Actions

Work Header

Parallel

Chapter Text

Monster won the last one, and honestly, Yoongi is disappointed when he wins this battle as well. Not like it's his fault. Rent is due and he's working like a dog to get enough money from the shitty little coffee place he works at. It gives him less time to be Gloss, to work on his lyrics, his flow. 

Monster, though, he's probably got all the time in the world. He has that air, like everything is trivial. It makes Yoongi want to punch the goddamn sunglasses off Monster's face. "Get a life in the real world," he wants to shout. "You can't live underground, idiot!"  The stupid rich boy is just trying to look cool, has probably never had to work so hard for anything. Even his rap is screwed up, completely controversial. English is mixed in with the Korean, and Yoongi swears it's to mock him but what lyrics he understands seem to be half dissing Monster himself.  Yoongi as Yoongi would go tell Monster to go fuck himself, his rap is stupid.

The battle is over though, so Yoongi slips back into his Gloss attitude. Gives Monster a nod and a glare, then slips offstage. The bright stage lighting is a bitch, making his head pound. Are these people fucking blind to need those?

Gloss's two stagehands are waiting for him. In reality, they're Yoongi's dancer best friends. Hoseok is a year younger than Yoongi, and he owns a dance studio. Jimin, a student, just happens to go to that studio. They're grinning, giddy with both the pure adrenaline that came from the so called "Rap War" between Gloss and Monster, and also the alcohol that is currently being downed by Jimin. Hoseok, despite his ever sunny nature, tries to look a little sad. "That sucks, hyung. You'll win next time, though!" He darts a hand out and takes the bottle of soju from Jimin. "You want some?"

"I don't drink." And Yoongi doesn't. He used to drink coffee, but serving it every day for half a year has made him give up on any drink but water. 

"I feel bad for you," Jimin pipes up. Yoongi levels a stare at him, raising a water bottle to his lips. Pausing. Throwing the contents of the bottle onto Hoseok and Jimin instead.

"Don't get drunk on the job. I'm expecting you to help me just beat Monster and win this shitshow, then you two can give yourselves as many hangovers as you want." The smile on his face marked it as a joke. 

"Hyung," Jimin said with a straight face, water dripping down his hair, "I will smash the soju bottle over your head if you ever do that again. And you have to pay the rent. Which means you have to work. You cannot work if I smash your head with this. So. It is most definitely in your best interests to not do that."

Yoongi shakes his head, laughing a little. There is no one else back here to see him joking with his two ‘assistants’. He can afford to be just Yoongi -their friend- instead of Gloss -their employer-  for a little while back here. “Yah, Hoseok, tell Jimin-ah to respect his hyung!”

“Jimin, listen to Yoongi-hyung. For now, he’s our employer.” Hoseok keeps a perfect poker face.

“Are you serious? ‘For now’?” Yoongi shakes his head, smiling. “As your employer, I say pack up and let’s go. I’ll be on stage glaring at all the sucky cameras till they fix the lighting.” He stands up, flicks water onto Hoseok’s head, and climbs back onto the stage. Figures no one was there for his conversation with Jimin and Hoseok. He’s wrong, he realizes when a hand grabs the collar of his dark jacket. Yoongi makes sure the hood still covers his face, then turns. It’s Monster, his expression blank, eyes hidden behind sunglasses. That bastard. Of course he’s going to brag about his win. It’s what enemies do.

“What the hell do you want?” Yoongi drawls, thickening his Daegu accent to hide his voice. Not that he’s unrecognizable, he drops the accent when he raps, but better safe than sorry.

“Do better next time,” Monster says, his fingers still gripping Yoongi’s collar loosely. “You fucking sucked, Gloss. Do better. I fight you for a challenge. Give one to me.”

“Let go of me, you son of a bitch.” Yoongi shrugs Monster’s hand off. “You want a challenge? I’ll give you a goddamn challenge. I challenge you to go and kill yourself.”

To his surprise, Monster actually laughs. Or maybe it’s not a surprise. What a jerk. “I’ll do that, Gloss. I’ll do that. And you can set fire to your house… Or do you not have one?”

“It’s bigger than yours,” Yoongi fires back. “What’s your place, a shack?” It’s probably not, damn that Monster, he acts like a rich kid.

“Save that for the diss track,” Monster smirks, turning to leave. “My challenge still stands. Set fire to your shitty house, and the we’ll see how big it is when it’s just a pile of firewood.”

“I’ll do that, Monster. I’ll do that.” Yoongi mimics him. “And you go commit suicide somewhere so that don’t even notice you’re gone, because no one in the world gives a damn whether you’re alive or not. Stop deluding yourself.”

A laugh comes from near them, and there’s a cameraman turning the recording off. It’ll be all over the net soon, another offstage skirmish, another part of the war. Yoongi glares. Monster flips the camera off, and Yoongi only wishes the recording was still going.

Hoseok and Jimin come up with their stuff packed, soju bottle in hand. “Hyung!” Jimin calls, his face lighting up.

Monster grimaces when they come up. “Fag,” he mouths at Yoongi, his face unreadable.

“Takes one to know one,” Yoongi hisses back at him, turning away before he gets a reaction, because yes it’s childish, but he doesn’t have time for another round of pissing Monster off. Hoseok and Jimin follow him. None of them see Monster flinch.

 

 

Yoongi sighs, leans against the counter. No one will come in at this time, not to a crappy cafe like this one. Except maybe the one guy who always arrives at the most idiotic moment possible and orders a cinnamon latte, then sits on his computer doing whatever the hell he does and leaving the coffee for the trash can.

Then again, that’s Yoongi’s fault for suggesting the drink to him, and now he’s stuck playing janitor. That’s not a problem though. He gets extra for working overtime, he needs extra, and the kid is quite honestly kinda cute.

It’s been a week since the last battle versus Monster, Yoongi’s managed to get his rent paid off with help from Hoseok, and now the rich guy is gonna pay hell. They’re going to the same place as last time, and Yoongi knows the stage, knows where to avoid because of the lights, he’s gonna burn Monster to the ground.

His head has other plans for him though. It’s apparently trying to fucking kill him from the inside, because his headache is going to split his skull open right now. Looking at the lights makes it worse, so he turns them off, looking away from the blinking green light of the ancient coffee maker and the open sign which he wants to turn off but isn’t legally allowed to.

It’s sort of a dizzy feeling when Yoongi hears the door open, and he looks up at the person who just walked in. It’s Cinnamon Kid with his computer again. “Ah! It’s still open. Ahh… Can I have a cinnamon latte?”

“You realize you can just say ‘the usual’, right?” Yoongi bites out, ignoring his headache as he turns the coffeemaker on.

“The usual?” Cinnamon Kid frowns. “But I come here at, like, such varying and awful times. So, the same person isn’t always there.”
“You do come at every unholy hour, but I’m here a lot, kid,” Yoongi says, “so just say you want the usual, okay?”

“Umm, sure. But I’m not a kid!” Cinnamon argues. “I’m nineteen.”

“Are you still in school?” Yoongi asks. Cinnamon nods. “You’re a kid.”

“Fine,” Cinnamon says. Yoongi gets the milk out. Technically what he’s making isn’t really a latte, but the store is crap anyway so it doesn’t matter. His hands are shaking for no reason, and he spills the milk, but most of it ends up in the cup and that’s good.

“I’ll add the actual cinnamon after I clean this,” he tells Cinnamon. The guy nods.

“I’d help, but I destroy everything I touch,” he apologizes. He’s got a low voice for a nineteen year old, but Yoongi’s tone is too raspy for a twenty year old who’s never smoked despite his underground shit, so he can’t exactly judge.

“What’s your name?” Yoongi asks, cleaning the counter with slow, lazy, circular strokes. The motion makes him a little dizzy.

Cinnamon tilts his head. “It’s Namjoon, why?”

“Because I can’t exactly keep calling you Cinnamon Kid,” Yoongi laughs. Namjoon gives him a wide-eyed stare, then starts laughing too.

“Hey, you’re the one who suggested that thing,” Namjoon defends.

“Yah, whatever,” Yoongi mutters, throwing the paper towel into the trash can. He winces as it slams shut. Namjoon looks at him, seems sort of concerned.

“Hey, you okay, hyung?”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow, ignoring the protest from his skull. “‘Hyung’? Really?”

“You call me kid,” Namjoon points out, “but seriously, are you okay?”

“Fine, kid.”
“You don’t look fine, hyung.” Namjoon frowns. “Ah, thank you!” He accepts the cinnamon latte, but makes no move to occupy his usual table, instead putting the computer down and returning to the counter. “Whoah, this is good!”

“And you’ve never realized that before?” Yoongi drawls. Well, damn, he really sounds like he has asthma or something now, but it’s never been a problem when he raps.

“Riiiight.” Namjoon rubs the back of his neck sheepishly, and goddamnit he’s adorable right now. “I guess I never really actually drank it before.”
“Yeah, no shit,” Yoongi tells him, leaning on the counter again. “Oh, damn, I just cussed in front of a kid.”

“Twice,” Namjoon points out, “but I’m nineteen and I know more cuss words than you, hyung. Even some stuff in English”
“Yah, brat, don’t get cocky,” Yoongi grumbles. He gets up to turn the sign light off because finally this damn shop is closing. “Hey, you wanna go now? I have to leave.”

“Of course, hyung. Sorry,” Namjoon adds, getting up. Yoongi switches off the sign light, and he doesn’t expect the shop to be so fucking dark, and he trips over thin air.

Namjoon manages to stop him from falling, pulling him upright. “Hyung, do you have to go wherever?”
Yes, and I don’t give a shit what you’re going to say, Gloss would have replied. But Yoongi is tired, no, fucking exhausted, and that damn idiot Monster can wait tonight. “No, it’s sort of a show up if you want to thing,” he says, and his words are a little slurred, and great, now Namjoon looks even more worried.

“Can you get home?”

“Sure, if I can drive,” Yoongi replies. “Wait, no forget it, I don’t want a ticket.”
Namjoon smiles. “I’d take you, but I can’t drive.” He scowls. “Oh, shit, I hate asking this… Should I take you to my place? It’s walking distance, that’s all!”

 

 

Namjoon’s house is, in Yoongi’s eyes, the size of Mount Olympus. There’s a gate with a code out front, but Namjoon just takes him through the back door. He looks nervous, checking for other people -probably his parents- every so often. Yoongi figures he shouldn’t exactly be with Namjoon right now, but he’s too tired to talk.

Namjoon takes him to the second floor, showing him the location of the bathroom and guest bedroom. Asks Yoongi if he wants water, and Yoongi just nods.

It’s not that late, and Yoongi would love to sleep but his head isn’t letting him, despite the aspirin he took just now. Namjoon says he should just go to sleep because it’s sort of plainly obvious at this point that he’s sick, and he has a fever. Yoongi can’t though, so he finds himself walking over to Namjoon’s room at eight pm, which by all standard’s really isn’t late, but in the current situation is probably ridiculous.

Namjoon is hunched over his computer, perched on the edge of his bed, and he looks up, startled, when Yoongi comes in, quickly shutting the screen. “Hyung! Do you need anything?”

“Nah, I just can’t sleep.” Yoongi sits down next to him. “What’s that?”

“Oh, ummm… You know the Gloss vs. Monster rap war?” Namjoon asks hesitantly. Yoongi nods. “I follow the results, and there’s another battle scheduled for tonight.”

Oh,shit, Yoongi thinks, that bastard Monster is going to win again, I technically forfeit this one, damnit.

Namjoon opens the computer again. “Do you follow the war as well, hyung?” Yoongi nods again. “Are you on either side?”
“No, I just want to hear the rapping,” Yoongi says. Probably best to keep the fact that he’s Gloss to himself.  

Namjoon’s eyes light up. “Finally! Someone who isn’t biased! I listen for the rapping as well.”

Yoongi points to the screen. “It’s the Gloss vs. Monster designated announcer. I seriously can’t believe they have one of those, but it makes it pretty easy to tell when those two are gonna battle.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon laughs. “Wait… hyung, look! The announcer… He’s saying it’s tie.”

Yoongi looks at the screen, frowning. “Wait, how is it a tie? They haven’t even…?”

“It’s a tie by forfeit.” Namjoon looks shocked. “What? Both of them forfeit? Seriously, is this announcer dude joking or something?”
“Ugh, now they’re just playing clips of old battles and arguments.” Yoongi manages to act annoyed. Yes! That son of a bitch didn’t win this one!

“Hey, hyung, I was there when that happened.” Namjoon points to the screen. It’s the spitfire exchange Yoongi had with Monster the previous week, the video uploaded by some cameraman calling himself “V”. Yoongi is going to guess he’s the guy Monster flipped off. “They missed out on the best footage,” Namjoon scowls. “Gloss was like, shooting daggers at the camera with his eyes, and then Monster flipped off the camera.”

Yoongi whistles, then winces as his head protests. “Hey, Namjoon-ah, you got anywhere other than that guest room?”
“The only other place is my closet, sorry.” Namjoon fiddles with his hair. “And I sincerely doubt you wanna- oh, shit!”
“What?” Yoongi is already up when Namjoon leads him to the closet, leaving the computer with him, and turns off the lights.

“I’m sorry, hyung, but it’s my parents. I’m really sorry!”

Yoongi curls into himself, shutting out the noises of the gate opening below. He’s out like the closet light five minutes later, exhaustion taking over.

Chapter Text

Namjoon is quite honestly surprised when his parents go straight to sleep without coming up to check on him and his activities. He’s pretty damn good at not getting caught, though, so he supposes they’ve just given up and decided to trust him. That’s good for him, especially today. It’s good for Yoongi, the coffee shop boy, too.

Yoongi leaves early in the morning with barely a word. Namjoon doesn’t try and stop him- He’s not a very social person, and neither is the elder. He’s still confused about the previous night. Yeah, he forfeit, the win should have gone to Gloss. But why did Gloss decide not to show? That’s pretty much beyond Namjoon’s ability to understand. Sure, everyone has to just give up a few matches, but both of them on the same day?

Namjoon just figures Gloss doesn’t want to accept a win that’s not really a win and leaves at that. There’s honestly no better explanations. He wonders for a moment whether or not Gloss is wondering about his no-show, then dismisses the thought. Gloss is a good rapper. He probably doesn’t give a shit about some wannabe rapper who he just happens to have a grudge against. That’s honestly fine by him, though. They’ve got another fight scheduled on Sunday thanks to the absolute shitshow on Friday, and both Monster and Gloss have agreed to it.

The rest of that day is somewhere close to decent. His parents leave him alone, he works on his music, writes his lyrics. Namjoon was originally going to hang out with Taehyung, and possibly even work up the courage to tell the younger that he’s Monster and he’s sorry for flipping Tae off but Gloss was right there. Tae happens to have plans, though, going to a dance studio owned by a high school senior named Hoseok. Namjoon knows Hoseok - they share a few classes - and he’s pretty cool. Although owning a studio at age nineteen is one hell of an achievement, he’s not a huge snob, not a constant studier or teacher’s pet type, either. Namjoon is still sure that Taehyung only goes to the studio to see his fellow ninety-five liner Jimin, though. The dance student is always hanging around the building, and Tae talks non-stop about him and the pranks they pull. Namjoon’s almost certain Tae also gets advice on how to deal with Jungkook, the kid he likes.

So even though it’s lonely, he texts Seokjin a little, then stops annoying his hyung halfway to hell and goes to the coffee shop. There’s a different kid there. His name tag says he’s Jungkook. He looks a year or so younger than Taehyung, and he has a constant deer-in-headlights expression as he serves the customers. He’s cute in a innocent-little-bunny type way. Namjoon can see why Taehyung likes the boy.

Namjoon stays just long enough to finish his coffee and then he’s out of there. He swings by the studio to say hi to Taehyung and Hoseok. He swears Hoseok and Jimin are Gloss’s two stagehands, but no one but “Monster” has ever seen them, so asking would completely blow his cover. He spends most of the day wandering aimlessly, creating quick raps on the spot about whatever the hell he happens to see and not daring to say them aloud because every single one of them is pretty fucking awful.

Namjoon gets back to his house at around ten at night, somewhat happier than he had started out thanks to the miracle of instant ramen at nine thirty pm from the nearest convenience store. He could afford more - his parents are businesspeople, so he has a pretty decent allowance, but he ends up saving most of it. He plans on moving out as soon as he’s done with high school, and saving every week is the only way to do it without his parents knowing.

When he walks in the front door, his parents are having a drink and he knows shit’s been thrown straight to the dogs. It’s only a matter of time now until something happens to send everything to hell. From past experiences, he knows that nothing good happens when they’re drunk. Namjoon’s father is completely wasted already, and his mother is a little red in the face. If anything happens, she’s his only chance of making it out unscathed.

His luck just happens to kick in when both of his parents, his ever-so-paranoid and careful parents, decide to check the security tapes while they’re completely drunk on soju. Namjoon feels his heart sink as they rewind. He knows, he just knows that he didn’t manage to stay out of all the footage last night, he had Yoongi to worry about, Then he realizes the whole significance of that one damn statement.

Oh, shit, I had Yoongi-hyung over. Here. In this fucking house.

Namjoon’s mother rewinds the security footage all the way to nine the previous night, and they watch for a few minutes. Nine minutes and forty-three seconds, Namjoon’s anxious mind tells him, before all hell breaks loose.

It’s right there on the camera for the world to see - Namjoon trying to support Yoongi, who looks like utter shit, glancing around to avoid the cameras. It’s only a few seconds of footage on a couple of different cameras, but for his prejudiced, absolutely stoned, homophobic parents, what there is on video is enough.

Namjoon knows he can’t try to reason with his mom on this matter, and his dad… He’s bad enough when he’s stone-cold sober. The most he can do is dash up the stairs to his room and sustain himself on the things he’s got stashed away in there until his parents are in more of a negotiate first, kill later mindframe.

Namjoon’s father is already standing though, and his mother is staring at him disapprovingly. His father is screaming things like “Fag, pretty boy, fucking disgusting, we should have known what he was, the way he acts with all his friends!” and Namjoon feels sick because it’s all true. He’s disgusting, he’s awful, he’s gay, he’s whatever else his dad wants to call him, and he’s never good enough.

He’s halfway up the stairs when he hears his mother scream, “No! Don’t!” He twists his body halfway around just in time to see the vase that used to stand on the kitchen counter flying his way. Even drunk, his father has good aim, and Namjoon barely manages to turn his head so that none of the porcelain shards hit his eyes.

He feels it when a sharp sliver of the vase slices cleanly into his back, jutting out between his shoulder blades. He feels it but there’s too much adrenaline rushing through his veins for him to register any pain, his mind is screaming danger, danger, danger, get the fuck out of here and without a second thought Namjoon doubles back, reaching the door before his father catches up to him. He pushes it open, stumbles onto the front porch. His vision is blurring now,and he vaguely feels the house key being snatched out of his hand as someone - his father? Mother? - tells him never to come back.

Namjoon walks out the back door of the house, not looking back once. He texts Seokjin once he’s off of the property.

 

To: Jin-hyung

Hyung, help. My house. Back door. Bring the first aid kit.

 

A reply appears seconds later.

 

From: Jin-hyung

Shit, what happened?

Joon-ah?

 

Namjoon manages not to drop the phone, but his back hurts too much for him to think coherently and his fingers are shaking as the adrenaline rush wears off. When Seokjin arrives, he’s an absolute wreck, and he’s thankful that Taehyung’s there to help because fuck the cut on his back hurts, it’s probably going to scar, and that’s the least of his worries.

“Shit, this is bad,” Jin swears, and Namjoon knows now that it’s really, really bad because this is the second time today that Seokjin has cussed, and maybe the seventh time ever. Taehyung backs up this opinion.

“Hyung, we should go to a hospital.”

Namjoon shakes his head, manages to rasp, “No. Can’t afford it. You can’t pay either.”

He’s right. They can’t pay. And Seokjin and Tae both know there’s no arguing with Namjoon, because he is probably one of the most stubborn people in the world, so Jin gets the first aid kit out without another word, and Taehyung gives Namjoon painkillers. He’s especially thankful for those because they make the whole world a little fuzzy around the edges and the cut isn’t stinging quite as much and he doesn’t remember much after that.

 

Seokjin is good with the injury. He is a medical student, but never before has Namjoon had a chance to appreciate his skills. Now, with his back wrapped in a bandage (it’s only temporary, Jin swears, he needs stitches or something, even though they both know he’s not going to get any) his pain level is somewhere close to seven instead of ten, and  despite the eldest having a tendency to act like everybody’s eomma, Namjoon’s somewhere close to okay.

Namjoon is very, very lucky that he has his savings. Seokjin lets him stay at his apartment with Taehyung, but Namjoon really doesn’t want to stay there long, he’s disturbing a routine, and he hates imposing on Jin’s kindness.

He’s glad that it’s late Saturday night, he doesn’t have to go to school the next day, and he spends a good four hours looking for a cheap apartment and a decently well paying job that he can get with absolutely no credentials at all. Namjoon only stops when Taehyung grumbles that the light won’t let him sleep, putting away the computer and crashing, having taken probably a few more painkillers that he should have to dull the pain.

He doesn’t wake until eleven am, and when he does he remembers that he’s got a battle scheduled with Gloss and fuck him if he’s missing it. Only Jin and Tae are right there and Namjoon realizes with a sinking feeling that he’s got a shit ton of explaining to do.

 

Namjoon has apologized to Taehyung eleven times for flipping him off, told Seokjin that’s he’s sorry almost as many, and muttered about a “battle with Gloss” around twenty-three times when Taehyung finally gets it.

Yes, Tae. Normally Jin catches on first, but he’s kind of clueless now, and Namjoon has to say he’s glad of that fact. Seokjin does not take well to rude shit like cussing, underground rap, flipping people off, or anything of the sort. He particularly hates when all three occur. As soon as Taehyung understands, he puts it into what Namjoon has politely dubbed Taelien. Seokjin has a better name for it, in light of the situation - Gibberish.

This time, just to Namjoon's great delight, Seokjin gets the idea through the random words, feelings, noises, and occasional hand motions that accompany Taehyung’s signature speeches. And then for the second time, all hell breaks loose.

It’s a friendlier sort of hell this time, with Tae defending and Jin glaring. Normally this would dissolve in a matter of seconds, but at one point the conversation turns away from Namjoon’s fame in the ‘filthy, crap-filled’ underground scene and toward his rivalry with Gloss. Tae breaks in, remembering that there’s a rematch scheduled for today, and he asks Namjoon what he’s going to do about it.

The uncomfortable silence as Namjoon stares at the ground tells Seokjin all that he needs to know,

“You have got to be shitting me, Namjoon. You literally just got cut by your parents’ idiocy, you didn’t get any proper medical treatment because hell no, the first aid kit is not enough, and you want to go onstage and face this badass shorty whatshisname?”

Namjoon nods, slightly sheepish, but resolved in his decision. Jin groans, facepalms, and walks out of the room despite it being his own apartment. Taehyung holds a hand out to Namjoon.

“C’mon hyung, you need a halfway decent outfit for tonight.” Namjoon smiles at his supportive dongsaeng. “Let’s see, how about- Oh! White, so the red bleeds through?” He lowers his voice to a whisper. “I’ll let you take the bandage off for effect.”

Namjoon smiles, pushes his anxiety over the upcoming stage to the back of his mind, and lets Taehyung help him choose what to wear.

Chapter Text

Yoongi is, quite honestly, looking forward to this rematch. Hoseok and Jimin are against him going because he knows they know he still feels like shit, but since they’ve both danced in worse conditions than Yoongi is in, they’re not complaining any. They’ve just decided to shadow him extra closely.

Since Yoongi had already been in his Gloss attire (minus the hood) on Friday night, he had to keep the hoodie and wash the shirt. Which is why he’s wearing a white shirt rather than his preferred dark grey.

He goes in through the backstage door, expecting to see the nosy ‘V’ cameraboy or some other nuisance of a bastard holding a camera and hoping to get exclusive footage or some shit like that. Yoongi knows from experience that it’s not fucking gonna happen. They, on the other hand, don’t.

This time, though, it’s different. Different because yes, V is there, but he isn’t holding his camera up to record. It’s still hanging around his neck because what the hell is a cameraboy without his camera, but it’s not on. Instead, V is next to Monster, who’s wearing his sunglasses like always. But he’s different too, because he’s wearing a shirt as white as Yoongi’s, and Yoongi can clearly see the back of the shirt, which is stained red in the pattern of a cut.

“Hey, rich boy!” Yoongi calls, slipping into his Gloss persona with the ease of years of practice. “What, you hit yourself on the wall? Or do you need fake blood to make you look cool? Your rapping sure as hell ain’t gonna do it.” He leans against the wall, pulls up his hood further to hide his face, and waits for the response. Maybe V will use his camera now. Gloss sort of likes the attention, and he’s in charge, not Yoongi.

Surprisingly, Monster doesn’t fire back with any kind of response, instead turning away from Yoongi. “Fucking coward,” Yoongi shoots at him, hoping for return fire. That bastard really pisses him off. “What, you’re just gonna turn tail and run? Son of a bitch.” The classic insult to the mother. Considering he looks rich and like his every whim is catered to, he probably has a decent family. Yoongi envies that, so Gloss insults that.

“I know I am,” is the response, quieter than Yoongi expects. Another man, one Yoongi hasn’t seen around before, walks in. He looks like he could be a model or something. Or a fuckboy, for that matter. Yoongi lets a smirk appear on his face. The people in this place are going to eat him alive.

The pretty guy stands next to V and Monster, muttering, “Don’t cuss, don’t cry, and don’t dignify that with a response.” Yoongi nearly laughs. A guy who doesn’t like profanity in a place like this? He’s going to need to grow the hell up. V says something to Pretty Guy, ending in ‘hyung’. Yoongi figures maybe Pretty Guy is a cameraman if V knows him.

“Thanks, hyung,” Monster says, sounding defeated. If he were anyone else, Yoongi might have felt a little bit bad for him. Instead, he strides up to the taller boy.

“‘Hyung’, huh? Who’s the fag now?” Yoongi smiles, turning the other’s words against him. He still hasn’t forgiven the insult to Jimin. “And what else? Right, like I said, you’re such a pussy that you need to look hurt to look tough? A word of advice from someone who is so much better than you are: You don’t look tough if you look like you got beat up.” Jimin and Hoseok haven’t really seen this side of him before, the one with no holds barred.

“And what, you don’t look like shit? For such a short guy, there’s a hell of a lot of ugly on you.” That’s V, and he ignores Pretty Guy’s glare. Yoongi smirks. They’re not going to beat him with stupid insults like that. Yoongi turns to Monster.

“And someone else has to talk for you? Maybe it’s better that you keep your mouth shut. You can’t talk, and you can’t ruin my hearing with that crap you call rapping.” Monster’s expression is hidden behind the sunglasses, but he smiles slowly.

“Fake blood, huh?” V shakes his head as Monster speaks for the first time. The rich-boy rapper holds a hand up. “I’ll show you.” Yoongi quickly scans him for a gun or knife. Finding none, he relaxes, watching Monster. Pretty Guy is fuming and he looks like he’s about to explode and maybe try and hit someone as Monster uses the hand he held up to touch his back, wincing. Yoongi watches, wondering what a fake expression of pain is going to do.

When Monster hold his hand up to Yoongi again, it’s covered in red. Yoongi raises an eyebrow, knowing the sight isn’t proof of anything. V and Pretty Guy watch closely, and Yoongi feels Hoseok and Jimin’s stares. Monster uses his bloody hand to push Yoongi backwards, leaving a red print on Yoongi’s white shirt. “See how fake that is.” He holds the same hand up again. “Let’s go.” Pretty Guy follows him. V takes a few pictures before going after them.

Hoseok and Jimin reach Yoongi, who’s standing in a defensive stance. “Hyung?” Jimin asks, looking at the red handprint on Yoongi’s shirt. Hoseok reaches out to touch it, his fingers coming away red and sticky. “Hyung, do you think…” Jimin trails off.

“No.” The response is short, and Yoongi is mentally preparing himself for the rematch. He’ll win this time, he’s sure of it. “No, Jimin, it’s not real. It cannot be real.” If it’s real- If it’s actually real, the match won’t be even. Not that it was ever fair because Yoongi’s dominated the stage far longer than that damn rich boy, but he has pride. Winning when his opponent is injured, that’s not fair to anyone.

The announcer calls them up. Monster gets on stage first, showing Yoongi the - fake - cut in all its glory. Yoongi grits his teeth, shakes his head, and gets up on stage. He’s going to pretend he doesn’t know that yes, the blood is real, going to pretend Jimin isn’t right. Going to pretend he didn’t hear Hoseok say, “It’s real Jimin-ah. I’ve seen real blood, this is real blood.”

He’s going to avoid and he’s going to pretend and Gloss not Yoongi will be doing it all and Gloss has no conscience and Gloss will lose himself to a beat and pretend that he’s not avoiding any human emotions. Rinse, avoid the fact that there’s a schedule to rinse, pretend it’s a new one-time thing, and repeat. That’s lies. That’s Gloss.

 

Yoongi wins. He wins by a wider margin than any other rap battle they’ve had, and he can relax and celebrate with his two idiot dancers backstage now. Jimin hugs him immediately, then pulls back with a wide grin on his  face.

“The last verse was the best one.” Hoseok stands back, letting Jimin complete the physical aspect of cheering for Yoongi. That’s why Jimin and Hoseok are perfect together, each one knows when to back up and slow down. Hoseok’s dabbled in rap though, so he congratulates Yoongi in his own way.

Yoongi agrees actually. The last lines were a particular favorite of his, and he’s proud of coming up with those in a split second. He repeats them now, to a grinning Hoseok and Jimin’s clapping.

Your dumbass beats, your shitty rhyme

'Save that crap for another time

You don’t have a damn chance to win

Against me you can’t even begin

You wannabe, try-to-be, fucking bastard, some newbie

You gotta be shitting me, you ain’t got a start on me

What are you, shame on you, it’s still my age

Butchered you, leveled you, now get the hell off my stage!'

The last seven words were almost spoken, with as much contempt as Yoongi could muster in the moment. The crowd had been on fire then, and Monster knew he was done, and Gloss knew Monster was done. The win was fucking exhilarating, and Yoongi made it past without much trouble afterward.

He celebrates with Hoseok and Jimin and leaves them to their soju in the dance studio and their homework to be done on hangover morning and goes back to his little apartment, the one he’s given so much time and effort and so many graveyard hours at the cafe for.

Yoongi has never had trouble sleeping before, and the other two swear he can fall asleep anywhere, but tonight after the best win of his lifetime and a few too many bottles of the drink, which he was wheedled into having, his overworking anxious mind won’t leave him alone. It’s plaguing him with images of the bloody handprint on his shirt which to be honest, he knows is blood. It’s plaguing him with guilt, and it takes him far too long to ignore it this time, as Yoongi and not Gloss.

 

There are strange new developments in Yoongi’s life after that one rematch. For one, Monster had told V, on camera, direct and to the point, that he was going to push all the battles back for a week. So not next week, but the one after. Yoongi didn’t mind too much- If he wasn’t onstage, he could save up and pay for his apartment without having to work around a schedule.

The second new thing is that someone else joins his ass-o-clock shifts. He’s a little freshman bunny kid named Jeon Jungkook and he keeps Yoongi awake, alert, alive, and not scaring the shit out of customers who happen to take too long with their order, or who annoy him for no apparent reason. When Jungkook is around, he drags a square-smiled sophomore art student named Taehyung with him. Yoongi takes one look at him and equates him with the cocky cameraboy, V. It’s a comfort to know he isn’t the only one hiding his identity behind a stage name. When Taehyung joins, they make him act as a server for the bakery items. They pay him well, Jungkook insists, although the only thing they pay him with is free muffins at 2 AM.

The third change, though, is the one that pisses Yoongi off. Like, a lot. Namjoon doesn’t come back during any of the times he’s there, not once returning with his dimpled smile and asking for a cinnamon latte. Yoongi is probably more irritable about this fact than he should be, considering the position they were in after goddamn Friday night. Scratch that, Yoongi decided, that made it sound weirder than it was.

When Namjoon finally does return, it’s eight days later, he sees Yoongi first and walks right over to the counter - at which there is no line because it’s 3 fucking AM and the store is crappy- grinning widely. “Yoongi-hyung! Good to see you again.”

Without another word, Yoongi calls to Jungkook, who doesn’t have Tae trailing him today, to make a cinnamon latte, then turns to Namjoon. “Been a while, hasn’t it?” Namjoon ducks sheepishly, taking sudden interest in his very uninteresting feet.

“Yeah, sorry! I had a lot of schoolwork to do… Like, shit, no one ever said senior year was like this.” The younger boy starts laughing. Yoongi, remembering his own awful senior year, doesn’t join in.

“Really? What class?” He leans against the counter casually, waiting for a response.

Namjoon gives a dramatic long-suffering sigh. “Lee, AP Chemistry. She really, really sucks. Plus I started working part-time because I wanna move out after high school.”

Yoongi wishes bitterly for a moment that he had a chance to move out after high school rather than as soon as one of his friends could let him stay with them, then frowns. Hoseok has AP Chemistry with Lee as well, and he’s been dealing with shit just fine, apart from a fairly shitty GPA.

“I didn’t have her, but everyone tells me she’s a bitch,” Yoongi says, handing Namjoon the cinnamon latte. ‘Everyone’ in this case is Hoseok, but Namjoon doesn’t need to know that, at least not until Yoongi gets the story set straight. Which he tells himself he’ll do after 7 in the morning. For Hoseok’s sake, so he doesn’t die.

Chapter Text

There’s something in Yoongi’s tone that says he doesn’t quite believe what Namjoon is saying. Namjoon figures it’s no surprise- if Yoongi really has friends who also have AP Chem with Lee, he should know that the class is fairly relaxed right now. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from being a bitch about grading, but it’s not bad enough for him to work too hard.

What is bad enough, though, is juggling two part-time jobs, one of which is the graveyard shift at a convenience store, and trying to save up enough to keep paying the rent on the very tiny, extremely shitty little apartment that Namjoon currently resides in.

He’d gone back to his parents’ house a few days later, and managed to get a few of his clothes out of his bedroom via the window and a large oak tree. It may or may not have resulted in him falling off the tree, but he has clothing now, so it’s fine, a few scrapes and bruises are worth it. He’d grabbed his wallet, too, however meager the amount inside. He managed to push back all the scheduled rap battles, which he wouldn’t have done had Seokjin not insisted. Tae was all too happy to get the exclusive clip on his account, which is steadily gathering more followers, and Namjoon is relieved that there’s one less looming deadline over his head right now, though he won’t tell Jin that for his pride’s sake.

Namjoon’s never been the physically strongest, and if only for the sake of the cut on his back which still sent sharp pain shooting up to his neck from time to time, he had picked some fairly sedentary jobs to apply for, the equivalent of white-collar for a high school student. The midnight convenience store gig, to appease Jin’s mothering, was going to be dropped as soon as he was out of high school and could find a better place to work that was not at some unholy hour.

He also had posted a small article on the school website saying that he could help anyone with their studies, for a fair amount of money. So far, he’s gotten called by Jeon Jungkook to help with Geometry, Song. Jungkook somehow managed to wheedle Namjoon into meeting at the coffee shop. Thankfully, Yoongi wasn’t around, but Taehyung was. The two younger boys had half-flirted, half-edged around each other as Namjoon tried- and half-failed, half-succeeded- to teach Jungkook.

The second part time- because the tutoring doesn’t count- is at a fast food place. He can’t cook for his life’s worth, and drops a lot of shit, so he doesn’t know how in hell or heaven he got hired, but he did. He’s the drive-thru counter food person, whatever the position is called. It means a lot of ‘Could you repeat the order’ or ‘Please, be patient, your order will take another minute’, and every once in a while, ‘Sure, here’s the extra twenty-seven packs of ketchup you requested’, but it paid fairly well.

So he feels guilty about lying to Yoongi, but explaining everything that’s happened would not end well, especially the bit about the vase. Namjoon really just hopes that whoever this friend of Yoongi’s is, they don’t mention that Lee’s class is no harder than usual. His cover is already so thin that it would only take one whisper to blow it away.

Namjoon’s just finished the graveyard shift at the cemetery convenience store when he gets an email about his tutoring webpage. His heart sinks into his stomach. It’s probably going to be the school admin taking it down for breaking some fucked up code or the other, whatever shit they put in the student handbook.

He’s pleased to see it’s just a student using the email feature rather than the call feature. He doesn’t recognize the email address- HopeOnTheStreet- but it’s the usual. A fellow sufferer of the torture system, desperate for assistance so that the powers that be and the parents that be don’t chew them out. He’s asking for help with English, something Namjoon prides himself on being pretty good at.

Where do you want to meet up? Namjoon sends back, and when? He hopes this person will be nice enough to reply sooner than later, before school begins, otherwise Namjoon won’t be able to check his email for however long it takes to complete his two hours at the drive thru, as he often works a little overtime.

His hopes are cruelly dashed as there comes no reply, and he leaves the small apartment to get to school. The bell rings maybe a minute after he enters the classroom. It’s English, and the irony strikes him as quite funny. There’s going to be a lesson on proper sentence structure, and Shin never gives classwork, so Namjoon decides to take the opportunity to catch up on the sleep he’s been missing, his foggy brain shutting down in mere seconds.

He wakes up to someone shaking his shoulder, and he blearily rubs his eyes. “Wha’?” He blinks a couple of times, then looks up again into the face of the person who’s ruined his sleep, and probably saved his ass from detention if he misses Calculus.

“Wake up!” comes the cheery reply. “I figured you wouldn’t wanna get in trouble, so I woke you up.” The voice and face belong to Jimin, the bubbly stagehand that Namjoon had insulted. He winces at the memory. Jimin frowns at him. “Are you going to murder me? Yoongi-hyung would if I woke him up.”

Namjoon pauses at the mention of a person named Yoongi, wondering if he’s thinking of the same one as Jimin is. The younger boy’s voice snaps him out of his train of thought. “Maybe I should have let you sleep? I mean, hyung is always sleepy, but damn, you look exhausted.”

Namjoon manages to summon the energy to get up from his desk and nod at Jimin in gratitude. “No, thank you, now I won’t end up having to cancel my shift because I got in trouble with the teachers.” He means the words to be reassuring, but Jimin frowns and looks even more worried. He mutters something about ‘I never wanna be a senior’ and drops the topic, hurrying away to his next class.

Namjoon runs through the school day on autopilot, dozing off every few hours as the professors lecture on about whatever the useless crap of the day is this time around. He stumbles out of Lee’s AP Chemistry classroom some seven hours later, heading straight to the fast food store. His house is within biking distance, and despite his best efforts to decline him, Seokjin had insisted on getting him a bike, so he can get around without walking or spending money on a taxi.

Around halfway through the two hour work period, his phone notifies him of a message. He has to physically resist the urge to check it, for fear that the manager will notice, and he returns to serving greasy fries and a disturbingly stale and reheated burger or two through the tiny drive-thru window. There’s a girl who is either asking for a lot more mayonnaise that is strictly necessary or flirting with him, who he just gives a handful of mayo packets to before sending her on her way.

Namjoon is about ready to die of misery as his shift is done, but the next person is late, and he gets to do extra time. He nearly curses when the order machine beeps again, until he hears a familiar voice on the other side. “Can I get one large strawberry-banana-citrus smoothie with peanut butter in it?”

“Tae, why the fuck are you putting peanut butter in that shit?” Namjoon asks, abandoning all protocol. There’s a short, stunned silence, and then Taehyung speaks tentatively.

“Hyung, wasn’t your shift supposed to end ten minutes ago?”

“Yes, yes it was.” Namjoon states it flatly, simply calling out the order to one of the people in the kitchen. He has no energy left to care that the other employee is late again, or that he’s working overtime for barely any more pay than usual. Taehyung remains silent, then pulls up to the window. Jin is driving the car, with Tae in the passenger seat. Namjoon waves to the elder shyly, shrinking under the weight of his scrutiny.

As soon as he gives Tae his smoothie, peanut butter and all, Seokjin hands him the money and a huge tip. Despite Namjoon’s best efforts, he can’t return the cash, and Jin drives off quickly, his dark grey car disappearing around the corner of the building. Namjoon sighs, leaning back against the counter.

The employee who’s supposed to work after him finally arrives, fifteen minutes later than he should have. He seems overly flustered, and he’s a fellow student. He looks like he just got caught in detention, and he apologizes so much to Namjoon that he can’t bring himself to hate the guy.

Namjoon walks out to where he’s leaned his bike outside the building, pulling his phone out of his pocket to check the notification. There’s a couple of worried texts from Seokjin and Taehyung, his personal take-care-of-your-health duo, and there’s an email, a reply from HopeOnTheStreet. He can guess what the texts say, so he lets them remain on unread and opens the email instead, scrolling down through the numerous thanks and emojis and finds the timing that they sent him. “Fuck,” he mutters. It’s ten minutes from now, at the coffee shop.

He types a quick reply- Sure, on my way, and kicks up the stand on his bike, putting his phone back in his pocket as he rides. The coffee shop is a few blocks away, and he’s wondering why everyone is the whole goddamn school seems to love the place.

When he arrives, the gentle lights are a welcome sight, and he’s going to use Jin’s tip to get himself enough caffeine to get through tonight’s convenience store job. He puts down the kickstand on the bike again, letting it stand near the brick wall of the building.

When Namjoon walks in through the double glass door, mind completely numb, ready to beg for any amount of caffeine, he doesn’t quite register the sight he’s seeing. Jimin is sitting in one corner of the shop, on one of the higher barstools, headphones in the computer and not paying attention. Next to him, checking the time every so often, is Hoseok, the other stagehand and studio owning student, all respect to him.

Standing behind the counter, staring constantly at the door, is one Min Yoongi. When Namjoon enters, Yoongi yells, “He’s here, Hope.” Namjoon casts his gaze around till he sees Hoseok walking over. Of course it’s Hoseok, how could he have been so dumb? Hope on the Street is the name of his dance studio.

“Hi, I’m so glad you’re here,” Hoseok says, heart shaped grin widening. “I mean, I know Shin never gives classwork, but I suck to hell at the out loud portions, as well as the homework. My grade in his is only slightly better than my grade in Lee’s class. Goddamnit, why’d I have to take an AP class?”

Namjoon forces his mouth into a smile. “I know exactly what you mean. Not English, but Lee’s class. I’m regretting my every life decision.” He’s not, the class isn’t really that difficult, but it’s better to keep up appearances, since Yoongi is around.

He turns to Yoongi. “Hey, hyung. Got a question for you. Can you set me up on a date?”

Hoseok startles visibly, looking from Namjoon to Yoongi and back. Jimin, who’s pulled out one earbud to hear the conversation, buries his face in his hand and tries to stifle his laughter. Yoongi, to his credit, looks considerably less surprised than the usual, considering what Namjoon had just said. “With who? Or can I pick?”

If Namjoon could be any braver, or less sleepy, he’d have answered ‘You.’ As it is, he says, “A huge dose of caffeine, so much that it’s harmful to most humanity.” He doesn’t care if it burns all his brain cells, he doesn’t need too many of those for high school anyway. “Don’ care if it’s bitter or sweet or utter crap or even if you put salt in it.”

Yoongi shoots him a gummy smile. “Right on it, kid.” He disappears into the back, and Namjoon fishes for the money Jin had tipped him earlier, pulling it out of the tiny amount of savings in his wallet. Hoseok looks on with an unreadable expression.

“Sorry, day’s been shitty,” Namjoon tells him. He’s not sure why, but he feels like he owes Hoseok something of an explanation for the purchase of coffee when it’s supposed to be a sort of study session. Hoseok nods, like he understands. He probably does, Namjoon thinks, managing the studio when he’s only a student, and especially in senior year, when all students are becoming more and more focused on college, jobs, the future, while still savoring the last taste of freedom and youth like the final drop of wine from a glass.

Yoongi returns with what Namjoon thinks of as the usual. He looks at it suspiciously. “Does this really have that much caffeine in it?” It needs to have enough for him to stay awake at the store, not that many people arrive at that time, but because the manager will kill him if he falls asleep.

Yoongi gives him a deadpan stare. “If you drink that much caffeine so late at night, you won’t be able to fall asleep at all. Just drink the cinnamon stuff, teach Hobi, and go to fucking sleep.” Hoseok and Jimin burst out laughing at that, Jimin shutting down his computer and coming to stand by the elder dancer, who ruffles his hair.

“That’s the goal,” Namjoon yawns, swiping hair out of his eyes as he accepts the drink anyway. “Gotta stay awake for the goddamned graveyard job.” He takes a sip of the latte before realizing that Yoongi is staring at him, as are Jimin and Hoseok.

Jimin is the first to speak up. “But I thought you had a job right after school, which is why you didn’t want a detention?” He looks at the floor soon after, as if he’s said too much. Namjoon remembers the short conversation they had earlier, didn’t realize till now that Jimin remembered it so well.

Hoseok has his own part to add to the issue now. “Is that why you didn’t reply to my second email for a long time? You answered the first one almost immediately, but took a while after the second.” He puts his arm around Jimin’s shoulder, silently sending the younger encouragement.

“And why you were asleep in Shin’s class today,” Jimin adds, warming up to his subject. Namjoon is standing in the wide open center of the cafe, but he still feels backed into a corner. His eyes widen as he sees Yoongi, the only one yet to enter the conversation.

Yoongi’s eyes are murderous. “Namjoon, you are going to tell me everything, without omitting a single detail, you understand?” His words leave no room for argument. Namjoon nods numbly, knowing the only thing he can keep away will be the injury from his parents- it connects him to Monster too closely.

“We can do the lesson another time,” Hoseok adds. “And don’t even think about going to work tonight.”

“I have to…” Namjoon protests weakly, helpless in the face of their determination.

“Hyung and I will leave now, kay?” Jimin pipes up, practically dragging Hoseok out of the store. Namjoon finds himself alone with Yoongi, who’s dead set on some answers. Namjoon nervously takes another sip of the latte.

“I can just call tomorrow and say there was an emergency,” he tells Yoongi. Yoongi looks disturbingly satisfied, muttering a ‘good’ and waiting for Namjoon to speak. The younger boy takes a breath, and starts talking.

Chapter Text

Yoongi can’t do anything except listen. Nothing at all, and that’s what frustrates him. Because it’s clear, as the story Namjoon tells him progresses, that something needs to be done. Hell, something needed to be done a long fucking time ago and it wasn’t, so now something needs to be done about the fallout.
“So… yeah,” Namjoon finishes, staring at the tiled floor. Yoongi is suddenly pulled back to the reality they’re in, one where parents can kick out their children and friends can find out late at night in a dingy little coffee shop and in the entirety of the world, Yooongi is the one who has to go through this circle-storytelling situation,
Yoongi lets out a low whistle, his way of both expressing surprise and dissolving the tension that’s been growing steadily with the story. “Wow, kid. I hardly think that counts as Lee’s grading methods.” He chuckles inwardly at the pathetic excuse Namjoon had given him not long ago, but the high schooler just looks guilty. Yoongi’s heart sinks. That was definitely not his intention, but being insensitive sometimes came to him naturally, accidentally.
“I’m sorry hyung, I just- I just didn’t know what to say or how to tell you,” Namjoon mumbles weakly. Didn’t want to tell him is more like it, Yoongi thinks, but he keeps his mouth shut. Thinking. There’s something difficult about this silence, trying to find what to say next when both levity and seriousness escape his grasp. He tries desperately to find the middle ground.
“Okay,” Yoongi says instead, smiling. It’s only a little bit fake, a little bit insincere. Nothing about this situation should elicit a genuine smile, but here he is, smiling. He jerks his chin toward Namjoon’s pocket. “Now call your job and give them your excuse, or should I do it?”
Namjoon holds his phone out to Yoongi without a single word. Yoongi accepts it, cursing silently. He offered as a joke, not a valid get-out-of-your-excuse free coupon. Fucking shit, he doesn’t even know what to say as an excuse.
He dials the number that Namjoon has saved under ‘Graveyard Ghosts’, smiling at the name. One of his- Gloss’s- songs plays as the ringtone, and Yoongi has to tamp down a wide grin before Namjoon notices it and questions what’s going on.
“Namjoon-ah? Where were you?” a concerned voice calls out through the phone. Namjoon flinches away from it. Yoongi curses reflexively and turns off the speaker mode, putting it up to his ear.
“Sorry, sir, Namjoon had to come with us. I’m his…” Shit, Yoongi thinks. Namjoon doesn’t have a brother, and any other relation… Cousin? Yoongi opens his mouth to say it, but instead says, “Uncle. I’m his uncle, and I’m only in town for a little while.” He emphasizes his Daegu satoori as he says it.
“Uncle?” Namjoon whispers, covering his mouth with his hand to stop himself from bursting out laughing. Yoongi scowls at him and turns his attention back to what the man on the phone is saying.
“... Family meeting constitutes an emergency now, does it?” A crackly sigh comes through the phone’s speaker. “Alright, tell him I’ll let him off the hook.” The conversation is finished, at least from Yoongi’s point of view. He doesn’t want to be exchanging any pleasantries with the man on the other side of the call.
“Kay, thanks,” Yoongi says, and he’s about to hang up when the man says, “Wait a minute, sir, you sound sorta drunk. Are you sure you’re sober and this is wha-”
Yoongi hits the hang up button before the man can finish, his face red with embarrassment at the accusation. He turns to Namjoon, face still aflame, and says dryly, “Nice coworkers you’ve got there. That one though I was drunk.”
And that may have been sharing a little too much, or inviting laughter at his own expense, but Yoongi isn’t thinking about it in that moment. He probably should have been, but the fact remains that he isn’t, and Namjoon smothers a laugh with his hand, forcing his expression to remain deadpan. Then, seriously, as though delivering a death report, he says, “Hyung, you really do talk like you’re drunk all the time.”
Yoongi fixes the younger with a death glare, but Namjoon doesn’t back down, folding his arms and grinning cockily. Yoongi’s fist aches to bury itself in that smug smile of his. Lightly, but still.
“I. Don’t. Drink,” he says indignantly instead of giving in to his fist. He makes an exception or two, yes, but for the most part, touching the bottle isn’t something he likes to do. It gives him bad experiences, bad memories. Sometimes both.
“Sure, uncle,” Namjoon smirks, and then winces at his own joke. His tone turns somber again. “You know, I-” He pauses and swallows, and it looks to Yoongi like he’s trying to force the words out. “I always hated my uncle. Whenever he showed up, he’d always get rough with me. I know he meant it playfully, but I never did like him. Always his whenever he came over.”
“Are you saying you hate me?” Yoongi asks, hoping to elicit a smile. The response is a disappointment. Namjoon still looks sad, shaking his head. Yoongi curses himself for his apparent gift of choosing all the wrong words.
“I could never hate my coffee-shop uncle.” A weak chuckle follows. Yoongi waits till Namjoon resumes speaking. “But I- What I mean is… I may have hated my uncle, but nowI think I might give anything at all for him to crash my birthday party and get plastic confetti in my cake again. Anyone in my family.”
Well, fuck. The conversation is taking a way too serious turn here, and Yoongi scrambles to find a way to deal with it, to pull it into territory he can safely minimize the damage in. His friends call him that sometimes, the damage control.
The best he can come up with, though, is still pretty pathetic. Better than nothing, Yoongi thinks, and says it anyway. “So, you’re telling me that you hate your uncle because he got confetti in your cake?” He tries to sound incredulous rather than confused or worried.
“It was really bad, okay?” Namjoon says indignantly. “I couldn’t even eat any of it! There was plastic in every slice, and the cherry was the only unaffected part!” He scowls.
Yoongi is actually puzzled now. “So, what was the problem with the cherry? I would have eaten it.”
Namjoon shakes his head in mock-despair. “It was Maraschino, hyung, Maraschino. How could you consider eating something like that? You’re a traitor to the world of food.”
“How do you not like those things?” Yoongi fires back, grinning. “They’re cherries plus sugar, and that equation ends in sweetness. Nothing except.”
“Cherries plus chemicals, ending in poison, actually, but sure. Whatever you say, you uncultured barbarian,” Namjoon says, his mouth forming a small smile.
Yoongi bursts out laughing, surprise himself at the sound. It’s been a while since he can have something as pure and unfiltered and happy as this. He can feel his face giving way to a blinding grin, and despite his best efforts, he can’t find a way to tamp it down even a little. Namjoon’s smile widens as a response, and before Yoongi can tell what’s happening, they’re both laughing again.
“You should stay the night at my place,” Yoongi offers after a while. He doesn’t know what possesses him to say it. Maybe because it’s technically his fault that Namjoon got kicked out, although he doesn’t want to go down that particular guilty train of thought. Maybe because Namjoon let him stay the night once, maybe both since they’re clearly interconnected.
Namjoon fidgets uncomfortable with the sleeve of his school uniform. “I, uh, I probably shouldn’t.” He attempts a small apologetic smile, but Yoongi is having none of it.
“Look, kid, you’re one of the most sleep deprived people I’ve ever met, second only to myself. If you go back to your place who knows what shit you could get up to? And at the very least, I can force you to take tomorrow off from school.” Yoongi’s never been the most subtle or cautious. He says what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, no pretty little white lies.
“Hyung, I can’t,” Namjoon argues. It’s more like a pleading whine, begging for Yoongi to let him continue the same destructive life he’s been living so far. Yoongi won’t do it. He’s seen this in himself, and just so that Hoseok and Jimin and everyone who saved Yoongi from himself back then won’t be disappointed, he’s going to fix this here and now.
“You can, you will, end of story,” Yoongi says. He’s pretty sure he’s just used a well-known motivational quote for the exact opposite of its original intentions, but he can’t quite bring himself to care. He knows what he’s doing will eventually help, after the initial phase of hate, hurt, shock.
But Namjoon shows none of those emotions, simply sighing resignedly. He closes his eyes, as if contemplating something, then says, “Fine, let’s go.” And then, as if to assure Yoongi that everything is fine, he smiles and Yoongi is irrationally furious.
How can Namjoon be so kind to him when Yoongi is all but staking the kid’s future on this? How, when Yoongi had taken every opportunity to make Hoseok and Jimin’s lives a living hell back when they had tried to stop him from going down this same endless cycle?
He keeps his strange anger to himself, though, and tells Namjoon to try and fit his bike in the trunk of the car before stepping through the door into the driver’s seat, where he’s finally controlling the situation again, doing what needs to be done.
Namjoon thanks him when they get to the apartment, and Yoong is made painfully aware of how small it really is. Still Namjoon doesn’t seem to mind, and he even pets Holly like they’re old friends. Yoongi tells him to use the couch. Not to be a rude host, but because the bed is probably less comfortable, all of Yoongi’s stuff strewn about it.
Namjoon takes his place on the couch, muttering a few more thank yous before falling silent. Yoongi tries to ask him if it’s really the best idea for him to go to sleep in his school uniform, but the younger boy is out like a light. Yoongi stares at his computer, wondering if he should work on his latest project, but gives in and decided to go to sleep instead.
Anything else would be hypocrisy.

Chapter Text

Namjoon wakes to the sound of Yoongi humming along to a song. He rubs his eyes, glancing dully at the clock on the wall opposite where he slept. Seven oh two in the morning. Not too late to go to school, even if he’ll probably miss his first class. He yawns, stretching out.
Yoongi keeps humming. Namjoon can recognize the song now- It’s one of Gloss’s older tracks, back before they became rivals. It’s a collab with a singer named Suran, who used to be one of the seniors at Namjoon’s school a few years back. It’s really something, he thinks, how much Yoongi sounds like Gloss. They have the same kind of voice, drawing everyone in.
He sits up on the couch, looking left and right until his eyes finally find Yoongi attending the stove in what passes for a kitchen in their circles, their circles being near-broke barely-adults who live alone and eat mostly instant ramyeon. Granted, Namjoon hasn’t been among those particular circles for long, but he’s adjusted well enough to it.
It’s easier to think as if this has always been him, rather than to remember that it hasn’t and it was entirely his fault but also not at all his fault that it changed.
“Hyung?” he calls out, and Yoongi turns quickly, the expression on his face even. Namjoon lets himself smile at Yoongi’s intensity toward cooking and humming and how grumpy he looks now. He smiles wide enough to split his face, and damn, it’s been ages since he’s done that, it feels so fucking amazing. No one should ever stop smiling, he decides, then remembers that Taehyung and Seokjin practically live by that philosophy. Maybe they’re rubbing off on him, he thinks. That really can’t be a good thing.
“Whaddya want, kid?” Yoongi grumbles, snapping him out of his thoughts. Namjoon’s smile becomes less one of untempered joy, turning slightly sheepish. He rubs the back of his neck in embarrassment.
“Nothing, hyung, never mind.”
Yoongi turns back to the stove, but he stops humming now and within minutes Namjoon can smell something a lot like eggs, but it actually smells good, when in Namjoon’s few experiences with cooking eggs, the end result has always been an absolutely crap substance which he usually gave up on eating and shuttled off to Tae, who ate anything and everything. He finds himself actually looking forward to a decent, unhurried breakfast, any and all thoughts of school temporarily banished from his mind.
Yoongi brings him a plate a few minutes later, setting it down on the small coffee table in front of the couch. The plate holds two fried eggs, a piece of toast, and a whole lot of ketchup. It reminds Namjoon of a night when Tae, dreaming and sleep-talking, had asked him whether he preferred his eggs sunny-side-up or fried. He had said sunny-side-up back then. Looking at the breakfast in front of him, he’s pretty sure his answer is different now.
“Hyung!” Namjoon says, just as Yoongi is about to sit down on the chair opposite him, his own plate in hand. Yoongi nearly drops it, then regains his balance with grace that seems built into his small frame. He raises a single eyebrow, as if to warn Namjoon that this had better not be nothing again.
“I should probably call my friends, tell them not to worry, and I’ll see them a-” he cuts off, remembering that he’s not really supposed to be thinking about that today, and hoping distinctly that Yoongi won’t kill him for this one transgression of an unspoken agreement. Yoongi fixes him with an unyielding stare, but it’s only bordering on murderous, so Namjoon relaxes.
“Tell them I won’t be seeing them today,” he corrects himself. Yoongi nods once in approval. Namjoon waits for the elder boy to get the hint. Yoongi makes no move to stand, or reach for his phone, or anything else for that matter. Namjoon decides to take his point a step further. “For which I need a phone.”
Yoongi sighs, and holds up two fingers in the way Taehyung always does for a ‘V’, but this time Namjoon sincerely doubts it’s to signal a cameraman’s entrance. “Look, pabo. Two things. Number one, you can finish your breakfast first, or I’ll feel unappreciated. You don’t want that, because then I’ll eat your food.” Namjoon nods at this, cowed by the threat. He doesn’t think Yoongi will go through with it, but it never hurts to be careful.
“Number B, you. Have. A. Phone. In your pocket, unless you’ve somehow made it disappear.” Yoongi puts down his two fingers at once, seeming to realize that he left off the finger count after his first statement. That’s not the only thing Namjoon notices about his statement.
“Hyung, you said number B. Last I checked, B was not a number,” Namjoon laughs, and Yoongi scowls. In retrospect, Namjoon thinks, that just makes him laugh harder and harder to see Yoongi annoyed and eating his eggs as if they were out to get him.
“Shut up, kid,” Yoongi mumbles around a mouthful of his food. He reaches over the table and takes Namjoon’s plate before the younger of the two can lean forward and stop the cook from taking sole ownership of his creation.
“But, hyung!” Namjoon whines, trying to reach out and take his plate back. “I’m younger than you, so this knowledge is fresh in my mind! It’s my obligation to correct you in instances like these... Uncle.” He tacks on the last bit, alluding to the phone call Yoongi had made. Yoongi grows even more annoyed and takes a vengeful bite of Namjoon’s toast, dipping it liberally in the ketchup and chewing menacingly.
“You look like a vampire with that pale skin and red-stained teeth,” Namjoon comments suddenly, and Yoongi startles, looking up. It’s enough of an opening for Namjon to take back his plate and start swallowing the food before Yoongi can get it back.
They stay like that, bickering and eating and just talking. They stay like that for the entire day, and Namjoon forgets to call Seokjin and reassures him later. Tells his two jobs that he’s going to take the day off again, and the drive-thru is fine, but the convenience store is getting annoyed, but he can’t afford to lose this job so he doesn’t say what he wants to say, that he wants to quit so badly but he can’t.
He stays the second night, as part of that day, and he can hear Yoongi humming another song, Gloss again, and Namjoon’s hand moves unconsciously to the healed wound on his back before smiling because Gloss might be an entire set of bad memories, but anything with Yoongi, his hyung and his friend, those were only good memories, and maybe these would change Gloss into good as well, he thinks. Maybe they can, but they don’t because in reality, it’s only an entire day. In reality.
In reality, an entire day is only twenty-four hours, and in Namjoon’s world, the next Friday can never be too far away, even when it’s a week. Not really a week, he keeps thinking, just almost a week, and almost gets smaller and smaller so the very next day he tells Yoongi he has to go and he leaves. He goes straight back to how things were before, despite Taehyung’s protests and Seokjin’s worried looks and Yoongi’s refusal to serve him brain-damaging levels of coffee and Hoseok-Jimin-Jungkook in between all of that.
It’s… Well, shit. Namjoon can’t say it’s that much easier, but it is. One, two nights of sleep, a full day off, and he’s back to being able to go for what feels like forever, but really, it’s not much. It’s not much at all. It’s not even the next week, he’s tired to the bone on Wednesday, he hates his parents and his schedule and Gloss and for a while he hates music until he can’t, because mostly Namjoon just has to hate that he was stupid enough to land himself in this mess.
And then he decides what he needs to do. He decides once and for all that this half-life isn’t enough for him. He wants more than this, needs more than sneaking out Friday nights for a future that can’t be his and staying up all the time to keep up with rent. Maybe he’ll crash at Seokjin’s for a little while longer as he saves up to be able to cut one of his part-time jobs, guilty as it will feel. Maybe he’ll find better payment, focus on a college, do everything he planned to before this whole affair started. Maybe… Maybe he can finally find a way to cut music free from his heart and leave it falling endlessly into the river where he wants to follow it sometimes.
But first, he needs to do one last thing with music.
He’ll go out like a star. He’s not fragile like glass, but fragile like a bomb. That’s what Namjoon tells himself. He’s not broken, just ticking before exploding into his real life, away from childhood fantasies like rapping and music and lyrics and everything he’s loved for as long as he can remember and probably even longer than that, into a new, reasonable world.
He ignores the voices in his head. He ignores the voice saying he sounds like his parents. He ignores the voice that tells him that when bombs explode, they destroy themselves and the entire world around them, that they are nothing to be proud of, that bombs are fragile and fierce but also fatal.
There are many things Namjoon doesn’t want to face right now, and his own set of lies is foremost among them.
It’s a late night, Thursday, and Namjoon is sitting down to create a song. A proper, original song and he feels so trapped in his own skin that he can’t help but write it about this place he’s in. This place he loves and hates, but can’t leave, must live in. And maybe it’s about the city, like all the lyrics suggest, or maybe it’s about the way he hates his situation. Maybe about himself, too, and a change he can’t bring about, but mostly he thinks it’s about being caught in the web of his love for music and his need to live his dream.
The impossibility of that dream. The inability to reach that dream. The reality of where he is now. He doesn’t mention what actually happened that day, but he hopes the bloody handprint didn’t wash completely off of Gloss’s white shirt. Hopes there is one more record of the truth than his memories and Seokjin and Taehyung’s kindness here in this cold, lonely city.
He names his song Seoul.
It’s got almost everything in it, and Namjoon isn’t entirely sure whether it’s okay for him to share this much of himself all at once. It could, no, it will ruin the persona he’s built up as Monster over the few years he’s been rapping. It’ll show everyone that there’s a person behind those sunglasses and confident words.
He pulls up the sound on his computer and uploads it anyway. Then, after a few long, silent minutes of thought, he adds a message to the side, a single note that has decided everything for him. He looks at it, tries saying it aloud a few times to see how it feels. “Tomorrow will be the last time we fight.” It sounds right, Namjoon decides, and shares the song before he can second-guess, third-guess, completely rework it. He does that sometimes, but he’s certain now that this is correct.
Then he stops. No one’s seen this yet. He takes it down, and attaches one small clip to the end of it, his voice alone. He hopes the way he says it can convey everything he’s ever wanted to say, and he tells the mic, “Tomorrow will be the last time…” he chokes for a minute, an unexpected sadness blocking his voice, and he finishes, “the last time we fight.”
Finally satisfied, he uploads it and hits share. It’s obvious who it’s for.
Five minutes later, his phone buzzes with a new track notification from Gloss. It seems a little strange to Namjoon that they keep an eye on each others’ releases, but maybe that’s part of being half-rivals, Gloss looking at him and taking pity, Namjoon looking at Gloss with admiration. He presses play almost immediately, and then regrets it when he’s crying four minutes later at the song he’s just listened to..
The track is called ‘The Last’, and it has one message five seconds after the song, recorded into the track itself, the voice behind it gruff and slightly thick with emotion.

“Let’s make it good, then.”

Chapter Text

Yoongi is practically in shambles by the time the last Friday comes up.
He’s been waiting and waiting for this to happen, for their final battle to finally happen. He doesn’t really know why it’s their last, just that it is, that Monster chickened out, but Yoongi doesn’t mind, Maybe after this he’ll get the sense of closure he’s been looking for since the battle where he trounced his rival completely. Maybe after this, he can focus on producing music instead of coming up with disses on the spot.
And, he thinks, with the barest flicker of unnecessary hope, maybe he’ll finally find out who he’s been up against this whole time, even if it means revealing his identity. It’s not like he goes to a school that he can get ridiculed at, not like his boss at the coffee shop particularly cares what he does in his spare time.
“Hyung?” Jungkook calls, and Yoongi curses him silently. If he needs help with cleaning in the back, then Yoongi will have to wait a little longer before abandoning the younger boy to run the shop on his own. He turns around, only to see Jungkook smiling.
“There’s probably one last customer you want to serve before I can take over completely.” He grins cheekily and Yoongi knows- just knows- that Jungkook realizes he wants to leave the store so desperately that he’s being given the easy way out. He silently thanks the heavens for giving him Jungkook, rather than someone with the personality of Yoongi’s high school valedictorian (the less said about him, the better).
Then what Jungkook actually said hits him, and that train of thought comes to a grinding halt before he can start reminiscing about the torture of the public education system. “Wait, what do you mean, one last customer?” He fixes Jungkook with a stare, but only gets another shit-eating grin in response.

Yoongi finds his answer pretty damn quickly after that.
“Hyung?” The new voice is from near where the door should be, low and shy and all-too-familiar. Yoongi turns around, straightening his features out, wiping the expression of happiness away. It’s too late, and Jungkook smirks.
“I’ll leave you two to it, then, hyungs,” he says, the fucking brat, but Yoongi can’t tear into him now, because Namjoon is here and his lanky frame is commanding all of Yoongi’s attention, goddamnit. Yoongi looks up to see his expression, but it’s unusually blank and a little too closed off.
“What is it, Joon?”
Namjoon shifts, and he looks vaguely uncomfortable, eyes not meeting Yoongi’s, bottom lip trapped between nervous teeth. It looks to Yoongi like he’s trying to avoid the question. Yoongi gives him a flat glare, eyes unmoving. He wants to- needs to- know what this is about, and he knows how to find out.
“Well, I was- I was wondering…” he trails off, and Yoongi wants to pull the next words out of his mouth, or maybe strangle him, or growl, or all three. Yoongi reconsiders that. Probably not the second one, but at least the first and third.
“Wondering is dangerous for a pile of limbs like you, Joon-ah,” he compromises instead, smirking as the younger turns bright red, most likely remembering everything he’d ever done that was embarrassing. Yoongi waits for him to recompose himself and finish the query.
“Do you want to come with me to the last battle?” Namjoon says, breathless, all in a rush, and Yoongi has to stop himself and think before he says something stupid like, “Yeah, I’d love to, but I can’t cuz I’m Gloss.” He knows that’s the last battle Namjoon is talking about anyway, so things are going to get complicated if he says he will.
“My car, I drive. We’re probably going to end up on different sides of the place anyway, since I have to meet a few friends,” he says instead, as close to a yes as he’s willing to give.
Namjoon’s smile lights up his face, and Yoongi ignores him and walks out the door, getting into the car. Namjoon slides into the passenger seat beside him, turning the radio off entirely before another useless pop song by some fake-ass group starts playing. Yoongi has to admire his common sense.

They get there in silence, part ways in silence, but it’s not an awkward silence. It’s the kind of silence that’s comfortable, that feels as natural as a second skin. Yoongi waves, then tugs on his white shirt and his hooded jacket, the red handprint unwashed. He could have worn his preferred black or gray, but something feels right about wearing the red-streaked shirt today.
He meets up with Jimin and Hoseok, who have offered to do today’s opening performance. They’re stretching, going over their choreography one last time, laughing and joking. Yoongi slides in with them, entering the conversation on a whim.
He sees V- no, not V, Taehyung- out of the corner of his eye. The boy has his camera obscuring his face, but there’s really only one person it could be. Monster, sunglasses on, is talking to the pretty boy from last time on the other side of backstage. It’s too loud and chaotic and mesmerizing behind the performances for Yoongi to hear, but he doesn’t really want to anyway. Their conversation is theirs, like his conversation with Jimin and Hobi is his.

He watches on a screen as JImin and Hoseok leave his side, get up on stage in the darkness. The lights come on, they’re in perfect, beautiful sync, and then he’s lost in the way they dance mirroring each other, their two songs mixed, the lights reflecting off their intensity. It’s not that there’s Jimin and there’s Hoseok anymore, no longer two individuals with different styles. There’s only Jimin-and-Hoseok, a single entity, acting as one.
They finish, they become two people again. Hoseok grins widely and throws up a peace sign, does some freestyle moves. Jimin smiles then gets embarrassed as some girl- who clearly showed up for only him- throws a flower up. Hoseok picks the flower up and puts it in Jimin’s hair. The girl smiles, but Yoongi frowns from his place backstage. They’re only doing this because it’s the last time. Any other day, they’d face ridicule for trying to make some little girl happy.
Then it’s their turn- the final battle, the decision, the once-and-for-all competition. Gloss and Monster, on a small stage, facing each other down for the very last time.

Neither of them wins. They’re tied, tied, definition of at a draw, at a loss, at a standstill, stalemate, cat’s game. They’re both mice in the cat’s game, the audience is happy, the audience, as performers their lives revolve around the audience.
Yoongi wants to do one more thing, and the audience is his excuse. If asked, he’ll say he did it for them. He does it for himself, but no one needs to know that.
“Who are you?” he calls out, and suddenly everyone grows silent. Too silent, hushed in awe and shock and maybe wonder. A curious murmur breaks out, and then-
“You first,” Monster says, a cocky grin on his face. Yoongi smirks, turns to the girl that had given Jimin the flower. She looks up at him in young, wide-eyed awe. He tries to smile, it’s been said his smile is nice, but she just looks a little scared.
“Count to three, okay?” Yoongi tells her, and she nods.
“O-one,” she says, her voice trembling. “Two.” Her voice is clearer now, stronger. “Three.” It’s pronounced like a final statement, bell-like, confident and powerful. Yoongi doesn’t even think- he moves to pull his hood off. In his peripheral vision, he sees Monster throw down his sunglasses. Yoongi tugs his hood down, looks up, and well, he’s fucked.
“Namjoon.”
Namjoon grins from the other side of the stage as the crowd bursts into confused chatter. He holds the mic up to his mouth. “Hey, hyung.”
Yoongi ignores the audience becoming even more surprised. He holds up his own mic. “This is gonna take a lot to fix, isn’t it?”
The response is what he’s only hoped for.

“We’ll manage.”

Chapter Text

Jeon Jungkook does not, at the moment, believe a word he is hearing.

It’s impossible, isn’t it? For Yoongi- permanent grump, accidental cat-imitator extraordinaire, worker at a coffee shop, of all the typical things- to secretly have a double-night-life as an underground rapper? Has to be impossible. But here Jungkook is, watching the most impossible video in the history of what must be the world, and that means it’s not only possible, it’s real.

Taehyung sits next to him, showing him the video before he uploads it. There’s a square grin on his face that’s just the tiniest bit smug and if Jungkook didn’t like his idiot face so much he’d wipe it off with a fist. Shy is just the word people who don’t know him use to describe him.

“Upload it, V,” he says, just to hide his disbelief, “or else someone else will get your exclusive footage onto the small screen first.”

“Tragedy,” Taehyung mock-gasps, and quickly hits the upload button. Jungkook laughs at his antics. They’re sitting at the large tables by the windows of the coffee shop. For once, neither Jungkook nor Yoongi is working, having gotten their coworkers to actually take a shift for once.

Yoongi is talking quietly to Namjoon about their not-so-secret secret project. It’s a secret to the rest of the world, of course, but Jungkook, Taehyung, Jimin, Hoseok, and somehow even Seokjin ended up being a part of it. The project is most of the reason they’re all sitting here together. It’s a song with a music video, and they’ve all had a huge part in it.

Jimin and Hoseok did the choreography together, torturing Namjoon and Seokjin until they could get it right. Jungkook did basically everything and the errands, and all he got in return was homework help. Granted, he’d have failed school without it, but he feels it’s unfair. Errands, of all things. Taehyung at least got to film part of and direct all of the MV, plus design their single cover. Seokjin basically just brought food and kept the morale up while everyone stressed and lost nights of sleep over the project.

And now, it’s the day of the release.

They’ve created a group social media account, and Yoongi pulls it up now, putting it in the center of the table. He’s linked the song, cover showing in a thumbnail format, to the post, with the words “Check out our new song” typed out. Taehyung reaches out to press ‘send’. Jungkook holds onto his hand before he can. He grins brightly, teeth on display in the way that he knows has all his hyungs wrapped around his little finger.

“Group selfie!” he calls, holding the phone up as everyone quickly schools their face into a presentable form except Tae, who holds up his muffin. The shutter closes, or as close as it can get to shutter-closing on a smartphone.

 

Reflected in a captured moment, their smiles are blinding.