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to the night, will you follow me?

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the good thing about working from home is that yoongi never has to worry about being late or written up or generally inconvenienced. the bad thing about working from home is that his bed is only a few steps away and his son is a hyperactive fire breather. yoongi hears the young boy bouncing around in his bedroom and he seethes because he was absolutely certain that he put the kid to sleep a mere half hour ago.

expense reports were going to have to wait.

when he gets to the bedroom, he leans against the doorframe and watches the five year old fleet from one side of the room to the other. “taehyung-ah, what are you doing?”

taehyung stops in his tracks, snapping his head toward his father like a deer in the headlights. yoongi wouldn’t admit but he finds himself having to chant “don’t smile” repeatedly in his head because his kid is just too adorable. and those spider-man pajamas? it’s infectiously cute.

“daddy, where’s my hulk?”

his hulk is a small action figure that he’s never played with before. taehyung has a bulk of them because hoseok, yoongi’s colleague and old college buddy, showers him with things he doesn’t need. whenever taehyung sees hoseok, he gets excited under the presumption that he’ll be receiving some new plush or a dessert that’ll leave him up all night.

“your hulk?” yoongi steps forward, crouching down so that he’s at eye level with the five year old. “i thought you didn’t even like that thing.”

“i don’t. jimin likes hulk.”

yoongi sighs. taehyung started kindergarten on september 3rd and that’s where he met jimin, his new best friend. it’s now october which means yoongi has had to listen to every single detail about jimin for a little over a month. once on the car ride home, taehyung talked the entire way home about how jimin doesn’t like apples so yoongi should pack pears instead. when yoongi asked him how jimin’s distaste for apples affected his lunch packing abilities, taehyung just said “how else am i supposed to share with him?”

yoongi pulls taehyung up in his arms. “it’s nine o’clock, kiddo. you need to go to sleep.”

“i can’t!” taehyung kicks and struggles which, if not for yoongi having dealt the kid’s resistance to sleep for four years, would have been annoying. “it’s jiminnie’s birthday tomorrow, i have to get him a present.”

yoongi tosses him onto the bed. “i will find hulk, okay? and i will give him to you and you can take him to jimin tomorrow but right now it’s way past your bedtime.”

“why do you get to stay up all night?”

“because i already went to kindergarten, okay?” yoongi tucks the child in tightly. “now i can go to bed whenever i want.”

“it’s not fair.”

“i know,” yoongi runs his hands through taehyung’s hair, gently caressing his scalp because that has always been the best way to put him to sleep. “i promise one day you’ll be able to go to bed any time you want to. but if you don’t go to sleep now, you’re gonna be too tired to play with jimin tomorrow. and you don’t want him to have a bad birthday, do you?”

taehyung scours, looking shameful. “no.”

“good night, little man.”

taehyung pulls him forward, his tiny arms wrapped tightly around yoongi’s neck, their foreheads pressed together. “i love you, daddy.”

“i love you more. don’t you forget it.”

 

when taehyung is settled down at last, yoongi can technically go back to writing his expense reports but he can’t because if he doesn’t find the hulk, taehyung will hate him. of course he’ll only hate him for like ten minutes but still he’s not the type of father who gets a kick out of pissing off their children.

he overturns the couch, empties drawers, and searches every single nook of taehyung’s bedroom as quietly as possible. he finally finds it in the couch cushions and he frowns when he does because the hulk, the infamous incredibly strong and heroic hulk, is headless.

“sorry jimin.”

 

the doorbell rings and yoongi jumps up to answer it. “about time.”

“excuse you,” hoseok scoffs, letting himself into the apartment and toeing off his shoes. “i didn’t have to go to the closest toy store a mere ten minutes before they closed to find a toy that taehyung already has. but i did it and you should be nicer.”

after yoongi shuts the door, he narrows his eyes at the shopping bag in hoseok’s hand. it’s much too big to be holding a single action figure. “i can already tell this one is better than the one he had. what else did you get and how much was it?”

“don’t sweat it,” hoseok smiles. “i love that kid, he can have whatever he wants.”

“that’s easy for you to say, you’re not the one who has to teach him the value of a dollar or deal with a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants.”

“that’s why i do it.”

yoongi shakes his head, a fond smile on his face. he steps into the kitchen and starts to make coffee for the two of them while hoseok sits in the living room. “well, the joke’s on you, it’s not for him.”

“jimin?”

“yep.”

neither of them have had the pleasure of meeting jimin or his parents. there had only been one parent/teacher meet and greet at the beginning of the school year and yoongi didn’t go. instead, he went to the movies with taehyung instead, celebrating his last week as a free pre-kindergartener.

but even without having met jimin, they know a lot about him. they know his favorite ice cream flavor, his favorite superhero, his favorite nursery rhyme, all courtesy of taehyung talking about him endlessly.

“what’s the occasion?”

“it’s his birthday and taehyung wants to wants to have a present for him.”

hoseok chuckles into his mug. “such a sweet kid.”

 

 

“i’m sorry, what did you say?”

yoongi can only blink, his mouth hanging wide open as he puts his glasses on. he was doing so well, working so hard on the expense reports that he actually finished them in record time. he was rewarding himself with a rare, well deserved nap when his phone rang. he heard what he heard, for sure, but he can’t quite believe it.

“your son hit another student,” the principal repeats slowly.

yoongi is standing up now, rushing to put on something decent and go to the school. because his son couldn’t have done that, he cried for an hour after accidentally killing a ladybug. “are you sure you’ve got the right kid? min taehyung?”

“yes, sir. we’d like you to come down to the school so we can settle this amongst the parents and the students involved.”

“wait, was he fighting more than one person?”

“we haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet, if you could make it here within the hour, that’d be fantastic.”

 

taehyung has never physically fought anyone. even when he kicks when yoongi picks him up to put him to sleep, it isn’t to hurt yoongi only to make it harder for him to hold on to. even when he has tantrums, he throws himself on the ground and refuses to get up. he has never put his hands on anyone.

he hopes they have the wrong kid but when he walks into the waiting area to the principal’s office, it’s his son sitting there. his face is in his hands and there’s a smaller boy sitting next with a noticeable red mark on his face.

yoongi calls his son’s name and the boy looks up with teary eyes. taehyung runs into his arms and cries.

“it’s not my fault!”

maybe he should be like other parents, more like his parents who believed the teachers when they told them he caused trouble. but he just can’t swing it because he knows, whatever happened, isn’t taehyung’s fault. “come on, i’ll take care of it. first you have to tell me—“

“what happened?” another voice chimes in, someone breezing into the waiting area and kneeling in front of the child that had been whispering to taehyung. “jimin, are you okay?”

yoongi raises an eyebrow. “you’re the infamous jimin? you okay, kid?”

both jimin and his dad turn to yoongi. “i take it you’re taehyung’s father? good to meet you. i’m seokjin.”

“you too. is he okay?”

then the door opens and the principal stands in the entryway with his arms folded. he smiles gently, knowingly like he understands this is a perplexing situation. “mr. min, mr. kim, please come inside.”

 

“i know this is confusing,” the principal leans forward. “we don’t even know the specifics of it quite yet. we didn’t want the boys to feel pressured having to explain it over and over again so we just wanted to go through it once together.”

he smiles at taehyung and jimin. “can either one of you explain what happened? taehyung?”

yoongi massages circles onto taehyung’s back before wrapping his arms around him. “it’s okay, tell us what happened.”

taehyung sniffles. “today’s jimin’s birthday.”

“okay?”

“and mr. kim was nice and gave him a cupcake to share with me. and we were going to eat it but jiyoung wanted it. we told him we were sorry and that we’d make sure to give him a snack tomorrow but he said he wanted that one so he took it. i didn’t mean to hit him,  i was just trying to get the cupcake back because mr. kim didn’t make it for jiyoung and he shouldn’t have taken it.”

“it’s not taehyung’s fault, it’s mine!” jimin suddenly speaks up, sitting up straighter on his father’s lap.

“no, it’s not!” taehyung snaps.

“yes, it is!”

“no, it’s not! you’re not telling the truth!”

“taehyung,” yoongi rests a hand on his son’s shoulder.

seokjin clears his throat. “mr. lee, i really respect you, i do. you are so great with these children and with this school but from the sound of it, there is no reason either of these boys needs to be in the principal’s office.”

yoongi nods. “i’m with him. if anything this jiyoung kid should be in here, why single out the ones that were being bullied?”

“the thing is,” the principal swallows thickly. “jiyoung is the one who ended up with bruises.”

yoongi scoffs and tilts his head toward jimin. “you can’t be blind to that shiner on his face, right?”

for the first time, yoongi gets a good look at mr. kim’s face when he turns to him. he smiles slightly, like he’s appreciative of yoongi noticing. “

“jimin, sweetie, what happened to your face?”

“jiyoung hit him!” taehyung exclaims. “i hit jiyoung by mistake and he hit jimin on purpose. i didn’t mean to hit him, daddy, i promise.”

“i know, i know.” yoongi’s face softens.

a long time ago, yoongi had a talk with taehyung shortly after taehyung said he wanted to punch hoseok’s “stupid face”. he’d explained how when he was a kid in high school, he hit a lot of people and it wasn’t a nice thing. how he didn’t want taehyung to do the same thing and that it was very important to him that he wouldn’t hurt anyone. taehyung took that very seriously.

when taehyung tears up, yoongi takes that as his cue.

“with all due respect,” he starts as he stands up. “i think i should go. there’s no reason my son should be here, no reason either of them should be here actually. call that kid in here, have him suspended or something — whatever it is you do with kids their age. really splendid job you’re doing by the way, punishing the kids trying to defend themselves.”

pulling up taehyung into his arms, he turns to seokjin and smiles. “it was nice to meet you two. jimin, thank you for being such a good friend to my son. i hope to see you again…under better circumstances.”

taehyung burrows into yoongi’s neck, his tears cold against his skin. “are you mad at me?”

“of course not, i’m proud of you.”

“really?”

yoongi nods. “you stood up for your friend, for the right thing. no matter the conditions, i’ll always be proud of you for doing that.”

 

 

taehyung is squealing with delight as hoseok runs around the living room giving him what has to be the wildest piggyback ride ever.

hoseok may be frustrating at times with how good of a job he does at spoiling his son but yoongi is eternally grateful for him. it’s because of hoseok’s undying adoration for taehyung that yoongi is able to do things like get overdue work done and wash the dishes. he’s trying to figure out how he can possibly work in an hour of sales calls before before bedtime whilst managing to give taehyung his bath and bedtime story when his phone rings.

“hello?”

“this is min yoongi, right? taehyung’s dad?”

yoongi bites his lip. “yep, who is this?”

“seokjin,” he laughs nervously. “jimin’s—“

“yeah, i remember you. what’s, um…why are you calling?”

“you like to get straight to the point, huh?” another nervous laugh crackles through the speaker. “i just wanted to say thank you. it’s not the first time they’ve disregarded jimin like that. i mean, it’s not like he fights a lot — you don’t have to worry about him being a bad influence. but he gets picked on and they never do anything about it. so, again, thank you.”

“no problem,” yoongi replies absently. his mind is stuck on the idea of a kid as small and kind looking as being bullied. “did you try transferring—“

“he doesn’t want that, i’ve asked. each time i do, he always says he wants to stay with his best friend. that’s why i wanted to ask you if you wanted to come over for dinner. they absolutely love each other and i haven’t properly gotten to know either of you yet.”

“hold on, i’ll ask.” yoongi holds his phone out in the direction of the living room. “taehyung, wanna have dinner with jimin?”

taehyung screams so loudly that even hoseok, the king of shrill, has to cover his ears and yoongi can faintly make out seokjin’s quiet laughter on the other end.

Chapter Text

“are we there yet?”

yoongi looks into the rearview mirror to see taehyung wearing an excited smile, craning his neck to look around the street through the windshield. he’s in his booster seat, of course, but he’s still as tiny as the day he was born. “we just left our house, taehyung. ask in a little while.”

initially seokjin had suggested dinner the following weekend since the invitation was such short notice but both jimin and taehyung insisted that it’d be today (today being only fifteen hours since they were invited). it’s just as well because yoongi managed to talk taehyung out of wanting to go right after they’d been invited (thirty seconds).

taehyung sighs heavily, looking down at his shoes orange telco strap sneakers. “daddy, why can’t i wear the shoes with bows?”

“bows?” yoongi laughs a little, quietly because he doesn’t want to make taehyung feel wrong. “laces?”

“yeah, jimin wears the ones with laces. why can’t i?”

there’s two ways yoongi can answer that question. one way, the truth, would be to remind taehyung that he doesn’t quite know how to tie his shoes yet despite constant attempts. but in doing that, he’d risk making his son feel stupid. because taehyung, while he isn’t as sensitive as most kids, is susceptible self doubt. the other way he could answer it is to throw himself under the bus.

self deprecation is an art.

“because your dad is a dumbo and he’s not good at teaching you things,” yoongi looks in the rearview mirror again and sees taehyung stifle a laugh. “sorry about that.”

“it’s okay, you’ll get it one day.”

“you think so?”

“yeah and when you learn, we can both wear laces like jimin does, okay?”

“sounds good.”

taehyung huffs and kicks his feet against the console a few times. “daddy?”

“yep?”

“are we there yet?”

 

 

yoongi is really good at wearing masks. he has to be. even when he was young, he rarely ever cried, rarely ever displayed disappointment. when he had taehyung, the necessity to wear a mask became absolutely imperative. vulnerability used to be his greatest fear. then he had taehyung and his vulnerability got pushed down low on the list, way behind tainted halloween candy and chickenpox. if he ever showed taehyung how scared he was when the younger got sick or when he hurt himself on the monkey bars, taehyung would be afraid too. masks were good.

even so, after having taehyung, not much about that aspect of his personality has changed. he’s never been terribly sociable and he’s never, ever fit in with any parents (being a single dad cast him under the category of pariah). hoseok is really the only friend he has and that’s because they were roommates in college. parents, despite being one himself, always hated him.

taehyung tugs on his hand and pulls him toward the apartment building. “c’mon, we’re gonna be late.”

“no we’re not,” yoongi looks at his phone, eyeing the address seokjin texted to him. “we’re right on time and jimin will be very excited to see you. okay, we’re looking for apartment 410. you wanna be the leader?”

taehyung hums affirmatively and drags his dad to the threshold. he looks both ways before he crosses the street and yoongi smiles proudly.

“you have your gift, right?”

yoongi nods, lifting his arm and showing his bottle of sparkling cider. his mom had taught him to never visit someone’s home empty handed and it’s something he taught taehyung as well. he has no idea why it’s important but it’s a kind sentiment and taehyung really loves it (which is possibly part of the reason he gets so excited when hoseok rings their doorbell). “you have yours?”

taehyung smiles wide at him and shows his banana milk. “right here.”

there’s this clenching in yoongi’s stomach, the kind that used to make him skip school, the kind that made him hole up in his bedroom whenever his parents had visitors. he knows this feeling. and he thinks somehow the roles have been reversed because, technically, his son meeting up with a good friend and sending his father on a playdate. and he, the adult, is wanting to fake a stomachache.

 

 

the door opens and seokjin beams at them brightly, jimin standing behind his leg. when jimin’s eyes land on taehyung, he breaks out into a wide grin and taehyung, despite all of the manners he’s learned, rushes into the apartment and tackles jimin into a hug. the two laugh loudly, rolling around on the floor.

seokjin settles for a less intense greeting and shakes yoongi’s hand before stepping aside to let him in. “thank you for coming.”

“thank you for inviting us,” yoongi offers the bottle of sparkling cider shyly, he hasn’t had to go through awkward party introductions since college. “this is for you. sorry, it’s not the real thing, it’s just—i have to drive home and i…”

at that taehyung stands, pulling jimin up with him. he hands him the banana milk. “this is for you too.”

“thank you,” yoongi swallows hard when seokjin smiles at him once more. he really isn’t good with this kind of thing.

jimin takes the banana milk gingerly. “wanna share?”

it’s sad, yoongi thinks, that he’s taking pointers on how to be social from two five year olds but they seem to know what they’re doing. he turns to seokjin, gestures toward the cider, and sheepishly asks: “wanna share?”

 

 

dinner is a fun affair for the children and yoongi keeps wanting to take his son into hall and ask him for advice because taehyung is a social butterfly. he’s five years old and he’s telling jokes and amusing stories that make him the life of the party. he definitely got that from his mother.

seokjin made spaghetti and taehyung lost it when he found out. spaghetti was a fun food and yoongi was a shit chef so something as simple as pasta and tomato sauce was on par with chocolate ice cream to the kid. the kids lead all conversation, sharing anecdotes about funny times at school and even giving an eerily detailed account on how they met.

“it was nap time,” taehyung had started, slurping up his pasta. he knows not to talk when his mouth is full but an excited taehyung forgets all pretenses.

“no, it wasn’t,” jimin shook his head. “it was play time.”

they go back and forth arguing about which location it was that they first met for a good five minutes to the entertainment of the adults. seokjin, yoongi notices over the course of the meal, has a tendency to cover his mouth when he laughs. they decide that it was lunch time but yoongi has a feeling that neither one of them is exactly sure.

“i got chocolate milk for lunch,” jimin explains, the ice melting off slowly. jimin could be sociable once he warmed up. “and i can’t open the carton because it’s really hard.”

“and i can,” taehyung says, more to seokjin than anyone else. “because i drink a lot of milk.”

“do you?” seokjin’s eyes light up as if this story is really that riveting.

taehyung nods proudly while jimin tells them that taehyung offered to help open his milk for him. and that, everyday since that first time, taehyung helped open his milk. and every day that he did, they became closer. and now…

“we’re best friends!” taehyung exclaims brightly.

at one point, jimin struggles with his spaghetti, his pororo training chopsticks shaking in his hand, and taehyung helps him out. yoongi looks on, bubbling over with pride once again.

after dinner, jimin asks if he can play with taehyung and the living room leaving the two socially awkward adults to finally communicate properly with one another.

seokjin walks around the kitchen, cleaning up the table and washing dishes. yoongi watches silently, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. he feels like he’s fourteen again. “do you need any help?”

“are you kidding?” seokjin laughs, shaking his head. “you’re a guest here, it’d be rude of me to put you to work.”

“i don’t mind.”

“it’s okay, i’m almost done. do you want coffee?”

he forgot which one was more polite: accepting the offer or kindly rejecting it on account of not wanting to ask too much. shit, which was it? “sure…?”

when they finally settle down with their coffee, huddled over the dining room table, they sit in silence. they can hear the occasional giggle or joyous shout from the living room where the boys are sprawled out on the floor playing with toy race cars. yoongi puts a hand on the back of his neck shyly.

“i’m sorry,” he blurts out. “i’m really bad with things like this.”

to his surprise, seokjin releases a relieved sigh and giggles into his mug, shoulders shaking. “thank god, i thought it was just me.”

a weight lifts off yoongi’s chest and he laughs. “good to know.”

“it’s just hard to go out and actively make friends when…you know,” seokjin looks off into the living room. “i’m honestly surprised jimin made a friend.”

“why’s that?”

“all the parents know he just has me,” at this, seokjin surprisingly looks guilty. “and he’s really shy as it is.”

yoongi looks off into the living room as well, watching jimin laugh jubilantly at taehyung’s ultron imitation. “i’m happy they met. jimin’s a good kid.”

“taehyung is too, he’s really funny. and it seems like he brings out the best in everyone.”

“he does,” yoongi smiles back at him. “he definitely brings out the best in me. he’s my best friend, i won’t lie to you.”

“funny how that happens. when jimin was born, i didn’t think i could be around him but now, i can’t stand it when he’s not around.”

he knows that this still doesn’t count as social interaction because if he went to a party with hoseok and talked someone’s ear off about the antics his son gets into, it wouldn’t lead to any kind of friendship. but it’s a parent thing, he can’t help it.

“parents hate me,” yoongi says. “so this is my first time talking about this with someone who understands.”

“same here,” seokjin nods. “and i don’t know what it is about being a single parent but the other parents look at you like you’re defective. . . i have two jobs and i tried to use the babysitting system they have for parents at the school but, uh, they actually told me it’d be best if i didn’t. that most of the parents feel more comfortable with a good family unit.”

“that’s messed up,” yoongi mutters, keeping himself from using other, more colorful words.

“yeah, what’s the point of having that kind of support system for parents if single ones can’t take advantage of it? i ended up having to ask my neighbor. she’s thirteen.”

yoongi bursts out laughing, choking on his hot coffee as he does. seokjin glares at him with a smile on his face. “it’s not funny.”

after the laughter quiets and the excitement settles, yoongi shrugs and looks at the kids again. “maybe we could make our own support system.”

 

 

yoongi tightens his one armed grip on taehyung’s sleeping body as he unlocks the front door.

before he left, jimin asked — begged — for taehyung to come over and play again soon. they agreed that they would indeed meet up again sometime but still taehyung almost cried, his bottom lip quivering when he wished the kims a good night. it takes a lot of reassurance and repeated promises for him to not burst into tears.

“you had a lot of fun today,” yoongi murmurs when he steps inside, locking the door behind him. “you’ve worn yourself out, huh, buddy?”

he lays taehyung down on his bed and goes to take off his shoes before tucking him in. when he does, the boy stirs.

“daddy?” yoongi hums. “is mr. kim gonna be your best friend?”

yoongi laughs at that quietly and shakes his head, pulling the covers up to taehyung’s chin. “you’re my best friend.”

“really?” taehyung looks at him, eyes hazy and confused. “because jimin is mine.”

he walked right into that one but ouch. “can i be your second best friend?”

taehyung yawns and turns over on his side. “maybe. you have to ask uncle hoseok first.”

yoongi gets reassurance by reminding himself he raised taehyung and raising people automatically makes them your best friend, no matter what they say. second best friend, his ass.

sorry jimin.

Chapter Text

hoseok is staring at the bag of assorted candies like it’s personally offended him, scrunching his nose while inspecting the different candies inside. he turns to yoongi. “does taehyung even like this kind? there are raisins in it.”

to be clear, yoongi has a very decent, very dependable schedule of things to do when taehyung is in school. for instance, he takes the time to do the laundry, get some work done, plan dinner, and go grocery shopping. and he can do it on his own (he knows this because already done it several times) but his dear friend hoseok likes to tag along anyway.

“his diet isn’t made up of sugar like yours so, yeah, he likes raisins.”

clicking his tongue, hoseok drops the bag into the shopping cart. “he only likes them because you deprive him of the good stuff.”

yoongi checks halloween candy off his shopping list before responding. “it’s called tooth decay, not gonna let it happen to him.”

“he’s five years old, his teeth are gonna fall out anyway.”

yoongi scoffs, shaking his head. “i fear for your future children.”

“i fear for your social life,” the younger laughs, throwing in a box of taehyung’s favorite cereal. “you said your best friend is your son. you went to a dinner party and all you talked about was elementary school teachers and parenting tips.”

“it’s not like i was all that sociable before. the first and last party i went to was one you dragged me to against my will.”

“right,” hoseok smiles fondly, eyes off in a distance like he’s seeing his younger self go nuts after much too hectic finals. like that wretched party had been an oasis. “why was that your last one?”

“because nine months later, taehyung was born.”

hoseok gives him a look that says be serious but he doesn’t say anything to push it. “sure. let’s get him some donuts.”

“you’re gonna give my kid diabetes, cut it out.”

they continue checking all the items off of yoongi’s grocery list, hoseok derailing every other item to get taehyung something sugary because his diet is “criminal”. it isn’t until they’re ringing upt that hoseok brings up the issue of socialization again.

“you didn’t say whether the dinner party was a success, did you walk away from it with a new friend?”

“it wasn’t a dinner party, i’m pretty sure it was a playdate. and i’m not sure, i guess?”

“you guess?” hoseok’s eyebrows bunch together in confusion. “either you’re going to be friends or not.”

“our kids are friends,” yoongi clarifies, exasperated because he doesn’t see the big deal about his social life primarily consisting of his five year old. “so i’m guessing, whether we become friends or not, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

hoseok smiles, biting his lip to hold back laughter. “the existence of your social life outside of me is solely dependent on two kindergarteners’ friendship.”

 

 

okay so he’s a little worried.

even before taehyung could speak, he was a motormouth. variations of gagas and googoos with excited babbling coupled with a boxy, gummy smile and lots of drool. that talkative tendency was a permanent fixture in his personality, so much so that yoongi can’t count on one hand the amount of letters he’s received from teachers citing his garrulous nature as his own weak point.

so, yeah, he’s a little worried because taehyung is sitting quietly in the backseat after getting out of school. he’d walked from the entrance with a deep-set frown on his face and only shrugged when asked how his day was.

“hey,” yoongi tries again, looking in the rearview mirror. “you know what i did today?…well, i didn’t do anything. it was a really boring day. and i missed you a lot…”

taehyung doesn’t respond.

“i was thinking about having dinner with jimin again? you liked that—“

“jimin’s not my friend anymore!” upon saying that, taehyung bursts into tears, sobbing into his hands. that should make the sound muffled but his wailing fills the entire car.

yoongi curses under his breath and takes the quickest turn so he can pull over. when he was growing up, everyone who knew him knew he was the last person anyone wanted to confide in. he couldn’t handle others being overly emotional and crying and being all around discomforting. but when his son cries, he panics for a different reason.

it isn’t because crying makes him uncomfortable or because he doesn’t know what to say but the last thing he wants is to see his son being sad. and if comforting him means pulling over on the side of the road then so be it. once he puts the car in park, he unbuckles his seatbelt and all but climbs into the backseat. he reaches for the pair of tiny hands.

“hey, hey, what’s wrong?”

taehyung whimpers, still hiding his face in his hands.

“what happened?”

the times taehyung cries are rare in number but consistent in behavior. when he cries, it takes a while to get the reason out of him. between the sobbing and the whatever it is that upset him, he usually chooses not to talk. but yoongi needs to know if a certain six year old out there needs to learn not to make his friends cry.

“he…” taehyung wipes his tears, shaking. “he…he…”

“what did he do?”

admittedly yoongi isn’t expecting anything life ending but he is immensely concerned. the last time taehyung had cried so brokenly was when he fell off the monkey bars over the summer.

“he…he told me to call him hyung!”

yoongi almost laughs but if he does taehyung would probably cry harder. “did he?”

“yeah,” taehyung uses the back of his hand to wipe his nose. “and i…i told him that he wasn’t my hyung because we’re supposed to be the same age.”

yoongi doesn’t bother to remind taehyung that everyone in their grade is the same age. “and what did he say?”

“he said his birthday was before mine and that i had to call him hyung. so i told him he was being mean and i didn’t sit with him at lunch. and i didn’t play with him at recess.”

“sounds serious,” yoongi leans close to run his finger through the child’s dark hair.  “we should figure out what we’re going to do, right? because you don’t want to end on bad terms with jimin, let’s talk about this.”

taehyung nods against his hand. “over ice cream?”

dammit hoseok.

“over ice cream.”

 

 

“is it good?”

taehyung hums, his mouth still full of chocolate ice cream. when he first got the ice cream, he smiled brightly but it dulled. yoongi thinks jimin might be a permanent fixture in taehyung’s life: he already likes the other more than he likes ice cream.

at that moment, yoongi’s phone rings. “i’m assuming you heard the news.”

“uh huh,” he hears seokjin’s light voice through the speaker. “they didn’t even sleep next to each other during nap time so i know this is serious.”

“what do you think we should do?”

“let them talk it out amongst themselves.”

“you mean force them.”

“no," seokjin has the decency to sound offended. "trick them.”

“i’m on it,” yoongi hands out the phone to taehyung who stares at it curiously. “taehyung, mr. kim wants to talk to you.”

taehyung shakes his head. “he’s gonna be mad at me.”

“no, he’s not. he wants to tell you something important.”

licking the chocolate from his lips, taehyung takes the phone and presses it against his ear. “hello, mister…oh, hi jimin.”

yoongi watches as taehyung’s frown turns into a small smile, watches him try to hold that smile back, and watches that smile become a full blown toothy grin.

“okay,” taehyung giggles. “i’ll see you at school.”

one crisis averted.

 

 

“can you slow down, seokjin?”

yoongi pinches the bridge of his nose. today isn’t exactly his day. well, to be more specific, this isn’t his workday. sales is a fine business to be in and it pays well and the more he sells, the more bonuses he gets and more bonuses means his family has more than enough to eat. but some days sales feels like the worst industry to be in.

and just a second ago, seokjin broke through the stress with a call. but then he spoke and yoongi felt his blood pressure go up.

“i am really sorry,” seokjin speaks again and yoongi can’t quite put his finger on it but his voice sounds different. thin. “but i just found out that my boss put me on the schedule for this afternoon last minute. i can’t call out, i really—“ seokjin stops, his voice shuddering completely. “i’m so sorry to be asking you but do you think you could pick jimin up from school for me?”

yoongi’s eyes fall shut because he knows that sound well enough to know seokjin is on the verge of tears. “it’s fine, it’s really fine. there’s no need to…i can pick him up, it’s okay. it’s really okay.”

“really? thank you so much, really thank you so much! i’m really sorry, i know we don’t know each other that well and I’m asking too much of you but—“

“it’s okay, calm down.”

he hears seokjin take a deep breath. “okay. thank you so much. you can just, uh, take him by my place and my neighbor, she’ll be out of school by then and she can—“

“no, it’s…” yoongi trails off. “i mean, if you don’t mind i can just take the kids home. i’m sure taehyung would love to have him. i could make them dinner and everything.”

“oh, yoongi, you don’t have to do that.”

“i know,” he hears seokjin take another shaky breath. “i want to.”

 

 

taehyung is running full speed toward yoongi with jimin’s hand wrapped tight in his own. they’re both giggling, the wind blowing through their hair, they’re the picture of carefree. they’re the same height, have the same dark hair but they couldn’t look more different. where jimin is smile eyes and cherubic, taehyung is slender and boxy smiles. but yoongi can’t help but think they look a bit like brothers.

taehyung stops at his feet and holds up his hand, still holding onto jimin’s, high above their heads. “jimin’s coming to our house!”

“i heard,” yoongi grins at the both of them before ushering them into the backseat. “guys, there’s only one seat, i’m sorry about that. who—“

“taehyung can have it,” jimin sits back. “it’s his anyway.”

“you should have it,” taehyung furrows his brow. “you’re a guest.”

yoongi pulls a quarter out of his pocket because he knows that if he leaves it up to them, they’ll be sitting in the school parking lot for the rest of the day while they both insist that the other take the booster seat.  “heads or tails?” he throws it up.

                “heads!”                  “tails!”

the coin lands. “tails, jimin you get the seat. taehyung put on your seatbelt and don’t take it off until we’re home.” it’s necessary to give his son that warning because sometimes he gets excited and unbuckles himself so he can lean closer to the front seat.

“okay,” taehyung smiles at jimin like he has a secret.

as yoongi ensures the belt on the seat is secure, jimin nudges him. “i’m sorry, mr. min. i don’t have a gift.”

“a gift?”

“for going to your house.”

yoongi laughs. “it’s okay, you visiting our house is gift enough.”

 

 

if yoongi thought taehyung was a motormouth by himself, he became twice as bad with jimin sitting with him in the backseat. they both yapped excitedly for twenty minute ride home and they didn’t stop talking as they went up to the apartment in the elevator. they didn’t stop talking as they toed off their shoes and ran for taehyung’s room to play with his audaciously high amount of toys.

yoongi only shook his head and went to hang their small backpacks in the coat closet. he doesn’t know what seokjin usually does with jimin after school but he figures one day of taehyng’s schedule won’t hurt. playtime after getting home (yoongi figures eight hours of school followed directly by an hour of homework is unfair), then afternoon snack, then homework, then dinner, then bath, and lastly bedtime.

he cuts up pears (taehyung will be so proud of him for remembering that jimin doesn’t like apples) for the kids and waits for them to exhaust themselves before calling them out for their snack.

when jimin sits in front of his plate, he beams. “i love pears!”

“really?” yoongi smirks and winks at taehyung. “who knew?”

the two children eat their snacks while doing their homework which consists of drawing a picture an imaginary animal. they both kneel in front of either side of the coffee table, coloring with steel focus, their tongues peeking out of their mouths in concentration. yoongi snaps a picture before the moment is gone.

 

 

after apologizing to jimin for dinner (“i’m really not as good at cooking as your dad is, i’m really sorry”) and giving them a bath, yoongi puts them to sleep in taehyung’s bed. taehyung kisses his cheek and jimin shakes his hand, both of them wishing him a good night before falling into a deep slumber with their hands still intertwined.

(little does yoongi know that the two little tykes are wide awake, whispering their own stories of fantastical creatures and superheroes for a full hour after he’d initially put them to sleep.)

 

 

yoongi isn’t expecting seokjin to arrive as soon as he does. but at ten o’clock, seokjin is there panting, red faced, and immensely apologetic. it was no secret that seokjin was exceptionally handsome, teachers at the elementary school were in awe of him when he came in for parent/teacher conferences. he didn’t have the face of a regular, day-to-day civilian. most people thought he should be an actor or a model.

and yoongi comes to the realization, after taking in the older’s messy hair and uncharacteristic rumpled clothing, that it’s true. because even while looking such a mess, he still looks handsome.

“yoongi,” seokjin immediately bows when the door is opened to him. “i can’t thank you enough, i can’t apologize enough. i know this was a big inconvenience and i’m sorry to have asked on such a short notice.”

it’s at that moment that yoongi feels a pinch of…something. whether it’s sympathy or plain sadness or a reaction to his own cooking, something occurs from within. he doesn’t think before he’s reaching for the older and pulling him up and into the apartment. “is everything okay?”

seokjin blinks at him, his eyes widened like he’s never heard that before. if prodded, yoongi wouldn’t be able to say why he asked either. but something about the look in seokjin’s eyes told him he should ask. “i…i’m fine, yeah. thank you for asking.”

“are you sure?”

that look again, a look of shock, crawls into seokjin’s features. “yeah, really. thank you. again…um, where is he? i’ll just grab him and go.”

“why don’t you take a seat first?” yoongi ushers him in all the way, gently closing the door behind him. he guides him to the kitchen table. “i can make us some coffee if you want.”

seokjin’s eyes fall closed, his long eyelashes casting shadows over his face. “please,” he sighs lightly and yoongi has the feeling that it’s the first real exhale he’s taken all day. “you’re too kind. i apologize if—“

“about that, i think you do that too much. i don’t want to hear you apologize to me ever again. capisce?”

at that, seokjin smiles. “thank you.”

yoongi shrugs. “what is our support system for if we can’t use it, huh?"

Chapter Text

when he was a teenager, yoongi didn’t watch a lot of movies but he always got a kick out the mysteries and the thrillers. ones where the tension was thick and the body count was high. movies like kiss kiss bang bang or oldboy were all things that he’d enjoyed immensely. his idea of horror movies consisted of supernatural poltergeists and serial killers on a college campus. then he had a child and hoseok made him watch this movie called “prisoners” and yoongi came to the conclusion that movies about kidnappings were more terrifying than any horror movie could ever be. he’d only got a half hour into the film before he felt nauseous and begged hoseok to turn it off.

“it’s just a movie,” hoseok whined but turned it off.

after settling the knots of anxiety in his stomach, yoongi replied: “it’s too scary.”

therefore he kept the violence in his house a minimum, that included tv shows that had a little too much fun with the concept of weapons and fighting. he let taehyung watch the superhero stories made for little kids, the ones that really deviated from the gritty back stories and plot lines (taehyung would be surprised to find out that batman’s parents were violently murdered one day).

so to say he’s a little shocked, a little put off, a little overwhelmed at what taehyung wants to be for halloween is an understatement. he can only gawk at the five year old who is smiling at him eating his cereal with enthusiasm like he knows this costume is the best idea he’s ever had. “you want to be two face?”

taehyung nods, eyes brightening even more if that was possible. “and jimin is going to be the joker!”

yoongi wonders what the protocol is for this situation, he wonders if it’s normal for kids so young to want to be super villains instead of superheroes. he also wonders if he should be concerned he’s spawned a future serial killer but then he remembers that one time in the park when taehyung ran up to him bawling. yoongi had immediately panicked, thinking that someone bullied him or that he’d broken his arm when taehyung showed him a crushed worm in his tiny palms.

“i killed him,” he wailed, later organized a funeral, and mourned for a good three days. yeah. probably not a killer. but still. super villains?

“wait,” yoongi leans closer, pressing his elbows against the ceramic table top. “you want to be the guy with half of a face who uses a coin to determine who to…exterminate? and jimin wants to be the number one terrorizer in the city of gotham?”

taehyung nods again. “it’s gonna be so cool!”

none of the cartoons he lets taaehyung watch have shown two face and none of them have shown just how vicious the joker is. “how do you even know about this?”

“school,” the child shrugs as he stands up from his seat and goes to put his bowl in the sink, stepping up on a small stool to do so. yoongi had put it there because, for some reason, taehyung had an interest in watching him do the dishes, even wanting to help. “joonjae is always talking about it.”

you can always count on school to interfere with the values you try to raise a child with. “and this joonjae is in your class?”

“uh huh, he has all the comics,” yoongi’s breath hitches. “but he doesn’t bring them to school.”

“thank goodness,” yoongi mutters before steeling onto taehyung again. “are you sure you don’t want to be someone like spiderman or…i dunno ant-man?”

or anyone who isn’t a super villain responsible for reigning terror over an entire city and thousands of deaths.

“ant-man and the joker aren’t friends, daddy.”

neither are two face and the joker but yoongi doesn’t say that. instead he takes one look at his son’s wide shining eyes, his tiny hopeful smile, and he collapses on himself like a star. “let me talk to mr. kim, okay? we’ll put together some good outfits for you.”

 

 

the reason yoongi finds himself concerned with seokjin’s inclusion and overall opinion on the diabolical dual costumes is because of the conversation they’d had the night jimin slept over. there was this perpetual discomfort, this looming panic that filled seokjin’s irises and no matter how much he smiled or laughed, that concern was always there. it was a pressing concern, an ever present worry. like something, anything would happen and the world would end.

that night, for whatever reason, yoongi decided to actually ask about it. to see if there was anything wrong, if there was anything he should know. he remembered his stumbling steps into the path of single fatherhood, he knew the look well. and he wanted to help.

“why?”

seokjin didn’t look offended or upset at his suggestion. just genuinely confused. like he could not understand why anyone would want to help him out in life, give him a leg up without asking for anything in return.

“i don’t know you well enough to say this but i’m gonna say it in anyway: it’s because you’re breaking in front of me. look at yourself, i bet you don’t even eat when you’re not feeding jimin.”

“how do you know all of this?”

“because i was there. still am sometimes.”

he didn’t ask why seokjin didn’t have the swing of things because everyone was different. but the wheels turning in his head are loud and seokjin heard him anyway. “it’s just been a bit hectic since i picked up a second job. but i had to. i could just have one but then—“

and seokjin had stopped, pursing his lips together and looking up with wide eyes. yoongi had responded with raised eyebrows.

“i just realized i’m bleeding out in front of someone i barely know, no offense.”

“none taken,” yoongi could tell at that moment that seokjin was ready to get up and go, to run away from him so he pinned him with his gaze immediately. “listen: you don’t have to be afraid to ask me for help. i mean…if you need help, you can ask me. if you need me to pick jimin up from school or anything, i can. he’ll have someone to play with on one hand. plus it’s better than a thirteen year old, am i right?”

seokjin scoffed a laugh, covering his mouth. “don’t let her hear you say that.”

 

 

“are you sewing?” hoseok gawks at him, peering at the needle and thread and stuffing yet another strawberry in his mouth. “are you fucking sewing right now?”

“that word isn’t allowed here,” yoongi hisses when the needle pricks his thumb.

“he’s at school, he can’t hear us from over there. now don’t ignore the question: are you sewing?”

yoongi groans, sucking the blood from his thumb. “do you see a needle and thread in my hand?”

“yeah,” hoseok hums even though he knows he’s walking right into a verbal smack in the head.

“then i’m sewing, you moron.”

“okay the better question would be why.”

yoongi puts down the pants, analyzing the fresh seams to make sure they blend perfectly. “the better question would be why does my son know about two face?”

hoseok, who had been squirming around in his corner of the couch, goes totally still, he even stops chewing. “two face?”

“joonjae, my ass.”

“no,” hoseok sits up straighter. “that joonjae kid started it, okay? and the day you let me pick taehyung up from school, he had a lot of questions so i may or may not have read him some online comics.”

“you fudging—“

“only the kid friendly ones!”

there are no kid friendly stories about two face. how could their be? not only was his face completely gruesome and bloody but he was one of the most vicious dc villains ever. and without a somewhat amusing get up like the joker, his evil couldn’t be masked or explained away. but yoongi, of course, doesn’t bring this up because his comic book days have been over for fifteen years.

“just stop telling him things like that, okay?” yoongi removes his thumb from his mouth, turns to glare instead. he narrows his eyes when he sees the way hoseok is looking at him, like he can see right through him. "okay?"

"sure, dad."

 

yoongi's fingers hurt terribly.

he'd stayed up all night for several nights to make sure the two in one suit looked appropriate and like they belonged to the same cloth. he squeezes his fist in his pockets as he observes the shade of pink on the left side of taehyung's face. 

"is that paint safe?"

the makeup artists turn to yoongi and seokjin with polite smiles even though the annoyance in their eyes is obvious. since the two men had walked in with their children, they'd been pestering and nitpicking at everything. hell, even yoongi knows he's being annoying but does he care if he's being a pain in the ass when it comes to the safety and health of his son? 

no. 

no, he does not.

"it's fine," one of the women smiles and focuses her attention back on jimin who looks like a way too adorable joker. "almost done, okay?"

jimin nods, smiling brightly. "how do i look, daddy?"

"you look so cute," seokjin snaps a picture on his phone before he's nudged by yoongi. "oh i mean scary, honey. you look so scary."

they don't at all. even taehyung who's patiently sitting, beaming at jimin with half of his face painted to look like the inside of his body, looks like an angel. 

"what about me?" taehyung turns to yoongi. "am i scary?"

"terrifying," yoongi nods. "i don't think i can go home with you tonight, i'd have nightmares."

taehyung giggles elated.

 

"i didn't know two face and the joker were so close."

yoongi smirks, laughing a little because he didn't know either. the two parents were relaxed enough to let their two children lead the way and they were doing a great job. their small legs are moving quick but they're moving at a steady enough pace that seokjin and yoongi can easily keep up. 

jimin and taehyung are holding hands, their tote bags trusted in the hands of their fathers. jimin's purple suit contrasts against the dark side of taehyung's own costume but they match. 

"they aren't," yoongi smiles fondly. 

taehyung gets loud in his excitement and the two overhear him tell jimin he can have all of his favorite candy from taehyung's tote. seokjin giggles. "he gets that from you."

yoongi turns sharply. "what?"

"his kindness. he's really selfless, that's rare in someone his age. most are kind of selfish."

seokjin turns when he sees yoongi shaking his head out of the corner of his eye. “i’m not selfless...he must get that from his mom too."

he doesn't laugh, doesn't smile but there's a guarded humor in his eyes. like the situation is funny but not amusing. he shakes his head too. "you don't give yourself enough credit, yoongi."

there's more that they both want to say but responsibility and unfamiliarity leaves the unsaid words hanging in the air between them, building up a wall. instead, jimin screams he'll beat taehyung back to the car and they all start running. 

Chapter Text

taehyung was on of the few children who actually enjoyed getting their hair washed. yoongi doesn’t want to be cocky but he’s pretty sure it’s because he makes it awesome. first of all, he lets taehyung pick out what shampoo he wants every single time. it was usually a consistent selection — superheroes, races cars, and miss strawberry shortcake herself because taehyung loved strawberries and he thought the color pink meant happiness. after giving taehyung the choice to use shampoo or not, the child would be quick to opt for it since he was the one who picked it out.

it was really a simple case of reverse psychology. or something like that. he got a b average in his college psych class.

after step one and two were complete, yoongi just had to make sure that there was a semblance of excitement every time. sometimes getting his hair washed meant taehyung had been caught under the same parasitic matter that birthed venom, spider-man’s arch nemesis. sometimes it meant taehyung had to go on a very important spy mission and could not go without getting the proper james bond look. yoongi can’t count on one hand the amount of times taehyung had gone to bed with perfect hollywood hair.

sometimes those elements can only postpone imminent complaints so no matter what, yoongi always lets taehyung tell him every detail he wants to about his day. even if he’s already heard it a million times.

“mrs. kim played with us too! but her tummy is huge!”

yoongi clicks his tonge, focusing on massaging the conditioner onto taehyung’s scalp. the scent of artificial strawberries is thick in the air. “that isn’t very nice.”

“but her belly is huge and circle like a ball!”

“round like a ball, you mean.”

“uh huh,” taehyung goes to wipe his eyes but yoongi is quick to stop him. he doesn’t let go until he rinses the soap off. “jimin says she ate too much candy at halloween but i think she ate a planet.”

“ah, really? she must be pregnant then.”

“what’s that?”

“it means she’s about to have a baby. tilt your head back,” taehyung does as he’s told and yoongi pours the cup of water onto his head, threading his fingers through the dark strands to rinse properly. “it means she’s going to be a mommy.”

“oh,” taehyung hums thoughtfully.

after a complete rinse, yoongi wrings out a washcloth. “okay, come here.”

taehyung quickly dodges the towel. he is one of the few kids who loves getting his hair washed but he’s one of the many who hates getting their face washed. he always struggles when the cloth hits his face and becomes panicky, afraid that he’s going to suffocate. yoongi tries to make it as quick as possible but he still panics.

“come on, tae, it’s the last thing we have to do. after this bath time is over.”

taehyung moves away again. “no, i don’t like it.”

“but it’s me,” yoongi sighs. “i’m not going to hurt you. the minute it gets to be too much, i’ll stop.”

taehyung shakes his head vehemently. “you’re just saying that.”

“am not.”

“are too!”

“am not!”

“are too!”

“okay, fine,” yoongi leans closer and cups taehyung’s face. “i’ll just do what cats do.”

“what do they do?”

“they lick their kittens’ faces clean.”

taehyung is even quicker to yank himself away then, water splashing up in his resistance. he reaches for the washcloth himself and rubs it across his face. “there, i did it! i did it! don’t lick me.”

easily the best trick in the book.

 

having an online, exclusively home centered job means that speaking with your coworkers face to face is a rarity. over the phone is even rarer. having your boss call your cell phone number to request early tax forms and a rundown for the company’s logistics — essentially heaps upon heaps of reports based on statistical data which aids as a financial forecast for future income — just doesn’t happen.

not unless you’re min yoongi and you’re trying your hardest to be a good dad. not unless you purposely finished your work load early so you could take your son to the zoo. but he figures he has no one to blame but himself.

why did his boss single him out specifically?

because his records are positively through the roof. he has the most of amount of clients because he’s the best salesman. majority of his coworkers were graduates who studied in business and have much more experiences in the sales field than yoongi does. so how is yoongi surpassing them?

he watched glengarry glen ross in high school and took notes.

 

“mom—“

“don’t ‘mom’ me,” the voice on the other end of the line squeaks harshly. “i haven’t seen my grandson in so long!”

“it’s only been a few months, ma,” yoongi groans into the mouthpiece as he guides taehyung into the backseat of the car and straps him into the booster seat.

“do you know how much children change in a few months? am i going to see the same kid if you continue keeping him from me? come down this weekend.”

“i can’t, i have work to do.”

his mother sighs and yoongi admittedly feels a pinch of guilt. he hasn’t seen his mother since the summer and neither has taehyung but it’s been busy. it’s not like yoongi is actively avoiding them like his mother keeps accusing him of doing.

“you work from home,” she implicates.

“online, yes,” yoongi doesn’t start the car just yet. “and you don’t have internet. you don’t want us to end up destitute and living in your house, do you?”

“i wouldn’t mind,” she admits. “okay, i know, he can come down friday after school and i’ll bring him back sunday night.”

“um…for the whole weekend then?”

he’s been without taehyung before. very briefly in the early years of the child’s life and the hours when taehyung is in school. but, as ridiculous as every other parent thinks it is, he’s never been without taehyung for longer than a few hours at a time. now a whole weekend?

“yes!” he can practically see his mother jumping up and down. “it’ll be so great, i’ll get to see him and take him to the beach. i can bake him cookies and you can get all your work done.”

“…the whole weekend? ma—“

“please, let me see my grandson. this weekend, okay?”

“let me ask him,” yoongi turns in his seat to face taehyung who’s playing with his baymax figure. he hopes that he says no. “do you want to spend the weekend with your grandparents?”

taehyung breaks out into a huge, excited grin. “yes! yes, yes, yes, yes!”

“taehyung, i’m not gonna be there, you know?”

the child shrugs, uninterested. “okay.”

yoongi reaches over to cover the phone speaker. “you’re breaking my heart, kid.”

 

 

“jimin wanted to know if you guys wanted to go the park this weekend.”

yoongi looks away from the kids who are playing in the ball pit of the restaurant. urban legends from when he was a child run through his head. the ones where someone finds a snake or a needle or a razor in the ball pit and nothing ends well. but he’s a sensible man so he lets taehyung play.

seokjin is looking at him with hopeful eyes .

“my mom wants him for the weekend,” yoongi explains with a heavy sigh. he isn’t really looking forward to being alone in his apartment for an entire weekend but the actual five year old is fine with it so he’s learning how to be an adult.

“oh?” seokjin’s eyes widen slightly. “oh, that’ll be nice.”

“it doesn’t happen often. she just really wants to see him, hasn’t since summer. and she’s…very insistent.”

seokjin smiles softly but it doesn’t reach his eyes. he looks to the kids. “it’s nice that she wants to see him though.”

“but if you’re still interested, i could go to the park with you. jimin might be really bored to be hanging out with two adults though.”

"he might. it's okay, it can wait until taehyung gets back."

yoongi gauges seokjin's expression once more before turning back to the children as well. "everything okay with you?"

there's a strain in seokjin's voice but his tone is almost chipper."of course."

 

yoongi doesn’t hate his job.

he just hates all of the work he has to do for it. he hates the sales reports, the expense reports, the customer service, the essentially kissing clients’ asses to make sure they stay loyal to the company. he hates that at the end of the day, he feels like he’s done a 5k or that doing simple things take a load of energy.

he loves the paycheck though.

but as he dives onto his bed, letting himself sink into the cotton sheets, it isn’t his paycheck that he’s thinking about. it’s the fantasy he’s already having about getting a good night’s sleep. he’s already half asleep by the time his head hits the pillow and a deep moan rises in his throat at the warmth.

goodness, he’s in a romantic relationship with his bed. it’s not even king sized.

the dull ache in his bones — courtesy of groceries and taehyung who isn’t getting any lighter — throbs a little but he sighs contentedly as his eyes fall shut.

“daddy!”

yoongi groans rather loudly into his sheets but he scrambles to get up, slipping on a shirt he’d left on the floor as he does. the slip causes him to hit his forehead on the door frame and he mutters a curse as he rushes to taehyung’s bedroom.

when he gets there, taehyung is curled up under his blankets and shaking. yoongi can hear the little boy’s muffled sobs and he rushes to the bed, gently pulling the covers back. “hey, hey, what’s wrong?”

taehyung doesn’t say anything but he wipes his tears and sniffles, red faced.

“bad dream?” taehyung nods and yoongi pulls the covers back even further. “want me to tell you a story?”

“no,” he shakes his head. “can i sleep with you?”

his answer should be no. he had a really tough time breaking taehyung into sleeping in his own bed. getting him to willingly sleep without his dad took a lot of hard work. but one night isn’t gonna hurt so he opens his arms when taehyung reaches for him, pulling him up in his arms.

he pats taehyung’s back as he walks down the hallway. “no kicking me tonight, okay?”

“i promise,” taehyung’s little voice comes out as a quiet murmur.

“and we’re going straight to sleep, okay?”

“okay.”

yoongi doesn’t even bother to tuck taehyung in, he just throws himself on the bed with the child still in his arms. taehyung curls up against his side and rests his head against his father’s chest. massaging those circles onto the younger’s back, yoongi’s breathing starts to settle into a rhythm again. admittedly, taehyung’s warmth is making the falling asleep process much quicker than it had been.

again, he’s slipping into unconsciousness, about to step off the edge and fall into blissful slumber. but before he can step off—

“daddy?”

“straight to sleep, taehyung. please.”

“just one thing, i promise.”

“tae—“

“why don’t i have a mommy?”

yoongi stills, all traces of exhaustion fleeing from his body being replaced with unperturbed awareness. he stares at the ceiling, eyes stretched open wide. the thing is that the always knew this moment would come. he always knew that taehyung would look at the parents he saw picking up his classmates and would get curious as to why there was only one person taking care of him. he knew it. he expected it. but the bigger part of him simply didn’t want it to happen, didn’t expect it so soon.

and now that it’s finally happened, he feels like he’s been hit by a bus.

taehyung relaxes against him. “i know, straight to sleep. good night, daddy.”

yoongi doesn’t get any sleep.

 

luckily in the morning, taehyung is, like always, too sleepy to remember anything about the night before. he’s dreary and exhausted as yoongi get him ready for the trip down to daegu, when he gives him a quick bath (during the winter all his baths are quick) and gets him dressed. he’s quiet when he eats his breakfast and quiet when yoongi makes sure his backpack is packed. because mornings are just not taehyung’s forte.

yoongi’s quiet when he gives the bath, when he gets taehyung dressed, when he quickly makes breakfast, etc. but because his mind is stuck on the question. he doesn’t know how to answer it.

“the truth,” hoseok advises much later. “tell him how his mom walked out on him.”

but no, he couldn’t do that. how could he look into taehyung’s eyes and tell him that his mother didn’t want him? not only is it a flat-out lie but that isn’t something any child needs to hear.

it's when he's pulling the thomas the train sweater down over his head that taehyung stirs. "daddy?"

"uh huh."

"i don't like this shirt," he pouts. 

"i know," yoongi pulls a beanie down over his head. "but it's the thickest sweater you have and it's cold out there."

"i like the cold."

"you watched frozen once and suddenly you like the cold?"

"i always like cold," taehyung wipes his eyes tiredly. "why can't i go later?"

"because it's a long ride and if we waited any later, you'd be spending majority of the weekend in the car."

"but i like being in the car."

this is the taehyung that usually frustrates yoongi. the one that is exhausted and as a result is completely impossible to deal with. the one who argues with everything yoongi says. the one who starts crying for absolutely no reason. it speaks a lot to yoongi's love for taehyung that instead of being annoyed, he just wants to hold him because the whole weekend is a long time. 

"i know you do," yoongi leans forward and presses his forehead against taehyung's. "if you don't want to go, we can tell grandma not to come and we can go back to sleep. would you like to stay?"

taehyung shakes his head. "i want to see grandma."

he isn't going to beg. "you don't want to stay with me?"

"i do but i want to see grandma too."

sighing, yoongi steps back and scans the expanse of taehyung's bedroom. he's got the clothes, he's got the fleece blanket, he's got most of the things he thinks taehyung will need.

"i think we have everything."

"mr. fuzzles has to come with me!"

yoongi pauses.

taehyung has a lot of toys, a lot of different stuffed animals and action figures and character pillows. from spider man to flounder from the little mermaid to pororo but there is nothing called mr. fuzzles.

yoongi would know because taehyung likes to properly introduce and characterize every single toy he gets. "you don't have a mr. fuzzles."

"yes, i do! he's pink and fuzzy and he's a duck."

"look at your shelf, taehyung, and point out mr. fuzzles. you see? he's not there because he doesn't exist, you made him up in your head."

taehyung frowns, shoulders slumping forward. "you're a meanie."

yoongi huffs and mumbles to himself. "well, you're the one leaving me for the whole weekend so..."

 

yoongi's mother comes in like a category 6 hurricane of loud affection and whose damage came in the form of bone breaking embraces. when she picks taehyung up, she squeezes him tight and spins around and taehyung squeals like he's having the time of his life. "you're so big!"  

"i'm so old now," taehyung agrees while giggling. "daddy says i'm a big boy."

"and right, he is," she pinches his cheek. "we are going to have so much fun this weekend!" she sets taehyung down, turns to yoongi, and opens her arms wide. 

"how are you, ma?" yoongi falls into her embrace and shuts his eyes. no matter how old he gets, he will never be too old to no longer find comfort in his mother's touch. even her scent -- pine and mint -- will always smell like home. 

"i'm great now."

yoongi shows her everything he's packed for taehyung and rates them on his own scale of importance all the while explaining what makes it significant. he needs his blanket because it's his favorite. he needs his baymax plush because he likes to hold it when he sleeps. he needs this and that because and because.

"okay," his mother squeezes him tight at the doorway again. "we really need to get going. your dad is itching to see taehyung again, everyone is."

yoongi nods, finding a melody in his mother's words. he doesn't respond because his inner voice is speaking, reminding him that taehyung is going to be just fine. he kneels down to tighten taehyung's jacket. "all ready to go?"

"uh huh."

"okay," yoongi hugs him tight. "have fun, i'll see you soon. be good for your grandparents, alright?"

"i will," taehyung kisses him on the cheek, a rare gesture. "love you."

"i love you more."

 

the strange thing about having children is that most parents forget who they were and what they used to do before the matter.

yoongi is finding all of this free time particularly unnerving. without having to make breakfast or entertain or be cognizant of a little tyke, he has more than enough time to do all the expense reports his heart desires. he ends up finishing his work after mid-day and he seriously considers taking the next train out to daegu. 

after following his mother down, the next best thing to do is nap. 

taehyung usually has naptime on weekends but yoongi rarely ever gets to take advantage of the same privelege. so he pretty much sprints to his bedroom and belly flops onto his bed. 

 

 

he doesn’t wake up until it’s dark out and once he’s conscious enough, he dives to check his phone. there’s one missed call from hoseok, a few other missed calls most likely from bill collectors, a single text message from seokjin, and one voicemail message from his mother. he lets it play on speaker.

“hi, sweetie,” his mother’s voice. “we’ve just made it in. i’m going to get him something to eat before he goes to sleep. sorry, we missed you. i’ll be sure to call in the morning. i’ll let him say something now.”

he can hear taehyung giggling in the background, hear the sizzling of his mother’s cooking, hear his father’s laugh. he can hear all of that but it isn’t until taehyung speaks not he voicemail that he can hear home. “hi, daddy! we’re going to eat a lot today and grandpa is gonna take me to the mountain tomorrow and i’m gonna see a lion—!”

“not a lion, sweetie.”

“a bear?” taehyung squeaks. “but anyway we’re gonna have a lot of fun, okay? i love you, bye!”

yoongi listens to the message three more times, kicking himself for missing the call but smiling fondly all the while. after the third time, he opens the only text sent to him.

seokjin: are you holding up okay?

he smiles. he’s not but there’s someone who understands and that’s better than nothing. he texts back:

he’s been gone for half a day and i miss him already. i think i started when he walked out the door.

he leans back and stares up at the ceiling. he thinks about taehyung’s mother, about taehyung’s question. he thinks about what he’s going to tell him and how he’ll say it. he reaches for his phone and starts texting.

he asked about his mother

he stares at the words and they stare back at him evenly. like they’re waiting for him to prove he’s brave enough. but he’s not so he erases it.

seokjin: two more days, you can do it.

god, he hopes so.

 

even though yoongi's diet pre-taehyung consisted of sporadic small time snacking, he does have to eat so he ends up cooking breakfast. but of course old habits die hard, form follows function, etc and it isn't until he's piling onto his plate that he realizes he made too much. as if to dig the knife in further, taehyung's spongebob plate smiles at him from the dish rack. 

"what are you looking at?" he turns the plate over. 

it’s when he finishes what’s left on his plate, when he’s staring at the pot of food trying to determine whether or not he should partake in overeating, that hoseok comes barging in uninvited. he didn’t give his friend a key, no. it’s just that, in his stupor, he’d forgotten to lock the door.

“you weren’t even this careless at your worst,” hoseok accuses the very moment he steps inside.

yoongi blinks at him. “oh…”

“lock your fucking door, you know slasher films are based on this thing called real life.”

“i didn’t realize—“

the screeching sound of the chair across from yoongi being dragged across the floor makes him forget whatever it was that he was going to say. hoseok drops down in front of him and eyes the full pot. “knew i was coming?”

yoongi narrows his eyes. “shut up, it’s force of habit.”

“need i remind you that taehyung is barely three hours away and that he wanted to go? or that he’s safe and sound?”

“just because i didn’t answer your call, it doesn’t mean i’m pitying myself,” yoongi leans back. “i was tired so i slept in.”

scoffing, hoseok helps himself to what’s remaining on yoongi’s plate. “that’s good. because you look like you just lost your best friend so maybe i’m just overreacting. anyway, i came here to rescue you. you may not be drowning in an ocean of self pity but you’re knee deep in the pool of despondency.”

“look who’s using the big boy dictionary!”

“shut up,” hoseok stands and starts walking away. “put some pants on, wipe your nose, and come on.”

 

it has been a really long time since yoongi has had a proper drink. and of course, hoseok thinks that kind of abstemiousness is on par with homicide so the sports bar downtown is the first place he takes him to. despite the fact that they aren't into sports and that the closest either of them has come to being athletic is when they had to run out of a house party upon the arrival of the host's parents, they watch the action on the screen.

it's some hockey game that neither of them understand but are doing a good job at pretending they do. yoongi pays close attention to it, nibbling on one piece of chicken but sipping mostly at his beer. hoseok, on the other hand, has taken his attention off the screen and is now staring lasers into the side of yoongi's face. 

"are you serious?"

yoongi nods as someone slips on the ice. "he asked the other night."

hoseok scoffs and turns back to the screen, taking a swig as he does. "tell him the truth. tell him how his mom walked out on him."

"we both know that isn't true, come on."

"fine, the technicalities of it would be confusing but what is the gist of it again? she left him. am i getting that right?"

"she didn't leave him," yoongi stares at his nails. it's a complicated story, the story of taehyung's mother and his failed relationship with her. and none of the people closest to yoongi understand it and none of them ever will.

the only two people who have ever known or understood the situation, who knew for a fact what happened that night, are yoongi and her. 

hoseok just rolls his eyes and sets his bottle down on the bar top a little too forcefully. "what do you call leaving him with you and never coming back? babysitting?"

"i hate it when you say shit like that," yoongi admits. "it's not babysitting, stop saying that."

"it was at first, wasn't it? i swear to god, you like to pretend i wasn't there back then."

"you're pissing me off a little more than usual," yoongi turns to look at him for the first time. "listen: he is my son. why the fuck--"

"i'm not saying he's not, you dumbass. i'm saying you never acted like it. so yeah, back then it was babysitting, wasn't it?"

yoongi can't completely argue because, as hoseok said, he was there back then. he witnessed it. he was the one who yoongi complained to on nightly basis. for those reasons and for the fact that hoseok pisses him off regularly, yoongi finds that he can't actually be upset. 

sure, it's annoying but so is his mom when she nags at him. it's annoying but he loves her.

they become silent for a few minutes, both of them pretending to be entranced by the game they don't understand. trying to make sense of it but coming up with nothing. 

"seriously, what do i tell him?"

hoseok shrugs. "whatever you come up with or don't come up with, it'll be okay. you're more than enough for him, alright?"

that is the thing that keeps the question gnawing on yoongi's nerves. because the truth is that he won't ever be enough for taehyung, not as far as he's concerned. 

 

Chapter Text

“nine years we’ve known each other and you still suck at this,” yoongi feigns disappointment with a subtle shake of the head just as the cotton candy pink bowling ball rolls straight into the gutter before even coming close to any of the pins.

the bowling alley is fairly crowded which is fine for a saturday afternoon but yoongi can’t help but be a little frustrated. he was never a sociable person.

hoseok turns away from the lane and stalks back to his seat, picking up his large water bottle as he does. he’s been drowning down bottle after bottle since his first and only glass of beer. “excuse me, i haven’t had a whole lot of practice.”

“i’m the father between us, shouldn’t that be my line?” a disapproving groan spills from yoongi’s mouth when he sees hoseok whipping out his smartphone. “ah, ah, stop it! what are you doing, looking up cheat codes?”

hoseok doesn’t look away from the screen and replies in tone that teems boredom. “there are no cheat codes on life, my friend. i would have looked them up a long time ago.”

the snarky reply that the two of them are expecting doesn’t come because there’s a loud buzzing coming from yoongi’s back pocket. when yoongi pulls out his phone and looks at the screen, he breaks into a grin jumping up from his seat before running off.

“where are you going?” hoseok calls after him. “we still have another round!”

taking shelter on the side of the concession stand, yoongi presses the phone hard against his ear. “taehyung?”

“hi daddy!”

yoongi sighs contentedly, leaning his head against the wall and letting his eyes fall shut. his son’s voice sounds like what taking a deep breath after near drowning feels like. “ah, it’s good to hear from you. why didn’t you call sooner? are you having too much fun?”

“uh huh, i’m…i went to the zoo and i saw the lions i—we went to the beach and grandpa let me sit on his shoulders and i was really big and i could see everything!”

he falters a little because he really wanted to take taehyung to the local zoo himself but he finds he can’t be upset for long. not when taehyung is so ecstatic. “i didn’t know grandpa was still that strong. i’m happy you’re having a good time.”

“yeah…are you okay?”

“yeah, i’m okay,” yoongi nods. his voice goes up a pitch and he wonders whether or not he’s lying. “missing you. but i’m okay, why’d you ask?”

“grandma said you might be sad. are you sad?”

“um…no, i’m okay. just missing you,” yoongi swallows and looks down at his feet. “hey, i’m sorry for saying mr. fuzzles doesn’t exist, that wasn’t very nice.”

it’s sad but he’s been thinking about mr. fuzzles for a better part of the day. it’s almost as if distance from his child makes him feel guilty about things that don’t matter. he has a feeling that if taehyung was to stay in daegu for an extra day, he’d be apologizing to the child for feeding him mushed peas when he was a baby. and that was over four years ago.

“it’s okay, you were just cranky,” taehyung says. “like when i don’t take my naps.”

yoongi laughs. “thank you for understanding. will you introduce me to him when i get back?”

“uh huh,” he hears taehyung yawn. “are you having fun?”

“not at all, it’s really boring without you here.”

“it’s okay, daddy, i’m gonna see you soon.”

keeping children on the phone and engaged in any kind of conversation is hard. sometimes, depending on what’s going on on the other end, it’s impossible. even talkative taehyung is that way but when it comes to people he knows really well, it takes no effort to keep him engaged.

so the fact the conversation is dwindling and that taehyung is yawning is red flag number one.

“taehyung?”

“uh huh?”

“have you taken your nap today?”

“nuh uh,” he yawns again. “but i’m not tired.”

“you sound tired, don’t you want to take a nap?”

“no,” he yawns again and moans quietly.

“why not?”

“i wanna talk to you.”

yoongi smiles, his heart swelling. “i wanna talk to you too. i miss you a lot.”

“i miss you too.”

“you’re not just saying that because i’m saying it, are you?”

taehyung giggles. “no, i mean it!”

the two can barely hold a conversation properly, what with all of the white noise on yoongi’s end and taehyung’s drowsiness. but they don’t hang up for a while, the both of them taking immense comfort in the sound of each other’s breathing.

when yoongi does finally end the call and make it back to hoseok, the younger is glaring daggers at him. “what?”

“just because he’s your kid doesn’t mean you get to hog him, i wanted to talk to him too…prick.”

 

 

hoseok drops him back off at his apartment toward the end of the day with a stern warning not to “get all sappy”. when yoongi only responded with a clear look of inquisition, hoseok narrowed his eyes.

“you know what i mean,” he’d said. “you have some kind of separation anxiety. just relax, alright?”

“i don’t have separation anxiety,” yoongi is a little louder than necessary. “only kids have that.”

“you,” hoseok points a finger in his face. “b average in your psych class. me, an a plus. so i think i know what i’m talking about.”

“i’ll have you know that it’s absolutely normal to miss your child. it’s something that happens when you do this rare thing called loving them.”

something that the two of them have become relatively good at is understanding when to take things too far and when to hold back. so instead of going on this weighty harangue, he makes a face that lets them both know that he isn’t falling for any of the bullshit. but it also says that when he’s ready to talk about it, he will.

hoseok slaps a hand over his shoulder. it’s heavy handed and falls with a smack that resounds in the car. “just don’t do that thing…you know where you start feeling bad for yourself. and when you start thinking that one small thing is gonna lead to…something else.”

yoongi shakes his head just as hoseok coughs out a laugh that he’d been trying to hold in.

“we’re not good at this heart to heart thing.”

“not even a little bit,” yoongi turns to hoseok. “but the message is received and appreciated.”

 

 

 

admittedly yoongi does tend to fall over himself over seemingly trivial things like poor transactions or nearly burnt rice or that one time he tried and failed to change taehyung’s diaper. maybe hoseok knows that better than anyone but even he, with all of his perception and with the close bond they’ve formed, cannot understand why it is that yoongi gets so uncomfortable with certain things.

the truth is yoongi doesn’t quite know himself. although he has a creeping suspicion that it’s because he’s tried so hard to make himself forget.

he’s lying on his bed, trying to decide whether or not one of taehyung’s plushes will help him sleep, when his phone rings. it’s seokjin. the clock says 7:36 but it feels like midnight so he considers not answering. but a bigger part of him does not want to be alone with his thoughts right now.

“hello?”

“hey,” seokjin greets cheerfully, his voice sounding like the definition of ebullience. “how are you?”

“okay,” yoongi shifts to lay on his back instead. he turns his head to look at the wall. the street lights are peaking through the blinds and making shadows. his eyes traces its outline. “why?”

“it’s this thing called courtesy that i learned about in one of jimin’s books.”

“oh? which one, i might know it.”

should i share my ice cream?”

“ah, i learned about manners from that book too! who woulda thought?”

seokjin laughs a little and yoongi can hear jimin saying something in the background. “uh…so i just…we were wondering if you might want to come over for dinner?”

seokjin’s voice sounds like what would happen if anxiety met hopefulness or embarrassment had a baby with faux excitement. but more than anything yoongi can hear the compassion or, more appropriately, the pity. he thinks about saying no because he simply wants to be alone but hoseok told him not to do the whole pity thing so it only seems right that he lets someone else do it for him.

“what’s for dinner?”

 

 

he thinks taehyung needs to be here.

not just with him or at home but at this dinner. yoongi feels like a child hanging out with the family members they don’t know that well without their parents. it doesn’t help that the dinner is fairly awkward. seokjin is not the best conversationalist and jimin has basically become taciturn, barely touching the food on his plate.

the boy doesn’t lift his head or meet yoongi’s eye line. yoongi sees himself.

“are you okay, kid?”

jimin nods but he doesn’t look up. seokjin reaches over and caresses the child’s hair, his hand running to rub circles on his back.

“he’s really shy,” seokjin says almost apologetically but not completely. like he’s not sorry his son is shy but he’s sorry most people don’t know how to handle it.

yoongi looks from seokjin to jimin. “but we’ve met. so many times. jimin, you slept at my house. you said my cooking was good! i know you were just being nice but still.”

a tiny smile blooms on jimin’s face but he purses his lips and keeps his eyes down. yoongi leans closer.

“oh my god, you don’t remember me!” yoongi dramatically sinks back into his seat, sliding down bit by bit. “oh alert the media, my son’s best friend doesn’t know who i am, how will life go on?”

jimin’s eyes flit from his plate to his father before landing on yoongi and his lips part as a tiny giggle escapes. he covers his mouth. “i do remember you.”

“really? what’s my name then?”

“mr. min,” jimin gnaws on his top lip, a habit that taehyung has too. it sparks a small flame of fondness inside yoongi and he smirks, laughing a little. “i know you.”

memories of when he was a child make their way to the forefront of yoongi’s mind and he remembers how too many people mistook his shyness for disrespect. he levels with jimin, leaning forward on his elbows. “you know, i was really shy when i was your age too.”

“really?”

“yeah,” yoongi nods, catching a glimpse of seokjin’s fond smile. “i still am. and you wanna know a secret? it’s okay. actually, it means you’re special.”

jimin brightens, sitting up a little straighter. “i am?”

“definitely. you know some people just make friends with anyone and sometimes it lasts, sometimes it doesn’t. but you and me, the shy ones, we befriend for life.”

“you think taehyung will be my friend for life?”

yoongi hums and pretends to think about it. “i think you and taehyung will be friends forever.”

 

 

on the tv screen, tony stark makes another gratuitous, laugh striven remark and the music changes so that the audience knows that the final battle is definitely about to happen. taehyung enjoys these avengers movies too and yoongi has seen them so many times, he’s stopped caring.

it’s when the hulk does something really cool and somewhat physically impossible that yoongi notes something is missing. it’s the excited laugh, the exuberant gasp that usually follows an action packed scene. he turns to seokjin who’s got his arm tucked around jimin who has fallen asleep on his father’s lap. yoongi nudges seokjin.

“i think we’ve lost someone.”

seokjin looks at him questioningly before looking down at his lap and quirking a small smile. “ ‘daddy, i’m not tired’, who was he kidding?”

with utmost gentleness, seokjin lifts jimin into his arms and stands. jimin doesn’t stir and yoongi sets a mental reminder to ask seokjin how he did that. whenever he’d move in the slightest, taehyung would wake up and refuse to be put to bed.

“i’ll be right back.”

“take your time.”

 yoongi is left alone in the living room. he looks around the area. there aren’t any pictures on the walls or on the shelves, different from yoongi’s place where nearly every inch is adorned with pictures of him and taehyung, taehyung and his family, etc. the walls are plain white. it reminds yoongi of when he first got his apartment. untouched and impersonal. like there wasn’t anyone living here at all.

he looks at his watch, and is about ready to get ready to go home when a very tiny and very sleepy jimin comes running from the back. he hears seokjin call after the little boy and before yoongi can say anything, before he can respond at all, jimin is jumping onto his lap and wrapping his small arms around his neck.

“goodnight, mr. min,” he murmurs.

yoongi returns the hug, rubbing jimin’s back as he does. “goodnight, mr. kim.”

much later, seokjin would tell him that jimin has never done that before in his life, that yoongi was the first person aside from his father that he was affectionate towards.

 

 

when he’s close to walking out the door, seokjin suggests that they have dinner at his place next time and yoongi has to stop himself from out right howling a laugh because no that does not sound good. especially when seokjin has the cooking skills of world renowned chef. “you’re a great host, seokjin. i’m saltine crackers and soda pop while you’re caviar and red wine.”

the lights are dimmed so yoongi can’t see the color in seokjin’s face but he has a good feeling that he’s blushing. “you’re ridiculous, yoongi.”

“i know. that’s my winning point,” yoongi turns to go, his hand already on the doorknob. “goodnight.”

“wait,” seokjin pulls him back and in the back of yoongi’s mind, he thinks about how this is the first time the older has touched him. “don’t go home.”

“why not?” yoongi forces a laugh. “is it rigged with explosives or something? final destination part seventeen?”

seokjin doesn’t laugh but he smiles gently, understandingly. he looks torn between saying what he wants to say and letting yoongi walk out the door. “just stay a little while. if you go home right now, i’m afraid you might feel really lonely. and you’ve been kind to me so i don’t want that.”

yoongi looks at seokjin, at his tousled dark hair and his big brown eyes that are teeming with a pity that yoongi hasn’t seen in his lifetime. he looks at the older’s hand, wrapped around his wrist. something in the room shifts.

“everyone seems to think that i’m having some kind of breakdown,” he forces another laugh.

a gentle squeeze to the wrist sends a jolt of reality through his veins. “come on,” seokjin pulls. “i have a lot of leftover halloween candy and some non-alcoholic red wine. still a good host?”

 

 

“i feel like i’m in some indie comedy.”

seokjin snorts but doesn’t respond, he just continues picking out the candy that he likes and setting it in his pile.

they’re both sitting on the living room floor, jimin’s tote of halloween candy sitting in front of them and they’re separate collection at their sides. yoongi’s consists of plain hershey’s kisses and cherry sours while seokjin’s is pretty much a pile of everything. like a piñata threw up on the carpet.

the fake red wine would look abject next to the saccharine snacks but it has a picture of a grape wearing sunglasses on the label so it blends in with the theme of immature fatherhood.

as if to set the theme in stone, seokjin reaches over and pours the wine into yoongi’s cup — a teenage mutant ninja turtle glass. then he pours it in his own cup — a scooby doo themed mug.

“to fatherhood,” a clink sounds between them and they both laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.

“isn’t jimin gonna be upset with us?”

seokjin shakes his head, chewing on a gummy bear. “no, he has a lot more where that came from. i’m pretty sure he’ll still have some left over by next halloween.”

“it’s that eye smile,” yoongi snickers. “i almost bought him an entire bag myself. even with the costume.”

“great genes, he has.”

“were you that cute when you were a kid?”

“oh, are you kidding me?” seokjin beams. “i was cuter than macaulay culkin, trust me. but that eye smile…that’s his mother’s. all day.”

yoongi feels something inside him falter, some kind of breaking point but it doesn’t crack. it wilts and deflates like it was never strong enough to crack in the first place. but he continues snacking on his cherry sours, trying not to think about what taehyung gets from his mother.

but then seokjin looks at him closely. “you know, taehyung has your eyes.”

yoongi shakes his head despite the smile on his face. “no, he doesn’t. even my family says he looks nothing like me.”

“no, look,” seokjin reaches over but he stops with his hand suspended in midair before putting it back down to his side. “he just…they’re the same shape. sorry.”

“i’m thinking about obliterating that term from all languages,” yoongi sighs. “ ‘i’m sorry’. it induces stress in my opinion.”

“do you have any alternatives to offer? with such a big change, i think you’d have to give the people something to counter it with.”

“my apologies is good,” yoongi shrugs. “i apologize as well. pardon. why don’t you give it a try?”

seokjin leans back on his elbows and clears his throat. “pardon me.”

“see? doesn’t it feel good? it’s less self pitying and more confident. looks good on you.”

seokjin rolls his eyes and yoongi takes a sip out of his cup. the fake wine is overtly sweet and it cancels out the taste of the cherry sours but the too much is enough for him.

after a short silence where the only sounds heard are quiet sips, slurps, and candy wrappers, seokjin lays back completely.

“yoongi?”

“hmm?”

“you know how you said i was breaking right in front of you?”

you still are, yoongi wants to say but doesn’t. “yeah. why?”

seokjin shifts, an attempt to rid discomfort. “i think the shoe might be on the other foot.”

yoongi exaggerates a groan, throwing his head back. “taehyung is gonna be back tomorrow night, i’m fine.”

“it’s not that…not just that, i should say. i don’t know you well so of course i have no idea if i’m justified in saying that you’re not yourself but…something just seems a bit off.”

“define off.”

seokjin chuckles. “want me to get you a mirror?”

“that’s hilarious,” yoongi deadpans.

“so, is everything okay?” seokjin shrugs at the look yoongi gives him. “support system, remember? these are questions we have to ask each other in order to properly delegate an adequate support system. i don’t make the rules.”

yoongi stifles a laugh, the smile that he’d tried to keep at bay pulling something dark out of him. “thank you for asking. are you okay?”

“it’s not as easy to pull reverse psychology on an adult who also has a kid who doesn’t enjoy taking baths. so answer the question please.”

whether it’s exhaustion or concern or wanting to hear something other than hoseok’s insistence that the situation would work itself out, yoongi isn’t sure. maybe it’s the internal thermometer, reaching a boiling point that exceeds the meter or the quiet alarm that’s getting so loud that it’s hard to hear anything else. maybe the levee just decided to break.

whatever it is, the floodgates open.

“he wants to know about his mother.”

the white noise from the water rushing surrounds him and he can’t hear anything but static. he waits for a strange look, for a gasp or a hard stare. but it doesn’t come and he remembers that seokjin is one of the few people in his life that doesn’t know of the stigma and chaos surrounding taehyung’s mother.

“what happened to her?”

yoongi leans back, resting on his elbows for a bit before laying back completely. the fray of his hair obscures his vision but he’s okay with it because there’s nothing much to look at. that and he figures the more he’s hidden, the easier it’ll be to talk about it. “nothing happened.”

“she left him then?”

“no…not really… but it’s just you and jimin, right? what do you tell him about his mom?”

there’s no reply for a while and yoongi can almost see that familiar sadness make its way back into seokjin’s eyes. instead he hears a shaky intake of breath. “jimin’s mother…i just tell him that she loved him.”

“does he ever ask why she’s not around?”

seokjin shakes his head. “i don’t think i’m quite able to explain it anyway. haven’t mastered that yet.”

“does anyone ever?” yoongi shakes his head slowly, still staring up at the ceiling. he notes the water stains and the poor plaster jobs. “there are so many books about parenting but i feel like i still don’t know shit.”

yoongi wants to say more but each time he thinks of saying it, each time the words form in his mind, they refuse to make themselves known. they crawl up his throat and die before they reach the tip of his tongue. killed by apprehension and fear of reality.

the thing about speaking and thinking, the difference between the two, is that you can think of something and it can be great. but you can speak and it falls apart. or alternatively, you can choose to not think about something. but once you speak it, it’s at the forefront.

he thinks about taehyung’s mother. thinks about the party where they met. thinks about how she smiled at him, how taehyung has that same smile. he thinks about her in her youth and liveliness and carefree attitude about life. and then he thinks about her pale faced and stressed and aged way beyond twenty.

he thinks and thinks and thinks until it hurts him. until his lungs are burning and his own soul is pounding at his insides, begging to get out.

“say something,” he blurts out. it sounds harsh and desperate and sweet and sour. “please.”

his eyes are still on the ceiling but he can feel seokjin’s breath fan over his cheeks and he knows seokjin is looking at him, head tilted sideways against the suede carpet. “why don’t you?”

yoongi reciprocates by facing him. they’re too close, he thinks. and yoongi’s instinct is to jerk away but somehow he stays put. he notes that seokjin’s eyes are bigger up close, they even sparkle more. his heart bleeds.

“she didn’t leave him, i sent her away.”

and there like the final nail in the coffin, everything is all too real. the words taste bitter but they taste honest. he’s been lying to himself so long that the bitterness is almost a relief. but then he thinks of taehyung and it’s all just bitter again.

 

Chapter Text

(yoongi had swallowed hard, the weight in his chest getting heavy, sinking and sinking until he was collapsing on himself. he found it hard to breathe as the words bled from his mouth like an open wound. “i didn’t want him.”

seokjin didn’t say anything for a while but yoongi could hear the gears in his mind trying to come up with a way to respond. eventually he comes up with. “that’s normal. we were young and—“

“it wasn’t just that. i didn’t want him, i wanted nothing to do with him…i didn’t even show up when he was born.”)

 

he probably would have had better luck during the spring when the easter fever would hit and eggs and ducks and bunnies exploded with all of the debris ending up in grocery stores.

but the option to wait any longer simply does not exist. either he gets the stuffed animal now he never gets it and it doesn’t matter whether taehyung made mr. fuzzles up in his head or not, yoongi is going to feel guilty. the shelf is decked out with stuffed bears, turtles, even a few penguins, all different colors of the rainbow. hell, there’s a neon blue rhino holding a heart.

but no pink ducklings.

a flash of red from the corner of his eye yanks his attention and he’s jerking to the side instantly, catching the view of a uniformed employee.

“hey!” he raises his voice. the employee turns to him looking downright terrified and yoongi internally apologize. he was certain he’d kept his polite tone turned on. “you got any ducks?”

“this is a toy store,” the young man stammers.

yoongi rolls his eyes. “and i’m talking about a toy duck. do you have any?”

“um,” the employee scratches the back of his head and approaches the shelf. he nods toward it. “we have, uh, bears. some sharks. a little rhino—“

“i’m looking for a duck. it has to be a duck…a pink one.”

“ducks are yellow though.”

“are we seriously having this conversation?” yoongi narrows his eyes. “kid, you work in a toy shop, anything is possible. look at that rhino.”

the staff member looks like he’s going to cry at any moment, like the very idea of being criticized in the slightest is sending him down a tunnel of dread. yoongi reminds himself of what his teachers used to tell him, his past bosses, and ex-girlfriends: to be gentle.

“are you new here?” the kid nods and yoongi does too. “okay, point me in the direction of someone who knows the store a little better.”

 

yoongi would describe himself as somewhat laconic and as a person who has very little patience for anything asinine. as a result of that, he’s a person whose patience is already meager at best. so to say that his patience is wearing thin would be a bit of an understatement. by this point — after getting turned away from every toy and department store in vicinity to his apartment — his patience is really nonexistent.

his desperation is also at an all time high.

which is why he’s currently pressing himself up against the locked glass doors of the city’s most affluent toy store. “please open the door!”

“we’re closed,” the manager looks apologetic, looks like she’d like to let him in if he had bigger eyes but she maintains her stance. “if i let you in, i would have to let anyone in. then our employees would be working longer hours and the domino effect just goes on and on. understand?”

“i do,” yoongi presses himself a little bit closer. the cold air has transformed the door into a block of ice and yoongi’s skin prickles. he pulls out his phone, brightens the screen, and holds it up to the glass. “but see this kid? that’s my son—“

“he’s very cute, sir.”

the background is a picture of taehyung when they went to daegu over the summer. in the picture he's wearing a small pair of overalls and holding a bucket of strawberries. he's smiling wide, elated. yoongi is very aware that his son is cute and even more aware the effect that this particular picture has on people. 

“i know but he…i just want to get a gift for him. you see, that duck that you have is the embodiment of the one he made up. like it’s the spitting image, you understand?”

“yes sir but we’re closed. just come back in the morning, we’ll be happy to sell it to you.”

yoongi’s already shaking his head before the sentence is completed. he presses his phone up against the glass again, making it tap against the glass. “he’s coming back from a sleepover. i’m picking him up in a half hour, i need that duck now.”

“you know,” the manager shuffles closer. “if you were in his life more, you wouldn’t need to buy him all the things he doesn’t need.”

the inner voice yoongi has has already mouthed off to this woman in three different languages, has done the whole “first of all” and “you don’t know me” bit twice over. has told the manager off and told her that he raises his son alone and that, thank you very fudging much, but he’s definitely in his son’s life.

but yoongi keeps quiet because he really wants that duck.

if he can pretend that the reason taehyung hates vegetables is because he doesn’t cook them right or that the infamous baymax plush does have a mind of its own then he can definitely pretend that he’s the father who tries to buy his son. he can definitely invoke that sympathy.

as he’s delving into a sub par performance as a deadbeat father, he thinks of seokjin. the previous night, he’d basically laid all of his cards out on the table, bared his soul, revealed nearly everything about the days leading up to taehyung and the years after. as he’s so boldly lying to the store manager, he can’t help but wonder why he so boldly told seokjin, closer to a stranger, the truth.

 

“where are you?”

feet pounding against the ceramic floor of the station, yoongi’s head flits side to side as he searches frantically.

“we passed column two,” his mother says coolly. “where are you?”

“column…” he looks up just as he’s passing the larger than life number looming over him and comes to a stop. “eight. i’m passing column eight, did you guys come in at the other end?”

“what other end?”

yoongi looks away from the number and up ahead at the crowd bustling forward in front of him. “ma, there are two…”

taehyung is in front of him, several feet ahead. but he’s holding onto his grandmother’s hand tightly, practically dragging her through the crowd as he runs. his small legs can only take him so far but the amount of effort he’s putting in is obvious and adorable. taehyung is searching just as frantically.

then their eyes meet and taehyung is beaming with scintillating eyes.

“daddy!”

two things happen very quickly. first taehyung breaks from his grandma’s grip and starts running full speed, as fast as his legs will take him, at yoongi. second, yoongi panics and runs even faster because he’s read a lot of articles and knows that five year olds should not be running in a crowded place without someone to hold their hand.

his own mother is yelling for taehyung to come back and trying to catch up to him. but taehyung is simply smiling and running, opening his arms when he gets close enough.

they meet head on, right in the middle and yoongi scoops the little one up immediately, squeezing him tightly.

“you know better,” yoongi kisses the top of taehyung’s head and holds him closer. “than to run off like that.”

taehyung settles his head in the crook of yoongi’s neck and shakes his head. “you did too.”

“well, i missed you.”

taehyung snaps his head up in shock. “hey, i missed you too!”

“hmm,” yoongi shrugs, tilts his head to the side and pretends to consider that notion. “i think i may have missed you more.”

“nuh-uh!”

“uh-huh!”

“nuh-uh—“

“all the weekend he spends with me,” both of them turn their heads to the sound of yoongi’s mother’s voice as she finally catches up with them. “all weekend, he calls me the best grandma ever and he says he loves me so much but as soon as it’s time to leave—“

“you are the best grandma ever."

"yet you run away from me," she smiles fondly at him and gently caresses his cheek. 

taehyung doesn't respond but he looks bashful and she smiles more. 

"ma, did you want to get dinner before you headed back?"

"maybe next time," she suggests. "we had ice cream on the way up. a lot of it."

she mouths an apology to yoongi but he shakes his head. there's no reason for it. 

 

after sending his mother off and watching her depart, yoongi decides to break the rules.

see sunday nights, school nights, these are the nights in which taehyung goes to sleep relatively early. his bedtime sits at a dependable eight o'clock. but tonight, yoongi is going to let it be a much wilder, much more reckless 8:45. 

right now they're sitting on the couch in their living room eating their respective cereals (fruity pebbles for taehyung and frosted flakes for yoongi) that are much too sweet. 

"almost forgot," yoongi sets his bowl down and leans backwards into the corner of the sofa. "i got something for you."

taehyung brandishes a gleeful expression that continues to merit yoongi's mood. he never thinks he can get any happier but then taehyung will smile and it happens. "you did?"

"yup. wanna take a guess at what it is?"

"a dolphin?" taehyung doesn't hesitate and patiently waits for confirmation with wide eyes.

"wh..." yoongi trails off. "why a dolphin? and why'd you guess that so fast?"

"dolphins are the coolest!" taehyung says it matter-of-factly. like dolphins being the coolest is as obvious as the sky being blue. "dolphins are friends with everyone, one time a dog and a dolphin talked from the sea."

yoongi makes a note of that. "sounds a lot like you. but no, one more guess."

"i don't know," he shrugs.

"who's that person you said you were going to introduce me to? the one i said probably didn't exist?"

taehyung's eyebrows quirk up before he breaks out into another smile. "where is he?"

"where is who?"

"mr. fuzzles."

yoongi pretends to not know what he's talking about for a little while longer but his heart gets the best of him and he pulls mr. fuzzles out from behind the couch pillow (where he stored it quickly once the two of them stepped inside the apartment) and wiggles it. 

taehyung marvels at the stuffed animal, staring at it for a full minute before cuddling with it. his arms are tight around the neck and he shows no signs of loosening his grip. at the same time that he holds on the latest addition to his plush toy family, he reaches up and embraces yoongi. 

"are you gonna introduce me to him?"

"oh, right." taehyung sits up and props the duck on his lap. "mr. fuzzles, this is daddy. daddy, this is mr. fuzzles. mr. fuzzles was a really successful chef in america but he decided to move here because he wanted to be friends with me. but he's still good at making food so, daddy, if you ever need any help."

there are words that taehyung understandably still has difficulty with. successful is one of them. his successful sounds less like the word and more like "shuck-kess-full". 

part of yoongi wonders whether or not taehyung made mr. fuzzles up as a way to insult his cookng but no. he knows his son is much too kind for that. yoongi takes the little wing and shakes it gingerly.

"it's nice to meet you, mr. fuzzles."

they're cordial for a whole thirty seconds before taehyung leaps onto yoongi's lap and hugs him again. 

 

yoongi is caressing taehyung's hair slowly, like he always does before bed. he's humming a song he can't remember the name too and taehyung is falling in and out of consciousness, still trying to hold onto waking life. but for the most part, he's sound asleep.

yoongi looks at the curve of taehyung's brow, the perch of his nose, the way his hair falls in front of his eyes. he leans forward and kisses his forehead. 

"your mom loved you a lot," he murmurs against his skin. but when he pulls back, taehyung is looking up at him with wide eyes. yoongi swallows hard. 

"more than you?"

it's a hard question to answer. because he's been told all of his life that there isn't a love that can compare to the love of a mother. and the last thing he wants to do is make taehyung think his mother doesn't love him. but the best he can do is be honest about his own feelings. 

"i love you more than anyone in the whole word," he whispers to taehyung's delight. taehyung smiles back at him, eyes half lidded and still sleepy. 

"me too."

 

 

("but you know that doesn't matter," seokjin responded after a long, weighty silence. his voice didn't break the quiet as much as it made it more relaxing, less suffocating. "how you felt then and how you feel now are so different. you didn't want him then, so what? you've raised him well and all you do, day in and day out, is show him the affection you feel for him. and you do love him. you're a good father. say it."

they turn to each other and yoongi's first instinct is to smile back. he feels ridiculous saying it initially but then the words are out of his mouth and the words feel good. 

"i'm a good father.")

Chapter Text

the way yoongi remembers the events that unfolded before he became a single father is very different from the way he explains it to seokjin. he leaves lots of words unsaid and blames it on forgetfulness in opposition to shame. because the truth is that he remembers every single thing in painstaking detail.

 

seven years ago, he was living it up in college.

and by living it up, he meant he was working two jobs while killing himself with five high level classes. but he couldn’t complain. he’d been warned before he even hit high school that majoring in medicine was a long and grueling but it was his decision. he grew up in a family of would-doers and could’ve-beens and he wasn’t going to be one of them made to live in daegu for the rest of his life. and now that he got a ticket out to sogang university, he wasn't going to go back. 

no, he was going to be better than that. he was going to get his degree, be successful, and have the money and freedom to go wherever the hell he wanted. all he had to do was suffer through ethics, anatomy, tedious essay-writing, and unevenly distributed “group” projects. it was a better deal, he figured, than having to work at an “anti establishment” establishment like the corner stores in his hometown.

but even he, with his steel focus and determination, can fall prey to boredom and frustration. it isn’t often that those who energize from solitude crave interaction but when they do, it becomes insatiable. how it happens — the sudden affinity for conversation and experience — is usually due to high stress levels and momentous boredom. two things that can arise from continuous essay writing, long hours in silent commodious libraries. it is without a doubt—

 

“—highly uncharacteristic of you,” hoseok grunted the words out like it’s an insult to his world of warcraft buddies. under the glow of his desk lamp, hidden behind the thick frames of his reading glasses, he almost looked like a respectable student. but by this point, yoongi has had to live with hoseok as a roommate for three years and has been exposed to his true side. the side that came in at three in the morning wearing nothing but a hula skirt and a baseball helmet.

removing his own glasses, yoongi replied tiredly. “when you’re overworked, uncharacteristic tendencies tend to unfold.”

“oh,” hoseok looked up from the microbiology homework he put off until the last second. “so you admit it’s just a lark. besides it’s winding down, there are no parties this time of year.”

“you’re lying.”

“screw you.”

"you just don't want me to go to one. am i too square for your other beefhead friends?"

"see that? that's part of it. what you'll do the minute we walk in the door is take a look at all the people having a good time -- like most college students do, by the way -- and get all sour faced and judgmental."

yoongi frowned, twisting his face up. "i don't get judgmental."

“remind me of what it was that you said about the christmas party we went to?”

yoongi didn’t respond, instead he scoffed and laid flat on his back and stared up at the ceiling. luke skywalker was staring back down at him with that stupid luke skywalker gaze. he and hoseok’s dorm was what it would probably look like if shrek consumed all of pop culture and puked on the walls.

hoseok answered for him. “‘look at me, i’m a twenty year old who thinks i have life figured out but instead of actually doing anything with my life i’m drowning in bad music and whiskey because it’s fun’.”

“why do you remember that so well?”

“you’re an asshole,” hoseok countered bluntly. “don’t get me wrong, i like hanging out with you but you’re self involved and holier than thou. it’s a pain in the ass and i’m not taking you to a party. if you want to go out, we can go to the movies. just the two of us…but something tells me you’ll start picking at the plot.”

my girlfriend is an agent looks stupid.”

“it looks like a masterpiece which reminds me: you’re an asshole.”

"you're annoying!"

"you're egotistic!"

"i'm dying," yoongi spilled himself over the expanse of his bed, spreading his legs out and knocking over textbooks and diagrams in the process. he turned over on his stomach and flopped like a fish, whining like a kid having a temper tantrum. "please, i need a change of scenery."

"go to the library."

"please."

hoseok slammed his own textbook shut and sighed dramatically as he rose up from his seat. “the first time in ages that i actually try to get work done and you of all people become a bad influence.”

“so there is a party?”

hoseok smiled as he shrugged on his red leather jacket (something he bought after being made to watch rebel without a cause in his film theory class and falling in love with being tough like james dean — who yoongi respectfully thinks wasn’t as tough as marlon brando but different strokes for different folks). “yoongi, yoongi, inexperienced yoongi. there’s always a party.”

 

“i don’t want you complaining.”

“i heard you the first time.”

“i’m serious. every party can be fun depending on who you go with. and i’m not saying i’m gonna stay by your side for the whole thing but i don’t want you to ruin it for me.”

stuffing his hands farther into his pockets, yoongi nodded in accordance. “what if i just sit in the corner all night?”

“then i’ll kick your ass.”

“you remind me of my mom, you know? she’s never satisfied either.”

“seriously,” hoseok turned to yoongi continuing on his path. “if you’re not in class or the library, you’re in the room. we’re going out so you better talk to people.”

 

the house where the party was located was in the middle of some suburban neighborhood that yoongi didn’t even know existed. it didn't look like there were any lights on inside and yoongi stopped in his steps, stilling at the sight. hoseok stopped next to him.

“is this a party or a morgue?”

instead of answering, hoseok pushed him further. walking into an unknown house in an unknown neighborhood in darkness felt like crossing the street while blind folded. it was terrifying, exciting, and emotionally draining at the same time. with the way his excitement spiked, yoongi thought he must have secretly wanted to get hit by a bus before getting to the other side.

as they stepped inside, it became clear that it wasn't completely dark. there were jars with candles inside lining the steps and a few chinese lanterns aligned on the ceiling. the music was blaring and yoongi found a jolt of pride a recognizing the song.

“whose party is this?” he asked hoseok because it was rare to find someone in 2009 who listened to sneaker pimps. even if it was their most popular song.

“not sure. someone from konkuk, i think.”

kelli ali’s saccharine vocalizations soothed any and all trepidation yoongi might have been feeling about going inside. when they stepped into the living room, they knew that this would be nothing like the mindless raves they were used to. this party was intentionally enchanting and spellbinding like psychedelic jams from the 1960s.

the smell of marijuana was thick in the air and hoseok smiled, seemingly at the scent. “this might be fun.”

 

hoseok went to join the other reeferlites but yoongi wanted to explore the rest of the house with kelli as his guide. so he trailed toward the back where the kitchen was and found that it was much darker there with only a few dim candles lighting the room. the brightest part, the centre of the room wasn't a piece of furniture or a light fixture but a person holding a flashlight.

yoongi wasn't sure if it was the orange glow of the candles but her hair, cascading down like a waterfall, looked auburn. her eyes were lined and her lips were red but her skin looked soft. she looked soft. and she looked right at him.

she looked him up and down and smiled like he was just the person she'd been waiting for. 

“so,” she continued after a short pause. her voice sounded like honey. “her friends tell her she should leave the station to see if she can find a payphone or something.”

yoongi remembers the story as a peculiar choice to tell a group of stoned, possibly paranoid adolescents. it was an urban legend that contrasted sharply with the overall tranquil vibe of the soiree. but looking back, that's probably why she chose to tell that one. being distinct was her favorite thing to be. 

"her friends tell her she should try the tracks, try walking alongside them to go back the way she came. to see if she can make it back to civilization but it leads nowhere."

her eyes found yoongi's again and they gazed at each other from across the room. he never faltered and she never blinked. it lasted a lifetime before yoongi decided to step away and reunite with his roommate. he could use a joint of his own. 

 

he was floating on the ceiling, kissing the sky, inhaling the purple haze that placed everyone on a cloud past nine when he saw her again. memory serves him wrong and he's not entirely sure if it had been hours or minutes but it's when he's counting the invisible stars on the ceiling that she's there.

she was sliding next to him on the couch, sliding into his life easily without either of them aware of the impact she would have. his neck was aching against the back of the sofa where he had it propped up so he could stare intently at the ceiling. 

his chest was burning and he exhaled, a gray mist floating upward. "i haven't seen you around here."

when he turned, the smoke changed direction and fanned into her face. if the light in the kitchen hadn't obscured her before, the smoke was repeating the cover. "me?"

she jerks her chin toward the rest of the room, in the direction of all the bodies sprawled out on the floor in a thc-fueled stupor. a skein of lifeless limbs. "you're the only one who isn't completely catatonic," she laughs. "so. unfamiliar?"

"not from around here," yoongi muttered. 

"gate-crashing then? you don't look the type?"

turning to face her, yoongi exhales once more. once the smoke clears, her face is unveiled. the curve of her brow, the perch of her nose, the way her hair falls around her face like golden frames around a masterpiece. "type?"

"self-entitled and stoned," she tilted her head to the side. "well, you're getting close to the latter."

"huh..."

"you're quite the talker."

"why the third degree?" 

instead of responding right away, she snaked her hand up, trailed up his wrist, and gently took the blunt away. she brought it up to her lips and shrugged.  "you look like you don't want to be here so i'm wondering why you are."

"i want to be here."

"you don't look like it."

"it's what inebriation tends to do to the appearance."

"expert texpert," she laughed.

"choking smokers," he responded. 

"i'm hayeon," she returns the joint to his hands. "just in case you didn't ask."

"i wasn't going to."

"and you are?"

yoongi frowned. she wasn't going to let him inhale in peace. "yoongi. is this your party?"

"no but it wasn't as good as it is now until i came by," she pointed her finger up at the ceiling. "that's my playlist."

"oh? good taste."

"i know."

yoongi smiled at her confidence and she smiled at his surprise. he shifted to get up from his seat but he thought better of it when she held onto his gaze. "see? already going."

it was only then that yoongi looked at her and saw her. and chills ran down his spine. she was magnificent. "convince me to stay."

 

that was in april. shortly thereafter, finals were completed and everyone dispersed from the peril over summer break. yoongi spent most of the summer at his parents' house in daegu where he read the required material and researched his courses in advance. 

somedays he worked at a fast food restaurant to save in advance for tuition. most days, he did nothing. the break was mostly uneventful and he went back to campus with a new lease on life. he dove into his work early on. 

and it was when he was writing an early draft of a medical essay on rubella that a knock on his door rescued him from his peril. he was all too excited to be away from his work but simultaneously all too frustrated to have been interrupted. 

 yoongi opened the door. well, he yanked it open with more force than necessary. his mouth had been fixed to spit out an insult, a small revenge for disturbing his flow. but behind the door, hayeon was standing with a hand on her a stomach and a nervous, tight-lipped smile stamped on her face. 

"oh."

she forced her smile again. "oh, indeed."

it's important to know that yoongi had never done what he had before. he'd never gone to a party and shacked up with some stranger. he'd never talked all night about the world and everything in between to a stranger. so he'd never had to deal with the aftermath. 

"um," he steps aside and opens the door wider. "did you want to come in?"

she looked inside the room but stayed outside in the hall. she shook her head once. "are you free? can we go get coffee?"

"i'm in the middle of..." yoongi turned away from her, glanced at his open notebook and he felt his sloppy handwriting glaring at him. pages and pages of incomplete equations and numbered lists of diseases and symptoms. "let's go."

 

"can i get a small white mocha?" hayeon leaned close to the barista, her voice uncharacteristically small. "no whip and could you make it decaf please?"

yoongi went to hand the barista his debit card, the one that had an outstanding balance of 45,000 won. but hayeon gently pulled his arm down and gave her card instead. "thanks."

"don't mention it."

they made their way down to the other end of the bar where they awaited their drinks' completion. "decaf, huh?"

"yeah."

yoongi scratched the back of his neck. "i think you're the only college student in the world taking decaf."

"probably," she nodded slowly. 

"are you alright? i know we aren't super acquainted but," yoongi chuckled a little. 

"what's your major?" she suddenly asked, looking at him directly. 

"um, medical. why?"

"and where are you from?"

"daegu, why are you interrogating me?"

she worried her top lip and looked around the cafe. she shuffled from one foot to another. "i like to have an idea of outcomes."

("what she meant was that she wanted to prepare herself for me not being there.")

"outcomes? like what the probability is of contracting a terminal illness before you get out of college? 45%--"

"i'm pregnant."

the images of his life -- the pictures of working hard, the pictures of getting his degree, the pictures of being a resident at seoul's finest hospital -- all burned to ashes in front of him. his throat thickened and breathing became arduous. 

"small white mocha for hayeon!"

 

they were sitting in the middle of the cafe, in the middle of the customers and employees moving in and out. hayeon was staring at her drink and yoongi was staring at her. "when did you find out?"

"about two weeks after, give or take." she wiped her nose, sniffling over her cup. she wasn't crying but years down the road yoongi will wonder if she was just shivering at his coldness. 

"four months," he muttered. he put his head in his hands and pulled at his roots. "you're keeping it?"

she nodded numbly. 

"is your mom gonna take care of it? are you dropping out?"

"my mom...my parents don't want me or the baby. but i want to stay in school. i can't just drop everything."

"what are you gonna do for money?" he pressed. "do you even have a job?"

"i have two," she snarled back. "and i still have my dorm and--"

"they're not gonna let you keep it, you know? no one wants a fucking crying baby on campus? who's gonna let you stay?"

"i'm trying to figure--"

"and if you're working two jobs and going to your classes at the same time, who's gonna watch it?"

she swallowed hard. "i thought you'd be willing to help. it's yours too, you know?"

"no."

"...but--"

"no," his tone bled finality and venom. "i won't be that person. i won't ruin my life with this. if you thought i would, it just goes to show you we know nothing about each other. i want nothing to with it," his eyes flashed down to her stomach. "any of it."

the silence became thick between them and she refused to meet his eyes. she caressed her stomach. "you're not obligated. i just wanted you to know."

he scoffed and stood up, the chair sliding back loudly against the floor. he reddened at the heads snapping toward him but he leaned forward to stick the knife in a little further. "you should have gotten rid of it when you had the chance."

 

Chapter Text

"daddy?"

yoongi feels a slight nudge to his side, tiny hands pressing into his abdomen, gently shaking at his shoulders. he can hear a small voice beckoning him but it sounded distant as if he'd been underwater. he groans. 

he cracks one of his eyes open and the sunlight coming in from his window assaults his senses violently. he groans louder and squeezes his eyes shut again. nudge, shake, beckon, he can hear taehyung sigh lightly. 

a weight comes down on his stomach and he blearily, hesitantly opens his eyes once more to find taehyung sitting on his stomach. he's wearing his school uniform but the buttons aren't done and his little tie is hanging loose around his neck. 

"daddy, wake up."

but yoongi's eyes fall shut once more and throws an arm over his face. 

"we're gonna be tardy."

yoongi jolts upward and taehyung screeches at the same time. he shoots out an arm to support the child's back and snaps his head toward his night stand where the time blinks up at him almost begrudgingly. "oh, fudge."

his voice comes out gravelly and his throat is dry and achy. he winces and taehyung looks at him wide-eyed. one short inhale and his throat cries at the dryness and he cups his mouth to let out a cough that sounds like death. 

"daddy, are you sick?"

once yoongi's voice returns to him, he looks at taehyung who's reciprocating with an identical expression of expectation. "i'm fine, just a little cough. is your bag all packed?"

"i think so."

that means no. yoongi rips the blankets from his body and gets up from the bed, letting another deep cough. he drags his feet to taehyung's bedroom where he grabs his small backpack and throws in his crayons and single notebook and jacket. 

he hands the bag to taehyung and kneels down. quickly buttoning up the dress shirt and trying the tie, he observes the child. "did you wash your face?"

"uh huh."

"brush your teeth?" 

"yup," taehyung beams up at him proudly and yoongi offers him a thumbs up. 

"that's my boy," he stands up and brings taehyung over to the kitchen table before bringing down a pororo bowl. "breakfast?"

"i had cereal."

"i mean real breakfast, are you still hungry?"

taehyung shakes his head and looks at the clock. "but we're gonna be late! the clock says 7-2-4 and you said school starts at 8-0-0."

"eight o'clock," yoongi nods and puts the bowl back up the cabinet. he instead hands taehyung a banana and circles to the fridge to take out a fruit smoothie. it's something green that his mother made which is organic and apparently incredibly healthy. "it does and we won't be late. i'm gonna run and get ready, it'll take five minutes tops. twenty minutes to get there, that means we'll be there on time. drink this."

taehyung scrunches up his nose and jerks away in his seat. "but it tastes funny."

"it tastes like vitamin c and protein," setting down the drink on the table, yoongi goes to his bedroom, pulling off his shirt as he does. taehyung exclaims: 

"yuck!"

"it's not yuck," yoongi coughs back. he looks for a clean shirt that's appropriate and warm. "it's good for you."

"why aren't you drinking any?" taehyung calls. yoongi pulls on a clean shirt and sweatpants. "you said vitamin c took away the germ people."

"it does."

"then why aren't you drinking any?"

"taehyung, stop stalling and drink it."

"no!"

"it's good for you," he coughs again and throws on a coat. he looks around the room grabbing his phone, keys, and wallet. 

"you just want to poison me like when you make me eat spinach!"

 

taehyung continues to press him about the time and about how terribly late they're going to be and how he's going to be tardy and how--

"mrs. hwang is gonna make me sit by myself and who's jimin gonna play with?" 

but yoongi is still moving at a respectful speed. he's weaving in between cars and traffic extremely safely and extremely in accordance with the speed limit. no, he doesn't want his son to be subjected to a life of not having perfect attendance and zero tardies but no, he doesn't want his son to live for only five years either. 

call him paranoid and he'd agree. 

"we're gonna be on time, okay?" he glances in the rearview mirror briefly to see taehyung pouting. it takes a lot in him not to stop the car and scoop him up. "don't you trust me?"

taehyung huffs and crosses his short arms but lets out an acrimonious "yes".

"okay then trust me enough to not freak out and know we're gonna be fine." 

"fine," he sighs again. "daddy, why do you sound like hulk?"

yoongi scoffs. or tries too. it only makes him cough more. "i do not sound like hulk."

"yes, you do."

"i'm not doing it on purpose then. i think you were right, i might be a little sick."

"it's because you ate the spinach!" taehyung face palms and his hair falls over his hands. "oh brother."

yoongi smiles but he also rolls his eyes. "it has nothing to do with spinach. in fact i'm gonna need spinach and fruit and lots of vitamin c if i want to get better by the weekend."

"where's vitamin c? do you have it with you?"

"vitamin c is in citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. it's an orange juice and it's also in that orange dinosaur gummy i give you everyday."

"the candy?"

"it's not...," yoongi trails off. "yeah, the candy."

 

after making him promise to take his vitamins and drink his juice, taehyung ran off into his classroom. he'd also forbade him from coming inside. usually the two walked into the school building hand in hand but today taehyung looked him in the eye and actually said "think of the children."

"you don't want to get them sick," he said with a sad shrug. "drink your juice, m'kay?"

yoongi really does try to get work done, he absolutely does. he logs into his account, he starts his sales but he just can't make it through. his head feels like it's been put in a vice and he can't swallow without his throat burning up. 

he chugs water and orange juice like his life depends on it and may or may not snack on most of taehyung's gummy vitamins. 

the time for taehyung to be picked up from school comes faster than normal. usually it goes by slowly, ticks and ticks, and he sometimes waits for the clock to strike 2:30 by literally staring it into submission. 

but today, 2:30 comes to quick and he has to peel himself from the couch. just as he's about to crawl out of the door, his phone rings. "hello?"

"hey," hoseok greets coolly. "i'm on my way to pick tae up so go to bed or something."

"what, why?"

"he called me this morning," hoseok chuckles and yoongi only blinks in confusion. "he said he thought you might be tired and that i should pick him up instead so you can sleep. so go to bed, take your vitamins. you sound terrible so maybe try downing some medicine, alright?"

"you don't have to--"

"and have him mad at me? ha, no thank you."

yoongi coughs a little but he feels a different kind of warmth inside. "thank you."

"thank him. now go to bed."

 

when he wakes up from his super long nap, he goes to get juice. he thinks of how he's going to need to restock on it when he steps into the kitchen, opens the fridge, and sees an explosion of orange and yellow.

there's orange juice, orange smoothies, lemons, orange fruits, tangerines, lemonade, and more. in the freezer, there are even orange and yellow popsicles. 

"he said you needed citrus things," hoseok explained from the couch where he was still sitting. "so we went shopping before we came back. don't worry he's fed and everything."

yoongi blanched. "why are you still here?"

"ah, i'm so happy we have the kind of relationship where thank yous are not needed." 

"thank you," yoongi shakes his head. 

hoseok nods his head toward the stove. "he made you soup too."

touched, yoongi goes to the stove and removes the top from the deep pot. the substance inside is oily and red. "you guys made tomato soup?"

"i said he made it," hoseok clarified once more. "i'm pretty sure it's just cold water and ketchup. so yeah, tomato i guess."

Chapter Text

yoongi buried himself in his work. he'd go to his classes, he'd take the most specific and accurate notes, he'd do his homework over and over and over. there was a just assigned version he did right after class, there was a library version (where he harbored all day), and there was a distraction version. he avoided going home until it was late.

he didn't want to run into her at all. 

he'd gotten really good at only going home when he knew hoseok was fast asleep. if hoseok was asleep, everyone was. but when he walked in one night a month later, hoseok was sitting on his bed and staring at his hands. 

"no party tonight?" yoongi asked as he toed off his sneakers. "you look sober."

"didn't go," hoseok crossed his arms. "wanted to wait for you because i've been meaning to ask: why's a very beautiful, very pregnant girl coming around here looking for you?"

yoongi tensed. he was inching to step back into his shoes when hoseok clicked his tongue. "nope, sit down."

"you're younger than me," yoongi pouted and sulked but he sat on his bed.

hoseok didn't waste any time. "is it yours?"

"she says it is."

"now i have another question and if it's no, don't be embarrassed but haven't you heard of these things called condoms?”

“okay, first of all there’s no guarantee that it’s mine,” the sheer tension in his voice alone was enough to heighten whatever tension may have been thickening in the atmosphere. they stare at each other evenly, challengingly without relent. “for all i know, she could have slept with everyone at that party. she could have even—“

“come on, dude. . . be honest with yourself.”

always being the more flexible of the two — only in terms of who would fold first — yoongi looks down at his feet. “what do you mean?”

“do you really think it’s not yours? or do you just want it to be that way?”

“what do you think?”

“is she keeping it?” yoongi nods to the carpet. the fibers don’t just look back up at him but they stare hard, judging his decision. “don’t tell me you’re planning on letting her raise it alone?”

“why should i ruin everything i’ve worked for?”

“what makes you think she hasn’t worked for what she has too? why are you so sure that you’ll be the only person making a sacrifice?”

“because i am."

the sad part of it was that yoongi was entirely sure that he was. after all it was him who worked hard all throughout uninspiring high school, paving his way to being the only person in his family to even attend college. it was him who was put on the dean's list and him who was on the fast track to becoming an attending. 

and it was going to be him who would have to give all of that up for something that most likely is not his. 

hoseok shakes his head and stands up, heading for the door. "you're a piece of shit."

hoseok was already a foot out the door when yoongi called after him. yoongi needed that last word like he needed an undo button. "that's really easy for you to say when it's not your life, isn't it?"

 

in the midst of trying to complete study guides and essays for upcoming midterms (and mostly trying to avoid hayeon), the amount of time that yoongi spent at the public library was at 90%. he'd been poring over more anatomical bullshit when the chair next to him was pulled out and she took a seat. 

even though she slipped in silently, it was hard not to notice her. she was showing and she was showing a lot. it was the sight of her belly, protruding and round, that made yoongi turn red. 

"what do you want?" he muttered, eyes still trained on his work. he took a quick scan around the library to ensure no one was looking at him. he didn't want anyone to know, he didn't want anyone to speculate. 

she huffed and puffed, panting with a smile. "it's like carrying a weight around you all the time. can you imagine?"

"what are you doing here?"

"i was expecting all these weird cravings," she said instead as she lugged her backpack onto the table. it landed with a loud thump that resounded in the space. "but i don't have any. i've just been eating a lot more strawberries, is that weird? i think it's weird."

"i told you i didn't want to see you," he muttered. 

"i thought about that," she turns to him and lets out an airy laugh, one that's winded and oddly delighted. "and...nah."

"nah?" yoongi threw his pencil down on the tabletop and covered his face with his hands. "it's not really up to you, is it?"

"meh," she shrugged as she pulled out her own binder and textbook. "you see you're the one who got me pregnant--"

yoongi hushed her, restraining himself from wrapping his hand around her mouth. 

"--and whether you want to raise it or not, it's still your kid. and just because you wish it was different, it doesn't change the fact that you're still the father."

"stop saying that."

she released another heavy breath, squeezed he eyes shut, and placed a hand on the curve of her stomach. "sorry."

yoongi watched on warily. he calculated in his head and--

"fuck, you're not having the thing now, are you?"

she glares up at him before hissing again. a small groan escapes her throat. "you've got a kicker."

"a what?"

"a kicker," she sat up straight and cleared her throat. "kicks me all day, all night, he doesn't care. he's a boy by the way. did you used to kick when you were in there?"

staggered emotionally and more than annoyed, yoongi started packing up. "i don't know."

"me neither," it didn't go unnoticed by yoongi that she started packing up her bag too. "wanted to ask my mom but you know."

yoongi stood. so did she. "where are we headed?"

"we aren't headed anywhere," he grunted as he pushed his seat and stood. he took her extra weight into account and fast walked to the exit. with her belly, she wouldn't be able to keep up, he figured. 

but of course when he got the elevators, they took forever to arrive and only opened after she'd managed to catch up with him. she was wobbling and breathless when they stepped into the elevator. 

"you look ridiculous, you know that?" yoongi whispered as soon as the doors closed.

"we're the only ones in here, you know that?" hayeon whispered back before laughing out loud. "i never knew you were so paranoid."

"we don't know anything about each other."

she shrugged. "not so sure about that. we talked about a lot of things that night. and i bet i'm one of the few friends you have who knows what your penis looks like." 

"okay," yoongi pushed the glaring red STOP button and the elevator jerked to a halt. a red light illuminated the small space as if to reiterate the false state of emergency. he stepped closer to hayeon until he could feel her short breaths on his face. "it seems like you're stubborn or hard of hearing or i don't know what but i'm gonna try to make it clear: i don't know you. you don't know me. and i want to keep it that way."

she met his stare head on, not blinking for a moment. not until she hissed once more and lurched forward gripping onto her stomach. 

"sorry," she panted through the pain. "that speech was so good, it gave me goosebumps. so he decided that was the perfect time to jam his foot into my ribs."

"that's another thing: stop talking about it."

her smile faded right away. "stop calling my son an 'it'. he is a boy and your lack of respect for him is really starting to piss me off."

yoongi stepped back and gripped his hair in his hands, clutching it tightly. he squeezed his own eyes shut and huffed out a sigh. "i don't care. shit, why don't you understand that? i don't care, i don't want it. you have no idea how badly i wish you'd gotten rid--"

"i'm gonna stop you right there," she held up her hand and caressed her stomach with the other. "because if you finish that sentence, i think there will be nothing keeping me from slapping you or worse. say all the horrible things about me, i don't care but leave him out of it."

he pointed to her stomach. "it is gonna ruin your life. and i won't be there when it all starts to fall apart."

she'd released the elevator and started to step out as soon as the doors opened. "we'll see about that."

 

yoongi was running late to class, a rarity, but not at all his fault. 

see he had been doing an excellent job of avoiding his own roommate too. which usually meant he didn't go to his own room until the early hours of the morning around the time that hoseok made it back from whatever blown out shindig going on downtown or in the frat neighborhoods.

he ran across the green, weighed down by his textbooks and the coat he couldn't waste time to put on. he stumbled into the classroom under the hard stare of his professor and fifty plus classmates. 

"mr. min, i almost forgot you were in this class."

"sorry," he muttered. "won't happen again."

the professor continued with her lecture, voice alone demanding the highest authority, as yoongi squeezed himself through the packed seats to find his own. so of course, it was at that perfect moment that his phone rings loudly. 

the professor stopped speaking and stared. along with all of the students. and yoongi frantically searched his pockets which were empty before moving on to search his backpack. 

"sorry," he swallowed. "i'm gonna turn it off so--"

"no, it's obviously important so you should answer it."

standing in the middle of a sea of gawking students, yoongi stared hard at his professor. "really?"

she crossed her arms. "don't keep them waiting."

plagued with upmost embarrassment, yoongi answered the phone hesitantly. "hello?"

"i'm due christmas day! it's--"

yoongi hung up immediately. "wrong number."

 

"did you give her my number?" yoongi asked when he stepped into his dorm room, slamming the door loudly behind him. 

hoseok, who'd been kneeling on the floor reaching under his bed, craned his neck to look up at the doorway. "hello to you too."

"don't avoid the question, did you give her my number?"

"yeah. because she's the mother of your kid and ignoring her is stupid. besides she would have gotten it anyway, it's the digital age."

"you're such an asshole," yoongi backed out of the dorm quietly. 

 

doing the laundry used to be something that yoongi got a little joy in. it was his quiet time because in the fast moving college life, quiet time was rare. but at that moment he was highly considering taking a trip to the nearest grocery store to invest in a corkscrew to lobotomize himself. 

"i haven't been able to come up with any names," sitting on the washing machine next to the one he'd been throwing his whites into was hayeon. she was eating strawberries and rubbing at her stomach, head tilted to the side in a daze. "i would have liked jieun for a girl. maybe eunha...chaerin is nice."

yoongi stilled his motions. "you're not..." he caught himself before he could finish. he was going to say she wasn't going to name it after a member of a girl group but he didn't care. or at least that's what he had to remind himself to think.

she stopped swinging her legs. "was that a hint of care in your voice?"

"no," he grumbled.

("see," he explains to seokjin. "i tried to get her to leave me alone. i tried everything except physically keeping her at arm's length. but she was relentless."

"she sounds funny," seokjin smiles fondly at the image he's painted of hayeon. "i kind of like her."

"trust me she was a pain in the ass at the time. she followed me everywhere, waited for me after class, called me and when i didn't answer her calls, she would leave voicemails updating me. she used to update me on her cravings a lot...i remember most of them because they're now taehyung's favorite foods," yoongi took a deep breath. "i think she knew what she was doing. it was her being relentless that made me care. over christmas break that year, i took the first flight home even though i knew she wanted me to stay.")

 

"hey," the voicemail began with hayeon's small voice, the one she used when she was worried. "merry christmas. late, i know. i was expecting to be delivering yesterday so i didn't call but nothing happened. i know sometimes people are late but i'm kind of scared that he isn't okay in there and i just really needed to talk to you. to someone. well, have a good break."

when yoongi went home, he didn't tell his parents about hayeon or about the baby that he still refused to believe was his. he didn't answer or return any of hayeon's calls and ignored each patronizing text hoseok would send to remind him he was an asshole. 

("i never really thought about it until after taehyung was with me, you know? i didn't understand why she seemed so attached to me. but after i realized it was because she had no one else. her family essentially disowned her after she told them and her friends wanted nothing to do with her. she couldn't do it alone but i let her.")

it wasn't until four days later, on the 30th, that yoongi received a series of texts and phone calls. he knew what it meant but he still turned his phone off. the first time the phone rang, he let it go on and his mother asked if he was going to answer it.

"not important," he'd said.

after that, there were no calls, no text messages, nothing. part of him was afraid that the delivery had gone wrong but the bigger part of him was relieved. when he got back from the break in mid january, he didn't expect to see her on account of little children taking up a big chunk of everyone's time.

so he definitely didn't expect to open his door in response to a rhythmic knock to find her holding a small baby to her chest and carrying a large baby bag. she smiled wide and slightly lifted the bundle in her arm. "say hi to daddy."

Chapter Text

the taste of the drink is sweet and sour, slightly pungent and slightly aromatic. yoongi likes it and he's also disgusted by it. he screws his face up before looking down at taehyung with a warm smile. "what is this?"

yoongi's arm is stretched out on the back of the couch and taehyung has tucked himself into yoongi's side (despite many warnings of the germ people). 

"lemonade," the child answers only briefly looking up from mr. fuzzles whose wings he's flapping. he's got a fixed expression of gloom on his face, not even the pink duckling has made him smile. "i put it in the microwave."

yoongi frowns and takes another small sip. "you're not supposed to play with the microwave."

this time taehyung frowns more, narrowing his eyes. "i wasn't playing with it, i was trying to make you better."

"i know, i'm sorry."

"and grandma says that hot things are good when you're sick," taehyung's eyebrows are bunched up in that mock offended way that he sometimes does. like he's offended at the accusation that his attempt to help was considered playing around. "and you said the c was in lemonade."

"i know, i know," yoongi reaches over to pat his head but stops himself. he hasn't touched, hugged, or kissed taehyung all week in fear of passing on the cold. he settles for an air high five. "thank you, it's delicious."

"you're welcome," taehyung says to mr. fuzzles. he takes a deep breath. "do you feel better?"

it had been a boring week, yoongi admits. taehyung had gone to school and come right back with barely any one-on-one playtime in between. for the most part, taehyung was okay with it. he did his homework, he played with his toys, and he let yoongi nap when needed be. but yoongi knows the week has been almost torturous for him. 

yoongi looks at the tv screen where an old episode of the flintstones is playing. "i do, yeah. much better. all thanks to you."

"that's good..." fred yells about something but yoongi doesn't catch it because he's looking at taehyung who isn't looking at the tv. he's playing with mr. fuzzles which would be fine and dandy but he looks more like he's trying to distract himself. eventually he stops, his hands coming to a still. "daddy, why don't you play with mr. kim anymore?"

taehyung keeps his eyes focused on mr. fuzzles who is lying still on his lap. he's worrying his bottom lip and yoongi's body tenses because taehyung has many tells, small indicators that there are waterworks near. "we have...haven't we?"

taehyung shakes his head solemnly, a small pout on his face. 

they had, hadn't they? but now that yoongi thinks about, they haven't at all since taehyung got back. in fact the last time he saw seokjin was the same night he decided to open his mouth and everything rushed out of it like water from a busted levee. "i'm sorry, tae, i thought...i've just been sick."

"but you're better now," taehyung looks up at him with eyes as wide as saucers. "can't we go play at their house? and i can play with jimin and you can drink the coffee with mr. kim."

yoongi runs through the past week and tries to remember when it started. he can't pinpoint the exact moment when he started to avoid seokjin but he knows that is exactly what he's done. he was the same person who avoided taehyung's mother actively in college. "i'll ask, okay? but they might have plans this weekend, we don't want to intrude."

suddenly, taehyung's eyes are shining more under the light and yoongi's heart plummets to the pit of his stomach. the tears spill over taehyung's eyes and he sniffles quietly. 

"no, no" yoongi reaches over in mild panic. he has dealt with four month old taehyung crying his head off for what seemed like hours on end, he dealt with him crying for a whole day after accidentally killing a garden worm but no matter what he can't seem to get used to taehyung's tears. he doesn't want to either. "i promise we'll go soon, okay?"

taehyung shudders loudly. "i miss jimin."

momentarily forgetting the boundaries he'd set for himself, yoongi pulls taehyung up onto his lap and massages his back. "don't you see him everyday?"

"it's not the same," taehyung sobs into yoongi's chest.

yoongi rocks the child back and forth, kissing his hair. he feels guilt rip into him like a butcher knife. "i'm sorry, please don't cry. look, i'll call mr. kim and if he isn't busy, we'll do something asap."

"asap? you promise?"

"i promise," yoongi pulls taehyung back to look at his face. he presses his thumbs against the boy's cheeks to wipe away at the tears. "i promise a million times, okay?"

 

"are you busy tomorrow?"

there's a short silence on the other end of the line and yoongi holds his breath, awaiting seokjin's answer. he'd managed to calm taehyung down and put him to sleep after three different books, five songs, and a very long session of scalp massaging. and yoongi had gotten him to sleep with a promise and he was going to follow through with it. 

he hears a squeak. "um...first of all, hi."

"hi," yoongi nods shortly in the affirmative, briefly forgetting that he couldn't be soon. "...how are you?"

"i'm good, we're good," seokjin chuckles. "you'd think we'd be less awkward by now."

yoongi smiles. "yeah...so, are you free? you and jimin?"

in all honesty, he knows very well he should be more polite, more cordial. he should apologize for acting like seokjin didn't exist for the past week, for ignoring his calls and text messages but he doesn't. he can't bring himself to. 

"yeah," he hears something that sounds like disappointment in seokjin's voice. "we're always free. did you want to come over?"

"actually, i wanted to invite you here for dinner. give you a break from hosting, you know?" yoongi toys with his hands. he waits for a response in silence for much too long, he thinks he can hear static on the other end. 

"yeah," seokjin breathes out. "um, sure. what time did you want us to come over?"

"as soon as possible good for you?"

seokjin takes another long moment before responding. there's quiet shuffling and a small sigh.

"everything okay?"

"yeah--no, sorry, it's just...do you really want us to come over?"

yoongi paused because that was the very question that he didn't want to have to answer. because no. he didn't want seokjin to come over. and he knew why but that wasn't something he was eager to admit. "yeah. i do, we both do."

"right..." whether he's hearing things or not, yoonig isn't sure but in between the silence, it sounds like a snort comes out. "sure, we'll come by tomorrow."

manners and basic common sense tell yoongi to say thank you and he does. manners and basic common sense tells seokjin to say "anytime". but both of their feelings of whatever, the huge gray cloud forming over their heads, the storm cloud causing a crappy connection, make the tension thick. 

their good nights feel forced and painful like inducing vomit to get rid of nausea. 

 

before downing a good sized adult serving of children's tylenol and thereby knocking himself unconscious, yoongi was awake thinking on the conversation. he replayed the dialogue over and over in his head, listening to the pauses and the hesitations and trying to decode what they meant. it was an incredibly awkward, incredibly painful conversation to muddle through.

but the look on taehyung's face when yoongi tells him that jimin is coming over for dinner makes it worth it. he would have that conversation on repeat if it meant it resulted in the luminescent beam on his son's face. 

"really?" taehyung asks for a second time, smiling so wide that his eyes turn into adorable moon crescents. yoongi nods and taehyung drops his spoon into his cereal bowl, jumps up from his seat at the dining table and into yoongi's lap. 

"i told you if you touch me, you might get sick," yoongi scolds but he hugs the boy back and kisses the top of his head. 

taehyung leans back and looks up at him. "you're not lying, are you?"

yoongi blanches. "i don't lie to you, i never lie to you."

"uh-huh."

"nuh-uh."

"uh-huh, you lie when you say vegetables make me big and strong."

"well," yoongi chokes out a small laugh. "they don't exactly work overnight."

"if jimin is really coming--"

"he's really coming."

"--if he's really coming, we need to get his favorite stuff," taehyung hops from yoongi's lap. "we have to get chocolate ice cream and pizza and chicken -- lots of chicken -- and gummy bears and pears! daddy, you have to get pears!"

"we're not getting him gummy bears, taehyung."

taehyung flails his arms. "why not?"

"because i don't think it's a good idea for people to have candy for dinner," yoongi stands up. "but before we think about food, you know what we need to do?" taehyung shakes his head. "clean up. you take care of your room, okay? put your toys away and i'll take care of everything else."

taehyung nods once and gives a firm salute before running to his room on his tip toes. yoongi looks into the pororo bowl before turning back to the running boy. "you can finish your breakfast, you know?"

"i can't, we have to hurry!"

 

"okay, you ready?"

"yes."

"are you sure?"

"yes!"

"this is serious, you know? it's like going into hide and seek, it requires a lot of focus and dedication."

"i know."

"alright," yoongi wiggles his hand and taehyung places his small one there. "let's go."

they enter the supermarket with a racecar shopping cart, a dinner plan, and a dependable grocery list (which does include chocolate ice cream but not gummy bears to taehyung's disappointment). 

with his penguin themed beanie and light up velcro sneakers, taehyung is the picture of determination while yoongi, with his constant yawning and red eyes, is the picture of zero motivation. in the middle of their dramatic entrance (dramatic in yoongi's head because he's got the rocky soundtrack playing in his head), a voice interrupts them.

"you look like death."

the mins turn to the voice and taehyung smiles wide whilst dragging yoongi to the source. 

hoseok smiles at taehyung, opens his arms, and taehyung jumps in immediately. "if it isn't my favorite person in the world," he turns to yoongi. "still sick?"

"he feels better now," taehyung declares proudly. "i put lemonade in the microwave."

"you're a genius, you know that?"

"i know," taehyung laughs when hoseok playfully pinches his nose. 

 "so?" hoseok directs the question to yoongi who scowls. "why are you up and about if you're not a hundred percent?"

"we're hosting dinner," yoongi answers, knowing he should sound at least a third excited about the fact but the bitter tone he has is there and easily detected. 

"sounds fun," hoseok says with an intonation like the statement is a question. he adjusts taehyung's position against his hip.

"it's gonna be the best," taehyung puts his arm around hoseok's neck. "jiminnie is gonna play with me and we're gonna watch iron man and spider-man and -- uncle hoseok, can you carry me?"

"i am carrying you."

taehyung shakes his head and shrugs. "on your shoulder."

yoongi shakes his head subtly and, though hoseok sees it, he pulls taehyung up on his shoulders anyway. "anything for my favorite person in the world."

rolling his eyes, yoongi continues on his path pushing the shopping cart with him. hoseok falls into stride next to him as they turn into the produce section. "you don't seem too thrilled."

yoongi shakes his head once before tilting towards taehyung. not in front of him. 

"hmm," hoseok pauses in bemusement for a moment. he reaches into his pocket with one hand while keeping his other hand clasped on taehyung's ankle and pulls out miraculously untangled earphones. "tae, you wanna listen to some music?"

"no," yoongi answers.

"yes!" taehyung exclaims.

"i've listened to your music, it's full of graphic--"

hoseok clicks his tongue not even bothering to look up, still scrolling through his phone. "i have a disney themed playlist just for him so calm down, dad."

passing off his phone and earphones up to taehyung, hoseok waits a little while for the music to start before proceeding: "so?"

"i'm not too thrilled."

"isn't this the same person you said made a great dinner? one that was free?...ah, are you upset because you're the one cooking this time?"

"nah," yoongi shrugs. "i offered. i don't know what it is..."

"you do this all the time," hoseok all but laughs, shaking his head in sheer amusement while he tosses some bananas into the cart. 

"do what?"

"think about it: why is it that i'm the only friend you have?"

"that's not true--"

"not counting your mother or taehyung," yoongi's mouth clamps shut and hoseok smiles knowingly. "exactly."

yoongi knows exactly what hoseok means. he knows he ruins and has ruined a pleathora of possible friendships and relationships (three girlfriends in high school, two in college, and one "baby mama" serve as evidence). he told his first girlfriend that she shouldn't cling to him so much. note that he said to this to her after she made him a very nice, very yoongi-esque mixtape for his birthday and he couldn't handle the sentiment behind it. 

"you monopolize yourself," one of his girlfriends in college had said. "you like to be the only one you can depend on."

and that was it. to an extent. that's why he spilled everything about taehyung's mother and didn't call seokjin or respond to his messages for a week. that honesty, that brutal honesty about his life was something he deemed as vulnerability. it was as baring as sex. the conversation was like a one night stand that yoongi was in no rush to revisit. 

"just suck it up and stop trying to let good things escape your life. besides you don't want to be a selfish father who ends up ruining your child's friendship with his 'best friend in the entire world'."

"second best friend," yoongi corrects.

"you're so jealous."

"shut up," he mutters at hoseok whose face twists up in horror.

"that's a bad word, dad."

Chapter Text

the baby's earsplitting screams were ricocheting off the walls and seemed to echo throughout the small room.

for the last few weeks, yoongi had been subjected to stinky diapers and the wail of an infant that he still refused to claim. no matter how much hoseok and hayeon have attempted talking him out of his "delusion".

("it's not a delusion," yoongi had whined to hoseok after listening to the younger lecture him for the nth time about taking responsibilities and being a 'father'. "there's no reason for me to do anything for it--"

"him."

"what?"

"him," hoseok repeated with a disapproving shake of his head. "he's a boy. he's your son. stop calling him it."

yoongi's refusal to let that sink in, to let the words "your son" climb their way into his brain and lay eggs, to let the idea of fatherhood infest his mind, left him silent for a few minutes. no matter how many times they said it, no matter how much sense it makes (he's calculated the time of conception and compared it with hayeon's official test results) he cannot accept it.

"it isn't my responsibility," he finally said.)

yoongi's ears were ringing, his skin was crawling, and a deep chill ran down his spine. much like a reaction to the countdown of a bomb or the screeching whistle of a kettle getting too hot, yoongi tensed and tensed. his nerves coiled up tightly until he felt like his consciousness was on the brink of detonation. 

he squeezed his eyes shut tightly until a blinding white light flared behind his lids. his grip on his pen tightened and he released a slow breath. 

"can you shut it up please?"

he didn't turn around from his position where he'd been hunched over his desk. but he could feel hayeon's eyes impaling him. "i'm trying."

"fucking try harder then," he threw his pen down, pushing his notebook aside with more force than necessary. "i let you in here and i didn't have to. i'm trying to study so please make it stop."

"you let me in here because you're a softie," hayeon teased. yoongi could hear her voice go in and out, along with the rhythm of her bouncing on the balls of her feet. 

"i let you in here because you're an idiot," yoongi turned from the desk and faced her. he noticed the baby bag first -- bright red and overflowing -- sitting on the corner of his bed closest to the wall. hayeon was sitting on the edge of the bed, bouncing up and down with it in her arms. "and you were gonna stand out in the cold all day if i didn't let you in."

hayeon hummed at the bundle in her arms with a fond smile. "is that a hint of concern we hear in daddy's voice, tae-ah?"

"it's not--"

"it is," hoseok said from his own bed where he'd been curled up in the fetal position nursing a hangover headache. 

"this is for your sake," yoongi shot back. "how am i the only one complaining when you're hungover and it's screaming its head off?" he turns back to hayeon. "did you feed it or what?"

"i'm working on it, okay?" she didn't even look up as she shifted the position of her blouse. "you're okay with me just whipping my tits out in your room? jesus, if i'm not careful, i'm gonna get milk all over your nice sheets."

"that isn't an image i needed in my head," yoongi muttered, turning back to his own work. he reminded himself to breathe. in and out, in an out. slowly and carefully, taking in every small fraction of air.

when he'd enrolled in college, the idea of having a roommate, of having to share a closed space with someone at all times had nearly prevented him from even applying. of course, he'd managed to get used to it but with hayeon and the baby, he was finding his own room suffocating. 

eventually its crying gave way to quiet sniffling and suckling while hayeon fed it, the overhead fluorescent light making her look radiant. yoongi didn't understand why she looked so happy. he couldn't wrap his mind around it. she was on the road to success and this mistake threw a wrench in all her plans. but she looked at the baby like it was some sort of treasure.

she began humming quietly, a familiar tune that made yoongi's ears perk up. 

"don't sing that song," he groaned out, cracking his neck. 

hayeon stopped humming almost immediately. "what's wrong with the song? don't tell me you don't like billie holiday."

"i have nothing against billie holiday," yoongi turned around. hayeon was looking at him, her wavy auburn hair falling around her like a waterfall and the overhead light glowing like some kind of halo. "i just have something against you singing blue moon to a baby."

"get over it," she laughed humorlessly, looking back down at the baby. "he's my golden moon."

"i don't know how you could think something like that."

"well," hayeon tilted her head to the side. she played with the crown of soft, dark hair on the baby's head, curling strands around her fingers. she answered without looking away. "you haven't even held him."

"sure, maybe it's because i haven't held the magic baby."

"could you for a second?" hayeon shifted, buttoning her shirt back up, the baby having decided enough was enough. "just hold him for a second, i need to get ready to burp him."

"just do it," yoongi twisted up his face. "you're acting like it's this entire procedure."

"it is! i have to take off his bib, put on the burp cloth, and take off this earring because he will try to pull it off, i know it."

"he's two months," yoongi countered. "he's not gonna pull it off, he doesn't even have full motor skills just yet."

the room fell silent apart from the baby's occasional spurts of aahing and oohing accompanied with that little moan that babies do so often. other than that, it felt like all of the air had been sucked out of the room and replaced by thick tension. 

he lifted his head. hayeon was staring at him with the baby squirming happily in her arms. even hoseok, with his blurry and glassed over eyes, was watching him in an expression akin to nothing but shock. "what?"

"you called him," hoseok started stumbling on his words. "him. you called him him. not it."

slowly, a smile spread across hayeon's face and she looked down. "that sounds like--"

"it's not a hint of care," yoongi looked hoseok who was looking skeptical. "it's not. stop looking at me like that."

"you don't have to pretend," hayeon stepped closer. "here, hold him for a second."

yoongi jerked away instantly, almost violently, nearly knocking over the things on his desk when he bumped into it. "no. keep it away from me."

"he won't bite," she lifted her arms again, the baby was turned toward her chest, his small fists balled up against his face. his light blue onesie was the only thing yoongi permitted himself to look at.  

"hayeon, seriously--"

"shit," hoseok peeled himself from his place on the bed, stumbling on his feet and standing in front of hayeon with his arms open. "i'll hold him. jesus..."

"no, it's okay. yoongi can--"

"i won't," yoongi interrupted. "take him, hoseok."

hayeon looked between them skeptically before handing the baby off. as she did, her eyes changed in a way that yoongi couldn't describe. hoseok carefully took the infant into his arms and yoongi wondered how it was that he didn't look like he was going to shit himself. instead hoseok looked at yoongi and shook his head. 

"asshole," he mouthed.

the baby moaned against him, drawing his mouth into his fist, drooling all over himself. hoseok smiled. 

"you just ate," he joked. "don't tell me you're still hungry."

"he's ravenous," hayeon answered. "seems like every thirty minutes, i'm taking my shirt off."

"don't listen to her, it's good to have a voracious appetite."

seeing hoseok so easily taking responsibility for what should be yoongi's made him swallow hard. for the first time since hayeon and taehyung had entered his life, yoongi felt a pinch of envy.

 

taehyung was born and everything changed for hayeon. the university she'd gone to had expelled on her but allowed her to transfer her credits to an online school. she'd, of course, been kicked out of her dorm and, as a result, had to hole up in one of those downtown rooms. the cheap ones with paper thin walls which meant everyone living in vicinity was constantly complaining about taehyung's crying. 

taehyung was born and everything changed for hayeon but nothing changed for yoongi. he continued going to classes, continued working at his part time job at 7-eleven, and generally continued living for this intangible "end result" where his degree would end in life happiness. 

the only thing that really changed is that hayeon now had a crying baby with her when she followed him around. but yoongi's refusal to take responsibility was as solid as everest's foundation. 

an entire month of hayeon barging into his dorm, visiting him at work, and overall pushing her way into his life with that red baby bag made yoongi numb to the exposure. so conditioned that he found himself becoming irked at their absence one day. 

"do you know where she is?"

hoseok turned from his mirror where he was all but gazing at his reflection, coiffing his hair all the while. "how am i the ideal candidate to be asking that question to?"

"she likes you," yoongi tried to disguise that small signange of bitterness in his voice but to no avail. which is made clear by the shit-eating grin that makes its way onto hoseok's face. "better than me, anyway."

"oh?" hoseok turned completely. "you? the same guy who refuses to even look at his kid? whatever, at the end of the day it's you she wants in her corner. for good reason too. need i remind you--"

"you have a party to get to, right? you should go. please go."

hoseok started for the door but turned around to face yoongi shortly after he'd opened it. "you know, it's probably just because how badly you treat her. all the time. maybe she just decided she doesn't deserve it...but what do i know? happy studying!"

and with that, the door was shut with a resounding slam that didn't only shake the doorframe. 

 

it was another week before he saw hayeon again and when he did, it took all of him not to shake her and yell for worrying him so much. but he thought he'd be a fool to admit something like that. 

he had yanked the dorm door open when he heard that knock, that andy griffith-esque knock that only she was annoying enough to use.

"what the fuck, hayeon?" 

when the words left his mouth, his stomach dropped for a moment before he picked himself back up. hoseok had warned him about being too harsh and the last thing he wanted to do was send her away again. 

not that he cared. 

she tilted her head to the side at the same time that taehyung peeked at yoongi from behind his tiny fist. their eyes only met for split second before yoongi was looking away. he stared at the ground instead. "i thought you'd be happy to see us."

"i'm--" i am, he thought. "what, you expect me not to worry? you don't have any money, you're on your own, what was I supposed to--get in here."

yoongi pushed the door open further and ushered the two of them inside. hayeon stepped in eagerly with her bag trailing behind her. without looking at the baby in her arms, yoongi nodded his head toward it. "it's still winter, you know."

"i dressed him as well as i could," she huffed tiredly, sitting down on the bed. her usual razzle dazzle was fizzled out and flat like day old soda pop. her hair, once a crown of crimson waterfalls, was a bird's nest. "i'm trying, i really don't need you getting on to me right now."

the lecture sitting on the tip of his tongue started to taste bitter so he swallowed it back and, instead, turned on the small space heater in the corner of the bedroom. he rifled through his dresser drawer until he found the beanie he was looking for.

"here," he offered it to hayeon, eyes still on the floor. "put that on his head. he's gonna get sick otherwise."

"thanks." she took it gingerly and for the first time, yoongi took note of the unusual silence. in the month that hayeon had been coming by with the baby, yoongi has only ever heard him silent when he was sleeping. but the baby was wide awake and still completely quiet. she slipped it onto taehyung's head.

"...is he alright?"

"i hope so. he had a slight cough so i didn't wanna take him out but he seems to be feeling a little better now. just tired."

"have you been okay?" the question makes hayeon look up at him with a confused expression and makes yoongi cringe at having to explain himself. because the source of his question isn't concern for her, it's really just knowing the fact that whatever a newborn gets inflicted with is a direct result of the breast milk being consumed. 

even though yoongi did his best to not word it to sound like total blame, it still came across. "do you think i got him sick?"

"that's not what i said, i asked if you were okay."

"but that's not what you meant, right? you think i'm a bad mom and i am. but you know who's helping me raise him because it's not you. it's a bunch of parenting books that i got from the very school that expelled me because i--"

"don't blame this on me," yoongi snapped evenly. "i told you to get rid of it, remember that?"

"so my only options were to raise him by myself, have him aborted, or send him off to a foster home?" she laughed humorlessly. "but these are all choices that i have to make, right? you get off scot-free."

"at least i was smart enough to know that i couldn't handle a situation like this and i got out while i could."

"at least i had the balls to take responsibility for my mistakes. at least i have the decency to look my son in the eye. you haven't looked at him once."

"don't be ridiculous--"

"look at him," she says evenly. "do it, all you have to do is look down."

"i don't need to--"

"no, you can't," she talked over him. "you can't because you are a coward in every sense of the word--"

between them, bundled up in hayeon's arms, taehyung coughed and they both looked down, completely silenced. he continued to cough a thick gasping sound that made yoongi think he was gasing for air. hayeon scrambled to hold him closer, gently patting his back. 

"is that how he's been coughing?" yoongi asked. 

"yes. why?"

"just..." yoongi sighed and grabbed his coat. "get him bundled up, we've gotta go to a hospital."

hayeon froze. "what's wrong with him?"

 

"it's good that you brought him here," the doctor explained as he examined taehyung with a stethoscope pressed agianst the baby's chest. "that there is a wet cough."

hayeon's motions, her thumb running across taehyung's knuckles, stilled momentarily. "i'm sorry, wet?"

"you hear the phlegm in his throat? two month olds don't cough like that unless..."

"unless there's something really wrong," yoongi finished solemnly. he sat in the chair in the corner watching the hospital bed with immense focus. without looking at the baby's face, yoongi watched him closely, especially focused on his stomach. he watched the rise and fall of it, deciphering each deep breath from each shallow one. 

"pertussis?" hayeon's voice went up a hitch. 

"it could be a number of things," the doctor explains warily, his eyes on hayeon who looked like she was choking. like the fact that taehyung was sick sucked all the air out of the room. "not necessarily pertussis..."

"but if it is pertussis, that means he could...it wouldn't be..." hayeon trailed off again and sniffled. only then did yoongi note the shine in her eyes. "he could die, couldn't he?"

the doctor opened his mouth to respond but yoongi caught his attention by shaking his head. pertussis, yoongi knew, was often fatal for infants. more often than not actually. but hayeon was already on edge, her wiring had lost its coating and she didn't need the vision of an undersized coffin lurking in her imagination. 

"does he have any allergies you know of?" he went with instead. "you know for...to write off any medications."

"none that i know of," hayeon murmured.

"anything that runs in your family? medical allergies, specifically."

"no."

"what about his father?" the doctor pressed. "do you know if his family has anything?"

 

yoongi expected hayeon to jut her finger out and point, expected her to proudly identify him but she didn't. she just watched taehyung quietly. yoongi knew that there was a chance, albeit a small one, that if he said nothing, factors would not be considered and the selection of medication could be detrimental to taehyung. his mind was on the biological and medical aspects of the situation. 

the way his stomach lurched at the thought of keeping silent told him everything he needed to know about the truth including how he really felt. 

"i'm..." he spoke up, stopping short when both sets of eyes turned toward him. he swallowed hard. "i'm his father.

Chapter Text

yoongi's reflection glares at him for allowing him to become this walking monstrosity. there are dark circles under his eyes, his skin which has always been rather pale is pasty, and there's stubble on his chin because he hasn't had any energy to shave. he quietly wonders how it is that taehyung hasn't run from him in fear. 

clicking his tongue, he rinses the clean razor before sliding it down to his neck. he's humming along to the internal recitation of a poem he can't remember the name to when he hears the light pad of footsteps approaching. 

"are you dressed yet?"

"uh huh," taehyung answers, his voice musing. 

yoongi turns around and almost chokes on the laughter that rushes up his throat. "you're really going to wear that?"

"yeah," taehyung nods eagerly. "you said to dress nice. it's a suit."

"but it's two face's suit."

"it's still a suit," taehyung shrugs. "daddy, why are you shaving? your face doesn't have any hair."

"yes it does," yoongi turns back to the mirror and proceeds with slow, cautious strokes. "remember yesterday when you wouldn't let me kiss you goodnight because my face was 'too prickly'."

"yeah."

"well, those are little, tiny hairs."

"oh," taehyung walks up closer until yoongi can feel his small shoulder pressing into his leg. "can i do it too?"

"you don't have any hair on your face."

"yes, i do. they're really small, you can't see them."

this time yoongi does laugh, hard enough that his hands start to shake and he has to hold the razor away from his face. he sets the razor down before opening the medicine cabinet. he pulls another razor down from the shelf, a new one that's still capped. "come here."

he picks taehyung up with one arm, holding him against his hip as he pulls out the child's stool from under the sink. he sets taehyung down to stand on top of it and positions them in front of the mirror side by side. 

taehyung is looking up at him with his wide, curious eyes. "i want the gooey stuff too."

"you're getting the gooey stuff," yoongi squirts the shaving cream onto his hand and taehyung giggles as it's rubbed onto his small cheeks. "the gooey stuff is the best part, isn't it?"

"yeah," taehyung squeals. "you need some too."

yoongi squirts some into both of taehyung's tiny palms who proceeds to slap the substance on to yoongi's face. "better?"

"better," taehyung nods and they both turn to the mirror. yoongi hands taehyung the razor with the safety still attached. "thank you."

"now, do it slowly, alright?"

side by side, they clean the cream from their cheeks, completely in synch with one another. yoongi watches their reflections, their starkly identical dark hair and brown eyes. but taehyung has hayeon's nose and mouth, he even has a subtler hue of her gold skin. yoongi gets so lost in thought that he doesn't even realize how fast he's going and he nicks himself. 

he hisses and thinks of a curse whilst biting his tongue. while he's cleaning the cut, taehyung copies his hiss and yoongi holds back a laugh. 

 

it's when they're cooking -- which translates to yoongi stirring the boiling pot of kimchi jjigae with taehyung helping himself to the occasional spoonful whilst standing on his sous chef stool -- that the doorbell rings and yoongi's heart skips a beat.

all day, he'd gone over what he should say to seokjin when he saw him again. sometimes, if the self pity was high enough, he'd say "you made me feel uncomfortable". but if he was feeling especially irate, the response was more like "just because our kids hang out doesn't mean we need to be soulmates." they were all different versions of the same sour sentiment caused by shame. 

but now that the time was actually here and taehyung was hopping off his stool, all the words he'd put into his hypothetical monologue had vanished. erased by the presence of reality. "taehyung, don't open the door--"

yoongi hears the door creak open and he mutters a curse under his breath as he paces to the entryway. he's got his mouth fixed to lecture taehyung on the importance of not answering the door unless an adult is present but the words die when he sees his son, in his halloween costume suit, holding the door open while bowing like a tiny butler. 

"welcome to our home," he greets when he stands up. "may i take your coats?"

yoongi smiles proudly while simultaneously wondering where taehyung got such hospitality -- because god knows yoongi has no manners -- and kicking himself for not filming it.

jimin steps inside ahead of his father and turns his back to taehyung as the other removes his coat.

yoongi wants to believe this is a contrived spectacle if there ever was one but kids, as he has had the fortune to learn, do the darnest things. he tries to hinder it but, when his eyes trail away from the kids and up to seokjn who is looking at him nervously, his smile fades. 

but he doesn't look away.

"thank you, sir," he hears jimin giggle out, his voice the impersonation of a knighted gentleman. 

"you're quite welcome, sir," taehyung responds with a voice that has an uncanny resemblance to alfred pennyworth. seokjin's gaze hasn't wavered. "mr. kim, may i take your coat?"

something sparkles in seokjin's eyes but before yoongi can make it out, he's looking down. and he beams brightly like the person he's looking at deserves more than his sole attention. he's looking at taehyung. "would you be so kind?"

taehyung nods as he takes seokjin's scarf into his small hands. "would you like a tour?"

yoongi bites his lip and ponders just how long his son must have been planning this event. 

"if it's okay with--"

"yes, sir," jimin cuts his father off and falls into step with taehyung who's already making his way down the hallway. the children loop their arms together, the coats having been discarded on the corner chair. 

the sounds of the giggle duo echo down the hall and fade to a low buzz as the two adults stand facing each other shrouded in thick silence. seokjin looks at him expectantly and yoongi looks away, stepping into the kitchen.

"do you want any coffee?" he asks, already taking down a couple of mugs and preparing his french press, a gift from his mother who accused him of not being cultured enough. 

"i think i should join the group," seokjin says after a moment. "if you don't mind me seeing more than the front of your place, that is."

yoongi looks up from the press and directly at seokjin who is still standing at the entrance, barely crossing the threshold. "i don't."

they lock eyes for a moment too long and then seokjin is walking away, disappearing down the hallway. yoongi overhears taehyung animatedly introducing each room. "daddy's room", "my room", "daddy's office -- we can't go in there", "the bathroom where we brush our teeth and stuff".

yoongi was fortunate enough to be able to bring the money together in order to move into this place. after saving up and borrowing money from his parents, he put down a jeonse for the place and that was that. it wasn't far from taehyung's school, it was in the good part of the city, away from loud adolescents who've gotten too deep in the street life. and for the first time, he thinks about how different a place the kims resided in. 

before he starts setting the table, yoongi finds himself thinking about the water stains on their ceiling. 

 

after the short tour, they all settle at the dining table, yoongi placing the entrees and side dishes at the center of the table while taehyung carries juice to the table, his small arms quivering. 

seokjin stirs in his seat when taehyung approaches, a very unsubtle smile on his face. "do you need help, honey?"

"no," taehyung sets it down. "you're our guess."

yoongi ruffles taehyung's hair as the little one settles into his chair which he moved from its original position to be right next to jimin's seat. yoongi distributes small rice bows at everyone's placemat. "i hope you guys like jjigae. or, to be more specific, i hope you guys like bad jjigae."

"i'm sure it's delicious," seokjin says to him while looking at jimin and smiling warmly. "right, boys?"

"uh," taehyung nods. "daddy makes the bestest food."

yoongi nearly stumbles in his motions upon hearing that because it was coming out of the same mouth that often turned down at the first taste of anything yoongi cooked up. once taehyung even begged hoseok to order pizza so yoongi wouldn't cook. truthfully, it wasn't that bad but it was still a fact that taehyung liked a lot of things more than he liked his father's cooking. "taehyung, since when do you like my food?"

the child has the decency to look offended at the statement, even twisitng up his face a little. "your food is my favorite food."

"yeah," jimin pipes up, looking directly at yoongi. "your food is really good, mr. min!"

if the butler act was a contrived spectacle, the compliments from the kids are an essay born from a thoroughly thought out outline. but yoongi doesn't question their sudden allegiance. not because he isn't curious but because he's still standing next to seokjin's chair and the proximity is making his skin heat up. 

"okay," he takes his seat at the other end of the table, directly across from seokjin's end and with the kids lined up on his left. "enjoy, everyone."

both yoongi and seokjin take a bite, a spoonful a rice, a side of buchu namul, and mid chew when they're interrupted by--

"aren't we going to say grace?"

it's not that yoongi doesn't believe in god, it's more that he's never been raised nor has he raised with any particular faith. his family never said grace before eating, they never prayed before bed, the only time they ever prayed was when something went wrong. 

and taehyung has never been exposed to any kind of prayer. so color him confused. yoongi fixes his mouth to ask taehyung what provoked him to ask that question but then jimin speaks up. 

"yeah, daddy, aren't we going to hold hands?"

yoongi looks at seokjin. seokjin looks at yoongi. jimin and taehyung smile at each other. a prolonged, pregnant silence enters the room and stays for a bit before moving on.

"um," yoongi tries to think of a prayer, any kind of prayer. "i...uh, bless this food--"

"we have to hold hands," taehyung interrupts.

yoongi holds back a sigh and reaches over to hold taehyung's hand whilst stretching his other hand as far as it can go to hold seokjin's. "bless this food and...thank you for our -- these guests. yeah. and uh, the uh, what's the--?"

"amen," seokjin finishes half heartedly and the kids respond by clapping their hands.

"that's it," yoongi nods at taehyung who smiles at him brightly. "good?"

"yeah," jimin nods. "i'll eat well."

everyone dives into the meal enthusiastically, taehyung and jimin especially. despite having put in grueling hours into the main dish, yoongi steers clear of it and instead, delves into the white rice and side dishes. seokjin peeks up at him from his own plate.

"you're not having any jjigae?"

yoongi shakes his head, keeping his eyes down on the muwoonamul. "not a favorite."

"why make it then?"

"taehyung likes it," he looks up. "and he told me jimin does too. you know...you're our guess."

yoongi winks and seokjin releases a small chuckle at the joke. 

 

(on a night when the two of them are lying in taehyung's much too small bed together, surrounded by the likes of flounder and mr. fuzzles, taehyung asks him what it means to be a grownup. 

"what do you mean?" yoongi asked, his arms tucked around taehyung who was half on the bed and half on yoongi's chest. 

"i said uncle hoseok has to work because he's a grownup and he said that's not all it means to be a grownup. so what does it mean?"

"it can mean a lot of things."

"what's one of them?"

"well," taehyung wiggles in his arms, getting more comfortable and fitting himself into yoongi's curves. "you know when...the time you wanted that strawberry shortcake backpack and i didn't buy it for you because you already had one, remember that?"

"yeah," taehyung nodded and his hair ticked yoongi's chin. 

"an example of being a grownup would be that, when i apologized to you for that, you would forgive me."

taehyung slid up and propped his elbow on the pillow, close to yoongi's face. "so it means, even if you were bad, i should be sorry?"

"no," yoongi turned on his side, propping himself up on his elbow as well. he looked taehyung in the eye. "it's more like: when someone apologizes to you for doing something bad, something small, you forgive them. you talk about it and you forgive them."

"what if it's a big thing and i don't want to forgive them? like what if they pushed me off a mountain?"

yoongi held back a laugh. "in that case, you listen to your heart. listen to how you feel and your heart will tell you whether or not you want to apologize."

"what else is being a grownup?"

yoongi thought about it for a moment, dwelling on the question before responding honestly. "being able to admit when you're wrong.")

 

"thank you so much," seokjin sighs contentedly, pushing his plate aside. "you've both been tremendously kind, dinner was delicious--"

"don't go," taehyung all but shouts, sitting up alarmed and reaching for jimin's hand. "daddy made desserts."

"i did," yoongi shakes his head. "well, i didn't but. they had a sale on cakes at the grocery store so i...i cut it."

jimin turns to seokjin. "daddy, i want cake. please?"

taehyung throws his arm around jimin and the two sport matching pouts. "please, mr. kim?"

"okay," seokjin laughs. "i'll finish my thank you speech later."

when yoongi sets down the cake -- chocolate with raspberry filling and lining -- taehyung takes his saucer and jumps from his seat, jimin immediately following suit. 

"wait," yoongi calls out. "where are you going?"

"can we eat in the living room?" 

"why?"

"we wanna watch tv," jimin says with those big sparkling eyes that would make it hard to say no to anything. yoongi briefly wonders how seokjin manages to discipline jimin if he ever does anything wrong. "can we, please?"

yoongi stutters for the nth time. "yeah, sure. do you...did you want me to a put on a movie?"

"it's okay," jimin smiles. "we can take care of it."

the two kids leave and hustle to the living room as if there was a bomb about to go off in the kitcehn and they were escaping certain death. yoongi waits until he hears the tv come on, he listens for the sound of a familiar kids' show and is relieved when he hears spongebob's voice. "that's the most i've ever heard jimin speak."

seokjin smiles, slicing into his piece of cake. "he likes you, remember? he's not afraid to talk anymore."

"is that what happens when he stops being afraid?"

he nods, amused. "trust me, my son is a motormouth. give it a little while, you'll be wanting him to be quiet soon."

yoongi smiles and is about to sink down into his seat but decides against it. instead he comes closer and sits in jimin's previous seat, closest to seokjin. he lowers his voice. "i wanted to apologize."

"ah," seokjin laughs lightly, humorlessly. he focuses on his plate. "do it then."

"i'm sorry."

"is that it?"

"i'm really sorry," yoongi takes a big bite of his cake, big enough to keep his mouth full for a while. 

"are you serious?" seokjin asks, looking up.

"apologizing makes me nervous," he muffles out. 

"being apologized to is pretty nerve-racking too," the older muses quietly. "but go on. what exactly are you sorry for?"

yoongi swallows hard. "...you know what."

"if i did, i wouldn't be asking, would i?"

"this is not your average, everyday darkness," yoongi hears spongebob say seriously from the other room. "this is... advanced darkness."

yoongi gnaws on his lip. "i'm sorry that i avoided you. but...you don't get it, it's really hard for me to do that. to just...i can't keep my mouth shut around you."

"what?"

"i," yoongi looks down and counts the small rounds of a raspberry. "i don't like...i'm not really great with intimacy, okay? and that includes just telling people what's what. i usually don't do that but around you, i just open up like a fountain. i don't get it, it's like--"

"well, don't keep talking if it means you're gonna avoid me for another two weeks."

yoongi looks up and seokjin doesn't look away. "i won't. but...you don't talk about jimin's mother, you know? that's because it's hard to. and i'm not blaming you at all, it's just...i thought it would put it into perspective."

seokjin is quiet for a while, the internal battle is loud. bullets ricochet, swords clash, blood sheds. the war of conflict is all yoongi can hear for a long time. when yoongi's about to give up on the older responding, when he's about to speak up again, seokjin speaks in a quiet, hesitant voice. when he does speak, he's whispering. 

"i...," he pauses, considers. there's a moment where yoongi thinks he's going to back on his word but he doesn't. "i don't speak about jimin's mother because she's dead."

Chapter Text

yoongi dreams about the color pink and water lilies. he dreams about lullabies in the form of old love affairs and kisses in the form of loss. he dreams about holding taehyung as a baby and he wakes up the very moment the baby vanishes from his arms. 

when he wakes, he shivers and his throat burns, scorching like if he were to take another breath it would engulf in flames. he clutches at his chest and tries to remember how to breathe, tries to recall the routine he followed so religiously following that dream. the dream that he's had since taehyung was five months old.

but no matter how many times he has it, it still makes breathing hard for him.

the first time he had it, he called his dad. 

("what happened?" his father asked, his voice tinged with the depravity of an arduous life. despite the rough edges and despite yoongi being mostly unable to talk to his father about most things, he was the only person he could talk to whenever he had this stupid nightmare. "have a bad dream?"

"i did, actually," yoongi admitted bashfully. partly ashamed at himself for being twenty-two years old and still running to his father when the boogeyman came out. 

"yoongi--"

"i know," yoongi sighed heavily, whispering as he watched six month old taehyung sleep soundly next to him. "but...i was scared."

"do you realize how late it is?"

"i do," he hissed. "and i'm sorry but i...i looked down and he was gone and i....i just felt like i couldn't breathe--"

"is taehyung okay?" suddenly his father's voice softened, becoming more alarmed at the same time. 

"he's fine, he's asleep."

"breathing okay?"

"he's fine, dad. it was a dream...a really terrifying dream."

"what happened?" yoongi could hear his father shifting, moving out his bed. "in the dream?"

yoongi slid down his bed, off his pillows and onto the mattress. his head was level with taehyung's body and he looked at the baby with an unwavering gaze. a stare. he let his eyes burn, afraid that if he blinked, taehyung would vanish. "i was standing in this ravine. it was dry, just dirt everywhere. then there was water and it became an ocean."

yoongi stroked the side of the baby's face, his thumb featherlight against his skin. "i was in the middle but i wasn't sinking. the water only came up to my knees. and there were these pink water lilies all over the place. the whole time, i was holding him to my chest. then the water started rushing at us, almost knocking me down, turning the lilies over and all that. so i rushed to shore. and i had him but...when i got to dry land, he was gone," his throat thickened with unreleased sobs. "i think i let him drown."

"hey," his father's voice cut the dream off from repeating. "listen to me. are you listening?"

"i am."

"take a deep breath, okay?"

yoongi inhaled. until there was nothing left to take in, until the burn in his chest subsided to a dull ache, until he could blink without being afraid. 

"alright now?"

yoongi nodded, his voice not quite working yet. 

"you need to know that no one ever has this figured out," his father spoke. "not the person who plans for it and reads heaps of parenting books. and especially not the person who was studying for a phD before this, okay?"

"but i let him--"

"when you born, i didn't want to hold you, did you know that?"

biting on his lip until it turned white, yoongi held back whatever emotions may have been rising up. he tried to hide the fear and the sadness from himself. "no."

"i didn't want to because i thought if i did, i would mess up somehow. that i would drop you or hold you too close or something. it's just pillow talk with fear, okay?"

"i know but--"

"let me ask you something: would you ever let anything bad happen to him?"

"no," taehyung shifted, his small arm stretching out a little, a soft moan escaping him. "never.")

taehyung is sleeping quietly, his left arm thrown over his eyes and his right nearly hanging from the bed. yoongi leans against the doorframe, still clutching at his chest and counting down each breath. 

he steps into the room, tiptoeing because if he doesn't, taehyung will wake up, spot him, and refuse to go to sleep without him. and yoongi is much too disturbed to deny his request. 

he gently lifts taehyung's arm and tucks it under the comforter. yoongi brushes his hair back and kisses his forehead, watches him for a moment before retreating into the safety of the hallway. however, he leaves the room but he does not leave taehyung. he stays and watches him sleep from the hallway, watches the fall and rise of his small chest closely. 

he clutches his chest, he clutches his phone. 

 

"why are you up?" is the first thing that seokjin asks him. no hello, no apology, just a question. and yoongi feels genuinely relieved. something about passing the bridge of feigned politeness makes him feel better about why he's calling. hoseok, if he even answered the phone, would most likely groan, tell him to stop calling about that dream, and hang up. and when yoongi went to call his father, the only person he had ever been able to talk to after that nightmare, he couldn't do it.

"i know you're at work, i'm so--"

"i'm on my lunch break."

"sorry," yoongi finishes. "i just needed to talk to...someone. you."

"yoongi," seokjin says and his voice sounds like the definition of foreboding. "don't open this can."

"i'm not opening anything...i just wanted to ask...wanted to ask what you felt when jimin was born."

"that's not at all what i expected to hear," seokjin kind of laughs, kind of scoffs, kind of feigns coolness despite immense embarrassment. "what brought this on? why are you up?"

yoongi knocks his head against the wall he's leaning on. sitting on the floor in the hallway, right across from taehyung's bedroom, yoongi listens to the irregular rhythm of seokjin's breathing. "i was just curious."

seokjin is quiet for a while and yoongi can hear the background noise of his coworkers and inebriated college students that frequent the bar. "regret. relief. . . guilt. overwhelming, suffocating fear. . . okay?"

still looking at taehyung's sleeping form, yoongi blinks. "okay. i'll let you enjoy your break then."

"thank you," seokjin's voice shifts, his tone lightens. yoongi knows, guesses, that the relief of the conversation not being about jimin's mother, his deceased best friend, is like a wave. "don't call me on my lunch break anymore."

yoongi smiles. "i won't."

Chapter Text

"and then seokjin offered to bake taehyung a cake which is great," yoongi uncaps the lid from his grande latte, taking a plastic spoon and scooping the foam off the top. "because it's free and it'll be personalized. i'm not sure what i should get him though."

"he's five," hoseok replies meekly, sitting across the table with his own vanilla scone and mocha. "how hard can it be? he practically tells us what he wants everyday."

"us..." yoongi gnaws on his lip, an attempt at blocking the laugh threatening to escape his throat.

"yeah, every single day. 'uncle hoseok, i want that', 'daddy, get me this', are we not talking about the same kid?" hoseok looks down at yoongi's cup and shakes his head. "why don't you just tell them no foam?"

"it's an inconvenience," yoongi dumps the foam into his lid. "so what do you think: party or no party?"

"if we throw him a party, we're gonna have to rent out a space because you live in a glamorized closet and there's no way twenty kids would fit there."

"if we threw a party, i wouldn't be inviting all of his classmates anyway," yoongi scoffs. "that's a headache already."

"you can't exclude his classmates. why don't you ask him? we can't just throw him a party and invite only two people."

"more than two people would come: there'd be seokjin, jimin...maybe my parents."

"what, are my parents not invited?" hoseok sits back. for a moment, he sits there in mild contemplation until he groans and covers his face. " 'us'...shit, when did we become a married couple?"

"hey, you can't say i trapped you," yoongi laughs. "you wouldn't leave us alone."

"don't blame me for not trusting you with a baby. for all i knew, you could have left him in a hot car."

"don't joke about that," yoongi winces.

"sorry," hoseok looks around the small cafe. yoongi can't tell if he's scanning the area looking for people who've misinterpreted their relationship or for a good looking person to flirt with to make himself feel better. "i wonder how many times we've been mistaken for a unit."

"a couple," yoongi corrects matter-of-factly. more often than not, he was the one more perceptive to the judgmental stares. "don't be afraid to say it. and now that you mention it, i think that's probably happened quite a few times."

"so you're telling me that every time i'm out with you two, people think that i'm fucking you?"

yoongi puts on his offended face and sips at the espresso blend. "if anything, i would be the one doing the--"

"shut up...do people actually suspect...?"

yoongi shrugs even though he knows very well that many people are suspicious of their friendship. how many young fathers can say that their college buddy stuck with them for nearly six years? very little. so of course, everyone thinks it's about more than it is. "i don't know if everyone does but the other day was the parent-teacher conference."

 

(school conferences always made yoongi nervous. his perspective on it was that it stemmed from a long school career of always being in some kind of trouble. but hoseok's current theory was that his anxiety was a result of the fear. the because it's the biggest one that he's ever had. the because it was a choking fear that is behind majority of yoongi's action. the because neither one of them have the courage say it out loud, both of them having been raised with the superstition of speaking things into existence.

apart from nervousness, yoongi usually became angry. because here was the truth: taehyung was different.

sometimes he couldn't sit still, sometimes he would sit still for too long. sometimes he'd observe everything around him and sometimes he'd stare off into space for a long time. so every time there is a parent teacher conference or anything that involves other people telling yoongi about his own son, anger tends to boil up.

so there he was. sitting at a small blue desk on a small yellow chair, waiting for taehyung's teacher and wondering if this was the seat his son sat in. there's an orange chair next to him and he smiled because if his seat was taehyung's, the orange one was most definitely jimin's.

"mr. min," the door opened to reveal mrs. kim. her stomach was just as round as taehyung had described it. she wobbled inside and bowed politely. "are you comfortable? i can get you a proper chair if you'd like."

"no," yoongi rushed to stand, nearly knocking over the desk as he did. "do you need any--"

"i'm okay," she smiled politely but it wasn't forced. it compelled yoongi to go against himself and smile back. "gotten used to the extra weight," she pauses and gets a good look at him, smiling wider. "you're sitting in his seat."

he smiled wider too, chuckling a bit. he envisioned taehyung's small hands in place of his own atop the desk. he envisioned him drawing pictures of imaginary pets, dream jobs, and families. he envisioned him smiling and laughing and sitting elbow to elbow with his best friend. "i was hoping for that. so i guess we should get right down to it, right?"

"yes, of course. i just wanted to speak with you about taehyung's progress and...maybe discuss his home life a little bit."

at that, yoongi's smile faded. "his home life?"

he started to hear his father's voice, his mother's voice, hoseok's voice, and seokjin's voice all reminding him to keep calm. all reminding him that it didn't mean anything. mrs. kim smiled again, more forcefully. "the children had the assignment to draw a picture of their families. right over here."

she rose to her feet and wobbled to the wall closest to the window. there displayed was a montage of pictures, all hand drawn and colorful. before mrs. kim reached out to point at taehyung's, yoongi caught a glimpse of a small figure holding the hand of a taller one. no flowers or sunny skies or clouds decorated the blank canvas. just the two figures holding hands. it was jimin's picture. 

"this is taehyung's," her voice softens at the sight of yoongi's reaction. his breath hitches. in the picture, there is taehyung standing in the middle surrounded by a strawberry field and a bright blue sky. picture taehyung stands in the middle, between yoongi and "uncle hobi" (the name taehyung used when he was younger and couldn't pronounce "hoseok", the name he still uses when he has to write it out).

far from the trio, near the corner, are taehyung's grandparents. but what makes yoongi's stomach clench is the figure drawn under the word "mommy". 

"now," mrs. kim speaks up but yoongi's eyes are stuck on "mommy". "mommy" has dark hair and she's wearing pink, the color taehyung interprets as happiness. "we just...personally, i want you to know that i'm not...i don't," she stumbles on her words, flustered. "i don't have anything against gay people but..."

"gay?" yoongi manages to tear his eyes away from "mommy". "me? wait, what?"

"it's just that," she takes a deep shaky breath looking apologetic. "taehyung once said that he was an only child like you. so i thought maybe you just haven't explained the--"

"no, no," yoongi could feel his adrenaline spiking. "it's not -- you have the wrong idea, he's really just his uncle. he's my closest friend, that's all...why would that be a problem though?"

"it wouldn't," she squeaked. "i...well, it wouldn't be with me."

yoongi had wanted to ask what that meant exactly but he didn't want to dig himself into a deeper, more uncomfortable hole. before mrs. kim guides him back to the desk to discuss, he took another look at the figure in pink.)

 

"you can't be serious," hoseok frowns and sinks further into himself. "mrs. kim thought i was gay?"

"don't sound so offended."

"i'm not offended," he continues to vehemently defend himself. "out of the two of us, you're the one suffering from moronic masculinity. i just...you know when i used to pick tae up from pre-k, before she was pregnant, i used to flirt with her. was it not obvious?"

"you flirt with everyone," yoongi checks the time and scarfs down his scone. as he's cleaning up the crumbs from the table, he notices hoseok's eyes haven't moved. the younger is staring at him deeply and intently. "what?"

"i'm gonna ask you something," he lowered his voice, gaze still hard as steel. "you can't get offended, defensive, or angry."

"i'm not promising anything like that," yoongi tenses but reminds himself of his mask and the necessity to be glacial. 

"have you been with anyone?"

"been with?"

"you know what i mean, have you slept with anyone since you got custody of taehyung?"

"no."

hoseok's eyebrows shoot up and his eyes widen and his mouth falls open because hoseok is a firm believer that any kind of abstemiousness is on par with homicide. "oh shit."

yoongi may have only met hoseok in college but he knows that hoseok has been a bit of a promiscuous person since he was in high school. it wasn't that hoseok was a playboy or that he had a mission to be with every woman that ever existed. it was mainly that hoseok, though yoongi would never say this to his face, was a good person who had a lot of love to give.

his promiscuity wasn't a result of selfishness but moreso due to the fact that he fell in love with someone every other day. 

"do you even, you know? treat yourself?"

yoongi stands up quickly, discarding his cup and pastry bag. hoseok follows without hesitation as they exit the store. "why are we having this conversation?"

"well it just got me thinking. don't get upset but you gave up a lot, you know? you're completely invested in tae--" hoseok holds his hands up in defense mode at yoongi's glare. "and that's great but..."

"it's probably a good thing for me to be invested in my son but what do i know?"

"just don't neglect yourself, okay? i know you're not ace so don't try to use that as an excuse," the shame and bashfulness is clear in hoseok's demeanor but yoongi can't help but feel a little angry. "no wonder you always look like you have a stick up your ass."

"don't be crude."

"hey, sex is important. it is. not just for reproduction but for intimacy and stress relief and...my god, that's almost six years of no sex."

"you're going in circles now."

this time hoseok looks at his own watch and heads toward the car. yoongi follows almost reluctantly but the reluctance lasts for all of thirty seconds because he can't be late picking taehyung up from school.

also, he may or may not have promised to take tae and jimin to get ice cream (not that he has seokjin's permission but he'll cross that bridge when he gets to it).

"look," hoseok continues as he starts the car up. "you know i'm always more than willing to take care of taehyung, right? i know you don't get it sometimes, the reason i stayed but just know that. so if you ever want to have the glamorized closet to yourself and a lover of your choice, i'd be happy to take him on a field trip to lotte world," hoseok gestures toward yoongi's lap. "take care of the little one."

"thank you," yoongi musters up the simulated tone of appreciation. "now, shut up."

yoongi knows that hoseok means well, that he's saying this out of his own warped sense of sympathy. that hoseok, the college roommate in the same major as him, watched him give up on his phD even though he was top of their class. he knows that hoseok only says what he says because he worries. but still.

he likes his dick to be his business.

 

"i want to meet him," hoseok says shortly after he put taehyung to bed. (some days, it is necessary that hoseok is there to help him out especially when he puts in extra hours for a better paycheck).

yoongi looks up from his notebook where he's written down a "party outline" in blue crayon. he was trying to figure out whether taehyung would prefer disney movie decorations or strawberry shortcake when hoseok spoke. "you know i hate the pronoun game."

"seokjin," hoseok says with a knowing smile that has creep written all over it. "you talk about him a lot. taehyung is like jimin's soulmate or whatever. so i want to meet them."

he's on the verge of arguing that no, his son does not have a soulmate. and if he does, it's him because he's still convinced that taehyung thinks of him as his best friend too. but then hoseok's voice echoes in his head. "i don't talk about him a lot."

"yes, you do," hoseok scoffs. "do you not remember when you talked about your romantic, halloween candy night under the water stained ceiling? for like an hour?"

"it wasn't an hour."

"yes, it was! i remember because i was trying to watch my drama but nooo, you had to go on and on about how magical it was."

"shut up."

"you're disrespectful," hoseok elbows yoongi's stomach. "seriously, introduce him to me."

"you'll meet him at the party, ok?"

"that's like a month away, should i ask taehyung?"

"if you wake him up--"

hoseok stands up and runs on his tiptoes to the back bedroom. yoongi would argue about it more but it's the weekend so instead, he just sits on the notebook when hoseok rounds the corner with taehyung in his arms. 

"okay," hoseok plops down on the couch and taehyung groans and peeks his eyes open. he groans louder and lets his head fall against hoseok's shoulder. "let's hear it from the person i care about the most. tae?"

taehyung hums.

"do you want me to meet seokjin and jimin?" 

taehyung perks up. suddenly the light is not a problem and his eyes pop open almost enthusiastically. the two adults watch him closely, awaiting his exuberant response. instead, he falls against hoseok's chest again, yawns loudly, and lets out a quiet "finally". 

 

Chapter Text

("i have to tell you the truth," the doctor said slowly, his words dripping out of his mouth like water from a leaky tap, making time slow down. "if you don't get treatment for him now, he will die. it won't be a question of if, only when."

hayeon, a shell of the person yoongi thought he knew, sat staring blankly at her baby who was still and frail. it was only by watching the baby's chest closely that yoongi was sure it wasn't dead. he counted each breath whilst holding his own. hayeon continued to stroke the baby's small hand. "start the treatment then."

"i'm telling you this because i'm not sure how much of the bill will be covered by the insurance, okay?"

"i don't care," hayeon wiped a straying tear. "just take care of him, please. i'll cross that bridge when i get to it but you take care of him now.")

 

the topic of jimin's mother had been floating around between the two of them like the cadaverous ghost of his past. it stood between them quietly but rarely ever made itself known by doing any actual haunting. yoongi knew she passed and that, apparently, jimin got his eye smile from her.

yoongi didn't know how they met, what her name was, or if seokjin had loved her once. in the back of his mind, he hoped whatever relationship they'd had was marked by adoration and passion because that would mean, even though seokjin and jimin's life was hard now, the boy was born out of love. 

it's when seokjin is standing in his kitchen with a piping bag in his hand, squeezing out mini pastries in the shape of octopuses that it comes up again. 

"where did you learn to bake like that?" yoongi asks from the kitchen table where he's scrolling through a website for decent party decor. he's taken to splitting his time between planning the birthday party with hoseok and seokjin separately.

every time he tries to plan with hoseok, the party becomes more expensive because "taehyung would love a bouncy house, you have to get him to a bouncy house" and a slew of other elements that, if absent, would make a detrimental impact on the party. not to mention that he is relentless in his teasing about the nothing that is his relationship with seokjin.

seokjin looks up from the cake and in his direction, not really meeting his eyes. there's baking powder on his hands and when he reaches his hand up to wipe his forehead, his eyebrow becomes decorated in white specks. "oh...she, uh, jimin's mom was into it. we bonded over it, i guess."

"oh," yoongi sits back and refocuses his attention on the website. for the most part, things between the two haven't been totally awkward but they haven't been the same. it's a testament to the immense love that they both have for their children that they still make attempts to get past the point of ineptitude. 

for a few moments, all that can be heard is the occasional clack of the keyboard, a small click of a mouse, and the sound of seokjin refilling the pastry bag. but then one of those sounds cease. "her name was jiyeon."

yoongi's fingers pause mid-air. he curls his fingers up into his palms and makes a fist, settling his hands on his lap. he turns to look at seokjin who has also paused his actions. 

"you're right," seokjin sighs shakily, laughs a little to steady himself. "it's hard to talk about it."

 

("how much money do you have in your account?" yoongi pressed her for the nth time. "whatever you have, you can use that. plus the subsidy."

"it's not enough," hayeon breathed out, cradling the baby in her arms. the bus driver went over a bump in the road and hayeon's grip tightened. 

"100,000 won isn't enough?" yoongi leaned closer. a part of him was yelling not to get too close because he didn't want to be looked at the same way hayeon was looked at it when she carried the baby down the street. but the other part of him was running on fear fueled adrenaline, sending him into protective overdrive. "how much do you have in your account?"

hayeon stared straight forward, eyes empty and devoid of the effervescence that made her stand out. "i don't get 100,000 for his subsidy. because i'm a single parent, it gets knocked down to 45,000. i have 10,000 in my account."

"single?" yoongi sighed, letting his head fall into his hands. "you didn't put my name down when you registered him?"

"of course not," she looked at him. "you made it clear what you wanted to do with him, why would i put your name down? especially when you were so fucking sure that his existence alone is going to ruin your life."

"who gives a fuck what i said?" yoongi lowered his voice to a furious whisper. "the second you decided to keep him, you should have been making decisions on his behalf. who gives a fuck if i told you not to keep him, when you chose to keep him, you should have put my name down. how is he gonna live on 45,000 won a month?"

hayeon bit her lip until it turned white, her stare hardening. "i can never do anything right, can i?"

at that, the anger yoongi felt briefly subsided because she'd had a point. in his eyes, her getting pregnant, despite the fact that it was a joint effort, was a result of her not being careful enough. taehyung crying whenever they were over at his dorm was her fault because she couldn't feed up, burp him, or comfort him quickly enough. his sickness, the possibility of his death, the truth that the government likes to fuck over single parents...all her fault. 

she turned away and yoongi looked forward as well. he swallowed. "i have some money, take some of it. use it for his treatment and if there's anything left over, use it to get him some fucking proper winter clothes."

hayeon glared but said nothing.)

 

"you don't have to, you know?" yoongi frowns, his discomfort displayed proudly in his posture and the expression on his face. "if it's not..."

seokjin shakes his head, shakes off his hesitation, and starts to individually place chocolate chips onto the octopus tentacles. "i think i should. i see the way people look at me, you know? it's the same way you looked when you first came to my apartment. an even blend of astonishment and pity."

"i didn't--"

"it's okay," seokjin looks at him for a split second, his eyes gentle and understanding. a small sentiment of acceptance and comfort. "i'm really used to it. i prefer people looking at me in that way as opposed to them looking at me like i'm the scum of the earth."

it was true. people did look at jimin differently from the other children. they looked at seokjin differently than the other parents. and it wasn't any old "you're a single parent so you need to die" way. people felt sorry for them. anyone who could make out the small things like jimin's worn sneakers and seokjin's worn clothing. yoongi thinks about the bare walls and the water-stained ceiling of their apartment again. 

"i know not to get all up in a funk about it though," he continues solemnly. "because there are plenty of single parents who have it a lot worse, you know? like the guy who couldn't do anything for his daughter because he couldn't register her. since she wasn't registered, she technically didn't exist and getting any help for her was impossible. despite everything, i think i was lucky. because my circumstances were different, i was allowed to register him. i never had to worry about him not getting the help he needed.

"jimin was unexpected," seokjin continues. "a surprise for sure but he was not, by any means, a mistake. jiyeon and i really...we really loved each other. we met in school, she was studying abroad in seoul but she was from california. she was studying for a law degree for her parents but she really wanted to be a culinarian so she took this special elective class and picked up some shifts at some bakery...i used to spend hours in there just to be near her. she taught me all of this stuff, some obsolete english slang, and so much else."

"did you name jimin after her?"

seokjin drops the final chip and turns to yoongi with a perplexed smile. "yeah...how'd you know?"

 

(yoongi brought them back to his dorm for the night. he told hayeon it was because he wanted them to have some warm place to sleep in but it was also because he wanted, if anything should happen, the baby to have more than one set of eyes on him. before they got in, they stopped at the store where yoongi bought a few thick onesies and a pack of diapers.

hayeon had just finished feeding the baby and was sitting on yoongi's bed, trying to put him to sleep. "the doctor said he's too young. does that mean the treatment has a smaller chance of being effective?"

yoongi shook his head from his desk. "just that his immune system isn't built up enough for this. hasn't even had his first vaccine yet. how's he looking?"

"the same," hayeon hummed. "you're probably right. i probably did cause this."

"it's not anyone's fault," yoongi stood to his feet, turned around, and faced the two of them. his feet carried him to the bed where he dipped onto the empty spot next to hayeon. 

"whoa," hayeon breathed out. "aren't you afraid you'll catch cooties sitting this close?"

yoongi stared at his hands, a small smile coming up on his face temporarily distracting him from the knots in his stomach. he hadn't even come close yet and his palms were already clammy. he turned to look at hayeon who read his expression immediately. 

"really?" she asked wide eyed and almost tearful. 

yoongi nodded. he couldn't bring himself to explain why partly because he didn't want to cast a pall on everything and partly because the possibility of it was all too real. but hayeon knew even without the words that yoongi didn't want his son to die without having held him at least once. "i'm ready."

the tightness in his throat was so thick and so dry that it took multiple attempts to swallow. and when he did, a new lump would come back. with every swallow, he sent another knot down into the pit of his stomach until he couldn't feel anything but the spinning in his stomach. everything was smaller and the room shrank as hayeon transferred the bundle from her own arms into yoongi's. 

"shit," yoongi's voice caught in his throat, his words shaky and completely vulnerable. the baby was so light, light as a feather. he was afraid, terrified even, that he was going to break him somehow. he wondered how he thought something as small as this could change everything so much, how something so small could feel so fucking heavy. 

"language," hayeon reminded him with a bittersweet fond smile. 

"what was his name again?" the question made yoongi feel a little dizzy, a little more sick. he wanted to blame the fact that he couldn't remember on the current waves of electricity coursing throughout him. 

"taehyung," hayeon reached over and stroked the baby's head. 

taehyung looked up at him with wide eyes, seeing him for the first time. yoongi stared back, unable to tear his eyes away. he swallowed hard. "taehyung, huh?"

"my family name," hayeon whispered. "tae hayeon. they didn't want anything to do with them but i still wanted him to be connected to them in more ways than one. stupid, i know."

yoongi wouldn't know how to describe it, only that his heart started to shake. his eyes started to burn and he blinked rapidly to stop whatever tears from flowing. "it's not. it's perfect.")

 

seokjin is sitting in front of him now, icing some butter lemon cookies with a dexterous hand. he hasn't looked up at him yet but he's continued telling his story. 

"we'd been together for a few months before she got pregnant. and it was shocking but we figured it wold be okay, you know?" seokjin shakes his head once and laughs as if judging his past self for his decisions. "we got married right away, we didn't want jimin to have any problems being born out of wedlock. it was a small wedding but it was probably the second best day of my life. first day was when jimin was born. funny enough, our families wanted nothing to do with us even after we'd told them that we decided to get hitched. her parents were angry at her for what they saw as a mistake that would ruin her becoming a lawyer. they told her not to come back to america if she bothered to have him. and my parents thought i had shamed them so they told me not to come back to anyang."

yoongi thinks of the thing that seokjin had said when taehyung had gone out of town with his grandmother. how, at the very least, it was great that his grandmother even wanted to see him at all. "shit."

"yeah. we spent most of our time preparing for him but things changed when he was actually born...jiyeon passed during labor, heart complications or at least that's what i was told. because of those specific circumstances and because i was there, i was allowed to register him anyway and..."

"and?"

"well, it's okay not to hear the rest," seokjin waves a hand. "the rest is kind of obvious. you've seen me enough to know the rest."

yoongi stares at him for a little while, a tiny bit longer than necessary. he stares until seokjin is frozen in discomfort and it isn't until seokjin looks down that he looks away. "okay. whenever you're ready. thank you for telling me that much."

seokjin shakes his head. "it was more for me," he smiles knowingly. "but you're welcome."

Chapter Text

yoongi can't remember the first tantrum taehyung ever had.

he doesn't count the hours that the boy would cry when he was a baby, the long wailing that gave yoongi headaches and gave cause to erratic ideas. because, in taehyung's defense, his father didn't know the difference between dirty diaper crying and starving crying. 

maybe it was shortly after the boy's second birthday when taehyung had caught the artificial eye of a large teddy bear in the grocery store and kicked and screamed all the way home when yoongi didn't buy it for him. the then toddler had kicked at the ceramic floor, screamed out echoes in the aisles, and dropped down to the floor. it took various bribes and an empty to threat to leave him in the store for the boy to get up. but even then, he was fussy for the rest of the day and it was the first time yoongi learned how hard it was to say no. 

since then, the tantrums came often with the title of being a two year old or so yoongi's mother said. sometimes they were easy to deal with and sometimes yoongi slipped on the edge of having a breakdown himself. 

but slowly, with time, the tantrums became less intense and less easy to invoke. they quieted and tamed as the years passed until they were almost nonexistent.

so now that taehyung is loudly stamping his feet, red-faced with tears streaming down his cheeks and a pout that would make satan himself feel quilty, yoongi is rightfully confused.

"i want it!" 

yoongi looks around the grocery store, swallowing down saliva along with shame. he recaptures taehyung's hand in his own. "come on, tae. it's okay, we'll get it next time."

taehyung yanks his hand away and pounces against the floor. "no! i want it now!"

"please," taehyung huffs and sits down criss cross apple sauce, crossing his arms as he does. "get off the floor. now."

even at the sound of yoongi's "i'm serious" voice, taehyung doesn't even bat an eye. he even looks the other way, continuing to cry dramatically. 

yoongi sighs before kneeling down and looking into taehyung's shiny eyes. "what's wrong?"

he asks because while taehyung does cry, the tantrums have essentially stopped. though he is a child, he's outgrown the logic of a traditional tantrum. which, yoongi concludes, must mean something else is really bothering him. 

taehyung huffs loudly, gasps for air like he's on the verge of death and flails his arms exasperatedly. "i want the ice cream!"

"but you don't need the ice cream."

"yes, i do! i need it to live!"

yoongi would laugh if he wasn't both angry and a tad flustered with all the shoppers staring at him tight lipped and a disapproving shake of the head. as if to say he had no business having a child. "seriously, what's wrong, hm? you never behave like this over barely a half pint of ice cream? what's gotten into you?"

"because you hate me!"

yoongi blanches, the soothing words he had ready being snatched from his throat. he swallows hard and tries to recover from the slap of that statement. he leans closer to the child and brings his hands down to cup his cheeks. "don't ever say anything like that, you understand me? if you hate me, that's something i could deal with but don't ever say that i hate you, okay?"

taehyung sniffles, his cries have quited, the red pigment painting his cheeks slowly receeding. "you don't hate me?" 

"of course, i don't."

"even though i was an accident?"

with his heart pummeling into the depths of his gut and all the life being sucked out of him, yoongi feels a familiar burn pinching the back of his eyes. he looks away from taehyung to glare at all the spectator-shoppers. looking back to taehyung, he swallows hard. "who said that to you? hm? was it one of these people in here?"

taehyung shakes his head slowly, wiping his tears with the long sleeve of his tmnt shirt. "no."

"who was it?" yoongi continues to remind himself to take slow breaths, to keep his voice calm, to not lose his shit in front of his baby boy. "someone at home, a neighbor? someone at school?"

"someone at school," taehyung mumbles, looking down at his hands. he swallows and bites at his trembling bottom lip. 

"was it mrs. kim? mrs. hwang?"

taehyung shakes his head sadly. "it was joonjae."

"the one with the comic books?"

taehyung nods again and yoongi reminds himself that it's wrong to beat up a little kid. "he said that he didn't want to play with me and jimin anymore. because we're accidents."

instead of punching the lights out of the closest adult to him, yoongi pulls taehyung in tight, moving his hands from his cheeks to hs hair. he peppers taehyung's face in kisses before pulling him into a tight hug. "you're not an accident, you hear me?"

"yes."

"you know i love you, right?"

"i know," taehyung nods against his shoulder. "i love you too." 

"i love you more than anything, more than everything."

"okay."

yoongi squeezes taehyung tighter and proceeds to pick him up, standing as he does. the onlookers take one last judgmental glance before dispersing and yoongi takes a look at the ice cream. "do you want me to get the ice cream still?"

taehyung shakes his head. "it's okay."

 

taehyung is currently laying on top of yoongi playing with the strands of his father's hair. yoongi's got his arms wrapped around taehyung's back. this is one of those rare times that yoongi allows taehyung to sleep in his bed. this is what hoseok always teased as being rehabilitation because whenever something happened -- usually when taehyung hurt himself or had a bad day -- yoongi catered to taehyung. but even hoseok admits that it's the right thing to do. 

"who loves you more than i do?"

taehyung smiles softly. "nobody."

"right you are," yoongi gently tosses taehyung to the side so that the boy is lying on the bed. he tucks him under the blankets before leaning over him. "can i tell you another thing?"

"uh huh."

"you're my everything."

taehyung's eyes widen. "everything?"

"everything."

taehyung smiles wider at that and tucks himself closer into yoongi's side. "you're my everything too."

yoongi laughs and brushes taehyung's hair back. "your mind will change when you get older."

"nuh-uh. it won't ever change."

despite knowing what the future will likely hold, yoongi allows himself to be comforted by the confident declaration and kisses taehyung's forehead who responds with a kiss to the cheek. "good night."

 

"i'm gonna kill him," yoongi digs his fingers into the side of his thigh, squeezing until he can feel bruises forming. he's both hot and cold at the same time with his anger sending him on an internal boiling point and the chills running down his spine making him frozen, paralyzed with fury. 

"how do we find out who he is?" hoseok asked from the couch, his own tight jaw and clenched teeth only showing a fraction of his own anger. 

"dunno," yoongi mumbled shortly. "but when i find him--"

"you'll do nothing," hoseok finished with confidence. "because you have taehyung to think about. let me handle the asshole."

"that's not fair."

"asshole," hoseok called him out, the nickname that he rarely uses but all the same, the nickname that stuck. "you don't even know how to fight."

the two sat in silence momentarily, the clock ticking echoing throughout the apartment. suddenly yoongi sprang up.

"i'm gonna call seokjin."

"why?"

"he's got to know who this punk is," yoongi explains quickly as he dials on his phone. "all the time he tries to put into helping the school, he's got to know."

"isn't he working right now?"

"it's his lunch break," yoongi answers without hesitation and turns to see hoseok smiling like he's caught him red-handed elbow deep in the cookie jar. "oh, shut up."

the phone only rang twice before seokjin was picking up. "i thought i told you not to call me on my lunch break anymore."

"you did," yoongi nods once. "but it's important. do you know that joonjae kid that the kids play with?"

seokjin sighs, exasperated. "i know of him, why?"

yoongi explains everything that happened with a lot of colorful vocabulary, often referring to the unnamed father of joonjae as "dickhead" and variations thereof. when he's done explaining, seokjin is silent for a long while before requesting that he be put on speaker. 

"can you two hear me?" 

both yoongi and hoseok nod at the phone. hoseok smiles brightly like he does whenever he meets someone new. "nice to meet you, seokjin. sorry it's under such terrible circumstances but hey. so what do you know about this asshole?"

"listen to me," seokjin says carefully with a stern but gentle voice. "you aren't going to do anything to that guy."

hoseok clasps his hand over his head in excitement. "that's exactly what i told him--"

"neither one of you," seokjin clarifies. 

"but that's--" yoongi started to argue.

"you can't come out your face about this," the eldest starts up again, immediately quieting the other two. "you can't yell at that guy, you can't confront him with violence, and you most definitely cannot kill him. you lose any bit of calm and taehyung is gone."

at that, yoongi freezes, the hair standing up on the back of his neck and arms. even hoseok stills noticeably. 

"trust me, it angers me too but you know you can't react that way. if you do anything, someone will report it. if hoseok does anything, someone will report it and make the connection between you two. and they'll say you're endangering your son by having him around someone so volatile. they don't need a reason to take him away from you as it is so don't give them one, okay?"

the two were stunned silent, stunned beyond reason because it was true and they'd completely forgotten. if yoongi were to confront joonjae's father the way he wanted to, the way he knew would result in that asshole showing some form of respect even if it was born from fear, he would be called unfit to be a parent. they would say he was too on edge and that, if he had the nerve to be so bellicose toward a stranger, who's to say he isn't worse toward his son behind closed doors? 

the law has never worked in single parent's favor and the reason it hadn't changed was because every parent loved their child too much to risk anything.

"okay," yoongi answered meekly, gazing at his palms. "i won't do anything."

"good," the phone sat still on the coffee table and yoongi could imagine seokjin's hard stare. "well? hoseok?"

"yeah, yeah. i'm not gonna do anything."

"okay," seokjin took a deep breath. "now please stop calling me on my lunch break."

Chapter Text

yoongi pulls into the parking space in the lot behind the elementary school and sighs heavily. glancing at the building decorated in hand painted rainbows and daisies, he shakes his head in disbelief. 

"i can't believe this," he mutters.

next to him in the passenger seat, seokjin, with his eyes focused on the school building, nods his head. "believe it."

"this is a new low," yoongi argues half-heartedly. because it is a new low, a depth he has yet to plunge into but he's also been devastatingly defeated and outnumbered on the matter of this plan's efficiency. he knows it's a good plan and that it'll most likely help them reach the outcome they've been vying for since taehyung and jimin respectively came home thoroughly upset by the words relayed to them by a fellow student. but he also knows that, no matter how much seokjin tries to claim it's something different, the plan is just mass, sugar-coated manipulation.

behind him, sitting in the backseat and leaning forward on his elbows to stare at the school. hoseok, clad in an iron man costume, lowers his mask. with determination clear in his voice, he lets out a confident : "but we're doing it. let's go."

 

the whole thing seems like something yoongi would have created subconsciously, something he would have dreamt up after a long day and an undercooked dinner. something of an eyelid movie projected on his psyche or, more appropriately, something out of a really cheesy, cookie-cutter weekend drama that his auntie would be watching. 

but, as he, seokjin, and hoseok make their way down the school corridor, passing the endless collage of finger-painted portraits, he knows this is real life. when seokjin smiles at him, carrying the first plate of homemade pastries, he knows this is real life. when hoseok, whose face is hidden beneath his glowing iron man mask, nods reassuringly, he knows this is real. 

and when the two of them step into the classroom, leaving hoseok to wait in the hallway, and taehyung looks up at him with wide, enthusiastic eyes, yoongi is ever grateful that this is his reality. he used to wonder, before he officially got custody of taehyung, whether he'd made a mistake. whether or not he should have recanted his decision, put taehyung in an adoption home, and continued his studies. some nights he wonders about that alternate life but when he's looking into taehyung's eyes, it's hard to imagine his life going any other way.

seokjin steps up to mrs. kim who had already rose from her seat, eyes alight with interest and anticipation. 

"sorry to interrupt," seokjin speaks for them, using his good looks and twinkling eyes to charm mrs. kim. mrs. kim, ever kind and polite, smiles sweetly and caresses her stomach. "but there's a treat for the kids in honor of the upcoming holiday break. courtesy of min taehyung."

all of the kids turn to taehyung with mouths agape. one of the students jumps up to high five taehyung, thanking him enthusiastically. mrs. kim giggled into her palm. "how kind of you. come on in."

seokjin, walking a few steps closer, sets the first cupcake down on the first student's desk. but then he straightens up and shakes his head, fake kicking himself for forgetting. "ah, taehyung. with all of these cupcakes, i almost forgot that there's someone here to see you."

taehyung lifts his head higher, straightening up his back to stand out. he nods his head once. "you mean daddy?"

seokjin shakes his head, a knowing smile on his face. at that cue, hoseok steps into the classroom to the chorus of awed exclamations. every kid in the room brightens noticeably but yoongi's eyes always go back to taehyng whose expression is the meaning of exhilaration. hoseok steps closer and closer to the center of the room, stopping directly in front of taehyung and jimin's shared desk. 

to yoongi's surprise, hoseok is able to get down on one knee despite the rigid build of the costume. he reaches his hand out and rests it on taehyung's small shoulder. taehyung, though visibly excited, is frozen in shock.

 

(the three were sitting in the bar that seokjin works on odd nights. each of them partaking in virgin versions of woowoo, toblerone, and fidel castros respectively. seokjin had been idly stirring his straw in his toblerone mix, occasionally licking the chocolate flakes from his finger. they sat in silence, hoseok and yoongi staring at seokjin in disbelief and seokjin just smirking like he knew he was a gift from god.

yoongi spoke first. "that's just manipulation."

"manipulation to the highest degree," seokjin nodded in agreement. "well, the highest degree in kindergarten."

"i don't know if i'm okay with this."

"i'm definitely not," hoseok finally spoke up, his head tilted to one side where yoongi envisioned a dream cloud forming. "these asshole minions deserve punishment. like abstaining from ice cream and play-doh. or something."

"i'm all about killing with kindness," seokjin explained while yoongi checked his watch. "besides there's no way we'd be able to keep them from ice cream and play-doh."

"seokjin," hoseok lifted a hand. even though hoseok is and has been the nicest person yoongi has ever known, he also knows that the gesture is a suggestion for seokjin to politely shut up. "i don't want to be rude. i know we just met and you seem like a cool dude but how exactly does showering these kids in desserts justify them bullying our kids?"

yoongi raised a curious brow to which hoseok responded with a complacent, tired shrug.

"my nephew, my kid," hoseok corrected. "and my honorary nephew who i haven't met yet."

"that's really kind of you," seokjin smiled again, impressed.

"any friend of taehyung is a friend of mine so--"

"can we get back on topic?" yoongi pinched the bridge of his nose. "i can't find it in me to not only manipulate a bunch of children but to totally deceive taehyung."

"whoa whoa whoa," seokjin holds a hand up in defense and shuts his eyes. "it's definitely manipulation but it is not deceit. listen, we come into the classroom and pass out these wonderful desserts -- what kid doesn't love a good cupcake? -- while making sure that the kids know it's all thanks to taehyung. it's perfect. after that, they'll all want to go to his birthday party."

"oh," hoseok moaned out loud, his eyes lighting up with happiness as he grasped the situation. "i get it. when everyone else is chowing down on those goodies, that joonjae asshole is empty-handed, right?"

"he gets a cupcake, hoseok."

"why?!")

 

"taehyung," iron man hoseok boasts, channeling the charm of robert downey jr tinted in positivity. "i've been looking for you everywhere."

taehyung swallows hard, eyes still wide and gaze unwavering. "really?"

"of course," hoseok turns his head to taehyung's side. "you must be jimin."

jimin nods.

"it's nice to finally meet you," looking to the rest of the students, hoseok continues in a tone so rich that it just demands to be listened to. "if you guys haven't heard already, taehyung and jimin once helped me on a super secret project."

seokjin, who had been passing out cupcakes at each desk, stopped in his tracks and glared at hoseok's embellishment. 

 

("he gets a cupcake because we don't leave anyone out," seokjin continued to elucidate in a slow, careful tone. "we show him respect and kindness and we remember that he is a five year old being fed ideas by his father. but by treating joonjae politely, he second guesses his father's opinions."

hoseok stared for a long time, his eyes a little dead and one quick look at seokjin told yoongi that the eldest was considering explaining his plan all over again. but suddenly, hoseok smacked his hands together before shooting his arms up in a triumphant cheer. "so what happens is we invite everyone but because his dad is a judgmental burger-head, he won't be allowed to go. and come next semester, when everyone is excited about how awesome taehyung's party was, he'll be the odd one out. ostracized for the remainder of his grade school career..."

yoongi shook his head. "you've fantasized about this way too much."

"the goal isn't to ostracize anyone. if it happens, so be it but that's not what we should be working toward."

"if i can wear an iron man costume, i'm in."

both seokjin and yoongi turned to hoseok with matching quizzical expressions. the youngest of the three shrugged.

"kids love superheroes.")

 

"we did?" jimin squeaks.

"of course you did!" hoseok turns to the classroom again. "i'm sorry i can't share all the details with you but it was a top secret mission, you understand how it goes. anyway, i wanted to ask all of you a huge favor. do you think you can help?"

the room is momentarily filled with an ensemble of cheerful yeses. 

"great! you see, taehyung here is turning six soon and he and his best friend jimin are going to have a really big, fun party with bouncy houses--"

yoongi glares.

"--and cotton candy and a ball pit and lots of great stuff," hoseok continues unaware of yoongi's hard stare penetrating his back. "and i was supposed to go to the party but because of certain people -- can't say who --"

"bucky!" the entire class erupts in outrage, sticking their tongues out at the very name of bucky barnes. later hoseok would have a fit about how children can't seem to grasp the concept of a gray area or an antihero. 

"sure. anyway because of that person, i won't be able to attend. but both taehyung and jimin are fantastic friends of mine and it would mean so much to me if you all would go to their party. so who wants to go?"

a parade of various "me's" and "i do's" serve as the perfect punctuation mark to hoseok's inquiries.

"fantastic," hoseok rises to his feet but not before squeezing both taehyung and jimin's shoulder affectionately. "well, i must go now. duty calls."

as hoseok marches out of the classroom with fictionalized purpose, the children cheer and scream, some of them shouting out wishes for hoseok to defeat all the bad guys and others simply saying that iron man is the coolest. by the time he's out of the classroom, seokjin has finished passing out all of the cupcakes and has returned to the head of the room.

"thank you all for your time," he says. "enjoy the cupcakes." 

"wait!"

jimin jumps down from his seat and runs down the small aisle steadily before jumping into seokjin's open arms. jimin holds on to his father tightly, yoongi notices before he turns to see taehyung running down toward him too. yoongi pulls the child into his embrace before he even has the chance to jump and tightens his grip. he does try to remind himself that he's standing in a classroom and this hug has to be quick but it is a relatively long time before he releases taehyung. and before he does, taehyung pecks his cheek and whispers:

"you're the best daddy ever."

 

"you realize," yoongi starts up later as the three of them are leaving the building. simultaneously leaving behind the euphonious laughter from the kindergarten classroom. "you've made this party more expensive than it was supposed to be, right? bouncy house, ball pit..."

"i realize," hoseok says as he throws an arm over yoongi's shoulder. "and, trust me, it was intentional. don't worry i'll help budget-wise," hoseok throws an arm over seokjin's shoulder as well. "too soon?"

"you're okay," seokjin says reassuringly and yoongi cranes his neck to look at him. and he sees it. he's not sure how he missed it because it is absolutely dazzling but he sees traces of it in seokjin's eyes: happiness. it's there on display for everyone to see, a glint of candescence, something identical to his warmth. 

it's only for so long that one is able to blatantly stare at someone else without being caught so eventually seokjin does turn to him, catching his gaze. yoongi instinctively smiles, the feel of his grin spreading happens without him having to strain. hoseok is still going on and on about the party, how fun it'll be, how much taehyung and jimin are going to love it and, in the midst of it all, seokjin smiles back. 

"we have a lot of planning to do."

Chapter Text

"am i in trouble?"

yoongi turns away from the little wizard tao themed overnight duffel bag where he's packing some of taehyung's clothes. from the foot of the twin-sized bed, taehyung looks at him with an undoubtedly pointed pout on his face. "no, you're not in trouble. why do you ask? is there something i should know?"

"you're making me go away," sighing, taehyung brings his hands up to grab his hair and kicks his feet against the foot of the bed.

"true," yoongi walks forward and pulls taehyung's head foreward to place a quick kiss on the top of his head before pushing back toward the dresser. he kneels down to the lowest drawer, searching for the socks his mother knitted for taehyung. "but i'm not mad at you."

"then why can't i stay?"

yoongi lets out a victory cheer when he finds the socks and stands up. "tae, you're only going for one day. that's it. i just need to run a few errands, okay?"

"but i can help!" taehyung gripes, throwing his hands up helplessly. "i'm a fast runner."

soft laughter escapes from yoongi's throat as he zips up the duffel bag and walks out of the bedroom. "it's not that kind of running."

taehyung chases after him audibly with his small feet making a rhythmic drumming against the hardwood floors of the living room. the two trail into the kitchen. "why can't i go with you?"

yoongi lifts the lid of the steaming pot of porridge, fitting for a cold winter evening. 

parenthood has made him the best at multitasking. for the past hour, he's been alternating between preparing the porridge, packing taehyung's overnight bag, and texting with both hoseok and seokjin as discretely as possible. ever since taehyung learned how to read, keeping surprises from him has been difficult. when it comes to special occasions, yoongi is forced to use his native daegu dialect which, ironically, is making the group chat difficult for everyone to understand.

with yoongi using a daegu dialect, hoseok was using gwangju, and poor seokjin was too busy trying to figure out how it's possible for english to be easier. 

"because it would be really boring," after checking the consistency of the porridge, yoongi turns around and gestures to taehyung to come to him with both his hands. "up you go."

taehyung lifts his own arms and yoongi reaches down, pulls him up, and sets the child down on the countertop. "you're gonna come back to get me?"

scoffing, yoongi looks offended at the question and reasonably so. "of course, i am," he gets a spoonful of porridge and holds it over his free hand. "why wouldn't i?"

"i don't know why you do things, daddy," taehyung proclaims whilst holding out both of his own hands in a gesture similar to a bellicose joe pesci.

"okay," yoongi holds the spoon in front of taehyung's open mouth. "it's hot, okay? and you know the rules: be honest."

while taehyung's mouth is full, yoongi takes the opportunity to clarify. he holds onto taehyung's legs and shakes them gently, playfully.

"listen to me because this is really important," he levels with taehyung's eye line and penetrates with a stare. "i know you're still thinking about what that kid said to you and i want you to know that he's a huge liar."

taehyung's eyebrows shoot up and his eyes widen. with his mouth full, he prepares to speak but yoongi holds up a finger. 

"ah ah ah, what do we say about talking with your mouth full? do we do it?"

rolling his eyes, taehyung shakes his head and continues to chew. this time, yoongi waits for him to finish. 

"you said," taehyung swallows. "that it's rude to call people liars without the evans."

"evidence, taehyung, evidence," yoongi takes the now clean and empty spoon from taehyung. "how was it?"

"it's too like gum. why you call joonjae a liar?"

"because he is," yoongi tastes the porridge for himself once more. "how does it taste like gum?"

taehyung sighs. "you know like toothpaste. the mint part. how do you know joonjae is a liar?"

"because he told you something that was very mean," yoongi busies himself with correcting the porridge's taste, adding spices, adding water, trying to balance out whatever it is that taehyung is talking about. "and very untrue. and i know it's untrue because you're my son and you're my what?"

"best friend," taehyung answers immediately.

"and?"

"everything!"

"right," yoongi starts stirring the porridge again before getting a spoonful and blowing on it. "so let me ask you: jimin's your best friend, right? is he an accident to you?"

taehyung's brows furrow up, his upper lip curling in what yoongi can only define as disgust. "no!"

"so why would you be?"

taehyung hums thoughtfully. "you have a point."

yoongi laughs as he shakes his head. "you're starting to talk like an adult. open wide."

refraining from making the airplane noises that he used to rely on, yoongi feeds taehyung the spoonful and watches for his reaction. "it's minty."

"taehyung," yoongi warns in his serious voice. "wait until you swallow it, remember? and there's no mint in here, i promise."

"what is it then?"

"chicken ginger."

the child throws his hands on his head like he can't quite believe what he's hearing. "daddy, i don't like ginger."

"taehyung, you've never had ginger," yoongi mocks. 

 

"how is it?"

yoongi has his hands gripped on the edge of the dining table and his eyes are burning holes into hoseok's. it's not exactly that he wants to be praised for his cooking skills at all, it's more like he's trying to telepathically communicate with hoseok how important it is for him to feign satisfaction with the dish.

because if he likes it, taehyung will eat it and he doesn't have to worry about his son starving to death just because he doesn't like the taste.

at the sight of hoseok screwing his face up in both bemusement and disgust, yoongi's hope takes a nosedive with his self-respect and belief that he could make a decent meal for once. 

"it's not bad," hoseok sputters, trying and failing to hold back laughter when taehyung has a giggle fit. "i just don't like mint."

"it's not mint," taehyung and yoongi say at the same time to hoseok's amusement.

at that, all of hoseok's attempts to be considerate and polite are drowned out by his hyena-like laughter. taehyung, who's so close to hoseok he's almost sitting in his lap, bursts out into laughter as well, his eyes crinkling adorably. "then what did you do wrong?"

"nothing, you guys just don't know what ginger is supposed to taste like."

"i highly doubt that it's supposed to taste like that," hoseok's laughter quiets to the sparse chuckle when yoongi glares at him, flitting his eyes toward taehyung. "but...it's really good for you, tae, and you should eat it."

"why?"

"listen," hosoek nudges taehyung a little so he can completely sit on his lap. "i'd love to protect you from the power contained in a single ginger root but i can't. it's about time you're exposed to the truth."

taehyung perks up with interest as yoongi raises a brow. "which is?"

"no," hoseok shakes his head, tight-lipped and an overdone concern bleeding from his eyes. "i don't think he's ready, hyung."

"no, i am," taehyung tugs at hoseok's sleeve. "i'm ready, i promise."

"tell you what: eat the porridge then i'll tell you all about it...over ice cream."

manipulation and deceit have never been yoongi's favorite things. but he finds he can't be completely upset with hoseok because the white lie now has taehyung chomping down on his porridge with immense determination. 

 

"no candy, no cake, no milkshakes, no cookies, no coffee."

a while ago, taehyung became rightfully curious about the taste of that dark drink that seems to be a permanent fixture in every adult's life. he'd asked his father if he could have a taste and was denied because the starbucks blonde roast with two added shots combined with a naturally hyper four year old was not a good idea. 

then taehyung, being the clever little kid that he was, went and asked hoseok when it was his babysitting night. and hoseok, being the fun-loving, deprivation detesting person that he was, gave taehyung more than a sip. and it did not end well.

"that was one time," hoseok almost whines. "and i already apologized for it."

"but you didn't exactly promise you wouldn't do it again," yoongi takes a hand and wraps it around the back of the hoseok's neck to pull him close, to ensure that hoseok could hear every word. because he will be damned if taehyung has a 24 hour sugar diet. "no candy, no cake, no milkshakes, no cookies, no coffee. he can have ice cream but that's only because you already promised him he'd get it. no television for more than hour and i only give you that restriction because you'd probably leave him in front of it the whole day. bedtime when?"

"it's 9 o'clock on weekends, i know."

"uncle hoseok, are we going yet?"

"just a second," yoongi calls. "uncle hoseok is learning a few house rules, okay?"

"yeah, it'll take just a minute," hoseok calls as well. "grab all the toys i haven't met yet and choose a bedtime story, alright?" he turns back to yoongi. "do we have to go over this overbearing list every time?"

"yes because every time, you do the exact opposite anyway."

"if you know i'm not gonna listen, why go over the list anyway?" hoseok turns around and peeks into the living room, scanning for any sign of taehyung. when he turns back to yoongi, he keeps his voice quiet. "you found the ouncy-bay ouse-hay?"

"not yet but the other embellishments are a go. just have to find the house, pick up the presents, and we're set."

hoseok nods, his eyes deep in thought, head slightly tilted. "you should take seokjin with you."

"why?"

"he's better at...well, from what you told me, everything. good cook--"

"shut up."

"bad word," hoseok continues without flinching. "good mediator, good party planner, and i bet he knows where to find the perfect location with a bouncy house."

"he doesn't have anyone to watch jimin though."

hoseok makes a face that manages to make yoongi feel like an idiot. "just drop him off with me and tae in the morning."

"i barely trust you with one child and now you want to babysit two."

"talk to seokjin about it and let me know."

 

("i have to say," seokjin had admitted almost shyly, almost regretfully when they were all leaving the bar a couple of days before. "it makes me happy."

"seokjin, you'll find that i'm a person who thrives on specificity--"

"the party, dumbass," yoongi said confidently before turning to seokjin. "right?"

seokjin nodded, eyes down on the ground as he shrugged on his coat. "i've...i'm just really excited.")

 

the next morning the heat is on blast, pumping out hard and almost angrily inside yoongi's car as he waits outside of seokjin's apartment. he takes a sip of coffee from his portable mug and eyes the skyline. 

the sun is barely starting to rise and he feels a pang of regret for leaving his bed so early on a weekend. but he's running out of time and everything that needs to get done must be squeezed into one day. 

luckily, seokjin agreed to helping him out so now, as he sits outside of the older's apartment, he becomes amused at the idea of hoseok dealing with the amplified hyperness that the taehyung-jimin package deal is known for. 

as he sits there, basking in the warmth, being protected by the biting cold, he finds himself sinking into the very familiar pit of overthought. he thinks about taehyung turning six, turning seven, eight, nine, ten and he feels dread. 

not that he wants his son to have only lived for five years. no, he wants taehyung to grow up and live his life and fall in love or not fall in love, whatever he wants. instead, the dread is because the older he gets, the harder it will be to keep things as oddly quiescent as they are now. elementary school is gentle but come middle school, yoongi knows, things will get harder for taehyung. 

and that leads him to start thinking about hayeon. which only makes him feel guiltier because if he had stayed with her, there wouldn't be some asshole douche-faced, snot nosed corporate father telling his kid that taehyung was a fucking accident. 

movement ahead catches his attention and he lifts his head to see seokjin coming out of the building holding jimin against him. as yoongi digs himself out of the familiar hole, he hears hoseok's voice: "don’t do that thing…you know where you start feeling bad for yourself. and when you start thinking that one small thing is gonna lead to…something else."

"don't think, don't think," he repeats to himself as a mantra as seokjin, beaming brightly, approaches the car. the backseat car door opens and yoongi smiles back. "good morning."

"morning," seokjin starts placing jimin's sleeping form in the seat, buckling him up. "sorry. you know how hard it is to get them ready when they're asleep."

"it's completely easy for me, what are you talking about?" yoongi plays dumb, finishing off with a wink that makes him feel like he's made a grave mistake but manages to make seokjin laugh. 

"don't wink, you look weird."

with that, seokjin winks himself before shutting the back door. yoongi smirks and his eyes follow seokjin as he moves to the front and slides into the passenger seat. wordlessly, yoongi lifts the turquoise mug sitting next to his in the cupholder. "cream and sugar's already in."

yoongi hadn't thought it would be humanly possible for seokjin's smile to get wider but it did and yoongi felt his own expression mirroring it. "you're a godsend."

 

because hoseok says he's a good person, but what yoongi suspects actually means he's a grimy little know it all, he comes down to take jimin.

"so you guys don't have to get out of the car," he'd reasoned over the phone. "it'll save time."

and so they wait until hoseok comes running down his steps sporting a white tee and some incriminating spider-man pajama bottoms. when he comes up to seokjin's window, he smiles and has his mouth fixed for a greeting but yoongi beats him to it:

"what are you, five years old?"

hoseok narrows his eyes. "no one asked you a thing, okay? seokjin, good morning."

"morning."

"do you have a list of do-nots for me?"

seokjin shakes his head to yoongi's surprise. yoongi had figured seokjin to have a million and one rules as a parent. and if he hadn't known how much the older loves food and tok bake, he would have taken him for one of those hemp enthusiast parents. "just take care of my son. be kind to him, okay?"

the innocence, the pure blatancy of the request takes hoseok and yoongi back, shocks them. it's such a simple request, such a simple question that yoongi briefly wonders what kind of people seokjin and jimin have had the misfortune to come across.

"of course," hoseok nods, eyes gentle and sympathetic. "i'm already watching the cooking channel to get some ideas on breakfast. i'm thinking elmo pancakes, that okay?"

seokjin nods as yoongi opens his mouth to protest but hoseok holds a finger up and responds without even looking away from seokjin.

"you said no cakes, pancakes are not technically in that category so shove it."

despite hoseok's attempt to make the move easy on them (especially seokjin who they both know was working the whole night), seokjin helps hoseok out with jimin anyway. hoseok carries jimin in his arms and the sleeping boy doesn't even stir instead resting his head in the crook of hoseok's neck. 

seokjin hands him the overnight bag. "there's a change of clothes in here, his blankie, and some snacks. also his vitamins, i wasn't sure if you had any with you but...yeah."

hoseok shifts, watching seokjin closely. "any food he prefers? allergies?"

"no allergies," stroking the back of jimin's head, seokjin's eyes stay on his son, not even glancing toward hoseok. "he doesn't like apples or avocado but that's about it. he may not eat right off the bat though, sometimes he doesn't have an appetite when he wakes up."

"okay."

seokjin nods, eyes lingering on jimin's back, before he starts turning away. as he's sliding into the passenger seat once more, hoseok calls out to him.

"i'm gonna take care of him, alright?"

seokjin smiles in appreciation. 

 

"what did you have in mind for the menu?"

the two of them are strolling through the frozen food section of the supermarket sipping at their respective coffees and eyeing the products. yoongi had been so caught up in the frivolous part of birthdays -- the party, the ball pit, the bouncy house, the presents, and the cake -- he totally forgot about the menu. "ah...i don't know, hand't thought about it."

"well, what's taehyung's favorite food?"

"anything that isn't cooked by me."

seokjin's cheeks lift, his plump lips spread out into a small, humored smile. yoongi finds himself staring at the smile, finds himself wanting it to be there often. "okay. let's think: something fun and something every child loves. . . fried chicken? pizza?"

"let's go with chicken."

"good," seokjin begins walking with purpose toward the poultry area. yoongi keeps a steady pace alongside him watching him more closely than necessary. 

"you don't like leaving jimin."

the only good word to describe the incredulous look that seokjin gives him is "duh". 

"not that i expected otherwise. it's just..."

"i work all the time so i must be impervious to leaving him by now, right?"

"well...yes."

laughing, seokjin shakes his head. "if i had it my way, i would never have to leave him. but it's either leave him and keep a roof over our heads. or stay with him and hole up in a homeless shelter. on the days we're permitted admission, that is."

"why don't you try my job?" yoongi grabs the chicken that seokjin was eyeing. it's frozen solid, adding extra weight but he lugs it into the cart. "it's online. there's good pay. you'd never have to leave him with hoseok or that thirteen year old."

"but i don't have my own cable line. can't get internet or a landline, can't do the job. i've looked into it before."

"i can help you with it if you want."

"why? there's no need for us both to struggle."

"it's just..." yoongi tries to find the words beneath the piles of duress weighing down on his psyche. "if i had to leave taehyung for more than a fourteen hours, i'd lose it. i mean you saw how i was when he went to his grandma's and that was barely even two days. i guess i just don't want you to feel like that, i dunno."

pursing his lips, beginning to bite on his top lip to contain a smile and failing, seokjin sets a reassuring hand on yoongi's shoulder very briefly. "well, i don't want you to feel like that either. so tough."

 

they manage to get through the day without too much stress. seokjin pretty much does everything just as hoseok predicted. it's him that finds a place that will supply enough space for a bouncy house and a ball pit and twenty plus kids. it's him that gets the ingredients for the fried chicken because, despite yoongi's refusal, homemade tastes better. and it's him who is currently wrapping the birthday presents so delicately and with such dexterity that yoongi can't help but be a little envious.

"you know you're like superdad, right?"

looking up from the galaxy gift wrap, seokjin tilts his head. "if i were superdad, i'd be able to spend a decent amount of time with my son, don't you think?"

"shut up," yoongi nudges him. "seriously, you're fantastic at cooking, you bake like no one's business, and you actually commute to two jobs."

seokjin shakes his head. "no, you're the good one. the way you are with taehyung...i can only wish to be as good as you."

"what are you talking about? you're amazing."

preoccupying himself with wrapping the presents, unrolling another sheet and placing a magneto action figure there, seokjin shakes his head with that familiar sadness that yoongi has gotten to know so regretfully well. "you're there for him, you know? you're there for him and you can get him what he needs and...i've never even been able to give jimin a proper party. but he never complains, you know. he's always so understanding and kind and, honestly, yoongi, he deserves a lot better than me. but i'm what he has so i keep on..."

seokjin laughs forcefully. "and the reward for over sharer of the week goes to me. sorry. i think i've just been feeling guilty about it."

"it's okay," yoongi says, his voice softening to a level that he's only heard a few times. gentle like if he were to speak any louder, his voice would break their last fragment of comfortability. "support system, remember?"

seokjin, still looking down at the present, laughs a short breathless laugh just as a couple of tears roll down his cheeks. "right."

without thinking at all -- for if he had thought even for a millisecond, he would have realized what a grave mistake he was making -- yoongi reaches over and brushes the pad of his thumb against seokjin's cheek, wiping the tear carefully. seokjin looks at him in alarm, his eyes bulging out and his face ash white. 

yoongi can't remove his hand fast enough and, when he does, he clears his throat. he reaches for the presents they've already wrapped up and stands. "i'll go hide these. then we can get the kids, cool?"

"yep."

 

(it took a month, a lot of money, and a lot of time but eventually the doctors managed to subdue taehyung's illness. eventually the coughing stopped and taehyung, though still relatively quiet in comparison to his earlier days, became himself again. but the health scare had changed hayeon for good.

"i'm not good enough to be his mother," she'd said one night. it was the first thing she'd said when she sat down next to yoongi on his bed. she said it quietly and gently. "if i can't take care of him properly, if things like this keep happening--"

yoongi interrupted. "what are you trying to say?" 

he was holding taehyung in his arms, something that became easier and easier to do over the course of treatment. it started because he didn't want to miss out on taehyung, having genuinely believed that the baby would have fallen to the pertussis. but then, for some reason, he felt compelled to hold him. his forearms would itch if he didn't. 

hayeon tucked some hair behind her ear and wiped at her cheeks. she wasn't crying at that moment but it was clear by her swollen eyes that she had been. "i found an agency."

time slowed down for yoongi. he had a good idea of what she was going to say but he didn't want to say it for her, terrified that he would speak it into existence. "agency?"

"an adoption agency," she breathed out in a half sob, her eyes watering up again. "i thought about it and there's no alternative for it. he needs a proper roof over his head, he needs to eat well, he needs to be healthy. he needs someone who can care for him and i can't so..."

"so you wanna dump him on somebody else then?" yoongi's nostrils flared, his breathing labored. "it gets hard so you give up."

"yoongi--"

"what's he supposed to do when he gets older? are you considering him?"

"i am," hayeon bit back, looking up at yoongi for the first time. "and what gives you the right to give me grief over what has already been a hard decision?"

"you're just being selfish."

hayeon covered her face with her hands and her shuddering breaths informed yoongi that he was crying. "i just brought him here so you could say goodbye, okay?"

taehyung was looking up at him, his eyes gleaming and his tiny fist in his mouth. he was keening quietly in wonder, eyes going from the bright lamp on yoongi's desk to yoongi's eyes to the colorful posters on hoseok's side of the room. yoongi stroked his cheek. "when are you taking him?"

"in the morning."

keeping his eyes on the baby, yoongi nodded. "sleep here tonight. at least do that please."

yoongi hadn't let go of taehyung all night.)

Chapter Text

(he was a terrible father. he would be a terrible father. he knew this. yet he couldn't make his feet move. 

"are you alright?"

if prompted, yoongi would not be able to explain what came over him. only a few feet away from the adoption agency, only a few feet away from having his life back, he found himself unable to move. his forearms began to itch as his eyes flitted to the bundle in hayeon's arms. she was staring at him inquisitively with her auburn hair blowing in the winter wind beneath one his beanies. "what's gonna happen to him?"

her eyes softened, her head falling forward a little. she was putting on a brave face but it wasn't hard to see how difficult this was for her. "he's...gonna be placed in a great home. with parents who," she choked on her words as she began crying again. "parents who are gonna love him. and he'll never need or want for anything, alright?"

"are...can we visit him? you know, open adoption?"

"how would that be good for him?"

she didn't ask it to be menacing or to fight him. they'd managed to have more than enough arguments on this matter alone since she told him what she was planning. she said it with a gentleness that only two people in their situation could muster up. 

he shook his head, feeling a slight burn sting at his eyes. "what if some american family adopts him? and they take him to, i dunno, california? i don't...i can't do it."

"what do you mean you can't do it? you're not the one taking care of him. you've been there for the past few weeks and, for that, i'm grateful but you haven't had to do the things that i've had to do. you haven't been forced to put him to sleep in lieu of feeding him because you haven't eaten in so long, you can't produce any milk for him. you haven't had to watch him suffer, you can't just make that decision. it's up to me...i know you're his father but this isn't up to you."

in spite of how difficult everything has been for yoongi these past few weeks, despite how much he'd wished from the very beginning, despite his degree, despite his logical mind telling him it's a bad idea, he says:

"so let me take him."

even as he said it, he felt regret. but more than that, he felt relief. because even though his mind was screaming at him that he shouldn't do it, his body was screaming for him to grab the baby. to keep him close and walk far, far away from that agency. 

hayeon blinked, mouth agape. "take him?"

"go back to school," yoongi gnawed on his bottom lip. his heart was heavy, his throat was thickening, his mind was dulling but he felt right. "you know...take some time off. get everything where you need it to be and when you're ready...when you're ready to take care of him, you can come back."

this time she shook her head. none of it was making sense. it didn't even make sense to him. he couldn't image how it was for her, the same person who had been subjected to his constant bemoaning and declaration of his regret of them ever having met. "you off all people...why?"

"you can't give him away," he inched closer until his son was less than arm's length away. it took self restraint not to just take the baby already. "if you do, you're gonna regret it. blue moon, right? he's your kid and...i just don't want you to do this when i could very well take care of him. only for a little while, you know i have a degree to worry about. but long enough for you to get everything you need for him organized."

"so this is you wanting to do right by me? the same guy who--?"

"stop," yoongi frowned. "i know i'm trash, i get it. but i'm being honest here, i'm begging, alright? please don't give him away.")

 

time is the only constant thing in this world, yoongi thought. memories fade and mold to your liking. times that were okay are remembered as perfect and times that were a little hard become grueling battles. memory cannot account for anything. relationships either change dramatically or end all together. two people who once shared a bed became repulsed at the sight of each other. but time is the only constant. and death the only certainty. 

this outlook was his only outlook for a long time and made him more pessimistic than anything. more pessimistic than logical, more pessimistic than intelligent, more pessimistic than human. he assumes that negativity is bred from bad experiences but the difference between what it was and what your memory shapes it to become is too grandiose to consider it. 

he simply had this incomparable anguish and taehyung didn't. and then, by some miracle, yoongi didn't either.

currently asleep, he's slumped on his stomach. his mouth is hanging open as he snores lightly into the baby blue sheets. he'd been up all day and most of the night on top of having an intense week. after arranging the birthday party, confirming the attendance of over twenty children, wrapping both birthday and christmas gifts (and proceeding to stash them in hoseok's guest bedroom), decorating the house and dealing with a sulky tae because "why couldn't we have an orange christmas tree?", he was exhausted.

but even as he's snoring away, eighty percent dead to the world (the other twenty percent keeping an ear out for any shuffling from the other bedroom because taehyung had been excited all night), he knows the slumber and will only last for so long.

and at that moment, air is forced outof him in a heave-huff hybrid as a heavy weight comes down on his stomach. his eyes stay closed for a few moments after the fact in lieu of taehyung's enthusiastic "daddy! daddy! wake up!"

taehyung bounces up and down on his stomach and the pats down on his chest. yoongi blearily blinks his eyes open to see taehyung smiling brightly down at him with his green hornet pajamas. the child leans close to his face and whisper-shouts: "i'm six, daddy!"

yoongi stares for a moment before breaking out into a soft smile and pulling taehyung into a hug. "such a big boy now, huh?"

taehyung nods and giggles into his neck. "i'm old now."

"not too old for the tickle monster though--"

before yoongi can even complete the sentence, taehyung is squealing and jumping out of the bed, running away as fast as he can. yoongi takes his time getting up but when he does, he musters his best growl and follows suit. 

 

"uh huh...yes ma'am...really?...thank you!"

december 30th meant the only few times of the year that yoongi's extended family (the ones who didn't turn their backs on him and his parents for taehyung) would call to converse with the boy. wishing him a happy birthday, sending gifts, promising to visit him more (an empty vow that yoongi hated them for because taehyung often ended up waiting for no one). 

while taehyung sits at the dining table, yoongi continues to tend to breakfast. which isn't really breakfast. his mistake was sitting taehyung down and telling him that today was the day that he could eat anything he wanted as long as it was edible. so taehyung, being the five--no, six--year old that he is, asked for brownies and ice cream. 

and with a diet of 85% vegetables regularly, who was he to deny that request?

"daddy, auntie got me a truck!"

whilst pouring the hot fudge over the freshly baked brownies and the vanilla ice cream, yoongi turns back briefly. "you can drive now too? slow down, alright?"

taehyung giggles giddily as yoongi sets his plate down in front of him. he doesn't waste any time dipping his finger onto the fudge and tasting it eagerly. "can i drive your car?"

rubbing at his eyes tiredly, yoongi laughs quietly, shoulders shaking small. "ask me again in ten years."

"are you still sleepy?"

yoongi nods. "a little bit but it's a special day, you know? so i feel energized."

taehyung doesn't smile, he looks serious or as much as a six year old can appear serious. he licks the ice cream from his upper lip as he furrows his eyebrows. "daddy, if you're sleepy, we can take a nap."

"no, no," yoongi offers a reassuring smile, slaps it onto his face with deepset determination. "it's your day, okay? we don't do what i want to do on your day. we're gonna finish breakfast, you're gonna go with mr. kim so you and jimin can spend some time together--"

to be clear, jimin and taehyung have spent pretty much every waking moment together. they've been together every holiday, see each other every weekday, see each other nearly every weekend when seokjin and yoongi decide to meet up at the park. lately they've taken to shopping together and the two kids shop with them, hand in hand, picking out items that neither family needs. barely a week ago, they spent christmas with the kim family, both jimin and taehyung getting many gifts on account of hoseok (who couldn't be there because of family in gwangju).

despite how much time they spend together, it never seems to be enough. the other night when yoongi was putting taehyung to sleep, taehyung asked why jimin couldn't sleep over all the time. so yoongi figures the absolute least he can do is ensure that they get to spend majority of today together. 

"--and we'll enjoy our party."

smiling, taehyung cuts a piece of his brownie, dips it in the ice cream and holds his spoon out to yoongi. "ah."

yoongi opens wide.

 

("where is she?"

yoongi has heard taehyung cry before but never like this. this was an ear-splitting scream made from pain. taehyung screamed like he was dying, like he couldn't breathe and, with the way he'd been screaming, yoongi was convinced that he would die. his face was turning red with the amount of energy he was exerting and the minimal oxygen he was intaking. 

seeing his face like that made yoongi try anything and everything. there were a lot of bad things in the world, plenty of things to want an end to but at that moment yoongi could only think that his son crying was the worst thing.

he adjusted the screaming, squirming taehyung in his arms and side eyed hoseok. "she's not coming, man."

he looked back to taehyung, bouncing up and down to set a soothing rhythm. he couldn't look at hoseok and see what he knew would be there. because if he did, he'd have to confess that it was his decision. and he couldn't bring himself to do that just yet. "not tonight?"

yoongi shook his head. "not at all, okay? i'm trying to quiet him, i know you have a test tomorrow."

for a moment all was silent on hoseok's end with taehyung being the only fussy one in the room. that is, until, hoseok came up behind him and nudged for the baby. "did you change his diaper? did he have a nap today?"

yoongi hesitantly handed taehyung over. "yeah, he's clean and rested."

"has he eaten?" hoseok stared at him blankly when yoongi's eyes widened, his silence answering for him. "jesus christ, yoongi, did you feed him?"

feeling shamed beyond belief, yoongi hanged his head. "i didn't get him any formula."

the thick silence hung over both their heads, made a space between them that kept filling with all the things they couldn't say to each other. yoongi keeping his silence on his decision to keep taehyung, on his decision to ensure that hayeon put him down on the register, on his decision to end the life he knew. and hoseok kept silent with the lecture. he figured, with the baby screaming in his arms, a lesson in basic knowledge could wait.

"keep him here," hoseok handed taehyung back carefully. "keep rubbing his stomach, i'm gonna go get formula. and then we're gonna talk.")

 

jimin was different from taehyung. 

he was quiet and obedient and preferred not to have the spotlight on him. according to taehyung there have been many times when he would be called on in class and, when realizing taehyung didn't know the answer, jimin would whisper it into his ear. but jimin rarely ever raised his hand when questions were posed. 

he ate his lunch alone before taehyung sat with him. he preferred playing in the sandbox and building immaculate castles before taehyung took his hand and got him to play on the jungle gym. 

taehyung and jimin were worlds apart but the similarities they did have were significant enough to keep their bond strong. they both only had daddies, they both liked pororo as much as they liked the avengers (even though everyone else in their grade was in the stage of claiming that pororo was for babies), and, the most important thing, they both really loved the other's company. 

during christmas a few days ago, they spent the whole night next to each other. when they ate milk and cookies, when they opened presents, talking and laughing while seokjin and yoongi ignored the obvious.

it was weird, yoongi thought, that taehyung had become so close with someone he's only known for a few months but he figures stranger things have happened. (his college roommate becoming his best friend and co-parent for the past six years to name one).

"would you snap out of it and help me with these?" 

hoseok's whining pulls yoongi out of his thoughts immediately. the younger is looking at him practically unrecognizable under his colorful get up. suspenders, checkered shirt, hair pulled up for god only knows why, hoseok admittedly looks ideal for a kids birthday party. "what are you doing over here? you have to stand by the door, remember?"

"why though? what's wrong with your greeting quality?"

"well i didn't kick the price up from doable to gratuitous extravaganza, did i?" yoongi continues putting placemats on the tables (all of them different themes thanks to seokjin).

"you also didn't pay for it so quit whining," a stray balloon roams in front of hoseok's line of sight and he all but punches it out of the way. "seriously, what crawled up your butt?"

"nothing."

yoongi can hear hoseok heave a sigh. "you know i never told you this in fear of overstepping boundaries but you're an extremely loud thinker."

yoongi scoffs.

"seriously, your thoughts are drowning out mine."

"if you know what i'm thinking, why ask?"

"that's the thing. you think loud but incoherently. it's like white noise. so? you in the mood to give me a better signal?"

beneath his mask of coolness and incomparable elation -- make no mistake, the elation is very real but overwhelmed by dread -- yoongi has a feeling that continues to sink deeper into his gut. its presence adds a weight to him, makes him want to move sluggishly, dragging his feet against he ground. but he couldn't do that. not today of all days. 

hoseok takes a seat nextto him and holds up a finger just as yoongi is about to protest. "just a minute."

to yoongi's puzzlement, hoseok just holds a hand over his shoulder and squeezes once. there are no words exchanged, no words of wisdom to be given and taken away. no cheesy ost music playing to amplify the tenderness of the moment. no there's only a look, a knowing look, and a quiet promise. a subtle reiteration of support. and it's enough. 

before long, hoseok is standing to his feet and yoong unders a reserved sentiment of gratitude. 

hoseok just nods in response. "no rush."

 

the invitations are set for 3 pm and most of the guests start arriving around 2:30. hoseok greets and checks everyone in while yoongi accepts the birthday presents graciously, setting them on the top of the only table set aside for that very purpose. the neat pile of gifts spill overuntil yoongi was made to store the rest of them under the table. 

most families brought more than one gift, some brought more than two and, upon counting each gift individually, hoseok laughed gleefully. "see if it was just us that brought cupcakes instead of tony stark, there wouldn't be this many."

yoongi could imagine it clearly. each student begging their parents to get an extra something special in order to get on iron man's good side. and to get more cupcake visits, of course. they both smile smugly and, faintly, yoongi began to wonder if joonjae's parents were even present.

"thank you for all the presents," hoseok announced shortly after they received the text that seokjin had arrived with the birthday boy. all the kids respond excitedly. "now for the big favor: as you all can see, taehyung and jimin aren't here just yet but, according to my good friend tony, they should be here quite soon. so let's all play the quiet game for now and when they come in, i want you to cheer as loud as you can."

an enthusiastic chorus of yeses make hoseok smile broadly again. he gestures thumbs up and the silence begins. yoongi and hoseok stand on either side of the entrance, the door between them so that when the kids walk in, they won't notice them first. 

"psst," hoseok nudges his hand with a crown. "hold this."

for the nth time that day, something hoseok says leaves him confused but he just rolls with it. 

after a few moments, yoongi can hear some car doors close, hear jimin and taehyung chattering energetically, hear seokjin tells them both to take his hands, and he smiles fondly at the sound. the door opens and the kids jump up and cheer, blowing whistles and throwing confetti as the trio enters. 

yoongi knew the party couldn't really be a secret or a surprise as taehyung knew very well that he was going to have one and he knew all of his classmates would be there. but the look on his face when he sees the stream of familiar faces is anything but expecting. he's surprised, pleased, excited. he tries to hide his wide grin and pink blush behind seokjin's hand and seokjin laughs heartily as he does. 

both jimin and taehyung wear matching ear-to-ear grins with light in their eyes. yoongi finds himself staring at the way their faces seem to glow so when hoseok takes his attention away by waving his hand rapidly, his first instinct is to glare. when their eyes meet, hoseok nods toward the crown in his hands then gestures toward the boys. then, in complete synch with each other, they're crowned. 

taehyung looks shocked but mainly just more excited than he'd already been. but jimin looks completely astonished, his eyes going as big as twin plutos. seokjin, who had on an identical expression of befuddlement, nodded reassuringly and jimin broke out into the biggest smile. seokjin looked like he might have started crying but he didn't, he just looked at hoseok and smiled gratefully. 

 

(it didn't take long for yoongi to discover that he was terrible at this. he didn't know exactly how hayeon did it. it wasn't a simple case of feed him, change him, rock him to sleep. no it couldn't be that simple. sometimes taehyung cried for no reason at all for hours on end which, according to hoseok, wasn't a purposeless cry. even the tears had been pouring even after he'd had a full stomach, a clean diaper, and a nap. 

"he must miss her," hoseok reasoned during one of the baby's fits. "you know the bond between a mother and child is...it's strong."

"he's a baby," yoongi refuted, rolling his eyes. the very idea that taehyung would be crying because he missed his mother was ridiculous. but in retrospect, it made perfect sense. "he's gonna forget her if he hasn't already."

"don't be an idiot, he knows. you think he can't tell the difference between delicious, warm breast milk and disgusting formula? why do you think it took so long to coax him into drinking it?"

hoseok reached over and strokes the baby's cheek, wiping the tears streaming down his red face. yoongi gnawed the inside of his cheek as taehyung's sobs quieted at the contact. "he's just trying to give me a hard time."

at that, hoseok looks up at him momentarily and glares. "sure. the four month old baby has hatched a diabolical plan to make things difficult for you. you know what? give him to me. if all you're gonna do is bitch."

hard pressed to admit that he would, yoongi just shut his mouth and passed taehyung over. hoseok took him, being gentle and soft, ideal for the child. hoseok carried the baby over to his side of the room and sat down on his bed, rocking him slowly. to yoongi's surprise, the baby quieted down.

"are you gonna sing to him too?"

it's meant to be a sarcastic but hoseok nodded like it was a good idea. "what's the one she used to sing to him?"

"it's billie holiday, you wouldn't know it."

hoseok hummed. "okay then...timmy is an average kid that no one understands. mom and dad and vicky always giving him commands."

"you can't be serious," yoongi whined after taehyung's crying stopped completely.

"he likes it," hoseok lifted the baby away from his chest and tried to put him on his feet.

"he can't walk."

"i know, i'm not completely stupid. just wanna see how far is development is coming." taehyung, as expected, didn't support himself at all. but he smiled. it was gummy and drooly and absolutely adorable and it was the first time yoongi saw it. "well that put you in a good mood, didn't it? have you given him tummy time?"

"tummy time?"

"see," hoseok laid the baby down on his bed and started pushing his legs back. "this is why you especially should have been wearing a condom. it's like you never had to take care of a flour sack in health class. tummy time is just when you lay a baby on their stomach so they can practice shit like crawling and rolling over."

"how do you know this stuff?"

pulling and pushing at the baby's legs, hoseok shrugged all the while smiling down at taehyung. "that's how i saved up for college. babysitting. i tell people it was a paid internship but that's because i'm full of shit."

"if you could watch your language, that'd be terrific," he only gets a scoff in return. "what are you doing to him?"

"stretching," hoseok answered in a monotone that's peaked with annoyance. "please get a damn parenting book.")

 

the cake looks like it belongs to taehyung. and that isn't just his fatherly instinct speaking as it is anyone who knew the very least about taehyung could tell it was his. firstly, seokjin didn't bother trying to make a traditional cake. there were no squares or circles to be found. no, the cake was in the shape of a star, a rather large one at that. it had three laters, one layer white, one layer orange, and the other layer bright green. the icing was designed to resemble the milky way and the assortment of candles were mismatched. one clunky number, one traditional candle, one shaped like a dinosaur because taehyung often got bored with repetition.

it was a masterpiece and, upon seeing it, taehyung gawked openly before tugging at yoongi's sleeve. "daddy, can we take a picture of it?" 

yoongi took twenty. just in case. 

taehyung jumped down from his lap to run around to seokjin and hug him tightly. he squeezes at his legs for two seconds before seokjin leans down and squeezes back, a smile of his own warming his expression. taehyung presses a kiss to the older's cheek and seokjin returns it. the gesture is so natural between them, like they'd known each other forever, like taehyung had grown up calling him uncle. or maybe something even closer to home. 

"okay, it's time to blow out the candles."

"wait, wait," taehyung lets go of seokjin and takes his hand instead. "mr. kim sit next to daddy so i can sit next to jimin," he lets go of seokjin's hand and takes jimin's. "come on."

the two kids round the table and take their seats which happens to be the laps of their fathers. taehyung recaptures jimin's hand in his own and nods before they both turn to the cake and blow. 

later, when they're cleaning up the party and taking out the last of the gifts, after all the children and adults have left, yoongi asks what the crowns were about. he's admittedly curious about the joint effort of blowing out the candles but that one seems like something the kids would have planned together.

"oh," hoseok smiles. "we talked about it. you know how jimin's never had a birthday party? tae found out and asked me to help him share this one."

 

"you can have this one and this one and this one--"

"no, i don't want it."

"why not? it's your birthday presents."

"but it's your birthday."

"but i wanna share."

"no."

"yes."

"no!"

"yes!"

"boys," seokjin stops them when he kneels down in between them on the living room floor. yoongi watches from the kitchen, leaning against the door frame. "why are we fighting?"

"we're not fighting," taehyung says quickly, wide eyed and worried like if they had been fighting, seokjin would take jimin back home. "i just wanna share my presents with him. but he won't take them."

it's obvious to anyone who has seen seokjin with kids that he knows how to defuse any situation including minuscule spats. he seems to be a pro at handling anything from nightmares to classmates who won't share. but by the way his eyebrows shoot up, it's also obvious that he's never handled a situation like this one. he looks at jimin for a moment before turning back to taehyung.

"but these are all yours, you don't have to share. did jimin ask for them?"

taehyung shakes his head. "i want to."

"why?"

"because he's my best friend and i want him to be happy."

seokjin's bottom lip quivers and he bites it hard while his eyes begin to sparkle. "oh...yoongi, is it--?"

"it's fine," yoongi nods. "if taehyung insists and if jimin accepts, of course."

"jimin?"

after a moment of consideration and bite lip identical to his dad's, jimin nods. "okay."

"okay," seokjin nods and smiles sweetly at the kids. he places a kiss on each of their heads and thanks taehyung before getting up and rushing back into the kitchen. 

yoongi can hear the children start up again, taehyung telling jimin to pick out the ones he wants. he turns to seokjin who has proceeded wrapping up the leftovers. "you alright?"

with his back still facing yoongi, seokjin nods shortly. the way his shoulders seem to close in on themselves tells yoongi enough.

"it's okay if you aren't," yoongi steps closer. "just...to put that out there."

another nod.

then he turns around continuing to busy himself with the food. but soon enough he stops. "i'm sorry."

"you don't need to be."

and then the tears fall and yoongi's body responds quicker than his brain. before it's completely registered, he walks forward and hugs seokjin. it crosses boundaries, it's too intimate, it's a gesture reserved for someone else, yoongi thinks, but he doesn't let go. seokjin apologizes again. "it's okay."

"it's not that it's a bad thing," seokjin murmurs into his neck, sniffling. "it's just...i feel guilty, i feel..."

as seokjin trails off, yoongi hugs tighter, more fiercely. "i know. it's alright."

neither one of them is sure how long they hold onto each other but it feels like it ends too soon. seokjin would tell him it was a warmth that he'd been deprived of for too long and he was practically feeding from it. yoongi wouldn't admit it to anyone, not even to himself, that he wasn't ready to let go. 

 

"daddy," taehyung says tiredly, much later when he's being tucked into bed hours after the usual time. but yoongi wanted to let this be his day and that meant he got to sleep when he wore himself out. "tell me a story."

"of course," yoongi turns away to glance at the small bookshelf, eyes scanning titles like the giving tree and if you give a mouse a cookie. "what are you in the mood for?"

"not a book," taehyung sighs while playing with yoongi's hand. "tell me when i came."

"like when you were born?"

taehyung nods. "since it's my birthday."

"okay..." hayeon never told him the story of taehyung's birth. or maybe she did but he didn't want to listen. he clears his throat. "how about i tell you about the very first birthday you had? is that okay?"

pulling yoongi's hand closer, prying his fingers apart and pushing them together, taehyung pouts. "but what about the day i came?"

"can we save it for another day?"

"why can't i hear it now?"

because i wasn't there, yoongi thinks regretfully. instead he crawls in next to taehyung and brushes his hair back gently. "okay. can i tell you how i felt when you came? would that do?"

"okay."

"alright," yoongi settles into the small bed and holds onto taehyung's hands. "the biggest thing i felt was fear. i was so, so scared."

"of me?"

"kind of, yeah."

"why?" taehyung looks earnest and concerned, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "what did i do?"

"nothing. i was just afraid that i wouldn't...that i couldn't be a good daddy. and i knew right away that you deserved a good one," yoongi kisses taehyung's palm and blows a raspberry for good measure. taehyung giggles. "after feeling afraid, i felt really, really happy. happy because you were so wonderful, so beautiful. and i knew i wanted to keep you with me."

taehyung smiled and reached up to place his tiny hand over yoongi's cheek. "are you still scared?"

"sometimes."

"but you're good," he pats his cheek softly. "you're a good daddy."

Chapter Text

(rest had become a thing of the past. it was impossible to get any kind of proper sleep or to have a single moment of relaxation. because when taehyung was taking his nap, yoongi had to cram in study time. being a college student had been hard, had been defined by sleepless nights, constant caffeine, and the occasional breakdown. parenting...

parenting was harder. parenting meant feeding, meant naptime, meant comforting, meant not sleeping until the baby slept. it meant always being there, always tending, and, even when everything was fine, always worried. 

while taehyung slept, yoongi studied with high wired and nervous. he'd turn from his textbooks to taehyung over and over. he was afraid of everything. afraid that taehyung, who at the time could barely roll over, would somehow fall off the bed anyway. he was afraid that taehyung would be lying on his stomach, shift positions very slightly and suffocate. he was consumed by fear and anxiety and it never went away.

the key part of the job title, restlessness, made things hazy and all too vivid at the same time. sometimes it felt like time would skip and he'd have to fill in the gaps. like one day when he was certain he'd fallen asleep with taehyung lying on his chest, the both of them breathing softly in slumber. 

but when he woke from a soft nudge to his shoulder and found his chest oddly light, he panicked. he sprang up looking around the room frantically before his eyes found hoseok holding the baby and eyeing him warily. 

"jesus christ," he sighed as he fell back on the bed. "don't do that."

"do what?"

yoongi didn't answer the question. he just swallowed hard and rubbed his eyes, an attempt to rid himself of his incessant fatigue. "i thought he fell."

"you missed your test," hoseok replied instead. he walked to yoongi's desk and grabbed the small blanket there, draping it over taehyung who was still sound asleep in his arms. 

the two of them had gotten really good at not saying the things they wanted to say and at avoiding any queries posed. it had been a strange time for them both, a weird transitional period and a strange shift in their relationship that neither one of them had particularly understood. 

"test?"

the hoseok before taehyung would have made a remark on yoongi's implicit laziness and unwillingness to commit to anything. but the hoseok at that moment just sat down on his bed. "i thought you were gonna get a babysitter. for class."

yoongi pushed himself up from his bed as the realization hits him. he did have a class that day and he had a very important exam. and he wasn't sure how he'd forgotten about it. he curses internally. "i can't afford a babysitter."

"then why'd you tell me you could?"

" 'cause i wanted you to get off my back," yoongi stood and stretched, already preparing what he was going to say to his professor. start with an apology, finish with a plead. 

what he said was an insult and should have been properly met with an identical insult or an outburst. but hoseok was gentle during this time. he'd been quietly understanding and patient and it was frustrating. it felt, to yoongi, akin to being treated as a child.

"i talked to professor jang and she said you can retake the exam, no ramificatons."

midway through slipping on a pullover, yoongi freezes momentarily before pulling all the way down. he grunted out a thank you that was met with silence and a small moan from the baby. 

 

when the time came around for yoongi to retake the exam, hoseok volunteered to babysit despite the obvious discomfort in his face. neither of them had admitted it but they didn't like being left alone with the baby at all. yoongi felt bad about leaving him there since he wasn't hoseok's responsibility but it did nothing since hoseok felt guilty when even considering not lending a helping hand. 

professor jang had, based on whatever hoseok had told him, been uncharacteristically gentle and supportive, even going as far to grade the assessment right away. yoongi lingered in the large classroom for a little while before he was handed his exam and given a sad smile. 

the glaring 81% written in red sharpie taunted him with its existence. that alone said so many things. it said for him to say goodbye to his future, to reconsider his decision to take on a father role that he didn't really want, to access a flux capacitor and go back in time. 

"this is...?" yoongi choked up on anger and disappointment, his words dying in his throat. as hard as college was, as hard as med school was, he never got anything lower than an a minus. he sacrificed himself, slaved for hours, tortured his well-being for the fleeting gratification of a good grade. he didn't get these kind of grades. 

"it's okay," professor jang patted his shoulder. "you're not a bad student, i know. you're just going through a rough time but you'll get through it."

his shoulder was squeezed one last time before he was left in the classroom, stewing in self-pity.

 

he'd stormed into the dorm room loud enough to wake the baby to a crying scream to hoseok's surprise and disappointment. "what the hell?"

yoongi pushed aside his things, ripping his belongings from the baby's necessities. he kept trying to detangle his jacket from the baby's blankie but it's like they were refusing to be separated. he shook the material again and again until frustration took the better of him and he caved, sitting down on his bed with his head in his hands. 

hoseok stood at that moment, bouncing on the balls of his feet to try and quell the crying. it was something he did often, taking care of taehyung even when he didn't have to. later, after yoongi had been trying to get his shit together, he would ask why that was and hoseok would tell him plain and simple that he didn't trust him. "since you're done with your tantrum, do you wanna explain?"

yoongi lifted his head and looked up at the baby. he'd stopped crying and was instead gnawing on his small fist, staring at yoongi in wonder. like he could sense his mood and was wondering what he could do to fix it. "he's out of here."

"what?"

"i can't take care of him," yoongi shook his head and stood again, beginning to pack taehyung's belongings into his bag. "i need to...i can't take care of him and...i mean, if i'm trying to take care of him--"

"you're so stupid," hoseok frowned and taehyung looked at him. "you're so fucking stupid."

"hey--"

"the entire time she's pregnant you tell her to get rid of him. when she has him, you claim you can take better care of him. and now that you have him, you wanna dump him too?"

"i'm not dumping him," yoongi zipped up the bag and stilled. as he caught his breath, he let the idea he was having sink in further, letting it permeate his entire being. "i can't do that."

"then what?"

"i've got to...i need to tell my parents. i need help.")

 

"alright, you ready?"

taehyung nods, his hair brushing against yoongi's skin. he's sitting in yoongi's lap, yoongi's arms around his own, guiding his hands. 

yoongi starts on the shoestrings, getting a tight grip. one string is neon orange and the other one is neon green per taehyung's request. all the parenting books said having different colors would allow kids to focus more on the technique. so yoongi looked for colors and taehyung jumped at neon. "there are two primary methods of tying shoes, which one would you like to learn?"

"the one you do."

"okay," he starts the process slowly. "over, under, around and through. meet mr. bunny rabbit, pull and through."

they go over it three times more before taehyung volunteers to give it a shot on his own. yoongi watches him closely, keeping an eye for any mistake but prepared to be gentle when pointing them out. taehyung pulls over and under and around and through but the knot doesn't hold. he tries one more time before huffing and sitting back against yoongi's chest.

"do you wanna try again?"

taehyung shakes his head and yoongi doesn't ask again. as he slips on his velcro sneakers, yoongi squeezes him, presses a kiss to his head, and reassures him of a job well done. 

 

winter sounds like lonely owl hoots echoing through silent nights and penetrating blankets of silence. winter sounds like the sizzle, crack, and snap of firewood humming a weak roar against the chill. winter sounds like the high pitched whistling of kettles, screaming for the likes of hot chocolate, earl grey tea, and makeshift lattes. and, much to taehyung's disdain, porridge. 

this winter was beginning to also sound like taehyung's ire and discouragement. 

"but it's mine," he says with a pout, watery eyes marking his sorrow. 

"taehyung, i thought you'd be happy," yoongi let the carseat sink, hanging low in his grip. the red and blue rockets the seat was designed with sag with a despondency only nostalgia can conceive. "you're a big boy now, right?"

"yeah."

"and big boys don't have to sit in carseats anymore. it's the law, you know?"

"but what's gonna happen to my seat?" 

"i dunno."

taehyung is looking up at him with the kind of sadness and heartbreak that made yoongi do things like rent out a bouncy house and buy three different versions of the same toy. "well...can i sit in the front with you then?"

yoongi smiles and kneels down to taehyung's level. "you're big for sure but you're not that big just yet."

an unmistakable quivering of taehyung's bottom lip go straight to yoongi's heart and he distracts himself by tightening the child's coat. he pulls the beanie down further on his head and presses the back of his hand to his cheek. they'd been standing outside by the car for about five minutes which is longer than yoongi would have preferred in such cold but taehyung couldn't drop the matter of his seat. 

yoongi almost wanted to say that taehyung didn't put up such a fuss about his first seat but he knows logically that taehyung doesn't even remember it. this seat, on the other hand was his. taehyung had picked it out when he was four years old and he had some great experiences with it (some bad ones too). 

he'd had his first taste of mochi while sitting in that seat. he and yoongi had their first big fight in that seat -- an intense argument about why ice cream shouldn't be a part of daily consumption. his second best friend (yoongi maintains that he is the first) sat in that seat on the way to his first visit to their house. 

yoongi could understand the hesitance at giving it up. "okay, i'll tell you what. we can keep the seat in the car and you can sit in it like you used to. we can wait until you're ready, okay?"

taehyung wiped his cheek and smiled. "okay."

"alright. now let's please get in the car before we get frost bite."

 

(the train ride down was the longest one that yoongi ever experienced. he'd been back home from seoul on vacation countless times and usually the trip was quick. quick enough for him to take a nap and enjoy catching up on new music. 

but when he went down with taehyung that weekend, taking advantage of an early weekend, every second lasted an eternity. it took forever for the train to depart and yet it happened all too quickly.

hayeon's parents -- her entire family -- had disowned her when she told them she was pregnant. yoongi, after making his decision, read message boards from single parents and found a consistent theme of exclusion. one woman lost her job and her parents' support after she had a kid out of wedlock. message after message. 

and these were people who had good relationships with their parents. yoongi couldn't fathom what would happen when he told his. they'd probably kill him and put taehyung in adoption home anyway. 

 

he arrived too soon and dragged his feet the whole way. taehyung had been oddly quiet for majority of the trip and only let out the occasional squeal when a passerby smiled at him or made a silly face for his amusement. yoongi had to stop several times for the ahjusshis and ahjummas who wanted to pinch taehyung's cheek. 

yoongi had forgotten the wholesomeness and solidarity that existed in small towns. it was completely different from the flagrant disregard and muted aggression that happened in bigger cities like seoul. what struck him as more odd was the unfamiliar sense of pride that bubbled up when people acknowledged taehyung. and especially the strangeness of feeling the slightest bit of concern when a stranger held onto taehyung for a little longer than what he considered acceptable. 

even with all the stops he ended up making, he was there on his parents' door step in an instant. he stood there for a while, taehyung cooing in his arms, and seriously considered turning back. it wouldn't be a wasted trip, he started convincing himself. and he could make the school/child raising thing work. he still hadn't worked up the courage to knock on the door when it opened.

his mother smiled at him, bursting with the joy of a surprise visit. his parents may not have been completely loving of his decision to leave them behind to pursue a higher education. he knew that wasn't the case, he knew he was primarily at fault for the way his father started to look at him but he was twenty years old, stupid, and inconsiderate. 

her smile didn't fade but it changed when she saw taehyung, became more exaggerated, more animated. "and who's this?"

she reached out and poked taehyung's tummy which he reciprocated with a gummy smile. her own smile widened at that and she tickled him a little more while yoongi's throat constricted to a point that he couldn't breathe properly. his chest tightened and his palms went clammy, he could even hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears. and once he opened the box, he knew it could never be closed.

"he's your grandson.")

Chapter Text

(when yoongi was eight years old, he broke one of his father's old jazz records. he'd been told to stay out of that room, the office or playroom or whatever where he's dad tended to retreat in the late hours of the evening but curiosity was a key segment of his dna. he went looking for adventure where no adventure was to be found and ended up damaging the record when he ignorantly mistook it for a frisbee disk. [in his defense he hadn't been introduced formally to the vinyl world].

upon discovering his favorite album in jagged edged halves, his father stared at him. yoongi expected to be told to get a switch -- his father never asked him to but his grandma often did whenever he was the slightest bit disobedient -- or to get a nice long lecture. instead, his father just continued to stare, eyes unreadable, before heaving a sigh and walking away. 

the two of them never had a particularly close relationship. his father was there, always there at the dinner table, always there to get yoongi through school, simply there. but he was never exactly present. his mind always seemed to be some place else and, even at such a young age, yoongi knew they didn't have a connection. 

his father wasn't a bad person at all. just someone who couldn't connect with his son. when yoongi needed advice or assistance with homework, it was his mother who came to his aid. it was his mother who sang old kim hyun sik ballads to him when he couldn't sleep. so it had been really surprising when, a few hours after arriving at his parents' in daegu, his father took him into his retreat room to talk.

it had been silent for a while. his father sat in his chair, clasping and unclasping his hands together while yoongi's eyes moved with newton's cradle atop the oak desk. he could hear taehyung babbling from a distance, hear his mother's ebullient tone, hear his father's disappointment.

"i apologize," he broke the silence. "i was stupid and reckless and made a mistake that's going to cost me the rest of my life. i know that and i'm sorry that i've...disgraced you like this. i'm still going to finish college. i'm going to finish what i started and i will take care of my responsibilities. please forgive me." 

his father watched him but didn't speak. he shifted in his seat, propped up his arm to cup his cheek, and watched him. 

yoongi sighed. it was happening. he was going to be rejected like hayeon's family rejected her. he was going to have to take care of his baby alone. "dad..."

"do you remember when your mother and i got married?" 

hearing his father's voice -- coarse like gravel -- made him revert back to being a kid. being a kid and knowing his father wouldn't do anything but still be terrified that he might. "the stories, yes."

"what's the story?'

"uh," yoongi licked his lips and tried to recall the story. recall the hitch of disappointment in his mother's voice and the undeniable tone of quiet acceptance. "mom...her sister and cousin got her ready. you guys couldn't afford a dress so they bought this knock-off on the street market. some american's prom dress that ended up here for some reason. she couldn't get her hair to stay in curls and she was crying because of her weight. she'd told me she was so stressed about it that she overate or something. anyway, she walked out to go down the aisle and you weren't there. you were late? something...i can't remember."

his father nodded. "that's 8 out of 10. i showed up. obviously. you want to know why i was late?"

yoongi didn't. not really. he kind of just wanted his father to get to the point, to kick him out, to take the family name so he could stop stewing in anxiety. "okay."

"the same reason your mother was crying about her weight. she wasn't overeating, yoongi, she was carrying you. we were the only ones who knew. as soon as we found out we rushed the wedding so everything would be okay for you and for us," his father paused to chuckle, a fond smile of blissful remembrance coming upon him. "you were so small when you were born, we lied and told everyone you were just premature. no one knows this but us three now."

yoongi's throat had gone dry like he'd been on a two month long fast. he could barely swallow but when he finally forced himself to, the confession settled into him. 

"i didn't try," his father started back up. "but i really wanted to keep you from making the same mistakes that i made. make no mistake though: you were not the mistake. the mistake was that i couldn't be a good father to you because i was never ready. i'm telling you this because i want to know: do you intend on keeping this child? even though the mother is out of the picture?"

without hesitation, he nodded wordlessly. his father nodded in understanding. like he'd expected such an answer.

"then you need to be ready to give up a lot," he said. "you need to be willing to give up everything.")

 

 

hoseok is a sight. 

sprawled out on the couch -- as if it was his couch and as if it was his apartment -- with his legs spread obnoxiously, he's got jimin and taehyung sitting on either side of him. they're both half sitting in his lap, eyeing him suspiciously wearing identical scowls. 

"i don't make the rules," hoseok says again before looking to yoongi for help. "tell them i don't make the rules."

yoongi backs away closer to the kitchen so he can check up on dinner. lately he's been watching a plethora of short youtube cooking shows and diy time lapses for assistance. his first choice would have been to ask seokjin for help but he knows that wouldn't be fair to ask someone with two jobs and a six year old to take time out of their precious minutes of relaxation to help an idiot like himself. especially when they'd already slaved away for weeks making massive entree servings and a beautiful cake for your own six year old's birthday party. 

but that didn't faze yoongi because his only goal is to make a dinner that will make taehyung and jimin look at him like he's iron man of the chef comic universe. 

"this doesn't involve me," he crosses his arms but doesn't leave completely. the view is just too amusing to pass up.

the kids turn back to hoseok. 

"why can't we see it?"

"it looks so cool!"

"why don't you like star wars?"

hoseok holds up a defensive hand, his face twisting up like he'd just been slapped. "hold on, no one said i didn't like star wars, okay? i love star wars."

"then why you say we can't watch it?" taehyung asks yet again and jimin stares on just as intense. 

"because you guys have not even seen the original!" flailing his arms in a fashion similar to the inflatable tube man, hoseok makes a show out of overreacting to get a smile on their faces. "how could you appreciate the appearances of han solo and princess leia if you haven't seen the original?"

jimin groans loudly and throws himself backwards onto the sofa, flopping like a fish out of water. taehyung copies the movement and, pretty soon, they're all having a pseudo-attack.

at that moment, yoongi checks his watch and all but runs into the kitchen to prepare the coffee. seokjin would be clocking out around now, getting ready to make his way to the apartment to pick up jimin. the two of them had settled an arrangement so that the older could stop throwing away money on the thirteen year old babysitter. she was excellent from what seokjin told him, always super kind to jimin and making sure he's eating well. but it just wasn't something that seokjin could fit into his budget. 

so yoongi told him that he's always willing to watch jimin, something he'd told seokjin ages ago but something he only recently decided to heed to. it was good for jimin to be around taehyung and to have that time to be a kid. and it was good for taehyung to have someone with an equally high amount of energy to play with.

win-win.

 

a short time later, after he's in the final stages of completing his stew and after he's prepared seokjin's cup of coffee just the way he likes it (cream, sugar, dash of cinnamon), the doorbell rings. he would say he didn't sprint to the door but he'd be lying. recently he and seokjin had become more relaxed around each other, almost to the point where yoongi didn't have to have a drawn out debate with himself before confiding. 

being with seokjin was different from being with hoseok in that the tribulations of parenthood were shared be it more comedic mistakes over grocery shopping trips and playtime at the park. for someone who has been through and still goes through such trying things, seokjin can be incredibly funny when comfortable enough. he exuded a warmth that yoongi and everyone he knew basked in. 

when yoongi opens the door, however, that all too recognizable of concern is branded into seokjin's face. "what's wrong?"

"nothing," seokjin puts a smile on and lets himself in. "coffee?"

"in the kitchen," yoongi watches as seokjin bends over the back of the couch to kiss the top of both jimin and taehyung's heads. his walk is brisk and quick when he turns into the kitchen and scoops the mug that has undoubtedly become his from the counter. 

one of hoseok's better talents in college had been being able to perceive at the very least a mood shift and at most the density of quiet emotional malady in individuals. so yoongi isn't surprised when hoseok looks at him with a raised eyebrow in confusion to which he responds with a nod. 

he finds seokjin guzzling down his drink. his scorching hot coffee to be specific. "what's wrong?"

seokjin gulps the rest and sets his cup down. "nothing."

yoongi clicks his tongue which makes seokjin look up. yoongi twists his face up which makes the signature seokjin smile spread slowly. "c'mon..."

a moment passes, the smile fades, and seokjin beckons him closer. as yoongi trails forward, seokjin tilts his head to make sure the kids are still watching tv and arguing with hoseok. 

"i might have a little trouble making rent this month, that's all," he holds up a hand. "it's nothing, really. just...it's fine."

"how short are you?"

"nothing i can't handle."

in the short history of their relationship, yoongi managed to get seokjin to accept dinner. he managed to get him to accept free babysitting, free school pick-ups, and after school care. sometimes even weekend care when one of his jobs called him in. but one thing he never had the nerve to offer, the one thing he figured he couldn't get seokjin to accept, was money. 

almost as if he could pick up on yoongi's brainwaves, seokjin shook his head. "i can take care of it."

"but i can help."

in all the ways that seokjin was screwed over, yoongi seemed to be blessed. where seokjin working two regular jobs -- three if you count the off and on seasonal one, six if you count the small side jobs like listening to at least 30 seconds of a song for 30 cents --, yoongi had one at home where he could work his own hours. where seokjin had to pay monthly rent, yoongi, with the help of his parents and the money that was supposed to go to his college tuition, put down a jeonse and didn't have to worry about anything. he wasn't rich by any means but he had the money to help out. 

"i know you can. i also know i can take care of it."

not a chance in hell. yoongi bites his lip and nods. "if you need it though..."

"i won't."

 

(every day yoongi wakes taehyung up, gets him out of bed, gets him cleaned up, gets him dressed, gets him fed. every day those actions became less and less conscious, more like undriven routine. yoongi would cherish every moment with taehyung but he did take those actions for granted. 

that was until seokjin shared a story with him one evening when the kids had fallen asleep while putting together a puzzle in taehyung's bedroom. the two found them sprawled on their stomachs, faces slack against the carpet, and the puzzle not even half way completed. 

not wanting them to get carpet burn, they moved them to the bed until seokjin was ready to go. yoongi remembers seokjin watching them after he'd tucked them in and when they left the room to continue chatting, he spoke. 

"it took me so long to get jimin a bed to sleep in," he murmured with a distant voice. a voice so far gone from that moment, so removed, and distracted. "he still doesn't have one of his own but...he has a bed."

yoongi had been to seokjin's apartment only a few times but in all those times he never saw anything other than the kitchen and the living room. but he knew, somehow, that there was only one bedroom. "the long and winding road always ends, right?"

seokjin smiled. he liked that song, yoongi knew. "yeah...one night when jimin was two, i couldn't get us a hotel room. that's what i did before, i worked during the day and got a room at night. saved what i could, you know? i had the money but the rooms were all booked for something, i forget. so we spent the entire night riding the bus around the city and he slept in my arms," seokjin paused like he's done. "and i cried the whole time."

at that moment, yoongi didn't know what to say. he still wasn't good at comforting and words evaded him during heightened moments of helplessness.

then seokjin laughed. "that shitty apartment was the best thing that happened to us.")

 

for some reason, yoongi decided to add another side job to his plate. he wasn't pressed for cash nor did he need the experience but there's never been anything wrong with a little extra money. his new job was transcribing medical journals. he's listening to the recordings and trying to type out diligent sentences as quickly as he can when he hears it. it's a small murmuring, a small hum, a slight moan.

he plucks out one earbud and tilts his head toward the hallway, waiting for it. when it sounds again, he immediately leaves to rush to taehyung's bedroom. he should be asleep and yoongi completely expects to find him playing but he instead finds the boy lying on his bed as he was left. except he's in the fetal position and moaning in pain.

yoongi sits down on the side of the bed and presses the back of his hand against taehyung's forehead. it's hot and clammy and it makes yoongi's chest burn. "what is it? what happened?"

"my stomach hurts," taehyung writhes. that's when yoongi notices the tears. his small body convulses in tandem with his sobs. 

"okay, okay," yoongi runs a hand through his hair and pulls hard enough to throw his thoughts into overdrive. he wasn't really prepared for this as embarrassing as it was. since the early case pertussis, yoongi was anal about taehyung's health and, by some miracle, he hadn't been sick in ages. that was with countless outbreaks at his school and even exposure to yoongi's old colds. "wait, i'll be right back. okay?"

parenting books had warned him of things like this. every single one that he read had a separate chapter on illnesses and how to take care of them he knew what to do, he had the tools, but the not having needed to use them was making him nervous. he nabbed the thermometer, a cold cloth, and a glass of water.

"i'm back," he set the supplies down on the bedside table. "first things first. take a sip for me."

taehyung opens his mouth when cold glass is pressed against his lips, yoongi propping his head up gently. he takes a sip, one smaller than what would have quelled yoongi's concerns. refusing to take anymore, taehyung lies down flat, still groaning in pain. 

"everything will be okay, i promise," yoongi instructs taehyung to open his mouth one more time for the thermometer. once it's in, taehyung purses his lips shut. "you're not scared, are you?"

taehyung shakes his head, forehead creased and eyes shimmering. 

"good. because i'm not either. you know when you get sick, the germs are like those monsters from the movies. they try to scare you so they can capture you completely, right? so you've got to be brave and--oh, shoot."

yoongi had been soaking the cloth in cold water and squeezing out the excess before he checked the thermometer. he sinks into himself at the same time that his body begins to ache. 

"okay," he sets the thermometer down and smiles at taehyung. he's positive it isn't convincing but that doesn't stop him from sporting it. "we're gonna take a trip to doctor suh, alright? no big deal, just gonna drop in to visit her. sound good?"

"i don't want to go to the hospital."

yoongi wraps the blanket around taehyung and lifts him up, carrying him and trying his best not to hold him too close. "we're gonna be okay though, remember? there's nothing to be afraid of."

on the way to the hospital, taehyung's sobs and heaves gave way to him throwing up in the car. he kept crying and it took all of yoongi not to stop the car so he could hold him. but getting to the hospital was imperative so all he could offer was the reassurance that everything was going to be okay. even if he wasn't entirely sure himself.

 

 

doctor suh wasn't in which was a shame because she knew taehyung's health history better than any other doctor there. she was their regular. it was her who soothed taehyung when he broke his arm and yoongi trusted her with his well-being. these doctors, not so much.

their confusion is understandable but unprofessional. because yoongi did walk in with vomit on his shirt carrying taehyung who also had the front of his own shirt slathered in it. yoongi was hysterical when trying to explain what happened partly because he didn't really know himself. 

the day had been normal. taehyung went to school, jimin came over, jimin left, the two of them had dinner which taehyung didn't finish. he crawled into bed earlier than usual after saying he was tired. only a few hours later and all hell broke loose. 

"i dunno," yoongi took his first breath after explaining everything he could at the fastest speed possible. the quicker they could help taehyung, the better. "he threw up on the way here, he's been complaining about stomach aches, he's got a damn fever--"

"alright," the doctor, who yoongi doesn't know and hasn't made the greatest first impression, grazes his arm with a hand. "calm down."

"don't," yoongi's voice comes out hard and intense, vulgar without being profane. he looked to taehyung who was now placed on the observation bed and still writhing. yoongi leans closer to the doctor and lowers his voice. "don't tell me to fucking calm down. tell me my kid is going to be okay. do something about what's going on. i'm telling you--"

"we're going to observe him," the doctor continues. "we're going to figure out and we're going to get back to you. most likely, it's nothing to worry about. probably just constipation or gas, don't get too worked up."

probably well aware that it was better for his safety to not be in yoongi's presence, the doctor leaves the room after sending a nurse in to do his bidding. 

 

yoongi stays by taehyung's side, holding his hand and pressing desperate kisses to his knuckles. even when the nurses ask him to distance himself, he doesn't. tearing away from taehyung at a time when he needs him most wasn't a mistake yoongi was going to make. not again. 

Chapter Text

steam thickens and comes out in puffs as yoongi lathers up with taehyung's strawberry shortcake bubble bath soap. as he massages the sickly sweet scent of it into his skin, he mentally writes the next shopping list. 

soap -- the adult kind, vitamins, toilet paper--

"daddy?"

yoongi opens his eyes, frowning as he does. he woke up exceptionally early today or, more realistically, he hadn't been able to sleep a full night since bringing taehyung home from the hospital. when he got up from bed, it was five in the morning and taehyung was sound asleep. so it's safe to say he's a little put off on hearing taehyung's voice as he's certain he's only been in the shower for five minutes. "why are you up? something wrong?"

"i wanted to see you."

"tae, it's five in the morning."

"but i have to wake up early," taehyung counters and yoongi can hear him shuffling in his slippers to take a seat on the toilet. "i need to show you something."

for a while yoongi can't say anything and the sound of the water bouncing off the tub responds for him. "tae," he pauses again. "it's five in the morning."

"i know--"

"on a weekend," yoongi adds.

"but it's important!"

yoongi nods to himself, squirts some of taehyung's shampoo on his palm, and shuts his eyes before massaging it into his scalp. "on a scale of one to ten?"

"a thousand!"

"okay, if you can count to a thousand, i'll come out and you can tell me."

"that's not fair," taehyung whines loudly. yoongi can almost see him pouting and kicking his feet against the toilet base. "it's really important and i have to be first."

scratching at his scalp and rinsing everything out, yoongi reads through another mental list of things taehyung could be talking about. if he were totally and completely honest with himself and the occupation of parenthood, he would say that 90% of the time he doesn't know what taehyung is talking about. sometimes it's a television show, sometimes it's classmates at school who have the coolest action figures and plush toys. it's always hard to keep up with especially when it's five in the morning. 

"daddy, do you know what day is today?"

"i'm trying," yoongi manages, shutting the water off as he speaks. nothing comes up and he pulls the towel down off the rack, wrapping it around his waist. "i don't remember, why don't you tell me?"

when he opens the shower curtain, taehyung is there in his pajamas and new scooby doo slippers, sitting on the closed toilet with his legs swinging. he smiles. taehyung doesn't. instead, he crosses his arms and shakes his head in disappointment. "it's your birthday. happy birthday."

"oh."

"you forgot?"

"well," yoongi stops in front the sink and rinses off taehyung's toothbrush. after sliding his toothpaste on, he kicks out his stool and offers the brush to taehyung. "there's been a lot going on, right? it just slipped my mind."

"that's not fair," taehyung steps up to the stool and starts to brush his teeth. "you remembered my birthday."

"because your birthday is a national holiday," yoongi starts brushing his and their reflections move in synch once again. "it's the most important day of the year."

"more important than christmas?"

"christmas, halloween, white day, you name it."

taehyung spits. "yours is important too. are we gonna eat cake today?"

"you know," yoongi offers taehyung a small cup of water to rinse with. "seeing as you've only just recovered from being sick, i don't think the first big meal you're going to have is a sugar feast."

"but i feel good!"

"yeah? and you know what? we're gonna try to keep it that way. because you scared me half to death and i'd like you to be in tip top shape."

taehyung hums, letting the water pour into another small cup. when yoongi spits, taehyung offers the cup. "does that mean exercise?"

"soon it will," yoongi pauses to gurgle before spitting once more. "but right now it means soup, vitamin c, and bed rest."

they both leave the bathroom, taehyung trailing after him as they enter yoongi's bedroom. as if the only thing giving him energy was the need to wish yoongi a happy birthday, taehyung yawned as soon as he sat down at the foot of the bed.

"are we doing anything today?" he asks. "are we having a party?"

"uh, no."

yoongi slips farther into the closet to change into some sweats. he pulls on the thickest pullover he has which, to his luck, is not thomas the train themed. he grabs two beanies before exiting. 

"is it because you used all the party stuff for mine?" taehyung looks up at him guiltily as he pulls the beanie down over his head. "we can take it back, right?"

"no, no," yoongi pulls his beanie down. he pulls back the covers of his bed and pulls them back up when taehyung makes himself comfortable enough. he slides in next to him. "it has nothing to do with your party, i would never try to take that back. i just don't want a party that much, okay? daddy only likes birthday parties when they belong to you."

taehyung blinks slowly, eyelids drooping deeper each time. next to him, yoongi pulls the covers tighter around them. "why do we have to go back to bed?"

"because we're both falling asleep anyway," yoongi settles closer and shuts his eyes, presses a quick kiss to the top of taehyung's head. "and because it's five in the morning."

 

("it's not your fault."

"yes, it is."

the white tiles of the hospital floor began to be dizzying enough that yoongi he was starting to feel nauseous. his stomach swirled and his head swam but he kept staring. he figured that if taehyung was feeling the same nausea and headaches because of him, he didn't deserve any better. but he couldn't stare at the pattern forever because he couldn't resist looking up to check on taehyung every few seconds. 

hoseok bumped a shoulder with his. "if you start feeling sorry for yourself, i swear to god--"

"i'm not," yoongi looked back down at the floor and fell into the dizzying trap once more. "i don't. but...fuck, i knew i was shitty father but i never thought i'd nearly kill my kid."

next to him, hoseok shrugged. "if marvin sr. could intentionally shoot his son over an insurance policy, i'm sure you could accidentally give yours food poisoning."

at that yoongi snapped his attention and glared pointedly at hoseok. "don't compare me to marvin gaye sr."

"sorry. you're not that bad."

"what the hell, really? marvin gaye sr?"

"it really puts things into perspective for you though, right?" yoongi looks back up at the bed where taehyung is sound asleep. just for bed rest, the doctors had assured him. "you're not a bad dad, yoongi. you're not a perfect dad either. you're just a dad and you're doing your best. and if i have to tell you that again, i'm gonna choke you."

yoongi chuckled something humorless, stroking at his thumb absent-mindedly. he knew hoseok was right but at the same time his own mind was like minotaur's labyrinth. he got lost in there so often and too often hoseok had to throw him ariadne's thread. "i know."

he rewound the past few hours and puts the doctor's diagnosis on repeat. just an aggressive case of food poisoning, he'd said. nothing too dangerous, most likely he's just been exposed to a bacteria he's never encountered so his body is reacting to it. 

"rather violently," he muttered. "the doctor said his body was reacting to it 'rather violently'. could have lead to convulsions. me trying to be a better cook lead to my son being hospitalized."

"you're whining again."

"sorry."

hoseok stretched out and crossed his legs. "you know my father was a great cook. made the best homemade biscotti, have you ever had biscotti? anyway, he was great. but he was terrible at teaching me things. not his fault, he just didn't inherit the instructive gene. so, in short, my point is that if you're bad at one thing, it doesn't mean you're bad at all things."

"i'm terrible with teaching tae. you know that. he still wears velcro sneakers because of me."

"oh," hoseok stilled. "right...i give up, just quit whining. i almost had a heart attack when you told me here was here. he's sick so please stop trying to make it about yourself."

they both knew that wasn't what yoongi was doing but the frivolity of the insult reaffirmed what was important at the moment. who was important at the moment.)

 

a few hours later, the sunlight burns through yoongi's eyelids and if that wasn't enough, he's rudely awakened by taehyung shaking him. one day they're going to have to have a talk about the importance of daddy's sleep and the overall necessity of slumber. 

"tae, i'm awake."

taehyung shakes once more and leans into yoongi's face, so close that when yoongi does open his eyes, taehyung looks like a bug. a very cute bug that yoongi couldn't imagine his life without. "i made breakfast."

yoongi groans. "i told you about using the oven without supervision, didn't i?"

"i didn't use the oven."

"the stove?"

"no."

"the microwave?"

"no," taehyung sighs and rubs his face, exhausted at the third degree. "i made you cereal."

"oh," yoongi's concern quells as a smile forms and he pulls taehyung forward into a tight hug. "thank you."

 

taehyung all but drags him to the dining table and sits him down at the head chair like the leader he is. the bowl of cereal is huge, a bowl meant to hold house salads and chips for college house parties, and the milk is overflowing. but whatever mess taehyung made making the bowl has been cleaned up now. 

yoongi smiles and smoothes down taehyung's hair in appreciation. "this looks delicious."

"good," taehyung takes a seat down next to him and clinks their spoons together. "how old are you now?"

"old."

"but how old?"

taking in a spoonful of his cereal, yoongi pretends to think about it. he strokes his chin, tilts his head to the side and the exaggeration does make taehyung smile a little. "i think...if i'm not mistaken, 28."

taehyung's grin brightens. "that means you need 28 presents, right?"

yoongi laughs at that, almost spitting out his milk in the process. "if there's some way you can get 28 presents to me, that would be amazing. but it doesn't necessarily mean i need to have 28 gifts."

"okay," taehyung taps on the side of yoongi's bowl with a victorious expression. "gift number one: cereal."

 

much later, taehyung hands him a hand drawn family portrait with yoongi's favorite colors. as he puts it on the fridge, he smiles.

"gift number two."

"this just might be the best birthday i've ever had."

"are we gonna have a party? want me to ask uncle hoseok."

"uncle hoseok has work," yoongi hands taehyung a juice box before taking a seat on the couch. "we don't need a party, right? today's gonna be great."

"maybe we can tell jimin and uncle seokjin to come over for dinner."

the smile is something yoongi tries and fails to retain but hearing taehyung call seokjin his uncle is deserving of a grin, no matter how cheesy it is. "we can't invite them either. you've still got a little sick left in you and we can't share it with jimin, right? or uncle seokjin for that matter."

"i wouldn't get jimin sick, he's my friend."

"but you'd get uncle seokjin sick?"

"no, he's my friend too! i don't want anyone to get sick."

"sometimes it happens even if we don't want it to. like you didn't choose to get sick, you don't get to choose whether someone else gets sick."

taehyung heaves a sigh and pushes back against the cushions. "what are we going to do then?"

"don't worry about that, really. we can do nothing. nothing is fun."

taehyung leans forward, leans his elbows on his knees and props his hands up to cup his cheeks. "do we have cake?"

"not anymore...but we have ice cream and a netflix queue we haven't gone through yet."

yoongi takes relaxation and the art of doing nothing very seriously. it was his strong suit when he was in high school and all of his friends were preoccupied with trying to widen their social circles. and if he can't at least teach his son how to tie his shoes, he can teach him how to make nothing feel like an adventure. 

that includes teaching him the importance of not being completely social. later he has to stop taehyung from answering the phone and trying to reply to happy birthday texts. with his head resting on taehyung's small lap, he explains:

"remember you asked me what i wanted to do for my birthday?"

taehyung nods while yzma and kronk go down to the evil lair. he's got chocolate ice cream stains around his mouth but even that can't stop him from being cute. 

"well, i don't want to do anything."

"okay but isn't it manners to say thank you?"

"yeah, but..." yoongi trails off when he meets taehyung's incredibly innocent eyes and can't find it in him to take away that bit of goodness. "fine i'll call back."

 

the motto that at any moment anything -- everything -- could change, be it for the best or for the worst, was something yoongi found to be very indicative of the development of his life. it became his way of explaining the sharp turns things seemed to take regardless of his efforts and, while it did little to comfort him, it did make the accepting stage a lot easier. just saying it: "at any moment, everything can change" took the responsibility away from him and made unexpected outcomes seem like the work of some unseen meddler. nothing could be done to change how things were supposed to go if it was out of his hands. it helped him make sense of things.

it happens shortly after the third pixar move in a row, when taehyung is slumping against him in a fatigued haze. yoongi removes himself, guides taehyung into a proper sleeping position and lays the throw blanket reserved for the back of the couch over his body.

he's in the middle of gathering up the mess they've made, picking up all the snacks and candy wrappers and dirty dishes. he thinks this just might be the best birthday he's ever had. and all he did was sit on the couch all day with his son. really puts things into perspective.

to interrupt his thoughts, there's a short, almost hesitant rap on the door. yoongi checks his watch. almost midnight.

"what the f...?" he murmurs it quietly enough that even if taehyung retained a bit of consciousness, he wouldn't be able to hear him. he tries to think of who would have the nerve to come visiting him at midnight when everyone who knows him knows that taehyung hates bedtime.

he stands there overthinking for a little too long before realizing that doors need to be answered. he rushes forward, turns his head to ensure taehyung was still asleep, and opens the door.

"can i...?"

he trails off taken back when he sees no one there. hoseok had him watch enough horror movies to know that opening the door and finding no one there means a demon has just made its way into an unsuspecting protagonist's home. even so, he wants to believe there's an actual human out there so he steps farther out, leaving one foot in to hold the door open. he looks left, no one. he looks right and...

"hayeon?"

the wavy auburn hair is unmistakable. she doesn't turn around for a little while, her arms crossed around her body like a shield. it was the same way she had her arms around her when she'd told him about taehyung. she turns around and faces him, eyes wide and rimmed with red. "i'm sorry."

she walks closer as she uncrosses her arms and holds her right hand up in something akin to defense. everything yoongi had eaten starts to react badly with the shock and his throat thickens. "what...why are you here?"

"i didn't mean to come so late," she apologizes again. this time she's close enough that yoongi can make out every single subtle change in her appearance. the years have clearly been good to her not just physically but financially judging from her pricey-looking business suit attire. "is he sleeping?"

"why are you here?"

"i wanted to come earlier," she continues. "i really did. i tried coming on his birthday but it was his birthday, you know? how confusing was that gonna be? since then, i've been making all these excuses so tonight, i wanted to knock on the door at least. so i could say that i did it so...i thought you'd be asleep--"

"why the fuck are you here?"

the hostility in his voice takes them both back to yesteryear and, in the midst of frozen time, they're stunned silent. staring at hayeon is like looking into what was, what is, and what could never be. and with confusion and anger, there is all encompassing fear. 

"daddy?"

yoongi's neck snaps backward to glance inside where taehyung is standing by the couch looking sleepy and confused. the panic in yoongi's chest rises up to his throat and makes it hard to speak so he only nods at hayeon before shutting the door in her face.

"hey," he places his hand on taehyung's shoulder and guides him into his bedroom. "go to sleep, okay? it's really late."

taehyung yawns as yoongi tucks him in. "did you have a good birthday?"

"yeah, the best."

"who was that at the door?"

yoongi pauses his motions to kiss taehyung's hand. "not important. you don't have to worry about that. sleep tight. i love you."

"i love you too."

 

 

"what's the deal?" hayeon asks when yoongi lets her in. 

"do you want coffee?" 

it doesn't come out pleasant. not the same way it does when it's seokjin he's offering it too. it comes out like it's meant to be an insult but got lost in translation. she crosses her arms again when she follows him into the kitchen. "you had to hide him from me? am i not allowed to see him now?"

"you don't need to see him," yoongi pauses to pierce her eyes with his own laser stare. "you've had plenty of opportunities."

"when did i--?"

"you don't get to see him. now do you want coffee or not?"

she brushes her hair back behind her ear and leans against the doorway. "sure."

she walks away and begins to roam through the living room, looking at the pictures hanging on the walls. she pauses in front of yoongi's favorite one: the one from the strawberry farm on the summer trip to daegu. she reaches up to touch it and yoongi looks away. he should have hidden the pictures too. 

the smell of coffee travels up and does little to quell yoongi's impending concern and sense of danger but it does still him to his place. it centers in on him and reminds him that, as much as he may need to argue and yell, he can't. "do you mind telling me why you're here now? why you've, apparently, been following us?"

"i haven't been following you."

"you know where i live," yoongi switches on the coffee pot. at that moment, he'd made the decision that the coffee press was reserved for people he liked. "you said you wanted to come by on his birthday? his fucking birthday? how long have you known?"

"it wasn't that hard to find you," she shakes her head. "but i swear i wasn't following you. i just wanted to see my son."

"no."

"no what?"

"no," yoongi repeats pointedly. his anger bubbles up until he begins to feel suffocate by it. "no, you can't disappear for this long and come back calling him your son. i haven't seen you at a single birthday, parent-teacher conference, show and tell, or anything. just because you got knocked up and didn't put him up for adoption doesn't mean you're a real mother."

the quiet, meek, and quaint hayeon that showed up out front disappears with a familiar flash in her eyes. she uncrosses her arms and stands up straight. "see, this is why i didn't come in december when i should have, when i wanted to. because the only thing you're good at is giving me shit--"

"when you should have?" yoongi laughs. "you should have before december. you should have before five years went by. you shouldn't have left in the first place."

"you're the one who told me to--"

"because i thought you'd come back," yoongi's voice has quieted to a whisper, both of theirs. because they know what's going to happen: they'll get too heated and their voices will raise and soon they'll be screaming at each other. the last thing taehyung needs is to wake up to his parents verbally abusing each other. "i thought you'd come back and be a mother to him. because i knew you could take care of him, i knew you'd be a good mother. you just didn't have everything together and i was giving you the opportunity to do that. because he deserved better than me. he still does."

hayeon's eyes soften. "i'm ready now. i've got a career now and i've got the tools i need to care for him."

yoongi shakes his head. "no."

"i do. i can be a mother to him now. i thought i was ready two years ago, i thought i was ready four years ago but i wasn't. and i am now and i want to see him, i want to take care of him and--"

"you're not taking my son away!" 

yoongi feels guilty as soon as he says it. it comes out too loud and too hard. they both quiet down as yoongi listens out for the shuffling to come from taehyung's bedroom, for him to walk out rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and ask who hayeon is. when nothing comes, he excuses himself to check in. 

he finds taehyung sprawled out as he'd left him and then the panic rises until he's full of it. it rushes with his blood and contaminates his nerves.

panic. 

Chapter Text

"do you want to see her?"

hoseok shakes his head firmly, looks back at his car where taehyung is waiting for him in the back seat. "no. i might kill her."

"you're supposed to be the voice of reason."

it's a weak argument that yoongi doesn't even really believe in. because he's fuming too, so blind with rage that he can't even see straight. taehyung was the only thing keeping him calm but now that hoseok is taking him out to the movies, yoongi's certain he'll be seeing nothing but red soon.

"i can't be the voice of reason right now. too pissed off."

yoongi looks down at his shoes and kicks the concrete to no effect. "nothing's set in stone. i'm just figuring out what exactly she's expecting of me. we're just talking. which is why you need to take tae because when she and i talk, we--"

"yell," hoseok finishes. "i remember, i had terrible hangovers when you two were going at it."

"just don't need him to hear any of it. besides nothing's gonna come of it," yoongi stuffs his hands into his pockets and looks back at the car as well. taehyung is playing with one of his action figures and waves when he catches yoongi's eye. "she and i are gonna talk about it. she's gonna dip out again. but don't stress yourself, taehyung's not going anywhere."

hoseok goes quiet for a few long seconds and not just verbally. his eyes silence, his entire presence goes on mute. "if she were to...do you think anything could come of it?"

"she wouldn't. i wouldn't let her."

 

his heart his pounding so hard against his chest, the rhythm resounds throughout his body to the affect of a bass line beating through a speaker system. hayeon's voice is beginning to fade, drown out in the echo of his blood rushing furiously and all yoongi can hear is the sound of his own fury. 

but taehyung. 

taehyung taehyung taehyung is his mantra to stay calm or at least pretend to be, at least allow him to hold on to any remnant of sanity long enough not to lose his mind.

"i can't talk to you," he breathes out, lifting his head long enough to look hayeon in the eye for a second. "you're full of it."

"five years and your listening skills are still for shit."

"it's not that hard to understand what you want. you made it pretty clear, didn't you?"

"it clearly isn't. because you're freaking out over nothing."

"nothing?" yoongi sits up, removing his head from between his knees and sitting up like a proper human being again. "okay, where do we start? because there's obviously a huge gap of misunderstanding and absenteeism between us. i think i know what you're saying, in fact, i'm pretty fucking sure of what you're saying but you're refusing to acknowledge what it is. so where do we start? wanna start with the blatant disregard for our kid? or start with where you've been or--?"

"why don't we start with the beginning? with me getting pregnant and you telling me it wasn't your responsibility and that i should get an abortion? sound good?"

"fuck you."

"you were plenty happy to do that but when it resulted in something other than a climax, you were all too eager too--"

"over five years have gone by since then. five years of me taking care of him, of me sacrificing school and life for him."

"you're such a hyprocrite," this time hayeon leans forward and rests her elbows on the tabletop. she kneads her fingers against her temples and breathes out slowly. "such a hypocrite. if it wasn't for me forcing myself into your life, you wouldn't even know him because you refused to! and that's all fine, right? but when i decide i want him to have a better life, i'm a fucking cunt who needs to die and forget i ever had a son?"

"a better life? a better fucking life?" yoongi scoffs in disbelief, this time standing up and kicking his chair back. "that's rich. now i can't provide for him either? fuck you."

they barely started the conversation but they're already snapping at each other's throats, going in for kills. "i need a time out."

"we've barely started," yoongi argues. even though he completely agrees that he needs to step away. he has a feeling that he just argues with hayeon for the sake of arguing. 

"if we talk any longer, i'm gonna rip your throat out."

yoongi makes a beeline for the front door. "i call outside, i need fresh air." he opens and shuts the door before hayeon can respond properly.

leaning against the front door, he takes in the world around him in more ways than one and he tries to center himself. like the holistic medical studies used to philosophize on. inhale, exhale. after a few moments, he pulls out his phone and dials even though he doesn't have to. his thumb hitting the familiar numbers bring some kind of comfort to him, one he's been aching for. 

only two rings before the call is answered. "this better be really serious."

"i know," yoongi's voice is soft and uncharacteristically broken. "i'm sorry."

there's shuffling on the other end and when seokjin speaks again, his voice is gentle. "is everything okay?"

letting his eyes fall shut and allowing himself to feel the fatigue, the heartache, and concern instead of avoiding it. he breathes out. "can you get here? i need you."

about fifteen minutes later, seokjin is climbing up the stairs to the apartment, carrying an asleep jimin on his arm. he pants when he meets yoongi at the top. "is taehyung okay?"

"he's at the movies with hoseok," yoongi takes jimin away, tucking him into his side and cradling his head. "i'll put him down. long night?"

"couldn't get a babysitter. he went to work with me last night and it was too loud for him, couldn't get any proper sleep."

"why didn't you call me?"

"didn't want to bother you. besides, it was your birthday. thought you might have been busy with something."

yoongi blanches. "how did everyone know except me?"

"because you never put yourself first. it's a good thing i didn't call, you might have done something outrageous like enjoy yourself."

"a happy birthday would have been nice?"

seokjin smiles and comes in for a hug. with jimin pressed between them, it adds to his comfort. even though the child is unconscious, yoongi pretends he's actively hugging him too. 

"happy belated birthday," seokjin murmurs into his neck. "where's the fire?"

yoongi pulls back. "hayeon is here."

seokjin beams momentarily, the smile slipping down when he takes in yoongi's somber expression. "isn't that a good thing?"

"she wants to take him."

to yoongi's surprise, seokjin looks more confused than angry like it's all a foreign concept to his mind. he tilts his head to the side at the same time that he purses his lips. "let's go in."

tucking jimin closer to his side, yoongi follows seokjin in and goes straight for the bedroom without offering a passing glance to hayeon. after he lays jimin down on the bed and tucks taehyung's blankets around him, he removes his shoes very slowly. he takes his time because even though over fifteen minutes have passed since they first called break, he still needs a moment. 

he hears seokjin introduce himself in that delicately effervescent way of his. hayeon responds with a voice so pleasant, yoongi almost forgets that he doesn't like her at the moment.

"if you wake up right now and demand t.v. time, i wouldn't be mad," he prods jimin gently before reminding himself he's an adult and returning to the kitchen.

"well, my son is actually taehyung's best friend," seokjin explains and hayeon's eyes late up at the mere mention of taehyung's name. "so yoongi and i end up seeing a lot of each other. they insist of doing everything together...your son...he really is something, quite the little gentleman."

hayeon's eyes, while shining with pride and excitement, become laced with melancholy. she looks down at her hands. "that's great. i...is he...?" she trails off to a complete stop, her voice breaking near the end. she buries her face in her hands for a moment before standing up. 

"bathroom?"

yoongi doesn't answer, opting to "busy" himself with cooking dinner even though it's way too early to do so. seokjin answers for him instead: "straight ahead. first door you see down the hall."

she thanks him and seokjin waits until he hears the bathroom door close before turning to yoongi and crossing his arms. "i could have sworn you were 28 now."

"what's that supposed to mean?"

"i dunno, maybe that you're acting like you're five years old. or maybe younger seeing as the boys have never been this rude."

yoongi stills. "what, am i...i have to  be cordial? fuck, no."

"unless she's an axe murderer, unless she put tae's life in danger, there's no reason you can't show her an ounce of kindness," seokjin's voice had lowered to a whisper as he stepped closer. "now grow up."

"she's trying to take him away and i have to be polite. makes sense."

"she's not."

"yes, she is."

"no, she's not." seokjin uses a tone of finality that slows down yoongi's response time just long enough for him to clarify. "do you know how hard it is to part with your kid? of course, you do. you were a mess when taehyung went to his grandmother's and he was barely a few hours away and you knew he'd be back. can you just take a moment to appreciate how hard it is to do that for his well-being? you don't know if the years have been easy this whole time. you don't know if she was put into situations that wouldn't have been ideal for him to be in. and can you, maybe, consider the possibility that she, being the person who had to give him up to make things better for him, wouldn't come in and try to turn his life upside down? so grow up, talk to her, and stop being an asshole."

they both, upon noticing just how close they were standing, separate when they hear the bathroom door opening. seokjin takes a seat at the dining table and yoongi manages to reluctantly tear himself away from the vegetables. 

when hayeon returns to her seat, her eyes the same shade of red that they were when she first dropped by, seokjin smiles up at her. "um...yoongi called me over to sort of...mediate."

this kind of a knowing smile shows up on hayeon's face and she rubs her tired eyes. "yeah, we definitely need you."

seokjin laughs shortly. "unfortunately i'm not a professional mediator, in case you were wondering. a sales rep on weekday mornings, a bartender on weekday nights, and, on occasion, a transcriptionist. but not a mediator."

"it's okay. anyone who can help us discuss like human beings instead of attacking like animals is someone we need. regardless of title."

"so, where do we start?" seokjin turns to yoongi and glares. "sit down."

hayeon shrugs as yoongi settles down into his seat. "i only know of mediators what i see in movies...and i think, in that case, we start with the opposing sides."

"right. okay, miss hayeon, what are you proposing?"

"um..." she looks up at yoongi with wary eyes before looking at seokjin. "i just want to be in my son's life--our son's life. i'm not asking for much, i just...seeing him would be nice."

"okay," seokjin looks at yoongi. "and you?"

"i'm saying no."

hayeon falters and seokjin's pointed stare turn into daggers. he clears his throat. "would you like to give an actual reason for that?"

"no."

"yoongi," seokjin warns. 

"i don't want you around him," yoongi answers after extended silence. "because i don't want him to get his hopes up."

"what exactly does that mean?"

"...he asks about you," yoongi looks down at his hands, fingers the frays of his shirt. "not...he doesn't know who you are but he'll ask, sometimes, where his mother is. all the kids at school have two parents and he has me. he gets curious. i don't want you to come into his life and leave again."

"i wouldn't--"

"or come into his life and he expects us to become this traditional family because we will never be that. we tried it already. we can't talk without arguing and the last thing i want is for him to be exposed to volatility. he deserves better than me, he deserves better than you. honestly, out of all of us, he's the one who got the short end of the stick because he ended up with two people who can't stand each other as parents."

"i'm not asking for us to become lucy and ricky," hayeon scrambles her words, her voice wavering. "i'm not even asking to take him--"

"yes, you are."

"i never said that."

"easy," seokjin cuts in gently. he shakes his head in amazement and disbelief. "how did you two manage to stay in the same room long enough to have sex anyway?"

"we were plastered," yoongi answers begrudgingly as he crosses his arms and turns away. hayeon, who had mirrored his movements, stilled. they slowly turned their heads, facing each other with considering expressions. they were speaking without speaking and it was as cordial as silence could possibly be. seokjin sighs heavily and pinches the bridge of his nose. 

"you guys aren't getting drunk."

"would've been a good idea," yoongi mumbles.

hayeon clears her throat and takes a deep breath. when she speaks, her voice is gentle and her words pour out slowly like honey. "i would never do that to him. i have always wanted what's best for him and that hasn't changed. i didn't come here to take him away from you."

"then why did you?"

"because i'm in a good place right now," she exclaims as loud as she can in a whisper. "i don't have to do anything i don't want to do for a bit of money. i'm no longer sleeping in illness riddled shelters. he was always going to be safer with you. and that hasn't changed now that my life has straightened out. but what has changed is that i'm not so big of a fuck up that i have to stay away from him anymore. and i'm not going to wait until it gets bad again. i just want to know him. please."

yoongi looks up at hayeon, really looks at her for the first time since the last time and the look of pure unfiltered despondency and panic is set deep into the lines of her skin. it's the same expression she wore the last time he saw her. when they were walking to the adoption agency and she gripped taehyung in her arms like she'd never hold him again. it's in her eyes that he finds his own regret. he looks back down. "i'll think about it."

both hayeon and seokjin give their answers in nearly identical expressions of disappointment. yoongi looks down at his watch and turns to seokjin. "you have to be at work soon. don't worry about jimin, he can sleep here."

 

"you're a prick," seokjin says when yoongi has walked him out to his car. 

"this is what she does best. she comes into my life and drives a wedge between me and everyone i give a shit about. hoseok and i were awful to each other when she was around. and now she's doing the same thing to us."

"she's not doing anything," seokjin crosses his arms and leans against the car door. "i get that you're afraid, yoongi, but what you're doing...if you send her away, what do you think is gonna happen?"

"it'll just be me and taehyung as it's always been and as it should be. things will go back to normal."

"right. and when taehyung is, i dunno, let's say fifteen years old and he's having a hard time at school because of the family he comes from -- don't look at me like that, you know it's gonna happen. it's happening now. when he asks you about his mother again and he finds out that she was here and you sent her away, what will he think? it's not just your decision, it doesn't just effect you. you don't think he might want a relationship with his mother?"

"...he doesn't know her..."

seokjin inhales sharply and holds his arms around his body tighter. "you have no idea what i would give for jimin to know his mother. please be smart about this," he slides into his car. "i'll be back around midnight."

yoongi watches seokjin drive off and tries not to think too hard about the future. 

 

"taehyung will be back from the movies soon so....i kinda need you to leave."

"i understand," she stands from the chair, grabbing her purse as she does. there's nothing but silence and disdain between them until she walks to the open door that yoongi is leaning against. she stops in front of him. "do you...will you tell him i love him? you don't have to say it on itself. just, if he asks..."

yoongi nods solemnly, eyes still cast down. he doesn't want to risk looking into her eyes and being sent into an emotional spiral. he bites the inside of his cheek. "you were really homeless?"

she looks down too. "i was being evicted. that's why i decided to give him up, had nowhere else to go. ironic, right? i only moved in for him and i had to leave for him too."

"why didn't you tell me? you could have called, i would have...i wouldn't have turned you away."

"yoongi," she looks up, exasperated and clearly pained at having to relive the past. "i had no money. i couldn't pay bills, i could barely keep myself properly fed which meant he wasn't either...i was drowning and you were flying. i wasn't gonna take you down with me. besides, you had him to worry about."

"but why--"

"if one of us was in the shit and another one wasn't, which one do you think i'd want him to end up with?" she offers a smile to him. it's tame and sad and makes yoongi gag with guilt. "i have to go. please think about it."

she steps over the threshold but then pauses before turning back. 

"who is seokjin to you?"

yoongi shrugs. "taehyung's best friend's father. a huge help. a friend."

hayeon smirks knowingly. "i can still read you, you know?"

"what does that mean?"

taking on the vigor and almost flirtatious flamboyancy of her youth, she steps up on her tiptoes and whispers in his ear: "you like him."

when she stands down, yoongi frowns at her. "no."

"oh yeah," she nods.

"no!" yoongi shouts as she retreats further down the hall. she doesn't bother turning around to face him, continuing to walk forward as she offers: "oh yeah!" 

 

taehyung comes in running full force and jumping into yoongi's arms as soon as he sees him. usually, yoongi gets a sweet greeting and a hug that rates a 8 on the warmly constricting scale. even though it's out of the ordinary, yoongi doesn't bother with any inquiries. he just hugs tighter.

"how was the movie?"

"good."

"just good? uncle hoseok, what did you do?"

"it was great," taehyung giggles when he pulls back. he rubs his eyes tiredly and reaches into his pocket. he pulls out an c-3po keychain. "i got this for you."

"um..." hoseok cuts in from the living room. 

"i mean uncle hoseok got it," taehyung says quickly. "but i picked it out. because from the movie, he was my favorite."

"you liked him more than luke skywalker?"

"uh-huh. he's smart and he walks funny like you."

"oh!" yoongi grabs taehyung and attacks him in vicious tickles. he laughs heartily and curls up reflexively. "you little..."

he doesn't stop until taehyung is red in the face and gasping. 

"hey, jimin is asleep in your room. will you wake him up -- politely -- and both of you wash up for dinner?"

"okay."

taehyung jumps up and runs into his bedroom. he screams out jimin's name and, at least it sounds like, pounces on him. hoseok and yoongi turn and look at each other. 

"sounds polite to me."

yoongi rolls his eyes and grabs his keys from the dish beside the front door. he hooks c-3po onto it. 

"how'd it go?"

"she says she's not taking him," yoongi lowers his voice, listening out for the sound of the kids' excited murmuring. "just wants to see him. but...i don't think it's a good idea."

"just seeing him? why not?"

he shrugs. "too many reasons to count, really...do you think if i refused...you think tae would hate me? later on, i mean."

hoseok nods. "without a doubt."

Chapter Text

(yoongi's parents made it very clear that they would not be the ones to take all the responsibility for taehyung whenever it was convenient. they were his grandparents and they loved him and would love him no matter what. but they weren't to be used as a 24 hour daycare where yoongi could drop him whenever he didn't want to take care of him. it was a more than understandable rule. 

his parents let him stay there until he could get the money together to get his own place and focus on his new career of being a dad. and while they didn't mind helping him out some days when he had work, they also didn't mind letting him figure it out on his own. despite them constantly insisting that taehyung wasn't a mistake, it was clear that it was there method of disciplining him for his mistakes. 

even so, it was also clear to see that it was hard for them to deny him the service of temporary caretaker. taehyung had captured both their hearts in ways neither of them could have imagined. when he cried, yoongi's father would put on one of his records and taehyung would quiet down, listening with a delighted expression. he would laugh at his mother's jokes and listen intently when she talked to him, almost like he could understand. even as a baby, he was amazing. 

the help yoongi did receive, however, meant that when he did move out, when he found himself completely alone with this infant, he was scared shitless. 

"i don't know what you want," he said to the baby he held at arms length, voice akin to a desperate plea. "you're fed, you're clean, i don't know what to do."

taehyung continued to wail, his face turning red while he kicked his feet. yoongi was at a complete loss. he'd fed taehyung, he burped him, he bathed him, he dressed him in the snuggiest onesie he owned (one that hayeon always squealed over), he'd done everything right. his head was beginning to hurt.

"you're sleepy," he stated. "that's it, right? let's go to sleep then, come on."

he cradled the baby in his arms the correct way, enfolding him in his arms. he bounced on the balls of his feet with such desperation that what was supposed to be relaxing felt more like a wild bumpy ride. taehyung cried louder. 

"jesus christ," yoongi murmured as he shut his eyes, trying to take in the significantly louder crying with as much patience as possible. 

he bounced and he bounced. he sang and he sang. he patted taehyung's back but nothing would appease him, nothing would cease the wailing. as a last resort, he whipped out his phone and quickly googled for some kind of answer. 

why won't my baby stop crying

baby body language

baby refusing to sleep

eventually he came to a website that advised him to not jump to taehyung's every beck and call. it advised to let the child cry it out so they don't get used to being grabbed at every moment. it would teach independence or something like it. 

so, having been thoroughly convinced, yoongi left him alone in the bedroom, laid him down on the new mattress and waited. he hadn't bothered to buy a crib. not only was it a frivolous purchase but, with how overly concerned and worked up he would get, it was best that taehyung was close by. 

it took a lot to walk away. but he did.

he attempted to focus on himself, searching for jobs that would bend to his daddy schedule. but he did so with a knot in his throat as he waited worriedly for the crying to stop. he waited and waited and waited, constantly looking from his computer to the corridor. after a while, the crying does stop but it's only after a loud thud resounded in its place.

yoongi leapt up from his seat and sprinted to the room to find taehyung face down on the floor. the crying started up again as yoongi rushed to pick the baby up, his heart pummeling lower and lower into nothing. the ability to breathe escaped him as he hugged the baby closer to his chest and held tight. 

"i'm so sorry," he breathes out in shudders, his body shaking with taehyung's. the knot in his throat becomes a stone and his eyes burn when he checks the baby for cuts or bruises. when he doesn't find any, he pulls taehyung in again and tries his best not to cry with him. "i'm so sorry, i'm so sorry..."

he words spill from his lips like a prayer, like those words had to power to grant life after death. 

 

much later, in the wee hours of the morning, taehyung fell asleep after a lot of scalp massages. in spite of having a myriad of things to take care of, yoongi stayed with him, held him close and refused to let go. he continued to hum along to a song as he stroked the baby's hair. 

there was a lot to be grateful for, he figured. he hadn't had the time to put a proper frame in for the bed so there was only the mattress, making for a really short fall. but the bad things outnumber the good. continuing to stroke taehyung's head, he leaned down and kissed his forehead. 

"i'll be better for you," he whispered. "i promise.")

 

"okay," yoongi lays both his hands on the table. "it's not that i don't want you to meet him. i want you to. i want him to know you. i want...i want things to be easy for him, having both his parents, you know. but i have ground rules."

hayeon perks up at that. it was the firsttime yoongi didn't immediately start into a "no" frenzy. "i can see him?"

"listen to the rules," yoongi leans closer, staring into her eyes and ensuring she wouldn't look away. "you cannot leave. i don't care how hard it gets, you cannot leave him. i know it wasn't your choice last time, i'm just clearing it up."

"i won't."

"you can't. if anything, anything at all, becomes a hardship for you, you fucking tell me and we will figure it out. if anything like what happens before happens again, i will help you. you can't leave him."

"okay."

"i don't know if you're expecting it but in case you are: he's not staying at your place."

"that's understandable."

"not until i've been there and i've checked it out. not until i can... i just need time for that too, alright? it's not that i don't trust you, understand that. i just need to make sure he won't be sleeping in some hole in the wall."

hayeon noticeably stiffens but she doesn't insult him, only nods slowly. "i get it."

yoongi's gaze goes sympathetic. "i know you have a room for him. i know you've made it up real nice for him and i appreciate that so much. but not yet."

she nods again. "anything else?"

"...i don't think so."

she beams, face brightening vibrantly. "so i can...i get to see him?"

"yeah," yoongi can't help the tiny smile. the mere thought of taehyung's face when he sees the mommy he's so often been assured exists. "i think it would be good for him. plus those asshole kids at his school, i swear i have to refrain from kicking their asses one of these days."

"you're gonna physically assault a child?"

"one of them called him an accident and he couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks."

the playful smile on hayeon's face fades into a grimace. "i'm gonna deck that little bitch."

"right? but seokjin says we can't."

"obviously we can't dumbass," hayeon clicks her tongue. "did taehyung tell you the kid's name?"

yoongi hesitates. "you can't kill a kid, you'll go away for sure. what was the first rule?"

"i'm not gonna kill anyone, i don't think. i just...i would like to know the name of the kid giving my kid a hard time. that's all. no one's gonna be killed."

after watching her for a few moments and considering deeply, yoongi taps the table top. "let's add one more rule: no killing taehyung's classmates."

 

 

"i'm gonna be an astronaut and whoosh high into space with jimin and boing boing boing between all the planets like a trampoline. and then we'll fly -- whoosh -- into another planet and name it jiminnie and taetae and we'll be kings of the galaxy like princess leia!"

as taehyung speaks animatedly in front of the tub as he removes his school clothes and throws them in a pile on the floor, yoongi walks around and removes everything that could be dangerous from the bathroom. plug-in? yes. electric razor? hell yes. toy bucket? you can never be too safe. 

taehyung trails off as he steps into the filled tub, sinking low as he observes yoongi closely. "why you taking all my toys?"

"there's a word missing from that sentence."

"why are you taking all my toys?" taehyung asks again after a few moments of contemplation as yoongi stands by the door and tries to determine whether the things on the shelf need to be taken out too.

"i'm not taking all your toys," yoongi scans the shelf. "i'm just taking a few things that i don't want you to play with."

"am i in trouble?"

yoongi smiles. "why do you always go there? no, you're not in trouble."

when he sees there's nothing too dangerous on the shelf, yoongi sets the bucket down before sitting on the closed toilet seat. he looks at taehyung closely who matches his gaze. "you're six years old now."

"right."

"and, according to google, william sears, alfie kohn, and a few other parenting books that i totally don't read because i'm naturally this awesome, you can start bath time independently."

taehyung tilts his head. "what's in-a-pen-ant-ly?"

"um...alone," yoongi gauges taehyung's reaction. "you can start bathing by yourself."

"but why?"

"what, you don't want to?"

"i didn't say that. but why?"

"because it's...it's a rite of passage, it comes with, you know, growing up. and you're growing up, right? you're getting big and, as much as i don't want to believe it, hoseok might be right, you might end up getting taller than me."

taehyung smiles, his nose wrinkling in an expression that's something like disbelief. "nuh-uh."

"uh huh. because you eat your vegetables and i didn't do a lot of that when i was a kid. but, remember, do as i say and not as i do."

"but why do i have to bathe by myself? are you gonna eat the brownies uncle jin made without me?"

uncle jin, yoongi thinks. that's new and very informal. 

"tae, i'm not gonna do anything without you besides clean up and you hate that anyway. it's just important for you to start doing a few things on your own and this is one of them. as much as i hate it, believe me i hate it, you have to do some things without me sometimes. you have to...grow up. and i can't stop you from that. hindrance is how norman bates became norman bates."

"but only some things, right?" taehyung's forehead has creased, suddenly concerned with doing all kinds of things by himself. it must be scary, yoongi thinks. 

"only some things," yoongi repeats. "like bath time and...well, that's it. but i still have to wash your hair so don't get any ideas."

"i can still have breakfast with you, right? and dinner? and lunch? and we can still watch movies together? can i still play with mr. fuzzles?"

"yes, yes, yes, definitely yes, and i'd be hurt if you stopped."

taehyung nods. "okay."

"alright," yoongi stands up. "you handle lathering and rinsing your body , from the neck down. when you're done with that, i take care of your hair and your face. got it?"

"got it!"

"and do me a favor. i'm still not comfortable with the idea so while i'm out there, you keep talking to me. sing me songs, tell me stories, just make sure i can hear your voice. if you stop, i'll think darth vader appeared and i'll come in swinging."

taehyung giggles.

while yoongi straightens up the apartment, taehyung sings him songs from the little mermaid and gets especially animated when it gets to poor unfortunate souls. then he starts telling a story about his future with jimin and how they're going to be cowboys, kings of the galaxy, and even race car drivers. 

"we can be like mario and luigi too! i'm gonna be luigi because i like green and jimin can be mario..."

when he doesn't start up again, yoongi loses his footing trying to run into the bathroom. he'd been on forums for at least a week before making independent bathing a final decision and read horror stories about kids who were considered the right age to bathe without constant monitoring, kids who were mature and careful who either got badly injured or killed because of some freak bathtub accident. but when he enters, taehyung is fine. 

he smiles at him, something small and knowing as he plays with some of the action figures. yoongi crosses his arms. "why'd you stop the story? you're okay?"

taehyung nods before looking up, his smile widening. "i'm fine. i just wanted you to come back."

yoongi enters the bathroom, his heart elevating to unknown heights and warming up significantly. he shakes his head with a fond smile on his face as he takes the washcloth from taehyung and kneels down. "if you keep saying things like that, you might never bathe alone."

 

 

"got you," yoongi murmurs to his computer a few days later as he stands from his knock-off office chair. he holds it out for hayeon as he nods to the computer monitor where many different photo albums are opened up. "everything from when he was a baby to last week. i have a hard copy too but it's with my mom so..."

hayeon exhales heavily, the shine that was in her eyes having spilled over into tears on her cheeks. she covers her mouth with her hand and her shoulders shake as she laughs and cries at the same time. 

she begins clicking through the photographs. the album starts with a picture of taehyung at six months and yoongi at twenty two. they're both sitting in the bathtub. taehyung's hair is topped with a shampoo made crown and he's smiling something wide and gummy, looking straight into the camera while yoongi holds up a hand, his face the meaning of "no". it was taken by yoongi's mother. she had considered it a big event because it was taehyung's first bath in a bathtub instead of a seat. 

the tears on her face start to pour down freely and yoongi looks down to the floor. "i'll go make you some coffee."

"no, no," she blindly reaches out for him, keeping her eyes on the screen. "i know crying makes you uncomfortable but i need you here. i need stories to go with these pictures, you know."

yoongi smiles fondly at the thought of sharing those memories that have become so far gone. after pulling up another chair, he sits next to her and anecdotes the album. 

one particular picture, of taehyung at two years old, sends yoongi back. before the apartment was even fully furnished, back when taehyung would have tantrums over mole hills. 

 

(yoongi had taken to the scalp massage method of sleep induction. it seemed to, when coupled with a bit of classical or music box tracks, put taehyung to sleep easily. most nights.

but some nights taehyung was resistant like he was an antibody trying to fend off some petulance or another. moving his fingers in slow circles at the same time he patted taehyung's back, yoongi honestly found himself slipping into unconsciousness. 

sometimes the child would still, breathing in slow and steady and yoongi knew he was about to cave. but then he'd sit up in his arms and point at the door of the bedroom, uttering baby babble that yoongi translated as "wanna to the living room".

"don't do that," he said, looking at the two year old who shrugged like he was innocent of all wrong-doing. "i know your endgame."

taehyung pointed at the door again, repeating the same jumbled up sentence. 

"uh-uh," yoongi shook his head and laid taehyung down again. "every time you get sleepy, you think if you start talking about anything, i'll forget it's bedtime and let you stay up. not happening tonight."

at that very convenient moment, the child's bottom lip began to quiver and soon his sobs were echoing throughout the apartment. maybe a year ago, yoongi would have caved immediately and let taehyung stay up as long as he wanted to. but after so long, he was kind of almost not really an expert.

he pulled taehyung close. "i know. it sucks when an evil plan is foiled by daddy.")

 

 

"do you think you could make me a hard copy of those albums?" hayeon asks sheepishly as she shrugs on her jacket. it's almost summer and she shouldn't need it but it's been a bit chilly outside. "you don't have to but..."

"i will," putting a hand on her shoulder, he nodded politely. this was the only time they'd ever been pretty cordial and the only reason yoongi could find for it was that talking about taehyung and seeing him -- even if it was just pictures and videos -- were very different. 

she smiles at him. her eyes still held on to that shine even though she'd stopped crying long ago. she nods. "so friday?"

"yeah--"

no. apparently not. because as yoongi opens the front door for her, they both hear taehyung's excited chattering and soon he's there with a surprised and apologetic looking seokjin behind him. taehyung enters hand in hand with jimin. "hi, daddy."

"taehyung," yoongi swallows hard and looks to hayeon. his mouth goes dry. "i..."

"hi," taehyung says to hayeon politely, still holding jimin's hand who smiles at her as well. 

frozen deadly still, hayeon stands there looking down at taehyung with her mouth agape and the shine in her eyes becoming more and more pronounced. yoongi shakes himself out of his stupor and speaks.

"um," the children turn to him. "taehyung this is hayeon. she's, um...she's your--"

"i'm a friend of your daddy's," hayeon interrupts, speaking gently as she kneels down to be level with taehyung. she looks down and blinks away her tears before smiling. "we went to school together a very long time ago."

"really?" taehyung smiles wide and looks to yoongi for confirmation before looking back at hayeon. "were you his best friend?"

hayeon hums, pretending to be deep in thought. "come to think of it, i don't think we liked each other very much."

both jimin and taehyung laugh. yoongi looks at jin who manages to appear astouned, apologetic, and amused at the same time. 

taehyung lifts his and jimin's intertwined hands. "he's my best friend."

"oh yeah?" hayeon manages to tear her eyes away from taehyung despite it being clear that she never wanted to look away. she looked at him like he was a marvel and he was. yoongi knew the feeling. "what's your name?"

"jimin," he smiles that smile that he does whenever he's being introduced to someone knew and holds taehyung's hand tighter. 

"it's nice to meet the both of you."

"you too," they say at the same time as they toe off their shoes and run to the back. slowly, hayeon rises to her feet and stands on shaky legs. she looks like she's just experienced a terrifying, exhilarating ride at an amusement park. she laughs breathily. 

"oh my god," she brings a hand up to her chest and looks up at yoongi through watery eyes and a smile so wide yoongi can't imagine her cheeks not aching. "my heart is beating so fast. . . oh god, he's so...he's wonderful."

seokjin hesitantly reaches over and rubs his hand over her arm. it's a gesture that says so many things: you did it, he is, it's okay. but yoongi sees the one he knows seokjin means: i'm so happy for you. 

after quickly composing herself again, she nods at yoongi. "i didn't want to...rush him with it. i'm sorry for that, i just--"

"no, i get it. i agree."

she smiles again. "oh my god."

 

 

"the caterpillar and alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the caterpillar took the... "

"hookah."

"hookah," taehyung continues reading carefully, pronouncing each word slowly. "out of its mouth, and spoke to her in a...

"languid."

"languid, sleepy voice," taehyung stops reading and looks at yoongi. "what's that?"

"languid...you know how i talk when you wake me up on weekend mornings?"

taehyung nods.

"that's me being languid."

"it's like your being tired?" yoongi nods and taehyung bites his lip. he turns to continue reading the book but thinks better of it. he closes it. "can we go to sleep now?"

"you don't wanna read anymore?"

"no, i'm sleepy," taehyung yawns as yoongi takes the book, gets up from the bed, and returns the book to its spot on the shelf. "i'm like mr. caterpillar."

yoongi laughs. he begins tucking taehyung in, making sure he's snug and safe. 

"daddy?"

"yes?"

taehyung is silent for a while, contemplative as his thoughts echo in the quiet room. finally he takes a deep breath and:

"is your friend...?"

"is my friend..."

"is she my...my mommy?"

at this moment yoongi thinks maybe his son is telepathic and he dances with the idea of censoring his thoughts. but logic speaks louder than levity and he knows that, had he more female friends and had taehyung been exposed to more women aside from his grandmother and schoolteachers, he wouldn't ask such a question. but in his six year old mind, seeing a woman who isn't his grandmother or his teacher has to mean that she could possibly be his mother. especially after yoongi reassured him that he definitely had one and that she definitely cared about him a lot.

he briefly thinks he should hold out on him, let hayeon tell him but he's never really been able to lie to taehyung even in the smallest way. he caves and sits on the bed, reaching his hand up to stroke the child's hair. "yeah. she is, actually."

"really?"

yoongi nods. "really."

"you're not tricking me, are you?"

"not at all."

taehyung brightens like yoongi's never seen before, the intensity of his smile would make the sun envious. "where was she?"

the challenge, yoongi has learned, of having to explain what could be upsetting or confusing things to your children is one that never really ends. not with age, not with experience. he bites the skin off his lip as he tries to formulate an explanation. 

"oh," he muses when it comes to him. "remember when i was sick and i told you not to touch me? or when you were sick and we decided uncle jin and jimin and uncle hoseok couldn't visit because they couldn't get sick?"

taehyung nods.

"okay, well, it was like that for your mommy. she was really, really sick so she stayed away to keep you healthy."

"and you too?"

"mm-hmm, me too. and now she's all better. so now she can be around you and you're not gonna catch the germ people."

"oh...daddy?"

"yes?"

"maybe we should give her soup," taehyung suggests it really but the determination in his face makes it clear that he plans on doing it somehow regardless of yoongi's agreement. "so that way, she can be healthy all the time. and she never has to leave."

yoongi smiles back, chuckling softly. "yeah, let's do that." he leans forward and kisses taehyung's forehead. "good night, i love you."

as he's getting ready to step out so he can go to his room and have a small panic attack over all this change, taehyung calls him again.

"yes?" he turns back, still standing in the doorway.

"i love you," taehyung does his best wink. "more than anything."

Chapter Text

with hayeon and taehyung reunited, with his mass concerns and worries being temporarily quieted by the happiness in both their eyes, with his mind quiet enough from the roaring prospect of possibly losing his son and the screaming banshees that represented complete and utter chaos, yoongi could breathe.

to everyone's surprise, taehyung was really accepting of the whole thing. he didn't give it a second thought. of course, he'd been a little shy and teeny bit too well behaved, enough for it to be disproportionate and uncharacteristic to everyone else. and hayeon had been careful, moving slowly and speaking in zephyrs. even so, taehyung was fine. he had known he had a mother, he had know she loved him, and now he'd accepted that was here now. at first, yoongi thought it was strange.

"it's not uncommon," hoseok had explained before. "he's still plastic. if she waited a few more years, who knows?"

one night they had dinner, just the three of them and it had been a cyclone for yoongi, sucking him down into angry whirlwinds of fear and doubt. but it had been taehyung's idea so he wore his most convincing grin and warmed up the tak toritang seokjin made just for the dinner. taehyung stared at her for most of the night, barely touching his food despite yoongi's fair warnings. hayeon was just as bad though, only taking small bites out of hers while staring back at taehyung in identical reverence.

"i look like you," he said before tearing his eyes away from hers to look at yoongi. "don't i, daddy?"

hayeon turns and look at him too and yoongi almost felt like he was in a dream because he never imagined the two of them would ever be in the same room. the traits taehyung took from her, personality wise and physically, were so blatant, it was almost like looking at the same person. he swallowed hard and looked down at his own plate. he'd been the only one actively eating at it but he lost his appetite because he realized: taehyung really did belong to her. 

he nodded at the chicken, tried and failed to smile again. "yeah, you do."

when hayeon used to say that yoongi wasn't good at hiding his feelings or that, maybe, he was good but that she was too good at decoding the expressions on his face, yoongi thought she'd been talking nonsensically. or more like she was just trying to get under his skin so he'd never be able to forget her or the baby she was carrying at the time. she had been successful, of course but yoongi still thought she was full of it. but from the way she looked at him with her eyes inundating tenderness, yoongi also realized that she might have been telling the truth.

she looked back at taehyung and smiled. "you're really smart. every time i talk to you, i learn something new."

taehyung sucked his top lip into his mouth and bit it to hide his growing smile. he blushed a little and looked down at his plate. hayeon leaned close to him, lifted his chin, and said:

"you get that from your dad," taehyung smiled proudly and hayeon continued, her words vicarious and kind: "be proud of that. he's so smart that, once upon a time, he was going to be a doctor."

taehyung jerked toward him. "really?"

he hadn't known that yoongi was once a medical student, quickly on his way to become an attending at one seoul's best and most efficient hospitals. it wasn't that yoongi wanted to keep it from him because he didn't. it was more that he knew that once taehyung knew, he would ask why he stopped being a doctor or an almost doctor. and yoongi didn't know how to explain that the final choice was either his son or his practice, that taehyung would win every time, without making taehyung overthink it and feel bad. 

"once upon a time," he nudged taehyung's elbow. "eat up."

but taehyung didn't. he pushed the potatoes around for a second before asking: "why...you're not a doctor anymore?"

"i was never a doctor. i was going to be," he regarded taehyung and slipped on a small smile of reassurance. "but i'm not now. you have to finish your food, okay?"

much later, after dinner and after dessert and after taehyung has been put to bed, hayeon helped him wash the dishes as they went over more rules. nothing really important, only things that had grew from small whisperings in the back of his mind to cancerous apprehension when he accidentally gave himself too much time to think. 

"why didn't you finish school?" she'd asked when he handed her a plate to dry. 

he shrugged. "why didn't you finish school?"

"didn't have the money."

"didn't have the time," he handed her another plate and started scrubbing too hard on a new one. "if i kept going, i wouldn't have been able to be there for him. and if i was there for him, i couldn't go to school. i chose the best option."

she paused for a second, taking a moment to look closely at him before proceeding. "do you think you might go back to finish? you were nearly done."

"and miss this? no, thanks."

she didn't respond because she understood what it meant, no clarification needed. technically, yes, he could go back to school seeing as taehyung is older now and that, yes, he has more help than he had before. but at what cost? if he went back, he would have been there for taehyung for six years and become too busy to witness everything else. he'd miss the important things like taehyung's graduation from elementary school, his first bike ride without training wheels and seemingly trivial but imperative things like his first use of a five syllable word. the way yoongi saw it, he missed the first few months of taehyun's life and he wasn't itching to miss anything else.

"hey," that time yoongi spoke. "um...why...what makes you think i like seokjin or whatever?"

she smirked. "because you do. and i can read you. like a book."

"but i don't...i mean, i'm not," he stopped and carefully ran through the words he was trying to get out, selecting wisely. "i don't like guys."

"oh sheesh, what is this 1992?"

he narrowed his eyes down at her. "that's a really specific date."

"you don't like anyone. not really. but you...you should look at yourself somehow, see the way you look when you look at him. you get all doe-eyed and sparkly like you're titillated just by being next to him."

"i do not--"

"you look for him when he's not here," she continued. "even though you know he's not here, sometimes you look away and you look around and then you look disappointed. and it's obvious that it's his face you're looking for."

"name one time--"

"whenever we argue, you call him," the creases in yoongi's forehead and the denial on the tip of his tongue faded away. she smiled like she knows she caught him. "hoseok, as you told me, has been there for you since the dorms. and taehyung adores him, calls him uncle, and it's great. but when we argue, you call seokjin. he's important to you, don't be blind about it."

despite enough practice in the field of masking his emotions, yoongi found he couldn't hide the blush heating up his face. "i'm not..."

"the denial is strong in this one," she donned her best darth vader impression and laughed.

 

 

everything, for the moment, was okay and yoongi could breathe. he could breathe and feel himself and listen to the quiet in his mind long enough to think about things that been said. or, really, long enough to dwell on what he consider's to be a false accusation. he highly doubts that his eyes light up in seokjin's presence and he feels like he would know if was looking for the older. duh. he only called seokjin when they arguments got especially heated because calling hoseok would lead to him getting advice like "punch her in the boob".

"i have a question."

rubbing the sleep from his eyes, hoseok blinks at him, his eyebrows furrowing. from the passenger side, he crosses his arms and rearranges his position when the seatbelt clashes with his usual judgmental posture. "usually, you just ask."

"it's a bit of an odd one, i need you to be ready to answer seriously."

"the longer you delay, the less serious i'll be."

"do you think..." yoongi stops. thinking about it was really easy, so easy that he sometimes slipped into it without noticing. but saying it...that was a different endeavor, one that took all his strength. because it was ridiculous, right? "...thatimightlikeseokjin?"

without blinking, without the slightest shift in his expression, hoseok nods. "yup."

"what?" yoongi stammers and stumbles over his words. it's like they were slicked with oil and his tongue just couldn't get a good grip on them. "i'm not...i don't--i like...i'm not gay, hoseok."

hoseok's shoulders start to shake a little from his laughter. "everyone's a little gay."

"not me...what makes you think i like him? i...our kids are--"

"best friends, right." hoseok holds up a finger. "but your kids being best friends doesn't necessitate you guys having a date on his living room floor eating candy. or you knowing his work schedules. all of his work schedules, even the ones on weekends and overnight i.e.: the ones you don't need to know. or, you know, the way you sometimes let him pick lint off your shirt."

if yoongi didn't have to focus on driving, he'd probably just stare at hoseok all open-mouthed to punctuate his clear disagreement. "when has he ever picked lint from my shirt?"

"that's the thing you choose to deny?"

"because that's the biggest lie!"

"meh," hoseok clicks his tongue. "by saying that, you're kind of indicating that the other two are small lies but they're 100% true. and he does pick lint off your shirt. so often, in fact, that i've stopped looking. it looks grossly intimate."

"how can it be intimate when we don't even...i mean...i don't feel like that and he definitely doesn't feel like that so--"

"doubt."

yoongi looks at him quickly before looking back into traffic. "what?"

"not only are you in denial. but you're doubting it because, deep down, you doubt he would feel the same way."

"i don't like him!" he grips the steering wheel hard. "i mean not in the way you're talking about, he's...he's nice and he's there for us and--"

"i'm nice," hoseok grins. "and i'm there for you. believe me, you don't look at me like you'd like to hold my hand or stay up all night and organize an after school schedule."

"...nah, i don't like him that way, man."

"okay. when you see him again, do me a favor: pay attention. pay attention to him, to your surroundings, to yourself. enough detail that you could write a fucking book about the moment. then get back to me."

yoongi ignores him and hoseok goes back to falling asleep against the door. 

"and what do you even mean by 'everyone's a little gay'?"

 

when seokjin comes by like he usually does to pick up jimin, he comes in with his arms full of tupperware and a smile so staggering it would make leonardo davinci shove mona lisa aside for a shot at it. 

"you're in a good mood," yoongi notes as takes a few of the containers and helps move them over to the kitchen. 

while spreading them out onto the countertop, seokjin's smile impossibly widens. "over prepared and underwhelmed at the restaurant. they were just gonna throw all of it out but they had cold noodles and i remembered how much taehyung liked them last time. so i just took a little of what they had plus a few extras for dinner."

with a slow burn of remembrance and realization, everything around yoongi becomes painted in vibrant colors, highlighting hidden details. seokjin's is stocking some containers in the refrigerator without even looking to see which spaces are available, just knowing. he continues talking excitedly about the food and about how unexpected it was because he wasn't even supposed to be picking up a shift today but he did. and how, in a smaller voice that manages to hold onto the excitement while garner wistfulness, he was worried about what he and jimin were going to eat tonight and, my god, the food! as he goes on and on, he moves from filling the fridge to taking out a few pots and pans to warm up the other dishes. and as he moves around the kitchen, knowing the area like the back of his hand, yoongi watches him and awakens.

he notices, always notices, the sound of the children playing in the other room. the sound of jimin laughing out loud, of him being a kid and the sound of taehyung squealing and screaming and giggling like nothing could ever change. he notices, isn't quite sure how he missed it, that the sadness in seokjin's eyes has changed or matured into something else. or into the same thing with a new glint. he looks tired, fucking exhausted even, but he looks like it's all okay. not as sad, not as lonely, not as depressingly vulnerable. what gleams in his eyes now is that fatigue with an accent of wonder, a contraction of contentment, and a punctuation of longing.

more than anything, he notices the way his own stomach isn't spinning, the way his throat isn't tight, and the feeling growing inside him that is completely, unequivocally not anxiety. 

"oh shit," he breathes out and seokjin spins around and halts him with a pointed expression. 

"watch your mouth," he shakes his head in disbelief. "i usually don't have to tell you that, is something wrong?"

it comes out as a joke but it's evident that he wants a concrete answer. he turns away and continues getting everything heated up and yoongi drags himself out of his stupor to come up closer and ask:

"i like you," yoongi says it with an invisible question mark and subdued exclamation point. seokjin turns around slowly. "i mean...no, that's not the problem, i just...epiphany."

seokjin swallows hard, worries his lip, and looks away. "oh."

"i don't mean the plain way. i think i mean the...like...maybe the beatles way?"

"eleanor rigby way?"

yoongi shakes his head, throat suddenly going dry as he steps closer. "no, the eight days a week way."

"oh," seokjin looks up and meets his eyes. "yeah...i know. and, uh, ditto."

"ditto?"

with a tight lipped smile, seokjin nods shortly. yoongi doesn't know what to do next and, maybe, he thinks, the whole point of his anxiety is that it forces him to overanalyze every situation and come up with a million different ways to react. without it, he does stupid things like confess feelings he just discovered himself and then stand there with his thumb up his ass because what now?

"wait," he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "you knew? why didn't you tell me?"

"why didn't i tell you your feelings for me?" seokjin shrugs. "color me odd but i didn't think i had to."

"i literally just found out a few seconds ago."

seokjin quietly croons and turns his eyes up at the ceiling for a second before pulling his sights back down. "i knew when i met you. before taehyung sucker punched that little kid, jimin would come home with different problems every day. like, i know this is stupid but, i once bought him a 120 pack of crayons. those are like gold to kids and i thought it was a win-win situation. he'd be happy and the kids wouldn't be so cruel when they realized he was the cool kid with the best colors. but the next day, i picked him up from school and his crayons were gone. i know they're five years old but...they're so conditioned by what their parents tell them that they become...awful. they told him he didn't need them as much as the rest of them, that he was dumb, and all this bullshit. it happened consistently too and every time i went down to the school, they would brush me off like it wasn't that serious. like it's normal for kids to start bullying in kindergarten.

"that day when i got called into the office," seokjin continues after taking a deep breath. "i was really prepared for them to have gotten to the bottom of everything. but it was all just blame on repeat like a broken record. and you, out of nowhere, came to his defense and you looked at him like he mattered and it blew me away. like finally, there's someone in this world who can see us, you know? when i invited you two over for dinner, i told you it was for jimin. that was half true at least."

it goes quiet for a while with the exception of the two most important sounds emanating from sources in the back. yoongi crosses his arms. he feels kind of like he isn't, no matter the presence or absence of anxiety, really in control. 

"i'm glad you feel the same," seokjin smiles again, still genuine but not as whole. "but...what now?"

if he were to be one hundred percent honest with himself, the 'now' move would be a kiss. a genuine gesture of affection and tenderness that would snap all of this distant emotion from a dreamy haze into a rigid reality. but The Reality, the actual reality, is there. and actuality trumps fantasy every time. 

yoongi doesn't even notice how close he's stepped until seokjin pushes him away. "jimin comes first," he says with a sternness and a finality that can't be ignored. "always. that means it can never be you, yoongi. it can never be us in the way that we're both thinking."

and he knows it's true. but he can't seem to stop the question from shooting out of his mouth like word vomit: "why?"

"single parent is hard enough, poor is another story," seokjin reaches over and caresses his cheek. "add queer father and the kids get hell."

"taehyung too," yoongi sighs. "he comes first too. i know. what is it then? go back to pretending?"

"no one's going back and no one's pretending."

"what then?" what is he supposed to do with this colossal revelation that's just thrown him onto the path of more confusion and more anxiety and more general frustration than before?

seokjin nods to the general direction where taehyung's bedroom is. "them."

Chapter Text

at the time of taehyung's guest appearance into the critically panned show that was yoongi's life, yoongi thought, hoped, prayed the the appearance was temporary. he managed to convince himself that that taehyung wasn't his and couldn't possibly be his ever. but then that guest appearance developed into a starring role in a top billing cast and desperate times called for measures yoongi is now ashamed to have taken. 

shortly after he realized that hayeon wouldn't be coming back, somewhere between two failed grades and about fifteen diaper receipts, he took taehyung and got a paternity text. he had been wrought with confusion and anger, confusion at how his life had taken such a sharp left turn and anger at how he let that turn happen. the minute his eyes fell on the test results a week later, being wrought with anger became being wrought with guilt because taehyung was 100% his blood. 

upon finding out what he'd done, hoseok shook his head as he took taehyung from yoongi's arms and cradled him with the kind of care that yoongi still hadn't been able to offer. "if it turned out he wasn't yours, what would you have done with him?"

that was it.

he didn't know.

but deep down somewhere in the shadows of his mind, he knew he would have given taehyung away regardless of what he'd promised hayeon. he would have moved on with his life. the boy that became his heart and soul and joy would be in the system, living out his childhood and adolescence bouncing from foster home to foster home. and facing the onslaught of various forms of abuse. 

all because yoongi got a low grade on a final exam.

fourteen words hoseok had uttered and the rain of guilt became an ocean of angry waves that threw yoongi into tumultuous despair. he's been trying to get to shore ever since.

he fights angry waves with patience. patience to the endless questions that spray out from taehyung's mouth, open and voracious for knowledge. he fights those angry waves with gentleness and warmth, the kind only a mother can give but the kind he worked so hard to emulate. he fights those angry waves with complete selflessness, making a marathon of sacrifices for taehyung's sake. or at least that's how hoseok explained it to him upon learning that nothing was gonna come from his infatuation with seokjin.

it had been two weekends since hayeon reentered their lives, making a warm bed for herself in taehyung's heart, making herself his mother once again. two weeks since most of taehyung's questions were on the subject of hayeon's presence and absence. two weeks and hoseok still refused to meet her out of fear that he would actually take his own unrealistic advice and punch her in the boob.

"i know i tell you that," he says more to yoongi than taehyung. "but it's a joke. or it's meant to be." 

"but," taehyung pulls on his arm once more, bouncing up and down in a more hyper, jubilant version of a plead. "you have to!"

"i don't have to do anything but give you all the things your dad won't and spoil you rotten. besides i already met your mother."

taehyung stops bouncing, coming to a still. if a stance could be disappointed, taehyung's was completely crestfallen. "you did?"

knowing that taehyung has a knack for, and really enjoys, introducing his favorite people to one another, hoseok quickly changes his story. "i...it was a long time ago, i don't even remember her."

taehyung's bouncing starts up again and hoseok releases a silent sigh of relief. "she's different now so you need to see. right, daddy?"

yoongi, from his side of the park bench, puts on a certain expression and nods firmly. when taehyung turns back to hoseok however, yoongi shakes his head because hayeon is definitely the same as she was seven years ago. relentless and petulant and exuberant about anything.

"tae..." hoseok starts and yoongi knows he's prepared to dive back into all the reasons why he doesn't need to see hayeon again. but when he looks at taehyung, whose face yoongi knows has gone into a pout, the very one that makes hoseok do things like buy him candy and other stuff he doesn't need, he frowns. "when do you want us to meet?"

"dinner," taehyung straightens up and brightens. he gives a toothy grin and looks back at yoongi. "whenever daddy says."

"okay," taehyung whoops with hoseok's forlorn expression. "but know this: i won't stay as long as i usually do. i'll eat for thirty minutes then go home."

"an hour?"

"thirty minutes."

"...two?"

"...an hour and a half," hoseok sighs. after face palming and feeling bad for himself, rethinking his lack of willpower, he nods toward the playground. "now, go have fun."

as soon as taehyung is out of ear shot, leaping onto the jungle gym and climbing like spider-man, hoseok shoots an accusing glare at yoongi. "if i end up killing her, you can't charge me."

"you're not gonna kill her. you want him to be with her just as much as i do. you even liked her more than i did back then, what happened?"

"i dunno," hoseok strokes his chin thoughtfully. "the part where she abandoned her son kind of got to me but, really, it could be anything."

"she's back now," yoongi sips at his scorching hot latte and lets the burn distract him. his eyes never leave taehyung's movements, he learned from his mistakes, thank you very much. "if i can handle it so can you."

"why is it so easy for you?"

"she wants to meet him. he wants to meet her. it's not right to keep them apart."

"but you don't feel great about it, do you?"

he shrugs. "feeling better now."

"but you weren't feeling great about it before," hoseok pauses and lets the sentence sink in before he resumes. "so you put yourself at the back of the line."

"sacrifices are normal when you have kids. wait until you have one."

hoseok scoffs. "i might never have kids."

"you sleep with everyone you meet, you should really expect to have one popping out someday."

"okay but," he holds up a finger. "sacrifices, i can accept, are regular occurrences when you have children. there are certain things you can't do anymore, certain limitations, yada yada but there is a limit."

"don't start this a--"

"you guys like each other," hoseok starts painting his testimonial portraiture of all things wrong, getting passionate like he's trying to get a criminal off in front of a jury. "you spend all your time together. you already confessed, both of you, what the hell would be wrong with giving it a legit shot?"

yoongi opens his mouth to speak but hoseok beats him to it.

"if you say it's for the sake of the kids, i'm gonna pour that latte all over you."

yoongi shuts his mouth.

"dude," hoseok sighs again. "i love you guys. you and taehyung, you know you're like family to me. and you know i want what's best for you. both of you. you're a dad, you gotta break a few of your own eggs to make sure he has an omelet. but there are times, like now, when you need to think of yourself."

"i was selfish for a long time. i don't need to be anymore."

"nah...if you were selfish, you'd be a doctor right now. if you were selfish, taehyung wouldn't be here...which means i wouldn't be here because i didn't like you that much."

"hoseok. point. get to it."

"you deserve something," he finally says. "both of you deserve to be happy. i mean, how long are you gonna forget to take care of yourself? you're gonna be forty years old, he's gonna be off in college, and what are you gonna do then?"

yoongi looks at him, finally turning away from taehyung, permitting himself a moment. just one. "you done, dr. phil?"

hoseok lifts his hands in defense. "i'm done. for now...just saying selfishness is important sometimes."

 

hayeon had taken to visiting pretty much every day after school, sometimes she'd even drop by before with coffee and a warm cheese danish. she stayed until taehyung went to sleep, sometimes sitting with yoongi when he read him bedtime stories. after some time, one night she was even able sing him a lullaby. the one she used to sing to him as a baby. seven years and yoongi still maintains that that particular billie holiday song was inappropriate. 

sometimes hayeon would watch taehyung briefly on the weekends when yoongi had to focus on work. they'd build blocks, put together puzzles, and draw pictures in the living room. yoongi would keep an ear out and listen to them talk. their conversations, however brief, never failed to distract him and make him smile. 

"why do you color the sky pink?" taehyung had asked. "is it your favorite?"

"uh-huh," she answered softly. her voice was always so soft when she spoke to him. "pink is my second favorite color. green is my first. the sky is already beautiful but i think it looks even moreso when it's pink."

"oh...my favorite color is orange. but sometimes it's not."

"oh yeah? what is it when it's not orange?"

"purple, yellow....everything sometimes. like a rainbow."

"do you like rainbows?"

"uh-huh. sometimes when i really wanna see one, daddy makes it for me."

"really?" hayeon gasped. "i knew he was smart but i didn't know he could do that. how does he do it?"

"um, he puts candy on a plate for me in a circle. then he pours water and all the different color candy becomes a rainbow. it's really cool!"

"wow. i'd like to see that, can you show me one day?"

"yeah. do you like rainbows?"

"love 'em. one time, when i was a little bit older than you, my family and i went up the jirisan mountain. when we started going up, it was very sunny and nice but then it started to rain. at first, it seemed bad but when we got to the top, the rain stopped, and there was the biggest rainbow over us. it was amazing...you're kind of like a rainbow, you know that?"

"is it because i'm colorful? my teacher mrs. hwang always says i have a colorful per-sal-ity."

yoongi had laughed at that. it was true. mrs. hwang said it every time yoongi visited. that taehyung was funny and smart and always cheering everyone up with his "colorful personality". 

"oh yeah," he heard hayeon laugh a little too. "you're really colorful. but you're also the most amazing person i've ever met."

it became silent for a while and yoongi imagined taehyung's shy, small smile. 

"can i...?" taehyung spoke after a bit. "can i call you mommy?"

"i am your mommy."

"i know...but can i call you that?"

with her voice already soft in taehyung's presence, yoongi is surprised at just how light it gets. like if her voice had been the slightest bit harder, it would cause abrasions. but also like if she were to speak in a voice the least bit louder, the wobble in it would be prevalent. "nothing would make me happier."

yoongi had gotten used to her presence in ways that he never really thought he could. and it was pretty obvious (from his constant declarations and excitement every time he saw her) that taehyung enjoyed her as well.

"so, you're officially mommy now," he says later, after taehyung's been put to sleep, before attempts to allow himself the luxury of not overthinking. 

"yeah," she says. "it feels good. kind of like being wrapped up in a snuggie, you know? is that it what it's like for you when he calls you daddy?"

yoongi nods and smiles fondly at the memory. taehyung's first word hadn't been 'daddy' or 'mommy'. it was 'no'. for weeks, yoongi had been feeding him baby food, transitioning from formula to baby carrots and mushed peas. taehyung absolutely hated it and often spat it up as soon as it touched his tongue. one day, after yoongi introduced pear zucchini corn and after many attempts to get taehyung to eat it, taehyung yelled 'no' and finally smacked his tiny hand over the small container, making the food splatter up into both of their faces. he giggled at the mess and went into a 'no' frenzy. 

it wasn't until another two weeks afterward that he'd said "daddy" and when he did yoongi fell deep into the kind of warmth that people can only dream of. that, coupled with the way taehyung looked up at him like he was everything, made him want to be the best person there ever was.

"definitely."

 

"do you want me to make you guys dinner tonight? i have the night off."

yoongi looks away from the laundry he was folding, taehyung's 2pac shirt (a gift from hoseok) still in his hands. he turns his head and looks at seokjin standing in the entrance to the kitchen. "is that good?"

he shrugs. "i've saved up enough to be okay for one off. plus i made a lot in tips the other day."

"enough to make up for a full day's pay?"

"enough to not worry about it, yeah. so dinner?"

unlike yoongi, seokjin was doing a great job of pretending that the conversation they had about not pretending hadn't happened. they didn't touch on the subject again, didn't casually joke about it (which was good because it probably only serve to make it more awkward), and he didn't change anything. yoongi still picked up the kids from school most days, seokjin still picked them some other days, they still had dinner together when hayeon wasn't staying over. it was all the same as it had been before and yoongi thinks that's probably why he's been having such a hard time getting over it. 

"sure," he answers stiffly. 

he momentarily dwells on what hoseok had said, simultaneously wondering how it was that someone who lived his lifestyle could be this cornucopia of helpful advice. could be all the pot he smoked in college...

yoongi knows that seokjin, more so than himself, is the meaning of sacrifice. he's the actual personification of what it's like to wear yourself thin for the benefit of everyone else, to be for everyone except for yourself. 

"you be luke," he hears jimin declare from taehyung's bedroom. "and i can be princess leia."

"why can't i be princess leia?"

"luke has a lightsaber," jimin reasons.

"yeah, but princess leia has the galaxy."

yoongi sets one folded plaid shirt down on the coffee table and tiptoes in the kitchen. he doesn't speak until he's slipped up next to seokjin, silently standing by his side. 

"can i--"

the quite of his voice must have given him away because seokjin interrupts him without looking up from the cutting board where he's knifing into stalks of celery and carrots. "no."

"please?"

"why?" seokjin pauses. "we already decided--"

"i didn't decide anything," yoongi whispers. hisses. they pierce each other when stares meant to be x-rays, trying to look through one another. then seokjin starts cutting again and they both hear the kids making lightsaber noises. yoongi looks down. "i just want to ask you one question. i won't ask you to rethink your decision or anything like that because i get why that's your choice. just one thing."

through pursed lips and greeted teeth, seokjin replies "okay. go" at the same time that he chops hard.

yoongi worries his lip. "what do you want?"

"excuse me?"

out of some hidden impulsion, yoongi reaches down and settles his hand atop seokjin's, making the older's hand go still. the chopping stops but it still takes seokjin a minute to look up at him. he leaves his hand there for a few moments before pulling away. 

"you said they come first and they do, i agree with that. but what do you want?"

"...we can't--"

"i'm not asking if you can," yoongi takes a deep breath and holds it a while before exhaling "i'm asking what you want." 

yoongi wouldn't call himself a mind reader or a faux visage expert like hayeon does but he doesn't really need to be in order to understand the things seokjin is saying without uttering a word. with his mouth parted and his eyes a little glassy, seokjin openly shudders. he swipes his tongue over his lips and takes a deep breath, mouth fixed for an answer.

"mr. min!" soft impact hits yoongi's legs and they both tear away from each other, looking down to see jimin. the child pulls at yoongi's hands. "taetae won't let me be princess leia!"

"it's my turn!" taehyung comes in, light on his feet with his light saber in tow. yoongi almost regrets letting hoseok introduce them to the series because all they ever talk about anymore is dagobah and galactic whimsy. 

seokjin drops the knife onto the counter on instinct when taehyung hugs his legs from behind. he pushes the cutting board farther up before turning around. "what happened?"

"it's my turn to rule the universe," taehyung pouts and seokjin reaches down and strokes his hair. 

"but i wasn't finished," jimin explains to yoongi and he reaches down and cups his cheeks. jimin's cheeks are soft and round and never fail to remind yoongi of alvin and the chipmunks.

yoongi knows that the dispute isn't a serious one, not legitimate by any means. they've started telling on each other over things they didn't really care about just so they could have an excuse to shout. hoseok's theory was that they liked to have competitions to see who could get the other out of trouble after convincing the adults that they both did something bad. either way, yoongi isn't worried.

seokjin smiles fondly at the both of them, most traces of hesitance and fatigue fleeing. "how about this: neither one of you can be princess leia. one can be luke and one can be someone else."

taehyung frowns. "but we're twins."

"no, you're not," yoongi's voice goes up an octave or two as he tries to keep himself from bursting out into laughter. 

"but mr. min," jimin pauses like his dad does so often when he can't figure out how to form his thoughts into words. "you and daddy always say we can be what we want. in the whole world."

"we didn't mean related," seokjin giggles but quickly covers his mouth as his eyes go sympathetic. "okay, you can be twins but can it be from another franchise? this princess leia argument has got to stop."

"the grady girls?" yoongi suggests sheepishly.

"who are they?" taehyung asks.

"from the shining?" scrunching up his nose, seokjin quickly shakes his head in opposition. "how about the weasleys?"

yoongi shakes his head and leans in to whisper the reminder that fred died into seokjin's ear.

"right. okay, we'll figure out, i promise. but for now can you two please be jiminnie and taetae? be your own twins for now."

"okay."

after gentle prodding, the kids walk away hand in hand, seokjin proceeds with the vegetables, and the mood from before cloaks over the both of them. 

they don't resume the conversation because there isn't a need to. they both knew very well what seokjin was going to say. 

 

every time anything seems to be going well, yoongi notices, something always surfaces or resurfaces and he's sent back to the part ofhis mind that he doesn't like putting a spotlight on. 

taehyung has always been the rope that kept him tethered to reality, the anchor that kept him from getting lost at sea. and he tries and has always tried and will continue to try to be the best he can be for him. just like he tries to be the best for everyone all the time. that, amongst other things, is probably why his heart hiccups when taehyung runs into his office to show him his feet.

"i did it!" he shouts giddily, his smile the closest thing to the sunlight. he jumps up and down, kicking his feet against the floor in the closest rendition of a tap dance. "daddy, look! are you looking?"

taehyung's bright orange sneakers that he hasn't been able to wear are on his feet and tied almost perfectly. one loop is bigger than the other, the knot in the middle isn't that tight, and if he ran, the strings would more than likely come loose but they're tied. 

in a daze with his eyes never leaving taehyung's feet, yoongi slides away from his desk, gets down on his knees, and inspects the bows carefully. "you did it," he springs up and pulls taehyung up with him, wrapping his arms around him tightly. "look at you!"

taehyung nods and giggles when yoongi tickles his sides. he settles against him, still smiling with his legs swinging, feet flying like a nation's pride would in their own flag. "mommy taught me."

even though his heart does plummet and his throat does tighten and breathing normally gets a little more difficult, yoongi does not skip a beat in maintaining his excitement. "really?"

"uh-huh. we were practicing so it can surprise you."

with the thickness in his throat getting harder to swallow down, yoongi only nodded and hugged tighter. after a few moments, he was able to declare the pride he had in a whisper, accented with a kiss on the forehead.

 

"did you see?" hayeon asks him much later. when he doesn't respond, doesn't crack a smile, she continues on just joyfully. "sure it's not perfect but he's six. he just learned. they're so cute too, you should see the way he does it."

deep down yoongi wanted to tell her to go. but he was biting his tongue so hard he was sure blood was pouring out. he had a duty to taehyung happy and to not screw up his life by sending people away from him. 

but fucking hell, that was his moment. 

and she took it away. 

he'd built everything around precisely not missing anything that would be important to him and teaching taehyung everything that he could. he failed and he's been there for six years. meanwhile she succeeds and she's been there for six weeks.

she sighs. "okay, whose stick is up yours?"

he bites his tongue harder.

she reaches up, steps closer, and pinches his cheek. she uses that baby voice she tends to use when she's teasing him, the one that is as condescending as it is concentrated with astringence. "come on. you can tell me."

as soon as he slaps her hand away a little too hard, he feels guilty. he knows damn well his anger is misplaced. that his mind is carrying too many things and one of them was bound to fall. he just didn't think he'd be the one to break. 

she gawks at him and he looks away when his throat thickens. 

"it's not fair," he utters weakly. it's more of a keen, a whine, a voice that's so dense with everything that it can't help but shake. "i've tried my hardest this long, it's not fair that you get to come in late and be better at it than i am. it's not...it's not fair."

his voice breaks on "fair" and before he knows it, before he can make a move to stop anything, before he can remind himself to swallow down this bitter pill, those tears he kept at bay for so long come tumbling down. 

hayeon is shocked still as he lets himself collapse on the couch in a sitting position, bringing up his hands to cover his face. he can't be weak, can never be weak. what the hell was he doing? but the flow won't let up. every time he roughly wipes away one tear, no doubt tearing into his skin, more fall. 

almost robotically, she sits down next to him and watches in awe. yoongi can't remember the last time he cried. like really cried. he stopped letting himself doing it and opted to get angry instead for so long, he didn't think he had it in him anymore. 

"i'm so tired," he admits for the first time ever. he realizes that everything has been building up to this and he feels sick to his stomach. what he's tired of, he doesn't know. he can't put a name to it. "i kept thinking i just need a good night's rest but it's more than that...jesus, that's not fair. you can't not be here and then show up and be better."

he sniffles before adding: "you can't do that."

hayeon, after a long moment, huffs out a sigh-chuckle hybrid and buries her face in her hands. her smile is more ironic than genuine. "what are you talking about? abandoning my kid doesn't make me mother of the year...i shouldn't have taken that from you, i'm sorry. but, yoongi, you had six years with him. and i've had, what, seven months? you have a full length feature and i barely have enough footage for a movie trailer."

"but it was mine," he mumbles out beneath his own hands, still trying to bury the tears that won't seem to stop, trying to get his voice to stop quivering so fucking much. "that was the one thing i...i've been trying to teach him that for so fucking long and you get it done in, what, two days?"

she leans close, presses herself into his space, leans against the walls he's built, and pulls his hands away from his face. she lifts his head and looks deep into him, making sure that he's looking back. "you have done so much more. stop doubting yourself. all his manners and intellect, you think i taught him that long distance? through telepathy? that's all you. all of it. stop making excuses for why you're not a good father when there's so much evidence that you are."

he doesn't respond, eyes dropping down and slowly closing. it's everything, he realizes. he's tired of spreading himself so thin. he's tired, as selfish as it is, of sacrificing. he's tired of blaming himself. but it's all he can do. 

"look at me," she speaks again. when he does, she proceeds. "don't ever call me a good mom until i've actually done something to prove that i am. he almost died because of me, remember? who was the one who caught on? who knew there was something wrong? who wrapped him up in a hoodie and a beanie and took him to the hospital? that was you, dumbass."

yoongi shakes his head and covers his face again. everything is assaulting him at once and yoongi finds he can't even fight back anymore. "i hurt him though. so many times. because i'm not...i can't be good. a couple of years back, we went to the park and i was trying to get this job. i was so worked up over it...i wanted to get away, i was tired of being responsible. i let him play but i stayed on the phone. researching about the position, making calls, all the things that weren't important. and i wasn't watching him, i should have been watching him, i don't...

"he was on the monkey bars and he fell. some fucking kid left his toy train there and taehyung fell on it face first. broke his arm, scarred his face, and all because i wanted to make believe that my life could be different."

his body shudders again and this time hayeon pulls him in, hugging him tight and locking her hand around his head. she rubs big circles into his back. yoongi wants to be in his right mind and pull away but he can't because a part of him, the dark part, likes what it feels like to be taken care of. 

"and now," he sniffles again. "i'm scared. i can't...the last time i tried to do something for me, i hurt him. i can't be selfish anymore, i can't but..."

but seokjin. 

yoongi knows, or at least he recently came to the revelation, that he was aware of how he felt about seokjin for a while. his infatuation was obvious in the way he found it so easy to confess his darkest fears with the older despite not knowing him well. it was in the way he only went to him with advice or how he'd sometimes make playdates where all four of them had to be together. he knew. but he could never risk hurting taehyung or, heaven forbid, lose him. 

because seokjin smiled and yoongi perked up at it, made a quiet mission that he would put as many smiles on his face as he could. 

but he can't. 

"it's so fucked up," he breathes out. "there are so many reasons why i don't need to be thinking about myself but that's all i can fucking do. . . jesus, i hate myself so much."

he feels hayeon's hands caress his scalp. this is the most intimate they've been since the night they conceived taehyung. it felt odd. but oddly comforting. whether he liked it or not, he and hayeon would always have a strong bond. their ties couldn't be broken because they both got the best thing that ever happened to them from each other. 

for that, yoongi would love her and she would love him.

even if yoongi thought she was an annoying asshole most times. 

"it's not selfish," she whispers. "you're not selfish. stop torturing yourself, go to seokjin, and tell him what you think. tell him that you both deserve to be happy. tell him to allow himself to be happy. he won't be hurting her by moving on. he won't be hurting jimin. he'll just stop hurting himself."

it's clear that hayeon is talking about the both of them. yoongi has to allow himself to be happy, he won't be hurting taehyung, he'll just stop hurting himself. 

they fall into silence, yoongi's shudders quieting into small sighs as the tears ease up. she continues stroking his head and rocking him before saying:

"don't worry, i'll let you teach him how to ride a bike."

he shudders out a laugh through tears and kindly tells her to shut the fuck up. 

Chapter Text

"are you going in?"

yoongi startles from his frozen position where he'd been standing outside of the establishment for the past fifteen minutes. he looks at the person who posed the question, a young woman with platinum blonde curls and a tight-lipped smile. he shakes his head. "no, no, i'm sorry. you go on."

she smiles and opens the door to the tavern. yoongi peeks inside before the door can close and obscure his view. he catches a short glimpse inside, his eyes darting to the bar area where he knows seokjin is standing. he's probably serving up drinks with his signature smile and his practiced expression of bliss. before yoongi can find his face however, the door is closing and the music becomes muffled.

he knows he needs to go in. he can't wait outside all night. besides, hoseok has a meeting in the morning and he needs to be rested so having him watch the kids all night isn't an option. but if he was to be completely honest with himself, he isn't sure what he expects to happen. he isn't even sure why the issue is so pressing. more likely than not, nothing would happen. he'd already been rejected twice and even if seokjin were to acquiesce this time around, they would likely do nothing about it. they would keep going on playdates and helping each other out, both of them harboring this badly kept secret, delving into nuances of anger. 

truthfully, he couldn't pin down what the exact reason was behind his refusal to let it be. he liked a lot of people in the past and oddly enough, the longest relationship he'd had was with someone he wasn't particularly infatuated with at all. his past girlfriends could vouch for how his passion tends to run high but his expression of affection tends to flat line. he couldn't figure out why this time, it was so important. why it was keeping him up at night, why he felt like he couldn't breathe when the two of them were in the same room, or why it was so imperative to him and everyone around him that he not let it pass by. 

whatever it is manages to compel him into motion, moving his feet forward, dragging them against the concrete of the sidewalk and pulling open the door with unsteady hands. 

the bar is pretty full, pretty loud, and pretty much adding to the anxiety he was already feeling. there are people at every booth, on every stool, in every corner laughing and drinking and chattering too loudly. behind the bar, seokjin drifts and floats fluidly, drowning taps, tapping steins. he's entertaining an older woman who's had far too much to drink and he's smiling genuinely. when she laughs, seokjin laughs, and yoongi collapses on himself. 

"married," yoongi hears her say when he gets closer. "i like her too, she's a nice girl. it's just always hard when something happens to make you realize that your kids are growing up. one day, everyone thinks they're cute and they want to pinch their cheeks. the next day, there are people creating sexual fantasies about them...your children. they grow up."

her words dribble into nonsensical non sequiturs and seokjin sets a glass of ice water in front of her, perching a lemon on the side of the glass. "at least they grow up. keep that in mind. drink this, please."

seokjin's just about to turn away to pour down another lager when his eyes catch yoongi's. his demeanor changes in the most subtle of ways and yoongi wants to kick himself for noticing it. how his shoulders stiffen just a bit, how the light in his eyes is shadowed by a shade of concern. why does he notice it?

"what happened?" is the first thing he asks, his eyebrows bunching up. yoongi even hears his breath hitch over the crowd. "are the kids okay?"

"they're fine," yoongi manages after a long pause, a prolonged moment of him trying to remember how to speak and trying not to let his nerves make him explode. he bunches his hands up in his pockets, his palms too clammy. "hoseok's watching them."

for a second, the older looks confused. but then realization clouds his irises and he quickly continues to float behind the bar, jumping back into action without missing a beat. he hides his voice behind a pint of irish cream, a shot of tonic water, and a jar of olives. "why are you here then?"

"needed to talk to you."

yoongi's words come out a mumbled monosyllabic blob. he casts his eyes down on the floor and stares at his shoes. they're blue. 

"it couldn't wait?"

yoongi shakes his head at his laces. "nah, i can't put it off any longer."

"young man," the woman turns around in her seat and appraises yoongi with especially exuberant eyes. even with their apparent elation, they're riddled with the kind of sadness yoongi recognizes with ease. he sees that same sadness in his eyes every morning. "do you have kids?"

"one."

"how old?"

"six."

the woman's smile widens. "oh, they're wonderful at that age. my seungmin is just thirty years old now. married off."

"congratulations," yoongi smiles at her before looking back at seokjin who's doing a good job of pretending he's busier than he really is. "can we?"

"can we what?"

"talk?"

seokjin pauses again, holding up both his hands, either one possessing two different glasses. "i'm working."

"i see that."

"six years old," the woman muses again. yoongi turns to see her holding her phone up high for anyone to see it. on the small screen is a grainy picture of a small boy around four years old. his dark hair is curly and his smile is bright. "that's a really good age. this is my son when he was young, isn't he cute?"

"very," yoongi looks back to seokjin who offers him a barely there glance, mainly focusing on the all consuming task of passing out snack orders. "do you have a break soon?"

"no, i don't."

yoongi swallows down a heavy sigh and bites his tongue. seokjin is doing this on purpose. if he refuses to give yoongi the moment he needs to get everything out, fine. "we can talk right now then. right here."

"jeez, c'mon," seokjin looks appropriately panicked at the prospect. "is that really--?"

yoongi gestures toward the stool next to the older woman where her purse is sitting. "may i have this seat?"

"of course," she says cheerfully. "what's your son's name?"

"taehyung," yoongi pulls out his own phone and goes through his photo album, proudly showing picture after picture of taehyung. when he was in college, his phone used to be filled with pictures of the sky and cityscapes. shortly after he got full custody, it was baby pics galore. 

the woman squeals and gawks and coos at the pictures even taking it upon herself to zoom in on some of them. they get to a picture of jimin and taehyung sitting on the living room floor, eating old halloween candy. yoongi had taken it because they reminded him of really small, significantly cuter college students with their identical expressions of fatigue. "is this his brother?"

"might as well be."

just like seokjin pretended he was too busy, yoongi pretends that he's too engaged in his conversation to notice how seokjin pauses. he continues unaffected:

"that's his best friend. actually, he's this gentleman's son."

she regards seokjin, surprise in her eyes. "he's so adorable! so handsome, you didn't say he was so cute."

seokjin offers a weary smile and the corners of his mouth quiver like he's having a hard time maintaining the facade. "thank you."

"it must be so wonderful having them," she turns back to yoongi. "they must be an absolute delight to be around."

"the best," this time yoongi looks at seokjin who hesitantly, almost ashamed, looks back. "we want the best for them, you know. as all parents do for their children. but they're so great, so incredible. they want the best for us too."

"that's so sweet."

"but," seokjin clears his throat before he speaks over the loud music. he prepares a vodka tonic. "as all parents do, we put them first. and we're better for it."

"sacrifices," she croons. "sacrifices never end, do they? once those kids are out, your whole world changes. you have to learn to be selfless."

"exactly," seokjin looks pleased. "that's just what i think."

"but you mustn't let it consume you," she says, holding a finger up to further drive in her point. her eyes are still hazy and her breath still thick with the stench of alcohol but both seokjin and yoongi hold on to her every word. "as important as it is to make sacrifices as a parent, it is equally important to do things for yourself. otherwise, what happens is you find yourself old and your children have moved on and your house is empty and you find that you've forgotten who you were."

yoongi rolls the words over in his mind, repeats them to himself in a murmur so the taste of it can saturate him. "well said, ma'am."

"that doesn't mean every endeavor and pursuit can be one of selfish desire," seokjin quips evenly. "small things. but the big ones, the life changing ones, the ones that could have a very real impact on them...those aren't things you toy with."

"but a parent's happiness is just as important as their child's."

"very true," she nods. "it's...no one should ever sacrifice something that would make them happy for someone else. even if the person is your child. don't get me wrong, there are things you can let go of and there are things you can't. you wanna know why that balance is so important? because without it, anything can happen. you can grow to resent this small child that you should be protecting all because you blame them for your decision to give something up. it's so -- honey, can i get another shot, please?"

seokjin looks conflicted. "i'm so sorry but i have to cut you off now. i can get you anything else, some more water. ginger ale, maybe?"

she nods understandingly and looks at yoongi. "what are you having, young man?"

yoongi looks at seokjin "coke, please?"

"i'll have the same," she smiles when seokjin does and it's warm and inviting. one look at her and her laugh lines, her crow's feet, the gentleness she emanates and yoongi can tell at one point in her life, she was them. she gave too much and took too little. "there's nothing more harmful to the relationship you can have with your loved ones than the feeling of resentment."

she may have been drunk, slumping in on herself and trying to down more drinks than her inebriation would permit. but she was right. yoongi could see it and he was afraid of it. taehyung coming home from school at seventeen years old, not bothering to say hello. the two of them having dinner in separate rooms. yoongi feeling like if only this, there could have been that

"i don't wanna resent anyone," he says it quietly but he knows seokjin hears him.

 

"i get it," seokjin says much later when he's walking yoongi out to his car on his break. "i'm confused too. but what if this isn't real?"

"you mean like we're in the matrix?"

the smallest, barely detectable smile appears and yoongi's heart flips a little in his chest. "i mean we're both so starved for something. we have been before we even met. ostracized and outcasts not just on the parent committee at the school but in the whole of south korea. don't you think that's telling?"

"of what?"

seokjin sighs. "i've thought about this a lot. my parents disowned me. jiyeon died. i'm so busy trying to make things normal for jimin that i haven't really created any kind of relationship with anyone. then you come along and...you're there and you're someone."

yoongi stops in his steps and looks at seokjin closely under the streetlight. "so?"

"so what if we're just gravitating toward each other because we're desperate? not because there's any genuine affection afflicting us but because we were both starving and arrived in each other's lives in forms of sustenance? what if what this is is nothing more than a desire for contact? what if we get that warmth we need and then we don't want it anymore...i don't want to hurt them."

yoongi looks down and kicks idly at the concrete, scruffing the front of his shoes. he shrugs when he looks back up, avoiding seokjin's eyes even though he tries not to. "i've never been one to ardently oppose anything. not anything that isn't blatantly wrong like murder or interrupting a good song. but even so, i've never been..."

"what?"

"...i'm not attracted to guys," he says slowly, enunciating the words more than they need to be and raising his eyes to meet seokjin's. "and i know how dangerous it is to be in a place like this. so even if was just warmth i was craving, i doubt i'd put myself into that corner."

seokjin raises a brow. "not even a little?"

"according to hoseok, everyone's a little...but i've never even had a crush on a guy. with the exception of leo dicaprio but honestly who hasn't had something for him?"

seokjin smiles a little more. yoongi's confidence gets a little higher. 

"i don't understand what this is," he admits. "but you...i wanna call you when good things happen. when bad things happen. i want you over for dinner every night. i feel this need to make sure you smile at least three times a day. and you know how you don't let anyone hold the spoon when you're having them taste something? i like that. and, frankly, it scares the shit out of me. everything i knew about myself, my whole life, is changing because of you and freaks me out. but i'd be really stupid to not try and figure out if it means what i think it means."

seokjin's smile fades only a little but the remnants of contentment stay on him, lingering like a nice cologne. "it wouldn't be fair to them if it didn't work out. and be honest, the chances of it not are greater than anything."

"what are you afraid of?"

seokjin looks up at the sky. his eyes scan across the expanse of the darkness, picking out the few stars he can under such an electric city, gazing at each one like they might offer an answer. "we try this. we don't like it. we end it. it gets awkward. we don't wanna be around each other. slowly, we'll move a part and i take away the one good thing that's happened in jimin's life since he was born. all he ever gets is the short end of the stick, he doesn't even get to be a kid, you know? and because his father couldn't keep his excitement down, he has to lose his best friend? it's not fair to them."

"it wouldn't be fair if we didn't try either."

"how do you figure?"

"okay. we acknowledge there is something here even if we can't understand it. we do nothing. we let this hole form between us and fill it with all the things that could have happened. all the things we didn't let happen. we resent each other for not trying. we resent each other for feeling any of it. we let that hole get bigger. we let one form between them. and everything we are right now, everything we could have been gets buried."

cars pass by, people breeze past them in groups, the carefree laughter of the city is directed at them, yoongi thinks.

yoongi looks down at his feet again. "i'm not asking for us to date. i'm not asking you to marry me. hell, maybe one day i will."

"yoongi..."

"all i want is for us to figure this shit out. if we don't, i don't think anything is gonna keep me from breaking. and my son...he's my whole world. he's the reason why i try even when i'm standing right in the face of rejection. i would hate myself if i started taking him for granted just because i didn't have the balls to try."

yoongi pauses to clear his throat and forces himself to look up again. he continues: "it doesn't mean that before i finish what i have to say, we share this big kiss and the world stops. it just means we should both see if that big kiss is where we want it to end."

seokjin busies himself worrying his bottom lip. 

"if it doesn't work out," he finally says after a few minutes too long. "we can't let it affect them. whatever we put ourselves through, we make sure we're the ones that go through it. okay?"

"okay."

 

"school lets out this week," yoongi says into his phone which is pressed up between his cheek and shoulder as he dries taehyung's hair. "last day is tomorrow, we'll try to come down next week....you're not taking him for the whole summer, ma. c'mon..."

"why can't i go for the whole summer?" taehyung asks, his mouth partially muffled by the white towel hanging over his head. 

"ma," yoongi pauses and lets his mother go on her soft spoken tirade about how important grandparent time is. he gives taehyung's hair one more pat down and tosses the towel into the hamper, using one of his combs to put the hair into place. the second to last day of school and they're legitimately running late. and he had done so well this year. "okay, okay, i get it. but do you want me to write an essay about how important parent time is? because i can."

"why can't i go the whole summer?"

"because i'm selfish," yoongi answers quickly. "brush your teeth. we will both be down there for a few weeks. maybe even a month. do you really need him for the whole summer?"

there was a small, very tiny fragment of a chance that hayeon was going to go with them on the trip. the chances were very slim to none but taehyung was insisting and hayeon was willing. but yoongi, who still has yet to tell his parents that she was back, doesn't think it's a good idea. the last thing he needs is for taehyung to witness his grandmother throw peaches at his mother for being a little more than late to the party. 

taehyung is humming a song while he brushes his teeth and bobs his head to the imaginary music. yoongi's mother is explaining how grandmothers like to show off their grandchildren especially when they're as handsome and as well behaved as taehyung. yoongi is trying not to let the fact that even if they left the house at this precise moment, they'd still be five -- no, six -- minutes late. 

today was different than most days. most days, yoongi would be the calm one moving at a leisurely pace and taehyung would be panicking as much as a six year old possibly can about being late. but today's different. today is the second to last day of school. today is the day where all the parents have to come in for some kind of group conference with the principal. it's the perfect opportunity for the more catty, more conservative parents to jump on the single ones. in this case, only yoongi and seokjin. 

it's not very exciting. 

"can we continue this conversation later?" he doesn't wait for his mother to affirm. "okay, i love you, bye."

he hangs the phone up and slips it into his pocket. he squats down so he's level to taehyung behind him, propping his hands on his small shoulders. "you look good."

taehyung smiles and nods. "like james bond, right?"

"better than james bond," yoongi eyes his own reflection and tries not to frown. he didn't know if he should bother trying to wear a suit to fit in with some of the fathers who made careers as bankers and lawyers and residents at spectacular hospitals. but his only suit was a tuxedo that his mother got for him for a wedding he'd been forced to go to two summers ago. he didn't need the kids teasing taehyung about his father being a reincarnation of oswald cobblepot. 

he ended up putting on some black jeans, a white t-shirt, and a plaid shirt. to button or not to button...

"you look good too, daddy."

yoongi smiles down at taehyung's reflection in the mirror. he's smiling back up at him. "think your principal will like me this time?"

"yes."

"you promise?"

"yes!"

there was no way the principal would be happy to see him let alone actually find him endearing. the last time yoongi was in a room with the guy, he insulted his lack of leadership skills and his inability to treat all students at the school fairly. he might have even insinuated that the principal was responsible for the incessant bullying.

so no.

he would not be happy to see him.

 

when they finally arrive to the school, hayeon is there waiting for them out front. with a firm grasp on taehyung's hand, yoongi whisper-yells at her: "how long have you been here?"

she blinks after smiling excitedly down at taehyung and crouching to envelop him in a warm embrace. she runs her fingers over the top of his head, smoothing down stray hairs. "you said i could come."

"not that," he groans as he quickly ushers the two of them inside the building. "i mean you're here earlier than me. that means you were up before me. that means you could have called--"

"daddy slept over," taehyung explains simply, swinging both their hands with his. 

"overslept," yoongi corrects with a sigh and an accusing glance in hayeon's direction. "on the second to last day of school."

"ouch," at the very least, she has the decency to appear apologetic. "i'm sorry, i was so nervous -- it didn't even cross my mind, honestly."

"it's fine."

they approach taehyung's classroom and when they're standing on the threshold, yoongi notices jimin perking up in his seat. mrs. kim smiles at the both of them, one of familiarity and warmth for yoongi and another for warmth and confusion for hayeon. every teacher at the school knew taehyung for his bright eyes and exceptional kindness. but they mostly weeded him and jimin out from the rest of the students as the "partially orphaned" kids without mothers. some were polite about it. some weren't

yoongi puts a gentle hand on hayeon's shoulder. "this is tae hayeon. she's taehyung's mother."

normally, yoongi would take great pride in not caring too much about what people thought or what they had to say. but it's nice to see their minds shut up and stutter when they've been shown how wrong they are.

"oh," mrs. kim's smile widens. "it's nice to meet you!"

likely flustered by the impact of it all, of everything being so tangible and realistic, hayeon can only nod and smile in response, shaking mrs. kim's hand gently. yoongi's other hand finds its way onto taehyung's head. 

"sorry we're late."

"oh don't worry about," she waves a hand. "during the last week, we really just do arts and crafts. taehyung, we're making flowers with egg cartons today. go on in, jimin already has yours waiting for you."

instead of running in right away like he usually does, taehyung turns back and gently pulls at both their hands. he kisses hayeon on the cheek before releasing her hand and placing both of his on either side of yoongi's face. "don't be scared."

yoongi's heart flutters as he manages a smirk and a nod. "okay. i love you."

"i love you too," taehyung looks at hayeon. "i love you too, mommy."

"i love you," she says.

it feels a lot like yoongi imagined the first day of school felt like for traditional families. it was like they were all saying goodbye but yoongi knows that they're all saying hello because, after all, this is only the beginning. 

 

"why are you late?" hoseok asks when they arrive in front of the counseling room where a bunch of impertinent parents were waiting along with a bellicose principal no doubt. hoseok's leaning against the door with his arms crossed and his foot pressed against the pane like he's still in high school.

"why are you here?"

"it's the second to last day of school. i have to come," narrowing his eyes at hayeon, hoseok uncrosses his arms and stands upright. "well, you haven't changed a bit. it's almost like five years of absence didn't happen."

hayeon, whose face had been the picture of jubilance and trepidation, purses her lips and glares back. on any other day, yoongi might have entertained this nonsense, might have been tempted to stand aside and listen to them banter like a proverbial joust. but today, there's a room full of parents, most of them wealthy, all of them judgmental and seokjin is stuck in there with them. 

"quit it," he sighs as he pushes past hoseok and walks into the room. the sensation he feels upon entering is not unlike diving naked into an ice cold lake. breath is ripped from his lungs and every part of his body lights up in an ice cold fire. it doesn't help that everyone in the room whips around to stare at him. finding seokjin's face, relieved and beaming, is not unlike being pulled out of the water in the nick of time.

he bows instinctively and quickly navigates in between suits and bowties to the seat seokjin had saved for him. when he settles down into his seat, the principal's voice booms:

"and you are?"

"uh," he stands up again, almost stumbling on his feet. "min yoongi. min taehyung's father."

the principal's eyes trail off to the back of the room where hayeon and hoseok stand with their arms crossed. there were no more seats in the room. that was because the school had set up just the right amount for just the right amount of parents. "and who are they?"

"here for min taehyung as well," hoseok speaks fast, partly so that yoongi wouldn't have to but mostly to beat hayeon to the punch. "also kim jimin. i'm their uncle."

"tae hayeon," hayeon raises a hand and legitimately curtsies to a room full of people who are so uptight that an explosion of marijuana couldn't make them relax. yoongi clenches his fist to resist the urge to facepalm. "i'm taehyung's mother."

there's a collective held breath as strange as it may be. for a moment, everything stops and it's easy to hear the gears in everyone's mind stop for a mere few seconds before they start running again. yoongi can hear every thought: one of the orphaned kids actually has a mother? one of the orphaned kids isn't an orphan at all? there's no reason for the hostility? but his parents aren't married? oh, that's just as bad.

"right," the principal eventually says. "moving on to reviews. this school year has turned out really well. we were able to introduce the children to more chinese characters and a lot of them picked it up very quickly. won joonjae was able to learn everything we had introduced with ease. he's set the bar quite high--"

"that's my son," a voice breaks in from the front of the room. both seokjin and yoongi look for him urgently and when they find him, they seethe like nothing before. when yoongi chances a look in seokjin's direction, the older looks like he wouldn't mind jumping over the row of chairs to jump the guy. the man continues to speak in a velvety, honeyed voice. his hair is coiffed to perfection and his suit probably costs more than yoongi's car. "he's been studying the characters since he was very young, he should know well."

"...okay," the principal clears his throat. "moving on--"

"your son is joonjae?" this comes from the back of the room. from hayeon who is slowly but surely walking closer. 

joonjae's father nods proudly. "he gets his smarts from my side of the family."

"does he like comic books?"

"yeah," he stirs in his seat, clearly confused and maybe even a little uncomfortable with the way hayeon is moving toward him. like a snake slithering quietly toward its prey. logic tells yoongi he should probably stop her, that they should settle his in private. but fuck logic. "he reads them for language comprehension. he's getting pretty good at english too."

hayeon hums. then very quietly, very calmly, she states: "you told your son that my son was an accident."

yoongi starts. "hayeon--"

"why would you tell him something like that?" she continues. "i can tell from looking you that you never learned not to drink the kimchi soup first. you meticulously plan everything. that's pretty clear from how well you almost hid your gray hairs, there are a few peaking just on the crown there."

joonjae's father instinctively reaches up to his hair but stops himself from touching it. his hand freezes in his mid-air, standing proud in front of the room to serve as some kind of testament to his personality. "nothing wrong with being prepared."

"no, you're right. preparation is vital to survival. but spontaneity is where the importance of life breeds from. my son isn't an accident. an accident is when you spill juice on the new carpet or when you trip up the stairs or when you open your big mouth and tell your kid things that aren't true in order to make you feel better about the fact that you don't even take a shit without going by a schedule first."

yoongi swallows down a laugh. seokjin covers his smile with his fist. hoseok's hands shake, wanting to break out into a thunderous applause. the room gasps but remains in silence because everyone who's anyone knows not to mess with a woman scorned. especially not a mother in protective mode. everyone will be seated for the act of lioness shredding a hyena alive for even glancing at her cub. 

she watches him silently for a while before taking a deep breath: "apologize."

"i'm sorry?"

"something more heartfelt than that," she frowns. "and not to me. to him. after this is over, we stop by his classroom, you and me, and you apologize to him. both of them."

he gapes at her for a full minute, mouth hanging open and eyes narrowed. yoongi's father had once told him that it was easy to tell which people had never been told 'no' as a child and this guy's the picturesque result of leniency to a fault. "i don't have to--"

"you do," hayeon says. demands. concludes. finalizes. "and you will."

no verbal response given, mr. won much too aghast to find any way to vocalize. back in college, hayeon had a knack for making people uncomfortable when she wanted them to be. whether she was being intentionally overbearing to break a person's will (much like she did with yoongi) or being intentionally hostile to bend a person to her will, she was the go-to girl for proper confrontation.

instead of speaking or even attempting to, mr. won just nods to which hayeon reciprocates with a thin smile. 

"good," she looks at the principal. "continue."

next to yoongi, seokjin smiles more brightly than anyone has ever the pleasure of witnessing. an itch digs into yoongi's palm, makes his fingers twitch at the proximity to seokjin's hand. but he doesn't move. he settles for a sweet smile instead. 

 

"look! look!"

taehyung, barely knee high to a grasshopper, is grinning wide when he steps into the kitchen on unsteady feet, not so much cradling as he is lugging jimin in his arms. jimin is smiling just as brightly even if his eyes do emanate a fear of being dropped. taehyung looks an even combination of elated, nervous, and overwhelmed, his quivering arms are evidence enough. 

before telling taehyung to put jimin down, yoongi makes sure that someone caught a picture, froze the moment for future indulgence.

"yeah, be careful," hoseok says just as jimin is regaining his balance. his voice is quietly still and authoritative, completely contrasting with his amused smile. "no broken bones. take my word for it, it's a terrible way to start the summer."

from his place in front of the stove where deliciousness is no doubt being born, seokjin chuckles. "you have scars to match this cautionary tale?"

"broken leg, summer of 2000. worst year of my life."

taehyung gasps or at least fakes one. "i wasn't gonna break him!"

"maybe not intentionally," hayeon responds. "but accidents happen. and being terribly adorable doesn't do much to soften the blow."

hoseok nods. "listen to your mother, she knows a thing or two about intentional accidents. you know, the ones where people get hurt a lot."

"dude," yoongi sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"hoseok," seokjin gripes at the same time. "come on."

"no, it's okay," hayeon waves a hand and smiles at the kids who are approaching the dining table and settling into their respective seats. hayeon's lap for taehyung and hoseok's for jimin. "your uncle's right. so take our words for it and be careful."

"okay," jimin says.

taehyung nods in agreement but frowns simultaneously. "i wasn't gonna break him." 

a little while later, after more thickly veiled insults from hoseok's direction, after more antics like jimin and taehyung playing frogger, dinner is served. the meal, consisting of honey glazed chicken with vegetables prepared fancily enough that even taehyung wouldn't complain, is set down in front of the honored diners.

"for finishing the school year with a bang," seokjin says when he sets their plates down in front of them. "and for being the best kids that anyone could ask for."

hayeon kisses taehyung's cheek from where she's knelt beside him, both hands on his shoulders. he beams brighter and returns the kiss with exaggerated fervor and honest affection. on his other side, jimin giggles at something seokjin whispers into his ear before kissing the top of his head.

yoongi swirls, basks, and revels in this atmosphere, makes a mental quilt that has its warmth. a quilt made with patches of seokjin's cooking and the way he looks at him like he's afraid of their secret but excited for the future, made with patches of hoseok's supportive arm hanging over his shoulder and the positivity that radiates off him in waves. a quilt made with patches of jimin's shy smiles and hidden charms, made with patches of possibilities of the person he could turn out to be. a quilt made with patches of hayeon's smirk and her camera and her refusal to miss any more moments, no matter how small. a quilt made with patches of taehyung's laugh, with the way his small arms feel when they're wrapped around yoongi's neck, with the way he smiles up at him like things could get terrible but if they're together, everything will always be okay.

a quilt made with harmony, uncertainty, but a willingness to float on with the current no matter how rocky it gets. because everything is always all right in the end. and if all is not right, then it is not yet the end.

 

(it's after they finish reading the little engine that could for what had to be the tenth time that taehyung curls his upper lip up and takes on a befuddled expression. "daddy?"

"hmm?"

"my teacher told everybody to think about what to be when we grow up."

"yeah?"

"yeah...i don't know what to be."

"well," yoongi tucked the blankets closer around taehyung's chest. "firstly, be yourself. always. but what you want to do is always different. what do you think you might want to do?"

taehyung hummed, biting his bottom lip, eyeing the walls of his bedroom. "...a pirate. an astronaut. i wanna be a dragon one day if i can."

yoongi smiled. "then do that."

"but shouldn't i pick only one?"

yoongi shook his head. "no, no. people will tell you that. they'll say if you want to be an actor and an activist, you're sticking your nose where it shouldn't be. or that you have to be just one thing. but people aren't just one color, are they?"

"no."

"and how would life be if you could only eat one thing forever?"

taehyung scrunched up his nose. "boring!"

"right," taehyung's eyes began to flutter under the sensation of yoongi's fingers caressing his scalp. "so do anything you want to do. do everything you want to do. and always be yourself."

with eyes falling closed completely and his breath falling into a rhythm, taehyung stepped onto the verge of falling asleep. yoongi continued stroking his hair, watching fondly. 

"daddy, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"aren't i a grownup now?" 

"but you said people grow all the time. so what do you want to be?"

yoongi pretended to contemplate, never stopping the soft massage over taehyung's hair. "i'm your dad. that's the best thing i could ever be.")

 

"it's a shame," hoseok says quietly when he's standing at the threshold between the apartment building hallway and the door. his hands are stuffed deep in his pockets as he shuffles from one foot to the other. hayeon had left a few moments earlier, needing to get rest for an important performance review that she was conducting at her job. hoseok looks off in the distance where she had been, analyzing the trail she took. yoongi thinks it's like he's analyzing the past. "you and..."

hoseok doesn't say his name, doesn't even look at seokjin, who's gliding through netflix for a kid friendly movie to watch, but they both know what he's referring to. he looks sad, almost regretful and yoongi wants to tell him. like a twelve year old girl having had her first kiss and wanting nothing more than to squeal over it with her best friend, yoongi wants to tell him. 

but he and seokjin agreed that if they didn't know what it was, what sense did it make to tell people it was anything? they were testing the waters after all. so instead of bursting with his internal joy and telling hoseok that there might be a future for them, he looks down. "yeah, i know."

"not that i doubt you...but are you sure you really tried this time? i mean end of the line, 80s action hero tried?"

having a secret changes him in a small way because yoongi knows that if things legitimately hadn't worked out, he would have been upset at hoseok for assuming he didn't try at all. but now, he just nods. "if it's not meant to be..."

"it is, though."

"why is it such a big deal to you?"

despite the sureness in his eyes, hoseok shrugs like the answer's lost on him. "...you know i care about you, right? i just think you deserve to be happy."

yoongi smiles. "i am happy," he says and he surprises himself when there's no guilt to be felt when the words leave his mouth. no guilt because he wasn't lying. surprise and no guilt because for the first time in forever, he says he's happy and he actually means it. 

hoseok narrows his eyes, still maintaining some kind of jubilance. "happier then."

"you know what leo tolstoy said though. 'if you want to be happy, be'. just be."

hoseok gives in, a tired but humored smile alleviating the previous grievances in his expression. "nerd."

they exchange 'good nights' with quiet promises of eternal solidarity and loyalty. 

"where are we at?" he asks when he settles down on the other side of the couch. jimin, who's sitting cross-legged on the floor directly in front of the sofa with taehyung right next to him, laughs out loud when yoongi playfully ruffles his hair. 

"well, it's between the goonies and the incredibles."

"rugrats don't mind which?"

at the same time, jimin and taehyung offer a distracted: "nope!"

seokjin smiles at him. "the choice is yours."

"the goonies," yoongi smiles back. it's a movie he enjoyed a lot when he was younger. 

without much hoo-rah, yoongi gets up to turn off the lights when seokjin starts playing the film. the kids settle into the palet/flat fort they made on the floor, leaning against each other and shaking with anticipation. they leap at the beginning chase scenes and laugh out loud at the comments of mouth and data. it takes no time for them to be taken with the plot.

the weight that had been looming in yoongi's gut, the one that kept him from moving when he needed to, the one that stilled him to positions he didn't feel comfortable in, is still there. but maybe it's the realization that his content or discontent can be his choice, that he has an opportunity to change the tide. either or, he finds himself sliding himself over, inching with immense hesitation and eagerness, until there's nothing but a sliver of space in between his thigh and seokjin's. 

seokjin doesn't turn to him, no acknowledgement with the exception of a subtle quirk of his mouth, the corners lifting slightly, crossing his face. they both keep their eyes on the screen, not looking away for a moment. not when yoongi sinks down into his seat a little further and lets his arm fall from his lap and into the empty space. not when seokjin's arm conveniently falls upon his. not when yoongi, with dubiety making his fingers tremble, entangles his hand in with seokjin's. not when their palms are pressed so close together, the heat emanating from both of them courses throughout their veins. not when they both breakout into wide, bright grins, mouths shaking from the inability to hide it and the thrill of not wanting to.

a song from the beatles starts playing in yoongi's head as he starts to look forward to whatever it is that the future may hold.

Chapter Text

(hoseok doesn't know what compelled his twenty year old self to get attached to his college roommate and unexpected son. whenever he thinks back on it, it doesn't make much since. 

sure, at the time yoongi had no idea what he was doing and often forgot to feed taehyung and forgot the importance of baby playtime. sure, yoongi, who in his defense hadn't planned on having a son at all let alone in the middle of med school, gave off a negativity that hoseok had been wary would upset the baby. but he wasn't a bad father.

there was no reason for hoseok to care as much as he did. but in his defense he always had a soft spot for babies. especially babies with a thousand watt smile like taehyung. so when yoongi dropped out of school, got a low paying job and his own apartment, hoseok showed up on his doorstep two weeks later with diapers, baby clothes, and all other necessities. 

part of him knew it was because yoongi had been the top of their class. he was brilliant and quickly on his way to becoming perhaps the best doctor in all of korea. part of hoseok felt guilty about that. here was this guy with all of the potential and genius who had his aspirations snatched from him. part of the reason hoseok felt the need to help out was because he felt guilty. 

even if it was misplaced and nonsensical, it was still guilt. but guilt quickly morphed into actual affection because taehyung was the best kid in he entire universe. 

"you know you're not his real uncle," yoongi had said once upon a time when taehyung was three years old and managed to utter the word. "right?"

hoseok had looked away from the toddler in his arms and down at yoongi. "oh...but i am."

"oncol," taehyung smiled again, uttering the word in that adorable, exaggerated way of his. "oncol."

"that's right," he lifted the child in his arms and laughed when taehyung kicked his feet and giggled at the thrill of it. "say 'hobi'. uncle hobi. i am his uncle, by the way. you don't have any brothers."

yoongi shook his head. "that doesn't make you one."

"the blood of the covenant, my friend," he tossed taehyung up a little and caught him effortlessly. taehyung laughed louder. "thicker than the water of the womb. say 'uncle hobi'."

taehyung settled onto hoseok's side, his legs hooked around his side. he toyed with hoseok's collar. his mouth started to fix itself for pronunciation, his lips rounding tightly. "hoe!"

hoseok paused. "did he just call me...?"

"you are. a bit.")

 

seokjin looks the slightest bit hesitant when he hands jimin over. it's a look that hoseok has seen plenty of times having gotten most of his college tuition from babysitting during summer breaks. also because yoongi went from not knowing what to do to helicopter parent in the matter of months.

hoseok shifts so that jimin can settle comfortably onto him without being stirred awake. the boy's head rests in the crook of his neck, his warm breath tickling hosek's skin. with one arm supporting jimin, hoseok uses the other one to carry the overnight bag seokjin had packed.

"there's a change of clothes in here, his blankie, and some snacks. also his vitamins, i wasn't sure if you had any with you but...yeah."

hoseok shifts, watching seokjin closely. "any food he prefers? allergies?"

"no allergies," stroking the back of jimin's head, seokjin's eyes stay on his son, not even glancing toward hoseok. "he doesn't like apples or avocado but that's about it. he may not eat right off the bat though, sometimes he doesn't have an appetite when he wakes up."

"okay."

seokjin nods, eyes lingering on jimin's back, before he starts turning away. as he's sliding into the passenger seat once more, hoseok calls out to him.

"i'm gonna take care of him, alright?"

seokjin smiles in appreciation. 

they had only just met a week or so ago but hoseok really liked seokjin. he had immense respect for him too because, according to yoongi, seokjin has been through the ringer, tossed through the ringer, thrown through the ringer, and came out, tended to his wounds and stood tall. he was like a lone survivor or something. hoseok liked to think of him as mad max...only nicer...and with a son.

"i want to hear those rules," yoongi interrupts hoseok's train of thought, snapping his tiny pale fingers. 

hoseok rolls his eyes. "no candy, no cake, no coffee, no anything because you like to deprive him of an enjoyable--"

"no coffee...?"

"no milkshakes, no cookies," hoseok finishes lamely. he has no intention of following these rules but he knows yoongi likes to make sure he knows what they are. "now, if you don't mind, there's a child here and it's cold so i'm gonna get him inside."

hoseok turns away, jogging toward the entrance and he hears yoongi shout before driving off: "i mean it!"

when hoseok reenters his apartment, he has to kick and stumble over the toys that are spread out carelessly over the carpet. maybe he was a bit too lenient as an uncle and a babysitter but in his defense, there is no way any human is capable of denying taehyung anything with his wide eyes and insatiable curiosity.

except yoongi.

but hoseok had decided, shortly after yoongi lectured him about the importance of not letting taehyung watch attack on titan or "violent" cartoons, that yoongi was soulless. 

he continues to step over toy cars, action figures, puzzle pieces, etc until he tiptoes into his bedroom where taehyung is still sound asleep in the large bed. very carefully, overly gentle, he lays jimin down in the bed next to taehyung before re-tucking them both in. 

he regards them both for a few moments before leaving the room and closing the door as quietly as possible. 

 

"see?" hoseok hears hours later when he's still trying to hang on to the thin thread of slumber. it's taehyung's small voice right next to his ear. "he's not a monster."

hoseok is pretty sure, even in sleep, that his own forehead wrinkles in confusion. 

another voice peeps in quiet and subdued. "but he sounds like a monster."

"he's not. he's my uncle. daddy says he's just loud when he sleeps because he doesn't have manners."

ah.

his snoring must have woken them up. probably terrified jimin who was likely already in a volatile state considering he went to sleep with his dad and woke up in a stranger's bed. at least hoseok had put him next to his best friend. 

hoseok cracks an eye open. taehyung, who had his back turned to him, doesn't notice but jimin audibly gasps and takes a step back. he pulls taehyung with him when he does as their hands were already intertwined. 

taehyung turns. "good morning."

"what time is it?" having turned his head and set his face deep into the couch cushion as a means of protecting his gorgeous eyes from the searing sunlight, his voice comes out muffled. 

"nine-two-one," taehyung answers slowly and hoseok groans a little bit before laughing weakly. 

he turns onto his back and stretches his arms up. he really should furnish the guest bedroom he has because this whole giving taehyung his bed when he's under babysitting duties is getting old. (but he's do it every time because he's weak). "i don't know any five year olds who like to get up this early on the weekend."

"you scared jimin," taehyung accuses. "it's because your snore."

hoseok sits up, swinging his legs onto the floor and the kids quickly climb up next to him. jimin a little more hesitant than than taehyung. "nuh-uh, you're exaggerating," hoseok leans over to catch sight of jimin who's doing an immaculate job of hiding himself behind taehyung. "jimin?"

jimin nods slowly.

taehyung had told hoseok that he was shy but hoseok thought he meant taehyung shy. taehyung who struck up conversations with the cashiers at the grocery store, who effortlessly befriended everyone who came his way. he hadn't expected someone so genuinely shy. this was going to take a lot of effort.

hoseok reaches his hand out. "i'm uncle hoseok. you can call me that too, you know?"

"but you're taehyung's uncle."

"you're taehyung's best friend," hoseok fakes confusion for a second. "wait, are you not?"

"i am," jimin answers quickly. 

"ah...then you can call me uncle too. of course. it's relation by extension."

uncharacteristic of taehyung, he doesn't ask for any elucidation. instead he sighs, his hair still sticking up and his eyes still tired. hoseok's snoring must have been exceptionally loud if it roused jimin from sleep and terrified him enough to wake taehyung up. "what's for breakfast?"

"elmo."

hoseok stands up, scratching the back of his head and yawning as he does. one step and pain shoots through his foot, travels up his leg. the pain lights a fire in his bones and he shouts. "fudge sundae! hot fudge sundae!"

quiet whispered confetti of more colorful vocabulary fall in his mind as he hisses and removes the lego that's attached itself to his heel and tosses it to the side. through his pain, he's able to smile at himself because he's gotten significantly better at managing his profanity around taehyung. 

once he had let a few too many f-bombs drop in taehyung's presence and taehyung, then three years old and a sponge for learning, used them excitedly. hoseok had to beg him through a panic attack to never use that word around yoongi and prayed that he would forget it. he did. or at least he stopped using it. 

the kids cheer and whoop and for a millisecond, hoseok fears that they've hatched a plan to assassinate him. death by legos. but then his mind clicks. "oh," he whines. "no. guys--"

"what kind of hot fudge sundae?" jimin asks quietly but with excitement still teeming from him.

"can i have a banana split too?" taehyung asks. "can you make a banana split a sundae? can they be the same thing?"

hoseok groans a little, torn between just giving in because holy shit he thought taehyung's eyes made him weak but jimin's are just as bad and sticking to his water guns. "tae, you can't have ice cream for breakfast."

"but we did last time."

and last time, hoseok thinks, your dad tried to kill me.

"that was," hoseok finally uses his brain and resolve and turns away so the two sets of too bright eyes aren't pinning into him. "you had a bad day that day, remember? i was just being a good uncle."

"you have to be good today too," taehyung reasons. "jimin wants ice cream."

"but--"

"and you scared him, remember?" the innocence in taehyung's voice is almost enough to make his heavy-handed suggestion go over hoseok's head.

hoseok turns back around and offers a meek shrug. "you got me there. jimin, what kind of ice cream is your favorite?"

he doesn't really have to ask. taehyung had shared everything he knew about jimin when they first befriended each other, telling both hoseok and yoongi what his favorite everything was. hoseok knows that it's green tea ice cream (he'd gone to the grocery to pick it up) just like he knows his favorite superhero is hulk and his favorite cartoon is little wizard tao. but hoseok wants jimin to feel like he can talk freely. 

"green tea," taehyung answers for him instead and hoseok all but glares in his direction. as if reading his mind, taehyung shrugs. "you scared him."

"alright," hoseok turns on his heel and enters the kitchen. "one green tea sundae and one strawberry sundae coming right up."

as he's pulling down all of his special ingredients (he always keeps something sweet in his house), the children climb up on the stools in front of the kitchen island. hoseok sets the sundae glasses in front of them and starts spooning the green tea first. 

"i'm sorry," hoseok smiles softly at jimin who mirrors the expression. "i didn't mean to scare you. but if i don't snore when i sleep, did i really sleep at all?"

"jimin doesn't snore," taehyung says. "daddy doesn't either."

"wow," hoseok pauses. taehyung has always been a particularly interrogative "give me a break."

at that, both jimin and taehyung giggle and hoseok has a creeping suspicion that that had been taehyung's goal the entire time. 

after cascading the tall glasses of ice cream with cherries and nuts and chocolate, hoseok hands them both spoons. "one cosmo for you. and one wanda for you."

they both dig in but not without confusion marring their expressions. "what's cosmo and wanda?"

hoseok blanches. "the fairies...godparents...pink and green...timmy turner. tae, i used to sing the theme song to you when you were a baby."

forehead creased deep, taehyung gapes in surprise and shakes his head. "i don't know what i did when i was a baby."

gauging both of their expressions, hoseok's disbelief and disappointment becomes more profound. he sets his elbows on the table, cups his cheeks, and stares at the two kids. jimin is staring back at him, still wary and confused as he slowly dips into the sundae. taehyung stares back but it doesn't stop him from scarfing his breakfast down. 

hoseok wraps a hand around taehyung's gently. "slow down. you two seriously have never heard of fairly oddparents?"

they shake their heads.

hoseok groans. "what kind of bliss have your parents been depriving you of? jimin, you watch spongebob, right?"

jimin nods. "everyone watches spongebob."

"right, you are...please tell me you know about star wars."

 

jimin nods and taehyung speaks. "the clone wars with all the green lasers and space and aliens!"

pursing his lips to contain a more flamboyant expression of disappointment, hoseok exhales through his nose and sinks until his forehead is on the cool surface of the island. "okay. i know today is sunday. and it's winter break. and you guys already had a lot of homework and schooling this semester...but we're going to make a lesson plan today."

"what's a lesson plan?" taehyung asks at the same time that jimin plops some of his own ice cream into taehyung's glass. 

"lesson plan," hoseok rifles through his kitchen drawers until he finds a torn up and worn notepad. he only has to take one step out of the kitchen to step on one of taehyung's blue crayons. "like when your teachers tell you to draw pictures or, i dunno, trace the alphabet."

"we did that in pre-k."

"excuse me," hoseok sets the notepad down on the countertop and writes in bold blue letters IMPERATIVE WATCH LIST. "we're creating a lesson plan of necessary pop culture consumption. fairly odd parents, star wars, dc comic villains that g-rated cartoons keep hidden from you."

 

 

being a star wars fanboy is just one expertise of hoseok's many. watching the series is one of the best past times a person can take part in. but it turns out watching it with two precocious and inquisitive five year olds who have never seen it before is a step up from watching it alone. seeing their reactions are a different kind of entertainment.

like when leia kisses luke:

"gross!"

jimin and taehyung say at the same time, almost in perfect harmony and definitely in synch, shielding their eyes when leia kisses luke. normally, hoseok would object that when they get older they would like it but this time he only nods. "totally gross."

or when luke finally finds out that darth vader is his dad:

"oh my god!" taehyung shouts out too loudly at the same time that he pulls at his hair dramatically. jimin gasps audibly and they both stare at the television screen, faces fading into white. 

then there's the revelation that luke and leia are actually twins:

taehyung stands up and jumps up and down excitedly. whether it was movies like brother bear or the parent trap, taehyung loved stories where there were siblings even more than dinosaur or rocket science stories. he hits jimin's shoulder playfully: "i wanna be a twin!"

but jimin looks confused. maybe even a tad grossed out. hoseok sees him turn in his peripheral but he doesn't turn back. he keeps his own eyes on the television and waits. "mr. hoseok?"

hoseok doesn't respond. he waits...and he waits...and he almost turns back when:

"uncle hoseok?" 

it's impossible to contain the grin that breaks out on hoseok's face so he doesn't even try. he's certain this his smile is blinding when he turns to look at jimin. "yes?"

"why did princess leia kiss luke like that?" jimin tilts his head. he looks torn. like that kissing scene was already gross enough without the addition of it being two siblings. 

hoseok can only shake his head, throwing his arm around the child in an attempt to settle his confusion. "because george lucas may or may not be a little icky."

as everyone dances and sings with what may as well be tiki torches to the backdrop of "yub nub", taehyung drops back onto the sofa on the other side of hoseok. he lifts hoseok's arm and drops it over his shoulder. "do you wanna be twins, jimin?"

jimin leans up from the other side and leans over hoseok's lap to meet taehyung half way. "we can be twins?"

"can we?"

this time the question is directed at hoseok who folds immediately. amongst his older friends, hoseok has a reputation of being brutally honest. but he finds it's damned impossible to be honest when they're looking at him with identical puppy dog eyes.

he shrugs.

genetics doesn't make things official anyway.

"of course, you can," hoseok's heart starts doing acrobats when both of their faces brighten into little identical stars. "i now pronounce you twins."

 

"now this," hoseok says a few hours later, after they've eaten lunch (pizza) and after they've had their in-door nerf gun fight, as he ensures the levels on his exceptional stereo system are great. he's put on best of led zeppelin. "this is our essential music lesson. this is led zeppelin, arguably the best rock group ever."

"arr-gyoo-blee?"

"queen might be better," hoseok waves his hand for the kids to come join him in front of the system. when the two of them have settled in next to him, he pushes play. 

"kashmir" bursts out into the apartment, the volume amplified in the small space and the bass making all of them vibrate. the kids giggle at the sensation as well as the music. the heavy guitar and drum power makes them giddy in the way that kids tend to get when they start to feel like rock stars. 

as the two of them start to dance, rocking along with invisible guitars and headbanging like no tomorrow, hoseok feels exceedingly grateful to his twenty year old self. after all, if not for his decision, he wouldn't be an uncle at all.

(who cares if yoongi claims it isn't real? jimin and taehyung are twins, anything is possible.)

 

 

"where am i going now?" thought he. "this is the black goblin's fault, i am sure. ah, well, if the little lady were only here with me in the boat, i should not care for any darkness--oh."

"what?" jimin and taehyung ask it at the same time, both their eyes wide and expectant as their tiny hands grip tight at the fleece blanket spread out over them. 

from his side of the bed, seokjin looks at yoongi and starts closing the fairytale book. "it's past bedtime, we'll have to finish the story later."

"oh my god," jimin sighs heavily, throwing his head back and bringing his hands up to his face. taehyung, on the other hand, looks too shocked to even display proper disappointment. the two of them had been so engaged in the story, so swept up in the fairytale that their knuckles had faded white when their grips on the blanket tightened. initially, when seokjin started reading them the story, they were slightly reluctant, bemoaning bed time in favor of staying up late to play together. but as seokjin read, taking on voices of the various characters and getting appropriately enthusiastic, they couldn't tear their eyes away.

yoongi was awed.

whenever he told taehyung bedtime stories, the attention given to him was solely dependent on how tired taehyung was beforehand. if he'd had a very long, weary day with finger painting and play-doh, taehyung was more pliant and willing to listen with much fuss. but if he had a boring day that left too much excitement internally bubbling up and over, no listening would be done. 

but when seokjin told stories? his voice was so captivating even yoongi had trouble not getting wound up. but, in his defense, along with having a deeply captivating voice and an entertaining method of storytelling, seokjin had yoongi's heart and wore it on his sleeve like a jewel. 

"but uncle jin," taehyung whispers slowly, enunciating and stretching out each syllable. "how are we gonna sleep?"

seokjin laughs a little, reaches out and tucks a lock of hair behind taehyung's ear, caressing his cheek. "by closing your eyes and counting sheep."

"daddy, we can't sleep without the story."

"since when?"

"since all the time," jimin looks exasperated. in the months since summer vacation, his quiet and glacial nature melted off until he got to the point where he could speak to almost strangers without whispering into taehyung's ear first. yoongi was proud, seokjin was immensely proud, but no one seemed to be more prepared to brag about it than taehyung.

("daddy," he'd beamed one day when yoongi was helping him into the car after school. "can we make jimin a cake?" 

"of course. in a universe where i'm capable of baking without burning, we can always bake him a cake. but what's the occasion?"

"occasion?"

"why do you want to bake him a cake?"

at that, taehyung lit up even more, smile growing and stretching out until yoongi found it impossible to not smile back. "today when mrs. kim asked a question, he answered it by himself!")

"mr. min?"

yoongi looks at jimin who's peering up at him with wide eyes, glassy and hopeful. he leans over and runs a hand over the child's cheek, caressing his skin in the most comforting way. "yeah?"

"can you tell daddy that if we don't finish the story, we can't sleep?"

yoongi looks from jimin to seokjin, the latter of the two giving him the look, a raised eyebrow and pursed lips, that roughly means to not even attempt. jimin looks at him and it reminds yoongi of bambi, nemo, the adorable kids from the emperor's new groove and seokjin doesn't even look surprised when yoongi shrugs. "uncle jin?"

seokjin smirks challengingly. "oh, mr. min, i don't think you want to get into that right now. bedtime is bedtime and," seokjin leans forward and presses his lips to jimin's forehead then taehyung's. "as much as i would love to let you stay up and read you every tale in this book, you have to go to school tomorrow."

"we won't be tired," taehyung speaks up, a cute desperation making his voice tinge off the precipice of adorable. "we promise!"

"while that may be true, first grade is very different from kindergarten and, regardless of how you feel now, tomorrow could be emotionally draining."

"different how?"

seokjin goes quiet, not because he doesn't want to answer or because he doesn't know the answer but because yoongi should be the one to explain it. after all, seokjin can't be the only bad guy. yoongi clears his throat. "for example, there's no nap time in first grade."

jimin's eyes, yoongi swears, go dark for a split second and his shoulders hunch in something akin to defeat. "really?"

"really," yoongi nods. 

"nuh-uh," taehyung shakes his head. "you're trying to trick us!"

yoongi shakes his head. "it's true."

"nuh-uh."

"uh-huh, look, i went to first grade, remember? there was no nap time, there was very little playtime, and snack time was a dark period."

"your mom only put vegetables in your baggies, didn't she?" seokjin chuckles a little and yoongi smiles at him like he's a pinnacle of elation. no matter how hard either of them try, they can't help but do that, can't help but share secret smiles that aren't really secret at all. sometimes, they're both too aware of how obvious they're being but most of the time, it can't be helped.

yoongi nods before finally tearing his eyes away and looking back at the children. "not a single teddy graham to be had."

"was there playtime?"

there was.

yoongi remembers sitting under the slide and toying with wood chips while the rest of his classmates played on jungle gyms and in sandboxes. he preferred being inside but even then he couldn't complain about not having to do work. he nods. "but it wasn't as fun as kindergarten."

it's quiet for a minute. yoongi knows before anyone says anything that he may have taken it a step too far. the trepidation is confirmed when taehyung sighs heavily and asks:

"why can't we stay home then?"

"and not go to school?" seokjin asks. "ever?"

jimin nods. "first grade doesn't sound fun."

smile softening, seokjin puts the book away on the bedside table and focuses all of his attention on the children. they both look at him with serious, expectant expressions and yoongi matches them with unprecedented anticipation. "there are gonna be so many things in life that aren't very fun, sweetheart. but you two have each other. and when you have someone with you, someone who really cares about you like you two do, even the boring things will seem exciting."

taehyung nods as if to reiterate the affirmation. "like how doing homework with daddy is funner than when i'm by myself, right?"

"right," seokjin nods. "so, don't worry. besides, you can always make it fun in your own way. okay? okay. now, get to sleep. you two have a big day tomorrow."

the children finally accept the goodnight kisses and wishes without much fanfare and, after yoongi presses a long kiss to taehyung's forehead, the two adults draw away into the dark hallway, quietly shutting the door behind them. 

"that was my fault," yoongi whispers as they step into the foyer. the light in the room is dim and warm like the orange glow of a tea candle. it feels appropriate for how warm he feels inside, how his stomach kind of pinches and tingles in the most pleasant ways.

seokjin nods at the same time that he encircles a hand around yoongi's wrist, skin barely grazing skin. "you took it a step too far with the playtime thing."

yoongi puts on a sheepish expression identical to the one his son gets when he's been caught sneaking snacks before dinner. he waits for seokjin to tug him forward but if the summer's proven anything it was that seokjin in all of his rough experiences and calloused hands was gentle even when gentleness didn't need to be permitted. instead, yoongi steps forward, leans in until they're sharing the same breath and smiles. "sorry," he barely whispers when their lips brush together. 

the summer had been kind to them in ways neither of them really anticipated. 

in the midst of picking up odd jobs, seokjin found a position as a temp at an office job, taking the position of a salesperson who would be out of work for a month. after working there for two weeks alone, the bosses had made a decision to have him put on the permanent payroll, impressed by his work ethic and commitment. seokjin had come by to pick up jimin, high on the ecstasy of life and excited to share it. he picked the kids up and twirled them around and, when they had privacy, actually gave yoongi a kiss louder than words. 

it was the first legitimate kiss they shared and yoongi almost felt embarrassed by it, probably would have had he not been so thrilled. beforehand, he assumed -- even though he loved holding seokjin's hand and that they were, by all intents and purposes, dating -- that kissing another guy would be weird, would probably jolt him from his infatuation. but seokjin wasn't any other guy. seokjin was where yoongi's disappointment and anguish went to die, replaced by everything warm and right. 

yoongi has loved many people in his life. he loves his mother, loves his father, loves his grandparents, and loves his friends. he loves taehyung so much, too much, more than anything, and not enough. but none of those loves ever felt like what it does with seokjin. it's different. not wrong, not unenjoyable. simply different. when they kiss, yoongi elevates to cloud nineteen and higher. he never wants to pull away but he always does.

they part slow, lips still trying to cling to each other. he's there. flowing and floating and flying to quiet heights, yoongi keeps his eyes closed to avoid coming back down. when seokjin speaks, his voice barely breaks over the quiet, breezes over the both of them like a gentle wind. "i have work in the morning."

"i know," yoongi murmurs, tongue almost salivating but not tempted at the urge to swipe across seokjin's bottom lip. 

seokjin sighs light. "i can't spend the night."

"i know."

neither one of them says anything for a while, for an instant that lasts a little while longer, and yoongi takes the opportunity to barely pull himself closer, to connect them again. he likes to kiss him sow, making every single pulse of movement last an eternity, likes to stretch time out as far and wide as the sky. 

seokjin takes a deep breath and a step back, letting his hand linger on the cuff of yoongi's shirt for short seconds that drag on. he sighs again. "i'll start the coffee."

yoongi smiles, almost tries not to but doesn't follow through with the attempt because hiding his happiness from seokjin is a useless endeavor, an act in futility if there ever was one. he trails behind seokjin as the older enters the kitchen. he watches him take down two mugs, the canister of blonde roast they run through too often, and he feels light. the way seokjin floats around the area, barely paying attention to what he's doing, knowing the area better than anyone else, makes everything feel like it's in its right place. 

yoongi's started to forget what the weight felt like.

"oh," seokjin starts. "i already packed the kids' lunches so you don't have to worry about it. please remember to take lots of pictures for me, please," seokjin was troubled when he found out his schedule would have him going in to work much earlier, so early that he would miss the first day of first grade. it took many promises and massages on yoongi's part to get him to come close to relaxing. but missing precious moments was still a big wound. "i packed their bags, they're both in the coat closet. everything from the school supply list is there. let them know--"

"i love you."

seokjin turns around, freezing for a moment and eyeing yoongi in a deep daze. surprise seems stuck on his face for a few moments before he, very suddenly, breaks out into a smile. he turns quick to start the coffee machine before turning back, taking a few quick strides, and pressing a kiss to yoongi's forehead. if yoongi had been told that this was going to become his life, that he'd end up falling in love with a guy, that he had any love left in him at all, he'd ask how much was had to drink. 

he smiles even more when seokjin pulls back and sits down in the opposite chair. "are you sure?"

since the start of the summer, everything yoongi knew had begun to change in subtle variations. he started to feel less like he was caught in a well, trying to claw his way out and more like he was, totally against physics, lying on a cloud. even taehyung took notice, one day saying that he liked seeing him smile so much, that he wasn't as tired. and knowing that his happiness made his son happier made happiness feel like something he needed. 

"yeah," he nods. "it's your fault."

they catch each other's hands and circle milky ways in each other's palms. seokjin doesn't have to say it back. even though they had only been having whatever this was for a few months, when seokjin fell, he fell hard. "...do you want to tell them now?"

the thing was yoongi could feel like everything was okay as long as he didn't start thinking about what he was doing. how he was running around in secret. behind taehyung's back, behind jimin's back, behind everyone. how he was essentially lying. that's when the rose-tinted glasses slipped off and the gray bled in. 

he looked up at seokjin with apologies reflecting in every surface of his expression, tongue saturated with thick 'i'm sorry's'. "not yet."

"it's okay."

this is a conversation they would have for many years to come. they would dance between being weightless, careless and being weighed down by the realization that they were living a lie. the realization that they were lying to their kids would bog them down like quicksand. in the expanse of that time there would be plenty of things to laugh about, to kiss about, to roll around in bed after dark about, but there were also things to argue about, to ignore each other about, and to be left alone to deal with those fighting pains in secret about. 

the worst fight was when the kids turned eight and jimin was having troubles in school. seokjin would notice the troubles immediately and would try to help as any parent would. everything would turn out alright for jimin but seokjin would unintentionally blame himself for it. he wouldn't directly say if it wasn't for you, if i wasn't so distracted by you, i would have noticed earlier. but it would be a heavy implication that hung between them for too long before they decided they were in far too deep to back out now. 

but at that very moment, seokjin would just quietly kiss him again and whisper that, yes, he loves him too. 

 

 

 

"daddy?"

"yeah?"

it's quiet for a while and yoongi finally looks up from his computer, away from his sales report, and leans his ear out toward the door of his office. 

"taehyung?"

when there's no response, yoongi pushes up from his desk and walks briskly to the living room which is where he'd left taehyung. as much as things have changed in the past few months, the thing that will never change is how quickly he panics over very simple things. there are three other rooms in the house aside from the office and taehyung could very well be in the other three and he knows this. but the panic still happens. 

"i'm breaking," taehyung says, his voice echoing out to the hallway from the bathroom. yoongi follows and when he enters, sees taehyung on his step stool leaning in close to his own reflection and tugging his index finger at his front tooth. 

yoongi comes in and kneels beside taehyung, turning the child to face him and lifting his chin gently. "you can't break on me, tae, who's gonna drink banana milk with me if you break, huh?"

taehyung opens his mouth a little wider and pushes his tongue against the front tooth, making it wiggle very slightly. "see? it's gonna fall."

yoongi watches taehyung push at his loose tooth again completely awed at the sight of it. there were things in this life, his grandfather used to tell him, that made you want to cry and smile. things that would make you feel incredibly sad but ecstatic at the same time. it was one of the many oddities of life. and this was his oddity. seeing his son growing up is and always will be the oddity. 

"you're not falling apart," yoongi smiles. "you're getting grown up teeth."

"grown up teeth? your teeth are different to mine?"

yoongi opens his mouth, bares his teeth and taehyung leans forward to peek inside. "see? they're just bigger."

"what's wrong with my teeth though?"

"well," yoongi exhales and settles onto his knees, leaning against the cabinet beneath the sink. taehyung takes that as a cue to step down from his stool, sit on it, and lean against the cabinet as well. "you need bigger teeth as you get bigger."

"so i can eat bigger food?"

yoongi chuckles and strokes his thumb across taehyung's cheek for a short moment. "something like that, yes."

"is there a big tooth under this one?"

"not just yet. what's gonna happen is that this tooth is going to fall out just like you said. then all your teeth will fall out. and it'll kind of be like it was when you were a baby and you didn't have any teeth at all."

taehyung gapes, eyebrows shooting up in disbelief. "i won't have any teeth?"

"you'll have a few. and then they'll all grow back. and you wanna know what you have to do when the first one falls out?"

"what?"

yoongi leans even closer like he's sharing a secret. "first, you have to put the tooth under your pillow. then, you go to sleep. and while you're sleeping, the tooth fairy comes and she takes your tooth and leaves a gift under your pillow instead."

taehyung covers his mouth. not in surprise. it's an attempt at protecting the tooth that has yet to fall out. "why does she want my tooth? i want it."

"you don't want a gift?" yoongi sincerely hopes that the wobbling of his own lips isn't obvious. it's always hard to hold back laughter of adoration when it comes to things taehyung says. 

taehyung shakes his head. "i don't need the tooth fairy for presents. i have uncle hobi."

"taehyung!"

"dad!"

"jimin!"

yoongi almost curses at that dirty cleats sitting in the dining room chair, decking the seat out with dried mud and dead grass. instead, he continues his given duty of packing all the sandwiches and gatorade that seokjin prepared for the entire soccer team. "jimin, no cleats in the kitchen!"

he thinks he hears the two tweens gasp in harmony in some other part of the apartment. 'how'd he know they were mine?' or some variation thereof. it's not exactly like it's hard to tell the difference between jimin's cleats and taehyung's cleats. jimin was the rising star of the team, always given notes of exceeding expectation and being a star player whose team effort never went unnoticed. jimin was the one who went to practice religiously and won the team two games in the past. taehyung, on the other hand, rarely ever left the bench. which meant his cleats were almost always clean.

it was a problem that yoongi and hayeon discussed often. on one hand, they didn't want to discourage him from participating and from growing as a person. but on the other hand, neither of them was particularly fond of the idea of taehyung growing more and more discouraged with every game he didn't participate in because he was, simply, terrible at soccer. and that wasn't even a mean statement, not something that someone as ignorant as yoongi is in the subject of soccer would be privy to say as an alternative to admitting not understanding the game. quite the contrary, when taehyung first came home and told him that he tried out for and joined the soccer team, he did everything to learn all about the sport. 

and taehyung, his precious son taehyung, was awful. it had become a long debate between himself and everyone else whether or not they should tell him. or whether they should let the continuous disappointment build up into something else. 

"sorry, sir!"

yoongi bites his tongue at the name jimin has taken to using for him. at twelve years old, jimin went from calling yoongi mr. min to sir min to simply "sir" and as much as yoongi dislikes being called "sir", he's hoping there's something even more casual down the line. 

("jimin, you know you can call me uncle, right?"

"okay, sir.")

he can hear hayeon fussing with the laundry machine, hear her sigh heavily. "sweetheart, that's jimin's jersey."

"i can't find mine," taehyung says and yoongi can almost see him shrug desperately. it's not a selfish decision because jimin has two jerseys and the two of them have shaken to sharing everything but their toothbrushes anyway. but it makes yoongi laugh as he rushes to pack all of the sandwiches and it makes hayeon chuckle and snort. "no one's gonna notice."

"it's too small and it says 'kim' on the back. unless you've had a name change, i think people might notice."

"it's not too small that it's tight and 'kim' is okay because everyone knows that we're twins."

at that, yoongi actually, very nearly laughs out loud because the first time taehyung said that, he was certain that it was a mindset that would no doubt change with age. but they still managed to hold on to the truth they created and yoongi was more impressed than disappointed. things got tough for them but not as tough as they could have been had seokjin not been given the steady sales position all those years ago. but even in the face of tough times, in the face of disillusionment, the two of them managed to hold on to something good and something real. 

 

seokjin came in right before they departed, with taehyung's newly hemmed jersey and a congratulatory ice cream cake that he quickly hid from sight (he and everyone else was to confident that they'd win the game tonight). seokjin had been keeping up with every single game, learning the ins and outs of soccer before hand, getting riled up with referees like a true sports father. 

now, at the game, everyone holds their breath as taehyung is called up from the bench to join in the game. yoongi shoots an accusing look in hoseok's direction who holds his hands up in defense. "i didn't do anything! i kindly suggested the coach put him in every now and then, that's all."

seokjin starts to grip yoongi's hand, mind nowhere near the need for discretion as taehyung walks onto the field. it's a reaction that yoongi knows is from sheer pride. everyone wanted this simply because they knew how much taehyung wanted it and that was reason enough. hoseok would go with him and jimin on weekends when they wanted to practice, hayeon would run drills with them in the park, and seokjin ran with the two of them nearly every morning. it had become a family event. 

even though the most participation yoongi did was driving them to and from practice, buying gear, and packing lunches. he saved the running for everyone else. 

jimin patted taehyung on the back and whispered something in his ear which yielded a broad smile from the younger before they got into formation. the ball dropped, they started playing, and it was...undoubtedly taehyung.

he tripped a couple of times, struggled to run and kick the ball simultaneously, completely fell off the field at one point. the referee called him out several times, once for getting confused and fumbling with the ball -- with his hands. and each time, the ref blew his whistle, it was like a pavlov bell which got the same reaction every time: all four of them jumping up and shouting in defiance. and while seokjin and yoongi did yell, they couldn't hold a candle to the vehemence of hayeon and hoseok.

"i could ref this game better if i had my eyes closed, what are you doing?"

"that's not a foul, that's not a foul!"

and other semi-obsenities that they managed to censor. the game ended with taehyung only playing for a few minutes and quickly being sent back on the bench. but even when he was walking back, yoongi noticed he wasn't dragging his feet, that he wasn't frowning, that his shoulders weren't slumped at all. he was beaming. 

 

taehyung hisses when yoongi presses the wipe to the fresh cut above his forehead. truthfully, yoongi wants to put on his own pair of cleats and kick whoever it was that was responsible but he always puts his mask back up. 

"sorry," yoongi whispers. "rough game today."

a smile fades onto taehyung's face, brightening him up again, lighting his features and the small space of their bathroom like a christmas tree. there are things yoongi tires of but seeing taehyung smile will never be one of them. "it was fun."

yoongi hums as he puts on the cream, before opening the latest bandaid out of his first aid kit. "tae...i...i'm not really sure how i want to say this but please know that i'm not trying to hurt you, okay?"

"dad," taehyung smiles at him like he knows. even with the bandaid barely on his eyebrow and a bleeding split in his lip still left to tend to, he manages to look genuinely happy. and peaceful. "i know i can't play."

"you do?"

taehyung nods. 

"but you're..."

"really bad," taehyung nods again. "i know. but i like playing. the other kids, they don't always talk to jimin but they talk to me. and jimin really likes playing soccer."

"and that means?"

taehyung shrugs. "...i want him to enjoy it. plus he doesn't like anime club as much as i do so i have to hang out with him somewhere."

they both laugh and yoongi playfully pushes at his hair. "seven days a week, 24 hours a day isn't enough?"

"dad, twins are attached at the hip."

the two of them, always being in synch with each other, in better synch than anyone else they knew smile like they're sharing a secret. yoongi rubs a thumb over the bandaid and starts to tend to taehyung's lip. if taehyung asked him whether he thought he should continue playing sports, yoongi would tell him to do whatever makes him happy as usual. but yoongi would be telling a bald faced lie if he said it wouldn't thrill him for taehyung to walk away from the sports. the cuts and the bruises and the broken arm from the summer before are all too much to handle.

"can i confess something too?"

"confess?" the word alone makes yoongi's ears perk up. he knows taehyung means something else but he can't help but get an image of his son trying to get flowers into some unsuspecting kid's locker. jesus, he's really not ready for that. oh god, he's going to have to give him the talk soon. "do you like someone at school or...?"

taehyung hums a short note of confusion and semi-dissatisfaction. "um, no. i don't think so."

yoongi inhales deeply to avoid releasing the relieved sigh that makes the set of shoulders become significantly less rigid. "oh. go on then, i won't interrupt."

the light in taehyung's eyes don't fade but they dim, the discomfort of saying whatever is on his mind palling his disposition. yoongi almost pauses out of concern, out of worry because this must be something more serious than he realized. taehyung tucks in the side of his bottom lip in between his teeth and worries it for a good minute, forehead creased as he falls deep in thought. 

"...remember on career day? when you told me not to worry too much about what i wanted to study when i get to university?"

"yeah."

"...remember how you said it's more important to be happy like -- something about my happiness being more important than something that would make someone else happy?"

"as far as you worrying about becoming what others what you to become," yoongi nods. "yeah, i remember. why?"

then taehyung quiets down again, looks down at his hands, and for second he looks immensely upset. like he could very well start crying if he walks a few steps closer to the edge. yoongi pauses, setting the first aid kit down and laying his palms flat over taehyung's shoulders. 

"hey, hey, you okay? c'mon, talk to me, did something happen?"

taehyung shakes his head. "i just...i just think you should take your own advice."

yoongi blinks. then he smiles. then he furrows his brow and laughs a little. "excuse me?"

"...dad," taehyung stops short and sighs looking uncomfortable but not really. like he doesn't want to say what he's saying but voicing each word is making him feel more relieved. "jimin and i know about you and uncle jin."

kind of like those rides at the amusement parks where you're suspended from a 100 foot drop unexpectedly, his heart pitfalls and his voice, his breath, his everything catches in his throat. he can feel the nerves started to bleed through him, the anxiety and the fear replacing the blood in his veins and rushing out fast. this is what he'd feared. apologies are crawling out of him before anything else but taehyung looks at him oddly, puts his hands over both his cheeks and leans close.

"i don't want you to be sorry," he says, shaking his head again in disbelief and semi hurt. like he couldn't believe that his own father would think that he would be ashamed of him. "you wanna know what i wish for every birthday? for you to be happy. for years, that's all i wished for."

"i am happy."

taehyung nods. "you are now, yeah. but...i'm saying i don't want you to feel like you have to lie. like, dad...you don't have to be ashamed of what makes you happy."

despite the thickness in his throat, yoongi smiles something small and looks down. "how long have you known?"

"not sure, it kind of feels like we've always known. when we were five years old and we made you guys say grace...you didn't think that was weird?"

"i knew something was up with you that night, i just -- were you guys parent trapping us?"

taehyung laughs and shakes his head. the mood has lightened enough for yoongi to feel comfortable proceeding to tend to his son's wounds. "not at all. we just wanted you two to be best friends at first. so that we could be best friends. but i think we kind of wanted you guys to be more than that. so we could really be brothers but, truthfully, by the time we thought that, you two were already..."

"and you two were okay with that?"

"okay with it? dad, we were excited about it. we ran through school the next day telling everyone we were really related. but it's not about what we think. it's about you feeling safe and stuff, i dunno."

taehyung's hands are back on his face, fingers dancing across his eyebrow. 

"i'm not little anymore."

i beg to differ, yoongi thinks. 

"and even if i was, i'm always going to be your son. and i don't see myself judging you for that kind of thing any time soon."

yoongi takes a deep breath and pulls taehyung closer, plants what used to be common kiss on his forehead and brushes his hair back. "thank you."

taehyung hugs him tight. "i'll definitely judge you for the cooking though."