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I just wanna stay right next to you

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Kim Seokjin has a core group of friends he knows he can rely on for any particular situation. Need serious reflection on his life? Min Yoongi. Need to completely forget he’s an adult with responsibilities? Park Jimin. Need an opportunity to be that crazy uncle to two adorable twin girls? Jung Hoseok. Need someone to make sure his drunk ass gets home safely?

Kim Namjoon.

There’s a lot, wrapped up in the thought of Kim Namjoon. A lot of what, Jin hasn’t been able to put his finger on. A lot of feelings, for one. A lot of half-said truths, for another.

And a whole lot of real truths he tries not to think about.

It’s Friday night, and Jin’s drunk ass needs to get home safely.

So.

“I’m not that drunk,” Jin insists, knowing even as he says the words that they’re slurring together suspiciously.

He’s in the weird state between believing he’s sober enough and knowing he needs help getting home.

So.

That’s where Kim Namjoon comes in.

Namjoon is two whole years younger than him, with adorable dimples and a baby face, and still, somehow, he is the most reliable friend Jin has. That’s the dichotomy of Kim Namjoon. He can in one moment act for all the world like he’s younger, like Jin needs to take care of him, that Jin needs to indulge his immaturity — and then in the next moment, his expression shifts, commanding a presence in the room that leaves no question as to who is in charge.

Namjoon doesn’t sound upset as he attempts to haul Jin up out of his barstool — the act itself being quite a feat, considering that despite the few centimeters Namjoon has over Jin, Namjoon is scrawnier, with thin arms and narrow shoulders. Jin thinks about the contrast of his own broad shoulders, of the muscle he’s worked on for the last few years, and thinks about Namjoon — Namjoon’s soft arms — lifting his weight to a standing position, and it’s too much. Jin starts laughing, nearly sending the two of them to the floor as he upsets their precarious balance.

And still, Namjoon isn’t upset.

He never is, really.

Resigned, yes. Maybe even defeated — but never upset.

Jin’s heart hurts when he thinks about that.

“Let’s get you home, hyung,” Namjoon says softly, the words ghosting against Jin’s ear, Namjoon’s breath fluttering against his hair and sending a shiver down his spine.

When it all comes down to it, that’s the real problem with Kim Namjoon: He has a bad habit of being exactly what Jin wants.

It’s not like Jin noticed it immediately. Ever since their first meeting, Namjoon had always been there, a natural part of his day and as normal to him as breathing. He’d met Namjoon through Yoongi, and he’d been this weird kid who was strangely competent, who showed up one day and declared himself the acting Vice President of the University Business Society and then corralled the rest of them into doing his bidding, setting up volunteering and networking events, and before he knew it they all had jobs, and Namjoon had still been there. He’d still been Namjoon. Jin had almost taken it for granted to have a friendship like this, where he could both be the older, wiser friend, but still let his guard down enough to be the one taken care of.

Through it all, Namjoon had escorted him home when he’d been heartbroken and sad, when he’d been mad and abrasive, and even when he’d just been fucking stupid as hell, and never once had Namjoon said a word to indicate it bothered him.

When he really thinks about it, falling in love with Kim Namjoon had been inevitable, really. Jin’s fall has been woven into their every reaction:

The lingering touch as Namjoon lowers Jin into the taxi, when Namjoon worriedly asks him if he is going to be okay, if he needs Namjoon to go home with him.

The way Namjoon’s voice becomes impossibly deeper the more tired and frustrated he is; the way Jin plays the fool just to hear his tone shift into something deep and low, raspy and gravely and annoyed.

The way Namjoon is just… there, by his side, without question, without fail, sometimes without Jin even asking.

Being taken care of by Namjoon has become a drug to him, and he can’t help but indulge himself. After all, when else can he pretend that Namjoon is his, and his alone?

He can’t even pretend that often, because Namjoon is almost always someone else’s — his team at work, his parents, his friends. He’s a natural leader, and naturally, everyone needs him. Not just Jin.

So sometimes, like now, he creates the opportunity to need him the most.

“Do you need me to take you home?” Namjoon asks, breaking him out of his sappy train of thought.

It’s a silly question, really. Namjoon can’t even drive, so what he means is: Do you want me to call you a taxi? And implicit in that is the knowledge that Namjoon will follow him home, make sure he gets inside safely, make sure he is in his own bed, his suit jacket hanging so as not to wrinkle.

“Yes,” Jin says, and he manages to feel only slightly guilty about his desire to monopolize Namjoon.

“Okay, hyung,” Namjoon says softly, his grasp on Jin firm as he shifts one of the older man’s arms over his shoulders, attempting to position Jin so he can comfortably lean on Namjoon’s shoulder for support. “Okay,” he repeats. “We’ll go home.”

Jin leans in, smelling the fresh soap and hints of sandalwood in Namjoon’s hair, and allows himself this small indulgence. He’s drunk, and exhausted, and he’s had yet another particularly unfulfilling day at the office.

“They hired my replacement,” he announces.

“Mm?” Namjoon inquires, not quite looking at Jin. He seems to be focused on getting them out of the bar.

“At work. He’s even younger than you,” he says, grumpily. “Like way younger. He’s barely out of college.”

“Companies do like to mold new employees,” Namjoon says matter-of-factly.

Jin groans. Trust Namjoon to try and be logical. “He’s a baby,” Jin whines. “I have to train a baby to do my job.”

“Because you got promoted, hyung,” Namjoon reminds him, and Jin finds himself slightly annoyed at how reasonable Namjoon is being. “I thought you were happy about that.”

Jin sighs dramatically. “It’s the principle of the thing,” he insists.

It’s an act, of course. Half of what Jin does is an act. If he isn’t trying to lighten the mood, then he’s trying to hide his embarrassment.

In rare moments of being honest with himself, he’ll admit that he only requested the promotion because he worries Namjoon is slipping away from him. Namjoon has been promoted twice since he started at his company just after college, and despite his denials, it’s obvious that he’s on track to become senior management before he’s thirty.

It’s very obvious Jin is not.

He tries not to think about it, except when he does, and when he does think about it he apparently asks for a promotion and then is a big petulant baby when they do what he asks, promoting him and hiring someone new to do his old job. As soon as the promotion was finalized, he’d realized he’d loved his old job. He was good at his old job.

He’s afraid of starting a new job and not being any good at it.

Namjoon looks at him with an incredulous expression on his face, like he can’t believe he’s dealing with this yet again. Jin notices that he’s breathing heavier from the effort of making sure Jin stays upright, which makes Jin wonder exactly how drunk he actually is. Usually, the arm around Jin’s waist is more symbolic than substantial.

He considers that this time the pretense might be reality. He can’t bring himself to care.

“Hyung,” Namjoon says, and Jin leans in closer, resting his head on Namjoon’s shoulder. He wants to be nearer, to be tangled up in the existence that is Namjoon.

Unfortunately, this just triggers Namjoon to swat his face away, making Jin overbalance as he tries to dodge.

After all of Namjoon’s efforts to keep him upright, Jin finds himself flat on his ass on the sidewalk outside the bar anyway.

Ouch.

Namjoon stares at him, exasperated. “Hyung,” he repeats, but the inflection is different this time. As though, despite having witnessed it on endless occasions, he still can’t believe what a mess Jin can be. The tipsy, optimistic part of Jin’s brain thinks there might be a hint of endearment in his tone. The lonely, pessimistic side tells him Namjoon might finally be getting tired of him.

“I know,” Jin says, though he doesn’t quite know. He just knows this expression, knows Namjoon might start lecturing him, and as much as he’s head over heels for Responsible Namjoon, he’s not in the right state of mind to listen to it tonight. He’ll get mad, and he doesn't want to fight and lose the pleasant buzz he’s currently enjoying.

Namjoon stares at him for a few moments longer, then opens an app on his phone to order a cab. He makes no move to help Jin, leaving him on the sidewalk until the taxi arrives. He reaches out to haul Jin up, offering both hands and tugging him hard.

With a grunt, Jin is upright once more.

“Let’s go home,” Namjoon repeats, and for that fleeting moment Jin lets himself sink into that fantasy, that his home and Namjoon’s home are the same destination, that Jin gets to have Namjoon take care of him because he wants to and not because he’s worried the other will die if he doesn’t.

Another groan escapes him as Namjoon shoves him into the taxi, and Jin realizes he’s reached the “sentimental drunk” stage of the night.

This part is always less fun than the drinking and the making Namjoon take care of him, because now instead of simply appreciating Namjoon’s company, he’s focusing on all the things he wants and all the reasons he can’t have them.

Of those, the primary blocker in his mind is how impossibly straight he is sure Namjoon is. He has to be. Jin does not have definitive proof, in that he’s never asked Namjoon for fear of exposing his true feelings, but he knows several facts about his best friend:

One — he has never seen Namjoon in a relationship with another man.
Two — Namjoon has never confessed to liking another man.
Three — Namjoon has only ever mentioned the attractive woman or two in passing. Never men.

There’s nothing definitive about these facts, of course, because if Jin is being honest, he’s also never seen Namjoon in a long term relationship with a woman either, and if he is being even more honest with himself, he’ll admit that this small fact gives him hope.

In college, Jin had tried to keep his sexual preference a secret, but one particularly drunken night right after graduation he’d come out with everything — every sad sob story from every one night stand he’d suffered through in the course of searching for true love. It had been like an out of body experience, watching from afar as he spilled word vomit the entire night — and some actual vomit — with Namjoon sitting quietly beside him, listening with that intensely serious expression.

That had been the worst part — Namjoon’s complete and utter sensitivity. He’d held Jin’s hand as he cried, stroking the back of it idly as Jin worried about whether or not it was possible to find love in this world, at his age; how the older he got, the more he worried the dream wasn’t possible.

Namjoon hadn’t flinched, or stuttered, or tried to change the subject. He’d simply listened, gently stroked Jin’s hand all the while, and stared at him with that heartbreakingly serious and incredibly intuitive face.

It hadn’t been until the next morning, when Jin was feeling especially hungover and stupid, that he realized something inside him had shifted. That the way Namjoon had listened so intensely, without a hint of judgment, had brought Jin to face the uncomfortable truth: He loved one Kim Namjoon wholeheartedly, and probably had for a while.

Now, in the taxi, Jin leans his head into Namjoon’s shoulder, and allows himself to breathe in that scent — soap and sandalwood — and listen for the sounds of his breathing. It’s measured, calm and collected, and Jin hopes that Namjoon attributes the way Jin’s breath catches as just another part of him being drunk and stupid.

It’s one more silly, fleeting thought, but in these moments he revels in the fact he can comfortably lean into Namjoon. With most of his partners, he’s never had that opportunity, as he is often the tallest person in the room. In the comfort of those few centimeters, he allows himself to feel vulnerable for a moment.



-


By the end of the ride, Jin is waking up, both from the half-sleep he’d found in the ride home, and from the haze of alcohol-induced numbness. His head is pounding, and he wants nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep this off.

He groans, closing his eyes, but he can picture the expression on Namjoon’s face as he says, sighing softly, “You only have yourself to blame, Jin.”

Jin nods, and that’s enough to make his head feel like it’s about to split in two. He lets out a soft murmur of discomfort, and in seconds Namjoon has looped their arms and started to walk Jin up the stairs.

There’s something stupid about tonight, something about the ride home and the way Namjoon had let Jin lean against him in the taxi that makes Jin more pathetic and hopelessly in love than usual.

“I’ll never find someone as good as you, Namjoonie,” he says, and the words are out of his mouth before he can think to hold them back.

Namjoon trips, and Jin thinks, Oh no and What have I done all at once. He steadfastly avoids looking in Namjoon’s general direction.

“Sorry,” Namjoon mumbles. “The stairs. I’m just tired. Clumsy,” he clarifies, even though never, not even once, has Namjoon ever tripped on his stairs, no matter how often the guys call him “the god of destruction”.

“Mhm,” Jin hums, and pretends he believes him, pretends he isn’t holding his breath, waiting for Namjoon to run away and abandon him forever.

They’re silent the entire way up the stairs, but when Namjoon turns to him, holding a hand out for the keys, he speaks. “You’ll find someone,” he says softly, and it’s a good thing that Namjoon isn’t looking at him because Jin’s stupid desperate feelings would betray him with the rush of disappointment he feels. He mentally kicks himself. What kind of answer had he really been expecting?

“You deserve someone better than me,” Namjoon continues.

Not possible, Jin thinks, and he’s barely able to stop himself from rushing to deny the inaccurate assessment of Namjoon’s relationship potential. Which would be bad, if he said it out loud. Saying he wants to find someone like Namjoon is suspicious, but desperately insisting that Namjoon truly is the best person in the entire world?

That’s too obvious.

He struggles to collect his thoughts, to arrange them in such a way that he isn’t devastatingly embarrassing, his brain sorting through various things to say like molasses, the words coming slowly and unsure. Finally, he settles on, “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Joon-ah,” regretting both the nickname and the fact that as he says the words, he pats Namjoon on the shoulder, like the most awkward, lamest person in the world. A mixture of embarrassment and longing build into a throbbing pressure in his head, and he swallows down whatever emotion is choking in his throat.

Then he nods, like an ass, keeping his lips firmly sealed even though the motion only increases the discomfort of the headache that’s forming.

When they finally make it inside his apartment, Jin doesn’t quite remember the motions that got them there. He has, however, taken note of the gentle way Namjoon removed his suit coat and tie, how when Jin fumbled with his belt, Namjoon was there to handle the trickiest part of unthreading the belt through its loops. He watches with perverse joy as Namjoon remembers exactly where everything belongs in his closet and in his dresser.

Worse still, when Namjoon leads him to his bed, when Namjoon makes sure Jin has a pillow beneath his head, remembers to roll Jin to his side because sleeping on his back after drinking makes Jin nauseous, he is overcome. Jin continues to pretend that he’s tired when really he just wants to remember the touch of Namjoon’s hands.

It’s the sweetest torture.

Namjoon goes into the living room, and Jin can hear the rustle of fabric as he removes his own shirt and tie, knows Namjoon has them hanging on the lamp near the sofa. He listens as Namjoon shifts uncomfortably on the aforementioned sofa, doing his best to fall asleep because he’s just missed the last train.

Jin always times it so Namjoon misses the last train.

He shifts, and the rustle of fabric makes him uncomfortably aware of the growing arousal he hasn’t been able to fight since they got here, since Namjoon treated him for all the world as gentle as glass, so tenderly he could almost believe they were lovers.

He groans, hoping that if Namjoon hears him, he just thinks he’s upset at the pounding headache and not the uncomfortable sensitivity of his dick. He counts to fifty, and then a hundred, trying to command his arousal back into nothingness, but he’s drunk and frustrated and his body refuses to listen to him.

He, Kim Seokjin, is an asshole.



-


The thing is, Kim Namjoon knows he and Jin are more than best friends. He’s just not sure what to do with that information.

Sometimes, when he’s really maudlin, he thinks about the fact he doesn’t remember when he and Kim Seokjin transitioned from acquaintances to “best friends”. At some point in college, probably. He remembers when Jin graduated before him, how upset he was that he was losing his best friend to the working world. He doesn’t remember feeling that way about Yoongi or Hoseok, so he knows on an intellectual level there’d been something special about Kim Seokjin, even back then.

The thing is, if he thinks about it more seriously, then he knows that something is about more than friendship. He mostly tries not to think about it that seriously, because then he feels strange, like his skin is on fire, like he’s burning up with something from the inside — mostly embarrassment and nerves, he supposes — and Namjoon doesn’t like feeling strange around Jin. He likes things the way they are now: where Jin’s apartment is a safe haven, a place that sometimes feels more like home than his own apartment. It’s different from the quiet reflection he experiences with Yoongi; when he’s with Jin he’s simply… relaxed. Content. At peace. Like it’s just… right.

So he mostly tries not to think about what this kind of friendship means, even if his roommate, Park Jimin, likes to remind him that he and Jin are hopelessly in love with each other any time Jin’s name comes up. Then Jimin likes to follow that with a comment about how they’re both being huge goobers about the entire thing, and that they’re wasting their time pretending otherwise.

Jimin thinks he can say that just because he jumped Yoongi early on in their friendship and everything had worked out for them. The feelings were mutual, and they’re hopelessly, disgustingly in love with each other. Namjoon knows this is more miracle than a guide for life, so he ignores Jimin’s advice.

Namjoon has known Yoongi the longest out of everyone, except maybe Jin, and he’s never seen Yoongi so sickeningly sweet with anyone in the entirety of their friendship. Jin, too, says it’s different this time, Yoongi with Jimin.

Sometimes, more often than he is comfortable admitting, Namjoon wants to believe he can have that too.

Jimin insists it will be the same thing with Jin, but where Jimin has gotten that idea he’s not really sure. Despite everything, despite the fact he knows that there is something there with Jin, he doesn’t think he’s ever said it out loud. Thinks, honestly, it’s very unlikely that he ever will.

Yoongi thankfully hasn’t seemed to share the same forceful insistence that There Was Something There. It makes it easier to pretend that there really isn’t if Yoongi doesn’t seem to think so, and Namjoon leans heavily on that excuse.

The thing is, even if Namjoon knows he and Jin are something more than best friends, he isn’t sure what he wants to call that something more. He doesn’t look at Jin and think, yummy, and he feels like sexual attraction, the kind that Jimin seems to think is there, should mean sometimes he thinks that. He hasn’t ever looked at him and thought he wanted to fuck him senseless. He doesn’t even look at Jin and think he wants to spend the rest of his life with him, but it’s just —

Sometimes he thinks it would make so much more sense to live the rest of his life with Kim Seokjin. That a life like that might be the only one he can really imagine.

It’s not like he needs to have a life like that, or desperately wants to, so he clings to that thought as a sign that he just hasn’t found the right person yet, and the right person isn’t Kim Seokjin.

Because if the right person for him is Kim Seokjin, and Jin doesn’t feel the same, then he’s lost the most important friendship in his life. That thought is the reason Namjoon long ago shoved his existential sexual crisis down into the depths of his heart and mostly forgot about it.

Until moments like tonight.

There he is, laying on Jin’s couch — the couch Jin has had since college, lumpy and sunken in ways that make sleeping on it an increasingly difficult task — with an overly warm fuzzy blanket, thinking about the man passed out in the room next to him, and he feels… Pathetic. Cowardly. Unsure of himself.

He can ignore this feeling most days, but today, as he sits and thinks and wonders about Kim Seokjin, he can’t help but wonder about what they really mean to each other.

I’ll never find someone as good as you, Namjoonie,” Jin said, and it felt like a knife twisting in Namjoon’s gut.

Because Jin can find someone better, someone less cowardly, someone who is sure about whether or not they really love him. When he’d denied it, he couldn’t look at Jin’s face. He couldn’t handle either scenario — that Jin truly believed Namjoon was the best person for him, or that Jin accepted Namjoon was right and there was someone better.

He’s spent so long ignoring Jimin’s comments that the wound of maybe loving Jin hasn’t been opened in years. But if Jin said it, if Jin was the one poking at the poorly stitched remains of what was left, then his heart couldn’t handle it. He’d frozen — with hope, with fear, with complete confusion. He’d spent so long insisting that there was nothing there that he wasn’t quite sure what to do with the possibility there was.

Years ago, watching Jin cry his heart out that he’d never find someone, that he’d be old and wrinkly and shriveled before he ever met a decent man — the day he’d come out to Namjoon — Namjoon had a realization that he could, most likely, fall in love with Jin if he let himself, but he’d left it there and never again gone into that depth of his heart.

If Jin could have feelings for him, though, it meant he had to re-examine the entire situation. If Jimin had been right, it changed the calculus.

He didn’t want to re-examine anything. He wanted to keep everything exactly the same, where life was comfortable and easy and functioned exactly as Namjoon expected.

Well, his brain wanted to keep things that way, at least. But his heart — the treacherous organ! — was insistent that he consider the possibility that the key to his happiness, the answer to his loneliness, was sleeping in the other room.

If he did, he’d have to admit that his feelings had always been there in the way he allowed himself to indulge in the warmth of Jin’s body, as he leaned up against him when they sat on the couch, or in the cab, or the way he sometimes let his touch linger on Jin’s hand when Namjoon had just a little too much to drink.

He’d have to admit a lot of things he wasn’t ready for yet, so he’d told Jin there was someone better for him. Because it was the truth. Because it kept him free of confronting what was inside his heart.

Kim Namjoon is a coward.

He knows, guilt curling around his heart, his throat, choking him with the depths of his desire to monopolize, that he wants to keep Jin bound to him by some nebulous concept of being best friends, all the while never confronting anything more serious than that. He wants to keep everything the same, all the while crossing every line of friendship he reasonably can without actually changing anything. Lingering touches. Saturday nights spent curled up on the couch together. Long phone calls about nothing.

He thinks about this, and he thinks about the one thing he’d really wanted to talk to Jin about — the date with the boss’s daughter he’d essentially been forced into, the date he would probably go on, and his half-hearted feelings — and knows Jin deserves better.

He doesn’t sleep well that night.



-


They have a routine. Yoongi makes fun of them for it; probably because he’s known Jin and Namjoon the longest, and the entire thing is so pathetically domestic and “married” that the fact the two of them aren’t an item is the most ridiculous part of it all.

Jin tries not to think about the fact he wishes they were, and that perhaps this routine is wish fulfillment on his part.

Without fail, whenever Namjoon stays over, Jin wakes up first. Even recovering from a hangover, Jin’s body remembers: every day at four o’clock in the morning, he is due for an appointment with the gym. So Jin would lay in bed for a few hours more, until even the pounding headache no longer outweighed his body’s need to move around and do something.

That something became coffee. Jin isn’t much of a coffee drinker, but Namjoon’s veins are surely filled with only espresso than actual blood, so Jin has taken to keeping a small bag of fresh coffee beans in the apartment and a small, hipster coffee grinder he bought at Starbucks sitting in the back corner of his kitchen counter. He rationalizes the entire thing as self-preservation, arguing that if Namjoon doesn’t have coffee in the morning, he becomes snappish, groggy, and a complete boar to be around.

It’s a lie, of course. He keeps the coffee around because he loves Namjoon.

The first time Yoongi witnessed it, when he watched as Jin handed Namjoon his coffee mug, the two of them not even making eye contact and yet still perfectly in sync, he’d laughed so hard Jin had nearly punched him. It had felt like Yoongi had laughed at something private, at something real, and his heart had constricted as he’d fought to keep his emotions in check.

Jin is in the kitchen before he’s even really thought about it, grinding the coffee beans. The noise begins the process of waking Namjoon, who is still sleeping on the couch. It’s the smell of brewed coffee that always gives him the final push to actually get up. Noise? Namjoon goes right back to sleep. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee in the morning? Well, what addict could really resist?

Jin sets the cups down on the coffee table, one with sugar and one with milk, and sits next to Namjoon on the couch. Namjoon moves from his sleeping position to a sitting one, stretching out the kinks in his body as he recovers from a night spent outside of his own comfortable bed.

Namjoon groans. “I think I’m getting too old to sleep on your couch,” he says, grumbling.

So sleep in my bed, Jin thinks, the idea coming unbidden. He can’t stop it then, the image of Namjoon, his hair mussed as it is now, sticking up at all different angles, but in his bed, looking up at Jin with a sensual smile, begging without words for them to go another round.

He attempts to banish the thought, shaking his head, and shrugs.

He can play it cool. He can pretend he didn’t spend the entirety of last night trying to calm his extremely uncomfortable erection for his best friend.

“It’s not like I’ve got a twin-sized mattress,” he replies. “You’d fit.” Jin stares directly in front of him, at the black screen of his TV, doing his best to avoid any further mental images of Namjoon in his bed.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Namjoon shake his head. His voice is low. “You’d never sleep if I was there,” he says. “Everyone complains about my snoring, hyung. I can’t do that to you.”

He absolutely could do that to him, Jin thinks irritably. Earplugs are a thing. He makes a mental note to buy some, just in case Namjoon ever changes his mind. He isn’t wrong about the snoring, after all.

Instead of vocalizing any of that, he asks, “What are your plans for today?”

Namjoon shrugs, and Jin finally allows himself to look at him. His expression is strained, tired, and Jin feels slightly guilty for not only forcing Namjoon to rescue him from the bar last night, but also for making him sleep on his couch. He can see the tension in Namjoon’s shoulders, and knows at least some of it must be attributed to Jin’s old couch.

“I was thinking about putting in some overtime, but…” he says, trailing off. Namjoon shares a smile with Jin, and Jin knows it isn’t real. He’s forcing himself.

Jin shakes his head. “You should just stay here. You haven’t taken a break from work in a while, right? Don’t wear yourself out.”

Namjoon sets the coffee mug on the table, freeing his hands to rub at his bleary eyes. He looks exhausted. “The project…”

“Will still be there on Monday,” Jin interrupts. His hand reaches out towards Namjoon’s without a thought, and he quickly retracts it. If Namjoon notices, he doesn’t say anything.

Namjoon looks like he wants to argue, and Jin shifts, becoming the silly Jin he pretends to be when the others needed a laugh, or to let loose.

“Yah,” he shouts and grabs Namjoon’s hands, bringing them to his chest. “Joon-ah,” he continues, “you’re officially banned from work. I won’t release you until you agree.”

Namjoon laughs, but his eyes are serious; he clearly still wants to disagree. “The rest of the team is working overtime this weekend,” he says, guilt obvious in his expression — as if he wants nothing more than to spend the day curled up with Jin on the couch.

Jin takes the opportunity to convince Namjoon to stay.

Namjoon, despite being younger, has been the leader of a team at his mid-sized firm for over half the year, and in that time frame has never quite learned the art of delegation, or the art of letting go. He’d been promoted for his quick thinking, for his ability to see straight through to the heart of a problem, but he still has a bad habit of wanting to be the one to fix everything.

It means his team loves him, but that he spends most of his days exhausted. It worries Jin.

“You worked overtime this entire week,” Jin reminds him. He’s gotten plenty of one-line text message strings from Namjoon, a flurry of outraged emojis and complaints. “Take the day before you make yourself sick,” Jin insists, smiling as he sees Namjoon’s resolve falter. He continues on that line of thought. “You can’t help anyone if you’re sick.”

As if on cue, Namjoon coughs, one of those raspy coughs that stays in the throat, but is probably about to turn into something worse if he isn’t careful. Namjoon flushes. “That doesn’t count,” he mumbles.

Jin raises his brows. “That sounds like you need to rest.” He releases Namjoon’s hands. “You should stay here. We can watch Frozen.”

Namjoon groans. “We can’t. That’s cruel and unusual punishment. We’ve seen that at least ten times.”

Jin grins. “Incorrect. Only nine times so far.”

Namjoon grabs the remote from Jin’s hands but opens Netflix anyway. “No more Frozen,” he insists. Jin watches him type in the search bar, slowly typing in each letter until it reveals —

“Moana!” Jin squeals. “Okay, fine. This is acceptable.” He leans back into the couch, and in doing so, finds his arm resting against Namjoon’s. Jin had changed from his work clothes he’d slept in, into sweatpants and a loose fitting T-shirt, but Namjoon hasn’t had that luxury. He’d probably told himself he would leave Jin’s apartment first thing, because he’s in boxers and the white undershirt he’d worn, his own button-up hanging on the doorknob to the bathroom.

Namjoon’s skin is warm against Jin’s, and Jin closes his eyes, relishing the moment. Namjoon never initiates skinship, the way Jimin might, but he’s also never shoved Jin away. Jin will take what he can get, hopelessly in love that he is.

But that’s when Namjoon says it, chewing on his lip like he’s been working up to this the whole time:

“My boss wants to introduce me to a girl. I couldn’t figure out how to tell him no and it’s — it’s awkward, you know?”

Jin freezes. He’s so tense, he wonders if Namjoon notices.

Namjoon continues, and Jin hopes maybe he didn’t notice. “He was so insistent that I need to find someone.”

“Oh?” Jin asks, as the strains of the first song in Moana play in the background. He doesn’t trust himself to say more.

Namjoon chews on his lower lip again, and Jin’s hopeless heart can’t decide whether to feel thrilled at the sight (because those lips have always driven him out of his fucking mind) or to leap into despair (because the thought that Namjoon might actually like this mystery girl might really break him).

He sticks with despair.

“Yeah, he just asked me if I was thinking about settling down. And then he brought up how his niece was my age.”

Namjoon grimaces, and it’s clear he’s uncomfortable with the whole thing. Jin tries to beat down the hope that’s rising in his chest. “It feels really weird to get set up by your boss, right? I don’t want to offend him.”

Namjoon chews on his lower lip — again, God, Jin really is going out of his fucking mind — and crosses his arms. It’s his standard, slightly defensive posture, the one where it’s clear he hasn’t made a decision yet, that he’s hoping Jin can help make that decision for him.

Which he can’t, because he’s selfish. Jin’s brain screams, She’s not good enough for you! No one is!

Instead, he replies: “Yeah, I get that.” He hopes he sounds as disinterested as he thinks he does. “If it doesn’t work, that probably makes things awkward with your boss.”

It’s like a sense of relief washes over Namjoon — like maybe that’s what he thought the whole time, and he’s looking for validation. He nods enthusiastically. “I tried to tell him that I couldn’t, but…”

He worries his lower lip more, and Jin feels driven to distraction. He wants out of this entire conversation. He’s overwhelmed by one of his favorite expressions on Namjoon — the lip biting — and the fact that he suspects Namjoon will still go out with this girl, even if he doesn’t really want to, and Jin knows — he just knows — if Namjoon meets her, surely everything will work out, because he knows nothing is going to work out for Jin. It never really does.

Namjoon continues. “I don’t think he understands. He just kept talking about how I was already like a son to him.”

Namjoon hasn’t dated anyone since college, early on, and after that, he’d talked about dates sparingly until — until he didn’t really talk about them anymore. Jin assumed he’d just put dating aside, for a bit, and it was pleasant, not having to think about Namjoon with someone else. He’s out of practice for that kind of shock, and he blames that for why he can’t seem to find the right reaction for this entire conversation. He’s trying, really, to focus on Namjoon’s emotions, to understand exactly what he wants to talk about, and why, and what he needs from Jin in this moment.

But mostly Jin is depressed and angry.

Depressed because he’s having to face the idea that Namjoon really will date someone else, eventually.

Angry that he ever seemed to think otherwise. Angry that he’d forgotten that just because Namjoon won’t date him it doesn’t mean he won’t date anyone.

He’s not really sure how to respond, how to find out what Namjoon needs from him, so he makes some sort of noise — half strangled, half grunting — and hopes Namjoon interprets it as something meaningful, and not as, Oh god, I’m in love with you, please stop talking and tell your boss you’re dating me instead of this girl.

Namjoon doesn’t.

“Are you okay?” Namjoon asks. Without warning, Namjoon is close — too close. He’s inches away from Jin’s face, one of his hands — those long fingers — resting against his temple, pushing away his bangs from his eyes, since they’ve grown out just enough to mask his expressions.

Namjoon’s brows knit together with concern. “Sorry, you’re — you’re probably still hungover and I’m — “ His expression is pained. “I’m just bothering you with my problems. It’s fine. We can talk about this another time.”

Jin feels the guilt flood in, because despite how much he drank last night, his hangover is minimal; he has the dull hum of a headache but not much more. The pressure pounding in his head is more attributable the anxiety of Namjoon leaving him for a girl than anything else. His brain is flooding with images of Namjoon and some mystery woman, spending all their time together, leaving Jin alone and single while all of their friends live in bliss with their partners forevermore.

The darkness in his heart, the part of him that he doesn’t like much, asks a question he knows the answer to. “Have you talked to the other guys about this?”

Because of course Namjoon hasn’t. Jin’s asking this to reaffirm what he already knows: that he and Namjoon are tied to each other differently, that Jin is special to him even if Namjoon doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life with him.

Namjoon goes back to worrying his lower lip. “No,” he says, confirming the most desperate desires of Jin’s jealous heart. “I’m honestly not even sure what to say. To them or my boss.” He looks at Jin, and smiles a little lopsidedly. With a bit of the smirk that Jin adores. Namjoon continues, “You always know how to talk about these things without being too serious or too silly. The right balance.”

It’s exactly what he wanted to hear — that he was special, that Namjoon could only rely on him for something like this — but instead of reassurance, it drives the knife of guilt deeper into his heart, and he finds himself mentally clawing for air, desperate to breathe in something other than the jealousy swirling in the pit of his stomach.

“Yeah, sorry. I guess I’m still hungover,” he mumbles instead, grasping at the excuse Namjoon provided for him.

Namjoon nods, understanding, makes a joke about how they’re missing the movie, and Jin hates himself a little more than he did the day before.



-


Namjoon takes the long way home from Jin’s. He has a handful of errands to run for the apartment (Jimin had texted, with several emojis, that they were out of toilet paper, tissues, and actually while he was there could he pick up lube?) and no desire to do them, so he spends almost an hour at the park, thinking.

There was something more than the new employee bothering Jin last night, and even this morning. Normally when something bothers Jin, he tells Namjoon. Namjoon doesn’t remember when it happened, but they stopped worrying about personal boundaries so long ago that the absence of this — the lack of knowing everything about Kim Seokjin — bothers him more than he expected. He’d always known Jin had things he didn’t tell Namjoon, because everyone had those — but this is the first time he’s known with certainty that Jin is actively hiding something from him.

He throws his head back against the park bench, letting the sun warm his face and trying not to think about how uncomfortable he is with Jin’s behavior from this morning.

After almost an hour with his aimless thoughts, he convinces himself to move, to grab the items Jimin requested — next time he’s telling Jimin he has to buy his own lube, really, he’s tired of the way the cashier is smirking at him since it only reminds him he’s been out of a relationship for years, that he’s probably going to date some girl he doesn’t care about, that he probably actually cares about Kim Seokjin — and heads home.

Jimin answers the door half naked, and a quick glance towards his room reveals Yoongi sprawled out on Jimin’s bed. He raises a hand to wave at him, dropping the plastic bag full of Jimin’s absolutely urgent shopping items in the bathroom.

Jimin smirks. “How’s the boyfriend doing?” he asks. When Jimin’s lips curve like that, it’s as if he’s both sharing a secret with the other person, but also laughing at their distress.

It’s Jimin’s normal question when he comes home after a night at Jin’s, but after the events of last night and this morning, it stings. His chest constricts, and he’s pretty sure something shows on his face, because Jimin raises a single eyebrow and asks, “Something happen?”

“No,” he replies, because nothing happened, and perhaps that’s the problem.

They’d sat on that stupid, worn-out couch like it was any other Saturday, watching Moana and Jin hadn’t talked at all. Namjoon had waited, wondering when Jin would explain why he’d gotten so wasted on a Friday evening. The new hire had been an excuse, not the reason, but still Jin hadn’t explained.

For the first time, Namjoon had felt lonely next to Jin.

Jimin raises the other brow, and stares at him. “That doesn’t sound like nothing,” he says — the little shit. He never leaves anything alone. It’s like he can smell fear. “Trouble in paradise?”

“We’re not dating,” Namjoon insists. “So there’s no paradise or trouble.”

Jimin grabs the lube from the bag, leaving the rest of it where he found it, murmuring, “Mmhmm,” as he walks back to his room. “Well, if you insist,” he says.

Namjoon starts making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — the only thing he’s allowed to make in the kitchen — and waits until both Yoongi and Jimin return to the living room area, curling up with each other on the couch. He tries not to think about what went on in that bedroom, but if Jimin had really wanted or needed alone time with his boyfriend, he’d have told Namjoon to leave. His straightforward nature meant he was the easiest person Namjoon had ever lived with.

Yoongi speaks first, flipping on the news and turning the sound down so it’s a gentle hum in the background. “You do seem bothered, Joon-ah.”

Namjoon looks down at his toast, realizing he’s applied the peanut butter with such aggression there’s not much of a sandwich left. He looks back up.

Yoongi definitely noticed the murdered bread.

There’s no point in keeping anything from him at this point, so he doesn’t deny it. “Jin’s hiding something.”

“What?” Jimin asks. “He’s not capable of hiding anything. It’s all written on his face. Like his big dumb crush on you.”

Namjoon tries to ignore the comment. Aside from last night, Jin has never once done anything to make Namjoon think Jimin is correct, and he doesn’t want to make anything weird by asking, “Hey, man, my roommate thinks you’re in love with me. Is that true?”

Especially when he can’t figure out how he wants Jin to respond.

So he ignores it, mostly.

Today, however, he wonders if Jin really might be capable of keeping a secret like that. When he’d brought up the girl —

“There’s something on his mind he’s not telling me,” he says, somehow not ready to say the words aloud, that he thinks something has shifted in their friendship and he’s not sure what and he’s not sure if it’s fixable.

Namjoon tries to spread the jelly without destroying the other half of his sandwich, but he isn’t off to a great start.

Yoongi doesn’t respond, just raises a single brow pointedly.

Namjoon glares at him.

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Hyung, what makes you think that? Jin-hyung tells you everything. Except his big dumb crush on you, of course.”

Namjoon smashes a hole into the toast.

Yoongi’s eyes widen at the intensity of his reaction. “Wait,” he says, his voice low and slow, like he’s trying to sort through what words he wants to use, “did he actually tell you about his big dumb crush?”

“No!” Namjoon says, a little too quickly. “No, he didn’t,” he repeats, and he can sense Jimin’s glee. He realizes he’s acting suspicious, and he groans. “You guys are making it weird.”

Jimin grins. “We aren’t, though, hyung. What did Jin say?”

“He didn’t say anything,” Namjoon replies, and it’s the truth. It’s just also the problem. He waits a few moments before continuing, trying and failing to sort through his emotions. Why had he wanted so desperately to hear Jin’s thoughts on his dating life?

“My boss is trying to set me up with his daughter,” he explains instead, not yet mentioning the two are related.

Jimin gasps. “That’s awkward.”

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Obviously.”

He thinks about what he wants to say next, chewing on his lower lip for a moment before continuing. “I wanted Jin’s advice on how to refuse, and he… He got weird about it.”

He feels silly even saying it aloud. Like he’s overreacting. His heart is telling him he’s reading too much into the situation, that he’s assuming an embarrassing amount of affection between the two of them, but his gut won’t let him ignore it. He thought about it for the entire trip home.

Jin had been strange, and it hadn’t just been a hangover. There’d been a look in his eyes. One Namjoon couldn’t quite put his finger on.

Jimin snorts. “Yeah. Duh. Because of his big dumb crush on you!!”

Namjoon groans and throws a slice of bread at him. “I don’t know why I even bother,” he says, and walks out of the kitchen, stuffing the first bite of the sandwich in his mouth.

“Because you loooove us,” Jimin calls out to him.

Namjoon flips him off.



-


Kim Namjoon’s been thinking about The Upcoming Date since that morning at Jin’s apartment, and honestly, he hasn’t reached any additional clarity. He’s not sure what he wants at all. He doesn’t think it’s this girl, but he’s not sure if it’s Jin, so he can’t come up with a reason to decline his boss’s offer to help him find someone.

After this past week, he has come to accept that he does actually want a relationship. Sort of. He misses the physical proximity of it, the sense of peace and calm that comes with knowing you and the person you’re with truly love each other. Once upon a time, he’d thought he wanted domestic bliss and everything that came with it, but then he had a horrible breakup in college and hasn’t been in a relationship in years, and it just — it all seems like more trouble than it’s really worth.

But.

It would be nice, he thinks, if he truly loved someone, and they loved him.

But.

He thinks about it some more, and thinks that domestic bliss comes with too many caveats.

He sighs.

He’s pretty sure he’s giving off some kind of vibe, because ever since that day at Jin’s, Jimin’s prodding has been worse than usual. He tries to pretend this is correlation and not causation, but he also is pretty worried it’s the latter. He will admit he’s felt lonelier than normal lately, and if Jimin noticed, his boss probably has too. Maybe that’s why he mentioned the niece. Maybe he sensed Namjoon was lonely.

Not that Namjoon feels like ‘lonely’ is his state of being. Most of the time, he feels fine. It’s just — once Jimin’s relationship with Yoongi went from casual to seriously dating, he realized he was missing something. It’s not as if Jimin’s been trying to show it off or anything. He’s even tried to be sneaky about it, but Namjoon can tell, even without Yoongi texting him and telling him he needs to get his ass out of the apartment.

On those nights, he usually finds his way to Jin’s place. Of his friends, only Jin doesn’t have a roommate, and even if Hoseok insists ‘mi casa es su casa’, Namjoon has never once felt like he could knock on Hoseok’s door and ask to crash without some sort of comment or a week’s notice. Especially after Hoseok got married, and doubly so after the twins were born.

Jin, on the other hand, just smiles and asks if he wants to watch Frozen again. Namjoon has never once felt like a bother.

Namjoon wonders if he could show up with a live band in tow and still not upset Jin. He thinks he’s been plenty annoying over the years, and yet somehow, even when Jin is annoyed, it’s only minutes until he’s sighing and asking Namjoon how he can fix whatever is currently wrong.

Sometimes he thinks about Jin, and he thinks about Yoongi and Jimin, and he thinks about how thinking about those things is complicated.

So he lets his boss arrange the date with his niece. Jin hasn’t said anything else, and Namjoon still has no idea how to refuse his boss’s apparent good will. The girl sounds nice enough, after all, and maybe — maybe he isn’t in love with his best friend.



-


He’s probably in love with his best friend.

The woman before him has bright, round eyes, thick, red lips, and a body like he’s never seen before., but even with all that, with the kind of looks any of his (straight) friends would die to be sitting across from, he’s never felt less attracted to someone. She’s older by a few years and a little intimidating, in a way he used to like.

After not even twenty minutes, she asks, “Am I boring you?”

Which is embarrassing. Namjoon prides himself on being polite and well-mannered, and he can tell from the hard edge to her voice that he’s offended her, despite all of his best efforts to be an engaging date. Which clearly hadn’t worked.

He looks at her again, desperately willing himself to be interested, even if it’s just enough to survive this date with his dignity in tact.

She’s fine. Pretty, even. All the markers of someone conventionally attractive, and —

And it doesn’t matter how many times he looks at her; he doesn’t care. He thinks Jin’s lips are nicer. Fuck.

He uses the only excuse he can muster under the circumstances. “Sorry, it’s not that. I’m just not feeling well,” he says, and coughs a little for good measure.

The woman — What was her name again? Joohyun? — stares at him, before sighing. She clearly doesn’t believe him. She rolls her eyes, then begins examining her nails, completely giving up on any pretense of the date working out for them. “What’s their name?” she asks.

Namjoon blinks, confused. Whose name? “What?” he asks, thinking he must have heard her wrong.

She waves her hand at nothing in particular. “The person you’re in love with. It’s written all over your face.”

Namjoon chokes on his own spit.

When he finally recovers, he coughs once more, clearing his throat before continuing. He is still too in shock to manage complete sentences, so he asks, “Excuse me?” and hopes she will explain what she means.

She looks up toward the ceiling, and Namjoon thinks he’s able to count to ten before she continues. “I’ll be honest with you. It’s not often men aren’t interested in me. So it has to be someone else that’s keeping you distracted.”

Then she gives him a complete once over, looking him up and down, and Namjoon is positive from the slightly disgusted expression on her face that she finds him lacking. She continues, one more nail in the coffin, saying, “And you keep… staring at the wall and sighing. It’s pathetic, so tell me. Who is it?”

Namjoon swallows the lump in his throat. He hasn’t put it into words yet — ever. He isn’t sure he wants to hash this out with a stranger. “I’m —” he starts, then looks down, then looks back up again. “I mean, I’m not really sure if that’s what this is,” Namjoon says. “That there’s someone else, necessarily.”

“So then I’m boring you,” she repeats, eyes narrowed, waiting for his next move.

Namjoon thinks he’s like a mouse caught in her trap, and that she’s enjoying this entirely too much. He feels the flush creep in. “No!” He sighs. “I mean, it’s not your fault. And it’s not that I’ve got someone else.”

“Then…?” she prods.

“I mean,” he begins, but then isn’t sure what else to say. He stares at his hands, which he’s folded in his lap, gripping his fingertips so tightly his knuckles are going white. He looks back up at his date — the date he’s supposed to be attracted to, but isn’t.

“There is someone,” he says, testing the words out loud for the first time. “Someone I’m wondering about, I guess. But I’m not sure.”

She quirks one eyebrow up. “You’re not sure. You’re on a date with one of the greatest catches of all time — me — who you’re ignoring to think about this someone, but you’re not sure.”

He nods, and feels the full force of her judgment. In this moment, he knows it will never work out romantically between the two of them, but he thinks he might appreciate the reality check every now and then. He thinks she might enjoy providing it, as long as she can be a little mean about it.

She sighs again when he doesn’t respond, but there’s the ghost of a smile on her face. “Okay. So why don’t you make sure?”

“I’m not —” he starts, but the words are wrong. He feels like his tongue is swimming in molasses. The words are thick and heavy in his throat, and the anxiety about the entire thing, the same anxiety he’s had for years and ignored, is strangling him. His feelings for Jin are more intense and mixed up than he’d realized, so finally he settles for: “We’ve been friends for too long.”

She clearly finds the entire situation hilarious. “Okaaay,” she says, slowly, a twinkle of amusement in her eyes. “So it either works and you have the love of your life, or it doesn’t, and you lose a friend. Both of those options are better than the limbo you’re experiencing now, right?”

Namjoon’s heart clenches. He looks away when he replies. “Limbo is nice. Comfortable.”

“You —” she starts, clearly about to berate him, but he interrupts before he can be made to feel even more pathetic than he already does, to try and explain his messed up heart.

“I only really figured out there might be a limbo a month ago. I’m not sure it’s worth doing anything. What if I’m blowing the entire thing out of proportion?”

He looks down again, at the folded hands in his lap, and thinks about Jin. He thinks about how he’s let him by his side this whole time, without noticing anything. How he’s let himself take comfort in everything, and thinks about how nice it would be to just leave things as they were: comfortable.

And then he thinks about how uncomfortable that weekend at Jin’s was, how he’s still reeling from the fact they haven’t quite been normal, and how he knows that he’s part of what’s making it not normal. That he’s going to keep making it not normal.

Joohyun leans forward in her chair, reaching her arms across the table and grabbing Namjoon’s free hand that’s nearest her. Her nails dig into his skin as she says, voice low and serious, “It is very obvious to me, an outsider, that you’re not blowing anything out of proportion. You’re very clearly conflicted and upset, and sick with the thought of your unresolved feelings. Kim Namjoon, you’ve only got one life. Live it.”

She lets go of his hand, and then in a stage whisper hisses, “Coward.”



-


Namjoon spends the next few days mulling over Joohyun’s words before coming to a decision.

It’s not his best decision, but he texts Jin before he can change his mind.

Hungry?” he sends.

Jin replies with a flurry of emoji: ramen noodles, thumbs up, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, 100, 100.

In minutes, they’re both standing in line at their favorite noodle shop.

“What’s wrong?” Jin asks, because of course Jin has picked up on the fact that something has wrong, because of course it probably shows on his face, because of course he can’t hide anything from Jin, who knows him better than he probably knows himself.

I might be in love with you, he thinks.

“I’ve worked overtime all week,” he says instead, shrugging. “Just a little tired and needed a break.”

Jin grimaces, accepting Namjoon’s explanation readily. “You’ve got to learn how to delegate,” he says. There’s genuine concern on his face, and Namjoon wonders, Yoongi’s voice pressing at the back of his mind, if that’s the same kind of concern he shows for his other friends.

Namjoon orders his food at the counter after Jin, grabbing the number and heading to their usual table in the back corner. “I’ve delegated,” he says finally, defensively, sipping from his soda.

The concern on Jin’s face is genuine and immediate. “You say that, but you really don’t.” He grabs Namjoon’s hand, and Namjoon finds himself unwittingly unable to tear his gaze away from the point where their hands meet, where Jin’s long fingers graze lightly against his knuckles, and marvels at the warmth there.

He thinks about Yoongi and Jimin, he thinks about how he doesn’t want to date Joohyun or anyone else except maybe Jin, and he thinks about how he really needs more alcohol.

(That had been part of his terrible plan too. Liquid courage.)

He thinks Jin must have noticed something, because when Jin takes his hand away, he scratches at his wrist, glancing away awkwardly before announcing, “The baby figured out a macro to automate what used to take an entire hour of my day.”

He’s grateful for the topic change. Without the warmth of Jin’s hand on his, Namjoon feels his sluggish brain begin to work again, the gears turning as Namjoon’s brows furrow. He reviews Jin’s words quickly before replying. “I think… I think that’s a good thing, right?”

He can never tell when Jin is being serious or not, when he’s exaggerating or not.

The dramatic flare in his face as he responds tells Namjoon that Jin is being a little of both right now. “It isn’t a good thing,” Jin huffs. “The baby is making me look like some kind of incompetent idiot. Like I’m so old I can’t figure out how to do my job efficiently!”

Namjoon is so confused by Jin’s logic he marvels at the fact he hasn’t even started drinking yet. He suspects his confusion has more to do with the fact he knows Jin’s worth better than Jin does: knows that he’s never met someone as hardworking as Jin, or someone who has put in the same time and effort into executing a task flawlessly as Jin.

He’s noticed it more and more in the last year — that Jin doesn’t seem to understand his strengths, that he tends to undervalue himself. And perhaps it’s that it has bothered him more and more in the last year, so he’s noticed it more, and perhaps it’s bothered him because more and more he’s come to look at Jin differently — to look at him with eyes that want and understand something more about his feelings for Jin.

He asks what he thinks is an obvious question. “Your new job doesn’t involve spreadsheets, though, does it?”

“No,” Jin admits, crinkling his eyebrows in confusion, like he’s not quite sure where Namjoon is going with this.

Namjoon raises one eyebrow, saying I told you so without the words. “Then how well he’s automating your old spreadsheets doesn’t really matter. They didn’t promote you for your spreadsheet skills,” he continues, explaining in his most sensible voice, thinking thank God I haven’t started drinking yet.

The change in Jin is immediate. His ears flush, and his expression shifts from one of confusion to one of intense laughter, his nose scrunched up, his eyes closed, a smile on his face. It’s how he always reacts when he’s embarrassed, especially when he doesn’t believe the compliment he’s received. Namjoon wishes Jin could see himself as Namjoon sees him, and then he flushes, embarrassed at the thought, embarrassed that, God, it must be true, he must be in love.

Jin continues the cover up for his embarrassment, moves as if to fall off his chair, clutching at his heart, announcing dramatically, “You wound me.”

Namjoon plays along with Jin, lets the two of them slip into their familiar comedic routine, and he rolls his eyes. A few of the other restaurant patrons are giving them funny looks, but at this point, Namjoon is used to it.

“So what’s the baby’s name?” Namjoon asks instead. “We can’t keep calling him ‘the baby’.”

Jin grimaces, and they’re back to normal conversation. “I mean, we really could,” Jin replies, still scowling, and they’re back to normal conversation.

Namjoon shakes his head. “I’d really prefer not to.”

Jin sighs dramatically. “Fine. Jeon Jungkook. You can call him by his name. I can’t. It makes me too angry.”

“Good. Thank you. I’m not going around talking about your ‘baby’ when he’s a grown ass man.”

“Barely!” Jin shouts. “I might as well put a pacifier on the end of his pencil. He told me yesterday that he’s never once done a single load of laundry. He didn’t even know how to separate his clothes into lights and darks! Namjoon-ah, I had to tell him how to sort his laundry. He came in with a pink shirt. A pink shirt! Because he’d ruined a perfectly good white shirt!”

Namjoon admits, privately, that this does seem to be a particularly inept adult, but because he doesn’t want to encourage Jin’s ire, he simply takes another sip of his drink instead.

Despite Namjoon’s lack of reaction, it seems Jin can’t resist continuing, one last grumble before he gives up on winning Namjoon to his side completely, “And he’s not my baby, just a baby.”

Their noodles arrive, and it’s a long affair: talking, eating, ordering beer for the table, talking some more. Namjoon is satisfied, mostly. Gone is the awkwardness from the last time they were together. Today, Jin is entirely present with him. There’s no portion of his mind that seems to be occupied elsewhere.

And yet — and yet that somehow makes everything that much worse. His plan to to confirm his feelings, to put aside his cowardice and really truly figure out if Joohyun is right, if he needs to escape this limbo and try something new with Jin is in full swing, and with each passing moment, he’s more and more convinced that Joohyun has him pegged.

When Jin licks his wrist because some of the soup splattered, Namjoon’s breath hitches.

When Jin holds contact with his wrist a second longer than necessary, Namjoon flushes for a reason other than his inebriation.

When Jin licks his lips, Namjoon notices, not for the first time, why all the girls in his office still talked about how full they were, how utterly kissable they were, even though they only saw Jin one time.

He thinks about the reasons why he’s been so content to be single all these years and realizes with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach that those reasons start and end with Kim Seokjin.

How had he not noticed? How had he allowed himself to ignore the signs for so long? Even now, Namjoon stares at Jin, wondering if he even really wants to kiss those lips, but then also wondering at how soft they are, knowing that the curiosity means he really does want to press his lips to Jin’s and feel them move against his own, to test the softness intimately.

He stares at his best friend, and doesn’t think that he needs to spend the rest of his life with him, forever; doesn’t think that he wants to push him against a wall and rip his clothes off; but he does look at his best friend and think, I don’t need anything other than this.

Really, isn’t that his sign?

He finishes half his glass of beer in a single chug, wipes at the bit of foam at his lips and calls for another.

The plan involved alcohol for a reason, and he definitely needs more before he can move onto phase two.



-


Jin knew something was up from the moment he saw Namjoon that night, but he’d waited, hoping Namjoon would explain what was going on. Usually, it doesn’t take long, and if Namjoon doesn’t really want to talk about it — well, after a few drinks, he opens up anyway.

Namjoon is on his fifth round of beer, and is still not his usual self.

It’s an unspoken rule between them, yet another routine, that if they go out drinking together, one of them has to be slightly more sober. Most of the time, Namjoon is that person, but sometimes, Jin knows he needs to let Namjoon let loose.

Today was one of those days, so while he’s pleasantly buzzed, that’s where he has to stop drinking. Every single don’t flirt with Kim Namjoon alarm is raised.

Which is why tonight is so difficult. He doesn’t understand what’s happening, because even if Namjoon does get more free with lingering touches when he’s drunk, it hasn’t been like it’s been today. Namjoon’s touch lingers at his wrist but isn’t accidental. Jin might be tipsy, but he knows — this is purposeful. It’s the look in Namjoon’s eyes, his eyelids low, his smile soft, focused on Jin. Namjoon’s gaze lingers at Jin’s lips. His touch skates across Jin’s body, and it is taking every effort Jin has to keep his desire in check.

They usually head to a bar after dinner, but Namjoon has had enough alcohol that after they leave the restaurant, he doesn’t even bother. He just calls them a cab and tells Namjoon he’s taking him home.

“No,” Namjoon says, leaning his face into Jin’s shoulder. The warmth of his breath is more intoxicating than the beer.

“You’ve had enough to drink, Joon-ah,” he says, struggling to remember that he’s a responsible adult who doesn’t kiss his best friend.

No,” Namjoon says, louder this time, gripping Jin’s arm tightly. “Yoongi’s staying over today,” he continues. “Your place.”

Jin prays to every deity he can think of. He’s not sure he can handle Namjoon like this, alone in his apartment. He’d planned to drop him off, making him Jimin’s problem, but if Yoongi was there…

He closes his eyes and curses. “Fine. Fine! You can stay at my place.”

He feels Namjoon smile into his sleeve. “Thanks, Jinnie.”



-


The taxi ride home is nearly impossible. Namjoon is practically crawling on top of him in the car, and he’s positive the driver is scandalized. The ten minute drive feels like an hour, and when they’re finally let off in front of his building, Namjoon fights off any attempt to disentangle themselves.

It’s not until they’re inside that Namjoon finally speaks in full sentences again. “Jinnie,” he says, as if he’s trying out the new nickname, seeing if it fits. He smiles, lips curving. “Jinnie,” he says again. “You’re in love with me, right?”

Jin feels the blood drain from his face.

“Jimin thinks so,” Namjoon continues. “He’s always said it, but I didn’t believe him. He thinks I’m in love with you too.”

Jin gathers every ounce of self-preservation he can and says, “You’re drunk. You can sleep in my bed tonight.”

Namjoon shakes his head. “No.” Then he pauses for a long moment, his face one of pure concentration. “No, I mean. I am drunk. But you’re trying to change the topic, and I think Jimin’s right.”

Jin grabs Namjoon by the shoulders, leading him into his bedroom. “This really isn’t the time,” he begins, and Namjoon interrupts him, twisting out of his grasp.

“It is the time,” he says, petulantly. “I can’t say this when I’m sober.”

Jin laughs. “What is that even supposed to mean?”

Namjoon pouts, and Jin is grateful he’s acting the petulant drunk. It makes dealing with this conversation easier. Maybe Namjoon will forget everything in the morning.

“It means,” Namjoon says, slowly and purposefully, “that you’re my best friend. And I’m scared of that changing.”

Jin is scared of it too. That’s why he doesn’t want to have this conversation, ever. “I’ll always be your friend,” he replies. He attempts to guide Namjoon to the bedroom again, and Namjoon trips over some shoes Jin had left in the living room.

“But maybe,” Namjoon says, “maybe we should be more. Like Yoongi and Jimin.”

Jin feels the heat rising in his ears, his face, his neck, feels the blood rushing to his head. Was this what Namjoon had been worried about the entire time?

“You should sleep,” Jin replies instead.

Namjoon lets out a cry of frustration, and takes Jin so completely by surprise that he manages to pin him against the wall, holding Jin’s arms in place so he can’t move. “I don’t want to sleep. I want to know if I’m in love with you.”

And then Namjoon kisses him.

It’s messy, and more than a little wet, and it’s the kind of drunken kiss that isn’t attractive or sexy at all.

Jin loves every awful second of it, but he’s too sober to think it’s okay for it to be like this. He tries to push Namjoon away, but he’s stronger than Jin has ever given him credit for. Jin’s arms remain pinned by his side.

Namjoon tries again, slotting his mouth against Jin’s with increased effort, and Jin can’t help but sigh a little into the moment. He’s only human, and the love of his goddamn life is actually kissing him. He indulges for the moment, but when Namjoon licks at his lips, trying to part them, he wakes up from the fantasy.

“We can’t do this right now, Joon-ah,” he says, wishing he’d had more alcohol at dinner, wishing he’d had enough to drink to think this was okay.

Namjoon is quiet, looking at him with slightly glassy eyes and swollen lips.

Jin flushes, embarrassed. I did that to him, he thinks with a start. Fuck. “You should sleep,” Jin reiterates, trying to shift the tension in the room. “We can talk when you’re sober.”

It works. Namjoon nods, finally letting Jin lead him to bed, and when he helps settle Namjoon into the covers, removing his suit jacket, his tie, his belt — the same routine Namjoon has performed for him so many times before — he channels every rational part of his brain into ignoring the slight pitch in Namjoon’s trousers.

Maybe Namjoon won’t remember anything. He takes a cold shower that night, and sleeps on the couch like it’s some sort of penance.

Namjoon was right, though. The couch wasn’t very comfortable.



-


Namjoon wakes up with a killer headache in a bed that definitely isn’t his. He doesn’t recognize where he’s at until he sees the Super Mario lamp, and realizes this is Jin’s bedroom.

He remembers Jin’s perfectly soft lips with a start, the memory of kissing them, of teeth clacking pounding in his head.

Fuck.

He sits up in bed and wonders what to do next. Jin isn’t next to him, so one of two things were true:

One, Jin had promptly refused his advances because he didn’t feel the same way, and Namjoon has blocked the traumatic memories.

Two, Jin had been a perfect gentleman who, though desperately in love with Namjoon, refused to make a move on someone as sloppily drunk as he’d been.

He isn’t sure which answer he prefers, but he knows one thing to be true: He’s 99% sure he’s in love with his best friend.

Namjoon wants nothing more than to kiss him again, to get it right this time, to slot their lips together in a perfect rhythm, and to feel Jin’s warmth when he wakes up next to him.

Shit. It’s sappy as hell, and he’s still not quite used to the idea of wishing he was tied to someone, much less Kim Seokjin of all people.

He stays like that for a moment longer, staring at his feet beneath the covers and having an existential crisis about the state of his love life, until the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the air.

That’s his cue. It’s always been his cue.

He pulls himself together and finds his way into the living room.

“You awake then?” Jin asks, smiling.

Namjoon stares at him, trying to assess what happened last night based on Jin’s reaction.

It’s inscrutable. There’s something there, something in the hesitation of Jin’s smile that he can’t figure out, but there’s nothing to suggest that Jin is going to make anything awkward between them, even as Namjoon remembers the curve of Jin’s hip and the taste of his saliva.

He flushes at the memory, but Jin’s expression remains… expressionless. With a sinking feeling of despair in the pit of his stomach, he realizes Jin is hoping Namjoon doesn’t remember what happened.

He finds his answer. Jin isn’t interested in him that way, because if he was interested, surely he’d try to talk about it. A memory comes back to him, hazy, that Jin had said they should discuss this when they were sober and — well, they were fucking sober and not discussing it, so he supposes Jin made up his mind.

The wrenching feeling in his gut — disappointment — makes him realize he’d thought the confession would be a sure thing. That if he confessed, like they do in the dramas, like Joohyun told him he should, that it would all work out.

He was wrong, obviously.

He smiles, and it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Yeah. Killer headache though,” he says, and lets Jin hand him his coffee like it’s any other morning.