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lover, where do you live?

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The first thing that Seokjin notices about the house is that the yellow of the walls seem as though it has been muted by age. The paint is chipping off, and when the front door opens, the hinges groan. The house is very old, Seokjin thinks. Antiquated, maybe - but it’s nothing out of place. Lund, after all, looks a little like it’s been frozen in time.

Seokjin pulls his suitcase, lifts it up from the concrete of the streets and into the hardwood floors of the house. He draws in a breath. The air that flushes into his lungs smells strangely of rain and pinewood - and very faintly, of aged books.

The old man who owns the house does not live here. He greets Seokjin in Korean, the words sounding blocky and a little too far distanced by time, and explains that he used to live here when he first moved all the way from Korea to Sweden. There are three rooms, and the one situated right next to the dining room is Seokjin’s. He smiles, quips that his has the best light out of them all.

The man makes Seokjin tea to welcome him. The cups are porcelain white and warm on Seokjin’s hands. He tells Seokjin that he doesn’t have the heart to sell the house after he moved to a bigger one thirty minutes away, in an area that catches like strange syllables on Seokjin’s tongue.

Seokjin takes a quick glance, and thinks he understands. The slight peeling of the dark green wallpaper in the edges of the walls, the scratches on the wooden table, the way the doors fight from closing like there’s something not quite right with the hinges anymore - they’re all telltale signs of a house that has grown into a home, and parting with a beloved is never an easy affair.

“People don’t stay very long though,” the man says as he refills Seokjin’s cup with more tea, the subtle scent of lavender floating in the air. “A week at most. When you e-mailed me to rent for two months, it was quite a shock.” The laugh is polite, restrained.

“I’m just on a very long break from work.” Seokjin’s smile is equally as subdued, his words carefully deliberated.

The man nods like he understands he won’t be getting anything beyond that. There is another round of tea, until the sun finally disappears and the man leaves to go back home.

There is no one else in the house. Seokjin flicks the switch on his bedroom wall, and the room instantly glows a cool sort of white, slightly tinged blue. The suitcase smacks open against the wall, the hardwood floors creak underneath his feet, and that is as much sound as he gets.

Seokjin stops halfway through unpacking. He considers that despite looking like a scene pulled straight out of a children’s story book, the eerie silence makes Lund not that much different than Seoul, only that Seokjin doesn’t have the distant rumble of traffic to make the quiet less daunting.

His body thrums with fatigue from his journey, and he goes to sleep wondering if he’s made a mistake.

/

Seokjin wakes to the sound of metal clanging against each other, and not long after, the whistle of a boiling kettle. He cracks open an eye and is immediately greeted by sunlight sneaking past the curtains. He stands, takes a minute to root his feet onto the floor because he’s always a little off-kilter from sleep. The floor is cold. Someone is singing outside, and Seokjin smells coffee wafting in the air.

The door creaks open, and his eyes land on another man sitting on the dining table. There are two unopened suitcases by the front door. Beside him, a steaming mug of what Seokjin presumes is fresh coffee. He flicks a thumb on his phone, scrolling, and sings under his breath, the words starting to ring familiar. Seokjin takes a moment to pull himself from the sleepy edges of consciousness, and then he realizes - the song is in Korean.

The man gazes up from his phone and takes notice of Seokjin.

“Hello. Are you in room A?”

His English is thick with accent, and the way the syllables roll off his tongue hints at a language that Seokjin is much more familiar with.

“Yes. I’m—I’m Korean, too,” Seokjin sputters, strangely also in English.

Something clicks on the man’s face.

“I’m Min Yoongi.”

This time, the words are in Korean. His voice rumbles low, pleasant, tinged with a little roughness that Seokjin thinks he can feel reverberate under his skin.

“Kim Seokjin.”

A smile grows on Yoongi’s face. Small, tentative. Honest.

“Coffee?”

Seokjin nods, grabs a seat, watches Yoongi in the kitchen counter scoop grinded coffee beans out of a jar and into a new mug from the overhead cupboard. Seokjin is suddenly hyper aware of the fact that he’s still in his pajamas, but he shuts down the half thought he forms of scrambling back into his room to change when Yoongi comes back from the counter with his mug.

Seokjin mutters a quiet thank you. He takes a sip, and immediately scrunches up his entire face at the surprise taste of utter bitterness in his mouth.

“Yoongi-ssi,” Seokjin starts, still grimacing in distaste as he wipes the corners of lips with his sleeve, “Yoongi-ssi, why would you possibly want to do this to yourself.”

Yoongi laughs.

Seokjin traces the letters through Yoongi’s song when it pours into the room again as he washes the kettle and the mugs, stops himself, considers.

Maybe he hasn’t made a mistake after all.

/

Seokjin does not have anything planned. Lund is a quiet kind of gorgeous and Seokjin thinks, as he goes out bundled in his thickest coat, that he would be okay with an entire week of letting the city unfurl ahead of him as he makes his way around. Seokjin walks mindlessly, lets the cold breeze nip at the skin of his cheeks. The air that he breathes in is almost frigid with frost.

He walks into a bakery, lured by pastries and the need to warm himself up from the inside out. He steps inside, and stumbles a little with his rusty English for whatever the bakery is most famous for, just because he’s feeling a little daring. The lady behind the counter passes him a paper bag, its content warm and smelling very strongly of cinnamon, and when Seokjin turns around to step out, his eyes meet Yoongi’s. He’s sitting by the streetside window, half a piece of cake on the plate in front of him.

“Seokjin-ssi,” Yoongi greets, “sit, sit.”

Seokjin pulls the chair in front of him and settles. He takes a bite out of the pastry in his paper bag.

“What are you having?”

“I don’t know,” Seokjin answers, mid-chewing, “It’s sugary. Cinnamon-y.”

A trickle of laughter from Yoongi.

“I think you might be having a kannelbulle.”

Seokjin stares back blankly. Yoongi smiles, a lot gummy, a little fond. Seokjin pretends he didn’t make that last observation.

“A cinnamon bun, Seokjin-ssi. Sweden’s national dessert.”

Seokjin swallows, says, “oh.”

Seokjin feels the flush under his cheeks, and to divert attention, sets his gaze on the folded newspaper under Yoongi’s plate. He tries to read the words, but he realizes after a beat that not only is he trying to do it upside down, he is also trying to read Swedish. He doesn’t understand a lick of it.

“Yoongi-ssi, you speak Swedish?” Seokjin points at the newspaper.

Yoongi shakes his head, cuts off another piece of his cake.

“I just get curious.” He says this like it explains everything.

“Sorry—you got your cinnamon bun to take away, were you on your way somewhere?” Yoongi wipes his mouth with a napkin, the cake gone from his plate.

“No,” Seokjin answers, finishing his own pastry, “I was just going to walk around.”

“Walk around where?”

Seokjin shrugs. “Nowhere in particular. Thought I’d get acquainted with the city.”

There is that gummy smile again.

“Walk around with me, then?”

“Sure, Yoongi-ssi.”

They tidy their table and say thank you once again to the lady behind the counter.

“Also, Yoongi-ssi sounds awfully formal. I was born in March 1993.” He looks at Seokjin expectantly, waiting for him to catch on.

Outside, the cold air nicks at their skin as fiercely as it did before.

Seokjin squints, then it clicks. “December 1992. Yoongi-yah, I’m your hyung.”

The sunlight hits Yoongi’s hair, makes the chestnut shade look a little closer to raw honey, and Yoongi smiles, a little amused.

“Just barely, though.”

Seokjin feels a little warm under his coat.

/

“So, Yoongi-yah, what do you do?”

They’re sitting in a restaurant somewhere in Lund, Seokjin isn’t quite sure exactly where. They’ve gone from the marketplaces and out into the quieter streets where there are more houses, little children’s bicycles parked carelessly against the railings of their gardens. It’s a little hard for Seokjin to keep track of his route when Yoongi talks with a fervor that draws Seokjin in completely, the kind that turns rapidfire when they stumble onto a topic that sparks Yoongi’s interest. Yoongi walks in sure strides, and Seokjin follows without a question.

The lights in the restaurant are a little dim. The menu is hard to read. They’re all in Swedish. Yoongi puts it on the table after a moment’s scan.

“Hard question, hyung,” Yoongi answers, in a way that almost seems automated. Seokjin quirks an eyebrow.

“How so?”

“Obscure line of work is one way I’d put it.”

Seokjin squints. “Ominous. Very illegal sounding. Am I safe or should I move out somewhere else tomorrow?”

Yoongi bursts in laughter, the sound ringing bright in Seokjin’s ears. He smiles at the sight.

“Not illegal, I promise,” Yoongi assures, catching his breath. “What I meant was that I do a little bit of a lot of things. I write travel pieces. Take photos. I write songs. And then I sell them all.”

The words are blunt.

All of them?” Seokjin doesn’t know why he asks.

Yoongi tilts his head a little like he’s considering. “Maybe not all of them.”

A waiter comes by their table. Yoongi deftly switches into English, intersperses bits and pieces of Swedish in his sentences that makes the waiter beam in surprise. He looks completely at ease, and Seokjin thinks it’s as though Yoongi has long mastered the ability to communicate beyond a mutual language.

Seokjin pauses, considers. That’s something you can only pick up over time.

The waiter leaves after they’ve made their orders.

Seokjin picks at the thought, then asks, “Do you travel a lot, Yoongi-yah?”

Yoongi pours water from the jug into Seokjin’s glass, answers, “I do.”

“Where to?”

“Everywhere.” The answer comes out as easily as the water pours into his own glass. He takes a sip.

Seokjin wonders how long he’s going to be in Lund for, but somehow doesn’t find the words forming on his tongue. Instead, he asks, “Do you come home a lot?”

Yoongi quirks an eyebrow. “Home being…?”

It’s a strange question. Seokjin blinks, takes a moment, answers, “Seoul for me. Well, Gwacheon for the first few years of my life. Then I went to school in Seoul, then college, then work. So, Seoul. I guess.”

Seokjin doesn’t know why he hesitated. His eyes meet Yoongi’s. They’re careful, sharp even in the scant lighting of the restaurant.

“Well then,” Yoongi inhales, “similarly, that would also be Seoul, but Daegu for the first 18 years of my life. Then Seoul. But I haven’t been there for longer than two weeks tops in, like, maybe… the last few years. So.”

The words linger in the air, palpable and thick.

“And you? What do you do, Seokjin hyung?”

“Investment banking.”

This time, Yoongi is the one to stare back blankly. Seokjin smiles, a little amused.

“So,” Seokjin starts, “basically, when a private company wants to go public, they come to us for help. I usually monitor the market, make assessments, valuations, create a plan for the first year after the initial public offering,” and he pauses, notices how Yoongi’s expression still hasn’t changed, then sniggers, “and this sounds like a total dud to you, doesn’t it.”

Yoongi quickly shakes his head, “Oh no, no. Sounds interesting, hyung. Fascinating stuff.”

There is a moment of silence, until something cracks on Yoongi’s face.

Laughter spills from the both of them, the kind that has their whole bodies shaking.

“Yoongi-yah, it’s disrespectful to lie to your hyung!”

“I’m not lying,” Yoongi defends, remnants of his whole-body laughter still pouring out as little chuckles, and Seokjin shoots him a look of mock disdain.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the most interesting job that I’ve heard of,” Yoongi says, “but it’s new. To me, at least. And it’s not exactly the kind of thing I’d get into, but... If you enjoy doing it, then,” and he finishes off with a shrug.

The words feel a little heavy, and there’s a tug at the corner of Seokjin’s lips. A ghost of a smile.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Seokjin traces a finger on the rim of his glass, a little muddled more than anything else.

He looks up, meets Yoongi’s eyes again. Something shifts on his face. He leans forward, the way kids do when they’re going to let someone in on a secret.

“Seokjin hyung, how do you feel about getting wine?”

There is a mischievous glint in his eyes.

(It’s so strange, the way the tension builds then dissipates, the way Seokjin immediately gets the urge to submerge himself altogether when he’s only dipped his toes in to test the waters.)

Seokjin can’t help but lean in, too.

“Yoongi-yah, I always have very positive feelings about getting wine.”

Seokjin thinks Yoongi laughs so easily.

(Like an afterthought, he tells himself that Yoongi makes him laugh very easily, too.)

/

Yoongi rents a car, and reasons that it’s only fair for Seokjin to drive since he’s already paying for everything.

Seokjin finds that it’s a bit hard to say no to Yoongi when he’s pouting.

They make sandwiches for the journey, Yoongi plops onto the passenger seat to navigate, and the old buildings of Lund roll further away as the landscape stretches into a deluge of moss green and glistening blue and cotton white ahead of them.

They drive into a quaint little town that Yoongi says is called Mölle, and stop at a designated car park that’s a little past the center of the town. The wind is harsh when they step outside the car. In the distance is the unmistakable roar of the waves crashing hard against the earth.

“Kullaberg peninsula,” Yoongi says, seemingly reading the question off Seokjin’s face, “we’re going to a lighthouse.”

Yoongi fishes his camera out of his bag. Seokjin’s teeth chatter in the cold. They walk closely.

The lighthouse is right by a coastal cliff, a sturdy building that looks like it’s grown straight out of the rocks a long time ago. The waves are loud, and the water bounces off white rays of sunlight into the horizon. Seokjin gets the irresistible urge to scream into the expanse of the ocean, see if he’ll find where the voice travels to.

Instead, he settles down onto the rocks, curls a little into himself to fight off the biting chill of the wind, and breathes in the scent of sea salt, fresh earth, a little damp in his lungs.

Behind him, Yoongi’s face is hidden by the camera. Seokjin blinks, realizes Yoongi has it pointed to him.

“Yoongi-yah, I didn’t say you could take pictures of me!”

His voice bounces off the ground. Yoongi brings his camera down, makes his way to where Seokjin is sitting, then plops right next to him.

They’re the only two people in the vicinity.

“Hyung, you make my pictures look nice,” he presses a button on his camera and shows the photos to Seokjin. The screen is a little small, so Seokjin has to scoot to get a clear look. Their shoulders are brushing against one another.

Seokjin feels strangely flustered.

“You’re quite good,” Seokjin says, eyeing the pictures, taking note of how he’s in nearly all of them, “are you going to sell them?”

“No,” the answer almost comes immediately. A moment passes. “Maybe. Not all of them. I need to write an accompanying piece.”

Seokjin watches Yoongi’s fingers fumble with the buttons, the delicate way he puts the camera back in his bag like he’s handling something precious.

Seokjin snaps back into reality.

“Lunch?”

They unpack the sandwiches from their plastic wrappers and eat in the quiet, the comfortable kind that envelopes around them.

“What brings you to Lund, Seokjin hyung?” Yoongi wipes the corners of his mouth with a napkin.

“Uh,” Seokjin hesitates, “taking a break from work.”

“All the way here?”

Seokjin chuckles. “I thought… I don’t know, actually. Just—somewhere far. I needed to get somewhere far.”

He glances to Yoongi to see how he responds. Yoongi only nods.

Yoongi mumbles, “How long in Lund?”

“Two months.”

Yoongi’s eyes widen, and then a little chuckle escapes his lips. “Oh wow, that bad, huh.”

No venom. Instead, it feels like gentle, honest understanding. Seokjin laughs, too.

“I guess,” Seokjin shrugs, “I haven’t taken a break in a long time. Might as well take all of the accumulated leave I have in one go.”

“Fair enough.”

“And you?” Seokjin asks back. “What brought you here?”

Yoongi clasps his hands together, rubs his palms like he’s trying to get friction for heat.

“Got bored of Stockholm,” he says easily.

Seokjin quirks an eyebrow. “You’re really just everywhere, are you?”

Yoongi grins. “I did say I travel a lot. I’ve mostly just been in Europe this year, though.”

Seokjin runs a finger on the ground, feels the harsh surface of rocks against his skin. “You don’t find it hard to just… up and move?”

“You’d be surprised how easy it is, actually,” Yoongi says. Something about that remark makes for a sinking feeling in Seokjin’s stomach. He pretends it isn’t there.

“How do you make songs on the go like this, though? Don’t you have to be in a studio?”

“Ideally,” Yoongi shrugs, “but I make do with a few equipments that I can bring around. Sometimes I stop by a city where I know someone, or someone I know knows someone else, or—well, you get the idea—and take time in their studio. I send my stuff for other people to work on, too. Technology, hyung. Get with the times.”

Seokjin snorts, smacks Yoongi’s arm in mock annoyance that falls a little too gentle.

They take their time admiring the scenery, and Yoongi gets up again to take more pictures. As the sun descends, fog settles into the area, blurs Seokjin’s vision.

“Yoongi-yah?”

Seokjin cannot see.

“Here,” the voice comes from a little far away, and then footsteps, and then—

Yoongi.

He wraps his fingers on Seokjin’s wrist, and something hitches in Seokjin’s chest.

“Time to go back, hyung?”

Seokjin lets Yoongi lead the way.

In the car, Yoongi curls in his seat, blinks hard every now and then like he’s trying to fight slumber away. Seokjin glances, notices the light that bounces off Yoongi’s silver hoop earrings.

By the time they get back, Seokjin thinks he can still feel Yoongi’s fingers on his wrist, the phantom heat of his touch leaving imprints on Seokjin’s skin.

/

Some nights the temperature free-falls into the negatives, and Seokjin shivers from the bitter chill even when he’s wearing his warmest sweater. One particular night, he finds that the heater is too worn with age. He sighs in defeat, wraps his blanket around him for extra measure, and makes his way out of his room to the kitchen to make himself something warm. He thinks he saw a few varieties of tea in the overhead cupboard.

Seokjin boils the kettle, and right when it whistles, Yoongi’s door opens. He’s wearing bright blue socks.

“Tea?” Seokjin offers, adds when Yoongi only blinks, “It’s cold. Thought I could use something to warm up.”

Yoongi grins. “I have a better idea.”

Seokjin watches Yoongi dash into his room, a little perplexed, until he comes back with a brown glass bottle in his hands, the words on the label reading Canadian Club.

A similar grin grows on Seokjin’s face, and he grabs the mugs he was going to use for tea for Yoongi to pour the whiskey into.

Yoongi, as Seokjin learns, has an extensive knowledge of whiskey. He talks about the kinds he wants to try, the kinds that he has. Some of these come with little anecdotes—something like a funny incident from when he had just gotten to Malta, a conversation with a bartender in Edinburgh about the lack of Korean food available there. They sit on the couch, their legs up and pressed against their chests, and Seokjin listens to the dreamlike lilt to Yoongi’s voice, laughs when Yoongi does.

They both hold their alcohol well, and only after maybe the fourth pour does it start coiling into sticky sweet heat. Seokjin notices Yoongi’s fingers thrumming on the leather of the couch just beside him.

“Seokjin hyung,” Yoongi starts, “hyung, let’s play truth or dare.”

Seokjin chuckles. “I haven’t done that since college.”

Yoongi smiles, grabs the bottle from the table in front of them, pours more whiskey into his mug. “Toss a coin?”

“No,” Seokjin shakes his head. His bones feel a little like jelly. It’s taking him all of his willpower to fight the urge to droop down, rest his head on Yoongi’s lap. “I’ll go first. Truth.”

Yoongi sniggers. Seokjin watches the easy way he knocks back the whiskey in his mug in one go.

“Hyung,” he starts, “Jinie hyung, tell me something I don’t know.”

Something buzzes in his veins, and Seokjin says the first thing he can think of.

“Norway tried to give Finland a mountain as an independence gift in 2017.”

Yoongi snorts, his eyes crinkling as he laughs.

“Imagine having to top a present like that, Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin quips. His cheeks are warm.

“Gonna have to one up a mountain.” Yoongi agrees, continues, “Sucks to be Finland.”

Their stomachs hurt a little from laughing. Everything is shifting out of focus.

The laughter fades, and Seokjin watches it settle into the corners of Yoongi’s lips. He tilts his mug absentmindedly.

“I didn’t know that, hyung,” Yoongi says, “but I meant—meant you. Tell me something I don’t know about you, hyung.”

Seokjin sinks into the couch. It’s a little hard to think with the alcohol bubbling under his skin, but he tries.

He sifts through his thoughts, and finds—

The scar on his left foot when he fell from trying to grab his kite from a tree.

His secret, undying love for The Little Mermaid.

How much he cried when he got into business school.

How badly he wants to give Taehyung a call.

Seokjin inhales, deep deep deep into his lungs.

“I’m a stress-baker.”

Yoongi looks up from his mug, shoots Seokjin a quizzical look.

“Mostly pastries, but—well, desserts. Not limited to baked goods. Used to do it all the time in college. My housemates loved me.” Seokjin says this with pride, a smile tugging his lips upward, and Yoongi smiles back in the edges of Seokjin’s vision.

“My turn?” Yoongi asks. Seokjin nods, pours more whiskey into his mug, downs it all in one go.

“Truth.” He knocks his feet together, rests his chin on his knees.

“You tell me something I don’t know, Yoongi-yah.”

He glances up, catches Seokjin’s eyes, and then there is a pause. Charged. Surface tension, Seokjin thinks, if he were to trace a finger blindly in the air.

Something breaks when Yoongi grins, gummy and bright and tugging at Seokjin’s heartstrings. “I like hotteok, hyung. Really, really, really like hotteok.”

Seokjin blinks. A second passes, then he understands.

“Yoongi-yah! You’re trying to get me to make you hotteok, aren’t you?”

Laughter trickles out of their mouths, into the corners of the room where it snugly makes itself at home.

Yoongi whines, the moment blurs one after another, and their mugs are left on the table. The game stops at that. They talk about everything at once, leaning into each other, closing the space in between. By the end of it all, the bottle is almost up, Yoongi has his head rested on Seokjin’s shoulder, and everything is blazing warm.

“Make me hotteok, hyung.” Yoongi sounds so sleepy, looks so small curled into himself like this.

Seokjin only hums.

“Later. Now it’s time for sleep.”

They both leave for their rooms.

“G’night, hyung, see you tomorrow.”

“Night, Yoongi-yah.”

Seokjin watches the lights flick off from under the door before slipping into his own room.

He wonders if he’ll remember Yoongi’s lopsided, sleep-worn smile, and goes to bed wishing he could have taken a picture.

/

(The next morning, Seokjin downs two cups of Yoongi’s bitter coffee, nurses a stubborn headache, and heads for the farmer’s market. He comes home with flour, milk, eggs. By the time Yoongi comes out of his room past midday, the house smells like cinnamon and brown sugar, saccharine goodness rolling in the air. Sunlight streams past the curtains of the window, bounces off Yoongi’s skin and rivals the way his face lights up instantaneously.

They take pictures together with Yoongi’s polaroid, hotteok in their hands. The camera prints two slips. One goes to a pocket in Seokjin’s wallet, the other in between the pages of Yoongi’s current novel.

Almost like they’re keeping something precious.)

/

“Hyung,” Yoongi beckons from inside his room, “hyung, you think it would be okay for me to put some of my stuff out in the living room?”

Seokjin takes a sip of his tea, the smell of citrus rising in the air. Outside, the rain makes for heavy thumping noises against the ground.

“Why’d you need to put your stuff out?”

Yoongi peeks out from his bedroom door, strands of hair sticking out in odd directions. He’s wearing thick-rimmed glasses that are sliding off his nose. Seokjin didn’t know Yoongi wore glasses. “Need to clear up my desk to set up my equipments. Got a song to work on.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Go ahead, Yoongi-yah.”

Yoongi grins, and when Seokjin looks up from his mug again, he’s balancing a stack of books. Seokjin can barely see Yoongi’s face, so he promptly gets on his feet to help because it looks like Yoongi can topple over any moment.

Seokjin grabs some of the books of Yoongi’s stack, then sets them on the coffee table. He purses his lips because it’s a little too crowded, and he doesn’t think it looks right.

“We’ll put them on the shelves by the television, what do you think?”

Yoongi nods, plops the remaining books. They both wet towels in the kitchen sink to wipe away the dust that has collected on the wooden shelves, and somehow manage to fit all of Yoongi’s thick novels in the space. Seokjin thinks it’s been a long time since those shelves have actually been anything other than a decorative piece.

Next comes a vase of flowers that Yoongi places on the center of the coffee table, then Seokjin watches the stream of items that follow out into the living room with quiet interest: boxes of tea in languages Seokjin cannot understand, an old film camera he says he thrifted in Japan, prints from his latest roll of film that he ends up pinning on the wall between his and Seokjin’s room with leftover blu tack.

(Pastel lego buildings of Stockholm lined up one after another, somber cathedrals  in Trondheim,  then several shades of green melding in to one another from the fjords in Bergen.

They stand admiring the pictures that now adorn the wall. Seokjin doesn’t know why Yoongi does this, and they’re not quite sure if they’re allowed to.

Yoongi shrugs, says it’s just us, anyway, and Seokjin marvels a little at the easy familiarity of his words.)

They cook dinner afterwards—Seokjin wanting to be a little more careful with his savings, Yoongi joining in just because. They move swiftly from the kitchen counter to the stovetop, systematic motions of this going in after that, garlic and butter sizzling on a pan and pasta boiling in a pot right next to it. They shuffle around each other like they’ve learned how the other moves, how the other occupies space. Like they both have known each other long enough to grow around one another.

Yoongi hums when he cuts vegetables, sings the same songs that Seokjin has come to know by heart. Seokjin chimes right in the middle when the song starts building up and Yoongi’s voice isn’t quite hidden under his breath anymore, something like a shy invitation to sing louder, or a tug at whatever Seokjin can catch on Yoongi’s side.

A smile cracks on Yoongi’s face. They break into the chorus, and Seokjin thinks, if he looks hard enough in between the crisp sound of laughter that follows, he can see something else threaten to spill from underneath.

The laughter fades. Yoongi is standing very close, and Seokjin feels as though he still needs to catch his breath. He takes a step back, wishes it was easier for him to stop noticing the way Yoongi slightly scrunches his eyebrows when he’s deep in focus.

Seokjin’s gaze scans the room around him, and he is struck with a realization that is strange and maybe a little too sudden, one that has him feeling off-kilter.

The space around him has changed

(Seokjin’s knick knacks from the museums in Lund all displayed on the console table by the door, half-drunk mugs of tea sitting on top scribbled pieces of paper, his coats piling up on one of the couches because he just can’t be bothered to hang them properly in his wardrobe. He’s always been like this. Looking for the familiar, letting things coax him open so he can grow to become familiar. It’s something like attachment. Growing roots.)

—and maybe has become—

(Yoongi’s novels and vase of flowers and bundle of scarves all thrown carelessly across the couch. Seokjin surmises that Yoongi cannot afford to grow roots. He keeps everything folded and tucked neatly just within arm’s reach because there’s always a next destination, and having everything close by means he’s free to leave on a whim.

And yet, there are boxes of tea and prints and bits and pieces of Yoongi scattered in every direction Seokjin can cover from where he’s standing, things that he has held and cared for and grown to love enough for him to carry around all perched on the tables and the shelves and the drawers. They’re all mingled in between Seokjin’s things. Out in the open for him to see.)

“Seokjin hyung, set the table for us?”

—something like a home that can be theirs.

/

(Seokjin peers at the door of the one unoccupied bedroom, and the picture breaks at the sight.

 It isn’t a home—it can’t be, not when Seokjin has to fly back, and Yoongi will keep on flying.)

/

Yoongi holes himself in his room to work on his music, and Seokjin goes out to do what there is to do. He visits the botanical garden even though it’s smack in the middle of winter, visits more museums and walks through the university avenues where he gets lost in between distant chatter and the waves of nostalgia that hit him too hard for his liking. Seokjin picks up more Swedish and grows confident enough in his English to start conversations with market sellers and store owners, even thinks he’s managed to become something like friends with the lady who works at the bakery. She gives him extra cinnamon rolls to bring home at the end of the day.

Seokjin thanks her for them and goes home to the lights in the living room still out even though it’s already dark. Soft notes spill past the gap of Yoongi’s door, and Seokjin stands for a while just to listen.

The walls of the house are thin.

Seokjin goes to his own room and changes into pajamas, slips under his blanket, and fights away the sleep to listen to Yoongi on the other side. There are thuds of beats and electronic piano notes and sometimes Seokjin can make out Yoongi’s own voice singing melodies as though he’s only come up with them two seconds ago.  They’re rough on the edges, wavers like they’re uncertain. Seokjin wants to cling onto every dip and rise of the sound nonetheless.

Seokjin thinks he misses Yoongi, which he also thinks is very bizarre. Yoongi is right there, he reminds himself. Only a few meters away, a meager distance that he can close without so much as an effort.

Somehow it still feels like something he can’t do, so he remains still. He listens even when it’s late and the music has stopped playing from Yoongi’s room.

The walls of the house are thin. Seokjin doesn’t mean to, but sometimes, when he thinks Yoongi has fallen asleep, he hears Yoongi cry.

It comes very quietly, like Yoongi wants to keep it a secret. Yoongi cries in low, stuttering sobs that seeps into Seokjin’s own room, faintly echoing off the walls like a taunt.

Seokjin knows that there is a lot that you can be sad about. Seokjin knows, longer than he’s ever been sure about anything else, that these things stay and silently lurk and let you live your life unsuspectingly until they suddenly pull you down to the ground and force you to drown, seemingly without a reason.

But Seokjin also knows what it’s like to want to cry alone. Everything is fragile and threatening to break and having anyone over will only add on the weight, so Seokjin doesn’t do anything. He listens, counts the seconds that pass by as he waits for telltale signs of Yoongi falling asleep.

Silently wishes he could chase the sadness away.

On the other side, Yoongi makes a noise that sounds too close to a muffled howl.

Something grips tight at the center of Seokjin’s chest, pushes out the air with clawed fingers.

His vision swims.

 

The next morning, Seokjin makes them both breakfast the same, and Yoongi wakes up to the smell of toast and eggs all the same.

Yoongi smiles a tiny, tired smile like nothing happened last night, so Seokjin follows suit.

He pretends as though his world hasn’t turned upside down, inside out.

/

The first month of his stay passes. Lund, as Seokjin discovers with a trickle of disappointment, typically does not snow this time of the year. It rains more often than not, and there is a heavy, gray downcast that seems to wash away all the colors of the city.

Yoongi stops making music. He leaves early in the morning before Seokjin gets the chance to see him, even when it rains a rather fierce downpour. Seokjin stays inside, plucks a random title from Yoongi’s collection of novels in the living room. English is still a little convoluted, so he lets the hours pass trying to understand the words, pauses each time he comes across underlined sentences. Seokjin reads them over and over, tries to understand the things that Yoongi holds special.

The door flings open sometime around 8 in the evening, right after a thunder booms and echoes off the walls of the house. Seokjin’s eyes flit to the door and finds Yoongi standing, shivering almost violently, hair sticking to the sides of his pale face from the rain.

Yoongi—”

It sounds desperate, too close to panic for Seokjin’s liking. He dashes into his bedroom, grabs the towels sitting on top of his unfolded laundry basket, rushes back to Yoongi’s side. The way he wraps them around Yoongi’s shoulders is almost frantic.

“I forgot my umbrella, hyung.”

Yoongi smiles, like he’s trying to laugh it away. The sound of his teeth clacking is loud even against the rain. Something wells in Seokjin’s chest.

“Yoongi-yah, you idiot, it’s been raining for days now!”

Strangely enough, there is also a hint of a smile growing on Seokjin’s face. It’s an odd combination of feelings—something like coiling worry and slight annoyance and sheer, overwhelming relief as he watches Yoongi dab his face dry, whole and intact and just — close. Within reach. Seokjin takes the towel from Yoongi’s hand and tries to dry Yoongi’s hair. He lets his fingers linger a beat too long.

The water dripping from Yoongi’s clothes pool on the hardwood floors, seeps through Seokjin’s slippers and breaks his train of thoughts.

“Yoongi-yah, you need to—need to get out of these clothes and get warm.”

Seokjin holds Yoongi by the wrist, leads him to the bathroom where he meddles with the faucets of the shower. He lets the water run.

“It’s gonna take a bit for the water to heat up. I’m gonna grab some more towels while you wait.”

Yoongi only nods. Seokjin goes back to his bedroom, grabs folded towels and a spare bathrobe. When he walks back to the bathroom, he catches Yoongi in the middle of discarding his undershirt, the dark blue turtleneck he had on already on the floor. Seokjin eyes the expanse of pale skin ahead, notices the faint pattern of freckles across Yoongi’s chest, and then feels his entire face flush.

Yoongi drops the shirt on the floor, and meets Seokjin’s gaze. He grins.

“Jinie hyung, your ears are really red.”

Seokjin huffs, tries to feign annoyance. The smile on his face betrays him.

“Yah, should’ve just let hypothermia get to you.”

Seokjin thinks he sounds so fond.

Yoongi takes the towels from Seokjin’s hands, drapes them around his body, hangs the bathrobe behind the door for after he showers. He sits on top of the toilet seat cover, huddled in white, cotton towels. For a moment, there is only the sound of water hitting the ground.

“Hyung. Thank you.”

His voice is small. Yoongi is curled into himself tiny, like he’s trying to keep all the heat from spreading too thin, and Seokjin is struck with the plain desire to just — hold Yoongi close. Stop the shiver from running through his body. Take that step and close the meager distance he hasn’t been brave enough to do anything with.

Instead, Seokjin says, “of course, Yoongi-yah. Call me if — if you’re stuck in the rain again. Or just — you know, save us the trouble and bring an umbrella with you.”

Yoongi trembles even more with his laugh, and Seokjin thinks everything is so odd.

Yoongi is sitting in front of him half-naked, and yet Seokjin feels as though he’s the one who’s painfully exposed. Something like an open nerve ending, an unbandaged gushing wound.

Seokjin almost loses his footing. Steam starts drifting through the room, blurring his view.

He leaves Yoongi to shower.

 

Yoongi steps out half an hour later, gets dressed, and emerges from his bedroom wearing a faded sweater and a very sleepy tug at the corners of his lips. His cheeks are flushed red from the heat, hair still damp. He has a small towel on one hand, and Seokjin thinks he can trace the faint scent of apricot from Yoongi’s shampoo.

Yoongi eyes the book sitting on Seokjin’s lap, tilting his head slightly to read the title upside down.

“Is that my copy of Aristotle and Dante?

“Yeah. I’m only halfway through.”

“Hm,” Yoongi hums. “Good choice.” He leans against the wall, shifting his weight to his right heel.

“There’s quite a lot to choose from,” Seokjin remarks, eyeing the shelf by the television. “How’d you even go around with that many books?”

“I don’t,” Yoongi says. “I usually find a charity or a local library that I can donate them to before I leave. I just—some of the books there I hadn’t finished yet when I was gonna leave for Lund, so I couldn’t really throw them out. The other half… I didn’t get the chance to donate them in Stockholm, so I brought them here with me.”

“Oh,” Seokjin responds, stops before he lets out how he thinks that’s a little sad. “So these are gonna be gone?”

“Yeah. Before I leave.”

Seokjin scans the cover of the book, runs a finger on the spine a little mindlessly. He’s asked the same question over and over, and it’s always been the same answer each time. He doesn’t know if he should ask just exactly when Yoongi is leaving.

Yoongi slips into the kitchen. There is a whistle of the kettle boiling, and then, Yoongi’s voice asking if Seokjin wants a cup of coffee, too.

“Have you even eaten yet?” Seokjin asks as he makes his way to Yoongi’s side, still holding on to the book. He’s scooping grinds into a blue mug, one that he uses so often Seokjin presumes it’s become his favorite.

“No. But I was cold. I need to warm up.”

“I think people usually warm up with food for maximum effectiveness, Yoongi-yah.”

“Or, you know. Alcohol.” He pours water from the kettle into his mug, earns a chuckle from Seokjin. “Do you want one or not, hyung?”

“Hopeless,” Seokjin says. “One for me, please.”

Yoongi smirks, and as he pours grinds and water into Seokjin’s mug, Seokjin grabs cinnamon from the overhead counter, sprinkles just an inkling into both his and Yoongi’s coffee. He puts in a spoonful of honey just for extra measure.

“Your coffee is disgustingly bitter,” Seokjin says as he stirs. “Here.”

Yoongi takes a tentative sip, tries to cover the growing smile on his face, then says, “This is now just honeyed, slightly spicy bean water, hyung. I rate it two out of seven. Disappointing.”

They both burst into laughter.

“What—why is it out of seven—Yoongi-yah!”

Seokjin watches the way Yoongi’s smile widens, stretches and reaches all the way up to his eyes.

“Hyung,” Yoongi says a few moments later, tracing a finger on the rim of the mug. “hyung, come listen to a song with me?”

Always that lilt of a child, asking for something they shouldn’t.

“Sure, Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin answers. He’s led into Yoongi’s bedroom with shy fingers curling against his wrist.

 

Yoongi’s room is nearly identical to Seokjin’s, except Seokjin doesn’t have a bunch of equipments laid out on his desk connected to a laptop. It’s almost intimidating, he thinks. He eyes them with slight apprehension, takes mental note of what he can identify: a set of speakers, a mini keyboard, and what looks like a little square board with nothing but buttons on it. Everything else is very foreign.

Yoongi walks ahead, unplugs all of the equipments from his laptop, then plops right on the bed. Seokjin stands still, right in the middle of the room. He doesn’t quite know what to do, so he tries to make out the words on the piece of paper stuck on the wall right above the desk. There is Copenhagen, and then a date. Something squirms in his stomach with unease.

“Hyung, come here.” Yoongi pats the space next to him.

Seokjin tears his eyes off the paper, then sits down next to Yoongi, painfully aware of his own weight pressing in on Yoongi’s mattress.

“So,” Yoongi starts, “they just sent this to me. It’s the finished product of what we’ve been working on. I haven’t listened to it myself, so… Be nice with criticisms, Jinie hyung, I’m a very sensitive person.”

There is an exaggerated pout, and then a trickle of laughter. “Yoongi-yah, just press play already.”

So Yoongi does.

It’s familiar. Seokjin recognises the beat, the piano notes that follow. After a few seconds, someone starts singing. Seokjin listens and listens and—

It feels a little as though he shouldn’t.

(It’s gentle and soft and yet there’s something brimming underneath—something almost dangerous. Seokjin thinks of the distant rumble of thunder that breaks the quiet before the storm. He thinks of sitting too close by the water, inching closer each time, waiting for the inevitable roll of the waves that will  pull him under. He thinks, lastly, of being let in on a secret. Of having to emerge out of the other end carrying the weight of knowing and not being able to do anything about it.)

When the song ends, Seokjin almost shivers.

“So?” Yoongi looks at him.

“That was—” honest, too honest, Yoongi is looking at him with sharp eyes and Seokjin is very close to hurting with the realization of just how many lines they’re crossing at that very moment, “Yoongi-yah, that was beautiful.”

Yoongi gleams. The air constricts inside Seokjin’s chest, threatens to bloom into flowers. It’s hard to breathe either way.

“The vocals are really good, huh? That was Suran, a good friend of mine. We’re preparing it for her.”

Seokjin agrees. He watches the fervent way Yoongi goes into the little details of how they’ve been working on the song, the glint in his eyes when he says that he wrote most of the lyrics on his own. The melody was developed together. Seokjin catches the slight dip in Yoongi’s voice when he mentions how hard they tried to make it sound right.

“I’m pleased with how it came together in the end, though. I really like it.”

Seokjin hums, says, “You should be. That was great. I mean, I knew it was going to be good, but… That was—that was even better.”

Yoongi blinks, then chuckles, “you knew? Hyung, you have so much faith in me, I’m flattered.”

“I mean,” Seokjin feels oddly flustered, little snippets of laughter caught in between his teeth, “I can—the walls are thin, Yoongi-yah, I can hear you.”

As soon as the words are out, Seokjin wants to take them all back.

Yoongi, to Seokjin’s relief, seems unfazed. “Thin, huh. Should’ve knocked, hyung. I like company.”

Seokjin smiles, gaze lowering onto his palms, his crooked fingers, the crumpled pair of faded green socks half-shoved under the bed. He doesn’t say how much he wishes it was as easy as that.

“Hyung,” Yoongi says after the moment has lingered too long, and Seokjin has formed half a thought of retreating into his own room, “what’s your favorite movie?”

Seokjin’s eyes flit upwards back onto Yoongi’s, his tired face, the drying few strands of hair sticking up into odd directions. “My favorite movie?”

“Yes, hyung, your favorite movie.”

“Uh,” Seokjin pauses, says the first thing that crosses through his mind, “The Big Short.”

Yoongi scrunches up his nose. “Really?”

“What?” Seokjin retorts, “It’s an award-winning, engagingly informational movie about one of the biggest economic collapses in history. Plus, Brad Pitt was in it, too, although—well, to be honest, I didn’t even know it was him. But a stellar performance is a stellar performance regardless.”

Yoongi remains still with judging eyes, the kind that’s really just mischief instead of venom, before drawing out a dramatic exhale. “Okay,” he purses his lips, “I’ll rephrase. What is your favorite feel good movie, one that won’t melt my brain from information overload?”

Seokjin snorts, pauses to consider, comes to the conclusion of really, why not. “Well. The Little Mermaid.”

Yoongi smiles so wide it reaches his eyes. “The Little Mermaid it is.”

Before Seokjin can fully register it, Yoongi is tugging his wrist with gentle fingers, pulling him in to sit not quite upright anymore, their shoulders pressing against Yoongi’s pillows. The laptop is placed right on top of the comforter, the lights are dimmed, and the harsh glow of the movie spills itself onto Yoongi’s skin, makes it paler than Seokjin thinks it really is. He feels their ankles graze.

They are quiet. Ariel sings, meets Eric, trades her voice for a chance at fantasy. All Seokjin can pay attention to is the way Yoongi presses against his side, skin meeting at too many and yet not enough places at the same time, the heat of his body seeping right into Seokjin’s marrows.

The laptop shifts onto Seokjin’s lap as Yoongi curls, his head resting against Seokjin’s shoulder. Seokjin looks down. Yoongi is asleep, his eyelashes fluttering shut. The color of the skin beneath his eyes is dark, makes Seokjin think of the way fruits get when they are bruised.

On the screen, Eric falls under Ursula’s spell, forgets about Ariel. The buildup to the climax, just right where things are starting to hurt.

Seokjin thinks Yoongi looks very tired, and this is where Seokjin knows he is going to start to hurt.

“I hear you cry, sometimes,” Seokjin whispers into Yoongi’s hair, the words pushing past his ribcage, the knot in his throat. “The walls are thin, Yoongi-yah, I can hear you.”

A pause, and then Seokjin draws in a strangely very shuddery breath. “I don’t know how to help, but… I’ll keep you company. If you want. So you’re not alone.”

The water rises up in Seokjin’s chest. He thinks, Yoongi is very beautiful and I feel like I’m sinking and most importantly, this is going to come to an end.

Seokjin shuts Yoongi’s laptop down with as little movement as he can, settles it down on the bedside table, then flips open the comforter. He tries to move his shoulder as discreetly as possible, lowering Yoongi onto the pillow to leave him to sleep.

Yoongi stirs.

“Hyung,” he murmurs, so quietly Seokjin thinks he might have imagined it. He cracks open an eye. “Leaving?”

Seokjin only hums in reply.

“Stay,” Yoongi says, fingers lamely gripping onto Seokjin’s arm. “Stay, hyung.”

This is going to come to an end, Seokjin thinks again, except—

It hasn’t. Not yet. Right now Yoongi is very gentle and very small and asking for Seokjin to stay with him in the most sleepworn voice he’s ever heard that Seokjin thinks it’s absolutely devastating.

Seokjin slips back under the covers, tangles their legs together, feels Yoongi’s warm breath brush against his forearms.

The night pours into the room. Yoongi is gentle and soft and warm all over, like linens pulled straight out of the dryer. Seokjin lets Yoongi fit around himself, and falls asleep in the warmth of Yoongi’s embrace.

 

The next morning has sunshine filtering through half-opened curtains, Yoongi’s bed feeling much too wide and far too cold. Seokjin walks out, vision still blurry, and finds Yoongi at the dining table with a plate of omelets, fresh toast.

“Seokjin hyung,” Yoongi says, his fingers curled against the porcelain of his mug, eyes downcast like he can’t find it in him to look at Seokjin. “You—you heard me cry?”

Seokjin pauses mid-bite, swallows it all down a little forcefully. “Yeah.”

A moment, and then two. “Did I wake you?”

It sounds too close to an apology, and a little part of Seokjin wants to yell.

“No, no—Yoongi, of course not—” he scrambles for the right words, except he doesn’t quite know what they are.

Instead, Seokjin sighs. “I’m right next door. If you need me. You know that, right?”

Yoongi stares at Seokjin with a look in his eyes that makes Seokjin’s heart sink straight into his stomach.

They are very quiet for the rest of the day.

/

Something changes. It’s very subtle, and Seokjin thinks of how people hear ringing in the silence, considers if maybe this is something similar: that Seokjin is looking too hard into nothing, and he’s starting to see things that aren’t even there to begin with.

Except—

(Softer smiles, Yoongi’s hand touching Seokjin whenever he can, wherever he can. Yoongi’s cheek pressed against Seokjin’s shoulder blade when he’s cooking, an arm very carefully snaking around Seokjin’s waist. Stolen glances caught in the act, steady gazes transforming into shy laughter. Something sweet slipping past Yoongi’s tongue when he says Seokjin’s name.)

—Seokjin, for whatever reason, clings on to it all, anyway.

Yoongi comes, plops himself right next to Seokjin as he pours himself over the second half of Yoongi’s book, breathes straight into what feels like Seokjin’s open heart.

“How do you like it, hyung?” Yoongi asks, peering over to peek at Seokjin’s current page. “Oh. Ari’s in the hospital?”

Seokjin nods, shifts in his position so Yoongi can rest his head on his shoulder.

“This part is a bit sad. I remember feeling very bad for Dante,” Yoongi whispers. Seokjin stares at the page, deliberates words in his head.

“Yoongi-yah, they’re very lonely people, aren’t they?” Seokjin asks.

A pause, almost charged. Yoongi traces a lopsided circle on the backside of Seokjin’s hand.

“Not in the end, they aren’t.”

Seokjin finds that he doesn’t mind the quiet with Yoongi.

/

On a Friday morning, Yoongi knocks on Seokjin’s door and tells him to pack enough shirts for two nights. He pulls Seokjin out of the house, into the icy chill of the early morning and all the way into Lund’s central station. Seokjin watches him buy train tickets, then two cups of coffee that are warm on Seokjin’s palms. He lets Yoongi lead him into a train car. Lund tumbles away behind the wafting steam as the train leaves, and they’re in Copenhagen within the next hour.

The city seems unending. There are more people, more buildings, more streets that lead into places Seokjin does not know. Seokjin is a little overwhelmed, and takes a moment to make sure the ground isn’t shifting under his feet. After a beat, there are gentle fingers on Seokjin’s wrist. Yoongi is looking at him like he’s asking Seokjin to trust him, and Seokjin thinks it has never really been a question to him. Seokjin trusts Yoongi. He doesn’t quite know why, only knows that he does. So he walks with Yoongi, and when the crowd pushes and pulls into all sorts of different directions, he tangles his fingers with Yoongi’s like it’s the only thing for him to do.

They go into Nyhavn and sit by the canals, the water glistening under the occasional sunlight that peeks through the clouds. The buildings are pressed against one another and painted vibrant colours against the dull downcast of winter. Seokjin thinks, if he were to stand far away enough, the strip would maybe look like Lego blocks. Yoongi takes pictures, and then takes Seokjin again by the hand to walk into the square of a palace. Amalienborg, Yoongi says. More pictures, Seokjin lets the strange realization of how small he is standing there in the center of the square wash over him (and how even more insignificant he must be in the grand scheme of everything), and then—

Yoongi’s eyes, watching him even from the distance. Crinkled on the sides, upwards, the tattletale signs of a smile. Something fond, but on the edge of unnerving. Like Yoongi can’t help but see right past Seokjin’s bones and marrows and straight into the unknown parts of him that makes his heart beat.

Copenhagen spins right in front of Seokjin’s eyes.

 

The hotel is decent. They get two rooms, but Seokjin ends up in Yoongi’s anyway. The sun has long disappeared from the sky, and the blue tinge of the city sneaks past the curtains. Seokjin watches Yoongi write, and wonders if it’s a travel piece that he’s writing, something that he’ll eventually give away. The clock ticks by behind him, painfully loud and reminding him of how everything will slip past his fingers soon enough.

Seokjin wonders, as much as he doesn’t want to, if all this has mattered enough for Yoongi to etch permanently down onto paper, to keep frozen in time.

“What’s on your mind, hyung?”

Yoongi’s eyes flit from his notebook and down to Seokjin, curled on the bed right next to him. His toes are a little cold.

“Nothing.”  It doesn’t sound convincing.

Yoongi settles his notebook down onto the nightstand. He dips down, curls the exact same way Seokjin is. Their ankles graze.

“Hm,” Yoongi hums. “You’re not very good at lying.” His voice is quiet.

Seokjin exhales. There are a lot of things that Seokjin wants to say, thoughts he cannot put into words. Mostly, he thinks he wants to ask if he can cheat time, maybe carve out something like a hideout in the suspended minute.

Instead, he croaks, “I don’t want to go back to Seoul,” and finds that it hurts, acknowledging that there is a very clear end to everything.

Yoongi blinks, inches closer. Seokjin watches him breathe, the steady rise and fall of his chest, as he tries to form words. He lifts a finger, and then pushes the strands of hair away from Seokjin’s eyes, like he’s afraid Seokjin will disappear when he’s not looking close enough.

Seokjin almost wants to cry.

“Hyung,” Yoongi begins, but there is a pause. His hand is still on Seokjin, fingers stroking through his hair now, running down his cheek and onto the nape of his neck. Featherlight, like Yoongi is afraid to press too hard and accidentally make Seokjin bleed.  “Hyung, why are you here?”

Yoongi is looking at him with such tender eyes, and Seokjin thinks of floodgates waiting to be opened.

“Yoongi-yah, I’ll tell you something you don’t know,” Seokjin says, picking up the conversation as thought it hadn’t ended weeks ago. They lie still, Yoongi’s thumb now absently tracing circles on Seokjin’s cheek. The ticking of the clock is still too loud for Seokjin’s liking.

“I went to a good school. I graduated top of my finance program, secured a job even before I finished. I’m really good at what I do, too. They moved me up the ranks quite quickly. I’m earning a lot. Enough for me to buy my own apartment last year. I’ve done everything right, Yoongi-yah. I’ve followed what everyone says would give me a good life, would make me happy. I’m… I’m supposed to be happy.”

Seokjin’s voice is paper thin. He hates how much it wavers on the edges.

“I just—everything was blurring and it was the same thing over and over and I—I’ve done everything right, Yoongi-yah, but I felt empty. Like I was—I wasn’t fitting right, or I was—God. This one night I was walking home alone and I got so angry at myself. All my life I followed what everyone said, even lost my best friend along the way, and for what? I wasn’t—I wasn’t happy at all. I told myself I needed to do something, make a decision that’s entirely my own. I just—I had to stop drifting like that. I was drifting without an end and Seoul was—it was just a giant reminder of how happy I should be. I hated it.”

He’s breathless by the end of it all, maybe a little sick. Yoongi’s palm flattens against the side of his cheek, warm and very careful, like he’s handling something very precious. “Your best friend?”

Seokjin’s stomach churns. “Taehyung.” He only realizes now that he’s never talked about Taehyung to anyone. Not because he doesn’t want to, but because there hasn’t been anyone. Seokjin has been alone and stuffing words down his throat because what good were they without anyone to listen to them?

“I was busy studying, then I was busy working, and then—a year. I went a year without talking to him. He must hate me so much, Yoongi-yah. I keep—keep wanting to call, but… I’m too scared to know just how badly I’ve screwed things up. I’ve missed so many things. He must hate me so much.”

Everything hurts. Seokjin curls even more into himself like he wants to hide. He feels Yoongi shift, and then there are arms around him, Yoongi’s hair tickling his ear.

“I don’t think he hates you, hyung,” Yoongi says, his voice delicate, honest like he means every word. “If anything, I think he misses you. Worried, too, maybe. Have you told him you flew halfway across the world on a whim?”

Seokjin laughs, although he thinks it comes off a little sad. He shakes his head.

“Hm. Call him, hyung. You miss him, don’t you?”

Seokjin only hums. “It’s quiet, without him. I’m all alone.”

“You have me.”

That’s cruel, Seokjin thinks. “You’re leaving. I’m leaving, too.”

Yoongi remains unfazed, still. “Not until a couple more weeks. We have time.”

“Stop,” Seokjin almost yells, almost wants to be angry, “stop—I know it’s easy for you, Yoongi, but it’s not like that for some of us. That’s unfair.”

The ice threatens to crack from within. The silence is thick, a palpable weight pushing hard against his lungs. Seokjin cries, very quietly, into Yoongi’s shirt, and then wiggles out of his embrace to roll over, his back now against Yoongi.

After a moment, a hand snakes its way around Seokjin’s waist.

“Some days I feel very hollow,” Yoongi whispers, his breath hot against the skin right above the collar of Seokjin’s shirt. “And I keep moving because I think, if I look hard enough, I’ll find whatever it is that would make me feel less empty. But… I give away my books and my songs and my writings to stay on the go and that’s… That’s a lot of me that I’m throwing away. It’s almost counterintuitive, if you think about it. I’m already missing pieces to begin with.”

A ghost of a laugh. Seokjin’s limbs feel strangely heavy, like there’s something pulling him down with force. He moves again, slowly, to face Yoongi. There is a sharp inhale, one that makes Seokjin think it might have hurt Yoongi to breathe that deep.

“I’d go home, but… I’ve always felt out of place in Daegu. Seoul, too, like I was almost the right fit. Very close, but not quite the right shape. I wish I was, for either one. I’m sort of—sort of drifting, too, actually, to use your words, and I’m… quite tired, to be honest. It’s very lonely.”

Seokjin watches Yoongi’s eyes flutter close, and then realizes that this is why Yoongi cries. Seokjin realizes, with a kind of sadness that makes his skin crawl, that they are both afraid of the silence swallowing them whole. He realizes, finally, that they are both looking—for something to ease the loneliness. Anything to make them feel less like emptied shells.

“I’m going to miss you,” Seokjin says, stroking the skin where Yoongi’s jawline meets his neck, “either way. I’m going to miss you.” It sounds almost as though he’s saying yes to something unspoken.

Yoongi nods, says, “I’m still here, hyung.”

He is. Seokjin, too. In the flesh, with all their cards out on the table.

Seokjin can’t find it in him to kiss the corner of Yoongi’s lips like he wants to, so he sighs.

“Yoongi-yah, let’s get some sleep.”

Yoongi makes a muffled sound, part admittance of defeat, part stubborn protest. He presses a featherlight kiss right on Seokjin’s jawline. “Good night, hyung.”

There is a strange weight in his chest.

Seokjin thinks of snowfall, of watching rain droplets make their track down glass panes. He thinks of extended hands and how they are easily an invitation, even without words.

Seokjin thinks of love, the way it appears from seemingly nowhere. Despite everything, because of everything. Either one, maybe both. He isn’t quite sure.

On the edges of consciousness, Seokjin picks at the thought of love with Yoongi, and tries to balance the odds of it all on one hand: how difficult it will be, and how easily it has happened.

/

Kim Namjoon comes and settles into the house a day after Seokjin and Yoongi return from Copenhagen, exactly eleven days before Seokjin has to leave altogether even though he tells himself he’s not counting. Namjoon is tall, with gangly limbs and a very timid disposition, like he’s very conscious of the way his body moves.

He also has very kind eyes.

Yoongi makes them all tea, this time from a box with Japanese written on it. The room smells like peaches, and Seokjin listens to the way Namjoon speaks, pausing every now and then as though he needs time to dig up the right words. He’s lived mostly in London, but he talks about Ilsan with a kind of fondness that Seokjin thinks is reserved for only very special things. He’s a professor. Linguistic anthropology, although Seokjin isn’t certain what that entails. There is a seminar at the university that he is going to speak at. Namjoon then asks, mid-sentence like he can’t keep the thought at bay any longer, to whom the books on the shelves belong to and if he could quickly take a look.

That’s all it takes for whatever barrier they had to dissolve into thin air.

Yoongi and Namjoon talk, very vigorously, about what seems like a hundred things at once. They talk about books that they hold very close to their hearts, the ones that they decided to drop halfway through. They agree and disagree and sometimes Seokjin has to intervene to get them to agree to disagree. Yoongi pulls his books off the shelves and flip through the pages and points at paragraphs, shows Namjoon passages that made his heart ache. Namjoon then brings up poetry and the different way it strings together words, the very similar after effect of feeling as though he has been touched in deep, unknown parts of his very being.

“Read some for us, Namjoon-ssi,” Seokjin asks, curiosity piqued. Yoongi nods along.

Namjoon blinks, fumbles with his phone, then stops after a few minutes of what Seokjin thinks looks like very focused scrolling.

There are poems in English that are a bit hard for Seokjin to understand, ones in Korean that glide easier through his ears although he isn’t quite sure what they mean, and then a couple where Seokjin doesn’t even register what language they’re in because Namjoon reads them aloud like he’s delicately chipping off a part of him to share with the room. It’s a bit of a trance. Seokjin thinks that Namjoon is something of a hopeless romantic.

He also thinks of how some things are far too big to be caged by words, and decides that if he were to try to name the lilting feeling that Namjoon carries in his voice as he reads, he would call it unadulterated longing.

Namjoon smiles sheepishly when he finishes, his gaze falling onto the dents and scratches of the wooden table. Yoongi thanks him, honest the way he always is.

“Seokjin hyung, why don’t we take Namjoon out for a walk around?”

So they do. Yoongi and Namjoon pour over more things as they walk, their voices traveling into the distance of the darkening sky. Mostly, Seokjin only listens from the side. Not in any way isolated, just—watching, basking in the way they talk as though they’ve known each other forever. Letting himself feel at ease.

Seokjin thinks that among the infinite number of parallel universes in existence, there is one where they are old friends instead of strangers brought together by coincidence. Something like ex college housemates who bonded over minimum sleep and cheap meals and the sheer determination of taking on what had felt like a limitless world. Seokjin in that universe, he thinks, pursues acting. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and is courageous enough to know what he wants. Seokjin isn’t sure what Yoongi of that universe does, but he imagines him to be just as gentle, perhaps less confused. Maybe, Yoongi of that universe has a green thumb and grows flowers, nurtures them like they’re his children.

“Seokjin hyung made me hotteok once. It’s… decent, but. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?”

Seokjin takes a moment to reground, and then he snorts, feigning annoyance.

“Don’t listen to him, my hotteok is definitely more than just decent. Yoongi had four in one go.”

Namjoon laughs, too. “I haven’t had hotteok in ages, Seokjin-ssi.”

“You can call me hyung,” Seokjin quips, “and I don’t know why everyone keeps hinting at me like this. I’ll be happy to make you some before you leave if you want, Namjoon-ah.”

Lund is, by what Seokjin guesses must be nearly everyone’s standards, quite small, and he remembers expecting to feel claustrophobic the first week he had arrived. Instead, he finds that he can breathe without hurting. It’s easier here, and he thinks maybe it isn’t necessarily just Lund being the right size. Seoul, after all, is vast, nearly ceaseless, and somehow Seokjin feels like he was gasping for air the entire time.

Seokjin wonders, as he makes his way back with Yoongi’s hand in his and Namjoon’s excited voice bouncing off the earth, how he had managed to fly thousands of miles away in an escape, only to find himself feeling very much at home.

/

(Seokjin and Yoongi of that other universe fall into a quiet kind of love, one where their friendship grows slowly into something more and presents itself as an innocent, schoolboy-like confession. Or maybe they are more brazen, less reserved, and Seokjin and Yoongi of that universe jump at the opportunity to be together right from the get-go. Either way, Seokjin and Yoongi of that universe come home to each other without worrying about endless distance or unfortunate timing, and Seokjin of this universe can’t help but lie awake at night feeling sick with envy.)

/

Namjoon takes Seokjin and Yoongi out to dinner on his last night in Lund and introduces them to Park Jimin, who Namjoon says is also an academic visiting from Besançon. He speaks Korean with what Seokjin thinks is one of the Gyeongsang dialects—either Busan or Daegu, Seokjin has never really been able to tell the difference with certainty. He laughs through his words like he’s trying to make sure everyone in the room is comfortable. He is rather young, his frame is just slightly smaller than Yoongi’s, and Seokjin thinks he is very handsome.

It is quite an interesting night.

Namjoon looks at Jimin like he’s the most beautiful person he’s ever laid eyes on, and Jimin sings praises for Namjoon like it his sole mission in life to do so. Namjoon suppresses a smile, glances at Jimin, then down onto the menu where he covers his face like a smitten schoolboy. Seokjin feels almost as though he’s intruding, so he scrambles to look elsewhere. He catches Yoongi’s eyes, then there is a moment. A knowing look, a smile cracking on Seokjin’s face to mirror the one on Yoongi’s own.

Seokjin feels tingly, lit up from the inside.

“There’s a drinks thing going on for visiting professors at a bar near the university,” Namjoon says as they don their coats, food long gone, “so I’m gonna head there with Jimin.”

Seokjin thinks Namjoon’s words sound far too carefully deliberated.

“Come with us if you want, Yoongi-ssi, Seokjin-ssi. More good wine,” Jimin says as he curls a scarf around his neck.

“Sounds fun,” Yoongi says, mischief just peeking through his voice, “but I think I’m gonna call it a night. What about you, Seokjin hyung?”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin very expectantly, like it’s crystal clear what Seokjin is supposed to say.

“Ah, I think I’m gonna head back, too. I’m quite tired.”

“You’re all packed, aren’t you, Namjoon-ah?” Yoongi asks.

Namjoon slips one arm into his coat, blinks like he’s taken aback. “...Yes?”

“Good. Gives you more time to stay back. Or… you know, if you and Jimin want to make any detours.”

The look of absolute panic on Namjoon’s face sends them all laughing. Jimin links his arms with Namjoon’s, smiling a thousand watts bright. “I’m up for detours if you are.”

It is almost nine. The wind isn’t particularly bad outside, but even in the restaurant they’re all a bit cold. Almost everything is closed in Lund at this hour. Seokjin glances again at Yoongi’s direction, impish—like they’re two children sharing a little secret.

 

The streets are fairly quiet when they part ways with Namjoon and Jimin. Seokjin kicks at a pebble on the ground, then starts walking back to the house with Yoongi.

“That was something, wasn’t it, Jinie hyung?”

“I don’t think I’ve seen something like that since high school.”

They burst out laughing and Yoongi’s eyes crinkle the way they always do when he’s happy, like all that happiness is pouring out and reaching into all the little corners of his body. He extends a hand out like it’s an instinct of his and Seokjin takes it in his own like it already knows.

“Namjoon looks very happy.”

Seokjin hums in agreement. He really does look happy. Seokjin squeezes Yoongi’s fingers, and then a strange weight settles in his stomach.

Seokjin steals glances at Yoongi and watches how the streetlights and the moonbeam mingle together to paint on his face, angular lines over soft features. He looks half-concealed, or maybe—illuminated, in a way that makes him seem just a little mysterious. He thinks of how gentle Yoongi actually is and how even when he was still hiding, he’d made Seokjin feel things he still can’t quite cage into words. Happy, maybe. The strange, quiet kind.

A car passes by, its lights grazing against the side of Seokjin’s body before disappearing again, past his vision. Into the night.

“Are you happy, Yoongi-yah?”

Yoongi idly swings their interlocked hands. He looks at Seokjin. “Generally, or…?”

Odd, but Seokjin’s known Yoongi long enough to not be surprised. Yoongi came out of the blue and has managed to catch Seokjin off guard from the very beginning. A hook to the jaw—Yoongi turns everything that Seokjin has known upside down, inside out. Like this, with all of his dark corners now shoved under the light, Seokjin comes to realize that he tries to keep too many things hidden.

“Right now,” Seokjin answers, because this is one of Yoongi’s questions that he thinks he understands from the get-go. He thinks happiness, like most things, are transient.

Yoongi tilts his head to the side. He draws circles on Seokjin’s hand with a thumb. The tip of his nose is red from the cold air. His fingers, strangely enough, are very warm. Seokjin thinks Yoongi is very warm, even with his rainy days—he’s something like spring. Quiet, gentle, flowers blooming with each smile.

“I think so, hyung. I’m happy here. In this moment.”

And then it just—is.

Seokjin can see it plain as day. He loves Yoongi, is in love with Yoongi—all the variations of the word, all the ways it manifests and transforms and snugly keeps itself at home in Seokjin’s open heart.

There is no denying it anymore.

Left turn at this intersection, past the little brick house that always has a window open. The sound of their feet against the ground is about the only thing they hear, until Yoongi starts to sing. Quiet at first, before his voice grows and grows and pours into the blue night. He’s swinging their hands again like a little child. Seokjin laughs, lets himself sway with the motion—gentle roll of the waves, left, right, left, right. Out in the open ocean.

The house is dark when they come inside. Yoongi flicks one of the lights on, then the door shuts behind them both with a soft click. Yoongi slips out of his coat, unwraps his scarf, then sets into the kitchen to make tea. Seokjin follows without a thought, shifts his weight onto his right foot, half-sits on the counter. He watches Yoongi fumble with the kettle, then the teabag, cursing at a splatter of hot water. He finally brings his mug up to take a sip. The steam wafts, and Yoongi blows with a pout. He’s adorable—devastatingly so. Seokjin gets the unmistakable urge to kiss him.

Yoongi looks up from his mug, catches his stare, flashes a smile.

“Have you just been watching me the entire time?”

Seokjin blinks. “Guess I have.”

Yoongi chuckles. “Creep.”

They laugh. Yoongi moves closer, takes another sip. He squints his eyes, impish, then says, “You’re smiling.”

Seokjin smiles even wider. Yoongi does, too—all gums. Fond. “I like you like this. All smiley.”

Seokjin sputters a laugh, and then there is a pause. Words forming in his mouth, Yoongi’s tender eyes studying his own. “I’m happy.”

Yoongi sets the mug on the counter. He inches closer, closer. Seokjin wants to say everything there is for him to say to Yoongi.

“You make me happy, Yoongi-yah.”

Seokjin wants. Seokjin wants so much.

“Yeah?” Yoongi reaches for Seokjin’s hand, his fingers carefully grazing against Seokjin’s, not wanting to press too hard. He’s so gentle, but he’s looking at Seokjin like he knows where this is going, almost like he’s waiting for Seokjin to continue. It’s unnerving. Yoongi looks like he’s hurting from wanting this just as much, too.

Seokjin brings a hand up onto Yoongi’s cheek. He’s right in front of him, and everything feels like it’s suspended, hanging in the air. Waiting to fall.

“I’m going to kiss you.” Seokjin’s voice is thin, white smoke in the air. “Tell me if you don’t want me to kiss you.”

Yoongi leans into the touch. “You can kiss me, hyung.”

So Seokjin does.

It’s barely a kiss. An almost-kiss. Just the graze of their lips, chaste. Seokjin loses his breath like it’s a real kiss, anyway, and presses in like he wants to make sure this isn’t some sort of fever dream he’s having. Yoongi makes a little helpless noise, just at the back of his throat, and parts his mouth a little before clutching hard at Seokjin’s shirt, urgent fingers pulling then pressing, hot even through the fabric.

Reckless, reckless, reckless.

Seokjin pulls back, catching his breath. Yoongi is flushed pink across his cheeks. They’re very still. Seokjin sort of wants to cry.

“I think I’m in love with you,” Seokjin admits, his gaze falling on the floor. He doesn’t mean for it to sound this helpless.

“I think I am, too,” Yoongi whispers, his words coming out like weight pushed out from his chest. “With you—I mean. I think—I think I’m in love with you, too, hyung.”

Seokjin looks up, contemplates, thinks we really shouldn’t—but also, at the same time, I don’t want to hide anymore.

Seokjin breathes in, deep, deep, deep. “We have time, don’t we?”

Yoongi nods, swallowing. He looks just as scared as Seokjin is, just as determined. Something about it is almost comforting. “Five days before you leave, hyung. That’s plenty of time.”

“Okay,” Seokjin breathes. “Five days. Okay, Yoongi-yah.”

And then Yoongi pulls at his shirt again, puts his mouth on Seokjin’s, and everything is crackling. This time, it’s a lot less shy, a lot more brazen. Yoongi slides his tongue on Seokjin’s lower lip with intent, lets his hand travel up, up, up to the back of his neck. Seokjin whimpers, wants to move closer, angle everything just right so he gets to see and touch and feel all there is from Yoongi, map him out under his touch.

They stumble into Seokjin’s room. Yoongi crawls into Seokjin’s lap, tugs at the hem of Seokjin’s shirt, pushes it up until Seokjin’s sitting there in the dark of the room all exposed. Yoongi does the same. There is so much to take in. Seokjin traces a finger on Yoongi’s ribs, the soft expanse of his stomach, lets Yoongi push him back so they’re lying down, Yoongi hovering on top of him. Yoongi dips down, kisses the shell of Seokjin’s ear, the patch of skin on right under his jawline, then full on his open mouth.

It’s nerve-wracking.

Seokjin never wants it to end.

 

 

(They’re catching their breaths, letting their heartbeats calm down. Yoongi is curled, his face snug in the curve of Seokjin’s neck.

“Hyung. Jinie hyung, don’t count.”

“Not counting.” He presses a kiss on Yoongi’s temple, lets his lips linger for a moment. “Won’t count, Yoongi-yah.”

Seokjin does, anyway.)

/

Five. The next afternoon has Namjoon with tear-brimmed eyes, fingers that clutch onto his duffel bag a little too strongly. The platform is sleepy, with only a handful of people dragging their suitcases across the floor. Namjoon hugs Yoongi and Seokjin with a kind of urgency that is very honest, says that he’ll miss them both like he already does. A little part of Seokjin tells him they will be friends for a very long time.

“Come to London soon,” he asks. Seokjin promises he will. Yoongi smiles, murmurs that London is his favorite city.

“And Jimin?”

Namjoon blinks.

“He’s, uh—he’s coming to London, too, for a bit and—France isn’t very far, you know, so I might—I could go—”

Yoongi laughs, the kind that is very fond. Namjoon relaxes, rubs a palm on the back of his neck.

“He makes me happy,” Namjoon continues, voice reduced to that of a child’s, eyes saucer wide and innocent. “That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I’ve only known him for less than a week.”

“Not really,” Yoongi says, equally as quiet. A moment, two, and then Yoongi’s fingers brushing against Seokjin’s before he adds, “nothing wrong with wanting to hold on to it, either.”

Seokjin peeks up at the announcement board, tells Namjoon he should get on his train soon. One last round of hugs.

“Don’t take your passport out in the train if you don’t wanna end up leaving it, triple check your stuff before you get off at the airport, don’t wander around and miss your flight,” Seokjin quips. Namjoon rolls his eyes, picks up his duffel bag from the floor.

“Hyung,” he says, unclear who he’s referring to as he looks at Yoongi and Seokjin both. “Hyung, you should hold on to what makes you happy, too.”

He runs off into his train car before either of them gets the chance to say anything. The train starts to move, leaves the platform in what Seokjin counts to be exactly 20 seconds, and then it is very quiet. Only Yoongi and Seokjin are left staring at the empty tracks.

At home, the way Seokjin touches Yoongi is hurried, too frantic, like he’s trying to do everything and press everywhere at the same time. Yoongi cups Seokjin’s face, pulls him closer, presses his lips gently against Seokjin’s as though to say slow down, we have time.

They kiss languidly, lazily, melting sugar into caramel in their mouths. Seokjin places a hand snug into Yoongi’s as Yoongi goes down down down, partly out of instinct, partly out of the desperate desire to hold on to every bit of Yoongi he can have.

 

Four. There is a piano in one of the university spaces that is open for public, but for some reason isn’t used all that much. Yoongi says Namjoon had told him a few days before he left. The ceiling is very high, the windows are large, and the sunlight that pours into the room is almost blinding. Seokjin walks close to one of the windows, admires the black wooden panes, then peeks out into the quadrangle of the university.

“You look good in this light, hyung,” Yoongi breaks the silence. “Beautiful.”

Seokjin looks back, meets Yoongi’s eyes, feels his ears flush red.

“You’re quite the charmer, aren’t you,” Seokjin replies as he makes his way to the piano, Yoongi already seated on the wooden bench. He is suddenly very aware of his hands, the weight of his body, his presence disrupting the stillness of the room. He feels like a lovestruck schoolboy.

“My many talents,” Yoongi jokes. He eyes the piano keys the way a person does when they reunite with an old friend.

“Jinie hyung, I’m going to play you a song.”

So Yoongi does. It sounds like spring rain: warm, almost hinting at something good to come.

Yoongi plays the same song later that night, this time fingers pressing against the ivory of Seokjin’s skin, the ebony of the darkening marks that have bloomed from Yoongi’s mouth. The song is gentle, and so they are very gentle with each other, too.

Seokjin, this time, sings to the song—or rather, he chants. Yoongi’s name, broken and lilting and at the edge of his breath, over and over again. Like he wants to keep the sound of it tucked safe under his tongue for all the days to come.

 

Three. Seokjin watches Yoongi buy a one-way flight ticket to London for the day after he is set to leave. He is going to stay at Namjoon’s for a little while. Yoongi puts Namjoon on loudspeaker, and Seokjin listens to Namjoon’s fierce refusals of Yoongi’s offer to pay proper rent, Yoongi’s adamant insistence that follows. Seokjin hears Jimin laughing in the background. It is very loud, just for a while, until the call ends. Then it is quiet, the kind that makes Seokjin squirm in his seat.

Yoongi pulls Seokjin out into the little front yard of the house when it gets dark, camera in hand. He takes pictures of Seokjin’s shivering palms, his shadow-casted face, shot after shot until Seokjin feels a little sick and asks Yoongi to stop stop stop.

Yoongi lowers his camera. He is a little pale and the bags under his eyes are too dark and he’s wearing one of Seokjin’s puffer coats that makes him look like he’s swimming in it. Seokjin thinks he looks very soft. Gentle under the moonlight, pretty everywhere it hits him. Seokjin wonders if anyone’s ever stopped to look at him like this, if he has spent too much time appreciating the beauty in others that he’s forgotten about his own.

I see you, he wants to say.

“Let me take a picture of you, Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says instead, taking the camera off Yoongi’s hands. Yoongi remains, puzzled, as Seokjin walks back to where he thinks would be a good angle.

“You look really good in this light. Very beautiful.”

The smile on Yoongi’s face appears like a crack of lightning, sudden and radiant and absolutely captivating. Seokjin almost forgets to press the shutter.

“Come up with your own lines, Jinie hyung.”

There are more pictures—Yoongi’s giant grin and goofy poses and the nine-and-a-half steps that he makes to close the gap between him and Seokjin, their smiles meeting in the middle. They go back into the house and Seokjin kisses the warmth back into Yoongi’s mouth, into each of his cold fingers. He presses his own hand, palm flat against Yoongi’s chest and lets it stay right where Yoongi’s heart is beating. They are slow until it’s too painful to be slow, until Seokjin rolls his hips too teasingly and Yoongi draws out a broken whine and whispers please, and Seokjin thinks there will never be anything that he can deny Yoongi.

He lets Yoongi flip them over, everything is electric all over Seokjin’s skin, and Yoongi’s voice is low ocean currents dragging in the air as they both come undone.

They lie very closely together, in the quiet, after they’ve both come down from the high. Yoongi strokes the hair out of Seokjin’s eyes and looks at him like something is gripping very tightly at his chest.

“That day when I took you to Copenhagen,” Yoongi breathes, barely a murmur, “I was supposed to leave.”

Seokjin nuzzles into Yoongi’s touch. He takes a moment to let the words linger, tries to decide how he feels. It’s a little hard. Everything hurts, but Seokjin thinks it always has. That doesn’t change anything.

“You’re here now.”

Yoongi blinks, looks into Seokjin’s eyes like he’s searching for something. He sighs, then moves forward to catch Seokjin in a very chaste kiss.

“You’re here now, too.”

Seokjin thinks maybe that’s all that matters.

 

Two. Seokjin and Yoongi head south into Malmö carrying a cardboard box of Yoongi’s books. Yoongi says there is a shelter in the city for homeless youths and refugees that has piqued his interest. Seokjin tries not to think of how barren they left the shelves back at the house, how everything else is slowly going to start disappearing, too.

They arrive at an old brick building that’s a little out of the way. Yoongi opens the door, and they are greeted by the volunteers. They are very warm. Seokjin smiles back, feeling a little too timid to start talking to them right away, all the while watching Yoongi launch comfortably into a conversation in English.

They are very grateful for the donation. Yoongi takes them all out of the box to show him what he has. Seokjin eyes each of them, takes note of the different genres that they all are. Some are in Korean. Yoongi laughs, this shy little thing that makes Seokjin’s heart swell, and sheepishly says he can take the Korean books back. The volunteers smile, and say that they’ll keep them anyway if Yoongi still wants to donate them even though no one they have right now knows Korean, that maybe sometime in the future they’ll stumble upon someone else who might need it to hold on to as a reminder of home. Seokjin thinks they are very good people.

On the bottom of the stack, Yoongi pulls out his copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Seokjin doesn’t realize he’s holding in a breath until Yoongi looks at him, delicate fingers gripping at the spine of the book, and asks, “Jinie hyung, keep this book for me?”

That same childlike innocence that Seokjin has loved from the very beginning.

Seokjin takes the book into one hand, and lets the other fit into Yoongi’s own. They say their goodbyes to the volunteers, walk out, stumble into the streets of Malmo in the half-light of the fading sun until Seokjin stops in front of a church.

The doors are wooden and tall and the walls of the building are fresh white, like they’ve recently been repainted. The doors are cracked open, and Seokjin peeks through. He gets this strange urge to come inside, so he tugs Yoongi with him, and the doors creak as they both slip into the church.

The first thing that catches Seokjin’s attention is the altar right ahead of him, the intricate gold ornaments bouncing off the lights onto the walls. The entire room is tinged yellow. There are a few people sitting on the wooden pews near the altar. It is very quiet, and Seokjin doesn’t quite know what to do.

“You wanna pray, hyung?” Yoongi asks softly, just barely audible that Seokjin could have easily missed it. They sit on the very last pew, far from everyone else.

Seokjin has never been religious. He doesn’t think he’s ever prayed before. He had a few friends in college who were very active in church and had tried to get him to come to their prayer group, but the idea of it all just never sat right with him. It felt like a gimmick. He’s never understood what it was supposed to achieve.

But Yoongi places a hand on top of Seokjin’s very gently, and Seokjin feels a flurry of all things in his chest that makes him think that there are things in this world that are too great to be caged by words, or too complicated for Seokjin to ever truly untangle. Like loving Yoongi, he thinks. Like coming to Lund and falling in love with Yoongi and not feeling so sad anymore, even though sometimes the very fact that he is not sad here with Yoongi makes it hard for him to breathe. He can’t tell if he secretly wants to let the water rise up and drown him.

And Seokjin doesn’t know if he believes in a higher power, but he thinks maybe people pray because it’s the closest thing they’ll get to having someone who understands.

“I don’t know how to,” Seokjin whispers, eyes shying away from Yoongi’s stare.

“I don’t either,” Yoongi replies, squeezes Seokjin’s hand. “Do you make birthday wishes, hyung?”

Seokjin nods, although he can’t remember the last time he celebrated his birthday. He thinks it was in college, with Taehyung.

“It’s a little like that, I think. Close your eyes, hyung. Pretend someone’s listening. And then… just. Say something. Anything.”

Seokjin breathes. Yoongi looks at him encouragingly, and then they clasp their hands together the way he’s seen people do when they pray on television.

It takes him a few moments to decide what he wants to say.

He prays for a life that’s more honest.

 

One. The day comes very strangely. Seokjin wakes up to Yoongi’s apricot-scented hair, the graze of his lips against the jut of his shoulder. He watches the way the sunlight filters through the curtains and seeps through his skin, translucent like he’s made from rice paper. Thin, fragile, over-stretched across his veins. The thought turns sour, and he squirms. Yoongi stirs awake.

Seokjin croaks, I need to pack. There is a beat of silence, and then Yoongi pulls them both up to get to work.

Seokjin takes a moment to look at his suitcase and wonder how he’ll be able to pack all of his belongings, even though he knows he hasn’t bought that many new things during his time here. Seokjin thinks everything has just grown larger out of nowhere, weightier maybe. Somehow the thought of packing and pressing it all down to fit one tiny space makes him inexplicably sad. But his suitcase is staring right back at him and the sun continues to go up behind his window and Yoongi is unclipping his clothes from the drying line to pack, too, so Seokjin starts taking his clothes out from the wardrobe to refold.

It’s a bit of a blur. They are very quiet. Seokjin takes all of his knick knacks, Yoongi peels all of the pictures from the walls between their rooms. Things slowly start to disappear, one by one. Seokjin pulls Yoongi out of the house and into the bakery with the lady they’ve gotten to befriend because Seokjin wants to buy time, although he doesn’t say this out loud.

They tell the lady they’ll be leaving, just because they feel like she should know. She asks them where they’ll be heading. When they mention different destinations, she almost seems frazzled. Seokjin watches her eyes flick down to their interlocked hands for a split second, thinks maybe she’d expected only one answer. She doesn’t press, and wishes them well. They buy more cinnamon buns, then make their way back.

They come back to the house looking the way it did two months ago when Seokjin had just arrived, alone. It’s daunting. Seokjin shivers, and Yoongi pulls him in, spreads himself wide wide wide to wrap all of Seokjin in his arms.

There’s something more desperate with the way they touch tonight, a controlled kind of urgency when Yoongi tugs at Seokjin’s lower lip and Seokjin presses his fingers hard into Yoongi’s pale skin. Seokjin kisses Yoongi’s cheekbone, down to his jawline, his collarbone, his jutting ribs, melts all of Yoongi’s harsh angular lines into soft edges with each touch before he goes back up to catch Yoongi’s lips with his own. Yoongi tastes like cinnamon and brown sugar and just a hint of the bitter coffee that he always drinks as they kiss and kiss and kiss until Seokjin is a little dizzy, almost drunk.

Yoongi is so good, makes Seokjin feel so good. They take their time to push each other to the edge and when Yoongi says,

You’re beautiful, baby, I got you,

Seokjin tips over with a broken cry, and Yoongi follows with a breathy sound that echoes off the walls, has his thighs trembling. He falls straight into Seokjin’s arms, and they spend a while just trying to catch their breaths. Everything is warm.

Yoongi gets up, wipes them clean, and then wriggles right back into Seokjin’s arms. For a moment, there is nothing but the sound of their breathing, Seokjin’s idle fingers grazing up and down on Yoongi’s back, until one of them inhales, and starts talking—about everything, and really nothing in particular.

“So if you were at home, on a day like this, what would you be doing, hyung?”

“Hm. This is a Sunday, right? Let’s see. I’d wake up, and if I was lucky enough to not have any work to prepare for the next day then I’d probably stay in bed for another hour or so just scrolling through my phone. I’d actually get up when I get hungry, make coffee with this—this really shitty French press I’ve had since college, maybe. Freshman year? I don’t remember. Then I’d rummage through my fridge to see if I have any leftovers. If I don’t, I’ll order in.”

“Order in?”

“Cooking is a pain, Yoongi-yah.”

“But you always cook here.”

“Because you ask for breakfast.”

“I asked for breakfast once, hyung. You just keep making them.”

“Shut up, Yoongi-yah. Anyway—uh. Right. Sundays are lazy days, so—Netflix, or a good book. Or just—back to bed to stare at the ceiling with music playing in the background. When I’m feeling particularly energetic, I’d go out to this Sunday marketplace thing a couple subway stops away. There’s a stall that sells really cute succulents.”

“Succulents?”

“Yeah. I have a growing collection. My desk is almost a garden now.”

“Hyung, that’s adorable.”

“Hm. I wonder how they’re doing. I don’t want to come home to a dead makeshift garden. That’s like—like a graveyard of succulents. That would be horrible.”

“Not dead, fingers crossed.” Yoongi presses a kiss right on the tiny mole under Seokjin’s eye. “Hm. I want to have a garden, too, hyung.”

And Seokjin thinks something about that just sounds so sad.

“Yeah? What do you want in your garden?”

“I—well, I don’t know much about flowers, actually.” He laughs, ducks into the pillow like he’s trying to hide. “But—but I like the idea of watching things grow. Taking care of things so that they’re pretty. Or, maybe—maybe they don’t turn out pretty, and that would be okay, too. Wouldn’t matter. I don’t know what I’m saying.”

Seokjin’s heart sinks. He wants to say, come home with me, we can plant everything and watch all of them grow together, but the words sound wrong, feel wrong on his tongue. It’s selfish to want to keep Yoongi close when he’s not done yet, when he’s still looking. Seokjin can tell he’s still looking, and he thinks no one has the right to ask that much from Yoongi. He thinks he loves Yoongi more than that.

(Maybe, Seokjin thinks, he could leave Seoul altogether. He could come with Yoongi and see everything Europe has to offer, maybe even the world. But the thought falters as quickly as it has formed because truthfully, Seokjin knows that’s too much to ask from himself, too.)

“I know I like tulips, though,” Yoongi breaks the silence, stroking Seokjin’s cheek with his thumb. “I saw them bloom when I was in Amsterdam. Gorgeous.”

“Yeah?” Seokjin can’t help but be curious. “And where do you wanna go after London, Yoongi-yah?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’m thinking, maybe Prague. I’ve already been, but—Prague is pretty. The prettiest, I think.”

“Is it? I’ve never been.”

“It is. Think bridges lining up one after another and old Gothic buildings that look like they came straight out of… I don’t know. Cinderella. Like a town from a fairytale, you know? When the sun sets it’s all pink and blue and sometimes orange, but at night it’s all yellow.”

“Yellow?”

“Yeah. From the street lights.”

“Hm. Like the way Lund is all tinged blue at night.”

“It is blue, huh?”

“Yeah. Not sure if it’s the street lights, though. It’s just—it just is.”

“Hm. A fairytale town, too. A lot smaller than Prague, though.”

“I’d imagine.”

“Hey, Jinie hyung. Want me to tell you something you don’t know?”

“Sure, Yoongi-yah.”

A pause, Yoongi’s pursed lips.

“All those cities… Sometimes, hyung, I think they look the same.”

The words come out as though they’ve been squeezed out of Yoongi’s chest, like this was a secret he’d wanted to keep forever, and Seokjin isn’t so sure what to make of it. He isn’t so sure of anything anymore.

He leans forward and kisses Yoongi deep deep deep, the kind that leaves them breathless when they break apart. The conversation ends there, and Yoongi nuzzles his face into Seokjin’s chest, snakes an arm around Seokjin’s waist to keep him close. Seokjin does the same, murmurs good night into Yoongi’s hair as he tries to think of right now, and right now only.

Something stays lingering in the air, unspoken.

/

The platform is sleepy, as it always is. Only one of the newspaper stands have opened, and there are only approximately nine other people that Seokjin has seen so far. It’s still early in the morning, but Seokjin has been awake for a little while. His hand is cold in Yoongi’s, and he thinks one of the wheels on his suitcase is jammed. Everything else is a bit hard to register.

Seokjin’s train is there, but he’s not leaving for another ten minutes, so he stays on the platform with Yoongi. There is distant chatter, the sound of something heavy being dragged against the floor. It’s almost misty. Seokjin kind of wants to cry.

“Got everything you need? Your passport?”

“Yes.”

Seokjin follows Yoongi’s eyes, looking up to where the announcement board is. Stockholm, 07:28.

“Should’ve just gotten a flight from Copenhagen, Jinie hyung. Stockholm is too far.”

Another four hours, Seokjin tells himself. He’d say the same thing, except he knows everything had happened out of the blue. Seokjin hadn’t put any thought into any of this. He had sat in his apartment and felt like his whole being needed to claw out, like an almost primal urge to survive, and proceeded to book whatever first options popped up on his browser. He hadn’t planned to fly a thousand miles away like this, hadn’t planned to meet Yoongi.

He hadn’t planned for it to hurt this much to leave, either.

“Oh, well.”

Yoongi squeezes his fingers, cups Seokjin’s cheek with his other hand. Yoongi looks calm, composed. Seokjin wonders how, until Yoongi breathes in a shaky inhale and squeezes his fingers onto Seokjin’s tight tight tight. Underneath it all, Seokjin thinks maybe Yoongi is trying just as hard as he is not to break.

A group of people walk by, haul their suitcases into the train car, disappear from sight. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

“You should get in, hyung.”

Seokjin nods, once, twice like he’s trying to really let the words sink in. He inhales, too. His throat feels hoarse.

“You’ll be okay tomorrow, right? Getting here from the house?”

Yoongi chuckles, the sound of it crumbling right towards the end. “I’ll be okay, hyung. Two suitcases. Not a big deal. The landlord offered to help me, too, since he’ll have to come anyway to pick up all the keys. Don’t worry about me.”

Seokjin thinks it isn’t quite as easy as that. It feels like his lungs are constricting.

I love you, Seokjin wants to say. Except—maybe not quite that, he thinks. Yoongi already knows that. He’s looking at Seokjin like he’s saying the same thing.

“Hyung, don’t just stand here. You’re going to miss your train. Four minutes.”

Seokjin manages a laugh, okay okay okay. Something is still clawing in his chest. He doesn’t know what it is. He thinks of their first walk together, Yoongi’s hair the color of raw honey under the sun. He thinks of the church in Malmo, and how he prayed for a life that’s more honest.

A little part of him tells him it’s important for him to be honest right now with Yoongi, when he still gets the chance to be. 

“Yoongi-yah,” he manages. A pause. He says to himself, I want to belong, too.

“You can come home to me,” Seokjin croaks, using all of his might not to break right then and there. “Yoongi-yah. You can come home to me. Any time.”

Everything hurts. Yoongi pulls him into a kiss, and Seokjin wants nothing more than to melt into the touch.

They break apart. Seokjin doesn’t think he can say goodbye, and Yoongi is very quiet, too. He lugs his suitcase and turns the other direction, because that’s the only way left for him to go.

 

(Stockholm central station, a change of trains, Stockholm airport. Two boarding passes at the check in counter. Seokjin scrambles through his bag, finds his box of prescription sleeping aids. He hasn’t needed one since he left Seoul, but he decides to take one for the first leg of his journey. He wakes up feeling sturdy, solid—too solid, like he doesn’t have room for any movement. Like everything he does leads him back to the threat of breaking. He watches the flight map all throughout the second leg of his journey.

Seoul. Korean sputtered into every imaginable direction, the push and pull of the fast-paced currents that Seokjin isn’t sure he remembers how to navigate through. A quiet taxi ride, the sound of Seokjin’s apartment door clicking behind him.

Everything is the same. He sits on his bed, lets the fatigue settle in. In front of him, his succulents on his desk are exactly the way he had last seen them. He inspects each one, and after a few moments, finds a plant that’s gone brown. Dry, brittle, the leaves crumbling right under Seokjin’s touch.

It’s dead.

Seokjin is so tired.

Nothing stops him from crying himself just as dry.)

/

Seokjin starts work again on a Thursday. They’re in the middle of pitching for a few different potential public offering projects. He spends more time looking out the tall windows of his office floor than he does going through prospectuses. He goes home, finishes the work he was supposed to have done in the office, goes to sleep feeling like dead weight.

A week passes, two. Maybe. It’s a bit hard keeping track of time.

Seokjin gets a call from Yoongi smack bang in the middle of the night. He doesn’t mind. Sleep’s always been a little out of reach.

Yoongi is still in London. He’s been editing the pieces he’s going to send in to get published. In the background, Namjoon shouts hello. Yoongi asks how Seokjin is settling back at home.

“Okay,” Seokjin answers, the most he can muster. Not a lie—not really, anyway.

“Okay?” Yoongi asks back, unbelieving. His voice is static, different. Almost but not quite.

Seokjin sighs. “It’s quieter than I remember.”

“Seoul is always so loud, hyung.”

“No. Not really, Yoongi-yah.”

Seokjin can imagine Yoongi pursing his lips, choosing his words in the pause.

“Have you called Taehyung?”

“No.” Walls up, up, up.

“You should.”

Seokjin thinks he’s angry, except he wants to cry instead of yell. He feels sick. Curling into himself, hugging his knees against his chest, he whispers into the phone, “I’ll think about it. But I’m okay. Really. I’m going to sleep now, Yoongi-yah.”

Yoongi sighs on the other end of the line.

“I know you want to, hyung,” he says, quiet like he doesn’t want to press too hard. “You’re still not very good at lying.”

Quiet, quiet, quiet.

“Sleep well, Jinie hyung.”

Seokjin ends the call without saying anything.

(The thing is: he does want to call Taehyung. He really, really does.)

/

The truth is: Seokjin has hurt Taehyung. There is no question about that. He has failed to keep his promises. He has missed important dates—from catch-up dinners to Taehyung’s exhibitions that Seokjin only knows about because he came across someone else’s posts on Instagram. He has subconsciously pushed Taehyung far down his list as he tried to claw his way up the corporate ladder and prove himself indispensable for the company. Taehyung is endlessly kind and Seokjin’s skin crawls at the thought of how he has taken this for granted.

So—Seokjin thinks he doesn’t have the right to even think about talking to Taehyung. Taehyung deserves to go on with his life without having Seokjin come in and burden him. Seokjin is a burden, and Taehyung deserves good people—better people than Seokjin will ever be. He’s made so much damage already. Seokjin has done enough.

It’s best for him to continue on with his life, too.

Except—things are hardly ever that easy. Seokjin thinks of how there are almost eight million people living in Seoul and yet the only person Seokjin talks to outside the office is the lady from the market where he gets his vegetables from. He thinks of how he’s been resorting to playing music at home at full volume just to drown out the silence. He thinks of how his apartment is very small and everything outside his door is very vast and how being in either one can crush him into dust.

Seokjin picks at the thought and runs it through his fingers and lets it grow on his palms until it’s much too big to carry around, until he’s staring at his phone one night and everything comes down to this.

The truth is: Seokjin has hurt Taehyung. He wants nothing more than to say how much he wishes he hasn’t. He wants Taehyung to know that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to fix things. He wants Taehyung to know that it’s okay if he decides he never wants anything to do with Seokjin anymore. He doesn’t mind if Taehyung thinks Seokjin is stupid, because he thinks he is, too. He has done very stupid things.

Seokjin is terrified, but he just wants to be honest about how sorry he is.

He goes through his contacts, presses on Taehyung’s number, and as the dialing tone plays, he hears Yoongi’s voice say

I don’t think he hates you, hyung

and he feels something like hope in his chest, fragile and yet oddly so promising, and Seokjin clings on to it like a lifeline—

please don’t hate me please don’t hate me

when the dialing tone suddenly ends.

“Hello?”

Taehyung’s voice is low, rough. The sound of downstream currents dragging against rocks.

“Taehyung-ah?”

Breathe in, breathe out.

“Hyung.” A pause. Seokjin has to keep telling himself to breathe. “Hyung, it’s late.”

Hurts, hurts, hurts. It’s like Taehyung is already telling him to stop.

“It’s late,” Seokjin whispers, “It’s late but I needed—if you have a minute, Taehyung-ah, I want to talk to you, I—I—” and he’s struggling for words, so he thinks of what he wants Taehyung to know the most.

“I’m sorry,” he finally manages. “I’m so sorry, Taehyung-ah, for everything,” the water is rising up in his chest, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—”

And then the entire ocean comes pouring out into the room.

 

 

(“I don’t think I can forgive you just yet,” Taehyung finally says, quiet, quiet, quiet. Seokjin has only stopped sobbing into the phone a while ago. He’s sniffling like a child.

“But hyung, I’m so glad you called. I’ve been—I’ve been worried sick... I’ve missed you, hyung.”

The waves start crashing again in his lungs, but Seokjin doesn’t try to fight it. He’s so happy he can’t help but cry again.)

/

It’s a cool evening. The air outside Seokjin’s apartment is balmy, thickening. There’s an open bottle of wine somewhere in the kitchen counter, but that’s out of Seokjin’s line of vision. Right now all that’s ahead of him is his high ceilings, the stretch of white a little overwhelming. He picks up the picture lying on his chest, brings it up until it’s all he can see.

Yoongi and Seokjin, crooked grins, Nyhavn. Seokjin’s favorite photo from the bunch he’s received just a few days ago, a stack of prints from Yoongi’s entire time spent with Seokjin. The package was mailed from Vienna. The last time Seokjin has heard from him, Yoongi’s in Budapest.

Taehyung sits down, cross-legged right next to Seokjin. He tries to crouch to get a glimpse at the picture Seokjin is holding up. He gives up, puts his wine glass on the nearby coffee table, then lies down on the floor, too.

Seokjin chuckles. He passes the picture to Taehyung.

“Is that him, hyung?”

Seokjin hums. “Yeah. Yoongi.”

Taehyung takes a few seconds to study the photo before he gives it back to Seokjin. “That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen you.”

Seokjin laughs, almost. It’s a sad little sound, crumbling right towards the end. “You make it sound like I’m this perpetually miserable person, Taehyung-ah.”

“Am I wrong?” Taehyung teases, earning a chuckle from Seokjin. He can feel the wine crackling in his veins. The world feels a little slow, gears shifted, running through molasses.

“I mean—you’ve always been a workaholic, but… After you graduated, it was just… Amped up. Insanely amped up.”

Even now, Taehyung sounds so worried. Seokjin is still regretful. He tries his best not to let it eat him alive.

Seokjin wiggles his toes at the slight chill coming from his air conditioning. “You know, work makes college seem like a breeze. And we both know how much I suffered through that.”

Taehyung snorts, amused. It doesn’t take much for them to start tossing memories at one another. It feels like it’s been an entire lifetime ago, and Seokjin thinks it’s as though he’s looking through fogged lenses. The nostalgia for something Seokjin can’t quite place in his own timeline is a little off-putting.

“Hyung, hyung, hyung,” Taehyung says, chasing a memory. “Your last semester, remember? Actually—actually, I think it was exactly like this. Your living room, except—not wine, we had really shitty beer. You were so jaded, hyung. You were like, fuck this. Fuck everything. And you just—you were on the floor, all curled up. Fetal position. I left you for a bit and found you all curled up into this tiny ball, knees hugged to your chest. I was so confused.”

They both burst into laughter, although quite honestly, Seokjin can’t quite name what’s funny. He just thinks it is. He considers if it’s the alcohol, or maybe—just one of the strange things hindsight does.

“You had paint on you, and you were—you were trying to hold me like I was a literal baby, Taehyung-ah, and then—and then… I’m not sure, actually. You couldn’t get me to get up, so you lied next to me. Like this. I think we slept there the entire night. I remember my back hurting the next day.”

Taehyung hums. For a moment, there is only the sound of their breathing. “The next day you just got up and started working on your assignments again. It’s like nothing had happened. Everything rolled out the way you’d planned for it to.”

Seokjin sort of wishes it hadn’t. “That couldn’t have been the only plan I’d made.”

Besides him, Taehyung shifts. “Well,” he starts, “remember when I was getting frustrated, too, and I kept going on about how I didn’t need an art degree and I was just gonna go back home to Daegu to start a strawberry farm? Well—you were always like, agreeing. You said things like, I’ll live off my pastries. Everyone loves the shit I make—stuff like that, you know?”

“Ah,” Seokjin says, “My own bakery? Sounds like fun. That would’ve been a good plan.”

“Who says it still isn’t?” The tone in Taehyung’s voice takes a sudden dip. He gets up, stares straight at Seokjin. Seokjin blinks.

“Hyung, I’m serious. You love baking. I can help you run it. We’ll get a joint loan, then we’ll look at places that are cheaper—Itaewon? We’ll look into it, that’s no problem. And then—oh, oh, oh, hyung. I can help you with the concept and everything. Hyung, hyung, hyung.”

Seokjin almost isn’t sure he’s hearing things correctly.

“I have a job, Taehyung-ah.”

“So quit.”

Seokjin gets up, faces Taehyung. “I can’t just quit. It’s a good job. I’m good at my job. My job got me this apartment.”

Taehyung shrugs. “All the more reason to quit. You’ve got your basic necessities covered.”

Seokjin squints, feeling uneasy. He wishes he was brazen enough to jump straight into it without a doubt.

“Hyung,” Taehyung finally says with a sigh. “I’m not going to overstep, but—be honest with me. Are you happy with where you are right now?”

The answer comes so easily to Seokjin. “No.”

Taehyung’s expression softens. “You deserve to be, though.”

Seokjin thinks he does, too.

Somehow, that’s all it takes for him to have the courage to say yes.

/

So—Seokjin sends in his resignation, and then everything is a whirlwind.

Taehyung pulls him into all the nooks and crannies of Seoul until they stumble upon a place that’s half hidden in a quiet alleyway and is in need of a little work but has Taehyung ecstatic, has him painting in words how everything will fit just right into this little space over here. They sign a contract. They arrange meetings with a bank, sign more papers, and come home with much more money than they intended to get that the entire ride home has them squirming with nerves.

Seokjin perfects recipes, puts up a job ad because it’s a little much to be kneading dough on his own day in day out. Jeon Jeongguk’s application comes in right the day after, and he’s this shy young man with curious eyes and honest passion that knocks Seokjin off his feet. Jung Hoseok comes next, with all his rapid energy and easy humor that makes Seokjin forget just how terrified he actually is about everything that he’s doing. They’re very good employees, but really—they’re very good people, period.

They paint the bakery light blue at Taehyung’s discretion. Jeongguk and Hoseok are now Seokjin and Taehyung’s friends, very easily so. Jeongguk offers to make them a website. All the furniture has come in, along with their equipments.

Taehyung says they’re all set and Seokjin almost forgets how to breathe.

Seokjin gathers Yoongi’s stack of prints and brings them to the bakery, dead in the middle of night before the opening. The only sounds in the room are his footsteps, the flick of the lights turning on. He sets the pictures on the counter, all laid out for him to see: the lighthouse in Kullaberg, Seokjin in the middle of Amalienborg, Yoongi’s silhouette out in the streets of Lund during his last few days.

Seokjin is terrified—but more than that, he thinks he’s excited. He picks up a picture of an empty street in Lund and thinks of how he’d been so afraid, and how good Lund turned out to be—how happy he was, even if it was only for a while.

For some reason, he thinks maybe this is his chance at happiness again.

Seokjin scrambles through the counter for blu tack, then pins up half the pictures from the stack on the walls of the bakery.

When he puts up a picture of Yoongi, he thinks to himself, this is all I’m missing now.

/

On a warm summer evening, Seokjin comes home from the bakery to another package in his doorstep. He opens it on the kitchen counter, finds five different magazines with post its hanging off a few pages. He flicks through the pages, lands on travel articles.

All written by Min Yoongi.

And Seokjin doesn’t really find anything out of the ordinary—

Come to South Sweden, fall in love with its coastlines and quiet, medieval towns

—until he pulls out the last magazine from the box and finds an envelope on the bottom.

 

Jinie hyung.

 

Here’s what didn’t make the cut:

I live out of a suitcase, and you live rooted in your quiet, little apartment in Seoul. Everything about you screams rootsyour makeshift garden of potted plants, the french press you’ve had since college, your gut instinct to reach out and make friends. To have a purpose. To build a home.

I don’t have much to offer you. I live out of a suitcase and I pass by cities without so much as a trace, a dent on the grounds, an exhale of foggy breath. It’s almost as if I was never anywhere.

(People pass me by without so much as a glance, so it’s a little hard to believe otherwise.)

But you make me honeyed cups of coffee and laugh even when I’ve missed the punchline, and I’ve always thought staying was synonymous to being stifled until you talked to me about how you were worried your succulents were dying at home. I wanted to see for myself, wanted something to worry about, to ground myself on.

I want some place to call home, too.

I miss you, Jinie hyung. I don’t think I know what I’m looking at anymore.

All the cities look the same.

 

Seokjin reads it all over again, and again, and again until it all blurs in the edges of his vision from the tears threatening to spill. He’s frantic. He doesn’t know what it means, only knows he wants to come to Yoongi, wants Yoongi to come back.

Seokjin tries to call him. No answer.

There is no return address on the box—only postage from Frankfurt. Seokjin didn’t even know Yoongi had gone to Frankfurt. He can’t be sure if he’s still there.

Seokjin sends Yoongi a message—the only thing left for him to do.

 

 

I love you.

You can come home to me.

/

Seokjin’s phone rings, some time towards the end of summer. It’s a number he doesn’t know.

“Hello?”

“Jinie hyung, hi.”

Seokjin’s heart drops in an instant.

“Yoongi?”

A pause. Even through the phone, Seokjin can see Yoongi fidgeting, biting his bottom lip looking for words to say.

“I—hyung, I know I should’ve called first, I—I’m just—hyung. Hyung, I’m in Seoul. I’m in Seoul, I just got off, and I don’t really have anywhere to go, and I know I should’ve called first but you told me I could come home to you and I was just—stupid, I know, it’s been so long, but hyung—”

“Yoongi,” Seokjin interrupts, nerves crackling under his skin, igniting, almost catching fire, he’s in Seoul. “Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi, of course. Of course you can—what are you saying? Where are you right now? Are you okay? Do you need me to come get you?”

“No no no no,” Yoongi sputters, “no, hyung, I’m okay. I’m at the airport. I just—God, hyung, I was just—I didn’t know where I was, or what I was doing, and I think—all I could think of was coming to you, hyung. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry—”

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin stops him, whole body aching. “Yoongi-yah, it’s okay. Please—it’s okay. Just,” Seokjin breathes, tries to stop himself from crying. “I’m here. I’m here, Yoongi-yah. You can come to me.”

The call ends and the clock ticks behind him and Seokjin rushes down his apartment building, paces back and forth under the streetlights. He’s shivering. Everything is a blur, and Seokjin has to keep telling himself that this is real, that this isn’t some sort of fever dream.

He sees a taxi pull up just across the road, a blond head stepping out. Two suitcases from the trunk. The taxi leaves, and then—

Yoongi.

Seokjin runs.

Yoongi—” and then it’s Seokjin’s arms all around Yoongi, his face buried in the crook of his neck. Seokjin hugs so tightly like he’s afraid he’ll lose Yoongi again if he doesn’t.

“Jinie hyung,” Yoongi whispers back, the words tickling Seokjin’s neck. He can feel his smile against his skin.

They break apart. Seokjin takes a moment to take in Yoongi’s tired face, his sullen eyes. Seokjin kisses him on the mouth, a confirmation that he’s right here in the flesh more than anything else.

“I’ve missed you, hyung.”

Seokjin wants to curl to the sound of it. “I’ve missed you, too.”

They’re quiet. Seokjin takes Yoongi’s hand in his, registers again the warmth of his palms, the way his fingers fit with his own.

“You’re blond, Yoongi-yah.”

They laugh, too much joy for the comment on its own. “Well. You haven’t changed, Jinie hyung.”

Seokjin smiles, his heart overflowing and spilling all through. He squeezes Yoongi’s hands, grabs one of his suitcases, pulls him into the comfort of his apartment.

Inside, Seokjin kisses Yoongi one more time, then lets him shower. Yoongi steps out wearing Seokjin’s giant t-shirt, crawls into Seokjin’s bed next to him. They hold each other close and touch each other slowly, slowly, slowly. No real urgency. Seokjin asks him Yoongi-yah are you sure because it’s still there, creeping up from the bottom of his belly and Yoongi moves forward, presses their lips together and says I think I’m done looking, hyung and then—

It’s already happening, Seokjin thinks.

Yoongi’s clothes in Seokjin’s drawers, his equipments on the table in the spare bedroom, his three new books on the coffee table right alongside the copy of Aristotle and Dante that Seokjin keeps like a prized possession.

Yoongi’s sleepy smile right in front of Seokjin, his arms tucked around Seokjin’s body, the gentle brushes of their knees.

Yoongi slowly pouring himself out, growing into the space. Music coming out from the spare bedroom, new photographs on the walls.

Maybe Seokjin will get around to actually putting his vase to good use and buy Yoongi peonies, baby’s breath. Pour over more books, have potted plants and watch Yoongi nurse them all to full growth. Seokjin thinks Yoongi’s good at that—at letting things grow with love.

Thank you for letting me come home, Yoongi whispers, thin like white smoke, but Seokjin thinks it’s so strange.

He wants to say the same to Yoongi, too.

And maybe this time—

This time.

This time, all the happiness is here to stay.