“Yoongi,” Jin hisses into his phone. “You need to come to the canteen kitchens on central campus now. Please.”
“What the – Jin it’s nine in the fucking morning, why would I need to come? I don’t want breakfast, before you say anything, I want to go back to the peaceful sleep you just ripped from me.”
Jin looks nervously around the room. There are fifteen students of varying ages, each with a bag of ingredients needed for stew. He hadn’t realised there would be so many students that would be willing to wake so early on a Saturday to attend a class taught by a business student on how to cook basic meals, but then again, maybe Jin had overestimated the capabilities of college students in general. He should have based the general populace’s self sufficiency off of Yoongi’s rather than his own.
But then again, Yoongi had the common sense to not have set up a free course on cooking all because he hated his degree and wanted a creative outlet.
“It’s nothing to do with breakfast,” Jin whispers into the phone. He smiles at people as they appear and set up their own spaces with chopping boards and knives at the ready, but inside he is shrieking, and he feels like it might soon spill out. “I’m doing that class I told you about. There are more people here than I expected, Yoongi, and one of them looks like a thug. I’m scared.”
“You’re an idiot,” Yoongi says. “You think someone would drag themselves out of bed to cause trouble for a voluntary class at the asscrack of dawn on a Saturday?”
“Most people see the mornings, Yoongi, you’re the outlier here,” Jin says. He eyes the thug-like guy nervously, but maybe Yoongi is right. Maybe Jin is making hasty assumptions based on the bleached undercut and tall stature, and that isn’t cool.
“If the class goes badly, ring me again and I’ll come,” Yoongi says. He yawns and Jin can hear his jaw clack through the phone line, which is gross. “But until something goes wrong, leave me to rest.”
“Okay,” Jin relents. “Did you not sleep well?”
Yoongi makes a noncommittal noise. “I’ll see you tonight and we can talk then, but for now go and teach your class.”
“Yes sir. Thanks.”
“No problem; have fun and remember to save me some of whatever you’re making.”
Jin agrees and hangs up, and then it’s time to face the class. That he is going to run. Full of people, ready to learn. Ready for him to teach.
“Hi everyone!” he says with a wave. It’s awkward, but a few of the women smile, so Jin turns up his own smile until more of them are wearing matching expressions. “My name is Kim Seokjin, but feel free to call me Jin! I’ll be teaching you for – well, however long you want to come, I guess, but officially for the next six weeks. To get boring information out of the way, I’ll go through it now. I’ll be here at nine on every Saturday, going through basic but healthy meals step by step so that you become more familiar with cooking. As a fellow student, living with another student that has never picked up a chopping board, I’m well aware that not every person has the time, knowledge, or energy to make meals every night after classes, so what I’ll be teaching is food that can be made in bulk and then frozen for future consumption. Any questions so far?”
A small woman puts her hand up and blushes a pretty pink. “Will you be asking for a fee? Like a tutor?”
Jin shakes his head. “No, just make sure you bring along your own ingredients, the classes themselves will be free. I’m sure you’ve all seen, as you’ve come with your ingredients today, but I’ll send out group emails every Wednesday so you know what you need to buy for the Saturday. Thank you for asking so that I can clarify that for everyone!”
A tired looking man in the back raises his hand. “I’ve got everything, but what is it we’ll be making?”
“Today I thought we’d do a simple beef stew, as it’s warming and balanced, making it perfect for students. I’ll be bringing my flatmate the food I make, you see, and I’m worried about the threat of scurvy, so vegetables are needed in bulk. If you don’t eat meat, I trust that you’ve brought an alternative to beef and the meat stock, but if not, I’m sure there’s something in the kitchens somewhere. Is everyone ready to begin?”
Some people nod, some murmur a reply. Most look as nervous as Jin feels, which is a relief. A couple look down at their amalgamation of vegetables as though they’re alien objects, but Jin isn’t sure that Yoongi could name more than three vegetables without the help of google, so who is he to judge when his own best friend is just as useless in the kitchen? Besides, that’s why he’s here, because he wants to help fellow students live healthier lives without troubling themselves. And if just a handful of the group that have turned up can go home and make stew for themselves then Jin will consider this a success.
It isn’t looking anything like a success when they begin, but Jin is intent on keeping positive as he goes through the instructions twice, with demonstrations each time. He’s making double portions for affirmation of the process and also because Yoongi is small but eats as much as a moderate herd of cows.
He goes over to the closest girl, who tries to peel a carrot using a carving knife. He gently stops her hand and passes her the peeler. “Careful, you could hurt yourself like that. This knife is for cutting meat, and while knives might save time, peelers are much safer to use, especially for beginners.”
She blushes furiously. “Thanks. I’ve always had older siblings to cook for me so I’ve never really learnt anything other than cakes.” She begins to peel the carrot once more, slower albeit much more steadily.
“We all have to start somewhere,” Jin encourages. “I’m sure your family will be happy to know that you’re taking care of yourself while you’re away from them.”
“Y-yeah. I think so too.”
Jin catches movement out of the corner of his eye. “Ah – don’t put that oil pan under the tap!”
A guy in glasses pauses, the pan hovering precious inches away from the running water. “But I don’t want it to dry on the pan.”
Another man snorts. “Dude, there’s so much wrong with that. Oil doesn’t dry, for one, and it will literally explode on your face if you run hot oil under a cold tap. Put the pan down and keep trimming the fat from the beef like Jin told us to do.”
He puts the pan down, and Jin shoots the guy’s sarcastic friend a thankful glance. “I’ll be really sad if my classes are cancelled by the college because someone died in the first week.”
A few people crack into smiles, and a few more giggle.
Jin’s... enjoying himself. Some of the people are clearly just here because they’re on the verge of collapsing due to a lack of nutrients, but others look like they’re having fun. Three girls, who turned up together keep a running commentary which makes everyone laugh, while some people look to Jin for continuous reassurances and others seem content to get on with it and make a mess of it on their own time. The atmosphere is calm but content, and Jin is watching a room full of beginners cook (or attempt) his stew. He can’t stop smiling.
Then he catches sight of something truly horrifying.
“Are you... are you actually trying to cut that onion with the knife upside down?”
It’s the guy with the undercut and the height. With the big hands and serious expression.
He looks at Jin. “This isn’t how you did it?”
Jin stares pointedly down at the knife. “Absolutely not. Turn it over and use the sharp edge to cut.”
He doesn’t think the instructions are that difficult, but the guy manages to lose his grip and drop the knife on the floor. A painful flush of embarrassment begins to climb up his neck, and he purses his lips together, flashing a hit of dimple.
Oh no, Jin thinks.
The guy picks up the knife and goes to wash it in the sink. When he comes back, he turns it the right way, and cuts into the onion.
“Hold the onion still or it will slip,” Jin says. “You could cut yourself.”
He holds the onion and still manages to make a mess of it. “Does it matter if the onion pieces are different sizes?”
“Uh,” Jin says, instead of, how are you struggling with this, “If you want to fry them, then yeah, but that’s optional. They’ll cook as the stew simmers if you’d rather do that.”
“I’m not very good at chopping.”
“I can see that.”
The guy cringes a little, and his blush spreads. “Sorry.”
Jin comes to stand behind him, but he pauses before he touches him. “Can I show you?”
“Yes. Please. Thank you.”
Jin wraps his hands around the slightly bigger ones and demonstrates how to grip the knife in his left hand and how to hold the onion in his left. “So the best way to do this would be a bridge hold, which is the safest for round vegetables like onions and tomatoes, and it lessens the chance of cutting yourself.” He presses down and together they manage to get a pretty even slice out of the onion. “You see? If you hold everything properly, one firm downward cut is all it takes. Make sure you don’t saw at the vegetables, or hack at them, because it isn’t safe.”
He steps away and watches as the guy copies his movement. And there it is: one clean slice. He looks up at Jin, delight in his eyes, sunshine in his smile. “I did it!”
“You did!” Jin says. “Only half an onion, three carrots, two potatoes, two celery sticks, a pepper, and beef joint to go.”
“With my trusty chopping skills I can’t fail,” he says. His dimple emerges like sun from behind the clouds.
I’m so dazed, Jin thinks. I’m so gay.
“You’re very welcome.”
“My name is Kim Namjoon.” He scratches the skin at the back of his neck with a rueful smile, that dimple still firmly in place as the object of Jin’s entire focus. “I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot of me over the coming weeks, as I’ve never had any luck with cooking. If the stew can be made without any fatalities then you’ll definitely see me next week.”
He’s called Kim Namjoon and he’s big and beautiful and completely inept at basic human tasks. Jin’s already infatuated. He’s already planned the wedding (it’s summertime, near a beach but not on it because Jin doesn’t want sand in his suit, Yoongi is beside him holding the rings and looking at least a little bit willing to be outside, there’s a huge buffet table full of foods that Namjoon lovingly chopped, and their honeymoon is somewhere interesting where Jin can be in lots of photos that display his good side and Namjoon’s every side) and he’s ready for Namjoon’s proposal, like, now.
“Jin!” One of the women call. “Can you help us please? I think we put too much salt in with the stock and now it tastes gross.”
“Good luck,” Jin says to Namjoon again. “Watch your fingers.”
“I’ll do my best,” Namjoon says. “And hey, I appreciate you teaching this class. For people like me it’s really helpful.”
It’s no proposal, but Jin breaks into sweat and feels his face warm anyway.
“I’m so gay, Yoongi,” Jin moans into the pillow he’s suffocating in. It smells like Yoongi – like flowery fabric conditioner but also mint. The room is dark and Yoongi is hunched over his desk, despite the beautiful weather outside.
“I know that,” he says, not looking up from his laptop. “I was here for the awakening. Don’t think I’ll ever have the luck of forgetting your garbled excitement when that guy stuck his finger up your ass and you liked it.”
Jin grunts. “It was more romantic than you’re making it sound.”
“I’ll take your word for it. From my room it sounded like blind panic, but if you consider that romance then I’ll stay out of it.”
“I was surprised! He called it a study date.”
“You didn’t question the lube though. What, you thought it was just some weird payoff for your revision? Like, ‘here, have a finger for your troubles,’?”
Jin finally takes his face out of the pillow. “Who am I to judge? You’re pretty odd too; bringing lube to a study session is hardly the weirdest thing to happen in this apartment.”
Yoongi doesn’t reply. In fact, it looks like he doesn’t hear Jin at all. His face is sickly pale in the artificial light from the laptop screen, and there are hollows beneath his eyes and under his cheekbones that hadn’t been there the last time that Jin had checked.
“Yoongi, you look unwell.”
He glances up. “Huh? I’m fine.”
“You’re not.” Jin sits up and moves to the edge of the bed. “Why didn’t you sleep last night?”
Yoongi shrugs his thin shoulders. “Was at Dojung’s house and we argued. Split up this morning.”
Jin feels his heart crumple like fragile paper. He’d never truly warmed to Dojung, but Yoongi had seemed happy with him, which was all Jin truly cared about.“Yoongi, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be, we weren’t ever anything special.”
“Yeah, but you-“
“I didn’t love him. We were only together a couple of weeks, for god’s sake. Please don’t make a big deal out of it; I don’t really wanna discuss it.”
“Time doesn’t matter,” Jin says softly. “If you didn’t love him Yoongi, that’s fine, but don’t say that. Don’t put love into a schedule.”
“Did you bring me some food?”
“Cool, thanks. Beef?”
“Yeah,” Jin says. “Yoongi, we-“
“He was fucking around.”
“He was fucking around and I knew that, but I didn’t care. We always used condoms, you know? And we never said it was gonna be anything exclusive, I mean, we were barely together long enough to warrant the discussion. But last night he got pissy because he wanted a reaction or something? I didn’t get it. I still don’t. I’m just tired of people and I have a fucking essay due on Monday and he threatened to break my laptop if I didn’t show him anger so I got fucking mad and then we argued and I took my shit and I left. Didn’t sleep.”
So Yoongi isn’t in love, but Dojung certainly is, or has at least convinced himself so. How sad that he’d chosen to let it manifest in such a toxic manner, ruining any chance of winning Yoongi’s affection. As things are though, with violence having been skimmed over instead of submerged, Jin is glad that Yoongi had been smart enough to cut things off before they got worse. He’s glad that Yoongi was strong enough, despite how much it’s clearly plaguing him now. Something between guilt and sadness is haunting the shadows under his dark eyes.
“You won’t be seeing him again?”
“Fuck no. Didn’t love him before, definitely don’t love him now.” Yoongi rubs his hands over his face and sighs. “It was just sex, he kept saying that. If he’d wanted something more he should have said so instead of getting mad that I didn’t know without any information on how he felt. But it’s over now, I don’t need this shit, I need my degree and my friends and that stew you’ve made.” He stands and stretches, exposing the expanse of his pale midriff. “Come on, feed me. Tell me how your class went and if I need to hurt anyone on your behalf.”
Jin wants to hug him, but Yoongi doesn’t respond well to sudden affection, so he just strokes a hand down his arm and passes him to go warm the stew. “It went really well, I think most of them will be returning next week.”
“I’m glad,” Yoongi says, following Jin into their kitchen. “What about the guy? The thug?”
“Oh, he’s fine,” Jin replies, waving a dismissive hand. “We’re engaged now, so there’s nothing for you to worry about.”
Yoongi sighs, the kind of sigh that’s reserved solely for Jin and Jungkook when they’re being especially bothersome. Jin has heard it a lot in his lifetime, and despite being years younger, Jungkook has heard it almost as much. They have a special friendship that mostly involves annoying Yoongi to the point where he’s constantly bordering on exhaustion.
“You’re engaged? Already?”
“He couldn’t even cut an onion,” Jin says wistfully, stirring the pot as it begins to steam. “I’ve never seen such a magnificent display of clumsiness and dimples.”
“That’s all nice, but is he gay? Or bi?”
“I see. I may have overlooked some vital aspects of our relationship in my excitement.”
In a rare display of solidarity, Yoongi pats Jin’s back. “Dojung’s single if you’re looking.”
Despite himself, Jin laughs. Yoongi’s dry humour always gets him, even in inappropriate moments, over inappropriate subjects. He stirs the pot as bubbles begin to emerge and sets about testing the temperature of the meat. “I don’t want someone jealous and angry; I want someone soft and romantic, like me.”
“Yeah,” Yoongi says, the humour suddenly gone from his voice. Even after years of friendship it’s still startling how fast Yoongi can go from the man that Jin knows: soft and gentle with wicked humour, to the man that strangers think they know: cold and impenetrable, an unstoppable force laying in wait. The duality of his personality is something rarely so obvious as in this moment, while Jin warms his stew and Yoongi’s jaw clenches so hard that it’s surprising his teeth don’t crack. “Tell me if Dojung ever approaches you. He’s not the guy I thought he was, and I don’t want him anywhere near you.”
“Awww,” Jin says. “Yoongi, I don’t need protecting from a lovestruck guy that’s sad you weren’t his prince charming.”
Yoongi looks away. “Just tell me, okay? I’ve asked him to stay away from me, and he knows that means you too, but I doubt he’ll listen. You met him, so you know what he’s like.”
“Yoongi,” Jin says again, quietly. “Worry about yourself for once, okay?”
But Yoongi doesn’t listen to anyone unless he wants to. His eyes are dark and quiet like still waters, but beneath there is something swimming, and Jin doesn’t know what it is yet; determination, ambition, or self destruction. He can’t help but worry, because Yoongi is at least one sixth of Jin’s entire soul, and he knows it’s reciprocal. Yoongi worries for Jin too, but in his own, quiet way, whereas Jin has never been too good at lowering his voice or his anxieties.
They eat stew and then Yoongi retreats back to his room to finish his essay on... whatever it is that he does for music (Jin does ask, but he never understands the answer). Jin settles on their single, shoddy couch to make a presentation on sales predictions that he doesn’t care about, and after an hour or so he hears Yoongi’s voice, talking on the phone to someone. He sounds softer, so it’s probably his brother talking some sense into him.
Jin takes the time to procrastinate and skype Jungkook, who has a very different reaction to his elder’s sudden engagement.
“Can I skip school to attend the wedding?”
“Absolutely not! We’ll wait until you graduate so that you can attend, but I’m not having you ditching school, especially not for me.”
“But what if your fiancé doesn’t want you to wait?”
“He’s a kind soul.” Jin hopes, at least. All he knows is that Namjoon is no friend to onions. “If he loves me he’ll wait for my crappy kid friend to graduate so that he can attend the ceremony.”
Jungkook pouts, but it lags a little on the screen so his face is morphed weirdly for a good ten seconds. “You never let me skip.”
“Of course I don’t, your parents would kill me. They’d kill you, too.”
“But not Yoongi.”
“No, not Yoongi,” Jin agrees. Yoongi can be intimidating to his fellows, but for some reason the elder generations seem to love him. Yoongi was the favourite best friend to everyone’s parents and grandparents, despite smiling once every leap year. “It isn’t fair, your parents should love me way more. I’m charming when I smile.”
“They do love you,” Jungkook says. “But they know you’re too soft with me. If I skipped to attend your wedding you’d bitch at me but after a while you’d settle down. Yoongi would carry me back home and stand over me until I’d written a letter of apology to you, the school, and my parents. They like knowing that one of us is responsible.”
“I’m the responsible one!” Jin objects with all of the force in his soul. “Not only am I the oldest, the most mature, well rounded, responsible, and handsome person in this friendship group, but I’m also the one that ensures neither you nor Yoongi accidentally hurtle yourselves out of this plain of existence! You’d be dead a hundred times over if not for me!”
Jungkook doesn’t take Jin’s indignation seriously, because he never does, and why would he start now? When they’re hundreds of miles apart and Jin can’t smack him? “Jin, last time we saw each other you were sobbing uncontrollably because of Pride and Prejudice. Like, you hadn’t even watched the film recently, you were just thinking about it and drinking wine like a middle aged person that misses the glory days of courtship. Don’t act like you’re not a mess.”
“I’m the most responsible mess here, though!”
Yoongi pads through from his room. “Can’t argue with that. Hey Kook, you doing alright?”
“Hey Yoongi, I’m good. How’s the breakup?”
“Jungook!” Jin hisses, heat flooding to his face. He’d known Yoongi wouldn’t mind him telling Jungkook, but Jin had been expecting more tact on Jungooks end, for some unknown reason.
Yoongi shrugs and flops down next to Jin, balancing one half of the laptop on his leg. “It’s going well, thanks. I’m gonna go out next weekend with Jin and fuck someone, hopefully.”
It’s news to Jin, but he’s not complaining, because nights out with Yoongi are always fun. Despite their contrasting personalities, they both know how to appreciate each other’s company in almost any situation, including clubs, and it’s been just long enough that Jin has to work to remember how well Yoongi dances, despite his protests.
Jungkook nods earnestly, despite his exclusion. It’s actually kind of sweet, because Jin knows how left out he feels, waiting to graduate to join them in college. “Nice, nice. Not letting the dust settle?”
“Why should I? We were never really together, and the second he started to scream at me he lost my respect, and I realised that I’d never held any of his. If I wanna get fucked, why should I wait until his mourning period is over?”
“True. You do you, Yoongi.”
“I live by that. How’s school? Still shit at math?”
“You know it.”
Jin looks to Yoongi. The conversation has moved forward, but Jin questioning his place in the universe has not. “I’m the responsible one, right? Validate me please.”
“Fucking hell, Jin. Yes, you’re the responsible one, but if anything that speaks terribly of all three of us, not well of you.”
He shrugs. “I’ll take it.”
Yoongi nudges their legs together and Jungkook laughs, and the distance doesn’t seem so far. They’ve grown up together, not always friends but always close, always family, always two of the most important people in Jin’s life. He loves to listen to them laugh, watch them smile, see their happiness, and even now, while Jungkook is lonely and Yoongi is battling his demons, and Jin is trying to make it through college without giving up, he loves these people. He wants to see them bloom.
The following Saturday, Jin’s class of twelve band together to make bread. It’s no meal, but fresh bread always cheers Jin up, and he demonstrates all of the different ways that one batch of dough can be used – as simple bread, rolls, desert, pizza bases – so everyone makes what they want (there’s more pizzas than anything else, but that’s fine) and at the end they all taste each other’s creations and give feedback. Everything tastes good, because Jin taught them all and people actually listened when he said to treat the dough like a customer that came for a massage. ‘You don’t want to hurt his back, you just want to make sure that everything is stretched and feeling good’ he had said, kneading his own dough, making big movements out of every roll. ‘Don’t beat up your customer.’
Now they all had beautifully baked customers that tasted delicious.
By the time Jin has tasted seven pizzas in a row, he’s only too happy to try one of the seven cute bread rolls waiting at the end of the bench. He pulls the corner off of the nearest and pops it into his mouth. “Mmmm, this is good,” he says, still chewing. He knows not to speak with his mouth full, but he has to get his impression out while it’s still fresh in his mind. “The outside is crusty but the inside is soft and light. You must have kneaded the dough very well.”
“I’m glad you like it,” Namjoon says.
Jin tries not to inhale the bread, because he’s done a terrific job of not humiliating himself in front of Tall, Dimpled and Handsome yet, but it’s a very close call. “You must have been paying very close attention,” he says.
Namjoon’s smile widens. “I was. Bread is a staple food, right? Learning how to make it seemed like a good idea. I would never have thought to try making it myself.”
“Well,” Jin says. He doesn’t know where to look, because he’s bad at controlling his face and if he looks at Namjoon for too long he’ll end up crying or screaming or something. “You made it perfectly. You can go and share my bread wisdom with the world.”
Jin nods and moves on to the next pizza.
At the end of the class, with Namjoon’s remaining bread rolls tucked safely away in his bag, he waves one big hand at Jin. “See you next week. Thanks again, I’m learning a lot.”
“See you next week,” Jin replies faintly.
“How’d week two go?”
“I’m still gay.”
“Wow, thanks for letting me know. Again. Like I could ever forget.”
“You don’t understand, Yoongi,” Jin whimpers. They’re getting ready for a club, and Yoongi already has that flawlessly untouchable thing going on while Jin empties his closet trying to find something that works. It’s not his fault that Yoongi is the king of all black outfits. When Jin does it he feels like a wide-shouldered void, whereas Yoongi looks like goth royalty. “He’s really gorgeous, and he’s a little shy about it, like he doesn’t know. I wanna make him know.”
“Ask him out then.”
Jin turns to him, aghast. “Are you joking? Ask out Namjoon?”
“Yeah. If you’re this into him after a total of four hours together, I don’t see why not.”
“I don’t know anything about him!”
“That’s what dating is for, idiot.”
Jin scowls and pulls a pink shirt off of its hanger. “Don’t you go acting like an expert, Min Yoongi, while you’re blind to everyone’s intentions. You’re an oblivious little heartbreaker, and I won’t take this slander.”
They’ve had this argument before. Many times, in fact, because Jin’s eyes never linger for long, and Yoongi’s rarely lift from the ground in front of him, or from the skies ahead. Jin is used to staring and sighing and then moving on to someone else and doing the same thing, because being a gay person in a straight man’s world means staring and sighing is easier than the blowout of approaching and trying. He’s not good at taking risks.
“Wear the blue shirt with the white tee and black jeans,” Yoongi says. “You look cute in pink, but sexy in blue.”
“I look sexy in everything.”
“Yeah yeah, I know. Hurry up, the taxi is gonna be here soon. You gonna wear your glasses?”
Jin snorts. They’re in his bedside cabinet, in a draw they haven’t left in weeks. “Of course not, I have my contacts in.”
“You should wear your glasses.”
“I’m not gonna. The lenses are so thick that they distort my eyes and make me look like a fish, we’ve been over this.”
Yoongi is expressionless. “I fucking hate you. Hurry up and get ready, you farsighted bastard.”
Jin sticks his tongue out but complies. He wears what Yoongi recommended, but his glasses don’t move from the drawer, and Yoongi glowers until they’ve left the apartment and clambered into the taxi.
“Where to, boys?”
“Sugar Mill,” Yoongi says. It’s big, gaudy, fast paced and the most recognisable LGBT+ club in the city, full of distorting, flashing lights and painfully nostalgic songs from periods that Jin wasn’t even alive for but somehow misses. The fact that Yoongi chose this specific club means that the night will go one of three ways: they’ll get wasted together, they’ll get wasted apart and then find each other and get worse, or they’ll get wasted apart and then find someone to go home with.
“Got it. You want me to come back for you when the place closes tonight?”
They exchange glances, and Yoongi’s dark eyes are full of intention.
“No,” Jin says. “Thank you, but we’ll be finding our own ways back.”
Yoongi is gone as soon as they’re through the doors. ‘My phone is on vibrate, ring or text if you need me,’ he’d murmured in the queue. ‘If I’m gonna leave I’ll let you know, so make sure you do the same. If you’re worried about anything, just ring.’
So Jin heads to the bar and tries not to think about the one time Jungkook had visited in the previous year with his fake ID and baby face, and had somehow gotten admittance and then almost passed out after five consecutive shots. Jin tries not to think about his own role in that, and how strongly he had argued only a week ago that he was the responsible one of the group. Yoongi was right: Jin is the responsible one, but it speaks awfully about all of them, and this bar attests to that, as does the bartender waving at Jin who had poured Jungkook each of his five shots with the relish of someone about to hand a cocky kid his first hangover.
“You’re looking well, Jin,” Jaehwan says, smiling a sweet smile that belies his chaotic nature. “Is Yoongi around?”
“Somewhere,” Jin replies, sliding onto an empty stool. He’s known Jaehwan for almost three years, and with all of their memories together, it’s no surprise that Jaewhan knows exactly what drink to start making. (It’s a porn star martini, because Jin doesn’t care about the weird masculinity thing that for some reason means men can’t enjoy fruity stuff). “It’s good to see you; it’s been far too long. How is everyone?”
Jaehwan pouts a little and shrugs as he begins mixing. “Everyone’s fine, you know how it is. Sometimes it feels like you’re the mother of a bunch of unruly kids, and sometimes it feels like you’re the child. College is a mix of caring, being cared for, and copious amounts of alcohol.”
Jin laughs at the thought of Jaehwan being a mother, because he’s never heard such a blatant lie. Wherever Hakyeon is, he’s surely shuddering at the disrespect coming out of Jaehwan’s mouth, even if he can’t hear it. “We should go to lunch soon,” Jin says, choosing not to address it, because he has his own idiot friends to deal with, and doesn’t need more squabbling to mediate.
Jaehwan passes over the cocktail and nods. “Yes, we should. It’s long past time we talked without a bar between us, don’t you think?”
The rebuke is loud and clear, and Jin cringes a little in response. “Sorry,” he says, taking a sip. “College has been killing me, like, really killing me.” Sometimes I wonder if I should drop out and just learn to live with the eternal disappointment of my parents, he doesn’t say.
With a nature too forgiving, and melodrama ingrained deep into his bones, Jaewhan leans across the bar and flicks Jin’s head. “Don’t apologise,” he says with affection. “Just buy me noodles next time and we’ll call it even, okay? And your next drink is on the house.”
It might not have been intended as encouragement for Jin to keep drinking, but he happily takes it as such and makes quick work of the martini. Jaehwan laughs and begins making another, because the night is still young and the bar isn’t too crowded yet, and being in the company of an old friend is pleasant, even if Jaewhan is too busy for them to keep up a steady conversation. Jin knows that when the club truly begins to fill he’ll have to move away to let other people order, but for now he has Jaehwan here to make him martinis and discuss their strange friends when he isn’t serving someone else.
After about half an hour Yoongi texts Jin saying, ‘Still here. In upstairs smoking lounge. You good?’
Jin replies, ‘Downstairs bar w Jaewhan. He’s asking after you. I’m good. How are you?’
Yoongi replies with a picture of a cigarette hanging from his lips, smouldering away into hot ash. Jin just sends a frowny face, because Yoongi certainly didn’t arrive with cigarettes, never smokes unless someone else puts it in his mouth and lights it with barely veiled intentions.
A drink slides along the bar and stops in front of Jin, tall and orange and smelling tropical. Jin looks up and sees a man of a similar height with a pleasant smile, dressed smartly but not smartly enough as to look suspicious in his surroundings.
“The bartender said you’d like this cocktail,” he says to Jin. “I’m not sure what it is, but he seemed pretty convinced.”
It’s a sex on the beach, Jin can tell just from the colour, and he can practically hear Jaewhan’s glee from where he’s serving a group of beautiful women. “Thank you,” Jin says, looking up through his lashes, which is always the deciding factor- the clue as to someone’s expectations. “But I already have a drink.”
The guy blinks fast, his smile dimming for a moment before it brightens. “Then I guess if you don’t mind I’ll wait around until you’re done. Just to see if you like the drink, of course.”
“Of course,” Jin agrees, and that is that. Message sent and received, because the eyes never lie.
They’re on their fourth drinks, crowds crushing around them, when the guy suggests dancing. He’d told Jin his name, but Jin hadn’t heard over the music and now he doesn’t want to ask, not this late into a conversation he isn’t particularly feeling. The guy is nice, but nice is just nice when there’s nothing else. Nice is made more when it’s pared with funny or kind or intelligent, but this guy’s only topics of conversation seem to be Jin’s face and his own workout routine. It’s like he’s not even trying to make an impression, which is more or less the point of flirting. Dancing will at least counter the need to think of how to reply to the fifth statement about the merits of a strong core workout, and Jin is just tipsy enough not to care about his own lack of bodily charisma when it comes to moving to music.
“Okay,” he agrees with a small smile. “Just a warning though, I’m not the best dancer.”
“Oh, that’s fine, I’ll hold you steady,” the guy says eagerly, pulling Jin to his feet, where he sways for a moment, maybe more tipsy than he’d realised, and then is led to the dancefloor.
The guy turns out to be a fantastic dancer, able to make up for Jin’s distinct lack of knowledge, holding his hips in a sturdy, patient grip as he demonstrates how they can move to the beat together. Jin... actually starts to get into it. He doesn’t usually go for anything like this, likes to be wined and dined before he considers anything more, but the guy (Shincho? Shinwa?) really knows what he’s doing, and he strokes a lock of hair away from Jin’s forehead in a well practiced move. It’s like being romanced in a different way, words spoken with bodies, and it usually doesn’t work for Jin but this... is working. The attraction is mutual; parted lips and heavy breaths and dark, bottomless eyes with big pupils are all Jin can see in the neon flashes of light, heavy breathing is all he can hear past the thudding music and his own pulse.
“You wanna go somewhere else?” the guy asks, nosing at Jin’s ear. “Shit, you’re one of the hottest dudes I’ve ever seen, really wanna take you home.”
Jin’s going to answer yes, yes, let’s go, but catches a flash of pale skin, sees someone stop at the bar, and slump over it like the air has been shoved from their lungs and they can’t hold themselves up anymore. Their head goes forward, exposing the line of their neck above their leather jacket, and Jin knows it’s Yoongi, knows that something has happened by the position of his shoulders, can see the distress in the rigid pose of his back, in the concern on Jaewhan’s face as he asks him something, the expression growing when Yoongi shakes his head and waves his hand, gesturing for Jaehwan to leave.
“Sorry,” Jin says. “I can’t, something’s come up and I have to go.” He doesn’t look at the guy, just pulls away with his gaze fixed on Yoongi and forces his way through the crowds despite the protests behind him.
Someone else reaches Yoongi first, slides an arm across his shoulders, whispers something into his ear, ignoring the don’t fuck with me vibes Yoongi is projecting, and Jin thinks, oh no, and pushes faster, hurrying to the bar just in time to see Yoongi shrug that arm off and smack away the hand that follows, reaching for his face.
“Don’t fucking touch people if they don’t say you can,” he snarls, voice low and guttural.
The guy, some tall man punching way above his weight, just sneers. Jin steps in between them before he can make it worse for himself.
“He’s not interested in whatever you want,” he says to the man. “Go find someone who is.”
Whatever is on his face apparently isn’t enough to scare the man away, but Yoongi’s expression certainly is. The dude takes one look at Yoongi’s face and turns on his heel, pushing back through the crowd to whatever hole he crawled out of.
“Yoongi,” Jin says, turning back to his friend, but not touching. “It’s time to go, okay?”
The anger is gone from Yoongi’s face, but he’s icy pale and his eyes are cloudy. “Yeah,” he agrees, standing. “Let’s get out.”
Jin waves at Jaewhan, who mouths ‘text me,’ and then begins weaving his way to the exit, trusting Yoongi to follow. Outside, the air is cold and bracing, and Yoongi stumbles straight to the curb, sitting on the edge and shoving his head between his knees. Jin squats beside him and listen to his stuttering breath until it begins to even out, and only then says, low and hopefully calming, “You want to get pizza and go eat it on some swings?” Because Yoongi’s happiness is more important than the fact that Jin has eaten like eight pizzas today.
After a minute, Yoongi nods and looks up with his glassy eyes. “Jin,” he says weakly. “Jin, I don’t- I didn’t- I thought I was doing so well.”
Jin isn’t a violent person, and he knows deep in his heart that he can’t blame Yoongi’s emotions entirely on Dojung, but he wants to find him and beat him up anyway. Depression comes in waves, as does the anxiety, but Dojung certainly hadn’t helped Yoongi, who is now caught in the riptide, so deep that he doesn’t care about Jin seeing it, which is a rare, worrying occurrence.
“How much have you drank?” Jin asks.
“Not much. I- it isn’t a good idea. Not when I’m like this.”
“That’s good, that’s really good,” Jin says softly. “Yoongi, I need you to come home, okay? Can you stand?”
That brings an element of Yoongi back to the surface, and his mouth twitches into a frown. “I’m anxious, not useless, of course I can stand.” He gets to his feet slowly; Jin doesn’t follow until he’s sure that Yoongi is steady.
“I can carry you if you want,” he offers, smiling when it receives the reaction he’d hoped for: even more potent disgust.
“Fuck off,” Yoongi grumbles. “Let’s go get pizza and sit on those swings, all this emotional shit has made me hungry.”
So they get pizza and go to the nearest park, take a swing each and eat slice after slice until they both feel sick and Jin starts to sober up. They’ve been doing this for years, just sitting beside each other and swinging gently, their feet never leaving the ground, no words between them.
After about half an hour of silence, Yoongi sighs. “Let’s go home.”
“Okay,” Jin agrees. “Yeah, let’s go home, Yoongi.”
Yoongi showers as soon as he gets in, and then climbs straight into his bed, leaving the door open so that Jin sees him as he passes to head into his own room.
“Jin,” Yoongi calls.
“Can you leave your door open tonight?”
Jin, where he’s changing into his sleeping clothes, smiles to himself. “Yes,” he calls back. “I’ll keep the door wide open.”
“Thanks,” Yoongi replies. “Thank you. I mean it.”
Jin smiles again. “I know,” he whispers to himself. Louder, he says, “Get a good night of rest and we’ll go onto campus tomorrow and do some studying. I know you’re worried about your test on Wednesday, so we’ll go revise when the library is empty.”
Yoongi groans. “The library will be empty because it’s Sunday. Sundays aren’t meant for studying.”
“You’re at college, every day is meant for studying,” Jin says. “You know you need to revise, and if you do it tomorrow it means you can take Monday off, and we can go catch a film or something in the evening.”
That brightens Yoongi’s tone. “Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay. Thanks.”
“Goodnight, Yoongi,” Jin says, laughing a little.
Within minutes, Jin hears Yoongi’s breathing even. He must have been exhausted to have found sleep so fast, but even so, Jin keeps himself awake for another couple of hours, waiting for the inevitable moment Yoongi jerks out of sleep with a pained gasp and stuttering heartbeat. When he sits up, Jin is there with a glass of water, pressing his medication into his hand.
“We’re going to the doctors on Monday before we see a film,” Jin whispers in the darkness.
Yoongi takes the water in one hand and his pills in the other and nods shakily. “Okay,” he says. “Thank you, Jin. For always taking care of me.”
“Friendship is a two way road,” Jin says. “You look after me and I look after you, that’s how it works. Go back to sleep and we’ll talk in the morning.”
Yoongi nods sleepily and puts the water back once he’s swallowed his pills and washed them down. Then, shocking Jin into rigidity, he leans forward and presses as kiss to his cheek. “Goodnight, Jin. Go to sleep now and stop worrying about me.”
Jin smiles shakily. He wants to lean down and hug Yoongi, comfort him with whispers that you’ll pull through this, you always do, you’ve survived every bad day so far, you’re so strong, you’re so important, but by the time he thinks to move Yoongi is already snuggled into his blankets, only his hair visible, his breathing soft and even. Jin goes back to his own room and forces his eyes closed and tries not to think about what life would be like without Yoongi here. How would college feel without Yoongi? He hates his major, loathes it to the point of questioning if he’ll finish it, but having Yoongi here, having Jungkook a skype call away, having nights out and pizza on swings and cute boys kneading dough are the reasons Jin thinks, yeah, okay, let’s keep going.
Sunday morning is quiet, but pleasant. Yoongi is subdued and calm, not eager to get up and go to the library, but pliant enough that Jin can bundle him into his coat and drag him along with minimum effort.
The building is big and airy, the sky outside light and sunny, and they settle into a corner of the third floor with their laptops out and notes between them. Yoongi has two black coffees and Jin has a green tea and a smoothie, and they each set to work on their own revision; Jin tries to tackle his notes on payment methods while Yoongi reads through his notes on what makes for engaging lyricism in modern music.
When they’re bad together they’re bad, but when they’re good together they’re so, so good. Neither speaks for almost four hours of focused work before Jin’s aching back gives and he arches out of his chair, groaning quietly. “My shoulders are not healthy men.”
Yoongi scrubs a hand through his hair and rubs at his eyes. “I give up. If I don’t ace this test then I’m dropping out, I’m fucking sick of reading about the impact of Taylor Swift, I don’t care about her petty revenge or what-the-fuck-ever she whines about.”
“You’ve got this,” Jin says, confident in Yoongi, who can’t focus on anything half-heartedly even if he tries. He’s an all or nothing kind of guy.
“I’ve got something,” Yoongi grumbles, “But it’s more like a headache than knowledge.” He stares down at the pages of his textbook as if trying to set it aflame with willpower alone, which, if anyone could achieve, Jin doesn’t doubt it’s Yoongi.
“Rest your eyes for a couple of minutes,” Jin says. “It’s almost empty in here, it’s not like people are scrambling for seats, so you’re not bothering anyone.” He looks to his own pile of work, only half accomplished. “I have to stay for another few hours, but if it’s getting too much then go home and get some real rest, Yoongi.”
“Go get me another coffee,” Yoongi instructs, putting his forehead on the table. His eyes close. “Please. Wake me up in ten minutes and I’ll help you make some flashcards.”
“Sleep well,” Jin says softly. He looks down at Yoongi’s head. “You don’t have to stay, Yoongi.”
Yoongi grumbles something unintelligible.
After a minute of silence, Jin goes to get him a coffee.
Namjoon is in the cafe, and Jin didn’t expect it, didn’t have time to carefully mask his gay panic, so when Namjoon looks up in surprise and smiles, Jin says, “Namjoon! You look handsome.”
Not even a greeting, just his name and how he looks. Nice. Jin hates himself more than usual for that, especially when Namjoon just blinks. “Thanks, Jin. It’s good to see you, you look well too.”
Jin doesn’t look well, he looks like he went out last night and spent the early hours watching over his sleeping best friend with vague, unsettling panic sat in his gut. His clothes are casual, his hair messy, his trainers older than any shoes have a right to be, glasses on and eyes looking suitably startled. Namjoon, however, looks like he just came from a hybrid event of church bake sale and farmer’s market. It suits him, the weird trousers suit him, the converse suit him, the glaring pink shirt suits him, his sweet face and dimples and smile suit him. Everything suits him.
Jin says, “How come you’re here?”
Come on. It doesn’t even sound friendly, it just sounds vaguely threatening. He needs the panic to cease so that he can control his mouth again. He needs Namjoon to put that goddamn dimple away.
“I’m... studying?” Namjoon offers. “Upstairs in the silent area, I just came down to get a drink, I already have snacks.” He goes a little pink. “I made a sandwich with the bread I made with you yesterday, so thanks again. Your classes are really helping me.”
“It’s fine,” Jin says faintly. But hey, at least it’s not insulting or threatening, right? Progress. He shuffles forward and Namjoon moves out of the way, taking a step back while he waits for his drink to be prepared and Jin orders a coffee for Yoongi and another green tea for himself.
They wait together for their drinks.
It’s awkward, and Jin hates himself.
“So,” Namjoon says. “What’s your major? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Business,” Jin says. “You?”
“Literature,” Namjoon replies. “Business sounds interesting though, I think if I hadn’t wanted to go into publishing I would have gone into business.”
“Yeah?” Jin asks, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice as he stares at the barista mixing Namjoon’s cappuccino. “I hate it. I wish I’d done something else, but it’s too late now. I’m almost finished.” It takes Namjoon’s shock expression for Jin to realise exactly what he’s said. “Ah, I didn’t mean that!” he exclaims, bringing his hands up as if to reassure and simultaneously push away. “We all have bad weeks, right? Sometimes everything seems glum, but I’m sure it’ll pick up soon. How are you finding your course?”
Namjoon’s lips press into a flat line, a look of consideration, but before he can answer his coffee is ready. He moves forward to take it, and Jin breathes a sigh of relief. Friendly goodbyes are easier than awkward over sharing.
Namjoon hesitates with his coffee for a hot second and then returns to stand with Jin. “Mind if I wait with you? I could do with more of a break to clear my head.”
Oh come on, what did he do to deserve this? “Sure,” he says lamely.
“And Jin, you know it’s okay to not enjoy your major, right? Most of the people I study with hate their courses. It doesn’t make you a bad person to complain about it.”
He wants to throw himself into a burning star, but he settles for staring at the green tea the barrister is brewing, and ignoring what Namjoon said. “Are you enjoying your literature?”
Namjoon sighs, but lets it go. “Yes, thank you. I love it, even if Fitzgerald was horrible.”
“Is he Gatsby Man?”
Namjoon chokes on surprised laughter. “I- I’ve never heard him referred to as that before, but yes. Yes, F. Scott Fitzgerald is Gatsby Man.”
Jin nods, not so embarrassed now that he’s made Namjoon laugh. Humour is a comforting blanket, a safety cocoon that’s familiar and welcome. “So if you hate Gatsby Man, who do you love?”
“I enjoy most genres. Currently I’m enjoying Marlowe the most out of the texts we’re studying though, if that’s what you were asking.”
Jin doesn’t fucking know what he was asking, but that’s pretty normal. He doesn’t know who Marlowe is either, but he makes a mental note of it to go and research him later that night. “Cool, cool.”
“One green tea and black coffee!”
“Ah, that’s me.” He takes the drinks and pauses. God, why is it so awkward? Why is he like this? Why can’t he look at Namjoon? “I guess I’ll see you next Saturday?”
“Yeah, of course. Good luck with your studying, Jin.” Namjoon smiles again, Jin can see it out of the corner of his vision and makes a vaguely friendly expression in return before hurrying away with his two drinks and the heavy burden of self hatred. He couldn’t have handled that any worse.
Yoongi’s eyes open slightly when Jin puts their drinks on the table, and he grumbles something close to a thank you before shutting them again. “You look constipated.”
“No, I just hate myself,” Jin says in a high voice. “Why am I so useless?”
Yoongi’s eyes don’t open, but when he replies his voice is strong and clear. “Self depreciation isn’t cute, Jin. Don’t call yourself useless around the guy that wouldn’t be here without you.”
Which... grounds him. Yoongi always knows what to say, knows when Jin can read through the clouds in his voice and see the sunlight in his truths. They’re so entwined that Jin knows Yoongi doesn’t have to expand on his words. Jin knows he isn’t useless, and even if he struggles to recognise himself he knows his worth to Yoongi, and in the times where despair envelops and thrives deep in his insecurity, Yoongi’s low voice will resonate with a sentence or two and Jin can feel his body again. Maybe Namjoon will think he’s awkward and rude, but that doesn’t mean Jin is anything less than he has always been. That’s what Yoongi’s unspoken words say.
“Finish your fucking notes so that we can bust out some flashcards.”
Jin takes a sip of his green tea and thinks about what he likes about himself. The list is small but growing each day he survives. “When we leave do you wanna stop by the store and get some crappy frozen meals?”
“Hell yeah. You deserve a night off from cooking anyway. Let’s get some ice cream too and binge watch something shit.”
On Wednesday evening he’s asked out on a date by a sweet guy half a head taller than Jin. He might be on Jin’s course, but if he is they’ve never interacted. He blushes sweetly as he asks Jin to go with him to a selection of academic lectures open to the public, and it’s an interesting idea for a first date, so Jin agrees warmly.
They go for dinner first, something simple and cheap because they’re broke students, but Jin eats well and enjoys his food. His date is nervous and quiet, but it’s cute. He’s sweet. He wants to go into finance, like Jin’s father expects from his son. They have a lot in common on the surface, and lots of women pause and stare, some in awe, some in envy, so Jin knows they must make an attractive pair walking across campus to the theatre hall where the talks are being hosted. He’s in his long woollen coat and his best pair of fitted jeans, so he better look good.
Then, of course, life smacks him in the face. If he’d been wearing his glasses they would have been knocked from his face by the force of the blow, because half an hour into an amalgamation of presentations on applicable business, alcohol safety, and the relevance of ancient sculpture, Namjoon walks onto the stage in a suit and says, “Hello, my name is Kim Namjoon, and I’m here to talk about the significance of historic linguistics in modern literature.”
Jin’s entire head could have come off due to the force of that blow.
Kim Namjoon in a tie.
Kim Namjoon in a tie, with smart, black-rimmed glasses, his hair slicked back, his shoes neat and his eyes glittering as he spend almost forty minutes explaining something too complicated for Jin to even fathom.
Jin’s date sighs midway. “This one’s a little dull, don’t you think?” he whispers.
Jin smacks his leg hard, eyes not moving from Namjoon even once. “Shut up, he’s amazing.”
“I don’t understand a thing he’s saying.”
“That’s your loss,” Jin replies, though he doesn’t understand either. There are lecturers here, listening, watching, nodding along and raising their hands to ask Namjoon questions, laughing and debating and silently taking notes. Jin doesn’t understand, but he knows that he’d sit and watch Namjoon talk about anything he wanted for hours, days, weeks on end, as long as he got gets to see that smile and the spark in his eye, the way he gestures with his hands and lights up every time someone asks for further elaboration on one of his points.
The talk finishes, and Namjoon exits the stage to the sound of ringing applause.
Jin’s date is speaking, but Jin isn’t not listening.
At the end of the evening, he bows with an apology. “I’ve had a lovely night, but I don’t think this can go any further. Sorry.”
The guy smiles good naturedly. “That’s cool, it was good to having dinner with you anyway. You’re a nice guy Jin, and I hope things go well with the language dude.”
Jin’s still spluttering when they part, warm in the face and embarrassed beyond redemption.
When he gets back to his apartment, Yoongi is in his room, talking to someone. There are two pairs of shoes at the door, one unrecognisable, so Jin goes to his room and grabs his backpack and laptop then heads to the library to study and give them some space. Just because his date ended abruptly doesn’t mean Yoongi’s should.
He gets a text at midnight that just reads, ‘Come home, Jin.’
So he goes, and he tells Yoongi about his date. Yoongi doesn’t mention the bruising hickey on his pale neck, so Jin doesn’t bring it up either. They sit together and watch shit television until the early hours.
“So he’s smart,” Yoongi says after hours of silence. “That means he’ll say yes if you ask him out for drinks.”
Jin laughs and nudges their knees together. “Shut up.”
He sees Namjoon around the campus, sometimes. Their conversations are always brief, one or both of them surrounded by friends, but Jin remembers each passing interaction, because it’s always characterised in his mind by whatever it is Namjoon is doing – tutoring younger students, struggling post-graduates, writing in his mysterious looking notebook, or listening to music in the library with his eyes closed and his head craned towards the window. He’s scarily intelligent, scarily caring, scarily everything.
Jin tries to leave before he’s caught staring, but it doesn’t always work.
He starts to look forward to every Saturday, when he gets to demonstrate how to cook or bake or prepare food. The people are genuinely interested, they go because they want to learn how to cook desperately enough to turn up to central campus early on a Saturday morning, and Jin enjoys every moment.
Namjoon is without a doubt the worst student – he can’t use any of the equipment, he can’t measure things correctly, he can barely turn an oven on by himself without burning the oven glove.
But that gives Jin an excuse to be close to him for two hours each week.
Sometimes they talk about their degrees, about food, about fashion and star signs and music.
Sometimes Namjoon laughs at Jin’s terrible jokes.
Sometimes Namjoon makes a dish by himself without hurting himself and Jin is the first to cheer.
Sometimes Namjoon will upload his creations to his instagram and while Jin marvels at the tens of thousands of followers he has Namjoon will laugh and blush and wave it off.
Sometimes Jin waits to see if he’ll get his shit together and ask Namjoon for coffee or dinner or a movie.
But he doesn’t.
He goes on a date with a lovely girl and they both laugh about how hopelessly infatuated they are for other people. It’s weird but refreshing and Jin leaves with a new friend, but the hole in his chest is growing and it feels like there’s pressure in his heart working from the inside out, because he’s got at most half a year of college left, and then what? He has no partner, no passion, and it feels like each second that goes by he’s closer to complete failure, like there’s a clock in front of him and the hands are spinning faster and faster and it’s going too quickly for Jin to know when it’s going to chime midnight.
Yoongi is a worry too. He tries to hide his problems because of guilt or something, but it just makes Jin worry more. Jin worries when he wakes in the early hours of the morning to hear Yoongi leave their apartment and walk the streets in the dark. He waits up until he hears Yoongi is back, but they don’t talk about it in the mornings. It’s not that Yoongi in any way impacts Jin negatively, it’s that he’s so obsessed with avoiding being so that it scares Jin. How will he know if something happens?
Namjoon turns out to be a weirdly consistent fixture in his life by the time two months and eight Eat Jin classes are over. His gentle positivity makes Jin laugh and smile and blush and ignore everything that worries him, which maybe isn’t healthy, but he kind of lives for the two hours each Saturday he gets to watch Namjoon make a mess of flour, eggs, and dimples.
It makes the ninth Saturday a terrible disappointment when Jin looks out of his window and sees torrential rain. No one is going to want to travel to campus in weather like this for a two hour voluntary lesson, so he sends out an email to everyone and tells them that it’s cancelled.
Jin goes into the kitchen and makes himself breakfast, and when Yoongi emerges an hour later with wild bed hair and sleepy eyes and asks why Jin isn’t getting ready to leave, Jin makes him breakfast too and explains the weather.
Yoongi nods and almost falls back asleep into his coffee, his pout more pronounced as he tries to rejoin the world of the conscious. “It’s pathetic fallacy.”
“Is it really pathetic fallacy if my sadness is actively caused by the weather?”
Yoongi shrugs. “Fuck knows. ‘Was just saying it because my brain is fucked. It’s too early.”
“Why don’t you go back to sleep?”
Somewhere far away, thunder rumbles. Yoongi says, “I hope everyone got your email on time. It would be shit to travel to campus in this weather and then wait around for a class that isn’t gonna start.”
Jin groans. “Why would you say that?” he puts his tea on the counter and runs to his bedroom, shouting over his shoulder. “You knew that would make me go, Min Yoongi, you terror!”
He hears Yoongi snigger into his coffee as Jin hurries to dress himself and find his umbrella. He can’t stay at home and wonder if someone is stood waiting in the campus kitchens for him, wondering where everyone is – he can’t do it.
He heads for the door as Yoongi calls out, “Are you actually going onto campus?”
“Of course I am,” Jin snaps, though he isn’t actually angry. Yoongi had said it for a reason, and they both knew that reason was that if Jin had realised later that someone may have been waiting around for two hours the guilt would have consumed him. “Do you want to come?”
“I’m working on some writing today,” Yoongi says. He pads over to Jin and puts an orange in his hand. “But here’s a healthy snack for lunch. Have fun at school, kids.”
“I hate you,” Jin says without venom.
“Cool. Wanna go on omegle tonight and make straight guys question themselves?”
Jin sighs. “Yeah, that sounds funny.”
“Great, I’ll see you later.”
“Stay safe, Yoongi.”
Yoongi’s mouth purses, but he nods. “You too, Jin. Don’t forget to eat your orange.”
So Jin arrives at the kitchen and feels immediate relief to see that it’s empty. It’s shortly followed by frustration, because he has two hours to fill in this kitchen with nothing to do. The fridge is stocked with ingredients that he knows the cooks won’t mind if he uses, but why bother on his own?
He sits on one of the counters and peels his orange, trying not to sulk.
He’s maybe a third of the way through the orange when the door opens and Namjoon peers in.
Jin nearly drops his orange. “Namjoon? Didn’t you get my email?”
Namjoon nods and walks in. He has a bagpack that looks pretty full, and his coat is soaked through with rain, his hair dripping down his face and neck despite the umbrella in his hand. “Yeah, but I figured you would come to make sure everyone was okay, so I thought I’d come to keep you company.”
Jin can feel his face turning red, his skin prickling, his mouth doing... something. He doesn’t know what to say. He kind of wants to cry? But he also wants to run away. Maybe hide forever. Ring Yoongi and get assistance. He holds out his orange. “Want a slice?”
Namjoon takes one. “Thanks.”
Now Jin’s used his only conversation topic and he’s more lost than before. “So... did you bring some work to do or something? You don’t have to stay here, you know.”
Namjoon unzips his bag and starts pulling out ingredients. “I figured that since we’d both be here we could still do a lesson, right? I can’t remember what it was we were meant to be making this week, but last night I was thinking about these brownies that my cousins used to make, and then I spent... maybe four hours? Five? Anyway I spent ages looking at brownie recopies so if you want maybe we could make brownies?”
He literally felt like he could faint. Namjoon’s trousers are so goddamn ugly but his gentle face is so earnest and he’d come onto campus because he didn’t like the thought of Jin being sat alone on a dreary Saturday morning and he wanted them to make brownies together.
“Brownies sound fun,” Jin says, instead of, I think I might be in love with you.
It’s like five minutes in when Namjoon gets egg everywhere, so Jin delegates him to greasing the baking tin, but then he drops the butter, so Jin just lets Namjoon’s hands take him wherever he will go and tries to control the fallout.
It’s disastrous, and a slightly awkward because Jin doesn’t know where to look or what to say, but it’s also the most lovely way he’s ever spent a rainy Saturday, making brownies with ingredients all over his good shirt (pink, of course) and flower on his eyelashes from when Namjoon dropped the open bag and it blew up into their surprised faces.
Namjoon’s laugh is goofy, his smile adorable, his kindness piercing.
Jin spoons the brownie mixture into the tin and offers Namjoon the spoon, still covered in batter. “Wanna lick it clean?”
Namjoon takes the spoon hesitantly. “You always say not to contaminate any of the cutlery or equipment.”
“It’s different when it’s brownie batter. Completely different.”
“What, the germs just leave?”
“Yeah. They have too much respect for the brownie to make you ill.”
Namjoon laughs and does the thing that annoys Jin were he covers his mouth with his hand. Jin wants to move that hand so he can see Namjoon’s smile. He wants to hold that goddamn hand and keep it safe in his own. Namjoon licks at the batter and hums. He closes his eyes and sighs. “This is delicious.”
Yes, you are. “I’m glad. Shall we half the brownie? I’d let you take it all, but my roommate will definitely want some.”
“Half each sounds more than fair, but if he wants some so badly I don’t mind cutting it into thirds if that would be easier.”
“Stop that,” Jin chides, taking back the now clean spoon to wash up. “You bought the ingredients, you’re being kind enough already by letting me have half.”
“But you taught me how to make it.”
“You suggested it.”
“You run the classes.”
“You came today, despite receiving the email that said I cancelled.”
Namjoon joins him at the sink, all knowing eyes and dimples for days. “I only came because I knew you would be here.”
Jin scrunches up his face as he washes the mixing bowl. “And you knew that how?”
“It’s the kind of person you are.”
“Good,” Namjoon says simply. “You’re a good person. You like to make sure that everyone is doing okay, even if you ignore yourself sometimes.”
Jin makes a rough, helpless noise in his throat. “Says the clumsy angel.”
“All my intelligence is in my brain, not my hands. They don’t comply.”
“That’s fine, I don’t have intelligence in my hands or my brain.”
“You get good grades,” Namjoon says with confidence. “I can tell that you study well, and if you weren’t on target you wouldn’t spend your weekends helping other students cook.”
He’s got Jin there. “I do get good grades, it’s just... everything else.” He didn’t mean to make it deep. Things have gone from gentle humour to deep way too fast and informally.
Namjoon nudges his shoulder. “Why don’t you tell me about it?”
“There’s not much to say,” Jin replies. The brownie smells good, masking the burnt scent of his pride. God knows he’s always been someone to speak before thinking, and now Namjoon knows he’s painfully insecure and indecisive about himself. Nice one, Jin. Even Yoongi would shake his head at this display, and he’s done some truly questionable things in his short, questionable life. “I just... wanna love life, you know? Most of the time I do, but also... sometimes it sucks big time. I want to find my equilibrium, my balance and stuff and align my chakras or whatever, but alas, I am inept.”
Namjoon’s mouth twitches. “Anyone that uses the word ‘alas’ casually is way more put-together than they give themselves credit for.”
“You’re a genius, you could put anything in a sentence and make it work.”
“Hm. Even antidisestablishmentarianism?”
Jin pus the pot down and sighs, faking exasperation. “Is showing off meant to comfort me?”
Namjoon goes pink. “Ah, sorry, I just like that word.”
“Do you like the word or knowing that you can use it?”
Jin loses the war with his face and smiles. “What a brat you are Joon, for a while I thought you were a league above the other students, but you’re just as bad, aren’t you?”
Namjoon flashes Jin the smuggest grin. “You came to the conclusion that I’m good all on your own, so don’t blame me for that. I’m nowhere close to being perfect.”
“I bet you are. I bet you’re the epitome of everything-“ my parents want me to be. He clears his throat. “I bet you’re the perfect young man that every girl’s parents are yearning for. Perfect son-in-law Namjoon.”
Namjoon cringes. “They’ll be yearning for nothing, then.”
“Oh? No intentions for marriage?”
“No intentions for women.”
“Oh,” Jin says faintly, instead of ‘OH! OH! OH MY GOD!’
“Whatever happens, happens,” Jin says. “Woman, man, someone in between or neither, I’ll be happy as long as we love each other.”
Namjoon nods sagely. “That’s a great outlook to have. I really admire you, Jin. I can see that you’re struggling, but you’re still so lovely. I’ve seen you around campus volunteering and leafleting for good causes, helping lost students, always smiling, and I really respect you for the effort you put in to make everyone comfortable and happy. If you don’t mind me saying, I think you should try lending yourself some of that positive energy that you so willingly give to others.”
He wants to cry again. Goddamn it. Goddamn Kim Namjoon making him emotional. “I just hate my degree. I don’t want to go into finance or be a CEO and run a company.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Cook,” Jin says to the sink. “I want to cook for people and have them enjoy the food that I enjoyed making, and I want to see people smile. I hate graphs and pie charts, I just want normal pies.” He looks up. “What is it you want, Namjoon?”
“I think I’m pretty selfish, I want a lot of things. I want to be stronger, I want to write, and I want to help people. I like knowing I can make a change. I want to see people smile too, Jin.”
Jin can feel his heart in his throat, butterflies in his stomach, wings on his back, even as his mouth turns up at the corners. “I’m smiling now.”
Namjoon’s happiness is heartbreaking in its beauty. “I know.”
The brownies come out, and they toast to their success with a slice each, and then run across campus in the sheet rain and take shelter in the cafe, where they have coffee and lunch and then more brownie.
Namjoon explains how he adores writing, loves using all of his mind to create things, but values helping people more, which is why he wants to go into publishing. He wants to be someone that helps hone others into the best possible versions of themselves, he says, coffee steaming his glasses, smelling of chocolate.
Jin admits over his green tea that while he hates his degree, he loves most of his life. He loves his friends, especially Yoongi and Jungkook, and like Namjoon, he loves to help people. Namjoon laughs when Jin tells him that Yoongi used to call him a live-in-nanny, and nods when he explains how he learnt to cook from his mother, found passion in mixing and complimenting flavours and seeing people appreciate what he made.
They both love to read, and they both love movies. Not so much horror, because Jin is easily scared and Namjoon can’t help but pick out the glaring plot holes, especially in the gorier films that focus more on shock than anything (though they’re the ones that scare Jin the most, and Namjoon laughs for a long time when he admits that past his pout). Neither are especially coordinated, Namjoon with no brains in his hands, and Jin with his joint hypermobility, but they’re both strong, weirdly enough, and bond over being able to bully their friends when it came to physical prowess. Not that Jin has much competition with Yoongi, because pushing him is as easy as knocking over a hollow stick. Jungkook however, proves more difficult, but he isn’t there to defend himself so Jin omits that part in his tales of gentle bullying.
After what feels like ten minutes but is in reality over an hour, Namjoon checks his watch and frowns. “I have a project due on Monday that I really should study for. I didn’t realise how late it had become.”
Jin checks his phone and blinks because – okay yeah, they’ve spent almost an entire day together. “I understand. Thank you for keeping me company, Namjoon, I’ve had fun.”
They both stand and then awkwardly fight over the bill, and then awkwardly stand outside, waiting to part ways. Jin doesn’t know what to say, so he shoves his hands in his coat pockets and realises way too late that he left his umbrella in the kitchens, but he’s not going to embarrass himself by admitting it and going back to retrieve it. No, the umbrella is officially dead to him. He’ll go home and spend money he doesn’t have on getting a new one. Luckily the rain has calmed to a light drizzle, so the chance of him looking like a drowned rat by the time he returns home is slim.
They stand a while, neither talking, neither leaving.
Before he can reason with his senseless heart, Jin’s mouth says, “Do you want to come and study with me? I’ll make us dinner.”
And before he can hate himself, Namjoon smiles and says, “That would be great.”
They walk together, and when the rain picks up, Namjoon moves his umbrella so that it covers them both.
The apartment is empty but strangely clean when they arrive, and in the kitchen there’s a note stuck to the fridge in Yoongi’s tight scrawl.
Doctor said I should try n focus on something new n build a routine so I’ve gone to
see what my options are. Will be back tomorrow – have a date right after. MYG
“Ah, I guess it’s just us,” Jin says, as if the thought isn’t terrifying, as if he hadn’t intended to use Yoongi as a personable buffer against Namjoon’s intimidating perfection. His nose is red from the cold weather and he’s so tall that Jin wants to maybe build a shrine and cry at it or just stare at him forever.
Namjoon is walking around the small apartment curiously. “Is your roommate out?”
“Yeah, he’s doing something mysterious,” Jin says. He realises a fraction of a second too late that it makes Yoongi sound like either a drug dealer or a murderer. “On his doctor’s orders, that is. I swear he isn’t harvesting kidneys. Not that I know of, anyway, but I think we’re close enough that he’d tell me if he was selling organs.”
Namjoon does that smile again where he covers his mouth with his hand. He takes a hesitant seat on the sofa and pulls his laptop out of his bag, and Jin gets to work making them both drinks.
“Coffee or tea?”
So Jin makes them both tea and curls up on the sofa next to Namjoon, but not touching, and puts his earphones in so that he can skype Jungkook without disturbing Namjoon’s project. It’s comforting in a strange way, different from working with Yoongi. When Yoongi focuses, it’s like energy expels from his body in waves and Jin is sucked into it, which is great for when he really needs to work but isn’t ideal for lazy Saturday afternoons. Namjoon on the other hand radiates calming warmth, and even with their earphones in listening to different things, focusing on different screens, every once in a while Jin will look across and Namjoon will smile again, and he says more with his smile than he does with his words.
Jungkook pops onto Jin’s screen after half an hour of trying to avoid it over messages. “Hey.”
He looks tired. “Hey, you look exhausted. What’s up?”
Jungkook sighs dramatically. “I have a maths test on Monday and I’m so screwed, Jin. So painfully screwed.”
“How bad can highschool math be?” Jungkook holds up a worksheet. “Oh. I... can’t even read that.”
Jungkook puts the sheet down. “Is Yoongi there? He could maybe help.”
“He’s not here and he’s terrible at math. Either way it’s a no.”
Jungkook sighs again, his expression falling further. “I don’t wanna do math, I wanna dance and draw and stuff. This sucks. Highschool sucks.”
“I know, but you have less than a year left, so keep going, okay?” Jin says. “Work hard so that you can join Yoongi and I.”
“But math sucks!” Jungkook groans. He opens his mouth to complain more, but catches sight of something and peers close to the camera. “Who is with you?”
Time to die! “Its, uh, Namjoon. He’s a friend.”
Namjoon looks up at the mention of his name and takes an earbud out. “Everything okay?”
“Namjoon? I’ve never heard of Namjoon before.”
Jin pulls out his earphones so that Namjoon can hear Jungkook, staring at the screen meaningfully. He hopes it’s a look that says ‘Ruin this and I will ruin you.’ “Namjoon is a friend I made through my cooking classes. Remember those?”
Jungkook’s eyes grow impossibly wide and Namjoon scoots closer to wave at the screen. “Hi, you must be Jungkook?”
“Ah ha... yeah. That’s me. Jungkook. Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise, Jin has told me a lot about you.”
“Really? He’s talked about you too, if you are who I think you are.”
Jin smiles, wide and not at all friendly. “How’s the math going?”
Namjoon looks at Jungkook. “If you’re struggling with maths I wouldn’t mind lending a hand.”
Jungkook, as suspicious as any teenager when an adult offered to help, says, “Do you study math now?”
“No, I study literature, but in highschool I was in the nation’s top one percent for math, so I promise I wouldn’t make you any worse.”
Jin says to Namjoon, “You came here to study, not to teach Jungkook highschool maths.”
“I need a break anyway.”
“Maths isn’t a break!”
“Hey Jin, if he’s gonna teach me why don’t you make him dinner?” Jungkook asks, raising a brow. “Reward your kind friend with a home-cooked meal.”
“I was going to cook for him anyway, brat,” Jin snaps. “I can’t believe this, why does your sad face get you everything you want?”
“Because I surround myself with people that are too nice for their own good.”
Jin nudges Namjoon, a little lost, a little more in love than he had been just ten minutes before. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“No, it’s fine,” Namjoon says with his kindest smile. “I really enjoy math, and if Jungkook is a friend of yours then of course I’ll help in any way I can. But a meal would be nice, if it isn’t too much trouble.”
So Jin passes over his laptop and gets up to make stir-fry, because they need bright food to combat the dull weather. The apartment is kind of chilly but Jin is wrapped in numerous layers. He can hear Namjoon’s low, patient voice as he talks Jungkook through some equations and all Jin can smell is fresh vegetables frying as the windows become steamy, rivulets of water like tears tracing down the glass, exposing the grey skies outside. Jungkook exclaims something, and Namjoon laughs.
Jin puts both hands on the counter and takes a deep breath, trying desperately not to cry. He doesn’t know why this is upsetting him, why he suddenly feels so vulnerable, so terribly open and exposed, but he does. He does and he doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s known Namjoon a matter of months, but he’s been in relationships that have lasted years and has never felt this level of intimacy. He feels like he’s always known Namjoon, like they’ve always been like this.
Namjoon calls through, “Jin, do you want any help?”
He wipes his eyes hastily. “No! No, I’ve got it. It’ll be done soon, I’ll bring it through to you.”
“Okay, thank you!”
Thank you. What is he being thanked for? Caring for Namjoon is the easiest thing he’s ever done.
Namjoon leaves at nine. They eat together, with Jungkook still on skype, flying through his studying with occasional interjections from Namjoon. It’s cute, because it took approximately the time it took Jin too cook for Jungkook to fall deeply into throes of adoration for Namjoon. They exchange numbers and promise to talk soon, and Namjoon tells Jungkook to ask if he needs help with any of his other subjects. Jin watches, not from a distance, not as an outsider, but as someone watching two of his important people flourish in friendship, and it’s lovely.
After two hours of maths and star signs and computer games Jungkook logs off, and Namjoon goes back to his assignment and Jin goes back to pretending he isn’t staring. He plans for his seminar whenever his eyes start to hurt from looking at Namjoon for too long, and when Namjoon insists on washing the dishes, Jin throws his head back and stares blindly at the ceiling and thinks about how nice it would be to have courage and ask Namjoon if it would be okay to kiss him.
But Namjoon leaves at nine.
They exchange numbers, and Namjoon says, “I’ll see you next Saturday?”
Jin replies, “You sure will!”
And Namjoon leaves at nine.
Yoongi doesn’t come back that night, and Jin sits alone, a pillow hugged to his chest. What was it Namjoon had told Jungkook to ward of a physics crisis once they’d tackled the math?
‘If you don’t at least try, you’ll definitely fail, and you’ll be left wondering what could have happened if you’d only tried.’
Namjoon leaves at nine, and Jin spends the night wondering what could have happened if he’d only tried.
He sees Namjoon that Saturday as his cooking classes resume as normal.
“Did you ever find out what mysterious activity your roommate was doing last week?” Namjoon asks while everyone is packing up their freshly made curries.
“He was buying plants.”
Jin had awoken on Sunday to an apartment brimming with leaves and pretty flowers. Yoongi, messy haired and all big, bloodshot eyes, had smiled from where he was crouched over a potted aloe. “You don’t mind, do you? I figure growing things is healthier than smoking or something, and I couldn’t think of anything else to focus on.”
“Plants are good,” Jin had said in reply. It came out faint but heartfelt. “Plants are great, actually. You’re gonna keep an eye on them?”
“Yeah. I’ll try and grow with the plants or some shit. I’ve also signed up for some writing classes so that I can start to write things that make sense. Maybe one day I’ll publish something, if I like it enough to try.”
Yoongi had looked exhausted, but there had been a lightness in his expression that Jin hadn’t seen in weeks.
“Yep,” Jin says to Namjoon. “He got a load of plants, and now the apartment smells of grass. It looks pretty though, and he likes them more than I thought he would. None of them have died yet.”
“I’d love to see them,” Namjoon says. “I really enjoy nature, which is the only downside to living in a city.”
“You can come over for coffee if you’d like,” Jin says, again offering without thinking.
Yoongi is out again, but Namjoon oohs and awws at the plants and tells Jin their Latin names and their origins while they drink.
They lose track of time and after a couple of hours, Namjoon pulls out his laptop to send off an email, and Jin falls asleep with his head on the arm of the sofa.
He wakes up when the sky is darkening, and Namjoon looks sheepish. “I’m really sorry but I got hungry and ordered us takeout.”
Like Jin could be mad at that.
They eat together and watch documentaries about rainforests, surrounded by a forest of their own.
Namjoon leaves at nine, and Jin spends another Saturday night wondering what if.
“If you saw him you’d understand,” Jin moans. Yoongi and Jaehwan exchange equally exasperated looks over the top of his bowed head, because it’s only Wednesday evening, and no one had signed up for anything other than drinks and a light catch up.
“I don’t think we would,” Yoongi says.
Jaehwan hums and flags down the waitress to order more drinks. “Three gin and tonics, please.”
Jin groans again. “At least get me alcohol that tastes good. I’m suffering.”
“You need something that you don’t like so that you don’t drink it too fast,” Jaehwan says knowingly. “And you need to get laid. This is becoming kind of pathetic.”
He doesn’t want to have sex with a stranger, he wants to hold Namjoon’s fucking hand. When he says that, Yoongi just sighs and finishes the dregs of his whiskey. “Jin, you really need to get laid.”
“I don’t want to,” he repeats. “And besides, it isn’t that easy.”
“You have an easier time than I do. You can act cool and stuff, but I’m bigger than you and wider and I can’t dance to save my life and I laugh at inappropriate things and-“
“You’re just calling yourself ugly and me a twink.”
Yoongi’s hard stare shuts him up. “Go on, call me a twink. I fucking dare you.” Call yourself ugly, I fucking dare you. He doesn’t say it, but Jin hears it.
“Sorry,” he mumbles.
Jaehwan pats Jin’s hand. “You’re so much more than you think you are, Jin. I wish that narcissism of yours wasn’t so forced.”
“Namjoon is giving another talk this Friday, will you come with me to watch?” Jin asks.
Yoongi looks away. “I have plans, sorry.”
Jaehwan purses his lips. “I do too, but I think I’d rather go with you. Count me in.”
“Don’t cancel on my behalf,” Jin objects, but Jaehwan waves a dismissive hand.
“Don’t worry, it was just a movie night, I’ll just make Hyukie come with us.”
“Ah,” Jaehwan says on Friday night. Namjoon has just left the stage to deafening applause. “I get it now.”
Jin nods miserably. His hands sting from the velocity of his applause, and his heart stings from the pride Namjoon had wore as he spoke to a crowd of three hundred on the importance of phonics in child development.
He loves parties, the small, intimate ones where there’s nothing but friends and drinks and snacks in bowls, but he also loves the ones like this: a house far too small for so many people, the music too loud, the alcohol too easy to reach. Parties like this are easy chances to get lost in yourself or strangers, to meet new faces and old ones, to forget yourself for an evening and leave someone else to clean up the mess as you stumble home in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The only thing missing is Yoongi, who decided he was too tired to come. But its fine, Jin knows a majority of the people here, from business majors to sports to theatre and history, because he’s very good at introducing himself without hesitation and talking about anything. He knows most of the people, which means he’s invited into most of the games, and his cup is never empty.
He loses beer pong, wins gay chicken (of course he does, but people on his team seem to conveniently forget he’s gay for the sake of a win). He leaves a wet trail of kisses down a strangers throat, laughing low in his throat until the inevitable, “Okay, okay! You win.”
A hand lands on his waist, big and heavy, and he’s turned around and embraced.
“It’s been a long time, Seokjin,” Minseo says into his hair.
Jin hugs back, because their fleeting relationship had been tumultuous, but Minseo is a good guy. A sports major that knows more about the human body than anyone should, and someone that knew how to use that knowledge to his advantage. Jin had almost forgotten the smell of his cologne and the way his smile creased his eyes.
“It’s been a long time. You look great,” he says honestly.
Minseo’s smile widens. “Come play truth or dare with us.”
Us turns out to be a circle of seven people, half of whom Jin knows, the other half being vaguely familiar. He allows himself to be pulled down between an unfamiliar guy and an art major called Jiwoon who he knows through campus consent campaigns. She immediately pours him a drink and they spent a few minutes catching up while Minseo prepares for the game, fetching a shot glass and various ingredients.
Once there’s a shot of vinegar in the middle of the circle, Minseo says, “Youngjae, truth or dare?”
“Lick Jiyoon’s foot.”
Jiyoon, looks up from her wine, aghast. “What? Why me?”
Jin pats her shoulder. “See it as a compliment, I guess.”
Youngjae licks Jiyoon’s foot, much to her dismay, and the circle dissolves into laughter and exclamations until Minseo is able to shush them enough for his next victim.
“Yejun, truth or dare?”
“I’m not stupid, Minseo. Truth.”
“Cool, good to know. Would you rather see your grandmother or your grandfather naked?”
Minseo, it seems, still has no boundaries.
“What the fuck, neither!”
“That’s not an answer!” everyone jeers. Jin is too busy laughing to join in, and beside him, Jiyoon is in the same state. She pours him some more wine, giggling.
The game continues much in the same way. Yejun refuses to answer, taking the forfeit of drinking vinegar.
“Seokjin, truth or dare?”
He spot’s a tall, slim figure walking through the crowds, and his heart stops. Minseo follows his gaze and with eyes suddenly sly, he grins. “Namjoon, you came! Come join us, you’re just in time for Seokjin’s truth.”
Namjoon turns towards the voice, but his eyes land on Jin first, and he smiles. He takes a seat between Minseo and Yejun, accepts an offered beer, and gestures for the game to continue.
Jin, on his end, is trying not to disintegrate into the stained carpet. What the fuck. He’s not dressed for Namjoon, he’s dressed to get drunk. He’s wearing his glasses. His thick rimmed glasses. He has red wine on his shirt and he’s pretty sure that someone with long nails ripped his green trousers at the knee when they tripped and fell forward. He’s not dressed for Namjoon, who looks like he stepped out of vogue, for once in his life not wearing weird trousers. They’re black and too tight, his thighs are too toned, his baggy blue shirt is too smart for his surroundings. He’s too much.
“Seokjin, would you rather fuck anyone of your choosing in this great big world, or be in a relationship with someone in this room?”
Oh no. “Minseo-“ Jin begins, strangled, but Yejun pipes up first.
“What, nothing about feet or naked grandmas? This is favouritism!”
“Believe me, it isn’t,” Minseo says, eyes on Jin. “Time to answer, Jinnie. If you don’t, the forfeit is two shots of vinegar and a tablespoon of mayonnaise.”
The very thought of it curdles his stomach, and even Yejun winces.
Jin looks down into his wine. “This room.”
“What? I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Speak up, wont you?”
“This room,” he repeats, louder. “I’d rather be in a relationship with someone in this room.”
The circle dissolves into chatter again.
“Rather than fucking anyone? Seriously?”
“He must like someone here!”
“Jin, who’re you thinking of?”
He doesn’t look up, waits for Minseo to hush everyone once more, and then the circle moves again. Jiyoon gives another girl a lap dance, and that girl then has to eat an entire jar of salsa in ten seconds. She can’t make it, so has to do a shot of vinegar, and then leaves to throw up. Jin’s trying to come up with an excuse to leave, but then it’s Namjoon’s turn. He blinks slowly, and says, “Dare.”
Minseo smiles again, not the friendly one he’d greeted Jin with, but the one he’d worn as he asked Jin his truth. “Great. Kiss Jiyoo.”
Jiyoo snaps, “Why are all of the guy’s dares focused on me?”
“Because you’re the only one that lets me get away with it, darling,” Minseo replies with a wink.
Jin feels like he might throw up.
Namjoon shrugs. “If it’s okay with Jiyoon.”
She sighs. “Yeah, go ahead. How deep?”
“I want to see tongue,” Minseo says. “At least ten seconds, make it past Daeun’s salsa endeavour.”
Jiyoon links her fingers with Jin’s. “Wish me luck!” she says.
He squeezes her hand, can’t force a smile. Namjoon moves into the centre of the circle and Jiyoon crawls to meet him, and then they’re kissing. Jiyoon’s back is to Jin, so he can’t see their mouths. All he can see is Namjoon’s forehead, his swept back hair, his closed eyes. Everyone cheers, and they stay there, kissing, for a lot longer than ten seconds.
Jin’s phone buzzes, a message from Minseo. ‘It wouldn’t have been fair on me to watch you kiss the guy you like, would it?’
Jin looks up, past Namjoon, and sees Minseo. He isn’t smiling any longer, just staring at Jin.
Then Namjoon and Jiyoon part and settle back into their places. Namjoon’s cheeks are rosy and he wipes at his mouth self-consciously, while Jiyoon pours herself and Jin more wine.
“Back to Youngjae. Truth or dare?”
“Have you ever been fingered while receiving a blowjob?”
Youngjae snorts. “Fuck yeah. You haven’t lived until you try it, don’t knock it.”
Some of the other guys jeer, but most of the girls look on seriously. Jin finishes his wine and waits for the inevitable, though his fear has left. He’s just tired now, and his spirit feels small and lost in his own body, like a mouse in a big, empty cave.
“Jin, truth or dare?”
Minseo smiles again. “Kiss me.”
He leans forward and downs the shot of vinegar. “Fuck you.” Then he stands up and walks out. Jiyoon calls his name, concerned, but Jin is done for the evening. Possibly forever. He’s just done.
Outside the night is cold and damp, but Jin decides to sit on the curb for a while, head resting on his knees.
He texts Yoongi. ‘Are you up?’
The reply is immediate. ‘Yeah. What’s wrong?’
‘I’m coming home now. The party has turned bad.’
‘Take the main roads and I’ll meet you and walk you back. See you soon.’
Jin knows that as he’s sent that, Yoongi is already shrugging into his coat and putting his shoes on. There’s no point in arguing, because Yoongi’s mind is made up. He sees deeper into Jin that Jin ever could.
‘Thank you, Yoongi.’
He stands, brushes off his shirt, and then Namjoon is there to stop him from walking away. “Hey,” he says. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Jin says automatically. “I’m just about to leave, actually, so I’ll see you tomorrow, Namjoon.”
Namjoon licks his lips, and all Jin can think is that his tongue has been in Jiyoon’s mouth, right in front of Jin. He’d watched. “Are you sure you’re okay Jin? I don’t feel good letting you leave if you’re not yourself.”
“I’m sick of bad people pretending to be good for a while,” Jin says quietly, but with venom. Namjoon’s eyes widen, clearly taken aback, but Jin is drunk enough, jealous enough, hurt enough not to care. “I’m sick of being let down when people you care about demonstrate how little they value your feelings.”
“Minseo knew better than to try that,” Jin says, not sure in himself which instance he’s talking about. “He knew better. He knew it would make me upset and uncomfortable, but he did it anyway.”
“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says, a little hopeless. “I don’t really know what’s going on with you two, but if he’s upset you and I didn’t notice at the time, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t ever apologise for someone else’s behaviour if you have nothing to do with it,” Jin says, instead of, it’s not your fault. Instead of, I’m jealous of Jiyoon. Instead of, you’re the one I’d pick in that fucking room.
“If you won’t let me apologise for not intervening, then I’m sorry you’re upset,” Namjoon says. He shoves his hands in his pockets. “Watching you get up was awful, I hadn’t realised at all that you’d been hurt. I’ll make sure to look more closely from now on.”
“I didn’t want to kiss Minseo,” Jin says. He can feel his eyes starting to well up, realises he’s more drunk than he’d thought. “Would you have kissed me for your dare, Namjoon? Would you have kissed me at all?”
Namjoon’s expression flattens. “Jin,” he says, entirely too soft to be anything other than pity. “You’re drunk and upset.”
Jin laughs. It’s harsh and ugly. He goes to wipe his eyes, knocks his glasses instead and then laughs more. “Sure,” he says. “Yeah, I really am. Goodnight, Namjoon.”
Namjoon stands there, and Jin can feel his gaze bearing into his back, but he doesn’t turn around.
Three streets and fifteen minutes of hopeless tears later, a small figure wrapped in several layers approaches. Yoongi’s eyebrows rise into his fringe when he sees Jin. “Was the wine selection really that shit?”
Jin laughs, and then before he can stop himself he’s wrapped Yoongi in a painfully tight hug and is sobbing loudly into his shoulder. Yoongi goes rigid for a second, but immediately relaxes and holds Jin back, endlessly gentle. “We have pinot grigio at home, it’ll be okay,” he mumbles, and Jin laughs again, more genuine this time.
“Okay,” he replies. “Okay. Thanks, Yoongi.”
“Stop thanking me, idiot,” Yoongi says. “How many times have you scooped me out of the trash? This is nothing.”
It’s not. It’s something, it’s the proof Jin needed that not everyone is forcing a mask of goodness to hide their true self. Some people are good to their core. Namjoon is one of those people, but Yoongi is the one that’s holding him as he cries in this instance.
They make it home, and Jin checks his phone to a text from Namjoon.
‘Please let me know when you get in. I’ve drank more than I thought, but that’s no excuse for leaving you to walk home alone while you were so upset. I’m sorry.’
Of course. Jin writes, ‘I’m back, Yoongi met me half way. Cooking tomorrow is cancelled, so I’ll see you next week.’
Then he sends out an email cancelling his class, because Yoongi has declared that Jin isn’t allowed to leave the house tomorrow, and instead they’re going to spend the day eating junk food and skyping Jungkook as they watch movies.
Namjoon replies, ‘Thanks for letting me know. Take care of yourself please.’
Jin wakes up on Saturday morning to the sound of Yoongi’s excited babbling from right next to his ear.
“Get up get up come on Jin, get your ass out of bed and fucking look.”
The sheets are pulled from his body and he moans pitifully, curling in on himself, but Yoongi on a mission is merciless, and against his will Jin is manhandled from his room and shoved into their living space.
One of Yoongi’s plants has flowered.
It has a single, purple flower, no bigger than a fingernail. Yoongi points to it, smiling so widely that his gums show. “What do you think?”
“I think this calls for celebration,” Jin says. He hugs Yoongi tightly. “I’m proud of you both, flowering despite adversity.”
Yoongi grumbles. “What kind of adversity has the plant faced?”
“You as its caregiver,” Jin says. “You can’t feed yourself, so I’m surprised you’ve been remembering to water the plants.”
That night they throw a small celebratory party. It’s just them and the plants and the promised bottle of pinot grigio, but that makes for an amazing time, in Jin’s opinion.
“I think I might actually finish a story,” Yoongi says to his cactus, the favourite of his many plants. “I love music, but I think I wanna write.”
“Go for it,” Jin says. “I believe you can do it.”
“But what about my music degree?”
“Your degree doesn’t define you.”
Yoongi looks at him, stern from the hypocrisy and pink from the alcohol. “So finish your fucking business degree and open a restaurant then.”
Jin drinks more wine.
He’s worried that Namjoon will bring up the party, also worried that he won’t.
They hadn’t texted through the week like they usually would, which makes everything just a little more uncertain, and Jin feels sick as he prepares for his class. Burgers shouldn’t make him this scared.
Namjoon is the last to arrive, and he has a small Ryan plushie in his left hand, his bag of ingredients in the other. During the break, he hands Jin the plushie.
“It’s childish, but I love Ryan, I really love it,” he explains. “When I was younger I would hug my plushies until I felt better, but I have a lot now, like an embarrassing amount for a grown man. Enough to spare one for someone I care about when he’s feeling out of sorts.”
Jin looks down at the small bear in his hands, then back up at the man who unknowingly holds Jin’s fragile heart in his big, clumsy hands. “You’re giving me a plushie to cheer me up?”
Namjoon winces, pink climbing up his neck. “On second thoughts, I didn’t really think this through. Maybe I can-“
“Thank you,” Jin interrupts, squeezing the bear. “I love it, Namjoon. Thank you so much.”
Namjoon’s blush grows. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, “It’s not like I went out and bought it or anything, he’s one of my own.”
That makes it even better, even worse. Jin hugs the plushie, knows he won’t be letting it go for the next seventy years. “Thank you,” he says again.
Namjoon smiles. “I’m glad you like him.”
Things go back to normal.
Namjoon comes over after cooking, and they study together. Jin cooks dinner, and they laugh about the worst things they’ve hid from their parents.
(Namjoon had broken his bed frame and slept on splintered wood until he had saved enough money to replace it without telling them.)
(Jin had dressed in one of his father’s suits while they were out and stained the shirt when his pen had leaked, and then tore it up into pieces and had pretended the cat had gotten into the wardrobe.)
He wants to ask Namjoon if the reason they wouldn’t kiss was because he’d been drunk, or if it was more simply because he was Jin.
He’s too scared, and again spends the night asking himself, what if.
He has a chain of dates that are entirely garbage, and it’s probably his fault, because every guy he meets doesn’t have the right hair, the perfect height, the adorable smile, the endless dimples he’s searching for. Not to mention the intelligence and inherent kindness that makes him zone out and daydream at least eight times a week.
“Let’s take it in turns to compliment each other,” the last of his dates suggest.
“Okay,” Jin agrees. It’s a cute suggestion. “I like... hm. I think you have a generous spirit.”
“Thanks,” his date says. “You have amazing lips.”
Jin checks his watch and tries not to think about his skin deep confidence. “Oh dear, I lost track of the time, I’m afraid I need to leave you.”
“That’s a shame, do you want to exchange numbers?”
“No, I don’t.”
“It’s a dude thing,” Yoongi says. He’s lazily scrolling through Grindr instead of doing his assignment, but Jin can hardly tell him off for it considering he’s watching Roman Holiday for maybe the tenth time that month. “You know, making it about sex when it isn’t because of nerves.”
“Congratulations! I don’t care,” Jin says. “I’m a dude and I don’t go round telling guys I wanna fuck their mouths instead of complimenting their ties on the first date.”
“That’s because you have manners. Also you have shit taste.”
“You can’t talk.”
Yoongi shrugs. “I know they want sex and that’s fine with me, I’m not looking for true love in the guys that don’t want to give you more than ten minutes of dick.”
The truth of his words scrape against Jin’s skin and leave him raw. “Shut up, Yoongi.”
“Why are you so scared of asking for what you actually want?”
“You know why,” Jin whispers. “The same reason everyone else is afraid.”
“This dude on Grindr wants a threesome,” Yoongi says instead of replying. “Fancy it?”
Yoongi shows Jin his phone screen and Jin balks. The man is big, thickly muscled, bald, and approximately ten years older than them both. He could probably throw Yoongi out of a window using one hand. His bio reads, I’ll fuck whatever as long as you’re clean. Threesomes are better than two so if you’ve got a hot friend bring him along.
“For some reason I can’t quite put a name to, he doesn’t appeal to me,” Jin says.
“Yeah? Me neither.” Yoongi closes his bio. “Can’t find anyone decent here.”
“You’re too cute for Grindr.”
“Fuck off. I’m gonna send him one of your selfies and our address. Tell him you have a praise kink and like spit.”
“Min Yoongi you will not-“
His outrage is cut off by Yoongi’s laughter. The fight for his phone that follows is vicious, without mercy, full of needless bloodshed. They make up by going to a garden centre and picking out more plants. Yoongi doesn’t get his phone back until the end of the day though, and while Jin has it he deletes Yoongi’s Grindr.
After the cooking class, each armed with a portion of chicken and rice, Namjoon suggests a picnic as the weather is finally pleasant enough to sit outside.
It’s alarming how long they spend arguing about ducks, worrying how quickly it dissolves into petty insults like ‘Your trousers are awful,’ and ‘You don’t cook as well as you think you do,’ and ‘I hate you,’ and ‘You only wish you could,’.
They sit on the grass and watch the ducks, the instigators of their conflict, waddle and swim.
“I’m sorry I said ducks aren’t as good as geese,” Namjoon says after a heavy silence. “I didn’t mean to offend you; I just meant that they aren’t as suited to their environments. They’re much more at risk of predators.”
Jin tries not to laugh, schooling his face into haughty disdain. “Geese are mean and ugly, whereas ducks are cute and friendly. It doesn’t take an intelligent mind to understand that they’re the superior bird.”
Namjoon so clearly wants to argue, to list the many reasons that geese are technically better, but he must see the solid conviction on Jin’s face and decide against it. “Okay, Jin. And I’m sorry for saying you don’t cook well, it was a lie, your food is delicious.”
“Your trousers are still awful.”
Namjoon laughs, but Jin is momentarily distracted by a vaguely familiar group of young women who approach them. “Jin, is that you?”
“Ah, yes?” He stands, accepts the numerous hugs. “How are you all?”
It takes a few seconds for him to realise that he’d met them through a couple of parties last year, that they’d been some of the sweet girls that had asked him to help lift as they practiced their cheerleading routines. When Jin realises he exclaims excitedly and hugs them all again, laughing. They spend a few minutes catching up before the girls move on, but when Jin sits back down, expecting Namjoon to be on his phone or something, he’s still smiling up at Jin.
“You’re a very generous person, Jin. No wonder you mean so much to so many people.”
“Stop saying nice things!” Jin complains, a blush climbing despite his inner protests. He fans his face and turns his head away from Namjoon and his beautifully sculpted legs in those ugly trousers. “Sheesh, my ego doesn’t need to get any bigger.”
Namjoon hums. “Are we pretending that your vanity isn’t an act?”
Thank god his head is turned away. “Yep. That’s exactly what we’re doing, Namjoon.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want.”
He thinks about Namjoon staring up at him, alone on the park bench. “Are we also pretending that you’re not as generous, that you don’t mean as much to the people that care about you?”
“Great. I love a party fuelled by deliberate ignorance, which is clearly why you think geese are better.”
Namjoon groans. “I don’t! Geese aren’t anything special, I’m just saying that in the grand scheme of ecology-“
“You’re anti duck, don’t try and change sides now. When the war comes, you’ll be on the Geese’s side.”
“I don’t want to fight you,” Namjoon says, a little sullen. “I think you’d win.”
“It’s because you know I’m right.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“Only because you know you’re wrong.”
They’re both fighting smiles. Namjoon says, “Hey, aren’t we meant to be smart?”
“You don’t have to use your brain to have a good time,” Jin replies, looking out over the pond.
“Evidently,” Namjoon replies. There’s something a little dark, a little uncertain, a little lost written across his features, but his eyes are gentle as he watches the world.
“Would you like to come over to study today?” Jin asks the following Saturday.
Namjoon checks on his quiche through the oven door. “Ah, sorry Jin but I have a date. Next weekend?”
“Sure!” Jin exclaims, hoping it doesn’t sound as insincere and forced as it really is. “I hope you have fun tonight.”
He gets a text at nine.
‘It was awful. He kept trying to get me to fuck him in his car. There were McDonald’s boxes everywhere. I just wanted to go for a walk’
Jin replies ‘lol’ because he doesn’t know what to say that won’t come across as entirely gleeful and give away the fact that he’s spent all day stagnating on the sofa, thinking about Namjoon holding someone else’s hand.
“What’re you smiling about?” Yoongi asks. His feet are in Jin’s lap, and he wriggles them when he doesn’t receive an immediate reply.
“Namjoon’s date was bad.”
“Show him a good one, then.”
Yoongi is an asshole, so Jin tickles his feet.
Namjoon writes, ‘Not to sound like an old man, but sometimes I like to know more than someone’s name before we have sex.’
Once Yoongi has stopped writhing and shouting, Jin replies, ‘Sorry, but you do sound like an old man. I guess we’re both old.’
‘Practically decrepit. Can’t believe I turned down your company for this. I won’t make that mistake again.’
Jin shows Yoongi and asks, “What does this mean?”
Yoongi groans and kicks him. “It means you’re a fucking idiot, Jin.”
Which is useless, so Jin sends Namjoon a smiley face and a heart.
It must work, because Namjoon sends a star and a heart in reply.
On a whim, the following Tuesday, Jin sends Namjoon a selfie. He knows he looks cute, because Jaehwan told him so. He pouts for the camera and captions it, ‘I’m shopping with Jaehwan, is there anything in particular you want to eat on Saturday?’
Namjoon reads the message a minute later, but it takes him a lot longer to reply.
‘You look nice, Jin. Whatever you want is fine.’
Jaehwan scowls down at the message when he returns from gathering baking ingredients. “What on earth? Why didn’t he send you a selfie back?”
“Oh, I didn’t think to ask,” Jin says. He writes, ‘No selfie, Joon?’
After a couple of minutes Namjoon replies with a picture of himself in the library. His chin is propped on a desk, surrounded by hardbacks in muted colours. He’s wearing his glasses, one eye closed in a wink, mouth pursed in a half smile, half pout. It says, ‘I don’t usually send selfies. All of my instagram posts are planned well in advance.’
‘I’m honoured,’ Jin replies, and saves the picture. He gets Jaehwan to take a picture of Jin with a melon in each hand and a lecherous expression, and he sends it to Namjoon with the caption, ‘Sometimes spontaneous can be good.’
Namjoon replies, ‘Do you mind if I save that? I think you could make me laugh at any time of day.’
‘You think I’m funny?’ Jaehwan writes from Jin’s phone while he’s off getting eggs. ‘And feel free to save any picture I send you.’
Jin returns to his phone to see Namjoon’s reply to a message he didn’t send, and it says, ‘You’re a lot of things. Funny is in there, but I know that’s not all there is. I like all of you.’
Jin tries not to scream, or drop the eggs.
He makes Namjoon some Mandu dumplings on Saturday, and they skype Jungkook together, who lights up like a Christmas tree when he sees Namjoon.
“And Jin,” Jin says.
Jungkook giggles. “And Jin. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too. How are classes going?”
“Better than I thought they ever could.” He looks at Namjoon. “You’ve helped me a lot, thank you so much.”
Namjoon waves him off. “You’re better than you think you are, it’s a trait you share with Jin.”
Jungkook nods like he understands completely. Jin gapes for a while, but his companions seem uninterested in waiting for him to catch up. They start talking about video games while Jin sits reeling.
He zones back in when Jungkook asks Namjoon if he’s met Yoongi yet, and when Namjoon shakes his head Jungkook shoots Jin a heavy look he doesn’t understand.
“Why hasn’t Yoongi met Namjoon yet?”
“He’s always out when Namjoon comes over,” Jin says. Even as they speak Yoongi is at a writing class, closely followed by studio time. His weekends are finite and each second is used with efficiency.
“You need to meet Yoongi,” Junkook tells Namjoon. “You’ll really like him. He’s short and kind of shy sometimes, but he’s cool.”
“Glowing praise,” Jin says dryly.
“I’d like to meet him,” Namjoon says. “It sounds like we’d have a lot in common.”
“More than you could know,” Jungkook says.
“What on earth are you talking about?” Jin complains. “You’re acting like a secret villain.”
Jungkook scratches his nose and looks away. “Just because you’re stupid and blind doesn’t mean the rest of us are. Just make him meet Yoongi.”
Jungkook leaves to go to an evening track event, and twenty minutes later Namjoon has fallen asleep midway through an episode of Next Top Model, his laptop and assignment slipping further and further towards the edge of his lap. Jin gently takes it and places it on the table, then gets a blanket for him, because the weather is still quite cold and he doesn’t want Namjoon to get chills.
They nap together, and then wake up late evening with far too much energy.
“Karaoke?” Jin suggests, not hoping for much.
Namjoon grins. “That sounds fun.”
So they go to the nearest Karaoke bar, hire a private room for too much money, and then spend two hours screaming out ballads in what is probably the most atrocious rendition of popular songs ever attempted by man.
Jin laughs so much he cries, and Namjoon trips over the microphone wire and lands on the floor next to Jin. He’s laughing too.
They lie there on the floor and laugh together, their hands almost touching.
Jin tries not to notice it.
It’s nearing three in the morning on Wednesday night (Thursday morning) when he receives a phone call from a panicked Namjoon, who is far too awake for the time of day.
“What’s up?” Jin mumbles through his foggy brain. He tries to open his eyes, but the grit of sleep stings and he flops back onto his pillow.
“I dyed my hair- should have waited until daylight, but I couldn’t sleep and this assignment isn’t going anywhere and tomorrow I have like seven tutorials for undergrad language students that I can’t afford to miss but I think I’ve fucked up my hair.”
“Why me?” Jin asks, not bothering for eloquence. He’s too tired to feel any kind of special, either, because all he wants is to hang up and go back to sleep.
Namjoon sounds lost, like he barely knows the answer himself. “You seem like the kind of person to know what to do and I trust you.”
Jin groans. “Goddamn it Namjoon! You had to go and say something nice, didn’t you?”
He ignores Namjoon’s sputtering and climbs out of bed, stretching before he puts the phone on speaker while he searches for some clothes.
“-Jin, Jin stop dressing I just wanted some advice, Google is being useless and my housemate is staying with his girlfriend, just tell me what to do and I-“
“Do you have coconut oil?” Jin interrupts, pulling out his sneakers. They’re old and worn, and his jumper is about thirty sizes too big, but he’s willing to look homeless at this time in the morning. He’s willing to forgo his beauty for Namjoon, even if it ends up pushing him further away. Is he being too dramatic because he’s overtired and has a seminar at nine? Yes. That’s just fine.
“Coconut oil? No, I don’t have any. Do I need some?”
“It helps to lift dye out of skin. You don’t have any, so I’ll bring some when I arrive. Send me your address.”
“Stop saying my name and just send me your address, Joon,” Jin says tiredly, putting on his glasses, no time or patience for contact lenses. This is the epitome of true commitment, and he hasn’t even risked the removal of coconut oil from Yoongi’s room yet. He’s scary to wake up, scarier than Jin’s seminar, scarier than his apparently dignity-defying adoration for Kim Namjoon.
Namjoon sighs. “Okay. Okay, I’ll send it over now, I don’t live far from you. Thanks, Jin.”
“Don’t thank me yet, I haven’t survived Yoongi,” Jin says grimly.
“I’ll explain when I see you, if I survive. Wish me luck.”
“Good luck, I think.”
Yoongi doesn’t kill him, just makes a squeaky, pathetically cute noise before curling into a tighter ball under his covers when Jin turns his bedroom light on and demands use of the coconut oil.
“It’s not for sex,” he explains as he rummages. “Namjoon dyed his hair.”
“Didn’t ask, fuck off.”
“Actually, it’s suspicious that you have it in your room.”
“It’s for my calluses. Go away, Jin.”
So he plants a sloppy kiss on the tiny fluff of hair visible through Yoongi’s sheets and leaves, turning out the light and leaving Yoongi’s grumbling form in darkness.
Outside, the air is cold and sharp, but for once the sky is clear, and watching the smattering of visible stars is a gentle way to wake Jin from the clingy hands of slumber as he follows his phone’s map towards the dot of Namjoon’s apartment block.
So concerned with the sky, he almost trips over Namjoon’s legs as he arrives, he would have fallen on his face if Namjoon hadn’t reached out and grabbed his jumper.
“Woah, steady. Are you okay?”
Jin scowls. “Why are you outside, sat on the floor?”
Namjoon stands and dusts off his sweats. “You can’t get in without a keycard, so I thought I’d wait for you.”
“Your hair is wet, idiot! You could make yourself ill!”
And it’s not dark from water, it’s just dark. Not black, but a deep, chocolate brown. There’s dye on his temples and the skin under his ears, and he looks lost as he stares at Jin. “I just didn’t want you waiting around outside on your own while I came down. I’m on the third floor.”
“Idiot.” Jin scolds him again and pushes him forward with one hand. “Come on then, let’s fix your hair before it falls out.”
Namjoon’s eyes widen in alarm. “It could fall out?”
Jin hides his smile behind his hand. “Only if we get inside and you don’t make me a cup of tea. I hear that ignoring host’s etiquette is really detrimental to...” he falters, thinking on the spot, “...to scalp health. Yeah.”
“Scalp health? That sounds like a woman’s magazine.”
Jin giggles as he’s lead into Namjoon’s... hideously disorganised apartment. He forgets, sometimes, that not everyone has someone as neat as Yoongi to live with, though most of the clothes in disarray, most of the books and sheets appear to be Namjoon’s. “Scalp Health Weekly, and in today’s issue we discuss five secrets your hairdressers aren’t telling you! Plus an exclusive interview with Kim Namjoon, resident scholar that coated himself in hair dye. Tell us Namjoon, how are you feeling?”
Namjoon’s tired eyes smile wider than his mouth. “I was scared when it happened, but I’m feeling much better now. I think your interviewer might be calming my nerves.”
“I’m sure he’s glad to be of service,” Jin replies, smiling. “Now get me a towel, a bowl of warm water, conditioner, and then sit down where I can reach your head.”
Namjoon is nothing if not a good listener, and he complies with the haste of someone worried their hair might fall out. He forgets to make Jin a drink, but thats fine, because after a couple of minutes Jin has his hands in Namjoon’s soft hair and is rubbing coconut oil into the skin, lifting the dye out. It coats his hands in sticky brown, but he can deal with it. He can deal with anything if it means Namjoon drifts into sleep with his head thrown back over the chair he’s in, mouth slightly open. Looking down at Namjoon, Jin feels something in his chest that had already flourished bloom once more. Instead of a flower or tree in his chest there’s an entire forest, and Namjoon is a wave of fresh spring air.
One of Namjoon’s eyes cracks open as Jin begins to wipe his face with the tips of the towel. “Are we done?”
“You need to wash the coconut oil out of your hair now,” Jin says in a quiet voice. “Shampoo and use conditioner again, okay?”
“Yeah, thanks. If you wait I’ll make you that tea you wanted.”
It’s closer to four now, and Jin still has a seminar at nine. “Sure,” he says, and takes a seat while Namjoon pads to the bathroom on unsteady legs.
He zones out, exhausted, until a cup of tea is placed on the coffee table in front of him.
“I like your glasses,” Namjoon says. “They really frame your face.”
Jin smiles sleepily, his eyes already closed. “My beautiful face?”
Namjoon’s laughter is so soft that it sounds weightless. Whatever emotion is behind it is light as the air. “Yeah, Jin. Your beautiful face.”
“Your beautiful face too,” Jin mumbles senselessly. “You’re the most attractive person I’ve ever met, inside and out. ‘Joon, you’re great, you know that? Never understood Sandy until I met you.”
Namjoon sits down next to Jin heavily, but Jin doesn’t open his eyes. He might just sleep here instead of ever moving again. “Who is Sandy?”
“You know. Grease? Hopelessly devoted to you.”
It’s easier to speak when his eyes are closed and sleep is creeping in from the soft edges of his mind. “I did modelling last year for a while, did I ever tell you? I liked it. Liked the money and the admiration, but then the guy managing everything started giving me set diets. Told me I was fat if I didn’t follow the plan, told me I needed more muscle, needed to be more flexible, that my voice was annoying, that I needed to wear my contacts for shoots instead of my glasses. Made me feel like human garbage, and it turns out that when someone who doesn’t know their own worth looks for reassurance, too many people are happy to take advantage. Joon, you’re making me start to like my glasses again.”
“Jin.” It’s almost silent. Shocked, and maybe something deeper, veiled, but Jin pays it no mind.
“Can I stay here tonight? I’m so tired, Joon. I have a seminar at nine.”
“Why the fuck did you come here if you have a morning seminar?”
“Don’t be angry with me,” Jin murmurs, curling further in on himself. His tea is going to get cold, but he’s so comfortable, so warm. He’s not touching Namjoon, but this moment is enough. Just the sweet comfort of closeness is enough.
“I’m not angry Jin,” Namjoon says, but he sounds it. He sounds lost. “You can stay, but I’m not sure what time my housemate will be home, he’ll wake you up if you stay here on the couch, so I’ll take it. You can have my bed.”
“I’m not taking your bed, just throw me a blanket and I’ll stay here.”
“No, Jin. You need to get some real sleep.”
“I’m not getting in that bed.”
“Yes you are, or I’m walking you home to your own bed. You can choose.”
Jin cracks open one eye, but his vision is crappy from exhaustion. Namjoon’s face is a tanned blur. “Fine,” he says, already planning.
Namjoon stands and offers Jin a hand, then herds him into the bathroom and pulls out a spare toothbrush. Jin cleans his teeth and washes his face with all the thought of a zombie, takes the soft towel passed over and then follows Namjoon into the small bedroom taken up mostly by the bed, which makes Jin laugh.
“That’s a big bed for one guy.”
Namjoon sounds defensive when he says, “My legs are long.”
Jin hums and climbs in.
The bed smells like Namjoon, which would be terrible if he had any intention of sleeping in it alone, but as it is, Namjoon reaches over to grab a blanket on the far side of the mattress and Jin grabs the front of his shirt, pulling him unceremoniously onto the bed. Namjoon lands on his front and makes a surprised, wheezing noise into the pillow, but Jin is already taking his glasses off, pulling the sheets over them both.
“Time to sleep,” he says, patting vaguely on what he hopes is Namjoon’s shoulder.
“You need to sleep too,” Jin says firmly, already halfway to oblivion, the only thing keeping him awake being Namjoon’s stiff form. “You have a busy day tomorrow and you don’t wanna waste the freshly dyed hair by looking shitty and overtired, do you? I’m only staying in the bed if you do too.”
“Shut up and sleep.”
“Is going to sleep now,” Jin says, and pats Namjoon’s shoulder again. He rolls over. “If you aren’t asleep next to me when I wake up I’m gonna be really angry. You don’t want that, do you?”
It takes a long time for Namjoon to reply, slightly strangled, “No.”
Jin hums and curls up. “Goodnight.”
“Night, Jin. Thank you for coming.”
“I always want to see you,” Jin says, one last stupid admittance before he falls into sleep. “I’ll always come.”
He wakes up briefly, because Namjoon hadn’t closed the curtains, and early morning light is the reason Jin invested in blackout blinds. He’s unbearably hot, unbearably muddled, but there’s a nose.
A nose pressed against the back of his neck.
There’s a heavy arm slung over the curve of his waist.
Breath tickling his ear.
Thighs pressed against his thighs, an arm under his head, a body pressed to his own.
Namjoon groans, disgruntled, and Jin realises that he’d locked his body, snapped rigid as soon as he’d realised where he was and what was happening.
“I forgot to close the curtains,” Namjoon whispers, then groans again. He clambers out of the bed and yanks the curtains across the window, dousing the room in darkness once more, then climbs back into the bed and wiggles into the exact position he had left, rubbing his nose down the side of Jin’s neck. “Sorry, sorry. You can go back to sleep, Jin, okay, just sleep.”
“Yeah,” Jin whispers. He’s asleep again before he can think about it.
When he wakes up again, the bed is empty, his alarm shrieking from where his phone is resting on the bedside cabinet next to his glasses. The smell of coffee is potent enough for Jin to stumble into the bathroom, brush his teeth, and then continue onto the kitchen where Namjoon is sat writing something with a fast, steady hand.
“Coffee’s out of you want it,” Namjoon says by way of greeting, pausing his pen to smile at Jin, and it just feels so natural, so domestic, so right that Jin doesn’t think about it when he leans over and presses a kiss to Namjoon’s lips.
There are a few precious seconds where the only thing in his mind and his heart is Namjoon’s mouth, the soft swell of his lips, the way Jin’s mouth can slide so perfectly overtop, like they were made to kiss each other.
Then he realises what he’s doing, what he’s done.
He realises that Namjoon isn’t kissing back.
Jin yanks himself backwards, stumbles a few steps. Namjoon is wide eyed and silent, mouth slightly open, lips wet.
“Oh fuck,” Jin whispers. Then, louder but still aimed at himself, “Oh fuck.”
“Jin,” Namjoon says, and then stops. He hasn’t blinked.
“I’m-“ Oh fucking hell. “I’m, I’ll go. I’m going. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
He practically sprints out of the apartment, all the way back to his own, then clambers into Yoongi’s bed. He presses his icy nose to Yoongi’s neck, feels the smaller man tense before relaxing again.
“I fucked up,” Jin whispers. “I keep fucking up, Yoongi.”
“Did you shit yourself?”
It startles a laugh out of him. “No, nothing that messy.”
Yoongi makes a soothing noise in his throat, eyes still closed, body still lax. “Anything is easier to clean than shit stains, so don’t worry. Go to sleep.”
“Okay,” he says, though he has to leave for his seminar in like twenty minutes. He can humour Yoongi for the time being and ignore the fact that the world keeps turning despite his own problems.
“If he doesn’t love you back, you need to distance yourself from him.”
He texts Namjoon at midday, gritty eyed and overtired after his seminar.
‘I’m sorry. Can we forget last night happened please?’
Because Jin doesn’t want to think about the kiss. Painfully obvious, painfully open.
Namjoon doesn’t reply until the late evening.
‘Sure, Jin. If you want to forget it then that’s what’ll happen.’
Namjoon doesn’t bring it up on Saturday.
The class bakes buns, because one girl had requested to learn so that she could contribute to her local bake sales, and Jin had been happy to teach something especially simple.
“Are you coming over today?” he asks Namjoon as neutrally as possible. Namjoon barely looks up from his icing.
“No, sorry, I have plans.”
“Yeah, a blind date. My friends think they have a right to be involved in my love life, I guess.”
“Oh,” Jin says. He doesn’t say, I thought you were done with ditching me for dates, because he realises how jealous it would be, how petty. He has no right. “Cool.”
Namjoon hums, still not looking up. “Apparently he’s a science major, models and acts in his spare time. Sounds interesting.”
“Cool,” Jin says again, stomach knotting into a tight, painful ball.
So Namjoon leaves at the end of the class along with everyone else, and once they’re gone Jin collapses into a ball and cries next to the ovens until he can bring himself to fumble for his phone and ring Yoongi.
Only, he accidentally rings Jungkook, who panics in the face of Jin’s sobs, hanging up to ring Yoongi and direct him to Jin’s whereabouts.
When he arrives, Yoongi is in all black, his hair wild, his eyes burning. “Jin?”
Jin waves a hand from where he’s sat on the floor, no longer crying, just sniffling. “Can we go get pizza and sit on the swings?”
Yoongi bends down and offers a hand. His chest is heaving like he’d been running, had probably sprinted all the way from the apartment to find Jin. “Yeah, let’s go get pizza.”
“He models in his spare time.”
“So? You used to model.”
“I don’t look like I did back then,” Jin replies bitterly. The pizza might have something to do with it, but that doesn’t stop him from eating it.
“You don’t look the same, but no one ever does,” Yoongi replies. “You look happier, though not right now. You look better than you did. Smiles suit you more than fancy clothes ever have.”
“A model,” Jin repeats. “He acts too. And science. How can I compete with that?”
Yoongi sighs. “If you’re going to mope, can you save it until I’m home tonight? I have to help some of the freshmen in the studio in like an hour, won’t be home until late. Can you wait until then?”
“Get rid of that plushie he gave you.”
Yoongi sighs again. “I swear I’m going to kill you both.”
“A model,” Jin says again, mournfully, just to watch Yoongi scowl. They both smile, small and shaky, but there. Jin goes home with his stomach full and curls up on the couch, the plushie pressed against his chest.
He must fall asleep at some point, because he wakes to knocking on the door, and the sun is setting.
“Yoongi did you forget your keys again?” Jin calls as he pads to the door and begins unlocking it. “If you would just get a dish like normal people instead of dumping them on the floor you’d-“
It’s not Yoongi.
Namjoon is stood there, looking worse for wear. He’s red in the face and kind of sweaty, his chest heaving. Wilted flowers are clutched in one hand, a Ryan plushie in the other.
Jin almost swallows his tongue.
“Jungkook rang me,” Namjoon says.
“Oh,” Jin replies, but it doesn’t actually come out as sound.
“I went on my date. My phone was turned off, so I only got the messages he left me. God, he was angry, I haven’t heard him like that before. He’s really protective, I didn’t realise. Can I come in?”
Jin steps to the side and lets Namjoon into the apartment, closing the door behind him and following him to the couch where they both stand awkwardly. Namjoon looks down at the Ryan plushie Jin had been cuddling, then to the one in his hand, and smiles. Jin can’t even bring himself to be embarrassed.
“Why are you here, Namjoon?”
“I went on my date.”
“I heard you the first time.”
“He’s a swimmer, did I mention that?”
Bitter sadness tastes awful, and Jin has a hard time swallowing it down. “A scientist, model, actor, and swimmer. Wonderful.”
“Yeah, he’s a catch. He’ll make someone really lucky.”
Jin nods, then pauses. “Wait, what?”
“I mean, he’s great, just not for me.”
“I’m in love with you. No one else even comes close. He’ll just have to swim in the other direction.”
Jin’s voice is tiny when he says, “Is this a joke? Are you laughing at me?”
Namjoon puts down the flowers and the plushie, smiles at Jin. “Jungkook was so furious, Jin, so fucking mad at me and I didn’t get why until he finally spat out that I’d made you cry, and then I was mad at myself. You shouldn’t cry over me.”
He’s close to it now. “Don’t tell me what to do,” he sniffs.
Namjoon laughs, frames Jin’s face with his hands. “It’s not a joke, I’m not making fun of you. I thought... I thought you regretted it. I thought you didn’t want me.”
“How the hell could you ever think that?”
“Jin, have you seen yourself?”
“Shut up, you’re perfect!” Jin says. He’s maybe crying again, but goddamn it he lives by no one’s rules but his own. His heart is hammering, caught between fear and hope. “How could you think I wouldn’t want you? I’ve spent the past half a year doing nothing but want you. Why didn’t you kiss me back?”
“I was shocked. I didn’t think you would ever... I mean come on Jin. Kim Seokjin, life and soul of the university? I knew about you from my first day as a freshman, everyone knows you. Everyone loves you. I didn’t think you’d love me back.”
“That’s because you’re fucking stupid when you want to be,” Jin mumbles, though his heart is splitting open into a painful bloom. “You’re thick for a genius.”
Namjoon’s smile brings his dimple out into full bloom. “I saw you at one of my talks a few weeks ago, and that’s the first time I’ve been nervous on a stage in years. God, Jin, you make me so nervous. I never know what to say, my words get all muddled and I get even clumsier than I usually am. Nothing comes out right and I freeze and you laugh with me anyway. I love it when you laugh. I love it when you smile.” He breaks off to shake his head, smiling ear to ear. “God, I’m so scared right now. Jin, I love you. I really, really love you. I can’t believe a teenager shouted at me for breaking your heart and all this time I’ve been wondering if I’ve been reading you wrong.”
“Say it again,” Jin whispers.
“I love you.”
“You won’t ditch me on Saturdays anymore?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“No more dates?”
“Not unless they’re with you.”
Jin wipes his eyes. “You love me?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Namjoon leans in and kisses Jin.
He doesn’t have to ask himself anymore, because now he knows.
TWO WEEKS LATER
Yoongi shifts in his chair uncomfortably. “This feels too formal. Couldn’t we have done it at home?”
“No, Namjoon wants to make a good first impression. He’s worried you won’t like him.”
“What, and a coffee shop is meant to assure him of my approval?”
“I told him you’re easier to handle when you’re caffeinated.”
Yoongi deflates. “Fair enough.”
They don’t have to wait much longer for Namjoon to arrive, and there’s no chance of Yoongi missing the entrance, as Namjoon trips almost as soon as he’s through the doors, knocking into an old woman’s table and spilling coffee all over his trousers.
Yoongi bites his lower lip, obviously fighting down a smile as Namjoon, not having noticed their table yet, scrambles for napkins and apologises over and over to the old woman, who is suitably startled by the whole thing.
“That’s him, huh?”
“Yeah. He gets clumsy when he’s nervous.” Jin’s so smitten that it hurts.
“That why I could hear you laughing the other night?”
“Yeah, he was trying to explain that he has a thing for my back and nearly brained himself on the dresser.”
Jin shrugs, smirking. “He likes the width of my shoulders.”
“Disgusting. Never speak to me again.”
Namjoon finally arrives, red in the face, coffee still on his trousers. “Hey, sorry about that.” He leans down to kiss Jin’s cheek and holds out a hand for Yoongi to shake. “Nice to meet you, I’m Kim Namjoon.”
“I’m Min Yoongi,” Yoongi replies, eying him carefully. “Jin says you like his shoulders.”
Jin grabs the table just in time for Namjoon to knee it, and thankfully nothing falls off, though his green tea sloshes out of the mug. Yoongi cackles.
“Stop being a bastard,” Jin snaps.
“Sorry, couldn’t help it,” Yoongi says, He’s smiling when he asks Namjoon, “I also hear you want to go into publishing? Funny coincidence, as I’m thinking about writing a book.”
Namjoon’s eyes light up, and Jin knows he’s officially out of the conversation for the next half an hour, as soon as Namjoon asks Yoongi what his favourite literary genre is. Ten minutes or so in, Namjoon links his fingers with Jin’s, so he doesn’t have much to complain about.
Instead, Jin just watches two of his favourite people talk about their futures. Namjoon is so confident that he’ll make it, Yoongi more wary but his ambition burning behind his eyes, moving him forward when his nerves would hold him back. They both know exactly what they want, and they’re determinted to have it.
“Hey,” Jin interrupts, sure of himself for the first time in years. “I’m going to open my own restaurant.”
Namjoon squeezes his hand, and Yoongi turns a smug smile Jin’s way. “We already knew that.”
FIVE YEARS LATER:
He can hear Yoongi arguing with Jungkook in the kitchen about which pasta to use. Wholewheat? White? What’s the difference? Why does it matter? Jimin and Hoseok are laughing, egging them on, throwing unlikely pasta scenarios into the already heated arguments.
Taehyung is the only quiet one, asleep on the sofa opposite Jin, his arms curled around a cushion, his mouth lax. He’s adorable, completely and utterly adorable, and Jin has already taken so many pictures to blackmail Jungkook with. He’ll be distraught that he’s missing Taehyung’s cuteness for the sake of arguing with Yoongi.
Namjoon, his arm over Jin’s shoulder, his breath warm against Jin’s ear, whispers, “Hoseok bought a ring today.”
Jin laughs softly, turns to face his husband. “Yoongi is gonna be mad. When is Hoseok thinking of proposing?”
“Next month, on their year anniversary, I think. He was gonna leave it longer, but he’s bursting at the seams with love.”
“Oh no, Yoongi is going to be so mad.”
“Why, is he not ready? I thought they were on the same wave.”
“He’s had a ring hidden in his desk for weeks. He’s gonna propose on their anniversary too.”
“Oh,” Namjoon says dumbly. “Yeah, he’s gonna be so pissed if Hoseok beats him to it. God, there’ll be carnage.”
“No one will escape with their lives,” Jin says. He presses a kiss to Namjoon’s lips because he can. Namjoon accepts it, then chases Jin’s mouth when he pulls back, because he can. They love each other and it’s great, never seems to get old. He’s still waiting for the day that he wakes up and doesnt immediately fall into a pit of love for Namjoon, but it has yet to happen, probably won’t ever. He’d send up a prayer that Yoongi and Hoseok have the same kind of success, but they don’t need it. Hoseok lights up every room, and Jin see’s his shine reflected in Yoongi’s eyes. They love each other and know how to support one another.
“Why am I not the one cooking?” Jin asks Namjoon. “They’ve been arguing about pasta for a long time now.”
“You cook for a living, I think Yoongi just wanted to give you a break,” Namjoon says. His smile is indulgent. “He’s nice like that.”
“He is,” Jin agrees. “But he’s a terrible cook.”
“That’s why Jungkook is in there arguing with him,” Namjoon replies. “Don’t worry, Hoseok won’t let him poison us.”
Namjoon shrugs. “For Yoongi, yeah, you’re probably right.”
Jin giggles, smacks Namjoon’s chest. “Well Jimin won’t let Yoongi kill us.”
“That’s more accurate.”
“This is a good birthday,” Jin says, thinking. “One of the best, actually.”
Namjoon hums, hugs him closer. “Really?”
“Yeah.” He’s in Yoongi’s apartment, listening to his friends argue, watching one of them sleep, while his husband holds him close. What else could he want?
“I’m glad,” Namjoon says. Softer, “I love you.”
Jin smiles again. “I love you too. Shall I go and make us dinner?”
“Please. I’m getting worried about violence, and driving to the ER would really ruin your special day.”
So Jin heaves himself off of the sofa and snatches pasta out of Yoongi’s hand, batting Jungkook’s head with his other hand. “Go and sit down and I’ll make it, you idiots.”
Hoseok snorts. “Want help?”
Namjoon wanders in. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.”
It’s sweet, but Namjoon spills boiling water on his hand and they end up in the ER anyway.
“My hands were shaking,” Namjoon murmurs as they wait together for a doctor. “I guess you still make me nervous.”