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the growth cycle of a narcissus

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Los Angeles, U.S.

 

FAB FIVE

“Wait, who’s driving?” Namjoon asks, as they all stand outside the car. 

“Hobi and JK are the can’t do math gays; me, Jimin, and Namjoon are the can’t drive gays,” Taehyung explains, popping a mint into his mouth. “You guys figure it out.”

Jungkook opens his mouth expectantly, and Taehyung feeds him a mint, akin to how a long-suffering mother bird would feed her baby bird, except with less spit and more enthusiastic cheek pinching.

Hoseok and Jungkook trade glances. They maintain eye contact as Jungkook opens the back door, settles in the far-left seat, and then promptly falls asleep. Taehyung clambers in after him.

“Alright, I’ll drive,” Hoseok sighs, stepping into the driver’s seat.

The boys cheer and they all climb in, an excitement buzzing in the air. The car takes off; they pull onto the freeway, and immediately come to a stop.

Hoseok’s mouth forms an unhappy pout. “I hate LA traffic.”

“Alright, since we’re not doing anything anyways, let’s go over our guy for the week!” Jimin pulls the tablet out, stashed under the passenger seat.

“His name is Kim Seokjin, born December 4th, 1992 – oh, so he’s our hyung – and works as an office manager.”

“Sexy. A 401k,” Taehyung swoons onto Jungkook’s slumped form, who only mutters before tucking his face in the crook of Taehyung’s neck.

Namjoon reaches over to stroke Jungkook’s head. “Cars make him sleepy,” he says to the camera.

“He’s 5’10”, been single for 2 years, owns sugar gliders – oh, cute – and enjoys cooking and playing video games in his free time. He was nominated by his best friends, Jaehwan and Junghwan and he’s also the self-proclaimed-” Jimin pauses and squints at the tablet.

 

CUT:

KIM SEOKJIN

Seokjin sits cross-legged on his home couch. He takes a sip of whiskey in a wine glass, pinky slightly lifted, and lets out a gusty sigh of satisfaction. He turns to face the camera; his eyes flash conspiratorially.

“I’m Seokjin, but you can call me Jin. I’m the most handsome guy you’ll ever meet.”

He winks.                                                             

 

CUT:

FAB FIVE

Jimin pulls up a picture of him on screen. Namjoon lets out a low whistle.

“Well, he’s not wrong.”

Jungkook wakes to an elbow in his ribs as Taehyung shakes him awake, gesturing at the tablet. Jungkook grumbles, blearily looking over before double taking. He goes slack-jawed, staring at the picture. Jimin reaches behind to pat his head.

“Baby gays,” he sighs fondly.                               

 

CUT:

JAEHWAN 

“Well to be honest, I didn’t think he would accept, we kind of entered him in as a joke,” he says, scratching his head.

“But! He could definitely use some help in the love department. Maybe wardrobe too. And well, Jinnie’s one of my best friends, but.. I think around other people that aren’t me and Junghwan, he tends to get… a little shy? He doesn’t open up easily, or like talking about his own feelings. Pretty much ever.” Jaehwan looks into the camera, a dead look in his eyes.

 

CUT:

Seokjin’s sat on his couch, a blanket draped over his lap and his eyes glued to the screen. Train to Busan plays in the background, the ending scene. 

Seokjin’s face is screwed up, fidgeting as if forced to watch it by gunpoint. “Nice,” he says, his voice garbled from the tissue jammed into his face. He blows his nose.    

“R-Really fun to watch.”

 

CUT:

The camera follows Seokjin on an average week. He brings in homemade cookies during the office’s Monday meetings. Off work, he messes around on his guitar, writing into a notebook he keeps tucked under his pillow. He spends an hour slicing up cherries, bananas, and peaches to hand-feed his sugar gliders, letting them climb onto his shoulders and nap there as he fills out reports. He arrives home late from work one time, clutching a bouquet of flowers, that he carefully sets up in a glass bottle.

Off-camera, camera man: “What are the flowers for?”

Seokjin smiles casually, but the tips of his ears turn a mottled red.

“I just like picking some up on the way back from work sometimes. I know the shop owner.” He stutters over the “know,” turning to the fridge quickly to grab groceries out. The camera zooms in on his red ears as he furiously chops a green onion.

 

CUT:

FAB FIVE

“All in all, seems like a nice guy. A little cheesy, but cute. This one’s going to be easy,” Jimin says. 

 


  

Namjoon raps on the door, and a beat later, Seokjin opens it, beaming and looking like a male lead right out of a drama. He’s wearing an apron that says Caution: Extremely Hot and the smell of home-made stew wafts out from behind him.

“Hi, you all made it! Come in, come in, I have jjigae!” Jin says, stepping back to let five grown men and a production team pile into his one-bedroom apartment.

“It’s still heating, we have about an hour. What did you guys want to do first?” Jin asks.

The five of them exchange looks.

“Prepare yourself.”

  

TAEHYUNG

Taehyung looks at his closet and sighs, willing a part of himself to not shrivel up and die inside. So many badly fitted suits, so little time. He can definitely appreciate a good button-up and a nice pair of slacks, but Jin’s whole closet looks like a combination of over-sized wrinkled button-ups, large sweaters and jackets, and graphic t-shirts.

“This is. A lot,” he says, trying to be nice. He smiles reassuringly at Seokjin, who blinks back at him, and looks at his closet.

“Is it bad?”

“Nooo, no, no, not bad,” he says, steepling his fingers. “Just- it looks like the aesthetic combination of a middle-schooler who has his outfits picked out by his mom and a retired attorney. But not like, in a completely bad way.”

He rummages through the clothes. “Some of these pieces could definitely work, I like that you’re open to color and potentially some more experimental pieces.”

He pulls out a pair of severely ripped jeans, a daring hole particularly close to the crotch area. “Right, ok I like these! And,” he rummages more and pulls out an overly large, but soft pink sweater. “This too! It’s too big, but it works here because that’s the style for it, as compared to your button-ups, which are just too big for you in general.”

“Ah, yeah I know, but I have to buy the bigger ones to fit my shoulders, otherwise it gets too tight,” Jin says. He grins, patting his own shoulders in a good job gesture. “They’re very hardworking.”

Taehyung lets his eyes sweep across the broad expanse of those shoulders, and mentally fist pumps. This was going to be so much fun. “They’ve done a great service,” he answers solemnly.

He pulls the extra fabric bunched at Seokjin’s waist together, molding the fabric to the curve of his waist. “See, it’s an easy fix, we can get those tailored and fit properly. Really let your shoulders shine,” he says, giving his waist a squeeze. Well, hello, another hardworking body part. He almost doesn’t want to let go.

Seokjin clears his throat and Taehyung startles. Right, work. He turns back to sort through Jin’s closet, making a face at a lime green jersey and giving a considering hum at a geometric, color-blocked shirt.

“Anything you’re not comfortable with? I want to make sure that you have clothes that you can wear for work that are appropriate and look good, but also clothes that you can wear off work that you can maybe experiment a bit with and that you’re still comf-” Taehyung stops. 

He pulls out a flimsy, lace thing? It’s in a soft lavender and is half silk, half lace, the fabric tangled. He holds it against his crotch, shakes his head, and holds it in front of him.

“Is this-”

Seokjin stares blankly, emotionless if not for the way his neck is slowly turning beet red. He carefully takes the item from Taehyung, untangles it, and holds it up against his chest, demonstrating it, before opening a random drawer and shoving it deep inside. They stare at each other.

“Part of my last Halloween costume.”       

They stare at each other some more. 

“Good to know. Marking down: open to trying anything.”

  

JIMIN 

Jimin scans the main room, making little mental tick marks as he looks around the apartment. Truthfully there isn’t that much to see: the apartment’s a big box with a smaller box attached to it, containing Seokjin’s bedroom and bathroom. From first glance, he can guess that Jin’s style is neat, cozy, and a little boring – perfectly functional for a twenty-something working full-time who prioritizes a squishy, soft couch and a well-stocked kitchen.

He takes note of the flowers bundled up in the vase at the center of his kitchen table – a surprising burst of color in the otherwise monotone space – and makes a mental note.

Jimin steps into Jin’s bedroom and then stops.

Steps back out.

Looks at the carefully arranged, minimalist furniture of Jin’s living room, and back into the bedroom, resembling more of a very cozy Nintendo storage room. One wall is just a tall wooden shelf of Mario figures, memorabilia, and various anime figurines. Jin’s bed has Reese and Cyrus plushies tucked into the blankets, their heads just poking out. Jimin tries to contain his cooing.

There’s a little TV pushed into the corner, a Wii and a Nintendo Switch placed away in a small cabinet, next to a stack of video games. The game covers look well worn. 

A guitar and piano are tucked into the opposite corner of the room; on closer look, the wall is tacked with annotated guitar and piano tabs, little notes of encouragement scribbled in the margins.  

In his periphery, he can hear and see Taehyung pulling out what seems to be the entirety of Jin’s closet and depositing it on the floor; he’s sorting the piles and occasionally muttering to himself, little verbal reminders that help him sort out his thoughts. Jimin thinks he hears something about lingerie and spandex, but Taehyung looks much too focused to ask and he knows he’ll be hearing about it sometime later, so he’ll wait.

This is more promising, he thinks. A little, tender carved out space tucked away in the back of Jin's apartment. This is the part that Jimin always likes best – the contrast between the perfunctual bullet lines of the client report, detailing a list of the client’s likes and dislikes, their hobbies, their job and the reality of their intensely private, lived space, filled out with their little habits and quirks. It’s one thing to read that Kim Seokjin likes to play the guitar, and another to see the cramped little notes littered all along the lyrics, indicating emotion, inflection, mood.

I want to remain, I want to dream more. Maybe I can never-

Jimin looks away, at Jin’s small pile of guitar picks on his desk, the well-worn guitar strings, his tacked-up calendar marked with birthday dates and meetings and to-do lists.

All of Seokjin exists in this room – it feels small but warm, like a seed nurtured in a cramped space, without the space to grow properly but with all the potential to flourish given the right resources and care. He can't wait to see what Seokjin blooms into. 

 

JUNGKOOK 

“Wow, I didn’t know they sold industrial sized sesame oil bottles. This is more like a barrel.” Jungkook grabs the handle of the jug, lifting it up experimentally. Seokjin’s got a surprisingly full kitchen for such a small apartment; he spots a crockpot, an overflowing number of spatulas, racks of spices and herbs, some seaweed chips hidden in the back drawer. He can respect that.

He had been intimidated by Seokjin at first – handsome, quick to laughter, into video games and plushies, a man after his own heart; until he witnessed the power of his dad jokes and the stash of icy-hot patches and acupressure slippers he kept in the bathroom. That had wilted his heart boner pretty quickly (well not entirely, but enough to relax a little and realize that Seokjin was as dorky as he was handsome).

Jungkook turns around to call to Namjoon, and double takes.

“Hyung, are you doing his dishes?” he asks Namjoon, who pauses in rinsing a bright yellow bowl.

“Well technically they’re our dishes, he fed us jjigae! I feel bad,” Namjoon answers, setting the dish in the rack to dry. Jimin, as if drawn over by the completion of a good deed, pops over and takes over scrubbing the dishes as Namjoon rinses, a well-oiled, domestic machine.

“Hyung, it was takeout he warmed up.”

“Still!” Namjoon insists.

Jungkook leaves him be, opens the fridge, and peruses the items. His first thought is Kim Seokjin is very organized – drawers labeled for fruits, meats, and vegetables respectively, and a whole lot of bulk meals.

“The sign of an old bachelor,” he says to Jimin, who stifles a giggle when Jin shouts “WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?” from inside the bedroom.

He opens the freezer and counts at least 7 bottles of vodka. Perfect.

“Who wants to learn how to make cocktails?” he yells, pulling out a Smirnoff.

The rest of them shout out various noises of assent, and he begins pulling glasses. He pulls some limes from the fridge, grabs a bowl of ice, and starts setting up. He goes through the drawers, hunting, until he finds a few packets of watermelon kool-aid powder. He shrugs, dumping the powder and vodka into a glass before finishing it off with a twist of lime. He gives the glass a quick tumble with a handful of ice, mixing it all together. 

He tastes it, shudders, and then proceeds to make 6 more.

Namjoon bears it with a blank face, only slightly cringing. Jimin and Seokjin down it no problem. Hoseok handles about two sips before pushing the rest onto Namjoon, who conspicuously tries to dump it down the drain. Taehyung takes one sip and proceeds to chug a coke, going to lie down on the couch.

“Who wants seconds?” Jungkook asks. Seokjin and Jimin raise their glasses and the three of them clink in solidarity.

 

HOSEOK 

Hoseok looks through the skin care bottles neatly lining Jin’s shelf. Toner, cleanser, a small pile of face masks, mud clay mask, eye cream, moisturizer. He nods approvingly. Alright, at least in this aspect, it would all be relatively painless. Skincare check, next hair? Jin didn’t have any facial hair, but his normal hair looked healthy, a thick shine to it. He thinks. If Jin would be open to it, it’d be interesting to see if he could do something to that, a cut, maybe a dye? 

“JIN-HYUNG!” Taehyung shouts right next to his ear, making him jump and nearly upturn all the bottles on the shelf next to him. Taehyung winces and whispers a quick “Sorry” that has him exhaling slowly and slapping Taehyung on the stomach.

“Can we use one of your face masks? For research purposes of course, to check if they’re good!” Taehyung shouts, already ripping a bamboo extract one open. Jin screams back, “YES HOLD ON, WAIT FOR ME” from the other room and appears at his other side a few seconds later, startling him again into nearly headbutting Taehyung.

5 minutes later and they’re each patting a face mask on, Jin’s headbands pushing their hair off their foreheads. Once he’s sure the mask is on properly, Hoseok goes back to casting a critical eye at the products, mentally cataloguing things that Jin might need. The snail extract mask tingles slightly.  

Hoseok picks up a cologne on the shelf, examining it. Weird, it was kept out in front, but barely used.

“You use the Guerlain Winter Delice? This stuff’s always sold out,” Hoseok asks, gaging.

Seokjin ducks his head down, before quickly bringing it back up to prevent the face mask from peeling off his face. He avoids eye contact as he holds up the cologne, gently turning it.

“It was a gift. I mentioned that I liked pine-scented things, and he got it for my birthday. I only use it for special occasions,” Jin says, putting it back down carefully. He smiles at them. A little too casually, Hoseok thinks.

Hoseok eyes him curiously as Taehyung continues to upturn Jin’s medicine cabinets. Usually he’d tell Taehyung to be more careful, but he guesses the whole point of this is to tear everything apart. Plus, he’s more curious about this.

“Who’s he? Someone special?” Hoseok quirks an eyebrow.

Seokjin turns to fidget with the bottles on the shelf, turning to stare very intently at the wall.

“Just a fr-” he’s interrupted by a yell; Taehyung chokes and pulls out a bright blue dildo from the bottom cabinet. A second later, he holds up a prostate massager in the other hand. The three of them stare at it.

All hell breaks loose as Jin shrieks and launches himself at Taehyung, who pinwheels back to fall on the floor as Hoseok attempts to grab Jin but misses, as Jin collapses on the floor next to Taehyung. Face masks go flying off as Jin tries to wrestle with a slippery Taehyung, fails, and then proceeds to prod and tickle him mercilessly. A few seconds later, the screams and laughter attract the rest of the boys, who all attempt to pile in to see what’s going on. Jungkook and Jimin catch sight of the blue dildo and laugh so hard they start crying. Hoseok can’t breathe, slumped against the medicine cabinets and wheezing.

This might be the best thing they’ve had happen on the show yet.

 

NAMJOON

Namjoon takes a sip of his coke, seated across Seokjin on his couch. Distantly, he can hear Jimin and Jungkook messing around, peals of laughter ringing out every few seconds. He internally winces – he hopes it’s not a repeat of last time, where they spilled olive oil everywhere trying to make a salad and subsequently pulled everyone else in to clean it up. That shit did not come off easily, clothing or otherwise.

Or that they’re not sword-fighting with Seokjin’s dildos. He shuts that thought down immediately. 

He shakes his head mentally and casts a calculating look at Jin from the corner of his eye – so far, he’s been a friendly, (apparently kinky), funny, nice guy. On paper, he seems like a perfectly normal, if extraordinarily good-looking, man in his mid-twenties who has his shit together, and shouldn’t have any problems, romantically or otherwise.

He looks at Jin, who smiles pleasantly back. Regardless, there must be something more to it; nobody’s friends recommend them to a reality show that intensely invades one’s life and privacy and mental space for a week just for shits and giggles.   

“So Jin, what do you do in your spare time? For fun?” Namjoon asks.

“Nothing special really. I like going out to karaoke with friends, holding get togethers, cooking, watching movies alone,” Seokjin answers.

He files the information away, nodding along.

“Do you garden?” Namjoon asks curiously. “I noticed you have a lot of flower seed packets.” He nods toward the small container of flower seed bags on his dining room table, stacked neatly next to a vase of flowers but seemingly untouched.

“Ah no, I just get those from the local flower shop. I’ve been wanting to, so I get recommendations from the owner, but I’m terrible with plants,” he says, eyes turning soft for a moment.

Namjoon smiles, “Same, I always forget when I’ve last watered it and then it either dehydrates or drowns. I’ve been keeping little cacti in my kitchen though, which are cute and almost impossible for me to kill. 

Namjoon racks his brain, before remembering the guitar he saw briefly in the bedroom, next to a keyboard – both well-kept, as if played often to keep them dust-free.

“I saw that you have a guitar and keyboard, are those hobbies of yours?” he asks.

Seokjin brightens, coming alive in a way beyond charisma and casual kindness. There we go, Namjoon thinks.

“Yes, I’ve just started learning piano and I’ve played guitar since college. I haven’t had much time lately to practice, though I try to play at least a couple times a week. I wish I had more time, but.” He cuts himself off, smile dimming for a second, before brightening up back to normal.

“I suppose that’s just adulthood. You have to let some things go,” Seokjin says.

“Do you?” Namjoon asks.

There’s a crashing noise from inside Jin’s bedroom, and Jin whips his head around in panic.

“YAH if anyone broke any of my figurines, there’s going to be hell to pay,” he says very evenly, before zooming into the bedroom to the screams of Jungkook and Taehyung.

Namjoon blinks and then knocks back the rest of the coke. Hoseok comes over to join him on the couch, collapsing into a boneless pile and resting his head in his lap.

“You ok Joonie?”

Namjoon smiles down at him, poking at his soft cheek.

“I’ve got an idea.”