“you like him?” hoseok asks.
“yeah,” namjoon says. he shifts a little uncomfortably. he feels bad. he didn’t say anything for a while because he thought it would go away, but it didn’t, and he doesn’t think anything is gonna come out of it but it also might and it’s better to just get this out of the way now just in case.
“okay,” hoseok says. “it’s cool, dude. don’t worry about it so much. this shit isn’t meant to be permanent.”
“i know,” namjoon says. he crosses his legs, hunches forward a little. “i feel like i should’ve said something earlier.”
“hey,” hoseok says. he reaches out and pats namjoon’s knee familiarly, and that right there relieves a lot of his anxiety just by reminding him that this doesn’t actually change anything between them. they’re still friends. they still know each other the same way. they’re just not gonna do all the extra stuff anymore. “this isn’t about me. or about us. there isn’t an ‘us,’ that’s kind of the point, you know? if you’re telling me, it’s gotta about him, not about me.”
“yeah,” namjoon says. hoseok is so much better at this than he is. namjoon is terrible with people. he can be charming and charismatic when he wants to, but he’s so anxious about it the whole time. hoseok just naturally exudes those characteristics. it makes namjoon jealous sometimes.
hoseok pats his knee again, gentler this time. yesterday, a week ago, an hour ago, namjoon thinks, his thumb would have been on namjoon’s inseam, forward but intimate. but now the touch is just friendly, and namjoon wishes he knew how hoseok does it, separates it like that. “don’t overthink it, you big baby,” he says. he pulls his hand away from namjoon’s knee and pokes him in the forehead. “we’re good. you’re good. it’ll be okay. go hang out with him and have fun, yeah?”
“yeah,” namjoon says. it feels like that’s all he’s said, but it’s all he can really think to say, so he just says it again. “yeah.”
“it’s all good,” hoseok says. namjoon takes a deep breath to make it a little easier to believe that.
it’s not that namjoon’s bad with people. he’s not really even inherently pessimistic or anxious. it’s just new situations, uncomfortable situations, new people he hasn’t felt out yet -- they put him on edge. he knows he’s a little weird, and with his family and his friends that’s okay, because they not only accept it but also just don’t really care. he’s not really self-conscious about his tendency to wander off topic or start rambling about abstract concepts or to get distracted and just completely zone out of a conversation sometimes. he’s self-conscious about people’s reactions to those things, because they laugh at stupid things, and then he feels stupid about things he shouldn’t feel stupid about.
but with people he knows? in places he’s comfortable? doing the same things he’s done a billion times, with only minimal social variation? that’s nothing. it’s easy. which is probably why letting himself into jungkook’s apartment is five billion times easier than telling hoseok that he doesn’t think they should hook up anymore.
“jungkook-ah?” he calls, which is so simple compared to saying, i don’t think we should keep doing this.
there’s a grunt from the living room, followed by a chorus of chaotic beeps and computerized gunfire. he hears jungkook mutter “fuck” as he toes his shoes off and wiggles out of his jacket. in the living room, jungkook is sitting cross legged on the couch, sipping disgruntledly from a can of soda while the countdown in the corner of the tv clocks him toward respawn.
“nice job,” namjoon says, teasing, quiet, as he moves gently to sit at the opposite end of the couch. normally he would sit closer, but it feels weird now, after his talk with hoseok. not that it feels uncomfortable, just… like he needs to be more careful, take this more seriously.
“i fucking hate this game,” jungkook says. namjoon nods -- not because he understands, but because he’s heard enough about it to at least know which things jungkook hates. he does kind of understand, because he has things like that, that he loves but that piss him off incessantly. kind of like how, as his character respawns, jungkook slumps out of his cross legged position and drops his bare feet on the coffee table they eat dinner off almost every thursday night.
he jumps around a lot as he hurries back to the fight. namjoon doesn’t really get that -- something to do with unpredictable movement, but it’s not like he’s anywhere near the enemy at the moment. but jungkook is talking (whining) again, and namjoon’s brain won’t let him tune out anything jungkook says anymore, so he reluctantly starts paying attention again.
“fucking nerf all the characters that are already useless and then buff fucking junkrat, sure,” jungkook scoffs. he doesn’t really curse a lot, but he gets angry and tetchy when he’s playing. “fuck junkrat, he oneshots everything except tanks already, but no, give him another bomb. sure.” his character peers through a scope, high above the fighting, and he fires twice. the tv beeps congratulations at him and the circle in the center glows fiery blue.
“if--” namjoon starts to say, and jungkook cuts him off with a groan. if you hate it so much, then why do you play?
“you already know,” he says. there’s another character flying high in the sky, outlined in red, and jungkook takes aim and fires again, almost too fast for the tv to register him opening his scope, and he breaks out in a grin as the enemy collapses lifelessly toward the ground, pinwheeling awkwardly.
“right,” namjoon says. jungkook tried to teach him to play one time, and he was more patient than namjoon expected, but he just couldn’t really get into it. he knows jungkook enjoys it plenty, but namjoon prefers to watch.
prefers to get work done, actually. the timer at the top of the screen says there’s still two minutes left, so namjoon sets his backpack on the floor and pulls his computer out, determined to at least get some of his grading done while he waits.
“i’m almost done,” jungkook says. he’s running now, chased by some huge pink thing with giant guns. namjoon thinks he knows the name of that one, but he holds himself back from guessing at it, too nervous that he’ll get it wrong. jungkook’s character fires repeatedly, but the pink thing flies into him with shocking speed and the screen goes to third person. “fuck.”
“take your time,” namjoon mumbles. they’ve got all night.
no -- not all night. all evening, maybe. all night makes it sound like… something else. it’s not that.
they sit in -- well, not silence, because the tv beeps and chirps and jungkook mutters under his breath about “fucking idiots not fighting on the fucking point” and occasionally one of the characters on screen or behind him yells in japanese and jungkook rolls his eyes and scoffs -- but in relative peace. namjoon contributes to the noise in quieter ways, tapping at his keyboard and wishing he’d brought his tablet, shifting on the couch to tuck his feet up underneath him a little more. he wishes they were sitting closer.
finally the match ends, jungkook huffy and angry and frustrated. he leaves the match and tosses the controller at the coffee table. namjoon winces at the sound of heavy plastic clattering against the wood, but jungkook just drops his feet to the floor and leans forward, sighing.
“sorry,” he says. “i’m gonna get some water, you want anything?”
“water’s fine,” namjoon says. when jungkook leaves the room, he sags back into the couch a little, already tired. it shouldn’t, because nothing has changed, but everything feels slightly… off, now. until hoseok, he hadn’t said the words out loud. and it’s not like jungkook knows, but it feels like it. namjoon feels uncomfortably exposed. this is why he prefers abstract concepts like the evolutionary advantages of falling in love or what music does for the psyche over the real life applications of those theories. psychology is a lot easier when he’s not applying it to himself.
jungkook comes back and leans against the back of the couch, dangling namjoon’s glass of water over his shoulder. namjoon takes it quietly and sips -- lukewarm, god, jungkook only drinks tap water because he’s too lazy to make ice or buy bottles. but it’s fine. namjoon feels better with his tongue wet and his throat a little less choked.
“grading?” jungkook is still leaning against the couch, close but not close enough. namjoon can feel him standing there even if he’s just out of eyeshot, everything soft and warm about him that namjoon loves (likes, is attracted to, not loves, not yet, maybe not ever) radiating through the inches between them.
“yeah,” he says. he tabs out, because he’s not here to sit around working on other stuff. “you ready?”
jungkook groans and slumps over the back of the couch. his hair, fluffy on top in ways that make namjoon’s fingers ache, brushes just over namjoon’s shoulder. “do we have to?”
it feels habitual enough that namjoon lets himself do it -- reaches up with one hand and pats the back of jungkook’s head. he wants to slide his fingers down, over the short, bristled undercut, down the nearly invisible hairs over his neck. he wants to feel soft skin and even softer hair against his fingertips. but he holds himself back, says, “not if you don’t want to.”
jungkook groans again, and then props himself up on top of folded arms on the back of the couch, pouting, and fuck, namjoon feels his face start to heat up. god, fuck, no, calm down, relax, he’s just… so cute…
jungkook sighs and stands up, pout fading into an expression of vague irritation. “it’s fine, hyung,” he says. “lemme get my stuff.”
he comes back a few minutes later with his notebook and textbook and flops cross legged on the floor in front of the coffee table. namjoon doesn’t let himself think too hard before he closes his laptop and slides down to the carpet as well. their knees brush for a second while jungkook readjusts. namjoon rests his forearm on the couch behind them and tries not to ache with how bad he wants to put it around warm, slim shoulders.
“what do you need help with?” he asks, in english.
jungkook shoots him a look out of the corner of his eye, but namjoon’s not testing him. jungkook’s a fast learner, and he’s picked this stuff up a lot quicker and better than he realizes. granted, namjoon is self-taught and it’s awkward to try to compare their learning experiences. but jungkook is smart, and he puts pieces together quickly. namjoon is proud of him.
“everything,” jungkook responds, also in english, and namjoon can’t help rolling his eyes. the only things jungkook struggles with are awkward tenses and weird spellings. his pronunciation is perfect and he memorizes everything in what feels like seconds. his only problem is the opposite one that namjoon had -- rather than overthinking tenses and conjugations, he tends to just pick what sounds most natural to him. and while that’s not always wrong, he sometimes gets what sounds natural in korean and what sounds natural in english mixed up. really all he needs is a speaking buddy and he would probably pick this stuff up much faster, but he’s shy about his speaking skills and almost flat out refuses to speak to anyone other than namjoon. which both frustrates namjoon and also sends a little possessive jolt through his stomach.
really though, all he needs is just that little bit of encouragement. namjoon coaxes him through it, trying not to shift closer, trying not to give him the answers, trying to pretend he doesn’t feel like his heart is about to burst his arteries with how hard it’s pumping. “good,” he says when jungkook answers one of the harder questions on the first try, and when jungkook smirks a little at his response, he tries not to think about lying back on his bed late at night, hand fisted under his pajamas, thoughts dancing around images of a body underneath him, smaller than him but twice as muscular twitching and gasping and--
god. he has got to relax. they’re doing jungkook’s homework. he’s ruining it by letting himself get distracted, and he feels weird and gross for thinking about shit like that with jungkook right here, right in front of him, tangible and warm and real.
jungkook slumps back against the couch, shirt wrinkling just enough to brush namjoon’s skin. “this is stupid,” he says, in english.
namjoon laughs, low and genuine for the first time tonight -- this evening. “you’re doing good,” he says.
“you only say that because you have to,” jungkook says, stumbling only a little bit in the middle.
“i don’t have to,” namjoon tells him, switching back to korean. jungkook glances over at him, chewing the inside of his lip a little uncertainly, like he’s waiting for namjoon to say something else, but then he just sighs.
“it’s weird,” he says, looking back at his notebook and tapping his pen against the spiral, “in class we’re not allowed to speak korean. and my professor asked what we were doing to practice outside of class, and i didn’t know what to call you. because i can’t call you hyung.”
“yeah?” namjoon says. he’s not sure where this is going.
apparently jungkook isn’t either, though, because he shrugs and says, “i dunno. just weird. i didn’t know what to call you.”
“we’re friends, aren’t we?” namjoon says, half in korean and half in english.
“mmhm,” jungkook answers. “but… i don’t know.”
but it doesn’t mean the same thing, namjoon thinks. sometimes namjoon can’t tell how much of it is in his head and how much is them actually dancing around each other. sometimes jungkook drops hints like this and namjoon feels like if he shifted to put his arm around his shoulders, jungkook would just sigh kind of happy like he does when he’s sleepy and namjoon drops a blanket over him before he leaves. and then sometimes they’re watching a movie with the lights off after they finish studying and jungkook catches him staring and says, “is there something on my face?” and namjoon just doesn’t know.
“yeah,” namjoon says, dragging himself back to now. “there’s stuff like that, that doesn’t really translate. there’s stuff like that in english too, but it’s more, like… localized, i guess. because it’s so widespread. and they borrow phrases a lot so it’s harder to find.”
jungkook doesn’t really look satisfied with that answer, but namjoon doesn’t have another one for him. he coughs quietly and pulls his arm off the couch slowly, back to his side. that little motion seems to put another few inches in between them somehow. “was there anything else?” he asks.
jungkook shakes his head, remaining silent, and flips his notebook closed. namjoon waits till he’s gone, taking his books back to his bedroom, before moving back to the couch. he feels very unbalanced again.
their routine after doing jungkook’s homework is usually the same. namjoon grades and then shoots the files off to the actual professor to be inputted to the grading system and then opens up his thesis outline to stare at for a while. meanwhile, on the other side of the couch, jungkook scrolls through instagram for what seems like an unnecessary amount of time -- namjoon doesn’t really get a lot of social media, though he respects and understands its influence -- before finally tossing his phone carelessly onto the coffee table and firing up the xbox again.
jungkook’s feet in namjoon’s lap -- that’s routine, too, but something about today for some reason has namjoon thinking it won’t happen. it started out as jungkook being annoying and just trying to help namjoon out of his shell a little in what was at the time a kind of weird situation, and then started to be only half a joke when he hurt his knee a few months back, and is now just… habit, namjoon supposes.
but he’s not expecting it until it happens, jungkook huffing and flopping backwards on the couch when he dies for what seems like the thirtieth time this match. he turns the motion into one where he kicks namjoon’s laptop out of the way just enough to make room for himself, at which point namjoon knows he’s not getting anything done anymore. namjoon isn’t really prepared for it because of how weird today has been, and when it happens he freezes for half a second too long, and glances up to catch jungkook watching him -- waiting for his reaction maybe. namjoon can’t tell.
“hurts my knee to sit like that for too long,” jungkook says, looking away as he respawns. namjoon aches a little, but he also feels a little better.
he tries to shift his laptop onto the coffee table without disturbing jungkook too much and then answers emails on his phone for a while before giving up and just watching jungkook play. it’s nice, to just kind of watch and not do anything. the weight of jungkook’s feet in his lap is surprisingly grounding, and the longer it goes on the better he feels. when jungkook flips his feet down to the ground between matches, namjoon feels almost empty.
that is, until jungkook’s back is pressed into the space along namjoon’s side, underneath the arm he’s got on the back of the couch. “back was hurting,” is jungkook’s explanation, quiet and rough because he’s more focused on picking a character (or maybe, a part of namjoon hopes, because he’s just as embarrassed about this as namjoon was).
“i can grab you a pillow,” namjoon says. “i doubt i’m any more comfortable than the arm rest.”
“don’t move,” jungkook says. “i’m playing, you’ll fuck me up. and you’re plenty soft.”
that’s a lie. namjoon is bony and awkward. he’s dated people in the past who’ve told him those exact things and he’s never tried to argue it -- it’s just a fact of life. he’s put on some weight recently, so he looks less like a bunch of sticks tied together, but he also used to be a little more muscular, and it made him look and feel a bit broader. he doesn’t have that advantage anymore.
anyway. jungkook is lying about namjoon being soft, because he doesn’t want namjoon to move. maybe genuinely because he doesn’t want to have to readjust himself in the middle of a game, but namjoon doesn’t think that’s it. he hopes, against all reason and sense of self-preservation, that isn’t it.
jungkook plays a few games like that, nestled up against namjoon. in between matches, or when he’s waiting to respawn, he drops his head back on namjoon’s shoulder, and namjoon has to hold his breath and try not to move too much because he doesn’t want jungkook to shift away. he wants to drop his arm off the back of the couch, snake his way in between the softness of jungkook’s big cotton tshirt and the scratchy couch cushions to wrap his arm around his waist. or lower, resting his hand on jungkook’s hip. he wants to pull him close, wants to wrap him in his arms so he can keep him safe and warm and near and--
fuck. stop. stop. he has got to stop. he needs to relax.
lucky for him, jungkook is hitting a losing streak and getting frustrated, and finally after one match he groans and says, “i need to stop.”
“dinner?” namjoon suggests. it’s getting to be about that time.
“yeah, sure,” jungkook says. he closes out of the game and sighs, stretches back against namjoon in ways that make namjoon’s stomach and heart switch places, and then groans and stands up. “i think all i’ve got is like, cold pizza.”
“that’s fine,” namjoon says quietly, trying to get his organs to reorient themselves properly. he hears the fridge open in the other room and calls, “where’s your roommate?”
“his boyfriend’s,” jungkook calls back, and wanders back into the room after the microwave starts up. he leans against the couch near namjoon like before, going through his phone. namjoon aches again.
when their pizza is reheated they seat themselves on the floor again and eat in silence. it’s not really enough to fill either of them, but they’re also still students. it’s fine.
after he finishes, jungkook pillows his head on crossed arms and looks over at namjoon. “hyung, can i ask you something?”
ugh. “yeah, shoot,” namjoon says.
“what are…” jungkook pauses, and then shakes his head and says, “what are you gonna do after you finish your thesis?”
“hope it passes a board of cranky old straight men who don’t understand anything,” namjoon says. jungkook rolls his eyes.
“okay, you know what i mean,” he says. “you’ll pass. i mean like after that. like what do you wanna do?”
namjoon shrugs. “i dunno. i’m more worried about the thesis right now. if i let myself think about afterwards too much then i’ll just start getting so anxious i’ll never finish what i’m doing right now, you know?”
“yeah,” jungkook says, quietly like that’s not what he wanted to hear. “but like, do you think you’ll still be here? or like what?”
namjoon takes a bite out of his pizza so he has a little more time to think. “i guess, like, hopefully i get some job offers. either research or teaching or both, you know? i don’t really wanna move, but i might not have a choice. it’s not really up to me. you’ve gotta follow the opportunities when you see them.”
“you’d rather stay here?” jungkook asks. his eyes are a little wide, cute.
“yeah,” namjoon says. “why not?”
“i mean you speak like eight languages,” jungkook says. three, namjoon thinks, but doesn’t say. “and you’re like a genius, and your thesis and research is really cool. you could go like… anywhere. europe, america. like anywhere.”
“you’ve got a very narrow view of the world if anywhere means just europe or america,” namjoon points out, and jungkook scowls at him. right, not the point. “i dunno,” he says. “my friends are here. the school i’m used to is here. i really wasn’t even thinking of leaving the country, i just meant like… if i’m offered a job in busan and none here, i can’t really say no. you’ve gotta be practical about those things.”
“so like if you had to pick,” jungkook says, “between seoul and busan and like… paris. you’d pick seoul?”
“i don’t really get what the point of this question is,” namjoon says. “but yeah, i guess.”
“even though you just said you’ve gotta follow the opportunities in front of you,” jungkook says. “you’d pick seoul over paris.”
“it’d be cool, i guess,” namjoon says awkwardly. “but there’s more to it than just travel. i don’t know, jungkookie, it’s not that simple. seoul is easiest, and i’m… an easiest path type of guy.”
jungkook stares at him for a long moment, and then sighs and closes his eyes. “guess that explains a lot,” he mumbles.
“don’t worry about it, hyung,” jungkook says, but when he opens his eyes to meet namjoon’s gaze, he just looks tired.
namjoon leaves an hour or so later. jungkook walks him to the door so he can lock it behind him, and hovers nearby while he pulls his shoes and jacket back on.
“are you walking home?” jungkook asks.
“i’ll catch a bus,” namjoon says. he zips his jacket up and then takes a step forward and stops himself. the direction he’s stepped in is awkward, putting him a little too far into jungkook’s personal space for it to be completely natural, and jungkook’s leaning against the wall, a little off balance so their barely noticeable height difference suddenly feels much wider. namjoon’s mind summons, unwanted, an image of him reaching up with a hand to cup one soft cheek, lean in slow, press their lips together soft and comfortable. jungkook would sigh into it, kiss him back ever so gently, and namjoon would pull away and give him a kiss on the other cheek before he steps away. jungkook would tell him be careful and namjoon would say i will, and he would text jungkook when he got home safe.
“be careful,” jungkook says. namjoon stares at him for a beat too long, disoriented, then swallows and steps to the side, toward the door.
“i will,” he says. deja vu. disconcerting. now he really wants to kiss him.
“see you saturday?” jungkook asks.
namjoon flips through the days in his mind. “uh, i’ve got work,” he says. “subbing for a friend’s night class.”
jungkook frowns, almost a pout. “okay. see you whenever then, i guess.”
“yeah,” namjoon says. “we’ll figure it out.” he turns the doorknob and steps outside into the dark.
“g’nite,” jungkook says, in english. namjoon feels a little flare of pride that he’s picked up colloquialisms like that.
“g’nite,” he says back. jungkook closes the door and namjoon waits until he hears the lock click before he leaves.
he doesn’t text jungkook when he gets home, but he does flop face first into his bed, feeling weird and frustrated. today was… not bad. but it wasn’t good. it was awkward. it was like… not like jungkook was a different person, but like namjoon was. like saying the words out loud to hoseok changed everything. he feels too big for his body, clumsy like a fifteen year old tripping up the stairs at school.
he should shower and get in bed, but he doesn’t really feel up to it yet, so he just lies on his stomach with half his face buried in a pillow and scrolls through his phone, even though he’s barely got anything to look at. he doesn’t really pay attention to the time passing until there’s a knock on his door frame.
“hey,” he says, muffled into the pillow.
“jeez, what happened to you?” yoongi says. “you look dead.”
“long day,” namjoon mumbles.
“huh,” yoongi says. “can i talk to you?”
that’s weird. they don’t really talk. they’re similar enough that it’s kind of awkward to try to talk about feelings or stuff like that, because they just end up rehashing each other’s opinions over and over. but if yoongi is asking, then it must be serious, so namjoon clicks his phone off and sits up, pulling the pillow into his lap and fixing his hair quickly. “what’s up?”
“uh.” yoongi rubs at the back of his neck as he walks into the room, sits on the edge of namjoon’s bed. “you broke it off with hoseok?”
for some reason, anxiety stirs in namjoon’s stomach. “i mean,” he says defensively, “there wasn’t really anything going on. it was just… you know. it wasn’t romantic. or emotional. you know. he told you?”
“if he didn’t, you would’ve. i was gonna find out either way,” yoongi says. “does it matter?”
not really, but hoseok is the only one who knows namjoon’s secret, knows why he broke it off. and he doesn’t think hoseok would spill that, because despite being an easily excited blabbermouth, hoseok is also fiercely loyal. this is an emotional thing that affects the dynamics of their friend group, not someone’s surprise birthday party. but it still makes him nervous.
“guess not,” he says.
“yeah,” yoongi says. “so like… uh, you don’t have to say. but like, can i ask why? like why you broke it off?”
namjoon’s chest feels tight. he pulls the pillow up to his ribcage and feels a little better with the pressure on his abdomen. “dunno. just felt like it was time. like… we can’t go after anything else if there’s all that going on.”
yoongi almost looks… nervous? “anything else meaning like… between you two?”
“what?” namjoon is just confused now. “no? what?”
yoongi deflates a little. “oh. okay. i dunno, i thought maybe you broke it off because like… you wanted it to be emotional. or like it already was and you didn’t want it all to get mixed up.”
“oh,” namjoon says. “no. not us. i mean… maybe like, before. but not after all this. it’d be weird now.”
“okay,” yoongi says. “good.”
yoongi’s ears go a little pink. “good that, you know, you’re not rushing into things like that. that you thought about it.”
“i didn’t really,” namjoon says slowly. “i’ve never really seen him like that. do you?”
“why would i?” yoongi asks. his arms are crossed over his chest, his lips are pursed into that pout he gets when he knows he’s losing an argument. “would it matter if i did?”
“nope, because he and i aren’t doing anything anymore,” namjoon says.
“yeah, so. it’s fine.” yoongi stands up like he’s going to leave, and then stops when he fully processes the words that just came out of his mouth. “i mean, it would be fine. how’s your tutor kid?”
for a half second, namjoon is terrified that hoseok really did spill, even though the context of their conversation has clearly shown that he didn’t. but yoongi’s ears are bright red and he’s still looking flustered, so it’s not an attempt at a comeback, just a deflection onto the first topic he can think of.
“he’s fine.” namjoon can’t really help the way his voice comes out a little curt.
“good,” yoongi says.
“great,” namjoon says.
“i’m gonna go.”
after yoongi’s gone, namjoon deflates -- both from relief and exhaustion. no more talking for at least, like, a day. tomorrow’s friday, he has the day off from his own classes and all he has to do is sit around while a couple of professors lecture and take attendance for his section of the class. after that, as long as no one has any questions for him, he’s free to come right back home and sleep until saturday night when he has to be back on campus to teach. he can do this.
he falls asleep in just pajama pants and no shirt because when he gets out of the shower all he wants to do is lie down and go to sleep. he almost forgets to turn the light off, definitely forgets to plug his phone in, and falls into an awkward sleep with fluid, confusing dreams.
first they’re on jungkook’s couch and it’s storming and jungkook’s playing some horror game and namjoon jumps and squeaks when something comes around the corner at them. jungkook scoots a little closer to him, pats his knee, and somehow they end up closer and closer until jungkook’s roommate is laughing at them when he walks out into the kitchen to get a drink. namjoon is just disconnected enough from his dream self to think, this happened.
then jungkook is in his lap, but there’s no storm and the tv isn’t on. jungkook’s hands are on his chin, his knees are on either side of namjoon’s hips, and namjoon can’t breathe because jungkook’s lips are on his and their noses are crushed together awkwardly. jungkook huffs a laugh against his mouth, readjusts, and when he does namjoon can feel the heat between their legs, drawn to each other like magnets. but he won’t, not yet, it’s too soon, he wants to do this right. they’re not ready. he wants jungkook to know how special he is, wants him to know he--
wait, what? that’s not right. the other thing, the first thing -- that happened. this didn’t happen. except now he’s in hoseok’s bedroom, kissing sloppy, tugging even sloppier. yoongi says, “really, man?” from the corner, and jungkook moans frustration when namjoon pulls away from his lips.
no, what-- jungkook? this is hoseok’s bedroom. why is yoongi here? actually, fuck this. he wakes up.
the sheets are tangled around his legs. there’s only the barest stirrings of arousal in his stomach, not even enough to bother working himself up to a proper sleepy jerk off. he leans over to pick up his phone and it’s only 3 am. jungkook texted him.
<< i guess you got home ok?
he breathes out slow. he’s so tired he’s fighting to keep his eyes open and his fingers are sluggish on the keys. he’s got that weird deja vu again. he feels like he’s losing his mind.
>> yeah. didn’t know you wanted me to text you, sorry. goodnight.
he should plug his phone in, but he’s too exhausted to roll over or fish around in the dark for his phone cord. he slumps back on his face and the minutes pass, slowly. he’s dozing again, almost under, until his phone chirps the quiet kakao notification. he sits up sleepily and thumbs open past his lockscreen.
<< why are u awake
>> fell asleep wrong lol. weird dreams
it takes him a good minute or so to type out the message, with all its typos and his sleepy, stumbling fingers, but the little 1 disappears almost immediately after he sends the message. huh. it’s hard not to picture jungkook lying in bed with his phone open, staring at the screen, waiting for namjoon’s reply--
<< wanna talk about it?
that’s weird. jungkook’s not really the talking type. maybe he’s lonely, he thinks rationally. maybe he just wants to talk to you, he thinks, slightly less rationally.
either way, there’s no universe in which namjoon discusses his weird, hazy, borderline wet dreams with the main character of said dreams. luckily, he doesn’t have to try hard for an excuse.
>> it’s all good. i should sleep, it’s late. so should you
<< you’re not the boss of me
he rolls his eyes, but he can also practically hear jungkook’s voice in those words, and it makes his chest feel warm. he’s flopped on his side now, one arm pinned underneath him while the other sluggishly types out his next message.
>> so you don’t need my help studying anymore, then?
<< goodnight hyung sleep well
a low, deep laugh bubbles up out of his ribcage. it feels good. fuck, he’s so screwed. he’s so, so fucking screwed.
>> goodnight jungkookie
weird schedules mean that it’s thursday again before namjoon sees jungkook next. he spends most of the week feeling antsy and weird, and catches himself picking up his phone to text hoseok more than once before he remembers that’s not an option anymore. jungkook texts him maybe half a dozen times over those few days, but namjoon’s so busy he barely even has time to look at them, let alone hold a conversation. his classes are hectic and his job as a t.a is even worse, which is stupid, because there’s no reason he should be more worried about his t.a classes than his goddamn thesis workshop.
but he makes it, just barely. he spends a couple hours at the library, trying to form some sort of sensible thought line that will help him connect two completely unrelated threads of information, before he goes to jungkook’s. the door is unlocked, as always, but when namjoon calls out a greeting, he gets no response.
he’s concerned for a minute, because jungkook isn’t on the couch, or in the kitchen, and the bathroom door is wide open, but all that is pushed aside when he glances through the crack in the doorway to jungkook’s room. the lights are off inside, but there’s enough dim light from the main room spilling inside that namjoon can see him curled up on the bed in a tight ball, a jacket at least a size too big draped over his shoulders.
he wants to go inside, sit at the edge of the bed. he wants to run his fingers over the soft curves of his face, push the hair out of his eyes, lift one of his hands to his mouth to kiss the fingertips. he wants to slide his hand around the back of his neck so he can thumb at the little space of skin behind his ear where no one touches. he wants to sit and watch him sleep until the presence of someone else in the room rouses him enough for him to blink open sleepy, doe eyes and he looks up at him and says, “hi hyung.” and namjoon says, “good morning, baby,” in english, and jungkook smiles at him, sighs contentedly. namjoon slides fingers through his hair, over the soft undercut, and jungkook makes sleepy, happy noises. he wants to bend down and kiss the rest of the sleep away, until jungkook is giggling into his mouth and they’re both smiling and happy.
he knocks on the door lightly. “jungkook-ah,” he calls, and the boy on the bed breathes in, shifts a little, and his eyes pop open.
“shit,” he says, voice kind of raspy. “hi hyung.”
“good morning,” namjoon says. fucking deja vu again.
“didn’t realize what time it was,” jungkook says. he lifts one arm to rub at his sleepy eyes. “i’m up. sorry.”
“it’s all good,” namjoon says. “i’ll be out here.”
a raspy, sleepy noise reaches namjoon’s ears, and he can’t really help smiling a little. he sets up on the floor in front of the couch like usual while jungkook stumbles around trying to wake up. the door to jungkook’s bedroom opens, and the sound of running water echoes from the bathroom. a few moments later, jungkook walks into the living room and plops down next to namjoon, face a little flushed.
“tired, huh?” namjoon asks.
jungkook makes a face. “i stayed up all last night working on this essay,” he grumbles, still rubbing at his eyes, “only to find out i had the date wrong, and it’s not due till next week.”
namjoon can’t help the laugh that escapes, and jungkook glares at him. “it’s not funny, ” he whines. “i got like an hour and a half of sleep. i feel so stupid.”
“you’re not stupid, jungkookie,” namjoon assures him. he raises a hand to rub at the back of jungkook’s neck, and the boy jumps a little, still sleepy. “you’re just stressed. it’s okay.”
jungkook sighs. “well, we’ve got nothing to work on now, ‘cause i guess we were supposed to be working on essay research and stuff all next week in class, but now i’ve got the whole thing done and i’ve got three other midterms to study for, so like hell am i even going to that class next week.”
“you want me to proofread?” namjoon suggests.
jungkook looks at him with the biggest, most beautiful puppy dog eyes that namjoon’s ever seen. “please, hyung,” he begs. “i don’t think i can bring myself to look at it again, i wrote it all at like 3 am, it’s probably a mess and i’m too scared.”
namjoon chuckles, low in his chest, and says, “okay, okay, relax. wanna pull it up for me and i’ll take a look?”
jungkook jumps up and disappears into his room, coming back with his macbook, which he drops into namjoon’s lap. “please fix it, hyung,” he says desperately.
he’s still standing, so namjoon grabs his forearm and tugs him down until he’s sitting on the couch. “i’ll look it over, but you clearly need some more sleep. take a nap, i’ll wake you up when i’m done.”
jungkook nods forlornly and lies down on the couch, curling up tight and looking deceptively small. namjoon doesn’t think he’ll fall asleep right away, but he sure does, breath evening out in less than a minute. he wants to get him a pillow or a blanket or something, but he also doesn’t want to disturb him, so he just turns around and starts reading.
the essay isn’t bad, exactly. it’s a little scattered in places, and there are some things spellcheck didn’t pick up, mostly those complicated tenses that jungkook struggles with so much. but the language isn’t bad, and even the backbone of the essay is sound. his research relies a little heavy on only a couple sources, clearly a case of “i wrote this at the last minute and only read two of my sources but i needed four more so i just cited whatever i could find,” but even then it’s still not bad. namjoon’s just nitpicking at that point, really, and it’s only because he’s taken so many workshops on academic writing at this stage of his life that it’s hard not to notice those things.
but it’s not really great, either. it needs some rearranging, and more importantly for this particular class, there are a couple sentences that are just awkwardly worded, though technically not grammatically incorrect, just enough to obscure the actual meaning that namjoon thinks he’s going for. it’s passing, but it’s not perfect score material, and knowing jungkook, that’s not acceptable. so namjoon fixes the smaller errors and makes a note of them alongside the bigger things for them to discuss when he’s done, and then he’s at the end.
but when he turns around, jungkook’s face is so peaceful and calm that he doesn’t have the heart to wake him. he’s not wearing the jacket he was wearing before when he was curled up in bed, instead just in joggers and a big red tshirt. namjoon doesn’t have anywhere to be, it’s not like he needs to wake him up any time soon. it’s probably better to let him rest and they can go over it later, when he’s more awake. namjoon doesn’t doubt that he was completely truthful about only getting an hour and a half of sleep last night.
but jungkook also just looks so small and vulnerable in his pajamas, so namjoon slinks away to the bedroom and comes back with jungkook’s pillow and a blanket that looks soft and well used, probably from jungkook’s time at home, before he moved out. he throws the blanket over him first, and when jungkook’s eyes flutter open at the movement, he whispers, “lift your head,” and slides the pillow underneath. jungkook huffs out a small, sleepy little breath, satisfied and content. as long as he’s not really awake, as long as namjoon is feeling brave and soft and warm, he lets his fingers brush through jungkook’s hair just once, lingering briefly before he pulls away.
he has his thesis to work on and papers to grade and hours before he needs to think about going home, so he pulls out his tablet and flips through his work for a while, with jungkook’s soft, even breathing as background music. one of jungkook’s hands is escaping from underneath the blanket, just the tips of his fingers poking out, and namjoon wants to reach up behind him and slide their hands together. jungkook is probably so sleep warm right now, nestled up under his blanket comfy and soft and perfect.
but he doesn’t move except to gently pull the blanket back over jungkook’s exposed hand, and that’s how they are, nearly two hours later when the front door opens and jungkook’s roommate walks in, whistling a repetitive tune.
“jungkookie!” he singsongs as he kicks the door shut behind him. “i brought dinner!”
namjoon winces at the noise and turns toward the front door, slapping a finger to his lips to shush him, but it’s too late -- taehyung has already walked in, exclaiming, “oh, hi hyung! forgot it was thursday,” when he sees him.
jungkook stirs on the couch, and namjoon goes very, very still. something must show on his face, because taehyung also goes still, looking confused. jungkook’s eyes open just a little, only to scrunch shut again when he yawns wide. taehyung peers over the back of the couch and his mouth pops into a little ‘o,’ which probably would have been cute if he hadn’t just woken jungkook up.
“aww, sleepy little kookie,” taehyung croons, reaching down to pinch jungkook’s cheek.
jungkook groans and slaps his hand away. “stop, hyung,” he grumbles, and taehyung just laughs.
“wake up, big baby, i’ve got dinner.” taehyung looks up at namjoon then, still grinning. “you’re welcome to stay, hyung! i bought extra anyway because jiminie was supposed to eat with us but he hates me so he bailed.”
“shut up,” jungkook whines, curling into his pillow and dragging the blanket up over his ears, so that only the very top of his head shows, fluffy and soft. namjoon wants to reach out and pet it, but he won’t -- not with taehyung here, not with jungkook awake.
“i’ll get plates out,” taehyung says, and disappears into the kitchen to do just that. namjoon watches him go and it occurs to him that he hasn’t actually said a word to taehyung since he walked in the door.
jungkook huffs, drawing namjoon’s attention back to the couch. “how long was i out?” he asks, pulling the blanket back down just enough to show his eyes. namjoon can’t really help but smile at that.
“a couple hours,” he says. “i finished looking over your essay a while ago but i didn’t have the heart to wake you up. you passed out so fast.”
jungkook groans. “you should’ve woken me up,” he says. he sits up, rubbing at his eyes like a little kid, and namjoon resists the urge to coo and fix his sleep mussed hair. “i’m sure you don’t wanna be here all night, hyung, you’ve got… you know, other places to be.”
“i spend every thursday night here, jungkookie,” namjoon says. “what else could i possibly be doing?”
“i dunno,” jungkook mumbles. “lots of things.” he’s staring down at his lap now, and he bunches his fingers in the blanket, then smoothes it out over his thighs. “did you bring this out?”
“uh…” namjoon can feel his face heating. “you just, looked cold, you know. and the armrest isn’t really comfortable, so… i just, grabbed some stuff from your room. sorry, i--”
“it’s fine,” jungkook says. “thank you.” he glances up, and there’s something in his expression like he’s searching for something in namjoon’s face, but whatever it is, he clearly doesn’t find, because he sighs and looks back down as he pushes the blanket aside and stands up. “we should probably go eat before taehyung comes looking for us.”
“yeah,” namjoon says. he’s sitting criss cross, face on level with jungkook’s thighs, which is kind of an awkward spot to be at, but not exactly an unpleasant one, either. then suddenly there’s a hand in his face, jungkook reaching down to help him up, and he takes it without thinking. there’s strength behind that grip that namjoon forgets about sometimes. jungkook works out three or four times a week, more in between semesters, and runs on his days off from that. this thighs and biceps look unreal in anything he wears, and namjoon has no excuse to forget about that, but there’s something disarming about his big eyes and soft cheeks and the shy smile that pokes out when namjoon compliments him that always throws him off just a little.
but jungkook pulls him easily to his feet and smiles a little when namjoon ends up just a few inches too close, too much in his space. he pats namjoon’s shoulder when he backs off. “you’re such a weirdo, hyung,” he says, and namjoon doesn’t really know what that means, but jungkook says it so fondly that he doesn’t even worry about it.
“and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” taehyung sighs dramatically, when dinner is done and they’re all back in the living room. jungkook, sprawled on the couch playing overwatch with his feet in namjoon’s lap again, snorts and rolls his eyes.
“you say that about everything, hyung,” he says. “you say that when your starbucks rewards get you a free drink.”
taehyung huffs. “some of us just enjoy life, jungkookie. just because you’re sad and alone doesn’t mean the rest of us are.”
“i’m not alone,” jungkook says. “i have a girlfriend.” namjoon goes very still.
“what?” taehyung demands. “what? since when? why don’t i know about this? we’re supposed to be best friends. we’re supposed to tell each other everything. who is she?”
“her name is mercy,” jungkook says, “and when she’s around i feel like i’m living again, hyung.”
taehyung is quiet for a moment, and then makes a little squawk of outrage and dives at the couch from the armchair he’s sitting in. jungkook yells in protest and tries to fight back, thankfully pulling his feet out of namjoon’s lap in his struggle. namjoon has no idea what’s going on until jungkook’s character dies on screen and he shoves taehyung out of the way to screech, “mercy rez, mercy rez, mercy rez!” at the tv until something happens and his character comes back to life, and even then he only vaguely understands that there’s some sort of reference being made here.
but still… “just to clarify,” he says when everyone is back in their seats and calm once more, “mercy is a character, right?”
taehyung giggles. “this is why you’re single, hyung,” he says.
“that makes no sense,” namjoon grumbles. jungkook giggles at him a little.
“well i don’t know why else it would be,” taehyung says. “smart, handsome, single… little light on the funny side, but the only real drawback i’m seeing here is your lack of intimate knowledge of video game characters.”
“i know some,” namjoon protests.
“mario doesn’t count, hyung,” jungkook says. he lays back again as there’s a break in the action, and presses his toes up against the side of namjoon’s thigh -- not quite asking to be in his lap, just reminding him that he’s there. “neither does sonic.”
namjoon decides not to mention that he could name at least ten pokemon. he has a feeling those won’t count either.
“so what is it, hyung?” taehyung asks. he’s flopped over the side of the armchair, looking like one of those oversized dogs that thinks it’s a lapdog. “what’s turning all the desperate singles away? are they intimidated by your perfect grades and oversized brain, or are you just not inter--”
“tae,” jungkook cuts in.
“hyung, ” taehyung corrects him.
“taehyung,” jungkook agrees. “leave him alone. or i’ll tell jimin hyung you’re questioning other men about their availability.”
taehyung pouts. “you’re no fun, jungkookie. and how come you call jiminie hyung but not me, huh?”
this proceeds into another squabble, and namjoon once again feels like he’s misunderstanding several things.
eventually, taehyung goes to bed, and it’s just the two of them. it’s getting dark. namjoon should probably head home, but he really isn’t looking forward to the bus ride or the walking or the not sitting on the couch with someone warm and soft nearby.
jungkook turns off the tv. “sorry about tae,” he says, kind of quiet like he’s trying to make sure that they won’t be heard. he doesn’t look at namjoon while he says it, either, attention focused on attaching the controller to the charging dock.
“it’s fine,” namjoon says. “i don’t really mind.”
“he’s just, uh. pushy sometimes,” jungkook says. he walks back over to the couch and sits down, pulls his knees up to his chest. “he’s always dating someone, so he doesn’t get it when other people aren’t, you know?”
“it’s really okay,” namjoon says.
jungkook looks at him for a long few seconds, and then says, “so then… if i asked, you wouldn’t mind?”
namjoon shrugs, but his heart is beating a little loud. something about this moment feels very important.
“so why don’t you date, then?” jungkook asks. his voice is quiet -- not a whisper, just quiet, like he’s still trying not to be overheard. “or like, do you, and i just don’t know? i feel like i’ve never heard you talk about… anyone.”
namjoon scratches at the back of his head. “uh… i dunno. i’m not very good at it, i guess. i used to be like, more worried about it, but it seems kinda silly now. like i took some time away from it to focus on school, and then i was in this uh, casual kinda thing, with a friend of mine, but we broke that off. so. i dunno. i stopped worrying about it for a while. didn’t seem as important when i had so much else to take care of.”
“for a while,” jungkook repeats. “so what about now?”
“pass,” namjoon says. “next question.”
“is that what we’re doing?” jungkook asks. “then shouldn’t you get to ask me one now?”
namjoon’s not completely sure what that means, but he’s not going to pass up the chance, either. “okay, what about you, then? you don’t date, either.”
“i had a crush on this guy,” jungkook says, openly, honestly, eyes fixed on namjoon’s. “super unattainable. like years out of my league.”
“who the hell was this guy?” namjoon asks. “adonis? jesus?”
“shut up,” jungkook says. “it’s my question. anyway. i spent so long idolizing this guy, and then i kind of got to actually know him, and i realized he’s-- wasn’t out of my league at all, he was just a normal dude.”
“let down, then?” namjoon asks.
“not really,” jungkook says, shaking his head. “he still had all the stuff i saw in him before, i just realized that he wasn’t this completely unreachable goal. like if i wanted to, i could go for it.”
“i really don’t see how this puts you off dating,” namjoon says. “unless there’s a sad ending here.”
“i’ll let you know if i ever get to the ending,” jungkook says. “he’s kind of oblivious.”
so it’s still a thing. well, nice to know, he supposes. kind of fucking sucks, though. but… namjoon wants jungkook to be happy more than he wants him to talk about him the way he talks about this guy. he tries to shove all the negative, disappointed, bitter energy into a corner.
“it’s not like you’re the most subtle person in the world,” he says. “how oblivious can the guy be if he’s missing your signals? who is he, anyway?”
“my turn,” jungkook says. “why’d you break it off with your friend? the casual thing, or whatever. does that mean casual sex? or casual dating?”
“that’s like two different questions,” namjoon says. “technically three.” jungkook gives him a look, and namjoon rolls his eyes. “okay, fine. yes, it was casual sex. it was just kind of an awkward situation, uh. we couldn’t really go for anything else as long as we were together, so. it just worked out better to split.”
jungkook hums for a second, still staring at namjoon’s face. then, “why would you go for anything else when you just said you didn’t think dating was important anymore?”
fuck. this is why namjoon sucks at lying, he can’t ever keep his stories straight. “i answered your question,” he says quickly. “my turn. who’s your guy?”
“pick a different one,” jungkook says.
“that’s not how this works!”
“pick a different one,” jungkook repeats.
namjoon frowns at him, but jungkook’s not budging. he’s got his chin on his knees, waiting. “fine,” namjoon says. “do i know him?”
“yes,” jungkook says. “but not as well as you think.”
“that makes no fucking sense,” namjoon says. “i don’t like this game.”
jungkook just smiles at him. “so are you interested in dating again? or is there another reason you broke it off with your booty call?”
“how come you get to make all the rules?” namjoon demands. “you got to pass.”
“my house, my rules,” jungkook says. “but since you’re avoiding the question, i’m gonna guess that yes, you are interested. so why are you dodging talking about it so hard, then?”
“it’s just a question, hyung.” he’s sitting a little more relaxed now, not hugging his knees so tight. “you don’t have to answer.”
namjoon sighs. sure, he doesn’t technically have to answer, but in this situation, not answering is as good as actually answering. “i’m just really not good at dating, jungkookie. it’s awkward, it’s weird. people are confusing.”
“you’re about to have a post graduate degree in psychology.”
“all the more reason for me to say people are weird.” he shrugs. “i don’t know, i guess, like, yeah it’d be nice. of course i think about it, doesn’t everyone, sometimes? but it’s complicated and hard and awkward and i’d probably just make a fool out of myself. and sometimes when you make a fool out of yourself you hurt people in the process and it’s just easier to cut all that messiness out.”
jungkook hums. “okay, i’ve got two things to say to that. don’t interrupt me, okay?”
he waits until namjoon sighs and nods agreement before continuing. “okay. so first of all, that still doesn’t explain why you cut it off with this guy, unless you had feelings for him? in which case, you know, if you guys are already semi exclusive, i’ve never gotten why stuff like that can’t just turn into an actual relationship anyway. that’s how taehyung and jimin were, before they got together. but like if you’re that close all the time then you’re bound to get caught up in some awkward feelings stuff, i doubt it’s as unrequited as you think.”
god, if that last sentence doesn’t ache. they are close all the time -- not in the way jungkook’s talking about, about namjoon and hoseok, but in the way they are right now, here on jungkook’s couch, quizzing each other on their love lives and every other weird, vaguely philosophical discussion they’ve ever had. namjoon can’t tell if he intends for that double meaning to be there, or if it’s coincidental, or if he said it on purpose but it doesn’t mean anything, or--
“and second of all,” jungkook goes on, “you said literally a week ago that you have to follow the opportunities in front of you. how are you gonna say that but then not go for things when they’re available?”
“i also said i’m an easiest path kind of guy,” namjoon says.
“i thought you weren’t gonna interrupt me.”
“oh, i thought you were done.”
“i was, but i didn’t say it.”
this is stupid, namjoon thinks. “it’s not the same thing anyway, kookie,” he says. “can you really say you have opportunities to pursue in that area if there’s no one to pursue them with?”
“i think you’re making assumptions,” jungkook says. “how can you say there’s no one?”
“well i think,” namjoon says, “that i answered my question already. your turn. if your guy’s so oblivious, and you’re interested, and you don’t think he’s out of your league, what’s stopping you from just telling him?”
jungkook makes a face. “i’m trying, hyung. he can’t take a hint.”
“i’m not saying drop hints,” namjoon says. i want him to be happy, i want him to be happy, i want him to be happy, like a never ending mantra in the back of his mind. a reminder -- jungkook’s happiness comes first. “i’m saying just come right out and say it. sometimes people are stupid and they need the actual words.”
“like you said, hyung, i’m not trying to make a fool out of myself.” jungkook leans against the back of the couch. his smile is a little sad, a little self-pitying. namjoon doesn’t get it.
“since when do you care what people think about you?”
jungkook’s eyebrows push together. he has nice eyebrows, namjoon thinks. he doesn’t really get modern fascination with eyebrows beyond their use in psychology as a marker of emotion and body language. but jungkook has nice eyebrows.
“i care when it’s certain people,” jungkook says. “people who matter.”
namjoon snorts. “like who? you don’t care when it’s taehyung.”
“i care when it’s you.”
something in namjoon’s gut surges with a little rush of possessiveness. that’s bad. he needs to stop that. that’s not what jungkook means. he means that he looks up to namjoon, that namjoon is just that little bit older than him, and he’s accomplished just that little bit more than he has, and that namjoon helps him and he respects him. that’s what he means.
“that’s not the same thing,” namjoon says.
jungkook’s whole expression seems to drop in an instant, suddenly looking irritated and annoyed. “sure it’s not, hyung,” he says, a little snappy. namjoon doesn’t know what he did.
“we’re off topic,” he says. “look, you don’t have to listen to me. obviously i’m not the most experienced or trustworthy here. but if it was me, i’d want to know.”
jungkook is quiet for a moment, and then he says, “i think i’m tired of this game.”
namjoon tries not to roll his eyes. of course he is. the kid is so goddamn competitive. normally he takes losses a little more gracefully than this, but whatever. he’ll get over it. “yeah,” he agrees. “it’s getting late anyway, i should probably head home.”
jungkook follows him to the door again when he gets up to leave, but his body language is off. his arms are crossed high over his chest, defensive, and he doesn’t look at namjoon, just keeps his eyes on the floor.
he’s gotta be tired. naps on the couch are not enough to make up for all those missed hours of sleep. not to mention the stress of trying to finish a paper like that, and college is enough pressure as it is.
“hey,” namjoon says. jungkook glances up, and namjoon takes his chance, grabs him by the bicep (warm, strong, firm) and pulls him in, wraps his arms around him and holds him there. “get some sleep, okay? i’m sorry i pushed you. you don’t have to listen to me. you know your own situation best.”
jungkook is quiet and stiff, and then he shifts, lets his arms fall down from his chest and wrap loosely around namjoon’s waist. he moves his head just a little, the bridge of his nose pressing into namjoon’s shoulder. “it’s okay,” he says. “it’s not your fault. i’m just tired. i’m sorry i pushed you, too.”
namjoon lets go and jungkook steps back. “be careful,” he says, like last time.
“i will,” namjoon says.
“and text me when you get home this time,” jungkook says. his arms are at his sides now, more comfortable, and he smiles. it’s not the full, big smile, where his eyes crinkle and his nose scrunches and his teeth show, but it reminds namjoon enough of it that he can’t help smiling back.
“i will,” he promises. “we’ll go over your essay saturday, yeah?”
“sounds good,” jungkook says. “that’s tae’s date night, we’ll have the place to ourselves.”
“great,” namjoon says. is it great? he’s not sure. if they keep having these weird conversations, it might not be so great after all. jungkook opens the door for him and he steps outside. he wants to kiss him -- so bad. so fucking bad. the moment feels wrong, incomplete, unfinished, if he can’t lean in and kiss him goodnight.
“bye,” he says.
“goodnight, hyung,” jungkook says.
he texts jungkook while he kicks the door closed behind him when he gets home, and then decides, you know what? fuck it. yoongi made this weird first. he can’t be blamed for making it weirder.
yoongi’s sitting at the counter in their tiny, awkward kitchen, eating old leftovers and scrolling through something on his phone. namjoon says, “i need some advice.”
yoongi looks up, kind of looking like a scared cat, like he might bolt at any moment. “yeah?” he says, awkwardly.
“you’re better at this, like, romance stuff, than i am,” namjoon says.
yoongi gives him a look like he’s growing an extra arm. “you wanna try that again?”
“you are,” namjoon insists. “you and jin hyung were together forever, right?”
“uh, yeah, but it started as a rebound when he broke up with you,” yoongi snorts. “so i don’t know how well that actually counts.”
“okay, look, hyung, i’m stupid,” namjoon says. yoongi starts to roll his eyes, opens his mouth to dismiss that, but namjoon cuts him off. “no, i am. it’s okay. i know. it’s not a big deal. the point is sometimes i’m stupid and i just need advice, and right now you’re the only person i can ask. so look, i just… what if i form this like a philosophy question, instead of a romance question?”
“i'm not sure that's much better,” yoongi says. namjoon chooses to ignore that.
“okay, so you have something in front of you, an opportunity,” namjoon says, “and you have two options, activity and inactivity. you either take a chance or you don’t. in general, you can say that the opportunity is overall beneficial, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll make it, and you might actually end up in a worse place than you started, but there’s no way to know that. so is it better to take the chance in the hopes that you end up winning, or is it better to just let it pass by and avoid failing and being let down, along with the possibility of negative effects to your current status?”
“joon-ah, what the fuck,” yoongi says. “words, language, concrete examples. i know you know how to teach, you can explain this without sounding like a philosophy textbook.”
“i need an unbiased opinion,” namjoon says -- he does not whine, though it may sound like that to the unpracticed ear. “if i tell you the real life example then it affects the actual outcome. observer effect. heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.”
“you’re science talking at me, namjoon-ah, that’s not gonna work. where the fuck is this even coming from, i thought you finished philosophy classes like last semester.”
“we always have time for introspection and analysis of the world around us, hyung,” namjoon says. he’s anxious. he can’t help it, slipping into the calm language of science. it’s easier when he doesn’t have to put any emotion into it.
“holy shit, you’re losing it,” yoongi breathes. “what the fuck is going on?”
namjoon chews on his lip, desperately casting around for some sort of example he can give without explaining the whole situation. “ah… did you ask hoseok out?”
yoongi’s whole face sours instantly. “why would i do that?”
“oh my god, hyung,” namjoon says. “can we please move past the part where you pretend you don’t like him?”
“i don’t like anyone, because i’m not fifteen years old,” yoongi says. “i’m a grown fucking adult, i’m attracted to people.”
namjoon groans and leans all his weight into the barstool yoongi’s not sitting in. “hyung,” he whines, and yes, he’s whining for real now. “please.”
yoongi glares at him for half a second, then looks away, poking at his food. “no, i didn’t ask him out,” he grumbles.
“okay,” namjoon says. “why not?”
“why the fuck are we talking about me?” yoongi demands. namjoon is maybe pushing a little too hard, making him defensive.
“please, hyung, i promise it’s relevant,” namjoon begs. “i swear.”
yoongi groans, reaches up to massage his temples with one hand. “i’m just… waiting for the right time.”
god, he’s a sap. he can try to be gruff and angry about the cheesy stuff, but namjoon knows him. “but how will you know when it’s the right time? why not just ask now? is he more likely to say yes? are you more likely to get a better outcome? what if you wait too long and the opportunity passes by and you don’t have a chance anymore? isn’t waiting the same thing as inactivity?”
“namjoon,” yoongi says. he sounds exhausted. “what the fuck.”
yoongi huffs a frustrated sigh, says, “i don’t fucking know, joon-ah, it just doesn’t feel right to ask now. i can’t say that i’ll have a better chance if i wait, but like… yeah, you’re right, if i wait too long, it’s like i never did anything at all. i’m not saying i’m gona wait till next year, or even next month. look, joon, this is mushy people shit. you can’t quantify it.”
“i’m not trying to quantify it,” namjoon says. “i’m trying to qualify it. quantifying requires numbers. qualifying is less distinct, but it still gives me an answer. in a way. how do you know when it’s the right time to ask?”
yoongi shrugs. “i don’t know, when we’re alone, when enough time has passed that it doesn’t look like i’m just pouncing on your sloppy seconds again, when i’m reasonably certain that he’s interested.”
“that’s so many variables,” namjoon mutters. “you can’t possibly control all that. what if it takes too long to meet all those conditions?”
“then i say fuck it and go for it,” yoongi says, “or i miss my opportunity and spend however long regretting it when he inevitably finds someone else who’s not afraid to take the risk.”
namjoon is quiet for a second while he thinks about that. jungkook already has a guy -- or, at least someone he’s casually interested in. it’s never come up before, and he doesn’t seem particularly broken up about it. it wasn’t until namjoon started really pushing that he closed off and stopped talking about it. but he’s fairly certain there was something there, something between them. if jungkook’s so interested in this other guy, why’s he cuddling up with namjoon on the couch, why’s he quizzing him on his love life, why’s he so protective when taehyung starts prodding? is namjoon really so scared of rejection, of changing their dynamic, that he’s going to let it freeze him in inactivity until jungkook’s other guy gets a clue and sweeps up what namjoon’s too afraid to make a grab for?
“what are you thinking so hard about?” yoongi asks. he reaches out and gently flicks the crease between namjoon’s eyebrows. “calm down, joon-ah. where’d all this come from?”
“just a… philosophical debate,” namjoon says. “with the kid i tutor. we’ve been arguing about it for a couple weeks now.”
yoongi frowns. his eyes narrow just a little. “i thought you tutor him in english?”
fuck. “i do,” namjoon says quickly. “but sometimes i help with other stuff, you know?”
“uh huh,” yoongi says. “so why’d you frame it as romantic advice?”
fuck. “i just-- it-- it would be easier for you to understand!” namjoon snaps, stumbling over his words. he stands up, pulls his phone out of his pocket. “look, you’ve given me some valuable insight, so i’m just gonna--”
he half trips over the corner of the coffee table, blushing like an idiot as he does, in his haste to get out of the room. “namjoon-ah,” yoongi calls after him, but he’s down the hall and in his room before yoongi has to get out the rest of whatever he was going to say.
he looks down at his phone. two new notifications: kakaotalk, jeon jungkook.
<< sleep well
<< see u saturday
“you’re late,” jungkook says. he’s in the lobby when namjoon walks into his apartment building, getting his mail from the box.
“sorry,” namjoon says. he kicks his shoes on the welcome mat, hair plastered to his forehead, water dripping down his neck into his shirt uncomfortably. “i couldn’t find my umbrella, and i spent like twenty minutes looking for it before i just said fuck it, and…” he trails off, shrugs.
jungkook giggles, and snaps all tension in namjoon’s body just like that. he walks over, reaches up to flick a stray bit of hair back into place. “you look like a wet cat,” he says. “c’mon, you can borrow some clothes. and an umbrella for the ride back.”
“thanks,” namjoon mumbles, embarrassed. he trails after jungkook to the elevators, keeping his head down so he can’t make eye contact with anyone else in the building who might judge him for trailing water all over the floor.
upstairs, he changes into sweatpants and a tshirt that jungkook offers him, and then can’t help staring in the bathroom mirror for a little. he’s seen jungkook in this tshirt before, and it smells like him (or his fabric softener, whatever), and it sits a little different on namjoon. on jungkook it’s a little tighter around the arms, a little looser over the shoulders, and namjoon tries so, so hard not to think about it. the sweatpants, too, are just a little short in the leg, and namjoon has to wear them low on his hips to get them to sit comfortably around his ankles.
jungkook only glances up at him once when he walks out into the living room. “you look comfy,” he says. his voice is muffled, mouth covered by his hand.
“better than before,” namjoon says. he sits down on the floor, keeps a careful distance between them. “so, that essay?”
“yeah,” jungkook says. he turns his laptop toward namjoon. “do you wanna…”
“yeah.” he reaches out to start scrolling through, and his hand bumps jungkook’s. the other boy jerks away.
“sorry,” namjoon whispers.
“it’s fine,” jungkook whispers back.
namjoon scrolls down to the first error on his list. “uh, yeah, so… here, your phrasing isn’t wrong, it’s just kind of awkward? i know you’re talking about something in the past, but would have to just sounds better than would have had to. perfect tenses are kind of weird in english, because no one uses them properly. especially because if you use would have to, then it just ends in to be, but the other one it’s to have been, and that’s just a lot of unnecessary words, you know?”
“yeah,” jungkook says.
namjoon’s quiet for a second, glances over. jungkook has his head propped on his hand, and he turns his gaze to namjoon’s when namjoon looks at him. namjoon breathes in. “does that make sense?”
jungkook nods. “yeah. this is stupid, though.”
namjoon can’t help but laugh a little. “yeah, well, english is kind of stupid. as long as you get it enough to wing it.”
“yeah,” jungkook says.
he keeps saying that, namjoon notices as they go on. just yeah, and it’s making him anxious. he seems off -- not angry or upset or tired, just… off. namjoon doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong. he’ll point out a mistake or a bit of awkward phrasing and when he asks if it makes sense, jungkook just says yeah. every sentence, just yeah. when they get to the bottom of jungkook’s document, namjoon says, “is there anything else we need to look at?”
jungkook shakes his head, and finally, a different answer. “no, that’s all.”
“okay,” namjoon says quietly. he lets jungkook do what he needs to, saving the document and closing out of his word processor, and then dropping his head onto the coffee table.
“um.” namjoon wants to reach out and touch him, but he’s scared to. “kook? you okay?”
“yeah,” jungkook says. he doesn’t move. his voice is muffled again. “i’m fine.”
“you seem a little off today,” namjoon says, uncertainly.
jungkook heaves a long, even sigh. “yeah,” he says, without sitting up. “i’ve been waiting for something, but i’m starting to think it’s never gonna come.”
“uh.” namjoon doesn’t know what to do with himself -- doesn’t know what to do with his hands or his arms or his body or his voice. “package? phone call?”
“yeah,” jungkook says. “sure.”
“kook, are you sure you’re okay?” namjoon asks. he drops his voice a little lower, even though he knows there’s no one else in jungkook’s apartment. “do you wanna talk about anything?”
jungkook sighs, then finally sits up. he looks over at namjoon, looking a little miserable, a little resigned. “no, hyung,” he says quietly. “really, it’s fine. sorry, i’m just being dramatic.”
“if you say so,” namjoon says. “but like… if you do wanna talk, i’m here. you know that, right? i’m always here.”
for one terrifying fraction of a second, jungkook almost looks like he’s going to cry, but his face smooths out, and thank god, because there is no way in hell that namjoon is prepared to deal with that. “yeah, i know,” he mumbles. he looks down at his lap, and then up at namjoon, and their eyes lock.
the silence seems to span centuries. namjoon genuinely has no idea how long they sit there, staring at each other, because his head is playing a montage of all the opportunities he’s had so far, and the dwindling number of chances he has left. maybe he’s being an idiot. maybe he’s playing it too safe. maybe he really does need to just take that leap.
yoongi says, “say fuck it and go for it.”
hoseok says, “don’t overthink it, you big baby.”
jungkook says, “hyung, i really--” and namjoon cuts him off on accident because he chooses that moment to lean in and crush their mouths together.
jungkook does not freeze, but he does gasp, and namjoon has just enough time to process how soft his lips are before pain shoots through his nose and he realizes how poorly he’s planned this. “fuck,” he gasps, and backs off immediately. “fuck, oh my god, jungkook, i didn’t--”
“kim namjoon!” jungkook yells suddenly, cutting him off. “don’t you dare fucking say you didn’t mean to do that, i will kill you, i swear to fucking god!” his eyes are burning, and he looks even closer to crying than he did before. “don’t you fucking say that to me, you piece of shit, making me wait all this fucking time--”
“wait?” namjoon echoes, breathless. “jungkook, what--”
“before you cut me off, i was going to say...” jungkook snaps, glaring so furiously, angrier than namjoon has ever seen him. “i was going to say, hyung, i really fucking like you.”
namjoon gapes. “i… what?”
“holy fucking shit,” jungkook whispers. “hyung, you can’t actually be this oblivious. what the hell did you think i was trying to do, quizzing you on why you broke up with your fuckbuddy, huh? hyung, i literally throw myself at you, i beg you to tutor me in a subject i get perfect grades in, i straight up tell you that you’re the only person whose opinion of me matters, and you still don’t get it.”
“y-you said you liked someone!” namjoon breathes. “what…?”
“i also said,” jungkook says, “that you knew him, but not as well as you think. i thought maybe some stupid fake deep bullshit might get through to you, but no, you just keep right on going, and then you have the fucking balls to say oh, if it was me. excuse me? if it was you? are you joking? it is you, you idiot! it’s been you for months!”
namjoon stares at him for a few long seconds. “i don’t understand,” he admits.
“oh my fucking god,” jungkook whispers. he leans up on his knees, gets up close, and presses their lips together.
namjoon freezes, even though jungkook didn’t before. their second kiss is much nicer than their first, in large part because jungkook has thought this out better than namjoon has, apparently, so they’re not crushing their noses together this time. his lips are just as soft, namjoon thinks, his breath warm and gentle when he opens his mouth against namjoon’s, and namjoon mirrors the movement, feels jungkook’s tongue slide against his, soft and foreign and unbelievable, all levels of perfect and intimate and everything namjoon has wanted for months.
jungkook pulls away, and namjoon’s heart is pounding so loud that he can barely hear him when he says, softly, “does that make more sense?”
namjoon swallows, licks his lips -- they’re still wet, shining like jungkook’s are. jungkook stares back at him, waiting. namjoon nods. “y-yeah. it does.”
“you get it?” jungkook asks. there’s a little twinge of disbelief to his voice. “you understand now? hyung, i like you. i really like you. i want you.”
“yeah,” namjoon whispers. “i get it. i…”
jungkook’s eyes go a little wide, his lower lip pouting. “hyung, please just say it. don’t make me keep waiting.”
“yeah,” namjoon says. “i like you, too, kook-ah. i--”
he doesn’t have time to finish that sentence, because jungkook kisses him again. namjoon lets himself get a little braver, wrapping an arm around jungkook’s waist to pull him closer, so he can feel him pressed up against him, warm and solid and real. jungkook breaks apart for a second just so he can slide closer, underneath namjoon’s arm, and then latches their lips back together. namjoon has to twist at a slightly more awkward angle, but at least it means that jungkook is right there, he’s right there, this is real and it’s happening and it’s perfect.
eventually, jungkook pulls away slow, and drops his head onto namjoon’s shoulder. namjoon just sits there for a second and lets himself breathe. finally, he says, “your floor is really uncomfortable.”
“yeah,” jungkook says. “couch?”
“yeah,” namjoon says. “sounds good.”