The day before Seokjin’s thirtieth birthday is a beautiful day.
He spends it sitting under an umbrella on a sunny beach, far from the cold weather in Seoul, alternately reading Harry Potter and watching surfers, with a break every two hours to apply sunscreen liberally per the directions on the bottle. Namjoon spends the entire day napping next to him.
To Seokjin’s satisfaction, sometimes the surfers watch him back as they walk past him. It’s good to know that he’s still got it, even as he says goodbye to another decade of life.
One such surfer gives him a long, evaluating look, which Seokjin returns. His swim trunks are plastered to thick, muscular thighs. He’s not wearing a shirt. Little droplets of water move over defined abs as the man bends down to pick up a towel from the sand. Seokjin swallows, moving his gaze up to safer territory.
Facially, the man—barely more than a kid, really—isn’t the prettiest ever, but he’s got cute doe eyes and a pleasant little mouth. His soggy man bun detracts somewhat from the effect.
And now they’re staring openly at each other, and shit is getting awkward fast. Seokjin winks. The surfer starts to look away, but his eyes get to Seokjin’s book and flick back up to his face. He sneers.
“Why would you come to the beach just to hide from the sun and read Harry Potter?” He asks in Korean, in a voice that’s oddly soft and sweet for someone whose appearance is so imposing.
Seokjin’s mouth flaps around in wordless outrage for a moment before he collects himself enough to respond.
“What does it matter to you what I do for fun?” He says.
“Doesn’t look fun,” Surfer Boy responds.
“It doesn’t?” Seokjin says. “I must have spent thirty years of my life with the wrong definition of ‘fun.’ Please, enlighten me as to the real meaning of the word.”
“Whoa, dude,” Surfer Boy says. “Chill. I was just teasing.”
Seokjin hmphs and goes back to his book, determined to ignore the young man next to him, who spreads out his towel and lies down on it to sunbathe, but he can’t resist another jab.
“You’re going to get skin cancer, lying out in the sun like that.”
“Whatever,” Surfer Boy says. He doesn’t bother to open his eyes. “You didn’t seem so worried about my health when you were ogling me a minute ago.”
“Who says I’m worried about your health? It’s your health. You should be the one worrying about it, not me.”
“Sure thing, gramps,” Surfer Boy says.
“’Gramps?’” Seokjin says.
“Well, you did say you’re thirty.”
“Twenty-nine years and three hundred sixty-four days,” Seokjin says. “You can’t call me gramps until tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Surfer Boy says. “Give me your number so I can call you tomorrow.”
He grins at Seokjin, one hand held over his face to shade his eyes from the sun. It’s a cheeky grin, and his front teeth stick out a bit like a rodent’s. Belatedly, Seokjin realizes that he doesn’t actually have a surfboard. He decides it doesn’t matter—if it walks like a surfer and talks like a surfer, it must be a surfer.
“In your dreams, kiddo,” Seokjin says.
Shrugging, Surfer Boy picks up a snapback from the pile of things beside him and plops it down onto his face. He doesn’t say another word, and Seokjin goes back to his book once again, though the man’s presence nags at his consciousness.
Jimin reappears in late afternoon, soaking wet and out of breath with a giant grin on his face. Outdoorsy people—Seokjin doesn’t get them.
“Have you had a nice day?” Jimin asks.
Seokjin shrugs, and Namjoon lets out a little snore. Jimin looks at him and giggles. With a wink at Seokjin, he stands over Namjoon’s waist and drops to his knees, so that he ends up straddling Namjoon’s hips in his soggy swim trunks.
Namjoon shrieks and sits bolt upright, arms flailing to push Jimin away before he sees who he is.
“You scared the shit out of me,” he says.
“Sorry,” Jimin says.
He doesn’t look very sorry, and when he leans forward to plant a kiss on Namjoon’s mouth, Seokjin has to find himself somewhere else to look.
His eyes land once again on the not-surfer’s supine form in the sand. He’s got freckles here and there on his nice, solid body. Seokjin tracks them with his eyes.
“Hyung,” Jimin says.
When Seokjin turns around, Jimin looks pointedly at the very attractive man on the ground and waggles his eyebrows at Seokjin. Seokjin clears his throat and tries to ignore how warm he feels, all of a sudden. Acknowledging the blush will only make it worse.
“Time for dinner?” He asks.
They go to a nice restaurant with high-quality but uninspired food, because Namjoon isn’t an adventurous eater. Jimin and Namjoon sit across from Seokjin, practically in each other’s laps, and Jimin leans on Namjoon’s shoulder to look at his menu even though the waitress gave them three. Seokjin tries his best not to vomit.
“Did you have fun ogling surfers today, hyung?” Jimin asks, once the waitress has taken their orders.
Seokjin does what any mature person does when he finds himself without a decent retort: he sticks his tongue out at Jimin.
“What?” Jimin says. “Nothing wrong with a bit of ogling. I just wish you’d try to chat them up every once in a while.”
“I’ll have you know,” Seokjin responds. “That I have a date coming up with the very attractive, very successful Park Jeongsu, CFO of 8Tech.”
Caught in the middle of a bite of bread, Jimin stares at him. It’s an eloquent stare.
You’re on vacation, and it’s your thirtieth birthday, it says. And you’re going to pass up a chance for no strings attached sex with hot men because you have an upcoming date with yet another boring businessman you’ll dump after a month of dating.
“And anyway, I did chat up the surfer,” Seokjin says. “He was annoying.”
One of Jimin’s happy, twinkly, self-satisfied grins starts to develop, going full-force once he’s swallowed his food.
“Aww, hyung, I’m so proud of you!” He says. “Now we need to move on to step two, which is understanding that annoying people can make for perfectly fine one night stands.”
“Jiminie,” Namjoon says. “Maybe you should leave him alone.”
Over the course of the meal, Jimin and Namjoon spend more time feeding each other than themselves, leaving Seokjin feeling awkward once again. He vengefully leans forward and saws off a bite of Jimin’s steak while Jimin’s occupied feeding Namjoon a forkful of it, at one point. Neither of them notice, what with Jimin’s eyes being fixed on Namjoon and Namjoon’s eyes being closed in bliss. Seokjin sighs again.
Later that evening, after Jimin and Namjoon have gone off to have couple time, leaving Seokjin with orders to go chat up more surfers, Seokjin goes to the hotel’s open air lounge. There’s a new episode of his current favorite sports anime—this one about a Japanese ice hockey team—that he’s been desperately wanting to watch all day, but spending time with Jimin and Namjoon has left him feeling lonely.
So he settles into a comfy chair with a fruity drink and watches people, not quite brave enough to try to talk to anyone through the language barrier.
“Mind if I join you?” Someone asks, startling him.
It’s the surfer boy from the beach. Seokjin’s eyebrows slide up his forehead.
“If you want to spend some time with an un-fun old geezer, then be my guest.”
He lays the sarcasm on thick, not sure if he wants company if it comes in the form of Surfer Boy and not really believing that Surfer Boy is being serious.
Surfer Boy drops into the seat across from his.
Tragically, he seems to have found a shirt, and it’s an ugly one at that. He wears it well, though, slouching in his chair like he spends his days doing nothing but relaxing in white tank tops with armholes down to his lowest ribs.
“I never introduced myself,” Surfer Boy says. “I’m Jeongguk.”
“Kim Seokjin. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Gotta take gay Korean company where I can get it, around here,” Jeongguk says.
Seokjin knows what he means, but he chooses to take offense anyway.
“Good to know I’m better than nothing,” he says. “I’m bi, though. Not gay.”
Jeongguk sits back a little.
Seokjin shrugs and changes the subject.
“So you live here, then?”
Jeongguk nods. “I’m a tour guide. I needed a break from Korea after I left the Army.”
“I can believe that,” Seokjin says.
“What about you?” Jeongguk says. “What do you do when you’re not reading Harry Potter on beaches?”
“I’m a mid-level human resources manager at an investment company,” Seokjin says.
“What do you do when you’re not being a mid-level human resources manager at an investment company?” Jeongguk asks.
“Not much,” Seokjin says. “I watch TV and cook, mostly.”
And go on dates with an endless string of suitors, but there’s no need to give this kid further proof that his love life is pathetic. It’s bad enough that Jeongguk found him sitting alone in a hotel lounge on the eve of his thirtieth birthday.
“Really?” Jeongguk says. “You seem like the type to enjoy serious literature and politics.”
“You just pointed out that I was reading Harry Potter on a beach.”
“Yeah, but like,” Jeongguk says. “You don’t seem like you’d admit that.”
“I’m never going to see you again,” Seokjin says. “It’s not going to damage my reputation if you find out I enjoy fantasy novels and writing fanfiction about sports anime.”
“Man,” Jeongguk says. “First you tell me I can call you tomorrow, and then you say you’ll never see me again. I’m sensing some flip-flopping here.”
He grins, a big gleeful thing. With the big teeth and doe eyes, it's adorable. Seokjin is shaken.
Cute younger men usually aren’t his thing. Neither is casual sex, which is where this seems to be going, but Jeongguk is casual and sexy. Seems like it should work.
At the very least, it’d be better than spending the night alone.
“You sure like to twist people’s words,” Seokjin says.
He takes another sip of his drink. Whatever kind of liquor is in it has more bite than he’d expect in a fruity drink, but it isn’t bad.
“You’re fun to tease,” Jeongguk says.
“Oh, now you admit I’m fun,” Seokjin says.
“There’s a difference between being fun and being fun to tease.”
“You act awfully superior for someone who’s like half my age,” Seokjin says.
“Half?” Jeongguk says. “You’re not as smart as you look. Twenty-five isn’t half of thirty.”
“It’s pretty damn young,” Seokjin says. “Your friends probably aren’t all getting married and making babies yet.”
“No,” Jeongguk says, looking thoughtfully at his drink for a moment. “They’re mostly out hooking up with strangers in clubs for quick fucks because they don’t know how to be emotionally intimate with another person.”
In the face of Seokjin’s surprised stare, he ducks his head and breaks eye contact again.
“I mean, on the topic of things we can say because we’ll never see each other again,” he says. “So are we gonna hook up or what?”
“Huh?” Seokjin says, struggling to keep up. “Isn’t that moving too fast?”
Jeongguk shrugs. He looks a little sad for a moment.
“It’s where this is going anyway, right?” He says. “Why drag things out?”
Because I’d rather talk, Seokjin says to himself. It’s never worth saying that aloud.
It’s possible that what happens next is because that unspoken answer lingers in his head as they leave the lounge. It’s equally possible that Seokjin, between wine at dinner and the fruity drink at the lounge, is just tipsy enough to be too honest.
What happens is that Jeongguk finds a nice, hidden alcove somewhere in the hotel’s garden and presses Seokjin back into it. His hand brushes across Seokjin’s stomach, and he freezes.
“Holy shit,” he says, poking at Seokjin’s abs a few times before pulling his shirt up to look at them. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Nothing about enjoying Harry Potter and cooking prevents me from working out,” Seokjin says.
“I can see that.”
Jeongguk walks him back against the wall and kisses him, letting out a huff of air when Seokjin pulls him closer. He’s pleasantly solid in Seokjin’s arms, and he makes a pleased sound when Seokjin breaks from his lips to kiss up his jaw and behind his ear.
“If we went up to your room right now,” Jeongguk murmurs. “What would you do with me?”
“Hmm,” Seokjin says. He runs his fingers back and forth on the skin between Jeongguk’s shirt and his pants. Jeongguk sucks in a breath and presses in closer.
“It can be anything you want,” Jeongguk says.
Seokjin leans back so that he can look Jeongguk in the eye. He’s treated to Jeongguk looking up at him with sparkly doe eyes, chewing his lip with cute little bunny teeth. It’s worthy of a shojo manga.
What does he have to lose? Does he really care what this boy thinks of him? There’s next to no chance of tonight’s events coming back to bite him in the ass. In the worst case scenario, his pride will suffer a small ding, and he’ll lose his company for the evening.
Maybe he’ll lose a little bit of hope for himself, too, but did he really have that to begin with?
“What I really want?” He says.
Jeongguk nods at him.
“What I reeeeeeeally want to do with you,” Seokjin says. He bites his lip, maybe in response to Jeongguk doing the same.
“What is it?”
“Don’t laugh,” Seokjin says.
“I can’t get it to work, either,” Jeongguk says. “I don’t know why.”
When Seokjin walks far enough into the room to see him, he’s standing in front of the TV with Seokjin’s laptop in one hand and a remote control in the other. Seokjin trades him one of the drinks he’s just bought for an outlandish sum at the hotel gift shop for the laptop, and then he climbs onto the bed. He pats the spot next to him.
“Let’s just watch it on the laptop.”
With a shrug, Jeongguk sets the remote down in front of the TV and climbs onto the bed next to Seokjin. He settles against Seokjin’s side when Seokjin wraps an arm around his shoulders.
Seokjin presses play, and the latest episode of Puck Up!! starts playing.
“I didn’t expect you to say yes to this,” Seokjin says.
“I wouldn’t have if you hadn’t offered me food,” Jeongguk says.
He digs a couple of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts out of Seokjin’s box of them and tosses them into his mouth.
Seokjin shrugs, too focused on the screen to pay attention. The show is ramping up to what’ll undoubtedly be an enormous cliffhanger just in time for the end-of-year break in programming.
This episode picks up with a recap of the last, with the heroes’ team down three to zero in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics. The Latvian team’s burly star player is in the middle of his signature move, which involves a bit of skating on the plexiglass surrounding the ice rink.
“That’s improbable,” Jeongguk says. “Is that even legal?”
“There’s no rule against it,” Seokjin says. “But only because nobody ever did it before this guy. They spent three episodes on the teams banding together to try to get it banned.”
“Sports anime, man.”
Just in the nick of time, Kawa-chan—finally able to join after being held up by ‘visa problems’ manufactured by the Russian team’s coach—body checks the Latvian player. Nakata takes the puck back down the court before the Latvian team realizes what’s happened. He scores.
“Which ones do you write fanfiction about?” Jeongguk asks.
“Usually Jun and Nakata,” Seokjin says.
“Which one is Jun?” Jeongguk asks.
“He hasn’t shown up yet. He threw a fit and walked out on the team in the last episode.”
“Sounds like a drama queen,” Jeongguk says. “You blew off sex with me for an animated drama queen.”
“Shh,” Seokjin says.
On screen, the game is over. The ‘camera’ pans across the crowd to locate Jun in the stands, with his beanie pulled down to shadow his face and the high collar of his sweater tugged up to cover his mouth.
“Is that him?” Jeongguk asks.
“I said be quiet,” Seokjin says.
“Do you write smut about him?” Jeongguk asks. “Would you rather write about him fucking that Nakata guy than fuck me?”
“Would you please kindly shut the fuck up?”
“Or are you one of those people that writes three hundred thousand word epic stories with like one sex scene thrown in so you can bait readers with a higher rating?”
“If you’re not going to let me watch, then just leave,” Seokjin says.
“Okay, okay,” Jeongguk says.
Seokjin doesn’t look away from the screen, but he can hear the smile in Jeongguk’s voice. He pinches Jeongguk’s shoulder in retaliation.
“How do you know so much about fanfiction, anyway?” Seokjin asks when the credits start to roll.
“I had a friend who was really into it,” Jeongguk says.
“You actually had a friend? How long did that last?”
“Shut up,” Jeongguk says. “Are we going to watch the next episode or what?”
“I told you, that was the most recent one,” Seokjin says.
“Oh,” Jeongguk says. “Then let’s start at the beginning. I was really lost.”
“Don’t you hate the show?”
“No,” Jeongguk says. “I hate that you rejected sex with me in favor of watching the show. I have nothing against the show itself.”
Shrugging, Seokjin nips into his videos folder and pulls up season one, episode one while Jeongguk settles back in the pillows.
“I can talk now, right?” Jeongguk asks.
“Only if you’re not going to be annoying,” Seokjin says.
Jeongguk’s absentminded “’kay” doesn’t give Seokjin much confidence.
“Ah, classic sports anime,” Jeongguk says as the show opens on a young Kawa-chan discovering ice hockey via a match he runs across while studying abroad in Canada. “Wait, is this guy the main character? He’s not one of your guys.”
“Yes,” Seokjin says. “And no, he’s not. He’s kind of a prick.”
“Are you a rarepair writer, then?” Jeongguk asks.
“You learned an awful lot about fanfiction in that brief period of time when you actually had a friend,” Seokjin says. “And yes, sort of. Jun/Nakata isn’t all that rare.”
“Ha,” Jeongguk says. “You never answered my question from earlier, anyway. What kind do you write?”
“Multichapter romance tropes,” Seokjin says. “My current one is an AU in which Jun and Nakata are rival movie actors who end up costarring.”
“Let me guess,” Jeongguk says. “They’re playing gay lovers, and they fall for each other?”
“Let me guess,” Seokjin says. “The fanfic-writing ‘friend’ you were talking about was you?”
“Never mind,” Seokjin says. “I don’t care.”
Finally the scene switches to Kawa-chan back in Japan and meeting Nakata on his local ice rink, immediately dropping into the inevitable shonen anime showdown that precedes every good shonen anime friendship.
“Ah, yes,” Jeongguk says. “Because every good friendship starts with a good ass-kicking.”
Seokjin wakes up in the dim gray of predawn the following morning with Jeongguk lying beside him, wearing a borrowed T-shirt for sleeping. It’s a little too big; few people are as broad as Seokjin, and Jeongguk isn’t one of them. The way the sleeves dangle over his shoulders coupled with the rabbit-like front teeth visible past his slack lips give the effect of a sweet young man.
Too bad he’s a jerk when he’s awake.
Seokjin sits up against the headboard and watches him for a moment or two. He hasn’t woken up hangover-free in a bed with someone he didn’t have sex with the night before in ages. It’s an odd feeling. A nice odd feeling.
The noise he makes brushing his teeth and starting the coffee maker isn’t enough to wake Jeongguk. Seokjin stands over the bed and contemplates him for a moment, wondering if he needs to wake up for his job. Seokjin himself is due to be on the bus for a guided tour in just a couple of hours, and he’d like a proper breakfast.
Leaning over the bed, he blows lightly on Jeongguk’s face. Jeongguk’s nose scrunches in response, and his lips smack a little before he opens his eyes. He stares blearily at Seokjin for a moment.
“Oh,” he says eventually.
“Finally remembered where you are?” Seokjin asks.
“Hmnrgggh,” Jeongguk says. He stretches his arms above his head and then collapses. “Oh, right. Happy birthday.”
It’s oddly sweet, coming from Jeongguk. Seokjin doesn’t trust it. He decides to wait a moment before he says thanks.
Sure enough, after a pause to yawn, Jeongguk says, “So are your joints creaking yet, gramps?”
Seokjin grabs a pillow, lifts it up over his head, and brings it down on Jeongguk’s face. It makes a solid whump, but Jeongguk is still grinning when he pushes it off of his face.
“You said I could say it today.”
“I didn’t actually think I’d see you today,” Seokjin says.
“You don’t know me very well,” Jeongguk says.
“For someone I just met yesterday, I know you way too well.”
“Man, you’ve got some weird fucking ideas about relationships,” Jeongguk says.
“You’re just weird,” Seokjin says.
Jeongguk scrunches his nose and snickers, then sits up and stretches again.
“As much as I would love to stay here and fight you on that, I need to get to work,” he says.
Seokjin watches him slide his jeans back over thick thighs and button them. He takes off Seokjin’s shirt and replaces it with his tank top, now rumpled from spending all night balled up.
“You sure stare a lot for someone who doesn’t want to fuck me,” Jeongguk says.
“You’re pleasant to look at,” Seokjin says.
“Whatever floats your boat.”
“Well,” Seokjin says. “Thanks for humoring me, anyway.”
He doesn’t really want to thank Jeongguk, but he feels like he should. It’s not every night you go out looking for sex and end up marathoning a cheesy sports anime because your hookup turned out to be a desperate demisexual man.
“It’s cool,” Jeongguk says. “I’d say any time, but. You know.”
His gesture around the room seems to imply that the problem is that Seokjin won’t be around long, not that he’d rather watch anime than have sex. Seokjin doubts that he’d really sit around watching sports anime for hours on a regular basis, but there’s no point in arguing the matter. He waves goodbye as Jeongguk walks out the door, then goes to take a shower.
He’s dozing in the front seat on the bus for the tour as the passengers slowly filter on when Jimin and Namjoon arrive. They take the row directly behind Seokjin, and Seokjin twists around in his seat to face them.
“You seem cheerful today,” Jimin says.
“I haven’t spoken to you yet,” Seokjin says. “How can you even tell?”
“You were smiling a little before you saw me,” Jimin says. He leans forward. “Hmm, and you look a little tired. Did you get laid?”
“I did no such thing,” Seokjin says. “I was smiling because I learned a new joke.”
He didn’t actually learn a new joke, but bluffing will work just fine. Before he finishes sucking in a breath like he’s going to recite one, Namjoon reaches between the seats to cover Seokjin’s mouth.
“It’s too early for jokes,” he says.
Batting his eyelashes, Seokjin sticks his tongue out and licks Namjoon’s hand. He giggles as Namjoon’s expression shifts from world-weary to disgusted. Namjoon retracts the hand and wipes it on his pants.
“Did you just lick my man’s hand?” Jimin asks.
“Your man put his hand on my mouth first,” Seokjin says.
“Why do I hang around with children?” Namjoon asks.
Seokjin and Jimin grin at each other.
“You love us,” they say in unison.
“Not this early in the morning, I don’t,” Namjoon says.
Still tired from staying up the night before, Seokjin lets the topic go in favor of resting his eyes while Jimin and Namjoon chat behind him, and the bus loads up with people speaking Korean. He’s an inch away from falling asleep when Jimin suddenly calls out, “Jeon Jeonggukie?”
“Jimin-hyung?” A familiar, oddly soft voice asks. Seokjin’s desperate hope that it’s not the same Jeongguk dies a sad death.
“It is you! Jeonggukieeee,” Jimin says.
There’s some thumping, and the bus bounces. Seokjin cracks his eyes open to see Jimin throwing his arms around Jeongguk, who’s dressed in crisp khakis and a light blue shirt that’s some kind of hybrid of a polo shirt and a Hawaiian shirt, with a little badge on the breast that says Jungkook. Tour guide, he’d said. And he was Korean. It kind of figures that he’d be the guy leading a Korean-language tour. Shit.
Seokjin watches with some trepidation as Jeongguk and Jimin interact.
“I haven’t heard from you since you were conscripted,” Jimin says. “What have you been doing?”
Gesturing at the bus, Jeongguk says, “I moved here right after I got out. A friend got me a job as a tour guide.”
“A tour guide, huh?” Jimin asks. “Whatever happened to painting?”
“It’s a long story,” Jeongguk says.
“You’ll have to tell me,” Jimin says. He starts to turn, and Seokjin knows he’s about to be introduced. “But first, this is my friend Seokjin, and that’s my boyfriend behind him, Namjoon.”
There’s a growing smirk on Jeongguk’s face, and Seokjin fights to keep the horror off his own.
“Nice to meet you,” he says quickly, hearing Namjoon echo the sentiment more sincerely.
Jeongguk raises an eyebrow at him, and Seokjin tries to communicate with his eyes that last night should never be mentioned in front of Jimin.
It must be too obvious, because Jimin gives the two of them a curious look. Jeongguk’s smirk shifts into an enormous grin.
“Nice to meet you, too,” Jeongguk says.
“So what did happen with painting?” Jimin asks Jeongguk that night.
Seokjin tries to melt into the back of the booth in the restaurant they’re in. Just when he thought he’d made it through the day unscathed, Jimin had invited Jeongguk to dinner with them at the end of the tour, over Seokjin’s vehement protests that he should get to choose the guests at his own birthday dinner.
(“Only you would have a problem with someone inviting a hot guy to your birthday dinner,” Jimin had said, and then he’d applied his worst pout. “Come on, I haven’t seen him in ages!”)
“I still do it when I can,” Jeongguk says. “But getting back into it after enlisting was hard, and a friend offered me a job out here.”
“Were you doing it as a career before?” Seokjin asks.
“I don’t know if I’d call it a career,” Jeongguk says.
“He won every newcomer artist award he was ever eligible for in Korea and some international ones,” Jimin says.
Jeongguk’s lips twist into a shy smile, and he tilts his head to the side for a second like he’s disagreeing with Jimin. Seokjin raises his eyebrows. Somehow Jeongguk doesn’t strike him as the artistic type.
“Are you seeing anyone?” Jimin asks.
“Nope,” Jeongguk says.
Turning to Seokjin, Jimin wiggles his eyebrows. Seokjin wonders what Jimin expects him to do with a hot friend who lives in another country. Leave the table conspicuously to have sex?
“Hey,” Jeongguk says, eyeing Seokjin’s phone lying with its black, red, and white case facing upward on the table. “Aren’t those the Japanese ice hockey team’s colors?”
“How did you know that?” Jimin says.
“There’s this anime called Puck Up!!,” Jeongguk says. “You probably haven’t heard of it.”
Jimin nudges Seokjin’s arm and bounces his knees in excitement, undoubtedly certain that he’s just found Seokjin’s soulmate.
“I have,” he says. “Seokjinnie-hyung is obsessed with it.”
“Is he?” Jeongguk says, looking at Seokjin with a positively smug smile. Seokjin wants to wipe it off his face, but his brain is frozen by the ludicrous turn of events.
“I’m not obsessed with it,” Seokjin says. “I just enjoy it.”
“Did you watch the new episode of it last night?” Jimin asks.
“How does that make me obsessed?” Seokjin asks.
He has to keep up to date with the show to keep his fanfiction from ending up with glaring errors, and he has to update his fanfiction frequently to keep from irritating his readers. It’s a delicate balancing act that Jimin knows nothing about.
“You watched it last night?” Jeongguk asks. “Me too! I was so glad when Kawa-chan finally showed.”
Jimin dances in his seat again while Namjoon cradles his head in his hands.
“Also,” Jeongguk says. “Is it just me, or was Jun staring particularly hard at Nakata?”
“Oh my god,” Namjoon mutters.
This is very, very dangerous territory. Seokjin stomps on Jeongguk’s toes in warning, and then, desperate to divert the topic of conversation, Seokjin blinks at Jimin, then tips his head at his anime-averse boyfriend, hoping that Jimin will steer them back to a topic the whole table can enjoy and far, far away from Jeongguk exposing the extent of Seokjin’s involvement with fanfiction.
Jimin takes the bait.
“Are you planning to come back to Korea soon, Gukie?” He asks.
“I’m planning to visit for Seollal this year,” Jeongguk says. “Otherwise, no. I like it here.”
“Don’t you get lonely?” Jimin asks.
“Nah,” Jeongguk says. “I have friends here.”
“Friends aren’t the only thing you need,” he says.
“Not everybody’s you, hyung,” Jeongguk says.
“Truer words have never been spoken,” Seokjin says.
Jeongguk holds his hand up for a high five. Seokjin thinks hard before delivering, but the enemy of your enemy is your friend and all that, right?
“Fuck you,” Jimin says. “You’re supposed to be my friend.”
“You’re supposed to be mine, too,” Seokjin says.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
It is in fact in reference to a betrayal that hasn’t happened yet, but that Seokjin is as certain will happen in the near future as he is certain that he will end up getting drunk with Jeongguk after it does.
He’s proven correct when Jimin stages a fake-ass yawn immediately after they finish their desserts.
“Welllllll,” he says. “I hate to have to abandon you so early on your birthday, hyung, but I’m awfully tired. Joonie and I are going to have to turn in.”
He winks. He’s lucky he’s cute.
“Wait, why me?” Namjoon asks.
“Because,” Jimin says.
He winks again, this time at Namjoon instead of Seokjin. Namjoon stares at him.
“I’m not tired, though?”
“Yes, you are,” Jimin says. “Come on.”
“Okay,” Namjoon says. “Um, night, hyung. Happy birthday.”
Seokjin spots them stopping by the hostess stand on the way out. Jimin passes the hostess a credit card and nods at the table. She walks off to swipe the card.
Jeongguk sniffs. Seokjin turns back to face him. They’re sitting next to each other, awkwardly facing an empty bench on the other side of their booth. Jeongguk doesn’t move to change seats, and Seokjin can’t, as he’s stuck between Jeongguk and the wall.
“So,” Jeongguk says.
“So,” Seokjin says.
“So much for never seeing me again?”
“We’ve already established that I’d be happy to fuck you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Seokjin says.
He’s already a little bit tipsy. He decides that the best option here would be to become a lotta bit tipsy. He flags down a waitress and orders drinks for him and Jeongguk.
He’s well on his way to reaching his goal of lotta bit tipsy when Jeongguk produces his phone from a pocket and starts typing on it.
“Are you phubbing me?” Seokjin asks. Some nerve.
“No,” Jeongguk says. “I’m asking you if you’re… kitjin?”
Suddenly, Seokjin feels terribly sober.
“How the hell?” He says. “Were you snooping on my computer?”
“Nah,” Jeongguk says. “It turns out my friend who writes fanfiction is a big Puck Up!! fan. I just asked him who was writing a story about Jun and Nakata the costars turned lovers. He yelled at me for spoiling him.”
“Oh,” Seokjin says. “Well, Jeon Jeongguk, since you have found out my secret, you are now required to pinky swear never to leak it to anyone. Especially not anyone named Jimin or Namjoon.”
He stretches his hand over to Jeongguk, pinky out. Jeongguk frowns down at it.
“I’ll agree on one condition,” he says. He looks up at Seokjin and waits.
“What is it?” Seokjin asks.
“That we continue our marathon,” Jeongguk says. “Only maybe not so late this time.”
“Works for me.”
Jeongguk grins. He loops his little finger around Seokjin’s and shakes.
“Then I pinky swear that I will not spill your secret.”
They only make it through three episodes before Jeongguk dozes off on Seokjin’s shoulder. At first he thinks Jeongguk is just adding intimacy to the cuddle they’ve got going by putting his head on Seokjin’s shoulder, but then the weight gets heavier and heavier as time goes by.
Seokjin pauses the video and waits a few seconds. Jeongguk doesn’t react.
He looks around the room for his book and spots it over by the TV. He’d have to get up to get it, which would mean waking Jeongguk. He opens ao3 instead, locates some new fanfiction, and gets reading.
Jeongguk’s body heat is pleasant along Seokjin’s side, kind of like a giant cat. When Seokjin finishes one story, he goes on to another, and after that he hunts down a recently completed NakaKawa fic fest. Before he knows it, it’s three in the morning, and he’s dozing off on Jeongguk’s head.
“How’s it going with Jeongsu?” Jimin asks.
He shovels some noodles into his mouth, nodding appreciatively after a moment.
“This’s good,” he says, gesturing at his bowl.
“Went,” Seokjin says. “Very past tense. He was boring.”
Jimin looks up at him over the new clump of ramyun he’s begun to stuff into his mouth.
“What do you expect when you keep dating these excessively successful businesspeople?” He asks with his mouth still half full of food. “They work too much to have time to have fun.”
“I want someone stable,” Seokjin says. “Sue me.”
“There are plenty of people who are stable without being CFOs by the time they’re thirty-one.”
Seokjin rolls his eyes and takes a hearty mouthful of his ramyun. It’s just the right amount of spicy and salty, warm enough to counteract the chill of March in Seoul. He’s long since learned that Jimin will never understand that Seokjin would rather be selective about who he dates from the outset than go on a million doomed dates with unusual people.
This is in large part because Jimin likes to spend every hour of the day with people, and also because he doesn’t have any hobbies. It’s an extrovert thing, Seokjin suspects.
“This place gets a ten,” he says, gesturing at the surrounding tiny restaurant.
“It does,” Jimin says.
He shovels more noodles into his mouth and slurps them up, taking a sip of water when he’s done with them. Following that, he starts to fiddle with the bottle of soy sauce on the table, neither speaking nor taking another bite of noodles, and Seokjin starts to worry.
“Your noodles are gonna get soggy,” he says.
“Mm,” Jimin says. “Can I ask you something?”
“I was wondering something, but I wanted to make sure Jeongsu wasn’t about to move in with you, first.”
“What were you wondering?” Seokjin asks.
“Do you remember Jeonggukie?” Jimin asks. “He was our tour guide in Hawaii.”
“No,” Seokjin says. “I don’t want to hear the rest of this. No.”
“Just hear me out, hyung,” Jimin says. “Please?”
“Okay,” Seokjin says. “Let me hear it.”
“We’ve kept in touch,” Jimin says. “He needs to move back to Korea, and he doesn’t have a job yet. I don’t think he has a lot of money, either.”
“And?” Seokjin asks.
“And,” Jimin says. He purses his lips. “I really don’t want to have to ask you this but he’s a really good guy, okay? He’s a young gay man, and I know the type of people he used to hang around with. I’m afraid he’ll crash with one of them, and—“
He trails off.
“And what?” Seokjin asks. “Do a bunch of drugs and have a lot of sex?”
“Not that,” Jimin says. “There’s a really skewed view a lot of them have that I worry about. Sort of like all that time we spent in the closet growing up ruined our ability to form proper relationships, you know? You try not to get too close to people so it won’t hurt too much if they ditch you when you come out.”
“That could be,” Seokjin says. “What does it have to do with me, though?”
“You’re the most well-adjusted person I know with a spare bedroom,” Jimin says. “He needs somewhere to live while he gets his feet under himself, and I think you’d be a good influence.”
“You want me to babysit him,” Seokjin says.
“Not babysit!” Jimin says. “Just let him live with you and learn by mitosis, or whatever.”
“I think you mean osmosis,” Seokjin says.
He wants to say no. Seokjin’s home is his home, and letting it become someone else’s home makes his stomach twist, even if it’s a short period of time. His spare room is there for manga storage, not guests.
On the other hand, Jimin is the kind of person who takes care of everyone around him and asks for very little in return. Seokjin is loath to refuse him anything.
“Whatever,” Jimin says. “Also, his parents divorced and his mom is sick and living in Seoul alone in a tiny studio, away from all her family in Busan.”
“Why is she in Seoul, then?”
“The only doctor who specializes in her condition is up here.”
“When is he coming?”
“Hyung, you’re the best,” Jimin says, smiling the happy smile that shows off adorably uneven teeth.
“I haven’t agreed to anything yet,” Seokjin says.
“He’ll be here in three weeks,” Jimin says.
When he gets home, Seokjin looks around his apartment, trying to see it with the eyes of someone who doesn’t see it every day, while Sirius does his little leg rub dance and meows for food and pets and Remus just meows for food. It’s clean enough, he decides eventually.
Once he’s cracked open a can of food (and briefly held it over the cats’ heads to laugh at how they fixate on it), he goes into the spare room and examines it.
He’ll have to take his computer out, clearly, and set up the futon for sleeping instead of his usual lounging.
After a bit of pushing and pulling, he remembers how to get the back down. He crawls onto it, first wondering if it’s too hard to be a proper bed, and then wondering if he really cares if he has a comfortable bed for an annoying freeloader.
Up close, he notices that there’s more than a little bit of black cat fur all over the mattress. Seokjin pinches up a clump and frowns.
He’s not allergic to cats, is he? he texts Jimin.
No. I checked, comes Jimin’s dishearteningly immediate reply.
Seokjin sighs and flips over to Safari, to the email account he doesn’t have set up in his phone’s default email app.
New comment on Act Up!!, says the subject line of one email. He smiles and opens it.
justinseagull left the following comment on Act Up!!
Putting down the phone, Seokjin takes a piece of pastel green paper and sets it in his printer, then pulls up the message on his computer, copies it to his word processor to change the font, and prints it out. It goes up on the justinseagull section of his happy comments corkboard, along with a handful of other comments he’s received from the same reader.
Seokjin has mixed feelings about justinseagull—he’s guaranteed to get exactly what Seokjin was going for with whatever he’s written, which is why he’s got his own section on the corkboard, but he often tacks on a rage-inducing “update faster!” at the end. He’s only even been reading Seokjin’s stuff for three months, for fuck’s sake.
He stands back to appreciate the addition and has a brief moment of conflict. Should he take the corkboard down before Jeongguk arrives? It’s embarrassing.
Then again, Jeongguk isn’t worth the stress of changing up the décor in his sanctuary when he could be writing and talking to friends. Seokjin pushes the thought aside and settles at his computer. He pulls up his Act Up!! document before remembering that he should actually respond to justinseagull’s message. He goes to ao3 and types a quick response.
Switching to his phone again, he opens up LINE and sends Hope a message, lifting the phone higher and higher when Sirius jumps into his lap and starts rubbing his face all over Seokjin’s hands.
It takes several minutes for Hope to respond, during which time Seokjin has managed to read a lot about animatronics on Wikipedia and written exactly zero words of fanfiction.
Looking up, he spots a new email in his fanfiction account. He clicks over to it to find a response from justinseagull.
justinseagull replied to your comment on Act Up!!
Pulling the recipe for lamb soup with lima beans out of his bookmarks and pasting the link into a reply is a one-handed job, which makes Sirius happy. Seokjin ends up typing ‘here u go’ one handed so that he can keep petting the cat until he’s done, whereupon he picks up his phone and resumes his discussion with Hope.
New message from Min Yoongi:
It’s exactly eleven minutes before close of business. Seokjin rolls his eyes, saves all of his work, and works the network cable out of the back of his computer in a careful, practiced gesture with the toe of his shoe. Then picks up his desk phone.
“IT Services, this is Sehun speaking,” a bored, nasal voice says on the other end. “How can I assist you today?”
“Hey, Sehun, this is Kim Seokjin,” Seokjin says.
“I’ll transfer you to sunbae,” Sehun says.
“Thank you,” Seokjin says, half of it to the sound of hold music.
“IT Services, this is Min Yoongi,” Yoongi says.
“Hello, my computer isn’t getting any Internet.”
“I’ll be right over,” Yoongi says.
“One of these days I’m going to ask you to do something that takes thirty minutes just to spite you,” Seokjin tells him when he strolls into Seokjin’s tiny office a minute later.
“You wouldn’t,” Yoongi says. “You know you’ll make Hoseok sad if I’m late to date night.”
“Maybe I want to make him sad,” Seokjin says, scooting his chair back so that Yoongi can crawl around under his desk, unplugging and replugging wires just for show. “Maybe I’m bitter that a jerk like you has a wonderful husband while a fantastic human being like myself is stuck alone.”
A sharp elbow meets Seokjin’s shin, and he yelps. He’s about to kick Yoongi’s adorable, conveniently located ass in response when someone speaks from the doorway.
“Are you okay?”
Looking up, Seokjin blinks several times at Song Hyekyo; a decade his elder, drop-dead gorgeous, and recently brought on board as chief of commercial investment services. After a moment of her looking quizzically around the office, he realizes that she can’t see Yoongi, and that it’s probably for the best if she doesn’t find out he’s there.
“Yes!” He says. “I’m sorry, I just banged my shin on my desk. What can I help you with?”
Tucking her hair behind her ear, Song Hyekyo glances down in the pattern that tells Seokjin she’s looking at his shoulders and suit. This is behavior that immediately precedes flirting, Seokjin thinks. His stomach flutters.
“I was wondering if you’d like to get drinks with me this evening,” Hyekyo says.
“I’d love to,” Seokjin says. “But I’ve got plans tonight. How about tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow would be great,” Hyekyo says.
Once she’s gone, Yoongi crawls out from under the desk and stands, peering out the doorway.
“Was that Song Hyekyo?” He asks. “Did she just ask you out?”
“Yes and yes,” Seokjin crows, doing a tiny fist pump.
“How do the ethics of dating within the company work when you’re in a lower-ranked position than the person you want to date, but you’re the son of the CEO?” Yoongi asks.
“It would be unethical if I tried to initiate things,” Seokjin says. “But not if the other person does.”
“Is that what the manual says?”
“The manual doesn’t mention relationships between employees at all, regardless of power imbalances. It’s on my list of things to fix when I get a promotion.”
Yoongi shakes his head, dusting off his knees.
“I guess turnover would be astronomical if your dad were into firing people when they dump you,” he says.
“He wouldn’t fire anyone for dumping me,” Seokjin says. “He’s also aware that I know how to break up with people amicably.”
“That’s because you never actually care that much about any of them,” Yoongi says. “And none of them care that much about you.”
“Whatever,” Seokjin says. “Please leave my office so I can go home. My new roommate is moving in today. I need to cook dinner.”
Jeongguk arrives with Jimin, wearing a flannel shirt and carrying a worn wool coat. He’s also carrying a large backpack, and he and Jimin are lugging a suitcase each.
“That’s all you brought?” Seokjin asks when he lets them in, Sirius coming forward to explore only to bolt and hide behind the money tree with Remus when the suitcases roll in.
“I sold most of my stuff,” Jeongguk says. “Not like I’m gonna need a surfboard anytime soon.”
He approaches Seokjin with his arms out for a hug. Seokjin does a quick visual scan of his body for any obvious pranks before delivering.
“Welcome back,” Seokjin says.
“Thanks,” Jeongguk says. “It’s fucking cold here. Why does anyone live here?”
“You’ve said that twenty times already, Jeonggukie,” Jimin says.
“Doesn’t make it any less true than it was the first time,” Jeongguk says.
“Come inside, then,” Seokjin says. “It’s better in here.”
Taking the suitcase from Jimin’s hand, he leads Jeongguk back to the spare room.
“Why didn’t you take the suitcase I’m carrying?” Jeongguk asks.
“You’re a strong boy,” Seokjin says. “I’ve seen your muscles.”
“Jimin’s pretty strong,” Jeongguk says, just as Jimin shouts, “I knew it! You two totally fucked, didn’t you?”
“Wow,” Seokjin says. He shuts the door to the spare room in Jimin’s face. “Anyway, this is your room. Sorry there’s a lot of stuff in it.”
Jeongguk stares around the room for a moment with his mouth hanging open before walking to the wall to look at Seokjin’s comment boards. (The door rattles in Seokjin’s hand. He leans against it to hold it shut. “Hyung!” Jimin shouts. “I promise I don’t blame you! I’m proud of you! Jeonggukie is hot!”)
“Aww, are these comments from your fics?” Jeongguk asks.
“Don’t even think about making fun of me,” Seokjin hisses. “And please don’t mention my writing around Jimin. He doesn’t know!”
“I’m not going to make fun of you,” Jeongguk says. He looks at the justinseagull board with comically wide eyes. “You’ve practically got a shrine to this guy.”
“A couple other people have their own blocks,” Seokjin says. “Come on, if we don’t eat soon Jimin will actually break down the door.”
It takes a few minutes to dish up the food. Jimin helps by setting the table, while Jeongguk crouches down to pet Remus. Seokjin starts counting up in his head until the inevitable shriek.
“Jeongguk, you have to watch out for Siri,” Jimin says at five.
Seokjin has his back turned while he ladles soup, but he can picture the situation; Sirius crouched behind Jeongguk, bobbing his head as he calculates the effort required to jump. He’s so quiet about it that people never notice.
At twelve, Jimin says, “Oh no.”
There’s no corresponding shriek from Jeongguk, though, just an, “Oh, hi kitty.”
Seokjin turns just to make sure what he was expecting did happen, and there is, in fact, a black cat sitting on Jeongguk’s shoulders. Jeongguk stands up smoothly with Sirius balanced there, reaching up awkwardly to scratch the cat’s ears as Sirius nuzzles his dumb man bun. Seokjin passes the bowls of soup to Jimin.
When he carries the soup bowls to the table (soup goes first because the cats won’t touch it while his back is turned; the banchan dishes often need closer watching), Sirius climbs down to explore the way he always does; by draping his upper body down Jeongguk’s back to reduce the total distance he needs to fall through the air. He always digs his claws into clothes in the process, and Jeongguk’s flannel shirt isn’t thick enough to protect his skin.
Jeongguk doesn’t even wince.
“You must be a masochist,” Seokjin says.
When he comes back carrying rice and banchan, Jimin is gently removing Sirius from the table. Seokjin sets the rice down and removes Remus.
“It didn’t hurt that bad,” Jeongguk says.
When they’re all seated, Seokjin gestures for Jeongguk to start. Jeongguk grins a big, excited grin and ducks his head like he wants to hide it. He takes a sip of soup and freezes, closing his eyes as he swallows. Then he takes another sip.
“This is delicious,” he says.
“Isn’t it?” Jimin says. “Seokjin-hyung is an amazing cook.”
“You made this?” Jeongguk asks.
He looks up at Seokjin with round eyes. Seokjin tries not to preen too hard and fails.
“I cooked everything on this table,” he says.
Jeongguk tries each banchan dish one by one, looking borderline orgasmic after every bite. Jimin nudges Seokjin after a few moments of watching this.
“You know they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” he says.
“Well, that could be a problem,” Seokjin says. “I have a date with a very attractive lady tomorrow.”
“What?” Jimin says. “Again? Hyung.”
“Do I need to go away tomorrow night?” Jeongguk asks.
“No,” Seokjin says. “I don’t put out on the first date.”
“You don’t,” Jeongguk says. He lifts his eyebrows.
“You guys definitely fucked,” Jimin says. “I’m telling Namjoon.”
Seokjin pries Jimin’s phone out of his hand and sets it on the other end of the table.
“Namjoon doesn’t want to know about my sex life.”
“I don’t care if he wants to know,” Jimin says. “This is about my need to tell someone, not his desire for information.”
“Anyway, it’s irrelevant,” Seokjin says. “There’s no competing with Ms. Chief of Commercial Investment Services Song Hyekyo. No offense, Jeonggukie.”
Jimin rolls his eyes.
“I give it a month, tops,” he says to Jeongguk. “Then they’ll have a very polite breakup, and he’ll be on to someone new within a week or two.”
“Hey,” Seokjin says.
“Sounds like he’s dated a lot of people,” Jeongguk says.
“I’m right here,” Seokjin says.
“Can I have more soup?” Jeongguk asks.
Seokjin takes his bowl and gets up to refill it. Jimin speaks again while Seokjin’s back is turned.
“A lot of people is an understatement.”
“Where do you find all these people?” Jeongguk asks.
Seokjin leans out of the kitchen and draws a circle around his face in the air with his soup ladle.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m an attractive man,” Seokjin says. “It isn’t hard.”
“And his dad is the CEO of a very large company,” Jimin says. “Hence the spacious apartment.”
“Are you the heir?” Jeongguk says.
“No,” Seokjin says. “I’m not smart enough to take over his job, so I get to be the spare kid with a trust fund and no obligations.”
“You’re smart,” Jeongguk says.
“How would you know?” Seokjin asks.
“Um,” Jeongguk says. “That’s. Well. You can cook. You have to be smart to cook good food, right?”
Seokjin stares at him over his bowl of rice.
“Cooking and running a company are two different things,” he says.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk says. “Yeah, um. They are. I know that.”
“Gukie’s right,” Jimin says. “Aren’t you your dad’s spy or something?”
Seokjin rolls his eyes.
“That’s just a family joke to make me feel better.”
Jimin being Jimin, he doesn’t leave until Jeongguk has fallen asleep on the couch with Remus in his lap. Seokjin sees him to the door to make sure he actually leaves, and then he goes back to the couch and gently jostles Jeongguk’s shoulder to wake him.
“You should do the sleep thing in a real bed,” he says when Jeongguk’s eyes open.
Jeongguk looks at him through droopy eyes and sniffles. His head starts to tip back again, but he catches himself. He shifts Remus onto the cushions and gets up.
“I left a towel out if you want to shower,” Seokjin says.
Jeongguk sways on his feet.
“I think I’m just gonna sleep,” he says. “I don’t think I could stand up long enough for a shower.”
It’s just after nine o’clock. The dishes are done, courtesy of Jimin. Seokjin pulls out his computer and starts typing.