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Twice by the Pacific - Chapter 3 - "more than ocean water broken"

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Seokjin hummed, softly, leaning against the car door. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, except for the burning fact he knew they couldn’t cross the state boundary. But he was here. It was 10am, and he was several miles away from home, with a boy he’d only had three real conversations with.

It had been a mistake, but one thing he’d learnt from college and from Yoongi, had been about trying to turn around negative situations to benefit you. Seokjin hadn’t been doing such a great job lately, but--

“Let’s go to the beach.” he said, decisively.

“Huh?” Taehyung said, looking confused, as Seokjin started up the engine lightly.

“I’m going to fuel gas, and then we’re going back towards the coast, and going to the beach.” Seokjin said, firmly. “I need a beach day. Don’t you?”

Taehyung’s face pulled into a confused expression. “But...”

“We’re going home. Obviously.” Seokjin said, quietly, propping his foot up on the driver’s seat. “You have school, and your grandma. I have classes and other responsibilities as well. But let’s linger a little, yeah?”

Taehyung smiled again, slowly, and sweetly, as he acquiesced, and got back inside the car.

 

~*~

 

The ride back was a little muted, Seokjin mostly paying attention to the busier road, and Taehyung messing around with the radio, switching from adventure stories, to country music, to traffic news, to christian rock, before finally settling on a droning spanish broadcast that Seokjin knew only about two words out of ten.

“You speak Spanish?” asked Seokjin, mildly, switching lanes to avoid the slowly rumbling fruit truck.

“Nah, I take Chinese.” Taehyung said, with a low smile. “But it’s nice anyway, right? Listening to somebody else speak? You don’t know what they’re really saying--but you know anyway.”

“Listen with your heart?” asked Seokjin, dryly, and managed to startle a small giggle from him. His mouth scrunched up, in an entirely adorable way. It was a good sign that Taehyung knew his Disney movies. “No, I get it.” he modulated, lightly. “There’s something kinda soothing about it. I like listening to Korean music sometimes for the same reason.”

“You don’t speak Korean?” asked Taehyung, curiously, sitting on his hands, as he leant forward towards Seokjin.

“Nah. I took Japanese in high school.” he said, with a low laugh. “My school never offered Korean, and my dad didn’t really think to enroll me in classes? I guess he thought I’d just pick it up from home, but I only know basic stuff. Mom didn’t speak it much, and Dad was busy.” Seokjin shrugged, “It’s not as useful as Japanese anyway, I guess. I’m only into Korean music because I can’t understand it and I don’t get distracted when I’m working.”

Taehyung tilted his head. “Huh. Namjoon knows it, though?”

“Step-brother.” Seokjin reminded, lightly. “His mother’s a professor. She really wanted him to learn stuff like that when he was young. He knows like four languages at this point.”

“Woah!” Taehyung said, eyes wide, “He’s really cool.”

Seokjin smiled gently, switching lanes again, to avoid a motorbike speeding through. “He’s not a bad. A bit of a nerd, but not bad company at all.” Sometimes he didn’t understand his step-brother very much, admittedly, and it made him feel quite lonely when both his father and his step-mother easily could. But it was the quiet kind of jealousy and loneliness that Seokjin had been pushing away for a long time. There was nothing about Namjoon that Seokjin could actively dislike anyway, he was too nice for that.

They lapsed off again, and Taehyung exhaled, sadly, as the Spanish drama started heating up. They kept driving.

After a while, Taehyung sighed, and shifted, pulling his hands out from under him, to tug at the strings of his threadbare jeans instead. “What’s it like to have siblings, Jin?”

Seokjin blinked. “Well...” he trailed off, and bit down on his lips, a little contemplative. His fingers drummed against the edge of the steering wheel, as he tried to come up with an answer. “Namjoon hasn’t been my sibling for too long, so I guess I’m not the best authority?” he said, with a shrug, turning to meet Taehyung’s gaze. “He’s real nice, but it’s also a person that’s always there to compare against. Sometimes that can make you feel real shitty. But it’s nice in some ways. You have somebody who understands what’s it like to be in your family. You have a member of solidarity. And even though I’m the older one...sometimes he gives me better advice than I give him. So that’s nice.”

“I suppose you don’t feel so alone, huh?” asked Taehyung, eyes a little hungry.

“No.” Seokjin said bluntly, changing lanes again. “Sometimes I feel the most lonely when I’m around him. Siblings don’t really change that. Being lonely even when you’re surrounded by people...that’s on you.”

This seemed to have taken Taehyung aback, his eyes widening. “Oh.” he said, quietly, and the conversation faded away. Seokjin worried at his lip again, and exhaled.

“Yeah. Sorry. It’s a little disappointing. I’m sure other people feel differently, but for me...”

Taehyung hummed, shaking his head. “That’s how you feel. I think that’s valid. It’s sad, though. I didn’t think you were that kind of person when I met you.”

“I was hanging around my old high school after graduating.” Seokjin said, dryly, “What part of that doesn’t scream ‘pathetic’?”

Taehyung laughed, startled. “Oh no!” he said, shaking his head furiously, “I didn’t think you were pathetic at all.”

“That’s because you’re weird.” Seokjin teased, gently, reaching out over the driver controls to gently nudge Taehyung’s side.

“No.” Taehyung said, a little more emphatically. “You’re not weird or pathetic or anything. You’re just--” He cut off, but they both knew what he was going to say. Lonely. Out of place. Yearning for something else other than his responsibilities.

Both of them understood that much, at least.

“Just.” Seokjin agreed, softly, and the Spanish drama ended, with a cheerful jingle, and a rapidfire commercial. With a soft sigh, Taehyung leant back in his chair, eyes turned firmly outwards, towards the inner suburbs and fields of California.

 

~*~

 

Three hours later, Taehyung had passed out entirely, his pretty mouth slightly open, as he drooled all over his threadbare hoodie. It was taking far too much of Seokjin’s energy to stay awake himself, but he only had another ten minutes before they’d hit the beach near the tip of Malibu. He’d considered going into the peak parts of LA, but he hadn’t fancied getting caught in LA traffic, and so had steered upwards, to hit a less-populated beach.

Coffee was first on Seokjin’s agenda, there was no way he was going to stay awake otherwise, but despite himself, as the buildings around him became more and more brightly-painted and open, he couldn’t quite stop the excitement.

Beaches were probably one of the places that Seokjin felt best at. He’d always been a little sad that Cerritos was a little far from the beach, because it had always been his favourite pastime to strip off his shirt and bask in the sunlight, and the admiring glances of others. He’d always kept fit, just for the heck of it, but also partly to see the reactions of people around him when he stripped him. It was a little vain, but Seokjin had precious little else to be vain about except his looks, so.

To be fair, sports at the beach was also one of the best parts of being coastside. Volleyball with Namjoon had always been entertaining, mostly because winning against Namjoon was always such an ego-boost, and surfing with his Dad was one of the earliest and happiest memories he had. They’d gone cave-exploring one time, searching for lifeforms in tidepools, all of them together as a family. And even if his step-mother had been talking the whole time about exoskeletons and the proper classification of mussels, and Namjoon had been weirdly obsessed with letting the tiniest crabs go live and be free, it had been. Nice. Something quiet to remember, he and his family picking through the shade, with quiet care.

And beach food...it was always incredibly greasy, or incredibly sticky, and there was almost always somehow sand in it, but nothing tasted so good, after a few hours of being in the warm glances of the sun.

Seokjin smiled, happily, as he pulled in to park at a small grocery store complex, just opposite the wide expanse of the beach, and the slow stall of the car stirred Taehyung awake from his light nap.

“Huh?” asked Taehyung, blinking heavily, and rubbing the sleep crumbs away from his eyes.

Cute, but Seokjin had other needs first. “Stay in the car.” Seokjin ordered, firmly, before dashing out the car, towards the Starbucks in the corner. Luckily, there wasn’t much of a wait and he quickly managed to fire off an order before diving for the bathroom. Four hour drives were fine in theory, but in practice.....

Washing his hands, Seokjin stepped back out into Starbucks, to see that Taehyung had disobeyed his order, and was randomly examining one of the Starbucks membership cups in the corner. “Don’t touch those too much, or they’ll make you buy them.” Seokjin said, amused, rubbing at his own eyes a little, barely hiding the yawn that split down his face.

“Oh?” asked Taehyung, turning around, still looking a little sleepy himself. His too-long bangs had stuck up at an awkward angle, and it was exceedingly endearing. Unable to resist, in the low lighting, and more comfortable setting, Seokjin reached forward, to brush it down, gently, fingers lingering against the edges of Taehyung’s forehead. Taehyung’s gaze tracked him, lips parting gently and Seokjin could barely suppress the red lighting up the backs of his ears.

“Latte?” called the bored barista, and Seokjin gratefully took the distraction to move away and try to stop the blush from spreading anywhere else.

“Can I grab a glass of tap water for my friend too?” asked Seokjin, grabbing an extra packet of sugar, to pour in. It would taste disgusting, but at this point, Seokjin needed all the stimulants to stay awake. Taehyung looked a little grateful, downing the water near instantly, as Seokjin closed up his coffee and they made to leave.

“Sorry.” Taehyung said, quietly, as the sun instantly hit them and made Seokjin feel warmer. “I just slept for both of the driving things...I should have helped.”

“You have a driving license?” asked Seokjin, curiously, taking a sip of the coffee, the piping hot bitterness less necessary than he’d presumed.

“Well...my dad’s a truck driver.” Taehyung said, a little edgily, as Seokjin carefully scanned the other shops in the plaza. A lot of takeaway places, a couple nail salons, hair and makeup--CVS would have to do.

“That’s not really an answer to my question, is it?” asked Seokjin, making sure to click the button on his car keys as they passed by his car. It beeped to indicate he’d locked it. “Which makes me think you don’t have a license.”

“No...” Taehyung admitted, sliding his arm into Seokjin’s easily, which made Seokjin startled momentarily, before abruptly relaxing at how comfortable it felt. Taking another sip from the coffee, he leant momentarily into Taehyung, not quite sure who he was reassuring with the brief touch. “But I do know how to drive!”

“Sure.” Seokjin said, dryly, as he headed over to the CVS entrance, passing by a dusty surfer. “Tell that to my insurance people.”

Taehyung pulled an annoyed face, as they ducked into the air-conditioned store. “CVS?”

“Unless you packed something I didn’t, I don’t think either of us brought a swimsuit.” Seokjin said, with a shrug, “They sometimes sell weird stuff. And we’re near a beach--Aha!” The second aisle had a bunch of one-size fits all trunks lined up in a small bin. There was always something sketch about that, but there was very little choice. Seokjin didn’t want damp underwear on the way back to Cerritos, and going commando was something he still wasn’t great at, even if Yoongi really liked it.

“What about this one?” asked Taehyung, lifting up a bright yellow and green weed patterned trunks from the top of the pile, and Seokjin snorted, lightly, flipping through the hideously designed patterns, balancing his coffee cup on top of a stack of inflatable beach balls.

“I didn’t think you could ruin hibiscus as a concept, and yet...” Seokjin pulled up the neon blue and red hibiscus-ocean patterned trunks, that somehow looked like the worst fashion disaster.

“No, no, what about these?” asked Taehyung, delighted, pulling up the hot-pink striped trunks, that made whoever wore them a little like the inside of a Victoria’s Secret. Huh. Well, these really were temporary trunks....

“Actually, pink’s my colour.” Seokjin said, with a low grin, holding them up to his face. “Matches my skin tone, right?”

Taehyung’s mouth dropped open into delighted shock. “Wait really?”

“Of course. Pink’s a manly colour, you know.” Seokjin said, snootily, tossing the trunks over his shoulder. “We switched perceptions of what it meant, after World War 2. You should get a matching pair.” He’d never had much patience for people who felt like pink was an affront to their masculinity, and he couldn’t help the slight test of Taehyung’s tolerance for this kind of thing.

“Can’t find another one.” Taehyung said, breezily, pulling out a red and pink hibiscus pattern instead. “What about this one?”

“Cute.” Seokjin said, with a small smile. Passed. The more he spent time with Taehyung, the more Taehyung wormed his way into Seokjin’s heart, piece by piece. “Sunscreen, d’you reckon?”

Taehyung shrugged. “I don’t usually need it.”

“Sunscreen is always necessary!” Seokjin said, frog-marching Taehyung over towards the aisle. “It slows down aging, you know. And there’s invisible damage from the sun, even if you don’t burn.” He couldn’t help but absently repeat what his step-mother said all the time. “A lot of people in the Los Angeles area have a predisposition to getting cancer, because of all the nuclear testing residue, so we have to be extra vigilant in avoiding other high-risk lifestyle choices.”

“Nuclear testing residue?” asked Taehyung, a little alarmed, as Seokjin quickly scanned through for the cheapest SPF 50 sunscreen.

“Yeah, there was a bunch of tests done out here, without proper disposal. My step-mother’s a researcher into that kind of stuff. A bunch of people in Vegas have the same problem. Our government’s pretty shit at looking after us, so you know. People have to look after themselves.” Seokjin shrugged, lightly, as he walked up to the front line, and got distracted by the revolving box of cutesy sunglasses. He pulled on a pair that looked like a pair of hearts. “Cute?”

“Nah.” Taehyung said, but his face was a little pale. “Get the ones that are in style these days. The old style ones.”

Seokjin agreed, placidly, propping them on top of his head. “Want one yourself?” At Taehyung’s slightly worried look, Seokjin mock-glared. “It’s on me.”

With a sigh, Taehyung reached forward, and grabbed one with the widest rims he’d seen in a while. He looked a little like an old fifties-era grandma, and this made Seokjin giggle a little, at the mental image. “Cute.” Seokjin said, reaching out to ruffle Taehyung’s hair again, determined to not feel the small skip of his heart.

As Seokjin reached into his wallet, he pulled out a 20 and chucked it at Taehyung. “I’ll pay here with my card. Go over to the Burger King and get me a whopper and onion rings. Get whatever you want too.”

Taehyung blinked, but smiled, and skipped off. Well, he was getting better at this ‘not feeling guilty for spending Seokjin’s money’, at least.

 

~*~

 

It turned out, draping an old towel over the beach, and sitting there in trunks, eating a greasy, dripping with cheese burger facing the ocean, was maybe one of the more peaceful things Seokjin had ever done. Seokjin hummed, contentedly, as he dipped another onion ring inside the small cup of ketchup Taehyung had managed to wrangle from management, and watched as Taehyung stuffed another round of chicken nuggets into his face, eyes shut, as he enjoyed the sun over his face.

Like this, his long bangs streamed backwards, exposing his forehead, and his skin glowed a soft golden. He looked quite beautiful, a sort of picture-esque that it was difficult to look away from.

“It’s pretty out, isn’t it?” asked Seokjin, with a grin, not quite sure whether he meant the glistening blue ocean, or Taehyung’s quiet contentment.

“Yeah.” Taehyung said, mildly, and looked over the top of his sunglasses, eyelashes fluttering a lot. “I haven’t been to the beach in ages. Dad doesn’t really have that much time these days...”

“Me either, honestly.” Seokjin said, lightly, tilting his head back, so his neck got a little bit of the breeze. “My friend group and I were going to do a senior beach day: skip class one day, and go in time for sunrise, but in the end everybody ditched on me--” Seokjin cut off, a little surprised. He hadn’t meant to say that. Especially not when it got such a stark look of empathy from Taehyung, who leant forward, crumbs still across his fingers as he reached out, in hesitant concern.

He tried to shrug it off. “They’re jerks like that. Flaky as fuck, so I just went to class in the end. And then I went to college, and we’re way inland, so no spontaneous beach trips. But it’s my favourite place. What’s your favourite thing to do?”

Taehyung hummed, sticking another chicken nugget into his mouth. “Mmmm, I guess. Watermelons? We used to have that thing where you hit melons blindfolded? And then Grandma would cut it up properly, and everybody gets to eat. But the person who hit it first gets to eat first. Used to do it with my cousins before they moved to East Coast.”

Seokjin laughed, lowly. “Oh my god, that’s straight out of anime. You can’t be serious!”

“Am too!” Taehyung insisted, sitting dead straight, quite indignant. “I was shitty at it, but my cousin, Jeongguk was real good, even though he was way younger than me. And like. Watermelons are hard to hit. I’m not lying.” He pouted and whacked Seokjin’s arm, leaving a little grease mark.

Grimacing playfully, Seokjin fell backwards into the sand, with a soft flumf. The warmth of the sand against his back was surprisingly nice, even if he was sure it was going to stick to the slight divots of his skin where the sunscreen hadn’t fully dried. “Okay, okay, you’re not lying. Sorry for not believing you.”

“Hmpf.” Taehyung huffed, but he looked pretty playful as he threw a chicken nugget at Seokjin’s nose. Seokjin scrunched up his nose, but picked it off his chest, where it landed and ate it anyway, sticking out his tongue at Taehyung in the process. Waste not, want not. He shut his eyes, and let the glow of the sun warm his face.

“What’s your favourite thing at the beach, Seokjin?” Taehyung asked.

“Sports probably. Something about doing sports on the beach is really nice.” Seokjin said, vaguely. “Volleyball’s nice, but it requires too much energy right now. Haven’t got my surfboard. But just swimming’s nice.”

Taehyung shrugged, putting the empty bag of chicken nuggets into the small trash bag they’d weighted down with Seokjin’s car keys. “Want to go and swim?”

“Now?” asked Seokjin, surprised, opening his eyes. “Water can be real cold this time of year, though.”

“You’re not scared, are you?” asked Taehyung, eyes glinting over the top off his oversized sunglasses.

“No. It’s my favourite thing to do.” Seokjin said, pushing himself up to his elbows. “But you’re not supposed to swim after eating, right?”

“Old wives tale.” Taehyung said, brushing off his fingertips. Then he grinned, a sort of crooked-cute grin, that showcased how rectangular and perfect his teeth were. “Race you to the beach front, the last one there gotta get dunked the whole way in!”

Before Seokjin could even say anything, Taehyung had bounced to his feet, tossed off his shirt and started to sprint.

“Fuck!” Seokjin exclaimed, pushing himself up, and tossing his own shirt aside. Hopefully it wouldn’t blow away too far from their towel. He then sprinted as fast as he could, to catch up with Taehyung, feet pounding down hard against the sand, and the deceptively soft divots, where the sand fell away entirely.

Taehyung was struggling more than Seokjin, who was a little more used to beach running, but his headstart meant he reached the flat, packed land of the wet-sand first, and made it to the waves just seconds before Seokjin could. They both bent over their knees a moment, to catch their breaths, and Seokjin couldn’t help but quickly check out Taehyung’s chest, as the cold water lapped at his ankles.

Not athletic, clearly, by his slight arms, and undefined chest, but he was slim, and there was some sort of strength to him anyway. It only added to the sort of lanky, scruffy cuteness that Taehyung had to him, even if the fading bruises were still present across his arms, an unpleasant reminder of what Taehyung was escaping, momentarily.

Taehyung’s head popped up, and his mouth dropped open a little, at the sight of Seokjin without his shirt. It was a nice sort of ego-boost, more so than any random person checking him out ever could be, those couple of extra seconds that Taehyung took to gather his face back together, and to grin, devilishly.

“You lost~” Taehyung teased, loudly, “You gotta get in!”

“I didn’t agree to this!” Seokjin argued, scuffing up a bit of wet sand with his foot and aiming it towards Taehyung. It didn’t work so well, but it looked suitably petulant. Taehyung grinned, unsympathetically, and without warning, tackled Seokjin down, into the shallow wave that broke down across their knees.

The sea was bitingly cold, and a stinging salt rushed up Seokjin’s nose, in an unpleasant rush, that made Seokjin grimace, under the swell of water. Quickly, he pulled himself up, from where he’d fallen onto his knees, and out of the water, wiping the saltwater from his eyes, and sweeping his hair back, coughing wetly. Damn. That was freezing, but there was no doubt that Seokjin was awake now, at least.

Taehyung looked a little sheepish, equally wet and covered in water, but there was a bright exhilaration that had lit up his eyes, as he shook the hair out of his eyes like a wet dog. “You can swim at this beach, right?” he asked, lightly.

“Let’s not risk it, let’s just wade out a bit more.” Seokjin said, holding out a hand to Taehyung, in reconciliation.

Taehyung smiled, widely, and took it. Seokjin relished in the wet, comfortable slide of their hands together, but before the momentum to dunk Taehyung in, instead. Taehyung’s outraged scream as he surfaced from the water again, wiping the water from his eyes was enough to make Seokjin start scrambling away and out of the water, back towards their towel.

The chase was on!

 

~*~

 

After what felt like hours, but probably wasn’t very long, a more tired, and entirely sand-covered Seokjin trudged back up towards their towel, a more triumphant Taehyung following behind him, equally covered in sand and grit. The sun had sunk a little lower on the horizon, tinting the land with a more orange glow, and made the cars streaming by the main road behind them, glow in a certain way.

It was extraordinarily pretty, and when they reached their towel, which had miraculously not moved that much, thanks to some fortuitous weighing down, Seokjin couldn’t help but sink down to the ground, and just watch the way the light dappled over the water. The sound of the waves truly entered his bones here, as his breathing centred a little more, and he tipped his head back, gently.

“I love the beach.” Seokjin said, emphatically, as Taehyung took a seat down by him, brushing off the sand stuck to his forearms. “I always feel like I can think again.”

“Yeah?” asked Taehyung, curiously.

“My room in college is covered in pictures of the beach. All the pictures I’ve taken of the beach, or beaches across the world that NatGeo has.” Seokjin admitted, with a low, silly laugh. “It’s also got Mario stuffies around it, but the beach pictures are like the main theme. My roommate, Yoongi, laughs at them a lot, but it always make me feel pensive. It’s just so open?”

“You can see the whole horizon.” agreed Taehyung, eyes lidding. “It’s hard to think the Earth is flat when you’re seeing this, right?”

“Yeah.” Seokjin agreed lightly, tilting his head back. “You feel so small.”

“In a good way, though.” Taehyung argued, brushing some sand away from his hair. “Like. The way that means you’re just one in a million, and that means it’s not all that bad, right?”

Seokjin agreed, lowly, pulling his phone out from his pocket. It was low on battery, but there was enough left for this much-- “Picture?”

Taehyung nodded instantly, despite the sand still dusting parts of his cheeks. Seokjin was sure he didn’t look his greatest either, but as he flicked it to selfie mode, and turned them towards the water, and let the orange light wash them into a backlight, there was something ethereally beautiful about it anyway. Taehyung leaned into the side of his head, and flicked his hands up into a V sign. His smile was bright and beaming, and Seokjin’s smile next to it, was almost overshadowed.

“Cute.” Seokjin murmured, gently, unsure if that was really the right word, but lacking the vocabulary for something better. He tucked his phone away, and went back to watching Taehyung peel off the sand from his skin, running his fingers lightly through the sand around them.

He should pack up, get them rolling back to the van, so he could drive them home, and he could actually sleep. But he was reluctant to move.

“Sometimes...you feel it too, right?” he asked, quietly, to Taehyung. “The urge to just run away. Pack up and run away and keep running until nobody could ever find you. You know it’d be lonely. You know you’d hate it eventually, but it seizes you up, until it’s all you can think of? That’s when I like to go to the beach. You can’t really go any further, right? This is the limit. Right here. Between sand and sky.”

Taehyung was quiet for a moment, hands still against his skin. “Usually I go to the roof of my house on those times. But yeah. Yeah.”

“Beach is prettier.” Seokjin said softly. “Less dangerous too.”

“Less accessible.” Taehyung said, a little glumly, pulling his legs up to his chin, tucking himself up into a tight ball. “I don’t want to go home, Jin. I know I should. I know I have school and my grandma and that Jimin will miss me but--”

“It’s okay.” Seokjin reassured, gently, reaching out to put an arm over Taehyung’s shoulders, pulling them closer together, both as a shield against the slow creeping cold, and as reassurance. “It’ll be okay. You know why?”

“No. Why?” asked Taehyung, quietly, and his voice was small and a plea.

“Because I’m here. Because whenever you’re down and sad and l-lonely, I’m a phone call away. And in case I’m not, you can curl up, and think about this, right?” Seokjin said, lowly, turning to face Taehyung, feeling incredibly intimate. “About you and me on a beach day. Chasing each other around, playing in the water. Getting ice-cream. Playing even more. Throwing chips at each other. The seagulls stealing all of them. The small things that make everything bearable.”

Taehyung’s eyes cleared, softly, and there was a desperate curl to his mouth as he pressed closer. “And you’ll call me too, won’t you? When you’re lonely too? You’ll call me?”

“Yeah.” Seokjin said, and surprisingly, meant it. He very truly and deeply meant it. He wanted to hear the low lull of Taehyung’s calm voice when he was lonely, and realize he wasn’t quite alone, in this strange struggle against his emotions of deep isolation. “Yeah I’ll call you, Taehyung. I’ll call you whenever it’s all unbearable, and I need somebody who’s kind and compassionate and sly and funny. Someone to remind me why I have to stay.”

Taehyung’s breath seemed to catch in his throat, as they looked at each other. There was something deep and personal in this, in their proximity, their nearness, and the way they had clicked, over such a short period of time. Seokjin had never felt this giddy and protective and endeared by anybody so quickly in his life. It was headying, a dizzying rush, and made him heat up. His ears and cheeks had to be slightly flushed at this point, and it was so difficult to keep himself still, when Taehyung’s golden-brown eyes were looking into his, so intently, as if looking for the answer to a question there.

He knew what Taehyung was asking. Did he have an answer, though?