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At age eighteen, Yoongi’s first priority was music, and his second priority was staying alive. So auditioning for BigHit seemed to check a couple boxes. Sure, the idea that maybe he’d get paid (sometime, eventually, hopefully) was nice, the idea that he could stop working graveyard shifts at a convenience store and living off of instant noodles in a goshiwon — all that was great. But if he was being honest with himself (something he admittedly had been avoiding for the last year or so), he auditioned for the thrill of the battle onstage, the same reason he had been skipping shifts at the convenience store to go to open mics at underground clubs.

But for some reason, he hadn’t really expected what came next. Certainly, being an idol trainee had never been in his plans. And it was quickly becoming apparent that’s what he was. And on top of that, it was looking like he was an idol trainee whose debut was questionable.

The lineup kept changing. That was the first sign. The only constants were him, and of course, Kim Namjoon. On their first meeting, the day after that rap battle of an audition that led to Yoongi being ushered to meet a production team, it was hard not to narrow his eyes at Namjoon. The kid looked thirteen, with a fucking hair perm that screamed trying too hard. He got personally recommended to the company by an established rapper, and for what? Sure, he was good, but he performed like he was trying to imitate every American rapper that Yoongi...had also tried to imitate, for most of his life. But he grew up. He wasn’t still running around on stage in big sunglasses pretending to be Eminem.

The worst part about the Namjoon thing, the thing where he’s forced into Namjoon’s company at all times, the part where everyone else around them keeps leaving but still it’s him-and-Namjoon, him-and-Namjoon, is how goddamn naive he is. He’s a transplant from a wealthy Seoul suburb, and he always complains about how his parents wanted him to get a steady job, since his grades were so good. As far as Yoongi’s concerned, he’s a brand-new fucking baby who just toddled into the right place at the right time. It isn’t fair, he thinks, that he had to drop out of school, drop out of his family, drop into a life where everything he wants to accomplish is so far away, just to get here.

Yoongi keeps his distance. Well, as much distance as it’s possible to keep, since he and Namjoon eat together, practice together, and sleep together in the same shoebox-sized dorm room, stacked up in bunk beds. He doesn’t feel like getting attached, even though for all intents and purposes it seems he and Namjoon are stuck together in this pursuit. Except, sometimes, Yoongi thinks maybe Namjoon isn’t so intolerable.

It’s a funny thing, being tied together for so many hours a day; you start to see people crack. At this point, months into training, he’s seen plenty of people crack. Never Namjoon, though. Namjoon grins and bears it better than any of the rest of them, through vocal training and rap training and dance training, jesus, and even in their shitty little fucking dorm room. Nothing seems to shake him. At least Yoongi thinks so, until one night he’s struggling to fall asleep and he hears the faint sounds of crying. It’s not uncommon, really — they’re all a bunch of kids far away from home, overworked and underfed and trying so desperately to grasp something just out of reach. They cry. But this is different, because Yoongi knows almost instantly that it’s Namjoon.

He’s not sure how he knows. He just does. Sure, it’s coming from the bunk across the way, but more than that, he can just tell. It’s strange, being the only one awake lying here to hear Namjoon’s most vulnerable parts, the ones he’s never seen before. After twenty or so minutes, it’s starting to make Yoongi’s chest ache a little, and he can’t help it. He has to do something. He clambers out of bed, ignoring the way Namjoon tries to silence himself when he hears movement, and crouches down next to Namjoon’s bed.

“Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi whispers. “Are you okay?”

It’s a stupid question. He knows that. But it’s the thing you ask, so he asks it. Namjoon, face down in his pillow, just shakes his head, sniffing loudly. Yoongi nods to himself.

“Okay,” he says. Then he does the only thing he can think of, and reaches a hand out to hold Namjoon’s, just lying there on his bed. Yoongi isn’t expecting the tight grip Namjoon squeezes back with almost instantly, and he isn’t expecting Namjoon to let out a shuddering sob, either.

“Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi mutters, his resolve to resent the boy crumbling in front of his very eyes, “Namjoon-ah, come here. Come here, let’s get out of the bedroom.”

It must be four or five in the morning. Yoongi came back from practice last, trying (and failing) to learn a hip-hop dance routine in their practice room. They have to be up early, some of them going off to high school, some of them for vocal training, Namjoon and Yoongi for dance practice. But here they are, sitting in the sad little kitchenette of the apartment, Namjoon red and puffy and still crying, Yoongi feeling vaguely like he’s trying to put all the broken glass back in a shattered window before a cold draft starts leaking in.

He’s no good at this, taking care of people. He can barely take care of himself. Still, there’s something in the sad expression on Namjoon’s face that fills him with inexplicable panic, like if Namjoon is sad, it’s all going to go wrong. So he’s acting on instinct, putting a mug of water in the microwave to warm it up, grabbing one of the bags of herbal tea out of the cramped cupboard, and standing there awkwardly across from Namjoon, who still has tears on his face.

“Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi starts, not sure how he’s going to continue, but it doesn’t matter because Namjoon interrupts him.

“Hyung, I’m so tired,” he says hoarsely, voice quiet.

Yoongi pauses. “Drink some tea and then you can go back to bed.” He feels bad, suddenly, like he’s taken Namjoon away from sleep, like it’s his fault that Namjoon is tired, like —

“No,” Namjoon says. “I’m so tired. Of all of this.”

Ah. Right. “We all are,” he says, because it’s true. They all want it, or they wouldn’t still be here, but they’re all tired. Bone-deep exhausted.

That seems to make Namjoon feel more miserable, because he covers his face with his hands, sniffling. Yoongi, again, feels a sense of panic. “Then how come no one else is — is like this?” Namjoon asks, voice stuttering on tears.

Yoongi shakes his head. “Namjoon, we are. Just because you don’t see it, or hear it, doesn’t mean —”

“You’re not like this,” Namjoon accuses. The microwave beeps, making them both jump, and Yoongi swears. He walks over, getting out the now-hot to the touch mug, and drops the tea bag in.

“You can’t tell me how I feel,” Yoongi says quietly. “Namjoon-ah, I’m so fucking bad at all of this. The only thing I’ve ever been good at is rapping, that’s what I thought I was going to get to do, and now — and now it’s this. I’m exhausted, and I’m fucking lonely, and I’m…” Yoongi trails off. He doesn’t want to get into all of that, it’s not for Namjoon to see. He sighs. “You’re the fucking golden child, PD-nim loves you, he made you the focus point of this whole thing. You know how shitty it feels watching everyone else come and go and wondering if you’re next?”

Yes,” Namjoon says emphatically. “I do. You think I feel safe? Or talented, or something? I feel like a stupid kid every day, watching you.”

Yoongi glances at him. Namjoon’s eyes are resolutely pointed downward. He hasn’t touched his tea. “You want sugar?” He asks.

Namjoon nods. Yoongi goes to grab the loose plastic bag they keep sugar for coffee in, handing it to Namjoon with a spoon and watching him spoon in a little too much. They’re quiet, just the hum of the refrigerator keeping them company.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” Namjoon asks Yoongi finally, sniffing and taking a sip of his tea.

Yoongi debates how to answer that for a moment. He sighs again. “Because I rely on you.” He doesn’t feel like explaining what that means, really, so he doesn’t. Namjoon looks up at him, eyes widened slightly, and opens his mouth a couple times to speak, but closes it again silently.

“I rely on you too,” he says finally. Yoongi has no reasonable explanation for why that makes him feel a little warm and cared for, why it eases some of the pressure his loneliness was putting on his chest.

“Then we should take care of each other,” Yoongi says quietly, looking down at his own hands instead of across at Namjoon.

“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees. “We should.”

 

It’s different, after that. It’s a lot different, after that.

++

Debuting is a different set of challenges. There’s no more come-and-go of trainees, just the seven of them, living-breathing-eating-sweating-practicing-repeat together, stacked together in the same one-room apartment Namjoon and Yoongi had been sleeping in for three years now. Hoseok had been there for two of them, and the others filtered in after that. Things were better, easier in some ways. But then there was a whole new set of worries and concerns. Were they good enough? Were they talented enough? Was their image going to work for them? How would they ever manage to be as successful as other groups, with more money and more name recognition? How would they ever manage any success? How were they going to stay alive until they did?

For a solid year of his life, Yoongi’s shoulders feel hunched over, pulled down from the sheer weight of the pressure. The desire to be a thousand things at once, to be likeable, to be talented, to be handsome, to be memorable, to stay on-beat, to make sure he hits that move Hoseok had been trying to help him with for a month, to make sure his voice doesn’t crack on stage — to be perfect. It’s isolating, trying to be perfect, and in the month lead-up to their debut, the seven of them stay mostly to themselves. Even in group practice, they look in the mirror to find seven boys all analyzing themselves so thoroughly, they don’t have time to speak to each other.

It’s late at night in the middle of that month that Yoongi wakes up, groggy and annoyed, and realizes his precious few hours of sleep have been interrupted because he needs to get up and use the bathroom. Yoongi takes a few seconds to feel deeply irritated with his own biological functions before attempting to stand up and fulfill them.

Yoongi encounters his first obstacle when he realizes that the bathroom light is on. This is annoying at first, and he’s about to go pound on the door, when he encounters the second obstacle: someone is crying in there.

This isn’t uncommon. It’s a small apartment, and there’s only so many places to go to get alone time. Masturbating and crying are both usually done in the bathroom, and usually late at night, to avoid this very problem. The real obstacle is that he can tell, through a door, that it’s Namjoon. (He doesn’t like this. Once, he saw a nature documentary that said mother sea lions can tell their own babies apart from the whole group just from their cries. He doesn’t want to be the mother sea lion.)

Yoongi wonders faintly as he stands there if any of the others have heard Namjoon cry. It’s an uncommon enough occurrence that Yoongi barely ever hears it, and he thinks maybe he’s the only one who has. For some reason, that thought makes him feel...what, proud? It’s a weird thing to feel proud over, but...whatever. They’ve known each other for three long, challenging years, and maybe it feels good that there’s such a tangible sign of trust between them.

He walks toward the door and knocks twice. “Joon-ah,” he says, voice loud enough to carry but quiet enough not to wake anyone.

Namjoon goes quiet for a moment, and then mumbles, “It’s open.”

Yoongi pushes his way in, and he’s met with the sight of Namjoon, sitting red-eyed on the floor, legs pulled up to his chest. It’s pitiful, and it pulls at Yoongi’s heartstrings.

“Oh, Joon-ah,” Yoongi sighs, before sitting down next to him on the floor. Namjoon leans over immediately, unfurling himself to curl around Yoongi instead. As soon as he nuzzles into Yoongi’s shoulder, he starts crying again, and Yoongi brings a hand up to rest on his back.

We should take care of each other, he told Namjoon those years ago, and if this is what it looks like, this is what it looks like. He realized at some point that while Namjoon kept to himself a lot, as opposed to some of the trainees that hung off each other, wrapped around each other tight for comfort, physical affection seemed to calm him down. Maybe it made him feel less lonely, like it does for Yoongi sometimes. Still, Namjoon didn’t ask for it. (Neither did Yoongi, for that matter, but this isn’t about him.) Namjoon doesn’t ask for it but Yoongi knows, knows that in the pitch dark of three in the morning when Namjoon will not stop tossing and turning in his bunk he can just go over and sit next to him, their legs touching, and Namjoon will probably calm down. He knows he likes his hand held when he’s upset, so reaches out right now, intertwines their fingers together while Namjoon gets Yoongi’s shirt all snotty.

“You wanna talk about it?” Yoongi asks him quietly, tracing his thumb over Namjoon’s fingernails idly. Namjoon shakes his head, letting out a weird shuddering breath, and Yoongi grins despite the situation.

“Okay,” Yoongi tells him, rubbing his free hand against Namjoon’s upper back for a moment before his hand stills. He goes quiet, letting Namjoon cry until he runs himself dry and pulls away from Yoongi.

“Your shirt’s gross now, I’m sorry, I —” Namjoon starts, looking worriedly at Yoongi’s shirt.

Yoongi gives half a smile at Namjoon’s messy face, messy expression. “It’s okay, Joon-ah. I have other clothes.”

He can’t explain the fondness he feels looking at Namjoon, and it almost seems mean, given how distraught he is, but...there’s something about him that’s so familiar, it’s just nice to be around. Even in times like this.

“Why are you smiling at me?” Namjoon asks pathetically.

“You’re such an ugly crier,” Yoongi tells him easily, and Namjoon gives a half-laugh half-sob at that, which spurs Yoongi into actual laughter.

Which reminds him. “You know, I woke up because I needed to pee.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says, scrambling to get up. “Right. Okay.”

Yoongi stands, looking Namjoon over. He’s still gangly and awkward, still the same gawky kid that Yoongi met three years ago. There’s a sort of heaviness to him now, a seriousness he didn’t use to have, and that makes Yoongi sad, in a small way. “Joon-ah, go to my bed. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Namjoon looks questioning, but nods, rubbing at his eyes as he walks out. When Yoongi looks at himself in the mirror while he washes his hands, he sighs. It’s a strange thing, getting used to being a hyung, someone the younger kids lean on. He’s still not very good at it, but Namjoon was the first person to ever make him feel like that — Namjoon got him familiar with that kind of responsibility.

When he gets back to the bedroom, there Namjoon is, lying on his side in Yoongi’s bunk. Namjoon always makes it look so small, with his lanky limbs taking up most of the space.

“Scoot over,” Yoongi mutters to him, and Namjoon raises his eyebrows, but does as he’s told. “Sleep here tonight.”

“Why?” Namjoon asks in a whisper.

Yoongi’s face goes pink saying it out loud, but he explains, “I don’t want you to have to sleep alone.”

“I’m the leader. I shouldn’t have to crawl into someone else’s bed just to —” Namjoon starts, but Yoongi scoffs.

“You’re not the leader of anything right now. Right now, you’re just Kim Namjoon, and you’re sad, and I don’t want you to lay there all sad by yourself because you’ll never get any sleep, and we have dance practice at nine tomorrow,” Yoongi says in a quick whisper. “So shut up and go to sleep. Idiot,” he tacks onto the end, just to make Namjoon laugh.

“Okay. Okay, hyung,” Namjoon acquiesces, pulling Yoongi’s blanket over himself. It doesn’t occur to Yoongi until Namjoon turns around, facing the wall, that Yoongi only has the one pillow. But it’s too late for thoughts like that now, when he’s already lying here in this tiny bed with a relatively large boy. Man, he figures. (No, he argues back. Namjoon will maybe always be a boy to him.) So he rests his head next to Namjoon’s, close enough that he can smell shampoo, and closes his eyes. He can hear Namjoon breathing steadily, calmly, and is it weird that it’s comforting? But then, all of this is a little weird.

It takes them a few minutes of shuffling around without speaking to figure out how to both fit on the mattress, and neither of them comment when Yoongi’s arm ends up looped around Namjoon’s middle, his chest pressed to Namjoon’s back. It’s a small bed, after all.

Falling asleep is the easy part. Waking up, though, proves to be harder.

Yoongi has never been a heavy sleeper; he’s not as easy to disturb as Hoseok, but he doesn’t sleep like the dead like Jungkook does. So when Yoongi squints his eyes open in the still-dim early morning light of the bedroom and realizes it’s from Namjoon getting up, it doesn’t surprise him. He blearily opens his eyes the rest of the way, aiming to make some comment about how their alarms haven’t gone off yet, and Namjoon should go back to sleep. But instead, he’s met with the sight of Namjoon directly over top of him, knees straddling Yoongi’s thighs, hands on either side of Yoongi’s head. He looks embarrassed to be caught in this position, cheeks blushed pink, and his face is still puffy from sleep.

“Sorry to wake you up, hyung,” he says in a sleep-rough voice, and a funny thing happens to Yoongi.

The funny thing that happens to Yoongi is that his chest flushes, a rush of warmth bursting in it, and his mouth goes dry; he feels weak and overwhelmed, and...and all over Namjoon, soft and sleepy and trying to get out of bed without waking him up. All over Namjoon, who last night had ugly puffy eyes and got snot on Yoongi’s t-shirt.

“It’s fine,” he tries to say in a normal voice, but it comes out in a whisper. He’s blushing, he thinks, from how warm his face is.

“Going back to my own bed,” Namjoon explains. He’s still hovering over Yoongi, on his hands and knees in a way that Yoongi’s trying not to think about, in this particular moment. Yoongi just nods, licking his lips because they feel dry.

They stare at each other for about two and a half more seconds (it’s hard for Yoongi not to count) and then Namjoon shifts, pulling his left leg over Yoongi’s body so that he’s just sitting on the side of Yoongi’s bunk.

“Hey, um. Thanks,” Namjoon tells him, face still a little pink.

Yoongi doesn’t bother asking for what. He knows. He nods again. “Sure, Joon-ah,” he says quietly. At least his voice has returned to him. His brain hasn’t, apparently, since the small way Namjoon smiles sets off another round of loud, hot firecrackers in Yoongi’s chest.

“Go back to sleep,” Namjoon tells him, still smiling. He reaches his hand out and rests it on Yoongi’s shoulder briefly (too briefly) before he scoots the rest of the way out of the bunk, walking across to his own and getting under the covers.

 

And Yoongi realizes it’s startling, to fall for someone all at once.

++

(As the years pass, Yoongi can’t help himself from reaching out and holding Namjoon’s hand, when the others can’t see him frowning but Yoongi can. He can’t help himself from sprawling across Namjoon’s lap in the little sofa in the studio, when Namjoon looks so tired and so stressed and there’s only two weeks until the deadline on the next track. He can’t help himself from smiling, pleased, when Namjoon crawls into Yoongi’s bed late at night, muttering that he can’t sleep. They move dorms, gain privacy, change roommates, but Namjoon still keeps coming. Yoongi hugs him and holds his hand and they fall asleep pressed together, year after year, bedroom after bedroom. It doesn’t always make Namjoon’s frown fade, he doesn’t always fall asleep peacefully, but sometimes he does. Sometimes he’ll look at Yoongi like he wants to say something important, but all he says is thanks, hyung.)

(Yoongi can’t help himself. He couldn’t stop, even if he wanted to. He’s no good, anymore, at telling Namjoon no, at denying Namjoon anything.)

(Even when it makes his chest ache a little, tiny bit.)

++

Yoongi and Seokjin have been drinking, because they have three nights off before their next promotions, and they are overflowing with steam that needs to be let off.

“I’m waiting for the part that’s easy,” Seokjin had said at the bar, knocking back another shot. “Training? Fucking hard. Debuting? Fucking hard. Trying to get popular? Fucking hard. Being popular? Fucking hard,” he listed, voice slurring.

“Don’t call us popular,” Yoongi said with his nose wrinkled, sipping his beer.

“We are popular. We’re on fried chicken advertisements,” Seokjin told him, like Yoongi was a moron for not considering this detail. “We’re flying to Los Angeles next week to be on real American television shows. We’re popular.”

Seokjin’s right on two accounts: they are popular now, as much as saying it out loud feels like a jinx, and everything is still fucking hard. These days, they don’t have to work as hard at promotions as when they were rookies, but it’s all the other stuff that gets harder. The more success a song gets, the better the next one needs to be. The more views they get on a dance video, the more difficult, or interesting the next one needs to be. The more social media followers they get, the more they need to post. The more international attention they get, the more they need to travel to the states, to be a different kind of rookie in a more challenging environment. Everything keeps building up, and it’s — well, it’s fucking hard.

Hence Yoongi and Seokjin going out for drinks even though it’s a Wednesday night, and Yoongi still technically has work to do on their nights off. He gets dropped off at the company building on the way home, even though he still has a little alcohol in his system, even though Seokjin is booing him the whole way. They all work as hard as each other, but it’s different, the members who aren’t responsible for contributing in some way to the album. Even if he only writes his verses and doesn’t produce anything, it’s still another aspect of his job that needs to be done. Lately he’s been trying to produce a few things to be considered for the next album, and the window on that is closing quickly. He just wants to go in and listen to a few things he put together yesterday, see if a break changed his perspective, and — and all that changes when he walks past the door of Namjoon’s studio and hears loud music coming from inside.

It’s late. Not crazy late, especially for Yoongi and Namjoon, who infamously spend too goddamn much time at the studio, but it’s late. He just wants to check in on him, because...well, because Yoongi’s been waiting for Namjoon to burst for a few weeks now. They went right from promotions to preparation for their next tour to learning they were going to be on US talk shows, and it’s been an overwhelming month where Yoongi has seen less and less of Namjoon. He’s been holed up in the studio, mostly, keeping odd hours, and Yoongi frowns as he stands outside the studio door. Odd hours usually mean Namjoon is off, that he doesn’t want to be around other people. Yoongi isn’t sure if he counts as other people, so he steps up to the door and knocks a few times, loud enough that Namjoon should be able to hear him.

The music pauses.

“Yeah?” Namjoon calls.

Yoongi opens the door. “Hey,” he says.

“Oh,” Namjoon responds, turning in his desk chair. “Hey.”

Namjoon looks like shit. His hair is a mess, greasy and unstyled, pushed up at weird angles from fussing with it. He has dark bags under his eyes that he better start correcting now, because the stylist noonas will nag him about it for hours next week if they stay there. He’s in sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, a cardigan hanging from the back of his chair, and honestly? The room smells stale, and kind of gross.

“I heard your music. I just wanted to see how you were doing,” Yoongi tells him, feeling kind of awkward standing here, still a little tipsy.

“I’m fine,” Namjoon says shortly. His face is closed-off, a clear sign that he is not actually fine, and Yoongi presses his lips together.

“Are you sure?” Yoongi asks tentatively.

Namjoon furrows his eyebrows, expression clouding over with annoyance. “Yes, I’m sure. You don’t need to babysit me. I’m fine, hyung.”

He turns around in his desk chair, no longer looking at Yoongi. Yoongi sighs, debating. Sometimes, Namjoon gets like this. Avoidant and distant, argumentative if Yoongi tries to talk to him about it. Sometimes, Yoongi lets it resolve by itself. Lets Namjoon work himself up until he winds up in Yoongi’s bed, in Yoongi’s arm, whispering what’s wrong, talking until he doesn’t need to anymore. But they have an international flight in five days, and Yoongi doesn’t think he should let this fester, since he doesn’t want Namjoon to be a complete wreck on top of everything else.

(He’s not the only one who sees when Namjoon is off, when he’s hurting, when he’s upset. The others can tell, too, but not in the same way, Yoongi thinks. They know he’s tired, know he’s stressed, but they don’t know the way Yoongi knows. The way Yoongi’s trained himself to know for seven years now. They don’t know how to deal with it the way Yoongi does, either; they get worried and avoid him, or try to distract him, don’t want to make him more upset. Yoongi knows the best way to go about these things sometimes for Namjoon is just to rip the bandage off.)

“You look like shit. You need to get out of here and go home,” Yoongi tells Namjoon bluntly. He can see the way Namjoon goes stiff in his chair, and steels himself as Namjoon turns back around slowly.

“I can’t go home,” Namjoon says, voice low, expression transformed from annoyed to a little actual anger, now. “I have work to do. A lot of it, actually.”

“You can do work tomorrow,” Yoongi says.

“No, I can’t. I have a track I told PD-nim I would finish by Friday, and there’s two others I need to change, too. I’m trying to write three verses, and they’re all going like shit. And I need to practice my English, so I don’t make a total fool out of all of us next week. I don’t have the time to go home and do it tomorrow,” Namjoon lists, methodically and angrily. “You of all people should realize that.”

“Yeah, well, me of all people is telling you that if you keep up with this, you’re going to have a breakdown and me of all people is telling you that you have too much other shit to deal with to schedule that in,” Yoongi replies, unfazed by Namjoon’s anger. He can do worse.

Namjoon glares for a moment. “Don’t talk to me like you know better than me.”

“I do,” Yoongi says simply. “And if you’re gonna be shitty, at least tack on a hyung at the end.”

It’s a stalemate, the two of them staring at each other. Yoongi’s still buzzed, still has his fucking jacket on, and Namjoon’s sitting there looking like the picture next to anxiety in the dictionary, and neither of them seem to want to back down.

“You don’t get it,” Namjoon says, shaking his head. “This shit is all on me. There’s so much shit that’s all on me. The — the music, and dealing with PD-nim, and representing all of us on fucking television, in a language I only mostly speak. I am the only one who has to do it, and I have to do it, and you stand here telling me to go home and sleep or else I’ll get sad. I don’t fucking care, Yoongi. I don’t have time to worry if I’ll be sad, because I don’t have time for anything except being RM, and that’s just how it fucking is.”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “You think I don’t understand what you have to do? I understand it, Namjoon. I’ve understood it since before we debuted. But you sit there and act like unless you’re perfect, unless you’re sick with exhaustion, the group will fail, and that’s not —”

“Well sometimes it fucking feels like that, alright? Sometimes it feels like I need to do this, and I need to do it all right, because — because I’m the leader, and because I’m trying to be better. I have to keep getting better or else what’s the point?” Namjoon asks, sounding frustrated, like he might cry.

“You’re putting too much pressure on yourself! You know for a fact that making yourself sick over something doesn’t mean you do it better, but you’re sitting here doing it,” Yoongi replies. He’s almost yelling at this point, taking a few steps forward toward Namjoon.

Namjoon stands up. “I have to put this much pressure on myself, or else I let us all down.” His voice is just as loud as Yoongi’s in the small, quiet studio.

They’re about a foot apart now, and Yoongi closes his eyes, rubbing at them frustratedly. “You’ve never let us down,” he says quietly, all his temper gone with the weight of what Namjoon just said.

Namjoon doesn’t seem to have a ready reply for that, opening and closing his mouth again without speaking. He gets there eventually, muttering, “Well. I’d like to keep it that way.”

“You’ll never let us down. You never have, and you never will,” he goes on, looking seriously at Namjoon. “We love you and we appreciate you and would appreciate even more if you didn’t work yourself to the bone like this.”

There’s quiet for a minute, and then Yoongi says, “Maybe that should have been I, instead of we. But the others agree.”

Quiet again, Yoongi looking down at the studio floor, and then Namjoon steps forward and hugs him.

“I’m so tired,” Namjoon tells him, and Yoongi has a visceral flashback to Namjoon at age sixteen, saying the same thing but so different. He was so young and gangly then, skinny and awkward and trying so hard. Now, pressed into Yoongi, he’s — well he’s still trying hard. But he’s taller, broader, filled out in a way that makes him uncomfortably larger than Yoongi. He’s grown into his face, stopped trying to look so cool and started embracing his genuine handsomeness. He’s a man now, Yoongi supposes, but Namjoon will always be that boy in their shittiest dorm’s kitchen to him. He’ll always be the boy leaning over Yoongi in bed, trying to get back to his own bunk, blushing in the morning light with black hair and tired eyes. He’ll always be the boy he fell for all at once.

“Let me take care of you,” he whispers into Namjoon’s shoulder, standing on tip-toes. “You need to let somebody take care of you.”

Namjoon nods, arms wrapped tight around Yoongi. Yoongi pulls back slightly, off his tip-toes and back on the flats of his feet.

“You smell like Soju,” Namjoon tells Yoongi quietly, looking at him with a furrowed brow.

Yoongi shrugs. “I went out drinking with Jin-hyung.”

“And you came back here? And you’re lecturing me about overworking myself —” Namjoon starts, snorting and sounding amused. The heat from his voice is gone, and Yoongi’s glad for it.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Shut up. Sit down.” He points at the little tiny couch-adjacent thing in the back of Namjoon’s studio room, big enough for one and a half people to sit down on and not incredibly comfortable, but more comfortable than his desk chair.

Namjoon follows directions, sitting and running a hand through his dirty hair. Yoongi sits down, sort of next to and sort of on top of him, and reaches a hand to fix his hair where it’s sticking up unpleasantly.

“You need to not be in control of something. You need to have somebody else tell you what to do for a little while, that’s what I think,” Yoongi says quietly, avoiding Namjoon’s eye as he goes on smoothing his hair down.

“Sounds nice,” Namjoon comments. Yoongi glances down at him and his eyes are closed now, leaned back against the couch. Yoongi wishes, idly, that it wasn’t so attractive, but there’s nothing he can really do about that.

“You need to let off some steam,” Yoongi goes on, letting his hand slip down from Namjoon’s hair to his neck, stroking softly at the skin there.

Namjoon hums. “I’m no good at that.”

Yoongi swallows. “Can I help?”

Namjoon blinks his eyes open. Yoongi’s heart is beating hard, nervous at his own words, but. But he can’t help it, not when Namjoon’s stressed and exhausted, not when his anxiety is radiating off of him like this, not when he won’t come home and won’t take care of himself. Somebody needs to take care of him. Yoongi needs to take care of him.

He expects Namjoon to question him. What kind of help, he says in Yoongi’s mind, and then the version of himself smirks and says You’ll see. But in real life, Namjoon just looks at him, expression hard to read, before he nods.

Yoongi nods back, settling himself differently on the couch, moving so that he’s straddling Namjoon’s lap. Part of Yoongi wishes Namjoon’s loud music was back on to cover up the embarrassing sound of them both breathing loudly as Yoongi leans in and kisses Namjoon, far too tenderly for the situation at hand. He can’t help it. It’s the way Namjoon should be kissed.

“Tell me if you want me to stop,” Yoongi whispers, pulling back. Namjoon nods again. His hands move to touch Yoongi, but he hesitates, fingers pausing mid-air.

Yoongi swallows before he says, “I’ll tell you what to do, okay? You don’t have to think about anything. Put your hands on my waist, Joon-ah.”

Namjoon does as he’s told, big hands gripping Yoongi’s waist easily. He forgot he was still wearing a jacket til right now, so he leans back, shaking his head at Namjoon’s worried expression, and takes it off. Namjoon looks appeased by that, and looks more than appeased when Yoongi settles back in, his body closer to Namjoon’s.

“Gonna kiss you some more,” Yoongi tells Namjoon in a quiet voice.

“Good,” Namjoon manages, and Yoongi gives a huff of laughter before he makes good on his words.

Kissing Namjoon is...well, it’s something Yoongi would like to pretend he hasn’t imagined before, but he has. Lots of times, in the last three years or so. He’s imagined it lots of different ways, but he isn’t sure he’s thought of this one before — Namjoon underneath him on the shitty studio couch, breathing hard like Yoongi is doing anything besides kissing him gently, the two of them nervous and Yoongi determined to make Namjoon feel good.

“Put your hands in my hair,” he whispers to Namjoon at one point, and Namjoon does it in a split second, paying rapt attention to Yoongi’s words, and that’s really doing something for Yoongi.

He puts his hands under Namjoon’s shirt, ghosting his fingertips up Namjoon’s sides and biting his lip at the breathy little gasps Namjoon is letting out, like he’s never been touched before. (Yoongi knows he has, remembers Namjoon coming home dazed after a date with a mutual friend of a producer they know, remembers Namjoon telling him he wasn’t sure how he felt about her but the sex was good, he thought, even though he didn’t have anything to compare it to.) Maybe he just hasn’t been touched like this, maybe no one has thought to touch Namjoon like this, gentle because he’s fragile, big and broad as he is. Maybe Yoongi knows how to touch him best, maybe Yoongi is — he swallows again and tries not to think things that will get his hopes up.

Yoongi runs fingers across Namjoon’s chest, and Namjoon gasps loud enough to make himself blush when Yoongi touches his nipples. Yoongi gives half a smile despite the way his heart is beating out of his chest, makes a mental note and keeps touching.

They keep going like that, Yoongi giving Namjoon little directions every few minutes, touching him and trying to get him to gasp again and again, until Yoongi’s hands are at the waistband of Namjoon’s sweatpants. Namjoon’s hard, that much is very clear to Yoongi, and for that matter, Yoongi is too. But still, he can’t go further without making sure. He glances at Namjoon, fingers paused just underneath his navel, looking for directive, and Namjoon gives it to him.

“Yeah,” Namjoon breathes, head tilted back to look at Yoongi. “Yeah, please, hyung.”

Yoongi nods, tries to pretend like hearing Namjoon beg for his hands on his cock is — is fine, and normal, and just part of a favor that Yoongi is doing for him, and doesn’t make Yoongi want to push Namjoon against a wall and — and do a lot more favors for Namjoon.

He pushes down the elastic band of Namjoon’s sweatpants, of his boxer-briefs underneath, pulls his hard dick out into the space between their bodies. It’s a nice dick, Yoongi notes, feeling vaguely like he’s having an out-of-body experience. He can say this objectively, as a person who likes dick, and he would tell Namjoon if the air between them wasn’t crackling with tension. Namjoon’s arms are around the back of Yoongi’s neck, eyes pressed closed for a moment, and Yoongi doesn’t stop himself from muttering, “You’re beautiful.”

Namjoon blinks his eyes open and his face is flushed pink. He whispers, “Thank you,” and then Yoongi’s hand is moving on him.

It’s probably not the best handjob in the world. Yoongi’s probably heavy on top of Namjoon, it’s a little cold in the studio, and Yoongi’s hand is dry. But the noises Namjoon is making, the way he keeps gasping and throwing his head back, are telling a different story. His fingers are digging into Yoongi’s shoulders, but that seems like an awkward position for his arms to still be in, so Yoongi says, “Hands on my thighs.”

Namjoon seems happy to be told so, fingers gripping tight on the soft parts of Yoongi’s thighs, enticingly close to his hard-on even through his jeans. But this isn’t about him, so that’s all the directions he gives, instead focusing his energy on Namjoon. He brings his hand to his mouth and spits in it, ignores the way this feels dirty and embarrassing to do with Namjoon’s gaze heavy on him. But the friction on Namjoon’s dick feels better, even to Yoongi, and definitely to Namjoon if the little moan he gives is anything to go off of.

He goes slow at first, mostly because he wants to see Namjoon fall apart, slow and steady. He deserves that. He deserves to come unraveled. He deserves more than a cramped handjob, Yoongi thinks, but that’s what he can get away with for now. He gets faster when Namjoon gets more desperate, making high whines and digging into Yoongi’s thighs with his fingertips. Yoongi leans in to kiss him again, mouthing at Namjoon’s neck as his hand works, and Namjoon whimpers. It’s too much, it’s all too fucking much, and Yoongi can tell it is for Namjoon, too.

It doesn’t take much more, much longer, for Namjoon to start tensing up, his hands moving from Yoongi’s thighs without being told, bringing his arms to hold Yoongi tightly, pressing them close together.

“Please kiss me,” Namjoon breathes in a shaky voice, and Yoongi would never deny him that. He brings his spare hand up to tense his fingers in the short hairs near the nape of Namjoon’s neck, holding his head still, and kisses him open-mouthed and a little desperate. Namjoon gasps into it, reciprocating as much as he can, but Yoongi doesn’t mind. He bites at Namjoon’s bottom lip, licking into his mouth, and it’s in the middle of the kiss that Namjoon cries out, leans into Yoongi’s shoulder and comes into Yoongi’s hand.

They stay suspended there, Namjoon groaning quietly afterward in a way that makes Yoongi pull back and look at him, concerned.

“You okay?” Yoongi asks, feeling the need to make sure.

Namjoon nods, eyes closed. “I’m good. Really good, hyung. Thank you, thank you hyung,” he babbles, leaning forward again and nuzzling into Yoongi’s neck.

Yoongi swallows, pushing down those high-hope feelings, those dangerous feelings he tries not to look at very often, and nods back.

“Joon-ah, I need to —” Yoongi starts, his hand still cupped awkwardly, holding...a handful of cum.

“Do you want me to…” Namjoon trails off, moving a hand back to Yoongi’s thigh, and Yoongi feels himself flush.

“No, I meant. I need to clean my hands,” Yoongi stutters, and Namjoon blushes, too.

“Oh. Right,” Namjoon says. He lets go of Yoongi, and Yoongi scoots himself backward until he can stand up and grab a tissue from the box sitting on Namjoon’s desk across the room. Neither of them speak, but Yoongi can hear Namjoon rearrange his pants behind him. Yoongi’s uncomfortable in his jeans, still hard, but he refuses to think about Namjoon’s half-extended offer. This was never about Yoongi getting off.

“I’m calling us a car to go home,” Yoongi says matter-of-factly. “And you’re going to come home and sleep tonight, and take a shower tomorrow morning.”

“Okay,” Namjoon says. His voice sounds kind of blank, emotionless, and Yoongi doesn’t really want to know what that means. They’re fine, right? They were fine a minute ago, when Namjoon was thanking him, hugging him close.

Yoongi makes sure his hand is clean before turning back around, sitting perched on the arm of the sofa. Namjoon’s tucked back into his sweatpants, still sitting leaned back against the wall, and Yoongi bites his lip looking at him.

“You feel better?” Yoongi asks Namjoon.

Namjoon nods at him, his face hard for Yoongi to read again. “Yeah, hyung. I feel a lot better.”

“Good,” Yoongi says quietly, reaches his clean hand out to hold Namjoon’s.

Yoongi calls the car, and the two of them wait for it in mostly-silence. It’s not uncomfortable, per se, but Yoongi is overthinking it, because he’s good at that kind of thing. The ride home is quiet too, helped by the presence of the driver, who doesn’t bother saying much of anything to them.

“Where you sleeping tonight?” Yoongi asks Namjoon when they walk in the front door of their dorm, taking off their shoes.

“Need to sleep by myself, I think,” Namjoon tells Yoongi quietly, giving him half a smile.

“Right,” Yoongi mutters, standing there in the entryway of their big apartment, the sound of Taehyung playing video games filtering down the hallway.

“Goodnight, hyung,” Namjoon tells him, and then he walks away, leaving Yoongi there to watch him go and feeling distinctly off-kilter.

Yoongi takes a shower. He curls up in bed with a book he hasn’t absorbed any of, but puts him to sleep pretty well. He tries not to think about Namjoon’s shaky voice asking for a kiss. He dreams about it anyway.

++

Yoongi feels weird saying it’s a regular thing. Regular implies some kind of schedule, or planning. It’s just — it’s just a continuation, really. Of the way things have been for years now. Namjoon still crawls into his bed some nights, wrapping Yoongi in his arms, but now he’ll kiss the nape of Yoongi’s neck, or his collarbone until Yoongi giggles and pulls his face up to kiss him properly.

If Namjoon is sad and quiet, Yoongi will go to his room at night, run hands through his hair and kiss him until his lips are swollen pink, make him feel something warm, at the very least. When Namjoon is anxious and quick to anger, Yoongi will push him against the wall of the studio and sink to his knees, tell Namjoon to pull his hair, tell Namjoon to just let go.

They don’t talk about it, really. They’ve lived together, worked together, breathed together for nearly a decade and Yoongi’s found they never have much to talk about, anymore — they operate on the same wavelength, more or less.

(“Sounds like you’re just bad at communication,” Jimin says with a raised eyebrow once. He’s the only one who knows about it, really, because he and Yoongi tell each other these kind of things. Things they shouldn’t be doing, things that other people would have trouble keeping quiet. Yoongi didn’t really have an argument against him, that time.)

It’s just a part of them now, the weird relationship they’ve knitted together over all these years. The gentle press of Namjoon’s lips against the skin just under Yoongi’s earlobe, the way his hands feel touching the inside of Yoongi’s thighs, the way Yoongi would do just about anything to make Namjoon feel cared for. It’s something good, even if he doesn’t know what it is.

There’s moments when Yoongi wonders. Namjoon’s lying on his chest, eyes closed but not asleep, and Yoongi’s hand is in his hair and Yoongi wonders. Wonders what this means to Namjoon, really, because sometimes Yoongi thinks it means the same thing to both of them. Dangerously high hopes, really, that he’s having more and more trouble pushing down.

But maybe this is — maybe they’re —

Namjoon snores loudly, and Yoongi startles, making a little noise as he jumps.

“What happened?” Namjoon asks, sounding alarmed.

“You just snored like a fucking bear out of nowhere,” Yoongi tells him, a hand covering his heart.

Namjoon squints. “I wasn’t even asleep.”

“Whatever you were, you just scared the shit out of me,” Yoongi tells him, lying back down as he recovers from the surprise.

“Sorry, hyung,” Namjoon grumbles in an embarrassed kind of way, pressing a kiss gently to Yoongi’s chest before lying his head back down. Yoongi’s hand goes back to his hair, tousling it gently, scratching his short nails softly against Namjoon’s scalp the way he likes to be touched.

Yoongi doesn’t bother replying, doesn’t bother voicing that he doesn’t really care, that he’d let Namjoon snore next to him forever if he’d just promise to stay here, warm and soft, for a few hours longer than they have to spend.

++

“I’ve been working on a new mixtape,” Namjoon mentions to Yoongi one night when they’re both in the studio late. They end more studio nights like this lately, crowded into each other’s space instead of in their own respective work rooms. “I just have bits and pieces, but I don’t know, I like it so far.”

“That’s good,” Yoongi tells him, taking a sip of the tea that Namjoon gave him because it’s too late for coffee.

“I wanted you to listen to the end of this, see what you think it needs. I think it sounds a little...I don’t know, sparse?” Namjoon says, making a face like he isn’t sure.

Yoongi nods. “Play it.”

It’s a ghost of a completed track, really. Mostly just bare bones production for about a minute, a melancholic-sounding song that Namjoon hums along with, muttering nonsense words, trying to map out where he wants the syllables when he fills in with lyrics. The ending, though, that Namjoon wanted him to listen to, sounds more complete. He recorded something for this part already, and the English lyrics mostly go over Yoongi’s head.

He catches a few words — sleep, homesick, babe, stop, you. He frowns, pays attention to the melody instead of the words.

“It sounds good, Joon-ah. I like the mood. It’s very you,” Yoongi tells him, sipping his tea again. “What are you saying?”

“Oh,” Namjoon says, and for some reason he’s looking at his computer instead of at Yoongi. “I wrote it in English first, but I can...here, let me translate it.” He grabs a pen off of his desk and starts writing in spurts on a Rilakkuma-shaped notepad he has lying around. It’s only a few lines but it takes Namjoon a minute to get it written out, and Yoongi wonders how he does that, expresses himself so well in two different languages.

He hands Yoongi the notepad, goes back to clicking on sliders in his software, and Yoongi scans it. He goes pink as he reads it, and he wonders, and his hopes —

“Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi starts quietly. Namjoon hums in acknowledgement, but doesn’t turn to him. “Namjoon-ah, is this about me?”

Namjoon looks at him now, really looks at him, and there’s pink on his cheeks, too. “Of course it is, hyung.”

Yoongi nods, looking back down at the paper again. “Namjoon-ah, are we in love?”

Namjoon’s still looking at him, Yoongi can tell, but he’s running his eyes over and over again across the lyrics Namjoon wrote, like if he looks hard enough he can memorize it, keep it in his mind forever, save this warm feeling in his chest for when he needs it.

“Hyung, I’ve been in love with you for seven years,” Namjoon says, and that startles Yoongi enough that he drops the notepad entirely, looking up at Namjoon with wide eyes. Namjoon laughs, despite the nervous look on his face and the pink on his cheeks he laughs, and Yoongi reaches out to hit his arm.

“What the fuck,” Yoongi says to him. “Shut up, you can’t just say that shit to me.”

Namjoon shrugs. “You asked.”

“I — seven years? Since we met?” Yoongi asks, stunned. “But I was the worst back then.”

“You were older, and cool, and really cute, and I wanted to impress you so badly,” Namjoon says with an apologetic smile. “I think I failed spectacularly.”

“I hated you,” Yoongi agrees, nodding. “I thought you were a spoiled brat. I was bitter, of course, that you were young and talented. I was bitter about almost everything back then.”

“I still loved you,” Namjoon points out.

“Bad taste,” Yoongi mutters.

“I still love you now, too,” Namjoon says.

“Better taste, since I got a lot better,” Yoongi admits. “I’ve only been in love with you for four years, that reflects a lot better on me.”

Namjoon’s blush gets deeper now, and he smiles down at his lap. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi replies, leaning down and picking Namjoon’s notepad up off the floor. “Yeah. Well. You know.”

“Hyung,” Namjoon says around a quiet little laugh. “Hyung, come here.”

Yoongi looks up at him, at Namjoon beckoning him into the desk chair. He rolls his eyes but moves from his own chair into Namjoon’s lap, carefully and tentatively. “This is dumb,” he says.

“Yeah, well,” Namjoon says, then leans in to kiss him. When he pulls away a moment later, he whispers, “I just wanted to kiss you.”

“It was a good kiss but I’m not sure it’s worth the danger,” Yoongi tells him with half a smile.

“Gotta take risks in life, hyung,” Namjoon tells him, smiling at him widely.

 

Yoongi finds that being certain is even nicer than the wondering. Yoongi finds that the sureness of Namjoon’s hand in his, Namjoon’s lips on his, Namjoon being is, is nicer than any of his high hopes.