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In Yggdrasil's Roots

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The traffic around Yggdrasil flashed by two hundred meters down, suspended highways gleaming in the double suns of Gliese. Hoseok’s vivid pink Argonaut skin picked up the light beautifully as he stared out of the café window. A wrecked ship cluttered a bypass. Smaller crafts skirted around the edge as the municipal corps ships cleaned up.

“No one survived that,” Hoseok said, nodding at the upturned ship. “Looks like a civilian rig.”

Yoongi allowed himself another look over the collar of his maroon patroller corps jacket before ducking back down over his deep blue coffee with his head pounding in the bright light. “Remind me never to trust Seokjin’s drink recommendations again.”

Hoseok chuckled. “You know he doesn’t even drink, right?”

Yoongi shrugged. He’d heard of androids that could eat and drink. Just because he’d never seen Seokjin do it didn’t mean he couldn’t. “You don’t just ignore a drink recommendation from the Program-day boy.”

Hoseok gave him a little smile that made apples out of his cheeks and poked deep dimples down beside his mouth but the closed-off expression didn’t leave his face, the cautious side-eyes and lip bitten between his teeth. The air around their little café table came laced with a hundred half-familiar scents: the sour stench of alcohol rotting in a bloodstream, the iron and chlorophyll scent of Argonaut, the neutral of steel and carbon, and the low, chemical sting of deodorizer.

Yoongi rubbed a hand over his nose. Frazzled frustration bubbled under his skin. He’d sucker-punched the last guy shitty enough to wear deodorizer around him, didn’t let him get half his opening trade statement out before he walloped him right in the gut.

“Any other Stygian would punch you for wearing deodorizer,” Yoongi said, picking up the argument he’d started the evening before when they met up at Seokjin’s party. “I might fucking punch you.”

Hoseok shrugged. “You spent half of the last Patroller muster pouting about how I smelled around you. I’m not dealing with that when it’s just the two of us and we have an assignment to pay attention to.”

They’d arrived in Yggdrasil early in the day, one of the largest landmarks on a city planet of large landmarks, a building central to every piece of the planet’s workings but one Yoongi had seen very little of beyond the lower lobby. Yggdrasil was a titanic tower of reinforced steel and meteorite in the shape of a tree. It reached four kilometers straight up off the planet’s surface and many kilometers across, silvery branches thicker than subway tunnels winding through the atmosphere. Each leaf on the tree was as big as an apartment block, and housed luxury mansions, hanging shopping districts, private laboratories, or massive nightclubs. Rumor had it that the roots of the building reached kilometers into the ground.

Yoongi and Hoseok had taken a shuttle from the front doors of the massive lobby to the elevator bay where they handed their private passes engraved on solid silver chips to a burly Gliesian behind a thick window. They’d put them in a tiny pod in a tube, each locked into leather seats as the pod shot through the inner arteries of the tower. They passed malls and neighborhoods until they reached another security check out onto one of the branches, which sprayed them with citrus-scented disinfectant and fired them down the branch. Windows bared the city below them from the height of a space-going ship.

With every new sight, Hoseok’s eyes bugged further in his pink face. Without deodorizer, Yoongi could have smelled his wonder, a smell like a canyon of stars, his favorite scent in the world, but he had to content himself with admiring Hoseok’s delicate profile as his jaw dropped.

“You’ve been here before?” Hoseok guessed when they finally stepped out onto the lush carpet of the café in which they’d agreed to meet their client, a Mr. Linden involved in the kind of lucrative off-planet business that frequently attracted Patrol attention. The ceiling curved like a sail. A solid plane of glass slanted from the upper corner fifty meters above them to the narrow floor.

“Not to this place in particular, but I’ve gotten past the trunk a couple times.”

The client was late, as wealthy clients usually were, giving Yoongi plenty of time to stew in the subtle tang of deodorizer and watch Hoseok fiddle nervously with his cup and stare with wide round eyes out the window.

“You ever been on an off-book assignment before?” Yoongi asked.

“No,” Hoseok said quickly. “This is my first. I wasn’t even Patrol still did those before we got the assignment last week. Have you?”

“This is usually what I do.”

“Of course,” Hoseok sighed.

“It’s mostly Namjoon,” Yoongi said. “I got dragged into it.”

Hoseok quirked an eyebrow. His eyes strayed from the window for the first time in ten minutes. He studied Yoongi carefully and Yoongi expected some quip about how edgy he wasn’t. “About last night,” Hoseok said, and then paused, staring down at his cup with a bit of a squint.

“Yeah?”

One of Hoseok’s long, thin fingers tapped his coffee mug. “Keep your jealousy under control next time, will you?”

Yoongi’s cheeks flushed blue in an instant, trying to remember what he meant.

Oh. The Ceph. On Hoseok’s lap. Drunk out of his mind with Hoseok’s hand on his lower stomach, right where his tentacles would be. He’d gotten a little too defensive. Hoseok must have read his fear for possessiveness. He must have been planning how to bring it up all morning.

Yoongi knew better than to out a Ceph. No other excuse came to his head. He accepted the accusation with shame and slunk lower with Hoseok’s quiet “tch” stabbing in his ears. But that seemed to be the end of it, scolding gentle and firm. They both avoided each other’s eyes.

A chair floated up to their table, seat and back drifting in a magnetic current to settle facing the window. Another Argonaut settled into it, skin a deep, even red. Handsome black horns curled out of his dark hair. He looked as young as they were though, extremely unusual in a client. He was even more unusually attractive with full lips and long eyelashes. “Hello captains,” he said with a silky low voice. “I am Kai.”

The two Argonauts met each other’s eyes, just a moment of meaningful intensity passed between them that read almost like suspicion. Kai had already raised his wrist for Yoongi, an unusual and firm indication that he’d rather not let Yoongi smell his neck. On nearly anyone else, Yoongi would have ignored it and grabbed him by the horn for good measure, but he’d dealt with enough rich clients off-book to know better.

Yoongi smelled curiosity on Kai’s wrist, but none of the chlorophyll he usually got off Argonauts. This one had been away from his home planet for a long time, leaving only iron and the artificial scent of plant-themed perfume. It reminded Yoongi of nylon. “Thanks for meeting me here,” Kai said. “I always misjudge the travel time between my leaf and this one.”

He crossed his legs, thick and long in skin-tight gold leather. He wore a cropped turtleneck with a fine net of gold chains that looked like a designer piece. “Min Yoongi, right?”

“That’s me.”

“You were recommended to us,” Kai said. “It’s good to meet you.”

“I’m guessing you’re not Mr. Linden then.”

Kai laughed. “Of course not. It’s office hours right now. I take care of much of his private business—” at this, Hoseok’s eyebrows shot up under his hairline through is gaze didn’t leave his cup of tea “—and you can speak with me as if I were him. May I see your tabs?”

Yoongi gave himself a mental note to ask Hoseok what the eyebrows were about later, since they bordered uncomfortably on rudeness. Kai didn’t seem to notice. He took their tabs between his long fingers and lined the flat sides up to his own one by one. “I’ve transferred the files you’ll need—oh thank you, Cora.” A waitress in a teal singlet gave him a glowing smile and a little cup of orange tea.

“Who recommended me?” Yoongi asked.

“The meteorite tycoon you helped on that exoplanet warehouse last year,” Kai said.

Hoseok showed his first open sign of alarm. Exoplanet warehouses were notably illegal, but the Patroller Corps often secretly assisted Co-op businesses in acquiring them safely. It was better to know who was using those resources than leave them open for unknown agents. More and more these days, these kinds of deals between Patrol and business were done without the Admiral’s knowledge.

“Oh nice,” Yoongi said, remembering the jolly three-eyed man he’d helped the year before. “Dr. Stith. I liked that guy.”

Kai watched Hoseok carefully. A Plutonian floated past, beauty momentarily distracting them all, Hoseok especially, who had probably never seen one in real life. They tended not to leave their paradise planet. The sparkly champagne scent wafted through the air behind it.

“Mr. Linden has a private bunker in the roots,” Kai continued.

“Right,” Yoongi said. That yanked Hoseok’s attention away from the Plutonian. He almost choked on his coffee.

“Excuse him. It’s his first time off-book.”

Kai nodded agreeably. “Shame the direction Patrol has gone in recent years.”

“It’s exhausting,” Yoongi agreed. “We can trust this one though. I think he’ll take to it easily.”

Hoseok nodded hard, but something like annoyance flashed his face and Yoongi resisted curling up in his seat.

“Should we talk in private?” Hoseok asked.

“No worries,” Kai said. “I own this café. Anyway, the bunker is very rarely entered or used. It’s more of a…storage unit. I recently discovered that someone’s been using the bunker when Mr. Linden isn’t there. Sometimes there are small items out of place, things missing, food left in the pantry. It should be impossible to get in without a key, of which there are only three. Mine, his, and his wife’s.”

“He suspects the wife then?” Yoongi said.

Kai rolled his beautiful dark red eyes. “Actually, he suspects someone has managed to copy a key and has a fourth, but I’ve convinced him not to tell his wife for now, just in case. I’m not sure he’ll keep his mouth shut for long. He’d like you to find out what’s going on, which may mean just camping out there until someone shows up.”

“This sounds more like a job for a private detective than patrol,” Yoongi said. “If what you’re worried about it his wife sneaking around.”

Kai gave him a long look under his eyelashes. “That has to do with what’s in the bunker.”

Yoongi glanced around the room, looking for wandering ears.

“I won’t tell you here,” Kai said. “If it’s just his wife using it for can affair, that’s all it is and we’ll pay extra for wasting your time. If it’s anything else, there could be serious trouble.” He sipped his tea. The sun glowed through the café windows and lit up his smooth red skin, dazzling and gorgeous. He tossed his hair like he knew he looked expensive, and a flash of electricity snapped through his hair. Hoseok pursed his lips. “Shall we head down?” Kai said.

The pod Kai put them in had to be the same size as the one they came up in, but the elegant seats arranged like flower petals around the middle left more space open, turning the place into a glass bauble of light travelling through Yggdrasil’s tubes. They rushed smoothly past all the stops that had slowed them down on the way in, bypassing traffic and busier paths. They passed down one arch of the lobby in no time and shot deeper into the earth.

Kai pressed his thumb to a pad on the central console and a small capsule popped up and opened. An overwhelming smell filled the cramped space, overtaking all hominid scents, something Yoongi had only smelled once before in an isolated outpost on Argo under the warmest, most welcoming summer sun.

“Strawberries?” Kai said, and Hoseok let out his first audible gasp of the day.

 

They accessed the secret bunker required by parking in front of a service tunnel, a root of Yggdrasil that anchored the tree to the bedrock. They filed into the deadened air. Lights flickered dimly down the bare uniform walls of the transport passage, which curved slowly up and out of sight in the direction they’d come and down further into the ground head of them. Kai opened a hatch and slid into the chute beyond. They followed. They came out at a curving crossroad, each passage no more than five feet across. From the right came a soft breath of air and the smell of frying food. Hoseok and Yoongi both paused.

“There’s an under-city that way,” Kai said, already stepping into the left tunnel. He moved with the grace of a dancer. He could probably dance in the same style Yoongi knew Hoseok performed, flashing with the lights of their species. “Don’t go there. They might not like Patrol Captains.”

The bunker hid behind an oblong burn mark in the tunnel wall, something nondescript but easy to spot. Kai drew a small pendant around the top curve of the burn mark and the whole thing clicked into the wall and slid aside. Lights came on slowly as if they’d been woken up, warm yellow lighting up a hallway of rich faux wood. Yoongi didn’t need to think back much to know he was entering one of the most hard-to-reach, otherworldly places he’d ever been in his many years of exploring the obscured and unknown parts of the galaxy.

“Greenhouse,” Kai said, gesturing to an airlocked door to his left with a rotating handle in the center like a safe. “Game room,” he said, pointing to the other side. They walked into a low circular space with recessed lights glowing in the ceiling. “Living room.” Velvet seating circled a lowered floor of marble. What looked like the antique fur rug of an animal that no longer existed covered the floor. Hoseok walked a little behind Yoongi with one hand on the back of his jacket, gaping at everything around them.

“Pool and gym through there,” Kai said lazily, pointing to one of the doors that surrounded the room like spokes on a wheel. “The office and sitting room are up that flight of stairs. Bedroom suite is right across from us. Kitchen and dining to the left, theater and VR room to the right. The armory is under us.”

“Oh fuck,” Hoseok said. Yoongi breathed in, desperately hoping to get that buoyant scent of wonder in his nose. Deodorizer stung in the closed space.

“Perfect place to have an affair, right?” Kai said. “I’m afraid there’s only one bedroom. When you stay here tonight one of you will have to sleep on the floor. For now, I’ve put some outfits in the closet. I’m expecting you at our party this evening to meet the suspect. Shall I leave you to examine the space? All the information is in the files I’ve given you, which will self-delete in twelve hours, so I advise you read them now.”

 

For an hour after Kai left, Yoongi read through the files. They included party invitations, a list of all items in the bunker that had been suspiciously moved or taken. Some of the items were innocuous little things like “soap on the wrong side of the shower” and “scent neutralizer moved from living room to bedroom, but the bottom of the list said “seven grenade launchers recorded taken from rack. Possibly replaced?” Hoseok disappeared into the armory and didn’t come out for a long time.

Somewhere else on Gliese, Namjoon was waking up in a Ceph’s home, the lucky bastard. Here Yoongi was with his own dream date, off to work and getting smacked in the face with deodorizer. Yoongi had kept himself from working with Hoseok since they met, always putting another couple crewmates between them, never just the two of them on an assignment alone. It had been harder since Namjoon left. Hoseok drifted more and more into his life through mutual friends and the tightening circles at the top of the Patroller Corps until it was impossible to avoid him.

Yoongi wandered into the greenhouse for the rest of his reading, sinking into the rich scent of soil and the clean scent of plants like a hot bath after a long day. Smooth white walls and floors filtered in bright light through little slits in the wall like perfect sunlight, which flooded across the perfect rows of vegetables in the sunken beds and the foliage pouring from pockets in the walls. He perched on a tiny bench sticking out from the wall and kept investigating the files.

What was supposed to be a looped sound clip from the bunker’s security system played on Yoongi’s tab. Yoongi heard absolutely nothing. He hissed in frustration. On Styx, the thin atmosphere had rewarded settlers with the development of advanced smell but limited reason to use sound. After hundreds of generations, it’s habitants could smell the slightest chemical shift in the sparse air but couldn’t hear more than three octaves.

“So,” Hoseok finally said when he found Yoongi. Not even the live plant life around him could distract him. “I found heat seeking missiles, hyper-speed missiles, personal blasters and ray weapons, atomic blasters, and a whole rack of hydrogen bombs.”

“Yikes,” Yoongi said. “What war is he preparing for?”

“More like which hemisphere is he trying to knock loose. Yoongi.” He sank down onto the end of Yoongi’s couch. “What the hell are we doing here? Shouldn’t we be reporting this?”

“We definitely will,” Yoongi said. “It’s good for Patrol to know these things. These people know Patrol won’t do anything about it. Tons of families have bunkers like these. It’s better to know where they are than to give them reason to hide it.”

Hoseok plopped his own puny blaster down on the bench and scowled at the sleek patroller logo on the side.

“Can you hear this sound bite?” Yoongi played it again.

“Sounds like a weapon priming system firing up. Sounds like something the government should know about.”

“Hoseok, how long have you been with Patrol?”

“Five years.”

“Really? A lot changed in training in the two years between us.”

“Well, the old admiral retired.”

“The advice we got in the academy,” Yoongi said, “was that we’re not cops. We’re enforcers. We’re out on our own and in many situations our judgement is more important than rules.”

Hoseok glanced around himself, at the illegal green peppers growing along the wall, the strawberries sitting in little clusters right along the walkway, the contraband poppies in a case along the wall. “Sounds like systematic vigilantism.”

Yoongi didn’t deny it. “It was an even looser system when Namjoon began. They were practically privateers. I kind of fell in with him for a while, so…Well, I’m familiar with a lot of the darker sides of several major Co-op planets. They like us here, but only the older recruits. We don’t need to worry about getting in trouble. There are older Majors who will cover for us. It’s not like the government can actually do anything to these people. They’re untouchable. This is a way of finessing our way into their affairs so there’s still some formal control over even the uncontrollable.”

“Why have I never heard about this in seven years?”

Yoongi grinned. “It’s a club.” He leaned back against the wall and felt a leaf tickle the back of his neck. Floral scent wrapped around him like a silk scarf. “The new admiral is an idiot about this stuff so we’ve almost divided into the formal Patrol and the secret Patrol. You’ve always struck me as more of an explore and do good kind of captain than a fly around and shoot stuff captain, so welcome to the other side.”

Hoseok fiddled with his tab, unnaturally subdued. “Huh.” His current of wild energy, already slowed by his lack of scent, had ebbed to a trickle. He sucked his teeth, glancing around mistrustfully. Yoongi fidgeted in his seat, trying to read cues he wasn’t used to needing, wondering if Hoseok’s body language gave away discomfort or anger.

“I met one of the old admirals on Styx when I was young,” Yoongi said, “and he was a big Casanova type, but a really good person. He kept telling me all of Patrol was like that, but by the time I joined up it had already changed a lot.”

“That’s how you fell in with Namjoon?”

Yoongi snorted. “Nah. I fell in with Namjoon because someone kept sticking gelatin to the back of his head at lunch and I started sitting with him just to figure out who it was.”

Hoseok barked a loud, sincere laugh, sharp and ugly and perfect. It washed over Yoongi like a warm breeze. “Shit like that would only happen to him. Who was it?”

“Never found out. Ended up hanging around so long I got fucking attached to the guy.”

The radiant smile Hoseok hadn’t worn since Seokjin’s Programday party came back, brighter than the life-giving artificial sunlight streaking Hoseok’s face. A warm fizzle like a solar flare licked through Yoongi’s body. That was the first true laugh he’d gotten from Hoseok, the first Yoongi had caused. Yoongi settled back in his seat and let the scent of his own contentment fill the air, wishing he could smell Hoseok’s grin.

 

Four years before, Namjoon had led Yoongi into one of the most notorious clubs on Argo. A maze of red vinyl bar and a river of winding dance floor spread into an enormous low room. Columns and mirrors gave the already huge space the illusion of a vast cavern. The crowd screamed and moaned in a way that told Yoongi there was much more music to listen to than what his ears could pick up. Subtle tones of alcohol and intoxicants tickled the back of his throat through the slurry of species.

On a table close to the front, an Argonaut local in a Patroller Corps jacket danced in their famed indigenous style, popping like machinery with light sparking from his pink skin. The aura of the bar swirled around him like vapor, a pink-red blitz in the snapping lights. The dancer’s-pixie-like face seemed ringed with an aurora, revealing the delicate curves of his cheeks under his eyes, the focused clench of his forehead.

Yoongi, who had never committed to anything greater than his favorite brand of whiskey, interrupted whatever Namjoon had started saying with “I’m going to marry him.”

He’d bombed the first impression. Hoseok wanted a one-night stand. Yoongi wanted a date. They made it all the way to a back room before Hoseok backed out, put off by Yoongi’s honesty and his sarcastic sense of humor.

“He’s not even that special,” Yoongi had grumbled to Namjoon later as they drank hangover tea in the galley of their ship. “Whatever. Not like I…he’s just a weirdly perfect guy. Statistically there are probably a ton of those out there.”

“It was super weird,” Namjoon said. “I have never seen him act that awkward in the entire time I’ve known him.”

“Great.”

“Are you seriously bothered?” Namjoon said, squinting in the dim kitchen light. He smelled like a stale cracker left out in an acid fog. “Seems unlike you. You usually handle rejection better than this.”

Yoongi kept his mouth shut and Namjoon knew that meant he didn’t want to say yes.

“You’ll get another chance,” Namjoon said.

But every successive meeting with mutual friends passed with a frustrated struggle between flirting and professionalism, uncomfortable days and the rare night where Hoseok seemed to forget himself and lean into it, making Yoongi hopeful only to eventually knock him back. Each time, Yoongi came away with a clearer impression of Hoseok’s personality: outgoing but insulated, lighthearted but cautious, kind but far from selfless. Perfect.

That evening, Yoongi spent too long in front of Kai’s clothing selection, struggling to put together an outfit that didn’t reveal too much of his boney limbs or clash with his pale blue undertone. “Black again,” he finally sighed as he put together a completely monochrome outfit that should have been skin-tight but hung around his body like it was a couple sizes too big.

Hoseok met him in the living room in an outfit that bared long strips of his pink skin and most of his chest. “You haven’t done anything with your hair,” he said. His own hair swept up in a wave and makeup sharpened his features.

Yoongi choked on his spit.

They spent the whole ride to Mr. Linden’s private gallery with Hoseok sitting almost in Yoongi’s lap, a blocky makeup pencil in one hand that would get at least all the basics on his face. Yoongi breathed in chlorophyll and deodorizer and sighed.

“Speaking of species insensitivity,” Hoseok said, catching Yoongi’s tired glare, “Do you know about social hierarchy on Argo?”

“A little,” Yoongi said. “The darker red the skin, the higher the status, right?”

“Supposedly. That’s discouraged these days but it’s been a persistent part of culture.”

“You’re pretty pink,” Yoongi said.

“I’m not too bad off,” Hoseok said, “but Kai. That dark red skin. And he’s the race with horns. He’s had a life of advantages.”

“He hasn’t been on Argo in a long time,” Yoongi said. “Maybe never in his life.”

Hoseok pulled back with his pencil and Yoongi took the opportunity to breathe normally for a few seconds. “How do you know?” Hoseok asked.

“He doesn’t smell like chlorophyll at all, even though he probably regularly eats real plants.”

Hoseok shrugged. “He knows his status. He knows he’s got that over me.”

There was also the question of wealth, of power, of beauty, that Kai held way more than racial status over both of them. “Think he can dance like you?” Yoongi said.

Hoseok grinned. “Probably not. It’d be a different style anyway. Mine’s really specific to the region I lived in. Do you know if Mr. Linden is an Argonaut too?”

“Probably not. There’s not that many of you here.”

“If he’s got both a wife and a consort, he’s probably Argonaut.”

Yoongi gently steered Hoseok’s wrist away from his face for a moment. “Consort?”

“Kai,” Hoseok said like it should be obvious. At that moment they clicked into a security checkpoint and disinfectant blasted through the pod. Hoseok flinched in surprise but kept talking like nothing had happened. “He’s obviously a consort if he takes care of Mr. Linden’s personal business. Think about it. Three keys to the bunker and they go to the man himself, his wife, and his—what did you think—personal assistant? A personal assistant that owns a café and can advise a man against his own wife? I don’t think so.”

Yoongi made a face.

“That’s normal on Argo, you know. It’s a specific type of relationship but it’s common. I figure they’re all Argonauts. There’s the one that takes care of the money, the one that takes care of the household, and the one that takes care of Society matters. The social one is called the consort. The other two can be husbands or wives. I think the consort is usually closer to one or the other.”

“Is that how your family does things?”

Hoseok chuckled. “No, that’s how people with society and money to handle do things. My kind of people have fun for as long as they can and then marry when it’s convenient.”

“Ah. Same.”

“Really? You don’t marry random pretty people you see in clubs?”

“That’s mean.”

Hoseok gave him a little tap under the chin that made Yoongi gasp. “You look like you’re going to a party now.”

Yoongi swallowed, chin still buzzing with the feeling. “Thanks. I used to always have Namjoon do that.”

“You miss him.”

Yoongi nodded. His tab had been spitting him messages he didn’t have time to deal with, stuff about Namjoon going on a date with Jungkook that evening and some personally experienced facts about Ceph tentacles. Yoongi didn’t want to admit how lonely he felt.

“You’re going to stick out like a sore thumb in that mood,” Hoseok said and started fixing his hair, warm fingers brushing along Yoongi’s scalp. They rolled out onto one of the higher branches of Yggdrasil with windows nearly three hundred degrees around them showing the transportation and utilities tubes clumped around the center supports and the dark city below that glittered with lights and spires. The other leaves stood out brightly in the sky, each a miniature light show. Hoseok’s hands froze in Yoongi’s hair as he stared towards the curving horizon. His weight sank down onto Yoongi’s thighs. Breath ghosted across Yoongi’s forehead.

“If we roll into the party like this people won’t believe we don’t know each other,” Yoongi murmured.

Hoseok looked back at him with his wide eyes, too close in the half light, still not quite realizing their position.

“I know that emotion on your face,” Yoongi said. “I really wish I could smell it.”

“Huh?” Hoseok chirped, coming back to himself with a start.

“Wonder. It’s the best scent in the world. It’s so rare.”

Hoseok’s cool hands slid out of his hair and onto Yoongi’s shoulders. “Oh. Sorry,” he said. His hands dropped into his lap and he turned to stare through the window again. “I really am rude, aren’t I?”

“It’s okay,” Yoongi said. Hoseok blinked down at him looking lost.

The pod slid right past the brightly lit entrance to Mr. Linden’s leaf and down where the broadside of the leaf tipped over the city. It bypassed the ballroom where other pods were letting out partygoers and zipped around a curve. They docked in a small bay behind a fountain and crept out into a room furnished in black and gold.

“No windows,” Hoseok commented.

“In a world made of windows, privacy and darkness turn into luxuries. This must be Kai’s room.”

“I’ll meet you out there,” Hoseok said, heading out the doorway and turning down the dark hallway with the house’s pass-card pulled up on his tab. He’d be off investigating for at least a little while disguised as one of the evening’s performers.

Yoongi made his entrance into the party through kitchens that swam with the smells of organic foods. The cooks ignored him. They had a discreet door to the hall with the bathrooms. Yoongi stepped out onto a ballroom floored with glass. The city sparkled like a carpet thousands of meters below.

Around the huge room, people clustered on black carpets with tables of food and entertainers. Displays of art and enormous gauzy curtains hung down from the steel ceiling. The crowds came with a dizzying blast of scent, hundreds of perfumes tickling Yoongi’s nose and the thick smell of hominids underneath. A local passed with his scent like soil. A group of humans laughed over a table of little cakes smelling like sugar and salt. Rich smells of real fibers and wools lay over everything.

A hand wrapped around his elbow. “Overwhelmed?” Kai breathed in his ear. A curly black horn brushed against Yoongi’s hair. He turned and found breath no easier to catch with Kai’s soft red eyes and full lips so close.

“I’ll…adjust quickly.”

“You’ve got your cover down?”

“I’m here on the invitation of Dr. Stith. Where is he?”

Dr. Stith was the client who recommended him to Kai. He sat on a couch across the room with a monocle over each of his three eyes, cackling hard at something his pretty seatmate had said. “Good to see you, Yoongi,” he said, winking the eye on his forehead. “Previous business partner. Have you tried the bubbly? Let me introduce you to some friends.”

Yoongi was already leaning over to smell his seatmate’s neck, getting a vanilla perfume over the sulfuric scent of a Nionian. She moved her earring for him and grabbed a glass off the nearest waiter.

Names and faces passed by quickly. Dr. Stith pointed out Mr. Linden, who’s skin was no redder than Yoongi’s, tone the olive green of a Draconian. “And his wife,” Dr. Stith said, and pointed out a willowy woman with an ageless face and black hair that fell almost to her waist, backless gown barely clinging to her shoulders. “Sunmi.”

“Human?” Yoongi asked.

“Yes. Why?”

He shrugged. “It checks out. Humans are kind of flexible with their matrimonial habits.”

“Oh right,” Dr. Stith said, “Because Kai. Yes, I expected her to be an Argonaut too before I met her. Would you like me to introduce you?”

“Yes, please.”

They caught up with her in front of a painting encased in thick glass, something rudimentary and ancient with real paint strokes swirling on a browning canvas, orange and blue and green. “Sunmi, my lady.”

She turned and fixed her large eyes on them. “Jerry,” she said.

“This is my former business partner, Yoongi. I brought him out here tonight to catch up with him and realized I never introduced him to the hosts.”

She smiled serenely and brushed the hair off her neck so he could lean in and sniff. He noticed first that she wore Bellatrixian perfume, that odd blend of delicacy and power that made his head fuzzy. He’d run into it before, one of the most expensive perfumes on the market, known to befuddle the senses. He struggled to smell anything deeper, the salt on her human skin, the gentle scent of her cotton dress. There was a musky, Draconian scent that must have been Mr. Linden and just a little of Kai’s iron.

Other scents lay subtly under the mix. Cool steel and ozone, the residual handshakes of every person at the party. She allowed them a few pleasantries before treating them to a view of her backless gown as she sauntered away through the party having given Yoongi almost no new information.

A dozen paces away from them, she paused and stared up at a nearby stage, earrings flashing in the light. Yoongi followed her gaze. Above the heads of the partygoers, Hoseok danced. Winking lights crackled down the lean shape of his body as he rolled, played down his long arms, flashed across his nose. The little ozone scent of the electric show filled the air like a natural rainstorm on Argo.

For a dangerous moment, Yoongi forgot the assignment. He watched the sparks dance over Hoseok’s skin, jumping between the gaps in his clothing. Other Argonaut performers danced around the room, but all eyes were on Hoseok. Mr. Linden watched him from a dais at the head of the great room. Kai watched from beside him. Sunmi and Jerry and Yoongi all stood enraptured. Though much of the bass and treble didn’t register in Yoongi’s ears, the swell of euphoric chemicals coming off the crowd kept him right in the mood with everyone else as he watched Hoseok’s flow from move to move like something digital and lovely.

When Hoseok stepped down from the stage, Yoongi ached to go wrap an arm around his long waist, to murmur praise in his ear and smell the atmosphere around him. Hoseok drew in the overconfident and powerful with the force of a magnet, everyone sweeping in to talk to him, including a slickly grinning Mr. Linden.

As her husband pulled Hoseok against his side, Sunmi swept her long hair over her shoulder and disappeared into the back.

 

“Did you learn anything?” Yoongi asked. Kai’s key to the bunker fit awkwardly between his fingers and the wine had kicked his focus down the long transport pipes. Hoseok still glistened with sweat, lungs filling out that slender ribcage.

Hoseok shrugged. “I learned Mr. Linden doesn’t know how to keep his hands to himself and that he’s got a thing for Argonauts.”

“Uh huh,” Yoongi said. “You think that’s pissing his wife off?”

“It’d be weird if it wasn’t. What does he actually do for money?”

“He’s a shipping magnate. He builds and manages those massive inter-planet shipping ports. Or at least the company he owns does. You read the whole brief, right?”

Hoseok leaned his head back against the seat. They’d been put back in a public use pod like the one they’d first gotten into that morning, windows small and grimy. Hoseok spread his legs and lay back, steadying his breathing. The scent of people covered him, the scent of admiration, the scent of attraction. Above all that, sweat. The deodorizer must have been close to wearing off because chlorophyll hung on the air without sting. None of his own emotions made it through the haze of other people, but that had begun to filter out of the cabin and Yoongi knew he’d be able to smell Hoseok soon.

“You smell good,” Yoongi said bluntly.

“Do I?”

“People usually come out of crowds smelling like anxiety and tiredness but that was a satisfied crowd and you smell like it.”

Hoseok blinked slowly. The purple light of the pod turned him a magenta like the flush of alcohol, and the flush of alcohol left his cheeks almost burgundy dark. “Wish I could smell that,” he murmured. “I can always feel the response in a way, but it’d be nice to get like, a concrete sense.”

Yoongi hadn’t liked every smell, not the predatory desire on Mr. Linden and some of the other fat cats. Kai had been pleased though, almost proud.

The pod shot down the trunk, not slowing for many of the smaller stops at their time of night. They passed the lobby. They passed the lower malls. Hoseok’s breathing had hardly slowed. His lean chest continued to rise hard and fall fast though it had been a long time since he stopped dancing.

“You know what was kind of weird?” Yoongi said, “and maybe I’m being kind of judgmental here, but I expected Sunmi to be different. Kai says she’s cheating on Mr. Linden, but if I were that woman, I wouldn’t need to sneak around. Even with all the trillionaires and aristocracy in the room, the most powerful person was her. She smelled so at ease. She didn’t smell like a woman resenting her husband from across the room. Hoseok, are you okay?”

Hoseok cracked a smirk. “Yuh. Sorry. That just felt super good. Haven’t danced in a while.”

“Did you meet Sunmi tonight?”

“Huh? Did I…Yeah when I was on break. She didn’t introduce herself. Just saw me when I was on break and smiled, which was almost creepy, but you’re right. She doesn’t seem like someone who’d care if…is this us?”

The pod slowed to a confused halt in the service tunnel like it wasn’t sure it was supposed to stop there. Yoongi hit the emergency lock release and climbed out. Hoseok staggered out behind him.

“How much did you drink?” Yoongi asked.

“Nothing.”

“Really?”

“Do I seem drunk to you?” Hoseok said. Suddenly he was way too close against the door. He grabbed the key smoothly from Yoongi’s hand and unlocked the door with a touch. They stepped through.

Desire stuck to Hoseok’s skin as he passed. The cocktail of scents from the party had dissipated, and underneath lay euphoria. Arousal. Jung Hoseok who so loved to dance on bar tables and leave with an adoring stranger at the end of the night smelling like pure satisfaction with the scents of a hundred admirers on his skin.

The under-city smells floated out of the cavern to their right and Hoseok gazed towards the overwhelming pull of hot food and distant sounds of music with longing. Yoongi stumbled out of the tunnel behind him and bumped into his back. He stuck there like Velcro, unable to draw away from the dormant scents coming out of his skin, completely free of the discomfort and awkwardness he was so used to smelling when they were together.

“Yoongi,” Hoseok said. A hand tugged at his jacket.

“S-rry—scent. Coming back. Smells really intense—”

“Yoongi,” Hoseok breathed again, this time right in Yoongi’s ear. Yoongi’s knees shook. He couldn’t see clearly, could barely hear.

The tunnel to the door of the bunker stretched out longer and longer as Yoongi stumbled towards it, Hoseok’s hand still wrapped around his jacket and moving his useless body along. As they reached the door, Hoseok’s thin shoulder pinned Yoongi to the wall to keep him up. Euphoric scents like fireworks and fizzy soda crowded into his nose. The key rattled over the burn mark and the door clicked and slid open. Yoongi stumbled blindly after the hand on his jacket, eyes watering, until he felt couch against his back and weight on his hips.

“Yoongi,” Hoseok said, and warm lips landed on his. A heavy, hard weight ground down against Yoongi’s crotch. His back arched. His nose burned. Hair and skin rubbed against his fingers.

“Ho-Hobi. guh-fuck-uhhh.” Scent swamped him, so much want, so much syrupy narcissistic pleasure that Yoongi felt it clogging his scent glands and choking him. Lips hit his again, wet and hot and sweet. They stayed there nibbling and licking and Yoongi held his breath to focus and give it back. To Hoseok. His paramour. His gorgeous desire. His wonderful—

With his breath held, the scent disappeared. Yoongi blinked his eyes open to a blur of pink and red and the sudden feeling of his soft jacket sliding up his bare chest and his cock hard in his pants. Hoseok’s thin frame fit too perfectly in his arms. He gasped and the scents slammed into his head again, sending a wracking shudder through every limb. Overwhelmed, he pushed weakly at Hoseok’s chest.

The pink and red leaned back. Cool air washed over Yoongi’s senses. He heaved a couple breaths, searching for the intoxicating scents and getting only the brutal clarity that he was making out with his crush of two years because the crush had gotten a high off of other people’s attention.

He rubbed his wet and blurry eyes, swallowed hard with his watering mouth and shook his head like he could get the funk out of his ears. The scene cleared. Hoseok sat on him, still smelling like delight but looking a little alarmed. As they gazed at each other, embarrassment and shock leaked into Hoseok’s scent.

“Wuh—why would—what was—eugh.” Yoongi squirmed on the couch. His jacket had gotten rucked up to his armpits leaving him cold and self-conscious. He felt like a child struggling to wake up. He locked his fingers around some of the straps on Hoseok’s outfit and hung out. The backs of his knuckles brushed warm skin. “Can—scent gel. You’re sitting on—”

Hoseok scrambled off and Yoongi fumbled for the little box in his pocket with a gel that neutralized all scents within five centimeters. He held it to his nose and breathed deeply. His brain began to clear.

“Sorry,” Hoseok whispered.

“What happened?” Yoongi said.

“I think I kind of…influenced your emotions with mine.”

“Hoseok, I always want you to pin me to a couch and have your way with me. What changed with you?” Hoseok cringed. There is was again, the discomfort. “None of that was for me,” Yoongi said. The scent of euphoria and desire had already begun to go stale in the air. Yoongi pulled his shirt back down over his barely-there abs and prominent rib cage. “Was it?”

Hoseok gulped hard. “I wouldn’t have done that to just anybody,” Hoseok murmured.

“Just the people that won’t resist you?”

The cold scent of frustration slammed through the air. “Just—Yoongi, no. Gross.”

“Can you put your deodorizer back on?”

Hoseok’s warm hand touched his knee, uncertain but sincere. “Okay,” he muttered. “Sorry.” He scuttled off towards the bedroom, hunched over in his party clothes. Guilt and concern burned in the air, but under that, strangely, affection.

 

“I really don’t need the bed. You were the one that danced all night.”

Hoseok stood with his arms at his sides, chin up like a good soldier, all business. Dark red circles had begun to form under his eyes. One of his thighs trembled with exhaustion. “I’m not in any position to demand the bed tonight,” Hoseok said.

“It’s okay. I told you it was okay. We both got a little overexcited.”

“I sent you into sensory overdrive,” Hoseok said. “I ignored the mission, and I almost took advantage of your feelings. I’m going to report myself when we get back to headquarters. I absolutely don’t deserve the bed.”

His hair had nearly dried after his shower. Yoongi’s was still wet. He’d filled out his own inventory of all the weapons below the bunker while Hoseok bathed, had set up surveillance all over the bunker. He’d written the evening report that only had information he’d gathered. He really couldn’t disagree with Hoseok.

“Okay, I deserve the bed, but I also don’t want you sore tomorrow. This is practical. We can deal with all this whatever after we finish this assignment.”

“I mean, we could both sleep in the bed,” Hoseok said. “It’s huge.”

The bed in question, warm under mood-lighting and draped in puffy white blankets, could have comfortably fit ten people shoulder to shoulder. Yoongi imagined himself laying alone in the middle of it while Hoseok slept on the floor and snorted. No amount of blanket tugging and leisurely stretching would put them in each other’s way. “Yeah, okay.”

The first sun would already be rising over the city above the bunker. Out in the dim living room, Hoseok fussed around with the alarm triggers, a system that would ring only in their ear plugs if someone came in and give them enough warning to wake and be prepared before someone got far enough in the bunker to find them.

Unread messages nagged on Yoongi’s tab, most of them from Namjoon. He opened and read something about a date with Jungkook going well. He sent back - Get that tentacle dick yet?

He’s not nearly ready for that.

Are you?

Holy shit yes. I saw them last night and oh my god I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Yoongi tucked his tab away feeling both proud and hollowly disappointed. The feeling of Hoseok crushed up against his front with his lips right on Yoongi’s and his euphoria in his nose would not leave his head. Hoseok climbed into the bed a distance behind Yoongi, barely pulling on Yoongi’s blankets as he settled in. The lights turned off. Both their tabs glowed in the dark room for few minutes.

“Goodnight,” Hoseok finally said, and his side of the room went dark. Yoongi grunted and reluctantly put his tab away, leaving him blinking into the darkness. Every once and a while, Hoseok shuffled on the sheets and Yoongi’s heart pounded, remembering Hoseok’s weight on top of him, the feeling of his warmth, the smell of his affection.

 

It could have been any time of day when Yoongi woke. The mood lighting over the bed looked exactly like it had at around sunrise the night before, which looked exactly like it had in the evening when they left for the party. No sunlight shaded the room in an afternoon mood, no distant smell of dust signaled rush hour. The room didn’t vibrate subtly with the schedule of passing trams.

“It’s lunchtime already,” Hoseok said. His glowing face appeared right at Yoongi’s eye level, smile half a meter away. His hand wrapped warmly around Yoongi’s shoulder in shocking familiarity.

“Uwuh…did um…”

Hoseok stared right into his eyes. He wore a hat that folded his ears over and a shirt that hung open right at Yoongi’s eye level as he leaned down, baring his entire chest. Sleep blurred Yoongi’s vision a little but the scent of fried food and city filth filled Yoongi’s nose. The deodorizer stung his senses again.

“Why are you doing this?” he whispered.

Hoseok pulled away, smile diminishing. “Doing what?”

“Acting like you like me.”

“I…do like you?”

Yoongi sat up, trying to shake the sleep out of his head. “You always smell like you don’t want me around. Why send so many mixed signals now?”

Hoseok wrung his pretty hands together and stammered. “It’s not that I don’t…it’s more about my own feelings. I’m fine with having you around.”

“You’ve been to the under-city,” Yoongi interrupted. “What’d you find?”

“How did—oh, I probably stink, don’t I?”

“Like cooking grease and dirt. Smells like a fun time.”

Hoseok shuffled backwards out of Yoongi’s close range of scent and squatted. A chair whipped out of the corner and met him where he stood. “I checked the sleep record on your tab when I got up,” he said. “And at that point it said you’d only gotten to sleep two hours before, so I let you rest while I did some investigating. Since, um, it’s probably my fault you couldn’t sleep.”

Yoongi nodded. “Thanks,” he said. “It’s probably better someone stayed here anyway.”

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok said. “I really don’t know what got into me last night.”

“Can’t say I don’t wish you’d do it again.” He watched Hoseok’s eyebrows push together. “Too honest. Sorry.”

“So the under-city has no signs of co-op municipal or government systems at all,” Hoseok said. He wouldn’t meet Yoongi’s eyes. “It was so weird. I’ve raided places like that in this city before and it’s usually just anarchy but this place was so calm and orderly.”

“Like a surface territory?”

Hoseok nodded.

Yoongi threw off his covers. “Sub-society. I need to go see it.”

“Isn’t that a myth?” Hoseok said. “Independent cities under Gliese run by criminal overlords is a little much to believe.”

“I’m sure it’s not nearly that exciting,” Yoongi said. “Patrol knows they exist but doesn’t know a whole lot about them. We need to go check it out.” He yanked his pajama shirt over his head and dug his carrying closet out of his bag, popping it open with a button. He un-vacuum-sealed one outfit and pulled it out, all wrinkled and smelling like vinyl.

“Should I keep a watch here then?”

“Hoseok, we are in a bunker with enough weapons to destroy an eighth of this planet and there’s potentially a sub-society run by criminals a hundred meters down the hall. I doubt that’s a coincidence. We’re both going.” He pulled on the shirt and felt the buttons click themselves together up his chest. The pants needed a little more work. He looked up halfway through shoving one of his long feet through a tight pant leg and caught Hoseok gazing at him sideways.

He’d changed in the room with loads of other Patrol captains. Even so, he felt blue tinging his cheeks.

 

Yoongi always hated getting out of the Patrol uniform. His confidence stat dropped steadily into his boots with every step into the crowd of the sub-society. The large steel cavern echoed and clanged with the sound of business and construction. Lines of lights like the path of planets across a star map shone across the ceiling and lit up the heads of families out for the afternoon and young couples eating in small, half-submerged restaurants. The streets had no formal signage, none of the teal and pink markers of the city’s public transportation, yet the area was a clean, cosmopolitan capsule.

“Stop tugging on your shirt,” Hoseok said. Yoongi shoved his hands into his pockets instead. They passed mostly the tall locals who looked like they’d been carved roughly from red stone, a lot of humans, and a couple people with the distinctly briny scent of Ceph. Again, he thought of the fun Namjoon must be having, retired and in love, dating the monster of his dreams.

Hoseok stood out like an unfortunate beacon, bright pink in the crowd.

“Should we eat lunch somewhere?” Yoongi asked.

“Will we have money that’s good here?”

“I don’t know why they’d be using different money.”

Sure enough, the prices for a ramen shop nearby were all in standard units. They sat down and buzzed in their orders and then sat and listened. The family behind them were all discussing plans for a weekend trip to Chrysanthemum. The men on their right were deep in an argument about a science fiction lecture they’d just attended.

“Doesn’t sound very different from people on the surface,” Hoseok muttered over his Ceres fly ramen. “What’s your theory?”

“Well it’s obviously a sub-society.”

“I mean what does it have to do with our assignment?”

“Haven’t gotten that far yet. Maybe Sunmi is trading goods through this place. Maybe there’s someone in power she’s in contact with here. Maybe someone out of here is having an affair with her to try to get in there. Maybe it is just a coincidence.” he shrugged. “We need to keep looking.”

“You’re unusually excited about all this,” Hoseok said.

“This is my favorite kind of work.” Yoongi grinned. “I love off-book assignments. All the coolest stuff in the Co-op is the stuff we’d be forced to shut down if we were bigger hard-asses. This place is illegal, but does it seem like it should be?”

Hoseok looked around. What looked like cheap but comfortable tenement housing rose up nearly to the ceiling. Lanterns buzzed overhead. Elklichian children screeched and chased a drone down the street. “It seems like a better community than most of the places topside,” Hoseok said.

The cashier raised an eyebrow at their standard unit exchange apps, but it went through. “Maybe we’ll hear more interesting stuff in a bar?” Hoseok said.

The bar was easy enough to find, retro neon lights pointing them down a ramp towards the gentle blue glow of a plasma door. They pushed through the odd feeling like water stretched thinly over the opening and found themselves in a reasonably pleasant space. Floating chairs and tables ringed a low room. The bar stair-stepped up from the height of Yoongi’s hip to over his head to accommodate differently sized species. Even for the time of day, the place was busy, which made sense underground where daytime didn’t matter so much.

“Vodka,” Yoongi grumbled at the bartender.

“On the job?” Hoseok muttered behind him.

“What? This is normal.”

Hoseok gave him a curious little smirk and stepped up. “Beer please.”

The bartender gave him a look up and down. “You want the Argonaut brew?”

“Uhh yeah.”

The bartender wandered over to the taps. “Do you think it’s real? Like real wheat?” Yoongi muttered. “Isn’t that illegal to trade here?”

“Pretty sure,” Hoseok muttered, “but they were serving it at the party last night.”

“Well yeah. They’re super rich. They can do that. Why’s it here?”

Hoseok took one sip and gave Yoongi a nod. “Holy shit,” Yoongi said. He left his vodka shot on the counter and leaned right into Hoseok’s glass, who giggled and held it steady for him as he sniffed it. Notes of real plants and natural fermentation came clean and sharp off the surface. “Ooooh shit,” Yoongi moaned and tilted it towards his mouth.

“No planet better in the universe,” Hoseok said. “We got beer.”

“How much did that end up costing you?”

“More per milliliter than your vodka did. I can tell you that right now.”

“Jeez.”

“I may as well be drinking real champagne.”

“Is it good beer by Argonaut standards?”

“Hell no. This is about as gross as it gets.”

Yoongi snickered quietly. They leaned on the bar, so close that Hoseok’s glass kept bumping Yoongi’s chest. “I like this place,” Yoongi said, looking around. “I’d live down here.” Hoseok’s sharp eyes darted around, tracking in the direction that the smell of human was coming from. Yoongi watched in fascination. The beer bumped up against his chest again. He grabbed it and took a sip, and Hoseok’s eyes snapped to him again. He kept his hand open for the glass.

“Better than synthetic stuff, right?”

“I kind of get why some people drink beer now,” Yoongi said.

“One of the oldest drinks in the universe.”

“Didn’t know you were a beer drinker.”

Hoseok dissolved into little giggles again. “You saw me drink so much beer at Seokjin’s party.”

“I saw you drink those gross cocktails out of the gris-crystal. I didn’t see any beer.”

Hoseok cocked his head to the side and pursed his lips. Teeny dimples popped out over his mouth. He made a weird whiny noise that could have been a verbal shrug and Yoongi chuckled, too caught up to stop his fond smile.

“So, what’s the plan?” Hoseok finally asked.

“Plan?”

“We can stand here in the corner of this bar and chat all day. What are we doing here?”

Yoongi remembered they weren’t on a date. He took in the bar again, a fairly narrow range of characters. Mostly people their age, mostly a little rougher around the edges than average but not so out of the ordinary as to be suspicious. A local in boxing gear tore into something breaded and fried while his human companion leaned over the table and talked fast, gesturing with his tab. A trio of handsome young humans with unnatural eye colors and skin art played cards in the corner. A girl with a floral buzzcut sat back with a drink in her hand and watched the room. The hominid scent came clean and unstressed.

“Not much to see or smell,” Yoongi said. “We’ll probably need to investigate things a little more before we have anything to go on here. I just wanted to see the area. Let’s wander around a little and then head back? There’s only so much poking we can do without being suspicious.”

Hoseok bumped the beer against Yoongi’s chest again. “I wonder if they have a dance club down here. I could definitely do with some dancing.”

“You danced enough last night.”

“I can dance back in the bunker too,” Hoseok murmured, low and quiet for only Yoongi to hear. “Bottoms up.” He drained his beer with a couple long glugs.

They walked back through the town close enough to bump shoulders, and Hoseok linked an arm through Yoongi’s to lean close and mutter about what looked like a building of authority, some thin, domed thing sticking straight up in the middle of the town.

“Looks phallic,” Yoongi said and Hoseok giggled close and sharp in Yoongi’s ear. “Just the kind of place some criminal overlord might be hiding.

“I feel more like we’re on vacation than on an assignment,” Hoseok said. “This place is so cool.”

“Doesn’t patrol send you cool places?”

“Not often.”

They passed down the narrow corridor around the outside of the under-city. Waste water ran under the grates and they could see the effects of being on the fringe of society in the rust marks on the walls and litter in the gutters.

“That beer was kind of strong,” Hoseok said, explaining in some part the increasing weight pulling on Yoongi’s arm. They crept around back of the line of neat little houses and crawled back up into the tube, just one of Yggdrasil’s many little roots.

Hoseok stopped him at the crossroads. To their left, the tunnels led back to the transport passage. Behind them the smell of fried food followed them. Ahead, the hallway led to the bunker. Yoongi looked around, wondering what Hoseok had seen to stop them. Cameras were nearly impossible to see, but there were some telltale signs: marks on the walls or clear spots, tiny holes where there shouldn’t be any. He saw none.

“What are you—” When he turned he met Hoseok’s eye to eye, centimeters apart, pink skin flushed darker and eyes hooded. Yoongi caught his breath and wished again that he could smell and guess Hoseok’s intent. His head fogged only with his own chemicals. The harsh excitement and rejection from the night before flooded back to the front of Yoongi’s mind. “Don’t lead me on, Hoseok,” he breathed.

Hoseok swallowed hard but didn’t move away, face betraying almost panic. “I think I should have spent more time with you before now,” he said, and his voice shook a little. “I think I should have figured this out before we had to work together.”

“Figured what out?” Yoongi whispered.

Hoseok’s arm stayed linked with his, nearly holding him up. His pretty eyes pinched in distress. “Why you make me feel the way I do.”

Over the ever-present low scent of metal and filtered air, Yoongi smelled the beer on Hoseok’s breath and the little bit of chlorophyll coming through his skin, the sting of deodorizer, his own excitement. “How do I make you feel?” Yoongi asked, not daring to move yet.

Hoseok finally drew away, though his arm didn’t leave Yoongi’s. He stood tensely in the center of the crossroads, glancing around like he’d forgotten the way to go. “Guilty, I think. Guilty when I flirt with other people. Anxious when I’m going to see you. Embarrassed, um. Frustrated.”

“Oh. That’s no good. I’m sorry.”

“And I thought you were creepy and making me uncomfortable till Seokjin’s party when I just wanted you to pay attention to me. You got jealous. I liked that and I hate that I liked that.”

“The beer really got to you, didn’t it?”

“Shut up,” Hoseok grunted. He pulled away suddenly. Yoongi followed him back towards the hallway.

“I wasn’t jealous,” Yoongi said, following. “Not about Jungkook. I was worried because of something between Jungkook and Namjoon. Hoseok really please don’t worry about me. Do what you want. I don’t want the way I feel to make things shittier for you—”

Hoseok turned around and grabbed Yoongi by the shoulders. They were neither of them very strong by Patrol standards, both the slight pilot types, but Hoseok stopped him short and squeezed in a way that made Yoongi’s heart jump into his chest. “Why are you a good person?” Hoseok said. “This was easier when I thought your sucked.”

Yoongi seized a little, shrinking back, and Hoseok let go.

“Sorry,” Hoseok said, pulling back. “I like attention. I’m not really good about returning it, and usually that’s fine because people aren’t that sincere.” He crouched on the floor. “God that sounds dumb. Ignore me. Please ignore me.”

They stood in the silent hall. The burn mark stood out darkly in the maintenance lights further down and Yoongi squinted at it. He could sense some silent old insecurities in Hoseok’s words, some fear of commitment. If only he could smell it, he’d know exactly what to say. “I want to apologize,” Yoongi said, “Because I’m not sure I’ve ever done that yet. I came onto you way too hard before I knew you and I really regret that. That was demanding a lot from your feelings. I made us both uncomfortable.”

Hoseok heaved a deep sigh. “Don’t tell me that. I don’t want to know that I’m disappointing when you get to know me.”

Yoongi barked a surprised, anxious laugh. “That’s not what I mean at all. You get more awesome every day I know you. I just mean that my feelings really shouldn’t figure into your life if you don’t return them, so—”

“Stop being a good person!” Hoseok groaned, a bit too loudly.

“SH!”

Hoseok flinched and looked around like he expected a crime boss to jump right out of the walls. “Sorry,” he whispered.

Yoongi knelt on the ground next to him with his hands squeezed between his knees. “We should finish the mission and then—and I know I’ve been asking this on and off for years and you’ve always said no, but—”

“I’ll go on a date with you,” Hoseok said, face in his hands. “I want to. I’ve been thinking about asking.”

Yoongi sucked in a gasp and tried to reign in his fist pump. A strangled squeak of triumph made it out between his teeth. Hoseok finally looked up at him with an awfully tired expression on his face, but he saw Yoongi wringing his hands nervously and his expression softened.

“You’re cuter than I thought,” he said, and Yoongi felt his cheeks flush blue. The quietness of the tunnel cocooned them as they regarded each other. Yoongi sniffed the air reflexively, still stung by the deodorizer but anxious for a scent. Hoseok rubbed his face. “I really am sorry about the deodorizer. I just don’t know my own feelings right now and I didn’t want you figuring them out before I was ready to deal with them. Especially since I know I’ve hurt you like that before.”

“You’re a good person too, you know,” Yoongi said.

“I’ll wash it off as soon as we get inside.”

“If you’re comfortable with that, thank you.”

A small grunt came from the Hoseok ball. Yoongi leaned forward, hands braced on his knees, searching for Hoseok’s expression hidden behind his hands. “Should we head inside? We’ve kind of taken the morning off but we need a new plan. I’d like to get back into uniform.”

Hoseok dropped his knees away from his body and held out his arms. Yoongi sat up fast, realizing how close he’d gotten. It looked like he was asking for a hug. Yoongi couldn’t make head nor tails of the frown though. He couldn’t smell anything but chlorophyll and deodorizer, not the scorn that would show the hug was a joke or the affection to tell him it was sincere.

The arms lowered. “No hug?” he said.

“Can’t tell if it’s what you actually want.”

Hoseok leaned forward and grabbed his hands, tugging him nearly into his lap to wrap his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders.

“I think I’m a lot more physical in my friendships than you are,” Hoseok said as Yoongi’s face mashed into his shoulder.

“Cultural difference,” Yoongi gasped. He got his hands loosely under Hoseok’s back and squeezed, still holding himself up and away, trembling a little. Hoseok’s long arms pulled in and down and Yoongi let his body give way till he lay fully in Hoseok’s lap.

“Is this okay?” Hoseok asked.

A warm chest pressed to Yoongi’s side. His thin legs wedged in beside Hoseok’s perfectly. Pink skin filled his vision and lay vibrantly under his own hand. He nuzzled in closer until Hoseok fit against him like a glove.

“This isn’t too much for you, is it?” Hoseok said, and his voice rumbled through his chest to Yoongi’s ear.

“It’s a lot.”

“Should I let go?”

“Please no.”

Hoseok’s arms and legs tightened around him, both of them tense as coiled springs all smashed together. How odd to finally come together in a tiny tunnel below the planet’s surface after years of circling around each other in the sky.

“I don’t have your nose,” Hoseok said, “but for what it’s worth, I’ve always thought you smell really good.”

Before Yoongi could lose his nerve, he slid his hand along Hoseok’s cheek, turning his head just a little, and pressed his lips to the side of Hoseok’s mouth. That mouth met him and turned with him, opened gently, licked deeper. “And I always thought you were beautiful,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi scoffed. “I gotta question your judgement on that one, Captain.”

“I did try to sleep with you the first night I met you.” Hoseok rocked him back in his arms and for a few exhilarating seconds, Yoongi lay suspended across Hoseok’s arm with his pretty lips at his throat.

And then Hoseok dropped him. Yoongi rolled out of his arms onto the floor.

“You’re heavier than I thought,” Hoseok said, collapsed over his own arm next to Yoongi’s body. They chuckled together, each feeling the weight of the other’s legs tangled with their own.

“Planning this afternoon,” Yoongi finally said. “Making out later.”

“Right, right.”

Hoseok stood with the key in his hand and slid it around the upper curve of the burn mark. Yoongi, head still spinning, barely restrained himself from wrapping himself around Hoseok’s back, but still wasn’t convinced he’d be welcome.

The door clicked in and slid to the side. Lights flickered along the posh hallway, just barely glinting off the little sensors and cameras they’d laid just inside the door. Hoseok strode in and Yoongi waited for the little buzz in his ear piece as the sensors picked up his passing.

Nothing came.

As one, Hoseok and Yoongi froze. Hoseok’s hand flew to his hip holster, but before he could get his hand on his blaster, he buckled with a shriek, slamming his hands over his ears. The air shivered with noise way beyond Yoongi’s hearing. A sonic grenade. The lights in the passage went out and Hoseok’s body hit the floor. Blood trickled out of one of his pink ears.

Yoongi was trained to turn and run. He knew he should go straight back to the transport passage and seal the door behind him. He should call for backup and report immediately to the client and Patrol.

He stood stock still, staring at Hoseok’s body. A shock hit him from behind and the world vanished in a flash of pain.

 

Yoongi felt as though he’d been in a black place for a long time. He could remember none of it, recalled nothing between blacking out and coming back to consciousness, but the space in his brain could have taken a few seconds or a few years.

“Oh, this one’s back,” he heard in a tiny voice far away. He took a deep breath and smelled absolutely nothing. He tensed and felt resistance pull across his body and arms. He tried to scoot his leg forward and felt his muscles pull uselessly. Something tightened around his throat.

“You can remove his blindfold,” he heard, closer and clearer now as his brain readjusted to waking. Something loosened around his head and he cracked his eyes open.

The armory encircled him, racks of weapons with recessed lighting glinting on the gunmetal. People of various species in black body suits filled the room. In front of him, Sunmi herself stood in a sleek business suit, hair cascading over one shoulder. She held in her hand a maroon jacket.

“Dr. Stith’s business partner and the star Argonaut dancer,” she said with a broad, shark-like smile. “I would not have guessed you were Patrol captains. What on earth made them send you in here? How’d you get a key?”

Yoongi didn’t answer. He’d spotted his own scent blocker held just to the side of his nose in a black gloved hand, a little box of blue gel shorting out his primary sense. He cringed away from it but the rope on his neck kept him from getting far enough. Beside him, Hoseok was tied to a metal frame, blindfold keeping his head up, stirring weakly. A long line of red trailed from his ear down his neck.

“We’ll blast his eardrums again,” Sunmi said cheerfully. “Tell us.”

Hoseok let out the barest groan.

Yoongi whipped his head backwards out of range of the tiny gel pack and sucked a deep breath in through his nose.

Not a single mote of hostility sat on the air. Sunmi reeked of amusement. The others seemed somewhere between bored and annoyed. Most of all, he smelled on all their clothes the pungent smell of fried food. They were from the under-city after all. “We’re not that interested in your weapons,” Yoongi said.

“Oh, I’m sure you are.”

“How long have you been working down here?”

She raised her eyebrows.

“You lead that sub-society, don’t you?”

Her grin grew. “I do not.”

At that, Yoongi grew uncertain. He’d been about to say ‘case closed.’ She lived down here part time to run the under-city. No cheating involved, but she’d been keeping it secret from her husbands. He’d negotiate with her about how much she didn’t want him to tell Kai and report the rest to Patrol. If that wasn’t the case, he had no idea how to proceed.

Someone had removed Hoseok’s blindfold. He hung in his ropes, shaking his head gently this way and that like he couldn’t hear. Yoongi lifted his head above the gel pack again and smelled a dim breath of shock and panic through the sting of deodorizer. He lowered his head quickly back in range of the gel.

“Let’s get this over with quickly,” Sunmi said. “I had no desire to work against Patrol, but if you’ve really stooped so low as to work with that scumbag.” Her voice grew soft, dangerous. “Did he hire you?” She advanced towards him, a sleek streak of black in a room of weapons. A long, primal knife slid from her sleeve, a weapon of pain. “What did he promise Patrol?” The knife touched the tip of his nose. “If you think I’m letting you out of here to tell that ugly, lazy prick of a mercenary where I am, you’re dead wrong.” The point pressed in and set every panic chemical in Yoongi’s brain loose.

“Kai?” he squeaked.

She froze. The room held its breath. Suddenly, she dropped her knife on the floor and grabbed the scent pack from the guard. All the scents came flooding back at once in a rush of amusement, confusion, metal, latex, exasperation, fear, anger, relief, so intense that he almost missed Sunmi saying, “Kai. Who’d have thought. You can set them loose, and fix the Argonaut’s ears. We have nothing to worry about.”

 

Sunmi herself made them tea in the kitchen. Yoongi crunched up in the velvety dining chair and watched the one remaining guard standing in the kitchen doorway staring impassively at the ceiling as if Yoongi couldn’t smell his boredom. Hoseok sat across the table from him tilting his head this way and that to test his newly healed ears. The deodorizer on his scent was fading quickly away and leaving only the stench of shock and fear.

“Kai suspected me of cheating,” Sunmi said as she put the tea down. “Cute.” She waved a chair over and sat, looking back and forth between them with a smile. “You two don’t blame yourselves. He sent you in here very unprepared. I’m afraid he’ll be paying you double to settle a domestic misunderstanding. I’ve been holding him at arms distance for too long. To think he’d hire Patrol. This could have been quite embarrassing.”

Hoseok sipped his tea and didn’t respond. Sunmi barked orders to the guard in the corner of the room. Within a few minutes, Yoongi and Hoseok and all their belongings had been loaded into a transport pod with Sunmi, the same one Kai had brought them down in the day before.

“I will admit you two are quite good,” she said as they hurtled up the branches of the tree. She continued tracing a finger quickly over the flat surface of her tab. “I met both of you last night and never suspected a thing. You raised no alarms in the little town by the bunker while you were there. The only thing that gave you away were the things you left in the bunker itself, and those were well hidden.”

“If you don’t have anything to do with that little town, what are you doing down there?”

“Trades mostly,” she said. “That town is an outpost of something much larger, but you’ll have to dig into that on your own to find out more.” She smirked at them. “I’m not giving Patrol everything on a silver platter, but I don’t mind you knowing a few details.”

They met Kai in the room of the party the day before. He lay on a fur rug across the same chair Mr. Linden had sat in, and though he looked perfectly at ease, Yoongi could smell his anxiety across the room.

“You, sir, are craftier than I gave you credit for,” Sunmi boomed as they walked in. Yoongi and Hoseok stumbled in behind her like children caught vandalizing the neighbor’s house, dragged home for punishment. “To try to set our dear husband against me. You have no idea how badly you could have ruined your own life.” She mounted the steps all the way up to where he leaned cautiously away from her in the enormous chair, and sat down on his lap. “Do you really think all our money comes from him? That fool? I lead this family, not him, whatever he may think.”

Kai swallowed hard. He looked down at Yoongi and Hoseok. Yoongi shrugged. “It checks out,” he said.

“Linden’s shipping business is my toy,” she said, waving a hand. “I’ve had full control for several years and a lot of it works under the table. You can tell Patrol if you want.”

“Then why haven’t you told us?” Kai said. He shifted uncomfortably under her, not looking at all like he was used to having his wife on his lap.

“I could have,” she mused, “but then Linden would start trying to ‘help’ and that’s always annoying.” She gazed contemplatively down at him. “I could use you though. I was annoyed when he decided to marry you out of the blue, but maybe that’s not so bad. Are you interested in helping me run the family business? I may find you more useful than Linden before too long.”

Kai’s red eyes flashed. His horns tapped against the back of the chair as he leaned his head back and regarded her, both of them almost too beautiful to look at. Yoongi felt a sudden burst of pity for poor Mr. Linden and his Argonaut kink that landed two of the prettiest and most ruthlessly powerful schemers in the city right in his house. “Let me pay our guests and then we’ll discuss,” Kai said.

 

“So that was useless,” Hoseok said. Dead night lasted only three hours their side of the planet, but they were in the middle of it. It was hardly darker than the day. Lights streamed overhead across the space between towers, glowed brightly along the train tracks, and beamed down from highways criss-crossing above them. The Yellow train whipped past them in a lemon haze and slowed gradually to a stop. The gate slid open with the doors and the hordes of people began filing off. Hoseok patted his hands over his ears for the second time in the last ten minutes.

“Not so useless,” Yoongi said, and bumped their shoulders gently together.

Hoseok didn’t seem to get it. “We did have a ton to put in the report,” he said. “A sub-society under Yggdrasil and reason to believe that it’s part of a network. A bunker of weapons and the fact that Mr. Linden’s family is apparently a major power in the world of illegal trade. We got paid twice over, and it took less than two days.”

Yoongi swallowed back his stupid. and I got to kiss you.“See, there’s a bright side.”

The Yellow line pulled out and the Blue line pulled in, a baby blue streak in front of the Peach line behind it. Hoseok sighed. “Mine’s coming up next. Green line.”

“Do you want to come to my place for tonight?” Yoongi said before he could completely lose his nerve. Hoseok turned slowly to study him with his eyes wide. “We still have the report to write,” Yoongi said. The buoying hope that had held him up below the earth several hours before fizzled anxiously in his chest. “And I’m not quite ready to say goodbye yet.”

Hoseok’s chlorophyll scent had been overwhelmed for several hours now with the garbage smell of exhaustion and shock. He still smelled anxious and tired, but some excitement bloomed through the smell like happy flowers on burned field. Yoongi’s nose had grown eager to smell him under the deodorizer and it hit him strongly. He stepped closer and pressed his face to Hoseok’s shoulder.

“Can you believe I thought you were a grumpy little bastard?” Hoseok said. “You’re so cute!” He pinched Yoongi’s blushing cheek between his pink fingers and cackled. “Okay, what line are we waiting for then?”

“Plum line.”

The Green line passed like mint toothpaste, then the Red line like terra cotta brick. A pale pink purple like a half-sunset finally pulled in and Hoseok climbed on after Yoongi. They slid into bucket seats and grabbed the handles. The train whipped down the vacuum tube at hundreds of miles an hour. A bit of fake gravity offset the force of acceleration offset from the front of the train so they only felt a bit of a the crushing force.

Namjoon wasn’t home, predictably. He’d been on a date with Jungkook the night before, but he usually slept at the quarters the university provided him, leaving his whole apartment open for Yoongi’s use. The place usually felt luxurious and spacious with its whole walls of windows and all the matching maroon furniture, but it felt like a hovel compared to the bunker, and Yoongi couldn’t help but think about the giant bed he’d laid in with Hoseok.

“Nice place,” Hoseok said. “I’m just staying at the Patrol base.”

“It’s not mine,” Yoongi said. “I live with Namjoon when I’m on Gliese.”

“Lucky,” Hoseok hissed. He flopped down on the couch, which swallowed him up in its ultra-soft cushions. He pulled his bag into his lap and unsealed his soft pajamas. “Gotta get out of uniform.”

“I hate being out of uniform,” Yoongi said. “Makes me feel small.” At that, Hoseok smelled a little concerned, which reminded Yoongi that most people weren’t so willing to open up about their every feeling. He changed the subject. “Namjoon’s texting me about his new date. I’m glad they’re getting along.”

“Not going to lie, I thought they hated each other,” Hoseok said. “When he offered to take Jungkook home from Seokjin’s party and was so sweet about it, I thought something was up.”

“They’ve got some history. They’re figuring it out.”

“Jungkook’s hella cute,” Hoseok said. “Worth a bit of a fight. I always thought Namjoon would go for something freaky in the end so I’m kind of surprised by how sweet this choice is.”

Yoongi resisted lying about Jungkook’s true nature by keeping his mouth shut.

“How about you?” Hoseok said, twisting on the couch. He propped his little pink chin on the back of the couch and stared up through his lashes at Yoongi as he leaned against the kitchen counter. “You’ve been with Jack-nites and giants and you want to settle down with little ol’ me?”

“You telling me you’re not wild in bed?” Yoongi said.

Hoseok burst into a full-throated laugh. “I’m okay,” he finally said.

“I’m not after you for pure sex appeal,” Yoongi said when the laughter had died down. “I don’t much care if you can give me the ride of my life any night of the week. That’s not what I want around after work, you know? You make me feel…lighter.”

“Yeah? You make me feel safer,” Hoseok said. He flopped back on the couch and Yoongi couldn’t see him, but he could smell the strength it took to force the words out. “Not just that you could protect me, but that I’m more than capable of protecting myself. Like you trust me.”

Yoongi pillowed his head on his arms. “Have you felt this way for a while? Just now? I thought you didn’t like me.”

“I didn’t like how interested I was,” Hoseok said. “I didn’t like the idea that someone could just sweep me off my feet.”

“Hm.”

“You’re really so cute.”

“Ah.”

Hoseok popped over the side of the couch again, feet first and then the rest of his body scrambling after. He pinned Yoongi between his arms against the kitchen counter and leaned in close as Yoongi’s cheeks turned a pale blue. There he stalled, still wrestling with discomfort, still uncertain of himself, but so fond, so caring.

Hoseok’s shirt was warm, and his sides were warm under his jacket. His skin heated Yoongi’s cold fingers as he wrung the fabric between them, not quite looking Hoseok in the face, but smelling all his affection, all his brilliance, and all the stress underneath. He seemed more nervous than defensive now, discomfort more about his own shyness and less about his opinion of Yoongi.

“Should have listened to Namjoon,” Hoseok said. “He’s been trying to convince me you’re cool for years.”

Yoongi squinted up at him for a minute, not sure he trusted it, but the scents coming off Hoseok’s skin were warm and soft. He leaned in, hesitating just a moment when they were close enough for the tips of their noses to brush, and placed a small kiss on Hoseok’s smile. The scent of adoration flooded his nose with a power that nearly knocked his knees out from under him.

“I was so sure you’d be domineering,” Hoseok said.

“For this?” Yoongi gasped. “God, no. I get so overwhelmed.”

And then his back was bent against the counter and his whole body seemed to be cradled in Hoseok’s arms. After two whole years of hoping without really hoping, Hoseok stood close with his heart open and his lips breathing Yoongi’s air. The air smelled as sweet as strawberries, laden with a mix of precious feelings he’d never smelt all at once before.

“You’re so beautiful,” Hoseok breathed.

 

In the morning, Yoongi stumbled out of the bedroom to find Hoseok just waking up on the couch and Namjoon standing in the front entry with his eyebrows in his hairline. “How was, uh…” He caught sight of the deep purple hickeys on Yoongi’s neck and put a hand over his mouth. He stared between them for a moment as they both stayed silent and sleepy like they were challenging him to say something. “How was the assignment,” he said finally.

“Kind of a train wreck and kind of awesome,” Yoongi said. “Nearly got killed by the woman we were supposed to be spying on, but we’ve been paid double and we sent some cool info back to headquarters, so it’s not all bad.”

“Uh-huh,” Namjoon said. His eyes raked over Hoseok’s bare pink chest, but Yoongi didn’t like giving hickeys as much as getting them and there was nothing to see. “Sounds fun. You didn’t do anything on my bed, did you?”

They hadn’t done much of anything, both still too cautious to dive right in. There had been an hour or so of panting into each other’s mouths on the couch. The first sun rose and sent light slanting right through Namjoon’s windows and onto their mussed clothes and the deep red circles under Hoseok’s eyes. Remembering that they’d both been attacked and subdued merely hours before and Hoseok had more recovery to get through than Yoongi, he’d insisted on sleep. And on separate beds. And maybe showers.

“How was your date with Jungkook?” Yoongi asked.

“Exhaustingly anxious,” Namjoon said. “We’re still pretty nervous around each other, but he’s as cute as he ever was. He wants to take me to see whales later this week. And you two? Thought about dates yet?”

“Oh, I’ve been thinking about dates for years,” Yoongi said.

From the couch, Hoseok let out a little amused huff, and then flopped back into the soft cushions. The scent of cotton and dust puffed into the air, but so did Hoseok’s shy scent and his happiness.

Namjoon retreated to his own room for a shower and Yoongi slid onto the couch, perching on Hoseok’s hips and hoping his legs didn’t look too scrawny in the bare light of day. Hoseok’s pink skin offset Yoongi’s pale blue vibrantly and his red hair lay in a fluffy pile on his pillow. Warm pink hands rested on his cold thighs. Hoseok blinked sleepily.

“What now?” Yoongi asked.

“We’ve got a few days,” Hoseok said. “Let’s go to Argo. I’ll show you what real beer should actually taste like.”

Yoongi tilted his head back towards the ceiling, not trusting his own eyes that showed him Hoseok lying sleepily under him with a little smile. He trusted his nose more, the chlorophyll and sweet affection.

“I’d been feeling like I wanted to know you more since before Seokjin’s program-day party, you know,” Hoseok said. “Just took time for me to figure things out, I guess.”

“You’ve figured them out now?” Yoongi said.

He smelled uncertainty, but only a little. “Enough to try, at least,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi lowered himself and kissed Hoseok’s mouth again. Even after spending so long getting to know his lips the night before, it felt new and wonderful.

“Grumpy little guy,” Hoseok mumbled against his mouth. Yoongi snorted and pinched him. “You’re all bark and no bite.”

“I’ll bark more if you don’t shut up.”

Hoseok wrapped his arms around Yoongi’s waist and squeezed him close like a thick pink belt. “Did you know I’d give in one day?” Hoseok said. “You really never gave up.”

“Gave up?” Yoongi brought his head up, pouting. “I wasn’t trying. Either you liked me or you didn’t and I thought you didn’t. Didn’t mean I couldn’t keep complimenting you.”

“You’ve asked me out about every five months since we met.”

“You kept getting really close at parties and making think you were gonna go for it.”

Hoseok threw an arm over his face and gurgled a little. “Sorry.”

Yoongi sat up to escape the worst of the embarrassment smell, aware of the way every inch of his body rolled off Hoseok’s, the way his hips tilted back and Hoseok’s warmth hit the back of his thighs. His beautiful Argonaut smelled rank with all the discomfort, guilt, and anxiety that he’d come to associate with his own presence. “Should I get up?” he said.

“No,” Hoseok said. “I want you here.”

When Namjoon came back into the living room, he found them lying side by side on the couch, Yoongi trying to explain what wonder smelled like while Hoseok played gently with his fingers. “Dumbasses,” he murmured quietly, knowing Hoseok wouldn’t care and Yoongi wouldn’t hear.

He knew that look in Hoseok’s eyes though, the one that told him he only had ten minutes to get out the door before he started seeing more than he needed to. But as the door closed, it was Yoongi who took Hoseok’s lips against his own and Yoongi who pulled Hoseok into his lap. “There’s no way in hell we’re ever getting a consort,” Yoongi grumbled, and Hoseok just laughed.