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Echo Chorus

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There are still times when Yoongi has a moment of confusion, when memories become indistinguishable from dreams and he forgets which one is real, living, breathing, and which one is false, dead, crumbled to dust. He's stuck in the unknowing, trying to determine if he's fallen into autumn or arisen to a new spring. He hates that moment the most, even more than the five years he spent apart from Seokjin. He didn’t wake up losing Seokjin over and over again during their separation. He knew, from the moment he opened his eyes to the moment they closed again, he knew he’d never hold Seokjin’s hand in his own again. He had no hope to lose. He was miserable in an invincible sort of way, and bitterness has a certain hard strength.

But moments like these, when he wakes with an aching neck and his limbs arranged into a small ball on his studio couch, he thinks it must have all been a dream. He wonders if Seokjin truly came back to him, held onto him, kissed him, married him. It seems, objectively, too good to be true, and suddenly he’s losing Seokjin all over again.

He bolts up, heart thumping hard against his chest, blood racing too fast through his veins as his mind fumbles for clues. He grabs his left hand with his right hand, a new habit he’s trained into instinct over the past year. His fingers slide over skin until he finds it, the smooth surface of his wedding ring. All the air in his lungs shudders out in a relieved sigh and he shakes his head, trying to reset.

It’s not a dream. He’s not waking up alone in his studio in New York. He really did get a second chance. Memories from the past three years with Seokjin solidify, their blurred edges sharpening from the haze of might-be dreams to the weight of history.

He pats around the couch and then the floor to find his phone, heartbeat catching up to reality and slowly reducing speed to a normal, quiet pace. He finds his phone under the couch and checks the time. Just past four in the morning.

He wants to call Seokjin, wants to hear his voice and let it soothe him back to equilibrium. He thumbs over his wedding ring again and pockets his phone, resisting the urge. Seokjin is probably asleep. It’s not worth waking him up.

Yoongi sighs, stretching his neck, and moves to stand. He should head home before the sun rises.

Even at this time of night, the drive still takes forty minutes. He sometimes worries that the commute is too long, but Seokjin has reassured him multiple times that he can sleep to and from the studio. He likes their house, tucked away from the city proper. It’s a refuge, a quiet enclave for just the two of them, away from the press and fame, away from the chaotic bustle of schedules and flights. Seokjin told Yoongi once, a musing wrapped in a soft smile as they had sat down for dinner, that the hour-and-a-bit journey home was one of his favorite parts of the day.

He hadn’t elaborated, and later Yoongi had forgotten to ask again. He puzzles over it now, one hand on the steering wheel, the other foolishly reaching over to the empty passenger’s seat, searching for Seokjin’s absent hand. He clutches his fingers into a loose fist and frowns.

All he feels on the drive home is impatience, and a stirring in his chest that edges too close to desperation. He wishes he could fold the streets in two like Inception, to somehow shorten the distance. He steps harder on the gas pedal, accelerating to get back to Seokjin just a little faster.

Once he’s arrived home and parked, he slips into their house as quietly as possible, mindful that it is nearly five in the morning. Seokjin has been working hard on his next album lately, writing and composing until there are dark circles under his eyes. Yoongi doesn’t want to disturb Seokjin’s already too rare moments of peace just because he has no concept of time and stayed way too late at the studio.

His efforts are in vain, he discovers when he finally reaches the bedroom. Their bed is empty, blanket rumpled and thrown onto Yoongi’s side. Yoongi rubs at his chest, his heart echoing that terrible moment when he awoke, when dreams and nightmares seemed the same. He steps out of the room, hand still hovering just over his ribs.

“Jin-ah?” he calls, peeking through the rooms methodically. “Hyung?”

He hears Seokjin before he sees him, the distinct sound of the piano they keep in their home studio beckoning Yoongi closer. It’s the same studio where Seokjin’s guitar resides, though he’s been sweetly fixated on the piano as of late, falling in love with the instrument in a way that makes Yoongi nostalgic for his own youth.

Yoongi trails his fingers along the wall, walking down the hallway, and wonders why, exactly, did Seokjin make the switch. He smiles faintly and thinks perhaps he should pick up the guitar. To balance things out. The piano is his first love, perhaps the guitar will be a torrid affair.

His smile widens for a moment as his mind cascades down his list of loves, centering like he always does onto Seokjin, his forever love.

He finds the studio door ajar, with Seokjin at the piano, illuminated only by a lamp. His back straight with perfect posture like always, but his hair is still mussed from sleep. Yoongi’s smile widens again.

He raps his knuckles on the open door to announce his presence before stepping inside.

Seokjin stops playing and turns a quarter way on the piano bench, smiling when he sees Yoongi. “You’re home?”

Yoongi nods and lists over to Seokjin, naturally and effortlessly finding his place beside him again, sliding onto the bench. He inhales and breathes in Seokjin’s scent, relief washing through him, cleansing and soothing like a pain killer.

“You worked hard,” Seokjin says, running a hand over Yoongi’s back momentarily before returning back to his task.

Yoongi can see Seokjin’s phone on the top of the piano, screen on and half full of notes. Seokjin tends to write his music on his phone or tablet, while Yoongi still prefers the solid weight of paper notebooks, a physical record of his creations.

Yoongi listens for a while as Seokjin repeats a melody over and over, sometimes adding to it, sometimes changing tempo, sometimes just playing it the same way again. It’s an cheerful, delicate piece, moderately paced with the occasional bell-like high note that makes him smile. He leans his head against Seokjin’s shoulder, fatigue catching up to him all at once.

“Is this for the new album?” he asks when Seokjin pauses for a moment.

“Hm. Hopefully.”

“It’s nice.”

Seokjin lets out a soft laugh. “It’s not even near finished yet.”

Yoongi exhales and leans a bit more into Seokjin’s warmth. “It’s still nice.”

Yoongi tilts his head up to catch Seokjin’s ears reddening just the slightest bit at the compliment, a soft pink warming their color. Seokjin accepts the comment without comment, a reaction Yoongi is immensely contented by, and returns back to composing. Yoongi watches him, mesmerized by the movement of Seokjin’s fingers. His heart swells happily in his chest everytime Seokjin’s wedding ring catches the lamplight, glinting like a star at him. Yoongi has always preferred physical evidences.

“The music video should be shots of you playing the piano,” he muses offhandedly.

Seokjin chuckles. “It’s a b-side, Yoongi-yah.”

“Your b-sides deserve music videos,” Yoongi counters. “And I like watching you play.”

Seokjin snorts and nudges Yoongi with his shoulder. "You say that about my guitar too."

"Maybe I like your hands," Yoongi grumbles, a hint of fondness in his tone.

"Maybe you like me," Seokjin counters.

Yoongi is about to agree but his words are swallowed by a sudden yawn, his fatigue trying to drag him back to unconsciousness.

"You should go to bed," Seokjin says, and starts to move to help Yoongi up.

Yoongi frowns and shakes his head, reaching a hand up to lay on Seokjin's arm, stopping him. "Can I just stay here for a bit? I just want to watch you play."

Seokjin stills, hands laying neutrally on his own knees, covering the skin revealed at the end of his sleep shorts. He waits, refusing to move back to the piano but not threatening to remove Yoongi to the bedroom anymore. His silence is questioning and patient, heavy but not crushing. He knows something is bothering Yoongi.

Through the years after they reunited, they've both worked to be more open, more vulnerable with each other. To face unpleasant or embarrassing conversations without guile. Lack of communication was what tore them apart. Neither of them are willing to echo the regrets of their first days.

It's still not easy, and Yoongi doesn't think it will ever be natural. But the best things in life can never be easy.

Yoongi stares straight ahead at the piano, tracing the keys with his eyes to distract and comfort himself. "I had that thought, again," he confesses softly. "Where I didn't know if I had dreamt the last three years."

Seokjin's right hand moves to Yoongi's knee, giving a reassuring squeeze.

"It's stupid, sorry," Yoongi can't help but say, because it is dumb, and his own fault. He's the one waiting for the second shoe to drop. He's the one who needs constant reassurance. He's the one that keeps bringing up his insecurities. He doesn't want to feel this way, and he especially doesn't want to tell Seokjin and dredge up old guilts.

"It's not stupid," Seokjin replies softly, and Yoongi can feel him shift, pressing a kiss to the top of Yoongi's head.

Yoongi tilts to look up at Seokjin, leaning back against him. "It's my fault," Yoongi says.

Seokjin presses his lips together, pensive for a moment before he says, "It’s natural. We've been back together for three years, but we were apart for five." Seokjin tilts his head and smiles cutely, with his cheeks puffed out slightly, a direct hit to Yoongi's heart. "Give it a couple more years. Then you won't remember what it's like without me."

Yoongi studies Seokjin's face for a moment, two, three, the count of a beat in his head. He doesn't think he wants to forget what it's like to lose Seokjin. Eight years ago, when he was a fool with too many ideals in his eyes, he couldn't recognize that Seokjin was slipping away. The memory keeps him sober, keeps him tethered. Makes the present and the anticipation of the future precious.

He doesn't know how to formulate that into words yet, though, so instead he turns to face Seokjin on the bench, reaching his hands up to cup Seokjin's face. "I love you, Jin-ah," he says and watches Seokjin's smile soften and spread wider, watches as Seokjin's eyes practically glow.

Yoongi leans forward to taste that smile, sliding his lips against Seokjin’s, settling into his softness. He feels Seokjin’s smile relax, mouth parting slightly, just enough for Yoongi to steal a portion of his breath. He hopes that exhale stays in his lungs so he can hold a piece of Seokjin with him, even in those moments and hours they have to part.

Seokjin's hands glide over Yoongi's thighs, smoothing up and over to cup his hips comfortably, shifting Yoongi closer. Yoongi follows, tipping his head to the side, deepening the kiss with the ease of practiced repetition.

Yoongi's eyes have fluttered closed, his senses fraying into just the beat of his heart and the sharp feel of Seokjin’s teeth skimming over his bottom lip, a foreboding for a bite that doesn't come. Yoongi whines half-heartedly when Seokjin pulls back but he quiets when Seokjin laughs softly.

"Hyung," he pouts, letting his body fall into Seokjin’s chest, his energy rapidly dissipating.

"You're half asleep," Seokjin reasons. Based on the amusement in his tone, Yoongi imagines his lips quirked up in affection.

"Don't want to go," Yoongi says, inhaling.

There's a pressure on his shoulder that he realizes is Seokjin's hand, guiding Yoongi down until his head lays in Seokjin’s lap. "Then stay."

Yoongi smiles, bringing his hands up to rest against Seokjin's knees, warmth flooding his chest, spreading up his neck. Seokjin's arms enclose him, sheltering, as Yoongi hears that bright, bell-like melody again.

He drifts gently to sleep, lulled by his first love played by his forever love.