“But if the philosopher kings have to be raised that way from birth, how would anyone know how to teach them?”
“Well, schools didn’t work the same way they do here. The knowledge the true philosopher attains comes from comingling with the Forms, not from a teacher.”
“But how could they comingle with the Forms if they’re trapped in a body? Wait—let me hold onto your coffee while you open the door, hyung.”
Jungkook snatched the cup out of Namjoon’s hand seconds before it would have splattered onto the floor along with the stack of books he was carrying. He hadn’t thought to bring his backpack with him to the library before class. He hadn't planned on checking out any books, but, well, things happened.
“Thanks,” Namjoon said, as Jungkook helped him pick them up. “Some of those are library books and they aren’t thrilled when you get coffee stains on them.”
“You say that like you know this first-hand.”
“Coffee cups have a way of spilling around me,” Namjoon said.
“It could be because you try to juggle them with twenty books,” Jungkook replied, gesturing with the books he was still holding.
“Oh, sorry. You can just set them on the desk there.”
Namjoon pointed to an empty corner of a desk that was crammed against the wall in the tiny, closet-sized office.
Jungkook settled into the chair beside the desk while Namjoon fired up his laptop.
“These aren’t all books for our class, are they?”
“No, it’s my own research.”
“That’s so cool,” Jungkook said.
The way he said it made Namjoon snap his focus back into the moment. He liked it when Jungkook came to his office hours. He was easy to talk to and he had interesting questions and insightful takes on the readings for class, so much so that sometimes he forgot Jungkook was only a freshman taking his first philosophy class.
“Wait. What was your question again? About the bodies?” Namjoon asked.
“Oh, right. The philosophers can never really know the Forms if they’re stuck in their bodies, right? Isn’t that a contradiction?”
“That’s a really smart question.”
“Not really. I mean, we read the Phaedo. Socrates makes it pretty clear that he thinks bodies are bad.”
Namjoon launched into an explanation of learning as recollection and the Myth of Er. Jungkook made him stop three times so he could scribble down notes.
“You don’t need to know this for class, though. We’re not reading any further in the Republic. I think you’d like Professor Gang’s social and political philosophy class.”
“I hope I can fit it into my schedule,” Jungkook said. “I’m overloaded as it is—shit. I have dance class in a few minutes.”
Jungkook shoved his notebook back into his bag and stood up quickly.
“Gymnastike,” Namjoon said.
“Socrates thought the body was a prison, but he still thought you should take care of it. He was even a vegetarian.”
Jungkook made a face that echoed Namjoon’s feelings on vegetarianism. He tried for a week his second year after reading Peter Singer, but he cracked the second he smelled the chicken wings Seokjin was cooking.
“Thanks for talking to me about this. Professor Bang always looks annoyed at me when I ask too many questions in class.”
“He always looks that way. It’s not you. But I’m always happy to talk to you about this stuff, Jungkook. No one else ever comes to my office hours.”
* * *
It was late by the time Namjoon left the tiny office he shared with Jackson to go home. He was trying to finish his undergraduate degree a semester early and was already admitted to the graduate program, which meant only two more months before he had to turn in his senior thesis. And something about the project was still escaping him.
Professor Bang had readily agreed to be his advisor and had approved of the topic, to combine Hegelian teleology with the literature of Hermann Hesse, but Namjoon was still floundering. He had a vague idea of the answer he was looking for, the key to explaining how Hesse was able to illuminate the completeness of the world spirit in a way that Hegel couldn’t through philosophical argument alone. And he knew it had something to do with the way Hesse presented temporality, but how to connect that in a coherent way worthy of a philosophy paper was escaping him no matter how many times he re-read the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel’s lectures on aesthetics, and Siddhartha.
Sometimes he wondered if he was doing the right thing. If he should be going at a slower pace through his studies. It wasn’t that he felt pressure from anyone to speed through undergrad, it was just something he could do, so he figured why not?
He liked working on his thesis. He liked digging into texts written by thinkers who seemed to get it, in some odd way seemed to get him. There was something about the idea of human spirit being connected to the world that appealed to Namjoon, which is why he was so taken with Hegel, with Hesse.
But the thesis itself didn’t seem important. It was just another hoop he had to jump through. On his way toward what, he didn’t exactly know.
Graduate school was going to be more of the same. And while he loved Hegel and libraries and sitting for hours at a time thinking about how his own life fit into the bigger picture, he didn’t always feel like he was really living.
He needed something to ground him to the world, to keep him tethered to day-to-day life. His friends helped, though sometimes that wasn’t quite enough.
Though at least he could say that living with them was never boring. He never quite knew what he’d find when he came back to the suite he shared with Seokjin, Yoongi, and Hoseok.
“Hey, Seokjin-hyung,” Namjoon said to the sentient lump on the couch that was playing some video game Namjoon didn’t recognize. “Where’s Yoongi-hyung?”
“Fuck!” Jin shouted, jerking the controller in his hands. “This level is kicking my ass.
“Sorry?” Namjoon said tentatively. He never really advanced past the Wii, and even then the only game he was any good at was Wii Bowling.
“He’s probably asleep. Doesn’t he have his show tonight?”
As if on cue, a sleep-rumpled Yoongi stumbled out of the bedroom he shared with Hoseok.
“What do you want?”
“Rude,” Namjoon said.
“You woke me up.”
“How did I wake you up? Jin-hyung’s the one yelling at the TV like it called him ugly.”
“Please,” Jin snorted. “No one has ever called me ugly.”
“You said my name,” Yoongi said with a yawn.
“You wake up when anyone says your name at a reasonable volume from the next room?”
“Since when? Are you high?”
“Probably a little.” He blinked a few times. “Fuck. Seok-seok got a new dealer, some kid that just goes by V. Gave me some edibles to sample. Have you ever heard colors?”
Namjoon shook his head and tried not to roll his eyes. He didn’t judge his roommates for their casual drug use. He just didn’t really like being high, having his brain feel muted and out of his control. It was scary enough being in his mind sober.
“Maybe you should go back to sleep. Don’t you have your radio show tonight?”
“Find me a midnight DJ who isn’t high and I will find you a liar. But I was thinking about hearing colors before I ate the gummy bears. Like if the bridge is blue, then you need the verses to be green or maybe orange as a complement, but not red because that would be tacky or yellow because that would be too bright.”
“It’s a thing! Some people link it to synesthesia, which is technically classified as a mental disorder, but there have been studies on the connection between music and color and the whole theory kind of dates back to Newton. It’s how Kandinsky painted.”
Yoongi’s Wikipedia spirals were sometimes fascinating, but once he got going it could be hard to shut him up.
“That actually kind of makes sense about Kandinsky,” Namjoon interrupted, hoping to nip the tangent in the bud.
“Wait, I’m awake right now. And I wanted to be asleep. The fuck? Did you want something?”
“Yeah, instead of working on my thesis like I was supposed to, I worked on the lyrics a little.”
Yoongi made grabby hands at him. Namjoon pulled out the piece of printer paper he’d been jotting ideas on, and Yoongi plopped down at the kitchen table and started reading, his lips moving along with the words and nodding his head like he already had a beat in mind that would fit them.
“These are really fucking good,” he said.
“I mean, it’s mostly just an idea I got from a Rumi poem,” Namjoon replied, deflecting the compliment.
“We’re reading him in the class I TA for. He was an Persian poet. You really never read Rumi poems in school?”
“I’m a music production major. Unless Rumi invented the synthesizer, I’ve never heard of him.”
“Wasn’t that Moog?”
“I’m not even dignifying that with a response because I know you said it to piss me off.”
Yoongi was already grabbing a notebook and scribbling down the lines Namjoon wrote and adding in his own. They had all gotten used to there being little notebooks everywhere around the apartment, even in the bathroom. It was either that or have Yoongi get mad when they turned in homework or threw away napkins or receipts that had lyrics scribbled on them.
“You gonna record this with me?” Yoongi asked.
“Sure, I mean, if you want.”
“Of course I want,” he said. Then he bit his lip. “Though, we really might need a singer to cut through this.”
“Seokjin-hyung would do it,” Namjoon said, nodding over toward the couch.
“Seokjin-hyung will do what?” Seokjin called back.
“Sing for us,” Yoongi said. “If you can sweeten your tone a little. You have to reign in your inner trot singer.”
“You’re going to have to buy me a cake for that,” Seokjin replied. “Get it?”
“Just for that I’m going to find another singer,” Yoongi groused. Then he got up from the table, still clutching his notebook and went back into his room.
“He probably didn’t mean that,” Namjoon said to Seokjin.
“I know,” Seokjin said. “My vocal teacher says I would have made a great trot singer, though.”
Writing songs and rapping were hobbies for Namjoon, not like it was for Yoongi. Yoongi was still pretty active in the underground scene, and he’d bring Namjoon on stage as a “featured guest” once in a while. It was fun, an outlet, but navigating the social network of the underground rap scene and the music business was not something Namjoon liked doing at all.
For him, rapping had always been a less lame way to get away with writing poetry. Philosophers weren’t supposed to be poets. But when he’d taken philosophy 101, the same class he was TA-ing for now and Professor Bang had them read Rumi, everything changed. Namjoon knew he liked philosophy. He liked puzzling through arguments and trying to understand the world. He liked thinking about what beauty was, what truth was, but he saw philosophy everywhere—in art, in music, and in literature—and most academic philosophers didn’t.
But Professor Bang assured him that it was okay. He blamed western imperialism for the academic trends in the Korean academy. Their universities were changing, to get tenure you had to publish in English, and the professor thought it narrowed the field in a bad way. He encouraged Namjoon to have his own ideas.
Really Professor Bang was the first person who wasn’t a dead German guy that really seemed to get the way Namjoon thought, who thought his ideas were worth something.
And so he started to believe that maybe the way he went through the world, finding connections in things that most people didn’t, was okay.
But the thesis still loomed over him. Like he was expected to put it all together by age 21.
* * *
Jungkook was at his office hours after class again later that week, asking about the papers Professor Bang had handed back to them in class. Papers that Namjoon graded. A paper that Jungkook scored a 100% on—and that was with Namjoon trying to find problems with it.
“Your paper was good, Jungkook. You found parallels between Plato and Lao-tzu that even I hadn’t thought of.”
“Yes, especially your section on harmony. It went really in-depth. I actually enjoyed reading it, and I usually hate grading papers. Oh god, don’t tell any of your classmates I said that.”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but all the other kids in class hate me.”
“They don’t hate you. You’re just smarter than they are.”
Except Namjoon knew exactly what Jungkook meant. Being the “smart kid” in all your classes meant that all the other kids fell into two camps: the ones who were nice to you because they wanted your answers and the ones who made fun of you for being smart.
“Are you okay?” Jungkook asked tentatively.
Namjoon shook his head.
“I haven’t really been okay since Fullmetal Alchemist ended.”
“Huh?” Jungkook said, looking at Namjoon with genuine bewilderment.
“It was a joke?”
“That’s kind of sad.”
“Well, I’m kind of a sad person.”
“Wait. The anime?”
“No, the manga.”
“You read manga?”
“Of course. I don’t just sit and read Hegel by candlelight all night.”
He had only done that once, and it was during a blackout. It was the same night—and day—that Yoongi slept for a record 20 straight hours. Had Yoongi the cunning of Seokjin, Namjoon would have thought he planned a city-wide blackout.
“Oh, that’s cool.” Jungkook kind of looked like he was trying to rearrange the mental picture of Namjoon he had constructed.
“Sorry if I seem like I’m in a bad mood, Jungkook. I’m just a little frustrated by my work.”
“What are you working on?”
“Oh, my thesis.”
“I know. I meant what is it about?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“I know I’m a fine arts student, but I like thinking about all this stuff,” Jungkook said.
Namjoon couldn’t help but smile at that. The reason why most of the other students didn’t like him was because he was a fine arts student and he was kicking their asses on all the assignments, but he wasn’t going to tell Jungkook that.
“Well, I’m looking at a concept that Hegel had about the world spirit and the end of history and how that idea is parallel to themes found Hermann Hesse.”
“What’s the world spirit?”
“Well, it’s this idea that the world is the summation of all the human spirits, their speech, their thought, and their culture. Hesse’s works usually focus on the individual, but they still have this connection to something bigger.”
“Like how Demian is kind of about how good and evil are both necessary and you have both sides inside you all the time?”
“You don’t want to consider changing your major to philosophy, do you?”
“I’m already trying to choose between multimedia communications, video game design, vocal performance, and dance,” Jungkook said, his eyes wide with genuine uncertainty in them.
“Jesus. Do you sleep?”
“Not much really. It’s hard to figure out what’s just a hobby and I what I want to do, you know?”
Namjoon did know. He still wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing.
* * *
Namjoon’s family lived just outside of Seoul. It was only a short bus ride away from the university, but he still never managed to see them enough. They were busy with their lives. His sister was going to graduate from high school soon, and she was intent on going to university in the United States.
He had a lot of laundry to do, so he filled a suitcase with dirty clothes and went home that weekend. The real reason behind the trip was to clear his head about his thesis and get away from his roommates. He loved them, he did, but they were a lot sometimes.
Instead of reading or writing, he mostly just played with his dog and went for long walks out in the countryside where the air was clearer and he could lose himself a little. There was a little grove of cherry trees near his parents’ place that he always liked to lie down in.
He liked to look through the trees and into the sky at the clouds and feel small, like he was a part of the earth, like he belonged there. It was everywhere outside that little haven where he didn’t belong. The way humans had constructed the world never quite seemed to have room for him in it.
It was after one of those walks that his mom confronted him, drawing him into the kitchen with the smell of Maejakgwa baking.
“What’s wrong, Joonie?”
“Something’s wrong. I’m your mother. I can tell.”
Namjoon sighed, leaning against the counter, eating cookies while his mom started getting dinner ready.
“The same thing that’s always wrong, I guess,” he admitted. “I just don’t fit right.”
“What do you mean? You know I worry about you being lonely.”
“Mom, I’ve always been lonely. That’s not it.”
“You’re in college, Namjoon. There are clubs you can join, lots of people to meet. It gets harder when you’re out in the real world to make friends and meet people.”
She didn’t get it. Namjoon knew she cared, knew she was proud of his academic achievements, but she thought of not fitting in as wanting to fit in, and that wasn’t the problem.
“I have friends,” he insisted. “You’ve met most of them. It’s not that, I just...” he trailed off.
How could he explain to his mom that his problem was with the world?
He couldn’t tell his mom that he always had a guard up. As he got older, he tried really hard to not be a know-it-all, tried to listen to other people, to learn from them, to take their knowledge, and incorporate it into the way he understood the world.
Namjoon had been kind of an smartass growing up, believing the hype of his own test scores, everyone marveling at his grades. But he wasn’t really that smart, he was just was logical and good at taking tests.
In fact, it felt like the more he supposedly learned, the more confused he felt. He didn’t understand how people could just live knowing that everyone saw colors differently, that everyone had their own personal bits of knowledge, their own story, that no one else would ever know. He didn’t understand how people compartmentalized and ignored that everything was connected. That there wasn’t fine arts and mathematics and humanities, that there was just life, and all of it was happening all at once and was a part of something bigger.
He didn’t understand how everyone wasn’t overwhelmed by that all time.
Namjoon didn’t fit into the all the containers and categories that human beings tried to divide the world into. And no amount of finding social clubs at his university was going to change that.
* * *
Later that week was the first dance showcase of the term.
Namjoon and Yoongi went on the first night to support Hoseok. He had choreographed two of the dances and had been practicing around the clock.
Namjoon didn’t dance himself, but he liked watching it, there was something appealing about the way people could use their bodies to express themselves without words. And he didn’t need to be an expert to know that Hoseok was really good.
He could command a stage in a way that Namjoon could only marvel at. There were other numbers in the first half of the showcase, but there was something missing from them, like they lacked the joy that Hoseok put into his dancing.
When the lights came up for a brief intermission, Yoongi was slumped next to Namjoon fast asleep. So Namjoon looked through the program.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, elbowing Yoongi. “Wake up. I know one of the guys in the next dance.”
Yoongi grunted, but opened his eyes.
“Did you even watch Hoseok?” Namjoon asked accusingly.
“Of course. He was fucking amazing. What kind of friend do you think I am? That contemporary piece with that terrible ballad lulled me to sleep. How do you know someone in the next dance? You have friends other than us?”
“Oh shut up. He’s a student in the class I TA for. He’s really smart, comes to my office hours all the time. You’d like him. He was wearing a Kendrick Lamar hoodie yesterday.”
That got Yoongi’s attention. Before he could ask any follow-up questions the lights dimmed again and two figures walked on stage. Namjoon could see Yoongi swallowing hard out of the corner of his eye.
“Which one’s your student?” Yoongi hissed.
In the dark it was a little hard to tell, but the other dancer was shorter and the way he carried himself was different.
“The one on the left.”
When the music started—Park Ji Yoon—Namjoon’s eyes went right for the other dancer. He hardly noticed Jungkook
The style was different from Hoseok’s street style. It wasn’t quite contemporary either. Namjoon didn’t know what it was, but he did know that their hips were doing things that boys hips didn’t usually do when they danced. They were doing moves that Namjoon had only seen exotic dancers do—which he had only seen in person once on an trip to Bangkok that he and Hoseok had sworn each other to secrecy to never talk about again.
“Fuck,” Yoongi whispered.
“Fuck,” Namjoon agreed.
“Stop perving on your student, so I can perv on him,” Yoongi hissed.
“I wasn’t. I was perving on the other guy.”
“He’s really bendy.”
“Did they just—well, fuck me running.”
Namjoon could feel Yoongi shifting in his seat, leaning forward like he could get closer to the stage somehow.
“We’re going to hell,” Namjoon muttered.
“No. They know exactly what they’re doing. And since when do you believe in hell?”
They sat through another four dances, including a group number with Hoseok, Jungkook, and the ethereal mystery dancer, who did a flip over Hoseok—a flip—that definitely redirected some blood flow in Namjoon’s body.
When the lights came up, Yoongi was gripping the arms of the seat and was breathing slowly through his nose. Namjoon frantically looked at the program to find the dancer’s name—Park Jimin.
“Are you all right?” he asked Yoongi.
“Thighs,” was all Yoongi said.
“You never thought to mention that one of the students in your class has thighs of steel that you want to be suffocated by when he sits on your face?”
“Jungkook? Um, I’ve never noticed. And that’s really specific.”
“Are you blind?”
Namjoon thought about the way Jimin ran his hand down the front of his body and bit his lip. No, no he wasn’t blind. He was already trying to think of casual ways to bring up the dance to Jungkook the next time he came to office hours.
As Namjoon and Yoongi were waiting in the lobby of the theater for Hoseok to come out, that opportunity came a lot sooner than his office hours.
“Oh, hi, Jungkook. You were awesome up there.”
“Yes, we were really impressed.”
“This is—wait—” Namjoon spun around. “Where did Yoongi-hyung go? I swear he was just here.”
“He patted me on the back and said something about—and I quote—needing a cigarette after that,” Hoseok said, coming up from behind Namjoon.
Which basically meant that Yoongi panicked and ran. Were Jungkook’s thighs that impressive? Namjoon had never even considered Jungkook that way.
“You two know each other?” Hoseok asked, looking between Namjoon and Jungkook.
“Jungkook’s in Philosophy 101. I used his test as the grading guide last time.”
Jungkook blushed. “It’s an interesting class.”
“Well, small world. Namjoon’s my roommate,” Hoseok said giving Namjoon’s shoulder a squeeze.
Jungkook’s eyes got wide.
“He’s not the r—”
“No, no, I should have said suitemate. I share a room with Yoongi-hyung. Namjoon and Seokjin-hyung are in the other bedroom.”
Out of the corner of his eye Namjoon saw him—Park Jimin. He was talking to a couple of the other dancers and people who must have been parents, and Namjoon couldn’t help but be struck at how graceful he was. Even as he ran a hand through his hair and gave the two dancers a hug, he had a beautiful way of moving.
Namjoon was still trying to come up with the word to describe it when he started walking—gliding—over in their direction. Namjoon startled out of his fog when he heard Jungkook’s voice.
“This is my friend Jimin. “Jimin-hyung, this is my philosophy TA, Namjoon-hyung.”
Jimin smiled and gave a polite bow.
“So you’re the TA that’s trying to convert Jungkookie to the humanities.”
“To no avail,” Namjoon said. “You guys were great. Your dance was my favorite.”
The way Jimin’s face lit up made Namjoon’s stomach do a full 360.
“Hey!” Hoseok huffed.
“Yours was awesome, too. The group dance at the end where you did that death drop was sick. I just liked that they exposed the way that dances choreographed for women are overtly sexual and the incongruity of seeing two men perform it turned the stereotype on its head.”
“See, I told you people would get it,” Jungkook said to Jimin.
“I can’t even argue with you,” Hoseok said throwing his hands up. “I knew their dance would crush it.”
Hoseok asked Jungkook a question, which launched Jungkook into a description of something that happened back stage complete with impressions and a lot of flailing on Hoseok’s part. Jimin just rolled his eyes at the other two boys.
“So you really liked the dance?” Jimin asked him.
“I did. I’ve lived with Hoseok for three years but I haven’t picked up any of the dance terms to explain, but I know enough to know you’re a really good dancer. Are you a dance major?”
“How long have you been dancing?”
Jimin’s eyes sparkled as he answered the question, and it made Namjoon’s heart race to match his flipping stomach.
“My whole life really. I never could sit still and I liked music a lot, so my parents put me in classes.”
“Well, you dance like you love doing it.”
Jimin looked down at the ground before looking up and smiling at Namjoon almost shyly. “I don’t think you need to know the dance terms, because that’s the nicest thing you could ever say. It’s the only thing I really want to do. I have to force myself to stop practicing sometimes, because I let it consume me.”
“Dance until you shatter yourself,” Namjoon murmured, mostly to himself.
“Hmm?” Jimin asked.
“Oh, I—sorry, it’s a line from a Rumi poem.”
“Dance until you shatter yourself?” Jimin repeated.
Namjoon nodded, his turn to be shy, since Jimin basically caught him talking to himself.
“I like that,” Jimin said, his lips curving up into a smile.
Just then, another man came bounding up behind Jimin and Jungkook, draping an arm around each of their shoulders and then kissing each one on the cheek in turn.
“My children, my beautiful, sweaty children, I’m so proud of you. You kicked the patriarchy in its face.”
“I’m older than you,” Jimin insisted.
“This is Taehyungie-hyung, Jimin-hyung’s roommate,” Jungkook said to Hoseok and Namjoon.
“Taehyung?” Hoseok asked. “You remind me of someone.”
“I’m an acting major. You’ve probably seen me around.”
“No, that’s not it,” Hoseok said squinting at him.
“I have one of those faces I guess,” Taehyung said with a shrug. And then to Jimin and Jungkook, “Are you dancing queens ready? You have to perform again tomorrow so I’m drawing you a hot bath and tucking you into bed at a reasonable hour.”
Jungkook rolled his eyes, but he let himself be dragged away by Taehyung.
“See you in class, hyung.”
“It was nice to meet you,” Jimin called over his shoulder.
“You too,” Namjoon called back.
“He really looked familiar,” Hoseok muttered.
Namjoon shrugged and headed toward the front door.
“He might have been in Seokjin’s last play. There was a huge cast.”
“I guess,” Hoseok said. “But more important, Namjoon, my friend, what was that?” Hoseok asked as soon as they were outside.
“What was what?” Namjoon asked just as he spotted Yoongi leaning against the building. “What the hell is wrong with you disappearing like that?” he said loud enough for Yoongi to look up at them.
“Nope. I want to know what the ‘that’ Hoseok is accusing you of is,” Yoongi called back, stubbing out his cigarette and sauntering over to them.
“You should have stayed inside instead of running away from Jungkook and then you’d know. Though, I don’t even know. What are you even talking about, Hoseok?”
“I wasn’t running away from Jungkook,” Yoongi insisted. “I was running away from his thighs. The pants he was wearing were so tight, you could see muscles flexing through them. I was going to embarrass myself and ask him to choke me with them. I was really saving you all from embarrassment. You’re welcome.”
“The ‘that’ was Namjoon flirting with Jimin. Or trying to flirt,” Hoseok said, ignoring Yoongi’s explanation.
“I wasn’t flirting. I was just talking to him. The best way to talk to someone is to ask them questions about themselves.”
“And look at them like you want to drown them in kittens and rainbows.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
Hoseok ignored the critique and threw his hands up in the air. “Cradle-robbers. Both of you.”
“I’m not robbing any cradles. I think that weed you got made me hornier than normal,” Yoongi insisted.
Hoseok looked like he was considering it as a possibility, which was a conversation path Namjoon was really hoping they wouldn’t go down.
“That could be. I’ve been feeling a little randier than usual. Anyway has your boner subsided so we can go? I’m starving.”
“Yes, my boner has subsided so we can go.”
Namjoon shook his head.
“Why do I hang out with you two?”
* * *
After that night, Namjoon couldn’t stop thinking about Jimin. It wasn’t that he was, to use Yoongi’s words, “perving on” him. Jimin was gorgeous, but there was something else about him that had drawn Namjoon in and he wanted more.
Even as he did the readings on Rumi so he could grade the students’ last writing assignment, thoughts of Jimin and what he said about dancing invaded his mind.
Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you're perfectly free.
Namjoon was still looking for something like that, something that he could lose himself completely in, but still share with other people, something that other people could see that he loved. Because that love was the only thing he was sure of that connected people to each other.
Hoseok had it when he danced, too. Yoongi had it when he put a song up on his SoundCloud or was up on stage rapping—making something, sharing something with other people that was extremely personal. Even Seokjin, who was pretending to be someone else when he was up on stage, was revealing something honest through the feelings and motives of the characters he played.
It was like they were all drawing you in to say hey it’s okay we’re all human here.
Namjoon felt that way when he read Hegel and Hesse, when he worked out his own ideas, but it wasn’t something you could share with other people. Even Jackson didn’t care when Namjoon discovered that Hesse used the term “Aufheben” in Siddhartha—and it was an important discovery.
When it came down to it, he felt untethered and he wanted something to bring him back down and into the world.
* * *
Hoseok decided they needed to have a Halloween party a week before Halloween—to beat the competition. It might have been Seokjin’s idea, but he presented it to Namjoon like they would all be indulging Hoseok—probably so Hoseok could be blamed for any and all property damage and noise complaints. All things considered, he was really the most responsible one of them and had magically been able to talk the building manager out of making them pay for damage to the stove, which was absolutely their fault.
Yoongi, who had insisted on day one that suite decisions were to made by consensus and not democracy, was vehemently opposed to the party until Hoseok said he’d invite Jungkook.
“You have to actually talk to him if he comes, though. You can’t run away and hide,” Hoseok said.
“I wasn’t hiding. I just wasn’t prepared to be in the presence of those thighs. I’ve come to terms with them now, and I’m out of the horny gummy bears anyway.”
“You were hypnothighsed,” Seokjin said, cracking himself up.
Yoongi was biting hard on his lip, but broke, cracking a smile before he punched Seokjin in the arm.
“I should have roomed with Jackson,” Namjoon said.
“You love us,” Hoseok said. “Does that mean you’re in?”
“Yeah, I’m in,” Namjoon said.
He wasn’t opposed to parties, but it seemed likely that if Jungkook was invited then Jimin would be too.
“Wait does this mean we have to do costumes?” Namjoon said with a groan.
“Yes and you can’t go as whatever the fuck you went as last year,” Hoseok replied.
“I was Dasein.”
“That’s not a thing.”
“It’s the central concept of Heidegger’s early philosophy.”
“No philosophy costumes,” Hoseok said.
“No ‘conceptual’ costumes either,” Hoseok added and then looked at Seokjin. “That means no lame puns.”
“Oh come on! Last year’s was brilliant.”
Last year he had stapled a bunch of pantone color samples to a mime costume and gone as a pantomime. Namjoon thought it was pretty clever, but he didn’t make it a habit to encourage Seokjin’s puns, which he frequently used to embarrass them in public.
“Just do what I do and wear cat ears,” Yoongi said. “It keeps Seok-Seok happy.”
“You make a really cute cat, hyung. You have to let me draw whiskers on you this year.”
Yoongi looked like he was actually considering it.
In the end, Namjoon made a toga out of an old bed sheet that had turned pink due to the laundry incident his freshman year and went as Plato from Raphael’s “The School of Athens.”
“I said no philosophy costumes, but I appreciate the effort,” Hoseok said before the party.
“No one’s going to get it,” Namjoon said. “I need a fake beard.”
“I don’t think that’s going to help people get it,” Seokjin said.
“Yeah well what are you supposed to be? A zombie boxer?”
“You’re so close, Joonie.”
“Oh god,” Namjoon said when it clicked. “You’re a dead ringer.”
Seokjin burst out laughing at his own pun.
“I said no puns!” Hoseok said.
“You said no lame puns. This is brilliant.”
“That actually is pretty good,” Yoongi admitted.
Jungkook and Jimin were the first ones to arrive. They brought along Taehyung. All three of them were dressed as pirates and were each carrying a bag of ice.
“Perfect!” Hoseok exclaimed. “Thanks for picking up the ice. Come here and I’ll show you where the cooler is.”
Jungkook grabbed Jimin’s bag out of his hands.
“I like the Plato costume, hyung,” Jungkook called out as he followed Hoseok.
“Holy shit someone got it!” Hoseok said. “Give Jungkookie extra credit.”
Namjoon rolled his eyes.
“Do you want a drink?” he asked Jimin who was looking after Jungkook and Taehyung with a curious expression on his face. “The cooler is for beer, but we also have some hideous punch that Seokjin concocted that kind of tastes like strawberry MyChew.”
“Works for me,” Jimin said. “I’m not picky about alcohol.”
He followed Namjoon into the kitchen.
“This is a nice suite. The underclassmen dorms are so small, Taehyung’s clothes are on every surface of ours. I don’t know why he can’t fit it all in his closet like a normal person.”
“Yeah, I remember. I roomed with Hoseok my first two years. Even though he's weirdly organized, there were still sneakers everywhere.”
Jimin laughed, and the sound made Namjoon’s heart skip a beat.
“The bedrooms are pretty big too. Bigger closets.”
Namjoon was pretty sure his ears were turning red. Why did he have to bring up his bedroom?
“Can I see? I mean—if you don’t mind. I’m trying to figure out what to do about housing next year.”
“Oh, uh, sure, yeah.” Namjoon said, the idea of Jimin asking to see his room made him forget words. “Yoongi-hyung and Hoseok are in that one,” he said pointing to the door with the cooler in front of it, where Hoseok was now overseeing the transferring of beer from cases into the cooler. “We’re not allowed in there by punishment of castration.”
“Yoongi’s very protective of his bed. Though if you ask him about it, he’ll say it’s because he has recording equipment in there.”
They went the other way down the hall, past the shared bathroom.
“This one’s mine and Seokjin-hyung’s.”
He flipped on the light as Jimin stepped into the room. He was glad he and Seokjin had cleaned the night before. The room was pretty nondescript. Though Seokjin’s Mario obsession was apparent, and so was Namjoon’s major. He had brought two bookcases from home, and they were both crammed to the gills.
“You roomed with Hoseok your first year?”
“I thought you were a grad student. I mean, you’re a TA.”
And there it was. Namjoon hated when people found out how young he was compared to how far along he was in his education. They always expected something from him, like he was going to whip out a closed-form solution to the three-body problem like a party trick.
But after Namjoon very briefly explained Jimin just nodded like he was accepting a fact and strolled across the room.
“Are these yours?” Jimin asked, picking up one of Namjoon’s bearbricks that were lined up on top of one of the bookshelves.
Namjoon couldn’t read Jimin’s tone, if he was mocking Namjoon for collecting something so childish or genuinely curious.
“Yeah. I just had a couple and then people started giving them to me.”
“They’re cute. Oh! You have Rai and Frankenstein!” Jimin exclaimed, looking at the figures on the shelf below.
“You watch Noblesse?” Namjoon asked, not hiding his surprise.
“I have it on DVD.”
Namjoon grinned. Seokjin mocked him for his webtoon choices, but Rai had always been kind of a personal hero of Namjoon’s.
“Have you ever been to the manhwa shop on the other side of campus?” Jimin asked.
“I keep meaning to,” Namjoon said. “I’ve just never got around to it.”
“Where do you get manga then?”
“You wound me,” Jimin said, but he was smiling.
They went back out into the main room just as a few of Seokjin’s actor friends arrived. Namjoon talked with Jimin a little bit more about some the series they were reading. But eventually Jimin got swallow into another conversation. Namjoon manned the door for a while to make sure everyone at the party was someone they knew and kept an eye on the kitchen. He talked to Jungkook for a little while and to Hoseok before his dancer friends arrived. Once they did, Namjoon helped them move all the furniture back to open up space for a dance floor.
Between Jo, Lia, and Hoseok it was like getting a front row seat for a professional dance showcase. Only the more alcohol they got in their systems, the more vaguely pornographic their moves got.
Namjoon, only on his second beer, perched on the back of the sofa against the wall and surveyed the room, letting the party noise swirl around him.
Yoongi and Taehyung were sitting in the corner laughing about something with Jungkook sitting quietly beside them, eyes wide like he was basking in Yoongi’s presence. Then a Rihanna song came on and Taehyung made a beeline to the other dancers, somehow knowing the choreography they were all doing. Yoongi looked like he was asking Jungkook if he was going to dance too, but Jungkook shook his head and scooted closer to Yoongi.
Namjoon shook his head and smiled to himself.
Of course Jungkook would take to Yoongi. When Yoongi started talking about something he loved, usually music, it was hard not to get sucked into his orbit. But then Jungkook started talking, gesturing widely, and the smile on Yoongi’s face was so fond it was pretty clear the adoration wasn’t one-sided—and not just about thighs.
Then a funny thing happened. Namjoon was content to sit and observe it all happening. He didn’t dislike parties, but he usually stayed to the sides and watched, kept his wits about him. He liked watching other people be hedons, getting their kicks from chemicals and hormones, but it wasn’t usually his thing. He worried that if he got lost in that world he might never come back.
But then there was a hand on his arm and he felt warmth tingling is his body, like his mind had been trying to escape it.
It was Jimin.
“You aren’t dancing.”
“No, I don’t really dance. I’m all arms and legs.”
Jimin smiled and shook his head.
“That’s perfect for dancing.”
“I’ll show you.”
Namjoon couldn’t protest, not when Jimin was biting his lip and looking up at Namjoon like he really wanted Namjoon to dance with him.
“I guess even Nietzsche said that it’s a waste of a day if you don’t dance,” Namjoon said, his mouth dry.
“Well, Nietzsche was right,” Jimin said, grabbing Namjoon’s hand and pulling him off the couch.
The song had a Latin beat. Hoseok had been getting into salsa hip-hop fusion lately and his playlist reflected it. If Yoongi wasn’t busy mooning over Jungkook there definitely would have been some vetoes.
Jimin led him around the sofa to the edge of the makeshift dance floor. Namjoon didn’t want to let his hand go.
“Like this,” Jimin said, shimmying his hips and moving his feet to the beat.
Namjoon felt like an idiot, but he tried to mimic the movement. He definitely got the steps down, but his hips were way too stiff.
But Jimin didn’t laugh at him. He just looked at him in a considering way and stepped in closer toward him. Namjoon inhaled sharply.
Then Jimin put his hands on Namjoon’s hips, and Namjoon thought he might burst into flames.
“Like this,” Jimin said. “Just relax.”
And then he moved Namjoon’s hips for him.
“Good. Now do the steps. I’ll let you lead.”
And then they were dancing, really dancing. When Namjoon stepped forward, Jimin stepped back, his body moving with Namjoon’s like it just knew how to counteract Namjoon’s too big steps and two left feet. And Namjoon felt like they were dancing together not that he was just following along trying to keep up.
They broke apart when the song ended. Jimin was looking up at Namjoon with a huge smile on his face.
“You have rhythm. You just have to feel it in your body more and just go with it.”
Going with his feelings wasn’t Namjoon’s strong suit.
“Thanks,” Namjoon said softly. “That was actually fun.”
Jimin bit his lip again, and it looked like he was going to say something more, but then Hoseok shrieked at something and it interrupted the mood.
But they’d had a moment. It was definitely a moment.
* * *
The next Tuesday morning, Namjoon got a text from an unknown number.
[unknown]: Hoseok-hyung gave me your number. I hope that’s okay.
[unknown]: This is Park Jimin. Probably should have led with that.
[Namjoon]: Hi! That’s cool. I was going to ask for yours but Seokjin confiscated my phone because I wasn’t as drunk as everyone else and “it wasn’t fair.”
[Jimin]: Well, remember that manga I was telling you about? There’s a rerelease, and you said you’d never been to the manhwa store.
[Jimin]: If you’re not busy this afternoon do you want to go with me?
Namjoon nearly dropped his phone. He agonized how to respond without seeming too eager until he realized that he had left Jimin on read for ten minutes.
It took him so long to decide what to wear that he was almost definitely going to be late for his first class. It wasn’t even like it was a date, it was a normal week day. But Namjoon still wanted to put in a little effort. Seokjin watched him try on four different outfits before putting him out of his misery.
“The skinny jeans that make your legs look ridiculously long, the plaid button-up, with the navy sweater over it, and your timberlands.”
“Fuck. Thank you,” Namjoon said. He changed quickly. “Why aren’t you giving me a hard time about this?”
“I’ve never seen you like someone before. I’m finding it far more endearing than mockable. For now.”
“You’ve teased Yoongi about Jungkook constantly since the party.”
“Yoongi’s not as sensitive as you are.”
Namjoon never really thought of himself as sensitive, but he did have a tendency to overthink himself into some pretty dark spirals based on what other people thought about him.
Jimin met him at his office after his last class and they walked across campus together. Conversation wasn’t stilted, which Namjoon always worried about. Jimin was explaining the plot of the manga he was planning to buy.
“They’re releasing a box set. I know I don’t need it, but there are all new covers. And I deal with five-year-olds three days a week. I earned this.”
“Oh I teach dance classes. It’s like baby ballet. The kids can barely follow directions and the parents are overbearing, but they’re so cute sometimes I want to die.”
Namjoon actually picture it. Jimin leading around little kids in tights and tutus.
“That sounds adorable.”
“There are a lot worse ways to earn money. And since I’m a performance major, I’m probably going to end up teaching again anyway at some point, so it’s good experience.”
“I guess we have that in common then,” Namjoon replied. “I mean that I’m going to end up teaching, not the performance part.”
“Ah,” Jimin said. “Is that what you want to do then?”
The truth was Namjoon didn’t really know. He wanted to solve philosophical problems and do research, but there wasn’t a job that just let you think. It was hard to explain that to other people, though, careers were so valued, it was hard to say you were kind of ambivalent toward having one.
The manhwa shop was small but packed to the ceiling with comic books, blu rays, and figures. It was a little overwhelming in such a tight space.
“Why did I never come here before?” Namjoon wondered out loud.
“Jungkook called you a genius, but I’m starting to wonder,” Jimin replied with a smirk.
“Cheeky,” Namjoon said. “I guess I just needed someone to show me the light.”
He meant to tease, but it came out with a lot more feeling than Namjoon intended. In an attempt to gather his wits and not say anything else stupid, Namjoon started to wander over to the section of his favorite author when Jimin put his hand on Namjoon’s arm and pulled him toward the series he was after.
It went like that for 30 minutes. They went through the store together, Jimin never leaving his side, recommending titles to each other, finding out they liked a lot of the same series, arguing about the way Fairy Tail ended.
And Jimin had good taste. He defended what he liked passionately, and would tease Namjoon for some of his questionable tastes. And he kept putting his hand on Namjoon’s arm or shoulder as they went through the store. Every time it made Namjoon’s heart beat a little faster, and he hoped Jimin couldn’t feel his pulse.
Namjoon hadn’t geeked out over manga for a long time. None of his friends were into it, and philosophy students weren’t “supposed” to be into “frivolous” things like manga. Namjoon never understood that. Everything that human beings created was important, even cartoons and pop music.
They were at the cash register, having finally settled on their purchases, when Jimin’s stomach rumbled.
“Well, I guess I’m hungry then,” Jimin said with a laugh.
“My favorite pizza place is around the corner,” Namjoon blurted out. “I mean, if you want. I’m getting hungry too.”
“Oh,” Jimin said brightly, then his face fell a little. “I promised Taehyung I’d get dinner with him today.”
“Well does he like pizza?”
“Then ask him to join us.”
Jimin smiled at Namjoon like he had given him the world. If Namjoon hadn’t already had a crush on Jimin, it was firmly settled in him now.
Namjoon hadn’t talked to Taehyung at the party, but liked him immediately. He had a lot of energy and asked a lot of questions and seemed interested in learning about everything. He was definitely an actor, a little melodramatic, but Namjoon was used to that with Seokjin.
Taehyung draped an arm around Jimin’s shoulders a lot, leaned into his space, even fed Jimin a bite of his pizza. It was friendly, but at times it seemed almost a little too friendly. Jimin had touched Namjoon quite a bit in the manhwa store, so maybe they were just touchy people. Maybe none of it meant anything at all.
All Namjoon could do was try not to make it obvious that he was analyzing their body language.
Somehow it came up that Namjoon used to keep hermit crabs as pets, and that turned into a whole conversation about sea life and the under-explored depths of the oceans.
“Did you see that fish they discovered that they thought had been extinct for millions of years?” Taehyung asked.
“That sounds familiar maybe?”
“The coelacanth. They’re in the Indian Ocean exclusively and there are only two different species. And they’re different from most fish. They have this fat-filled lung that’s kind of like a swim bladder on other fish, but that lung moved their kidneys to a different spot on the body than most fish. Do you have a pen? I could diagram it.”
“How do you know all of this?” Namjoon asked.
“I get high and watch Blue Planet a lot.”
* * *
That night, Namjoon woke up in the middle of the night. He’d had a dream that involved Jimin in a Ye Ran High School uniform asking him if he wanted to play a game with the coelacanth. It was a little bit creepy, but in a roundabout way it was a clue.
Maybe he shouldn’t be relying so much on Siddhardtha to connect to Hegel’s world spirit. It seemed so obvious to him, attaining enlightenment by the completeness of human experiences, the contrasts of experience were like thesis and antithesis. But Hesse’s novel was set in the past, at the time of the Gautama Buddha. The world was different now—Namjoon’s life wasn’t a choice between hedonism and contemplation. He needed to look into the future, in The Glass Bead Game, where everything in the game was connected.
He was an idiot for not seeing it sooner.
He spent the next two days re-reading the book. He almost sent Jimin a text thanking him for the idea, even though it was in a dream and it was just a subconscious rendering of Jimin.
But they did text back and forth a little about a webtoon that Namjoon had recommended and that Jimin was now hooked on.
He was pretty sure that he and Jimin were friends, but he was still haunted by their dance at the party and the way Jimin bit his lip when he looked at Namjoon for a little too long to be strictly friendly, and how Jimin casually touched him so often in the manhwa store.
It all had felt a lot like flirting.
* * *
On Friday morning Namjoon was looking for something to eat for breakfast before going to class, when he saw out of the corner of his eye a figure dart past the kitchen toward the apartment door.
“Jungkook?” he called out.
Jungkook froze and Namjoon could tell that for a split second he was considering just leaving without acknowledging Namjoon at all.
“Well, this is awkward,” he finally said with a sigh. “I was just—um, going to class.”
“I mean, we’re going to the same place. We may as well go together,” Namjoon said. “Were you tiptoeing out so you wouldn’t run into me?”
“Let me grab my bag,” Namjoon said. “Do you mind stopping for breakfast on the way? We’ve got time.”
“I was planning on doing that anyway. Yoongi-hyung doesn’t seem big on breakfast.” Jungkook immediately looked like he wanted to take it back, as if Namjoon didn’t know that he had been tiptoeing out of Yoongi and Hoseok’s room.
“Yoongi-hyung isn’t big on being awake before noon,” Namjoon replied.
“Yeah, I’m getting that.”
They walked out of the building before Namjoon spoke again.
“You’re not doing anything wrong you know.”
“I mean, if you break Yoongi’s heart, not only will I get the professor to fail you, I’ll sic Seokjin-hyung on you, and he once made a bunch of fake social media profiles of women and used them to message Hoseok’s ex-girlfriend that he gave them an STD and that she should get checked out. Then he had his friend who worked at the university health center tell him when she came in to get tested and called her with fake test results five days later. His slow revenge game is strong.”
Jungkook looked pale.
“I mean, I don’t condone that, but she cheated on Hoseok a bunch and was generally not a very nice person,” Namjoon said. “Anyway, Yoongi-hyung wants people to think he’s a hardass so he keeps a guard up. And he kind of is because he had a shitty time growing up, but he has a warm gooey center like a marshmallow and deserves to be happy. But there’s nothing in the code of conduct about sleeping with your TA’s roommate.”
“We didn’t—I mean, we slept, we didn’t—”
“I really don’t want to know.”
Jungkook was blushing so hard and looked a little like he wanted to die, so Namjoon let up on him a little.
“You know I’m just teasing, right? I wouldn’t really get Professor Bang to fail you because you’re easily the best student in class and that would be unfair.”
“I know,” Jungkook replied, though he looked genuinely relieved.
“But I wouldn’t stop Seokjin-hyung from taking revenge. He’s even more protective over Yoongi-hyung than Hoseok and I are.”
They stopped at a little cafe on campus to get coffee and cream cheese bread before heading to class, well, Namjoon got coffee. Jungkook got some concoction that had so much sugary syrup in it that it masked any trace of coffee.
“What even is that?” Namjoon asked.
“An espressoberry latte. Shut up.”
Jungkook was quiet as they walked toward the building, but Namjoon could tell he was thinking about something.
“What if he breaks mine?” he finally whispered.
It took Namjoon a second to recall the earlier conversation.
“He let you sleep in his bed,” Namjoon answered immediately.
“He doesn’t normally do that?”
“Sleep and Epik High’s Remapping the Human Soul are the only two things in this world that Yoongi-hyung holds sacred. He doesn’t let anyone sit on his bed. He once yelled at Hoseok for looking at his bed while having wet hair. If he let you sleep there then he’s already married you in his mind and you’ve probably adopted three dogs together and named them Flash, Melle Mel, and Kidd Creole.”
“He’s probably playing it cool because he knows most people have a middle ground. He just—doesn’t. He’s kind of intense.”
“I like that about him. He’s so focused.”
Namjoon always liked that about Yoongi, too. Yoongi wanted to rap and play the piano and produce music, and every waking moment of the day was devoted to that. Namjoon was pretty sure he composed songs in his sleep.
“He knows what he likes and he once he likes something, he likes it forever. He’s kind of like a little old lady who stopped giving a fuck, but he still likes trying new things so he’s not totally un-fun to be around. If you can deal with his general grumpiness toward humanity and the fact that he sleeps like 14 hours a day, your heart will be fine.”
“How can you say that so casually?”
“I mean, maybe it doesn’t work out, but it will be because of something normal like you grow apart or aren’t compatible in some other way, not because of a horrible fight or because he doesn’t care about you.”
“Oh,” Jungkook said, smiling down at his latte.
Whatever was happening between them seemed to be happening quickly, but Namjoon somehow knew that was just how it was going to go with Yoongi. And Jungkook seemed like he could match Yoongi’s intensity.
“How are things with Jimin-hyung?” Jungkook asked, probably trying to sound casual. He failed miserably, but it surprised Namjoon enough that he nearly choked on his coffee.
“What do you mean?” he asked after he finished coughing.
“You had a date didn’t you? Wait. Did you not know that was a date?”
He couldn’t tell Jungkook that it took him twenty minutes to pick an outfit and then he spent literal hours of his life analyzing every time Jimin had put a hand on his arm.
“We went to a manhwa store together and then Taehyung met us at the pizza place next door, and we talked about the giant squid. It was fun.”
“Taehyungie-hyung crashed your date? I’m going to kill him.”
“I don’t think it was a date exactly. We were just hanging out. Like, friends?”
“No, that was definitely Taehyungie’s way of sizing you up as a possible romantic interest for Jimin.”
“I sort of wondered if he and Taehyung were together.”
“Oh. Oh no. They’re both just affectionate? I mean, I guess we all are. And, like, they’ll hype each other up a lot. But it’s not like that. Really. Taehyungie-hyung’s not—you really don’t have to worry about him.”
“Okay,” Namjoon replied, not fullying believing him.
“No, no. I’m messing this up. Trust me, hyung. Jimin likes you.”
“Really?” Namjoon was trying not to get his hopes up and here Jungkook was feeding him little pieces of hope.
“After the Halloween party, he was trying to figure out if you were gay. He asked me a lot of really embarrassing questions.”
“Like if you’d ever checked me out. Oh god, I can’t believe I just told you that. Forget I said it.”
“Forgotten,” Namjoon said. “What did you end up telling him?”
“Um, I finally just asked Yoongi-hyung.”
“What did Yoongi-hyung say?”
“He said, his words, not mine, Namjoon’s a nerdosexual. He’s into anyone who can spell Nietzsche.”
Namjoon shook his head.
“I’m pan. If that helps.”
“Well, Jimin-hyung does know how to spell Nietzsche. For what it’s worth.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon replied. “That’s good.”
* * *
Jimin likes you.
Jungkook’s words were spinning like a record in his head for the rest of the day. It was nice to get the confirmation that Namjoon hadn’t been misreading the situation. The way Jimin looked at him, touched him. He kept hearing Jungkook say it in his mind.
Jimin likes you.
The thing was, Namjoon couldn’t figure out why.
He knew why he liked Jimin. There was something earnest about him, grounded, real. He seemed to care a lot about his friends, if Jungkook and Taehyung were any indication. He had the kindest eyes Namjoon had ever seen, but he wasn’t overly saccharine or serious, like he had a little bit of a wicked streak in him, too. And, fuck, the way he danced. Namjoon didn’t think he was even aware of it, but even when he was looking at shelves of manga, Jimin stood like he was practicing at a barre.
But the only thing Namjoon ever was was smart. And whenever anyone said they wanted to date someone smart, they didn’t really mean it. He tried dating, including a few disastrous dates with fellow philosophy majors. He knew he could be a little off-putting sometimes, a little harsh. He tried to be a supportive friend, but sometimes it didn’t come out right. The way he saw the world was unusual, and it was easy for him to lose sight of the individual in the bigger picture of the world. It was great for reading Hegel, but not so much when Seokjin just wanted someone to rant to about the douchebag in one of his MFA classes.
Namjoon didn’t need someone who saw the world the way he did or who read philosophy. He just wanted someone to get that it was important to him.
Even if Jimin did like Namjoon, even if he could appreciate Namjoon’s weirdness for what it was, he wasn’t sure he could ever be normal enough for Jimin.
So he kept their texting conversation to revolve exclusively around webtoons and manga, and he tried to rein in the way his heart would start to leap out of his chest whenever his phone pinged with a new message.
* * *
Jungkook hadn’t come by his office hours for a week.
He had seen Jungkook slinking out of Yoongi’s room again, and Yoongi coming in and out at not his usual hours, and he saw Jungkook in class, of course, but it wasn’t the same.
They were reading Descartes in class, which wasn’t Namjoon’s favorite, but Professor Bang was pairing him with Jyeṣṭhadeva and Achyutha Pisharodi, Indian mathematicians from around the same time period, and Namjoon found himself curious what Jungkook thought.
He almost asked him in class if he’d come to his office hours, but he felt kind of pathetic.
It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that he also wanted to talk about Jimin with him, not at all.
When he tried to casually ask Hoseok about the dance class he knew they had together Hoseok burst out laughing.
Like the world was listening, Jungkook cornered Namjoon after class on Friday and followed him to his office.
“I have about a million questions about lunar eclipses and parabolas, but I wanted to show you something first,” Jungkook said, as he pulled his laptop out of his bag.
“I’m working on my midterm project for video editing. Jimin’s family and mine went to Tokyo last summer. And I put this together. I thought—maybe you’d like to see it?”
“Um,” Namjoon said.
Jungkook wanted to show him a video of Jimin?
“I mean, I could use some feedback, and I trust you.”
“Ah, okay, sure.”
“So, the idea was that we had to have a single human subject, and we had to convey some kind of feeling. I’m just not sure if I’ve done that.”
He hit play. The video looked professional. But it wasn’t about a family trip he took with Jimin, it was about Jimin. It was Jimin was making goofy faces at the camera and dancing down the streets of Tokyo, and he looked so light and free and alive that Namjoon almost teared up. He wanted that. He wanted that experience all for himself. He wanted Jimin.
But he couldn’t say all of that to Jungkook.
“Wow. This is—why are you even bothering with college? You should be out in the world making money at this.”
“This is amazing, Jungkook. Really.”
“Thanks,” he replied shyly. “That’s what Yoongi-hyung said too, but he’s, um, biased. Did it make you feel anything?”
It made him feel everything, but he couldn’t tell that to Jungkook.
“It conveys that Jimin is really, um, important to you. Like just by being himself he makes your world better.”
Jungkook looked at Namjoon then, his eyes piercing like he was trying to read something behind Namjoon’s words.
“Thank you,” he said softly. “That’s exactly what I was going for. Do you—do you have any constructive feedback? It’s hard when people only say nice things. Because I know I can be better.”
“Well,” Namjoon tried to think of the best way to say it. “I guess I’d say that it’s an interesting song choice. I don’t know if you know Troye Sivan, but someone who knows English might get the wrong idea.”
“Oh yeah,” Jungkook nodded. “I read a translation of the lyrics. You don’t have to interpret it in a romantic way. Jimin’s like my brother. He was there for me when I came out to my parents. I’ve known him since before I even remember.”
Hearing that made Namjoon’s crush even worse.
“That’s really great. I’m glad you have someone like that.”
“He’s a great person.”
“Yeah, I—um, yeah. He is,” Namjoon replied, then cleared his throat. The room felt too tense, like Jungkook was trying to gauge Namjoon’s reactions. “But like I said, the video is really professional looking. The transitions are good. I think you should turn it in as is.”
“Thanks,” Jungkook said. “So, um, I have to do another project for my final. Do you think Yoongi-hyung would let me film him?”
“You could set up a camera in his room and do a time-lapse of him sleeping.”
Jungkook’s face lit up.
“Wait, wait, I was joking. I think you’re the only person in the world who would get a kick out of watching Yoongi-hyung sleep.”
“He curls up in the fetal position. It’s adorable,” Jungkook said with a sigh. “And he rubs his feet together and makes this little snuffling noise that melts my soul.”
“I’m not sure the world needs to see that. It sounds kind of personal.”
“Well, the assignment is to make a video with a socially relevant message.”
“The only way that would work would be as a public service announcement about the health benefits of sleep. Stop making that face. I’m kidding. Don’t film him sleeping.”
“Have you ever seen him rap?” Namjoon asked, the words out of his mouth before he could take them back. Yoongi was probably going to kill him.
“No. I mean, he played me a couple tracks, but—is there video?”
“Yeah,” Namjoon admitted. “He and I used to perform, but the underground scene is kind of rough and we decided to focus more on school. But he still writes songs and performs sometimes—a lot of his songs are about social issues and political stuff. You could probably make a music video for him.”
Jungkook’s eyes glazed over a little and there was an expression on his face that Namjoon really never wanted to see.
“So, eclipses?” Namjoon asked.
“Oh, um, right,” Jungkook said, as he started digging in his bag for his book. “Do you still write songs?”
“Sometimes I help Yoongi with lyrics, but only when he asks.”
“Why’d you stop?”
It was a question he had asked himself a lot. The truth was there were probably a lot of reasons. Mundane ones like that he chose to focus more on school. Serious ones like the fact that he was probably a little bit depressed and it made him just not feel like it. Embarrassing ones like his general dorkiness meant he never quite felt comfortable in the underground scene. But for Namjoon that wasn’t even the worst reason.
“Honestly, it’s because I always feel like it doesn’t matter how hard I try to get an idea across, the words are just insufficient. If that makes any sense.”
“It does,” Jungkook said. “Like the idea is right there on the edge but you can’t grab it.”
“Yeah. Exactly like that.”
* * *
Namjoon was in charge of the lecture the next Friday. Professor Bang was away at a conference, and he was trusting Namjoon to teach Hegel. It was basic introductory Hegel. Asking college freshman to read the Phenomenology of Spirit was a disaster waiting to happen, so Professor Bang had only assigned them the introduction.
Even so, Namjoon spent the whole weekend and first part of the week reading and re-reading and making slides. He had never stood in front of a classroom to teach before. He was excited about the responsibility, but it was also a little terrifying.
“This lecture could affect how students felt about Hegel for the rest of their lives,” he said to Hoseok, who forced Namjoon to take a break.
“Um, Namjoon?” Hoseok said tentatively. “I hate to tell you this, but no one except you has feelings for Hegel.”
“Shut up. That’s not what I meant.”
It kind of was what he meant. And Hoseok possibly had a point that maybe he was taking it a little too seriously.
But whatever, his slides were still way better than Professor Bang’s.
He dressed up a little nicer than usual. Not a full suit, but a blazer. He thought about wearing a tie, but nixed it. He ditched his usual Timberlands for loafers.
He started out his lecture the way Hegel did, with the self-consciousness at the beginning of human history, and then he started explaining how the self had to recognize other self-consciousnesses and face conflict in order to grow.
He was in the middle of a modernized version of the master-slave dialectic, when he really looked out into the room at the students.
It was easy to pick out Jungkook, who always sat in the back row next to where Namjoon usually sat, to hover behind the students and report back to Professor Bang about who was taking notes and who was messing around on KakaoStory or Twitter instead.
But the seat next to him wasn’t empty like Namjoon expected. In the seat next to him was Jimin.
Everything Namjoon knew about Hegel flew out of his head for a few seconds, and he had to collect himself by taking a long drink of the coffee he had brought to class.
He managed to recover, to finish his lecture using more updated examples than Hegel had available to him to explain how the mind and the world were connected and how personal knowledge and knowledge of the world grew with the resolution of conflicts, but how no one could in themselves become fully conscious.
Namjoon hinted at the connection to the world-spirit that Professor Bang would be talking about the next class.
Before he knew it, the class period was over.
After class, a few students came up to ask Namjoon questions, mostly about their assignment, but one actually asked about something from his lecture.
Jungkook and Jimin hovered behind the small group of students. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw some of the other students talking to Jimin like they knew him—students who he’d never seen talk to Jungkook. Jimin laughed and smiled, and Namjoon tried really hard to focus on his explanation of asymmetric recognition to the still-confused student. After he left, it was just Jimin and Jungkook.
“I hope it’s okay that I came to class,” Jimin said. “Jungkook was so excited that you were teaching. I just wanted to see you in your element.”
“Oh yeah, it’s—it’s fine with me. Did you—was it okay? I didn’t even get to my slides on Kojeve and the way the French existentialists totally bastardized Hegel in the 20th century.”
“It was fascinating,” Jungkook said.
Namjoon could practically see all the questions dancing in Jungkook’s eyes, right before Jimin elbowed him in the stomach.
“I mean, I didn’t understand everything exactly, but you made it interesting,” Jimin added.
“You looked like you’re really interested in what you were talking about, and that made it even more interesting for me—er, for the students.”
“Thank you,” Namjoon replied. “I—that really means a lot.”
“We have dance practice,” Jimin said. “But we, um, wanted to say hi and to tell you you did a good job.”
“I want to hear about the French existentialists,” Jungkook added.
“You’re allowed to talk to me when you’re over at our place, you know,” Namjoon replied.
Jungkook’s face turned red, and for a second Namjoon felt bad for teasing him.
“Jimin and I are actually going home to Busan this weekend, hyung.”
“It’s my brother’s birthday,” Jimin said. “And Jungkookie was homesick way back when we planned this last month when Yoongi-hyung was just a voice on the radio and not his boyfriend.” Jimin made a kissy face at Jungkook.
“I did nothing to deserve the two of you ganging up on me. At least I’m not mopin—”
Another elbow to the gut from Jimin.
“We really should get to dance practice. See you later, Namjoon-hyung.”
Then Jimin all but dragged Jungkook out of the classroom.
* * *
Jimin texted him a selfie of him and Jungkook on the train to Busan. Their faces were pressed together and Jungkook’s serious expression was a marked contrast to Jimin’s warm smile.
He texted him another selfie where he was holding a cat, presumably after he got to Busan.
He was so good-looking that Namjoon swore when he saw the photo. Who managed to look that hot while cuddling a cat?
“Does Jungkook send you selfies?” Namjoon asked Yoongi after he got the third selfie from Jimin the next day. This one was of Jimin and Jungkook picking up a birthday cake from a bakery.
Namjoon and Yoongi were sitting in the cafe near the music production building that Saturday, waiting for the studio that Yoongi had signed out later to be free. Namjoon was grateful for the distraction, even though Yoongi wouldn’t tell him anything about the song he was recording. Namjoon figured it was the last song he’d helped with the lyrics on, and Yoongi was asking without asking because Namjoon didn’t feel comfortable rapping on the fly anymore—not without practicing.
If the look on Yoongi’s face was any indication as he tapped on his phone, Jungkook had definitely sent Yoongi the same photo.
“I mean, he usually does it through Snow, but sometimes he’ll send one just to me. If it’s one that he took right af—you know what I’m going to stop talking now.”
“You have a Snow account now?”
“Um...maybe? I only really follow Jungkook, though. And Hoseok after he found out I had it.”
“It’s like I don’t even know who you are anymore,” Namjoon said, shaking his head.
“Oh fuck off.”
“No, I mean it. You seem happier than I’ve seen you maybe ever.”
Yoongi looked like he was going to protest, but then his phone buzzed and Yoongi looked at the message and smiled. He looked back up at Namjoon with a scowl.
“Fine. The kid makes me happy.”
“Do you want to take a selfie and send it to them?” Namjoon asked. “I mean, they were in a bakery, we’re kind of in a bakery.”
“If you want,” Yoongi said a little too casually.
Namjoon scooted over to Yoongi and they put their faces together and smiled at Namjoon’s phone. He sent it to Yoongi before sending it to Jimin with no explanation.
About 30 seconds later, he got back a “cute” with a series of emojis following it.
“Is this good?” he asked Yoongi, showing him the message.
“And you call me the grandpa.”
“I didn’t know there was a koala emoji.”
“I’m going to pretend we never had this conversation,” Yoongi said. “Which means I am not going to tell Jungkook about it, which means Jimin will never find out that you are a dinosaur.”
“What? So I’m supposed to memorize the emoji keyboard? There are hundreds of them.”
Yoongi was shaking his head.
“Come on, the studio should be free.”
“Fine,” Namjoon said, following Yoongi out of the cafe.
“So, are you ever going to tell me what this mystery song is you wanted help on?” he asked while Yoongi set up his computer.
“Well, about that.” Yoongi scratched the back of his neck.
“Has Jungkook asked you about a music video by any chance?” Namjoon asked.
“I knew that was your idea by the way.”
“Is that what this song’s for and why you’re clearly punishing me?”
“He wants to try rotoscoping,” Yoongi replied. “I can’t say no.”
“He knows how to do rotoscoping?”
“Well, he draws a lot and he’s really good at that. He drew me when I was sleeping the other day. It was really good.”
“It’s nice he takes an interest in your only hobby.”
Yoongi just shrugged. He was unapologetic for his love of sleep.
“I don’t know how much Jungkook told you about the assignment, but the video has to make a statement—the video, not the song. His professor told him he could use original music but that the visual impact was the thing being graded.”
“So he can’t just film you rapping.”
“Anyway, that got me thinking about what song to use, and I thought I’d do something more instrumental. Maybe with the piano.”
“So what am I doing here?”
“I don’t actually want you to rap. I was actually wondering if you could read some Hegel.”
“Jungkook was so excited about whatever you’ve been talking about in class this week, and I found this passage—” Yoongi pulled one of this little notebooks from his pocket. “Where he said, ‘The state of man’s mind, or the elementary phase of mind which he so far possesses, conforms precisely to the state of the world so far as he views it’. And Jungkook and I have talked about the social pressure to conform—why are you looking at me like that?”
“I have spent the last three years talking about Hegel and you never once showed any interest! I can’t believe you right now.”
“That’s not true! I read Marx with you and they’re practically the same thing.”
“Their metaphysics are totally different!” Namjoon sputtered. “Marx was a materialist! And dammit I want to be mad at you but that’s a really cool idea.”
“I know,” Yoongi replied with a smirk.
So Yoongi laid down the beat he’d already written so Namjoon could get a feel for the tempo, and then Namjoon went into the booth and read Hegel, in Korean and in the original German, so Yoongi could layer them.
When Namjoon came out of the booth, Yoongi was staring intently at the blank screen of his phone.
“Can we take another selfie?”
Namjoon raised an eyebrow at him.
“I want him to know we’re working on the song and he’ll be happy to know you’re helping me on it.”
They posed so that Yoongi’s computer and the studio equipment were in the shot. Not so they could make it seem like they were cool—the lighting was just better that way. Really.
Yoongi’s phone pinged almost immediately.
“He said he missed me,” Yoongi blurted out. “He hasn’t even been gone for 24 hours and he misses me.”
“Is that a problem?”
“No—it’s—I miss him too.”
His face looked so bewildered by the turn of events that all Namjoon could do was give his shoulder a squeeze.
Yoongi was ridiculously in love.
Namjoon wondered if he could ever have that.
The last selfie Jimin sent him was on Sunday, of Jimin and Jungkook on the train back to Seoul. They were both giving cheesy grins and making finger hearts.
It made Namjoon’s heart ache, and he didn’t really know why.
* * *
That feeling nagged at him. Because it didn’t make sense. Jimin was happy and well-liked and outgoing and kind. Namjoon was a nerd who spent way too much time thinking about how the course of human history was determined a bunch of asymmetrical relations. He was kind of aloof, unintentionally so, but still aloof. He was awkward and tried way too hard to act like he belonged.
“I don’t understand,” he said to Hoseok when they were getting lunch one day the next week.
“He voluntarily came to a philosophy lecture, Namjoon. He likes you.”
Namjoon poked at his rice.
“But he’s so charming and cute. There’s no way he’d want me. People don’t like me. Cute and charming people definitely don’t like me.”
“I like you, and I am both cute and charming. Seokjin likes you. Jungkook adores you. I think Yoongi would lowkey take a bullet for you, but he would never give any indication until after the fact. Like, way after and in a casual conversation about something else entirely.”
“I think it’s you who doesn’t like you.”
Hoseok said it so casually it took Namjoon a second to feel the brunt of the words. The trouble was, it was true. It was exactly true.
“You didn’t need to come out and say it like that,” Namjoon replied.
Hoseok shrugged. “The cliches are always true. You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”
“How do I do that?”
“You start believing us when we tell you how awesome you are. You look in the mirror every day and give yourself a pep talk. I don’t know. Surely one of those philosophers you read has something to say about this.”
“Not really. I think they all kind of hated themselves, too, to be honest.”
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, you know. You can decide to start liking yourself and then work on it. You don’t have to cut yourself off from Jimin until you reach some arbitrary threshold of self-love.”
“Is that’s really what’s holding me back?”
“Why are you asking me?” Hoseok asked. “I don’t think I would survive a trip into your mind.”
They finished their lunches, and Namjoon thought the conversation was over. He was about to change the subject when Hoseok blurted out,
“He reads a lot.”
“Jimin. Not just manga. He reads a lot of novels.”
“He’s not just cute and charming.”
“I never thought he was.”
There was a seriousness underlying Jimin that Namjoon had already caught a few glimpses of, like he enjoyed life, but still took himself seriously. Namjoon admired that in a person, especially when they could strike a balance.
“I have to say this, though. If you go for this, which for what it’s worth I think you should, since you’re both clearly stupid about each other and there’s no good reason not to.”
“Do you have a point or are you just nagging me?”
Hoseok’s voice went low and serious, which made Namjoon sit up a little straighter and actually listen.
“Be careful with him, Namjoon.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s a performer. We like praise. We take criticism hard. We’re not like you academic types. I watched you and Jackson get in a shouting match over like two lines in some dead French guy’s book, and then five minutes later you were laughing over a beer.”
“That’s not what happened--”
It kind of was exactly what happened, except it was about Kant, not a French guy.
“The point is, Jimin’s not like that. I’m not like that. When Seokjin told me that my solo in the spring showcase last year was ‘pretty good’, I agonized over what he meant by ‘pretty good’ for days. I cried in the shower. I’m not just bullshitting you on the self-love stuff. I’m a work in progress, too.”
“Seokjin said—you mean the solo showcase that he said made him question his sexuality?”
“Wait. What? He said what?”
“Uh. I said nothing.”
“Question his sexuality? But he’s so—”
“It might have been a joke?”
“Nope. You can’t take this back.” Hoseok’s face was lit up like he was opening a present.
Namjoon shook his head back and forth.
“Hey, no, please don’t fuck Seokjin. It’ll make sharing a suite way too weird.”
“I wasn’t planning on it. I was planning on walking around the apartment naked until he admits that he wants to get all up on this.”
“You do that anyway.”
“I guess I’ll have to do it more, then.”
“That wasn’t meant to be encouragement.”
“I should probably do some beauty care first. Hey, have you ever bleached your asshole?”
“Why would I bleach my—no. I—no. That doesn’t even sound safe.”
“Never mind. I can get Yoongi to go to a salon with me.”
“You seem way too sure about that.”
“If you don’t think that our dear, sweet “I hope I get reincarnated as a rock” Min Yoongi is happy to just lie there and take it while Jungkookie’s thighs do their work, then you don’t know our dear, sweet Min Yoongi.”
“I bet he still manages to be pushy as fuck.”
“The first time I met him, my immediate thought was that he tops from the bottom. Is that weird?”
“Probably. But my first impression of you was that you were into cross-dressing.”
Hoseok had been unpacking his ridiculous collection of tights at the time. Namjoon hadn’t known he was a dance major.
“And you weren’t wrong about that.”
Namjoon shook his head, trying to get the image of Hoseok in a miniskirt out of his head. Not that there was anything wrong with cross-dressing, but there was something unsettling about the way Hoseok could do Red Velvet’s dance to “Ice Cream Cake” with uncanny accuracy and the number of times Namjoon had seen him do it in a mini-skirt—different mini-skirts, as in, he owned plural mini-skirts.
“Anyway, that wasn’t why you’re going to have to sell him on anal bleaching.”
“Capitalism,” was all Namjoon said.
Hoseok pounded his fist on the table, which made the girls at the other end of the table look over at them.
“Fucking capitalism,” Hoseok groaned. “I’m going to have to pay for his asshole too, aren’t I?”
Namjoon didn’t doubt that Yoongi had ideological issues with late capitalism, but he was also really skillful at using those issues to get out of paying for things.
“I don’t know why you think that if Seokjin is into butt sex that he wouldn’t bottom. I didn’t even think you bottomed.”
Namjoon knew from a late-night conversation that a girl Seokjin was dating had put her finger up his ass during sex and that he liked it enough to have a crisis about it to Namjoon at two in the morning, but that didn’t have anything to do with his desire or lack of desire to have sex with a man. And he had definitely told Namjoon that in strict confidence.
“Oh, I don’t,” Hoseok replied. “I just wanted to make my asshole look pretty like a flower for everyone’s sake.”
“And that’s my cue to leave,” Namjoon said.
He picked up his trash and started carrying it over to the waste bin.
“Hey don’t walk away from me! I’m bleaching my asshole for you!” Hoseok called after him.
That’s when Namjoon realized that the girls were definitely still staring at them and had definitely overheard their conversation about anal bleaching, two of them look scandalized, but the other two were giggling into their hands.
So Namjoon turned back toward the table and blew Hoseok a kiss.
* * *
It was Voltaire that finally made Namjoon take action, which pained Namjoon. He always thought Voltaire was kind of a jackass. Jackson was talking to him about some essay Voltaire wrote about the freedom of religion, and Namjoon was only half-listening, pawing through a volume of Voltaire’s collected works, when a line jumped out at him:
Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.
What was he so afraid of?
Jackson caught him daydreaming, scolded him, and then proceeded to re-explain his argument until Namjoon paid attention. As soon as Namjoon was able to escape, he texted Jimin.
[Namjoon]: Do you want to go to a bookstore in Jongno-gu with me tomorrow?
[Namjoon]: You can say no, I just needed a particular book.
[Namjoon]: There’s a really good ramen place next door.
Jimin didn’t answer right away. Jimin always responded to texts in under 15 minutes, even when he was in class, which Namjoon always scolded him for. But nearly two of the slowest hours of Namjoon’s life passed before his phone buzzed. He almost dropped it in his frenzy to answer.
[Jimin]: Was in dance class sorry! I’d love to!
Namjoon re-read the text about ten times before he confirmed.
It was definitely a date this time. The word “date” was never used, but there was context. Plus, Jungkook cornered him after class and vaguely threatened him if he pretended like it was just friends hanging out this time.
They were meeting a little later in the afternoon, so Namjoon had time to change after his classes. No one else was home, so he had to text pictures of outfits to Seokjin who was at a play rehearsal and apparently not in the mood to humor Namjoon.
[Seokjin]: E. None of the above. You dress yourself every day. How are you so bad at this?
[Seokjin]: The khakis that are too short for you. Roll them up twice, not once, not thrice, twice. The mint green button-up, black belt, black loafers, and for the love of all that’s holy don’t wear socks with them.
[Seokjin]: AND JUST ASK NEXT TIME INSTEAD OF TRYING TO DO IT YOURSELF.
[Namjoon]: I usually don’t think about it so much.
[Seokjin]: Make “less thinking” your motto for this whole date.
[Namjoon]: Thanks, hyung.
[Seokjin]: It’s chilly. Wear your coat. The wool one.
They met at the subway stop by campus.
Namjoon was stunned speechless when he saw Jimin coming toward him. He was dressed head to toe in black. Black boots, black jeans, and a black turtleneck with a black leather jacket over it. He looked like a model.
“You look like a model,” Namjoon blurted out.
Jimin smiled coyly at him.
“I could say the same to you.”
Namjoon was about to brush off the compliment when he heard Hoseok’s voice in his head—believe us when we tell you how awesome you are.
“Well, thanks. Seokin picked out my outfit.”
The subway train was crowded enough that they had to stand. Jimin’s body was so close to his, his boots closing their height difference a little, that Namjoon’s brain started to short circuit a little from the proximity. When the train stopped and Jimin lost his balance a little, Namjoon put a hand on his lower back to steady him, and he let it linger there for a little too long.
“Thanks for asking me to come with you,” Jimin said as they walked to the bookstore. “It’s nice to get away from campus. I never come to this part of the city.”
“Well I know you like books and this store is massive. I’m glad you were free.”
It was just like their first date in the manhwa store. They wandered through the store together. Just browsing before Namjoon went to seek out the foreign literature section. The difference was that because the books weren’t crammed into a small space, there was no reason for Jimin to be so close to him, to put his hand on Namjoon’s arm, his shoulder—other than that he wanted to.
Namjoon wanted to stay there forever, in the cocoon of the books with Jimin by his side. In this little world of the bookstore, they made sense together. It was outside back in Namjoon’s reality where they didn’t.
But eventually they reached the Hesse books, and Namjoon found the edition of The Glass Bead Game he was looking for.
“So this is what your thesis is about and you don’t have the book?” Jimin asked.
“No, no, I have two other copies of it. I needed a clean copy.”
“Ah,” Jimin said. “So you can read it fresh without past prejudices.”
“Exactly.” Namjoon grinned.
Namjoon scribbled in the margins of all of his books. It was kind of like Yoongi and his notebooks. He didn’t like having e-books. He needed to write his ideas down with his hand as they happened.
“My first copy is so worn it’s being held together by a rubber band. I just can’t bring myself to throw it away.”
“At that point it’s like an old friend.”
It wasn’t that Namjoon hadn’t believed Hoseok, but it was clear that Jimin really did love books.
“Was there anything you wanted to get?”
Jimin made a noncommittal noise.
“I don’t know what that means.”
Jimin huffed. “You aren’t going to judge me, are you?”
“Of course not. I would never.”
“It’s a little embarrassing. But then when I was in your room I saw you had Ark and Konjiki no Wordmaster.”
“I love light novels,” Namjoon said. “I study heavy literature. When I want to relax, I’d rather get sucked into something that’s quick to read but with a good story that sucks me in.”
“Exactly,” Jimin said. “I don’t have a lot of time to read anymore, so I need faster payoff.”
“So which one are you looking for now.”
“The new Legendary Moonlight Sculptor.”
“My sister keeps telling me I need to read this!”
“You should!” Jimin replied. “It’s so good. You’ll love Lee Hyun. But I don’t want to give anything away. I should get your sister’s number so I can talk to her about this.”
Namjoon laughed, but the idea that Jimin would get to know his sister, cement himself further as a part of Namjoon’s life—it wasn’t unappealing.
They got ramen after they bought their books. The restaurant was quiet, there were no books to talk about, and no Taehyung as a buffer. But the conversation still flowed. Namjoon asked Jimin about his brother’s birthday party and that turned into them talking about their families, especially Namjoon’s sister, and what it was like being the oldest sibling.
They were nearly finished eating when Jimin’s phone started buzzing incessantly.
“Sorry. It’s Jungkookie and Taehyung. Do you mind if—” He leaned over the table and put his face close to Namjoon’s. “Smile.”
It took Namjoon a second to realize what Jimin was doing.
“I don’t think I was looking at your phone,” Namjoon said.
“It’s okay. They’re just being annoying.”
“I guess maybe we should head back. I actually still have an assignment to finish,” Namjoon admitted.
“Yeah, I have homework, too.”
But the reluctance in Jimin’s voice was clear.
When they got back to campus, they stopped at the intersection where Namjoon had to go one way and Jimin the other.
“I had a nice time,” Namjoon blurted out awkwardly.
“I did too. Really nice. 100% would do again.”
“Same,” Namjoon said with a laugh.
It would have been so easy to just lean down and kiss him, but Namjoon just—didn’t. Like somehow that would break the magic, turn it into something else.
So Namjoon went for a hug instead.
And if he held onto Jimin a little too tightly, Jimin didn’t complain.
* * *
He was giddy the next day. It had been such a good date it was hard to believe that Jimin was real.
But he didn’t know what to do about it. They texted still, but it was back to webtoons and now light novels. Jimin didn’t text him about getting together again, even though it was kind of his turn.
Once Namjoon had his clean copy of The Glass Bead Game, he sort of lost himself in his thesis again, which he had desperately needed to do. Whatever was going on with Jimin was pushed back a little further in his mind and the giddy feeling went away.
It made sense to compare the past of Siddhartha with Hesse’s projected future of The Glass Bead Game, because they could easily be read as belonging on the same continuum of Hesse’s creation. And the three lives along with Magister Ludi’s were like a summation of the human spirit, but it was more like a metaphor for Hegel’s idea of progress instead of the concrete link Namjoon was looking for.
It was like there was still some aspect of the world spirit that was missing from Hegel’s work, and Namjoon just needed to find the clue.
Somehow his friends thought that his problem with his thesis was a problem with Jimin. And even Namjoon wasn’t sure if he wasn’t conflating the two in his mind.
“You’re brooding,” Seokjin accused him one day when Seokjin had come home to Namjoon sprawled on the floor in the living room staring up at the ceiling.
“I’m not brooding, I’m thinking.”
“If this was day one of the brood, I might believe you” Seokjin said, crossing his arms and peering down at him. “What happened? You were so happy after your date with Jimin you were floating. I didn’t know you could float.”
Namjoon didn’t really want to say it out loud.
“I’ll ruin it,” he whispered.
“I’m worried that if he knows too much about me he won’t like me anymore. Or that if I know too much about him I won’t like him. I’m worried that I’m not good in a relationship. That I won’t know what to do. Or I’ll do something wrong and I’ll screw it up.”
Seokjin sat down on the sofa and kicked Namjoon in the side.
“Relationships are two-sided, you know,” he said.
“I know that—”
“I don’t think you do. Jimin has a say in this, and you’re acting like you wish you could know all of his reactions and feelings in advance. It doesn’t work that way.”
Namjoon tried to remember exactly what he had said, and Seokjin was right. He had been so focused on how he could screw things up that he was predicting things he had no way of knowing. The future wasn’t already written. It mattered what we did here and now.
“You might be right.”
“Of course I’m right.”
“So what do I do?”
“We all worry about relationships. You’re not coming across some new set of anxieties no one has ever dealt with before. And before you interrupt me, I don’t say that to belittle your feelings, I’m just reminding you that this is normal. And I bet Jimin is going through a lot of these questions, too, especially with you not being sure what you want and not communicating that.” He kicked Namjoon again, harder this time. “But you have to decide if you want to be an outside observer of life or if you want to live in the world and participate in it. Because you’re doing the first one right now.”
Namjoon let the words sink in. So much for being the one with the high IQ, Namjoon was pretty sure all three of his roommates were infinitely smarter than he was.
“How do you know so much?” Namjoon asked.
“I’m an actor. I have to be able to understand how people feel.”
“I guess I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
“And since me and my handsome face get leading man roles,” Seokjin continued. “I have to know about unhealthy relationships and melodramatic whiners who have meltdowns in the middle of their living rooms, too.”
“You were being so nice before. I miss that. Go back to that.”
“Sorry. I’ve reached my limit of Joonie brooding.”
So he had to make a decision.
He knew the one he wanted to make.
* * *
The next time Namjoon saw Jimin was at Seokjin’s play. They had made tentative plans to go together as a group, but everyone was running late so they ended up agreeing to just meet at the theater. When Namjoon arrived, Jungkook and Yoongi were already there, saving a row of seats. The two of them were sharing a set of earbuds, their heads close together. They were so adorable, made it look so easy. It was irritating.
“You’re overthinking it,” a voice said behind him.
Namjoon spun around.
It was Jimin.
“What am I overthinking.” His face heating with embarrassment at being caught staring at his best friend with his boyfriend.
“Jungkookie and Yoongi-hyung and how they’re about a week away from getting married even though they’ve only known each other for a month and Jungkook hasn’t really ever dated anyone before.”
“Synthesis,” Namjoon blurted out.
“It’s an idea from Hegel, I mean, not really. It’s more like a misinterpretation of Hegel. I kind of talked about in the lecture you came to. But I didn’t use the word because it’s so misused. Um, anyway, instead of self-consciousnesses, the idea is that there’s one thing, the opposite thing, and then they get reconciled into something new. And that synthesis gets us closer to the world itself.”
“So you’re saying that Jungkook and Yoongi dating gets us closer to understanding the entire world?”
“That’s kind of romantic.”
“Every solution to a problem gets us closer to the world,” Namjoon said softly.
The problem was that for some reason, Jimin still felt more like a question than an answer. Though he was definitely Namjoon’s antithesis.
“I know Hoseok-hyung’s coming too, but can I sit by you?” Jimin asked shyly.
Namjoon didn’t like that it was his own tentativeness that was making Jimin question his interest.
“Of course. I’d, um, I’d like that.”
Namjoon was hyperaware of Jimin sitting next to him. So much so that he barely paid attention to the first act.
During intermission, Yoongi, who was sitting to his right, threatened to stab him if he didn’t stop bouncing his right knee, so he tried to will himself to relax. He ended up gripping the armrests so tight his knuckles turned white.
As the lights dimmed for the second act, Namjoon felt Jimin’s hand brush against his. It was so light Namjoon thought he might be imagining it. So, Namjoon turned his palm over as a test, and when Jimin’s hand came back, he slotted his fingers through Namjoon’s. They didn’t let go for the rest of the second act.
They only separated when the lights came up, when Hoseok was on Jimin’s other side trying to get his attention and Yoongi was on Namjoon’s side trying to come up with a tactful way to tell Seokjin that his acting was great but the play itself was stupid.
“Tell him he was great. He’s not going to ask about the play.”
“He always asks about the play.”
“That was objectively lame. I’m pretty sure Seokjin-hyung knows it.”
Yoongi snorted. “I hope that wasn’t written by one of the MFA students graduating this year. They clearly need more classes.”
Namjoon didn’t like shitting on someone else’s dreams, but it really was bad.
Luckily Seokjin was the first one to announce that the play was terrible. But then he demanded more praise because that meant he had to work even harder at not looking bad himself.
Hoseok decided they should “celebrate” Seokjin’s triumphant performance in the terrible play, but Seokjin had another show the next day, making a party out of the question. But Hoseok had apparently coordinated with Jimin in advance, because Jimin came back to the apartment with them and procured a little baggie full of weed from inside his jacket.
“Who’s in?” Hoseok asked.
Yoongi looked at Jungkook, who wrinkled his nose and shook his head, and they disappeared into Yoongi and Hoseok’s room without another word.
“Do you want to join us?” Jimin asked Namjoon.
As if Namjoon could say no when Jimin was looking at him like that.
Namjoon almost never got high. There was the incident his freshman year where he almost burned the whole dorm down because he was trying to melt wax to prove Descartes wrong, and he hadn’t smoked it since.
But he was missing some way to connect his thesis together, and Hoseok had invited Jimin over and Jimin asked Namjoon specifically if he wanted to smoke. Of course, if Jimin had asked him if he wanted to share a prostitute, he probably would have readily agreed to that, too. But another attempt at casual drug use didn’t sound half bad.
“Sure, why not?” he replied.
But after they decided to do it his and Seokjin’s room and he was sitting on the floor, he was nervous.
Hoseok opened the baggie and took a whiff.
“This is—wait, you know V?”
“V? I got this from Taehyung,” Jimin answered.
“Ah,” Hoseok said. “It’s all coming together.”
“What?” Jimin asked.
“Nothing,” Hoseok replied. “I just know this strain is all. This will be good for you, Namjoon. It’s a really mellow high.”
Jimin turned sharply to look at Namjoon.
“Well, I don’t usually smoke. I’m more of a have a few beers to relax kind of guy.”
“You really don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Jimin said, squeezing his knee.
“No, no. I want to,” Namjoon insisted.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Seokjin said.
“Just because I don’t do it often, doesn’t mean I’m opposed to it.”
“Just keep him away from open flames and we’ll be good,” Hoseok said.
Namjoon kicked Hoseok before turning to Jimin.
“Don’t listen to him. His memory of the incident is inaccurate because he was stoned out of his mind at the time.”
“I wasn’t too stoned to remember the fire department coming and the entire dorm having to evacuate.”
“That happened like once a week when someone left a pizza in the dorm oven too long.”
Jimin giggled. “That happens in our dorm all the time too.”
Hoseok packed the pipe and took the first hit and then passed it to Seokjin, who passed it to Jimin, and finally Namjoon.
Hit first hit wasn’t as harsh as he remembered. Hoseok always said the quality of the weed made a difference, and maybe he was right.
Namjoon didn’t hold the smoke in his lungs long enough, but he didn’t cough too much either.
Hoseok took another hit and cashed the pipe, then refilled it for another round. Namjoon let the conversation the other three were having drift over him as he waited for the high to kick in. He took another hit, but passed the next time the bowl came around.
It didn’t hit him all of a sudden, it was more like his whole being just slowly melted a little.
“Hey Namjoon-hyung, I want to try something,” Jimin said, shuffling closer to him on his knees.
Namjoon nodded, understanding what Jimin meant. Normally his heart would have been pounding out of his chest, but he was unusually relaxed, a little floaty.
Jimin took a long hit off the bowl, then motioned for Namjoon to lean in toward him. His hand came up behind Namjoon’s neck. Namjoon opened his mouth, and Jimin leaned forward and pressed his lips against Namjoon’s ever so lightly, pushing the smoke into his mouth. Namjoon inhaled what Jimin gave him, holding it in his lungs for a long time like it was somehow more precious.
They pulled away and Namjoon finally exhaled.
If Park Jimin was sexy on a normal day, then Park Jimin through a haze of smoke, with his eyelids half closed and lips parted just inches away from Namjoon’s face was absolutely devastating.
“Wow,” Seokjin said.
“Yeah,” Namjoon murmured.
“I could eat an entire bag of sweet potato chips on my own right now,” Seokjin finished.
Namjoon felt his face get hot.
“Or Choco Puffs,” Jimin said, sitting back down on his heels.
“Snacks. I didn’t think to get snacks,” Hoseok said smacking himself in the forehead. “You’d think I was an amateur at this.”
What followed was a debate about who would go to the Ministop for snacks, the realization that Namjoon should be exempt from the snack mission because he would probably blurt out to a stranger that he was high, weak protesting from Namjoon even though it was entirely likely, and the decision that Seokjin and Hoseok should go.
They all spilled out into the living room to let the bedroom air out.
Hoseok and Seokjin went to put on their coats and shoes.
“Any last requests?” Seokjin asked.
“Get ice cream,” Namjoon said.
“Yes,” Jimin echoed. “Lots of ice cream.”
“Got it,” Hoseok nodded.
And then they left.
Jimin went to sit down on the couch.
“Water,” Namjoon said. “I mean, I’m going to get a bottle of water. Do you want one?”
“Sure,” Jimin replied.
Namjoon stumbled into the kitchen. He leaned on the sink and tried to take a couple deep breaths. He remembered why he rarely got high. His ideas were always a little jumbled in his head all at once, but he could always focus on one at a time. When he was high, the whole ball of thoughts was out of his control, and sometimes they would peel off on their own without Namjoon’s control.
He was worried about what he might accidentally say to Jimin. But at some point he realized he had been hiding in the kitchen for way too long, so he grabbed the water and went back to the main room.
Namjoon was debating internally about how close to Jimin he could get away with sitting when a loud moan came from Yoongi and Hoseok’s room followed by a low, growled “fuck, Jungkook.”
“Oh hell no,” Jimin said. “Nope. No way. I’m not listening to that.”
“Music,” Namjoon choked out, his face heating with embarrassment.
He remembered how to move again and got his phone connected to the bluetooth speakers and put on a trip-hop playlist. It took less than a minute, but he had already heard more than enough to tease Yoongi for months.
He turned the volume up.
“I like this,” Jimin said after a few measures.
“It’s a British band,” Namjoon said. “Stateless.”
Namjoon let the music wash over him, he could almost feel the slow beat in pulsing in his body.
“Dance with me,” Jimin replied, standing up from the couch and toward Namjoon.
Namjoon turned toward him just as Jimin threw his arms around his neck.
“I still don’t know how,” Namjoon whispered.
“I’m still here to teach you.”
Jimin grabbed Namjoon’s hands and directed them to his hips.
“Bend your knees. Move your hips like mine.”
Namjoon’s mind was a little muted, foggy, but in that moment, he didn’t care how ridiculous he look. He cared about the way Jimin felt under his hands, the way his eyes sparkled as he blinked up at Namjoon, his pupils so wide that Namjoon wanted to jump into them and drown.
“Not close enough,” he murmured.
“Then come here,” Jimin said.
Jimin slotted his leg between Namjoon’s, and suddenly their hips were a whole lot closer. Jimin was looking up at him, licking his lips. Namjoon’s mouth went dry.
Just then the door burst open and a giggling Hoseok tumbled through it with Seokjin grabbing onto him, saving him from falling flat on his face. They were both carrying two bags, way more food than four people needed.
Jimin and Namjoon sprang apart so quickly, he wasn’t sure the other two even noticed.
At the sight of the ice cream, Namjoon’s fuzzy brain got distracted and he darted toward it, relieving the bag from Hoseok’s hands.
Once snacks were distributed, they put on a movie in the living room. Namjoon sat on the couch with Jimin leaning against him, and it was nice—really nice. The heated moment from before had mellowed into something warm and fuzzy. Eventually Jimin fell asleep, and Namjoon really didn’t want to get up and go back to his room, but Hosek was sexiled from his room and Namjoon would never hear the end of it if he suggested Hoseok take his just so he could share the couch with an already-asleep Jimin.
* * *
The next morning, Namjoon woke up with his head full of cotton and a throat so dry he couldn’t speak.
“This is why I don’t smoke,” he croaked out to Seokjin.
Seokjin motioned toward the water bottle beside Namjoon’s bed that he didn’t remember putting there. A post-it note was stuck to the bottle.
“What is this?”
Namjoon waved the note at Seokjin.
“Oh, you scribbled that down before you passed out last night.”
The piece of paper said “Fritz Tegularius =/= Friedrich Nietzsche = dance god.”
Namjoon started laughing.
“Want to let me in on the joke?”
“I think I was trying figure out the problem with my thesis last night, and I don’t even remember doing it.”
“You were muttering about dance gods at some point, but I kind of just thought you were talking about Jimin.”
Namjoon stuck his tongue out at Seokjin.
Jimin and Hoseok were already awake when Namjoon stumbled out into the main room, talking on the couch in low voices.
“How are you this morning, noob?” Hoseok chirped.
“Did you really just call me a noob?” Namjoon asked.
“Deal with it,” Hoseok said.
Namjoon rubbed his stomach. “I’m fine, but what I don’t understand is how I’m so hungry. I ate so much crap last night.”
“I’ll make breakfast,” Seokjin offered, coming into the living room.
“Really, hyung?” Hoseok asked, scrambling to his feet and draping himself over Seokjin’s back. “You’re the best. You’re my favorite person in the whole entire world.”
“If you get off me!” Seokjin said, flailing his arms behind him to dislodge Hoseok as they went into the kitchen.
“Are you staying for breakfast?” Namjoon asked Jimin hopefully.
“Sorry,” Jimin said. “I have baby ballet in an hour. I need to get back.” He really did look genuinely sorry. “But last night was fun. Thanks for letting me crash here.”
“Any time,” Namjoon said, as Jimin headed toward the door. “Have fun with the five-year-olds.”
“Thanks,” Jimin said. “Um, I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, later,” Namjoon replied awkwardly.
And then Jimin slipped out the front door.
“Namjoon, you idiot,” Hoseok said, stepping out of the kitchen.
“We were giving you privacy! And you didn’t do anything!”
“What was I supposed to do? He had to leave!”
“I don’t know!” Hoseok said. “A hug, a kiss, a grope, not a ‘yeah, later’.”
“Oh, lay off him,” Seokjin called from the kitchen. “He’s a noob.”
“Oh not you, too,” Namjoon groaned.
Namjoon helped Seokjin make sundubu jjidae. Well, he mostly just made rice and stayed out of Seokjin’s way while Hoseok sat on the counter and stole vegetables from Seokjin as he chopped them.
They were sitting at the table eating when Seokjin brought it up again.
“I would have taken the couch,” Seokjin said. “I almost offered but I didn’t want to overstep.”
“Why would you have taken the couch?” Namjoon asked around a mouthful of stew.
“Uh, so you and Jimin could have the room to yourselves.”
“Jimin and I aren’t like that,” Namjoon insisted.
“Yet,” Seokjin replied. “But you could be.”
Hoseok was shaking his head.
“I wouldn’t make that offer, hyung. I have a crick in my neck that hurts when I move. I hope Jungkook is an exhibitionist, because I’m not doing that every night. If they want to fuck, they can just deal with me watching. I give great color commentary.” He held his hand up to his mouth like he was holding a microphone. “And then Jungkook pushes in, a little further, a little further, and—homerun! He bottoms out!”
Seokjin choked on his food, coughing so hard that Namjoon had to slap him on the back.
“I don’t know about Jungkook. But Yoongi’s not going to go for that,” Namjoon said. “I’ve known him for seven years and I’ve never seen him with his shirt off.”
“How is that possible? You never went to the beach? Or changed clothes?”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but Yoongi-hyung is kind of the most antisocial person on the planet. He wouldn’t go outside ever if he didn’t have to.”
“But yet he knows everybody. He has more contacts in his phone than I do,” Hoseok said. “It makes no sense.”
“Nothing about Yoongi makes sense,” Seokjin added.
“Speak of the devil,” Hoseok said as Yoongi’s door creaked open just as there was a knock on the door of the suite.
Yoongi padded toward the door, ignoring the other three’s wolf whistles, opened the door, took two bags from the delivery guy, paid him, and went back into his room without saying a word.
Thirty seconds later the door creaked open again.
“It’s called networking, assholes.”
And then he slammed the door shut.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Namjoon was sitting at the table in the kitchen with his laptop, trying to puzzle out the note his stoned self left for him, when his phone buzzed.
[Jungkook]: You’re being the spirit of gravity you know.
[Jungkook]: I’m doing the reading for class right now and you’re the spirit of gravity. Knock it off.
[Namjoon]: I can’t believe you’re bullying me with Nietzsche.
[Namjoon]: I know you’re in Yoongi’s room right now. Why don’t you say that to my face?
[Jungkook]: New phone. Who dis?
Jungkook was right, though. He was being too serious. He was stuck in his head, in his ideas, like the spirit of gravity—profound and solemn. Nietzsche’s whole point was that people took life to be a burden, something serious, believing in all the rhetoric that told them there was value in suffering, in meekness, in conformity. When you followed the spirit of gravity, you forgot what a joy it was to dance.
But that was it. That was the answer to his thesis.
He grabbed the post-it note again.
Hesse wrote Fritz based on Nietzsche, but his instability was supposed to be a warning that madness would prevent people from expanding their knowledge, from learning about other cultures, hindering the world spirit’s progress.
But that wasn’t fair to Nietzsche.
Nietzsche wanted people to dance.
* * *
Namjoon spent the rest of the weekend frantically writing. By Sunday night, he was almost finished. He just had to write the introduction and conclusion and he could turn it into Professor Bang by Friday, giving him two weeks for his committee to read it before his oral defense.
He was in a bit of a daze when he went to class on Monday. He’d barely slept and he was still a little lost in his ideas.
He was hoping that maybe he could take a nap at his desk during his office hours, when there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Namjoon called, trying not to groan.
He turned in his chair toward the door. It was Jimin.
“Hi,” Namjoon said lamely. “What are you—um—I mean. It’s nice to see you.”
“You like me.” Jimin’s reply to Namjoon’s rambling sounded like an accusation.
“So what are you waiting for?”
“I don’t—I don’t know.” Namjoon said helplessly, desperately. “I really don’t know.”
And then his lap was full of Jimin, who was straddling Namjoon’s thighs like he belonged there. He leaned in and then Jimin’s lips were right there, and Namjoon had to close the distance between them.
It was a soft kiss, chaste, especially given the way they were sitting.
It wasn’t enough.
Namjoon put his hand on the back of Jimin’s neck to hold him in place and then went for it, kissing him deeply, parting his lips like he could drink him in. He pushed his tongue into Jimin’s mouth and the kiss got filthier. Namjoon slid his hands down Jimin’s back until he was cupping Jimin’s ass, pushing him forward, encouraging Jimin to grind down more on his lap.
“Fuck,” Namjoon breathed, pulling away to catch his breath and maybe a little of his sanity. “Jimin, we can’t.”
“What the hell? You can’t kiss me like that and then take it back!”
“No!” Namjoon almost shouted, wrapping his arm around Jimin’s waist to hold him in place. “Not—I mean we can’t do this here. I share this office. Jackson will be back from class in a few minutes. I still want to kiss you. God. I want to kiss you all the fucking time.”
“Oh,” Jimin replied looking relieved. He ran a hand through his hair and wiggled back a little until there was more space between them. “Really?”
“I’m such an idiot. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. You’re so—so perfect and I keep thinking about how I’ll screw everything up before anything even happens.”
Jimin put a hand over Namjoon’s mouth.
“I know. And I’m not perfect, but I can’t be in your head and know what you’re thinking so I’m asking you if you’d like to join me here in the real world.”
Namjoon smiled. “I would. I really would.”
Jimin kissed him again in response, pressing in so close again that Namjoon was definitely going to be unable to comfortably walk soon.
“So do you want to get out of here with me and go someplace more private?” Namjoon asked, forcing himself to pull back again.
“Don’t you have to stay for your office hours?”
“Jungkook is the only one who comes, and he’s still too embarrassed to look me in the eye since we heard him and Yoongi-hyung fucking.”
“Taehyung won’t be in our room right now.”
“Lead the way.”
Jimin scrambled off Namjoon’s lap and helped him stuff books into his bag, whining at him, asking him if he really needed to bring all of them.
The urgency had abated a little by the time they got the dorm. Jimin was right about the room being covered in clothes, but he still pushed Namjoon onto the futon and climbed on top of his lap again, leaning down with his arms on the back of the futon, bracketing Namjoon’s head.
“Now I’ve got you where I want you.”
Namjoon was about to kiss him again when the rational part of his brain kicked in.
“Should we talk more about this? What we’re doing?”
Jimin smirked at him.
“Want to date me?”
“Good. I want to date you.”
This whole time, could it have really been that easy? Jimin was smiling down at him, his eyes dancing with amusement, probably at Namjoon’s bewilderment.
“Then let’s do that,” Namjoon finally said.
The made out for what felt like an hour. Namjoon didn’t think he would ever get tired of the way Jimin’s body felt against his or the way Jimin rolled his hips or the way he could manhandle Namjoon in spite being smaller in stature. Jimin kissed the way he danced, with a fluidity and a passion that Namjoon felt honored to have directed at him.
Jimin was prone on the futon, with Namjoon nearly on top of him and Jimin’s leg wrapped around Namjoon’s waist, when the door flung open.
“Finally!” Taehyung shouted into the room.
Namjoon didn’t even feel embarrassed as he sat upright, his hair a mess and a line of hickeys down his neck.
But Namjoon was still exhausted from finishing his thesis, and they all had homework to do, so he left Jimin and Taeyhung’s room shortly thereafter. But he was pretty sure his feet didn’t touch the ground his whole walk home.
He was still worried, because it was all still likely to blow up in his face. But maybe something about the world settled into place a little.
* * *
A few weeks later, the day he defended his thesis, he sexiled Seokjin.
They were going out for dinner as a group, to celebrate the near-end of Namjoon’s undergraduate career, but Namjoon wanted time alone with Jimin first.
Dating Jimin wasn’t a whole lot different from before when he was trying to date Jimin, but with a lot more making out and lot more of Jimin scolding him for getting lost in his own mind.
And all Namjoon wanted was to be able to take his time giving Jimin a blowjob without someone walking in on them.
Somehow he got everyone to agree to be out of the apartment for an hour.
Namjoon took his time going down on Jimin. He had learned that Jimin really liked praise, but it also turned out that Namjoon liked cataloging Jimin’s reactions, puzzling together all of the things he liked, that made him tick.
“What did I do to deserve this? I mean, it’s your thesis defense we're celebrating.” Jimin asked as Namjoon bit at the inside of his thighs.
“You read it.”
“You actually read my thesis. You don’t know how much that meant to me,” Namjoon replied. “Now can I go back to what I was doing?”
“Uh huh,” Jimin said, as Namjoon finally got his mouth on his dick.
If Jimin had been responsive before, the way he writhed while getting his dick sucked was something else. How anyone managed to dance while getting head Namjoon would never know, but he was glad he got to witness it.
“Wow,” Jimin exhaled, after Namjoon had finally finished, edging Jimin until he couldn’t take it anymore and was threatening to beat Namjoon up if he didn’t let him come. “You’re really fucking good at that. Is there even enough time in our sex hour for me to suck you off?”
“That made it sound like we’re in a brothel.”
“Hmm,” Jimin said and he repositioned Namjoon so he had better access to his dick. “This doesn’t really feel like work.”
After Jimin had gotten Namjoon off too, they were both lying on Namjoon’s bed, still naked and wrapped up in each other.
“So is this synthesis?” Jimin asked.
“This?” Namjoon replied, a little sex stupid.
“Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that I feel more in the world now,” Namjoon replied, pressing a kiss to the top of Jimin’s head.
It’s was a resolution. Namjoon worked things out through abstract ideas, while Jimin worked through his body. The things Namjoon couldn’t communicate with words, Jimin could communicate through dance.
So maybe Hegel didn’t have Jimin in mind. For Hegel, dance was an imperfect art, closer to one of the dark regions of the feeling soul. And maybe Hesse didn’t either, choosing the spirit and the intellect over the body. But Nietzsche did. The thing that Hegel was missing, the thing Hesse was missing, was the thing that Nietzsche knew.
Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add, that one must also be able to dance with the pen?
The secret of the game, of the world spirit, was that every spirit was in a body, and bodies were meant to be lived. Maybe the world was on a trajectory, maybe everyone was all connected, and the only way to get there was to learn as much as you could and resolve the differences between yourself and someone else so you could create something new.
And maybe sometimes that meant learning to dance, too.
“I would believe only in a god who could dance. And when I saw my devil I found him serious, thorough, profound, and solemn: it was the spirit of gravity - through him all things fall.”