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Imprints (For the Boys in the Back)

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It might be nice to meet your first love all intact, emotionally too.
That’s an old-fashioned idea, isn’t it?
– Tender is the Night (1934) // F. Scott Fitzgerald



In Seokjin’s defence, he had not wanted to leave his apartment that evening. As he’d repeatedly told Jimin, with a face like his he was constantly being hit on, and he didn’t have the energy to deal with wandering hands or suggestive remarks – but Jimin had dragged him out anyway.

The past week had been dispiriting, two rejections from auditions he’d gone to atop small reminders leading up to the eve of the day itself, when he now sat at the bar and kept drinking, the club around him crowded and sweaty. But, Seokjin reflected, he had reached the point where he no longer cared about the peer pressure, and that was worth something. He embraced it: know thyself, they’d hammered into him in the philosophy class he’d taken in his first year.

And so he said, “No thank you,” the second a tall, long-limbed frame slithered next to him at the bar. Seokjin didn’t even as much as look. He should have worn a hoodie and pulled the hood over his head, covered his mouth with a mask – at an underground rap club, it would have passed as a look.

On stage, a new rap battle was about to kick off. Jimin was somewhere front row to root for a guy from his dance classes, something Hoseok.

The man – frustratingly tall, hair dyed blond – frowned. “No thank you what?”

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “The whole spiel: no I don’t want a drink or your number; or if you’re creative, then no, my shirt isn’t boyfriend material, and falling from heaven didn’t hurt, thanks. Besides, I’m like a ten and you’re like a five.” He finally looked at the man properly. “Okay, an eight,” he conceded. A nine, he added to himself. Fuck, the man was hot – smooth skinned with beautiful full lips, dark eyes and high cheek bones.

Usually his response was biting enough to make people back off with frowns on their faces – “Too pretty for your own good,” someone had told him once, and, “You should be grateful for the attention” more than once too.

The man next to him also frowned – and would tell Seokjin to get off his high horse, probably, showing his true colours within seconds. But instead the man turned to the bartender, got himself a beer, and watched the rap battle for a bit. Then he said, “You know who I think about a lot? Uemura Naomi.”

Seokjin pinched the bridge of his nose. “What?”

“The Japanese adventurer,” the man explained, leaning against the bar, eyes on the stage where Jimin’s friend was mid-battle with someone else. The club was sweaty and full, but the man had a deep, calm voice, and Seokjin heard him well. “He climbed mountains all over the world by himself, went to the North Pole by himself, too. Nothing much the man hadn’t done. And then he climbed a mountain in the US somewhere and disappeared. He’s been missing for nearly forty years, Uemura Naomi. I think about him a lot.”

Seokjin had unwittingly turned in the bar stool to face the man. “Well he’s obviously dead.”

“Of course he is,” the man agreed, “and it’s because they wouldn’t launch the rescue mission when he first vanished – because of his reputation, they thought sending rescuers seemed offensive, you know? And by the time they sent people after him, well – they found his equipment, but they never found the body. He was gone.” The man looked at his beer, looking briefly forlorn. “Anyway, I think about him a lot.”

Seokjin tilted his head, squinting. Okay, the man got points for effort, for originality. The man said, “I’m not expecting anything whatsoever, you know. Not trying to get you to raise my kids.”

“Oh, I love little monsters – how many?”

“Just the five, from the last three marriages.”

Seokjin couldn’t help but smile. Witty. “Well, consider your remarkable fecundity duly noted.”

“Huh. Good word,” the man said, half a smile on his lips as well, and neither of them looked away as their gazes met.

“You can stay,” he said and frowned at himself – oh, he could stay? “Like, take a seat, or whatever.”

The man sat on the vacant bar stool, eyes still on the stage rather than him – which was perhaps starting to annoy him, but as the battle finished, the man turned to him and offered his hand. “Namjoon.” His hand was large, warm, with impossibly long fingers and calloused fingertips. “I rap, sometimes. A lot.”

“Yeah? Why aren’t you on stage then?” he queried, the nearly formal handshake lingering.

Namjoon frowned. “I was. For like twenty minutes – wait, did you not even notice? Who are you?”

“Seokjin. Actor in pursuit of greatness.” He pulled his hand back. “Not a rap fan.”

“And here I thought wow, this guy seems so perfect,” Namjoon deadpanned, and Seokjin scoffed. “So you really don’t like being hit on, huh?”

“I’m impressed that people bother,” he said, because it’d been a shitty couple of weeks and he was struggling being his optimistic self – besides, he owed this guy no false cheer. He noticed Jimin waving at him from the dance floor, and when he waved back, so did Namjoon. They both froze and regarded each other in surprise. Turned out that Jimin’s friend Hoseok, who was rapping on stage, was in Namjoon’s ‘crew’. What did that even mean? That they were, like, a rap collective? Seokjin was out of his depth.

“You were saying,” Namjoon then prompted.

He shrugged. “Like I said, good on people for trying, I guess, running after strangers to ask for their number and all that – volunteering to put themselves through the absurdity of relationships.” He was on his third beer and past niceties. “I hate the bullshit, the pretence,” he lectured. “Relationships are traps, but we pretend they’re not. It’s playing games. And I’m levelling with you, I’m being honest. Why’s that such a bad quality?”

“And what’s honest? That love is dead?”

“Well, yeah,” he said because that summed it up nicely. “Love is just a cage to trap other people in.”

This had been his line – more or less – for so long that he remembered little else. Over two years now. God, that long?

“Right. None of that single and ready to mingle business?”

“I’m in a very serious relationship with me, myself and I,” he corrected. “But sometimes I mingle, you know, upon occasion. I’m an excellent mingler. First class, even, according to the official mingling test.”

Namjoon looked at him with faint disbelief but then laughed, the sound soft and melodic, dimples appearing on his cheeks as he smiled. Seokjin felt his guts tighten a little. Aw, fuck. Why did Namjoon have to be a nine?

“So, come on then, mountain man, you sat down, so I expect entertainment. Tell me something exciting, like how many peaks you conquered lately? Were they huge?”

“Bigger than you know.”

“Yeah? And did they send a rescue mission the second you put on boots or did they give you a head start? I mean, they got your body down somehow.” Seokjin tilted his head, exposing his neck suavely, and looked demure. Namjoon stared.

Ah, Seokjin still had it.

* * *

“My god, you’re so fucking pretty,” Namjoon breathed against his mouth as they stumbled into Namjoon’s apartment.

Seokjin shoved Namjoon further into the hallway before slamming the door shut. “Sing it louder for the boys in the back,” he said, and Namjoon laughed.

Namjoon’s place was twice the size of Seokjin’s, halfway up a modern high-rise building with wall-length windows in the living room. It looked pristine, empty even – a vase Namjoon clearly hadn’t bought was placed on a glass coffee table, above it a large, wall-mounted TV.

Seokjin made note of little else: they were kissing, Namjoon’s hands and mouth hot on him, pulling his shirt over his head.

It wasn’t bad for a mid-week evening, Seokjin thought, as he took in a naked Namjoon lying on the bed – all in proportion, the man’s limbs and, ah, other parts. The bedroom was a little messy: clothes and cables on the floor, a large desk with a laptop, speakers, electronic equipment, mounted shelves with selections of plushies and figurines. Seokjin didn’t feel like this was the time to comment on those.

Namjoon licked his lips and said, “What do you wanna do? Anything’s fine with me.”

“Listen, sweetheart,” he said, shimmying out of his tight jeans, taking his underwear with him. Namjoon was observing him keenly. “We’re both adults so let’s cut to the chase, huh? I wanna ride that cock.”

Namjoon blinked at him, and then smiled, sheepishly – sexy as hell, fuck. “Sure. I’m all yours.”

The sex turned out better than Seokjin had hoped for, because that was the downside of short-term affairs: you weren’t familiar with each other, so nerves kicked in as you hoped that you didn’t come too soon, or the chemistry was off because you didn’t know how to read each other. But with Namjoon, there was little if any clumsiness, it was – god, it was those large hands and long fingers, lube-covered and in Seokjin because Namjoon apparently was absolutely into fingering guys he’d just met, and Namjoon was also into a ton of kissing, which only made those large lips more swollen and gorgeous, and Seokjin was sat in Namjoon’s lap, legs spread wide, panting as he squeezed the headboard behind Namjoon’s head.

Namjoon found his prostate and Seokjin mewled, a little. Embarrassing. “That’s it, baby,” Namjoon murmured into his chest, sucking on a nipple. “Let me make you feel good.”

“Oh goddamn shit,” Seokjin said, realising he’d found a talker – his guts tightened with sticky, heady want. He grabbed Namjoon’s head with both hands and kissed him deep.

When they came up for air, Namjoon breathed, “Fuck, you’re so tight. Been a while?”

“None of your business,” he returned – seven months and three weeks since Taehyung and Jimin’s housewarming party, with that what’s-his-face.

“You don’t have to be so defensive,” Namjoon said, which should have killed the mood hadn’t Namjoon been rubbing right against his prostate. Goddamn hell. “All the more reason to make it good if it’s, ah – a treat.” Yes, that was good – this was a treat. “Wanna get you nice and loose before you ride me,” Namjoon murmured, pushing in a third finger. Seokjin moaned. “Shit, you sound so –”

He shut Namjoon up with his tongue.

Namjoon rolled a condom onto himself as Seokjin settled above him, Namjoon now laid out on the bed. They had met roughly two and a half hours earlier. Namjoon rubbed lube on himself. Seokjin swallowed, throat tight. Well.

Namjoon was good, though – didn’t ram it in like some guys who were so excited to have a hole to stick it to. Namjoon breathed beneath him, unevenly, breath hitching as Seokjin slowly lowered himself down. It burned and stretched – so good, oh god. Namjoon reached out and stroked his cock, keeping him hard, nails of his free hand digging into his thigh.

“That good?” Namjoon asked when Seokjin came to a stop, having managed to take all of Namjoon in. Namjoon’s hand was soothing over his belly, almost in concern. God, Namjoon was awfully polite in bed. Seokjin nodded, worrying on his bottom lip. “Yeah?” Namjoon asked, and he nodded again, trying not to whimper. “Then let me see you ride it like a good boy.”

“Oh god,” he groaned because that had gone straight to his dick. Polite? No, he was taking that back. Namjoon smirked. Cocky son of a bitch.

So Seokjin decided to show him what was what, and began, ruthlessly, to fuck himself on Namjoon’s cock. Namjoon held onto his waist, the smirk soon wiped off his face. He slammed himself down again and again, the drag in him sweet and filling, and the headboard hit the wall in time with him.

“Oh shit,” Namjoon breathed, like he only then realised he was fucked, not Seokjin. Namjoon’s hands grabbed his behind, kneading, holding onto him. It worked wonders for Seokjin. “God,” Namjoon groaned, with Seokjin whimpering as he continued to ride the thick cock pulsing in him, “god, you should be doing this all the time, holy fuck.”

“Not worth it,” Seokjin breathed, Namjoon beneath him now warm and sweat-slick. Namjoon was an absolute sight to behold with his chest and neck flushed, pupils blown, breaths unsteady as Seokjin got them both worked up.

Namjoon’s hands squeezed his ass hard enough to bruise. “Not worth what?”

“The pain,” he answered, honestly – and Namjoon was clearly intelligent enough to realise Seokjin wasn’t talking about anything sex related.

Namjoon grabbed his wrist and pulled him down to a kiss, hands moving to his sweat-slick hair. The sex was damned good. It’d see Seokjin for six months, at least.

“You wanna lie down and let me do some of the work?” Namjoon murmured against his mouth, Seokjin’s thighs burning with exertion, but he shook his head. Namjoon hovering over him was too close to being trapped beneath him. “I wouldn’t mind,” Namjoon said. Seokjin pursed his mouth, reluctance washing over him. He kept moving his hips with no obvious intention of shifting, and Namjoon relented. “Okay. God, this is really good too. You close?”

“Yeah,” he groaned, closing his eyes, leaning over Namjoon, hips still working.

“Yeah? You gonna come?” Namjoon coaxed, voice all low and breathy, and Seokjin shivered. Namjoon’s hand snaked between them, fist tightening around Seokjin’s cock. Seokjin groaned, almost falling into Namjoon from being touched where he was aching. “Fuck, that’s it, baby,” Namjoon encouraged, with him caught between Namjoon’s hand and cock, his guts tightening. Fuck, fuck, fuck –

He straightened up, thighs spread and Namjoon firmly kept between his legs. He swatted Namjoon’s hand away and took himself into his own hand. “I’ve got it,” he said, and began fisting himself as he grinded down, hard, on Namjoon.

Namjoon quirked an eyebrow at him, but it melted as Seokjin picked up the rhythm again: and no fucking about this time. He angled himself to get friction against his prostate, and then it was only a matter of time – Namjoon sounded a little frustrated, grabbed his hips, and began to fuck up and into him, and it worked – shit, did it work, because suddenly he was coming. He let out a deep groan, spilling over his own fist and onto Namjoon’s stomach and chest. He breathed in hard, doubling over Namjoon, who swore, “Fuck, look at you.”

Seokjin closed his eyes, seeing stars and body shivering, and tried to survive Namjoon fucking into him in the aftershocks. His balance was off, and he fell fully onto Namjoon’s chest, lips awkwardly landing to the side of Namjoon’s mouth. Namjoon groaned, hips jerking – and then Namjoon was seeing through an orgasm with erratic, needy thrusts that gradually became slower and slower. Seokjin stayed still and took it, out of breath and overstimulated. Oh, god, he’d definitely found a cock he’d be happy to fuck for hours. Shit, it was perfect.

When Namjoon let go of his hips, Seokjin found his face buried in the other’s neck, still trying to catch his breath. Three hours, now – they’d known each other for at least three hours.

He slid off, managing to bite back a wince as he pulled off Namjoon’s cock. Namjoon was panting beside him, flushed, sweaty hair stuck to his forehead. Namjoon looked fucked – ironic – and with shaking hands removed the condom, the tip of it now full and milky white, and more of the same decorated Namjoon’s chest. It was far hotter than it should have been. Seokjin, for his part, was sticky with lube and fucked open. Fuck, that had been something to write home about. God.

Namjoon dropped the used condom onto the floor – gross – and said, “So, you have issues with sex.”

Seokjin blinked at this virtual stranger whose bed he was in. “What the fuck? No, I don’t.” He processed the words. “Hey! Fuck you!”

Namjoon simply rolled onto his side, facing him, head resting against his palm – all casual, like they were chatting about the weather. “I think you have control issues.”

Was he actually being attacked a minute after orgasm?!

“Are you seriously complaining, mountain man? What, did I ride you too hard?” And hadn’t Namjoon just thrust out a pretty good sounding orgasm into him?

“I guess I’m a bit underwhelmed,” Namjoon reflected, now wiping Seokjin’s come off his belly and wiping it into the sheets with little care.

Seokjin sat up quickly. “Okay, I’m leaving – this isn’t Uber, no one’s asking you for a rating.”

Namjoon followed, sitting up on the bed – softening cock and balls in view. He still looked hot. Goddammit. “Okay, don’t get so – Okay,” Namjoon said softly, placatingly. Seokjin was not placated. Namjoon smiled – asshole. “The sex was great. Thank you, Seokjin. Hey, how old are you?”


“Twenty-four, hi. So, hyung,” Namjoon said, kindly, like he at all had the right to use the word, “I think you got kind of, ah. Uncomfortable? When I suggested you give up control, even a little. And I, well, I like to give and take. God, I want to – to go down on you and make you come before I even put my fingers in. I want you to wreck me, and then I want to wreck you in turn.” Namjoon scratched the bridge of his nose and shrugged. “You know. That sort of thing.”

That sort of thing.

“I’m leaving,” he announced to no one in particular and got out of bed. The goddamn nerve! Control issues? Ungrateful son of a bitch! Three hours, and he was being psychoanalysed by Mr. Tall, Hot and Well-Endowed! Who was younger than him, too!

Namjoon watched him pull clothes on in a fury. “It’s the middle of the night – just sleep here, alright? I promise I won’t speak. Come on, the subway’s not even running anymore. Seokjin?”

Fully dressed, he noticed his wallet on the floor and quickly picked it up. “Thanks for the treat, mountain man,” he said, “but I’ll make my own way home.”

Namjoon let out an exasperated sigh and flopped onto the bed, hands in his hair, as Seokjin marched out – some dignity, at least, still attached. In the lift down, he texted Jimin: who was that asshole?!?!

Seokjin sure knew how to fucking pick them.

* * *

By morning, bruises had formed onto his hips and thighs. He made fleeting note of them as he rushed to get ready. He was tired: he’d made it home around three and woken up around six to head to the set of a juice commercial, where he was an extra in a fake hotel patio scene as a semi-famous actress drank the sugared drink by the pool side. Artistic integrity sailed when you had bills to pay.

Seokjin felt the burn of sex that had left him sore but satisfied. God, sex was good, it was so stupidly good, and it was easy to forget that when you were vowed to bachelorhood. It’d been good until Namjoon had started complaining about it. Asshole.

Between the takes when he wasn’t needed, he sat in hair and makeup like a zombie, memorising lines for an important audition he had coming up with a small theatre company, a director with some indie cred, brand new play. He desperately wanted to be cast for the lead.

Halfway through the day Jimin messaged him back:
by asshole you mean namjoon?
what'd he do?
besides you LOL

His mouth pursed as he wondered what Jimin knew, so he typed: there was no sex

omg you LIE.
you were all flirty flirt at the club
then you left together
and he's got a reputation
give me deets, you big old slut!!

Seokjin bristled.
didn't you get the memo, it’s all about sex positivity now
also respect your elders, i am older but not OLD
a slut, maybe

did you hook up or what??

yeah fine whatever
but he’s an asshole

he’s like the nicest guy!
Hoseok says that he’ll end u if u hurt a single hair on his head
*) my joonie’s PRECIOUS head sorry
exact words
wait there’s more
Namjoon's a tall sensitive sentient tree
like groot? But softer

Seokjin snorted – Namjoon had hardly seemed like a sensitive soul to him. Intelligent, sexy – definitely. Soft and vulnerable? Hardly. Cocky to a fault? Absolutely, even if Namjoon was also a bit of a dork. Did he need to mention the plushies?

i'm not seeing him again, so hoseok doesn’t have to worry

:( :( why not?
was it bad??
was there a homemade sex dungeon

why would you even go there
he’s just not my type

joon’s all sexy and artsy and smart
that’s 100% your type
and he’s definitely single!

yeah i assumed as much when i rode him to an inch of his life, he typed, because that deserved recognition from someone, even if not Namjoon himself.

:O :O :O
teach me your ways

can’t be taught or copied

i will clone ur face and put it on mine

that’s not scientifically possible

but :( it was a no go

no need
didn't you just say he’s banged like half of the club anyway?
we had fun, but it didn’t mean anything

He sincerely hoped that was enough: Jimin knew his deal and had stopped questioning him on it.

Jimin typed back, ok but jsyk I still lowkey ship it :))))

idek what that means, he replied and was about to ask how Jimin’s quest to seduce that friend of Hoseok’s had gone, one of the other rappers, but the next take was ready to roll.

So Namjoon had a reputation – Seokjin shouldn’t have been surprised, the guy had taken to casual sex like fish to water and hadn’t even asked for his number. Wait, had Namjoon let him go because he’d been so subpar to whatever Namjoon had hoped for? Had it been rejection or indifference? Was Namjoon going to tell everyone what a lousy fuck he’d been?

God, he was a failure on so many levels.

Seokjin wasn’t sure why society perpetuated the myth that after sex women were clingier than men – give men just a little bit of body heat and they were halfway into proposing if it meant regular sexual intercourse. Men were simple creatures, at the end of the day. And a few times Seokjin had given his number, too, because maybe there really was something there, after which he received the usual messages: ‘Thanks for a great night, I feel like we really connected, blah blah, let’s go out for dinner and get to know each other better’, and that was when he inevitably realised he had no interest in any his conquests, beyond the physical.

And so, when he found himself trying to convince himself to date one of them – go on, just date him, what’s the worst that could happen? – he deleted the guy’s number. He was pretty sure a relationship wasn’t something you should desperately try and talk yourself into.

He wondered what Namjoon would have said to him – probably ‘Thanks for a great night, I’d love to talk to you about your glaring sexual issues some time’. Asshole.

At least he’d learned not to give out his number.

He got back late, tired and rolling his shoulders to ease muscle pain. The lights were off, the apartment empty. He should get a cat, maybe: he was turning twenty-six soon, he needed something to dispose of his body once dead.

His apartment was small: kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, with a short hallway connecting the three, everything a bit run down with second-hand furniture and his prized and framed Mata Hari movie poster with his One True Love Greta Garbo. Namjoon was younger than him and had a place twice the size and much nicer – hell, with a living room too! How did rapping pay better than being a broke-ass actor? Shit.

Seokjin was merely human, no matter what principles he held onto, and although most men in this world pretended to be players just going around bangin’ bitches, whenever Seokjin had indulged in one night things, the men always ended up asking him out for dates, to ‘hang out’, and one had even sent him flowers and dick pics for a solid two weeks like Seokjin was playing hard to get. He wasn’t: they’d already banged it out. He was easy to get, even.

It was hard to be on the same page with people – self-inflicted celibacy was easier. But then someone like Namjoon hit on him – soft, knowing smiles, handsome and tall, witty but a bit dorky – and Seokjin was only human, goddammit.

Too exhausted to change the sheets or even shower, he slipped into bed: the pillows smelled of sweat and sex, of him and Namjoon, because he hadn’t showered until morning and had carried the scent right with him into his own sheets. It reminded him of another time – years ago now, when he’d first moved to Seoul and had fallen asleep every night wrapped up in the familiar scent of –

Oh. Oh, it was Sanghun’s birthday. He’d been thinking about it all week, knowing of its approach, wondering if there was a party and who Sanghun was spending it with. He’d been thinking about it at the bar, too, and then Namjoon had shown up – and Seokjin had been fucked so well that he’d actually forgotten whose birthday it was.

And it was funny, really, that even after all this time practically any Hugo Boss cologne reminded him of their four years. Four long years, down the drain. He’d wasted his time, put so much naïve optimism into something that, one day, just vanished. He’d drafted out hundreds of unrealised future lives together, birthday parties, anniversary parties, god, he’d played the perfect, doting boyfriend for four long years. And it hadn’t been good enough.

“You’re meant to be together,” even his mother had said, and then he’d called her one day to say, “It’s over.”

Out with a whimper instead of a bang.

He gritted his teeth: hell, you lived and you learned, right? You learned from your mistakes, like that some people were meant to be alone – were safer by themselves than in relationships. After a while, being alone became a habit that he couldn’t imagine breaking. And next time, maybe he’d let whoever he was spending the night with pin him to the mattress or something, for a minute or two. Fine. This was a life lesson: he was learning.

Sanghun would have been disappointed in that, he was sure: of what had become of him.

He inhaled the scent lingering on the pillows: Namjoon hadn’t smelled of Hugo Boss. He’d smelled like pine trees halfway up a mountain.

* * *

After a high must come a low. It was physics, or science – the bruises on his skin were purple, then fading into yellow. It was easy to spew about sex positivity and another entirely when you felt cheap and disappointed in yourself. He hated that sex was so weaponised, dominated by ideas that one person had to give it up, the other conquering.

Of the people he’d slept with – and the number wasn’t that high, compared to some – he had only dated two: the high school sweetheart of six months, mutual V cards exchanged, and then, well, the longer one. The rest had been clubs and bodies and alcohol and sweat, and on two occasions he’d sobbed himself to sleep afterwards. Sexy, right? Damn sexy.

Those had been the two guys he’d slept with the week Sanghun moved out. He had spiralled quickly in the sheer shock of what had happened – it was hard to remember anymore, but he’d spiralled and drunk, been in panic mode, and he’d hated himself afterwards because now that he’d slept around they would never get back together, Sanghun would never take him back, and they were meant to be together, but now they couldn’t, and – what had he done, what had he done –

Sobbing in the shower when the water had long since gone cold wasn’t a way to finish any evening. He tried his best never to think of those days, weeks, months anymore. It had passed. All things passed.

So highs and lows went together – and he resisted the lows, stubbornly, with faking good cheer until it became reality. This worked, most of the time.

But not always. So no wonder Namjoon hadn’t even asked for his number – Seokjin had been cheap meat. Who had used whom? Namjoon him, and not the other way around. Seokjin had needed it to be the other way around.

The low tugged at him as he went to work dutifully, running drama workshops for clueless first years. He practised for his big audition, too, and he saw his friends – and they teased him, of course, and he shrugged it off as a casual conquest not worth mentioning.

Jimin persisted. “Well, like, was he good? Because I’ve been told he’s good.”

Jungkook was blushing – not in front of the children!

He sighed. “Yeah, sure, he’s good.”

Cheap meat.

They spent the evening with takeout and video games, lounged in the living room of Jimin and Taehyung’s apartment. Jungkook lived just a few streets over with a pedantic graduate student he disliked, so Jungkook was always over. Taehyung was doing photography; Jimin and Jungkook were dancers. Between the four of them, after forty years of saving, they might be able to afford a place together and live as a sad failed artists commune. Taehyung liked planning it a lot, while Jimin kept saying he was going to succeed, thank you.

Taehyung elbowed his side halfway through them racing against each other on the screen, while Jimin and Jungkook were curled up together on the single armchair of the living room like two sleepy cats, watching and providing occasional commentary. He hummed in question to Taehyung’s nudge, eyes not leaving the screen. “You okay, hyung? You’ve been quiet all evening.”

Quiet and Seokjin were not words that usually went together.

Jimin was watching them carefully, Jungkook was on his phone. Seokjin was distracted, but he hadn’t realised how much he’d let himself slip.

“Am I okay? I am the definition of okay,” he insisted. “Just busy with work, you know how it is.”

“Nothing else?” Taehyung asked, his car colliding with Seokjin’s.

“Nothing else,” he said. Taehyung and Jimin shared a look that Seokjin chose to ignore.

Thankfully Jungkook was showing his phone to Jimin, and Jimin began pointing at the screen and insisting they had to go. It was another rap battle, and Seokjin groaned. Jimin pouted. “I can’t go alone! Yoongi is performing, I can’t let him think I have no friends!”

“I went last time,” Seokjin said, “I claim immunity.”

“Like you had such a tragic time,” Jimin said knowingly, and Seokjin shrugged. Jimin started begging for Taehyung or Jungkook to go with him. “I think Yoongi’s really warming up to me. He nearly smiled my way last time!”

Wow, what progress.

Seokjin had no intention of going back to any rap club in the city, ever – he’d never have to see Namjoon again. God, why hadn’t he forgotten about it already?

He swallowed thickly – even he knew, at his lowest lows, who he really was angry with.

* * *

But the universe was set against him: he’d lost his staff card. He didn’t need it often, but it gave him out of hours access at the college and let him into the photocopy room, too, where he printed out scripts for auditions when no one was there to catch him. It was usually in his wallet. He traced back to when he was sure he’d last seen it and – and goddammit.

It’d been nearly a week.

He worried on his bottom lip, then messaged Jimin: i need a favour but you aren’t allowed to comment on it

Ten minutes later: hyung
my time has come
where do u want to dump the body

He smiled, but this faded as he typed, do u have namjoon’s number, i need it
and don’t EVEN.

Jimin’s response was as expected: !!!!! ( ✧Д✧) !!!! (((o(*゚▽゚*)o)))

stop it
i left something at his place.

And while Jimin could be a hell of a brat sometimes, all he messaged back was a number. Okay. Okay, that was phase one. Now phase two. Seokjin made himself some tea, sat at the kitchen table, memorised lines for the audition. He finished his drink, sighed, groaned, reached for his phone and typed: hi it’s Seokjin, i think i left my college ID card at your place. let me know if it’s there, if not please ignore. thanks.

Explaining the card’s misplacement to the always angry security staff would have been less of an ordeal than this.

He pushed his phone to the other end of the table. He stared at it, then hated the staring, changed into his running clothes and headed out for a five-miler – and he didn’t even take his phone with him to track the run.

It was already late, nearing nine, when he got back in. As he closed the door, he heard his phone beep in the kitchen. Ah. Well. Could be anything.

‘Guy from Rap Club’ had messaged him back: i've got it

That was all. Seokjin exhaled, body warm and sweaty under his clothes. His phone beeped again: we’re in the middle of recording but finishing soon – come by my place after 11

He blinked. Namjoon wanted him to come straight away? At eleven? That night? That was – that was certainly an hour to pick. Another buzz: code into the building is 3593

He was not going across town at eleven o’clock to pick up his damn ID card – but he needed it.

yeah whatever, he typed back, unsure even himself as to what that meant.

Namjoon replied: see you hyung ;)

A wink? Uncalled for. He went for a shower and changed into sweatpants and a hoodie because he wasn’t getting dolled up for this. To be fair, he hadn’t been dolled up at the club either, refusing Jimin’s valiant efforts to put makeup on him – not that it had made a difference, his face lured people to him anyway.

He spent the twenty-minute subway ride rehearsing the script, mumbling his lines over and over, speaking to the imagined interlocutor – meet Minseo, his best friend’s wife he was secretly sleeping with. The trip took him longer than he’d thought – twenty to midnight as he approached Namjoon’s building – so he hurried because he couldn’t miss the last train back.

He remembered the floor and the apartment number, returning to the scene of a crime. He stuffed the rolled-up script into the pouch of his hoodie and knocked on Namjoon’s door, perhaps a little too defiantly. The door opened to reveal Namjoon in a white tank top and track bottoms, casual and homey like he’d just gotten home and changed, blond hair with a bit of a fringe sweeping across his forehead. Seokjin had vaguely expected him to be covered in bling, ready to head out to some wild rap party and/or orgy.

Namjoon smiled. “And so he returns.”

“Funny,” he said, crossing his arms. The building corridor was long and quiet, a bit eerie. Namjoon scanned the entire length of his body with an ‘I’ve seen you naked’ look, and then the asshole bit on his bottom lip. Namjoon looked – shy? Flustered? He was not blushing, was he? “I’m glad you found the card,” he then said and was going to follow this up with ‘but you could have told me when you found it, dipshit’, when he noticed a faint bruise on Namjoon’s neck – he’d left it there, he was pretty sure. It must have been there all week.

Namjoon smiled. Dimples. Dimples for days. “Right, yeah. Yeah, it’s come in handy – been pretending to be a drama professor at the college. We’re doing a hiphop rendition of Hamlet now.”

“Ah, so you’re the mastermind behind To Rap or Not to Rap!”

“Wha – How did you – That script was top secret!” Namjoon gasped, and Seokjin let himself smile. Cute. Why was he cute.

Namjoon’s gaze was impossibly warm. The air felt thick and fuzzy, and his insides trickled with heat. Namjoon was an asshole, he knew this, but Namjoon also sort of did not seem like an asshole at that precise moment. Namjoon was just standing in the doorway, looking at him with a knowing sort of smile. The card. He needed the card, he needed to catch the subway, he –

“God, how do you do it?” Namjoon asked, voice low. “I see you and I just want to take you apart.”

Seokjin blinked. Motherfu –

He fisted Namjoon’s top and pulled him into a kiss, their mouths crashing together. Was he malfunctioning? He was malfunctioning. But Namjoon didn’t miss a beat, simply cupped the back of his neck and pulled him into the apartment, door closing, their mouths fused. How was this – What was he –

In the bedroom, Seokjin felt the need to defend himself. “I don’t usually do this,” he said, the claim perhaps undermined by him removing his hoodie and t-shirt as he said it. Namjoon kissed him, wet and hot, all tongue, giving Seokjin’s bottom lip a teasing bite. Seokjin groaned and caught the hem of Namjoon’s tank top, pulling it up and off Namjoon, revealing abs and smooth skin, a trail of dark hair beneath his belly button. Seokjin’s mouth dried. “This is not a thing,” he persisted, pushing down his sweats and underwear, and was naked, all in five seconds. He grabbed the back of Namjoon’s head, holding him still for a quick kiss. “And if you don’t like me riding you, then tough, and I don’t want any bullshit afterwards, alright?”

Namjoon’s hands were at the waistband of his sweats, annoyingly not removing any clothing. “Okay,” he breathed, mouth ghosting over his. “Okay, but first I’m gonna eat you out, and you don’t get to ride me until I’m done.”

Seokjin’s brain short-circuited. Fuck.

“I’ll allow it,” he said, trying to sound regal, maybe.

“Let me put some music on,” Namjoon said – oh god, he was such a fuck boy. But that was good, right? He decided that it was good as Namjoon started to blast some kind of a rhythmic, ambient techno that was kind of sexy, actually. God, why was this working for him?

As for being regal, he doubted royals moaned like whores when getting rimmed by half-strangers. He wondered who he could ask – maybe the king of Thailand. That guy had seen stuff, he was pretty sure.

And later, when Seokjin lowered himself onto Namjoon’s cock, the other buried to the hilt, and Seokjin’s head was swimming and he was gasping for breath, he managed to groan, “This is a, ungh, fuck, a- a poor representation of my personal values – I really, really don’t usually do this.”

Namjoon laughed – low and husky, a little strained, and Namjoon’s hand slid over his chest, mouth all wet and shiny with swollen lips after an unnecessary amount of time spent eating him out – Seokjin would set up a memorial to the event, somewhere in a public park.

Namjoon pulled him down from his shoulder, mouth trailing the side of his neck. “Then let me be the exception,” he murmured, with wet kisses placed to his jawline, thrusting up a little to make him whimper.

Seokjin exhaled shakily, stomach in knots, the music around them rhythmic and hot. He nodded a silent okay – and that was the last vaguely coherent thought he had that night.

* * *

He showered at Namjoon’s this time, Namjoon having pressed a soft towel into his hand, Egyptian cotton or some such. The bathroom was all metal and dark granite, a far cry from Seokjin’s hit-or-miss shower with occasional hot water. None of the bath products smelled of pines, but Namjoon still inexplicably did. Okay, he told himself, stood under the hot water that just stayed hot like it was magic. Okay, so he’d slept with Namjoon twice in a week. He had not slept with anyone twice for quite some time. Shit, Namjoon probably did this all the time, had a different hook-up for each weekday.

This wasn’t a big deal – he needed to relax. Wasn’t it nice to be having some sex? Wasn’t the sex good?

“You don’t have to analyse every single thing,” he told himself bitterly. “God, stop being pathetic.”

When he got back to the bedroom, only the lamp by the bed was on, the music shut off – quiet and dark. Namjoon was fast asleep, now under the covers – mouth open, but not unattractively so. He left the towel on the floor and started looking for his clothes, but then flinched when Namjoon murmured, “Seokjin? Hey.” Namjoon had lifted his head and was rubbing at his eyes. In that second, Seokjin knew exactly what Namjoon must have looked like as a child. “You showered for like forever.”

“Yeah, ha. Nice shower. You can go back to bed,” he said, pulling on his briefs. “I’ll let myself out.”

“Hyung,” Namjoon said, softly. Seokjin realised that he didn’t object to Namjoon calling him that nearly as fiercely as he should have. “Hyung, come to bed. It’s the middle of the night.”

“I just –”

“It’s not a thing, I know, I know,” Namjoon sighed and lifted the corner of the duvet. “I’m not saying it is – I’m saying that the subway’s not running anymore. Come sleep.”

Seokjin couldn’t afford a post-sex taxi, if he was being honest.

This wasn’t supposed to go like this – he’d always sent hook-ups packing, pushing them out the front door two in the morning. He wasn’t breakfast service, and frankly he didn’t want to share his bed with a stranger even if they’d had sex.

But he slipped into Namjoon’s bed, anyway, Namjoon shifting to give him space and then drifting off already. Namjoon was tactfully not touching him, which he appreciated. He reached over to turn off the light, then closed his eyes in the dark and breathed. He sprawled, these days: a proper starfish imitation because he always had the bed to himself. Now he tucked in his arms, lying on his back and trying to relax. No such luck – the bed was foreign.

But Namjoon had a stupid, melodic rhythm to his breaths, like steady waves crashing onto a beach. Calming. And although they weren’t touching, the warmth of Namjoon reached him under the shared duvet – Namjoon’s warmth was imprinted in the mattress beneath him, all around him. It’d been a good while since he’d had even the ghost of something to keep him warm.

And his mind drifted across town, to another apartment, where two people slept, probably all tangled up in each other, like they did every damn night, and Seokjin never crossed their minds. What would you think of me now, he wondered briefly, with his two-night conquest beside him. Pity or envy? Perhaps even disgust, or just disappointment?

He wasn’t sure when he eventually fell asleep, but he somehow did.

* * *

Seokjin left a little after six in the morning – the subway was running again, and he had slept badly, unable to fully relax with Namjoon next to him. Namjoon snored, but in a kind of soft, endearing way, the snoring breaking into a mumble at times. Seokjin did not know how to sleep with that.

Before leaving, he shook Namjoon awake enough to say, “I gotta go. Busy day ahead.”

“Mm, you sure?” Namjoon mumbled in his sleep. “Mmm, fine. ’Kay.”

End of.

Seokjin was sore everywhere but pleasantly satisfied. Was he spiralling again? Should he be worried? He found a text from Jimin from the night before, replying to his message that he had left something at Namjoon’s:
you left your heart!!
i couldn’t keep it in
please don’t stop loving me

He rolled his eyes: never. He then hoped, sincerely, that Jimin wouldn’t question why it had taken him so long to reply.

The ten o’clock coaching class he was giving was taking a break when he checked his phone again, this time finding a string of messages from Guy from Rap Club: morning sunshine ;)

Seokjin stared at the screen in disbelief, feeling himself flush. Stupid.

i've still got that card
and your script?
this play is dramatic
minseo is fierce though
you’re the highlighted parts, right?
you're kind of a dick in this, hyung

“Fucking fuck,” he groaned. Why was he leaving all of his ever-loving crap at Namjoon’s place?! Because he was walking out well-fucked and dazed, right.

shit sorry
i'll come get both tomorrow

no go
we’re recording.
day after?

got an evening workshop to run

He needed the script back, though – it had his annotations in it.

you going to this rap thing on saturday, the one yoongi is doing?


ok, i'll see you there
but don’t just hand it over in front of everyone
i expect you not to kiss and tell

yeah yeah not a thing
see you saturday
i can still smell you on me, you know.

His stomach curled in on itself, hot and pulsating.

* * *

To put it as briefly as Seokjin could: Jimin had met Hoseok in his dance class, and Hoseok rapped as well as danced, which had led Jimin to the rapper scene where Jimin had met “the most beautiful man to have ever existed” also known as Min Yoongi, the local music genius. For the past month and then some, Jimin had been on a mission to seduce said Min Yoongi, who seemed at most utterly baffled by Jimin’s unrelenting and eager attention. Yoongi was also – as Seokjin was not impressed to find out – the best friend of one Kim Namjoon. In fact, Yoongi, Namjoon and Hoseok were all in the same ‘crew’. Seokjin still hadn’t figured out what that meant.

He thought that was still a rather safe distance between him and a hook-up, but he ended up spending most of Saturday evening in a suddenly merged friendship group.

Seokjin was the last one to get to the club – on purpose, perhaps – and found Jimin, Tae and Jungkook sharing a table with Namjoon and his crew. Namjoon’s hair was a little messy with hairspray, and he was wearing a zipped-up leather jacket that must have been way too hot for the club. Did everyone at the table know they’d hooked up? Okay, his friends did. Hoseok had been there the first night, and Yoongi probably – Right, so everyone knew, of the first time. The second time was hopefully secret.

The situation felt uncomfortable – an elephant in the room. Jimin was grinning smugly, Jungkook a little tense but clearly curious, and Yoongi was giving him an estimating onceover before leaning to mumble something into Namjoon’s ear. Seokjin decided to take control of the situation.

“Yeah, full disclosure,” he said, sitting down and reaching for Jimin’s daquiri, “Namjoon and I banged it out once. We’ve been there, we’ve done that – Namjoon, did we get t-shirts?”

Namjoon’s frown lasted only for a second before he grinned – dimples, again. “Would you like me to make some?”

“Eh, I’ll think about it,” he shrugged, and then looked at his friends. “So let’s move on.”

He’d broken the ice, the awkwardness gone. So what was a hook-up in the grand scheme of things – Seokjin focused on getting drinks, on enjoying himself since he’d bothered to come out.

It was a different club this time, but the same in principle: crowded, poorly lit, smelling of sweat and weed, hiphop and rap thumping through the speakers. Different people went up on stage to perform, and Seokjin kicked back at the bar with Jungkook while the others bounced in the audience.

Hoseok and Jimin got on like a house on fire, that was clear, not needing any encouragement to be cackling and elbowing each other, or engaging in a dance off in the middle of the club. Yoongi went on stage to rap at some point, and from the crowd Jimin stared with what could only be described as heart eyes. Yoongi then called up Namjoon, and Seokjin paid some attention – people were cheering for the duo, clearly recognising them, which was, well, kind of cool.

And, like, Namjoon could definitely rap and stuff. Namjoon hadn’t been making it up.

“He’s good!” Jungkook yelled into his ear, sounding equally surprised. Seokjin couldn’t believe how fast Namjoon was able to string words together, let alone find rhythm and rhymes in them. The audience was going nuts – Namjoon bounced the song back to Yoongi, who picked up the flow without missing a beat. “They’re, like, professionals!” Jungkook said in awe. “So cool!”

At this point, a guy approached Seokjin – muscular, sharp cheek bones, not even too badly dressed. “Uh, hi, I saw you standing here, and –”

“A suitor!” he cut in. “A suitor, at last – after all these years! Jungkook, hold my drink – Mama must be informed!” And he got out his phone and pretended to be punching numbers in fiercely. The guy was staring at him in mild horror and backed away with mumbled apologies. Easily done. He rolled his shoulders and took his drink back.

Jungkook looked suddenly redder. “You’re so embarrassing!”

“Hey, it does the trick.”

“No one ever hits on me – they all go for you.”

“Because you look underage and no one wants to end up in jail over your ass,” he argued back, and Jungkook looked a little hurt.

After their performance, Yoongi and Namjoon stayed near the stage, talking to the evening’s MC – a handsome guy, sex on legs – who kept putting his hand on Namjoon’s shoulder. Constantly. Namjoon was laughing and talking with him, as some new, lesser act was now on stage. Namjoon’s gaze caught his, and Seokjin was able to hold it for two beats from across the crowded room before he busied himself with another soju shot.

Around one in the morning, Hoseok decided he wanted dakkochi, and they’d all had enough soju to agree. There was a stall in a back alley that Hoseok was privy to, with a rickety table and stools that they were just able to squeeze around, heat lamps above their heads, the evening chilly as summer had left them. Jimin and Hoseok were hyper, telling them scandalous stories of who had slept with whom at their dance studio. Yoongi, who was sat next to Seokjin, appeared distantly amused, although his face remained neutral, and Seokjin focused on not choking on his chicken as he laughed over the others’ stories, cutting in with his own remarks often. He was safely on the other side of the table from Namjoon. He was also more than a little drunk.

Yoongi nudged him. “So you’re an actor. What have I seen you in?”

He wiped at his mouth, still chewing. “How much porn do you watch?”

Yoongi paled. “What?!”

“I’m kidding!” He elbowed Yoongi’s side. “Have a sense of humour – how much porn, you should’ve seen your face. Ah, it’s a mix of things, tv ads, extra spots, mainly small theatre productions. I run basic drama workshops at my old college – pays the bills.”

“Okay,” Yoongi said, as if regarding this carefully. “You know you’re very handsome, right?” It sounded like an accusation. “You’ve got like the perfect face or some shit.”

“Eh, it doesn’t help as much as you’d think,” he offered, drunk and confused. Yoongi huffed. Not good? Should he be uglier? From across the table Namjoon was looking at them, or rather at Yoongi – a message of some kind was being transmitted – and Seokjin noticed a new bruise under Namjoon’s left ear, now visible under the glow of the heat lamps, that Seokjin had left there during their second encounter. Namjoon appeared unaware of it.

He downed beers with the chicken to keep his buzz going, cackling loudly and joking as the conversation flowed. He was making Jimin and Taehyung double over laughing, which was making everyone else crack up. Yoongi got them even more skewers, and they kept eating because they were growing boys, as Hoseok said earnestly.

Jungkook had decided to pursue rapping, all of a sudden. “Like, you guys were so cool! Do you make a living out of that? “

“No,” Yoongi shrugged. “That’s why we have real jobs – Namjoon and I produce and mix for others at the same label. But you know, all you need is to write one song that makes it and live on that – like Namjoon.” Yoongi grinned at Namjoon from across the table. “Hey cutie.”

“Oh shut up,” Namjoon muttered and looked embarrassed.

Taehyung frowned. “Wait, hey cutie, as in – Hey Cutie the song? By – GirLuv, that’s it. Wait, the top selling Kpop hit ever?!”

“Not ever,” Namjoon protested, faintly.

Yoongi nodded. “Yup. This guy wrote it.”

“Whaaaaaaat,” Taehyung breathed in clear awe, while Hoseok grinned.

“It’s not my usual style?” Namjoon offered them, visibly embarrassed. Dear god, that song had been everywhere a year and a half back – Seokjin knew all the lyrics without ever having tried to learn them. He’d never pondered who wrote the song – manufactured in a lab somewhere, along with the Kpop girl nonet, the set of them in pink and purple hair, tiny skirts, dancing it out in a glittery, sexy music video. The song had gone global, GirLuv had played shows in the US and Australia even, and South Koreans had been patriotically proud. And Namjoon, underground rapper, had written it? Seokjin had banged the Hey Cutie guy?!

Namjoon sighed, like he had told the story several times before: “I was interning for the label, I hadn’t even graduated yet, and GirLuv were recording, and they wanted, like, a cheeky song for the girls to sing for an imaginary boyfriend. And then one night I stayed late just messing around with ideas, and well. Then it kind of came together, and I pitched it to my boss – I mean, I get like a percent of the royalties. Other people worked on it too, but.” Namjoon shrugged.

Hoseok grinned. “Hey Cutie pays for this cutie’s rent, still, to this day.”

“So that’s why your place is so nice,” Seokjin said in realisation, and Namjoon’s gaze met his. Seokjin instantly realised what he’d said, in front of the group, so he shrugged – it wasn’t a huge issue, they’d established that.

Yoongi said, “My point is, all you need is one good song. And, you know, be a sell-out.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Namjoon sighed, Hoseok grinning and elbowing him in the ribs. Namjoon waved them off. “It might sound kinda cool, but when the song went global I’d just split up with the girl who inspired it – you know, it was her greeting, ‘Hey cutie’ – and hearing the song everywhere actually kind of sucked.”

“Capitalise on that relationship angst, Joon-ah,” Yoongi said before handing the last of the dakkochi to Jimin without looking at him. Jimin blinked in surprise, coloured and looked shy, but took it. Yoongi was determinedly looking away. Hoseok appeared delighted.

They split into three after quick goodnights: Jimin and Yoongi to ‘go for a walk’ because they weren’t tired; Taehyung and Jungkook heading for a bus that would take them home; while it turned out Hoseok lived in Seokjin’s neighbourhood. Namjoon came with them, and once there was enough distance between them and the rest, Hoseok whistled. “God, you could cut through that sexual tension with a knife!”

Seokjin reared up his head, drunkenly. Could not! Was not!

“It’s cute!” Hoseok grinned at him. Seokjin was not being cute! “I mean, did you see how animated Yoongi was around Jimin? Boy’s got it bad.”

Oh. Oh good. Wait.

“Wait. That- that stone-faced numbness was him being animated?” Seokjin asked as they walked onto a street still too small for taxis.

“He gave Jimin food,” Namjoon said in apparent agreement, and Hoseok nodded. Seokjin was too drunk for this.

Hoseok got a call – two in the morning, Seokjin didn’t question who – and he and Namjoon hung back, Hoseok walking ahead of them and chatting brightly. Namjoon unzipped his leather jacket and pulled out a crumpled, body temperatured script from an inner pocket. Seokjin took it in surprise, and Namjoon handed him his staff card next and then quirked an eyebrow. “What? You said not to give this back with an audience.”

“Well yeah,” he said, rolling the script up and pocketing the card. His drunken brain tried to process this. “Wait, is that why you’ve been wearing that jacket all night? That has got to be the most uncomfortable thing to perform in.”

“But I looked good, right?” Namjoon grinned, and Seokjin rolled his eyes. Yeah, he did. He really did. “Besides, I agree,” Namjoon then said, nodding vaguely towards Hoseok. “It doesn’t concern others, what we’ve done when we’re alone. That’s just for you and me.”

Seokjin’s guts twisted together instinctively. Did Namjoon say this shit on purpose?

After a beat, Namjoon added, “I read the script – you’re gonna be great in that role.”

“The entire script?” he echoed in surprise, and Namjoon just nodded and said that he was a fast reader, clearly no big deal. “Yeah, well it’s not my role yet. This is high drama, you know. Directors see me,” he said, waving a hand in front of his face, “and say modelling. They don’t say leading man in a relationship drama.”

Namjoon was walking slowly, and Seokjin matched him, feet dragging. “Besides,” he added, “you know I’m not – I’m not even a good actor, I don’t think.” He had no idea why he was saying this – or to Namjoon, of all people. “It’s kind of a failed career. Maybe I should try prostitution! Hey you’ve had a go, what do you think? Could I pull it off?” he queried teasingly, but Namjoon didn’t smile at the joke. “No, you’re right, I hear you: I’m twenty-five, not young enough for the pervs, not old enough for the kids in search of daddies. Hey, if you haven’t made it at twenty-five, what are the chances you should’ve studied engineering like your parents wanted instead of just being an eternal source of disappointment and humiliation for them?”

Namjoon frowned. “Don’t beat yourself up like that, sometimes those things just take time. You think my folks were overjoyed when I said I wanted to be a rapper? Hell no. And you’re a good actor.”

“You’re very kind, sweetheart, without having seen me.”

“I have done – Jimin showed me the clips of you in that cop drama. I mean, I was convinced your wife had been murdered. Can you really cry on cue?”

“Yes,” he said, “these days that’s the only time I ever cry.” Then he frowned. “Wait, why did Jimin show you that?”

Namjoon shrugged. “I forget.”

“Right. Well, thanks anyway,” he said, waving the script a little. “Here’s to imminent rejection. Life of an actor – ain’t it grand?”

Then he stopped, looking around with a frown. The street looked familiar. Sanghun’s uncle lived there, he realised – or had used to, at least, right across the street from them. Probably still did: third floor, that window was the living room. They’d gone over on family occasions, sometimes – and the lights were on, people inside, there was a party at Sanghun’s uncle’s house. He froze, stomach dropping.

What month was it? Was it the annual anniversary party for him and his wife? Sanghun’s family knew how to party, always dragged it out into the early morning, and Seokjin was right outside, on the one night of the entire year when the entire Lee clan was celebrating together, and Sanghun was probably three floors up from him with his parents and cousins.

“Hey, you okay?” Namjoon asked, hand suddenly on his shoulder.

Seokjin closed his eyes and breathed, feeling sick. Seokjin had seen the uncle, too, on the subway a year ago, and the man had pretended not to recognise him. Didn’t even come say hello, that was how worthless and meaningless Seokjin –

“Yeah. Good.” He laughed, but it was empty. “I’m always fine.”

“No one’s always fine.”

“Well I am,” he persisted and realised Namjoon was witnessing him mid-meltdown. He shrugged off the hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, mountain man. I’m fine. I just – I need to get going, I –”

Hoseok had finished his phone call and had successfully hailed them a taxi. Sanghun wouldn’t be alone – Seokjin knew exactly who he’d be with. He’d been replaced. He was replaceable. He needed to leave.

He approached the taxi quickly, hearing Namjoon call out, “Hobi?”

“At your serv – Oh. Okay, okay, yeah.” Hoseok was suddenly there, helping him into the backseat. Seokjin exhaled shakily, eyes closing. Hoseok probably saw plenty of Namjoon’s conquests, anyway, in their rap circles. He was dime a dozen and knew it – drunk and pathetic.

Namjoon said a quick goodnight – he didn’t live near them – and Seokjin only nodded back. He felt better when the party, the street, the potential reality of nearly having walked into Sanghun, Gunwoo and his family, faded. Hoseok was silent for the first time all night as the taxi took them home.

Well, he probably didn’t have to worry about seeing Namjoon anymore – that was, efficiently, the end of that episode.

After a few blocks they ended up talking about the dakkochi, and Seokjin said, humbly, that he thought he made nicer dakkochi – he was kind of a fantastic cook, not that he was bragging, but…

“It’s good one of you can cook,” Hoseok laughed. “Namjoon is terrible.”

“So?” he frowned, brain struggling with the non-sequitur.

Hoseok just beamed. “What’s your best dish?”

He talked of his dad’s milmyeon that he had tried to emulate, but hadn’t quite cracked yet.

Halfway into the drive, Hey Cutie began to play on the radio. Hoseok looked at him and they both burst out laughing. Seokjin said, “I can’t believe he wrote this.”

“I can,” Hoseok grinned. “Namjoon’s a hopeless romantic, of course he’d build a pop song around his then girlfriend and break record sales while at it.”

“Romantic, right,” he snorted. Mr. Sex on Legs and No Sexual Hang Ups. Alright for some, he figured.

Hoseok frowned. “Yeah, like. He keeps a cool façade, I guess, but he kind of wears his heart on his sleeve. I mean, obviously.” Hoseok was looking at him with a raised eyebrow, but Seokjin was distracted by the song. The radio blasted, Hey cutie, what’s your name? Only you can make me feel this way! Nauseating and saccharine – but damn catchy.

The car slowed down outside Seokjin’s building, and Hoseok suddenly had two arms tight around him. “It’s a hug. I’m a hugger,” Hoseok said when Seokjin froze up. “I’ll see you to the door?”

“Come on, I’m not that wasted,” he protested, still trapped in the hug so he decided to enjoy it and hug back.

“Mm, okay. It was nice getting to know you better,” Hoseok said, squeezing him, reminiscent of a clingy octopus. “Let’s hang out soon, yeah? We’re gonna be such good friends, it’s gonna be crazy.”

“Yeah, sure,” he lied because he had his friends, and he didn’t see many scenarios in which he’d hang out with these guys again. “Yeah, tonight was nice.” He smiled at Hoseok, still rather flattered. It was nice being liked, after all.

He stumbled out of the car, belly full of chicken and soju. He punched in the door code on automatic, and then waved as the car finally pulled off.

As he was opening his front door, he got a text from Namjoon, to his grand surprise. He figured they’d said all there was to say.

you made it home okay?

He pushed off his shoes, trying to balance himself. yea, he typed, and thanks for the contraband. u were like a ninja or some shit. He went to the bathroom and washed his face, then stared at his reflection in the pale yellow glow. He looked tired – far from the guy cracking jokes and elbowing people’s sides. God, he’d nearly run into Sanghun’s family just as he had been walking home with a guy he’d sort of banged and Hoseok, drunkenly confessing to his failed career in a quarter-life crisis.

It’d been enough to make the funny guy stop smiling. Fuck, what was he doing?

He turned around, leaned against the sink, and typed, fact of the day: that was the first time we’ve seen each other without ending up in bed

Maybe also the last time they’d ever see each other? Probably. Had Sanghun really been at the party? Had it even been his uncle’s house, or just a similar looking street? Was the anniversary party held in the spring after all?

Namjoon replied with: and is that good or bad?

Seokjin bit on his bottom lip. Namjoon didn’t ask why he’d just bolted without any explanation.

that's a trick question and you know it

now go to bed, baby
you’re very drunk

Well, Namjoon was clearly aware what a walking disaster he was. He walked to the bedroom and sat on the edge of his bed, unsure what the tone of the conversation was. A mixture of flirtation and self-pity, maybe? They barely knew each other – argh, this was ridiculous.

u wanna hear a confession though?
i'll go first, u second

drunken confessions, really??
…fine go on

u were really sexy on stage
kinda couldn’t believe i’d slept with u
it was pretty hot

Seokjin steadied himself, staring at the phone and waiting for a reply. Plenty of room for Namjoon to reply with ‘don’t get too excited over it’, or something to that effect – Namjoon had probably heard the line a dozen times over.

wow it’s actually about my art not my body?
hot pieces of ass like you always objectify everyone
it’s awful

Seokjin chuckled.

kk, second confession coming up

what happened to just one?

well now there is more
like if u r into it
i wanna fuck you

Namjoon could easily back out – too much hassle, been there and done that. Think of the MC, think of the crowd – Namjoon had people queuing outside his door, probably. No reason to keep Seokjin around, to amuse him or indulge him.

you tell me romance is dead
yet you have just sent me a literal haiku about banging me

He read their messages again, and then laughed.

i'm also committed to art

a true artist, agreed

But nbd if you’re npt itno it
Not. Into.

wow you need to sleep it off
but also yeah i'm into it
whenever you feel like a treat i'm here

Seokjin breathed in unevenly, stomach twisting. The thought of Namjoon and ‘treat’ in the same sentence was not good for his health, Namjoon dressing himself up as a gift for him to devour. How could he politely ask if Namjoon was giving him unquestioned access to his dick?

respectfully enquiring if I have unquestioned access to ur dick??

and ass, don’t forget
whole package deal
ikr, i'm just that generous

your mother raised you so well

hot tip: don’t bring my mother into this

idk, she must be hot considering the look of you


make me?

well fuck
that’s in the deal too

Seokjin was suddenly feeling a bit hot. This wasn’t a time to look a gift horse in the mouth, was it? Seokjin had been in a sex desert, and Namjoon was now proclaiming himself as the oasis. Hell, it’d probably be just an average day for Namjoon, banging it out with him – an average evening, an average seven o’clock.

the guys would talk, he pointed out in some final feeble attempt to be sensible, but he got the exact response he’d wanted:

not their concern what you and me do
it's just us

Seokjin felt something settle heavy in his guts, warm and solid. God, Namjoon knew what he was doing.

k deal acceptd
you still owe me a congesspn tho

Seokjin groaned and flopped onto the bed, humiliated.

you’re a cute drunk hyung
i'll think about a confession
in the meantime you’ve got my number


so use it


He fell asleep in his clothes, feeling a mixture of arousal and vaguely defined shame. Sounded about right.