Namjoon sits crossed legs on the light wood floor of his newly arranged room and considers it wordlessly. He’s proud of the work done already, of the endless shelves stuffed with books, of the cream curtains framing the large windows, of the grainy quality of the air all around. Of the peacefulness exuding from every dark corner. Of the loneliness.
There are still quite a lot of things he’s not satisfied with, though: the coffee table broke earlier, its glass plate shattering in million of tiny pieces for Namjoon’s greatest despair and he really needs a carpet near the sitting area (a plush, fluffy one. Beige? Dark red.) and he still can’t really stand his own presence but the day is still young. At least one of those things can be achieved before tonight, hopefully.
The little bell he installed earlier chimes softly when the door opens for the tiniest old woman Namjoon has ever seen, half hidden under her beanie. The gigantic pompon at the top looks almost as big as her face: the sight makes Namjoon laughs discreetly behind his hands. She loosen up her big wool scarf and blinks incredulously at the shelves bending under the books’ weight. She probably can’t see Namjoon, hidden as he is by a potted plant and the end of the counter of the library’s reception. She jumps when he stands up, the movement making her thick glasses slip to the tip of her nose.
“Can I help you with anything?”
“Well,” She says after a couple of seconds, pushing up her glasses. “I saw you and your car arrive half an hour ago. I came to ask if you needed any help to arrange the place but…” She gestures at the room wildly. “I see I am too late. You’re a very efficient young man.”
Namjoon feels a nervous chill travel down his spine. “I only had some minor tidying to finish today.” He lies, extending a hand in her direction. The handshake they share is surprisingly energetic. “Most arrangements were already done earlier. I’m Kim Namjoon.”
The woman keeps his hand in hers’ for too long to be polite, studying him like she can see right through his lie. She’s wearing two rings stacked on each others, he notices, both smoothed out by the years and manual work. “Hyong Minji. I’m your closest neighbour so feel free to come by if you need anything.” She takes a new look around before throwing a plastic container in Namjoon’s direction. She watches him drop it and bend over to pick it up with a straight face. “Hotteok for you. You should eat them before they got cold.”
“Um, thank you? Do you… Want some tea?”
Minji shrugs, taking off her coat and hanging it on the newly installed coat rack. “That’s the least you can do. I’m old, welcoming and cold” Namjoon feels his cheeks flushing and points awkwardly to the kitchen’s direction. “So, Namjoon, tell me. How does a young person like you ends up buying an old, abandoned library in such a deserted area?”
Minji follows Namjoon to the kitchen, shuffling easily around the abandoned empty boxes. Namjoon smiles at her over his shoulder. “I needed a change of pace, I guess.”
“Well,” Answers Minji confidently. “I don't know what kind of pace you're trying to escape but I can promise you life here is kind of unique. I hope you find what you came searching for.”
“I hope so too.”
Namjoon wakes up before the sun and he decides to takes it as a sign that he needs to put his life in motion. He dresses warmly and leaves the village by the little path through the fields of wild tea bushes in the direction of the mountain, stopping only when the sun starts setting behind him. He watches it setting on the little town, sat on a tree stump two meters away from a little branch of the Seomjin river.
The sky is the same than back at his parents’, several hundreds of kilometers away. The sky is the same and the sun sets the same way, beautiful and breathtaking and magical and the air is the same and Namjoon is the same too. Moving out, even drastically (even without telling anyone, even if it's truly more running away than moving out.) isn't enough to change a person; maybe the morning sun wants him to remember this. Namjoon is a little high on big decisions and life changing events; maybe the sun wants to humble him a little.
There's a something, though, a sound maybe (or maybe a silence?). There’s a something and everything is the same and everything is different and maybe Namjoon is, too.
He finds an apple in the pocket of his jacket and bites into it machinally. He suspects his mother put it there, probably months ago, and he silently thanks the first guy who discovered preservative magic. The thought that he could have dug into his pocket to a handful of rotten fruit makes him wrinkle his nose slightly; the apple tastes a little like ashes, the way every enchanted food does, but it’s still not that bad. His joints crack when he stands up and he grimaces, rubs his left knee once with a sigh. It could be worse, though; it’s still not that bad.
There's a lot of things he needs to buy today before the opening of the library: food of course, some household items, a pan if he finds one. A bike, maybe, if he plans on visiting around more. Can he find a bike to rent in town? An image of his childhood’s bike appears to him, a rutilant red thing Namjoon had loved more than anything. He'd been a clumsy kid and had frightened his parents so many time but he'd always happily got back on the seat. He'd been a child not unafraid of failures per se but conscious, somehow, that a failure didn't meant an end. He wonders when he stopped thinking that way. When he started running away.
He watches the soft glow of the setting sun over the village and thinks, for the third time since this morning (For the first time since forever.), that maybe things aren’t that bad.
Namjoon realizes when he arrives in front of the house (of his house. His own house. His very first, very own house.) that he forgot to lock the door when he left. On the counter he finds a plastic container full of kimchi and a little note signed from his neighbour. Namjoon unfolds it and smiles to himself at the short, authoritarian message: ‘you’re too skinny! Eat well!’. He makes a mental note to buy her something to thank her for her warm, even if a little weird, welcome.
It’s only when he’s ready to leave, wallet already tucked in his jeans’ pocket and backpack in hands, that Namjoon realizes the apple’s core is still in his jacket. He hovers over the trash bin for a second but changes his mind right before dropping it, his mind full of memories of tender green sprouts that never had time to become much more. He puts the core on the kitchen counter and adds ‘cotton’ to his short shopping list.
Namjoon carefully locks the door when he finally leaves for the second time to the local little shop. Several elderly people are already going about their business despite how early it is: each of them greet him, which surprises him at first. They also seem to study him quite closely as if they were trying to decipher who he is and what he’s doing in their neighborhood.
Namjoon remembers the stock of posters about the reopening of the library he still needs to placate around; he takes his shopping list and a pen from his pocket to write it down before he forgets and almost trips on his own feet. An old woman laughs at him from her porch; he waves vaguely in her direction and runs away, his cheeks burning.
The local shop is only a ten minutes walk away from his house and is the tiniest, most crowded thing Namjoon has ever seen. It looks authentic in a weird, old type of way and Namjoon falls in love with it the second he opens the door. He makes his way through the shop, fascinated by the lack of space: it seems like every item has been arranged in a real-life version of a game of tetris and he fears taking anything could make the whole room shatter. Namjoon touches a pack of instant noodle with his index, holding on a breath. The room shakes softly, does a sound almost like a purr. He grabs the pack and the room does a weird sneeze noise.
“Can I help you? Kim Namjoon?” Namjoon jumps, making the noodles jump with him. He scrambles to catch it before it falls: fortunately the room stays unchanged.
The guy who just talked is the first young person Namjoon see in the village. He looks even younger than Namjoon, actually, and it cheers his mood up a little. He hasn’t met a lot of locals, granted, but he’d always pictured the rural life full of elderly and very few young people; the friendly face of that one dude is a little more than comforting. Even if he, for some reason, already knows his name. Not creepy at all. “Hi?” He answers, cradling his noodles against his chest.
“You’re Kim Namjoon, right? The guy who bought the old library?” Namjoon nods dumbly, frowning. The guy giggles. “Rumors travel very fast in tiny villages, Namjoon-ssi. I’m Park Jimin. Can I help you with anything?”
“Uh, pleased to meet you,” Namjoon fishes the shopping list from his pocket, reads the first thing on it. “Washing-up liquid?” Jimin nods and leads Namjoon to a tiny shelf hidden in a dark corner. Namjoon is pretty certain at this point that the organization of the room doesn’t make sense at all. “So, uh. Do you work here?”
“Oh no,” Answers Jimin with a short laugh. “I’m helping my uncle during my day-off. I’m an home-based nurse.” He shoves two bottles in Namjoon’s face. “Lemon or apple?”
“Cool,” Says Jimin. “That’s my favourite too.” Namjoon almost wants to object (Who has a favourite washing-up liquid scent? Park Jimin that’s who.) but Jimin’s smile is just too friendly for that. “I’m taking this to the cash register for you, right? Take your time, call me if you need help. People get lost in here for hours sometimes, it’s weird.”
It does take Namjoon some time to find everything he needs but nothing close to several hours, thankfully. Jimin’s eyes widen when Namjoon dumps his selection on the little counter, gapes at the clutter of instant foods and cutlery, at the pack of cotton and at the carpet Namjoon miraculously found in a corner.
“I had no idea we sell carpets in here,” Says Jimin, visibly disturbed. “I guess my uncle bought that without telling me. Did you found everything you need?”
“I think I did,” Namjoon answers, scanning his list a last time. “I imagine you don’t sell bikes, right?”
“Ha! That wouldn’t be very realistic if we had everything you need, don’t you think?” Really, wants to say Namjoon, the shop containing everything he needs would maybe have been the most realistic thing about it. He nods instead of saying any of this, lips curled in a tight smile. “But!” Adds Jimin, still carefully typing the price of his article on the weirdly modern-looking and shiny cash register, “I happen to have one I don’t have any use of. Maybe it could suit you? It’s red.” Namjoon snorts. Jimin looks up without lifting his head; it looks strangely intimidating. “I know it’s not an amazing argument but it’s a nice bike. We could meet up at the restaurant one of those days so I can show you. Assuming it’s not urgent, of course.”
“That would be pretty amazing actually, thank you for the offer.”
Jimin gestures at the little screen of the machine to indicate the cost of Namjoon’s purchase and Namjoon rakes through his wallet to find the money needed. “Would tuesday be good? For the bike?” Jimin slides the money in the cash register without counting it. “I can probably take a longer break for lunch, and it’s the day Mr. Ryeong does his spicy beef soup,” Jimin smiles dreamily. “He always gives me two servings because I’m family. What do you think?”
“Spicy beef soup sounds nice!” Namjoon packs his purchases in his bag and bites his lip. “I forgot to take any poster with me but I’d appreciate if you’d inform your customers I’m opening at the end of the week.”
“Sure!” Jimin beams. “I’ll visit as soon as I can too. I hope we become good friends, Namjoon-ssi.”
Namjoon shakes his hand, a little surprised by Jimin’s energy. “I sure hope so too!”
‘Where does that carpet fucking comes from?’ Namjoon hears a man, probably Jimin’s uncle, whispers as he exits the shop. The sound of the door closing behind him sounds like it's laughing at him.
There’s a fiery red bike parked in front of the restaurant that tuesday, an old but clean thing half covered in rust with a white seat and a cutesy basket at the front. It’s a woman bike and probably a little too tall for Namjoon and it’s absolutely perfect; he can’t wait to bargain for it over a bowl of beef soup.
“You’re new!” Yells the most wrinkled old men Namjoon has ever seen when he enters the restaurant. “Aren’t you that books obsessed kid who bought that shit old house?”
Namjoon bows slightly, more to hide how wide his eyes are than to be polite. “I guess I am?”
“I don’t like books myself,” Says the man at still the same loud volume. “But I hope it goes well for you. Jimin’s over here!”
Jimin is, indeed, over here (As in, sat in the middle of the room at the biggest table. Kinda hard to miss him.) and he waves at Namjoon like they’re in Seoul’s most popular and crowded hang-out place, not the village’s tiny and empty restaurant.
“Mr. Ryeong’s half deaf,” Says Jimin in lieu of greetings while stuffing his cheeks with beef. Namjoon laughs nervously.
“What did you say?” Yells the old man when he arrives with Namjoon’s bowl.
“I said you’re deaf!” Jimin yells back.
“Only half deaf!” Namjoon’s ears are ringing.
“You’re lucky he’s not into books,” Says Jimin when Mr. Ryeong is gone, still slurping his soup. “Not the best patron for a library, eh?”
“I’ll be happy if I get any patron at all,” Namjoon admits, tasting the soup. Opening the library is a nerve wrecking thought already and loud clients really aren’t at the top of his worries list. It’s what happens, he assumes, when one decides to give up everything in one’s life to go open a tiny business in a godforsaken village: insomnias and days spent staring at blank walls, trying to remember what fucked up that spectacularly in one’s life to end up in such a situation.
Jimin laughs, again, like Namjoon’s biggest worries are but a mere joke. He opens his mouth to talk, hopefully to comfort Namjoon, but is interrupted by the sound of the door opening to an old couple.
There’s an uninterrupted flow of customers coming in after that and each of them come to greet Jimin when they spot him, preventing Namjoon and Jimin to start any kind of conversation. Soon enough the table they are sharing fills with people and bowls of soup and bottles of beer and chatters. The air in the restaurant smells of dampness and spicy soup, of beer and old people and of green tea. The whole town always smells of green tea actually, the odor permeating houses and objects and people all the same, so much Namjoon almost doesn’t notice it anymore. Namjoon lets himself gets lulled gently by the sounds, waves after waves of strong accented conversations overlapping each other. Jimin whispers names in his ear, tidbits of informations about the villagers, gossips that make Namjoon blush. He waves enthusiastically when a new woman enters and leans to introduces her to Namjoon.
“Jiyoon’s a good friend of your neighbours, you will probably see her pretty often,” He says just before the woman reaches the table. She takes the last free chair and moves people around so she can sit next to Namjoon. “She’s an aunt of my father,” He finishes. “Auntie! This is Kim Namjoon, the new librarian.”
Jiyoon tssks at Jimin irritably. “Don’t call me that Jimin-ah, it makes me feel old,” She pulls on Jimin’s cheek with perfectly manicured fingers. Her hair is tied in a tight little bun and she’s wearing an apron; she looks like the poster image of the perfect grandmother. “Nice to meet you, new librarian Kim Namjoon. Is my little demon of a nephew flirting with you?”
“No, auntie,” Answers Jimin with an eye-roll. “You know I don’t like people taller than me. Will you pay for me today?” Jimin’s tone is sugary sweet, smile stretching his cheeks in a childish way. Jiyoon tweaks his ear.
“You wish!” She says, standing up and dragging her chair in the direction of another table. The patrons move around again to accomode her movement, the clamor moving with her. “I’ll see you around, new librarian Kim Namjoon!”
The silence that follows is one Namjoon knows too well: Jimin is studying him without a word, both men conscious Jiyoon just involuntarily outed her nephew. Namjoon coughs in his fist once, embarrassed. “So I’m too tall for you, uh?” Jimin looks a little less nervous when he glances up at Namjoon. “That’s a shame. We had compatible tastes in dishwashing liquids.” Jimin really smiles again at that.
“You only say that cause you want the bike for free.”
“Is it working?”
“No,” Smiles Jimin, “But only because I always intended to give it to you for free anyway.”
“You did?” The bike looked like an old and cheap thing, sure, but Namjoon still didn’t expected that level of generosity. He’s not sure if it’s a trap (One of those little town unsaid arrangement where receiving a bike means you’ll have to mow your neighbour’s garden or something.) but he decides to ignore it. He still has time to learn about villages’ etiquette and Jimin doesn’t seem the kind of guy who would create conflicts anyway.
“My cousin gave it to me before she left to live in the city. Because I already have my own, it’s been waiting for a new owner since then. I’d be happy if you help me get rid of it actually, my landlord’s been bothering me about it for some times because it stays in the middle of the hallway and she trips on it twice a day.”
Namjoon scratches the back of his head. “I’d feel bad if I just take it from you to be honest.”
“Well…” Jimin raises his hand in the general direction of the bar. Mr. Ryeong almost immediately starts filling a new bowl. “You can pay for my food today. And offer me your library’s membership card when you open, okay?”
“That’s fair,” Namjoon answers. It’s not, not really, but Namjoon won’t complain because a dude sold him a bike for almost nothing and a few scraps. After an hesitation and a look at his empty bowl he raises his hand too. A new bike and more soup: life is good to him today.
The first two days after the opening had been frantic to say the least and if Namjoon is happy and relieved about it he can’t say he doesn’t appreciate how calm that wednesday has been so far. He hums to himself while preparing a shipping box for his last order of the day. It’s a good day, an hopeful one: the sun is shining, slowly filling his office with warmth and he got tea; the room smells like old books and he can even hear birds singing outside. Or, well, he could: the sounds he hears now are closer to human’s screeches than bird’s whistles.
He reluctantly drags himself out of the warmth of the library to discover that the bench in front of the house, usually sad and empty, seems to have produced three old and chatty women armed with knitting needles and ready to use them against the stray cat that lives in Namjoon’s garage. Three heads turn to watch Namjoon when the door squeaks open.
“Do you… Do you intend on knitting here?” He asks, a little unsure.
“Namjoon, my boy! Can you believe Joowon, that old donkey, threw us out of the restaurant because we’re too noisy for him?” Minji asks, clearly furious. The cat paws at a loose wool thread and Jiyoon bats him on the nose.
“Old guy is more deaf than a white cat and he says we’re disturbing! That’s just plain misogyny, clearly.” Says Seungmin, Minji’s friend and housemate. “It’s cold and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain soon.”
“You could… You could come in?” Suggests Namjoon in a fit of generosity. “The library is empty and I wouldn’t mind the company.”
Namjoon realizes the second Jiyoon smiles that he just got tricked: the three women share a quick glance and grab their bags as one and Namjoon understands suddenly why they choose to crash on the bench in front of his house. Namjoon can’t say he’s not a little offended by the easy way the three women just played him, but he’s also at least equally as amused. Minji and Seungmin clearly high-five behind Jiyoon’s back, too loudly to not be to be noticed. Namjoon smiles fondly.
“You’re sure we aren’t disturbing?” Says Jiyoon while pushing him to enter, clearly delighted to have tricked poor stupid Namjoon.
“I’d hate to impose my presence,” Says Seungmin, already sitting in the chair.
“We’re only meeting once a week anyway, we won’t be there too often,” Says Minji, her knitting needles already in action. “Do you have tea? I wouldn’t say no to a cup.”
“Don’t worry,” Finishes Jiyoon, “We will teach you all we know in exchange. Have you ever knitted anything, Namjoon?”
Yoongi is waiting next to the coat rack when Namjoon exits the kitchen that morning. He’s slouching a little, just like he always does, and he compensates the height loss by floating ten centimeters above the ground. The stray cat is rubbing herself on his ankles and she runs to hide under a table when she spots Namjoon, probably knowing she would have to leave the house if she was to be catched. Namjoon palms his forehead and sighs. He doesn’t dare asking how long Yoongi has been waiting or how he came to the village (Or how he found Namjoon, for what it’s worth.): his love for dramatic apparitions is well known amongst their friends, so much that Namjoon isn’t even surprised to see him there. He imagines it’s what he deserves for disappearing from town without giving anyone his new address, though, and seeing Yoongi’s familiar scowl is strangely comforting. He waits a moment for the scolding he’s sure is yet to come but Yoongi just studies him, face blank, the book he was reading while waiting loosely held between two fingers.
“Could you refrain yourself from using magic for five minutes, please?” Asks Namjon finally when it becomes clear that Yoongi won’t speak first. “Anyone could come in and see you.”
The door swings open as on cue. “Hyung, I’m returning books for…” Jimin stops and eyes Yoongi from head to toes, eyebrows slightly raised. “Your friend is flying.” He remarks, surprisingly calm.
“He’s not.” Answers Namjoon. Yoongi still hasn’t come back on the floor; Namjoon will make him regret it later. “Jiminnie, didn’t you said recently you had to get your eyes checked?”
Jimin points at his face. “I did, that’s why I’m wearing new glasses,” He takes them off, looks at Yoongi’s feet again. “And he’s still flying without them on.”
“I’m not flying.” Answers Yoongi. He’s still flying and Namjoon seriously considers knocking both his friends unconscious in hope it will make them forget everything about their meeting. He tries to convey his feeling to Yoongi with a furious look but his friend doesn’t even look back at him. “I’m floating.” Namjoon’s need to hit Yoongi rises up.
“Is it because you’re so short?”
Yoongi glares at him. “So are you. I, at least, can do something about it.”
Jimin laughs. “Isn’t it sad to still be bitter about your height at your age? Anyway, hyung, here are Mr. Sin’s books. He apologizes for returning them late so I told him not to worry about it.”
Namjoon cocks his head, incredulous. “Did he really said that?”
“He said you could put your stupid book where the sun never shines, actually.” Yoongi lets out a loud laugh and Jimin smirks. “I’ll probably take him here on wednesday as usual if you’re not too busy?”
“Of course, it’s always a delight to have you here. Brightens up my boring day, you know?” Says Namjoon with a hint of irony that seems to be lost on Jimin: he’s still smiling brightly and he seems perfectly fine about being in the direct vicinity of a guy who can float in the air. Namjoon realizes he’ll have to interrogate him as soon as he gets the occasion, and he feels exhausted just thinking about it.
“I’ll get going then, I’m not finished with my round. See you hyung, see you shortie!”
Yoongi’s feet collide with the ground when Jimin closes the door behind him. “When does he usually come on wednesdays?” He asks, looking entranced. Namjoon’s blood boils.
“What? Hyung it’s not time to talk about Jimin when you just showed a non magical person magic.”
Yoongi shrugs, his hand on the door’s handle and ready to leave already. Namjoon has no idea why he came in the first place but it seems Yoongi has no intention to explain himself. Nor that he’s bothered by the fact that he just drove a couple of hours to come here only to leave after less than ten minutes. “I’ll be here at eight then. T’was nice to see you, joonie.”
Namjoon nods to the closed door. Yoongi probably only wanted to see him to be sure he was okay, he realizes, feeling a little warmer.
Jimin shows up two days later after lunch, unannounced and with freshly baked yakwas, and he forces Namjoon to offer him tea.
“So,” He says when they’re both seated in Namjoon’s kitchen. The door leading to the library is open in case someone would come by despite the unusual ‘closed’ sign hanging off the door’s handle. It’s very unlikely as most of the villagers have naps scheduled at that hour, thought, so Namjoon doesn’t feel too bad about it. “Your friend can do magic.”
“There’s no use in denying it now, right?”
Jimin smiles, pleased, and pops a piece of yakwa in his mouth. “Does that means you can too, hyung?” Namjoon shrugs, nods. Jimin’s face lights up. “I figured!”
“You don't seem very surprised.”
“That's because of my grandfather: he used to tell us stories about his great-uncle who was able to do magic all the time.” Jimin talks with his mouth full, clearly excited about the revelation. “My cousins grew up too rational to keep believing it, but I never truly forgot, I guess. The house clued me in.”
Namjoon looks around, surprised. “The house?” Jimin takes some time to swallow. He doesn’t get very long pauses for lunch, remembers Namjoon, and he probably blew up today’s break to come grill him. He pushes the plate in his direction with a ‘help yourself’ vague gesture. Jimin’s eyes widen.
“You bought it from my aunt, don't you know? It was my grandfather’s great-uncle’s.” He brushes the warm dark wood of the kitchen table with his palm. The table had been the only furniture in the house when Namjoon had bought it, a massive and comforting thing that had convinced him he could build a home for himself in between those walls. “I loved playing here when I was a kid. I always thought there was something magical about that place.” Says Jimin. “I think it's great that you're living here now. You're giving it its magic back, I can feel it in the air.”
Namjoon wants to deny it, to explain Jimin it’s not how magic works, but Jimin seems too happy about it for Namjoon to spoil his happiness. The table under his hand seems to vibrate slightly, its warmth weirdly familiar already. Namjoon’s eyes fall on the counter behind him, the light green apple tree sprout shyly emerging from its cotton cocoon. The plant is already trying to stretch out in the direction of the window, searching the sunlight. It looks big enough to transplant it in potting soil now, he thinks, and he almost believes he see the tiny leaves uncurling to answer him. He looks back at the table, scratches a darker knot pensively. He’s positive it’s not how magic works; but he also knows he’d like if it did.
Yoongi really arrives at the library at eight and spends the whole morning drinking all of Namjoon’s coffee, complaining and jumping to his feet every time the carillon makes a noise. Every comment he does is a careful mix of I’m still mad at you and I’m relieved you’re better and despite his detached attitude it’s clear he’s happy to be with him. He’s also very happy to criticize every aspect of the house, though, and it offends Namjoon a little too much maybe for something that shouldn’t matter at all. He relateliates by mocking Yoongi every time he looks up when the door opens with a loud ‘here’s the love of your life!’. Yoongi’s blush deepens with every new customer.
“You’re ridiculous.” Comments Namjoon softly when Yoongi stands up once again, alerted by the sound of someone opening the library’s door. Yoongi glares at him.
“Namjoon hyung!” Jimin's head appears at the door behind the old man he's holding the bag of. Namjoon leans over the counter with a smile, grabbing Yoongi by the biceps to draw Jimin’s attention on him. Jimin smiles. “Shortie. Here again?”
“I'm older than you.”
“Shortie hyung. Here again?”
“My name’s Yoongi.”
Jimin shrugs, a faux apologetic expression on his face. “But I like shortie better, hyung.” Yoongi glares the best he can but his red cheeks clash with his angry expression. Namjoon almost rolls his eyes: it’s really his luck that Yoongi would find someone he likes here of all places when Namjoon is the one being lonely and living in the village. “So. You’re here again?”
“I wouldn’t say I’m happy about it.” Yoongi lies through his teeth. Namjoon really, really wants to hit him.
Mr. Sin puts his cane in the umbrellas’ rack loudly and gestures for Namjoon to help him, his every move slow with arthritis. “Come here my boy,” He says, a little too loud in the silent library. Namjoon winces. “I think our little Jiminnie has better things to do than walk me around today.”
“I don’t!” Protests Jimin. He tries to take Mr. Sin’s arm but the old man bats it away with unexpected strength.
“Taking care of the customers in the library is literally my job Jimin. Isn’t today your day off?” Namjoon smiles his sweetest smile and reaches for Mr. Sin’s arm. “You should take a break while I handle things here.” Jimin gapes at the two of them (Mr. Sin crooked and suspended on Namjoon’s forearm, Namjoon bent too much on his right side to accommodate himself for Mr. Sin’s height.) before he holds out the bag for Namjoon, looking a little stunned. “Where am I taking you, Mr. Sin?” Asks Namjoon with a fake cheerful tone.
“In the gardening section! The last book you lended me was garbage, Namjoon. Terrible. You absolutely can’t do any good if I’m not supervising you, don’t you?” Namjoon hears Yoongi and Jimin laughing discreetly behind his back and he scowls. Of course, those two would get on to mock him if Namjoon’s was being bullied. Of fucking course. “And you!” He says to Jimin, who stops laughing immediately. “Live a little, have some fun! I swear you’re older than me in your head already.”
“So,” Namjoon hears Jimin saying when Mr. Sin and him are a bit further from them. “Do you want to visit around the town?”
“Not really.” Answers Yoongi. Namjoon is going to beat him up before the end of the day. “But I’ll come along if you want me to.”
“Not really, but since you’re here…”
Namjoon curses under his breath; it earns him a swat on the elbow. “You have to be respectful around books, Namjoon. Let your friends flirt and get. Me. My. Book.” He punctuates every word with a new swat. Namjoon sighs and grabs the ouvrage about propagation through cuttings he prepared for his customer's visit, ready to catch it when the old man try to throw it away or, worse, in Namjoon’s face.
“You’re gay, Namjoon, aren’t you?”
Jiyoon’s skein falls from Namjoon grip. He stares at it for a second then at Minji who’s staring back. He clears his throat a couple of times. “Not really gay.” He says, bending over to take the pink wool back. He distractedly picks on a tiny sparkly sequin.
“What are you, then? Not straight right? That would be awful.” Namjoon doesn’t know what kind of answer he was expecting; he just know it wasn’t that one. He shrugs awkwardly. His life could have took an incredible range of unexpected turns, that with being a magical being and all but ending up living in a tiny village, holding wool for knitting women talking about the concept of straightness as awful absolutely never was in his plans. He can’t say he doesn’t enjoy it though.
“I can be attracted to a wide range of people, even if I do have a preference for men. Does that answer your question?”
The knitting needles’ sound have halted and three pairs of eyes are focused on Namjoon. Minji uses the tip of her needle to scratch at her temple. The ray of light shining right on her makes her look like an ancient prophetess, one with giant glasses and gold colored knitting needles endlessly clicking away darkness. Namjoon imagines her on a throne, knitting ranges after ranges of auguries for the mere mortals. “So what I get from that is that you’d date a man. Right?”
“Yeah, I would. Did, actually.” The women smile at each other, Moirai terrible threading Namjoon’s destiny between their crooked fingers.
“You can date my grandson, then!” Says Seungmin happily. She’s Clotho suddenly, creating Namjoon’s fate, giving him a second birth (When did he die?).
“You really should,” Minji says and she’s Lachesis, spinning away Namjoon’s destiny.
“You would, if you wanted to make us happy,” Says Jiyoon and Namjoon nods because no one says no to shears-holding Atropos. “He looks just like Seungmin!” Namjoon try to imagine the young male counterpart to his old neighbour.
“But he’s tall.” He adds a dozen of centimeters to his mental portrait.
“And very handsome!” The portrait gains long eyelashes and manga’s-main-character sparkles.
“Very serious. The perfect husband!” He dresses up the imaginary man in a pristin three-pieces suit.
“And he cooks well.” Namjoon adds a little apron to his creation, ties a pretty bow around his waist. Shakes his head, breaks the spell he fell under.
“I won’t date Seungmin’s grandson, I don’t know him.” He raises a hand when Jiyoon opens her mouth to talk; the pink ball of wool falls to his feet again in the movement. “I don’t even know his name. I can’t date someone I don’t know the name of.”
Minji tssks at him irritably. “His name is Seokjin and he has a poor, poor grandmother who’s heartbroken because she thinks he’ll never find a good, trustworthy partner. He’s just a little older than you and he’s a sweetheart. He’s coming with his family for Chuseok. You’ll love him, you’ll see.” She pats Seungmin’s arm in a comforting manner. “You do everything for them and that's how they thank you. So ungrateful, those boys.”
Namjoon huffs. Hopefully his old neighbours will have forgotten their ridiculous idea by the time Seungmin’s grandson really shows up.
“You’ve been invited for dinner at your neighbours’ tonight, right?”
Celebrating chuseok with his parents hadn’t been an option at all for obvious reasons but Namjoon had been delighted to find Yoongi knocking on the door at noon with food under one arm and their other friend, Hoseok, under the other. Hoseok had hugged Namjoon with great enthusiasm and had fake-sobbed for what had felt like hours and had clearly been nothing but a way to make Namjoon feel guilty about disappearing from his life.
Namjoon pushes his plate with a sigh. “One of them wants to marry me with her grandson.” He says, playing with his food with the tip of his chopsticks. Hoseok laughs.
“Pretty progressive place you’ve found here.” Comments Yoongi, watching the red wine swirl in his glass. Both the bottle and the glasses are the housewarming gifts he gave to Namjoon when he arrived earlier. Namjoon doesn’t know if that gift was more for him or for Yoongi’s use really, but he had still thanked him gratefully. ‘I’m not staying it that book-cabin you call a house sober.’ he’d said when Namjoon had questioned him. Namjoon had shrugged: Yoongi always had amazing tastes in wine anyway.
Hoseok has his feet propped-up on the table, the chair precariously balanced on two legs. Namjoon would ask him to stop if he didn’t knew it would make his friends mock him for his newly-discovered love for domestic life. “Is the guy cute at least?”
“Never met him,” Says Namjoon. “I don’t even know his age, just that he’s older than me.”
Yoongi snorts. “I bet he’s old and ugly. Happy engagement dinner, Namjoon!”
“Try to make the best of the situation,” Says Hoseok, laughing as well. “Maybe the guy has a good job. You’ll need a nice sugar daddy if you want to maintain that luxury way of life of yours.”
“Your cat eats a lot, for a start.” Says Yoongi, bending to give the stray some of his chicken. The cat is looking at him defiantly from under Yoongi’s chair, daring Namjoon to try and catch her to make her leave the house. She headbutts Yoongi’s hand, her eyes fixed in Namjoon’s, mocking him. Hoseok coos.
“You shut up,” Namjoon finally says, startling the cat who runs to the library. Namjoon takes the plates and starts piling them up the best he can. “And you put your feet down.” He adds to Hoseok, a little too aggressively.
“Look at him, so reasonable. So grown-up, our little Namjoonie. Washing the dishes and.” Hoseok waves in the direction of his little newly planted apple tree sprout. “Growing plants” Namjoon groans and Yoongi nods.
“All ready for the wedding. Better ready your bridesmaid’s dress.” Namjoon might throw them out at the same time as he does the cat.
Seungmin’s grandson might be the most gorgeous human-being Namjoon has ever seen. The description his neighbours and Jiyoon gave of him flashes in his memory while he sits in front of him and he nods absently, dumbly: except for the sparkles his mental image was pretty perfect and he’s not even certain the guy is not going to start glowing soon. Maybe he shouldn’t be that surprised: for all he knows Seokjin’s the actual offspring of a destiny goddess; it must come with some quirks, like looking deadly gorgeous.
He’s wearing a hanbok, of course he is, and he looks ridiculously beautiful in it. He also doesn’t seem like he intends to start a conversation anytime soon and it makes Namjoon terribly nervous; he hopes Seungmin and Minji didn’t try to sell him as a potential partner or anything as embarrassing. The way they left them together all alone under the pretext of having to prepare the dinner is too suspicious and uncomfortable already.
“You, uh… You look very elegant,” He says finally and the smile Seokjin directs at him is nothing short of terrifying. Thanatos was related to the Moirai, supply Namjoon’s brain gently.
“Minji!” He calls, eyes locked with Namjoon’s. He looks vaguely like the cat when she knows she’s going to trick him. She always knows she’s going to trick Namjoon. “Do you have a hanbok Namjoon-ssi could borrow? He’s feeling underdressed.”
And, well. Namjoon does feel underdressed a little but it’s not a reason to be that rude about it. Minji looks over the moon, though, and she drags Namjoon to one of the bedrooms with great enthusiasm.
“It’s going to be a little short for you I reckon. He was a short man, my husband.” She stands on her tiptoes to grab the hanger from the little dressing. She opens the garment bag, revealing the treasured clothes. “Liked pink, too. I hope you’re not one of those annoying manly idiots who can’t stand pink.”
“I like pink alright,” Namjoon answers under Minji’s inquisitive gaze. “Dunno if it flatters me that much.”
“Pink flatters everyone,” She says decisively. “Call me if you need help putting it on.”
“Pink does flatter you,” Says Seokjin when Namjoon steps out of the room, clad in the too-short hanbok and terribly embarrassed. The fact that Seokjin knows what he was talking about with Minji might be even more embarrassing, whether it’s because he was creeping on them or because Minji snitched. “It’s perfect for your skin tone!” Namjoon isn’t sure if he’s mocking him or not but he still blushes in doubt.
“I don’t know what your grandmother told you about me,” Whispers Namjoon hurriedly with a nervous glance in the direction of the kitchen when they sit at the table again in front of each other. “But whatever it was, know that I’m sorry about it.” The smile he receives in answer seems a little more sincere.
“Don’t worry about it, it was not all wrong.” Seokjin stares him up and down. “You are cute. And not averse to wearing pink, that’s always a plus.”
“I have to admit I am a little disappointed,” Namjoon says, encouraged by Seokjin’s playful tone. “They sold you as a whole package. You were supposed to glow.” Seokjin throws his head back and laughs (It’s kind of an ugly laugh, too high and loud and it’s absolutely delightful, and Namjoon immediately realizes he wants to hear it again.) and damn. He might really be glowing, after all.
Chatting with Seokjin is easier than expected when you look beyond the incredible face and perfectly fitted outfit and stupid laugh, when you ignore the conspiring glances between Minji and Seungmin. Chatting with Seokjin is easy enough but with that constant white hot buzzing that sometimes occurs when chatting with someone you’re unexpectedly and violently attracted to, a thrill of something Namjoon might have forgotten for too long. It’s easy because Seokjin is terribly attractive and probably just as terribly not attracted to Namjoon and also someone he’ll never have to see ever again after that dinner. By the time they’re finished eating, dishes piled up in the kitchen and stomach full of food and alcohol and one cup of green tea each (Another, lukewarm, gently waiting to be drank in front of them.), Namjoon is on another plane of existence totally: one in which he can bat his lashes at a pretty boy almost without blushing and in which the pretty boy will smile back, all while talking about his field of work.
“I’m an accountant in my father’s company,” Says Seokjin, and Namjoon bats his lashes.
“Do you like numbers a lot?” He asks in return, and Seokjin smiles, maybe at his lashes or maybe at his question.
“Not really,” Says Seokjin, drinking some almost cold tea. Minji and Seungmin have disappeared to their rooms a long time ago, giggling like two teenagers (Because of the alcohol or because of Namjoon and Seokjin or because of both.). “Is there anyone out there really working their dream job?”
“I do,” Says Namjoon, and maybe he’s a little smug about it. Seokjin raises the tea cup as to cheer on Namjoon’s luck and Namjoon cheers back.
“Really,” He says with still a smile, “Was that what your school’s orientation quiz said when you were a kid? ‘Kim Namjoon, 8, dream life: opening a library in the most isolated place of the goddamn country, living off of cup noodles and the village’s restaurant only dish’?”
“You forgot ‘honorary member of the tiniest knitting club in the whole world’.” Seokjin shakes with silent laughter. Some tea sloshes on the bare table, stripped of its cloth during the grand cleaning of earlier and it runs slow to the edge of it. Namjoon considers wiping it with his sleeve before he remembers his sleeve is not his sleeve. There’s a confusing moment during which he thinks about using magic to stop it, just a very tiny amount of it, but he’s sleepy and drunk and not legally allowed to do so so he just watches it dribble on the floor with the uselessness of non-magic drunk people and Seokjin does so, too.
Seokjin shrugs and wipes it with the back of his hand (It doesn’t make sense.) and licks said back of hand (It’s obscene but still doesn’t make sense.). “We’ll clean the whole house tomorrow anyway.” (That makes maybe a little more sense. Not much.)
“I should maybe go,” Says Namjoon like it’s the logical answer to Seokjin’s declaration. Seokjin shrugs again.
“Your ankles are going to be cold,” He says, referring to Namjoon’s too small hanbok.
“It’s okay, I have very tough ankles,” Tea falls from Seokjin’s cup again when he bends to pat Namjoon’s calve.
“I’ll see you and your very tough ankles around, I guess?” He asks when they’re at the door, Namjoon’s arms full of leftovers and the clothes he was wearing when he came in.
“My ankles can’t wait,” Answers Namjoon, and he knows Seokjin would have spilled tea again if he still had the cup in his hand.
He realizes two things when he’s walking home: his ankles are indeed cold and they really are missing Seokjin already. When did ankles started catching feelings, though, is a thing Namjoon doesn’t know.
Namjoon is immersed in his reading when three vigorous knocks interrupt him. The library is closed for the second day of Chuseok and he knows every villager is aware of it; he still took care of hanging a little sign on his door to signal it to the most lightheaded of his neighbours. He considers the possibility of not answering and pretending later he didn’t heard the person knocking. His book is good and he doesn’t want his tea to cool down while he caters to the intruder’s needs. Still, he had the time since he moved in to accept that days off in a village never are really off, even if you run such a non-vital business as a teeny tiny library.
The person knocks again, louder, so Namjoon extracts himself from the couch with a last sad glance to his mug. He’s willing to bet he’s going to find Seongeon on the other side of the door, her book about basic astronomy tucked under her arm. Namjoon is not one to make favourites but he definitely has a soft spot for the little girl and that never-ending hunger for knowledge of hers who reminds him of his own childhood. He grabs the beginner’s guide for wind machinery and their stories he prepared for her and opens the door.
Seokjin smiles at him.
“Seokjin-ssi.” He greets. His book falls on the ground. He drops on his knee to retrieve it; Seokjin does the same.
“Namjoon-ssi.” He answers, opening Seongeon’s book in the middle. “Wind machines. Is it for me?”
“I’m younger than you. I mean. Do you want it?”
Seokjin smiles sweetly. “If you recommend it, Namjoon, I’ll take it. Can I come in?”
“Of course, please come in.”
Seokjin enters the library and looks around in awe. He walks to the bookshelves, caresses the spines of the books softly, touches Namjoon’s moon shaped lamp and gasps when it’s switches off under his fingers. From the corner of his eye Namjoon spots the cat who probably took the opportunity to come in at the same time as Seokjin. “Your place is lovely,” Seokjin says quietly. “The lightning makes it so homey.” Namjoon shrugs, a little embarrassed. He’s sure his ears are turning pink. The cat definitely looks like she’s making fun of him, smug from her spot on the couch. “Don’t people usually tell you it’s a nice home?”
“My friends make fun of me because I bought curtains.” He answers, distractedly following the cat’s moves from the corner of his eyes.
“Your friends are wrong, they’re really nice curtains.” Says Seokjin, holding the shimmery fabric between two fingers and following the constellation pattern with another.
“Right? I need friends with better tastes.” Seokjin smiles again. He might look a little expectant, supposes Namjoon, a little like he wants to say something but doesn’t know where to start. “Can I help you with something?”
“Well, first of all, I was really looking forward to the occasion to read about wind machinery,” He says, holding the book up. Namjoon snorts. “So thanks for that. But I was also here for…” He hesitates, looks at the sofa and the cat. He seems a little confused for a beat, like he doesn’t remember what he was about to say. “Can I sit?”
“Yes, please.” Answers Namjoon in a hurry, horrified by his own lack of hospitality. “Do you want to eat or drink something?”
Seokjin grimaces. “I wish I never had to eat anything ever again, to be very honest with you.”
“You did ate a lot yesterday,” Remarks Namjoon. Seokjin raises his eyebrows and Namjoon winces when he realizes he’s being rude. “I found it very admirable.” He adds quickly. Seokjin doesn’t seem impressed.
“I’ll have something to drink, if you don’t mind.”
“Tea?” Seokjin nods and Namjoon almost runs off to his tiny kitchen to boil water. Seokjin in his house gives him a weird kind of whiplash, clashing of two words that weren’t supposed to co-exist. A minor god of death petting the cat that hates him on his own couch.
He’s still trying to chose the most sensible mug he owns to give Seokjin (Should he use the bright yellow emoji one Hoseok gifted him as an housewarming gift or the terrible black skull-shaped thing Yoongi gave him for his fifteenth birthday?) when he hears footsteps approaching. Seokjin is leaning against the door frame when he turns around and he looks like he’s judging his taste in mugs, hard. Namjoon opens his mouth to defends himself.
“I need you to be my fake boyfriend.” Says Seokjin. Namjoon closes his mouth. “Please. And I’ll take the skull mug. Take your time.”
Namjoon is still speechless when he joins Seokjin in the sitting area and looking at him now, hands wrapped around Namjoon’s ridiculous skull mug and wearing a sweater his grandmother knitted for him really doesn’t help calming his nerves. Namjoon remembers seeing Seungmin knitting the desaturated pattern of the cream sweater, remembers how much she complained about her grandson’s stupidly large shoulders. He remembers thinking she was exaggerating, that poor Seokjin would end up with an ill-fitted sweater he wouldn’t get to wear. The sweater fits perfectly and it looks good even with its ridiculous jacquard pattern and it makes Namjoon feel just a little weak.
“You need a fake boyfriend.” He blurts after a too long silence. Seokjin laughs at him from behind his mug.
“You must have noticed it yourself but my grandmother actually gave herself the mission to find the perfect boyfriend for poor little me.” He says, looking indifferent but red-faced still.
“She actually… She asked me if I’d date you before we met.”
Seokjin groans. “Did she, really? She’s shameless.”
“She did,” Answers Namjoon. “but hey, she at least asked if I was into men first.”
“So you are? Into men?”
Namjoon wants to say he doesn’t think he’s ever been as into men as he has been since he met Seokjin; he simply nods instead. Seokjin considers him in silence for an instant, eyes half-shut and expression unreadable. “So,” Asks Namjoon after a sip of his cold tea and a grimace at said tea. “You need a fake boyfriend so Seungmin doesn’t worry for you, I get it, but why me? Can’t you ask one of your friends in Busan? Can’t you simply create yourself an imaginary boyfriend to appease her?”
“Believe me, I tried the ghost-boyfriend trick. Could have worked if she hadn’t asked for pictures.” He chews his bottom lip pensively. “My two best friends are together so I can’t really ask them to pose for me and I don’t see anyone else to ask for for that kind of service.”
“Except for me.” Remarks Namjoon.
Seokjin blushes hard. “You’re right…” He hesitates, head down suddenly, shameful fallen deity. “it’s inappropriate of me to ask such a thing from you.” He knocks the skull mug on the table and stands. “I’m sorry I abused your time…”
“Seokjin-ssi, wait!” Seokjin pauses and waits for Namjoon to talk, his expression conflicted. “Sit down. I’ll do it.”
Seokjin blinks a couple of time. Opens his mouth, closes it. Opens it again. “You’ll do it?”
“I’ll do it. I like Seungmin and you seems like a decent person.” Seokjin still looks a little unconvinced, but he smiles at that. “Plus I get bored here, sometimes. I need some distraction.” It’s even better if the distraction is a very handsome man, thinks Namjoon. He doesn’t say that out loud.
“Okay.” Says Seokjin after another pause and it’s like the tension he releases has repercussions on the whole house as well, like a clear sky breaking open after a violent storm. He sits back on the couch and toys with the skull mug. The cat kneads his thigh; Namjoon feels a little jealous. “So. How do we do that?”
Namjoon blinks. “I don’t know. What was your plan?”
“Well, plan A was not being bold enough to ask you. Plan B was asking but running out before you answer.”
“Was there a plan C?”
“Yeah, you slapped me in plan C.”
Namjoon closes his eyes and expires slowly. “We’ll need more tea, a new notebook, a black pen and a couple of highlighters. Fortunately I have all of that in my office.”
Seokjin watches him, mouth hanging open. “And do you have some sexy glasses to go with that nerd look?”
“Maybe, if you take care of the tea.”
Seokjin pushes the cat off his lap immediately and disappears in the kitchen.