Namjoon has his legs kicked out, settling his shoes on the seat in front of him. He’s the only one in the classroom, so he figures he can stay like this for a little bit longer.
Or more than a little bit, because he still has twenty minutes until class actually starts. Namjoon wonders if he just has poor time management or something, because he’s been showing up early to nearly all of his classes, by margins of even half an hour.
He doesn’t think it’s a bad thing, though. He hasn’t been late to a class yet.
But now there’s nothing for him to do except take out his notebook and stare at it, arrange his sharp pencils by size across the desktop. He left his phone back at the apartment; well, maybe. He’s not entirely sure where he saw it last. If he’s lost it completely, though, he’ll never hear the end of it from Yoongi.
The end of summer heat makes the old buildings on campus like this one unbearable, and Namjoon can’t cool down without the aid of an air conditioner, so his back is uncomfortably sticky when he slumps against the chair. He blows a futile puff of air in the direction of his forehead, trying to get a breeze started under his bangs. It doesn’t do much to provide relief.
Kids start trickling in ten minutes to the start of class. Namjoon reluctantly lets his feet drop from the chair, but it’s a gesture that goes unnoticed. No one comes to sit in front of him.
At three minutes to, the professor is setting up her laptop at the podium. Namjoon is bouncing his leg, and it’s loud and obnoxious, and a girl in the front row shoots a glare back at him, but he can’t stop. Not until there’s a scraping sound next to him and Hoseok is falling into the seat, legs splayed out rudely, holding nothing but a battered notebook and a short pencil tucked into the spine.
“Jesus, Joonie,” Hoseok flips open his (poorly written, Namjoon knows) notes to the next blank page. “It’s hot as hell outside and you’re wearing jeans and a goddamn hoodie?”
Namjoon resists the urge to stare at Hoseok’s unabashedly bare legs, the cutoff denim shorts that end scandalously high on his thighs. He addresses his own notes instead.
“I’ve been hotter,” he says.
“Oh, really? Where was that, Joon-ah, fucking sub-saharan Africa?”
The professor is clearing her throat and shuffling around in front of the whiteboard before Namjoon can answer. Instead, he hunches down a little more in his seat and tugs the strings of his hoodie into his mouth. He steadily ignores the way Hoseok stares at him for a good minute before turning his attention away from Namjoon and to the lecture.
The class is nothing special, a general education requirement that was the last on a long list for second years like Namjoon, and one that should have been completed already for a third year like Hoseok.
(But Hoseok openly disparages the need for general education classes to anyone within earshot, and ended up failing the first time around. Namjoon had laughed his ass off when he heard, and then had subsequently promised to tutor Hoseok when they took the class together.
“I’m just saying,” Hoseok had scoffed. “Put me in a goddamn reparatory or technique class and I’d be passing with flying colors. I’d be the one tutoring you, Joon-ah. But fucking Economics? Who needs that shit. Honestly.”
The fact that he was best friends with a dance major had been a source of infinite amusement to Namjoon when he first started college. Now, well. A lot of things were less amusing than they had been before.)
Namjoon takes care not to get distracted as the lecture drags on. He knows Hoseok will need better notes later on when they study, but there are much more pressing things to focus on in the humid classroom, and Namjoon finds it increasingly difficult to pay attention to the professor. For one, there’s the heat. He can feel pockets of sweat in strange, uncomfortable places all over his body, like the divot of his collarbones, the valleys between his knuckles.
And then there’s Hoseok. He’s tapping his pencil against the desk and there’s a glazed look in his eyes. But he’s wearing a thin, loose shirt and it rides up whenever Hoseok decides to stretch out his back and it’s brutal, absolutely brutal, and like a bystander at the scene of a car crash, Namjoon can’t help but look.
There’s also the other kids in the class, all displaying various levels of interest, and their presence makes Namjoon nervous. More nervous than the hard slope of Hoseok’s shoulder makes him, or the click of the lock on a bathroom door, or the whistle of inexplicable nighttime noises in the early morning.
The class ends and Namjoon doesn’t even notice at first, too engrossed in the way the old clock on the wall will occasionally stutter and pause, only to skip forward and continue ticking as if nothing had happened.
As they walk out of the building, Hoseok slings his arm around Namjoon’s shoulders. It’s truthfully too hot for Namjoon to be anywhere near comfortable with Hoseok’s arm resting flush against the back of his neck, but he doesn’t make a move to shove the other off.
“Yoongi and I want to go out tonight,” Hoseok is saying. He’s slipping on sunglasses, and Namjoon hates it, hates that the lenses are dark enough where Namjoon can’t tell where, exactly, Hoseok is looking. “You’re coming with. All right?”
“Hoseok. It’s a Thursday night,” Namjoon points out weakly.
“Yeah, and you don’t have class tomorrow anyways, so suck it up, Joonie. It just seems like you haven’t left your room in god knows how long. You need some fresh air, some fucking sunlight. You’re more of a recluse than Yoongi is these days.”
“Yoongi has a boyfriend, of course he’s going to go out more than me,” Namjoon grumbles.
“Don’t sass me, Joon-ah,” Hoseok tugs him closer, stifling Namjoon even more. “And if you’re bummed about that, I have no problem spending the evening helping you get a date. Who knows, there might be some girls there who really dig the whole tortured soul thing you’ve got going right now.”
There’s something sour curdling in Namjoon’s stomach. He ducks out from under Hoseok’s arm, tries to speed up, but Hoseok easily keeps in step next to him.
“Okay, no girls then,” Hoseok mumbles, more to himself than to Namjoon. He speaks up. “Look, I’ll pay for you, for dinner, and all the soda you can drink. Just. It’d be really great, you know. To have you there.”
“Hoseok,” Namjoon sighs, looking back at him. He fidgets with the strap of his backpack. Chews on his bottom lip. “I dunno. I just- I dunno.”
He pivots back around and keeps walking, turning up the street to their block of apartments.
“Okay, Joonie. You know I won’t make you go if you really don’t want to.” It’s one of those sobering moments where Hoseok takes something, anything, seriously. Namjoon slumps up the steps to his front door and stops with his key in the lock. He leans his head very carefully against the wood and allows his eyes to flicker shut for just a moment.
“Fine. Fine, I’ll go. Just- you pay for my drinks and make sure I have a ride home, because last time, Yoongi and Seokjin ditched me to go fuck in the bathroom and you were too drunk to drive so. So, yeah. Those are my conditions.”
Hoseok crows in victory and pumps a fist in the air. Namjoon can feel his cheeks heating up, and it’s decidedly not from the sun beating down on his back.
“I’ll see you tonight, then, Joonie! Wear something nice! Like a fucking- a button down or something! Don’t worry, it’ll be great!” Hoseok calls, grinning widely as Namjoon wedges the door open. “You’ll have fun!”
It turns out Namjoon does not have fun, and as he sits at a sticky table in a crowded, noisy bar, he realizes that he should have expected this. He also realizes that he is too much of a pushover when it comes to Hoseok (But really, he knew that from the very beginning).
“Found your phone, Joon-ah,” is how Yoongi greets him when he sidles up to the table, Seokjin tugging off his jacket behind him. “It was in the bathroom cabinet, of all places. The fuck did you leave it in there for?”
Namjoon knows exactly what he had been doing in the bathroom that morning. He panics for a brief moment, wondering if he had left behind more evidence than just his phone, but he dismisses the thought almost immediately. If the others knew anything, or suspected anything, then Namjoon would definitely be able to tell. He’s certain of that, at least.
Yoongi doesn’t wait for an answer, and having completed the task of returning Namjoon’s phone, he quickly heads off to the bar with Hoseok in tow, leaving Namjoon and Seokjin to guard the table.
“When Hoseok said he was going to get you to come out tonight, he mentioned resorting to bodily harm if necessary,” Seokjin grins. “Glad to see you could make it in one piece, Joonie.”
“You guys act like I never leave the goddamn apartment,” Namjoon whines. “Which I do, by the way. And besides, even if I were to go out, I see you guys every single day. Why do I need to see Yoongi and Hoseok get drunk when we could have a nice, quiet night back at our place?”
“They just want you to have fun, Namjoon,” Seokjin is still smiling in that quiet way of his.
“This really isn’t my idea of fun.”
“Yeah, if it were up to you, we’d spend the night at the fucking library,” Hoseok and Yoongi are back, and Hoseok is sliding into his seat next to Namjoon, rolling his eyes. “We tried your way of fun, remember, Joonie? We ended up at a trivia night. And not the kind at a pub with booze and general knowledge questions. No, it was at a bookstore. They had apple juice as refreshments and all the questions were about classic literature. Namjoon. We were the youngest people there by twenty years, at least. They invited you to join their book club.”
“Okay, I admit, that was kind of lame,” Namjoon frowns. “Especially since we lost, cause the three of you are uncultured and have apparently never opened a book to read for pleasure since the second grade. But still. Don’t they have, like, quieter bars?”
Seokjin titters and Yoongi rolls his eyes. Hoseok’s thigh is pressed up against Namjoon’s and he can’t think, not with Hoseok this close.
“God, lighten up, Namjoon-ah, c’mon. Look, I even bought you a soda, so stop your moping. I promised you we’d have fun, right?” Hoseok’s wicked grin takes up too much of his face, Namjoon decides.
“Sure,” Namjoon thumbs at the straw of his drink and swirls it once, twice, around the rim. “I’m sorry.”
His words are waved away by Yoongi, and go unheard by Hoseok as the two of them start discussing how the rest of the night will go. Only Seokjin keeps watching Namjoon, steadily, carefully. He can feel himself almost wilting under the other’s gaze.
The night progresses before Namjoon can think too long on it. Hoseok disappears after twenty minutes, reappearing every now and then as he flits around the bar and in between the tables. Yoongi leaves to greet several friends of his, but Seokjin opts to stay behind at the table with Namjoon, only getting up to replenish their supply of soda.
As he hunches over the table in an attempt to catch absolutely no one’s attention, Namjoon remembers how much he hates this, hates the atmosphere, the noise, the people whose eyes pass over him in an instant as if he was just another piece of furniture.
And he especially hates the way Hoseok takes anyone who looks at him with any glimmer of interest as a challenge, perking up instantly and slinking away, only to return eventually with a rueful grin or a smear of lipstick across his lips. It’s excruciating to witness and Namjoon almost wishes he had a drink, just to distract him from what’s happening.
He must be obvious, so painfully obvious, because Seokjin returns from the bar with two more watered down colas in hand and takes a seat across from Namjoon with a pensive look on his face.
“Namjoon-ah,” Seokjin says after taking a dainty sip of his soda. “It’s okay, you know, if you want to go talk to someone. Chat them up, flirt a bit. There are some pretty girls at that table over there? Or, at the bar, there’s, there’s a couple of cute guys.”
Namjoon stops fidgeting in his seat and turns, wide-eyed, to stare. Terror is quick to course through him. It’s out of nowhere and yet, Namjoon thinks it’s been a long time coming.
“It’s fine, Joonie,” Seokjin continues softly as he takes in the stricken look plastered on Namjoon’s face. “I really hope you know that it’s totally fine. We’d love you no matter what.”
Namjoon thinks about the time he was five and his parents renovated the play room into a study room. He thinks about the two boys who were caught kissing in the park by the high school and how one of them transferred out sophomore year. He thinks about the time he accidentally flooded the upstairs bathroom in the summer of sixth grade and had gone without dinner for three days as a consequence. Unconditional love, he thinks, is not a luxury he has had the pleasure of experiencing.
“We just want you to be happy, Joonie,” Seokjin’s voice has dropped to a whisper. “And right now, you don’t…” His eyes keep wandering over to the bar where Hoseok is sliding a palm over the broad shoulders of some smirking guy, and Namjoon knows Seokjin is seeing exactly what the display is doing to him.
Namjoon isn’t happy, hasn’t been for a while now. But he thinks if he were to try to find happiness again, he could start with the curve of Hoseok’s lips, the shriek of his laughter, the swing of his hips.
Namjoon doesn’t have an answer and Seokjin doesn’t press. They both watch as Hoseok shoves the stranger against the bar and crashes their mouths together.
“I’m sorry,” Seokjin murmurs.
“Me too,” Namjoon says. He chews on the inside of his cheek until he can taste blood.
Namjoon always locks the bathroom door. It annoys Yoongi to no end, because as Yoongi puts it, his piss schedule has somehow matched up with Namjoon’s shower schedule, and on multiple occasions Namjoon has stepped out of the bathroom, fully dressed, only to be barreled over by a twitching Yoongi, loudly cursing the heavens for the existence of two bedroom, one bath apartments.
“I feel like you’re shortening the life span of my bladder,” Yoongi would whine. “We’ve known each other for four years, Namjoon-ah, it’s not like I haven’t seen you do worse stuff than take a shower. And what if you slip and bust your head on the side of the tub or something? We’ll have to call the fire department to get you out, and they’ll find you in there, naked, with your goddamn panda loofah in hand. Do you really want that?”
Namjoon still locks the bathroom door. There are some habits he thinks he’ll never be able to break.
There are some he doesn’t even know if he wants to.
“Are you mad?” Hoseok asks. He has his books and binders spread out across the entire table, and every time a hopeful student looking for an empty seat walks by, they shoot him a dirty look and keep moving. Namjoon, on the other hand, is considerate, and has his books in a neat stack in front of him, taking up the absolute minimum amount of space necessary. “It seems like you’re mad at me, Joon-ah.”
“’M not,” Namjoon sighs out. He’s hunched low over his papers because he ran out of contacts this morning and subsequently discovered that he has no idea where his actual glasses are. “And keep your voice down. If you get kicked out of the library for being too noisy I’m not coming with you. I’ve got shit to do.”
“Okay, so you are mad. What did I do? Hm? Joonie?” Hoseok prods Namjoon’s nose with the eraser of his pencil. When this elicits no response, he moves to Namjoon’s forehead. Then to his ears. He gives up after a minute and throws himself back into his chair, studying Namjoon’s face for any signs of weakness.
“If you want me to get down on my knees and grovel on this dirty ass carpet then I will do it, so help me god.” Hoseok’s already standing up, a grim look on his face as he studies the surrounding floor.
“For christ’s sake,” Namjoon hisses, shooting out a hand to snag at Hoseok’s pants to tug him back down. “Sit down and do your goddamn homework. You’re not going to fail this class again on my watch, okay?”
Hoseok drops back into his seat, chewing on his lip and propping his chin on his hand.
“This about last Thursday?” Namjoon says nothing. “Look, I’m sorry I kind of left you there, but I knew Seokjin and Yoongi could get you home all right. And the guy I ended up with was kind of a dick, so. It’s not like I had fun without you.”
“Why would you say it like that?” Namjoon mumbles to the table. He raises his voice to reply. “It’s fine, Hoseok. I just- you know I don’t like going out, and I only do it so I can spend time with you. So. Yeah. It just feels shitty sometimes.”
He’s a bit horrified that he just confessed that, and he’s definitely not going to look at Hoseok again until he’s sure the blush of his cheeks is gone.
“Oh,” Hoseok sounds quiet. Thoughtful. “I’m sorry, Joon-ah. I want to spend time with you too, I really do. I’ve been a shitty friend, and I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Namjoon says quickly, desperate to get this conversation over with. His wrists start to itch.
“No, I- Hey, Namjoon. Look at me.” Namjoon feels gentle fingers brush under his chin and tilt his head up and away from his steady staring contest with the table. Hoseok’s face is wide and sincere and the itch has spread like lightning from Namjoon’s wrists down to his hipbones. “Let me make it up to you. I’ll buy you dinner tonight, okay? Just the two of us.”
Namjoon kind of hates that phrase. ‘Just the two of us’ is okay when they’re at the library studying. When they’re walking to and from class. Even when they’re lazing around at the apartment, just watching television and talking. That’s safe. But dinner, just the two of them like this, feels like something else entirely.
“Okay,” Namjoon finds himself saying. “Dinner. Yeah. Sounds good.”
Hoseok’s responding beaming smile doesn’t seem to be enough to quell the unease settling low in Namjoon’s stomach.
Is this a date? It feels like a date.
The thought appears once again, clouding Namjoon’s mind for what seems like the tenth time that night. Hoseok is paying for their after-dinner ice cream and he isn’t even flirting with the pretty girl behind the counter. Fuck, Namjoon thinks. He is so fucked.
“Here, Joonie, it’s melting pretty quickly,” Hoseok says, passing Namjoon an ice cream cone and proceeding to slurp at the sides of his own. Namjoon is certain that they’re attracting stares from the other patrons in the shop; they must know exactly what’s going on, he’s sure of it. Especially when Hoseok offers some of his ice cream to Namjoon and especially when Namjoon shrugs and sinks his teeth in it.
He’s quick to pull Hoseok out of the shop after that little display. Hoseok doesn’t notice his unease, though, and why would he? Namjoon knows that Hoseok exudes a confidence that he himself could never hope to possess, and it shows, it definitely shows when the two of them are side by side.
They walk down the street together, every now and then bumping shoulders, each time sending a jolt through Namjoon’s chest and making his hands shake. Their fingers are sticky when they finish their ice cream, and Namjoon knows it’s just how Hoseok is, but he can’t help but feel that twinge of annoyance when Hoseok starts sucking on his own fingers to clean them up.
“C’mon, Hoseok. That can’t be sanitary.” Namjoon hates how he can’t look away, hates how Hoseok meets his eyes while he’s drawing a goddamn finger out of his goddamn mouth.
Hoseok smacks his lips noisily.
“Can’t let any of it go to waste,” he smirks. Namjoon shudders quietly. Decides it’s time to steer the conversation out of dangerous waters.
They walk on for a little bit longer, enjoying the warmth of the summer night. Namjoon stumbles once over a dip in the sidewalk, prompting Hoseok to wrap a hand around his elbow and haul him back up.
“Pick up your goddamned feet, Joonie,” Hoseok says, not unkindly.
The hand around Namjoon’s elbow lingers. Neither of them acknowledge it’s existence.
“You still mad at me, Joon-ah?” Hoseok hums after a minute. He smells like ice cream and his thick, sweetly scented cologne and it’s lovely and at the same time it’s too much, too much.
“I don’t think I was really mad in the first place, Hoseok.”
“Yeah, well, you had every right to be. I was a dick. I mean, I still am, but. I dunno.” He tugs on Namjoon’s arm, fingers still curled tight and pressing into the fabric of his long-sleeved shirt, bringing him to a stop. “You know you’re my best friend, right? And even though I act like an asshole almost all the time, I really, really care about you, Namjoon.”
“Yeah, Hoseok. I know,” Namjoon mumbles back, despite the flicker of doubt in the pit of his stomach. He settles for a safer truth. “I care about you too.”
Hoseok stares for a minute and then snorts.
“Gay,” he says with a grin. He flings an arm around Namjoon’s shoulder and the moment is dissipating, spilling through Namjoon’s fingers like sand, and they’re walking to the car and it’s over, the last grains trickle through.
Hoseok opens the door for Namjoon with a wild wink and as Namjoon slips into his seat and watches Hoseok, highlighted by the glow of the street lamps, he finds himself wishing he could bottle up this feeling, this semblance of happiness.
He had forgotten, he thinks, this particular sensation, the curling warmth in his chest, the aching of his cheeks.
And all it takes to remember is Hoseok.
Hoseok, Hoseok, Hoseok.
It feels like a warning, or a premonition. Like Namjoon is already too far gone to do anything else at this point other than let it all unfold.
He’s walking out of lecture with one of his classmates when it happens. Seungyoon is nice, and Namjoon likes him. Or it’s more he respects Seungyoon, because he has the next highest grade in the class after Namjoon, and the two of them have a friendly rivalry when it comes to exam scores.
Hoseok had snorted when he heard that and had teased Namjoon relentlessly.
“Is that how nerds flirt?” he’d snickered.
It was a comment that Namjoon had been able to brush off; he usually could when it came to Hoseok’s suggestive humor.
But then he’s walking from lecture with Seungyoon in step and they’re talking about some upcoming research papers, and how good it would be to edit each other’s.
“Great, so it’s a date,” Seungyoon smiles and he’s got nice dimples when he smiles, but it’s nowhere near as cute as Hoseok’s, Namjoon decides offhandedly.
“Sorry? A date?” Namjoon feels the conversation wriggle it’s way out of his grip.
“Yeah, I’ll buy you some coffee and we can talk, how’s that sound?”
“A-about our research paper?” Namjoon’s stopped walking. A few students push past him in annoyance for blocking the sidewalk, but Namjoon really could not care less.
“Sure, we can talk about our research, if you want,” Seungyoon chuckles. “But I was thinking more, I don’t know. Favorite animals. Childhood dreams. Life aspirations. That sort of thing.”
Normal date talk? There are red warning lights and sirens blaring in Namjoon’s head. His brain feels like it’s rocketing around in his skull and the noise is positively deafening.
“I’m sorry, I don’t- I mean, I’m not-” Seungyoon’s eyes are widening and then he’s smiling sheepishly.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Namjoon, I thought- I asked around, and Jinwoo said you and Hoseok are like, a thing, but no one was sure, and I guess I got my hopes up. I’m sorry I said anything, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Hoseok? What did he have to do with anything? Namjoon thinks, bewildered. His head is spinning, spinning, and he feels like he should correct Seungyoon, but he’s not entirely sure what Seungyoon’s just implied, unless, unless-
“No, it’s not- it’s fine, Seungyoon, I’m the one who should be saying sorry, I shouldn’t have, um. Led you on?”
“It’s not a big deal, Namjoon. Don’t be sorry,” Seungyoon laughs. Namjoon manages a weak chuckle in return.
He leaves Seungyoon once they make it off campus, lurching away with a faint wave and a mumbled ‘see you later’. Once he’s alone with his thoughts, his mind immediately charges into overdrive.
Namjoon is unsteady on his feet as he stumbles along the sidewalk in what he hopes is the right direction towards his apartment. As he walks, he digs his phone out of his backpack, plugs in his headphones, and jams them over his ears. Still, they do nothing to drown out the din inside his head.
What’s worse is that the first song that blares and slams into his eardrums is one of the weird, obtrusive EDM tracks that Hoseok downloaded onto Namjoon’s phone if he ever needed it for an emergency practice session.
Somehow it comes back to Hoseok. Somehow, it always comes back to Hoseok.
Hoseok, and the way he pets Namjoon’s hair and runs a thumb over Namjoon’s cheek. Hoseok and the way he’ll make the insides of Namjoon’s chest curdle and compact.
Hoseok, with whom he apparently has a ‘thing’. People think he and Hoseok are a thing. Namjoon and Hoseok. Hoseok and Namjoon. Him and Hoseok-
He wrenches his headphones off and shoves them down as far as they can go inside his backpack. He reaches his front door and stomps in, grunting a greeting in the general direction of Yoongi, who watches, sprawled out on the couch, with raised eyebrows.
He makes it to the safety of his room and sinks immediately down onto the bed, burying his fingers in his hair and tugging, hard.
There’s a sickening sort of realization in his head, a slow cycle that starts with ice cream not-dates and ends with Hoseok’s screeching peals of laughter.
He wants so badly his pulse stutters and jack-rabbits, his lungs hiccup and shudder.
It’s a strange feeling, Namjoon thinks, realizing that he’s in love.
Namjoon knows he’s considered intelligent mainly because of his extraordinary memory. And when he’s sitting in a lecture hall with an exam in front of him, he’ll admit that it can be a definite advantage. But then there are other times when remembering everything is a burden, and the memories that stand out over the years aren’t always the good ones.
Like the memory of the time he was nine and told his mother that he was going to marry the boy who lived next door and she shattered a wine glass against the wall a foot from his head. Or when he crashed his bike into a tree and spent his entire paycheck to take it to get fixed, because god forbid his father come home and find it wrecked. Or how his grandmother’s funeral had been open casket and his parents had forced him to walk up to the front to pay his respects, and he’d cried through the entire reception and on the ride home, and when they finally got home, the door slammed and his father had turned to Namjoon and-
Sometimes Namjoon would give anything just to be able to forget.
Namjoon tries not to drink.
The first time he ever had alcohol had been his senior prom night, when he made the mistake of coming home piss drunk and without a care in the world. The light had been on in the living room when he finally got back, and Namjoon knows he should have been more careful, and Yoongi and Seokjin had been miles away at college, and when it was all over Namjoon barricaded himself in the bathroom and ended up spending the night in there.
(He had to explain away the impressive bruises blooming across his cheekbone the following Monday to his teachers when asked. He passed it off as a testament to his clumsiness, like he always did. His teachers believed him, like they always did.)
So Namjoon tries not to drink, and Hoseok knows that. He takes it in stride, likes to joke that he drinks more than enough for the two of them. But Hoseok also knows that the nights when Namjoon wants to get drunk are never good ones in Namjoon’s book.
“So, you gonna tell me what this is about, Joon-ah?” Hoseok asks. They’re sitting close together on the couch, passing a bottle of cheap vodka back and forth, because that was all Hoseok had in the cupboard when Namjoon showed up at his apartment, announcing that he needed alcohol, and he needed it quick.
“Nope,” Namjoon replies easily, a wide smile on his face.
“I haven’t seen you drink since, shit, since your parents visited for the weekend a few months ago. Did something happen with them?” Hoseok looks ready to spend the rest of the night disparaging Namjoon’s family. Namjoon recalls the first time he had introduced Hoseok to his parents, how unimpressed they had been, how Hoseok hadn’t smiled once the entire time, how Namjoon dropped a mug because he couldn’t get his hands to stop shaking.
“Nah,” Namjoon shakes his head. “Haven’t talked to them in a while, actually. Feels kinda good.”
Hoseok tries to hide his small, proud smile behind the lip of the vodka bottle. When Namjoon plucks the bottle from his fingers, Hoseok’s smile drops.
“Then what is it, huh? You’re here, drinking my cheap booze on a Tuesday night, Namjoon, you can’t tell me nothing is wrong and expect me to believe that.”
“Something happened after class today,” Namjoon can’t seem to wipe that dopey smile off his face, and he’s reached the point where he doesn’t even care what he’s saying. He just lets the words out.
“Y’know Seungyoon? Kid in my phonetics class?” Hoseok makes a noise of recognition. “He fucking- he asked me out. On a date.”
“O-oh,” Hoseok stutters out. Namjoon tips the bottle back and gulps down a mouthful. “Like on a date-date?”
“Yeah, on a date-date, Seokie.”
“So what, um, what’d you say?”
“Told him no. But it just. I dunno. The funny thing is,” Namjoon forces out a laugh. “The funny thing is, when I told him no, he thought it was ‘cause you and I have a thing. That’s what he said. A ‘thing’. Fuckin’, weird, right?”
Hoseok doesn’t answer. Namjoon snorts out a laugh again.
“And I dunno, it just. Got me thinking about some, some things. Dates. Dating. Boys.”
“Namjoon,” Hoseok’s voice is low and cautious. He takes the bottle out of Namjoon’s hands and sets it down on the table. “Maybe we should be having this conversation when we’re both sober.”
“Nah, if I wait till then I’ll chicken out, I know I will. Just. Remember- remember the other night, Seokie? When you said you cared a lot about me?”
“Sure, Joonie,” Hoseok has his lips pursed and Namjoon can read the blatant concern in his eyes. Something seems to cross his mind, and he continues hastily, “And, shit, that wouldn’t change, Namjoon, wouldn’t change a goddamn thing even if you are g-”
“I care about you, too,” Namjoon breathes out quickly. “I love you, Hoseok.”
The color drains from Hoseok’s face.
“Like, love-love. Wait, shit- not like, as in like-like, but, as in, love. Yeah. Um.” Namjoon struggles to wrap the words around his tongue.
“I love you,” he says once again for good measure. “Seungyoon thought we had a thing, and we don’t have a thing, but I want a thing-”
“You don’t, Namjoon,” Hoseok chokes, and Namjoon expected this. This had definitely been one of the outcomes he had foreseen. At least it wasn’t the scenario where Hoseok flat out rejected him and told him to fuck off. “You’re lonely, and you’re drunk, and, shit, you don’t know what you’re saying-"
“Yeah, okay, I’m lonely, and yeah, I’m drunk, but I know, Hoseok. I’m sure. Fuck, I’ve never been more sure of something in, in my life."
“Namjoon,” Hoseok manages weakly. He seems to register how close they are on the couch, but he makes no attempt to move away. If anything, he allows Namjoon to drift closer still, and Namjoon revels in it, the sensation of being caught in each other’s orbits. “Don’t do something you’ll regret, Namjoon,” he warns in a whisper.
“Think I’d regret it more if I didn’t do it,” Namjoon answers.
Namjoon hasn’t kissed anyone, hasn’t been intimate with anyone since high school. Going to college meant mounting coursework and exams and extracurriculars, which had forced Namjoon to turn off the part of his brain that responded to that sort of stimuli. Or maybe it had just been asleep, and all it took was the press of Hoseok’s lips to reawaken the circuitry that had so long been neglected.
It’s tentative and quiet and sweet, and that, more than anything, cuts through the haze in Namjoon’s mind. He’s kissing Hoseok; Hoseok is kissing him back. It’s surreal and more than a little jarring, but most of all, it’s just really, really nice.
“Fuck, Joon-ah,” Hoseok gasps, pulling back, and Namjoon knows he isn’t imagining the rough timbre of Hoseok’s voice. “Look, I don’t want to be your, your experiment or something while you’re still trying to figure out what you want-”
“I told you already. Know what I want,” Namjoon slides down, mumbling into the delicate hollow of Hoseok’s neck. “Want you, Hoseok.”
“Fuck,” Hoseok hisses. Namjoon takes it as his cue to press open-mouthed kisses onto Hoseok’s slender neck, drinking in the breathless noises escaping from his lips.
He can feel the moment the tension shifts in Hoseok’s body, and suddenly Hoseok is on top of him, pressing Namjoon back into the couch and wedging his thigh between Namjoon’s. Now it’s too hot, too much all at once, and Namjoon all but whimpers into Hoseok’s mouth.
It’s tongue and teeth and small sounds from Namjoon, louder ones from Hoseok (because Namjoon learned so long ago to keep his mouth shut, to mute any sound of pleasure, or of pain), and Namjoon thinks he might be happy to lay under Hoseok like this forever. He thinks this might be enough.
It’s when Hoseok’s fingers tease under the hem of his shirt and graze over the hard plane of Namjoon’s stomach, skin that should be smooth, skin that should be perfect and uniform and unmarred, that Namjoon is jolted back to his senses.
He wrenches himself back, startling Hoseok as he moves.
“Oh, shit, I’m sorry,” Hoseok is fumbling and Namjoon’s never seen him do that before. “I should have asked, I’m sorry, Joonie-”
“It’s fine,” Namjoon finds his voice. He blinks rapidly, managing to make himself dizzy. “No, it’s fine. I’m sorry.”
Hoseok’s hands are resting on the tops of Namjoon’s thighs, and he really wishes they weren’t, he really wishes Hoseok would move farther away, but he doesn’t voice any of this. He just lets it be and feels sick, sick to his stomach.
“Are you sure?” Namjoon thinks he’s forgotten how to breathe. “Namjoon. Namjoon. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just,” So this is how it goes, in and out, in and out. “Just give me a minute. I’m gonna, um. Bathroom. O-one minute.”
Namjoon doesn’t hear Hoseok’s answer as he makes his escape. His skin is crawling and his chest is heaving and he just wants to feel okay again. But the bathroom isn’t safe, it has never been safe, he knows that, and yet here he is, curling up on the false tiles and hugging his knees to his chest.
He crushes the pad of his fingers against the pulse point on his wrist. He can’t do it, not with Hoseok just on the other side of the door. He won’t do it, not if Hoseok can hear. (The sick, snide voice in his head is already calculating, already eyeing the cabinet where he knows Hoseok keeps his fancy razors, and god, he can’t stop thinking about it-).
His fingernails are digging into his skin, and it’s not enough, but it’s something.
He can’t, because of Hoseok. He won’t, because of Hoseok.
Namjoon goes down the list in his head. First, the way Hoseok’s face scrunches up when he’s laughing too hard. Next, Seokjin making seaweed soup for his birthday. Then, him and Yoongi sitting on the roof the night before Yoongi leaves for college.
He forces himself not to think of ice cubes, or pills, or unanswered phone calls, or his dad. He just falls into the pattern of the good things running through his mind, and the undergoing current that chants don’t don’t don’t-
“Namjoon?” Hoseok calls through the door. “Are you really okay? I’m sorry, Joonie, I’m really sorry-”
In the next second, he’s falling to his knees next to the toilet and retching, heaving out whatever was in his stomach. He can distantly hear the pitch of Hoseok’s voice shoot up, demanding to know what was going on in a tone just shy of frantic.
“-aw, shit, Namjoon, I knew you shouldn’t’ve had so much to drink. Fuck, I’m gonna get some water, hang on, I’ll be back in a minute-”
Namjoon doesn’t wait. He just throws the lock on the door, so if he dies, they don’t have to break it down to retrieve his body. His limbs sort of settle and his head ends up on the floor and his eyes are closing because his brain can’t seem to handle anything anymore and-
He didn’t really mean to do it, the first time.
The idea had just been there, and so had the means to carry it out.
It had been a lot messier than he expected. It had hurt a lot more than he expected.
And then afterwards, inexplicably, everything hurt less, and that was enough for him to do it again.
And over and over and over again.
Namjoon wakes up in his own bed.
His first response is a rush of disappointment. Disappointment about what, he can’t really puzzle out, but the feeling is there, and it sinks deep into the marrow of his bones.
His phone is fully charged and resting on his bedside table, which is a miracle in and of itself, and he checks the clock to find it’s only seven in the morning. Seokjin should be awake by now, if he stayed the night, and judging by the abnormal cleanliness of Namjoon’s bedroom, Seokjin was there and had taken advantage of the fact that Namjoon was unconscious to tidy up.
He wants to just sit in his bed forever, and maybe suffocate a little amongst the pillows, but he can smell coffee in the kitchen and he hasn’t taken a shower since yesterday. The dull headache thumping in the back of his skull keeps time with the throb of his stomach, reminding him that he didn’t eat dinner the night before.
It still takes a good half hour for him to muster up the strength to slide out from under his blankets.
Namjoon takes care of the shower first. He locks the door, strips with efficiency, does not look in the mirror as he climbs into the shower, scrubs his body frantically under the scalding hot water, towels off, does not look in the mirror as he dresses again.
When he finally shuffles into the living room, he can see Yoongi nursing a cup of coffee at the dining room table, which is never a good sign at such an early hour. Namjoon greets him with a grunt of acknowledgement and sets about pouring his own cup.
Seokjin comes into the room with a bottle of aspirin in hand and a cautious smile on his face.
“Here, Joon-ah,” he says, passing Namjoon the bottle. “I’m sure your head hurts. Take two, but with a full glass of water, okay? And eat something, too. Not just coffee.”
Namjoon mumbles his thanks and takes a seat at the table, deciding to just get it over with and rip the bandage off. He knows by the way Yoongi is frowning at him that he won’t have to wait long.
“Hoseok called and we came over to his apartment to find him dragging your unconscious ass out of the bathroom.” Yoongi starts in. “Namjoon. You passed out, Namjoon. In Hoseok’s bathroom.”
Namjoon hangs his head low over his coffee. It’s lukewarm at best and he doesn’t quite know what to do about that. There’s that fogginess in his brain again, that heaviness to his bones.
“He didn’t say anything. Said it wasn’t his place. But really, Namjoon? What were you thinking? You can be a fucking idiot sometimes and-”
“Yoongi,” Seokjin cuts in sharply. “C'mon. Don’t.”
Yoongi doesn’t continue, just sits back against his chair. Crosses his legs. Frowns some more at Namjoon.
“We were worried you had alcohol poisoning or something,” Seokjin says after it’s clear Yoongi won’t start yelling. “You scared us, Joonie. Please don’t do that again.”
“Always scaring us with shit,” Yoongi interjects, and it’s an accusation that Namjoon knows he deserves. “You’re always fine for a few weeks and then you decide to go bat shit and we end up ripping our hair out ‘cause you’ll never tell us what’s actually wrong.”
“I don’t mean to,” Namjoon tries to reason. He adds on for good measure, “I’m sorry.”
“You and your apologies,” Yoongi rolls his eyes. “You don’t have to apologize, just don’t do it again. We worry. Okay? Yeah. Okay. Good.”
He shoves himself up from the table and pauses before reaching over and squeezing Namjoon’s shoulder. Seokjin hides a smile at Namjoon’s bewildered expression.
“M’going the fuck back to bed. You two are freaks for waking up so early, christ’s sake.” His disgruntled mumbles follow him back to his bedroom, leaving Namjoon and Seokjin still at the table.
“Are you okay?” Seokjin finally asks.
“Okay,” Namjoon bobs his head once. Seokjin smiles with something like relief and maybe something like pity.
Namjoon looks back down at his coffee and wonders if there will ever be a day he’ll be able to answer that question with something other than a lie.
Hoseok comes over to the apartment in the evening, remarkably subdued and nervous to the point where Yoongi snaps at him.
“Calm the fuck down, Hoseok. You’re making me jumpy, and it’s pissing me off,” Yoongi snarls after Hoseok stumbles and trips over the rug, only to fall into Yoongi’s lap. Yoongi shoves him off and unceremoniously onto the floor, where Hoseok just stays, lying on his back with a distant glaze to his eyes.
“Sorry,” he says with a pitiful sigh. Yoongi regards him for a minute before offering him a hand and pulling him back to his feet. Hoseok shifts from one foot to another, looking uncomfortable under the gaze of the other two people in the room.
“Hey, Joonie,” Hoseok’s voice cracks. He doesn’t look at Namjoon when he speaks. “Can I talk to you, in your room?”
Namjoon blinks once, twice.
“Sure,” he says. They stand up and make their way out of the living room, Hoseok trailing behind like he’s not entirely sure he’s welcomed. Namjoon hears Yoongi say something as they leave, something that sounds a lot like, “christ almighty,” but he ignores it in favor of turning into his bedroom and dropping down to sit on the bed.
“I’m so sorry, Namjoon,” Hoseok is breathless as soon as the door shuts, his words tripping over themselves in an attempt to escape his mouth. “God, I’m sorry, last night was, was- I was over the line, you didn’t know what you were doing, and I took advantage of that, and-”
“Hoseok,” Namjoon tugs him down to sit next to him on the bed. “It’s fine. You didn’t do anything that I didn’t want you to do. I would do it again. I know I was drunk, but- I’d do it again.”
“I’m- you would?” Hoseok asks tentatively. Namjoon nods. “Oh. Oh,” Hoseok breathes faintly. He studies the floor with a furrowed brow.
“I wanted it, Hoseok, all of it. And god, I should apologize to you, I fucking passed out, and I put all that shit on you, and,” Namjoon pauses to take a breath. “I’m sorry, too.”
“Don’t apologize for that.” The words sound rote in Hoseok’s voice. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Still,” Namjoon persists. “Sorry.”
They sit there together, looking at anything but each other. Hoseok speaks up first.
“W-what about what you said?” Hoseok asks, chewing on his lip. Namjoon shivers involuntarily.
Namjoon is a liar. It’s the only thing he’s ever been good at.
“What did I say? I don’t really remember everything that happened,” Namjoon bites his lip, hating the faux sheepish tone to his voice. “I really only remember the- the kissing.” A flicker of misery passes over Hoseok’s face, but is gone in the next moment.
“You don’t remember?” Hoseok asks stiffly.
“No,” Namjoon lies through his teeth and the hate bubbles up and he can taste it, thick and viscous, on his tongue. “Just, forget what I said. I was pretty drunk, after all. It’s fine, Hoseok. I’m fine.”
He busies himself with studying his hands curled up in his lap to avoid seeing the look on Hoseok’s face. He doesn’t want to see the relief, the gratitude.
“It’s fine,” Hoseok repeats, and his voice sounds off, sounds hollow. Namjoon imagines it almost sounds bitter. “Yeah. You’re right. Fine.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says, just for the sake of saying something. “Okay. Are we? Okay, I mean?”
“Namjoon-ah,” Hoseok’s smile is back and Namjoon tells himself that it’s not forced. “You and I? We’re always okay.”
Sometimes, Namjoon feels bound to the secrets he keeps. Secrets like Hoseok. Secrets like kissing. Secrets like locking the bathroom door at four in the morning and pressing his lips together to keep the keening and the whimpers from coming out.
He wears layers and layers of clothing on the hottest days, striving to cover every inch of incriminating skin, effectively cocooning himself in those secrets.
He’s never really considered letting them go. If anything, they chain him down, wrap their hands around his neck, shove their fingers down his throat. He doesn’t know what he would do or who he would be without these secrets to fall back on.
So Namjoon doesn’t think too hard about it. If he starts to think about it, his head starts to pound, and then his heart, and then his limbs begin to ache and to sting.
He’s feeling more and more like a shadow, observing the half-life he’s living, but never really participating or acting it out.
Namjoon doesn’t think about it; he doesn’t talk about it. He’s too afraid to.
Fear is one of the few things his parents instilled in him. He clings to it like a life raft in a storm that never subsides.
In the end, it happens because Namjoon is careless. It’s another heat wave, and the air conditioning is busted in their apartment, and no one is home, and he’s already calculated the exact amount of time it takes to sprint back to his room to change clothes the moment he can hear the click of keys in the lock on the front door.
He’s sprawled out on the couch, thankful that they can’t afford a leather one, in the only pair of shorts he’s kept over the years and a loose t-shirt that he’ll only wear as a bottom layer on chilly days.
He isn’t doing much, just trying to will his body not to melt into a little pathetic puddle. The television is on, but he has it muted. Namjoon thinks he could sleep, if the temperature could just drop a few degrees, but the weather is stubborn, and Namjoon’s body is stubborn, and neither offers to budge.
Yoongi’s door is closed, his car gone. The apartment is silent save for the feeble whirr of the tiny fan installed on the coffee table, and Namjoon is safe, Namjoon is in the clear, there is a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie laid out on his bed for when Yoongi inevitably comes home, but that won’t be for a while, and Namjoon can finally relax. He can finally breathe.
Namjoon can breathe, until there’s a rustling sound in Yoongi’s room. The sound of the door scraping open, and Namjoon is shooting upright, searching frantically for something to cover, something to hide, but there are no blankets tossed over the back of the couch, no throw pillows shoved into the creases; nothing.
A bleary-eyed Seokjin walks in on his hysterical movements, as he tries to position himself in a way that reveals the absolute bare minimum. Seokjin doesn’t seem to notice anything strange as he shuffles towards the couch and stifles a yawn.
“Hey, Joonie,” he offers as he draws closer. “I was up all night writing a paper, and I must’ve fallen asleep here. Yoongi’s in class, I guess. God, it’s hot, huh, Namjoon-ah?”
“Yeah,” Namjoon manages. “Really hot.”
He cringes when Seokjin plops down next to him on the coach, subtly scooting as far as he can to the other end. (his thighs his thighs his thighs the goddamn shorts don’t cover enough).
“Why is there no sound on the TV?” Seokjin asks, bewildered, as he looks around for the remote. It’s clutched in Namjoon’s sweaty, sweaty hand. Seokjin reaches for it imploringly.
It’s like watching the exaggerated expressions in a silent film. Seokjin cocks his head slightly when Namjoon isn’t forthcoming, and his eyes drift down to his death grip on the remote. The upturn of Namjoon’s thin wrist and forearm. The blue, staggering veins. The pale, pale skin. The scars the scars the scars.
Seokjin can’t seem to control the way his eyes widen, how they dart to Namjoon’s other forearm, also turned up, in something like defeat. They follow the gruesome path up and down Namjoon’s arms, then to the flesh of his thighs, where more lines peek out.
The problem is they don’t look old. The most recent aren’t old at all, if Namjoon remembers correctly (that’s a lie, a complete lie, he remembers the exact date and time, he remembers where Yoongi and Seokjin had been, namely, not there, and he remembers the smell of pennies and how terrified he’d been that he had stained one of the hand towels).
He feels like an open wound, gaping and bloody. A carcass left at the side of the road for the buzzards. He doesn’t realize that he’s shaking until Seokjin reaches out a hand and folds it over Namjoon’s empty one.
“Namjoon,” Seokjin is whispering. Namjoon’s eyes are caught on the wrinkled collar of Seokjin’s shirt. “Oh, oh, Namjoon.”
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon is a car spinning out of control, hurtling off the road and into a ditch. “I’m so sorry, Seokjin, I’m- I don’t know, fuck, I-”
Seokjin’s eyes are huge and filled with something akin to horror.
“It’s- you’re okay, Namjoon,” Seokjin says desperately, and that’s a flat out lie, and Namjoon knows it and Seokjin knows it but he’s still repeating it, and his hand is enveloping Namjoon’s, and the contact that should be comforting is really, really not.
“I… don’t think I am, Jin,” He’s trying to be rational. He doesn’t think it’s working.
“No, of course you’re not, that’s- that’s not what I meant, I’m sorry, Joonie, I’m so sorry.”
Namjoon finds himself sinking, sinking below the surface.
“Seokjin, I don’t really- please don’t make me-”
“Oh, Namjoon,” Seokjin says again, shakier this time. He has Namjoon’s hand in a tense grip. “I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to, okay?”
“Are you gonna tell Yoongi?” Namjoon has to ask.
“Do…do you want me to tell Yoongi?”
“I don’t want this to become a secret between you and him. Secrets aren’t good.” Seokjin stares at Namjoon with heartbreak written plainly across his face, then looks away and chews on his lip.
“Maybe we could talk about it, then, all three of us? Do you want to do that, Joonie?”
Namjoon remembers last year when two drunk third years followed Seokjin into the bathroom of the club and beat the living shit out of him, all the while spitting slurs and filth. He remembers how Yoongi drove them home from the hospital that night and how the moment the door to the apartment swung closed, Yoongi had promptly put his fist through the wall.
He shakes his head. No, he definitely does not want to be there when Yoongi finds out. Seokjin nods and nods and slowly his face begins to crumble.
“I-I don’t know what to say, Joonie,” he confesses, running a gentle hand through Namjoon’s hair. “I’ve never- I mean, Yoongi was- but not like this, it was never like this…”
Namjoon can feel the shuddering breaths Seokjin is attempting to take, and he wonders why Seokjin is crying but he isn’t.
“Namjoon. Tell me what to do. Tell me how I can help you,” Seokjin’s hand trails down to the nape of Namjoon’s neck, stroking small circles.
“Just,” Namjoon hands him the television remote. “Just stay, Jin. Please.”
“Of course,” Seokjin murmurs. He’s tugging Namjoon down so that his head is nestled in his lap, his fingers returning to Namjoon’s hair. “Of course. You’re tired, yeah? Why don’t you sleep? I’ll be here when you wake up, I promise.”
It’s true, Namjoon does feel tired. Incredibly, bone-deep tired.
He shuts his eyes and the world drops away.
The fierce whispering echoing in the apartment is enough to wake Namjoon up a few hours later. He keeps his eyes squeezed shut, terrified that he’ll open them and someone will be there watching him, and will demand answers that he can’t give.
“What the fuck does that mean?” A low voice is hissing, and now Namjoon knows Yoongi is home and it makes him want to sink down further into the cushions of the couch.
“I mean, they’re all over his wrists, and his forearms, and his thighs, god, Yoongi, his thighs-” Seokjin’s voice is rougher than normal, from crying or from sleep.
“Namjoon- Namjoon doesn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that. He’s not fucking suicidal, I would know, Jin, I would fucking know.”
“It doesn’t necessarily mean- that. Or maybe it could. We, we didn’t talk about it much. He seemed really… out of it. I don’t think he wanted to talk about it, so I just let him sleep.”
It’s quiet now, and Namjoon opens his eyes a fraction to see Yoongi and Seokjin in the kitchen, Seokjin wrapped tightly in Yoongi’s arms.
“What do we do? God, Yoongi, what do we do?” Seokjin’s voice is muffled and quiet.
Namjoon turns his back to them and curls up in a ball, willing himself to fall asleep before he can hear Yoongi’s answer.
There’s nothing for a whole day. Seokjin makes him coffee in the morning, his eyes huge and red, and he stares at Namjoon when he thinks Namjoon isn’t looking.
Yoongi is a gale force wind, slamming doors and gritting his teeth and running aggravated hands through his hair, over and over.
It scares Namjoon, who’s only seen Yoongi like this a handful of occasions, and this time it’s worse, because Namjoon knows it’s all because of him.
He spends the day huddled up in his bedroom, leaving only to use the bathroom (and even then Seokjin will spontaneously appear, as if to monitor the amount of time Namjoon spends gripping the edges of the counter and looking down into the sink).
Then evening comes and Namjoon’s lying aimlessly in bed when there’s a slow knock on his door. He pulls his face away from his pillow to call out, “Come in,” watching as Yoongi pushes the door open, shoving aside the dirty clothes that have since accumulated all over the bedroom floor.
“Hey,” Yoongi sounds gruff and purposeful. “Joon-ah. You got a minute?”
Namjoon shifts so that he’s fully upright against his pillows, clasps his hands tightly in his lap. Yoongi comes over to take a tentative seat on the edge of the bed, nudging Namjoon’s thighs to make more room. It reminds Namjoon a lot of dramas where the father would come to give the son a pep-talk and sit exactly as Yoongi was. Somehow, though, Namjoon has a feeling this isn’t just going to be a pat on the head and a few words of encouragement.
“You know,” Yoongi murmurs, slow and smooth. “When I met you, back in high school, I knew that you were a real bright kid, Joon-ah. You were just, so eager to learn and to explore, and we knew, Seokjin and I, that you’d have a bright future. Shit, Namjoon, everyone knew that. Well. I guess- maybe not everyone.”
Yoongi shifts on the bed. Namjoon tries to dig his fingernails into the flesh of his palms, but remembers belatedly that he’d cut them extra short a few days ago. He has to consciously loosen his grip.
“Remember the summer Seokjin and I tried to teach you how to drive? God, you were hopeless, Namjoon. It’s one of the few things you just couldn’t get the hang of, and jesus, the way we teased you, we were terrible about it. Fucking merciless. But your dad told you to learn how to drive, and by god, you were going to do it.”
Yoongi sniffs and rubs his nose into his elbow.
“Fuck, when you failed the test, Namjoon, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell you how sorry I am for the way we had treated you. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for being such an asshole, for not seeing- Because, christ, Namjoon, you didn’t deserve what they did to you. You didn’t deserve any of it, you hear me? You were just a kid. Still are. But- goddamn. I wanted to kill them, Namjoon. I wanted to wring their goddamn necks.”
“Yoongi…” Namjoon doesn’t know how much more of this he can take. He’s starting to sweat a little, the blankets on top of him heavier than ever.
“Yeah, I know, Joonie, there is a point to all this.” Yoongi is looking straight at Namjoon now, holding his gaze. “You know I would never let anyone hurt you. Leaving for college, leaving you alone with them, I still regret that. Even letting Hoseok near you was touch and go for a while in the beginning. I said I was gonna protect you and I’ve tried, but shit, Namjoon, how am I supposed to do that when the one hurting you is you?”
The silence that follows blankets the entire room. Namjoon chokes on it.
“I’m sorry,” is all he can bring himself to say. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry-”
“No, don’t- apologize for something like that, Namjoon. You’re always goddamn apologizing and none of this shit is your fault. I’m sorry that- that however we treat you, you always feel like it is. I don’t blame you for any of it, no one does. So. Please. Don’t.”
Neither of them speak for a couple of minutes. Namjoon feels like there are fingers prying into his skin, digging into his seams to open him up and lay him bare.
“Listen, we don’t have to talk now, but when you want to, I’m here, Joonie, you know? Me and Jin, we love you and we’re gonna take care of you, and-”
“I’m gay,” Namjoon blurts out. “I’m gay, Yoongi, Y-Yoongi-”
Namjoon’s forgotten what it feels like to cry like this. It burns, truthfully, and he’s embarrassed by the borderline mortified look on Yoongi’s face, but he can’t stop the steady flow of tears rushing down his cheeks.
“Oh, god, Namjoon,” Yoongi looks around frantically, dives for the tissue box on Namjoon’s desk, forces it onto Namjoon’s lap. Rubs a stilted circular pattern on the top of Namjoon’s thigh, freezes for a beat too long, moves his hand down to rub at his knee.
“I’m gay and I’m f-fucked up, and Yoongi, Yoongi, I don’t think I can do this anymore-”
“Namjoon. I know that your mom and dad, they fed you a lot of shit over the years,” Yoongi’s tone turns savage. “Treated you like absolute shit, too. But they were wrong, Joonie. It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to, to be gay, fuck, Namjoon, look at Jin and I- we’re doing all right, aren’t we? And I know it’s hard to let go, and it’s hard to move on, but Jin and Hoseok and I, we’re gonna be there every single step of the way, okay?”
“Hoseok,” Namjoon echoes. “But- I kissed Hoseok,” he whispers, because tonight seems like one for the truth, and Namjoon’s got a lot of those that’s been tearing him up from the inside out.
“You- you didn’t,” There’s horror in Yoongi’s voice and Namjoon begins to cry again. “Oh shit, no, I’m not mad, I promise I’m not mad at you, Joonie, Joonie.”
This time Yoongi clambers over Namjoon’s legs and tucks himself between Namjoon and the wall. He wraps an arm around Namjoon’s shoulders and tugs him down gently. Namjoon twists his fingers in the thin fabric of Yoongi’s sweater and breathes in the sweet smell of home on Yoongi’s skin.
“I’m scared, Yoongi. I’m so scared. And I think I-” Namjoon chokes out. He can’t finish. He lets the words splatter and spill onto his lap.
“It’s all right,” Yoongi sighs into his hair. “It’s all right to be afraid, Joonie. Just know that you won’t be alone. We’ll all be there for you. We’re not mad at you and we don’t blame you for any of this. Okay?"
“You’ll help me?” Namjoon asks.
He isn’t sure he wants to stop.
“Of course, Joonie,” Yoongi murmurs. “Always.”
Namjoon first met Hoseok at a bar.
It was his first year of college, and he was freshly out of that house and into the dorms and it felt like Yoongi and Seokjin were trying to train him to take things for himself, to say “this is okay, and I deserve good things”.
It was a long process, and he wasn’t making much progress.
On weekends Yoongi would let Namjoon study up to a certain point, and then take him out to the city. It wasn’t that fun for Namjoon, truthfully. He couldn’t see the appeal, and since he didn’t drink and was too anxious to talk to girls or to even think about looking at a boy, there wasn’t much for him to do.
That night they had a purpose, and it was to meet Yoongi and Seokjin’s friend Hoseok. Namjoon wasn’t too thrilled about the prospect. He didn’t make friends easily, and he doubted that was going to change just because this guy was one of Yoongi’s closest friends.
The bar was loud and dark and filled with older kids and Namjoon tasted grit on his tongue and felt goosebumps on the back of his neck. Yoongi sat him down in a chair and then he and Seokjin had left him there, because they were off getting drinks, or something, and Namjoon couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t take a proper breath.
He escaped to the bathroom after a full minute of waiting, twitching and sinking his nails into the soft flesh of his inner arm. The bathroom smelled like bleach and that was doing absolutely nothing to calm him down. If anything, the breaths were being wrenched out of his throat now; he was choking on his tongue. There were guys stumbling in and out and none of them spared him a single glance.
He curled his hands over the edges of the sink, ignoring the dirt and the grime and the overwhelming smell of chemicals and alcohol in favor of cold porcelain. The mirror was right there, right there and if he was going to stay there any longer he’d have to look, he’d have to-
And then there was a hand smoothing over his back and a soothing voice and it was something to latch on to, a lifeline thrown for Namjoon to grapple and fumble with.
“Hey, man, are you okay? You look like you’re, um, about to puke.”
“Fine. M’Fine,” Namjoon knew he was not. At this point, Yoongi and Seokjin were probably looking for him, and he was there in a dingy bathroom, trying desperately not to look at himself in the dingy mirror.
“Yeah, you’re really not. Let’s, uh, let’s get you outside. Get some fresh air? I promise I’m just gonna take you out front, I’m not gonna- do anything. Let me just walk you outside.”
Namjoon stumbles alongside the stranger, and at this point he didn’t even care if he was about to be mugged in the street and left for dead. He latched on to the notion of fresh air, and that was enough to risk the imminent murder of his sorry self.
Distantly he heard the stranger mention calling his friends, and the still sane part of Namjoon thought, oh, great, he and his friends are gonna beat my ass in an alleyway and I’m going to have to haunt Yoongi for getting me into this shit-
But then they were outside and Namjoon was sitting down heavily on the admittedly disgusting curb and he heard what sounded like Seokjin but what also could have been wishful thinking.
It turned out that the guy was not a stranger preying on Namjoon, but instead Hoseok, golden-hearted Hoseok, who was pleasantly surprised when his friends recognized and fretted over the poor son of a bitch he had dragged out of the bar.
It was an auspicious start to their friendship.
And as Namjoon and Hoseok grew closer, Yoongi became visibly more and more apprehensive.
“Be careful, Joonie,” Yoongi would say on late nights when Namjoon’s smile was less forced and more natural. “He’s my friend, and he’s a good kid, but sometimes- sometimes…”
And Namjoon would understand exactly what Yoongi meant. Hoseok’s gravity was deadly, his pull irresistible and magnetic and all-encompassing. It was easy to see why so many people loved him, but it was never clear to Namjoon why Hoseok even stuck around him.
Hoseok, who thrives with the push and pull of a crowd against his back, who was born for an audience to entertain, conditioned for confidence and self-love his whole life. Namjoon, who can’t make a single phone call without the thrill of trepidation, who leaves his apartment only when prompted by his friends, who was always told he could never be destined for anything or anyone.
It shouldn’t work, Namjoon knows this, can feel the wrongness down to his fucking core, but somehow, somehow it does.
So he’s wary of any changes made to the tenuous relationship they have, any changes that might involve kissing, or soft gazes, or easy caresses.
But the changes have already begun, and they’ll have to address it at one point or another, and Namjoon both dreads it and yearns for the balance.
He wants one less uncertainty in his life. He wants one more good thing to add to his short list. He wants safety, and happiness, and a way to fight the way he always feels. He wants Hoseok.
It seems like the entire apartment is holding its breath these days.
Namjoon gets the sense that Yoongi and Seokjin are watching and waiting, all sharp eyes and hushed conversations behind closed doors. Hoseok, on the other hand, seems oblivious as far as Namjoon can tell, and for that, he’s grateful.
Namjoon doesn’t even know what they’re waiting for.
And then one night, he finds out.
They still haven’t really talked about anything, and Namjoon doesn’t know if he’s safe or if he’s just stalling the inevitable. It’s a week since the night he cried himself to sleep in Yoongi’s arms, and for reasons unknown to Namjoon, Yoongi’s attitude has only changed towards Hoseok.
It baffles Namjoon, and Hoseok as well, who is suddenly given Yoongi’s version of the cold shoulder, which is more like being lost in an arctic storm with no food and no shelter.
Even Seokjin acknowledges the brutality of Hoseok’s fall from Yoongi’s good graces, although he seems to know more of the reason behind why it’s happening.
“Yoongi has his reasons, Joonie,” Seokjin says sagely. “He’ll come around, he always does.”
But the days pass and a sneer is still slashed across Yoongi’s face whenever he looks at Hoseok, whenever Hoseok tries to speak, and it drives Namjoon up the wall. He spends most of his time at the library, tired of shuffling between Hoseok’s apartment and his own, because Hoseok refuses to visit for fear of encountering Yoongi, and Yoongi seems to want to keep it that way.
Namjoon’s just gotten back to the apartment from hours spent pouring over his semantics paper when his phone rings. He shrugs it up to his ear, not bothering to look at the caller ID, which is his first mistake, because both Seokjin and Yoongi are watching television in the living room, and the only other person he cares to answer on the phone is Hoseok, who almost always prefers to text.
So when he mumbles ‘hello’ into the phone he doesn’t expect the curt voice of his mother answering.
“Namjoon?” The sound of her voice is like falling through cold, dense air, like shoving fingers into sockets and heads underwater. “Namjoon, is that you? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
“Y-yes mother, it’s me,” He curses himself for stuttering already, all the while trying to keep his voice down, because the last thing he needs is Yoongi listening in on this conversation.
“How are your classes, Namjoon? Are you getting good grades?” Namjoon barely fumbles out an affirmative before she speaks again. “Namjoon, your father and I were talking, and although we know you enjoy your linguistics studies, we think it’s best if you go ahead with changing your major to business and begin interning with your father over the summer.”
“Mother-” He’s too loud; another mistake. He bites his tongue as Yoongi’s head whips around, eyes unforgiving, a vindictive set to his mouth.
“Your father is very anxious that you get experience and working with him will provide the best outcome, and will have the best effect on your future. You know what you need to do, right? Speak with your counselor, it’s not too late in the year, and devise some new schedules.”
“The simple truth is, Namjoon, linguistics isn’t going to get you a lucrative job in the future. We’ve spoken about this before, yes?”
“But, you said, if I didn’t do literature, I could do linguistics…” Namjoon mumbles, feeling a small spike of bravery and petulance. His mother huffs over the line.
“Namjoon, we are paying for your education. This is our investment just as much as it is yours, and your father and I have agreed on this as the best course of action. Now, listen, Namjoon-”
It’s at this point that Namjoon stops listening. He hears his mother’s voice distantly, as though she’s shouting at him from the other end of a long tunnel.
The call ends without Namjoon even really noticing. He just leans back against the wall in the hallway, covers his mouth, and tries not to cry.
Yoongi appears almost immediately in the hallway, his eyes black as pitch and his expression sour.
“What’d the bi- what did she want?”
Namjoon tells him. The words quaver and shake as they make their way out of his mouth.
“Fucking-” Yoongi visibly holds his tongue. “Come and sit down. We’ll talk about this.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon drifts over to the couch. As he sits down, he brushes his knuckles over the fabric of his jeans, back and forth. There’s that itch again, that phantom yearning, shoving it’s way into Namjoon’s limbs. Seokjin, settled in the armchair across from him, clears his throat.
“Look,” Yoongi licks his lips as he tries to get his bearings. “Look, Namjoon, you can’t-”
“I can,” Namjoon counters. “I have to.”
“No, you don’t, Namjoon. She doesn’t own you. You’re out of that goddamn house, you never have to listen to them again.”
“Yoongi’s right, Joonie. I know it’s hard, but if you give in, you’ll never be happy-”
“I’m not happy anyways!” Namjoon startles Yoongi and Seokjin with the sudden volume in his voice. He has to forcibly lower it when he next speaks. “I’m not fucking happy, but, but if I do this, it’ll get my parents off my fucking back, and that’s a good enough reason for me to do it.”
Namjoon stares down at Yoongi and Seokjin’s stunned faces, not really registering the click of the front door opening and the rush of warm air and a sweet saccharine smell following Hoseok into the apartment.
He distantly remembers Hoseok offering to come over earlier that day, and Hoseok’s tentative text of Yoongi’s going to be in the studio all day today, right?
Hoseok’s humming distractedly as he comes into the tense living room, pausing in the doorway and locking eyes with Yoongi first. Yoongi, already furious, allows his frown to curl up into a snarl.
“Seokie,” Seokjin says tentatively. “You’re here.”
“Uh,” Hoseok’s gaze darts around the room. “Yeah. Sorry, is this a bad time?”
“Yes,” Yoongi says immediately. “We’re in the middle of something. Fuck off.”
Hoseok bristles at this, turning on Yoongi.
“No,” Hoseok retorts testily, standing his ground. “C’mon, tell me what happened, I can help.”
“We don’t have time for you, Hoseok,” Yoongi cuts him off. He wears an expression identical to the one he wore when Namjoon was speaking to his mother. “Funnily enough, people have shit to deal with that doesn’t involve you. Why don’t you try imagining things as if you weren’t the center of the entire fucking universe, hm?”
“Ok, fuck you, Yoongi,” Hoseok spits back. “You’ve been such a dick to me these past few days, and I don’t even know what I did wrong-”
“There it is again, goddamn, everything is about you, isn’t it, Seokie-”
“Shit, just tell me what I did wrong, that’s all you have to fucking do, Yoongi, and I’ll apologize, but I’m racking my fucking brain and I can’t think of a single thing I fucked up, even Namjoonie doesn’t know-”
“My mother just called,” Namjoon intones, the mention of his name forcing him to interrupt. Everyone swings around to look at him. “They made the decision that I would be better off as a business major after all.”
“You’re- you’re not gonna do it, are you? Namjoon, you love your studies, you’d fucking hate business-” Hoseok’s eyebrows have shot up, all anger at Yoongi seeming to dissipate and be replaced with surprise. He looks around between the three other people in the room. His brow furrows. “Shit. You are, aren’t you. Jesus. Jesus.”
No one speaks as Hoseok starts pacing back and forth on the rug, runs a hand over and over through his hair.
“I can’t believe this. You’ve been here a fucking year and you’ve been fine and one phone call and you’re back as their goddamn punching bag,” The anger is back, and Hoseok is slowly shaking his head in disbelief.
“Hoseok,” Seokjin calls in warning, but it’s too late. Namjoon can feel the resentment and pent-up frustration radiating off of Hoseok. He can tell exactly how far Hoseok is willing to go.
“Shit, you always let your parents, or me, or Yoongi tell you what to do and how to live your life and you let us step all fucking over you, you know that?”
“I- don’t,” Namjoon stutters, trying to get his bearings. “I’m-”
“Don’t you fucking dare say you’re sorry, Namjoon, I swear to god.” Hoseok shouts. He turns on his heel and glares down at Namjoon. Namjoon’s helpless to look anywhere else but up. “It’s- it’s like you just don’t give enough of a shit about your own life, and you just make it so easy for people to treat you like dirt! God, Namjoon, grow a fucking spine.”
Yoongi’s on his feet in a second and Seokjin’s mouth has fallen permanently open. Namjoon can’t do anything but sit and watch with huge eyes as Yoongi advances on Hoseok, backing him up against the wall and prodding a finger into the center of his chest.
“You don’t get to say that shit to him, Hoseok. Get out. Go, get out, and cool down and when you’re done with that you can go fuck yourself, okay?"
Hoseok’s ashen face is the opposite of Yoongi’s flushed cheeks.
“Hoseok,” Seokjin is steely and cold, standing up behind Yoongi. “I think you should leave.”
Namjoon notes with bewilderment that he has begun to cry, silent, thick tears. Hoseok notices; so do Yoongi and Seokjin.
“Jesus,” Hoseok whispers, more to himself than anything. “Jesus.”
The door clicks with a note of finality when Hoseok stumbles out. Namjoon tries to hastily tuck his face in his chest, but Seokjin is sliding to his knees in front of him, thumbing over Namjoon’s wet cheeks, and it’s such a motherly gesture that it makes Namjoon’s heart ache even more.
“Hoseokie’s wrong, Joonie,” Seokjin murmurs in a rush. “You’re not a pushover, you’re a victim, and you’re hurting, and that isn’t going to change overnight, no matter how much we’d like it to. But you’re so brave, Joonie, so brave and so good, and Hoseok didn’t mean it, I know he didn’t.”
“He didn’t mean it,” Namjoon repeats. It’s a question the second time. “He didn’t mean it?"
Yoongi curses violently, and Namjoon flinches. Namjoon cowers.
“Oh, god, I’m sorry,” Yoongi slides a hand into his hair and yanks. “’M sorry, Joon-ah. I’m gonna…”
He stalks off into his bedroom, making to slam the door, but catching himself at the last minute. Seokjin sighs as the door shuts, still kneeling in front of Namjoon.
“You should check if he’s okay,” Namjoon whispers. Seokjin lets out a laugh that’s bordering on a sob.
“Our Joonie,” he marvels, getting to his feet and smoothing a hand over Namjoon’s hair. “You’re right. I’ll be right back. I’ll calm him down, and then I’ll make you dinner and a hot drink, how does that sound?"
“Thanks Jin,” Namjoon mumbles. “Love you too.”
Later, when Seokjin is stirring hot chocolate over the stove and Namjoon’s been bundled up in quilts on the couch, fighting sleep, he overhears Yoongi fuming over the dirty dishes in the sink.
“I’m gonna kill that kid when I see him next. The fuck does he think he is? Fucking around with Namjoon, telling us he’s in love with Joon-ah, what bullshit, if he really loved Namjoon he wouldn’t have said that shit to him. ’M gonna kill him, Jinnie.”
“You’re not going to kill Hoseok, Yoongi,” Seokjin sighs as he pours out three mugs. Yoongi continues grumbling as he picks up the mug and carries it out to the living room and sets it down on the coffee table in front of Namjoon.
He must think Namjoon is asleep, because he leans down and tenderly brushes Namjoon’s hair behind his ear.
“Joonie,” Yoongi hums in the back of his throat. He sounds tragic; he sounds resigned. “Of all the boys to fall in love with, huh. Of all the boys, you had to pick Hoseok.”
Namjoon finds himself remembering how incredibly lonely life had been before Hoseok. Even though he had had Yoongi and Seokjin, there was still that ache. (And he knows why, knows exactly why, because when Yoongi would look at Seokjin, it was as if the entire world stopped existing around them, and Namjoon couldn’t handle it, doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to).
So as Namjoon returns to classes, wearing layers upon layers because he has this haunting, creeping feeling crawling across his bare skin at all times, he feels even more detached and distant. He keeps misplacing his keys, or his wallet, or wandering into rooms with no clue of why he actually needed to go in.
Economics is bearable at first, because Hoseok simply doesn’t show up. But then it makes Namjoon spend the entire class period wondering and coming up with scenarios in his head of how he could’ve acted differently, and in the end, the class is almost as useless as it would be if he, too, ditched.
He still takes diligent notes. Just in case.
Namjoon spends his nights curled up in the couch in the living area of their apartment, trying to take up the least amount of space he can manage. Seokjin hovers, incessantly, Namjoon feels, and makes too much food for just the three of them every night. Yoongi prickles easily and stays up with Namjoon, even on the really bad nights that have Namjoon caught in a painful, vice-like grip, and have hours pass by in a blink of an eye. More than once, Namjoon simply comes to, finding himself sitting on the couch with Yoongi blinking blearily up at him.
He decides not to tell Yoongi or Seokjin about these lapses in time. He knows he worries them all too much.
The days pass rapidly and at the same time, excruciatingly slow, and soon enough, two weeks go by and he still hasn’t spoken to Hoseok.
Then it’s a bad night. Namjoon’s head feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton and there’s an incessant buzzing thrumming through his body no matter how hard he tries to sit still.
Seokjin’s laughing too loud in the living room as he watches the television and Namjoon escapes to the bathroom to just try to calm down a little bit. Once inside, he runs the tap and splashes water on his face to alleviate the weird flush to his cheeks. He washes his hands with the floral soap that Yoongi refuses to acknowledge how much he loves, scrubbing between his fingers and vigorously rubbing his palms.
He eventually draws blood, the raw skin stinging in a way that suddenly didn’t make him feel any better. The water washes away pink, and god, his hands hurt, and he’s certain in that moment that he doesn’t want to do this to himself anymore.
Seokjin finds him there, slumped against the cabinets in the bathroom, hands shaking and bloody and curled up against his chest.
“Jin, I’m so tired,” Namjoon struggles to speak. Seokjin makes a whimpering noise, and it dawns on Namjoon just how bad this looks. “Oh, god, no, no, not like that, Jin. I’m sorry, I just- I think I need help.”
“Oh, Joonie,” Seokjin breathes, sitting carefully next to him on the floor. “I think it would be a good idea to- to maybe go down to the health center and get an appointment. How does that sound, Namjoon?”
Namjoon is quiet for too long, and Seokjin starts speaking in a hurry again.
“You know, both Yoongi and I have been, and their counseling services are really great, and the nurses are nice and helpful, and the medications are super affordable, and-” Seokjin rambles, stroking the fine hairs on the back of Namjoon’s neck.
“Yeah,” Namjoon says. “Yeah, I’ll go.”
Seokjin beams, body relaxing immediately.
“That’s great Namjoon. I’m so proud of you, Joon, and I love you,” Seokjin reaches for Namjoon’s hand and squeezes hard.
“Will you come with me?” Namjoon rushes the words, shifting around and trying to redistribute the newly lightened weight on his shoulders.
“Of course, Joonie,” Seokjin hums. His eyes are watery, and Namjoon reflects on just how many times he’s made Seokjin cry in the past few months. “Yoongi and I will always be here for you. I promise.”
Namjoon is studying in the library with Yoongi when he sees Hoseok again. It’s awkward and terrible and the moment the two of them make eye contact from across the room, Hoseok’s eyes bulge and he scampers away, leaving Namjoon with strange, hitching breaths, and a sharp pounding on the back from Yoongi, who, thankfully, didn’t see anything.
The feeling of being watched lingers, until finally, Namjoon gets up from the table and heads to the bathroom.
He’s only there for a quick break, and to run his hand and arms underneath ice cold water, to dull the ache and to ground himself. Namjoon’s just finishing up as the door opens behind him and Hoseok slides in, a cautious look on his face as their eyes meet in the mirror.
“Joon-ah,” Hoseok says, voice rough and low, and it’s all Namjoon has wanted to hear for weeks.
“Come to call me pathetic again?” Namjoon asks, surprising himself with the boldness of his retort.
The blood drains from Hoseok’s face, and Namjoon feels a hint of satisfaction at it.
“No, god, I would never…” Hoseok takes a step closer. “You have to know I didn’t mean any of it. I’m so goddamn sorry for what I said, Namjoon, you have to believe me.”
“It takes you two fucking weeks just to say you’re sorry?” Namjoon spits back. He doesn’t know why he’s being so hostile, not when this proximity to Hoseok makes his legs weak and his cheeks hot. Not when he’s drinking in the sight of Hoseok in the flesh like it’s the best thing he’s seen in days.
“You’re right, Joonie,” Hoseok concedes. “I’m the pathetic one, and I’m sorry."
“Apologizing doesn’t fix everything,” Namjoon tells Hoseok. “I trusted you, confided in you, and then you, you turn around and treat me like my parents would. Like I deserve this.”
“Oh, god, no, I don’t think that, I swear to god I don’t, Namjoon,” Hoseok’s face is pale and crestfallen. He looks as though he’s struggling to stand still.
“Call me pathetic,” Namjoon explodes. “Call me a pushover, but don’t you dare tell me that I deserve this, don’t you fucking dare-”
“I was wrong, Joon-ah-” Hoseok manages, but Namjoon cuts him off.
“Because it was never my fucking fault, Hoseok! I didn’t deserve it, I was fucking seven the first time my dad ever hit me, and that became normal and I had no one, absolutely no one at all, to tell me it wasn’t.”
His hands shake as he digs his fists into his eyes, trying to stem the tears before they fall.
“You don’t understand,” Namjoon chokes. “How much I want to be normal. I would love to be able to, to stand up for myself and make decisions and leave my goddamn room every now and then, but whenever I try, my brain and my body just don’t follow through! It’s- my brain, it’s like the alarm is always fucking pulled and I have no idea how to turn it the fuck off."
“J-Joonie,” Hoseok whimpers. “Joonie, please-”
“I want to be happy, Hoseok,” Namjoon stutters out. “I want to be happy, but god, I’m so fucking far away from happiness that it scares the shit out of me.”
Namjoon’s run out of words. He heaves in breath after breath and Hoseok stands in front of him, mouth open and gaping in horror.
Namjoon doesn’t know what else to do. He spins around, just so he doesn’t have to look at Hoseok anymore, and stalks towards the door. His whole body aches and aches.
“Hey,” Hoseok calls to his back, voice hoarse but sure. “Fuck. Hey, Namjoon, wait. Wait-”
“What, Hoseok,” Namjoon bites out. Hoseok’s curled a hand around his wrist, and they both let it stay there for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” Hoseok whispers. “And. And I love you, Namjoon.”
“What the fuck,” Namjoon rips his wrist out of Hoseok’s grip. “What the actual fuck Hoseok? You can’t just say that, not after everything.”
“I’m in love with you,” It sounds like Hoseok is begging. “I’ve loved you for god knows how long, and I hate myself for saying the stupidest shit, I hate myself for not telling you that I love you when I should have, I hate myself for not seeing you and everything you’ve been going through and I’m sorry, I’m so goddamn sorry.”
“You,” Namjoon’s hands are shaking. “You-”
“Me,” Hoseok teases weakly. He slowly smooths his hands over Namjoon’s, trying to still the trembling. “Me. Namjoon. Joonie.”
Namjoon’s breath catches in his throat as Hoseok brushes his thumbs up and up his forearms, but Hoseok doesn’t stop. Just continues with a lilting pattern up and down Namjoon’s skin.
“Jesus, Namjoon, you’re everything. You are everything.”
His fingertips linger on the stitching of scars laced over Namjoon’s forearms, and Namjoon knows Hoseok feels them. Knows in the way Hoseok’s grip tightens, in the way he swallows audibly, in the way the tears prick and gather in the corner of Hoseok’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Hoseok says in a low voice. “I didn’t know what was wrong, and I hate not knowing things, I hate when you guys keep secrets from me. I kind of bullied Jin into telling me, and then I realized it was something I should’ve let you tell me about on your own terms. It’s just, no one would talk to me, and I was frustrated, and when I’m frustrated I get mean, and then he told me, and- I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Namjoon.”
Hoseok sighs and releases Namjoon’s arm. They stand, facing each other, for a minute in silence.
“I’m sorry, and I love you,” Hoseok finishes. “And maybe you don’t believe me, but it’s true.”
Namjoon struggles to find a thought and piece it together. And then, he fumbles out:
“It’s not like- you can’t fix me, Hoseok. You, saying you love me, that doesn’t do anything. You know that, right? I- I have to do this myself.”
“I know that, Joonie,” Hoseok breathes, eyes earnest and so, so beautiful. “I’m just saying… You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
Yoongi sits in the only armchair in their apartment, a broken-down thing that Yoongi still manages to make seem like a throne fit for a king. Seokjin is perched on the arm of the chair, a hand rubbing at the nape of Yoongi’s neck to either placate him or hold him back from lunging at Hoseok and throwing punches.
Namjoon and Hoseok sit on the couch together, an uncomfortable amount of space between their thighs. Namjoon fights the urge to reach out, to touch, but this is new and tenuous and he wants something for himself, to fight for himself, so he claps his own hands tightly in his lap.
Yoongi is speaking quietly, fighting to keep his voice level, the undesignated leader of this family meeting. He’d been courteous the entire time towards Hoseok, his eyes only narrowing once when he saw the way Hoseok trailed in through the front door with his hand pressed against the small of Namjoon’s back.
“A few months ago, Hoseok got drunk off his ass and he told me he liked you,” Yoongi is explaining. “And he was pretty sure that you liked him back, and he was gonna confess. Seokjin and I- we convinced him it was a bad idea.”
Hoseok shuffles his feet and looks down at the floor in embarrassment. Namjoon can see it; the person he had been in the past couple of months would not have responded well to that sort of revelation. But the person he is now is almost just as poorly equipped to deal.
“And, and honestly, Namjoon, I was angry that Hoseok had the fucking audacity to love you that way. I thought he was being selfish, that he was somehow taking advantage of you and your- well.”
“Vulnerability?” Seokjin interjects quietly.
“Yeah. And then you went and fucked it all up.” Yoongi glares at Hoseok, but his gaze doesn’t hold nearly as much vitriol as it had a few weeks ago. “And then you were so sad, Joon, worse than you’ve ever been, and it made me realize… I guess it made me realize just how sad you’ve been this entire time. And we just wanted to fix you, but we never really took into account what you wanted or what you thought. And for that, I’m sorry, Namjoon-ah.”
“Listen. I appreciate the things you guys do for me. You’re my best friends, and I love each of you,” Namjoon speaks clearly, looking them each in the eye. “But you have to understand. I can make my own decisions. I’m an adult, I’m a person, and I’ve spent too much of my life being told what to do and how to do it. I need to start doing things for myself. And I’m grateful for all your help. I just need you to start seeing me as capable, as- as not broken.”
“We will,” Yoongi says firmly. “If we ever get like it was before, if we’re ever overbearing and awful, tell us. We’ll watch each other. You shouldn’t have to put up with that anymore.”
Seokjin nods earnestly, and Hoseok reaches over and snatches Namjoon’s hand, squeezing gently.
“Namjoon. The things I said were awful. The way I treated you was awful. And if you hate me, that’s something I deserve, and you can tell me and I won’t bother you again,” it looks as if this physically pains Hoseok to say. He swallows before continuing. “But if you give me a second chance, I promise I’m gonna try harder. Be better for you. Because you deserve that, Joonie. You deserve the world. And I’m gonna try and give you that, I promise.”
“I don’t hate you, Hoseok,” Namjoon whispers. “How could I? I love you.”
The way Hoseok smiles at that, as if he clutched hope in the palm of his hand, made Namjoon’s heart ache, in the best of ways.
“From now on,” Seokjin says authoritatively from his perch on the chair arm. “We talk to each other, alright? We communicate. We reach out for help if we need it. Cause you all are my best friends, and I couldn’t imagine losing any of you.”
The four of them look around at each other. They’d been friends for years, and now it was time for them to redefine what their friendship was. And Seokjin was right; Namjoon can’t imagine his life without the other three in it. He nods and smiles back at Seokjin.
He’s ready for a new start.
It’s tentative, the way they stitch themselves back together.
It’s a well-meaning Hoseok spouting statements of validation and love.
It’s Yoongi burying his face into his hands silently and Seokjin’s smile faltering all too often into a grimace.
It’s Namjoon walking on glass and Hoseok’s shining eyes watching, so desperate to fix everything that’s broken.
Then most of the anxiety dies down, and Namjoon settles into routine again, but this time, it’s not one that ends with him curled up on the bathroom floor in the early hours of the morning.
He returns to his schoolwork with a vigor that he never even knew he possessed. He can focus more, interact with his peers and his professors, now that his body and mind aren’t so sluggish and heavy and cumbersome.
Namjoon finds himself branching out, distancing himself, just a little, from Yoongi, Seokjin, and Hoseok. He never realized how much he had relied on them to fuel his bad habits, but now that he’s figured it out, Namjoon tries harder and harder to do things by himself, for himself.
It feels inexplicably good, for Namjoon to come home late some nights after study sessions with his peers turn into dinner and hang outs with his friends. Yoongi will greet him and listen patiently as Namjoon giddily spills all the events of the night out, the new things he’d tried, the new friends he’d made.
Sometimes he pushes himself too far, over exerts himself, and ends up cradling his head in a bathroom stall and trying his damndest to blot out the itching, the itching. But then he finds himself bouncing back quicker, more determined and more able to spot the signs of his distress before it overwhelms him.
He waits and waits for a relapse, a desperate scramble to procure a sharp object, a numb and hazy, hate-fueled trip to the corner store to buy a pack of razors; but it doesn’t come. The counselor the school sets him up with tells him his doubts are normal, that he’s making promising progress.
He lets the praise in, adds it as kindle to the growing fire in his chest. The warmth is unlike any he’s ever felt.
Hoseok shows up on Namjoon’s doorstep one night, all dressed up with a bouquet of sunflowers in his hand.
“Hey,” Namjoon greets him at the door. “I didn’t know you were coming over. What’s with the-suit thing?”
Hoseok adjusts the lapels on his nice jacket, and Namjoon takes a moment to appreciate the way it hugs his shoulders and accentuates the neat tuck and taper of his waist. Namjoon shifts in the doorway, self-consciously glancing down at his own ratty black shirt and plaid pajama bottoms.
“I was heading to bed,” Namjoon continues after Hoseok doesn’t say anything. “I didn’t think anyone would be stopping by so…”
“Namjoon,” Hoseok finally speaks. His voice cracks and they both wince.
“Hoseok,” Namjoon answers, bewildered and starting to feel ridiculous, standing in his doorway in his pajamas while a blush creeps up Hoseok’s neck.
“I have a question to ask,” Hoseok says formally after another minute of silence, enunciating carefully. Namjoon’s never seen him this nervous. “I would like to date you, Namjoon, if you would have me.”
They both hear a loud scoff from the living room behind Namjoon’s back, and Yoongi’s derisive voice cackling, “The fuck is this, a romance novel?” followed by Seokjin’s snickering. Hoseok’s face has turned a furious red, and he shuffles on his feet, still holding on to the flowers with a death grip.
Namjoon quickly shuts the door behind him and steps down to stand next to Hoseok. After a few seconds, Hoseok seems to notice the flowers still held in his hands, and thrusts them, instead, at Namjoon. Namjoon takes them by the stems delicately and looks on in wonderment.
“I know you’ve never dated before, let alone a guy, and, well, I know I’ve made my feelings clear, and I totally get it if you wouldn’t want to, but you’re in such a better place now- but of course, I can wait longer, if you’re not ready, or, you know, not bring it up ever again, but I just thought that we could. You know. Try this. As boyfriends.”
Hoseok’s face is shining earnestly as he rambles, and Namjoon decides to put him out of his misery.
“Yes,” he tells Hoseok.
“Yes to- wait, yes to what, Joonie, yes to what?”
“Yes, I will date you.”
“Oh, oh thank god,” Hoseok lets out all his breathe at once and pulls Namjoon into a hug, crushing the flowers between their two chests.
“Were you really worried I would say no?” Namjoon asks amusedly. Hoseok’s natural scent and the perfume of the sunflowers renders Namjoon a bit dizzy.
“Maybe. I dunno,” Hoseok mumbles into his chest. “You’ve never dated anyone before.”
“Only ever wanted you,” Namjoon admits.
“Oh,” Hoseok says, looking up at him with huge, shining eyes. “Oh, holy shit, you’re gonna make me cry. That was fucking smooth, Joonie.”
“What can I say,” Namjoon huffs. He lets his face break out into the grin he’d been trying to hold back for Hoseok’s sake. “Been practicing twenty years for this moment.”
At this, Hoseok wails and buries his face in Namjoon’s neck, beating a fist weakly against Namjoon’s shoulder. The door behind them creeps open and they hear the artificial shutter of a phone camera go off.
“This is so going in the scrapbook,” Yoongi announces.
“How do you feel today?”
“Huh?” Namjoon says distractedly, still pouring over his textbook. He and Hoseok have reinstated their study dates, with final exams coming up soon, and are holed up in the library with snacks and notes spread out over their table.
“I feel like I don’t ask you enough. Or that we never talk about it. I’ve been reading these, um, pamphlets and shit, internet articles about, uh, self-harm,” Hoseok replies. He’s got his hands folded on top of his open textbook, looking abashed but concerned and determined. “And I realize I’m not a great listener, but I want you to know that you can always tell me, you know- if it’s bad.”
Namjoon looks up from his reading with raised eyebrows.
“You’ve been scratching your wrists a lot,” Hoseok murmurs, indicating where with a slight nod of his head. “If you need a break, or want to go home, or to eat or something…”
“Oh,” Namjoon glances down at the mildly aggravated skin. “I didn’t really notice. I guess I’m just stressed.”
“Does it-” Hoseok purses his lips and frowns. “Has it been getting easier?”
“It was for a while. The meds help, and the counseling” Namjoon confesses, tracing patterns with his on his textbook. “Exams just make me really nervous. And scared. I’ve been spaced out this whole semester and I don’t even know anything, and fuck, what if I fail all my exams and all my classes, I’ll have to drop out of school, and my parents- my parents will come down here and they’ll fucking-”
“Holy shit, breathe, Namjoon, breathe,” Hoseok cuts in, just as Namjoon begins to hyperventilate. He blinks back the sudden tears in his eyes, finds himself subconsciously clawing furiously at the tender skin of his forearms, and there’s Hoseok’s voice, as if Namjoon is hearing it from twenty feet below the surface of the ocean.
“Okay, are you-?” Hoseok is wringing his hands and desperately shifting his weight in his chair. “Oh, god, I’m so sorry, Namjoon, Namjoon-ah, listen-”
Namjoon looks on in bewilderment, his tears mirrored in Hoseok’s eyes. The rational part of him thinks they must be quite a sight in the library, two boys breathing heavily and crying and clutching at one another.
Hoseok reaches out tentatively and takes Namjoon’s hands in his, holds them, tight and fast.
“Please, I’m sorry, please calm down, Joonie,” Hoseok pleads. “C’mere, c’mere.”
Hoseok gets up out of his chair, comes around the table, and tugs Namjoon up into a close hug.
“You’re the smartest person I know,” Hoseok murmurs into Namjoon’s neck. “You’re going to do so well on your exams, Joonie. And even if you don’t, you know there’s no way in hell we are letting your parents anywhere near you. You’re safe with us, Namjoon. You’re safe, and they’re not gonna hurt you anymore."
Namjoon hiccups into Hoseok’s skin. Wraps both hands around the anchor that is Hoseok’s voice and tugs, hard.
“Oh, baby, I’ve got you.” Hoseok whispers. “It’ll all be okay.”
“You can’t know that,” Namjoon wheezes. His entire body shivers and Hoseok’s arms wind tighter around him.
“No,” Hoseok admits, quiet and slow. “I can’t know that for sure. But, Namjoon, I’m here, and we’re gonna take it one day at, at a time. And when this is all done, I’ll still be here. And you will too.”
“One day at a time,” Namjoon repeats. Not too long ago that would have been one day too many. But now, as he thinks about it, the concept of surviving another day, of not only surviving, but actually living, doesn’t seem as impossible as it once did.
His relationship with Hoseok is tender and happy, built upon a shaky foundation, but bolstered by the days Hoseok will wait for Namjoon’s class to let out and buy him lunch, or the quiet movie dates Namjoon adores, or the fact that Hoseok doesn’t push anymore, doesn’t demand, doesn’t pressure.
Namjoon and Hoseok are on another movie date, to see some independent film that caught Namjoon’s eye when he read the paper the week before. It’s not Hoseok’s type of movie, but Hoseok had been determined to go see it, had pre-ordered the tickets and everything. It’s strange, Namjoon thinks, trying to balance their relationship, when Hoseok will instantly agree to anything Namjoon wants to do. Even on outings like these, where it’s just a little out of Hoseok’s comfort zone, he’ll set his jaw and smack a kiss on Namjoon’s cheek and drag Namjoon out to go do it.
(It doesn’t escape Namjoon’s notice that they haven’t gone out to a bar or club as the four of them in weeks. The fact makes his stomach bubble and flip).
Hoseok comes back into the theater from the concessions with his arms laden with popcorn and sodas. He settles himself comfortably next to Namjoon in the plush seats, letting his legs fall open naturally so that his bare knee pushes slightly against Namjoon’s. There’s no one else in the theater, which automatically prompts jokes from Hoseok.
“Your weird ass indie film really seems to draw in the crowds,” Hoseok drawls, though the teasing effect is ruined by his loud mouthful of popcorn.
“Shut up,” Namjoon snickers back. “If it’s a ‘weird ass indie film’ then why did you insist on coming? Or are you that whipped for your boyfriend?”
“Whipped?” Hoseok crows, indignant. “Whipped- Joonie, I’ll have you know-”
“Shush,” Namjoons hisses. He slaps a hand over Hoseok’s mouth. “The movie is starting.”
When Hoseok finally calms down, Namjoon withdraws his hand and turn his attention back to the movie screen. Then Hoseok leans over and whisper in his ear.
“I’m worse than whipped, Namjoon. I’m in love,” Hoseok says, and then he lays a kiss on Namjoon’s cheek, just shy of his lips, and that effectively ruins Namjoon’s concentration for the rest of the film.
He thinks the best part is how visceral Hoseok becomes while watching the movie. He jumps at appropriate times, gasps in little endearing huffs, laughs out loud along with the characters on screen. It’s more captivating to watch him than it is to watch anything else, Namjoon thinks.
So Hoseok gets into the movie, and Namjoon, Namjoon gets deep into the study of Hoseok.
And it’s not his fault that the darkness is too hot and a tad suffocating, that Hoseok’s damn knee is still touching his, that Hoseok’s damn hand had fallen to rest so that his fingertips were just grazing the top of Namjoon’s thighs.
Then Hoseok’s hand falls so that the heat of his palm is in contact with Namjoon’s thigh, and Namjoon immediately tenses up.
Hoseok notices, and he makes to withdraw his hand but Namjoon shoots his own hand out and grabs it. He drags it back down onto his thigh. Hoseok is staring hard at him, but Namjoon just gives his hand a little squeeze, and when Hoseok squeezes back, hard, fingers digging into the meat of Namjoon’s thighs through his jeans, Namjoon presses his lips together and whimpers.
All thoughts of the movie have flown out of Namjoon’s head at this point. All he can focus on is the steady creep of Hoseok’s fingers, dipping down into Namjoon’s inner thigh and then sliding up and up.
Namjoon’s half hard, embarrassingly so, by the time Hoseok has trailed his hand up to cup and rub at his crotch. Namjoon’s hands are fisted, arms rigid at his side, and from the corner of his eye he can see Hoseok’s wide, wicked smirk, as he circles his palm and slides his thumb teasingly along the outline of Namjoon’s cock in his pants.
Then Hoseok’s pulling back, and before Namjoon can whine at the loss, he’s cupping Namjoon’s cheek and kissing him. Softly, lovingly, so much so that Namjoon bumps their noses in his haste to get closer, to breathe in more of Hoseok’s heady, indulging scent.
“Easy, Joonie,” Hoseok chuckles under his breath. His hand returns to Namjoon’s cock and Namjoon practically bucks up into the pressure before he can stop himself. Hoseok laughs again, presses kisses down the column of Namjoon’s neck. “Let me take care of you, okay?
“Yeah- please,” Namjoon stutters out. He shudders at the soft graze of Hoseok’s teeth over his jugular.
“I’ve got you, baby,” Hoseok murmurs. He fiddles with the buttons on Namjoon’s jeans, slowly drags down the zipper. Slips a hand inside to grasp Namjoon’s cock through the fabric of his boxers. Finally, blissfully, tugs Namjoon fully out of his pants. “Don’t worry, Joonie. There you go, Joonie, that’s it.”
Namjoon lets a moan escape his throat as Hoseok plays with the head of his cock, collecting the cum there and using it to ease the slide of his hand. He’s sweating and struggling to keep his eyes open, the ambient sounds and the soundtrack to the movie fading out so that all he can concentrate on is Hoseok.
“You look gorgeous, Joon,” Hoseok tells him as he begins to pump his hand in earnest. “Go on, just like that; fuck my fist, baby.”
And Namjoon complies, bucking up with his hips into the tight hold of Hoseok’s perfect, long fingers, trying his hardest to keep his voice down, and failing when Hoseok presses his thumb down, hard, on the head of Namjoon’s cock. The heat from Hoseok’s hand is unbelievable. Arousal furls like smoke through Namjoon’s veins.
He lets out a sharp cry as he comes, hips stuttering and neck strained as he pushes his head back into the seat. Hoseok eases him through it, murmuring soothing praise, a smile on his face.
Namjoon slumps back in the seat as Hoseok gently tucks him back into his jeans. He leans over and kisses Hoseok with all that his body has left to offer.
“Thank you,” he mumbles into Hoseok’s hair. He can feel the vibrations of Hoseok’s laughter and he grins to himself.
“Of course, Joonie,” Hoseok pulls him back to give him another kiss. They’re still giggling when they separate. “Love you, Namjoon.”
Namjoon’s boxers are sticky and it’s a reminder that they just did that in a movie theater, but he feels the quiet hum of Hoseok’s laughter and he can’t find it in himself to care or be embarrassed.
When Namjoon finally focuses back on the movie, he finds that the credits are rolling. He groans.
“What is it, Joon? Are you okay?” Hoseok asks, panicked, hands flying up to find the source of pain. Namjoon catches his hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze.
“No, I’m fine. Great, actually. It’s just- I really wanted to see that movie.”
Hoseok’s laughter follow them out the theater and into the nighttime streets.
After his therapy session Monday afternoon, Yoongi picks him up, steaming take-out bowls of ramen in the backseat, and Yoongi’s favorite “chill driving” playlist filling the car with lax music.
“You’re spoiling me,” Namjoon grins as he eyes the spicy ramen and his favorite dumplings. He’s exhausted from the session, from talking so much about things he’d rather keep buried, and he’s grateful for Yoongi driving him to and from the appointments while simultaneously keeping him fed. “You never used to buy me food.”
“Yeah, well,” Yoongi says gruffly, a pout on his lips and one hand on the steering wheel. “You deserve it. I know therapy isn’t easy; especially for someone shy like you.”
“Thanks, Yoongi,” Namjoon murmurs back. He turns his head to watch cars and people pass by outside the window. “I appreciate it.”
“I made up with Hoseok,” Yoongi tells him after a few minutes of driving in silence. “There you go; thought that would put a smile on your face.”
Yoongi’s gaze is proud and Namjoon doesn’t even try to hide his excitement.
“No more awkward family game nights?” Namjoon asks hopefully.
“No more game nights, period,” Yoongi groans, titling his head back into the seat’s headrest listlessly. “Who knew you were so good at Monopoly? Never again, I say.”
Namjoon laughs and turns his attention back to the passing streets.
“No, but really,” Yoongi speaks up again. “I was a dick to him. I just got so mad- I guess I took it all out on him. All I seem to do is fuck up with people, huh, Joon.”
“Yoongi,” Namjoon frowns at him. “What are you talking about? Don’t you know how much you’ve helped me? Even before this year, even back in high school. You were my first friend, Yoongi, the first person I trusted. You saved my life.”
“Namjoon, come on, I didn’t save your life-”
“You did, Yoongi, believe me. If you hadn’t been there this whole time- I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
“Something stupid, probably,” Yoongi mumbles, an embarrassed flush to his cheeks. An abrupt tremor works it’s way through his body. “Something- god, Namjoon, I don’t want you to die.”
Yoongi veers them suddenly off the road and parks, folding his arms against the steering wheel and burying his head immediately into them. It takes a minute for Namjoon to realize that Yoongi is crying.
“Oh, no, Yoongi,” Namjoon reaches out and rubs a hand frantically on Yoongi’s back. “I’m not gonna die, I promise, I’m not.”
And as he says it, Namjoon knows it’s true. Maybe at one point in the past few months, or maybe several times, that had been something he’d wanted. But now that he says it out loud, he realizes how much he’s changed. How much he’s healed.
They sit like that for a while longer, until Yoongi’s broken, wet tears subside. The whole time, Namjoon mumbles reassurances and comforts, unused to being on this side of the equation.
“I,” Yoongi manages. “I know you’re not. It’s just all I’ve been fucking thinking about these past few weeks, and I can’t get it out of my head, and it’s just- hard.”
“I know,” Namjoon whispers. “God, I know.”
“Aw, fuck, the food-” Yoongi sniffles and sobs out a laugh. Namjoon’s hand tightens on his shoulder. “Goddamn food is probably cold.”
Namjoon can’t help giggling too. He watches as Yoongi swipes his palms over his eyes and takes deep breathes. Shoots a watery smile back at Namjoon.
“It’ll be fine,” Namjoon says. He amends it.
“We’ll be fine.”
There’s a knock on his bedroom door, and he hears the slow creak as it swings open. Namjoon peers around the wall from his spot on the floor of his closet to see Hoseok stare down at him in confusion.
“Hey, Joonie,” Hoseok hesitates with one hand curled around the door. “What’re you doing down there?”
“Nothing,” Namjoon answers truthfully. Hoseok seems to consider the tight space for a minute before walking over, crouching down and settling next to Namjoon, pulling up his knees so that they’re flush against Namjoon’s.
He reaches out and takes one of Namjoon’s hands in his, brushing light circles with his thumb over Namjoon’s skin.
“Okay,” Hoseok answers. He waits. Namjoon swallows and his hands tense up.
“Called my mom earlier. Told her I was gonna stick with what I wanna do. She- she said a lot of things. She said they’re going to pull out of tuition and rent,” Namjoon considers the long winter coat that brushes the back of Hoseok’s head. “She called me ungrateful. A waste of space.”
“Oh,” Hoseok grits out. His grip tightens around Namjoon’s hand. “Oh, Namjoon. You’re neither of those things. And you’re none of the worse things I’m sure she called you, and you just don’t want to tell me about. Okay?”
“I know,” Namjoon says in a small voice. “It just feels like it’s never going to get easier. Hearing her say- that. Like there’s always gonna be a part of me that believes her.”
“We’ve got time, Joonie. You’ve got all of the time in the world to heal. It’s not always going to be like this.” Hoseok bends to kiss Namjoon’s knuckles. “I love you, so much.”
Namjoon cracks a grin that’s only half weary.
“I love you too, Hoseok.”
“I wasn’t in here cause of that, though, not really. I was just worrying about money,” Namjoon chuckles a little, shaking his head.
“You’ll get a job, Joon-ah, and it’ll be fine. Maybe- maybe you’ll need two jobs. But I know tons of people you can talk to. And with brains like yours? Not to mention looks?” Hoseok waggles his eyebrows, drawing a huff of laughter from Namjoon. “Anyone would be lucky to have you work for them.”
Namjoon scoffs and Hoseok pulls him closer.
“We’ll get right on it. Monday morning, first thing. As for rent, do you really think Yoongi would let anything happen to you? You’ll be okay, Namjoon. You’ll get through it.”
“I’ll be okay,” Namjoon repeats, liking the ways the words sound coming out of his mouth.
“Hey,” Hoseok licks his lips. “This is big, Joonie. I’m proud of you. I’m also sorry. Really, really sorry.”
“Yeah. Thanks, Hoseok.”
“I love you, remember?”
“Yeah,” Namjoon giggles just a little bit. “Yeah, I know.”
“Good, cause my fucking legs are cramping and I really wanna kiss you but there’s no room in this goddamn closet. So we can either sit in here and hold hands or we can get up and sit on the perfectly good bed while I kiss the shit out of you. Your choice.”
Namjoon has scars.
They’re old and faded and they’re reminders, but they aren’t promises, not anymore.
He still wears long sleeves when he goes out of the apartment, at least on most days. But some days, he’ll take half an hour getting dressed and he’ll walk out of his room in a t-shirt and Hoseok will get this dewy look in his eyes and will snarl at anyone who dares to look twice at the patchwork of Namjoon’s forearms.
The scars are old and faded and sometimes Namjoon will still flinch and shy away from Hoseok’s touch, will still grapple with the concept of deserving anything.
He doesn’t lock the bathroom door anymore, and it’s not so bad, because Yoongi always makes a point to knock loudly and he never stares at Namjoon’s bare torso unless it’s to tease Namjoon about the evidence of a late night with Hoseok.
The apartment’s been essentially childproofed as a precaution, but Namjoon doesn’t mind, not really, because he hasn’t done it in a long time, hasn’t wanted it in a long time.
Namjoon gets a job at the library, which is peaceful and soothing and everything he needs it to be. He starts tutoring freshmen, and savors their innocence, their hope, even making friends with some of them. He has more people to talk to than he has ever had in his life, and each time he confides in one of them, the burden he shoulders gets a little lighter, and little more manageable.
He goes to therapy once a week and Yoongi drives him there and picks him up afterwards to buy him coffee and pastries. Seokjin places little blue sticky notes all over the apartment, reminding Namjoon to take his pills, to go to his appointments, to allow himself a little more love day by day.
Sometimes Hoseok will snag Namjoon’s hand as they walk to class, and Namjoon will blanche and stutter and blush, but no one spares them another glance. Sometimes Hoseok will kiss Namjoon in the park and instead of stabs of fear, his stomach will fill with butterflies and warmth. Sometimes the four of them will go out and integrate themselves in a whole community of people like Namjoon, and it’s thrilling to step out of the tangle of chains and shackles and just exist as who he wants to be.
Despite the blips that show up some nights, where it’s far past midnight and his skin starts to feel like tin foil and his thoughts garble and jumble together like a giant ball of sticky gum, things are getting better. And on those nights, he’ll end up curled in bed with Hoseok stroking his hair, singing lullabies and love songs into his ear, and Namjoon thinks that if this is what recovery feels like, then maybe he’ll be okay.
Maybe he can make it.