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love like war (we go together or we don't go down at all)

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i.

& you know now, that anything alone is a haunting
& any two things together is a terror.
— yves olade

 

yoongi stares at the headline for as long as he can stomach it, and then he slowly puts his phone down. his eyes are met with hoseok instead, the younger man apparently attempting to stuff as many jumbo shrimp as possible into his mouth at one time. it’s not a surprising sight—hoseok is always doing strange things, especially not in the safety of their house—but yoongi looks back down to his phone anyway.

BME’S JUNG HOSEOK VOTED “IDOL BEST SUITED FOR TAKING HOME TO MEET PARENTS” IN ONLINE POLL, it reads. there’s a lovely picture of hoseok from the mama awards last year under it, customary heart-shaped smile making him look as innocent and suitable for meeting the parents as always.

“aw, fuck! you got it in my nose!” hoseok shouts. or—yoongi thinks that’s what he’s trying to say. with his mouth still full of shrimp, it comes out more as aw fuh, oo gah i’i i ‘oshe.

“why was your nose there in the first place, hyung?”

yoongi reaches over and smacks hoseok’s shoulder before he’s tempted to respond, likely choking himself in the process. both he and taehyung—the one responsible for nose-shrimpage and likely the one who challenged hoseok to the contest in the first place—give him a fearful look. yoongi merely rolls his eyes and grabs his glass, slumping back in his seat as he returns to his phone.

the media is always putting out silly articles, anyway. he swears hoseok breathes and there’s an article about how he’s the best at breathing and no one can ever top his breathing techniques or how beautiful the carbon dioxide he dispels is—but sometimes they’re worthy of reading. the other day, he’d come across one about what a well-rounded idol he was, thanks to his rapping, producing, and song-writing skills. at least that one was correct, and not something the journalists must have been scrounging for.

“i think that was eight,” says hoseok.

“fuck off, that was no more than six,” replies taehyung.

“eight!”

“six!”

“seven?”

“i would never take you home to meet my parents,” mutters yoongi. he sips at his beer, and then glances over the top of his phone to see the other two looking at him.

“i’ve already met your parents, hyung,” says hoseok. “and they love me. so i have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“hyung’s gotten lonely, i think,” says taehyung, scooting over in the booth in order to lay his head on yoongi’s shoulder. “he’s thinking about finding a man to bring home to his parents and get married to and have ten puppies with.”

“fuck you,” grumbles yoongi, shrugging his shoulder to push taehyung’s head off. “i was just browsing the internet—”

“looking for porn.”

browsing the internet, and i’ve come across yet another useless article about us. the media outlets are so desperate for news about us that they’re just making it up now. i think it’s a sign that we need to do something.”

“we are doing something,” says taehyung, gesturing to the table laden with food. “we’re out to lunch.”

“something with our band, taehyung-ah,” says yoongi. “it feels like it’s been ten years since we released our last album. why hasn’t management lined anything up for us recently? there’s only so much producing i can do on my own before i have four more mixtapes to pop out.”

that causes an uncomfortable silence to settle over the table. yoongi looks at taehyung, who looks at hoseok, who looks at the rest of the jumbo shrimp left on his plate, and—none of them have anything to say. no explanation. the truth is—it has been a while since they released any new content, or worked on a new album, new songs. they haven’t been the top priority of their company for over a year, since some of those newer groups debuted, but they’re still one of the most successful and popular bands in south korea in recent years, so the lack of work is worrisome at best. it’s downright disrespectful at worst.

finally, it’s taehyung who says, “maybe they have some ideas in store and they just haven’t spoken to us about it yet. you know they’ve been wanting to work out that group of themed albums for a while, about youth and love and whatnot.”

“it’s always about youth and love,” says hoseok. “aren’t we getting a little old for that?” it’s said with a pointed look in yoongi’s direction, making him scoff.

“what, just because i’m twenty-six now, you don’t think i can sing about youth?”

“well…” begins hoseok, and then taehyung giggles, and yoongi throws one chopstick at each of them in retaliation. they’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of creative freedom in their work, singing about social issues, criticizing the government, and even going so far as to make diss tracks about other idols and their lifestyles. the only problem is that yoongi has so many of those songs ready to go for an album or two, but no word yet on a new project other than a vague idea of releasing an album much later in the year. he’s been cooped up in his studio for months now, feeling itchy—antsy.

he sees the way hoseok and taehyung have been with the small break, too. hoseok has been spending too much time in his own studio, and in the dance studio as well, helping some of the younger groups with their choreographies. taehyung has taken up photography, venturing outside of idol life. and while it’s good, he knows they’re bored. they’re all bored.

he’s proud of them, of what they’ve done. they’ve made a name for themselves in the past four years after debut, and the four years of training before that. yoongi just knows they could do more.

as if on cue, all three of their phones ping with a new notification.

“speak of the devil,” says taehyung as he picks up his phone.

“and he’s in the details,” finishes hoseok.

“that’s not… the correct ending to that phrase, hyung.”

“but the devil is in the details.”

“yeah, but it’s supposed to be ‘and he shall appear’.”

“that’s stupid.”

you’re stupid.”

“you’re both stupid,” snaps yoongi, opening the notification in lieu of listening to his bandmates bicker or waiting for them to tell him the important news. the group chat opens on his phone—the one with the three of them and their manager. yoongi squints at the screen.

meeting at first star headquarters at two. only Y. thanks,” reads yoongi.

“why doesn’t he ever use emojis,” mutters hoseok. “it’s extremely unnerving.”

“why do they just want me?” yoongi stares at the message, waiting for further explanation. the band is always meeting with their managers and the ceo of first star entertainment, often to discuss albums and other content to put out for fans. but they’re rarely ever singled out like this.

there’s a moment of silence before taehyung says, “hyung’s in trouble.”

“oh, it’s like being sent to the principal’s office!” adds hoseok.

“would you shut up?” says yoongi. “i’m not in trouble.

still, he can’t stop the foreboding feeling he gets as he, hoseok, and taehyung finish their lunch, pay, and head back to their house. he’s hoping it’s something good—more work, a meeting about an upcoming album or a television appearance: anything to jettison them back into the spotlight without a scandal. there’s a nervous thrum to his movements for the hour that he has to wait between lunch and the meeting, unable to focus on anything else as he watches the clock tick and time pass by.

hoseok and taehyung maintain their belief that yoongi is in trouble somehow, and he gives them an eyeroll as he heads out the door.

what yoongi expects is this: a conference room full of important people. his manager, the ceo, choreographers, producers. he expects good news. he expects that they’ll listen to his concerns about fading, because min yoongi refuses to fade, not after he’s fought so hard to get where they are—other groups have gone years without releasing an album, he knows, but he refuses to be one of them. he can’t get to the meeting room fast enough.

what yoongi expects is this: hello, yoongi-ah. thanks for joining us. we know we’ve been neglecting you, but now we’re going to let you release the best album you’ve ever released and sweep awards shows and remind the public why you and the rest of boy meets evil are one of the most beloved boy groups of the twenty-first century. how does that sound?

what he doesn’t expect is:

“we’re arranging for you to do a collaboration with jeon jeongguk.”

yoongi—blinks. and then blinks again. he finds himself staring at the ceo of his company—moon yeonseok, and they used to laugh about the similarities of their names, about yoongi taking over for the company when he wanted to stop being an idol—and trying to comprehend the words coming out of the man’s mouth. but—he can’t? he can’t. it makes no sense.

“we’ve had extensive conversations with the ceo of magic shop entertainment, as well as jeongguk-ssi’s manager and producers,” adds yoongi’s manager, lee dongwoo. “we didn’t want to tell either of you until now because we weren’t sure if it would fall through or if you’d even have the schedule for it, but… now seems like the right time.”

oh, he thinks suddenly. that’s why boy meets evil has done diddly shit for the past few months. his management has been keeping everything open, waiting for the perfect opportunity to fuck him over with a goddamn collaboration. with jeon jeongguk.

yoongi still doesn’t say anything, still unsure what to say, and moon continues—“we’d like you to start work immediately. there will be a preliminary meeting between jeongguk-ssi, his managers and producers, and you and your manager and producers to talk about creative control, payment, schedule, and whatnot. we think this will be a really great opportunity for you.”

finally. yoongi finds his voice.

what he says is: “are you fucking kidding me?”

when neither of the men speak, shell-shocked with the language, the disrespect—“you’re kidding, right? this is a prank? i’m being filmed and this is going to go on some stupid variety show or on our youtube channel and everyone will have a big laugh about yoongi believing it for a second?”

“yoongi—”

“no, listen,” he says. “i am not working with jeon jeongguk. ever. i refuse to breathe the same air as that annoying little brat, let alone work on a song together, promote it, and be forever immortalized together because nothing ever leaves the internet.”

yoongi doesn’t realize that he’s standing until he stops speaking and sees that he’s looking down at the two men—red in the face, breathing hard. he’s never had such a visceral reaction to anything in his life, but this—this is it. this is what takes the cake for the worst thing anyone has ever said to him.

“yoongi,” begins lee quietly. “we understand that you and jeongguk have a… bit of a rivalry in the media.”

“a bit?” snaps yoongi. “just the other day, he told some news outlet that it was time for the korean public to stop spending their time and money focusing on washed up, talentless idols who had their day in the sun years ago and instead focus on singers and groups who wouldn’t make someone’s ears bleed. and then he name-dropped me.”

“to be fair,” says moon, “that was in retaliation for you messing up his name and calling him unmemorable on a live broadcast last month… wasn’t it?”

yoongi grits his teeth. “the point is,” he says, “we can’t work together. besides the two of us constantly being at each other’s throats, how do you think we’ll be able to spend any amount of time alone together, cooperating? i can’t even cooperate with hoseok and taehyung half the time.”

“you’re an adult. you need to act like one. this opportunity is one that is too good to pass up.”

“so you’d rather i be miserable, constantly belittled in the media and in person, and resent the both of you for the rest of my life just so that you can… what, make a little extra money?”

he knows it’s the wrong thing to say the moment it leaves his mouth, but—yoongi sticks his ground. he refuses to work with jeongguk, not after five years of animosity, public call-outs, and downright hatred between the two of them. not to mention what jeongguk’s fanbase has attempted to do to yoongi and his band.

“it’s not about the money,” says moon carefully. “it’s about bridging the gap between our companies, and more importantly, between the two of you. it’s about a new era of cooperation, conversation, and overcoming hurtful things that are in the past. i have no idea how this rivalry between the two of you started, but you need to end it for the sake of both of your careers and for the sake of your companies. you are two of the most talented, decorated, and beloved idols in south korea at the moment. you have the power to make a difference with your music, yoongi, and i know you want to. can’t you get over whatever happened between the two of you for the sake of that?”

the truth is—yoongi knows he has a point. he and jeongguk are two of the most talented and beloved idols in south korea. jeongguk has long since been called the nation’s singer, wooing everyone left and right every time he steps out on the stage and smiles at them. and boy meets evil has been a huge success for all four years since their debut, not to mention yoongi has accolades upon accolades to his name because of his producing and song-writing. he and jeongguk collaborating would be deadly for the industry.

two powerhouses, each with their own talents and skills, fitting together like a puzzle—a singer and a rapper, a producer and a songwriter, the nation’s baby boy and the spitfire of korea.

doesn’t it just make sense?

“no,” says yoongi. “no, i refuse to work with him. it’s not just some childish rivalry. there’s no possible way i can see this working out.”

“you have to at least try,” says lee. “if it doesn’t work out, then fine. you let it go. no one has to know about it and you can go back to publicly calling jeongguk-ssi horrible names for no apparent reason.”

“as if he’d agree to it,” adds yoongi, switching gears now. he has to get out of it. he can already feel a sort of suffocation, can already feel an itch that is so different from the one he was feeling before—it would be music. it would be good music. but he can’t put himself through trying to work with jeon jeongguk for any music, money, or fame in the world.

besides—he knows that jeongguk feels the exact same way. they haven’t had a proper conversation in almost five years, other than forced courtesy on variety shows or during award shows, and responding to each other’s insults in the media.

then—“he already has,” says moon. “and apparently he’s looking forward to it.”

yoongi’s jaw clenches so hard he swears he almost breaks it. of course. jeongguk has always loved trying to torture him, probably thinks this is fun. just a joke, just a game to see how far he can push yoongi before he snaps. unfortunately for jeongguk, yoongi is already at the end of a very short and thin rope.

“i’m not doing this,” says yoongi one last time before he turns to leave. “i will not work with jeon jeongguk.”

》》》

“so you’re working with jeon jeongguk?”

yoongi scowls—not that he ever stopped scowling since the day before, since the dreaded meeting. still, the displeasure deepens as he hears more than sees jimin collapse onto the ground beside him. heavy breathing. yoongi opens his eyes, staring up at the ceiling before he lolls his head, looking at jimin instead.

then he sits up enough to send a glare toward taehyung, his bandmate still practicing choreography in the middle of the practice room.

“kim taehyung,” says yoongi.

“sorry, hyung!” hollers taehyung without missing a beat, doing some sort of body roll move that jimin no doubt came up with. being under the same company has allowed them to be good friends, and they often practice together for various reasons. not for the first time, yoongi resents the fact that jimin is practically the fourth member of boy meets evil at this point. “i didn’t know i wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.”

“i told you not to tell anyone.”

“it’s unspoken that taehyung is allowed to tell me everything. pretty much everyone knows at this point, anyway,” says jimin from beside him, grabbing a water bottle. “no one can ever keep a secret around here. and we’re all being kicked out of the building on tuesday for the meeting, so they kind of had to tell us.”

yoongi just—rolls his eyes and flops back onto the floor. it might be better for everyone to know about his impending demise thanks to jeon jeongguk. everyone knows their rivalry, both in the media and in the industry itself—they’re constantly pitted against each other despite moving in different circles. song of the year, album of the year. he hates the voice in the back of his head that reminds him what a perfect opportunity it is, uniting them rather than keeping them battling against each other.

“i also heard,” continues jimin, because he never knows when to shut up—“that you’re not happy about it. and i know you two don’t like each other.”

“don’t.”

“but i have to ask—”

don’t.

“the lady doth protests too much,” says taehyung.

“thank you, taehyungie,” says jimin. he nudges yoongi’s side with his foot. “why do you protest so much?”

the truth is—that the truth is too much. it’s this black secret he’s kept in the center of his chest for five years, one that he isn’t ready to let out yet. one that he isn’t ready to confront, and working with jeongguk will force him to confront it. it’s easier to leave it as a simple rivalry, insults in the media, pretending their personalities clash.

the truth is—yoongi knows he and jeongguk would make an unstoppable team. they had, once. maybe he’s afraid of remembering it. afraid of wanting it back.

“we don’t like each other,” says yoongi, as always, as always. “why would they think it’s a good idea for the two of us to make a song together when we’ve never said a nice word about each other? when we’re constantly belittling each other in the media? do you really think we’d be able to make anything together when i can’t even see a picture of him without this—rage filling me?”

he’s hoping that at least one of them will agree with him. his ceo and manager have money and fame and opportunity on their minds, but jimin and taehyung know him better. surely there are idols they would never collaborate with, too.

but—“sure,” says jimin flippantly. “you don’t like each other. but you can get over that for the sake of the song. just because you don’t like each other doesn’t mean you wouldn’t make good music.”

“did you hear anything i said?” asks yoongi. “i just said we probably won’t make any music together because we can’t agree on anything or work together or even be in the same room.”

the music cuts out, and yoongi cranes his neck to see taehyung flopping down beside jimin, too. just what he needs—two people trying to convince him that he’s being dramatic or irrational.

“how do you know, though?” asks taehyung. “that you can’t work together, i mean. you’re always being rude to each other in the media, but i’ve always just assumed that half of that was an act. you know, making sure you’re always being talked about because the tabloids can’t get enough of your rivalry.”

“that’s what i thought, too,” says jimin. “and even if you don’t like each other, taehyungie has a point—who says you can’t work together? who says you can’t get over whatever happened between the two of you to get you here?” yoongi looks at him and knows. knows what jimin is going to say, what he’s going to bring up, and he widens his eyes, trying to subtly tell him to stop, but it’s too late—“you used to. work well together, i mean.”

there’s a moment of silence, and then—“what?” asks taehyung.

“jimin,” begins yoongi.

“yoongi-hyung and jeongguk used to be friends,” explains jimin, completely ignoring the desperate looks that yoongi is throwing him. “really good friends, actually. they were practically inseparable for years.”

“jimin, stop.

“he deserves to know,” says jimin. “as your bandmate, i mean. i’m surprised you haven’t told him.”

there’s a reason, of course, that yoongi hasn’t told anyone half of what happened between he and jeongguk. the stakes are too high. he’s afraid that they’ll blame him. it seemed easier, once it was all over, to put everything behind him, including jeongguk—to make that part of his life a closed book, and to open a new one.

“i’m confused,” says taehyung after a moment of jimin and yoongi glaring at each other, silently trying to communicate what they want. don’t you dare, yoongi’s eyes say. he’s not sure what jimin’s are saying, but it’s probably something like i want to see you suffer.

“before jeongguk was with magic shop,” says jimin, “he was a trainee here, at first star. all three of us were recruited around the same time, when i was seventeen and hyung was eighteen and jeongguk was…”

“sixteen,” mutters yoongi. he’s staring at the ceiling again, refuses to look anywhere else. he doesn’t want to see the look on taehyung’s face.

“you knew him?”

“all of us knew him,” says jimin. “hoseokie-hyung, too, although he joined a year after the three of us did. jeongguk and i were friends, too, although we were never friends like yoongi-hyung and jeongguk. the company wanted to put them into a group together, actually. they had the best chemistry and they fit together so well, their talents and skills complementary. it would have been perfect, i think.”

yoongi sets his jaw. he doesn’t say anything. lets the memories of it burn and burn and burn.

“anyway,” continues jimin. “he was a trainee here for about three years. he and hyung were going to be something great. and then one day… he was just gone. and they never said a nice word about each other again.”

it’s hard sometimes, yoongi thinks, having people who know, at least to a certain extent. who remember the yoongi and jeongguk who were yoongiandjeongguk, who remember the late nights together and hard practices and all of their dreams. god, they had so many dreams. jimin is like—the flaw in the system. yoongi has been good at forgetting, at making people think that whatever is between he and jeongguk is something new, that they started out this way. but jimin knows. hoseok knows. they know that there was something before, and that something broke. they don’t know what, but they know nonetheless.

it was easy with taehyung, who joined the company only after jeongguk left. ignorance is bliss.

and anyway—it doesn’t make a difference. it shouldn’t.

“what happened?” asks taehyung anyway. of course of course of course.

yoongi squeezes his eyes shut. tries to stop himself from seeing it—the emptiness like something tangible. the spaces between his fingers. the missing sweater, the one jeongguk used to joke about stealing, and then did. did he mean to? was it meant to be spiteful?

it ebbs and flows. when he’s able to push it back, not having thought about it for so so long, yoongi says, “it doesn’t matter.”

“yes, it does,” says taehyung. “clearly it does if it’s caused you to have this rivalry for this long. is that why you say mean things about each other? why you can’t work together? because something happened like, four years ago?”

five,” says yoongi, and then sits up, hauling himself to his feet. “and yes, that’s why. i refuse to work with him because he’s an asshole and he hurt me and i will never forgive him for it. i don’t need some fucking—ghost in my studio, not like that.” he’s antsy suddenly, needs a way to burn it off. needs to get out of this room with two questioning gazes and all of these memories and no way to explain it, not like this. he couldn’t do it justice.

“hyung,” begins jimin.

“i’m not telling you,” says yoongi, already heading for the door. he stops with his hand on the doorknob, pausing to think. then he adds, “just—be on my side, won’t you?” he doesn’t give them a chance to answer.

(that night, yoongi dreams of—hands. hands on him, with him, through him. there’s something familiar about them, something warm. he fears losing them, fears losing what it means, not after so long. in the darkness of his subconscious, he can almost find the right name.

he wakes with sweat-laced breath and memories, memories. things he hasn’t remembered for five years.

things he buried. but things have a way of coming back if you don’t kill them. if you don’t do it right.)

》》》

on tuesday morning, yoongi panic-calls hoseok when he’s already halfway to first star headquarters.

“i need you there,” he says in lieu of a greeting, hoseok’s groggy voice meeting him halfway. “hoseok, i need you there. taehyung, too.”

hyung,” says hoseok, voice crackling through the phone. it’s not what he wants to hear. “what are you talking about?”

“the meeting with jeongguk. i need you there.”

there’s too much silence. he hears rustling, like hoseok is actually getting out of bed and it’s ten in the morning already, so yoongi doesn’t know why he was sleeping anyway—“why?”

because: yoongi is afraid of all of it becoming too much, yoongi doesn’t want to face jeongguk and his past alone, yoongi needs someone who understands at least somewhat, someone who can be a buffer, a wall. someone who knows him better and knows that he’s not entirely in the wrong for acting the way he does.

because: yoongi needs a hand to hold under the table, and it sure as fuck isn’t going to be moon yeonseok’s.

“because,” says yoongi, “if i end up murdering the little bastard, i need a witness to prove that it wasn’t unprovoked.”

when hoseok doesn’t immediately respond, clearly less than impressed with yoongi’s excuse, yoongi adds quietly, “please. i don’t want to do this alone.”

he thinks of jimin—it would have been perfect, i think. thinks of being twenty-one and feeling broken, thinks of the sleepless nights clinging to hoseok under the covers as though that would make anything better, and how the other boy had never pushed him to admit what was wrong. just tried to make it better. there’s something unspoken between them, these agreements—hoseok has his ghosts, and yoongi does too. neither of them are going to pry.

so—“alright,” sighs hoseok. “i’ll round up taehyung and we’ll be over there as soon as we can. just know that you owe me a fuck of a lot of food for making me come in on my day off and forcing me to be mediator or whatever.”

“thanks, seok,” says yoongi. “love you.”

gross,” says hoseok, and yoongi—grins, just a little, as hoseok hangs up. it’ll be better with him there, and with taehyung. maybe jeongguk will play nice with so many other people in the room.

yoongi refuses to enter the meeting room until both hoseok and taehyung are there, nerves wracking up inside of him. he can’t stand still, pacing outside of the door knowing that there is something awful waiting on the other side. he thinks that if he mutters all of the horrible things he wants to say about jeongguk now, then he won’t want to say them when he’s actually facing jeongguk.

by the time hoseok and taehyung show up, he’s ten minutes late and not feeling any calmer about the situation. he can practically hear the thrum in his body, the need to do something—get out before it’s even begun. but hoseok gives him a look and he thinks about… professionalism. about making good music. about once upon a time believing that he and jeongguk would stand on that stage together, hand in hand, listening to the screams of thousands of people wanting more more more.

about doing well.

yoongi opens the door.

he catches jeongguk, it seems, in the midst of telling a joke. he’s hit with the sound of laughter as soon as he steps inside, his own ceo and manager settling back in their chairs with the weight of it, and he only has time to think traitors before someone says, “oh, yoongi-ssi! thanks for joining us.”

the laughter dies down, he thinks someone tells him to take a seat, and he does. he keeps his head down, not wanting to look, refusing to look. he doesn’t want to see. the last time he saw jeongguk face to face was the year end awards shows, and even then, he steered clear of the other. he spent all of jeongguk’s performances in the bathroom, plugging his ears so he wouldn’t have to hear the crystal clear voice reverberating through the stadium.

“now that we’re all here,” begins yoongi’s ceo. “how about we begin discussing the logistics of our collaboration?” there’s a hand on his thigh; yoongi stops listening to moon. the hand is taehyung’s, he knows. he’d know that hand anywhere, know the weight of it. it’s mean to be an anchor, a reminder. but it’s not doing much good.

moon is talking about—a schedule. or something. but it’s like all the air has been sucked out of the room and yoongi is still staring at his hands on the table, and they’re shaking. why is he shaking? there’s a magnet somewhere in the room, right across from him. he can feel the gaze on him, hot through the top of his head, and taehyung squeezes his thigh as moon says however long it takes.

yoongi looks up.

he remembers, suddenly, the first time he’d ever seen jeongguk. sixteen years old, fresh out of busan with big dreams and a bigger voice. everyone wanted him but he chose first star, a smaller company, because he liked the people in it. liked what it had to offer, even if it wasn’t all of the glamour that another company might have been able to give him. yoongi had officially joined the company only two weeks earlier but had already staked his claim there, wanted to make a mark.

jeongguk shyly asked if they could share a table at lunch in the café on day one, drowning in a hoodie with trembling hands wrapped around his sandwich and soda. yoongi, in lieu of saying yes or no, told jeongguk that the soda would rot his teeth, but he made room on the table anyway. and jeongguk had looked at him with those eyes of his—doe-like, sparkling. a little fearful, but mostly determined.

he has those same eyes now, eight years later. he’s different—stronger jawline, more prominent cheekbones. the years have done well with him, with those shoulders, hair parted on his forehead in a way that makes him look younger than his twenty-four years. but it’s still jeongguk.

not his jeongguk, but—jeongguk nonetheless.

yoongi looks at jeongguk and jeongguk looks right back at him, something fierce in his eyes. that ever present determination that yoongi got used to, but this time, it’s an ugly sort of determination. one that says he’s going to make yoongi’s life a living hell if he can help it, and yoongi tries his best not to betray his emotions as he stares at jeongguk. the bastard has the nerve to come into his company, make his people laugh, sit there and take up his time—

“yoongi-ssi?”

yoongi’s head snaps sideways toward the sound of his name, and he blinks at moon. the man is standing at the front of the room, looking expectantly at him, and at a loss, yoongi’s mouth opens and then closes. he hears a familiar chuckle, condescending. yoongi grits his teeth to keep himself from making a comment, trying not to let the inherent irritation cloud his judgement.

“sorry, sir,” says yoongi. “could you repeat that?”

“i asked if you were okay with our plans for how credit and payment would be split up between the two of you and the two companies,” says moon. yoongi sees that there’s a graph at the front of the room, and he blinks at it before just nodding, figuring he can go over it again once this is over. the sooner, the better.

“yeah, that’s fine,” he says, clearing his throat before he settles back in his seat a little more.

“and jeongguk-ssi?”

“whatever you think is best, sir,” says jeongguk, ever polite, and yoongi physically bites his tongue. makes it hurt. moon nods, clearly pleased with how smoothly this is going over despite the public rivalry between the two idols, and moves right on.

“of course we don’t know how it will turn out,” says moon. “but we’re hoping to promote the song as you normally would with your own work—music shows, variety shows, interviews. how does this sound?”

“i’m sure we’ll both be mature enough to handle it,” says jeongguk, giving yoongi a sickly sweet grin. “i’m not sure about my colleague, but i know i’m always able to perform to the best of my ability no matter who i’m performing with.”

“perfect,” says moon. “you’ll be spending a lot of time together, so it would be best to be as mature as possible when dealing with the other, particularly in the media.”

“oh,” says jeongguk. “we all know that half the time, the media just makes up what we say.”

yoongi can’t help but scoff. “i don’t think it counts when they have physical evidence of you saying what they say you’re saying.”

jeongguk cocks his head. “i have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“whatever,” he shakes his head. “if you’re going to say something rude about me while we’re working together, at least don’t let me hear it.”

“i think i’d be more worried about hearing you say something awful about me.”

“gentlemen.” yoongi glances over to see moon giving him a glare. “let’s return to the conversation at hand, shall we?”

under the table, yoongi stretches his fingers, then curls them into a fist. repeat, repeat. when he doesn’t feel the urge to punch jeongguk in the face anymore, he plasters a grin on his lips and nods toward his ceo. this can’t last much longer.

“now, i think one of the most important things to discuss is creative control,” says moon, gesturing toward one of the men on the other side of the table—the ceo of magic shop, kim hosung. he nods, and yoongi keeps his eyes trained on the man so that he doesn’t look at jeongguk again. he doesn’t want to see.

kim takes a moment before he says, “it’s clear that the both of you are very talented songwriters and producers.”

“well,” mutters jeongguk, only loud enough for yoongi to hear. “one of us.” yoongi grits his teeth again, feels taehyung squeeze his thigh a little tighter.

“one of the reasons we believe this collaboration would be beneficial for the both of you and for both of our companies,” continues kim, “is because of these skills of yours. we believe that you can make wonderful music together and would be very complementary to each other. if i’m not mistaken, you have worked together before.”

“yes,” says yoongi before jeongguk can, sending a cool grin to the younger. “evidently, it didn’t work out. unfortunately, jeongguk-ssi seems to believe that he’s the only one with talent here and i’m not sure i can collaborate with someone like that.”

“i’ve said no such thing,” counters jeongguk. “i was going to say that you’re right, hyung-nim, and i agree that our skills and talents would be very complementary of each other.”

yoongi narrows his eyes, just slightly—it makes sense that jeongguk would want to be polite and cooperative in front of other people so that he can get what he wants, but the moment they’re behind closed doors, everything will go to shit. that only irritates him further, feeling it bubbling just below the surface. that smug look on jeongguk’s face doesn’t help either, so pleased with himself for wrapping everyone around his little finger.

“i’m glad you agree, jeongguk-ssi,” says kim after he sends a careful look to yoongi. “because of these skills of yours, we believe it would be best to give you as much creative freedom and control with the song as possible. of course, you both have songwriters, producers, and other help at your disposal, but we’d like to give you the freedom to choose what you want to do together. as long as you can overcome your differences, you’re free to write about what you want and produce what you want.”

“that’s very kind of you,” says jeongguk, grinning wide and wide at kim. fraud. “we’ll take this very seriously, i’m sure. won’t we, yoongi-ssi?”

“yes,” says yoongi through gritted teeth. “we’re very honoured to be given this opportunity.”

“of course,” adds jeongguk, and yoongi’s stomach—drops. “i do think that if it’s possible, i should be given more of the responsibility when it comes to actually writing the song. i’ve written almost all of the songs on my last two albums, whereas i believe you’ve had a lot of help from your bandmates and other producers?” he raises his eyebrows at yoongi, saying the words like he’s not quite sure despite having made comments about those exact things in the past—he’s obsessed. he knows everything yoongi does almost better than yoongi does.

and yoongi is losing his patience. “just because i like to work with my bandmates on our songs doesn’t mean i can’t write something on my own,” he says, quickly losing the friendly façade that was weak to begin with. “in fact, i’d say that i’d have better luck with writing a song with someone else since i’m used to it, whereas you’re used to being a one-man show and probably have no idea how it works to have to share the spotlight with another person. unsurprisingly, it won’t be all about you.”

“gentlemen—”

“funny,” says jeongguk, his own grin slipping from his face. “i happen to remember that you were the one who had trouble sharing the spotlight. you think you’re all high and mighty with your awards and accolades, but sharing the burden and work between three people is much easier than trying to do it all yourself.”

“you do realize taehyung and hoseok are sitting right here?”

“did i stutter?”

stop,” someone snaps—it’s hoseok. yoongi finds himself listening immediately, looking over to his bandmate where the other is glaring at the both of them. it’s only then that he remembers they’re not alone. hadn’t someone said something about overcoming their differences?

“you’re not getting more control over the writing,” says yoongi carefully, turning back to jeongguk. “if this is going to be a collaboration, and god help me understand why anyone would want that when you can’t even act like an adult for one minute—then it’s going to be an equal effort. got it?”

“why do you get to call all the shots? i thought you just said it’s supposed to be an equal effort.”

“if you can’t agree,” says moon, speaking over the both of them, “then we’ll just have to decide for you. and i’m inclined to agree with yoongi, that it should be an equal effort.”

“of course, hyung-nim,” says jeongguk, switching gears immediately. “i was only thinking that since yoongi-ssi is more practiced in producing, it would make sense if i wrote the song and he produced it.”

“maybe we can discuss this a little later—”

“you just can’t ever be wrong, can you?” asks yoongi. “you can’t ever admit that someone might have a better idea than you. it’s pathetic.”

“and you can’t ever admit that someone might be better than you,” snaps jeongguk. “be grateful that i’m willing to help your failing career out. or didn’t you know? that this is a charity collaboration because no one cares about you anymore?”

it’s—not true. it’s not true, he tells himself, it’s just that boy meets evil hasn’t put out any new music in a while and that’s just because they’re busy, because there are other things for the company to focus on, and they’re not fading. they’re not forgettable. jeongguk is wrong.

and still—there’s a horrible, horrible moment of silence. even kim and moon appear shocked into silence, unsure how to respond. yoongi stares at jeongguk and waits and waits and nothing gives. there’s no remorse in those eyes, no recognition of how good they’d once had it, and this… this is it, isn’t it? this is what they have now. this is how this is going to go, because neither of them are willing to move an inch, and they hate each other, and it’s always going to come back to this: what they had, and what they lost. and how it’s all gotten out of his control and he doesn’t understand how it started in the first place.

yoongi decides, then and there, that jeon jeongguk doesn’t deserve any of his time. doesn’t deserve any of his anger.

so he gets up and he leaves. and he doesn’t feel any better as he does so.

hoseok and taehyung find him in his studio later—always the first place they look, because it’s yoongi’s safe haven. the only place he can hide away from the rest of his world, headphones on. he’s sitting in his chair and staring at his desktop like it’ll magically produce an entire song for he and jeongguk and they can be done with this now, but—nothing. there’s this weight in his fingers, something he doesn’t want to hold onto. he’s angry. always angry.

when there’s a knock at the door, yoongi chooses to ignore it. then taehyung’s voice, carefully—“hyung? please open up.”

he imagines what they’ll say. imagines how much trouble he’ll get in for ruining the meeting and storming out halfway through, but maybe their companies will realize what a bad idea this is. if he and jeongguk can’t even be in the same room together, how can they make a song? and why do they care so much about it anyway? and they’ll never understand why it won’t work out because they don’t know the gravity of the situation, and no one does, and it’s drowning him now, all of this anger and pain. yoongi doesn’t know what to do with all of it.

so he opens the door, just wide enough to let them through before he turns back to his desktop and collapses in his chair. he hears hoseok and taehyung take their seats on the sofa beside the door, then another pair of footsteps, and someone’s muttered, “we brought reinforcements,” meaning park jimin. the awkwardness is like something noisy in the air.

“let me guess,” grumbles yoongi, keeping his back to them. “moon is pissed.”

“i mean,” begins taehyung.

“he is,” says hoseok, always the one to rip off the band-aid. “he wants to talk to you once you’ve calmed down. i can’t imagine it’s going to be a fun conversation.” yoongi thinks about—moon taking it back, admitting that he and kim were wrong to try to put this together. with a first-hand account of just how bad he and jeongguk’s relationship is, there can’t be any reason to move forward with this.

and yet—“they still want you to do the song,” adds taehyung. “after you left, they took a little break in hopes of cooling jeongguk down, too, and when he came back, he apologized for his behaviour. made you look like a fucking idiot, too, but i think moon is half in love with the kid.”

“everyone always is,” mutters yoongi. he finally turns around in his chair, slumping low in it as he sees the way hoseok, jimin, and taehyung are perched on the edge of the sofa, like they’re afraid of being kicked out at any moment. “i think moon has always been disappointed that jeongguk left the company. i mean—it was a loss for him. having jeongguk here would have given him so much.”

“maybe this is a bit for him,” admits jimin. “it’s his opportunity to have jeongguk back, at least for a little bit.”

taehyung agrees with a, “he was happy to smooth over what happened and go on with the meeting, even without you.”

the idea of not having any choice in this makes yoongi feel—trapped. backed into a corner. and he knows that he and jeongguk could make something wonderful if only they could get over the animosity and hatred between them, but yoongi has no idea how to even begin doing that. and if he’s being honest, he’s not very interested in doing it anyway. not if jeongguk is interested in being two-faced instead, too easy to snap and too willing to see this whole thing as some sort of charity.

yoongi can feel himself getting worked up again at just the thought. he closes his eyes, squeezing them shut and shut to block it out. he has one last chance to convince moon not to go ahead with the collaboration. maybe if he makes a list—

“i didn’t realize how bad things were,” says hoseok carefully. “between you two, i mean. it’s one thing to see it in the media or to hear you complain about him once in a while, but i didn’t think it would be like that.”

“like what?” asks yoongi, opening his eyes.

hoseok seems to struggle for words, at least for a few seconds, and then he says, “like you’ve just forgotten how close you used to be. i could never imagine you two as friends if i didn’t know you were.

“it doesn’t matter that we were friends,” says yoongi. “that’s in the past. and anyway—being friends didn’t stop him from fucking me over.”

“hyung,” says taehyung. “the companies are going to go forward with the collaboration. and it’s going to be really fucking painful and awful and difficult for you if you keep holding onto whatever happened. i don’t know what happened, but can’t you put it aside so that this doesn’t have to be the worst few months of your entire life?”

“it’s not that easy, taehyungie,” mutters yoongi. he groans, hitting his head against the back of his chair. “i wish it was that easy, but it’s not. you can’t just—put aside what happened between us. i’ve tried so many times, but a two-sided thing, isn’t it? and he seems keen on hanging on.”

“he has a point,” says jimin. “you didn’t see what yoongi-hyung was like after jeongguk left. whatever happened was really fucking bad.”

“what did happen?” asks hoseok. “we can help you, hyung, but you have to tell us first. i’ve kept myself from asking for five years but i can’t stand seeing you like this, not again. once was bad enough. why do you hate each other so goddamn much?”

and this—this is it. yoongi has kept the secret locked safely in his heart for five years, and now it’s time to let it out, as painful as it’ll be. he doesn’t want them to know, doesn’t want anyone to know—but they’re right. the only way that he’s going to make this collaboration work is by letting it out and trying to get over it, even if he doesn’t want to. and the only way to get over it is to let someone else help him, and that begins with the three people that he’s closest to.

hoseok and jimin spent so many months trying to help him without knowing what was even wrong. taehyung has been kept in the dark since day one, not even knowing that he was practically replacing jeongguk after the younger left the company. and now it’s all coming back to haunt him—all of the ghosts, even the living ones. he’s been plagued with it for days now, even though he’s been so good at keeping all of the memories and all of the pain at bay.

the truth is that yoongi did a shit job at getting over what happened. it’s hard when it’s clear that jeongguk didn’t try either, when both of them let it fester into this. it’s caused all of this bitterness and hardness inside of him, everything that keeps him from trusting, opening, trying to be happy when there’s someone who is constantly trying to bring him down.

yoongi takes a deep breath. then he sits up his chair, turning it around to face his desktop again. he can practically hear the questions already, but he ignores what they might be thinking as he navigates his computer for something, something—anything that can explain it better than he can. anything that can keep him from having to say it himself.

“what are you doing?” asks jimin, and yoongi feels a sort of bile rise in his throat as he finds the right file folder, as he opens it. it’s like—pandora’s box, all of these ghosts, all of these monsters. he has them memorized. for months, he used to go over them again and again, trying to figure out what went wrong—but more than that, trying to keep some semblance of what they had, what he had. he hasn’t opened them in years. but they’re still there, because he could never bring himself to delete them.

yoongi clicks on one of the files, a video. it opens, takes over the entire screen, and yoongi doesn’t look, can’t—he has this one memorized too. instantly, noise fills the room, threading through his speakers.

hyung,” he hears, and the recording is shitty at best, some iphone from six years ago; yoongi puts his face in his hands and can practically mouth along with the video. “what are you doing?

“what does it look like i’m doing?”

“looks like you’re not paying attention to me, which is honestly rude.”

the sound of jeongguk’s laughter hurts, physically. he can see it without having to look—the darkness of the video, objects illuminated only by the moonlight that shines above them. the sand of the beach and the waves only feet away and jeongguk—jeongguk with his big eyes and his wind-swept hair and his tan. barefoot, all bright and wanting and nineteen years old.

“what are you gonna do about it?” yoongi’s own voice echoes through the speakers. he knows this part too—the way the camera shakes as jeongguk appears in the frame, trying to grab for the phone.

“i’m going to punish you.”

“oh, i’m so scared.”

“it’s okay, hyung,” says jeongguk, and yoongi clenches his jaw, braces himself for it—“i’ll kiss it better after.”

“can i get the kisses before the punishment? i know you get distracted easily—”

more laughter, laughter. the frame shakes, jeongguk reaching for the phone again, and he can hear himself shrieking. if he looks, he’ll see the blurry image of the both of them, jeongguk trying to grab the phone while kissing him at the same time. the last shot is that—someone’s jaw, or neck. jeongguk still laughing at him. then—nothing. he keeps his head in his hands, waiting and waiting for the inevitable. the anticipation of it has something curling in his gut, something uncomfortable. and he doesn’t want to say it, doesn’t want to admit it. if he thinks about too much, he knows the tell tale signs of tears prickling at his eyes will return, and how stupid is it that after five years, it hurts like the very first day?

finally, someone whispers, “hyung,” from behind him.

he says it before he can stop himself, before he can second guess it—“i was in love with him.” and that says it all, doesn’t it?

“what—”

“we dated for two years,” he continues. his hands are still shaking. “no one knew, especially the company. but that was okay, because we didn’t mind being a secret. as long as we had each other, it was fine. and it was—we were going to be in a group together and we were going to take over the whole world and we were going to do it hand in hand, like it was meant to be. and i loved him. i loved him so fucking much. and yeah, it wasn’t perfect. it was hard to be a secret and it was hard being trainees at the same time and we fought sometimes, but it was—it was fine.”

pandora’s box, just like that.

“we were friends first, for about a year after we met,” says yoongi. “but it was like jimin said—we were inseparable. we did everything together, rain or shine. we struggled together. and in the end, it turned into something so much more. and it was thrilling, i think, being a secret. trying to hide it from everyone while we made out in supply closets and stayed out late just to have some time together. he was—he was it for me, i think. i gave him my entire heart and it was good. we grew together, we overcame things together. we were going to do all of this together. and then one day—” yoongi stops. he realizes, belatedly, that there’s a tear on his cheek, escaping him, and he sniffs, wiping it away. “one day, he just packed his things and he left. didn’t say a single word to me. he just changed his number and went to magic shop entertainment and never spoke to me again.”

he thinks that—telling someone should make it easier to bear. but it just hurts the same, like reopening an old wound, and it’s like day one all over again. it’s like coming into the dorm and seeing jeongguk’s bed empty and calling him and calling him and calling him and hearing this number is no longer in service like a nightmare over and over and over.

“he never told me why he left but it was clear that it was over,” he adds. “and i tried talking to him but he wouldn’t give me the time of day. he just… left. i loved him and he left.” yoongi sniffs again, lifts his head. he can still the last still image of the video still on his screen, a blurry image of he and jeongguk together, mouths split open wide in smiles. they were going to be everything. and now they’re—this.

“i got a hold of his new number once, about six months after he left,” he adds. “i’d been imagining how a conversation would go and what i would ask him. how he would tell me what happened and we’d fix it and whatever happened would be okay, but i was just—so angry. and as soon as i heard his voice, i forgot everything i wanted to say. and i just told him to go fuck himself and hung up. the first thing he ever said about me after that was after we’d both debuted. and he told some news outlet that it was a shame that hoseok and taehyung had to be stuck in a group with me, because i’d only bring them down. and if they ever wanted to change companies, magic shop entertainment’s doors were always open. and that’s how it started.”

he stares at the image, the last still of the video. there are countless other videos in the folder, and pictures—little moments of time, capturing their happiness. the love they had as teenagers, stupid kids who thought they were on top of the world and nothing could go wrong. the proof of what they had is what fuels him, maybe, knowing that they were happy and jeongguk left it, left him and didn’t ever bother to explain why. it keeps him from believing that it was all a fever dream, that things were always this way.

now, though, they just make him angry again. he quickly exits out of the video, then the folder. and then he turns around to face hoseok, jimin, and taehyung again, noting the look of utter surprise and disbelief on their faces.

“anyway,” says yoongi. “that’s why we have this rivalry in the media and why we can’t stand to be in the same room as each other and why i don’t want to work with him. he’s my ex-boyfriend. and he broke my heart, and i haven’t forgiven him for it. how’s that for business?”

it takes him a moment to realize he’s nervous for their reaction. yoongi has always been someone to hold all of his cards close to his chest, at least for the past five years. he knows it has something to do with what happened with jeongguk—he doesn’t want anyone to hurt him the way jeongguk did, thinks that if he just doesn’t open up to anyone, he can protect himself. it’s worked remarkably well.

but hoseok, jimin, and taehyung are his best friends. he works with them every day and despite not wanting to give them the power to hurt him, they do have it—he cares what they think. and yoongi knows that he isn’t blameless in this mess. he’s afraid they’ll agree too much with it, that they’ll push him even harder to work with jeongguk, as though their problems are so easily overcome—some teenage romance that ought to be forgotten. it’s been five years. but it’s been a long and hard five years with the reminder of jeongguk’s betrayal every time the other idol so much as opens his mouth.

“hyung,” begins hoseok. “why didn’t you tell us before? you’ve just been—carrying this around for five years? without telling anyone?”

“you didn’t even know that we were dating,” says yoongi. “how was i supposed to just tell you that we’d broken up and expect you to understand or be there for me? it was just—easier, you know? to pretend that none of it happened. to hate him instead, because it’s clear that our new feelings are mutual.”

it doesn’t feel any lighter, somehow, now that he’s admitted it. he just doesn’t want to think about it anymore, but he has to, if he’s going to make a song with jeongguk. he’ll have to think about it every fucking day.

he doesn’t expect the first thing taehyung says to be, “i’m sorry.”

“for what?”

“for—everything. i dunno. i can’t apologize on his behalf, but that was a really fucking shitty thing for him to do. and it’s just escalated and now it’s—this and you have to deal with it. and that’s not fair.”

“i always wondered why he left,” says jimin, eyebrows furrowed.

yoongi snorts. “i’m still wondering,” he says. “he never bothered to explain why he left, and i’ve gone over it so many times since then. i can’t think of anything that could have caused him to leave, anything i did—and if it’s not something i did, it was pretty shitty of him to start this smear campaign against me for no reason.”

that’s the truth—jeongguk is clearly still angry about what happened, but so is yoongi, and neither of them can communicate why to each other. it might be possible to get under all of the layers of anger to the root cause of the problem, but yoongi doubts that will be happening any time soon. it’s going to be impossible to work with jeongguk, but he has to figure out how to do it without wanting to throw the kid out of a window.

“that was really shitty,” says hoseok. “i can’t believe he did that. i remember being so angry at him for making you hurt the way you did, but now i just—i’m even more angry. what the fuck.

“as much as i still don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” adds taehyung, “now i can’t really blame you for all of the things you say about him.”

yoongi never asked for approval, but there’s something a little satisfying about knowing that they are on his side. no doubt jeongguk has friends on his side who agree with him, but that’s not something he’s going to worry about.

for a time, they just sit there. yoongi’s not sure what else to say, now that they know the truth—and he’s not sure there’s anything they can say to make the situation better. at least they understand, but maybe that’s all this is going to be.

and then jimin says, “you know, as much as this collaboration sucks, i think it can be a good thing. you haven’t confronted this for five years, and now you have to. and as much of an asshole as jeongguk is to you, you’re an asshole back to him, and maybe this can be help you get through it.”

“yeah,” agrees taehyung. “he hurt you, but you can’t live the rest of your life bitter about it. maybe being forced into conversation with him will somehow uncover what happened and you’ll finally understand why he left and you can fix it?”

yoongi knows that they’re right, if he thinks about it. but he doesn’t want to think about it, and he doesn’t want them to be right. he chances a glance at hoseok, sees the dark look on his face—so maybe he’s not alone.

“i don’t want to forgive him,” says yoongi.

“we’re not saying you have to,” says taehyung. “but maybe you don’t have to hate him so much if you understand what went wrong.”

“maybe,” he says. “if they want us to go ahead with this, i guess we’ll see how well we work together. it’s not going to be how it used to be, but i’ll try not to call his hair stupid every two minutes.”

“this happened when you were kids,” says jimin. “and it still hurts, but now that we know, we can help you, right? you can talk about the frustrating things with us so you don’t end up arguing with him all the time. and if you ever want to cuddle with some ice cream, you know we love that.”

“yeah, hyung,” says taehyung. “you don’t need to worry about him. you just do what you do best, which is make really, really good music.”

yoongi grins, just a little. he knows it’s not going to be easy and jeongguk is going to upset him every day, but maybe they have a point. at least he has someone on his side, someone who agrees that jeongguk messed up as much as he did. but maybe they can make a good song out of this.

later, when hoseok, jimin, and taehyung leave, after reassuring him and apologizing again and again, and yoongi forces them out so it doesn’t get too sappy—yoongi turns back to his computer. he opens the folder again, the one with every good day in it. he allows himself to look and to see, to remember. he doesn’t know if it makes it worse or better, to feel what they’d once felt but no longer can and likely never will again.

he sees the boy he used to love. the boy who used to love him. he wallows in it, in the that that used to be this, and then—yoongi almost deletes the entire folder. but he keeps it, just in case.

》》》

yoongi’s last ditch effort to convince moon that a collaboration is a bad idea doesn’t go well. moon chews him out for his unprofessionalism, for embarrassing him in front of jeongguk and kim and the others in the meeting room. and then he very politely tells yoongi that they’re moving forward with the song anyway, and he expects him to work with jeongguk to the best of his ability. it’s something like—a betrayal, maybe, even if moon has seen how jeongguk and yoongi act around each other. but in a way, it feels a bit like jimin and taehyung telling him that this might be good for their broken relationship, like they’re teenagers being forced into a broom closet to sort out their unresolved feelings.

and anyway—yoongi has learned not to argue with moon, not when it comes to things like this. he’s tried and he’s tired and it’s the middle of april. finishing the song as soon as possible will mean promotions finishing as soon as possible, will mean not having to worry about working with jeongguk until awards season, if they happen to be nominated. despite always wanting to put out the best music possible, yoongi already finds himself hoping that everyone hates it and no one wants to bother nominating it for anything at the end of the year.

so: moon gives jeongguk’s number to yoongi. it feels strange as he punches it into his phone, this means of communication that he would have done anything for only five years ago. words threaten to spill over onto his fingers, ink like blood, but he keeps himself from saying something rude. he can be professional, at least for now.

what he texts jeongguk is: this is min yoongi. when are you free to begin working?

jeongguk replies almost instantly: they cleared my schedule for this. i’m free whenever.

there’s some satisfaction in that, some spite. yoongi isn’t getting any other work, but neither is jeongguk. surely neither of them want to drag out this collaboration longer than it needs to be.

let’s start today, then. meet me at first star at 2.

why first star? i have a perfectly good studio here.

first star at 2.

he leaves it like that, not interested in arguing already. it’ll happen, probably. but he wants to be in a good mood when jeongguk shows up, so yoongi heads into his studio and prepares for it. he picks through the half-finished songs he has waiting on his computer, notebooks full of lyrics and ideas and themes. he has two hours before jeongguk shows up, so yoongi puts on his headphones. he loses himself in his work, reminds himself that even someone who broke his heart can’t change the fact that he’s good at what he does. the sooner they finish this, the better, and yoongi trusts himself. he has to trust himself.

by the time jeongguk shows up, texting yoongi that he’s arrived so that yoongi can give him directions to his studio, he has the entire thing figured out. he feels good about it. he feels good about how this might go, if they can just ignore the elephant in the room, and when there’s a knock on the studio door, yoongi takes a moment to brace himself for it before he opens up and lets jeongguk inside.

before the other can say anything, not wanting to risk anything—no arguments, no reason to turn on each other—yoongi sits back down in his chair and wheels over to his desktop.

“so i’ve got it figured out,” he says, opening up one of the half-finished tracks he’s been working on for months. he gestures to the stool he set up beside the desk, assuming jeongguk will sit. “i’m sure you want to be here as much as i want you to be here, so i thought i’d just choose something from what i’ve been working on and we can finish it together so we can get this over with. i’ve got most of the actual track laid down, just needs some tweaks and whatnot, and most of the lyrics were worked out between the rest of my band and i, but i asked and they said they would be fine with us using it, so basically you’ll just have to record your part and we’ll be on our way.”

it’s only once yoongi finishes speaking that he realizes jeongguk hasn’t taken a seat on the stool. or that he’s moved at all, and the rapper pauses, looking over his shoulder to see the younger man still standing near the door, staring. yoongi—knows he’s bulldozing, at least somewhat. but he needs to keep his head down, not even think about it. about anything. about jeongguk in those ripped jeans and big white shirt, an almost exact replica of the boy who used to spend all of his time here.

and—that’s strange, isn’t it. as jeongguk stares at him, yoongi blinks back, and he realizes that it’s been five years since jeongguk was here. yoongi only had a tiny studio when he was a trainee, and he’s moved since then, but it’s still his studio. it’s the essence of it. jeongguk—doesn’t fit anymore, too tall. five years ago, he could have been part of the decoration because of how often he was here, falling asleep on yoongi’s sofa or hanging off of his shoulder, trying to give pointers here and there. now, he’s—a stranger. that’s it, yoongi realizes. jeongguk is a stranger, the puzzle piece with a jagged edge. yoongi can’t make him fit.

as quickly as the thoughts come, he pushes them away, turning back to his desktop. “it’s kind of a generic love song, admittedly,” he continues, grabbing the notebook in which the lyrics are written and flipping to the correct page. “but that’s what sells, especially for you. the fans will eat it right up, so i don’t think we have to worry about that.”

jeongguk—still isn’t talking.

“are you going to sit down or not?” yoongi finally asks, not looking over his shoulder as he gestures to the stool for a second time. “i have to show you some things and we don’t have all day.”

it’s just. easier this way, he thinks. to not look at jeongguk or speak about it at all. to pretend that this is purely business, because that’s what moon wants. that’s probably what kim wants. that’s the only way they’re going to make any sort of song that anyone wants to listen to. this is quicker. this will work out.

then—“i can’t believe you.”

yoongi clenches his jaw. it’s starting, of course it’s starting; what did he expect

“you’re really just going to sit there and give me an entire song as though we didn’t just have a conversation about this two days ago?” asks jeongguk. “yoongi, look at me.”

“that’s yoongi-ssi to you,” yoongi mutters.

“i don’t give a fuck,” and there’s suddenly something pulling on his chair, wheeling him around, and yoongi glowers as he comes face to face with jeongguk. an angry jeongguk. “we agreed on equal participation in this, didn’t we? equal creative control. this is a collaboration, not you doing everything behind the scenes and not even giving me a say in what i get to do. you don’t get to fuck me over just because you don’t want to spend any time with me.”

“as if you want to spend time with me,” snaps yoongi, pushing jeongguk’s hands off of the edge of his chair so he can spin around again. “we were just pretending in that meeting. we both know that this collaboration is the worst idea either of our companies have ever had and the sooner we get it over with, the better. so i was hoping you’d agree to just sing a finished song and then we don’t have to keep wasting our time pretending we like each other.”

“i know how to be professional,” argues jeongguk from behind him. “that means working with people i severely dislike, including you. if this is going to be collaboration, we’re doing it together. from the beginning.”

“just fucking pretend,” grumbles yoongi. “i’ll give you full credit for the lyrics if you’re so worried about it.”

“that’s not the point.”

“then please, arrive at the point.”

“you’re—urgh.” yoongi hears something that sounds like jeongguk slapping his hands down at his sides. a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way, as usual, and yeah, yoongi did agree to equal participation in the meeting, but that was just to get the executives off of his back. the idea of actually having to work with jeongguk to create a song that both of them can agree on and want to perform and have their name attached to is laughable at best, and he’s trying his damn hardest to forget the fact that they used to do this all the time.

maybe this can help you get through it, jimin’s voice rings in the back of his mind. but there are five years of anger and hurt and lack of communication to get through first. it’s too much, yoongi realizes. he doesn’t want to do this, just wants to take the easy way out. so why doesn’t jeongguk?

“i don’t want to work with you,” says yoongi when the silence has gone on too long, staring at the half-finished track on his screen. “and i know you don’t want to work with me. so we can pretend that we’re getting along just fine for our companies, but the only way to get out of this quickly is to start halfway to the finish line. this is just—one song. who fucking cares if we didn’t actually work on it together?”

he thinks, for a time, that jeongguk might actually agree with him. there’s no immediate backlash, no arguing. yoongi holds his breath and waits and waits and remembers, suddenly, at the end, when he was so busy trying to make his own music and prove to their company that he would be a good asset in any group or as a solo artist or even just as a producer that this was the only place he and jeongguk even saw each other outside of practice and training. and how he’d talk to jeongguk just like this, with his headphones on and his eyes glued to the screen, not really listening to what jeongguk said back because he was too busy and too occupied and too determined to make something of himself, and—

and the silence. that’s familiar, too. jeongguk’s silence, at the end, when he stopped talking to yoongi about things, maybe because he knew that yoongi wasn’t listening anyway. yoongi has fooled himself into believing that their relationship was perfect, that jeongguk had no reason for leaving at all, but this is too familiar. he feels twenty-one again.

he turns around and expects jeongguk to be gone, like he used to be. but there he is, the one piece of this studio that could have belonged but hasn’t, never really did. and he’s angry. despite the distance, despite the years apart—yoongi still knows exactly what jeongguk looks like when he’s angry and trying to hide it.

(and yoongi used to try to kiss it better rather than figuring it out, because he never knew what to do with that anger. but he can’t do that now. the anger quiver to jeongguk’s jaw, those downturned lips, the flash in his eyes—it’s all familiar but new, new because he’s fumbling with it. doesn’t know what to do with it.)

“you haven’t changed at all, min yoongi,” says jeongguk. and he sounds—tired? “i thought that it might be different because it’s been five years, but you’re just—the same arrogant, prideful piece of shit you always were.”

there it is. there it is, and yoongi doesn’t know why he’s surprised. but there are no managers or ceos here to cool them down, to rein them back in. there’s no one to pretend for here. so when yoongi feels his defenses rising, he doesn’t bother to stop them.

“what are you talking about?” he asks. “the last i remembered, you’re the one who is constantly trying to put me and my band down in the media, finding fault with everything we do as though we’re putting out work out there for people like you.”

“i couldn’t care less about your music,” says jeongguk. “half the time, i don’t even bother to listen it before i tell some journalist that it’s shit. but that’s not what i mean. what i mean is that i should have seen this coming: you trying to control everything, because you always did. and you trying to erase me, because you always did. and you trying to fucking prove that you’re better than me and that i’m not as talented as you because that’s what you’ve always thought, right?”

yoongi doesn’t really mean to say it, but he does anyway, the automatic response—“i am more talented than you,” he snaps. “you’re not the fucking golden child of first star anymore, jeongguk. you have to understand that you’re not always going to be on top and sometimes my ideas are going to be better than yours. in this case, it is better than yours. we’re making my song so you don’t have to come here anymore.”

and jeongguk—laughs. it’s a surprising sound in the tension of the room, as jeongguk walks backwards until he hits the sofa and sits down, staring at yoongi with bewilderment. something almost akin to wonder.

“you’re not even trying to deny it,” says jeongguk, still laughing. “you have no shame, do you?”

“deny what? i’ve said it enough times in media for you to get it by now.”

“i don’t fucking care about what you say in the media, yoongi,” says jeongguk. “i don’t even pay attention to it. it’s just—this is what it’s all coming down to. from day one, you’ve thought i would never make it, and even now that i have made it, you’re clinging onto your own stupid beliefs.”

it stops yoongi, stops the defenses and insults that are already filling his mouth. his first reaction is to counter it, to be as arrogant as jeongguk probably thinks he is because it’s easier than admitting that jeongguk is far from being talentless or not hard-working, but—it’s something. something. from day one, jeongguk had said.

“from day one,” yoongi repeats.

“from day one,” agrees jeongguk, leaning back on the sofa. “you used to talk about us up there on the stage together, taking over the whole world, but that was just a fucking lie. you only cared about yourself, even when we were together.”

oh, he thinks. that’s how it’s going to be.

“don’t you dare say that,” yoongi snaps. “don’t you dare say that i didn’t care about you, because i did. i did so much more than just care for you, jeongguk. or have you just decided to gloss over most of our relationship just so you can justify hating me for something i didn’t even do?”

really?” asks jeongguk. “you think i’m just making shit up? you think i’m remembering it wrong? i wish i could. i wish i could forget how fucked up you made me feel when you wouldn’t even pay attention to me because you were too busy working on your fucking music.”

“as if you paid attention to me half the time instead of hanging out with other people who were better at dancing just so you wouldn’t be embarrassed by me.”

“you’re still shit at dancing, so at least i was right about that.”

“i was doing what was best for my career.”

“and it didn’t matter if you just bulldozed everyone else in your life to get that fame?” asks jeongguk. “it didn’t matter if you hurt me because it would be worth it in the end, when you were rich enough to buy me anything to make up for the fact that you didn’t love me like you said you did?”

“what the fuck are—”

“because it was always just going to be you in the end, right?” and—jeongguk is crying. he’s crying? “you made me think that we were going to be in it together, and then you turned around and stabbed me in the back. you never believed me in, did you? you always thought i was just going to—to flop and be a stupid, untalented wanna-be for the rest of my life.”

and yoongi. stops. he doesn’t realize that they’re both standing, that they’ve moved closer and closer in the midst of their argument, and there’s no stopping this, but he doesn’t—understand. for the first time. for the first time in five years, since this whole mess started, yoongi finds himself backpedalling.

“i never believed any of those things,” he says, hands clenched into fists at his sides. “when did i ever say that you were stupid or untalented or that you wouldn’t succeed? jeongguk, i was your biggest fucking fan. if anyone was going to succeed between the two of us, i thought it was going to be you.

“don’t give me that,” spits jeongguk. “don’t try to go back on everything now that it’s been five years and you think my memory is wrong. i know what you thought about me, yoongi. you were so happy to have someone to cuddle at night and then you’d turn around and tell all of your friends that i wasn’t going to go anywhere.”

over the past five years, yoongi has said terrible things about jeongguk. he could never count all of the insults, the awful words. he could never begin to sort through his memory to have specifics. but he knows. he knows what he thought before. what he thought and believed and said when he was in love with jeongguk, when it was the two of them against the world.

it’s easy to remember how blissful he was for those two years, even before they started drifting apart due to schedules and the business of their lives and the difficulty of being trainees. it’s easy to remember how he looked at jeongguk back when jeongguk looked at him the same way, like jeongguk was the one who had hung the stars in the sky. those nights spent under the stars, dreaming about their futures.

and look where it led them.

“who the fuck told you that?” he whispers. “who the fuck told you that i didn’t think you would be successful?”

“are you—” jeongguk makes this face, like. he’s going to strangle yoongi, or like he’s going to strangle himself, or something, and then he just turns around and takes a few steps toward the door. yoongi panics, thinks he’s going to leave, but then jeongguk turns around again, hand in his hair. he’s still crying. “yoongi, that’s the whole fucking reason i left in the first place.”

all at once, everything stutters to a halt. yoongi stares at jeongguk and jeongguk stares back, and it’s like—he gets it. he gets it. when jeongguk left, he left yoongi in the dark about it all. no word, no explanation. yoongi went over every part of their relationship wondering what he had done wrong to have jeongguk turn on a dime like that, even if their relationship hadn’t been smooth sailing for months before. it had been good. they had been good together.

and now—this.

“what?” asks yoongi. “what did you just say?”

“like you don’t already know,” says jeongguk.

“i don’t. i—jeongguk, i spent months trying to understand why you left. i’ve spent the past five years trying to understand why you would just go pack your things and go without telling me anything and without explaining. you just fucking—you broke my heart and you couldn’t even tell me why.”

he sees something in jeongguk’s eyes, then. something like realization.

“someone told me,” says jeongguk. “we hadn’t been talking very much for months and we were always apart and i felt—it was awful. and then some other trainee came to me and told me that he’d overheard you talking about me, about how it was laughable that i thought i would be successful and i wasn’t nearly as talented as you and hoseok and i was going to be the hole of our group and i should just—i should go back to busan, where i belonged. as a nobody.”

is it familiar, yoongi wonders. it was five years ago. it was five years ago, did he say it, did he mean it, did he block it out, did he forget, did he forget

“so i left,” says jeongguk. “and i’ve spent the past five years proving you wrong.”

yoongi tries. he tries to find it in his memory, tries to understand what jeongguk is talking about, but—“i didn’t say any of that,” he says. “i would have never said any of that because i didn’t believe any of it. why would i say something like that about my own fucking boyfriend?”

“that’s what i wondered! but you did.”

“it must have been someone else,” says yoongi. “and you fucking—you left instead of just talking to me? instead of asking if i’d said that, if i meant it? you—just packed your things and never said another word to me because you thought i called you a nobody?”

“what the fuck else was i supposed to do, yoongi? i was nineteen.

“you should have been a fucking adult about it and talked to me!”

“you stabbed me in the back.

“you abandoned me over something i didn’t even fucking say!”

“how do you know you didn’t say it?” snaps jeongguk. “you’ve been saying the same fucking thing for the past five years, so just one more time doesn’t make a difference. i was upset and angry and betrayed, so i did what was best for me. i didn’t want to be with someone who was going to treat me like that, so i cut myself off. and i’m all the better for it, evidently.”

“fuck you,” says yoongi. he’s so—angry. so angry at all of it, at the situation, at jeongguk—for throwing out accusations that aren’t even true, for thinking that he’s right, for not even bothering to see the fault in his own actions. and how can yoongi make him see just how badly the abandonment hurt, and how it’s haunted him for five years, and it’s led them here, and it’s all just one big miscommunication. it’s all just one big misunderstanding, because they were kids and didn’t know how to talk to each other and he doesn’t care. he doesn’t care.

“i know what you said, yoongi,” says jeongguk. it’s a good thing they’re across the studio from each other, because yoongi doesn’t know what he’d do otherwise. “i know what you thought of me.”

“you left me,” says yoongi. “i was in the dark for months until you decided to start a fucking smear campaign against me for no apparent reason, and now you’re getting mad at me for trying to defend myself. this is all of your fucking fault, so don’t try dragging me into this.”

“i loved you. and you fucked me over.”

it’s—true, maybe, for the both of them. and yoongi doesn’t know where to go from here, doesn’t know how to fix this. he realizes, after a moment, that maybe this isn’t something that can be fixed. taehyung and jimin told him that being forced into conversation might uncover something, might help him understand what went wrong, and—it has. but what went wrong isn’t something that he can even apologize for, because he’s so adamant that he did nothing wrong. but jeongguk is the same. and here they are: an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

“get out of my studio, jeongguk,” says yoongi, finally. finally.

jeongguk does.

》》》

when are you free to work on the song again?

i’m not.

moon keeps asking about progress.

i’m busy.

jeongguk.

i said i’m busy.

》》》

five days later, yoongi runs into kim namjoon.

it’s not unusual—namjoon is under first star entertainment as well, a fellow idol rapper although he’s been a solo artist since the beginning, having debuted years before yoongi did. yoongi passes the likes of namjoon or jimin and other idols under first star in the hallways all of the time, sees them in the practicing rooms, in the studios, in the cafeteria. company events are always good ways to catch up with everyone, especially if the other idols are off touring or promoting while yoongi is stuck in the studio.

but.

but.

namjoon is someone that yoongi has long since learned how to avoid, choosing to remain as polite as possible only when he absolutely needs to interact with the other man. they used to be friends, once, five years ago, but when jeongguk left, he took plenty of other things with him.

he’s in the bathroom of all places, washing his hands, when the door opens and then closes behind namjoon. and as usual, yoongi keeps his eyes firmly planted on himself, trying to rush through the soaping process so he doesn’t have to be stuck in here with namjoon for longer than necessary.

then—“yoongi-ssi.”

yoongi takes a moment to decide if he wants to have a conversation in the men’s bathroom with someone who used to be a friend but has since made it clear that they’ll never be more than acquaintances who work under the same entertainment company. because namjoon is friends with jeongguk. and namjoon put jeongguk first after the break-up—and maybe yoongi has no idea if namjoon knows, or what jeongguk told him, but namjoon has never been particularly friendly in the past five years.

which is fine by yoongi. he’s good at being professionally friendly, too.

“namjoon-ssi,” he finally says, turning off the water and reaching for the paper towel to dry his hands. he notes, in the mirror, that namjoon is kind of just standing by the door. strange behaviour for a bathroom.

but yoongi just dries his hands, tosses the paper towel in the garbage, and then steps toward the door. “excuse me,” he says, intending for namjoon to move and let him pass, but namjoon doesn’t budge. “ah. i see. you’ve ambushed me in the bathroom because… let me guess, jeongguk told you about our argument?”

“perceptive as always, yoongi-ssi,” says namjoon. he doesn’t sound impressed with any of this. but he still doesn’t move, which means yoongi is at least somewhat right. “i’m not going to force you to be here, because i know how to be professional, but i am interested in talking to you.”

“jeongguk had to send you for this?” asks yoongi, laughing incredulously. “if he was interested in being professional as well, you’d think he could put his big boy pants on and come talk to me himself.”

“he didn’t send me to do anything,” counters namjoon. “i decided that something had to be done of my own volition. now if you want to leave, by all means…” the other man finally steps out of the way of the door, gesturing toward it. yoongi stays put, eyes narrowed slightly because he knows there’s something more to that sentence. “but if you want to stay, i have some advice for you.”

yoongi—rolls his eyes. “i don’t need advice from you. i know that you’re just going to try to give me a piece of your mind because you’ve always liked jeongguk more than me and you don’t like seeing him upset. which is fine by me, but i think we can deal with this issue ourselves.”

“i know there was something going on between you two,” says namjoon, and yoongi. stops talking. “i don’t know what exactly, but you weren’t as subtle as you thought you were. and when jeongguk left, he didn’t have anyone else to turn to so he turned to me. i don’t know all of the details of why he left, either, but i’ve been one of his only real friends in the past five years, one of the only people to stick by him after what happened.”

“good for you,” mutters yoongi.

“i’m not trying to get you to feel sorry for him,” continues namjoon, even though that’s exactly what it sounds like he’s trying to do—“but i think you need to understand that whatever happened, it’s hurt both of you. clearly. i follow what you say about each other in the media and it’s the biggest mess i’ve ever seen. now it’s clashing in person because you’re being forced to work together, and i know for a fact that it’s only going to get worse if you don’t put on your big boy pants and learn how to act professionally.”

the truth is, namjoon has a point. he and jeongguk have only worked together for one day and they’ve already had a massive argument and gotten nowhere with the song. now jeongguk won’t even give him the time of day, as usual, and refuses to figure out when to work together again despite pressure from moon to get something rolling. it’s clear that something isn’t working.

and yoongi isn’t surprised about that, but he doesn’t want to admit that namjoon is right.

“fine,” he says with a shrug. “i knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to work together, so what do you propose we do?”

“you need to put aside your relationship,” says namjoon. “and work as partners, idols, songwriters, and producers first rather than—whatever the fuck you actually are underneath that. i’ve had to work with people i’m not overly fond of before, too, and it’s possible. you’re not jeongguk and yoongi in there. you’re solo artist jeon jeongguk and boy meets evil’s main rapper, suga. that’s the only way you can make a song.”

namjoon was always good at giving advice, he thinks. they used to work together sometimes, trying to hash out songs and lyrics and beats. they were only trainees together for a year before namjoon debuted, but even when he was trying to take over the rapper idol scene, he always had time to come back to first star and share his wisdom with yoongi—the things he learned out there, the things he wished he had known when he first debuted. despite being younger, namjoon always knew more.

and here he is, again. just one more ghost from his past.

“why do you care so much?” asks yoongi. “you don’t even like me anymore.”

“i like jeongguk,” says namjoon. “and this is concerning him, too. he called me after he left your studio and—well. he was really upset about what happened, and i’m not surprised. i don’t want this to be a living hell for him and the only way that’s going to happen is if it’s not a living hell for you, either. i’ve already talked to jeongguk and he’s agreed that trying to be strictly professional is the best way to go about this, so i just needed to talk to you. it wasn’t going to work if both of you didn’t see it that way.”

yoongi tries to imagine it—working in his studio with jeongguk, all of those memories plaguing him, and pretending he’s never had a real relationship with jeongguk. pretending that he doesn’t still know what jeongguk tastes like, even after all of this years—doesn’t know his habits, his hobbies, his interests.

tries to imagine seeing jeongguk as the rest of the world sees him—the beloved singer from south korea, charming as ever, a voice that could carry you to sleep. there’s the jeongguk that he knew, the one from before. the one that he knows now, the one that he can’t help getting angry at without even doing anything. it’s like a switch that he has to turn off in his head—stop seeing all of the things that have happened between them, stop seeing their rivalry and their angry words.

put on the mask. now he’s min yoongi, the producer. now he’s min yoongi, the stoic, mysterious one that people always get wrong. it doesn’t matter what’s on the inside, as long as he can make a good song without wanting to throttle his partner.

“right,” he says. “you may have a point. i’m willing to be strictly professional about it if he is—and that’s only if he is. i swear if he makes one underhanded comment about anything, i’ll turn on him so fast.”

“i know,” says namjoon. “he said the same thing. looks like you’re both on thin ice.”

it could be funny, or ironic. how did they become this, after so much? after so much?

after namjoon leaves, yoongi pulls out his phone again and stares at his text conversation with jeongguk. he tries to imagine his younger self here, the one who would have done anything to see jeongguk again, even if things weren’t solved. the yoongi who was still desperately in love with jeongguk, the one who might still be in there somewhere, just waiting and waiting and waiting for jeongguk to come back. to come home.

namjoon talked to me, he writes. are you free tomorrow?

he stands in the bathroom, staring at his phone until jeongguk replies, seven minutes later: i’ll be there at 10. don’t think about doing what you did last time.

and—it’s good enough.

》》》

“how’s the collab going?” asks jimin as yoongi passes him in the hall the next morning, on the way to his studio. yoongi, because he won’t be able to do it to jeongguk now that he’s agreed to be professional, gives him the finger. “that good, huh?”

that good.

he sits at his desktop and feels itchy, antsy. the same way he felt when moon told him about this in the first place, so uncertain of what was to come. when he was allowed to get angry at jeongguk, he was less afraid because that was familiar, at least—he’s used to the fighting. now he has to pretend that he’s not still angry and upset at what happened between them, as well as confused now that he’s finally beginning to understand what went wrong in the first place.

he has questions, is the thing. he wants to force jeongguk to explain it all, to go back in time and see if he really did say what jeongguk says he said, but—he can’t. now they’re jeon jeongguk and suga, like namjoon said. he locks away their relationship and the memories and the urges, the parts of him that still reach for jeongguk like he did when he was just a teenager.

and when the knock comes at the door again, yoongi opens it with a very, very slight upturn of his lips.

“hey,” he says, cringing at how high-pitched his voice is, trying to sound nice.

“um,” says jeongguk. “hi.” he steps inside the studio, sliding off his shoes without being told—he knows, he remembers. yoongi swallows tightly and then turns to his chair, settling down in it. and jeongguk stands in the entrance again, like he did the first time, but it’s different this time. he doesn’t know how, but it only takes until jeongguk opens his mouth again for him to figure it out.

“i want to apologize for my behaviour last time,” says jeongguk, shooting him that smile, and yoongi thinks—oh. jeongguk is being professional, which means being the charming, polite, ‘take me home to your parents’ singer that everyone knows and loves. “it was unacceptable for me to argue with you like that and it won’t happen again in the future. i hope we can still work together.”

it’s so—fake. and it would work on anyone else, anyone who doesn’t know this isn’t the real jeongguk. and not even the angry, bitter one that yoongi has come to know in the past five years, the one that was in his studio only a week ago. the real jeongguk is a brat, yoongi knows. he’s feisty and likes teasing people and has terrible ideas in the middle of the night that absolutely have to be executed. and he is charming, of course, and polite and helpful and soft, but. but. that switch goes on, and yoongi sees that he’s dealing with some cardboard cutout of the boy he used to love.

and… if that’s the only way they’re going to make a song: yoongi’s lips curl into a small smirk.

“of course,” he says, when he realizes that jeongguk is waiting for him to return the sentiment. “i… would like to apologize as well. i shouldn’t have tried to give you a half-finished song and instead listened to your concerns and desires. i’m sure we can work well together from here on out.”

they just sit in silence from there, like neither of them is sure where to go next. the professional min yoongi isn’t charming in the way jeongguk is, especially if it comes to his stage persona—some hardened rapper who can spit bars like he’d spit on his haters. but he’s good at pretending.

“so,” begins jeongguk, clearing his throat. yoongi can feel the tension in the air, the uncertainty. he hates the awkwardness. “should we start?”

“um, yeah,” says yoongi. he gestures to the new chair he brought in for jeongguk, scooting over to allow him room to sit at the desk as well. “we should talk about what we want to write, i guess?”

for a moment, he sees a crack in jeongguk’s facade—the way he falters, like he’s second-guessing himself before he takes a seat beside yoongi and turns toward the desktop. and yoongi sees it, sees every hour they spent like this together, going over their music. side by side, how it was meant to be. but it’s different. it’s new. their breaks won’t consist of making out on yoongi’s sofa and feeding each other take-out, so he pushes it away again and again. he takes a deep breath. and then he grabs his notebook.

the first day goes like this: they can’t decide on a theme. jeongguk wants to go outside of the box, making a song that is more like what yoongi usually does with boy meets evil: a little controversial sometimes, tossing in different genres to make something fresh and exciting. yoongi wants to stick to the formula of what will work for the industry and for usual collaborations: a love song that sounds like every other love song on the radio at the moment. as much as yoongi prides himself on being someone who makes music unlike anyone else, this isn’t just his music.

“this is my chance to do something different than i normally do,” jeongguk argues for the fourth time that day, sitting on the sofa with a frown on his face. “i don’t want to keep making the same music that i always do.”

“well, i don’t want to keep making the same music i always do, either,” counters yoongi. “besides, what do you think your fans will want? they’re not going to like something so outside of your normal genre that they can’t even listen to it. this is supposed to be about success for the both of us.”

“i’m sick of singing love songs.”

“love songs sell.”

“i don’t fucking—” jeongguk stops, hands clenching into fists before he hangs his head for a second. and it’s there—the argument. it’s on the tip of his tongue, yoongi knows, and he sees the way he struggles against it. but then he takes a deep breath, and when he lifts up his head, that signature charming smile is plastered on his face again. “i understand where you’re coming from, yoongi-ssi,” he says, voice ever polite. “maybe we can find a middle ground. don’t make it the most generic love song you’ve ever heard, but don’t make it super unconventional either. does that make sense?”

yoongi has to admit that it might be a good idea. a fusion of both of their styles.

“it might not work,” he says, trying to keep himself from saying something about who has sold more records—not that he pays attention to that. “i doubt it’ll work, because you know how the industry doesn’t like straying from the norm. but we’ll use it as an idea.”

jeongguk’s jaw clenches, like he wants to say something further. but then he just says, “okay. thank you.”

but then—they can’t decide on what the song should actually be about. a love song, sure, but there are so many options, so many things to write about. yoongi keeps offering him lyrics from his notebook, half-finished songs or just a few lines that might work out as something to build the song around, but jeongguk becomes increasingly difficult to work with as the day goes on.

“i think it should be happy,” says jeongguk. “no one wants to listen to an angry love song.”

“if you want the genre of the song to be something like what i normally produce, it’s not going to be happy,” argues yoongi. “do you even listen to my work? it’s all angry. because i’m an angry person.”

“this is about getting out of your comfort zone. write something happy.”

you write something happy.”

“i’m trying,” mutters jeongguk. he’s got a notebook of his own open on his lap, still on the sofa. it’s turning out to be much harder to work out the logistics than yoongi was anticipating, which was why he wanted to start halfway finished anyway. every time he wants to argue, he has to stop himself, from that’s not working out because they’re not getting anywhere, then. all they know is—semi-generic love song, slightly out of the box music. how original.

“what’s the story of it, then?” asks yoongi, slumping a little lower in his seat.

“the story?”

“yeah. songs are better when they have stories.”

jeongguk frowns. “can’t we just write something with the usual things about how much we’re made for each other and we never want to be apart and we make each other happy?” and yoongi knows he doesn’t actually mean them. but it tugs at him anyway. irks him.

“you’re the one who said you wanted to do something out of the box,” sighs yoongi, “and now you’re going back on that? for fuck’s sake, jeongguk, make up your mind.

“maybe if you would help me figure this out.”

“i’m trying! you’re not giving me anything to work with.”

he can sense it, then, building—the tension again. he’s trying to be professional but it’s so hard when everything jeongguk does bothers him, especially when he can’t decide on what he wants to do. they’re on different pages. it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s so fucking hard. he can’t help remembering how well they worked together before, how they always seemed to know what the other wanted and was thinking of without having to voice it. they made good music together. but they’ve been in different worlds for too long. no matter how hard he tries, yoongi can’t figure out what jeongguk wants.

“this isn’t working,” sighs jeongguk. “i think we just need to quit for today.”

“we didn’t even figure anything out.”

you’re getting snappy with me,” says jeongguk. “and we agreed to keep this professional, so i’m leaving before you completely forget about that and you make me want to throttle you again. we have—some basics. we’ll just do another brainstorming session tomorrow or something.”

but the tomorrow goes much the same way. bright smiles, professional attitudes. yoongi tries harder than he did the day before, but they get nowhere again and again and again. somehow, jeongguk got more awkward overnight, looking even more out of place in the studio as he constantly asks if he can leave to take a piss or get some food, if it’s okay to sit where he’s sitting. like he’s trying to keep yoongi happy so that he’ll be complacent with whatever song they’re going to write and produce.

they try brainstorming for the song. it’s this: yoongi wants to write about the hardships of it, wants to talk about the problems. jeongguk wants to write about the perfection of it, the blissful serendipity of love.

“so… like park jimin’s latest release,” says yoongi, trying to stop the roll of his eyes.

“not like that,” says jeongguk. “we’re not going to steal his song.”

“you literally used the title in your description.”

“the word serendipity doesn’t belong to jimin.”

“we’re not writing about that.”

he doesn’t look at jeongguk, doesn’t need to see the way his nose wrinkles a little because he’s irritated. yoongi knows he’s being difficult, but it’s not what he wants.

jeongguk doesn’t argue again, though—professionalism. he does say, “what would an angry love song even be about? i’ll entertain you for a few minutes.”

reaching for his notebook, yoongi flips it open. “the theme could be something about… wearing masks all the time around the other person because you can’t be yourself with them. and how that’s fucking up your relationship because it’s fake but you don’t want to be real because what if that means the other person doesn’t actually love you? because they just love this version of yourself that you’ve put out there for them to see?” yoongi slides the notebook over, pointing to a cluster of lyrics he’d written a few months ago about that very theme.

it’s a good idea. he knows it is.

but jeongguk says, “i don’t know,” and yoongi has to clench a fist under the desk so that he doesn’t get angry about it. “that seems a little too depressing to be a love song. besides, fans like when we’re honest. they don’t want to see us talking about masks and pretending.”

“oh my god,” mutters yoongi. “you’re impossible to work with.”

“i just don’t like it!” protests jeongguk, frowning at him. “you still can’t—” he stops again. takes a deep breath. “whatever. i’m not going to say it.”

“say what?” challenges yoongi. “that i can’t admit that my ideas might not be the best? i already know everything you want to say to me, jeongguk. no need to break our pact of professionalism when i know it already.”

“i don’t like the idea,” says jeongguk. “let’s think of something else.”

yoongi—does roll his eyes that time, only because jeongguk is still looking at the notebook. he leans back in his seat. tests something.

“something about fake love,” he suggests.

“no.”

“something about being too obsessed with your partner.”

“no.”

“something about—fucking falling leaves being like your failing love.”

no.”

“jesus, are you just going to shoot down everything i say because you’re not saying it first?” snaps yoongi. it seems like it—seems like jeongguk’s polite professionalism and simply having different tastes is just a front for him making yoongi’s life difficult by disagreeing with everything he says. and jeongguk looks at him, angry all over again. the words seem familiar, like he might have said them once before.

jeongguk takes a moment, and then slowly closes yoongi’s notebook. “i know the only relationship you’ve had in your life turned to shit because you couldn’t be a good enough boyfriend or human to keep it alive,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean you can only write depressing love songs about fake love or being obsessed or needing to hide your true self from your partner. it’s a little pathetic, to be honest. you could try thinking love is a nice thing for once in your life. it’ll do wonders for your career.” and then he quietly gets up from the chair, turns, and leaves the studio.

and yoongi sits. and he sits. and he hates that maybe jeongguk is a little right—that he’s only known love in the soul-eating, angry, it never worked out sort of way. and he’s been putting jeongguk in all of his love songs. and none of them have had a happy ending, because yoongi doesn’t know what that looks like anymore.

》》》

for a week, jeongguk comes to yoongi’s studio and they sit and argue about what to write their song about—argue, although it doesn’t quite look like it. they sit and give each other careful looks and try to phrase their words as politely as possible when they both know they want to yell at each other underneath it. the guise of professionalism keeps them at bay, at least, but it also gets them nowhere because neither of them can say what they truly want, or hash out some real lyrics, or figure out what direction to take the song.

as the days go by and no progress is made, yoongi gets increasingly frustrated. everything he puts out gets shot down by jeongguk, who isn’t giving any good ideas of his own, either. they settle on more of a bittersweet love song, something that can have elements of both of their tastes, but yoongi doesn’t have lyrics for that. and they can’t decide on what the actual lyrics should be structured around, anyway, and they tip toe and tip toe and tip toe around the problems and issues and what they really want to say.

soon, it’s been two weeks since they agreed to collaborate, and moon is breathing down yoongi’s neck, and they’ve gotten nowhere.

“there’s an article about us,” says jeongguk when he arrives on the seventh day of nothing, shoving his phone in yoongi’s face.

JEON JEONGGUK AND BME’S SUGA REPORTEDLY SET TO COLLABORATE ON A SONG TO BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR, it reads. and under it: will the public rivals be able to overcome their differences and obvious dislike for each other in order to complete the collaboration?

he doesn’t read the article. just scrolls down to the comments, because it’s always the comments, and the first one. the first one:

this is fucking hilarious. jeongguk and suga have been at each other’s throats for years now and their companies think it’s a good idea to stick them in a room together and force them to make a song? we’ll probably hear about a murder before we hear about this song.

and it’s—weird. it’s weird because that’s the exact same thing yoongi said to moon, and then to hoseok and taehyung and even to jimin when the collaboration was first decided on. it’s the exact excuse he gave for why they shouldn’t work together, but seeing it from some random fan has him on edge. has him wanting to prove it wrong, has him somehow wanting to get this right.

“they’re all rooting against us,” says yoongi after a moment, scrolling through some of the other popular comments. this is already going to be the worst song of the year. jeongguk doesn’t deserve to be within one hundred feet of suga-oppa!!! “they all think it’s not going to work.”

and jeongguk says—“are they wrong?”

it’s been a week of trying and trying and failing. and before that, a week of arguing and fighting and being too blinded by what happened between them to be able to work on anything new. to say anything new, to sing about anything new.

“this isn’t working,” says yoongi, handing jeongguk’s phone back to him. he collapses onto the sofa, staring hard at the trophies set up by the wall. all of these accolades for his music, his hard work. and he can’t even figure out the theme for a song with someone he used to dream about receiving those accolades with. “this isn’t working at all. if we keep working how we are now, we’re never going to finish this song. which is—what they want. they want us to prove that we’re nothing more than our rivalry.”

jeongguk’s still standing, scrolling through his phone. “kim and moon said if it didn’t work out, we didn’t have to do it,” he says quietly.

and how strange, yoongi thinks, that even though he fought tooth and nail to keep this from happening, his first reaction is to say, “no.” his first reaction is to say, “we said we’re doing a collaboration, so we’re doing a collaboration.” and he’s still angry at jeongguk, and he’s still upset with what happened, and he still doesn’t understand how their relationship could have gotten to this point. but everyone knows that they hate each other, thinks that they couldn’t produce a good song if their lives depended on it.

and if there’s one thing that has fuelled yoongi to make good music, it’s someone telling him that he can’t.

“it’s not working because we can’t agree on anything,” says yoongi. “you were right, the other day. about—me not being able to write happy love songs because i think that love is shit and the only relationship i’ve ever had made me think that love is shit. but you want to write happy love songs because you have a different take on it all, right?” he looks over to jeongguk, who is finally looking back at him, eyebrows furrowed.

“i mean—i guess,” he says.

“so,” continues yoongi. “we can’t keep trying to write two different songs. we have to agree on one thing to write, and the only way that’s going to happen is if we write about something we both understand. something we can both write about from the heart, something… we have in common.”

jeongguk looks at him. and looks and looks, phone still midway to his face with some stupid article about how likely they are to fail open on it. he sees jeongguk like he’s sixteen again, his first time away from home and trying so desperately to fit in, looking to yoongi to guide him because yoongi was older and cooler and knew more about the world, maybe. they’d become friends, if anything, because jeongguk had seen yoongi passionately lip-syncing to iu and gasped out you too?

something in common.

and he sees—he sees the moment jeongguk gets it, understands what yoongi is thinking. sees the way his face falls.

“yoongi,” says jeongguk. “no.”

“jeongguk—”

no. i’m not doing that. i’m not—writing about it like that, not for a song. that’s not—it’s private.

“no one is going to know that it’s true,” yoongi argues. “jeongguk, you know it’s the only way this is going to work out. it’s the only thing we have in common that is going to sell. you want to write a bittersweet love song?”

jeongguk hesitates. he’s looking at yoongi with all of this vulnerability and frailty. with all this fear. and yoongi gets it—putting any part of himself on a song for the world to see is terrifying. and this, digging up the past and letting their ghosts sing about it—is something else. but he knows he’s right. and he knows they can make good music together.

“we want this to be real,” says yoongi. “and we want it to be meaningful, not just to us, but to our fans, to people who listen. you want it to be happy and i want it to be angry, and there’s one thing we have in common that is all of those things. there’s one thing we have in common that we can turn into something good, for once. we want to write a good song.”

“so we write a song about us,” says jeongguk.

“so we write a song about us,” says yoongi.

》》》

there was a time when yoongi was less—bitter. less angry about the world, less of someone who wants to tear down the walls and rebuild them the way that suits him. he’d never been disillusioned about the world, not when his family struggled enough and then didn’t support him pursuing his dream of making music in the first place, but when he came to seoul as a teenager, he still had hope. he was determined to make things work and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, but yoongi—yoongi was still just a kid, then. he still had stars in his eyes. and when things started working out, he let himself get soft, let himself enjoy the good parts of it all. let himself be happy.

it’s strange seeing himself like that, now, as he slowly scrolls through the folder. the jeongguk folder, the one tucked away so carefully on his hard drive. it’s late, so he has no need to fear someone trying to barge in and catching him. and maybe that’s proof that he shouldn’t be doing this anyway, the idea that being caught would be too humiliating. he and jeongguk, according to everyone—according to themselves—still hate each other.

but on the screen, there’s a picture of them from yoongi’s twentieth birthday. a blurry selfie, almost too blurry to see properly, but yoongi knows what it is anyway—yoongi had been working in his studio, as always, refusing to take a break from his trainee schedule even for his own birthday. so jeongguk had come over with a cake he’d made himself, and it had tasted like shit but the icing had been good because that had been store bought, at least, and jeongguk had begged him to take a selfie together, and right when yoongi was about to take the picture, jeongguk smeared the icing all over yoongi’s face and then proceeded to try licking it off. and it’s there, in the streaks of colour—his smile. both of their smiles. and jeongguk’s laughter, and yoongi’s hand around his waist, and the food fight they had after, and how jeongguk coated his lips with the icing and giggled when yoongi kissed it off.

and oh, how easily they come—the memories. he’s tucked them away in some foreign part of his mind, but each picture and video calls them forth, one at a time. like a roll call of broken-heartedness. each of them are so eager to come back, to come home.

the time they tried roller skating and ended up in the hospital instead when jeongguk broke one of his fingers. the time jeongguk took him to busan for christmas and his mother, despite not knowing the true extent of their relationship, insisted on taking family photos with yoongi in them, and the dog, and the stupid reindeer headbands jeongguk brought with them as a gag. the first time they ever sat under the stars and really talked about their fears and their hopes and their dreams, and how yoongi kissed jeongguk silly and they held hands and it was good. it was good.

it’s all there, like a map of their relationship. he sees the shy glances he gives jeongguk in the earlier videos, the selfies where they’re close but not close enough despite the ache he can practically feel like a phantom limb. and how wrapped up in each other they became, and how, at the end, it’s like—it just stopped. and then it did.

the last video is only nine seconds long, but yoongi finds himself playing it again and again. and again.

it’s: jeongguk, at seven in the morning. yoongi’s bed, surrounded by pillows and sheets and soft light. his hair is a mess, like it always was in the mornings.

it’s: yoongi’s whisper, “say it again.”

and jeongguk’s groggy, embarrassed reply: “gonna marry you someday, hyung. gonna marry you so fucking hard.”

yoongi doesn’t remember taking the video. doesn’t remember the day at all, although the sentiment is one that somehow echoes through all of the videos, all of the pictures: this guaranteed happy ending, this promise they unwittingly made to each other with each moment. and maybe that’s the worse part of it all: not that they’ve said so many horrible things to and about each other in the past five years, that they’ve grown to dislike each other so greatly, but that once upon a time, it wasn’t so.

the higher the rise, the harder the fall.

and now they’re going to write a song about it. yoongi watches the video again, trying to understand how to turn all of this emptiness into music. he’s done harder things before, but there’s too much of it. he wouldn’t know where to begin with it, not when he and jeongguk are on such different pages with what happened in the first place. what happened before is objective; it’s the break-up that had gone so differently for the both of them.

but they can’t keep writing two different songs.

as if on cue, yoongi’s phone vibrates.

he’s surprised, when he picks it up, to see that it’s not a text, but rather a phone call. from jeongguk. and maybe it’s the fact that he’s spent an hour revisiting all of his old memories and remembering the good parts and seeing jeongguk how he used to be, when he actually let yoongi in—but he picks up and doesn’t even think about saying something snappy about the time, or about neediness. he’s so used to being angry at jeongguk all the time, and for once—for once, he wants to put all of that anger down. it’s too heavy.

“hello?” he says instead of why are you calling me at midnight.

i’ve been thinking,” replies jeongguk instead of because we’re work partners, fuckwad.

“dangerous,” says yoongi. it doesn’t come out as demeaning as it might have otherwise, but he glosses over it anyway. “about the song, i assume?”

“we’re… writing it about us, right? about what happened between us?”

yoongi shifts in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. “if you’re still cool with that, yeah.”

“okay,” says jeongguk. he sounds out of breath, a little, not like he’s been running but like it’s taken too long for him to actually press the call button and the adrenaline has already cut out—“but it’s clear that neither of us actually knows what did happen. or we can’t agree on it. and you said that we have to write about something we have in common, except we have two different versions of the story.”

“yeah.”

“so i think we need to—talk. about it.” he’s nervous, yoongi realizes. that’s why jeongguk sounds out of breath. his voice always gets extra breathy when he’s nervous, like if he doesn’t speak loud enough for yoongi to hear, they can pretend none of this happened in the first place. “to clear the air or just… you know.”

“i know,” says yoongi. then—“for the song, right? to make sure we’re working toward the same thing.”

“right. for the song.”

it’s been five years, yoongi thinks. five years of wondering and wandering and waiting. of never being sure what went wrong and how he could have fixed it and what it would take to have the opportunity to figure it out. and here it is, in the palm of his hand: and does he have the willingness? is he ready to face the fact that jeongguk might be right about some things, that yoongi wasn’t the only one who got hurt?

“tomorrow?” he asks.

“i’m busy tomorrow,” says jeongguk. “i can do saturday, though. i’ll, um—come over. and we can… talk.”

“yeah,” says yoongi. he’s staring at his screen, at the last still of the last video—jeongguk’s messy bedhead but that lazy grin anyway as he looks past the phone to yoongi behind it, handing over his entire heart like that. gonna marry you so fucking hard.

after they hang up, yoongi spends five minutes with his face in his hands, trying to figure out how he’s going to last through a conversation like that. he turns off his desktop eventually, goes home. belatedly, he realizes that that was the first conversation they’ve had in five years where they didn’t argue, not once.

it feels like a false start.

》》》

not for the first time, yoongi finds himself marvelling at phantom limbs, at something like déjà vu. here is jeongguk, sitting on the sofa in his studio, just he used to, like he always used to. when yoongi threw out the old sofa, two weeks after jeongguk left, he could have sworn jeongguk had left an imprint in it, the outline of his body after spending so many days and nights sitting there, or sleeping there, or just there.

and here is jeongguk, looking like maybe he should belong, but doesn’t, and is that because of yoongi’s perception or because every time jeongguk is here, he’s always making himself smaller, sitting on the edge of the sofa rather than making himself at home, eyes skirting here and there like he’s never seen a studio before? and is that yoongi’s fault, too?

anyway—anyway.

both of them just sit there, neither willing to start the conversation. but they know why they’re here and yoongi knows that this isn’t going to be fun. he just doesn’t know how to start, not when he doesn’t think he’s the one who has to do any of the explaining. but the silence stretches on and jeongguk won’t look him in the eye and it’s the sort of awkward that he should have expected but wasn’t quite prepared for.

finally, jeongguk clears his throat. says, “you, uh—like kaws?” he gestures past yoongi’s shoulder where he’s sitting in his desk chair, and the rapper turns sideways to see the figurine sitting on top of one of his speakers.

“um,” begins yoongi, licking his lips. “yeah.”

“it’s—is that darth vader?”

for some reason, yoongi flushes. this awkward small talk might be worse than the silence, but at last it’s closer to having the conversation they’re meant to be having. and maybe jeongguk is just as nervous about having it, just as afraid of what might be said. neither of them had ever really been the best at having deep conversations, not when it really counted.

“i thought it was cool,” mumbles yoongi.

“i didn’t say it wasn’t,” says jeongguk, and that’s—it. there’s not much that can be said about the decorations in yoongi’s studio, and he clears his own throat as he takes a keen interest in his hands. although jeongguk was the one who pushed for this conversation, it’s clear that he isn’t going to be the one to start it.

this is what they’re here for: clearing the air, getting out their grievances. it’s been five years, and now yoongi finally has the opportunity to not only demand to know what jeongguk was thinking when he abandoned him, but to let jeongguk know just how badly it hurt him, how much pain he was in, and how angry he still is. it’s his chance for answers, but it’s also his chance to say everything that he’s wanted to say for five years.

and that’s enough to stir up the emotions within him, not only the anger and desperation, but the longing. the aching.

yoongi lifts his head. jeongguk is curled into himself on the sofa, knees into his chest. he looks smaller than he is, trying to hide from this. but yoongi won’t let him.

“so,” he begins. “you think that i hated you the whole time, huh.”

they lock eyes, finally, and there’s a sort of pleading in jeongguk’s. but it does the trick. “i didn’t—” he begins only to stop, close his eyes. “i don’t want to fight about this. we already did that once.”

“so you expect me to sit here and listen to you make accusations and not let me defend myself?”

“you can defend yourself,” says jeongguk, “but at least let me speak my mind first. let me tell my side of the story first because as far as i know, it’s the only side of the story, even if you don’t think that it’s true. if we’re going to have this conversation, you have to be open to the possibility that… maybe i’m right.”

yoongi purses his lips. it’s hard to listen to any sort of slander toward him, even if it’s what jeongguk thinks is true. it’s his natural instinct to jump in and defend himself, to make things right, but he knows that jeongguk has a point. if they’re going to have a conversation and not just fight like they did the last time this came up, he has to be willing to actually listen.

“as long as you’re open to the possibility that you might be wrong,” he counters. “it’s already clear that the both of us got extremely hurt by this and are still hurt. but… yeah. i guess i can listen if you’ll listen to my side of it, too.”

that’ll be the hardest part, he’s sure: actually hearing the other end of it. understanding that he wasn’t the only one who spent nights awake, trying to hold himself together because he didn’t understand how something so good could become his worst nightmare. understanding that maybe there was somewhere that he did go wrong, that even if he doesn’t remember saying what jeongguk thinks he said, he could have done so much more to prevent things from ending up here.

jeongguk nods, just once. “okay,” he whispers., hooking his chin on his knees. “i’ll—um, is it okay if i go first? i kind of—prepared.”

despite himself, yoongi can’t help the snort that escapes him. of course jeongguk prepared—he used to do that all the time, when he knew that he was going to have to do something that he was nervous for or might want to get out of in the middle. he was always writing out entire speeches if he had to tell their management something, or even tell yoongi something. he waits for jeongguk to pull out a piece of paper with his whole explanation on it, but he doesn’t, so—maybe some things have changed, just a little.

“go ahead,” says yoongi. “i’ll do my best not to interrupt.”

jeongguk nods again, then takes a deep breath. drops his gaze, like he can’t say it all while looking at yoongi. and then he begins.

“i don’t remember all of it,” he says. “i think i kind blocked some of it out, you know—traumatizing or something.” jeongguk lets out a breathy laugh, an awkward one. yoongi doesn’t move, physically biting his tongue to keep himself from saying anything. “i just—what i remember is that we hadn’t really talked for like, a week? we were both so busy and you were in the studio and i was in vocal training and it wasn’t going well for either of us. and it was always hard, i know, but that week was… something else. you were always in a bad mood.”

yoongi does remember that, if vaguely—he remembers because it was the week that he’d tried contacting his parents after almost a full six months without speaking to them, and they’d told him that they had no interest in supporting him unless he was going to come home. he’d been in a bad mood because of that. but he hadn’t told jeongguk that. why hadn’t he told jeongguk?

“i guess i was upset because of that too,” continues jeongguk. “and i don’t know, i was just… in the dorm one afternoon, or in the café or in the training room? and someone—i don’t remember who, just some other trainee—started talking to me about the other trainees. and he said that he’d overhead you talking to someone about me, and you’d said… all those things. about me being less talented and not having a future in music and how i was just going to bring you down.”

yoongi grits his teeth. but he doesn’t say anything, because he promised. jeongguk, though—he keeps shifting uncomfortably, like he can’t find the place he wants to sit in. he’s not looking at yoongi either. and yoongi gets that, at least.

“my first thought was that it couldn’t be true, you know? you were my boyfriend. and we’d talked so much about the future, about everything that we would do together in a group. but then… i dunno.” jeongguk shrugs, curling even further into himself. “the more i thought about it, the more it made sense. and i was nineteen and insecure about myself anyway, and we hadn’t been talking for a while and you didn’t treat me the same way you did before. you didn’t—compliment my singing or want me to dance for you or any of that stuff. so i believed him. it’s a bad enough betrayal for you to say it in the first place, but i didn’t talk to you because i was afraid that he was right. so i left instead.”

finally, yoongi can’t hold back any longer, fists clenched on the side of his chair as he says, “how could you believe him? jeongguk, just because i was having a bad week doesn’t mean i suddenly thought you were a shit singer.”

“it wasn’t just that,” jeongguk argues. “it wasn’t just the week. you know as well as i do that we were having problems for much longer than that. and i’m not saying that was your fault because we were busy and it was hard and everything, but i was beginning to feel like you resented me anyway.”

it’s been five years. it’s been five years and time does something to memory, and yoongi stares at jeongguk at a loss. has it romanticized their relationship for him and demonized it for jeongguk?

“i didn’t resent you,” says yoongi. “i was—i mean, yes, sometimes i was jealous that moon and everyone in the company loved you so much because you were good at everything. you could even rap well, and that was supposed to be my thing. but i never let that change the way i treated you.”

“maybe you just weren’t as good at hiding it as you thought you were,” shrugs jeongguk. “i—i mean, it’s fine; i know you can’t really control that. but that’s just how you made me feel.”

“i still didn’t say what you said i said,” he adds carefully. “whoever told you probably made it up. it would be helpful if you actually remembered who it was. maybe they were trying to cause drama or something.”

jeongguk shrugs again. “i don’t remember. and besides, even if you didn’t say it—doesn’t it say something about how you treated me at the end that i thought maybe it was plausible? plausible enough to run away rather than face the fact that maybe that’s how you really thought about me?”

yoongi—sits back in his chair. and it does say something. and he’s been blaming all of this on jeongguk for so long, asking why he ran away and why he couldn’t just talk to yoongi about his problems, but maybe there’s something about him in there. if jeongguk was stuck between a rock and a hard place, he decided that running away was going to be less painful than trying to talk to his own boyfriend about something that could have been cleared within minutes. maybe that says more about yoongi than he ever did about jeongguk.

“okay,” he mutters. “i can admit that i was kind of shit at the end.”

“thank you,” mumbles jeongguk.

“we were kids. i was a kid. i had no idea what i was doing.”

“you don’t have to defend yourself. i fucked up, too. i—i know i should have talked to you. but i can’t change the fact that i didn’t. and,” jeongguk draws in a breath, then pauses. he looks at yoongi, only for a second. “i was going to talk to you, yoongi. i swear i was. i thought i just needed a day or two to collect myself and stop feeling so hurt and angry about what happened, and then i would talk to you. but… i don’t know what happened. i just got scared or i was too angry or i liked being away from you for two days. i went to some stupid karaoke bar and there was this guy there, only a few years older than me, and he said i had a great voice and i should check out this entertainment company—magic shop. and for some reason, i didn’t tell him that i was already a trainee with another company. i just… i saw a clean break. and i thought about having to go back to first star and face you and be with someone who might think that i was going to fail, or might not, and even if you did say it, i knew you would just deny, so—i ran away.”

“you ran away,” deadpans yoongi. “you fucking—jeongguk, you abandoned me. all because you were too afraid to talk to me and it was easier to leave? easier on you, yeah, but what about me? didn’t you care about me?”

“i did,” argues jeongguk. “of course i did, but i—i was just thinking about myself. i wanted to be selfish for a second and i didn’t let myself think about how you might have felt. i still wanted to talk to you about it because i knew it was a shit thing to do, but then it was just easier not to. and i didn’t want to hurt myself and the longer i didn’t say anything, the more i resented you for what you said. and the more i resented you for everything else, in my head, you became this terrible person who had stabbed me in the back and i was doing myself a favour by leaving and not telling you why.”

yoongi tries to remember those first days, or weeks. it’s all a blur of anger and sorrow and pain, trying desperately to find jeongguk. he’d gone to moon at first, demanding to know if something had happened, but the ceo told yoongi that he couldn’t disclose that kind of information.

“i thought you were dead,” he says suddenly. “at first, i thought… something terrible must have happened to you. there’s no way you would just leave and not answer my calls and not say anything to me.”

“i should have talked—”

“yeah, you should have fucking talked to me, jeongguk,” snaps yoongi. “no matter what you thought i said or how hurt you were by it, you should have at least let me know that you were fine. i fucking—do you know how many nights i spent crying myself to sleep because of that? i couldn’t work for weeks. i couldn’t do anything because i was worried sick, and when you started cropping up elsewhere and talking to other people and i found out you were with magic shop, it was like… the biggest slap in the face. it was worse than something happening to you, because at least that wouldn’t have been your choice.”

“yoongi—”

“you don’t get it, jeongguk. you don’t get how fucking badly that hurt me. i can’t even put it into words.”

jeongguk stares at him, looks small and ashamed and yoongi thinks—good. “okay,” he whispers.

“i’ve just been so angry at you. for leaving in the first place, but i know people do shittier things, so then i guess it was just—the smear campaign. if you wanted to talk to me and wanted to make things easier, why the fuck did you start a war in the media?”

at this, jeongguk looks even more pained than before. but he doesn’t shy from it this time, finally lowers his legs so he can sit cross-legged on the sofa. he says, “you actually started it.”

yoongi’s eyebrows furrow. “what?”

“i’m not—this one is real, i swear. it was just after i’d debuted and there was some article about all of the idols and groups that had debuted in that year, when you debuted, too, and you commented on it that at least there was one good act that could save the music industry.”

“jeongguk, that’s not—that wasn’t directed at you. i was just being a regular stuck-up artist trying to make myself look good.”

“i know,” says jeongguk. “that’s what people do all the time, especially if they have competition. but i saw that and it was the first real thing i’d seen you say since i left, because i was trying not to look at your social media or anything, and… it just irked me. that you still thought the same thing you did when i left, that you were the only talented one and everyone else was just going to flop.”

yoongi—sighs, rubbing at his face with his hands. “i can’t fucking believe

“i know, yoongi,” says jeongguk. “it wasn’t directed at me. but it wasn’t about that anymore. in my mind, it was just… who you were. this arrogant piece of shit who couldn’t even give the time to day to anyone else, even though we were all newly debuted and the cards could fall anywhere. and this image i had of you in my head from before—the one who had said those hurtful things about me—just got uglier and uglier. and i was so angry at you and so hurt and upset, and i just… forgot. how i felt before. and that’s how it started.”

the truth is, it makes sense. how time can twist something, and words, and attitudes. and yoongi knows that he isn’t blameless in it either, having immediately latched onto what jeongguk said about him in the media and deciding to fire back rather than be the bigger person. because time had warped jeongguk in his mind, too, making him a terrible person despite two years of their relationship and a year of friendship before that.

“so the smear campaign is both of our faults,” yoongi says. “i can admit that. we were both angry and hurt and wrong in that.”

“i don’t actually believe most of what i say about you,” jeongguk says. “i hope you know that. it’s all just borne out of anger or whatever.”

“yeah,” says yoongi. “yeah, i know.”

neither of them say anything after that, not for a few minutes. it’s strange, having the full story before him and hearing it from jeongguk’s mouth himself. he still doesn’t understand why jeongguk did what he did, but at least he gets it, just a little. and maybe he doesn’t have to understand it. maybe he doesn’t have to agree with it to be able to move forward, or to use that pain and anger in the song that they’re meant to be making. after five years, he finally knows what all of this is rooted in, and maybe he’s not any less angry, but there’s something about uprooting. something about nipping it at the bud.

“this isn’t going to go away just like that, right?” asks jeongguk finally. “the anger and everything, i mean.”

“no,” says yoongi. “five years of pain doesn’t disappear just because you have one conversation about it.”

“but…” the rapper looks up to jeongguk, trying to gauge what he’s going to say. the other is biting at his lip, nervous habit. “we don’t have to fight all the time, do we? we can—make an effort to do that, right? not just for the song, but for… you know. our partnership or whatever.”

yoongi thinks about it. thinks about finally trying to put all of that anger down, trying to put it behind him. part of him thinks it isn’t possible, but that’s only because he’s been clinging it to for five years—the anger and pain at what happened between he and jeongguk has been all he’s known for those five years. it’s kept him from being hurt by others, fuelled his career with songs and a motivation to be better than jeongguk for the four years since they’ve debuted. it’s his safety net.

now jeongguk is looking at him and asking him to let go.

“we can make an effort,” he agrees tentatively. “it’s going to take some time to stop being angry, for the both of us. i know that much. but we can try not to act on it.”

“okay,” says jeongguk, nodding. he lets out a breath, sounds like a sigh of relief—and yoongi wishes it was that easy. he wishes he could just let all of the anger out in one breath and not feel what he’s been feeling for five years. he wishes he could forget what happened, or smooth over it. but it’s never going to be like that. it’s going to take effort and it’s going to be hard. and part of him—the cowardly part, maybe—wants to pretend, or say fuck it and not even try. but jeongguk is looking at him again, looking like he’s waited these five years to finally be able to talk about it.

and yoongi knows that he owes jeongguk that much.

there’s more to be said, he knows. he wants jeongguk to know how he’s suffered over the past five years, wants to ask more questions, wants to know more. but there’s a small sort of weight that has been lifted from his shoulders already, even if he’s even more confused about how this started in the first place. it won’t get better now. but maybe, later. maybe, after.

maybe for now… this is enough.

yoongi looks at jeongguk, and for the first time in five years, he doesn’t see the boy who broke his heart by running away. he doesn’t see the irritating idol who is constantly shitting on him in the media. he doesn’t see someone he wants to hate, someone he wants to hurt.

he just sees… jeongguk. a twenty-four-year-old man still trying to find his place in the world, still afraid of so much, but trying to be certain of it. someone who has been hurting for five years, the same as him—someone who doesn’t want to be hurting anymore. he looks so small here, so vulnerable. despite all of their arguments and hurtful words and the hatred that he’s thrown at jeongguk, yoongi feels that this is the first time—the first time that he doesn’t have a single hurtful thing on the tip of his tongue.

he’s still angry. he will still be angry and he doesn’t know for how much longer. but jeongguk is right: it’s time to put it down.

“do you…” he begins, licking his lips when jeongguk’s eyes jump to his, hopeful. “do you wanna just like—get some food or something? i know we said we’d have this conversation to work on the song, but i feel like it’s… not. time for that.” yoongi winces, knowing how awkward it sounds. but jeongguk grins anyway, and yoongi feels his stomach drop.

“yeah, i’d like that,” says jeongguk.

yoongi orders it, as jeongguk sits on the sofa and flips through yoongi’s netflix, occasionally shouting out titles for approval or disproval. and yoongi tries not to think too hard about it, about what it means—the two of them here, in the studio, but not working on music. just… hanging out.

they settle on some dystopian show that jeongguk has apparently been obsessed with lately, and although they’re starting in the middle of the season, yoongi doesn’t complain when he sees the pure excitement on jeongguk’s face. it’s been so long since he’s seen that—seen the heart of him underneath the rest, the part of him that is still like a little kid when he gets to watch his favourite movie or eat his favourite food.

speaking of—a quarter way through the episode, the food arrives. yoongi gets up from where they’ve been sitting beside each other on the sofa, far enough apart that they aren’t touching but close enough for jeongguk to have casually thrown a blanket over the both of them, and pays the delivery boy before handing jeongguk his own food.

when yoongi settles back down, now too invested in the show to want to take a break, it takes him a minute or two to realize jeongguk hasn’t started eating yet.

“what?” he asks around a mouthful of his own food, chancing a glance at jeongguk to see the other is kind of just… staring at his food.

“extra wasabi,” he mutters. “you remembered.”

and—it’s strange, isn’t it, that yoongi didn’t even realize he’d done it: ordered the extra wasabi for jeongguk. it was like a reflex, because jeongguk likes extra wasabi with his sushi, and yoongi was getting food for jeongguk, and he used to that all the time, and there’s a twinge in his chest when he realizes he still knows what jeongguk likes. is still trying to accommodate for it, and it’s been five years, but maybe those things don’t ever really go away.

“um,” begins yoongi, awkwardly shifting on the sofa and clearing his throat. he looks up to the screen again. “yeah. sorry, did you not want it?”

“no, it’s—” begins jeongguk, and yoongi glances at him again. the younger is grinning, just softly. maybe it’s the darkness of the room and the light from the television screen, but he swears jeongguk’s cheeks are pink. “thanks, yoongi-ssi.”

“you can, um—” begins yoongi, knee-jerk reaction, and he continues before he can stop himself and second guess it—“you can just call me hyung, if you want.” there should be an explanation there, maybe, about starting over, or trying. about awkwardness, about being work partners. but the words get caught in his throat, and maybe that’s all he needs, anyway. just the offer. just the flip in his stomach as he waits and stares at his food.

overhead, the sounds of some television show drown out the rapid beating of his heart, and yoongi doesn’t bother to wonder why he’s so nervous about it. but he feels jeongguk knock their knees together, anyway, just a little, and when he hears the quiet, shy okay, he stuffs as much food into his mouth to keep himself from saying something he might regret.

they don’t say much as they eat and watch, as one episode turns to two turns to three. yoongi doesn’t feel the need to, though, and that’s how it used to be, too. the thing he loved so much about jeongguk’s company in the beginning was that they were so good at just being. and anyway—

jeongguk falls asleep in the middle of the third episode, head leaning against yoongi’s shoulder. somehow, he’d gotten close enough for it, practically pressed side to side, and yoongi stops paying attention to the television. he’s afraid to move, suddenly, jeongguk breathing carefully beside him. he knows it can’t be intentional. knows that jeongguk could fall asleep anywhere and anytime and use anything as a pillow, but—but. yoongi’s stomach curls itself into knots anyway, and he keeps his hands fisted together in his lap to keep himself from—from what?

jeongguk likes when someone plays with his hair, especially when he’s tired or falling asleep. and he wouldn’t know. and the urge, the instinct is so strong within him that yoongi almost gives in. and he remembers—that first night after jeongguk left, and how lonely he felt, and how big his bed was despite never really being able to hold the two of them. and he thinks of every hard day in between, and how he came to believe that jeongguk was someone he would always hate, someone he could never learn to get along with. someone who was so up his own ass that he could practically see out of his own mouth, and here—here is jeongguk. the same jeongguk that he’s always been, maybe, falling asleep on yoongi’s shoulder.

he’s softer like this, when he’s not pretending. yoongi thinks of all that jeongguk said, his explanation—his fear of being hurt, of being right about his accusations. how he’d just wanted an easy way out and had ended up hurting the both of them in the process, and how yoongi had been the one to start the fight, unknowingly. yoongi is at fault for that, too, for letting it drag on for five years, because he was too afraid of thinking that maybe this was his fault all along.

underneath it all, they’re still who they were five years ago. a little harder, a little more bitter. and it’s okay to be hurt by what happened, to be angry. but they don’t have to hate each other—not anymore. they never did have to. he’s been holding onto this for so long and it’s so heavy. it’s so fucking heavy.

yoongi doesn’t know who he is without the anger. doesn’t know how he can possibly put one foot in front of the other and work toward something new with jeongguk, even if it’s just a work relationship, but maybe—maybe.

maybe he doesn’t have to find out alone.

》》》

two days later, yoongi is curled up on the sofa in his own house, flipping through channels on the television when he sees jeongguk. he hasn’t met with jeongguk since the afternoon in the studio, their conversation and netflix and jeongguk falling asleep on his shoulder. maybe it’s something about distance, or maybe jeongguk just needed time to work on other projects. anyway, the natural instinct to pass over the channel and keep himself from having to be irritated at jeongguk laughing and singing on the screen doesn’t come, and yoongi finds his thumb hovering over the remote.

it’s some rerun of a variety show from the previous year, something like weekly idol or running man or one of the others that yoongi doesn’t pay attention to. he puts down the remote, tilting his head as he watches jeongguk on the screen performing one of his songs from his last album. despite having known since he was eighteen years old, yoongi can’t help but marvel at how beautiful jeongguk’s voice is, and how talented he is, and what a good performer he is.

for the first time, he allows himself to acknowledge that. to accept it, without the accompanying anger.

he doesn’t realize how long he’s been watching until he hears footsteps behind him and then someone half-flopping on top of him from the back of the sofa.

“what are you watching?” it’s hoseok.

yoongi, letting hoseok slide over the back of the sofa and slump halfway into his lap, just nods toward the screen. “variety show.”

“is that jeongguk?” there’s a certain disdain in hoseok’s voice, as usual—he hasn’t liked jeongguk since he left, having been the one to deal with the fall out, with a broken yoongi. he can’t blame hoseok for how he feels, considering how yoongi feels.

or—felt, maybe.

“yeah,” says yoongi. “it’s a re-run.”

“and you’re willing watching this? i can’t believe there’s literally nothing else to watch.”

“what, i’m not allowed to watch something with him on it?”

he feels the moment hoseok realizes that yoongi is just watching to watch, not to find new material to drag jeongguk for in the media. the other lifts his head until they can look at each other, and then frowns. “it’s just weird,” says hoseok. “you’re not even saying anything mean about him. not even how stupid his face looks when he sings like that.”

“his face doesn’t look that stupid,” mutters yoongi, decidedly not looking at hoseok as he says it.

“you’re defending him?”

“i’m just saying,” says yoongi, and now he pushes hoseok off of him, scooting away so there’s a foot between them. “there’s no reason to make rude comments about him.”

he can tell hoseok is staring him. the thing is, yoongi was always making rude comments about jeongguk at any chance he got. as soon as someone mentioned his name, it was like inviting yoongi to say as many horrible things as he possibly could. running across jeongguk on a variety show was gold for making fun of his voice, his outfit, the way he would complete challenges. it was practically a favourite pastime of he and hoseok’s.

and now—“what’s gotten into you?” asks hoseok. “i thought you hated him and didn’t want to work with him and everything was stupid and difficult.”

“yeah, me too,” says yoongi. “but i guess—things change.” and have they changed enough over the past few days that it isn’t his first reaction to make fun of jeongguk, to feel that irritation in the pit of his stomach, but rather to find a way to appreciate what the singer does? a single conversation, just trying to understand what went wrong and knowing that he wasn’t the only one to be hurt, has changed this much already.

besides, jeongguk asked him to try not to fight. not making comments behind his back is the first step.

“you’re no fun,” mutters hoseok, and then reaches for the remote and flips the channel anyway. yoongi doesn’t say anything. doesn’t have to.

 

ii.

sometimes we cannot bear the things we crave.
— melissa febos

 

“you know this is like… really dark, right?” asks jeongguk, eyebrows furrowing as he points out a passage of lyrics that yoongi handed over to him. he’d written them in a bit of a frenzy last night, after spending two days trying to hash something out with jeongguk in the studio and making little progress.

“aren’t we trying to come from an honest place with this?” he counters.

“yeah but… take it easy, slowly carve out my heart,” reads jeongguk. “this is the ending you were wishing for, so go on and kill me without hesitating. that’s like—worryingly dark.”

yoongi frowns. “it’s how i feel about this. or—how i’m pretty sure i felt back then.”

“it’s supposed to be a bittersweet love song, not about you wanting me to kill you. and—wait, did you actually feel like this?”

he takes the lyrics back, looking over them. there’s a lot about regret, broken hearts, wanting himself to burn because of the pain. and despite the way jeongguk is looking at him, with that worry and fear in his eyes, he gives a little shrug. “yeah,” admits yoongi. “i told you it really fucked me up. so there you have it. that’s just a taste of how i felt after you left.”

the truth is, he doesn’t think jeongguk gets it quite yet. and yoongi has never been good at putting things into words other than lyrics, so maybe this is how he’s supposed to show jeongguk the truth.

“oh,” says jeongguk quietly. he’s still studying the lyrics, a little crease between his brows as he does so. “i didn’t know it was that bad.”

“you could ask hoseok if you want,” says yoongi. “he’s the one who had to deal with it. at first, it was just like—the fear, you know? i had no idea what had happened to you. and worry, and all of that. and then when it became clear that you’d just left of your own accord, it was a lot of anger and pain. and it didn’t really get better. i didn’t get to say goodbye.”

there’s no such thing as beautiful goodbyes,” jeongguk reads.

“i think one of the worst things is that i didn’t get closure,” he continues. “even after i found out what happened, there was no way for me to move on from it because i had no real explanation and no way to talk to you. i didn’t even know if it was over for good. it was just… waiting for the other shoe to drop. for five years.”

jeongguk is uncomfortable again, he can tell. but maybe that’s what has to happen to really get this out, to understand the situation from each other’s perspective. the conversation was good to hash out some of the worst feelings, but these are the nitty gritty details that have to come out in other ways—for now, it’s in their lyrics.

“it’s, um,” says jeongguk, glancing up at him. “good to know that. i think. just—knowing. sometimes i forget i’m not the only one who got hurt.”

“me too,” admits yoongi.

“i still don’t think we can put this in the song. it’s—they’re good lyrics. i’m just not sure it’s the feeling we’re going for?” jeongguk squirms a little in his chair, biting at his bottom lip again. nervous, nervous. “if—i mean, if that’s okay? i like the lyrics, i promise, i’m not—”

“jeongguk, it’s fine,” says yoongi. “i see where you’re coming from. we don’t have to use them.” it feels strange to have jeongguk be so timid and nervous around him suddenly, having gone from arguing all of the time. it’s clear that he’s trying to be kind and fair and not step on yoongi’s toes, especially when it comes to making the song. he’s trying so hard not to fight that he’s almost being a door mat, but it’s—endearing, strangely. reminds yoongi of when they first met and jeongguk was almost too afraid to look him in the eye, wanting to be liked so badly that he’d do anything to make yoongi happy.

he stops himself from thinking of parallels, taking the page of lyrics back from jeongguk instead.

《《《

“what about this?” asks jeongguk, carefully sliding his notebook across the desk. yoongi looks up from his own work, pursing his lips as he reads and then tilts his head at what he’s seeing.

you can’t do this to me. all of the things you said are like a mask, it hides the truth and rips me apart,” he reads. “isn’t this just as dark as what i gave you the other day?”

“i mean—it’s less about wanting to die.”

“also,” adds yoongi, frowning. “i can clearly see what this is referring to and i don’t want that in the song since i don’t think it’s true.”

at this, jeongguk lets out a groan, getting up from his seat and wandering over to the sofa before flopping down on it.

“what?” asks yoongi.

“that’s not fair,” jeongguk says from across the room. “you can’t keep me from writing lyrics about my side of the story just because you still don’t remember saying it. that’s the only side of the story that i know.”

“i don’t want this song to make me angry every time i listen to it.”

“i don’t want to pretend that i didn’t leave because of you lying to my face every day.”

yoongi—grits his teeth. it’s always going to come back to this, isn’t it? and he’s scoured his memory for days but still can’t come up with anything that points to the fact that he told someone that jeongguk was talentless and wouldn’t succeed. and while he has to be truthful about sometimes resenting jeongguk for being the favourite out of the two of them, he stands by the fact that it didn’t change how he treated the other.

“we’re not putting it in,” he says instead of arguing.

he can practically hear jeongguk roll his eyes. “fine,” says the other. “i’ll just find another way to write it.”

《《《

yoongi narrows his eyes as he reads over the handful of lyrics they’ve actually agreed on for the song. it’s been a week since the conversation and they’ve made some progress, but it’s not enough. most of the time, the lyrics they bring to each other can’t fit into the vibe they’re going for or the other doesn’t like what it brings out—too much anger, too much pain. but it’s all they have at the moment, and at least it’s forcing them to talk things out for once. yoongi has to admit it’s already cathartic.

he’s learned that jeongguk does blame himself for what happened, at least the aftermath, because he couldn’t bring himself to talk to yoongi. but at the same time, he’s hurt because of what he thinks yoongi said and because of the distance between them when yoongi could have been the one to reach out. at least yoongi can agree with that.

“what’s this one?” yoongi asks, turning around in his chair to see jeongguk—sitting on the sofa on his phone. probably gaming. “jeongguk-ah. are you paying attention?”

“yeah, hyung,” mumbles jeongguk distractedly, and yoongi’s heart—does this weird little flip at hearing the word, even if it’s been a week. it’s fine.

you know that i can’t show you me, give you me. i can’t show you my weakness, so i’m putting on a mask to go see you.” yoongi has to admit—they’re good lyrics. they might just fit into the song, the bittersweet sort of feeling that goes with some of the other lyrics they’ve already agreed to give a try. “what’s that referring to?”

jeongguk finally looks up from his phone, eyes wide. “um,” he says. “like—now, kind of? not right now. since we’re—cool now and everything. but before? every time i had to go to an award show that you were at or something. i dunno.” he shrugs, feigning nonchalance as he returns to his phone, although yoongi can tell that he’s not actually paying attention to what’s on it and waiting for yoongi’s response.

and yoongi—sits back in his chair, frowning at the lyrics. he thinks about every time they’ve been forced into the same room in the past five years—all of the awards shows, performances, even some variety shows. and how jeongguk was always this cocky little shit around him, rubbing his success in yoongi’s face while being charming and polite to everyone else. and how that was the one thing that kept yoongi’s anger fuelled for those five years, and how it was the one thing that kept him irritated and upset and made him want to say horrible things in the media.

and he realizes—it was all an act. he believed that jeongguk hadn’t been hurt at all by what happened between them because he always seemed happy to glean right over it and upset yoongi however he could, but he was just pretending. of course he was pretending.

“we’re such idiots,” mutters yoongi. “we’ve just been fighting with each other through the media for five years because we’ve both thought that the other would take extending an olive branch as weakness and use it as an excuse to be even more awful.”

“i knew you hated me,” says jeongguk quietly. “and i spent five years trying to prove you wrong for what you said about me. i thought you were rooting against me and didn’t want me to do well, so i had to do as well as i could. and i couldn’t show that i was struggling or unhappy or hurt by your words because that would just give you the satisfaction of knowing that you were right.”

yoongi wants to argue with it, but he knows that the yoongi from only a few months ago would have done exactly what jeongguk said. he wanted any excuse to be angry at jeongguk, spiralling out from their actual relationship.

but now—now.

“i used to think that none of this affected you,” admits yoongi. “i didn’t know why you left, but i guess i assumed it was because you didn’t want to be with me anymore and you just fucked off instead talking to me about it. and i imagined that you were having a grand old time with your new company and new friends and everything, and then everything you’ve said about me over the past five years has just proven that.”

“i was acting, hyung,” whispers jeongguk.

“i can see that now. i think i have re-evaluate the past five years now.”

“yeah, me too.”

they both fucked up. and they both got hurt, and maybe they could be in it together rather than trying to fight about it. they can’t try to move on separately. somehow, it’s an epiphany.

yoongi turns back to the lyrics jeongguk gave him. “we might be able to work with these,” he says. “i’ll put them in the maybe pile.” when he looks back to jeongguk on the sofa, he doesn’t miss the little grin on the younger’s face.

《《《

“even loneliness turns into something you can… can…,” mumbles yoongi, stretching his neck as he looks over the ideas he’s gotten down in the past few hours. “even loneliness is something you can… see.” he frowns, writing down the last word before sighing and putting down the notebook entirely.

“that kind of goes with what i have,” says jeongguk from across the room—in his own chair, yoongi on the sofa. they work well together, it turns out, even after all this time.

“what do you have?” asks yoongi.

“um—don’t wanna lonely, just wanna be yours.

yoongi tilts his head, sliding down the sofa a few more inches. the theme of loneliness seems to be something that is running through their proposed lyrics so far—they seem to be heading toward the idea of separation, the pain of it, the anger. the loneliness, too. it’s what keeps coming up, and he knows it’s because it’s one of the things they have in common when it comes to their relationship.

“it could work,” he agrees. “i want to say fuck it and put it in anyway because our pile of maybe lyrics is too small. we’ve been working on these for two weeks already.” two weeks since the conversation. they’re making progress, but not enough.

“i still think we don’t have a concrete enough theme,” admits jeongguk. “we have the anger and pain and stuff, but we’re just throwing out lyrics about how we feel rather than really telling a story. we need a better direction.”

yoongi groans. he hates the brainstorming process, just wants to write from the heart—whatever that might be. but a collaboration means he can’t just write what he wants and expect jeongguk to be okay with that. he did that once already, and it didn’t go over well.

“look, we’ve been here for a few hours. maybe we should call it a day?” jeongguk says. “we can take the night to try to think on it ourselves and figure it out the next time we meet up. i think i’ve had writer’s block for two days anyway.”

they’ve accumulated enough lyrics between the two of them to write three songs already, he’s sure. but that doesn’t mean he can just fit them together like puzzle pieces. and this process hasn’t been all for nought, at least—it’s been cathartic, forcing them to discuss the ending of their relationship even further. it’s forced him to see that jeongguk is a talented songwriter, that he knows what he’s doing.

but there’s still something missing. and yoongi can’t figure out what. they have good lyrics here, all of the anger and pain that they discussed two weeks ago, but for some reason, they can’t seem to make a proper song about it.

maybe taking a day or two without scrutinizing the lyrics will help with that, giving them fresh eyes once they come back. yoongi’s back hurts, anyway, from sitting in his goddamn chair for two weeks straight, and he knows hoseok and taehyung have been complaining about the amount of time he’s spent in the studio, as though he has anything else to do.

“okay,” agrees yoongi. “why don’t we take a few days, just a break? i’ll try to fit some of the lyrics together, but we should probably get some fresh air. and we should probably see other people.” it comes out—wrong. jeongguk kind of looks over at him with confusion for a second before he must understand what yoongi is trying to say, and then he just nods.

when jeongguk leaves, yoongi looks over the lyrics again, at everything they’ve come up in the past few weeks. it’s all good, and all raw and real. but he doesn’t know how to make it work like he normally can. it shouldn’t be that hard to make a song about what happened between them, not when it’s been all that has consumed him for five years.

he takes a break to grab something to eat from the café on the ground floor of first star, craning his neck the whole way. he’s pretty sure he actually hurt it from working over the past few weeks, or maybe he’s just gotten old—and wouldn’t hoseok and taehyung just love to hear him say that?

“yoongi-ssi,” he hears, startling yoongi out of his thoughts. he turns to see namjoon sitting at one of the tables in the café, and he waves the older over. somewhat confused, yoongi joins him.

“how’s the collab going?” asks namjoon once he sits, and it’s reminiscent of when jimin asked before this whole thing started. this time, yoongi has no urge to give anyone the finger.

“good, actually,” he admits, keenly aware that namjoon doesn’t like him so much and will probably tell jeongguk everything he says. namjoon did give him advice on how to proceed almost a month ago, and even if it hadn’t quite worked out the way he had hoped, at least namjoon has been trying to help. “we’ve got some lyrics down, although i was hoping to be further in the process by now.”

“that’s good,” agrees namjoon, picking at the muffin in front of him. “i’m glad to hear that you’re actually getting along. i’ve been speaking to jeongguk a lot, and he seems—good with it. happy that you’re working well together.”

it can be frustrating. the song-writing process is frustrating, at least when they’re trying to come from two different perspectives but meet in the middle. and although he and jeongguk still argue sometimes, it tends to be over lyrics rather than some outside reason, like their relationship. he hasn’t seen jeongguk smile so much in the past few weeks, but at least it’s promising to hear this from namjoon’s own mouth.

“um, good,” says yoongi.

“what are you having trouble with, if you don’t mind me asking?”

yoongi does mind. but he answers anyway—“it just feels like something is missing from all of the lyrics we’ve come up with. i think we could make a song out of what we have, but it’s a little… empty. i suggested taking a few days off to try to figure it out on our own, but i don’t know if it’s going to work.”

namjoon makes a little hm noise, sticking a chunk of his muffin in his mouth. “what are you writing about?”

“it’s a love song,” says yoongi automatically. “well—a bit of an angry one. bittersweet.”

“classic,” says namjoon, grinning. “what do you have so far?”

“the angry part,” says yoongi, and then—stops. of course. he and jeongguk have been writing solely through their pain and anger with the situation and each other, when all along, they’ve wanted to write a song that wasn’t just about the anger, but about the euphoria of a relationship, too. something can’t be bittersweet without the sweet. they’ve been writing about the aftermath when there was a whole two years of something else before that.

he gets up suddenly, knowing exactly what he has to do.

“sorry,” he says when he sees the confused look namjoon is giving him. “i just—figured it out. i have to go. thanks!” he turns and leaves the café, hurrying back toward the stairs so that he can head right back to his studio, leaving a confused namjoon and his muffin behind.

yoongi doesn’t contact jeongguk right away—he grabs the lyrics they’ve come up with instead, rifling through them and finding the few that they decided would be perfect for the song they were going for. there’s something he wrote about jeongguk leaving him, about hating jeongguk but choosing to erase him instead of being angry because it would hurt less. that’s the feeling they’re going for, but there’s something else in there that made him think that it would be a good fit—it’s the longing. the remembrance of what they had before, the knowledge that he doesn’t want to hate jeongguk because what they had was so good, and so right.

they’ve been writing from the distance of five years, choosing to focus only on the hatred and pain and anger. but before that, there was something else. before that, there was something more.

yoongi stands for a moment before he remembers. he remembers writing so many lyrics after jeongguk left, desperately trying to get all of his pain and sadness and longing out the only way he knew how. crying was one thing, but pouring his heart out into lyrics was better.

he heads for the drawers in his desk, going through everything in them as he searches for the notebook he knows he’s kept. he’s kept all of the lyrics he’s written over the past eight or so years since getting signed with first star, and even before then. and then—there. he finds the notebook, pulling out and flipping it open before he sinks into his desk chair. the marks on the pages are—angry. but it’s a sad sort of anger, a resigned sort of anger. as he reads the lyrics he wrote once upon a time, yoongi knows what’s missing. it’s right here.

it’s only winter here, he’s written. even in august, winter is here.

yoongi grabs his phone, ready to dial jeongguk’s number and bring him back so they can hash out the rest of the lyrics with this new idea: to bring in the happiness, to bring in the utter longing they felt when they were first separated. they’re not writing as people who were in love for two years.

but.

he pauses.

for the past five years, he’s seen jeongguk has someone he wants to hate, wants to hurt. he’s forgotten about the boy he was when they were teenagers, the one he fell in love with. the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. it’s taken this past month to be able to uncover the truth about what happened between them and to work through some of that anger and pain, to at least be able to accept that he wasn’t the only one who got hurt. he has to be able to see the person that jeongguk really is, and jeongguk has to see the person that yoongi really is.

nothing is ever so easy.

if he wants to write about the good, he has to see it first. he has to remember it.

with a deep breath, he finds jeongguk’s number. he presses call.

《《《

“god, i haven’t been here in… five years,” breathes jeongguk, wide eyes staring up at the battered old building before him.

“me too,” says yoongi. “i’m kind of surprised it’s still open.”

it looks like it shouldn’t be—one of the windows is boarded up and the sign is a bit crooked, but he had googled it and apparently it’s still running strong, after all this time. still just as shitty, but just as hilariously endearing. an old haunt, or an old memory. yoongi feels it all rushing to meet him now, as he stands where he stood so many times before.

“do you think they still sell those really bad nachos?” asks jeongguk next, turning to look at him with that smile—all bunny teeth and bright eyes, and yoongi tries to keep a straight face. “the ones with the cheese that gave you—”

“shut up,” huffs yoongi, cutting him off with a pink tint to his cheeks. he takes off for the door, not wanting to listen to anything jeongguk has to say about this place. “let’s just go in.”

“wait, hyung,” giggles jeongguk, hurrying after him. “do you have the—stuff?”

yoongi pauses at the door, turning to look at jeongguk over his shoulder before wiggling his shoulders a little, intending to draw attention to the backpack he’s wearing. “you make it sound like we have cocaine in here or something,” he says, and then leaves a sputtering jeongguk as he heads into the building.

it’s a bowling alley—a glow in the dark bowling alley, although the glow in the dark part is a little questionable. for the most part, they just turn off the lights and there’s a faint glow to anything white they wear, but there are weird strobe lights anyway so it defeats the purpose. and there are only two lanes anyway, plus some terrible food and drink counter with stale candy and those horrible nachos that did give yoongi something once.

as yoongi steps inside, he sees that absolutely nothing about the bowling alley has changed in the past five years. the shitty motivation cat posters are still on the wall in the entrance, and the same bowling uniforms are for sale hanging on the coat rack. with some disdain, yoongi even sees the same old man sitting at the food counter.

“holy shit, did that guy even move in the past five years?” asks jeongguk, giggling as he dips down so he can speak in yoongi’s ear—a little too close for comfort, and yoongi shrugs him away. “he might be dead. i think you should go check.”

“don’t be rude, jeongguk-ah,” yoongi chastises, but—he was thinking the same thing, just a little. anyway, the old man isn’t dead, and he hands over two pairs of bowling shoes for yoongi and jeongguk to take, not even blinking twice. yoongi’s a little miffed that they’re not recognized, although they did deck themselves out in face masks and hats so they wouldn’t be recognized on the way over. he’s not sure the old man even pays attention to current music, anyway.

“here,” says yoongi as he reaches jeongguk on the other side of the room, by the second bowling lane—their bowling lane. he tries not to think of it like that after all this time, but he can’t help it. can’t help seeing all of it: how jeongguk once pinched his finger on the bowling balls badly enough that he wouldn’t stop crying and made yoongi kiss said finger every three seconds as though yoongi’s lips had healing powers. or the time the nachos did make him sick. or—

“how long has it been since you last bowled, hyung?” asks jeongguk, already grinning that shit-eating grin as he puts on the bowling shoes.

yoongi makes a face. “probably since the last time we came here,” he admits. and when was that? he can’t remember now—just knows that it was long before jeongguk left, because they’d started falling apart long before that, and this was their spot but even they didn’t have time for it. he’s glad, maybe, that they didn’t have time to ruin this memory before the end, too.

jeongguk just grins, wide and wide, the same brat he was when he was nineteen—and yoongi has to marvel at how different he is here than in the studio, when he’s nervously giving yoongi lyrics he’s written about their relationship, just wanting to do well. this is the jeongguk he knows so well, all too eager to kick ass in bowling and eat bad candy because it’s just like old times, yoongi-hyung!

“don’t get too cocky, though,” says yoongi as he slips on his own shoes, setting the backpack down on the nearest chair. “i’ve always been the lucky one.”

“luck can’t trump skill, though.”

“that’s what you think.”

“that’s what i know. besides, your luck will just get worse and worse the longer this game goes on.” jeongguk cocks a brow, and then nods toward the backpack. and—yoongi almost forgot. when he’s suggested hanging out outside of the studio and jeongguk had shyly asked if they could go bowling, for old time’s sake, he hadn’t expected that they would do everything like old time’s sake. but here’s a backpack full of alcohol anyway. against his will, yoongi remembers the time they got drunk enough bowling for jeongguk to drag him into the bathroom and give him a very messy, very loud blowjob.

yoongi shakes his head, shakes the memory right out. then he opens the backpack, takes out the water bottles conveniently filled with soju, and hands one to jeongguk.

“may the best bowler win,” he says.

“oh, i will,” replies jeongguk. then he winks, and leaves yoongi to untie the knots in his stomach.

it’s a drinking game they came up with—although he’s sure plenty of other people have similar bowling drinking games. yoongi always lost, because jeongguk is actually good at bowling and never had to drink as much as yoongi, but he drank anyway, and it was more a test to see who could get the other drunk faster. and it’s always risking sneaking alcohol into the alley in the first place, but the old man at the counter doesn’t seem to be paying attention, so yoongi isn’t worried.

but maybe—he’s nervous. not about getting caught, but about jeongguk, about this. about doing something that friends do outside of the studio, not even bothering to discuss the song. which is the point, because he knows they need to get comfortable enough with each other to hash out a real song, and they have to remember what it was like to be friends if they want to write about it. alcohol seemed like the best way to do it at the time, but he already takes a sip of his drink as jeongguk heads up to the lane, rolling up his sleeves and grabbing one of the bowling balls.

suddenly, yoongi remembers why he never complained about going bowling even if he always sucked at it. he’d just liked watching jeongguk do it, liked the veins in his arms, liked the cocky way he pointed to the score whenever he got a strike. fuck, he thinks. he’s going to need more alcohol.

he sits and watches as jeongguk goes first, only ending with two pins not knocked down, which earns him only two sips from his drink. it’s a bit unfair, although jeongguk grins at him as he does take two sips from his water bottle and then gestures for yoongi to go next.

“a little rusty, i see,” says yoongi. “two pins up? you’ve lost your touch, jeongguk-ah.”

“fuck off,” he says. “i’d like to see you do better.”

“watch and learn, pretty boy.”

with that, yoongi turns to the lane and grabs one of the balls himself. then he walks (waddles) up to the line, spreads his legs, and heaves the ball down the lane.

“you still throw like that?” calls jeongguk, already laughing before yoongi turns around and gives him the finger. “you look like a gremlin.”

“i’m gonna get a strike!” he calls, and then turns back to the lane to see the ball—in the gutter. jeongguk starts laughing, of course, and yoongi is glad the lighting is so goddamn low so that no one can see how his cheeks burn with it before he grabs another ball and sends it flying down the lane. his methods might be a little off, or maybe he’s not just not the best at bowling—he does get four of the pins down anyway, and only has to take six sips of his drink. he sneaks in another for good measure, just because jeongguk is still giggling and he hates it, hates the way his heart keeps doing weird things when it shouldn’t.

it only takes two more turns for jeongguk to get his first strike, and yoongi lets out a loud fuck as he does, not even bothering to look over at the old man who is surely upset with two grown men being loud in his alley.

jeongguk, still giggling, hurries over to yoongi and grabs the water bottle, practically shoving the end of it into yoongi’s mouth and tipping it back. “ten seconds, hyung!” he laughs, pouring the soju into yoongi’s mouth and it’s gross and he’s trying not to laugh too, batting at jeongguk’s wrist before the other finally relents and puts the water bottle down.

yoongi—swallows. and then makes a face, sticking his tongue out in disgust. “we should have chosen different drinks to start,” he says. “i’m not drunk enough for this.”

“you will be soon,” says jeongguk, gesturing to the now almost-finished water bottle. jeongguk’s, meanwhile, is hardly a quarter finished, and yoongi scowls before he gets up and heads for the lane.

he sways only a little, still confident in his skills as he grabs the ball and uses as much precision as possible to send it (slowly) rolling toward the pins. “is it just me or is that not moving at all?” he asks after a few seconds, to which jeongguk giggles behind him.

“you’re really bad at this.”

“just because you’re good at everything!”

the ball knocks down all but three of the pins, to his surprise. maybe being drunk actually makes him better at the game, and he sticks his tongue out at jeongguk over his shoulder before he grabs another ball and sends that flying down the lane as well. and—miraculously, it knocks over the remaining three pins.

jeongguk stops laughing.

ha,” says yoongi, turning and stomping over to the younger before grabbing his water bottle and shoving it in his face. “spare. five seconds. drink up, bitch.”

it goes on much the same way for the better part of an hour, getting increasingly more difficult and increasingly sloppy. jeongguk keeps getting strikes or spares even when he drinks more alcohol, and yoongi keeps lobbing the balls straight into the gutter or having them stop halfway down the lane because he doesn’t even give it enough power in the beginning. he’s definitely drunk more than jeongguk, but he’s always been able to hold his alcohol better, so he’d guess that they’re almost as drunk as each other by the time they’re on the last frame and giggling uncontrollably as yoongi digs more alcohol out of the backpack.

“s’your turn,” says jeongguk, gesturing toward the lane as yoongi gets up from his seat and nearly trips on his way up. that makes him giggle even more—and he was never really a giggly drunk, but maybe it’s because jeongguk is giggling too, and his eyes are so bright even in the darkness of the room, and his hair is a mess because he keeps putting his hands in it and yoongi kind of wants to put his hands in it too—

yoongi grabs one of the balls, huffing at how heavy it before he gets up to the line, swings his arms back, and then—completely falls over, slipping somehow with the weight of the ball causing him to careen sideways.

he hits the ground with an oof, the ball practically cradled between his legs.

and then—jeongguk starts howling with laughter behind him, the carefree sort of laughter that yoongi hasn’t heard in years. it makes his heart ache, suddenly, but then he’s laughing too, spurred on by the sounds of jeongguk practically crying with it. and it hurts a little and it must be the alcohol, all of it consumed in such a short period of time. he must have been sipping even when he wasn’t bowling because it’s making his head spin and he can’t quite see straight, but anyway. anyway.

jeongguk’s laughter has always been music to his ears, and the most beautiful song he could think of. maybe that’s the answer to their problem—they should just put jeongguk’s laughter on the track. he could make it his alarm in the morning.

“hyung,” laughs jeongguk, and yoongi hears him stumbling over, still laughing before jeongguk collapses on his knees beside him, hands on his shoulders, his arms. “are you okay?”

with a groan, yoongi lets out a few more giggles and then rolls over until he can see jeongguk beside him, tears in his eyes from how hard he’s laughing. “no,” he says.

“you’re an idiot,” says jeongguk. “let go of the fucking ball.”

yoongi hadn’t realized he’d still been holding onto it. but then he does; it hits the floor with a thunk, and for some reason, that makes him laugh again. he’s here. he’s here and the point of this was to remember the good parts, but now he can’t remember much of anything and this was probably a bad idea. he has no idea what he’s doing, but there’s jeongguk—lovely, beautiful jeongguk. he loves jeongguk. loved. he doesn’t know anymore.

why did it take him this long to remember?

“c’mon,” giggles jeongguk, getting to his feet again and holding out a hand for yoongi take. the older does, trying to coordinate it properly as jeongguk hauls him to his feet—with a little more force than necessary, and yoongi stumbles right into jeongguk, still giggling as their chests bump together and he sways, sways. jeongguk is still holding onto him and he thinks—this is familiar, too. this is all so familiar.

and yoongi thinks—he misses this. he misses jeongguk. it wasn’t just about losing his boyfriend, losing the person he wanted to spend forever with. he lost his best friend, lost the one person he could tell anything to, who understood his dreams and fears. he lost the person he could do anything with, the person he did this with; yoongi hasn’t been happy for five years.

because the only person he could truly be happy with was jeongguk.

and it hits him now, as he’s drunk and clutching onto jeongguk’s hand. it hits him and it hits him. and the well opens up, just like that: it’s not about the anger. it’s not about the pain, but the sorrow, the longing. he knows what they have to write their song about.

“jeongguk-ah,” he begins, looking up at the younger man, who is staring down at him, and—

“you’re drunk!” yoongi stumbles away, suddenly, realizes that jeongguk pushed him away like he was burning to the touch, and they both look over to see the old man hobbling toward them. “i can tell. get out! you’re drunk!”

yoongi stares at the old man. and, inexplicably, he says, “i’m min yoongi.”

“i said, get out!

it’s jeongguk who giggles first, because he’s always giggling, and he says, “i don’t think he knows who you are, hyung,” and yoongi is—offended.

“i’m famous,” he tells the old man, ignoring jeongguk giggling at him and grabbing the backpack and then grabbing yoongi’s hand, trying to tug him toward the door. “you can’t kick me out! i’m famous.”

“hyung,” says jeongguk, tugging harder on his wrist, and yoongi has no choice but to go with him, still frowning at the old man.

“i could sue you!” shouts yoongi. “i’ll set my company on you!”

“hyung, stop.

“but i’m famous, jeonggukkie.”

“i know, hyung,” and he pulls yoongi out of the bowling alley, letting the door fall shut behind them. it takes a moment for yoongi realize they’re still wearing the bowling shoes that they borrowed, and it feels funny. he frowns down at them, wiggling his toes before he takes them off entirely, reaching down to grab the shoes and toss them at the door.

“fuck you!” he shouts. “you don’t fuck with yin moongi!”

“min yoongi, hyung.”

“yeah, that’s what i said.”

jeongguk, still giggling, begins tugging him down the street. they’re both swaying, not quite walking straight, and yoongi has no idea where they’re going, but he trusts jeongguk. how strange—he trusts jeongguk. yoongi is the older one, but jeongguk was always good at taking care of him anyway, especially like this.

it’s only once they’ve walked a block that yoongi realizes they’re still holding hands. and it’s—good. they fit like this. always did.

“where are we going, gukkie?” asks yoongi, stumbling along beside the other. he’s going slower and jeongguk is kind of dragging him because he’s tired, and he wanted to go bowling. now he’s suddenly forgotten what they were supposed to do and what the point of this was because he’s drunk and—jeongguk is holding his hand.

the younger hums, taking a swig of the alcohol still in his hand. that’s probably illegal, yoongi thinks.

“i have an idea,” says jeongguk, slurring his words a little, and yoongi just holds onto his hand a little tighter as he lets the other lead the way.

they end up at a park near the bowling alley—and this is familiar, too. yoongi and jeongguk liked to find obscure little places to hang out, considering they had to be careful about who saw them together, at least as more than just friends. it led them to places like this: run down parts of town, less crowded, less known. the park is just another familiar haunt, and it hasn’t changed in five years, either.

yoongi drags them to the swings, plopping down in the only one that isn’t broken, and then says, “push me, jeonggukkie.”

“why don’t you push me,” says jeongguk, although the younger moves behind him anyway, grabbing hold of the side of the swing with both hands.

“because you’re heavier than me and i’m drunk and you always used to push me.” it’s true—jeongguk liked trying to push him so hard that he wrapped all the way around the top bar of the swing set, which never happened, but he always threatened it, and yoongi would scream bloody murder because he was terrified of it. and jeongguk was just a brat.

still is, because—“bet i can get you wrapped around the top,” says jeongguk.

no,” says yoongi. “fuck you, i wanna get off—” but jeongguk is already pulling yoongi backwards, lifting him off of the ground, and he’s laughing—of course he’s laughing—and yoongi lets out a scream already, spurred on by the alcohol and the rush of nostalgia and everything, everything.

jeongguk,” cries yoongi, and jeongguk is still laughing. “i swear to fucking god i will kick your ass so hard, you’ll feel it in your throat—”

“so aggressive, hyung,” huffs jeongguk from behind him, and he finally stops walking but yoongi is practically six feet off of the ground, held all the way back. jeongguk is really going to fucking murder him.

and then jeongguk gives what yoongi can only describe as a battle cry before he runs forward, pushing yoongi all the way, and yoongi shrieks, closing his eyes as the wind rushes through him. he doesn’t wrap around the top bar, but he does get high enough to make his stomach swoop, and jeongguk cackles as he lets go of the swing and runs forward enough to turn around and watch the spectacle.

yoongi’s stomach swoops as the swing reaches its peak and then goes hurtling backward again, and he yells, “i fucking hate you, jeon jeongguk!” because the truth is, he never really liked swings, but jeongguk was always so keen on pushing him that he agreed to it every time, and he seemed to have forgotten his fear in the midst of his drunkenness, and maybe he’s actually not drunk enough for this—

“hardly,” jeongguk calls back, giggling. “you used to be in love with me.”

he chooses not to focus on it, instead clinging to the swing for dear life as it continues back and forth, back and forth. opening his eyes at one point, he sees jeongguk reaching for the backpack he’d left on the sand and taking another bottle out. yoongi wants it.

“i’m getting off!” he shouts. “look out.”

“hyung, no,” says jeongguk. “y’have to wait until it’s stopped.”

i’m getting off!” yoongi repeats, louder this time, and the swing is far from being slow enough for it but he waits until it’s reached its peak again, out and out, and then he launches himself off of the swing—and directly onto jeongguk—with another shriek.

they collide painfully and crumple to the ground, and yoongi is still kind of screaming even when he’s hit the ground but—somehow, he can still feel the rush of it, and his heart is beating too fast and then he realizes that he’s on top of jeongguk and jeongguk is kind of just lying there, groaning. and yoongi lifts his head long enough to make sure that jeongguk isn’t bleeding before he steals the alcohol from the other’s hand and downs half of in one go, smacking his lips after.

“that was fun,” he says, crawling off of jeongguk and waiting for the other to get up before he grabs the backpack and marches away from the swing set—too dangerous for drunk people, probably. they shouldn’t be drinking like this anyway, but there’s no one around and it’s dark enough that they won’t be caught anyway.

jeongguk catches up with him easily enough, stealing the alcohol back.

“you could have broken your legs,” jeongguk tells him.

“i could have broken your legs,” yoongi counters.

“i’m tough. tiny hyung can’t hurt me.”

yoongi, to prove him wrong, gives him a swift kick in the shins and then runs away laughing to keep jeongguk from retaliating. jeongguk follows him, laughing, and somehow, they end up in a heap under a massive tree in the middle of the park, passing the last bottle of soju back and forth. and it’s nice, maybe, to let loose for once. so much of their lives now are spent being careful and watchful and working, working. belatedly, yoongi realizes he probably should have told someone where they were going.

but it’s too good like this—just the two of them, how it used to be.

“i can’t believe we got kicked out of the bowling alley,” says jeongguk, leaning against the tree with this dopey grin on his face—his eyes are all glossy and his cheeks are red, and he’s drunk. he’s drunk, but so is yoongi. it could be worse. “we gave half of our life savings to that place and it’s betrayed us.”

“i think it’s a sign that we need to find somewhere new to go,” says yoongi. “it’s a thing of the past.”

“remember the first time we went?” and yoongi does—they hadn’t meant to find the bowling alley, but rather some new restaurant that hoseok had recommended. except the gps has led them to a place far from the restaurant and they’d walked into that bowling alley instead, and despite not being their plans for the afternoon, they’d decided to take a chance on it. that’s a bit how their entire relationship went—always stumbling into something new without meaning to, but having that something new be a pretty little gem, perfect for them.

yoongi finishes the last of the alcohol before he says, “didn’t you almost send a ball through the wall because you didn’t know your own strength?”

“it’s not my fault those balls are somehow lighter than the ones i’m used to,” argues jeongguk.

“sure. fucking incredible hulk or whatever.”

with a giggle, jeongguk says, “we did spend a lot of time there. oh, and—um. the bowling alley near the old dorm. remember that one?”

“why the fuck did we go fucking bowling so much?”

“because,” says jeongguk with a little shrug, “you’d do anything to make me happy. and bowling made me happy.”

yoongi looks at him carefully. looks at the glaze of his eyes, but the grin that hasn’t gone away, and normally, he might tease jeongguk for it. but a drunk yoongi isn’t in the mood, and he just sighs, flopping onto his back so he can stare up at the black sky.

“i would,” he admits. “god, like that time i spent all of my money on that fucking iron man suit thing that ended up breaking after four seconds. maybe i can sue that guy.”

jeongguk giggles again—he’s a giggly drunk—as he carefully joins yoongi on the ground, lying side by side and scooting over until they’re pressed arm to arm.

“it was a very nice thought, though,” he says. “you know i appreciated it.”

“but it broke!”

“to be fair, i probably wasn’t supposed to try to put it on. it was just supposed to be a look, don’t touch sort of thing.”

“you still like iron man?” it’s horrible that yoongi has to ask. that he’s second-guessing what he knows about jeongguk, whom he used to know like the back of his hand. whom he used to know better than himself.

jeongguk hums. “you can’t drop iron man,” he says. “i’m in it for life.”

“fucking nerd,” sighs yoongi, and then lets out a giggle as he lolls his head to look over at jeongguk beside him, staring up at the sky. the buzz of the alcohol is still strong, keeping him sort of hazy as he marvels at jeongguk’s side profile, not for the first time. he’s really not the kid that yoongi used to know, not anymore, at least not on the outside—but he’s always going to be the same person on the inside. obsessed with iron man, stupidly athletic, a brat. but soft, too, and a little shy sometimes. just wanting to do his best.

“do you remember,” says jeongguk, and then giggles again—“do you remember the last halloween, when i wanted to dress up as iron man because i always dress up as iron man, but you insisted we dress up as the joker and harley quinn?”

“yeah, like every basic couple in the entire world,” says yoongi, but he’s thinking of the pictures he has in the jeongguk folder of that night. “you looked hot in that daddy’s little monster outfit or whatever.”

jeongguk snorts. “i know,” he says. “you wouldn’t stop trying to fuck me in the middle of the first star party.”

excuse you,” says yoongi, rolling over so he can smack jeongguk in the chest. “if my memory serves me right, you were the one who was trying to be gross and dirty when moon was there. i thought he was going to kick us out of the company for sure.”

he doesn’t try to deny it, which is probably a sign that yoongi is right, but jeongguk grabs his wrist anyway, tugging him over until yoongi is forced to roll and collide with jeongguk’s side, half lying on top of his chest.

“it was kind of fun trying to keep it a secret,” says jeongguk. “i mean, it sucked a lot of the time, but it was thrilling at the same time.”

“i know you liked it,” says yoongi, squishing his cheek into jeongguk’s chest. “you used to see how far you could get with touching my butt in public before someone noticed.” he feels jeongguk’s chest shake with laughter under his head, can’t help his own little grin.

the laughter dies, though. and then yoongi is just thinking about what it was like, and reminiscing is fun until he realizes there’s this ache in his chest when he thinks about it too much, when he remembers. there was so much good in their relationship: the fun, secret dates. kissing jeongguk good morning and goodnight. dreaming and dreaming and dreaming. but the fact that it was good just makes him miss it more, and in his drunk mind—that’s all there is to it.

“i miss you,” yoongi whispers.

“i’m right here,” jeongguk whispers back.

“no,” and yoongi wraps his arm around jeongguk’s waist now, hugging it as he closes his eyes and tries to not fucking cry like a drunk idiot, but he was always sort of emotional when he’s drunk and he can’t stop thinking about it. can’t stop remembering the good times, and jeongguk laughing just like this, and how this fucking tree is the same fucking tree they used to sit under and talk about the future back when they were together. and how stupid is that, and how much he wants to run away from it even though he can’t. “i’m not as angry about it anymore, but that means i’m just sad. i’m so sad, gukkie.”

it takes him a moment too long to realize jeongguk is playing with his hair. just gently, just softly—running his hands through yoongi’s locks, in comfort. yoongi has to blink away tears.

“don’t be sad, hyung,” says jeongguk.

“i can’t fucking—help it,” says yoongi. “we could have had this for five years, but we didn’t, because we were stupid and young and messed it up. but i miss—having someone to talk to and be with. i miss going to shitty bowling alleys and drinking in parks. i dunno.”

“it was good, wasn’t it,” says jeongguk, just quiet. just soft. “we were good together.”

“we were really good together.” they were. they were. yoongi knows that much. and it hurts more to acknowledge it, to think that there has been so much that they’ve been missing, all because they’ve been too afraid to reach out and change things. because they’ve both misunderstood and miscommunicated. there’s that ache again, he thinks. there’s that feeling that he’s missed five years of his life, and five years that he won’t get back.

“sometimes i worry that i’ve romanticized it too much,” says jeongguk, fingers threading through yoongi’s hair. “you know, that we actually had more problems than i remember and we weren’t actually that good for each other. but just—it’s this. tonight has been more fun than i’ve had for five years. we’re still good together, hyung.”

he wants jeongguk to be wrong. he wants jeongguk to be wrong so fucking badly, but yoongi knows he isn’t—because he’s felt it, too, felt like they haven’t been apart at all. their jagged edges still fit together perfectly. the banter and fun is second nature now, and even this—this comfort, this easy speech—shouldn’t make sense, not for two people who have spent five years apart and spent all five of those years being angry at each other.

but it’s like this was meant to be. like they’re meant to be.

and isn’t that fucking terrifying?

“there’s so much, gukkie,” whispers yoongi. “there’s just so much to work through. i don’t know how to do it anymore. i’m not angry, but how do i deal with all of this sadness and aching and longing? how do i do it?”

“you don’t do it alone. we can do it together.”

yoongi sniffs, tears prickling at his eyes. “tell me something good again.”

there’s a pause, and then—“this is probably the happiest i’ve been in five years.”

“that’s not,” sniffs yoongi, lifting his head so he can look up at jeongguk, “something good, you asshole. that makes me sadder.”

“but we’re not going to go to back to how it was before,” says jeongguk. “so you don’t have to worry about me going back to how i was before. right? we’re—we’re gonna be friends again, or something?”

he’s looking at yoongi with so much pleading that it almost breaks yoongi’s heart. “yeah,” he says. “yeah, of course. we’re not going to go back to hating each other and being mean in the media.”

“because it was good,” says jeongguk. “we just forgot. we were happy together, weren’t we?”

yoongi thinks—gonna marry you so fucking hard. jeongguk’s raspy, morning voice. how easy he’d said it, how certain he’d been of it.

“thought i was gonna spend the rest of my life with you,” says yoongi, and is it the alcohol or is he just sick of not being honest with himself and jeongguk—“you were it for me, you know? nothing has made me happier.”

jeongguk frowns, a little crease appearing between his brows, and yoongi can’t help it—he reaches out, trying to smooth out the line with his thumb. “don’t be sad,” he whispers. “don’t want you to be sad, gukkie.”

“i’m always sad, hyung,” jeongguk whispers back. “always sad without you.”

“i’m right here,” says yoongi, and it’s what jeongguk said before, and it’s true. they’re going to overcome everything between them and start anew and they’ll never have to be sad about this again, not when they can fix it somehow. not when they can work it out. it’s hard hard hard, but it’s worth it. it has to be worth it.

“remember the songs we made together before?” asks jeongguk, eyes wide and wanting—“why can’t the this one be like that one?”

“because,” says yoongi, “we’re not the same people we were back then. we’re not in love anymore.”

he sees something flash in jeongguk’s eyes—something like hurt, maybe, but that doesn’t make sense. the truth is that he doesn’t know why this song is so difficult to work out, but he’s hoping that having spent this time together will help. understanding that there was something good, too, that their relationship was never just about the ending. if they want to write a song about what happened, they have to write about the good parts, too.

“what do we write about, then?” asks jeongguk. “what do we write about if we can’t write about the anger and we can’t write about being in love?”

and yoongi says—“this.” he says, “we write about what we’re feeling right now. remembering the good parts, but knowing that there are all of the bad parts, too. and missing each other and not knowing how to deal with it and not knowing what to do. but longing. and hoping. and hoping that—it won’t be this winter forever.”

it’s only winter here. even in august, winter is here.

jeongguk seems to think on it for a moment, and then says, “spring.”

“what?”

“i got it, hyung,” and he looks at yoongi and he’s grinning, grinning—“we write about spring. and waiting for the good to come back. it has the bitterness of winter, but the sweetness of summer. this is our spring, hyung. we’re melting.”

it shouldn’t be funny, but—yoongi can’t help giggling. he’s still half drunk, thinking about melting. and jeongguk looks at him confused for a second, then something more—something like fondness, but yoongi doesn’t dwell on it. just laughs harder when jeongguk joins him, and waits for the giggling fit to pass. he has no idea if they’ll even remember this in the morning, but he’ll hope they do.

eventually, yoongi lets out a sigh and lays his head back on jeongguk’s chest, just for a moment.

“i still don’t understand why you left,” he admits. “i know, objectively. it’s just—hard to wrap my head around. that you would go to a completely different company to get away from me.”

jeongguk, for once, doesn’t defend himself. he just hums low in his throat, fingers already back in yoongi’s hair.

“i could show it to you if you wanted,” he says. it takes one, two, three seconds for yoongi to understand what he’s saying, and then he lifts his head again.

“what?” asks yoongi.

“i’ll show you magic shop. and my studio. and my life there, if you want.”

it’s the one part of jeongguk’s life that yoongi doesn’t know. the one part that he’s never been invited into, and now—here it is, on jeongguk’s open palm. and jeongguk is inviting him in, letting him see that part of his life: the new part, the part that was always supposed to be detached from yoongi. jeongguk went to magic shop because he didn’t want to be with yoongi, and now he wants them to be one again.

maybe it shouldn’t mean as much as it does. but it’s so clear to yoongi now, what it means, and he nods slowly.

“yeah,” he breathes. “yeah, i wanna see it.”

they take a taxi, because both of them are too drunk to think about anything else, and yoongi stares out the window at the passing city and feels something tight tight tight in his chest. he can feel the buzz wearing off, leaving him in a melancholy sort of mood, and he thinks—this is the first time jeongguk is letting him in. this is the first time he’s going to see a part of jeongguk’s life that he never really wanted to see, but wants to see now. and jeongguk spent so long trying to keep him out, so what does this mean now?

magic shop entertainment is much like first star, at least in its set up and the layout of the building. jeongguk takes his hand and yoongi’s stomach swoops again, but it’s just to keep yoongi from wandering like he’s prone to do when he’s too tired or drunk. they get into the elevator and go up and before he knows it, they’re standing before a door not so different from his own.

“golden closet,” he mumbles, running a hand over the letters on the door. “i like it.”

“thanks,” says jeongguk, and then opens the door and pulls yoongi inside.

he’s not sure what he was expecting—it’s a studio. small, sort of plain. but there’s a keyboard against one wall and the desk with jeongguk’s gear on another, and a shelf with a few decorations and essentials. he wonders if this is how jeongguk felt the first time he entered yoong’s studio, at least after the five years—like he shouldn’t be here. it’s private. it’s personal. but jeongguk is standing beside him, hands still clasped together, and he’s letting him in.

belatedly, yoongi realizes he hasn’t said anything. so he grunts, a drunk sort of acknowledgment, and then says, “it’s nice.” normally, he might have something better to say—something about how it reflects on the clean, perfect sort of image that jeongguk has always given to the public. it’s jeongguk as an idol.

and then—he looks closer. and he sees the bits of the jeongguk that he knows, the one that hasn’t really changed in the past five years.

“is that kim seokjin?” asks yoongi, pointing to a picture on the shelf of jeongguk with the other idol—a singer with jeongguk’s own company. he’s always winning fucking visual competitions.

jeongguk kind of—squeezes his hand. “he was the one who found me in that karaoke bar after i left,” he explains. “he told me about magic shop.”

“so it’s his fault that you’re here?”

“yoongi-hyung—”

“i’m kidding,” yoongi grins at him. “i’m grateful that he found you, i guess. then you could make good music here.”

“he’s one of my best friends. one of my only friends here, actually,” admits jeongguk. “i dunno, i guess i never really got in with other idols here. i wasn’t expecting to be signed here and wasn’t expecting to stay that long, but seokjin-hyung was always making sure that i wasn’t alone. he’s a good guy.”

that reminds yoongi—“you know namjoon is always giving me a hard time, right?” he asks. “i don’t blame him. but it’s just weird when i used to be friends with him and now he’s always giving me the stink eye because of you.”

jeongguk lets out a little giggle. “sounds like namjoon.”

“he did give me some advice, though,” adds yoongi, remembering only earlier than day and their run-in. “about making a song together. he means well, i know. it’s just hard being on opposite ends of these things.”

“yeah, i’ve run into hoseok-hyung a few times,” says jeongguk. “he doesn’t like me very much anymore, does he?”

yoongi groans. “no,” he says. “which is—well, i guess it’s my fault for encouraging it. i’ll tell him to lay off.”

“it’s fine, honestly. i don’t blame him if he was the one who had to clean up the mess i left behind.”

he grins, just a little. there’s an understanding here now, and less anger at what happened. the fact is, they can’t change what happened, but yoongi doesn’t want to be angry forever at something like that. they made mistakes and they shouldn’t have done what they did, but—but.

he looks back to the shelf and sees something else. “you still have that?” asks yoongi, pointing to the framed and signed kimi no wa wa poster hiding behind some of the other equipment. yoongi had gone to ridiculous lengths to get it signed by the director and lead cast members for one of jeongguk’s birthdays, knowing how much he loved the movie. and there’s some warm sort of flame in his chest at knowing that jeongguk kept it, even after things fell apart.

when he looks sideways, jeongguk is blushing. or maybe—it’s the alcohol. anyway, yoongi lets go of his hand so he can move to the shelf and inspect it himself, looking at everything else he has there, too.

“i wasn’t going to get rid of it just because you gave it to me,” says jeongguk. “it means a lot to me.” he wants jeongguk to say—you mean a lot to me. but it’s too soon, and there’s too much. there’s still too much.

“i still have most of the shit you gave me,” admits yoongi. “i made a big show of throwing it out to make hoseok happy, but i actually kept all of it. couldn’t part with it, you know? no matter how much it hurt to have those reminders of you. i wanted it to hurt, i think. reminded me that it was real.”

“yeah,” breathes jeongguk. “yeah, i know what you mean. and i thought—you know. maybe one day i’d come back.”

and here he is. or maybe—it counts as yoongi going to him, if they’re here, in jeongguk’s studio. it’s not so different from most studios that he’s seen, but it’s still jeongguk. and maybe it’s the idea that jeongguk has something of his own, that he makes his own music now. yoongi can’t help remembering when it was just going to be the two of them.

yoongi leaves the shelf, making his way over to jeongguk’s desk chair and sitting in it carefully. everything is still a little hazy, but not nearly enough. he’s coming down, but it feels—nice. to be here. with jeongguk.

“this is where the magic happens,” he says, and then—snorts a little. it’s magic shop. “your music is really good, you know. despite what i’m always saying in the media, i really do admire your work. you’re extremely talented, jeongguk.”

“thanks, hyung,” says jeongguk, and he’s still standing by the door, looking like he doesn’t quite belong in his own studio. “i—well. i always wanted to be a really good singer and make music for people to love. but i think after i left, and because of why i left, i wanted to prove you wrong. i wanted to be the most successful singer in the twenty-first century just to prove to you that i wasn’t someone who should go back to busan.”

“if this is where that led you,” begins yoongi, “then i commend you. you really did it, guk-ah.”

“it feels a little empty sometimes, though. knowing that i’ve tried to gain all of this success just to spite you, instead of wanting to make people happy or achieve a life-long dream. feels—like i cheated myself.”

in a way, yoongi can understand. he’s always tried to best jeongguk on the charts and at awards shows as well, and sometimes, especially when jeongguk does better than him, he hates what he does. and he can’t be happy about his success or the fans or what he’s done because if it’s not better than jeongguk, it’s not good enough. it’s a terrible way to live.

“it’s only been five years, though,” adds jeongguk. “so i guess i can spend the next five years not trying to do that. and just doing it for me, because i want to be the best artist i can be for myself, not to do better than you.” and those five years—there could have been so much more.

“do you ever… wonder what would have happened if you would have stayed?” asks yoongi, careful, careful.

and jeongguk looks at him. and he’s not drunk enough for this, for the look that passes over jeongguk’s face, that sort of deep-seated sorrow that no amount of bowling games can fix. “all the time,” he admits. “i’m—i’m happy with what i have now and i’m proud and i think that we’ve done well apart, but… yeah. i think about it.”

“we would have been amazing together,” says yoongi. “maybe that’s why our companies have such high hopes for this song. i mean—we’re the best at what we do.”

“it’s not just that, hyung. it’s not just skill or talent. it’s—i dunno. i just wanted to experience it with you—all the highs and lows. going on tour and music shows and spending so much time in the studio, writing songs and our story and everything. that’s what i wanted. i wanted—” and here, jeongguk sucks in a breath and it seems to get caught in his throat. he shakes his head, dropping his eyes. “i never wanted all the bright lights and the fame if i couldn’t share it with you.”

five years. five years of performing and writing and winning, and yoongi gets that, too. maybe that’s why it’s all felt a little empty—because he didn’t have jeongguk to experience it with. he loves hoseok and taehyung, loves doing it with them. but in the beginning, it wasn’t so.

“we can get a taste of it now,” shrugs yoongi. “promotions and everything. and maybe we’ll get nominated for awards so we can have that together, too.”

jeongguk chuckles, husky. “yeah, i guess. it’s not the same, though.”

“no,” says yoongi. “no, it’s not.” there’s something missing. something that he can’t get back, because no matter how much they talk about it, they can’t change the fact that jeongguk left and yoongi didn’t go after him. they can’t take back the past five years. and sure, they can make the next five better, but there’s always going to be that ache. it’s just something they’ll have to live with, and maybe that’s okay. maybe it’ll be a reminder of what can never happen again.

there’s so much to be said about dreams, about desires. yoongi used to stay awake at night worrying about it—about if he would do well, if people would like him. all he wanted was to prove to himself that he could come from nothing and be everything, and the only comfort was jeongguk at his side, jeongguk holding his hand. jeongguk kissing his nose and whispering that they would do it together, and there was nothing to be afraid of.

and how did they come to this? how did this distance separate them so greatly, and how did he make it anyway, with all of that fear? all of that anger, all of that sadness? it’s a miracle. yoongi doesn’t like to think about how badly he struggled, but it’s here now, in these few feet of space between them.

inexplicably, yoongi gets an urge. and his emotional, tipsy mind gives him the reason to do it, so yoongi gets up from the chair and makes his way over to jeongguk. and he slips his arms around jeongguk and presses them together, letting his head fall between the younger’s neck and shoulder. and he hugs jeongguk. and he breathes.

and he whispers, “why did you have to go?”

slowly. slowly. he feels jeongguk wrap his arms around yoongi’s shoulder, holding him close as he whispers back, “i don’t know anymore.”

it’s taken one night—one stupid, drunk night—to realize everything that he’s lost. more than just a boyfriend, or a partner. more than just a friend. jeongguk has always been something more—his better half, maybe, or someone who understood him enough to make him feel like there was nothing that they couldn’t conquer together. for the first time, yoongi feels none of the anger, all of the pain. all of the sorrow, the sadness.

“i want to hate you,” whispers yoongi. “but i can’t anymore. i tried for so long to only be angry at you and it worked, but now i hate myself for not doing something sooner. i should have gone after you.”

“yeah,” says jeongguk. “better late than never.”

they stand like that, for minutes. and yoongi doesn’t move, too wrapped up in this—in jeongguk, in the memory of it. he remembers when jeongguk grew taller than him, and how upset he was until he realized that jeongguk could engulf him instead, and how he liked that, too. some things never change.

and now, here is this—they can be together again, in a different way. at the beginning of this collaboration, it was so hard to even be in the same room, but they have it figured out now. they’re going to make a song, and they’re going to make it about spring. because this is their spring: he can feel the winter inside of him melting, allowing room for growth of this new friendship. it’s blooming. jeongguk is blooming.

not for the first time that night, yoongi’s phone vibrates in his pocket.

“i should probably go home,” he mumbles into jeongguk’s chest, although he makes no indication of actually moving. this just feels—right. and it shouldn’t, not after everything. not when this is the first time they’ve actually done more than just work on the song together, but there is something to be said about the warmth in the pit of his stomach, nothing from the alcohol.

“i’ll call a cab,” says jeongguk. and then he does move, breaking the moment, and yoongi takes a step back to let jeongguk dig his phone out of his pocket. yoongi will have to face hoseok and taehyung, probably, because he didn’t say anything—but he wants this instead. wants to stay here. he’ll regret his thoughts in the morning, when he isn’t drunk and can think clearly about consequences, but maybe. maybe.

they make their way to the lobby slowly, and they don’t say anything, but he gets it. this was fun, jeongguk would say. we should do it again, yoongi would reply. and they’ll write their song and finish it and then what, then what

they stop just before the doors. the building is dark otherwise, too late for anyone else to be here, and that’s good, probably. yoongi thinks of the headlines. thinks of not giving a shit anyway, and jeongguk is looking at him now with something careful in his eyes.

“thanks,” is what he says. “for—this. it was nice to not be stuck in the studio all of the time.”

“i knew we were missing something in the song,” says yoongi. “this was it. this—whatever it is. the good parts. because there were good parts. i think i just forgot that because i was too busy trying to be angry all of the time.” as he speaks, jeongguk moves closer, closer, until their toes are almost touching. and he reaches out, taking one of yoongi’s hand in his so he can play with yoongi’s fingers, and yoongi can’t stop seeing this same image over and over through the years. it’s one of jeongguk’s nervous habits.

“so you’re not going to go back to being mad at me tomorrow?” asks jeongguk, and he’s pouting, looking down at yoongi’s hands. yoongi has to physically stop himself from doing something embarrassing, like cooing.

instead, he says, “i’m not going to go back to being mad at you tomorrow. i think i’m more mad at the situation. but you’re not—you’re not the bad guy, jeongguk-ah. i know that.”

jeongguk finally looks up, and his big, big eyes catch yoongi’s. and he looks scared, a little, and worried, a lot. and relieved, too, somewhere in there. and he’s still the jeongguk that yoongi knew and fell in love with, and isn’t that dangerous—

“hyung,” he whispers, and yoongi is still drunk.

he’s still so drunk because he lifts his free hand, brushing some of jeongguk’s hair away from his forehead as he replies, “jeongguk-ah. my jeonggukkie.”

jeongguk leans into his hand a little, closing his eyes for a second. he misses it. yoongi misses this so fucking badly, and it hurts. it hurts and hurts and he can’t make it stop, but jeongguk opens his eyes again and they flicker down to yoongi’s lips, and—oh. oh. it makes sense, suddenly.

someone leans forward first, just a gentle rock, and then yoongi’s breath hitches as jeongguk moves closer, closer, dipping his head. it takes him until he can feel jeongguk’s breath on his lips to understand that, somehow, this is what he wants, and he wants and wants and wants

outside, a car honks its horn.

yoongi startles, instantly jumping back from jeongguk at the same time that the other does, and he turns his head to see… the taxi that jeongguk ordered for him. of course. his eyes slide to jeongguk for a moment, to see the panicked sort of look on the other’s face before he wipes his hands on his jeans and then says, “yeah. okay. we should—get that.”

“i’ll see you on wednesday?” asks yoongi once he’s in the backseat of the taxi, window rolled down to talk to jeongguk. “i still think we should take a few days to get out some more ideas. but i feel like the song writing will go a lot easier now that we have a concrete idea.”

“right,” says jeongguk, and he looks a little dazed—or drunk. “yeah. that sounds good.”

“okay,” says yoongi. he bites his tongue, makes it hurt. “um—bye, then?”

for a second, he thinks that jeongguk is going to say something more, something else. but then he seems to think better of it and just nods, giving yoongi a grin. a fake grin—yoongi can tell. he knows jeongguk inside and out, even after all this time.

“bye, hyung,” says jeongguk. “get home safe.”

when he gets home—safely, jeongguk will be glad to know—and stumbles through the front door, yoongi is immediately accosted by sound and light and so much noise. there’s some shrieking, some shouts of thank god! and there are hands on him, squishing him into a hug or something similar before he’s pushed onto one of the sofas.

yoongi finally blinks, head already hurting, and hears, “now where the fuck were you?” before he sees hoseok, taehyung, and jimin standing in front of him, hands on their hips. he blinks, and then blinks again.

how is he supposed to say it? and what is he supposed to say, anyway, about this whirlwind of something that he can’t put into words?

but they’re standing there, glaring at him. vaguely, he thinks there’s a sign on taehyung’s chest that says search party leader.

finally, he says, “i was with jeongguk.”

it draws varying reactions—hoseok groans, jimin sighs, and taehyung asks, “like on a date?”

“it wasn’t a fucking date, you numpty,” says hoseok, smacking taehyung in the arm. “they don’t even like each other.”

“were you working on the song this whole time and just didn’t tell us that you’d left first star?” asks jimin.

“why would they leave first star?” counters taehyung. “they were clearing smoozing somewhere.”

“that’s actually offensive,” says hoseok. “i know you weren’t here when all of the shit went down five years ago, taehyung, but there’s no—”

“he almost kissed me,” says yoongi, staring at his hands. his hands that jeongguk held so many times tonight, his hands that feel cold and empty and wrong. the arguing stops suddenly, leaving an echo behind, and then yoongi looks up at them with a quiver in his lips. “or i almost kissed him. i don’t know.”

there’s a pregnant pause. yoongi sees the looks on their faces, of shock or surprise or disbelief. and he thinks. he thinks

why did you have to go?

i don’t know anymore.

yoongi promptly bursts into tears.

《《《

in the elevator, yoongi checks his phone. again. his texts with jeongguk have been open for three days already, but it’s all the usual—are we still meeting on wednesday? what do you think about this lyric? we’re going with the theme of spring, right? how about at four? come right up, i’ll be there.

despite being drunker than he had been for a long time, yoongi still remembers. all of it, most especially jeongguk’s breath on his lips and the way his heart at jumped at that, wanting more and more, and how it hadn’t come, and how the disappointment had collided with him for hours afterwards—and then the shame, and the confusion. he didn’t ask jeongguk about it because it’s awkward, but jeongguk didn’t mention anything about it in the three days that they took a break, either, so.

so.

it helped with the lyrics, at least, fuelling the sort of longing that he and jeongguk agreed to go for now. something about spring, about winter. he was right, in the end: remembering the good parts with jeongguk seems to have kick-started something within him, and he’s coming to the studio with half of a notebook filled with ideas and lyrics and things he’s finally confident in.

he’s also coming into the studio with a nervous thrum to his heart, and his friends’ words in the back of his mind—i think you need to talk to him.

yoongi, as usual, doesn’t. jeongguk shows up to the studio and there’s this moment where they just look at each other and yoongi knows that jeongguk is thinking about it, too, and jeongguk must know that he’s thinking about it. and yoongi doesn’t know how to start that conversation. they stare at each other and the silence drags on, and then jeongguk says, “so i have this idea for the chorus?”

and yoongi says, “oh. yeah, let me hear it.”

and that’s—that. there’s always something on the tip of his tongue, some question—did you mean it, he wants to ask. did you mean it, would you do it again, was it just the alcohol or remembering too well or or or—

yoongi doesn’t say any of them. that’s always been their problem, hasn’t it? not talking. and here they are, the same little problems. but the truth is that yoongi is afraid that bringing it up will ruin something here—this careful relationship that they’ve formulated, this easy banter and work. the lyrics come easy now with a theme and an idea. he doesn’t want to risk doing something to this when it’s been over a month and a half of struggle and fighting tooth and nail for some semblance of cooperation.

there’s an unspoken sort of drive now. yoongi doesn’t say anything because jeongguk doesn’t say anything, and they work. and they work and they write their lyrics, and their song comes together surely, surely.

“i was thinking,” explains jeongguk as he shows yoongi the chorus, “about, um—some of what we were saying the other night? just about… missing each other. and being angry and hurt but more than that, just waiting for something to happen. you were waiting for me to come back and i was waiting for you to come find me, and neither of us did anything about it because we were always expecting the other person to do something about it. so that’s… this. the whole winter and spring thing, of waiting and waiting and hoping that whatever comes next will be better.”

it’s good, yoongi knows that. he shouldn’t be surprised.

“and i like this bit,” continues jeongguk, pointing to something yoongi wrote last night and suggested as one of the rap verses. “about changing and hating time and stuff. it’s got that angry part that you wanted, even though it still has the same longing and everything. so it’s still bittersweet.”

“right,” says yoongi. “it’s not about… telling a story, really. it’s just talking to each other. it’s our conversation but in song form.”

“or something like that,” agrees jeongguk. “spring stuff.”

they spend another week working on the lyrics, passing ideas back and forth, looking through their ideas from the weeks prior. and day by day, they write their love song. they piece together the bits of their relationship that hurt the most, putting their hearts on their sleeves to create something yoongi would dare to call beautiful.

he witnesses something in jeongguk that he hasn’t seen for a long time, something that reminds him so much of long nights spent in their closet studios together when they were teenagers—there’s that light in jeongguk’s eyes when he figures out a line, when he shows yoongi something he proudly came up with the night before. he gets half of the melody figured out on his own, messing around with the piano in yoongi’s studio, and sometimes yoongi just sits back and watches. and lets the magic happen and knows that he lost something so good, but there’s nothing wrong with seeing it now, getting it back after so long.

it was jeongguk who said it—better late than never.

finally, after almost two months since the project began, they finish the song-writing itself and are able to move onto production. the song—about their love, their distance—feels like something tangible in yoongi’s hands, almost, something about longing and waiting and winter melting into something more, something new.

they call it spring day.

producing, despite their agreement to make the whole process an equal effort, is yoongi’s area of expertise. jeongguk agrees to let him take the lead, knowing that there’s less he can do even if he makes yoongi promise to let him help out with it. at first, they’re back to the brainstorming step as they discuss what they want the song to actually sound like, what elements should be added into it. miraculously, like the last week of song-writing, it takes only days to work out where their ideas are headed. something about understanding, about cooperation. as much as yoongi likes working alone, he has to admit that he and jeongguk do work well together.

they always did. moon used to call them a dream team, and maybe that’s where their dreams of standing on stage together, singing songs they wrote together came from. now, they have it. yoongi still mourns what might have been, but there’s no use in dwelling on it now.

the production process is a blur, two weeks of late nights and early mornings and determination and yoongi trying to ignore the thrum of his heart every time he sees jeongguk smile.

it’s this:

“you know you don’t have to be here, right?” asks yoongi, finally looking away from his desktop screen to peer at jeongguk over his shoulder. it’s ten at night and yoongi is being a perfectionist, as usual, trying to work out the transition from the first verse to the chorus. there’s nothing jeongguk can do about it, especially since there’s only one desktop to work on. and still, there’s jeongguk, hovering over his shoulder.

“i know,” says jeongguk. “but i don’t want you to have to do it alone. i’m here for… moral support.”

if yoongi is being honest—having jeongguk in the studio when he’s trying to work alone is distracting. it’s less of being able to hear jeongguk move and breathe and ask questions all of the time, more just knowing he’s there. and not being able to hold back all of the memories of so many nights spent just like this, and remembering how jeongguk’s presence had sometimes bothered him when he was frustrated and trying to work, but he never told jeongguk to leave.

just like he doesn’t now.

“okay,” says yoongi, turning back to his screen. “but if you’re going to stand there, you could at least pull up a chair and tell me what’s wrong with this part.”

it’s this:

yoongi doesn’t realize he hasn’t eaten anything all day until there’s a soft rap at the door to his studio and it opens to reveal jeongguk with a plastic bag bursting with containers.

“i brought food,” he says with a grin, cheeks a little pink like he’s been running. and it’s—strange, because they agreed to take the day off from working together, and yoongi isn’t even working on their song. but jeongguk is here anyway, and how did he know, how he did know

“thanks,” yoongi says a little belatedly, eyebrows furrowed as jeongguk makes himself right at home as he slips off his shoes and then sets the food on yoongi’s desk, preparing it for him.

“i figured you’d be here even though it’s our day off,” says jeongguk by way of explanation. “you used to spend all of your free time in here, and i’m not surprised that you haven’t changed at all. and i also know that you used to get so wrapped up in your work that you’d forget to eat, so here.” he turns around, holding out a container of steaming food for yoongi to take. that grin is wide, wide. and knowing. and yoongi hates it, a little, because jeongguk is right.

“you didn’t have to get me food,” says yoongi, but he takes the container anyway. his stomach growls at the smell.

“i know,” says jeongguk, grabbing the second container for himself and retreating to the sofa. what a familiar sight, and how it aches, how it aches—“but i did. old habits die hard.”

yoongi doesn’t know if he means the fact that yoongi doesn’t eat when he’s working or the fact that jeongguk always brought him food like this, like it’s second nature to make sure that his boyfriend is taking care of himself, too. either way—he watches as jeongguk digs into the food, happily slurping away, and yoongi kind of just. sits there. and realizes, with a shock, that this whole thing has been about repeating history.

the awkward first glances, trying not to step on each other’s toes as they relearned the ins and outs of their relationship. and the instant coming together, how quickly they managed to click like it was all meant to be. and this: working well together, jeongguk bringing him food. yoongi not being able to stop admiring how jeongguk looks even here, with his hair a bit of a mess and that brightness in his eyes.

it’s all coming to something. something so, so familiar, and yoongi doesn’t know what it is, and that terrifies him. jeongguk terrifies him.

“are you going to eat?” yoongi startles out of his thoughts, looking down to his container. “i paid good money for that, hyung.”

“yeah,” mumbles yoongi. “yeah, sorry. it looks really good, thank you.”

and this:

within two weeks, yoongi thinks they’re almost ready to begin recording. he’s managed to turn their ideas for the sound into a reality, playing with different parts of the song, and he knows that they’ll have to edit it into something clean and perfect once they finish recording and have their voices to play with, but for now—it’s good. he’s proud of what they have. it’s that bittersweet idea they had in the beginning, although the instrumental is much less angry than he had imagined. and maybe that’s good, because he’s no longer angry at jeongguk. he’s so longer angry with the situation as much as was when this started. now just—longing for something more. and that’s what the song is about, anyway.

by the time he finishes what he’s been working on, trying to put the finishing touches on it, he sees that it’s almost three in the morning. it’s been so long since he’s spent so much time in the studio like this, and while it’s kept him from sleeping or eating as much as he should, there’s that satisfaction anyway. this is what yoongi was meant to do, and what he loves doing.

yoongi takes his headphones off, stretching his arms over his head as he yawns and then turns around with the intention of taking a break or leaving, but—with a start, he sees that he’s not alone.

jeongguk is asleep on the sofa, curled up on his side in a little ball, hood pulled over his head. and—something tugs at yoongi’s heart, hard. this is familiar, too. how many times did jeongguk come to visit him only to be neglected in favour of yoongi’s music, and how many times did he stay just in case yoongi needed him or wanted him, and how many times did he end up falling asleep just like this, with that longing rooting him to the spot?

yoongi hadn’t even realized that jeongguk was still here.

and maybe he knows longing better than yoongi ever did.

three in the morning is a strange time. something about darkness, about silence. yoongi gets up from his chair, wincing at the pain from sitting for so long, and makes his way over to the sofa. if he had a blanket, he would tuck jeongguk in properly, but—he squats down beside him anyway, taking a moment to admire the younger’s sleeping face, so much like he was as a teenager. like this, the weight of the world and their careers and their relationship can’t hurt him.

slowly, yoongi lifts his hand, and then begins carding his fingers through jeongguk’s hair. and he wants—this. their song, about missing someone and wanting more and waiting and waiting—it’s all here, in this slow slow beat of his heart. in the way his fingers tremble as they move through jeongguk’s hair, soft and careful and reaching for something more.

for the first time in five years, yoongi lets himself feel it: just how much he loved jeongguk. how blinded by it he was, but how fuelled by it, too, to create something beautiful not only for himself but for jeongguk. the past two months have been about starting over, about wading through five years of anger and pain to find themselves here: the first day of spring. this tiny seedling in the middle of his chest that beats soft and quiet and says maybe maybe maybe.

everything about their relationship was quiet, secret. it makes sense that this is, too: the realization that maybe there’s a part of him that never really fell out of love. that has always been waiting and hoping and wanting, even after five years.

jeongguk stirs, then, just barely, turning more into yoongi’s hand in his hair, and he sees the tell tale signs of jeongguk waking up—the nose scrunch, eyes squeezing shut against whatever is trying to wake him. and yoongi should move. yoongi should go back to his desk and pretend he wasn’t here, but he can’t. there’s something grounding him here, as he watches jeongguk’s eyes flutter open, finally—hazy and confused. jeongguk was never good at waking up.

he blinks once, twice. and then his eyes finally begin to focus, just barely, as they flicker to yoongi’s face.

“hyung?” he asks groggily, voice thick with sleep as he squints in the low lighting of the studio.

“go back to sleep, bun,” whispers yoongi, and—and stops. and is glad that jeongguk is half asleep so he can’t catch the slip up, the pet name that yoongi used so often years ago. and how easily that comes, too, with the rest of it.

jeongguk just hums a little, curling into an even smaller ball before closing his eyes again. he’s nineteen again, and yoongi is twenty-one, and it’s the last night, and yoongi is thinking of how much he wants this and wants it more and more each day, and the world is before them for the taking. and they’ll take it. and there’s nothing to be afraid of, not anymore.

collaborating has been a rouse, yoongi thinks. a cover-up. this has never been about making a song, although that’s what they’ve been doing. it’s here, in the little moments, in the in betweens—without yoongi realizing, he’s done much more than write a song.

《《《

“hyung. hyung. hyung. yoongi-hyung.

“jesus, what?” snaps yoongi, looking up from his phone to jimin, who is sitting in front of him in the first star café. he only looks long enough to see the unimpressed friend on jimin’s face before looking back down to his phone, giggling again when he sees the meme jeongguk has texted him.

“what are you doing?” asks jimin.

“nothing,” mumbles yoongi, quickly sending back a meme of his own—it’s of jeongguk, because he spent the entire previous night searching for and saving terrible pictures and memes of the other to use as arsenal in their text conversations. the internet is a beautiful place.

“are you texting your boyfriend?”

“i don’t have a boyfriend.” this, punctuated by another giggle as jeongguk sends him about thirty-eight angry faces in response to the meme.

“yoongi-hyung—”

“can you stop bothering me?” asks yoongi, looking up again.

jimin gives him an incredulous stare. “we’re supposed to be having lunch together and you’re on your phone like a fucking teenager. i know you have a massive heart boner for jeongguk now that you’re friends again or whatever, but might i remind you that you have other friends? friends who are a bit concerned about your well-being and how much time you’re spending with the person who broke your heart into a million pieces?”

for once, yoongi doesn’t just tell jimin to stop being dramatic. and he can feel his phone vibrating with more texts from jeongguk but he doesn’t look at those either, instead blinking once, twice as he takes in what jimin said.

his eyebrows furrow. “i don’t have any kind of boner for jeongguk,” he finally says, and jimin groans.

“of course that’s what you take from that.”

“what’s that supposed to mean?”

“yoongi-hyung, i swear i haven’t seen you in three weeks. you’ve been spending all of your time in the studio.”

“yeah, because i’m making a song. that’s what you do when you make a song.” yoongi chances a glance at his phone again to see a wall of texts from jeongguk, probably memes of yoongi he’s quickly searched. his fingers itch to check it, but jimin is still glaring at him.

“hyung, seriously,” says the other singer. “we just—we’re worried you’re moving too fast.”

“too fast with what?” asks yoongi. “the song? jimin-ah, it’s taken us almost two months to even get to this point.”

“are you always this dense,” mutters jimin. yoongi is—confused. he has no idea what jimin is talking about, but jimin doesn’t seem keen on actually explaining himself.

after a pause, yoongi adds, “we’re going to start recording soon. it could have been sooner, if you ask me.”

“aren’t you two, like—a thing again?”

and—oh.

“wait,” says yoongi. “do you legitimately think jeongguk and i are together again?”

jimin stares at him. yoongi stares back.

“well fucking obviously,” says jimin, finally. “you almost fucking kissed two weeks ago and then you broke down, drunk crying about how much you missed him and everything, and then we told you to talk to him about it and now you’ve been spending literally every waking hour with him, including texting all of the time and giggling like a child every time he so much as looks at you. what else am i supposed to think?”

yoongi—is not entirely sure how to proceed, suddenly. and he thinks about how he and jeongguk used to act around each other beforehand, and how namjoon told him that he was never as subtle as he thought he was. and misunderstandings. and jeongguk is still texting him, his phone vibrating in his hand over and over, and how that makes his heart feel.

how jeongguk has been making his heart feel for weeks.

“we’re not together,” says yoongi carefully. “we’re not—even friends.

“you’re not fucking—” jimin begins, and then cuts himself off to physically face palm. “i can’t fucking believe this.”

“i didn’t talk to him about the—thing. he didn’t say anything to me so i didn’t say anything to him and we’ve just been working really hard on the song—”

“he’s here literally all day every day!”

“and if we happen to text sometimes, it’s not that big of a deal—”

“hyung, really, look at yourself—”

“we’re not together!” yoongi snaps. a little too loudly, because the people around them turn to look at him and yoongi feels his cheeks flare with colour, ducking his head before he leans toward jimin and repeats it in a hiss: “we’re not together.”

“but you like him.”

yoongi’s fingers curl around his phone, the urge to throw it at jimin almost stronger than his understanding that it would be a very bad idea for several reasons. “we’re just working on a song together,” he grumbles. “and there are no feelings involved. you’re the one who said he broke my heart, and it still hurts and it sucks and we’re not—nothing is—we just fucking—”

“don’t pop a vein,” says jimin. “maybe texting jeongguk would make you feel better.”

the truth is—it would. and it does. and even when jimin stops bothering him, yoongi can’t stop thinking about it over and over and over. they’re not together. and he doesn’t like jeongguk. and they’re just working on a song together.

right?

《《《

they begin recording shortly after. it’s arguably yoongi’s least favourite part of working on a song, any song—he feels the pressure most greatly now, to do well. to get the song right, and what if after all of this time and effort, it doesn’t sound the way they want it to? the song itself doesn’t just require the skill of rapping or singing, but the emotion behind it too. there’s something terrifying in that, trying to summon up everything he felt about jeongguk for five years in order to rap some lyrics about missing him.

in the end, it’s really not that difficult.

they set up the recording equipment right in yoongi’s studio, and jeongguk sits in yoongi’s chair and watches as he raps his heart out. it’s too nostalgic of how it used to be, when they were younger and jeongguk looked at him with all of those stars in his eyes. he used to spend hours telling yoongi what a good rapper he was, and how he was going to make it big. and no matter how many records he sells or awards he wins, nothing will ever compare to how jeongguk looked at him, then.

how he looks at yoongi now, when yoongi spits out the lyrics and lets his heart fill and fill and fill them until he thinks he’s going to drown with all of it.

i hate you, he raps, although you left, there hasn’t been a day that i have forgotten you. honestly, i miss you. but now i’ll erase you, because that will hurt less than resenting you.

he has to close his eyes as he says it, as he says all of it—he can’t see the way jeongguk is looking at him. can’t remember all of the anger and pain to channel it into this song when jeongguk is right there, waiting for his turn to do the same. it feels too raw, too vulnerable. they’ve been opening their hearts for months now, but this is different, somehow, when he has to say it. it feels like it’s just telling jeongguk, not recording his voice for a song that the whole world will hear.

in this studio, it’s just—them. and this is their love story. and this is their tragic ending. and maybe, maybe. the do-over.

it doesn’t take long to get through yoongi’s recording, and then most of jeongguk’s. harmonies, melodies. jeongguk takes the headphones and the way he sings—lights up the entire room, his voice reverberating through yoongi’s entire body. he’s heard jeongguk’s voice hundreds of times, especially in the past five years. and he knows, without a doubt, that jeongguk is one of the most talented singers that he’s had the fortune of knowing, but here, it’s different, somehow.

less polished, maybe, but that’s not it. it’s what he’s singing—the truth of it, the raw emotionality of it. he’s dazzling. he’s mesmerizing. yoongi can’t help remembering what drew him so strongly to jeongguk in the first place, beyond their shared interests and how jeongguk stuck to him like a lost puppy—it was this. the way jeongguk sounded and still sounds, the way he pours all of his heart into everything that he does, most especially singing. it’s his passion, and how he cares, and how he shows it.

it’s what made yoongi begin to fall in love, all those years ago. it’s what opened the floodgates—seeing jeongguk just like this, in yoongi’s little studio, belting out the songs that they had written together. and they knew those songs were never going to go anywhere, but jeongguk treated each of them like it was the only song he would ever sing, anyway, and that’s what he does now. this is the story of yoongi and jeongguk. this is the story of their hearts for the past five years. jeongguk sings like it’s the only chance he’ll ever have to let yoongi know that he means every goddamn word coming out of his mouth.

yoongi keeps himself rooted on the spot for the hours that they go through it, nitpicking parts of the song until they get it perfect. even if everything within him is telling him to go there, to stop all of this so he can ask jeongguk—do you feel it, do you feel this too—he doesn’t move. professionalism, maybe, or fear. he should have talked to jeongguk about this long before, but now he’s starstruck, not for the first time. there’s nothing else to talk about, nothing else to do.

yoongi carefully puts the song together, and all of his worries fade when he hears it and hears how beautiful it sounds, and how right. and how bittersweet, how raw. it’s the most vulnerable he’s been on a song for a long time, and of course it would be because of jeongguk. he worries, briefly, that people will be able to know, just by hearing the song. just by realizing that the only way to sing like this is to know what he’s singing about.

“i want you to do the harmonies for the chorus again,” says yoongi after another week of recording. it’s the finishing touches for recording before the finishing touches on the whole song, and this is coming to an end, he realizes—this two and a half month process of writing and struggling and healing is almost over. it feels more urgent than ever to get it right.

“is there something wrong with the ones we have now?” asks jeongguk, getting into position by the recording mic with the headphones around his neck. they’ve been listening to what they have of the song for hours already, and yoongi knows he’s being a perfectionist, but—

“they’re good,” he says, “but i think they could be better. more… i dunno, emotional? it feels a little empty or flat or something. just put your all into it and we only have to do one take.”

jeongguk nods, and then gets this determined look on his face, like he’s trying to hype himself up for it. yoongi, despite himself, feels a grin on his lips as he watches, and then turns back to his desktop so he can begin recording. he begins from the middle of the first verse, trusting that jeongguk will be able to get this right, and then leans back in his own chair, closing his eyes and letting himself get carried away by the lyrics and jeongguk’s voice.

once the chorus starts, he hears jeongguk’s voice cut in from behind him, singing the harmony, but—there’s still something missing.

he stops the music.

“it’s still empty,” he says. “listen to how your voice sounds in the melody—it’s full of all of that emotion and longing and want. the harmony has to sound just as full of that or the effect isn’t going to come across.”

“yeah,” says jeongguk. “sorry, hyung, go again.”

he does. this time, he can tell that jeongguk is trying harder, trying to pour everything into his voice, but—but—

“that’s not it,” sighs yoongi, spinning around in his chair to look at the younger.

jeongguk groans. “i’m trying.”

“i know,” says yoongi. “but i can tell, and that’s the bad part. it sounds like you’re faking it. just—think of what you were thinking of when you recorded the melody. you have to feel the lyrics, jeongguk-ah. how much more do i have to wait? how many more nights do i have to stay up?” he rattles off the lyrics, trying to drill it into jeongguk’s head so he understands what yoongi is trying to say, what he’s trying to draw from him. “it’s more than just words. it’s the feeling underneath it. what do those lyrics actually mean to you?”

jeongguk—breathes in, and then kind of stops. and he’s staring at yoongi with this curious look on his face. yoongi could swear that his cheeks colour a little again, maybe thinking about the lyrics and the emotion, but yoongi doesn’t particularly care. he just wants jeongguk to sing how he sang in the beginning so that he can put the finishing touches on this and be done with it. they’re so close.

something seems to click. “okay,” says jeongguk quietly. “okay, i got it. one more time.”

yoongi drags the track back, begins recording, and begins the song again. he closes his eyes again, this time keeping his head in his hands as he slumps over his keyboard and waits and listens and hopes and hopes.

this time, when jeongguk’s voice comes in on the harmony, he feels it—feels what jeongguk feels, what he wants jeongguk to feel. there’s all of that longing, all of that aching loneliness and want and something more, something that he can’t put his finger on. but it feels right. it feels like putting words to this growing feeling in his chest, something deep-rooted. something that only jeongguk can understand.

and jeongguk sings, and yoongi’s heart clenches over and over, and it’s almost too much—everything that jeongguk puts into his voice this time. that genuine sort of ache. that spring.

and then—jeongguk’s voice cracks on the last note of the chorus, and he lets out what sounds like a little hiccupped sob, and he stops singing.

“i—hyung,” he begins, and it sounds wrong. yoongi turns around to see jeongguk just standing there. and he’s crying. he’s sniffling into the recording mic, pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes to try to stop it, but it can’t stop the sounds coming from his mouth or the way he curls into himself, and—for a long moment, yoongi can only stare as the song plays on around them: the morning will come again, because no darkness, no season, can last forever.

“jeongguk,” he says, and thinks to stop the song before he’s out of his chair, across the room in an instant as his hands flutter in front of him, unsure what to do. jeongguk is crying in front of him, trying so desperately to stop it even though broken sobs keep leaving him, and yoongi feels something new ignite in him—protectiveness. “jeongguk, what’s wrong? hey—c’mon, tell hyung.”

yoongi grasps at jeongguk’s wrists, tugging his hands away from his face, but all he sees is—red eyes, and wetness on jeongguk’s cheeks, and the other letting out this little whine as he tilts his head back and breathes in and in and then sobs again.

hyung,” he says, and yoongi thinks. thinks. he would do anything. “hyung, i’m s-so sorry.”

“for what?” asks yoongi, impossibly confused; he drops jeongguk’s wrists, instead lifting his hands to cup the other’s face, already wiping away that tears that continue to fall. “jeonggukkie, what are you sorry for?”

“everything,” cries jeongguk, and he won’t even look at yoongi, hands suddenly clutching at the older’s shirt. “it’s all—all my fault and i shouldn’t have l-left and it was so stupid of me and i ruined everything—”

“guk-ah, no—”

“i-i did, hyung,” sniffs jeongguk, letting out another choked sob. yoongi rubs his thumbs over jeongguk’s cheeks again and again, trying to catch the tears as they fall and his heart hurts it, hurts—“i know you didn’t say what that other trainee told me. i’ve known for a long time, i think, but i didn’t want to admit it because that means that i just left you and hurt you and ruined everything for no good reason. but i can’t—i don’t—”

yoongi doesn’t even think about it. just tilts jeongguk’s head up and takes a tiny step closer, trying to force the other’s gaze on him as he says, “it’s okay. jeongguk, it’s okay.

“no, it’s not,” cries jeongguk. “i could have—have stopped all of this from happening, but i was a terrible person and i hurt you and you should hate me and this song is just—i don’t know. i don’t know anymore, hyung.”

“you could have stopped it,” agrees yoongi, which causes jeongguk’s breath to hitch in his throat, finally looking at him with those wet eyes, confused and frightened. his hands tighten in yoongi’s shirt. “you did hurt me. and you did make a mistake. but you know what, gukkie? i forgive you.”

jeongguk’s face crumples even more, somehow.

“listen to me,” says yoongi, and now he feels tears stinging his own eyes, all of the past five years welling up inside of him. it’s been so long. it’s been so hard. but it’s time to let go. “jeongguk-ah. we both fucked up. and we can’t do anything about the fact that we’ve been fucking up continuously for the past five years. but i forgive you. i’m not angry at you anymore. i’m not sad anymore. i forgive you.”

hyung,” jeongguk cries again, and yoongi can’t tell if that’s an acceptance of it or not but he’ll take it, he’ll take whatever jeongguk wants to give him, and he wipes at jeongguk’s cheeks again, the last of the tears that have begun to slow. and then he tilts their foreheads together, resting against each other. this is it. this is everything that the past few months has led to—the apology, the forgiveness. the resolution.

“do you forgive me?” he finally asks. “i’m sorry for not coming after you. i should have. i should have fought harder. i should have been better.”

jeongguk doesn’t anything, but he does nod, and yoongi lets his hands slide down and down until he can thumb at jeongguk’s jawline, wiping the tears there, too.

“yeah?” he asks.

“yeah,” whispers jeongguk. “yeah, hyung, i forgive you. i don’t want to be angry anymore.”

“okay,” whispers yoongi, and somehow—it’s that easy. the agreement, the realization that this is long overdue. they’ve worked through it, talked enough and this is the forgiveness: simple words. he strokes his thumbs over jeongguk’s jaw and feels jeongguk’s hands tight tight tight in his shirt, keeping him here.

yoongi isn’t planning on going anywhere.

and then—in the silence. there’s finally clarity. yoongi pulls his face back, just an inch, and lets his eyes travel jeongguk’s face—from his red-rimmed eyes to his pink, parted lips. familiar, it’s all familiar. and he feels the way something startles in his gut, the same thing that he felt weeks ago in the lobby of magic shop entertainment. he’s sober this time.

he wants.

and it’s this: maybe he and jeongguk never really ended. and maybe he never really fell out of love. and maybe spring is in full bloom.

gingerly, yoongi tilts his head upward. their noses brush together, gently, and then more forcefully as yoongi bumps them together, like a question. like asking permission, and there’s jeongguk’s breath on his lips again, tilting downward and downward, barely an inch between them. this is a threshold.

the first time yoongi and jeongguk kissed, it was two in the morning and the moon was just a sliver in the sky. it was the middle of winter, and jeongguk wouldn’t stop complaining of the cold as they wandered, having escaped from their dorm in search of adventure. what they found was this: each other. what they found was this: warmth only from within.

what they found was this: what yoongi finds now, as jeongguk bumps their noses together again, and then tilts his head just right, and kisses yoongi.

at first, it’s just a gentle press of their lips, timid and afraid and testing something, testing the edges of their puzzle pieces. but yoongi has long since known that they fit, and they can’t not fit. his body can never forget jeongguk’s body, not like this: jeongguk’s lips pressed against his own, so familiar and yet new, in this moment. for once, yoongi doesn’t have a single memory of this, doesn’t see every other time they kissed.

it’s not history. it’s the first note of something new.

yoongi presses back harder, slotting their lips together properly and opening his mouth and letting jeongguk in. he always lets jeongguk in. and jeongguk tastes like—coffee, a little, and salt from his tears, and something so distinctly jeongguk that yoongi feels his heart trip inside his chest. and it’s soft. and it’s fragile as he holds it in his hands—this kiss. jeongguk’s hands finally uncurl from his shirt only to hold onto his waist properly, bringing him ever closer as yoongi goes willingly, pulling back just enough to breathe and then dive right back in.

for a brief time, it’s just—tentative and careful. and then everything slams into yoongi at once: just how badly he’s wanted this without knowing it, and how badly he’s missed jeongguk, and how it didn’t matter if jeongguk left, because yoongi was always going to be right here, waiting for him to come back. so he swipes his tongue over jeongguk’s bottom lip, prying his mouth open as the younger makes a desperate noise in the back of his throat, and yoongi thinks—just like riding a bike.

and how easy it is to fall back into this, and how easy it is to kiss jeongguk like he never stopped, and how easy it is to press their bodies together and let jeongguk open for him, sliding their mouths together like this and like this and like this, too. yoongi grips onto jeongguk’s neck like a lifeline and breathes him in and feels this delicate thing in his chest burst into life, so much more than just a seedling. so much more than just a blossom.

and then—he feels jeongguk’s hands sliding down and down, hooking on the belt loops of his jeans, wanting more.

yoongi’s mind seems to snap back into place and he tears himself away, breathless as he snatches jeongguk’s hands away. “hold on,” he breathes, and—he’s out of breath, maybe not from the kissing but something else. he looks at jeongguk and sees what a mess they’ve made of each other: swollen lips, pupils blown wide. “jeongguk-ah, baby—we have a song to finish.”

jeongguk just looks at him for a moment, eyes flickering down to his lips away, and then whines.

“hey, no,” he scolds, one hand pressing on jeongguk’s chest. “we, um—” he clears his throat. his head is heady, filled with jeongguk. “we should finish it. and then—maybe. later.” he regrets the words only for the hopeful look on jeongguk’s face, and yoongi keeps himself from thinking about it. because thinking about it will mean he overthinks it and regrets it and knows that he has to stop it.

and—he doesn’t want to stop it.

“just,” begins yoongi, distracted by the way jeongguk is still looking at him, like he wants to devour him whole. “let’s do that chorus part again? the, uh—the harmonies. that’s what we need.” somehow, he pulls himself away, taking a step back from jeongguk. his cheeks flush, not just from the exertion or high, but from something more.

he sits back down in his chair, ignoring the feeling of jeongguk’s hazy eyes boring into his back as he turns around to face his desktop. he stares at the screen for a second, and realizes that he’s shaking. but it’s not with regret, not with anything that tells him this is the wrong thing to do. and once he’s composed himself, at least somewhat, he starts the recording again.

later, when they finish the recording—because they do finish it, somehow, with a lot of will power and yoongi firmly staying in his chair and making jeongguk sing over and over again until he gets it right, almost more to shake him out of whatever stupor the kiss pushed him into—yoongi sends jeongguk to find alcohol to celebrate finishing the song, at least for the most part. there will have to be last minute touch-ups and edits, especially after having their own producers look it over, but for all intents and purposes, they’ve finished.

and he wants to celebrate. but he’s also still shaking and doesn’t want to think about it, and alcohol—seems like a good idea. jeongguk comes back in record time with his cheeks flushed, holding a bottle of champagne and a six pack of beers, for good measure. it looks like he’s just waiting yoongi to say it’s later.

yoongi’s heart has a nervous beat as be pours the champagne into two coffee-stained mugs and hands one to jeongguk. “well,” he says. “congrats on the song. i think we did well.”

jeongguk licks his lips, sips at the drink. “yeah,” he says. “feels weird that it’s done now. like we’ve been working on it forever but also it feels like we just started.”

“we’ll have promotions, so it’s not quite over yet.” and that’s—a good thing, isn’t it, that this won’t be the last they’ll see of each other. suddenly, there’s so much to say. but yoongi just drinks his champagne, and normally, this celebration might have more laughter, or teasing. but jeongguk is just watching him over the top of his mug, and there’s this heavy, unspoken thing between them. yoongi can’t stop feeling the weight and heat of jeongguk’s lips against his, and how familiar it was. he wants it again.

but—he sits on the sofa and drinks. and jeongguk sits in yoongi’s chair and drinks, and yoongi doesn’t say anything about not being allowed to sit there, because maybe he’s earned it. they make small talk about the song, about what they’ll need to do next—tell moon and kim, of course but more than that, run the song by their producers to make sure that it’s perfect.

the process of promoting, and figuring out a performance, and practicing. and suddenly, yoongi sees it all dragging out before him, and it’s terrifying, because after tonight, this song will no longer be only theirs. they’ve kept it all a secret, the media desperately trying to find any information that the companies don’t even know. the song is their hearts, their story, but it’s never left this room. it’s the last night before they send it out and it becomes someone else’s, before it’ll become tainted by someone else’s fingers. anyone could label it as anything.

but there, it is theirs and only theirs. this is their story. and this isn’t the ending, but a new beginning.

they finish the bottle of champagne. jeongguk downs an entire can of beer in one go, and yoongi sips his more slowly but lets the haziness begin to cloud his head anyway, until suddenly, they’re both three deep and still on opposite sites of the rooms and yoongi can’t figure out why. and he thought alcohol might help him cope with this better, but all it’s done is amplify his want.

everything is clearer, somehow, when he’s drunk.

“hyung,” says jeongguk, slumping a little in yoongi’s chair. “it’s later.”

he also thought that alcohol might make jeongguk forget—because it would be easier that way, wouldn’t it? to pretend that it was all just the emotions they were feeling at the time and not something that has been a long time coming. not like coming home after five years.

“c’mere,” murmurs yoongi, crooking his finger in front of him. jeongguk tilts his head.

“why don’t you come here?” he replies. yoongi almost finds himself reminding jeongguk of the one time they tried to fuck in yoongi’s chair and almost broke several bones, but. that’s presumptive of the situation. instead, he just stares at jeongguk and silently fights it, trying to see who will crack first and then finds that—it’s his own heart. embarrassingly, he realizes how much he wants this.

so he gets up, rolling his eyes as he stumbles a little on his way over, knocking over an empty can of beer before he comes to rest in front of jeongguk, their toes nearly touching. jeongguk looks up at him, and yoongi would have expected—the cocky kid he was at the beginning of this, trying to be in control. there’s something to be said about power here. instead, jeongguk is all open skies and desire, waiting for yoongi to move because this was always supposed to be an equal effort, wasn’t it?

jeongguk blinks at him, all pretty eyes and pretty lips and pretty pretty pretty. he’s always pretty. yoongi wants to touch, wants to feel—wants to relearn this part of jeongguk, too, like the rest.

“you’re still not here,” whispers jeongguk, like he’s afraid of say it—alcohol makes him shy. alcohol makes yoongi courageous, so he leans over, grasping the arm rests of the chair so that he climb on, one knee on each side of jeongguk’s thighs between he and the chair. it’s a tight fit, but he makes it work, sliding on and forward until he’s straddling jeongguk properly, weight pressing down and down.

like this, he towers over jeongguk, and there’s something satisfying in it. in the hands that he lets rest on jeongguk’s face again, gently tracing his eyebrows, his nose, his lips. on jeongguk’s hands coming to rest on his waist, just holding—a reversal, almost, of how it always was the first time. and that makes sense, too, to take something so right that ended so wrong and flip it, make it new like this.

yoongi finally looks at jeongguk properly.

“is this a bad idea?” he whispers.

jeongguk doesn’t say yes, but yoongi imagines that he thinks it. thinks about the five years of distance between them, and even with the forgiveness, there’s too much to be said. he thinks about jimin telling him that he’s moving too quickly even before this had even happened. and how he’ll have to wake up tomorrow and face it, and how he’ll hate himself for it, just a little.

yoongi doesn’t care. not when it comes to jeongguk.

he tugs down, just slightly, on jeongguk’s lower lip, and then leans down, jeongguk’s face craning up to meet his. and he hesitates an inch away, teasing.

yoongi waits until jeongguk makes that noise, the one he always used to—the half-whine, half-sigh. he says, “yoongi-hyung. please kiss me.”

and yoongi does.

it’s different from the first—less timid, more sure. sloppier, because they’re drunk, but they were never perfect anyway. and yoongi likes to play dirty, not bothering to give jeongguk a moment to get used to the new press and slide of their lips before he nips at jeongguk’s bottom lip and draws a hiss out of him.

“hyung—” jeongguk begins and is immediately cut off by yoongi pressing a kiss to his lip, right over the bite. once, twice. jeongguk’s hands tighten on his waist and yoongi sucks jeongguk’s lip into his mouth, wanting to taste more and more. now that he’s head over heels in it, he doesn’t want to stop, doesn’t want to think.

yoongi kisses him and kisses him and puts everything into it—the past five years and the two before that, everything that he’s wanted and missed for that long. and how he feels now and can’t put into words, everything that he couldn’t put into the song. he kisses jeongguk like it’s the first time. he kisses jeongguk like it’s the last time.

it’s lazy, still, and slow as jeongguk breathes into his mouth, huffing and out of breath. and still, yoongi can feel arousal stirring in the pit of his stomach, spurred on by sitting in jeongguk’s lap and feeling jeongguk’s half-hard cock taking an interest in all of it. yoongi lets his hands trail down jeongguk’s neck, kissing him gently once more before he changes tactics and grinds down instead.

the response is immediate—jeongguk lets out something akin to a choked moan, body going taunt beneath yoongi, and yoongi—chuckles. “like that?” he asks, kissing at the corner of jeongguk’s mouth and then down to his jaw as he grinds down again, liking too much the way jeongguk’s entire arm wraps around yoongi’s waist instead, holding him close.

“fuck,” breathes jeongguk.

“i’ll take that as a yes,” murmurs yoongi, kissing at the edge of jeongguk’s jaw and then back up again—his chin, his bottom lip, his cupid’s bow. he keeps a steady rhythm with his hips, rubbing their clothed cocks together as he feels himself growing harder, and maybe it should be embarrassing how quickly it’s all happening—but it’s been too long. and this is jeongguk and jeongguk is his, at least here, at least in this moment. jeongguk is like their song, maybe. in this studio, yoongi can have him all to himself, doesn’t have to share.

yoongi has never been very good at sharing to begin with.

with jeongguk’s head tipped back against the chair, making these little noises high in his throat as yoongi grinds down on him, it’s—something. it does straight to yoongi’s head. but he focuses on kissing jeongguk’s slack mouth instead, circling his hips carefully as jeongguk lets out another moan.

“missed this,” yoongi murmurs.

“what?” breathes jeongguk.

“you,” replies yoongi. “you making those sounds. my baby.”

jeongguk makes a different sound at that—another whine, hips finally bucking up to meet yoongi halfway, and yoongi hisses, breathing hard into jeongguk’s mouth as he sees where this is going. maybe where it was always going to go.

“say that again,” says jeongguk, closing his eyes, and yoongi looks at him before grinding down again, particularly hard, and repeating it—“baby.”

it always did something to jeongguk’s head, and yoongi didn’t mind. still doesn’t, as he reattaches their lips and lets jeongguk’s whines and moans push him closer and closer to the edge, quickening the speed of his grinds and timing them with jeongguk’s upwards thrusts.

carefully, yoongi slides his hands down the front of jeongguk’s chest, and then carefully brushes his fingers over the other’s nipples. he grins at the instant response, the hiss as jeongguk cranes into it, and he kisses jeongguk again as he says, “still like that, hm?” he knew jeongguk better than he knew himself. it’s hard to forget, hard not to let himself fall into the same habits and routines with jeongguk, even this.

jeongguk still responds the same way, like there hasn’t been any distance at all. and he expected it might feel strange, starting off on the wrong foot, but it’s not that at all. there’s no awkward fumbling, no uncertainty—he knows what jeongguk likes. he knows how to play jeongguk like his own piano, his first love. he feels drunk not with alcohol but knowledge, power. yoongi moves like this and jeongguk moans like he used to. yoongi kisses him here and jeongguk chases after it like he used to. it’s all like he used to.

“hyung,” begins jeongguk, not long after—“hyung, i’m gonna—”

“come in your pants?” finishes yoongi, grinning as jeongguk looks at him with that heady look in his eyes, but something more. something too fond for the filth of it, grinding desperately on each other in the middle of yoongi’s studio when someone could be right outside the door—

“shut up,” says jeongguk. “this is your fault.”

“you’re the one who wanted me to kiss you.”

“want more,” breathes jeongguk. “always want more.”

“next time, baby,” says yoongi, and finds that he means it. finds that he wants more, doesn’t want this to be something frenzied with emotion and the high of finishing their song. he kisses jeongguk again, grinding down hard again and feeling it building and building with him, something about to snap.

it’s jeongguk who comes first, letting out a delicious moan of yoongi’s name as he does. familiar, familiar, and yoongi chases the feeling of it, jeongguk finally kissing him back as he bucks up into jeongguk’s hips, and yoongi comes like that, too.

for some time after, yoongi stays there on jeongguk’s lap, panting into his mouth. and waiting for the guilt to set in, or the shame—but it doesn’t. all he feels is something hazy, both from the alcohol and his orgasm, and jeongguk presses their lips together again and again. like a reminder.

eventually, he says—“that was disgusting,” and jeongguk giggles right into his mouth, and it’s worth it, just for that.

and after, at the door, jeongguk looks at him careful and slow and wanting. says, “i’ll see you tomorrow?” with so much hope that it almost breaks yoongi’s heart. they have so much more work ahead of them, but it’s not about that. somehow, yoongi doesn’t even care about the song.

in lieu of answering with words, yoongi reaches out and grabs a fistful of jeongguk’s sweater, tugging him over and down the few inches until yoongi can kiss him again, this one short and decisive. it means—yes. means—if i’ll see you, too. means—i’m still making sure that you’re real.

and after, once jeongguk is gone and has left only the memory of his lips on yoongi’s behind, yoongi listens to the song. and then listens again and again. and wonders if everyone else will be able to hear it, too: the longing, and the regret. but all of that stupid fucking love, too, just waiting for an excuse to break his heart again.

 

iii.

sometimes i shrink from your knowing what i have felt for you,
and sometimes i am distressed that all of it
you will never know.
— thomas hardy 

 

this time, yoongi doesn’t bother saying anything to his friends. he knows what they’ll say, anyway—and he’d much rather keep his head down, especially when he wakes the next morning with a mild hangover and too many burning memories, leaving him flushed at just the thought. jeongguk has left a pile of drunken texts on his phone, and yoongi doesn’t bother to look at them before he heads right into the studio to tie up all of the loose ends. he doesn’t need to think about it. doesn’t want to.

he runs into namjoon again, in the elevator. and yoongi feels like it’s written all over his face, or maybe jeongguk told him, but—

“we finished the song,” says yoongi idly, staring hard at the elevator door. “if you—want to hear?” he hadn’t been intending to say it, but it makes sense as soon as the words leave his mouth. before, namjoon was the one who would always give his seal of approval on one of yoongi’s songs, or would have the best advice on how to fix something. it only feels right, if yoongi is doing something about his broken relationship with jeongguk, that he should do something about his broken relationship with namjoon, too.

he lets namjoon listen to it, watching the other rapper’s face carefully the whole time, trying to decipher something. yoongi is nervous, wanting approval, wanting to know that he’s done something right.

but once the song is finished, namjoon kind of just… sits there. after a while, he removes his headphones and then glances at yoongi and says, “you’re still in love with him, aren’t you?”

and it’s—not right. not wrong, either. namjoon tells him it’s a good song, really good. congratulates him. and leaves. the words, perhaps meant to spur him into action, do nothing but send a fearful shiver down yoongi’s spine, the text messages on his phone left unanswered as he goes straight to moon to inform him that the collaboration is finished.

they begin promotions at the end of july. it’s as he expected—he and jeongguk hardly have a moment alone as they’re instantly swept up in the media, preparations, practices. and maybe it’s a good thing, because jeongguk’s gaze is heavy when he looks at yoongi and they still haven’t talked about it, but yoongi thinks he likes it best that way. he doesn’t know what he would say, anyway. there are always people around, producers and directors and stylists, getting in the way. yoongi lets them.

instead, he focuses on the song. on the public reaction to it once it’s released, only a few weeks after they finished it, and he tells himself that he doesn’t care what people think but there’s relief in the positive reaction, anyway—some backlash from both he and jeongguk’s fans, considering their public rivalry before this, but the song garners high praise from music critics, from both companies. if he cares about that more than he cares about what happened in the studio, everything is fine.

and still. something twinges in his chest as they head into their first performance of the song on a music show, all done up with make up and fancy suits and fans screaming their names as the lights go up. it’s not about the song anymore. it’s about what’s behind it—and jeongguk across the stage from him, still singing his heart out.

the past few months were supposed to be about the song, about being serious artists who could work well together despite all of the hatred. but he can’t focus on the lyrics even as he raps them, telling the world about this ache he has in his chest for jeongguk, even if they’ll never know it. it’s a good song, he tells himself. it’s just an off day.

after, they stand on the stage and hear the screams of their fans and listen to the mcs announce the winner for the week, and yoongi doesn’t even realize when it’s his name—he blinks out of his thoughts, turning to look at jeongguk with surprise as the other leaves his side. it’s only then that he hears the screaming and jeongguk looks over his shoulder at him, all bright eyes and brighter smiles and—oh. yoongi’s feet finally move.

he’s brought back to crashing reality just like that, as jeongguk shoves the award in his hands and he finally feels the joy well up inside of him. people like their song—like his song. they took a risk, took a chance in working together, and it’s already paying off as jeongguk shouts to the fans that he loves them and they’ll work harder to show a better performance and that’s—that’s—it.

he spent years wanting to be right here with jeongguk, singing with him, winning with him. and one win on one music show isn’t quite as big as he dared to dream, but. jeongguk looks at him under the lights and the confetti falling on them, and there’s that bunny-toothed smile again. yoongi’s heart slams in his chest, hearing namjoon over the music—you’re still in love with him, aren’t you?

after, they hurry backstage, yoongi handing the award off to someone who reaches for it, and he feels the rush of it. he’s out of breath as someone pats him on the back, someone else telling him that he’s done a good job, and he turns around to see jeongguk right behind him, and they haven’t talked about it but do these things even need words? and he’s high with it—the adrenaline, the win.

yoongi changes courses, tilting his head sideways with his gaze on jeongguk, and he hopes. he wants. in the bathroom, he makes sure it’s all empty before he takes off his suit jacket, sweaty and hot, and stares at himself in the mirror. they won. they won once, they performed, and it felt too right, felt too natural, like this was what they were meant to be doing all along.

the door bangs open and yoongi turns to see jeongguk, out of breath and sweaty himself. they stare at each other, alone for one of the first times since they finished the song almost three weeks ago. there’s so much unspoken.

and yoongi knows they have to talk about it. they have to talk about what happened, what it means, what they’re supposed to do now. they have another week of promotions ahead of them, more performances and wins, maybe, and then. that’s it. this blur of their lives, clashing together again, will be over, and they’ll go back to their own lives, and he knows—he knows—they need to say something.

but he looks at jeongguk and he sees what he saw in his studio on that night, sees the boy that he fell in love with seven years ago. hears the song in the back of his head, all of that longing and waiting, and what jeongguk looks like when he’s belting it out for the world while keeping part of it hidden right there, in his chest, where only yoongi can see.

they both breathe into the silence, caught in a moment of indecision or uncertainty.

yoongi opens his mouth, intends to say—something. and then, all at once, realizes there’s nothing to say. communication was never their strong point.

instead, he stalks across the bathroom, grabs the front of jeongguk’s jacket, tugs him forward and into a rough kiss. he hears the surprised noise jeongguk makes in the back of his throat, but doesn’t let up—especially because jeongguk’s body seems to move of its own accord anyway, hands clutching at him, too, as he kisses back. it’s all of the adrenaline and rush of the performance and winning and three weeks of wondering and nothing between them, and yoongi realizing he’s a weak, weak man.

yoongi kisses him and he doesn’t stop. he just walks backwards, dragging jeongguk with him, until he can fit them both into one of the stalls, just in case. just in case. he presses jeongguk against the side of the stall, pressing one last wet kiss to his lips before he moves on, lips sliding down the younger’s jaw line and throat, hands going straight for his belt.

“f-fuck,” stutters jeongguk, breathless. “hyung—hyung, what are you doing?”

“what does it look like?” he mumbles into jeongguk’s neck, and then pulls back enough to press a kiss to the other’s surprised mouth as he gets jeongguk’s belt undone.

“this is—we’re—public, hyung.”

“i closed the door.”

jeongguk seems to reason with it before he lets out a stammer of a laugh, surprised or incredulous, and then grabs yoongi’s face before kissing him first this time. and yoongi takes it as a yes, as a go ahead, as proof that he isn’t the only one who hasn’t stopped thinking about the night in the studio for three weeks. he undoes jeongguk’s belt, then the button his pants, before sticking his hand down and down, grasping at jeongguk’s cock with a hum into jeongguk’s mouth.

he can feel jeongguk shuddering, just a little, and then he murmurs, “don’t.”

“don’t what?” asks yoongi, feels the hurried frenzy of it; jeongguk is half-hard already and yoongi wastes no time in wiping at the bead of pre-come, using it to make the slide easier as he begins the sloppy handjob.

“don’t say you missed this,” breathes jeongguk, already panting into his mouth even though he’s pressing kisses there, too, and yoongi scrunches his nose just a little, doesn’t want to find it funny, but. he was kind of thinking about it, thinking about all of the times they did this—less in public, usually, and less hurried. but it’s still jeongguk and there’s still something making his heart skip as he strokes jeongguk’s cock.

yoongi grins as jeongguk lets out another moan, right into his mouth, and yoongi swallows it down. “this is a bad idea,” he says.

“yeah,” agrees jeongguk, but neither of them stop. not when yoongi speeds the quickness of his hand, running his fingers over the head of jeongguk’s cock like he’s relearning it blind, and not when jeongguk bites down on his lip hard to keep from making a louder sound, and not when jeongguk comes, spilling into yoongi’s hand and his stupid stage outfit.

it’s not a good idea. but yoongi laughs and kisses jeongguk silly, and feels lighter, somehow, than he has in years.

it’s not a good idea. but it keeps happening anyway.

they win on the next show—

(“are you just doing this because you’re so happy that we won?” asks jeongguk as yoongi presses him against another bathroom stall, a different bathroom stall.

“ask me again if we lose.”)

they don’t win on the next show—

(“consolation blowjob,” mumbles jeongguk as he fumbles with yoongi’s belt buckle.

“how considerate,” breathes yoongi, hand already pushing through jeongguk’s hair. familiar, familiar.

“i know.”)

but they win on the next—

(“did you know your lip balm is strawberry flavoured?” asks yoongi.

jeongguk flushes, means—it’s on purpose.)

and the next—

(they make it back to yoongi’s studio this time. it’s on purpose, because jeongguk made an off-hand comment about how dirty public bathrooms are, and they almost got caught last time, anyway, and it’s only been a few days but it feels like a lifetime in this hazy in-between.

it’s on purpose because yoongi wants to take his time as he takes jeongguk apart, except by the time they actually get to the studio, jeongguk is complaining of tiredness and soreness and wanting to sleep. the high of winning is already wearing off as they stumble inside and jeongguk immediately collapses on the sofa, curling into himself. and yoongi looks at him. and he realizes that the warmth in his chest isn’t from winning or performing, but from this: being with jeongguk. looking at jeongguk. hearing his tired, sleepy voice mumble something about cuddles and then seeing his hand flop lazily in the air as he seems to search for yoongi, still standing by the door.

it’s—domestic. it’s how it used to be.

and yoongi gives into it almost instantly, slipping off his shoes and padding toward the sofa because jeongguk wants him there, and he can’t deny jeongguk anything. not anymore. he sits beside jeongguk’s head, unsure what to do for a moment when it’s all softness and quiet. they’ve been making out and sucking each other off in bathrooms for days now, hurried and desperate.

but this is something new. this is jeongguk grumbling and then taking hold of yoongi’s thigh with both hands, shuffling up until he can rest his head in yoongi’s lap, face against his stomach. this is jeongguk blindly reaching for yoongi’s hands, and then when he finds one of them, putting it on his head with the clear intention for yoongi to play with his hair.

when was the first time he remembered that jeongguk liked that? and when will he stop seeing the parallels instead of where they are now? and what if he chooses something different this time?

they fell apart because they didn’t know how to talk to each other in the end. and this isn’t talking, but yoongi can understand, maybe, why jeongguk walked away instead of just asking for the truth the first time. because asking for the truth is scary and it hurts. and yoongi doesn’t want to be right about his assumptions, that this is all he and jeongguk are ever going to be once promotions end in only two days. it’s so much easier to just pretend, to avoid the possibilities until it’s too late.

so—jeongguk whines, pressing his face further into yoongi’s stomach.

so—yoongi finally gives in, threading his fingers through jeongguk’s hair and stroking softly.

so—“baby,” he says quietly, testing it out again. the weight of it. “bun.” jeongguk makes another noise, still holding onto yoongi’s thigh. “i’m proud of you. you know that, right? you did well today.”

“hyung,” comes the muffled reply, a little embarrassed. jeongguk was never good with yoongi praising him, even if it’s all true.

“the song is really good,” continues yoongi, because they haven’t talked about that, either, and it’s easier than addressing the elephant in the room. “we did a really good job. it feels—right, you know? and it feels really good to be performing it with you, like we wanted to in the beginning.” jeongguk makes another humming noise, maybe just to show that he’s listening, and yoongi keeps playing with his hair and keeps his voice low and soft, and says it. says all of it. “i was really scared at first, not just because of how our relationship was, but because—i dunno, making songs is hard. making honest songs is hard, and i had no idea what it would turn out to be like if it was about us. but i couldn’t imagine it being better. you’re a beautiful singer, guk-ah. sound so good, and you perform so well, and i wouldn’t want to be up there with anyone else.”

with a shock, he realizes that there are other people he has to be up there with: hoseok and taehyung, his bandmates. once this is over, he’ll go back to boy meets evil. they’re meant to release an album later in the year, with only part of it finished because of the break for this collaboration. and it’s felt like a vacation, almost, despite the struggle—a break from the rest of his life, an immersion in jeongguk instead.

but this is it. after this whirlwind and blur of promotions and performing and whatever this is, he’s going to go back to his life. and jeongguk will go back to his.

he’s overcome with it, suddenly: the fear. the need to make jeongguk know, even though the other is already breathing deeply, asleep. yoongi stares at the side of jeongguk’s sleeping face and feels like a kid again, unsure of their future but wanting more than anything for it to work out. to be with jeongguk.

yoongi leans over, pressing a soft kiss to the side of jeongguk’s head, and then the shell of his ear, and then his cheek. and thinks about mistakes, about history repeating itself.)

they finish promotions with more wins than losses, and there’s a congratulatory dinner between the two companies, and moon tells yoongi that he did a brilliant job of bringing them together, tells him that the song is good. gives him a sort of knowing look when the subject of jeongguk comes up, although he can’t know. just knows that in the past three and a half months, yoongi and jeongguk haven’t said a single insulting word about each other in the media. so the collaboration worked.

and there’s talk of possible collaborations in the future, and talk of returning to solo projects, and talks of coming back together for the end of year awards of all goes well. and yoongi sits with his food and doesn’t eat because he feels a little—sick. knowing that it’s over. and not knowing what to do about that.

he pulls jeongguk aside after the dinner, in the coat room of the restaurant when the others are hailing cabs for the ride home. he knows jeongguk is worried about the same thing because of how he keeps fiddling with his coat—yoongi’s coat.

“told you it was good,” breathes yoongi, for a lack of something else to say. “everyone likes it. we’re gonna keep winning on music shows. i bet you this song will be charting years from now, a real classic.”

“yeah,” says jeongguk, a forced laugh leaving him. “i bet.”

he looks at yoongi, then, through his eyelashes. he looks less like the twenty-four-year-old superstar that he is and more like a frightened child, like yoongi is about to tell him that his favourite stuffie has gone missing.

“jeongguk-ah,” he begins, and he was right the other night, when he thought that just not talking about it would be easier. and what should he say? he should ask, maybe, if they’re going to continue whatever has started between them. he should ask if this is it, if it was a mistake. he should ask how jeongguk feels, although he’s afraid of being asked in return when he doesn’t have an answer yet.

but jeongguk just says, “i’ll text you when i get home, okay?” and maybe—that’s enough. they can make it easy despite everything unspoken between each other. they won’t go back to being angry at each other and spitting angry words in the media. they’re friends now, at the very least, and they can remain friends when they go back to their lives.

something in yoongi reminds him that they’re far from it, now. reminds him of the flower still in full bloom in his chest, the one he wants to pluck and give to jeongguk and say, maybe this time.

instead, he says, “yeah. okay.”

he goes home. he sits on his bed and feels—empty, now that it’s over.

and despite his words, jeongguk doesn’t text. yoongi doesn’t either. and it ends—more than just the song, the collaboration. and they were never very good at communicating, were they?

yoongi immediately jumps into work with boy meets evil. every time they start working on a new album, it all feels so new—the anticipation, the pressure, but the excitement too. he wants to make good music for his fans, wants to be the best artist that he can be. hoseok and taehyung work with vigour, almost frenzied after going so long without this: long nights in the studio, presenting new ideas and lyrics, working on giving the best that they can.

for yoongi, it’s different. he just spent months giving his all emotionally only to be dragged right back to the starting point and expected to work as well as he always does. and he tries—he gets right back into the studio and doesn’t think about his empty it feels, suddenly, without jeongguk’s constant presence on his couch, without jeongguk giving him ideas or bothering him. he looks back at his lyrics and doesn’t think about how half of them are the ones he wrote for jeongguk that didn’t make it into spring day. he puts his head down and he doesn’t think about jeongguk, period.

but—he does. because he has to pay attention, at least for the first few weeks when their song is still competing on music shows. every time they win, they exchange a few texts of congratulations and maybe a little more. yoongi tries—he makes small talk to the best of his ability, asking jeongguk what he’s working on now and occasionally sending a picture or two of his own work.

but he gets busy. he sees headlines about jeongguk’s work. and he spends every waking moment in the studio or with hoseok and taehyung or producers and writers, working on the new album. he doesn’t have time to sleep, let alone think about someone else, and suddenly, it’s been weeks and he hasn’t even looked at his text conversation with jeongguk. and he doesn’t text jeongguk, because jeongguk doesn’t text him, and—that’s just how it goes, doesn’t it?

they’re busy. they have different lives. what they had here was something fleeting, like a moth to a flame. it only made sense that the spark would devour them whole and leave nothing but ashes behind. and what was yoongi expecting, anyway? when they had always clashed in one way or another, especially after the break-up, when they had been hating each other for five years? and maybe jeongguk didn’t like him that much after all. maybe he was just looking for a way to get all of that emotion out, and it ended up being in the form of something too reminiscent of what once was.

but—it leaves a sting in his heart, like a nettle that gets under his skin. yoongi doesn’t know what he should have been expecting, but it wasn’t this—a second chance, a seed of hope. the flower in his chest wilts and wilts as each day passes and he goes to sleep, sometimes at three or four in the morning, with nothing from jeongguk. it was always easier to say nothing, but it makes him feel awful. and he’s upset. and he doesn’t know what to do about it.

he thinks, maybe, that putting his head down and working harder will help. but what yoongi finds is that he can’t work at all—none of his lyrics come out right, none of his songs sound right. hoseok and taehyung blaze on ahead of him, making progress with their own songs and vocals, and yoongi spends night after night staring at his desktop and not knowing what’s wrong with his hands. it’s like—he gave too much to jeongguk. it’s like nothing works without him anymore.

or maybe it’s the distraction. if he could get jeongguk off of his mind, if he could get this stupid disappointment out of his chest, he could work well. but that would require talking to someone, and he knows what hoseok and taehyung and jimin will say. and he can’t tell them, anyway, not when it’s too embarrassing—he had a wild new weeks with the first and only boy he ever loved, and then jeongguk left. again.

or did yoongi leave this time? and does it matter when neither of them have been bothering to contact the other, anyway?

it’s that easy. that easy to fall apart again, despite the promise. we’re friends, right? jeongguk had asked. and how was yoongi supposed to tell him that he’d never been good at keeping friends to begin with?

he harbours it in his chest: the pain. he’s gotten good at it. he tries to use it in his songs, but all of those come out wrong, too, and suddenly he looks up and it’s been almost two months. almost two months of—nothing. silence and sorrow and yoongi feels a little numb, sometimes. it’s fall. spring day is still charting, and it seems to mock him every time he bothers to look at the media. sometimes he sees someone asking whatever happened to he and jeongguk, and he ignores that too.

but the album is supposed to be finished soon. and although it’s been a struggle, he’s glad for something to focus on, trying to get through whatever it in his heart to make it there. he misses jeongguk with something fierce. doesn’t know what to do with all of this loneliness.

it’s nearing midnight again, yoongi just settling in for the night in hoseok’s studio as they try to get out one last song for the album. and yoongi stares at the desktop and doesn’t know what to do with this. he can feel hoseok getting more and more frustrated, as he has been for almost two months now, when yoongi isn’t the producer and rapper he’s supposed to be.

“hyung,” says hoseok for the fourth time in as many minutes, when yoongi’s hands shake over the mouse and he’s unsure, so fucking unsure. “what’s been up with you? i’ve tried letting you just deal with it yourself, but there’s something wrong. i can tell.”

“i’m fine,” says yoongi automatically, the usual response; hoseok and taehyung and even their producers and managers have asked him numerous times since the collaboration ended, when he was letting his misery get too obvious. he would double down instead of answering, trying to prove to them that there was nothing wrong with him. but hoseok knows him too well.

“this is like—” begins the other rapper, and then pauses. yoongi finally looks at him, sitting at the piano bench. “it’s like five years ago, hyung. a little.”

yoongi thinks of it—all of the crying he did, in private. waking up early so he didn’t have to see jeongguk in his dreams or in his nightmares, and ignoring all of the concern on hoseok’s face as he went to practice. and how hard it was at first, and how he wanted to quit first star because he didn’t see a point in it anymore when the one person he was doing all of it for had disappeared. and how all of his songs had jeongguk in them, at least when he could make a song, and how he wouldn’t talk about it because he didn’t know what to say.

still—“i don’t know what you’re talking about,” mutters yoongi, turning back to the desktop.

and hoseok sighs, just quietly. “i don’t know what happened between you two,” he begins, “but clearly something happened. and it’s making you fucking miserable.”

“i said i’m fine, hoseok,” says yoongi, voice pinched.

“no, you’re not, hyung. you’re my best friend. i know you better than that. you don’t—work anymore. getting songs out of you has been like pulling teeth. and you don’t sleep and you’re barely eating and you don’t talk about him anymore. did you know you did, before? when you were working together.” yoongi didn’t. “you were always laughing at your phone or accidentally saying something about him. and you haven’t done that, not since—the end.”

he thinks of namjoon saying that he was never as subtle as he thought he was, in the beginning. and maybe it’s hard being subtle about jeongguk, when jeongguk is larger than life in so many ways—filling up all of the spaces of yoongi’s heart, getting into the nooks and crannies and staying there. and he knows that hoseok doesn’t want to pry, because they agreed long ago that they would never do that, but. but.

“nothing happened,” says yoongi, staring hard at the desktop. “that’s the thing, hoseok. nothing happened.

“something must have—”

“no, you don’t get it,” and yoongi looks at him again, face hard with anger. “we just stopped talking. we’re both busy or something and we promised we’d stay in contact, but it didn’t happen. nothing happened. and i thought it would.”

“maybe you should text him, then,” suggests hoseok, and yoongi knew he would. it’s the reasonable thing to do.

“why hasn’t he texted me, then?”

“maybe he’s waiting for you to.”

“or maybe he doesn’t care anymore,” says yoongi. “maybe i scared him off. or maybe he realized that i’m not the person he wants to be with two times over and this is just easier, right, to pretend that we don’t fit like we used to.”

he can practically hear hoseok thinking. he does hear the chair move and creak, hoseok sitting back and getting more comfortable. yoongi stares at the half-finished song they have and wonders if this one is somehow about jeongguk, too, because yoongi doesn’t know how to do anything without jeongguk being in all of it. and that’s cruel, isn’t it, with all of this distance between them. what else is he supposed to do?

“what do you mean?” hoseok finally asks. “hyung, why did you stop talking in the first place? you were—it was fine.

yoongi thinks of the weight of it—of jeongguk’s lips on his, and jeongguk’s hands in his hair. it’s far from what he missed most about being with him, but it was nice. it was good. it was easier to give into the physical part of it instead of just wanting to hold jeongguk, because that has too many connotations and expectations. he would rather have jeongguk like that than not at all, but now he doesn’t have him at all anyway.

and he hasn’t told anyone, because it’s humiliating. and he doesn’t want to admit that it’s his fault, that he put himself in this position. he doesn’t want to admit that he’s gotten hung up on his ex-boyfriend because he was stupid enough to believe that almost fucking him was better than admitting the truth.

but here, now. it’s been two months. he feels jeongguk’s absence like a phantom limb, this up and down of their relationship. if he looks hard enough, he thinks he can see jeongguk’s imprint on this couch, too, and does that mean he has to burn it like the last one?

yoongi takes a breath, and then—“i sucked his dick.”

and then, before hoseok can do anything other than take a breath—“i mean. i kissed him first. and a lot. and it just kept—happening and i didn’t stop it but i didn’t say anything about it, either. we just kept doing things and i was going to talk to him but then the promotions ended and he went back to his life and i went back to mine and we stopped texting.”

he chances a glance at hoseok to see the hard look on the other’s face. “did you fuck?”

“no,” says yoongi. “didn’t really—have the means for that. it was in a bathroom a lot.”

“that’s disgusting.”

“i wanted him so badly.”

hoseok stares at him with that disappointed look on his face. and yoongi knows this is his fault as much as it is jeongguk’s, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. talk to jeongguk, maybe, but he’s too afraid. the unknown is too frightening, and this is what jeongguk must have felt after he left. it’s so much easier to leave everything unsaid, hoping the other knows the truth without actually having to confront it.

“i can’t believe you,” hoseok finally says. “you’re a fucking idiot. both of you are, actually. you shouldn’t have done it.”

“hoseok—”

“no, you know i’m right. you shouldn’t have done it. he broke your heart and the moment you’re alone in a room together, you suddenly want to fuck him and have to vomit all of your feelings all over him? after five years of doing your best to get over him, and it’s just that easy to make you fall again?”

“hoseok, it’s not that,” says yoongi. “i don’t know—i don’t know what i’m feeling. but i’m miserable because i miss him. not even—that part, just… him. being friends. i miss when he was my best friend.”

“i don’t know what to tell you, hyung.” says hoseok. it’s clear he’s angry, not just from the edge to his voice or the hard look on his face. hoseok really was the one who had to pick yoongi up piece by piece and put him back together. and yoongi knows what this looks like to him, but he has to be honest for once in his life—about the music, about his struggles.

“that’s why i can’t work well,” yoongi finally says. “i broke my own heart again.”

hoseok just. looks at him. and then he gets up and leaves, and yoongi is left to sit there in the silence of the studio without knowing what to do with the ache in his chest, too familiar to the first time.

half an hour later, the studio door opens again and taehyung walks through.

“he told me,” is the first thing he says, taking the seat that hoseok previously occupied. “and because he can’t say it, i will. you’re a fucking idiot.”

“he did already say that,” mutters yoongi.

“no, yoongi-hyung, listen to me.” and yoongi does, staring at taehyung’s big, careful eyes—he’s not angry. he’s worried. and hoseok is, too, just in a different way. yoongi hates putting them in this position, but he’s already done it. “from what i understand, your relationship got fucked up the first time because jeongguk left and neither of you bothered to say anything to each other. and this time, you’re not bothering to say anything to each other. it’s history repeating itself. the universe gave you a second chance and you’re spitting in its face.”

“we were never going to get back together, taehyungie,” sighs yoongi.

“you don’t know that,” replies taehyung. “you don’t know that, hyung. if anything—the universe gave you a second chance to be friends and to get over whatever between the two of you. and you’re sitting here, wallowing in your own self-pity and misery when you could literally just pick up your phone and text jeongguk hey, and it would probably solve everything.”

yoongi’s fingers itch to do just that. but there’s that block in his heart, again, the worry of it. the fear. “it’s not that easy,” he whispers.

“hyung,” says taehyung, and it’s softer this time. he reaches out, grabbing yoongi’s knee. “yes, it is.”

and suddenly—he feels like crying. at how fucking stupid all of this is, and how afraid he is to just say something. he’s stubborn, always has been. but it’s more than that. it’s the fear of trying again and being wrong. it’s the fear of getting hurt again, of hurting jeongguk again. it’s the thought of equal effort and jeongguk not doing anything either. it’s the remembrance of the last night of promotions and how he’d kissed jeongguk soft and slow that time, no longer hurried, and how jeongguk melted under his fingers like always, and how terrifying it was to know all of jeongguk’s secrets so many years later.

he’s put his walls up. and jeongguk has been slowly chipping at them since they came back into each other’s lives, but yoongi isn’t ready to throw the first brick.

“maybe the universe is wrong,” he settles on, ignoring the sting of tears. “maybe we broke up for a reason and it’s supposed to be for good. we’re not—good together, not like i thought we were.”

“you know that’s not true,” counters taehyung. “at the end there, i swear you were the happiest i’ve seen you in years. maybe ever. i will never understand what happened between you two the first time, but it’s clear to me that you two make each other happy. even just as friends. and i don’t want you to lose that chance again.”

it should be enough. it should. but taehyung leaves and yoongi stares at his phone and thinks—if the universe was right, jeongguk would text him first. but jeongguk doesn’t. and yoongi goes to sleep thinking about second chances and fear and decides that he’ll do something in the morning, maybe.

except—the next morning, he doesn’t. and the next, he doesn’t. and the next and the next. and the grief of it swallows him whole, little by little, until there’s nothing left to consume.

》》》

yoongi does remarkably well at ignoring everything going on outside of his music—including hoseok and taehyung’s increasingly worried glances and half-started sentences that fade into nothing when he gives them a careful look, one that says please. not today. not tonight. not ever. he throws himself ever harder into his music, the release date of their album approaching as they work on performances, choreographies. it should be just like releasing spring day, but it isn’t, because jeongguk isn’t here.

and yoongi doesn’t think about him either—every time he does, something painful stirs in his heart, feels like pushing the nettle further and further into his chest. so he’s miserable. so he could fix it, maybe. so he doesn’t.

then—the night before the album release, yoongi is desperately running to a twenty-four hour convenience store to find more citron tea for taehyung because they ran out and it’s apparently the one thing that the younger needs at one in the fucking morning in order to last through promotions. yoongi is somewhat suspicious of the fact that just the other day, he saw the wealth of citron tea in taehyung’s room, and he doesn’t know why taehyung begged him to go, but. maybe he’s stressed out enough and needs to get out of the house even though he should be sleeping. his hands won’t stop shaking.

he tries to make it a short trip, anyway, rifling through the shelves to search for taehyung’s tea. the rest of the store is empty, the hum of the lights overhead buzzing through him, and then—yoongi realizes that the radio is playing his song. their song.

his hands still around the box of citron tea he finally found, hesitating. and hesitating.

“min yoongi-ssi,” comes a voice from beside him, and yoongi both startles and groans, already anticipating having to tell someone that he’s not min yoongi, there will be no signing of autographs or photos, but then. he realizes what honorific the other person used and he looks over to see—

“um,” says yoongi.

“kim seokjin,” says—kim seokjin, holding out his hand between them. yoongi stares at seokjin’s pretty eyes and the pretty curve of his nose and what are undoubtedly pretty lips under the face mask he’s wearing. “pleasure to meet you, officially.”

yoongi isn’t convinced that he’s not in some strange dream, holding citron tea at a convenience store while one of the most beloved solo artists in korean history is standing in front of him, casually attempting to hold a conversation like it isn’t one in the morning.

when yoongi doesn’t respond, seokjin continues. “do you mind?” he asks. “i’d like to have a totally unplanned, completely happenstance conversation with you.” which means that this is definitely planned, but yoongi is still a little shell-shocked and confused as seokjin gestures for yoongi to lead the way out of the store.

“but i have to buy this for taehyung,” he finally says, remembering the tea.

“oh no, he actually has about six boxes in his closet,” says seokjin cheerily. “this was all a ploy to get you alone.”

“it sounds like you’re going to murder me.”

and seokjin smiles. which isn’t reassuring, but yoongi has done weirder things, probably, considering who he’s in a band with. without much other choice, he puts the tea back and heads out of the store, only thankful to be leaving that damn song behind. he knows seokjin, if only because seokjin is wildly successful and it’s impossible to look anywhere without seeing his gorgeous face on some ad or magazine. they’ve had several courtesy conversations at award shows.

and—he was the one who found me in that karaoke bar after i left. he’s one of my best friends.

suddenly, yoongi doesn’t have a very good feeling about any of this.

seokjin brings yoongi to a sleek black car, windows tinted and engine purring as it sits idle in front of the store. and yoongi is entirely sure that he’s going to be murdered now, but it might actually be for the best, so he gets into the passenger side of the car as seokjin gets into the driver’s seat.

“do you mind if we go for a drive?” asks seokjin.

“might as well,” mutters yoongi.

seokjin tries to make small talk at first, inexplicably—they drive through the streets of seoul, surprisingly busy for one in the morning, and the other points out different buildings, telling short stories about experiences. he comments on the weather, once. fiddles with the radio a little. it’s unnerving, but yoongi knows why he’s doing it—it’s about power, or making yoongi uncomfortable. letting him know who is in control.

finally, once seokjin finishes singing along to his own song on the radio, he slows down. he stops the car. and as yoongi looks out the window, he sees a shockingly familiar sight: his old dorm, the one he stayed in when he was a trainee with first star.

they sit in silence for a handful of seconds before yoongi asks, “was it jeongguk who sent you?”

“jeongguk doesn’t know shit,” replies seokjin. “it was actually your dear bandmates who contacted me. or—technically it was namjoon-ah who contacted me after he was contacted by your bandmates, but it’s the same difference. it helps to have friends.”

hoseok and taehyung have been trying to talk to him for weeks, especially after his confession. it shows that they care if they’re going to such lengths to try to fix things, but he knows he’s going to strangle them as soon as he gets home—granted seokjin doesn’t actually murder him, which yoongi is still betting on, at least partly.

he sighs, turning to look at seokjin. “out with it, then,” he says. “tell me what a fucking idiot i am and how i shouldn’t have done anything with jeongguk and i need to talk to him. i’ve heard it all.”

“then why haven’t you done anything about it?”

“because it’s not—”

“that easy, i know,” finishes seokjin. he peers out of the window, looking up at the dorm building with some interest. it feels strange to sit here with him, not only because of the dream-like (or nightmare-like) qualities of the situation, but because seokjin is to jeongguk what hoseok is to yoongi: the one who met him in his darkest hours and brought him back to the light. seokjin knows things, no doubt. he probably isn’t a big fan of yoongi to begin with. and seokjin has experienced everything with jeongguk that yoongi should have—seeing him debut, seeing him perform for the first time. being there for all of the firsts that were stolen when jeongguk left.

it feels a bit like meeting his ex’s new boyfriend. something ugly curls in the pit of his stomach.

“jeongguk-ah told me so much about this place,” muses seokjin, a funny little grin playing on his lips. “not all good things, but that’s what’s to be expected. but he loved it here. loved it at first star.” yoongi stares, waiting for the punchline. for the but you drove him away. it doesn’t come. instead—“he used to talk about you all the time. it was angry sometimes, and sad a lot, but lots of times, it was the happy parts. he really loved you, yoongi.”

“why are you telling me this?” asks yoongi instead of thinking about it, instead of letting seokjin get what he wants.

“because,” says seokjin, and their eyes meet for once. “i want you to know that i know. i know what happened, what went wrong the first time. i know what jeongguk looks like when he’s happiest, when he’s frustrated, when he hasn’t gotten enough sleep. i know what he looks like when he’s heartbroken.”

yoongi closes his eyes, leans his forehead against the car window.

“he tells me everything,” continues seokjin. “i knew from the beginning what happened because he needed someone who was willing to see him through it, all of that horrible shit.”

“good for you.”

“he won’t talk to me, though. not about what happened this time. i had my suspicions that something fucked up happened, but i only know the little that hoseok-ssi and taehyung-ssi have told me, which admittedly, isn’t much, no matter how much i begged. but i know enough, anyway. and i know why you won’t just talk to him.”

yoongi opens his eyes again. it feels too much like the first conversation he had with hoseok about this, or with taehyung. is it supposed to be different because it’s from seokjin, someone he doesn’t know?

“it’s the same reason he won’t talk to you,” says seokjin. “you think you’re the only one who is scared, or doesn’t know what to do, or thinks you’re going to fuck something up and make it worse. but i need you understand that you’re not. you won’t text him because he won’t text you. trust me when i say it’s not because he doesn’t want to talk to you.”

and—yoongi doesn’t like that. doesn’t like the idea that jeongguk might be feeling the exact same way he’s feeling. doesn’t like the idea that this is supposed to mean he has to do something about it, be the bigger person about it all.

“how do you know if he won’t talk to you about it?” asks yoongi, stubborn and stubborn.

“because i watched it happen once before,” says seokjin, and now his voice is softer—“i was there the first time, yoongi-ssi. i watched him wrestle with it for years, too afraid to reach out to you because he was afraid of what would happen, and he was afraid of being hurt, and he was so goddamn afraid of being right. i know what it looks like. it looks like this.” it was taehyung who said it first—this is history repeating itself. and yoongi knows all too well what happened the first time.

“if you’re afraid to talk to him because you don’t want to be disappointed, then you have no reason to be afraid,” says seokjin. “if you’re afraid to talk to him because you’re afraid that he’s going to reject you, then you’re a bigger idiot than your bandmates made you out to be. if you’re afraid to talk to him because you think that he’s living the high life without you… then i don’t know what to tell you. it’s not true, yoongi-ssi. that’s all i have to say. jeongguk is miserable. and you’re miserable. this isn’t a movie where i can shove you two in a closet until you work it out, so that’s why i’m here, telling you to do something about it instead.”

the first time, yoongi didn’t talk to jeongguk because he was angry. it was jeongguk who had left and jeongguk who should have had to answer for what he did, even if the root cause was something that yoongi had pushed him to believe in the first place. but this time—there’s no denying that yoongi is as much at fault as jeongguk. there’s all of this want nestled deep in his chest, and he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to deal with it other than letting it out somehow. sitting in his studio day after day trying not to think about jeongguk isn’t helping.

it was fear that ruined their relationship in the first place. and here is his second chance—and yoongi takes a deep breath. and he knows he can’t let it ruin their relationship for the second time.

“have you talked to jeongguk about this?” asks yoongi.

“i’ve tried,” says seokjin. “to no avail, for the most part.”

he takes another deep breath. “take me to him, then.”

it appears not to be the thing that seokjin was expecting him to say, because he doesn’t move, and then he says—“oh! oh—wait, it’s one in the morning. he might be sleeping.”

text him, then, yoongi almost says. but—he knows what he has to do. for the first time in two and a half months, he grabs his phone and opens his text conversation with jeongguk and doesn’t just stare. doesn’t let the crushing fear cripple him, typing out a message before he can second guess it. that’s how it always was with them—doing things they might regret, but doing them too fully to overthink it. his heart pounds in his chest as he sits and waits, seokjin staring at him.

then—his phone vibrates with a responding text. yoongi lets out an anxious breath.

“he’s in his studio,” he says. and seokjin drives.

when yoongi thought about this—which wasn’t often, considering he spent so long trying not to think about it—he imagined that he and jeongguk would reconcile in some grand way. it would be something dramatic, after one of them finally broke the ice. jeongguk would call him and it would be something written in the sky, or they would just know without having to say anything.

it makes sense, though, that it should be where it started: a studio. one in the morning. just the two of them and all of these trembling feelings spilling over and making a mess everywhere.

he knocks, quietly, when he gets to jeongguk’s studio, having left seokjin in the car. good luck, seokjin had said, like that was going to make any difference. but yoongi is nervous anyway, heart bleeding all over the place as he hears the quiet it’s unlocked from inside and carefully opens the door. it’s been two and a half months since he’s seen jeongguk face to face, not through some broadcast or youtube video. the first thing yoongi thinks is that he looks tired. the second is that he looks beautiful.

“um,” begins yoongi. “hi.”

“you can come in,” says jeongguk where he’s sitting in his chair at his desk, lips pulled into a tight little frown. and yoongi does, feeling like a trespasser as he toes off his shoes and then kind of stands in the middle of the studio as the door falls shut behind him. it’s only the second time he’s been here, but it feels different. colder, somehow. he doesn’t want to overstep his boundaries, and even though they had something months ago, he feels like a stranger again.

they stare at each other, neither unsure where to start. then yoongi says, “seokjin-ssi hunted me down. it was hoseok and taehyung’s doing.”

“sorry,” whispers jeongguk, dropping his eyes, but yoongi sees what’s in them anyway—all of that longing, and misunderstanding, and fear. seokjin wasn’t lying when he said yoongi wasn’t the only one feeling the way he has been.

“it’s… for the best,” says yoongi. “we do need to talk.”

he’s not sure what he’s expecting. there are no words for the ache in his chest, but he thinks he could begin with i miss you. with i don’t want this to be it. with i’ll try harder this time, i promise.

but jeongguk beats him to it. says, “i’m sorry about not texting you. i’ve been really busy and i know you have been, too, but that doesn’t excuse it.”

“it’s okay,” says yoongi. “it’s my fault, too.”

and jeongguk nods, shoulders slumping a little, but he’s not looking at yoongi, not really—more like over his shoulder, even as he keeps going. “you’re releasing your album tomorrow, right?”

“yeah,” says yoongi, surprised to realize it’s true. “today, technically.”

“cool,” says jeongguk. and this is worse, somehow, than the fighting they used to do—the awkward small talk, so unsure of what to say about each other or to each other, not after getting too close. they burned each other too badly, too timid to say or do anything that might make things worse. and this is delicate, but yoongi wants nothing more than to cross the distance between them and hold jeongguk.

he doesn’t. something tells him it’s not a good idea.

“and you’re…” begins yoongi.

“i have some overseas concerts,” says jeongguk. “for most of october, actually. so preparing for that.”

it feels—like it’s slipping out from his fingers, suddenly. “oh,” says yoongi. “well. good luck on those.”

“thanks,” says jeongguk. “so i guess… i mean. it’s not a good idea, is it?” he finally looks at yoongi—but it’s guarded. it’s fearful, still, and somehow dull, like he’s trying his hardest not to betray whatever is storming inside of him. yoongi kind of blinks, but he knows exactly what jeongguk means anyway, because there’s nothing else he could mean.

“i—guess not,” says yoongi.

“look, hyung,” says jeongguk.

“no, it’s fine,” says yoongi. “i get it. you’re busy, i’m busy. you’ll be out of the country and i’ll be promoting my album and that’s just—life, right? i can barely keep up with my own bandmates and we’re literally together all of the time.” a forced laugh.

“we’re still friends. we don’t have to be together all of the time to be friends.”

“i’ll actually text you this time,” says yoongi. “i guess i was just worried before, that you didn’t actually want that.”

“i do,” says jeongguk, the first earnest thing since the conversation started. “that’s—okay, right? friends?”

“yeah,” agrees yoongi, and it’s gone, it’s gone, he doesn’t know what the fuck happened—“i’ll just, um—go, then? if that’s it.”

for a moment, jeongguk looks at him. and it’s like he’s saying that’s not it. and yoongi waits for it, waits for jeongguk to admit that friends isn’t at all what he wants, but jeongguk doesn’t say anything. and yoongi doesn’t say anything either, because it’s better to leave it all unsaid. they’re talking, but they’re not—not really. it’s stilted. jeongguk is impenetrable.

“yeah,” says jeongguk, finally, and when he blinks, the look is gone. maybe yoongi imagined it. “good luck with your album.”

he sees, suddenly, what he has to do. or maybe he might do, if he was braver—he’d go over there and change this. he’d kiss jeongguk again, admit that this distance isn’t going to fix anything, and he’d fight. he’d fight for what he didn’t fight for the first time.

except—he doesn’t. yoongi puts his shoes back on. he opens the door, and then looks over his shoulder to see jeongguk has already turned back to his computer. and then yoongi leaves, just like that.

》》》

he forgets about it, almost, during the first few weeks of album promotion. it’s easy to turn off the part of him that aches even harder, because he has to focus on performing and working with the album and being part of boy meets evil. he’s suga instead of min yoongi, the man with a broken heart. he’s gotten good at that, too, after having to turn off his heart for five years thanks to jeongguk. this is nothing new.

he throws himself into work, performing. he doesn’t give himself a spare moment to think about anything else, working himself to the bone so that when he gets a chance to sleep, he’s out before his head even hits the pillow. no one asks about it, least of all hoseok and taehyung—seokjin texts him once or twice, getting his number from somewhere, to ask what happened. yoongi ignores them.

he finds he’s competing against himself sometimes, when spring day is still charting. he ignores that, too. he ignores any news about jeongguk, any lingering questions about their lack of insults in the media. he’s gotten very good at ignoring things.

jeongguk does text him, sometimes. but it hurts a little too much to see them, so he doesn’t say anything about that, either, using one word replies when necessary. he pretends. he pretends.

after almost three weeks, moving into the end of october and the beginning of november, several things happen at once.

first—yoongi comes down with the flu.

second—jeongguk comes home from his concerts abroad.

third—the nominees for all of the major music award shows are announced.

the first, while unfortunate, isn’t damning on its own. it’s this, plus the second and third things that cause some sort of time bomb to go off in yoongi’s chest, one that he can no longer ignore. it’s not surprising that he gets sick, considering how hard he’s been working. promotions have ended and they finally have a few moments to breathe, but yoongi has run himself too ragged. he wakes up with a scratchy throat and a temperature, but tries to fight through it, at least until he eats something and immediately throws up and his manager orders him to go home.

and he does—where there’s nothing to do. his manager also orders hoseok and taehyung to keep a careful eye on him, making sure that he’s actually resting and not trying to work on the side, which, while something that yoongi scoffs at, he knows is the exact thing he would do. and the exact thing he was planning on doing.

but hoseok and taehyung forbid him from working and make him soup and give him permission to watch netflix all day, as though that’s supposed to help with his illness. yoongi is fine, despite how achy he feels and how much he’s shivering and the fact that he can’t keep anything in his stomach.

he listens, anyway. watches a few episodes of that show jeongguk showed him months ago—because it’s actually not bad, in the end—and takes a nap and tries to eat something that he might keep down. he checks his emails, watches a few fancams of their recent performances and nitpicks everything he did wrong over and over.

he wanders. that’s what happens—yoongi’s mind works too fast for everything else, and the internet is a rabbit hole he falls down too easily. a fancam of himself turns into a fancam of hoseok turns into a fancam of namjoon turns into a fancam of seokjin turns into a fancam of jeongguk turns into all of the fancams of jeongguk from his tour, all of the precious videos that his fans have posted online. there are his songs. his speeches.

jeongguk came home only a few days ago. and there are his final speeches, the one where he cries so prettily because he doesn’t want to go home and leave his fans. he finds one, completely accidentally, where jeongguk talks about spring day, where he talks about yoongi. and maybe he cries the hardest in that video, and the person recording shakes, and yoongi shakes with them.

and it’s like—it’s the first time in weeks that yoongi has slowed down enough to really let himself feel what he’s feeling. he thought that working and promoting and putting jeongguk out of his mind would mean that he could get over whatever disappointment came with being friends but not really friends with jeongguk. but now—the pain slowly crawls out of his ribcage, where he’s been keeping it hidden this whole time. and yoongi sits in bed and watches jeongguk cry about their song and he can’t stop feeling all of that longing and aching and sadness, over and over again. it hits him all at once, bowls him right over.

he misses jeongguk. he misses jeongguk more than he did the first time, somehow, now that he’s gotten a taste of what he forced himself to forget. and he doesn’t want to be friends. he doesn’t want this distance, this radio silence. yoongi convinced himself that it wasn’t such a big deal, that forgetting about jeongguk for the second time would be easier, but it hurts. it aches. maybe it’s not just the flu, after all.

then—yoongi’s phone vibrates. he tears his eyes away from the video of jeongguk he’s watching—one of his own this time, because he’s nostalgic, because he wants to remember—to see it’s a text from his manager. you and jeongguk have been nominated for the mnet awards, it says. best collaboration.

yoongi’s stomach drops.

he forgot, in his sickness, that the nominations were being announced today. and he forgot, in his frenzy to forget everything about jeongguk, that they might be nominated. spring day swept the charts at first and has been charting since. it’s fucking everywhere. and who would pass up the opportunity to nominate two of the biggest names in the korean music industry during the one time they actually worked together, and—he should be happy. yoongi should be happy. he’s always happy when he’s nominated, even if he doesn’t win, because it means he’s doing something right.

but he thinks about having to face jeongguk again. thinks about being asked to perform, thinks about winning and getting up on that stage and standing beside jeongguk and finally, finally having everything they dreamed of when they were teenagers. because that is all they wanted—to make good music together, and to be recognized for it. to stand on stage under a thousand lights and take the world by storm and do it together. to come out on top together.

and it’s—not what he wants. not like this. not when he and jeongguk are awkward, maybe-friends, not when he’s being forced to face everything all at once. he’s not happy. and the thought of seeing jeongguk again and pretending again has him almost hyperventilating, the fear and pain of it overwhelming him, and then, in the midst of it, there’s finally one clear thought.

yoongi gets out of bed, almost knocking his laptop to the floor in the process as he scrambles out of the room.

“hoseok-ah!” he yells, stumbling a little because he’s sick and doesn’t have any energy, but he needs—something—“hoseok!

“hyung?” he hears further in the house, and he follows the sound of the voice. “hyung, are you okay? do you need something?”

hoseok appears, worry creasing his face. “hoseok,” says yoongi, trying to keep himself from crumbling like this, in the middle of the hallway with a fever. “where’s taehyung?”

“he’s—in his room; hyung, are you okay?”

“no. no, i need—you. two. both of you. call jimin.”

five minutes later: yoongi is sitting on the sofa in the living room, wrapped up in a blanket with tears pooling in his eyes already, staring hard at the floor. hoseok and taehyung are on either side of him, trying to calm him or cheer him up or something, he doesn’t really know. yoongi won’t say anything, not yet—someone’s phone is in his lap, on speaker. it’s still ringing.

finally, jimin’s voice comes through, crackly—“hello?”

“jimin!” exclaims taehyung. “how’s japan?”

“fine,” says jimin. “it’s a little cold for my liking, you know, but i finally got a chance to wear that sweater you gave me when—”

“cool, listen,” says hoseok, cutting him off. “are you free to talk?”

there’s rustling on the other end. yoongi closes his eyes, ignoring the one tear that manages to escape him.

“um, yeah,” says jimin finally. “i was just working on some stuff. what’s up?”

it’s probably yoongi’s turn to talk. he hasn’t explained anything to hoseok or taehyung, but he doesn’t know what to say without vomiting all of it up—literally and figuratively, probably. it’s hoseok who says it, softly—“yoongi-hyung’s kind of having a crisis, i think. he wants to talk to all of us, if you can lend an ear.”

“yoongi-hyung?” asks jimin. “is he okay?”

“we don’t know,” says hoseok.

“maybe,” says taehyung.

“no,” says yoongi.

he opens his eyes again, and then sniffs. he can tell hoseok and taehyung are looking at him—taehyung from where he’s leaning against yoongi’s shoulder, rubbing at his arm. hoseok from where he’s sitting on the other side, squeezing his knee. if jimin were here, he would be playing with yoongi’s hair, probably, or poking his cheek until yoongi smiled.

but jimin isn’t here. instead, he’s just a loud voice that asks, “what’s wrong?”

and it’s the golden question, isn’t it? what’s wrong with min yoongi? people have been asking him for months, noting that something is off with him. he can’t work, can’t sleep, can’t eat. he’s miserable. he’s always fucking miserable. and he doesn’t know how to say it all easily, except he does, maybe: the one clear thought. an epiphany.

yoongi opens his mouth and rattles out a breath. he closes his eyes again.

and then he says, “i think i’m still in love with jeongguk.”

the silence from all three of them might be the worst part, other than the way his heart lodges itself in his throat after he says it. it’s different, saying it—makes it real. he can’t take it back, can’t swallow down the truth anymore. and despite the tears coming harder now, and despite the fact that no one is saying anything, yoongi keeps talking.

“i knew there was something,” he says. “for a while. even back when we were just working together and we fell back together so easily and i let the sexual tension get the best of me. and that was fine, for a while. but then i was too scared to talk to him because i didn’t want to be the only one who thought there was something more. and i did talk to him, at the beginning of october. he told me we should be friends.”

“oh, hyung,” whispers taehyung.

“and,” continues yoongi, sniffing. he needs to get it out. needs to needs to needs to—“i thought i would be fine with it. friends is better than nothing. and i was busy anyway, with the album and everything. but today was the first time i really thought about it and i don’t—i miss him so much that it physically hurts. right here.” he presses hand to the middle of his chest, where the ache is. where it has been for five years. “i’ve been angry at him for five years, but i’m not anymore. and i didn’t realize it until now, but under all that anger was still everything i felt for him when i was nineteen. it didn’t go away. i think it got worse. and we haven’t been talking because i thought it would be better that way, but it’s not.”

there should be a simple solution. talking. but yoongi tried talking to jeongguk once, and this is where it led him. and he doesn’t know where to go anymore.

“maybe…” begins hoseok. “maybe it’ll go away now that you know about it? if you think its just leftover from the first time.”

“it’s not,” says yoongi quickly. “it’s not leftover, not like that. he’s still—the person i fell in love with, i think. just older and wiser and stronger. we fell apart in the first place because we were kids who didn’t know how to deal with things, but now we’re adults, properly, and i love him more. how do i love him more?”

he’s not expecting an answer—not expecting much advice in the first place. he just needs to get it out, sick of harbouring all of these sickly feelings in his chest for so long. taehyung squeezes his arm reassuringly, and yoongi chokes out something akin to a sob.

“maybe you need to tell him that,” says jimin.

“how?” asks yoongi. “how do i just—tell him that when it’s clear he doesn’t feel the same way?”

“how do you know he doesn’t feel the same way?”

“he told me it wasn’t a good idea. whatever we were doing.”

“but you agreed, didn’t you?” asks jimin. “so maybe he’s feeling the same way and thinking that you don’t, just like you’re doing now. we’ve been telling you to talk to him for months, yoongi-hyung, and you can say you tried, but that wasn’t really talking.”

yoongi lets out a sigh, wiping a hand over his tear-stained cheeks. he doesn’t like it. doesn’t like being this vulnerable, even though he knows he has to be. and admitting this truth to jeongguk is more terrifying than just being friends, just texting him. what else is he supposed to say?

“it’s clear that you’re really torn up about this,” says taehyung. “i don’t know if running over to him and telling him is going to be the best idea, but you should… take some time. to figure out what you’re feeling for sure, and what you want.”

“yeah, hyung,” agrees jimin. “this is tricky because you dated once before and it did end really badly, especially because of communication problems. and you still clearly have communication problems, but i think taehyungie is right. if you love him, you should decide if you want to try again. if you’re ready for that.”

“if you’re ready for the possibility of him leaving again,” adds hoseok, sort of under his breath. yoongi lets out a breath of his own.

“i don’t know,” he says.

“you don’t have to know right now,” says taehyung. “but it looks like you have a few options in front of you. you can be honest about your feelings and be open to what might happen, or you can just keep it to yourself. and it’ll hurt either way. but you’re an adult and you can make your own decisions, especially about who you want to be with. and if you want to be with jeongguk, then you can’t keep sitting here and crying about him.”

that’s the thing, though. yoongi doesn’t know if he does want to be with jeongguk. he keeps thinking of hoseok, of the other’s apprehension with all of this, and how maybe yoongi has just been blinded by his own feelings. he and jeongguk did try once, and although they were in love and happy, they fell apart and hurt each other. it wasn’t a toxic relationship, but it was a harsh ending. and maybe that sort of thing shouldn’t be returned to, in any form, other than to heal.

maybe there’s no point. maybe they’re not meant to be together.

or maybe yoongi doesn’t care what the universe thinks about them.

he sniffs, leaning his head against the back of the sofa. “yeah,” he says. “i’ll think about it.”

“you know we love and support you, hyung,” says jimin. “whatever you choose. even you, hobi-hyung. right?”

there’s a pause, then—“i suppose,” says hoseok. “i want you to be happy, hyung. and as much as i don’t like jeongguk and what happened between you two, if he makes you happy… go for it.”

taehyung snuggles a little into his side at that, and yoongi blinks out a few more tears, wiping at those, too. “we can’t make this decision for you,” says taehyung. “as much as we’ve been trying to give you advice for months. you’re the only one who can figure out if you want to be with jeongguk, and the only one who can talk to him about it. but we’re always here for cuddles and to be soundboards for you.”

“i don’t want to get you mixed up in my stupid love life,” says yoongi.

“too late,” says hoseok. “we’ve been in it from day one. stop feeling guilty about it.”

and he laughs—and cries a little more. and feels ever grateful for the friends that he has, who are willing to listen to him and try to help him through whatever troubles he has. sometimes their intentions are misguided, but the heart is always there in it. and he knows they’re right this time. yoongi is the only one who knows himself well enough to know what he wants. it might be hard to figure it out, but—jeongguk is out there. and yoongi is in love with him. and he has to decide if he’s going to do something about that.

he doesn’t, at first—but he doesn’t ignore it either. yoongi lets himself feel it all without shame, without trying to hide the fact that he’s fallen for the person who broke his heart and then managed to put it back together. his friends are right: he has to think about it, has to make a decision. so he thinks about it. he makes himself brave in texting jeongguk regularly, trying to ease back into their friendship in hopes that it’ll make the decision easier. they can be friends, at least—that’s what jeongguk told him. it’s better than nothing.

the end of the year seems to go quicker than usual, as nominations for other award shows are announced, as well as performance line-ups. boy meets evil is nominated for a handful at almost every award show, not to mention performing at most, and while yoongi isn’t running from his feelings, he gets busy enough that carving time out to think about them is difficult. but he texts jeongguk. he makes nice. he tries his fucking hardest, and what yoongi finds is that, for a few months, he’s able to keep his head above water.

he doesn’t see jeongguk, because they’re busy. but late at night, when everything is slow and careful, yoongi will reread their texts and feel something flutter in his heart, something that tells him he already knows the answer to his ever-present dilemma, no matter how much he chooses to prolong the inevitable.

》》》

“great performance,” someone says, clapping him on the back as he moves past them, sweaty and out of breath, and then he just nods, not bothering to say more. other praises pour in as he keeps moving, leading he and the rest of his band back to their seats. they did do well—they always do, which is why they’re nominated for artist of the year, album of the year, and song of the year in multiple award shows, not to mention a sprinkling of others throughout. it’s only the beginning of the award season and he can already feel the pressure of it, but the satisfaction, too, of being recognized for his hard work over the past year.

“does anyone have water?” hoseok croaks from behind him, and yoongi hands him the half-full bottle that he’s been nursing backstage. he claps the other rapper on the back.

“that was good,” breathes yoongi.

“could have been better,” admits hoseok.

“that’s why we have a bunch of other award shows to perform at,” says taehyung, a little cheekily, as he moves past the both of them and leads the way back to their seats. they’ve already won one or two awards in the night, but all of the biggest ones are saved for later. they can sit back and relax for now.

or—not, yoongi realizes, as he sits down and is promptly informed that one of the awards he’s nominated for with jeongguk is about to be announced. other than the best collaboration award, they’ve been nominated for a few others as well—some media sites complained about the fact that spring day wasn’t and couldn’t be nominated for song of the year, but this is fine. yoongi is nervous enough as it is, hardly paying attention to what’s happening on stage as his eyes slide over the other idols and musicians seated around him.

jeongguk is on the other side of the stage, with other magic shop idols. and that’s—good, because jeongguk looks remarkably attractive in his seat, talking to seokjin all crossed legs and casual glances at the stage. it’s been a whirlwind of two months with preparation for award season and he was glad for it, despite the distraction from his own thoughts and feelings. he’s only been able to have a few face-to-face conversations with jeongguk, which is both a blessing a curse.

and anyway—jeongguk catches his eye from across the stage, giving him a little grin that has yoongi’s face turning red. there’s that ache again—to go over there, to do something. he’s trying to listen to his own heart, but it’s hard when everything is being drowned out by the sound of jeongguk’s voice, or the memory of what he tastes like, still smells like.

and yoongi has an award show to focus on.

by the time he’s able to focus on the stage again, they’re announcing the winner of the category he and jeongguk are nominated in. some pop or hip hop song award, he doesn’t really know—but it’s an award. and that’s better than nothing. yoongi doesn’t know what to expect, feeling taehyung grab his knee as the nominees are listed, like taehyung is more nervous than he is, and—

jeon jeongguk and suga, spring day!

the stadium erupts in screams as yoongi suddenly finds himself on his feet, even though he doesn’t remember doing it himself—hoseok and taehyung are screaming at him, clapping wildly and patting him on the back as they push him toward the stage, and yoongi isn’t sure if he’s shocked or not; the song is good. he knows that. but it’s hearing he and jeongguk’s name together like that, hearing the screams from their fans as his legs automatically carry him toward the stage after jeongguk, who stops at the top of the stairs and turns to look at him.

all bright eyes and wide smiles, like that kid he met years ago.

yoongi’s heart clenches in his chest, and then—the shock wears off and he smiles back, the joy of it rushing up to meet him again. it’s like winning on their first music show, but better—being recognized in front of the music industry, in front of all of their fans and other idols who are witnessing something like this. yoongi can’t help the adrenaline of it, the excitement of doing good. of doing right.

he trails after jeongguk, who hands him the award again, because he must know that yoongi likes being the one to hold the award—and he doesn’t think about that either. jeongguk leans into the microphone as the cheers quiet, and then says, “thank you very much. suga and i put a lot of work into this song, and it’s very special to us. to see our hard work pay off like this is honestly… really exciting and satisfying.”

yoongi sort of—zones out, just for a second, as jeongguk talks. and jeongguk is probably thanking the fans and their companies and talking about the song or something. but yoongi just stands beside him and cradles the award close to his chest and looks out at the crowd. it’s a sight he’s seen many times before—it’s a guarantee at this point that boy meets evil will win a handful of awards every year, usually a few daesangs. he’s given these speeches. he’s been here.

but it’s different. it’s different because it’s jeongguk, because this song was like tearing out his own heart and letting people listen to the sound of its rabbit beat. and it was worth it, now that everyone else sees what they can do and what they did. it was all worth it.

this was his dream from the very beginning—winning with jeongguk at his side. yoongi has always loved winning, being able to prove that he’s doing something right, but this one feels closer to home, somehow.

he comes back to the present in time to hear jeongguk say, “this song is about missing someone. a friend, a lover, a family member… i don’t think it matters. it’s about waiting. but it’s also about having hope, and knowing that winter doesn’t last forever. please remember that. sometimes you have to turn spring on yourself, but spring will come. thank you so much.”

the cheers erupt again and yoongi—stares, for a second, at jeongguk’s lovely side profile as he beams at the crowd and waves. sometimes you have to turn spring on yourself.

at the last second, he remembers that he should probably say something so he just leans into the mic and shouts, “thank you, we love you so much!” and then he’s being ushered off the stage, still high from the win as he holds the award carefully and follows jeongguk down the stairs on the other side, backstage.

“holy shit!” says jeongguk as soon as they’re out of earshot of the stage, turning on yoongi with that same beaming smile. “we really did it! i don’t know why i didn’t think we would.”

“fuck you, this song is iconic,” says yoongi, and he laughs—there’s too much joy in his body, knowing it all paid off. he looks down at the award, admiring it for a while before he holds it out to jeongguk. “here, this is yours too.”

“it’s ours,” says jeongguk. “this is our baby, hyung. we really did it.”

it’s weird, maybe, that this is the first real conversation they’ve had in a while. and neither of them addresses the fact that they didn’t talk for months, or the fact that they decided to just be friends because of time constraints. here they are. it’s like they never really knew how to deal with the other when it didn’t have something to do with the song, but finally, the song is back. they can rest easy, slip back into the same banter. this is familiar.

but. jeongguk looks at him as others bustle around them, the award show continuing. somehow they keep coming back here—the first conversation after a drought. and yoongi feels the months of ache weighing on him now. he’s in love with jeongguk. he’s close but not close enough, and somehow, that’s worse.

“hi,” says yoongi after a moment, when neither of them have said anything else.

jeongguk blushes, pretty. “hello,” he replies. then—“you dyed your hair. i like the blond.”

and yoongi, against his better judgement, says—“i wrote a song for you. on the album. i don’t know if you heard it.”

seesaw,” says jeongguk automatically, and yoongi’s heart clenches in his chest. he mentioned in some interview or another that seesaw had been written for someone he loved and lost, and then loved and lost again. that their relationship was like a seesaw: this constant up and down, back and forth. understanding that maybe he should let go but knowing that it would hurt the other just as badly.

“it wasn’t—” he begins, and then pauses. “everyone says it’s really depressing. but it wasn’t meant to be like that.”

“what was it meant to be?”

someone knocks into him, accidentally—they’re still in the middle of the backstage area, the award cradled in yoongi’s hands. they should go back to their seats. but this is important: he needs to get it out. needs to tell jeongguk how he feels, even if it’s not the whole truth.

“it’s about choice,” says yoongi. “it is sad—the sort of toxic relationship where you keep going back and forth and hurting each other and not knowing what to do about it. but it’s also about… knowing that you have a choice to hurt the other. you have a choice to get off, if you want. and you have a choice to fix things and make them better instead of staying on a fucking seesaw forever. you have the choice to… to love the other person despite their mistakes and flaws, and despite yours.”

jeongguk kind of—stares. he opens his mouth, like he’s going to say something extremely important, and then yoongi hears his name instead and turns his head to see someone approaching. “i’m very sorry, gentlemen, but you’ll have to return to your seats now,” says the woman, all official. yoongi wants to tell her that it isn’t the time, but. but. he turns to look at jeongguk, who is back to being the charming, agreeable idol. jeongguk is still watching him. jeongguk watches him for the rest of the night and somehow, even the daesang boy meets evil wins that night doesn’t quite match what he won with jeongguk.

that night, when yoongi gets home and thinks to look at his phone, there’s a text from jeongguk.

i wrote you a song, too, it reads, along with a link to an audio file called euphoria.

yoongi feels his heart rattle rattle rattle in his chest.

award season turns out to be a grand success for yoongi. with a handful of award shows in november and december, boy meets evil racks up the accolades for their work, performing their hearts out to prove what they’ve done for the year. he and jeongguk manage to win the few awards that they’ve been nominated for, too, and each one is no less than the first—the feeling of being on that stage with jeongguk, knowing that everyone sees what they did.

and then suddenly, it’s the last award show. and what they did this year will be forgotten, a little, in light of what they do in the coming year, and it’s their last chance to win. their last chance to do anything. there’s something bittersweet in the air as yoongi mills about before the show, going over last minute preparations for boy meets evil’s stage, and as he’s going to grab more water, he runs into seokjin.

“yoongi-ssi!” calls the other man cheerily, and this time, yoongi is able to give a grin back to the other man.

“nice to see you,” he says.

“likewise,” says seokjin. “congratulations on all of the wins this year. you deserve them.”

“ah, thanks,” he chuckles awkwardly, rubbing at is neck. “and you, too. you’ve had a good year.”

seokjin shrugs a little, although yoongi knows he agrees—seokjin deserves every ounce of his success. still, there’s a moment where seokjin kind of looks at him and yoongi knows what’s coming next. but—“have you seen the seating arrangement for tonight?” asks seokjin.

“uh,” begins yoongi. “no?”

seokjin makes a little hm noise, something sparkling in his eyes, and then shoves his hands in the pockets of his trousers as he moves around yoongi and off somewhere else. “interesting, yoongi-ssi,” he calls over his shoulder. “very interesting.”

yoongi stares after him, confused, before he decides that all of his meetings with kim seokjin are fated to be weird as hell and not make any sense. and in any case, he doesn’t have time to wonder. they’re supposed to be heading out soon, so he grabs the water that he needs and gets back to the dressing room, bothering hoseok and taehyung for a few more minutes before the show begins.

immediately, yoongi understands why seokjin was hming—jeongguk is already sitting on the long bench that boy meets evil is assigned to sit at, too. and he comes to a little halt, causing taehyung to stumble into him with a grumble, and. and.

“why are you so—oh,” says taehyung, probably peering over his shoulder. “interesting.”

“that’s what seokjin-ssi said,” mutters yoongi.

“hobi-hyung, you and i have to sit at this end, don’t we?” asks taehyung.

“why do we have to sit at this end?” comes hoseok’s voice from behind them, moving closer, and yoongi turns around to give them both death glares before hoseok spots what taehyung spotted and his expression changes into one of pure mischief. “oh yes, of course. this side has… the best view. of the stage.”

“it’s literally two feet over,” mutters yoongi, but he sees no way out of this. and he looks back to jeongguk, the other done up in a nice little suit with his hands clasped in his lap, looking around the stadium like he’s not one of the biggest stars in the korean music industry at the moment. yoongi takes a deep breath, doesn’t even know why he’s feeling nervous in the first place—and walks over.

“hey,” he says as he sits down, because it’s that easy.

“oh, hi,” says jeongguk, looking at him sideways with a pink tint to his cheeks—feigning nonchalance. “i didn’t know you were sitting here.”

“me neither,” admits yoongi. “better than having to sit beside those rookies from your company, though. i swear they don’t know what personal hygiene is.”

hyung,” giggles jeongguk, and yoongi grins, too, and maybe it’ll be okay. this is easy now that they’ve come back into each other’s lives properly. they can talk about the show, they can sing with each other. it’ll be fine to sit by jeongguk for a few hours and maybe win another award together and see jeongguk maybe win a daesang and then cry on stage because he’s so happy. it’s—fine.

but what yoongi finds out very quickly is that it is not, in fact, fine. jeongguk keeps laughing at things happening on stage and leaning into him to whisper things, their arms and thighs brushing together. he keeps singing along to his favourite idols, and his voice is—going straight to yoongi’s head, making his heart do something he doesn’t like. it’s impossible to focus on anything other than the man sitting beside him, just existing like that, with his big eyes and his pretty hair. and yoongi tries. he really does, but—jeongguk is distracting.

jeongguk is distracting because yoongi can’t stop thinking about him. not just like this, but in every way. he can’t stop thinking about all of the nights they spent in yoongi’s studio, trying for something new. about the arguments but the conversations, too, about the night at the bowling alley when they got drunk and something changed. he can’t stop thinking about their song and what it means and how he hasn’t been paying attention to his own lyrics even if he’s sung them so many times.

jeongguk was right, at that first award show—spring day isn’t just about waiting and being lonely and wanting something more. it’s about realizing that sometimes, he has to do something to fix what has been broken. he’s spent so long being afraid of he and jeongguk, and what could be. of what might not be. he’s spent so long avoiding jeongguk, avoiding talking to him, because he doesn’t want to get hurt—but doesn’t it hurt just as badly to be here, and to have this distance between them, and to want but not bother to reach for it?

his friends told him that only he could make the decision of what he really wanted. but hasn’t it been there all along—the reason that he was so angry when jeongguk left, the reason he was so apprehensive to work together, the reason that he let them fall back together and then was too afraid to address it for months afterward?

there’s this ache. it’s still there, in the pit of his stomach. he’s spent months being miserable and hiding—hiding from jeongguk. and he knows, suddenly, that he’s gotten it all wrong. that distance or schedules don’t matter when it comes to this: this feeling he has in his chest as jeongguk turns to look at him again, telling him that their category is next. they might win another award.

but it’s not about the award, suddenly. it’s like yoongi’s eyes are finally opened as jeongguk looks back to the screen, the smile slipping off of his face as he watches the other nominees. and yoongi looks at jeongguk and he can’t stop seeing it, over and over—the answer. the truth.

he doesn’t care about winning. he can lose the award, but he can’t lose jeongguk, not again.

because this is what he wants: not the recognition or the trophies. he wants to be able to sit side by side with jeongguk, to hold his hand if he wants. to see all of his struggles, not only with making music, but with the rest of his life, and do his best to make them better. he wants to bear the burden with jeongguk. he wants to be there for the happy bits, wants to kiss his stupid face every morning if he can help it. wants to make music together, even if it’s just in the silence of their own hearts, even if it’s just the strings that play in yoongi’s head every time jeongguk smiles at him.

they tried once, and they hurt each other. but that doesn’t mean they can’t try again. that doesn’t mean there isn’t a second chance out there, that doesn’t mean they can’t be better. it’s taken all of this—working on the song together, the distance between them. all of this time, all of this ache, for yoongi to finally understand what he wants.

what he wants is jeongguk. it’s always going to be that easy.

he’s spent so long being an idiot about it, putting distance and silence between them. trying to silence his own heart, no matter how loud it beat. he spent five years trying to bury all of this want, all of this love, but he can’t do it anymore. he doesn’t want to anymore. he loves jeongguk with something so terrifying, something he can’t hold inside. he’s hurt the both of them. but this is a beginning, and yoongi knows what he wants.

knows that—

jeongguk stands up, and yoongi blinks out of his thoughts to hear wild cheers from around them and jeongguk looking at him, open and bright and yoongi is confused, stands up. they won. they won again, didn’t they, and it’s not surprising anymore and he’s happy, of course he is, but jeongguk looks at him and yoongi doesn’t think about it. jeongguk looks at him and—yoongi is so fucking in love.

that’s what it was about this whole time, he realizes, as he follows jeongguk up on stage one last time. standing there under the lights with an award in his hands. it was never about winning for himself. it was always about doing it with jeongguk, finally achieving their dream, and now he realizes that there are so many other dreams he wanted to achieve with jeongguk. so many more than they could.

he waits, anxiously, until the show is over entirely, both of them having performed. neither of them win a daesang, which is disappointing, but he’s not worried anymore. there’s only one thing on his mind.

as the idols head off stage, yoongi is quick to curl his fingers into jeongguk’s sleeve, meeting his eyes carefully and tilting his head sideways in what he hopes is a gesture that jeongguk understands. he can’t ignore how reminiscent it feels of promoting spring day, but he has no intention of letting this be some wild one-night stand in a dressing room. he could wait until he gets home, could wait until tomorrow. but his feelings are a well overflowing inside of him and he can’t wait, not after he’s spent so long not talking. the only time he has the words, he can no longer keep them inside.

jeongguk comes willingly as yoongi pulls him into a side dressing room: empty, not used at all. he closes the door and doesn’t worry about anyone wondering where they are, and then he turns to jeongguk and doesn’t let go of his shirt sleeve and just. stares for a second. jeongguk is so breathtakingly beautiful here—always is, but there’s something more. the high of winning, a good performance. his eyes have every galaxy in them and it’s not fair, and yoongi thinks about that video, the one of jeongguk telling yoongi that they were going to get married one day.

maybe—somewhere inside of him, yoongi never stopped holding onto that belief.

“what are we doing here?” jeongguk finally asks, a funny little grin on his lips. “seokjin-hyung knows this really awesome after party that i want to go to.”

“i have to tell you something,” says yoongi, and he wishes he could have had time to prepare this, but. he just has to be honest. he just has to talk. “and i need you to listen to me, okay?”

jeongguk’s grin falters, just a little. “yeah, hyung, of course,” he says.

“okay,” says yoongi. he looks down at his fingers still hooked into the material of jeongguk’s sleeve. and then he says, “i should have said this when i came to talk to you a few months ago, in your studio, but i was scared. and i realized that i’ve been scared this whole time, since we finished making the song. and i shouldn’t have let things get the way they did—after, i mean. i should have talked to you. i should have tried harder. and i’m sorry that i didn’t.”

“hyung—”

“you said you’d listen, jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi, looking at the other earnestly now. “we both fucked up, i think. we burned too bright, you know, and then we had nothing left to give and i didn’t know what to say. and so i let this awful silence go on for months and it’s been better recently, i know, but it’s not the same. not—what we had. before.” he takes a breath. “i didn’t talk to you back then, because… i was afraid of what you would say. i was afraid that this would just be one-sided, and honestly, i’m still afraid that it will be. or that it is. but i know that i have to be honest with myself and with you and that’s—”

“what are you talking about?” asks jeongguk, interrupting him. “one-sided? what does that mean?”

yoongi looks at him. and looks at him. and sees all of it—the two years they were together, and the five they weren’t. he sees the months of making the song, and the months after. he sees all of it, and it’s never been clearer. “i love you, jeongguk-ah,” he whispers. “i don’t think i ever stopped. but i know i do, and i love you more now than i did before, and i was afraid of talking to you because i didn’t want you to tell me that you didn’t love me back. but i’m—hurting the both of us by not being honest. so i’m being honest, so then i can get over it and move on and that’s… it. that’s what i had to say.”

he realizes, belatedly, that he’s rambling. and he keeps his eyes firmly on his hands, clasping them in front of him and letting of jeongguk in case the other wants to leave. wants to be horrified or disgusted or laugh at it, wants to be honest, too.

jeongguk doesn’t say anything at first. and when yoongi dares to peek up at him, he sees—jeongguk’s eyes are wet.

“oh,” says yoongi. “oh—god no, baby, no, i didn’t mean to make you cry.” he reaches up instinctually and then—stops, hands just shy from jeongguk’s face. and stands there, caught in the in between, before jeongguk lets out this wet little laugh, lowers his head. bumps his nose against one of yoongi’s fingers.

“it’s okay,” says jeongguk. “they’re good tears.”

yoongi swallows. lets his thumb brush against jeongguk’s cheek. he doesn’t want to hope, doesn’t want to think

“that’s why i didn’t talk to you, either,” says jeongguk. “and i know it was just like the first time, but i thought letting it go would be better than getting my heart broken again. but i—yoongi-hyung.” he sniffs, leaning his cheek fully into yoongi’s hand, and yoongi’s breath hitches in his throat. “yoongi-hyung, i love you. i love you, too.”

“yeah?” asks yoongi.

“yeah,” says jeongguk, wiping at his own tears, and yoongi finally lets himself feel it. lets himself step closer, taking jeongguk’s face into his hands and leaning their foreheads together. and he just. breathes for a second, letting it sink in, letting himself accept it and what it might mean.

but—

“i want to be with you,” admits yoongi quietly. “i don’t know if you want that. we’ve hurt each other a lot and there are things we have to work through, but i want—jeongguk-ah, i want to try. we’re good together.”

jeongguk nods against his head, just slightly. “we shouldn’t have broken up the first time,” he says. “we’ll be better. we’ll do better, hyung. i love you.”

somehow, it’s that easy. that’s that easy, that quiet—the acceptance. everything about their relationship was secret and silent in the past, and here they are, in some empty dressing room. all it takes is three words, and yoongi feels the whole ocean in his chest. feels it filling and filling and overflowing, and it’s good this time. he wants to drown in it—all of this love. all of this want that doesn’t ache anymore. doesn’t have to.

“i’m sorry,” yoongi says again, quietly. “for not saying it before. for hurting you for five years. for making you feel like i didn’t care.”

“i’m sorry about leaving,” replies jeongguk. “both times.”

“okay. so we’re even. let’s try again.”

jeongguk lets out another laugh, just quiet, and then reaches up to grab at yoongi’s wrists. he holds them there, and yoongi opens his eyes, looking at jeongguk’s lovely face. at what he’s missed for so long. there was so much anger and pain, but he doesn’t feel it anymore. what he feels is—this. this.

“i’m going to kiss you now,” says yoongi. “okay?”

“okay,” whispers jeongguk, so yoongi does—just careful at first, a gentle press of his lips. it’s as wet as that day in the studio, but less hesitant. he knows this. he can have this. and it’s so easy to press them together, to be together like this, to know that they have less to be afraid of. he could worry about communication or telling someone or doing it all wrong again, but he isn’t. he has jeongguk. he has jeongguk, who kisses him like it’s the beginning of the world. he has jeongguk, who wants to try again. who wants to do better.

later, after yoongi has to keep jeongguk from trying to stick his hand down his pants and they’ve dried their tears and gone back to their own dressing rooms, he has to keep the stupid grin off of his face as he gets unchanged. as hoseok and taehyung ask where he disappeared off to and give him strange looks at his elusive answers. they don’t question his decision not to go out and party, though, and he’s careful to put on his cap and face mask as he slips out of the stadium and onto one of the back alleys, calling for a cab.

it’s raining. he can hear people on the other side of the stadium, fans leaving after a successful night for their favourite idols. and quietly, someone joins him on the curb, and yoongi grins under his mask as they bump their shoulders together.

in the cab, after telling the driver jeongguk’s address, yoongi finds himself on one side of the car and jeongguk on the other. he looks out of the window, the rain blurring his view just enough that it seems almost like a dream. seoul moves past, lights and sound, and he thinks about—beginnings. thinks about possibilities. thinks about what he wanted as a nineteen-year-old, and as a twenty-one-year-old, and now, as a twenty-six-year-old. thinks about finally doing something about it.

on the radio, a familiar song plays. yoongi lets his head rest against the window, gaze turning sideways, and in the darkness, in the beginning with all of these fresh, new things—i want to hold your hand, jeongguk sings through the speakers. and go to the other side of the earth to end this winter.

carefully, silently—yoongi slides his hand over the seat between them to where jeongguk’s is resting. carefully, silently—he hooks their pinkies together. a promise.

jeongguk doesn’t look at him, but yoongi can see his reflection in the window. and the secret grin he sees there is enough.

gonna marry you so fucking hard, jeongguk once told him. yoongi is going to hold him to it.