“And then, um… the only other thing we need in this aisle is D Brand fabric softener, in Lovely scent,” Jeongguk says, looking over the shopping list in his hand.
“D Brand,” Yoongi mutters. “D Brand.”
Jeongguk has the plastic shopping basket hooked over the crook of his left elbow, with their grocery list in that hand. His right hand is gripped firmly in Yoongi’s, leaving Yoongi with a free hand to grab items from the shelves. This is a system they’ve found works well for them; it allows Yoongi to scrutinize vegetables and cuts of meat as thoroughly as he likes, and forces Jeongguk to consider before grabbing any snack food that catches his eye.
Their list is pretty short today. A couple of staple things that are running low, produce, and some beef that’s on sale. It’s the weekend, the sun is shining outside, and they have plans to take a walk along the beach after getting back home. Jeongguk just finished a stressful project at work, and his shoulders feel light today. He hums along to the song on the radio as he reads over the list one more time.
“D Brand— ah.”
“Found it?” Jeongguk asks, still looking at the list. He notices a note at the bottom: soy sauce it says in Yoongi’s can’t-be-fucked-to-bother-with-legibility scrawl. Damn, they already passed that aisle.
“You know,” Yoongi says, “it’s bullshit how we’re all forced to play along with the rules of capitalist society.”
It comes out of nowhere, said so casually that Jeongguk nearly nods along before the actual words sink in.
“You— what?” Jeongguk jerks his head up to blink owlishly at Yoongi.
“Capitalism,” Yoongi says. He waves his free hand vaguely. “It’s poison.”
Yoongi frowns, transforming his lips into a pout. “I’m just saying. Why is it that D Brand costs two dollars more than the store brand fabric softener? Just because it has a certain name attached to it, they get to charge more. And for what? The ingredients and function are the same.”
“Um.” Jeongguk glances around, at a loss. Usually Yoongi reserves his opinions on modern society’s economic systems for when he has some alcohol in his system— not the middle of laundry aisle, surrounded by labels advertising softness and lasting freshness.
And then Jeongguk sees it.
“Yoongi,” he says slowly, looking back from the shelves of fabric softener to his pouting boyfriend. “Are you sure your objection to D Brand is the price, and not the fact that it’s on the top shelf?”
Yoongi falters, just for a second, eyes sliding over to where the purple bottle of Jeongguk’s favorite fabric softener sits on the very top of the display.
A-ha, Jeongguk thinks. Got you.
“No,” Yoongi says a beat later, too quick and too loud. “I object to the principle of it all. Why does that one cost more? What is ‘Lovely’ scent anyway?”
“Well, to start with, Lovely is my favorite fabric softener scent,” Jeongguk says, raising his eyebrows and attempting to bite back a grin.
“Yeah but how is it any different from, uh,” Yoongi squints at the generic brand softener, which sits halfway up the shelving unit and well within reach, “Spring Blossoms?”
“They’re really different, actually. And, like I said, Lovely is my favorite. You wouldn’t deny your boyfriend his favorite scent over a two dollar difference, would you?”
“I wouldn’t,” Yoongi says. “Capitalism would.” His pout intensifies.
“Uh huh. And you’re sure this isn’t just because you’re afraid you won’t be able to get the softener off the top shelf?”
Yoongi narrows his eyes. He edges closer to the shelf and glances up at the fabric softener. Jeongguk can tell that Yoongi is calculating in his head—the distance, his height, his reach, the weight of the bottle—and for a second he thinks he’s actually going to go for it. But then Yoongi’s eyes slide back to Jeongguk, sly.
“If you’re going to insist that we succumb to the dark depths of capitalist hell,” Yoongi drawls, “then I think you should be the one to bear the weight of your decisions.”
He nods at the shelf, smile smug, as if to say go ahead.
“But my hands are full.” Jeongguk lifts their linked hands and hefts the basket and list, giving Yoongi his best look of wide-eyed concern. “If you want me to grab the bottle, you’ll have to let go of my—”
Before Jeongguk can finish the sentence, Yoongi tightens his grip on Jeongguk’s hand. He holds out his free hand and says, “You can hand me the basket.” Then he pauses and raises an eyebrow. “Or are you afraid you can’t reach it?”
And, well. Maybe Yoongi has Jeongguk’s number just as well as Jeongguk has his. That was a direct challenge. There’s no way Jeongguk is going to back down from it. He drops the list in the basket, places the handle in Yoongi’s waiting hand and says, “No, I can get it. Easy.”
It takes all of three seconds to grab the fabric softener off the shelf. Jeongguk doesn’t even have to go up on his toes, which is gratifying. He pulls it down with a triumphant ha! and a flourish.
“There,” he says. He does a curl with the bottle, making sure his bicep flexes. “Look at all this weight.” He does another two reps and puts on a beleaguered voice. “So... much weight... that I’m bearing right now.” He does one last rep, pretending to stagger under the weight, then stumbles forward a step and places the bottle into the basket with a plonk. “The weight… has been borne.”
“Hey, hey,” Yoongi immediately protests loudly. “You can’t just transfer the weight to someone else, that’s cheating!”
Jeongguk snorts, but readily takes the basket from Yoongi’s grip. The fabric softener does add a decent amount of weight to the load, he’ll admit.
“Better?” he asks once he has the basket settled into the crook of his elbow again.
“I guess.” Yoongi feigns indifference, but there’s a smile playing around his lips, and he gives Jeongguk’s hand a gentle squeeze.
“Good,” Jeongguk says. “Because we still need, uh—” he squints at the list, now rumpled and half hidden behind a can of pinto beans “—carrots, sweet potatoes, green onions, whatever fruit is on sale, and beef. Oh, and soy sauce.”
Yoongi gestures grandly down the aisle. “Lead the way, complicit pawn of late-stage capitalism.”
Jeongguk bursts into laughter, helpless giggles that have him leaning against Yoongi, and after a second Yoongi joins in. They stand there, cackling together in the middle of the laundry aisle, until a lady squeezes past them with a glare to grab a bottle of detergent.
Once they’ve apologized and shuffled out of the way, Jeongguk tugs lightly on Yoongi’s hand. They’re both out of breath from laughing, and there are tears lingering in the corners of Jeongguk’s eyes. Yoongi looks back at him, eyes bright and cheeks flushed, grinning broadly, and Jeongguk is just… happy. Happy to be in this grocery store, right now, with his boyfriend of three years, bickering about fabric softener and getting nasty looks from other customers.
“Come on, then,” he says, “let’s go,” and they head for the produce, hand in hand.
The light is on in the living room.
Jeongguk smiles to himself as he kicks off his shoes. It’s been a month since Yoongi moved back into the house, but Jeongguk still hasn’t gotten over the glow— the happiness that bubbles up inside him every time he comes home to Yoongi. He isn’t sure he ever will.
He hangs up his jacket and dumps his bag by the stairs. He debates for a second before shucking off his stifling work slacks and leaving them folded on top of his bag. Then, comfortable in his sweater and boxers, he shuffles into the living room. There’s a faint hum of noise, the TV turned down too low to properly hear, probably the news or some talk show. For all that Yoongi likes to wax poetic about the peace and quiet of home whenever they’re out somewhere, he sometimes finds the silence of the house to be unbearably loud.
Yoongi is in the middle of the couch, lying on his side and curled into a tight ball with his hands tucked between his knees. There’s a book abandoned over the arm of the couch, pages on either side of the upholstery and spine suffering. Jeongguk sighs fondly and goes over to pick it up. He marks the page with an old receipt from the coffee table and sets it aside. Then he looks down at Yoongi and breaks into a smile.
Yoongi’s head is smack in the middle of the couch, as if he had tipped over and found scooting to the pillows at the end to be too much effort. His lips are pulled into a pout, mouth hanging slightly open. He’s drowning in one of Jeongguk’s sweatshirts, the neck too large and falling wide to reveal his collarbones. Jeongguk reaches down and gently pulls the fabric up, then brushes his fingers through Yoongi’s hair.
“Hey,” he says softly. “You’re gonna hurt your neck, sleeping like that.”
Yoongi scrunches his nose and makes a tiny whining sound, but doesn’t open his eyes. Jeongguk huffs out a laugh, running his fingers through Yoongi’s hair again.
Yoongi whines again, longer this time, but grudgingly opens one eye. “Whas’t,” he says, which Jeongguk, now with two years of experience interpreting sleepy-Yoongi-speak, easily translates as: What time is it?
“A little before six,” he says. “Need to start on dinner soon.”
“Nn,” Yoongi says, closing his eyes again. “P’za’n freezer.” There’s pizza in the freezer.
Jeongguk laughs. “Okay, I’ll go start—”
Yoongi is incredibly swift for someone who is still at least 90% asleep. Before Jeongguk can begin to turn away, Yoongi reaches out, grabbing his hand and lacing their fingers together.
“Stay,” he mumbles. “Missed you.” His words are more articulate now, less blurred around the edges, but his voice is still rough with sleep. Deep, deep, tugging directly at Jeongguk’s heartstrings, turning them into an entire symphony. Affection washes over Jeongguk in a gentle wave, and he lets the warmth of it flood through his veins.
“Missed you, too,” he says.
Yoongi hums, low and raspy, and then tugs on Jeongguk’s hand. Jeongguk allows himself be pulled until he’s sitting on the couch. Yoongi wiggles over so that his head rests on Jeongguk’s thigh and lets out a sigh so utterly full of content that Jeongguk can’t help but giggle.
“You really like my thighs that much, huh?” he asks. Their fingers are still linked together, but he brings up his other hand to start carding through Yoongi’s hair again. “You know the oven isn’t going to turn itself on, right? I can’t bake pizza from the couch.”
“Jus’ for a while,” Yoongi mumbles. He’s already falling back asleep, Jeongguk can tell. He’s sweet all the time, but especially like this— sleepy-soft and affectionate as he cuddles against Jeongguk.
“Alright,” Jeongguk says. “I’ll wake you up in twenty minutes. Sound good?”
“‘Kay,” Yoongi agrees, even though Jeongguk knows he’ll protest when Jeongguk tries.
Yoongi’s thumb is stroking over Jeongguk’s, an unconscious habit that Jeongguk finds horribly endearing. Yoongi’s hands are large, and his fingers fit nicely between Jeongguk’s. Warm palms, cold fingertips. Blunt nails with ragged cuticles that Yoongi fusses with whenever he’s stressed. Rough calluses and gentle touches. Jeongguk loves Yoongi’s hands, loves getting to hold them, loves how much Yoongi loves having them held.
Yoongi’s thumb stills as his breath evens out. He exhales, a long sigh that tickles slightly against the exposed skin of Jeongguk’s thigh, and curls more tightly into himself. He clutches Jeongguk’s hand, holding it snug against his chest.
Jeongguk smiles, and grabs the remote.
Yoongi’s apartment is small but cozy, a studio unit that Jeongguk had initially worried Yoongi might find cramped, but which in reality is exactly the right size. The bed is pushed into the corner and piled high with blankets, even in summer, and a small army of plants has completely taken over the windowsill and spread slowly across the rest of the apartment. There’s a comfy couch, an old wooden coffee table that Yoongi refinished himself, and a plush rug beneath the table. The kitchen area is neat and clean, with a stash of Jeongguk’s favorite chips in the cupboard.
Most importantly, though, Yoongi’s apartment has air conditioning.
“I love your apartment,” Jeongguk says. He’s sprawled out across the couch, which means he’s also sprawled across Yoongi. Yoongi’s arms rest across Jeongguk’s thighs as he types away busily on his phone. Looking at his thumbs fly, you would never guess how long it had taken Jeongguk to explain texting and electronic communication to him, back when he first fell into Jeongguk’s life.
“You just love the air conditioning,” Yoongi says, not bothering to look up from his phone. Jeongguk hums and stretches, not even trying to deny it. Yoongi snorts. “You know we could install a unit in your house, right?”
“I know,” Jeongguk says with a pout. It’s something his parents talked about every summer but never got around to, and over the years Jeongguk has honestly just gotten used to dealing with. But— “Maybe next summer.”
Yoongi nods in acknowledgement. His fingers, which had temporarily paused, are busy again. “Hoseok wants to know if we wanna meet for dinner tomorrow. He’s getting off work early.”
“Sure, that sounds good. It’s been a while since we last hung out, it’ll be nice to catch up.”
“Yeah, he says he misses you.”
Jeongguk grins and wriggles deeper into the couch cushions. “Tell him I miss him too.”
Yoongi doesn’t reply, but his fingers tap tap tap on his phone. Jeongguk knows that if he were to look, he would see guk says he misses you too written on the screen.
Message sent, Yoongi locks his phone and sets it beside him on the couch. He reaches for the hand Jeongguk currently has flung over the edge of the couch and links their fingers, then tugs until their hands rest together on top of Jeongguk’s stomach. Jeongguk scrunches his nose, which earns him a chuckle and a poke in the cheek. He follows the momentum, pressing his face into the couch. The apartment is peaceful, and it’s easy for Jeongguk to close is eyes and drift into daydreams, lulled by the hum of the air conditioner and the instrumental music playing quietly over Yoongi’s sound system.
After a while, an older ballad that Jeongguk adores comes on. The strings swell and Jeongguk joins in, singing softly. He can feel the weight of his and Yoongi’s hands on his stomach, rising and falling with each breath, and the way Yoongi begins to sway slightly with the melody, and for a moment he can imagine that this is all that exists: the familiar comfort of the apartment and Yoongi’s hand in his.
“Hey, Guk,” Yoongi says as the last notes of the song fade away.
“You know how Mr. Park was talking about expanding the ice cream shop to another location? He decided to go for it.”
Jeongguk’s eyes fly open and he sits upright so quickly his head spins. “What? Yoongi, what? Really?”
“Yeah. He’s looking into real estate, and the goal is to open the new shop in early spring. Mr. Park will be overseeing the new store, so he’s… ah. He said he’s going to make me the store manager of the current location.”
Yoongi’s eyes are steadfastly fixed on his hand, still gripped tight in Jeongguk’s own. There’s tension in his shoulders, and uncertainty in the way his eyebrows pull together.
“Not just a manager, but the person in charge of the whole store. It’s… I mean, I’m already a manager but this is… it’s different. It feels so big.”
“That’s because it is,” Jeongguk says. His chest feels weird, too full, his heart too large to fit. “This is so big, Yoongi. You’re going to do so great.”
“Am I?” Yoongi looks up finally. His eyes are full of uncertainty, vulnerable in a way that even a year ago he would have tried to hide. “It’s been two years since I got here but I still… I mess things up, sometimes. I could mess this up.”
“Everyone messes up, though. That’s only natural. But I know you, and I know that you learn and grow from those mistakes, and that you’ll grow from this experience, too, and become the best damn ice cream shop manager out there.”
Finally, some of the tension eases from Yoongi’s shoulders. “Yeah?” he asks, with the tiniest hint of a smile at the corner of his lips.
“Yes,” Jeongguk says with as much conviction as he can fit into a single word. “I’m so proud of you.”
He leans forward to press a kiss to Yoongi’s cheek. Yoongi’s fingers tighten around Jeongguk’s, and he pulls him in closer until they’re kissing for real. Something sweet and simple, just a gentle brush of lips. When they part, Yoongi smiles for real.
“Thank you,” he says.
“You’re welcome,” Jeongguk replies, then darts in for another kiss.
This one isn’t quite as sweet, and by the time Jeongguk pulls back he’s slightly out of breath. He’s sitting sideways across Yoongi’s lap, feet dangling uncomfortably over the arm of the couch, and they’re still holding hands. Yoongi’s lips part slightly when Jeongguk uses his free hand to push the bangs away from Yoongi’s face. The tips of his ears are red.
Jeongguk rests his hand along Yoongi’s jaw, thumb rubbing across the faint freckles on his cheekbone. “I love you,” he says, and then: “My feet are falling asleep.”
Yoongi snorts, but places a steadying hand on Jeongguk’s waist as he shifts into a more comfortable position. Jeongguk ends up curled against Yoongi’s side, tucked in close. He presses a quick kiss to the spot below Yoongi’s ear where he knows he’s sensitive, and giggles at the whine he gets in response.
“What?” Jeongguk asks, tilting his head back so he can see the way Yoongi is pouting.
“Nothing,” Yoongi says. Then his expression softens into something more fond. “I love you too. You know that, right?”
Jeongguk grins, so big that his cheeks ache. “Yeah,” he says. “I really do.”
When Yoongi was a deity he used to people watch as a way to pass time. He always found the lives of humans are infinitely more interesting than the stiff grandeur and endless politics of the gods’ realms. Now that he’s part of the human world again, the habit has remained. He likes to observe the people around him, to catch glimpses of their lives and personalities. He’s learned a lot that way: how to act in certain situations, what things to say, what expressions to make.
One thing that constantly surprises him, though, is people’s tendency for casual touch. Linked arms, a hand on a shoulder, a brief hug of greeting or farewell. Were people as openly intimate back when Yoongi first lived? Did he ever walk around with a friend’s arm slung over his shoulder, or rest his head against his brother’s shoulder when he was tired?
No matter how hard he tries, he can’t remember.
Sometimes he gets jealous, envy for these people and their easy affection prickling under his skin. It would be nice, he thinks, to hold someone’s hand in his own. To have that comfort and connection without scrambling to find the right words to express his feelings.
The longing gets especially strong on nights like this, walking along the boardwalk surrounded by families and couples holding each other close.
It hasn’t been a bad day. In fact, it’s been a rather average day. Work went fine. He’s getting dinner with Jeongguk. They’ll probably stop by Yoongi’s favorite bakery after. Jeongguk seems to be in a good mood, humming to himself as he walks beside Yoongi. There’s a small smile on his face, tucked into the corners of his mouth in a way that makes Yoongi think Jeongguk probably doesn’t even realize it’s there. Yoongi looks at him, and he thinks, I would really like to hold his hand.
The feeling lodges in his chest, a weight beneath his breastbone. He tries to ignore it at first, dropping his eyes to the ground and counting the boards he steps on, but the weight doesn’t ease. He darts another look at Jeongguk, but Jeongguk is looking out over the ocean, lost in the sunset’s brilliant hues.
Yoongi stares down at his shoes again. This is the part he hates: his inability to ask for what he wants. The way the words always get stuck in his throat. Jeongguk is sweet and meticulously conscious of Yoongi’s boundaries, and Yoongi appreciates that, but right now he wishes, more than anything, that Jeongguk would just reach out and take Yoongi’s hand first.
He doesn’t, of course, no matter how hard Yoongi tries to telepathically relay the message.
Yoongi bites his lip and resorts to willing his feelings away. It’s hard. Everyone around them is holding hands, and now that Yoongi has noticed he can’t stop noticing. He keeps his eyes fixed on the ground until he feels Jeongguk’s gaze on him and realizes that he hasn’t been talking— that now Jeongguk is concerned, and waiting for Yoongi to talk, and gods, Yoongi is actually going to have to say this, isn’t he?
Yoongi clears his throat. He doesn’t dare look at Jeongguk as he forces the words out:
“Can we do that, too?”
He waves a hand vaguely, gesturing around them, and then holds his breath.
For a heart-stopping moment, Jeongguk is silent. I messed up, Yoongi thinks in a sudden panic. Shit, I messed up, I said something wrong—
“Take a photo together?” Jeongguk asks uncertainly, and Yoongi takes a deep, shuddering breath.
“No, um.” He rubs at the back of his neck. His face feels like it’s on fire but now that he’s started this he can’t go back. “Hold hands.”
Another beat of silence, and then Jeongguk, relief evident in his voice, says, “Sure.”
A hand enters Yoongi’s field of vision, palm up. Yoongi hesitates before gingerly placing his own hand on top of it. Jeongguk laces their fingers together and gives a light squeeze. Yoongi freezes. The sensation is unfamiliar but not unwelcome. It is, in fact, quite pleasant. After the first moment of surprise he lets himself relax into the touch, and from the corner of his eye he can see Jeongguk smile.
“Better?” Jeongguk asks.
Yoongi coughs. He’s a little embarrassed, but mostly pleased. He likes the feeling of Jeongguk’s hand in his, he thinks. “Yeah,” he says, then gives a tentative squeeze of his own. “Let’s go, I’m starving.”
They walk hand in hand all the way to the restaurant, and Yoongi’s heart, which he so often holds carefully close, soars.