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Trouble In Paradise

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Hobeom is pointedly refusing to meet Namjoon’s gaze as he runs through the schedule for the looming comeback that they’ll be putting up with in ‘t minus six’ weeks. His desk is strewn with a somewhat eccentric assortment of schedules, bank statements and collectable figurines that he tries to hide behind as he hands over a proposed timescale of work that needs to be done before Bangtan Sonyeondan can get back on the stage.

The top page is the usual list of salon appointments and new dietary regulations (far too much celery for Namjoon’s liking) followed by a summation of seemingly every music show they could possibly get themselves onto. At the bottom of the page the words ‘Running Man’ have been highlighted, triple underlined and decorated with stars, Namjoon’s eyes flick up to Hobeom’s and he makes a face.

“I don’t really think we’re Running Man material yet hyeong,” Hobeom scowls and busies himself rummaging through one of his endless series of drawers.

“Didn’t anyone ever teach you not to count your chickens before they hatch? Where did I put that…ahh ha! Tell me what you make of that” He pulls a piece of paper out from underneath a tower of ring binders and brandishes it at Namjoon who barely looks at it long enough to understand that it contains song lyrics before throwing it back at Hobeom.

“Glam really aren’t going to take much more of this cutesy shit hyeong, you should just let Jiyeon write for them she knows what she’s doing,”

Hobeom’s mouth twitches awkwardly and he becomes very very interested in his pen, “this isn’t a Glam song Namjoon.”

Namjoon frowns, “we have new meat coming through? I thought you said we wouldn’t have any new trainees ready to go for the next two years.”

“No they’re not for a new group,”

“Are you bringing 2AM out again? They only just stopped promoting?”

“No, not-“

“Then you’re putting David back out there?” there’s panic in Namjoon’s eyes growing more potent with every moment that Hobeom stays silent, when he finally receives an apologetic shake of the head, a whimper of something that sounds like terror escapes him. He grabs the sheet of lyrics off the desk and begins to read through more thoroughly, the sound of his hyperventilation filling the tiny office.

“Namjoon,” Hobeom reaches forward to try to remove the paper from his hands but his hand is slapped away.

“Tell me there’s some kind of sick beat to counterpoint all this hand-holding pastel pink bullshit hyeong please,”

Hobeom sighs and throws up his hands in despair, “I’m sorry Namjoon,”

Five minutes later, the lyrics have been reduced to a wet mush in Hobeom’s bin.

 

~

 

“Apparently we haven’t been selling very well,” Namjoon announces to the assembled ranks of Bangtan. Three years after debut and they’ve only just been moved into a bigger apartment. He can’t deny that he likes the extra space even if having enough couche space that they can all sit down at once still freaks him out somewhat.

“What are you talking about? Of course we sell well, we won rookie awards and shit,” says Jungkook, his unfairly long legs draped over Taehyung and Hoseok. “No one gets a rookie award without selling a few albums,”

“And just how many awards did we win last year?” Namjoon counters. The room is silent.

“We’ll do better this year,” sighs Hoseok, Yoongi nods along.

“Yeah I thought you said you had new stuff for us, you played me that track you were working on last week. It sounded good.” He sees Namjoon’s face twist into an awkward combination of rage and exasperation. “What?”

“The company…ah…we’re not going to be using my songs for the next comeback.”

That gets everyone’s attention.

“The fuck do you mean we’re not using your songs?” Jungkook manages to whack Jimin in the face with his foot as he stands to unheeded cries of anguish, “who the fuck else is gonna write for us?”

“Yeah this is some bullshit Namjoon what the fuck?” Yoongi tries in vain to stand shoulder to shoulder with the now oversized maknae and Namjoon resists the urge push him off his tiptoes.

“Do you have to use that kind of language?” Seokjin pushes the pair of them back; then rounds on Namjoon to get the full story.

“Hobeom hyeong says that we’re going to be trying a new,” deep breath, “we’re going to be trying a new direction this time round,” he reaches into his bag to pull out a stack of lyrics, “this is going to be our title song,” his voice is as even as he can manage as he hands them out to his bandmates.

The room is silent for all of two seconds.

Hoseok gets through them first, “well it certainly is different,” he says carefully, his ever present smile not quite reaching his eyes.

“If by ‘different’ you mean ‘a crock of horse shit’ then yeah I’m gonna have to agree with you,” Yoongi throws the offending piece of paper back at Namjoon, “are they fucking serious?”

Namjoon suddenly understands why it was so hard for Hobeom to meet his eyes, “well-“

“Oh my god they can’t be serious,” Taehyung whispers to his lyrics sheet as Jungkook begins to systematically tear his to pieces.

“It’s not that bad,” says Jimin brightly and there’s a collective groan from the other six in anticipation of the weeks of failed aegyo they’ll be putting up with as they promote, “No but really, we only have to say eotteokhae three times, that’s gotta be half the usual fare for an cute track,”

“An entire cute concept,” Yoongi amends as Jungkook silently crushes the paper fragments under his foot, “How are me, Namjoon, Hoseok and Jungkook all supposed to get verses in if we’re supposed to be wooing virginal teenagers?”

The eye roll he receives from Seokjin is nothing short of spectacular, “Please, as if we were ever doing anything else.”

“What do you mean?” Taehyung looks confused. Everyone does. Seokjin looks around the room like he thinks the others might be slightly dense.

“We’re idols,” he says slowly, “That means we’re here to look pretty. The ‘message of the music’ is neither here nor there.”

“The hell it isn’t,”

“Hyeong sit down,” Namjoon lays a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. He recieves a sarcastic huff in response,

“No, I don’t think I will! Look,” he raises a finger and aims it squarely at Seokjin’s face, “I know that you’re not exactly well versed in hiphop, try as we might, but believe it or not we,” he gestures to the rapper line, “write about shit that matters.”

“You can write about whatever you please, it’s not going to mean anyone’s listening."

“Says who?”

“Our last album sales apparently.” Seokjin stands and tucks his lyrics sheet into his back pocket, “maybe the hiphop era’s over, with half of Big Bang in the army I think we can forgive the public for moving on.”

Yoongi looks about ready to start throwing punches and Jungkook’s eyes have gone a terrifying shade of apathetic. Seokjin exits stage right to the kitchen and starts pointedly banging pans together to drown out Yoongi’s tirade of expletives.

“Well you can’t blame him for wanting to put a positive spin on things,” Namjoon snaps as the rest of the group begin to dissipate. Yoongi glares back at him,

“How is him saying that a cutie boy concept is no different from what we’ve been doing up till now a ‘positive spin on things’? And you can’t blame me for calling this,” he snatches the stack of lyrics out of Namjoon’s hand and shoves it in his face, “a joke.”

Namjoon considers following him as he leaves, but Yoongi makes for the front door and by the time it’s swung closed, the house is silent but for the soft clink of Seokjin resting his pan of choice on the stove.

“He’s not angry with you, he’s just….he’s angry,” Namjoon calls to the sound of onions being sliced,

“Aren’t we all?” Seokjin replies and Namjoon’s inclined to agree with him.

 

~

 

Bigger dorm or not, the practice room will never be big enough to accommodate seven men and their combined sweat after three hours dancing. As usual, Jimin, Hoseok and Jungkook collapse next to each other for water breaks so that they can commiserate over the deplorable state of their colleagues’ footwork in peace. It used to piss Namjoon off back when they first debuted, he felt bad enough as a dancerwhen it came to dancing without the constant reminders that if all of that was left to the dance line then everyone would have been in bed hours ago; but after countless nights spent trying to talk new trainees through the basics of a mixing desk, he hardly feels able to begrudge them the chance to vent.

Taehyung’s head lolls onto his shoulder and Namjoon has had just enough of this ridiculous cutesy dance for one day.

“Right! One more time guys, from the top!” Seongdeuk calls. He sounds far too happy for two o’clock in the morning and the hostility that the room at large holds towards him is palpable.

“I swear if I have to do that stupid fucking ‘omo’ thing one more time,” Yoongi mutters and Namjoon can sympathise.

“So I was thinking, you know that bit where Hoseok and Taehyung are supposed to spin Seokjin away from the girl and he moves back into formation with everyone else?”

“You mean that bit I always mess up?” Seokjin asks glumly.

“Yeah!” Seongdeuk beams at him like he’s done something particularly impressive and Jungkook’s eyes roll, “Yeah I was thinking we’d change that bit.”

Seokjin perks up.

“I was thinking we’d have you crash into Taehyung on purpose this time!” Seongdeuk grins.

“But why?” Seokjin’s confused expression speaks for them all.

Hobeom shrugs from the corner, “It’s cute. It fits the concept,”

“So, not being able to dance is cute?”

“No, Jimin, it just…it sort of-”

“It makes him look all giddy and in love,” Hoseok cuts across Seongdeuk, “hyeong’s right, it will look cute.”

“Would it look cute if I did it?”

“No Jimin, absolutely not.”

 

Of course, once he’s actually trying to knock Taehyung over, it takes Seokjin four tries to get it right. But by the time they’ve worked his clumsiness into their regular routine Seongdeuk would have them believe that Seokjin is some sort of accidental genius.

“That’s perfect!” he chortles as Seokjin steps the wrong way on the opening line of the third chorus and narrowly avoids getting hit by a flailing Hoseokian limb, “Yeah we’ll keep that.”

In the end they just seem to keep it all. The choreography concept switches from ‘clean cut men trying to get a girl’s attention’ to ‘the hilarious tale of how Kim Seokjin is awkward as fuck’.

Which is funny, Namjoon thinks, because out of all of them Seokjin is the least awkward with girls, but somehow his stumbles and trips make it look like he can fall head over heels in love (literally) in three seconds flat and that Park Jimin is the one whose slick moves allow him to keep it together.

“And again! One more time guys I promise you can go to bed after this,” Seongdeuk calls and they groan their way into starting position. Seokjin stumbles through his now all too deliberate mistakes as the rest of them do all that they can to stay in time with each other. With his attention half focused on the sweat-steamed mirror Namjoon thinks that they’re doing ok, he’s gotten better at spotting the steps that need more work since the early days when he was all but passive in dance rehearsals. It’s hard work staying on top of their dancing along with everything else but he’s come to appreciate that it’s just one of many qualities of a good leader.

“Namjoon no!” Seongdeuk stops them half way through, “Pay attention please! How many times do I have to tell you that it’s three beats before you peel off for the bridge? Sorry guys, you can go once you get this right.”

And really, Namjoon’s learned to ignore the angry looks he gets when he fucks up the routine for the umpteenth time, but there’s an irritation that settles in his stomach which he can’t quite place until they finally (three attempts later) get to leave the practice room and head home.

 

“I thought we’d never get to leave,” mumbles Seokjin, pulling his scarf further around his face. Ordinarily the walk home from the dance studio is one of shared commiseration over the split responsibility for extended dance rehearsals, but Namjoon knows that this time he’s left alone on the other side of the ‘can’t dance’ line. Seokjin’s eyes go wide when he realises what he’s said and his attempts to backpedal would probably be funny if they weren’t so heartfelt.

“Oh, um, Namjoon you know I didn’t mean-“

“It’s fine,” Namjoon sighs and he and Seokjin descend into an awkward silence that’s only broken when Jimin cuts between them hotly pursued by Yoongi whose hat, it transpires, has mysteriously vanished from his head.

There’s a minute’s chase during which Jimin tries desperately to pass the hat onto someone else to no avail and they all laugh themselves hoarse watching Yoongi getting steadily more out of breath as he tries to keep up with him. Eventually, Jimin gives up and throws the hat in Seokjin’s direction, only to watch it pass through his fingers and into a puddle. Suddenly the frown on Yoongi’s face isn’t so funny.

“Why’d you have to throw it to King Clumsy?” he growls, picking the beanie out of the puddle with cautious fingers and making a face when brown water drips slowly back to the street.

It’s not a big thing, it’s never a big thing, but Namjoon sees Seokjin flinch when Yoongi’s not looking. Yoongi won’t blame him; he’d never blame him because this is Jimin’s fault because Jimin was the one who threw the hat to Seokjin in the first place. He should have known not to hold any faith in his coordination skills and really Seokjin SHOULD be happy because Yoongi’s a dick when he’s angry and Seokjin, well…

Seokjin never had to try very hard to keep up appearances. He’s soft, gentle and submissive, and while it’s nice to have someone who can swallow the prescribed idol bullshit without gagging, looking after him can be a fulltime job. If he gets angry, he does it through pointed silence and sarcasm that he can never follow up on, but he’s not very good at pretending that he’s not more upset than the other person. Yoongi stalks off muttering to himself, he’ll probably be in a bad mood for hours just to prove a point, and Seokjin’s gaze falls to the floor.

“Hyeong-“

“It’s fine Namjoon,” he sighs, his steps quickening as he adopts a brusque march back to the dorms.

Namjoon follows after him, a step behind all the way home.

 

~

 

It’s not like Namjoon’s never worn a button up shirt before, he likes them, he owns several completely independently of Big Hit, and yet…

“I don’t like it,” he tells his stylist for the day, “like really, REALLY don’t like it,”

All the sympathy he receives is a disapproving glare and heartfelt sigh, the stylist-hyeong moves over to Jimin, mumbling something about unappreciative teenagers, “I’m twenty two,” Namjoon snaps before he can stop himself, and then he sort of wishes he could crawl into a hole and die because the last thing anyone wants to do is piss off the stylists.

Still, it can’t get much worse than heart shaped cufflinks.

Next to him, Jimin preens at his dolled up reflection. The makeup nunas are trying a different approach this time, something involving a lot more eye shadow than previous comebacks. Honestly, Jimin’s short enough that he can kind of pull off the pastel Tweedle-dum thing they’ve got going on with him, and the pink of his suspenders goes surprisingly well against the pale green of his shirt. Jimin doesn’t even mind, he makes ‘aegyo’ faces at himself in the mirror, seemingly oblivious to the curling of Taehyung’s lips next to him but it makes Namjoon think that maybe, just maybe, there’s enough natural talent for the cutie-boy concept in the group for them to not fuck it up completely.

Tweedle-dee on the other hand, begs to differ.

“No, nonononono, nope, not going in there, not happening, Jung Hoseok you better let go of me right the fuck now!”

“Language!” Hobeom barks in the general direction of Yoongi’s protests, “You boys are clean cut for this album, I don’t want to hear any more effing and blinding till you step off your last farewell stage,”

The string of expletives that Yoongi unleashes on their manager is Oscar worthy, and serves the added benefit of getting Yoongi into the room. His knee high socks (green to match his suspenders and Jimin’s shirt) have fallen down to meet his pink and white two-tones and the fact that his unstyled hair (platinum blonde for this comeback) flops into his eyes and prevents him from seeing anything properly all counts against him in terms of intimidation factor and Hobeom doesn’t have to try very hard to get a few good whacks in with the magazine he’s reading.

Defeated, Yoongi crashes into the makeup chair next to Namjoon and proceeds to make things as hard as possible for the stylists trying to fuss over him.

“You remember back when we debuted and I had to wear that maid’s outfit? You remember when I said that hiphop was dead? Well clearly I lied, there must have been something left to kill if this is any indication,” he gestures to the green glittery mess approaching his eyelids with a resigned sag to his soldiers, “Block B never had to put up with this shit.”

“Sure they did, just because it was Jiho hyeong making them wear it doesn’t mean they didn’t spend 2013 wearing more lipstick than So Nyeo Shi Dae,” Jungkook leans over Namjoon’s shoulder to examine his reflection and grimaces. They’ve got him in baby blue which is probably designed to make him look like a kid, but given how kind 2014 was to him hormone-wise he’s way too tall to give the look any credence, “eurgh, this blush is way too heavy,”

“Nooo, don’t be silly! That blush is perfect it makes you look so cute!” Yoongi’s makeup nuna coos. Namjoon feels it might be prudent to advise that she shut up before she gets her ass kicked, but at that moment Seokjin returns from the photo shoot and he gets called off to follow suit.

 

The photographer’s computer screens are filled with pictures of Kim Seokjin looking for all the world like the fairytale prince he’s supposed to be portraying. He’s still forced into a pair of shorts, but the defining element of his outfit is the butter-yellow tail coat, chosen so that it brings out the blonde highlights in his hair and, in Namjoon’s humble opinion, the least embarrassing article of clothing in the current Bangtan wardrobe.

The photographer hops over to him, nodding appreciatively when he sees Namjoon looking at the photos, “We’re just going, like, full on fairytale for this one,” he says seriously, “like, just imagine you’re, like, in Narnia or something,”

Namjoon nods distractedly as his eyes wander between the photos. They’ve got Seokjin hugging weird cuddly mythical creatures and anthropomorphic plants whilst posing with cutesy tea sets and artistically aged books. He looks enviably natural, but to be honest it’s all the kind of stuff that he can imagine Seokjin doing anyway. Namjoon can wink for the camera and pull dumb faces on cue, but it’s not like he’s going to be winning any ‘Model of the Year’ awards anytime soon.

“You ready?” asks the photographer. Namjoon nods and makes towards the set, but something catches his eye. The girl behind the computer has just pulled up a fresh round of photos, the first of which features a delightfully candid close up of Seokjin’s face, He’s laughing, his lips drawn back into his most genuine smile that he only really uses when he’s laughing at himself. The lights hit his face too hard and the line of his jaw blends into the white background, but it’s striking.

It looks too true to life, too perfectly exemplary of Kim Seokjin to be taken by accident, but the photographer leans over the girl’s shoulder and makes a face, “Eugh, no, get rid of it,”

“Wait!” Namjoon moves towards the screen but the image has already gone, vanished in a puff of data. The photographer gives him a questioning look.

“It just…it looked like him, like what he really looks like, ya know?”

Clearly the photographer doesn’t. He takes five seconds to stare at Namjoon like he’s a crazy person and then ushers him over to a pile of obnoxiously oversized cuddly toys.

“Smile!” he coos and Namjoon is only too relieved when the final product of his endeavours manages to not look nearly as fake as it felt.

 

There’s a low level grumble that plays soundtrack to the ride home. Yoongi has purposefully rubbed his makeup into giant pink and black spirals that make him look like an accident in a cosmetics factory that only gets worse when Taehyung starts using his own lilac eye shadow as finger paint for his arms.

Seokjin pulls a face, “You’re not allowed second shower looking like that Yoongi,”

“Says who?”

“Says the frankly ridiculous amount of makeup you’re covered in right now, you’re going to use up all the hot water.”

“So what if I do?” Yoongi’s mouth curls into an unpleasant sneer and he reaches forward to try to scrape some of the glitter from Seokjin’s cheek. His hand is slapped away before it reaches his goal and he lets out a bark of sarcastic laughter.

“C’mon, you’ve got this cute thing down to pat, share a little of that know how Jinnie.” Namjoon doesn’t like Yoongi’s tone at all, there’s enough open hostility in it to stop Seokjin in his tracks, trying to save face by maintaining eye contact.

When the silence starts to get awkward and Jungkook’s giggles start to break free, he cuts in, “That’s ‘hyeong’ to you,” and Yoongi rolls his eyes.

“I was just having a bit of fun Namjoon, jeez,”

“Well don’t,” he snaps, and they spend the rest of the journey sitting in silence.

 

~

 

The new dorm has two rooms, and no bunk beds, and everyone agrees that this is a much welcome luxury. The original plan had been hyeongs in the triple, dongsaengs in the quad but it’s no secret that Hoseok likes the younger members most and they hadn’t been moved in a week before he'd asked to swap with Namjoon. It’s a mercy being away from Jungkook’s snores and Taehyung’s erratic sleeping habits, but there are different downsides to rooming with Yoongi.

“Thanks guys, I owe you one,” he says from behind his shit eating grin. The door to their bedroom closes and Namjoon and Seokjin are left on the couch for the night.

Seokjin sighs and collapses onto the sofa, “Why can’t he just use a love motel like everyone else?”

“Some kind of alpha male need to prove that he gets laid on the regular? I don’t know man we’ve all brought someone back here before,”

“Yes but Yoongi definitely holds the record for most awkward timing.”

“What about that time Jungkook brought a girl back when Hoseok hyeong’s parents were visiting?” Namjoon counters, going to sit next to Seokjin, “Need I remind you of how quickly we had to get them out of the house?”

“Yes well at least Jungkook never had to go to hospital because he tripped over his own underwear and hit his head on the nightstand,”

Namjoon is indignant, “that was one time! You can’t-” Seokjin breaks into a peel of muffled giggles that he can’t hide behind his hand, “Hyeong don’t laugh I got concussion!”

Seokjin beams at him fondly and makes to ruffle his hair, “And we all took care of you very well,”

“Taehyung wrote a song about it featuring the line ‘such an idiot will never be seen again in my time’ and kept humming it during interviews,” Namjoon shoves Seokjin’s shoulder and he keels over onto the couch, “C’mon, let’s watch a film or something,”

Seokjin makes a face, “Shouldn’t we try to get some sleep?”

“Well considering that they only just got home I’d say Yoongi and his gentleman caller have at least an hour to go before they stop doing whatever it is that they do and I really don’t want things to get quiet enough for me to have to hear them,”

“Eurgh,” Seokjin shudders, “Ok, yeah film, what’s it gonna be?”

Namjoon wiggles his eyebrows, “Do I even need to say?” Seokjin beams at him.

 

Halfway through the first Pokémon movie, Mewtwo has failed to capture Pikachu, and Namjoon and Seokjin are crashed out on the couch.

Seokjin’s head shifts under Namjoon’s chin, bringing him sharply out of his decline towards sleep. He’s not the most touchy-feely person, but it’s hard to care when they’re both so tired. Seokjin’s arm lies across his stomach, head resting on his chest and Namjoon’s own arm is wrapped tight around his shoulders. Namjoon doesn’t do this with anyone very often, skinship really isn’t his thing, but he has to admit that the deadweight of Seokjin’s body is comforting and satisfyingly warm in the early morning air.

“Namjoonie?” Seokjin mumbles into his chest.

“I thought I told you not to call me that,”

“But it’s so cuuuuuuuute,”

“Yeah that’s the problem,”

Seokjin sits up and looks Namjoon in the eyes. He’s freakishly good at holding a person’s gaze and within seconds Namjoon feels decidedly uncomfortable.

“What?”

“Do you think I’m cute?” asks Seokjin, deadly serious.

“What- like girl cute?”

“Girl cute, boy cute, whate-”

“I’m not Yoongi, man if you’re trying to get laid you need to ask someone else,”

“I’m not asking if you want to fuck me, I’m asking if you think I’m cute,”

Namjoon tries to hold Seokjin’s unwavering gaze but quickly decides that the battle between cloned and non cloned Pokémon is more interesting, “you mean like at the photo shoot?”

“Yes, at the photo shoot, whatever, do you think I’m cute?”

“I guess…”

“Do you like it?”

Namjoon blinks dumbly at the TV, “are you really sure you’re not trying to get laid?”

“No! No I just…” Seokjin sighs and settles back on the couch, “You guys always talk about being cute like it’s a bad thing, and then everyone tells me I’m cute.”

“They tell Jungkook he’s cute too,” replies Namjoon, Seokjin rolls his eyes.

“That’s because they don’t know Jungkook,”

The sound of Mewtwo’s battle with Mew fills the room as an awkward silence descends between the two of them.

“You’re good at it,” Namjoon mumbles, “You can be cute and it doesn’t look dumb. When I do it it’s dumb, when Jimin does it it’s really dumb, when you do it it’s ok. It’s good.”

The silence stretches on, and Ash declares Mewtwo’s plan insane. Seokjin creeps up behind him.

“Who says you’re not good at being cute?” he says, resting his head on Namjoon’s shoulder.

“Gahh, hyeong get off,” Namjoon shrugs his shoulders pathetically and feigns annoyance but Seokjin just laughs.

“No way kiddo,”

“But it’s bed time!”

“The film’s still going,”

“I don’t care, Yoongi and what’s-his-face finished up twenty minutes ago and we have to be in dance rehearsals in….six hours,”

Seokjin sighs, wraps an arm around Namjoon’s waist and pulls them both down onto the sofa. Namjoon yelps loudly.

“What the fuck are you doing? Let go of me I’m sleeping on the other couch,”

“No you’re not,”

“You better let me go o-“

“It’s cold, it’s late, I’m not letting you go, deal with it,” mutters Seokjin, his breath skittering across the back of Namjoon’s neck.

“But-“

“No buts,” Seokjin tightens his arm around Namjoon’s waist and all the fight leaves his body. On the TV, Ash is revived by the tears of the Pokémon who love him so and behind him Seokjin’s breathing evens.

He’ll move, in a moment, when he’s sure Seokjin is asleep.

Namjoon yawns and blinks at the screen. Seokjin’s body heat is comforting, the slight rise and fall of his chest mesmerising. His eyes fall closed and he tries really, really hard not to fall asleep.

 

Namjoon’s eyes open to find the living room lit by pale morning sunlight and Taehyung standing over him grinning like an idiot.

“What?” he mumbles.

In answer, Taehyung raises his hands and forms a heart which he proceeds to grin through pointedly. It takes Namjoon longer than it should do to work it out, but Seokjin’s legs twitch against his own and all of a sudden he’s very wide awake, vaulting off the couch before any of the others can see the pair of them spooning.

He looks at the clock on the DVD player and groans.

“Shit it’s late,” Seokjin grumbles from the couch as Yoongi enters from the kitchen carrying rice for each of them.

“You guys have a good time last night?” he wiggles his eyebrows as he sets the food down on the floor.

“Oh fuck off it was cold,” Namjoon sulks.

“Yeah that’s what they all say,”

“You didn’t actually have sex on the couch did you?” Jimin shouts from the bathroom, “Because that would be really gross,”

“We didn’t have sex!” groans Namjoon. “I swear the next time I catch Hoseok and Taehyung spooning I will be posting photographic evidence to the fancafe,”

Taehyung shrugs and plops himself down next to Yoongi, “no one cares anymore hyeong, they’ve seen it all before,”

“Besides, the picture I posted of the two of you has caused more of a stir than anything ‘VHope’ have ever done."

Namjoon blinks at him dumbly for a few seconds, and by the time he’s come to his senses Seokjin has found his phone and is already whining about the photo. It’s worse than expected, his hand dangerously close to Seokjin’s and their legs perfectly in line,

“You are never allowed to bring anyone back here ever again hyeong,” he hisses as Yoongi dissolves into hysterics.

“Well maybe if you’d actually gotten laid you wouldn’t have minded so much,”

“I hate you,”

“We’re gonna be late guys!” Hoseok runs through the living room, annoyingly well prepared as ever, “c’mon Hobeom just texted me he’s waiting outside for us,”

Namjoon makes a dash for the ‘dance bag’ he stashes under his bed. By the time they’re all in the car the talk has turned to variety shows and the embarrassing shit they’ll be doing this promotional cycle.

His phone vibrates and once he’s dug it out of his pocket Seokjin’s name lights up, 'sorry'

'Nothing to be sorry for' he replies, and they don’t speak to each other till dance practice is done.

 

~

 

When it comes to filming music videos, Bangtan like to make their mood known. They’re all back in their ridiculous outfits from the photo shoot and they really don’t look any better now than they did then.

Namjoon shrugs on his sky-blue dungarees and prepares to face the music. And oh how he wishes the pun was not intended.

Yoongi and Jimin have the ever important job of being complete idiots for this comeback. The dance routine has evolved to the point that it’s basically just Seokjin bumbling around the stage with his eyes popping whilst the rest of them fight to stay in sync, but it’s Yoongi and Jimin who have to make it look like Seokjin’s awkward trips are something other than his own clumsiness.

“Go again!” the director calls after Jungkook fails to avoid glaring death rays at the large cuddly teddy he’s traipsing around with for the umpteenth time. Hobeom slides up behind Namjoon as they watch from a safe distance behind the cameras.

“You need to cheer him up,” he mutters, “Seriously, get him to smile or we’re still gonna be here this time tomorrow. Don’t think I’m joking, you know it’s happened with 2AM before.”

“We’re trying!”

“Well try harder,”

“Maybe if he didn’t hate the concept so much…”

Hobeom thwacks him over the head, “Don’t get smart with me, you need to fix this.”

Namjoon grumbles his way over to where Yoongi is by all accounts plotting the murder of a large pink teddy bear.

“I reckon I could do it, one sharp tug and the head’ll come right off,” he tells Hoseok who looks like he’s listening to the single most boring monologue of his life. Namjoon snatches the bear out of Yoongi’s hands and glares at him.

Yoongi glares back, “what?”

“I need you to help me cheer Jungkook up.”

“Why me?”

“You’re the only one who hates this concept as much as him.”

“I hate this concept too,” Hoseok butts in, “I may not be whining about it like I’m five, but for the record, I hate it.”

“Well you go cheer him up then.”

“Absolutely not,”

“Why not?”

“Because I like watching someone reflect my inner state for all the world to see,” Hoseok leans back in his chair, “professionalism be damned. Let the kid sulk.”

Namjoon looms over the pair of them, though he rather suspects that all the frills and pastels are something of a detriment to his ‘imposing leader’ persona.

“If you don’t do something to cheer him up in the next five minutes, I will personally see to it that both of your diet plans are cut by 2000 calories a week.”

That sure gets them interested.

 

~

 

“Really, this is how we’re doing this?” Hobeom looks like he might just hate his job. Yoongi is standing behind the camera as it films Jungkook, slowly, methodically, and with the greatest glee ripping the heads of a variety of stuffed animals. It turns out that he can do it after all; one sharp tug is all it takes.

On set, Jungkook beams for the cameras. Namjoon’s fairly sure that the sadistic glint in his eyes is all too visible but the director doesn’t seem too phased so he supposes look alright on film.

“You know, if we have to redo any of the group shots it’s gonna be you tearing Peter Rabbit’s head off hyeong,” Namjoon says and Hobeom puts on his best sulking face,

“Such a waste of resources,” he sighs and Namjoon hopes that doesn’t mean a second cute comeback for them.

A woman breaks away from the crowd of photographers clustered at the other side of the room and comes trotting over to where the pair of them are standing, large brown envelope clutched in her hands. It’s only when she’s close enough to see the freckles under her nose that Namjoon recognises her as the photographer’s assistant from the photo shoot.

She stops abruptly, and bows to both of them in turn, “Namjoon, I have something for you!”

Hobeom’s eyes narrow on the envelope, “I think you’ll be sharing that with me first,” he reaches for the package but she snatches it away before he can lay hands on it.

She glances at Namjoon and blushes, “It’s personal,” she mumbles. Namjoon doesn’t have the faintest idea what she’s talking about and his confusion must show on his face because Hobeom wastes no time in telling her that nothing ‘personal’ goes straight to any of his artists unless they can prove they know what it is first.

“Nothing against you, we just don’t trust anyone,” he beams, and holds out his hand for the envelope.

Hobeom opens the A4 manila package as the woman walks back to the photographers huddle who are busy treating MV shooting like a second photo shoot. He opens it, pulls out a photograph large enough to fill the envelope and starts a little. He shoves it back inside and shoves the whole arrangement into Namjoon’s hand, “This better not mean what I think it means,” he hisses.

Confused, Namjoon checks the offending article, and when he sees what it is he feels his face go pink in seconds.

It’s the photo of Seokjin, the one the photographer had deleted at the photo shoot, blown up to A3 and smiling back at him from glossy paper. “I…..I didn’t ask her for this,” he mumbles, Hobeom scoffs.

“Hmm,”

“What?”

Hobeom glares at Namjoon very pointedly, “I can’t think of many reasons that a person would want that photo,” he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, though he still looks rather unamused.

Namjoon’s about to protest very, very loudly, but he’s cut off by what is apparently the sound of a troop of chimpanzees whooping in delight.

“FILMING’S OVER!!” Yoongi screeches in his face, “WE CAN GO THE FUCK HOME!!” and less than ten seconds later he’s being shoved into his seat in the minivan, dungarees and all, by the insistent hands of Jimin and Taehyung.

“So, bulgogi for dinner tonight?” Hobeom suggests to a chorus of appreciative shrieks. The van pulls away from the studio parking lot and Namjoon puts the envelope in his bag, careful not to bend it. He suspects it’s for the best if none of the others ever find out it exists.

 

~

 

It’s less than a week before the final cut of the MV is dropped through their letterbox. Taehyung finds it (because he’s the only one ever up early enough to catch the postman) and has already watched it and made his assessment by the time he thinks to tell anyone else that it’s there.

“Do I really wanna watch this?” Yoongi asks warily as the seven of them crowd the living room.

“Oh don’t worry you barely have any screen time,” replies Taehyung.

“Great, that makes me feel so much better,” Yoongi’s sarcasm goes unnoticed by no one.

The music starts up and they are forced to watch themselves parade around like fools for three minutes in some kind of hideous teddy bear wonderland that has somehow acquired a girl for Seokjin to try to woo. The post video editing makes the heavy makeup they were all wearing look less ridiculous than it did in the flesh, or they’re going to have to assume it does from whatever screen time they get because really…

“I’m all over this,” Seokjin breathes, “What the fuck they spent forty minutes filming Jungkook. Why is he only in it for twenty seconds?”

“Well it beats my ten,” Yoongi looks simultaneously relieved and annoyed, “and I don’t think Namjoon even managed that,”

Namjoon frowns at the now blank screen. It’s something of a blessing, he supposes, that his screen time is cut. He’s not very cute and the whole concept goes against everything he stands for, but he’s also the leader and if they’re going to embarrass themselves, shouldn’t he be front and centre leading the charge? Seokjin is everywhere, he’s central to all the group shots and has at least twice as many solo shots as Taehyung who’s evidently cute enough to warrant something in the region of decent screen time. It’s annoying. They don’t look like a group.

“Sorry,” Seokjin mumbles.

“Not your fault,” Hoseok sighs, but it’s all too obvious he’s annoyed.

Seokjin still looks miserable, “I just-“

“It’s fine,” Yoongi snaps, “Really it’s not your fucking fault.”

“Yeah you can just do all that cutesy bullshit best,” Jungkook continues, but he sounds angry. The room feels angry. Namjoon takes a deep breath and realises that he’s angry too. An awkward silence curls its way between them and he has no idea what he should be doing to break it.

“I’m just gonna…yeah,” Seokjin barely pauses to grab his coat on the way out of the door and Namjoon doesn’t feel like stopping him.

 

~

 

“Namjoon hurry up! How long does it take you to do your make up Jesus,”

“I can’t find Seokjin,”

“Well the flat’s pretty fucking small- if it takes you longer than a minute he’s probably not here,”

Namjoon sticks his head round the bedroom door to see Yoongi looking infuriatingly cool in ripped white skinny jeans and a worn leather jacket, both of which highlight his absurdly light hair “He knew we were going out though, why would he not be here?”

Yoongi shrugs, “Maybe he’s already there,” Namjoon glares at him, “Well the others are already there! He might have gone with them.”

“He hasn’t sent me a single selca.”

“Well I dunno man maybe he just doesn’t like you,” Yoongi pauses, “Wait he sends you selcas? Like, regularly?”

“Yeah, so what?”

Yoongi gives him a long sideways glance.

“What?” Namjoon tries again more insistent, Yoongi smiles and shakes his head,

“God you’re dumb,” he mumbles as his phone goes off, “Right, apparently Jimin has been doing shots with Jungkook for the past half hour and Hoseok doesn’t want to be the only responsible adult there when he starts puking so can we please go now?”

“I just think we should-“

“Fuck Seokjin, seriously, we have a comeback next week this is the last time we’re gonna get to go out for like, months probably looking at our promotion cycles,” Yoongi’s eyes go wide and he does that thing he does with nunas where he looks up at them from under his eyelashes, “Please can we just go?”

Namjoon glares harder at him, “Are you seriously using aegyo on me?”

Yoongi’s face resolves into a frown and he sighs deeply, “Can we please just go?”

Namjoon sighs, checks his phone one last time, then nods. Yoongi chases him out the door before he can change his mind.

 

“How many times do I have to tell you not to be a dumbass when it comes to booze?”

Jungkook makes a sort of pathetic retching noise but nothing more comes up. His fingers slip on the edge of the bucket and Namjoon has to lunge forward to stop its contents from painting the kitchen floor an unappealing shade of green. As usual, the kid had decided he had something to prove, and that that thing should be that he can put away more alcohol than his hyeongs.

Five months of legal drinking and almost two years of illegal drinking prior haven’t taught him that drinking more than Min Yoongi is a scientific impossibility, and the number of times that Namjoon has wound up holding the kid’s hair back while he throws it all back up again is getting kind of ridiculous.

And it doesn’t help that he always manages to trick Jimin into trying to keep pace with him.

“I…I think…I think I’m gonna,” Jungkook’s head starts to loll and his eyes begin to droop. Namjoon carefully moves the bucket out of his grasp completely and slings an arm over his shoulders.

“Yeah let’s get you into bed.”

 

Jungkook passes out almost immediately and Namjoon has to return to the kitchen to deal with the bucket of puke that’s no doubt threatening to stink the place up so badly that they can’t go in there for a week. He’s not sure if he should be happy or pissed off that he’s more sober than he intended to be by this point in the evening.

“What are we supposed to do with this?” Namjoon looks up as he enters the kitchen to see Seokjin frowning at the bucket from as far away as possible.

“Where have you been?”

Seokjin looks at Namjoon like he’s gone mad. “Out! Not that it’s any of your business. Now can you please explain to me why there’s a bucket full of vomit in our kitchen? You know, where we eat?”

“Jungkook got drunk and Yoongi got Jimin to the bathroom first,”

“Wow what an amazing night out I’m so sorry I missed it,” Seokjin deadpans. Sarcasm isn’t really his thing, it catches Namjoon’s attention.

“Are you ok?”

Seokjin sniffs pointedly and says nothing. Namjoon knows this tactic all too well, but he’s never worked out how to get around it, “Suit yourself,” he mutters, moving to pick up the bucket.

“Yoongi and Jimin are still in the bathroom you know,” Seokjin snaps. It’s annoying when he gets like this, there’s no reason for him to be angry but he’s gonna go ahead and be angry, at everyone, and then be pathetically sorry the next day, “If you’d been paying attention you’d know that the bathroom door hasn’t opened since you walked in here. Come on it’s not like it’s hard - use your ears.”

Namjoon grits his teeth and makes an executive decision to not lose his temper, “Where would you like me to put it instead then, down the drain?” he lunges for the kitchen sink and Seokjin makes a noise somewhere in between a retch and a shriek as he moves to intercept him.

“No you can’t just fucking throw it down the sink that’s disgusting! I really, really….I really,” Namjoon stares, bewildered as Seokjin’s breath begins to catch and his eyes begin to blink too fast, the way they do when he’s about to cry. The kitchen feels too cramped, like they can’t be in it without invading each other’s personal space.

Seokjin takes a long, shuddering breath, “Just…go. Leave the bucket, you always have to deal with him, it’s not fair,”

“But-“

“Namjoon!” Seokjin’s does that thing that he does once in a blue moon where he fills out his age to its full potential and for the briefest of moments he becomes commanding, “Go.”

Namjoon retreats, past the sound of Yoongi laughing as Jimin whimpers over a toilet bowl, past the sound of Hoseok and Taehyung grumbling affectionately over their fellow member’s idiocy, past Yoongi and Seokjin’s bed into his own. Sleep teases him for hours, past the point where the lights go out and the house goes silent.

He hears the front door open and then click shut again, and wonders where the hell Seokjin is going.

 

~

 

Inkigayo is definitely the best way to kick off promotions, Namjoon decides. He’s done this whole ‘comeback’ thing enough times to feel like he’s in a position to pass judgement on this, and even through the dredge of insufferably cutesy ‘you and me forever baby’s’ that he has to endure for three minutes two seconds per performance it feel electric. They still have the same fans cheering for them, the same homemade fan signs thrown up around the audience; he’s come to know some of them so well over the years that he forgets that they’re not friends.

Leaving the stage everyone looks happier than he’s seen them in a week, “It was good!” Hoseok yelps happily, “It was actually fun!”

“If by ‘fun’ you mean ‘slightly less nauseating than expected’ then yeah, I guess it was fun” Yoongi grumbles, but his bad attitude is only too obviously being used to keep up appearances. There’s a smile teasing the corners of his mouth that only accentuates itself when he tries to scowl at Namjoon.

Taehyung slings an arm around Hoseok’s shoulder and another around Jungkook’s waist because he’s too tall for shoulder hugs these days, “Let’s promote together, happily and healthily,” he says seriously.

“You are such a nerd!” Jimin cackles, flinging himself onto Yoongi’s back to a chorus of dissatisfied groans, “Giddy up horsey! I want to go find that cute girl doing the interviews so I can show her my aegyo!”

“She doesn’t want to see it,” Yoongi whines.

“Well then I guess I’ll just have to show YOU my aegyo oppa!”

Yoongi trots off to the greenroom very quickly, Jimin’s gwiyomi ringing loud in all their ears.

 

~

 

Life descends into the whirlwind of interviews and performances that promotional cycles always entail. It’s not as easy as before, keeping face; aegyo becomes a way of life and there’s a whole new world of pressure to be perfect, to be seamless, that they all start to feel as mirror time in the bathroom becomes their most precious commodity. No one says anything stupid in interviews, or if they do it’s a slip up, like the years of giving less than the clinically prescribed number of fucks about their image are suddenly going to fade from public consciousness if they behave themselves really hard.

The shocking thing is that it works. The cutesy boy image pulls in the sales as well as the new fans, painting their crowds an increasingly unfamiliar shade of ‘new’ as old diehards peel off and the newbies take centre stage. At fan signs Namjoon finds himself peppered with comments about how so many fans just didn’t know what to make of a hiphop idol group but now, now they can appreciate how wonderful and talented Bangtan truly are. He doesn’t know how to respond to that; he doesn’t feel very talented when he steps onstage these days, but he’s worked out how to push on regardless, to find other joys in performing beyond the knowledge that it’s his music and lyrics moving the crowd to a frenzy.

The fancafe numbers go a bit crazy too. They increase, by a lot, but not without sacrifices. A lot of old fans leave them, familiar faces that they’ve all become used to hearing from over the past three years backing out quietly and going down screaming in equal measure. The new fans have different demographics, Jungkook and Taehyung had always battled it out for the title of Most Popular in the past but they are forced to admit defeat after not a week of promotions have gone past. It’s only natural with his prime position in the MV and choreography, not to mention the easy manner with which he handles interviews and the fact that if any of them get asked to MC it’s always him, but somehow they all still manage to be surprised when Seokjin swans past them all to become the fan favourite.

It’s not irritating per se, it's all for the good of the group and god knows they wouldn’t be able to hold this image together if it weren’t for him and yet…

“He’s never contributed creatively to this group, not even once,” Namjoon tells Hoseok in the Sunday morning quiet of the kitchen.

“Taehyung's not much better,” Hoseok points out, “You never had a problem with him being the most popular.”

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek trying to put his frustration into words, “I dunno man, I don’t think I ever really felt it. Like, we decided he was the most popular because of the fancafe but it was never The Taehyung Show.”

“So you feel like it’s The Seokjin Show?”

Namjoon blinks, “Don’t you?”

Hoseok leans back against the kitchen counter and stares off into space, “I think you’re too used to wanting credit Namjoon, once you take away that kind of talent all that you have left is stage presence, and let’s be real here, when you try to be cute you’ve not got an ounce of it,”

“But this isn’t just about me; don’t tell me no one else is annoyed,”

“I won’t,” Hoseok shrugs, “But be careful, it’s not Seokjin hyeong’s fault they made us do something he’s good at for once. He has a hard enough time with Yoongi.”

“I am careful,” Namjoon sighs, and he is, though he can’t deny that even as Seokjin says just the right thing in every interview, even as he takes centre stage for every performance, even as he shrinks into himself when he comes offstage, it pisses him off.

And he’s not the only one. Yoongi of course has made his displeasure with the entire concept known from day one, and Seokjin’s merciless talent for it is no exception and Jungkook’s tactless manner of dealing with the things he finds annoying doesn’t make things any easier. What’s more surprising is the fact that Seokjin winds up watching anime alone on his bed more often than not because Taehyung is busy, and Jimin no longer needs to be told twice to do the dishes because apparently flirt-fighting is ok up till a point, and that point is Seokjin.

“Everyone’s angry, we’re starting to get mean,” Hoseok rubs barely stifled sleep from the corners of his eyes with too much vigour and comes up looking like he’s just punched himself in the nose. He’s right of course, he’s an idiot at times but he’s also rather good at being right.

Namjoon shrugs, “He’ll get over it.” The less than amicable look he receives in return says it all.

 

~

 

There’s always a moment – a glorious moment, halfway through promotions, when they’re done with Korea but the company is still ironing out the kinks in their plans for overseas promotions, a moment when they have absolutely fuck all to do. It’s recommended that they keep going to practice every day, but only Jimin and Hoseok are ever mad enough for that, and as they have been told they’ll have at least a week off this time it’s hardly surprising to see them, along with Taehyung, barrelling out of the door at the first available moment to get trains home.

When Namjoon asks Yoongi why he didn’t bother going home, halfway through day 2 of respite, he’s met with a grumble originating from somewhere in the mess of blankets on his bed proclaiming that his mum would insist that he do things with her and really who has time for that? Yoongi rarely goes home, though whining about how everything is so much better back in Daegu is one of his favourite pastimes. Namjoon can understand fractious relations with your parents, but he can’t imagine tempers worn so thin that he’d all but ignore them for three years. So Yoongi spends the days in bed and the nights out partying, where he apparently runs into Jungkook completely by accident wherever he goes, a different girl hanging from his unfairly toned biceps every time.

Seokjin is prone to flitting between his parents’ house and the dorm, even when they’ve got full schedules. It makes them all want to smack him for being an annoying little mama’s boy, but he brings them home cooking and that’s very difficult to argue with.

This time round, two days pass without Namjoon seeing hide or hair of him and it’s only on the third day when Hobeom calls to make sure that they’re all ok, to ask why no one’s been tweeting that he begins to worry a little.

“But has he texted you?” Hobeom asks breathlessly, the sound of traffic blaring in the background,

“No-“

“Namjoon!” the line goes dead for the time it takes to duck through an underpass, “You’re supposed to keep an eye on everyone! Besides I thought you guys were…close.”

Namjoon takes a valuable second to frown at his phone, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that you guys…I don’t know you text each other a lot,” Hobeom sounds flustered. Namjoon strongly suspects that he hasn’t been given an entirely straight answer.

“Well maybe we don’t text as much as you think we do,”

“Did something happen?” Hobeom snaps, “because if you guys-“

“No! Nothing happened it’s just…things have been….a little…tense, maybe?”

Hobeom sighs audibly, “What happened?”

“Nothing happened we just-I’ll fix it, ok? See you in a few days.”

He hangs up before Hobeom can twist more details out of him and, out of spite as much as anything, decides Seokjin can wait till he gets to the studio.

 

It’s so nice to have a proper mixing desk back beneath his fingertips, if he hadn’t been warned so very many times that the sound was one hundred percent reprehensible, Namjoon would sing.

There’s a tune kicking around his head that he’s been itching to do something with for days, battering his cranium and begging to be let out. He’s not surprised to find a familiar rustiness to his command of the keyboard as he begins to tease the music out, he always gets like this after time spent promoting but it’s such a relief, such a bone shatteringly heartfelt relief to be back this time. He has this down; he has a heavy beat and a dirty bass with an unpredictably wistful melody playing along the both of them, he has a vision reforming as sound. It all falls together so fast he thinks it’s a miracle he kept it silent for so long. All it takes is the flick of a switch, the touch of a button, lowering the drums in the mix because there’s going to be rhythm enough in his voice.

His voice, his words – just beyond the horizon of his perception, but he can feel them.

Namjoon grabs a pen, the first lines pouring out without need to check them, they fit, he’s very very sure they fit, very sure that-

His phone buzzes

'Seokjin????' – Manager Nim.

Namjoon’s head collides violently with the keyboard.

It would be great, really unimaginably brilliant to just pretend he never got the text. He could do it, he could just keep on playing and no one would be any the wiser. Except-

Unfinished lyrics glare up at him accusingly from the page, but Hobeom’s text glares harder.

Namjoon groans and, internally cursing the various responsibilities of leadership, reaches for his phone to dial Seokjin’s number,

“Kim residence!”

“Hello Mrs Kim, is Seokjin-hyeong there? It’s Namjoon,”

“Oh Namjoon! How are you dear? Yes he’s right here I’ll just get him,” Namjoon flinches against what he considers to be Mrs Kim’s misplaced joviality. There’s a variety of scuffles and muffled talking and something that sounds suspiciously like ‘can’t you just tell him I’m not in?’ before the phone manages to change hands and Seokjin picks up the call.

“Yes?” he sounds tired, and annoyed, and generally like he doesn’t want to be talking to anyone right now.

“Just checking in, it’s not like you to be gone for so long,”

“Well excuse me for wanting some time to myself.”

Namjoon starts, “hyeong is something wrong?”

“No Namjoon, everything’s fine, that’s why I’ve been home alone for the past three days,”

“Can we please not with the bullshit?”

“I know you guys are…I know you’re sick of the sight of me. It’s fine, I get it. I’ll see you next week,”

“Seokjin please!” that gets his attention; Namjoon can practically feel him glaring down the phone.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m really sorry that Yoongi’s been a dick but-“

Seokjin scoffs, it doesn’t suit him, “Namjoon let’s not pretend that all you guys are anything less than done with me.”

That stings, and in hindsight it really, really shouldn’t have, “I’m not pissed off with you,” Namjoon growls, too late to see the irony.

“Yeah you sound fucking thrilled with me,”

“You can’t just vanish on us and expect me to not get angry!”

“I was at home I’d hardly call that vanishing,”

“Hobeom called me worried about you, ya know?”

“Hobeom?” Seokjin’s voice fades and Namjoon can’t think of anything more to say, “Namjoon, just….I’ll see you in a few days.”

There’s a click and the line goes dead. Namjoon nearly throws his phone across the room in frustration.

He sends Hobeom a quick text ‘Fucker says he’s fine’.

‘Trouble in paradise?’ comes the reply not twenty seconds later, and he has no idea what to make of that.

His former passion for the track before him has withered, his irritation rather drowning everything else out so he takes to the archives to hunt for something more brutal, more cutting. He tears the front page out of his notebook, crushes it and throws it in the trash. He’ll find the words again if he needs them; right now he needs something else.

It’s a mercy that they have the trainees trying their hand at production these days, whilst the overall quality might be a little below what he’s used to working with, Namjoon finds the variety fulfilling. There are mistakes of course, tiny things that he wishes he didn’t notice because they probably don’t really matter, but tracing any one person’s work he can hear the progression, see how much better they’ve gotten, it’s fantastic.

Still, for a moment, he considers nabbing one of Jiyeon’s tracks, until he remembers what happened the last time he did that and…well the beating really wasn’t worth it.

It takes him a while, but he eventually finds something worth working with. It’s not much like anything he’s ever made for himself, which is refreshing as hell after ninety percent of the tracks the trainees churn out have been personally supervised by him and the other ten percent are built on that training but this, this is different. He’s not sure if it’s a hot mess or pure gold, but the faintly jazzy piano riff hidden under a pop-hop beat reminiscent of early Big Bang stands out, and maybe it’s not angry on its own, but words can do wonders with music.

Namjoon would like to pretend that he manages to keep things civil, that he aims his frustration at the right people, but that would be a lie. The fact that it’s Big Hit who have warped their image and put the wrong people (person) in the spotlight doesn’t seem very important when it’s Seokjin who gets to stand in the centre of every photo shoot and dance routine, who gets all the new fans and all the questions in the interviews, who gets all the benefit and puts in none of the work and gets away with it just because he’s pretty. It’s not nice, it’s not fair, but it feels fantastic to finally say it.

The beat is strange but fun beneath his tongue. It makes him try out new rhythms, experiment with how close he can get to Dynamic Duo before he’s just copying. He stretches syllables and syncopates more heavily than he would otherwise, he finds wordplay in places he hadn’t looked for it before, the final effect may not be all that flattering, may not be his best work, but he’s sure learned something new.

He looks up and sees the time and realises that he should probably get back before Yoongi locks the dorm and leaves him sitting on the doorstep for the night. He saves the track and thinks nothing more of it, the tension in his shoulders slightly eased.

 

~

 

It’s not until four in the morning that Namjoon starts to feel guilty. Yoongi interrupted his sleep not half an hour ago with a pretty girl in tow and a drunken smirk swallowing his features and as ever, Namjoon was only too happy to not be present when they got started. He should probably go sleep in the other room, it’s not like there’s a shortage of beds, but there’s also the distinct possibility that Jungkook will pick tonight of all nights to come home and he sincerely doubts that he’ll be nice enough to warn him before he does whatever he’s gonna do with whichever girl it’s gonna be tonight.

And he will have a girl with him.

The living room is still cold in the early morning, and without anyone to take the edge off Namjoon can only lie shivering on the sofa, curling himself around a pillow and trying to get some sleep.

And if it’s Seokjin’s pillow he’s curled around, no one need know.

 

~

 

It turns out there are more reasons than first anticipated to hate the cutie boy image.

“I’m dying,” Jimin gasps, pulling at the shirt collar that’s suffocating him in the Philippino heat, “Do you think anyone would notice if I just-”

“Yeah, they would, I tried it half an hour ago my collar was done up again ten seconds later. I swear, these stylist nunas are crazy.” Yoongi crashes into the chair next to his, blonde hair sticking to his forehead, “Seriously man I thought I couldn’t hate this concept any more.”

Taehyung walks over to the pair of them and brandishes his armpit, “How are we supposed to not sweat in this heat? The stylists keep telling me that these dark patches are ugly but what else am I supposed to do?”

“You’re supposed to get your armpit out of my face,” Yoongi shoves him away, “and I have no idea about not sweating, Jimin here is our resident Busan man.”

“Being from Busan doesn’t help,” Jimin rasps, “I need….I need…”

Namjoon pointedly tries to ignore them. They’re being annoying and cliquey on purpose, slowly but surely filing over to Hoseok’s side of the room where the idiot is running through dance routines and getting sweatier by the second. There doesn’t need to be a spoken agreement between them for him to see it happening, they try to beckon him over but he frowns deep and tries to continue his ‘fascinating’ conversation with their Filipino publicity rep about the price of bicycles at his local market. He can see Seokjin, sitting alone and deliberately not included at the other end of the tent. His eyes are closed like he’s sleeping but the furrow in his brow seems too deep for that.

The alarm goes off on Namjoon’s phone and there’s no time left to worry about Seokjin.

“Ok guys! We’re on,” his cry cuts across all conversations in the greenroom. They all groan back at him, even the stylists. The heat fucks up their stage outfits and their makeup and most of all their hair. Namjoon attempts last minute costume adjustments as they file past him; bushing Yoongi’s fringe out of his face so he can see, straightening Hoseok’s collar, pulling Jungkook’s sleeves down from where he’s adapted his t-shirt.

Seokjin takes the stage last, shuffling forward nervously, his eyes downcast. Namjoon stops him and waits to make eye contact, but it never comes.

“Are you ok?” he asks. Seokjin shrugs like it’s nothing and walks past him onto the stage. Five minutes later and he’s grinning like he’s the happiest guy on earth.

 

~

 

In three weeks’ time they’re flying back from Japan, every goodbye stage is officially over and they’re all knackered. Seokjin gets even more of the limelight when they’re standing on a Japanese stage – his anime addiction proving rather useful when it comes to supplementing their scheduled Japanese classes and making him by far the most fluent of the seven of them, but Namjoon doesn’t really care anymore, he just wants to be back on speaking terms with him.

He’s not really sure what did it, maybe he was more of a dick than he realised when he called Seokjin over the break or maybe they’ve just been worse to him as a group since they left Korea, but Seokjin hasn’t been speaking to Namjoon more than necessary for the past two weeks.

He hasn’t really been speaking to anyone.

Much as he can pull it together onstage and manage to engage in skinship, his mood turns sour once the cameras are turned off, his smile gone and his fingers itching with the urge to plug his headphones back in. They’ve spent their time in shared hotel rooms (because no one else wants to room with Seokjin anymore) with Namjoon holding one sided conversations with himself as Seokjin remains tight lipped and disinterested, at first it was infuriating, now Namjoon’s just desperate to get a response out of him.

“So! You looking forward to getting home?” he asks too brightly as Seokjin watches Japan fall behind them. The others have apparently found something rather interesting in Jimin’s carry-on and Namjoon can’t be sure if he’s flinching from the question or from Hoseok’s whoops of exaggerated laughter,

“I can’t wait to taste my mum’s kimchi jjigae,”

There’s a loud buzzing sound coming from the Jungkook's general direction and Yoongi sounds sort of like he’s dying, Seokjin says nothing.

“Seriously though, why do you even have this?”

“I told you! A fan gave it to me!”

“Then why did you keep it?”

“Seokjin,” Namjoon tugs him round to look him in the eye, “what’s wrong? Please, I can’t do anything about it if you won’t talk to me.”

Seokjin looks at him very carefully; Namjoon’s known him long enough by now to tell that he’s angry, even though he’s been keeping a straight face for years.

There’s a loud popping sound and something hits Namjoon in the thigh. He turns around to glare at its source and sees Taehyung holding a large, phallus shaped vibrator with the batteries popped out. He swears he’s never blushed so deep in his life.

“What the fuck are you doing with that?” he hisses. Taehyung shrugs.

“A fan gave it to Jimin,”

“I’m gonna show him what to do with it when we get home!” Yoongi yelps, far louder than is necessary. Namjoon sincerely hopes he’s joking.

“Put it away this is a public aircraft!”

Jungkook rolls his eyes muttering something that sounds like ‘killjoy’ under his breath and Jimin snatches at the vibrator, though Taehyung is more than fast enough to move it out of his reach in time. “It’s just a sex toy,” he says, like it’s really not a big deal, Namjoon gapes at him.

“There are children on this flight! Put it away before I come over there and take it off you.”

Taehyung shrugs, and after a brief attempt at sticking the vibrator in Jimin’s mouth (unsuccessful, even Jimin isn’t that dumb) it winds up in someone’s bag and the hubbub quietens down.

Namjoon turns back to Seokjin, hoping that there’s still some hope of getting him to talk, but he’s disappointed. Seokjin’s eyes are turned once more to the window, skirting the horizon, searching for something he’s not going to find.

 

~

 

Finishing promotions feels amazing.

It’s always pretty fantastic, but this time around Namjoon feels like he’s earned some kind of medal. They pack up the last of the pastel clothing and plushies into a Big Hit storage closet, Yoongi dyes his hair back to black and Namjoon feels he’s gained a whole new appreciation for the efforts of Shinee, Boyfriend and B1A4.

“I don’t know how they do it,” he tells Hobeom as they pass each other in the lobby, Namjoon on his way to work on some new tracks, Hobeom on his way to whatever it is he does when he’s not working (something far away from Seoul Namjoon doesn’t doubt). He doesn’t have the words to express how badly he doesn’t want to be involved in a cute concept ever again, he’s not very good at it, it breaks down band relations, and they feel like idiots.

“Probably with a lot less bitching a moaning than you little bastards managed,” Hobeom beams at him from under a giant pair of sunglasses, “see you in two months!” and then he’s out of the building and out of sight.

 

With hell behind him, and the studio below him, Namjoon feels that there’s only one way worth spending his first day of freedom. He skips down familiar steps and barrels into the storage cupboard sized studio, only to find it already occupied.

Seokjin is sitting at the mixing desk, headphones jammed over his ears with a file open that Namjoon recognises from somewhere. He watches the rise and fall of the vocals, the drums, the keyboards and-

Oh.

Oh fuck.

He lands heavy footfalls as he walks towards the man in the production chair, hoping to alert Seokjin of his arrival, then plucks the headphones from his ears, wincing at the all too familiar sound of a clunky piano and the mortifying bite of the verse he wrote over the top of it.

The verse about Seokjin.

They stare at each other for a long time. Namjoon hears the track finish and start again at least three times.

“Seokjin I’m-“

“I’m really sorry,” Seokjin breathes out fast, “I’m so sorry I just, I didn’t mean for any of it but they always picked me and you guys hated me and I just,” his voice cracks a little and Namjoon feels nothing but alarm, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to make it better,”

Well, that’s not quite the reaction he was expecting.

Seokjin’s eyes are shining with what can only be the beginnings of tears and Namjoon feels very close to panicking, he’s never been very good at dealing with high strung emotions, that’s Hoseok’s forte. He fumbles in his pocket for a tissue which is rejected with a wrinkled nose by Seokjin as he produces his own, rather cleaner one, from his breast pocket.

“Um, I was gonna….I thought you were angry with me,”

“I AM ANGRY AT YOU!” Seokjin shrieks, “You’re a dick, but I get it, I’d be fed up with me too,”

Namjoon blinks, “But…we’re only fed up because we’re like….jealous? Or something? That’s not a very good reason to be fed up with someone,”

“Yeah well I’m trying to make you feel better, you look terrified” Seokjin laughs wryly as he daintily mops the corners of his eyes.

“Huh,” scuffing his feet together, Namjoon doesn’t really know where to look, “Well, um, I’m sorry, about that track really I mean, how did you even find it?”

Seokjin blushes pink. It’s pretty, the way it spreads across his cheeks, delicate and bashful enough to make you believe he’s practised it in the mirror like he does his poses for a photo shoot, “Ummm…”

Putting two and two together takes Namjoon an unflatteringly long time; it really shouldn’t be that hard to work it out. Seokjin is never in the studio unless he’s recording, there’s a track that can’t be traced back to any of the trainees sitting on the main studio computer, and he just so happened to come across that one particular track?

“You made this?” Namjoon gestures at the screen and Seokjin buries his face in his hands.

“Yes! God don’t even tell me how awful it is, please. It took me three fucking days and it’s shit,”

“It’s not shit!” the beginnings of a smile return to Namjoon’s face, “Really, not shit at all,”

“You don’t need to sugar-coat it you know, I’m not some trainee who needs their confidence building,”

“I mean it, it’s not perfect but,” he pulls the headphones out of the socket and cuts the vocals, “It’s something different.”

Seokjin groans, “You’re just saying that because you feel guilty about being a dick, WHICH YOU’RE STILL NOT FORGIVEN FOR BY THE WAY!”

“I wouldn’t have used just any beat hyung.”

Seokjin pouts up at him, but his eyes look dryer. Namjoon can’t help but smile.

“Whaddaya say I make up for being a dick with a trip to that ice cream parlour down the road?”

“You really think that’s going to make up for two months of dickishness?”

“No. No, but I figured it might be a start.”

 

“So why did you do it anyway?” Namjoon asks over his banana split, Seokjin is nursing some kind of chocolate waffle extravaganza that’s so far off their diet plan it would make even Yoongi flinch, but he’s smiling like a kid with a lollipop and that sort of makes up for it.

“Do what?”

“What were you even doing in the studio? You’ve never shown much interest in production before.”

The ice cream spoon stays too long in Seokjin’s mouth and Namjoon is surprised to find he notices the moment his tongue flicks out to catch a renegade melting drop.

“I wanted to be good at something,”

“But you are good at things!”

“Being pretty doesn’t count.” Namjoon hates that tone; the one Seokjin only ever uses to hurt himself. It shows itself in the most unfitting moments, when someone else makes a mistake during dance practice, when dinner’s ready too early, when Yoongi uses the last of the toilet roll, he makes them into these little terrible moments where the failings of his friends become his fault but he’s never been so open about it before.

Or at least, not when Namjoon’s been listening.

It’s not fair, he’s never thought that Seokjin’s particularly gifted musically, but there are other things he’s good at. Things that Namjoon never held much stake in before becoming an idol but that he’s not sure how they’d function without now.

“You’re good with words, at making sure that you always seem like a respectable young man for the people who need that validation, you’re good at presenting a face for the group that everyone can stomach, you’re good at making people feel comfortable in interview, you’re good at making sure our apartment is tidy the night before a camera crew gets there, you’re good at playing parent to all of us even if we’re too bratty to ever really listen” Namjoon feels like none of that really covers what Seokjin’s good at, but it all seems to important when he does it, “you’re a good visual, and there’s so much more to that than just being pretty. I wouldn’t be able to manage it if my life depended on it,”

Seokjin stares at him, long and hard, before taking an enormous scoop of waffle, caramel ice cream and nuts and shoving it into Namjoon’s mouth.

“Thank you,” he whispers as Namjoon splutters around the pudding, “Now do me a favour and don’t you ever forget that again.”

 

~

 

It’s late spring, the days rolling towards summer, getting steadily longer like they can’t bear to see the equinox. The kitchen is bright with early afternoon sunshine, reflecting off the grubby floor tiles and the unwashed plates in the sink. To most people it would look unkempt, to Namjoon it looks lived in and he’s not really sure how to feel about that.

Hoseok, Jimin and Taehyung are gone of course, because they’re not promoting right now and when they call their hometowns ‘home’ it’s because they mean it.

Yoongi still avoids calling his parents, yet alone returning to Daegu. Namjoon picked up a call from his mum a couple of weeks back and thought she sounded sad enough to break, but he also knows that no one tries so hard to stay away from something that’s good for them, so when he sees Yoongi later that day he says nothing.

Jungkook likes the urban jungle. He speaks to his parents all the time, his dad is a regular visitor to the apartment when he journeys to Seoul for business or, more often than not, ‘just because’. Busan becomes a holiday destination for him much like anyone else and a cramped apartment not built for seven different personalities becomes home.

And although Jungkook would never admit to it, even if he’s disrespectful, bratty and arrogant, they all know that when he says ‘family’ they get included in that bracket.

Seokjin probably spends far too much time in the dorm to be honest, the flat isn’t so much two bedrooms in the holidays as ‘Jungkook’s room’ and ‘everyone else’s’ but no one ever talks about the fact that his bed doesn’t need to be occupied every night. He spends the mornings with his mum helping out around the house and the afternoons doing what he pleases, but he comes home to them, every night, like he wouldn’t have it any other way.

And him and Namjoon fall asleep on the sofa watching animated movies that Namjoon doesn’t even like whilst the kids go out and get their kicks. Because, ya know, acting like a grandpa when you’re 22 years old is totally cool.

“I have something for you!” Seokjin coos as he struts in through the front door, approximately 2 hours earlier than expected.

“In the kitchen!” Namjoon replies. He’s cooking, or at least, he’s trying to cook. Safe to say he’s about to get an earful regarding the mess in the pan on the stove.

“What the hell is that?” right on cue.

Namjoon shrugs and holds out the spoon for a taste, Seokjin flinches away, “Relax, it’s pasta sauce.”

“Well it doesn’t look like any pasta sauce I’ve ever seen,”

“Well fuck you then,”

“You should be so lucky,”

“Ha ha very funny. I see you grew an attitude, now show me the thing!”

Seokjin fumbles through his bag for his headphones and presumes to shove one directly into Namjoon’s ear. He hits play on his iPod and waits for approval.

It’s fairly poppy, far too much light-hearted bounce to the beat for it to be something of Namjoon’s devising, but it sounds good. There are synth guitars countering the rhythm of the drums layered beneath brass that matches them and Namjoon thinks it rather suits the weather. He grins as Seokjin who smiles back in a way that lets him know his validation is much appreciated but not needed; he waits for the track to finish before handing the ear bud back.

“It’s not quite a title song but we’re putting it on the next album.”

Seokjin glowers, “Namjoon…”

“Nope! Sorry! Already decided, third track, a duet, just you and me!”

“Namjoon!”

“What? You didn’t think I was just gonna let you squirrel yourself away in the studio and come out with nothing to show for it. Really hyung you knew this was coming.”

Seokjin attacks him with pathetic limp wristed slaps, half laughing, half growling as he aims for Namjoon’s shoulders. It would be so easy to stop him, but on the other hand, it would be so easy not to.

They stop when Namjoon crashes into the sink, groaning at the pain of contact. Seokjin collapses into him, head on his shoulder, fingers curling around his hips and…

Oh.

All of a sudden Namjoon’s skin feels too hot. His hands rest on Seokjin’s shoulders and then trace down his arms to rest on top of his hands though he’s pretty sure that’s not what he meant to do and his breath feels too heavy but Seokjin shifts so that they’re standing even closer, so that his legs fall between Namjoon’s and it’s nice.

“I told you you were good at something besides being pretty,” says Namjoon, his voice coming out quieter than he was expecting. Seokjin moves his head and their gazes lock.

“But I’m good at being pretty too, right?”

It feels like there’s a lump lodged in Namjoon’s throat stopping him from breathing properly. He knows what happens next and that terrifies him. Slowly, he jerks his head in affirmation, just once, but he doesn’t have time to do anything else because against his better judgement he’s already leaning down.

Namjoon has never kissed another guy before, and he can only conclude that it’s not nearly as weird as he might have imagined it being. Tentative at first, him less than sure if he’s ok with this as their lips meet, getting more confident as time goes by, as he works out that with his hands in Seokjin’s hair he can control the pace, as Seokjin opens his mouth with his tongue and shows him that it’s nothing he hasn’t done before, that it’s not weird.

It’s not even weird when one of Seokjin’s hands leaves Namjoon’s waist and reaches round to squeeze his arse. He’d never have described himself as being attracted to men, and he doesn’t see how kissing one changes that, but Seokjin makes this tiny whimper at the back of his throat and it’s definitely…interesting.

Namjoon follows suit and gives Seokjin’s arse an experimental grope in return, and that’s interesting too. And after that it feels like certain barriers have been broken, because the kissing becomes messy and the way their hips ‘accidentally’ brush together feels like something that Namjoon wants to do more of, though the possibility of doing it with less clothing is still mildly horrifying. Seokjin’s tongue tastes like a surprise Namjoon’s been waiting to receive, because really, the only thing that’s surprising him right now is how long he’s gone not knowing that he wanted to do this.

“Sooo, you guys gonna stand there snogging all day or can I like, do something about dinner?”

They break apart comically fast and Namjoon would quite like to vanish into thin air. Jungkook stands in the kitchen doorway looking slightly amused and very pleased with himself, “please, don’t stop on my account! We have bedrooms where you can go do that stuff for hours if you want.”

Namjoon splutters and tries desperately to think of a way in which the situation could not be interpreted as him and Seokjin making out in the kitchen. Seokjin just reaches up and thwacks him on the back of the head,

“Just because you feel the need to go fingering girls in every public toilet you come across doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t practise a little self control.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Hyeong please, I haven’t gone fingering girls in public toilets since I was fourteen, get with the times gramps!”

Apparently everything’s fine. Apparently Namjoon and Seokjin can make out in the kitchen and it’s not a big deal, even if it feels like the best and the worse thing all rolled into one to Namjoon, and apparently Jungkook can make snarky remarks as he cooks them dinner (which will of course be delicious because Jeon Jungkook is good at EVERYTHING), and apparently Yoongi’s not even surprised.

“I thought you guys had been fucking for like, ages,” he says blearily, having woken up at half five in the afternoon, “I found this sappy fucking picture of Seokjin in Namjoon’s bag months ago it had ‘smitten’ written all over it.”

“Namjoon wrote ‘smitten’ all over a picture of my face?” Seokjin looks confused. Yoongi glares at him.

“I’m not even gonna dignify that with an answer, that’s the kind of comment I’d expect from Jimin. Hold on a sec I’ll go get it.”

“Wait you STOLE it? I was looking for that!”

“Smitten!” Yoongi calls from the bedroom.

He emerges five minutes later with a slightly wrinkled copy of the photo from the photo shoot, Seokjin’s face filling the page and his smile practically jumping off it. Yoongi hands it over to Seokjin and proceeds to shoot hearts at the both of them to a backing track of Jungkook’s giggles.

“This isn’t even a good picture!” exclaims Seokjin, “The lighting is horrible, and here look at the motion blur over my left eye,”

“I like it though!”

“But why?”

“It’s a nice photo!”

“No it’s not!”

“Well you look nice in it!”

“But there are so many better photos of me out there Namjoon,”

“Maybe I like those photos too.”

“I think I’m gonna puke,” Yoongi says brightly.

Seokjin gives him a worried look, “why?”

“Because he’s been your boyfriend for less than two freaking hours and you’re already cute as fuck it’s sickening,”

Namjoon starts, “I think ‘boyfriends’ might be a little presumptuous-“

“BOYFRIENDS!” chorus Yoongi and Jungkook. And apparently that settles it.

 

~

 

The past few nights have, in Yoongi’s words, been ‘wild’ and so despite having slept all day he’s decided that he’s staying in.

“Cut the lights, please I just wanna sleep,” he moans from under his stacks of duvets and Seokjin hits the switch so that they’re left with his bedside lamp to light the room.

He walks back along the path he always walks to his bed, sat in the middle of Namjoon and Yoongi’s, but he doesn’t get in. Instead he smiles down at Namjoon.

“Budge over!” Namjoon obliges and Seokjin crawls in next to him.

Yoongi sits up abruptly, “What? No! No no no no no not part of the deal you can’t do that,”

“Why, you kick us out of here all the time,” Seokjin counters.

“Yeah but this is you kicking me out on like, a permanent basis,”

“What, you can’t sleep in the same room as two guys sharing a bed?”

“No, I can’t share a room with two people who are gonna be fucking on the regular,”

“What makes you think we’re going to have sex all the time?”

Yoongi throws up his hands, scoops his duvet off the bed and marches out of the room, “there’s always sex,” he hisses over his shoulder.

The door slams shut, and Seokjin rolls over to face Namjoon, kissing him quickly before pulling away giggling, “We didn’t really talk, about anything, earlier I mean,” he mutters. He’s quiet but Namjoon is close enough to hear him, he’s close enough to count his eyelashes.

“I didn’t realise there was much to talk about,” Namjoon replies.

“Well, like, are we a thing?”

“You’re in my bed aren’t you? How much more of a thing do we need to be?”

Seokjin beams at him, and he’s far too pretty for his own good.

“Just could we maybe hold off with the boyfriends thing until we’re sure? And, uh, could we maybe not have sex, just yet? Only I-”

Seokjin breaks into silent hysterics against his t-shirt.

“What?”

“You know I only said that stuff to scare Yoongi off right? Don’t worry, I am so not prepared for sex. I have none of the stuff with me.”

Namjoon blinks back at him stupidly, “Stuff?” he receives a rather stern look in return.

“Tomorrow you and I are going on the internet and I’m going to teach you a couple of very important things, ok?”

He has no idea what Seokjin is talking about, but Namjoon nods and waits for Seokjin to kiss him again, to hook a leg over his waist and slip a hand under his shirt, “I thought you said no sex,” Namjoon breathes against his mouth, a little worried as Seokjin’s hips begin to roll lightly, almost imperceptibly against his own. Seokjin smirks, it’s out of character but it’s, well, it’s interesting.

“I did,” he says, “but there are other things we can do, if you’re interested.”

Five minutes later and Namjoon is very glad that Yoongi has left the room.

 

~

 

The list of variety shows is more manageable this time, less Running Man more Weekly Idol, but Hobeom has still annotated the page with as many ‘maybe’s as could be considered acceptable. His desk is tidier this time round, which Namjoon thinks is a shame because the signature move of Bangtan’s manager has always been creating order from the chaos dealt to him by the universe.

“What? We’re not good enough for the big time yet?” Namjoon jokes, “I thought the last album sales were good,”

Hobeom brandishes a pencil at him, “Good? Yes. Running Man good? Absolutely not.”

“But you thought we were good enough last time!”

“Last time….last time we maybe overshot a little with our expectations,”

There’s an awkward silence that isn’t really awkward because Hobeom’s just taking the opportunity to retweet half the company. Namjoon sits on his hands and wonders how much he knows.

“Hyeong…”

“I know about you and Seokjin, Hoseok tells me everything, still amazed it didn’t happen sooner, how dare you take so long to tell me yourself,” Hobeom looks up from his phone, “insert comment about the necessity of telling your publicist everything here,”

“I was actually going to ask about our next album but ok,”

“So you still weren’t gonna tell me?”

“I figured Hoseok had it covered!”

Hobeom purses his lips and sits back in his chair, “Bang was more than a little annoyed that you guys had such a drastic image change authorised behind his back. Not to mention that whilst sales were good they still weren’t quite what we were hoping for,”

“Soo…?” Namjoon grins

“So, the next album is in your hands Namjoon, just remember, REMEMBER,” he’s forced to shout over Namjoon’s whoop of relief, “Remember to keep everything above board ok? I’ve heard some of the tracks you’ve been working on recently and they are so, SO not going to cut it.”

“If you can promise me that I never have to look at pastel pink knickerbockers ever again I’ll do anything for you Hyung,”

“I’m making no promises, this is a second chance, use it well! I expect you, Yoongi, Hoseok and Jungkook to really pull together for this one.”

“And Seokjin,”

Namjoon received a death glare in response, “what?”

“Just because he’s your muse or whatever doesn’t give him any innate kind of musical talent you know?”

“Hyeong please,” Namjoon smiles his widest, his most genuine smile, “I know what I’m doing, you don’t. The album’s in my hands now, you don’t get to say jack shit.”

Hobeom’s eyes go comically wide, “you know, I saw you on TV you actually seemed like a nice, respectable young man! Well there you go, I suppose the camera adds a decent personality as well as ten pounds.”

“I can afford to have ten pounds added; I’m in great shape.”

“Guess again!” Hobeom opens an imposing looking folder and hands Namjoon seven diet plans. He checks his own and there is celery everywhere. Hobeom grins menacingly at him.

“What? You thought just because you got your badass hiphop image back the rest of the idol bullshit was just going to float away?”

“Noooo, but I sort of hoped you’d forgotten.”

Hobeom smiles at him fondly over his desk, “you can handle the bullshit though, you guys’ll be fine,”

“Well of course I can handle it hyung, didn’t you hear our last album? That was some major bullshit and we handled it fine.”

They roll their eyes in unison, the wonderful thing about finishing any promotion is that all the bad bits become funny and all the good bits become the glory days of yore. They talk title tracks and debut stages, recording sessions and dance practice, Namjoon hunting for the vocabulary to express how enthusiastic he feels for every detail. There’s passion in his veins and his brain works a mile a minute trying to keep up with how much fun everything sounds. When their time is up and Hobeom has somewhere else to be he’s overexcited enough to bow as he stands. Hobeom chuckles.

“So you’re excited for the next album?”

Namjoon beams his brightest, “You have no idea.”