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OCTOBER

❆ ❅ ❄ ❅ ❆

 

Hoseok knows nothing about hockey. It’s hard to give more than a passing thought towards other sports when his entire career has been riding on championships and little else.

It’s been years since a Korean skater placed at Prix finals, much less grasping for the podium at the Olympics, squeaking past bronze with less than a quarter point difference. He’s always been somewhat of a stage whore anyway, obsessed with the crowd and less with the kiss and cry, but retirement’s a looming beast in the back of his closet and things suddenly start feeling a little more permanent than they used to.

Jimin’s calling it his midlife crisis. Hoseok wants to tell him to shut up, but he’s too busy crying over the phone to disagree.  

“God, press would be all over this if they knew,” he sniffs. It’s supposed to be a joke, but his voice goes tight and weird at the end and the next thing he knows, Jimin’s letting himself into Hoseok’s apartment to break their diet together.

“There goes my 3A,” Hoseok says, shoving another spoonful of ice cream in his mouth. Jimin’s making faces at him over his own tub — how sad is it that they keep each other’s favorite flavors in overstock at their own damn places — with those big, rounding eyes of his.

“You’re going to be fine,” he says firmly. He’s trying to be serious, and a good friend, but Hoseok’s automatic reaction to anything is to cover it up with bad jokes and a cheap laugh so he ducks his head and tries not to cry.

Hoseok sniffs, head lolling against the couch cushions. “Says you,” he pokes Jimin with his foot.

Their banter is mindless and half-hearted, both tired from practice. Jimin’s lucky to get out of the gym before five and still have the energy to call a cab to come to Hoseok’s apartment. They don't get to spend a lot of time together now that their careers really started to take off, but Jimin's here for Skate America and had pushed and his coaches finally let up and now he’s got a spare toothbrush crammed into his mouth in Hoseok’s tiny bathroom.

They’re close, closer than competitors should be, but it’s always been that way. The two of them fumbled their way up the levels as kids before Jimin left to train in Canada — something about being home that made him skate better — Hoseok flipping between the US and Korea and that one blessed year they weren’t against each other during the Prix circuit. He hadn’t placed, but Hoseok gotten a lot of media attention when his costume had ripped and he’d spent half his free skate trying to ignore the fact that he’d been the owner of a backless, strapless top that still hasn’t died — making it’s customary rounds on the internet pre-competition season.

Still, it’s Hoseok’s one day off tomorrow, the start of the season when breaks aren’t supposed to exist, but he’s just agreed sleepily to go with Jimin to a Bangtan game on grounds of wanting to ogle their goalie. Or one of them, at least.

“You want to get married and have three kids with him?” Hoseok asks, on the way to the venue. Jimin’s strangely excited about the rink (Hobi there’s all this stuff on the ice) and teaches him terms that go straight over his head (Chirping? Like a bird?). They’ve got their ISU badges on and related paraphernalia in Hoseok’s bag, hoping to cop some sort of right to hang around after the game so Jimin can wait for Taehyung to finish changing.

“Yea. I wanna fuck him so hard he can’t go to practice,” Jimin says seriously, ignoring the way their Lyft driver chokes, swerving hard into a nearby lane. “And then make him breakfast in bed afterwards.” 

When they get to the venue, Jimin takes Hoseok around to the back entrance instead of the ticket booth up front, flashing his badge like a pro. The guard looks at it for a long while, and then picks up his phone, asking Hoseok if he’s got the same clearance before he turns away and pulls out a binder from under his desk. It gets them tickets, eventually, ones right up to the glass, and another set of passes they have to hang alongside their ISU cards.

Hoseok contents himself following Jimin around the stadium, and sitting down when they find their seats. He’s not supposed to have soda or any of the concession stand snacks, so all he can do is wait there in agony for the game to start while the guy behind him very nearly pours hot dog grease all down the back of Hoseok’s shirt.

It’s intermission when the first pap finds them.

He’s a little too familiar with the names, shoving a camera in their faces and failing to sell the same three questions that have been beaten to death since Hoseok’s second year as a junior. Sweat beads up on the guy's forehead. “Incredible to see you two here tonight,” he's saying, overly cheerful. “I’d image you guys would be busy practicing for your next competition instead of coming to watch—”

Hoseok snorts, and ignores the thinly veiled insult. “Ah, day off,” he says, slathering his Korean accent on so thick the guy doesn’t know how to respond for a minute, blinking daftly from behind the camera. Jimin plays up the whole Canadian thing when the mic goes to him after, with eh’s and hoose and the pretty smiles, hands folded politely in his lap. They’re both capable of acting like adults sometimes, but it’s funny to spin this guy in circles, and at the very least, it gets him to leave before he can ask anything else.

When Bangtan wins 3-2, Jimin’s starry-eyed and bouncing his toes, waiting for both teams to clear the ice. He shoots to his feet as soon as the rest of the crowd does, and stays standing for a long while afterwards, even when the arena is empty and they’re waiting around for Taehyung to show.

“He’ll come out, don’t worry,” Jimin promises.

“”M not worrying,” Hoseok says. “It’s okay.”

It’s not long before Jimin makes a happy noise, turning away from Hoseok so he can run up to Taehyung and fling himself into his arms while Hoseok, very purposely, tries to keep his eyes fixed on his phone and not eavesdrop.

“Hi,” Jimin says, breathlessly. His feet dangle off the ground. Taehyung’s strong, and a little damp from his shower. It also looks like he’s dressed as fast as possible because he’s missing a sock and his shoes are on the wrong feet, but even Hoseok has to admit he really does look unreal even at a distance, something akin to a statue come to life. 

“Hi,” Taehyung says, a little awkwardly.  

“You were amazing tonight!”  

“Thanks,” he ducks his head. “Um, I didn’t know you were a fan.”

“A fan, yes. Big fan,” Jimin says. “Big, big fan.”

“Great,” he says, sounding strangled.

“Here’s my number,” Jimin says, once he’s on his feet again. He hands Taehyung a piece of paper, folded nicely, and reaches up to pinch his cheek. “You should text me sometime.”

Hoseok gets to his feet when they start talking about Yeontan, who, he learns, is actually a dog and not Taehyung's boyfriend, shoving his hands in his pockets to look for something to do. He checks his emails and then SNS, and looks up curiously when half the team spills out from the tunnel, yanking one of their teammates along.

Now, here’s the thing. Hoseok’s hot, he knows this. His body’s to die for, and he’s wearing skinny jeans instead of sweats tonight and a turtleneck that clings to his waist, but the guy that’s being shoved forward from the group is all sorts of well-proportioned — legs that go on for miles, a nervous laugh spearing dimples on his cheeks.  

“Do I speak Korean?” he’s hissing over his shoulder.

The short one shrugs. Hoseok remembers him from the ice. “He’s Korean right? Might as well.”

When Hoseok glances up from his phone again, the guy’s eyes are practically boring themselves into his skull as he inches his way across the floor. Hoseok pastes a dinky little smile on, and eyes the cell phones that come up the minute the skater’s face goes panicked and surprised, body snapping rigid into itself. His friends snicker behind him.

“Hello,” the guy says, very formally. “My name is Kim Namjoon, and I—”

His Korean’s not bad, not at all, but Hoseok can see how nervous he is, fumbling words and twisting his fingers together in the hem of his shirt.

“I can speak English,” Hoseok says, instead. He is not unkind, cracking a smile when it knocks Namjoon stupid, standing there in silence while he begs his friends for help.  

Eventually an overgrown kid with violently pink hair says, “Hyung’s a big fan of yours. He’s been watching you since you were a junior, and he thinks you should have more costumes like that one you wore for, uh, senior debut.”

Hoseok doesn’t know how to respond. He thinks his half smile drops off his face, tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

“No, I’m—” Namjoon blurts out, terrified. He takes a step forward, and ends up rolling an ankle and tripping his way to the floor, taking Hoseok down with him in a truly spectacular mess of limbs.

They hit the ground hard, Hoseok wincing when one of his shoulders cracks with the impact. Namjoon’s knee somehow ends up wedged between his legs, their faces are really fucking close, holy shit, his eyes are really pretty and his lips are— Hoseok’s blinking away stars at the edges of his vision and he can feel his pulse from where they’re pressed up together, that’s how bad it is, everything hurts from where the wind’s been knocked out of him from the fall.

Namjoon managed to get an arm under Hoseok’s head before he could give himself a concussion, and he hates to admit that he kind of likes the feeling Namjoon’s hand in his hair even though he’s trying not to panic, struggling to one elbow and pushing lightly on his shoulder. Hoseok’s let up without hesitation, but even that’s not fast enough for him to stop the embarrassed flush to creep up past the collar of his turtleneck. 

Hoseok scrambles to his feet and bows deeply, a full ninety degrees, and apologizes in this ugly, choked up voice before turning on his heel and pressing one hand tight over his mouth. He sprints towards the nearest exit, the double doors slamming shut behind him as he flees. It's nearly an Olympic year, and he's not about to get outed before he has another shot at gold.

Hoseok runs and runs and runs and doesn’t look back.

 

❆ ❅ ❄ ❅ ❆

 

koyabear

Hi, I hope I have the right person!

This is Kim Namjoon from Bangtan. Jimin gave me your KKT last night after you left.

You don’t have to respond to my messages, but I wanted to let you know that I really admire you as an both an artist and athlete, and I’m so sorry about what happened after the game.

I can’t excuse the actions of my teammates, and I apologize on their behalf.

Again, please don’t feel pressured to reply or anything, I just wanted to let you know that what happened was our fault, and I wish we could’ve met under better circumstances.

[sent 6:21pm]

mangmang
oh
namjoon
hi

mangmang
sorry
i do not know what to say
thank you for messaging me 

mangmang
it feels strange because
you have been following my career for so long
except i don’t know about hockey
i am sorry about that
[sent 11:58pm]

 

 

koyabear
no it’s ok 

mangmang
please do not post that video because
the season is starting
[emoji]

koyabear
they won’t i promise
im so sorry again 

mangmang
my publicist will speak to your team soon?
sorry, i can not have scandal floating around
[emoji] 

mangmang
and jimin gave you my ktalk…
you must be very charming then. 

koyabear
oh okay i’ll let her know you’ll be in contact
and no i dont think im that charming ahaha 

mangmang
my team will handle everything
you do not need to message me about it
don't worry too much 

koyabear
okay
sorry again 

mangmang
it’s ok 

koyabear
idk i just
sorry this is such an awkward time to tell you but
i’ve looked up to you since you were 14
and you’re kinda like my real life hero uhhh

mangmang
oh…

mangmang
since i was 14?
that’s a long time 

koyabear
let me make it up to you?
i don’t think you’d want to come to another practice
like coffee or dinner maybe?
we’re probably both on diets anyway lol
we can get chicken and broccoli together
[sent 1:56pm]

mangmang
i don’t drink coffee but dinner sounds ok
are you in town this week?
[sent 11:31pm] 

koyabear
yeah our next couple games are at home

mangmang
you can text me the address to any restaurant
and i do not have dietary restrictions 

mangmang
for one night only :-) 

koyabear
oh cool
i can also have no dietary restrictions
for one night only :-) 

koyabear
how does 7pm for tuesday sound?
i can get us reservations 

mangmang
reservations? is this place really expensive...

koyabear
uhh
dont worry about the price
my fault, my team 

mangmang
i cant ask you to do that
we hardly know each other 

koyabear
it’s on me i promise
not much of an apology dinner if you’re paying too right?
[sent 2:03am]

mangmang
Okay
Thank you.
[sent 9:45am]

 

❆ ❅ ❄ ❅ ❆

 

To say Namjoon’s nervous is an understatement.

He’d showered an extra twenty minutes today and even washed his hair, furiously scrubbing out hockey stink from his skin in an attempt to match Hoseok’s level of plain fucking pretty. Seokjin’s over, and he eyes all of Namjoon’s outfits before he sends him back to his room to change when something doesn't meet his standards.

“I’ve seen Jung Hoseok,” he grunts, yanking the hem of Namjoon’s shirt down all the way. “For a max of maybe thirty seconds with my own two eyes,” he slides Namjoon’s skinny jeans lower on his hips. “And I know for a fact that he’s so far out of your league you can't even see the league.”

Namjoon's not...entirely sure what that means. “Thanks, hyung,” he says dryly.

Seokjin had arrived at five and had been pestering him ever since, making sure he got out the door at the right time, and even a little early for their reservation at a restaurant downtown.

Hoseok had said something about money — which left Namjoon confused, thinking about prize wins and his rankings and all sorts of championship titles in his back pocket — but Namjoon has an obscene number of zeroes sitting in his bank account and he figures this is the place he can splurge and not ask too many questions.

He arrives at Constellations Steakhouse and Bar ten minutes early, waving goodbye to Seokjin in the parking lot.

Hoseok, to his credit, is very punctual. He arrives the minute Namjoon’s phone flips to 7:00 PM on his lockscreen, sliding his shades off when he walks in. He either doesn’t see Namjoon right away or he’s too busy thinking of something else because he stands there for a moment, long enough for Namjoon to note his nice shoes and expensive looking skinny jeans and a shirt that’s all silk and unbuttoned so far it’s nearly indecent. He’s got his phone in one hand which he uses to check the time, and then glances over at the smooth line of seats until he stops at Namjoon, almost surprised to see him sitting there.

Namjoon gets to his feet politely. He meets Hoseok halfway. They exchange pleasantries and handshakes and Hoseok even offers him a smile, as weak as it is.

“Thanks for coming,” Namjoon says, quietly relieved that the two of them arrived at different times. He already knows which table they’re supposed to sit — the one in the corner, half hidden by potted trees and a changing screen. He guides Hoseok over with a hand over the small of his back, some unconscious, forgotten habit of his.

“Thanks for inviting me,” Hoseok says, quiet. He’s not quite meeting Namjoon’s eye, busying himself with the menu and studying restaurant decor when they sit down. Their table is big enough that both their legs fit comfortably underneath, but their knees bump when Hoseok scoots his chair in at first. It sends a giddy thrill through Namjoon’s chest, but he swallows it down and stares hard at the drinks section for the next minute.

There are things Namjoon notices about Hoseok now, things that the cameras don’t pick up, and only serve to make him more real. Tangible. The way his cheeks dimple, and eats his bread crust-first. He keeps fiddling with his ring, and he has this cute accent when he talks in English — barely noticeable, but softens the edges of his vowels; Hoseok admits that he’s embarrassed about it after they order.

It takes a while for the conversation to warm up between them, but by the time their food arrives, Hoseok’s smiling shyly down into his plate as Namjoon gushes about Worlds last year.

“That SP was flawless,” he insists. Hoseok shakes his head. “Okay sure, you did a 2A instead of a triple axel, but who cares?” he says. “Your interpretation of the music; it’s amazing. Everyone’s all about hiking up their PCS but I really think that you bring something different to skating—”

Hoseok ducks his head, “Please, no,” he says, laughing. “I don’t know anything about hockey and you're talking to me about my career like a commentator.”

Namjoon’s fork almost misses his mouth. “Oh,” he says. “I can stop if you want me to.”

“Not like that,” Hoseok says, touching the back of Namjoon’s hand lightly. It’s a split second, and barely any pressure, but Namjoon feels the heat of his fingers spread all the way up his arm. Hoseok smiles at him, eyes crinkling. “I want to talk about you too. You’re Korean?” 

“Korean American,” Namjoon says. He twists pasta around his fork just for something to do. He’s awkward and bad around people sometimes, and he’s sitting across from Hoseok who — granted, isn’t anything like Seokjin — but still way out of his league; he doesn’t think he’s anything that special. Hoseok nods attentively though, resting his head on his hand. “My parents immigrated here, so I can speak and write okay.” 

“How did you get into hockey then?” Hoseok asks. He hasn’t even touched his food yet.

“Got sent to Canada for school,” Namjoon explains. He says his next sentence through a mouthful of pasta, and forgets he shouldn’t speak when he’s chewing, even if he’s shoved most of the noodles into one cheek. Hoseok doesn’t seem to mind, staring at him with this sweet half-smile on his face. He’s smitten, so clearly, very smitten, but Namjoon can’t really think straight right now, if at all. “So I got put on skates my first day at school and never really took them off after.”

“Then you got drafted in the NHL.”

Namjoon ducks his head. “Then I got drafted in the NHL.”

“Not easy huh,” Hoseok says. “Breaking into the professional world.”

Namjoon shrugs. “I try not to take myself too seriously, I guess,” he says. “Going pro wasn’t really a dream of mine until one day I woke up and I realized it’s all I ever wanted to do because I— sorry talking about skating again,” Hoseok waves him off, “Until I saw your Chopinania program. I was like, oh God Kim Namjoon, you better get your act together.”

Hoseok frowns. “I was fourteen,” he says.

Namjoon shrugs. “You made me cry so I figured. I— I figured, um, that I should just keep following you and I did and,” he stutters. “And. Yeah.”

Hoseok’s looking at him with something in his eyes that Namjoon can’t name, all raw underneath, and he thinks, suddenly, that maybe this is the first time Hoseok’s talked about his career so openly outside his circle of skating friends. 

Instead, Namjoon says: “You’re not eating your steak.”

Hoseok barely glances at his plate. “I’m not that hungry.”

Namjoon furrows his brows. “Don’t you have practice tomorrow?”

Hoseok smiles at him again, and this time it’s genuine — eyes crinkling at the corners, cheeks full. “I’m too tired, if I’m being honest,” he says. “I don’t think I can even lift my hand up anymore.”

“I can feed you,” Namjoon blurts out, and then immediately tries to shove his metaphorical foot into his mouth.

He’s expecting the same reaction from Hoseok that he’d gotten in the stadium — the wild, hunted look of someone looking to escape — but then Namjoon glances up at him, and he’s actually leaning in, leaning in and pushing his plate closer to his side of the table. “Yeah,” Hoseok says amiably. “Yeah, okay.”

Namjoon stares at the steak knife for a long time before picking it up.

His hand is shaking when he lifts the first piece up to Hoseok’s lips, stupidly grateful that he’s met halfway, Hoseok tucking his legs under himself as he scoots his chair forward. He chews quietly, then makes a happy little noise when he swallows.

The rest of dinner passes this way: uneventful and really, really awful for Namjoon’s sanity. The bill comes, and Hoseok sits straight up in his chair, color draining from his face. “Shit,” he says. “I didn’t even think—”

“No, I got it,” Namjoon says, fighting for the check. He hands his credit card over when their waiter comes back, waving off Hoseok’s well-meaning fumble for his wallet.

They walk to the door, hands brushing, waiting awkwardly while Namjoon tries to think of something to say.

“Thank you,” Hoseok says. He smiles easier now, and bigger, looking at Namjoon differently.

They loiter outside the door of the restaurant for what feels like ages, until Namjoon turns to Hoseok and asks: “Do you want to come to my place?” but it still comes as a surprise when Hoseok shrugs, and says—

“Sure.” 

They end up taking Hoseok’s car. Namjoon pulls up Google Maps on his phone to tell him where to turn, trying not to feel bad when Hoseok’s beat-up, second hand sedan looks mortifyingly out of place in Namjoon’s nice neighborhood. There’s the whole money thing again, and he feels like Hoseok’s death grip on his steering wheel means he doesn’t want to talk about it either.

Hoseok stops in the doorway of Namjoon’s house, a little breathless and so frozen he doesn’t take his shoes off — just stands there and cranes his neck up to take in the entire foyer, barely breathing.

“It is so big,” he says, laughing a little. “Um,” he swallows, taking the slippers that Namjoon offers him. “Your house is beautiful,” he says, stuffing his hands into his pockets. He feels poor and stupid here. He doesn’t know why he let Namjoon invite him over.

“Make yourself at home,” he says, moving easily through to the kitchen.

Hoseok takes his time walking around, trailing his hand across the marble and granite and furniture he could only ever hope of owning. There are things more expensive than Hoseok’s entire apartment — the one that he chose because utilities are covered and he can’t really afford anything else.

“Do you want a drink?” Namjoon asks, tugging his fridge open. “A beer or something? I’ve got a shit load leftover from training camp,” he says, voice muffled as he digs around the drawers.

Even his kitchen appliances are state of the art. Hoseok knows for a fact that stainless steel doesn’t just stay that bright without constant scrubbing or a homeowner that never uses his stove.  

“Ah, I don’t drink,” he says, settling on a bar stool.

Namjoon shuts the fridge door. It’s almost a foot taller than he is. “Oh, that’s chill,” he says. He tosses Hoseok a bottle of OJ, unopened. “Hope that’s okay.”

He’s technically not allowed fruit juices, but he did tell Namjoon that he’s got a one night pass on his dietary restrictions, so he pops the cap and downs half of it in one go. He doesn’t mean to, and isn’t even that thirsty to begin with, but he’d rather not talk to Namjoon if he can help it — not sure what would come out of his mouth if he did.

Somehow the two of them end up in the study, Hoseok’s eyes going wide when he sees Namjoon's KAWS collection, pressing his face up to the glass and asking if he can touch. Then comes the studio, then all his jerseys, then the trophies that he’d won with what Hoseok assumes is the little league version of hockey as a kid.

Namjoon startles when his phone goes off, tumbling off the couch as he fumbles to unzip his pocket, grinning sheepishly as he picks up. “Eomma,” he says, rubbing his hip with one hand. “Hi, how are you doing?”

Hoseok’s throat clams up.

It’s difficult to listen to their conversation, all sorts of dumb, every-day talking that Namjoon’s familiar with. He asks about a dog, then about dad, then if his cousins are doing well. He tells his mom to eat more, and to stop sending him things that aren’t in his diet plan because his nutritionist will kill him if he eats his body mass in meat again.

“I’m doing fine, don’t worry,” Namjoon says. “I gained more weight than last season though, so coach is happy.”

His mom replies with something unintelligible.  

“Yeah, yeah,” he hums, shooting Hoseok a concerned look. “Look— eomma, I gotta go. Um, I’m kinda busy right now,” he says. “I have someone over, um. Okay. Okay, cool. Love you,” he says. “Call me later— yup. Okay, bye.”

Hoseok gets to his feet before Namjoon can say anything else.

“I’m going to go,” he says in a rush.

Namjoon opens his mouth, then closes it again.

“I have morning practice,” he says. “Sorry.”

Namjoon looks like he wants to say something else, but Hoseok’s already on his feet and what comes out of his mouth is: “No, no, I get it,” Namjoon says. “I’ll walk you to the door.”

He actually ends up walking Hoseok all the way to his car, shivering a little when the wind picks up. His house looks so big and lonely from here, the garage lights on but the rest of it dark.

“Before you go,” Namjoon says. “I’m really sorry for what happened.”

Hoseok’s rolled down the window of the passenger side of the car, and Namjoon leans over from where he stands on the curb, arms folded over the open door. His eyes are soft when he lets out a breath, not heavy enough to be a sigh. “Thank you, Namjoon,” Hoseok says. “Really.”

“And, um,” he stutters. “I think it was all just a misunderstanding, if you,” he shakes his head. “If you want to come to practice sometime, I’m sure the guys would want to apologize and talk it out.”

Hoseok gives him a smile, and it’s strange around the edges. “I’ll text you on KTalk,” he says. “I’ll see when I’m free.” 

“Cool,” Namjoon grins. “Drive safe.”

“I will,” he says, and it’s almost uncomfortably domestic, sitting heavy in Hoseok’s chest. “‘Night.”

Namjoon steps back, waving as Hoseok rolls the window up. “Night,” he says, one hand in his pocket.

 

❆ ❅ ❄ ❅ ❆

 

People don’t really know is how hard it’s been. Hoseok doesn’t talk about that kind of stuff. How he paid for everything himself: blades and boots and the handmade costumes. The rink hours. The coaching fees.

When sponsorships start coming in after senior debut, Hoseok’s quality of life goes up significantly. The only problem is that he’s so far in debt none of it matters anyway: his parents’ debt, his sister’s debt, his family’s debt. His own debt. Add on twenty years of slogging through major surgery and rental costs and plane tickets and hotel stays and Hoseok has very little of anything left over.

He tries to be friendly, he really does, but he thinks it’s something about his ruthlessness for gold that keeps the cameras at a distance. At this point, Hoseok’s head is so full of…everything that he’s afraid stopping means he’s going to crash. So he doesn’t.

He warms up in the rink half an hour before he’s supposed to start, skating lazy circles and figure eights as he swings his arms back and forth. His knee’s started to bother him again, and he knows it’s because he didn’t take enough time off after the operation last year, but Olympic season is around the corner and he can’t afford to waste time now. He figures he’ll just push through Worlds and then collapse after it’s all over.  

Alone, Hoseok thinks about the night before at Namjoon’s place. His nice house and his pretty smile and the fact that he’d covered dinner, all as an extended apology. His fingers and soft wrists and the cut of his shoulders underneath his shirt; it clung to him well. He was polite. He was funny, a little dumb sometimes, like he wanted to slam his knee into the bottom of their dinner table every time he opened his mouth. Even if he texted Hoseok and did nothing else, he’d be impressed with the fact that Jimin chose to give his KTalk handle to someone else without Hoseok being there. 

Sondeuk shows up, and Hoseok forces out three clean skates before collapsing on the ice. He feels a little like punching the air afterwards, but he still hasn’t run through his FS yet and it’s making him nervous.

His coach calls for lunch, and Hoseok breaks off to put his blade guards on and shiver his way to the changing room. His legs feel like lead when he walks out, always weird to acclimate the difference between boots and sneakers, swinging his lunchbox back and forth as he climbs the steps to get outside. The other skaters that split a coach with him eat at the lounge, but Hoseok likes the fresh air — likes huddling down on the curb and poking half-heartedly at his thermos.

It’s not like…it’s not like he’s a complete hermit or anything. He’s just not as close as Namjoon is with his team.

Sometimes he hates his parents for making him the person he is now, but he goes to visit and cries every time because he could never really— he couldn’t ever stop loving them. Feels like he’ll never make up the time they hadn’t spent together when he was a kid, when he had more freedom and wasn’t so focused on his career like he is now. He supposes he never appreciated them enough. Maybe he still doesn’t.

He doesn’t participate in Skate America, but Cup of China he’s been invited to, and he’s in the pre-competition flurry of frantic cleaning and stamina practice. He’s exhausted at by the time he’s finished with cross-training, lugging his boots home so he can clean the blades and switch the laces out of nervous habit, but he doesn’t complain. He’s doing what he loves, even if it grinds him down past the bone and then some. Hoseok wishes, sometimes, that his entire future didn’t rest on gold, but it is and every time he feels like giving up he thinks of his sister and he pushes through. 

It’s all they know how to do, skate through the pain.

“I don’t think I’m gonna get gold at the Olympics,” Hoseok says, scrubbing his face hard with his Apeach town.

“We’ll do something new next year.”

Hoseok sighs, slumping hard against the side of the rink. “Maybe silver again if I’m lucky.”

“It’s still early. You shouldn't be saying stuff like that,” Sondeuk says, patting Hoseok’s arm. He’s a good coach. He knows when to push, and when to step back. Hoseok’s always been an overachiever, the desperate perfectionist that loses sleep over the fact that his lutz was under-rotated in performance three months previous. It’s habit now: a habit that he doesn’t know how to kick.

“You don’t need gold, Hobi,” Sondeuk says, offering him a smile.

Hoseok folds up his towel just for something to do, a little tired and a little sad. He’s not sure how long the money will float his sister, but he’s been thinking of taking a year off to nurse his injuries, and if he’s got an Olympic title under his belt, he’ll be in high demand for coaching. He could do choreography, and then charge an awful amount of money for it. It could be enough, Hoseok thinks. It really could.

“Ah,” he says. “I think I need to.”

 

❆ ❅ ❄ ❅ ❆

 

koyabear
how are u?
do you want to come to practice? 

mangmang
sorry
not really
i have to leave for china next week
i am kinda busy 

koyabear
oh no it’s ok
that’s totally fine
good luck competing! 

mangmang
thanks namjoon :-) 

koyabear
wish i could cheer you on! 

mangmang
if you are ever in town for a competition,
you can just message me
i will get you Tickets even if i am not performing
or you can hang out with me backstage 

koyabear
omfg you are shitting me right now 

mangmang
no 

koyabear
ahhhhhh i can’t believe you said i could hang out w u backstage that’s amazing 

koyabear
also hoseok…
are you okay? 

mangmang
U are always ask the hard questions??
but not really. i am sorry 

koyabear
what happened?
do you want to talk? 

mangmang
[typing] 

mangmang
alone?
i feel alone

koyabear
come over
[sent 10:01pm] 

koyabear
i know we don’t know each other that well
but don’t be alone :((
[sent 10:43pm]

koyabear
hoseok?

mangmang
sorry i was on the phone with my sister
is it ok?
you will have to get up early tomorrow? 

koyabear
no, tmrws off
yes come we can
break our diets together or something
you remember my address right?
[location sent]

mangmang
yeah
thank you namjoon
see you soon 

koyabear
text me when you’re here
drive safe

 

❆ ❅ ❄ ❅ ❆

 

Hoseok looks absolutely miserable when Namjoon opens the door.

He’s nothing like the person Namjoon's used to seeing on the ice, the happy-go-lucky kid that laughs almost as much as he talks in every interview. Still, he finds this new side of Hoseok refreshing, even if he’s not pretty. Namjoon’s not pretty either, but they’re real like this — standing on Namjoon’s stoop with the dark falling all around them.

“Hi,” Hoseok says, hugging himself with both arms. It looks like he left in a rush, wearing nothing but sweatpants and a cartoon pajama top and no socks.

“Hoseok, come in, come in,” Namjoon says, ushering him inside. “You’ll catch a cold— here.”

He hands him a hoodie from the coat rack by the door and cranks the thermostat up for house while he’s waiting. When he turns around, Hoseok’s shuffling around in Namjoon’s jacket, all sorts of too big for him: hanging off his shoulders, sleeves too long, the hem halfway down his thighs. It’s oversized on Namjoon, and it practically swallows Hoseok up, his bare feet squeaking on the floor.

Namjoon notes the pained, raw quality of his toes, the way his skates have left blisters and bruises and bunions all over his bones. Even his ankles look different to Namjoon, who’s familiar with the look of hockey-busted bodies by now.

“Hey,” he says, a little softer now. “Do you want anything to eat? You said you didn’t have dinner yet?”

“It’s midnight,” Hoseok says, finally cracking a smile.

“I eat at all times of the day, Jung Hoseok, you have yet to learn,” he grins. “What my nutritionist doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

“Okay,” he relents, following Namjoon into the kitchen. He’d waved off the offer of house slippers, sheepishly admitting that the cold feels nice to his sore feet, swiveling around on the barstool as Namjoon rummages in his fridge. 

“I’m actually super bad at cooking,” Namjoon says. “So Seokjin, um, he’s one of my teammates, he usually makes something if we’re not eating together.”

“Oh, cool.”  

“D’you want like…tea or something?”  

Later, they sit in front of the television, fighting over the last piece of beef. Hoseok wins the chopstick war but ends up feeding Namjoon anyway, falling victim to his sad face. He always runs cold, so he tucks his feet under him at some point, shivering, and too tired to care about Namjoon wrapping an arm around his shoulder to pull him close. 

“Thanks for everything,” Hoseok murmurs, pulling his knees into his chest. “You are a really good person, did you know that?”  

Namjoon shrugs, ducking his head. “You seemed like you were having a bad day,” he sucks in a breath, Hoseok feeling his chest swell with it. “Do you want to talk about it?” 

“Bad life, actually,” he admits. “But yeah, yeah— okay.”

Namjoon squeezes his arm (his really fucking thin arm) through the fabric of his hoodie, trying his best to project reassuring, I definitely know what I’m doing vibes the way Taehyung does, standing there in the changing room patting everyone’s backs before a big game.

“So,” Hoseok says, taking a breath. “It’s an Olympic year soon.”

Namjoon nods.

“And I have to get gold.”

“Oh,” he says. Way to get straight to the point. Namjoon fumbles for words, not quite sure what to say. “Do you— I mean, you’re already so accomplished, Hoseok, and I don’t think it’s your coach or anything pushing you for it; you’ve basically made it, I— you placed at Prix and Worlds since your second year as a senior.”

“It’s my sister.” 

Namjoon frowns. Sister? “What—” 

“No, no, not like that,” Hoseok shakes his head. “She’s in the hospital,” Namjoon freezes. “Stage three leukemia. She’s, um. She’s terminal, so you know.”

“Oh, no,” Namjoon says. He feels awful. 

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok says, dropping the subject before he can finish a proper explanation. “I’m being an awful guest, aren’t I? Stealing your clothes and snotting all over them,” his accent’s gotten thicker, and he’s a little difficult to understand, but Namjoon thinks it’s cute, even though he’s all kinds of wrecked and looks like he’s just been run over by five trains in one go.  

“No, you’re not,” Namjoon says, thinking it’s about time to go to bed. “I invited you over anyway. I knew what I was getting myself into—”

“I think I’ll just go back to my place.”

“You should stay!” Namjoon bursts out. Hoseok freezes. “We can, um,” he stutters. “Watch a movie or something; I don’t trust you driving this late. If you crash and die then that’s on me for the rest of my life.”

“Oh,” Hoseok says, surprised. He doesn’t look like he believes him, and Namjoon doesn’t either, but he still presses his lips together a thin smile. “Sure,” he concedes. “If you are so worried.”

Namjoon tells himself that it’s late, which is why he ends up leading Hoseok by the hand up to his bedroom. He tells himself that it's because his Gibli collection is upstairs, that he hired some tech guy to install all the nice speakers in the living room but he kind of likes the way his hand-me-down television box crackles every so often, the way the room goes soft when it’s just the glow of his star lamp on and the overhead’s dark, and he pulls the curtains down and he’s surrounded by his Ryan plushies, that it has nothing to do with seeing Hoseok in the dim half-lit warmth of his room or being anything close to in love.

“I’ve only seen Totoro,” Hoseok admits quietly, buried under the covers. The two of them have managed to put up a fort, dragging an air mattress out from Namjoon’s closet and blowing it up by themselves. It’s a little hot with all the blankets they’ve piled together, and the three bedsheets on top of the tent-poles, but Namjoon cracks the window open — enough so that the cold air comes in and forces the temperature down.

Hoseok’s grabbed one of his larger Ryans, cheek squished up against it as he squints at the TV set. Namjoon spreads out Ghibli Starter Kit in front of him: Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service. He looks up expectantly. Hoseok frowns. 

“We can watch all of them if you want,” he shrugs. He’s basically a lump under the blankets now, just his face and a riot of hair poking out the top. “Just one that is not too scary,” he wiggles further down, until only his eyes are visible, sleepy. 

Namjoon deliberates for a moment, filing Mononoke away for later, before shoving Kiki into the VHS player. The TV lets out a familiar groan, and then Namjoon’s squishing in next to Hoseok, eyes brightening with the opening theme.

Hoseok’s hand finds it way into his at some point, and he laces their fingers together without saying anything, cheeks pink. It isn’t until he asks a question though, too quiet for Namjoon to hear at first, does he realize how close they are, doesn’t realize that Hoseok’s shoulder is pressed up against his and all he has to do is lean up a little and tilt his head and kiss him: soft and sweet and on the edge of nothing.

Namjoon kisses him back because, of course he does, he’s been dreaming about this since he was sixteen and realized he was gay, because ten years of practically falling in love with someone doesn’t go away once you know some of their deepest, darkest secrets, but also because Hoseok is pretty and kind and funny, quieter than the caricature he’s put up on camera.

It doesn’t prepare him for the hand that comes up to his cheek afterwards, and the way Hoseok looks at him.

“You are very beautiful,” he murmurs, when they break apart.

“Oh,” Namjoon says, at a loss for words. “Um. You too.”

Namjoon realizes they’re speaking in Korean after the fact, right when the ending credits and rolling and Hoseok says they should just sleep here on the floor together, all his words jumbled together. It’s a good thing he’s dealt with Taehyung drunk before because he’ll start speaking in nonsense dialect, and his pronunciation is everywhere.

Hoseok pushes him around until he deems Namjoon a comfortable enough pillow, ignoring the stack of plushies spilling out under the bedsheets. “Do you like me?” he asks, head on Namjoon’s chest.

“What?”

“Do you like me?” Hoseok asks again. “Boyfriend, like me?”

Namjoon falters. “You…haven’t known me for very long.”

“I’ve given it thought,” Hoseok smiles. “This is how you Americans do it, no?”

Namjoon wants to say something, protest maybe. Say they should go on a date first, but he’s never been good at self preservation and the star of his every romantic comedy or terrible wet dream is asking if he wants to date and he can’t find it in him to refuse. Seokjin will throttle him for this.

“It’ll be hard.”

Hoseok nods. “I know,” he says. He puts a hand on Namjoon’s chest, right over his heart. “But when I’m with you, it just makes me feel…” he struggles for words. Even switching back and forth between two languages, he struggles. “I feel like there is more for me than skating.”