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Chickens in the Coop

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“Jimin-ah?”

No luck. Jimin is knocked out – concerts always leave him completely unconscious. The party afterwards never helps matters. Hoseok frowns, throwing his covers back. What’s the point of sleeping in the dorms when your roommate won’t wake up? He could be in his bed in his parents’ apartment or in his own apartment, the latter of which has seen little use this year.

He sits up and rubs his face. He’s not going to sleep tonight. He grabs a fleece coat (FILA, duh) and leaves the room, closing the door as gently as possible. He tip-toes past Taehyung and Jungkook’s rooms, which are dark too. Maybe they both headed back to their places after the party – maybe they actually fell asleep. Either way, Hoseok won’t disturb them.

The kitchen is quiet and as clean as ever. It’s always pristine. They live off takeout and restaurant meals and the graces of their parents – he’d never admit it to his own mother, but Yoongi’s mom is the best cook, even though she’s been trying to push her son into hiring her a personal chef lately. He can’t rely on any food being in the cupboards except snacks and ramyeon, but he can rely on three things being present in the fridge; iced coffee, alcohol and skincare. Sure enough, he opens the fridge to find it filled with products bearing their name, their faces, their brand. The wrapper on a bottle of iced coffee has torn, ripping poor Seokjin’s face in half. Hoseok picks it out and smooths it as best he can before putting it back and pushing a bottle of Sulhwasoo toner out of the way to grab a can of one of the many Lotte-brand beers they’re sent for free. Jimin complains about the taste, but Hoseok frankly couldn’t tell a lager from an IPA – it’s all beer to him. He cracks it open and takes a small sip.

Where does he want to drink? He pads over to the balcony windows. Wouldn’t it be nice to sit outside? It’s a cold evening, but his jacket will keep him warm. The bigger problem is that the door to the balcony is in Yoongi’s room, and Hoseok really does not want to wake him up. He’s suffered enough the past few days with his shoulder. Still. He’s a deep sleeper. If Hoseok is quiet and quick, he won’t notice.

His bedroom door isn’t locked – none of them ever lock their doors when they’re in the dorms. They all have a gentleman’s agreement to never do anything requiring any level of privacy here after Jungkook walked on Namjoon and his ex just after Her and hopped his head off a wall in his panic to get out. Hoseok opens it and slips in.

Yoongi is curled up like a pillbug. Even with all the blankets Hoseok knows his hands are jammed between his thighs. His face is a little strained, small mouth screwed up, strong brows pulled together. Hoseok pads past quietly and opens the door, sliding it back slowly, blocking the draft with his body. He glances back at Yoongi – still asleep – and slips outside.

The fresh air clears his head. He lights the outdoor lamp and sits down on the bench to sip on his beer, staring out at Seoul’s sleeping silhouette. It’s not exactly the view they had in Chuncheon, but the river they admired there flows into the Han. There is a little of that peace here, a patch of forest in his soul.

The city got quiet when the lockdown started. He didn’t think Seoul could go quiet, but it did. Office lights went dark, billboards were ripped down, the network of pojangmachas and hole-in-the-wall bars he had memorised – the less hygienic it was, the more likely it was that he wouldn’t be recognised – closed down. The Big Hit offices emptied out, most employees choosing to work from home – well, except them. They’re essential. In a moment, there was silence, and space.

They’re lucky, in a way, that this happened this year. If this had happened any earlier – 2013? 2014? 2015? He’s not sure they could have survived such an aggressive halt to their momentum. Already he’s seeing friends – dancers, singers, actors and actresses who didn’t get as lucky as he did, any of whom could have ascended to his height given the chance – give up on the industry.

He still wishes it hadn’t happened at all. That no-one got sick, or had to say goodbye to their loved ones, or lose their job. His tragedies are minor by comparison, but still. He’s frustrated.

He felt a little more alive, today and yesterday. He knows the rest feel the same. All the other parts of his career – making music, recording content, writing lyrics – he likes them, too, but he likes to perform the most, and it isn’t the same when the only thing looking back at you is a camera and the cameraperson Big Hit hired as a contractor. Yesterday was close, but not – not the real thing. Not his name ringing out in the stadium Freddie Mercury performed in, not the meet your maker look in the eyes of every fan he makes eye contact with, not the pure joy of movement, knowing everyone watching him wants to move like he can.

“Still up?”

Hoseok starts. “Namjoon-ah?”

Namjoon waves his own can at him. “Saw you through the window when I went to the bathroom. Is it okay if I join you?”

“Yeah, sure.” Hoseok doesn’t bother shifting down the bench. Namjoon folds himself down beside him, arms and legs going every which way, totally unaware of the space he takes up. His presence is reassuring in a way Hoseok doesn’t have words to describe. “You didn’t wake hyung, did you?”

“Still dead to the world. Don’t think he’ll be awake for a while. He looked pretty out of it once the physio was done with him.” Hoseok frowns. “He’ll be okay. He always bounces back. We all do.”

“I know,” Hoseok admits. They’ve been doing this for seven years – longer, if you count predebut – and each have accumulated a pile of ailments, from minor to major. “And, hey, he was well able to push you out of the way today –”

“I let him!” Namjoon huffs. “I was acting! Yah, and then he just gave you a little tap, what gives?” Hoseok raises an eyebrow and stares at Namjoon’s chest, and then points to his own. He’s not insecure about his body – sure, he wishes he had maybe another centimetre or two in the shoulders – but he’s a stick compared to Namjoon. Namjoon shrinks in on himself like he does every time someone points out his increasingly defined body. “Oh, fine.” He pulls at his shirt. “I’m gonna stop working out. It’s not worth it. I caught one of the TXT kids staring the other day, you know that? Huening Kai. I’m scared he’ll ask for tips or something, and he’s just a kid, I don’t want to stunt his growth…”

Hoseok listens to Namjoon talk himself in circles around ruining TXT’s career and concentrates on his drink. It’s peaceful. He’s glad he and Namjoon have become closer – their relationship is comfortable, now, a soft place to land.

“You’re not even listening to me, are you?” Hoseok smiles cheerily. “Aish. Ah.” Namjoon takes a drink. His hair is standing up on end like a scrubbing brush, and whoever took his makeup off didn’t quite catch all his eyeliner. “It’s weird, isn’t it, now?”

Hoseok nods. “I… it doesn’t feel like we just did a concert. It felt like a music show pre-recording. Like, I keep thinking, when are the managers gonna come and pick us up for the real thing?”

“Me too. My mom asked me if I want to go to my aunts for dinner next weekend and I told her no, we have a concert, because – you know, when it starts, it goes on for months. Two shows every weekend. But this is it. This is all we get, for now.”

“Like dinner without soup,” Hoseok says. Namjoon whips out his phone. “What are you doing?”

“Writing that down.”

“Yah, are you stealing my lyrics?”

“I’m a plagiarism boy, after all.” The smug silly look on Namjoon’s face makes Hoseok burst out laughing – he muffles it quickly, worried he’ll wake Yoongi.

Too late. The curtain on the patio door slides open, revealing a wan Min Yoongi, who squints at them before trying and failing to open the door. Before Hoseok can, Namjoon stands and opens it for him. “Don’t overdo it, hyung.”

“Sure, sure,” Yoongi mumbles, plodding out onto the balcony. His hair is sticking every which way. “Thought I heard Hobi cackling. What are you doing out here?”

“Bitching about our lives.” Hoseok shifts over so Yoongi can sit beside him. Namjoon sits on his other, hemming him in. “How’s the shoulder?”

“Can’t feel it.” Yoongi tries to roll it and achieves nothing. “Wish I knew what they gave me. It’s good.” He looks around and spots his reflection in the window. “Man. I’ve looked better.”

“Stay still.” Hoseok reaches up and combs his hands through his hair, fixing it like Jimin did his earlier. “There we go. Oh, Suga, so handsome!”

Yoongi shakes his head and waves a hand at Namjoon. “Gimme that.” Namjoon hands his bottle over. Yoongi takes a slug. “Ah, that’s nice. Didn’t you guys go to that staff party?”

Hoseok shakes his head. “No, we just came back here. The kids and Seokjin hyung got smashed so we decided to all sleep here tonight too.”

“Just like old times.” Yoongi closes his eyes and leans back. Namjoon nudges Hoseok’s hand, so Hoseok gives him his beer too. Is it unsanitary and unwise to share drinks during a pandemic? Probably, but they live up one another’s asses anyway, sharing practice rooms and dressing rooms and studios – if one of them gets sick the rest will too. Which is why they stay in the dorms so much lately – less risk of catching it from or giving it to a family member.

Like old times, almost. Hoseok doesn’t miss them – who would miss sharing a room with ten other boys? The memory of the smell alone is horrifying. But he’s a still nostalgic about those days, the dorm with the blue walls in Nonhyeondong, and it’s pleasant to wake up and say good morning to a grumbly Seokjin, just about to go to bed after a night of videogames, and go into the kitchen and find Jimin trying to convince Taehyung that coffee is nice, actually, take a sip, it’s not that gross, look, I put so much sugar in, Taehyung-ah, try it for your Jiminie!

“I’m lucky,” Hoseok says.

“How?” Namjoon tilts his head.

“This whole thing is unlucky,” Yoongi adds.

“I, just. You know.” Hoseok nods at them. “Don’t know what I would have done this past few months without all of you. Some people had to do this alone, you know?”

“Once you put it that way...” Namjoon looks up at the sky. “You know, even if it was frustrating, this weekend – it was still wonderful. I’m grateful that we got to do it.”

“The thing at the end was nice,” Yoongi mumbles. “ARMY on Air? I almost forgot there are actual human beings out there who are invested in us. Even the one who wanted to marry you.”

“What?” Hoseok sits up. Yoongi opens his phone and finds a screenshot – Jungkook, giggling, pointing out an ARMY holding up a sign saying NAMJOON MARRY ME, and Namjoon retreating immediately. Hoseok giggles, hand over his mouth to muffle the sound. “That’s dedication. Who can blame her?”

“Hobi,” Namjoon groans, and shoves him with his shoulder.

“Hey, hey, hey. Don’t wanna have to get between you two again.” Yoongi puts the bottle on the ground. “As fun as it was today.” Namjoon makes a choked noise. “Yah, Kim Namjoon, what’s so funny?”

“Nothing, hyung. What did they give you?”

“Like I said. No idea.”  Yoongi tilts his head. “I hope we get to do that, soon, again. It was fun.”

“You like any excuse to push us around,” Hoseok accuses.

“Guilty as charged.” Yoongi shivers and sits a little closer to Hoseok. Namjoon, on his other side, shifts too. There’s really no need for it – there’s another bench – but, well. Just for tonight. Just for now.

“We’ll get to do it again, soon,” Namjoon says, fervent. “In front of a proper audience, next time. It’ll be better.”

“It’ll get better,” Hoseok promises.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t have to. Hoseok knows he’s hoping the same thing, too, the same as Namjoon is, the same as all of them are.