Yoongi has just finished setting up the dining table when the front door’s lock pad beeps, and Hoseok rushes from the living room to the foyer. Then the door’s opening, there’s shuffling of feet and bags knocking against the door jamb, and a delighted, “ Jeongguk-ah!” from Hoseok.
Excitement and nervousness has Yoongi’s skin buzzing with warmth, and it dips down into his fingers when he runs them through his hair. His plain tee is stained with beef juice, the sesame oil that he fumbled over when mixing it with minced garlic and red chilli powder. Cooking dinner was an all day endeavor, and he and Hoseok only had enough time to clean up the kitchen before Jeongguk let them know that his taxi was fifteen minutes away from the apartment complex.
Which means that he has to greet Jeongguk in dirty clothes after four years of being apart.
There are shouts of delight from both Hoseok and Jeongguk, a brief scuffle. “You’re so tall now, holy shit. What were they feeding you over there?” Jeongguk’s laugh—his real life, in-person laugh, in the apartment he’d spent his teen years—is followed by another buzz of warmth in Yoongi’s chest, and with it comes fear. Uncertainty.
They’ve been building up to this moment, Jeongguk’s return, so slowly that anticipation paralyzes Yoongi to his spot on the threshold between the dining area and common room. Suddenly, he feels wholly unprepared. Not just because he hasn’t had the chance to shower and switch out of his dirty clothes, but because all the words he’s imagined himself saying, every scenario he’s conjured up from the day Jeongguk told them he was flying back, seeps out of his skull, leaving him bare and anxious and afraid . It’s strange, the awkward pit weighing Yoongi down to the floorboards. Jeongguk’s not a stranger. Not in the least.
Yet Jeongguk’s laughing shyly, changes the subject with an awed something smells good! Hoseok responds we made dinner for you—well, it was mostly Yoongi hyung, but I helped, Jeongguk rounds the corner with Hoseok at his heels—and then Yoongi and Jeongguk are looking at one another from across the room. And however familiar Jeongguk’s matured features look, the uneasiness molds itself to Yoongi’s disposition. He doesn’t know this Jeon Jeongguk. Not as well as he once had.
“Hyung,” Jeongguk breathes. Large, round eyes becoming impossibly bigger, Jeongguk pauses at the threshold to the common space with a duffel bag hanging from his shoulder, taller and broader than ever. His black tee isn’t fitted, but it’s small enough to cling to his biceps, the gentle slopes of his abdomen; he’s in all black, actually, from his joggers to his socks to his luggage. His hair is much longer than it was when he left at seventeen, fringe overgrown and in waves. One piercing per ear has turned into three (four? Yoongi can’t tell from this distance) in each lobe, all silver rings in various sizes. He’s… grown into himself.
This Jeon Jeongguk is a man.
Yoongi tries for a smile, fully acknowledging that it’s twisted all wrong on his face. “Jeongguk-ah,” he says. He fiddles with the shell of his ear, then the hem of his filthy shirt. Fuck, he should’ve taken the time to shower. “Are you... are you hungry?” In the background, Hoseok laughs at his awkward misery.
Yoongi sees the hug coming, of course. Jeongguk has to take several long strides to reach Yoongi, and there’s nothing else Jeongguk would do that’d require close proximity. Still, it comes as a shock, the kid that once stood eye-to-eye with him having to curl his shoulders down slightly to slot himself perfectly to Yoongi’s chest, wrap strong arms that were once thin and gangly around Yoongi’s middle. And then Yoongi’s enveloped in the smell of fabric softener, hints of spice and floral hidden underneath. Yoongi is slow to return the embrace, disoriented from how instinctual this is supposed to be but isn't. How unfamiliar such a familiar body warms him at the core.
Then Jeongguk is leaning back just enough to make eye contact, and Yoongi’s gaze is pulled to the mole on his cheekbone, below his bottom lip. “Thank you for cooking,” he says.
Then Yoongi remembers.
They were both freeloaders, funnily enough. Well—less so Jeongguk. Hoseok was an old friend of Yoongi’s that made it out of Daegu, and Jeongguk was the fourteen year old kid that might as well have raised himself. It was like an apartment for the poor and lonely; Hoseok took Jeongguk in, when it was made clear that his parents weren’t ever going to stop going on business trips and leaving him home alone with the help. Less than a year later, twenty year-old Yoongi rang Hoseok up, said, if I don’t get the fuck out of here, the next time I’ll call you will be from prison . Hoseok had laughed like he cracked a joke.
He wasn’t joking.
Thus resulted in a teenager being taken care of by, one, the money his parents wired over and, two—two men in their twenties that were the worst possible candidates for raising a child. That was a dangerous responsibility that fell mostly on Yoongi, partly because Hoseok had a music production company to co-manage, and partly because Yoongi was nurturing to a fault, no matter how hard he tried to remain emotionally detached from Jeongguk. Or anyone in Seoul, his alleged ‘temporary living place’ until he could get his shit together and go back home to his struggling family.
That never happened. What happened instead was that Jeongguk was a small, frail rabbit with zero guidance and fragile sensibilities. The kind of baby animal that you wanted to protect with your life. Jeongguk at fourteen was shy, quiet, easily frightened and desperate to please. It wasn’t difficult to guess at how his home life was like prior to being abandoned. (Hoseok insists that he wasn’t abandoned, that that was a harsh accusation and his parents needed to work to afford his school fees and numerous extracurriculars—but Yoongi knew abandonment when he saw it. Jeongguk needed a stable family home and he wasn’t given it. Abandoned.)
So, it was broke and jobless Yoongi that cooked every night. It was Yoongi that made sure Jeongguk had a homemade lunch, got to school on time, went to dance and vocal lessons. When Jeongguk asked Yoongi to teach him how to play the piano, he and Hoseok came up with the money for one and Yoongi taught him. Taught him up until he realized there was no fucking way he could look Jeongguk in those big, round eyes and tell him he was messing up—which was almost immediately; he got him an actual piano teacher instead.
And. All Jeongguk wanted to do was draw attention to his empty spaces, while Yoongi worked desperately to fill them. Futile, since the only person that could mend that pit was Jeongguk. But Yoongi was a pro at futility, if his pathetic excuse of a life that he still fought for said anything. He’d steal the self-deprecating comments that poured from Jeongguk’s mouth, replaced them with, you did so well, Jeongguk. You’re so talented. Everything you do is amazing. They call you cheonggukjang because they’re fucking assholes and are threatened by you. You’re incredible. Gifted. Hardworking. Handsome.
—My pride and joy.
When Jeongguk cried, Yoongi swore that the earth cried with him. It didn’t matter if the skies were blue: a tear would roll down Jeongguk’s cheek, thunder clouds rolled in overhead, dumping rain and spitting lightning, and everyone would be punished for how they snuffed the walking embodiment of sunshine. A ray of light in its corporeal form. Jeongguk spun the earth on its axis, changed the tides at will.
At least, that’s how the weather fared inside of Yoongi’s chest. Always so attuned to the slightest shift in Jeongguk’s temperament, always prepared to chase away the rainshower. “Your voice is beautiful,” Yoongi would tell Jeongguk after his performance, tucking Jeongguk into his side and using his shirt to wipe away the tears. “Everyone loved it. I loved it.”
“Was awful,” Jeongguk whimpered, small and fifteen—a hurricane. “I’m sorry, hyung. I’m—it was—They hated me—”
Yoongi swept up the rubble, was always the calm after Jeongguk’s storm. “That’s not true,” he whispered into his hair. “You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to me. Perfect, Jeongguk-ah. It was perfect.” His pride and joy.
Flowers bloom after rain, under sunlight.
As a twenty-one year old man, Jeongguk is less of a hurricane, more of a nursery. He sits across from Yoongi at the dining table, and when he smiles Yoongi swears he feels orchids blooming in his chest. “Yeah, a little,” he’s telling Hoseok. Yoongi has no idea what Hoseok just asked him, too busy fumbling with his chopsticks and trying not to openly stare at the tattoos littered on Jeongguk’s arm, Jeongguk’s ink-black hair, his silver rings. The freshly-minted cut of his jaw and eyes that never could escape its innocence. “More hungry than tired, though.” His laugh gives warmth.
Right. Yoongi decided to splurge for their dinner, cooking up what he seldom could afford back in Daegu. Mungtigi, beef fresh from the market. The table is crowded with sesame oil dipping sauce, several side dishes (white rice, soybean sprouts, sigeumchi namul), water and soju.
“Eat up, then,” Hoseok says, “Yoongi hyung made enough to last us, like, two weeks.”
“Yeah,” Yoongi says dumbly. Because he’s dumb, and Jeongguk almost doesn’t look real sitting at that table, when the last time he sat there he was bawling too hard to finish his meal. This is good, Yoongi had told him, You’re chasing your dreams. I’m proud of you.
But Yoongi can still hear his voice, cracking open on his words, tears like dewdrops as they drip from his lashes; the—Hyung, come with me, please. I don’t wanna live without you. Don’t wanna be alone.
He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t protect Jeongguk forever, as much as he wanted to. And as the years flitted by, Jeongguk called less and less, sent Hoseok and Yoongi update messages sporadically until they were lucky to get one a month. And over the dinner table, here, today, Jeongguk indulges Hoseok’s barrage of questions, detailing how he’d dug himself a comfortable little place in the states, grew as a person and as a man.
Vocal lessons, English language classes, long nights spent at the dance studio, and the friends he met at the bar he worked. In reality, he didn’t have to work at all—his parents were the ones who encouraged him to study abroad, more than willing to pay for anything he needed if it meant that money could erase their guilt—but he wanted a sense of normalcy. Of routine. Jeongguk was always like that.
He’s blossomed all on his own. The relief settles in Yoongi’s bones, slowly melting away his anxiety until Jeongguk has eaten his food, and Hoseok has run out of questions to ask about California—and Jeongguk is staring at Yoongi, who has been quiet the entire time, and says, “Thanks, hyung. I missed your cooking like crazy.”
The most Yoongi can do is give a jolt of a nod, gaze averting to his barely picked-at beef. Hoseok doesn’t tease or laugh for once, just watches Yoongi for a few seconds before getting up, carrying a stack of dirty plates and bowls to the kitchen. Then it’s Jeongguk soul-searching, Yoongi trying not to melt under the heat of those rose petal eyes.
“How,” Jeongguk starts, then pauses to swallow, “how’s it been? Any new music I can hear?”
Yoongi wants to lie. He wants to tell Jeongguk that it’s been peaceful, easy. That his mind hasn’t been blurry with jumbled lyrics and nightmares of Jeongguk leaving and never coming back. That he’s been the most productive he’s ever been since he didn’t have a teenager to console with nighttime cuddles, with words too sweet and too intimate to repurpose in his songs.
But when Jeongguk moved away, he took the sun and the comfort of a nursery with him—and Yoongi wilted. Only now does his chest bloom with roses, his skin tingle in that warmth. Life was measured in two parts: before Jeongguk, and after Jeongguk. The person that gave Yoongi purpose, routine. So flawlessly created that, fuck, Yoongi even questioned his disbelief in a higher power.
So, yeah. That’s it, isn’t it. It wasn’t Jeongguk that needed Yoongi.
“Dark,” Yoongi croaks. “It’s been dark. Everyday.”
It was Yoongi that needed Jeongguk.