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the beautiful prison we made

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2013

It’s freezing, that night. It’s so goddamn cold. Yoongi regrets leaving the studio immediately after he does it, following Hoseok into the streets mostly so Hoseok would stop practicing holes into his stomach more than Yoongi personally needed a break.

“I haven’t seen Hyungwon-ssi since 2011,” Hoseok says, bouncing on his toes. His shoulders twitch back in the direction of the dorm. Yoongi knows he’s a change of wind from turning and running back. “I should have cancelled. Seokjin-hyung isn’t going to take practice seriously if I’m not there.”

“I’m already cold. We’re not going back.” Yoongi shuffles closer to Hoseok, pats him on the shoulder. “You should be more respectful to hyung.”

Hoseok shoots him a look, but doesn’t say anything else. Hoseok pulls his phone out of his pocket and his face lights up blue in the dark, and then Yoongi’s vision floods with white as the bus pulls up and the window to turn back closes behind them.

The restaurant is more of a raw shell of a building with ramen and beer, but it works fine. It’s full up this late at night, and the table waiting for them makes up at least half of the space. It’s a mix of people from Hoseok’s high school and their trainee friends, the din vaguely tinted with Jeolla dialect. Hoseok settles in neatly, looking polite and out of place, still carrying his neurotic energy from practice. Hoseok doesn’t really drink, but Yoongi flags down a server to get them both beer that they can’t afford.

“Are you from Gwang-ju, too?”

Yoongi’s head snaps to the person sitting across from him. Pleasant smile, sharp featured, and Yoongi can tell immediately once he speaks that he’s not from anywhere near Jeolla-do. His accent is polished, like people on the news.

“No,” Yoongi replies. “I’m from Daegu.”

“The intestines from Daegu are the best,” he replies, raising his eyebrows a little as he slurps up his ramyeon.

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, inclining his head to the server who sets down a beer in front of him. “They are.”

“I’m Yoo Kihyun,” he says, easy. He smiles at Yoongi again. He’s a smiley person, he gives them out for no reason at all. Yoongi quirks his lips back.

“I’m Min Yoongi.”

Things happen for a reason—Yoongi thinks things like that. He wasn’t thinking that at the late night dinner where he met Yoo Kihyun, but he’d come to think of it often since. He’d retrace his steps, he’d retrace them with Kihyun sometimes, both of them walking backwards in time over beer, laughing about the chances. I almost didn’t come that night, Yoongi likes to say. Then where would we be?

Kihyun likes to laugh, sits back with a sigh. Takes a sip of whatever he’s drinking. He likes to say, well. We’d be right here, I think. We’d be right here.

*

“Look,” Yoongi says, but Kihyun isn’t looking. He has his head lolled back onto the booth as part of his overblown eye roll. “Look.”

Kihyun lifts his head reluctantly, looks at Yoongi down his nose, eyes half closed. “I’m looking.”

It’s so late. They had started out with Hoseok and Hyungwon, but they’d outlasted them. Yoongi and Hoseok had gotten pissed off by Namjoon and Seokjin respectively, and well. He hadn’t done it entirely on purpose when he said, we need other friends besides these dumbfucks. There was a chance that Hoseok would invite Hyungwon and Kihyun out, since he kept talking about how much better he felt after being with people from Gwang-ju for a while—but it wasn’t intentional.

None of it was intentional.

With his eyes locked on Kihyun’s, he taps the table with each word for emphasis: “Epik High’s Remapping the Human Soul is the best album of the last decade.”

Kihyun holds his disdain for just a moment after Yoongi finishes his tapping before his face breaks, and he slides down in the booth with his shoulders shaking on a laugh. His smile peeks out from behind his fingers and Yoongi’s fights to escape past the corner of his mouth.

“Sounds like silence from the hater,” Yoongi says, smug.

Kihyun’s laugh escapes his chest, and he smiles right at Yoongi, full force. Yoongi’s mouth falls open a little. He doesn’t realize until he has to shut it.

Flow is pretty good,” Kihyun relents, tipping forward to rest his face in one palm. He sips the last of his beer lazily with the other. In a silly imitation of Tablo’s english flow, he raps, “Everybody say fuck the government!”

It’s so funny. Everything’s so funny. It’s funny that they’re in this shitty bar, funny how Kihyun is lit up in blues and yellows from the neon signs on the walls, funny how he’s too polite to ever say something like fuck the government, but not too nice to tell Yoongi that his new stage name sounds stupid. It’s funny, how Yoongi feels.

Yah,” Yoongi barks, leaning forward to wave a finger in Kihyun’s face. “In suffering or in joy, love the country.”

Kihyun immediately breaks into a loud rendition of the national anthem, so loud that Yoongi has to lean over the table between them to try and press his hands against Kihyun’s mouth to shut him up. He has to do these things, to preserve their dignity. Kihyun’s mouth is soft and plush under Yoongi’s palm, and Yoongi can feel his smile.

When Yoongi settles back on his side of the booth, the air goes quiet between them. He becomes aware of the sounds of the world for the first time in hours. He hears cars zooming past on the street. The loud businessmen shouting at each other and the wait staff. The faint metallic lilt of an old trot chart on the sound system. His eyes rest on Kihyun, his face aching from laughter, the last of his grin still pulling at his cheeks, and Kihyun is looking back.

Both of his hands curled around his empty beer glass, Kihyun voice is low but it cuts through all of the noise. He says, “Fuck Tablo, you know?”

Yoongi raises his eyebrows.

“Easy to tell everyone to say fuck the government when you have dual citizenship,” Kihyun says, smirking like he already knows Yoongi is going to laugh at his joke. And well, he’s right. Yoongi is already laughing, before the punchline. “We can't all run away to Vancouver if Park Geunhye exiles us, Daniel.”

Yoongi tries to protest because Tablo is important, but he knows Kihyun knows that. They can joke about these things. It feels easy when they always seem to be on the same page. Kihyun is easy to look at in the yellow light of the bar, soft and dim. They’re not responsible for each others’ success how he is with the rest of Bangtan, they’re not both rappers competing to be the best, they’re not family. They’re just same-age friends and time passes easily between them.

Kihyun kicks Yoongi’s ankle lightly under the table, and Yoongi blinks out of his daze.

Yoongi starts to feel self-consciousness prickle at his neck, but Kihyun doesn’t seem bothered. His arms are raised overhead. He was just stretching. He hasn’t yet noticed the way Yoongi knows he must be staring.

Yoongi thinks, might as well quit while I’m ahead. He offers, with no heart, “Should we go?”

Kihyun’s eyebrows knit together for a moment, and he shakes his head. “One more round, yeah? I’ll buy.”

Yoongi supposes there’s no point in arguing, and smiles after Kihyun, keeps smiling long after he comes back with the drinks and raises a glass to Bangtan Sonyeondan SUGAR SUNBAENIM.

*

kihyun

last night as min yoongi ㅜㅜ
tomorrow i’ll start calling you suga
sweet suga honey
;)

yoongi

stop
it’s not until the 13th

kihyun

so i have TWO more days with min yoongi
before a lifetime of sweet suga ㅋㅋㅋ

yoongi

-_-
are you busy? tonight? the kids are killing me

kihyun

for world famous bulletproof boyscout suga? never

yoongi

ReMeMbEr ThE NaMe

kihyun

like i could forget

2100 ok? i’m buying

yoongi

<3

Yoongi thinks Kihyun is flirting. Well, Yoongi is flirting. Even though it’s stupid and a waste of time, Yoongi can’t really help it. It’s become this thing, between them. Just between them. The members know that they’re friends, but the worlds don’t really overlap. Yoongi goes to hang out with Kihyun, he doesn’t bother making excuses anymore. And what’s there to ask about anyway? They’re allowed to have friends, they’re encouraged to have friends.

And there’s nothing to ask about, anyway. Nothing has happened. Kihyun sends him winking emoji and calls him Sweet Suga and hyung and looks best in the low light so Yoongi has to lean close to make out his expression. Kihyun buys meat for Yoongi and they stay out late laughing and staring at each other. It’s nothing, so it’s fine. It’s good.

Yoongi is debuting soon, so there’s a lot on his mind—enough that he can make excuses to himself that there’s not enough time in the day to get hung up on nothing and so he doesn’t.

*

Debut doesn’t change his life. He thought it would, but the second it happens, he realizes that was a dumb thing to think. All the kids are disappointed that they don’t have a smash hit, and Hoseok has turned into a monster, pushing practices later and later like if Namjoon figured out how to use his limbs, that would send them straight to the top of the charts.

But the stress is different. Now, it’s not just practice. He has to go out and smile at people and rap and dance and go on the radio where he could say something stupid at any moment that would ruin their careers. He comes home and you’d think that they’d all just pass out, but Yoongi goes home and composes for their next EP, and Namjoon writes lyrics, and the other kids go to dance practice, and then maybe—they’ll go home and sleep for three hours and get up to do it again.

They’ve been looking forward to their first day off like this cure-all—they talk about it like a spiritual event, a visit from an ancestor. On our day off, I’m not going to move at all. Not one millimeter. I’m going to make Jungkook drop noodles into my mouth from above.

The real thing is less glamorous. Namjoon is acting like he’s going to write the lyrics for the whole next album in their 24 hours off. Seokjin is going home for dinner and keeps threatening that he won’t come back. Taehyung and Jimin have plans with friends, though Jimin wanted to spend the day practicing at first. Hoseok is meeting his sister. Jungkook is going home with Seokjin, because he’s been so homesick, so he isn’t around to drop noodles into Yoongi’s mouth from above after all.

Yoongi is still laying in bed though. And he is not planning on moving, especially not now that his heart is beating faster and faster and his mind is racing even though his body is so still.

Then his phone buzzes.

kihyun

guardians of the galaxy?? you’re free right? 2pm cgv cheongdam

yoongi

how do you know i’m free
i’m a busy guy you know?

The panic sets in again and Yoongi swings his legs over the bed. He braces his palms on his knees. He texts Kihyun back, even though he hasn’t responded yet.

yoongi

ill be there

It’s the first time in a month that he’s been out without a manager or a member and it feels a bit like a phantom limb. No one has any reason to look at him when he’s alone and it makes him a little sick when he realizes it’s less of a relief and more of a disappointment. Everything has changed and still nothing has, and there’s a sick sense of then why bother creeping up the back of his neck.

It creeps and creeps with every step towards the CGV Cheongdam, every step without anyone acknowledging that he’d done all but skinned himself alive to make his dreams come true. The streets are grey and everyone looks the same moving so quickly down the block and he’s in the middle of it. He thinks that he must look just like everyone else.

Someone catches him around the wrist and Yoongi spins around to Kihyun’s wide smile.

“Got you,” Kihyun says in greeting. He looks windblown and relieved, his face dewy with the heat of the summer and a bit of exertion. “Didn’t you hear me? I saw you from a block away.”

“Huh?” Yoongi says, eyes on Kihyun’s fingers around his wrist. He pulls out one of his headphones. No. I was having an existential crisis. Again. “Oh. Hi.”

Then Kihyun’s words finally register, I saw you from a block away, and Kihyun’s face in front of him pulls focus, still smiling, and Yoongi, feeling warm from the summer and warmer still, finds himself smiling back.

Kihyun pats him on the shoulder and they start back off towards the theater, within eyesight now. “Thanks for spending your day off with me,” Kihyun says, bumping shoulders with him. “I feel special.”

Yoongi fights the smile at his lips. He doesn’t know how he’d explain it. Then, he just laughs a bit, a huff of air. He rolls his eyes, because it’s crazy how Kihyun could say one thing and it could be the thing he needed to hear. Yoongi’s brain clears out the existential dread just for a moment, leaves him full with the empty fluttering buzz of his fucking crush, too big now to ignore. Dangerous, probably.

But Kihyun is careful. He weaves through the crowd without bumping into anyone, his eyes scanning feet ahead of them even while he tells an animated story with his hands about his vocal teacher who doesn't know anything. Yoongi gets caught up watching his mouth move and Kihyun shifts him incrementally out of the way of a woman with a stroller with a light touch to his shoulder.

Kihyun raises his eyebrows at him, clearly waiting for him to react to the punchline of the story. He steps in front of Yoongi to open the glass door to the theater for him.

Yoongi recovers and says, “That guy sounds like he couldn’t tell his asshole from an A flat.”

“Min Yoongi-ssi,” Kihyun says, following closely behind him. “You really get it.”

“I try,” Yoongi replies faintly.



They end up surrounded by boxes of chicken and beer on the river, flat on their backs and still sweating in the dark heat. He doesn’t know what time it is, but they watched the sun bleed out of the sky ages ago.

“I was freaking out today,” Yoongi says, eyes closed. “Before you messaged me.”

“I figured,” Kihyun said, rolling onto his side. He has his elbow tucked under his head. They’re close. They’ve been inching towards each other all day. Kihyun’s hand lingering on his knee during the movie. Yoongi close enough that their hands brush. Just enough to be able to ignore it if he put his mind to it.

Yah,” Yoongi interjects, careful to keep his voice soft even as he draws his eyebrows together in mock offense. “What does that mean?”

“That you’re a person,” Kihyun says, his whole face soft. Yoongi feels comfortable looking at him, underneath the gnawing ache of what he wants and might not be able to have. Not just now, but maybe ever. It feels dangerous to even think about it, even with Kihyun’s careful fingers brushing through the grass between them like in some world he’d like to close the gap. “A person who hasn’t slept in like a month and a half and whose whole life has flipped over. I just thought, I would be freaking out if it were me.”

“Well,” Yoongi says, very slow. Like if his lips don’t move so much, he doesn’t have to admit to saying the words. “Yeah. I was.”

Kihyun is quiet. His mouth curves up slightly at the corner, inviting Yoongi to continue. His skin is itching from the grass, but he doesn’t want to move. Everything about the moment feels delicate.

“I thought it would feel like enough.” Yoongi rips up a blade of grass, right next to Kihyun’s fingers. “But now I think it’ll never be enough. Every day is just another fucking hill to climb.”

“Yeah.” Kihyun huffs out a humorless laugh. Yoongi watches Kihyun’s fingers walk incrementally closer to Yoongi’s in the grass. He rips up his own blade of grass, and gives Yoongi a small smile as he lays it atop Yoongi’s thumb. “You can still enjoy the ride, though. It can be enough even if there’s more to do. It can be enough for today.”

Yoongi’s stomach clenches. His eyes burn. He hadn’t let the exhaustion of his feelings creep into his body yet, just held them at arm’s length because he could feel that they were heavy enough to crush him. Kihyun’s words felt like the tide, rushing forward and breaking down his dams.

“Enough for today,” Yoongi repeats, his mouth dry, his eyes dry, his throat dry. He thinks about the things that he might have time to do, when he’s done enough for the day. He thinks about making the time to make something out of the nothing between him and the boy across from him in the grass along the river.

Kihyun catches his hand. It’s decisive. Impossible to ignore. He says, a sincere set to his mouth, his gaze straight, “More than.”

Yoongi doesn’t have to move much to kiss him. It’s basically gravity, which is to say it is inevitable, which is to say—they fit together, warm in the warming summer air, soft lips on soft lips in the dark. Two boys finding comfort where they can. Kihyun’s fingers curl around his hip, and then his palm flattens against his back, right above the swell of his ass, always polite.

Yoongi is less polite. He nips at Kihyun’s mouth until he opens, lets his body fall into Kihyun’s orbit, pressing them together from chest to hip. He isn’t getting enough air and he’s exhausted, but he’s feeling—enough. More than. Like this is exactly everything that he wanted it to be, and he gets to have it. He gets Kihyun’s hot breath at his cheek, he gets to tangle his fingers in Kihyun’s grip, he gets to taste the soft sounds as they come out of Kihyun’s mouth.

Kihyun comes up for air and pulls away enough for Yoongi to see the grin on his face. Kihyun keeps his hand on the back of Yoongi’s neck. He keeps close. He tilts their foreheads together and they breathe. Yoongi feels younger than he’s ever felt in his life, stupid and giggly, head so far away from all of the important things in life. Or it’s that this really is more important, just for now.

There was no compromise, at the very beginning. It was enough. More than. Yoongi likes to remember that, the few moments before reality set in.

Reality comes quick. It’s inevitable too, just like gravity. It means that Yoongi has to say: I wish I could give you something more than this. It means Kihyun has to say: We can still enjoy this. Whatever it ends up being.

And that’s it. It’s something.

*

2014

It is something. It’s something Yoongi can wrap his arms around, even though his whole world is spinning out of control most of the time. He and Kihyun do the best that they can with no personal space, no personal time, and no word for what it is they’re doing their best at. Being there, he guesses. Trying.

Kihyun wants to buy him dinner after Dark & Wild comes out. The album drops in August, but he can’t come up for air until October, so it ends up being Yoongi buying Kihyun dinner for his birthday instead. It’s pretty early, but. Close enough.

They’re in touch. Even if they haven’t seen each other for months, Yoongi always has a selca or a scathing complaint or sometimes just miss you in his KKT at least once a week and he does his best to do the same. It’s easy to remember to try when Kihyun is always on his mind, anyway.

But now, Kihyun is in front of him, pouring soju and cutting pork belly. Yoongi is content to watch him. It feels special just to be around, luxurious when he thinks about the hours stretched ahead of them where no one will be looking for Yoongi.

“Cheers to a banger of an album, sweet Suga,” Kihyun says, raising his glass.

The album was fine. Yoongi raises his glass and clinks without saying much. He doesn't want to think about any of that stuff, not while he’s here on borrowed time.

“I mean,” Kihyun says, leaning back once he’s downed his shot. “Someone needed to let the public know about your flowjobs. Top ten, at least.”

“Shut up,” Yoongi mutters and picks up one grain of rice, and then another. Kihyun kicks his shin. Yoongi ignores him.

Kihyun grabs his hand. Quickly, he brings Yoongi’s palm to his lips. Yoongi’s gaze snaps up. He squeezes it and then lets him free, but Yoongi’s hand hovers in the air for a moment, right over the steam of the grill.

“Hey Min Yoongi.” Kihyun stares him down. “What’s up?”

“I don’t wanna talk about work on your birthday.”

Kihyun laughs. Yoongi knows it’s because it’s a ridiculous thing to say for about a million reasons, the first of which is that: Min Yoongi is made of work. It’s not Kihyun’s birthday until November.

“My birthday is next month.” Kihyun raises his eyebrows. “And maybe I want to talk about work, huh? You think I don’t work just because it’s in a basement? Just because I don’t wear eyeliner everyday, huh?”

“It counts double when you’re in a basement,” Yoongi assures him, a smile tugging at his lips. Kihyun has this way of untangling the gnarls in his brain so he can get out of his own way, a fisherman with his knots, easy.

“Okay then,” Kihyun says. He looks smug as he leans back against his battered chair.

Yoongi flips some pieces of meat for something to do with his hands. He says, truthfully, “I feel better about it now. I just thought that, uh. The album, uh.”

Kihyun already knows, so it’s stupid that he’s dancing around it. He got the millions of clips of him in the studio, scribbled lyrics, the night before the album dropped when he called to congratulate him—he heard it in Yoongi’s voice. How much he’d been expecting.

But now, across from Kihyun who looks in pretty good spirits even though he doesn’t have an album to be a spoiled brat about—it’s just stupid. He thinks Kihyun might make light of it. He could say something like, you thought you’d beat out Big Bang less than a year after debut? And Yoongi would have to admit that the answer echoing from his bottomless ambition was yes.

Kihyun pours another glass for Yoongi. Yoongi takes the bottle and pours for Kihyun.

“You’ll get there,” Kihyun says, his voice light. He transfers the cooked pork belly to Yoongi’s plate, and Yoongi notes with something soft and dangerous in his chest that Kihyun gives him the crispiest pieces even though they both like them that way. “You can be gracious and still think you deserve more, you know? It’s fine. You’re right.”

“I just—,” Yoongi starts. It means a lot to hear Kihyun say that. More than he realized. It takes residence with his pork belly feelings in a way that feels treacherously deep rooted.

“You just thought that you couldn’t complain because I’m still singing in basements and you’re rapping about your oral prowess on TV?”

Yoongi places a few pieces of the now appropriately crispy pork belly onto Kihyun’s plate. His foot brushes Kihyun’s under the table and he keeps it there.

Kihyun asks, “Do you believe that I'll get there, too?”

Yoongi looks at him. Kihyun is waiting for him to look and he lingers there. It’s fierce, the way he believes in him, feels almost offensive to even be asked. “Obviously.”

Kihyun seems appeased by that. He wraps some pork belly with a perilla leaf and delicately shoves it into his mouth. Yoongi watches him do it, warm. Kihyun says, “When I'm crying about my fame and success and you wanna slap me, I'll remind you of this moment.”

Yoongi laughs, light with it. “I’m not crying. I’ve never cried.”

Kihyun laughs too. He’s seen Yoongi cry. Kihyun adds behind a mouthful of rice, “You’re just a person. Be a person.”

Yoongi raises his glass, and Kihyun follows. He says, “Okay. I can be a person,” and they drink together.

Once they’ve set their glasses down, Kihyun says, “Want to know something that only my parents know?”

Yoongi swallows. Yoongi doesn’t really have self-esteem problems, but he finds himself for a split second wanting to ask: are you sure you want to tell me? But it turns out he doesn’t need to.

Kihyun says, “I’m going to be on a survival show for Starship trainees. And I’m going to win.”

Yoongi’s pretty quiet, generally but—it’s loud enough in the restaurant that it’s not too amiss when Yoongi lets out a yell, pure excitement. His heart is pumping. Kihyun’s smile is so bright, a little sneaky, like he is so pleased that it had worked out that he could surprise Yoongi with this in person, like Yoongi is the person he wanted to share his good news with. He guesses that is true. Kihyun is pleased and Yoongi is fucking thrilled.

He’s happy. It’s been a bit, but he remembers the feeling now. Smoke-scented and heart beating out of his chest; Kihyun’s smile, Yoongi’s too.

*

2015

The door is open as Yoongi approaches, a piece of paper printed with MONSTA X taped to the number next to it. He can hear that eerie pre-debut silence before he can see the substantial figures of the Monsta X members and Kihyun, each in a separate part of the room, rehearsing choreo or humming under the breath.

He knocks on the doorway, even though he had texted to say he was coming by. Kihyun’s head snaps up and he looks beautiful and worried and uh. Hot. He also looks hot.

Kihyun’s expression loses the anxiety for a split second as he drags his eyes down Yoongi’s body, stopping at his bare knees before flicking back up. He smirks. He knows Yoongi hates these stupid fucking outfits.

“Nice legs,” Kihyun comments. Yoongi turns on his heel immediately and begins walking back towards his dressing room as the entire dressing room breaks out in laughter. Kihyun catches him with an arm around his neck in the hallway, presses his smile casually into Yoongi’s shoulder. Yoongi guesses, if he thinks about it from the outside, this is normal. He can acknowledge that Jimin is handsy like this with all of them, and in the same thought recognizes that that could be the same exact thing as this.

How would anyone know that he wants to kiss Kihyun under these fucked up fluorescent M Countdown hallway lights that are making both of them look dead? They couldn’t. He presses his fingers to Kihyun’s waist and tries to feel casually about it.

“Monsta X Kihyun assaults BTS SUGA in the hallway of a music show,” Yoongi says loudly, so the other guys can hear. Kihyun laughs and pinches his side before releasing him. Jooheon is looking at them through the doorway, but he looks weirdly pleased with what he’s seeing. They’re all standing and bowing intermittently in greeting now that he’s properly entered the room, which is weird too. Yoongi doesn’t know what to do with that, so he just gives a salute and a half bow in return.

“Congrats,” Yoongi says, fucking awkward. “I checked Twitter. You guys already have fans. You’re gonna kill it.”

Trespass is no No More Dream,” Kihyun teases, and Minhyuk jumps up to do a bit from the No More Dream choreo gleefully as the other members shout encouragement.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, just folds his arms across his chest and wishes he was wearing pants. Kihyun bumps his shoulder and raps, “Big house, big car, big rings,” on loop until everyone is laughing.

“I just wanted to, uh,” Yoongi says, once it dies down. “Yeah. Wish you luck. Fighting.”

“Hyung!” Hoseok’s loud voice comes from the doorway. Yoongi’s Hoseok, not the Hoseok currently looking between Yoongi and Kihyun with a too-perceptive gaze. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming over?”

Yoongi is not in a position to say because I am fucking Yoo Kihyun semi-regularly and I wanted to come alone so he says, “You were in make-up still.”

“Sure,” Hoseok says, a bit sarcastically and Yoongi keeps his face straight. The moment passes and Hoseok gives his congrats, and they head back out into the hallway together in a flurry of half bows and fist-bumps.

Kihyun catches his hand briefly from his place on the couch as Yoongi passes, squeezing in a way that could be casual. The whole thing could be casual. It gets easier when they both leave their waiting rooms and go out onto the stage. It gets easier when their lives start moving at parallel speeds of light, no points of intersection unless they take a turn.

He says easier in his mind and sometimes it’s a sound in the shape of Kihyun’s voice that echoes back: easier for who?

*

2016

Yoongi likes Los Angeles. He likes that he can go out and not rely on Namjoon’s sanitized translations to communicate. He likes that he can get food like home, a million miles away. He doesn’t say it, but all of them already know—he likes Los Angeles especially because Kihyun will be there.

On the plane, Jimin is his seat partner. Jimin is Jimin, and it only takes thirty minutes into the 11 hour flight before he leans over and yanks one of Yoongi’s earbuds out.

“Did you text him already?” Jimin’s eyes are bright and mischievous. He’s still riding the high of being the first one to figure out there was something off between him and Kihyun, right after Monsta X debuted a year and a half prior.

Yoongi replies with as little inflection as possible, “He texted me last week.”

“Ah, hyung,” Jimin coos. He’s a fucking gossip and he eats this shit up, even if Yoongi tries to make it dry as possible. But the truth is: Yoongi wants to talk about it.

Yoongi says, like it’s a concession and not an admission, “We’ll probably just hang out in the hotel. We’re staying at the same place.”

“In the hotel,” Jimin sings emphatically, bumping his shoulders against Yoongi’s. Corny. Yoongi rolls his eyes, but well. Yes. In the hotel.



“Confetti fell out of my pants earlier,” Yoongi says. He’s not pouting. He’s just had a bit to drink and he wants Kihyun to know the consequences of his actions.

“You should get that checked out by a doctor,” Kihyun comments lightly, and Yoongi flicks a piece of rice at him from their spread cobbled together from the orders placed by both of their management. Between them, they have some stew, rice, meat, and kimchi, their shoulders bumping as they hunch over the desk to pick at the dishes.

“There are better ways to get my attention,” Yoongi says. He’s feeling good, seriously. It feels dangerously close to the top of the world. He turns and raises an eyebrow at Kihyun.

Kihyun leans close to his face. His palm lands on Yoongi’s thigh. This close, Yoongi has to look at his component parts. Eyes, nose, lips. Yoongi’s lips part and he sways forward.

Kihyun blows hot kimchi breath into his face, and Yoongi shoves him away as he cackles. Yoongi laughs too, because it’s just funny, huh?

“Did you ever think we’d be here?” Yoongi muses, half to himself. He takes in the hotel room, solidly mediocre, but not the cheapest option. He thinks about the crowd and how they rapped along with him in a language most of them didn't even fucking know. He rapped about flowjobs.

“In LA?” Kihyun asks, leaning back and chewing with his mouth full.

“Well, yeah,” Yoongi replies. “I mean. I did think we’d be here. Maybe not here, but. Doing what we said we’d do. I believed it. I believe it.”

Yoongi’s smile is growing across his face and Kihyun beams back in response. Yoongi lets out a pleased little huff of laughter. He adds, “I’m fucking tired, though.”

“Yeah,” Kihyun agrees. “I can feel my bones. Like, I never felt them before and now I wake up really knowing I have bones.” He stretches and his shoulder cracks. Yoongi stretches and his knees crack.

Kihyun grabs for his hand and when he gets it, he pulls on one of Yoongi’s fingers and it cracks. Yoongi laces their fingers together, and they laugh through the absurdity of their aching bones that are only just over two decades old. He wants to remember this. Just in case.

Yoongi takes in the easy slouch of Kihyun’s limbs, the curve of his lips, stained just a bit red with the stew. His hair is still wet from his shower post-show, sticking up in funny clumps where he’s pushed his fingers through it. Yoongi knows it must be on his face, the way he feels, but—it’s on Kihyun’s face too. It’s right there.

Softly, Kihyun says, “Taking care of your health is important.”

“Do you do your stretches?” Yoongi’s eyes linger on the lines of muscle in Kihyun’s forearms, his calves where his legs are kicked out in front of him. Kihyun thumbs across the line of Yoongi’s bony knuckles.

Kihyun scoffs. “Do I do my stretches? Do I do my stretches?”

Yoongi kicks him lightly. “So. No.”

“No,” Kihyun laughs. He gets his hand underneath Yoongi’s calf and lifts, and Yoongi starts at the touch, squawking as he reaches the resistance in Yoongi’s hamstrings that have been stretched not nearly in proportion to the amount of physical exertion that he puts his body through.

Kihyun scoots his chair away from the desk and releases Yoongi’s hand to haul Yoongi’s legs into his lap instead, patting his shins fondly. “We should take better care.”

“We should do a lot of things,” Yoongi says. “I should call my mom more. I should eat better. I should write more shit. I should stretch. I should keep up with you—,

“Min Yoongi,” Kihyun interrupts. “Let’s be here, yeah?”

Yoongi levels him with a stare. He feels hungry and wanting all the time, he feels like if he doesn’t do more than more, he’s watching the doors of his dreams slam shut in slow motion. He feels that way about Kihyun, in the times just after they’ve spent some time together, when the stretch between the next time they’ll see each other is just a long, open-ended question. When he thinks about the thing between them accidentally slipping out of his fingers while he’s sprinting towards wherever his career is dragging him.

Yoongi gets caught up in the way that the past, present, and future are all tangled up in his head, it drives him fucking crazy. But Kihyun is right. It’s not time for that yet. They’re here now.

He puts his legs back on the ground, Kihyun’s hands trailing after him. Yoongi stands, and pulls Kihyun up with him. He tilts his chin up. They come back together and what’s been and what might be falls to the wayside. What a fucking gift, Yoongi thinks, while he’s under Kihyun's hands that know his body, that recognize his aching parts and meet him with tenderness, that know how hard everything is and choose to make this easy instead.

It’s 5 AM by the time Kihyun is standing at the door to leave. He’s leaning back against it and looking at Yoongi and Yoongi wonders if he’s feeling the same way. There’s levels to it. There’s the part where he can still feel Kihyun’s effort in his limbs, trails left across his thighs, places he gets to keep for himself. There’s the part where they got away with it—where Kihyun can stand at the door and look at him like this means a lot, where he can linger even though it’s 5 AM and they have flights at 9. There’s the part where it’s starting to feel worth it.

He offers, with no heart, stepping further into Kihyun’s space even as he says it: “You should go.”

Kihyun yawns, and tugs Yoongi into his arms properly. Yoongi can feel Kihyun’s lips at his ear and leans back into his steady hold. “One more minute,” Kihyun says.

Yoongi says, “60, 59, 58—“

And then Kihyun kisses him, smile against smile. He pulls Yoongi’s weight against him. The future is creeping in on their now and Yoongi can’t stand it. It aches. There’s a new part. There’s the part where Yoongi isn’t sure he can go without this. Kihyun’s arms go tight around his waist and squeeze, hard, until Yoongi makes a deep groaning sound and all the air goes out of his lungs.

Then they let go. Kihyun slips into the hallway without much fanfare and Yoongi thinks about him until his phone lights up in the corner of the room.

kihyun

miss you already min yoongi

Yoongi looks at it for a very long time, the whirling feelings in his chest bouncing off of his muscles and coating his insides. His girlfriend in high school used to say stuff like that to him. Mundane, almost routine in a way. But it meant something because there was feeling behind it. Real feeling. Yoongi feels it too.

*

His therapist calls it self-sabotage. Yoongi calls it being a chronic fuck-up. He guesses that is why he is still in therapy.

What he’s trying to say is: it was a thing for a while. It was a real thing. A some-thing. They both spent time at home in Seoul just after KCON, and it seemed natural to fall into a rhythm. They were finishing up on comeback preparations, just final touches on the b-sides and learning choreography, really. This comeback had that teeth-grating edge of expectation buzzing around it—the feeling he hadn’t allowed since the outsize expectations for Dark & Wild came and went. It meant Yoongi needed to keep his mind off of things and Kihyun had become his favorite place to rest.

It was fun for a while.

That wasn’t really—his therapist would point out that he is minimizing, now.

It felt a little like before debut. Kihyun was preparing for a comeback at the same time, so they would just meet up after practice and schedules. They’d eat. Hang out in the dorms. Watch movies. Their group mates seemed to take it in stride. The good thing about having shared one room for any length of time is that people learn not to ask any questions they don’t want to know the answer to. Jin spent a lot of time playing games on the studio computers instead of in their room. Jimin spent a lot of time accidentally running into them in the kitchen for no other purpose than to raise his eyebrows and ask silly questions, which Yoongi liked, actually.

Namjoon felt the need to talk around it for a bit, choosing instead to give him somewhat violently reassuring pats on the back after Kihyun would leave. But being Namjoon, he cracked eventually and cornered him to say, “You’re happy, right, hyung? It’s good?”

“Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi said, and almost made a sex joke. But Namjoon looked so sincere, and Kihyun was not a hook-up. “I—yes. We’re good. I’m happy.”

And he was. Too happy. Suspiciously happy. Blood Sweat Tears was winning on the charts and he and Kihyun managed to see each other at least two nights a week and Yoongi was writing songs left and right. He wasn’t sure when the feeling started. There shouldn’t have been any room for the doubt to creep in.

Yoongi’s just been thinking about how it could all end and no one would have ever known that it ever existed. It seems both too real and not real enough to warrant an ending at all. And if Kihyun cared, Yoongi didn’t understand how he could be so casual about it. Why he wouldn’t be pushing for something different too. Yoongi couldn’t imagine that they were destined to be each other’s dirty little secrets forever.

It’s just—Yoongi wouldn’t say shit like, Oh, my mom keeps asking if I have a girlfriend, if he wasn’t looking to pick a fight. Yoongi’s mom doesn't ask him shit. But Yoongi said that, because he needed to see Kihyun’s face change. He needed to see the effect he had on him, which was fucked up.

And then with every lack of reaction, with every microexpression, Yoongi let the doubt get bigger and bigger in his mind, until it bound his hands and pulled him into a dark place that he couldn't scramble out of. It takes over.

Kihyun takes a deep breath. Then, he asks, “Why are you doing this?”

Yoongi replies, dumb, his face as blank as he can get it, “Doing what?”

“I just want to know why you’re pretending with me,” Kihyun says, slowly, like he’s stupid. He is. “Why don’t you say what you actually want to say?”

It was something offhandedly baiting that got the fight to this point. Something along the lines of, I mean, maybe I should start dating so she’ll get off my back. Just to see what Kihyun would say. For what? What is this doing for him?

“You know,” Kihyun says, sharply. His eyes are narrowed and his breathing is shallow, his chest barely moving. “You know what we’re doing.”

Yoongi thinks that the way his gut is twisting itself up is answer enough to the question, but he’s insatiable. It feels like picking at a scab and leaving Kihyun hanging is the part that feels deep and nasty.

They’re at the Bangtan dorm, because it’s bigger and Yoongi has his own room. They were doing the same thing that they’d been doing for the last week or two when they had time—slowly but surely making their way through Heirs and falling asleep tangled together. Yoongi knows that much. But that isn’t what he’s really asking. They’re sitting up now and the air is draining from the room.

“We’re doing what we can,” Kihyun says, and his face is so bare and transparent that Yoongi feels shitty for wanting more when they both know they can’t have it. That's at the core of it. He feels shitty that it’s never enough. Kihyun is happy with what they can have and Yoongi can’t stop wanting what they can’t, and the difference between them is that somewhere along the line Kihyun learned how to go without and Yoongi has stayed so hungry.

It’s not fair.

Yoongi will never be able to give Kihyun what Yoongi thinks he deserves and Yoongi will never be able to get what he wants.

“Sure,” Yoongi says, without heart. There’s nothing else to say without ruining this forever and Yoongi is too selfish for that. Instead, he looks over at the door and waits for Kihyun to ruin it for him.

Kihyun stares at him. Yoongi can't see it, but he can feel it. He stands up. Yoongi stays still.

“Okay.” Kihyun takes a step back. Heirs is still playing in the background, the theme music rising to a crescendo. “I’m going to go. Let me know when you’re ready to talk.”

Yoongi doesn’t move while Kihyun leaves the room, while the door closes behind him, while his phone starts lighting up with messages from Seokjin, while Kihyun probably gets on the train back to his dorm, while he sits in the decision that he’s not even sure he made.

Then eventually, he gets up and washes his face. He gets into bed and goes to sleep.

*

Blood Sweat Tears is, in fact, a smash. His world starts changing so quickly that it’s hard to remember what it looked like before. He forgets a lot of things. He forgets to text Kihyun that he’s ready to talk. Let’s call it forgetting. The whirlwind picks up his mess and whips it around so it’s easier to dodge the blame, and he takes the blessing in stride. A wreck can look like success as long as the mess is out of your hands.

It’s not like they never talk again. They’re both just busy. Yoongi regularly goes eight, nine months without seeing his mom, so. Yoongi forgot to text Kihyun that he’s ready to talk, but things remind Yoongi of Kihyun sometimes, and he’ll send a note. They’re on speaking terms. A cute video of Holly. Screenshots of Yoongi listening to songs Kihyun recommended. Yoongi sent him a picture of his artist pass at the BBMAs and Kihyun texted back ok superstar. It’s fine.

*

2017

Kihyun texts him first for the first time since they didn’t really fall out after Yoongi sends flowers to Starship, drunk and sentimental, alone in a hotel room and watching the Dramarama encore stage on fucking Naver. He found a florist himself, didn’t even bother going through a manager. The text comes a few days after.

kihyun

thank you, big hit entertainment
you freak

Yoongi shouldn’t have sent the damn flowers. What had he even been expecting? The hairstylist buzzes around him trying to ignore his hissy fit.

yoongi

congrats they weren’t just from me

kihyun

ok

yoongi

jimin thinks hoseok-ssi is hot so

kihyun

i’ll pass on the message

yoongi

great

Yoongi closes his eyes and wards off the familiar fingers of self loathing that dig into his chest. The hairstylist keeps blowdrying his hair. He has to go on TV in 20 minutes and he’s going to do a shit job unless he can shake this off. Yoongi’s phone buzzes again. He doesn’t even want to look.

kihyun

you’re not even going to offer to buy me a drink?
just because i’m famous now doesn’t mean they’re paying me

Yoongi swallows. The makeup artist dabs at his lips, and he licks them out of instinct. She tuts and reapplies the product.

yoongi

when are you free?

kihyun

how’s thursday night?

Yoongi tabs into his calendar and sees that they’re filming a commercial and probably won’t wrap until late, but his Sunday morning looks free.

yoongi

sunday morning?

kihyun

ah i’m shooting. tuesday night?

Yoongi looks again.

yoongi

can’t. about to go on, i’ll text you after

kihyun

you’ll know we’ve really made it when we have to get the managers involved

yoongi

sejin hyung has been through enough for us don’t you think

It makes Yoongi feel warm to remember that there used to be an us and that it doesn’t seem so far out of reach anymore. It feels right there, arms length. Kihyun on the other end of the line, happy to hear from him after all. Prickly, but responding nonetheless. He gets on stage and when he’s done, they find a time a month later.

A month later comes and Kihyun has something come up, so they reschedule for that weekend, and then Yoongi has something come up, and Kihyun says, you know what i’ll just see you when i see you. It feels pointed and fucks him up. Yoongi has an absurd thought that it’s not fair for Kihyun to be upset with him. Like fairness has ever played nice between them.

What Yoongi feels, really, is that if Kihyun had really cared, maybe he would have guarded the time better in the first place. Or maybe that was what Kihyun felt about Yoongi. Either way, somewhere along the road, the excitement of something building again shorted out into the electricity of something dying.

After everything, it feels like it should have taken more to break them down. It doesn’t feel like a last straw or an ending at all, but the character of their distance has changed. It’s hostile. It’s the way Kihyun goes out of his way to avoid bumping into him at shows and shoulders his way past his members when they all make nice backstage. Yoongi doesn’t text him any more, about anything, and if he watches Kihyun on stage too intently, it’s only when he’s far enough that Kihyun won’t be able to see him looking.

It goes on like that.

*

All of Yoongi’s dreams come true and it makes him sadder and sadder and sadder until he finds himself fucked up and miserable around a boardroom table, not looking anyone in the eye.

“I can’t do it anymore,” is what Yoongi says to the wall. He’s so tired that he can’t remember a time that he wasn’t tired. He hates everything they’re working on. He’s been sitting on a mixtape that feels like an open wound because he can't stay still long enough for it to scab over. It feels like nothing will ever change if everything doesn’t change.

Taehyung nods silently next to him and it makes Jungkook make a noise that feels like a punch in the stomach. Yoongi doesn’t want Taehyung to feel like he does. He doesn’t want anyone to feel like he does. It’s an unbearable thing.

Bang Sihyuk is presiding over the meeting, the one that they called after they reached a stalemate in the dorm they don’t call home anymore the night prior, just the seven of them, so late it was morning. In their conversation the night before, Sihyuk had been spun out into a cartoon super villain who stole their youth, unreasonable and insatiable—but now he’s sitting in front of them and looking lost for words. It’s hard to maintain the myth that he’d let it get to this point on purpose.

Yoongi lets his mind rest uncomfortably on the truth that everyone had done the best they could and maybe that wasn’t enough and wouldn’t be. It twists the energy in the room from angry to sad. None of them were equipped to handle what BTS had become, PD-nim included. No one could have protected them from their own wave.

Namjoon murmurs, “I’m sorry—“ for about the fiftieth time in the last two days, and Yoongi suddenly feels very fiercely that Namjoon needs to know that he deserved to be protected, too. He’s within arms length, and Yoongi darts his gaze from the wall with a burst of courage and rests his hand on Namjoon’s knee.

Namjoon’s head jerks up. Yoongi shakes his head.

Namjoon’s eyes fill up with tears and Yoongi looks away. He feels the warmth of Namjoon’s hand hovering over his for a long moment before it lands.

“You tell me all the things that you need. Okay? All of you. On your own,” Sihyuk says finally.

Yoongi looks up. PD-nim looks different than when he signed at BigHit too. Tired. Old. He continues, looking like he has nothing to lose but not sure that there is anything to be gained either. Yoongi resonates with that.

“Then we’ll figure it out. Not everyone can have everything they want, but you should all have what you need. We’ll get you that and then we can work from there.”

He’s talking himself into it as he goes and Yoongi lets himself go along, just one last time. If only to get the awful look off of Jimin’s face, all but curled up next to Seokjin, uncharacteristically silent since they wrapped in the morning at the dorm.

Jungkook looks over at Yoongi, stricken and eyes huge. It takes Yoongi a moment to register that it’s really him that they’re asking. He doesn’t think of himself as the hold-up. He doesn’t think of himself as a selfish person. Can we try? is the question.

Yoongi bows his head.

*

2019

Yoongi gets better. He spent years convincing himself not to die and then eventually learned to want to live. Funny how that works out. He thinks about things a lot lately, left with a lot of room in his head where he used to linger on all that was lacking. When he started to feel better, it felt like a fluke, but the longer it went on he had to admit that he was doing alright. He laughs a lot more now and people are always mentioning it to him.

Hoseok has to show him the news. He’s not on Twitter as much as the rest, and he tries to keep his head down with most things that aren’t about the music. They were busy wrapping their stadium tour. Two days before, they played a sold out show at the country’s biggest venue. They’re still decompressing, collecting the pieces of their lives laid out between all of their apartments, family homes, and the dorm after months of chaos.

Hoseok and Yoongi had ended up at the dorm around the same time and Yoongi pieced together a meal from the random things in the house.

“Did you see about Monsta X?” Hoseok asks, hands busy scooping up a neat bite of rice.

“Hm?” Yoongi asks. “Their English album?”

“Hoseok-ssi left the group.” Hoseok raises his eyebrows at Yoongi.

Yoongi is not expecting to hear that, but the hurt that wrenches through his stomach that he hadn’t heard it from Kihyun was. Stupid, first and foremost, but also surprising in its own right.

Yoongi takes a bite. “Oh.”

“I texted Hyungwon-hyung this morning,” Hoseok says. “Can you imagine? He didn’t say anything yet. Sucks, huh?”

Yoongi’s heart rate picks up and he notices. He feels it. He says, half-joking just to egg Hoseok on, “What do you think they’re covering up?”

It’s enough to set Hoseok off on a ramble about the Starship CEO—Hoseok gets all of his industry gossip from Jimin, not interested enough himself to seek it out but delighted to have it when it comes his way. Yoongi lets the absurdity of it lift him out of his thoughts about Kihyun, tucking them away until he can look at them closer in the light.



Yoongi moved his mattress from the Hannam on the Hill flat to the apartment that he bought in a less flashy neighborhood, where it’s felt possible these days to lie low and be a person. It’s the same one he’s been sleeping on since he and Jin shared a room. It’s the piece of the house that marks that he’s home.

Later that night, Yoongi types out a message. He writes, I heard about Hoseok-ssi. Thought of you. Hope you’re okay. It’ll pass. I’m here if you need me.

Today, he’s remembering that it is the same mattress that he and Kihyun curled up on, once. It’s been years, but today it feels fresh. He wants Kihyun to tell him important news about his life. Stadium tours and millions of albums and when Yoongi thinks about being special, he hears, Do you want to know something only my parents know?

He presses send.

Kihyun doesn’t respond, but Yoongi tells himself the comforting stories that he has learned to tell himself, ones that are true at a stabilizing, life-long scale even if they are lies at the scale where he and Kihyun are at either end. Kihyun is busy, he is going through a lot, he took comfort in the message. It was worthwhile to send because Yoongi wanted to send it, not because he expected anything back. But well.

Yoongi wants more. Whether it’s that he wants still or he wants again. It’s been long enough, right? It doesn't have to make him sick anymore.

*

Yoongi catches him backstage at the MMAs. He makes it look like they just ran into each other, but he remembered where Monsta X’s green room was and went to the bathroom near there instead of near the BTS dressing room.

Yoongi’s been thinking a lot about everything that has changed. He’s been wondering if he’s different enough now that it could work with Kihyun. He’s less hungry. He wonders, a lot. When Kihyun dodged his handshake on stage, Yoongi started to wonder if was his turn to really try hard to make things right. It’s weird, not being the most unwell person he knows for the first time in his life. It’s weird to think that he’s made sure that he’s well enough that he can be there for someone else without draining himself dry.

He walks past the open door to the Monsta X green room where the members are looking drawn and getting their stage costumes steamed and lingers in the doorway. It’s chaotic enough that it takes a few seconds before anyone realizes he’s there—but eventually, one of their long-time managers looks up and his eyes go wide with recognition. Yoongi feels his face heat as Hongsik’s attention darts reflexively to Kihyun. Yoongi drops into a short bow in greeting.

“Hi,” Yoongi says. He’s not talking to anyone in particular. He doesn’t do this, so he doesn't know how.

Hongsik bows in greeting and says, “Suga-ssi, nice to see you again.”

Yoongi supposes this does count as again. Across the room, Yoongi watches Kihyun stop moving for a split-second at the sound of his name and then start moving again, a scratch in the CD playback.

Awkwardly, Yoongi repeats, “Hello.”

All of the normally overwhelmingly energetic members are withdrawn—although, with the exception of Kihyun, they all manage to spare him a smile and a wave and Hyungwon comes over to give him a quick hug.

Yoongi says, “The new single is dope. I hope you’re proud.”

Hyungwon shrugs. “We’ll keep working hard,” then, without pretense, he looks over his shoulder at Kihyun. “Hyung, Yoongi-ssi is here.”

Yoongi squirms. Hyungwon winks at him without changing his facial expression and gently shoves Kihyun towards the door as they cross paths. Kihyun looks like he wants to kill Hyungwon which really means Yoongi was the one to overstep some unsaid rule between them. He stands at the doorway, still. Yoongi is there to try so he tries, still.

Kihyun bows deeply in front of him, the expression on his face clear that the only reason he doesn't look sourer is because he’s too tired. “Yoongi-ssi, great performance.”

Yoongi bows back. “Thank you, you too.”

Kihyun shifts his weight. Yoongi knows so much about him. It’s been years and the gulf between them feels more jarring and artificial than ever. Yoongi tries again, out on a limb. “What are you up to after this? It’s been a long time.”

Yoongi trains his lips flat, trying to take the expectation out of the question.

“It’s been a long time,” Kihyun repeats. It’s clear from his tone that he's repeating it, not agreeing with it.

Yoongi shifts his weight and waits.

Kihyun braces his palm against his own hip, arm akimbo. He looks like he would roll his eyes if it weren’t so rude. “Just going home, probably. Big night.”

Yoongi nods. He pretends like the situation is not what it is. He pretends this is the Kihyun that Yoongi sees when he remembers him, a Kihyun that would be happy Yoongi stopped by his dressing room. Yoongi remembers his debut day, when Yoongi had those stupid shorts on and Kihyun had his smile on, the one he broke out for Yoongi especially. It helps the next part come out normally, like nothing’s amiss.

“Do you want to come over for a drink? I just got moved into my new place. I have a good scotch I’ve been saving.”

Kihyun loved a good scotch, before. Yoongi thinks that probably hasn’t changed. He hopes it hasn’t.

Kihyun opens his mouth with his eyebrows raised and it makes Yoongi’s stomach drop. Yoongi hides his flinch by looking down at his shoes for a moment. When Yoongi braves a look back up, Kihyun has shut his mouth and his expression is clear.

“Sure.” Kihyun nods. Yoongi nods back, his insides bubbling. He nods again and Kihyun raises his eyebrows.

“Should we meet somewhere?”

“Oh,” Yoongi says. He pulls his phone from his back pocket and looks at it uselessly. “Hm. Just come by our dressing room when you’re done. We can go together.”

“Alright,” Kihyun says, and takes a step back. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, and waves before he goes back down the hallway.



Yoongi’s preferred manner of dealing with awkward situations is by not acknowledging them at all. Which is why his expression doesn't change at all through telling Sejin that he’s going to his apartment, not the dorm and that Kihyun is coming with him. He has to repeat it twice, because Sejin says, “What?” like he can't hear when Yoongi knows he heard. So he just repeats, “Yoo Kihyun,” as flatly as possible until Sejin shrugs and starts typing on his phone to sort out the finer details of Yoongi’s request.

While Yoongi is undressing back into his soft, shapeless clothes and undoing the drawn on shape of his face, Jimin sidles over to him. He’s kept his makeup on, but changed into his street clothes. “Hyung, do you want to drink tonight?”

“Not tonight,” Yoongi replies, hiding his flush as he pulls his head through his sweatshirt. “I’m staying at my place.”

Jimin flips over in the couch he’s lounging on, so he can pout at Yoongi from upside down. “Why?”

Yoongi grunts, “Because.”

“Because why?” Jimin needles, and Yoongi finally catches the look on his face.

Yoongi understands. Jimin overheard and now, he’s being Jimin. Yoongi says, “Go bother Jungkook.”

“Ah, hyung is busy,” Jimin sighs, eyes big and innocent even as he rolls out of Yoongi’s reach as he tries to pinch him in the side to shut Jimin up. Jimin jumps up and his smile is huge as he announces, not loud enough to alert the others, “Kihyun-ssi is here.”

Yoongi looks up and as it turns out, there he is.



The perfect ball of ice crackles at the bottom of the glass as Yoongi pours expensive brown liquor over the top of it. He has a song playing that Kihyun sent him a long time ago, and a few more queued that he put together in a playlist during the car ride over.

“When did you buy this place?” Kihyun asks, polite. “It’s nice.”

Yoongi shrugs, thinking a bit. “Last year? Only moved in recently. There were a lot of things that I wanted to re-do, but it took a long time to get to them. I just installed the lighting fixtures last week.”

Kihyun nods, glancing at them. He’s perched delicately on the squishy sofa that Yoongi bought specifically because it was meant to be flopped on at the end of long days. He wanted his furniture to be comfortable for people. Yoongi’s heart is beating hard.

He hands Kihyun his glass, and tucks himself into his preferred corner of the other couch opposite him. He sips his own liquor, and lets the taste bloom over his tongue, letting the bitterness burn over his taste buds to acclimate them.

Yoongi had turned on the lights to a warm, dim setting when they walked in, and Kihyun looks beautiful and dramatic under them. He’s only gotten more fine-boned with time and Yoongi’s mouth goes a bit dry looking at him. He hadn’t really thought this would happen tonight.

“Are your parents healthy?” Yoongi asks.

Kihyun looks at him for a second. He laughs, humorless. It’s sarcastic with formality when he replies, “Yes, they’re well.”

Yoongi wants badly for this to go better than it’s going. He hadn't realized how much he’d been comforting himself with Kihyun’s imagined grace. He’s unprepared for the sharp reality in front of him, one where Kihyun has cared enough this whole time to be mad at the distance that bloomed between them.

“Thank you,” Yoongi rasps. He clears his throat. “Thank you for coming. I—I’m glad you’re here.”

Kihyun takes a sip. He puts his elbow up over the top of Yoongi’s couch. He purses his lips, and then relaxes them. Yoongi takes a breath once he realizes he’s holding his.

“What exactly am I doing here?” Kihyun asks, glass still at his lips. He lowers it, rests it on his knee. His jaw is set.

Yoongi doesn’t know what to say to that. His face warms, with the alcohol, with the way Kihyun isn't like the other people in his life who will let things go unsaid. “You just looked like—I still know what you look like. You know. When things are bad. I wanted—“

Yoongi stops himself. There is so much that he wanted.

“Oh, you wanted,” Kihyun says, flat. “You know. You know what I look like.”

“I messaged you,” Yoongi says, uselessly. “It wasn't just—tonight. I wanted to make sure you were doing alright.”

Kihyun laughs, but it's mean. Yoongi hides behind a sip of warm liquor and fights a cough.

“My number isn’t the same,” Kihyun says, slowly.

Yoongi blinks. The music shifts to something too uptempo and bass heavy for the mood now and he’s immediately itching to change it. He’d been more optimistic when he was building his queue. Of course, Kihyun’s number isn’t the same.

“I haven’t just been—waiting, okay?” Kihyun snaps. Yoongi watches Kihyun’s fingertips turn white around the glass so he doesn't have to look at his face. “Life goes on when you leave people behind. Surprise.”

Yoongi slouches into the couch. He looks at the framed records on the wall opposite them. He sweeps his eyes across to the doorway. When he bought this place, he had been dating someone. Daehyun. It had been kind of serious. He bought it thinking it would be somewhere they could go and forget about the rest of the world. He thought the space might buy some time for the relationship that his career was strangling.

“I didn't think you were,” Yoongi says, finally. Yoongi realizes that he lied. He didn’t ask Kihyun here because he was worried about him at all.

Kihyun is finally pushed over the edge and rolls his eyes. It should hurt, but it floods Yoongi’s stomach with warmth. It’s something real, more honest than the performed niceties that he’d gotten all night. They were beyond that. Or they should be.

Yoongi says, before Kihyun can respond, “Can I play you something? It’s not out yet.”

He unlocks his phone and chances a glance up at Kihyun and takes his blank face as permission.

Yoongi lets his eyes fall shut as the first plucked piano notes hit the air. He lays his head back against the expensive couch that he picked out on his iPad while flying somewhere. Japan? He couldn’t remember. He remembered that the thought of this couch in his apartment got him through a day that he wasn’t sure he was going to make it through. He had a lot of those, for a while. He wants Kihyun to know that.

Sometimes, I don't know if I'm really walking forward
If I run towards the endless end of the tunnel
Is that forward?

If I’m honest, it’s different to the future I wished for
But dreams don’t matter now, it’s a matter of survival

It might be different to what you were hoping for
How you live and how you love might change
So, are you gonna move?

As it turns out, Yoongi has been the one waiting. Suspended in time. Telling himself that there would be time to be a person after the roller coaster stopped going up. When Yoongi looks at Kihyun, it feels like he has been waiting. Yoongi thought he was different now; but here he is, the same. There’s a comfort in that, and an ache.

The last refrain fades. Yoongi opens his eyes to the ceiling. He hears Kihyun move.

The couch dips next to him, and Yoongi lowers his gaze to see Kihyun, close. Kihyun is all proud lines, his jaw, his nose, the set of his lips. His breath ghosts across Yoongi’s slack mouth. His knee sinks into the couch next to Yoongi, his arm braced against the back of the couch. Holding them apart. But Yoongi can’t help but notice how the natural motion is to fall together.

“You’re such a dick,” Kihyun murmurs. There’s a curve to his mouth, though. Yoongi stares at it. “Who was that, Halsey?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi whispers. He swallows. Kihyun’s lips are wet. “Did you like it?”

Kihyun’s free hand comes around the back of Yoongi’s neck, his fingers pressing to the tension there. The smile falls out of his mouth, serious now. “I don’t know.”

Yoongi exhales and says, “Me neither.”

Yoongi pauses, the air warm between them, his apartment quiet around them. Yoongi used to drown in the way the past, present, and future would tangle in his head, but he is here now. He is here, muscles already aching from the performance and the performance before that, Kihyun so close after so long. Lucky to be here, where tomorrow seems very far away.

Yoongi moves. He straightens his spine to reach, hovering for a moment before pressing his lips to Kihyun’s. It is not really familiar at all. So much has happened. Kihyun’s mouth moves over his, soft. His hand comes to frame Yoongi’s face. Yoongi’s mind races.

Yoongi pulls away. He rasps, a breath between, “I didn't ask you here because I was worried about you.”

Kihyun rests his forehead against Yoongi's, and shakes his head. “No, you didn’t.”

“I just wanted to see you,” Yoongi says, and it is not an admission, it is just a fact. It is an honest thing, the way Yoongi wants Kihyun. “I wondered—if I was different enough now. If things could be different.”

Kihyun pulls away. Yoongi chases him for a moment, then he gets far enough away that Yoongi gets it. Kihyun sits next to Yoongi, their knees knocking.

“Min Yoongi,” Kihyun sighs, puts his elbow up on the back of the couch and leans against his palm. He looks sad, and Yoongi gets it. It’s all sad. So many things that were meant to make them happy have hurt instead. “You never had to be different. It wasn’t about you being different.”

Kihyun pushes a hand through his hair. “It wasn’t ever going to be enough. And what would that say about me if I asked you to be okay with less, because that's what we could have? I wasn’t going to do that.”

Yoongi breathes out. “It was enough.”

Kihyun huffs out a laugh. “It wasn’t. Come on. It wasn’t.”

“Nothing was ever good enough back then,” Yoongi replies, plain. No use arguing. “But I still want it to be. That’s what I wish was different.”

“Oh, we made our wishes, Suga-ssi,” Kihyun says, wry. He pats Yoongi on the knee. Yoongi puts his hand over Kihyun’s, to keep it there as long as he can.

Yoongi, feeling young and lost and wanting, stares at the line of Kihyun’s eyelashes along his chemically-smoothed cheeks. It isn’t fair that Yoongi traded this before he knew what he was trading it for.

Kihyun flips his palm up under Yoongi’s, and laces their fingers together. He looks at Yoongi from underneath his lashes. His lips quirk up, humorless. Isn’t it funny.

Imagine a life where he wished differently. Imagine a life where he wished to fall in love with a boy in the grass along the Han. It’s a ridiculous thought.

Yoongi thinks, terminally, that it could have been nice.

*

They are nicer to each other after that. Yoongi likes that he knows he can talk to Kihyun if he needs, and that they both know the reason they’re not talking is because it hurts too much to be close, not because they don't care. They tell each other when their numbers change. Those distinctions are important, Yoongi is learning now.

Bangtan gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It feels like a balloon. That used to be scary, thinking about how the bigger it got, the closer it was to popping. These days, they all understand better that it’s just a balloon. Maybe it will pop. The party will go on, nonetheless. Those distinctions are important, too.

Yoongi feels like he’s at the end of a deep sigh—something to celebrate for lungs that haven’t ever caught a break.

*

2022

Yoongi shaves his head at the Bangtan dorm, over the bathroom sink lined with a plastic bag. When he’s done, he looks up into the mirror and sees back in time. Without his hair, he looks a lot like the kid who came to Seoul alone carried on a dream. The dream has changed, the dream could never live up to itself, but. He’d done a lot. He’s different and the same all at once.

As he does, he thinks of Kihyun. He’ll be enlisting soon, too. Yoongi wonders if he’s cut his hair yet.

Yoongi rubs his hand across his head. He picks up his phone and snaps a picture. He loads it into his text with Kihyun and stares at the preview. He types: suga no more and lets it sit there.

He looks up and rubs at his scalp, inspecting the shape of his head. He braces his hands on the counter. Here is the real secret: Yoongi is not dreading any part of enlisting. He needs a break and he hasn’t been normal since he was 18 and now he has to be. There’s something comforting about that.

Yoongi isn’t sure what this will do to the delicate balance that they’ve struck. He's not positive that Kihyun wants to hear from him outside of when it's necessary—but that’s okay. It’s okay if he doesn’t respond. At least Kihyun will know that Yoongi is thinking of him, at this moment that he'll know is important, and Yoongi thinks maybe that means more than he knew before.

He presses send and then he goes to sleep and when he wakes up he has a message from Kihyun that says, min yoongi was always sweeter anyway.

*

2024

Kihyun got built in the service. Yoongi stares at him openly across the table. Kihyun seems pretty smug about it, so Yoongi doesn’t bother hiding. If he wants to feel good about looking good, what’s the harm? It's been such a long time, two years and change—it feels like the rift between them has opened up so wide that it collapsed in on itself, avalanching them right back to where they started.

“I’m not renewing my contract,” Kihyun says, sipping on his coffee. Yoongi can’t remember the last time he saw him in natural light, but he’s bathed in it now. They’re in a back room at a shop Yoongi likes a lot—Tablo had taken him there once. “Singing military propaganda really put things in perspective.”

“Hm,” Yoongi hums, waiting for him to go on. Probably earlier in his life he would have thought that Kihyun was ruining his career. But by now, if there’s one thing he’s sure about, it’s that life goes the fuck on. Thank god.

“Like, I was happier doing that. Than whatever the fresh hell Starship was putting us through. I love those guys, you know. But we all deserve a lot better than that.”

Yoongi nods. He takes a sip of his drink and nods again. “You’ll get picked up by another agency right away.”

Kihyun shrugs. He traces the lip of his glass with his finger. “Maybe.”

Yoongi bites back his own judgements and tries, for the first time in a long time, to see Kihyun as he is now. He could just believe that Kihyun wants what’s best for himself and he knows what’s best better than Yoongi. The thought makes him feel a little sick, pushed back into his bedroom at the apartment before Hannam on the Hill, when Yoongi thought it was his job to save everyone from himself. Yoongi looks at Kihyun’s grown face, grown posture, every line of who he’s still becoming and thinks, I almost lost this.

Yoongi replies, “Or you can do something else. You’ll be able to do anything you want. That’s all I’m saying.”

Kihyun looks up from under his lashes, face still canted towards the table. He quirks his lips. “Wow, a vote of confidence from SUGA sunbaenim. Means a lot.”

Yoongi hides his face behind a sip of his iced Americano. “Don’t call me that.”

“Means more from my friend Min Yoongi,” Kihyun singsongs, easily. It hasn’t been easy in so long and it’s getting there now. Yoongi can't see Kihyun’s expression because Yoongi turns his face towards the light of the window before he loses the last shreds of his dignity right here across the table.

“Thanks,” Yoongi mutters, and braves a glance back at Kihyun. He’s smiling. Yoongi, helpless to the feelings he’s been pressing down blooming back across his face, indulges. He smiles back, lips stretching up and over his gums, growing until he can feel it in his cheeks and ears, like there’s not enough room to let it all out at once.

Kihyun laughs a little, and Yoongi joins him. They are ridiculous. It’s funny.

*

2026

Yoongi finds out Kihyun is dating because Kihyun tells him. Not to throw it in his face—they’re beyond that at this point, settling in to as casual of a friendship as 15 years of history will allow them. Yoongi came back into the country and asked if he was free for dinner and Kihyun said he had other plans, and somewhere in the planning process it became clear that Kihyun was busy with a date. When Yoongi asks, he learns they’ve been out in public. The world has not exploded. No one has even reported on it.

Yoongi hasn't decided how to feel about it yet, but it makes him think. When they meet up for dinner next, he’s still thinking about it. He brings it up while he’s dumping their vegetables into the hot pot to cook.

“How was the date?” Yoongi asks, blunt. He raises his eyebrows twice at Kihyun and quirks his lips so he knows Yoongi means well. He supposes there’s no good way to ask an ex how a date went, especially an ex like Kihyun, so he doesn't bother trying.

Kihyun laughs. “The sake isn’t even here yet. Give me a break.”

Yoongi just raises his eyebrows in prompt again, stirring the pot idly.

“Oh, it was good,” Kihyun says, leaning back in the booth and lacing his fingers behind his head. He exhales deeply and pushes out his lips for a moment before looking at Yoongi head-on. “It’s just funny, you know? It doesn't have to be mindblowing to keep at it. I feel like every time I’ve dated before, I was always doing some godawful math in my head to figure out if it was worth the trouble.”

Yoongi, very familiar with this godawful math, nods. Hm.

“So yeah. She’s nice, I think. She doesn’t know Monsta X, so that’s a plus.”

Yoongi asks, “What’s her name?”

Kihyun looks at him strangely for a moment. Then, he replies, “It’s Sohyun.”

Yoongi hums and adds meat to their soup. “It sounds like it’s been good.”

“You're being weird,” Kihyun says pointedly, fishing out a bean sprout. “What kind of weird is this?”

Yoongi stirs the pot for another moment before leaning back and crossing his arms across his chest. He is being weird, but he doesn't think it’s about Sohyun. “Ah. Not sure yet.”

“Well, let me know when you know,” Kihyun laughs and shrugs. Yoongi shrugs too and smiles, and they move on.

Later, plied with the sake that does eventually arrive, Yoongi is red and sated and happy. Kihyun is laid back in the booth, both hands over his stomach and looking at Yoongi beneath half lowered lids. He is beautiful, of course, but Yoongi has practiced moving beyond that.

“I think,” Yoongi says, trailing off. “I've been thinking. About not hiding anymore.”

Kihyun raises his eyebrows. “Like, coming out?”

“I almost did it,” Yoongi reminds him. And then he remembers, he never told Kihyun. “In 2018. The Billboard interview.”

“I read that,” Kihyun says. His smile is slow, honey golden. “I hope we can create an environment where we can say that we miss someone when we miss them.

“Oh.” Yoongi’s stomach swoops hearing his words out of Kihyun’s mouth, so many years after he said them thinking of Kihyun. “Yeah, I said that, too.”

Kihyun nods, eyes trailing up to the ceiling with the smile lingering on his lips. Yoongi looks at him until Kihyun can look at him again.

“If you’re asking what I think—” Kihyun says, a sly look on his face. “What’s the point of being a legend if you can’t do whatever you want?”

Yoongi laughs. He doesn't feel like a legend. BTS feels like a thing outside of him, and he thinks it should stay that way. He’d rather be Min Yoongi, these days. “No one is untouchable.”

“Sure,” Kihyun shrugs. “But you come pretty close.”

Yoongi taps his fingers on his glass, rhythmic. He stares at the grain of the table’s heavy wood, just thinking. The pressure is less these days, but it doesn’t make his fate any less entangled with the members, with the fate of his company, with the fate of whatever percentage of the GDP they make up nowadays. Yoongi tries not to check.

“If you’re asking me,” Kihyun continues, drawing Yoongi’s gaze back up. He’s leaning closer now, elbow braced on the table and his chin in his palm. “I think you deserve to have what you want. You deserve to do what will make you happy. That’s all.”

There are protests on the tip of his tongue—but it is Kihyun. Yoongi doesn’t have to tell Kihyun anything about the pressure and the stakes and everything holding him back. He knows.

Yoongi thinks about the boys who grew into men who grew into his family and it’s an easy leap to say the same, it is what allowed them to survive together this long: do what makes you happy. Don’t do what doesn’t. We’ll figure out the rest together. Their happiness is more important than the success. So, Yoongi doesn’t have to tell Kihyun. He knows.

Yoongi once felt like he was made of duty, but he’d never stopped to question whether he had the same kind of duty to himself. “Hm.”

“Hm,” Kihyun mimics. He raises his glass to toast the last bit of alcohol and Yoongi meets him, the thin clink of their glasses cutting through the din. Kihyun dedicates the toast after it’s too late to take it back, a shit-eating grin on his face. “To me being right, always and forever.”

Yoongi shakes his head, rolls his eyes, moans and groans for a full three minutes before Kihyun finally forces him to take the drink—but can't find it in his heart to disagree.

*

Things don’t work out with Sohyun. It’s no big deal, Kihyun tells Yoongi. Kihyun starts working with trainees as a vocal coach and likes it a lot. He mentors a few reality shows, but really only gets papped when he’s out with his members. They’re mumbling about a new album with a different agency, but they're taking it slow. Every time Yoongi sees him, he looks healthier and Yoongi makes sure to tell him.

Yoongi is 33, but Jungkook is only 28. As BTS, they do a couple fewer shows per year, but the shows stay sold out long past anyone’s anticipation of decline. Yoongi is still very fucking famous. He doesn’t come out, after all—but it stops feeling like hiding. It doesn't feel as urgent.

It’s a lot easier to work around one impossible schedule than two, is what Yoongi learns. Their lives were the same for a while, but now they’re different. Easier isn’t a pipe dream after all. It’s just a shared calendar that started as a joke and now stays updated. They're two friends with a long history. Cautious, but persistent, until they don’t need so much caution anymore. They learn how to stop hurting each other and then how to stop feeling like they’re making it work until they just are. They talk about a lot of things and they leave some things alone. It’s nice, just to be.

 

*

2028

Nothing lasts forever. They used to chant that with some kind of fear—that one day they wouldn't have what they have now. Yoongi doesn’t think that any of them thought about the relief that would come with that, not until way later. The truth isn't really that nothing lasts forever; it’s that nothing stays the same forever. Thank god for that. When Namjoon said something to that effect during the meeting, Seokjin cracked his joints and said, “My knees could have told you that, Leader-nim.”

They laughed and got up from the table with an album in post that already has whispers of a third Grammy and a year of scheduled hiatus, beginning just after the hometown tour that they’ve been wanting to do since 2016.

Yoongi’s still out of breath when Kihyun answers the phone. He started thinking about this in the middle of the meeting and only just refrained from texting Kihyun in the middle of it.

“Hi,” Yoongi says.

“Hello,” Kihyun says, smile in his voice. “What’s up?”

“Do you want to go on vacation?”

Kihyun laughs. “You paying?”

Yoongi is paying. He doesn’t have to—Kihyun does fine for himself these days, but Yoongi will always have more money than he knows what to do with at this point. Between them, they’ve seen most of the world, so they pull some favorites. Hawaii, New Zealand, Philippines, Norway.

“London,” Kihyun suggests.

“Okay, then Paris,” Yoongi counters.

“Daegu,” Kihyun says.

“Daegu,” Yoongi agrees.

It’s not that it’s easy, Yoongi thinks, finally. It's that they want it enough that it feels easy. You deserve to do what makes you happy, that’s all. The rest doesn’t matter so much.

*

Daegu

It’s not so long of a trip, all in all. About four months. They called off the last leg—New Zealand and Australia—after Yoongi slept for an entire day in Palawan right on the beach, rousing only to whine at Kihyun to adjust the umbrella as the sun changed and to walk back to the hotel and crawl into bed after sunset. When Yoongi woke up in the morning, Kihyun showed him a video compilation that his phone made of Yoongi snoring in various places and they laughed together as Yoongi rebooked their flights to Seoul.

They stay in the Suseong-gu home that Yoongi and his brother bought for his parents—though his parents kept the tiny inner-city apartment that he grew up in for when things are too busy at the restaurant. Yoongi lets his mom give the tour, trailing behind as she shows Kihyun her garden and he makes the perfectly polite appreciative noises that she sets him up for.

Yoongi’s mother loves Kihyun. He is so polite and handsome, Yoongi-yah. She says it like Kihyun is someone that makes her think better of him because they’re connected. It makes Yoongi warm to share an opinion so important with his mother. She says, I’m so glad you had someone like him to travel with all this time and Yoongi agrees.

Geumjae, his wife Solji, and Yoongi’s niece Jia come down from Seoul to have dinner altogether a few days after they arrive. Yoongi’s mom makes Geumjae’s favorites. Yoongi can’t remember the last family dinner where she didn’t make his favorites—he’s been the rarest attendee for more than a decade. Yoongi eats the pork bone soup quietly as his mother chides Geumjae for not visiting often enough, and Solji talks business with his dad, and Kihyun charms the shit out of his three-year-old niece.

Yoongi looks at Kihyun and acknowledges the feeling that has been weighing in his stomach for weeks. Years, if he wants to be honest. Years of almosts, of is now the time, of is it too late, of what if. Questions, line breaks, commas. He’s scared of creating an ending where he means to close a chapter.

Kihyun peeks at him and sticks his tongue out of the corner of his mouth, too quick to be clocked by the parents, just a silly moment to make Yoongi smile and he does. It’s nothing like an ending at all. They’re right in the middle, warm and comfortable. Kihyun is familiar enough with his parents to settle at their dinner table seamlessly. How many times have they met? At his concerts, dinners when they’ve visited Seoul, Jia’s dol.

They linger around the table until it’s time to put Jia down and they bid their parents goodnight. Geumjae, Solji, Yoongi, and Kihyun go out and sit around the small wood-burning oven in their modest backyard. Yoongi weaves dramatic folktales about the fish he caught in Norway and Kihyun chiming in only to make them even more ridiculous; Solji and Geumjae tell horror stories about parenting with a such fondness in their eyes that it makes Yoongi ask when the next one is coming.

When they finally retire, smoke-scented and yawning, Geumjae catches him in a strong-armed hug in the dimly-lit kitchen before he can trail Kihyun down the hallway to the room they’re sharing.

“It’s good to see you so happy,” Geumjae murmurs roughly, squeezing him.

Yoongi hugs him back just as tightly, squeezes his eyes shut. “I missed you, hyung. I’m going to spend more time. I want to see you all more.”

Geumjae nods his agreement into Yoongi’s shoulder before releasing him and Yoongi claps him on the shoulder as they part.

“I’ve always liked Kihyun,” Geumjae comments as they turn together towards the rooms.

Yoongi looks at him sideways, but Geumjae’s mannerisms haven’t shifted at all. He is sleepy and sated, stating what’s obvious to him. Yoongi wonders how long they’ve been in the middle of this, wonders if everyone else has always known where they were heading.

Kihyun is half-changed into his sleep clothes when Yoongi steps into the room, clicking the door shut quietly behind himself. Kihyun looks up at him and grins.

“I love Solji,” Kihyun says, voice low. He tugs his flannel pajama bottoms over his hips, and Yoongi watches his skin disappear underneath. No use pretending. “She’s hilarious. Has she met Seokjin?”

Yoongi huffs out a laugh, lowers himself down onto the edge of the bed. “A few times. She’s more relaxed at home, though.”

“It’s so nice being here,” Kihyun sighs, sitting down next to Yoongi. He braces his palms behind himself and leans back against them. Yoongi tucks his chin to look at him sidelong, and Kihyun bumps their shoulders together. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Daegu was your idea,” Yoongi reminds him. His heart beats fast in his chest. He hasn’t decided to do anything, but it’s blooming out of him anyway. His mouth is dry and all he can see of Kihyun is the pull of his smile in his cheeks, the shadows of his eyes in gentle crescents.

Outside of the window, it’s quiet aside from the faint crackling remains of their fire. The house creaks around them as Yoongi’s family winds down to sleep. Between them, it’s an easy hush.

Kihyun is warm and keeps his weight against Yoongi. He drops his forehead to Yoongi’s shoulder and hums, short and sweet. “I forgot. I’m always right.”

Yoongi has been only perfunctorily careful about the lines between himself and Kihyun. They blur all the time. Concerts have found Kihyun’s arm around his waist, keeping him close. Arms slung over Kihyun’s shoulders lingering as they walk back to their hotel. Hands that stay tangled under the guise of batting the other away. Legs tangled together in a shared bed, even though they could afford three beds if they wanted. As it turned out, Yoongi wanted something else more.

“Kihyun-ah.”

Kihyun’s reply goes straight into Yoongi’s neck, sleep-silly. “Yoongi-yah.”

Yoongi places his hand on Kihyun’s thigh. His thumb traces the far edge of Kihyun’s bony knee beneath soft flannel. It should be scarier, he thinks. But he’s been wrong before. All he feels is the lightness that Kihyun has always given him, the sun-gold love he’s been chasing only to find that they are in orbit. There’s no losing it.

“Are we in love?”

Kihyun picks up his head. He laughs, soft enough to bleed into the dark. They are very close, close enough that Yoongi can feel the exhale of Kihyun’s words.

“I think that’s up to us, huh?”

It wasn’t always. It is now.

Yoongi doesn’t have to move much to kiss him. He just sways forward, caught in Kihyun’s gravity, which Yoongi once thought of as inevitable. Maybe the coming together was inevitable, but the staying has been a choice. The leaving and the coming back. The question and the truth.

Their lips meet in answer, slick and soft in the dark. Kihyun’s mouth is warm and it’s been so long that it’s new again. Yoongi hopes he never has to go so long that it’s ever new, again. He wants this to be something he can keep.

“I love you,” Kihyun murmurs against his lips. His arms have found their way around Yoongi’s neck and his thumb traces the curve of Yoongi’s ear. “If it’s up to me, I love you.”

“I love you,” Yoongi whispers. It’s the first time he’s saying it to Kihyun and he laughs at the thought, just an exhale framed with a smile. It’s been one of the longest held truths of his life and it lights up when it hits the air, Yoongi’s throat burning with it. “Of course. Of course.”

“Don’t say of course, like it’s obvious,” Kihyun laughs into the space between them, pulling away with a mock offended look on his face. “Let’s pretend we haven’t been stupid for over a decade.”

“Okay,” Yoongi concedes, grinning. “Wow. I can’t believe it. I love you.”

“Now that’s too surprised,” Kihyun says, lips pouting. Yoongi kisses him again, sweet, right at the center of his mouth.

“We took as long as we needed,” Yoongi corrects himself. “I love you.”

Kihyun looks at him for a moment, his eyes shining in the low light, beautiful. Yoongi had been lying to himself before. He never got used to it, he just got good at looking elsewhere. Now, he has no plans to look away. Kihyun echoes, his tone tender, “As long as we needed.”

*

2030

The day that the paperwork closes on the house, they take chicken and beer out to the river. Less about the old times and more about the new. More about the always been and always will be. They had been so young the first time they did this, at a different part of the Han River, in a neighborhood far less manicured than the one close to their neighborhoods now. Now, they have a house waiting on an island just far enough away to give them some room to breathe.

“I’m going to install new light fixtures,” Yoongi says around a piece of chicken. “And redo the floor. I want to lay the wood.”

“You can lay my wood anytime,” Kihyun replies absently, then makes a face like he didn’t realize it was going to come out of his mouth when he said it. “Nope. I take that back.”

Yoongi laughs, feeling warm about it. This is such a different kind of happy than the outsize surprise of the massive successes he’s had in his life. This is a simple kind of happy, a kind of success that everyone is expected to have, and yet it’s still satisfying now that it’s happening. It wasn’t something that he expected to have. He bought a house with someone he loved. They are going to start a life together.

Better late than never. He doesn’t really believe that.

Feeling nostalgic and sad for all the things he didn’t have the heart to imagine, he asks Kihyun, “Do you think we waited too long? Did we waste time?”

Kihyun is gnawing on a chicken bone, but his mouth curls into a smile around it. He tosses the bone and takes a sip of his beer. He laughs a little. He looks at Yoongi with a lot of love in his eyes. Easy enough to spot. He’s not trying to hide it.

“Were we wasting time? Does it feel wasted?” Kihyun asks, smile still dancing on his lips. He leans back against his hands, he looks at the sky and the Seoul skyline. Yoongi looks at the florescent highlights and shadows across his fine features. He wants to touch but doesn’t want anything to change, so he holds still.

Kihyun’s chin falls, and he smiles at Yoongi. “What a life we've had, huh?”

Yoongi says, “Have. We have it.”

The grass scratches at his skin, so he rolls over onto Kihyun and presses his hand to Kihyun’s heart. He closes his eyes to better hear the sound of the Han idling forward, carving the same path it’s always been on, in its own time.

*

The foreseeable future

Yoongi wakes up warm. There is a big window over their bed and the sun streams in to warm them awake most days. If it’s not the sun, it’s one of the dogs, jumping up to demand breakfast. If it’s not the dogs, it’s one of their rotating houseguests clambering around the kitchen trying to work the espresso machine.

Kihyun wakes easier. He rolls over to kiss Yoongi on the mouth first thing most days. He’s romantic like that. Yoongi, for his part, groans first thing. Then, he kisses back. They’re both romantic like that.

The house they share sits on acres of land in the Jeju countryside, a fifteen minute drive from anything in any direction. They have two fat, fluffy cats that sit on their dining table with smug looks on their faces and three curly-coated dogs that sleep in the sun through the summers and cuddle up with each other through the cold winters. It’s a house that is meant to be full—a long dining table, chairs always set around the fire pit in the yard, enough coffee mugs to serve the whole island.

It is wood paneled and well-worn around the edges: an errant tea cup or chopsticks always lingering in the sink, a wall-to-wall bookshelf full of vinyls, a banging speaker system that syncs through every room. It’s just Yoongi and Kihyun living there, but they never seem to be alone. Whether it’s Geumjae on a business trip to check on the café, members of either or both of their groups, or old friends passing through on holiday—the house is always full.

They originally bought the house to get away, but Yoongi has been pleasantly surprised that all it’s done is remind him who he never wants to be without.

There were some articles, when they moved in. BTS Suga buys Jeju Island ranch property, followed by BTS Suga and former Monsta X Kihyun … roommates?

They stuck that one on the fridge after Seokjin bought a print copy with him on his way to help them move in, almost crying with laughter. That is to say, they’ve never said anything publicly, and it’s so funny how little it matters when the truth is so clear between them.

Yoongi sets up a studio in the guesthouse on the property, spends weeks picking out the equipment and adjusting the monitors before Kihyun is even allowed in. Kihyun sings all the time around the house, his voice echoing through the high ceilings and getting lost in the open air of the yard, and then he sings words they write together into the mic that Yoongi picked out.

They make the mixtape because retirement is boring. A natural progression from fucking around in the studio for hours on end, turning hummed melodies into sweeping soundscapes to pass the time. It wraps around Kihyun’s birthday, right as the weather turns from crisp to frigid and the yard goes from yellowing to blanketed in white.

Kihyun insists they throw a mixtape release party slash housewarming slash birthday party. Everyone flies in, even though it’s the worst time to visit. It’s the fullest the house has been, loud and rambunctious—Seokjin and Jooheon manning the tabletop grill in the kitchen; Tablo’s daughter chasing down Jia and the new, littlest Min, Jiho; Sungwoon and Jimin egging Jungkook on from the couch as he inexplicably tries to juggle lemons from their fruit basket.

“Hyung, let’s hear it!” Hoseok calls, red-faced already, legs crossed delicately at the dining table. He’s got his arm around Jiwoo, who flicks him in the ear. She chides, “Don’t rush them!”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Kihyun says, grin wide. He makes a shooing motion toward Yoongi where he’s pouring Taehyung the last of the citrus hwachae from the summer crop. “Let’s play it. Yoongi-yah, go turn it on.”

Yoongi calls back, “Kihyun-ah, don’t you think they deserve a live performance? They flew to the island for your talents.”

“You think I won’t?” Kihyun challenges, pushing into his space and getting onto his toes to loom even more over Yoongi. Yoongi cackles and shoves him, doing a little wiggle over to the oversized sound system nested into the back wall of the dining room.

“Everyone shut up, it’s mixtape of eternal love time,” Minhyuk yells and Seokjin joins him, which means Jungkook starts yelling too, and then the kids want in on the fun—but eventually, they find the quiet, everyone settling into the dining room, crowding around and leaning in the doorways, perched on the table and cross-legged on the floor.

Yoongi clears his throat. Kihyun leans on the shelving next to him, pats Yoongi’s stomach briefly in encouragement. Yoongi looks at him, and Kihyun smiles. Yoongi loves him.

Yoongi lets his smile spread across his face. Easy, when he’s this warm. He turns away from their friends and family, just for a moment. He tilts his head towards Kihyun, his most natural posture these days, growing towards the sun.

“Do you remember, Kihyun-ah? Do you remember the night we met?”