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The Cost of the Web We're Weaving

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There’s a taxi idling outside of the sleek building where Seokjin’s lawyers have their offices. The driver is probably expecting to find a passenger coming out of one of the upscale restaurants nearby. The late summer sun is shining through the windows of the closest one, turning the smiling people inside golden. Seokjin can’t muster a smile or any expression at all as he flags the taxi and gives his destination.

When the car starts moving, nausea overwhelms Seokjin. Not from the movement of the car, slow in the end of day traffic, but the conversation still ringing in his head.

He pushes the queasiness and the conversation both away. He doesn’t want to think about it or to be sick in someone’s car. After years spent extravagantly drunk with other extravagant drunks in taxis all over the world, Seokjin knows there’s no making up for that. People take money of course, but it never really papers over their disgust.

It’s not a long trip, even in rush hour. One set of fancy buildings blends into the next, and soon enough Seokjin is there.

The staff of Jimin’s building all know Seokjin, the kind of respectful familiarity that comes with money and they waive him in without trouble.

Seokjin punches in Jimin’s familiar door code. He’s hoping that Jimin will be home, or that Taehyung will be there, or better yet both, but the apartment is quiet as he slips his shoes off.

Damn.

The last thing Seokjin wants right now is to be alone with his thoughts. To think about what his lawyer said, or the implications of it.

Seokjin calls out Jimin’s name without much hope. Jimin is like Seokjin in this way, never quiet - music, laughter, sex, television, anything to cover up the silence.

No response.

Maybe Taehyung? Taehyung is often quiet. Maybe Jimin is out fucking whatever man he thinks will most annoy his father this week and Taehyung is here, waiting, as usual, for Jimin to come back to him.

Still no response.

Fuck.

Seokjin wanders into the living room, calling one more time without any expectation, “Jimin-ah? Taehyung-ah?”

Jimin is probably still at work. Seokjin doesn’t really understand what CEOs in training do, but it takes a lot of time. Taehyung might still be working too. He’s no CEO, but he is the person with the least seniority at the non-profit where he works, and they keep him hours long enough to rival any CEO. Seokjin misses the days when they were all in college together and unemployed. Seokjin has no real desire to get a job, but he does envy the way their days are filled without effort.

Silence is the only answer that Seokjin receives. He can feel all the things he’s trying not to think about creeping up on him. The shock of his lawyer’s news, the old fears fresh again, the thing Seokjin needs to do...

Seokjin’s chest feels tight, the air suddenly too thin.

But then...

“Mmph.” A low displeased noise drifts over the back of the couch, too low to be Jimin and too rough to be Taehyung.

Probably Seokjin should be frightened by that. By finding an unknown person in Jimin’s apartment. But the rush of shock and curiosity pushes away the silence roaring in Seokjin’s ears. Too welcome for fear. And besides, there’s something familiar about the voice.

Seokjin strides over to the other side of the couch, arriving just as the person sits up. It’s Min Yoongi. Not a stranger at all.

Yoongi is obviously half asleep, his hair mussed and his eyes barely open as he frowns at Seokjin in confusion. “Hyung?” he asks. Or at least... deduction leads Seokjin to believe that’s what he said - Yoongi’s familiar mutter is only accentuated by his drowsiness.

Seokjin feels a rush of happiness. Mostly relief at the distraction, but mixed in is some affection for Yoongi himself. After all, they’d been friends of a sort once upon a time, in their first year of college. Two randomly assigned roommates, who had both been older than many of their classmates after their service. They’d fit together well enough at first, until Yoongi figured out exactly how rich and useless Seokjin was. They’d drifted apart after that, Yoongi working hard to try to reach his dreams while Seokjin floated through school in a river of alcohol and carelessness. Seokjin hasn’t seen Yoongi since their graduation.

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says, letting his delight make him loud. Letting his voice eat away at the quiet.

Seokjin has no idea how Yoongi ended up sleeping on one of Jimin’s couches. Seokjin had thought they hated each other. Jimin, after all, was one of Seokjin’s rich, party-loving friends. The kind of people that made Yoongi pull away from Seokjin. In college, whenever Seokjin had seen the two of them in the same place, they’d inevitably ended up in some sort of argument. Jimin had been idly amused by Yoongi’s intensity, his ambition, and his disdain for anyone who already had the things he wanted. Yoongi had, Seokjin thought, hated Jimin for that aura of monied comfort that Jimin wore like armor, and for the way Jimin sometimes used his money to taunt, just because he could.

Seokjin can’t imagine how they even still knew each other, years after college with Jimin immersed in becoming the perfect heir for his father and Yoongi... Well, whatever Yoongi had been doing. Something with music surely, but beyond that as much of a mystery as his presence here. Perfect. Just the distraction Seokjin needs.

“Hyung,” Yoongi replies, blinking himself awake and managing to produce a clear word this time, even if his vocabulary still seems somewhat limited.

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says again, with exaggerated patience this time. “What are you doing here?”

Yoongi’s frown grows more pronounced, his eyebrows furrowing downward. “Me? What are you doing here? This is Jimin’s place.”

Yoongi’s firm words are undercut by the way he takes a quick glance around the room at the last part, as if he’s afraid he might be mistaken.

Seokjin flops down on the other side of the couch. “Jimin is my friend, so I came by to say hi.” He looks at Yoongi expectantly.

Yoongi’s frown lessens, although if he’s appeased by the answer or simply awake enough to be sure of his location, Seokjin can’t quite say.

Yoongi’s post-nap frown isn’t something that Seokjin has thought about in years, but it’s startling familiar. Yoongi had always been tired in college, between his job and school and something a little too familiar that Seokjin hadn’t known how to ask about. Seokjin had tried his best to be quiet in their room so Yoongi could get the sleep he needed. The frown had been a mark of success, a sign that Yoongi had actually gotten some deep rest and seeing it now makes Seokjin feel fond in a way he hadn’t expected.

“What are you doing here, Yoongi-yah?” he prompts when no answer seems forthcoming.

Yoongi swings his legs down, sitting up, but still slouched back in the cushions of the couch, comfortable in Jimin’s space in a way that Seokjin wouldn’t have predicted. “I was supposed to meet Jimin. He’s late.”

Seokjin narrows his eyes, making a show of suspicion. “Okay, but why are you two meeting?”

Yoongi shrugs. “The usual,” he answers, unhelpfully.

Seokjin really can’t imagine what the usual could be with those two. “So...fight club? Mario Kart? Or, oh, let me guess, you both really like those classes where everyone gets wine drunk and paints a landscape.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but plays along. “Yes, you’ve discovered it exactly. Jimin hasn’t shown you his work?”

Seokjin swallows a laugh, managing to sound dramatically serious. “No, and frankly I’m hurt.”

Yoongi makes the face that means he’s hiding a smile. “Art is a delicate thing, hyung. Maybe Beach Sunrise with Hill was just too personal to be shared.”

“That must be it.”

Seokjin had forgotten how funny Yoongi can be. The gentle banter is settling some of Seokjin’s shaky tension, but he still hasn’t solved the mystery of why Yoongi is here. “But really, I didn’t know you guys were still in touch.”

Yoongi stretches, not looking at Seokjin now. “Well...you know how it is.”

Seokjin laughs. “Literally, I do not.”

Yoongi still won’t look at Seokjin. “Uh, I guess we ran into each other. Well, I mean, I wanted- Well, it doesn’t matter. We just kind of fell back into the way things were in college, I guess.”

Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “Drunkenly insulting each other in public?”

Yoongi laughs at that. “Well, not that part so much. Or, at least not for me. I don’t know what Jimin does when I’m not around.”

Seokjin is still no clearer. “So what then?”

Yoongi glares, actually making enough eye contact for Seokjin to see that Yoongi thinks Seokjin is being deliberately obtuse. Seokjin just raises his eyebrow further, trying to convey his genuine confusion.

Yoongi sighs and says grudgingly, “You know. Fucking.”

Seokjin’s mind grinds to a halt.

Another day, one that hadn’t already been defined by unexpected and shocking news, Seokjin probably would have laughed. It’s not that the idea of either of them fucking around is particularly shocking. But Seokjin had truly thought that they hated each other. And it’s not just now, Yoongi had said this was how things had been between them in college. So Seokjin somehow hadn’t noticed his closest friend and his roommate (former roommate? When had this been happening?) screwing? And from Yoongi’s attitude they hadn’t been hiding it at all!

“What? You- What?

Yoongi seems to finally register that Seokjin genuinely hadn’t known. Suddenly he looks apprehensive, posture turning stiff and uncomfortable. “Wait you, uh. Didn’t you know? Uh, about me?”

Seokjin shakes his head. If Jimin had mentioned it, Seokjin had been too drunk to retain it, leaving it to fall into the memory gap along with long swathes of their school breaks and most of the classes Seokjin had attended.

Seokjin can’t help staring at Yoongi, trying to envision what could have possibly drawn Yoongi and Jimin together. And then again! Another half a decade later!

Yoongi looks back. He’s frowning again, but not the sweetly sleepy frown from earlier.

Seokjin shouldn’t ask. Absolutely should not. It’s obviously none of his business. But he really hadn’t thought of Yoongi as the hate sex type, so maybe there’s something Seokjin just isn’t getting? Seokjin just hopes that Yoongi doesn’t have feelings for Jimin. First of all, Seokjin’s mind might actually explode at that, the final shock of the day, but secondly, he doesn’t want Yoongi to get his heart broken. Someday Jimin is going to settle things with his father one way or the other, and Seokjin is certain that Jimin will run to Taehyung as soon as that happens.

Even so. Seokjin shouldn’t ask.

He asks. “What-” He stops, not sure how to finish his sentence. It’s a great chance for Seokjin to mind his own business and change the topic. He plows ahead, “So what’s that like?”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin carefully. He seems nervous, or maybe cautious? “You’ve really never talked to Jimin about this?”

Seokjin shakes his head again. Yoongi’s nervousness is setting him on edge too, and he finds himself watching Yoongi just as carefully as Yoongi is watching him.

Yoongi takes a deep breath. He’s so serious. Oh god, is he really going to admit to being in love with Jimin? Since college?! Fuck. Seokjin braces himself. He’ll have to say something. Yoongi must know about Taehyung (how could he not?), but still Seokjin will have to say something. Fuck, Seokjin does not want to have to deal with breaking Yoongi’s heart today on top of everything.

“Uh, well...What’s it like...” Yoongi repeats, staring into middle distance as if trying to find the answer from the universe. “Well, uh. You know for me…”

He trails off, taking another peek at Seokjin’s expression, which is probably becoming more horrified the longer Yoongi takes to answer. “Right. Uh, for me, being with a guy isn’t really so different from, uh, you know being with a woman. It’s more about the person than their gender.”

Seokjin’s mind grinds to the second halt of this encounter. Third or fourth of the past few hours. Today is really not turning out to be his day.

Slowly, Seokjin rewinds the conversation in his head, trying to see how they ended up here. Rewinds two conversations really, because it is clear that they are not having the same one.

Yoongi apparently thinks that Seokjin is shocked because Yoongi is fucking a man, not because Yoongi is fucking Jimin, Seokjin’s best friend who Yoongi hates. And that Seokjin is asking invasive questions about his sexuality, instead of merely invasive questions about his sex life. Seokjin is slightly offended.

First, because Seokjin has manners! Sort of.

Secondly, because- Come on, did Yoongi really think that Seokjin didn’t know? Okay, yes. Somehow Seokjin had missed that his roommate and his best friend had been fucking (had they fucked in Seokjin and Yoongi’s shared room?). But Seokjin hadn’t missed the way Yoongi looked at Seokjin the first day they’d met. Seokjin had pretended not to see it, but he had seen it. He had seen the way Yoongi’s mouth dropped open just a little. The way Yoongi had looked Seokjin up and down, tripping over his words as he’d greeted Seokjin for the first time. Of course, Yoongi had gotten himself together quickly, and of course it never happened again. Then Yoongi had dated a woman for part of their first semester and Seokjin hadn’t been around much for the second. So maybe Seokjin can understand why Yoongi thinks Seokjin wouldn’t know.

But even if Seokjin was surprised to find out that Yoongi liked guys, why would Seokjin suddenly ask Yoongi about the concept of gay sex? Seokjin’s closest friends are Jimin and Taehyung for god’s sake! If Seokjin was suddenly overwhelmed with curiosity, wouldn’t he ask them? Honestly, Seokjin has never really needed to ask - Jimin is only too eager to share all his best and worst stories, whether or not Seokjin wants to hear them.

Seokjin is still struggling to figure out how to answer when the bright tune of the door chimes let him know that someone else is arriving. Then Jimin is there, still in one of his dully expensive work suits. “Oh,” he says, cheerful as if he’d never hissed insults at Yoongi over cheap soju, “Seokjin-hyung, Yoongi-hyung.”

Yoongi shoots Seokjin a wide-eyed look, and then clears his throat to say in a chiding tone, much more familiar than Jimin’s cheerful one, “Jimin-ah, you’re late.”

Yoongi doesn’t make any mention of what Seokjin had asked, or what Yoongi thought Seokjin had asked.

Jimin smirks condescendingly at Yoongi, so maybe things haven’t changed that much. “I’m a very busy man. I have a successful business to run.”

Yoongi’s expression goes blank, so there’s some cut in there that Seokjin doesn’t fully understand, although there are some pretty obvious guesses to be made.

Yoongi doesn’t react otherwise and Jimin pouts a little. Seokjin really doesn’t get the two of them together. Jimin moves on, loosening his tie. “You had Seokjin-hyung to entertain you though. I hope you two found something to talk about.”

Seokjin tenses, waiting for Yoongi to say...whatever it is he’s going to say, but Yoongi only answers in a bland tone, “Reminiscing about the old days.”

“Hm,” Jimin says, clearly not interested. Before anyone can say more, his attention is stolen by an alert on his phone. His soft expression tells Seokjin that it’s Taehyung.

While Jimin is distracted, Yoongi shoots Seokjin a look that’s conspiratorial somehow. A little sympathetic maybe? Definitely completely mystifying.

When Jimin looks up from messaging Taehyung, he frowns a little at registering Yoongi again and Seokjin braces himself. But before Jimin can take his guilt out on Yoongi with some cutting comment, the way Seokjin’s seen him do with any number of unfortunate men, Yoongi says, “Actually, I have to go.”

Jimin looks a little relieved, but pretends to be put out. “I see how it is, you’d rather spend time with Seokjin-hyung in my apartment without me, then spend time with me.”

Yoongi says, perfectly flat, “Yes.” And then, possibly just to irritate Jimin, he turns to Seokjin, “Hyung, is your contact info still the same? We should catch up some more.”

Seokjin isn’t really sure he wants to get in the middle of whatever this is (he still doesn’t know! How annoying!), but he only says, “Yep, still the same.”

Jimin sighs. “I’m going to change, hyung can let you out.” He leaves without waiting for an acknowledgement from either of them.

Yoongi stands up and Seokjin waves a lazy goodbye. He’s a little bit sad to see such a distracting mystery go, but Jimin is here now, and Jimin is always distracting.

Yoongi frowns. “You’re supposed to walk me out, hyung.”

Seokjin looks pointedly between Yoongi and the door. It’s a big apartment, but not that big. The entryway is still visible from where he’s sitting.

Yoongi doesn’t move. Still a mystery!

Seokjin gives up, standing and motioning Yoongi toward the door with an exaggerated gesture. “I didn’t realize your sense of direction was so bad, Yoongi-yah. Could be a medical problem. You might want to get that looked into.”

At the door, Yoongi pauses, not looking at Seokjin, but not leaving either. “Hyung,” he says in a low, private voice, “if um, if you ever want to talk about, you know, about anything, my contact is still the same too.”

Seokjin gapes at him, for a long, slow moment, understanding finally dawning. Mystery solved. Yoongi doesn’t think that Seokjin had been- Just been asking rude questions about Yoongi’s sexuality. Yoongi thinks that Seokjin is- is having some sort of sexuality crisis. Maybe Seokjin hadn’t been hiding his earlier panic as well as he thought, and Yoongi had naturally thought it was related to their conversation. Well, anyway. It explains Yoongi’s caution, and the conspiratorial look he’d given Seokjin, and why he’d dragged Seokjin as far from Jimin as he could to speak in private.

Seokjin can feel himself flushing. His tongue feels stuck in his mouth, a response not forthcoming, but Yoongi mercifully just takes a look at Seokjin’s red face, says, “I’m around any time,” and then, ironically, leaves.

It takes Seokjin several slow breaths to push away what Yoongi thinks he’s confessed, to shove it aside with everything else that’s happened today. What does it matter? Yoongi doesn’t know anything. No one does. Seokjin is fine. He-

But he’s not fine. People do know. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? That’s what Seokjin’s lawyer told him. Why Seokjin had almost thrown up in a cab, and why-

Fuck.

The old rush of smothering silence and the paradoxical whispers it brings are back. A horrible, swamping despair is filling Seokjin’s throat.

Seokjin finds himself back on the couch, Jimin pressing a glass into his hand. It’s filled with a generous amount of expensive liquor. Jimin sits down next to Seokjin, his expression serious. “Are you okay, hyung?”

Seokjin smiles, wide and bright, his automatic response to questions like that. “Of course.”

Jimin doesn’t look convinced, and for a moment Seokjin thinks about telling him. But Seokjin’s throat is too tight and instead he takes a sip of his drink, letting the liquor wash down the despair, and redirects. “So you and Min Yoongi, huh?”

Jimin watches Seokjin for another long moment, but at the end of the day, they almost never call each other on their bullshit. That’s what makes them great friends. Or terrible friends. Seokjin isn’t sure. Jimin shrugs. “Old habits die hard I guess.”

“Somehow, I missed that you two were a thing back in the day.”

Jimin laughs, incredulous. Apparently, he hadn’t been hiding it any more than Yoongi. “Really?”

“I thought you hated each other.”

Jimin smirks. “Right, but you know, that was the appeal. A good argument, then a good fuck. He’s pretty annoying, but he’s got a great-”

Seokjin covers his mouth. “Okay, okay. Enough information.”

Jimin laughs at him again, delighted this time.

“So that explains college, but how the hell did you two even run into each other again?”

Seokjin can’t imagine it, Yoongi had always run with other music people and Jimin spends his days in boardrooms talking about….manufacturing, or trade, or whatever business people talk about. Definitely not music, Seokjin knows that much. Seokjin couldn’t picture them just stumbling across each other on their down time either. When Jimin goes out, it’s usually to the kind of sleek club that Seokjin can’t imagine Yoongi tolerating. If nothing else, Seokjin thinks Yoongi would be infuriated by the relentless sameness of the music at those places.

Jimin shrugs. “He reached out to me. He wanted me to invest in some little music production company he’s trying to get off the ground.”

Yoongi must be completely desperate to do that. He’d always wanted to make it on his own, and to ask Jimin of all people? “So you decided to fuck him instead?”

Jimin just looks at Seokjin with a teasing little smile. “Maybe I finally decided to take a page out of your book.”

Seokjin’s stomach turns, but of course he can’t argue with it. Everyone knows that’s what Seokjin does. Everyone knows that’s how he fills his aimless days. Everyone knows that as long as a woman is smart enough, determined enough, fast enough, Seokjin’s bed is the quickest way to Seokjin’s bank account. Everyone knows except for Seokjin. Except for all the women he’s supposedly fucked. And now Seokjin is going to have to marry one of them.

Seokjin can’t think about it yet. “So you’re going to invest?”

Jimin’s smirk turns a little mean. “I don’t know… It’s not really my kind of business, is it?”

“Does he know that?” At least Seokjin’s women all know the deal. They know that Seokjin will pay. It makes him a popular mark.

Jimin shrugs.

“Jimin…” Seokjin says, hating having to play the hyung, but it’s one thing for Jimin to fuck a string of pretty boys who are looking for sex. Those men get exactly what they want from Jimin, but this...

Jimin frowns. “I didn’t promise him anything. It’s not like I ever gave him anything before.”

Seokjin shoots him a disapproving look, but lets it drop. Lets everything wash away in Jimin’s expensive alcohol - Yoongi, the marriage, and all the memories Seokjin doesn’t want to think about.

#

In the morning, Seokjin spends some time laying very still with a pillow over his face, trying to escape the notice of his hangover. Only later, after a long shower and a careful breakfast, does he make himself think about his problem, scrolling through the list of contacts on his phone.

Seokjin has ‘dated’ so many women. The issue is that Seokjin tends to pick women with one easily solvable problem - medical bills, seed funding for a business, loan sharks. Seokjin likes that best, because at the end they’ve both gotten what they want, making it easy to go their separate ways. The women with larger desires, the ones who want to be rich, to be on top of the pecking order, to spend their lives getting more and more important, those women Seokjin tends to avoid. There’s no end to that kind of dream, no end to what they want from him. Unfortunately, that’s probably exactly the kind of person Seokjin needs now. He needs someone willing to marry him. To spend the rest of their lives together.

Seokjin’s stomach turns. He probably needs to drink more water.

He finishes the water and has no choice but to start scrolling again.

The problem is, that those women, the ones that would be willing to marry Seokjin like this, present much the same danger as he’s trying to avoid. Seokjin needs a wife because he needs a buffer between his aunt and uncle and Seokjin’s money. Between him and the things they’d do to get to it. Seokjin needs a wife so they can’t claim to be his closest relatives anymore. Not in court. Not to his doctors. Not to the banks. But as Seokjin scrolls through the names on his phone, he can’t help wondering what’s to stop any of these near strangers from allying themselves with his aunt and uncle instead of with him?

Seokjin hates thinking like this, but his lawyer had been very clear about what his aunt and uncle were planning. Had made it clear how close Seokjin already is to living in the plot of some poorly written novel. Seokjin is already living in a world where his aunt and uncle are plotting to tell everyone that Seokjin is crazy, planning to have him neatly locked away, and then take his money. What’s the quote? It’s only paranoia if they aren’t out to get you? Something like that.

Seokjin’s lawyers had seemed surprised at how unsurprised Seokjin had been by the impending betrayal. It had been a shock of course, but not really a surprise. As long as Seokjin remembers, his aunt and uncle had resented what his father had done, selling off his part of the business all those years ago, leaving it and them behind when Seokjin had been only a toddler. Even when they’d taken Seokjin in at sixteen, after the car crash that killed his parents, it hadn’t taken long before Seokjin had gotten in the way of their perfect life. That was how he’d ended up locked away the first time, setting the precedent for their current plans. So, no. Seokjin wasn’t surprised.

Seokjin doesn’t pay much attention to business news, but even he’d heard about the recall. He hadn’t given it much thought then. He and his family had been ignoring each other for so long. He’d thought it was permanent. But now their attention, knife-sharp, is on Seokjin, focused on getting him neatly separated from the money they need to keep the business afloat, like cutting gristle from meat.

Seokjin scrolls all the way to the bottom of his contacts, once and then twice, and then a third time from the bottom up instead, but none of the names jump out at him. He’s considering plan B - take them to court; or even plan C - call a dramatic press conference and then fake his own death, hopefully landing his aunt and uncle in prison (Plan C is Seokjin’s own creation, don’t blame his highly trained lawyers), when Yoongi’s name jumps out at him.

It won’t solve any of Seokjin’s problems, but he can at least warn Yoongi before Yoongi wastes too much time in Jimin’s bed.

#

Yoongi shows up at the coffee shop in a baggie hoodie and beanie, looking out of place in the upscale cafe that Seokjin had automatically picked, but exactly like his college self. For a moment, Seokjin can almost imagine that the biggest problem facing either of them is a midterm.

Yoongi still drinks his coffee cold and black. He still looks exhausted despite his nap on Jimin’s couch yesterday and the night that has passed since then. Seokjin feels an unwanted wave of worry. What is it that’s made Yoongi desperate enough to ask Jimin for money? And to sweeten the request with his body? Seokjin has learned, not through his own experience of course, but in the process of paying to make problems go away for the dozens of women he’s dated, just how many ways a lack of money can become crushing. Seokjin doesn’t want that hopelessness for Yoongi.

It occurs to Seokjin suddenly, obviously, that he could just give Yoongi the money himself. Why not give some of it to a person that Seokjin knows and likes. While Seokjin still can. Before whatever happens happens. Of course, Yoongi is proud, he never even let Seokjin buy him ramen without a fight before, but if he’s already bent enough to ask Jimin, he might take it from Seokjin.

Yoongi, unaware of Seokjin’s scheming, smiles at Seokjin as warmly as if they’d never drifted apart in college. As if they’d kept in touch after. “Hyung.”

“Yoongi-yah.”

There’s an awkward moment of silence. Seokjin is not quite sure how to make the offer without insulting Yoongi, only too aware that Yoongi hadn’t actually said anything about his situation to Seokjin.

Before Seokjin figures it out, Yoongi says, “I’m glad you messaged me.”

He looks strangely sincere. He’s completely focused on Seokjin, his eyes sharp, despite the dark circles under them, but his expression is gentle.

And then Seokjin remembers what he’d allowed himself to forget.

Yoongi thinks Seokjin is having some sort of sexuality crisis. As far as Yoongi is concerned, he’s here to help Seokjin.

“Oh, I don’t-”

“Hyung, it’s okay. I won’t- You know I won’t tell anyone. You can ask me whatever.”

Yoongi’s expression is so warm, so open that Seokjin almost doesn’t want to admit that there’s been a misunderstanding. Even if Seokjin doesn’t want Yoongi to think...that.

It’s so classically Yoongi. To be here despite whatever problem he’s having in his own life.

Of course Yoongi can be sharp like he is with Jimin. He has a tendency to keep to himself and he’s quick to judge. But even when he’d distanced himself from Seokjin, Yoongi had always made sure that Seokjin was okay when Seokjin came stumbling back to their dorm room drunk. Seokjin’s memories of those nights are fuzzy, but he’d almost always woken up with water and a hangover drink on the table next to him. Someone had always taken off his shoes and made sure he was tucked in bed, turned carefully on his side.

Seokjin had known it was Yoongi, not his so-called friends doing it. Jimin might have, if he hadn’t always been just as drunk. Taehyung certainly, if he hadn’t been taking care of Jimin. Seokjin had known it was Yoongi, but Yoongi had barely acknowledged any thanks that Seokjin had offered.

So that’s the thing about Yoongi. He keeps to himself, but he’s kind in a way that is rare in Seokjin’s experience. Kind in a way that Seokjin doesn’t want to disappoint, even now.

Seokjin bets he isn’t even the first person that Yoongi has coached through a sexuality crisis. Looking at Yoongi’s steady gaze, Seokjin feels the urge to say things he hasn’t said since high school. Not since before the last time he’d gotten himself locked away.

He doesn’t though. He never does.

Instead, Seokjin says, “Actually, I wanted to- It’s a little awkward, but I wanted to make sure that you know what you’re doing with Jimin.”

Yoongi leans back, his expression turning guarded, the warmth draining away. “With Jimin?”

Seokjin can’t quite look at Yoongi. “Jimin said. Well, he said you asked for an investment.”

Yoongi crosses his arms.

“Jimin he’s-” How to say that Jimin is probably only teasing Yoongi? That Jimin doesn’t understand what it’s like not to have money? (As if Seokjin does?) That Jimin doesn’t know Yoongi well enough to understand how much Yoongi must need it? “I’m not sure he’s really going to invest. I just don’t want you to- to waste your time on something that might not pay off.”

It’s indirect, but Yoongi clearly knows what Seokjin knows. His jaw tightens.

There’s a long silence, neither of them quite looking at the other. Finally, Yoongi says, carefully flat, “I don’t have so many options that I can afford to let any of them go.”

This is Seokjin’s chance. “What if I gave you another option?”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin then, his eyes wide. “What?”

Seokjin hates this, he never wanted to hold his money over Yoongi in any way. “I just mean, um. I could invest. I do more of that kind of thing than Jimin anyway.” That’s one way of putting it. But for once Seokjin can just invest in an old friend. It doesn’t always have to be a selfish trade.

Yoongi’s wide-eyed expression doesn’t change. “I’ve...heard that,” he says slowly.

Seokjin flushes. Great. Yoongi knows his reputation. Just- Just great. Everyone knows, that’s the whole point, but something about Yoongi knowing is worse than anyone else knowing.

Yoongi worries at his lower lip, then leans forward again. “It doesn’t have to- Hyung, I can answer your questions or- or try anything out with you, without the money. I didn’t- I don’t need you to pay for that. It doesn’t have to be like that, okay?”

And if Seokjin thought he was blushing before, he’s on fire now.

Because Yoongi- Yoongi thinks he’s offering- Yoongi thinks Seokjin is asking him for sex in exchange for money.

Well, of course Yoongi thinks that. It’s what Jimin asked of him, isn’t it? And Yoongi just said he knew Seokjin’s reputation. And Yoongi thinks Seokjin is- So, why wouldn’t Yoongi think that Seokjin would offer that kind of trade? Would ask that of him?

Fuck.

Worst is the way that Yoongi seems to think that he’s the one exploiting Seokjin in this situation. Apparently Yoongi feels that he should freely offer sex to Seokjin. Apparently Yoongi would freely offer sex to Seokjin. God.

Seokjin should just set Yoongi straight. Straight being the key word, right? But-

But Seokjin has been pretending to be straight for so long. Since before he met Yoongi. Since-

Since the last time his aunt and uncle had locked Seokjin away. In that silent, horrible room, ignored by the doctors paid to pretend to help him, to say that Seokjin was sick rather than grieving, unstable rather than trapped, confused rather than gay.

Seokjin is tired of pretending. Where has it gotten him? Years of perfect pretense, years of hiding, and they’re still going to dig it all back up to lock him away again. Only this time for money instead of shame.

If it’s all going to be unearthed anyway, Seokjin doesn’t see a point in correcting Yoongi. Let Yoongi think what he wants. Let Yoongi know.

And if Yoongi knows, if everyone is going to know, some deep, hungry part of Seokjin can’t help wanting to take everything that Yoongi is offering.

For a roaring, starving second , Seokjin thinks, why shouldn’t he? Why shouldn’t Seokjin fuck Yoongi? Why shouldn’t Seokjin let everyone know that he’s fucking Yoongi? Why shouldn’t he drag Yoongi to all the same places to see and be seen he’d dragged all those women over the years? Why shouldn’t Seokjin let the watching crowds see him touch Yoongi just the wrong side of appropriate.

And for that matter-

The thought occurs to Seokjin with a dizzying suddenness, as impulsive as the urge to ask Yoongi to meet him here, or to offer Yoongi money.

For that matter, why shouldn’t Seokjin marry Yoongi?

Of course it’s not legal here, but the bulk of Seokjin’s money is still set up in the accounts his parents had left him in America. Seokjin has always been lazy about moving it, no matter what his financial advisors had said about taxes.

Because of that, Seokjin’s lawyer had suggested making sure the marriage was recognized in America. Perhaps having the wedding there, or at least a second ceremony, to ensure an American license.

And in America, Seokjin could marry Yoongi.

Yoongi who is so kind. Yoongi who, however much he needs this money, would never hurt Seokjin to get it. It’s been years since they’ve been at all close, but Seokjin is still sure of that. Yoongi showing up here, turning down Seokjin’s money now, trying to help Seokjin for free, is only more evidence of what Seokjin already knows.

And Seokjin cannot ignore the absolute joy it would give him to drag a husband around high society in front of his aunt and uncle and all their peers. The absolute giddy delight it would give Seokjin to ruin their plans with the very thing they’d meant to use against him.

The wild, hungry second passes. Reason returns.

Seokjin had come here to warn Yoongi away from Jimin, not pull him into something much worse. Seokjin can’t repay Yoongi’s concern and kindness by trapping him in the mess of Seokjin’s life.

Seokjin pushes away the dark, vindictive anticipation and the long buried hunger. He looks at Yoongi, whose expression is turning concerned. “Yoongi-yah, I don’t need- I can just invest without any of that other stuff, okay? We’re friends, right?” A stretch probably. “Friends help each other out.”

Yoongi looks stubborn. “Hyung, I don’t need-”

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin interrupts, firm. “You do, don’t you? You never would have gone to Jimin if you didn’t.”

Yoongi looks down, but doesn’t say anything to refute it.

Back on steady ground, Seokjin says, “Why don’t you tell me about it? Jimin said you wanted to start a music company?”

Yoongi is silent for another stubborn moment, but finally he says, “Yeah that’s- that’s always been the plan. Me and Namjoon always wanted to have our own company. But-”

“But?”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin then, almost pleading. “We had a plan, you know. We’re saving and we were going to get a loan. This wasn’t- But then- There’s this kid at the company we’re working at now. Jungkook? Have you heard of him?”

Seokjin shakes his head and Yoongi’s expression turns bitter. “No, that’s the whole problem. He’s so talented and they’re just wasting it. And that might be one thing, but the way they treat him! It’s not right and he doesn’t even see it. He’s just so eager to please. They tell him he’s flawed in some way or another and he just believes it. They’re going to break him.”

Seokjin wonders if Yoongi is in love with this kid. If that’s what this is about.

“Anyway, his contract is coming up for renewal soon and Namjoon promised him we’d make him a better offer. But- But it’s too soon, we don’t have the money yet. We tried to get a loan, but...”

“Okay,” Seokjin says.

“Okay?” Yoongi looks confused.

“How much do you need?”

Yoongi frowns. “You can’t be serious, I haven’t told you anything you’d need to know to make an investment.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Okay, give me the tour, show me the magic, whatever it is. Then I’ll give you the money.”

Yoongi crosses his arms. “That’s not-”

“Yoongi-yah, come on. I told you, I’m doing this because we’re friends. I’m doing this because you need it and I have it and because, as galling as it must be for you to hear, whatever amount you’re about to ask me for, it won’t shock or surprise me. It won’t even matter to me. I’m not going to miss it. And even if I would, I trust you. You’re talented and you’re driven. If you say this kid is worth investing in, then I believe you.”

Yoongi is quiet for a long moment, staring into the depths of his coffee, cheeks red. Eventually he says, “At least come down to the studio. Talk to Namjoon, he’s the business guy. Hear some of Jungkook’s tracks.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Fine, if that’s what you want.”

#

The studio turns out to be a small, rented room in a part of the city that Seokjin has never been to before. The halls of the building are dark and filled with the smell of old take out, sweat, and a touch of mold.

But when Yoongi opens the door to their space, a sweet voice filters out into the hall, pure and emotional, eclipsing the grunge for a moment.

Seokjin doesn’t know much about music. Not in the way Yoongi does, but he listens to a lot of it. At home, his apartment is constantly filled with music, drowning out the silence with slow ballads and upbeat pop. And Seokjin likes what he hears now, playing from the dusty speakers wedged in every inch of desk space that’s not already covered in monitors, keyboards (both musical and computer), and other pieces of equipment that Seokjin can’t identify. It’s pure musical chaos, some bits old and battered, and other bits new, obviously cobbled together over years. If they can make music as good as what’s playing now on that, Seokjin thinks it’s worth seeing what they could do with more money.

The room is crowded, two ancient desk chairs, their faux leather held together with strips of green tape, pressed up against the desk and, wedged in behind them, a battered loveseat that’s almost too wide for the narrow room. There’s a man sitting in one of the chairs, and he swivels around when the door closes, knees practically brushing the loveseat. His mouth is open to ask Yoongi something, but he stops and stands when he sees Seokjin, his expression confused and wary.

“Namjoon-ah, you remember Kim Seokjin. Hyung, this is Kim Namjoon.”

The man, Namjoon, nods, frowning at Seokjin.

Seokjin studies him. Now that Namjoon is standing, Seokjin can see that he’s tall and something about that sparks an old memory - this guy following Yoongi around campus like a shadow stretched in the setting sun. Seokjin vaguely remembers seeing the two of them from a distance, but he doesn’t remember ever meeting Namjoon. He might have though, there’s a lot of college that Seokjin doesn’t really remember. It doesn’t matter. Seokjin smiles his most charming smile. “I hear you’re looking for an investor.”

Namjoon shoots Yoongi a look that Seokjin doesn’t understand, but smiles stiffly back at Seokjin. “And you’re looking to invest?”

“Anything for an old friend,” Seokjin says.

“Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi says, something warning in his tone. “I thought you might give him a run through the plan.”

Namjoon exchanges a glance with Yoongi, then nods, inviting Seokjin to sit in one of the taped up chairs. Then Namjoon starts talking. There are a lot of business terms. Seokjin supposes it’s good that they’ve thought about these things, but Seokjin would really prefer to leave these thoughts to them.

Seokjin nods for a while, half-heartedly pretending to look at the charts and things that Namjoon shows him on the old computer monitor. Seokjin’s attention quickly starts to drift, but Yoongi is right there on the loveseat, watching the both of them with a stern expression. When he catches Seokjin’s mind wandering, Yoongi looks even more stern, and Seokjin is compelled to turn back and feign enthusiasm for whatever it is Namjoon is saying now.

This has been going on for anywhere between fifty-five years and ten minutes when the door opens again and another man walks in. Seokjin is starting to get concerned that they might run out of oxygen, surely this room wasn’t designed for four grown people? No one else seems worried though, even though the new guy is not small.

The stranger freezes when he sees Seokjin. Between that and Namjoon’s reaction, Seokjin is going to go out on a limb and say they do not often receive guests here.

“Jungkook-ah,” Yoongi says. “This is my old friend Kim Seokjin.”

The guy bows, polite, and still perfectly silent.

“Jungkook would be our first artist. He’s going to make us famous.” Namjoon’s voice is still the steady, sure tone he’s been using as he talks through all his boring charts, but there’s something fond in his expression as he looks at Jungkook. Maybe it’s not Yoongi who’s in love with the kid.

“Hyung,” Jungkook says, embarrassed and pleased.

Yoongi interrupts this mutual admiration society. “Jungkook-ah, do you think you could sing something for Seokjin-hyung? He’d love to hear you sing.”

Jungkook looks confused, and then pleased, and then worried. “I don’t know, manger-nim said my voice was weak today, it might not be-”

“Bullshit,” Namjoon interrupts. “That guy is a hack.”

Jungkook still looks worried, and Seokjin isn’t sure how they’re planning on centering a company around a guy this insecure, even if he is as talented as Yoongi thinks.

“Just something simple,” Yoongi soothes.

Jungkook takes one more look at all of them watching him and then closes his eyes as if he’d rather not see it. Then he starts singing.

Seokjin doesn’t know the song. He suspects from the proud expression on Namjoon’s face that it’s one of his. Jungkook’s voice is sweet and strong. It’s the voice that had been playing on the speakers when they’d walked in, the one bright enough to drown out the dismal grime of the hallway.

Seokjin thinks, by the end of the song, if he hadn’t already been going to give them the money, that would have done it. He’s surprised they don’t already have a line of investors, but people are idiots.

“Wow,” he says when Jungkook lets the last note fade away. “That was amazing, Jungkook-ssi.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says looking shy. “No, it was really nothing.”

“I think it really was.”

Jungkook opens his mouth, ready to downplay himself again, but Seokjin interrupts. “If you’re going to be a star, you better learn to take a compliment.”

Jungkook’s eyes go wide, but Seokjin is already turning to Yoongi. “Come on, where do you want me to send the money? How much?”

Yoongi narrows his eyes at Seokjin, but with Namjoon and Jungkook both watching he doesn’t try to argue, just gives Seokjin the information.

Seokjin turns to Namjoon to confirm that Yoongi isn’t lowballing him. Namjoon looks uncertain for a moment and then gives Seokjin a slightly higher number, while Yoongi glares at the both of them. Just to be safe, Seokjin notes down a larger amount still.

It’s too late in the day to make a transfer of that size, so Seokjin just sends a note to his financial advisors to do it in the morning. They’re used to it at this point.

No one seems to know how to react outside of awkward thank yous. Seokjin hates that part, so he offers Jungkook a few more compliments, just because Jungkook seems like he needs it, and then makes a polite excuse to leave.

Seokjin almost gets away cleanly, everyone still clearly a little dazed, but then just as he’s standing outside the studio door trying to remember which direction to turn down the dark hall, Yoongi is there again.

“Hyung, we never got to talk about your stuff.”

Seokjin looks at Yoongi, at the tired lines of his face in the dim light of the hall. It reminds Seokjin that here’s no reason to drag Yoongi into his problems. He makes himself smile at Yoongi. “That’s okay, Yoongi-yah. I don’t have anything to say.”

Seokjin picks a direction, figuring there’s a fifty percent chance he’s right, but before he can take more than a step away, Yoongi grabs his sleeve. “I don’t think that’s true.”

Seokjin raises a pointed eyebrow at where Yoongi is holding onto him, and Yoongi lets go, but he doesn’t stop looking at Seokjin. He’s as intense as Seokjin has ever seen him, which is to say, very.

“It’s really fine. I’m fine. You don’t owe me anything. The money isn’t going to go away if you just- just go on with your life.”

Yoongi is looking stubborn now and Seokjin’s heart sinks. He’s never managed to get around stubborn Yoongi before. “That’s not why, hyung. You said you’re helping me out because we’re friends, right? Well, I want to help my friend too.”

Seokjin just wants to get out of here. He needs to find a way out of the trap, not drag Yoongi in with him. He still needs to find a wife, and he’s not going to do it in this dingy building.

There’s no escaping stubborn Yoongi, but Seokjin can try delaying him. “I’m pretty busy.” A lie. “Why don’t we meet on Tuesday?” That’s a few solid days for the money to clear their account and for Yoongi to reconsider whatever obligation he’s feeling right now. A few days for Seokjin to find some woman kind enough to ignore who Seokjin is, but greedy enough to agree to marry him, but not so greedy that she’ll stab him in the back. Easy.

Yoongi looks like he thinks Seokjin is trying to get away with something. Which he is of course, but it’s still rude. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

#

The money transfer goes off without a hitch, but that’s the only thing that does. Seokjin’s list of potential wives gets shorter and shorter the longer he works on it. It seems like all the people he might consider trustworthy are already married, or seriously dating, or just- just too nice to ask to be involved in this.

And the second group, the ones who might actually be interested, are equally likely to already be involved with someone, or else they’re too friendly with his aunt and uncle, or just set off silent alarms in Seokjin’s mind over the course of a coffee.

By the weekend, Seokjin starts to suspect that people are talking. His most recent coffee date seemed aware that she was one of a series. Her gaze was calculating as she evaluated Seokjin, clearly trying to figure out what he needs, how badly he needs it, and what she can get out of it. Too dangerous by far.

On Sunday, Jimin calls Seokjin to complain that his weekend fuck plans have been interrupted by Seokjin’s charity. “I would have helped him eventually,” Jimin says, sulky.

“Not everyone has time to wait, Jimin-ah.” Seokjin replies, half his mind on the increasingly urgent emails he’s getting from his lawyer.

But Seokjin knows that the real reason Jimin is upset is because Taehyung is visiting home this weekend. Because Taehyung’s mother is forever trying to set him up with the pretty girls and boys of the neighborhood. And so, Seokjin invites Jimin out and even does some solid wingman work, helping Jimin find a handsome man to replace Yoongi in his bed, to distract him from Taehyung’s absence.

By the time Tuesday rolls around, Seokjin has almost let himself forget about his promise to meet Yoongi, but Yoongi steamrolls right past Seokjin’s attempts to slip out of it. Seokjin finds himself giving Yoongi his address and then, shortly after, inviting Yoongi in to his apartment.

Seokjin hasn’t bothered to change out of the sweatpants he’d worn back from the gym, but Yoongi is wearing tight jeans and a nice shirt. His hair is clean and styled, no beanie in sight this time.

Seokjin’s stomach sinks at the sight, and then even more, when Yoongi looks at Seokjin, chin up, determined in that way he’d always been when he was going to do or say something that he felt needed to be done or said. “The money came through.”

“Good,” Seokjin says neutrally.

“Jimin had a lot to say about it.”

Seokjin might have to kill Jimin. He definitely regrets his generous wingman work now.

“Seems to think I’m not your type. Said he hoped I have a sister.”

Seokjin would like to be just about anywhere else. “You don’t.”

Yoongi huffs a small laugh. “No, I don’t. But maybe he was wrong?”

Yoongi takes a step closer. Close enough that he has to look up a little to meet Seokjin’s eyes. And he is looking at Seokjin. Looking at Seokjin in the way that he hasn’t since their first meeting, when Seokjin had stepped inside their little dorm room and Yoongi had turned around from hanging a poster. Since he’d frozen for a split second, eyes raking over Seokjin before stuttering out a greeting.

“Maybe I could be your type.”

And here’s what Seokjin has tried never to think about. Even more than he’s tried not to think about Yoongi looking at him in that way.

That day- That first time. Seokjin had looked back.

He doesn’t think Yoongi had noticed. Seokjin had still been wearing his sunglasses, hands too full juggling three different suitcases to bother trying to take them off when he’d gotten inside the dorm. And Seokjin was good at- at not getting caught. He’d learned that lesson well.

But Yoongi, even with his hair still growing out from his military cut, had been worth looking at - his slim hips, and sharp jaw, the stern line of his eyebrows, and the soft bow of his mouth. So Seokjin had looked, and then he’d looked away and tried to forget. He’d tried not to notice any of that ever again.

So yeah, Yoongi could easily be Seokjin’s type. Is Seokjin’s type. Even more handsome today then he’d been back then. And Seokjin is getting desperate. Enough to imagine sweeping Yoongi into his bed and then (somehow) into an American wedding. But he can’t. He can’t accept Yoongi’s gratitude. He can’t take advantage of Yoongi’s determination to do what must be done.

Seokjin tears his gaze away from Yoongi. Steps back. “Yoongi-yah, we’ve been over this. You don’t owe me anything. You already have the money, right? It’s all yours, I’m not going to take it back.”

But Seokjin isn’t wearing sunglasses this time. And Yoongi had been watching him closely. He’d seen Seokjin look at him. He’d seen what it meant.

Yoongi smirks and steps forward again. “Hyung, is that what you told all those women?”

Seokjin can’t help laughing and the tension between them collapses suddenly, like a popped bubble.

Yoongi’s expression turns from seductive to a puzzled pout. He takes a step back. “What?”

Seokjin scrubs a hand over his face, but fuck it, Yoongi clearly has the important parts figured out. “Yes. Actually. Yes.”

“Yes?” Yoongi repeats, slow and confused.

Seokjin sighs. “Look, I- I give them what they want and they- They let people think what they think, right? That’s the deal.”

Yoongi shakes his head, still not getting it.

“Yoongi-yah, I never slept with any of those women. I’m gay.”

Yoongi’s expression goes slack and shocked for a second. Seokjin can’t look at it, can’t deal with any of this, so he turns away, crosses the room to sit on the couch.

He regrets it immediately when Yoongi follows him, sitting in a chair across from Seokjin without asking. Seokjin refuses to look up, to see Yoongi’s expression after the initial shock has faded.

“So you’d rather let everyone think that you pay women to fuck you then have anyone think you might be gay?”

Seokjin opens his hands in a gesture that says, ‘obviously.’

“But you- But you’re telling me?”

Seokjin does look at him then. “And can I trust you, Yoongi-yah?”

Yoongi leans back in the chair. “You know you can, hyung.” It doesn’t sound like a reassurance, but simply a statement of fact. Maybe it is. Maybe Seokjin already knows it.

“Okay, then I guess we’re even.”

Yoongi frowns. “Are we?”

“Sure. Why not?”

Yoongi considers Seokjin for another long moment. “You know, before. Um, when we were talking about Jimin and me that day, it sounded like you- You know, like you’d never been with a man.”

Seokjin would like to forget all about that particular misunderstanding, but he also has no interest in talking about his past either. About the mistakes that led him to the trap he’s in now. He shrugs.

“So, if you haven’t, and if you never slept with your girlfriends, does that mean…”

Seokjin looks up sharply at that. What business is it of Yoongi’s what Seokjin has or has not done? But then he sees that Yoongi is looking at him again, that old interest alight in his eyes.

Does Yoongi like that idea? Does he want to be the one to show Seokjin how to fuck? To teach him? Something twists, low and wanting in Seokjin at the idea of it. Of Yoongi’s patience and the careful way he treats the things that interest him.

Seokjin shrugs again, not quite a lie, but letting Yoongi think what he wants. Waiting to see what Yoongi will do.

Yoongi’s expression is assessing. “Do you want- I mean, is that something you even want, or are you just not interested?”

Seokjin can’t look away from him. “If I say I’m interested, are you going to show me?”

Yoongi’s face shifts, careful neutrality giving way to something a little hungry. “If you want me to.”

There’s a matching hunger rising in Seokjin, but he can’t do this. He won’t. “Because you owe me.”

Yoongi scowls. “Hyung, I told you before that I’d help you out with this, no money needed.”

“Just out of the goodness of your heart,” Seokjin says sarcastically.

Yoongi sighs. “Aren’t we friends? Isn’t that what you keep saying?”

“So you’re going to give me a friend fuck,” Seokjin says, still harsh as if that isn’t halfway to solving his problem. Only an ocean left to cross.

“Sure, if that’s what you want. Or if it’s not- if you just have questions or whatever, we can do that instead.”

Seokjin considers Yoongi. Considers the dwindling list of good options in front of him. Considers Yoongi’s broad hand resting on his own bony knee, and the sincere expression on his face. Yoongi’s pretty mouth, his generous heart, and the hungry way he’d looked when he thought Seokjin was a virgin.

Seokjin considers the latest email from his lawyer. The nightmare that had woken Seokjin up at three. A memory really. Eerie silence, a locked door, the smell of chemical cleaners, and Seokjin alone, alone, alone with his own thoughts. He considers returning to that place.

Seokjin considers how it feels when Yoongi looks at him. He considers the warmth that zings along Seokjin’s skin when he looks back at Yoongi, radiating down his spine, up his neck, and even along the backs of his fingers.

Seokjin has never been good at plans anyway. He’s always followed his impulses. And now he thinks, if Yoongi wants so badly to owe Seokjin, maybe Seokjin should just collect. Maybe it could work for both of them.

“I do have a question,” he says before he’s even quite made it to the end of the thought.

Yoongi looks satisfied for a split second at getting a concession out of Seokjin, and then focused, all careful concern, “Okay.”

“Will you kiss me?”

Yoongi freezes for a moment, clearly not expecting that. “You want me to?”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t,” Seokjin answers, even though part of him, too used to hiding, to not doing things like this, is panicking.

“Okay.” Yoongi says again. He gets up and sits next to Seokjin on the couch.

He reaches out and touches Seokjin’s face, a gentle, soothing gesture. It’s not sexy really, but, aside from Jimin’s clinging affection, Seokjin has hardly been touched to soothe since before his parents died. Seokjin closes his eyes, trying not to react.

Yoongi’s hand moves to his hair, brushing through it, still too gentle, still too much like a past that is long gone.

Seokjin can’t take it any longer. He opens his eyes, grabs Yoongi’s hand, pulling it away from himself, and leans forward to kiss Yoongi.

Whatever Yoongi is into, Seokjin isn’t going to pretend that he’s never done this much at least. Seokjin has kissed plenty of women and everyone knows it. After all, that was the whole point of kissing them.

It’s different kissing Yoongi, of course.

Seokjin has only kissed one man before - well, a boy really. They’d both been boys still, hadn’t they? And kissing Minkyu had lead Seokjin straight to that room, straight to the crushing silence that he was trying to avoid now.

Yoongi doesn’t kiss like Minkyu, who had been sloppy, young, and eager, or like any of Seokjin’s dates, who were sometimes bold and sometimes scared, but always performative. Yoongi kisses slow, but firm, gentle. Seokjin wonders if this is how Yoongi usually kisses, or if the gentleness is because he’s kissing Seokjin who Yoongi thinks is scared and closeted and a virgin. Seokjin doesn’t think about how much of that is a lie. Seokjin doesn’t think about how much of it isn’t.

Instead, he focuses on Yoongi’s mouth, that soft pout that he’d noticed in that very first glance. Instead, Seokjin lets his fingers touch the line of Yoongi’s jaw, not as sharp now as it had been on that first day, but good. Seokjin traces the line of one of Yoongi’s eyebrows still stern even though Seokjin knows now just how kind Yoongi really is, and then puts both his hands on Yoongi’s narrow hips, just like he’d wanted to for that split second back then.

Yoongi makes a soft noise and moves closer, his skinny leg against Seokjin’s, his broad hand on Seokjin’s shoulder and Seokjin-

Suddenly, Seokjin can feel that room closing in on him. He’s not supposed to let himself have this. He knows exactly where it leads.

It’s strange, because Seokjin can see Yoongi in front of him, feel Yoongi’s hips under his hands, the texture of his jeans. But Seokjin can also feel the silence of the room pressing into his ears, down on his chest, smothering him.

Seokjin shoves it away. He’s good at that.

He pushes past the memories and pushes closer to Yoongi, tumbling him back into the couch.

Yoongi goes easily, smiling against Seokjin’s mouth as he kisses him again.

Like this, Seokjin can press even closer to Yoongi, can feel Yoongi against his whole body, can feel the way Yoongi wraps one leg over Seokjin’s, pulling them even tighter together.

Seokjin buries his face in Yoongi’s throat. It’s warm there. Yoongi smells good, some cologne that he’d never used before and the underlying familiar scent of him. Nothing like the chemical clean of that room.

Yoongi seems to like having Seokjin’s face on his neck, especially when Seokjin uses his lips, not quite enough to bruise, but enough to pull a soft pleased sound from Yoongi.

Seokjin likes the sound. The last time he’d done this, with Minkyu, they had to be so very quiet, trying not to get caught. And of course it hadn’t paid off in the end, they had still gotten caught. Seokjin tries to get another sound from Yoongi and is rewarded easily, drowning out the pressing silence for a moment.

It’s not enough though. The suffocating feelings are still hovering. Seokjin pulls back, tugging at Yoongi’s shirt. “Can I?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, looking a little dazed. Seokjin helps him pull it off and then the t-shirt underneath that, until Yoongi’s chest is bare under Seokjin. Seokjin has seen Yoongi before of course. They’d changed in their room pretty indiscriminately, and although they’d both politely looked away, it had been a small room. So Seokjin has a good idea of what Yoongi looks like already.

But that’s not the point. Seokjin sheds his own sweatshirt and then pulls Yoongi into another kiss, pressing together, skin on skin. It’s something Seokjin hasn’t felt in years. Something he hadn’t let himself miss.

But although he hadn’t missed it, having it now is overwhelmingly good. Yoongi’s pale skin is warm against Seokjin. His bony wrists press into Seokjin’s back, and his soft stomach presses against Seokjin’s own. Soft except for the rough texture of the line of hair that runs down to the waist of Yoongi’s jeans, the contrast only adding to the pleasure of their touch.

Yoongi seems to like the feeling of being close just as much as Seokjin, his fingers digging into Seokjin’s shoulders and back, holding him tight.

They lose a long moment that way, just mouths and skin and touching. The welcome sounds of Yoongi’s soft appreciation.

There are two feelings building in Seokjin, both of them making his breath short. One is the warmth of arousal. The feeling that makes Seokjin want to take the rest of Yoongi’s clothes off, to press ever closer to Yoongi, to see Yoongi fall apart under Seokjin, and feel every wave of pleasure run through Yoongi into Seokjin through all the places that they are touching.

The second is the suffocating mix of fear and despair that’s followed Seokjin ever since that room. The old memory of how it felt to be locked away alone for hours on end by doctors who seemed to have no greater purpose than keeping him out of sight. The fear that he’d never be allowed to leave. Unfortunately, it is this second feeling that is the more familiar one.

Still, Seokjin is trying to bury the second feeling in the first. To overwhelm that old coldness with the warmth of Yoongi.

He slides a hand down Yoongi’s stomach, following the scratchy line of hair to the button of Yoongi’s jeans, and then further. Yoongi is gratifyingly hard under Seokjin’s hand. He must be uncomfortable in his tight jeans.

Seokjin is just opening his mouth to ask Yoongi if he can unbutton them, if he can touch, when Yoongi’s hand covers Seokjin’s, interlacing their fingers.

Sweet, Seokjin thinks at first, but then Yoongi is pulling Seokjin’s hand away from himself, bringing their intertwined fingers up to rest on his chest instead. Has Yoongi changed his mind?

Yoongi’s expression has sharpened from the hazy lust of a moment ago. He looks concerned. “You’re trembling, hyung.”

Seokjin wants to protest, but when he looks down at where their hands are resting on Yoongi’s chest, he sees that it’s true.

Seokjin pulls his shaking hand away from Yoongi’s. He lifts himself up so they aren’t touching quite so much. “That’s just how excited I am to be with you, Yoongi-yah.”

Yoongi’s eyes are too sharp, too smart as he looks at Seokjin, but after a moment he just says, “I think maybe it’s too much excitement for one day.”

Seokjin doesn’t let his smile waver. “No such thing.”

Yoongi sits up, pushing Seokjin off himself gently. He picks Seokjin’s sweatshirt up from the floor, handing it to Seokjin, apparently willing to pretend that Seokjin might just be cold. “Well, maybe it was too much for me.”

Seokjin swallows, not sure how to feel, but grateful for the pretense. He puts on the sweatshirt. “I can be overwhelming,” he responds belatedly, halfway into the shirt and muffled.

Yoongi just rolls his eyes and pulls his own shirts both back on. He might almost look as if nothing had happened except for the way his lips are reddened and his hair is delightfully askew. “Have you had dinner?”

Seokjin knows an out when he sees it. He wants to resent it, but he finds himself just as grateful as he had been for the pretense of the sweatshirt. “Yah, are you trying to get a free meal out of me?”

Yoongi stands up. “Yeah, you caught me,” he says in an exaggeratedly bored tone.

“I knew it.”

“Yeah, yeah. Is there a kitchen in this place?”

Yoongi makes a skeptical expression at Seokjin’s over-large kitchen, but dives right in, rifling through the cupboards and refrigerator without shame.

He seems surprised to find any ingredients at all, but Seokjin does cook sometimes. He’d learned from his father who had taken up cooking as a hobby after his early retirement from life as a CEO.

Although Seokjin would say he can cook, watching Yoongi move through his kitchen is something else entirely. Seokjin knows the few recipes he’d learned from his father and a few more he’d taught himself after college, but he’s never been a particularly creative cook. If he doesn’t have the ingredients he needs, he buys them rather than puzzling over substitutes.

Yoongi, on the other hand, makes a thoughtful expression at what’s there and seems to improvise freely, tasting the results as he goes and adjusting the food based on his findings. There’s a practical efficiency to his movements too. Yoongi’s not doing this for fun, or at least not primarily, but simply because they need to eat.

It pulls up an old memory, Seokjin’s mother teasing his father about romanticizing cooking - labor that he could more easily pay someone else to do and do better. Labor, she’d pointed out, that other people didn’t get to chose to do as a hobby. Seokjin’s mother had hated cooking. Seokjin doesn’t think he ever saw her so much as fill the rice cooker.

Seokjin’s father had only laughed, carefree as they’d all been back then, and said, “But you eat my food, don’t you?”

Of course, Yoongi doesn’t really need to cook either. At least, not for Seokjin who could have food from any restaurant in the city there within the hour, whether or not they usually deliver.

And maybe Seokjin should stop Yoongi, should order something instead, but Seokjin doesn’t do that. He just watches the way Yoongi moves efficiently through Seokjin’s unfamiliar kitchen, and lets the mundane sounds of cooking (water rinsing, knife chopping, the sizzle of food cooking in the pan) fill his head, until his hands have stopped shaking.

It’s a simple enough meal, a jjigae, rice, vegetables, the banchan that was already in Seokjin’s refrigerator, but Seokjin heaps exaggerated praise on Yoongi anyway who makes a face like Seokjin is teasing him and says, “See if I ever cook for you again.”

When the meal is over, Yoongi insists that Seokjin wash the dishes under his supervision, as if he’s not quite sure that Seokjin knows how to wash a dish. Seokjin lets it happen, willing to let himself be ordered around if it means filling the moment with his own loud complaints and Yoongi’s quiet laughter.

Afterward, Seokjin tries to come up with a reason to convince Yoongi to stay, or at least to come back the next day. To be with Seokjin until Seokjin can figure out a way to convince Yoongi to marry him, or until Seokjin comes up with a better plan. But, before inspiration strikes, Yoongi says, “Tomorrow Jungkook is talking to his label about not re-signing.”

Seokjin makes a small acknowledging sound, not sure what that has to do with him.

Yoongi isn’t looking at him. “It’s mostly going to be lawyers talking. But I was wondering if you could be there, just to distract Jungkook.”

“Jungkook?”

“Well, you made a big impression on him.”

“I gave him a lot of money. I’m familiar with that kind of impression.”

Yoongi glares at Seokjin. “No. Because you were kind to him.”

Seokjin shrugs.

Yoongi sighs. “Well, if you’re too busy, okay.”

Seokjin suddenly wonders if Yoongi has figured out exactly how empty Seokjin’s days are. If this offer is just as much for Seokjin as for Jungkook. Maybe Seokjin should be offended, pride hurt, but once again he’s only grateful. And anyway, he needs a reason to spend time with Yoongi. “I think I can make it.”

#

The meeting takes place in a lawyer’s office. Seokjin has spent too much time with lawyers lately, but he doesn't have space to think about that, not with Jungkook so obviously anxious. Not when Seokjin has been tasked with distracting him.

It’s easier than Seokjin thought, to monopolize Jungkook’s attention. Even though the meeting is ostensibly about Jungkook, the lawyers do most of the talking. When they do have questions they direct them to Yoongi and Namjoon.

It’s not even that Yoongi and Namjoon are running interference, it’s that the representatives from Jungkook’s company, what Seokjin belatedly remembers must be Namjoon and Yoongi’s company too, barely look at Jungkook. It seems that Yoongi was right, they don’t see what they’re letting slip through their fingers with Jungkook, apparently only concerned with losing Yoongi and Namjoon.

Jungkook seems to know exactly what they think of him, somehow looking small in his chair. So Seokjin sets to work. Jungkook laughs politely at Seokjin’s best jokes, but when Seokjin challenges him to thumb wrestling, he finds that Jungkook is most distracted by silent physical altercations of all sorts.

The lawyers look disgruntled once or twice when Jungkook’s breathless giggles break through, but Yoongi looks pleased and he’s the one that Seokjin wants to keep happy. When the meeting ends, Jungkook doesn’t even notice, his earlier anxiety forgotten in the effort of avoiding Seokjin’s attempts to step on his feet under the table.

Seokjin should really be called on to do more tasks that require goofing off. It might be his true calling.

Afterward, Namjoon reports that someone named Hoseok wants to take them out to celebrate. Seokjin is casually drifting away from where the other three are debating the restaurant, getting ready to hop on the open sidewalk and make his quick goodbyes, when Yoongi says, “Hyung, you should come too.”

Seokjin hesitates, but Jungkook bounces back over to him, all bright smiles now. “Hyung, you will, won’t you?”

So that’s how Seokjin finds himself in a small restaurant, jammed between Yoongi and Jungkook.

Jung Hoseok, turns out to be a guy with a bright smile who laughs easily and makes everyone around him seem lighter and more relaxed. Jungkook clearly adores him and Seokjin lets his guard slip.

It’s not even that anyone actually says anything damning, but Jungkook, relaxed by the success of the meeting, and the play fighting, and the soju says, “Tell me about your epic friendship, hyung. Yoongi-hyung won’t tell me, but you guys must be pretty good friends for you to just give him all this money.”

Jungkook’s expression is guileless, just innocent curiosity about his hyungs, but Hoseok is apparently not very good at concealment, or maybe he doesn’t hold his alcohol well. It’s clear that he has some idea of what Yoongi is trading for Jungkook’s future, or at least what Yoongi is willing to trade. Hoseok’s slumped, drunken posture stiffens, and his expression turns awkward and disapproving. He doesn’t look at Seokjin, or at Yoongi, or at Jungkook, instead focusing very intently on pouring himself another glass of soju. But his lips are pressed tightly together as if holding back the things he’s trying not to say. Seokjin wonders if he’s said them to Yoongi already. If he would say them to Seokjin if Jungkook wasn’t there.

Seokjin can’t help looking at Namjoon, wondering what Namjoon knows, and what Namjoon thinks. His reaction is more subtle, but he’s watching Yoongi, and there’s a wrinkle of worry between his eyebrows. None of Hoseok’s obvious disapproval, but clear concern.

Seokjin doesn’t look at Yoongi. Instead he smiles at Jungkook. “Ah, Jungkook-ah. The problem is that I have too, too much money. I can even just give it away to all my college roommates. At least the ones who didn’t leave their dirty clothes on my side of the room.”

Jungkook grins and Hoseok laughs awkwardly.

Yoongi plays along. “Hyung, you only ever lived with me and Jimin.”

“And Jimin was a terror with his dirty clothes so he’s right out.”

Jungkook giggles and Yoongi mutters, “Also, somehow I don’t think Jimin needs the money.”

“There’s that.” Seokjin chances a glance at Yoongi and finds Yoongi’s expression deliberately placid.

Hoseok isn’t looking at either of them.

Namjoon diplomatically distracts them all with a debate about ordering more food, a topic which instantly and completely absorbs Jungkook, ensuring that he doesn’t return to the issue of Seokjin’s largess or Yoongi’s possible debts.

Later, when Namjoon is talking to the cab driver who is taking Hoseok and Jungkook home, Yoongi says, “I didn’t tell them anything. They made assumptions, but I would never- I told them they were being idiots, but I guess they didn’t, uh, take my word for it.”

Something tight in Seokjin’s shoulders relaxes a little. It’s not that he thought that Yoongi would out him carelessly, but Yoongi’s friendships come first of course. Seokjin can understand that.

But then, if Seokjin is really going to do this, people are going to know. Hell, even if Seokjin is going to fail at doing this, people are going to know. “Tell them whatever you want,” Seokjin says, “It’s okay with me.”

#

In the next few days, Seokjin has two more failed coffee dates. Both women give the distinct impression that they’re willing to do just about anything to be mistress of Seokjin’s fortune. It’s both exactly what Seokjin needs and exactly what he doesn’t need. He doesn’t ask for a second date with either.

Maybe it’s just Seokjin that’s the problem. Just the way Seokjin’s mind keeps wandering back to Yoongi’s hands on his back, and the small sounds he’d made under Seokjin. Or the kindness he’d showed Seokjin afterward. The casual way he’d taken care of Seokjin, or even the way he looked out for Jungkook.

Maybe it’s just that Seokjin doesn’t want a wife when he might be able to have Yoongi.

So instead of scheduling another coffee date, or going to an expensive club and waiting for someone to attach themselves to him, Seokjin invites Yoongi over again, only to to have Yoongi reject him immediately.

Before Seokjin can rethink the club, Yoongi invites Seokjin to help him and Namjoon move into their new studio space instead. Seokjin doesn’t see a clear path from moving furniture to marriage, but Seokjin will take what time with Yoongi he can get.

In the end, Seokjin does very little actual moving and complains loudly about the small bit he does do, asking them if this how they treat all their investors. No one seems particularly surprised at this outcome, including Yoongi who was, after all, the person who invited Seokjin. But why do they need Seokjin, when they have Jungkook, who is extremely capable of lifting things and seems (strangely) to enjoy it?

It only occurs to Seokjin once the move is nearly complete that being helpful is probably the way to go when trying to woo someone into marriage. But, Seokjin reasons, it’s important to be yourself, right? People say that. Seokjin tries to make up for his own unhelpfulness by buying them all dinner afterward. They eat it together, crammed into the little common space between Namjoon and Yoongi’s studios.

Over the next week, Seokjin tries several more times to get Yoongi to come over to his apartment, and then hopefully to his bed, only to have Yoongi put him to work instead. If he ever does get to fuck Yoongi, Seokjin thinks he will have thoroughly earned it.

Finally, at the end of a day when Yoongi had invited Seokjin over to ‘support Jungkook’ while Jungkook recorded, Seokjin has had enough. For one thing, he’s never seen Jungkook more comfortable than this. It’s clear that the kid likes nothing more than making music, and he and Yoongi work together with the ease and familiarity of long practice. There is absolutely no support needed. Seokjin might as well be on Mars.

After Jungkook has packed up his things and gone, Seokjin stands next to Yoongi’s chair and asks him, “Yoongi-yah, do you want to come over tonight? Hyung will feed you.” Seokjin is tempted to take a cue from some of the women who have flirted with him in the past, to reach out and play with the fabric of Yoongi’s hoodie. To really make it obvious what he’s inviting Yoongi to do. Seokjin doesn’t do it, but he can tell that Yoongi knows what Seokjin is asking anyway.

Yoongi looks at him for a long moment, and Seokjin knows what it looks like when people want him. Seokjin sees it often enough. He’s even seen what it look like when Yoongi wants him. It looks like this. But then Yoongi blinks, glances away and lies obviously, “I really need to work on this track.”

That’s fine. But Seokjin just needs to know. Needs to know if he needs to come up with a whole new plan or fall back on plans B or C or whatever. “Yoongi-yah. If you don’t want this, just say so. I told you, there’s no owing, so just- just say it and I won’t ask again.”

Yoongi’s eyes go wide. “That’s not- Hyung, you can’t think that I don’t-” He makes a gesture that sweeps over Seokjin in way that might be flattering outside the context of his repeated rejection. “Of course. But it seemed like- Like maybe you were just pushing yourself. Like you felt you had to. I don’t want you to- You don’t need do anything before you’re ready just because I’m around, you know? You can wait until you meet someone that you actually want.”

“Yoongi-yah, do you…” Does Yoongi really think- What? That Seokjin doesn’t want him at all? That this is only because Seokjin feels like he needs to do this? Of course, Seokjin does need to, more than Yoongi can possibly understand. But how much easier would it be not to chose Yoongi? How much of Seokjin’s decision to chase Yoongi, to spend the last week doing chores and errands with him, is just because Seokjin wants him? Wants to see Yoongi’s face when he comes. Wants to mark Yoongi’s pale skin, and to taste his sweat after Seokjin’s exhausted him? Seokjin could have given up a hundred times in the last week, but he wants so much to hear Yoongi’s little sounds again, to find out if Yoongi gets louder when he’s being fucked, and if he goes quiet when he comes.

Seokjin leans down, crowding into Yoongi’s space, holding Yoongi’s chair in place so it doesn’t roll away from Seokjin. “Yoongi-yah, I want you. Of course I want you.”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, so Seokjin kisses him. If Seokjin can’t convince Yoongi with words, maybe Seokjin can put his mouth to better use. Seokjin tries to put all of his longing into the kiss, to show Yoongi that it’s not all convenience, that he wants Yoongi too. That he has wanted Yoongi. It’s a little bit desperate, and a lot true.

Yoongi reaches up to cup Seokjin’s face, kissing Seokjin back hungry and a little desperate himself. He wraps his arms around Seokjin’s shoulders, tugging Seokjin closer. Seokjin stumbles forward a step, his knees crashing into Yoongi and the edge of the chair, which rolls backward, hitting Yoongi’s desk with a thud.

Yoongi abandons the kiss instantly, turning from a dazed Seokjin to make sure that the computer is okay. The back of Yoongi’s chair hits Seokjin’s knees again and he steps away, trying to catch his breath both from the kiss and the pain of the collision.

Yoongi clicks through several screens, completely focused as if he hadn’t had his tongue in Seokjin’s mouth only a second ago. He seems satisfied by what he sees. “Okay,” he says, shutting down the programs one by one.

“Okay?” Seokjin repeats, forgetting his poor knees instantly.

Yoongi shuts down the computer and the monitors go black. “Okay, let’s go to your place.”

#

When they get to Seokjin’s apartment, he politely offers Yoongi a drink, but when Yoongi says no, Seokjin doesn’t spend any more time pretending this isn’t what it is. He leads Yoongi back to the bedroom.

There’s not much to see there. Seokjin had hired someone to decorate the whole apartment when he bought it and they’d designed this room too, as bland, but expensive as the rest of the place. Yoongi looks anyway, appearing somehow interested in the boring lamps and dark abstract art.

Seokjin distracts him by the simple maneuver of taking off his own shirt. That gets Yoongi’s attention back on him easily.

“Come here,” Seokjin says and Yoongi does.

It’s easy at first, they fall back into kissing like they’ve done it a hundred times before instead of precisely twice.

Seokjin gets Yoongi to take off his shirt and then pants, stripping his own off at the same time so that they’re both only in their underwear.

It’s good. Seokjin likes all this access to Yoongi’s skin, just as soft as Seokjin remembered along Yoongi’s back and thighs, and contrasting nicely with Yoongi’s callused fingers and the scratch of hair on his shins as they tangle together.

They kiss and touch and press together until Seokjin can feel Yoongi hard against Seokjin. Until Seokjin is just as hard.

It’s good. It is good. Seokjin wants nothing more than to be just here, just with Yoongi. But the old hurts won’t leave Seokjin alone either. The terror of ending up trapped again, the echo of that punishing silence, and of how very alone Seokjin had been. How can that old loneliness still be filling his lungs, with Yoongi warm against his chest?

Then Yoongi is stopping, pulling his warmth away from Seokjin. “Hyung, you’re shaking again.”

Seokjin takes a deep breath, tries not to reach out and clutch Yoongi to himself. He tries to smile. “I told you, that’s just how much I want you.”

“Hyung.” Yoongi looks serious.

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin responds, mirroring his tone.

“We don’t have to rush. I know the first time can be a lot.”

Yoongi is going to pull further away, maybe he’s going to get up and cook Seokjin another meal instead of this, and Seokjin can’t let him. Seokjin doesn’t have time for slow. And anyway, how many times can they play out this scene before Yoongi grows tired of it? “Even if I was nervous. Hypothetically. Sometimes you just have to do things, right? To get not nervous.”

Yoongi’s eyes narrow. “This isn’t the first day of school, hyung. It’s not a requirement. If you don’t ever want to do it, you don’t ever have to do it.”

“But I do. I want to. Just- Please, Yoongi-yah. Just go with me on this.”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin. It’s a long, searching look.

Seokjin tries his best to look- determined? Unpressured? He’s not sure what his expression should be conveying, and even less sure what it is conveying.

Yoongi finally seems to come to a decision. “You have to stop if it’s too much. You have to let me know.”

Seokjin nods.

Yoongi reaches out, a hand gentle on Seokjin’s face, thumb rubbing soothingly over his cheek. One of those soft gestures that might break Seokjin more than anything else that could happen in this bed. “Is there something I can do to help? Something to make you more comfortable?”

Seokjin opens his mouth to say ‘no,’ but then- “Talk to me?”

Yoongi’s brow furrows a little, his eyes still sharp on Seokjin. Seokjin doesn’t want to know what Yoongi sees. Seokjin almost wants to take it back, but Yoongi is already saying, “Okay, I can do that, hyung.”

And he does. Yoongi talks while he touches Seokjin’s face and body with his careful hands, only stopping long enough to give Seokjin the occasional comforting kiss.

Yoongi tells Seokjin how hot he finds Seokjin. Yoongi tells Seokjin what he’s going to do before he does it, narrating his own exploration of Seokjin’s body. Yoongi asks Seokjin questions, pointless questions, like ‘can I touch you here?’ when all Seokjin wants is exactly that and they both know it. Yoongi asks Seokjin if he owns any lube and, when Seokjin offers him a half-empty tube, provides filthy commentary on what Seokjin might have used it for.

And it works. The low rumble of Yoongi’s voice and the attention needed to respond to his questions isn’t quite enough to completely stop the old echos, but it is enough to push them to the background. It is enough to let Seokjin focus on Yoongi’s hand on his cock instead, the steady slide of it eased by the lube.

When Seokjin comes, it’s to the sound of Yoongi urging him on, Yoongi’s lewd encouragement as steady as his hand.

After, Seokjin feels lighter than he has in years, drifting high above all the old weight for a moment as Yoongi’s continuing commentary turns to soft praise.

When he’s caught his breath, Seokjin pulls Yoongi closer, quieting Yoongi for a moment with a kiss. Yoongi is hard against his hip. Seokjin lets his hand drift down Yoongi’s body, hovering just over Yoongi’s erection. “Can I?”

Yoongi nods and his eyes fall shut as Seokjin strokes him, both of them enjoying the way Yoongi fits in Seokjin’s hand.

“Yoongi-yah, you stopped talking.”

Yoongi’s eyes open, startled. “You still want me to…?”

Seokjin smirks at him, stilling his hand. “Can’t you?”

Yoongi glares, his hips pushing up, chasing the friction before he gets control of himself. “What do you want me to talk about?”

Seokjin digs the lube out of the sheets and pours some into his hand. “You’re a very creative person, Yoongi-yah. I have total faith.”

“Fuck. Okay.”

Seokjin rewards him with a long, slow stroke.

“Ah...You’re good at that,” Yoongi mumbles, his eyes falling shut again.

Seokjin laughs. “Thanks. I’ve had lots of personal, hands-on practice.”

“Mm. Just a little tighter, hyung.”

Seokjin adjusts obligingly.

“Yeah, that’s- Yeah.”

Seokjin should take pity on Yoongi, who was clearly already pretty worked up when they started, but instead he says, “I don’t know, Yoongi-yah. This isn’t the genius level work, I’d expect from a professional lyricist like yourself.”

Yoongi opens his eyes to glare again. “I suppose you’d do better under the circumstances?”

“A full sentence!”

Seokjin rewards him by speeding up, and Yoongi’s eyes close again, his fingers twisting in the sheets, as he makes a charming little incoherent noise.

“Maybe I should do the talking, huh?”

Yoongi just gasps in a little breath as Seokjin continues.

“I should tell you how beautiful you look like this, hm?” Seokjin uses his free hand to slide over the pretty flush on Yoongi’s chest, up his neck and over his mouth, open enough for Seokjin to press his thumb in.

Yoongi moans around it, and he’s close, precome mixing with the lube in Seokjin’s other hand.

“Are you going to come for me, Yoongi-yah? You are, aren’t you? Right in hyung’s hand. Come on now.”

And maybe it’s Seokjin’s words, or just the inevitable result of Seokjin’s hand working him, but Yoongi comes with a long moan, lovely as his body arches up and his stern eyebrows pull down, not so different from the focused expression he’d worn looking at his computer monitors earlier.

Seokjin leans in, replacing his thumb in Yoongi’s mouth with a kiss, catching the last of the moan, and the little gasps for air that follow.

Yoongi gathers himself enough to kiss back, and they make out, lazy and slow, for a few moments, until Seokjin starts to wonder if he might just drift off to sleep between one kiss and the next.

When they finally pull apart, Yoongi looks him over with that assessing expression of his. “Okay, hyung?”

Seokjin smiles at him. “Yeah, I’m great,” he says, meaning it for once.

#

After that, it seems like both Yoongi’s hesitance and Seokjin’s nerves relax. It’s not that Seokjin’s mind never plays tricks on him again, but Yoongi always seems to notice, whispering a mixture of comfort and filth until Seokjin can focus on him again. And the more often they crash together, the more memories Seokjin has of this, of them, rather than of the past - Yoongi overwriting Minkyu and all the fall out, with new, better memories

Of course, there are other issues. For one, Seokjin tends to forget that Yoongi thinks he’s a virgin. That as far as Yoongi knows, all of Seokjin’s nerves have to do with inexperience. When Seokjin blows Yoongi for the first time, eager to take Yoongi apart and to repay him for the frankly artful orgasm he’d just given Seokjin, Seokjin forgets that he’s supposed to be new to this. Afterward, Yoongi’s voice is still breathy when he says, “There’s no way that was your first blowjob. You must have a serious natural talent.”

Yoongi is obviously joking, but it still sends a jolt of panic through Seokjin. Luckily, Yoongi has his eyes closed, and misses the frozen second before Seokjin manages to reply. “What you don’t know is that I absorbed your blowjob skills.”

Yoongi smirks without opening his eyes. “Orally?”

“You’ve discovered my superpower.”

Yoongi laughs and the moment passes.

Even after that moment of panic, Seokjin has little inclination to pretend to be more inept than he is. The first time he fucks Yoongi he thinks about pretending uncertainty, but he can’t make himself offer anything less than his best to Yoongi. Seokjin thinks it’s enough that this is the first time he’s done this in years, and the first time he’s done it without worrying about being discovered, and, most of all, the first time he’s doing it with Yoongi.

Seokjin’s not even sure he could have made it bad with Yoongi. Not even if he wanted to. Not even if it really was his first time. Yoongi’s just too good, and they fit together too well. Just before Seokjin comes, his face pressed into Yoongi’s sharp shoulder blades, he has the wild thought that it would be worth marrying Yoongi, quite aside from any other reason, just so they could have this for the rest of their lives.

Outside of bedroom they seem to fit well enough too. Yoongi doesn’t stop inviting Seokjin places even after Yoongi starts spending half his nights at Seokjin’s. Instead, Seokjin half-heartedly helps out with whatever task Yoongi’s come up with this time (only ever really enjoying the ones where he can buy Yoongi things, or the ones where his duty is to wrestle away Jungkook’s anxious energy) and then they go back to Seokjin’s to fuck.

Namjoon and Hoseok must know what they’re doing. Namjoon is Yoongi’s roommate. He must be aware that Yoongi is only sleeping in his own bed half the time, and Seokjin is pretty sure that he and Yoongi tell Hoseok everything. Neither of them say anything about it to Seokjin though.

Even Jungkook seems to catch on. In the studio one day, Seokjin sees Jungkook register the casual way that Yoongi taps Seokjin’s hand to get his attention, but when Seokjin meets Jungkook’s eyes, Jungkook only smiles at Seokjin, seeming nothing but pleased at the idea.

Seokjin’s not sure how to feel about that. It’s not that he wants to hide Yoongi, or that he even can hide Yoongi if he’s really going to try to marry him, but Seokjin still doesn’t like the idea of being found out, even if they’ve received nothing but neutral or positive reactions.

Maybe Seokjin hates more than anything the idea that he’s so easy to discover after all his years of hiding. One afternoon, after Yoongi has been up all night with Namjoon, working on a commissioned song, Seokjin insists on taking Yoongi out for what Yoongi is calling ‘breakfast’ and Seokjin rightfully calls lunch.

They’re at a restaurant of Yoongi’s choosing, nothing like the places Seokjin usually goes - the places that make Yoongi sit unnaturally straight in his seat and go terse and quiet. Seokjin hasn’t been to many of those places lately, instead finding himself spending more and more time in these small, crowded restaurants with industrially mass produced tableware and hearty portions of familiar food.

It’s not a spot where Seokjin would expect to run into anyone he knows, much less one of his exes. But, as they wait for the food, Seokjin playfully needling Yoongi about the bags under his eyes, mostly to keep Yoongi from falling asleep before he’s eaten something, a woman steps up to their table. “Seokjin-oppa?”

“Yoonseo-ah,” Seokjin says, surprised. He hadn’t expected to see her ever again, not after he’d transferred the money, and especially not after he’d turned down her tearful attempt to thank him with her body. She’d needed money for a medical treatment for her mother, and had been desperate enough to seek out someone like Seokjin, but he could tell that it wasn’t her world. Maybe it’s really not so surprising to run into her here in this kind of restaurant after all.

Yoongi looks between the two of them, his slouched, sleepy posture straightening a little, his pout at being teased replaced by a careful neutrality.

“Oppa, it is you.” She darts a glance between him and Yoongi. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but when I saw you here- My mother is doing really well now. I just wanted you to know that. And I wanted to say thank you again. I can’t ever repay your kindness.”

Seokjin’s face must be red, it certainly feels like it’s burning. He likes helping people, likes knowing that he’s made their lives easier or happier, but he hates when they feel like they owe him for it. When they feel like they have to make a display of their gratitude for him. “It was nothing.”

She nods, but says, “Not to me.” She looks at Yoongi then, sparing Seokjin the trouble of coming up with another response. “I really am sorry to interrupt.”

When she looks at Seokjin, one final time, he can somehow tell that she understands why Seokjin turned her down back then, and what Yoongi is to him now, but he doesn’t see any judgement, just that embarrassing gratitude. “I’ll leave you alone now, but please know that I’ll always be thankful.”

She leaves then, not just their table but the restaurant, which is a relief, Seokjin is glad not to have all her gratitude and understanding sitting two meters away while he tries to eat with Yoongi.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything about it. Instead, understanding Seokjin too well, Yoongi starts to tell Seokjin about the song he’d just finished in painful detail, letting Seokjin forget for a moment how Yoonseo had only needed a glance to see what Seokjin had spent years using her and others like her to hide. Letting Seokjin recover from the awkwardness of her thankfulness, and the embarrassment of Yoongi being here to witness it.

#

Of course Seokjin can’t expect everyone in his life to be so understanding. He’s been musing on how to bring up the Yoongi thing with Jimin since it started. Putting aside the fact that Seokjin still hasn’t actually told anyone, only let them draw their own conclusions, there’s the awkward fact that Seokjin had, in some sense, stolen Yoongi from Jimin. That’s almost certainly breaking some sort of friendship code.

It’s a lot to work through. So instead, Seokjin does what Seokjin does best and most often, and simply puts it out of his mind.

Perhaps that’s why it happens the way it does.

Seokjin is over at Jimin’s for the first time in a few weeks. It’s the three of them, Seokjin, Jimin and Taehyung, a drinks and drama night, when they get thoroughly drunk watching some terrible drama.

They always stick to the most outlandish ones, avoiding the huge swath of media that has some variation on a poor girl falling in love with the son of a chaebol family or whatever. Too close to home for any of them. Today, the program they’re watching somehow involves both time travel and vampires. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but they speculate on the plot over drinks anyway. Taehyung thinks that the seemingly normal girl who has gotten caught up in all of this will turn out to be a werewolf, and Jimin thinks that she’s secretly from the future. Seokjin’s opinion is that this drama is too uncreative to even have a plot twist that large.

Situation normal. At least, until Jimin makes a comment about how long it’s been since their last drama and drinks night. He smirks knowingly at Seokjin. “You’ve been busy a lot lately. I take it you’ve picked up your most recent Cinderella. Tell me this one is at least pretty.”

Seokjin shakes his head. “No, I’ve just been spending a lot of time with Yoongi.”

Yoongi?” Jimin says, obviously surprised. “Didn’t you already pay for his little music company?”

That’s when Seokjin’s mind catches up with his mouth and he freezes. Jimin doesn’t notice, but Taehyung, always too observant, looks at Seokjin strangely.

Jimin laughs. “Don’t tell me your white knight complex has gotten so bad that you’re chasing dudes in distress now too.”

Seokjin’s mouth is dry. Taehyung’s eyes go wide, obviously understanding exactly the thing that Seokjin doesn’t want him to understand. That’s what gives Seokjin away. Jimin might be a little too drunk, and a little too amused by himself to pay attention to Seokjin’s reaction, but he’s always tuned into what Taehyung is doing. Always.

Jimin looks from Taehyung’s expression to Seokjin, still frozen. “What the fuck,” he says flatly.

“I-” Seokjin doesn’t know what to say.

Jimin looks furious. And okay, Jimin had been fucking Yoongi first, but Seokjin knows that he’d never really cared about Yoongi. Yoongi knows it. Taehyung knows it. Jimin knows it. They all know it. Why should Jimin care that much?

“You just- Were you even going to tell me?”

“I was.” Seokjin says, unconvincingly, not sure if it’s even the truth, or if Seokjin was always going to let it happen this way, going to let Jimin stumble across this rather than figure out how to say it out loud.

“You were,” Jimin scoffs. “Must be nice.”

“Nice?”

Taehyung seems to have some premonition of where this is going, because he tries to interrupt. “Jimin-ah, let’s just-”

But Jimin plows right over him. “Yeah. Must be nice not having anyone fucking care if you wake up one day and decide, ‘hey, why don’t I try dick?’”

Seokjin very carefully pushes his glass back and stands up. “Yes, Jimin-ah. You’ve really hit the nail on the head. There’s really nothing as freeing as not having any family to care what you do.”

Jimin flinches, but he’s too worked up to back down now. “And Yoongi…” He laughs derisively. “He must have been so excited to find someone whose wallet was easier to open. I wonder how many men he had to fuck before he found you.”

What a hypocrite, as if Jimin hasn’t fucked every willing guy he’s ever met, and with Taehyung always waiting at home for him too.

“Leave Yoongi out of this.”

Jimin just sneers. “If you really want to experiment that badly, I’m sure we can find you someone a little less desperate.”

Seokjin’s patience has run out. “Park Jimin, watch your mouth. This is between the two of us. We can talk about it when you can speak respectfully.”

Jimin might have said something more they’d both regret, but Taehyung tugs on his arm until Jimin looks away, pouring himself another drink that he definitely doesn’t need.

Taehyung doesn’t say anything to Seokjin, just looks at him apologetically, still glued to Jimin’s side like always.

Seokjin, tired now, just nods at Taehyung, ignores Jimin brooding over his drink, and leaves.

#

Seokjin doesn’t tell Yoongi about it and, as far as he can tell, Jimin doesn’t either. Which is good, because Seokjin needs to keep any mess away from Yoongi, needs to make this as easy as he can.

That’s as much of a plan as Seokjin has - keep everything easy and hope it will all work out. But then, one day Seokjin comes home from the gym to find Yoongi in his apartment.

That’s not a surprise, or a problem. Seokjin had given Yoongi the code early on and he’d been expecting Yoongi today. The surprise is that, standing in the entryway with Yoongi, is Seokjin’s aunt. The problem is the knowing, smug look she gives Seokjin. Seokjin’s chest goes tight, panic making his pulse thrum in his throat. He tries not to react.

Yoongi’s expression is perfectly blank, but Seokjin notes that, although his aunt had managed to eel her way in the door, Yoongi hasn’t let her take a single step farther into the apartment, subtly blocking the way. He’s standing at his full height for once.

Seokjin doesn’t bother with a polite greeting. He wonders if she knows that Seokjin knows what she’s trying to do, or if she thinks that she’s fooled him. “What do you want?”

She smiles. A boardroom smile. “Seokjin-ah, don’t be so rude to your aunt. I just wanted to check on you, I haven’t heard from you in a while and I was worried.”

It’s been at least two years since either of them had any contact with the other, and that had been an entirely accidental run-in when Seokjin had accompanied Jimin to a dull drinks night for some business event. Is she recording this for the courts? Playing the concerned aunt of an unstable nephew for some judge? Or is this performance all for Yoongi?

“Well, you’ve seen me.” Seokjin says. He smiles an obviously false smile, and gestures to the door, only a step behind her.

She frowns, a show of sadness as unconvincing as Seokjin’s smile. “Of course, I won’t stay where I’m not wanted, Seokjin-ah, But I hope you’re doing well…” She lingers over the last part, allowing a showy look of doubt for her audience, whoever that might be.

“Good-bye,” is all Seokjin has to say to that.

She inclines her head to Yoongi. “Good-bye then.” She reaches for Seokjin as if to pat his face lovingly, but he dodges it.

She only smiles once more and leaves.

Seokjin doesn’t want to look at Yoongi. Doesn’t want to see if she’s managed to reveal any of Seokjin’s lies, or to make Yoongi think that Seokjin is crazy, or to pay Yoongi off, or whatever it is that she’s done.

Yoongi doesn’t let Seokjin wonder for long though. “She offered to pay me to leave you. I really only thought that happened in dramas. Jungkook would be- well, horrified of course, but I think secretly a little thrilled to find out that people really do that.”

Seokjin makes himself look at Yoongi. Yoongi doesn’t look like someone who’s now afraid to be around unstable, unwell Seokjin. He only looks concerned, like anyone might be after seeing that exchange.

“Sorry,” Seokjin offers. “We don’t really…” He drops his gym bag and heads to the kitchen for a glass of water. He had been thirsty before, although everything feels remote now.

Yoongi follows him, a line of concern still between his eyebrows. “Are you-”

Seokjin interrupts him. “And did you take it?”

“Take it,” Yoongi repeats.

“The money.”

Yoongi looks incredulous. “No.”

“Oh.” Seokjin turns off the water. The glass is full.

“Hyung, putting aside my total disinterest in forming an alliance with your evil aunt, if I needed more money, which I do not, you would give it to me.”

Seokjin’s chest feels a little lighter. “That’s true.”

Yoongi huffs. “I don’t know how I ended up spending so much time telling people not to give me money.”

Seokjin smiles a little at that. “It’s the cat-like quality you have. People just want to spoil you.”

Yoongi gives him an unimpressed look.

The cat thing isn’t really Seokjin’s joke, more Namjoon’s running bit, but the look is not un-cat-like and Seokjin can’t help laughing.

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but even through that Seokjin can see his lingering concern. “Are you okay, hyung?”

Seokjin shrugs, sips his water. “I mean, I’d prefer not to see her ever, but I’m fine.”

Yoongi studies him, nods. “I was going to cook, do you want dinner?”

It’s very Yoongi, very kind of him to just let it go. Also kind is the way he’s a little chattier than usual that night, filling in the silence in the way he knows soothes Seokjin. Seokjin is grateful.

#

His aunt’s visit puts extra pressure on Seokjin. He doesn’t need his lawyer to tell him that she’s moving forward with her plans. Not to mention, even if she hadn’t gotten to Yoongi, she clearly knew about him now.

But Seokjin just can’t think of a way to get Yoongi on board with marriage. At least not without the truth. It’s just that what Seokjin and Yoongi have isn’t the sort of thing that ends in marriage. They have sex and they joke around. Sometimes they go out to eat at the little hole in the wall places that Yoongi likes, and sometimes, Seokjin manages to take Yoongi out to a fancy whiskey bar, the only kind of nice place Yoongi is willing to go. But they aren’t romantic, and people don’t just marry their friends without a good reason.

So Seokjin has been trying to convince himself to simply tell Yoongi the truth. Just- Just do something terribly unnatural for Seokjin. Lay it all out there. Ask Yoongi for his help. Seokjin is still...struggling with that idea when a bit of luck comes his way.

Seokjin decides to drop by the studio, mostly because it’s better than his empty apartment and also because Jimin is still giving him the cold shoulder. As Seokjin’s excuse for visiting, he brings lunch. For Yoongi, but enough for Namjoon too and probably Jungkook and Hoseok if they’re there as well.

Seokjin expects to find the usual, Namjoon and Yoongi locked away in their separate studios working either in silence or with music testing the strength of the soundproofing. Instead, he finds them both in Namjoon’s studio, clearly arguing.

That isn’t completely strange, Seokjin has heard from Hoseok, that Namjoon and Yoongi used to get into loud shouting matches about music when they were younger, but Seokjin’s never seen it. These days, they seem to disagree in a mature and productive way.

However, this, whatever it is, is not productive at all. Seokjin had gestured to let them know there was food, earning a nod from Yoongi and a glance from Namjoon. He’d gone back out to the common area, expecting them to wrap it up and follow shortly, but instead the argument seems to continue endlessly - Namjoon’s voice getting louder, and Yoongi’s staying at a deliberately even tone. Although Yoongi apparently has plenty to say if Namjoon’s reactions are anything to go by.

Finally, Seokjin, having eaten an entire serving of noodles by himself and increasingly bored, tries again. Namjoon is frowning at Yoongi and Yoongi has his arms stubbornly folded over his chest. It does not appear that the two of them are any closer to agreement.

Seokjin raises an eyebrow at them. “This song must be pretty wild if you can’t even stop arguing long enough to eat.”

It’s Yoongi who breaks the face-off long enough to look at Seokjin. “It’s not a song, it’s an opportunity.”

“An opportunity? That sounds like a good thing?” Seokjin says, confused now, looking between Namjoon and Yoongi.

“It is,” Namjoon says. “Which is why we should take full advantage.”

“Not if it’s going to get in the way of living your life.”

Seokjin can see that the argument is starting all over again. “Yah. How about we go eat a little food and someone can explain to me exactly what’s happening?”

Namjoon glares at Seokjin for a moment, which is fair enough since Seokjin has no official role in this company or this argument, but in the end, Namjoon is well mannered enough to nod stiffly and stride out to the food. Yoongi uncrosses his arms and follows Namjoon, offering Seokjin a small, tired smile as he passes. Seokjin wishes for a fleeting moment that they had the kind of relationship that would allow him to reach over and massage the tension from Yoongi’s shoulders.

Instead, he follows Yoongi out to where Namjoon is sorting through the food, his movements still stiff with irritation.

Yoongi sits, arms coming back up as he watches Namjoon. Seokjin sits next to him, managing to confiscate the dish he’d bought for Yoongi before Namjoon accidentally eats it. Seokjin opens the container and hands it to Yoongi, then a set of chopsticks too - half wanting Yoongi to eat and half just to force Yoongi to uncross his arms.

In a moment, they all have food, but neither Namjoon or Yoongi start eating, still frowning in each other’s general direction.

“Well this is charming. Does someone want to tell me what kind of opportunity could create such effervescent joy?”

Namjoon responds, still frowning. “We’ve got an American company that’s interested in a distribution deal.”

“Okay…” Seokjin says slowly. “And what, one of you is pro American business and one of you is anti American business?”

Yoongi answers this time, “We both think it could be good, but they want someone to fly out for negotiations the week after next, and Namjoon’s sister is getting married that weekend.”

Well, what do they expect with short notice like that? “Ah, congratulations to your sister!”

Yoongi nods. “Yes. Obviously Namjoon has to go to his sister’s wedding.

“Right,” Seokjin says slowly, still not seeing the problem. “So you’ll have to get them to reschedule the meeting.”

Namjoon pokes at his food. “They won’t.”

That puts Seokjin on alert. Who the fuck do these Americans think they are, to push Yoongi and Namjoon around? Maybe Seokjin is the anti-American business person in the room. “So fuck them.”

“Hyung,” Yoongi says, exasperated. Namjoon looks just as miffed, so apparently that was not the right response. “We might not get another opportunity like this for a long time. Not when we’re just getting started. Not such a small company.”

“Okay, so wait- Namjoon wants to skip his sister’s wedding to go to America to meet with these assholes. What’s your side of this?”

Namjoon is the one who responds. “Hyung wants to go by himself.”

“Right… and that’s not a good solution because?”

Namjoon doesn’t answer. It’s Yoongi who finally admits, sulky, “My English isn’t great.”

“And they aren’t going to have a translator, because of course not.” Not that Seokjin would trust whatever translator these assholes hired, and of course Yoongi and Namjoon probably can’t easily afford their own.

Yoongi shrugs.

Well, there’s one easy solution. Well, two really. Seokjin could easily hire them a translator. But one solution that works for Seokjin too. “Well, what if I went with you?”

Namjoon and Yoongi exchange a startled look. “You?”

Seokjin is warming up to the idea, suddenly grateful to arrogant, cheap American businessmen everywhere. Going with Yoongi to America? That’s half the battle. If Seokjin can do that, then he just needs to come up with some way to convince Yoongi to get married while they’re there. Easy, right? “Why not me? I don’t know much about music, but that’s why Yoongi will be there.”

Namjoon and Yoongi exchange another cautious look, before Yoongi finally says, “Um, no offense, hyung. But did you actually pay any more attention in English class than I did?”

Seokjin blinks at Yoongi blankly. Seokjin knows he doesn’t really talk about himself. That’s been true for as long as he’s known Yoongi, but...can it really be that he’s never once mentioned his childhood to Yoongi? Yoongi, who Seokjin has known for the better part of a decade, and has been sleeping with for weeks now? Really?

Namjoon looks equally blank, which is less surprising but- Well, it drives home that neither of them is from Seokjin’s social circle. People like Seokjin, chaebols and those in their orbit, don’t need Seokjin to talk about his past to know it. What Seokjin’s father had done - selling off his part of the family business to outsiders, giving up his role as head of the family and moving to America - all of that was passed around as a cautionary tale. The car crash, and the untimely death of Seokjin’s parents was the just and fitting end as far as those people were concerned. Seokjin, one of them, but not quite, was a constant reminder of what happened if you didn’t stick to the plan. Jimin had known all about Seokjin before they’d ever met. Seokjin never had to tell him anything. Jimin wouldn’t be looking at Seokjin like Namjoon and Yoongi are now.

Seokjin opens his mouth to answer and finds the words somehow stuck. He clears his throat and tries again, saying, “Yoongi-yah, I grew up in America.”

Yoongi and Namjoon exchange yet another look, shocked and a little disbelieving this time. Is it really so impossible?

Annoyed, Seokjin turns to Namjoon, who is apparently fluent English and says, in English, “What do I need to do to convince you?”

Namjoon just blinks at him, eyes wide, so Seokjin continues, “Do you need me to tell you a story? Prank call a stranger? Have a debate about American movies? What would be persuasive?”

Seokjin doesn’t have much opportunity to practice English these days, but in college he’d taken as many English courses as he could for the easy credits. He mostly used it then and since when traveling abroad, where English was often a better bet than Korean. The people he traveled with often let him do the talking. Although the rich heirs and spares of the nation had been drilled in English and Japanese and whatever languages their parents thought would best help them run the family business, Seokjin rarely forgot his when drunk. It was a valued skill in those circles.

“Uhh,” Namjoon hesitates, making Seokjin doubt his supposed language skills, until he finally says, “Where did you grow up?”

Right. “Los Angeles. Bel Air.”

Namjoon makes a face. “Like the Fresh Prince?

Seokjin snorts. “It’s a neighborhood full of little princes. That and old wealthy people with spoiled, yappy dogs, but yes, like the Fresh Prince.

So wait, were you born there? But, no. You did your service, so-

I was born here, we moved there when I was about five, and then I moved back when I was sixteen.

Namjoon’s expression turns awkward so he must know enough about Seokjin to know that the second move had been occasioned by his parents’ death, but before Namjoon can say anything about it, Yoongi interrupts. “So, Namjoon-ah, does he pass the Namjoon TOEFL?”

“He’s definitely fluent.”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin. “So, do you want to go to LA with me, hyung?”

Los Angeles. Of course. Seokjin should have expected that. It wasn’t like they were going to be meeting music producers in Wichita or something. But it could have been New York. That would have been easier. There’s no choice though, so Seokjin smiles. “Of course.”

#

Seokjin recognizes the opportunity he’s been given, but he’s suspicious of this company’s intentions. If they really believe so much in Yoongi and Namjoon why couldn’t they just reschedule? Or send one of their people to Seoul? Or hell, do the whole thing over a video call?

It all smacks of corporate trickery. Luckily Seokjin knows a little about corporate trickery. He has his legal team to find a good entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, one that speaks Korean so Yoongi can talk with them directly. Just in case.

Seokjin and Yoongi have a...spirited debate about who should book and pay for the flight and the hotel. Seokjin wins by virtue of having a regular travel assistant, and by implying that his fragile rich person spine will snap if subjected to an economy flight.

Neither of them mention that they’ve been fucking for weeks and Yoongi apparently didn’t even know something as basic as where Seokjin had grown up, although Seokjin does catch Yoongi watching him once or twice with a thoughtful frown. Probably they should talk about it. Seokjin can’t imagine that keeping Yoongi at a distance is going to do anything to help him get Yoongi to the altar. Seokjin doesn’t talk about it though, only pretending not to notice Yoongi’s thoughtful observation. It’s not like Yoongi suddenly starts sharing childhood memories either.

When the day of the flight comes, Seokjin discovers that, for all Yoongi had fought him for control over the travel planning, Yoongi has never actually flown before.

“Never had any reason to,” Yoongi says, his knuckles white from how tightly he’s grasping the strap of his bag.

The airport, with its teeming masses of people and various unfamiliar check-in and security procedures, clearly puts him on edge. Seokjin keeps up a light chatter, subtly shepherding Yoongi through the lines and crowds, until Seokjin can tuck him away in the first class lounge, hidden from the worst of the noise. It’s a good thing Seokjin won the booking battle. Better yet when they can board early, sitting calmly in the first class cabin while the rest of the boarding chaos happens without them.

The flight itself doesn’t seem to bother Yoongi too much, he relaxes once they’re in the air, fascinated by the way the land shrinks away beneath them. It’s a direct flight, but it’s still a long trip over the ocean, and Yoongi eventually falls asleep, headphones blocking out the hum of the plane. Seokjin watches Yoongi’s peaceful face in the dim ‘night’ lighting of the plane, until he too falls asleep.

LAX hasn’t changed much since the last time Seokjin was here, still perpetually under construction and inconvenient, but he lets his money smooth as much as it can, and soon enough they’re in a car headed to the hotel. It’s late afternoon and the traffic is already slow so it’s slipping toward evening by the time they make it downtown.

Seokjin hadn’t been sure what kind of hotel to book for Yoongi, had waffled with the idea of staying in one of the hotels in K-town more used to catering to Korean tourists, thinking Yoongi might be more comfortable with that. But then Seokjin had thought about all the little slights already built into this meeting and hadn’t wanted to leave any weak points for these American producers to poke at. He’d told his travel assistant to pick something impressive and let her handle the details.

Seokjin regrets that a little when the valet bustles them into the rooms. It’s a penthouse suite overlooking the city and it’s certainly...impressive. Definitely the kind of place Seokjin is used to staying on his various drunken trips with other freeloading children of the wealthy, but Yoongi’s expression is skeptical.

Yoongi looks over the suite of rooms, larger even than Seokjin’s own apartment, the marble, the floor to ceiling windows, and the inexplicable grand piano (baby grand? Yoongi probably knows the difference), and then back at Seokjin. He doesn’t say anything, but his expression makes his feelings clear.

“Ah, well...it’s um...conveniently located?” That’s marginally true.

Yoongi just shakes his head and wanders deeper into the suite with his suitcase, declaring his intention to take a shower.

Seokjin supposes he could ask to join, like every other part of the suite, there’s probably more than enough room for two in the shower, maybe even more than one bathroom. Instead, Seokjin sits on one of the couches looking over the city. The day is just clear enough for him to make out the shape of the mountains in the distance, but Seokjin doesn’t let himself focus enough to figure out if he’s looking in the direction of his childhood home or not.

After he’s showered too, Seokjin orders them room service. Yoongi keeps himself hidden in the bedroom until the hotel employees have disappeared, but emerges to eat at least.

Afterward, Yoongi drifts over to the piano, drawn as if pulled in against his will. He sits at the bench and plays a few notes, frowns, repeats them, and then a quick scale. He turns back to look at Seokjin with an expression of outrage. “It’s out of tune! All this,” he gestures expansively at the room and the lights of the city starting to sparkle beneath them as the sun sets, “and they can’t even bother to pay someone to tune the piano.”

Yoongi glares at the keys. “They keep it shiny enough.” He plays one more note, apparently still out of tune, before getting up with a scoff. “I bet I’m the first person to actually play it in years.”

He probably is. Seokjin is trying not to be charmed by his sulky pout, but it’s impossible. “Come here.”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin warily. “I’m not having sex with you tonight.”

Seokjin laughs. “No sex before the big game, got it.”

Yoongi pouts again, but lets Seokjin put on a film from the limited selection of Korean movies available.

It’s morning in Korea, but eventually the exhaustion of travel and the scant hours of sleep they’d managed to get on the plane catch up with Yoongi. Seokjin wakes him up just enough to get them both into the huge bed, and then falls asleep alongside him.

#

 

The meeting has been scheduled for just after lunch, absolutely the worst time in Seokjin’s opinion. And that’s on an ordinary day, much less one when their bodies are telling them that it’s the middle of the night. Yoongi doesn’t even seem to notice, hopped up on hotel coffee and nerves by the time their car pulls up.

The meeting goes better than Seokjin thought it might. The business guy is all slick smugness, but the producers, the people that actual care about music, seem to be fans of Yoongi and Namjoon’s work. Their attention is on Yoongi even as Seokjin is the one translating everything into comfortable English.

They start with a tour and Seokjin does his best to translate the musical jargon and enthusiasm, but some of it ends up conveyed sheerly through wave forms and hummed melodies.

After the tour, they end up in a conference room, where they get offered more coffee and tiny glass bottles of water. The business guy smiles at Seokjin then, all fake American teeth now that they’re back in his domain. “So, Seokjin, you do a lot of translating? Your accent is very good.

Seokjin smiles back, his dental work just that little bit better, his smile just that much more charming. “Oh, I’m not a translator. I’m really more of a silent partner, not usually involved much past the checks. But Los Angeles is my old hometown, so I couldn’t resist tagging along for a visit.

The guy’s smile falters a bit. “Oh, where did you live?

Over on the Westside. Bel Air.

The guy shores up his smile, but Seokjin can see the calculation, see him trying to figure out if Seokjin is someone he should know.

Seokjin almost feels sorry for him. This guy was probably expecting...well, expecting Yoongi and Namjoon. They know the music business, sure. They probably know all sorts of industry specific tricks to look out for that Seokjin would never catch, but the thing is, Seokjin knows guys like this. More than that, Seokjin knows guys smarter, colder, and more successful than this guy will ever be. Hell, for all his father had left it all behind, Seokjin had been raised by a guy like that. This guy is nothing to Seokjin, but he hasn’t quite realized it yet.

They spend the rest of the afternoon hashing through the list of musts that Namjoon and Yoongi had worked out, Seokjin translating the details as carefully as he can.

Eventually, as much as can be settled in a preliminary meeting is settled and they’re promised a contract to look at the next morning in a second meeting. Mr. Business seems to think that Yoongi will just sign it then and there, but Seokjin smoothly asks that it be sent in advance so they can forward it to their lawyer first.

Of course, of course,” Mr. Business says, charm suddenly back on, realizing this isn’t a done deal. He invites them to dinner and drinks, trying to woo them in his dull business way. Over endless plates of sushi, Seokjin spends the next four hours translating and showing Mr. Business how charm is really done. Lucky that Seokjin holds his alcohol so well. Lucky that Yoongi does too.

It’s not until they’re in the car, on the way back to the hotel, Seokjin’s head throbbing with the strain of the day and the booze, that Yoongi says, “Since when do we have a lawyer?”

Seokjin looks at him, hazy in the passing street lights. “I have to make sure my money is being spent responsibly, Yoongi-yah.”

Yoongi just snorts and lets his eyes slip shut. “Okay, hyung. Let me know when we get back to our very responsible hotel room.”

#

The next day, Seokjin is still hungover when they find themselves back in the little conference room, now flanked by lawyers. Their lawyer is a woman, perhaps a few years older than Seokjin, and so impeccably put together that Seokjin can’t tell if she’s beautiful or merely stylish. She carries the negotiations, easily communicating with both Yoongi and the company lawyer, which means that Seokjin can relax and enjoy the little frown on Mr. Business’s face as she pushes them into one concession after another.

But the company must really want Namjoon and Yoongi, because the concessions are made. At the end, when the revised contract has been signed, the producers send Yoongi off with some very American bro hugs and what is clearly genuine enthusiasm to work together in the future.

It’s only late afternoon when they get back to the hotel, but they’re both exhausted. Seokjin collapses on one of the couches, and Yoongi absently sits at the piano, drawn in again. He puts his fingers on the keys as if to play, but then seems to suddenly remember the last time, lifting his hands with a grimace before he plays a note.

Seokjin turns on his side, watching Yoongi from his sprawl on the couch. “Try it.”

Yoongi looks confused, but does, playing a few notes with one hand. His eyebrows raise, and he puts both hands on the keys to play a sweet, simple melody.

Seokjin can’t really tell the difference from before, but clearly Yoongi can. He turns to look at Seokjin. “You had them tune it.”

Seokjin smiles at Yoongi. “No point in it being so shiny if you can’t even play it.”

Yoongi looks blank for a moment, and then ducks his head with a shy smile, turning back to the keys.

Yoongi seems to forget that Seokjin is there once he starts playing, or at least he’s obviously not performing for an audience, but only playing to please himself. He plays randomly - a quick song one moment, a slow one the next, a pop song sliding into some classical snippet that Seokjin only vaguely recognizes, and then into melodies that Seokjin doesn’t know at all.

Even aside from the eclectic playlist, Seokjin has seen enough of professional musicians to recognize that Yoongi is no concert pianist, but there’s something so compelling about him anyway. Something so soothing about Yoongi’s steady hands on the keys, and the curve of his bad posture, familiar from the hours he’d spent over his computer keyboard in their shared dorm. Seokjin falls into a comfortable, hazy daze just watching Yoongi. Just listening to his music.

Seokjin is drowsy, and warm, and comfortable, the last of the hangover headache finally slipping away. He doesn’t think to look away when Yoongi finally turns from the keys like he might if he were more awake.

Yoongi meets Seokjin’s eyes. He looks relaxed for the first time since they’d left for the airport in Seoul. “I think Namjoon will probably be awake, I’m going to go call him and let him know how it went.”

Seokjin nods, still slow and dozy. After Yoongi leaves, Seokjin considers letting himself fall all the way asleep, but doesn’t, pulling himself up to scroll through his phone instead, trying to figure out if there’s a restaurant nearby that Yoongi will want to try. But when Yoongi’s voice stops rumbling on the phone to Namjoon, and Seokjin wanders into the bedroom, he finds Yoongi half asleep on top of the sheets.

Yoongi holds out a hand to Seokjin and Seokjin takes it, letting Yoongi pull him into the bed. Yoongi kisses him, but the intent fizzles out quickly, the kiss turning sleepy and soft.

“How about we just order in again?” Seokjin suggests, amused by Yoongi’s slow, sleepy blinks.

“Mm,” Yoongi agrees, touching Seokjin’s face. “And then we can…”

“Sure,” Seokjin agrees, even though he’s pretty sure Yoongi is going to be asleep long before anything happens.

Sure enough, after they’ve eaten another room service meal, Seokjin comes out of the shower to find Yoongi fast asleep in bed. At least he’s managed to strip down to his underwear and undershirt, instead of falling asleep in the nice clothes he’d worn to the meeting.

Seokjin turns off the lights and crawls into bed with Yoongi, drifting off himself soon after.

#

Seokjin wakes, some unknown amount of time later. Yoongi is still in bed next to him, one hand warm on Seokjin’s chest, but he’s obviously gotten up and showered at some point, his hair still damp. He seems fully awake now, watching Seokjin with such focused intensity that Seokjin could almost believe that Yoongi’s regard alone had pulled him from sleep.

Seokjin blinks at Yoongi and then rolls over on his side, so that they’re curled together, knees just touching.

Yoongi smiles at him, warm and a little amused. “Hyung, we never finished our plan.”

“Mm,” is all Seokjin manages to say, but he drags his sleep-heavy arm up to rest on Yoongi’s waist, pushing up the edge of Yoongi’s shirt to land on warm skin.

Seokjin wants Yoongi (Seokjin always wants Yoongi), but he’s still so tired, exhausted by the jetlag, and the after-effects of the hangover, and of an unusual couple of days of actually working. Seokjin moves his thumb against the soft skin of Yoongi’s side, and watches Yoongi watching him. He can’t quite muster up the energy for a next step.

Yoongi moves closer, until they’re breathing each other’s breath. It feels strangely like they’re the only people in the world, just Seokjin and Yoongi, even with the lights of the city spreading out at the foot of the bed. “Don’t worry, hyung. I’ll take care of it.”

Yoongi closes the last of the distance between them, and all Seokjin has to do is let himself be kissed, lazily opening under Yoongi’s talented mouth. All he has to do is slide his hand further under Yoongi’s shirt, up the dip of Yoongi’s spine and over the slope of his shoulders.

It’s something of a reversal. More often than not, it’s Yoongi who can be a bit lazy in bed. At least once he’s no longer guiding a supposed virgin through their firsts. Not that Seokjin minds it. They’ve discovered that they both like it that way. Seokjin loves nothing more than seeing Yoongi fall apart under his hands, or on his dick, and to know that Seokjin did that. And he likes pulling Yoongi back together afterward too, the way Yoongi lets Seokjin take care of him then, sweetly compliant in a way Yoongi usually isn’t.

But now, it’s Yoongi who kisses Seokjin’s sleepiness away. Who moves closer, pressing against Seokjin until at least one part of Seokjin is fully awake. And who moves closer still, rolling Seokjin onto his back and himself over Seokjin.

Yoongi straddles Seokjin, and then pulls off his own shirt. Seokjin’s hands are automatically drawn to the bared skin, touching Yoongi’s soft stomach and then sliding around to push just under the band of Yoongi’s underwear, impatient with that last barrier.

Yoongi smirks at him and then lifts himself back off Seokjin. He helps Seokjin wiggle out of his sleep pants and underwear, and then slides off the bed for a moment, opening the bedside table to retrieve a condom. Almost as an afterthought, he slips out of his own underwear, leaving them on the floor there, before climbing back into the bed.

Seokjin expects there to be some more steps, but instead Yoongi immediately slides the condom on Seokjin, letting the foil disappear somewhere into the drifts of white bedding. Before Seokjin quite registers it, Yoongi is back over him, lining himself up with Seokjin’s cock.

Seokjin makes an alarmed noise, whatever sleepy haze had still been lingering disappearing. He grasps Yoongi by the hips, halting his progress.

It’s not that Seokjin doesn’t want to fuck Yoongi, but they only fit together in this way with some effort. Some careful prep to ensure that it doesn’t hurt Yoongi anymore than he wants to be hurt. It’s a process they typically both enjoy - Seokjin drawing it out until Yoongi’s complaints about the size of Seokjin’s dick turn to needy little noises, until Yoongi is restlessly impatient on Seokjin’s fingers, a pretty flush running down his chest.

Yoongi looks startled at the interruption, and then concerned, and then his expression turns soft when Seokjin says, “You need-”

Yoongi interrupts him by prying one of Seokjin’s hands off his hip, guiding it back so Seokjin can feel that he’s already wet and open. “Hyung, I told you. I’ll take care of it.”

Seeming satisfied by whatever he sees in Seokjin’s expression, Yoongi guides Seokjin’s hand away and then strokes Seokjin. As if Seokjin could possibly get any harder than the moment when he’d realized that Yoongi had already prepped himself. Had Yoongi worked himself open in bed next to Seokjin? Had Seokjin slept through the whole thing?

Yoongi slides slowly, carefully, down Seokjin’s cock, pinning Seokjin to the bed with his sweet, perfect tightness. It feels like part of Seokjin might be locked here forever in these clean sheets, with Yoongi above him, beautiful in just the lights of the city, his skin looking cool and blue in the dim illumination, and his eyes glittering dark.

 

When Yoongi starts to move, Seokjin has to wonder what Yoongi’s earlier promise to take care of it means, because it’s clear that he’s not moving with Seokjin in mind. His hips rock in small focused movements, obviously good for him, but only enough to hint at what Seokjin needs.

On the other hand, watching Yoongi like that. Watching the way his mouth falls open at the sensation, his tongue moving over his own lower lip as he chases his pleasure, his gaze going hazy and unfocused - well, Seokjin can’t complain about whatever role he’s playing in making it happen. He puts his hands back on Yoongi’s hips, just steadying this time, and lets Yoongi use him how Yoongi wants.

It seems to go on forever, Yoongi’s perfect tightness and the not quite enough rocking of his body. But gradually Yoongi’s motions grow less gentle, Yoongi less in control as he gets closer to the edge, his untouched cock leaking against his stomach, and sweat running down his temple, his smooth, slow rhythm faltering.

Yoongi leans forward, bracing himself on Seokjin’s shoulders. “Hyung,” he says, a plea.

Seokjin doesn’t need any more than that, has been waiting for permission ever since Yoongi’s rhythm started to grow unsteady. He tugs Yoongi closer, braces himself against the mattress, and then he’s fucking up into Yoongi.

Yoongi has given Seokjin more than ample evidence of the best angle and so Seokjin fucks right where Yoongi wants him, fast and hard, just how he knows Yoongi likes it.

It feels so good after the long, slow tortue of Yoongi teasing them both. Yoongi’s breath is coming loud and harsh, but he manages to say, “Yeah. Hyung. Like that.”

Seokjin fucks him until Yoongi’s arms give out and he’s collapsing against Seokjin, mouth open and wet against Seokjin’s neck. Until Seokjin barely has to touch his cock before Yoongi is coming, messy between them. Until the sensation of Yoongi’s orgasm, the way he tightens even more around Seokjin is enough for Seokjin to come soon after.

It takes Seokjin a long moment to catch his breath after that, Yoongi’s full weight on top of him not helping. When Seokjin’s heart is no longer pouding, he tips Yoongi back into the sheets, rolling him on his side just like he’d been at the start. Seokjin leaves Yoongi there, sleepy and fucked out, with one last, soft kiss. When Seokjin gets back from disposing of the condom and cleaning himself up, Yoongi is already asleep, looking innocent and not at all like someone who woke Seokjin up to torture him into a good fuck. Yoongi doesn’t even stir when Seokjin cleans the worst of the come and lube from him.

#

Yoongi had wanted to book the trip tight, a day for the meeting, one day for a buffer, and then fly back right away, but Seokjin had worked to convince him that there was no point in making his first ever trip to America if he didn’t at least see something other than the inside of a conference room. “We have conference rooms in Korea, Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin had laughed, lighthearted to cover up the fact that he needed some maneuvering time if he was going to figure out a way to get Yoongi into an American courthouse.

In the end, Seokjin thinks it had been a mix of Namjoon suggesting that the meeting might go long, Hoseok suggesting that there was nothing wrong with doing something fun for once, and Jungkook wanting pictures that had convinced Yoongi to let Seokjin book them a few extra days.

So now, with the business part of the trip out of the way, there’s time for something more fun. And theoretically, time for Seokjin to come up with a reason why Yoongi should marry him. It will occur to him at any moment, Seokjin is sure.

They sleep in the next day. Seokjin wakes up first and when lunch time rolls around, finally has to tempt Yoongi up with coffee. Yoongi scowls at him blearily, hair ruffled and a pillow crease running across his cheek, as Seokjin hands him the mug. Seokjin can’t help laughing fondly, which only increases the scowl, at least until Yoongi’s attention turns wholly to the coffee.

Seokjin manages to persuade Yoongi out of bed, into clothes, and out the door. It’s only halfway through the drive and the second coffee that Yoongi wakes up enough to ask where they’re going. Seokjin waves away his questions, “You’ll see.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but lets it go, watching the city pass by the windows with interest as he sips the rest of his coffee.

Seokjin thinks Yoongi is probably braced for Seokjin to take him to some overly fancy restaurant, or for drinks on a yacht, or maybe shopping at some exclusive boutique. The kind of thing Seokjin might be doing if he was here with any other friend from college, or any other date, but Seokjin had a long flight to think about the kinds of things that Yoongi likes.

The car drops them off at a hole in the wall Korean restaurant in K-town, the kind of place that only locals and devout followers of obscure food blogs go. The closest thing Seokjin can find in Los Angeles to the places Yoongi likes at home. Yoongi looks surprised but pleased, and Seokjin can see him relax when he picks up the menu and sees the hangul and the list of familiar dishes.

Seokjin charms the ajumma who takes their order, explaining that Yoongi has been suffering a deprivation of Korean food for days and days. She plays along, suggesting all the best dishes that could address such a deficit. Yoongi looks flatly at Seokjin, but smiles sweetly for the waitress, going so far as to let her pinch his cheek. She’s apparently properly charmed, and when the food is ready, she has the chef ajumma help her bring it out, purely so they can coo over Yoongi together.

Seokjin and Yoongi eat far too much and Seokjin leaves an appropriately large tip, as grateful for the pleased smile on Yoongi’s face as for the good food.

They’re just in time to pour into Dodgers stadium with the crowd. It’s the beginning of playoffs and tickets are hard to come by, but Seokjin had managed to find some decent seats, although not the type of private box he usually watches sports from. Well, watches is a bit strong. The kind of private box where Seokjin gets extravagantly drunk with a crowd of people, while whatever sport they’re theoretically watching unfolds underneath them.

Yoongi seems perfectly happy with the seats though. Seokjin hasn’t watched, really watched, a baseball game since his parents died, but Yoongi’s main interest in the giant television in Seokjin’s apartment has always been baseball. Seokjin had gambled on him liking this, even if Yoongi doesn’t follow the western leagues and it seems to have paid off.

Yoongi takes pictures of the field, Navers both teams, and then teases Seokjin that they should support the away team, just for the excitement of conflict. Seokjin has no desire to get attacked by drunken baseball fans, but, strangely, more than that, the idea feels somehow disloyal even though it’s been years since he owned a Dodgers t-shirt, and years since he’d been to this stadium with his parents on either side of him.

Seokjin doesn’t say any of that, only responding with a joke, but it feels like Yoongi sees right through him anyway. Yoongi, generous as always, doesn’t say anything about it, but he does cheer loudly for the Dodgers after all.

Seokjin appreciates it, but by the end of the game, when it’s clear that the Dodgers will win, Seokjin has grown bored. He spends the last inning finding ways to touch Yoongi so that no sweaty sports fans notice. In the car, with the partition up, Seokjin lets his hands wander more freely. When they get back to their room, they don’t even make it all the way to the bedroom, Yoongi coming down Seokjin’s throat, sprawled over one of the couches with Seokjin kneeling in front of him.

#

The next day, Yoongi actually sets an alarm and insists that they do all the normal tourist stuff. Seokjin lets Yoongi drag him around the beach and the pier, then to Hollywood Boulevard and the walk of fame. By afternoon, the crowds seem to be wearing on Yoongi, so Seokjin gets their driver to take them up the winding roads of the hills until they have a clear view of the Hollywood sign, away from the press of the tourists. Yoongi takes Jungkook’s required photos and then Seokjin insists they go back to the hotel.

After a quiet dinner in their room, Seokjin has Yoongi put back on the nice clothes he brought for the meeting and takes him to the concert hall for a performance by the local philharmonic.

The concert is all pieces from movie scores, not quite either of their musical tastes, but very Hollywood and Yoongi seems satisfied with the performance of it. He seems equally interested in the architecture of the building, and afterward he makes Seokjin and the driver wait while he photographs the strange lines of the concert hall, strategically lit in the night.

They exchange lazy handjobs before bed, Yoongi falling asleep as soon as he comes. Seokjin finishes himself off alone, pressing a laughing kiss into the lax corner of Yoongi’s sleeping mouth, and then another on Yoongi’s cheek, warm where he’d gotten a little too much sun over the past couple of days.

#

In the morning, after a late breakfast, Yoongi says, “You should pick what we do next. You keep choosing things that I’d want to do, but you’re the one who used to live here. There must be something you want to do.”

Seokjin had been wondering how to manufacture just such an opportunity. He should have known that he could count on Yoongi’s inherent generosity.

Seokjin leans over the empty coffee cups, grinning a carefree smile, the very picture of a pleasure seeking trust fund kid, irresponsible, but fun. Definitely not plotting anything. “Let’s go to Vegas.”

It’s not as easy as Seokjin might have hoped. Yoongi has to be convinced that Vegas is close enough and then balks at the idea of making a driver take them all the way there, only to turn around and drive another four hours back. Seokjin doesn’t dare suggest a private plane.

Instead, he solves the problem by getting his travel assistant to rent them a flashy car. When he hangs up the call, he does it with a flourish, looking at Yoongi expectantly.

But Yoongi is looking back at Seokjin with a little line of concern between his eyebrows. “I thought maybe there was something you’d want to do here.”

Seokjin only shrugs. He tries not to think about the past at all. He’s not the kind of person to miss Los Angeles or think nostalgically about his old school or whatever Yoongi expects. Seokjin had left in blank blur of grief, and hasn’t looked back since. And now...

Now Seokjin needs to get Yoongi to Vegas and figure it out from there.

#

Yoongi is steadfastly unimpressed by the car, and then questions if Seokjin can even drive, as if Seokjin might have simply forgotten that he didn’t know how.

Once on the road, Yoongi monitors Seokjin’s driving for the first half hour. After that, he seems satisfied enough to watch the sprawl of the city pass by instead. When it all finally gives way to the mountains, Yoongi makes a little noise of surprise. Maybe he had expected it to be strip malls all the way to Vegas, which is fair enough.

Yoongi takes a couple of probably blurry photos on his phone and then gives up. Seokjin can’t help teasing him. “Reminding you of Daegu?”

Yoongi, that first year of college, even after already spending plenty of time away from home during his service, and in far less charming parts of the country than Seoul, had loved to compare Seoul unfavorably to Daegu. Seokjin couldn’t resist teasing him about it, and it had turned, for a time, until they drifted apart, into a running joke between them.

Yoongi makes an appalled noise. “Is this what you think Daegu looks like?”

“It’s just how you described,” Seokjin taunts, even though the dusty California landscape is nothing like Yoongi’s glowing descriptions of his home.

Out of the corner of his eye, Seokjin can see Yoongi shaking his head in an exaggeratedly pitying expression. “Sad that you’ve traveled so much and still haven’t seen the jewel that is Daegu.”

Seokjin swallows a laugh. “Truly, I’m deprived.” A mountain looms in front of them, and he gestures to it. “But there you go, a true American mountain.”

Yoongi says critically, “Well, it’s no Palgongsan. Maybe one of your Seoul mountains. Namsan if it never rained again.”

Seokjin just laughs, having no real interest in defending the honor of the California landscape or of Namsan.

After a bit, the landscape smoothes out into low, dry mountains, repetitive and unpretty. Yoongi fiddles with the playlist for a while, but eventually falls asleep, and Seokjin drives on, accompanied only by the dull landscape and Yoongi’s careful music selection.

They’ve already driven through the outskirts of Las Vegas and the flashing lights of the cheap resorts that dot the edge of town, and are well into the heart of the city when Yoongi wakes up, jostled as traffic suddenly thickens to stop and go in the bustle of the strip.

Yoongi looks around, his eyes wide. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of places in the world, plenty of places in Seoul and maybe Daegu, that are bright and tacky, but it must be a shock to fall asleep in the dust of the desert and wake up in the gaudy heart of Las Vegas, all the neon made brighter by the setting sun.

This time, when Seokjin had the hotel booked, he’d asked for something slightly less ostentatious than Los Angeles, wanting to keep Yoongi as happy as possible. It’s still a large suite of rooms, opulent in that over the top Vegas way and with a view of the strip, but there’s no grand piano and only one bedroom, so hopefully it’s more acceptable to Yoongi.

Yoongi looks around the rooms with a suspicious glare, although what exactly he’s looking for, Seokjin can’t pinpoint. However, Yoongi is satisfied enough to drop his bag in the bedroom, so Seokjin considers it at least a partial success.

People are already milling up and down the strip, but Seokjin wants to keep Yoongi in a good mood, so instead of throwing themselves into the churn of the crowd, they eat dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. It’s nice, maybe even nice enough to set Yoongi on edge in another context, but even a nice restaurant can’t stop some of the tourists from wearing shorts. The smattering of activewear seems to diffuse the men in suits and women in cocktail dresses for Yoongi, who spends the meal comfortably looking up Las Vegas facts on Naver and sharing the best ones with Seokjin.

Yoongi doesn’t ask why they’ve come to Las Vegas and Seokjin doesn’t say anything yet. Not even when Yoongi starts in on Las Vegas wedding facts.

After dinner, they wander down to the casino and almost immediately pick up a polite casino worker who tries to redirect them to the high stakes games.

Seokjin has no real interest in it, but teases Yoongi. “If we go, will you blow on my dice for me?”

Yoongi refuses to react to that, apparently uninterested in being Seokjin’s good luck charm.

Seokjin shrugs and dismisses the woman, who takes it in good grace, leaving them with a card just in case.

Yoongi watches her go. “How do they even know you have money? Do they keep a list of rich people? Did they weigh your credit card when we checked in? Is there a poster with your face on it in the break room?”

Seokjin finds that he can’t answer. He’s never even thought about it before, it’s just how it is.

This is not what Seokjin needs to keep Yoongi happy. Seokjin distracts him, by pulling him into the depths of the casino, along with all the regular people who haven’t been flagged for special treatment. They waste an hour determining that neither of them can figure out the slot machines, and that neither of them care. Seokjin loses fifty dollars at a blackjack table. Yoongi wins twenty and then promptly loses it all again.

But neither of are very drawn to gambling, Seokjin because the money means so little and Yoongi because it means too much. After a bit more of letting themselves be buffeted by the lights and sounds of the maze of gambling machines, Seokjin shows someone the card their shadow had left him.

When she reappears, Seokjin has her guide them to a small bar overlooking the strip. It’s not private precisely. There are other people there - a group of three women, looking serious despite their sparkling dresses, one of them typing on a laptop, a couple of older men talking jovially in what might be Russian, a middle-aged man with a conspicuously much younger, much prettier woman, and some young American men in business suits, a little crumpled now. Not private, but exclusive.

Yoongi and Seokjin settle on the balcony, empty aside from the women with the laptop. It’s cool outside now that the sun has set, but there are space heaters strategically arranged and from there they can watch the people on the strip below. Vegas, but from a safe distance.

A handsome young man brings them a menu without prices, and then their drinks. This much Seokjin knows Yoongi likes. He reads the list of expensive whiskeys with interest, and he makes a little pleased sound at the taste of the one the bartender recommends.

They sit quietly, sipping their drinks. A cool desert breeze drifts over them and Yoongi shivers. Seokjin moves closer and Yoongi lets him. Then he lets Seokjin put a hand on his knee. They have another drink, a different recommendation, and Seokjin’s hand drifts higher, up Yoongi’s thigh. Not obscene, but obvious. The first, the only time that Seokjin has ever let himself be obvious. Safe enough here in this private bar, ten stories above a foreign city where no one knows them. Yoongi lets Seokjin do that too.

The women on the other side of the balcony pack away their laptop, and, as if that was a sign, the men in rumpled suits are suddenly at their table, trying their best to get their attention despite the fact that they must all be at least a decade younger than any of the women.

Yoongi and Seokjin watch covertly, laughing to each other as the women cleanly shut them down. One of the women catches them, and her eyes glance over Seokjin’s hand on Yoongi’s thigh, and the way Yoongi had leaned in to whisper to Seokjin, his mouth tantalizing close to Seokjin’s ear. Seokjin’s heart trips over a beat, but she only smiles at them, shooting them a conspiratorial eye roll, before turning back and saying something that finally sends the young men packing.

The women leave soon after that, and when the last of the whiskey is gone from Yoongi’s glass, so do Seokjin and Yoongi.

In the hotel room, Yoongi backs Seokjin into the bed and crawls into his lap. Yoongi takes Seokjin’s hand, placing it right back where it had been resting on Yoongi’s thigh for the last hour. He kisses Seokjin.

Seokjin kisses Yoongi back, squeezes his thigh, and thinks about just moving his hand further up Yoongi’s leg like Yoongi obviously wants, but Seokjin can hear the clock ticking. He’s running out of time.

Should Seokjin fuck Yoongi first? Get him pliant and easy? Or is it best to leave him wanting? A reason to give in to Seokjin? Maybe Seokjin should have thought any of this through instead of just going with the flow. Maybe Seokjin shouldn’t be doing this at all.

Yoongi pulls back, and looks Seokjin over with the same vaguely concerned expression he’s been giving Seokjin since Seokjin dragged him to Las Vegas. “Would you rather just sleep?”

It’s now or never. Probably never, but Seokjin has to try.

“Yoongi-yah, do you know where we are?”

“Las Vegas. Sin City. The place where Tupac was murdered,” Yoongi recites dryly.

“Right. Las Vegas.” Seokjin tries to look at Yoongi, but can’t. “Yoongi-yah, let’s get married.”

Yoongi slides off Seokjin’s lap. Laughs uncertainly. “Hyung, you’re drunk.”

They both know he’s not really. They’d matched each other drink for drink and so Yoongi knows that Seokjin is only buzzed, and probably barely that now. The line of worry between Yoongi’s eyebrows has deepened.

“Yoongi-yah, where else can I get married by Elvis?”

“Hyung,” Yoongi says, firm this time. A ‘no.’

Seokjin pushes on. He has to now that he’s actually said it. “It wouldn’t even be legal in Korea. It might not matter to you but-”

Seokjin shouldn’t do this. Shouldn’t play this card, when he knows how kind Yoongi is, but Seokjin needs this too much not to. This might be his only chance. “I’m never going to be able to get married back home.”

Yoongi’s searching expression barely softens, but his voice is gentle when he says, “You don’t know that. Things could change.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Yoongi isn’t enough of an idealist or an optimist to argue. Instead, he says, looking a little wary now, “But hyung, we’re not- You don’t- We’re friends, right? Isn’t that what this is?”

Seokjin shrugs. “And what’s wrong with marrying a friend?”

Yoongi relaxes a fraction, but says, “And what about when you find someone that you really want to marry? Don’t you want to bring him back here?”

Seokjin shrugs again. “If that happens we can just get a divorce.”

Yoongi frowns at that. “And what if I make it hard for you? What if I tie you up in court and don’t let you go?”

Seokjin smiles at that, maybe his first genuine smile since they’d left Los Angeles. “Yoongi-yah, you’d never do that.”

Yoongi looks surprised, as if somehow he didn’t know how essentially good he is, or as if he thought Seokjin hadn’t noticed.

Yoongi’s expression turns thoughtful, peering at Seokjin as if he can unravel the meaning behind any of this through simple deduction. Seokjin doesn’t interrupt - at least Yoongi is thinking about it.

His thinking seems to unveil a new thought, an upsetting one, his eyes going wide and worried. “Hyung, what’s the rush? Is there- Is there a rush?”

There is of course, but Yoongi can’t possibly be asking about that. Can’t possibly know. Seokjin frowns, trying to understand what Yoongi is asking.

Before Seokjin can draw any conclusions, Yoongi reaches out to touch Seokjin’s chest, his eyes still wide and scared. “I mean, there’s plenty of time, right? You’re- You have plenty of time.”

Oh, Seokjin thinks a little distantly. Yoongi thinks- Yoongi thinks Seokjin is planning to die. Sick or suicide Seokjin can’t quite tell. Maybe Yoongi can’t either. Seokjin covers Yoongi’s hand on his own chest and gives it a reassuring squeeze. “Yoongi-yah. I plan to live to be at least a hundred and five and die in bed surrounded by- well, probably not my grandchildren, but Jimin’s maybe. And I want to tell them all that once upon a time in America I was married to famous music producer Min Yoongi.”

Yoongi doesn’t move his hand, but he takes a deep breath, expression relaxing. “Somehow I don’t think Jimin is in much more danger of grandchildren than you.”

Seokjin can’t help the bitter little laugh that escapes him. “Well, you can tell his father that.”

Yoongi does pull away now. “What?”

“Wow, you guys never, um, talked at all, huh?” It doesn’t really surprise Seokjin though, Jimin doesn’t like talking about his problems any more than Seokjin. “Jimin’s father expects the perfect merger marriage and two to three little heirs.”

“And Jimin is just going to do that?” Yoongi looks a little shocked.

Seokjin shrugs. “I don’t know. He hasn’t yet, but he hasn’t said no either. Maybe if Taehyung ever really gives up on him and moves on.”

Yoongi is frowning again. “Is that why they haven’t…?”

Whoops. Well, it seems Yoongi had known that much at least. That would have been an indelicate way to break it to him that his former hookup had been pining for someone else the whole time. “Yeah.”

Yoongi is focused on Seokjin again, “And is there someone who wants you to get married? Is that what this is?”

Seokjin laughs. What a simple explanation. Maybe he should say yes. Yoongi has met his aunt, he’s probably willing to help Seokjin rebel against her. But it doesn’t hold up, does it? What power does she have over Seokjin except the obviously already frayed ties of family? Of course, there’s the other option. The truth. But, as much as Seokjin trusts Yoongi, Seokjin can’t give anyone the key to the exact cell that he’s trying to escape. “No, no one cares what I do. I’m the only one who wants me to get married.”

“To me?”

“To you,” Seokjin affirms.

Yoongi’s frown is unchanged. “Here?”

“Here.”

“Now?”

“Now.”

If anything, Yoongi’s frown deepens and Seokjin can feel everything slipping away. He supposes he’s lucky that Yoongi entertained the idea even this much. Time to start thinking about plans B through Z. It had been a pretty silly plan A, hadn’t it?

“Don’t you need a prenup or some kind of contract? Isn’t that what rich people do?”

Seokjin’s mouth feels dry. “No, Yoongi-yah. We don’t need that.”

It’s not just that Seokjin trusts Yoongi (as much as he can). But more importantly, it would defeat the purpose to lock the money away from Yoongi. Seokjin needs his aunt and uncle to know that if anything happens to Seokjin the money unequivocally goes to Yoongi. Not to them.

Yoongi is inscrutable for another long moment. Seokjin, for all he’d asked, for all he’s been planning to ask, and for all the wheedling he’d just done, can’t imagine what could convince Yoongi to say yes to this, even as Yoongi is obviously considering it.

Finally Yoongi says, “No Elvis.” Then he mutters to himself, “Hoseok is going to kill me.”

It doesn’t feel quite real, but when Seokjin touches Yoongi’s hand, pulling it back against his chest, it feels as solid under his own as ever. “Really?”

Yoongi won’t look at Seokjin now that the decision has been made, now that he’s done scrutinizing Seokjin for whatever evidence he’d needed to make this choice. “In the morning. Let’s just- Not while we’re tipsy.”

#

They go to bed then, but Seokjin drifts in and out of sleep. He keeps having dreams that Yoongi has slipped away in the middle of the night, taken his suitcase and left Seokjin alone. In the dreams, the luxurious suite of rooms shrink down until it’s that old room, the tacky decor draining of color and turning to institutional pastels. Seokjin is alone and the door is locked and-

Seokjin wakes then, listens to Yoongi’s breathing, reminds himself that he’s not alone until he slips into a doze and it starts all over again.

When the sun begins to pour over the bed, he rolls over and finds Yoongi looking back at him. Yoongi doesn’t look like he’s slept much more than Seokjin, there are dark circles under his eyes, but he doesn’t back down. “You still want to do this, hyung?”

“If you do.”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin, serious and steady. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me why?”

Seokjin only smiles. “Does everything have to have a reason?”

Yoongi rolls onto his back, looking at the ceiling. “I think marriage might.”

“Yoongi-yah…”

Yoongi shakes his head. “It’s fine. Let’s do this.”

Over black coffee and some cereal bars they fill out the online license application. They decide to take a taxi rather than figure out municipal parking, and by the time it dumps them in front of the marriage licensing office, it’s already opening. Seokjin had expected to be the only people getting married at eight AM on a Monday, but there’s already a couple ahead of them in line, an older man and woman who seem business-like about the whole thing. Not very romantic, but Seokjin can hardly judge. He and Yoongi have barely spoken since breakfast.

Seokjin had been prepared to flirt or to slip money to the clerks to move everything along, but the whole process is industrially smooth. The license is produced without problem and the officiant is kind, and then efficient when he picks up on the mood between them. There’s only the slightest hitch when they don’t have rings, but he simply turns a page in his book and moves on. Afterward, they sign the license, Yoongi getting practiced at signing his name in English letters after this trip, and the paperwork goes straight back to the office for processing.

It’s barely past nine when they stumble back out into the morning sun. Another couple is entering the building. They’re both wearing shorts, but his shirt is neatly tucked in, and her make-up is fresh and bright. They’re holding hands and they keep darting happy looks at each other.

Seokjin puts on his sunglasses and finds them another taxi. Yoongi still seems disinclined to talk, so Seokjin chats with the taxi driver instead. He gets a recommendation for a good brunch spot and has the man take them.

Seokjin supposes it’s really more of a breakfast than a brunch this early in the day, but there are plenty of other people already up - some looking fresh and some who seem to still be going from the night before. The food is good, although Yoongi picks at his. Midway through, Seokjin leaves Yoongi at the table and spreads all the paperwork from the marriage out on the bathroom counters to photograph, emailing it all to his lawyer.

When Seokjin pays, he chuckles to himself, amused to see that the brunch cost more than the entire wedding.

Afterward, neither of them want to be there anymore, so they pack up the car and drive back to Los Angeles. All in all, they were in Vegas for less than twenty-four hours. If not for the awkward silence between them, it would seem almost too easy. The drive feels somehow longer this time, Yoongi quietly watching the landscape pass outside the window and Seokjin focused on the road.

#

They make good time until they get close to the city and then the traffic starts to snarl and clog with people leaving from work, adding at least an hour to their trip. When they finally get back to the hotel, Yoongi just drops his bags and disappears into the cavernous bathroom.

It’s early for dinner, but they haven’t eaten much more than rest stop candy since their wedding brunch. Seokjin is too tired after this morning, and after driving all day to contemplate leaving the hotel again. Anyway, he’s pretty sure that Yoongi would divorce him on the spot if he suggested it.

Instead, Seokjin gives a hotel employee an amount of money that falls somewhere between a generous tip and a bribe to bring back jjigae and meat from the restaurant they’d eaten at only a few days ago, even though it doesn’t actually deliver.

When Yoongi finally emerges, pink and damp, to see the familiar food laid out on the table, some of the tension that’s been sitting in his jaw since he agreed to the marriage relaxes. A bit more leaves as he actually eats something, although he’s still quiet and Seokjin doesn’t push his luck with unnecessary chatter.

When Seokjin emerges from the spray of his own shower, it’s to the soft sound of Yoongi playing the piano. Maybe Seokjin should leave Yoongi alone, but he’s drawn to the sound almost helplessly, padding into the living room quietly, like Yoongi might not notice him if he’s careful. Yoongi obviously does see Seokjin, but he doesn’t stop playing, even when Seokjin settles on the couch to listen.

Seokjin doesn’t know how long passes like that. He hovers in a state of hazy near sleep, reassured every time he opens his eyes by the sight of Yoongi’s concentration, and the familiar lines of him. And when Seokjin closes his eyes, the music is there, just imperfect enough to remind him that a person is producing it, and that Seokjin is not alone.

He must finally drift off, because he doesn’t notice the music stopping, only that Yoongi is suddenly there, his hand on Seokjin’s shoulder. “Come on, hyung. It’s time for bed.”

Seokjin lets Yoongi nudge him up and blearily follows Yoongi to the bed, freshly made with crisp new sheets. Yoongi doesn’t protest when Seokjin pulls him close.

Seokjin presses his face into the nobs of Yoongi’s spine, breathes in the scent of hotel body wash, and lets himself falls back to sleep, vaguely feeling one of Yoongi’s gentle hands covering his own where it rests on Yoongi’s chest.

#

Seokjin wakes to find Yoongi already up and working on something on his laptop, headphones firmly in place. He’s fully locked into whatever it is, but by the time Seokjin has finished picking through the breakfast Yoongi left for him, Yoongi has emerged.

“It’s our last day here,” Yoongi says, pouring the dregs of the coffee into his cup. “Is there something you want to do?”

Part of Seokjin just wants to say no, to let Yoongi find some list of twelve things to do in Los Angeles online and pick whichever one will photograph best for Jungkook. To just follow along in Yoongi’s wake for the day, charming whatever Americans Yoongi needs charmed, and buying whatever Yoongi wants along the way.

“Yes,” Seokjin says.

Yoongi looks surprised. “Okay.”

Seokjin should tell Yoongi that he doesn’t need to come along. It isn’t really any way to spend the last day of a vacation, but Seokjin can’t quite picture himself doing it without Yoongi. More likely, Seokjin would end up at a bar somewhere, buying round after round for the day drunks.

Yoongi, in that kind way of his, doesn’t press Seokjin for details. He simply follows Seokjin to the car, and then into the grocery store. Seokjin doesn’t spend enough time in grocery stores, in Korea or elsewhere, to find the Americanness of it strange, but it must be because Yoongi takes a few photos for Jungkook.

It takes a moment of wandering before Seokjin finds the liquor aisle, and then a long moment there before he finds a couple of bottles of soju. He’d started to wonder if his parents might be just as happy with vodka. Or his mother had always liked a good wine too. But there it is, plain, familiar, and a little dusty.

Seokjin makes his way back to the front to pay, stopping only to pick up a pre-wrapped bouquet. His mother would have probably had something to say about that, but she can’t now. Obviously.

Yoongi is too smart not to have figured out what they’re doing, but he still doesn’t say anything about it, only follows Seokjin out of the store, close enough that their shoulders brush.

The long days of the funeral are a blur in Seokjin’s memory, his aunt and uncle had showed up within a day of the accident and they’d completely taken over. Seokjin had let himself be led, going where his uncle told him, kneeling here, greeting people there. The burial had been the surreal culmination, bright California sun beating down on the rows and rows of western style graves, while Seokjin, in his black suit, shoveled a ceremonial amount of dirt. Seokjin’s aunt and uncle had him on a plane back to Seoul that night and he’s never been back since. Seokjin had let it all fade into the past.

But here he is now. With Yoongi.

Seokjin’s parents are buried in the big cemetery in the middle of Hollywood. Seokjin remembers how strange it had seemed then, a place he’d once gone with his friends, laughing, carefree, and young, now the site of such grief. He and his classmates had come after school one day, in theory supervised by one of their older sisters. They’d spent two hours running around trying to find the graves of the western celebrities buried here. Seokjin doesn’t remember whose idea it was, but he certainly hadn’t known most of the supposedly famous people.

In the end, the only grave Seokjin had cared about at all was Toto’s, the dog from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and the little plaque pointed out that it wasn’t even the real grave. Seokjin had left a splash of fruit juice anyway. He wasn’t really sure if dogs were supposed to have juice, but everything was probably fine in the afterlife, right?

It makes Seokjin wonder, as he and Yoongi walk by other people, if they’re here for family or for Toto and his celebrity companions.

It’s hot and the cemetery is large enough that, even with the map on Seokjin’s phone, it takes them some time to find the right section. Yoongi doesn’t complain like he might have if Seokjin had taken him anywhere else outdoors, just pushes up the sleeves of his shirt and wipes the sweat from his temple.

The graves, when they finally find them, are neat and well cared for. Seokjin hasn’t been back, not even for Chuseok, not even once, but the staff have done what he’s failed to.

Seokjin doesn’t quite know what to do now that he’s here, but he arranges the flowers as carefully as he can bear, pours out some of the soju, and then drinks a long gulp himself. Yoongi takes the bottle from his hand, and does the same, setting it next to the flowers when he’s done.

Seokjin doesn’t know what to say. He’s tried, horrible as it seems when he’s standing here now, not to think too much about them. They’d loved him, they’d raised him, and then they’d been gone. Seokjin had other things to fill his mind after that.

Seokjin supposes he should update them on his life, but, in the time since he’d left juice for a dead dog as a teenager, his thoughts on the matter of the afterlife have evolved. He doesn’t really believe in it. Seokjin doesn’t believe that they can hear him, and if they can, why would they need him to keep them up to date?

And yet, why is Seokjin here, if not to tell them this at least? He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out.

Seokjin clears his throat and tries again. “Eomma, Appa.” He takes a deep breath. “I’ve been well. I moved back to Seoul. I did my military service. I graduated college.” He reaches out blindly, hitting Yoongi’s thigh, but Yoongi knows what he wants and takes his hand. “I got married.”

They don’t answer of course, not positively and not negatively. They can’t say anything all, so Seokjin goes on. “This is my husband, Min Yoongi.”

Yoongi bows and greets them formally, as if there was really someone there to impress. As if any part of this is real.

“I guess that’s all.”

Seokjin doesn’t have anything more to say, but he can’t help studying the graves for another long moment, their names written in Hangul and English, the dates - his mother two years younger than his father and then the perfectly matched death dates. Nice headstones. Seokjin wonders vaguely if they had them pre-arranged or if his aunt had done that. Maybe a lawyer.

Seokjin doesn’t let go of Yoongi’s hand when they get up, not even when he needs to tug Yoongi over with him to retrieve the soju bottle. Seokjin pours the rest of it out over the graves, more to prevent himself from drinking it than as a last sign of respect.

It’s a long walk back to the car, and the sun is still beating down. The places where their hands are pressed together quickly grow damp with sweat, but Yoongi doesn’t let go. When they get to the car, Seokjin finally releases him. Seokjin tucks himself against the window and tries to push down the memories of the funeral and all the dark days around it.

Seokjin lets Yoongi pick a place for lunch. He thinks Yoongi must have let the driver decide because they end up somewhere nicer than Yoongi’s ever shown a preference for. Seokjin likes it though, because they get a private table, tucked away from the rest of the restaurant. It’s cool and dark in there, such a nice contrast from where they just were.

Yoongi talks steadily about the song he was working on that morning, and about all the things he needs to do when they get back to Korea, not seeming to need any input from Seokjin.

“Thank you,” Seokjin finally says, not sure which part he’s thanking Yoongi for.

Yoongi nods. “Did they- Did they know you were gay?”

Seokjin shakes his head, tries to smile. “No. I didn’t even really know it then. Sorry, Yoongi-yah. I don’t know how they would have accepted a son-in-law.”

Yoongi doesn’t laugh at the anemic attempt at a joke, but neither does he offer any of the well meaning, but empty platitudes most people would give. Seokjin doesn’t know how his parents would have reacted to himself or to Yoongi, and there’s no way around it, he never will.

Seokjin doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. “You get to be in charge of the rest of the day. Consider it my wedding gift.”

Yoongi hides a smile. “I think you’re supposed to give a bit more than that, hyung. So cheap.”

Seokjin laughs, delighted. “Well, let’s call it a start, how’s that?”

When they leave, Yoongi talks to the driver about something, but Seokjin quickly comes to the conclusion that they must be heading back to the hotel, the car retracing their path from this morning. Maybe Yoongi has more work to do?

But then the car pulls to a stop, what must be only blocks from the hotel, and Seokjin finds himself inside a store filled to the brim with instruments and mysterious electronics that Seokjin can only assume are music related.

Yoongi is radiating an excitement that Seokjin is not sure he’s ever witnessed before. Maybe when they’d finally gotten the new studios set up, but even that had been dimmed by a hard day’s labor, and the weight of the future pressing in. Here, Yoongi looks like nothing so much as a kid in a candy store.

“Is this where you want me to spend your dowry, Yoongi-yah?”

Yoongi’s expression is surprised for a moment, still shocked at the idea of Seokjin buying him things, or by the reminder of the marriage. It quickly turns calculating though. “Ah, hyung, what a good point!”

Seokjin schools his expression into something very sincere. “Of course, anything for my husband. I can’t wait to find out what you’re getting me.”

Yoongi’s calculating expression turns dismayed. “On second thought, you already gave up your afternoon. And uh, I think what you really need is a new coffee machine. That one you have now is too fancy.”

Seokjin laughs. “Too fancy?”

Yoongi nods solemnly. “Yes, hyung. Coffee actually tastes best if you use a really cheap one.”

“I can’t believe I didn’t know that. Good thing I married an expert.”

“Yeah, good thing.”

That matter seemingly settled, Yoongi can no longer ignore the siren call of- Well, Seokjin really can’t identify the machines that Yoongi is drawn to, not what they do, or what the difference is between any of them, only that they cost a good deal more than any cheap coffee machine.

An employee shows up after a bit of this, eager to help. Seokjin tries to translate for a while, but gives up when it becomes clear that he doesn’t know half the words being used in either Korean or English, much less what their possible translations are.

It doesn’t seem to matter, the two of them communicate just fine in a mix of English, Korean, Spanish, and hand gestures. All together it creates a new language that might more properly be called ‘music’ and it’s clear that the two of them both speak it. Seokjin does not, but finds himself strangely enthralled anyway. Yoongi is shining so brightly, and the employee is so clearly charmed by him. After a moment a colleague is called over to weigh in on a debate about two of the indistinguishable pieces of equipment, and now there are three of them, all communicating via sheer enthusiasm.

Another employee notices Seokjin just standing there. “And can I help you with anything?

He offers her a smile, and then says, casual and easy. “Just waiting for my husband.

She’s about to step away, when an idea occurs to Seokjin. “Wait, actually...

And so when Yoongi goes to pay, he finds that Seokjin has already done so. He glares at Seokjin, but is unwilling to put up a fuss in front of the employees.

In the car, after the driver and two employees have helped them load everything into the trunk, Seokjin cuts off the impending complaint. “All part of my investment, Yoongi-yah.”

“Oh, so not a wedding gift this time?”

“I already gave you my time, didn’t I? I can’t be giving excessively if I’m getting a cheap coffee machine in return.”

Yoongi makes a sound halfway between a sigh and a laugh, but lets it go.

#

They spend most of the evening packing, a simple task complicated by the sheer amount of bulk Yoongi’s purchases add. In the end, Seokjin gets the hotel to bring them two new suitcases and Yoongi spends an hour agonizing over the safest way to arrange all of his new treasures, stolen hotel towels serving as padding.

Later, they fuck one last time in the cool sheets of the big hotel bed. Seokjin swallows all the jokes he wants to make about consummating their marriage, but he still finds himself touching Yoongi slow and sweet, fit for a wedding night.

He presses kisses into Yoongi’s pale skin, gentle, gentle until Yoongi whines for more, then surprises Yoongi with teeth. He soothes over the bites, lips and tongue, just enough pressure to leave marks, red and bruising on Yoongi’s neck, on his chest, and on the delicate skin of his inner thighs.

Then, while Seokjin darkens one of the bruises there, he works Yoongi open with his fingers. He goes slow enough that Yoongi is shaking with it by the time Seokjin finally deigns to fuck him. Even then, Seokjin draws it out, sweet, slow torture. It’s a tease for Yoongi of course, but for Seokjin too, because Yoongi’s desperation, the sounds he makes, and the needy way he moves under Seokjin, all of it adds to the aching want that fills Seokjin.

When Yoongi is truly begging, breathless and desperate, Seokjin gives him what he wants, what they both want, abandoning slow and sweet for fast and hard. Yoongi goes almost quiet then, only the small involuntary sound he makes every time Seokjin is deepest. But he clings to Seokjin, fingers pressing into Seokjin’s back, all silent encouragement.

Yoongi comes quiet but hard, breath hitching over a small moan as he shakes with it, his fingers leaving marks of his own on Seokjin’s back. Seokjin fucks him through it until the mix of pleasure and the bruising pressure on his back is too much, and then comes too, pulling one last groan from Yoongi with his final, wild thrusts.

Afterward, Yoongi is dazed and pliant, tears and sweat mixing on his delicate, flushed skin. He lets Seokjin wipe both away, watching Seokjin all the while, hazy at first and then clear as he comes back to himself. Even after that, Yoongi lets Seokjin be the one to move him to the clean side of the bed. He lets Seokjin press a few more kisses to his warm skin, and he lets Seokjin tuck him away under the sheets. Just as he’d let Seokjin pull him apart in the first place. Just as he’d let Seokjin take him to a baseball game, and to a Las Vegas courthouse, and to his parents graves.

#

The trip home is uneventful. Apparently, Yoongi had only needed one flight to become a professional traveler. He sticks close to Seokjin in the bustle of the airport, but once on the plane, he opens his computer and disappears into whatever he’s creating, as relaxed as the businessmen across the aisle.

Back in Seoul, Yoongi and Namjoon are suddenly twice as busy with Jungkook’s album, and outside commissions, and whatever else it is they do.

Seokjin is busy in his own way. For a while, he’s bombarded with regular updates from his lawyers on whatever new paperwork he needs to sign to ensure that Yoongi is listed absolutely everywhere as Seokjin’s medical contact and next of kin. The lawyers draw up a new will that makes it exactingly clear that Yoongi will get everything, right down to the last won, if anything happens to Seokjin.

When his lawyers say it’s airtight, Seokjin gets copies of everything and then takes it two of their biggest competitors for a consultation. Seokjin’s lawyers had worked with Seokjin’s father since before Seokjin was even born, but Seokjin knows his aunt has more connections than he does. There’s no harm in being sure.

The other firms come back with some small adjustments, but grudgingly admit that there isn’t much they’d do differently.

Only then does Seokjin go to his aunt. He’s sure she already knows. She’d already tried to buy Yoongi off once, so she’s been keeping tabs on Seokjin. And Seokjin has hardly been subtle. Surely some of those lawyers have talked by now. Certainly, she doesn’t seem surprised when Seokjin makes it clear that she’s never going to touch his money.

She only looks tired.

If this was a drama, she would already be planning something horrible. To murder Seokjin and Yoongi both in an untraceable car accident maybe. To break them up by framing one of them for infidelity. Something suitably dramatic.

But if Seokjin had been worried about any of that, he never would have dragged Yoongi into it in the first place. If she had the spine for murder she would have done it when Seokjin was living under her roof, young and grieving and vulnerable. And the most cynical part of Seokjin thinks, if she or his uncle were that conniving, the business wouldn’t be in trouble in the first place.

It had only been convenience that had led them all here. It had been convenient to tuck Seokjin away once, and that had created a well-trodden path when a new problem presented itself.

If this was a drama, Seokjin might confront her. Might say something about the nightmare she’s made of his life in a sloppy effort to make her own life less troublesome. But it’s not a drama, and Seokjin is not interested in thinking about any of it for a moment longer than he has to. So he makes it clear that she has no hold over him and then he simply leaves, showing the truth of it with his actions.

Seokjin thinks he should feel relieved. Instead, he feels…at loose ends.

It’s a strange thing, because since he was sixteen, Seokjin’s life has been nothing but loose ends. An empty void of grief that Seokjin filled with Minkyu for a while, at least until that had put him somewhere even emptier. Seokjin had filled the emptiness with the structure of the army for a couple of years. And after that, distractions - parties, and drinking, and making people smile. Seokjin had built a strange sort of pattern to fill the time. Always finding someone new, making their dream come true, or breaking it off. An endless cycle to drown out the hollowness of his life.

Seokjin can’t do that now. The news that Kim Seokjin had run off to America and married a man is slowly starting to spread. He hasn’t tried to hide it and only women who truly haven’t done their research approach him now.

Beyond that, Seokjin is no longer quite so in demand at the gatherings of other rich, purposeless young people as he used to be. Some of his former ‘friends’ make excuses, not quite meeting his eyes. But others are more direct - openly curious about Yoongi and about Seokjin. And still others verge on outright rude.

It’s no more than Seokjin had expected, but it does leave him with gaps in his social calendar that didn’t used to be there.

Of course, Seokjin still has his closest friend, even if Jimin hadn’t seemed to know quite how to react when Seokjin showed up at his apartment with the news.

“You...I’m sorry, you’re telling me you married Min Yoongi?” Jimin is frozen in shock, drink glass paused halfway to his mouth.

“Yep.”

“Min Yoongi.” Jimin repeats again, his expression still shocked. “He’s not that good.”

Seokjin feels a sharp bite of annoyance, not at the reminder of what Jimin and Yoongi had been, but at the implication that sex was all Yoongi had to offer. He says cooly, “So now you admit that he’s good?”

“Not American elopement good.”

“We must have that special elopement chemistry, I guess.”

Jimin frowns. “What do your aunt and uncle have to say?”

Seokjin can’t stop the mean smirk that takes over his face. “Worst thing that ever fucking happened to them, but what can they say? It’s done.”

“Tell me you at least got a prenup.”

“That’s between me, Yoongi, and my lawyers.”

Jimin relaxes, seeming to take that as a ‘yes.’ He’s quiet for a moment, swallowing the second half of his drink, and then a new question occurs to him. “So what does this mean? Did he move in with you?”

“Nah. Not much has changed.”

That’s true enough. If anything, Seokjin sees less of Yoongi now that they’re married. Seokjin still drops by the studio sometimes, but, he doesn’t know exactly what Yoongi told Namjoon and Hoseok about the whys of the marriage. Somehow, they seem more suspicious of Seokjin now that he’s made an honest man of Yoongi. Jungkook, on the other hand, finds the whole thing very romantic. He’s made Seokjin tell the, admittedly brief, story of their wedding four times now. The first time he’d cried.

Something has become awkward between Seokjin and Yoongi now. Maybe because they’ve both gotten what they wanted from the other, no further need for pretense or persuasion. Or maybe because Yoongi still doesn’t know why Seokjin wanted to get married at all. Because he knows that Seokjin doesn’t trust him enough to say. Or maybe it’s just that this had been a secret between them, private and sexy, and now it’s one more public piece of gossip for friends and strangers alike to chew over.

They still fuck, and it’s still good, but it’s not as often. Yoongi initiates less and less, leaving Seokjin feeling like he’s clinging to Yoongi, forever trying to bribe Yoongi over to Seokjin’s apartment with free food, or sometimes following Yoongi back to the little apartment he shares with Namjoon. Like a stray that Yoongi can’t quite turn away.

The smart move, would be to just gently drift out of Yoongi’s life. Let it all fade into the past, out of sight, out of mind, until Yoongi forgets that he’s even married to Seokjin. Become so insubstantial and remote that Yoongi would never have any reason to remember, or to ask for a divorce.

That’s what Seokjin should do. It’s not what Seokjin does do.

The problem is that Seokjin still wants Yoongi, maybe even more than he did before the marriage. Not just the sex, but- But somehow, now that the danger has passed, Seokjin’s old nightmares, full of that empty room with it’s sibilant, silent whispers and locked door, have started coming again almost every night. Only Yoongi’s presence seems to chase them away.

Sometimes, just Yoongi’s warm body against Seokjin’s is enough to keep the dreams from coming at all. When it’s not, Yoongi’s steady hand brushing through Seokjin’s hair pushes away the wisps of terror still clinging to Seokjin, until Seokjin can fall back asleep for the rest of the night. When Seokjin is alone, those wisps become ropes, choking him until he gives up on sleep, forced to start his day at whatever strange hour he finds himself in.

So. Seokjin doesn’t bow gracefully out of Yoongi’s life. Seokjin clings and grasps and takes whatever moments he can with Yoongi, and whatever moments of peace he can find in the quiet safety of Yoongi’s bed.

#

It’s starting to feel like the only time Seokjin sees Yoongi is in bed, but tonight Jimin had insisted that they both accompany him to a party. Jimin had framed it as a peace offering, but Seokjin knew that there was some other motive behind it. These kinds of dull business parties were only for making connections and cutting deals, and Seokjin only ever attended them as a favor to Jimin or his former dates. Seokjin had tried to spare Yoongi, only to find out that Jimin had wrung an agreement out of Yoongi before he’d even brought it up to Seokjin. That’s a problem with marrying your best friend’s old hookup, Seokjin supposes.

So here they are, polite and bored in this stiffly decorated room. Seokjin spends the time trying to figure out why Jimin even wants them there. Seokjin thinks it might be that Jimin wanted to show Seokjin and Yoongi off to his father. To show his father that two men can be happily married without the world crumbling.

If that was the point, Seokjin doesn’t think it worked. Jimin’s father hadn’t seemed particularly impressed, and neither had most of the other people at the party. Seokjin and Jimin have too much money between them for anyone to be more than glancingly rude to their faces, but Seokjin makes sure to keep Yoongi by his side - he doesn’t even want to think about what these people might say to Yoongi if they got him alone.

Normally, Seokjin can make a game of the double sided words, even gets some pleasure out of finding a response that’s both carefully polite and completely rude. But Yoongi doesn’t know how to play those sorts of games. And Seokjin doesn’t want Yoongi to be put in a position to say something too blunt to someone who could crush his dreams without even caring. So Seokjin spends the night keeping every conversation as polite and light as he possibly can.

It’s starting to be about the time that people drift away to little after parties, dinners and drinks where the real business is done by the people who are already well-connected, while all the hopefuls that came here to meet them are stuck socializing with only each other. Exhausted already, Seokjin takes Yoongi and retreats to a dim corner of the party, tucked away from most of the guests. Whatever Jimin wanted from them, Seokjin hopes he already got it, because Seokjin is just about out of niceties.

Taehyung spots their retreat and joins them. Taehyung is normally quite a social butterfly, but Seokjin thinks that he secretly hates these parties as much as Seokjin. Or maybe it’s just being trapped in a room with Jimin’s father, the man whose prejudice is all that stands between Taehyung and Jimin and their happiness.

Jimin follows Taehyung soon enough, although the way his eyes scan the crowd tells Seokjin that he hasn’t quite managed all he wants to accomplish. But whatever he wanted from Seokjin and Yoongi must be complete, because he doesn’t scold them for hiding. Relieved, Seokjin is just reaching over to get Taehyung’s attention, to let him know that Seokjin and Yoongi are going to head out, when someone calls Seokjin’s name.

“Kim Seokjin?”

Seokjin turns, curious to see who here actually sounds excited to see him.

Seokjin is standing before he quite knows it, action racing ahead of thought. “Minkyu-ah.”

Minkyu is next to Seokjin in two long strides. His hands are on Seokjin’s face - too intimate for all the time they’ve spent apart, and for the setting, and for, in the end, who they’d even been to each other, but Seokjin understands.

Seokjin understands because seeing Minkyu pulls Seokjin right back to the last time he’d seen Minkyu - the day Minkyu’s father had stormed into Seokjin’s bedroom, Seokjin’s uncle on his heels, and pulled Minkyu away from Seokjin. Luckily, they hadn’t gotten far enough yet for their clothes to be more than loosened, but there had been no doubt what the two of them were doing in Seokjin’s bed, not with their mouths wet with kissing, and Minkyu’s hand cupping Seokjin through his pants.

In the suddenness of the interruption, neither Seokjin or Minkyu had really absorbed what it meant for them, or maybe there was just no way to see what was coming. Minkyu had tried to pull out of his father’s grasp, had protested, as if this was any ordinary argument. And when Minkyu’s father had ignored Minkyu’s protests, had only dragged him out into the hall and away from Seokjin, Seokjin had tried to follow. His uncle had stopped him, shoving Seokjin back, away from Minkyu. Maybe it was his uncle’s embarrassment and anger, or maybe just Seokjin’s own, unsteady surprise, but the shove had pushed Seokjin off balance, hard enough that he fell into the wall, his back hitting with a bruising smack.

Minkyu, out of sight by then, had heard the thud. He’d called for Seokjin, voice tight and scared, but Seokjin had been too shocked to do anything but stay where his uncle had put him. No one had ever touched Seokjin with the intent to hurt before, and his mind had gone uselessly dizzy and blank. Minkyu’s voice faded into the distance and that was that.

Seokjin hadn’t seen Minkyu again.

Seokjin’s uncle had left Seokjin there, locked in his own room. Soon after, Seokjin was locked away more firmly, with doctors who promised to help, but only left him alone for days on end in that sterile, silent room. When Seokjin had emerged some months later, he hadn’t tried to contact Minkyu. He hadn’t thought about why Minkyu hadn’t reached out to him. To be honest, Seokjin hadn’t really thought about Minkyu much since, at least not until he’d found himself in bed with Yoongi, remembering the last time he’d touched someone like that and pretending not to.

But now, it’s like no time has passed at all. Seokjin can almost hear the echo of Minkyu’s panicked voice calling for him, can almost feel the bruise on his own back. But this time, no one is holding them apart. So, Seokjin understands why Minkyu touches him with trembling hands. And Seokjin returns the touch, pulling Minkyu into a hug, burying his face in Minkyu’s neck, and breathing him in for one relieved moment. Pretending that they’d both escaped, found each other after all, just two scared teenagers again, instead of the adults they are.

Minkyu smells like the remains of some expensive cologne, the top notes burned off during the day so that all that remains is the rich muskiness of it, but, underneath that, there is the familiar scent of him that used to linger in Seokjin’s bedsheets. The scent that signaled a few moments of respite from the grief and numbness that filled Seokjin’s first years back in Seoul.

They hold each other, quiet for a moment, but Minkyu had never been good at silence. “Seokjin-ah, where were you? I kept trying to find you, and it was like you’d just disappeared.”

Seokjin takes a deep breath. “Nowhere,” he says, almost the truth. “I mean, I enlisted.”

That hadn’t been the plan before and Minkyu knows it, but he only nods, then whispers, “They sent me to Australia.”

Seokjin pulls back to look at him. “Australia?”

Minkyu makes a face. “I have a cousin there.”

“Wow, exiled.”

They laugh. It’s probably nothing to laugh at, but they’d been alike in that way, both finding it easier to make the joke than to think too hard about their troubles.

“Hyung.” Jimin’s voice.

Seokjin turns around, suddenly, horribly, remembering that this is happening in front of his friends. His husband. He startles away from Minkyu and then curses himself for acting so obviously guilty.

Next to him, Minkyu has gone tense too, reflecting Seokjin’s reaction. He looks between Seokjin and Jimin, mouth pinched in worry.

“Jimin-ah,” Seokjin says, trying for calm.

Jimin’s expression is blank with a hint of calculation. The same look he’d been directing at the crowd a moment ago. Great. “Who is your...friend?”

Seokjin clears his throat. “This is Lee Minkyu, we went to high school together.” He nods to Jimin and then Taehyung and Yoongi in turn, “Minkyu, Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung, and Min Yoongi.”

Yoongi’s expression is even more perfectly blank than Jimin’s and Seokjin hates it. “Yoongi is my husband.”

Seokjin only means to ease some of the terrible blankness in Yoongi’s expression and the crackling tension in Minkyu’s spine, but of course it’s not so simple.

“Husband?” Minkyu’s apprehension seems to melt away instantly.

“Well, in America anyway. American elopement, you know how it is.”

“Wow, Seokjin-ah.” Minkyu turns to smile at Yoongi. “Well, I guess I’ll have to let go of my dreams of a sweeping romantic reunion. It’s nice to meet you.”

Seokjin doesn’t know which of them to look at. Jimin politely furious, Taehyung somehow knowing, and Yoongi still perfectly blank, even as he musters a perfunctory smile for Minkyu. “Nice to meet you too.”

“Ah, romantic- Don’t listen to that. We were never-” Seokjin finds himself choosing Yoongi, ignoring Jimin’s fury and Taehyung’s insight, to look at Yoongi pleadingly, as he stutters through a denial that doesn’t even matter. “Friends, we were friends.”

Minkyu laughs. “My teenaged self is crying right now.” He smirks at Yoongi. “I really admire you getting through to him. I was so in love with him and he never once noticed.”

Seokjin forgets Yoongi for a moment, to look at Minkyu in blank shock. “No, that’s not-”

Minkyu laughs again. “Oh, Seokjin-ah. It’s all in the past. I’m just glad to see you’re doing well. Now I just need to find myself a pretty husband like you.”

Seokjin can only blink, trying to remember if he’d ever seen any sign that Minkyu felt anything more than Seokjin did, but all of Seokjin’s memories from then are faded and blurred with grief and the years passed.

Before things can get any more awkward, a woman in an expensive dress, with a smile that looks just like Minkyu’s is pulling him away, just as surely as the last time they parted. But this time, Minkyu smiles at Seokjin, reaching out to squeeze his hand one last time. “I’m glad we found each other again.”

Seokjin manages to smile back. “Yeah I- It was good to see you.”

And it was. Even if he’s left total destruction in his wake, it was good to know that Minkyu was all right. A question that had been hovering in the background for a decade, finally answered.

When Seokjin gets the courage to look back at his friends, Jimin still looks furious, but Taehyung is distracting him, leaning into his side and whispering something. Yoongi stands up and calmly, as if nothing unusual had happened, says, “We were going back to yours weren’t we, hyung?”

They hadn’t been planning on it as far as Seokjin knows. Seokjin had expected that Yoongi would be too tired after a night of socializing with strangers, but he’s not going to argue now.

Yoongi sweeps them out before Jimin can do much more than glare at Seokjin with a painful mix of anger and betrayal.

The ride back to Seokjin’s apartment is short. Yoongi is quiet.

Seokjin tries not to think about how angry Yoongi might be. What if Yoongi is upset enough to ask for a divorce? To tear down the only thing preventing exactly what happened all those years ago from happening again? Seeing Minkyu has dragged everything up, bringing all the memories that Seokjin usually leaves far in the past, suddenly so very close. Seokjin can feel his chest getting tight.

Yoongi reaches across the empty seat in between them and takes Seokjin’s hand, his grip firm and reassuring.

Seokjin holds onto Yoongi for the the rest of the short trip home and hopes that this isn’t just one last show of pity before the end.

When they get to Seokjin’s apartment, Yoongi still doesn’t say anything, just puttering around the way he normally does. Seokjin doesn’t know what to do. Normally, Seokjin would be getting ready for bed, but that- he can’t now. Not with this hanging over him. He sits on the couch. Watching Yoongi warily. Waiting.

Yoongi notices. He pours Seokjin a cup of water and brings it over, as if maybe he thinks Seokjin just had too many glasses of complimentary wine.

Seokjin takes the cup, but stops Yoongi before he can wander away again. “Aren’t you angry?”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin calmly for a long moment, then sits down next to him on the couch. He sets down his own glass of water on the coffee table. “About what?”

“About-” Seokjin gapes at him. “About Minkyu. About letting you think that you were the first.”

Yoongi looks thoughtful. “You don’t tell me everything and that’s okay. I don’t really like being lied to, that’s true, but I-” He purses his lips, expression guilty. “I already knew.”

“What?” Seokjin feels dizzy.

Yoongi glances away, even though he’d already been avoiding Seokjin’s gaze. “Your aunt- when she- Well. She made it clear that I wasn’t the first.”

“Then… Then why did you stay? Then why did you marry me?”

Yoongi does look at Seokjin then. “Because you needed it. I don’t know why, but you did, didn’t you?”

Seokjin’s mouth is dry, his head still spinning.

“Are you going to tell me why now?” Yoongi looks...not angry. Maybe a little sad, and definitely resigned like he doesn’t actually expect Seokjin to do that. Like he expects Seokjin to keep lying to him.

Seokjin should tell Yoongi the truth. Should stop lying. Of course he should. But the past feels so close tonight, and Seokjin can’t even open his mouth. His breath is tight. His hands are shaking. The room pressing in on him. All the loneliness and terror he’d felt back then crushing him now, heavy against his throat and his eyes and his ears, like the weight of diving under the ocean.

Things slip and slide out of focus for a moment. Seokjin can’t look at Yoongi’s face, so he concentrates on Yoongi’s hands instead. Yoongi’s careful hands prying the glass of water out of Seokjin’s, water splashing between them because of Seokjin’s unsteady grip. Yoongi’s hands using the sleeve of his own sweater to gently dry Seokjin’s arm where the water landed. Yoongi’s hands, pulling one of Seokjin’s hands up to his own chest, letting Seokjin feel the way Yoongi is breathing deep and even. They stay like that, Seokjin’s hand rising and falling with Yoongi’s steady breathing until Seokjin can almost match it.

Seokjin still can’t look at Yoongi. Instead he watches his own fingers resting on the nice sweater that Yoongi had worn for Jimin’s terrible party. Yoongi is too kind. To everyone, but to Seokjin especially.

“Hyung, I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to,” Yoongi sounds cautious. “But, have you ever thought about talking to someone? Like a professional, I mean.”

Seokjin freezes.

Yoongi is still talking. He’s saying something about his own experience with therapy. How much it helped him. How he could get his own therapist to recommend someone. Seokjin can’t follow any of it. Seokjin can only hear the sound of a lock sliding shut, trapping him alone.

Seokjin had relaxed for a moment. That was the problem. Seokjin had thought about telling Yoongi everything. But of course Seokjin can’t do that. The point of all this was to make Seokjin safe, not just transfer the danger. This only works if Yoongi doesn’t realize what kind of power he has over Seokjin. Seokjin knows what people do with power.

The ocean’s weight had receded for a moment in the steady in and out of Yoongi’s breathing, but it’s back now, the roar of it battering at Seokjin. It’s filling Seokjin, pouring into his lungs and threatening to well out of him in the form of tears.

Seokjin pushes Yoongi’s hands away, and gets unsteadily to his feet. “Get out.”

Yoongi looks up at Seokjin, uncertain and hurt. “What?”

“I want you to leave,” Seokjin says, as evenly as he possibly can.

Seokjin has never asked Yoongi to leave, not once. It seems to take Yoongi a moment to comprehend it. He stands too. “Hyung, I shouldn’t have pushed. I’m sorry.”

“Okay. Now go.”

Yoongi pauses, debating himself for a moment. “I don’t think you should be alone.”

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says, steady and firm despite the tsunami inside. “Go.”

Yoongi’s jaw clenches, he tries to say something, but then he just nods. And then, just like Seokjin told him to, he leaves.

Seokjin keeps it together until the door clicks shut behind him, and then for another thirty seconds, carefully counted, giving Yoongi time to walk away.

The floor is hard underneath Seokjin’s knees. The sound of the door closing behind Yoongi rings in his ears, mixing with the lock of his bedroom door, the echo of Minkyu calling his name, the heavy, final institutional lock of that room, the roaring, lonely silence, and Seokjin’s own pained attempts to catch his breath through the saltwater threatening to drown him.

Seokjin doesn’t know how long that goes on, but then suddenly Taehyung is there, kneeling on the floor with him. “Hyung, hyung,” he says holding Seokjin close with none of Yoongi’s practiced, personal knowledge of what to do, but with his own inherent kindness. “I’m here, okay? I’m here.”

This is Yoongi’s doing. Seokjin is sure of it. Yoongi hadn’t thought Seokjin should be alone and now he isn’t.

Seokjin can’t fight it. Can only hold onto to Taehyung, listening to his rambling attempts at comfort, until the flood recedes into the past once more.

#

In the end, it’s Taehyung who Seokjin tells everything.

Taehyung who has been Seokjin’s friend for years, but at the same time, has always been there as an extension of Jimin first and foremost.

Maybe that’s why it’s easier. Or maybe it’s because Taehyung had just seen Seokjin at his lowest. Or maybe it’s only that Taehyung is kind, and that he understands, in his own way, how much damage other people’s prejudices and greed can cause.

Seokjin feels bad, looking at the understanding in Taehyung’s expression, that Seokjin has always thought more about how the situation affected Jimin than he’s thought about Taehyung. Seokjin had wondered why Taehyung stayed and Seokjin had felt bad for him, but no more than that. Seokjin hadn’t thought about how much he must love Jimin, or about how much easier his life might be if he didn’t.

Taehyung accepts Seokjin’s story with a soothingly quiet sympathy. And after it’s all out, when Seokjin starts to panic at having told anyone, even someone as kind and uninvolved as Taehyung, Taehyung promises not to tell, soft and sure until Seokjin believes it.

In the fall out from that night, avoiding Yoongi and being ignored by Jimin, Seokjin starts to spend more and more time with Taehyung. He finds that Taehyung, out of Jimin’s shadow, is a more interesting person than Seokjin ever gave him credit for. He’s thoughtful and he sees things in a different light than Seokjin is used to.

Taehyung isn’t like Jimin and Seokjin. His family is comfortable. Wealthy enough to have sent him to the private high school where he’d met Jimin, but not part of the thin upper crust of society. Taehyung’s parents don’t dream of him marrying into more wealth or securing a political alliance, they only want him to be happy. If they have a problem with Jimin, it’s only that he’s caused Taehyung so much unhappiness.

It’s a different perspective than Seokjin is used to encountering. Even different from Yoongi, who has clawed his way to where he is now without the approval or support of his family. Who is used to struggling and who expects to keep struggling.

It gives Taehyung a different way of looking at Seokjin’s problem.

“You know,” Taehyung says one day, eating the kimchi fried rice he’d insisted that Seokjin make for him. “If you’re worried about someone hurting you for the money, you can just get rid of the money.”

Seokjin scoffs. “Taehyung-ah, I appreciate the out of the box thinking, but I’m not really built to be poor.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “Hyung, there’s a huge difference between being poor and what you are now.”

Seokjin is embarrassed now. “Of course, but I’ve never-”

“Hyung, I bet you could live just like you do now with a fraction of what you have.”

Seokjin...doesn’t know if that’s true. He’s always let his financial guys handle his money, but he supposes that it might be. Certainly there’s never been any worry about running out. Taehyung probably has a better sense of such things than Seokjin anyway. “I suppose…” he says slowly.

Taehyung looks excited now. “You could give it away to good causes! Isn’t that what you like doing anyway? Helping people?”

That’s a very generous way to describe the years Seokjin spend bribing women to date him, and the way he’d indirectly paid Yoongi to marry him, but Seokjin will take it.

Then a cynical idea occurs to him. Taehyung works at a non-profit. “Do you just want me to donate to your job?”

Taehyung looks at him blankly. “Wow. Look, I wouldn’t say no to a donation, especially if you mentioned to my boss that it was because I convinced you, but also- and don’t tell her I said this, we definitely do not need anywhere near the amount of money you need to get rid of.”

Every step of this conversation is making Seokjin feel more out of touch. “Right…”

“I bet it would take some serious work to get rid of all that money.” Taehyung focuses on his spoon when he says the next part, “You might feel better with something to do. You know?”

Seokjin wants to return to the part of the conversation where Taehyung implied that Seokjin was an inherently generous person, but this is probably truer.

“I guess I could look into it.”

#

It turns out to be kind of a good idea, although Seokjin does end up having to replace his former financial advisor, the guy completely horrified by any plan that doesn’t work to maximize Seokjin’s pointless wealth. But, Taehyung, enjoying a wave of goodwill and shorter hours at his job after Seokjin’s donation, helps Seokjin find a new team.

The project definitely keeps Seokjin busy, Taehyung was right about that too. It’s surprisingly difficult to get rid of the amount of money Seokjin has. Which is apparently, uh, quite a lot. So many things to learn, and so many decisions to make - who to trust, what causes to support, how much to keep. Seokjin does wonder what his parents would think of what he’s doing with everything they’d worked to leave him. But then, they hadn’t exactly earned it all by the sweat of their brows either. So maybe it doesn’t really matter.

Seokjin can’t remember the last time he put this much effort into anything except his own scrambling self preservation, although, he supposes, this is just that again, only on a larger scale. In any case, Seokjin throws himself into it, using how busy he is as an excuse to ignore the text messages from Yoongi that slowly fade into nothing.

Part of Seokjin wants answer every text, wants to plead for forgiveness and slip back into Yoongi’s life in whatever way Yoongi will let him. A smaller part of Seokjin wants to make a clean confession, just be honest with Yoongi. Just see what happens.

But Seokjin doesn’t do either of those things. Instead, Seokjin reminds himself that the better thing (the easier thing) is to just let Yoongi fade out of his life along with the text messages. If Taehyung’s plan works, if Seokjin can really get rid of enough money to make himself useless to his family, then at some point, Seokjin can safely send Yoongi the divorce papers and let Yoongi be free.

It’s a good theory, but in practical terms there’s one big problem. Seokjin had been relying on Yoongi. Not just as an abstract protection from his aunt and uncle, but as concrete protection from his nightmares. The dreams have gotten even worse since that night. Since seeing Minkyu again, or chasing Yoongi away, or saying everything out loud to Taehyung, or all of it maybe. The old memories creep in on Seokjin whenever he closes his eyes. And when he finally manages to drift to sleep. And in the long, dark hours after the nightmares wake him.

Lying in his bed, night after night, unable to sleep, Seokjin wishes that he was back in that Los Angeles hotel room, listening to Yoongi playing the piano while he napped on the couch. Or that Yoongi was here now, in Seokjin’s bed, asleep next to Seokjin, or running his hand through Seokjin’s hair, whispering sleepy nonsense until Seokjin’s mind was filled only with him.

But of course, Seokjin made sure that Yoongi wasn’t there. And if Seokjin feels himself growing more and more exhausted, it’s only Seokjin’s own fault.

It’s fine though. Seokjin has made it nearly all his life without Yoongi. Without anyone at all. Seokjin isn’t going to be defeated by, what is after all, only the memory of the things he’s already survived.

Seokjin learns to get by on what snatches of sleep he can. He fights off the exhausted headaches with painkillers and coffee. He’s fine. He’s absolutely fine. Right up until Taehyung drags in some germs from work.

Maybe, if Seokjin had gotten more than three hours of sleep consecutively in the last month, he would have experienced it like Taehyung had - a day of queasiness and fever and then right back on his feet. But Seokjin hasn’t, and instead he spends one day feeling progressively worse, a night throwing up long past the point his stomach is empty, and another day that’s so hazy with fever dreams that Seokjin isn’t sure what’s real and what’s not. He thinks he got up at some point and ate some plain rice, but it’s hard to be certain.

In a slightly more lucid moment, Seokjin worries over it, spending what feels like hours, but might have been minutes, trying to work up the energy to go the kitchen to figure it out, or to eat some more. He never quite manages it, instead, falling into a restless, overheated sleep.

#

When Seokjin wakes up, even before he opens his eyes, he can tell that the fever has retreated - the deep ache in his bones faded to almost nothing. That’s a relief.

Then he actually opens his eyes and the relief disappears instantly. He’s in a hospital.

But it’s-

But Seokjin isn’t.

That is. Seokjin isn’t alone. Because Yoongi is there.

Yoongi is asleep in a chair beside Seokjin’s bed. Is it late? Seokjin can’t tell, the curtains are drawn and there’s no clock visible. They seem to be in a private room, with no other people. Seokjin can’t tell how long he’s been here, or what time it had been when he’d fallen asleep, or what happened between then and now to bring him here.

Yoongi, despite being asleep, has dark circles under his eyes. He’s wearing a mask, but it’s pushed down far enough for Seokjin to see that he needs to shave. His hair could use a wash too. How long has Yoongi been here? Why is he here?

Why is Seokjin?

Seokjin tries to sit up, but finds himself weaker than he expected and only manages to shove himself slightly higher on the pillows.

Yoongi’s eyes open, apparently not asleep after all. He leans forward and takes Seokjin’s hand. “You’re okay, hyung. I’m here. It’s okay.”

He sounds… He sounds sincere. Comforting. But he also sounds practiced, like he’s said it many, many times recently. Seokjin would feel embarrassed if he had the energy for it. What on earth had he been saying in his fever? “I can see that, Yoongi-yah,” he says a little tartly.

Yoongi looks at Seokjin more sharply. “Hyung?”

“Yes?”

“You know where you are?”

“The hospital apparently.”

Yoongi lets go of Seokjin’s hand and leans back. Seokjin tries not to imagine that his hand is cold without Yoongi holding it. “You don’t remember coming here?”

Seokjin shakes his head, and regrets it as a small wave of dizziness rocks him.

“Your house cleaner found you passed out on the floor. You’ve been here for...” Yoongi looks at his phone, “A bit over a day now.”

Fuck. Poor Kyunghee-ssi.

“They called me because I’m apparently your emergency contact?”

Seokjin swallows. “Oh.”

Of course Yoongi is his emergency contact. That was the whole point of all of this, wasn’t it? But still, Seokjin wishes they hadn’t called Yoongi.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything more about it. Instead he rings for a nurse who brings in a doctor in turn. The doctor asks Seokjin some simple questions, has him prove he can move his toes and hands, and says generously, “It looks like you managed not to hit your head too hard when you passed out. That’s good.”

Seokjin hadn’t even thought about that possibility, but from the way Yoongi’s shoulders relax, it must have been on his mind. Well, Seokjin supposes the staff would have talked to his husband about the possibility. Again, that was the whole fucking point.

The doctor insists that Seokjin should stay overnight (apparently it’s already evening) and reevaluate in the morning. Seokjin has no interest in staying, but he can see the stubborn set of Yoongi’s jaw, ready for an argument that Seokjin isn’t going to win, so he just nods.

When the doctor and nurse have left, Yoongi pulls the chair back to Seokjin’s bed, focused on his phone.

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says, awkward, “You don’t have to stay here.”

Yoongi doesn’t respond to that. “I’m just letting Taehyung know you’re okay.”

“Taehyung? How does he even…?”

Yoongi looks a little guilty at that. “He was messaging you like every five minutes. I swear I didn’t read any of them, but finally I messaged him myself since it seemed like he was worried. He was here earlier.” Yoongi doesn’t look directly at Seokjin. “He seems to think this is his fault.”

Seokjin had been starting to feel fuzzy and tired again, but that jolts him back to clarity for a moment. “His fault? Oh- Oh tell him not to be ridiculous. It wasn’t like he knew he was sick or that he would get me sick.”

Yoongi nods stiffly, still not looking at Seokjin, and sends another message, presumably to Taehyung.

Seokjin is just thinking he might fall back asleep, maybe even peacefully for the first time in weeks with Yoongi here to soothe away his nightmares, when Yoongi says, “Hyung, should I really be your emergency contact? Shouldn’t it be Taehyung?”

Seokjin opens his eyes to look at him. “Taehyung isn’t my husband.”

Yoongi frowns. “I know but-” Then something seems to occur to him. “Is that why? Is this why you wanted to get married?”

Seokjin feels the words catch in his chest, just like always. He looks away from Yoongi’s tired face, but Yoongi is too smart not to read the ‘yes’ in it.

There’s a loud noise, startling Seokjin. Yoongi pulling his chair closer, clattering on the hard floor. Yoongi ignores it. “Hyung. Just- I know I’ve asked you before. I know you answered me. But Taehyung says you’re doing all this- giving away all your money, and- You’re okay, right? You’re going to live to be a hundred and five, right? You promised me.”

Seokjin looks at Yoongi, eyes wide with what might be fear, and feels more guilt than he’s felt since any of this started. “Oh, Yoongi-yah. Hyung is fine. I didn’t mean to make you worry. I promise, this will be over soon and we’ll both be fine.”

Yoongi’s expression is searching. Of course, Seokjin’s vague answer doesn’t really satisfy him, but at least some of the fear fades away. “You still can’t tell me?”

Seokjin can’t meet his eyes anymore.

Yoongi picks up his phone again. “Does Taehyung know?”

That surprises Seokjin, but Yoongi’s gaze remains firmly on his phone, unreadable.

“Um, yeah. He does.”

Yoongi nods. “Okay. At least someone does.”

Seokjin still can’t read Yoongi’s expression, but he’s too tired to pursue it. Through a haze of exhaustion, Seokjin watches Yoongi tapping away at his phone until the haze overtakes him entirely, and Seokjin falls back into sleep.

#

When Seokjin wakes up, the curtains are open and it’s morning. Yoongi is still there, but he’s clearly been and returned - fresh clothes and shave, his hair flat from air drying after a wash, and a giant iced coffee next to him.

Aside from those obvious signs, Yoongi looks exactly as he had when Seokjin fell asleep. Still slumped in the chair by Seokjin’s side, with dark circles under his eyes. Still tapping away at his phone, the same little frown of concentration as he writes something.

Seeing him there makes something feel tight in Seokjin’s chest.

But, no.

No, that’s not right. It can’t have anything to do with Yoongi. It must be some side effect of the flu.

Before Yoongi notices that Seokjin is awake, and before Seokjin figures out what to say to him, the doctor is back. She inspects Seokjin again, and seems satisfied by what she finds.

Once Seokjin has listened enough to understand that he will be allowed to go home, he tunes out the rest of what the doctor is saying, but Yoongi pays close attention, nodding and asking questions.

Seokjin doesn’t know what to do with that.

Seokjin doesn’t know what to do when Yoongi helps Seokjin change into real clothes. Or when Yoongi explains that Taehyung had retrieved the clothes, apparently worried that Seokjin might think that Yoongi was in his apartment unsupervised. Seokjin doesn’t know what to do when Yoongi is careful only to look at Seokjin in the fleeting glances absolutely needed to help him dress. Or when Yoongi manages to do so almost without touching Seokjin, even though Yoongi has touched nearly every inch of Seokjin before. Hell, Yoongi has had his mouth on more of Seokjin than he lets himself see or feel now.

Seokjin doesn’t know what to do when Yoongi fusses over Seokjin’s coat, and then accompanies him downstairs to a taxi, and then into the taxi, and then all the way to Seokjin’s apartment.

When they get inside, Seokjin thinks he should tell Yoongi that he can go now, but the exertion of the trip is enough to leave Seokjin feeling woozy and feverish again. Enough that he lets Yoongi help him into bed and then Seokjin just- Just rests his eyes for a moment, while Yoongi is saying something. Probably a goodbye, but Seokjin drifts off before he can pick any words out of the soothing rumble of Yoongi’s voice.

#

Seokjin wakes up and finds that the light has moved. It must be noon, or maybe later. He’s alone in his bedroom. Of course.

Seokjin needs to use the restroom, so he gets up, careful and slow, not interested in passing out again. He’s still achey, but he thinks it’s mostly the after effect of being in bed for however many days.

After Seokjin uses the bathroom, he thinks that he should probably try to eat something. He’s not hungry, but he has the vague sense that it would help with the dizziness.

Seokjin slowly inches his way to the kitchen, lightheadedness making it an unexpected challenge. Who decided that this apartment needed to be so large anyway?

Seokjin makes it to the end of the hall and stops suddenly. A different kind of dizziness washes over him. Because Seokjin isn’t alone after all. Because Yoongi is still there. Sound asleep on the couch, curled up in that familiar small way that Yoongi likes to sleep.

Oh.

Seokjin stands there for a long moment, watching the even rise and fall of Yoongi’s breathing. And then Seokjin realizes that there’s the faint smell of something simmering in the kitchen. Yoongi is cooking for him.

The tight feeling is back in Seokjin’s chest.

He’d better- He’d better lay down until it goes away.

His body protests at being back in bed, but Seokjin doesn’t know what else to do. He tries not to think about Yoongi, or about how very much Seokjin had wanted to go lay down next to him, to pull him to Seokjin’s chest like Seokjin had done so many times before, to fall asleep with Yoongi in his arms, close and warm.

#

The awful quiet of the room is filling Seokjin’s ears like a roar. He must have been crying. He can feel that his face is swollen. His throat sore. Taste the snot and tears running into his mouth. But now he can only lay still. Breathe raggedly. The roar is pressing. Pressing in on him. Compressing his chest until he’s not sure he’ll be able to take another breath. Filling his ears until his ear drums might pop with it.

Seokjin knows that Yoongi is right outside the room. If Yoongi was inside the room, he would hold Seokjin’s hand. He would let Seokjin hide his face in Yoongi’s hair. Yoongi would say kind things in his soft voice.

But Yoongi’s not here. He’s out there. Seokjin can’t get to him.

Seokjin can’t do anything. Can only lay here. Suspended in this moment. The roar of the silence beating down on him. Until. Until-

Until there’s a hand in his hair and a voice cutting through the silence. “Hyung, time to wake up.”

Seokjin reaches out to grab Yoongi before he disappears again. Seokjin can’t be alone again. He won’t.

Yoongi looks at Seokjin with wide eyes, but he doesn’t pull away, letting Seokjin hold his wrist, his hand still resting in Seokjin’s hair.

Seokjin takes a few gasping, deep breaths. He can feel Yoongi’s pulse under his fingers, alive and present. Seokjin is in his own bedroom. Not in that room. Seokjin hasn’t been crying, there’s no locked door, and Yoongi is right here. Seokjin was only dreaming.

Abruptly, Seokjin realizes that he’s holding Yoongi’s wrist too tightly. He lets go.

Yoongi doesn’t complain, just turns to the bowl of juk on the bedside table - presumably what he’d been cooking before and the reason he’s here now. “Here, you need to try to eat something.”

It’s absurd how comforting Seokjin finds him. How easily Yoongi is able to chase away Seokjin’s demons just by being there, just by being himself. But Seokjin can’t- He can’t let himself grow accustomed to it again. He can’t take advantage of Yoongi’s kindness. Not when Yoongi can barely look at him. Not when Yoongi can’t stand to touch him.

Seokjin is going to fix this. It’s all going to be over soon. And in the meantime, Seokjin didn’t give Yoongi the resources to chase his dreams just so Yoongi could push them aside to cook for Seokjin.

Seokjin can’t do this to either of them.

He has to-

Seokjin takes the warm bowl from Yoongi. “Yoongi-yah. Thank you.”

Yoongi picks up on Seokjin’s tone immediately, posture turning tense and awkward.

“You’ve done a lot and I’m grateful. But you don’t need to be here now. I’m okay, and you can go.”

Yoongi doesn’t meet Seokjin’s eyes, “It’s fine, I-”

“No, I mean. You need to go now.”

Yoongi looks at Seokjin then, hurt spilling over his attempt at controlling his expression. “Why?”

Seokjin firms his resolve and says the lie in a perfectly even tone. “I don’t want you to be here.”

Yoongi flinches. “Okay,” he says softly. “Okay.”

He leaves quietly and quickly.

Seokjin must lose a little time then. The juk is cold when he eats it.

Afterward, Seokjin can’t stand being in bed for one more minute. He moves to the living room, pressing his face into the pillows of the couch where Yoongi had slept, breathing in the slightest hint of Yoongi’s shampoo that lingers there.

The nightmare creeps back into Seokjin’s mind now that Yoongi isn’t there to distract him. Seokjin should get up and put on some music or the television. Anything to fill the silence, but he can’t make himself.

The salt of his tears, real this time, soak the pillow, slowly drowning out the last traces of Yoongi.

#

Seokjin has slept too much in the last few days to sleep any more now, but he lays there, mind drifting until the sun sinks in the sky and starts to set. Even then, he has no real plans to move until the door chimes - someone entering.

For one, silly, split second, Seokjin thinks that it must be Yoongi, come back after all. But then his logic kicks in. Yoongi wouldn’t, not when Seokjin so clearly told him to go. Yoongi has too much respect for Seokjin and too much pride in himself for that.

Taehyung then.

Taehyung has seen Seokjin in a worse state than this. But Yoongi had said that Taehyung was worried, and that he felt guilty, so Seokjin pushes himself into a sitting position and hastily scrubs his face with his hand, even though the tears must be dry by now.

But it’s not Taehyung at all. It’s Jimin.

Seokjin hasn’t seen Jimin since that disastrous party. Jimin hadn’t tried to contact Seokjin, and Seokjin hadn’t known how to reach out, because Jimin had every right to be angry with him.

Seokjin has heard bits and pieces of news from Taehyung, who refuses to acknowledge the silence between the two of them, speaking as casually about Jimin as he normally would. So Seokjin knows that Jimin is doing fine, and not much more.

But here Jimin is, suddenly in Seokjin’s apartment. It’s too early for Jimin’s day to be over. He’s still wearing one of his neat, conservative work suits, tie still perfectly in place.

Jimin’s expression is worried, but he relaxes a bit at the sight of Seokjin sitting up on the couch. “Hyung.” He stops there for a moment, uncharacteristically uncertain. Usually Jimin fills a room, even when he’s trying to get his way by being cute, but right now he looks small. “Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

Jimin frowns. “Don’t do that. Yoongi-hyung asked Taehyung to check on you. Taehyung has that fundraiser tonight though, so he asked me to do it.”

The idea of Taehyung asking Jimin, second only in importance to his father at their sprawling mega-corporation, to leave work to do some nursemaiding would almost make Seokjin smile if it weren’t for the mention of Yoongi, but Jimin is continuing. “Taehyungie said you were in the hospital, hyung. So. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Jimin-ah,” Seokjin says, spreading his arms as if to display his health.

Jimin looks at him suspiciously. “Have you eaten?”

Seokjin nods. “Yeah, Yoongi-” His throat is tight and he has to try again. “Yoongi made me some juk before he left.” He can’t look at Jimin. He doesn’t want to know what Jimin made of that stumble.

But not watching Jimin turns out to be a mistake, because Jimin is suddenly right there, next to Seokjin. “Okay, and no offense here, hyung, but when do you think the last time you showered was?”

Unfortunately, Seokjin can’t answer that, but he does at least manage to convince Jimin that he’s not going to pass out in the shower, barely escaping the threat of Jimin hovering over Seokjin while he scrubs away the last few days of fever sweat.

And Seokjin manages on his own just fine, only one dizzy moment in the steam. He simply waits it out, leaning against the wall until it passes. It’s worth it to feel clean afterward.

By the time Seokjin has pulled on fresh pajamas (trying not to think about Yoongi’s careful hands helping him only this morning), Jimin has acquired a selection of every possible comfort food available through takeout.

Seokjin eats as much soup and juk as he can manage, letting Jimin fill the silence with small talk - updates on Taehyung, stories from work, nothing taxing. When Seokjin can’t eat any more, Jimin seals up the containers and puts them in the refrigerator for later, while Seokjin wanders back to the couch. He stays upright this time, flipping the pillow over so he’s not tempted to seek out any lingering traces of Yoongi.

Seokjin must zone out for a moment again, because he startles when Jimin flops next to him on the couch, right in Seokjin’s space as if they hadn’t been giving each other the cold shoulder for a month. Once that first moment of surprise passes, Seokjin feels a rush of relief, and lets himself relax into Jimin. He’s missed this. Missed Jimin. Jimin has been Seokjin’s best friend for a decade, and even Seokjin’s newly deepened friendship with Taehyung couldn’t replace this.

Seokjin hopes the casual return to their norm means they’re just going to get to skip right over the awkward apologies and explanations, but Jimin quickly crushes that hope. “I’m sorry for avoiding you.”

“It’s okay Jimin-ah. I’m sorry too.” Maybe that can be the end of it.

But, no. Jimin has apparently been saving up all the things he’d wanted to say in the last month and they come out now in a rush. “It’s just- When I thought- I guess, when I thought it was something new, you know? It still hurt a little that you didn’t talk to me about it. I figured you would come to me with something like that. But when I thought it was just new, that was one thing. But the idea that it was something that you’d- that you’d kept from me. All along. Of course it’s your choice to share something like that or not, but it’s something so massive we had in common. And you knew how much- how I- I mean, I’m sorry for how I reacted, but you have to know that hurt.”

It’s nothing Seokjin hadn’t expected. He had known. For years he’d known exactly how Jimin would feel if Seokjin’s lies ever surfaced. He’d done it all anyway. “I- I know. And I am sorry for that.” It’s true, but too small a thing for the size of Seokjin’s betrayal.

Jimin sighs, but he’s always been too forgiving. Maybe because he so often needs forgiving himself. “I do understand. If I could stick to women, I probably would too.”

Seokjin probably shouldn’t say anything. But he’s tired - wrung out from being sick and even more exhausted by the lying. “Jimin-ah, that was all fake. I’m gay. I’ve always been gay.”

Jimin pulls away from Seokjin’s side, leaving Seokjin feeling cold. He stares at Seokjin, too shocked to even be angry. “What?”

Seokjin can’t quite think of how to respond.

“But you- But why?”

Seokjin swallows. “I- You- You saw Minkyu. You must have noticed that- That-” He can’t bring himself to articulate the bright rush of relief he’d felt at seeing Minkyu, or all the dark, terrible things he’d wondered about in that room and buried too far to dig up now. “Well. We were together when we were in high school, just- You know, just fooling around. But when we got found out, it- it wasn’t great.”

Jimin’s expression is too much for Seokjin to look at, so he doesn’t. “You heard him. He got sent to Australia and I-” Seokjin’s chest is tight again.

“You?” Jimin prompts softly.

“I got sent, um. To a hospital. You know, a mental hospital.” It’s easier to say it this time, having already said it once to Taehyung. “They said I was confused, depressed about my parents and not- Well, maybe they were right in some ways, but it was...”

“Hyung…” Jimin says, sounding horrified.

“I couldn’t- I couldn’t go back there. It was easier to just- to not-”

 

“Fuck, hyung,” Jimin’s voice is thick with tears, but Seokjin still doesn’t want to look at him. He’s saved from having to consider it, when Jimin abruptly plasters himself to Seokjin’s side again. “I’m sorry for being such a dick. I didn’t understand. You must really love Yoongi-hyung a lot.”

That idea makes Seokjin tense, the muscles in his body suddenly tight. No that’s not- “It wasn’t like that. I needed to- The details aren’t important, but it was just about money. I needed to get married and he needed an investor. It just worked out for both of us.”

Jimin pulls back then, eyes still damp with tears. “You can’t expect me to believe that. You could have married any of those women you dated. They never would have cared if you didn’t want to fuck them. Hell, you could have found one who didn’t want to fuck you either. You can’t really expect me to believe that you don’t care about Yoongi-hyung. Or what? That he doesn’t care about you?”

Seokjin looks away. He can’t. He can’t.

Jimin sighs. “Okay. Okay, hyung.” Then he changes the topic abruptly, something about a marketing meeting that goes on long enough for Seokjin’s muscles to relax. Jimin doesn’t bring any of it up again, but he does stay plastered to Seokjin’s side for the rest of the night.

#

Within a couple of days, Seokjin is completely recovered. It’s as if nothing had happened at all. No sign that Yoongi had ever sat by Seokjin’s sick bed, or held Seokjin’s hand when he was delirious, or helped him home and cooked for him.

Seokjin makes his apologies to Kyunghee-ssi, giving her a sizable bonus for the stress and for keeping him from potentially dying alone in his apartment unnoticed. He half expects her to quit, but she doesn’t. However, she does find excuses to pass by him every fifteen minutes while she cleans, unsubtly confirming that he’s still conscious. Hopefully that will fade with time.

Taehyung is also hovering. It seems like every day he drops by with some new charity that Seokjin can donate to, or some new takeout that Seokjin should try, or some new question about work. As if Seokjin has ever worked a day in his life. What advice can he possibly offer?

Seokjin tries to reassure Taehyung that he’s fine, and that Taehyung isn’t responsible for the effect of Seokjin’s terrible sleep habits. Unfortunately, the second part undercuts the first, and Seokjin eventually just resigns himself to Taehyung’s regular unannounced visits, and increasingly creative advice on insomnia.

Therefore, there’s nothing at all surprising about Taehyung bursting into Seokjin’s apartment in the middle of the next Thursday. At least, until Seokjin sees the wild look in Taehyung’s eyes.

Seokjin abandons the heavy file on the latest charity that might take some of his money. “Taehyung-ah, are you okay?”

Taehyung’s normal intensity seems to be turned up past what a human body can contain. He’s practically vibrating with some unknown emotion. “Hyung, what on earth did you say to Jimin?”

Seokjin frowns. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“He- He told his father that he wants to be with me. That he won’t get married, even if it means that he can’t take over the company.”

“What? How did his father take that?” Seokjin is shocked.

Taehyung tilts his head in a way that seems equivocal. “He’s giving the company to Jihyun, but he’s letting Jimin take over as CFO when the current guy retires.”

Jimin has been unwilling to openly defy his father for years. Seokjin can’t believe he’s finally done it. Seokjin is torn between wanting to go to Jimin, to find out how he’s handling the fall out, and wanting to stay with Taehyung, so obviously unsteady. But Taehyung is the one in front of him. “And you? How are you?”

Taehyung finally looks down, giving Seokjin a brief respite from his wild gaze. “I- I never wanted Jimin to do something that he would regret. I never wanted to be the thing that trapped him.”

Seokjin opens his mouth, ready to point out that it was never Taehyung or Jimin’s love for Taehyung that was trapping him, only Jimin’s father, and the business, and societal expectations, but Taehyung goes on. “But I wanted him to chose me. It’s selfish, but I- I can’t help wanting it. And he did. And I- I didn’t know what to say.” Taehyung stops there, seeming on the edge of tears.

“Okay.” Seokjin says, still reeling. “It’s a big change, you can take your time.”

Taehyung is really crying now. “That’s what Jimin said. He said- He said even if I didn’t want to be with him anymore, it was still worth it to be his true self, and to-” He swallows back some of the tears. “To love me.”

“Come here.” Seokjin tugs Taehyung in. Holds him close until the tears pass, hard but quick.

After, Taehyung pulls away, wiping his face. “I love him. It’s not that I don’t.”

Anyone who has ever seen them together knows that much. “And do you want to be with him at some point?”

Taehyung nods. “Yeah. I mean, of course.”

“Okay. Then you guys will get there. Just because Jimin made a big gesture doesn’t mean you have to jump straight into the deep end, you know. Taking your time doesn’t have to mean being apart. It can mean that you guys take your time together.”

Taehyung scrunches his face in a skeptical expression. “Like...dating?”

Seokjin laughs. “Why that tone? Isn’t that what people do when they like each other? Just because you’ve been doing this Romeo and Juliet thing for a decade doesn’t mean you can’t act like normal people for once.”

Taehyung makes a thoughtful expression. “I guess that’s true…” He muses on it for a moment longer, then brightens. “You know what, you’re right.”

“Usually.”

“Thanks, hyung! I’m going to go tell him.”

And then he’s zooming away before Seokjin can find a way to politely suggest that he washes the tears off his face. Ah well, Jimin won’t care.

A few days later, when Seokjin finally manages to see him in person, Jimin seems content in a way he’s never been before. Seokjin doesn’t know how to respond when Jimin credits Seokjin for inspiring him to take a stand. Even after Seokjin explains the situation in more detail, Jimin seems sure that Seokjin had come out because of Yoongi. Because of some long buried affection if not outright love. Try as he might, Seokjin can’t convince Jimin that the main motivators were fear and spite. In that exact order.

Seokjin can admit that he had wanted Yoongi. And Seokjin had always liked Yoongi in a friendly way. But all that had only made Yoongi a good tool for Seokjin’s plan, not the driving force behind it.

And now...

Well.

Now it doesn’t matter. Seokjin’s new plan is a clean divorce.

#

A month passes and then another. Seokjin gives away more and more of his money with the help of his new financial team. Even with a team there still seems to be a lot of work to it, at least compared to Seokjin’s usual days.

Taehyung and Jimin try to out do each other with dates. They pick themes and price points and score each other afterward. It all seems complicated to Seokjin, but it makes them happy. They’re already talking about moving in together, which doesn’t seem very slow to Seokjin, but what does Seokjin know about relationships? He hasn’t talked to his own husband in months.

Without Yoongi, Seokjin still has a hard time sleeping. It’s fine for awhile, and then it’s not. And when it’s really, really not fine, Seokjin finally calls the number that Taehyung had given him ages ago, casually sandwiched in between strange sleeping tips he’d found online. “I’m not pressuring you, hyung. You have to do what you feel is right for you. But this doctor, she’s not like the people you saw before. She has lots of queer clients. I promise that she’d never try to change that part of you.”

She meets with Seokjin the first few times at a park. It’s not very confidential, but Seokjin can’t bear the idea of being stuck in a room with her, no matter how much Taehyung believes in her. Even after Seokjin has grown to trust her more, they meet in private rooms at restaurants or explore new park paths. Seokjin hasn’t seen her office yet.

She listens to Seokjin’s story with professional calm and doesn’t suggest locking him away, which is a solid first step. They spend most of the first few sessions working past Seokjin’s fear of even being there, rather than addressing any of his other issues, but eventually they get to a place where she can offer him some strategies for when the old memories seep up. It’s certainly not a quick cure, but Seokjin gets better at pulling himself away from the thoughts he doesn’t want to have without alcohol and without giving strangers money. He gets a little more sleep.

And then, something happens that helps even more than the therapy. The company - his aunt and uncle’s company, his father’s former company, is suddenly in trouble. Big, unmistakable trouble that’s splashed across the business news. Seokjin doesn’t typically follow that kind of news, or, well, any news, but, once Jimin brings it to his attention, Seokjin watches the story closely. When his aunt is finally forced to step down as chair after days of bad news stories and terrible financial reports, Seokjin can breath deeper than he has in months.

Good. That’s- That’s good.

It’s not even so much that Seokjin wants to see them suffer (although it’s not not that either), but if they’re humbled to being just one of the ordinary rich, they probably don’t have the power to hurt Seokjin. Between that and everything Seokjin has done to make himself an unappealing target, he might actually be safe now.

After that, Seokjin starts to sleep at least a few solid hours every night.

The only problem is, with that weight off his mind, and no longer constantly hazy with exhaustion, Seokjin starts to spend too much time thinking about Yoongi. Seokjin knows what Jimin thinks about the situation. Seokjin is pretty sure that Taehyung thinks the same. Seokjin even suspects his therapist might agree.

And...okay. Seokjin can see why someone might think that.

It’s true that Seokjin wants to make Yoongi happy. Whether that means giving Yoongi money or a divorce, Seokjin wants that. And yes, there’s something different about Yoongi. Something that sets Yoongi apart from the endless, ever-growing list of people that Seokjin has given money and- Well, Seokjin has never given someone a divorce before, but he’s certainly preempted it by not marrying a lot of women who probably would have been perfectly happy to be his wife. At least at first.

But with Yoongi, there’s another level somehow. Seokjin wants to make Yoongi happy, not only by giving him things, but just by- Just by being himself, just by laughing together, or reminding Yoongi to eat dinner when he’s working. And Seokjin still wants to be there even when he can’t make Yoongi happy. To just sit with Yoongi even when things are bad. To make sure that Yoongi knows that he never has to be alone if he doesn’t want to.

So maybe. Maybe, the thing that everyone thinks is true. It would be typical of Seokjin to make such a mess of what was supposed to be a simple exchange. Well, not simple, but bloodless. Empty. Not-

Not this.

But it’s too late now.

It’s too late, and it doesn’t matter. Whatever other people think they see, whatever Seokjin might feel, his feelings aren’t Yoongi’s problem. That, Seokjin knows for sure.

So instead of reaching out to Yoongi and tangling him further in Seokjin’s mess, Seokjin works on wrapping up the project of spending his fortune. Instead of reaching out to Yoongi, Seokjin has his financial people work on neatly dividing what’s left of his money. Instead of reaching out for Yoongi, Seokjin has his lawyer figure out what steps are needed for an American divorce.

Seokjin does get little snippets of news about Yoongi though. Even after everything, Seokjin still meets up with Jungkook occasionally. It’s clear that Jungkook thinks that Seokjin and Yoongi have broken up, rather then...well, whatever happened, but he’s clearly trying not to take sides. Seokjin hopes, after all of this, he and Jungkook can stay friends. Jungkook is a sweet kid, funny and kind, and being around him makes Seokjin feel young. A kind of young Seokjin thinks he might not ever have really been. And Seokjin knows that he can make Jungkook laugh, can get him out of his head for a moment. Jungkook needs that sometimes.

A bonus of hanging out with Jungkook is that every once and awhile Jungkook will slip and mention something about Yoongi. Mostly only about music, suggestions Yoongi had for a song or how Yoongi reacted to the final recording, that kind of thing. Even so, when it happens, Jungkook always looks so guilty that Seokjin never presses for more. But it’s enough for Seokjin to gather that the business is going well, that things are progressing right along the path that Namjoon had set out in his detailed plan all those months ago, that Yoongi’s dream is becoming a reality.

Seokjin is glad.

#

Spring is starting to fully settle in. Seokjin knows because his therapist is big on “fresh air” and “changing scenery.” She encourages Seokjin to take regular walks in the outdoors. So Seokjin knows that the leaves are coming in and the days are getting lighter and warmer. It’s nice, he supposes.

Today, the weather had been chilly though, much too cold for the light jacket Seokjin had worn. Despite this, Seokjin had refused to cut his walk short, and had been rewarded by the sight of four different dogs, which was also nice. One of the dogs wasn’t even walking, just being carried by a doting owner.

Still, the idea of Seokjin’s perfectly temperature controlled apartment is nicer right now. Or at least it was, until Seokjin turns the corner and sees Yoongi at his door.

Yoongi is just standing there, shoulders slumped, looking at the ground. Seokjin wonders if Yoongi has already rung and received no answer, or if he’s still trying to muster the will to press the button.

Seokjin clears his throat and Yoongi looks up. He seems oddly startled to see Seokjin, staring with wide eyes until Seokjin is forced to break the silence again. “Yoongi-yah?”

Yoongi snaps back to himself, his expression clouding over. He fidgets with something in his coat pocket. “I was hoping we could talk.”

Seokjin nods, all the lightness earned through fresh air and dog spotting leaving him instantly. He supposes it’s a good thing that he’d already put his lawyers to work on the divorce issue.

Yoongi follows him into the apartment, hesitating for a moment before taking off his shoes and heavy coat, as if not sure he’ll be here long enough to justify it.

Seokjin ignores that. He hangs up his own coat and then turns back, taking a breath to ask Yoongi if he wants something to drink, only to find Yoongi holding out an envelope to him - two hands, polite.

Seokjin, unthinkingly takes it. It’s light in his hands. Too light and too small to be divorce papers.

Yoongi isn’t meeting Seokjin’s eyes, but he says, “You can open it,” so Seokjin does.

It’s a check. Precisely the amount that Seokjin had given Yoongi all those months ago.

“I know this doesn’t cover everything - the flight to Los Angeles, the lawyer, the hotel and all that, so just tell me what would be fair and I’ll get it to you when I can.”

Seokjin takes a moment, looking at the zeros. “Jungkook’s album is coming out soon, you must still need this.” He slides the check in the envelope again and hands it back to Yoongi.

Yoongi doesn’t take it, just squares his shoulders proudly. “Namjoon and I sold some songs. We’re doing well.”

Seokjin sighs. “But still, I don’t- I never expected you to pay me back. You know that.”

Yoongi doesn’t even look at the envelope. “Well, I am.”

“Yoongi-yah, it doesn’t make any sense. We’re married. This is basically already your money.” A thought occurs to Seokjin. “Actually, hold on a moment.”

When Seokjin comes back from the office, a room that his interior designer had created back when Seokjin bought the place, but has only recently seen any use, Yoongi’s proud posture has slumped back into the uncertain, uncomfortable slouch he’d worn outside Seokjin’s front door.

Seokjin hands him the envelope again, but this time shoved between the pages of a bankbook.

Yoongi frowns at Seokjin, but takes it, curiosity obviously winning. He opens it, glancing through quickly and then once again slowly, his eyes going wide again. “What is this?”

“I had my money guy open you an account. I don’t want you to feel like you need to- to come to me for this. It’s yours.”

It’s a mirror of the money Seokjin had set aside for himself before trying to spend down his fortune. Enough for Yoongi to live a good life, for all of his life, or enough to take the business from a small start up to something much larger, or enough to just blow over the course of a few stupidly expensive years the way Seokjin has seen plenty of people do.

“This- This isn’t mine. This isn’t why I agreed to marry you. I don’t want it.” Yoongi had been so polite before, but now he thrusts the book and the check at Seokjin roughly, and when Seokjin won’t take it, Yoongi lets it fall there at Seokjin’s feet, as if it he can’t stand to hold it for one more second.

Seokjin looks at the book and the check laying at his feet and feels even lighter than he had after spotting the fourth dog. “I know you don’t,” he says softly. “I know, Yoongi-yah. That’s why- That’s why it had to be you.”

Yoongi looks at him, frustration obvious. “Why? Why any of this?”

“Do you want to know?”

Yoongi throws up his hands, still uncharacteristically sharp. “Of course I do!”

“Okay.”

Yoongi freezes, mouth open in shock. “What? Are you going to tell me now?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.” Seokjin swallows, not sure where to start. “Uh, okay.”

Yoongi crosses his arms, chin set stubbornly, waiting.

“Okay, so...Okay, remember when- When I ran into you at Jimin’s? At the beginning of all of this?”

“Of course.”

“I was just coming from my lawyer’s. I’d just found out, um, that my aunt and uncle were trying to- to get me declared mentally unwell. Too unwell to manage myself. Uh, sent away to a hospital.”

Yoongi’s arms come uncrossed, his expression turning shocked. “What? Why?

“Because as my closest relatives, if that happened, they would get control of my finances.”

Yoongi looks furious, but he visibly bites back his response, letting Seokjin continue.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen, but their business was in trouble. I guess they probably tried the usual things first, but- Well, they’d always hated what my father did and that I benefited from it. And they- They had precedent. Um, back when I was in high school, when Minkyu and I got found out- They’d- They had- Well. I’d been in a place like that before. So I guess they had a doctor who was willing to say… Maybe the same guy, I don’t know.”

Seokjin can’t look at Yoongi at all now, not even to see if Yoongi is following the confusing muddle Seokjin is making of this.

“So I needed- I needed to make sure that someone else would get the money if anything happened to me. That someone else would be responsible for medical decisions. I didn’t mean for it- I didn’t plan for it to be you. That part was kind of an accident, but I- It had to be someone I could trust.”

Yoongi makes a tiny, wounded noise.

“I’m sorry to pull you into all this. I just couldn’t- I couldn’t go back there.” Seokjin thinks that’s all of it. He makes himself look at Yoongi.

Yoongi looks very calm now. “That’s why you were so upset when I suggested you see someone, isn’t it?”

Seokjin nods, trying to match Yoongi’s calm. “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t mean like that, but I just- It was just too much to hear right then.”

Yoongi nods. “I’m sorry too.”

“I, uh. I mean, you were right of course. I actually have been seeing someone that Taehyung suggested.”

A ripple runs through Yoongi’s calm, his arms coming back up across his chest. “Oh. That’s good. I’m glad. How is Taehyung?”

Seokjin is confused by the change in topic. “Taehyung? Um, he’s doing well. He and Jimin are apartment hunting. They want a fresh start when they move into together apparently.”

“Taehyung and...Jimin?”

Seokjin brightens, happy to share good news. “Oh, you didn’t hear? Jimin finally put his foot down with his father.”

Yoongi’s eyebrows are furrowed. “And you’re happy about that?”

“I mean, yeah? I think Jimin is happier without the pressure of taking over the company anyway. It’s not perfect of course, but it could have gone worse.”

Yoongi shakes his head. “I mean, Taehyung.”

Seokjin is really lost now. “What about Taehyung?”

“Weren’t you and Taehyung…”

“Me and Taehyung...?”

Yoongi just looks expectant.

It takes Seokjin a ridiculously long moment to understand what he’s implying. “I wasn’t- I was never with Taehyung. Is that what you thought?”

This appears to genuinely throw Yoongi off balance. “What? But you- And he-”

Seokjin can’t help but be annoyed. “You thought, not only was I cheating on my husband-”

“We weren’t like that!” Yoongi splutters.

“But I’d stolen my best friend’s lover?”

Yoongi is embarrassed, flustered and sharp with it. “You didn’t have any problem stealing me from Jimin,” he snaps and then only looks more embarrassed.

Seokjin should say that Yoongi, and Taehyung for that matter, isn’t a thing to be stolen. That Yoongi had made his own choices. But what actually comes out of his mouth, too possessive and far too revealing, is, “I saw you first.”

Yoongi’s face is still flushed, but the tenor of it shifts, his scowl softening, eyebrows raising, mouth a little open. “Hyung…”

Seokjin wants, suddenly and swiftly, to kiss the lingering pout off Yoongi’s lips, to press his nose to the warm flush of Yoongi’s cheek, and for Yoongi to be holding onto Seokjin rather than himself.

Seokjin clears his throat. “I’m sorry.” He bends down, picks up the bank book and the envelope, holding them back out to Yoongi. “I know you didn’t agree to any of this because of the money, but it’s yours. We can get a divorce now. It’s not a problem anymore, but no matter what, this is still going to be yours.”

Yoongi takes the papers, but then puts them on the coffee table, looking at Seokjin not the money. “Is that what you want?”

It’s Seokjin’s turn to feel flustered. “What?”

“Is that what you want, hyung? Because I told you, I won’t make trouble for you, if that’s- If a divorce is what you want. So just tell me, is that what you want?”

Yoongi is watching Seokjin closely. Seokjin can’t look away from him, and for once can’t bring himself to dodge the truth. “No.”

“No?” Yoongi’s breath catches, but the intensity of his gaze doesn’t waver.

“Of course not, Yoongi-yah. Of course not.” Seokjin’s admitted the truth. There’s no point in prevaricating now.

“Of course?” Yoongi repeats, sounding a little dazed.

“Of course,” Seokjin says firmly. “If you’d- If you’d let me convince you…”

Yoongi laughs, a startlingly light sound amidst all the tense energy between them. “Convince me? What are you going to do? Give me what I need to make my dreams come true? Fuck me just right? Fly me to another country?” He sobers slightly. “Introduce me to your parents?”

Seokjin’s mouth is dry. “And would any of that work?”

“Well…I did marry you.”

Seokjin takes a step closer. “But that was- That was you being kind. That was a favor.”

Yoongi looks up at him. “I’m not that kind, hyung. Do you see me doing that kind of favor for just anyone?”

Seokjin shakes his head, not an answer to Yoongi’s question, but denying the implication. “You’d do it for Namjoon, or Jungkook, or Hoseok. Maybe for Jimin.”

Yoongi reaches out. Takes Seokjin’s hand. “Maybe. Maybe for someone I care about. But I wouldn’t- I wouldn’t stay married to any of them. Only to you.”

“Oh,” Seokjin says. He feels almost separate from himself suddenly. Too much happiness rushing to fit into his body, so that he’s left it behind. Just standing there stupidly while the rest of him tries not to simply dissolve into nothing, like the remains of a firework glittering to darkness in the night sky, too bright to last.

“Yeah, oh,” Yoongi says, and then he’s pulling Seokjin into a hug, holding Seokjin together until the fizzling, sparkling bits of Seokjin coalesce into a body once more, humming there against Yoongi.

Then Yoongi is moving somehow even closer, his hand on Seokjin’s face. “Hyung.”

He kisses Seokjin and they fit so well, slotting together with all the practice they’ve had at this, the kiss as warm and comforting as the hug. But it very quickly turns into something hungrier, too much hunger to let them fit neatly against one another. They trade touches instead. Seokjin pressing kisses to the softness of Yoongi’s cheeks and chin, along his eyebrow, and under the corner of his eye, the place that crinkles and lifts when he smiles. And, in the gaps between Seokjin’s kisses, Yoongi’s mouth drifts down Seokjin jaw and neck, under the collar of his shirt.

They don’t discuss it and Seokjin couldn’t say who moves first, but they find themselves drifting toward Seokjin’s bed, the path made difficult by their inability to stop touching each other. Still, they make it in the end, pushing each other down into the sheets and then pulling at each other’s clothing.

Each inch of Yoongi’s skin that is revealed is an unexpected relief to Seokjin - like a headache only noticed when the pain stops. Seokjin hasn’t let himself think about how much he’d missed Yoongi. Not really. Not in detail. Not the specifics. But now Seokjin can’t keep his hands, his mouth off each part of Yoongi that he’d missed. Rough with it, as if by getting as close as possible Seokjin can make up for the time lost. Like Seokjin can press hard enough into Yoongi to make himself a part of Yoongi. Can work his way into Yoongi’s skin and never be left behind again.

Yoongi lets him. Lets Seokjin press bruising kisses along the curve of his bicep, the knobs of his wrist, the crook of his elbow. Lets Seokjin breathe against his chest, biting the light muscle there just enough leave a mark, and then do the same down the softness of Yoongi’s stomach and his thighs.

It’s only when Seokjin turns his attention to Yoongi’s cock, already hard, that Yoongi says, breathless, but chiding, “No more biting.”

Seokjin laughs, and then turns to re-familiarizing himself with this part of Yoongi too, first with his lips and then swallowing Yoongi down, filling the emptiness Seokjin is only now acknowledging. He’s left his marks on Yoongi, but now he needs Yoongi in him, needs to make Yoongi a part of him too.

Yoongi groans, hips bucking up. Maybe Yoongi wants, as much as Seokjin does, this closeness. It’s more than Seokjin can usually take, but he doesn’t hold Yoongi’s hips down, he lets Yoongi’s cock slip further into his throat. If Yoongi goes too far, so much the better. Let him press deep into Seokjin, dig himself into Seokjin and stay there.

Seokjin has no thoughts beyond that. Nothing beyond making Yoongi spill down his throat, all of him Seokjin’s to keep, and then maybe doing it again just to be sure, but Yoongi pushes Seokjin back, away from himself. “Hyung,” he says, voice strained, clearly not that far from fulfilling Seokjin’s wishes. “I want- I want you to fuck me.”

The idea breaks over Seokjin as if totally new, and instantly he wants it desperately.

They pull apart for a moment, Yoongi taking the lube to hurriedly finger himself open while Seokjin fumbles with the condoms. The box is brand new, and, in his haste, Seokjin manages to rip the cardboard open, sending all the little packets cascading into the bed. Yoongi, two fingers pressed deep inside himself, laughs and then says, “Hyung, do we have to?”

Before, even after they’d exchanged clean test results, and even after they’d been married, they’d still always used protection for this. Seokjin looks between the condoms and Yoongi. “Have you- Since?”

Yoongi shakes his head.

Seokjin breathes out. Sweeps the scattering of condom packets to the floor in two careless shoves. “Me either.”

He slots himself between Yoongi’s legs, pulls Yoongi’s hand away, letting his fingers touch the warm red mark he’d sucked on Yoongi’s wrist. “Let me, Yoongi-yah. Let hyung.”

Yoongi does and Seokjin presses his own fingers into Yoongi. He tries to be careful, tries not to let the wild need filling him hurt Yoongi, but Yoongi is just as impatient. “Come on,” he says after only half the time Seokjin would usually spend, “Come on.”

Yoongi is still too tight around Seokjin’s fingers, but Seokjin can’t resist him any longer. He gives in, stopping only long enough to pour some more lube over the place where they meet, pushing it into Yoongi, still cold. At least he knows that Yoongi is as wet as Seokjin can make him.

Seokjin wipes his fingers off against his own thigh. Then he puts his hands on Yoongi’s hips, urging him over.

Yoongi goes willingly, up on his knees before Seokjin realizes it.

“No, come back here,” Seokjin says, and tugs Yoongi back down again, onto his side this time, so that Seokjin can press himself up against Yoongi in one long line, face buried in the back of Yoongi’s neck, plastering them together as close as he can get. Still trying to make himself a part of Yoongi and Yoongi a part of him.

Seokjin slides into Yoongi, slow as either of them can stand. Yoongi is so tight, too tight, but he doesn’t let Seokjin stop. Seokjin makes it eventually, all the way into Yoongi. He breathes there for a moment, wondering if this can fuse them together. If maybe Seokjin is finally deep enough in Yoongi to become a part of him.

“Come on,” Yoongi says again, snapping Seokjin back to the moment.

Seokjin moves then, slow at first, and then fast when Yoongi’s body adjusts. He reaches down, props Yoongi’s leg up, and fucks even deeper into Yoongi, tries to get closer to locking them together forever.

Yoongi is making those little noises that Seokjin loves so much. He’s reaching back and holding onto Seokjin tightly, meeting each of Seokjin’s strokes. He is saying something that might be Seokjin’s name, and might be praise, and might just be a jumble of sounds.

Seokjin wants this to last forever, but he knows it can’t, already slipping too close to the edge. Yoongi’s cock is hot and leaking in his hand. It only takes two strokes before Yoongi comes with a moan, head thrown back on Seokjin’s shoulder, come running over Seokjin’s fingers, and his body clenching perfectly around Seokjin.

It’s too much, it’s just enough, and Seokjin is coming too, wrapping his arm around Yoongi, tucking his face into Yoongi’s neck, tight, tight against Yoongi as the waves of pleasure roll over Seokjin. As Seokjin comes deep inside Yoongi, leaving part of himself there.

They lay like that, locked together despite the mess of sweat and lube and come, Seokjin breathing warm against Yoongi’s neck and Yoongi still holding onto his arm, leaving his own bruises on Seokjin.

When Seokjin finally untangles himself and pulls carefully out of Yoongi, it’s to stumble to the bathroom, ready to bring back a cloth to clean Yoongi up. Seokjin expects Yoongi to be already falling asleep in his sheets, as Yoongi often does after sex, but Seokjin is surprised to turn around to find that Yoongi has followed him into the bathroom.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything while Seokjin blinks at him in confusion, just turns on the tub, letting it fill. He takes the cloth from Seokjin’s hand, cleaning the worst of the mess off himself and Seokjin. When the tub is full enough, Yoongi steps in and then guides Seokjin into the warm water after him.

They stay there for a long while, cocooned in the bathwater and each other. They kiss, but mostly they touch, memorizing each other slowly, more gently now, languid and hazy in the steam of the bath. Eventually (some point after the third time Yoongi pours more hot water into the tub to keep it from going cold), hunger starts to gnaw at Seokjin’s stomach making it rumble obnoxiously. Yoongi laughs at him and offers to make lunch.

They reluctantly get dressed, only because Yoongi refuses to cook naked, and Seokjin follows him around the kitchen, theoretically helping, but mostly draping himself over Yoongi’s back, unwilling to stop touching him.

Yoongi draws the line when they sit down to eat, making Seokjin keep to his own chair and firmly refusing any attempts to feed him. “We’re not actually newlyweds you know.”

“Right,” Seokjin says, feeling a little flat.

Yoongi nudges him with his foot. “I just mean- We’ve been married for months.”

“Oh.” Seokjin brightens. “Right.”

He muses on that for a moment and then says, “You know, Yoongi-yah, we never had a honeymoon.”

Yoongi chews his food thoughtfully. “Not until Jungkook’s album promo is over.”

Seokjin’s heart flips in his chest. He hadn’t been expecting Yoongi to agree, and certainly not so easily. “Really?”

Yoongi smiles at him, a little shy and a lot happy. “Yeah, really.”

“Oh,” Seokjin breathes, taken aback anew. “Okay.” He smiles too, just as happy.

#

It had seemed like a simple idea when Seokjin had decided to bring Yoongi lunch. The current comeback schedule was clearly not designed with Yoongi’s mealtimes in mind, and so, to ensure that his husband wasn’t solely surviving on disgusting smoothies and cereal bars, Seokjin had to take matters into his own hands.

It’s not that Seokjin doesn’t know where to find Yoongi. Yoongi is almost always to be found in his studio, even as the company has grown. However, finding Yoongi’s studio in the confusing maze of hallways - a far cry from the little, three room suite Yoongi and Namjoon had started in - can present a challenge. The most challenging part is the battalions of employees (too many for Seokjin to keep up with, no matter how often he stops by) all of whom seem to believe it is their sworn duty to keep unnecessary distractions from bothering Yoongi.

Luckily, Seokjin eventually runs into Yoongi’s latest protege, Jiyoo, who waves off a well-meaning assistant who had been trying to convince Seokjin that Yoongi’s calendar was full and could he schedule a meeting? Mostly lucky anyway, Seokjin had still been waiting for the perfect moment to explain to the assistant who he is to Yoongi. Surprising all these new employees is one of Seokjin’s small joys in life and now he’s missed his chance.

“Maybe I should get Yoongi to post my picture at regular intervals. I mean, if nothing else it would probably improve morale,” Seokjin jokes to Jiyoo as she guides him to Yoongi’s studio.

She laughs politely, which is more than Seokjin would have gotten from Yoongi’s last protege, over-serious in the extreme.

When they get there, Yoongi is in deep discussion with one of the producers. He shoots Seokjin a smile, but indicates that it will be a minute. Seokjin settles down to wait, and Jiyoo sits down too.

“You don’t have to keep me company, Jiyoo-ssi.”

She shakes her head and holds up a file. “I have to give this to Min PD-nim anyway.”

Seokjin nods, then rummages through what he’s brought to hand her a container. “Well, you might as well have some food then.”

She looks simultaneously scandalized and hungry. “Oh I couldn’t.”

“It’s no problem.” Seokjin always brings extra, if not for whatever roving intern needs feeding, then for Namjoon and Jungkook.

She doesn’t need any more convincing than that, and as she eats she seems to relax a bit from the painful politeness most of Yoongi’s employees have around Seokjin these days. No one wants to annoy the husband of the boss, which Seokjin understands, but what’s life without a little playful annoyance? At least Seokjin will always have Jungkook to step on his toes. Literally.

She’s focused on the food, so Seokjin lets himself watch Yoongi for a moment. Whatever he’s discussing with his producer, they’re both passionate about it, but in that quiet, respectful way Yoongi cultivates around himself. Yoongi looks tired, but no less focused for it. Seokjin sees the moment that they solve whatever musical problem there is, Yoongi leaning forward in his chair as the mix plays. He doesn’t quite smile, but he looks satisfied, and he nods at the other producer. They listen to the song play again, both of them looking content now.

Seokjin smiles to himself.

Jiyoo makes a little sound, and Seokjin turns to find her watching him. She looks away, guilty.

“What?”

She shakes her head, swallowing a mouthful of food. “Nothing.”

“Ah, you can tell me. Is there new gossip about me?”

She looks up, startled. Clearly she hadn’t expected him to know that they gossip about him at all. So young still. As if there’s a boss’s spouse alive who hasn’t been gossiped about at least a little!

“Hm, let me guess.”

She waves a hand at him, clearly not wanting him to proceed, but it’s too funny not to.

“Hmm…Am I cheating on him?”

No reaction. “Oh okay, I’m loyal. That’s true. Umm….do I spend all his money on, I don’t know, nice clothes and expensive face creams?”

A slight reaction, but not quite there. Seokjin pushes further along this line, delighted. “Wait. Am I golddigger? A trophy husband?”

She flinches. Clearly she still needs to gather a bit more experience if she wants to get into the business side of things. She would not survive a boardroom. Seokjin laughs. “Oh that’s wonderful. How did we meet in this scenario?”

She shoves a massive mouthful of food in her mouth, in a desperate bid not to have to respond.

Seokjin only raises his eyebrows, prepared to wait her out, but she’s saved by Yoongi’s arrival. Yoongi looks between her labored chewing and Seokjin’s grin. “Did I miss something?”

Seokjin smiles innocently up at him. “I’m just learning. I have a natural intellectual curiosity, you know.”

Jiyoo, having finished her food at a rate that cannot be healthy, stands. “Sorry, Min PD-nim. I just needed to give you this.” She bows a bit, too formal, to both Yoongi and Seokjin. “Kim Seokjin-ssi.”

Yoongi accepts the file. “Thank you. Please ignore whatever my husband has been saying to you.”

She nods, looking relieved.

Seokjin smiles at her, but she’s already making her escape. “It was nice to see you again,” he calls after her.

Yoongi digs through the various containers until he finds his favorite. “Don’t tortue my employees,” he says mildly.

Seokjin sighs. “I’ll do my best. But. Did you know that I married you for your money?”

Yoongi finds some chopsticks and pops the lid off the container. “Is that so?”

“Apparently. You interrupted before I could find out for sure, but I think I seduced you with my good looks.”

Yoongi studies him for a moment. “Well. I think it was probably a fair trade. I deserved something nice after all my success.”

Seokjin is more delighted than ever. “Thank you for saving me from a life of toil.”

Yoongi chews, swallows, and then says, still completely deadpan. “You’re welcome.”

Seokjin laughs, and a smile finally breaks through Yoongi’s serious expression.

Whatever path they took to get here, Seokjin is just happy that they’re here now, together. He wouldn't want to be anywhere else.