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just a roman candle

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The sun was stubbornly trying to maintain control of the sky, even as dark clouds loomed in the distance.

Min Yoongi was busy if busy could mean leaning on the counter of his shop and narrowing his eyes at the sky through the window. It was always slow on days with bad weather, just one of the hazards that came with selling fireworks, even those of the magical variety. Yoongi looked across the street and saw two women stepping out of Min Flowers, his family’s shop. He sighed and stretched as he made to close up for the day, figuring he would see if business was any better at the flower shop.

Growing up, plants were all Yoongi had known. He had helped his grandmother craft bouquets to bring good luck, listened to his dad explain the meanings of different blooms, watched as giddy brides-to-be selected flowers, and as despondent families listlessly accepted suggestions for funeral arrangements. As a kid, he’d always loved helping his mother in the family garden. Her favorite plants were the ones that brought magic naturally - healing herbs, roses with calming petals. Her specialty was helping them grow to their fullest potential, even in less than perfect conditions.

At first, his family had been a bit disappointed that Yoongi’s own affinity turned out to be one for fire instead of growth. Yoongi had always enjoyed working with flowers, but it never came naturally to him. He had to work hard to grow the simplest sprouts, had to study for hours memorizing what different flowers could bring for different people. When he was ten, Yoongi’s family went on a beach vacation. Someone bought sparklers, and Yoongi had been so excited about them that his brother had even been persuaded into letting him have the last one. Yoongi ran up and down the beach, drawing shapes in the darkening sky with that final sparkler, for what seemed like hours before his mother quietly commented, “Hasn’t that sparkler been lit for a bit too long?”

Yoongi’s affinity didn’t show itself in a sudden forest of plants or an accidental blaze of fire, but in a sparkler that quietly burned for almost four days.

It only made sense to that when he finally ventured out into the world for himself, Yoongi modeled his own shop after his family’s store. To him, fireworks didn’t seem too different from flowers. Instead of water-filled buckets shelved along the walls offering flowers for the picking, canisters of sparklers and Roman candles were propped outwards below descriptive signs. Rather than selling the typical package deals, Yoongi’s shop promoted “bouquets” of fireworks, arranged by style and color, magic or non-magic. Naturally, all of the colors used in Yoongi’s fireworks were named after flowers.

Yoongi initially planned on coming up with a flower related name for his shop as well. Something like Ashes to Flowers (“Did you know some plants grow best after a fire, Tae?”) or 불꽃 꽃 (“You should appreciate the play on words, Joon.”). But, foolishly, Yoongi had lost a drunken bet that resulted in Kim Seokjin, of all people, being granted with the honor of naming Yoongi’s new shop. (Yoongi had not been happy. “This is my livelihood!” “Calm down. This is perfect. I wouldn’t sabotage you.”) So Yoongi’s shop, his pride and joy, wound up with the name FireMin, which tickled Jin to no end. (“It’s like the English word, “firemen”! But with your name! Trust me, this is incredible. This is my greatest achievement. Your shop is going to be so successful. You’re welcome.”)

If only Jin’s promises for success could extend to the weather. Yoongi, by now used to closing early on rainy days, busied himself shutting down the register and clearing up his scribbles and doodles from the counter. He heard a distant rumble of thunder right as the door swung open.

“Closing up in a few,” he said down to the counter, not even moving his head as he glanced up with his eyes.

A guy his age stood in front of the door, looking a bit uncertain. He had a scrap of paper in one hand and with his other, he took off a tan newsboy cap and ran his fingers through bright red hair. Shoving the hat back down in his head, he took his phone out of the pocket of his white denim jacket, which he wore over a colorful striped turtleneck. Yoongi was entirely amazed that someone could not only choose to put this outfit onto their body but that they could completely make it work.

“Um,” the boy started. “There’s… I’m looking for a flower shop… that’s supposed to be on this street? Min? Is this the wrong Min?” He looked wide-eyed at the fireworks lining the wall to the left of the door. Not wide-eyed like he was shocked but wide-eyed like he was intrigued. He glanced back at Yoongi and gave a small smile, but tilted his head to the side and looked a little like he was in a hurry.

Yoongi nodded. “Wrong Min. This is FireMin, you’re looking for Min Flowers.”

“Ah. Could you show me where that is? I get lost easily… and it’s about to storm…”

Yoongi nodded again. He grabbed some sparklers from a jar on the counter, one of the packages that he’d wrapped (rather cleverly, he thought) to look like a small bouquet of flowers. He crossed over to where the boy stood by the door. Yoongi placed both of his hands on the boy’s shoulders and turned him around, pointing over one of his shoulders and through the window, to the flower shop across the street and three doors down.

“Min Flowers.” He said. He stuck the charmed sparklers in the front pocket of the boy’s jacket.

“These will last you a while… but remember us when you need fireworks.” He walked back to the counter to finish closing up but when he turned around, the guy was still there, looking at him with wide eyes. Yoongi widened his own eyes to match and got a grin in return. (Ah, Yoongi thought, What a grin.) The guy jumped as thunder again echoed in the distance, and quickly turned to push open the door. Yoongi watched as he looked up and down the street before sprinting across. As the door to Min Flowers swung closed behind him, Yoongi powered down his computer.

~~

After Hoseok handed over the bouquet he'd been instructed to pick up for his sister’s graduation party (charmed to bring success), Hoseok had distributed the packet of sparklers to a group of excited kids. (Hoseok always found himself gravitating towards kids at parties. It was more entertaining to make them laugh than it was to talk to the adults about his boring job or his own uncertain plans.) What Hoseok hadn’t realized was that the sparklers would last the kids so long. By the end of the night, he was met with tired parents who wanted to go home but couldn’t seem to extinguish any of the sparklers long enough to get their kids in the car. Hoseok sheepishly collected the persistent sparklers two at a time and carefully stuck them in the ground, lining them up along the garden, where he watched them for another thirty minutes before they finally started to fizzle out.

“Magic sparklers,” his friend, Jungkook, chuckled as he joined him with a couple of drinks. “Where did you even get those?”

For some reason, Hoseok only shrugged.

Two weeks later, Hoseok pretended it was all impulse when he turned down the street he knew the fireworks shop was on as if he hadn't been thinking about it for weeks. When he walked into the shop, there were a few customers, but no sign of the boy who’d given him the sparklers. Hoseok breathed in the sharp smell of fireworks and started reading the labels posted on the front display of fireworks.

Pink Hyacinth Sparklers - Playful, lightens the mood of any party, can strengthen bonds. Burn time: 5 hours.

Alstroemeria - Sparks prosperity and fortune, in either wealth or friendship. Glitter pattern with a crackle effect.

Queen Anne’s Lace - For safety. Effects last for 24 hours. Brocade pattern.

Delphinium Candle - For openness to new experiences and positivity. Good for the start of new journeys or relationships. Roman-candle style bombettes.

“Any questions?”

Hoseok looked up and saw the boy from before, all sharp eyes and light hair and a soft loose sweater, despite the early autumn heat. Hoseok grinned.

“Yeah, actually. What was in those sparklers you gave me?”

The boy smiled back.

~~

Yoongi found that words came easy around Jung Hoseok. Sometimes too easy. He would often ramble, remember what he said later, and wonder why Hoseok had let him keep talking. Yoongi felt that sometimes, rarely, connections with certain people were almost effortless. Not because you had the same interests or a similar background, but because something about them seemed familiar and set you at ease, made you feel like they understood.

He often marveled at why that connection was so rare. He wondered if maybe some people really were made of the same stardust. Maybe the atoms in his body recognized that the atoms in their body came from the same star and settled into the familiarity. Family not by blood, but by the fate of the way the universe was spun. Maybe that’s what soulmates were. Or maybe, Yoongi spent too much time with Namjoon in the late hours of the night, when they were both prone to getting philosophical.

Some people just fit.

Yoongi felt that connection with Hoseok. When Hoseok visited the shop, Yoongi felt his own energy level out into a secure positivity. At first, Hoseok would make up excuses for why he was in the area, but eventually, he gave up the charade. One day, he asked what Yoongi was drinking, and the next day he showed up casually with a drink in either hand. Sometimes he would bring coffee, or tea ("I know you like Americano, hyung, but are you sure you need that much caffeine?”), sometimes he brought lunch.

Hoseok had a natural curiosity. He asked a lot of questions about what different fireworks did and about what Yoongi could make them into. Hoseok insisted he didn’t have any magic, but Yoongi often wondered if he had an affinity for charming customers.

Around the middle of October, Yoongi decided they were close enough to stop hanging out only at his shop. (“You don’t work here!” he insisted. “I like being here, hyung.” Hoseok replied easily.) He invited Hoseok to see fireworks with him - real fireworks, he explained, not the kind you could light in your own backyard. The Busan Fireworks Festival was only a few weeks away. “I’m meeting friends, but you should come. There'll be music too and we always get chicken and beer. Joon likes the cotton candy. There are supposed to be some really amazing fireworks this year…”

Hoseok smiled that great smile of his, all teeth and heart, and said, “Hyung, you had me at ‘What are you doing the first weekend of November?’ Tell me all the details.” And Hoseok leaned on the counter with his chin propped in his hands and looked at Yoongi with glittering eyes and Yoongi was gone.

~~

Hoseok met Yoongi at the flower shop and they took the bus to Busan together. Yoongi was wearing a black hat, a sweater with a jewel-toned floral pattern, and a long jacket. Hoseok sometimes wondered if Yoongi’s fire magic made him run cold, but it seemed silly, so he hadn’t gotten around to asking yet.

They shared earbuds on the bus and listened to a playlist that Yoongi wouldn’t let Hoseok see the title of. Hoseok smiled a little and let Yoongi keep his secrets, but only because he was so cute when he tried to distract him by gesturing to something out the window. The ride was the kind where half-way through you feel like maybe you just wanted to keep traveling and forget the destination because you were enjoying the music and the passing scenery and the company. When they got to their stop, Yoongi wrapped up his headphones and they climbed off the bus into the crisp fall air.

Yoongi glanced at his phone, which had been lighting up with notifications, and raised his eyebrows.

“Ah, they’re already here," Yoongi glanced up through his bangs and hummed. “C’mon… they’re over this way.”

Soon, Yoongi was waving at a tall golden boy wearing gentle colors.

“Hyung!” He said as he brought Yoongi in for a one-armed hug. “How was the journey?”

Then came a scoff from behind. “The journey was like two hours Joon-ah, and he was with his friend so-”

“Seokjin-hyung?” Hoseok peered around Namjoon, surprised.

“Hoseok-ah!” Seokjin exclaimed enthusiastically, his tone verging on questioning. Yoongi and Namjoon looked on with wide eyes as Seokjin slung his arm around Hoseok’s shoulders while the younger laughed.

“We know him?” Namjoon glanced between the three of them with wide eyes.

Seokjin laughed, “No, Joon-ah, this is Hobi. We were roommates for a second in college. Remember when I crashed with Jimin for a few months while I looked for a place?”

“You were roommates? But we were roommates!” Yoongi seemed a little overwhelmed.

“Ah, Yoongi-ah, it seems like both you and your new friend here have had the pleasure of rooming with the most handsome man in the world.”

Hoseok smiled at Yoongi’s wide eyes. “Really, I’m not sure how Jimin handled living with both me and Jin-hyung."

“Please, you know he loved every second. His apartment had never been so clean and so handsome! Now, Hobi, I have a question… why don’t we talk anymore?”

Hoseok laughed loudly before he and Seokjin started chatting in a language of fragmented inside jokes and memories that left both Yoongi and Namjoon a bit lost. Namjoon rolled his eyes fondly and tugged Jin’s arm so they at least wandered back over to where they had set up their chairs and drinks. Namjoon pushed a cold can of beer into Yoongi’s hand and leaned back with a drink of his own as they let the other two catch up.

Namjoon looked at Yoongi but tilted his head towards Seokjin and Hoseok. “It makes sense that we would be drawn to them.”

“What?”

“You and I are too similar, hyung. Opposites attract, you know. It’s cute.” Namjoon smiled cheekily, his dimples out in full force.

Yoongi took a longer than necessary swig of his drink and told himself he was flushed because he was still wearing his jacket. It was absolutely not because he was embarrassed.

Of course, that was the moment Hoseok and Seokjin decided to return to the world which Namjoon and Yoongi were also inhabiting. Jin looked right at Yoongi and Yoongi felt momentarily alarmed at being the focus of Jin’s attention.

“You know,” Seokjin started, and Yoongi narrowed his eyes. “It’s kind of shocking that you convinced our dear Hoseok-ah to come out to this.” Seokjin eyed Hoseok as if trying to figure something out.

“Why wouldn’t I come out! I love doing things! I love activities!” Hoseok protested as he straightened his posture earnestly and tried to shake Jin off of him.

But Seokjin seemed genuine and Yoongi was, once again, lost.

“Hobi, you hate loud noises,” Seokjin directed his attention back to Yoongi. “It’s shocking, but it’s true. Once, I watched him knock over a whole flower vase after a crack of thunder.”

“Hyung, that storm was bad. The thunder was basically inside the apartment.” Hosek was frowning his triangle pout, and he wouldn’t meet Yoongi’s eyes. Yoongi thought back to the first day they’d met and how jumpy Hoseok had seemed, how Yoongi had attributed it to him being in a hurry.

Hoseok waved one of his hands, “I’m fine, hyung, really! I startle easily!”

“Hobi-ah,” Seokjin started, looking anything but convinced. “Don’t-” At that moment, a couple of kids on the sidewalk behind them set off firecrackers. Yoongi, who had been focused on trying to get Hoseok to look at him, watched as the other jumped sharply and covered his ears with either hand. His eyes finally found Yoongi’s.

Hoseok looked a little embarrassed and shrugged. “See, I’m fine, hyung. I can just cover my ears,” he grinned again. “You made the fireworks sound so fun! I’m excited.”

Yoongi hummed. He could tell Hoseok was uncomfortable with the attention so he gave a nod and slowly let his gaze slide over to Seokjin. “Hyung, how’s the cafe?”

Seokjin allowed himself to be distracted and launched into a story about the lemon-bars he’d started selling that were charmed to give a kick of confidence. Apparently, some high schoolers had come by and earnestly interrogated Seokjin on just how many lemon-bars they could eat in one day.

They continued to chat as the sun slowly set and dusk began to fall. It sky wasn't quite dark enough yet for fireworks, but it was prime lighting for mosquitoes to start pestering. As he waved a hand in front of his face, Hoseok eyed Yoongi. He seemed distracted and kept looking over at something. Hoseok was telling Seokjin and Namjoon about the class of highschoolers he taught tennis to once a week when Yoongi tapped his knee and said he'd be back.

"All right, hyung." Hoseok's gaze followed Yoongi as he blended into the crowd.

~~

The fireworks show had already started by the time Yoongi came back. Hoseok looked around, worried Yoongi might miss everything, but after the first huge bang and worryingly close firework, he’d pressed his hands over his ears and focused on the sky as he felt the fireworks boom in his chest. Moments later, he felt someone gently pulling his hands away from his head. As he started to turn in confusion, something heavy surrounded his ears and the startling bangs were muffled into far-away rumbles as he met the eyes of a pleased looking Min Yoongi.

“I was okay, hyung!” Hoseok tells him, his voice sounding weird with the noise-canceling earmuffs blocking the outside noise.

Yoongi only grinned, his eyes scrunching up as he pulled out his phone and typed something in.

You need your hands free.

Hoseok looked back up. “What do I need my-”

Yoongi reached over and took one of Hoseok’s hands and Hoseok raised his eyebrows at their interlaced fingers. With his free hand, Yoongi put his phone in front of Hosek’s gaze, this time with a new message.

I like holding hands.

Hoseok looked back up at Yoongi, who was biting his lip a little as he waited for a reaction. Hoseok smiled and gave his hand a squeeze. He leaned into Yoongi's arm so he could speak quietly into his ear, “Thanks, hyung. Very important.”

The show continued above and when fireworks shaped like smiling flowers burst in the sky, Yoongi and Hoseok found each other's smiles again.