account. “I have a make-out playlist.”

“A what?” Yoongi asks, as you pair up your account with his Bluetooth speaker and Boomerang by Lyfe Jennings starts to play from the night table.

“A make-out playlist. Just for occasions like this.”

“I want to see,” he demands, trying to take the laptop back, but you shut the cover firmly.

“Later. Anyway, I’ve played it for you before. Or some version of it. I updated it a month or so ago.” You nudge him onto his back and straddle him again, tackling his pants. Yoongi lifts his hips to help you tug them down, and lust courses through you as his cock springs free. You don’t know how he can keep delaying things; he’s as ready as you are.

“Do you need anything else?” you ask skeptically. “A bathroom break? Maybe a quick snack?”

He snickers. “No, I think I’m good.”

“You better be,” you warn, taking him into your hand and stroking gently. “Because if you interrupt me one more time, you might have to take care of this on your own.”

“I won’t say a word,” Yoongi swears, but immediately belies that statement, letting out a string of curses as you lean over to swirl your tongue around his head. You take him into your mouth, smiling around him as he continues to vocalize his pleasure, his hips already bucking upwards as he tries to increase the contact.

The photo of Yoongi kissing Dua Lipa suddenly flashes through your mind. It’s followed by other pictures that existed only in your imagination during the terrible minutes after you first saw the news story. But you shove the images firmly away. You know they weren’t real. And anyway, you think smugly, as you take Yoongi deep into your mouth, causing him to groan sinfully, you bet Dua Lipa could never make him feel as good as you can. A year might not be a lot, but it’s more than enough time to learn how to drive him crazy.

*****

The flip side is that Yoongi knows how to drive you crazy too, which means by the time you’re through with each other, you don’t think you’ve ever felt so rapturous. Your mind is sex-hazed, and a bit tipsy, since you broke into the champagne a while back. You ended up playing with the ice cubes from the bucket after all, and now half the bed is a little too damp for comfort. But it’s a big bed, and you and Yoongi lie entwined on the other side, trying to decide if you really want dinner. You need to make up your mind soon, before the hotel’s kitchen closes, but you’re both feeling too blissed out to be hurried.

“I don’t need dinner,” you finally declare. “You brought popcorn and mudslides. We can just snack. Maybe watch a movie?” you suggest, remembering how he’s said he misses doing simple activities like that. And you know by now how much he enjoys movies. But he frowns a little at your suggestion.

“I wanted this to be more like a date tonight,” he explains. “I haven’t been able to give you that kind of thing, or not much, and I don’t want you to feel dissatisfied.”

“Yoongi, I’m not,” you say immediately, raising your head to look him in the eyes. “Tonight’s already been perfect. You’re perfect.”

He shakes his head. “You said that about me once before, but it’s not true. I know how hard this is for you, not seeing each other for weeks or months, putting up with me when I’m distracted, or when I don’t call you often enough. Having to see all kinds of shit about me on the internet, especially that photo last week. I don’t know how you’ve done it for so long.”

You’re flummoxed. If he doesn’t know it’s because you love him, you’re clearly not doing something right.

“You’re so patient,” Yoongi continues. “You never ask for anything. You could put a lot more demands on me, you know.”

You frown. You’re not sure what kind of demands he’s referring to. You’d like to ask for things, sure, like more of his time, his undivided attention, some kind of assurance that he won’t chuck you aside when the inconvenience of the relationship outweighs the benefits. But those aren’t things he can give you.

“What I want is impossible,” you finally tell him. “So there’s no point in asking for it.”

“Why is it impossible?” Yoongi asks, his brow furrowing. “Do you want me to leave BTS?”

“No,” you say, shocked that he would even think it about you. You sit up to emphasize your words. “I don’t want that. I would never ask you to do that. Not for me. Not for anything.”

Yoongi smiles a little. “I already knew that, I think. That’s one of the most amazing things about you. You don’t ask me to choose.”

It’s a compliment, and it should make you feel good, but the implication is that Yoongi would make a choice, if you or anyone else forced him to it. And presumably, he wouldn’t choose you. You wouldn’t want him to choose you; you’re not lying when you say you never want him to give up BTS. You just wish you didn’t have to feel like there’s a timer slowly ticking down to the day he gives you up instead.

Yoongi tugs on you until you lie down again. He wraps his arms around you, but you don’t feel comforted. “Tell me what you do want,” he urges. “Even if you think it’s impossible. We’ve already made it through a lot.”

“I just wish I could see you more often,” you admit. Which is true.

“I want that too,” Yoongi says immediately. “And it’s not impossible. We put this visit together pretty quickly. We can do more of this, when I’m touring.”

“Maybe a little more,” you agree, though it’s not as easy as that. Even if you only go away for weekends, you’re still giving up time you’d normally spend working. You’re not behind on your tasks, exactly, but you know you’re not completing things to your normal pace or standard of excellence lately. Not to mention, you’ve had to dip into your meager savings to cover all the plane tickets and hotel rooms you’ve purchased in the last six months. If you keep it up, you’ll be out of money at some point.

But that’s a problem for another day. Right now, what you need more than anything is to know Yoongi is as committed as you are. You just don’t know how to ask for that, and worse, you’re not sure if you’ll like his answer.

Yoongi is still discussing how you can see each other more often. “We’ll be in Chicago in June. And after this leg of the tour is over, we have Festa in Seoul, but then Big Hit is giving us a few weeks off, for a break like we had last year. I can come stay with you again.”

The news cheers you up. Even if you can’t visit Yoongi again during the U.S. tour, you’ll see him in another month when BTS gets to Chicago. And then you can have a good chunk of time with him right after that.

“We’ll be in Europe and Japan in July and August,” he continues. “Maybe you can visit me sometime during that part of the tour. After that, I don’t know what we have planned. Probably home again for a while. I’ll try to fit in another trip to Chicago in early fall.”

Yoongi’s plan for the next few months isn’t terrible, even if a trip to Europe or Japan will break your bank account. But you can find a way to deal with that, if it means keeping your visits spaced not much more than a month apart. You’ve already gotten to see him a lot more than you expected when you first agreed to go out with him. And the fact that he’s looking so far ahead is commitment, of a sort.

“And there’s something else.” Yoongi’s voice is more hesitant, and you turn your face to his. His dark eyes lock onto yours, and you frown at how serious he looks.

“Have you had time to think about what we discussed? About me telling Big Hit about you, maybe releasing a statement?”

You sigh. That exact thought has been chief among your worries for the past week and a half. You didn’t need to think very hard to know you haven’t changed your opinion. If Big Hit will try to put an end to the relationship, then of course you don’t want them to know. You start to marshal your arguments, ready for the conversation you figure is coming. But Yoongi seems to know what you’re going to say, and he forestalls you.

“If everyone knows, it will be a lot easier for us to spend time together. I won’t have to make up excuses for taking a couple days away from the group, to fly to America. And when you meet me someplace, I won’t have to wait until I can sneak out of my hotel room. I can just come to you.”

His words make sense, actually. You mull them over, with Yoongi still watching you a little anxiously. “Why are you opposed to the idea?” he asks.

“I guess because you were so opposed to telling Big Hit in the beginning,” you explain. “You said they won’t support the relationship. I’m afraid they’ll be the ones to make you choose: either BTS, or me.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Yoongi says gently. “They can’t force me to give you up.”

“But you said they can make it harder for you to take time to see me, not easier. This is already hard enough. Why would you want to make it worse?”

It’s Yoongi’s turn to think about your words, rolling onto his back and gazing up at the ceiling. One hand still rests on your hip, his fingers drawing light circles against your skin. You shiver, curling closer against his side, and he turns his face into your hair.

“In the beginning,” he murmurs, his voice so low you have to strain to hear him. “In the beginning, I was afraid of Big Hit interfering. I wanted us to have a chance, so I didn’t want to put any more obstacles in our path than we already had. And I also didn’t want to tell them because, maybe, I didn’t have enough faith in our chance. I thought that if we couldn’t last, at least I wouldn’t have to explain to the guys, and to Big Hit. Nobody would have to know anything happened between us.”

This is very near to what you’ve suspected, and feared, in the past, but Yoongi’s admission still fills you with dread. He seems to realize, without even seeing your face, because his hand tightens on your hip, pulling you even closer to him, if that’s possible.

“I don’t feel that way anymore,” he tells you, his voice stronger. “I want everyone to know about you. The guys, Big Hit. The world. ARMY. Even if things don’t work out for us, I don’t want to erase you from my life afterwards. And I have a lot more faith in our chances of working out now.”

His words leave you shaking, and Yoongi pulls the covers up a little higher, looking at you in concern. But you’re not cold. You’re trembling because he’s offering that commitment you’d been wishing for, that you thought would be impossible.

It comes with a price, though. No matter what Yoongi says about Big Hit, you still fear what they might do to prevent him from being with you. They could monitor his time more closely, refuse to give him enough breaks to visit you, maybe levy fines. They might even fire him. It’s not unheard of for idols to leave the business when their personal lives interfere. And even if Big Hit does accept you, and Yoongi really decides to make the relationship public? You’ve never even considered how ARMY might react. The fallout might be worse for Yoongi than anything Big Hit could do.

“What do you think?” he asks, and you look at him again. As usual, there are no good options. But at least telling Big Hit is progress. Yoongi seems to think it will make things better for both of you. You’ve already trusted him with so much, and he hasn’t let you down. Maybe you need to believe he’s right about this as well. And that no matter what happens, he won’t give you up. At least not without a fight.

“You can tell them, if you think it’s best,” you agree.

“You don’t sound happy about it,” Yoongi prods, and you shrug your shoulders.

“I’m just afraid things won’t go the way you think they will. But I’m willing to try. And I’m happy you want to take that step,” you assure him. “I really am.”

“I won’t say anything for a while yet. Not while we’re on tour.”

You relax slightly. That means you get a slight reprieve, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to at least see him again when BTS visits Chicago.

“I’ll figure out a way to tell everyone once I’m back in Seoul.”

“Maybe just the group, and Big Hit?” you request. “Not the public. I don’t think I’m ready for that, yet.”

“Ok,” he agrees, smiling a little. “We’ll start small.”

You want to tell him there’s nothing small about this decision, but you’re also ready to stop talking about something so scary. You’d rather try to recapture some of the happiness you felt earlier.

Yoongi seems to feel the same, because in a minute he changes the subject. “What song is this?” he asks, tilting his head.

“You With Me, by Jimmy Eat World,” you tell him, and he stretches away from you to reach for his laptop. He props a couple of pillows behind both of you, and flips open the computer to finally take a look at your make-out playlist.

“This isn’t your usual style,” he comments, finding the song and checking out the credits.

“I like rock music sometimes,” you chuckle.

“Me too,” he grins. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Clapton lately.”

“Eric Clapton?” You perk up. “I love him, especially his bluesy stuff.”

“I’m going to start learning how to play the guitar,” Yoongi tells you, and you look at him in awe. When will he ever have time for that, when he’s juggling a worldwide tour, his next mixtape, collaborations with other artists, and, oh yeah, telling his company he’s had a secret girlfriend for the past year? And hopefully carving out some time to spend with said girlfriend? You start to say something along those lines, but then you shut your mouth. That’s just Yoongi. He says yes to life. And now he’s planning to say yes to a life that includes you as a more permanent fixture. That’s more than enough to satisfy you for now. You’re not going to begrudge him a new hobby.

You spend the rest of the night playing music for each other, making hilarious suggestions for your make-out playlist, and eventually watching a movie after all. You fall asleep feeling more at peace than you have in a long time.

Chapter Text

Yoongi doesn’t mention your relationship again the rest of the time you’re in Dallas. He also doesn’t bring it up in your phone conversations in the coming weeks. You’re not expecting any news, since he said he wouldn’t talk to Big Hit until he’s back in Seoul. But you do wonder how he seems to have dismissed the topic so completely from his mind. You can hardly think about anything else. You can’t stop imagining worst-case scenarios. While some range from far-fetched (Big Hit threatens to fire Yoongi and blacklist him from the music industry if he doesn’t break up with you) to ridiculous (Big Hit hires a contract killer to take you out of the equation), a few seem quite feasible. And all of them involve you never seeing Yoongi again.

But you keep your fears to yourself, since Yoongi doesn’t seem to share them. His talks with you are full of details about the work he’s doing to finalize the last couple of tracks for his next solo album. He was also contacted about a collaboration with IU, a hugely popular Korean singer, and he’s excited to work on a song with her in his spare moments during the tour. You’re happy to see him get that kind of recognition in his industry. And you know how badly he wants to finish his mixtape; he’s been feeling pressured to release it for as long as you’ve known him. You congratulate him, and encourage him, as the occasion calls for. You don’t mention your relationship, either.

When BTS arrive in Chicago, you wonder if Yoongi will at least tell the other members about you that week. A revelation like that would make it easier for him to spend time with you. But he doesn’t seem inclined to share the secret yet, choosing instead to sneak away to see you when he can. You don’t see him the first night he’s in town, and the second night, he doesn’t make it to your apartment until after midnight. You get a few precious hours together before he leaves again, well before dawn. The next night he can’t get away either, and you have to be content with a late-night phone call.

Finally, on Thursday, he’s able to take an evening for himself, and he shows up at your place at a reasonable hour. It’s the night before their first Chicago concert, which happens to be on your birthday. Yoongi is set on going out to dinner to celebrate, but you’ve already made other plans. When you let him in, you only have time to give him a quick kiss before sprinting back to the kitchen. Yoongi follows you, but he pauses in surprise when he sees the chaos you’ve initiated.

“What have you got going on here?” he asks, joining you at the counter and surveying the sea of bowls and ingredients you’ve scattered around. He leans closer, watching as you finish a sorry attempt at chopping mushrooms. You glance at him, and when you see the scandalized expression on his face, you quickly dump the mess into a bowl with the zucchini and onion you’ve already mangled.

“I’m making dinner,” you assert, hoping you sound more confident than you feel. “A maeuntang.”

His expression brightens instantly. “Really? For me?”

At your nod, Yoongi looks so pleased that you feel your face heating. You bend over the pot of broth you’ve already started, hoping he’ll attribute any flush to the steam rising from the stew. It does smell good, which is reassuring considering you’ve never attempted such an ambitious meal before. After stirring the contents for a moment, you cover the pot and return to the counter where the rest of your ingredients are laid out.

Yoongi is still smiling gently at you, and you quickly busy yourself with the next step in the recipe, before he can say anything sappy. “I just need to get these clams open,” you say, extracting one from the bowl of salt water sitting in your sink. You frown at it, wondering if you can pry it open with your bare hands or if you need some kind of tool. You forgot to look up that step when you were researching the maeuntang recipe.

Yoongi frowns too, stepping quickly to your side. “You don’t have to do anything,” he corrects you. “They’ll open as they cook. But you do need to look for dead ones before you add them to the stew.”

He shows you how to check the clams for any that are already open, and tap them on the counter to see if they close up in defense. He throws out two that stay open, but the rest meet his approval, so you toss them into the pot, along with the fish you’d cut earlier. The process puts you behind schedule on adding the other ingredients. Yoongi hovers distractingly as you frantically stir the broth, cut tofu, and finally start to add your vegetables. You know he’s itching to jump in, but you want to do this on your own, as a gift to him, or maybe just as proof that you’re not such a bad cook as he’s come to think you are.

Except, you kind of are a bad cook. The process is always stressful, and it’s worse when you have an audience. When Yoongi starts making disparaging noises over the ruined mushrooms, you forcibly steer him over to the table and tell him to set it, just to get him out of the way. He must sense how frazzled you are because he actually submits. He moves easily around the kitchen, finding wine glasses and silverware, while you fret over the timer you forgot to set for the stew.

Though you didn’t time it, you eventually judge the meal has simmered long enough. You lift the lid of another pot to check on the rice steaming inside. To your dismay, it’s become overheated and is sticking hard to the bottom. Quickly, you attempt to move the pot to the back burner. But the metal handle is too hot and you yelp as pain sears through your hand. Yoongi is back at your side instantly.

“What happened? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” you tell him. “I just burned my hand a little.” You’re prepared to shake it off, but Yoongi is already guiding you to the sink and directing you to hold your hand under a stream of cold water. The sensation does help with the pain, so you leave your hand where it is, though you swivel to watch as Yoongi returns to the stove and turns off the heat under the rice.

“Why aren’t you using your oven mitts?” he asks, glancing at you. You start to laugh.

“I haven’t seen them since you cooked dinner the last time you were here. I have no idea where you put them.”

Yoongi fixes you with a look of mingled pity and amusement as he slides open the drawer next to the oven. And sure enough, there are the mitts.

“That’s not where I used to keep them!” you accuse him.

“No, you kept them across the room on top of the refrigerator!” Yoongi seems mortally offended by this. “How were they doing you any good up there?”

“At least I could find them when I needed them.”

“Oh, because it would never make sense to look for them in the drawer right next to the oven,” he teases. “Right next to where you’re standing when you need to use oven mitts.”

“But that’s where I kept my spare ice cube trays,” you argue. “I can’t find those anymore, either.”

“Oh my god, they’re over here,” he complains, skirting around you to open the cabinet between the sink and the refrigerator. “Also right next to where you would use them. Do you even spend time in this kitchen when I’m not around?”

“Honestly, not so much.”

“How do you feed yourself?”

“I get takeout, ok? Stop being mean. It’s my birthday.”

“I have…” Yoongi makes a show of looking at his watch. “Four more hours before you can play that card.” He grins at you. “But I’m not trying to be mean. I’m really impressed that you’re making a maeuntang, especially considering your normal cooking habits.”

“Well, wait until you taste it before you say something like that. Do you think it’s done?” you ask worriedly as you turn off the water and grab a dish towel to dry your hand. Yoongi lifts the lid from the stew and stirs gently. You crowd against him to peer into the pot, and sure enough, the clam shells have opened, revealing the delicate bits of meat inside. The fish appears to be cooked as well, and the whole mess smells divine.

“I think you did it,” he pronounces, also inhaling the fragrance of the stew. He grabs a ladle and serving dish, and you move around him to the pot of rice. Using an oven mitt this time, you manage to rescue most of it, scooping the fluffier part off the top into bowls.

When you’ve both finally settled at the table, you heave a sigh of relief, grabbing the glass of wine Yoongi poured for you and tipping a healthy portion down your throat. Yoongi raises an amused eyebrow.

“Thank god that’s over,” you finally sigh, slumping back in the chair and gulping some more wine.

“Why did you decide to cook if it gives you so much stress?”

“I remember last year you got tired of American food when you were on tour. I thought you might like a home-cooked meal. But cooking is definitely not my comfort zone. I usually avoid it.”

“I can tell, if you haven’t even needed your oven mitts for three months.”

“I needed them once or twice, but when I couldn’t find them, I just used a towel.”

Yoongi shakes his head in wonder, but he doesn’t tease you anymore. Instead he collects his wine glass and raises it in your direction. “I really appreciate the meal,” he smiles, and you feel yourself growing warm in embarrassment again as he drinks to you.

“Let’s try it first,” you warn. “We still might end up ordering pizza.”

He laughs, but he doesn’t seem to share your pessimism. He exchanges the wine for his spoon and scoops up a bite. You cringe as he tastes the stew, but the expression on his face is cautiously good.

“It’s hot,” he finally says, after swallowing. “Like, really hot, but I enjoy it that way. It’s not quite what I’m used to, but it’s good.” He takes another bite. “The fish is delicious.”

Encouraged by his praise, you test your own portion. Your tongue immediately flames, and you figure you probably overdid the spice a little. But there’s a strong, tangy flavor underneath the heat, the vegetables seem to be cooked well enough, and Yoongi’s right about the fish. Feeling proud, you begin to eat in earnest.

You both clean your bowls, and Yoongi even takes a second helping, sealing your confidence in the success of the meal. You lean back in your chair, leisurely sipping the last of your wine and watching as your boyfriend finishes his food.

“This is your last American stop, right?” you ask, and Yoongi nods.

“After this, it’s back to Seoul for Festa,” he tells you, referencing the annual BTS debut anniversary party. The group always celebrates with a day or two of events. We’re supposed to get a break after that, maybe for two weeks, if we can spare the time. But we also have to finish recording a few songs for the Japanese release of MOTS:7.”

“Isn’t that just recording your current songs in Japanese?” you ask, but Yoongi shakes his head.

“We always add a few unique songs to the Japanese albums. We need to have this one ready for a late-July release date, before we start the Japanese leg of our tour. We’ll be in Europe for a couple weeks before that, so the recording has to happen as soon as we’re back in Seoul.”

“Once you’re home, do you think you’ll be ready to tell the others about us? And Big Hit?” You hate asking when he’s already got so much on his mind, but you don’t think your nerves can handle the uncertainty for much longer.

Yoongi takes his time scraping the last spoonful of stew out of his bowl. He’s not looking at you, and you start to get worried.

“I’m not sure if the timing will be great,” he finally admits. “We’ll be squeezing so much into just a couple weeks before trying to go on vacation. I have some solo projects I need to work on, too. And I don’t know what Big Hit’s going to need from me, or from you, once we make the disclosure. I don’t want to lose our break because I’m trying to deal with that.”

The stew suddenly feels a lot heavier in your stomach. Or maybe it’s just a return of the dread that you’ve been trying to keep in check for a while now. Yoongi is the one who wanted to share the relationship in the first place, but now he seems to be changing his mind. Telling Big Hit about you has apparently become something he’ll have to ‘deal with,’ rather than something he actually wants.

“Do you still want to come back to Chicago on your break?” you ask in a small voice. “Or would you rather I visit you in Seoul? That way, you won’t have to waste your time on airplanes.”

He studies you, not answering right away, and your anxiety rises. Maybe he’ll be too busy to spend time together, after all.

But his answer surprises you. “Maybe you and I can both take a vacation,” he finally proposes. “Go someplace fun instead of staying in Seoul or Chicago.”

You immediately fall in love with the idea. Excitement courses through you, chasing the dread back into the shadows. Yoongi really does want to see you. Maybe he’s delaying his talk with Big Hit for exactly the reasons he said; he’s too busy and stressed right now, and he’s looking forward to some rest and relaxation. Of course, you’re more than happy to join him for that, if he wants you.

“Where would you like to go?” Yoongi asks, and you look up to find him watching you with an amused smile. You probably have some dreamy look on your face. One of the unexpected benefits of your relationship with him is that it’s given you an excuse to indulge your long-seated desire to travel. Visiting him in Seoul, seeing a new city, a new country, was incredible. And both weekends you met him in L.A., you went to the beach every single day while Yoongi was busy with dance practices and interviews. You’d always wanted to see the ocean, and you fell in love with its vast, wild expanse at first sight. After that, you couldn’t get enough. Yoongi teased you about it each night, when he asked how you spent your day, but you didn’t care.

In L.A., you didn’t get to take Yoongi to the beach with you, but now, you can take him anywhere you want. Your mind races through the possibilities. Japan? No, you want to see the country, but Yoongi’s been there a lot. New Zealand? He’s been there too. Maybe India. Or Morocco? Those are definite possibilities.

“I’ll have to think about it,” you finally tell him. “There are too many places I want to see. I’ll make a list and you can decide.”

*****

The two of you stay up way too late that night, looking up vacation destinations, talking about Yoongi’s past travels, talking about his work, or just talking about nothing at all. The next morning, Yoongi has to leave early to creep back to his hotel. You wonder how he’s going to make it through a weekend of concerts on so little sleep.

At least you get to go back to bed for a few hours. You took the day off work because you’re attending the BTS concert. Last winter, as soon as she saw the group would be in Chicago on your birthday, Hannah made up her mind that you were going to the concert with her. She invited two of her other friends, Amara and Chelsea, and the four of you meet up early to snag a place in line outside the stadium.

While you wait to get inside, Hannah keeps you all amused with tales of meeting BTS at the concert the year before. You know the stories, of course, so you take the time to get to know her friends. Amara is a few years younger than Hannah, and one of the sweetest people you’ve ever met. She’s a Taekook fan, and her devotion to the two youngest members of the group is adorably wholesome. She just about dies from happiness overload when Hannah describes how Jungkook and Taehyung danced with you backstage last year.

Chelsea is closer to your age, and her interest in the group isn’t quite so innocent. Hannah introduces the two of you as fellow Yoongi fans, and it doesn’t take much conversation for you to figure out she has a crush on your boyfriend. But you also quickly realize a lot of it is based on her admiration of his talent. Chelsea was a music major in college, and now she works as a sound engineer at Chicago’s CIBC Theater. You listen, fascinated, as she describes, in detail, exactly why Yoongi’s songs are so amazing. By the time you’ve made it into the stadium and found your seats, she’s your new favorite person. The two of you happily debate over which songs you want to hear, and which songs you think BTS will perform, until the show finally starts, and you don’t have to wonder anymore.

The four of you are completely enthralled, from the opening sequence of Black Swan, Louder than bombs, and Make It Right, through a faster-paced set that includes Friends, Save Me, Respect, and Moon. You and Chelsea scream like maniacs for Yoongi and Namjoon during Respect. Then she looks at you like you’re a traitor when you yell just as loud for Jin singing Moon. But you love that song, and hey, aside from that small thing where you’re dating one of the members, you’re definitely OT7.

After Jin’s solo, BTS relaxes the crowd a bit with some conversation, and another slower set, and you have time to focus on Yoongi. Last night he asked where you’d be sitting, saying he was looking forward to seeing you in the mob of people. But your seats aren’t all that close to the stage, and you doubt he’ll be able to find you, though you do spot him looking in your direction a few times. After the group wraps up Spring Day, Jungkook is left alone on stage to sing My Time. You’re excited to see if he’ll fly over the crowd again, or, knowing him, do something even more daring, but you’re distracted by the buzz of your phone in your pocket. Pulling it out, you see a text from Yoongi.

Yoongi: Where are you sitting? I can’t find you

You glance at the others, but both Hannah and Chelsea have their arms around Amara, who’s practically crying over Jungkook’s gorgeous vocals. You cautiously tap out a quick reply.

You: In the section to the left of center. Stage right. About 30 rows back. Hannah is wearing the brightest green J-Hope shirt you can imagine.

There’s no reply, so you slide your phone back into your pocket and take your turn comforting Amara, feeling a little bad that she has two biases, and she’ll have to go through this all over again when Taehyung sings Inner Child.

You can relate; you’re not prepared in the least when the opening chords of Shadow whisper through the stadium not much later. You and Chelsea immediately start shrieking again as Yoongi actually rises up out of the floor on some kind of platform. He stands still, holding the moment before he starts rapping, and you can see his head turned in your direction. You know he can’t hear your voice over the absolute roar of the crowd, but it still seems that his eyes meet yours for one breathless second.

And then he begins the song, and you’re lost in the emotion of it, and the energy of the fans. It’s brilliant, the way he plays on the fervor, stoking it with the early verses, fanning it into flames with the chorus, and finally, basking in the roaring fire as he storms across the stage at the end of the song. He’s incredible. Even the Seesaw performance you saw last year can’t compare.

At the end, Hannah jokingly checks your pulse to make sure you’re still alive, and Amara offers you her soda in case you need to cool off. You take a grateful sip before passing the drink to Chelsea, who actually looks pale. She starts to say something to you about the song, but stops as all of the guys return to the stage to perform ON. You’ll have to get her opinion later.

Near the end of the concert, the members of BTS each take a few minutes to speak to the crowd. When it’s Yoongi’s turn, you can’t keep a smile from your face as he jokes a bit, talking about how glad he is that it isn’t so cold as it was the last time they came to Chicago. Of course he’d mention that. Then he brings up something else that has you grinning even harder.

“I hope you are all enjoying yourself. Especially if today is a special occasion for you. Does anyone have a birthday?”

Hannah turns to you in shock, but it’s short-lived, and she quickly starts yelling, “Over here!” and waving her arms and pointing at you. You’re embarrassed, but similar cries are lifting from other corners of the stadium. Yoongi is looking your way, though, and to your discomfort, so are Jimin and Taehyung, pointing and waving to show that they heard Hannah. You’re pretty sure they can’t possibly recognize either of you from that distance, but you still duck your head slightly, just in case. Namjoon and Hoseok are acknowledging people on the other side of the audience, and as the noise dies down a bit, Yoongi continues speaking.

“If you’re celebrating tonight,” he says, “I hope this has been a memorable show. If being here tonight was your dream, then I’m glad we can be a part of it making it happen. I hope many more dreams come true for you this year.”

The rest of the group starts clapping and nodding their heads in agreement, and the audience erupts into cheers and applause. Hannah turns to you, her face glowing with excitement.

“Min Yoongi just wished all your dreams will come true!”

You nod, but you’re a little too choked up to speak. She has no idea how integral he’s been in fulfilling some of your dreams. How he’s become one of your dearest wishes, one you weren’t sure you even had before you met him. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.

Fortunately, Hannah is too excited to notice. And as BTS sing their final song of the night, We Are Bulletproof: the Eternal, you’re pretty sure every person in that stadium starts crying. When the song ends, and you look around, you see nothing but people sniffling, wiping their eyes, or out and out bawling, hanging onto each other for support. Hannah and Amara are hugging joyfully, and Chelsea is still gazing at where the group disappeared behind the curtains, her cheeks wet with tears.

It takes a while to get out of the stadium, partly because of the huge crowds, and partly because you’re all still a little dazed. After walking for what seems like forever, the four of you finally make it to a slightly less packed street. You look around for a bus stop, but then Chelsea suggests going somewhere for a drink. Amara declines, explaining she has to work in the morning. You’ll probably have to work too, after taking today off, but you still agree to go with Chelsea and Hannah, if for no other reason than to extend the concert feeling a little longer.

At the bar, you’re glad you joined them. All you and Chelsea can talk about is how Yoongi is the best rapper ever, and how Yoongi is the best singer ever, and how Shadow is the best song ever. She discusses why at great length, and you listen happily to her discourse, trying to remember some of the technical details to regale Yoongi with later. Hannah keeps trying to change the subject, but you’re thrilled to have a fellow enthusiast to rave with. At least until Chelsea switches to hard stan mode.

“Did you see how he looked in those pants during ON? The things I would let that man do to me,” she sighs, and you quickly bite your lip before you start gushing about how Yoongi is the best at non-musical pursuits, too.

“How big do you think he is?” she asks, and your delight in the conversation fades. “He’s got such big dick energy on stage. He’s probably huge.”

“Chelsea!” Hannah leans across the table to smack her friend. “Y/N and I met him! Stop talking about his dick!”

You’re silently thanking Hannah. You know plenty of people all over the world think about your boyfriend like that, but you’d rather not have it rubbed in your face. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deter Chelsea.

“What was it like, meeting him?” she asks. “Was he the sexiest person you’ve ever seen? Did you just want to shove him up against a wall and rip his clothes off?”

Yes, and yes, you think, but Hannah only laughs.

“Please, you know I’d never betray Hoseok like that. Yoongi was just normal sexy, at least to me. But what did you think, Y/N? You spent a lot more time with him.”

“He’s…definitely sexy,” you say cautiously, and Chelsea sighs again in ecstasy. Time to change the subject. “He was good with the kids, too. Actually, they all were.”

“Y/N really hit it off with Yoongi,” Hannah contributes, turning to you. “I don’t know why you didn’t go for it when you had the chance.”

Chelsea immediately demands details, and you cancel your earlier gratitude towards Hannah.

“There wasn’t anything to go for,” you deflect. “I mean, do you really think I’d have a chance with Min Yoongi?”

Chelsea’s eyes flick over you. “No, I guess not.”

Well. You didn’t expect her to agree that easily. You feel a small satisfaction when Hannah smacks her again.

“Don’t be rude,” she commands, and Chelsea shrugs.

“You know none of us would have a chance. He gave me some fuel for my fantasies tonight, though. Gotta be happy with that.”

You sigh. You don’t have to be happy about Chelsea’s fantasies, but you do have to agree with her about the fuel. You’ve had all kinds of delightful images floating through your head tonight, all spawned from watching Yoongi perform. At least you can actually live your fantasies the next time you see him, but unfortunately, it won’t be tonight. You already agreed that you won’t try to get together after the concert, so you can spend time with your friends, and Yoongi can get some sleep. You sigh again, more heavily, thinking about the missed opportunity, and Hannah smacks you for a change.

“Stop moping over Yoongi, both of you!” she commands. “It’s my turn to mope over Hoseok!”

Laughing, you and Chelsea both indulge her. Although you hate giving up even a few hours with Yoongi, you’re enjoying yourself.

*****

After Saturday’s concert, Yoongi sneaks away from his hotel to spend the night with you. He’s pretty exhausted, but at least he doesn’t have to get up so early the next day. The group is flying back to Seoul on Sunday afternoon, and they have most of the morning off to relax, and to get organized and ready to leave. You’re glad to let Yoongi to sleep in a little, instead of waking him at 5:00 a.m. like you have the other nights he stayed over.

When he finally does get up, he finds you in the kitchen, sipping coffee and inventorying your breakfast options. As usual, they’re pretty limited. But Yoongi isn’t deterred.

“Are you going to make me waffles, Master Chef?” he smirks, and you groan. He started calling you Master Chef after you made the maeuntang, and you have no idea if he means it as a compliment or a jest. But either way, you figure you’ve done enough cooking for one week.

“Let’s go out,” you suggest, and Yoongi is quick to agree, asking to go to the diner you visited the last time he was in town. You quickly get your shoes on and head out the door.

At the restaurant, Yoongi orders pancakes instead of waffles, and you opt for the French toast, which is amazing, thick and spicy, and flooded with blueberries swimming in syrup. When your plates arrive, you dig in, happily washing down the sugar with hot coffee, offsetting the sweetness with a side order of the diner’s home cut pepper bacon.

When your phone rings, you slip it from your pocket, intending to silence the ringer and put it away again. But when you see it’s your mom calling, you hesitate, wondering what she needs. She never calls unless she wants something. In the end, you let the call go to voicemail, but your good mood is spoiled now. When you pick up your fork again, you just poke at your food, no longer hungry. Yoongi cocks a curious eyebrow at you as he continues sawing up his pancakes.

“Did you need to take that?” he asks. “It’s ok if you do.”

You hesitate again, ready to say it wasn’t important. But he’s looking at you in concern, clearly noticing the tension in your face.

“It was my mom,” you tell him. “But she can wait. I don’t want to waste the little bit of time we have left trying to deal with her.”

Yoongi looks at you for a moment before he goes back to eating. You go back to pushing your French toast around on the plate.

“Do you have to deal with her a lot?” he asks suddenly. “I thought you didn’t see her much.”

“She calls me whenever she wants something. Sometimes I help her. And sometimes I don’t answer.”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, and you start feeling defensive.

“What’s wrong? Do you think I should answer?” you ask, and he looks up at you again, his fork and knife stilling.

“Nothing’s wrong with not answering,” he replies, looking even more concerned at your reaction. You give up on the food, dropping your utensils so you can massage at your temples for a moment.

“I’m sorry to get upset. I don’t want you to think I’m not a good daughter.”

Now Yoongi drops his utensils too, and you jump as they clatter onto his plate. “She wasn’t a good mother to you,” he says flatly. “Why should you have to be a good daughter?”

“So I should just ignore her all the time?” you argue. “Not help her?” He looks surprised at the heat in your voice, and honestly, it surprises you too. You realize you’re still feeling defensive, but for the opposite reason now. You don’t know why you’re getting so upset.

“She doesn’t have anyone else,” you explain, more quietly now. “I help her, even though I don’t want to, and then I feel guilty for resenting the time I give her. And I feel guilty when I don’t give her my time. I guess I’m still conflicted about my feelings for her.”

“You shouldn’t feel guilty about anything,” Yoongi says, eyeing you.

“Maybe not. But I still feel bad. If I got my mom some help, brought her to live with me, maybe she’d be able to do better. Stop using drugs, get a job. I can’t do it, though. I don’t want her back in my life that way.”

Yoongi reaches one hand across the table to take yours, rubbing his thumb comfortingly over your knuckles. “Y/N, you are one of the smartest people I know. And more importantly, you have one of the biggest hearts. Whatever feelings you have, whatever responsibilities you accept, I know you’ll be doing the right thing, because that’s just who you are. So do not feel guilty about what you do or don’t do. And definitely don’t worry about me judging you. Honestly, I don’t blame you for not wanting her around. It would be a constant reminder of everything you went through growing up.”

You think about his words for so long, he draws his hand away and starts working on his pancakes again. He’s partly right about why you don’t like spending time with your mom, or even thinking about her. Yes, she’s a reminder of your childhood, which you’d mostly like to forget. But more, she’s a reminder that you were never good enough for her, never what she wanted. She didn’t love you, and you’ve never stopped questioning why that was, asking what was wrong with you. And wondering if she was right, if you aren’t worth loving.

For some reason, you suddenly think of your conversation with Chelsea on Friday, and her easy dismissal of your chances with Yoongi. Did she see the same thing your mom saw? That you’re the kind of person who can’t be loved, who isn’t worth it?

You sigh, shoving your plate away. You don’t want to let thoughts of your mom ruin your last couple hours with Yoongi, and you won’t let your insecurities get in the way either. “Let’s talk about something happier,” you beg.

“Let’s talk about our vacation,” Yoongi suggests, and you immediately perk up. You spent Saturday thinking of more places you’d like to visit, and now you start enumerating them. India and Morocco are still on the list, along with Spain, Great Britain, and Brazil. Actually, you’re leaning towards Brazil quite a bit, after viewing photos of the country’s stunning coastlines. You definitely have a yen for the sea.

“I don’t think you got enough of the ocean when we were in L.A.” Yoongi continues. “Why don’t we go somewhere with a beach?”

You beam at him. He always seems to know what you’re thinking. Or maybe he just knows you too well, by now. And he still loves you. Even if you don’t understand why, knowing he cares takes some of the sting out of your earlier thoughts about your mom, and Chelsea. And knowing he cares enough to go to a beach with you makes you even happier. You’ve learned he’s not in love with water, so you appreciate him choosing something he doesn’t care for, just because you want it. Just for that, you’re determined to find the best beach out there, one that will convert Yoongi to being a fan. Of course, ‘beach’ doesn’t help you narrow it down too much. Brazil would work. But Spain has beaches, too. “I still can’t decide,” you tell him, and he laughs.

“How about the Caribbean?” he asks. “I’ve never been. There are so many islands. They must have some good coastlines, and they probably have other things to do as well. I’m not going to want to spend every day on the beach.”

You have a sudden idea, thinking of an article you read recently. Maybe instead of taking him to the best beach, you can make sure he has plenty of other things to entertain him during the trip. “What about Costa Rica?” you suggest. “They’ve got some beautiful parks and nature reserves. We’d have so much to do there.”

“I’ve never been there,” Yoongi agrees. “I like it.” Then he nods at your plate, grinning. “Are you going to finish your bacon?”

“It’s all yours.” You watch as Yoongi snags the last slice and begins munching on it, eyes closing in bliss. Smiling, you pull your phone back out and start searching for the best places to stay in Costa Rica.

“Look at this one,” you command, sliding your phone across the table so Yoongi can check out some fancy resort you found. “It looks gorgeous. Maybe too expensive, though,” you add, remembering your finances. Yoongi glances up at you.

“I can pay for the trip,” he offers, but you immediately shake your head.

“I’ll pay my share,” you tell him. “As long as we don’t go crazy.”

Yoongi frowns slightly. “What if I want to go crazy?”

“Ok, we can be a little extravagant. I shouldn’t have to spend anything on plane tickets; I still have credit from canceling my trip to Seoul this spring. That’ll give me more money for a hotel or resort.”

“Let me pay for that part, at least,” he urges. “I didn’t get you a birthday present. Let me find a place to stay. I’ll get something good and surprise you.”

You grin. He really likes surprises. “You find the room, and let me pay for meals,” you bargain, and Yoongi agrees. During the walk home from the diner, you entertain him by reading out all the things you can do in Costa Rica. And when you drive him back to his hotel, you’re both still talking about the vacation. His good-bye kiss is more casual than usual, but you don’t mind, since you’ll get to see him again in only a couple more weeks. You head home, happy and excited for the trip. You don’t even think about calling your mom back. When you finally do remember her phone call, you shrug it off, recalling what Yoongi said. You have no reason to be a good daughter. You’d rather spend your time and energy on people who actually care about you.

Chapter Text

A couple days later, you regret not answering the phone when your mom called. If you’d picked up, maybe you wouldn’t be in a hospital right now, wrestling with discharge papers and invoices.

“But she has insurance,” you explain again to the administrator who’s just trying to take your money and get rid of you.

“I understand,” the administrator says, with thinly veiled patience. “But it doesn’t cover overnight stays. If you can’t pay the full amount, you need to pay at least this much now.” She reaches over and expertly swirls her pen in a circle around a figure. Though it’s only a quarter of the total cost, it’s still enough that you can feel your Costa Rican vacation slipping away. You’ll be completely broke after this.

But it can’t be helped. Reluctantly you hand over your debit card, and the administrator processes the payment while already talking to the next person in line. In moments, she’s handing over your card and paperwork and shooing you aside. Shoving everything into your purse, you cross the lobby to your mom, who’s sitting huddled in a chair near the door.

“Are you ready to go?” you ask, and she nods, slinking to her feet without looking at you. She follows a step behind as you hike through the parking lot. When you’re both seated in the car, you turn to her, waiting to see if she’ll say something. A ‘thank you’ feels like too much to hope for, but it’d be nice if she could at least acknowledge that you’re here for her. But no. She just sits there, hunched into herself, staring fixedly out the window. You study her, noting how frail she looks. She’s been far too thin for a while, but now she’s practically skeletal.

“Are you hungry?” you ask gently, and she shrugs.

“I could eat.” She mumbles the words, still not looking at you, and you sigh as you start the car.

“Where to?”

Your mom chooses Wendy’s, saying there’s one around the corner from her apartment. She’s silent on the drive, at least until you pull into the drive-through.

“Aren’t we going inside?” she asks, finally sparing you a brief glance. “Or are you ashamed to be seen with me?”

There’s a hard bite in her voice now, a note that still sends chills down your spine as it evokes some of her scarier treatment of you when you were young. You remind yourself that she can’t bully you anymore.

“I just don’t want to take the time,” you say, rolling down your window. “Now, tell me what you want.”

Your mom relays the order, glaring at you. You’re not sure why she’s so angry. You spent hours working out her hospital mess, you paid her bill, and now you’re buying her lunch. But she continues to regard you coldly as you pull around to the window and pay.

“I guess you’ve got better things to do than spend time with your mother,” she accuses as you wait for the food. This is so ludicrous that you laugh.

“Yes, I do, actually,” you bite back. “I have a job, you know. That I had to leave, so I could pick you up. I need to get back to it.”

“Oh, of course,” she taunts. “You’re so important, what would they ever do without you?”

You kick yourself for letting her engage you like this. Her words sting more than they should; it’s true that too much of your self-esteem has been wrapped up in the work you do for the Clary Foundation. You know they can get along without you, but you like to think they’d miss you pretty sorely if you ever leave.

“Were you working on Sunday?” your mom throws out. “Is that why you wouldn’t answer the phone? When I needed you to take me to the hospital, because I was dying?”

Fortunately, the food is handed through the drive-through window just then, and you lean out to grab the bag, glad to have a moment to get your temper back in check.

“You weren’t dying,” you say calmly, handing over the lunch. “You heard the doctor. You need to stop drinking, and then you won’t feel so sick in the mornings. And I wasn’t working on Sunday. I was just with someone.”

“A man?” she asks, and you press your lips together, wondering at how adeptly she arrived at that conclusion. “So you have a boyfriend now? One more thing to lord over me, to show how much better you are, right? With your fancy college education and your fancy job and your car and your boyfriend.”

“You could have had all those things,” you begin, but she cuts you off.

“No, I couldn’t,” she states, and there’s a triumphant ring in her voice, like you’ve finally worked down to the root of all her problems. “I couldn’t, because I had you instead. You ruined my chances for everything else.”

You turn the corner onto her block and ease your car to the curb before turning to your mom.

“You still could have had them,” you say, and your voice is just as cold as hers now. “It was always your own fault you didn’t, not mine.”

Her nostrils flare in anger, but she doesn’t say another word. She turns away instead, shoving out of the car and slamming the door behind her. She’s almost to the entrance of the apartment building before you realize she left her lunch in the car, but you don’t bother running after her with the bag. She probably wouldn’t eat it anyway. It doesn’t look like she eats much of anything these days.

You pull away from the curb again, but you curse as your vision blurs slightly. At the first stop sign, you pause to swipe angrily at the tears that have formed in your eyes. You’re not sure why you’re so upset; none of this is new to you. Your mom has said all the same things countless times before. Over time, you’ve built up a protective wall around your psyche, to shelter yourself from her, and from anyone who might attack you. For years, you’ve been able to deflect her anger and insults, but for some reason, the words penetrated today.

You suspect it has something to do with meeting Yoongi. He didn’t notice your carefully constructed wall, or else he ignored it, or climbed over it, or found a door and opened it. Somehow, he reached you. And ever since you met him, you feel like you’ve been slowly dismantling your protections, letting him have all the access he wants.

Whatever you’ve done to let him in, it means your mom has more access, too, making it easier for her to hurt you.

Shaking it off, you start driving again, heading back to your office. To distract yourself, you think about the slightly less stressful problem of your finances. You barely had enough money in your savings account to cover the cost of a trip with Yoongi, and now you’ve spent most of that on the hospital bill. You hate the idea of canceling, though. You’ll just have to put the expenses on your credit card, and pay them off later.

*****

A week later, Yoongi tells you Big Hit might cancel their break if they can’t wrap up the Japanese album fast enough. You’re way too disappointed, even though that would solve your current financial woes. But apparently, the threat of losing the vacation is enough motivation for Bangtan to finish their work. The next time Yoongi talks to you, he confirms the album is finished and the trip is still on. He’s just booked a place to stay for the week, and while he teases you with the details, he won’t give you a resort name or address just yet, preferring to let you be surprised once you get to Costa Rica. You book a flight to San José, fortunately with the same airline where you already had a credit.

You’ll be gone long enough you have to ask Hannah to water your plants. When she comes over to pick up a key, the night before you leave, she peppers you with questions about your trip. You never told her about your November visit to Korea, of course, and now she’s clearly suspicious of your sudden decision to be a world traveler. She especially can’t believe you’d want to go anywhere by yourself, and it takes a while to convince her you don’t mind being alone.

“I guess some people just like traveling solo,” she finally concedes. “I mean, look at BTS,” she adds, and you stiffen in alarm, wondering why she’s mentioning them. “Namjoon just headed off to Egypt on his own,” Hannah continues. “And last year he toured around Europe, and Jimin went to Paris, and Yoongi was in California.”

She’s busily ticking off the members’ various solo trips on her hand, and you relax a little. But you make a mental note to warn Yoongi not to make any public announcements about visiting Costa Rica. Hannah is way too informed about Bangtan’s whereabouts, and if she finds out you and Yoongi are in the same place at the same time, she’ll definitely think something is up.

After she leaves, you finish packing, double checking your lists to make sure you didn’t forget anything. Then you fall into bed, fatigued, but excited about the upcoming week, and the combined pleasures of Yoongi, the beach, and a new country to explore. You can’t shake the lingering hurt you felt after your encounter with your mom. You need an escape.

The next day’s travel is exhausting, first a long flight to San José, then what feels like an even longer bus ride to the coast, and finally a taxi from the town where the bus dropped you to the much tinier village where you’re staying. You’re relieved when the taxi driver recognizes the name of the estate, so you don’t have to test your rusty Spanish by giving him detailed directions. You plug the address into your phone so you can keep an eye on his route, but he stays on track long enough that you finally stop paying attention, too caught up in the view.

The road you’re on hugs the coastline, and you drink in the sight of the ocean, already itching to get near it, to hear the crash of the waves on the beach, taste the salt in the air. As the sun dips closer to the horizon, slowly staining orange and pink across the sky, you lean your cheek against your hand, mesmerized. It looks like the video for Eight, the absolutely gorgeous song Yoongi just released with IU. You watched the video, and listened to the song, so many times on the plane. Now it feels like you’re driving right into the world IU created, full of dragons and cloud islands.

You only wake up from your trance when the road suddenly dips into a patch of jungle, emerging a minute later in front of a small collection of homes and buildings. You glance at your map again as the driver navigates the narrow streets, slowing to avoid the villagers, or tourists, that occasionally stroll across the road. He eventually turns down a side street, a graveled road that winds down a hill before straightening into a cul de sac. The driver is practically crawling by now, peering through the window at a row of cottages or bungalows spaced about 50 feet apart from each other on one side of the road. Jungle hugs the other side, and you gasp as a couple of monkeys suddenly dart across the road from the yard of one cottage into the safety of the trees. The driver stops at the end of the street and turns to nod at you. You get out of the car, stretching lightly as you examine the bungalow in front of you, a small squat structure painted bright blue, with wooden shutters and a clay tile roof. A sandy path runs through palms and other trees from the road to the front door, which is standing open.

You check the address against the text Yoongi sent, hesitant to let the taxi go if you aren’t in the right place. But everything seems correct, so you pay the driver and hoist your bag to your shoulder for the quick hike to the cottage.

“Yoongi?” you call softly as you enter, hesitating on the hearth. The entryway seems to be a miniscule kitchen, with a bathroom on the left, but you can see part of a larger room beyond.

“Y/N,” Yoongi’s voice greets you, and you grin, dropping your bag and starting forward, happy to be where you’re supposed to be, and happy to see him again. He meets you at the edge of the kitchen, leaning in for a kiss, but you freeze, gazing at him in awe.

His hair is black.

Ok, damn.

You’re not sure you can handle this.

“Y/N?” He asks, sounding slightly concerned. Your eyes flicker briefly to his, but almost immediately return to his hair. One hand stretches out almost wonderingly, but you pause before touching him.

“What’s wrong?” Yoongi tries, and you glance at him again.

“Your hair…” you breathe, and he looks baffled, his own hand raising tentatively to touch at it. Slowly, you edge around him, wanting to see how he looks from all angles.

“Ok, what’s wrong with my hair?” Yoongi asks, side-eyeing you like you’ve lost your mind. And maybe you have. You feel a little lightheaded.

“Nothing’s wrong, it’s…oh my god, you were already beautiful, but this is a whole new level of gorgeous.” You’ve completed your circuit of him, and now when you meet his eyes again you hold them. He looks embarrassed.

“It’s just my natural hair color,” he mutters, scratching at the back of his neck. “I thought you liked the blonde.”

“I did like it. But I like this even more.”

He’s starting to smirk now, and again he shifts towards you, touching his mouth softly to yours in a welcoming kiss. But when he deepens it, you pull back, wanting to get another glimpse of him.

“What are you doing?” he sighs.

“I just want to keep looking at you,” you plead, and he rolls his eyes. “Seriously. You look like the Blood, Sweat, and Tears video. Which is my favorite video because you are so, so sexy in it.”

“You’re weird,” he comments, but he’s smiling again. You’ve reached up to stroke tentatively at his hair, letting your fingers fan through the silky strands. Yoongi leans into your touch, his eyes closing. “But you can be weird all you want if you just keep doing that.”

You tighten your grip, smiling as Yoongi lowers his forehead to your shoulder, groaning softly. The hair on his neck and behind his ears is buzzed shorter than you’ve ever seen it, and you brush your fingertips over the velvety softness.

“Mmm, yeah, rub my neck,” he murmurs into your shirt. “I slept funny on the plane and now it hurts.”

You break into laughter, hugging him close to you. He may have just gotten exponentially hotter, but he’s still himself.

*****

It takes a few hours for you to get your fill of Yoongi with black hair, and to finally take a look at the place he’s rented. Aside from the kitchenette and bathroom you passed on your way in, the bungalow is just one room, a combination bedroom and sitting area. The space is small, but airy, with the wooden shutters over the windows letting delicious ocean breezes circulate. The shutters match the dark wood beams that span a vaulted ceiling. The only furniture is a wooden table and two chairs, a futon piled with throw pillows, and a bed with more delicate pillows and an elaborate mosquito netting draped around it. The kitchen is sparely equipped too, but the bathroom is luxurious, with a huge shower, a jacuzzi tub, and a sink housed in some kind of fancy wooden dresser. The bathroom walls are tiled in a riot of colors, a contrast to the stark white of the rest of the cottage.

As you explore the small space, padding on bare feet over cool brown tiles, you keep feeling the grit of sand under your toes. And when Yoongi opens the slatted wooden doors at the back of the house, you see why. The two of you step onto a covered deck that juts like a dock into a sea of sand. You gasp as you spot the ocean not even a hundred feet away. You can see the gleam of breakers in the moonlight, and fully hear the pound of the surf that had only been a hypnotic background noise while you were still inside. You turn to Yoongi, practically trembling in ecstasy.

“How did you find this?” you ask, and he grins at your pleasure.

“It wasn’t hard,” he shrugs. “There are a lot of beachfront resorts along the coast here. I wanted something fairly private, so that narrowed it down. This town has a couple hotels, but it’s not supposed to be so full of tourists as some of the bigger places.”

You survey the expanse of white sand between you and the water’s edge. It’s certainly private; there’s not a soul in sight. “Come on, let’s go down there,” you beg. You take off without waiting for an answer, hopping down the couple of steps into the sand and jogging towards the beach. When you reach the water, you splash right in, relishing the feel of the wavelets lapping around your ankles, and the squelch of wet sand between your toes. The moon above is just a crescent, barely bright enough to illuminate the sea, and beyond the breakers is a vast, black emptiness. You can only tell where the ocean ends and the sky begins by the dim pinprick of stars on the horizon. But the dark stretch of sea doesn’t seem empty at all; rather, the roar of sound and the constant tug of water against your legs give you the impression of something alive.

It’s a little scary, and you turn to look for Yoongi, furrowing your brow when you see he’s only just leaving the deck. He takes his time padding over the sand to you, and he stops well shy of the high-water mark. You realize what delayed him when he unfurls a blanket and spreads it on the ground. When he sits down, you trot happily out of the water to join him, though you’re careful to keep your wet, sand-caked feet well away from both the blanket and Yoongi.

“This is perfect,” you tell him. “I love the ocean.”

“I know,” he says smugly. “It’s practically all you talked about in L.A.”

“This is so much better, though. The beaches in L.A. were too crowded, even in the winter. And I went swimming there, but it was a little cold. The water here feels warmer.”

Yoongi looks doubtful, and you remember his aversion to cold. You hope you’ll be able to persuade him into the sea at least once during the trip.

“The view is nice,” Yoongi says. “I came out here before you arrived, and the sun was close to setting. It was a real picture.”

“I saw a little from the taxi,” you tell him. “I can’t wait to watch the sunset right here on the beach.”

He smiles at you, and he’s so beautiful you forget about the view. His skin is practically glowing, even in the dim light, and his newly black hair and the dark crescents of his eyes provide a haunting contrast.

“The house is a little bare, though,” Yoongi says seriously, and you look at him in confusion.

“What?” you ask, still distracted by the lights gleaming deep in his eyes, and the curve of his perfect lips. Those lips stretch even wider in amusement.

“The beach is good, but the house isn’t much. I was hoping it would be a little nicer for you.”

“I think it’s great!” you reassure him. “Didn’t you see the bathroom? We’re so taking a dip in that whirlpool tub.”

“There’s no television,” he laments, and you groan.

“Who watches TV on their vacation? We’ll have plenty of other things to do. I was reading about all the parks around here. So many of them have volcanoes! We have to visit at least one. And there’s this nature reserve where you can hike through a cloud forest, one of the rarest types of jungle. You can even take a treetop tour! That’s at the top of my list. And look at these stars!” You throw your head back, and your arms out in a sweeping gesture that doesn’t come close to encompassing the night sky above you. “They’re never this bright in Chicago!”

“Or in Seoul,” Yoongi agrees, tipping his head back. “Too much light pollution.”

“So,” you continue, allowing yourself to fall back on the blanket so you can see better, “who needs TV when you’ve got this?”

Yoongi smiles over his shoulder at you for a moment before gingerly lying down too. You turn to watch the way his nose scrunches in determination as he wiggles his shoulders and butt, trying to mold the sand underneath the blanket into a more comfortable landscape. When he’s satisfied, he returns his attention to the heavens, and you watch as his eyes roam across the skies and his lips part slightly in pleasure.

Really, who needs TV when you’ve got Yoongi to look at?

You lie that way for a while, with Yoongi searching for constellations and pointing them out, and you admiring him more than you do the stars, until he finally turns his head and catches you staring. You try to hide it by resting your head against his shoulder, and he shifts to let you mold yourself against him. It’s a little crazy, but this might be the happiest you’ve ever felt in your life. Just being here with Yoongi, it seems like none of your recent worries are important anymore. Not money, not your mom. The only thing to be concerned about is whether he still wants to tell Big Hit about you, and how they’ll react. But you don’t want to think about that, or talk about it, this week. You’d rather just enjoy the vacation.

“It’s getting cold,” Yoongi says eventually. “Do you want to go inside?”

You’re ready; the warm contentment of being with him and the rhythmic noise of the waves on the beach have combined to lull you into a slumbrous state. Yoongi helps you to your feet and the two of you head back into the cottage. While you’re preparing for bed, you’re surprised to see Yoongi opening up his laptop at the table in the corner.

“I have to do some work,” he explains, and you frown. You wanted to get right back to cuddling with him under the covers. Yoongi winces at your expression.

“I’ll probably have to put in a few hours most nights we’re here,” he apologizes. “I didn’t really finish some things I was working on before the break.”

“It’s ok,” you tell him, shaking off your disappointment. You’ll still get plenty of moments with Yoongi this week. You crawl into bed, making him laugh as you struggle with the unfamiliar mosquito net, playing it up for comedic value. When you’re finally situated, you shoot him a good night smile, but his attention has already been drawn back to the computer screen. You curl against a couple of pillows and try not to let it bother you.

*****

The next morning, Yoongi discovers there’s no coffee machine in the cottage’s small kitchen. Since he finds this even more horrifying than no TV, the two of you immediately walk into the small town in search of breakfast (read: coffee). You explore a bit, noting a handful of restaurants and cafes strung along the town’s shore road, most with outdoor seating and views of the nearby public beach. You choose one that isn’t too crowded and find seats on a shaded patio. When your server brings menus, you manage to order coffee in Spanish. Then you puzzle over the breakfast options. None of the dishes are familiar to you or Yoongi, so when the server comes back, you ask him to recommend something. The breakfasts that arrive shortly later are some combination of eggs, rice, beans, and fried plantain. You eat happily, watching your fellow patio occupants, and a handful of early beach-goers already splashing in the ocean or arranging towels on the sand for a day of sunbathing.

“I didn’t pack sunblock,” Yoongi says suddenly, obviously reminded by the bathers. “Before we leave, can you ask if there’s a grocery store nearby? I’ll pick up some sunblock, and we should buy food for the week, so we can snack if we don’t feel like going out.”

As you pay the bill, you get directions to a market a couple of streets inland. As you navigate there, you pass a central courtyard that’s blocked off from traffic. Two restaurants flank the open space, both with outdoor tables and chairs crowded in front of their windows. A chalked sign in front of one advertises live music and salsa and merengue dancing Thursday through Saturday nights. You translate for Yoongi, bouncing in excitement at the prospect of dancing with him.

“We could have done this last night! We have to go next weekend,” you implore him, but he doesn’t match your enthusiasm. You’re starting to worry that he might not enjoy this vacation as much as you will. He’s stuck in a house with no coffee or TV, with work that’s pressing enough it can’t wait until he gets home, and with a girlfriend who wants to drag him out for swimming and dancing, two of his least favorite things. At least he seemed excited about the volcanoes you mentioned last night, and surprisingly, about a snorkeling excursion. You’ll just have to load up the week with plenty of day trips to keep him happy.

At the market, you get sidetracked in the produce section, looking up at least half a dozen fruits that you’ve never seen in Chicago. When you’ve finally made your selection, you find Yoongi at the back of the store, examining a coffee machine he found in a small housewares section.

“Let’s get this, and some of the local coffee,” he suggests.

“Or we could just buy some cold-brew,” you counter. “I saw drink coolers up front. I mean, do you really want to drag a whole coffee machine back to Seoul in your luggage?”

“Of course not. I’ll leave it in the cottage for the next poor, caffeine-addicted tourist. It’s not like it’s expensive. Actually,” he adds, peering at the price sticker. “I have no idea how much it costs. Twelve thousand? Twelve thousand what?”

“Colón,” you tell him.

“What is that in won, do you know?”

You don’t even know what it is in dollars. You resort to your phone again, looking up 3-way colón-won-dollar conversions until you both have a general idea of what kind of money you’re spending. Satisfied with the price, Yoongi firmly stashes the coffee pot in his basket and marches away to the next aisle to select coffee. You trail after him, glad he’s solving at least one of the bungalow’s deficiencies. You just hope he doesn’t pick out a TV next. When you think about it, it seems like this whole vacation is more for you than for him; you’re the one who picked the destination, and you’re the one who loves the beach. You hate taking up so much of his valuable time for a trip he’s not even going to enjoy. For you, just being with him is enough, no matter where you are, but you’re not sure if he feels the same. Refrains of your mom’s criticisms whisper through your head, reminding you that you aren’t worth anybody’s time, that you’re more of a burden than anything.

Ugh, you shouldn’t be entertaining thoughts like that. If Yoongi really didn’t want to be here, he wouldn’t have agreed to the trip, right? Sighing, you direct your attention back to the groceries, helping Yoongi choose some snacks and breakfast items for the rest of the week.

On Monday, you take a day trip to Volcán Poás National Park, where you’re as awed by Yoongi’s knowledge of geology as you are by the actual volcanoes. He admits he did some research before the trip, which pleases you since it proves he really has been excited about at least parts of Costa Rica. Tuesday, Yoongi takes you snorkeling, and you immediately realize why he likes it so much, even though it’s in the water. You swim with him several feet under the surface, surrounded by jewel-like fish darting in and out of a maze of coral. You see starfish, tiny sharks, and even a stingray at one point. Afterwards, you can’t stop talking about how beautiful it was, and it’s Yoongi’s turn to be pleased by your reaction.

On Wednesday, you visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve, the place you’ve most looked forward to seeing. And it doesn’t disappoint. You hike a long trail through the reserve, crossing numerous suspended bridges, each one offering more stunning views than the last. Between bridges, you wander under moss-laden branches, feeling completely isolated by the thick undergrowth and the drifting mist. Yoongi can’t stop taking pictures, and you join him, adding to the already impressive collection of shots you’ve taken of the ocean and the volcanoes in the last couple days. You’ve gotten some pretty impressive photos of Yoongi too; you still can’t get over how gorgeous he looks with black hair.

After the hike, you visit the reserve’s butterfly garden, and finally end with a treetop climbing tour.

Yoongi doesn’t love the climbing, and on the way home you listen as he provides a dramatized account of all the times he almost died during the hour-long tour. You didn’t personally see him in danger of suffering anything more serious than a bruised knee, but you humor him. Yoongi has a gift for turning whining into peak comedy. You don’t know if it’s something he’s cultivated during his years in the entertainment business, or a natural talent, but either way, you love it. By the time you get back to the cottage, he’s given up on trying to get any sympathy out of you, seeing as you’ve been dying of laughter for the last ten minutes.

“Do you want to go out for dinner?” you ask, after you’ve both showered and changed. You’ve walked into town every night you’ve been here, choosing a different restaurant to try each time. You’ll linger over dinner and drinks as you people-watch, or listen to the live music that seems to accompany every evening in this small town. Afterwards, you’ll walk home along the beach, and Yoongi holds your hand, something he never does when you’re out in public together. But this place is so sleepy and out-of-the-way, despite the tourists, that neither of you feel the need to be careful.

To you, it feels like paradise, and you’re looking forward to spending another evening in the same fashion. But Yoongi is still in a mood, apparently. He throws himself down on the bed with a groan.

“I don’t want to walk anymore. Do you think we can find someplace that delivers?”

You’re doubtful about that; you definitely haven’t noticed any pizza joints around town. But you pull out your phone to do a search, sitting down absently next to Yoongi as you try to decipher the Spanish.

“I don’t think we’re going to have any luck with delivery,” you finally say. “But I can go get something and bring it back. Do you have work to do tonight? You can get some of it done while I’m gone.”

You turn to look at Yoongi, and he smiles at you. He’s mentioned more than once that he appreciates you letting Big Hit take up his time during your vacation together.

“I think I can take tonight off,” he says. “Let’s go out. I don’t want you going on your own, just to get me food.”

“But if you’re tired,” you begin, only to have Yoongi shush you.

“Oh my god, I’ll live,” he says, like you’re the one who’s been making all the fuss. You roll your eyes as he jumps up, pulling you with him. “Come on, let’s go to one of those restaurants in the center of town. We haven’t tried either of them yet and they look like the nicest places.”

“They won’t have dancing until tomorrow,” you remind him as he drags you out the door.

“I was hoping you’d forget about that,” he says, grinning. “But it’s ok. We can go to one place tonight and one tomorrow or Friday.”

“Deal,” you agree happily.

*****

The restaurant you choose is indeed the fanciest one you’ve visited this week. You enjoy an excellent meal, and a few delicious cocktails. Yoongi even approves of the whiskey selection. At the end of the night, as you wait for the server to bring your credit card receipt, you’re completely happy, already looking forward to the walk home on the beach, and to talking Yoongi into bed afterwards.

“Perdóneme, senorita.”

Startled, you look up to find the server hovering with an apologetic expression on her face.

“La tarjeta de crédito fue rechazada,” she murmurs. You don’t quite catch the meaning, but as she holds out the little payment folder and you see the angry red words on the receipt, you understand. You’d handed her your debit card out of habit, but there’s not enough money in your bank account to cover the bill. Quickly, you dig out the credit card you’d intended to use and pass it over, murmuring your apologies in Spanish.

“What’s wrong?” Yoongi asks, as soon as the server leaves again.

“I just gave her the wrong card,” you explain, trying not to make an issue of it. You’re embarrassed to be in this situation. “I withdrew some cash for the trip, and I didn’t leave much in my bank account. I’ve been paying for things with my credit card when I can.”

“Y/N, you don’t have to go into debt to buy me dinner,” he says, sounding exasperated. “Let me pay for some more things.”

“No, we made a deal, right? You pay for lodging and I pay for food.”

“Well, I’m renegotiating. I’ll buy the rest of our meals this week.”

“You don’t have to do that,” you object. “I can pay the credit card in the next month or so. I wouldn’t even have needed it, but I had to take care of some hospital bills for my mom, and that kind of wiped me out.”

“Your mom was in the hospital?” Yoongi asks in concern. “Is she ok?”

“She was fine. She just felt sick, but it wasn’t a big deal. She’s back at home now.”

“It’s still scary. Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine, too,” you say shortly. You don’t want to talk about it. Your guilty secret is that you were more upset about having to pay the hospital bill than you were about your mom’s health. You can’t possibly admit that to Yoongi; he’d be disappointed, or disgusted, or both, at how callous you are. To emphasize that the conversation is over, you busy yourself with signing the new credit card receipt the server brings, and then you stand up, ready to leave.

Yoongi doesn’t drop it though. Once you’re outside, walking towards the beach, he takes your hand and tugs you close against his side.

“You can tell me these things, you know,” he says mildly, and you glance at him, puzzled. “If your mom gets sick, or if you’re worried about money.”

“I don’t want to burden you,” you admit. “You’ve already got your own worries.”

“Yeah, and you listen when I’m complaining about all of them! You should let me return the favor.”

“I know, but none of this is a big deal. Really. Money’s not an issue, and my mom is ok. Or as ok as she’ll ever be.”

Yoongi is watching you, a doubtful look on his face. But he finally sighs and turns his attention back to where he’s walking.

“This relationship feels one-sided sometimes,” he grumbles, and you nearly stop dead in shock. Is he finally figuring out how far apart the two of you are? In circumstance, in sensibility, really, in everything? He’s wealthy, and you’re not. He’s famous, and deservedly so, while there’s not one thing about you that’s special enough to be worth a second look. More importantly, he’s unfailingly caring, thinking about you far more than you ever expect, considering everything else he has in his life. You think about him too, all the time, but you feel like it doesn’t translate into the kind of love and support he deserves. Seriously, you didn’t even remember your anniversary last month. How will he know how much you value him, when you can’t keep track of something so basic?

You feel cold, suddenly, even with Yoongi walking practically shoulder to shoulder with you. Maybe he hasn’t breached your walls as completely as you thought. Maybe he’s tunneling underneath, and he’s only halfway there. Maybe he’s getting tired of digging.

You’re both quiet for the rest of the walk. When you get to the bungalow, you watch Yoongi carefully, looking for some sign that he’s regretting being here with you. But he seems his usual self. He doesn’t even turn on his laptop, giving you his full attention instead. Eventually you relax, too.

*****

You spend most of the next day lazing around in bed, relaxing after the concentrated sight-seeing of the last few days. In the late afternoon, Yoongi gets a call from Big Hit, which immediately sucks him back into work mode. He’s on the phone so long that you don your bikini and head down to the beach for a swim. When you get back, he’s still talking, and also busily working on his laptop, so you take a shower and get dressed, choosing the nicest sundress and sandals you packed. You’ve insisted on going to the salsa dancing tonight, to watch, and hopefully participate if you can persuade Yoongi.

He's still on the phone when you come back into the sitting room, but he signals he’s almost finished. You head out to the deck and settle into one of the lounge chairs, pulling out your phone to scroll through Twitter. But Yoongi follows you almost immediately, carrying his laptop and perching on the other chair, facing you. He looks contemplative, and a hint worried, and you’re suddenly afraid he’ll tell you he has to keep working through the evening. But what he says surprises you.

“Can I play something for you?” he asks, a little shyly. “A song I’ve been working on recently?”

When you nod, intrigued, he fiddles briefly on his laptop before setting it down on the table next to you. He glances up once more, a serious expression on his face. “I’ve been talking to Big Hit about my mixtape,” he explains. “I submitted the final songs for review the night before last, and they’re really pleased.”

“Oh Yoongi, that’s fantastic!” You can’t believe he’s finally so close to finishing the album. No wonder he’s been so busy this week. “Is this one of the songs you submitted?” you ask, gesturing at the laptop. He shakes his head.

“Not this one, no. I thought about adding it, but it didn’t fit with the theme I wanted. The mixtape is about the kind of person I’ve grown into over the past few years. This song is more about the kind of person I want to be in the future. The growing I still have in front of me.”

“Ok,” you say nervously, wondering what kind of future Yoongi envisions for himself. He doesn’t give you much time to speculate, immediately tapping at his keyboard to start the song. You tilt your head towards the speakers, listening intently as the first notes drift out. The melody is beautiful. Some phrases are in English, and you can even understand a few of the Korean lyrics. The song seems to be about him wanting something, and his vocals, the bass line, and a hint of strings create a palpable atmosphere of yearning. You turn to him at the end, and he smiles at the tears in your eyes.

“Will you tell me the words?” you ask. “I could only understand a little. I feel like I should have a reason for crying. I mean, aside from the music itself being so emotional.”

“It’s not really a sad song,” Yoongi explains. “But it’s ok to cry over just the music. That’s a good thing.”

“But what does it mean?” you beg. “Do you have the lyrics written down somewhere? In English?”

“No, but I can tell you the words, more or less.”

And he does tell you, translating as you listen a second time. You bow your head, straining all your attention towards the meaning behind the words, and by the end, you’re ready to cry again.

Because the song is about you.

You have no doubt of it; some of the lyrics are similar to things Yoongi has said to you before. In the song, he’s rapping about having a lifelong passion, a love so strong it can’t be ignored, but must be pursued, with single-minded purpose. At least, until an equally strong love develops for something else. Something that also has to be chased, even if it means wandering from that purposeful path, heading towards a destination that’s not clear or defined.

The yearning comes from wanting both destinations, and only being able to choose one. He doesn’t want to make a choice, doesn’t want to have to choose, but there’s an underlying knowledge in the lyrics that he’ll need to. And worse, an urgency, an acknowledgment that the choice will come soon. The song ends on that note of uncertainty, of wondering when he’ll have to give up one of his loves.

You can barely breathe. The song is frightening, on so many levels. You know that he loves you, but this, this is putting his feelings on a different plane, one comparable to his art, to his greatest desire. And that’s terrifying, because you don’t understand how you could possibly deserve that comparison. No one else has ever loved you like that before. Even your mom couldn’t find a way to love you, and if she couldn’t give you what should have come naturally, then how can someone like Yoongi do it?

Even more frightening, the lyrics are an admission that he knows this, that someday soon what you have with him will come to an end. Because of course he’ll always love, and need, his music more than you. He’ll choose BTS, because he has to. It would be impossible to turn his back on something so enormous, even for someone great enough to deserve his love. He certainly won’t make that choice for someone like you.

You realize the song has ended, and Yoongi is waiting for your reaction. But you keep your head down, fighting against the tears that still well, despite your efforts to stop them. Finally, Yoongi says your name, and you look at him.

“You said once that I don’t have to be afraid of you,” you accuse him, but softly. “That’s not true. How can I not be scared, after that?”

Concern creeps into his eyes, and he reaches out for you. But you resist letting him pull you into his embrace, and he settles for running his hands down your arms to clasp your hands.

“Why does the song scare you?” he asks, sounding a little hurt. “I wrote it for you. I wanted you to see how I feel about our relationship.”

“I do see!” you say, your voice too shrill. “You see it as a choice to make. And of course I know what that choice will be. You’ll choose BTS.”

“Y/N, no,” Yoongi protests. “That’s not what the song is about. It’s about growing, and expanding, and making room in my life for more than one passion. Working towards more than one dream.”

“But that’s not the reality, is it,” you argue, thinking again of the song’s ending. “The reality is that one day, you’ll have to make the choice, just like you said in the song, and you and I will be over. Is that why you won’t tell Big Hit? You know they’ll make you choose?”

You’re pretty sure you’re about 30 seconds away from sobbing outright. You try to pull your hands from Yoongi’s, ready to get up and go inside, maybe closet yourself in the bathroom until you can calm down. But he doesn’t let you go. His hands twine more tightly around yours, and he pushes them against your thighs, his weight holding you in place.

“Y/N, look at me,” he commands, and after a moment, you do, tears be damned. “I haven’t lied about Big Hit, or about my intention to tell them about us. Yes, I’m worried about how they’ll react, and some of that emotion is in the song. But I think when I tell them that I love you, they’ll accept it.”

“But you don’t know!” you insist. “Even if they’re ok with you dating, they won’t want you to be with someone like me. I don’t even know why you’re with me. You could do so much better. Even if Big Hit doesn’t make you see it, you’ll still figure it out one day and then you’ll leave.” This is just what you were afraid of last night, when he said the relationship was one-sided. He must have been thinking that for longer than you suspected, if he’s been writing a whole song about moving on.

Yoongi’s eyes have narrowed in anger. “Why do you always say that?” he demands. “Why is that your default, that I’m going to get tired of you, or break up with you? Are you still so insecure about my lifestyle? Because if you want me to be something different, I don’t know if I can.”

“I know that!” you cry. His words have loosened your tears, blurring your vision, though you still see the shock that washes over Yoongi’s face as you jerk your hands from his and stand up. “I know you can’t change, and I don’t want you to. But I thought you could make room for me, that you were at least considering it. But you’ve just been stringing me along! Oh my god, why would you do that?”

“Y/N, that’s not what I’m doing at all!” Yoongi’s voice sounds strangled with his agitation. But you can’t listen to any more right now, not while you’re crying like this. You stumble into the bungalow, making a beeline for the bathroom, shutting the door and locking it only moments before Yoongi gets there. You’ve leaned your forehead against the wood, and you feel the vibration as he tries to turn the knob. When it doesn’t give, he thumps on the door instead. “Y/N?” he calls. “Don’t shut me out. We need to talk about this.”

You back away, until you bump into the huge sink. Fumbling at the faucet, you turn on the water to provide an excuse for not answering. The door rattles softly again. “Y/N, please come out. You’re getting upset about nothing.”

Hot tears spill down your cheeks again. That’s the kind of thing people say during a break-up. You look around at the tiled walls, remembering how much fun you had exploring this very room last weekend. You were so excited to have a vacation with Yoongi. Was that why he proposed it? To give you a few more happy memories with him before he dumps you? Sort of like granting a last meal to a prisoner on death row?

Maybe he did talk to Big Hit before the break, like he’d originally planned. Maybe one of your worst-case scenarios came true, and they threatened Yoongi with all sorts of terrible things if he didn’t end the relationship. He might have bargained for one more week with you, one last opportunity to be together before it’s all over.

At that thought, you sink to the floor in anguish, lowering your head into your hands and truly sobbing. You’re vaguely aware of the door shaking again, harder than before. “Y/N,” Yoongi says desperately. “Will you please open the door? I can’t stand to hear you crying like this.”

“Then just go away,” you sob, your own voice desperate too. The last thing you want is to see him right now, when you feel absolutely gutted.

“Ok,” Yoongi finally says through the door. “I’ll be on the deck, whenever you’ve calmed down.”

You lift your head, using your palms to try to wipe at your eyes, as you listen to see if he really leaves. But you can’t hear anything, so you don’t attempt to open the door yet. You focus instead on your breathing, trying to stop the tears that keep falling. And more importantly, trying to stop your overactive imagination from fabricating too many awful, hidden meanings in Yoongi’s song, and in his subsequent words.

That part is harder, but eventually, you feel a little more stable. You realize you never turned off the sink, and you stand up to do so, splashing some cool water onto your face first. Your purse is on the counter, and you pull out your brush to try to smooth your hair down. When you’re finished, you splash a little more water on your hot cheeks, and finally touch up your lip gloss, but no matter what you do, you still look like you’ve been through some kind of war zone. You’re not sure you want to face Yoongi like this.

Actually, you don’t think you can face him at all, not if he’s going to break up with you. You need some time to prepare for that, to build up your defenses. Slipping your purse over your shoulder, you move to the door and cautiously crack it open and peer out. You don’t see Yoongi in the little kitchenette directly outside the bathroom. You don’t even hear him in the larger room beyond, so you ease the heavy wood further open and slide through the opening, heading quickly for the front entrance. Within moments you’re outside, hurrying down the sandy path, almost crying again as the door snicks shut behind you, closing you off from the happiness you thought you had, but that you never really deserved.

Chapter Text

You were right, all along. Yoongi was never going to love you enough to stay forever.

Your mom was right. You’re not worth having that kind of love from someone.

Even Chelsea was right. She only met you once, but she could see the truth.

Yoongi is just too far out of reach to be someone you can have a future with. Whatever you are to him, it’s always been temporary.

After you walked away from the cottage, you made your way through the town to the ocean. For the last hour, you’ve been sitting on a low wall that separates the street from the public beach, staring at the horizon as the sun dips into the sea. The sky is as lovely as it was the day you arrived, and you recall your musings about driving into the video for Eight. That song feels so happy, and hopeful, but in reality, it’s about loss, and grieving, trying to move past your pain. Is that going to be the metaphor for your relationship? Will Costa Rica be the beautiful package wrapped around the ashes of your failure?

You shake your head. Enough dramatics. You didn’t think to grab a sweater, and as darkness falls, the cool wind blowing in from the ocean is chilling you uncomfortably. You get up and head back into town, trying to decide if you should find someplace to spend the night. You really didn’t have a plan when you left; you were just running from a pain that seemed too immense to handle. But you’ve had some time now to sort through what happened.

Yoongi didn’t say he’s leaving. He’s probably not trying to break up with you right this second. And you’re sure he hasn’t really told Big Hit about you yet. He wouldn’t lie about that; you were just succumbing to your overactive imagination again.

But he did say the relationship is one-sided. And he said he’ll have to make a choice someday. It could be when he goes back to Seoul next week. If Yoongi tells Big Hit about you, they could force his hand. Or he could decide to keep quiet a while longer, and maybe you’ll get a few more months, even another year, before he realizes he can do better. Basically, it’s a waiting game, and the only question is how long you want to keep playing.

That thought almost has you crying again. Clearly, you’re not ready to see Yoongi yet. You open your purse to see if you have enough cash left for a hotel room, and your phone lights up accusingly, revealing a slew of notifications. You draw it out to check, but you nearly drop it in shock when you see the number of missed calls and messages from Yoongi. Even as you hold the phone, it starts to ring with another call from him. You reject it, but you feel guilty about worrying him, so you send him a brief text.

You: I’m fine. Please just leave me alone right now.

Your phone buzzes instantly with a reply.

Yoongi: Thank god Y/N, where are you?

So, he’s ignoring your request. You scan his earlier messages, noting the anger in the first ones, and the slow bleeding into concern when you don’t answer. Fuck. Now that you’ve pulled this stunt, he probably will break up with you as soon as he sees you again. You shove your phone back in your bag and continue up the main street of the town, eyes scanning desperately for a hotel. You definitely need some time to pull yourself together, and to let Yoongi cool down. But after fifteen minutes of wandering, you can’t find anything. When you see a welcoming-looking bar, you push the door open gratefully. You’ll have a drink, and ask the bartender if he knows someplace you can get a room for the night.

You end up ordering a guaro sour and a tequila shot, figuring you’ll need some extra help relaxing. When the bartender slides your drinks along the bar, you immediately down the shot. You cough slightly from the burn, but you still ask the bartender for another one. You sip on the guaro to soothe your throat as your mind runs in circles, trying to decide what to do. Even if you find a hotel for the night, you’ll still have to go back to the bungalow tomorrow or the next day, to pack your things. Maybe you could just leave them. It’s nothing but clothes, and toiletries. A few books. All replaceable. You have your passport and wallet with you in your purse; you don’t really need anything else to fly home.

And then you sigh, disgusted with yourself. Since when have you been the kind of person who runs from your problems? You have to face Yoongi, no matter what you’re afraid he’ll say to you. You just need to find your courage again. Quickly, you knock back the second tequila shot, welcoming the warmth that slowly spreads through your body as the alcohol starts to take hold. You’ll go back tonight, after all. Apologize for running away. Listen to whatever he was trying to tell you with his song. Wear your professional face. Try not to cry, even if this is the end. One more shot, and then you’ll go. You signal the bartender, and though he raises his eyebrows slightly, he reaches for the bottle of tequila again.

And then your idiot brain starts imagining what Yoongi will say to you. How kind he’ll probably be, even if he’s angry, even if he’s telling you it’s over. You don’t think the alcohol will be enough to get you through it. Nor will your professionalism. Tears suddenly flood your vision, and you lower your head to the bar and bawl. You love him so much you can’t even think about him breaking up with you without crying. How are you possibly going to hold up when he does it for real?

You struggle to calm down, knowing how pathetic it is to be sitting at a bar, alone, crying your eyes out. But before you’ve gotten yourself under control again, you feel a soft touch on your elbow. You spring to your feet, swiping the last of the tears from under your eyes, prepared to see the bartender trying to kick you out.

But it’s Yoongi. You stare at him, wide-eyed, chest still heaving from your crying jag, as he lifts a cautious, placating hand. He looks like he’s approaching a wild animal (a tiger, your mind supplies). Slowly, so gently, but ever on the alert, like he’s prepared for you to run out the door, or maybe just casually swipe your claws across his face.

You guess you deserve that.

“How did you find me?” you ask, softly, when he doesn’t say anything.

“It’s a small town,” he explains, the ghost of a smile tracing his lips. “There aren’t that many places to look.”

“Have you been looking for me all night?” you ask in amazement, and he nods.

“You scared me, running off like that. And not answering your phone. God, Y/N….” He breaks off, arresting the hand that started to reach out for you. Awkwardly, he lowers it to the bar, following it with his gaze and studying your third tequila shot.

“Have you been drinking this whole time?” he asks, still sounding worried. You sit down with a huff. He shouldn’t be concerned about your alcohol consumption. Not when he’s just going to break up with you.

“No, I haven’t, not that it should matter to you,” you say briskly. You grab the shot and down it defiantly, but the effect is spoiled when you break into another wheezing cough and have to suck at the guaro again, eyes watering. The universe isn’t even going to let you look dignified right now.

Of course, you think dully, dignified went out the window the moment Yoongi caught you crying into your liquor. No, even before that. You forfeited your dignity when you ran away. Now you don’t deserve to get all righteous about how much you’ve had to drink. You glance at Yoongi, fearful of his anger, of what he might have to say to you.

But he’s looking at you with so much pain in his expression that you pause, eyes locking with his.

“Y/N,” he begins, and you can’t look away, caught by the patience of his tone. “Can we talk?”

“We already talked,” you say, alarmed. You don’t want him to break up with you here in the bar. You’ll start crying again, and then the bartender really will kick you out. You haven’t even found out where the hotels are yet, and you’ll need one if Yoongi dumps your ass right now.

But his next words are still gentle. “Can you at least tell me why you’re so upset that you would run away from me?”

You look at him, aghast. How can he write an entire song about leaving you, and not understand why you’re upset? Suddenly it’s all too much for you. The alcohol, the stress, the heartbreak, Yoongi’s apparent inability to understand why this is hurting you so much. Your eyes fill with tears yet again, and you bury your face in your hands.

When you feel Yoongi’s arms coming around you, not hesitating this time to pull you into his embrace, you go willingly, too wrung out to resist any longer. He may be leaving soon, but he’s here for now, and you need to hold onto him, to hold onto something, to keep yourself from breaking apart.

“You’re going to leave, and I can’t bear it,” you sob, and Yoongi tugs you even closer, one hand smoothing your hair as he lets you cry against his shoulder.

“I’m not going to leave,” he sighs, but you only cry harder.

“You’re lying!” you manage, and he shifts in surprise. “You might not think you are, but you’re lying. You won’t leave BTS for me. And I don’t want you to. I’m not worth it.”

“God, Y/N, you keep saying that, but it’s not true,” he objects.

“It is true,” you mumble into his shirt. “You’ll figure it out.”

You finish with a hiccup, and Yoongi suddenly stands up, dragging you off the barstool to stand with him, one arm still around your waist to hold you up.

“Can I have the tab?” he asks the bartender impatiently, and you’re vaguely aware he’s making hand signals that he wants to pay for your drinks. But you don’t want him to do that; you don’t want him buying anything for you, so you struggle to push him away, to stand on your own. Digging into your purse, you pull out a handful of bills and slap them on the bar. The surprised bartender sorts through it and takes out a chunk of money, handing the rest back to you. But you gesture for him to keep it, figuring he deserves it for putting up with your drama. Then you attempt to march towards the door, but your traitorous legs wobble on the very first step, and Yoongi’s arm instantly circles you again.

“I can walk,” you say crossly, and Yoongi sighs.

“Just hang onto me anyway,” he pleads. “I don’t know how many shots you did, but I’m pretty sure you’re drunk.”

Chastened by his exasperated tone, you give in, letting him lead you out of the bar and down the street. From the way you have to focus just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, you suspect he’s right about your intoxication. Drinking on an empty stomach probably wasn’t the best idea.

You’re so preoccupied with the effort of walking that you don’t notice you’re back at the cottage until Yoongi is steering you across the sand to the porch. The doors are standing open, and you wonder briefly if Yoongi left them that way on purpose, or if he was too distracted to close them when he went off looking for you. As he guides you up the steps and through the doorway, you remember suddenly that you weren’t going to sleep here tonight. But you’re so exhausted, and the bed looks so inviting, and what the heck, you’re here now, and Yoongi hasn’t broken up with you yet. He’ll just have to wait until tomorrow, you think hazily, as you crawl slowly onto the bed, curling into a ball and letting your tired eyes close.

As you drift into sleep, the last thing you’re aware of is Yoongi slipping your sandals off and pulling the cover over you. In a moment, he slides into bed too, edging hesitantly against you. You wrap your arms around him as you usually do, cuddling into the familiar warmth of his body as you slide into oblivion.

*****

When you wake, sunlight is streaming into the room, and you’re alone. You’re sure Yoongi had come to bed with you the night before, but now he’s nowhere to be seen. And honestly, your memory is a little blurred around the edges. Did he leave while you were asleep, not even bothering to say goodbye? You sit up anxiously, scanning the room, and breathe a sigh of relief when you see all his stuff still scattered around. And then you close your eyes in frustration, because you shouldn’t be so relieved. You’re only delaying the inevitable. Sadly, you crawl out of bed and make your way into the bathroom, hoping you can do something about the headache throbbing dully behind your eyes.

After you’ve showered and dressed, brushed your teeth, and swallowed some Advil and about a liter of water, you feel slightly less like death. But when you walk out of the bathroom, you find Yoongi sitting in a chair next to the bed, regarding you with such a cool look in his eyes that you die a little bit again. Snippets from last night flood back into your head. You ran away from him. You said terrible things to him. You said he would leave you. And he probably will now; you’re certainly not giving him much reason to stay.

Feeling ill again, you avoid looking at him as you approach your suitcase to put away the clothes you wore last night. And then you just stand there, your back to him, afraid to turn around, but unsure what else you can possibly do.

“Y/N,” he says, and his voice is so soft, so gentle, that you squeeze your eyes shut. Of course he’ll be gentle when he breaks up with you; that’s just who he is. But it won’t matter how he does it. The pain is going to destroy you. You don’t want to face it.

“Y/N,” he says again, when you don’t turn around. “How do you feel? Do you feel sick? I went out and got some juice, and some Sprite, in case your stomach is upset. There’s food too, if you’re hungry. Do you want anything?”

Surprised, you finally face him, just long enough to see the concern that warms his eyes slightly. “I don’t feel sick,” you mutter, looking down again. “But I’m not hungry right now.”

“Ok,” he says, still so softly. “Then can we talk, if you’re up for it? We really need to talk.”

And there it is. He’s leaving, just like you knew he would. And you don’t even blame him. You fucked up, and you hurt him, and you don’t deserve to have him stay.

Head still down, you trail over to the bed and perch lightly on the edge across from him, but not quite facing him.

“Do you…remember anything that we talked about last night?” he asks hesitantly, and you peek at him in surprise.

“Yes, I think I remember it all,” you tell him, and he nods slowly. His eyes are hard again, a contrast to his voice, and the pain you see on his face wrings you from the inside out. “Yoongi, I’m so sorry,” you blurt. “I didn’t mean to hurt you like this.”

His eyebrows lift fractionally, and he steeples his hands together, raising them contemplatively to his lips.

“I think you’re hurting yourself more than you’re hurting me,” he begins, and your eyebrows rise, too. “You seem to think I’m going to leave you,” he continues, “and now you’re torturing yourself with this idea instead of just talking to me.”

“Wait a minute,” you object. You know he’s partially correct, but he’s also acting like you don’t have any reason to be worried. “You said in the song that you have a choice coming.”

“Oh my god, forget about the song,” he says, annoyance peeking through the chill. “This isn’t at all what I intended with it. I’m going to erase the damn thing.”

“No, don’t do that,” you protest. Even if you hate the meaning behind the song, it’s still beautiful. You can’t bear for him to destroy something he created. “It’s not just the song. It’s everything. Hiding our relationship. Being in a relationship at all, when it’s so obvious that I’m not good enough for you.”

“Y/N, how many times do I have to tell you that’s not true?”

“It is true!” you insist. You can feel yourself getting upset again. Your eyes are hot, and you’re afraid the tears will come back soon. “You said it yourself, that the relationship is one-sided! I can’t give you what you deserve.”

Yoongi looks like you struck him. “That’s the opposite of what I meant! I meant I’m the one who doesn’t do enough for you!”

You’re silenced by his reaction, by the agitation in his voice.

“Is this really what we’re fighting about?” he asks, with a short laugh that’s anything but amused. “Who loves each other the most? What the fuck, Y/N? I know that’s not what’s really bothering you. Why did you leave last night?”

You open your mouth, but pause, unsure of yourself. He’s not breaking up with you. He’s not even saying you’re not good enough for him. So why was that all you could hear the night before? Why was there a voice in your head constantly drowning out what Yoongi was trying to tell you?

“It started with the song,” Yoongi prompts, when you don’t say anything. “Why did the song scare you?”

“Because,” you begin, slowly, still confused, “you said it’s about your future.”

“Yes,” he agrees, when you don’t continue right away. “A future I want to share with you.”

You sigh. “I want that too, but it’s impossible.”

“Why?” Yoongi asks bluntly. “And don’t say because you’re not good enough. I’m tired of talking in circles.”

Those exact words die on your lips. The sentiment has been running through your head for so long, it seems like an established fact. It’s shocking that Yoongi doesn’t agree. But then, you think about all the times you’ve been wrong about him in the past. Last summer, you thought he just wanted to be friends with you, because you couldn’t imagine he’d be interested in anything else. But you were wrong. When you realized you’d fallen in love with him, you were afraid to tell him because you thought he could never return the feeling. Wrong again. And now, in fearing he’s going to leave, you’re doing the same thing you always do. God, why do you keep messing up?

Because you mess up everything, the voice whispers. And your mouth opens in shock as you recognize the words.

“Y/N, please tell me what the problem is,” Yoongi sighs, and you can hear his patience unraveling. “I’m trying to understand, but I don’t.”

“It’s not you. It’s because of my mom,” you say softly, practically whispering. Yoongi leans closer, his forehead furrowing in confusion.

“We can’t have a future because of your mom?” he asks. “Is she sicker than you told me? Do you need some time to be with her? Y/N, that’s something I can understand. Maybe I can even help. But you need to let me know what’s going on.”

“No, she’s not sick,” you clarify. “Not like that. And I don’t need to spend time more time with her. I should spend less time, really. She’s not good for me.”

Yoongi is silent, waiting for you to go on.

“All she has ever told me,” you explain, “when I was a child, a teenager, and even an adult, is that I ruined her life. That I don’t deserve anything that’s worth having, not a good home, or an education, or a car. Not friends, not a boyfriend. Definitely not love. Because I ruined her chances for those things, you see?”

You raise your eyes to Yoongi’s, to gauge whether or not he does see, if you’re helping him understand like he wanted. He must, if the raw pain you see on his face is any indicator. He reaches out to grasp your hand, and you let him.

“That’s bullshit,” he says hotly. “You know that, right?”

“Yes, I know,” you say quietly. “I haven’t listened to her for a long time, or so I thought. I went out and got all those things she said I couldn’t have. I went to college, against the odds. I made friends. I have a home of my own, and a job I love. Nobody handed me any of those things. I fought for them. I earned them, so I thought that meant I deserved them, right?”

You look beseechingly at Yoongi, and he nods slowly. His eyes are so dark, still so haunted by pain. Your pain, you realize. He feels it along with you.

“So that meant my mom was wrong,” you continue. “I’ve been confident about that for years now. Until I met you. Oh, Yoongi, I wanted you so much. And I didn’t even have to fight for you. You just walked right into my life.”

He smiles a bit at this, probably at the wonder in your tone. “I wanted to be in your life,” he tells you, and you tighten your grip on his hand.

“It just seemed too easy, though. It is easy, being with you. So I guess, I haven’t felt like I deserve you. Or that I even know how to love you the way you deserve.”

“Baby, what are you talking about? You love me so hard. I’ve never doubted that.” Yoongi stands up suddenly, moving to sit next to you on the bed. He makes sure your eyes are on his before he continues. “You know how to love. One of the first things I ever noticed about you was how much you give those kids of yours, at the foundation. You pour yourself into helping them. Fighting for them. I saw your passion, your huge heart, and I hoped I could earn even a portion of that love for myself someday.”

“You did,” you blurt, stung by the emotion in his words. “Yoongi, you can have whatever you want from me.”

“Can I?” he asks. “Or are you going to run away again?”

“I don’t want to run away,” you whisper. “I want to be with you.”

“Then be with me,” he says, and his voice is still gentle, though his next words are blunt. “Don’t fuck it up and run from what you want. Or think you don’t deserve it.”

You nod, although you know it’s not as easy as just agreeing. Well, you can agree not to run away again. Yesterday wasn’t normal behavior for you, just a terrible moment of weakness. But trusting yourself, feeling deserving of Yoongi’s love, is going to be harder.

“I can help you” he says softly. “I want to be with you too. I’m not going to leave.”

His eyes show the truth of his words; the love and the pain you see in them is a miracle. He’s really still here with you, after all the trouble you put him through, all the pain you inflicted last night. Trembling, you bow your head against his shoulder, and he wraps his arms around you, the same strong, comforting presence he’s always been. All he ever does is prove how much he loves you. You just have to accept it.

“How can you even forgive me, after last night?” you finally ask, and Yoongi presses his lips against your hair.

“Because I understand,” he says. “I’ve felt like that, too. I’ve even reacted the same way.”

You shift in surprise, but he doesn’t let you go.

“I used to run away from what I had with Bangtan,” he murmurs just above your head. “When we debuted, when we started getting popular, I thought I had everything I wanted. But I couldn’t handle it. I got so anxious about our success that I would withdraw. I would hide in the bathroom, or anyplace I could find, when I should have been with the group. It got so bad one night, Big Hit had to cancel a show because I was lying on the floor in the dressing room, curled in a ball, sobbing. I couldn’t understand why there were so many people there to see us. To see me.”

You hug him harder, hating the idea that he would ever feel that way.

“I was frightened for so long,” Yoongi continues. “Even when we started to sell out our shows. Even when we won awards. I thought someone was going to show up and tell me I was a fraud, that I didn’t deserve any of our success. The anxiety was…crippling, some days.”

“You don’t feel like that now, do you?” you ask. He’s told you some of these stories before, but he’s never been in that kind of state since you’ve known him.

“Sometimes I do,” he says, surprising you. “But it’s rare. It took a lot of work, and help from the other members, but I finally started to see why I’d gotten that success. I could see myself as others do. Through my friends’ eyes, and even ARMYs’. I understand better that, for one thing, it was never just on me, to be a success. I have six other people supporting me, not to mention the rest of our team at Big Hit. And I’ve worked hard. Really hard. And maybe there’s enough talent,” he adds, almost as an afterthought.

“Of course there is. You have so much talent,” you insist, raising your head to look at him. “You’re a genius. Everything you do is brilliant.”

Yoongi smiles at you. “Do you see what I mean about how you love me? Seeing myself through your eyes this past year has been…wonderful. It’s part of the reason I’ve felt so good about myself lately.”

Hesitantly, you match his smile, and he raises a hand to trace his fingers against your cheek.

“Do you think you can try to do the same?” he asks. “See yourself the way I see you? You would never doubt your worth if you could do that. And remember that it’s not just on you, to make our relationship a success. We do it together.”

His words are so beautiful that you feel tears pricking in your eyes again. You don’t want to cry anymore, though, so you attempt a small joke, instead.

“You really need to stop saying such perfect things all the time, or I’ll never think I’m good enough for you.”

Yoongi sighs in exasperation, but to your relief, he’s still smiling. “I keep telling you I’m not perfect. One of these days, you’re going to have to drag me out of a bar, or a bathroom, because I’m the one having a nervous breakdown.”

“I can do that,” you promise. “And I’ll help you feel better, like you’re helping me now. I really do feel better,” you tell him, and you’re amazed at the truth of your words. You feel lighter, more joyful, and definitely more confident than you did yesterday. Just the fact that he’s not breaking up with you has you wanting to run out into the ocean and dance in the waves to express your jubilation.

Yoongi is eyeing you. “You’re done arguing, then?” he asks skeptically, and you nod. “Thank god,” he continues. “All this fighting is exhausting. Not to mention, I hardly got any sleep last night because I was worried about you.”

“Oh, Yoongi, I’m sorry,” you say contritely. “Do you want to go back to bed? We could take a nap.”

“I don’t know why you need a nap,” he teases. “You got drunk and slept like a baby. You spent the whole night wrapped around me, your head on my chest, drooling on my shirt.”

You frown in worry, and Yoongi relents when he sees your expression. “It was cute,” he assures you. “And I didn’t know what I had done to upset you, but I guessed you weren’t too mad or you wouldn’t be hanging onto me like that. So that helped.”

You shake your head. You haven’t forgiven yourself yet for putting Yoongi through all that. You can’t believe he’s forgiven you, but it seems like he has. You just need to work on internalizing everything he’s told you, on breaking out of some of your recent patterns of thought. Otherwise, you could end up right back in the same position, and Yoongi might not be so patient the next time.

*****

You end up taking a nap after all, because Yoongi really does seem wiped out. In the bed, you twine your body with his yet again, not wanting to let him go even as you sleep. That evening, you go out to watch the salsa dancing, as you’d intended the night before. You don’t try to persuade Yoongi to dance with you, though; you’re honestly not quite in the mood for something that light-hearted. Instead, you sit close to him, your shoulders pressed together and your hands linked on his knee, as you both watch the entertainment. Just having him by your side like that is more than enough.

The next day you pack up and go, feeling sad the whole time. Although the final day of the trip wasn’t what you expected, most of the vacation was beautiful, and you hate leaving this tiny, sand-strewn cottage where you and Yoongi had so much fun. You’re even grateful for the more painful memories of the last thirty-six hours, because they’ve brought you a self-revelation that you badly needed. You’re still mulling over your discoveries, and Yoongi’s admonitions, during the long trip to the San José airport.

Yoongi’s plane leaves a couple hours before yours, so you find seats together near his gate. You lean against him, resting your head on his shoulder, and it shakes a bit as he laughs at you.

“You’ve been clingy just recently,” he jokes, but you don’t feel amused. Although Yoongi doesn’t seem angry with you anymore, you can’t shake the feeling that you came dangerously close to throwing away your relationship. You’ve been reluctant to let him out of your sight since yesterday, preferring to remain as close as possible at all times. Now, knowing you’re preparing to fly about as far apart from each other as you can possibly get, while still remaining on Earth, you only want to hold him for as long as you still can. You slip your arm through Yoongi’s, tugging him even closer, and he bends his head to see your face.

“You don’t have to be so worried,” he tells you. “This isn’t the last time we’re going to see each other. I’m going to work things out so we can spend more time together in the future. I will tell Big Hit about our relationship as soon as I get home. No, I’ll the guys first, and then Big Hit. But I’ll do it right away.”

You raise your head to look at him. He hasn’t mentioned Big Hit again since your fight, and you were wondering if he’d changed his mind about ever telling them.

“I would have done it before the trip if I’d realized how much this was bothering you,” he continues. “I honestly thought you didn’t really want me to tell them. But I think some of your insecurities have stemmed from the uncertainty, from not being able to see a future for us.”

“That’s true,” you say slowly. “But I’m still not sure I want to say anything to Big Hit. I’m afraid of what they’ll do, once they know.”

Yoongi sighs. “I’m a little afraid, too,” he admits. “But like I told you before, they can’t force me to give you up. And aside from that, what’s the worst that can happen?”

All your worst-case scenarios start scrolling through your imagination, and you laugh a little hysterically. “Oh, they’ll sue you and take all your money, then they’ll fire you, then they’ll blacklist you so you can’t ever get another job doing what you love, and then you’ll be broke and miserable and depressed, and you’ll resent me because it’s all my fault, and you’ll probably dump me.”

Yoongi looks a little shell-shocked. “You’ve thought a lot about this,” he says mildly, and you nod, looking down at your lap.

“Well, think about this. Big Hit won’t sue me. They could assess a penalty, but only if the relationship is made public. Which it won’t be if it’s just me telling them about it. They certainly won’t be petty enough to leak the relationship to the press, just to get a fine out of me. Which wouldn’t be anywhere close to all my money, by the way,” he assures you wryly.

“They might fire me,” he continues. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s at least a possibility. But even if they do, they won’t blacklist me. I won’t have any problem finding work.”

“But you’ll lose BTS!” you cry, since that’s the most important thing he has, the one thing he should never have to give up. Yoongi nods in acknowledgement.

“Yes, and it’s true that I don’t want that to happen. I’m going to try to work it so it won’t be necessary. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, you know. And I really don’t think Big Hit will kick me out of the group. They know breaking up Bangtan would affect their profits much more than if people find out I have a girlfriend.”

“And if you’re wrong?”

“Then they fire me, and I will do something else with my life. At least I’ll have more time and freedom to see you.”

“Yes, at a price.”

“Giving you up would be the higher price,” Yoongi says, and you feel yourself reeling from his words, as casual as they are. If he’s being honest, then he really is prepared to choose you over BTS. Maybe that’s what he’s been trying to tell you the whole time, when he played his song for you, and all the times he brought it up in the past.

“But you’re right that we still have some very hard things to go through, you included. Remember you said you don’t feel like you’ve had to fight for me? You might have to now.”

“Ok,” you say nervously. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Don’t say that too blindly,” Yoongi warns you. “I really don’t know what to expect. But if there’s any resistance, we may both be tested. I just want you to be prepared. If anything happens to make you feel like you don’t deserve to be with me, just remember that I want you with me. If you can’t fight for yourself, at least fight for me.”

“I’ll fight for you. I’ll fight for both of us,” you tell him, more confidently this time. “I won’t run away again.”

“That’s my tiger,” he smiles at you, and you smile in return, mentally sharpening your claws for whatever battle might lie ahead. You’ve spent your whole life fighting; this is one thing you know you can do for him, if he needs it.

Chapter Text

Yoongi calls you as soon as he’s back in Seoul. You’re already home, and in bed, but you’re glad to talk with him, despite being exhausted after the flight from San José. He seems perfectly alert, and you marvel at how easily he adjusts to traveling and time changes. He can tell you’re tired, though, so he only keeps you on the phone long enough to make sure you got home safely, and to see how you’re feeling. He’s been more solicitous than usual since your meltdown, and you appreciate it, but you also don’t want him to feel like you’re fragile. So you tell him you’re good, and it’s mostly true. You just want him to hurry up and tell people about you, so you know how they’ll react and you don’t have to wonder and worry anymore.

You spend Sunday reacclimating yourself to your normal life, grocery shopping, doing laundry, delving cautiously into your piled-up work emails. Hannah stops by that night to give you your key back, and to hear about your vacation.

The first thing she asks is if you had mind-blowing sex with a hot Costa Rican guy. You’re a little too slow with your denial, seeing as your brain is temporarily distracted with thoughts of all the mind-blowing sex you had with a hot Korean guy. Consequently, she doesn’t believe you at all when you say you didn’t meet someone on the trip. She keeps peppering you with questions, and she finally demands to see pictures, probably hoping to find photographic evidence to back up her suspicions. You’re prepared for that, though; you went through your pictures on the plane and carefully moved all the ones of Yoongi into a protected folder. But you still have plenty of shots of the ocean, the gorgeous scenery at the parks you visited, and even of the monkeys who wandered around outside your cottage, and you’re happy to let her scroll through them.

Hannah examines your pictures closely, and eventually gives up on the idea that you had some torrid vacation affair, though she still declares you look like you had sex. Which, you did, but you’re not sure how she can tell. She begins cooing over the monkeys, admiring the volcanoes, and even gasping at some of the more dramatic studies of the cloud forest. You tell her about the hiking and tree-climbing, the snorkeling, the salsa dancing.

“It sounds like you had a good time.”

“I really did. It was so gorgeous there. Thanks for taking care of my plants. Do you want some dinner? I hated seeing my fridge so empty this morning, so I went a little overboard with the grocery shopping. I have so much food in the house now.”

Hannah agrees to stay. While you throw together a salad, she pulls up a Run BTS video on your laptop. She’s been urging you to watch the show for a while now, but you’ve never made time for it. You guess she’s decided you don’t get a choice anymore.

And you’re glad, since only five minutes in, you’re laughing so hard you can’t even eat. You set your salad aside before you spill it all over the couch. Hannah has seen the episode before, but she’s as destroyed as you, collapsed weakly against your lap as you both laugh until you cry.

At the end of the show, you lie back, spent. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” you sigh. “And that was just the first episode?”

“No, this is the best episode. I wanted to get you hooked. But don’t worry, plenty of the others are just as funny.”

You can’t imagine how they could be, or how you could laugh any harder. Especially at Yoongi. In this episode, at least, he was the star, an absolute king of self-deprecating comedy. You’re not really surprised, having gotten to know that side of him quite well in the past year. But you’re still impressed. You definitely want to see more.

“Ok, your plan worked,” you tell Hannah. “I’ll watch the show with you.” You stand up to take the salad bowls into the kitchen and put the food away. When you get back, Hannah is still curled up on the couch, scrolling through her phone. You sit down, wondering if she’s up for watching more Run BTS, but she seems absorbed with something on her screen. You take out your own phone instead and check Twitter. After a minute, Hannah breaks the silence.

“Hey Y/N. Can I see your vacation pictures again?”

You glance over to find her studying you thoughtfully. You pull up your photo gallery and hand over the phone, figuring she wants to see the monkeys again.

But apparently, she’s not interested in the wildlife. After swiping through your pictures for a moment, she stops dead, peering intently at first your phone, then her own. She looks up at you with her eyes blazing.

“Y/N Y/L/N, you’ve been lying to me!”

“What?” you ask, completely clueless about what could have upset her.

“Who did you go to Costa Rica with?” she demands, and your stomach flips over in shock. What does she think she knows? Did she see something in the photos to clue her in? You thought you hid all the shots with Yoongi in them, but maybe you missed something. Instinctively, you reach out to take your phone back, to see what she was looking at. But the photo displayed on your screen is completely innocent, a shot of the volcano at Volcán Poás National Park. There are a few people in the foreground, but none of them are Yoongi. There’s not even a sliver of his arm or head visible in the shot. You look back at Hannah, bewildered.

“I was there by myself,” you begin, but Hannah interrupts you, brandishing her own phone at you.

“Look at this picture!” she cries, and you lean in to see your volcano picture displayed on her screen. Or is it yours? Your stomach rolls again as you realize the photo is part of a tweet from the BTS_twt account. But it looks just like yours. Same people leaning over the rail. Same clouds in the sky.

Oh shit.

“This is Min Yoongi’s tweet!” Hannah is shrieking. “From his vacation in Costa Rica. He took this in the same exact spot you took yours, on the same day. Look at that guy’s hat! It’s the same in both pictures! It’s like you and Yoongi took them while you were standing right next to each other.”

You swallow nervously, not sure how you’ll be able to explain this away.

“You were there with him!” Hannah continues. “I mean, what are the odds that you both showed up in the same spot, at the same time? Something happened that night we went to their concert, didn’t it! I knew something was going on, but you never told me anything. You’ve stayed in touch with him, haven’t you?”

You look into her eyes. She looks more awed than angry, despite her accusations about you lying to her. You glance back down at the pictures displayed on both of your phone screens. They aren’t identical, but they were clearly taken the same day, even the same time of day. You and Yoongi probably did take them while you were standing right next to each other.

Hannah reaches out to touch your hand, and you look at her again. “Are you friends with him?” she asks, her voice finally softening. “Or more than friends? Oh my god, this is crazy. Just tell me what’s going on, I’m begging you!”

You open your mouth to tell her, since there’s no point in denying it. But you can’t say the words. The secret has been heavy on your psyche for so long, you can’t even bring yourself to admit it. So you just nod your head.

Hannah squeals. “Oh my god! Yes, you’re friends? Or yes, you’re more?”

“More,” you say quietly.

“So you’re dating?”

“Yes,” you admit. It’s a little easier to talk now. But when you confirm, Hannah just falls over backwards on the couch and grabs a pillow to press over her face. You hear more squeals, muffled though they are. You start to laugh, partly from nerves, and partly from the humor of the whole situation. What a way to get caught.

Hannah sits up abruptly, flinging the pillow to one side and grabbing your hands.

“Tell me. Every. Detail. From the beginning,” she commands.

“It’s a secret,” you caution, and she nods her head.

“Of course. I won’t say anything. I wouldn’t have told anyone if you’d let me know before.”

“I didn’t think you would, but I couldn’t risk telling anyone. Yoongi would have been in trouble with his company.”

“I won’t give it away. You know I’d never do anything to hurt him. Tell me what happened, please!”

“There’s not much to it. We met when BTS did the concert at the foundation, obviously. Yoongi and I spent some time together on the preparations. And he asked me to have dinner with him, and then he asked if he could call me sometime, after he left Chicago.” You leave out the part about sleeping with him. Hannah doesn’t need every detail. “Anyway, he did call, and he kept calling, and a few months later he came back to Chicago to see me and we decided to try dating.”

Hannah’s dropped your hands and collapsed on the couch again. She’s grinning ecstatically, but simultaneously fanning at her face. “Look at this, I’m actually crying! I can’t believe you’re dating Min Yoongi! Is he a good boyfriend?” she asks, sitting up once more.

“Oh Hannah,” you sigh, remembering how patient he was with you during your meltdown in Costa Rica. How wise and sweet and caring he always is. How sexy and adorable. “He’s…perfect. He really is.”

She squeals again. “Perfect how? I need details! What’s he like?”

“He’s…just like he was when you met him last year.”

“I spent like ten minutes in a car with him! That’s not enough time to know.”

You consider what to say. Hannah knows Yoongi’s public persona, and some of that is the same in his private life. You try to focus on qualities that aren’t so apparent on screen. “He’s really easy to be with, even though he’s famous. Easy to talk to, about anything. And funny,” you add, though after watching Run BTS, you assume Hannah knows this about him. “Sometimes I laugh so much when I’m with him. He’s honestly hardly ever serious. But he can be, when it’s needed. Serious, I mean, and wise. He’s really good at speaking his mind.”

Hannah is staring dreamily at you. “Does he make you happy?”

“Oh my god, yes,” you admit, and she smiles. But then her eyes open wide.

“Is this really true?” she asks. “I know I told you to go for it, that you could have a chance, but…it’s Min Yoongi from BTS!” She sounds so awed still that you pull out your phone again, this time opening up the folder with pictures of Yoongi in it. You find one of the two of you together, and hand it over to Hannah. She takes the phone and peers at it, eyes wide. You’d been trying to get a selfie from atop one of the bridges at Monteverde Cloud Forest, with the fog-shrouded jungle stretched below. But Yoongi had come up behind you, wrapping his arms around your waist and hooking his chin over your shoulder, and the focus of the shot had become your two faces instead. You’re both grinning so hugely that it makes you smile every time you look at the photo.

Hannah is smiling, too, and for some reason she looks like she’s about to cry again. “You both look so happy,” she says softly, and you nod. You were so happy that day, and every day you were with him, with the exception of your one night of idiocy. You’re still a little bit in shock over how easily you panicked that day, how quickly you forgot all the moments of joy you’ve had with Yoongi. And it swamps you all over again, the love and gratitude you feel towards him for reminding you.

Hannah looks up at you, and you really do see tears in her eyes. “You’re in love with him, aren’t you?” she asks, and you just nod your head again. You’re not sure you can speak; you feel on the verge of crying yourself.

“Wow.” Hannah closes her eyes, bringing her hands up to wipe away the tears. “Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow,” she keeps repeating. Her eyes pop open again. “This is me being excited because you’re in love, and because you deserve it, not because you’re dating someone from BTS. I’m so happy for you.” She leans in to give you a hug, and you wrap your arms around her. It’s actually a relief to be talking to someone about Yoongi.

“You did hit the jackpot though,” she tells you, pulling away again.

“I know,” you sigh. “That’s been the hardest part, always wondering how long this is really going to last, or sometimes wondering why on earth he’s even interested in me when he’s…well, Min Yoongi from BTS.”

“Whoa, stop.” Hannah is looking at you sternly, all the excitement gone from her face. “Don’t ever question why he would be interested in you. You’re the best person I know. You’re kind, and caring, and brave, and so smart, and I know you don’t believe it, but you are beautiful. You deserve everything in the world, and if anyone makes you feel differently, even Min Yoongi from BTS, then he’s not a jackpot.”

Well. Now you’re in even more danger of crying, after those compliments. You remember what Yoongi told you in Costa Rica, how seeing himself through his friends’ eyes helped him with his feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you need to spend more time listening to Hannah, and to people who really care about you, and less time listening to your mom. You smile at your friend.

“I love you, Hannah,” you tell her, and she pauses in surprise.

“What is this? Is being in love turning you into a sap?”

“Maybe a little,” you laugh. “But it’s more that you’re a really great friend, and I don’t tell you enough. I realized during the trip that I don’t always feel like I deserve what I have, especially my relationships with people. I almost messed things up with Yoongi, feeling like I didn’t deserve him. So thank you for telling me I do.”

Hannah stares at you. “Of course you do, so stop feeling like it isn’t true.”

“I’m trying,” you admit. “But I’ve been too hard on myself, mainly because he’s so perfect.”

“Whenever you feel that way, look at this picture,” she orders, shoving your phone at you again. “You’re the one making him that happy. Don’t forget it.”

You take the phone back, smiling gratefully at her words. Hannah curls against your side. “Anyway, he can’t really be perfect,” she reasons. "You should gripe about him a little, just to remind yourself he’s human. It must have been hard, not being able to talk to anyone about him. No one else knows?”

“Not yet. Yoongi’s been talking about telling the rest of the group, maybe even this week.”

“Wait, they don’t even know?” Hannah looks at you in shock. “I was talking about your friends.”

“Nobody knows. Yoongi never told the other guys because he didn’t want Big Hit to find out. He said they’d interfere. But he’s going to tell them, too, once he talks to the members.”

“Wow,” Hannah says again, sighing heavily. “That’s a huge deal. You know idols don’t date. At least not publicly.”

“I’m well aware,” you say wryly. “We don’t know how Big Hit will react, and it’s pretty scary.”

Hannah squeezes you, resting her head against your shoulder. “If you love each other, it’ll work out.”

“I really hope so. But don’t tell anyone about this, just in case things get complicated. And even if Big Hit is ok with us dating, I doubt anything will be made public.”

“You don’t have to warn me!” she cries. “I swear I won’t tell.”

But you still add one more caution. “Not even people who know me, like Chelsea and Amara. I know they love Yoongi too, so I’m sure they wouldn’t say anything deliberately, but it’s still better if they don’t know.”

“Believe me, I won’t say anything.” She laughs. “Chelsea wouldn’t let you rest until she found out how big his dick is.” You laugh too, but break off when you realize Hannah is staring at you expectantly.

“No,” you say flatly. “I’m not talking about that.”

“At least tell me if he’s good in bed,” she begs.

“Nope. Not saying a word.” You bite your lip to hide your smile, and Hannah laughs again.

“You don’t have to talk about it. I can tell he’s good by how you’re smirking. No wonder you have such a glow right now, after spending a whole week with him. Oh my god,” she says. “Now I’m thinking about it.”

“Um, excuse me. Please stop thinking. We’re talking about my boyfriend, here.”

She rolls her eyes. “Fine, but you have to accept he’s kind of public property. You can’t stop everyone in the world from thinking about him.”

“I guess that’s one of the ways he’s not perfect,” you sigh. “But there’s not much I can do about it.”

*****

You call Yoongi as soon as Hannah leaves, even though it’s Monday morning in Seoul and he’s probably back at work. He confirms that when he answers in Korean. You think he says to give him a minute, so you’re quiet, listening to his voice in conversation with someone. Then there’s silence for a brief space, and the sound of a door closing, before Yoongi speaks again.

“Ok, I’m in my studio. What’s up?”

“What happened to not putting your Costa Rican photos on social media?” you ask, and Yoongi goes quiet again.

“Oh yeah, I did post something this morning,” he finally says. “Why?”

“Hannah saw your picture. And she also saw my vacation pictures, which happened to include a shot that was almost identical to yours. She figured out we were there together.”

There’s dead air for the third time, and you wait fearfully for his reaction, hoping he won’t be too angry, or freaked out. But this time, the silence is broken by a loud snort as Yoongi erupts into laughter.

“Wow,” he finally manages. “I never thought about that. How did she even see the photo so fast? I just put it up a couple hours ago.”

“I think she must have alerts on her phone or something. I’m telling you, Hannah is one of the biggest BTS fans in existence.”

Yoongi is still chuckling. “So what did you tell her?” he asks, and you groan.

“I tried to lie at first, but she didn’t believe me. I finally gave in and told her you and I have been dating. The matching pictures made it kind of obvious that we’d at least taken the trip together.”

“Was she upset?” Yoongi asks softly. He sounds concerned now, instead of amused.

“No,” you assure him. “At first, I thought she was mad that I’ve been lying to her all this time, but she understands. And she gets that it has to stay a secret, at least for now. She won’t tell anyone. I just wanted you to know it happened, as soon as possible, in case there’s anything you need to do. Like a contingency plan.”

Yoongi laughs again, a little bit. “No, there’s nothing to be done about it. Anyway, it doesn’t matter too much if you tell your friends now. I’m about to tell almost everyone I know.”

Your heart jumps at his admission. “You’re really telling people?” you ask hesitantly.

“Yes, tonight, I’m talking to the rest of the guys. I swear,” Yoongi tells you. “Jimin and Hobi and Tae all got home last night, and I already scheduled a group meeting this evening at the dorm. I’ll tell them, and then I’ll call you afterwards and let you know what happened. I guess it won’t be until morning, your time. You’re still in Sunday, right?”

“Barely,” you agree, glancing at the time on your phone. “I need to go to bed, honestly, so I’m not useless at work tomorrow. But call me any time, no matter how early it is.”

“I will,” he promises. He starts to laugh again. “I can’t believe this is how we get caught.”

“I tried to warn you!”

“I know, I just didn’t take it that seriously. And Namjoon was putting up pictures of his trip, and he was all like, ‘I saw pyramids. Top that.’ I couldn’t let him get away with it so I posted the volcano.”

“So this is all because you were having a ‘my vacation is bigger than yours’ moment?”

“My vacation is bigger,” Yoongi says smugly. “Volcanoes are bigger than pyramids.”

“I’m…not even going to go there,” you say helplessly, trying not to laugh. But Yoongi doesn’t hold back, chuckling at your reaction.

“I’m glad you’re joking about things. You sound better than you did a couple days ago.”

“I am better,” you admit. “It actually felt really good, talking to Hannah about you. She propped me up quite a bit, and it helped, like you said it would. Seeing myself through her eyes.”

“That’s good,” Yoongi says warmly. “You know, I was thinking on the plane, you really should have someone to talk to, about me if that’s what you need, but mostly about yourself, and your mom. I was actually thinking you might benefit from talking to a professional,” he adds, a little hesitantly, like he’s not sure how you’ll react. But you’re not offended. You’ve been having the same thoughts.

“I used to see a therapist regularly,” you tell him. “In college, I started figuring out how messed up my life really was when I was a child. And I was having a hard time opening up to people, letting them in even when they wanted to be my friends. So I got some help. I stuck with it for a few years, but eventually I felt that I didn’t need the support anymore, that I was in a good place.”

“Even when you’re in a good place, it can still help to have the support,” Yoongi says. “I have a therapist, you know. Years ago, Big Hit hired a counselor for the whole group. But I’m so messed up I have my own personal counselor on top of that. Even though I’ve been feeling good for a long time now, I still talk to him about once a month.”

Yoongi has told you about some of his past experiences with therapy, but you didn’t realize he still has a need for it. Maybe he’s right, and you still have a need, too.

“I’ll think about it,” you promise, before adding a small joke. “Although, it might not turn out so well for you. I’ll ask a therapist to convince me I’m good enough, and I’ll end up thinking I’m too good.”

“I doubt you’re capable of thinking you’re too good for anyone,” Yoongi says comfortably.

“I don’t know,” you argue. “Hannah’s already trying to get me to gripe about you. Complain whenever you annoy me. She says it’ll help.”

To your surprise, Yoongi seems to think this is a good idea. “You should complain about me. To Hannah, if you want, or even to me. You never get mad about anything, but maybe you need to.”

“How will that help our relationship?” you ask skeptically.

“Stress relief,” he says seriously. “I think you let too much weight pile up on your shoulders. As much as I didn’t enjoy your blow-up in Costa Rica, I think you felt better afterwards, just for speaking what’s been on your mind. In the future, if you’re upset with me, or if I get on your nerves, tell me. Yell a little. Stomp around. Throw your shoes.”

“Throw my shoes?” you question, wanting to laugh. “Is that what you do when you’re mad?”

Yoongi pauses. “I…have done, in the past,” he finally says, sounding caught out. “It’s surprisingly cathartic,” he defends himself, and now you can’t stop yourself from chuckling.

“Stop laughing, I’m serious,” he tells you. “Don’t be scared to tell me if you get annoyed. Like, if I’m not calling you enough, or…if I snore.”

“You don’t snore,” you assure him. “Or barely. And you call me a lot, more than I expect, usually.”

“Ok, well, there has to be something. You hardly ever tell me what’s bothering you.”

You think about it, and finally, you come up with an example.

“It bothered me that you wouldn’t do the zipline at the cloud forest,” you offer.

“But I don’t like heights,” he objects, sounding annoyed. “And you already made me do the tree climbing thing.” Then he stops himself with a laugh. “See, that was perfect. I’m so proud of you.”

“Stop,” you tell him, rolling your eyes.

“Next time, say that when we’re still standing next to the zipline, and then I’ll know you really want to do it and maybe I’ll go.”

“Maybe?” you ask.

“Well, you can’t win all the arguments. I might let you win the first few, though.”

“That’s nice of you,” you say dryly. “Although after that, please don’t start throwing your shoes at me. I might really get angry about that.”

“No shoe-throwing,” Yoongi repeats, like he’s writing it down. “Noted. But let’s postpone our personal arguments, at least for awhile. I think we’re going to have enough to deal with when I tell everyone about our relationship.”

Oh yeah. You’d almost forgotten about that, with the conversation about therapy, but now your worries return. You’re so afraid his friends won’t react well to the news.

“Don’t be nervous,” he soothes, when you don’t say anything.

“I can’t help it!” you tell him. “This is a big deal. Aren’t you nervous?”

“Yeah, a little. Mostly, I’m concerned about how Jimin will react.”

“Jimin?” you ask, surprised. Personally, you’ve been much more worried about Namjoon. You figure the leader will be the one to assess the situation from a professional standpoint, to weigh the pros and cons of revealing the relationship to Big Hit, and maybe even to the world. And there are so many cons; you can’t imagine he’ll be supportive.

You’re also quietly nervous about Hoseok’s reaction. Yoongi has told you many times that his fellow rapper is the consummate professional, never dating, never doing anything that might jeopardize the group’s success or reputation.

And though Yoongi has said he’s equally close to all the members, you’ve gradually figured out that his bond with Hoseok is both deeper, and less complicated, than his connection with any of the others. The two share an absolute respect and affection for each other. You know if Hoseok criticizes Yoongi’s choice to commit to you, he’ll feel it acutely. You really, really want to know he has his friend’s support. You’re honestly surprised that Yoongi hasn’t said anything along those lines.

“I told you Jimin liked you,” Yoongi is saying instead. “I knew that, last year, even before I asked you out. He might be hurt when I tell him that I pursued you anyway.”

“Jimin didn’t like me that much,” you try to convince Yoongi. “He flirted a little, sure, but I kind of got the idea he flirts with everyone.”

That’s true,” Yoongi admits. “But he still likes the people he flirts with.”

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” you assert. You and Jimin ended your extremely brief interaction on a friendly note, and that was it. At best, you figure the singer might have some mildly fond memories of you. He certainly shouldn’t have any regrets.

“I hope you’re right,” Yoongi sighs. “But, yeah, I’m a little nervous. I just want to get it over with now. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“Call me as soon as you can,” you remind him, and he agrees, before letting you get to bed.

*****

You don’t sleep well, fretting over how Yoongi’s getting along with telling his friends. As your bedroom gradually starts to lighten with the dawning day, you get more and more anxious at not hearing from him. Eventually you have to get up and get ready for work. You carry your phone with you into the bathroom while you shower, but he still doesn’t call before you leave for the office. You think about texting him once you get there, but you don’t want to interrupt any discussion he might still be having with the group. Instead, you wade back into work, prioritizing all the things you got behind on while you were away.
When your cell phone finally rings, you grab it immediately, quickly swiping open the incoming video call. “Yoongi,” you say breathlessly, peering into the screen.

“Are you up?” he asks. He looks wide awake himself, despite the late hour in Seoul.

“Yes, of course. I’m already at work. What happened? Did you tell everyone?”

“I did,” he says, and he looks so solemn that your gut clenches.

“And?” is all you can manage to say.

“And it’s good,” he tells you, breaking into a grin. “Everything’s fine. I’m meeting with Bang PD and the other CEOs tomorrow.”

“That’s it?” you ask, deflated. Somehow, this seems too simple, after your weeks of worry. Was it hard, telling them? Were they surprised?”

Yoongi starts to laugh, and your tension eases slightly. Maybe it really was that easy, if he’s in such a good mood. “They were surprised at first,” he tells you. “But you know what? Once I said I was seeing someone, half of them guessed it was you.”

“What?” you gasp. “How?”

“I was leading into the news. I told the guys I’d been kind of dating someone for more than a year.”

“Wait, kind of?” you interrupt, and Yoongi laughs again.

“Don’t be upset about that. It was really hard to confess, more so than I thought it would be. The words were sticking in my throat. And what came out of my mouth ended up being a little vague.”

“It’s ok,” you sigh. “I felt the same, when I was telling Hannah. We’ve kept the secret for so long, it felt wrong to actually put anything into words.”

“I know. And everyone was pretty shocked, which made it worse. But then they all started talking, asking if it was someone they knew, maybe someone at Big Hit, or another idol. And I said it was someone they’d met, but not anyone they knew well. And finally, I told them it was an American, and they were even more surprised. But that’s when Taehyung figured it out.”

“Taehyung?” you laugh. “Really? I didn’t even talk with him that much when you were all here.”

“Ah, but he’s so observant. He notices everything. He didn’t say your name, but his jaw just about fell on the floor, and he said he knew who it was, and didn’t I think I should tell everyone individually, not as a group? I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then he said he and Jimin would go first, and he kept giving Jimin these little worried glances. And I started to worry too, because I thought maybe Jimin liked you even more than I thought he did. Taehyung would be the one to know Jimin’s feelings, if anyone would.”

You frown in concern. You really didn’t think there was anything between you and Jimin that would cause him to be jealous, or angry. But maybe you were wrong?

“When Taehyung said we should do it individually, Jimin immediately started asking why. And Seokjin said he should get to go first, since he’s the elder. And they both started scolding Taehyung. And Namjoon was trying to calm everyone down and figure out if there was any reason not to just do it as a group. But when he saw Taehyung still fussing over Jimin, he figured out why. He looked right at me, and I could tell that he knew it was you. He started trying to convince Taehyung that it would be ok to tell everyone at once. Then Seokjin said he felt like he was the only one who didn’t know who I was dating, and Jungkook tried to make him feel better by saying he didn’t know either. And then Jimin guessed. He shut everyone up, and he came right over to me and asked if it was you, and I said yes.”

With perfect dramatic timing, Yoongi pauses to take a sip from a bottle of water. “Then what happened?” you practically screech at him, and he chuckles.

“Jimin smiled, really big, and he gave me a hug. He said he’s glad it’s you. And he scolded Taehyung again for thinking he’d be upset. Everyone else was in an uproar. Seokjin still didn’t remember your name at first, but Jungkook reminded him of that food you got for us, the buffet, and then he remembered. He told me good job.”

You laugh at that, not insulted that Jin only remembers you for feeding him. You mentally thank Caroline for giving you the budget to treat the guys properly when they did the concert.

“When everyone finally settled down, I told them about the meeting tomorrow with the CEOs. That took some conversation. Namjoon, especially, had a lot of questions, about my plan, about how this might affect the group.”

You swallow nervously. This sounds closer to what you were expecting. “Does he think you should keep quiet about us? Not tell Big Hit?”

“He did propose that, and we all discussed it for a long time. Some of the others agreed with him, but some thought I should tell Big Hit if I wanted. They feel like we’ve reached a point with our success that we don’t have to sacrifice so much anymore, that any of us should be able to have a serious relationship without worrying about blowback from the industry, or the fans. In the end, Namjoon was ok with it. Honestly, I think he’d like to be with someone himself.”

“Who was on your side?” you ask.

“Taehyung,” Yoongi says immediately. “That’s not surprising. I think he’s already attempted more relationships than the rest of us put together, but our lifestyle makes it so hard to get close to people. And for some reason, Taehyung doesn’t trust easily. He has such a huge heart, but he keeps it sheltered. His relationships always stay casual.”

Hearing this makes you sad. You don’t know Taehyung well, of course, but from listening to Yoongi talk about his friends, you’ve formed the impression that Tae is fiercely loyal to the group. He’s caring and protective of the members, offering them far more support than he asks for. You remember last year, when he talked about the kind of treatment he gets sometimes from Americans, and probably others. Maybe he doesn’t trust because he’s been burned too often. You hope he can find someone to love and appreciate him the way he deserves, if that’s what he really wants.

“What about Hoseok?” you ask tentatively. “Was he on your side? How did he even react to the news?” It didn’t escape your attention that Hoseok is the only member Yoongi didn’t mention during his story. You wonder if this means he was upset.

But to your surprise, Yoongi starts laughing again. “Hobi is the only one who was not surprised,” he tells you, and you gape at him. “He didn’t say a word when I was making the announcement. I asked him about it later, and he told me he’s known about us the whole time.”

You gape at him. “How could he possibly have known?”

“For one thing, he said when you and I met, I had hearts coming out of my eyes every time I looked at you.”

Yoongi sounds annoyed at the description, and you rush to soothe him. “That’s crazy. You were very polite when we met. I didn’t even think you liked me until you asked me to dinner. I definitely didn’t see any hearts.”

Yoongi smirks. “You probably couldn’t see them because, according to Hobi, you had hearts coming out of your own eyes.”

“No I didn’t!” you shriek, feeling a little peeved yourself. “I played it so cool.”

He chuckles. “I don’t know about that. I think you stopped breathing for a minute when you and I first met.”

“Oh my god, you noticed that?” you groan.

“I did notice, and Hobi probably did too since he was standing right next to us. But don’t worry, he definitely saw my jaw drop when you first walked into the room that day. I stared at you for at least a full minute before he poked me and told me to shut my mouth.”

“Really?” you ask, surprised and pleased. “You didn’t show it later.”

“I had time to compose myself before I met you. Although as you were going down the line and greeting us all, I was seriously panicking because I was the last one. I was afraid you were going to fall for one of the others before I even had a chance to talk to you. When Jimin started flirting, I was glad Seokjin smacked him, because if he hadn’t, I probably would have walked over and done it myself. And that would have taken some explaining.”

You laugh in delight. “But Hoseok picked up on something, even though you restrained yourself.”

“He’s almost as observant as Tae. And afterwards, I gave him plenty of indicators that something was going on. I kept disappearing during that Chicago trip. Even after we left, he said I started spending a lot more time on the phone, which is true. And mostly,” Yoongi’s voice softens a little, “Hobi said he knew something was up because I’ve been really happy lately.”

“Really?” you ask, and Yoongi snorts.

“Of course.”

“Hannah said the same thing about me,” you tell him, and he grins slowly at you, making your heart turn over. It’s hard to believe, but it feels like everything really is working out better than you expected. It’s a huge relief.

“Oh, I didn’t even tell you the biggest news,” Yoongi says suddenly. “Seokjin was on my side, about telling Big Hit, and the reason is because he has a girlfriend too. He told us once everyone had time to adjust to my confession. We were shocked all over again.”

You start to laugh. “Are you all secretly dating?”

“No, just the two of us, it seems. And I guess he isn’t exactly dating. He says he’s known this girl a long time; she’s an old family friend or something. He only recently started taking her out occasionally. He’s been wanting to get more serious, but, like me, he hasn’t wanted to reveal the relationship to Big Hit. He said he’ll do it after I do, if everything works out for me. Poor Bang PD. He’s not going to know what hit him after we both confess.”

You smile with him, though Seokjin’s hesitation to assume everything will go smoothly ushers back some of your own concern. Just because Yoongi’s friends will accept you doesn’t mean his bosses will.

But at least you’ve made it over one hurdle. And by tonight, you’ll know if you’ve gotten past the next one. You make Yoongi swear to call you again, as soon as he finishes his meeting with the Big Hit CEOs, even if it’s the middle of the night, your time. And then you get back to work, burying yourself in email responses to keep your anxiety at bay.

Chapter Text

Telling Big Hit about the relationship proves even less problematic than telling Bangtan. You’re a little dazed when Yoongi calls you afterwards and describes how smoothly his meeting went.

“The CEOs didn’t object?” you ask, for about the fourth time, and Yoongi laughs.

“No,” he says again. “They asked a lot of questions, but they never once said I shouldn’t be with you.”

“So they don’t want you to give me up,” you clarify.

No,” he stresses. “Bang PD said he’ll have to consider the best way to handle this, but he meant from a publicity standpoint. How to keep the relationship quiet, and how to protect the group, if anything leaks. He said he’ll have the legal department draw up some papers for you to sign, and probably for me, too, once they have a course of action in place.”

“What kind of papers?” you ask warily.

“Probably a non-disclosure agreement, for one,” he explains. “You’ll agree not to share any private details about me, or the group, or anything else you might incidentally learn about Big Hit artists.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“It’s not. It’s standard for Big Hit employees. They might want you to sign an additional media agreement,” Yoongi continues. “We all have something like that in place, signifying that we won’t speak to reporters or do any public appearances without Big Hit’s consent and feedback.”

“But I do some public appearances for my job,” you remind him, concerned about the impact of a legal agreement on what you do, what you love.

“This won’t affect your work,” Yoongi assures you. “It will only apply to anything related to me or BTS. Like a reporter discovering the relationship and wanting to interview you. Big Hit would need to be informed, and involved.”

“I can handle that,” you agree, after thinking about it. “I doubt I’d want to talk to reporters anyway, not about us.”

“You may have to, some day,” he cautions. “Big Hit might want you to do interviews, if the relationship ever becomes public knowledge. But the nice thing about the media agreement is that they can’t make statements about you without your consent, either. You’ll have some control over what details are released.”

“That definitely sounds good,” you sigh. But you can’t help getting one last confirmation that all of this is real. “You’re sure you’re not fired?” you ask plaintively.

“Oh my god, Y/N, I’m not fired! And I’m not breaking up with you. Everything is fine, just like I said it would be.”

“It just seems too easy.”

“Don’t start thinking like that again. It’s ok for things to be easy. You and I have had a hard-enough time already. I think we deserve a break.”

You can definitely agree with that. You just can’t shake the feeling that maybe this isn’t the break Yoongi thinks it is.

“If it’s really this easy,” you argue, “then why haven’t you all dated more often?”

Yoongi hums in consideration, thinking about the question. “Just because Big Hit allows us to date doesn’t mean they want to see us in relationships. It’s too much hassle, and as I’ve mentioned before, it can affect our public image, maybe narrow our fanbase. I really wasn’t sure how they’d react. My biggest concern with telling them was that they can find legal ways to prevent us from spending time together, by keeping me too busy, by limiting my leave time. But they’re not going to do that, and I’m grateful for it. Our schedule is already restrictive enough. Which is another reason why none of us have gotten so seriously involved with someone before this.”

Everything Yoongi is saying makes sense, and he adds one more piece of information to convince you.

“You know what Bang PD told me at the end of the meeting? He said he knew he’d be having this conversation with one of us someday. He just didn’t expect it to be me.” Yoongi laughs, and you smile, too. “I told him he’ll understand once he meets you. He does want to see you, you know, once they’ve got the paperwork ready to sign. Do you think you can come to Seoul, maybe next week before we leave for Europe? I know you just had a vacation, but this would only need a day or two.”

You think about the tasks you have to complete in the next few weeks. You suppose you could wrangle a couple more days away from the office, especially if you take your work with you and do some of it while you’re abroad.

“I really want to see you again, too,” Yoongi adds, when you don’t answer right away. “I know it’s only been a few days, but I miss you.”

Your heart warms at the admission, and you strengthen your resolve to go to Seoul whenever he asks. You’ll be able to work it out with Caroline.

“I can come,” you promise Yoongi.

“Good,” he says, and you can hear the smile in his voice. “I’ll tell you as soon as I hear from Bang PD about the papers, and we’ll set up a time.”

*****

The next afternoon, you’re working on an outline for the foundation’s monthly newsletter, when Audrey appears in your doorway. “Y/N, there’s a gentleman here to see you,” she says, and you glance at your calendar in confusion. You’re not expecting anyone today.

“Did he give a name?” you ask, and Audrey hesitates.

“Mr….” she pauses again. “Hwan, I think?”

You don’t recognize the name, but that doesn’t mean anything. Sometimes prospective foster or adoptive parents just walk in, hoping to meet the kids who live here, not understanding how much work they need to do before they can get to that stage. “You can bring him back,” you tell Audrey, and you save your work and pull up the adoption prospectus on your monitor.

A moment later, Audrey is ushering in a gentleman who might be seven or eight years older than you. He’s dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase, and you start thinking he may not be here for the kids, after all. But you still stand and come around your desk to greet him, smiling warmly.

“I’m Y/N Y/L/N,” you introduce yourself.

“Kim Yu Hwan,” he says with a bow, and you inspect him more closely. He must be Korean, with the surname Kim. You wonder who he is, and if he has anything to do with Yoongi.

“An-nyeong-haseyo,” you add, quickly bowing in return. “May I bring you a beverage?” you ask, but he declines politely. Instead he proffers a business card, which you accept and study. It’s definitely in Korean. Despite your recent classes, you can only pick out a few of the words, but your heart starts to pound when you spot the Big Hit logo engraved in the corner. You glance up to find Mr. Kim watching you calmly. You retrieve one of your own business cards from your desk and hand it to him, and he in turn takes some time to examine it, before finally accepting the chair you offer. You return to your desk, still quietly watching him, trying to mask your nerves.

“How can I help you?” you ask, and Mr. Kim smiles gently.

“The Clary Foundation,” he begins. “I’m interested to know about the work you do here.”

Your eyebrows raise in surprise at the unexpected opening. You begin describing the foundation’s mission, but you’re distracted by wondering what this is really about.

“I suppose you know BTS was here last year?” you finally question Mr. Kim. “They did a meet and greet and a concert to assist fundraising efforts for our foundation. Does that have anything to do with your business today?”

Mr. Kim smiles again. He opens his briefcase and removes a sheaf of paperwork and a small tape recorder.

“I’m glad you mentioned your connection with BTS. That is, in fact, the reason I’m here. I’d like to record this conversation,” he says, his tone pleasant, but brisk. “Now, tell me about your relationship with Min Yoongi.”

A chill runs down your spine. Yoongi didn’t warn you to expect an interrogation, and you’re not sure how to react. You eye the recorder Mr. Kim has already activated. That doesn’t make sense. Again, you wonder who this guy is, and why he’s here.

“Excuse me, are you a reporter?” you ask, struck by a sudden concern that he’s here under false pretenses, looking for a tabloid story.

Mr. Kim smiles. “No, certainly not. As it says on my business card, I’m an attorney employed by Big Hit Entertainment.”

“Do you have identification?” you ask, and he immediately reaches into his briefcase again. He hands you a passport, and you flip open the cover. He’s certainly who he says he is. You take another look at the business card. You don’t know the Korean word for attorney, or lawyer, but you turn to your computer and spend a moment looking up the text from the card to confirm his title. Then you attempt to locate a Big Hit staff listing that includes Mr. Kim, but with no luck. Picking up your cell phone, you send Yoongi a discreet text, asking him to call you, and then you dial the phone number listed on Big Hit’s website. There’s no answer, but you manage to navigate the auto-directory, straining your Korean to its limits, and you eventually end up in a voicemail box for one Kim Yu Hwan. The voice on the recording sounds like the man sitting in front of you. You hang up without leaving a message. Yoongi hasn’t replied yet, but you weren’t hopeful; it’s something like three in the morning in Seoul.

You return Mr. Kim’s passport, but hang onto the business card, setting it down on your desk again. “Thank you for your patience. I’ll answer your questions, although there’s really not much to say. I met Min Yoongi, and the other members of BTS, last year. I interacted with the group during two days of events for the Clary Foundation. Later that week they invited me to one of their concerts, and I attended.”

You stop talking and lean back in your chair, aware of the tape recorder still sitting on the desk. Mr. Kim has been making notes on a legal pad, but now he looks up at you.

“And?” he asks. “Please, continue.”

“There is no more,” you tell him, willing your voice to remain even, your face calm. “I haven’t seen any of the members since then.” You make a show of leaning forward again and scrolling through the calendar on your computer. “The fundraising events were May 7 and 8, 2019,” you tell him, offering what you hope looks like a helpful smile.

Mr. Kim puts his pen down, looking mildly annoyed. “Really, Miss Y/L/N,” he says, peering at you over the rim of his glasses. “We don’t need you to confirm the nature and extent of your relationship. Mr. Min has already admitted to it.”

The word ‘admitted’ sounds ominous. Your worst-case scenarios start circling, and you wonder which one this is. Did Big Hit threaten Yoongi to get the details about you? Are they planning to sue him, and they just need you to supply the proof they need to win their case? You really wish you could talk to Yoongi right now, but you’re on your own.

While your brain is busy sifting through the possibilities, Mr. Kim is extracting several papers from the stack in front of him. He slides them across your desk.

“Big Hit has arranged this offer for you. Please review the paperwork, and sign if you agree,” he says smoothly. “I’ve prepared everything in English so you’ll have no trouble understanding the terms of the agreement. Although I notice you speak some Korean,” he adds, fixing you with a look, and you wonder if you made a mistake by flexing your language skills. Quickly you lower your eyes to the paperwork. The first page is a non-disclosure agreement, and you begin to relax slightly. Yoongi did actually mention something like this. Maybe this means Big Hit has accepted the relationship, like he told you. You turn to the next page, but you’re distracted when Mr. Kim begins to speak again.

“In short, by signing, you will agree never to speak to the media, or to anyone else, about any details of your relationship with Mr. Min. You will neither confirm nor deny that such a relationship even occurred. Furthermore, you will agree to never see, speak with, or have any other sort of communication with Mr. Min.”

Wait, what? You drop the paper in your hand like it’s on fire, looking up at the attorney in shock. He continues seamlessly, not even seeming surprised by your reaction.

“In return for signing, I am authorized by Big Hit to write you a check for fifty million won. That’s just over forty thousand American dollars. Of course, if you breach the terms of the agreement, that money will be immediately forfeit, and Big Hit won’t hesitate to pursue additional financial penalties, as outlined on page three.” He leans over and extracts the page in question from your stack, but you don’t even look at it.

“I won’t be signing this,” you say, straightening your spine and trying to look confident. In reality, you’re terrified. Out of all your imagined scenarios, you never once pictured Big Hit trying to buy you off, and you’re not prepared at all. You figure your best bet, for now, is to sign nothing, admit nothing, and just get rid of this guy. You narrow your eyes at Mr. Kim. You no longer suspect he’s a reporter. No, he’s much worse than that: he’s the person trying to make Yoongi disappear from your life.

You won’t make it easy for him, though. Yoongi told you to fight for him, so fight you will.

“I could increase that amount to one hundred million won,” Mr. Kim is saying. “What’s important is that we clear this up today, as soon as possible.”

“I’m sorry,” you say. There’s no point in arguing over what amount of money you’re not going to take. “What you’re asking is impossible. Now, if there’s nothing else, I really must be getting back to work.” You stand up, a clear sign to Mr. Kim that the interview is over. But he doesn’t join you.

“Mr. Min warned us you would need a large sum of money before you would agree. I can offer you as much as one hundred fifty million won.”

“Yoongi never said that,” you exclaim, and then you realize your words are an admission. By the gentle triumph in his eyes, you can tell Mr. Kim knows it too.

“Did you really think I would be here without his knowledge?” he asks, a hint of pity in his tone. “Mr. Min understands the reality of the industry he’s in. He made a commitment to Big Hit Entertainment, and that commitment doesn’t leave room for extracurricular relationships. He can continue with you, or continue with BTS, but not both. You can’t expect him to choose you.”

But he did choose you. Didn’t he? Your mind is reeling, with fear, with despair, with a return of all the self-deprecating sentiments you’ve been trying so hard to squash. This is what you were afraid of, and what you’ve always expected.

What you deserve, the voice in your head whispers. But then you hear another voice, a deeper, quieter one, telling you that you don’t deserve this, nor do you really expect it, not from Yoongi. He might choose BTS. You can understand that. But you’re confident he would tell you himself. He would never send someone to break the news to you this way, to try to pay you to give him up. And he wouldn’t expect you to take any money, no matter how large the sum. He knows you better than that.

You feel your back straightening again. Holding your head high, you pierce Mr. Kim with a look of contempt. “If what you say is true, then I deserve to hear it from Yoongi. You can tell him I’ll be waiting for his phone call.”

“Miss Y/L/N, it’s the middle of the night in Seoul. You won’t be able to hear from him for several more hours. There’s no reason to delay these proceedings. If you wait too long, Big Hit may rescind any offer of monetary compensation.”

You glance at the clock on the wall. “I can stay here until Yoongi calls. If circumstances are really as you say, you can come back with the paperwork this evening. But there’s no need to bring your checkbook. I won’t take any money from Big Hit.”

Mr. Kim is observing you with an inscrutable look on his face. Finally, with a sigh, he leans forward to collect the papers from your desk. He turns off the tape recorder, packs everything into his briefcase, and finally stands. You usher him back to the lobby without another word. But when he bows to you, his eyes still contemplative, you bow in return. He may be the enemy, but he’s also your elder, and he’s probably just doing his job. You won’t disrespect him for that.

As soon as Mr. Kim is out of the building, you run back to your office and grab your cell phone. You call Yoongi this time, but he doesn’t answer, and you hang up without leaving a message. You’re not sure what you would say anyway. Despite your earlier conviction, you feel sick with worry. Maybe Yoongi really did cave under pressure from Big Hit. Maybe he’s not choosing you after all. He may just be trying to find a way to tell you, not realizing Big Hit would sic lawyers on you so quickly.

You realize you’re pacing the length of your office, and you quickly sit down in your desk chair. But you can’t get back to work. You can’t focus on anything except the cell phone still in your hand, both willing it to ring, and dreading Yoongi’s call. Frustrated, you toss the phone aside. You can’t sit here staring at if for hours. Instead, you gather your notes on the newsletter. You’re planning to contact Spencer for an interview about how he’s doing, a year after finding an adoptive family. The article will feature as a success story, and hopefully a prompt for more donations. You’ll go sit with Caroline for a bit and finalize the angle for the article and the questions you should ask Spencer. That ought to distract you while you wait until it’s late enough that you can reasonably expect to hear from Yoongi.

But at the door of your office, you pause, finally darting back to grab your cell phone from where you discarded it. If Yoongi calls early, you don’t want to miss it, no matter the outcome.

*****

Yoongi does call, but not until evening, long after the rest of the foundation staff have left you alone in the building. You’ve been trying for hours to work on your newsletter, but all you can think about is your boyfriend. If he’s going to break up with you now, after everything you’ve been through. If he really meant what he told you in Costa Rica, or if he was only saying the words because he expected everything to work out the way he wanted.

You’re not sure what you’ll do if Mr. Kim was telling the truth. Yoongi told you to fight, but did he mean even against him, against his own decision? Probably not, but maybe you should try anyway. Maybe your recent actions have weakened Yoongi’s faith in you, enough to tip him towards letting you go. Maybe you still have a chance to convince him to stick with you.

You’re scribbling a list of things you can say to him, hoping that might make it easier to find the words of love that so often stick in your throat when you’re with him, when the phone finally rings. You grab it, quickly answering Yoongi’s call, but you can’t say anything. All your words are stuck, blocked by your fear of what he’s going to tell you.

“Y/N?” he asks after a moment. “Are you there? I saw your text. Are you ok?”

You try to reply, but your attempted yes is more of a gasp.

“Hey,” Yoongi says gently, his voice deepening in an attempt to soothe. “What’s wrong? Is it too much, this waiting for news? I’m going into the office soon. I’ll ask Bang PD to give me a timeline for signing that paperwork. They can’t need that much time to put it together. I’m sure it’s similar to the standard agreements they make all the Big Hit employees sign.”

You’re glad you’re sitting down, because you don’t think your knees would hold you otherwise, not with how they start trembling from relief. It doesn’t sound like Yoongi knows Big Hit already prepared the paperwork, and brought it to you. Or that it wasn’t what he was expecting. They’ve kept him in the dark.

You’re suddenly angry that his company would do that to him. What if you had taken the deal? Not that you ever would, of course, but what if you’d been someone else, maybe someone like that choreographer he dated, who wanted status more than she wanted him. She might have accepted the money, and then he’d have to hear about it from Big Hit. He’d be heartbroken. How could they ever do something that might cause him so much pain? Your own heart aches, just thinking about it.

“Y/N?” Yoongi asks again. “You’re scaring me here.” You realize you haven’t said a word yet, or at least not a coherent one.

“I’m fine,” you assure him, though you aren’t, not while your blood is boiling. You open your mouth to tell him about Mr. Kim’s visit, but pause, unsure if that’s the right thing to do. Even though you didn’t give him up, he could still feel a different type of heartbreak if he learns about Big Hit’s actions. It could destroy his trust in the company, and in Bang PD. It might even be enough to jeopardize his future with BTS. And that’s the last thing you want.

“I’m just nervous, like you said,” you finally explain. “But you don’t have to push for a timeline.” You’re a little fearful of what Big Hit might say to Yoongi, but you realize there’s a possibility they won’t tell him anything. Maybe Mr. Kim’s visit was some kind of test, and since you refused the money, now they’ll move forward with supporting the relationship, like they said they would. In that case, maybe Yoongi will never have to know what transpired today. You decide not to say anything, for now, to wait and see what happens next.

“I’ll let you know as soon as I get more information,” Yoongi promises. After the call, you gather your things and leave the office, figuring you won’t be hearing from Mr. Kim again tonight. You wonder if he’ll come back the next day, with some new story or offer. At least you’ll be better prepared this time, secure in the knowledge that Yoongi isn’t involved.

*****

Mr. Kim doesn’t return on Thursday, and you manage to make it through the work day with some semblance of productivity. You don’t hear from Yoongi that evening, and you go to bed with a lingering feeling of unease, at the lack of resolution. You lie awake, too anxious to relax, torturing your bedcovers into impossible shapes as you toss and turn. You finally doze off around midnight, only to be jerked from sleep a couple hours later by the ringing of your phone.

It’s a video call from Yoongi. You turn on a lamp as you answer, blinking at the sudden brightness. But you still immediately see the intensity of Yoongi’s expression, the fire blazing in his eyes as he stares through the screen at you.

“What’s wrong?” you gasp. Did he lose his job after all? Or worse?

“Why didn’t you tell me Yu Hwan came to see you?” he demands, and you swallow nervously. “He offered you money?” Yoongi continues, and he looks so upset that a terrible thought occurs to you. What if Big Hit told him you accepted the offer?

“Yoongi, I didn’t take it!” you cry, desperate for him to hear your words, to believe them. “I would never do that!”

“I know,” he says, and his voice is so fierce that you gasp again. His eyes are still drilling into yours. “They had a tape. I heard what you said. You turned down a hundred fifty million won. For me?”

The intense gleam of his eyes softens slightly with the question, and you hear a hint of wonder, like he’s not sure he believes the truth, even after hearing the tape.

“Of course I turned it down! Yoongi, I don’t want money, I just want to be with you. I love you.”

“I love you too,” he says, with so much emotion in his voice that it brings tears to your eyes. “God, Y/N, I love you so much right now. I want to see you. Can you come to Seoul? As soon as possible? Bang PD wants to see you, too.”

“Is he the one who played the tape?” you ask, and he nods.

“Yes, but Yu Hwan and CEO Park were there too. They called me in to a meeting, but they didn’t tell me why. They just played the tape. As soon as Yu Hwan offered you that money, I came out of my chair so fast I think he was afraid I would hit him. But Bang PD said to wait for the end.”

You can picture the scene, and the pain he must have felt, and your hands clench around the phone in anger.

“I almost did hit Yu Hwan, when he said that part about not choosing you,” Yoongi continues, his eyes still hot. “He has no idea what those words could have done to you. How they would hurt you.”

“They did hurt,” you admit. “And they scared me. Oh, Yoongi, I was so scared that you knew about it, that you sent him.” Your throat is constricted, as you remember the stress of that moment. “I was scared for hours, until you called me, and I realized you didn’t know anything about it.”

“I was scared too, thinking you would accept the money. But you rejected it, and you were…magnificent,” Yoongi’s expression is almost fiercely proud. “Yu Hwan said you looked like a queen, waiting for someone to bring you his head in a box. He’s a little intimidated by you. And probably me too, after I got so angry with him just now.”

“I didn’t think Big Hit would tell you about this,” you say slowly, and Yoongi sighs.

“Bang PD explained that if you were only with me because of my fame or money, or if you didn’t really care strongly enough about me, it would be better to find out now, before I committed too deeply. But what he means is before Big Hit commits too deeply.”

“That isn’t right,” you say angrily, and Yoongi sighs again.

“No, but it is one of the realities we have to deal with, as idols. I understand it, even if I don’t like it. Listen, I need to get back into the meeting. I need to tell them when you can come to Seoul. Do you think you can be here by Monday?”

“Yes, I think so,” you agree. You’ll talk to Caroline tomorrow, about taking some time off next week.

“And I’m making Big Hit pay for your flight. I’m serious,” he continues, when you start to object. “Don’t put it on your credit card. Send me the flight details and I’ll forward them on to accounting. I’ll get Bang PD to approve. He owes you a plane ticket, at the very least, after what they did to you.”

“Ok,” you say meekly, and Yoongi leans a little closer to the screen.

“I love you,” he says again, and his eyes are still so hot with the truth of it that you tremble. But you’re able to say the words in return, coaxing a smile and a softer look from him before he ends the call.

*****

You manage to get a few days off the next week, mainly by arranging to work all day Saturday. Yoongi really does get Big Hit to pay for your plane tickets, and he also contacts his personal attorney about joining you when you meet Bang Si-hyuk, to review whatever paperwork they prepare for you this time. He assures you it won’t be the papers Kim Yu Hwan brought to Chicago, but you’re still glad to have your own legal representation as you sign. And Yoongi swears he’ll stay with you, too, to make sure everything is fine.

You leave Chicago Sunday morning, and your flight lands in Seoul early on Monday. Like the last time you visited, Yoongi hires a car to pick you up. But this time, when the driver opens the door of the black SUV, your boyfriend is waiting in the back, protected from view by the car’s tinted windows. You scramble joyfully into the seat and wrap your arms around him, burying your face in his t-shirt and just breathing him in, letting yourself sink into his embrace. After a long minute, you pull back enough to see his face, and the heated welcome in his eyes, and he kisses you so fervently that your heart twists.

The car is already swinging onto the highway before he pulls away, only to lean against you once more to tug your seatbelt down and fasten it across your body. He clicks his own belt into place before smiling at you.

“How’s work?” he asks, and you stare at him, surprised by the mundane question. His lips quirk in amusement as he scoots closer again.

“I need the distraction, or I’ll just keep kissing you,” he says softly, glancing towards the driver. His hand has settled rather possessively on your knee, the fingers circling gently against the fabric of your leggings. “Or more. Anyway, we haven’t talked about anything normal all week.”

You wouldn’t mind if he keeps kissing you, or more, but you stifle your own impulses and start to tell him about the interview you had with Spencer on Saturday.

“He loves his new school,” you say to wrap up the story. “It sounds like he has a ton of friends. He was even elected class president.”

“I’m not surprised,” Yoongi grins. “He showed so much confidence on the stage last year.” He adds something in Korean. It sounds like he’s talking about a tree, and you look at him blankly, figuring you misunderstood.

“I said you can recognize a good tree from when it’s a sapling,” he explains. “I thought you said you’ve been practicing your Korean?”

“I have been! I sort of understood you. It just seemed out of context.”

“I’ll have to start teaching you all the Korean proverbs.”

“I should probably focus on my normal conversational skills first. Does Bang Si-hyuk speak English?” you ask, your mind turning towards the meeting you’ll have with him soon.

“Yes, but CEO Park doesn’t know very much. He’ll appreciate any effort you make to speak Korean. I can translate, though, so don’t worry if you can’t think of the words you need.”

“What time are we meeting them?”

“Not until 6:00 tonight. Bang PD wanted to wait until the building closes, to minimize the number of people who might see you and start asking questions. Also, we’ve scheduled a dinner afterwards, for the group and a few of the Big Hit employees to meet you.”

“A dinner,” you repeat nervously. This is the first you’ve heard of it, and you aren’t sure you’re ready to face the members yet. Bang Si-hyuk and the other CEOs have been enough to worry about.

“Don’t worry,” Yoongi smiles. “You’ve already met the guys, so only a few faces will be new. And Seokjin is bringing his girlfriend, too, so you won’t have the entire spotlight on you. None of the rest of us have even met her yet.”

“So he confessed to Big Hit after all?” you ask, sitting up in surprise. When Yoongi called you about the plane ticket and the attorney, he said he wanted to tell the rest of the group you were offered a payoff, that the information might help Jin make a decision about his own girlfriend. You gave your permission, but you haven’t talked to him again to hear the outcome of that conversation.

“I’ll tell you later,” Yoongi admonishes, with another pointed look at the driver. You settle back against him, waiting restively to get somewhere private.

*****

Except, when you make it to Yoongi’s building, you still have to wait for his news. In the elevator, he no longer hesitates to kiss you, his lips meeting yours with much more heat than before. By the time the doors ping open on his floor, you want privacy for something other than conversation. Yoongi is on the same page, his hand already under your shirt, pressing against the bare skin of your back as he guides you to his apartment. He’s undressing you before the door closes, and you let him, basking in his murmured words of appreciation. In bed, he’s far more intense than usual, but still achingly gentle, his lips seeking yours again and again even as he moves inside you.

“Saranghae,” he keeps saying. The words are like water nourishing a desert, or aloe on a burn, soothing the small cuts and insecurities that have been present in your heart for so long. You think he tells you he loves you more in an hour than he has for the entire extent of your relationship. You tell him, too, repeating the words until he begins kissing you so deeply you can’t think about anything but the warmth of his mouth, his tongue against yours, the occasional shock of his teeth closing over your lip.

You’re floating so high on the delicate sensations that your orgasm sneaks up on you, trembling through you almost before you know it’s happening. Yoongi doesn’t seem surprised, slowing the rhythm of his hips to make it last as long as possible, still kissing your neck and jaw as you moan out his name. He comes not long after, while you’re still breathless, and you don’t object when he sags against you, despite his weight. You just hold him, barely finding the strength to slide your fingers into his hair and caress his scalp.

He finally gets up and pads into the bathroom, returning a couple minutes later to hand you a towel. He pulls on a pair of sweatpants before climbing back into bed with you, drawing the covers up and cocooning you both inside them. You rest your head against his shoulder.

“Will you tell me about Jin now?” you ask, and Yoongi shifts his weight, settling you more comfortably against him for the story.

“After last week’s meeting, I told the guys everything was fine, and Seokjin was optimistic that he would be able to tell Big Hit about Sena, the girl he’s dating. But when I found out what Big Hit had done, I told him and the others about it. Seokjin thought maybe he wouldn’t say anything after all. He even started talking about how he should distance himself from Sena, rather than put her in a position to have to deal with something like what happened to you.”

You frown in dismay, hating that your situation might have that sort of impact on Jin’s budding relationship.

“He looked so sad about it, though. He really likes this girl. We all started encouraging him not to break up with her. We said we’d all go with him to talk to Bang PD, and we’d tell him no more payoffs. Apparently,” he breaks off, looking down at you, and you tip your head so you can see his face better. “Apparently you aren’t the first person Big Hit has approached that way. A couple of the others had stories.”

“Really?” you ask, surprised. But then, when you think about it, you’re not so shocked. It makes sense that the guys would at least occasionally find people they want to get closer to, regardless of how busy they are. And it makes sense that Big Hit might look for a simple way to shut down that kind of thing, if it’s not the image they want for their idols. You’re still upset, though.

“I won’t give you any details, not without permission,” Yoongi continues. “But just know there was some outrage when the guys heard my story, and when they saw Jin’s reaction.”

“There should be outrage!” you assert. “I’m still angry about it, too! What if I had taken the money? You would really be hurt, right?”

Yoongi’s arms tighten around you. “Yes,” he says quietly. “I would have been more than hurt. And I don’t think I would have accepted what Bang Si-hyuk’s said about testing the depth of someone’s feelings for someone else. People can really love someone, but still have their breaking point. I’m just thankful yours wasn’t a hundred fifty million won.”

“Oh, Yoongi, I don’t have a breaking point,” you tell him, hugging him too. “I wouldn’t have taken even a hundred fifty million dollars.”

“How much is that in won?” he asks curiously. You’re not sure, though you just covered monetary terms in your most recent Korean class.

“Maybe a hundred fifty billion won?” you guess, but Yoongi has already retrieved his phone from the nightstand and is looking it up.

“Fuck, it’s a hundred seventy-two billion,” he says, sounding awed. “So let’s think about this. If someone offers you that much money, you take it, see?”

“What?” you screech. “No, I won’t take it!”

“Hold up, hear me out,” Yoongi interrupts, laughing at your outrage. “If you have that much money, you can buy a private island somewhere. Then we fake my death, and you get me a new identity, and we can retire to the island and live in luxury for the rest of our lives.”

You can only shake your head over his plan. “You couldn’t possibly retire this young. You wouldn’t make it two weeks on an island before you were dying of boredom, and pining for your studio.”

Yoongi cackles with laughter. “I’d have you to keep me occupied.”

“Ok, maybe a month, tops. But eventually, you’d get tired of having nothing to do.”

“You may be right,” he concedes, though he’s still chuckling. “Ok, so money’s not your breaking point. But there could have been something. What if Yu Hwan had offered to write that check to the Clary Foundation? You could help a lot of kids with that much money. Give them a better chance, like Spencer got.”

“No.” You shake your head again, this time in firm dissent. “As much as I would love that, it still wouldn’t get me to walk away from you.”

Yoongi chucks his phone aside and twines his arms back around you. “For that I am very thankful.”

“I agree with you, though, that Big Hit shouldn’t test people that way,” you tell him. “Did you actually confront them about it, for Jin?”

“We did. We called Bang PD over to the dorm and talked with him, for a long time. Seokjin told him about Sena, that he’d like to commit to something serious with her. We got Bang PD to agree to let the two of them have some room to see how things will work. Freely, without hiding or worrying about interference.”

“So they’re going public?” you ask nervously. “What does that mean for us?”

“No, they’re not going public, though Bang PD said he’s working on some plans for that, in case anyone finds out about either them, or us. Knowing him, he probably already has about a dozen different plans in place, and he’ll just have to choose the best one for whatever situation emerges. He’s always thinking five or ten years ahead of everyone else.” Yoongi’s shoulder shakes with silent laughter, and you smile a little, too, though you’re not sure if you appreciate having Bang Si-hyuk masterminding plans for your life.

“For now, everything remains a secret,” Yoongi continues. “We’ll still have to be careful in public. But you can tell more of your friends if you want, if you trust them. A select number of people at Big Hit will know about you and Sena. Basically, it’s the people who are coming to the dinner, tonight.”

That’s right, there’s a dinner. You feel worry returning as you think about it. Yoongi strokes your arm soothingly.

“You don’t have to be nervous,” he tells you, and you gape at him. How did he know what you were thinking? “Bang PD wants to welcome you. There’s no other motive. And the guys want to get to know you better, become friends with you. It’s important to them, because you’re important to me.”

“You really think I could be friends with them?” you ask, pleasure seeping in to ease your nerves. You’ve been a little fearful of causing tension or jealousy between Yoongi and the rest of the group, of being perceived as a threat to their dynamic, or their success, so it’s encouraging to hear that they’re looking forward to seeing you again.

“Yes, I think you’ll get along with them really well,” Yoongi assures you. “They already liked you, when they met you before.”

“Tell me what I have in common with them,” you urge, hoping for some tidbits to help you make conversation with the group during dinner.

“In Costa Rica,” he says slowly, looking thoughtful, “when we did the tree-climbing thing, and when you were swimming in the ocean, you reminded me of Jungkook. You’re fearless like he is. And sometimes you make me laugh the same way he does.”

This isn’t quite what you were asking for, but you appreciate the insight.

“Then, sometimes, you remind me of Namjoon,” he continues. You’re both so smart, and you have such a good public face. Diplomatically assertive.” He chuckles. “And you cook like he does.”

“Hey,” you laugh. “Why are you insulting me like this?”

“Who says it was an insult?” he asks, grinning wickedly. “I’m telling him you said that. He’s not going to want to be friends with you now.”

“Yoongi, no!” you beg. “Don’t tell him!”

“I’m so telling him.”

“You’re the one who’s always saying he’s a bad cook!” you accuse, going on the offensive. He laughs.

“I know I’ve said that, but I should probably stop. Namjoon has gotten a lot better in the kitchen.”

“Well, so have I. I made a maeuntang.”

“You’re right. Let’s sign you up for Master Chef.”

You poke at him in annoyance, but honestly, you’d almost rather go on a cooking show than come face to face with Bangtan again, now that they know you’ve hijacked one of their members. Yoongi leans over to see your face once more, smiling softly.

“Don’t worry about making a good impression. Just be yourself, and they’ll love you.”

You sigh. “I’ll do my best.”

*****

A few hours later, you’re sitting in the waiting room outside Bang Si-hyuk’s office. Yoongi’s attorney is there too, but after greeting you, she accepted a phone call and became absorbed in the conversation, leaving you and Yoongi to your own devices. He’s sitting next to you, his hand back on your knee, one finger stroking soothingly against your bare skin. You tug nervously at your skirt, hoping you look appropriate for the meeting, and Yoongi moves his hand to yours, stilling your restless motions.

“Are you good?” he asks, in a low voice. “Not planning on running away from all this?”

You turn to him, seeing the small smile that means he’s joking, but also the worry in his eyes signaling a real concern. You twine your fingers with his, happy to see the worry ease at your gesture.

“I’m not going anywhere,” you promise. “I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to run from you again, now that I’m signing away my life for you.”

Yoongi’s smile widens. “You’re not signing anything away. None of this should have much of an impact on your everyday life. You can even break up with me if you want. You just won’t be able to trash me to the media afterwards. So maybe, don’t sign the paperwork if you think you’ll want to do that.”

“Do you really think I would go to the media?” you demand, and he chuckles.

“No, I don’t. And I hope you’re not going to break up with me, either. Just know it’s an option. You don’t have to be afraid of signing anything,” he assures you, his voice growing serious again.

“I’m not afraid,” you tell him, although it’s only partially true. But before he can say anything else, the waiting room door opens and Kim Yu Hwan enters. He spots you instantly and offers a brief tip of his head before sitting down across the room. You eye him coldly, your worries dissipating in the face of your lingering anger.

Yoongi leans close and murmurs in your ear, “You don’t have to look at Yu Hwan like that.”

“Like what?” you ask, still not taking your eyes from the attorney.

“Like you want his head in a box,” Yoongi smirks, and you flush. “He’s already scared of you.”

“Well, he should be. He lied to me.”

“He was following orders,” Yoongi says lightly.

“So I should want Bang Si-hyuk’s head?” you ask, and he laughs.

“Please don’t give Bang PD that look, either, when you meet him. He’s on your side now. On our side.”

You’re not sure you’ll believe that until you see what kind of paperwork they give you this time. But you offer Mr. Kim a small smile, and he acknowledges with one of his own.

Only another minute passes before the door opens again and three more men join you. Yoongi immediately gets to his feet, tugging you with him, and you stand and bow to the newcomers. Yoongi’s attorney ends her call and joins your group, and Yoongi presents both of you.

You recognize Bang Si-hyuk, the first person introduced. As you study Big Hit’s founder, you can see how he’s become the most successful person in the Korean entertainment industry. Though his appearance is ordinary, he’s absolutely sparkling with charisma. His sharp eyes glimmer behind his glasses, holding your attention effortlessly. You get the impression that he’s absorbing ever detail of your own appearance with only the most cursory glance. For some reason, he seems tickled by your presence, and the warmth of his smile goes a long way towards melting your annoyance with him.

The other two men are Yoon Lenzo and Park Jiwon, Big Hit’s Global and Management CEOs, respectively. You say hello to them both in your best Korean, remembering CEO Park doesn’t speak much English. Finally, you formally greet Mr. Kim, and Yoongi introduces his attorney, and CEO Bang ushers you all into a conference room.

The paperwork is much as Yoongi described it to you. Kim Yu Hwan has prepared everything in English again, and both Yoongi and his attorney study each page after you’ve read it, occasionally conversing with you about the way something is phrased, or asking Mr. Kim or CEO Bang to clarify some small point. Whenever the lawyers are busy in discussion, CEO Bang questions you closely about all aspects of your life, your job, your interests, your family and friends. You answer honestly, mostly using English to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, although you provide only the barest details when it comes to your family. You have no idea if Yoongi has already told his bosses any details about your mom, but you don’t particularly want to discuss her in this venue. You don’t think CEO Bang misses your reticence, but he’s kind enough, or cagey enough, not to push you on the matter. Overall, you enjoy speaking with him quite a bit; his intellect and interest are compelling. And once you’ve signed the final agreement, he smiles engagingly, clapping his hands together in delight. Then, to your surprise, he asks CEO Yoon to bring over some champagne from a refrigerator at one end of the room.

You glance at Yoongi, but he also seems surprised. He’s been a rock throughout the meeting, quietly demanding that every agreement is thoroughly explained by the lawyers before you put pen to paper, subtly touching your hand in comfort when CEO Bang’s questions stray into uncomfortable territory, smiling in encouragement whenever you find yourself feeling even a hint of nerves. Now he takes your hand again as you all stand up, waiting for CEO Yoon to pop the champagne and pour it out.

When everyone has a glass, CEO Bang clears his throat, instantly commanding everyone’s attention. He turns to face you, raising his glass as he begins to speak.

“When Yoongi told us about you, last week, I was quite surprised to learn how deeply attached he had become to someone outside of Bangtan. I have always considered his attachment to the group, to his art, to be complete, and I didn’t expect him to share that passion easily. But he said that I would understand when I met you.” He chuckles at little at that, and you look at Yoongi. He’s watching you instead of CEO Bang, and there’s so much fondness in his gaze that your breath catches.

“And I do understand,” CEO Bang continues, and you quickly return your attention to him. “Having met you today, and having received such a favorable report from Yu Hwan, about your reaction to his surprise visit, I can see some of the qualities that Yoongi appreciates in you.” Now you look at Mr. Kim, startled to hear he would have anything good to say about you. Maybe he is on your side.

Bang CEO lifts his glass even higher. “May the two of you stay together for a long time, so I can have the opportunity to learn even more about you, Y/N. I look forward to it. Welcome to the Big Hit family.”

Welcome to the family. Your throat constricts dangerously at that, and Yoongi tightens his hand around your own, knowing perfectly well what those words will do to you. You turn to see the love in his eyes, the wide smile on his face. All around you, the others in the room are smiling too, and raising their champagne in a toast. You manage to lift your own glass in a weak salute, as your heart swells with joy.

Chapter Text

When the meeting ends, CEO Bang says he and the others have a few things to discuss, but that they’ll all see you at the dinner, which is being held in another part of the Big Hit building.

As soon as you make it out to the hallway, you turn to Yoongi.

“Did you ask CEO Bang to say that, about welcoming me to the family?” you demand, and he raises an eyebrow.

“I didn’t. That’s just how he feels about Big Hit. He wants all of us to have a home here. Now, that includes you.”

You remember the first night Yoongi visited your apartment, when you listened wistfully as he compared BTS to his family. Now, the same thing is being offered to you. Not on the same scale, of course; you’ll never have the kind of closeness with anyone from Bangtan or Big Hit that they have with each other. But you appreciate the sentiment, more than you can say.

Yoongi notices you’re close to tears. “Do you need a few minutes before we go to the dinner?” he asks softly. “I can show you around first.” You nod, and he takes your hand, smiling in encouragement before turning to lead you down the hall. You trail after him, glad for the extra time to compose yourself before meeting the group again.

Yoongi takes you into a different section of the building and gives you a quick tour of the dance and production studios where he spends most of his time. He stops and punches in the passcode for a door labeled Genius Lab, and you gasp as you realize you’re about to enter the hallowed ground of Min PD’s studio. He ushers you inside with a shy look warring with the smugness of his expression.

The room is small, brightly lit, and furnished with all kinds of equipment you don’t recognize. You circle slowly, taking in the keyboard against one wall, a television, several computer monitors, and surprisingly, quite a few toys. Or maybe models? Collectibles? You’re not sure, but you smile at the reminder that while Yoongi always seems like the mature one, he is in fact younger than you are. And then you recall your own Hello Kitty straws and Mulan coffee mugs, and the stuffed unicorn throw pillow on your bed. You guess toys have no age limit.

Your attention is captured by a sleek black guitar in the corner of the room. “You’re really learning to play the guitar?” you ask, approaching the instrument with reverence.

“I haven’t started yet,” Yoongi says behind you, as you gingerly stroke the shiny front of the guitar. “I just got that a few days ago. I need to get some music, too. And find the time,” he adds, sounding annoyed. “Which probably won’t be until we finish the tour.”

You turn around, only to see Yoongi sprawled in his desk chair, legs spread as he swivels gently from side to side. He dressed up a bit for the meeting and dinner, in black trousers and button down, with a Rolex glinting on his wrist. An image of him strumming a guitar floats through your mind, and your mouth waters.

“So you can’t play something for me?” you ask hopefully, walking towards him.

“Not yet,” he says regretfully, and you shake your head in disappointment. He still looks a little smug, especially when you reach his chair and position yourself between his legs.

“You know, ARMY would kill to get in here,” you comment, and Yoongi smiles, reaching out to rest his hands on your hips.

“A lot of them would kill to get you alone in here,” you add, trailing a finger down his chest, and his eyes widen.

“Whatever you’re suggesting, we don’t have time for it,” he says, though his grin just about splits his face in half. “The others are going to show up for dinner any minute, and if we’re not there they’ll come looking for us.”

You think about the scenario of some of the members catching you in a compromising position. Not the best way to make a good impression. With a sigh, you step back again, though the way Yoongi’s fingers trail across your ass as he lets you go almost has you reconsidering. But he’s already getting to his feet, so you follow him meekly to the door and out.

“Have you ever had sex in there?” you question in a low voice as he leads you down the hall to an elevator.

“No,” he says, looking at you like you’re weird. “Who would I have sex with?”

“I don’t know, your ex-girlfriend? She worked here.”

“Ah, but I didn’t have a studio back then. Namjoon and I shared a space for a while. Eventually Big Hit gave me my own room, but it was tiny. This is my new studio, and you’re the only person I’ve dated since I got it.”

You step into the elevator and Yoongi pushes a button before sliding an arm around your waist. His hand ghosts over your ass again, and he smiles when a tremor of reaction runs through you.

“I was in there a couple times when you and I were on the phone this past year,” he murmurs. You shiver again as you realize what he means. The two of you have definitely indulged in phone sex on a handful of occasions, when you’ve had to go a while without seeing each other. The calls were hot as fuck, but he never mentioned he was in his studio during any of them. Now you’ve got all kinds of images in your head. Quickly, you step away from Yoongi, before you forget yourself and end up in a compromising position in the elevator. He laughs and takes your hand instead, humming smugly as you complete the ride to the top floor.

The dinner is in a room clearly designed for entertaining, with a small bar in one corner, several chairs and couches grouped together in conversation areas, and a long dining table and chairs near the back. The windows beyond the table offer views of the Seoul skyline. Other than the bartender, and someone arranging trays of appetizers on a nearby table, you and Yoongi are the first to arrive.

But almost immediately, the door opens behind you, and a laughing voice booms a question.

“Yoongi-hyung, can’t you even find a girl who’s shorter than you?” You turn to see Taehyung approaching, grinning devilishly. You look down at your heels, wondering if they were a mistake. Then you glance at Yoongi to see if he’s upset by the dig, but he looks completely unfazed.

Taehyung turns to you next, still laughing. “I’m joking. You two look good together.”

Yoongi reacts to that one. “Taehyung-a,” he complains, looking embarrassed, and Taehyung apologizes with a bow to both of you.

“Seriously, it’s good to see you again,” he tells you, and you smile and bow in return.

You all turn as the door is flung open once more, to see Jimin hurrying into the room. He comes straight to you, beaming, and your breath catches at how blindingly pretty he is. You should have remembered the power this man holds.

“Y/N!” he greets you, not bothering with formality as he folds you into a tight hug. You pat his back, wondering what Yoongi is thinking. But Jimin pulls away quickly and takes your hand, still smiling, his face as bright as a sun lamp.

“You were right!” he declares, an impish look on his face. “When you said maybe we’d see each other again someday.”

“I didn’t think this would be the reason, though,” you say awkwardly.

“It’s a good reason. The best.” He punctuates that by draping himself over Yoongi, and you grin at your boyfriend’s annoyed protest. “I don’t know how you put up with this grump, though,” Jimin adds, laughing as Yoongi shoves away his affectionate arms.

“Well, he doesn’t seem to mind when I do that,” you say mildly, and both Jimin and Taehyung crack up.

“Of course he doesn’t,” Jimin says, with that suggestive look you remember from when you met him before. You can feel your face heating under his megawatt smile, and Taehyung laughs even harder. He starts to say something, but he’s interrupted when Jimin grabs him next, wrapping an arm around his waist and steering him to the bar, leaving Yoongi staring at you with an odd expression.

“You look flustered,” he accuses, and you flush even harder.

“I forgot how sexy Jimin is,” you admit, and Yoongi lets out a squawk of annoyance.

“I thought you said Seokjin was the cute one!” he protests, and you smile.

“I thought Jin was the cute one until I met Jimin. Then he was the cute one for like, two minutes. After that, I met you, and you were definitely the cute one. Although, I’m not gonna lie, somewhere in there, Namjoon’s dimples did something to me.” You sigh heftily. “Just face it, you’re all sexy.”

“I’m not sure I like this harem mentality of yours,” Yoongi complains. “I thought you might get a little gooey-eyed around Seokjin tonight, but I didn’t realize I’d have to keep an eye on the whole damn group.”

You sneak a look at him, only to find him somehow both pouting and scrunching his nose, two of his signature expressions. It’s so cute, and yes, sexy, that you just want to drag him back to his studio for a few more minutes of privacy. There might not be time for sex, but you wouldn’t mind a quick make-out session, at least.

“What?” Yoongi asks, noticing your look. You try to imitate one of Jimin’s suggestive smiles, and he raises an incredulous eyebrow.

“Really? What’s gotten into you tonight?”

“You just told me we had phone sex when you were in your studio, and now I can’t stop thinking about it!” you accuse him. “Do you know how hot that is?”

He smiles wickedly, and your heartrate spikes. “It was only a couple times.”

“Still. It’s going to be hard for me to think about anything else tonight,” you mutter, and he laughs.

“Good,” he drawls. “I don’t want you thinking about Seokjin or Jimin. Or Namjoon’s dimples. Only me.”

“That’s never a problem,” you tell him honestly, and he rewards you with a quick, searing kiss, just the smallest taste to sustain you through the evening. Then he looks over his shoulder to make sure Jimin and Taehyung didn’t see.

“I’m still having a word with Jimin,” he says darkly. “He flirts too much for his own good.”

You laugh, imitating Jimin again as you wrap your arm around him and drag him towards the others. “Come on, let’s go have a drink.”

*****

The CEOs and Kim Yu Hwan arrive next, followed closely by Namjoon and Jungkook. Those two both come to greet you immediately, the formality of their welcome contrasting with the playful teasing of Taehyung and Jimin. You watch Namjoon carefully for some sign of disapproval, but he’s perfectly pleasant as he chats with you. Jungkook is sweet, but shy, not venturing to call you anything but Miss Y/L/N.

After speaking with them briefly, Yoongi takes you to meet a young man who’s talking to CEO Park at the bar.

“This is Kwon Do-hyeong,” he introduces, and you bow, wondering if he’s another Big Hit idol. But Yoongi explains he’s one of the main producers for BTS, and realization slowly hits you as he describes some of the work they’ve done together. You’re talking to Slow Rabbit, one of the most talented producers at Big Hit. You marvel at how cute he is. Apparently not only the idols are gorgeous in this industry.

After a minute, Do-hyeong murmurs something to Yoongi, and he nods.

“We need to talk to Namjoon,” he tells you. “You’ll be ok for a few minutes, right?”

“What? Don’t leave me!” you hiss, but he only grins in amusement as he moves off with the producer, leaving you alone with CEO Park. You turn to him with a nervous smile, grasping for some kind of Korean sentence you can offer to continue the conversation.

“How did you start to work at Big Hit?” you ask, in his language. At least, that’s what you hope you said. CEO Park’s own uncertain look warms in humor, and you wonder what actually came out of your mouth. But he begins to talk, and you realize that he is indeed speaking about his job. You don’t catch everything he says, but it’s easier to understand him than to try to speak yourself. You listen attentively as he describes his career trajectory, occasionally murmuring something in response.

Fortunately, by the time he winds down, CEO Bang has joined you both, smiling in approval at your halting Korean. He speaks to you in English, though, much to your relief.

“I’d like to hear more about your job,” he tells you. CEO Park excuses himself, and you and CEO Bang sit down across from each other in one of the conversation areas. He’s interested in the services your organization provides for kids, and you answer his questions as well as you can. At some point, Hoseok approaches. You hadn’t seen him arrive, and you’re happy he wants to say hello. He ends up doing more than that, perching next to you on the couch and joining the conversation, even talking about some of his experiences with the kids at the Clary Foundation last year. CEO Bang seems quite entertained, but finally says regretfully that he mustn’t monopolize you. You watch as he approaches a girl who just arrived. You wonder briefly if this is Sena, Seokjin’s girlfriend, but she greets Bang CEO with too much familiarity for that.

“That’s Adora,” Hoseok whispers, leaning closer. “One of our best producers.”

You gaze at the young woman in excitement, immediately recognizing the name. Like Slow Rabbit, she’s gorgeous, and she looks incredibly young to have such an impressive resume. But then, you muse, Yoongi is young, and he’s got even more achievements to his name. Maybe CEO Bang just has a knack for finding and developing stars.

You look back at Hoseok, another star Big Hit couldn’t do without.

“I owe you a huge thank you,” you begin, and Hoseok smiles, though he looks puzzled. “For not telling anyone about me?” you continue. “Yoongi says you knew about us the whole time.”

“Oh, that,” Hoseok says, making a ‘get out of here’ gesture with his hand. “I didn’t really know. I just knew he liked you, and I suspected he kept in touch. But I never had any proof. I tried to get some a couple times!” he laughs. “I barged in on Yoongi one night when I thought he was on the phone with you, but he said he was just yelling at the TV. And he really had a soccer game playing on his laptop! And last year, I thought he went to Chicago on our break. When we were all back in the dorm, I stole his phone and went through his navigation and search history. But all I could find were places he searched for in L.A., not Chicago.”

You begin to laugh, too. “He did come to Chicago! He must have cleared his history.”

“Yes, Yoongi can be very cautious. I’m not surprised he was able to keep everything a secret for so long.”

“He said living so far apart, and not seeing each other very often, would help with the secrecy. I guess he was right.”

“That must be difficult, though,” Hoseok says softly. “I can’t imagine trying to date someone I can hardly ever see.” You nod, heartened by his sympathy.

“It hasn’t been easy,” you admit. “But we’ve been able to see more of each other than I expected.”

“Have you gotten to visit him here in Seoul, before now?” he asks.

“Yes, I came for a few days last November. The city was really lovely, all decorated for Christmas.”

“Oh, you should see Seoul in the springtime. So many cherry blossoms! It’s my favorite season. Next year, come visit in April and get Yoongi to take you to Namsan Park.”

“I’d love that,” you smile. “If we’re still dating, I’ll definitely come.”

Hoseok tilts his head, the cherry-blossom infused joy slowly fading from his face. “Do you think you might not still be dating by then?” he asks carefully, and you realize how flippant that sounded. You’ve regarded your relationship as tentative, even temporary, for so long, that it’s hard to adjust to the very definite commitment this evening signifies. You try to express some of this to Hobi, to explain that your feelings for Yoongi aren’t nearly as casual as your words just were. He relaxes, but he still seems anxious that you understand his friend’s intentions aren’t casual, either.

“You know, Yoongi feels things very intensely, but he keeps quiet about it. You should trust that you’re important to him, even if he doesn’t always talk about it.”

“Actually, he does a pretty good job of talking about it,” you tell him, and Hoseok’s face lights up.

“Really?” he asks in surprise. “That’s interesting. He usually tries to pretend he doesn’t have any emotions.”

You laugh. “Well, it’s true he doesn’t get emotional very often, but when he does, he always says something perfect. And he always shows me he cares, just through his actions.”

Hoseok is nodding enthusiastically. “Yes, that’s exactly how he is. And him doing all this? Telling us, and telling Bang PD? That’s a big demonstration. Please don’t take it lightly.”

“Believe me, I don’t,” you say. You’re starting to feel awkward, so you attempt a small joke. “Is this the part where you tell me if I hurt Yoongi, you’ll make sure I regret it?”

Hoseok cracks up, throwing his head back and laughing so much you can’t help smiling, too. “No,” he finally manages. “I’m not like that. You might have to worry about this one, though,” he adds. He tips his head at Taehyung as he ambles over, probably drawn by Hoseok’s infectious laughter. Taehyung grins and sits down. Except, instead of taking an empty chair, he inserts himself between the two of you on the couch, forcing you to scrunch over to make room for him.

“Why does she have to worry about me?” he asks. “Because I’m the handsome one?”

Hoseok laughs again, loud and delighted, his hand reaching out to ruffle Taehyung’s hair. “You are, but no. She asked if we’ll make her regret it, if she hurts Yoongi-hyung.”

“Yes.” Taehyung turns to you, nodding solemnly. “We will. But you won’t hurt him, will you?”

His lovely eyes are huge and earnest as he regards you, waiting for your answer. Next to him, Hoseok also seems very interested in your response, though he’s not staring at you so intently.

“I never want to hurt him,” you say quietly. “I mean, I might, by accident. But I would do whatever I could to make it right.”

Taehyung gives you a pleased smile. “I can tell. You love him so much.”

You’re embarrassed by the frankness of his words, and Hoseok seems to sense your discomfort.

“Taehyung-a, boundaries?”

Taehyung includes him in his grin. “But he’s told us so much about how Y/N takes care of him. It’s obvious.”

“That’s true,” Hoseok admits, looking at you again. “He hasn’t stopped talking about you all week.”

“Yes, it’s ‘my girlfriend this’ and ‘my girlfriend that,’ every time we see him,” Taehyung adds.

“Oh my god,” you groan, dropping your face into your hands. “I’m sorry. I’m sure you don’t want to listen to all that.”

“No, we want to hear it,” Taehyung says. “We like knowing Yoongi found someone like you. And now we feel like we already know you.”

You raise your head again, to see him smiling gently at you. Hoseok is nodding energetically.

“I want to tell her,” Taehyung says suddenly, turning to Hoseok. He looks surprised, and a little concerned, but he nods slowly.

“Ok,” he agrees. “Do you want me to leave?”

“No, stay,” Taehyung urges. You’re looking back and forth between them, not sure what they’re talking about. But then Tae begins to tell you a story, and you quickly understand Hoseok’s reaction.

A few years ago, Taehyung was dating someone, for several months. He thought the relationship was special. He even thought he was falling in love. One day, high on that feeling, they weren’t careful enough in public, and someone took photos of them walking together, and kissing. Instead of going to the media, the photographer approached Big Hit, who immediately paid for the pictures.

That could have been the end of it, but Big Hit decided it was too risky for Taehyung to continue in the relationship. They went to his lover, and offered money, just as they did to you.

It was accepted. Taehyung didn’t know anything about it, until afterwards.

You’ve got tears in your eyes by this point in the story. The look of sadness on Taehyung’s face, even after all this time, hits you right in the gut. You’re angry that he was hurt that way, by Big Hit, and more, by his lover. As Taehyung finishes speaking, your arms raise instinctively to hug him, to try to offer some meager comfort. But you pause. If it was Jimin, who can’t seem to go two minutes without draping himself over someone, you wouldn’t hesitate. But Taehyung hasn’t taken that step with you, and you don’t want to make him uncomfortable.

He sees your gesture though, and almost before you know it, he’s hugging you instead, leaning in and engulfing you. You go ahead and hold him, just letting him relax into the embrace. From the other side, Hoseok wraps his arms around you both.

Then you gasp as a weight lands on your lap and another pair of arms encircles all three of you. With difficulty, you raise your head, only to get a face full of Jimin’s hair as he leans his head against Taehyung’s. Where did he even come from?

Craning your neck to get some air, you see Yoongi standing at the bar, his conversation with Namjoon and Do-hyeong apparently forgotten as he watches you with his nose scrunched in disgust. Without context, it probably looks like you just propositioned half of his best friends. Great.

“Ok, breathing would be nice,” you murmur. Jimin hears you and immediately gets off your lap, plopping down on Taehyung’s instead, and half falling onto Hoseok as well. Taehyung also releases you.

“Sorry, I got carried away,” he apologizes.

“No, don’t be sorry!” you tell him. You wipe at the tears that still linger on your cheeks. “I’m sorry, that something like that happened to you.”

“Oh, did you tell her?” Jimin asks, a furious look immediately replacing his usual smile. “Y/N, we were so angry when Yoongi told us about Yu Hwan, and the money.”

“And Jimin was even more angry when he heard what happened to Tae Tae,” Hoseok interjects. “He told Bang PD he would quit if they ever did something like that again. To any of us.”

Jimin nods sharply. “And I will. It’s not right.”

He’s wrapped a supportive arm around Taehyung’s neck, and Hoseok is leaning on both of them, his chin propped on Jimin’s shoulder. They’re a picture of solidarity, and you can’t stop yourself from smiling at the thought that Yoongi shares that unwavering support from all of them.

And you get a little piece of it now, too. It’s a dizzying thought.

“Bang PD fears Jimin’s wrath above all things,” Taehyung is saying, and you laugh.

“Yes, Y/N, if you hurt Yoongi-hyung, you’ll have to worry about both of these two,” Hoseok jokes.

“She won’t hurt him,” Jimin asserts, and you smile again. You don’t know what Yoongi’s been telling his friends about you, but apparently, it’s been good, or they wouldn’t keep saying that so confidently.

Before you can respond, you realize all three of the members are staring over your shoulder towards the entrance. They look a little awestruck, and Taehyung’s mouth is even hanging open. You turn to see what they’re looking at, and you realize Jin has arrived. He’s standing near the door, with a young woman hovering close by his side. And your own jaw drops, because she’s the most extraordinarily beautiful girl you’ve ever seen.

“That must be Sena,” Hoseok murmurs behind you, but you can’t tear your gaze away from the picture of loveliness she and Jin make together.

“Come on, let’s go meet her,” Jimin encourages, and the couch shifts as they get up. Jimin is in the lead, of course, towing a still-bemused Taehyung behind him. Hoseok at least spares you a good-bye smile before trotting after them. CEO Bang quickly joins the group, followed almost immediately by Namjoon. You expect Yoongi to go, too, but he makes a beeline for you instead, settling down next to you on the couch.

“What was all that about?” he asks immediately.

“It’s Sena, right?” you ask, glancing at him, before looking back towards the door. “Look at her, she’s so gorgeous!”

“I meant, why was everybody all over you like that?” Yoongi asks, and you turn your attention fully to him, worried that he might actually be upset. He’s not looking at Sena at all, only regarding you with a quizzical expression.

“Taehyung told me his story. About his ex,” you explain, and Yoongi’s face softens.

“I wondered if he would,” he nods. “It really means a lot to him, that you didn’t do the same thing to me.”

Ah. Maybe that explains why the guys seem to have so much faith in you.

“I’m glad he felt comfortable enough to tell me,” you venture, and Yoongi smiles.

“I told you the guys would like you.” Then he frowns a bit. “Of course, I didn’t think they’d like you so much they’d start sitting on your lap.”

You scoot closer, hoping to reassure him that the hugging with his friends was just a bit of emotional support. Yoongi is the one you’d like to hug right now. He’s even prettier than Sena, with his black hair and all-black outfit accentuating his skin tone, his dark eyes jewel-like in the dim lighting, and his gorgeous lips pushed into yet another pout.

“No cuddling in public,” he objects when you slip an arm around his shoulders, but he doesn’t shrug you off. He does look to see if anyone is watching, but practically the entire room has congregated near Jin and Sena. You lean your head against his shoulder as you watch them.

“She really is beautiful,” you sigh. She’s exactly the kind of girl you would imagine as a mate for someone like Jin. Or even for someone like Yoongi.

“You’re beautiful,” Yoongi says, reading your mind as always.

“Not like that,” you disagree, raising your head to look at him. Yoongi only smiles.

“You are. You look stunning tonight.”

A year ago, you wouldn’t have believed you could ever compare favorably to someone like Sena. But Yoongi has helped you see yourself differently, to think about how others see you. How he sees you. And as he watches you now, with not even a glance spared for anyone else in the room, you can believe that in his eyes at least, you really are stunning.

You smile back at him, wanting nothing more than to kiss him right now. But he probably won’t let you, not with so many people around.

“Can we go say hello?” you ask instead, nodding at the group, and Yoongi agrees. You both make your way over to the new arrivals.

You don’t get more than a brief welcome from Jin, as he’s absorbed in presenting Sena to everyone. She greets you and Yoongi with a bow and a few words in Korean. She’s even more lovely up close, with a delicate build, big eyes, flawless skin, and a warm smile. Despite Yoongi’s reassurances, you still feel too tall and oafish, too American, if that’s even a thing, next to someone so classically elegant and beautiful.

Fortunately, CEO Bang calls everyone to dinner before you can start feeling too self-conscious. And even more fortunately, you and Sena end up at opposite ends of the table, so you don’t have to compare yourself to her during the meal. Instead, you’re seated next to Namjoon and across from Adora, who Yoongi introduces as Park Soo-Hyun. Hoseok sits next to Soo-Hyun, and on her other side is another newcomer. He introduces himself simply as Sejin, and Yoongi explains he’s the group’s manager.

You eye him with interest. Yoongi has told you all about Sejin’s tireless work to keep the group happy, safe, and organized. He travels with them everywhere, which means if you ever want to meet with Yoongi when he’s on tour, Sejin will probably have to be apprised. You definitely need him to like you if you want Yoongi to have more time for you in the future.

You all make small talk as the food is served, and you ask Namjoon about his recent trip to Egypt. He’s animated in his response, and you listen raptly as he describes the historical sites he visited. Turning to Sejin, you ask if he traveled anywhere fun during Bangtan’s break. Much to your surprise, he explains he spent the time at home with his wife. You can’t imagine how he juggles a whole marriage with such a time-consuming career, but he seems content as he describes how he and his wife enjoyed themselves together in Seoul during his time off. You figure he’s learned to make the most of the moments he has with her, just as you’ve done with Yoongi.

After the meal, you excuse yourself to use the restroom. When you come back, the cocktail party atmosphere has returned, with people milling about as they were before dinner. You spot Yoongi still discussing something with Namjoon, but instead of joining them, you hesitantly approach Jin and Sena.

They both seem more relaxed than when they first arrived. Jin gives you the type of charming greeting you remember from last year, and introduces you again to his girlfriend. Though he’s speaking in Korean, you’re pretty sure he refers to you as “Yoongi’s American girl,” and you smile at the description.

Sena smiles too, awing you all over again with her beauty.

“I know a little English,” she offers kindly, “If you’d like to speak that language.”

Jin beams at her thoughtfulness, looking at her like she hung the moon. And seeing that, you’re reminded of the praise you’ve been waiting months to deliver.

“Seokjin, I’ve been hoping I’d get a chance to tell you how much I love your last solo,” you compliment him. “The whole MOTS: 7 album is wonderful, but Moon is one of my favorite songs.”

Jin transfers his smile to you. “Oh, thank you, thank you!” he exclaims, looking pleased. “That’s so nice of you.”

“Is Moon your favorite, too?” you ask Sena, but she glances at Jin for clarification. He quickly translates before turning back to you.

“Sena isn’t familiar with the song,” he explains. “She doesn’t listen to a lot of current music.”

“Oh, what music do you like?” you ask, and Sena thinks for a moment.

“Classic?” she asks, looking at Jin. “Gugak,” she tells him, and now he translates for you.

“She prefers Korean traditional or folk music,” he says. They both provide a few examples, but none are familiar to you. You wonder if Jin minds that his girlfriend doesn’t listen to his music. Though Yoongi often acts shy or disinterested when you praise his songs, you suspect he values your appreciation and support pretty deeply. If you didn’t care so much about his artistry, you don’t know if you’d have been able to forge such a close bond with him.

But of course, Jin didn’t initially pursue music like Yoongi did, and he may not need the same kind of validation. Mentally shrugging it off, you ask the safer question of how they met.

Sena immediately smiles again. “We knew each other since we were children,” she tells you.

“After I joined Big Hit, we didn’t see each other for many years,” Jin continues. “But we met again at a family party this winter, for Seollal. And I didn’t realize this was the same Sena I grew up with.”

“Yes, he didn’t know me. But he came up to me and offered me a banana,” Sena says, and then looks at Jin again for the rest of the story, amusement sparkling in her eyes. You look at him too, completely mystified.

“A banana,” he stresses, starting to giggle. He watches to see if you get it, then tries to explain in Korean. You still don’t understand, but apparently, the banana is hilarious because he and Sena both break into laughter. Jin’s laugh is so great, high-pitched, obnoxious, and completely endearing. Sena is giggling helplessly, her hand held over her mouth. She’s watching Jin with so much adoration that you dismiss your mild worry about her interest in him. It looks like he’s in good hands.

****

After a while, a few people approach you to say good-bye, including Mr. Kim, who you’ve honestly been avoiding all night. He’s very friendly though, and you figure you’ll probably forgive him for the part he played in trying to get rid of you. Maybe. Someday.

Those who remain at the party continue to circulate and chat. There’s been enough alcohol served that a few groups get a little rowdy. At some point, you find yourself sharing a table, and a bottle of wine, with the loudest group of all, the maknae line. They’ve been entertaining you with a highlight reel of Yoongi stories, much to your amusement. Even Jungkook has tales to contribute. He’s warmed up quite a bit over the course of the evening, graduating from calling you Miss Y/L/N to Miss Y/N instead.

All of you get distracted when CEO Bang directs a couple people to set up a karaoke machine and a microphone. Soo-Hyun and Jin immediately start looking through the menu of songs, and your tablemates talk about joining them.

“Y/N, why don’t you sing something,” Jimin encourages, but you shake your head gently.

“I wouldn’t sound very good,” you tell him. Jimin just shakes his head in return, rejecting your explanation.

“That’s the fun part,” he insists. “Even we sound so bad when we do karaoke.”

“Speak for yourself, hyung.” Taehyung shoves at Jimin’s head in annoyance, and you laugh.

“You all should sing,” you suggest, attempting to turn the tables on them. But the three of them gang up on you, pushing you again to go choose a song.

Jimin suddenly slaps the table with his palm, and you and the others drop the friendly argument.

“Paper, rock, scissors!” he practically shouts. “Loser has to sing.” You glance at Taehyung and Jungkook but they’re both laughing too hard to be of any help. You suspect they wouldn’t help you anyway. You can’t really back out without looking like a coward, so you shrug in agreement, resigning yourself to the possibility of having to sing in public.

Taehyung takes control, lining both your hands up next to each other and providing the countdown. Jimin protests dramatically when you beat him. He tries to get you to do best out of three, but you hold your ground. Until Jungkook challenges you to face him, and you feel like you can’t refuse after playing with Jimin.

But you beat him too. Chagrined, he and Jimin head over to the karaoke machine to look through the song selection, leaving Taehyung smirking across the table at you.

“My turn,” he grins, holding out his closed fist.

“How is that fair?” you protest, chuckling. “I have to win three times to avoid the penalty?”

“At least the others aren’t here to make it seven. I can call them over if you want,” he teases, and you hastily hold out your fist in readiness for a match with him. This one you lose, and you forget yourself and groan louder than Jimin did, lowering your head to the table as Taehyung just laughs maniacally and does a little dance in his seat.

“What are you doing to my girlfriend?” Yoongi’s voice breaks into your suffering, and you raise your head as he slides into the chair next to yours.

“They’re making me sing karaoke,” you explain pitifully. “I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Eh, you’re not that bad.” His heartless response and the cool look you shoot him is enough to have Taehyung practically in tears. You turn to him as he wipes his eyes, still giggling.

“Taehyung, you really should sing too,” you admonish. “You have such a beautiful voice.”

He looks up in surprise, but then a devilish smile slides onto his face and he flutters his eyelashes flirtatiously. “Sweet talk will get you everywhere. I’ll pick a song.”

As he heads off to join the others, you turn back to Yoongi, only to find him surveying you with a bemused expression.

“Why are you humoring those maniacs?”

“Oh, Yoongi, they’re like puppies. You can’t say no to them.”

“I see they’ve got you fooled into thinking they’re sweet and innocent.”

“Aren’t they, though?”

Yoongi laughs softly. “I’m sorry. I should never have left you alone with them. Now it’s too late. You’re brainwashed.”

“I didn’t mind being left alone,” you say airily. “They told me some quite interesting stories about you.”

Yoongi sits up straight, his amusement disappearing. “Like what?”

“Like you forgot the code to your new studio and got locked out for three days.”

“It was two days!” he protests. “And I’m going to kill Jimin.”

“Actually, Jungkook told me that one,” you offer, and Yoongi gasps in shock.

“Jungkookie betrayed me like that? See, this is why you can’t trust anyone, no matter how innocent they look.”

You’re trying to hide your smile, but the pout on his face is too much to handle, and you break into laughter. At the karaoke machine, Jimin and Taehyung look over at the sound. They start gesturing impatiently for you to join them. You sigh, still chuckling.

“My punishment awaits.”

“More like everybody else’s punishment.” Yoongi quips.

You smack him for that. “You just said I’m not that bad!”

“Well, I’m not going to insult my girlfriend. In front of people,” he adds, raising his hands in defense before you can hit him again. He extends a peace offering. “Do you want me to sing with you?”

“Oh my god, yes, please. I’ll sound good if it’s a duet. Can we sing something in English?” you beg, and he reluctantly agrees. You hop up, eager now to see what songs are in the karaoke menu, and he rolls his eyes at your enthusiasm.

“Just don’t expect Bang PD to recruit you,” he teases. You grin at him.

“We’ll see. I bet he loves my vocals.”

*****

Perhaps your confidence was misplaced. CEO Bang does not immediately offer you a contract after your song. In fact, he and the rest of the audience seem quite amused by your singing, even though you’re backed up by Yoongi and Jungkook, who offers to join at the last moment. But at least the three of you get a big round of applause.

Seokjin tries to persuade Sena to sing with him next, but she covers her face shyly, so he joins Jimin instead. Then Soo-Hyun and Hoseok perform a ballad. They ham it up, much to the appreciation of the audience. The highlight of the evening is when Taehyung drags CEO Bang to the front of the room for a song. Though a few more people go after that, nobody can top Bang PD’s performance, and the party gradually starts to break up.

You’re winding down yourself, with the emotional day finally taking its toll. Yoongi notices, and starts to shepherd you to the door, but it’s slow-going since you have to stop to say good-bye to everyone. After extended farewells from the people you’ve met tonight, a hug each from Hoseok and Taehyung, and two hugs from Jimin, you finally escape into the hallway.

Namjoon and Jungkook catch up with you as you step into the elevator. They’re calling it a night as well, and they end up sharing a car with you. During the ride, they gossip a little about Jin and Sena, and you can’t help enthusing about what a beautiful couple they make. Namjoon spoke with Sena quite a bit during the evening, and he shares your opinion that she cares strongly for Jin. You all hope their relationship gets the chance to flourish.

“Do you know any jokes about bananas?” you ask, recalling the strange conversation you had with the couple. They all look startled by the non-sequitur. “Jin and Sena were telling me about how they met,” you elaborate. “And it had something to do with a banana.”

Namjoon and Jungkook still look baffled, but Yoongi groans.

“He used that old joke on her?” he complains, and Namjoon’s face clears.

“It’s a pick-up line,” he explains to you. “The words banana and love sound the same in Korean, so offering someone a banana is like offering your heart, or offering to make them fall in love with you.”

You laugh, glad for the enlightenment, and Namjoon and Jungkook join in. Yoongi just glares at you all.

“It’s not even funny,” he mutters. “That’s a terrible line, even for Seokjin.”

“Well, Sena thought it was hilarious,” you tell him.

“They really are a good match,” Jungkook contributes, and Namjoon heartily agrees.

The driver drops you and Yoongi off first, and you say a fond good-bye to the others before exiting the vehicle and starting the trek towards his building. You’re silent until you make it into his apartment.

“Would you still like me if I didn’t like your music?” you ask, still thinking about Jin and Sena. Yoongi looks at you quizzically. “Or if I just didn’t listen to it at all?”

He thinks about it for a minute as he shuts the door and toes off his shoes. You slip out of your own heels and follow him into the kitchen, where he pours out a couple glasses of water. “I would still like you,” he finally says, handing you a glass. “But I would feel hurt that you weren’t interested in what I do. Why are you asking? Have you been lying about liking my songs all this time?”

He shoots you a grin, and you know he doesn’t really believe that. But you still protest. “It’s not that! It’s just that Jin was saying Sena doesn’t really listen to BTS. He didn’t seem to care, but I wondered if it would bother you if I was the same way.”

“Maybe a little,” he admits. “Although it would be worse if you listened to my music and hated it. I was hurt that you didn’t like the song I wrote for you, the one I played in Costa Rica.” He says that last part lightly, like he’s trying to shrug it off, and you rush to reassure him.

“Oh, Yoongi, I did like it. I loved it, before you told me the words and I got scared.” A thought occurs to you. “You didn’t delete it, did you?”

He shakes his head, and you breathe a sigh of relief. “No. I’ve been working on it some more, changing some of the lyrics. I thought maybe I’d play it again for you sometime, once it does a better job of expressing how I feel.

“I’d like that,” you say softly. “I really do love your music, you know.” Yoongi smiles at you, with some heat in his eyes, and you feel a twist of lust in your belly. “And I loved seeing you in your natural habitat tonight,” you add. “It was very attractive, watching Min PD talking shop with the other producers.”

His shoulders hunch a bit at the compliment, and your use of one of his favorite nicknames, but he still grins at you.

“You were attractive, too,” he purrs. “We haven’t gotten to see each other in social settings before. You were like a butterfly tonight. So lovely and sweet in how you interacted with everyone.”

You feel yourself flushing, and you sip at your water in embarrassment. “I think I was just trying too hard. I really wanted to be accepted by your friends.”

“Believe me, they’ve accepted you. Couldn’t you tell? They were comfortable around you. You seemed comfortable too.”

“I was,” you admit. “Everyone was so nice! I wasn’t expecting it.”

“Were you expecting monsters?” Yoongi says wryly. He drains his water and carries the empty glass to the sink, giving you time to analyze why you were surprised by the group’s kindness towards you.

“I guess I just wasn’t expecting universal approval,” you finally tell him. “I thought some of the members might be resentful of me and Sena. I mean, none of you have ever tried something like this before. Even if Big Hit keeps us secret from the public, it still changes things for the group.”

“Maybe,” Yoongi concedes, joining you at the counter and taking your own empty glass. “But these are good changes. You and I got the buy-in we needed from Big Hit. It wasn’t easy, especially for you, but we’re paving the way for the others when they want to try. They appreciate you for that.”

He draws closer and circles his arms around you, pinning you gently against the counter as he sets the glass down.

“And they just like you,” he adds, grinning.

“I like them too,” you say. It’s true, but you’re losing interest in talking about his friends. Instead you’re focused on Yoongi, glad that you’re finally alone with him, after low-key lusting after him all night. You smile in anticipation as he moves one hand gently over your back, drawing you closer against him. You place your own hands against his chest, feeling the silkiness of his dress shirt, and the hard muscle underneath. He smiles seductively.

“Do you like them as much as you like me?” he asks, sliding his other hand down your hip to toy with the hem of your dress, inching it up your thigh. He’s so close to you now that his lips skim your cheek as he talks, and he follows his words with a soft kiss at the hollow of your jaw.

“I don’t know. Maybe?” you breathe, just to tease him. He jerks you even closer, causing you to gasp.

“Let’s see what we can do about that,” he murmurs, before crushing his mouth to yours. All your sinful thoughts from earlier come flooding back, and you kiss him eagerly, clutching desperately at his shirt. You’re in his kitchen, not his studio like you’ve been imagining, but you don’t even care; he was the sexiest man at the party, and your body has been waiting all night for the chance to claim him.

Yoongi grasps your hips and lifts you to the counter, slotting between your legs and angling his head to kiss you even more deeply. His hands slide under your skirt to knead your thighs, and you start trying to get him out of his shirt. He pulls back, grinning like a devil as he quickly undoes the buttons himself. Then he’s kissing you again, lips, throat, the shell of your ear.

“How do you…” he murmurs, and you realize he’s trying to unclasp the back of your dress. You reach back to do it for him, and he helps you shrug out of the bodice. You arch into him again, wrapping your legs around his back and drawing him in, as close as you can get him. Closing your eyes, you let him have control, happy to take whatever he gives you.

You float on the pleasure of what he offers. Yoongi’s hands and mouth are roaming everywhere, seemingly all at once. You can barely keep up with the sensations caused by his long fingers gripping your hip, or tweaking delicately at your nipple, or his tongue flitting against your collarbone, or his lips brushing the slope of your breast. His hand is against your throat, suddenly, and he rubs his thumb gently across your lower lip. You dip your tongue against the pad, and he moans and raises his head to kiss you, capturing your tongue in his mouth and sucking gently. Now both his hands are on your ass, pulling you tightly against him, and your head falls away from his mouth as you press your body into his. He trails his lips down your throat, murmuring to you in Korean.

He usually speaks Korean at least some of the time when you have sex, but this is the first time you’ve been able to understand the words. You’re pretty sure he’s saying, “You’re mine.” Or maybe that you belong to him.

“Man, sign a few papers for a guy and he thinks he owns you,” you comment, a little breathlessly, since his mouth is against your breast again. His whole body stills as he looks up at you.

“You understood that?” he asks, looking caught out. You laugh at his guilty expression.

“I told you I’ve been practicing.”

He stands up straight, his hands settling at your hips as he looks at you in concern.

“That sounded possessive. I don’t want to offend you.”

“I’m not offended,” you tell him, but he doesn’t look convinced.

“I was feeling possessive tonight. Seeing you with the others, seeing how they liked you so much, well, it was a lot for me to deal with,” he says slowly. “It seemed like every time I turned around, one of the guys was hanging on you, or laughing with you. I’ve just been waiting to get you back here where I can feel like you’re really mine again.”

You take his face into your hands and lean in to kiss him, not with the heat from a moment ago, but softly, reassuringly.

“Yoongi, I’ve been yours all night,” you tell him as you pull away again. “No matter how much fun I had with your friends.”

“So you don’t mind?” he asks skeptically. “That I would feel that way?”

“No,” you assure him. “I like being yours. And I like that people finally know it.” You’re hoping to ease Yoongi out of his worries, but he still watches you with a serious look on his face. His next words surprise you.

“Are you still glad you chose me?” he asks. “Instead of one of the others?”

“You make it sound like I had options,” you joke, a little puzzled by his words. “You’re the only one who was crazy enough to ask me out.”

“You mean, I’m the only one who was smart enough to ask you out. But you could have caught the interest of anyone in the group, if you’d wanted. You did catch Jimin’s eye. And after tonight, I can see how easily you might have attracted one of the others.”

“But I didn’t want one of the others,” you object, and Yoongi smiles a little.

“Not even Seokjin?”

No,” you insist. “I never wanted him. Do you want Sena?” you demand, surprising him. “You could have someone like her, someone that beautiful, if you wanted.”

“I do have someone that beautiful,” he murmurs, his smile growing. “I already told you that.”

Your heart throbs as you think, again, that he really means what he says. But still, you demur. “I’m not that beautiful.”

“You are to me,” he says calmly. “You took my breath away, the first moment I saw you that day at the Clary Foundation. You came striding into that conference room like you owned the whole world. So lovely, so confident. I fell so hard for you, before we even spoke. I couldn’t believe it when you really did pick me, even after you met the others.”

He’s still smiling at you, watching for your reaction to his words. And as you meet his eyes, your heart starts to pound. You remember, vividly, the first moment you looked into those eyes, the day you met him. You didn’t know at the time that it was a beginning, but now, looking back, you treasure those beautiful few seconds of discovery, the glimpse of possibility in his gaze. That was all you needed to fall for him, too.

Now he’s asking if you regret choosing him, but the truth is, there was no choice involved. You were his, from the start. The only decision was whether or not you were going to be brave enough to let it happen. To accept that he could be yours, too. And that’s a decision you still have to make, constantly, whenever you encounter new obstacles in the relationship. Whenever you feel that window of possibility closing. But somehow, Yoongi always gives you the strength to move forward.

“I’m glad it was you,” you whisper, and Yoongi’s eyes crinkle in pleasure. You try to elaborate, to explain how happy he makes you. How you can’t imagine anyone else in Bangtan, or anyone else in the world, for that matter, being such a perfect fit for you. But you falter, never able to craft your words as eloquently as Yoongi does.

He gets it though. He always gets you. His eyes warm in understanding, and he leans in to kiss you again. And you give yourself over to him once more, secure in the knowledge that this is another beginning. A better one, forged from your collective joys and struggles, from all the pain and comfort, the laughter, and love that you’ve shared. The first time, you had no idea where you and Yoongi would end up. Now, you still may not know what the future holds, but you’re confident that you’ve both decided to face it together.