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Friday, December 6, 2019

Monday through Friday, forty-some weeks out of fifty-two, Yoongi wakes up at 6 AM and feels a dead weight on his chest. Sometimes it’s his mother’s cat - the old ginger furball who outlived her - but usually the dead weight stays even after he shoos Mr. Weasley off the covers.

While Mr. Weasley scrounges somewhere else in the apartment, it’s Yoongi’s turn to drag himself out of bed. Completely unexcited for the day, he gets ready for work.

Keurig on.

Brush teeth. Wash up. Fix hair.

Coffee. Instant oatmeal.

Pajamas off. Pants on. Button-down, tuck in. Belt through the loops. ID on. Lastly, his coat, because winter is here, and it’s cold.

At the door, Yoongi slips on his shoes, picks up his work bag, and then he’s outside, locking up the apartment. Mr. Weasley whines from the other side, but Yoongi’s a hardened man and resists the urge to pet the cat.

Down four floors, he’s inside the shared garage and strapped to his car. The weight he woke up with shifts into a tighter, more claustrophobic feeling. There’s nothing like knowing he’s about to drive to the place on Earth he hates the most. The only saving grace is that it’s Friday, which means the weekend is just nine hours away.

The drive takes less than fifteen minutes, and he pulls into his second most preferred spot in the parking garage. Stepping out of his car feels like stepping into an oppressive force field that drains all the oxygen out of him. Nevertheless, he makes it into the elevator, which steadily gains a flow of office workers in various states of consciousness, and he steps out when it reaches his floor. He even successfully makes a beeline to his cubicle without getting sucked into small talk with Hoseok, his friend in HR. The other man seems a little dismayed, but Yoongi can’t bring himself to care this morning. He’s not in the mood to listen to the cheery dad gush over his twins.

So, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Yoongi’s job. It’s neither too difficult, nor too easy, just challenging enough to be satisfying and not annoying. He’s arguably good at it, too, if his paycheck is any indication. His coworkers are also fine. His boss isn’t an asshole, and neither is his boss’s boss, or his boss, and so on.

Having arrived at his desk, he gets to work, booting up his desktop and wading into the assignments and deadlines of the day. Colleagues peek in from time to time for updates on projects. At 11 AM, he sits in on a forty-five-minute long meeting with an agenda that really could have been resolved in one email. Around noon, he takes a break for lunch. Someone raps their knuckles against his cubicle, and Yoongi doesn’t need to look to know that it’s Hoseok, the only one persistent enough to socialize with him even on days when Yoongi radiates a don’t-touch-me aura.

“Hey, can you believe we haven’t talked since we were on the other side of Thanksgiving? Let’s get some lunch,” Hoseok says with a breezy smile, one hand resting on top of the wall divider as he pours sunlight all over Yoongi. He acts like he doesn’t know Yoongi is a porcupine right now, but he definitely knows. Hoseok is sharp and reads people like books. He wouldn’t be a senior manager otherwise. Still, it’s not that often when Hoseok is this direct, and when no excuse readily comes to mind, Yoongi gives up avoiding.

“Okay. Gimme a minute,” he says, looking for his wallet.

In an attempt to beat the cold, they speed walk to the taco place across the street. They’re located downtown where restaurants lie in every direction, but the taco place is an employee favorite. Yoongi doesn’t actually care for tacos, but he’s been here for enough years that it would be strange to suddenly announce that.

During lunch hour, the restaurant is packed with people and aglow with the approach of Christmas. Yoongi orders tacos with hard shells while Hoseok orders soft ones, and they find a corner to sit down.

Both entered the company about three years ago with maybe a month or two apart. Over the years, they’ve developed a system: Hoseok talks more, and Yoongi talks less. But Yoongi’s grown more reticent since his mother passed away ten months ago, and he and Hoseok haven’t been as close as before. It’s fortunate that Hoseok and his other coworkers are so forgiving.

The tacos arrive quickly. Knowing that Hoseok likes to talk while eating, Yoongi braces himself for questions, except they never really come. Hoseok is the same as always, chatty, and fills up the silence by talking about his family of four and their plans for the holidays in a week’s time. He and his wife are taking their four-year-old girls to South Korea for the first time.

“Sounds stressful,” Yoongi finally says, making Hoseok grin.

“The plane rides are going to suck, and you know Haru and Hana are going to whine through all of it, but my parents keep saying they miss them. Of course, they don’t want to make the trip.” Hoseok rolls his eye. “But we’ll be back before the year ends. So… I’ve been thinking. You got out of having Thanksgiving with us, but I haven’t given up yet. We’re going to host a small, kid safe party on New Year’s Eve, and you’re gonna come. I mean I hope you do. It’ll be really chill, no mushiness, just celebrate the new year, you know?”

Yoongi stops chewing on the taco that he doesn’t really enjoy. “Hoseok.

Undeterred, Hoseok flicks away a strand of hair that has fallen over his almond-shaped eyes. “Come on, we’ve known each other for so long, and you still haven’t met my family even though you know everything about them. Like, what’s Haru’s first word?”

Yoongi rolls his eyes even though he does know a lot about Hoseok’s kids. But anyone would if they spent time with Hoseok. “Papa.”

“And Hana’s?”

“Ppo ppo,” Yoongi answers grudgingly. Sitting in a Mexican restaurant, surrounded by English speakers, the Korean word feels awkward on his tongue.

“See? My parents don’t even know that stuff. Does that make any sense?”

Hoseok’s got a point. They’ve hung out outside of work when it’s convenient, but Yoongi really hasn’t met Hoseok’s family during all the years that they’ve known each other.

“I guess not. But, you’re busy. Part of being a dad or whatever.”

“Haru and Hana aren’t the same demons that they once were, I promise. They’re just little imps. It’s funny, I talk about you so often, they already know all kinds of things about you, too, but you guys haven’t even met. It’s about time. ‘Sides, you’re going to be here anyways… right?”

Hoseok’s right again about something that Yoongi hasn’t thought much about, or hasn’t wanted to think about ever since he blotted out Chuseok and Thanksgiving, and it shows on his face.

“I think it’ll be a good time,” Hoseok rushes to say, sensing the change in mood.

“I’ll think about it.”

“Great! Invite a plus one.” Hoseok throws a wink.

Yoongi snorts. “Yeah, don’t worry about that.”

“Life’s full of surprises. You never know, there’s still a couple weeks left. You can literally invite anyone as long as they aren’t child predators or kidnappers. I trust your judgment.”

Once they finish up lunch, they head back to work.

Hoseok meant well, but the rest of Yoongi’s day is soured by his own thoughts and goes by slowly. In the past, he always flew back home to spend the holidays with his mother and her dumb cat. Minus the cat, home isn’t an option anymore, and it depresses him.

He spends the remaining hours working to desperately erase the thoughts from his mind, but they hang in the reflection of his screen, in between the files on his desk, and everywhere else he looks.

He’s not bad at his job. Maybe not as good as before, but he’s still doing fine. His coworkers aren’t annoying. His boss is kind. Yet, there’s something - a little bit of everything - wrong.

Things feel slightly better once he’s back in his car and leaving work behind. Still, he’s annoyed, even more than usual, and something itches in his chest like it wants to crawl out. In times like this, everyone has a coping mechanism that they fall back on, and Yoongi’s is the sweet stickiness of peanut butter.

Back in the days, once kids began poking fun at his kimbap and every other Korean dish he brought to school, his mother switched to slapping together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his lunch every day. In retrospect, it’s sad, but the memory is sweeter. Peanut butter reminds him of home.

So right now, he just really fucking wants peanut butter. The problem is that he hasn’t had it in weeks because he keeps forgetting it when he bothers to go to the store.

On the way back, he stops by a convenience store and snatches the first option off the shelf that doesn’t say crunchy (why would anyone would want peanut butter in any form but creamy). Seeing his irritated expression, the cashier seems to ring up his purchase in a hurry.

When Yoongi gets back to his apartment, Mr. Weasley is curled up on the arm of the couch. He joins Yoongi in the kitchen when he wakes up. Tossing away the receipt, Yoongi gets out some bread, a spoon, and twists the lid of the peanut butter jar.

Except it won’t turn, and now his fingers are just irritated.

Sighing, he tears open the pack of rubber grippers that he’s never had to use before and tries again. But it still won’t open.

Someone once told him to run the lid under hot water, so he does that. The lid turns hot enough to smart, and it still won’t budge. As a last ditch attempt, he takes out a dinner knife and starts banging the handle on the edges of the lid, creating tiny craters along the edges. The idea is to loosen up the lid. Maybe it does, but the lid still won’t come off.

Huffing heavily, Yoongi glares at the lid, which has become something malevolent. He wants to fling himself off a cliff. He might want to cry. Except he really doesn’t want to cry over something like this.

“What the hell,” Yoongi mutters, throat starting to burn. If he can’t even get a lid open, then what can he do? It’s like Excalibur. The legendary lid of peanut butter, and he’s not the chosen one.

His next thought is Hoseok, but that’s kind of ridiculous. He can’t wait until Monday to eat this peanut butter. What about 911 - do they handle these sorts of situations?

Unbelievable. That’s what he thinks when he slips his shoes back on.

You’re losing your mind, is what he tells himself when he’s out into the hallway. All this for peanut butter.

Even though he doesn’t know his neighbors at all, he’s seen them around. A woman lives in the apartment next to his. A couple with an infant lives across the hall. Yoongi knows this because the baby is always crying at night.

There’s also the young guy who lives two doors down. He’s Korean, too, and maybe they exchanged more in-depth introductions a long time ago when Yoongi first moved in, but all he can remember now is that his name is Jungkook, and that he’s a high school teacher because he wears a yellow hoodie with the school emblazoned on it at least once a week. Yoongi drives by it sometimes. If it weren’t for how buff Jungkook is, his youthful appearance could easily get himself mistaken for a high schooler.

They always greet each other in the hallway, but they’ve never truly talked because - and there’s no better way to say this - Jungkook is kind of weird. Yoongi has never seen him take the elevator because the guy always runs up and down the stairs. Jungkook probably doesn’t know what an elevator is. He also once did a bizarre back handspring in the middle of the hallway just as Yoongi arrived on their floor, and ever since then Yoongi has made an unconscious effort to steer clear. Overactive people make him nervous. However, today he’s going to make use of that energy.

Damned peanut butter in one hand, Yoongi rings the guy’s doorbell. When there’s no immediate sign of life, he rings again. Maybe it’s broken. It wouldn’t be surprising since the building is old. Unable to give up, Yoongi raises a fist to knock on the door, but before then -

The door cracks open, and through the crack, the upper torso of a guy with wet hair appears. A towel drapes over his neck, but it hasn’t prevented the dark, wet splotches that dot the front of the guy’s large, gray shirt. Clean smelling shampoo drifts out. It’s a very personal scent, and it makes Yoongi uncomfortable.

It’s Jungkook at the door. Yoongi has never seen him like this before - not that he should be regularly seeing his neighbor looking fresh and wet - and the guy’s bewildered looking face is sorta cute.

“Um, hi?” Saucer-like brown eyes peek at Yoongi through tassels of damp hair. Recognizing Yoongi, Jungkook opens the door a little wider. “Oh, I put your mail on top of your box this time. I don’t know why they keep confusing yours with mine, but I swear I never look at it or anything...”

Yoongi has only a vague idea about what he’s talking about, and it’s not opening up his peanut butter.

“Okay. Well, this is stupid, but can you help me with this? I can’t get it open.” He lifts up the jar of peanut butter. Jungkook, who really is sorta cute, notices the jar for the first time.

“Oh. Of course!” he says enthusiastically. Pushing open his door to its widest configuration, which allows Yoongi to see into his entire living room (including a small mountain of takeout boxes on a coffee table), Jungkook takes the base of the jar in his left hand, and with his right, twists the lid off with no effort at all. Whalah. Yoongi stares at the jar and then back Jungkook.

“Here you go,” Jungkook says, handing the jar back.

“Thanks. You’re… really strong.”

The guy has the nerve to dip his head shyly. “Sure? You loosened it up.”

Yoongi thinks about all the ways in which he accosted the jar unsuccessfully. “Well, sorry for, uh, interrupting your shower.”

Jungkook shakes his head quickly, flushing, little droplets of water flinging down. “Don’t be. I was already out when you rang. It’s always nice to see you, Yoongi.”

Meoow.

Startled, both men look down to see a ginger furball peering back up at them.

“Mr. Weasley!” Yoongi curses. Several yards away, he notices that the door to his apartment is open. He’d forgotten to close it, and Mr. Weasley had obviously taken the chance. Cradling the jar in an elbow, Yoongi bends down to scoop up the wandering house cat.

“What did you just call your cat?” Jungkook looks amused.

“Mr. Weasley,” Yoongi says warily. Like clockwork, Jungkook begins to laugh.

“What, Harry Potter?”

“What else? My mom named him, and it fits.” Yoongi sounds more defensive than he means to be. He just really cares for his mother’s dumb cat. Jungkook stops laughing but still looks amused.

“I can’t lie. It fits him really well.”

With a cat that needs to get back inside, Yoongi starts slowly walking back to his apartment. For some reason, Jungkook follows him, bare feet treading on the hallway carpet even though it’s chilly because the heating inside the building is lousy. Under his doorway, Yoongi sets down Mr. Weasley to push him back inside, but the furball stays at his feet, purring.

“He’s pretty old. My mom got him after my dad passed away,” Yoongi says. The careful nonchalance in Yoongi’s voice doesn’t give room for Jungkook to commiserate. When it comes to his father, it’s long stopped being a big deal and just a fact.

“Oh. How long ago was that?”

“Maybe ten years? But Mr. Weasley was already five when she got him. His name used to be Orange.”

“Oh my God.” Jungkook comes closer and bends down on one knee. Yoongi gets another whiff of shampoo. Unlike perfume or cologne, it really smells too personal, and he shifts on his feet nervously, accidentally joggling the cat, who protests with another meow. “Mr. Weasley, I like your current name so much better.”

Mr. Weasley purrs, detaching himself from Yoongi and brushing slightly against Jungkook’s thigh before finally slinking back into the apartment.

“Bye-bye,” Jungkook calls out and stands back up. He’s a couple inches taller than Yoongi, like quite a few men are, but his refreshing demeanor makes Yoongi nervous again. He’s always known Jungkook is handsome, but there’s something about the wet hair and shampoo that makes him more real and less just a person that Yoongi sees occasionally. “I should get back now. Um. If you need help with anything again, like opening more jars or walking your, um, cat. Feel free to ask me.”

“Sure, thanks.”

“See you around?”

Yoongi can’t tell if Jungkook is serious or just being nice, so he simply nods. He half wishes they can talk more, but there’s nothing more to say. When Jungkook passes the apartment that’s in between theirs, Yoongi finally closes his door.

Back in his kitchen, he distractedly digs a spoon into the peanut butter. He finally gets a mouthful of wonderful creaminess, but his new, happy mood isn’t because of peanut butter. Having a conversation with someone nice and new - if you don’t count the years in-between that Yoongi spent avoiding Jungkook - is, surprisingly, nice. “He was pretty normal, right?” he mumbles to Mr. Weasley.

 

*

 

Monday, December 9, 2019

His happy mood persists throughout the rest of the weekend and permeates into Monday morning, which even lightens the doom and gloom in his chest that always comes with going to work. Feeling bad about last week, he stops by Hoseok’s office, which startles the other man so much it makes him drop his coat.

“Hey, morning,” Yoongi says.

“G’morning!” Hoseok beams, snatching up his coat and draping it over the back of his chair. “How was your weekend?”

“Fine,” and because he still feels guilty about last week, he adds, “I got to talk with one of my neighbors.”

“Oh really? How was it?”

“Fine. It was a dude.”

Hoseok waits for more details, but after realizing none is forthcoming, he shares, “That’s awesome. It’s great you have nice neighbors. Mine always yell at Haru and Hana for running on their lawn. I took the girls to the art museum on Saturday because Taehyung’s whining finally got the best of me. He was in charge of an art thing for kiddos. The girls were the youngest ones there, and I’m pretty sure they annoyed the heck out of everyone, but it was super fun. You remember Taehyung, right?”

Yoongi nods. It’s been a while, but he first coincidentally met the art curator and his wife on an after-work dinner with Hoseok. He remembers mostly how flabbergastingly handsome the man is.

“Look at what the girls made!” Excitedly, Hoseok shows Yoongi pictures on his phone.

“Cool,” Yoongi can only say when he sees the random splatters of colorful paint. One blob might resemble a person.

“Taehyung says they’ve got promise.” Hoseok radiates pride.

“Hey, he’s the expert.”

With more people arriving at the office, Yoongi leaves Hoseok to start work. The usual gloom returns almost immediately.

But there’s something new buzzing around in his head that he doesn’t get a chance to talk about with Hoseok until Wednesday, when both are free for lunch. With packed lunches, they sit in the cafeteria by a row of poinsettias.

“Jimin made this,” Hoseok says through a forkful of pasta.

“Looks good.”

“Tastes good, too. I’m actually usually the one who cooks. Want some?”

“I’m good. I made this for myself.” Yoongi lifts up his sandwich, which he had slapped together in the morning.

“Someday you’ll have someone who will cook for you with just a little bit of complaining, too. Or the other way around.”

Yoongi shrugs. He doesn’t think so. He hasn’t felt the desire to date in a long time, but for some reason, his thoughts turn over to Jungkook. It’s probably because he saw the other guy just this morning. Jungkook was just about to disappear into the stairwell right as Yoongi exited his apartment.

“Hi, Yoongi!” Jungkook had waved.

“Hey. You really take that sign seriously,” Yoongi had said.

“What sign?”

“The one in the lobby. The one that says, ‘ Use the stairs! It’s free exercise equipment. ’”

“Oh, that!” Jungkook’s eyes had crinkled up in a genuine smile that made Yoongi’s heart do a weird flip. “I made that sign! It’s true though. If you don’t exercise regularly, you can at least take the stairs. Want to come down with me?”

“I’ll stick with the elevator.”

“Haha. See you later, then!”

The conversation has been rolling around in Yoongi’s mind all morning long, a convenient memory to escape to during boring meetings.

“So, you get along with people,” Yoongi states. Hoseok seems to read in between the lines almost immediately.

“You do too, Yoongi. Just differently. Everyone enjoys working with you,” Hoseok says. Even though Hoseok is right, Yoongi grimaces. He’s not someone who gossips at work, and for some reason that emboldens his coworkers to disclose a little bit too much to him.

“Thanks, but that’s work. Lately, I’m not really good at getting to know people outside of necessary interactions.”

“Hey, neither do I. I don’t have a life outside work and my kids, but I’ll always make time for you.” Hoseok winks, which Yoongi ignores.

“Well, how do I get to know a neighbor that I’ve been avoiding for three years?”

“Is this the same neighbor you mentioned on Monday?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, have you said hi?”

Yoongi gives Hoseok a look, which makes the other man laugh. “We do that already. We’re past that stage.”

“So you want to hang out.”

“Sure, but everything I can think of seems too sudden like I have an ulterior motive. I don’t want to scare him off.” Yoongi pauses. “I mean. I do kind of have an ulterior motive. To be friends and stuff.”

“You’re freaking funny, Min. But, every relationship needs a starting point. Let me think.” Hoseok sets down his fork and drums his fingers on the cafeteria table. His eyes brighten after a moment. “This is going to sound cliche, but hear me out. You know, when Haru and Hana were born, I was really nervous. Jimin was naturally better with them from the get-go, but for some reason, I always had the upper hand when it came to feeding. More patience, I guess. Surprisingly, more willingness to get puked on, too. It made me into a more confident parent. So sometimes you gotta start with the basics. That’s the first thing. Just go for food.”

 

*

 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Hoping Hoseok isn’t full of crap, Yoongi gets back to his apartment a little quicker than usual on Friday evening. After years of timing when to head out in order to run into the fewest number of neighbors in the mornings, he knew exactly when to catch Jungkook again earlier that day.

“Happy Friday the 13th!” Jungkook had said cheerily when he saw Yoongi, his liveliness catching Yoongi off guard.

“Uh - Happy Friday. Hey, do you happen to have plans after work today?” Yoongi asked surreptitiously.

“Me? Nah, not usually. A lot of my friends are attached, and teenagers seriously wipe me out after a whole day.”

“Oh, that’s great!”

Jungkook had looked at him a little strangely.

“I mean, me too. I’m staying in, too,” Yoongi fumbled with his words. “Do you maybe want to do something together?”

“Do… something together?” Jungkook coughed. It had barely been a week since Yoongi began to notice this guy, but he could already recognize when Jungkook is turning shy.

“I’m going to cook dinner tonight. A lot of dinner. Except there’s only one of me to eat it, so…”

“Do you want company?” Jungkook asked helpfully.

“Yeah. You want to come over for dinner?”

“I know I’m a working adult and all, but I’m always up for free food.”

“Great. Are you allergic to anything?”

“Nope!”

“That’s great,” Yoongi repeated because the speed of the conversation was dizzying. Hoseok’s luck must be on his side - he couldn’t believe how simple this was. “I’ll give you a call when I’m ready.”

Everything went too smoothly to feel real, and now that Yoongi has Jungkook’s number saved into his phone, he’s currently flitting around his kitchen like a deranged bat. Curled up on a high chair, Mr. Weasley watches lazily.

Preparing dinner takes Yoongi more than an hour because it’s been months since he last made anything that takes effort, but he manages to boil pasta and pan-sear two steaks. Even though he’s jittery, he’s never failed at a steak. In the back of his mind, he wonders if he should’ve asked Jungkook if he wanted to help, but this option is probably better. He doesn’t know if he can hold a conversation that isn’t about business or twin girls for a long enough time.

Soon, the table is set, and Yoongi eyes it in worry. Is this too much? Too little?

“What if he hates this?” Yoongi complains to Mr. Weasley. The cat swishes his tail back and forth.

Hey :) this is Yoongi
Dinner’s ready if you still want some

Jungkook
thank u!!
be there in a few ^o^

Jungkook is really coming, and Yoongi doesn’t know how to feel. As he waits, he realizes the silence is deafening inside the apartment, so he flips on the TV. The background noise calms him down a little.

If this goes terribly, it’s your fault

When Hoseok texts back immediately, Yoongi suspects that his friend has been waiting for news all evening.

Hoseok
Blame Haru and Hana, not me!
But rmr, you’re just eating food
You know how to eat food
Where you guys going?

Uhhh my living room?

Hoseok
You cooked???
Damn Min! ;) ;)
I thought you guys would go out for fries or something

OH FUCK
THAT’s what you meant??

A horrible thought enters Yoongi’s mind. He casts a worried glance over the table, heat wafting from the steaks and pasta. Then he glances down at what he’s wearing. Usually, he changes into something more comfortable after work, but today he switched into a dressier shirt. The horrible thought grows.

This is a mess. He’s going to send Jungkook sprinting. He’s spraying date pheromones everywhere when all they’re trying to be is friends. At least he didn’t light fucking candles.

Before he decides to cancel absolutely everything, the doorbell rings. Jumping to his feet, Yoongi opens the front door, using his legs to barricade Mr. Weasley from getting out again.

Then there’s Jungkook, the shy version again, grinning bashfully and holding a white grocery bag full of items. Recognizable bottle shapes make dents in the bag.

“You didn’t have to bring anything,” Yoongi says on reflex, instantly wishing he had said something nicer.

“I know, but I’ve always wanted to try this. You’ll see. Let’s make it after dinner.” Noticing another pair of eyes, Jungkook reaches down to scratch the cat’s head. “Hi, Mr. Weasley. How you doin’?” Mr. Weasley purrs, appreciating the attention. Yoongi watches Jungkook with a rapidly growing sense of attraction before realizing they’re still in the doorway.

“Are you hungry?” He leads Jungkook into the living room where dinner awaits. On the way, Jungkook gazes around, glancing curiously at the few pictures that Yoongi has put up on a bookshelf, which holds files stuffed with papers and tchotchkes collected during business trips.

“I’m starving! I didn’t get to eat anything substantial today. It smells incredible in here.” Jungkook’s eyes bug out the moment he sees what’s for dinner. “Actually, you’re incredible. I, um, thought this would be more casual.” His slim fingers worry at the hem of his sweater.

Shit, Yoongi. You really did it.

“It is. Super casual. Don’t let the steaks fool you.” Yoongi takes the plastic bag and sets it on a chair with a clink. “What do you have in here? Are we brewing beer or something?”

Stunned, oversized eyes return his questioning gaze.

“Are we really?” Yoongi asks again.

“There might be a component of alcohol.”

“‘Kay. Cool. Would you like anything to drink for now? There’s soda and OJ. Water.”

“Do you have milk?”

Yoongi says nothing in particular when he goes to retrieve a glass of milk. He pours himself water. Once the glasses are set, they dig in, and when Jungkook bites into the steak, savoriness gushes over his tongue like honey. He lets out a low groan of appreciation that’s borderline inappropriate. Yoongi almost chokes on a noodle.

“You said soda earlier,” Jungkook remarks. “We say pop here.”

Okay, Yoongi can talk about this. “It’s ‘cause I’m from Texas. The only time I’ve been out of the country, besides Korea, was a semester in Japan. That was a long time ago. Moving up here was kind of a leap of faith when I got my job.”

“That’s neat. Has it been worth it?”

Not really. “Sometimes,” Yoongi ends up saying, unable to completely erase the gloom in his voice. And because he’s not with Hoseok, who can soak up his gloom and still stay sunny, he mitigates it with, “All the snow kind of makes me crazy.”

“It’s annoying to drive in,” Jungkook agrees. “Knowing that my students are out there on the roads also scares the crap out of me. Well, I’ve been here all my life. I went to college here, too. My family’s less than an hour away, so that was the biggest move I ever made. But my sister is graduating high school soon, and she says she’s going as far away as possible.”

“Where does she want to go?”

“Canada.”

“What the hell.”

“Ha?”

“Tell her Canada’s for wimps. She should cross an ocean at least.”

Jungkook looks troubled.

“I’m joking,” Yoongi amends. “I think it’s better to stay close.”

Jungkook visibly perks up again, shoveling more pasta in his mouth. Sauce accumulates in the left corner of Jungkook’s pink lips, and it’s crazy, but Yoongi suddenly imagines himself licking the sauce off Jungkook, down and up, the fuller bottom lip first. If this keeps up, he’ll have to stab himself with a fork.

Talking with Jungkook is not like talking with Hoseok. There’s no schema to fall back on. Neither is there a professional purpose camouflaged under cordiality, like how it is with coworkers. Nor is it the same as catching up with friends back home. It’s kind of like the first day of school before getting a syllabus, Yoongi realizes, when the only expectation is to get to know one another and nothing else. No projects. No mutual friends. Just the present.

It’s also not as comfortable as Hoseok. Yoongi keeps glancing up from his plate to try to read Jungkook’s body language, to see if he’s bored and itching to leave. So far, Jungkook doesn’t seem like he wants to escape just yet, but Yoongi is still nervous. It’s not necessarily a bad sort of nervousness.

“What’s it like being a teacher?”

Finishing a gulp of milk, Jungkook is happy to answer.

“I teach math to mostly freshies and sophomores. It’s really fun.” Jungkook smiles so genuinely that Yoongi feels a little speechless. Some people actually enjoy their jobs.

“What do you enjoy about it?”

“Well… I like the challenging kids.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I like the kids who are kind of little shits,” Jungkook says seriously. “The ones who don’t care about school. Some of them are actually crazy, and some of them just need a chance, you know?”

Yoongi doesn’t know what he means, but he doesn’t ask.

“I don’t like the violent ones, though, no way. No one does. Luckily...” Jungkook wiggles his biceps. “No one usually tries anything with me. I mean… I didn’t really have a choice.” Jungkook laughs. “When I was new four years ago, the school was really lacking teachers, so admin automatically handed me these classes. I think I wanted to quit about a thousand times during my first year, and they’re still ninety-nine percent of my headaches, but I love ‘em now.

“Like, we had a homework quiz today, right? Which means if you did your homework, all you have to do is copy down your answers. Easy points, ‘cept no one ever does homework. Even if I wrote down all the answers on the board, their grades would still be distressing. But I told them they could stay after class to finish the quiz today, and guess what?” Jungkook grins.

“What?”

“Three of them actually stayed! I almost died of surprise.” Jungkook pauses, suddenly realizing how much he’s been talking. “That was really boring, wasn’t it?”

“Not at all. I like listening. It’s really different from my job… You sound like a great teacher. I really thought you were a PE teacher, though.”

Hearing that, Jungkook giggles. “Um. You either mean I look like I’m all brawn and no brains, or you just complimented me.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who just wrote off all PE teachers. But, I suppose I meant that as a compliment.” Yoongi pointedly keeps his eyes on his food and not on the way Jungkook’s sweater dips down and exposes a collarbone whenever he leans forward. Yoongi’s out of practice with this friend thing. He’s confident that most friends don’t have such distracting thoughts every other second. He should be interested in what Jungkook is saying, and he is, but he also happens to be very interested in how Jungkook looks.

“When I was younger, I really hated math,” Jungkook says. “I was terrible at it. I’d get stomach aches before math class every day, and I came up with all kinds of excuses to get out of class. But then I met my eighth-grade math teacher.”

Yoongi waits for the inevitable teacher-who-changed-my-life-and-inspired-me story.

“He was the biggest dick. Said if I can’t even figure out what’s ten percent of a hundred, I won’t even get a job at McDonald’s.”

“Wow. He’s definitely getting the best teacher award. Did you tell him that’s what calculators are for? Or are they taboo among math teachers?”

“Don’t worry, I’m not prejudiced. I love my graphing calculator. I’ll show you what I can do with it some time.”

When Jungkook smiles again, Yoongi can’t help but just watch him like he’s the eighth wonder of the world. He’s been missing out, a lot. His neighbor is so freaking cute. Jungkook notices after a few seconds and shifts in his seat.

“Is there something on my face?” he asks, grabbing a napkin and wiping away any sauce.

“Do you think it’s weird how it took me this long to find out you’re a math teacher?”

Jungkook blinks. “I don’t think it’s weird. Maybe funny. Definitely lucky.”

“Why lucky?”

“Well, you’ve been running away from me for years.” Jungkook stares Yoongi down like their at a wrestling match. “Aren’t I pretty lucky to be eating your homemade dinner right now?”

Yoongi’s face burns, but as cute as Jungkook may be, he’s not backing down. “Come on, I wasn’t running away.”

“Really?” Jungkook looks almost hopeful.

“I was politely withdrawing.”

“Thanks, that makes me feel about one percent better. Like this milk.” Jungkook flicks at his empty glass with a ping.

“Better than nothing?” Yoongi responds meekly.

“But why were you? Is there - I mean, is there something about me that makes you want to avoid me?” Shoulders straight, Jungkook looks serious like he’s prepared to get hit by a mortar.

“No! I - ” Yoongi sighs. “Everything was new. Moving here, my job. It was hard for me to adjust, and I just didn’t have time to spend on… Look, it’s not like you were making any moves either.” He doesn’t expect to see Jungkook’s look of utter dismay.

“I get the moving thing. But the other thing you just said. Making moves. What do you call me saying hi first whenever we see each other?” Jungkook certainly isn’t angry, but there’s something feistier in his voice that surprises Yoongi.

“I don’t know. You’re a friendly neighbor? And I’m not?”

“So why’d you invite me tonight?”

“‘Cause… you’re nice. You helped me out with the peanut butter.”

Jungkook continues to look putout for some reason, and Yoongi flounders to redirect the conversation.

“Can I get you some more milk?”

“...Yes, please. Maybe the least you can do is make me happier one percent at a time.”

“Well, is that one percent per swallow or per glass? I’m going to be out of milk if it’s the latter.” Jungkook’s pouty expression makes Yoongi crack. “I could buy gallons just for you, if you want.”

“Oh.”

Holy shit, Yoongi. He leaves to get the freaking milk before he can do more damage.

“So, you really went out of your way to prove your math teacher wrong,” he says when he’s back, having thought of a conversation that doesn’t revolve around him avoiding his cute neighbor for three years.

“Yeah, I was pretty hurt for a fourteen-year-old. That, and my mom said I couldn’t do track if I kept failing. I had to make up years of math. Finding x began making sense somewhere along the way, and I started liking it. I also worked at a McDonald’s for a whole summer. I made Outstanding Crew Member of the Month for three months straight.”

“Damn, you’re the real deal,” Yoongi says facetiously, but he really means it.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

After dinner, Jungkook reveals what’s been hiding in the grocery bag. One by one, he sets the ingredients on the kitchen counter. Yoongi watches with mounting worry.

Nutmeg. Cinnamon. Butter. Heavy cream. Cream soda. Butterscotch topping and schnapps.

“Mr. Weasley, we’re having butterbeer!” Jungkook says excitedly to the cat, who’s resting on the high chair again.

“Butterbeer?” Yoongi echoes.

“I’ve never had it with alcohol before,” Jungkook says, and then adds, “Please say you’ll try it with me?”

Yoongi isn’t sure anyone would ever say no to Jungkook’s imploring eyes. “Okay, what do we do first?”

The majority of the ingredients end up in one large bowl. Yoongi’s whisk has grown legs and disappeared, so he and Jungkook take turns using chopsticks to mix the batter.

“Maybe I should’ve run back to my apartment for a whisk,” Jungkook says, two pairs of tired arms later after the batter has already started to thicken.

“Maybe.” Yoongi tries his hardest to not stare at the protruding veins in Jungkook’s forearms, which are on display since Jungkook rolled up his sleeves.

After throwing the batter on the stove, everything else comes together. Two bottles of cream soda get heated up, and the air smells sweet, sweet, sweet. Something bubbles in Yoongi’s chest as he stands shoulder to slightly taller shoulder with Jungkook in the kitchen. It reminds him of when he was smaller and made kimchi with his mother. Not that Jungkook reminded him of his mother.

Once everything is ready, Jungkook pours a shot of schnapps into each glass, adds the hot cream soda, and tops off the glasses with the batter. It’s not identical to the butterbeer in the movies, but it looks decent.

Before they clink glasses and take their first sips, Jungkook excitedly twirls a chopstick and chants, “Delliciarmus,” which makes Yoongi snort. Immediately, the overtly spicy sweetness hits Yoongi, but he manages to keep a neutral face.

“I like it! Do you?” Jungkook asks, voice muffled by the glass.

With no desire to say that the drink is way too sweet for him, Yoongi just says, “Yeah. It’s fun.” Maybe he doesn’t like it, but he likes Jungkook. He also hasn’t drank anything alcoholic in ten months, but he had made an exception for Jungkook without even thinking.

Watching them finish the drink, Mr. Weasley meows for attention.

“Sorry, none for you,” Yoongi says.

Sometimes it seems like the cat understands him because the furball makes a face.

“So, um, what do you not like about living here? Is it really the weather? Or something else?” Jungkook asks carefully. Not expecting the question, Yoongi sort of freezes, glass pressed against his lips. “Sorry, you don’t have to answer that.”

“No. Um.” The creamy swirls of the drink are hypnotizing. “I just miss home, I guess. The people? My job also… kind of makes me miserable.” The more he talks and attempts to hide, the faster the dark feeling returns.

“What about your job?” Jungkook tilts his head.

Yoongi shrugs. “It’s nothing. There’s nothing really wrong with it.”

“Yeah. I’m not - I’m not saying it’s the same, but sometimes I don’t like teaching either. It was pretty rough when I first started. Made me really question what I was getting into. It didn’t help that I don’t look that much older than the students. Every year gets better, though, for me at least.” Jungkook takes another sip. “I heard it takes on average three years for a place to feel like home. Maybe you’re on the longer side of the bell curve?”

“Maybe.” Yoongi’s doubtful tone is not lost on Jungkook, but the subject ends there. Despite Jungkook’s insistence, Yoongi convinces him that he’ll handle the clean up alone.

“Next time you can’t stop me,” Jungkook says seriously.

“Okay. Next time you can clean up everything.”

Yoongi really doesn’t want Jungkook to leave, but dinner is over, and Jungkook seems to carry away a little bit of the evening’s softness with him. Back to normality, solitude with a cat, the scent of oil in the apartment is staler, and the leftover sweetness more oppressive.

Hoseok
Haru and Hana want to know if “Uncle Yoon makes friends?”

Tell them very occasionally but yes

Hoseok
What’s a synonym for occasionally?

Sometimes??

Hoseok
Ooo just taught them a new word!

Jungkook and their conversations are all Yoongi can think about when he washes the dishes, when he prepares for bed, and when he tries to read himself to sleep. When he turns off the lights, he has trouble turning off his mind. Sometime later in the quietness of the dark, four little paws sneak onto his bed, and finally he falls asleep.

 

*

 

Monday, December 16, 2019

During the weekend, Yoongi checks his phone 200% more often. He wants to text Jungkook but ends up erasing everything he starts typing. When Jungkook doesn’t text either, dejection settles over him and everything. The worst thing is that Yoongi doesn’t know what he did wrong. Maybe he was too gloomy for Jungkook.

On Monday, Hoseok’s empty office momentarily gives him a spin, but then he remembers that the dad is on vacation with his girls. Several other coworkers are also out, and it’s apparent that everyone else who is still present wishes they’re somewhere else. Irene, the secretary responsible for combing through all of Yoongi’s boss’s boss’s emails, and who has been working at the same company for over fifteen years since she got out of college, clearly wishes she’s elsewhere.

“This is the last straw. I refuse! I’m not going to answer the stupid questions!” he overhears her muttering.

“Are you okay?” he asks out of politeness.

I am not. Did you see that Home Chef email the other day?”

“Yeah… I reported it.” It had been clear that it was one of the periodic phishing emails that the company sends out to test its employees. If you click on it, the company sends you a training email with quiz questions.

Irene groans. “I’m telling Bob I’m not answering them. This is so darn stupid, Yoongi.” She gets up and promptly leaves her desk, which is adjacent to Yoongi’s cubicle.

Sitting down at his own, Yoongi stares at his reflection in the murky, black monitor. He doesn’t know about anyone else, but he’s here because he already used up a great number of his PTO earlier in the year when he was back in Texas. He gets to work, knowing that this is going to be a slow week.

At 10 AM, an unexpected flurry of texts wakes up his phone.

Jungkook
good morning~
its the 1st final!
im already bored...
[image]
told u im good with a calculator

Jungkook sends an image of a rather ingenious pixel drawing done on a graphing calculator. The whiskers, the eyes, the resemblance to a certain cat is unmistakable.

That’s actually freaking amazing
I’ll show it to Mr. Weasley
He’s going to love it

Jungkook
^o^
wanna commission me?
get it while its free

Hmm
Can you draw your favorite food?

Half an hour later, Jungkook sends a photo of something round and dark. Yoongi can’t remember when was the last time he broke out into a smile at work.

Is that… a steak?

Jungkook
i know it looks like a turd
but the Point is i tried
u dont want to know what the pasta looked like

Hahaha

Over the next few hours, Jungkook sends him drawings of Pikachu ( favorite Pokemon? ), a fluffy dog ( favorite animal? ), and an incredible Iron Man ( favorite superhero? ). Yoongi saves all the images.

Jungkook
i have time for 1 more request!

How about a self-portrait?

Jungkook

self-portrait_1 copy

Seeing the drawing, Yoongi stops trying to type out a work-related email altogether. It’s cute. Jungkook is really cute.

Cute
But...
It doesn’t do you justice

Jungkook
y not?? D:

He’s too skinny

Jungkook
oh
i can fix that
hold on

Jungkook
how bout this?
better?

self-portrait_2 copy

Omfg
That’s really you
You’re great at drawing

Jungkook
thx!!! ^_^
my last final is about to end
i have a looooot of exams to grade tonite >_<

:(

Jungkook
i like working in the cafe by our apartment
if ur free after work, wanna join me?

Work forgotten, Yoongi stares at the invitation. Suddenly, all Yoongi wants is for the day to end.

Sure! I’ll be there

Jungkook
great see u soon! :D

The day drags on, but eventually, the hour hand hits five o’clock. Powering down his desktop and jabbing his arms into the sleeves of his coat, Yoongi heads out. His boss still hasn’t left yet, but he doesn’t really care. Having finished everything that was expected of him for the day, there’s no reason to stay any longer. Just a year ago, his prompt departure would have pricked several eyebrows, but this is now the regular occurrence. Yoongi Min does not do overtime anymore.

Yet, on the drive back, the glee he feels from ending work and having a purpose becomes clouded with worry. He and Jungkook just saw each other on Friday. Three days later, it’s only Monday. Isn’t this too soon? What will they even do at the cafe? He hasn’t sat in a cafe in ages - he’s almost sure the last time was in college - and there’s been no point to since he can just order and leave or turn on the Keurig. The temptation to text and say sorry, something came up festers in the forefront of his mind, but ultimately the desire to see Jungkook overcomes his anxiety.

At his apartment, he changes into more casual attire. Mr. Weasley watches him scurry around looking for the book he’s been reading, which he stashes in his laptop bag. When there’s nothing else left to do, he takes a deep breath and messages Jungkook.

Hey, you still at the cafe?

The reply is instantaneous.

Jungkook
yep! im in a corner
are u coming? :D

Omw!

After scratching Mr. Weasley’s neck for good luck, the next thing he knows, Yoongi’s outside, stepping through the soft-hued lights spilling rom skinny cafe windows and pulling open the door to the shop. The strong aroma of coffee speeds up his heart rate, in competition with the lackadaisical, faint music. Tiny holiday lights twine around support beams and dangle from the ceilings. On this Monday evening, an ample number of people work and dawdle in the restaurant. Most of them look young, college-aged, which makes sense since they’re located by a university. Winding through the tables and seats, Yoongi wonders if he blends in or if he’s grown outside of the age range.

“Yoongi!” A bright voice chimes from the direction of the multicolored Christmas tree situated in a far corner. Catching Yoongi’s attention, Jungkook removes the backpack on the armchair next to his, and he pats the seat, motioning for Yoongi to come over. A mess of papers and folders is strewn over a low, round table. Today, Jungkook is wearing the yellow school hoodie.

“Hey,” Yoongi says, sitting down. His messenger bag goes on his lap.

“How was your day?” Jungkook asks with a disarmingly sweet smile.

“Good.” And Yoongi is being entirely truthful. “Yours?”

“As good as it could get. It was fun texting you. I didn’t get you in trouble or anything, did I?”

“Nope.”

“Teachers aren’t really supposed to do anything when the kids take finals - we’re just supposed to sit there - but as long as no one says anything, I’m okay.”

“Sounds a little boring.”

“It is,” Jungkook groans. “Luckily I have my calculator and, um, you.”

Both of them pretend Jungkook didn’t say that last part.

“So, when do your finals end?” Yoongi asks.

“On Thursday, then I’m on break. Do you get a break?”

“I’m working until Friday. I don’t go back until New Year’s Day.”

“That’s great. Oh!” Jungkook seems to remember something. “Wait right here.” Leaping to his feet, causing a red pen to roll onto the ground, Jungkook heads over to the counter. Yoongi sets the pen back on the table and takes the chance to study Jungkook’s papers. Variables and equations flood the pages. He hasn’t done real math in ages and quickly looks away. When Jungkook comes back, he sets down a tray of hot soup, a sandwich and a muffin in front of Yoongi. Before Yoongi can protest, Jungkook says, “I’m sorry I already ate. This is a thank you for dinner on Friday. And I got you soup because, um, it’s good for you.”

The caring gesture embarrasses and touches Yoongi at the same time. “Thank you,” he manages to squeeze out.

“Don’t sweat it.” Jungkook grins. “Um, so, I know I asked you to come over, but I really do need to grade these exams…”

“Go ahead, I brought things to do.”

“Great!”

Jungkook truly gets back to work, scooting his chair forward and hunching over the table with the red pen. Hair curtains his eyes, but the colorful lights highlight the soft curve of his cheek, the tiny hairs, and the purse of his lips. Concentration sets his jaw attractively. Yoongi finds it hard to look away, but he is hungry, so he begins to eat.

The cafe buzzes calmly. Chattering, laptops clicking, and the two baristas working in harmony all create a smooth atmosphere. It’s not really his scene because he prefers to work alone or in an area with fewer distractions, but Jungkook’s boyishness fits in here perfectly. Even though the cafe is literally right by where they live, Yoongi never realized how popular it is.

He cracks open his book to where he left off. A friend gave it to him the last time he was home. It’s not what he usually reads.

Joon, guess what
I’m reading the Hidden Life of Trees

Songs changing and pages turning, Jungkook shuffling papers, are the only clues that time passes in the bubble of the cafe. Every few pages, Yoongi can’t resist glancing at Jungkook. At one point, he thinks he catches Jungkook looking at him too, but he switches back to his page too quickly to know for certain. The thought makes him hide behind his book.

When he’s not sneaking peeks in Jungkook’s direction, Yoongi watches other people. He doesn’t go out of his way to surround himself with strangers. It’s a younger crowd, but there are a few older customers. Once again, he wonders which group he straddles. He’s far from middle age, but he doesn’t fit in with the shiny, minty group either. But since he’s sitting next to Jungkook’s fresh-faced, college boy appearance, maybe other people think Yoongi is younger than he really is. College young. Not someone a good number of years into his second job out of college and feeling stuck.

Snap out of it, dude. Easier said than done. He’s not normally so self-conscious about what other people might think; he’s knows most people aren’t even thinking, but his thoughts only exacerbate when he notices two girls sitting a couple tables away. Thick textbooks and notes pile on their table, although the girls seem more interested in their laptops.

Next to Yoongi, Jungkook yawns and lifts his arms up in a stretch, getting rid of stiffness from being hunched over for so long. Like a tease, a sliver of abdomen shows and disappears.

At the same time, Yoongi catches the girls watching Jungkook. When they notice Yoongi, they look away hastily and exchange giggles with one another.

Feeling just as caught, Yoongi turns back to his book, the words on the pages suddenly incomprehensible letters. He feels like the girls.

Jungkook is hot, adorable - anyone can see that - and his presence magnifies a thousand times in Yoongi’s mind. Yoongi’s own thoughts make him want to fling himself off a bridge, but he’s already falling. All he wanted was some peanut butter; he didn’t mean to inhale love potion shampoo and develop a crush.

But here he is, clearly crushing after someone who’s giving him a little attention. Can anyone blame him? But his feelings aren’t right. They don’t feel right. He doesn’t want to make Jungkook into something that isn’t true. Jungkook probably doesn’t even know Yoongi is gay. Yoongi is definitely not attracted to every guy friend he makes, but Jungkook just makes it so easy, like walking into a glass door.

“Hey, Jungkook, how old are you?” Yoongi suddenly asks. Jungkook lifts his head up in surprise.

“Um. Twenty-five. I’m just three years younger than you,” Jungkook answers.

“How did you know that?”

Nibbling on the end of his pen, a cornered look flashes across Jungkook’s face. He bites on his pen one last time before answering again. “I… I saw it on Facebook.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry! I’m not a stalker, I promise.” Jungkook watches nervously as Yoongi takes out his phone. Yoongi doesn’t have the Facebook app, so he has to go through a browser. At his password, he guesses and gets it right.

“How do you spell your last name?” Yoongi asks.

“J-E-O-N. But I’m hiding it from my students, so it’s actually Jay Seagull…” Yoongi types it in. “Yoongi, I really didn’t mean to look you up… I mean, I did, but not like...”

Jungkook’s profile picture pops up. Taken in the summertime somewhere, he’s doing a cartwheel on a deep green lawn. The picture makes Yoongi smile, and without thinking he hits Add Friend. Jungkook is still muttering to himself when Yoongi says, “Can you accept my friend request?”

Jungkook calms down after they officially become Facebook friends.

“Just warning you, I don’t actually use Facebook. So, just keep texting me,” Yoongi says.

“I know. No one does,” Jungkook mumbles. “I don’t really use it either.”

“Except to look people up, apparently.”

“Shut up - everyone does that. Don’t they? Also, your LinkedIn is really dry. And you don’t even have an Instagram, apparently.” Despite still looking embarrassed, Jungkook has apparently decided to let go of all pretenses, and Yoongi chuckles.

Soon after the Facebook breakdown, the two men pack up. With Jungkook walking ahead, Yoongi can’t help glancing at the girls when they walk by. They glance right back. Embarrassed, Yoongi’s grateful that they’re outside within another second.

An unexpected thin layer of snow cushions the ground. Tendrils of stray snowflakes flutter in the air, scattering and taking little bits of the glow from the streetlamps into the darkness like little missionaries of light. Seeing the snow, Yoongi lets out a groan, but Jungkook gasps out in delight.

“Do you think it’ll be a white Christmas? I think it will be,” Jungkook muses as they crunch through the feathery snow. Without thinking, Yoongi steps in the tracks that Jungkook leaves behind.

“I don’t think I’ve had a white Christmas before.”

“Seriously? This can be your first. Oh - I forgot. You’re going back, right? You always do.” Jungkook turns back when he notices that Yoongi has stopped walking. When both their footsteps stop, in the momentary darkness of the evening, there’s no other signs of life except snow twirling in the rays of passing car lights. It feels like it might just be Yoongi and Jungkook in the world.

“I, um, I’m staying here this year,” Yoongi says, trying to pass off the hesitancy in his voice as a shiver.

“Oh. I’ve just always noticed you’re usually gone at the end of the year.”

Yoongi walks around Jungkook and takes the lead. Soon they’re under the small overhang of the front door and inside the warmth of the building.

“You’re right. I usually am.” This year, Yoongi wants to pretend it’s just a long weekend. Nothing special.

Surprisingly, Jungkook joins Yoongi in the elevator, which is so out of character that Yoongi feels compelled to explain himself. Through their blurry reflections in the walls of the elevator, he can tell the younger man is curious.

“I’m not going back because my family’s not there anymore,” Yoongi finally says.

“Are they visiting?”

“Nah.”

Jungkook seems to get it, and the matter is left behind when the elevator starts ascending. There’s no more conversation until the elevator dings open.

“It’s probably going to snow some more, so drive safely tomorrow,” Jungkook says tentatively in the hallway. Melting snowflakes dampen the hair across his forehead. There’s a crease in his eyebrows. Yoongi wants to smooth it away and say something to make everything playful again, but he doesn’t. Instead, he gives Jungkook a smile, says goodnight, and they return to their apartments in slightly awkward silence.

He feels like he messed up what was otherwise a good evening, and he would have stayed up all night thinking about it restlessly, if it weren’t for Namjoon’s reply.

Joon
YOONGI
;__;
Do you like the book? I thought it can take your mind off things

Ngl, trees are pretty cool

Joon
Did you get to the part about how trees help each other out?

That was literally the first chapter so yeah
I got the not so subliminal message

Joon
We’re a forest buddy
I’m always here for you

Thanks :’)
You’d make a great beech tree

Joon
Considering the subject matter, that’s a great compliment
Jin says hidsfasd

Joon
HEY YOONGI
IT’S JINNN <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
You never answered my text about cake or donuts >:(

HII JIN
It depends
What kind of cake? Donut?

Joon
It’s fine I got both

This is why I never answered

Joon
Shaddup lol

Joon
Okayyy it’s me again =_=

Joon?
How’s research going?

Joon
Same old same old
I don’t think I’m ever graduating…
When you coming back?

I’m not...
Guess I’ll see you guys next year :)

Joon
All right :’(
Jin wants you to know he’s sad
You know you’re always welcome to crash at my place
Eomma always asks “What’s Yoon Yoon doing?”

Crap
I miss your mom
It’s too late to get a flight out now

Joon
We’ll Facetime ;))))
Isn’t it getting cold over there?
Take care of yourself :)

;)))
Take care too

 

*

 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Despite the awkward goodbye, Jungkook continues to send entertaining texts to Yoongi throughout the week. Frankly, whenever it’s not a message from him, Yoongi feels disappointed. He doesn’t notice how frequently he checks his phone until his coworker calls him out.

“Who’re you texting?” Eunsoo asks. They’re working on a deadline in a small conference room, although both keep getting up for snacks and coffee more often than necessary.

Guiltily, Yoongi sets down his phone and stares at his computer screen, trying to remember where he left off. Across the table, Eunsoo leans on one arm, drumming her fingers and waiting for an answer. She looks bored and restless, much like everyone else still stuck in the office.

“Nobody.”

“Uhuhhh.”

“It’s just a friend,” Yoongi relents.

“Hoseok?”

“Nah.”

“Someone I know?”

“Nope.”

“Gimme a little, at least. What’s going on in Yoongi’s life?”

“Aaand why’re you so interested?” He and Eunsoo are on good terms, but generally their conversations stay work-related. Although, in more recent months, they’ve started bonding over their cats.

“Because.” Eunsoo pauses. “You’re smiling a lot, and it’s weird. Whoa there, don’t frown at me. I like it when you smile. Everyone does. You look more alive.”

“Thanks...” He makes a note to never smile or use his phone again.

“You’re dating, aren’t you?”

Eunsoo.”

She doesn’t look convinced, but Yoongi’s lips are tight. “I’ll dig it out of Hoseok sooner or later,” she threatens.

“Cool.”

“So he knows.” Eunsoo pouts, which makes Yoongi feel bad. He sighs.

“I didn’t want to tell you, but since you really want to know… my cat’s pregnant.”

...Mister Weasley is pregnant. Seriously, Yoongi?”

“Trust me, I was shocked when I found out, too. It turns out cats are weirder than I thought.”

“Ugh. Let’s just finish this damn thing.”

He’s always been good at self-control, but Yoongi’s ability to refrain from checking his phone every other minute for the rest of the day still amazes himself. By the time he’s finally in a judgment-free zone - his car - fingers numb and heat on full blast, Jungkook has sent more texts.

Jungkook
theres this one kid who has RLY BAD handwriting
rly rly rly bad
it always takes me forever to grade his tests

Jungkook
someone put down 9+2=12 and it screwed up the whole problem TT TT

Jungkook
theres TWO exams without names!!
i forgot to check when they handed them in :(
now i gotta guess whose it is

Jungkook
FINALS ARE OVER!!! (๑˃ᴗ˂)ﻭ
yoooongi
you feeling fried chicken tonite?

Juuuungkook
I’d love chicken
Did you figure out the exams?

Jungkook
i made an educated guess
k come over to mine when ur ready!!

Before Yoongi goes Jungkook’s place for the first time, he considers bringing flowers. Then he asks himself if he would bring flowers for any other friend on any other day, and when the answer is no, he doesn’t do it.

With the same nervous buzz, he rings Jungkook’s doorbell for the second time in his life, and the other guy opens it almost immediately. His hair is a little different today. It’s combed to the sides so that his forehead is visible, and it makes Yoongi want to reach out and feel how soft his hairline is. Jungkook waves him inside the apartment. Something mouth-watering and greasy drapes the air.

“I’m so hungry,” Yoongi groans.

“Good thing there’s plenty of food.”

In the living room, buckets of chicken and biscuits await on the coffee table, which is cleared of everything else. Something plays on TV. Besides for a tangle of cords, little towers of video games, and a console with controllers strewn around the TV like a moat, the rest of the apartment looks cleaner and more organized than before. There’s none of the clothes and paraphernalia lying around that Yoongi had briefly spied two weeks ago.

Jungkook hurries to remove a couple of the pillows cluttering the cozy couch. The moment Yoongi sits down, another scent comes to his attention. It’s something overtly Jungkook.

So he’s really sitting in his crush’s apartment, peeking into his crush’s life, and about to eat his crush's chicken on his crush’s couch. Today is a special day.

He tries to get comfortable, which isn’t actually hard. The couch is super inviting after a day in the office. The layout of Jungkook’s apartment is also similar to Yoongi’s. Yet, Yoongi feels the hairs on his arms raise. There’s something different.

“Why is your apartment so…”

“Shitty?”

“I was going to say cold.”

Jungkook laughs out loud. “I’m so used to it after living here for so long. The heating is really crappy in this unit, among other things.”

“What other things?”

“Well, are you easily scared?”

“Sometimes,” Yoongi admits, which raises Jungkook’s eyebrows.

“Maybe I shouldn’t tell you then…”

“Jungkook, now you have to tell me.”

“But you might never come back!” Jungkook honestly looks distraught.

“I live right next door. We can just hang at my place.”

“Okay, well, you know I was super broke after college. It didn’t help that I was a new teacher.” Yoongi nods to show that he’s following. “But I still didn’t want to live in a completely crappy place. So, I looked around and found this listing. The rent’s cheaper than yours because, well, the previous tenant was a girl. She died of a heart attack in her sleep, and they found her decomposing in bed about a week later.”

“Oh fuck.” Yoongi lets the news sink in for a second. “Are you serious? If you’re just trying to scare me…”

“I’m serious.” Jungkook looks concerned and slightly remorseful.

“Why’d you have to tell me that?” Yoongi almost yells.

“You made me!” Jungkook is indignant.

“You’re just making fun of me right?”

“No - just ask the landlord.”

“I’d really rather not.” Wrapping his arms around himself, Yoongi shivers. “I’d have moved out by now.”

The corners of Jungkook’s lips twitch. “I wouldn’t blame you. Hold on, wait here.” Jungkook gets up.

“You’re leaving me here? Alone?”

“You’re not alone, the chicken’s on the table.”

Dead chicken.”

Jungkook disappears down a short hall and into a room, which Yoongi guesses is his bedroom. When he comes back out, he has a portable heater tucked under one arm and blankets over the other.

“Wait - You don’t have to,” Yoongi protests, hugging a pillow.

“I don’t want you to freeze. Although, if you did my rent might go down even more.”

Yoongi threatens him with a pillow halfheartedly. Watching Jungkook plug in the heater, he feels like a princess. This must be happiness, he thinks, especially when he starts scarfing down chicken while insulated in soft pillows and blankets (that smell even more like Jungkook). They don’t talk much. A Christmas movie plays on TV, but Yoongi’s not really paying attention. It’s hard to concentrate when the object of his intensifying affections sits only a few inches away.

It would be nice if he could study everything about Jungkook, the slope of his nose, the crinkle under his eyes, the thin scar on one cheek. He wonders what Jungkook thinks of him, what he cares about, what he likes and dislikes. He’s a little envious of Jungkook's friends and family who know everything about him. He wants to know a lot more about Jungkook; it dazes him. Surely Yoongi has liked before, had crushed before, and dated before, but it’s been so long that this sweet and sour craving feels like the first time again.

At some point, Jungkook shifts, and their thighs touch. Heat builds up under the blankets. Yoongi might burn up. He wonders if this is normal.

When the credits are rolling, Jungkook turns to him. The guy fiddles with the edge of the blanket and unexpectedly pulls it over his face like a mask, leaving only wide eyes peeking at Yoongi. His words come out shy and muffled. “Um. I got a question. Are you going to be here by yourself during Christmas?”

Yoongi nods.

“I’m going home this weekend, and I’ll be gone on Christmas day too, but I need to come back on the twenty-third to do some last minute gift shopping. And I want to… be with you? That day, if you want.” Eyes cast down, Jungkook doesn’t give Yoongi a chance to respond yet He rushes on to say, “I just gotta return the next day.”

“You’re saying you want me to go gift shopping with you?”

“Yep. It’s dumb. I know.” A spike of worry racks Jungkook’s voice.

“Sure,” Yoongi answers, biting back a smile.

“Sure, it’s dumb?”

“I mean, sure, let’s do that.”

“Oh.” Jungkook lowers the blanket, revealing a rainbow-like smile that makes Yoongi feel like he’s found the gold.

 

*

 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Knowing that the object of his affections is no longer in the city, Yoongi expects to wake up Friday morning feeling like the dead. He does wake up escaping unpleasant dreams only to pass into unpleasant consciousness, but it doesn’t last long. A single cheerful message from Jungkook chases away the grief from his dreams.

Jungkook
i hope u have a GREAT day at work (ノ´ヮ`)ノ*: ・゚

Good morning!
Thanks to you, I will :)

 

Does that sound flirty? He mulls over it while he brushes his teeth, and he decides that it doesn’t, not really, but he wouldn’t mind if it does come across that way. In the kitchen, he shows the message to Mr. Weasley. The cat bumps his nose against the screen. “You think he’s cute too?” Yoongi sighs.

At work, there are considerably fewer people. Yoongi can barely concentrate, and Eunsoo notices again while they finish up the last of their deadline.

“Either you stop acting like a lovelorn idiot or give me the deets,” she says.

Yoongi finally cracks. “If I tell you, promise you’re not gonna hold this over my head forever.”

“Mmm…”

“Seriously?”

She rolls her eyes. “I won’t, I promise.”

“Okay. The-person-I-like-sent-me-a-good-morning-text.” The words come out in a rush. Somehow, Eunsoo comprehends every word. She looks impressed.

“Okay, the good news is that they definitely don’t hate you.”

“Thanks,” Yoongi replies sarcastically. “What’s the bad news?”

“Well… My bestie and I also send good morning texts to each other every day.”

“...Dammit.”

“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. Hey, I’m happy that you’re happy though.” She gives him a thumbs up.

Surprisingly, Yoongi doesn’t regret telling Eunsoo about his crush. He’d been afraid that telling someone would make his feelings more terrifyingly real, but if he’s honest with himself, they’ve been real since the day Jungkook opened the jar of peanut butter like he had opened up Yoongi’s heart. Oh my God… He gags, and Eunsoo looks at him quizzically.

On Saturday, Jungkook sends Yoongi a photo of him with his family dog, a big, fluffy dude with fur the color of clouds. They’re both lying on a sofa, or at least Jungkook is. The dog lies on Jungkook contentedly like a blanket. Yoongi has a hard time deciding which one is cuter.

Jungkook
this is marshmallow!
my best bud forever

He’s really big for a marshmallow

Jungkook
he used to be a tiny puppy
like the size of my hand
maybe ill bring him over some time so u can meet him

He might give Mr. Weasley a heart attack

Jungkook
i can bring u home too ;)
um haha

Yoongi really can’t tell if Jungkook is just being cute or flirty. Maybe both. Nevermind their texts, just the thought of the younger makes him burn up in joy and nervousness and confusion.

And what is this thing on Monday? Is it a date-date? Or just another hangout? He thinks it’s a real date, but he doesn’t know what Jungkook thinks it is. Yoongi doesn’t know what Jungkook wants, but he’s already fallen into puppy love, and he doesn’t want to pick himself back up yet.

 

*

 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Jungkook shows up in the morning hefting an enormous bag of Mr. Weasley’s favorite gourmet cat food. As usual, Yoongi is flustered.

“The furball’s already too spoiled,” he grumbles, and it’s true. When Yoongi decided to keep Mr. Weasley, he became an excessively indulgent cat owner. The assorted toys and treats scattered around his apartment are proof. He only stopped picking up gifts for the cat after realizing several hundreds of dollars later that Mr. Weasley is satisfied with high chairs and cardboard boxes.

“It’s Christmas,” Jungkook objects, a small pout wrinkling his chin. He picks up the ginger furball. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Weasley? You deserve the best, don’t you?” Under Jungkook’s attention, Mr. Weasley preens. Yoongi doesn’t blame the cat. He doesn’t think anyone can be more perfect than Jungkook.

“Do you have a plan for today?” Yoongi asks.

“I was thinking we can go to the mall and walk around until I find something for my sister,” Jungkook explains.

Okay, this is starting to sound more like just a hangout. Yoongi tries not to feel disappointed.

“Sounds good.” Walking around and shopping is not high on Yoongi’s list of enjoyable activities, but he really likes Jungkook. They take Yoongi’s car. It’s been a while since someone besides Hoseok has sat in the passenger seat. Jungkook seems impressed by the BMW, especially when Yoongi warms up the seats.

“I love cars that can do that,” Jungkook says, wiggling in his seat appreciatively. “I wish I could drive this to school and park next to Mr. Richard. He’s the AP calc teacher. He makes a hundred thousand every year and makes sure everyone knows it too.”

“Sounds like a twat.”

“He is,” Jungkook giggles.

“So, is there anything you want to listen to?” Yoongi asks.

“Anything is fine.”

Yoongi turns on the radio. Six songs pass by the time they arrive at the mall. A sea of cars already inundates the parking lots, forcing them to park further away from the nearest entrance.

“Looks like everyone has the same idea,” Jungkook giggles, although Yoongi is less exhilarated. Crowds are his worst enemy.

As soon as he locks up the car, Jungkook shocks him by hooking their arms together, whining, “Let’s hurry, it’s way too cold.” And Yoongi hates running, too, but he jogs with Jungkook to the nearest entrance anyway. Once they’re inside the bright lights and shiny, smeared floors, their arms relax and slip down naturally, but then Jungkook doesn’t let go. Yoongi tries not to freeze when their fingers interlock. They’re holding hands.

Fingers and palms touching, the younger leads them through the clumps of shoppers, winding through clothing racks and shelves of shoes and shiny rows of makeup and skincare products. Yoongi follows blindly. This is too much. His heart can’t take a break. It won’t stop racing. He keeps staring at the back of Jungkook’s head. Is this a date? This is a date, right?

Aided by the holiday music jangling around the store, Hoseok’s words jingle in his head like tinkly bells. Life’s full of surprises. You never know. Yoongi both hates and loves the hopeful feeling rising in his chest. Guys just don’t normally hold hands, not in this country, especially not here. If Eunsoo were present, she would probably say something along the lines of the good news is he’s definitely not disgusted by you.

Exiting the department store, Jungkook leads them out into the rest of the indoor mall. Yoongi feels their handhold slacken, and without thinking, he tightens his grip. If Jungkook notices, it goes without comment.

“Let’s go up a floor. There’s some sweet candle and tea shops, and she goes gaga over those things.”

“Sure,” Yoongi answers, not at all sure about what Jungkook just said.

Basic courtesy means they can’t stand on the escalator side by side, but that doesn’t stop them from holding hands. “You’re probably the type to run up escalators if there weren’t so many people around,” Yoongi mutters. Jungkook just laughs, swinging their arms lightly as they ascend, getting closer to the large, shiny silver and red baubles suspended from the glass ceiling of the mall.

They go in and out of stores, nd Yoongi’s hand sweat alone can probably raise the ocean by an inch, but they keep holding hands. Maybe the break a world record for the longest amount of time spent holding hands. Walking around with Jungkook, Yoongi is just too happy. It can’t be right to be this happy.

Gradually, he becomes more used to the feeling of someone else’s hand in his. It’s like a new bracelet or a necklace that he loves fiddling with. It’s a constant sensation. And in the anonymous furor of the mall, they’re just two people.

During the hunt, some potentially sister-satisfying options almost make it to the counter, but Jungkook can’t seem to make up his mind. Several times, he checks if Yoongi’s bored and wants to do something else, but Yoongi just shakes his head. Jungkook’s indecisiveness doesn’t bother him because he never wants this to end.

At noon, they stop at the food court and wait in line. Yoongi insists on paying - it’s my turn - but unfortunately, fishing out his credit card requires both hands. For the first time, the two let go, and even though he’s carrying a tray full of food just a few minutes later, Yoongi feels like his hand is distressingly empty.

Despite today’s crowd, Jungkook manages to pinpoint two open seats facing the two-tier merry-go-round located at the center of the mall. Just in time, Jungkook plops his tray down, snagging the seats before a girl and a guy couple gets to them. The guy gives Jungkook a look, but Jungkook doesn’t seem to speak the same code.

“Sorry dude, we got here first,” he says matter of factly. After the couple turns away, looking more than a little nettled, Jungkook winks at Yoongi. “Survival of the fittest,” he smirks.

“No kidding.”

The seats are narrow, and their knees bump underneath while they sit side by side facing the slowly spinning carousel. It’s a pretty scene, scarlet and gold paint, garnished with wreaths and ribbons and lights. Yoongi hardly notices, though, the knee bumping almost makes up for the lack of handholding.

“I used to ride that all the time whenever my family came here.” Jungkook nods at the merry-go-round. “Wanna go on it?”

Yoongi blanches. “It’s for kids.”

“Don’t you see the grandma and grandpa sitting in Cinderella’s pumpkin? They just went past us.”

“That’s because they’re old and cute.” And a couple.

The crestfallen look on Jungkook’s face instantly makes Yoongi regret.

“I’m not old, but are you saying I’m not cute either?” Jungkook complains.

“What - no.”

“Then you’re saying...?”

“You’re - you’re not uncute.” Jungkook looks at him skeptically. “Jungkook, you’re really cute. But I’m not, so I’d really rather not go on there.”

A couple moments pass, leading Yoongi to believe that he made his point across, but then the ride slows and stops. Families get off, and the gate opens to let the next group of riders on.

“Look, the ride’s about to start again!” Jungkook says excitedly. Slipping a hand into Yoongi’s again - this is really unfair - Jungkook tugs him up. A second later, they’re both sitting inside a pumpkin while the mall turns around them slowly. The leisurely pace slows everything down.

“This is kind of fun,” Yoongi admits. They’re not holding hands anymore, but two men in a pumpkin take up more space than an elderly couple, so their arms and thighs are pressed right up against each other.

“You should always listen to me.”

“I think I already do.”

“Good.” Jungkook leans forward a little, elbows on his knees, giving Yoongi more space. “Don’t feel lonely on Christmas, okay? Because you spent it with me today.”

Yoongi stares at the back of Jungkook’s neck. Something weird settles in his chest. “Thanks,” he replies somewhat hollowly, but Jungkook doesn’t notice. The other guy also doesn’t notice when Yoongi subtly shifts so that they’re not as flushed together anymore.

The afternoon goes a bit differently. Jungkook is more determined to find the perfect gift, and Yoongi is more distracted. What did Jungkook mean earlier about being lonely ? He wants to ask him, but the time window is over.

They end up in a stationery shop with music boxes, and Jungkook finds one that tinkles out the notes to Always With Me. “If she doesn’t like this, I’ll keep it,” Jungkook says, glowing with excitement.

“I’ve never met her, but I’m a hundred percent sure she’s going to love it,” Yoongi assures.

“You think so? She’s been really stressed out about college. I want to give her something that’ll make her happy.”

“Man, I wish I were your sister,” Yoongi says seriously.

“No way!” Jungkook laughs. He curls a hand around Yoongi’s fingers, hanging onto them in a childlike way. “I love her, but she gets on my nerves way too much. You’re not like that.”

They’re suddenly startled by a series of banging on the display window behind them.

“Guys, it’s Mr. Jeon!”

“Mr. Jeon!”

“Hey, teach!”

A look of surprise flashes across Jungkook’s face. His large eyes grow even wider, if it were possible, and the smile on his face stutters.

Three teenage boys wave frantically on the other side of the window. Jungkook drops Yoongi’s fingers, and it takes Yoongi a moment to realize that Mr. Jeon is Jungkook.

“Holy shit, my worst nightmare is happening,” Jungkook mutters under his breath. Yoongi rarely hears him swear, but Jungkook swears again when the boys enter the shop like eager baby chicks.

And then something interesting happens. In a second, Jungkook’s whole demeanor changes again, becoming bright once more.

“Hey, what’s up guys?” Jungkook says to the boys.

“Nothin’, whatcha doin’ here?” They crowd around Jungkook, forcing Yoongi to take a step back awkwardly. These must be Jungkook’s students. They’re young - they have to be. They’re teenagers. Even Jungkook looks mature compared to them.

“I’m doing some last minute shopping. And enjoying my time not hanging around you guys,” Jungkook jokes. The boys act like they’re hurt. One of them notices Yoongi.

“Hey, who’re you?”

Yoongi is about to introduce himself, but Jungkook beats him to it. “Guys, this is Yoongi, my friend. Yoongi, these are my troublemakers.”

“Hey, heyyy…”

One by one, the boys say say hi. Yoongi tries his best to look like a nice adult by smiling a little, but he’s probably failing at it. Much to his relief, the boys don’t stick around. After wishing their teacher a Merry Christmas in loud voices, they leave just as loudly.

Yoongi waits for Jungkook to make his purchase, and then it’s time to leave the mall. They don’t say anything much. Yoongi is still very caught up by what just happened.

It stung a little when Jungkook let go of his hand, and it also stung when Jungkook introduced him as a friend, even though there was nothing wrong with what he said. Because they are friends, and it’s not like Jungkook would tell his students that he has a boyfr - no, no, no. Of course not.

Everything just stings slightly because Yoongi has a sinking feeling that Jungkook might be hanging out with him because he thinks Yoongi is lonely. Because Jungkook feels sorry. He feels sorry for Yoongi, who will be alone on Christmas, and that’s why he hung out with Yoongi today. Yoongi hates pity. Sometimes it’s welcome; sometimes he wants it, but this is not one of those times.

They’re quieter on the way back. Every so often, Yoongi glances in the mirrors to watch Jungkook. The other guy looks lost in thought. Yoongi stops himself from reading too much into it. Maybe Jungkook is tired. Christmas music plays on the radio, but it’s not quite the same cheer as the kind they left behind in the mall.

When they’re back in the garage, and the car engine silences as soon as Yoongi turns it off, Jungkook mumbles, “Yoongi, wait here. Don’t leave yet, okay?” Before Yoongi can say anything, Jungkook gets out and scurries to his own car, a truck parked a few spots away. A moment later, he ducks back into Yoongi’s car with something under his arm. “This isn’t very good, but it’s for you,” he says shyly, unable to meet Yoongi’s eyes.

Curious, Yoongi takes the thin, rectangular shaped package from him. Light blue wrapping paper hides the contents. “Do you want me to open it?” Yoongi asks. Jungkook bobs his head quickly.

Feeling very self-conscious, Yoongi starts by gingerly lifting up the taped edges and sliding a finger under the first layer.

“Just rip it,” Jungkook groans.

Yoongi snorts and tears off the wrapping paper.

Underneath is a beautiful, framed watercolor of Yoongi and Mr. Weasley. It’s unmistakable. Painted Yoongi holds a gold speckled Mr. Weasley in his arms, and in his left hand is a…

“Is that peanut butter?” Yoongi is dearly amused.

“Yeah. Do you like it?” Jungkook worries at his sleeves.

“Jungkook, I love it. It’s amazing and - thank you.” Yoongi brushes a hand over the glass protecting the watercolor. “You’re amazing. Why’d you draw this?”

Jungkook furrows his eyebrows. “I wanted to give you a present? And I didn’t know what to give you, but I like drawing...”

“I mean, why’d you draw this ?”

“Oh, well, it’s the first time you really talked to me, and I liked it…” Jungkook trails off.

“I didn’t know I left such a strong impression.”

“You’d be surprised by the few number of people who ask me to help them with peanut butter,” Jungkook says dryly. “Exactly one, in fact.”

“That person must be crazy.”

“I wouldn’t say crazy. Passionate about peanut butter, maybe.”

“This is amazing,” Yoongi repeats. “I’m sorry. I wish I had something for you.”

Jungkook waves him off. “No, no, no. There’s no need.”

A brief period of silence ensues in which the main garage door jerks open from the outside when a fellow resident cruises in, startling them both. The temperature in the car is dropping, but there’s a rising tension.

Yoongi wants to kiss Jungkook.

He’d like to reach over, cup Jungkook’s neck, pull him in, and kiss him stupid.

The thought is so prominent in his head, he can’t believe he hasn’t followed through on it yet. His heart feels too full, and so does his brain. The right words have no room to form. Chewing on the inside of his lips, he raises the painting and presses his mouth against the edge of the plastic frame absentmindedly.

“This is really, really lovely, and I love it. Thank you,” he finally says again, eyes cast down on the steering wheel. When he looks back up at Jungkook, the guy’s gaze is fixed on the plastic where Yoongi’s lips had touched the painting.

“Don’t mention it,” Jungkook says shyly.

They say Happy Christmas again, and then Jungkook leaves, but not before he sees Yoongi walk inside the elevator and waits for the doors to close. Once inside the metal box, Yoongi practically disintegrates in a corner. It felt like a date after all.

 

*

 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The twenty-fifth comes and goes without much aplomb.

Eunsoo
[image]
[image]
[image]
[image]
[image]
[image]
Merry Xmas~! Stay warm!

On Christmas morning, Eunsoo sends Yoongi photos of her cat wearing a red vest and a small Santa hat.

Thank you!
Wow
Your… rotund cat is the perfect Santa

Eunsoo
Did you just call Will Ferrell fat!? >:0
I can’t even deny it though u_u

[image]
[image]

Eunsoo
Awwwww Mr. Weasley!!! <333

In the late afternoon, he Facetimes with Namjoon and Seokjin, but the two end up getting pushed off screen by Namjoon’s mother, much to Yoongi’s amusement. Mrs. Kim berates him for not flying back. She also requests to see Mr. Weasley since she and the ginger furball had gotten acquainted during the few weeks Yoongi deliberated on what to do with the cat. She and Yoongi catch up while he lies prone in bed with Mr. Weasley curled up on the pillow by his head.

“How’s his fur?” she asks.

“It’s grown back out. You can’t even tell anymore.”

“That’s lovely.”

The loss of his owner had stressed out Mr. Weasley so much, Mrs. Kim had found bald patches between his fur before Yoongi took him in.

“How about your fur ?” Mrs. Kim asks meaningfully.

“Eommaaa, that’s really weird,” Namjoon complains out of view.

“How else am I supposed to ask Yoongi about his health without being too straightforward?” Mrs. Kim retorts.

“Well, I’m not balding,” Yoongi answers. He twists his body to reach for Jungkook’s painting, which he had set on his nightstand. “Look at this.”

“That’s beautiful!”

One by one, Seokjin and Namjoon take turns peering into the camera.

“Damn, who drew that?” Seokjin asks.

“This dude. Actually, my neighbor.”

Seokjin instantly recognizes the sliver of something in Yoongi’s tone of voice. “A dude who’s your neighbor.”

“I’m glad you’re listening.”

“There might be thousands of miles between us, but don’t think for one second I can’t read you, Yoongi. You ditched us for him, didn’t you?” Seokjin mocks playfully.

“Of course. That’s totally why I’m alone in bed right now.”

“Gross, what a loner.”

“What can I say.”

“Jinnie, that was mean,” Mrs. Kim comments.

“Yeah, Jin, that was mean,” Namjoon adds.

“Oh, I see, gang up on me when Yoongi’s the one who dropped our annual Godori for his boy toy.”

Yoongi laughs while Namjoon coughs in the background. “Guys, eomma is right here. Gimme my phone back.” In a second, Namjoon’s head replaces Seokjin’s. “Have you ever considered that it’s super weird for you to talk to my mom from your bed?”

“Nope.”

“Cool. Twas just a thought. So who’s this dude ?”

“Whoever he is, it better not be someone named Jay Seagull !” Seokjin yells.

Yoongi sputters and grips his phone harder as if it’s Seokjin’s arm. Leave it to Seokjin to figure it out within seconds. “Hey, don’t you dare friend him!”

“Why the fuck would I friend someone with such a stupid name? He’s cute though. Joon, look at him. Isn’t he cute?”

“He’s cute, Yoongi,” Namjoon agrees. “You have my blessing. Just promise me y’all won’t take his last name if you marry.”

“His name?” Yoongi is confused for a second. “Okay, it’s time to hang up.”

 

*

 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Hoseok’s New Year’s Eve party almost escapes Yoongi’s mind until he receives a text from Hoseok. He also gets Hoseok’s address and learns Hoseok lives not too far out in the suburbs.

Hoseok
I’m back in the States!
We had a great time in SK
But the girls have SEVERE jet lag and Jimin and I are dying
You’ll make me feel A LOT better if I see you at my place in a couple days~!!

Glad you’re back :)
And... I’ll be there...

Hoseok
*hurrah*
You can bring someone with you ;)

What’s wrong with just me

Hoseok
Shoot
You make a good point
If you come alone, I guess I’m willing to let Haru and Hana have their wicked ways with you

Omfg

Hoseok
:p
Yoongi has someone exactly in mind, but he needs to check something first.

Do you remember that neighbor I mentioned?
The guy

Hoseok
Ofc!!!
Are you asking him??
:D

It’s not a big deal

Hoseok
Mhmm

Fine
Maybe a little
Of a big deal

Yoongi hesitates just for a second before deciding to fuck it.

I’m… interested in him
Is that okay?
You can say no
I get it
I don’t even know if he’s free anyways
He’s probably not free

Hoseok’s text bubble keeps loading, and it’s making Yoongi unreasonably nervous.

Hoseok
[video]

Confused, Yoongi taps on it. The video starts, and it’s a clip of Haru (distinguishable via the mole on her chin) vigorously banging her baby utensils against a cereal bowl like a drum. Food has flown everywhere, and only a parent would think it’s cute. Hoseok’s infectious laughter cackles in the background. It’s an older video because Haru and Hana are older now.

Hoseok
WHY WOULD THAT EVER BE A PROBLEM

Idk
Maybe because he’s a guy?
I’m kind of gay

Hoseok
I
Wtf
Oh man this is hilarious
Are you really Yoongi??
Quick - what’s Hana’s fav food?

=_=
Choco ice cream

Hoseok
GOOD
Dude TRUST ME come over
Ask him
He better be there!!! :3

In one fell swoop, he just came out to Hoseok and told him he likes someone. Goodness gracious. Now he just has the slight problem of actually getting the nerve to ask Jungkook out. This is different. It won’t be just the two of them; there’s going to be other people. He considers asking Jungkook in person but chooses the easier option.

Hey Jungkook
My friend is hosting a NYE party on NYE

Dammit. He really should have typed out a draft beforehand.

Would you like to come with me?
If you’re free?

During the hour that it takes Jungkook to respond, Yoongi is a balloon with its tether slowly unraveling.

Jungkook
Hi Yoongi~
TT TT
i want to so so sososo much
But my family expects me to be with them on NYE :(
im really really sorry TT TT

And like a balloon, Yoongi deflates into something sad and flat.

Don’t worry about it!
This was really short notice
Please don’t feel bad

He tells Jungkook not to feel bad, but that doesn’t prevent Yoongi from feeling terrible himself.

In hindsight, this would have happened no matter what. Most people make plans on the last day of the year ahead of time. Not to mention, he and Jungkook barely know one another, although the past few weeks have turned them deceptively close friends.

That’s the other problem. They’re friends. Jungkook is not going to pass up time with his family in order to be a friend to Yoongi, and Yoongi would never have expected that either.

With the sting of disappointment, a conflicting wave of relief also comes. If Jungkook had said yes, Yoongi would have had to prepare to - prepare to do something. But since Jungkook said no, there’s nothing that Yoongi has to do. No means no opportunity.

Hoseok
He said he’s busy :(

Hoseok
Oh Yoongi :(
There’ll be more chances in the future~!
I’ll make sure of it!! >:)

:(

 

*

 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The last three weeks seem to dissolve like sugar. It’s been hardly six days since Yoongi last saw Jungkook, but everything already feels like a feverish dream. He hasn’t missed someone like this since - since a long time. Not in this way, at least. It’s not the same longing, but it’s a similar ache.

After a whole day of repressing thoughts about Jungkook, which means Jungkook ends up being the only thing he can think about, Yoongi breaks down and does the one thing he never wanted to fall into.

One moment he’s filling Mr. Weasley’s dish with gourmet cat food, and the next moment he’s tentatively scrolling through Jungkook’s Facebook page. He’s not stalking. He’s just learning.

Jungkook really doesn’t use Facebook; his feed is sparse although there are a few posts every few months. Briefly, Yoongi wonders if he should get an Instagram, if anything to just learn some more. But before Yoongi even gets far, one photo in particular catches his eye. It’s a relatively recent post that someone tagged Jungkook in, and -

And it’s a girl.

It’s a nice looking girl with blonde hair, and her head rests in the crook of Jungkook’s neck perfectly like two puzzle pieces. They’re both smiling cutely, all lovey-dovey, and Jungkook is so freaking cute, too, of course he’d be straight and attached what did Yoongi expect -

Yoongi closes out of the browser, powers off his phone, and sets it on top of his bookshelf. Out of sight, out of mind. He goes to read about trees.

Except trees make him think about the outdoors, which makes him think of Jungkook cartwheeling on a green lawn, and maybe his girlfriend took that picture, so his thoughts just keep circling back to the Facebook post like a racing track. He can’t concentrate on anything. When he finally gives up on reading, he turns on the TV, but the screen is just a blur of color and noise.

“I hate him,” Yoongi grumbles into Mr. Weasley’s fluffy stomach. “He’s so perfect - he’s nice, he’s cute, and he even draws me pictures. But he has a fucking - a freaking girlfriend.”

He wants to grab Jungkook by the shoulders, shake him, and yell at the guy for entering his life. Yoongi never asked for these feelings. He can’t even eat peanut butter to feel better because it’s still the same jar that Jungkook had opened, and every spoonful would only make him think more about the younger man.

Defeated, Yoongi retrieves his phone from the bookshelf and pulls up Facebook again. Sometimes you have to treat poison with poison. He keeps scrolling down until he gets to that photo. Knowing this is really an act of self-sabotage, he reads the caption, which says -

Happy birthday to the best bro!

Bro. Bro?

On closer inspection, the girl and Jungkook aren’t really that close. Sure, their arms are linked, but siblings do that too, sometimes. Maybe not very often, and not every pair of siblings, but based on the way Jungkook cares for his little sister, it’s very well possible.

They also have similarly shaped eyes and smiles.

“Mr. Weasley!” Yoongi yelps, scooping up the furball like Simba, who whines with a surprised meow. “Holy shit, it’s his sister! It’s not his girlfriend!”

The blonde girl is Jungkook’s sister, and Yoongi had spent a whole day tearing himself apart over the possibility of a girlfriend. He feels like an idiot, but he also feels infinitely better. He wants to keep scrolling through Jungkook’s page, but he thinks better of it. Facebook is shit, and social media is trash. It’s a good thing he doesn’t use Instagram.

 

*

 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What should I wear?

Hoseok
Nothing too wild
There’s children, and they’re really excited they get to stay up late tonight

Haha

Hoseok
I can’t wait to see you!!!
Kinda can’t believe it!!

Yoongi can’t believe it either.

On the day of the party, he tosses shrimp into a concoction of olive oil, garlic, and other spices hanging around his apartment, and cooks the shrimp in a skillet until they’re nice and pink. He also makes guac, which he’s always confident in. Namjoon and Seokjin are basically addicted to his guacamole. Portioning the guac into tortilla scoops, he tops them off with the shrimp. Everything goes into the largest glass tupperware that he owns. There probably aren’t enough, but at least he won’t show up empty handed to the party.

With no one to impress, he pulls on a favorite green sweater that goes to his thighs and a soft pair of jeans. Cologne on, hair fixed with a comb and some gel, he’s ready for this party that he’s curious enough to go to. When the time comes to leave, he remembers to bring the two gift bags that he had prepared for Hoseok’ girls.

The drive isn’t that long. Following Hoseok’s instructions, he parks his car in a free lot about a block away from Hoseok’s address. The usual dread he feels for social functions comes in full force the moment he steps out of his car, but it’s too late now. Hoseok is expecting him, and he really does want to meet Haru and Hana some time before they go off to college.

By the time he’s in front of Hoseok’s cute, medium-sized suburban home, he’s about fifteen to twenty minutes late to the official start time of the party. Every window is lit up welcomingly in the evening darkness. Light up Mickey and Minnie lights greet visitors on the porch. Almost all of Hoseok’s neighbors also still have Christmas decorations up, which cast soft shadows over the thin layer of snow on the ground.

He rings the doorbell. Behind the front door, muffled babble of people talking and laughing can be heard. A couple moments later, the door opens, and a nice looking man appears. He has on a smart, white sweater and black trousers, and he’s smiling with both his eyes and his lips.

“Hi. Is this Hoseok’s house?” Yoongi asks even though he checked the address three times.

“It is. Welcome! Yoongi, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m Jimin. It’s hard to believe we’re meeting at last. I thought for sure we’d be retired by the time this happens.”

Jimin extends a hand, and Yoongi is about to free up an arm to shake hands, but -

“Wait, you’re Jimin?” Yoongi is so incredulous, he almost lets the dish in his hands slip. “Isn’t Jimin - you know - Hoseok’s wife?”

Disturbed, Jimin retracts his hand with a pause to make sense of what Yoongi just said. Behind him, the party continues, spilling through the door and into the night. Jimin breaks into a smirk. “Well, surprise! We’re gay!”

“Wh - really?

“Yeah. Pretty sure. Very gay.”

“Oh my God.”

“Hobi told me you’re clueless about some things, but I didn’t know you’re this clueless.”

Yoongi wants to bury himself under three feet of snow. “You’re wrong… I’m not clueless - I’m just a complete moron.”

“Well, you’re in luck. We like morons over here, apparently.”

Two sets of little feet accompanied by shouts of high-pitched voices stampede down the hall. They get louder and louder as they near the front door. Jimin winks at Yoongi. “Well, good luck tonight,” he says. “You’re the only one they haven’t met yet, officially, and they love meeting new people. They totally get that from Hobi.”

“Oh God.” That’s all Yoongi can say before two little girls appear, fighting for space between Jimin’s legs.

“Uncle Yoon!”

“Hi, Uncle Yoon!”

“Heya, Haru, Hana,” Yoongi says weakly, bending down slightly.

“Girls, let him inside first.” Jimin herds the two back, and Yoongi finally steps inside Hoseok’s house, toeing off his shoes among a sea of other shoes. To the immediate left and right are brightly decorated rooms where people are already hanging about with plates and drinks in their hands. Some of them are Yoongi’s coworkers but only a few. If Yoongi is any indication, Hoseok hasn’t exactly gone around the floors announcing his sexuality.

Hoseok had either said or implied that this would be a smaller occasion. Yoongi suspects that their definition of small isn’t quite the same. Music plays in the house and merges with the sound of a TV from somewhere else. That, plus the people and smell of food, accosts him from all directions.

Jimin leads him down a hall towards the kitchen area while the twin girls surround Yoongi like little bodyguards.

“Lemme take that,” Jimin says, and Yoongi hands him the dish. “Wow, this looks amazing.”

“They’re shrimp tostada bites. I’ve never made them before, but I tasted one earlier and it was all right so…”

Jimin groans in appreciation. “Trust me, I’m gonna eat like half of these.”

The kitchen is connected to a dining room, and Jimin sets the dish down on an isle with other foods and appetizers. “How was the drive here?” Jimin asks, taking Yoongi’s coat as well.

“Not bad,” Yoongi answers. “Oh, these are gifts for Haru and Hana.”

The girls erupt into excited yelling, and Jimin beams.

“Girls, what do you say?”

“Thank you! Gamsahamnida!” It seems like this had been their main objective this whole time because they take the bags and run off like little bandits. Relieved, Yoongi doesn’t mind.

He ends up following Jimin to a small study room where a mountain of other coats, hats and scarves are being kept.

“Where’s Hoseok?”

“He’s in the basement talking with some folks, I think. Don’t worry, he’ll be up soon.”

“Right.”

Jimin surprises him by slapping him in the back when they exit the study room. “Go get some food! There’s going to be a group photo soon. Taehyung insists on one every year. We’re still waiting on some people.”

Once back in the kitchen area, Yoongi stays near the food, which keep him occupied enough to not feel awkward. There are a lot of couples here and several other children. Most of them are in the basement, based on the high-pitched shrieks of laughter. Some coworkers come by to say hi, and Taehyung hangs out with Yoongi once he and his wife Yuna spot him.

“You made these?” Taehyung is very impressed by the tostada bites and fits four in his mouth at once.

“They were pretty easy.”

“If I made them, I’d burn the house down.”

“A very high possibility,” Yuna agrees.

“Well, at least you don’t need fire for guac,” Yoongi points out the bright side.

“Then he’d chop off his whole hand,” Yuna says morbidly. Taehyung just laughs.

“Damn.”

“So, you got any New Year’s resolutions?” Taehyung asks Yoongi.

“Uh, maybe read more?” Yoongi hasn’t thought about it. “What about you?”

“Nope.”

“Me neither,” Yuna says.

“Well, how ‘bout a girlfriend?” Taehyung asks, reaching for more tostada bites.

“Tae, what the heck,” Yuna frowns, flicking the back of Taehyung’s head in exasperation.

“Uh. I’m… more on Hoseok and Jimin’s side.”

Taehyung’s eyes light up with something Yoongi can’t place. “I’ll be honest, I already had an inkling.”

“Do I look super gay or something?”

“I mean, you’re Hoseok’s friend.”

“Okay… but you are too.”

“I had an inkling. Anyways, if you’re interested, I’ve got a cute friend I’d love to introduce to you. When I say cute, I mean super cute, also forever single, and you’re just his type, too. I bet you two would get along - ”

“Too late, there’s already someone he likes,” Hoseok says, popping out of nowhere. The next thing he does is pull Yoongi into a hug while Yoongi tries not to accidentally smash his plate of food into Hoseok’s back. He ends up inhaling Hoseok’s familiar cologne. “Long time no see! Welcome and Happy New Year’s!”

After Hoseok lets Yoongi go, Taehyung persists, “Okay. Cool, but I have a feeling that whoever you like is probably not as cute as my friend. He hasn’t gone on a date since the beginning of time. Seriously. Look, - ”

Before Taehyung shows Yoongi a photo on his phone, Hoseok elbows Taehyung in the side.

“Dude, you almost made me drop a tostada,” Taehyung swears.

Tae, he really likes this dude. He could’ve come today, too, if Yoongi had manned up a little earlier. So stop trying to set him up.”

“Can’t a guy look out for his friends? Yoongi’s a nice guy, he’s got a great job, and he makes great food. All of which you know makes him a great suitor for our little…”

“Um…” Yoongi coughs, feeling embarrassed beyond belief.

“Guys, if you keep this up, Yoongi’s never going to hang out again,” Eunsoo says, materializing at Yoongi’s side. “But, like, tell us more, Yoongi. Who’s this guy you like?” She sips from her drink.

Hoseok, help me,” Yoongi protests, imploring with his eyes.

Hoseok just shrugs. “We’re all just busybodies here. Also, Eunsoo, I don’t know about anything beyond their first date.”

“They went on a date ?”

“They weren’t officially dates,” Yoongi corrects immediately.

“And you went on more than one ? Without telling me?”

“Maybe we should drop this, uh, topic? We still gotta work together after tonight. And I actually have to work tomorrow.”

“So do I, ugh. Sucks. Want some champagne?” Eunsoo offers Yoongi.

“No thanks, I don’t drink much anymore.”

“More for me.” Eunsoo shrugs.

Eventually, Hoseok takes pity on Yoongi and starts a conversation about his family trip to South Korea. The small group oohs and ahhs over photos of Haru and Hana. At one point, Jimin joins them.

“Why the frick are all the tostadas gone?” He immediately hones in on the empty plate.

“Uh, don’t you think it’s time to take the group photo? I think everyone’s basically here,” Taehyung tries to change the topic.

Someone goes to round up the kids in the basement, and against all odds, everyone is gathered in the family room in front of a large, delicate watercolor painting hanging above two closed glass doors that lead out to a sunroom. Hoseok drags Yoongi next to him, and Taehyung sets up the tripod.

“Actually, can everyone scoot over to the left? Hold on - no, I mean, your right,” Taehyung requests. Everyone grudgingly shifts over.

“Why?” Jimin asks.

“Because it’s New Year’s Eve and you still have a freakin’ Christmas tree in the corner. Ten years from now you’ll look back and think this was Christmas. And that’s why people never learn from their mistakes - because history’s never recorded accurately.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Whatever, let’s just take the damn photo.”

“Oooh!” Hana yells. “Appa said a baaad word!” All the kids begin hooting like little monkeys. Yoongi feels a headache coming on. His mind wanders. He wonders if Mr. Weasley is lonely since they’re normally holed up inside at this time of the night. And is Jungkook with his family and his blonde sister right now? Or is he actually with his blonde girlfriend?

“Everyone, shut the hell up!” Irene hollers, her irritable but commanding voice effectively scaring all the children and Yoongi’s brain silent, just long enough for three takes from the camera. The process is much quicker than Yoongi anticipates, for which he is grateful.

After the photoshoot, everyone returns to socializing. A bunch of people resume monopoly. The TV’s volume gets raised. There’s just a little more than hour until 2020, and it’s surreal. This whole year has been surreal. Yoongi feels like he's only been truly alive during these last three weeks because he can’t remember what he did all the months before.

After a while, Haru and Hana lay claim to Yoongi, and they force him down onto the carpet of the living room by a pair of leather couches. They play Qwirkle with Hoseok and Jimin, who switch off as the fourth player, and then the girls get restless. Then they play Uno, but the girls can’t seem to understand the rules, so Yoongi gives up trying to explain after the fifth “Hana, you can’t put that card down because it’s not yellow or seven.” Finally, they end up playing princesses-who-go-to-the-store-and-make-a-pizza, which is just as confusing, but Hoseok knows this game well, so he follows along.

“Appa, cheese pizza! Here you go!”

“Thank you, Haru! It’s so delicious!” Hoseok pretends to eat the fake pizza.

“Appaaa, eat mine too!”

“Wow, I’m getting full. Why don’t you give one to Uncle Yoongi?”

Hana sticks it under Yoongi’s nose, and Yoongi pretends to eat it despondently.

“You don’t like it?” Hana asks.

“I love it,” Yoongi says drly.

“Uncle Yoon is lyinggg.”

“Jeez, Yoongi,” Jimin jokes.

And this is where he is, sitting on Jimin and Hoseok’s plush, thick carpet, when the doorbell rings ten minutes before midnight. The girls have been losing steam, the fake pizzas coming out more and more funky looking.

“Who is it?” Jimin asks Hoseok.

“No idea.”

“Could be a serial killer.”

“Good thing we have these pizzas to knock ‘em out,” Yoongi mutters.

“Sooo I’ll get the door,” Taehyung offers, already getting up.

“Good. Go and atone for your sins,” Jimin says, who eventually found out where all the tostadas went.

The front door is mostly obstructed by the stairs swathed in tinsel, but over the din of the party, Taehyung’s voice can still be heard.

“Kookie!”

“Heya, Tae.” Someone giggles.

Yoongi freezes. That voice. That giggle.

“Is that Kook? He said he’d be with his family.” Jimin looks to his husband for confirmation.

“That’s what I thought, too,” Hoseok says into a glass of wine.

Jimin leaves the family room, which means the girls suddenly come back alive, and they skip towards the front door with Jimin in a flail of slippery socks.

Yoongi stares at Hoseok.

“It’s Jimin’s college friend,” Hoseok explains, cheeks red. “He’s the one Tae tried to set you up with earlier, remember? Haha.”

Huh?

“Happy New Year’s, dude!” Taehyung’s voice booms loud and clear, even though Yoongi still can’t see them yet.

“Weren’t you hanging with your family tonight?” Jimin’s voice is far fainter.

“Oh, I am. Or I guess, I was?”

The voice is unmistakable.

“Here, get a drink,” Taehyung says. “Only one though, so make it last until twelve. Just warning you, but there’s some things called children around here.”

“Thanks for the warning, but I needa drive later.”

“Are you kidding?” Jimin sounds offended. “You’re like an hour out! Just crash here.”

“No offense, but Haru and Hana jumped me in my sleep last time, and I still have PTSD from that. Well, I love you guys ‘n all, but I’m kinda looking for someone…”

Their voices come closer and closer, and Yoongi can’t move. He’s stuck. Is this really happening…?

The group rounds the corner, and like two magnets, Yoongi’s eyes instantly lock with Jungkook’s. Both wear shocked expressions.

Hoseok notices first. “Do you guys know each other?”

Yoongi swallows.

“We’re neighbors,” Jungkook says.

Both of Taehyung’s eyes and lips widen into round O’s. “You’re neighbors?

“Hold on,” Jimin says, “ Neighbor neighbors?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi barely squeaks it out.

“No, but, that neighbor?” Taehyung’s voice raises.

“Yes!” Jungkook raises his voice too, looking very frazzled. “Now can you guys please - I don’t know - disappear for about five minutes?”

Yes, we most certainly can,” Hoseok agrees emphatically, taking his wine and herding Taehyung and Jimin out with his free arm. “Shoot, Yoongi, neighbors. I can’t believe this.”

“Me neither,” Yoongi replies faintly.

“You guys have five minutes, and then I want explanations!” Jimin calls out. Then he’s gone, and suddenly it’s just Jungkook and Yoongi.

Yoongi and the object of his affections.

Wordlessly, Jungkook walks over, socks treading softly on the carpet. When he reaches Yoongi, he crouches down onto his knees so that they’re just a few inches away from each other. It’s barely been a week, but Yoongi’s chest aches a little from being so near him. At eye level with Jungkook, he lets out a breath that he didn’t know he’s been holding.

“I thought you were with your family,” Yoongi echoes what everyone’s been saying.

“I… chickened out,” Jungkook explains.

“You chickened out… of your family?”

“Nah.” Jungkook shakes his head, breaking eye contact and shyly looking down, fingers pulling at the thick carpet. “When you asked me to hang out on New Year’s Eve, I was really happy. Like, super super happy. ‘Cause, I like being with - you know - you. But then I got scared.” Yoongi meets his eyes again in confusion. “I - I’m not good with strangers. Or meeting new people. Not like how you are.”

Yoongi’s mouth parts in indignation. Him? Good at meeting people?

“Are you sure you’re talking about me?”

“I know what I’m talking about,” Jungkook huffs. “I spent three years hoping you’ll notice me. But the moment you do, you’re the one who asks me out to dinner. Or home to dinner. Whatever.”

Three years?

“I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself in front of your friends, so…” Jungkook shrugs. “So, um, that’s why I said I couldn’t come. I mean, I really was with my family. We have fun. But then I saw you in Taehyung’s Insta, and I just had to…”

“Come here,” Yoongi fills in.

“Yup.” Jungkook pops his p like a bubble.

“Did your parents say anything?”

Jungkook pouts slightly. “I’m twenty-five! I can do whatever I want.”

Yoongi chuckles. “My bad.”

“I sped here when I found out I don’t have to worry about making a fool out of myself in front of your friends. Because they’re my friends too.” Jungkook smiles shyly, which Yoongi mirrors unconsciously.

“Hoseok’s really my only friend here.”

A scornful squeak cries out from somewhere close by in the house. “ Jeez, Yoongi - you really are a moron!” Jimin calls out over the commotion of the party, effectively scaring both Yoongi and Jungkook. “We’re all your friends here!”

“I feel really hurt!” Taehyung shouts out as well.

A few more indignant voices cheep with sympathy.

“Shut up and mind your own business!” Jungkook yells back, cheeks up in flames.

“This whole entire time Yoongi was the neighbor who never gave Kook the time of day.” Taehyung doesn’t stop talking.

“I don’t know how I didn’t put two and two together,” Hoseok adds self-critically.

As Jungkook’s whole face turns redder and redder, Yoongi chuckles. “This is kind of crazy,” Yoongi whispers. Jungkook nods back. “I’m glad you came.”

“Really?” Jungkook’s eyes fill with stars.

“Definitely. I was bummed when you couldn’t come.”

Jungkook instantly changes into worry. “I’m sorry. I’m an idiot.”

“Please don’t say that. It didn’t make any sense for me to ask you anyways. It was too late, and we’ve only known each other for two weeks.”

“...That’s what you think.”

Yoongi looks at him in question. Jungkook sighs and brings both hands up to his face so that Yoongi can only see his eyes through the cracks of his fingers.

“I didn’t plan to say this while all my friends are eavesdropping but… I’ve liked you for years.”

“Oh.” Yoongi’s heart stops.

“You couldn’t tell?”

“I, uh… Well, no.”

Jungkook groans, dropping his hands onto his knees. “I say hi to you all the time.”

“Most polite people do that.” Yoongi pauses. “However your hellos are particularly nice.”

“I also leave you Snoopy Valentines in your mailbox every year,” Jungkook continues.

“So, the ‘I’d be more secure if you’d be my valentine’ card is from you?”

Jungkook nods.

“I thought it was from the neighbor kids.”

“Kids don’t even know Snoopy anymore. Snoopy isn’t even relevant with my high schoolers,” Jungkook says in dismay. He’s the cutest thing in the world, and Yoongi just smiles and says:

“Okay. You’re sweet.”

”Um. I also carry up all your Amazon packages and leave them by your door.”

“...I really thought that was just the delivery guy doing his job.”

God no. They don’t do that. They just leave packages all over the place.”

“So are there any other sweet gestures I’ve been blind to?”

“Yes, I mean, there are, but this is embarrassing.”

“Don't,” Yoongi reassures. “If I didn’t like you already, hearing all that would have made me fallen for you for sure.”

“I - I, okay.” Jungkook suddenly seems extremely overwhelmed. “You like me?”

“How can I not?” Yoongi replies honestly.

Jungkook sags against the base of the couch. He rubs at his eyes tiredly because it had taken just under an hour to get here, and it’s late. It feels later than it actually is. It’s the last night of the year. When he opens his eyes again, Yoongi is watching him fondly.

“I think five minutes passed a long time ago,” Yoongi says. “It’s going to be midnight soon. Do you want to join everyone else?”

“Yeah. But, um.” Jungkook makes a hand motion between the two of then. “What…”

“I don’t know,” Yoongi answers truthfully. “All I know is that I really like you.”

“But?” The younger man sounds a little apprehensive.

“I think we need to get to know each other better before anything else. Also…” Shoulders hunched, Yoongi looks down at the carpet. “I’m not in the best shape. My eomeoni passed away in January, and I haven’t been the same since. Well, I wasn’t great before either, but...” Yoongi shrugs, letting the silence convey the rest.

“You want me to wait?” Jungkook asks gently.

“I would like you to, but you don’t need to,” Yoongi corrects quickly.

“But are we, like, um.” Jungkook scrunches up his nose. “Say if someone else asked you - or me - on a date. What would you say?”

Yoongi tilts his head. “I would tell them there’s someone I like already. But I don’t expect you to do the same.” His answer makes Jungkook smile, and Yoongi marvels at how transparent Jungkook can be.

“Okay, I mean I do that already.”

“He does, even though I tell him acting like a fake UPS guy isn’t going to make his neighbor reciprocate his feelings any more than doing nothing.”

Both Jungkook and Yoongi jump at Jimin’s reappearance.

“Hey guys,” he says, “This is very cute, and I’m happy for you two, but the ball is about to drop.”

With sheepish faces, Yoongi and Jungkook get off the carpet and join the rest of the party in the other room. People are singing and laughing. Some are a little more intoxicated than they should be and try to hide it from the children who weave in and out and around the groups of adults. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve plays on TV.

Eunsoo comes skipping a long. “Hey, I’m Eunsoo!” Eunsoo introduces herself to Jungkook with a flushed and happy face. “Yoongi’s coworker. And you’re the one who sends good morning texts to Yoongi!”

Jungkook glances at him, and Yoongi becomes the color red.

“Yep, that’s me,” Jungkook grins.

“Great, great!”

Hoseok heads over to the trio like a mother hen. “Eunsoo, now’s not the time to harass them.”

“I’m not harassing! I’m celebrating the birth of a new couple. Give me some credit, puh-lease,” Eunsoo protests.

“Oh? Congratulations!” Hoseok turns to the newly minted couple and then calls out, “Tae! Hey guess what? They’re together!”

“I called it! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

Hoseok frowns. “What’d you mean you called it? We found out at the same time.”

Jungkook titters nervously. “Wait, technically we’re not actually a - ” But he doesn’t finish because Yoongi slides a hand into his so naturally it takes Yoongi’s own breath away. Their eyes meet. Is this okay?

Yoongi answers with a shy smile. So much for not putting a label onto things.

“Okay, okay!” Jimin yells out. “Anyone who wants a drink right now come over here. Haru, you can only have juice or hot cocoa.”

“You want any?” Yoongi asks Jungkook.

“Nah. You?”

“I’m good.”

In a matter of minutes, the countdown starts.

59…

Their hands tighten just a little.

47…

Yoongi can’t tell if time is speeding up or slowing down.

28…

Jungkook turns around so that he’s directly facing Yoongi.

26…

He picks up Yoongi’s other hand.

15…

Yoongi focuses on a thread on Jungkook’s sweater.

“Ten!”

“Can I kiss you?” Jungkook asks so softly that Yoongi almost misses his words.

“Nine!”

“Mhm.”

“Eight! Seven! Six! Five!”

It feels like his heart is trying to get out of its rib cage.

“Four! Three! Two!”

Jungkook leans down… but Yoongi springs up first and ( “One!” ) kisses Jungkook on the lips, surprising the younger man and catching his small gasp.

“Oh,” Jungkook breathes out while people yell and cheer all around, shoulders bumping and elbows jostling, but no one bothers them. Yoongi can’t stop beaming at Jungkook, who leans back down and gives Yoongi another light kiss. The touch of his soft lips makes Yoongi’s heart impossibly full of Jungkook, and he bursts into a thousand little pieces at once.

Jungkook withdraws his hands and wraps his arms around Yoongi, pulling him closer. Yoongi does the same.

Around them, the room continues to bubble with excitement for the new year. Yoongi can only pay attention to Jungkook.

“Happy New Year,” Jungkook says breathily, an unabashed smile gracing his face.

“Happy 2020,” Yoongi says. Jungkook sways slightly, rocking Yoongi side to side, who rests his forehead on Jungkook’s shoulder. He thinks he can feel the other guy’s heart beating.

 

*

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Jungkook stays the night at Hoseok and Jimin’s place, but Yoongi drives back to his apartment as per plan since he has work the next day.

“I’ll see you soon,” Jungkook had promised.

They end up texting until Yoongi falls asleep at 3 am. Even though he’s groggy when he wakes up in the morning, and his coffee is ineffective, he’s alive.

Jungkook 💕
have a good day at work! o( ❛ᴗ❛ )o

Blegh
Thank you :)
Have a good day too!

Yoongi’s new relationship doesn’t magically make him like his job more, but even Yoongi’s boss, who is five years away from retirement, notices a change in his mood.

“Had a good break?” his boss asks when Yoongi visits his office to drop off a folder.

“Yep. How were the Bahamas?”

“Amazing!” Today, his boss’s animated self doesn’t annoy the heck out of Yoongi. “Island hopped and saw the swimming pigs. Got back in the wife’s good books after I told her I didn’t like her cinnamon strudels just before we left. Wasn’t a good idea, but her new baking hobby was wearing me thin. So whadja do?”

“Umm…” Yoongi’s head fills with Jungkook’s smiles. Jungkook doesn’t start school until next week and is caught between wanting to relax more in his chilly apartment versus needing to lesson plan.

Eunsoo walks inside the office, adding a stack of files to Yoongi’s folder. “Hey, boss. Yoongi started dating,” she says breezily. Yoongi glares at her back as she leaves, but he’s not actually angry. He almost kind of wants everyone to know.

“No way, that’s great!” His boss looks delighted. He holds up a hand, and it takes Yoongi a second to grudgingly give him a high five. “Congrats, man! Who is she?”

Yoongi isn’t about to come out to his boss. “Uh, a friend introduced us,” he answers. There’s an ounce of truth in there somewhere.

“That’s great! I’m happy for you. Maybe you can invite her to the next...” His boss squints at the calendar on his desk. “To the company anniversary party?”

Yoongi never attends office parties, and he highly doubts he’ll invite a girlfriend to it, but stranger things have happened. For example, somehow he got a cute guy like Jungkook to like him.

“Uh, we’re not quite there yet,” he says.

“Sure, sure.”

When school starts again, Jungkook gets busier, but the nice part about being neighbors is that Jungkook can walk a couple steps down the hall and be inside Yoongi’s apartment in the evenings. After New Year’s Eve, they’re considerably more relaxed around each other. Yoongi makes sure he always has milk in his fridge.

They don’t do much together. They don’t makeout, much less sexier things. In fact, they haven’t kissed again since that night, but Yoongi is fine with that, and Jungkook seems fine with it too. Yoongi cooks more for Jungkook, who eventually finds the rows of neglected bottles of wine stashed in a cupboard of Yoongi’s kitchen and starts working through them. They talk a lot, about nothing and everything.

The relationship is different from the ones Yoongi used to have when he was younger, and it’s been a long time since he was in one that was more than a series of dates. It’s slower and more subdued. It’s not the crackles of a bonfire. It’s a closed room in the winter slowly warming up.

Not that Yoongi finds Jungkook any less hot. Jungkook is unfairly attractive.

Like the very first time Yoongi knocked on Jungkook’s door, most of the time Jungkook comes over after he’s showered already because he likes to clean up after a whole day at school. “I need to wash off all the cooties,” Jungkook jokes.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “I know you like your students.”

Only when they stay at school.”

“Remember the mall? When we were in that store?”

“Of course.” Jungkook pretends to shiver. “You know how you feel weirded out when you see your teacher at Target or something? The teacher is just as weirded out.”

So it means Jungkook usually has wet hair and smells like soap whenever he’s over at Yoongi’s place. He’s the definition of freshness, and it makes Yoongi want to do things. Throw a plate at the wall. Throw himself at Jungkook. But he’s twenty-eight and has self-control.

There’s a part of Yoongi that feels scared, like this can’t last, but he goes with it. It’s better to have had than nothing at all.

January continues, and as usual, Hoseok drops by during lunchtimes.

They’re ten feet away from the taco place when something changes. Yoongi suddenly halts in the middle of the sidewalk downtown. Standing in the shade of the tall city buildings, he’s prepared for Hoseok’s weird look.

“Can we go somewhere else? I’m not actually a fan of tacos,” Yoongi says. He’s not prepared for what Hoseok says.

“You know, I’ve been waiting for you to say that for years.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I’ve literally never seen anyone else eat tacos so tastelessly.”

“Damn. Did I suffer for nothing?”

“Nah, I love tacos.”

“I only ever eat tacos for you.”

Hoseok sniffs. “That’s real touching.”

Instead of the taco place, they get sandwiches. (Later on they get Indian, and Korean, and Japanese… they only get tacos when Hoseok insists and needs a pick-me-up after a frustrating morning.)

“So, you and Jungkook,” Hoseok says after they slide into a booth with their sandwiches. “Jungkook’s been single for so long, I forgot he’s one of those who likes posting couple pics on his Instagram.”

“Does he? I don’t use it.” Yoongi shrugs.

“His Instagram is basically photos of the food you made or you cooking him food or him eating your food.”

“That sounds like him.”

“I also hear it’s getting hot between you two.”

Yoongi snorts. “What? Where’d you hear that?”

“From Jimin.”

“Did Jungkook tell him that?”

“I dunno.”

“Well, it must be a metaphorical ‘hot’ because…” Yoongi trails off, his mind wandering over to Jungkook’s collarbones and forearms.

“I’m a married, gay man. You can tell me about the bang-bang,” Hoseok prods.

Yoongi laughs. It’s a little weird talking about this with Hoseok after years of sticking to business, basketball, and babies, but it’s an okay kind of weird. “There’s no banging.”

“None?”

“Nope.”

“Huh. That’s interesting.”

Yoongi is interested. “Why do you say that?”

“Nah, I’ve just been hearing about Jungkook’s seriously hot neighbor for years, to the point that everyone thought he was making it up. He’s shyer than he looks, huh? He really likes you.” Hoseok grins like a cat.

Yoongi smiles at his sandwich. “Well, I really like him.”

“This is better than when the girls started using the toilet. I can’t explain how happy I am for you guys.”

“You sound just like my boss.”

“Hey, companies tend to attract similar people.”

“And I’m the odd one out.”

“Keyword similar, not identical. Also, this year’s motto is ‘diversity and inclusion,’ is it too much to ask you to pay attention during meetings?”

 

*

 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

January is a cold month, and Jungkook’s warmth can only chase away Yoongi’s cold when he’s near. However fast time tries to slip by, Yoongi is aware of every passing day as the date of his mother’s anniversary creeps nearer. It’s hard to suppress thoughts about her. She’s the weight in his chest when he wakes up.

She’s with him in the car when he drives to work, the same car she took him to buy, brand spanking new, after he graduated, and they took turns driving it all the way up north when he got this job.

She’s there between the words he types on the screen, because she was a writer, and he loved just sitting in the same room together and listening to the sounds of her typing. She touches everything he has.

She’s always in the back of his heart, and something about the cold draws her out enough to cast a shadow over everything. He knows it’s natural. It’s grief’s course.

He remembers the phone call from Mrs. Kim like it happened yesterday and hears it in his dreams so often, he had to change his ringtone.

When Yoongi gets sad, he wants to be alone. He starts telling Jungkook he’s busy in the evenings because of work, and Jungkook takes it. Their conversations slow down. Mr. Weasley starts hiding.

Yoongi gets up late that morning and rushes through everything. He doesn’t eat breakfast and doesn’t notice Mr. Weasley. When he gets back in the evening, there isn’t a cat on the high chair. He doesn’t think about it until he sits down to eat, and he notices that there isn’t a ginger furball weaving in-between his legs and seeking for attention.

Dropping his spoon, he fumbles through the apartment. He looks in the kitchen, the cupboards, under the sink, yanks open closets, the bathroom. He looks in and under his bed…

Mouth dry, he runs out of his apartment fearfully and goes into the stairwell. He runs up and down and searches each floor.

“Hey! You see a cat around here?” he asks someone getting off the elevator. They shake their head.

Tears starting to sting his eyes, he goes back inside to get his coat so that he can search outdoors.

Just before he leaves, he notices the couch, the one thing he’s been running by this whole time.

“Mr. Weasley, this isn’t funny.” His voice is rough.

Getting on all fours, he lifts up the cover that hides the legs of the couch, and there Mr. Weasley is. The cat is curled up in the corner as if he’s sleeping, but there’s no rise and fall. Yoongi knows.

Still, he wraps up the small, unmoving thing in a quilt and runs down to his car with the bundle in his arms. He keeps it in his lap. Ready to peel out of there, he honks furiously at someone blocking the exit and taking too fucking long to reverse park. They flip him off, but he really doesn’t care.

By the time he gets to the vet, they’re just about to close.

They take the bundle from his arms, but it’s not like they can do anything. It’s too much.

Sitting down in one of those hard, plastic chairs, Yoongi starts crying like he can get the terrible weight out of his chest.

Mr. Weasley’s gone

It’s almost midnight by the time he gets back. He can’t bear to look at all the cat toys strewn around the apartment, so he just climbs into bed after kicking off his shoes and shedding his coat.

Joon
What do you mean!?
Yoongi?

[3 missed calls]

 

*

 

Friday, January 31, 2020

In the morning, Yoongi has enough self-awareness to notify his boss that he’s taking a sick day.

But for the rest of the day, he doesn’t know what he does. He doesn’t get up. He doesn’t answer Namjoon or Seokjin’s questions. He doesn’t answer Hoseok’s. He doesn’t respond to Jungkook’s good morning text.

He stays in bed and keeps sleeping.

Jungkook 💕
hi yoongi!!
i heard ur sick :(
can i come over? i make a mean can of chicken soup!

Jungkook 💕
nvm, i hope ur resting!!
goodnite~

 

*

 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Jungkook 💕
good morning~!
are you feeling better?

Jungkook 💕
yoongi!
min!
how are u doing?

Jungkook 💕
i hope ur okay

 

*

 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Jungkook 💕
are u ok? :(

Jungkook 💕
are u still alive?
:(

Jungkook 💕
i knocked on your door earlier
pls dont feel annoyed

 

*

 

Monday, February 3, 2020

If Jungkook replies to him, Yoongi decides he’ll be devoted to this guy for the rest of his life.

Jungkook, I’m really sorry for ghosting you
Mr. Weasley passed away on Thursday

[ Jungkook 💕 is typing…]

[ Jungkook 💕 is typing…]

[ Jungkook 💕 is typing…]

Yoongi waits nervously.

Jungkook 💕
yoongi, don’t apologize!!
im sorry i didn’t know TT TT
im so sorry
im sorry i keep saying sorry

Watching the messages appear one after another, Yoongi’s affection rises and rises. He doesn’t deserve Jungkook.

Don’t be sorry >:(
I just needed time to myself
But I should’ve said something sooner

Jungkook 💕
i get it…
do u want me to come over tonite?

Yes please

Jungkook 💕
ill be there after schl!

Yoongi gets to work an hour late. It’s the latest he’s ever been, but his boss just claps him on the back and says that he’s glad Yoongi’s back.

When he gets to his desk, there’s a card on it from Hoseok. Two cryptic drawings are slipped inside, which Yoongi presumes are from Haru and Hana. He tapes them on the wall of his cubicle.

A bit later, Eunsoo pops in without a word and plops a goodie bag of cookies on his desk.

Even Irene smiles at him when he walks by her station.

He doesn’t deserve any of them. The least he can do is try his best at work, but he’s distracted. His mind keeps jumping from his mother to Mr. Weasley to Jungkook and back. It’s hard.

Five o’clock rolls around, and his body is on automated setting. Somehow, he drives back even though his mind is on anywhere but the road. He just follows the traffic and stops when he needs to.

When he walks by Jungkook’s apartment, he knocks on the door on a whim. Footsteps sound from the other side, and Jungkook appears at the door. His hair is still dry, so he hasn’t taken a shower yet.

“Hey,” Yoongi says awkwardly. It’s been at least a week since they’ve seen each other.

“Hey, you.” Jungkook takes him by surprise when he reaches forward and pulls Yoongi into a hug. Yoongi is stiff, but he relaxes after a second. “How are you?” Jungkook murmurs into Yoongi’s hair, and the tenderness stabs at Yoongi.

“Can I come in?” Yoongi just says.

Jungkook tugs him inside, and they sit on the couch. There’s an inch of space between them.

“Have you eaten yet?” Jungkook asks.

Yoongi shakes his head.

“Lemme get you something - ”

Yoongi pulls Jungkook back down as soon as Jungkook moves to get up.

“Um, it’s fine. I don’t feel like eating right now. You know when you asked me why I don’t like it here?” Yoongi stares at his hands.

“Yeah.”

“This isn’t a secret or anything. I just don’t talk about it because it’s still hard for me.

“My emmeoni passed away a year ago in an accident. It was a drunk driver. Came outta fuckin’ nowhere.” Yoongi lets out a long breath and slouches against the couch. “It happens, right? Plenty of car accidents. Plenty of people with dead parents.

“But it sucks. So much. It really does. I miss her all the frickin’ time. I’m bad at keeping in touch with people, but she used to call me everyday. It used to drive me a little crazy, but now I miss it so much.” He swallows. “It still surprises me knowing that I can’t talk to her anymore.”

Jungkook takes Yoongi’s hands in his. The sweet gesture makes Yoongi’s eyes sting.

“I hate it here because I could’ve been home all this time. With her. There’s a lot of if-onlys. If only I didn’t apply to this job. If only I didn’t move. If only I stayed home. Maybe she’d still be here. I don’t know. If that was all the time she had allotted, at least I would’ve spent more time with her. I don’t even remember our last conversation. I can’t remember her voice anymore.”

Yoongi gets quieter and quieter. Jungkook squeezes his hand.

“And I hate it that I didn’t try here either. So it was all pointless. All I did during the last three years was work. I used to work a lot. I was gonna get promoted. But after - after she died, my performance really fell.”

“Yoongi...”

“And - Mr Weasley. He…” Yoongi swallows again, thickly, but he can’t get any more words out after that.

Jungkook reaches up to wipe Yoongi’s cheek with a finger because, somewhere along the way, Yoongi had started crying. And then Jungkook is simply hugging Yoongi again. He smells good. He’s so, so sweet, and it makes Yoongi cry harder. When Yoongi starts calming down, Jungkook speaks again.

“I think...”

“Hm.”

“You love your mom, and you miss her. And you’re not bad for working, Yoongi. You’re not bad for moving here. And it’s okay to regret. I’m sorry that you haven’t liked it here. I wish I…”

When Yoongi looks up, he realizes that Jungkook is crying too. Crying for him and with him. He’s beautiful. What is someone so beautiful doing, crying?

He made Jungkook cry, and it’s a terrible and a comforting thing.

It’s completely inappropriate - he should not do what he’s about to do, but Yoongi leans forward and licks away one of Jungkook’s tears with his tongue. It’s salty and intoxicating.

There’s a pause. Then Jungkook sniffles and leans forward, and they’re kissing with the soft slide of lips and tongues. Jungkook presses Yoongi into the couch, and his weight on top of Yoongi is perfect.

 

*

 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Yoongi, where are you!?” Seokjin’s voice puffs into the receiver as Yoongi navigates through the surprisingly busy airport.

“I said I’m in the outer lane. I just passed door three, and y’all were not there.”

“Oh, that’s because we’re at door two. And we’re in the middle lane.” Namjoon’s voice is fainter.

Guys,” Yoongi mutters, but he finds an open spot and shifts to park. He swears traffic control is already shooting him dirty looks. “Well, I’m outside door four. Come over here.”

Seokjin groans, but Yoongi spies his two friends within another two minutes. He presses the button to lift the trunk before getting out. The rush of the airport becomes even more amplified. He can’t wait to get out of here.

“Long time no see!” Namjoon grins when they roll up their luggages. He and Yoongi side hug.

“It’s fucking freezing here,” Seokjin says, teeth chattering.

“Why aren’t you wearing your coat?” Yoongi deadpans.

“Well, I was sure I would be inside a car within a second, but someone messed up...”

Yoongi ignores him and gives him a hug too.

“Alright, let’s get out of this hell hole,” he says after everything’s in the trunk.

“Hil-AIR-ious,” Seokjin says, but no one responds. Once they’re inside the car, Namjoon and Seokjin immediately start peppering Yoongi with questions. Despite Yoongi’s protests, the two are visiting for the weekend because if Yoongi isn’t going down South, then they’re coming up here.

“I want to see Jungkook,” Seokjin says as soon as they finish talking about work and people back in Texas and avoid talking about Mr. Weasley and the main reason why Namjoon and Seokjin wanted to come up.

“He’s home this weekend,” Yoongi lies.

“Then let’s go visit his ranch.”

“Jin, he lives in the suburbs,” Namjoon scoffs.

Joon, don’t be a twat. Don’t pretend like you don’t want to meet him either.”

“Didn’t you come to see me?” Yoongi asks.

“I can have ulterior motives, all right?”

You can say no
Actually, I hope you say no
But you know my friends are visiting for the weekend
They wanna meet you. Are you free tomorrow?
They’re nice idiots, you don’t have to worry

Jungkook 💕
hahaha
im free in the afternoon!

Yoongi knows the lack of an emoji means Jungkook is nervous, but since he didn’t say no, they have to follow through. He also knows Seokjin and Namjoon will love Jungkook on first sight, so the younger man has nothing to worry about. But until they directly meet, Jungkook won’t believe it.

 

*

 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

We’re at a corner table

Jungkook 💕
just got here!

Yoongi apparently underestimated Jungkook’s nervousness because Jungkook is wearing an extremely nice button-down when he steps inside the stuffy restaurant. He’s never seen Jungkook wear it before, but it looks familiar. Almost Taehyung-esque.

“If y’all make him uncomfortable…” Yoongi hisses.

“Over here!” Seokjin says loudly, waving excitedly at a spooked-looking Jungkook. When Jungkook comes closer, they shake hands. “Hey, I’m Seokjin. Just call me Jin.”

“I’m Jungkook,” Jungkook replies shyly, nervously biting his lower lip.

“I’m Namjoon, nice to meet you,” Namjoon says with an easy smile that seems to put Jungkook at ease.

The introductions aren’t terrible, and they all sit back down. Jungkook takes the empty seat next to Yoongi.

“I’ve known them since elementary school,” Yoongi explains. “We went to the same middle and high schools, too.”

“And then Joon ditched us for Cali,” Seokjin says.

“I’m back in Texas for my PhD though,” Namjoon says morosely.

“And now Yoongi’s gone,” Seokjin adds.

“I see,” Jungkook says, which makes Seokjin laugh.

“I can already see why Yoongi likes you,” he says. Yoongi coughs sharply. “Okayyy, how about let’s get some food?”

They order an unearthly amount of kalbi and samgyupsal, and soon the grill and vent are hard at work. Everyone but Yoongi drinks. Jungkook and Namjoon talk about teaching. Conversation flows more naturally, and Yoongi can tell the moment when Jungkook relaxes because he starts scrunching up his nose in laughter. The evening is nicer than anyone could have anticipated.

When dinner ends, they realize a problem. Jungkook is more than just tipsy, but he drove here.

“I’ll drive you back, and we can collect your car tomorrow?” Yoongi suggests.

“Nonono,” Jungkook waves him off, already on his phone and dialing someone. Yoongi doesn’t get what he’s doing until Jungkook yells out, “Taee! Taaeeehyuunng.”

“Are you drunk on a Sunday night?” Taehyung sounds surprisingly judgmental.

“Nooooo...”

Yoongi takes Jungkook’s phone, who doesn’t put up a fight. “Hey, Taehyung. It’s Yoongi.”

“Oh, hey Yoongs!”

“I’m out with Jungkook and a couple friends. But Jungkook’s, uh, he can’t drive right now. And he doesn’t want to leave his car here.”

Taehyung seems to understand immediately. “Do you need me and Yuna to come?”

“Well,” Yoongi eyes Jungkook, now happily chatting with Namjoon and Seokjin, who watch him in amusement, “I think that’s what Jungkook had in mind when he called you.”

“Okie dokes, lemme ask Yuna.”

“I don’t want to bother - ”

“She said YES!!” Taehyung acts like he had just proposed to her. “We’re on our way. Send me your location.”

Jeez. Yoongi is slightly dumbfounded. Fifteen minutes later, Yuna pulls into the parking lot with Taehyung in the passenger seat. Jungkook, the happy drunk, ambles over to Taehyung like a wobbly penguin. Yoongi walks over to Yuna’s window. She rolls it down only slightly since it’s cold.

“I’m really sorry,” he apologizes. She just rolls her eyes.

“It happens. We’re happy to help,” she says. “We were just done with groceries, anyways.”

So Yoongi drives Namjoon and Seokjin, who will spend the night with him before flying back the next morning, and Taehyung takes Jungkook’s car while Yuna follows behind them. It’s a whole parade.

Jungkook 💕
yoongi TT TT
im so sry i was a mess

You kinda were
I should’ve been more careful with you
But it’s fine :p
And Namjoon and Seokjin love you

Jungkook 💕
askdlfjklsj
TT TT

Jungkook 💕
u still… like me?

Absolutely

Jungkook 💕
:D
I LOVE U TOO
oh fuck
i mean
I LIKE U TOO
ignore me ignore me just ignore me

I… I’d rather say that to you too in person someday

Jungkook 💕
!!!
why wont u ignore me!!

Jungkook...
Because you’re too cute

Jungkook 💕
(//∇//)
enough!!

 

*

 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The night before Hoseok’s birthday, the weather takes a turn. They’ve been lucky enough to have a milder winter, but record breaking cold temperatures and recommendations to stay inside splatter all over the news for several days. Lying in bed, Yoongi defends himself with three layers of blankets. If he didn’t want to go to work before, he really doesn’t want to now.

Hey HR, can you cancel work tomorrow?

Hoseok
Not my decision to make :(

…….
[video]

It’s a clip of Haru storming it up in her crib.

Hoseok
Pfffft you saved that!?
I kind of wish they were babies again :( But then again not

Hoseok
Look at Kook with my girls ;)))
[photo]

Dammit Hoseok
I’m trying to SLEEP here

Hoseok
:)))
Wait
Dude you better not jerk off to this
My DAUGHTERS are in there

Should’ve thought twice before sending
;)))))

Hoseok
DUDE

Good grief I’m not

But Yoongi does spend a good chunk of the rest of the night looking at the photo of a younger, ruffled-looking Jungkook with two baby girls in his lap. His eyes are crinkled up in a smile, and it’s such a gentle moment. Thinking about Jungkook helps take his mind off the unmistakable absence of a furball in his bed.

When he wakes up at 6 AM, it’s absolutely freezing in his room even though he can hear the roar of the heating system. Wincing at the cold as he shakes off all the layers and the warmth they trapped, he can’t imagine what it’s like for Jungkook and his apartment -

There’s no good morning text from Jungkook yet even though the younger guy gets up earlier than him.

Hey, how is it at your place?

Yoongi gets up and goes through his usual routine. When he’s just about ready to leave for work, he checks his phone again. There’s still no response from Jungkook, and it worries him because that’s not normal. They don’t usually call, but he dials Jungkook’s phone number. Just before he thinks Jungkook won’t pick up, a groggy, hoarse voice answers.

“Hello…?”

“Jungkook?”

“Mhm. Yoongi?” Jungkook sounds a little more awake.

“Are you all right? Are you still sleeping?”

“Mmm… the schools get today and tomorrow off because of the extreme weather…”

Yoongi feels silly. “Okay. Sorry for waking you up.”

“But I like hearing your voice first thing. I definitely like that.” Pause. “I’m sick and saying stupid things right now.”

“You’re sick?”

“Yeah… something’s been going around, and it finally caught me.” As if on cue, Jungkook sneezes, and the rather loud sound squeezes at Yoongi’s heart. “Ahhhh, Yoongi, it’s so cold...”

Whining never sounded cuter.

“Is it cold at your place?”

“It’s like Antarctica here.”

“Come over here,” Yoongi says earnestly. “To my place. At least for these two days.”

“What? No! It’s not that cold.”

Yoongi pauses. He’s pretty sure Jungkook is being polite and not actually refusing his offer. “On an average day, your apartment is the inside of a freezer. I don’t wanna know what it’s like now. I’m coming to your door. I have to get to work soon.”

Saying so, Yoongi exits his place and shuffles a couple steps to Jungkook’s door because it’s even colder in the hallway. Fuck this place. He should move away.

Jungkook answers the door with the cutest bedhead Yoongi has ever seen. He also hasn’t shaved, and it makes him even cuter.

“I’m a mess, sorry.” Jungkook blinks blearily. Yoongi eyes his white T-shirt and blue sweatpants.

“This is all you’re wearing? Of course you’re cold!”

When Yoongi steps inside, the temperature barely changes compared to the hallway.

“I’m pretty sure this is violating basic human rights, Jungkook.” Yoongi shakes his head. “Get your stuff. You’re staying at my place.” Taking Jungkook by the arm, he pulls him to the bedroom. Jungkook just lets him.

The bed is just as rumpled as Jungkook’s hair, but the bedroom is relatively organized with a few articles of clothing heaped here and there. Yoongi nearly trips over a dumbell.

Dragging over a backpack, Jungkook sleepily throws some clothes inside. After getting his toiletries and stuffing a pillow under an arm, he says, “Okay, boss. Show me to your lair.”

“You’ve already been there.”

“Shhhh.”

They go back to Yoongi’s place, and Jungkook plops down and melts into the couch immediately, pillow under his head. Yoongi feels too shy to tell him that he can use his bed, so he just drapes the thickest comforter he has over Jungkook and sets a cup of hot water down on the coffee table with random snacks he lying around the kitchen.

Yoongi hunches down next to Jungkook’s head. “When you’re hungry, help yourself to anything, okay? You know where things are. I have leftover soup in the fridge. There’s canned chicken noodle, too. I’ll be back a little earlier today.”

“M’kay.” Jungkook smiles sweetly at Yoongi, comforter pulled up to his chin. Yoongi wants to stay with him so bad. Without thinking, Yoongi leans in and pecks Jungkook on the forehead. One of Jungkook’s arms slides out from under the covers and gently tugs Yoongi in again. He kisses Yoongi on the lips.

“If I get sick, I’m blaming you.”

“Hey, in sickness and in health,” Jungkook jokes.

“What, I let you crash on my couch, and you’re ready to marry already?”

Jungkook buries his face into the pillow. His voice comes back out muffled.“I’d marry you in a heartbeat. You’re nice to me, and you like cooking for me. What more can I ask for?”

Yoongi grins even though Jungkook can’t see it. “Then let’s get married when you’re feeling better. I’ll be back soon, okay?”

“Mhm. Tell Hoseok happy birthday for me.”

With Jungkook drifting back asleep, Yoongi shuts the front door behind him quietly and goes to work. There are less cars on the road, so arrives quicker than usual. He clocks in. As if even time freezes, the day goes by extremely slowly. Even Hoseok seems grouchy to be at work when Yoongi walks by his office.

“What’s wrong?” Yoongi asks. Hoseok sighs, rubbing the corner of his eyes.

“Hana’s sick, which means the rest of us will be, too.”

“Jungkook’s sick as well.”

Hoseok sighs again. “All our babies are sick.”

“Any chance for a happy birthday?” Yoongi sets a card down on Hoseok’s desk, causing the other man to raise his eyebrows.

“What’s this? There’s even a gift card inside?”

“It’s a crappy birthday gift and a thank you for lots of things.”

“Yoongi!” Hoseok stands up suddenly, marching forward and squeezing him in a hug. His desk chair rolls backwards until it hits the wall. Just as suddenly, he lets Yoongi go with a grimace, who looks at him questionably. Hoseok holds up a hand in apology. “Sorry, but, you said Jungkook’s sick, and I know you’re hanging around him, so let’s keep our distance. I’ve already got one sick child.”

“You said you’re gonna get sick anyways.”

“I’m hoping it won’t actually happen if I expect it to.” Hoseok drags his chair back and sits back down.

“I’m pretty sure psychology’s got it the other way around.”

“Oh, is that what you learned in Psych 101?”

Yoongi goes back to work, taking the long way back to his desk in order to avoid the new interns even though they eventually find him before the day ends anyway. It’s his second year being shucked with the responsibility of mentoring interns, and it’s not his favorite thing because they seem to actually look up to him. On the surface, he supposes it seems like he does have it all together. His job is enviable. Not everyone in his field lands a cushy job in a company like this one, and his salary and benefits aren’t anything to laugh at.

Due to the weather, the company tells them to end things a couple hours early, and soon he’s heading back to his apartment. His heart beats a little faster knowing that Jungkook will be there. Or should be. May be. He shouldn’t get his hopes up.

After the night they made out on Jungkook’s couch, they became significantly more comfortable with each other, but there’s still a variable of uncertainty that is Yoongi’s doing. Neither have mentioned what they’re hoping for long-term, Jungkook’s quips about marriage notwithstanding. Yoongi doesn’t even know how long he’s staying up here, but at least he hasn’t been half-assedly googling up new job opportunities like he used to.

There’s one thing he knows, and that’s that he wouldn’t mind staying up here for Jungkook, if that’s what the younger man wants.

When he opens his front door, the lights turned on are a surprise since he’s used to coming back to a dark apartment. Something smells good in the air, and he the borscht soup he made last night.

In the living room, the comforter and pillows are bunched off to one side of the couch, and a scatter of papers and folders decorate the coffee table. Jungkook must have gone back to his apartment to pick up work. Cheerful whistling sounds from the kitchen. When Yoongi pads over in his slippers, Jungkook is at the stove sauteing vegetables. He’s still in the same clothes as this morning, his floofy hair no better than before, but Yoongi doesn’t mind one bit. One of his hands rests on a hip as he cooks, and Yoongi can’t help but stop to admire Jungkook’s physique, his long legs, his waist, and his chest.

“You feeling better?” Yoongi asks.

“Shit!” Jungkook yelps when he turns around. Yoongi catches his arm with the spatula. “You scared me.”

“Sorry. That smells good, though. I think this is the first time I’ve seen you cook.” He lets go of Jungkook, who goes back to stirring the contents of the pan.

“Um, yeah. I feel a little embarrassed because you’re basically a chef, but I can cook for myself. And for you. Also, I’m feeling better.”

“That’s good to hear.” And because Yoongi is feeling things - things born out of seeing someone else acting adorable in his normally empty kitchen - he moves behind Jungkook and wraps his arms around the man’s trim waist, settling his chin on the other’s shoulder.

“I heat up the soup, and there’s rice in the cooker,” Jungkook says, ears reddening.

“You’re so perfect,” Yoongi murmurs.

“Um.”

“Yes you are.”

Jungkook clears his throat, embarrassed. “Can you take over the rest? I’m still kind of tired.”

“Okay, bun.” Yoongi lets him go.

Jungkook eyes him after handing over the spatula. “I liked that.”

“Hm?”

“When you called me that.”

“Bun? It’s because you’re a bunny.”

Jungkook groans, covering up his face.

After clearing off the coffee table, they eat sitting on cushions, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. Yoongi hunches over the table on one elbow, tired from work.

“Can I ask you some questions?” Jungkook asks.

“Shoot.”

“How do you feel right now… after Mr. Weasley and your mom?”

“I miss them. Sometimes I don’t handle it well. But it’s... Lots of people go through it.”

Jungkook nods. “Can I sleep with you tonight?”

Yoongi coughs on a spoonful of soup. “Jesus, Jungkook. Don’t just ask things like that.”

“Nonono - I didn’t mean that.” Jungkook is flustered. “I just mean - sharing a bed. That’s all. Although it’s fine with me if we do more…”

Yoongi nudges him with a knee. “I’m sure you’d be fine.”

Jungkook pouts at his food. “Do you… not want to?” Yoongi quiets him with a look.

“Since the first day you came over for dinner, I’ve wanted to do unspeakable things to you.”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “What things?”

“You know they’re called unspeakable for a reason.”

Jungkook’s gaze can burn a hole in the rice. “I can’t believe you’re turning me on right now. How am I supposed to eat when a lower part of me is hungrier?”

Yoongi barely swallows his last bite without choking again. He scoots Jungkook’s bowl of soup closer to him. “Just finish your soup, bun.”

 

*

 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Quietly, Yoongi turns off the alarm on his phone before it goes off. The air in his bedroom is stagnant and cold, cold, cold just like the morning before, but today he’s amazingly warm under the covers, compressed under someone else’s weight.

Jungkook’s bare arm drapes over Yoongi’s chest, and his shoulder blades rise and fall as he continues sleeping. His breathing and hair tickle Yoongi’s chin.

Outside, the community is waking up, the barest rush of cars and voices, and Yoongi can hear the tenant upstairs walk around, uneven floorboards creaking here and there, but it’s peaceful. Here with Jungkook, the bedroom is under a blue spell, and everything is peaceful.

If he turns his head, he can see their clothes on a chair, the rest hidden out of view on the floor. Sensations from last night flood his senses, and he stirs a little, curling a hand over the lower swell of Jungkook’s back.

They’re very naked, and unfortunately, Yoongi needs to get to work, so he shifts onto his side as slowly as possible, setting Jungkook’s arm down on the sheets. Only their legs remain tangled, and he pauses to watch Jungkook, his handsome, open face, his neck, his back.

“S’cold,” Jungkook murmurs. Yoongi tugs the blanket back up.

“Good morning… I gotta get ready for work, okay?” Yoongi says softly.

Jungkook cracks open his eyes. Strands of hair fall around his sleepy gaze. “Call off work, please?” he whines. “I’m still sick…”

“You didn’t seem very sick last night.”

“Mmm…” Jungkook smiles, and it’s like watching the gentle, orange morning glow of the sun slipping through pulled shades. “Last night… don’t you want that again?” He sneaks a hand onto Yoongi’s hip, stroking the skin while looking straight at Yoongi with bedroom eyes. Yoongi holds his breath, the little composure he still has crumbling away. Jungkook is the definition of stupid seduction. He swats Jungkook’s hand away before anything further happens.

“We can tonight, but I really gotta work.”

“For someone who hates his job, you’re awfully willing to go.” Jungkook pouts.

“I don’t like broccoli, but I still eat it ‘cause it’s good for me.”

Shivering, Yoongi gets out of bed while Jungkook pouts and checks out Yoongi. Yoongi putters around his room self-consciously, throwing a shirt over himself, almost deciding to dress up completely before realizing he needs to shower.

“Can I stay?” Jungkook asks before Yoongi leaves for the bathroom.

“Of course,” Yoongi replies.

“Can I stay forever? I’ll do chores. I’ll be your wife. Laundry is my forte.” Beyond the playfulness, there’s something more to Jungkook’s jest. Feeling nervous, Yoongi responds with a smile.

When Yoongi finishes showering, Jungkook knocks on the bathroom door, and they brush their teeth together side by side in the rapidly evaporating fog, watching each other through the misty mirror. Thankfully, Jungkook has put on a shirt over a pair of boxers. They take turns rinsing out their mouths, and when Yoongi sets his toothbrush down, Jungkook crowds him against the sink and kisses him like he’s delicate. The kiss tastes like mint and Jungkook. They make out for approximately two minutes until Yoongi has to separate for air.

“I really actually need to work,” Yoongi says, trying to get his breathing back to normal.

“Okay.” Jungkook holds him a little while longer before letting go.

“What do I do with you?” Yoongi pretends to sigh. His heart is full to the brim.

“Nothing. Just lemme hang around.”

After a quick breakfast, Yoongi finally manages to get to the front door despite Jungkook’s attempts at delay. “Maybe I should start calling you pup, because you’re acting like one.”

“You don’t like clingy guys?”

“You’re not clingy. And I like all of you, even the bad points.”

“I have bad points?” Jungkook smirks.

“Yeah, you’re way too cute.” Yoongi pecks him on the lips one last time and runs off.

“Come back soon!” Jungkook yells after him.

At work, Hoseok looks Yoongi up and down and comments, “I didn’t get any birthday sex last night, but at least someone got some.”

Yoongi groans. “HR, can I get a copy of the form for sexual harassment? Perp: Hoseok Jung.”

“Min, we switched everything to digital last year. You’d know if you paid attention to the meetings.”

 

*

 

Friday, March 20, 2020

She’s pretty with round eyes and warm eyeshadow, and she’s staring at Yoongi too intensely to be accidental. Yoongi hopes that no one else at his table notices because having teenage girls sneak glances at him every time he takes a bite out of his chicken is getting pretty uncomfortable.

Four to a booth, the girls hunch over their table, whispering at each other and hiding behind a row of glasses of water that are a poor substitute for a wall. One of them, in particular, one with sandy blonde hair and big eyes, keeps looking at him. She and Yoongi even lock gazes once by accident, and the girl whipped her head away so reflexively that it could’ve flown off.

It’s a Friday night, and Yoongi is at dinner with his boss, a couple colleagues, some interns, and a client. Ten minutes ago, he started noticing the girls checking him out. Taking a sip of water, he shifts in his seat slightly so that they’re out of view. Maybe he’s just imagining this whole thing. Why would a group of teenage girls be interested in him?

He gets his answer a moment later when he excuses himself to use the washroom.

Boss talked about model ships for half an hour
Get me out of here

Hoseok
LOL
I’m out with the girls and Jimin right now ttys

Yoongi just wants to go home after a day of coddling interns and maybe cuddle with Jungkook if the other guy is free. Sighing, Yoongi exits the washroom and finds the blonde girl standing awkwardly in the small corridor leading to the bathrooms. Their eyes meet, and she says, “Um, hey, you’re Jungkook’s boyfriend, right?”

It takes all of Yoongi’s work experience of faking it to not jump out of his own skin.

“I’m his sister, Junghwa.” She extends a hand. Without thinking, Yoongi takes it and shakes it. Blonde. Jungkook’s sister. The girl he was once jealous of for a hot second.

“So that’s why you guys keep staring at me,” he muses. “I’m Yoongi.”

She cringes. “Sorry about that. My friends and I were figuring out if you’re really Jungkook’s, you know. And they think you’re really…” She waves a hand up and down.

“Huh?”

You know. Good looking.”

“Uh, thanks.”

He certainly didn’t expect to hear that tonight. He didn’t expect to meet Jungkook’s family outside a bathroom either.

Jungkook mentions his family more often than not, but it’s not something they discuss in detail. Actually, they don’t discuss very many things in detail at all. They’re going out. They’re boyfriends.

Yoongi knows that Jungkook’s family speaks more English because Jungkook’s father was born in the States. His father is also the cook in the family, although Jungkook’s mother bakes more. Jungkook has brought sweets from home for Yoongi to try on multiple occasions since Jungkook is the type of son who visits his family regularly. They’re all on good - annoyingly great - terms.

But he doesn’t know the other things. He doesn’t know how much Jungkook talks about their relationship to the rest of his family.

When Yoongi thinks about his mother, one of the first memories that comes to his mind is the week he came out in high school. It was senior year, and he was in the middle of college apps. She was the third person he’d told after Namjoon and Seokjin, and she’d reacted as much as he’d expected. Maybe a little worse. She didn’t understand at first, and then she teared up and said some words. Yoongi went to stay with Namjoon for three days until he couldn’t take it anymore - he just missed her too much.Because they were a team. She’d said she loved him when he snuck back home, and Yoongi had cried harder than the day his dad passed away.

So meeting Jungkook’s family should’ve been a bigger deal than running into them in a dim hallway.

“You guys are on spring break, right?” Yoongi asks Junghwa. He knows because Jungkook is too.

“Yeah. Are those your…?”

“They’re my coworkers.”

“Jungkook said you work for the fancy schmancy company.”

“I guess you can call it that.”

“My classmate’s dad works there too. They’re super rich.”

Yoongi doesn’t know where this is going. Junghwa straightens up her posture.

“So, I know I’m the younger one, but when I was in sixth grade, Jungkook dated an idiot in high school. When he broke Jungkook’s heart, I round up all my friends, and we gave him a lesson.” She does a kicking motion, and Yoongi barely stops himself from crossing his legs.

“Right. I really care for Jungkook,” he says.

“Mhm. He also dated this doofus he really liked in college and we - ”

“I’m noticing a trend,” Yoongi says wryly. This was not how he anticipated learning about Jungkook’s dating history.

“He was a barista. We showed up at his work, and let’s just say we were some very difficult customers. Jungkook doesn’t know this one, by the way, so don’t tell him.”

“...Your secret’s safe with me. What would you do if Jungkook and I don’t work out?”

Junghwa wrinkles her nose. “You don’t really have a social media presence, so I don’t know yet.”

Cripes. “Funny, Jungkook once said something similar once.”

“All I know is you went to X University in Texas, and you got an award for web design.”

“Man, that was years ago. Junghwa, I appreciate how much you care for Jungkook, but I do too. You don’t have to worry.” Yoongi feels like he’s never said anything truer.

She nods and then suddenly smiles. “It was nice meeting you. You should come over to our place some time. Mom’s been hinting at Jungkook to bring you.”

“Oh.”

“I think he hasn’t yet because our parents can be kind of overprotective.”

Yeah, no kidding.

“So, I just wanted to say hi and let you know that my friends and I are leaving now.”

“Cool. It was nice meeting you, too.”

They both return to their tables. Junghwa’s friends all smile and wave at Yoongi in a flutter of giggling when they leave, which of course catches the attention of his table.

“You know those girls?” Yoongi’s boss asks interest.

“One of them is my friend’s sister,” Yoongi says honestly, sitting back down.

Dinner eventually ends. A couple coworkers suggest hopping to a bar, and none of them are surprised when Yoongi declines. They are, however, surprised when Yoongi’s boss insinuates that he has someone to go home to, so Yoongi pretends to be a straight guy with a girlfriend for another two minutes before he leaves.

Your sister said I was “good looking”
She also basically threatened to kick me in the balls

Jungkook 💕
wtf??!?
you met junghwa?

She was at the same restaurant with her friends

Jungkook 💕
oh nononono

Relax haha
She’s cute

Jungkook 💕
um
cuter than me hmph

I’m so gay for you Jungkook

Jungkook 💕
good!!
now im gonna furiously call her just fyi in case i dont respond

When he gets back to his apartment, Jungkook is sprawled on his stomach on Yoongi’s couch in a white t-shirt and gray sweatpants that accentuate his thighs. Damp, wavy hair makes him look like a wet puppy.

This is a regular occurrence. Even when it’s not spring break, Jungkook usually ends work before Yoongi does and invites himself over with a pair of keys that Yoongi gave him not too long after the first time they slept together.

Jungkook lifts his head up from the couch, a Nintendo Switch on pause in his hands.

“Hey.” Yoongi smiles, hanging up his coat.

“How was dinner?”

“The best part was definitely meeting Junghwa.”

Jungkook lets out a squeak of alarm. “Whatever she said to you, just forget it. Please. She tends to terrorize all my, uh…”

“Boyfriends?”

Jungkook nods with a grimace. Yoongi walks over and crawls on top of him, sinking down onto Jungkook’s chest and immediately inhaling the scent of his body wash and shampoo. It’s become his second favorite thing in the world, second to Jungkook. He buries his nose into the crook of Jungkook’s neck. Jungkook sets down the game console and pats Yoongi’s back.

“What did you have for dinner?” Yoongi asks.

“Some sushi from the supermarket.”

“Mmm.” They lie there a little more, and then Yoongi says, “Tell me about your high school boyfriend.”

Jungkook groans, his throat vibrating and tickling Yoongi. “It’s too embarrassing.”

“Was he your first?”

“Yeah. He wasn’t nearly as cute or hot or nice as you, though.”

“You just said I’m hot.”

Jungkook shifts so that he can see Yoongi’s face. He gives Yoongi a look. “Have you seen yourself? Junghwa thinks so, and all her friends do too. She told me earlier. We have similar types.”

“Do you know how weird that just sounded?”

“I suppose.”

“So why was your first embarrassing?”

“I don’t know… just. We were awkward teens. And he kinda wanted to do things I wasn’t ready for.” When Yoongi stiffens, Jungkook hurries to say, “That’s one reason why we broke up.”

“And then your sixth-grade little sister taught him a lesson. I like her.”

“Yeah, she and her scary friends.” Jungkook chuckles.

“Then… when was your first time?” Yoongi slides onto his side, still half on top of Jungkook, and props his head on an elbow to look at the other man.

“With my ex in college... Yoongiiii,” Jungkook whines. “This isn’t fair. You have to tell me about yourself too.”

“My first time was after high school ended, with some college guy who was back for the summer. We fooled around for a month and then said goodbye.”

Jungkook presses Yoongi against the back of the couch. “Fooled around? I’m jealous...”

“Don’t be. I never even talked to him again.”

“Who else have you been with?”

“No one serious.”

“Oh.” Their noses touch. “Are we serious?” Jungkook asks softly.

“More serious than you are about calculators.”

“Then that’s very serious.” Jungkook brushes Yoongi’s lips with his own, and then they’re kissing, Jungkook’s hand slot between the back of Yoongi’s head and the couch, holding Yoongi close. It’s soft. Jungkook overwhelms Yoongi’s senses, and Yoongi feels so, so lucky to be lying here. When Jungkook moves down to pepper Yoongi’s chin and then his throat, Yoongi stops him.

“Kook, I want to shower first.”

“Kay,” Jungkook says, planting one last smooch against Yoongi’s Adam’s apple.

“Junghwa said… your parents want to meet me?” Yoongi brings up the topic tentatively.

“They do,” Jungkook sighs. “I wasn't sure how to bring it up with you since, um...”

“Do you want me to meet them?”

“Yes, but only when you’re comfortable.”

“I think.” It’s hard to look away when Jungkook is right there. “Give me a little more time?”

“Of course. There’s no rush.” Jungkook presses a kiss against Yoongi’s temple.

 

*

 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Hoseok
Our anniversary is coming up and IDK what to get

So why are you asking me??
Ask Jimin

Hoseok
...Did you just tell me to ask the person I’m getting a gift what they want?

Yes

Hoseok
Jimin likes surprises
And that’s NOT ROMANTIC

How about a couple tattoo

Hoseok
You… better not give him any ideas…
Tattoos are supposed to hurt :(

LOL chicken

Hoseok
-___-
What gifts have you given Jungkook?

Um… food

Hoseok
And???

Were you expecting a ring or something??
I’M NOT READY TO PROPOSE
YET

Hoseok
OMGF
*Omfg
You’re thinking about proposing?? It’s been max 3 months!!
But Haru and Hana would be cute flower girls :3

Hoseok
Yoongi you’d let them be flower girls right??!

Jeez I’m not proposing
Sure they can be flower girls

Hoseok
So when is the wedding
What color scheme??
Jimin takes forever to choose their outfits

Do you think Jungkook wants to marry soon?

Hoseok
That…
You should ask him that

Why did y’all marry so early

Hoseok
Because love u_u

Lol
I met Junghwa yesterday

Hoseok
Haha yeah I heard
Jungkook freaked out to Jimin

What’s his family like?
They sound like they really baby Jungkook…

Hoseok
Jimin knows more but Kook’s definitely the favorite of the 2 siblings haha

I don’t want to mess up

Hoseok
What do you mean?

I don’t have a family like his
My parents weren’t like his

Hoseok
:(
I think Jungkook is aware of that
Did something happen?

His parents want to meet me :\

Hoseok
Oh how fun! ;D
I’m kidding
They’re really nice people

Nice people scare the fuck outta me

Hoseok
Do I scare you??

Not anymore
I’m not as nice
What if they don’t like me?

Hoseok
You won’t know until you meet them
Personally I think you’re the best and you have nothing to worry about
But what do I get for Jimin?????

 

*

 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Over the past few months, there’s a change in the air inside the office. Something is different. It feels like Yoongi is pulling himself out of a swamp and shaking off the grime that’s been caked all over him for months. He might have called it a slump, but it was more than that. It was dissociation, a free body sensation of indifference.

So something is different. It’s not the exciting apprehension he first felt when he started his job, but work is not the same monster it seemed to be last year. New projects don’t feel like dead weights. His creativity is coming back. Even the interns aren’t as annoying as they were at the beginning of the year. His superiors notice the change in him as well and start handing back old and new responsibilities, including a business trip to Toronto.

“Are you the type to hang out?” Eunsoo says. She’s the one going with Yoongi.

“We can have meals together, but I’m not gonna explore the city with you.”

“Oh thank God,” Eunsoo exhales. “I like going around by myself.”

They shake hands. They’re only staying a couple of nights, so it shouldn’t be too painful.

Yoongi says goodbye to Jungkook on April Fool’s night, doesn’t think too much about it, and then he’s on a plane to Canada the next morning. He and Eunsoo check into their rooms, snag a quick lunch, and meet up with their client at their art gallery. They get a tour of the place (Eunsoo is much more interested) and hunker down for a meeting. In the evening, their client invites them for dinner, and then Yoongi is alone in his hotel room. It’s not his first time in the city, and he doesn’t feel the need to get to know it some more. He’s just tired.

Jungkook 💕
hows it going?
do u miss me? :)

Fine :)
I miss you a lot bunbun

Jungkook 💕
(#゚ロ゚#)

But it doesn’t hit Yoongi just how much he misses Jungkook until he’s laying in the sterile hotel sheets in the dark, watching lights flash by through the crack of the blackout curtains that he didn’t completely close and listening to the muted sounds of other hotel guests.

Are you still awake?

Jungkook 💕
no but i have ur notif on
*yawns*

Nvm
Go back to sleep

Jungkook 💕
!!!
yoongi watsup

I can’t fall asleep :(

Jungkook 💕
thats weird. u always conk out so fast

I guess I can’t sleep without you now

Jungkook 💕
kyahhhh!!!!
do u want to… diddily doo…

No -__-

Jungkook 💕
hmmmm
nite nite! think of me~

But I already do

Jungkook 💕
>////<
go to sleep!

It turns out that not seeing Jungkook for just a day is kind of unbearable. They call each other in the morning while Jungkook drives to school, and it’s a temporary band aid, but Yoongi still misses him. He knows what’s wrong.

He wants to go back home and see Jungkook there.

And he wants that for the rest of his life.

“I miss him,” Yoongi sighs absentmindedly, and then he freezes because Eunsoo is sitting right next to him in the taxi.

“So that’s why you look so empty headed.” She smirks at him. “Is this the first time you’re apart from each other? You know we’re still in North America.”

“Can we not talk about this? Just pretend I didn’t say anything.”

“I’m so bored. I don’t get art at all.”

“You could’ve fooled me. I mean you did fool me.”

“That’s cause it’s my job. One of us has to appear interested, and your lovelorn butt isn’t the one.”

“I’ve never felt this way before,” Yoongi admits. “Not even when I was in a long-distance.”

Eunsoo’s perks up, and Yoongi regrets. “That’s cute. You were in a long-distance?”

“For like one second. There was a guy in Japan.”

“Yoongi, you’re so much more adventurous than I take you for.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Yoongi laughs, covering his eyes with his hands, grateful that it’s evening and dark out. It’s embarrassing to talk about this with Eunsoo, but it’s also nice letting it out. Even if she has a big mouth, Eunsoo probably won’t out him.

“Get him a gift,” she suggests.

“Like what?”

“Iono. Maybe something at the gallery tomorrow?”

“You think I should drop several grand on a painting? Jungkook draws better than those.”

“Sap. Naw, just something cute at their gift shop.”

The next day, Yoongi takes Eunsoo’s advice, and they stop by the gift shop located deliberately at the entrance of the gallery.

“He’s looking for a gift for his beau,” Eunsoo tells the female shop assistant, Yoongi’s glare repelling off her back. He looks around the shop, avoiding their simpering looks. It’s been so long since he last purchased something for someone romantically, he feels a certain level of anxiety. He kind of understands Hoseok better.

What does Jungkook like? Jungkook likes big bags and roomy shirts. He likes math and working out and drawing. He likes clinging to Yoongi in the mornings. He likes cute things.

Eunsoo joins Yoongi in the handmade jewelry section.

“Don’t think too hard about it,” she says. “If you do, it’ll make the gift burdensome. But also don’t just pick anything. It has to be a little special.”

“Thanks, really great advice,” Yoongi replies sarcastically, but somehow they settle on something that fits Eunsoo’s exacting criteria. Nestled in a small box and an equally small bag, the gift burns in Yoongi’s luggage all the way from Canada and back to the U.S. They leave just as quickly as they came.

When the plane lands, there’s a series of messages from Jungkook saying that he’s on his way to the airport. Yoongi reads them with a smile that stays on his face all the way through the airport. On a Saturday evening, it’s not the busiest time, but there are still quite a few travellers around.

“You need a ride?” Yoongi asks Eunsoo when they pass the baggage claim.

“Nah. Do you?” After three days together, both of them hope they won’t be stuck with each other for another half hour.

“Jungkook’s picking me up.”

“Huh.” She winks at him exaggeratedly, and Yoongi makes a face.

“See you Monday.”

After parting with his coworker, Yoongi waits outside for Jungkook with other fellow arrivals. The chill prickles his skin, briefly stopping the jitteriness he feels. The days are growing longer again, the sky still a dusky dark blue that cloaks the tall, bright white streetlights. Cars and buses come and go, taking people and luggage with them. Overhead, the pinprick light of an evening flight disappears above the clouds.

On a couple of other occasions, Hoseok has picked him up. He’s also taken the train into the city a few times. Normally Yoongi calls an Uber - but tonight he’s doing none of those. Tonight he’s getting picked up by his boyfriend and going home with him, and it’s a nice feeling. It feels nice that Jungkook insisted on picking him up. The butterflies in his stomach won’t calm down. He’s almost giddy - he can’t wait to see Jungkook. He can’t wait to see Jungkook’s smile, his eyes, his nose. Yoongi catches himself smiling just thinking about Jungkook. He shuffles his feet, feeling embarrassed.

Soon, he waits long enough for the cold to breach and spread through the layers of his coat. He checks his phone again, but the last message from Jungkook is still the same one from a while ago. Yoongi waits another five minutes before feeling foolish. Passing under a brush of hot air, he moves back onto the other side of the automatic doors,

A foreboding feeling grows in the pit of his stomach, but he doesn’t entertain the thought that Jungkook forgot. Because Jungkook isn’t like that. Something must have happened. With hesitant fingers, he dials Jungkook’s phone, and a couple moments later, he reaches his voicemail. Feeling increasingly worried, Yoongi continues to wait. A minute later, Jungkook calls him back, sounding out of breath.

“Are you okay?” Yoongi asks in a rush.

“I - um - how did you know?” Jungkook replies in confusion. Yoongi’s heart drops.

“Did something happen? Are you hurt?”

“No! I’m - Yoongi, are you psychic or something? I haven’t even told anyone yet.”

“Bun, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

“I’m sorry, Yoongi,” Jungkook cries into the phone, and Yoongi is truly alarmed now. “Someone rear ended me at an intersection and - it’s bad. My truck isn’t safe to drive right now.”

“The fuck. But are you okay?” Yoongi asks again.

“Yes! I’m fine. But - um - actually, it’s my student who was driving, and a bunch of their friends were also in their car. Everybody’s fine, just not, you know, the vehicles.”

“Wow. Your student?”

“I’m waiting for their parents right now...” Jungkook’s voice is whiny and interspersed with little huffs. Yoongi knows he’s upset.

“It’s okay, Kook, don’t worry about me. ‘Kay? Just get everything sorted out. Can I help you with anything once I’m back?”

“No, no… I’m so mad! I - just - want to see you soon.” Jungkook pouts through the phone, and Yoongi chuckles.

“We will, don’t worry.”

They don’t see each other until it’s ten o’clock at night, when Jungkook unlocks Yoongi’s apartment and finds Yoongi in his bedroom, organizing and putting away things from his trip. He immediately wraps Yoongi up in a hug.

“I missed you sooooo much,” Jungkook says into Yoongi’s neck, nose cold from the outdoors.

“Me too,” Yoongi murmurs. He wants to say something more, but then they break apart and rest on Yoongi’s bed. Jungkook’s hair is ruffled and his mien visibly tired. “How did you get back?”

“Called Tae,” Jungkook says. He falls backwards, flattening the covers with a rush of air. His legs dangle off the bed, and he closes his eyes.

“You could’ve asked me,” Yoongi says, lying down next to him.

“No way. You just came back,” Jungkook argues. He peeks his eyes open. Despite looking exhausted, he’s forever handsome, and Yoongi reaches out a hand to brush away strands of hair fallen over Jungkook’s soft, brown eyes. “Are you… mad?”

“Of course not.” Yoongi pats Jungkook’s belly, soft from a sweatshirt. “Where’s your truck?”

Jungkook lets out a long sigh. “It’s in the shop. They said I might have to wait several days. I’d be more furious, but the kid was really crying, and then when he realized it was me, he started crying even more. And when his dad arrived, he started crying all over again.”

Yoongi can’t help but laugh. “I don’t know how you deal with teenagers. On Monday, I’ll drive you to work. And every day after that until you get your truck back. If you’re okay with waiting for me, I’ll pick you up too,” Yoongi offers.

“I can’t let you do that! Our workplaces aren’t even in the same direction.”

“But I want to.”

“Oh, Yoongi…” Grinning tiredly, Jungkook scoots upwards on the bed and flops his long limbs around Yoongi, burying his head back into the space between Yoongi’s heck and shoulders so that Yoongi has to stare up at the mahogany ceiling fan or he’d be inhaling Jungkook’s fluffy hair.

“I missed you a lot…” Jungkook mumbles rather shyly. “How was the trip? You were with Eunsoo, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Can we go on a trip together when I’m on summer break?”

“Of course, bun. Wherever you want to go.” Yoongi exhales slowly. He wants to do it now. Detaching himself from the younger man, which is difficult because Jungkook is like a spider with his catch, Yoongi sits up and picks up the small box that’s been sitting on his nightstand. Jungkook eyes it carefully, pushing himself up as well.

“It’s not a ring,” Yoongi says.

“Oh.” Jungkook’s subdued facial expression doesn’t change, and it makes Yoongi more nervous.

“But, um, can we talk about us?”

“Only if it’s good.”

“I think so.” Fidgeting with the box, gaze low, Yoongi begins talking. “This might be too soon, or maybe not. I don’t know, you can tell me. When I was by myself the last few days, I felt like a piece of me was missing. Then I realized it was you. You’re missing. I really, really missed you. And yesterday, all I could think about was how happy I was to see you soon. Jungkook, you’re the light of my life. I wish I could give you the same amount of happiness that you give me. What I’m saying is, you - you feel like home. I love you.”

The last three words set Yoongi’s heart into a frenzy. Sucking in a breath, heart beating like he ran a marathon, Yoongi waits for Jungkook’s response. A gentle hand lifts Yoongi’s head up by the chin, and when Yoongi looks, Jungkook’s eyes are shining.

“Yoongi, I love you. You’re my home, too.”

“Really?” Warmth washes over Yoongi.

“I really do. I love you so much.”

“Really?” Yoongi feels dumb.

“Really really,” Jungkook laughs a tinkly laugh. “You know how you always say my apartment’s really shitty? Actually, before you moved in, I was already on the hunt for another place to move onto. Because, you know, it’s always freezing, and someone even died, but the moment I saw you three years ago, I decided I’d stay. I thought you were the cutest guy ever.”

“You - were?”

“I still do. You’re the cutest guy ever.” Jungkook grins. “The day you moved in, I thought you were cute enough to stay in my shitty apartment for. It took a couple of years for you to notice me, but it turned out in my favor. Then we got to know each other more, and, well, you’re kind of perfect. You make me food. You cuddle me. I love you.”

Yoongi discovers that he’s smiling too. “I’m pretty sure there was a load of bull in there, but that’s really the sweetest stuff someone has ever said to me.”

“That makes me happy. You make me happy too.”

Smiling the brightest, most radiant smile, Jungkook cups Yoongi’s cheeks in his palms gently and leans in to kiss the tip of Yoongi’s nose and then his mouth. They stay close like that, the tips of Jungkook’s fingers lightly resting on Yoongi’s temple, breathing in each other’s air, until Yoongi asks, “Were you going to stay here forever, then? I mean, what if I moved away?”

“I’m not that much of an idiot.” Jungkook huffs, eyelashes tickling Yoongi’s brows. “You’re cute, but I’m not delirious. I’d probably only wait two more years.”

Yoongi smiles even more. Jungkook’s honesty is refreshing as always.

“So what’s in the box?” Jungkook asks.

Yoongi opens it to reveal two beaded bracelets nestled inside. “I got them at the art gallery. They’re morse code bracelets.”

Jungkook holds one up, grinning ear to ear. “What do they say?”

“One says ‘always,’ and the other says ‘forever.’” Yoongi pauses. He had taken the tags off, and now he doesn’t know which one is which. Jungkook notices too, which makes him giggle.

“I love them. Put one on me?” he asks. Yoongi fastens one around Jungkook’s left wrist, and Jungkook does the other on Yoongi’s right. “Now wait one second…”

Jungkook drags Yoongi’s arm next to his and uses his phone to snap a photo of their bracelets side by side. Yoongi rolls his eyes fondly as he watches Jungkook excitedly pull up Instagram to post the picture. Maybe there's no such thing as always and forever, but he doesn't want that anyways. It's the present that matters.

 

*