"No," Seokjin says, looking up from the contract. "Absolutely not."
Across the desk, Yoongi raises his eyebrows. Yoongi can say more with a devastating silence than anyone else Seokjin knows—except his mother, and even then it's a close call. He should set up a contest between them. Points awarded for making Seokjin feel like a recalcitrant teenager caught with his hand down someone's pants.
He looks back down at the contract, reading through the details again. Sea Life of Hawaii, blah blah blah, three weeks, blah blah blah, travel, housing, catering, salary—nice, nothing to complain about there—Co-host: Dr. Kim Namjoon, Professor of Marine Biology.
"He's an asshole," Seokjin says. "He's an insufferable know-it-all who thinks he's better than everyone else because of his big fancy degree and his big swollen head and his big—" He cuts himself off ruthlessly, and finishes, "And he hates me."
"Tell me how you really feel," Yoongi says dryly.
"Yoongi." Whining does terrible, unattractive things to Seokjin's face, but at least Yoongi's immune to him and probably won't notice.
"Hyung," Yoongi says, softening his voice so he sounds more like Seokjin's best friend than his manager. "It's a good offer. Three weeks in Hawaii, and the company wants to send you." Seokjin opens his mouth, but Yoongi holds up a hand and he subsides. "Also," Yoongi continues, "it's Jungkook's first solo shoot, and he asked for you. For you and Namjoon. Do you really want to disappoint the kid?"
That's playing dirty. Jungkook might be a prodigy, a rising star, but his first shoot as director of principal photography, on location without a more senior person overseeing his work—that's a big deal, and the last thing Seokjin wants is to let his most adorable dongsaeng down. Even if he'd had the extremely poor taste to request Namjoon. Seokjin's going to give Jungkook hell for that, just as soon as he stops being stupidly proud of him.
"But—" Seokjin starts, weakening. "Kim Namjoon."
"Look," Yoongi says, steepling his fingers. "I know you hate it when people don't adore you on sight, hyung." Seokjin makes an offended face, but Yoongi just rolls right over him, like a tiny bulldozer in a fluffy sweater. "But you're a professional. I know you like to pretend you're not, but you're one of the most professional people I know. You can play nice with Namjoon for three weeks, for Jungkook's sake." One corner of his mouth tilts up. "In fucking Hawaii, where you'll probably get to swim with dolphins and shit. Does that really sound so terrible?"
Seokjin sighs, and gives in. "I do love dolphins."
"See?" Yoongi leans back in his chair and studies Seokjin for a minute, looking thoughtful. "You know, Namjoon really isn't that bad."
"No," Seokjin says sharply. "Stop right there, Yoongi-yah. You may be able to butter me up, but you can't make me like him."
Yoongi raises his hands in surrender. "Have it your way, hyung. But I reserve the right to say I told you so when you come back from Hawaii with matching friendship bracelets and henna tattoos."
"That is never going to happen," Seokjin says.
Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places Seokjin has ever been, but Yoongi is full of crap. Kim Namjoon is definitely that bad.
It takes about ten seconds in each other's company for Seokjin to decide that no jury would convict him for pushing Namjoon into shark-infested waters at the first opportunity. He'd planned to be nice—planned, in fact, to be polite and coolly professional—but it isn't his fault that Kim Namjoon is a judgmental dick.
Admittedly, it is Seokjin's fault that he's late to their first day of shooting. He'd flown in the night before, the last to arrive on the Big Island after wrapping up a commercial in Seoul, and he'd gone straight to his hotel room and face-planted into the king-sized bed until the sun woke him up the next morning; he'd forgotten to close the blackout curtains. But he'd woken up refreshed and cheerful, and when he went out onto the balcony he could see the blue glimmer of the ocean beyond the palm trees. It was still early, so he'd decided to walk down to the beach where they were shooting.
That had been his first mistake: by the time he figured out he was lost, it was too late to get one of the PAs to show him where he was supposed to go, and he'd only managed to find the right stretch of beach with the help of some new friends and nearly all of his limited English. He's sweaty and hot and disheveled and at least thirty minutes late by the time he finds Jungkook talking with Namjoon and a few of the crew members.
Jungkook looks serious and grown-up, even in black sweatpants and a bright floral Hawaiian shirt, but he breaks into a wide grin as soon as he sees Seokjin. "Hyung," he shouts, launching immediately into their special handshake. Seokjin laughs and follows suit, punching Jungkook in the arm and slapping his ass affectionately.
"Sorry I'm late," he says. "Strangers kept stopping me for selfies. It's not easy being this handsome in a foreign country."
Jungkook giggles, but over his shoulder Seokjin can see Namjoon's look of disgust, cold and unmistakable.
"Kim Seokjin-ssi," Namjoon says. "We have a lot of work to do, so please try to be on time."
"Hyung," Jungkook starts, shifting uneasily, but Seokjin folds his arms and lifts his chin and stares Namjoon down.
Namjoon's cheeks color slightly—with rage, probably, but the color is still beautiful. Namjoon is still beautiful. He's changed his hair since the last time Seokjin saw him, and now it's a dark silvery brown with the sides shaved, long and thick and a little wavy on top. It makes his face look sharper, hotter, and there's no getting around the fact that Kim Namjoon, with his mile-long legs and his wide handsome face and the shadows where dimples would be if he ever smiled in Seokjin's presence, is one tall drink of water.
"Thank you for your feedback, Namjoon-ssi," Seokjin says, sweet and acidic. "I'll be sure to keep it in mind." He bends gracefully into a formal bow, and by the time he straightens, Namjoon looks embarrassed. Good, Seokjin thinks viciously, and turns back to Jungkook. "Are we ready to start, Jungkook-ah?"
Jungkook frowns, glancing between them, but after a moment he nods and hands Seokjin a folder. Seokjin opens it and pages through the documents: schedules, sides, fact sheets. "You should go to the makeup trailer first, hyung," Jungkook says, gesturing down the beach at a cluster of tents and trailers. "We're starting with tropical fish today, and they'll be ready for us any minute."
"Perfect," Seokjin says, snapping the folder closed with a flourish. "I'll take care of the moneymaker, Jungkookie, you do the rest."
"Sure thing, hyung," Jungkook says, and Seokjin grins as he turns away. He stops grinning when he sees Namjoon's face, dark as a thundercloud, but he keeps walking; there's work to do.
Namjoon comes to find him in the makeup trailer fifteen minutes later. Seokjin is reading about parrotfish harems while a makeup noona called Jiyoung styles his hair. "'Male parrotfish keep harems of female parrotfish,'" Seokjin reads aloud to Jiyoung, in awe, "'but when the male dies, the alpha female changes sex and becomes a male.' Wow," he finishes, "can you imagine if humans did that?"
Jiyoung snorts and sprays more product in his hair. "Humans are pretty complicated," she says, and pats him on the shoulder. "I think you have a visitor."
Seokjin looks up to see Namjoon in the doorway. He looks awkward, shoulders hunched in a way that makes him seem too tall, like he doesn't fit in the space around him. Namjoon is only a handful of centimeters taller than Seokjin, but he seems taller. Maybe it's because his head is too big—but Seokjin can't even make himself believe that; he knows Namjoon is perfectly proportioned everywhere.
"What do you want?" Seokjin demands.
Namjoon clears his throat uncomfortably, and then says, "Look, I know this is all just a game to you—"
"What?" He waves the folder at Namjoon, photos and information and details he's busy committing to memory. "This is my job, Namjoon."
Namjoon laughs humorlessly. "Sure, it's your job." He looks Seokjin up and down, and it feels like a physical blow, like he's stripping Seokjin down to nothing—not undressing him with his eyes the way lots of people do when they see him, but breaking him into pieces. Seokjin's breath catches, painfully, and for a second he imagines punching Namjoon right in his beautiful mouth. "Your job that you don't take seriously, because you don't take anything seriously."
Seokjin stares at him, shocked, and then he turns around in his chair and says, "Noona, can you give us a few minutes?" He gives her a pale imitation of his most persuasive smile. "I promise not to hold things up any longer than necessary, but Dr. Kim and I need to discuss our co-host rapport."
Jiyoung gives him an unimpressed look, but nods. "You're almost done, anyway," she says. "I'll be back in ten minutes for finishing touches."
"That's exactly what I mean," Namjoon says, when she's gone, "you just—you just take whatever you want. It doesn't matter if people are working, or on a schedule. You just smile and flirt and joke and nothing ever matters to you."
"What?" Seokjin repeats, starting to get angry. "You came in here to talk to me, Namjoon. While I was working."
"You were already late," Namjoon snaps, "and you weren't—parrotfish are a fascinating species, not a joke." He takes a breath, and then says, "There are other tropical fish that exhibit sequential hermaphroditism, but the parrotfish are the most well known, and the colorful ones—they change color, when they change from male to female, and the colorful ones are the males, so they're a useful metaphor. There was a book—anyway, that's not even the main point, although it's important that people can find personal meaning in marine life, that's the most important thing, that's why I—but there's also still so much we don't know about them, about their place in the ecosystem and their history and the evolution of sequential hermaphroditism in fish. It's not something to take lightly."
Seokjin is not completely sure what Namjoon is talking about, but there's a passion in his voice that's impossible to ignore, a light in his dark eyes. He still wants to punch him, but he also kind of wants him to keep talking about parrotfish.
"I know it's a game to you," Namjoon says again, his eyes narrowing when Seokjin doesn't say anything. "I know you don't care. Which—fine. Whatever. To be honest, I don't care if you fuck this up for me. But if you fuck this up for Jungkook, I'll—" He shakes his head, and when he speaks again his voice is deadly serious. "Well, I won't kill you, because I don't believe in violence, but I'll think of something."
"You don't know anything about me," Seokjin says.
Namjoon looks unimpressed. "Don't I?"
"You don't," Seokjin says, keeping his voice steady, "because if you did, you would know that I only agreed to do this for Jungkook. I wasn't going to come to Hawaii, but I couldn't say no to my dongsaeng, not on a project that means so much to him."
"You weren't going to come?" Namjoon looks genuinely surprised.
Seokjin raises his eyebrows, trying to embody Yoongi-level devastation. "I didn't really want to be stuck on an island with you for three weeks."
"Eight islands," Namjoon says, "or one-hundred and thirty-seven, if you count all the reefs and islets."
"Fuck you," says Seokjin.
There's a pause, and after a moment Namjoon puts a hand over his face and exhales audibly. "Okay," he says. "I—sorry. I take your point."
"Yeah, well." Seokjin wants to drag his fingers through his hair, but he can't mess up Jiyoung's hard work. "I'm not going to fuck this up for Jungkook." He looks up at Namjoon. "But don't assume you know everything about me just because—because."
Namjoon nods slowly. "I guess that's fair," he says. "So, um, then—for Jungkook?"
"For Jungkook," Seokjin echoes, and hopes he won't regret it.
It doesn't exactly go well, after that, but it's not a complete disaster. Jungkook is nervous but talented, and between his direction and the assistance of the professional animal wranglers, they get through the first few days without Seokjin throwing Namjoon to a shark or Namjoon choking Seokjin with a poisonous eel.
The bad part—the worst part—is that Namjoon never once laughs at Seokjin's jokes. He's painfully, professionally serious, a bottomless well of knowledge, facts and history and biology and Latin names, but every time Seokjin makes a pun he looks uncomfortable and a little disappointed. Seokjin is good at what he does, but he's known for years that his value added comes in only two areas: he's handsome, and he's funny. In a snorkel mask and a wetsuit, his face doesn't show to its best advantage—although he and Jungkook and the stylists do everything they can—and with a co-host who doesn't laugh, he's not sure what else he can do. His jokes get increasingly outrageous the longer they spend filming, and the tension lines around Namjoon's eyes get deeper every day.
Four days into the first week, Seokjin is drinking a mediocre cup of coffee at craft services when a tall man comes bounding up to him like an excited puppy. He looks a couple of years younger than Seokjin, all limbs and a shock of dyed blond hair pushed back with a bandana, and a truly questionable pair of jean shorts.
"Hi!" the guy says, with a megawatt smile. "Kim Seokjin-ssi." He bows, which seems a little at odds with his whole aesthetic. "I'm such an admirer of yours! It's so cool to get to work with you, in Hawaii of all places! I never imagined I would get to travel so far from home!"
There's a hint of something in his accent that Seokjin recognizes—Daegu, like Yoongi, faint but there. "Hi," Seokjin says, smiling back at him, "it's nice to meet you. Who are you?"
"Oh, sorry! I'm Kim Taehyung." He laughs, and bows again. Seokjin is hopelessly charmed.
"What do you do, Kim Taehyung?"
"I'm helping with the marine mammals," Taehyung says, "but actually, I'm one of Namjoon-hyung's graduate students. He got two of us funding and course credit to come on this trip."
Seokjin takes a moment to digest this information. He offers Taehyung a cookie from the craft services table, and watches him take an enormous bite.
"He lets you call him hyung?" Seokjin asks, a little incredulous. Namjoon seems the type to insist on being called seonsaengnim at all times.
Taehyung laughs. "Of course." He swallows his bite of cookie and continues, "Namjoon-hyung hates the formalities. Once I called him Dr. Kim, and he made me clean eel tanks for a week until he stopped blushing."
"Huh," Seokjin says, "that's—huh."
"He's really the best," Taehyung continues cheerfully, around another bite of cookie. "Fieldwork like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Me and Jiminie, we never would have been able to afford it if Namjoon-hyung hadn't found us funding, not to mention inviting us in the first place. It's so exciting—we get to see Hawaiian marine life, which is so different from what we can see at home, and we get to be part of a project that's going to teach people about fish and whales and dolphins and algae and coral reefs. Kids are going to see this special and decide to become marine biologists. Like I did!"
"You decided to become a marine biologist because of Finding Nemo," says a new voice, and a short guy with dark hair comes up behind Taehyung and puts an arm around his waist. He's cute, too, with delicate features and impressively muscular arms. There must be something in the water—literally, Seokjin thinks, grinning to himself—because he had no idea that all marine biologists were so attractive.
Taehyung beams. "That's practically the same thing, Jimin," he says. "Finding Nemo is like a documentary."
"If you say so." The new guy smiles at Seokjin. His smile is more reserved than Taehyung's, but still dazzling. "I'm Park Jimin," he says. "Has Tae been talking your ear off, Kim Seokjin-ssi? I apologize—he got away before I could distract him with something shiny."
Seokjin laughs and offers Jimin a cookie. "I don't mind," he says honestly, "and you guys can call me hyung, if you want."
"Thanks, hyung," Taehyung says, and elbows Jimin. "Have a cookie, Jiminie, they're not bad."
"They're kind of stale," Seokjin says, judiciously. "I could do better, if craft services would let me have an oven."
"I remember, you did that cooking show," Jimin says unexpectedly. He waves away the cookies, but lets Seokjin pour him a cup of coffee. "I loved that show. You gave everyone such good feedback, and it was so funny. It always made me feel better when I was sad."
Seokjin can feel a blush creeping up his neck. Jimin's compliment is so honest and heartfelt, and he wants desperately to diffuse the sincerity, to turn it into a joke. But somehow, he can't do that to Jimin and Taehyung, even though he's only known them for five entire minutes. "Thanks," he says, instead.
"That's what I like about you, hyung," Taehyung says. "You're so funny, but you're nice, too. You make people feel better." Seokjin has no idea what to say to that, but luckily Taehyung changes direction and adds, "And you love food, which is so great—oh, you should come with us tonight! Shouldn't he come, Jimin?"
"You have to tell him where we're going first, Tae," Jimin says fondly.
"Right," Taehyung says, laughing. "Right, okay, well, we're going to check out this restaurant that's supposed to have the best shrimp on the Big Island. Do you want to come?"
Seokjin looks at Taehyung's bright eyes, at Jimin's smiling face, and then glances down the beach to where Namjoon is deep in conversation with one of the dolphin-wranglers. But Namjoon has nothing to do with this, and Seokjin likes Jimin and Taehyung—even if he has trouble imagining how cold, humorless Namjoon and bubbly, cheerful Taehyung can exist in the same space, much less like each other. There's nothing for it, though; Seokjin loves shrimp. "Sounds like fun," he says.
"You don't like seafood?" Seokjin demands, staring at Namjoon in horror. His voice gets high and squeaky on the last word, like a record scratch.
His second mistake: assuming that Namjoon hadn't been invited to dinner with Jimin and Taehyung. Jungkook is there, too, but he at least had the good grace to order the surf-and-turf. Namjoon, at a restaurant specializing in seafood and famous for its shrimp dishes, has ordered a burger.
"I study seafood," Namjoon says, making a face. "It's like—cannibalism."
"It's not cannibalism unless you are also a fish," Seokjin says seriously, and Jimin giggles behind his hand.
Namjoon's mouth quirks, his eyes crinkling, and his dimples peek out around the edges of his smile. Seokjin stops breathing. "I'm probably not a fish," Namjoon says.
Taehyung leans in and pokes Namjoon in one dimple. "Fish don't have dimples, hyung," he says, and Namjoon laughs, bright and warm. Seokjin feels like a fish, trying to breath on dry land. He's never seen Namjoon like this, laughing, joking, and Seokjin wants a shark to eat him right this minute and save him from the sight of Kim Namjoon looking so happy; it's more than any one man should have to bear.
"Maybe not cannibalism," Namjoon says, after Taehyung has stopped poking him. "But I still can't eat them. The crabs and the shrimp and the clams and the little squids—they're just too cute. It would be like eating my friends." He looks down and then up again, across the table at Seokjin.
Seokjin shakes his head slowly, trying to regain his equilibrium. "I'll allow it," he says, "but I still can't believe you ordered a burger at a seafood restaurant. Why did you even come to a seafood restaurant if you don't eat seafood?"
He regrets it the moment he says it, and not just because Jungkook stomps on his foot under the table. Namjoon's face closes up, shuttered and locked; no dimples in sight. "I was invited," he says, and then he deliberately turns away from Seokjin to ask Jimin a question about sea turtles.
"What the hell?" Jungkook hisses, leaning in close so only Seokjin can hear him.
"Show some respect," Seokjin mutters, kicking Jungkook in the shin.
"What the hell, hyung?" Jungkook says, deadpan, and Seokjin considers knocking his water glass over into Jungkook's lap. Instead, he reaches for his cocktail. He's not totally sure what's in the drink, but it's fruity, and strong, and it came with a little paper umbrella, and now he's committed. He's going to drink at least two more, and amass a collection of tiny cocktail umbrellas.
"It's nothing," Seokjin says.
"Tell that to somebody who hasn't been filming you for eight hours a day," Jungkook says flatly. "I don't know what's going on with you and Namjoon-hyung, but it's obviously something."
Seokjin opens his mouth, and then closes it again. Then he takes another sip of his drink, and steels himself to meet Jungkook's eyes. "He hates me," he says.
Jungkook gives him a blank, uncomprehending look. "Who?" he says, and then, "Namjoon? He doesn't hate anybody. He's the nicest person I know. He doesn't even eat seafood because he thinks crabs are his friends. He paid for Jimin and Taehyung to come to Hawaii, because they couldn't afford their own research trip—and oh, I know, he found them funding, but at least half of that came from his own pocket. He's supposed to be on a sabbatical right now, too; he's only doing this as a favor to me."
Seokjin's brain turns to static, but before he has time to work out what to say, the waiter arrives with their food, effectively ending any opportunity for private conversation. Seokjin breathes out in relief, and then dedicates himself entirely to sampling everyone's food. He eats and eats and eats, holding out bites of shrimp to Jungkook and Jimin and Taehyung, waxing poetic about the flavors, garlicky and spicy and sweet and fried; and he watches Namjoon eat his burger with every appearance of satisfaction. He finishes his first drink, and then his second.
Once they've decimated their food and are sitting back in their chairs and contemplating dessert—Taehyung—and more drinks—everyone else—Namjoon excuses himself. "I promised my roommate I'd call him, and there's the time difference," he says, dropping a couple of American bills on the table. "See you all in the morning." He smiles, at everyone but Seokjin.
"Tell Hoseok-hyung I love him," Jimin says, blowing Namjoon a kiss.
"Don't drink Jungkook under the table," Namjoon returns, and then he's gone.
"I feel like I should be offended," Jungkook says to Jimin, in the wake of Namjoon's exit, "but you probably can drink me under the table."
Taehyung puts an arm around Jimin's shoulders. "He's tiny but deadly." He catches their waiter's eye and orders cheesecake. Seokjin orders another drink. He's starting to feel them, even though they taste like candy; the room isn't spinning, but it's not quite holding still. He wants Namjoon to come back, but he's glad he's gone.
"Namjoon has a roommate?" he asks, nonsensically.
Taehyung blinks at him, and then laughs. "You really don't know him very well, do you, hyung?" He says it like it's funny, light and unimportant, and there's no reason for Seokjin to feel it like a punch in the stomach. It's true; it's the same thing he said to Namjoon: you don't know me at all. "He's lived with Hoseok-hyung since they were in college," Taehyung continues, "they're best friends, and sometimes Hoseok brings us food in the lab. He's a producer—he works with a bunch of different companies, and he has the best stories."
"I used to be really intimidated by Namjoon-hyung," Jimin puts in. "He's so smart; I thought I would never measure up." Taehyung squeezes his shoulders, and Jimin gives him a soft sideways smile. "But then Hoseok-hyung took me aside and told me that Namjoon sleeps with approximately thirty-five Ryan plushies, and has broken every dish in their apartment at least once."
Seokjin feels like his universe is turning inside out and reassembling itself into something new, like the Big Bang. "We fucked," he says abruptly, too loud in the sudden quiet of the restaurant.
Jungkook freezes, and Jimin's eyes go very wide; Taehyung's mouth actually drops open. There's a long silence, and then Jungkook lets out an explosive breath. "I knew there was something, you fucking liar," he says. "He doesn't hate you, he wants to fuck you."
"He hates me and wants to fuck me," Seokjin corrects. "But actually, I don't even think he wants to fuck me. Not after last time."
"I'm probably going to regret asking this," Jimin says slowly, looking equal parts fascinated and horrified, "but what happened?"
Seokjin sighs, and stares down into the dregs of his drink; his drink stares back. It's not offering any answers. He plucks the cocktail umbrella out of the almost-empty glass and tucks it behind his ear, which makes him feel a little better. "It was good," he starts, "the sex, I mean. That part was amazing." He can remember every second: Namjoon's big hands and soft mouth; the kisses he'd pressed to Seokjin's stomach; the way the thick, heavy weight of Namjoon's dick had felt in his mouth, almost too much for him to take.
"He was at this industry party," Seokjin says. "I don't know, I don't really remember how it happened"—lies; he remembers. Namjoon had been talking to Seokjin's boss, the head of the company Seokjin did most of his work for, and Seokjin had thought, oh hey, and I wonder who he is, and fuck, he's hot, and decided to take him home. "I took him home," he says, "and we fucked, and it was great, and then, after, we introduced ourselves."
Across the table, Taehyung is leaning his chin on his hands and watching Seokjin with wide eyes.
"I was surprised," Seokjin admits, "and I made a joke, about how I thought I'd picked up somebody important at the company, and here I was with a random marine biologist."
"Oh no," Jungkook whispers.
"Yeah," Seokjin says heavily, and looks away. "I didn't mean it like that, okay? But Namjoon got up and left, and then every time I saw him after that, he acted like I'd killed his cat—or worse, like I wasn't even worth knowing."
"Wow," Taehyung says, just as Jimin says, "He definitely wants to fuck you again."
"What?" Seokjin demands.
"No, Jimin's right," Taehyung says, leaning forward in excitement. "There's no other reason for him to be acting so weird around you, hyung. He doesn't hold grudges; he doesn't hate people. I've never even seen him be rude before."
"If it was me, you'd be dead," Jimin says mildly, with a smile that is suddenly terrifying. "But that's the thing, hyung. You hurt him, and he still cares that you hurt him. He cares about you."
"Oh," Seokjin says, and gratefully takes the drink that Jimin pushes across the table.
Jungkook scoots his chair a little closer to Seokjin's, and punches him in the arm. "You're an idiot, hyung," he says, "but now you have to decide what you want."
And that's the problem, isn't it? Seokjin has no idea what he wants—except, right now, to get very, very drunk. "Fuck," he says, and then, when Jungkook and Jimin and Taehyung all keep looking at him expectantly, he flings up his hands and says, "I don't know, but bring me more cocktail umbrellas."
"Hey," Namjoon says, sitting down on the padded bench next to Seokjin's. Seokjin is lying on his back on the bench with a towel over his face, trying to ignore the rocking motion of the boat. He doesn't usually get seasick, but the hangover is killing him. They're between takes, waiting for the boat to reach the part of the ocean where the whales are—Seokjin didn't quite follow the explanation, because the sun was too bright and every glint off the water was like a knife in his head.
"Hi," he says warily, muffled by the towel. He's not sure he can take it if Namjoon is here to yell at him.
"I'm sorry about last night," Namjoon says, instead. "I shouldn't have abandoned you to the kids. Jimin is a menace."
"What?" Seokjin takes the towel off his face so that he can squint up at Namjoon. Namjoon is backlit by the sun, and he looks soft—kind, in a way that Seokjin has never seen before. This must be the Namjoon that Jungkook and Taehyung and Jimin know, the Namjoon that looks out for people, that's generous and thoughtful and warm. That checks up on coworkers he doesn't even like. "It's not Jimin's fault," Seokjin says. "I blame the cocktail umbrellas."
Namjoon smiles, and Seokjin feels dizzy; it could be the boat and the hangover, but somehow he thinks it has more to do with the curve of Namjoon's mouth. "Still," Namjoon says. "I hope you're not feeling too awful. You looked a little green this morning."
"I—" Seokjin starts, and then, before he can stop himself, "I'm sorry for what I said. I didn't mean you shouldn't be there, at dinner. I was just surprised."
Namjoon rubs a hand over his face, looking embarrassed. "I know," he says, wry. "I talked to Hoseok, my roommate. He's a lot better at feelings than I am. I'm not always very good at understanding people, or getting out of my head. I'm better with sea creatures; I understand them, why they do things, but people are harder. Hoseok told me I wasn't being fair to you, and he was right. Just because you do things differently than me, that doesn't mean you don't take your work seriously. You've been working so hard, since we got here."
"Oh," Seokjin says, flushing. "I thought you were going to yell at me for being hungover at work."
"No," Namjoon says earnestly. "I—no, I wasn't. I shouldn't have said those things. You clearly feel terrible today, but you haven't let it get in the way of the shoot, not once. If it was me—I don't think I could do what you do."
"Thank you for the codpliment," Seokjin says. "I hope it's not a…fluke."
Namjoon stares at him blankly for a second, and then he starts to giggle.
"I don't want be anemones anymore," Seokjin continues ruthlessly, drunk on power. Namjoon is laughing, his whole face crinkling with genuine amusement. "Let's be fronds instead."
"Oh my god, hyung," Namjoon says, and then he freezes, eyes wide. "Sorry, I—"
"It's okay," Seokjin says quickly, smiling. His head still hurts, but he almost doesn't mind. "You should call me hyung, Namjoon-ah. Now that we're fronds."
"That's awful," Namjoon says, but he's still giggling a little between breaths, and his dimples are showing. Seokjin wants to kiss them, which is—more than he can handle right now, on a boat in the middle of the ocean, with a hangover and a film crew and Jungkook, who is probably going to come looking for them at any moment.
"I just can't kelp myself around you," he says, feeling a wave of satisfaction when Namjoon drops his face into his hands, his shoulders shaking with laughter. "I have some whale puns I've been saving," he adds, after a moment.
Namjoon looks up, shaking his head. Twelve hours ago, Seokjin would have thought he was being dismissive, but now he can see the amusement in Namjoon's face, the rueful resignation, like he knows he's playing the straight man in Seokjin's comedy. "Okay, hyung," he says, holding out a hand to pull Seokjin to his feet. "Let's go talk about whales."
Seokjin finds Namjoon alone on the beach, the next evening.
It's been a busy couple of days, filming with the whales and then with a pod of spinner dolphins, and there hasn't been much down time. They're different on camera, though; Seokjin can feel it, and even if he couldn't, Jungkook's smug glances would give it away. Namjoon is still serious, passionate and focused, but there's a brightness in his eyes when Seokjin makes a joke, even if he doesn't laugh; they play off each other, now, instead of against each other: a team.
But Namjoon disappeared after dinner, and when Seokjin finds him he's sitting on an empty stretch of beach, watching the sun go down over the water. The sunset is beautiful, pink and red and purple washing across the sky and fading into the dark blue line of the horizon.
Seokjin slips off his shoes and sits down next to Namjoon in the sand. It's nice to sit quietly, for a moment, watching the sunset and the ocean, the low waves crashing softly on the shore; but when it's been a few minutes and Namjoon still hasn't said anything, Seokjin turns to look at him.
Namjoon is not watching the sunset. Instead, he's studying a tiny pink crab, cupped gently in his big hands. He's smiling down at the crab, like it's beautiful and precious—more beautiful and precious even than the sunset. Seokjin's breath catches in his throat; he is suddenly, breathtakingly, devastatingly certain that he wants Namjoon to look at him the way he's looking at the crab.
"I named him Kanye," Namjoon says softly, and Seokjin can hear the smile in his voice. "Kanye the crab."
"Oh my god," Seokjin says, helpless. "No wonder you don't eat seafood."
Namjoon laughs. "I told you, they're too cute."
You're too cute, Seokjin thinks, and reaches out his hand. "Can I touch him?" Namjoon nods, and Seokjin pets the crab carefully, with one finger. The crab's tiny pincers wave, and Seokjin laughs.
"Time to send Kanye back to the sea," Namjoon says, after a while, and Seokjin takes his hand back, watching as Namjoon gets up and walks down to deposit the crab at the tide line. When he comes back, he sits down at least an inch closer to Seokjin, so their thighs are just barely touching on the warm sand.
"I'm sorry," Seokjin says. "I wanted to say—" He takes a deep breath, tasting the salt in the air. "I wanted to apologize for what I said, when we—that time when we fucked. It was a bad joke, and I didn't mean it, and I should have stopped you and explained, or apologized then, or—but I'm not always great at people, either. I make jokes because it's easy. It's much easier than talking about real feelings." He can't look at Namjoon while he talks, so he looks down at the beach, instead, studies the grains of sand between his toes.
Namjoon clears his throat, and then says, creakily, "What, um. What were your—real feelings?"
Seokjin wraps his arms around his knees and fixes his eyes on the horizon, where the sun is almost out of sight behind the ocean. "I couldn't believe I'd bagged a hot, brilliant marine biologist with a huge fucking dick, Namjoon. Nobody ever gets that fucking lucky."
Namjoon makes a choking sound, and Seokjin finally turns to look at him, a little concerned. He has both hands over his face, and his cheeks are a dark pink that's almost the same color as the sky.
"It's not about your dick," Seokjin says. "I mean, it is, but like. You're a scientist. You're a thousand times smarter than me, and after you left, every time I saw you at the company, it seemed like you'd figured that out, like you knew I wasn't good enough for you." He looks away again, and sighs. "I don't cope that well, when people are out of my league."
"You thought I was out of your league?" Namjoon demands, sounding breathless.
Seokjin nods, and then turns in surprise when Namjoon puts his hand on Seokjin's arm. It's a little awkward, like Namjoon hadn't quite meant to touch him. His eyes are wide, and he's still blushing, but there's something determined in his expression. Seokjin had come out here to apologize, but he'd had no idea what was going to happen once he did, no matter what Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook had said.
"Nobody is out of your league," Namjoon says. "You're the league." Seokjin stares at him, uncomprehending, until Namjoon squeezes his arm and says, "You're gorgeous, and funny, and talented, and everybody loves you on sight. I couldn't believe my luck." He bites his lip. "And then, when I thought you'd only slept with me because you thought I was somebody important, I was so—I was just so disappointed, and sad, and heartbroken, because I thought we'd—I thought you—I thought it was—"
"I am," Seokjin says, "it was," and then he leans over and kisses him.
Namjoon is still trying to talk, so Seokjin's kiss lands a little sideways, half on his cheek and half on the corner of his mouth. But then Namjoon reaches for him with the hand not already on his arm, catching his shoulder and reeling him back in, and the second kiss is better. Namjoon's mouth is as soft as Seokjin remembered, and he parts his lips and kisses Seokjin for real, deep and slow and sweet.
When they finally separate, Seokjin is breathing unsteadily, and he's pretty sure he has sand in his hair. "I was so mad at you," he whispers, pressing a kiss to each of Namjoon's dimples. "I thought you hated me."
"I did, a little bit," Namjoon admits. He cups Seokjin's face in his hand and rubs his thumb over Seokjin's mouth. "I'm not very good at holding a grudge, but I was hurt, and embarrassed, and it was—it was hard."
"I'm sorry," Seokjin repeats, soft and sincere, and then he kisses Namjoon again. "Do you want to try again?"
Namjoon smiles against his mouth, and wraps both arms around him. "Yeah," he says, "I really do." And that's that, Seokjin thinks: hook, line, and sinker.
They've only been back in Seoul for a week before Namjoon suggests going on a double date with his roommate.
Seokjin, who is sprawled naked on Namjoon's bed, sweaty and sticky and spent, gives him an incredulous look. "What, like, right now?"
Namjoon laughs and kisses his shoulder, curling into Seokjin's side and hooking one long leg over his. Namjoon likes to cuddle after sex, and some days Seokjin can't believe his luck. "Saturday," he says. "Hoseok's boyfriend wants to go for barbecue."
"I like barbecue," Seokjin says, judiciously, "but why a double date?"
Namjoon looks a little shifty, but then he says, "I want to take you out, for real. Mostly we've been, well. Staying in."
It's a fair point. Since they got their act together in Hawaii, they've been fucking at every available opportunity—so much so, in fact, that Jimin and Taehyung made fun of them relentlessly, and Jungkook threatened to turn the documentary special on Hawaiian sea life into a porno.
"Besides," Namjoon adds, "I want you to meet Hobi for real, and his boyfriend's pretty cool."
Seokjin has only met Hoseok one time, in passing, on his way to Namjoon's bedroom; mostly they've been at Seokjin's place, or Hoseok has been at his boyfriend's. "Okay," he says, pressing a kiss to the top of Namjoon's head. "Let's do it."
He's looking forward to it, too—he likes barbecue, and he likes meeting new people, and he really likes Namjoon—until it's Saturday night, and he walks into the restaurant and sees Min Yoongi sitting next to Namjoon's roommate.
"What the hell," Seokjin shrieks, startling both patrons and waitstaff—and Hoseok, who almost falls out of his chair. Yoongi doesn't even look surprised, and Namjoon, beside him, makes a squeaky noise like a choked giggle.
"Did you know about this?" Seokjin demands, whirling on his boyfriend. Namjoon looks a little sheepish, but he's also grinning as wide as the ocean. Seokjin hates him so much.
"That's it," he shouts, stomping over to the table and sitting down across from Yoongi. "It's over, Namjoonie. We're anemones again."
Namjoon sits down next to him and takes his hand, twining their fingers together. "Okay," he says, peaceably. "Anemones are pretty cool. Did you know they're carnivorous? They catch passing fish with their tentacles and eat them."
"What the fuck," Yoongi says, and Hoseok starts laughing, leaning over to bury his red face in Yoongi's shoulder. Yoongi pats him absently.
"I can't believe my best friend has been dating Namjoon's roommate this entire time and none of you assholes told me," Seokjin complains. Namjoon's hand is warm in his, though, and it's hard to be too mad, in a barbecue restaurant with his best friend and his boyfriend and his best friend's boyfriend.
"We had to wait for you two to get your shit together," Yoongi says dryly, and then, to Hoseok, "Babe, are you okay? Do you need some water?"
"I'm okay," Hoseok gasps, lifting his head from Yoongi's shoulder. He's smiling broadly. "I'm just so happy you guys worked it out. Namjoon was a mess."
"I was fine," Namjoon says, which is a dirty lie if Seokjin has ever heard one. He squeezes Namjoon's hand, and when Namjoon turns his head to look at him, he leans in and kisses him. "But I'm better now," Namjoon says, smiling at Seokjin when he pulls away. "I'm fin-tastic."
As soon as he says it, Namjoon looks embarrassed and starts laughing helplessly. Yoongi groans, and Hoseok makes a noise halfway between a laugh and a shriek. But Seokjin only has eyes for Namjoon: handsome and passionate and brilliant, and laughing at the stupidest joke; everything Seokjin has ever wanted.