Time was a tricky thing.
It was fluid and finicky, ever shifting and changing. People liked to think time was constant. Sixty seconds in a minute. Sixty minutes in an hour. Unchanging, hard facts.
Seokjin knew better than that. Time didn’t follow rules. He learned that when he woke up one morning and he found himself in the wrong timeline. When he meant to step into a store but found it had aged ten years. Time, to put it in simple terms, was a bitch.
It was a slippery concept at first, but after practice and stumbles into wrong realities he had grasped a good control on time. Now, he’d like to even venture and say he’s gotten pretty good at shifting into different realities.
Choosing exactly where to end up, well...that was a different story, wasn’t it?
Seokjin opened his eyes to find himself walking on dark pavement, slick with this morning’s rain. He shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself--in this reality, it seemed, he didn’t know what a raincoat was.
The gas station was a grounding place, though. He was glad to find himself standing in it. It was place that he found himself drawn too, found himself wandering through at least one aimlessly, each reality. It was the place where Seokjin could find him.
This reality proved to be a score, and Seokjin couldn’t help but exhale as he saw him again.
He was leaning against the gas station, a lollipop in his mouth, sort of staring off into nothing. He didn’t seem to notice Seokjin, even as he approached. He was wearing a skirt, because Namjoon liked to fuck with gender norms, and Seokjin only loved him more for it.
But the skirt...it looked off. It was too long, falling past Namjoon’s knees, and it was this tiny difference that Seokjin knew that this reality wasn’t the one he was looking for.
“Your skirt,” Seokjin said, staring at Namjoon, his head tilted. “It’s supposed to be this short.” He gestured to his mid thigh.
Namjoon took out the lollipop from his mouth and frowned at Seokjin. “What are you talking about?” he asked. So he didn’t even know who Seokjin was in this reality.
“Sorry.” Seokjin waved his hand. “I’m just talking to myself.” He couldn’t bring himself to feel embarrassed--he’ll just switch out of this reality and cease to exist.
(Now wasn’t that a nice way to deal with things?)
Namjoon’s lips quirked up in a smile that Seokjin knew too well--he had been memorizing and re-memorizing those lines for lifetimes. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I talk to myself all the time.”
I know you do, Seokjin wanted to scream. I know you speak your ideas out loud until they become reality. I know you like to sing to yourself when you think no one’s listening. I know you talk to crabs everytime you come to the beach.
Out loud, he said, “It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this world.”
Namjoon’s grinned. It was worth abandoning timelines for. “Isn’t it?”
“What are you doing out here?” Seokjin said, going for casual and missing it by a few miles.
“Thinking,” Namjoon answered simply, raising his eyes up. “You can’t see the stars out here.”
“Light pollution,” Seokjin suggested.
Namjoon shrugged. “Maybe.” He pushed himself off the wall. “I should get going. There’s no use missing what’s not there.” He gave Seokjin a kind smile, and Seokjin’s heart ached, because in another timeline that smile would have greeted him when he woke up in the morning.
Namjoon popped the lollipop back in his mouth and Seokjin watched him walk back his car, throw open the door and climb in.
He could, theoretically, run after him. He could get to know Namjoon and maybe even build up something just as beautiful as he shared with other-Namjoon. But there were too many possibilities, too many ways for this to go wrong, and Seokjin knew, in the pit of his stomach, that he and Namjoon were supposed to be strangers in this timeline.
Seokjin exhaled slowly as Namjoon’s car drove away. There’s no use missing what’s not there. His life had dissolved into this cycle: cross into a timeline, look for Namjoon, lose Namjoon, repeat. There was no such thing, in Seokjin’s mind as soulmates. Fate had given them no easy way out. No, perhaps star-crossed was a better definition than soulbound.
He stepped towards the small store next to the gas station and closed his hand on the door’s handle. Glancing back only once, he yanked it open, letting the light of the convenience store wash over him. As he stepped inside, he switched timelines, and hoped for a red string.
The first time Seokjin stumbled across Namjoon, he found purpose in his life.
It wasn’t love at first sight: nowhere near such a thing. When Seokjin saw Namjoon sitting by himself, absorbed in a book, across the college’s cafeteria, he tried to brush him off as just another student.
(This was when Seokjin was still unused to traveling, as he liked to call it. This was when he would wake up in an alternate reality spontaneously. This was when he forced himself not to get attached to anyone, because he could be gone the next day.)
But then destiny might have flicked her hand, or fate tugged on her strings, because Namjoon lifted his head and Seokjin met his gaze from across the room. Their eyes locked. And time stopped.
“You’re staring,” said a soft voice next to him.
Seokjin turned to see Jungkook and his large eyes looking at Seokjin curiously. “I was spacing out,” he said evasively. A quick look told him that Namjoon had disappeared back into his book.
“You do that a lot,” Jungkook pointed out, sticking a spoonful of rice in his mouth. “How you manage to keep your grades, I have no idea.”
“Mmm,” Seokjin said. He didn’t have a clue why he was even trying to graduate. Maybe it was that slim hope that this was the reality he’d stay in. He liked his life like this, and he loved Jungkook, and to have this snatched because of his uncontrollable powers was just...unfair.
“So anyway.” Jungkook nodded over to the student. “You know him?”
“No,” Seokjin said with a laugh. “What, am I not allowed to look at cute boys?”
Jungkook smiled, shaking his head. “You should make at least, like, one other friend then me.”
“But Jungkookie.” Seokjin splayed out on him and Jungkook squirmed out of his grasp. “You’re my favorite person.” He smiled at Jungkook cheekily and Jungkook giggled. He had no idea that Seokjin was taking a risk by getting so close to him, but ignorance was bliss, after all.
“I’ve talked to him a few times,” Jungkook said. “He’s really cool and smart! He let me listen to one of his pieces and it was so good, I want to produce music like him someday.”
Seokjin raised an eyebrow. “Seems like you have a crush.”
“Bitch, who wouldn’t,” Jungkook muttered, reaching over with his chopsticks to nab part of Seokjin’s lunch, not batting an eye when Seokjin slapped his hands away. “His name’s Kim Namjoon.”
“Kim Namjoon.” Seokjin tested the name out on his tongue. “Stole my last name, huh?”
Jungkook laughed, right as Namjoon gathered his books and began to walk out of the cafeteria. “You should go talk to him,” he urged.
Seokjin watched as Namjoon slipped out of sight. In another world, perhaps he could go up and talk to him, and it could be the start of a friendship or a relationship, or nothing at all. He sighed and averted his gaze back to his half-eaten lunch. Trying was useless, when he’d just end up restarting everything in a different timeline.
“I’ll think about it,” he muttered, and tried not to feel guilty when Jungkook lit up.
“How did I come to this?” Seokjin said helplessly, thunking his head on the counter. “What did I do wrong in my past timeline to get to this point?”
“I think you mean past life,” Yoongi corrected him, and, no, Seokjin didn’t. “And you wanted to make your own money, didn’t you?”
Seokjin covered his face in his hands. “I forgot how much teenage years sucked,” he muttered, too quiet for Yoongi to hear.
“I mean,” Yoongi continued, “I don’t see why you chose working at a convenience store at a gas station. I’d get working at the local supermarket, but a gas station way at the edge of town? Sounds creepy at night.”
“It’s like a liminal space,” Seokjin offered.
“What are you, a literature nerd?” Yoongi asked, but there was no bite to his words.
Seokjin swatted him. “If it’s so creepy, why don’t you just leave?”
Yoongi rolled his eyes. “I told you, I wanted a snack.”
Seokjin raised his eyebrows. “You finished that 50 cent candy bar and you’re still here.”
That earned him a scowl. “Shut up.”
“It’s almost like,” Seokjin said, leaning forward with a shit-eating grin on his face, “you’re here to keep my company.”
“Preposterous,” Yoongi scoffed, tossing Seokjin a coca cola that he had bought from a vending machine. “I would never.”
To the side of him, someone cleared their throat and Seokjin jerked his head up so hard he thought he twisted his neck. When he met his eyes, Seokjin’s breath stopped in his throat.
“Are you--” The customer gestured awkwardly to Yoongi and Yoongi waved a hand.
“I’m just keeping the cashier company,” he said easily, proving Seokjin’s last point. But Seokjin could hardly throw an I told you so to Yoongi, as he was too focused on the fact that the customer had dark hair and warm eyes and when he smiled, his cheeks dimpled.
He could remember kissing those dimples, once on either side.
“Excuse me?” the customer said, and Seokjin blinked.
“Sorry,” he said, with what he hoped was a disarming smile. “I was just getting lost in your eyes.”
Namjoon blushed at that--because shitty pickup lines and bad puns were a one-way ticket into his heart. Honestly, reusing the same jokes each reality was possibly Seokjin’s favorite part about time traveling. No one got sick of them. “I--um. Thanks.” He set down a few packages of cup ramen. “I’m just taking this.”
Seokjin nodded, reaching out to swipe and bag the items like second nature. “That’ll be a $1.75,” he said. “Anything else?”
“No, that’ll be all.” Namjoon grabbed the offered bag and hesitated, looking at Seokjin carefully. Seokjin sat up a bit straighter. This wasn’t his ideal timeline, no, but maybe it could be the start of something special.
“What is it?” he asked, and his voice shook more than he would have liked.
Namjoon paused. “It’s nothing,” he said uncertainly. “You just look...familiar.”
“We’ve probably met before once or twice.” Seokjin chose his words carefully. “Small town.”
“Small town. That’s probably it.” Namjoon smiled at him softly. “Thanks.”
“What was that?” Yoongi asked, after Namjoon had left. “I was just getting lost in your eyes. Really?”
“I flirt with people all the time,” Seokjin said airily.
“You wink and blow kisses,” Yoongi said dryly. “You don’t use bad pickup lines.”
“There are things you shouldn’t ask about,” Seokjin said, hitting Yoongi lightly on the arm. “You wouldn’t understand, so don’t mind me.”
Yoongi eyed Seokjin, but he kept quiet.
Seokjin wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but he and Namjoon became best friends, joined at the hip. In this reality, he was only a year younger than Seokjin but they both attended the same high school and shared lunches together.
It was a new experience to have Namjoon as his best friend. Before, it had been Jungkook. Seokjin might have...miscalculated the situation. Just a little. He hadn't quite realized how much it hurt to be in love with your best friend. Namjoon was blissfully unaware of his feelings, detailing to Seokjin his various crushes and first dates and Seokjin, loving Namjoon's happiness, supported him throughout.
It was torturous.
On top of all that, his parents were urging him to apply for college and to leave this small little town in pursuit of something bigger. Seokjin could’ve sworn that a few lifetimes ago he would’ve been frantically writing college essays and begging for recommendation letters but in this reality...university could not look less appealing.
Right now, Seokjin was on his bed, sifting through college applications in his small attic room. Yoongi was to his side, sitting cross-legged and Namjoon was splayed out beside him.
“There’s so many options,” Namjoon mused. “I don’t know how to pick.”
“You’re going into engineering, right?” Seokjin asked. And Yoongi, he guessed, was pursuing something in architecture.
“Biomedical engineering,” Namjoon corrected. “Mostly chose it ‘cause it sounds cool as fuck. And my parents don’t want me going into music, so.”
“That’s bullshit,” Seokjin muttered. He’s said that too many times, but it always fell on deaf ears. He sighed, resting a chin in the palm of his hand. “This is the worst.”
Namjoon looked up at him. “You good, Jin?”
“You seem distant lately,” Yoongi noted. He had become a close friend in this reality, and someone Seokjin didn’t want to lose. But he had lost countless friends to jumping, so he supposed Yoongi wasn’t any different.
(Jungkook’s face came to him, and he pushed it away.)
At Seokjin’s lack of an answer, Namjoon persisted, moving his papers to look at Seokjin in the eye. “You’ve been skipping class too. Don’t think we haven’t noticed.” He pursed his lips. “Is it college?”
“I’m just…” Seokjin sighed. “I’m not satisfied here.”
Yoongi frowned. “You’re not satisfied here,” he repeated. “Yeah, I get that.”
I doubt you would, Seokjin thought. He smiled anyway, because Yoongi was trying, and that was something. “All of this…” He gestured around the strewn about college pamphlets and scholarship essays. “What’s the point?”
“Believe me, I think college is bullshit too,” Yoongi said, thumbing through a pamphlet. “I’m thinking of skipping out on it.” He looked up at Seokjin. “But you should try for your dream school,” he urged him. “You have a good chance of getting in.”
Seokjin grimaced as he looked down at his application. He had been trying and trying and trying fruitlessly to get into Konkuk University, across every timeline he was a teenager. Every time, the university rejected him and every time he skipped to another timeline, resigned to the fact that it wasn’t the right one, where Seokjin first locked eyes with Namjoon across the university’s cafeteria.
“I think I might leave this place, very soon,” Seokjin said distantly.
Namjoon furrowed his eyebrows. “Leave?” he repeated. “Where?”
“I don’t know yet,” Seokjin said, flopping backwards on the bed. “But I doubt you’ll see me again.”
Namjoon pursed his lips, worried. “Seokjin…” he said slowly. “Don’t do anything dumb, okay? You’re my best friend, I’m not gonna lose you.”
“Don’t worry, Joon.” Seokjin reached up to tousle Namjoon’s hair. “I’ve already done plenty of stupid things.” Namjoon didn’t look very reassured.
Yoong looked searchingly at Seokjin, and his eyes were scarily knowledgeable. “I think you’re like me,” he said easily. “I believe you.” He paused. “Promise to remember me, though.”
Seokjin thought of all those close friends he’d left behind, whose faces had all blended together at this point. “Okay.”
The two ended up staying the night. Seokjin leaned over his bed and watched them sleep on the floor of his room, their outlines barely visible in the darkness. When the clock struck 2 am, he slipped out of his room and padded down moonlit hallways. He lingered by his parents’ bedroom for a short time, before turning away. Family tended to stay constant throughout most timelines, and he could only hope that reigned true in the next reality.
Seokjin opened the door of his house, wincing as it creaked. A cool gust of wind brushed his cheek.
Seokjin didn’t turn around, just laced his fingers around his neck and turned his head up towards the sky. He could count one, two, three, four, five stars visible in the sky.
“Are you okay?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know, Joonie.”
“All that stuff you said about leaving...that worried me.” Namjoon stepped forward, forcing Seokjin to look at him. “I’m serious, Jin, don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
Seokjin held his gaze for one beat, then two. “I’m in love with you.”
Namjoon’s face crumpled. “Jin…” Seokjin’s breath hitched, against his own will. Stupid fucking teenage emotions. “I know you don’t feel the same. I just had to...get that out there.”
“You’re still my best friend,” Namjoon--kind, sweet, loyal Namjoon--said firmly. “That doesn’t change a thing.”
“I know.” Seokjin exhaled. “It’s good to let that out of my system. I try not to leave behind too many loose ties.”
Seokjin took his hand and squeezed it, in a way that might have been platonic and might have not been, and gave a shaky smile. “Joon. Don’t worry. I’ve got this figured out. Go inside, now, it’s getting cold.”
Namjoon stared down at their hands and dropped them, but not before clasping a hand on Seokjin’s shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Sure.” Maybe they’ll meet in a different morning.
Seokjin waited for the door to close shut behind Namjoon before turning back to the sky. He closed his eyes. His feet were starting to go numb from standing in the dew-strung grass.
Seokjin wasn’t going to keep running to catch up to Namjoon, to sit around in a pit of unrequited love, living a life he didn’t feel satisfied in. He’ll miss Yoongi, though. Perhaps that was why he had stayed here so long, because Yoongi reminded him so much of Jungkook, despite their multitude of differences. He wanted desperately to know what Yoongi would do after high school, wanted to watch his personality shape and change, but they didn’t meet at the right place or, more accurately, the right time.
There was no closure for him in this reality.
But, after all, there was no use lingering on what was quickly becoming his past, when he had the future right at his fingertips. Time shifted around him, and when he opened his eyes, it was day.
“You’re like me.” The words were uttered suddenly, disrupting the peace Seokjin had built for himself. He lifted his head up from where he was reading under the shade of a tree. A student perhaps two or three years younger than him was standing in front of him, looking at him with an almost curious expression.
Seokjin lifted an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
“We’re the same sort of person,” the student said, leaning forward. Seokjin leaned back into the tree in response. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“Are you a Psych student?”
He laughed. “No, sorry. It’s just that I’ve never seen you before in any other reality. And that look in your eye...I don’t know. It’s just different. You’re not from this timeline, are you?”
Seokjin very carefully set his book down on the grass. “You’re another time traveler,” he said slowly. “I thought I was the only one around here.”
“You’re only the second one I met.” The student sat himself down next to Seokjin, crossing his legs under him. “The only other one I met was someone in Daegu, years back. I’m Park Jimin, by the way.” He said all this very straight-forward. To anyone else, it would seem odd to talk to a stranger this easily, but Seokjin could understand. When you meet and remeet so many people, you get impatient with sitting through small talk. Different faces with the same words.
“Kim Seokjin,” Seokjin said, still wary. “How did you find me?”
Jimin ducked his head, sheepishly. “It’s just that--you were sitting with--that boy--his name--that was Jeon Jungkook, right?”
“Right,” Seokjin said, glancing off to where Jungkook had left. “You know him?”
“Yeah, kinda.” Jimin tilted his head. “Is--was he born in Seoul?”
“No,” Seokjin replied, confused. “Busan.”
“Busan.” Jimin snapped his fingers. “So this is different from the last reality I visited.”
“Do you know Jungkook then?” Seokjin asked, a bit protectively. “What do you want with him?”
Jimin smiled, a sugar-infused smile that almost (almost) made Seokjin melt. “I met him a few realities ago.” He sighed. “I ended up leaving it because Taehyung wasn’t there, but I couldn’t get him out of my head.”
The smile turned softer. “He’s the closest thing I have to a soulmate,” Jimin replied. “I couldn’t live without him. Once I left Jungkook though, I just...I couldn’t get him out of my head either. But this reality...I have a good feeling about this. I think this’ll be the one.”
“Hold on.” Seokjin held up his hand. “You can control what reality you can wander into?”
“Yeah, pretty well,” Jimin said modestly. “You can’t?”
“No,” Seokjin said, trying not to be annoyed that a kid younger than him was expertly skipping through time. “I can’t control it at all.”
“Oh.” Jimin frowned, chewing on his lips. “That’s really weird. It’s easier to choose when to travel than where. You kinda just...just get a feeling, y’know? And then you follow that feeling and open your eyes and you’re there.”
“You,” Seokjin said, “are a really bad teacher.” And then: “If you’ve been looking for both Taehyung and Jungkook then...do they remember you in each timeline?”
Jimin plucked a piece of grass from the ground and rolled it between his fingers absentmindedly. “No,” he said finally. “They don’t.”
“How do you have the energy to keep trying?” Seokjin said, shaking his head. “I’ve made countless friends across timelines but I could never keep remaking them forever.”
“There are just--” Jimin’s hands floundered as he struggled to articulate. “You meet people who stop time,” he said carefully. “Who you look at and think, I don’t want to ever exist somewhere without them. And they might not be your world, no, but they make it so much brighter. And once you feel that brightness…” Jimin closed his eyes. “You can live without it, but god, why would you ever want to?”
Seokjin nodded slowly, mulling it over. “I don’t get it,” he said.
“You might never get it. Or need to get it,” Jimin said, flopping backwards onto the grass. “That’s okay. But if you do find that person, you’ll know it.”
“I think,” Seokjin said thoughtfully, “you’ve been watching too many kdramas.”
“Honestly,” Jimin said, “that might be right.”
“Seokjin!” Seokjin and Jimin looked up in tandem, and Seokjin gave a lazy wave to the figure of Jungkook making his way towards them.
“Hey, Kook, I was just talking with Jimin.” Seokjin nudged Jimin, who had gone slack-jawed at the sight of Jungkook. It was kind of cute, to see that Jungkook (and Taehyung too, no doubt) still had that effect on him. “Say hi, Jimin.”
“Hi,” Jimin said breathlessly.
“Hey, nice to meet you, I’m Jungkook,” Jungkook said all in one breath, sitting down besides them. Then he paused, eyes clinging to Jimin for some time. “Do I know you?”
“Well, now you do,” Jimin said easily.
Jungkook laughed. “True.” After a pause and an attempt to subtly check Jimin out, he added, “Hey, you should hang out sometime with the rest of us.”
“Us?” Jimin repeated.
“Me, Seokjin, and my other friend Taehyung,” Jungkook replied. “We just talk shit and chill.”
At the mere mention of Taehyung’s name, Jimin’s eyes shone and he assured Jungkook that yes, of course I can make it and that Taehyung sounds familiar, could you tell me more about him?
And then, throwing a glance at Seokjin, he said, “See?” he said. “It all works out.”
“What works out?” Jungkook asked. Then, eyes falling on Seokjin’s discarded textbook. “Oh, calculus? How the fuck do you get math to work out for you?”
Jimin grinned. “He never changes.”
Seokjin had warned Jimin that the “hang-outs” Jungkook spoke of frequently dissolved into arguments over whatever current anime Jungkook and Taehyung were currently watching, which then led to Seokjin trying and failing to get drunk on banana milk.
Jimin had looked at him, with the eyes of a man who’s seen too much, and reassured him that he knew exactly what Jungkook was talking about.
“I think it’s anime that’s the one constant,” Jimin had said sagely. “I’ve watched Attack on Titan with both Tae and Kook five million times and the plot never changes.”
“Truly a powerful force,” Seokjin had mused.
So that’s where they were now: Jungkook, Taehyung, and Jimin crammed on one small, rickety bed with a laptop perched on their laps and Seokjin reclining on the other empty bed, phone in hand, claiming he could see everything “perfectly fine from here”.
Seokjin had always suspected there was something between the roommates, Taehyung and Jungkook, but they adapted to Jimin in their lives so easily and so practiced, it felt fate-decided. Were they all dating yet? Seokjin had no idea. Were they happy? That question was ridiculously easy to answer.
“Since Jin’s preoccupied, he should be the one to make a ramen dash,” Taehyung said, nodding at the small microwave he and Jungkook had set up in the corner of the room. It had short-circuited the lights multiple times.
“Hey!” Seokjin protested. “I’m paying close attention!”
“What are we watching?”
“Boku no...something or other,” Seokjin guessed.
“I’d like shio broth, please,” Taehyung said pleasantly.
“Fuck you.” Seokjin slid off the bed. “My joints are too weak for this.”
“You’re in your twenties,” Jimin said dryly. “Hurry up.”
Seokjin flipped the three of them off as he headed towards the door. The closest store, he decided, was that convenience store next to the gas station. It wasn’t an incredibly long walk off campus, and when he arrived, the gas station was empty, it’s bright fluorescent lights flickering.
He bought three cups of ramen as quickly as possible. The cashier looked bored out of her mind and didn’t bother to look up as he thanked her. He could understand tha, having worked multiple customer service jobs through past lifetimes.
The door shut behind him with a quiet little click. While walking, he checked the bag again to make sure that, yes, he got shio broth for Taehyung, when he promptly collided into a something--some. The bag fell out of his hands as he stumbled, but then a hand caught the bag and the other caught Seokjin’s wrist, steadying him.
“I’m so sorry.” Seokjin lifted his eyes to meet a very frantic Kim Namjoon, in all his glory. He was taller by a few inches, with bleached hair pushed out of his forehead and worried eyes. He was wearing a skirt that fell around mid-thigh and on the hand in his nestled a few rings. “I didn’t see you there and I just--”
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t paying attention,” Seokjin replied, a little dumbstruck. “Um. Thank you.”
Namjoon let go of his hand (a shame, Seokjin was just processing it in his) and gave him back his bag. “I hope nothing precious was in there.”
“Just ramen,” Seokjin said, glancing inside it. “If it’s all broken, then my friends’ can deal with it.”
Kim Namjoon, bless his heart, actually looked guilty. “Sorry, I--”
“Don’t worry about it,” Seokjin said again. “I’m Kim Seokjin, by the way. I think I’ve seen you around university.”
“I’ve seen you too,” Namjoon said, like they didn’t stare at each other in a cafeteria for a period to time a bit too long to be straight. “I’m Namjoon.” He quirked an eyebrow. “I think I stole your last name.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Seokjin said appreciatively. “What can I say, I’m a trendsetter.”
Namjoon let out a laugh at that, and making Namjoon laugh honestly might be the greatest service Seokjin had done for this world. “That’s impressive,” he decided. “You’re doing a late night ramen run for your friends?”
“Not one of my finest moments,” Seokjin admitted. “You work here?”
“Yeah.” Namjoon rocked back and forth on the heels of his feet awkwardly. “I just refill gas, which could be...worse. Just a part time job for now, because...y’know.” He waved a hand. “Gotta help pay tuition somehow.”
Seokjin thought of his father, supplying everything for him, and pursed his lips. “That’s rough.”
“It’s not bad,” Namjoon said with an easy shrug. “I mean, that’s life y’know?”
“Could’ve chose a nicer place.” Seokjin flourished a hand. “It’s so creepy and dark out here.”
Namjoon looked around the gas station, at the quiet stillness and flickering lights. “I think of it as a liminal space.”
“A liminal space?”
“It’s like…” Namjoon chewed his lip, thinking. “Like a place that sort of blurs time. A threshold between two destinations. Like empty hallways. Stores at night. That sort of thing.”
“I don’t think that makes it any less creepy,” Seokjin said.
“Yeah,” Namjoon agreed, “but it sounds cool, right?”
“I guess that’s the best way to face our fears,” Seokjin said. A place that blurs time. Sounded like his autobiography.
“But don’t listen to me ramble.” A smile quirked on Namjoon’s lips, self-deprecating and kind at the same time. “Don’t you have to get home to your friends?”
“I feel like I’m fourth-wheeling with them,” Seokjin scoffed. “I’m suffering from attention deprivation.”
“So you talk to me,” Namjoon clarified, “a random guy in the middle of an empty gas station.”
“Well, yeah,” Seokjin said obviously. “What, you want me to strike up a conversation with that sad looking tree over there?”
“It is sad,” Namjoon noted. “Maybe it needs some small talk more than I do.” At Seokjin’s incredulous laugh, he asked, “What?”
“Nothing,” Seokjin said, shaking his head. “I’ve just never met someone like you before.”
“Well.” Namjoon looked up to the sky. “I guess I could use some company.”
(Seokjin ended up thirty minutes late to the dorm. He found Jimin, Taehyung, and Jungkook collapsed in a pile, sleeping, and he sat on the opposite bed, the bag of ramen discarded to the side, and thought.)
The cold night in Korea was snatched away, traded for the warm day of Australia.
It was a little jarring to be in a different country. But, as the reality fit itself to include him, his life story fell into place easily. Instead of going as an exchange student as a child, he was now here as a college student. There was an entirely new language on his tongue now, and just as easily as he had become Kim Seokjin in all Korean realities he was now Seokjin Kim.
God, at least he was past all those college applications. It wasn’t the same university as his past life, but this was so different, so new, that Seokjin couldn’t help but hope that he could find Namjoon again.
“Seokjin!” An arm came to sling around Seokjin’s shoulder. “What took so long? I just sent you in for some water bottles.”
“Sorry,” Seokjin said automatically, tossing one to Hoseok. Right, that was Hoseok, the closest friend he had in this foreign country. How could he not have known? “I was thinking.”
“Don’t overwork yourself,” Hoseok said, but with a painfully bright, disarming smile that made the insult fall flat. “What, already stressing about college?”
They were on summer break--that was it. They were on their last day of summer break and he and Hoseok had spent the day in hot sun, running around the city. They had stopped at a small gas station convenience store to buy drinks. He brought the water bottle to his lips, relishing in the cold water. It made him long for Korean winters.
“Yeah,” Seokjin admitted, as they sat down on the curb. “Incredibly stressed. I think my roommate’s gonna be this guy named Hoseok?” He sighed. “It’s gonna be rough.”
“Shut up,” Hoseok said, but he was still grinning. “It’s gonna be so fun rooming with you this year.” Then, thinking, he added, “I was thinking of getting my hair dyed today. Red, maybe? I don’t know, I’ve always wanted to try it out.”
“Maybe I’ll get pink, then,” Seokjin mused. “Or maybe blonde.”
“Think you can pull off pink?” Hoseok teased him.
“Um,” Seokjin said. “I’m Seokjin? Yes, I can pull off pink. I could pull off wearing a garbage bag and you know it.”
“Unfortunately,” Hoseok said, “I do.”
“Why so sudden?” Seokjin squinted at Hoseok. “Thought you were fine with black.”
Hoseok pointed with his water at another guy, maybe nineteen or twenty, on his phone a little ways to the left of the gas station. “He’s got, like, the coolest hair. Bright purple, and he can pull it off.”
“He can pull it off,” Seokjin said appreciatively, because he knew that, aside from him, the only other person he’d admit would look good in anything is Kim Namjoon. “We should talk to him, he’s cute.”
“Oh my god,” Hoseok said despairingly. “You’re gonna embarrass me, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, probably,” Seokjin decided, because that’s how he liked to do things in foreign countries--flirt with a variety of men, say something regrettable, cause Hoseok immeasurable pain who was watching on in horror.
Before Seokjin could make the worst first impression to Namjoon across timelines, however, Namjoon looked up quickly, desperate. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m--fuck, I’m lost, do you know how to get to the university around here? I missed my flight so I got here late and I need to check into my dorm, and--”
“Are you Korean? Can we talk in Korean?” Seokjin asked. “Honestly, English is the equivalent of wet socks.”
“Please ignore him,” Hoseok said pleadingly, pushing Seokjin away. “And we go to that university too, we’ll walk with you.”
“Thank you.” Namjoon breathed a sigh of relief. And then, to Seokjin, “I’m not really sure how that metaphor works, but it’s kind of really true?”
Seokjin grinned. “I think we’ll get along fine.”
“You’re a fucking idiot,” Seokjin yelled as he ran. Sand collected in his shoes with every sprint. “We have class on Monday, it’s gonna take all day to get back to university.”
Namjoon looked back at him, briefly, before continuing his trek to the sea. He was gorgeous, with his hair tousled by the wind and the sun caressing him warmly by its rays. “Who’s the real idiot here,” he said, “Me, or the guy who decided to tag along?”
“I’m not an idiot.”
Namjoon scoffed. “Says the guy who cut his jeans with scissors to make them shorts.”
“That wasn’t idiocy, it’s called innovation, you uncultured slut.”
“Uncultured slut,” Namjoon said, as he reached the shoreline and kicked off his shoes. “I think that’s a new one.”
“I try my best,” Seokjin replied modestly. He followed in suit with Namjoon--slipping off his shoes and hiking up his pants and taking an uneasy step into the water. The lapping waves were a gentle release from the heat.
“So,” Seokjin said, crouching down. “Are we gonna look for crabs or what?”
Namjoon hesitated. “How did you know that’s what I was going to do?” he asked, quizzically.
Seokjin froze. “I--um.” He bit his lip, thinking of the delight in other-Namjoon’s eyes when he talked about crabs, the warmth of his hand as he tugged him down beaches in search of them. “Who doesn’t like crabs?” he finally said weakly.
Namjoon stared at him for a beat, and then two, and then he was nodding seriously, respect in his eyes. “You are. So right,” he declared, bringing up a saltwater-soaked hand up for a high-five. Seokjin happily obliged.
They scoured the waters together, squinting through the dark waters for any sort of movement. Seokjin got caught up watching a flurry of minnows dart away. He nearly lost his footing at the sound of Namjoon’s excited yell.
Standing up, he shouted to Namjoon, who was looking adoringly at something in his hand, “Found one?”
“Yeah!” Namjoon waved him over and Seokjin waded through the water to peer into his hands. Nestled in his palm was a small hermit crab, with a pastel pink shell. “Isn’t it adorable?” Namjoon cooed. “I almost stepped on it, it’s so small.”
“Cute.” Seokjin attempted to poke it, and it skittered around his finger. “You really have an affinity for animals, huh?”
Namjoon shook his head. Their heads were so close that his hair brushed Seokjin’s forehead. “I just think they’re precious. It’s interesting how such small forms can hold such life in it.”
“Yeah.” Seokjin glanced up at Namjoon. “You find life so precious. That's one of my favorite parts about you.”
Namjoon’s smile faltered a little and he drew back. He stopped and sort of stared at Seokjin with a strange expression on his face.
Seokjin blinked. “Yeah? What is it?”
“I’m just.” He slowly let out a breath. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“What do you mean?” Seokjin cocked his head. “I’m right here.”
“I’m leaving in a week,” Namjoon said softly. “I’m not staying for another school year.”
“I--” Seokjin looked around, searching for an answer that wasn’t there. “I didn’t know about that.”
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” Namjoon said softly. “I didn’t want to think about leaving either because--” He trailed off.
“Because…?” Seokjin said urgently.
“I like you, I think,” Namjoon said slowly. The hermit crab scuttled across his palm and he bent down to drop it in the ocean before standing up again. “More than I expected. More than I wanted to. And I really should’ve stayed away, but I…I really couldn’t,” He looked away. “I shouldn’t have said that, I’m leaving soon, I shouldn’t have tried to start something when--”
“Joon,” Seokjin murmured, taking his jaw and tilting it back towards him. “Whatever you’re going to do, don’t regret it.”
And Namjoon kissed him.
It tasted of seawater and bitterness, wet from tears and ocean spray. They kissed until the cold sea numbed their feet, until Seokjin’s teeth was chattering too much for them to continue.
“It’ll make me leaving harder,” Namjoon warned him, as they leave the beach with laced fingers.
“I don’t care,” Seokjin said simply. Leaving Namjoon always ripped a new hole in his heart, until it was riddled with them. “I’m just happy I found you.”
Namjoon stopped and Seokjin slowed as well. Lifting their ajointed hands, Namjoon pressed a kiss to them so gently it almost felt like nothing. “Let’s make a week go by slowly, then.”
Seokjin saw him off at the airport, and watching him leave was even worse than leaving him. Namjoon laughed as he fussed over him, making sure his bags were all set and he didn’t leave anything in the car, and that his passport was safe in his pocket.
“I’m gonna miss you so much,” he mumbled, and Namjoon offered him a last sweet kiss.
“We can try to stay in touch,” Namjoon said hesitantly. “If you want.”
Seokjin swallowed harshly, because the more this Namjoon gave him soft glances and loving touches, the more he longed for his Namjoon. “That sounds good,” Seokjin said, because he wanted this-Namjoon’s last memory of him to be something sweet, something promising.
The moment the plane touched off the ground, Seokjin left.
Once Seokjin met Namjoon, he found it hard to stay away. He was an addiction, Namjoon’s smile a magnet he couldn’t help but be drawn towards. It was exciting too. For all the people Seokjin’s met, he’s never quite met someone like Namjoon--someone who liked to flip his world upside down then right side up again.
“Joon,” Seokjin said, leaning against the doorway into Namjoon’s dorm room. He didn’t venture to step another foot in and join the clutter--books stacked up on books, papers scattered on the bed, pencils rolling around on the floor. “The love of my life. The beginnings to my ends. The cherry to my sundae. The chocolate to my udon--”
“First of all,” Namjoon interrupted him. “Why the fuck does udon go with chocolate? Secondly, what do you want from me?”
“Why do you always assume I want something from you?” Seokjin pouted.
“You want coffee from that new coffee shop down the street because the university coffee takes like shit,” Namjoon started, almost boredly, “and you don’t want to go alone because you’re bored and don’t want to pay for it because all the money you spent taking Jungkook out for dinner hasn’t been paid back yet, and probably never will be.”
“I--you know what, fuck you.”
Namjoon stood up, gave a little overdramatic bow, and grabbed his keys and his wallet. “So, let’s go then?”
Seokjin sighed in defeat, but was it really defeat if he got free coffee out of it? “Let’s go.”
The coffee shop was barely a stone’s throw away from campus. When the two set foot inside, a gust of cold air followed them. Seokjin lingered behind Namjoon as he paid--he had remembered Seokjin’s order, miraculously--and rocked back on the balls of his heels impatiently as Namjoon stirred in sugar packets.
They stepped outside and Seokjin shivered as a particularly brutal gust of wind whipped through him. He took a gulp of coffee--it was miles better than the shit on campus--and nudged Namjoon. “What now?”
“Let’s take a walk,” Namjoon decided. “It’ll be nice.”
“Joon,” Seokjin said. “It’s freezing.”
“You have coffee, it’ll heat you up,” Namjoon replied. “I wanna walk by the Han River.”
“I--Fine,” Seokjin said, because he was too weak to deny Namjoon anything. And then, with a wink, “But you should hold my hand to warm it up, it’s only polite.”
“Sure,” Namjoon said easily, slipping his hand into his. Seokjin yelped, his other hand tightening on his coffee cup.
“Careful,” Namjoon said concernedly. “Is the cup too hot?”
“I’m good,” Seokjin squeaked. “Totally cool. Really good. Yeah. Hand.”
“Let’s just.” Seokjin waved his coffee cup, very aware of his reddening face. “Go.”
Namjoon’s eyes softened, in a way that was a bit too knowing for Seokjin’s taste. “Yeah.” He tugged Seokjin along, and Seokjin was more than happy to follow. The walking paths were empty in this chilled January day. Those smarter than them chose the warmth of home.
“Winter without snow is the saddest thing,” Namjoon complained. “What does it even do?”
“Heck if I know.” Seokjin sat down on a bench overlooking the river and Namjoon joined him. “We should just like. Get rid of it. Go straight to spring.”
“I wish.” Namjoon lolled his head back to stare at the grey-blue sky. “Guess we gotta get through all the hard stuff first.”
“Read any good books lately?” Seokjin asked, leaning a little bit closer so his head “happened” to fall on Namjoon’s shoulder.
“Hm.” Namjoon tapped his foot, thinking. “I’ve been reading the Iliad. It’s a Greek classic, y’know.”
“No, I don’t know,” Seokjin replied. “Is it any good?”
Namjoon tilted his head. “Yeah, it’s pretty entertaining. A lot of battle scenes. Tons of grizzly deaths. One guy dies by getting speared through the dick.”
Seokjin laughed, until he realized Namjoon was serious. “Wait, really?”
Namjoon nodded gravely. “And to think they teach you this in high school.”
“Man.” Seokjin emptied his coffee cup. “The ancient Greeks were wild.”
“Tell me about it.” Namjoon was quiet for a moment, before talking again. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I found the love story of the Iliad so much more appealing than the fight scenes.”
“Between the hero Achilles and Patroclus,” Namjoon explained.
Namjoon’s smile widened. “Who’s he,” he corrected him. “They were lovers and comrades both. Their relationship is so--so compelling. Their love is so deep, it’s unimaginable. When Patroclus dies...Achilles loses a part of himself too. He even loses his humanity. It’s incredible and heartbreaking--he ceaselessly kills but nothing he does avenges Patroclus’s death.” He looked at Seokjin. “Could you imagine, being so in love with a person that you would destroy the world for them?”
“Nah.” Seokjin lifted his head off Namjoon’s shoulder and stretched. “Sounds a little fucked up. Think Patroclus could’ve chose someone less intense.”
Namjoon laughed. “Patroclus was a little intense himself. He was a badass though. Kills the most people in the book.”
“Now that’s something to write on a resume,” Seokjin commented.
Namjoon pursed his lips. “While we’re on the topic of love--”
“Hold on,” Seokjin cut him off abruptly, pushing his head off of Namjoon’s shoulder. “I think I felt a drop. Is it raining?”
Namjoon hurriedly stood up, turning one palm up to the sky. “Shit, it’s starting to come down hard.”
Seokjin grimaced. “Think we can make a run for it?”
Namjoon looked down at him, at the raindrops beginning to trail down his face and the earth beneath them muddying. “First one to make it back buys the loser ice cream.”
Seokjin was already sprinting. “You are fucking on!” he yelled from over his shoulder and behind him, he could hear Namjoon curse and start running to catch up.
Namjoon and his annoyingly long legs won just barely, his hand coming to slap down on the wall of the dorm building. After they both had doubled over to catch their breath, he told Seokjin promptly, “I’ll have two scoops of vanilla with chocolate sauce, please.”
“I’m disgusted,” Seokjin gasped, but he was beaming. “I could buy you all the flavors you want, and you choose vanilla.”
Namjoon started laughing--true, belly-deep laughing sprung from adrenaline. After a beat, Seokjin joined him. They grinned at each other, stupidly, still caught in the rain outside the dorms.
“Why do I even love you?” Namjoon finally let out, breathlessly.
Seokjin shook his head, praying the cold rain hid his blush. “I’m a delight, fuck you.” He paused. “You had something to say back there, right? Something about love…?”
The smile on Namjoon’s face stalled a little. “We should go back inside,” he said quietly. “It’s not good to stand out in the rain too long.”
“Are you sure--” Seokjin started, but Namjoon took his hand to lead him in, and the rest of his worries were forgotten until later.
In the next reality, Seokjin didn’t need to find Namjoon before he was promptly shoved in his face. Or, rather, his twitter feed. He didn’t ask to see celebrity gossip, but apparently a song called Trivia: Love was stirring up hearts worldwide.
He furrowed his brow, continuing to scroll down on his feed in the small living room of his Seoul apartment. “Who the heck,” Seokjin muttered to a cat lounging beside him, “is RM?”
The cat gave a long, slow blink in response. He wasn’t quite sure whose it was, but it liked to drop down on his balcony and eat the cat food Seokjin set out. Maybe it was a stray. All Seokjin knew was that it gave good company.
Seokjin scratched behind its ears affectionately before doing a quick search to find out this upcoming rapper. RM, he read. 24 years old. Rapper/Producer/Lyricist. Debuted a year ago. Also known as Kim Namjoon.
“Well, damn.” Seokjin sat back in shock. “Just had to get famous without me, huh, Joonie?” The cat sneezed, like it had planned this all out from the start.
It was...worryingly easy to fall down the rabbit hole of idols. He started watching one music video, then another, then listened to his entire mixtape, then found himself entrapped in watching video after video of Namjoon. It was endearing, to see the way he held himself differently in front of camera and on stage, as well as comforting to know that he could still read Namjoon through a phone screen.
(So maybe he became somewhat of a...fanboy of his once boyfriend. Could you blame him? RM was a bop).
Continuing to work at an office job, he set a some savings aside in hopes of meeting Namjoon through a fansign, or possibly a concert. He knew that asking for a relationship was a far cry given Namjoon’s position, but he at least wanted to see Namjoon once in person before leaving this reality. Who could tell when he’d see him again?
And now, Seokjin was walking down the streets of Seoul, an armful of groceries in and earbuds popped in, listening to Namjoon’s new single. The decorative trees planted on the sidewalks were just beginning to bloom, the weather turning warm and the last traces of snow had melted away. He glanced down, for just a moment, but that moment was enough to careen quite ungracefully into someone and have the bag fly out of his hands.
“Shit,” he cursed. He had heard a definite crack--there went twelve eggs. “Shit, I’m sorry, are you--” He looked up at the person and the words died in his mouth. “Uh.”
Fuck fansigns, this was so much more interactive.
“Oh god.” Namjoon looked frantic, or at least as frantic as his sunglasses would betray. “I’m kind of in a rush, so if you could excuse me--” He threw a glance over his shoulder. “Fuck, they’re catching up.”
Curious, Seokjin peeked over Namjoon’s shoulder to see a horde of cameras slowly descending onto the rapper. Gritting his teeth, he grabbed Namjoon’s arm and tugged him behind the closest object he could find--which just so happened to be a gas station pump. His groceries lay abandoned in the middle of the street.
“Stay down,” he muttered. “They’re walking past.” After a minute, he released Namjoon’s arm. “Okay, you’re clear.”
“Thank you,” Namjoon said breathlessly. He took off his sunglasses, folding them carefully. They probably cost more than Seokjin’s entire outfit. “I just--” He looked a little lost for words, and Seokjin suppressed a smile. Even rich and famous he had the same quirks. “Fans?”
“Fans,” Seokjin agreed. “Quite a rabid bunch you have there.”
“They’re passionate,” Namjoon said. “And I love them for it.” He threw a glance back over his shoulder. “But them combined with the media gets a bit…overwhelming.”
“I can imagine,” Seokjin said wryly. “I’m Kim Seokjin, by the way. I think you stole my last name.”
“Maybe I did,” Namjoon replied ruefully. “It’s a good one.” After a moment of hesitation, he added, “You know who I am...don’t you?”
“Do You is one of my favorites.” Seokjin shrugged. He winked. “I’m not gonna ask for an autograph, if that’s what you were worried about.”
“I--that wasn’t--” Namjoon raked a hand through his hair, flustered. “I’m sorry for dragging you into this.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Seokjin said dismissively. “I think this is one of the most interesting things that have happened to me.”
Namjoon smiled, still sheepish. “What do you do?”
“Office worker,” Seokjin replied. “It’s kind of dry, but it’s not bad.”
“Well, to each their own,” Namjoon offered. “Um. Thank you.”
“I already told you, I don’t mind,” Seokjin assured him. “I couldn’t just leave you out there alone.”
Namjoon bit his lip. “Not just that,” he said quietly. “It’s nice to be talked to as a normal person.”
Seokjin smiled sadly. “You deserve some normalcy in your life.”
“Seokjin.” There was some semblance of longing in his voice. “I wish we could’ve met in another lifetime, because I would’ve asked you out for coffee right here and now.”
“There’s still time,” Seokjin whispered. Pleaded.
Namjoon shook his head. “There are some things that aren’t meant to be,” he said softly. “I need to go. Maybe our paths will cross again.” He flipped his sunglasses back on, that wall between celebrity and civilian shooting up again, before he was gone in an instant. Snatched away from Seokjin again.
“Namjoon,” Seokjin muttered, affection and disappointment blending together to color his voice. “Could you stand to be selfish for a change?” He sighed. It was such a shame to leave this reality. He had built up a decent amount of twitter followers here.
Well. He could only hope that someone else would feed the stray cat.
If someone had told Seokjin beforehand that crushes sucked, he wouldn’t have signed up for any of it.
“It’s just one date,” Taehyung said soothingly through the phone. “It’s not the end of the world.”
“It is the end of the world,” Seokjin despaired. “He’s gonna fall in love and get married and move to some nice place like Hawaii and forget all about me and I’ll just wither away here all alone.”
“I think you’re overreacting,” Taehyung said seriously.
“She can speak English and is a math major,” Seokjin moped. “She’s perfect. All I can do is say hello, how are you and multiply by threes.”
“Three is a good number,” Taehyung replied soothingly. “Besides, all of Joon’s dates have been disastrous so far. Like the art major last time?”
“He was a dick,” Seokjin said viciously. “Said some fucked up things about crabs.”
“God, that must have been a rough date.” Seokjin could practically hear Taehyung wince. “What’d Namjoon do?”
“He went on three dates,” Seokjin muttered. “That’s three more than I could ever hope for.”
“Seokjin,” Taehyung said quietly. “You have a chance, and we both know it. Why are you holding back?”
Because I’ll lose him, Seokjin wanted to say. Out loud, he said, “I’m just...taking my time, okay? I’ll figure it out, eventually.”
“Figure it out soon,” Taehyung gritted. “I can’t take Namjoon gushing about your voice any longer.”
“What?” Seokjin sat up. “Taehyung, what?”
“Byeee!” Taehyung sang. “I’ve got a date with my boyfriends, talk to you later!”
“Taehyung!” Seokjin yelled. “Taehyung, don’t fucking hang up, tell me what he says, Taehyung, I swear to god--” The line went dead.
“Ugh.” Seokjin threw his head back and let out a groan just because no one was there to listen to it. Could he just log off of feelings? Ctrl + alt + dlt them? That was only fair, right?
The doorknob turned and Seokjin glanced up just in time to see Namjoon slowly enter the dorm room and kick of his shoes. Seokjin’s heart sank. If Namjoon was coming to his dorm, that meant something must have happened.
“Joon.” Seokjin slowly sat up. “That was quick. Did the date go okay?”
Namjoon didn’t say anything. He stood in the doorway, with his coat half off. He looked tired, no, weary, but there was a sort of rawness in his eyes as he looked at Seokjin.
“Namjoon?” Seokjin prompted him softly.
“Hey.” Namjoon shook himself out of whatever stupor he was in. He hung up his coat and stepped further into Seokjin’s room. Seokjin had never been more thankful for a single than he was now. “Can I--?” He gestured weakly to the bed.
“Yeah.” Seokjin shifted over and Namjoon climbed onto the bed next to him. He curled his knees up to his chest and was quiet.
“Did the date go badly?” Seokjin asked quietly. She had seemed like a sweet girl…
“No,” Namjoon said slowly. “No, it was good. She was nice.”
“O-oh.” Seokjin looked down. “Then there’s gonna be a second date?”
A silence. "No," Namjoon said finally. "She was nice, but that was all it was. These people I've been going out with...they're not someone like--like you. They feel flat to me in comparison." After hearing himself speak, Namjoon grimaced. "I'm a confused mess, right now. Can we change the subject?" He gave Seokjin pleading eyes.
No, Seokjin did notwant to change the subject, but he forced himself to act natural anyway. “What are you reading?” he settled on, propping his chin up with his hand.
Namjoon searched around the dorm, before grabbing a copy of a worn-out book he must have left a few visits ago. Half the things in Seokjin's dorm room belonged to Namjoon, anyway. “Demian. It’s a bit short, but a very mind-boggling book. I like it.”
“In what way?” Seokjin asked.
“It just flips your perspective on a lot of different things. Take this, for example.” He forward back a few chapters. “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. Like, that’s such a cool line. Just the thought of comparing the hatching of life to the destruction of an earth.”
“Why are all the books you read so fucking dark?” Seokjin complained. And then, when Namjoon read out a few more passages concerning the two main characters: “Why are all the books you read so fucking gay?”
“That’s what makes them so good,” Namjoon said loftily. “Besides, these are classics. Haven’t you ever taken a literature class?”
“Don’t remind me of school,” Seokjin sighed. “I’ve had to retake that in so many realities.”
Namjoon blinked. “You what?”
“Oh.” Seokjin’s eyes widened when he realized what he said. “Yeah. I’m sort of a. Uh. I’m sort of a time traveler.”
Namjoon stared at him. “And?”
He lifted one shoulder up. “I travel around time. Different realities. Stuff like that. I’m a time traveler.”
Namjoon squinted at him. “Was that the punchline? Or is it still coming?”
Seokjin grabbed the nearest pillow and buried his face in it for ten seconds. When he resurfaced, Namjoon was still staring at him, mystified. “Listen,” he said quietly. “You know the multiverse theory?” When Namjoon nodded, he continued. “It’s sort of like that. Time is not...linear. It branches off into thousands and thousands of realities with different outcomes. I can travel to these different realities, just like how I stumbled into this one.”
“So this reality isn’t--” Namjoon started.
“The one I originally came from?” Seokjin finished for him. “Yeah. I've passed through so many timelines, I don't really remember what it was even like.”
“I know.” Seokjin raked a hand through his hair. “I’m not lying, I swear. It’s confusing and weird and I don’t know why or how, I just know that this is me. This is my life.”
“You’re a time traveler.” Namjoon looked like his brain was malfunctioning. A perfectly valid response, in Seokjin’s opinion. “You’re an actual time traveler.”
And then Namjoon started laughing.
Seokjin darted forward, alarmed. “You’re just--fuck.” Namjoon wiped at his eyes. “You’re so amazing. You know that, right?”
“I--” Seokjin opened his mouth and closed it. “But I didn’t do anything.”
“You’re a time traveler,” Namjoon said, “and I believe it. Because you’re Kim Seokjin and you’re the strangest person I know.”
“Hey, now,” Seokjin started.
“You talk about how handsome you are every five seconds,” Namjoon said. “You’ll say the dumbest shit ever just to lighten the mood. You cut both your hair and your jeans with kitchen scissors. Every time it’s someone’s birthday you send the strangest photos to the group chat. You freaked out over stingrays but came with me to the touch tank at the aquarium anyway.” He shook his head. “You’re just so...you. You catch me off guard every five seconds and I think...I think I love that about you? I think I love you. I think I’ve loved you for too long now, and no one I’ve ever met has quite matched you.”
“Namjoon--” Throughout his speech, Namjoon had been shifting closer and closer to him, and now they were so close he could memorize every detail, every facet of his face. “Namjoon, this better not be a joke.”
Namjoon huffed out a laugh. “It’s not a joke,” he said gently. “It’s okay if you don’t feel the same, but I just wanted to let you know that you’re loved. I love you. I feel like you doubt that sometimes, and I don’t want you to ever doubt that.”
Seokjin’s breath caught in his throat. God, he couldn't afford a relationship, but Namjoon was there and he was beautiful, and he had laid his heart out for Seokjin to take. “Joon.” He voice faltered. “I’ve visited so many timelines, more than I could even remember, but I think..." He swallowd. "I think this one is my favorite.”
There was a smile forming on Namjoon’s face, slow and steady, and Seokjin couldn’t look away. “Yeah?” he murmured. His fingers brushed on Seokjin's cheeks and Seokjin's eyes fluttered. “Why’s that?”
Seokjin grinned, locking his fingers behind Namjoon’s neck. “I think it might be because of a certain someone,” he whispered, and leaned forward.
Namjoon met him halfway. He tilted his head to deepen the kiss, a hand skirting down Seokjin's back and setting him aflame. Seokjin couldn’t help but start to smile against his lips, couldn't help but wish to go back in time over and over again just to replay this moment.
“Maybe there’s such things as soulmates,” Seokjin breathed, when they finally parted, “because I think the universe has been kind enough to bring me to you.”
“Well.” Namjoon laced their hands together and squeezed once. It felt like a promise. “I guess we'll make it forever then.”