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“…when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

-When Harry Met Sally

 

 

It started with a road trip.

When trapped in a small, confined space, with another human being for ten hours, you can learn plenty about them while learning nothing at all. You can learn their cigarette of choice. Their habit of chewing on their lower lip when they think. You can observe how, for long stretches of open road, their long thin fingers will idly tap on the steering wheel and gear shift. You learn that their eyes crinkle when they smile, they can bob their neck, they can fit a whole twinkie in their mouth.

But you never learn how many siblings they have, or the name of the street in which they were raised. They spend ten minutes telling you about their favorite novel, and how when they were younger, they would keep a flashlight under their pillow just so they could read late in the night.

In turn, you don’t tell them about your parent’s divorce, or how you attended four schools in three years. But you do tell them about Sunday afternoons, and how rancid the house smelled when your grandmother made kimchi. And you’ll laugh, and they’ll laugh too.

And maybe they’ll notice your overbite, and their gaze will linger for too long on the piercing in your right ear. But in that moment, they know you better than your best friend in college.

You’ll remember this experience vividly for the next three weeks. But after three months, it will feel like nothing more than extended dream. And then a year will pass, and you can’t explain it as anything other than something you imagined. And their name will be lost deep in the dark recesses of your mind.

~~~

 

 

June 1998 UCSD 10:13 AM                       

 

 

Jungkook sat on top of two suit cases. His red converse kicked at the cement. He wore acid wash jeans, ripped at the knees, and a faded Pearl Jam concert t shirt. He had a single stud in his right ear.

Jungkook squinted up at the driveway. Three girls in sorority hoodies piled into a Volkswagen van. A mother embraced her son and then helped him place his luggage in the trunk of the minivan. Jungkook checked the time on his watch. 30 minutes past the time Hyosang told him. Jungkook sighed.

A car honked. Jungkook looked up. A guy stuck his head out of his car window and asked, “Are you Jungkook?”

Jungkook nodded, “Are you Seokjin?”

The car pulled up in front of him. The guy, Seokjin, stepped out from the driver’s side. Jungkook gave himself a moment to appreciate the Seokjin’s wide shoulders, dark eyebrows, and six feet of height. Then Jungkook scolded him, “You’re late.”

“Blame my roommate. His mom insisted on taking us out for lunch, I’m a sucker for free food,” Seokjin explained.

Jungkook admitted to himself that he, too, would choose free food over being on time to pick up a stranger.

Seokjin stuck out his hand, “Nice to meet you.”

Jungkook shook his hand. Seokjin had a strong handshake, Jungkook liked that. “Same. Thanks for driving me to the Bay,” Jungkook said.

“It’s not a problem, unless you don’t have gas money. I will leave you here if you don’t have gas money,” Seokjin teased.

Seokjin’s luggage filled the trunk, so they crammed Jungkook’s suitcases in the back seat of his car.

“Don’t worry, Margaret’s made this trip every summer for the past 3 years,” Seokjin said. He started the engine.

“Who’s Margaret?”

“My car.”

Jungkook blinked. “You named your car?”

“Of course. We’ve been through a lot together.”

“She’s a car not a person.”

Seokjin rubbed the dashboard, “He didn’t mean it, Margaret.”

Jungkook scoffed.

“Margaret” was a golden ‘90 Honda Civic, with skids on the fender, a broken air conditioner, and a dent on the right side that sealed the passenger door shut, making it so that Jungkook had to jump in through the window. She was terrible. For a terrible car, Seokjin treated her like she was a corvette.

“Get your dirty converse off Margaret,” Seokjin said.

“They still touch her when they’re on the ground,” Jungkook said.

“The mats were made for feet, the dashboard was not.”

Jungkook sneered as he lowered his feet. He muttered, “Snob,” under his breath.

Jungkook first impression of Seokjin was that he was an eight year old in a grown man’s body. Seokjin had a Mario bobblehead on his dashboard and a Starfox car sticker on the back window. He also sang along to the Spice Girls on the radio. Jungkook tried to change the station. Seokjin slapped his hand.

“Driver chooses the music.”

Jungkook sneered. He put his feet on the dashboard.

Seokjin shoved them down. Jungkook glared. Seokjin turned the song up louder. Jungkook’s eyes rolled to the back of his head.

 

 

~~

 

 

There was an accident on the 215. They reached the 405 at 1:00. Margaret was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for miles. Seokjin groaned.

“We need to find a payphone when we pass LA. I have to call halmeoni to tell her I’ll miss dinner.”

“Same,” Seokjin said. “I wonder if my mom sent me the phone number to her hotel.”

“Do you think we’ll make it in time?”

Seokjin tapped the steering wheel. “I need more coffee.”

 

 

~~

 

 

Jungkook opened the glove compartment. He shifted through Seokjin’s alphabetically organized cassette tapes. “Your collection sucks.”

Seokjin gasped. “Well what do you listen to?”

“Nirvana.”

“Everyone listens to Nirvana.”

“How come you don’t have any of their tapes?”

Seokjin scratched the back of his neck, “My mom thinks they’re a bad influence.”

“Of course,” Jungkook reached into the backseat and opened his backpack. He pulled out at a home made mix tape. “Here, your ass is about to get educated.”

Seokjin rolled his eyes as Jungkook popped the tape in his car radio. The first chords of Cake’s “I Will Survive” cover filled the space between them.

 

 

~~

 

 

Jungkook pulled a box of cigarettes from the side pocket of his backpack.

“No smoking inside of Margaret,” Seokjin said.

“Come on man, we’ve been driving for hours,” Jungkook whined, “I need a smoke.”

Seokjin glanced at the clock radio. He relented, “We’ll stop at the next gas station.”

Jungkook bought twinkies while Seokjin filled up the tank. Seokjin bought a basket of strawberries from the stand next to the gas station from the fruit stand attached to the gas station.

They sat on the trunk of Margaret, ate their snacks, and smoked. Jungkook smoked Camel. Seokjin smoked American Spirit.

Jungkook offered Seokjin one of his twinkies. Seokjin refused, “Those aren’t good for you.”

Seokjin scrunched up his nose when Jungkook bit into the bright yellow pastry. Jungkook shrugged, “It tastes good.”

“Yeah but it’s all artificial ingredients,” Seokjin said. “You’re feeding your body trash.”

Jungkook exhaled a long stream of smoke. “When Hyosang said he had a friend that could drive me home, he didn’t mention you’d be a killjoy.”

“What did he say about me?”

“He said that you were driving North, and didn’t mind a passenger as long as I split the cost of gas.”

“That’s it?”

“You know the bastard. He’s a man of few words.”                                                                                                        

“Yeah, Jin is like that,” Seokjin said with a small smile. “How do you know him? No offense, but he doesn’t hang out with underclassmen.”

“He’s my peer mentor,” Jungkook said. “How do you know him?”

“We were roommates freshman year and have been friends ever since,” Seokjin took a drag of his cigarette. “We were the two most handsome guys in the hallway.”

Jungkook rolled his eyes.

Seokjin laughed. He had an ugly laugh. It sounded like the squeaky sound he made when he washed his car window. ESeokjin spoke again, “In all honesty, we were the only two Koreans in the hallway. My mom would bring me kimchi and he would eat all of it.”

“He sounds like a parasite.”

“He is,” Seokjin chuckled. He stubbed out his cigarette. “Come on. I want to pass Bakersfield before sundown.”

 

 

~~

 

 

They were crossing the central part of California that was all desert, oil rigs, and windmills. The shadows grew longer and the sky traded it’s deep blue for various shades of pink and purple.

Seokjin stared at Jungkook for a minute too long. Jungkook caught his glare. “Why don’t you take a picture? It will last longer.”

“I have a disposable camera.”

Jungkook squinted. “Really?”

“Check the divider.”

Jungkook opened it up. He found a green kodak camera and a pack of gum. He stuck a piece of gum in his mouth. “Do you always have this?”

“You never know when you need a camera,” Seokjin said with a shrug.

Jungkook rolled it. “Seokjin.”

Seokjin turned to him.

Jungkook pressed down on the button.

“You fucker, I didn’t even smile,” Seokjin scolded, but not really.

Jungkook smiled, a full faced smile that showed off his overbite and made his eyes curve into crescents. “Not sorry.”

“Fuck you,” Seokjin said with no bite.

“You looked good. Sunset suits you.”

“Every lighting suits me.”

“Wow, arrogant,” Jungkook laughed.

Seokjin laughed with him. It didn’t sound ugly, not this time.

 

 

~~

 

 

The sky was so dark it was almost black. Seokjin swore that if he didn’t eat something within the next ten minutes he would starve to death. Jungkook told him to stop being a drama queen. They pulled into a truck stop McDonald’s for dinner.

Seokjin ate his food like it would disappear at any moment. Jungkook watched in horror as he ate his super sized burger in two bites.

Seokjin licked the ketchup up off his finger. Jungkook forgot how to breathe.

“Can I ask a question?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook blinked out of his stupor. He took a bite from his burger. He spoke with his mouth full, “Shoot.”

Seokjin hesitated, “…about the gay thing?”

Jungkook choked on his food. He slapped his chest. Seokjin handed Jungkook his large soda. Jungkook took two big gulps. When he could breathe again, he asked, “Did Hyosang tell you?”

“No. But it’s easy to guess,” Seokjin pointed at his right ear, mimicking where Jungkook was pierced, “Isn’t that the gay ear?”

Jungkook nodded. He kept a blank expression, his hand was on the door handle, ready to sprint at a moment’s notice.

“How do you do it?”

Jungkook frowned, “Do what? If you mean like men, I was born liking men.”

“No not that,” Seokjin shook out his bangs, “I mean like dating, like who pays?”

“Whoever asked for the date pays,” Jungkook spoke carefully, “Isn’t that generally the rule?”

“Ahyoung says she’s an independent woman and makes us go dutch ,” Seokjin said.

“Is she your girlfriend?” Jungkook asked.

“Has been for the past six months.”

“Congrats.”

“Thanks,” Seokjin ate a fry, “Are you seeing anyone?”

“Honestly,” Jungkook said. He scratched the back of his neck, “I’ve never been in a relationship.”

“Ever?”

Jungkook nodded.

“Then how do you know?” Seokjin asked.

“I didn’t say I was a virgin,” Jungkook said. He a took another slow bite.

Seokjin’s expression shifted from contemplative, to scandalized, to amused in under a minute. Seokjin laughed. “You whore.”

Jungkook smirked.

 

 

~~

 

 

They pulled up to Jungkook’s dad’s house in the suburbs of Oakland. Seokjin helped him pull his luggage from the back seat.

“Thanks for the ride, Seokjin.”

“No problem.”

They shook hands, as farewell.

“Any chance you can take me back when school starts?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin shook his head, “My family lives in LA. You were lucky this time.”

“I really was.” Jungkook agreed.

And with a final wave, Seokjin sat in the driver’s seat and drove off.

 

 

~~

 

 

November 2002 San Diego International Airport 11:35 AM

 

 

South Korea didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Well, there was Chuseok, but that happened in the Spring. Jimin insisted on taking the days off for Thanksgiving, and using three more days of his vacation days, to visit his family in Busan. And that Jungkook had to go with him.

Jungkook leaned his back against the wide airport windows. He groaned, “What if they don’t like me?”

“Come on they’ll like you,” Jimin said. He checked their tickets and their passports for the ten thousandth time. “Just be polite and smile. Maybe help out around the house sometime.”

“So be the opposite of what I am at your apartment?” Jungkook teased.

Jimin slapped Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook peeked at him from under his bangs. Jimin’s lips were curled into a soft smile. Jungkook felt a heat in his chest. He pressed further, “Right? Should I curtsy as I greet them.”

“I’ll leave you here,” Jimin scolded, but there was no weight to his words. There was a big smile on his face and he chewed on his bottom lip to stop his laugh.

Jungkook wanted to kiss him. He held back because they were in public.

Jungkook tapped Jimin on the shoulder, “I need a smoke.”

Jimin’s nose scrunched up in disgust. He didn’t look at Jungkook when he said, “Be here by boarding call.”

Jungkook was used to this treatment. He’s heard Jimin’s speech over and over about how he’s a (soon to be) doctor and yet his boyfriend was going to die of lung cancer. The speech made Jungkook smile.

Jungkook kissed Jimin’s forehead, then waved him off.

The smoking lounge was a shitty little outdoor patio that got all the wind and no direct sunlight. Jungkook zipped up his jacket. His hands trembled. He lit his cigarette on the third try.

There was someone else out there with him. Someone with wide shoulders and long legs. Someone that tugged on the fringes of Jungkook’s memory, of a time and a place, and maybe if he tried hard enough, a name.

They guy turned to face Jungkook. He had a handsome face, and prominent eyebrows. Jungkook’s eyes widened in recognition. “Do I know you?”

The guy smiled. He blew out a stream of smoke. “Maybe,” he practically purred, “Are you Jungkook?”

“You remember me?”

“It’s hard to forget someone I spent 10 hours with in Margaret.”

“When you say it like that, it sounds like we had a three way with somebody’s grandmother,” Jungkook said.

“Don’t insult my car,” Seokjin defended his old, shitty Honda.

Jungkook laughed. “How are you? What happened with you and whatshername?”

“Ahyoung?” Seokjin supplied.

“Yeah.”

Seokjin took a drag of his cigarette, then answered, “I married her.”

“Congratulations,” Jungkook said, he meant it.

“Thanks. This was my first business trip since the honeymoon. If I don’t get home in time for Thanksgiving she might divorce me.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened.

Seokjin laughed, “That was a joke.”

“Straight couples have weird humor,” Jungkook said.

Seokjin shrugged. He took another drag of his cigarette. “What about you? Are you seeing anyone?”

Jungkook’s mouth instantly split into a large smile.

Seokjin laughed at the action. “Congratulations to you too. How long have you been together? Six months?”

“Nine actually,” Jungkook’s smile grew impossibly wider. “He’s Korean, like us. And a doctor. Well an almost doctor. He’s doing his residency in San Diego.”

Seokjin’s eyebrows shot up, “Keep him forever.”

“That’s the plan,” Jungkook said. Jungkook of five years ago would be ashamed of how smitten he was. Current Jungkook was too in love to care.

Seokjin pulled a business card from the pocket. “Next time you’re in San Francisco, give me a call. We can have dinner together, you, Jimin, me and Ahyoung.”

The card was made of heavy stock. Seokjin’s name was in bold red letters. The Art Gallery he managed was written in cursive.  Jungkook flipped the card in his hands. “Thanks.”

Jimin walked opened the door to the smoking lounge at that moment. “Kookie-” his eyes drifted to Seokjin- “Jungkook, they’re boarding now.”

Jungkook checked his watch. “Shit, sorry.”

“Is this him?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook smiled again.

Seokjin chuckled. He stubbed out his cigarette. Then held out his hand to Jimin. “I’m Seokjin. It’s nice to meet you.”

Jiimin turned on his wide smile, the one where his eyes curved into crescents. He spoke with a formal tone, “It’s nice to meet you as well.”

Seokjin looked back at Jungkook, “He’s adorable.”

Jimin’s face turned red.

Jungkook stubbed out his cigarette. He took Jimin by the arm and walked him into the terminal. He waved at Seokjin, “Have a safe trip.”

Seokjin returned the wave.

“You told him about us,” Jimin hissed.

“Don’t worry,” Jungkook squeezed Jimin’s arm, “I know him.”

Jimin frowned. Jungkook wanted to kiss that frown away, but they were surrounded by people, and it was time to board their flight.

When they were safely in their seats, after Jungkook put their carry-ons in the overhead bins, Jimin asked, “How do you know him?”

“We went to the same University,” Jungkook said.

“He’s a lot older than you,” Jimin said.

“He’d slap you for that,” Jungkook said. Jimin chuckled. Jungkook continued. “His best friend was my peer mentor. The summer of my freshman year, he drove me to the Bay.”

“That was nice of him,”  Jimin said.

“I got lucky, his family was vacationing in San Francisco that week.”

“Did you keep in touch with your peer mentor?”

“Nope. The next year he was arrested for raping three girls on campus. I burned all bridges with him,” Jungkook said. The flight prepared for takeoff.

The business card was left in the pocket of Jungkook’s coat.

Jimin’s mom accidentally put it through the washer. She pulled it out when she folded the laundry and threw it away. Jungkook forgot about the interaction entirely.

 

 

~~

 

 

July 2007 North Park, San Diego 11:12 AM

 

 

Jungkook watched Hoseok’s reflection in the wall to wall mirrors of the dance studio. He felt the reverberations of the bass on the wood floors. Hoseok’s ipod was connected to the speakers. Just a quick run through of the choreography, simple choreography, for his intermediate young adult class. He does a final body wave, runs his hands through his bangs, and stops the music.

Hoseok looked at Jungkook through the reflection of the mirror. He saw Jungkook’s red eyes and tear streaked cheeks. Hoseok sighed, “You ready to talk?”

Jungkook kicked at the wooden floor.

“So what was in the envelope?” Hoseok asked.

Jungkook took a deep breath, “It was from the hospital in Denver. He got the neurosurgeon fellowship. The one he had been talking about all year, the one he was nervous about, and kept him up all night, and had all of us look over his resume until he had the perfect one, remember?”

“I think I read that thing 3000 times,” Hoseok said. He laid down next to Jungkook, on his back, chest up, so that he was blinded by the ceiling lights, “Congratulations to Jimin. Continue the story.”

Jungkook sighed again. He reached for the pocket of his sweatpants, but stopped before he reached it. “So he’s excited because he got the job. It didn’t start until late August, so I started talking to all the places I could probably get a job at. Like I have a friend who works the sound system in a club downtown. And another with connections to the Red Rock Amphitheater. But… but then Jimin tells me that I shouldn’t do that.”

Hoseok turned to Jungkook.

Jungkook’s eyes were watering, his fingers played at the pocket of his sweatpants, the grabbed his box of cigarettes but did not pull one out.

“So I ask ‘how long is the fellowship?’ and he ‘says four years.’ Then I say, ‘I’m going to need a job,’ then he says ‘I don’t think you should go with me.’” Jungkook wiped at his eyes.

Hoseok sighed, he wanted to speak, but he knew if he said the wrong Jungkook would stop talking entirely.

“Yeah,” Jungkook breathed. “So I asked him, ‘why wouldn’t I go with you,’ and he says ‘I don’t think we’re there yet.’”

Hoseok winced. Jungkook ‘s head fell against the wall. He pulled out a cigarette, and rested it in his mouth. He knew the rule about not smoking in the dance studio, but he desperately needed it. “I ask him ‘How could we not be there? We already live together how much more would we need to be there?’ ….. and he says ‘I don’t know. But I don’t think we’ll ever find it.’”

Jungkook lolled his head to look at Hoseok. He tapped his cigarette.

Hoseok sighed and said, “Go ahead.”

Jungkook cupped his cigarette and lit it with a cheap corner store lighter.

Hoseok turned to the side, and used his hand to pillow his head. “That really sucks. Did he explain more?”

Jungkook shrugged. “I didn’t really hear him, we both started screaming at each other. And now he’s staying with a coworker.”

Hoseok took a deep breath. He patted Jungkook’s foot. “I’m really sorry man. But if he says it, there probably was something missing.”

“That makes me feel better,” Jungkook scoffed.

“I’m trying,” Hoseok shook Jungkook’s foot.

Jungkook knew. That still didn’t make the ache in his chest go away.

~~

 

August 2007 North Park, San Diego 8:42 PM

 

 

Seokjin cut through the tape. The box was labeled kitchen , yet it was filled with Seokjin’s CDs. Seokjin scoffed, “Serves me right for choosing the cheapest moving company”

Seokjin closed the box. He walked to the living room. His sofa currently faced the window. He’d have to move that, eventually, once he figured out where to place the entertainment center, and the Persian rug. Scratch that, Ahyoung kept the Persian rug. Seokjin needed to buy a new rug. And a new bed. And a blender…

Seokjin ran his hands through his hair. He needed a cigarette. His box was empty. He groaned in frustration.

Seokjin put a leather jacket over his t shirt. And walked down the four flights of stairs.

He walked for two blocks, passed by countless people. North Park on a Thursday night was crowded. Seokjin was glad for it. All the noise blocked out the thoughts in his head.

He bought a carton of American Spirit cigarettes, and a cheap lighter. He lit up outside of the convenient store, in the streets. Sweet relief filled his lungs.

Seokjin went to North Park a total of three times in his college career. The minimal memories varied greatly from the sight before him. He could go home. But home was quiet empty apartment that was devoid of furniture and warmth.

He walked into an open bar, there were a lot of bars, with empty seats. Seokjin waved down the bartender.

“Can I get a beer?” Seokjin asked.

The mustached bartender pointed at the hanging menu. There were three columns of beers. Seokjin’s eyebrows shot up. He ordered and orange flavored ale on tap.

Seokjin checked his cell phone. He had a text from Yoongi, asking if he needed help unpacking. And another from Ahyoung, she needed an updated address to forward his mail. Seokjin silenced his phone. He’ll answer them tomorrow.

A spot on the bench facing the streets opened up. Seokjin pushed his way through. He asked the man in the hoodie, “Is this seat taken?”

“Go ahead man,” the guy said.

Seokjin sat down. He processed the voice. He turned to face the guy.

He had a cigarette in his hands, a dark beer in front of him, and a familiar face.

“Jungkook?”

The guy looked up at him confirming that yes, he was Jungkook. He had deep bags under his eyes, and trimmed his bangs, but he was still Jungkook. Jungkook’s eyebrows furrowed together. “Seokjin? What are you doing here?”

“I moved here. I took a job for an art gallery,” Seokjin said.

“Is that good news?” Jungkook asked.

“It is,” Seokjin said, his tone somber, “I needed to get out of San Francisco.”

“That sucks,” Jungkook said.

Seokjin shook it off. “How are you? How’s Jimin?”

Jungkook tensed. He took a long drag of cigarette. He exhaled through his nose. “Jimin is in Denver.” Jungkook checked his watch, “he arrived there at six our time.”

Seokjin thought back to their last meeting at the airport, and then the overly happy smile, “What happened?”

Jungkook sighed. “He had the opportunity to work under this esteemed neurosurgeon. So he took the job and left.”

Seokjin regretted everything. “Ahyoung and I are getting a divorce.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows shot up, “You were together for years.”

“Yeah well,” Seokjin shrugged, “Shit happens.”

Jungkook raised his glass, “To our terrible lives.”

Seokjin clinked his glass with Jungkook’s, “Cheers.”

The bar grew more crowded, the voices behind them grew louder and louder.

“Do want to get coffee tomorrow?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook couldn’t hear him. Jungkook tapped on his ear.

Seokjin leaned in, his lips a mere inch from the shell of Jungkook’s ear. “Do you want to get coffee tomorrow?”

Jungkook nodded.

Seokjin almost smiled.

 

 

~~

 

 

Seokjin watched the mobile turn slowly from where it hung over the crib. It was a nautical theme, on one end hung a whale, on another a submarine, on another a jellyfish. Maybe it was meant to convince the baby that he was safe underwater. Or maybe the cool ocean sounds were music to the child’s ears. Seokjin didn’t know for sure.

He sighed. He almost could have known.

“Seokjin?”

Seokjin turned to Yoongi. Yoongi made a face, one he had been making too often as of late, one of pity. He pointed behind him, “The living room furniture is this way.”

“Right,” Seokjin gave one last glance to the mobile, and the dark wood of the crib, then he followed Yoongi.

Yoongi directed him to a dark wood, coffee table. It had drawers on the front. “You could keep your video games in them,” Yoongi suggested,

“I could,” Seokjin agreed, his tone suggesting that he were somewhere else.

“Do you like it?”

Seokjin turned to Yoongi.

Yoongi looked up at him, he was barely higher than Seokjin’s shoulder. “I’ll pay for it,” Yoongi said.

“Yoongi I don’t need your pity,” Seokjin sighed.

“Seokjin-”

Seokjin interrupted him. “My marriage would have fallen apart eventually. I should thank you, you made it faster.”

Yoongi bit his lip. That was the best part about Yoongi, he didn’t have unnecessary words. He did have that tricky little guilt thing that bothered Seokjin, but nothing could be done about it.

Seokjin wrote down the model number. They had to search for it in the supply room.

~~

 

 

Jungkook stood outside of the café doors. He watched people walk in. He read over the specials on the chalkboard, again.

Jungkook dug his pockets in his jean jacket, he took a deep breath, and pushed open the doors.

The barista lit up when she saw Jungkook’s face. “Long time no see.”

Jungkook felt lighter. “I’ve been busy.”

“I understand,” she said with a smile, “Do you want your usual?”

“Yes please.”

She swiped his card. She handed it back to him. “I’ll bring it to your table.”

“Thanks.”

His eyes were immediately drawn to the back booth. He froze. A few months ago, he would have sat in the back booth and waited for Jimin to join him for his lunch break. Still in his scrubs because time spent changing is time wasted. His bangs disarray, a pout on his lips, ready to complain about his patients. Once upon a time ago, Jungkook would have smiled as Jimin complained. He would have teased Jimin. Jimin would have gotten mad. Then Jungkook would have stroked his hand and apologized. And Jimin would have smiled. And life would have continued.

But that was a long time ago. Actually it was only a few months ago. It might as well have been a life time ago.

Jungkook sat on a table on the other side of the café. He flipped through a magazine. He read an article about oil, a safe space to keep his mind from drifting back to Jimin, and if he was adjusting to Colorado…

Seokjin fell onto the seat across from Jungkook. “Sorry, I’m late. The meeting ran longer than expected.”

“It’s okay,” Jungkook said. He was thankful Seokjin arrived. “What was the meeting about?”

“Pre- planning for a photography exhibit in the fall,” Seokjin answered. He took off his jacket and folded it on the back of his chair.

The barista arrived at that moment. “You have a friend today,” she said with a smile.

Seokjin frowned at her.

“Shall I pull up a chair, will Jimin be joining you soon?” the barista asked.

Jungkook’s heart dropped to his stomach. He saw the cups the barista placed on the table. One short, one tall and skinny, his and Jimin’s regular orders.

“I’m sorry, Jimin isn’t coming today,” Seokjin diverted the barista’s attention.

The barista’s smiled dropped briefly, “Oh no. Shall I take this back,” she reached for the iced coffee.

“It’s fine, I’ll drink it,” Seokjin said, “Thank you.”

The barista ran off before she could cause more damage. Embarrassment emanated off her in waves,  but Jungkook didn’t notice because he was distracted by Jimin’s regular order.

Seokjin took a sip, then grimaced, “To be honest, I’m not a fan of iced coffee.”

Jungkook was brought back to the present. “No?”

“Nope. I prefer frappucinos. With lots of whipped cream and vanilla flavoring.”

“I’ll remember that next time,” Jungkook said. His thoughts still on Jimin.

Seokjin coughed. “I uh… I still want to order Ahyoung’s drink every time I go to a restaurant,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook watched Seokjin fidget in his seat. Then a revelation struck. Jungkook spoke again, “I expect Jimin to shake the bed when he leaves to go running in the morning,”

“You didn’t run with him?”

“I worked out at night,” Jungkook said.

“I can see that,” Seokjin gestured at Jungkook’s arms.

Jungkook flexed.

Seokjin laughed, his familiar squeaky laugh. “We should get dinner next week,” Seokjin suggested.

“Why do you want to hang out? No offense but we were never friends.”

Seokjin looked at his cup. The ice cubes had melted in the coffee, he hardly drank it. “Ahyoung asked for a divorce because she saw me kiss a client, a male client.”

It was as if the whole room had gone silent. Jungkook couldn’t hear anyone else in the cafe. Only Seokjin’s words reverberating through his head.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Seokjin drank a sip of coffee, he winced. He placed the cup on the corner of the table. He spoke again, “Besides him, you’re the only person I know in San Diego, and I kind of need to be away from him right now.”

Seokjin spun the cup in his hands. Jungkook tapped against his coffee cup.

“Do you like steakhouses?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin looked at him. Jungkook’s expression was earnest. Seokjin smiled softly, “I love steak.”

~~

 

 

Seokjin placed the pee pads in the far corner of the living room, between the sliding glass door and the large dog bed.

“Don’t put them there. He won’t want his bed to smell like urine.”

Seokjin groaned. He glared at his guest, the useless Yoongi, who spread himself across the couch with a book open on his stomach. Seokjin asked, “Then where do I put them?”

“On the balcony.”

“There are plants on the balcony, I don’t want him to think they’re his toilet.”

“Then move the dog bed.”

“But it’s out of the way.”

“Pets get in the way. That’s their thing.” A small brown toy poodle jumped onto Yoongi’s stomach, knocking the book on the ground in the process. Yoongi wasn’t annoyed, in fact he cooed at the dog and scratched behind her ears. “Dogs are family. Right, Holly?”

Holly, the brown dog, barked.

Yoongi kissed her on the nose, “That’s my girl.”

A Razor Blue Pitbull puppy plopped itself next to Seokjin. Seokjin looked down at him. The puppy looked at him with those big blue eyes of his. “Right family,” Seokjin mumbled.

He picked up the puppy, who immediately began licking his face.

“If you didn’t want a messy apartment, why did you get a puppy?” Yoongi asked.

“Because the litter appeared on my facebook feed and he looked cute.” Seokjin held the puppy so that it was eye level with Yoongi, “Who could resist this wittle face?”

“Not you,” Yoongi teased.

They both placed their dogs on the ground. Jjangu, the pitbull puppy, immediately began nibbling on Holly’s ear. Holly tried pushing the dog away, to no avail.

“We should get brunch tomorrow. I’ll teach you how to take him on my walks,” Yoongi said.

“How difficult can a walk be?” Seokjin asked.

Yoongi snorted.

“And I can’t tomorrow. Jungkook and I are going to the beach,” Seokjin said.

“How romantic,” Yoongi said.

“One, it’s not like that. Two, we’re going  jogging. And three, it’s not like that,” Seokjin said. He kneeled on the ground and continued to assemble the half finished ikea coffee tables.

“So you’re going to the beach for all of its cons and none of its perks?” Yoongi asked. “Its hard to run on sand, then it gets everywhere, and on top of that you’re getting a sunburn and no kisses. It’s a waste of a perfectly good beach.” Yoongi opened his book and flipped to the correct page.

Seookjin twisted a screw in place. “Not everyone goes to the beach to take naps.”

“Naps and photographs. The only things a beach is worthy of,” Yoongi said.

Seokjin stared at the end table to the right of the coffee table. He shook his head. He pushed the table away from the couch. Seokjin kneeled next to the couch, he crossed his arms on the armrest, and looked at Yoongi. “Could you grab the other end of the couch?” Seokjin asked.

“Does it weigh more than ten pounds?” Yoongi asked, without looking up from his book.

“Yes,” Seokjin said.

“If it weighs more than Holly, I’m not lifting it,” Yoongi said.

Seokjin pouted.

Yoongi ignored him.

~~

 

 

Seokjin opened the fridge. In the bottom row was cool-aid pouches, in the middle row was already made protein shakes, and in the freezer were dinosaur chicken nuggets and ready to fry sweet potatoes. Seokjin closed the fridge. He glared at the apartment’s owner. Jungkook sat on the kitchen counter, his feet swinging in front of him, and a bag of chips in his hands. Jungkook swallowed and asked, “What?”

“Do you have any raw food?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook shrugged. “Jimin did all of the grocery shopping… and cooking…”

Seokjin sighed. He grabbed his jacket from the back of a dining room chair. “Come on. I’ll show how to find the freshest vegetables.”

~~

 

 

Seokjin made Jungkook push the grocery cart, “The youth should take care of their elders. My fragile bones can’t push the cart anymore. Your limitless energy can handle it.”

Jungkook pushed the cart against Seokjin’s butt. Seokjin pushed it back, so that the handle dug into Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook huffed. Seokjin ignored him. “What do you eat for breakfast?” Seokjin asked.

“Chocolate fudge pop -tarts.”

Seokjin stared at Jungkook.

Jungkook stared back. He didn’t waiver.

Seokjin glared, “How are you so strong?”

“Protein shakes,” Jungkook answered.

“I’ll allow the pop-tarts as long as you promise to save them for dessert.”

“Fine,” Jungkook lied. He pushed the car to the breakfast aisle while Seokjin went to the meat section.

Jungkook strolled idly. He glared at the stupid fresh tomatoes and the squash in the cart. Who even cooks with a squash. What does one do with squashes except squash them. Jungkook laughed to himself.

Jungkook thought about buying Lucky Charms, just to spite Seokjin. He passed by the oatmeal. He stilled. He stared at the container of oatmeal. His heartbeat sped up.

Memories flooded to him, Memories of Jimin. Jimin, who would eat oatmeal every morning, with slices of bananas and strawberries. It was too healthy. Jungkook would scrunch up his nose at the sight of it.

Jungkook would yawn, then wrap his arms around Jimin’s shoulders and bury his nose in Jimin’s hair. “How can you eat that cardboard?” he would ask.

Jimin would chuckle, lean against Jungkook’s chest, and say, “It’s better than your shakes.”

Jungkook would whine, “My shakes have chocolate powder in them.”

Jimin would turn around in Jungkook’s arms, and pinch his cheek,. “That doesn’t make them any better,” Jimin would laugh. Then his grip on Jungkook’s cheek would loosen, until he was cradling Jungkook’s face with his small hands. And then he would smile up at Jungkook with a fond expression. An expression that would make Jungkook’s insides melt. An expression that would make music play inside of Jungkook’s head. And then he would press their foreheads together-

Something heavy dropped in the cart, causing Jungkook to break away from his daydreams.

“I got chicken breast. With your workout regiment, I know you how to cook that,” Seokjin said. Then he placed another bag in the grocery cart. “And then salmon, so you don’t get sick of chicken.”

Seokjin stilled when he caught sight of Jungkook’s expression. He leaned across  the cart, and wiped Jungkook’s damp cheek with the sleeve of his hoodie. “Let’s pay and get out of here.”

Jungkook couldn’t speak, he only nodded.

He was left wondering what he was going to do with all this excess information about a person?

~~

 

 

Jungkook lay in bed. He stared up at the ceiling, in his dark room he could barely differentiate the shadows in the popcorn ceiling. He turned his head to the right, where his alarm clock sat on his night stand. It read 3:40 am. He sighed.

Jungkook opened up his laptop and clicked on the web browser. It opened to the last webpage he had visited, Jimin’s facebook page.

Jungkook sighed. Without thinking, he picked up his cell phone and dialed.

Seokjin munched on a half eaten bag of cracker jacks. Jjangu was asleep on his legs, his tiny little snores were a background noise to the hum of the TV. He jumped when his cell phone rung.

Jjangu awoke, he barked at the phone.

“I’m sorry baby. I’ll change the ringtone tomorrow.” Seokjin put on his reading glasses to see the name. He answered, “Hey.”

Jungkook released the breath he had been holding, “Why are you awake this late?”

“Hey, you’re up too,” Seokjin accused. Seokjin lowered the volume on the TV. “What’s the matter? Couldn’t sleep?”

“No, I went to bed at seven in the afternoon. Like a depressed human being.”

“It’s okay. I did that the other day,” Seokjin laughed lightly.

Jungkook smiled to himself. “What are you doing?”

“The Nanny reruns on TV,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook sat up. He turned on his own TV, “Which channel?”

“Nickelodeon,” Seokjin answered. He scratched Jjangu’s belly.

“Found it,” Jungkook said. He sat back on his bed, “Fran’s voice annoys me.”

“How dare you.”

“No, it’s because this show was one that my Mom would watch to learn English. Imagine Fran Drescher’s voice, except it’s on a heavily accented middle aged Korean woman.”

“Okay, you are forgiven,” Seokjin conceded.

Niles insulted Cici. They both laughed.

“I was always jealous of Niles,” Seokjin said.

“Was your dream job to be a butler?” Jungkook asked.

“No. He always had a comeback for everything. I will never be half as clever as him,” Seokjin sighed.

“It’s okay. If everyone was as sassy as Niles, then no one would be friends,” Jungkook said, “We need guys like you to balance out us jerks.”

“So you’re saying I’m a doormat?”

“No I’m saying you’re the kind of guy people seek comfort in.”

“Like you?”

“Like me,” Jungkook agreed, “I wouldn’t call you at 4 in the morning if I didn’t trust you.”

Seokjin hummed on his line. Jjangu had fallen asleep again. Seokjin asked, “Do you feel better yet?”

“No,” Jungkook groaned. “I was sleeping just fine, then I turned and suddenly I was awake.”

“What caused it?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook shrugged, “I don’t know…. Yeah I do. I usually wake up spooning Jimin. My muscle memory woke me up, it said something was missing.”

“I understand,” Seokjin said. “I sleep in the middle of the  bed, so that I don’t notice how Ahyoung’s side is empty.”

Jungkook sighed, “I know that emptiness.” He scrolled through Jimin’s facebook feed. There was a photo of him, and his friend from med school, standing in front of the pediatric ward.

“Jungkook?”

Another photo, this time of Jimin and his friend in their empty apartment.

“Jungkook!”

Jungkook realized he was still on the phone. “Sorry. I was somewhere else.”

Seokjin laughed to himself. “I figured. Where did you go?”

The only sound from Jungkook’s line was the background noise of the TV.

Seokjin sung, “Jungkook.”

“I’m on facebook,” he answered.

Seokjin sighed. “Don’t do that to yourself.”

“He’s posted new photos.”

“Kookie.”

“He looks happy.”

Seokjin sighed.

He heard a hiccup on the line.

“Jungkook, don’t torture yourself like this.”

“How do you do it?”

“I blocked Ahyoung on facebook.”

Seokjin heard the laugh track in the background.

“You should do the same,” Seokjin suggested.

“I should,” Jungkook agreed.

The ending credits started. Seokjin turned off his TV. “I’m going to sleep now.”

“Good night.”

“Kookie. Go. To. Sleep”

Jungkook looked at Jimin’s profile picture. “I’ll try,” he said.

“Good night Jungkook,” Seokjin said.

“Good night,” Jungkook said, then he added, “Thanks for picking up.”

“Any time,” Seokjin smiled.

Then he ended the call, he turned off his lights, and he lay his head on his pillow.

He didn’t sleep.

Neither did Jungkook.

~~

 

 

“It’s weird,” Seokjin said.

“What is?” Jungkook asked. Jungkook paid for Seokjin’s pretzel and soda, since Seokjin paid for Jungkook’s movie ticket.

“Making plans. When I was married I automatically had a partner for everything. If I wanted to see the cannibal exhibit in the Museum of Man, I could tell Ahyoung on Friday night, then we’d be there on Saturday morning. Now, if I want to see the cannibal exhibit on Saturday morning I have to ask someone at least a week in advance,” Seokjin said.

They found their seats.

Jungkook chewed thoughtfully on his popcorn as the teaser trailers played.

Seokjin ate half of the pretzel in one bite.

Right before the opening credits rolled, Jungkook leaned on their shared armrest, and stage whispered, “I’ll go to all future cannibal exhibits.”

Seokjin glared. “We only need to see it once.”

“It’s a metaphor, dummy. Cannibal exhibits are all future impulse plans that you would have taken your wife or I would have shared with Jimin.”

Seokjin’s glare softened. “Okay. In return, I will attend all of your future cannibal exhibits .”

The main title appeared on the screen. Jungkook watched the light reflect on Seokjin’s smooth face. Jungkook leaned back into his seat. He watched the movie, but not really.

~~

 

 

“Why don’t we move the couch over there? Then the room will be divided in two, an entryway-” Seokjin gestured to the area in front of the door- “and a tv area-” Seokjin gestured to the middle space where the couch and small tables were.

Jungkook cocked his head in thought. “Nah. The couch would face the window, and then you would get a face full of sun in the afternoon.”

“What if I want a face full of sun?” Seokjin asked.

“Then get furniture for your balcony,” Jungkook said. He grabbed one end of the couch, Seokjin grabbed the other.

“I don’t have balcony furniture money. Ahyoung and I finally reached a settlement. All money is going to the lawyers for the next eighty years,” Seokjin said.

The placed the couch against the back wall so that it was across from the entertainment center. The TV had yet to be unboxed. The Mario figures were organized on the top surface. “Your divorce was not that expensive.”

“No it wasn’t,” Seokjin agreed. He picked up one of the small tables and put it on one end of the couch. “When prompted, we easily divided our assets. We were content with the final agreement, which makes everything feel worse.”

Jungkook frowned at Seokjin. Jungkook put a small table at the other end of the couch, a matching set. “You got what you wanted. Why would you feel bad?”

Seokjin dropped down on the couch. “She and I weren’t passionate about anything, we were resigned, we just wanted it to end. I spent ten years with her. Ten years. That’s a long time to be with one person. I should be angry, or sad that it was over. I should have fought for that vase we bought in Thailand on our third wedding anniversary. But she kept it because it matched the curtains in her living room and I didn’t own anything in that color. The passion was gone.” Seokjin sighed into his palm. “There were problems before she caught me kissing someone else. I knew that, but now I saw how broken our marriage had become.”

Jungkook patted Seokjin’s back in sympathy, “These things happen.”

“It still hurts. Or it doesn’t I don’t know,” Seokjin said.

Seokjin looked more handsome when he wasn’t frowning, so Jungkook tried to change topics, “What are you going  to do with the spare room?”

Seokjin shrugged. Jjangu dropped his rope toy at Seokjin’s feet. Seokjin pulled on one end. Jjangu bit on the other and pulled with all his might. “It could be an office.”

“If you don’t have balcony furniture money then you really don’t have office furniture money,” Jungkook teased.

“I know,” Seokjin smiled, briefly, “Most  likely I’ll use it for art gallery storage. I’ll hold the extra paintings in there while we set up for a show or something.” He released the toy, Jjangu fell backwards in surprise. Seokjin and Jungkook laughed.

Jjangu yawned.

“Do you want beer? I’ll buy,” Jungkook asked Seokjin.

Seokjin smiled, “Sure.”

Seokjin and Jungkook sat on folding chairs on the balcony.. They both wore sunglasses. They both smoked a cigarette, Seokjin’s an American Spirit, Jungkook’s a Camel. They both drank from beer bottles, Seokjin’s a Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, Jungkook’s a Lagunitas IPA. Jjangu draped himself across Seokjin’s lap. He wore a blue shirt with a yellow lightning bolt printed on the back. His sunglasses kept slipping off his snout. Seokjin scratched Jjangu behind the ear, in that perfect spot that made his stump of a tail wag and his back leg kick with glee.

Jungkook exhaled a stream of smoke. “The Chargers suck.”

“So,” Seokjin challenged, “You could still support your local team.”

“Even if the local team sucks?” Jungkook challenged.

“Especially if the local team sucks,” Seokjin waved his cigarette as he spoke, to emphasize his words, “Only a true fan would support their team during the low points.”

Jungkook scoffed, “They’ve hit rock bottom.”

“No Chargers slander in my apartment,” Seokjin tapped the ashes into an empty glass bottle.

Jungkook held his hands up in surrender.

They looked down at the city streets. It was late afternoon on a Thursday night, drunk college students were already stumbling into bars. Jungkook laughed a guy purposefully tripped his friend, causing him to eat concrete.

Seokjin took a drink from his bottle, a new bottle, his third one that afternoon. “You’re right,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook turned to him.

“The Chargers suck,” Seokjin started to laugh.

His laugh was infectious. Jungkook started to laugh with him. “Fucking told you.”

~~

 

 

Jungkook slammed open the front door, he raised a covered bowl over his head.

“I come bearing gifts!” he shouted.

Hoseok covered his ears with his pillow, “Too loud.”

“Eat this, and you will be cured.”

“Is it cyanide?” Hoseok asked. His voice was hoarse, his skin was clammy, and his bangs were damp.

“No, it’s chicken noodle soup. I made it myself,” Jungkook said. He walked to Hoseok’s kitchen, what could be barely be called a kitchen, where he poured some soup into a bowl, “Here try it.”

“If only I knew this was how I would go,” Hoseok moaned. He pressed his palms together as if to recite a prayer. Jungkook glared, Hoseok snickered. Then, he ate a spoonful of soup. Hoseok’s eyes widened, “Holy shit, this is actually good.”

“Thanks,” Jungkook beamed. He sat down on the edge of Hoseok’s bed, “Seokjin taught me how to make it.”

“Your rebound guy is amazing,” Hoseok said between spoon fulls.

“He’s not a rebound,” Jungkook whined. “He’s not even gay. Well maybe, his wife left him because he kissed a guy. He might be half gay. But still he’s just a friend, a comfort friend.”

“I got it. Someone to keep your bed warm,” Hoseok teased. He handed Jungkook the empty soup bowl.

Jungkook glared, “No. We bond over our shared suffering.”

“What?”

“You know, he just finalized his divorce. Jimin left me for freezing temperatures and thin air. It’s nice being with Seokjin because we can both wallow in our sadness. We indulge in memories of our exes.”

Hoseok wrapped his comforter around him to transform into a human cocoon. “That doesn’t sound healthy,” Hoseok said.

Jungkook shrugged, “It’s therapeutic.”

Hoseok coughed, and coughed, and coughed.

Jungkook stepped away from the line of danger and returned the dirty dishes to the sink, in the safety zone of the kitchen. He looked around Hoseok’s studio apartment, the bed took most of the floor space. “My closet is bigger than this.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Hoseok said, the threat lost when he sounded as pathetic as he currently did, “Not everyone makes Event Organizer money.”

Assistant Event Organizer money,” Jungkook corrected.

It didn’t matter. Hoseok had fallen asleep.

~~

 

 

Seokjin held their table while Jungkook bought the drinks.

“So I’ve been thinking,” Jungkook started.

“Oh no,” Seokjin said.

“Shut up,” Jungkook said. He handed the pink drink across the table to Seokjin. “So I’ve been thinking, just because I was dumped doesn’t mean I can’t be happy.”

“Of course not,” Seokjin agreed, then added, after a thought, “What prompted this?”

“My loser friend who thinks I’m dating again.”

“Have I met the loser?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Have I met Yoongi?”

Seokjin coughed into his hand. “Anyway, your loser friend?”

“And that got me thinking, I should be dating! I lost a boyfriend, but it’s not like I’m in mourning,”

“I see a lightbulb over your head. I know you have an idea, but I guarantee it’s a bad one and I need you to stop.”

“I should be dating and so should you!”

“No. It’s too soon,” Seokjin shut it down. Seokjin took a sip of his pink drink. He winced. “Eww, what is this?”

“The special today was a strawberry frappucino,” Jungkook said.

“Gross,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook frowned, “Are you serious?”

Seokjin squinted at Jungkook.

“Did Ahyoung take your love of strawberries in the divorce too? .”

“Why are you invested in my dislike for strawberries?”

“The road trip remember? You ate a whole box of strawberries by yourself.”

“You remember that?”

“Yeah.”

Seokjin laughed. “You got me. I like strawberries. But I don’t like strawberry flavored things.”

“So no strawberry flavored lube?” Jungkook teased.

“Nope. Ahyoung liked vanilla flavored, but I didn’t like the idea of genitalia tasting like dessert,” Seokjin said. He stole Jungkook’s latte and drank half of it.

Jungkook stared at Seokjin.

Seokjin licked the foam from his lips. Jungkook stared at his lips, then his broad shoulders, and his dark eyebrows. He spoke without thinking, “So are you gay?”

Seokjin’s expression changed. He chewed on his lower lip. “I don’t know,” Seokjin said, “Maybe I was just weak and starved for affection. Ahyoung and I were having problems in our marriage. And he was there, and he kissed me first. And I kissed him back. And now Ahyoung has half of my assets.”

“But you are gay,” Jungkook said.

Seokjin glared, “Do you hear the things I say?”

Jungkook smirked, “Let’s test to see if you were gay or just lonely.”

Seokjin glared harder. He vowed never to do anything for Jungkook ever again.

~~

 

 

March 2009 Hillcrest 9:20 PM

 

 

Seokjin should have adhered to his vow of never doing anything for Jungkook. He let Jungkook dress him. This was Seokjin’s first mistake.

“Why are they staring?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook smirked, “Because you’re hot.”

And Seokjin was. Jungkook loved Seokjin’s leather jacket, but didn’t think that any of his shirts were club appropriate. So Jungkook wrestled Seokjin into one of his v neck white shirts. It was too tight on the shoulders, exposed all of Seokjin’s arms and his long neck and collarbones.

“I feel like I’m not wearing a shirt,” Seokjin hissed in Jungkook’s ear.

“It looks like you’re not wearing a shirt,” Jungkook admired the way the thin white material stretched across Seokjin’s chest, and outlightened his pecs and abs. Jungkook allowed himself a moment to openly stare. “You’re hot, and a total top.”

“Hot?” Seokjin repeated, and then, in a louder voice, asked, “Top?”

Jungkook pointed at a small blonde sitting at the bar, who had been staring at Seokjin for the past thirty minutes, “Take the twink home. He’ll show you what it means.” Jungkook slipped a condom into Seokjin’s back pocket. And slapped his butt. “Go get him tiger.”

Seokjin threw his head over his shoulder, to give Jungkook one last glare, before crossing the club. Seokjin tapped the blonde on the shoulder. His face lit up when he saw Seokjin.

The blonde spoke to Seokjin for an hour. He giggled at everything Seokjin said, lazily traced the veins of Seokjin’s forearm, played with the short hairs on the back of Seokjin’s neck. The guy was good, Jungkook would give him that. If he hadn’t been openly ogling Seokjin, Jungkook might have gone home with him. Or not, Jungkook couldn’t stop staring at the movement of Seokjin’s back muscles through the thin t shirt. For a brief moment, he felt the heat of jealousy.

Jungkook decided to distract himself with a stranger, a short guy with long black dreadlocks that Jungkook pulled and a squeezable ass that fit perfectly in the palm of Jungkook’s hand.

After one more shot, Seokjin whispered into the blonde’s ear, and then they were walking hand in hand out of the club.

Jungkook went home shortly after that. He did get a new phone number, and a promise for next week.

~~

 

Jungkook showed up at Seokjin’s apartment at 10 am the next day.

Seokjin opened the door, hair disheveled, eyes puffy with sleep, and a giant rose colored bruise on his neck. His pajama pants hung low on his waist, just low enough to expose a peek of his happy trail.

Jungkook smirked, “Morning.” He thrusted a bag of baked goods in Seokjin’s chest.

Seokjin grunted as he opened up the bag and pulled out a bear claw. He opened the door wide enough for Jungkook to enter.

Jungkook dropped to the ground to be eye level with Jjangu. Jjangu rolled over on his back so that Jungkook could rub his belly. Jungkook obliged. “Sooo,” Jungkook sung, “How was last night?”

Seokjin smiled.

Jungkook kicked him in the shin. “Told you, total top.”

“We didn’t get that far,” Seokjin said. Seokjin fit the entire bear claw in his mouth.

Jungkook waited.

Seokjin swallowed.

Jungkook frowned. He picked up Jjangu by the shoulders, and spoke in a squeaky voice, as to pretend that Jjangu was the one talking, “What did you do last night?”

Seokjin sucked the glaze off his fingers, “He gave me the best blowjob of my life.”

Jungkook smiled. He made Jjangu do a happy dance.

“I then returned the favor and ate his ass,” Seokjin said with a satisfied smirk.

Jungkook dropped Jjangu. The bulldog whined when he hit the ground. Jungkook wasn’t paying attention. His jaw hung open in shock, “How do you eat ass on a first date?”

“I don’t want to go into details, but I will say that Ahyoung was more devious than she let on,” Seokjin said with all the nonchalance of an experienced ass eater.

Jungkook couldn’t look away from Seokjin’s mouth. His cheeks burned red.

~~

 

 

When Hoseok visited Jungkook at work later that week, he recounted the entire event.

Hoseok listened, took a minute to process, then laughed and laughed and laughed.

“It wasn’t funny,” Jungkook pouted.

“It’s hilarious,” Hoseok snickered, “You thought he would be an innocent, nervous baby, like you’d have to hold his hand and walk him through the gay dating world. And now you’re scandalized.”

“How was I supposed to know?” Jungkook whined.

“Have you ever given a guy a rimjob?” Hoseok asked.

Jungkook’s face turned bright red.

Hoseok laughed harder.

Jungkook sneered. “I’m going to cancel your dance showcase next month.”

“No, please, we need the sponsors,” Hoseok said.

“Then give me the music so I can give it to the sound guy,” Jungkook said.

Hoseok pulled the USB drive from his pocket. Jungkook reached for it, Hoseok pulled it out of the way.

Jungkook puffed up his cheeks, “I wonder if I can schedule a concert that day.”

Hoseok frowned, and placed the USB drive in the palm of Jungkook’s hand. “Power hungry.”

“Only people without power would say that,” Jungkook said. Then he stuck out his tongue at Hoseok like the adult he was.

~~

 

 

Yoongi and Seokjin sat on a bench at the dog park near Yoongi’s apartment. Jjangu and Holly tugged on opposite ends of a rope toy. Try as she might, Holly could not get Jjangu, who was twice the size of her, to budge. Jjangu took three steps backward and dragged Holly through the dirt. Seokjin prayed that Jjangu wouldn’t break Yoongi’s dog. Yoongi would never forgive him.

Yoongi wore Seokjin’s coat, three sizes too big for his small frame, after he shivered through a particularly large wind chill.

Yoongi stared at the hickey on Seokjin’s neck. He spoke slowly, “You’re dating again?”

Seokjin slammed a hand on his neck. His cheeks tinged red. “Yes.”

A pause. Holly released the rope, Jjangu tumbled over.

“Guys or girls?” Yoongi asked.

This is where Seokjin faltered. “Guys,” he said in a small voice. He held his breath as he awaited Yoongi’s response.

“Huh,” Yoongi stared at the park. “I assumed I had first dibs when you ventured to the other team.”

“Yoongi.”

“I mean, I was your gateway, your first gay kiss,” Yoongi sighed. “I can’t believe you lived in San Francisco and never experimented.”

“I didn’t know then,” Seokjin coughed into his hand. “No offense, but I could never date you. There are too many bad experiences associated with you.”

“Because of Ahyoung.”

“Because of Ahyoung,” Seokjin repeated, “I’m sorry Yoongi.”

Yoongi scoffed. “Don’t flatter yourself, I got over my little crush on you years ago.”

Seokjin felt a weight lift off chest, “Really?”

“Breaking up a marriage does that to a person,” Yoongi said. Holly jumped onto his lap, he stroked her ears. “Besides, I have more pride than to pine over a guy who will never see as more than the person who caused his divorce, even though there were problems before me.”

“You don’t deserve that.”

“You’re right. I don’t,” Yoongi said. Then he looked at Seokjin for the first time since their conversation started, and he had a smile on his face. The one that curled at the corner of his lips, the one that made him resemble a content cat. “I’m glad you’re dating again. I mean it.”

And Seokjin smiled back.

~~

 

 

On Sundays, Seokjin and Jungkook woke up late, ran on Imperial Beach, then grabbed lunch at a substation on the pier.  Today Seokjin drove them in his new car, a dark grey Nissan Sentra.

“After ten long years, Margaret passed,” Seokjin said. He wore a thin black hoodie, even though the sun was at its full power.

Jungkook jogged next to him. He wore a tight white t shirt, because he was actually sane. He said, “That was five too many for that piece of shit car.”

“Why must the good die young?” Seokjin lamented.

“Her AC was broken. She was useless,” Jungkook said. His words were ignored.

“After two weeks of mourning the loss of my beloved Margaret,” Seokjin continued.

“Two long weeks of me and Yoongi taking turns driving you to and from work,” Jungkook huffed.

“I finally caved and bought a new car,” Seokjin turned around, so that he ran backwards, so that he faced Jungkook as he spoke, “Her name is Stella.”

“Why Stella?” Jungkook pulled Seokjin to the left, so that he didn’t run into a stroller.

“So when I lose her in a parking lot, I can recreate the scene from A Streetcar Named Desire where Marlon Brando, wearing only a white tank top and jeans, shouts up at the balcony. Like this.” Seokjin stopped running, cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted into the ocean “STEEEEEELLAAAAAAA!”

Everyone on the pier stared at Seokjin. Jungkook slapped Seokjin on the shoulder. “Don’t do that.”

Seokjin only laughed. He was beautiful when he laughed.

Jungkook snorted, “You’re so gay.”

“Shut up,” Seokjin rolled his eyes.

Jungkook ran ahead, Seokjin sprinted to catch up.

“Why didn’t you a buy a new Mercedes?” Jungkook asked Seokjin. “I’ve seen the facebook photos, you used to own a beautiful red one.”

Seokjin shrugged, “Ahyoung kept the car in the divorce. She was the one who picked it out, and routinely took it on for maintenance… in hindsight I don’t know anything about cars.”

Jungkook laughed, “I’ll take care of Stella for you.”

“Thanks Kookie,” Seokjin said.

“Do you ever regret losing the Mercedes?” Jungkook asked.

“To be honest, I only have one regret when it came to my failed marriage,” Seokjin said. They stopped to catch their breaths. Jungkook stretched out his legs on a bench while Seokjin continued to speak, “And that was that I never got Ahyoung pregnant.”

“That’s your regret? Not the house or the career or the Mercedes, but pregnancy?”

“First of all, why do I need the Mercedes when I have Stella?”

Jungkook rolled his eyes.

“And second of all, I can always buy another house and start over my career. But I’m never going to get another shot at a baby.”

“Now that you’re gay.”

“Every time I go on a date, the guys gets turned off as soon as I mention wanting a family. It’s a repellant,” Seokjin whined. He sat down on the bench.

“You’re ready for a new relationship?”

“It’s been two years since my divorce,” Seokjin said,  “It’s the same for you. Aren’t you ready for someone new? Not the meaningless hook – ups, an actual relationship. One filled with brunches and anniversaries.”

It had been a while since Jungkook went on a serious date. He chewed his lower thought. He mused aloud, “If you’re serious I know a guy who loves that stuff...”

~~

 

 

November 2009 Gaslamp Quarter 6:30 PM

 

 

Yoongi buried his nose in his scarf. He wore a thick black jacket, with the hood pulled over his head, and had a scarf wrapped three times around his neck. Seokjin wore only his leather jacket, he laughed into his gloved hand.

Yoongi glared.

Seokjin gave a smile of false innocence. “I’m leaving.”

“No, stay,” Seokjin said while interlocking his and Yoongi’s arms. “I promise you’ll love this guy.”

“Don’t you mean kid? He’s ten years younger than you,” Yoongi pulled away from Seokjin.

“Only five.” Seokjin pulled Yoongi closer, so that he could not escape.

“Like that’s better,” Yoongi scoffed.

“You know that’s not a hindrance at our age.”

Seokjin checked his phone. “Jungkook told us to get a table. He and his friend are running late.”

“Of course they are,” Yoongi groaned. They walked inside the restaurant. Yoongi took off his scarf, Seokjin could see him physically perk up in the warm restaurant.

Yoongi complained, “How do you trust a guy who’s late. It’s a red flag, a hazard sign, a sign that I should be at home with Holly.”

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “You don’t see me worrying about my dog Jjangu.”

“Don’t compare your tank to my delicate princess,” Yoongi mumbled.

Seokjin ignored him. “Besides, Jungkook is on time to all of our dinners.”

“Don’t you mean dates?

“I told you, Jungkook and I aren’t like that.”

Seokjin’s name was called out. They followed the waiter to their table.

“If you won’t go out with him, why should I?” Yoongi sat down.

Seokjin sat in the seat next to Yoongi’s. “Because he’s a really great guy.”

“If he’s so great why aren’t you dating him?”

Seokjin glared at Yoongi. “We’re not having this conversation again.”

“I think we should,” Yoongi preened, “You spend so much time with him, I assumed you two were in love.”

Seokjin grabbed a passing waiter, “A bottle of red for me. Don’t serve him anything.”

Yoongi’s smirk grew wider.

Seokjin sneered.

~~

 

 

Jungkook scowled in the driver’s seat. “I can’t believe we’re late because of you.”

“I’m sorry, but when a woman is running late, I can’t  just leave the keys with her eleven year old son and say ‘lock up when you leave.’ I would lose my license if I left one of my students alone.”

“He’s in the double digits, he can fend for himself.”

Hoseok glared incredulously, “You’re a heartless bastard.”

“Text Seokjin, tell him to grab us a table,” Jungkook said as he handed Hoseok his phone.

“Ahh, Seokjin. Handsome, smart, wonderful Seokjin,” Hoseok said sarcastically, “Or are just making all of that up?”

Jungkook frowned, “Why would I lie about that?”

“Because if he was everything you claim then you would have snatched him up for yourself.” The glow of the phone screen illuminated Hoseok’s face

“We’re friends, nothing more.”

Hoseok sighed, “I bet he’s a snob, or a Republican, or something equally as awful and offensive.”

“Oh my god, he’s one of my best friends, behave.”

“Then why don’t you date him?”

“I’m not jeopardizing our friendship like that! I haven’t trusted a guy this much since Jimin.”

“Exactly,” Hoseok muttered. They pulled into the parking garage across the street from the restaurant.

“Sorry we’re late,” Jungkook apologized as soon as they reached the table.

“It’s okay,” Seokjin said, “At least you made it.”

Jungkook took off his coat, revealing his sport coat, white dress shirt and skinny black tie. His bangs were pushed back, away from his forehead.

Seokjin praised, “You look handsome.”

Jungkook scratched the back of his neck, his cheeks tinged pink. “Thanks. I exposed my eyebrows.”

“You did,” Seokjin confirmed.

Jungkook took a moment to admire Seokjin, in his royal blue sweater that accented his wide shoulders. And the soft flip of his bangs.

Hoseok coughed into his hand.

Jungkook blinked out of his stupor. He introduced them, “Jin, this is my friend Hoseok. Hoseok, this is Seokjin.”

“Nice to finally meet you,” Seokjin extended his hand.

“Same,” Hoseok extended his own.

Jungkook hated the smirk on Hoseok’s face. The one that said too much about too many things. Jungkook wanted to smack it off.

“Hoseok is a dance instructor,” Jungkook said.

“How nice,” Seokjin said, “What kinds of dances?”

“Urban,” Hoseok answered. He didn’t say more.

Jungkook noticed. Jungkook kicked Hoseok in the shin, Hoseok yelped.

“Are you okay?” Seokjin asked.

“Super,” Hoseok said through gritted teeth. Jungkook gave him a hard stare. Hoseok gave him a look, as if to say what? Jungkook did his best to say talk to Seokjin using only his eyebrows but he’s sure the message was lost in translation.

Jungkook sat next to Hoseok, who sat next to Seokjin, who sat next to Yoongi, and circled back to Jungkook. Yoongi and Jungkook hadn’t said anything to each other. Seokjin pushed on Yoongi’s shoulder.

Yoongi pouted, and asked, “So Jungkook, what do you do?”

“I work at House of Blues as an event organizer,” Jungkook said, “Do you like concerts?”

“Not really,” Yoongi said, “I’d rather stay home and read a book.”

Seokjin glared at Yoongi.

Yoongi ignored him.

The only sounds at the table were the silverware hitting plates as everyone ate.

Seokjin carefully rolled up his steak using his fork and knife, and fit the entire thing in his mouth. Hoseok winced. Yoongi rolled his eyes. Jungkook smiled softly. Seokjin’s eyes darted from Yoongi to Jungkook. He swallowed, then spoke, “Jungkook, Yoongi is a professional photographer.”

“Oh really. What kind of photography?” Jungook asked.

“Mostly portraits,” Yoongi said, he stabbed his glazed salmon, “Recently, I took the set photos when The Hollywood Reporter did their Grammy nominee roundtable interview.”

Hoseok looked up at Yoongi, really looked at him. “Did you also do the portrait series for the Houston ballet dancers?”

“I did,” Yoongi stopped eating. He made eye contact with Hoseok, “You saw those?”

“They were fantastic. I tried to hire a photographer to do a similar series at my dance studio, but she failed in comparison to you,” Hoseok said with a smile.

A slight pink tinged Yoongi’s cheeks. “You liked them that much?”

“You did a great job at capturing the power and strength within the elegant dance movements,” Hoseok said.

Yoongi smiled slightly, “It was my first time taking pictures when the models were in motion. I was worried they would look stiff.”

“No, they were very dynamic. You succeeded.”

“Thanks.”

Seokjin and Jungkook made eye contact from across the table. It’s like they weren’t even in the room anymore.

~~

 

 

Seokjin, Jungkook, and Hoseok stood outside as they waited for the waitress to finish packing Yoongi’s leftovers. Hoseok was on the phone with his older sister. Seokjin and Jungkook lingered by the restaurant entrance.

Seokjin lit up a cigarette.

“Can I bum one off you?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin glared. He handed his box to Jungkook, “Not like you deserve it,” he mumbled.

“Why wouldn’t I deserve it?” Jungkook placed one behind his ear.

“Who’s forty minutes late to a blind date? Yoongi and I were ready to leave,” Seokjin scolded Jungkook. A blatant lie.

“Don’t get pissy with me. I couldn’t find parking.” Jungkook retaliated. Another lie.

Hoseok hung up the phone. He saw the two bickering, then chuckled to himself. He considered slipping out, and leaving the two alone. But then Yoongi came out with the leftovers in a bag, and all thoughts of leaving disappeared.

“Done, let’s go,” Yoongi said.

Yoongi pulled on Seokjin’s arm, so that they fell back from Hoseok and Jungkook. Once there was good five feet of space separating them, Yoongi asked, “Do you think you’re going to call Hoseok?”

Seokjin thought back to his and Hoseok’s one sided conversation. “Probably not,” he admitted.

“Then can I?” Yoongi asked.

Seokjin saw this coming, it still took him by surprise. “Kookie is in a weird place right now. Can you wait a week before you call Hoseok?”

“Sure,” Yoongi said, slight smile on his lips.

Up ahead, Hoseok and Jungkook were having a conversation of their own.

“You’re right your friend is handsome, I could never steal that man candy from you,” Hoseok clapped Jungkook on the shoulder, “So I’ll take Yoongi off your hands.”

“That wasn’t the plan,” Jungkook said, “You didn’t even try to talk to Jin.”

“How could I when he so obviously likes you. Besides, I like men who are shorter than me.”

“Since when?” Jungkook scowled.

“Since they’re cute when they pout,” Hoseok looked over Jungkook’s shoulder to make eye contact with Yoongi.

The group reconnected at a stoplight.

“It’s getting late,” Yoongi said, “I should check on my dog.”

“I could use a cup of coffee,” Hoseok said.

“I have coffee at my apartment,” Yoongi said immediately.

“Great,” Hoseok hailed a cab. Both he and Yoongi jumped into the backseat when it pulled up. Seokjin and Jungkook were left on the street.

Jungkook spoke first. “Did they?”

“Yep.” Seokjin sighed, “Do you want to get a beer?”

“Please.”

~~

 

 

April 2010 North Park 2:30 pm

 

 

Jungkook and Seokjin sat on Seokjin’s couch, playing the most recent Call of Duty. Jungkook insisted on playing it after losing three times at Super Smash Brothers. So far Jungkook was winning.

Jjangu lay in his dog bed. He wore a new Charger’s hoodie.

Seokjin stood in front of Jungkook, and angled his back to block Jungkook’s view of the TV.

“That’s cheating,” Jungkook whined.

“Nope, it’s my strategy for victory,” Seokjin said. He smashed the buttons of his controller.

Jungkook kicked him in the butt. Seokjin didn’t move, he only laughed.

Jungkook lay down on the couch, he stretched his head to see around Seokjin.

In the end, Jungkook won. He held up his hands in triumph, “I didn’t even have to cheat.”

Seokjin scoffed. He dropped his controller on the couch cushion, “I need a beer.”

“Get me one too?”

“No.”

“Pretty please,” Jungkook sung. He bat his eyes for extra measure.

Seokjin sneered. He mumbled something under his breath about stupid baby faced sore winners and their big eyes, honestly fuck Jungkook Jeon.

Jungkook laughed to himself. He knew Seokjin would grab him one. He started setting up for the next game, he scrolled through all the locations.

Seokjin’s ringtone played.

“SJin, your phone!” Jungkook shouted.

“Who is it?” Seokjin asked from the kitchen.

Jungkook read the name, “Yoongi!”

“Answer it!”

Jungkook slid open his phone, “Whassup?”

“Code red!”

Jungkook winced. “Ow, what the fuck Yoongs?”

“Jungkook, where’s your babysitter?”

“I’m going to hang up on you.”

Seokjin took the phone from Jungkook’s hand. “An adult speaking.”

Jungkook stuck his tongue out at Seokjin. Seokjin did the same. “Uh – huh.”

A pause.

Seokjin giggled, like a teenage girl. “Just put a Disney movie on the TV.”

A pause.

Seokjin’s expression turned into one of pure judgement. “What do you mean you don’t have Disney movies?”

Jungkook pried the open beer from Seokjin’s hand and took a sip.

“No you can’t put Pulp Fiction on!”

Jungkook snorted.

“I don’t care if your dad let you watch it at his age,” Seokjin started putting on his shoes, “We’re on our way! Don’t do anything.”

Seokjin hung up the phone.

“What’s wrong?” Jungkook asked.

“Hoseok’s sister needs a baby sitter, but Hoseok’s at work and Yoongi is incompetent with children. Pack my wii and all the mario games. Also, toss that, you are not drinking in front of a child.”

“Sir yes sir,” Jungkook saluted.

Seokjin glared. Jungkook’s serious expression morphed into a smile.

“Hurry up,” Seokjin laughed. He grabbed a few games, and Finding Nemo, and grabbed Jjangu’s leash.

Jungkook chugged the bottle, packed the items Seokjin asked for, then followed him out the door.

~~

 

 

Seokjin pressed on the doorbell twenty times in a matter of thirty seconds

Jungkook opened the door, his eyes half open, his hair disarray, and his pajama shirt half-slipping off his shirt. Seokjin thought he looked soft. Seokjin wanted to pinch his cheeks.

“Good morning!” Seokjin sung.

Jungkook closed the door.

Seokjin pressed the doorbell five times.

Jungkook opened it again, “It’s too early,” he whined.

“I come baring gifts,” Seokjin held up a bag from the bakery down the block.

Jungkook glared at the bag. He opened the door wide enough for Seokjin to enter. “Only because you have food.”

Seokjin kicked off his sneakers at the entrance, “I brought more.”

He placed the plastic bag on the ground. Jungkook opened the bakery bag and grabbed a ham and cheese croissant.

Seokjin took a jelly donut. He sat in the chair next to Jungkook and spoke, “I’ve been thinking.”

“Oh no.”

“Shut up,” Seokjin flicked Jungkook on the  forehead. He continued, “Just because I’m not married doesn’t mean I can’t have a kid.”

“I’m sure there are churches that would argue with you,” Jungkoo took a bite of his donut.

“I’m atheist,” Seokjin said, “That’s beside the point. The moral of the story is I applied for adoption.”

Jungkook chewed his donut slowly, swallowed, then spoke, “Jin, those take years.”

“I know, but I always wanted  a kid.”

“Children are messy, and needy, and expensive. You already have a dog, a kid takes ten times more responsibility.”

“I know that. Remember how I did all of the work when we babysat Hoseok’s nephew?”

Seokjin had cooked the macaroni and chees, convinced him to eat his peas, and read him Skippyjonjones as he fell asleep. Yoongi observed everything from a safe distance.

“I played mariokart with him,” Jungkook defended.

“You beat him three times in a row and made him cry,” Seokjin judged. He fit the entire jelly donut in his mouth at once.

Jungkook sighed, “Jin, this adoption thing feels impulsive. Maybe you should take a few weeks to think about it.”

Seokjin held Jungkook’s face in his hand. He looked him dead in the eye. Jungkook tried to keep eye contact but was distracted by the bright red jelly on Seokjin’s chin.

“Do you know why I kissed Yoongi?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook shook his head, “No.”

“I lied when I said my biggest regret was never getting Ahyoung pregnant, because she was pregnant, once. I was over the moon with happiness. Ahyoung’s eyes were dead inside.,” Seokjin said. He loosened his grip on Jungkook’s face. Jungkook’s hand went to Seokjin’s forearms.

Seokjin continued, “We agreed not to tell anyone until after the first trimester. But I was too excited but to keep it to myself. And I had a client who I was spending a lot of long days with. I confided in him about Ahyoung’s pregnancy. It felt like our little secret, our inside joke, hidden from everyone else at the art gallery. In case it wasn’t obvious, the client was Yoongi.” the light in Seokjin’s eyes dimmed.

“And then one day, I was called out in the middle of a meeting. The receptionist told me I had to go home, I had to drive Ahyoung to the hospital. She was bleeding everywhere… She had a miscarriage.”

Jungkook intertwined his and Seokjin’s hands. Seokjin wasn’t even looking at him anymore, he stared at the wooden floors. His eyes watered.

Seokjin took a deep breath, he continued. “I was devastated. I was more upset than Ahyoung, who actually had life die inside of her. And then I got angry with her because she wasn’t sad enough. And then she got mad with me, because it was her body that was carrying the baby. I couldn’t handle the tension in the apartment. So I spent a few days sleeping at my desk in the art gallery. Yoongi was the only one who knew about all of this…. I talked to him. I cried on his shoulder. And then he kissed me. At the time I was upset with him for using my moment of weakness as an excuse to kiss me. But then, a week later, I kissed him. That’s when Ahyoung caught us.”

Seokjin paused to breathe. Jungkook ran a hand through Seokjin’s bangs, the other firmly interwined with Seokjin’s hand. “How come you never told me all of this?”

“Because I went from having everything to having nothing in two weeks,” Seokjin said. “It was... I couldn’t accept it, let alone share everything with a near stranger.”           

Jungkook wiped Seokjin’s cheek with his hand.

“I’m not a stranger.”

“But you were a friend of a former friend…” Seokjin squeezed Jungkook’s hand and gave a reassuring smile, “And now you’re a best friend.”

Seokjin’s words made Jungkook’s heart sing and ache at the same time. He’ll unpack those feelings later. Now he needed to take care of Seokjin.

“Okay, back to your original story. Adoption?”

Seokjin visibly brightened. He clapped his hands together, “Right adoption!”

Jungkook smiled at Seokjin’s smile. He pulled out a cigarette and placed it on his lips. “You applied?”

“The agency loved my application. But, they were worried about my physical.”

Jungkook frowned. He lit the cigarette and took a drag. “You’re built like an ox.”

“Thanks. But that’s not the part they’re worried about.”

Jungkook frowned harder.

“They don’t like that I smoke. It’s a big red flag for my profile.” Seokjin took the cigarette from Jungkook’s mouth and snubbed it on the ashtray. “That’s why we’re quitting.”

Jungkook scowled “We?”

Seokjin patted Jungkook’s cheek, “Yes. You and me. We are going to quit.”

Jungkook pushed Seokjin’s hand away Jungkook scoffed, “I didn’t agree to this.”

“Think of the health benefits.”

“I already eat my veggies. Now you want me to give up smoking?”

“I need a partner.” Seokjin held Jungkook’s hands in his, and looked into his eyes. “Please do this, for me. Because I’m not strong enough to do this by myself.”

Jungkook looked at their intertwined hands. Then Seokjin’s earnest, pleading eyes. Then Jungkook looked at the stubbed cigarette. So young, so much potential.  If he had known it would be his last, he would have had a glass of scotch, and played Marvin Gaye on the stereo, and smoked slowly, and savored every last taste.

Jungkook heaved a deep sigh. “I’ll quit with you.”

Seokjin’s face broke into a smile. He bounced in his chair.

~~

 

 

Seokjin’s forehead hit the low hanging lamp. “Fuck,” he mumbled. He rubbed the red spot under his bangs. “Raise that thing.”

Yoongi looked up at the ceiling in thought. He exhaled, “No.”

Seokjin glared.

Jungkook walked into the kitchen holding a box in his hands. “Where do you want these-” he walked straight into the lamp- “FUCK!” Jungkook dropped the box in his arms. “Why is that so low?!”

Hoseok stood next to Yoongi. “Maybe we should raise the lamp.”

Yoongi glared at Hoseok.

Hoseok held his hands up in surrender. “It’s a thought. Besides, Seokjin will use the kitchen more than either of us will.”

Yoongi rolled his eyes, “Fine,” he mumbled, “It will ruin my aesthetic but whatever.”

Hoseok kissed Yoongi on the cheek. Yoongi melted.

“Gross,” Jungkook teased.

Seokjin squeezed the back of Jungkook’s neck. “Leave them alone.”

“Who pissed in your cereal?” Hoseok teased. He wrapped his arm around Yoongi’s shoulders.

Yoongi leaned against Hoseok’s chest, “You know who did. I think it’s time for a new stick of nicotine gum.”

“He gets the patch or the gum, not both,” Seokjin said.

Hoseok’s eyebrows furrowed together, “But you use both.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened.

“He’s kidding,” Seokjin gritted between his teeth, “Right Hoseok.”

“Check under his shirt,” Yoongi said.

“Traitor,” Seokjin hissed under his breath. Jungkook lifted the edge above Seokjin’s waistline, revealing three patches on his lower back. “What the fuck Jin!”

“I couldn’t handle it,” Seokjin whined, “It’s hard.”

“We’re suffering together!”

“I’m weak.”

“This was your idea!”

Yoongi picked up a flyer from the kitchen counter. “Here’s a coupon for the new ice cream place down the street. Take Holly and Jjangu, they’re supposed to have flavors for dogs.”

Jungkook and Seokjin stared at Yoongi.

“Get out now!” Yoongi slammed his hand down on the kitchen counter. “Come back when you have a better attitude!”

Jungkook grabbed the flyer. He and Seokjin ran to the living room, leashed the dogs, and ran out of the apartment.

Yoongi crossed his arms in triumph.  Hoseok placed soft kisses on Yoongi’s neck. “You’re hot when you’re commanding, babe.”

“I’m hot all the time,” Yoongi corrected. He tilted his head back, to expose more skin, more for Hoseok to kiss.

“True,” Hoseok mumbled against Yoongi’s neck.

“We have to unpack,” Yoongi whined.

“They bed may not be built, but we have the mattress,” Hoseok purred. He teased at the edges of Yoongi’s waist.

Yoongi grabbed Hoseok’s wrist, and dragged him to the bedroom. Hoseok giggled the entire way.

~~

 

 

The display counter was a technicolor wonderland that ranged from widely appealing to borderline nauseating. Seokjin scrunched his nose at an almost toxic shade of hot pink. It was supposed to be bubblegum flavored.

Jungkook pushed on Seokjin’s shoulder to get his attention. He pointed at a neon blue nightmare, “I dare you to order it.”

Seokjin scoffed, “I’m not going to fall for that. I’m not twelve.”

Jungkook shrugged, “Could have fooled me, your Mario collection screams child-who-hasn’t-hit-puberty.”

Seokjin glared, “At least I can grow facial hair.”

“I know,” Jungkook poked Seokjin’s chin, “You missed a spot this morning.”

Seokjin slapped Jungkook’s hand away. “My razor broke.”

“How?”

Seokjin thought about this morning, and how frustrated he became when he kept missing one spot on his chin over and over again while shaving. “… I smashed it with a dumbbell.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened, then crinkled to a smile, and his chest shook with laughter. Seokjin should have been irritated, Jungkook was laughing at his suspense, but he found himself laughing as well.

“We really are terrible,” Seokjin said.

“God, we are,” Jungkook agreed. He wiped the corner of his eyes, “I kicked a speaker yesterday when we were setting up for a concert. They’re taking the damages out of my next paycheck.”

They bought their ice cream, cookies and cream for Jungkook and butterscotch for Seokjin, and the dog’s ice cream, happy puppy for Jjangu and sweet princess for Holly, and sat down in one of the outside tables.

“I didn’t realize how much I smoked until we quit. They used to be the first thing I reached for in the morning. Now I keep a bag of pistachio’s by bed so I can stick something in my mouth,” Jungkook explained.

“I  started when I was sixteen, but I’m sure it became an addiction after Ahyoung and I split up. I started to need more and more to reduce my stress,” Seokjin said. He took a big lip from his ice cream cone, taking a third of the ice cream in one swift motion.

“Do you ever find yourself thinking about your hands?” Jungkook asked.

Seokjin’s eyebrows furrowed together.

“No, like when you’re just standing there talking to someone,” Jungkook waved his spoon as he spoke, “I’m used to my hands being occupied by a cigarette. Now what am I supposed to do with them? Do I put them in my pockets? Do I cross my arms? My hands are alien objects to me now.”

Seokjin laughed. “I’m always snacking now. One hand has a bag of chips, the other is funneling chips into my mouth. I think I’ve gained about five pounds since we quit.”

“I noticed,” Jungkook said.

Seokjin pouted.

Jungkook laughed.

Jungkook had ice cream on the corner of his lips. Seokjin wiped it off. Jungkook turned, accidentally sucking on Seokjin’s thumb in the process. Seokjin faltered. He left his thumb there, on the corner of Jungkook’s lip, for a moment too long. His eyes trapped on Jungkook’s mouth. Jungkook stared at Seokjin’s face, stared at his dark eyebrows and his long nose and his deep brown eyes.

Holly barked. barked. Breaking them both out of their stupor. Seokjin pulled his hand away, as if it had been burned. They looked down at the dogs.

Jjangu had finished his ice cream and was currently eating Holly’s. She was not happy.

Jungkook half chuckled. Seokjin tried to laugh, it died on his throat. He spoke, “We should go.”

Jungkook mutely agreed.

He took Holly’s leash.

Seokjin took Jjangu’s.

They didn’t talk on the way back to Yoongi and Hoseok’s apartment.

~~

 

 

June 2011 Balboa Park 5:45 pm

 

 

The archway was decorated with pale pink roses, baby’s breath, white lilies, and green ivy. Seokjin, who wore a black suit with a pink satin tie, stood to Yoongi’s right. Hoseok’s older sister, Jiwoo, who work a soft pink corset dress with an asymmetrical skirt, stood to Hoseok’s right. Hoseok and Yoongi, in matching white suits stood in the middle, with a priest in the center of the archway.

Hoseok was crying, that was expected. Yoongi’s red eyes were not.

Jungkook, from where he sat, made a mental to tease Yoongi on a later date. Today, he would leave him alone, and let him enjoy his big day.

The priest spoke, in a big booming voice, “I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss the groom.”

Yoongi reached for Hoseok’s face and drew their mouths together, Hoseok’s arms wrapped themselves around Yoongi’s waist.

Seokjin clapped, along with everyone in attendance. Seokjin’s eyes briefly glanced into the seats, where Jungkook sat in the first row, next to Hoseok’s nephew and brother in law. He was smiling so hard that his eyes weren’t visible. Seokjin felt something flutter in his chest. Something that was growing harder and harder to ignore.

~~

 

 

Two older woman stood by the buffet table with champagne glasses in their hands.

“Can I help you ladies with anything?” Seokjin asked.

“No thank you,” One gave a pleasant smile. She had a lipstick stain on her teeth.

“You’re Yoongi’s best man, right?” the second woman asked. Her hair was tied in a bun at her nape.

“I am,” Seokjin said.

“Huh, Yoongi had a best man , and Hoseok had a maid of honor, ” the second lady said, in a tone that was analytical.

Seokjin fought to keep his smile.

The second lady turned to the first, “You know, I always thought Yoongi was the woman in the relationship. But clearly I was wrong.”

“Really? My nephew is Yoongi, he told me he did all the repairs in the house and Hoseok did all of the cleaning,” the first lady, the one with the lipstick stain said, “I always knew that Hoseok was the woman.”

“Yes but Hoseok is taller. And he lifts more and he’s not as delicate as Yoongi, you know?” The second woman turned to Seokjin, “You’re close with both of them. Who’s the woman in the relationship?”

Seokjin kept a tight lipped smile, “I thought the purpose of them both being men meant that their were no women in the relationship.”

The women crumbled under the weight of Seokjin’s words. They looked away from him, back to the champagne table. Seokjin said good bye. He didn’t mention the lipstick stain at all.

Jungkook stood on the outer edge of the dance floor. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbow, and he had loosened his tie.

Seokjin stepped up next to him. He said, “I like the band.”

“Thanks,” Jungkook said, “I held auditions to see who could do the best cover of Yoongi and Hoseok’s song.”

“I’m sure they appreciate it.”

The newlyweds were currently in the middle of the dance floor, eyes locked, hands on waists and shoulders, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Jungkook looked at Yoongi and Hoseok’s clasped hands. He looked at Seokjin’s empty hand that hung on his side. Jungkook considered reaching for it, but in that moment Jiwoo wrapped herself around Seokjin’s waist.

“The ceremony was perfect,” she spun Seokjin with her, “We did an amazing job.”

“Yes we did,” Seokjin laughed.

Jungkook looked at the bouquet of roses at every table in horror. “Why all the pink?”

A sinister smile stretched across both Seokjin and Jiwoo’s faces. Jiwoo had the same heart shaped smile as her younger brother.Seokjin spoke first, “Hoseok and Yoongi didn’t really care about the details of their wedding, as long as they were married in the Japanese gardens, they were happy.”

“So they let us” Jiwoo motioned between her and Seokjin, “choose all the little details. Including the color scheme of their wedding.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows shot up, “Seriously, they let you decide everything?”

“Yoongi had one request. Holly had to be the ring bearer,” Seokjin said.

They all looked at the newlywed table, where Holly sat in a pink tulle dress, next to the little brown basket she used to carry the rings down the aisle. Her date, Jjangu wore a fitted dog jacket and pink bowtie.

Jiwoo sighed. “It’s okay. Hansol cried out in joy when he learned he didn’t have to be a part of the wedding.” Jiwoo’s son, Hansol, currently his around the dessert table, and would sneak handfuls of cake into his mouth when he thought no one was looking. Jiwoo shook her head, but smiled nonetheless.

“Look at them,” Seokjin gestured at the dance floor. Where Hoseok had his arm wrapped around Yoongi’s shoulders, and Yoongi leaned against Hoseok’s chest, “They’re too in love to care about anything else.”

“Those bastards,” Jungkook coughed, “How dare they flaunt their love in front of us.”

“Eat a snickers Kookie,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook sneered, then walked to the buffet table.

Jiwoo clasped her hands to her chest. “I can’t believe my baby brother is finally married.”

“Almost. It’s not legal, yet.”

“It was briefly, that’s good enough for me,” She sniffed.

Seokjin hugged Jiwoo, “Don’t cry again.”

“I won’t” Seokjin and Jiwoo walked to their table. They clinked their champagne glasses together, to congratulate themselves on a job well done.

Seokjin took a sip from his glass just as Jiwoo asked, “So when’s your wedding?”

Seokjin choked on the champagne. When he regained his breath, he said, “I don’t know if I’ll have one. The guys I date aren’t too keen on starting a family.”

Jiwoo frowned, “Not even Jungkook?”

Seokjin choked on his champagne, again. “Kookie and i are just friends.”

They both looked at the buffet table, where Jungkook was putting together two plates of food. His tongue peeked through his teeth as he concentrated on balancing the food on the plates.

Jiwoo hummed against her champagne glass. “You always talk about Kookie . I assumed you’ve been together for a while.”

Seokjin wanted to refute her, and say that everything was gone. But the thing was that they were always together, Jungkook was constantly at his apartment, or vice versa. They went running together, they took Jjangu to the vet. Jungkook would fix Seokjin’s car, and in turn Seokjin would cook Jungkook dinner.

Seokjin grasped for words, “... We’re not like that.” The words sounded weak even to him.

Jiwoo smiled up at Seokjin. She patted his cheek, then walked away to dance with her husband.

Jungkook brought back two plates, he handed one to Seokjin. “I wasn’t sure what you wanted. So I got you everything.”

Seokjin took the plate. “Thanks.”

They stared into each other’s eyes for a minute too long. Then they looked at the dance floor, at their best friends who were just married. At the happiness in their eyes on the pink in their cheeks. And Seokjin and Jungkook couldn’t stop their feelings of envy.

~~



December 2011 Little Italy

Jungkook read the specials for the day. Seokjin wouldn’t make it for another hour, but Jungkook desperately needed coffee. The concert last night had started two hours late and lasted way too long, it even spilled into the AM. This exhaustion caused Jungkook to think he was hallucinating when he first saw him.

Jungkook blinked. Jungkook rubbed at his sleep encrusted eyes. But the person still stood there in front of him, in line at the cafe.

“Jimin?”

“Jungkook?”

Jungkook froze. He knew that voice, had spent mornings waking up to voice, talking to the voice on the phone, hearing that voice pant into his ear.

Jimin.

His hair was blonde, but his smile was wide and his eyes curved into crescents, he was still undeniably Jimin.

“How are you?” Jimin asked. He licked his plump lips.

In the past, that gesture would have made Jungkook feel things. But now Jungkook felt only surprise. Jungkook jutted his jaw. “I’m good. How are- what are you doing here?”

“Apartment hunting,” Jimin answered, “I took a job in the Neuro Department in the Medical Center. I start in three weeks.”

“Congratulations,” Jungkook said. He meant it. “I guess Denver paid off.”

“I learned a lot,” Jimin smiled. “How are you? You look great.”

“I’ve been working out,” Jungkook shrugged, “I was promoted to Event Manager at House of Blues.”

“That’s great,” Jimin said. Jimin reached out to hug him. He stepped away at the last moment. He held his coffee with both hands. “Do you want to get dinner and catch up.”

“I’d like that.” Jungkook handed Jimin his business card.

“Great, I’ll ask Joonie when he’s free,” Jimin said, he pocketed the card. His smile was blinding.

Jungkook felt something unsettle inside him. “Joonie?”

“Namjoon, my boyfriend,” Jimin said.

Jungkook’s world froze.

“He’ll be lecturing at UCSD starting in the fall. And conducting his own research, of course, the UC system only hires research professors.”

Jungkook couldn’t breathe.

“He’s the reason I applied for the job. He had to move down here for work…” Jimin noticed the stillness in Jungkook. “Are you okay?”

Jungkook took a deep breath. “I’ll call you.”

He didn’t give Jimin a chance to mention they had’t exchanged numbers. Jungkook ran out of the cafe as fast as he could. He couldn’t breathe. He needed air.

Jungkook dialed the number. The phone was picked up on the third ring.

“Hello?”

Jungkook exhaled the breath he had been holding, “Hi Jin.”

“Hi Kookie.” Jungkook heard movement on the other line. “What’s up?”

Jungkook ran a hand through his hair. His eyes stung. “Can you come over?”

~~

The door was unlocked, but Seokjin still knocked. He had a plastic bag in his right hand.

Jungkook opened the door, he was in grey sweatpants, his eyes were red. Jungkook had been crying, Seokjin’s heart ached.

Jungkook sniffed, “Thanks for coming.”

“Of course,” Seokjin said. He placed the bag on the counter. “I brought Lagunitas, and a box of your favorite brownie mix, just in case.”

Jungkook shook his head, “This… it can’t be fixed with brownies.”

“What’s so bad that it can’t be fixed with brownies?” Seokjin tried to lighten the mood.

Jungkook rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. He spoke in a small voice, “I ran into Jimin at the café.”

Jungkook was right, Seokjin realized, this couldn’t be fixed with brownies.

“He took a job in San Diego, because his boyfriend was offered a job in San Diego,” Jungkook continued, “They’re going apartment hunting.”

Seokjin opened his arms. Jungkook fell against his chest. He cried into Seokjin’s hoodie. “He couldn’t stay in San Diego for me, why is he coming back for someone else?”

“Jimin’s grown since then. He’s solid in his career. It wasn’t the right time for you two.”

“I would have moved for him.”

“He didn’t want you there.”

“And now he’s back!” Jungkook’s grip on Seokjin’s sweater tightened.

“People change their minds,” Seokjin spoke in a voice he hoped was calming. He rubbed small circles on Jungkook’s back. “Aren’t you happy with the changes in your life?”

“Yes,” Jungkook said. “I don’t know, I was so young when we first got together. And now I feel like a grown up. But I could have grown up with him.” Jungkook somehow shrunk in Seokjin’s embrace.

Seokjin spoke into Jungkook’s hair, “Then you wouldn’t be the man you are today. You wouldn’t be my Kookie, you would be some stranger in Denver. And I can’t move to Denver, Jjangu shivers when it’s 70 degrees.”

Jungkook chuckled. Seokjin smiled a step in the right direction. Seokjin loosened his grip on Jungkook, so that they could look each other in the eye. “I’m sorry you ran into Jimin. But after all you’ve been through would you ever take him back?”

Jungkook thought for a moment. “No.”

“Then don’t let this affect you. Jimin went where it was best for him, and you stayed where it was best for you. And you’re a stronger person now. And one of my favorites.” Then Seokjin smiled.

And Jungkook smiled too. “You always know how to make me feel better.”

“Yeah, well,” Seokjin wiped Jungkook’s tears with the sleeve of his sweater, “that’s why I’m the person you call at four in the morning.”

“Right, right..” Jungkook grabbed at Seokjin’s wrist. He just held them in the pose they currently were, foreheads touching, Seokjin’s sleeved palm pressed to Jungkook’s cheek. They breathed in the moment. Seokjin followed the slope of Jungkook’s nose with his eyes. Jungkook counted all of the freckles on Seokin’s cheeks.

Seokjin broke the silence. “Do you want coffee?”

Jungkook nodded in his hands. Seokjin released him, Jungkook felt at a loss, and ran into the kitchen. Jungkook followed him. Seokjin put the filter in the coffe maker, spooned the appropriate amounth of grounds, poured the water, turned on the coffeemaker, opened all the cabinets in a desperate attempt to find coffee cups.

“Where are they?” Seokjin asked.

Jungkook stepped in his space. He opened the one door Seokjin had tried yet. “Here.”

There were five. One had a chipped handle.

“Thanks,” Seokjin said. Breathless.

Jungkook’s gaze lingered on Seokjin’s soft lips, then traveled up to his dark eyes. There was hesitation playing on them. Jungkook swallowed. “They were right in front of you the whole time.”

They both reached for each other. Seokjin’s hands cupped Jungkook’s face, while Jungkook’s arms wrapped themselves around Seokjin’s waist. Seokjin’s lips were as soft as they looked. He pulled Seokjin as close as possible, so that their chest were flush together. The kisses started soft and tentative. Then Jungkook sucked on Seokjin’s lower lip, and Seokjin gasped into his mouth.

Seokjin pressed Jungkook against the kitchen counters. Jungkook felt the hard knobs into his lower back, and whine. Jungkook jumped up so that he sat on the counter. Seokjin’s travelled down Jungkook’s neck, traced his chest, then cupped his ass. Seokjin moaned against his tongue.

Jungkook seperated their mouths, long enough to whisper, “Bedroom?” against Seokjin’s lips.

Seokjin nodded, yes. He carried Jungkook there.

~~

 

Seokjin awoke to find himself completely curved around Jungkook’s body. Jungkook had Seokjin’s left arm trapped under his head as a pillow. His legs tangled themselves around Seokjin’s. Memories of last night flooded into the forefront of his thoughts. Seokjin’s heartbeat raced.

Seokjin pulled at his arm. He tried to be careful, so as to not disturb Jungkook in his sleep, but then he felt movement. Jungkook turned over, so that they were no longer spooning, they were face to face. Jungkook’s eyes didn’t open. He just nuzzled against Seokjin’s shoulder.

Seokjin melted at the sight. Here he was, here he had the most beautiful man in the world in his arms, why would he ever want to leave.

Seokjin brushed the soft locks of Jungkook’s hair.

Seokjin’s phone started to ring. He reached for it, to turn it off. But then he read the time.

“Shit, I have an early meeting.” He quickly slid out from under Jungkook. The movement jostled Jungkook awake.

Jungkook blinked up in annoyance. His voice hoarse when he asked, “What are you doing?”

Seokjin considered ditching his morning meeting. He shimmied into his wrinkled jeans. “I’m really sorry, but I have to run to my apartment, and food Jjangu, then shower for work.”

Seokjin spoke to fast. Jungkook couldn’t keep up. “You’re leaving?”

He sounded heartbroken. Seokjin hated it. He ran up to Jungkook, kissed him on the forehead, and said, “We’ll talk later, okay?”

And then he was out the door.

And Jungkook was alone, in his bedroom, in his apartment, feeling emptier than he had when Jimin left.

~~



Hoseok curved his body around Yoongi’s frame, he had and arm around Yoongi’s waist and his nose buried in Yoongi’s neck. Holly slept curled up against Yoongi’s chest.

Yoongi’s ringtone reverberated through the air. Holly whimpered. Yoongi groaned.

“It’s yours,” Hoseok pushed Yoongi’s back.

“They’re dead to me,” Yoongi sat up. He blindly grabbed the phone and grunted into the receiver, “What?”

“Good morning sunshine,” Seokjin tried to tease, it failed. He tried to button up his shirt while balancing the phone between his shoulder and face. In a different voice, he asked “Can we talk real quick?”

Yoongi heard the desperation in his tone. He sighed, “Yeah, sure. Talk fast.” He rubbed at sleep encrusted eyes.

Hoseok’s own phone rang. Holly ran out of the room. Hoseok reached for his phone. “Morning,” Hoseok mumbled into the receiver.

“Seoks, I fucked up last night,” Jungkook whined in the phone. He paced around his bedroom, his fingers in his hair, he hadn’t put on clothes yet.

Seokjin’s voice grew smaller with each word he said to Yoongi. “So Jungkook called last night, and he was.. I don’t know he was broken and emotional and crying. I’ve never seen him cry before. So I get over there, and I’m trying to calm him down. And I’m hugging him, and it’s late…”

Jungkook spoked rapidly to Hoseok, “I was feeling like shit after running into Jimin. He’s moving back to San Diego, I’ll tell you about it late. Anyway, so Seokjin kind of helps me get over it. And then he held me. And then I kissed him, and well…”

Jungkook said to Hoseok, at the same time Seokjin said to Yoongi, “I slept with him.”

Hoseok sat upright, Yoongi’s eyes widened, they turned to each other and whispered “They slept together.” They each turned to their respective phones.

“Fucking finally,” Yoongi said to Seokjin.

“Thanks for the enthusiasm,” Seokjin half chuckled, But I’m worried. What if it doesn’t work out?”

“That’s great, man,” Hoseok said to Jungkook.

“No, not great! I just fucked up everything,” Jungkook groaned, “He ran away this morning, some  bullshit excuse about needing to feed Jjangu.”

“You don’t know if you don’t try,” Yoongi said to Seokjin, “If it helps, we’ve been rooting for you two since day one.”

“Dogs do get used to a schedule,” Hoseok said to Jungkook, “Besides, he works normal people hours not crazy ones like you do. He’s probably running to the art gallery right now.”

“That doesn’t help. I can’t help but feel I skipped too many steps,” Seokjin said to Yoongi.

“You don’t understand Hoseok,” Jungkook trembled as he spoke, “I saw the fear in his eyes as he ran out. What if he regrets it?”

“Then rewind,” Yoongi said to Seokjin, “Show up at his doorstep, in a suit, with a bouquet of flowers in your hands, and a song in your heart, and take him on a date.”

“Jungkook, you two have been making heart eyes at each other for years. I promise he doesn’t regret it,” Hoseok reassured Jungkook.

At the same time, Hoseok and Yoongi both said, “Why don’t you come over for breakfast?”

Hoseok and Yooongi turned to each other, equally horrified expressions on their faces.

“I can’t, I have an early morning meeting,” Seokjin said to Yoongi. “Yoongi, I’m getting another call, can I talk to you later?”

Yoongi released the breath he had been holding, “Sure. I’ll help you romance the baby.”

“I’m too nauseous to eat,” Jungkook said to Hoseok, “I’m going to drink vodka and try to forget last night happened.”

Hoseok sighed, “I’m going over later okay? To make sure you’re still alive and stuff.”

“Thanks Yoongi,” Seokjin said. At the same time Jungkook said, “Bye Hoseok.”

The two hang up.

Yoongi and Hoseok collapsed onto each other. “Our friends are idiots,” Yoongi said.

“They are,” Hoseok agreed. He ran his fingers through Yoongi’s hair, “Thank god we don’t have to deal with that anymore.”

“Too much stress,” Yoongi said. Then he smiled, and kissed Hoseok on the lips. They kissed, and they kissed. Yoongi straddled Hoseok’s waist. He ran his hands under Hoseok’s shirt and stroked his sides. Hoseok buried his fingers in Yoongi’s hair.

Yoongi’s phone rang.

Yoongi sighed, his head dropped to the side of Hoseok. Hoseok patted the back of Yoongi’s head. Yoongi grabbed his phone and shouted into the receiver. “Seokjin if this is about Jungkook again-”

Yoongi’s shout died in his throat. His anger is replaced with a smile. “I’m happy for you.”

Hoseok frowned in curiosity. Yoongi’s smile only grew wider.

~~

 

 

Jungkook took a deep breath. He smoothed down his shirt. He patted his hair, convinced there was a hair out of place when there wasn’t. He knocked on the door.

It was opened by Seokjin, he wore a deep blue sweater that exposed his collarbones. His cheeks were flushed, as if he had been running, and there was a smile across his face. He breathed, “Hi. I was about to go to your place.”

Jungkook felt warm. A smile graced his face, “Well I was in the neighborhood, and I need to talk to you.”

“I’m glad you came.” Seokjin held Jungkook’s face in his hands and gave him a soft kiss.

Jungkook reveled in it. He couldn’t help but smile, and he couldn’t help but feel when Seokjin stepped away. But his hand enveloped Jungkook’s and then they were giddy again. He was pulled  to the kitchen.

On the table was a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of merlot, two wine glasses, and a large manila envelope.

Seokjin picked up the flowers from the kitchen table and gave them to Jungkook. “These are for you.”

Jungkook blushed, “Thanks. I’ve never received flowers before.”

“Even guys deserve flowers,” Seokjin said with a wink.

Jungkook melted.

Seokjin held up the bottle of red wine, “And this for us. To celebrate,” Seokjin said with a coy smile.

Jungkook smirked. “There’s something I want to tell you.”

“Me first,” Seokjin said.

Jungkook allowed.

They clinked glasses.

“The social worker called. She said they loved my interview and they’re pairing me up with a child.”

Jungkook’s smile faltered.

Seokjin dumped the contents of the manila folder on the table. They were files and photos, Seokjin handed Jungkook a polaroid of a small baby with a full head of hair wearing a pink onesie. “Her name is Sujeong. She’s Korean like us.”

Jungkook felt like a block of lead was buried in his chest. He mumbled, “She’s small.”

“She’s beautiful,” Seokjin said with all of the love and pride of a father. “Jiwoo is going to shop for baby items with me. Finally I can turn the extra room into a nursery. You’ll help me with all of the renovating, right?”

Jungkook couldn’t look away from the photo.

Seokjin’s smile fell. “Jungkook?”

Jungkook drank the rest of his glass. “I have to go.”

“But you didn’t tell me your thing yet.”

“Another time,” Jungkook put his shoes back, “I just- I can’t- I need to think.”

Jungkook ran out of the room before Seokjin could stop him.

~~

 

 

Jungkook heard pounding on his front door. He locked himself inside his bedroom, he stared up at the popcorn ceiling. He had five missed calls. One was Seokjin, the other four were from Hoseok and Yoongi.

The pounding ceased. Jungkook heard a shout in his living room “Where the fuck are you?”

It was Hoseok. He had the second spare key to Jungkook’s apartment. Seokjin had the first. Jungkook closed his eyes, he didn’t want to think about. He couldn’t stop picturing Seokjin’s broken expression before Jungkook had run out of  his apartment. Jungkook pressed his palms against his eyelids.

Hoseok kicked down Jungkook’s bedroom door.

“You’re paying for that,” Jungkook said.

“Like hell I am.” Hoseok ripped Jungkook’s hands off his face. “Start talking. What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Jungkook said.

“Bullshit. Seokjin is stressed as fuck in my apartment right now because of you,” Hoseok said. “Yoongi wanted to kill you, but I convinced him to let me get your side of the story. Now start talking before I call him.”

“He’s getting a kid.”

“A kid Hoseok!”

“So?”

“I never wanted a kid.”

“Too bad,” Hoseok said, “Seokjin’s wanted a child for years. I knew that. Yoongi knew that. We all knew that. So why are you freaking out?”

“I wasn’t expecting the kid to show up this soon,” Jungkook said. The longer this conversation lasted, the weaker his argument sounded.

“He’s been waiting for years,” Hoseok hit Jungkook with his own pillow. “Do you love him?”

Jungkook’s chest heated up, “I’d fight an army for him.”

“You don’t have to fight an army,” Hoseok put the pillow down, “You just have to watch after a kid. Seokjin is worth it all, right?”

The solution had been that simple. Jungkook’s whole face lit up. “You’re right.”

~~

 

 

Jungkook at Seokjin’s door with a bouquet of flowers and a six pack of Ballast Point.

Seokjin eyed the flowers, and the box in Jungkook’s hand.

Jungkook held up the box, “It’s Grapefruit Sculpin. Your favorite.”

Seokjin took the beer and left Jungkook at the door. Jungkook found a vase in the kitchen for the flowers.

Seokjin opened a bottle and chugged half of it. “I’m surprised you’re staying. This is a minute longer than last time.”

“Yes I’m staying. I never said what I wanted.”

Seokjin glared. “You’re here, so talk.”

Jungkook took a deep breath. He released it. He looked Seokjin in the eyes  and said, “I’m in love with you.”

Seokjin’s expression remained the same, though his cheeks flushed a beautiful shade of red.

“I love you,” Jungkok repeated, “And at first that scared me because it’s you. And you’re so handsome, and smart, and successful. But most importantly you’re my best friend, and I  didn’t want to jeopardize that by acting on my feelings. But by suppressing my feelings I’m denying myself the chance of seeing how beautiful life could be with you.

“You’re upset with me, I understand you have every right to be. I was a coward. I run away at any sign of responsibilities. But I want to be with you. And you want a kid. So I want to help you with your kid.

I quit smoking for you. I learned to eat better because of you. You have improved my life in ways I never thought possible. I would do anything for you.”

Seokjin had a hard time keeping his stern expression. His voice was soft when he asked, “You won’t run away this time?”

Jungkook stepped into Seokjin’s space. His hands went to Seokjin’s hips, a perfect fit. “Never.”

Seokjin maintained eye contact. “Will you drive me to the airport on Sunday to pick her up?”

“I will.” Then Jungkook kissed him. Like he should have done a long time ago. Like he should have done at Hoseok and Yoongi’s wedding, or on their double date, or maybe even in the parking lot of a McDonald’s all those years ago.

And Seokjin kissed him back, like he should have done, like should be, like it always will be.

~~